Kelly O'Toole

Organizing and planning is my passion! With over 18 years of graphic design experience, I combine this with my love of planning to create functional and beautiful printables for you and your family.
Organizing and planning is my passion! With over 18 years of graphic design experience, I combine this with my love of planning to create functional and beautiful printables for you and your family.
16 Great Quarantine Baking Recipes

16 Great Quarantine Baking Recipes

Baking recipes to try when you're stuck at home!

Cooking and baking has seen a major resurgence due to the stay-at-home orders. While I hope this will all be over soon and am saddened for the people suffering and losing family members, I'm happy that at least one good thing that has come out of all this. And, I'm thrilled that baking is making people's quarantine time feel more fulfilling.

Depending on where you live, some ingredients may be difficult to find, but if you have the inclination, here's my personal hit list of my favorite (mostly) springtime baking recipes.

1. Blueberry Tartlets from Rodica Godlewski at Cooking is my Inheritance

Everything is cuter when it's small and these little guys are just too pretty not to make! They are so simple to put together and you'll fall in love with the fresh blueberry and lemon zest filling.

These make showstopping, but simple appetizers, or a light dessert. I love that the recipe uses store-bought dough for when you don't feel like making it from scratch. And, you can cook the blueberries directly from frozen. It's just an assemble and bake situation.

Be sure to check out Rodica's stunning food photography on her Instagram. She makes a beautiful challah braid and you'll fall in love with her moody images and interesting recipes.

Blueberry tartlet photos by Rodica Godlewski of Cooking is My Inheritance

2. Beatty's Chocolate Cake from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa

It's not surprising that my go-to chocolate cake is from Ina Garten. Queen! This is the best, straightforward, unfussy chocolate cake around. Since this recipe uses coffee instead of boiling water, it is intensely chocolatey. The frosting is very light and fluffy and I highly recommend it. Don't be scared off by the raw egg yolk, just make sure your egg is pasteurized.

3. Famous Department Store Blueberry Muffins from King Arthur Flour

These really simple muffins never fail. My husband and I actually had a bake-off with these muffins (he does not bake) and his turned out...edible, even though he used baking soda instead of powder and ignored half the instructions!

I cook from King Arthur recipes a ton. Because they're a baking school, their recipes are meticulous and I love that they always provide grams, which is a MUST for me. They also have great resources on their site for baking tips and other info. If you're ever in the Vermont area, make a detour to their shop and take a class, if you can!

4. Persimmon Cookies from my Grandmother, Jean Brown

These cookies are so intertwined with my childhood that I'm probably biased, but they're my favorite cookies in the world! Persimmons might be a bit hard to find as they are currently out of season and even when they are in season, they aren't the most pervasive fruit.

However, I'd be remiss to leave this recipe out since they are easy to make and something a bit different from cookie recipes you usually see.

I love them so much, I hang her framed recipe on my living room wall.


1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or shortening
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup persimmon pulp
1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in pulp
2 cups
all purpose flour


Persimmon Cookies from My Grandmother, Jean Brown


Cream butter and sugar. Add nuts and raisins. Beat egg and add pulp and soda. Add to above. Add sifted flour and dry ingredients. Drop by teaspoon on greased cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes in 350°F oven.

Note: Use American persimmons, not Japanese

5. Pumpkin Bread from my Great-Grandmother Jennie MacArthur

This recipe has been in my family for at least four generations and there's a reason! It's super moist, a crowd favorite, and foolproof. If you only do one recipe on this list, this should be it. Also, this recipe doubles well and makes great mini loaves for little gifts.

Pumpkin might be hard to come by right now with grocery stores being a bit under-stocked and since pumpkin is off-season. But, it's worth a look.


1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups pumpkin pie mix
2⁄3 cup water
2 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups sifted flour
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts


Pumpkin Bread from my Great-Grandmother Jennie MacArthur


Beat the first 8 ingredients together. Blend in remaining ingredients in order listed. Grease 3 loaf pans. Fill about half full. Bake in pre­heated oven at 375°F for about one hour.

Let cool at least ten minutes before removing from pans. 

If using regular loaf pans, each pan takes three cups of batter. If using 9 mini loaf pans, each pan takes one cup of batter and bake for 35 minutes.

6. Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberries from King Arthur Flour

Guys, I'm not a big chocolate person, but this cake is incredible. The light mousse and surprise raspberries bring this cake to another level. It's a bit more involved because of the mousse filling, but it's not technically difficult. If pressed for time, you can make the mousse and frosting ahead.

