Gift Ideas

Homemade Cinnamon Hot Chocolate Mix

Every winter I whip up a new hot chocolate mix. This year I decided to try two kinds, white hot chocolate pods and now cinnamon mix. This version was made on the fly while my parents were in town for my graduation. We were getting ready to go to a drive-thru Christmas light show and I realized I didn’t have any hot chocolate mix to prepare and bring for the show. So I pulled up my favorite mix recipe and added cinnamon. If you haven’t had cinnamon and chocolate together before, you’re missing out!

Homemade Cinnamon Hot Chocolate Mix

Two years ago: Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Mix

Three years ago: Bacon and Cheese Egg McMuffin Cups
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Homemade Spicy Ranch Seasoning Mix

Need ranch seasoning/dressing/dip for your holiday party or dinner, but don’t feel like venturing to the store? Then I am here to rescue you! (Assuming you have all these ingredients in your pantry.) This ranch seasoning mix can be made to use immediately or stored for later use. I decided to make it spicy, but if you prefer a non-spicy, traditional version then omit the red pepper.

Homemade Spicy Ranch Seasoning Mix

One year ago: Apple Pecan Pie

Two years ago: German Pancakes

Three years ago: Chocolate Gingerbread Sandwich Cookies
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White Hot Chocolate Pods

The recipe I am sharing today doesn’t make one serving which may seem contrary to the purpose of Single Serving Sundays. Instead it makes a bunch of single servings! Make them for friends, make them for family, heck make them for yourself! They make great gifts ;-).

These hot chocolate pods are perfectly portioned to make one cup of hot cocoa without the fuss of measuring out a powdered cocoa mix. They melt perfectly in a cup of hot milk. I decided to use white chocolate instead of regular because, although it may not be “real” chocolate, white chocolate is my favorite kind of chocolate. These would be great with semisweet or dark chocolate as well.

White Hot Chocolate Pods

Two years ago: Cheddar Chili Cornbread Pasta Bake
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White Chocolate Cake Batter Hearts

After 4 hours of surgery yesterday, my mom is doing well. Right after the surgery everything was well and she was feeling understandably tired. So far the doctor has been positive about the results of the surgery and the future. Hopefully I will hear more as the day goes on.

White Chocolate Cake Batter Hearts 1

These cake batter hearts would be a really cute Valentine’s Day present to hand out. It’s like a jumbo sized white chocolate candy cup stuffed with cake batter, except it’s formed in a cookie cutter. After the candy has been devoured the cutters can be used to make festive cookies! It’s a two-for-one gift. These could also be made in silicone molds, such as petite or regular hearts. Just pop them out after they set and wrap in plastic or place in a cute bag.

White Chocolate Cake Batter Hearts 2

One year ago: Pasta with Vodka Sauce
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Red Velvet Hot Cocoa Mix & Cream Cheese Frosting Marshmallows

This is my fourth hot cocoa mix recipe. First I made a regular version, followed by Salted Caramel, then recently made Peanut Butter and now Red Velvet! In case that isn’t enough, since last time I made special peanut butter marshmallows to pair with the peanut butter hot cocoa, I decided to go ahead and make cream cheese frosting marshmallows to complete the full flavor of a red velvet experience. And I think I am now officially in love with homemade marshmallows. You’d think that would’ve been solidified when my first was the peanut butter version, but cream cheese marshmallows? Holy freaking awesomeness.

If you notice in the background, I packaged up single servings of hot cocoa and a marshmallow in mini red containers to give away as Valentine’s Day presents. It’s a present that warms the heart, body, and soul!

Red Velvet Hot Cocoa Mix

One year ago: Dark Chocolate Strawberry Shortcakes with Amaretto Cream

Two years ago: Guiltless Fettuccine Alfredo
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Lip Balms

Valentine’s Day is officially one week away folks! So let’s gets our lips soft and ready with some homemade lip balm. You’ve ever got two different options to choose from! The bases for both are the same but with slightly different additions so if you have a flavor idea to build upon these, go for it!

But first you need a couple of things. I bought my beeswax, shea butter and peppermint essential oil from Whole Foods, however the beeswax was in a solid pound block that I had to struggle with to cut. But I’ve been told you can find beeswax and oil-based candy flavorings at craft stores, which is where I buy my colored candy melts. Also, I used mini plastic bead containers from Joann Fabrics for the peppermint lip balm and and 0.25 oz. mini glass jars from Freund Container & Supply for the honey lip balm. But you can really use anything you want that is lip-balm sized. Ready?

