Baking from the Heart

I’ve had a friend on my mind for the last few days, and I just haven’t been real sure what to do. So this morning I finally just decided that I was going to bake some cookies.

I used Bakerella’s fabulous “Cowgirl Cookies” recipe — a friend gave away a jar with all of the ingredients for these cookies at her daughter’s birthday party a while back, and the cookies were so good that I knew I’d have to make them again. They combine chocolate chips, oatmeal and M&M’s, so I figured they were bound to please just about anybody. Make no mistake, these cookies are amazing.

To package the cookies, I used a cute little wood bark patterned treat box that I found in the dollar bins at Target a few weeks back, and I embellished it by making one of Martha’s cupcake liner carnations. Then, I added a simple tag I made that said exactly how I felt: “When I don’t know how to help, I make cookies.”

Want to make some cookies for a friend  you’re thinking about too? Download the free tag here and make your own box for somebody special.


Sweet Treats: Pumpkin Bread with No-sew Fabric Packaging

Well, it may not be so Autumn-esque here in California with this insane heatwave, but I decided to go ahead and make some pumpkin bread anyway! I am on a mission to find the perfect recipe for this delicious treat, as pumpkin bread truly is one of my favorites. This recipe turned out pretty well, and it’s said to be even better the next day – so it’s perfect to make for gifts.

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread (recipe originally found here)

  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7×3 inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

One of the best things about baking breads is they are so easy to package and give away. I like to bake mine in mini-loaf pans with lids, and wrap them in fabric and ribbon. It’s super easy, and it requires no sewing … just some pinking shears and double-sided tape! Here’s how I package mine:

No-Sew Fabric Wrap

  • Fabric of your choice
  • Coordinating ribbon of different widths
  • Double-sided tape
  • Pinking shears (scissors with scalloped edges, keeps fabric from fraying)

  1. Cut your fabric in a long strip that will fit around your baking pan and lid like a belt.
  2. Turn the pan upside down and tape fabric to the bottom of the pan with double-sided tape. Make sure your “belt” is straight and wrap around the pan. Line up the unsecured side of the belt with the one you taped, and tape that side to the bottom.
  3. Cut ribbon you desire (I used two ribbons pictured above, and taped the thinner one on top of the thicker one). Tape it at the bottom, wrap around, and tape the other side to the bottom, just like with the fabric.
  4. Make sure fabric and ribbon are straight, with all taped edges on the bottom of your pan, so the top looks nice and clean.
  5. Now you’re ready to finish it off by tying on a tag or label of your choice with a thinner string/ribbon!

We’re still unpacking after our move, and my printer is out of action right now, so I used a cute little tag that I’d ordered from Bake It Pretty a while ago instead of my own. I was especially happy to find a  brown houndstooth fabric to use … I feel like it’s the perfect pattern for Fall and looks great with the pumpkin bread!


Sweet Treats: Crispy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups + My 1st Cheesecake

One of my favorite mommy friends is expecting baby #2, and I decided that this baby deserved a party, no matter how prepared his/her parents were! I say “his/her” because this baby has a very patient momma who has the ability to actually wait to find out the sex of the baby until it’s born — can you believe that?!? So, baby’s name is “Smüdgie” for now (yes, the umlaut is very necessary) until his/her birth day.

No party is a party without favors, so I got to work deciding on what sweet treats I’d be making for the guests. I came across this genius recipe for Crispy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. The tiny little no-bake candies worked perfectly for my concept of “a smidge of something sweet for Smüdgie”. (Big thanks to Iowa Girl Eats for the idea and tutorial)

For packaging, I used different shades of scrapbook paper to fit the width of a treat bag, made little flags for the cups with toothpicks, and attached one of my custom made tags. Everyone got two sweet little cups in their bag to take home!

You also can’t have a party without cake, and at the mom-to-be’s request, she wanted a cheesecake with a fresh berry topping. I’d never made a cheesecake before, so I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to try! Guess what? It’s totally easy. The fanciest part about it is using a springform pan.

After researching 1,000,000 recipes, from Martha’s to Ina Garten’s, I decided to use an old classic — this one. Scoff if you must, but it was the real deal.

I used a 10.5″ pan, rather than a 9″ one, so I increased the graham cracker crust recipe by an additional cup of crumbs, 1/4 c. butter, and 1 tsp. sugar to ensure optimal buttery graham cracker crust goodness. I also put the crust in the oven for about 10 mins. first, then let it cool before I added the filling and baked it. The next morning, I trimmed the edge with blueberries, sliced strawberries and layered them, and saved room in the middle for more blueberries. I was proud of how it turned out!