Always use the optional espresso powder! You can't directly taste it, but it really amps up the chocolate flavor.

7. Japanese Milk Bread Rolls from King Arthur Flour

I love how easy this recipe is. Japanese milk bread is the lightest, tenderest, and fluffiest bread I've had. The warm flour and water roux in the tangzhong method helps to activate the gluten before all the ingredients are mixed together. It's an unusual technique for bread, but it's not difficult.

The milk also lends the bread its soft texture. If you've made bread before, everything aside from the tangzhong will feel familiar.

8. Blueberry Meringue Cookies from Oh Sweet Day Cookbook

These mini pavlovas are a great step up from your basic meringue cookie. They're light and crunchy, bursting with fresh flavor and a touch of sweetness. Adding the twist of the blueberry sauce is so fun, beautiful, and delicious!

Meringues are so simple, but very finicky. They're just eggs whites, cream of tartar (in this case, cream of tartar and lemon), sugar, and flavoring. If you haven't made them before, be sure to read up on them. Here's a little guide on some meringue do's and don'ts. I also have egg white baking tips in my Baking Binder Printable Kit.

They cook for a looooong time. So be sure you're not going anywhere for a bit. Oh, wait...quarantine...right.

9. Joy's Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies with Pecans from King Arthur Flour

I know, I'm the only person in the world who isn't into chocolate chip cookies! That's why I love making these jazzed up versions with brown butter, pecans, and sea salt. Yes, please!

I always have tons of these in my freezer, to bring out in case of guests or other snacking emergencies.

My freezer is usually stocked with already baked cookies because I don't want to have to worry about preparing a baking sheet and preheating the oven before guests arrive.

However, you can also make the dough and freeze the dough balls, then bake them up from frozen if you know people are coming over (sometime in the distant, non-pandemic future) and have your house smell like freshly baked cookies.

10. Rhubarb Custard Cake from Epicurious

I'd never had rhubarb until working in a garden in New Hampshire. But holy smokes, I love it! Custard is a cinch to make and the rhubarb gives it a great tartness. Also, this can be made ahead, which is always a bonus!

11. The Easiest Loaf of Bread You'll Ever Bake from King Arthur Flour

It's in the title. Yeast bread can be intimidating at first, but this is a great recipe for your first loaf. King Arthur's step-by-step recipe includes gifs to illustrate the technique. So, if you can procure some bread flour and yeast, give it a whirl!

12. Strawberry Shortcake from NY Times Cooking

If you don't have a NY Times membership, take advantage of them opening up some of their recipes to the public because of COVID-19 with this perfect spring/summer dessert! So fresh and light, strawberry shortcake is a cinch to put together. Always satisfying, this recipe is a delicious classic.

13. Popover from Ina Garten

Popovers are incredibly easy and quick to make! The recipe calls for popover pans or custard cups, but I always just use a muffin tin, which works fine.

14. Cinammon Baked Donuts from Ina Garten

Who doesn't love donuts? I love baked donuts because I don't need to risk burning my house down attempting to fry them, and they are so much lighter than yeast donuts. All you need is a donut pan. They couldn't be more simple.

15. Raspberry Crème Fraîche Tart with Lavender Honey from Epicurious

Bye-bye, winter! Bring on the berries! So simple and so elegant. Love the fruity floral notes of the lavender honey. This dish is great by itself, but I love it with a little ice cream, too.

16. Cream Puffs and Eclairs from King Arthur Flour

These are for the more adventurous and those with some time on your hands. If you haven't made cream puffs or eclairs before, they take a little skill or some practice to get the components right. They are made from pâte à choux or choux pastry. It should be crispy on the outside and airy on the inside. It's imperative to have it rise correctly so there is space for your filling.

Making the choux pastry is the most technical part of the dish, however, the filling and toppings are easy peasy! Some people cut the cream puffs and eclairs in half, then pipe in the filling, but I prefer to make a hole underneath and pipe them in that way. If you do it that way, you just need to make sure you've filled them all the way and the proper amount.

Don't let all this deter you though, even if you don't get picture perfect eclairs on your first try (spoiler alert: you won't), they'll still be impressive and delicious! Choux pastry is also a great dough to master, as it can be used for multiple desserts. This is a GREAT guide to making choux.

For piping the eclair shells, you can use an open star tip, french tip, or round tip. I prefer the french as it gives them a more finished look. You can also just cut a hole in the tip of a piping bag or ziplock bag, but a piping tip gives you more control.