The first bath I made was the peppermint and it reminded me a lot of Burt’s Bees lip balm. If that doesn’t convince you to make this lip balm I am not sure what will. And it was so easy to make, I immediately set out to start another batch!

The second batch was a honey lip balm with some pink candy melts mixed in for a little festive coloring. Unfortunately, the pink candy melts didn’t add hardly any color, so next time I would use red instead. But it did add a hint of sweetness along with the honey, which was quite lovely. But don’t try to east it because it will definitely still taste like beeswax, haha.

One year ago: Whole Wheat Blueberry Cottage Cheese Pancakes

Two years ago: Velveeta Chicken & Veggie Mac

Lip Balm 1

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Sugar Cookie Spoons for Hot Cocoa

Today I am joining a Virtual Holiday Treat Party on Molly’s blog CAKEfyi, along with a group of other bloggers. The goal is provide a great resource for readers like yourself who are hunting for treats to bring to upcoming holiday parties! As a bonus, Molly is also hosting a giveaway on her blog for a 5-piece bakeware set. So head on over to CAKEfyi for additional holiday treats and a sweet giveaway!

Growing up, we made cut out sugar cookies for just about every holiday. My dad had a huge repurposed pretzel drum full of assorted cookie cutter shapes (a collection I am still working on for myself). For decoration, sometimes we dyed the dough, sometimes we added sprinkles before baking, and sometimes we waited until after they baked. No matter what our decorating techniques were, this was the sugar cookie dough recipe we used. To me, it is the perfect sugar cookie dough although I may be biased due to nostalgia. Whatever the reasoning, when I finally added a spoon cookie cutter to my collection, I knew exactly which recipe to dig out of my recipe box filled with recipes compiled from both of my parents.

These sugar cookie spoons are perfect for dipping to you hot cocoa and just like my childhood years, can be decorated in may ways! For some, I placed a caramel filled Hershey’s kiss in the spoon-head with 2 minutes remaining during bake time (I think a Rolo would have melted better though). For others I dipped in white chocolate and decorated with festive sprinkles. No matter what you choose, these would make a great accompaniment to some homemade hot cocoa mix as a gift.

Two years ago: Blueberry-Almond Turtles
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Homemade Peanut Butter Hot Cocoa Mix

The other day while digging through my ridiculously deep and narrow cabinets, I knocked over a zip-top bag of granulated Swerve sweetener and upon picking it up discovered that it wasn’t sealed. Insert mildly colorful words as I watched the sugar pour out over everything. Why I continue to stock all my flours and sugars in the very back of the cabinet remains a mystery (not another pregret, just stupidity).

That incident really has nothing to do with making hot cocoa mix, other than the fact that hot cocoa is a sugar explosion in a cup instead of my cabinet. But for awhile now, I have been wondering how to make a mix version of peanut butter hot cocoa. Mixing the peanut butter spread itself into the steamy drink works fairly well, but I wanted an easier method. Then I realized that the mix I have been making for a couple years now uses white chocolate chips, and could easily substitute for peanut butter chip! Could it really be that simple? Yup, it certainly is! I thought of being bold and replacing it all with peanut butter chips, but I really like the flavor white chocolate adds to this so I kept some of it around as a sidekick.

We also need to talk about the giant Reese’s cups that I found at Target. TWO HALF POUND CUPS! They are freaking beautiful, people. If I had had a cart I would’ve knocked over the entire display. Instead I modestly placed 3 packages in my hand basket. But it got me thinking… Since it is peanut butter lover’s month you should definitely buy those giant Reese’s cups and make this hot cocoa as the perfect gift for the peanut butter lovers’ in your life! I know such a combination would win me over, and I am definitely a peanut butter lover ;-).

Side note: I wonder if the Swerve powdered sugar (which did not have a release party in my cabinet) would work well in this hot cocoa? I shall try it out and get back to you. Speaking of Swerve, don’t forget to enter my Swerve baking kit giveaway! And my second blogiversary giveaway (including a jar of regular homemade hot cocoa mix) ends tonight.

In other semi peanut butter-related news, The Ohio State Buckeyes take on the Wisconsin Badgers today @ 3:30 eastern time! It’s an away game so we don’t have the home field advantage, but we already won our division last weekend even though we had a Bye (because Penn State lost). Unfortunately we won’t be able to contend our status in the B1G championship game, but we can at least enjoy the ride until then. And hopefully knock out Michigan (next week) on the way O:-).

