Archive of ‘Holidays’ category

s’mores bars

Happy 4th of July week! Let’s celebrate with some s’mores bars!

S'mores Bars |

How do you celebrate the 4th of July holiday? Are you a slow-cooked ribs and barbeque kind of person? A hamburger and hotdog cookout master? A family brunch participant? There are so many ways people celebrate this patriotic holiday, and no matter how or where you celebrate, these s’mores bars should be part of your celebratory meal.

S'mores Bars |

S'mores Bars |

I love dessert bars. They are easier to transport than cakes and cupcakes, easier to serve and portion than pies, and the perfect addition to a lunch potluck or dinner cookout. These s’mores bars are cleaner than the messy bonfire s’mores, but have the same great flavors, just slightly elevated. A graham cracker shortbread crust and fluffy marshmallow meringue topping sandwich a layer of rich, fudgy brownies. One bite delivers the flavors of all of the layers at once.

S'mores Bars |

S'mores Bars |

I love making s’mores themed desserts, but sometimes am wary about whether they will be able to replace the original campfire favorite. For these, I wondered if the ratio was off, if I should have made the graham cracker shortbread crust thicker, or if there was too much meringue. I assembled the final product with my family around (for the double whammy of sharing, and getting opinions). We cut a sliver off of the edge, making sure to include all three parts. I waited for the first bite reactions and opinions. Immediately, everyone went back for another bite and a bigger slice, raving about the bars as we did. Success.

S'mores Bars |

S'mores Bars |

Make these tonight for your 4th of July celebration tomorrow, and maybe leave a sliver for yourself at home ;)

S’mores Bars
Graham Cracker Shortbread Crust
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
7 graham crackers
6 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
1 egg, at room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cake flour
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

¾ cup cocoa powder
¾ cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons hot water
1 2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/3 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Marshmallow Meringue
3 large egg whites
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon cream of tarter

To make the graham cracker shortbread crust:
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter and cook, stirring frequently, until it is golden brown and smells nutty. This may take anywhere from 5-10+ minutes, depending on how cold your butter was to start with.

Pour the butter into a heatproof bowl and refrigerate until the butter is solid (about 30 minutes). The butter does not have to solidify until it is hard, just until it feels solid but soft to the touch. You can prep the rest of the ingredients or the brownies while the butter is solidifying.

In a food processor, grind the graham crackers into fine crumbs. Measure out ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons. You will have some graham cracker crumbs left over.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a square baking pan (8×8 or 9×9) with two sheets of parchment paper, one on top of the other in different directions so the entire pan is covered.

Scoop the solidified brown butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream the butter on medium speed for about 15 seconds to make it smooth and break up any pieces of solid butter. Add the sugar and mix on low speed to incorporate. Increase the speed to medium and cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy (about 4 minutes). Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to fully bring the ingredients together.

Add the egg and vanilla and mix on medium speed for about 30 seconds, or until the batter is almost homogenous.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, salt and graham cracker crumbs.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix on low speed just until the dough comes together but is still shaggy (about 1 minute). Try not to mix much past the shaggy dough stage. With your hands, bring together the dry ingredients that did not get fully incorporated.

Press the dough into the prepared pan and bake for 10-12 minutes. The edges should be slightly golden.

To make the brownies:
In a large bowl, stir together the cocoa, melted butter, and hot water. Add the sugar, eggs, and vanilla, and mix well. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt until everything is just combined.

Spread the brownie batter evenly on top of the graham cracker shortbread crust. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until just set. A toothpick will not come out clean, but the bars shouldn’t jiggle. Let cool completely before topping with the meringue mixture

To make the marshmallow meringue:
Place the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl. Set it over a pot of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Cook, stirring often, until the sugar has dissolved, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl of a stand mixer and pour in the vanilla and cream of tarter. Beat on medium speed with the whisk attachment until firm. Increase the speed to high and beat until stiff and glossy, 8 to 10 minutes.

Spoon the meringue over the top of the cooled brownies and then spread out with a spatula. Create peaks by swirling the spatula and lifting it off the meringue. If you have a kitchen blowtorch, brown the meringue evenly. Otherwise, place the meringue-covered bars under a preheated broiler for about a minute to create a golden brown top (this is what I did). Remove the bars from the pan by lifting the parchment paper. Cut and serve!


