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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Sharkbowl Holiday Gifting

As a Michigan State grad, one of our favorite spots on Grand River was The Landshark. The best drink to order, with a crowd, was a Sharkbowl. The cocktail (with an extreme punch) is literally served in a bowl with a fistful of straws and, if it was a lucky night, lots of shark gummy candies. Usually a crowd would order a couple of Sharkbowls with “teams” challenging each other to race to a finish.

While many of my college friends have moved away, I decided to recreate the infamous Sharkbowl as a surprise Christmas gift in the mail. I can see this being a fun crowd pleasing punch for upcoming gatherings (BCS Bowl Championship, Winter Olympics opening ceremony, the Super Bowl, etc). Note: The shark gummies are a must in this concoction!

Sharkbowl
12 oz cranberry juice
12 oz lemonade
12 oz lemon lime soda
12 oz soda water
2 shots tequila
2 shots rum
2 shots vodka
Dash of grenadine
Ice
Shark gummy candies

Mix, serve in a bowl over lots of ice, add a handful of straws, gather the crowd and ready-set-go!

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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.