Holiday Gifts for Foodies 2012

XMas 2012

With Christmas just 10 short days away, I thought I would give you guys a little list for some last-minute ideas for the foodies in your life! And the best part about all of these items is that they are $50 and under! So, get shopping!

1. Baker Nutcracker: $25 at Pier 1 Imports

Ever since I was little, I’ve always been crazy about these guys. This is probably because my mom would always take me to the ballet every Christmas. And seriously, how cute is this baker nutcracker?!

2. Tablet Kitchen Stand: $49.95 at Williams-Sonoma

This stand might be at the top of this list for me. I always have my iPad in the kitchen with me when I am trying out new recipes and this little stand is perfect! You can also purchase a blue-tooth speaker and screen protector to go with the stand (sold separately).

3. Cuisinart Immersion Hand Blender: $29-$39 at Amazon

I have been meaning to buy myself one of these and haven’t gotten around to it so it is also my list! It would be really useful for soups! And they come in such fun and pretty colors!

4. Conversion Dishtowel: $4.95 at Crate and Barrel

I’m really horrible with conversions. Like, the worst. So, how freakin’ cool and handy would this dishtowel be?!

5. Herb Keeper: $20 at Uncommon Goods

Though I have been meaning to plant my own herbs at my new place, I haven’t gotten around to it, so I am still buying them from the store. I really hate when I buy herbs, only need a little, and then basically have to throw the rest away because I can’t get to them fast enough. This little herb keeper would be great for making them last longer!

6. The OCD Cutting Board: $26 at Think Geek

Um, yes.

7. Merry Berry Soap and Lotion: $16 at Crate and Barrel

I’m pretty sure I had something similar on last year’s gift list, but I don’t care, I’m adding it again! During the holidays, you are probably washing way more dishes than normal and it’s colder outside. This soap and lotion set is perfect to keep next to your sink!

8. Utensil Earrings: $28 on Etsy

Ok, how cute are these utensil earrings I found on Etsy! Perfect for any cooking enthusiast!

9. Cake Pops Set: $45 at Amazon

I don’t have any kids yet, but this adorable cake pops set from the incredible Bakerella really makes me wish I did because these look like too much fun!! Maybe my husband will do this with me?!!

10. Sea Salt Caramels: $22 at Crate and Barrel

You can never go wrong with tasty candy for a foodie. These sets make great gifts for co-workers or teachers as well. Crate and Barrel and Williams-Sonoma both have a great variety of treats!

S’mores Hot Chocolate

S'mores Hot Chocolate

So…S’mores hot chocolate. I don’t know what it is about s’mores, but they just remind me of childhood and summer nights. I didn’t have them all that often when I actually think about it, but I do remember summer nights at my dad’s house in the backyard where we would all sit around and enjoy s’mores. I love summer nights in Ohio. Thought I won’t be spending much time outdoors this winter in Ohio, I can still get my fix with this s’mores hot chocolate!

When you think about it, when you make regular hot chocolate and top it with marshmallows, you’re like already three quarters of the way there. Just throw in some graham cracker crumbs and toast those marshmallows and you are done. You’ve got s’mores hot chocolate. So simple. I guess this isn’t really all that inventive, but who cares?! It’s so good.

There is something about this version. It’s fancy. So much fancier. Toasted marshmallows might be one of the greatest things ever. I love charred marshmallows. The drizzle of chocolate syrup on graham cracker on top just sets it over the top. This is my ultimate hot chocolate recipe!

If you want to make this more grown-up friendly, add a splash of Kahlua or Bailey’s.

Yarn Wreaths

I’m back with yet another craft for you all today! I started making these yarn wreaths last year and now I can’t stop. They are just too much fun. I want one for every holiday!

Wrapping the yarn can be a little tedious, but I like to do it while I am watching tv or a movie. It’s a relaxing project and they look so cute when you are done! And they are way to cheaper to make than to buy at the store. I spotted some at Target today for $30, these will cost you half of that. And once you stock up on assorted colors of yarn, you only need to buy the wreath each time.

These would also make fun little gifts to give this holiday season!

Ok, here is what you need:

A foam wreath from the craft store. I usually go for the white ones, but my store was out so I just went with a floral green one. The wreaths also come in different sizes. Pick whichever you want. Make sure you get the smooth ones, not the really rough ones. Gosh, I’m so good at explaining this, aren’t I?

Yarn. Lots of yarn. And in lots of colors. Go crazy.

Pins.

Ribbons, felt, or whatever you want to decorate your wreath with! You can also use flowers or buttons. I have also made felt flowers and used buttons for the middle. Get creative!

Ok, so that’s what you need. A foam wreath, yarn, pins, and ribbon.

First, pick your first color and cut a piece of yarn to your desired length. You can do all of the colors the same length, or you can change it up. There is no wrong way to do this. Place one end of the piece of yarn on the inside of the wreath and pin into place.

Now wrap the yarn around the wreath. You want to try to wrap it so there are no gaps where the foam is showing. After I wrap each time, I push the yarn to the side up against the side where I started wrapping and make it nice and tight. Once you reach the other end, pin that side down.

Now it’s time to move onto your next color. Just like the first color, take one end, pin into place, wrap, pin the other end. Rinse and repeat.

If there are any pieces of yarn sticking out, you can just pin it down. Ok, so after you finish wrapping your yarn, it’s time to decorate! Again, there is no wrong way to do this. I like to wrap mine with ribbon and then from there, I do different things.

Here are two Christmas wreaths I have done:

And because I am way too lazy to go break out my Halloween decorations, here is an Instagram pic I posted of one of my Halloween wreaths.

