Make Your Own Simple Syrup

Summer cocktail season is right around the corner, so instead of stocking up on expensive bottles of simple syrup at the market that have added preservatives, make up your own to have on hand at all times. This common cocktail ingredient is so easy to make, you’ll kick yourself for not trying it sooner. Plus, in a pretty bottle, this makes a thoughtful gift to give.

Simple Syrup

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water

Directions
Combine water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar is completely dissolved and liquid is clear. Allow to cool, then transfer to an airtight jar or container and store in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.

VARIATIONS:

  • Add a teaspoon of freshly grated citrus zest to create lemon, lime or orange-flavored simple syrup for cocktails.
  • Add a sprig of fresh herbs like lavender to the jar or bottle to infuse a fresh herb flavor to your syrup.
  • Add a whole vanilla bean to the jar or bottle to infuse vanilla flavor into the syrup.
  • Add cinnamon sticks to the jar or bottle to infuse cinnamon flavor into the syrup.

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5 New Ways to Incorporate Spring Herbs

One of spring’s best delights is handfuls of freshly picked herbs. These bright, fresh flavors can enhance so many of your favorite foods, but here’s a handful of ways you might not know about:

1. Add fresh mint to your coffee. One sprig on top of your morning cup of joe gives each sip an amazing minty finish.

2. Add your favorite herbs to ice water. Wash and gently crush a handful of herbs before adding it to a pitcher of ice water. Pair it with slices of cucumber or lemon for extra flavor. The longer it steeps in the fridge, the stronger the flavors, so give it a few hours for best results.

3. Add herbs to boiling water. The next time you’re making mashed potatoes or pasta, add sprigs of your favorite herbs like thyme, rosemary or parsley into the salted water. The potatoes and pasta will absorb the flavors and for a richer flavor.

4. Add herbs to your bath water. Looking for a luxurious experience? (Think: Mother’s Day) Fresh sprigs of lavender, rosemary, chamomile or mint added to the hot water release gorgeous scents and healing nutrients.

5. Add herbs to your sugar or salt. Thoroughly wash and dry a handful of fresh herbs, then give them a rough chop and stir them into a cup of sea salt or granulated sugar and store in an air-tight container. The herbs will infuse their flavor into the salt and sugar, which can then be used to flavor dishes and teas. You can even roll your favorite sugar cookies in herb-infused sugar!

Do you have a favorite way to incorporate herbs? Share them with us!

Teacher Appreciation Gift Ideas

Teacher appreciation days are coming fast, so don’t be caught off guard. We’ve collected a handful of thoughtful gifts that you can do yourself or have delivered. Get the kids involved and thank those who work so hard to make the future bright!

This personalized mug is easy to create using permanent markers and a sticker to create a reverse initial design. Even a supervised preschooler can do this to create a great gift.

This succulent garden is simple, beautiful and can adorn a teacher’s classroom or home. (Plus, succulents are low-maintenance.) A thoughtful tag and decorated planter make it a great gift for any teacher on your list.

A colorful crayon candy dish is almost too cute for words. Glue fresh crayons around a round dish, then fill with teacher’s favorite candy.

A fresh supply of colorful, hard-to-lose binder clips dressed up with colorful washi tape makes a thoughtful, useful gift.

Imagine a photo of the entire class on a tin of freshly baked Mrs. Fields cookies. A yummy keepsake!

And absolutely nothing beats a simple “Thank You,” especially when it’s written out in rich buttercream frosting on a Big Cookie Cake. 

Arranging a thank you for the entire faculty? A case of individually wrapped fresh brownies makes treating a crowd easy and sweet. Attach a thank you note, and you’ve got everyone covered!

How to Get a Great Easter Photo of the Kids

Mrs. Fields Secrets

Right clothes? Check. Right shoes? Check. Right photo? Not so easy. Snapping a great photo of your kids in their Easter best is a task that leaves many of us frazzled. That’s why we turned to our friend Megan Bailey from Little Peanut Magazine for some great tips.  Here’s what she had to say:

One of the biggest tips I can give is to make taking photos of your kids fun for them and don’t be worried about having them sit perfectly still and smile directly at the camera. Some of my favorite photos of my own kids are the candid ones of them playing and laughing.

