Bake This Not That

Around here, we like to adopt a sensible approach to sweets. Life is short and we think it should be savored. It seems that finding the right balance when it comes to indulgence is a key to happiness. If you’re trying to recalibrate after a particularly indulgent holiday season, here are some choose-this-not-that ideas for your favorite baked goods.

Craving cookies? Bake Cranberry Oatmeal  instead of Triple Chocolate Chip. You’ll save about 35-50 calories per cookie! You can also make half-size cookies by cutting each ball of cookie dough in half. (Remember to monitor baking times, which will be 3-4 minus less for smaller cookies.) A half-size cookie means half the calories. (Our Nibblers bite-sized cookies are a perfect way to indulge with balance.)

Craving brownies? Try our Reduced-Fat Chocolate Brownie recipe. Or, if you’re using a mix, swap applesauce for vegetable oil in your recipe. You’ll save calories and fat, but won’t notice a difference in taste!

Craving cake? Our No Frosting Chocolate Bundt Cake is so rich and moist, it does not need frosting (which saves a ton of calories).

Craving bread? The darker the bread, the better for your body. If you’re not a fan of whole wheat or multigrain, try using half and half (white flour and whole wheat) to ease into the flavor. If you’re used to buying artisan breads, ask the baker to pre-slice it for you extra thin. You’ll save half the calories.

Craving donuts? Our Baked Cake Donuts recipe is still one of our most popular. You’ll get the great flavor of a cake donut, with nearly half the calories.

Craving a sugary breakfast or snack? Try our Healthy Breakfast Cookies, Homemade Granola or these No-Bake Energy Bites instead of a pastry in the morning. They will satisfy your sweet tooth, but keep you from having a sugar crash. These are also great for an afternoon snack.

Cutting back on gluten? Our Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe is so good, you won’t believe that gluten didn’t get invited to the party.

Do you have other tips for being sensible with your sweet tooth? Share them in the comments!

Home Remedies for Dry Winter Skin

Harsh, dry winter air can do a number on your skin, but did you know that there are dry skin solutions hiding right in your kitchen cupboards and pantry? Check out these great home remedies:

For faces:

  • Avocado: Mash a ripe avocado and smooth onto a freshly cleaned face. Relax and leave on for 15 minutes.
  • Greek Yogurt: Spread a layer of yogurt onto a freshly cleaned face. Relax and leave on for 15 minutes.
  • Banana and Papaya: Mash the two fruits together to make a paste. Spread onto a freshly cleaned face and rinse after 15 minutes.
  • Honey: Spread warm honey onto a clean face and allow to cool and dry for 10-15 minutes. Wash off with a warm, wet cloth.

For hands:

  • Olive Oil: Work a few drops of olive oil into hands, especially dry knuckles.
  • Coconut Oil: A half teaspoon is plenty to serve as a rich and moisturizing treatment for dry hands or body. (Look for whipped coconut oil too, which is easier to spread.)
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Wet a cotton ball with apple cider vinegar and wipe over itchy, cracked skin to soothe irritation. Follow up with an oil moisturizer.

For feet:

  • Baking Soda: Mix a 1/2 cup of baking soda for every gallon of warm water and give feet a 10-15 minute soak.
  • Vegetable Oil: Before bed, rub a modest amount of oil into cracked heels and feet, then cover with thick socks. Repeat for several nights.
  • Sugar: Create an exfoliating sugar scrub by mixing 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of petroleum jelly in your hands. Work the scrub into dry feet (or hands, elbows, or knees), then wash off with a mild soap before moisturizing.

For bodies:

  • Oatmeal: Grind one cup of oatmeal in a food processor until you have a fine powder. Add powder to running bathwater and enjoy a moisturizing soak.
  • Grape Seed Oil: Keep a bottle of grape seed oil in the shower. After showering, blot dry with a towel and immediately apply a liberal amount of oil to retain moisture all day long.
  • Citrus Water: Add moisture to the air in your home by simmering a pot of water on the stove with slices of lemons, oranges, or grapefruits. (It smells great, too!)
  • Avocado Oil: Used as an after-shower or before-bed moisturizer, avocado oil can help keep skin soft and moisturized.
  • Seafood: Cook salmon for dinner, order the tuna sandwich for lunch, or simply take an Omega-3 supplement each morning. The fatty acids are great for skin and hair.
  • Spicy Foods: Herbs and spices like tamarind, turmeric, cumin and coriander help promote the production of collagen in the skin and help you retain moisture.

