2017 Holiday Gift Guide - For the Last Minute Shopper

I know there are only a few shopping days left until Christmas, but today I have a gift guide for those of you who like to wait until the last minute. I know you're out there, because I live with a last minute gift buyer. So, I dedicate today's guide to those of you who enjoy living on the edge and ordering your gifts less than two weeks before a major holiday. Here's hoping your deliveries arrive undamaged and on time (and may you have a backup plan in place for when they don't!)  

2017 Gift Guide for the Last Minute Shopper | Not Starving Yet

Spiceologist Pink Peppercorn Lemon Thyme All Purpose Rub from Amazon

Casina Rossa Gourmet Sea Salt Gift Pack from Amazon

Death Wish Ground Coffee from Amazon

Hammond's Candy Stirrers from Amazon

Mustard and Co. Gift Set from Amazon

Daelmans Stroopwafels from Amazon

Claey's Peppermint Candy from Amazon

Fuego Hot Sauce - The Good Hurt from Amazon

Didn't find what you were looking for? Don't worry, we have you covered! Check out our past gift ideas for more inspiration.
 

Disclosure


This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Purchases made through these links provide me with a small income and ensure I can continue providing you with quality content.

2017 Holiday Gift Guide - For the Writer in Your Life

Every year I spend countless hours browsing the internet, seeking out the coolest items to add to our yearly gift guides (which really is an excuse to cover my horrible shopping addiction, damn you Amazon!) Today I have a roundup of some of my favorite gifts for the writer in your life.

2017 Writers Gift Guide | Not Starving Yet

Peter Pan Collector's Edition Moleskine Notebooks from Amazon: You just think lovely wonderful thoughts and they lift you up in the air.

Honest Acronyms File Folders from Amazon: These fun folders perfectly sum up most of the paper items found in most offices. They may or may not help keep you more organized, but at least they're honest, right?

Writers' Tears Irish Whiskey from Walsh Whiskey Distillery at Royal Oak: I stumbled across this remarkable Irish Whiskey at the Celtic Whiskey Shop in Dublin, Ireland this past summer. Next time I'm facing yet another rejection letter I can at least drowned my sorrows with something tasty, yet humorous. 

Soap for Writer's Block from Hallmark: It smells like regurgitated ideas and probably a vampire. Come on. It's a bar of (handmade) soap, not magic. Try vodka (although I prefer Whiskey myself.)

A - Z Bookends from Amazon: These fun and functional bookends are the perfect gift for the writer (or reader) in your life. 

The Writer's Block - Ideas to Jump-Start Your Imagination from Amazon: This 3x3x3 block will either jump-start your imagination, as promised, or provide plenty of excuse to procrastinate further which can be a double edged sword. 

Too Much Coffee Mug from Amazon: My words, like most writers, are fueled by coffee. The words stop flowing once the coffee does. True story.

Didn't find what you were looking for? Don't worry, we have you covered! Check out our past gift ideas for more inspiration.
 

Disclosure


This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Purchases made through these links provide me with a small income and ensure I can continue providing you with quality content.

Mile High M&M Pie - No Baking Required!

A few weeks ago my little guy and I were out having brunch when he dropped a bomb on me—he didn't want a cake for his birthday, he wanted pie. Of course he didn't want just any pie, he wanted a pie like the one he was currently munching on from our new-favorite diner in Verona.

As heart broken as I was not to make a really cool looking cake like I usually do, I realized that I could absolutely get behind making pie because they're generally less time consuming to pull together. This one takes about 20 minutes as long as you have a food processor handy, which makes it the perfect last minute take-along for one of the many holiday parties in your future. It's also a great way to use up any leftover Halloween candy you have around the house, if you haven't already devoured it all—which we all know would never happen in my house. I have absolutely never eaten all the candy before Halloween, then had to rush out and buy more.

You believe me, right?

Didn't think so... you all know I'm a glutton.

 At age 6 we have officially entered the geez mom, not another photo phase... he'll outgrow it eventually, right?

