last minute gift ideas

It’s crunch time! Has everyone finished their holiday shopping yet? Gifts beautifully packaged, and placed under the tree? Or are you a bit like me, scrambling around last minute looking for the perfect gift for those special folks in your life? Look no further, y’all – I’ve compiled a great list of last minute gift ideas that look anything but!

Clubs & Subscriptions 

  • Beer of the Month Club –> the perfect gift for the craft beer lover in your life; for him or her! Choose between different packages and selections.
  • Wine of the Month Club –> same as above; do you have a friend who adores wine? This is an ideal gift because you have the option to select different blends and types of wine.
  • Netflix Subscription –> maybe you have a friend who loves to binge watch old TV shows and movies {or is that just me??}…this is a winner for anyone.

Books and Magazines

Household Goods

Now, let the last-minute shopping commence!

old fashioned sugar cookies

Yes, another holiday dessert recipe!
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This cookie is special, and not just because it’s easily one of my favorite cookies. Like, ever. I can still remember the first time that I had this; back in college, when I went home for Christmas break, my youngest sister had already been hard at work whipping up lots of fabulous treats. We always made sugar cookies as children – we spent hours with our mom rolling out dough, decorating all the shapes we cut out, and eating way too many {but who doesn’t?}. So the first time that I sank my teeth into these pillowy, soft cookies I was instantly converted. Gone were my days of making the thinner and snappier version. My heart, and my taste preference, had changed.
These cookies have the best texture, without question. The edges get slightly crisp, but the interior remains perfectly soft and moist. I had been looking forward for weeks to make these cookies, but I had to make them my own {surprise, surprise}. The fine folks over at Chobani contacted me not too long ago about participating in their #MadeWithChobani Project, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do something crazy-fun with these cookies!
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I absolutely love cooking with Chobani Greek Yogurt. Not only is it a great substitution for oils and butter in baking, but it packs in a hefty dose of extra protein! The end product remains unaffected; I like to say that I can eat a few extra cookies because I made them better for me ;)
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You absolutely, totally MUST make these cookies. And when you do, let me know what you think! I’d love to see photos, and be sure to tag them as #MadeWithChobani so we can spread the goodness! Happy cookie-making, and eating!
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Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies {recipe adapted from Tate’s Bake Shop}
Makes about 24 cookies 
Ingredients:
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup Chobani 0% Greek Yogurt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
1-1/4 cups sugar
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup reduced fat sour cream
To Prepare:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a medium sized bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
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With a standing mixer {or in a large bowl} cream together the Chobani 0% Plain Greek Yogurt, butter and sugar on medium speed until they are light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add in the vanilla and the egg; mix well, and scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure everything is evenly distributed. Add in the sour cream and mix until combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add in the flour mixture in three to four batches, or until combined. Be sure to not overmix.
Drop the cookies on the prepared baking sheets about three inches apart; the cookies will flatten out and spread slightly.
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Bake for 16 minutes or until the are pale/golden brown {your oven may take less time or more, depending on the size of your cookie and the actual oven temperature}. Allow them to cool for 3 minutes before transferring onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
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Enjoy!

oreo truffles

Perhaps one of the easiest treats to throw together, especially for last-minute holiday guests, I have been SO excited to share this dessert with  y’all today!

frominstructables

 

I think that it is rather safe to say this this tasty tidbit should come as no surprise to most of you – in my opinion, it’s a rather humble, tried-and-true recipe. Anyone who has ever whipped it up can attest to that fact. The thing that makes these truffles so fun, my dears, is WHAT you can do to make them your own!

Over the years, I’ve done them up countless ways: color coordinated for the celebrated holiday, football-shaped for tailgates, glitzed up for New Year’s Eve celebrations, the traditional method of dipping them in candy coating. And don’t get me wrong, each way is fabulous. Even as I sit here typing, I am drumming up more ways to make them unique.

My most recent culinary hurdle {and I used that term looooooosely} as of late was to come up with gluten-free treats for the Thanksgiving holiday. Never one to miss a challenge, especially when the kitchen is involved{!}, I readily said “yes” and let the menu planning begin.

A bit of humble brag – the dinner was a huge success, from the dressing to the bird to the dessert. But I think my favorite morsel was the reinvented Oreo Truffles I brought! Not only were they gluten-free, but significantly lower in fat and calories…and I thought even tastier than batches of years past!

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Oreo Truffles

Customizable in any particular way, shape or form…I chose to adapt these for a gluten-free family member. GF cookies were swapped out to replace the traditional cookie, and Greek-Yogurt cream cheese took the place of its full-fat counterpart. A simple roll in a mixture of vanilla sugar and cocoa powder was the final step. Pure perfection, and guaranteed to please even the pickiest of palates. 

