Valentine’s Day Cookies

Happy Valentine’s Day, fellow bloggers!

The biggest lesson I’m getting from sugar cookie making is that you can’t rush perfection.

Although I see a lot of room for improvement with these cookies, I am proud that they are 100% made from scratch.

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Important lesson: Royal icing needs to be made using exact measurements. Whenever I wing it, the consistency is off. This is the recipe I used: http://littledelightscakes.com/royal-icing-turtles-icing-recipe/

I need to get more decorating tools in order to do more intricate designs. I used condiment squeeze bottles for my cookies, which work great for filing. But next time I’ll use pastry bags and small frosting tips for details.

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I keep telling myself that practice makes perfect!

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Snowflake and Squirrel Cookies

I have a confession to make. I tried to save time on my Christmas cookies by using premade sugar cookie dough. They tasted good but they didn’t hold their shape and the royal icing wasn’t the right consistency.

Mistakes happen, sure. But I should have stuck with the recipe from scratch that I knew would work. There’s no time for experimentation on Christmas Eve!

Besides, I went to the trouble of buying little jars to put them in. It was going to be such a cute gift.

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My sister’s gluten free chocolate chip cookies were also from a premade dough but those turned out great.

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Then I made the mistake of putting bread in the jar to keep the cookies moist. After all that effort not to contaminate! 😦 At least my brother in law ate them. I think.

It really ate at me that I couldn’t replicate the success I had with my Morrocan cookies. I needed to redeem myself. I needed to know that wasn’t some kind of fluke. Most importantly, I needed to know how to make them from now on.

I used the same rolled cookie recipe from the Morrocan cookie post (from Make Bake Celebrate). Then I used Wilton’s royal icing mix to make the frosting. I still had to adjust it to get the right consistency and dye it.

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Rolled Cookie Ingredients:
3 cups flour
1 TSP baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 TSP vanilla extract

I don’t own a KitchenAid, so I just used a regular old hand mixer to make my batter. Detailed instructions and photos are here

 

Here’s some of the most important things I learned:

1. Let your egg and butter get to room temperature before making the batter. This really does matter.

2. Once the dough is made, put it in the fridge for 20 minutes before rolling it out.

3. Once you’ve cut out your shape, freeze your cookies for 2-5 minutes. This helps the cookie hold its shape. (Note: this doesn’t work with Pillsbury premade dough)

4. When using Wilton’s royal icing mix, add one tbsp of water at a time. It’s easy to add more water, hard to extract it. The consistency best for decorating with the condiment bottles is similar to Elmer’s glue. Thick but fluid.

5. Be patient. Cookie decorating is a multi-step process with lots of waiting in between.

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Christmas Hot Chocolate

There’s a hot chocolate above all hot chocolates out there and you can make it yourself tonight. All you need is a crockpot, the ingredients, and 2 hours of anticipation. Trust me, the 2 hour wait is soo worth it.

I discovered this recipe last year on Pinterest and it made for our family Christmas party. It was a huge success. I doubled the recipe and used two crockpots, but I easily could have made more. I made the hot chocolate again this year and mixed it with Bailey’s Irish Cream. Now we’re talking!

Crockpot Hot Chocolate:

1.5 cups Whipping cream
1 14oz can of sweetened evaporated milk
6 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Put all ingredients in a crockpot on low heat for two hours.

I set up a little hot chocolate station with cups of mini candy canes, chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, and M&Ms.

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Be sure to stir the hot chocolate occassionally throughout the cook time. Since you’re melting chocolate chips, you’ll notice that it doesn’t ever blend perfectly smooth. From reading the comments from the original recipe, I guess chocolate chips have stabilizers in them to help hold their form when you bake them. If the little remnants of chocolate bother you, try chocolate chunks, apparently they don’t have stabilizers.

It’s the best hot chocolate ever. A creamy chocolately delight. A once a year treat. 🙂

Cookies – Moroccan Themed

Today was a rough day. And all I could think was…let me go home and make those sugar cookies! I’ve been wanting to get into some serious cookie decorating and I finally found the right cookie recipe to inspire me. I spent hours last night looking at some beautifully decorated cookies and I wanted some of my own. So for whatever reason, I thought of Moroccan patterns and decided those would be my design.

Here’s the link to the best sugar cookie recipe I’ve ever tried: http://makebakecelebrate.com/lets-talk-about-rolled-sugar-cookies/

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Dessert – Marshmallow Treats

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Inspired by Something Swanky’s 50 BEST Rice Krispie Treat Recipes, I decided to try making a version of my own just for fun.

Go here to check out the original posting: http://www.somethingswanky.com/50-rice-krispie-treats/

Not my favorite and on top of it, my boyfriend said he thought they kind of look like ground beef. Ha ha! But the concept got me thinking of how it easy it is to dress up this classic treat. With a little food coloring, cookie cutters, sprinkles, and other cake decorating supplies, you can really have a field day. I’ve even seen professional bakers on TV use rice krispies to make much more elaborate decorations for cakes, covering them with fondant or modeling chocolate. They would make great last minute treats to take to a coworker on their birthday or to go along with a themed party. My wheels are turning and there’s already so many great recipes and ideas out there for you.

But here’s my secret. As much as I love dessert – baking and eating it…I know how important it is to limit my daily sugar intake. About 2 years ago, I temporarily cut sugar out of my life completely. I had to learn to wake up without reaching for a can of Coke or picking up my favorite chocolate at World Market. You know, it was hard at first but less than a month in, it got much easier. I’m not saying I was tempted, but it was easier to ignore that voice in my head. I had broken the habit and I wasn’t craving it in the same way any more. These days, I’m not nearly as strict anymore but I’ve taken a lot of lessons I’ve learned from that time with me and try to practice them to this day.

Rule #1: Don’t Drink Your Sugars

I’ve cut out all sugary drinks from my life–most of time. I drink black iced tea, water, or hot green tea/chamomile tea. That’s it. When I really need a sugar fix, I’ll share a Coke, fill my cup only half way, or have a cranberry juice with no added sugar. And I never go for “sugar free” crap either. Those fake sugars (Sweet n Low, aspartame, Splenda, etc.) are worse for your health than the real thing. If you haven’t already, read “Skinny Bitch”. A fun read and lots of great advice for staying healthy. I don’t necessarily agree with taking a vegan lifestyle, but there’s still plenty of good information. It’s so easy to drink a massive amount of sugar. Save your daily allowance of 20 grams for dessert!

*Side benefit: By cutting out soda, my stomach is so much flatter and I’m drinking more water too. 🙂

Rule #2: Cut Down on Added Sugars From Food

As healthy as it is, for some reason, Greek yogurt contains a lot of sugar, 12 grams or more per serving! That’s why I buy Greek Gods Greek Yogurt (the green container). It’s only 7 grams of sugar per serving. That’s a pretty big reduction in sugar. I also look for other things like ketchup and peanut butter without corn syrup.

Rule #3: Don’t Buy Sugary Snacks

I hardly ever buy pre-made cookies or candy. If it’s laying around, we’ll eat it. If we have to go out to get it or I have to bake, we’re much less likely to get tempted. This also makes it so having dessert is more of a treat instead of an everyday thing.

Rule #4: Share Your Dessert

I used to make cookies and eat the whole batch myself…or go out to Cheesecake Factory and eat the whole slice of cheesecake myself. 🙂 Now I share. Sharing is caring and it keeps my waistline in check.

The most important thing I do to keep myself healthy and happy is exercise. If I’m going to the gym or doing yoga in my apartment at least 4 to 5 times a week, then I don’t feel guilty having one donut. Life was meant to be enjoyed! You deserve a break every now and then.