Category Archives: Treats & Eats

My Favorite 3…Homemade Hostess Gifts

Summer is here and for me that means lots of opportunities to catch up with friends and family! Whether it’s gathering together for one summer birthday or holiday weekend, or simply a weekend BBQ, I find myself constantly thinking about good hostess gifts to bring.

The older I get, the more I appreciate homemade and edible gifts. While my friends and family have plenty of space for an extra item or two in their homes, I’ve come to appreciate not having ‘another thing’ to add to a shelf or cupboard (even if it’s too cute for words!). Homemade (and preferably edible) gifts are a great way to pass along a small token of appreciate to your host, but minimize the ‘stuff’ that gets added to their homes.

Not to mention, summer is a great time to get into your kitchen and enjoy some of the best flavors of the season. Below I’m sharing three simple ideas for homemade hostess gifts.

Seasonal Homemade Jam

I was fortunate to grow up with a mom who loved to make her own jam, so for my first 18 years of life I really didn’t have much awareness of Smuckers. Enter college…when I forced to fend for myself on the food front…and well, my standards dropped a bit. No really, for my entire 20s, I’d say. Now that I’m in my 30s, I’ve been reintroduced to the joy that is homemade jam and preserves. It truly is just a notch better than anything you can buy in the store, and it’s a great way to take advantage of seasonal fruit.

Fresh-Baked Homemade Bread

I know the first thing that everything thinks about when it comes to homemade bread is….yikes! yeast is scary and unchartered territory! I had the exact same thoughts, but then was introduced to No Knead Bread from Brown Eyed Baker and boy did that help breakdown my fear of how to make bread. This is an incredibly simple recipe that only takes a round or two to get the hang of it. It turns out delicious and can be wrapped up in parchment paper and seasonal ribbon for a festive touch.

Crunchy Homemade Peanut Butter

My dear friend Sarah and her husband came over to our home for dinner and in her bag of treats she gifted me an adorable jar of homemade peanut butter (I know, she has the best handwriting and presentation skills). I’ve always enjoyed natural peanut butters, and was super excited to try this one out. It was amazing, and since it went right into the refrigerator it did not separate, so no mixing was needed.

Even though the summer season can be incredibly busy, it’s a great time to pull out your pots and pans and experiment a bit in the kitchen. Plus, it’s a great way to put together a cost-effective and personalized gift for friends and family.

Happy cooking and baking!

Homemade Monster Trail Mix

Recently, two of my very dear friends Pauline and Sarah made a dangerous introduction: Archer Farms’ monster mix. This addicting snack, courtesy of Target, comes in a variety of variations, but for all practical purposes is a delicious form of trail mix.

monster-mix-8

 

 

 

 

My favorite variation is the “Peanut Butter Monster Mix” which includes peanuts, peanut butter chips, raisins, M&Ms and peanut butter covered pretzels.

monster-mix-6

The only downside of the monster mix is…well…you just go through it quickly! So while catching up at a mutual friend’s bridal shower, my girlfriends and I discussed the awesome alternative of making homemade peanut butter monster mix.

Trail mix is by far one of the easiest things to make. It’s also a great snack to customize with a few favorite snack substitutes, including some healthier options.

While on my latest trip to Target, I grabbed a few key ingredients including chocolate and peanut butter chips, raisins and peanuts.

monster-mix-1

For my version of the mix, I didn’t add the delicious peanut butter covered pretzels, which I couldn’t locate at Target (Tip: I hear you can grab a bag at Trader Joe’s). I also substituted super dark chocolate chips to replace the standard milk chocolate chips that come in the Archer Farms version. Lastly, I decided to nix the M&Ms, in an effort to reduce the second chocolate element.

monster-mix-2

I added the raisins, peanut butter chips and chocolate chips to a large mixing bowl and doubled the amount of peanuts. While I love the sweet elements, I liked the idea of minimizing the sugary components and doubling the savory.

monster-mix-3

Next it was time to give the ingredients a good thorough mix with a solid wooden spoon. And yes, I snuck a few peanut butter chips while I worked 🙂 In just a few minutes, I had a huge bowl of my new favorite snack, and boy was I ready to dig in!

monster-mix-4

However, I was reminded by the handy little individual portion packages that Target sells to portion out my mix as well, helping to minimize how quickly one might blow through a batch.

monster-mix-7

Grabbing a measuring cup and some snack-sized plastic bags, I got to work portioning out servings into the individual bags, which I sealed away and readied for the work week or snack on-the-go.

monster-mix-5

Excluding my shopping trip, the whole process took no more than 15 minutes (including clean up) and I’m so excited to grab a little package on Monday morning and enjoy it at my desk at work.