{Image via Pinterest.}

How to Clean Salt From Shoes and Boots

Salt. It’s delicious on steak, but terrible on shoes. Walking around in winter slush can be hazardous to the life of your winter shoes and boots. Here’s how to keep them clean and low sodium, using simple ingredients found in your kitchen and pantry:

For Suede Shoes and Boots: Use a stiff-bristled brush to get as much salt and dirt off as you can. Next, mix one teaspoon fabric softener with a teaspoon of mild dish soap and two cups of lukewarm water. Dip a toothbrush in the mixture, shake off excess, and gently scrub the stained areas of the shoes in a circular motion until the stain lifts. Use a dry cloth to blot them dry, then air dry.

For Leather Shoes and Boots: Use a dry microfiber cloth to buff as much salt and dirt off the shoe as possible. Next, mix a tablespoon of white vinegar with room temperature water. Dip a rag into the solution and wring out any excess. Buff the stained areas and wipe dry. Allow to air dry.

{Image via Wikihow}

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Kitchen

Want to start your new year off with some great resolutions for your kitchen? Improve and organize the most important room in your home by incorporating twelve simple resolutions. Try a new one each week or even each month and reap the benefits of a better kitchen (and a better you, too)!

1. Keep the kitchen sink clean. Instead of using the sink as a holding cell for dirty dishes for hours (or days), commit to washing dishes immediately or loading them into the dishwasher. It takes barely a few seconds more to move the dishes along, and now your sink is always ready for food preparation.

2. Clean the garbage disposal. Eliminate odd smells coming from your disposal with this simple remedy. It’s worth doing once a month, or whenever you notice odor Pour 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain immediately followed by 1 cup of white vinegar. Allow it to bubble and fizz. Once it’s quiet, turn on hot water and allow it to run for 3-5 minutes. While the water is running, cut a lemon into quarters and turn on the garbage disposal. Put the lemon pieces down the disposal, one piece at a time until it is gone. Enjoy a fresh, clean scent.

3. Switch to reusable grocery bags. If you’re not already in the habit, start now. Clear out your old grocery bags, take them to a local recycling collection site, and invest in some durable grocery bags. You’ll save money, clutter, and the planet! Plus, the heavy duty reusable bags come in handy for much more than groceries! Another hint: after unloading your groceries, store your reusable bags in the car. That way you never forget them.

4. Replace baking soda boxes. If you use baking soda to keep your fridge, freezer, and cupboards smelling fresh, it’s probably time to replace them. When you buy replacements, pick up an extra set and set a reminder in your email or smart phone to replace them in 3-6 months.

5. Clean your appliances. When is the last time your stand mixer, toaster, or coffee maker was cleaned? Never? Ouch. Grab some disinfectant wipes and give it a thorough wipe down. Use toothpicks or Q-tips to get gunk out of hard to reach places.

6. Toss out old spices. How old is that paprika? Take inventory of your spice rack and toss anything Jurassic. Use this helpful guide to know how long spices last.

7. Defrost your freezer. If you have a deep freezer, take time to defrost it at least once per year. It will help it last longer and will also keep your frozen foods better preserved with even temperatures.

8. Wash cupboards and baseboards. You’ll be surprised at the fresh gleam in your kitchen after taking a warm, soapy rag to cupboard doors, handles, and especially baseboards. This is an especially good idea during cold and flu season!

9. Clean your oven. No need to dread this task. Most modern ovens have a self-cleaning function, but if not, there is no need to buy dangerous chemical cleansers. A spray bottle of water and a box of baking soda will do wonders.

10. Clean your dishwasher. If you’ve never done it, it’s time to give your dishwasher a break and a special clean cycle. Think of it as a spa treatment for your hard working machine.

11. Toss old plastic containers. They seem to breed in the dark cupboards and drawers, and soon they are falling out and overtaking everything. Find matching pairs and keep no more than two or three containers and lids of each size. Donate or recycle extras.