Ingredients:

1 package of your favorite sandwich cookie, gluten-free if desired

1 eight-ounce container of Greek-yogurt cream cheese, slightly softened

1/2 to 3/4 cup cocoa powder

1/4 cup vanilla sugar

To Prepare:

Crumble the sandwich cookies into large chunks, and place into the bowl of your food processor. Break the cream cheese into smaller pieces, and add in with the sandwich cookies.

Process until totally smooth; the mixture should eventually form a large ball in the bowl. Scrape down the sides and process one final time to ensure all chunks are eliminated. Place bowl in freezer for 15 to 20 minutes, allowing the mixtures to firm up slightly.

While the mixture is cooling, combine the cocoa powder and vanilla sugar into a wide-rimmed dish. Set aside.

Once the mixture is ready, scoop into small balls {I usually get about 14-18 per batch} and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drop each truffle into the cocoa-sugar mixture, and toss evenly to coat. Place them back on the sheet, and put in the freezer until ready for plating.

Let truffles come to room temperature, usually 15 minutes or so, before serving.

thirsty thursday: cider-ginger mules

Spiked cider has just gotten better.

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There’s something magical about this time of the year – the air is crisp, the sky is clear, and all the wonderful autumn flavors just seem to work their way into all sorts of concoctions. I am not complaining, because the day that I stumbled upon this creative cocktail I knew that I was in for a treat. And y’all, we’re talking PERFECTION. This drink, holy wow. I cannot get enough.

I have always had a soft spot for ginger beer. Perhaps it’s because one of my favorite local spots makes theirs in-house, resulting in the best ‘Dark & Stormy’ I’ve had to date, but I just adore the flavor. When made properly, it’s perfectly spicy and sweet.

But now, there is this drink. THIS DRINK! Not only does it utilize my favorite ginger beer, but we’re also incorporating hard cider. Again, another one of my favorites! And when you top it with the freshly sliced, in-season apples, it is seriously like drinking up autumn. It brings up that warm, fuzzy feeling…and no, it’s not from the vodka. wink wink.

One sip and you’ll be in autumnal bliss. I promise.

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Cider-Ginger Mules {recipe adapted from Averie Cooks}

Ingredients:

6 ounces ginger beer

3 ounces hard cider

3 ounces vodka

optional garnishes: apple wedges, cinnamon sticks

To Prepare:

Fill a cider mug with ice to chill it down, for about 2 to 3 minutes. Discard all but one or two of the ice cubes.

Layer ingredients over the remaining ice cubes and stir ingredients to combine. Float an apple garnish on the top, as well as on the rim of the glass. A cinnamon stick can be added to use as a stirrer. Enjoy!

chicken parmesan meatballs

I absolutely adore a good Chicken Parmesan. I have such fond memories of enjoying them throughout my childhood when out to special dinners with my family; my mom would often make it at home; I’ve even come up with my own twist on it!

But sometimes, there are those days after work…those days where you’d rather slide onto the couch in your most comfortable pair of yoga pants than stand in the kitchen, dredging chicken breasts, frying them, then finishing them off in the oven. THEN preparing the pasta. THEN melting the {oh so glorious} mozzarella under the broiler. All that…before dinner is ready. It’s ok! We all have those days. These meatballs are going to make you feel better.

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With these beauties, you get all of that wonderful flavor of the Chicken Parmesan, but made easy because we’re doing them meatball style! They pack a flavor punch bigger than their size lets on, that’s for sure. They’re loaded up with herbs, tomato paste, bread crumbs….everything that makes the classic dish, but it’s all done in one bowl! Tell me it doesn’t get any better than that, I dare ya. BUT WAIT.

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…did I neglect to mention that these are significantly more healthy than the original dish? I’m all about a big ol’ plate of pasta and chicken, smothered in cheese and sauce, but it doesn’t always feel so great after the fact. We’re baking these in the oven, which provides that wonderful crunch on the outside without the use of frying. They can be sprinkled with cheese at the end, fear not!

Not only are these easy to whip up on a moment’s notice, but they are great to make ahead and freeze for future use! Simply prepare them, roll them out, and transfer to the freezer on a baking sheet. Once frozen, they can be stored in a zip top bag and finished off in no time. You’ll be so thankful you did.

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Chicken Parmesan Meatballs {recipe adapted from Bake Your Day}

All the flavors of our favorite Italian classic, packed in to one easy-to-eat dish! You won’t be able to get enough.

Ingredients:

1 lb. ground chicken

1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 heaping tbsp. tomato paste

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried parsley

1 tsp. dried thyme

salt and pepper, to taste

your favorite Marinara Sauce for serving

To Prepare:

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, and top it with a cooling rack. Spray with cooking spray and set aside.

Mix all of the above ingredients {less Marinara Sauce} in a large bowl until well combined. The mixture will be fairly moist, but should hold together when formed into a ball.

Scoop the mixture out and roll into balls {I opted to make 9 large ones} and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Bake in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. For my large meatballs, this took about 30ish minutes.

Serve with your favorite pasta and sauce, and top it all off with cheese. Enjoy!

