Happy Spring, MomAdvice readers! My name is Sarah and I’m the baker/blogger over at Sarah Bakes Gluten Free Treats. I have loved baking for as long as I can remember and for the past 3 years, I have been baking 100% gluten free. My husband has celiac disease and both my son and I have a gluten allergy. Most of my baking is also dairy and egg free. It was quite the adventure, learning how to transition over to gluten free baking. Now I have a passion for sharing delicious gluten free recipes with others so that they can also have the confidence to bake again!
April is one of my most favorite months. Beautiful spring weather, flowers are in bloom and most importantly…Easter! Such a joyous holiday, celebrating with family and friends. We always gather around a good meal (total feast) and enjoy plenty of satisfying sweets. Always too many desserts!
I’m sharing a few of my favorite gluten free treats with you today! All of these goodies would be a lovely addition to your Easter gathering. They also egg and dairy free too (vegan), which is great for those with multiple food allergies. Each recipe features Sarah’s gluten free flour blend, a staple in my pantry. Perfect for all of your gluten free baking needs!
Every celebration becomes that much more fantastic when cupcakes are involved! These chocolate cupcakes are simply delicious. Moist chocolate cake, topped with a creamy dairy free chocolate buttercream. Those colorful sprinkles are a must!
Anything in miniature size is my favorite. That’s one reason to love these mini lemon blueberry cakes. Bursting with blueberries and drizzled with a simple glaze. The fresh lemon zest gives this cake a beautiful brightness.
Wouldn’t this apple cinnamon coffee cake be a delight to serve at your Easter brunch? Vanilla cake, topped with sliced apples and covered in cinnamon crumb topping. Everyone will be asking for a second slice.
I remember the first time I made these raspberry hand pies. It took me right back to my childhood. Eating those “home run” pies that we would get from the local market down the street. This homemade version is even more delicious and let’s not forget…it’s pie you can eat with your hands!
Every kid loves a good frosted sugar cookie. This gluten free version is just about as yummy as you can get. Let the kids help with the decorating and get creative. They may end up eating more frosting and sprinkles along the way, but that’s the best part!
Semi homemade cakes have become a speciality of mine for birthdays. Today’s gluten-free snickerdoodle cake offered the perfect celebration cake for my husband’s birthday this year and I loved that it tastes just as heavenly as our usual snickerdoodle cake and our chocolate snickerdoodle cake that I had made before going gluten-free.
As we have gotten older, we need less and less. Frankly, if we really want something, we usually just go and buy it for ourselves. Special & thoughtful gifts seem harder to come by, but I was determined to make this guy’s day special.
His favorite books as a child were Ed Emberley’s drawing books. While these books have been reissued, my husband more than anything wanted the original books that he had loved as a kid. I found the three of his favorites and wrapped them in ribbon to give him for his birthday. I could not wait to see his face.
Unbeknownst to me,one of the books contained Ed Emberley’s autograph, which my husband said was the best gift he had ever received. What a happy surprise that was.
If your spouse had a series of books or a book that was their childhood favorite, imagine what a joy it is to see that original again.
To top the night off, we celebrated with a slice of this cake. While I find gluten-free cakes to be a little on the dry side, we have found that a little pudding mix really helps this cake… and a thick layer of homemade cinnamon buttercream doesn’t hurt either.
The cake is laced with cinnamon, as is the frosting, and the base is made from a simply yellow cake mix. Any gluten-free brand should work beautifully in this cake.
Happiest of birthdays to the love of my life. I still shake my head that I have been present for his birthday since he was just sixteen. A million moments shared, and I pray for millions more with my best friend!
I am so excited to share a delicious Gluten-Free Rainbow Bundt Cake recipe that you can make using a simple boxed mix, a little food coloring, and a few odds & ends from your pantry. This Rainbow Cake is made in a tube pan, versus a layered cake, and is a fun addition to your St. Patrick’s Day spread.
Walmart challenged me to share a St. Patrick’s Day project that you could create out of items from their store. You may remember my rainbow cakes in a jar that I created a couple of years ago. Now that I am eating gluten-free, I wanted to replicate the idea of a rainbow cake, but I wanted to do it in one pan and I wanted to make it a quicker process by using a cake mix.