At age 6 we have officially entered the geez mom, not another photo phase... he'll outgrow it eventually, right?

M&M Pie

 

Ingredients


for the crust

30 Oreo cookies
¼ cup salted butter, melted
deep dish pie plate
parchment paper

for the filling

16 ounces cream cheese, softened
⅓ cup sugar
2 cups Cool Whip, thawed
plain m&m candies
6 Oreo cookies, crushed

for the topping

4½ cups Cool Whip, thawed (see notes)
plain m&m candies
oreo cookies, crushed

Directions

 

  • Line your pie plate with a piece of parchment paper cut in to a circle or a pre-cut parchment round (see notes).
  • Using a food processor, crush 30 Oreo cookies (including their creme centers) until they are finely crumbled. Empty in to a mixing bowl, add melted butter, then stir well. Transfer to a parchment-lined pie plate, then press firmly in to place.
  • Using a food processor crush 6 more cookies and several handfuls of m&m candies, then set aside.
  • In a bowl combine cream cheese, sugar, and Cool Whip. Mix until well incorporated, then gently fold in the crushed m&m candies and Oreos. 
  • Transfer filling to the pie plate, top with remaining Cool Whip, then garnish with additional crushed m&m candies and Oreos. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!

Notes


I purchased a 16 ounce container of whipped topping, used 2 cups for the filling, and the remaining amount went on top of the pie. It should measure out to be approximately 4½ cups, although you don't really need to measure—pile it on top and be done. 

Don't skip the parchment paper! I really can't emphasize this enough. Your pie crust will be next to impossible to remove when it's time to serve, especially if you've refrigerated your pie for any length of time before serving. Cut out a circle of parchment paper or buy some pre-cut parchment rounds to make things a little easier. You can find them on Amazon, I'm partial to the 9 inch parchment rounds from Regency and use them any time I make a cookie pie crust or bake a cake.

The gummy worms were a last minute addition brought on by the fact that I had some sitting on our kitchen counter at eye-level for all of my son's friends to see. They're optional, but the kids loved them and ended up devouring most of the bag while I was trying to figure out where the birthday candle had wandered off to. I didn't find that stupid candle until the day after the party—go figure.

Disclosure


This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Purchases made through these links provide me with a small income and ensure I can continue providing you with quality content.

Pie Crust 101 - Bake a Difference with OXO #Sponsored #OXOgoodcookies

How many of you are intimidated by making pie crusts from scratch? I'll readily admit that up until recently I hated the idea of rolling out my own dough, which is why more often than not I'd pop up to the store, pick up a box of refrigerated pie crusts and call it a day.  The thing is, I was never quite happy with my final product because ready made pie crusts lack the flaky, melt-in-your-mouth texture of a made from scratch crust.

Ultimately I decided it was time to tackle my pie making fear, so I locked myself in the kitchen and made pie crusts over and over again until I got it right. Do you know what I learned from that experience? Pie crusts aren't nearly as hard as I had imagined. That's why I thought I'd share some of the tips I've learned along the way and while I'm at it spread the word about the Cookies for Kids' Cancer 4th Annual 50 State Challenge.

  DISCLOSURE:  Today's post was sponsored by OXO as part of the Bake a Difference with OXO Campaign. They have provided me with a set of pie making tools for evaluation, but no other compensation was given for this post. 

DISCLOSURE: Today's post was sponsored by OXO as part of the Bake a Difference with OXO Campaign. They have provided me with a set of pie making tools for evaluation, but no other compensation was given for this post. 

Today we're partnering with OXO in support of this wonderful event. Did you know that September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month? Your mission, should you choose to participate, is to help us promote childhood cancer awareness and raise funds to help develop new, and less toxic pediatric cancer treatments.

How can you help? Host a neighborhood bake sale, run a race, throw a fundraiser at your school, or come up with an event of your own. You can join in the challenge by registering your event online today; if you mark that you were inspired by OXO when you register, then OXO will match proceeds from your event up to their annual commitment of $100,000 (see notes at the end of this post for more information.)

