Tag Archives: Baking

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!

#bakeitforward: Baking for No Kid Hungry

Even though I’m not the primary chef in our household’s kitchen, I love watching the Food Network. The different episodes inspire me to try new cuisines and flavors—and I’m majorly addicted to all their cooking competition shows. If my husband and I aren’t rushing off to do something on Saturday morning, I curl up on our sofa with a cup of tea and watch an episode of The Pioneer Woman, while my awesome husband whips up a big weekend breakfast. This is really one of my most favorite parts of the weekend!

This November, I was in the process of completing this Saturday morning ritual, and came across a commercial for the Food Network’s #bakeitforward campaign. It’s pretty simple. You bake a treat, post a picture to your social media page, and tag the campaign’s hashtag AND a friend of your choice. For each share, Food Network donates $1 (the equivalent of 10 meals) to No Kid Hungry…and…your tagged friend is challenged to bake something.

It took me all of five seconds to know that I wanted to jump on this bandwagon—I mean an excuse to bake sugary treats AND contribute to a great cause? What a match made in heaven!

Throughout the campaign, we fired up 4 treats baked in 4 different cities.

BakeItForward - Collage 1

Thank you Food Network for putting together such a fun activity which raised awareness for such an important cause!

Pinterest Challenge: Fall Cookies

We hope that you’re enjoying the beautiful fall season! While we still have quite warm weather here in California, Pinterest is aflutter with tons of pins showing cute fall ankle boots, plaid ponchos and lots and lots of yummy fall-themed cookies. It seemed about time for another Pinterest challenge, so I queued up my fellow authors and initiated a fall cookie challenge. If nothing else, it was a great excuse to do some baking and incorporate some of the spices of the season.

Mere…When I think of fall sweets, the yummy flavors of pumpkin, apple, and cranberry immediately come to mind. Upon receiving this “fall-themed cookie challenge” from fellow TK blogger Kristi, I began scrolling through my Pinterest “sweets treats” board to find the perfect cookie. I decided on White Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies from Shugary Sweets Blog, and boy, am I glad that I did!

White chocolate isn’t my typical go-to chocolate (I tend to be a sucker for dark chocolate), but the combination of white chocolate and cranberry in a cookie was delicious! These cookies were the perfect balance of sweet and tart and tasted like fall with each bite. I ended up gifting these cookies to a co-worker, otherwise I would have gobbled them all up!

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This recipe is simple and easy to follow. I didn’t stray from the directions much—personally, I believe that over-baking cookies is a faux pas, so I suggest watching the cookies during the last two minutes of baking to avoid dry and over-cooked cookies.

Kristi…I’m a HUGE fan of pumpkin, and even though you can get canned pumpkin year round, it only seems fitting to incorporate it into my diet when the weather is crisp. So when we decided to do this challenge, I knew that my cookie needed to involve pumpkin. After a bit of scanning on Pinterest I located the Soft Pumpkin Cookies with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting by Frugal Living NW. I’m one of those types that loves squishy, soft cookies that are barely cooked, so add the pumpkin and this recipe seemed right up my alley.

Let me tell you this recipe did not disappoint. It created a delicious melt-in-your-mouth treat, with everyday ingredients that I had in my pantry (Cream Cheese was the only thing I had to run out to get).

Pumpkin Cookie 1

Overall, it was a fairly straight-forward recipe, which I was able to whip up quite easily. Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Not being a huge fan of frosting (mostly for the additional calories that it adds), I ended up making a half batch of frosting. The cookies are super yummy as a standalone dessert, so those looking for a lighter version, may want to consider.
  • I also slightly reduced the sugar I added (from 1.5 cups to 1.25 cups). The cookies still tasted nice and sweet!
  • Lastly, I bumped up the amount of cinnamon and nutmeg that I added in my batch, and to be honest, I still felt like it could have used a touch more. This of course depends on how spicy you like your baking, but for me, I would say add another 1/2 to 1 tsp.

Bri… I wanted to try something that would be easy and fast, but also healthy — if at all possible. Enter the 2-ingredient vegan oatmeal cookie. When I think of oatmeal, I’m reminded of chilly days in front of a hot bowl of steamy oats and cinnamon. I think this recipe flourishes on the internet due to its simplicity: it’s just 1 ripe mashed banana mixed with 1 cup of oats that’ve been pulsed in a food processor into a flour-like consistency. You can add more flavor mix-ins if you’d like. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees. Yields ~9 cookies. For my test kitchen night, I paired the oatmeal and banana with chocolate chunks and cinnamon.

When I bit into it, I enjoyed the chocolate bits and the warm banana flavors, but the first words out of my mouth were: “It tastes healthy…”

cookie

If you’re one of those people who say: “If you’re going to eat a cookie… EAT A REAL COOKIE!” Then, this is not the cookie for you. It has a distinct oatty/nutty flavor. Once they get to room temperature or cold, they’re not enjoyable because the texture is mushy. My friend took a bite of a hot one right out of the oven. Bless his heart, it wasn’t until after he took a bite that he told me he doesn’t like anything with banana in it. Suffice to say, the cookie did not get a thumbs up from him.

Verdict: I won’t make them again, but I’m glad I gave it a try!

We had lots of fun sourcing out fun Fall cookie recipes. Do you have a favorite recipe that you like to make each year? If so, please share a link below and let us know your tips!

This post is part of an ongoing series. Please check out all our Pinterest Challenge posts.