December 15, 2014 | by cyd
This post was sponsored by Lindt. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that so
generously help The Sweetest Occasion keep the party rockin’!
Friends, today is a good day, because we’re talking about three of my favorite things: baking, chocolate and Christmas gifts. Hooray! One of my favorite gifts to give during the holiday season is a great gift basket. Today we’re making the ultimate Christmas cookie gift basket! Loaded with yummy treats, a few pretty little baking accessories, baking mix, and a favorite cookie recipe, it makes a perfect hostess gift or an amazing present for a co-worker or neighbor. So let’s do this, shall we?
- A small basket
- Lindt LINDOR Milk truffles
- Assorted mason jars
- Christmas Chocolate Truffle Cookies with Lindt LINDOR truffles (recipe below)
- Kraft paper and a fine point marker
- Wooden mixing spoon
- A recipe card with cookie recipe
- Wooden measuring spoons
- Small candles, paper straws, an ornament, or other small trinkets
Begin by picking out a pretty little gift basket. I love finding them at Michael’s this time of year where they’re often 40% off. Next, pen the recipe for my Christmas chocolate truffle cookies on a pretty recipe card and tuck it into the basket. Bake a batch of Christmas chocolate truffle cookies. Made with Lindt LINDOR truffles they are irresistibly yummy! That smooth, melting chocolate center just takes these cookies over the top. Once cool, place several in a mason jar for including in the basket. In a separate mason jar, measure out the dry ingredients from the recipe. Then label each jar by cutting a piece of kraft paper to fit the lid and labeling each with a marker. Tuck the mason jars and a bag of Lindt LINDOR Milk truffles into the basket.
Next, add a couple of pretty baking accessories like a wooden spoon and a set of wooden measuring spoons. (These are from Pier 1 Imports and they make such a nice gift!) Finally, add a couple of fun sparkly trinkets like a couple of pretty votive holders, a Christmas ornament, or a bundle of striped straws. I love adding a little something unexpected just to make the gift’s recipient smile.
And it’s that simple, friends! A pretty and super-thoughtful gift basket that’s perfect for just about anyone on your list this Christmas season. Bonus! It’s loaded with yummy treats and features an easy cookie recipe that’s insanely delicious. The cookie recipe is actually adapted from one of my mom’s recipes that has been a favorite of mine since childhood, so it’s entirely tried and true. Adding the Lindt LINDOR truffles on top only makes them that much more delicious!
Enjoy and happy gifting!
Makes 30 cookies
- 15 Lindt LINDOR Milk truffles
- 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup white sugar, reserved for rolling
Preheat oven to 375°. Then, in a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
In a separate large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), cream together the white and brown sugars, peanut butter, egg, vanilla, milk, and shortening. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed sugar mixture and mix until well combined. Form the dough into small balls by rolling it in your palm. Then roll in white sugar to coat evenly. Bake for 10 to12 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
While the cookies are baking, unwrap the Lindt LINDOR truffles. Then cut each one in half to form two small domes of chocolate. Once the cookies are baked and still just barely warm, place a truffle half on top of each cookie. Make sure your cookies aren’t too warm when you place the truffle on top or they’ll melt completely, which results in some pretty messy cookies. (Although they’re still super delicious!)
Check out both LindtUSA.com and Lindt Chocolate on Facebook for more indulgent chocolate recipes.
[Photos, recipes + styling by Cyd Converse.]
This post was sponsored by Lindt and was originally posted on Momtastic. Read more about our editorial policies.
December 12, 2014 | by cyd
Is anyone else completely freaked out by the fact that we’re now officially under two weeks until Christmas? I still have a ton of shopping to do compared to this time last year, and I don’t even have the house fully decorated yet. Craziness! But that’s ok, because I’ve got another installment of the gift guide for you here today so we can all try to get back on track with our shopping. Today we’re talking gifts for her! For your best friend, your sister, your mom. Or, heck, add these picks to your own wish list! I did a little something different with this year’s guide for the ladies, focusing on a few different genres of gifts, moving from the ladies who love to cook at the top, to gifts with more of a boho vibe to gifts for the totally glam lady in your life. Either way, there are lots of pretty things here!
p.s. If you missed them, be sure to check out my picks for hostess gifts, fabulous gifts for inlaws, awesome gifts for guys, pretty gifts for girls and fun gifts for boys.
[Gifts for Her | 1: Apron | 2: Mixing bowl set | 3: Silicone utensils | 4: Vanilla bean flake salt | 5: Pepper cutting board | 6: Gold bracelet | 7: Splatter tote | 8: Makeup brush set | 9: Too Faced eyeshadow palette | 10: Chanel Chance Eau Tendre | 11: Lipstick stain mug | 12: Bliss sweater | 13: YSL Lip Gloss | 14: Sugar tinted lip treatment | 15: Pouch wallet | 16: Charcoal candle | 17: Brass key ring | 18: Rose geranium citrus bath salts | 19: Porcelain measuring spoons.]
