Some of My Favorite Christmas Gift Ideas

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Photo Source: Gardenaire.co

Eek!  I’m so super excited to tell you about these spices.  In fact, truth be told, I’ve been holding out on you – for the last year.  I know, I know, I just wanted to keep them all to myself, but they truly are so great that I must finally share them with you!

This company is owned by a mother/daughter duo who grow their own herbs, and make the most amazing spice mixes – with fabulous names (Biking Through Burgundy, Love in a Tuscan Kitchen, Painted Desert, etc.).  I actually visited their hometown of Rochester, MN and stumbled upon these yummy spices at my favorite cooking store – Cook’s Pantry (which I discovered has closed!).

On Gardenaire’s website they have suggestions for how to use each of the spice mixes, and some recipes.  But what the heck, buy one of each – you won’t be sorry!  And while you’re at it, buy a few for your friends too.

If spices aren’t your thing (what?!) -they also carry a line of shrub mixes, infused syrups, teas, marshmallows, and drinking chocolate.  I think I’m going to add a few to my next shopping cart, and who knows, maybe something will actually make it to someone else as a gift, but I’m not making any promises!

Let me know if you’ve tried any of their products and have a suggestion for me!

Multicolor Kitchen Utensil Set

Photo Source: Pampered Chef

This versatile, and very colorful, set of kitchen tools is so much fun.  It’s perfect for anyone who likes a little color in their kitchens.  Of course, they’re dishwasher safe, and heat resistant up to 428 degrees.  However, I don’t use mine on the stove (so I can’t attest to how they stand up to heat) I bought them specifically to use for serving.

Source: Mauro Farms

When asked if you want potica, the answer is always “yes.”  Except if the question is about including raisins – then it’s a “no.”  Yes to walnuts, no to raisins.  Pretty simple!  And aside from making it yourself – this is the best place to order it from.  They ship it fast, and fresh – be sure to order the 2 pound loaf.  Trust me, you’ll want to be sure to get a slice!

Source: Portland Apron Company

This is a great company to work with (I may have had some trouble deciding on the right size, and they were quick to help me out), and their super comfy aprons are fantastic.  They’re easy to throw on, wash, and run errands in.  They’re also fabulous to cook and clean in – especially if you’re like me and have rough counter tops that wear holes into your clothes.  Aprons are a must!

Source: Amazon

I use knives all the time, and sometimes, I just don’t want to get out the expensive ones to do a small job – like slice a banana, or cut a sandwich in half.  That’s what I use these babies for – they’re dishwasher safe, super sharp, and very convenient. If you find these locally for a reasonable price, grab a handful! I store mine in a small ceramic utensil jar on the counter (to prevent cuts trying to grab them amongst other utensils in a drawer).  I’ve had them for years, and they’re still just as sharp as the day I bought them.
Source: Rose’s Botanicals

This is a shop that we discovered in Apalachicola, FL on our travels to Saint George Island.  We love their goat’s milk soap (the one pictured has a slice of sea sponge in it!), and their sea sponges.

Source: Etsy – George Scatchard Pots

Love, love, love these handmade bowls from George Scatchard Pots on Etsy.  I bought a huge one a few months ago, and it’s even more beautiful in person.  The bowls are heavy (in a very good way!), and fabulous!  He does a fantastic job packaging these beauties so that there’s no breakage – which I really appreciate.

Please look closely at measurements before purchasing so you know what size you’re ordering!

100 Gathered Thoughts Notepad - For the one i love - Sugarboo and Co

Source: Sugarboo & Co.

This store has a lot of everything.  But I mostly buy their fabulous notepads.  I am a notepad/journal junkie, and I really dig quotes, so this is just about my favorite one!

Cultivate What Matters Make It Happen BundleSource: Cultivate What Matters

I bought this for myself this year as an early Christmas present.  I’m not the only one that does that, am I?!  I wasn’t even sure if I was going to crack it open and write in it, because it’s so darn pretty, with nice paper, and stickers!  But I did it, and I love it.

