Easy homemade holiday gifts

Last year, when I needed a last-minute hostess gift, I whipped up this salt scrub. This year, I wanted something else that would be just as good for winter skin and came up with this chocolate oatmeal bath salt.

It’s really a mixture of epsom salt, ground oatmeal and cocoa powder.

IMG_6706

The first step is to grind the oatmeal in the coffee grinder, you’ll need half to a full cup, ground. It doesn’t have to be super fine. In fact, fair warning, if it is too fine, the whole mixture will be “fluffy” and could potentially create a bath mixture cloud when you open it. Step two is to mix the oatmeal and about a half cup to a whole cup of epsom salt in a bowl, just stir by hand to combine. Add the cocoa about a tablespoon at a time. You won’t need a lot, less than three tablespoons probably. The cocoa powder will coat the oatmeal and the epsom salts pretty evenly. When everything is mixed, add it to your favorite jar.

IMG_6707Include a note with directions and you’re done!
Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 3.14.41 PMHappy Holidays!

 

 

 

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C’s Texas Sheet Cake

I’ve mentioned before, my sister, C, has a knack for perfecting baked goods. She did it again with this super delicious, never dry (even after three days!) recipe. It’s a combination of Joy of Cooking and our Mom’s family recipe.

 

Ingredients and Directions:
Have all ingredients at room temperature, about 70 degrees f. Pre-heat the over to 375 degrees f. Grease a 13×9 pan. if you don’t have the pan, you can use 2 round pans for an 8×11 pan and a loaf pan (the pan isn’t the most important part).

Whisk together in a large bowl until well blended:
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Combine in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly:
1 cup strong, black coffee (apparently, this is Mom’s secret ingredient)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 unsweetened cocoa powder

Pour the hot mixture over dry ingredients and stir together just until smooth. Let cool slightly (about 3-5 minutes), then work in:
2 large eggs
1/2 buttermilk (regular milk works, too)
1 tsp vanilla

Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool in the pan for about 3-5 minutes (until the cake is just warm) and spread on the icing.

Mom’s Icing:
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup milk
3 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Mix together and spread over warm sheet cake.

My opinion:
I might like this better than regular chocolate cake. Hard to believe, I know, but it is so good. I can’t wait for the next time C has a reason to make it!

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

Very easy to make.

Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup nonfat milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/3 cups hot strong coffee

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly coat an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Combine milk, egg, oil and vanilla in a glass measuring cup. Make a well in center of the dry ingredients and gradually pour in the milk mixture, stirring until combined. Spoon into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Dissolve brown sugar in coffee; spoon over batter. (I missed this step.) Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes; serve hot or warm. (It took 35 minutes for this to work for me.) This recipe is originally from Eating Well.

My opinion:
The cake is so so much better warm! It’s not bad. It does need a little something though. It tastes a bit off, but not in a bad way. That might be my fault as I used the good unsweetened cocoa. I would definitely make this again as it was super simple and made the house smell wonderful. Next time though, I will add chocolate chips or peanut butter chips or a raspberry glaze.