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December 11, 2014 | by cyd
I’m sharing a bit of our Christmas tradition with you today and I sincerely could not be more excited. In our area here in Upstate New York there is nothing that marks the start of the holiday season more than the emergence of the famed Tom and Jerry bowl! If you have no idea what that means, I’m about to fill you in. If you’re already familiar with the classic Tom and Jerry, you’re probably already squealing with joy. Because that’s what happens as we stomp off our snowy boots and make our way inside to sip that first Tom and Jerry of the season. While my favorite version is served up at The Crystal, you will find them in bars and restaurants all over the region. They are only served from Thanksgiving through New Year’s day and then they’re gone for another year. I think that’s absolutely part of their magic, because they conjure up the joy and cheer of the season. Plus, they’re just incredibly delicious!
In short, the Tom and Jerry is a thick boozy drink made with a batter and served hot in a mug. While made with eggs and loads of spices, it’s really nothing like egg nog, which is a common question. The ingredients are similar, but egg nog has milk and/or cream and the preparation method is quite different, making a Tom and Jerry an experience unto itself. (That said, we have a killer egg nog recipe if that’s what you’re after!) I believe they’re also really popular in the mid-west, specifically in Wisconsin so I’d love to know how you drink your Tom and Jerrys in other parts of the country! Here in our neck of the woods, this is how we do it. Many thanks to my mom for helping me with this post. We spent a lot of time working on this recipe to make sure our method was precise so you can easily recreate it at home. Now, let’s make our batter and get to sipping!
For the Batter
- 6 eggs, separated
- 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar (or super fine sugar)
- 2 tsp vanilla
- Large pinch of cloves
- Large pinch of cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
For the Drink
Begin by separating your eggs, placing the whites and yolks in separate clean, dry mixing bowls. It’s important to make sure the bowl containing the whites in particular is very clean and completely dry. Also, you need to make sure you don’t have even a speck of yolk in with the whites or it will affect the consistency of the batter, which is key to making this drink really special.
In a mixing bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer), set to whipping the egg whites. We want them to end up very very thick, not just frothy. Once they’ve thickened up a bit, begin adding 1/2 cup of the confectioner’s sugar, a spoonful at a time. Continue whipping until very stiff peaks form. You want the whites to be so thick that they wouldn’t dump out of the bowl if you turned it upside down. This might take as long as 10 minutes, depending on your mixer, etc. Just keep whipping! If you have a stand mixer, this is when you can set the mixer and start with the next step.
In the bowl with the egg yolks, add the remaining confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Whisk to combine well. When your whites are super stiff, add the yolk mixture to the whites and fold gently to combine. Do not whisk this mixture and do not beat it or stir it with any kind of vigor. It’s meant to be really thick, at least as thick as cake batter, and over mixing or whisking will make it thin and runny.
Each drink is prepared individually when you’re ready to serve. Start by warming your mugs by filling them with hot water and allowing it to set for 30 seconds or so. Then dump out the water and spoon a generous amount of batter into each mug. For smaller mugs like mine shown here, about two tablespoons is appropriate. Then add your rum and brandy at a ratio of 1:1. For these little mugs that amounts to about 1/2 shot of rum and 1/2 shot of brandy. Then pour hot water over top until the mug is full. Add a bit of freshly grated nutmeg on top and serve with a little spoon or an ice cream stick. Do not mix the drink before serving! As you add the booze and hot water, the batter will rise to the top and you’ll have a drink that’s kind of separated into layers. This is exactly what you want.
Some people, like me, like to have a couple of little spoonfuls of the batter first. Then I take a few sips. As I make my way down the mug, I take my spoon and start mixing the batter into the rum, brandy and water mixture. Other people like to mix their drink thoroughly before drinking. It’s totally a personal preference, which is why I advise not mixing before you serve them up. While utterly delicious, the tradition behind the Tom and Jerry is really what makes people go crazy about them. They’re sweet, rich and definitely guaranteed to warm you up on a cold winter’s night. (Hot booze will do that to you!) This isn’t really a drink you make just one or two of, it’s more of a group thing, which is what makes it perfect for holiday gatherings. As you can probably tell, I’m a serious fan. Feel free to switch up the spirits, too! Some places make them with just rum, others with cognac and I’ve even heard of making them with bourbon. Do whatever you prefer, but I always recommend a high quality liquor.
Many thanks again to my mom for helping me craft this post! We spent a long time in the kitchen this past weekend perfecting this recipe so it’s as close as can be to our favorite Tom and Jerry. For anyone who is local, our batter is still not quite like it is at The Crystal (and as we all know, they’re crazy secretive about how they make their batter), but my mom, stepfather and I all agree this is our favorite Tom and Jerry recipe after theirs. So there’s that! I’ll take second place when it comes to this one. If you try this out, please tag me in a photo on Instagram and use the hashtag #sweetestcocktails! I would absolutely love to see what you’re mixing up this holiday season.
