3 Affordable (and Adorable!) Homemade Gift Ideas

Christmas is almost here. I can hardly believe it! Seriously, this year has FLOWN by!

This year, I’m trying to focus on meaningful and homemade gifts. Here are a few of my favorite gifts to give.

1. Homemade Dry Shampoo
Since writing the original dry shampoo post, I’ve found a way to make this gift adorable. I found spice jars for $1. I tossed the spicy hole filled shaker thing in the trash. I don’t need it for this. I fill the jar with my homemade dry shampoo. I ordered small round labels from vistaprint.com and put a cute “Dry Shampoo” label on each lid. I buy inexpensive make up brushes for $1 and include that along with the dry shampoo. The gift is too cute for words. I personally love my dry shampoo and use it weekly. I think it’s a great little gift!

Homemade Dry Shampoo

Homemade Dry Shampoo

A practical and pretty gift!

A practical and pretty gift!

2. Homemade Taco Seasoning
I use this recipe from 100 Days of Real Food. It’s super easy to make and only has 4 ingredients! I found these super cute little mason jars from Target for $1.99 each. Each jar holds 3-4 batches of this recipe. I printed a little label on colored card stock. I used a business card template only to keep the size small and played with it a few times to get the font the right size. I cut it and punched a hole and attached it to the spice jar with some twine. (The twine was a clearance deal at Target- I think I paid 45 cents for it!)

Doesn’t everybody make tacos?

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Handmade Label

Handmade Label

Back of Mason Jar

Back of Mason Jar

Inside the Jar

Inside the Jar

3. Homemade Pumpkin Bread Mix
I love pumpkin bread! I premix my dry ingredients and store them in empty and cleaned giant olive jars. I could use that jar with a pretty handmade label or splurge and buy a cute and new jar. Fill the jar with the dry ingredients. Make a label on card stock including “Homemade Pumpkin Bread Mix” along with the directions. Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix 1 cup pumpkin puree, 1/2 c canola oil, 3 Tbsp of maple syrup & 3 Tbsp water. Add dry mix. Bake for 45-50 minutes for large loaf.

As a gift, the jarred dry mix would look adorable with a can or box of pumpkin puree and a mini maple syrup bottle. I haven’t yet given this as a gift, so I don’t have a photo to share yet. But here’s what the glass jar of dry mix and a box of pumpkin look like together… precious!

Just needs a pretty label

Just needs a pretty label

These gifts are easy to make, useful, affordable and just plain adorable! Merry Christmas and happy gift giving!

Vacationing with Food Allergies: Easy Breakfast & Dinner Ideas & A Few Other Tips

Vacationing with Food Allergies

I’m a planner. And it’s a good thing, too, because going on vacation is no vacation. Not when we don’t eat out. I just don’t trust anyone else to prepare SG’s food. I cook even on vacation. And ya know what? It’s not bad. If I plan ahead, it can even be easy!

Here are a few of my tips for preparing in advance for all of the cooking on vacation.

Make a yummy but easy menu plan for meals on vacation. Either bake and freeze foods in advance (muffins, pancakes, freezer meals, etc.) or prepare the dry mixes in baggies, pack and prepare at destination.

Here are some of my favorite breakfasts, meals and shortcuts for vacation:

Breakfast Ideas

  • Vegan Muffins & Pancakes– I’ve baked and frozen the muffins for past vacations. Next vacay I’m preparing the dry mix at home and baking them fresh in our suite. We have a full kitchen in our hotel suite. I’ve found it’s a must have for us when vacationing.
  • Oatmeal- I measure 1/4 cup of dry quick oats in a baggie. I store lots of them in a larger baggie and write the directions on the larger baggie. Directions: Add 1/2 cup “milk” & microwave for 90 seconds. I add a little plastic bowl of drained peaches to our oatmeal. Easy, fast and healthy!
  • Pumpkin Bread– I’ve also baked and frozen these in the past. They travel well. However, since I’ve discovered how EASY it is to make fresh loaves if I prepare the dry mix beforehand, I will make these fresh on vacation.
Vegan Muffin Mix

Vegan Muffin Mix

Pancake Mix

Pancake Mix

Oatmeal Packets

Oatmeal Packets

Pumpkin Bread Mix

Pumpkin Bread Mix

 

Dinner Ideas

Garlic Chicken Spice Mix & Pizza Sauce Mix

Garlic Chicken Spice Mix & Pizza Sauce Mix

If you don’t already have a “Vacation Tub,” I highly recommend one! In addition to my vacation tub items, I’m packing every small appliance that I think I might need. I’m so paranoid about using someone else’s appliances due to cross contamination. Y’all milk allergy moms get it. 🙂 I’m not crazy. I’m just not taking any chances.

