Today marks the eighth anniversary of this column, and despite the onset of winter and the raging pandemic, I am in the mood to celebrate.

For the past eight years, you have let me come into your world to share my passion for food, travel, family and fun with you. If you are a regular reader, you probably know that when it comes to food, one of my greatest passions is baking.

With so much time now spent at home, this hobby has become a kind of therapy for me and I enjoy having the time to explore new recipes, techniques and projects. I have often said that I would bake every day if I could, but my two men at home would never be able to keep up. Happily, I have found a couple solutions to that problem and am excited to share them with you.

Last month, I launched SarahBakes, a home bakery business specializing in custom-baked goods made from scratch with premium ingredients including local flours, sugars and honey, pure Madagascar bourbon vanilla extract, real chocolate, pure maple syrup and grade AA unsalted butter. I am baking nearly every day and loving it.

Home bakery business SarahBakes is offering a variety of platters throughout the holiday season, including this Thanksgiving breakfast pastry assortment featuring walnut streusel blueberry muffins, pumpkin scones and cran-orange streusel muffins. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Home bakery business SarahBakes is offering a variety of platters throughout the holiday season, including this Thanksgiving breakfast pastry assortment featuring walnut streusel blueberry muffins, pumpkin scones and cran-orange streusel muffins. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

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I make everything from scratch in my home kitchen, and advance orders can be placed online at my website, sarahbakesnd.com. Our house has an old-fashioned milk cupboard next to our side door, which is perfect for contact-free pickups, and delivery is also available.

This week, I will be switching over to my holiday menu, which will offer platters of various sizes and categories, including Christmas cookies, breakfast platters, savory snacks and holiday candies. This is my favorite time of year to bake, and I would love to bake for you.

And, from today through Dec. 31, a portion of every purchase from SarahBakes will be donated to Box of Balloons to help bring birthday joy to as many local boys and girls as possible.

Last spring, I signed up as a volunteer for the local chapter of Box of Balloons, a nonprofit organization with a goal to help ensure that every child is celebrated on their birthday and for each birthday to be happy, regardless of a family or child’s current situation, living condition or financial status.

They do this by enlisting volunteers to help fill a large box with everything required for a fantastic birthday party, including party favors, decorations, treats, games, tableware and cupcakes. They even make sure to include a gift for the parent or caregiver to give to the child.

Over the past six months, I have made dozens and dozens of cupcakes for birthday boys and girls. I am given some idea about the theme or color that the child has requested and then I get to interpret that into their cupcake design. I never knew how much fun I could have with buttercream frosting and piping tips until I became a cupcake baker for our local Box of Balloons chapter.

Sarah Nasello is a volunteer cupcake baker for the local chapter of Box of Balloons, baking a variety of custom cupcakes to help bring birthday joy to as many girls and boys as possible. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Sarah Nasello is a volunteer cupcake baker for the local chapter of Box of Balloons, baking a variety of custom cupcakes to help bring birthday joy to as many girls and boys as possible. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Growing up in a family of five children, a birthday was the one day each year dedicated solely to the person celebrating their birth. Sibling rivalries and spats were put on hold for another day, and everyone rallied to make the celebrant feel extra special. I cherish these memories and am grateful to be part of a mission to help create that same feeling for other children on their birthdays. We would love to have you join us.

I am also grateful to you, dear readers, for your wonderful support over these past eight years. It is an honor and a pleasure to visit with you every Wednesday. Cheers to another great year together.

In addition to supplies, Box of Balloons Fargo is always looking for volunteers. For more information, or to get involved, visit their Facebook page, email boxofballoons.fargond@gmail.com or call Katie at 701-200-1392.

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Recipes can be found with the article at InForum.com.

“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.