For the Halloween wreath and the snowman wreath, I bought sheets of felt at the craft store. Cut two equal shapes that I wanted (snowman, ghost, spider, pumpkin). Then I hand stitched around each one about 3/4 of the way around the edges, stuffed cotton balls inside, stitched up the rest. Then I made their faces!

For the Santa one, that is also made with felt, but it was a little kit I spotted at Michaels and I just glued it together.

So, the possibilities are endless! Have fun with it!

Tomato Parmesan Tarts

Tomato Parmesan Tarts

It’s December. The holidays are near and that means it is time for parties! Lots and lots of parties with lots and lots of food. And like most food during this time of the year, holiday party food tends to be on the heavier side. Though I love appetizers full of cheese or butter, I can only take so much of it and need some lighter bites in between to balance it all out. I hate going home after a party and feeling like I want to explode. Not fun.

Here’s a little appetizer that is easy, pretty, and low in fat! Little rounds of pastry puff topped with Parmesan cheese and a light and tasty tomato mixture. I think these are kind of similar to bruschetta, except with pastry puff dough! The puff pastry gives them a nice buttery flavor, but it’s balanced with the fresh tomato and basil. And since I am not good at making my own pastry doughs, I love that you can use puff pastry right from the freezer section as it saves me time and I don’t have to worry about it not turning out! I think these are my ideal appetizer! These would be great to serve any time of the year!

D.I.Y. Rice Sack Heating Pads

So aside from cooking, I like to get my craft on. I have decided that I will start sharing my little projects with you all. I know, get excited.

I used to have a bunch of these rice sack heating pads years and years ago. I don’t know where they all went, but they are amazing. Perfect for cold nights and aches and pains. You can also toss them in the freezer to use as an ice pack.

Then while surfing the interwebz last month, I came across this post from the totally awesome Bev over at Bev Cooks and then I immediately remembered how wonderful these little rice sacks are. I decided right then that I had to make some A.S.A.P.! If you know how to sew, these D.I.Y. rice sack heating pads are pretty easy to make. And actually, I’m a beginner and so if I can do it, so can you!

So after you read this post, go make a bunch for yourself. Then, go make a bunch for your family and friends to give as gifts this holiday season. They will love you forever.

Ok, let’s get crafty.

Here is what you need:

D.I.Y. Rice Sack Heating Pads

Materials:
– Fabric – You can buy single pieces of fabric (like fat quarters) from your local fabric store. Buy as many as you need.
– Needle and thread
– Rice. Lots of rice. The exact amount you need will depend on how many and the size of the rice sacks you make. For me, it was about 4 cups for 1.
– Essential oils – This is optional, but I recommend getting some because they smell so good, especially when heat the rice sack! I got a bottle of peppermint oil and grapefruit oil. I got mine at Whole Foods.

Alrighty, so the first step is to decide what size and shape you want your rice sack to be. I was able to cut each piece of fabric in half so I could make two rice sacks per piece of fabric. I made two sizes, some smaller rectangular ones (good for the neck, eyes, arms and legs) and then some larger square ones (perfect for the tummy or back). Cut your fabric in half. And this is the time to iron it all out.

D.I.Y. Rice Sack Heating Pads

Fold the fabric so the back side is facing up and then fold the edges over and pin like so:

D.I.Y. Rice Sack Heating Pads

Now it’s time to sew. I used my sewing machine because I wanted a nice and tight stitch, but you can certainly do this by hand. If you decide to sew by hand, I recommend doing a double stitch like Bev did.

D.I.Y. Rice Sack Heating Pads

After you sew up the edges, turn the rice sack right side out. Fill a bowl with the rice. Drop in about 5 drops of the essential oil and toss with your hands. Then pour it into the sack. If you are making a smaller sized rice sack, it may help to use a funnel to pour the rice in (or make your own with a piece of paper). DO NOT fill the sack up all of the way with the rice. You want to be able to bend the rice sack so it will conform to your body. Fill it up about 3/4 of the way.

D.I.Y. Rice Sack Heating Pads

Ok, now here is where things get a little tricky. Closing up the top. I wanted to use my sewing machine to do this which probably made this way more difficult. After doing a few, I got the hang of it though. Again though, you can also do this by hand if it is easier.

Fold the edges in like this:

D.I.Y. Rice Sack Heating Pads

Then, pin along the very edge.

D.I.Y. Rice Sack Heating Pads

Now, stitch up the top!

D.I.Y. Rice Sack Heating Pads

And hey, you’re done!! Now go stick it in the microwave for 1-3 minutes and then get all warm and cozy!

D.I.Y. Rice Sack Heating Pads

D.I.Y. Rice Sack Heating Pads

Oh, and no, the rice will not cook when you put it in the microwave. When you first remove it, it may smell a little “ricey”, but that will fade after a couple of minutes. And this is where those essential oils will help!

Alright, so there you have it, my first craft post. Stay tuned for next week when I will show you a fun holiday decoration idea!

Cranberry Orange Scones

Cranberry Orange Scones

Raise your hand if you wish every week was only 3 days. If you are not raising your hand, then you must be on something.

Now that Thanksgiving is over, it’s time to shop for gifts. Raise your hand if you want to do my Christmas shopping for me. I will love you forever. If I can’t do it online, I get angry. I’m like a grumpy old lady in the mall this time of year, so watch out!

Raise your hand if stuffed yourself silly last week. It’s time to lighten up a little bit. You know, for at least a few days before all that holiday baking and parties start. I promise to stop making you raise your hand now. But, hey, at least I gave you a little arm workout, no? You’re welcome.

Cranberry and orange are one of my favorite flavor combos, especially this time of year. I usually just make a whole lot of cranberry orange bread, but I went for a scone this time. Greek yogurt helps to cut the fat and adds a nice tang to these scrumptious scones and I feel much less guilty about eating these for breakfast compared to more sweet and buttery sweet breads.