To make a vibrantly colored cake, I want to point out that it is really important to use good icing colors to achieve your rainbow cake colors. Over by the party supplies, you will find professional cake decorating supplies at Walmart. You want to purchase the Wilton Icing Colors. These concentrated gels offer a much brighter color than what you will find over in the baking section of the grocery section. I just use a toothpick to dip in the gel and then swirl it through my cake batter. You may need to do this a couple of times to achieve this level of brightness, but it still will take a lot less than the other brands of food coloring.
When I decided I wanted to make this cake, I went through tons of tons of cake recipes to figure out how to layer the batter. My inspiration for creating my rainbow arch was from not martha and her Leprechaun Trap Cake that she created a few years ago. Her arch is so much more beautiful than mine. I highly encourage you to read her tutorial for a perfect arch and read mine for a just meh arch. That being said, do prepare this in a tube pan versus a bundt pan to achieve the best arch.
Do you have a digital scale? I highly recommend purchasing one because it will make projects like this a million times easier. I have had mine for many years and I use it for both weighing packages and as a food scale! Be sure to tare it with the bowl on top to begin your measurements each time.
I used the measurements outlined by not martha for measurements for my batter:
6 ounces – red
5 ounces – orange
4 ounces – yellow
3 ounces – green
2 ounces – blue
1 ounce – purple
The remainder of the rest of the batter, leave it white.
To scoop batter into the bowls, I relied upon an ice cream scoop to scoop it into the bowls on the scale. To make pouring the batter easier, place the cake batter in a baggie in a tall glass and hang the opening over the sides of your glass. Pour your batter in and then seal the baggie. Just snip a corner of the baggie to begin pouring your batter into the pan.
Gluten-free cakes tend to be more delicate so you definitely want to let this fully cool before trying to work with it. The side that has all the beautiful vibrant colors is not the top of the cake. It is the bottom of the cake. I accidentally iced this side so don’t make my mistake. If you find that your cake is puffy on the bottom, use a serrated knife to even it up a bit so your cake is not lopsided.
I posted a picture of this cake as I was glazing it on Instagram. To quote myself, “I never go easy on the sprinkles. I consider them the jazz hands on my desserts.”
Who quotes themselves? Sorry about that!
Glaze and sprinkle this cake liberally!
I was disappointed that I had iced the wrong side and that my purple didn’t get perfectly centered. I think it is one of those cakes that might take a little more practice. My friends didn’t seem to notice or mind my errors though because this was one yummy cake! I doubt your kids would notice or care either. It might be a fun one to try together!
I hope you love it as much as we did and I hope this tutorial helps you while you make your own gluten-free rainbow cake!
A gluten-free rainbow cake perfect for celebrating St. Patrick's Day
1 Hodgson Mill Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix (over by the gluten-free ingredients in the candy aisle of your store, not in the baking aisle)
½ cup butter softened
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 package of Wilton Gel Food Colorings
1½ cups confectioners' sugar
2½ teaspoons milk (or milk substitute)
⅛ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan liberally with cooking spray.
In a mixing bowl, cream butter until soft. Add cake mix and blend completely.
Add eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla extract and beat until completely blended. The batter will be thick.
Divide your batter into eight bowls using the measurements in this post and tint accordingly.
First pour the larger amount of white batter into the pan. Then pour the red batter in, making it a wide ring of batter. Then pour the orange over that, keeping it inside the red. Pour in each color, creating smaller and smaller rings.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes, testing with a toothpick to check when the cake is done.
Once the cake is cooled, prepare your icing.
Melt the butter and add to rest of ingredients. Mix until creamy.
Spoon the glaze over your cake and finish with rainbow sprinkles.
Enjoy this tasty treat with a DIY Shamrock Shake and our free St. Patrick’s Day straw printable!
St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner! This holiday makes me want to indulge in one of my all-time favorite treats… the oh-so-delicious Shamrock Shake. You don’t have to swing by your local fast food joint to indulge though because I have the recipe to this one and you can indulge in it for a fun family night treat any night of the week.