Graham cracker shortbread crust slightly adapted from Cookie Love, brownie recipe slightly adapted from Melanie Makes.

memorial day brunch

A few years ago, our family started a tradition of making a big brunch together in Memorial Day. As many traditions do, it started out as just an easy day to get together and make brunch because we were all off of work or home from school, not as something we intended to be an annual event. But, the next year we got together for brunch again, this time branching out with our dishes. From then on Memorial Day brunch became an assumed tradition and we love it!

Memorial Day Weekend Brunch 2017 |

Memorial Day Weekend Brunch 2017 |

We have a few go-to brunch recipes for any time of the year, including coffee cake (heavy on the crumb topping), scones (chocolate chip and/or berry), fruit salad, and the typical eggs and bacon. We try to switch up the breads from time to time so we don’t get in a rut. This year, we suggested different breakfast items beforehand and voted to narrow down which ones we ultimately made. After many heated debates about whether cinnamon rolls or sticky buns are better, and if we should put blueberries in the scones if we also put them in the lemon loaf, we decided on our Memorial Day brunch menu.

Memorial Day Weekend Brunch 2017 |

Memorial Day Weekend Brunch 2017 |

I am sharing our menu below, with comments, so you can prepare for your own great brunch. Some of our favorites would be a great to include on Father’s Day!

Lemon Lemon Loaf – We adapted the recipe from Baked cookbook. Every recipe we have tried from this cookbook has been good (the pumpkin chocolate chip loaf is our go-to in the fall!). Note that one recipe makes two loaves, but it is easily halved. We skipped the glaze and added 1½ cups of blueberries to the flour mixture before mixing it with the wet ingredients. I would definitely recommend adding blueberries if you make this – they break up the texture and add a great flavor. The loaf was very dense and extremely moist, but tasty.

Ultimate Cinnamon Buns – This recipe was from Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book. These cinnamon buns took a lot of time to make and the result was only okay. The filling was too sweet for our taste and overpowered the flavor of the buns themselves and the glaze. For the amount of time it took to make them (we started the night before), I expected the result to be amazing. I admit that I’m not a wizard with yeasted dough, but I think I did it right this time. It could have still been a mistake on our end with kneading or mixing, but they weren’t that wonderful. I am still willing to make homemade yeasted cinnamon buns, but I wouldn’t spend my time on this recipe again.

Summer Fruit Salad – This one is self-explanatory. We combined berries and melons and added a few sprigs of mint to the top. It was fresh and delicious, as always.

Mixed Berry Scones – As I mentioned in the cinnamon swirl scone bread post, brunch is not complete in our house without some type of scones. The flavors can vary, and chocolate chip scones are a staple, but in the summertime mixed berry scones are just as delicious. We used our favorite recipe from Foster’s Market and added blueberries and chopped strawberries to the flour mixture. If you haven’t had a good scone, these will change your mind. The Foster’s Market Cookbook is another one of our favorite sources for recipes. Foster’s Market is a local cafe and market and we love trying to make recipes in the book to replicate the delicious items in the shop.

Scrambled Eggs and Bacon – You can’t have brunch without some sort of eggs or breakfast protein (at least not in our house!). This is one of the easiest parts of brunch, but is so tasty!

Brunch is my favorite meal and I’m always looking for great new dishes! What is your favorite brunch item?!

memorial day food ideas

The long weekend and unofficial start to summer is just around the corner! I pulled together some great Memorial Day food ideas for your brunch, cookout, or sweet tooth.


While many families spend the weekend at the beach, our family has a tradition of staying home and making an elaborate Memorial Day brunch together. It is one of the only days of the year when we all have the day off and can take our time cooking an early meal together, without the pressure of impressing guests, like we would have on other holidays. We like to try new dishes each year, so I’m excited to use some of these recipes in our brunch spread.

Memorial Day Recipe Ideas |


carrot cake scones with cream cheese glaze

Can you believe there are only a few days until Easter?! Even though Easter is late this year, amidst everything else we had going on I feel like it snuck up on me. But one thing I always like to be prepared for, holiday or not, is brunch. Carrot cake scones with cream cheese glaze are the perfect addition to your Easter brunch, or for a quick breakfast as you are running out the door.

Carrot Cake Scones with Cream Cheese Glaze |

Carrot Cake Scones with Cream Cheese Glaze |

Any time cake can be disguised as breakfast I’m all in! These carrot cake scones are not overly sweet, allowing the cream cheese frosting to balance them out when the two are combined. And there are plenty of carrots, so you can get your vegetables whenever you eat one. Or three. Vegetable breakfast dessert? That sounds about right.

