Running from the Law

Thursday, December 8, 2016

DIY Homemade Hot Chocolate Gift Basket

One of the things on my holiday to do list this year is make a batch of gift baskets to have on hand and ready to give to friends, neighbors, teachers, co-workers and hostesses, as the need arises. I feel like every year I'm scrambling at the last minute to come up with cute and clever ideas for little gifts for all those people that we love, appreciate and want to thank with a sweet little gift. My initial idea was to put together a basket full of homemade fruit spreads and jams that I made over the summer from all our Eckert's fruit picking adventures (spiced blackberry honey jam, peach salsa, strawberry preserves and apple butter) with a loaf of freshly baked bread or some muffins. I mean, how amazing would that have been, right? But, alas, when I went to check my stock of canned jams, I realized that we (the kids!) ate nearly everything I made this year already! Reminder for next year to double up on all picked fruit! 
DIY Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix Gift Basket
My next idea was to make something a little more "holiday" appropriate, so I decided to go with a homemade hot chocolate basket. Homemade hot chocolate mix is stupidly easy to whip up and throw in a cute Mason jar with a printable lid label and direction tag (both of which I've included below). But mainly, I've been really excited to make my own homemade marshmallows! This has been on my baking bucket list for a while now and I was stunned by how easy they were to make and tasted even more delicious than I expected. And since I had some chocolates and candies leftover from another project, I decided to make a few chocolate candy coated spoons to dunk into your hot chocolate to give it an extra little kick. Add a few pretty paper straws and some candy canes, throw it all in a box/basket and voila! You've got the perfect gift for everyone on your list! 
Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix
Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix
Let's start with the main ingredient, shall we? Homemade hot chocolate mix is comprised of 4 simple ingredients (powdered sugar, cocoa powder, dry milk and salt) and all you have to do is mix them together. It literally couldn't be any easier! Once everything is incorporated together, spoon out enough mix to fill a jar. The recipe below will fill 3 pint sized Mason jars - I used the ones with handles, so they'd double as a mug for the recipient. 
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup dry milk
  • 1 tsp salt
Directions:
  1. Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight container.
  2. To make hot chocolate, mix 1/2 cup hot chocolate powder into 1 mason mug of hot water. Add marshmallows (and any other fun toppings or fixings) and enjoy!
DIY Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix recipe and printable labels
Once your mugs are filled, free free to use these free printable lid labels and attach a direction tag. I've included links to both below. I printed the tags on kraft paper and tied the them on with some red baker's twine, but any ribbon would work. 
Printable Happy Holidays Mason Jar Lid Labels
Printable Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix Direction Tag
Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix Recipe with printable lid labels and tags
Homemade Vanilla Bean Marshmallows
While the hot chocolate mix might be the main ingredient in this gift basket, these homemade vanilla bean marshmallows are going to steal the show! They are UNREAL. So light and fluffy. So creamy and melty and amazing. If you've never had homemade marshmallows, you are missing out! They are super easy to make, I promise. And you'll never go back to store-bought again! 
First up, mix your gelatin with cold water in the bowl of your standing mixer. Let sit to solidify while you bring your sugar, corn syrup, salt and water to a boil on the stove. Make sure you have a candy thermometer (I have this one - it's cheap and works like a charm) and get your melted mixture up to 240 degrees. This is important and it takes a bit longer than I would have boiled it had I not been using my thermometer. And by bit, I mean a couple minutes. This whole process is pretty quick (less than 10 minutes). 
Once your syrup mixture is sufficiently HOT, add it to the gelatin mixture in the mixing bowl and whip on high for about 15 minutes until the mixture is very thick. At the very end, stop your machine and add your vanilla bean paste. You can use regular vanilla extract, but vanilla bean paste will give this a much richer, stronger vanilla flavor and you'll be able to see those awesome little specks of vanilla bean in the marshmallow. If you can, warm the vanilla bean paste (or extract) up a bit so it melts into the marshmallow mixture easier (and doesn't make it separate). Mix for another minute or two until completely incorporated. 
While all this mixing is going on, line a pan with plastic wrap, spray it with non-stick cooking spray and dust the whole thing with a heavy coating of powdered sugar. This mixture is STICKY like you wouldn't believe, so be sure to coat everything nook and cranny thoroughly. Smooth the top of the mixture and dust the whole thing with more powdered sugar. Store uncovered in a cool dry place overnight. 
Homemade Vanilla Bean Marshmallows for Hot Chocolate
Homemade Vanilla Bean Marshmallows for Hot Chocolate
Once you're ready, turn the mixture out onto a cutting board covered in (you guessed it) powdered sugar and cut into 1 inch wide strips (using a knife or a pizza cutter!). Then cut your strips into squares. Roll the sides in powdered sugar to prevent sticking and store in an airtight container. 
Homemade vanilla bean marshmallows
Homemade vanilla bean marshmallow recipe
Ingredients:
  • 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin 
  • 1 c. cold water, divided 
  • 1 1/2 c. granulated sugar 
  • 1 c. light corn syrup 
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt 
  • 2 T. vanilla bean paste
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, for dusting 
Directions:
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water. Allow to sit while you prepare the sugar syrup.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup cold water. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Raise heat to high and cook until the sugar syrup reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer.
  3. Remove sugar syrup from the heat. With the mixer on low speed and fitted with the whisk attachment, slowly pour sugar syrup into the gelatin. Turn mixer up to high speed and whip until very thick, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla bean paste (warmed) and mix thoroughly. 
  4. Line the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13" glass baking dish with plastic wrap. Spray plastic wrap with non­-stick cooking spray and dust generously with powdered sugar. Pour marshmallow mixture into pan, smooth the top, and dust top with more powdered sugar.
  5. Allow marshmallows to stand uncovered overnight to dry. 
  6. Turn marshmallows out onto a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut marshmallow into 1­ inch wide strips. Cut strips into 1­ inch squares. Roll cut sides in powdered sugar. 
  7. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 or 4 days. If marshmallows become sticky, remove the container lid for a bit to allow marshmallows to dry.
Homemade Vanilla Bean Marshmallows for Hot Chocolate
Chocolate Dipped Spoons with Toppings for Hot Chocolate
Chocolate Dipped Spoons
My last homemade addition to the hot chocolate basket was a trio of chocolate dipped spoons, topped with Ande's mints, white chocolate chips and mini cinnamon chips. Again, this is super easy. I started with these wooden spoons and dipped them into melted milk chocolate. Once they solidified a little bit, I sprinkled the toppings on and let them harden in the fridge overnight. Each hot chocolate box contained one bag of a variety pack of chocolate dipped spoons. Other amazing variations would be butterscotch chips, peppermints, salted caramel, coconut, peanut butter chips, sprinkles, etc. 
Chocolate Dipped Spoons with Toppings for Hot Chocolate
Chocolate Dipped Spoons with Toppings for Hot Chocolate
Chocolate Dipped Spoons with Toppings for Hot Chocolate
Chocolate Dipped Spoons with Toppings for Hot Chocolate
Assembling your gift basket
When that was all said and done, I threw it all together into the cutest little hot chocolate kit you ever did see. I added a few red striped straws, some candy canes for dipping/stirring and tied a pretty bow around a little wooden fruit basket. You could use any basket, bin, crate or bag you wanted. I just so happened to have a few of these wooden baskets on hand and they made the perfect size container for 2 jars of hot chocolate and all the fixings. Although, you could probably go even smaller and just gift one jar of mix, with the toppings (I think that'd be plenty). 
DIY Homemade Hot Chocolate Gift Basket with Marshmallows
DIY Homemade Hot Chocolate Gift Basket
Homemade Hot Chocolate Gift Basket with Homemade Marshmallows
Homemade Hot Chocolate Free Printable Direction Tags