Can I just say that I am humbled that Diana, from My Humble Kitchen, agreed to share her voice on our site? Diana’s food background is so much more diverse than my own and she knows about foods I have never even heard of. Not only that, but her recipes are so very nourishing to our bodies. I cannot wait to learn more about food from her.
Hello – what a blessing to be here as part of the MomAdvice contributing team! I’m excited to get to know you all a bit better and feel privileged to be able to share my food recipes with you.
I’m a real foodie at heart… built on grace. As much as I enjoy serving up my family savory meals using vegetables from my gardens, I also enjoy baking sweet treats made with nourishing ingredients and natural sweeteners.
I know Amy has turned to a gluten-free lifestyle, so I thought I’d introduce all of you to an ancient grain that has 3 times less gluten than our modern hybridized wheat of today.
It’s called einkorn. It’s the first grain to have been domesticated from the wild. Its never been hybridized so it was fascinating to me when I found out that many people with a gluten intolerance can tolerate this ancient grain. It still has gluten so if you have celiacs disease, then this is still off limits.
In my research, I’ve also found out that einkorn is more nutritious than modern varieties of wheat. It’s high in thiamin, protein, fiber, and a number of b vitamins. It also contains a significant amount of the the powerful antioxidant, lutein. As compared to modern varieties of wheat, it’s higher in protein and has a lower percentage of nutrient loss during processing.
Since einkorn has a lot less gluten, baking with it can be a bit tricky if grinding your own wheat berries at home; however, I’ve found incredible success using organic high extraction einkorn flour that’s already been milled.
In using einkorn flour, so far, I’ve had great success – all of my baked goods have turned out lovely. I’ve also enjoyed that I’ve been able to substitute it 1:1.
To share with all of you, I decided to roast the last of my pumpkins I had stored in my basement and make a batch of naturally sweetened pumpkin bars.
Who says pumpkin bars are just for the fall, right?
No pumpkin? No worries… if you don’t have any pumpkins in your basement or can’t find any at your local grocery store, feel free to use an organic canned variety.
My husband loves it when I surprise him with a batch of pumpkin bars. I sweeten them with honey. The flavors are gently sweetened and allow the flavor of the roasted pumpkin to shine through. The use of the honey makes this an incredibly moist bar that your family will love.
For the cream cheese icing, I add 3 tbls of maple syrup allowing me to cut down on the organic powdered sugar. You’ll never notice the difference.
Now, let me ask you, what can be better than a nourishing dessert?
Can I say that you are in for one of the biggest treats ever? Shaina, from Food For My Family, is one of my foodie idols and I cannot believe she is going to be sharing her voice here on MomAdvice as a regular contributor! Her photos are always a delight for the eyes and her whole foods philosophy on a budget is just why I selected her to share with you.
I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve gone out for doughnuts in any given year. It’s a once-in-a-while treat, a special outing. There’s something about walking into a doughnut shop, the bell on the door tinkling after you. In a case behind the glass you find soft fried dough rolled in sugar crystals or glazed with a sparkling gleam, the warm air carried under your nose with the distinct softness of melting sugar and browning dough.
Doughnuts are winter foods, best consumed when frosty air is blowing outside. A doughnut and a cup of coffee or cocoa somehow makes the world feel warmer, the walls lean in a bit tighter to hug you in the center of this pocket of comfort you’ve created.
It was this idea, this contentedness that I chased on a day off school with my kids. Doughnuts are all about waiting and patience, but the payoff at the end is worth every second it takes to get there.
We gathered in the kitchen, all arms and hands and bodies huddled around the mixer, each measuring and dumping one ingredient after another to form the dough, soft and supple. In our hands we worked it before tucking it away as they went to play. Soon it was time for the shaping, and with a special cutter in hand, they each formed the rings and placed them on a baking sheet so we could again wait as they puffed in their warmed-oven home.
When the time came, in a bit of oil we fried each one to a golden perfection, our home instantly mirroring that doughnut shop smell. Small fingers ran through sugar as doughnut holes were rolled until coated. We stirred together glazes and dipped them in before sprinkling them with all manner of pantry goodies, licking the drips from fingertips.
Tips for doughnuts with your kids:
Have them measure and mix.
Teach little arms how to knead.
