Thursday, November 20, 2014

BURLAP GIFT BAGS

Hi Everybody! I have another super simple and easy giftwrap idea to share with you today! I made these burlap treat bags last fall, and this is a Christmas version! The burlap bags themselves are so easy to make and don't require any sewing at all (I love hot glue! It makes life so much easier, and there isn't much you can't use it on!) and you can embellish them with whatever festive decorations you can find. Here's how you can make these...

BURLAP GIFT BAGS

YOU WILL NEED
Burlap
Scissors & Ruler
Hot Glue Gun
Ribbon
Jingle Bells
Faux greenery

DIRECTIONS
First, cut your burlap into rectangles. You can make them as big as you like, I usually cut them to about 5x9 inches big. Place two pieces of burlap on top of each other and using hot glue, attach them to each other by glueing the two long sides and one of the short sides. Then, turn the bag inside out. Fill it with candy or whatever little gifts you are using it for, then tie some ribbon around the top, looping a jingle bell through the ribbon before tying it. Add in some small pieces of greenery (you can attach it to the ribbon with more hot glue) and you are done!

For other giftwrap ideas, check these out!

Left: Lace Giftwrap Bows (tutorial HERE) Middle: Christmas Cookie Packaging Tips & Ideas (tutorial HERE) Right: Monogram Gift Tags (tutorial HERE)

Left: DIY Christmas Sweater Gift Bags (tutorial HERE) Middle: Handmade Paper Bows (tutorial HERE) Right: Glittered Monogram Gift Tags (tutorial HERE)

Happy Crafting, Everyone!
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Monday, November 17, 2014

CHRISTMAS COOKIE PACKAGING TIPS & IDEAS

Hello Everyone! I hope you all had a good weekend! This new week has started off cold, gray and rainy here, and I am sort of secretly hoping that it turns into snow soon! And since the holiday baking season is quickly approaching, I wanted to share a couple tips and ideas for cookie packaging with you today! I love giving (and receiving!!) homemade cookies as little gifts around the holidays, and I always think it's more fun to receive a gift that's nicely packaged and personalized! All you need is some ribbon, cellophane bags or glass jars, seasonal embellishments, pretty gift tags and some delicious homemade cookies, of course! It really doesn't take much to make a sweet little cookie package to give away!


Here are some of my favorite ways to package holiday cookies...

To make homemade cookies look a little extra special, instead of packaging them in a plain tupperware container, use a nice glass jar. Fill it with cookies, then tie some red satin ribbon around the top, add an oversized bow, and finish the packaging off with a gift tag sticker on the face of the jar! I got all my gift tags from  Tiny Prints where you can customize and personalize them! (And you could also easily use any Tiny Prints Christmas cards that you've already received, for any of these packaging ideas.) I love using red satin ribbon at Christmas time, because it instantly adds a luxurious and festive touch!

This is a great way to quickly package party favors - place a couple of cookies in a cellophane bag, tie with a twisty tie to make sure the cookies stay soft,  and add some pretty ribbon and a gift tag! It couldn't be easier, but still looks a little extra special!

For a simple and elegant look, buy a set of solid colored tins (gold is perfect for Christmas), line them with parchment paper, then fill with cookies! It's hardly any work, and looks so pretty! Plus the recipient gets to keep the tin, too!

This may just be my favorite cookie gift, because I think it's the most useful around the holidays! Make your cookie dough as usual, form it into balls, then freeze them (you can follow my full instructions for this HERE). To package them for a gift, simply put them on a decorative or disposable plate, place that in a ziplock bag, tie some ribbon around it and attach instructions for baking! This is a great little gift especially around the holidays when people have friends and family stop by their house, because they'll be able to pull these out of their freezer and have freshly baked cookies in a matter of minutes without any work!

What are your favorite ways to package Christmas cookies? And, maybe more importantly, what are your favorite cookies to bake every year? I'm already planning my Christmas cookie list, it's one of my favorite things about the holidays! Thanks for stopping by today, I hope you all have a great rest of your week!
Happy Baking, Everyone!
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Monday, November 10, 2014

MY FAVORITE COOKBOOKS

Hi Everyone! I wanted to do something a little different, and share some of my favorite cookbooks with you today! I love cookbooks. In fact, every time I go to a bookstore, the cookbook isle is the first one I go to. And I don't think there's been a single Christmas or birthday in the past couple of years for which I haven't received a cookbook! I have collected lots of cookbooks over the years, some new, some old, and wanted to tell you a little bit about my most favorite ones! As I started writing this post and sharing a little bit about each cookbook with you, I realized that there was a story and lots of memories tied to every one of them, which really is my favorite thing about cooking; the memories it brings back. Fun childhood memories of baking with my grandparents or learning how to cook as a newlywed; it's funny how it only takes a few ingredients to turn back time and be transported to those precious memories!