I’ve also noticed that if I give them a prop or something to play with, they are even more willing to hold still and smile while I snap a few photos of them. To get great Easter photos of your kids try giving them a cute carrot to hold or even make DIY bunny ears and whiskers for them to hold. These make for the perfect props and are also cute! Again, don’t get stressed about trying to get your kids to be holding perfectly still to get a great shot. Just snap a ton of photos of them having fun and playing and you will for sure end up with a bunch you will treasure forever!

Check out more great Easter photos in our catalog. (There’s still time to order!)

{Image via Becky Kimball.}

Thanks a Million

Give Thanks Tin

Expressing thanks is something we probably all value, but don’t always know how to implement. With over 35 years in the gifting business, we have some ideas on the subject. Here’s a primer on becoming a better thank-er. (No need to thank us for it!)

  • Gratitude is a renewable resource. The more you give thanks to people around you, the more grateful you feel, and in turn, the more people want to do kind and helpful things. Challenge yourself to thank at least three people in the next hour and see what happens.
  • Notice the little things. Going hand-in-hand with the previous challenge, begin noticing the small ways in which the people around you excel. You’ll be amazed at what you see.
  • Make it personal and sincere. An under-the-breath “thanks” doesn’t count for much, so make it a point to be both personal and sincere. In person, make eye contact and thank the person specifically for what you appreciate. Otherwise, pick up the phone and call or send a thoughtful text or email.
  • Think about the thankless jobs. From the person who cleans the office after hours to the school bus driver, there are many people who get overlooked for a job well done. It’s not intentional, of course, but out of sight often means out of mind. Take some time to thank one of them.
  • Report to a supervisor. Were you wowed by someone in a professional setting? In addition to expressing your thanks, contact their manager to let them know.
  • Keep thank you notes on hand. Jimmy Fallon takes time every week to jot down some thank you notes and drop them in the mail, and so should you. Having the cards on hand means you can write that note as soon as you think of it.
  • Reward the extra mile. When someone has gone above and beyond on your behalf, it’s always a good idea to say thanks with a gift. Of course, our suggestion is always a surprise delivery of freshly baked cookies and brownies with an enclosed gift message. It’s a thank you gift idea that feels generous without being awkwardly over-the-top.
  • It’s never too late. There is no expiration date on thank you’s, so if you’re plagued with regret for failing to acknowledge something in the past, do something about it today.

And just in case you’re looking for some more gift suggestions, here are some of our favorites:

Appreciation Box

Sweet Spot Gift Box

Thanks All Around Box

Big Cookie Cake

If you liked this advice, pass it on! And if you have your own tips for expressing thanks, share them in the comments.

Thank you.

Gifting for Dummies

Mrs. Fields Gifts
Fact: not all thoughtful people are good gift-givers. Gifting seems to be a language that is natural and fluent for some, and totally foreign to others. If you find yourself in the latter group, never fear. We’ve got some solid ways to transform you into a gifting guru.