Rolling balls and cutting doughnuts is a fun and exciting job.
Leave the frying to the big kids and the adults.
Decorating is definitely a kid-approved job.
Eating is a family affair.
These doughnuts are dipped in a lime-kissed glaze and covered in crisp coconut flakes. You can simply roll slightly cooled doughnuts in granulated sugar for a more classic take, or you could get fancy and make filled doughnuts and long johns with this same dough recipe.
Raised doughnuts with a lime-kissed glaze, sprinkled with coconut flakes.
5 tablespoons water
⅓ cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 egg, room temperature
5 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose or einkorn flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2¼ teaspoons yeast
16 ounces organic palm oil or other oil for frying
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 teaspoons lime juice
½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the water, buttermilk, egg, melted butter, and the vanilla. Beat until well mixed.
Add in the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast, and mix with your hands or using a dough hook on the stand mixer until a soft dough forms. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead 10 - 11 times for the dough to come together.
Return the dough in the bowl and cover with a towel or piece of plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm place to rise until the dough is doubled. Cut 20 or so 4-5" squares of parchment paper while you wait.
Once the dough has doubled, remove it from the bowl and roll it to about 1½" thick. Cut 3-4" rings from the dough. Place each ring on a small square of parchment. Place the dough rings on baking sheets and cover loosely. Place doughnuts holes 3-4 on each piece of parchment.
Once all the doughnuts have been cut and covered, let them rise for at least one hour until they have puffed considerably.
In a high-sided, heavy-bottomed pan heat the oil to 350º F. Once the oil is hot, add in the doughnuts, about four at a time. Fry for 2-3 minutes per side, until golden brown.
Remove the doughnuts to a baking rack to drain and cool slightly.
In a shallow bowl, mix together the powdered sugar and the lime juice, starting with 2 teaspoons until a thick but still fluid consistency is reached. Dip the top of each doughnut into the glaze. Immediately sprinkle with coconut flakes and allow to set.
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner so I wanted to share a fun recipe for Gluten-Free Cake Mix Cookies that you could create as a fun treat to give or to share with those you love.
Walmart asked me to create a Valentine’s Day treat with one of their exclusive products they carry. Since I am such a big M&M fan, I decided to use their Red Velvet M&M’s in my recipe.
Do you ever have a really hard time with a recipe and then later wonder if it had ever been tested? That was the case with this project from start to finish. These cookies were supposed to be simple and straightforward, but the recipe ended up being written completely wrong. Thankfully for you, I spent a whole day figuring out what went wrong with this one and how we can fix it so that you can have an awesome baking day!
Please read this post carefully, I am offering you a load of tips for a successful baking day!!
Are M&M’s Gluten-Free?
Let’s begin with the question, are M&M’s gluten-free? The answer is that most M&M’s are gluten-free. In fact, most of the varieties they typically carry, other than their pretzel variety, are gluten-free.
What I found with the Red Velvet M&M’s though are that they are gluten-free, but in high times of production, like Halloween & Valentine’s Day, Mars uses alternative facilities to make its candy and some of those may introduce cross-contamination risks. These Red Velvet M&M’s are ones that could have been cross-contaminated. If this is of high concern, look for the plain M&M’s, preferably mini-M&M’s to help your dough hold up better.
It is always important to read your labels carefully and know that Mars Chocolate always promises to call out any wheat, barley, and rye ingredients by name, as well as any cross-contamination risks on their labels. I recommend this information page for finding which Valentine’s Day candies are safe to eat.
Tips for a Successful Dough
As, I am a big fan of the Betty Crocker cake mixes, I used this to create my cookies. As you can see when I mixed the ingredients together, this dough is very crumbly. To help make this dough really hold and stick together, add 3-4 teaspoons of water to the dough, until it really comes together. This will help when slicing your sugar cookie rolls.
The recipe that was written did not add this to the dough and so when I sliced them, the cookie dough crumbled. I had to add my water later and chill them again for another three hours. Once I sliced with the liquid addition, the dough held much better.
If you need these cookies to be dairy-free as well as gluten-free, please read the notes in the recipe on how you can create these without the butter.
