Iced Butter Cookies

Make-ahead Thanksgiving starts now. Why? How? The holiday isn’t even a full week away yet? It does when you need custom themed iced cookies as place cards at the table!

This recipe goes back to the early 1900s coming from my Great Grandma Nellie Bower. It is a classic. These cookies hold their shape; the recipe never fails and is a staple for cutout cookies all year round.

The dough yields enough for at least 2 dozen cookies. I tend to roll and cut the whole batch at once and freezing the cutouts. I cut parchment squares and as I cut the cookies, stack them with the layers of paper in between. They freeze well and you can pop them out to bake whenever you need them!

Butter Cookies
1 pound butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp almond extract
6 cups flour

Set the butter out to bring it to room temperature. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs and extract, beating until smooth. Add the flour, one cup at a time.

Chill the dough. Once you’re ready, roll and cut the cookies.
Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes. Ice when cool, if desired.

Royal Icing
3 egg whites
Dash of salt
1 tsp cream of tarter
1 pound (3 3/4 cup) confectionary sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Whip the egg whites, salt and cream of tarter until stiff peaks form. Slowly add confectionary sugar and vanilla.

This is an excellent icing that hardens on the cookies. It spreads well with a spatula or pipes using a piping bag for design. Add or subtract the sugar depending on the consistency desired.

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The finished place cards!

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Bridal Shower Cupcake Cake

A coworker of mine is getting married! It’s tradition in the office to throw a shower. I decided to volunteer to bring the cake.  Usually a cake doesn’t get eaten entirely and sits around.  Cupcakes are easy to serve and require no portioning. I’ve seen quite a few “cakes” made out of cupcakes but had never done it.  I also was seeing zero how-to instruction online. I knew I wanted to make something in the shape of a bridal dress, as this is a bridal shower!

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One of the first questions that came to mind was how do I transport this to work? My best mate, Costco, came in handy.  I picked up a flat shallow box and wrapped it in wrapping paper, finishing it by lining the inside with tissue paper. I also needed to pre-determine the layout and estimate a number of cupcakes needed to make the dress. This dress takes about 31 cupcakes.

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*Note: keep the cat out of the box 😉

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Because of the quantity of cakes, I needed two batches of cupcakes.  I followed recipes from the Cake Doctor; making both a Dark Chocolate Cream Cheese Cupcake and Yellow Pudding cake.

 

I made all the cupcakes two days ahead of the party, laid out the dress, and wrapped them tightly in press and seal wrap.  Frosting came next! I love a good buttercream frosting.  Again, referencing the Cake Doctor, I whipped up a frosting to then pipe rosettes on each cupcake.

Because the intention is to make this look like a cake, you’ll want to the piping to run together.  This should look like one piped unit, rather than 30 individual cupcakes stuck together.  I’ll admit, that’s a big challenge.  I think the thicker you make your buttercream, the better. I had to make three batches of frosting.  Once piped, I added some edible pearls to create a sash on the dress. The final finishing touch was made with powdered sugar donut holes as diamond rings.  I’d searched the net for diamond clip art, printed and cut out the shapes, used double stick tape to attach them to toothpicks and affixed them to the donettes. From here, all that was left to do was transport to the office and enjoy!

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Gender Reveal Cake

Thanks to Pinterest, we’re now all under tremendous pressure to make every life event that much more unique and notable.  One of these new “must haves” is the gender reveal for expecting parents.  I was asked to help out a girlfriend when it came time to share the sex of her baby to loved ones and of course I jumped right in.

Duncan Hines has made this very easy with their own line of “summer velvet cakes.”  I think they’ve been following Pinterest trends! I took the easy way out with this one, using a boxed cake.  I did use my favorite buttercream recipe, courtesy of my girl Martha Stewart!

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

1 cup (2 sticks) of  unsalted butter, softened

6 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

In an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, begin to cream the butter.  Add in the vanilla while slowing mixing in the sugar.  Add milk bits at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

Of course no Pinterest project is finished without a catchy phrase.  I chose to pipe “Waddle it Be” and finished it off with sugared duck icing decorations by Wilton. Once cut, the cake reveals with pink color, it’s a …. GIRL!

Gender Reveal Cake

Gender Reveal Cake

Gender Reveal Cake

It’s a …. GIRL!

Super Bowl Treats

I was amazed to see that the Super Bowl is the second biggest food consumption day of the year (just behind Thanksgiving)! As you know, I love to entertain and had some success with football themed treats for last year’s event.  They might be making a comeback for 2014!

Brownie TouchdownsTouchdown Brownies

  • Green Frosting
  • White frosting
  • Star and fine point icing tip
  • Chocolate covered almonds
  • Brownies

Bake your favorite brownies.  I personally love the Ghirardelli Double Chocolate mix from Costco.  For super fudgey brownies, use two mixes for one batch. Let the brownies cool completely and cut into squares.  Generously pipe the green frosting over the tops of the brownie with the star tip.  Place a “football” onto each field and pipe on football laces with white frosting.

Football Deviled EggsDeviled Egg Footballs

  • 6 hardboiled eggs
  • 3 tb mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp horseradish
  • 1 tb chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Paprika
  • Chives

Cut eggs in half.  Scoop yolks into a bowl.  Mash yolks.  Beat in remaining ingredients until smith.  Replace yolk mixture in whites after seasoning to taste.  After eggs are prepared and dusted with paprika, place chives over the tops to create the football lacing effect.