Want some recipes to help you get started? Make sure to check out our desserts section! We have all the basics covered: pies, cakes, brownies, and cookies or check back later this week for two new pie filling recipes: Cardamom Peach and Blueberry Peach.

  DISCLOSURE:  Today's post was sponsored by OXO as part of the Bake a Difference with OXO Campaign. They have provided me with a set of pie making tools for evaluation, but no other compensation was given for this post. 

DISCLOSURE: Today's post was sponsored by OXO as part of the Bake a Difference with OXO Campaign. They have provided me with a set of pie making tools for evaluation, but no other compensation was given for this post. 

Fool Proof Pie Crust

 

I've tried a variety of pie crust recipes over the years, but the one I always keep coming back to is my great-grandma's fool proof pie crust recipe. It's the the same basic recipe I use for making Lemon Meringue PieCaramel Apple Pie, and even Chicken Pot Pie (although I omit the sugar for savory pies.) The recipe has been modified a bit over the years, swapping out lard for vegetable shortening and butter, but no matter what fat you decide to use this recipes works perfectly every single time. 

Ingredients

double crust

3 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable shortening (see notes)
½ cup salted butter, cubed
8 - 10 Tablespoons cold water

single crust

1½ cup all-purpose flour
½ Tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup vegetable shortening (see notes)
¼ cup salted butter, cubed
4 - 5 Tablespoons cold water

Directions

There are a number of ways you can approach mixing the ingredients. I prefer to keep it simple using a mixing bowl and my hands, but you can use a food processor or KitchenAid mixer if you prefer. 

  • In a bowl combine flour, sugar, and salt. Sift the dry ingredients once, then add shortening and cubed butter. 

  • Slowly add cold water, two tablespoons at a time until the dough starts to stick together. Keep in mind that adding too much water will make a sticky mess of your pie crust. You may not need the full 10 Tablespoons of water, so don't just dump it all in at once to save time. 

  • To check the consistency of your dough try pinching a small piece between your fingers, it should hold together; if it falls apart you will need to add more water. If you've accidentally added too much water try adding a tablespoon or two of flour to help bind the crust together.

  • Once mixed, divide the dough into two equal parts, form into a ball, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. If you have a kitchen scale now is a great time to pull it out to make sure your top and bottom crusts will be equal, if you don't have one you can just eyeball it.

  • Cover your work surface in parchment paper (to make cleanup a little easier), flatten the ball of dough and roll it out on a well floured surface. Make sure to cover your rolling pin with a bit of flour to keep it from sticking.

  • Start at the center and using your rolling pin work your way out until the dough is about ⅛ inch thick and circular in shape. If you notice your dough sticking, dust it with a little more flour. Work the dough lightly and quickly since over-handling the dough will make the it tough.

  • Transfer your dough to your pie plate and gently push it into place, be careful not to stretch the dough, since it will pull apart. Repeat the previous steps for your second crust or if you want to get fancy you can follow the steps below for a lattice top.

  DISCLOSURE:  Today's post was sponsored by OXO as part of the Bake a Difference with OXO Campaign. They have provided me with a set of pie making tools for evaluation, but no other compensation was given for this post. 

DISCLOSURE: Today's post was sponsored by OXO as part of the Bake a Difference with OXO Campaign. They have provided me with a set of pie making tools for evaluation, but no other compensation was given for this post. 

Lattice Crust




 

  • Roll out your second crust, then use a pastry wheel (as pictured above), pizza cutter, or sharp knife to cut one inch wide strips of dough. Use a metal ruler to help make equal-sized strips of dough or just eyeball it for a more rustic look.

  • Lay out one strip of dough horizontally and the other vertically so the two strips form a cross in the center off the pie. Add additional strips weaving them in and out as you go along.

  • Once finished trim the edges of the lattice strips so they're flush with the outer edge of the pie dish. Fold the lower crust up over the top, then use a fork or your fingers to crimp the edge. 
     