Here are just a few of my favorites...

 Cookbook: Nigella Lawson's Nigella Kitchen. Favorite Recipe: Apple Cinnamon Muffins
So, there is a little bit of a back story to the reason for why this cookbook is one of my favorites! A couple of years ago, my friend and I got VIP tickets to go to the Martha Stewart show in New York City, and Nigella Lawson happened to be the guest on the show that day! We got to sit in the front row, and it was such a fun experience! At the end of the show, we all got Nigella's cookbook and that was when I was really introduced to her cooking. I think that Nigella is really the queen of flavor. Every single one of her recipes that I have tried has always been excellent, and the flavors have always been so complex. And also, she looked even more beautiful in person than she does on TV if that's even possible! As for my favorite recipe from the cookbook, I have SO many, and cook several of them pretty frequently, but one of my favorites have to be these Apple Cinnamon Muffins. So simple, but so delicious, like most of Nigella's recipes!

Cookbook: The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book. Favorite Recipe: Black Forest Cake.
This is one of the best basic baking books I've read! I got this cookbook for Christmas one year, and I remember I dragged it to Europe with me for the holidays because I was so excited to read through it, and it's a pretty heavy book! But that's how good it is! It has a great selection of classic baking recipes, ranging from cookies and cakes to breads and muffins. It's a great guide for beginning bakers, but also just for anyone who loves to bake! I have made so many recipes from this book, but one of my all time favorites is this Black Forest Cake. I made it for Valentine's Day one year, and it disappeared pretty quickly!

Cookbook: The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics. Favorite Recipe: Chicken Pot Pie.
As you can tell by all the sticky note page markers in this book, it is clearly a favorite! I got this cookbook the first year I was married, and have been working my way through it ever since! I have always been a big Martha Stewart fan and have several of her cookbooks, but this is one of my favorites simply because it has pretty much every basic recipe you would ever want and need (and more)! My absolute favorite recipe from this book is the Chicken Pot Pie. I remember making it one fall in our teeny-tiny little kitchen in Haddonfield, New Jersey, where I had pretty much zero counter space and very little kitchen equipment, but being an excited newlywed making dinner for my husband, it was the best thing in the world! Every time I make this recipe, it takes me back to that little kitchen and brings back so many wonderful (and delicious!) memories, which really, I think is the best thing about cooking!

Cookbook: The Pioneer Woman Cookbook: Food from my Frontier. Favorite Recipe: Beef Stew.
This cookbook is also pretty high up on my list! I just love the Pioneer Woman! And her kitchen. And her ranch. And her lodge. And her cooking, especially! My husband got me this cookbook for my birthday one year, and I kept trying to ask him what presents he got me for my birthday (as I do every year, because I am oh so impatient). He wouldn't tell me (as he never does), but he said he got me a present at Bass Pro Shops (for those of you who don't know this store, which is his favorite store by the way, it's a store with all things outdoorsy, and not one where I ever shop!) I didn't know whether he was kidding or whether I should be afraid, but when I unwrapped that particular present, it was this Pioneer Woman cookbook! I have so many favorite Pioneer Woman recipes, but her Beef Stew is definitely one of my favorites!

Cookbook: Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Favorite Recipe: Chocolate Mousse. 
This cookbook is a classic of course, and one that belongs in every cookbook collector's collection! These recipes are not "30 minute meals" by any means, and most require several hours, extensive preparation and pretty much every single dish, tool and piece of equipment in your kitchen! But oh my goodness, is it worth it! If you love to cook and enjoy spending time in your kitchen, then this is the book for you! One of my favorites is Julia's chocolate mousse. She said it was sinful, and it most definitely is. It is one of the richest, most indulgent desserts I've ever made!

These two books are not cookbooks, but if you enjoy food writing, you may enjoy these two! The one of the left is Julia Child's My Life in France, which recounts her life and stories in France. It's a very easy read, with so many stories and cooking memories. The book on the right is one that I just picked up recently, The New Yorker's Secret Ingredients, which is a collection of short stories from famous writers and chefs, all based around food. I'm still reading this book, but there have been several great stories in it so far!