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peanut butter & jelly bread

Serving up nostalgia, one slice at a time.

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I happened across this idea not too long ago. In fact, you may remember the last trip that the hubs and I took – our Bourbon Trail tour of Kentucky, that is. We mixed it up this time; a bit of hotel time and a bit of tent camping time, all interwoven in one weekend. It’s easy to plan your first meal of the day when staying in a hotel, but what’s a cook to do when she knows they will only have campfire heat {if that} on one of the other mornings?

Enter: peanut butter and jelly bread.

I couldn’t tell you what made me think of this. I know that the hubs loves a good, ol’ fashioned PB&J sandwich…I mean, who doesn’t?…but the thought of making it into one cohesive loaf? Has this gal lost her mind? Once I set upon the idea, I knew that I needed a little bit of research and credibility on my side; something to back me up, if you will. And when I found the recipe below, my guideline, I knew that I had struck gold.

It truly doesn’t get much simpler than this, y’all. We’re talking easy as pie, a one-bowl wonder breakfast bread. It comes together in know time and, from personal experience, is rib-sticking-you’ll-stay-warm-and-full-all-morning kind of good. Whole wheat flour packs a nutritious punch, and heightens the nutty taste of the peanut butter that’s folded in. With no added sugar, the fruit preserves and dried cranberries are able to shine their brightest. Greek yogurt brings protein into the mix, helping you power right through your morning.

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And the best part? You can slice this ahead of time, freeze it individually, and simply warm up as needed for breakfast on the go. Winning!

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Peanut Butter & Jelly Bread {recipe adapted from Whole Foods Market}

A fun twist on a classic sandwich, this bread is sure to bring a smile to everyone’s faces! You get all of the flavors of a standard PB & J, but in one easy-to-hold slice of bread. Wonderful warmed in the oven once sliced, too!

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

3 tbsp. ground flaxseed meal {optional}

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. sea salt

3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk

2/3 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup fat-free vanilla Greek yogurt

2 large eggs

1/2 to 3/4 cup fruit preserves of your choice

optional: cinnamon-sugar to sprinkle on top of the loaf 

optional: dried cranberries or other dried fruit to layer in with the preserves 

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously spray a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray, and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, {optional} flaxseed meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the milk, peanut butter, yogurt, and eggs. Gradually stir the peanut butter mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Do not overmix!

Spoon half of the batter into the bottom of the loaf pan, making sure to get it into all of the corners. Spread the fruit preserves evenly over that first layer of batter, and top with the optional dried  fruit. Top with remaining batter, and smooth out to seal in the jam. If desired, sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture.

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Bake for 55-65 minutes {your oven may vary slightly}, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and allow to cool completely. Cut into slices and serve!

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thirsty thursday: boozy hot cocoa

Perfect for cozying up in front of the fire, and bundled underneath your thickest blanket. I look forward to the cold every year, because it gives me an excuse to drink hot cocoa! Sure, you could {and I’m sure many do} enjoy this treat year round, but I love the anticipation of waiting until the thermometer dips below freezing; it’s the wait that makes it so special!

Over the years, I’ve come to be quite a hot cocoa aficionado. Rotating through the classics such as Ovaltine, Swiss Miss, and even good old Hershey’s syrup heated in milk…everyone has their favorites, and like anything, they constantly change and evolve. Mine certainly has!

Here is my current obsession. I’ve been on a bit of a coconut milk kick lately…I’ve always enjoyed its flavor, but am now incorporating it into more and more things. Warmed up over cereal has been a recent discovery, it makes a wonderful addition to a smoothie, but hands-down, it’s best in this recipe I’m sharing today! You can feel free to dress it up or down as you like; modify the ingredients to your tasting, but I promise, one sip and you’ll be hooked. And just like me…waiting for winter to show up!

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Boozy Hot Cocoa

Perfect for those chilly nights, my hot cocoa will be sure to warm you right up! Play around with the ingredients listed – booze or no booze, whatever milk base you prefer, add in extra sugar. It’s up to you! 

Ingredients:

1 cup milk of choice, plus 2-3 extra tablespoons

1 heaping tablespoon of sugar

2 heaping tablespoons of cocoa powder

pinch salt

dash vanilla extract

optional boozy add-ins: {2 ounces whipped vodka} or {2 ounces bailey’s} or (2 ounces peppermint shnapps}

To Prepare:

In a large, heat-proof mug combine the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Whisk to combine.

Slowly drizzle in the 2-3 extra tablespoons of milk, until a thick paste has formed and any clumps have been worked out. Add in the vanilla and set aside.

Heat up the remaining 1 cup of milk until hot but not boiling {I usually go for 2 to 2.5 minutes}. Once desired temperature is reached, add it slowly into the mug. Whisk to combine and all lumps have been dissolved.

If doing so, add in your boozy mix-in! Top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings, and be sure to enjoy in front of a warm fire. Cheers!