DIY Holiday Gift Basket Ideas
I'm joining forces today with a few other bloggers to bring you a variety of fun, cute and clever gift basket ideas for the holidays. If hot chocolate and/or baking isn't your thing, be sure to check out some of the other ideas (for beer lovers, crafty kids, the perfect hostess or your best friend). 

Hostess Gift Basket - I Love You More Than Carrots
Craft Beer Gift Basket - Ellie & Addie
Coffee Lovers Gift Basket - Chasin' Mason
DIY Money Tree - Seeing All Sides
Homemade Hot Chocolate Gift Basket - Running From The Law 
Champagne Gift Basket - East Coast Chic
Spa Day Gift Basket - Secrets of a Stay At Home Mom
Kid Craft Gift Basket - The Adventure Starts Here

DIY Homemade Hot Chocolate Gift Basket

Hopefully none of my co-workers, neighbors or Mac's teachers read this blog, because I made 10 of these little baskets and they're all getting one! (If you read this and get one, please just pretend to be surprised). 
DIY Holiday Gift Basket Ideas & Tutorials

Do you like giving (or receiving) gift baskets?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Mommy's Wishlist & Stitch Fix Gift Certificate Giveaway


1. Stitch Fix Gift Certificates - Receiving Stitch Fix boxes has definitely been one of the highlights of my year. I love this service that picks out items for you, based on your style preferences. I love being surprised by what my stylist chooses for me and am always thrilled by how well things fit and how much I wear and love the items. Stitch Fix gift certificates are the perfect gift for any SF lover or anyone wanting to try out the service. (hint hint: scroll all the way down for a big surprise!)

