Archive of ‘Holidays’ category

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 | passthecookies.com

Carrot Cake Scones with Cream Cheese Glaze | passthecookies.com

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 | passthecookies.com

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 | passthecookies.com

Carrot Cake Scones with Cream Cheese Glaze | passthecookies.com

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 | www.passthecookies.com

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 | www.passthecookies.com

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 | www.passthecookies.com

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 | www.passthecookies.com

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 | www.passthecookies.com

Galette Des Rois | www.passthecookies.com

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 | www.passthecookies.com

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 | www.passthecookies.com

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 | www.passthecookies.com

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling | www.passthecookies.com

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 | www.passthecookies.com

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling | www.passthecookies.com

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 | www.passthecookies.com

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 | passthecookies.com

Christmas Home Tour | passthecookies.com

Christmas Home Tour | passthecookies.com

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 | passthecookies.com

Christmas Home Tour | passthecookies.com

Christmas Home Tour | passthecookies.com

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 | passthecookies.com

Christmas Home Tour | passthecookies.com

Christmas Home Tour | passthecookies.com

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 | passthecookies.com

Christmas Home Tour | passthecookies.com

Christmas Home Tour | passthecookies.com

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 | passthecookies.com

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
Shortbread
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!

gift guide for the jetsetter

Moving from baking and cooking to one of my other favorite activities – traveling! This gift guide for the jetsetter is filled with ideas small and large for the frequent traveler or the on-the-go friends and family members in your life. Whether they are traveling across the globe or across town, there are items in every price range that make a thoughtful gift and help them in their busy, mobile lives. Some of these items are so useful for everyday life that I was tempted to get them for myself (looking at the travel mug, dry shampoo and clothes steamer). :)

Gift Guide for the Jetsetter | passthecookies.com

Starting with the most obvious, a duffel bag or weekender bag is a great gift for any frequent traveler. You can often find these smaller bags at great prices for their size, which makes your gift seem even more impressive ;) Duffel bags and weekenders are great for short trips and can be used as carry-on bags if they are the right size, meaning they are double as useful!

These luggage tags are so cute and a great addition to the jetsetter’s bags. The pretty hues will make it easier to find her luggage amidst all of the other bags on the baggage claim belt. These make a great stocking stuffer too!

I love all of the Rifle Paper Co. products, but their travel inspired paper goods are always some of my favorites, especially as I make it to more of the cities on their calendars and prints. This “bon voyage” calendar is perfect to help the girl on the go plan when she will be on trips and get some inspiration at the same time!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, socks are a great gift for ANYONE on your list. I always pack an extra pair of socks in my purse when I travel in case I get cold or just want to feel comfortable. I love these cute skiing penguin print socks to inspire a winter excursion!

I do lots of research before we take trips and always find travel books to be helpful. I have always loved the New York Times 36 Hours books since they are filled with great trip ideas, but are pretty enough to make great coffee table books and conversation starters. They have many variations, including specific regions and cities in the US, as well as more broad areas of different countries. To go along with the travel book, these language phrasebooks are a great gift for anyone who is planning on going on a foreign trip, but isn’t confident with their language skills. These books are pretty and so helpful when you need to know the right word for bread and how to ask where the bathroom is in a different language.

A travel mug is an easy gift for both constant travelers and just those who are on-the-go in general. They are convenient and a much cheaper (and cute) way to have coffee in the morning than a stop at the coffee shop every day. I love the ceramic ones that have started coming out – wouldn’t they be great for a car ride near or far?

One of the worst parts of traveling is forgetting things or not having the things you need on hand. These cute minimergency kits take care of that and come in so many colors and variations for anyone on your list (even one specifically for traveling!). Gift them to coworkers, friends, or in your sister’s stocking, and maybe stash one in your purse while you’re at it ;).

