It’s mmmmm…Monday “The Happy Spatula”

I love to bake, even more so when I get to use my Happy Spatula, named such for its awesomeness and happiness effectuation. First and foremost is the quality ― in which this lovely silicone one abounds (safe up to 800°F/425°C, heat & stain proof, dishwasher safe!) ― but then to top it off it is hot pink and glittery. A sparkle with every stir. Seriously awesome. I love this spatula so much it came with us on our special trip to Venice, Italy! I like to think the delights coming out of my oven can feel the love baked into them with my Happy Spatula.

As much as I love to bake, it’s only made better by sharing those baked goods with those I love. In the last year and a half as a cancer caregiver, I’ve been baking for my mama and testing out different ginger goodies (great for upset tummies). But I’ve loved to create delightful baked creations for a long time. Several years ago I took a cake decorating class at my hometown community college, skills which my colleagues at The San Francisco Chronicle seriously appreciated…

“An organized, speedy and thorough writer and editor, Gabriana is an eager learner and an enthusiastic soul with a hunger for whatever is out there that needs to be discovered. Gabriana is skilled at editorial and writing work, and thrives on interaction with others (read: bakes birthday cakes!).” ―Carolyn Dempsey  (LinkedIn Recommendation)

Lately I have not been doing as much baking from scratch. Most who’ve enjoyed my treats haven’t noticed though ― or perhaps they were just being nice. Here’s one of my favorite baking tricks: Find a good mix and experiment. This can be as easy as adding some chocolate chips to a mix  one of my all-time favorite tricks! Dried fruit (cranberries or cherries, especially), crystallized ginger, chocolate chips or chopped nuts make great additions as well; I’d suggest not going crazy and adding too many or the flavors will fight each other rather than complement each other. It’s also important not to overlook the less noticeable additions. A pinch of cloves or a teaspoon of vanilla extract can add lovely flavors to your treats. Of course, with each experiment you run the risk of flavors not pairing as you’d hoped. In such cases, I hope those enjoying your baked treats are game for the experiment!

To get you started, here are a few examples of my favorite successful mix experiments…

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Pair Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bread Mix with a bag of chocolate chips.

Chocolate Chip Eggnog Spice Scones

Pair Sticky Fingers Eggnog Spice Scone Mix with a bag of chocolate chips. Sticky Fingers makes some of my absolute favorite scone mixes and they simply couldn’t be easier!

Gingerbread Chocolate Ginger Chunk Cookies

Pair Trader Joe’s Gingerbread Baking Mix with 1/2 bag of chocolate chips, handful of small crystallized ginger chips, a pinch of cloves and a sprinkling of baking soda. Make drop cookies. These cookies were out of this world! Serve one warm with a glass of cold milk ― they’re rich so you’ll only need one 🙂

Double Chocolate Chunk Brownies

Take your favorite brownie mix and add a bag of chocolate chips and few drops of vanilla extract.

Can you tell we love chocolate in this house? Nuts make a great addition as well, but are riskier for sharing due to nut allergies.

Good luck with your own baking experimentation. Please share your favorite tips, tricks and experiments in the comments!

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