2. Cuisinart smoothie maker - The kids and I have really been into smoothies lately and have had so much fun trying out new recipes. My go-to is a banana, almond butter, oatmeal creation with some vanilla greek yogurt. Amazing. However, I hate dragging out my huge blender daily (not to mention cleaning it). A smoothie maker with travel cups would be awesome.

3. Tory Burch tassel key fob - I currently have a gold tassel key fob that I love, but it's slowly being pulled apart by the kids. I am crushing hard on this bright colorful rainbow tassel key fob from Tory Burch. Seriously, she can do no wrong in my book.

4. Swell water bottle - I realize I'm totally late to the game on the Swell bottles, but I'm obsessed with this pretty gold bottle.

5. Kendra Scott earrings - I have a few pairs of KS earrings and they're all just so pretty! I love the ones with bright colors, but I especially adore these white and gold ones. They are the perfect neutral that will go with everything!

6. Powerbeats wireless headphones - These wireless Bluetooth headphones are on the top of my list so I can finally ditch the cord to my cell phone while I run. It would be so nice not to have to untangle earbuds every single time I went for a run or get myself all caught up in the cord while I listened to my audiobooks in the evening while doing household chores. 

7. iPhone 7plus - While I've never been a sucker for having the latest and greatest technology, I'm drooling over the new camera on the iPhone 7 plus and pining over having more memory to take more (and better) photos of the kids while we're out and about.  

8. Canon 35mm f/1.4 L lens - Speaking of photos, this lens is next on my lineup of must haves. I've been desperately wanting a wide angle lens so I can take better photos indoors during those cold dark winter months when we're not outside as much. I love my 50mm f/1.4, but I need something that allows me to get a bit closer to the kids and not be shooting straight up their noses.

9. Melissa Button Frye boots - I need these boots in my life, STAT. I've been wanting them forever and ever amen. Please Santa. 

10. Bay leaf wreath - Slightly weird, but I'm obsessed with these gorgeous bay leaf wreaths. I love the smell of bay leaves and fresh herbs and want to hang one of these babies from every single door and window in my house. 

11. Ray-Bans Rimless Aviators - These sunglasses are my all-time favorites. For some reason, the rimless frames are the only ones that look good on my face and don't look like they're drooping down to my chin. I want them in every color/shade they come in. I already have the original, but these brown/gold ones are next on my list.  

12. Tieks - Again, something that I already own, but can't get enough of. If you're wondering if they're worth the price...yes, they absolutely are. I have the mustard yellow color and now want them in hot pink, leopard, black matte, gold and tan. Give me all the Tieks. 

And now...it's time for me to help make part of your wishlist come true! If you're anything like me, Stitch Fix gift certificates are at the very top of your list. Today, I'm teaming up with a group of amazing bloggers and fellow Stitch Fix fans to give away a Stitch Fix gift certificate for $1,000! Can you even imagine how many fixes and amazing items you can get for that price?! Fixes for years! If you've a Stitch Fix fan, know someone who is or ever wanted to try their amazing service, just enter the Rafflecopter below to be entered to win! Best of luck to you!


What's on the top of your wishlist this year?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

7 Deadly Sins Brownie Bars

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #TidingsAndTreats #CollectiveBias
One of my favorite things about the holidays has to be making treats to give to our friends, neighbors and family. While some people make cookies or pie, I make the world's best brownie bar. And I am not even close to kidding when I call this the world's best...it's that good! When I bring this bar to parties, people gush and rave. They beg me for the recipe. They melt a little with each bite. The last few years I've been whipping up a batch of these brownie bars for my co-workers, in a small effort to thank them for putting up with me all year and apologizing for having to deal with me. I think these bars may single-handedly be the reason I'm still employed. Until now, I've never shared the recipe so they have to keep me around so I'll keep making the bars. Fingers crossed that none of them read this post. 