Do you have a copycat snack recipe that you like? If so, please leave a comment below.

Signature 3 (Mar 2016)

Fabulous Bachelorette Party – Planned in 14 days

This past month I had the honor of helping a very dear friend of mine plan her Bachelorette party. We had the unique circumstance of having a very short timeframe to plan this get-together (due to scheduling conflicts with a number of other friends with Fall weddings) and boy was it a crash-course lesson on how to plan something fabulous….on a very quick schedule!

TinyBride6

Throughout the experience, I realized that while an extra few weeks might have a helped a bit, it’s actually quite easy to simplify your party plan (with a little help from friends!) and still make it a special event. Here were the steps I took to make it a success:

  1. Lock in the Date/Time. As soon as I got the news that we had a weekend confirmed, priority number one was to email the invited guests and get the date on the calendar. It was true I had no idea what the party was going to involve, but it was super important to me that we got the word out and were able to get as many girls there as possible. While my gut reaction was to send out a Paperless Post, I wanted to map out the various time slots on the weekend to get a good sense on who could attend specific activities, so instead I put together a simple chart on Google Docs and asked the attendees to mark their availability. As soon as I had responses, it really helped me understand critical mass and fine-tune the points throughout the weekend that would maximize attendance.
  1. Reserve Activities. TripleKnots bestie Meredith graciously jumped on board to help me with some bachelorette party brainstorming. Within a 12-hour period, she had some fantastic Bay Area ideas mapped out and from that list I settled on the primary activity of the weekend—a fabulous day spa trip. Within the next few days, I had the spa activities planned, a table at a cute local restaurant reserved for lunch, and a chocolate and wine tasting lined up. Voila!
  1. Get the Goodies. Now it was time to move on to all the details…which meant a few hours dedicated to some major Etsy research, something that I knew I needed to get ordered if I wanted my items to come in time. After some consideration, I narrowed my Etsy shopping list to: a customized sash (because no bride-to-be’s outfit is complete without a bachelorette sash), personalized hair ties (because I received these at Mere’s bachelorette weekend and LOVED them), and some monogrammed sunhats (because I had been drooling over them on Instagram).

TinyBride5

I also made a quick stop at my local Target and scored a major steal when I found these incredibly cute (and large, I may add) reversible beach totes in the clearance section. I knew these would be the perfect accessory to carry our necessities around in at the spa.

TinyBride2

I also found a number of goodies to add to my party favors—which were a slightly modified rendition of a “Hangover Kit” but instead of Advil and Band-Aids, I focused on a cuddle-up theme including tea, a snack bar, lip balm and a spot of chocolate.

TinyBride4 (1)

The final component that I focused on was a few simple touches to add to our dinner table. Meredith (the friend who has good handwriting) joined my planning effort by locating and scripting some adorable place cards, which I added to a simple dinner menu that I developed with the restaurant chef.

TinyBride3

Despite it being an incredibly busy 10 days, I was nearly ready for the big weekend.  And the weekend came before I knew it!

We had a lovely time at a local spa, where we enjoyed massages and some girl talk by their pool.

TniyBride6

We had a delicious dinner at a new and up-and-coming restaurant, who showered us with fabulous service and free shots, I must add!

TinyBride7

I think one of the best things that I took away from these very busy two weeks was: “do not perfect be the enemy of good.” There was no way I was going to be able to pull off details that were worthy of Pinterest or a fabulous three-day trip down to Cabo. Rather, I pulled in my expectations and really focused on maximizing the experience for my dear friend and all our guests.

The outcome? We had a fabulous time!

Signature 3 (Mar 2016)