It’s not like a regular calendar, or planner.  It’s a cross between a journal, a guided study, and a goal brainstorming workbook.  The first 60+ pages are guided journaling to help you uncover your goals, and work your way through achieving them monthly.  I wanted to get a head start on that, so that in January I could hit the road running (so to speak).

It’s funny to me, that for years I give the same basic laundry list of general goals – walk more, lose weight, eat better, be more patient, get Christmas gifts wrapped early, etc.  But I never get past just listing them – I’m realizing that’s because there was no plan of action.  No wonder they haven’t exactly worked out.  Sheesh!  So this year, I’m hoping that with the help of this workbook, I’ll be able to work towards at least a few of my goals, or at the very least keep them at the forefront of my mind so I have a shot at holding myself accountable!

Happy Shopping!  Let me know what your favorite finds (and gifts to give) are this season!

Individual Hot Chocolate Cakes

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This has got to be the perfect dessert.  It’s warm and gooey, fudgy and dense, creamy and tart –  and it’s super fast to whip up.  Promise me that when you make these, you’ll absolutely serve them with vanilla ice cream and (if you have them) fresh raspberries, and/or strawberries?!  Or forget the berries, you need the ice cream!

Definitely, a big scoop of ice cream.

One other small detail – I used these ramekins to bake the hot chocolate cakes in.  I actually bought them awhile ago, because why not (insert husband rolling eyes)?!  While they’re no longer available at my local Walmart (it’s probably safe to say that they’re not available at yours either) – you’ll need to order them online.

I highly recommend these particular ramekins, because (1) I used them for this recipe, (2) they’re heavy duty, and (3) dishwasher safe (yay!).  However, if you have something else, you can still give the cakes a try, but remember you may have to make adjustments to the baking time.  For the record, these ramekins are 7 ounces each.

Let’s make these babies!

Individual Hot Chocolate Cakes Adapted from Love in a Tuscan Kitchen

6 ounces semisweet chocolate (I used Baker’s)

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter

3 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup flour

1 Tablespoon dark cocoa powder (I used Cacao Barry Brute)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place 6 (7 ounce each) ramekins on a rimmed quarter baking sheet – set aside.

In a medium (microwave safe) bowl, place the chocolate and butter, and microwave for about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes – just until almost melted.  Stir the mixture until combined and completely melted.  Set aside to cool slightly.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment to beat the eggs and sugar on high speed for 4 minutes (set your timer!).  The mixture will be light colored, and slightly full and creamy looking.

Turn the machine to a lower-medium speed (about 4), and continue to beat the egg mixture while adding the salt and vanilla.  Then carefully pour the warmed chocolate mixture in a steady stream into the egg mixture.  Once all the chocolate mixture has been added, increase the speed of the mixer to about an 8 to make sure everything is combined.

Then remove the bowl from the mixer, and add in the flour and cocoa powder.  Whisk just until smooth.

Spray each ramekin with nonstick spray, and then pour batter into each ramekin – leaving about a 1/2 an inch of space at the top.

Bake the cakes in the oven for 20-22 minutes, rotating pan halfway through the baking time.

When the tops of the cakes start to rise, and look set on the edges, but still have a slight shiny indentation in the center (see photo below), take them out and immediately run a nylon scraper (or knife) around the edges just to loosen the cakes, and plate each one.*

If some of the cakes bake faster than others, you can take the ramekins out individually to unmold, and continue to bake the others.  Just another bonus of baking them in individual ramekins!

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*If the cakes are left in their ramekins, they will continue to bake, and become set, and sad, and no longer gooey.  😦

Serve them with ice cream and fresh berries!

**If you are truly only making these for 2 people, that’s okay!  Just make sure to unmold all of the cakes onto a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate the remaining cakes.  These reheat nicely on defrost in the microwave (in about 30 seconds), and they’re still gooey and perfect!

Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake

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Not unlike most people, we have a birthday tradition in our house where the birthday person gets to pick the dinner (homemade or out to eat), an event (movie, fishing, laser tag, etc.), and the cake (or birthday dessert).  We usually just celebrate as a family, and have a really nice time together.  So much so, that the kids haven’t asked for big blowout (school friend) parties since we started this new tradition 5 or 6 years ago!

This year, for my son’s birthday he went rogue and requested a cake none of us had previously made, or even eaten somewhere else.  And it was a smash hit!

I bring you the amazing raspberry swirl cheesecake.  The bottom crust is a soft vanilla sponge cake, topped with a creamy cheesecake layer, and then swirled with a tart raspberry filling.  It’s amazing, and you’re going to love it!

Special equipment/ingredients you’ll need: 10 springform pan, extra large sheet cake pan for a water bath (mine is 12 x 18 inches)/ or a large roasting pan, parchment sheets, a medium-sized sieve and extra large eggs.

Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake Adapted from Junior’s Cheesecakes

Yellow Sponge Cake Crust

1/3 c. cake flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

2 extra large eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 drops of lemon extract

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Line a 10-inch springform pan with parchment (cut to size, or use a parchment sheet).  I have sheets of parchment, so I lay the sheet of parchment on top of the base of the springform pan and then clip the ring to the base, with the remaining parchment sticking out the sides – I use the extra parchment to grab onto to easily unmold the cake from the bottom after it’s chilled.

Then wrap the outside of the pan with 1 large sheet of foil – it should cover the bottom, and sides of the pan.  If you use multiple short pieces of foil, there’s a good chance that the water (from the water bath) will seep through those gaps into your cake.  Yuck!

Set the wrapped cake pan aside, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.  Set aside.  In a small microwave safe bowl – melt the 2 Tablespoons of butter, and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer – beat the eggs on high for 3 minutes (set a timer!) – with the whisk attachment.  Add in the salt – with the beaters still going.

Then, with the mixer still running on high, add in the cream of tartar, and the 1/3 cup of sugar a little at a time, until all the sugar has been added.  Beat another 5 minutes (set the timer!) on high speed.  The egg mixture will become thick, and light yellow.

With the mixer still running, add in the extracts.  Turn off the mixer, and remove the bowl from the stand, and fold in the flour mixture, just until combined.

Pour in the melted butter, and fold in – just until combined.

Spray the springform pan (that was set aside above) with nonstick spray and pour the batter into the pan.  Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cake is puffy and a cake tester comes out clean, or with a small crumb attached.

Set the cake aside to cool while you make the raspberry puree, and the cheesecake batter.

Raspberry Puree 

10 ounces frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed, but not drained

1 teaspoon cornstarch

Place the thawed raspberries in the pitcher of a high powered blender, and puree on high until blended into a liquid.

Pour the puree through a sieve set over a bowl, and press to remove all the liquid.  You’ll have about 3/4 cup liquid.  Discard all of the pulp from the sieve.

Add the cornstarch into the bowl of strained raspberry puree, and whisk well to get rid of any white (cornstarch) lumps.  Set aside.  You may have to whisk multiple times to remove any lumps, it’s also helpful to let the raspberries sit for a bit in between to soften the cornstarch.  Set aside.

*If your raspberries are still frozen, you can speed up thawing by warming them in the microwave in a glass bowl on defrost.  Unfortunately, any hot liquid will prevent the cornstarch from blending smoothly.  So be sure to let the raspberry puree cool before trying to whisk in the cornstarch.

Vanilla Cheesecake

3 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese

1 1/3 cups sugar

2 extra large eggs

2/3 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup cornstarch

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

In the bowl of a stand mixer using a paddle attachment, beat 1/3 cup of sugar with 1 package of cream cheese, the cornstarch, and the salt on medium speed (about a 4).  Beat for 3 minutes (set the timer!) – it’ll go from crumbly to creamy in minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add in all of the remaining cream cheese, and 1 cup of sugar, and the vanilla.

Beat until combined.  Then add in the eggs on low speed, beating after each addition.  Scrape the bowl.

On low speed, beat in the heavy cream, just until combined.  Don’t over mix!