These 7 Deadly Sins Brownie Bars contain seven of the most incredible, decadent, wonderful ingredients you could ever throw together and they're guaranteed to make you a believer.  Everything you could possibly want/love/crave is in these bars. They're chewy and crunchy. They're sweet and salty. They're chocolatey and peanut buttery. They're UNBELIEVABLE. And bonus - they're easy to make! Let's start from the bottom and work our way up, shall we? 
Brownie Base Layer
The bottom layer of this masterpiece is all brownie. Feel free to use a box of brownie mix and make as directed. Or if you're feeling ultra-fancy, you can make your brownie layer from scratch (you overachiever, you!). You can make your brownies as soft and chewy or dense and crunchy as you'd like, but just be sure to grease the pan well so the bars come out easily and don't stick to the side of the pan. 
Frosting Fluff Layer
After your brownies have cooled completely, mix one container of vanilla icing (or flavor of your choosing) with one container of marshmallow fluff. The two combined make the most incredibly, rich, whipped concoction that you've ever tasted. Try not to eat spoonfuls of just the icing - you want at least enough for a thick layer to spread evenly over the brownies. 
Salty Crunch Surprise
At this point, you might be questioning my sanity as to why keep going when we've already made an absolutely incredible dessert. Just trust me here...I will not lead you astray. While brownies topped with vanilla marshmallow fluff icing sounds like perfection, we're not even half way through this dessert yet. Don't give up on me now! Next up, add a cup of coarsely chopped lightly salted peanuts to the brownies. I made the mistake of throwing some peanuts in a plastic bag and lettime Mac go at them with the hammer. They were nearly pulverized to smithereens and peanut dust, so I had to throw that bag away and do it myself with a lighter hand. Also, I've made this recipe with and without this peanut layer (as I'm not really a huge fan of nutty desserts), but this one is better with the nuts. Again, trust me. 
Chocolate Peanut Butter Rice Krispies Layer
Our final layer is what puts this recipe above and beyond anything else you've ever tasted: melted chocolate chips, swirled with creamy peanut butter, mixed with Rice Krispies cereal. If this layer doesn't convince you that this recipe deserves a gold medal, I don't know what possibly could. This is my favorite layer. I could eat this layer all by itself for every meal of my life. It's SOOOOO good. I use semi-sweet chocolate chips, creamy peanut butter and Kellogg's Rice Krispies cereal. Trust me on the Rice Krispies - use Kellogg's because the generic brands go flat/stale and lose their crunch when mixed with the chocolate. 
Cool & Slice
Once your 7 Deadly Sins Brownie Bars are fully assembled, pop the dish into the fridge for about an hour and let the whole thing cool and harden. The top Rice Krispies layer will solidify, but not be so hard that it's tough to bite through. You want the whole dessert to harden enough so that you can cut the brownies into bars for serving without the whole thing falling apart. Although, if it does fall apart, it still tastes just as good (if not better). Feel free to let soften a little bit once sliced (but good luck not eating it all immediately). 
Cooking with Kids
If your kids are anything like mine, they absolutely love helping in the kitchen. Of course, their definition of helping is far from my definition of helping, but I do like to get them involved and let them feel like they offered some assistance. They're always so proud of the help they give and it gives me a way to work on following directions, being patient and cleaning up after yourself. They get the added benefit of getting to try out all the ingredients (and licking the spoons) and I get a bit of extra help in washing the dishes (which they inexplicably love to do). Although, when they saw me break out the box of Rice Krispies, they immediately wanted a bowl full of cereal with their lunch. 
Enjoy!
They're going to blow your mind. Don't say I didn't warn you. Try not to overdose. Good luck. You can thank me later. 
Ingredients
  • 1 box brownie mix
  • Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on brownie mix box
  • 1 container vanilla frosting
  • 1 container marshmallow fluff
  • 1 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cups Rice Krispies cereal
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 bag (12 oz or 2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
Directions
  1. Preheat oven and make brownies as directed on box in greased 13x9 inch pan. Cool completely, about 1 hour.
  2. Mix icing and marshmallow fluff together in a medium-sized bowl. Frost brownies with icing mixture.
  3. Sprinkle brownies with peanuts; refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, measure Rice Krispies into large bowl; set aside. In saucepan or double-broiler, melt peanut butter and chocolate chips over low heat, stirring constantly. Pour over cereal in bowl, stirring until evenly coated.
  5. Spread over iced brownies. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or until set before cutting.
  6. Store tightly covered in refrigerator.
#Treats4Toys & Target
Kellogg's Rice Krispies cereal (original and the red/green holiday special box) can be found at your local Target, in the cereal aisle. Right now they're running a special where you can buy 2 get 1 free of Jet puffed marshmallows and Rice & Cocoa Krispies cereal (thru 12/3). Also, if you make a treat using Rice Krispies cereal and share a photo of it on social media using the tag #Treats4Toys, Rice Krispies will donate a toy to a child in need through Toys for Tots! Now thru January 1st. So head over to Target and get the biggest box you can find. You won't regret it.  

For more Kellogg's inspiration and recipes, please check out THIS SITE


Brownie, frosted fluff, or chocolate peanut butter Rice Krispies...
which would be your favorite layer?