Next vacation I’m packing my:

  • Bread machine
  • Rice Cooker
  • Wok
  • Griddle
  • Mini Loaf Pan
  • Microwave Popcorn Bowl
  • Hand Mixer
  • Crock Pots
  • Pizza Pans
  • Rolling Pin

We are obviously vacationing for a while and I’m in charge of all the meals for us and my parents, who will eat our diet while we are in town. So, pretty much, I’m taking tons of appliances. However, if you are going for a shorter vacay, I’d suggest taking a crock pot and toaster. And a rice cooker if you like rice. We have a toaster we leave at my parent’s house that no one can use except us, so I don’t have to pack that.

I also pack spice mixes in addition to all of my bread and muffin mixes. I premix the spices and put them in small labeled baggies.

Here are the spice mixes I like to have while on vacay:

Popcorn Seasoning, Homemade Taco Seasoning & Homemade Ranch Mix

Popcorn Seasoning, Homemade Taco Seasoning & Homemade Ranch Mix

I’ve linked to recipes when possible.  Please also click here and read my Recipes Substitutions page for more links to things like the recipe for the homemade taco mix, dry ranch mix, etc.  

Thanksgiving Recipes: Dairy & Egg Free

Holidays are steeped in tradition. Food allergies change things. But what doesn’t have to change is still having a yummy, delicious, and safe spread for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Maybe it’s the first time cooking the holiday meal for everyone.

Maybe you’re the sweet family member or friend who is searching for safe recipes for a food allergic loved one. (Thanks for that, by the way. It means more than you know.)

Maybe the idea of a dairy and egg free holiday feast terrifies you.

Whatever the hesitation or reason, fear not. I’m going to share links to yummy recipes.

Last year we had a completely “safe” Thanksgiving and Christmas feast! None of the food tasted weird- just good.

Without further ado, here are some of the dishes I made last year. I’m also going to throw in a few recipes I haven’t yet tried, but will try for either Thanksgiving or Christmas.

A star in front of the name means I haven’t tried the recipe yet but I’m going to soon. No star means I made it, liked it and will make it again this holiday season.

Herb Roasted Turkey

Twice Baked Potatoes

*Mashed Potatoes

Sweet Potato Mallow Melt

My Mama’s Southern Puerto Rican Green Beans
(Simmer green beans for approximately 30 minutes along with fatback (or bacon) and lemon juice to taste. Salt and pepper to taste.)

Nana’s Safe Stuffing
(I never knew this recipe is originally from Better Homes and Gardens. You can look it up if you have that cookbook. Use vegan butter and safe bread. We omit the celery and carrot and only use the onion. We used homemade bread the last time we made it. Delish! And Nana uses poultry seasoning, not the suggested sage.)

Pillsbury Crescent Rolls

Pumpkin Bread
(This makes a delicious breakfast. We slather our pumpkin bread with Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread.)

Pumpkin Pie
(I made this one last year. Last year I omitted the cinnamon and subbed allspice.)

*Pumpkin Pie 2
(I’m trying this recipe this weekend before the big day. I always use the Refrigerated Pillsbury Roll Out Crusts. That’s not the official name but that’s what I call it.)

Cherry Pie

Cherry Pie & Apple Pie

Cherry Pie & Apple Pie

Apple Pie

Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Can dip half of the cookie in melted chocolate. Melt some Enjoy Life chocolate chips along with some shortening or coconut oil in the microwave. Mix well. Dip cookie. Repeat. Let cool on parchment paper.)

Chocolate Dipped Chocolate Chip Cookies

Vanilla Cupcakes
(These are great for making ahead and freezing. Mine are in the freezer baked already. I’m planning on frosting them with Pillsbury Maple Brown Sugar frosting and putting cute little pumpkin picks in the cupcakes to make them festive.)