  • Plan Ahead. This tip almost more than any other will improve your gifting. After all, nothing influences a dummy gift choice like a time crunch. (We’re looking at you, people who buy random gifts at the gas station on the way to the party.) Most of us rely on smart phones these days, so let your phone give you some smart reminders about gifting. Set alerts that give you plenty of time to plan and make or buy a gift, and be sure to set the alert for a time in your week when it won’t be easily dismissed. (Mrs. Fields Tip: We designed our checkout for gifting pros and gifting dummies alike. You can buy your gift anytime, then select the exact date you want it delivered!)
  • Listen for Hints. As birthdays and anniversaries and other gifting occasions draw near, listen for hints and look for clues to give you gifting inspiration. Some people drop hints explicitly (“I could sure use a day at the spa!”) but most of the time it’s a matter of paying attention to the needs and wants of the people you care about. Sometimes the best gifts are ones that fill a need and sometimes they fill a want.
  • Put Yourself in Their Shoes. Think about your giftee and his or her life. Gifting dummies make the mistake of giving gifts that they themselves want, or gifts they want their giftee to want. You’ve got to get out of your own head and into somebody else’s shoes to be a better gift giver.
  • Pick up Gifts Along the Way. Gifting geniuses have a stash of ready-to-go gifts they’ve found throughout the year that they know will be just perfect for someone when the time comes. Keep your eyes peeled for those perfect somethings, buy them, and keep them in a safe place. Your future self will thank you.
  • Homemade is a Homerun. A handmade, homemade gift is always a hit because it shows time and dedication. Think about your skill set and what you might be able to create. (Mrs. Fields Tip: How about making a decadent dessert? We have lots of recipes and how to’s.)
  • Focus on Simple Pleasures. Let’s face it, some people are hard to shop for. Avoid gifts like clothing (that might not fit), books (they might not read), and items that the person might feel obligated to display around their house. Focus on simple pleasures, like food, drink, entertainment and relaxation, and you’re almost sure to give something appreciated. (Mrs. Fields Tip: There’s no more simple pleasure than freshly baked cookies and brownies delivered right to the door!)

Want to give your gifting skills a try? Don’t forget that Employee Appreciation Day is coming up on March 6th and right now, there’s a big sale going on at Mrs. Fields.com. (Use code: MADNESS at checkout.)

15 Brilliant Baking Hacks

Mrs. Fields Secrets Baking Hacks

Want to feel like a baking ninja? We’ve got fifteen genius hacks to give you some mad skills.

  1. Drop a piece of eggshell into the mixing bowl? Wet your finger and hold it just above, and the shell will practically  jump onto your finger.
  2. No time to make frosting to decorate a cake? Spread a piece of lace across the top and sprinkle a liberal amount of powdered sugar or cocoa powder on top. Remove the lace and you’ve got a gorgeous, lacy design!
  3. Want to speed up your rising time for doughs? Set your covered bowl on top of an electric heating pad or blanket, set on medium-low.
  4. Whip up a batch of whipped cream by shaking it in a mason jar with a lid. A vigorous shake for about three minutes does the trick!
  5. Most baking recipes call for room-temperature eggs. If you forgot to take the eggs out hours in advance, simply place them in a bowl of warm tap water for about 10 minutes.
  6. Ran out of brown sugar? Make your own by mixing granulated sugar with molasses.
  7. Tired of splatters from your hand mixer? Use a paper plate as a barrier. Simply poke the beaters through the plate and insert them into the mixer to create an effective, disposable shield.
  8. Keep your favorite go-to recipes handy by printing them out and posting them inside a kitchen cupboard door for easy reference.
  9. Before popping cakes into the oven, hold the pan a few inches over the counter top and drop the pan. This will pop any air bubbles for a more dense, moist cake.
  10. Use dental floss to cut smooth, even layers of cake. Wrap a long strand around, cross in the front and pull slowly for a clean cut every time.
  11. Substitute Jell-O for food coloring in frostings. You get color, flavor and structure from the gelatin!
  12. Keep a couple of marshmallows in your brown sugar to keep it from going hard.
  13. Dip cookie cutters into flour before the dough for a no-stick, clean cut over and over.
  14. Get your cupcakes uniform size by using a cookie dough scoop sprayed with nonstick spray.
  15. Create your own colored sprinkles with sugar and food coloring (and this easy tutorial).

Tricks for Making Boxed Cake Mixes Better

Everybody knows that there’s nothing quite like a made-from-scratch cake, but in a pinch, a boxed cake mix can place a very close second with some secret tips and tricks from the experts. Try them on your next cake and see if you can pass it off for the real thing!