And of course, some of my most loved recipes are ones that can't be found in any cookbook, but have been passed down and tweaked from generation to generation. I've loved sharing some of my favorite family recipes with you here (like THESE Linzer Cookies that I make every Christmas, or THESE Traditional Czech Gingerbread Cookies) and always look forward to recreating those old familiar recipes in my kitchen! If you want to read a little more about some old family recipes, I wrote a whole post about them HERE ("From My Grandmother's Recipe Files...")

What are your favorite cookbooks? And favorite recipes? I would love to hear what your favorites are! Thanks for stopping by today, I hope you all have a great rest of your week!

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

MONOGRAM GIFT TAGS

Hey Everyone! I have another fun DIY giftwrap idea to share with you today! With Christmas less than two months away (50 days to be precise. Yes, I'm counting!), it's never too early to get started on some holiday crafting! Wrapping gifts has actually always been one of my favorite things about Christmas; my mom used to let me wrap all our family's Christmas presents ever since I knew how to do it, because I loved doing it so much! Gifts are my love language, in case you were wondering! I always think it's fun making gifts look a little extra special and personal with some creative giftwrap ideas, and I wanted to share these easy Monogram Gift Tags with you today! These aren't necessarily for Christmas only, you could use them for any occasion, but I thought the black & gold would be cute and festive for the holidays!

MONOGRAM GIFT TAGS

YOU WILL NEED
Black card stock
Ruler, pencil & scissors
Gold glitter
Fine tip glue pen
Gold twine


DIRECTIONS
First, cut out all your gift tags out of thick card stock. Make a hole at the top using a hole punch, then loop your piece of gold twine through it. Using a pencil, draw on the monogram (you can either do it freehand or use a stencil), then fill it in using your fine tip glue pen. Sprinkle the area with glitter, let it sit for a couple seconds, then shake off all the excess glitter!




For other fun giftwrap ideas, check these out!
Left: DIY Lace Giftwrap Bow (tutorial HERE) Middle: Handmade Paper Bow Tutorial (HERE) Right: Glittered Monogram Gift Tags (tutorial HERE)
Happy Crafting, Everyone!
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Monday, November 3, 2014

DIY LACE GIFTWRAP BOWS

Hi Everyone! Happy November! I hope you all had a good weekend. It feels like everything went from fall to winter here pretty much overnight this weekend; we went from sunny fall weather to freezing in a thick sweatshirt on Halloween, and from stores displaying all things fall to turning into Santa's workshop! I guess the holidays really are just around the corner now. And since that means lots of gift wrapping in the next couple of weeks (because I am determined to get my Christmas shopping done early this year and not have to go through the shopping madness that starts mid-December!) I thought I would share a fun little gift wrapping DIY with you today! I love anything with lace, and thought these bows would look so sweet with some kraft wrapping paper. They are not necessarily Christmas themed, so you could use these all year round! Here is how you can make them...

DIY LACE GIFTWRAP BOWS

YOU WILL NEED
Lace or lace ribbon (if using ribbon, make sure it's at least 3/4 inch wide)
Ruler & Scissors
Hot Glue Gun


DIRECTIONS
To make these lace bows, you can follow my tutorial I posted for making handmade paper bows (find it HERE), the only difference is that you either need to cut strips of lace (keeping them the same length and width as the paper strips in the tutorial) or if you are using lace ribbon (which you want to be at least 3/4 inch wide), cut three 10 inch pieces, three 9 inch pieces, and 1 4.5 inch piece, just like with the paper strips. You also need to be more careful when using the hot glue gun because of all the gaps in the lace, make sure you don't burn your fingers!


For my full Handmade Paper Bow Tutorial, click HERE!

Happy Crafting, Everyone!
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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

KALE SALAD WITH QUINOA, POMEGRANATE SEEDS & ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH

Hi Everyone! So, since I've made this salad three times in the past couple of days now, I thought it was about time to share it with you all! If you've been following my blog for the past couple of weeks, you may know that I've been on a serious salad kick this fall (don't worry, there's been plenty of comfort food and dessert to supplement all the salad eating! Ha!) and I have another salad recipe to share with you today! Salads are one of my favorite things to make, not only because they are good for you (unless topped with too much bacon that will cancel out all the nutrients in the rest of the ingredients!) but because you can get so creative with them, and because it's one of the best ways to eat seasonal ingredients! This is a super hearty salad; the baby kale and Swiss chard leaves are a great source of iron, the quinoa and chicken make it really satisfying and the sweet roasted butternut squash works so well with the juicy pomegranate seeds (don't they just look like little jewels sprinkled over the salad?!) If you're looking for a great salad recipe, I think you might like this one!