Scrape the bowl one last time to make sure everything is combined.  Pour the cheesecake batter on top of the slightly cooled sponge cake.  Then top the batter with dollops of raspberry puree.  Using a knife swirl the raspberry puree into the vanilla batter using a circular motion – try not to over-swirl, because the cake will turn pink.

Place the cheesecake in the center of the sheet cake pan, and place it on the middle rack of the oven.  Pour hot tap water around the cake until it reaches about 1 inch up the side of the cheesecake pan.

Close the oven, and bake the cheesecake for 1 hour.  At this point, your cheesecake will have risen completely – straight across the top (no sunken middle) and jiggle like almost set J-ello when moved.

Using oven mitts, carefully remove the cake from the water bath and place it on the counter to cool undisturbed for 2 hours – to prevent cracking.

Leave your baking pan full of water in the oven until it has cooled completely before moving it to drain.  You don’t want to burn yourself, or anyone else!

After 2 hours, remove the foil from around the cheesecake and discard.  Leave the cheesecake in the springform pan, and place a paper towel over the top of the cheesecake pan, and place the cheesecake in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, remove the cheesecake from the refrigerator, discard the paper towel, and while holding the bottom of the cheesecake pan flat against your palm, with your other hand, unlatch the springform clip.  The ring should come loose and fall around your arm like a bracelet.  Set the cheesecake down on the counter, and carefully lift one side up with the extra parchment, and remove the base.

Then, while holding the cheesecake in your palm, carefully pull back 1/2 the parchment from the side you’re going to place on your serving dish, and place the side you just remove the parchment from down onto your serving platter, and simultaneously remove the rest of the parchment while setting the cake down onto the platter.

Place the cheesecake (uncovered) in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve.  Once served, wrap the cheesecake platter up in plastic wrap.  It’ll stay fresh and tasty for about 4-5 days in the refrigerator – if it lasts that long!

 

 

 

 

Ooey Gooey Cinnamon Rolls

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I love all kinds of cinnamon rolls – except dry ones.  Those, I’m not too crazy about.  But super soft, gooey, cinnamon-filled rolls are my favorite.  I’m even flexible about the frosting – cream cheese, glaze, or buttercream!

These beauties are super easy to make.  They have a small (5 minute) rest period before rolling out the dough, then they have an hour rise, before popping them into the oven to bake off.  Then they’re finished with a super simple (2 ingredient) glaze.

And the best part?!  They’re even good 3-4 days after they’ve been baked!  If you want them soft and gooey (like just out of the oven), pop them into the microwave on defrost for about 10 seconds.  They’re oh so good!

Let’s get started!

Ooey Gooey Cinnamon Rolls Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens and jessiesheehanbakes.com

Dough
1 package of active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
½ teaspoon sugar
1 cup of sour cream
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons shortening
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
3 – 3 ¾ cups flour

In a large mixing bowl, add yeast, warm water, and ½ teaspoon sugar. Whisk to combine – set aside for about 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan, add the sour cream, 3 Tablespoons sugar, shortening, and salt. Whisk until combined. Place on low heat on the stove, and whisk occasionally. It’ll be lumpy, until the mixture heats up. You’ll want to heat it just until warm, but not boiling. When the mixture is no longer lumpy, but is warm and smooth, whisk in the baking soda. Take off the heat.

Pour the sour cream mixture into the yeast mixture. Whisk until combined. Add in the egg – whisk until combined. Stir in 3 cups of flour, then turn the dough out onto a (clean) floured surface and knead it until smooth, and soft, adding more flour as necessary to have a soft, but not sticky dough.

Let the dough rest on the counter, lightly covered in plastic wrap for about 5 minutes.

Make your filling.

Filling
1 stick of salted butter, softened
¼ cup flour
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg

In a medium bowl, beat together all the ingredients. Let sit for about 10.

Spray a 13 x 9 inch pan with nonstick spray, then pour in ¼ cup of salted melted butter, and sprinkle the pan with ¼ cup of sugar. Set aside.