[Photos + recipe by Cyd Converse for The Sweetest Occasion.]
December 10, 2014 | by cyd
Because we’re getting ever closer and most of us are starting to kick our holiday shopping into high gear about now if not already, I’m bringing you a double dose of The Gift Guide this week! Today we’re talking all about gifts for boys. Much like my gift guide for girls, I tried to put the emphasis here on well designed, high quality items that go beyond the typical toy aisle. I also like including gifts that encourage little brains and little hands to get active in some way so an awesome set of blocks and a cool DIY superhero mask kit were must-haves here. While working on this guide I had the assistance of my resident little dudes (ages 12 and 13) and these picks are approved by them as either things they would love now or would have loved when they were younger. In fact, they even spent some time browsing with me and hand picked a few of the items on this list. You can’t beat that stamp of approval!
p.s. If you missed them, be sure to check out my picks for hostess gifts, fabulous gifts for inlaws, awesome gifts for guys and pretty gifts for girls.
[Gifts for Girls | 1: Pajamas | 2: Earbuds | 3: Superhero craft kit | 4: Wooden ABC block set | 5: Bear | 6: Superhero book | 7: Teddy bear hoodie | 8: Wooden bowling set | 9: Wooden rattle | 10: Cabin hat | 11: Junk food notebook set | 12: Wash brush flush art print | 13: Frog hand puppet.]
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December 10, 2014 | by cyd
This post was sponsored by Frito-Lay. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that so
generously help The Sweetest Occasion keep on keepin’ on!
The holiday season is my favorite time of year to get crafty and, incidentally, it’s also my favorite time of year to host friends and family! Today I’m excited to be working with the Frito-Lay “Season’s Sweetings” SMARTFOOD DIY Challenge to share this fun little DIY project with you. Inspired by classic popcorn garlands (and the SMARTFOOD® brand’s two new holiday flavors, SMARTFOOD Cinnamon Brown Sugar Popcorn and SMARTFOOD Sweet and Salty Kettle Corn Popcorn) we’re making little mini popcorn wreaths that make really darling place cards for all of your holiday entertaining needs. Bonus! They also double as ornaments so you can use these to trim the tree, too.
- SMARTFOOD popcorn flavor of choice
- Floral wire or similar thin gauge wire
- Small shipping tags
- Fresh rosemary
- Scissors or wire cutters
Begin by cutting a length of wire about 10″ long. This is longer than you’ll need, but it will make sure you have plenty to work with as you go along. Then start threading your popcorn onto your wire, one piece at a time. For mine I used 14 pieces of popcorn for each little wreath.
Alternately, mix up the look by making a few wreaths that combine popcorn and fresh cranberries. We’re drawing from classic Christmas decor as our inspiration here, so you can have fun and include whatever you’d like. Little gum drop candies would be adorable, too! (Oh and snacking while crafting is completely encouraged. The boys helped me make these and they’re in love with the SMARTFOOD Sweet and Salty Kettle Corn Popcorn!)
At this point if you want to add a little something extra to your wreaths, you can use the ends of the wire to attach a couple of rosemary sprigs. If you happen to have a bit of pine or boxwood trimmings available either of those would be perfect. To finish off the wreath, gather the ends of your wire and twist together to secure. Make sure everything is nicely secured and then trim to ends of the wire.
When you get to this stage, your wreaths are ready to rock it out on the Christmas tree as really fun ornaments that are easy enough for the kids to help you make. Or, take it one step further and attach a small shipping tag. Tie the ends of the tag around the top of the wreath, tie securely in a knot and trim the ends. Pen a name on each tag and you’re ready to set the table! (Plus, both the SMARTFOOD Cinnamon Brown Sugar Popcorn and SMARTFOOD Sweet and Salty Kettle Corn Popcorn flavors make great party snacks!) As a third option, you could use these tied to packages as really amazing gift tags, too.
And now it’s your turn to get crafty! The folks at SMARTFOOD popcorn want to see how their yummy snack flavors are inspiring your holiday decor this year! Share your awesome holiday-themed craft creations using the hashtags #SmartfoodDIY and #SweetEntry for a chance to win a $250 gift card (see official rules at Fritolay.com.) That’s right! You can win a $250 gift card! To get started, follow Frito-Lay on Instagram and Twitter where they’re sharing loads of fun party and crafting ideas all season long. I can’t wait to see what you make!
[Design, photos + styling by Cyd Converse for The Sweetest Occasion.]
This post was sponsored by Frito-Lays Season’s Sweetings. Read more about our editorial policies.