The cream cheese glaze is delicious and is truly what makes these scones reminiscent of carrot cake (because who has ever had carrot cake without cream cheese frosting?). The sweet creamy glaze fills in the nooks and crannies on the craggy surface of the carrot cake scones, and makes each bite a little more satisfying. I love the drizzled look, but you could also spread the glaze in one layer across the top to really make the most of it.

Carrot Cake Scones with Cream Cheese Glaze |

Another great thing about these scones is that you can make the dough ahead of time and bake them on Easter morning. This is ideal for those of us who take a little extra time to get ready in our Easter best. Fresh scones without the hassle of early morning mixing and measuring? I’ll take that any day! Just wrap the pre-made dough in plastic wrap, store in the fridge, and bake according to the same directions, adding on a few minutes, if necessary. Like any scones, carrot cake scones are best warm out of the oven, or cool enough to drizzle the cream cheese glaze. Only bake as many as you need, as they dry out after a day.

Carrot Cake Scones with Cream Cheese Glaze |

Carrot Cake Scones with Cream Cheese Glaze |

I’m excited to be sharing a few recipes on Lexi’s blog, Glitter, Inc., over the next few months. Head over to Glitter, Inc. for the recipe for these carrot cake scones with cream cheese glaze!

cereal milk cake with lucky charms filling

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day – are you ready?! Pull out your green and whip up this fun cereal milk cake topped and filled with Lucky Charms marshmallows!

Cereal Milk Cake with Lucky Charms Filling |

There are a few foods that remind me of St. Patrick’s Day. Shepherd’s pie, Irish soda bread, and Lucky Charms immediately come to mind (though Bailey’s, Guinness, and milk dyed with green food coloring are close behind). Though we don’t do much for St. Patrick’s Day in our home, it was always an unexpectedly fun holiday in our house growing up. From making leprechaun houses to eating an entirely green meal, it was all very whimsical. This cereal milk cake decorated with Lucky Charms would fit right in with the theme and fun-spirited mood of the day.

Cereal Milk Cake with Lucky Charms Filling |

There are three key elements to making this cake. The first is soaking the milk with cereal (Frosted Flakes or other frosted cornflake cereals work well). The second is using imitation vanilla extract to get that nostalgic flavor from your childhood. And the third is crushing the marshmallows into the frosting between the cake layers. The marshmallows between the layers are optional, but adding them really makes the frosting reminiscent of eating a bowl of Lucky Charms. Crushed up marshmallows give you the taste of Lucky Charms cereal, without the squeaky feeling of full Lucky Charms marshmallows. You know what I’m talking about.

Cereal Milk Cake-4

The marshmallows decorating on the sides and top of the cake are totally optional, but don’t they look so fun?! If for no other reason, I’ll keep them for that. I pulled these marshmallows straight out of the cereal box, but you can also buy full bags of cereal marshmallows on Amazon! That would limit the confusion when unsuspecting family members pour a bowl of Lucky Charms and end up with only the cereal ;) Whoops.

Cereal Milk Cake with Lucky Charms Filling |

Whichever variation you choose, I hope it brings you lots of luck and joy tomorrow!

Cereal Milk Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 egg whites
1 tablespoon clear imitation vanilla
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 ½ cups flour
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup cereal milk (recipe below)
Marshmallows from cereal (like Lucky Charms), for assembly

Cereal Milk
1 ½ cups milk
1 ½ cups frosted cornflake cereal

Vanilla Frosting
2 cups (or 4 sticks) butter, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar (or to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon milk
¼ cup marshmallows from cereal, finely crushed, optional

To make cereal milk:
Pour the milk over the cereal and swirl it around vigorously. Let the milk and cereal soak for about 20 minutes. Strain the milk through a sieve into a small bowl. With the back of a spoon press the cereal into the sieve with the to squeeze the liquid out of the cornflakes, but not forcefully enough to push the cornflakes through the sieve. Discard the soggy cereal (we compost it, but you could also feed it to your pet ;)).

To make cereal milk cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two 8-inch cake pans with non-stick cooking spray. Cut out 8-inch circles of parchment paper. Line the bottom of the pans and spray the parchment with non-stick cooking spray.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg whites, one at a time, mixing well after each one. Blend in the vanilla and the oil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. With your mixer running on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three additions, alternating with the cereal milk. Start and end with the flour mixture.

Divide the batter evenly between the pans and bake for about 25-30 minutes, checking to make sure a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, then remove them from the pans and transfer them to a wire cooling rack to cool completely. The cake layers should be completely cool before you frost them.