  • Substitute melted butter for oil. This will give your cake the deep rich flavor that only butter can supply. In a saucepan on low heat, melt the butter until just liquified, then add it to your mix just like you would vegetable oil.
  • Add extra yolks. After you add the eggs the box recipe calls for, add one or two more yolks to give the cake even more moisture and richness.
  • Sprinkle sugar over the top before baking. The weight of the sugar will keep your cake from baking with a mound in the middle. A nice, even sprinkle right before it goes into the oven will keep it more level.
  • Add a teaspoon of coffee to chocolate cakes. A little bit of straight black coffee or espresso will bring the chocolate flavors to life. You won’t taste coffee, just rich chocolate.
  • Add hot water to chocolate cakes. Instead of using water right from the tap, use hot water to help “wake up” the cocoa in the mix.
  • Add pudding mix and sour cream. One small package of instant pudding mix (choose the flavor depending on your cake) plus one cup of sour cream creates a dense, moist delectable cake.
  • Add citrus zest. A bit of fresh zest from a lemon, orange, or lime gives a perfect, subtle zing to cakes, especially ones that have berries and chocolate.
  • Add vanilla. An extra teaspoon of vanilla is a great way to bring boxed cake flavors to life. (Keep in mind that white cake mixes may be slightly off white with vanilla added.)
  • Add meringue powder. A tablespoon of this powder will give flimsy cakes some strength while still remaining delicate. Perfect for layered cakes and angel food.

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25 Ways to Say I Love You

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 4.21.33 PM

Looking for a creative way to show your valentine some love? Here are 25 ways to get started.

  1. Wash and vacuum his car
  2. Spell out his name in candy
  3. Write a love note on the mirror in red dry-erase marker
  4. Dedicate a song on the radio
  5. Make a playlist of meaningful songs
  6. Read his favorite book out loud to him
  7. Write him a love poem
  8. Write him a love letter
  9. Book a surprise getaway
  10. Make a picture book of favorite moments together
  11. Make his favorite meal and eat by candlelight
  12. Surprise him at work with a picnic lunch
  13. Stock the fridge with his favorite snacks and drinks
  14. Name a star after him
  15. Shine his shoes
  16. Book a couples massage
  17. Sign up for a dance class together
  18. Find forgotten photographs and frame them
  19. Give him a list of 100 things you love about him
  20. Surprise him with tickets to see his favorite team
  21. Leave love notes tucked into his shoes
  22. Recreate your first date
  23. Make reservations at his favorite restaurant
  24. Give him a one-minute kiss
  25. Surprise him with a delivery of fresh treats

Blog readers enjoy a special Valentine’s Day discount by using code SECRET20 to get 20% off purchases through 2/10/15.

Tips for Freezing Cookie Dough

If freezing cold temps don’t really work for you, we’ve got some great ideas to make them really work for you. For the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing some of our favorite freezer-friendly tips and recipes to get the most out of your freezer. Today, we begin with cookies, which are a perfectly suited for your freezer. You can put frozen cookie dough right into your preheated oven and have freshly baked cookies in a matter of minutes. But how you freeze and store the dough matters, so follow our tried-and-true tips.

image1

After making your favorite cookie dough (we recommend our Blue Ribbon Chocolate Chip recipe), allow dough to sit for a few minutes while you prepare a 9×13 casserole dish with a Silpat liner or a piece of parchment paper lining the bottom. Half of the liner should be hanging over the edge. Form dough into puck-like discs, about an inch thick with a flat top and line them along the bottom of the dish, leaving a little room around the edges.

image2

Once the bottom half has been filled, fold the liner back over the first layer of cookie dough and fill in another layer on top. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least one hour to get them hard. (You could leave this in the freezer for longer, but the dough won’t last as long or stay as fresh with so much air surrounding it. Not to mention that a 9×13 dish takes up a lot of space!)

image3

Using two strips of plastic wrap per six dough discs, create a “tube” of cookie dough by using the first strip to weave accordion-style between each disc so that they won’t stick together. Wrap excess around the sides, then wrap the stack inside the second strip of plastic wrap to create a tube. When it’s time to bake, simply preheat your oven, unwrap a tube of dough, arrange them on a lined baking sheet, and bake until golden brown.

Frozen cookie dough will stay fresh in your freezer up to three months, so next time you’re making a batch of cookies, but don’t want to bake them all, pop some in the freezer as a gift to your future self. (Your future self sends thanks!)

 

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