If you like to bake in advance, the following freeze well:
Pumpkin Bread
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Vanilla Cupcakes (unfrosted)

The apple and pumpkin pie can be made the day before Thanksgiving. The cherry pie tastes better (to me) the day it’s baked, so that pie I bake the day of.

I hope these recipes help you have a safe and delicious Thanksgiving.

Easy Pumpkin Bread: Dairy, Egg & Cinnamon Free

I thought pumpkin bread was never gonna happen for us. First of all, the recipe needed to be dairy and egg free for SG. And for me…cinnamon free and can free.

No canned pumpkin?!?! We know how to bake and purée the pie pumpkins, but honestly it was a major pain. Neither the Huzz or I wanted to fool with that anymore.

Last December, I found what I thought I’d never ever find… safe boxed pumpkin! I had found one other boxed brand but it was processed on shared lines with dairy products. But this one, this Farmer’s Market Organic Pumpkin, was and is totally SAFE for us!

But then, the hunt was on for a cinnamon free pumpkin bread recipe (for me.)

So the recipe had to be basically vegan, without cinnamon. It felt impossible.

But then, I found this recipe. (Click here to read the original recipe.)

This recipe has rocked our world, y’all! I’m serious.

I made it several times last December and throughout the cold Iowa winter.

I let my last few boxes sit in my pantry and they had a use by date of September 2014. No specific date, so in mid-September, I mixed up three bowls and batches of the dry mix and then got ready to mix the wet ingredients. I discovered the pumpkin was already bad. Not only was I sad because I was craving pumpkin bread, but I had three bowls of dry pumpkin mix ready to go! I bagged them up in three separate bags and that was the end of that.

I can’t find the pumpkin locally, so I had to order it online. (Click here for the cheapest place I can find them online.)

Anyway, the long awaited boxed pumpkin finally arrived. I mixed together the wet ingredients (just 4 ingredients!) and dumped in my ready mixed dry mix. And yall, I had the pumpkin bread in the oven from start to finish in about 5 minutes!!! 5 minutes???? (give or take!)

Pumpkin Bread Made Easy!

Pumpkin Bread Made Easy!

So, friends, that’s my big twist on the recipe. I’ve decided I will premix the dry ingredients and keep them at the ready in my pantry. I kept the mixes in plastic baggies. I also discovered my giant olive jars are the perfect size for one recipe of dry mix.

Easy Pumpkin Bread

I’ve had two play dates lately and because of this tip, I’ve been able to have homemade pumpkin bread for my guests without making a mess of the kitchen!

I think these would make darling gifts this Thanksgiving and Christmas. You can re-use a glass jar or buy a cute one. Attach directions and you’re good to go.

Here’s the recipe for pumpkin bread.

Dairy, Egg & Cinnamon Free Pumpkin Bread
(modified very slightly from this original recipe)

Ingredients:

Dry:

  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove

Wet:

  • 1 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 3 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp water

Easy Way to Make Pumpkin Bread:

  1. Line up several bowls. You need a bowl for each dry recipe you want to pre-mix. Mix all of the dry ingredients together per recipe per bowl.  Put each recipe in its own bag or glass jar.
  2. When ready to make pumpkin bread, first preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Mix all of the wet ingredients together in a large bowl. Dump in the pre-mixed dry mix from step 1. Mix well.
  4. I make mini loaves and medium sized pumpkin loaves. The mini loaves bake for 25-30 minutes. The medium loaves bake for about 30-40 minutes. According to the original recipe, a regular sized loaf pan bakes for about 50 minutes.

How to bake the “normal” way:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, add all of the dry ingredients and mix well.
  3. In another bowl, add all of the wet ingredients and mix well.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well.
  5. Follow step 4 in the section above.

Make sure to cool the pumpkin bread on a cookie rack.

These also freeze well. I’ve frozen them and they taste great after defrosting.

I have to say, the no cinnamon isn’t even an issue with this recipe. The bread tastes perfectly spiced thanks to the nutmeg, allspice & ground clove.

We like to spread some Earth Balance vegan butter on the pumpkin bread.

Mmm, mmm, mmm!

I hope you enjoy this as much as we do.

These are the medium sized loaves.

These are the medium sized loaves.

Mini loaves.  The recipe makes 8 mini loaves.

Mini loaves. The recipe makes 8 mini loaves.