12. Use menus and shopping lists. This simple habit will save you time, money and space in your fridge and pantry. If you need help getting started, download a menu-planning app and commit to using it for a month. You’re likely to notice that you spend less, eat healthier, and have a more organized fridge and pantry because everything that goes in and out has a purpose.

May your new year and your kitchen be clean and bright!

Homemade Heating Pads

Here’s a cozy DIY idea that’s perfect for a cold, winter night. It keeps you warm and smells great and can be reused again and again. With just some simple sewing (use old fabric scraps or clothing) and ingredients you might have in your kitchen, you can create homemade heating pads. Here’s what you’ll need:

Homemade Heating Pads
1/2 yard of fabric
7 cups dried cherry pits, buckwheat, flax seed, or rice
1 sprig dried lavender or peppermint

Directions
Cut a piece of fabric to 20 x 14 inches, then fold in half lengthwise, right sides together. Sew one short side and one long side together with 1/4 inch seam allowance.  Turn the fabric right side out and push corners out. Fill the bag just less than half full with your dried ingredient and dried herb. Close the open end of the bag with a top stitch.

To use: Heat in the microwave about two minutes, then apply to cold fingers or toes for up to a half hour of warmth!

 

10 Creative Gift Wrap Ideas

There’s something about a creatively wrapped gift that just brings a smile. If you’re looking for some inspiration with your holiday wrapping, check out these fun ideas:

A tea towel is a gift in itself, so why not use it as wrapping? Use the Japanese method of furoshiki to tie it just right.

I love the idea of using old maps and atlases to wrap gifts, especially for your favorite globe trotter. Some simple red string and a colorful button top it off perfectly.

There are so many fun patterned tapes on the market, which means that it’s easy to dress up the otherwise boring packages you have to ship during the holidays.

Do you hate having to keep an inventory of wrapping papers for a whole year of holidays and events? Choose a simple, neutral gift wrap and dress it up with different ribbons and tags for each occasion.

A short nature walk and some gold spray paint can turn into this incredibly elegant gift wrap.

Instead of tossing those old sweaters, cut them up and use them as charming gift wrap.

Explore your artistic side by creating a chalkboard design on your gifts. Simple black paper with white pens is all you need to create one-of-a-kind wrappings.

Wrapping with newspaper is an old idea, but it looks fresh and new with simple baker’s twine and bold tags adorning it.

Ever wonder what to do with all those nice, heavy duty shopping bags from your holiday purchases? They make perfectly nice heavy duty wrapping paper.

And finally, using simple kitchen twine and uncooked bow tie pasta for ribbons and bows is such a charming idea. It’s clever, understated, and really beautiful.

Happy wrapping!

10 Tips for a Great Turkey Bowl

Aside from mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, one of the staples of a great Thanksgiving is a Turkey Bowl. Whether you have a rough-and-tumble crowd who play for keeps or a motley crew of people just playing for fun, here are ten great tips to keep things fresh:

1. Establish safety rules. Tackling without helmets is dangerous, especially if you have a wide range of player ages, sizes, and weights. Make sure everybody knows the rules before you begin to avoid any confusion or injuries!

2. Come up with team names. Every great team needs a great team name.

3. Recruit cheerleaders. Every epic game needs some enthusiastic cheerleaders on the sidelines. Invite those who don’t want to play to come up with cheers (and jeers!) for the game.

4. Plan a halftime show. Take a break in the middle to have a silly halftime show. Blast some music and have a dance off or perform your favorite “Stupid Human Tricks.”

5. Assign a referee for tough decisions. Most games don’t need an official ref, but on the off chance that there is disagreement, decide in advance to let someone make the call. The oldest or the youngest person in attendance is a great choice.

6. Try the instant replay rule. Was there a grand moment you want to relish? Invoke the “instant replay rule” where both teams do their best to recreate the play. This always gets a lot of laughs.

7. Try the slow motion replay. Nothing will have everyone in stitches like trying an instant replay in slow motion. Try it, you’ll see.

8. Award extra points for great celebration dances. Forget the rules about over-the-top celebrations. In fact, encourage them! If a player comes up with something truly creative, award an extra point!