To make the frosting:
Beat together the butter and powdered sugar until the mixture is light and creamy. Add the vanilla and milk and beat to combine. You can add more powdered sugar for a sweeter variation, just add more milk 1 teaspoon at a time to keep the right consistency.

Optional: Separate the frosting into three equal parts. Fold the crushed cereal marshmallows into one part of the frosting. This will be used between the cake layers, while the other two parts will be used to frost the outside of the cake.

To assemble:
Place one cake layer on a cake plate or serving plate and top with the crushed cereal marshmallow frosting, if using. Top with the next cake layer and frost the entire cake with the remaining vanilla frosting. Decorate by placing cereal marshmallows along the sides and top of the cake in any arrangement you like. Only place the marshmallows on the cake if you are serving it soon, otherwise they will get soggy.

Happy (almost) St. Patrick’s Day!

Cake and frosting adapted from Molly Yeh’s funfetti cake

galette des rois

Well, better late than never, right?

Galette Des Rois |

I don’t think many people would mind extending Mardi Gras one day for this galette des rois, or French king cake. The golden puff pastry dough rises around the cake and creates a beautiful facade. Filled with creamy almond paste and raspberry jam, the galette des rois is delicious without being too sweet, like their American counterparts.

Galette Des Rois |

Galette Des Rois |

And the best part? It is impressive but easy! I cheated and used store-bought puff pastry sheets so, besides assembly, all you need to do is make is the almond paste. If you are really short on time, you can even buy almond paste from the store. The goal here is impressive, delicious, and pretty, without too much work. (more…)

chocolate espresso sables with raspberry mascarpone filling

What the world needs now is love sweet love. As we get closer to Valentine’s Day I like to find ways to share love with people all around me. Passing around a few chocolate espresso sables with raspberry mascarpone filling is a good way to start.

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling |

Chocolate and Valentine’s Day are basically synonymous with each other, so while I grew up on royal icing frosted sugar cookie hearts, I knew we needed a chocolate alternative. And what better to pair with chocolate than espresso?! Chocolate and coffee is one of my favorite flavor combinations. In every form, the pair complements and brings out the best in each other.

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling |

Can I share a secret? I typically don’t like chocolate and raspberry together, or really chocolate with any fruits. Chocolate covered strawberries don’t entice me and I am less likely to choose a chocolate torte from the menu if raspberry sauce is included on top. So why am I making chocolate cookies with raspberry mascarpone filling? Because they break the mold.

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling |

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling |

In smaller quantities, coffee is unnoticeable in chocolate baked goods – it merely adds depth and brings out the chocolate flavor. That is why you will almost always see coffee listed as an ingredient in brownies and chocolate cakes here on the blog. But here we use a little more – we want the espresso to shine next to the chocolate! By using dark cocoa powder, these cookies have an even deeper and more intense chocolate flavor. Bake them a little softer and they are like little brownies that melt in your mouth; bake them stiffer and they have the perfect crispness that you expect from shortbread or a typical sable cookie.

There is just enough raspberry jam to sweeten the mascarpone and make it slightly fruity, while still letting the tangy-ness of the mascarpone shine through. The coffee in the cookies adds to the equation as well and the multifaceted dessert comes out not too fruity, not too sweet, but very flavorful and absolutely delicious.

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling |

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling |

Bake these up for your valentine, for your co-workers, for your family and friends, and share the love, sweet love.

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling

Chocolate Espresso Sables
1 cup flour
½ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup dark cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
2-3 tablespoons instant espresso powder*
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

Raspberry Mascarpone Filling
½ cup (1-8oz container) mascarpone
2 tablespoons raspberry jam

*If you aren’t a fan of coffee or the coffee and chocolate combination, just reduce the amount of espresso powder but don’t eliminate it. By keeping a little coffee, you will get a richer chocolate flavor without the added coffee taste.

To make the chocolate espresso sables
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, sea salt and instant espresso powder (all ingredients except for the butter). Add the softened butter to the dry ingredients and use your hands to work the ingredients together until the butter is fully incorporated.

Flour a flat work surface (cutting board, counter, etc) and roll the dough out onto the surface until it is about ¼-inch thick. Dip your cookie cutters in excess flour around the edges of the work surface and cut your shapes out of the dough. Transfer the cookie dough shapes to the prepared baking sheets, placing them a few inches apart from each other. Bake for 10-15 minutes, rotating halfway through. The baking time may increase or decrease depending on the size of your cookie cutters. I noticed that the smaller shapes only took about 8 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking trays for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely before filling.