Tips for a Successful Sugar Cookie Log
One more thing, I learned while creating this cookies is that it is better to make your sugar cookie roll WITHOUT the M&M’s in it and then add them to your cookies after so you can get beautifully clean slices.
Trying to cut through these Red Velvet M&M’s was a real challenge so I would encourage adding them after or just doing these cookies as a drop cookie. To do a sugar cookie roll, as pictured above with M&M’s, seek the mini varieties. Again, read the packaging carefully to insure that they are safe for eating.
Wrap your sugar cookie roll in wax paper and chill for three hours or more. Once you are ready to bake off your cookies, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and then slice them and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet or a well-greased cookie sheet. I prefer parchment paper, both for the ease of clean-up and how beautifully these cookies will set up.
Allow these to cool and then transfer. These cookies are very delicate in texture so you will want to give them plenty of time to set up.
What Do They Taste Like?
These cookies are so delicious that you will NEVER know that they are gluten-free. The dough is so flavorful and the healthy dose of vanilla in the batter makes these taste like a cookie dough that you truly slaved over. The addition of the candies adds that yummy chocolate flavor that I think every good cookie should have.
With these helpful tips, I hope you will have a successful baking day and hope that this easy treat idea will help as you plan your own Valentine’s Day treats this year!
Can I Freeze These?
Cookies can be frozen! It is recommended that you wrap them in aluminum foil or in a resealable plastic bag for up to one month. Let the cookies thaw on the kitchen counters overnight before serving.
What Other Ways Can I Spice Up These Cookies?
If you can’t have chocolate, there are many other ways you can spice these easy cookies up.
Add Sprinkles- Lightly beat one egg white and brush the tops of your cookies with it, then sprinkle with gluten-free sugar sprinkles.
Add Zest- Add 1 teaspoon of grated lemon, orange, or key lime zest
Switch Your Extract- Try a different extract in your dough like almond or butter
Make It Spicy- Add a pinch of nutmeg, cinnamon, or dust the tops with the egg white & a cinnamon & sugar combo.
Cake mix cookies that can be gluten-free and dairy-free for a fun treat to share for any holiday.
1 package (15 ounces) yellow gluten-free cake mix
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter- if dairy-free replace with vegetable shortening, MELTED
1 large egg
3-4 teaspoons warm water, just until you see your dough pull together
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup M&M's or read the post for other ways to spice up these cookies
Place the cake mix, butter (or vegetable shortening), egg, water, and vanilla in your mixing bowl and beat on low speed until well-combined.
Using a spatula fold in the M&M's (if mini-sized) or reserve to press these into each cookie after they have been cut (if large-sized)
Place the cookie dough on a sheet of wax paper and then press with your hands to form a long,approximately 12 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Tightly roll the dough and chill it in the refrigerator for at least three hours or overnight.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease two cookie sheets well or cover these in parchment paper.
Unwrap the dough and transfer to a cutting board and slice them in ¼-3/8" slices.
Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake until the cookies are lightly browned on the edges,7-10 minutes.
Let the cookies fully cool before transferring.
Have you ever made gluten-free cake mix cookies? Do you have any tips for beginning gluten-free bakers on ways to increase success with cake mix cookies?
Today is my 36th birthday and someone special wanted to bake me cupcakes for my special day. We decided to test-drive the new Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cake Mixes and wanted to offer some pointers for getting your kids in the kitchen… so they can bake your birthday cake.
Aren’t I a smart mom?
Walmart asked me to share a beloved winter activity with you that we do with our kids. Of course, one of my favorite activities in the winter is baking. What I appreciate most about my kids is their enthusiasm for learning and helping in my kitchen.
Cooking together can teach your kids so much. Here are just a few lessons we worked on while baking a cake together.
Cooking Together Builds Reading Skills
One of the best parts about having your kids help you in the kitchen is that they can practice their reading skills. With picture tutorials on the back of many box mixes, it can help beginning readers navigate the ingredient list and list of supplies needed to cook.
Cooking Together Builds Math Skills
Cooking with your kids isn’t only helpful in just the reading department. In fact, the biggest challenge for me as a chef involves all that math that goes into recipes. For young kids, understanding fractions and measurements of the ingredients can be tricky, but can offer an important lesson.