KALE SALAD WITH QUINOA, POMEGRANATE SEEDS & ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH

YOU WILL NEED
SALAD
Baby Kale leaves
Baby Swiss Chard leaves
Cooked quinoa
Roasted butternut squash
Pomegranate seeds
Shredded chicken
VINAIGRETTE
(1 Portion)
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 tbs balsamic vinegar
Honey
Salt & Pepper


DIRECTIONS
1. First, prepare the butternut squash. Peel and halve it lengthwise, then scoop out all the seeds and cut it up into about 1 inch cubes. In a large bowl, toss it with about a teaspoon or so of olive oil, and season it well with salt and pepper. Preheat your oven to 400 deg F, and spread the butternut squash cubes on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for about 30 minutes, until soft. 

2. In the meantime, prepare the rest of your ingredients. Shred or slice your (poached or roasted) chicken (of course you can leave the chicken out to keep the salad vegetarian), and cook your quinoa according to the directions on the packaging (you want about 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa per salad portion). Make your salad dressing by whisking together 2 parts olive oil with one part balsamic vinegar, drizzle in some honey for some sweetness and season with salt and pepper (I almost always use this vinaigrette, you can change up the proportions of the ingredients to suit your taste). 

3. Now it's time to assemble your salad! In a large salad bowl, gently toss your greens with the vinaigrette (I used baby kale leaves and Swiss chard leaves, but you could also use spinach). Add in the chicken, butternut squash and quinoa and plate the salad, then sprinkle with (a generous amount!) of pomegranate seeds!
And for more salad ideas, check out my other salad recipes!

Left: Fall Quinoa Salad (recipe HERE), Middle: Fall Salad with Roasted Acorn Squash (recipe HERE), Right: Pear, Goat Cheese and Walnut Fall Salad (recipe HERE)


Happy Cooking, Everyone!
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Saturday, October 25, 2014

PUMPKIN ICE-CREAM SANDWICHES

Hello Everyone! I hope you are all enjoying your weekend so far! This fall is flying by so fast, I can't believe that November is only a week away now! It's a beautiful fall day here today, and I wanted to share a fun little fall-inspired sweet treat with you! It involves two of my favorite things: cookies and ice-cream. You can never go wrong with those two put together! These Pumpkin Ice-cream Sandwiches are so easy to make and assemble, and would be a fun little festive treat for Halloween or pumpkin carving night!

PUMPKIN ICE-CREAM SANDWICHES

YOU WILL NEED
Sugar cookies (store bought or homemade)
Ice-cream of your choice
Fall/Halloween sprinkles


DIRECTIONS
1. Begin with your cookies; you can either use store-bought sugar cookies, or make your own (find my favorite recipe HERE). I used my pumpkin cookie cutter to make these pumpkin shaped cookies, but you can make whatever shape cookies you want for your little sandwiches! Let the cookies cool completely.

2. Next, soften your ice-cream just a little bit, so it's just slightly spreadable. (You could use pumpkin flavored ice-cream to go with the pumpkin theme here, but any other ice-cream will be just fine, of course!) Get two large pieces of wax paper or parchment paper and spread a thick layer of the softened ice-cream on top of one sheet, the cover it with the second sheet, fold over the edges and place it in the freezer for a couple of minutes, until hardened.

3. Take out the ice-cream again, carefully take off the top wax or parchment paper sheet and using the same cookie cutter you used for your sugar cookies, cut out shapes out of the ice-cream! Quickly place the ice-cream shapes on top of your cookies, then top with another cookie to make a sandwich, pressing down gently. If you want a little extra sweetness and decoration, coat the edges in fun Halloween/fall themed sprinkles!


And for other cookie sandwiches, check out some of my other recipes!

Left: Oatmeal Cookie Sandwiches with a Cinnamon Cream Cheese Filling (recipe HERE) Right: Homemade Ice-Cream Sandwiches (recipe HERE)


Happy Baking, Everyone!
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