To make the raspberry mascarpone filling
In a small bowl, stir together the mascarpone and the raspberry jam until the mixture is fully combined and evenly pink throughout.

Match up the chocolate espresso sables by size. Use a knife, a spoon, or a pastry bag to place the raspberry mascarpone filling on a cooled cookie and place a matching size cookie on top. Gently press the two sides into the filling so they will stay together. As shown in the photos, you can also use the raspberry mascarpone filling as frosting on open-faced cookies or as a way to stack different sized cookies together and create a layered look.

Only fill the cookies you are going to eat or serve immediately. Uneaten cookies will get softer if you store them pre-filled, but will keep their structure if you store them not-yet-filled. Store the rest of the filling in a covered bowl or airtight container in the fridge to use when you eat or serve the rest.

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling |

christmas home tour and a baby shower

I hope you all had a merry merry Christmas (or a happy Hanukkah)! We had the most wonderful day, and one of the best Christmases we have had. Earlier in December I hosted a baby shower for two beautiful friends who are due in January and February. It was a great reason to get my Christmas decorations up early, which allowed us to host many people throughout the season. Below are a few pictures of our home and a few from the baby shower set-up.

Christmas Home Tour |

Christmas Home Tour |

Christmas Home Tour |

This little scene below is in our powder room and I laugh every time I go in there. We got the little cab from NYC earlier this year to use as an ornament on our tree (we get an ornament from each place we travel), but it ended up being the perfect addition to the bottle brush tree farm ;). It is difficult to tell in this photo, but the black frame is around a mirror and the back wall is reflected in the mirror. My mom and I recently wallpapered our powder room and I love seeing it when I open the door, with or without the winter scene.

Christmas Home Tour |

Christmas Home Tour |

Christmas Home Tour |

Both mamas-to-be moved into new houses earlier this year, so to incorporate this time in their lives, I made gingerbread houses modeled after their new homes with little gingerbread storks in the front yards. They made great decorations for the party and were a special favor for the women to take home to share with their spouses.

Christmas Home Tour |

Christmas Home Tour |

Christmas Home Tour |

There was no shortage of food at the party, sweet or savory. The menu I used is below, with recipes linked where possible.

-Rosemary spiced nuts (from Foster’s Southern Kitchen cookbook)
-Mini chocolate chip scones
-Mini quiches (from Trader Joe’s)
-Butternut squash dip (I usually make this dip with goat cheese, as the recipe states, but with pregnant women in mind for the shower I swaped a mixture of cream cheese and parmesan cheese for the goat cheese)
-Caramelized onion tartlets (from Foster’s Southern Kitchen cookbook – I swapped out gruyere cheese for the goat cheese in this recipe as well)
-Doughnut holes (brought by a friend)
-Gingerbread onesies (my dad 3D printed a cookie cutter for me, but there are lots of onesie cookie cutters on Etsy)

Christmas Home Tour |

Christmas Home Tour |

Christmas Home Tour |

I hope everyone has a relaxing end to 2016 and the holiday season and a great start to 2017! Happy New Year!

homemade gifts and easy english toffee

We are in the final days before Christmas, and while I’m pretty much finished with my shopping (except maybe a few stocking stuffers and gift toppers), I still have lots of baking to do to make sure I can get our tokens of appreciation to the bus driver, mail delivery person, neighbors, coworkers and far-away family. We like to make cookies, candy and other small homemade treats for these people as a thoughtful, personal way to show our appreciation for all of their help and love throughout the year. I love making and wrapping homemade gifts in small packages tied with pretty ribbons. Some of our favorite treats that we make and share every year are shortbread bites, rosemary spiced nuts, gingerbread cookies, and marshmallows, but we decided to try something new this year with easy English toffee.

Easy English Toffee-12

As noted by its title, this English toffee is super simple. I didn’t realize before writing this post, but adding the almonds makes it English toffee, rather than just toffee, as if the British have a monopoly on almond usage. I love making this recipe with chopped toasted pecans in place of the almonds (which I guess would then nullify “English” in the title). Not only does it have a wonderful flavor, it also reminds me of the delicious Chapel Hill toffee we love to give family and friends as a memento from our small college town.

easy English toffee and other homemade gifts |

Easy English Toffee-13

Though not absolutely necessary, it is helpful to have a candy thermometer (or at least a clean meat thermometer) to make this recipe. In order for the mixture to become a hard toffee, it has to reach a high enough temperature. The great thing about this easy recipe is that if your butter-sugar mixture doesn’t get hot enough to create hard toffee, you will have a delicious soft candy treat that is still wonderful to gift! It is difficult to mess up this recipe, which makes it great for the week before Christmas when you don’t have time for re-dos.