Roll out the dough into a rectangle, on a lightly floured surface, about ¼ inch thick. Melt 2 Tablespoons of salted butter, and using a pastry brush, spread the melted butter over the entire surface of the dough, all the way to the edges.

Then take spoonfuls of filling and drop them all around the dough. Using a nylon scraper, spread the mixture all over the dough – completely to the edges.  If the spread is too difficult to spread, you can warm it up for about 5 seconds in the microwave to achieve a spreading consistency.

Roll dough up from the long side closest to you, as tightly as possible. I like to push in the ends, bunching the roll together so that the ends are about the same thickness as the rest of the roll. Then cut the dough into 12 – 13 (1 ½ inch) pieces. Place the rolls into prepared pan – evenly spacing (as best you can, if you ended up with 13 rolls like me).

Cover the pan with plastic wrap, and let rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size. Brush the tops of the cinnamon rolls with an egg wash (1 egg mixed with 1 Tablespoon heavy cream). Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. *  Turn the pan around halfway through the baking time for even browning.

*The easiest way I’ve found to check whether the rolls are done, is to carefully (and gently) press the center of the rolls in the middle of the pan, if they’re firm – I take the pan of rolls out of the oven to cool on the counter.

Drizzle a glaze (1/2 cup powdered sugar + 1-2 Tablespoons milk – whisked together until smooth) across the top of freshly baked rolls.

Serve warm with a glass of icy cold milk.

 

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Ball

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This was one of the first recipes that my oldest daughter made a few years ago when she started cooking.  I think it must have been her love of cheesecake, and chocolate, that spurred her to try out this recipe.

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But it’s truly the simplicity of it, that’s kept it in rotation for holidays, and celebrations, throughout the years.  Did I mention that it’s a no-bake recipe?!  If you’re feeling ambitious – make these homemade graham crackers – you’ll love them!

If not, no worries, no one will notice – the cheeseball is that good!

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Ball Adapted from Food, Faith, Fun

1 – 8 ounce package cream cheese

1 stick of salted butter, slightly softened

½ teaspoon vanilla

2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar

¾ cup powdered sugar

½ cup mini chocolate chips

½ cup roasted pecans, finely chopped

In a medium size bowl, beat together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until creamy. Beat in the sugars until creamy.  Then beat in chocolate chips until combined.

Scrape the bowl, to make sure everything is mixed well.  Then scoop the mixture onto a sheet of plastic wrap, and wrap it up into a ball shape.*  Chill in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.

Get a new sheet of plastic wrap and lay it flat on the counter, sprinkle it evenly with the (cooled) roasted chopped pecans.  Then carefully unwrap the chilled cheeseball and place it on the plastic wrap with the pecans and roll it in the pecans to coat all over.

Wrap it up again – in the sheet of plastic wrap with the pecans, or a new sheet of plastic wrap (reshaping the cheeseball as needed while wrapping it), and continue to chill it in the refrigerator for another 2 hours.

After it has chilled, and set up, unwrap the cheeseball and place it on a serving plate/platter.  Serve with graham crackers and strawberries.

*The mixture will be really soft, like cream cheese frosting – don’t worry, it’ll firm up as it’s chilling.

It’s Christmas in July!

You all, I just love Christmas – the lights, the music, the cookies, the ornaments, the shopping!!  So when I discovered that one of my very favorite online shops was having 40% off some of their custom stamps – I just had to let you all in on it.  Eek, I’m so excited!

Larger ImagePhoto Source: Jaded Blossom Stamps

How cute are these!!  Ugg, I just can’t stand it!  The company, Jaded Blossom Stamps, was created by Candace and Michelle in 2011.  I was lucky enough to stumble upon their website about a year ago, and I may have made a few (at least 7!) purchases since then.  I haven’t had a single problem with any of my orders, which I have to say has been really refreshing.

All of their stamps need to be used with an acrylic block for stamping – and I highly recommend these – acrylic stamp blocks.