Don’t just have them do the measuring, but explain all those different spoon sizes or read the packaging of the butter to have them figure out how much a 1/2 cup equals.
Cooking Together Can Lead to Independence
One of the hardest things I have found about being a parent is having the patience to let them do it themselves. It is the same patience that I needed when teaching them to tie their shoes, to clean up after themselves, and to help in the kitchen. Yes, it is so much faster for me to just do it myself, BUT when they become adults, how will they ever know how to do anything if their mama always did it for them?
Instead of using things like stand mixers and big appliances to get the jobs done in the kitchen, invest in the time of having them mix and beat things by hand or with hand mixers. Allow extra time when cooking with your children to give them time to figure things out themselves and to create it on their own.
Cooking Together Can Build Confidence
When we eat the food our kids make we do a lot of oohing and ahhing over it. Really take in the details of their work and compliment them on their presentation and flavors of their dish.
We have always tried to do this with our kids and I get such a kick out of them when I hear them mimicking back to me what a great job I have done on dishes or on the flavors of the foods I put together for them.
For those that asked about this Betty Crocker gluten-free cake mix, I will be honest, and say that it really hit the spot. We baked these at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes and the cake was surprisingly light and resembled a sponge cake texture. The cake mix yielded 12 cupcakes and the cost on the mix was just $4.58.
When I shared about it on Facebook, friends chimed in with recommendations like adding a pudding mix to the cake or even a little extra vanilla, to boost the flavor. I am definitely going to have to try these additions! Layered with a thick layer of chocolate frosting though, and my daughter’s signature sprinkles, this cake was truly delicious.
If you are hosting a birthday party or need to bring in a gluten-free treat to school, I would highly recommend this cake mix for a fast and easy treat. The only difference between making this and traditional boxed cake mixes is adding softened butter versus the oil.
On a personal note, I also wanted to thank you all for helping me celebrate my birthday this year by funding our wells for Burkina Faso. At this point, I am the proud owner of ONE WELL of clean water, which will give water to ONE THOUSAND people, through your donations. I am also almost halfway to my SECOND WELL. Can you believe that? In just three short days, we have collected almost $3,000 dollars!
We still need to collect $1,000 for our second well. You can donate as little as $2 towards our cause. Here are four things you could “give up,” this week to help me give clean water to women & children. Just think of the lives you can help me save this week!
Thank you for celebrating my birthday with me!! It has been the best year yet!
In honor of MomAdvice.com’s tenth birthday, I wanted to share this recipe for an easy chocolate chiffon cake made with peppermint buttercream frosting, perfect for celebrating our special day with you. This chocolate chiffon cake is made from a cake mix and the homemade peppermint buttercream frosting is the perfect use of any leftover holiday candy canes you might have in your home.
Since this is my own birthday week, we decided to devote this week towards celebrating this incredible milestone. Tomorrow I will be revealing our best giveaway yet and I will be calling upon you to help me fulfill our site’s birthday wish. I can’t even believe that the site has now been around a decade! Someone pinch me please!
In the meantime, let’s talk about making a birthday cake for our celebration.
Truth be told, this is my sweet little girl’s birthday pick this year. It is a family tradition that the birthday child gets to pick their birthday cake each year from my big stack of cookbooks. She had her heart set on a chocolate chiffon cake, but the one that was featured in the cookbook was a bundt cake and I knew she was looking for that traditional layered cake that makes all parties special.
I did some web searching and figured out how to make this into a layered cake and then frosted it with a beautiful peppermint buttercream frosting to finish it off. We had to tint it pink though…this is after all, Emily’s birthday.
I am a very humble cake decorator so I relied upon a few yarn pom poms on skewers to create a little cake banner over her cake. Peppermint candies crushed on top also act as a great eye distractor from my sad frosting skills.
Hey, a mom can’t be great at everything
We popped our cake in a cake carrier and transported it to Grand Rapids, Michigan where we took a family holiday in lieu of gifts this year. We got to celebrate Emily (just the four of us) and enjoyed several days of seeing the sites while enjoying a cozy cabin away from it all. I made my daughter’s birthday dinner request (a giant helping of Weeknight Chicken Lo Mein) and a delicious slice of birthday cake was enjoyed by all. And I do mean ALL.