Don't forget to check out my new Baking Binder Kit and use it with your next baking project! The kit contains a page of handy baking conversions, four pages of my essential "baking success" tips, a shopping list, recipe pages, and more.

Recommended: Ten Tips to Organize Your Pantry and Keep it that Way

What are your biggest quarantine baking challenges? Comment below.

As always, I'd love to hear any comments or questions you have about baking! Please share your projects with me, in the comments below, or on Instagram, with the hashtag #midniteoilmedia.

Don't forget to subscribe to get FREE planner printables, discounts, and information about shop updates!





Posted by Kelly O'Toole in Baking, 0 comments
10 Tips To Organize Your Pantry And Keep It That Way

10 Tips To Organize Your Pantry And Keep It That Way

How organized is your pantry? Here are 10 easy tips to get you started.

Getting organized is not always the hard part. Often, staying organized is the problem! This is where organizational systems come into play. They create spaces that not only look great and function well, but are almost SELF-PERPETUATING.

Most of us don't have custom, professionally designed pantry solutions, like the stunners you see from companies like The Project Neat. But, that doesn't mean you can't create functional systems on your own and even on a budget.

Pantries can be difficult as the inventory is constantly changing. If you cook much at home, you're continually taking things out and maybe not putting them back in the right spot. Kids and partners can also perpetuate the mess.

Especially if you're not too fond of cooking, it's no fun searching through the abyss of a cluttered pantry, keeping you from getting a meal on the table. An organized pantry really helps to streamline the whole cooking process and decrease your daily stress!

1. Take EVERYTHING out

For a thorough pantry cleansing, you MUST take everything out, wipe down shelves, assess your space, and see exactly what items you're dealing with. It's helpful to measure your space, as well. Most importantly, measure the depth of your shelves. This helps avoid under utilizing space by getting bins that are too small and leaving unused space on the shelf and also getting them too big and having them hang over the edge.

2. Put similar items together - make zones

This is fairly self-explanatory, however, making zones, like "baking," "oils," "spices," "grains," etc. makes it so much easier to know exactly where in your pantry to look for something. And, if you bring in a new item, you know where it should live.

I want to add that using big, open bins, like this one or this one are so helpful in grouping like items (they're also great in the fridge). Not only are they great for grouping, but they keep everything tidied and contained on the shelf. The clear acrylic ones are nice, however, there are always bins at any dollar store you can pick up that also work just fine!

Here are some sample "zone" ideas:

  • Baking Supplies
  • Entertaining - cocktail napkins, skewers, toothpicks, trays
  • Breakfast - cereals, oatmeals, pancake mixes, coffee accouterments, any shelf stable milks (almond, oat, etc.)
  • Oils
  • Spices
  • Pastas
  • Beans
  • Other dry goods - lentils, couscous, quinoa, barley, and more
  • Overflow kitchen tools

Recommended article: Top 12 Productivity Tips and Tricks

3. Put most used items together

This one was revolutionary for me. Store your most used items together and IN THE SAME BIN. If you keep the things you use almost every time you cook dinner together, instead of rooting around the pantry for salt, pepper, olive oil, your favorite spice, cooking spray, whatever; you just grab ONE BIN. Take the whole thing out and put it on the counter. Boom.

4. Clear Containers

Containers run the gamut from $1 - $40. So, pick a style that fits your budget (dollar stores often have containers that work just fine). They don't HAVE to be beautiful or even all matching (although that is nice). The point is to get containers that are stackable, preferably clear and with wide openings for easy scooping. They can be glass or plastic, find one that works for you.

Store bulk cereals, rice, and other dry goods in plastic containers to easily tidy up your pantry. They help you quickly see what's inside and how much you have left. And oftentimes, it's easier to keep things fresh in a jar, rather than trying to reseal opened packaging. Airtight containers are especially wonderful, if you have ant or pantry moth issues.

Pro tip regarding pantry moths: freeze any container you bring into your house to kill the eggs and larva (eww, gross, I know). Also, pouring the contents into a clear bin will help you identify if there are any moths in the original packaging.

Make sure you've taken inventory and figured out how many and what size containers you need before you head out to shop!

Pro tip: After decanting an item into your clear container, cut out the nutrition info and cooking directions from the original packaging and stick it in the container. This way, you won't forget what to do with it later!