I always find that it takes more effort to look put-together after a long day of traveling. It is difficult to get enough sleep when you are on the go, which can affect the rest of your trip if you aren’t prepared. I love sleep masks for long plane trips (or really long car trips), especially when you are adjusting to a time change. They help you get some rest while in transit, which helps you look and feel less tired for the rest of the trip. Some of my favorite post-flight or post-travel products are dry shampoo and stay-all-day lipstick. In 1 minute you can go from a weary traveler to a fresh new girl, ready to see the sites. Face masks are a nice treat for anyone (and are great stocking stuffers!), but an especially great indulgence for those who travel often to give them some relaxation after what can sometimes be a long, stressful journey.

I have heard so many great things about clothes steamers and am so tempted to get one for myself. They are great for travelers to use when they unpack their suitcase of wrinkled clothes. There are lots of small ones that are very portable and are so affordable! This is also great for someone who might not travel a lot, but just doesn’t have a lot of time on her hands. A quick steam would be so much faster than pulling out the ironing board!

gift guide for the baker

As we head into the final weeks before Christmas, I have gift guides for people with specific interests. Sometimes I get stuck when I’m brainstorming for gifts for friends and family and don’t step back to think about other things they would like that aren’t obvious or already on my gift list. Hobbies and interests, old and new are great starting points. There are some gifts on here that are specifically great for those cooks, chefs and bakers in your life, but lots are also great gift toppers, coworker gifts, and presents for people who might not do a lot of cooking but are interested in learning more about it. One of the best things about this gift guide is that there are gifts for every price point. Some of these items are under $15 and with all of the sales going on right now nothing is more than $42! Just as I hope this blog provides inspiration and ideas that you can make in your kitchen at home, I hope this gift guide for the baker and chef can spark some present ideas for you too.

Gift Guide for the Baker

Silpats and nonstick baking mats are ideal for the baker who makes lots of cookies and pastries. Not only do they allow baked goods to release from the pan easily with little mess, they also help the products cook and brown at the same rate, so all of their cookies come out a uniform shade of golden. It is great for making macarons and choux pastry too!

I picked up a pretty pie server from the sale section of Anthropologie one day and use it more than any other serving piece in the drawer. It is great for serving pies, cakes, plated appetizers, pizza, quiche, you name it! I am shocked how often we pull it out, but so glad to have it on hand for unexpected entertaining. Since there is such a range of prices on pretty pie servers, you could give one to a hostess on it’s own, to a friend on top of the rest of their baking-themed gift, or in your dad’s stocking. Bake a pie and tie one on top for the perfect built-in gift and contribution to your in-laws’ feast.

Copper is clearly in vogue right now. I walked into Crate and Barrel the other day and saw a whole wall of copper tools and bowls. It is everywhere and it is beautiful. This copper-handled whisk, copper bowl and copper and rose gold colored measuring cups and spoons are an affordable way to bring the beauty into your favorite baker or chef’s kitchen. All of this copper reminds me of the wall of copper pots on the wall of Julia Child’s kitchen in the Smithsonian Museum. How can you go wrong with that famous chef as your guide?

I love a cute oven mitt and pot holder, and these Kate Spade ones take the cake (some quite literally)! These oven mitt and pot holder sets have such fun and whimsical patterns and even have aprons in matching patterns so your baker can be fully decked out and lovely while spreading flour and handling hot dishes (I imagine someone effortlessly doing both at once, while adjusting the music, spicing the soup on the stove and still making conversation with you. Maybe cute oven mitts have magical multitasking powers?)

Most bakers have the classic square metal pan for making brownies and bars, but this ceramic painted brownie pan would be a beautiful step up from the old (probably scraped up) one they usually use. Pretty enough to serve treats in, but useful at the same time – those are some of the best gifts. I always love gifts that I know someone will use, but wouldn’t typically buy for themselves (in this case because they already have a square pan, but not a pretty one). Local pottery stores or flea markets are also great places to find unique, pretty baking pans.

Another small gift that is extremely useful is a spoon rest. I never realized how useful it was until Will got one for Christmas last year. It has made cleaning up the stove and the counter so much easier since there is less to clean, and keeps your spoons from getting too hot because you don’t leave them in the pan. There are lots of great options that will blend in with your kitchen decor, and fun ones that stand out.