My husband, who seems to hate cake for some reason, wanted a second slice and the whole family agreed that this was the perfect birthday cake. The cake tastes so light and airy and the buttercream had just a hint of mint that added a creamy finish to the top of the slice. It was the perfect ending to a perfect evening celebrating.
Now that we have covered the cake, tomorrow we will be covering the GIFTS.
Please come back tomorrow to see our big surprise!
Here’s a hint… this gift will help a thousand people! ONE THOUSAND PEOPLE. Have I grabbed your interest yet?
Each year, I find myself coming to the topic of simplifying the holidays. Don’t we just all wish this time of year was a little easier? Despite my best efforts to simplify, it can feel impossible in the midst of the kid’s holiday programs, get togethers, shopping, wrapping, sending of cards, gift-giving, & holiday baking.
I don’t want to brag, but this year we really did achieve that simple holiday we have been longing for and I am partnering with Ritz to share how you can avoid the parade of endless holiday to-do’s and instead embrace a simpler holiday.
Simplify the Giving of Holiday Cards
I love, love, love having pictures that I am in and having someone else take them for me, but we lost track of time and weren’t able to book our usual family session. Instead of not sending cards, I set my camera up on a tripod and we took our family shot by setting the timer on our camera and having me jump into the family picture. By getting everything set up in advance before my family came outside, we were able to get our picture in a mere five minutes. Before everyone had their coats off, I had our photos edited and cards in the mail. The best part is that we have moved our family session to the Spring, a time of year we decided was much less chaotic, and will really enjoy it all a little bit more.
I will admit that I was also was more laid back about how we did our cards this year and enlisted one of my favorite helpers to assist me in this year’s mailing. Not only was she excellent at adding our stamps and sealing the envelopes, but she also kept me on track because she was waiting for me to get those addresses on so she could do her part with them. It gave us time to chat while we were doing them and ended up being fun instead of a holiday chore this year.
Simplify the Holiday Baking
This year we decided to skip the big baking day and make easy treats instead. Although I usually love holiday baking, this year I focused more on creating knitted gifts than my typical holiday treat box. Fortunately, we found a fun holiday treat that we could make that didn’t require a bit of baking, but was just as delicious. On the Ritz Holiday Parade site, we found an easy recipe for Mint Thins to create together that tasted just like one of our favorite cookie treats, but were made with Ritz Crackers, chocolate, and crushed candy canes.
It just goes to show that making holiday treats doesn’t have to be an elaborate baking day. My kids loved helping to crush (and eat!) the candy canes for our cookies and we enjoyed eating these while watching, “A Christmas Story,” this year. Yet another simple and easy tradition is born!
Simplify the Gift Giving
I often talk about our commitment to do the Four Gift Rule, but this year we took it a step further and asked the kids if they would like to skip the presents and just take a family adventure together. We gave them lots of options for places we could take a mini-vacation to and they chose a trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan for our holiday getaway. We are so excited to take in all of the museums, holiday lights, ice skating, and see the sites of the city.
If your kids are struggling to come up with gifts this year or your home is overrun with just too much stuff, consider creating your very own, “Choose Your Own Adventure,” vacation in lieu of gifts. Not only did I have a lot less to buy this year, but I also get to spend four days with my family making incredible memories that I hope they will remember forever.
Start planning and dreaming ahead for next year though because those vacation rentals do go quickly!
Focus On the Fun
Ritz wants to bring back the fun for the holidays and this year they have created a fun interactive Ritz Parade where you can visit the site and build your very own float. You can add up to twelve items on your float from toys, characters, celebrations, and banners. The pieces can be scaled to your desired size and placed anywhere on your float. Once it is complete, you can share your holiday float with others. It’s a fun little interactive tool that you can use to keep the kids busy while you are putting those last minute touches on those holiday festivities. Since we adopted a cat this year, we loved making a float of her for our holiday parade. I am sure this illustrates just how special she has become to all of us!
In addition, the Ritz parade allows consumers to unlock deals to help decrease the stress of gift buying! You can check out all the deals here!