As a few of you may know, I’m not particularly crafty.  However, I do love a good stamp on the back of a holiday envelope, or on a tag attached to a box of some really fabulous cupcakes, or chocolates. . .I’m not picky.  😉

Did I mention that their shipping is also super fast, and very reasonable?!  Do yourself a favor, and check them out!

While I’m at it, I’m going to share a few more of my favorite shops/products below so you can keep your eye out for any sales in the next few months, or get started on your Christmas shopping.  I’m all about getting it done early!

Photo Source: Steele Canvas

Here’s another online shop that I love.  Steele Canvas, is family owned, operated, and American made in Massachusetts.  I use the permanent truck (shown above) to cart my laundry around – it’s so much easier than hefting a basket full of clothes!  I’ve also been known to load one of my Steele Canvas trucks with groceries to make unloading easier.

Their baskets/trucks are expensive, but you get what you pay for – they’re extremely durable, and built to last.  I’ve had mine for over 5 years, I use them daily, and they both look as good as the day I bought them.  Totally worth the $$!

Photo Source:  Homer Laughlin/Fiesta Factory Direct

This is one of those items that I like to buy everyone I know, for absolutely every occasion.  It’s oven, dishwasher, and microwave safe – which means, you can use it for roasting veggies, baking pizza, serving a layered dip, or as a cake plate (one of my favorite uses to be sure)!  It also comes in a wide array of colors, so it’s sure to please just about everyone on your list!

FAIRY BREAD Sprinkle Medley - SweetapolitaPhoto Source: Sweetapolita

If you’re looking for a unique gift for your sprinkle obsessed friend – look no further!  Rosie, the owner, of the Canadian-based sprinkletastic Sweetapolita, carries her own custom line of mixed sprinkles, cookie cutters, enamel pins, and sprinkle coin purses and totes bags.  Right now, they’re offering free shipping to the U.S. with a $75 purchase – which is fabulous considering how much it costs to ship from Canada to here, and add that to the fact that’ll you’ll inevitably spend at least $75 anyhow on your first purchase!  It’s a good deal.  🙂

*I forgot to mention, that Sweetapolita also sells Stateside, just click her website and click the “Find a Retailer” tab.  Easy peasy!

I should mention that while I love looking at all of the sprinkle combos available on their website, being from Canada, they do use quite a few inedible (in the U.S.) metal sprinkles/batons.  That being said, I love their Fairy Bread Sprinkle Medley, shown above close up (which contains no metals) – and shown below, on what must be the cutest dachshund sugar cookie in history!

Sausage Dog Cookie Cutter - Sweetapolita

Photo Source: Sweetapolita

Meri Meri is based in England, and they truly have some of the most whimsical, fun cookie cutter designs (see above) and party decorations.  Luckily, I’ve been able to purchase from Sweetapolita, Williams Sonoma, Amazon, Etsy, and Ebay to get ahold of some of their items, without having to purchase directly from England.

Photo Source: Maskcara Beauty

I love this brand, because there are so many different shades to choose from, they’re creamy, and they blend beautifully.

There was a time that they had sets that were already put together – so you didn’t have to guess what color you needed, but it looks like they’ve begun individually selling the shades for optimal customization.

For the Highlighter I use either Sunlit or Aura.

For the Contour I use either Stone or Olive.

For the Illuminator I use Rose Gold.

For the Blush I prefer Pink Grapefruit and Nude.

I also love their 30 sec HAC brush.

Like many other ladies out there, I am a cosmetic product junkie.  There are a few brands out there that I’m all about – I’m looking at you ColourPop!  But I’m also open to trying out new products, and I have been using Maskcara Beauty since it first came out a few years ago.  It’s definitely become one of my go-to product lines!

Washed Marsh/Heathered Washed Marsh

Photo Source: Lululemon

My sister-in-law started buying these headbands for my headband-loving-daughter a few years ago, and since I cut my hair shorter, I desperately needed a way to pull it back since I couldn’t use my trusty hairbands anymore.  Curse you shorter hair!