Blind Baking

 

  • If your recipe calls for pre-baking the bottom crust (sometimes referred to as blind baking), prick the bottom of the pie crust in several places with a fork, place a piece of parchment paper over the crust and add rice, beans, or pie weights to the center before baking it. This will prevent bubbles from forming on your crust as it cooks.

  • You may also want to put aluminum foil or a pie crust shield around the edge of the crust to keep it from become overly dark.

  • Let your bottom crust cool slightly before adding your filling to the crust. To add the top crust lightly moisten the edge of the bottom crust, gently add the top crust, and press into place along the edges. Trim off any excess dough around the edge.

  DISCLOSURE:  Today's post was sponsored by OXO as part of the Bake a Difference with OXO Campaign. They have provided me with a set of pie making tools for evaluation, but no other compensation was given for this post. 

DISCLOSURE: Today's post was sponsored by OXO as part of the Bake a Difference with OXO Campaign. They have provided me with a set of pie making tools for evaluation, but no other compensation was given for this post. 

Filling Ideas

 

Cherry Almond

Peach Cardamom

Caramel Apple

Blueberry Peach

Lemon Meringue
 

Notes


This year, OXO will donate up to $100,000 to Cookies for Kids' Cancer. Cookies for Kids' Cancer is a recognized 501c(3) public charity duly incorporated under the laws of the state of New Jersey. 100% of proceeds raised by Cookies fund pediatric cancer research. Visit OXO or cookiesforkidscancer.org for more information.

This crust recipe is very flexible, so I've been known to vary the ingredients slightly depending on what type of pie I'm making and what I happen to have in the kitchen. The original recipe calls for lard, which is fine for savory pies, but I prefer a combination of vegetable shortening and butter. You can easily turn this into an all butter or all shortening crust with fabulous results, so keep that in mind if you ever want to make a pie, but find you don't have a drop of shortening in the house.

  DISCLOSURE:  Today's post was sponsored by OXO as part of the Bake a Difference with OXO Campaign. They have provided me with a set of pie making tools for evaluation, but no other compensation was given for this post. 

DISCLOSURE: Today's post was sponsored by OXO as part of the Bake a Difference with OXO Campaign. They have provided me with a set of pie making tools for evaluation, but no other compensation was given for this post. 

Tools

 

To facilitate today's recipe OXO sent along a handful of pie making tools. Keep reading for more information on the tools featured in our post today and where you can purchase them.

Glass 9" Pie Plate OXO Glass Bakeware is made of thermal shock resistant borosilicate glass, which means it can go from freezer to oven without the need to thaw.  Purchase from Amazon or OXO

Double Pastry Wheel - This two-in-one tool has straight and fluted wheels made of sturdy stainless steel. The straight wheel is great for cutting pastas and dough, and the fluted wheel is perfect for lattice-top pies and lasagna noodles. Purchase from Amazon or OXO

Stainless Steel Measuring Spoons - The Stainless Steel Measuring Spoons' unique magnetic feature keeps the spoons neatly stacked together and allows you to easily remove one at a time. The soft, comfortable, non-slip handles feature permanent, etched measurement markings. Purchase from Amazon or OXO

4-Cup Angled Measuring Cup The patented angled surface allows you to see measurement markings from above as you're pouring, so you can better measure ingredients without bending or lifting the cup to eye level. Purchase from Amazon or OXO

Silicone 1" Pastry Brush - The Silicone Basting Brush's multi-layered bristles work as if they are natural but have heat resistance and quick-clean convenience. Gaps in the center bristles hold liquid as you transfer, and tapered outer bristles let you brush delicate pastries with ease. Purchase from Amazon or OXO

Blueberry Peach Pie | Pie 101 | Not Starving Yet

Disclosure

 

Today's post was sponsored by OXO as part of the Bake a Difference with OXO Campaign. They have provided me with a set of pie making tools for evaluation, but no other compensation was given for this post. 

This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Purchases made through these links provide me with a small income and ensure I can continue providing you with quality content.