Now, I just have to wait for Smüdgie to get here!

Sweet Treats: Shortbread Cookies for Mother’s Day

These tea bag cookies have been all over the internet lately, and as soon as I saw them on Pinterest, I knew I’d have to make them. The ones I’d seen online were beautiful of course, but I just felt the need to put my own fun + lighthearted “mommy” twist on them. They were more labor intensive than I’d anticipated, but I think they were well worth the trouble!

What made these really special to make was the fact that I made them with my mom. I love to bake treats, but I have a lot to learn from my mom — who fortunately, is always willing to help me (no matter how ambitious the project). The biggest challenge for me as a perfectionist was learning how to roll the dough evenly and get the thickness the same throughout. Big thanks to my mom is due for giving me the essential tips!

I’m a sucker for details, so I tried to make the tags as awesome as possible. I was too last minute to find the clear favor boxes I wanted to package the set of six cookies in, so I ended up packaging them in clear cellophane treat bags with wraphia and a “you’re awesome, momma!” treat bag tag.

I just wanted to pay homage to all of the awesome momma friends I’m fortunate enough to know, and if I could find a way to mass produce these suckers without driving myself crazy, I’d make a batch for every awesome momma I know! It’s going to be fun to see all the different variations on these as they pop up online post-Mother’s Day. This is a really great tutorial on how to make them yourself if you’d like to try!

Happy Baking! (and Happy Mother’s Day!)

Sweet Treats: Easter Candy Bark

After seeing this recipe for Easter Candy Bark, I just knew I’d have to make it this Easter. I can’t help it, Easter candy is just so pretty, and this stuff looked divine. The best part? It was SUPER EASY to make. (I’m not kidding, either!)

I loved how simple it was to make the marble effect with the white chocolate. After the dark chocolate is melted and spread on wax paper, all you have to do is put dollops of white chocolate on top and use a knife to swirl it around to get the effect. I think that’s what makes it look so fancy!

After you marble it up, just sprinkle your Easter candy on top (I used chopped mini Cadbury eggs and M&M’s) and let it dry for atleast 2 hours. The final step is to break it up when its all set.

I kept the packaging simple and made my own little tags, and then folded the top of a ziploc baggie down, and hid it under a folded piece of scrapbook paper. I punched holes and secured it with white wraphia. If I really wanted to make it perfect, I would’ve bought some clear plastic square treat boxes and wrapped it up like a present. Guess I’ll just have to be sure to do that next year!

Sweet Treats: Grown Up Goodies for Valentine’s Day

I’m feeling a little defeated tonight. I’ve had my heart set on making these red wine lollipops as soon as I stumbled across the recipe. I thought they’d be a perfect treat to surprise all my grown-up friends with for Valentine’s Day (treats for the little people are coming soon!). Well, my mom told me that her grandmother used to curse candy making, and now I know why …

Gathering all the ingredients was simple enough. Making the red wine reduction was a piece of cake. But when it gets to getting the candy mixture up to 300 degrees without burning it, that’s hard. I tried over and over, making 4 batches total, and I could only salvage 8 lollipops.

The good news is, the 8 I did successfully make look really cute. I kept the packaging simple and went with plastic lollipop bags, red + white baker’s twine, and a little gold tag. I’m pretty happy with how they look, I just wish I had more!

I am determined to master it … I’ve got one last pot of red wine on the stove top, and I’m hoping for the best!

Party: A Very Toddler Valentine’s Day

This year, my daughter hosted her very own Valentine’s Day Party! Well, maybe I helped a little. I just couldn’t think of anything cuter than a bunch of toddlers at a Valentine’s Day party … and, it was an excuse for me to make some treats. There were 5 girls and 5 boys invited, along with 10 of my very favorite mommas!

I wanted to keep things very old school and homemade looking, so I bought a heart-shaped craft punch and went to town with it. I punched hearts in all the different red/white/pink papers I had and taped them to thin red ribbon for garlands, and punched smaller ones to tape to toothpicks for the cupcake toppers. I even taped hearts to the water bottles – I admit, I’m fully into hearts!

I made goodie bags for all the kids that were filled with Carrot Zucchini Cookies. I tried to be considerate and not get everybody’s kid all hopped up on sugar, and thought any chance at sneaking in some veggies would be welcome. My mom had the great idea to try baking them in a heart shaped pan, and even though they don’t look so appetizing here, I swear – the kiddos loved them! Of course, I saved my Heart-shaped Red Wine Lollipops as a party favor for all of the moms!

We had so much fun that we may need to make this an annual event. What can I say, I love the day of love!