Easy English Toffee-14

Easy English Toffee-15

If you aren’t into toffee (though you should still try this because it is delicious) I have listed a few of my favorite homemade gifts you can make this week for the service people in your life, stocking stuffers, or just the difficult person on your list who you still haven’t found a present for.

Homemade rosé gummy bears
Peppermint bark
Hand scrub
Bath salts
Coffee syrup
Hot chocolate mix (homemade or not) with homemade marshmallows
Homemade amaretto
Easy English toffee (recipe below)

Easy English Toffee-16

This toffee is just as the name states – easy and delicious. And with the adjustment of a few ingredients it goes from English toffee to Chapel Hill toffee :)

Easy English Toffee
1 cup finely chopped raw almonds, divided in two (you can also use pecans for this)
18 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks, divided in two (you can also use dark chocolate)
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
a pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (good quality, if you have it)

For this recipe, it is important to make sure everything is chopped and prepared before starting. You won’t have time or hands to do so after you start.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat (as mentioned in the gift guide for bakers!) and sprinkle half of the chopped nuts onto the lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the almonds are fragrant and slightly golden, stirring a few times while they bake. Toasting the nuts adds a great flavor to the toffee.

Melt half of the chocolate in the microwave in 15 second increments until smooth and spread evenly on top of the toasted nuts. The nuts might move around a bit – this is fine. When you are finished spreading the chocolate you can move some of the nuts back into place to make sure they are evenly dispersed.

Get ready, set your music and have your tools ready – this is where you are married to your pan and the toffee that is to come. In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, melt the butter and brown sugar together, whisking constantly, until the mixture reaches 300 degrees F on your candy thermometer. For those who don’t have a candy thermometer, the color of the mixture will be about the color of peanut butter. This takes 15-20 minutes.

Remove the mixture from the heat and quickly add in salt and vanilla. Immediately pour the toffee onto your nut and chocolate covered baking sheet, spreading it out evenly with a rubber spatula or offset spatula. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate over the hot toffee and when it looks like it is melted, spread with an offset spatula (like in the gif above!). Sprinkle the remaining nuts on top and gently press them into the chocolate.

Refrigerate for 1 hour before breaking into pieces. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. I find that it stays fresh longer in the fridge. You can also make this ahead and freeze for up to 3 months.

gift guide for stocking stuffers

Today gift guide focuses on stocking stuffers for everyone on your list. I always save stocking stuffer items for last. I like to take inventory of the presents we have gotten for everyone, see if there are any small things that would pair nicely with our existing presents, or just smaller items that I think they would love and be surprised to get on Christmas morning. I always love trying to gift something that fits someone’s likes and personality, but is small enough to sneakily fit in a stocking. The sneakiness is part of the thrill of stocking stuffers because it causes so much excitement and wonderful surprises :). These smaller ideas also make great presents for coworkers or friends. The best part? Almost everything on this gift guide for stocking stuffers is under $25, and for the two or three items that aren’t I have included an under $25 dupe! Let’s stuff some stockings!

Gift Guide for Stocking Stuffers

A unique sweet treat, like hot chocolate on a stick, rose gummy bears, cocktail sugars (the mint julep sugars are in the shape of horses in horseshoes!), or macarons from a local bakery, is a great addition to any stocking. It stands out from the rest of the festive candy and gives them something to look forward to trying after the big holiday. You can even add a personal touch and make your own hot chocolate mix and package it with homemade marshmallows.

With their small size and reasonable pricing, earrings make a great stocking stuffer. There are so many styles, making this an easy gift for lots of people. Include a jewelry travel case for easy storage of all their new gifted jewelry on their trip home.

Beauty products are also great sizes for filling stockings. Lipstick, nail polish, face masks, lotion, a sleep mask, and any of their favorite makeup items make great fillers that your mom and sister are sure to love and use long after the holidays pass.

I have listed this on almost every gift guide this year because I believe socks are one of the most versatile gifts. They are great rolled up as stocking stuffers, gifted to coworkers and friends, or under the tree for a family member. With so many styles there is a good pair for everyone. These reindeer socks are so cute for the holidays.

Warm slippers (these chic faux fur ones are only $20!) and a velvet bow make lounging around the house in the days following Christmas much more stylish, and a desk calendar and some journals will get them started on the right foot the next week when New Year’s comes around.

I hope this weekend brings some cookie baking, relaxation and stocking stuffing!

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