This is the color I got (above) – Washed Marshed/Heathered Washed Marsh, and I love it.  I bought it in an actual Lululemon store for the first time ever, since one just opened up at our local mall.  However, I’m not sure I would go in again, because while checking out, one of the ladies that works there – not the cashier, wanted to know what kind of exercise I was doing, since you know, I was buying a headband, and I guess in some universe those two things are synonymous.  Who knew?!

As you can imagine, I was a little taken aback, because I was knee deep in the middle of my current rigorous exercise routine – running errands, wrangling kids, and throwing money at people, but somehow she didn’t seem to recognize it as exercise.  Sheesh!  So in order not to make this awkward situation more awkward, I told her that I was doing yoga.  I used to do it, I’m sure when I bend over to pick up laundry I’m doing some interpretive form of a yoga pose, so it’s not completely untrue.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

IMG_6186_editedI can’t believe it’s already the middle of the summer!  Where is the time going?!  I don’t know about you, but there are certain things in life that I’ll never miss (are you with me?) – like school traffic, homework, lost lunchboxes, teacher emails, and rushing to get dinner on the table before a 2 1/2 hour school night concert!!  Yes, these are things I feel confident I’ll never miss!

And why, oh why, does it seem like summer just races by, and the rest of the school year just plods along?  I know the answer, but whyyyy????!!!!

Ugg!  But instead of focusing on the inevitable drudgery that is the school pick up/drop off line, let’s focus instead on happier things . . . like cake.  And not just any cake – soft, buttery cake, with crispy cinnamon sugar streusel on top.

Be sure to put this on your “to bake” list for the summer, and add a side of fresh fruit – you know, so it’s “healthy.”  Then throw on your swimsuit and jump in your neighbor’s neighborhood pool, and swim off those extra calories, because they were so worth it!

Just a few notes – this recipe is for an 8 inch cake, which is the perfect size for small families, or larger ones (that just don’t want lots of leftovers).  If you do find yourself with any leftovers, I highly recommend freezing individual slices, and then rewarming them in the microwave on defrost, until the cake reaches the temperature you desire.

As a side note, my nephew and I made this coffeecake together this summer – we doubled the recipe, but I forgot to increase the baking time.  Don’t be like me!  If you double the recipe, please, oh please, remember to increase the baking time!  I believe it took 50-60 minutes to bake a 9 x 13 pan.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake  Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Streusel

1/3 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark), I used dark in the photo above

1/2 cup flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

3 Tablespoons salted butter, cold & cut into chunks

Cake

1 1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup sour cream (full fat)

Glaze

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 splash of vanilla

2 Tablespoons milk or water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8 x 8 inch pan with foil and spray with nonstick spray.  Set aside.

For the streusel, in a food processor, place all of the ingredients for the streusel, and process until it looks like coarse sand.  Transfer to a small bowl and set aside (covered) in the refrigerator until you are ready for it.

For the cake batter, Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or handheld beater) beat the butter on high for 1 minute.  Add the sugar, and beat for another 2 minutes.

Scrape down the bowl, and add the eggs one at a time, beating after each.  Beat in the vanilla, sour cream, baking powder, baking soda, and salt – just until combined.

Beat in the flour, just until combined.  Scrape the bowl, and mix the batter by hand with a rubber scraper one final time.

Pour half the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth out with a rubber scraper.  Sprinkle the cake batter with half of the streusel mixture.  Pour the remaining cake batter on top of the streusel, carefully spreading the batter over the streusel.  Then top with the last half of the remaining streusel.

Bake the cake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Let the cake cool in the pan for about 20 minutes.  Then carefully remove the cake from the pan by lifting the foil edges to heft it out.  Alternatively, you could simply serve the cake straight out of the pan after glazing.

For the glaze, place powdered sugar in a small bowl, and whisk in the milk and vanilla.  If the glaze is lumpy, simply add more powdered sugar and whisk until smooth.  Drizzle the glaze over the cake.

Store any leftovers covered at room temperature for up to 4 days.  Or freeze individually wrapped slices for about 1 month – reheat (unwrapped) cake slices in the microwave on defrost until warm.