9. Don’t outplay the fun. Set a time limit or point limit and stick to it. A never-ending game only sounds fun at the beginning.

10. Have a great trophy. Grab a random item from the garage or fashion something out of an old trophy in the basement, but one way or another, have a trophy to award to the winning team!

Have any other great tips for a Turkey Bowl?

{Image source.}

Recipe: 3 Fall Quick Breads

Mrs. Fields Secrets Fall Quick Breads
There’s nothing like a loaf of homemade bread to fill your home with incredible smells of fall. (Who needs a scented candle when you can have a loaf of bread?) These three full flavored fall quick breads are simple to put together and delicious as a breakfast, snacks or dessert. They also make a perfect gift, wrapped up in a  tea towel.

Cinnamon Bread

2 1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup browned butter
1/4 cup cold butter, cubed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a loaf pan and set aside. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla extract.  Slowly whisk in browned butter. Combine wet ingredients with dry. Mix just until combined. In a small bowl combine butter pieces and 1 tablespoons ground cinnamon. Gently fold in coated butter pieces into the batter. Pour batter into prepared bread loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.

Apple and Cheddar Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
3/4 cup diced cheddar cheese
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
3 large eggs
2/3 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted, plus more for coating the pan
1 1/2 cups grated Granny Smith apples (about 2 medium), grated

Directions
Heat the oven to 350 degrees and arrange a rack in the middle. Generously coat a loaf pan with butter. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and sage together in a large bowl until aerated and any large lumps are broken up. Add the diced and shredded cheese and toss until the pieces are separated and evenly coated with the flour mixture. Set aside. Place the eggs, milk, and melted butter in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the apples and stir until combined. Add the egg mixture to the flour-cheese mixture and stir until the flour is just incorporated, being careful not to overmix. The batter will be very thick. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan, pushing it into the corners and smoothing the top. Bake until the bread is golden brown all over and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (test several spots because you may hit a pocket of cheese), about 45 to 50 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of the bread and turn it out onto the rack. Let it cool for at least 30 minutes more before slicing.

Honey Maple Pumpkin Bread

3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs
3 cups flour
2 cups pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons baking soda

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease 2 loaf pans. In a large bowl, mix the honey, syrup, butter, vanilla, and eggs together. Mix in the pumpkin puree. In a different bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and stir until everything is incorporated, but avoid overmixing. Divide the batter between the two loaf pans, and bake for 50-65 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Fall Wreath Ideas

Mrs. Fields Secrets Fall Wreath Ideas
Looking for ideas to dress up the front door for fall? Check out these inspiring autumnal decorations filled with bright colors and textures. (Left to right)

Rich mums line the stairway / Pinecone wreath with golden ribbon / Wreath with green bow / Bright yellow flowers and brown ribbon / Leopard print ribbon wreath / Mossy wreath with mini pumpkins / Upcycled aluminum can wreath / Twig wreath

Mrs. Fields Bakeware: Baker’s Sto-N-Go

Mrs. Fields Secrets Baker's Sto-N-Go Mrs. Fields Secrets Baker's Sto-N-Go

More fun from the new Mrs. Fields Bakeware line! Our Baker’s Sto-N-Go is my new favorite thing, an adjustable, portable carry all that has once and for all solved the problem of transporting frosted cookies, brownies and cupcakes without smooshing their gorgeousness. Here are a few of the features I love about this smart little contraption:

  • It’s perfect for road trips, bake sales, picnics, parties, boating, school parties and camping. Keeps everything sealed, safe, and looking good!
  • The handle slides off  and stores inside, so this fits easily into your cupboards or drawers. No bulky awkward storage!
  • The three sliding trays inside can be adjusted in eleven different grooves for ultimate versatility.
  • This fits up to 1 pan of brownies, 36 cake balls, 23 cake pops, 32 mini cupcakes, 20 small cupcakes, appetizers or even pizza!
  • The trays have a matte surface that keeps your goodies from sliding around.
  • It’s collapsible and dishwasher safe.

I can’t say enough good about this product! What would you store in it?

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P.S. Interested in those delicious Spiderweb Pumpkin Cookies? Try this recipe.

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