One year ago: Pumpkin Kissed Gingerbread Brownies
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Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Mix

This homemade mix was given as part of the gifts to my family this year. After Kate notified me of the depleted stock I had made last year, I took that as a hint/demand for more. Even though the previous recipe was delicious, I always spring on the opportunity to try out a new blend. Salted caramel seemed like a more than safe bet for being delicious.

Making this recipe definitely has a couple more steps – you have to make the caramel first and then pulverize it into powder – but is not as time consuming as it may first appear. Although noisy it most definitely was. I thought my food processor was dying at first hearing how loud the caramel pieces were whirling around in there, but thankfully all was well. Good thing too because I need to make more of this for myself after trying a sample.

One year ago: Bacon and Cheese Egg McMuffin Cups


Makes 4 cups of mix – enough for 16 servings approximately


1-1/4 cup sugar

1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract

1 Tbsp fine sea salt

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably good-quality Dutch process)

1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder

1/4 cup cornstarch (optional – makes for a creamier, thicker finished product and also helps your mix not clump in storage)

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

6 oz. good-quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (preferably from a block, but chocolate chips will work too)


  1. Line a baking sheet with lightly oiled parchment paper, set aside.
  2. In a medium pan, preferably non-stick, place the sugar over medium heat and allow it to melt gently without stirring. The edges and underneath will start to melt first and caramelize, you can then very gently jiggle the pan to help more of the sugar melt in to the mixture. This will only take 4 to 5 minutes at the most so don’t walk away, just watch your sugar melt into caramel and let it get to a medium golden color then remove from the heat and add the vanilla and sea salt. It will bubble a bit, so be careful and swirl the pan to mix it just a bit. It’s not really important if it mixes in because it’s all going to be pulverized in the food processor when hard.
  3. While the caramel is still liquid, pour it out onto your lined baking sheet and allow it to harden and cool completely, about 30 minutes. Use the bottom of your pan, a mallet, or rolling pin, to tap the caramel a few times and break it up into smallish pieces that you can easily fit into your food processor.
  4. Place the caramel shards into the food processor and with the lid completely closed allow the caramel to be pulverized into a fine powder – it will be loud at first and then more quiet as the caramel is turned into caramel powder. Don’t open the lid of the food processor until the powder has settled. This will all only take about 4 minutes.
  5. Add cocoa, dry milk powder, cornstarch and brown sugar to the caramel powder in the food processor. Pulse the mixture a few times to chop and combine thoroughly, then process for 15 seconds until combined and powdery.
  6. Too the cocoa/caramel mixture, add the chocolate. Pulse the mixture a few times to chop and combine, then allow to process for 15 to 30 seconds more or until the mixture is all combined and powdery. Don’t process it so long though that you start to melt the chocolate in your food processor.
  7. Store the mixture in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
  8. To make a cup: Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of mix to 1-1/4 cup hot milk and whisk or stir well. Top with whipped cream.

Source: Budget Gourmet Mom

Homemade Hazelnut Chocolate Spread (Nutella)

In recent years I have ran across several people (including Brent) who not only have never tried Nutella, but haven’t even heard of it before! How is this possible!? These people must have lived such deprived lives before meeting me. It so wonderful, yet for some reason I rarely use it in anything I bake, although I use the crap out of it on toast, etc. This needs to change.

In preparation for World Nutella Day tomorrow, I decided to whip up a homemade version. I was running low of my latest jar of Nutella, so why not? Gotta have the right ingredients for the holiday! I originally found a recipe from In Jennie’s Kitchen, but decided to change it up a bit. First of all, I could only find chopped hazelnuts at my grocery store, but that probably just made things easier on my food processor. The rest of my changes just came out of my head: more milk chocolate in place of some cocoa, and less sugar. It just sounded right to me. And side-by-side comparison with the little Nutella remaining in the cupboard validated my intuition – it’s perfection!


1 cup chopped hazelnuts

6 oz milk chocolate, melted

1/2 vanilla bean, split

3 Tbsp powdered sugar

1 Tbsp cocoa

canola oil, if needed


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast the chopped hazelnuts spread on a rimmed baking sheet for 8 to 10 minutes, or until browned and fragrant. Allow to cool.
  2. Grind hazelnuts in a small food processor until it resembles peanut butter. Add the melted chocolate, vanilla, powdered sugar and cocoa. Pulse until well-mixed. If necessary add a drop or two of oil, while pulsing, until smooth.
  3. Pour into a tightly-sealing glass jar and let cool (it will thicken slightly). Seal for storage.

Source: Adapted from In Jennie’s Kitchen

P.S. I got my jar from Beanilla = <3.

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