What velveeta shortage?

A Super Bowl essential

A Super Bowl essential

Super Bowl Treats

Vegas Survival Kits

Two years ago to the day, I helped to plan a joint bachelor & bachelorette weekend for 30 20somethings in, what other place but, Las Vegas. Looking back, I’m amazed we pulled it off. Coordinating with that many people and having a successful weekend is one I’ll never forget! 

In order to be sure the ladies were treated to favors, I had to ship an extra box down to meet me in Vegas. The boys were wholeheartedly disappointed to find out the favor bags were for the girls only. Here’s what they contained…

Vegas Survival Kit

VEGAS Survival Tote

  • Sunglasses
  • ‘Vegas’ sleep mask
  • Bling ring
  • Flip flops
  • Excedrine
  • Vitamins
  • Band aids
  • Lip gloss
  • Mini tiara
  • Gum
  • Kleenex
  • Loofa
  • Banana hair clip
  • Disinfecting hand wipes
  • Granola bar
  • Candy
  • Weekend agenda/itinerary

 

You’ll also need:

  • Tote bags (I ordered online from Oriental Trading)
  • Felt, glitter pen, scissors, ribbon
Bachelorette Weekend

Bachelorette Weekend

 

Fall Book Club

The change in season brings some of my favorite things; fall colors, football, sweaters, tall socks, and holiday parties!  I had tried to organize a book club this time last year.  Our first (and turned out to be only) meeting went off fabulously!  The book, coming with very high ratings from myself, was A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.

Hosting a large affair sometimes isn’t the easiest.  For this party, I had asked all guests to bring a dessert or appetizer to pass, while I would provide the cocktails.  A host has a lot going on.  The house has to be clean, the kitchen cannot be covered with dirty dishes from meal prep, and of course, there are all of the decor and favor details to attend to.

Any of /A/MY Parties have to be fairly stylized and themed.  Working with the framework of the novel and the changing season I came up with the below.  I’d recommend any of these ideas for fall season entertaining!

Witch Broom Favor Bags

1 package brown paper lunch bags

1 package black pipe cleaners

1 spool of orange ribbon

Candy

One favor bag will require 2 paper lunch bags.  Trim 1/3 off the top of the brown bags.  Cut the bottom off of half the bags.  You’ll have to stacks; those with bottoms and those without.  For the first  set of bags, fill with candy.  Attend to the second half of the bottomed out bags by shredding/cut up strips of the “broom’s bristles”.  Leave about 1/2″ around the top to maintain the shape.  Overlay the witch broom bag on the candy filled bag.

Take 2 pipe cleaners and twist together for the broom handle.  Insert into the center of the witch’s broom. Tie with a ribbon and display for your guests!

Witch Broom Favor Bag

Orange and Clove Potpourri

Oranges

Cloves

This is a such a simple way to freshen up the room and add to the party’s ambience.  Insert cloves artfully throughout a whole orange.  If you’d like you can add an artistic touch by carving designs out of a thin layer of the orange peel.  Use a small paring knife.  Display throughout your home to add fragrance and party swag.

Orange & Clove Potpourri

Witches Brew Martinis

Serves 8

24 oz Pomegranate juice

8 oz Citrus flavored vodka

4 oz Triple Sec

Lime cut into wedges for garnish

Black Sugar to rim glasses

Witch’s broom cocktail picks

Tall appetizer toothpicks (they measure longer than the average toothpicks)

Raffia

Ribbon

Hot glue/hot glue gun

Mixing the drink is self explanatory.  It’s the way in which this cocktail is served that makes it notable (or blogable in this sense).

To make the cocktail picks, trim raffia into 4 inch strips.  Bunch about 5 raffia strips together, fold over and around the top of the pick with hot glue.  You’ll need to prepare for hot fingers to get the raffia tightly adhered to the top of the stick.  Finish off with a small cutting of ribbon that’s wrapped around the base of the “broom” and add another small spot of hot glue.  Let dry and set.

Dip the glasses in lime juice and then in black sugar to rim the top. Serve the shaken and strained cocktail with a lime wedge.  A bartender adds a nice touch to an exclusively female club, although it’s not included. 🙂

Witches Brew Martini Fall Book Club

“Family Dinner”

After flying the nest, my friends and I began an almost weekly tradition of, what we like to call, Family Dinner.  So what does this consist of? A crowd (of at least 5), good food (home-cooked of course), my antique dining room table, laughs, and wine.

Debates over the menu, day, time and availability all ensue over group text.  After the dust settles, I proudly announce the menu with bated breath.

Drumroll please … today’s evening consists of a freshly prepared caprese (with blanched asparagus) salad to start. We’ll follow up with the main course of marinated flank steak, “eggplant parmesan” (recipe to follow in a separate post), and broccolini.

Caprese Salad With Asparagus

Caprese Salad With Asparagus

Grilled Flank Steak

Grilled Flank Steak

How does a young professional pull it all off?

/A/MY Rules of Entertaining:

  • Plan the menu!
  • Shop the day before
  • Prep as much as you can
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew
  • Not every part of the meal has to start from scratch
  • Take some help where you can; accept a hand
  • Clean up as you go
  • Don’t skimp on tools and equipment
  • Relax
  • Have a glass of wine while cooking

Family Dinner!

What’s the verdict? Full tummies, memories shared & created, and a tradition that’s only to grow for many years to come.