5. Label everything!

There are a million kinds of labels. Some people prefer a label machine for uniformity (I have this one and it does the trick, if you don't mind plain labels). I personally prefer a reusable label, where you can put a pretty sticker on a canister and then write the words with a chalk pen or marker and then wash it off if the contents change. However, next I time I really redo my pantry, I'll probably switch over to the vinyl decals, like these beauties!

There are also tons of free printable pantry labels floating around out there, if you want to get a colored or clear sticker and print and cut yourself for a minimal dollar investment. That being said, labeling makes it way easier to find things, even when you can see the contents in clear containers. For example, I have approximately 34,968 kinds of flour and they all look the freaking same.

Above: a beautifully designed pantry by Gilat Tunit of The Project Neat -

6. Box it up

Get bins and baskets to hold your grouped items. The Internet is awash with beautiful bins and baskets, which is awesome. But, if you can't come to terms with shelling out tons o' cash for bins, head to a dollar store, HomeGoods, Walmart, or even Michaels for great deals!

Don't want to spend a dime? Modify some Amazon boxes and use those instead of bins to contain your groupings.

7. Get risers

Oh man, I love these things! I use this 3 tiered organizer from Amazon. Not only does it help you SEE what you have in the back of your shelf, but it makes it easier to REACH them, as well.

8. Lazy Susan

If you don't have space on the inside of your pantry door for a spice organizer, then this is my personal favorite solution. I have this double level stainless steel one from Amazon and, honestly, it's a tiny bit wobbly when loaded down with spices on top, BUT, it's the widest one I found, which is important to me. I have a lot of spices! The lazy Susan is a great pantry solution. It maximizes space on the shelves and ensures you can see everything you have. You can also use them for items other than spices, such as oils. If you get one for oils or something with tall containers, be sure to only get a single level one.

Store your most used items together and IN THE SAME BIN. If you keep the things you use almost every time you cook dinner together, instead of rooting around the pantry for salt, pepper, olive oil, your favorite spice, cooking spray, whatever; you just grab ONE BIN. Take the whole thing out and put it on the counter. Boom.

9. Contain the plastic bag mess

I love this organizer, which is great for hanging on a wall in the pantry or even on the inside of the door. It keeps the bags easily accessible, yet out of the way.

10. Assess every two weeks

First, stand back and admire your work! For the most part, once you've set up your systems, they will need very little maintenance. However, to ensure that your pantry stays beautiful, set aside a little time (in your already crammed life, I know, I know) and make sure to consolidate where you have doubles, toss out expired items, wipe down shelves, tweak systems, and relabel as needed.

These reassessments mean you (hopefully) never have to completely make over your pantry again! Do you have any great pantry system tips to share?

As always, I'd love to hear any comments or questions you have about pantry organizing! Please share your progress with me, in the comments below, or on Instagram, with the hashtag #midniteoilmedia.

Don't forget to get your FREE planner printables, discounts, and information about shop updates!

Posted by Kelly O'Toole in Efficiency, Home Organization, 0 comments
How to START organizing

How to START organizing

Where do you start organizing when you "don't even know where to start?"

A messy, disorganized home can be extremely daunting. And, honestly, who has the time these days for a tidiness overhaul? Even in quarantine, life is surprisingly busy. So, what do you do when you're standing in clutter, staring at a sink full of dirty dishes or a jam packed closet with belongings spilling onto the floor? Here are three approaches to declutter your life that I use depending on my mood, time, and the mess situation. They are as follows:

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Posted by Kelly O'Toole in Efficiency, Home Organization, 0 comments
Top 12 Productivity Tips and Tricks

Top 12 Productivity Tips and Tricks

Accomplish more in less time! Tips to increase your productivity.

I love productivity. It leaves me feeling accomplished and rids me of those pesky tasks hanging over my head, those subconscious stressors. Yes, it's harder to get things done since I had my daughter. But, it's still very possible to be highly productive. Read on for twelve of my tips to increase productivity and accomplish more in less time!

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Posted by Kelly O'Toole in Efficiency, Home Organization, 0 comments
Preparing for Houseguests

Preparing for Houseguests

Breaking down the steps to seamless overnight visitors

Out of town friend coming to couch surf? Family staying over for the holiday week? Even though I personally love having houseguests and we entertain guests regularly, it is still a lot of work having other people stay in your home. Check out my top tips to help you prepare for your upcoming visitors. Go above and beyond to make them feel special and right at home.

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Posted by Kelly O'Toole in Home Organization, Hosting, 0 comments