One of the best gifts you can get for chefs, bakers and home cooks of all experience levels is a cookbook. I have at least one cookbook on my list every year and love reading through the recipes (and the stories of the recipes) after we all exchange gifts and have some down time before brunch. No matter how experienced or inexperienced the cook, a good cookbook with new recipes is always useful and helpful. You can give them a cookbook written by a local chef, one you have and love, or a new one that you have heard great things about recently.

gift guide for him

Yesterday I posted a gift guide for all of the women in your life. Today, we are moving on to the guys with a gift guide for him! Just like in yesterday’s gift guide, there are gifts of all price ranges so you can get a great gift for grandpa, the perfect present for your pa, and a superb stocking stuffer for your secret Santa, Sam. ;) Sometimes I feel like the guys in my life are some of the most difficult to shop for (looking at you, Will and Dad). Over the years I have gotten better at knowing what they would like and what would be good gifts for any guy in case I can’t find anything specific for them. It is helpful to know their interests (which I talk about a little later), so you can make the gift more personalized for them.

Gift Guide For Him

Will and I both love a good quarter zip. The “Better Sweater” fleece jacket from Patagonia is a great option for casual weekends and evenings when there is a chill in the air but a full coat is overkill or as an extra layer under your coat when it is really cold outside.

Button-down shirts are always on Will’s gift list, since he wears them every day in the clinic. I love the festive plaid of this button-down shirt (and at less than $25 it is such a great price). It would be great for Christmas parties, but could also be worn with a simple tie in a fancier setting. This great tartan bow tie is another great gift for the guys who dress up often. It would go well with one of the solid button-down shirts for all of his Christmas celebrations.

Whiskey wedge ice molds, grill tools and Yeti tumblers are great for any guy on your list, especially when you are stumped on ideas. Yeti tumblers keep drinks cold or hot for hours and they come in collegiate versions for his favorite team. I didn’t find this out until recently, but Yeti also offers customization, so you can put his initials, a logo or text on any of the tumblers.

I said this in the gift guide for her and I stand by it for guys too: socks are great for anyone on your list on their own or as an add-on gift. I think these Star Wars socks are hilarious and perfect for Star Wars fans, especially as the new movies come out, but the classic patterns are also great for those whose fandoms you aren’t aware of (like your office secret Santa).

Another gift that can easily be personalized is a book about their interest or hobby. Coffee table books with photos and information are great, and you can choose whichever topic they like. If they are interested in travel, get a travel guidebook. He likes golfing? This book about golf courses around the world is perfect. He wants to learn more about backyard chickens? Guides to specific subjects like those are easily searchable on the vast book source that is Amazon and make for a thoughtful gift.

For the boyfriends, husbands and dads, a nice sweater is a great gift idea. Cable knit, v-neckwool, there are so many options. I like to stick with a classic look or a color I know they will wear often. The color of their alma mater is also a good bet, since they will have a reason to wear it on game days ;). To get even more personal than just a sweater in their team’s color, these knitted college sweaters are so cute and much classier than a sweatshirt. You can even get one customized if you don’t find his school!

Pajamas (a set or just pj pants) are easy and a very traditional gift for Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. To go along with the nighttime routine, this toiletry bag is sturdy and great for long and short trips. Will likes to keep all of his essentials in a small bag like this so he can grab everything he needs when we go out of town or if he is on-call in the hospital overnight. Some of these smaller bags are great prices too.

Finally, one of the most exciting gifts – the gift of technology! The Amazon Fire TV Stick, Tap, Echo, and Echo Dot, a bluetooth speaker and the brand new Google Home are all great gifts that are sure to spark excitement on Christmas morning. The Fire TV Stick, Echo Dot and some of the bluetooth speakers are $50 and under and are great gadgets to play with on Christmas Day!

Guys can be difficult to shop for, not because they are difficult to please, but because sometimes I don’t feel like what I get is personalized enough to be a great gift. I hope these ideas help you in your gift searching and giving process!

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