Monday, August 6, 2018

Caramel Brownies with Brown Sugar Icing

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So it's back to school here in the South, as in today, I saw the buses running.  The thermometer will reach 100 degree heat index.  That just doesn't seem proper does it?  Back in my day, school started after Labor Day, and that first day you scooted out of the house in a wool plaid skirt and new stiff leather shoes.  I'm sure it was warm, but not this inferno!  All I need is a yellow school bus to start thinking about fall, and I am dreaming of Halloween cookie designs and my favorite molasses cookies, but decided to start with a brown sugar blondie instead. Blondie is the term for today, but in my day we would call these a frosted bar.  Bar cookies were the rage, and these did not disappoint.  I never had a bar like this growing up, I really think the brown sugar pecan flavor is truly Southern!

This recipe comes from the Women's Exchange of Memphis.  Founded in 1885, it remains an icon in Memphis history.  Basically a consignment store for seamstresses and crafters, it is a volunteer organization with some of the cutest stuff around.  The very best place to buy a baby gift, and their tearoom is a popular lunch spot.  So when I came across these brownies (actually a blondie), I decided they were perfect to kick off fall.  Even though it's still summer.

I made these in an 8 X 10, and they are quite thick, better for a dessert, a small slice with ice cream.  They can be made 9X13 which would make them thinner, not a terrible thing.  They are really rich! The very worse thing that can happen here though is over baking!  So watch carefully...when the edges are crisping, the center should be about there.  If you make a larger pan with thinner blondie, the baking time will be significantly shorter!  Here's how they went:

Caramel Brownies With Brown Sugar Icing

2 c. light brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1 ¾ cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
1 cup pecans, chopped


Preheat oven to 325°.  Blend butter and sugar until well beaten.  Add eggs.  When eggs are incorporated, add remaining ingredients and mix.  Pour into greased pan, minw was 8X10, and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Check for the sides to crisp before the center, but do not overbake!  Cool before frosting.

Brown Sugar Icing

1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups powdered sugar (sifted is a good idea!)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt the butter in a saucepan, and then add the brown sugar and stir until the mixture begins to boil.  Stir constantly and boil for 2 minutes.  Add the milk and salt, bring back to a boil and then remove from heat.  Cool until lukewarm.  Add the sifted powdered sugar beating with a mixer, and add vanilla.  While the icing is pliable, spread on cooled brownies.


I am loving this whole brown sugar business, so warm and different from traditional buttercream. We thought these would be delicious without the icing as well, and delicious with a scoop of frozen yogurt. Either way, these are a winner for sure.  So, what are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Grandma's Date Nut Bars

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Mmmm. Date nut bars, such an old fashioned treat. Dates are a wonderful fruit that have been grown and harvested for over 5,ooo years. They were essential to the diets of nomads because of their high carbohydrate content and potassium as well. But they are not the most fashionable food, probably because of the carbs, the 4-letter word of every hot diet. 

My Grandma's date nut bars have been a staple in our family since I was a little girl. It isn't any great secret of a recipe, although for years I was sure it belonged solely to my family. Imagine my surprise when I saw it on the back of a box of Dromedary Dates.  September is the beginning of date harvest, so fresh dates from California will become more readily available, and these are even better with fresh dates! But for years, the box of dates sealed in plastic was all we ever used.  Grandma would never lead me astray.  And my Grandma would have a square with a cup of coffee at 3 o'clock. A tradition I still love.  But I wonder..how on earth did my Grandma ever fall asleep with a cup of coffee, from a percolator every afternoon?  Vexing. 

I once gave Grandma's date nut bars a bit of a makeover by reducing the sugar, butter and flour, I think maybe they are just a little healthier for you. But honestly, adding the rice flour wasn't really any great improvement.  I'm a bit over all this crazy substitution stuff.  So here's the way I make them.  It makes a big pan, because you just can't stop eating them.  Its not exactly a doubled version of the original, but it really works.   All I know is, a date nut bar and coffee with milk is the world's greatest breakfast. Did I mention the fiber? Dates are loaded, and with the addition of oatmeal, these babies will keep you satisfied way longer than a brownie for breakfast. Trust me, this is exactly the sort of thing I research.

Grandma's Date Nut Bars
2 boxes, 8 oz ea. chopped, diced dates
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups water

2 1/2 cups flour
3 cups oatmeal
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 1/2 t salt
2 sticks butter (salted is best)

Spray a 9X13 pan with Baker's Joy. In a small saucepan simmer the water, dates and sugar until it thickens. Take off heat to cool. Preheat oven to 375°.
Mix dry ingredients in large bowl and cut in butter using a pastry blender until it resembles gravel. Pack half of the dry mixture into the bottom of pan. Cover with the date filling and then the reaming dry ingredients.
Bake for about 40 minutes.
They are delicious warm, chilled, for breakfast or even dessert (vanilla ice cream is pretty okay with them).  They are loaded with sugar in all forms, but also filled with love and nostalgia.  Aunt Florence who lived well into her 90's would tell you how much healthier this is than that terrible stuff you buy at the coffee shop loaded with colors and preservatives.  So, what are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!!!


Monday, May 14, 2018

Cookies for Wedding Favors

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Oh the weddings....it is the most exciting day in the life of these young people (until that first baby arrives!) and I love making cookies for them.  Usually it is for a shower, bridesmaid luncheon or the host bags.  I am not a big fan of the cookie favor at the wedding. I want cake.  Please, good old fashioned wedding cake with buttercream roses and white fluffy cake.  Keep the fondant (Blech!), the red velvet (just NO!), the chocolate (grooms cake maybe), Funfetti (think 6 yr old birthday) and gasp...naked cake... away from the celebration.  Naked!  The only reason anyone would eat wedding cake is for that nostalgic taste and feel of that icing.  But I guess I'm just old.

Lucky for me, the sugar cookie is the star of many take away bags, arrival bags, reception options and dessert bars.  I have done many cookies in the wedding theme, and they are all special to me!!


The air brushed T were for the rehearsal dinner at my son's wedding.  I just didn't have the time to pipe the T on all those cookies.  I made a lot of them, so there were plenty left over after the rehearsal, and it was nice that folks could grab one when they came to our room for a little hospitality!  It was a very fun weekend!




I dod these fun cookies for a friend.  When her company arrived to their hotel they each got a bag and these cookies were part of the gifts.  I loved to be a part of their very special weekend!!!


These were for a bridesmaid's luncheon before the wedding.  Someone saw that I had posted them and asked me to make her the same cookie.  Same invitation and bridesmaid dresses, different city!  I don't ship cookies so I was not able to help her out.



This was a custom monogram made for the bride and grooms big weekend.  The MOB sent me the booklet for the wedding which was chock full of all the events going on that weekend in the Highlands.  Sounds like an amazing time!!!  Speaking of time, this monogram....



Another bridesmaid luncheon...different colors!!


I made these for my adorable niece for her big weekend.  After I had piped 100 Mr. & Mrs. cookies, I was like, Damn!!!!  They are Dr. and Dr.!  But it just din't have that wedding feel so I only did a few of those!


Friday, April 27, 2018

Cinco de Mayo Celebration!!!

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An excuse to make margaritas, tacos, home made salsa, cookies?  I'm in.  It's also one of the prettiest times of year in the South.  We are likely running the AC, but not yet sweltering.  Lots of fun ideas this time of year, and I have a few to share.

The best version of a taco comes from the Taco Pizza.  This isn't just any pizza, it's an institution where I grew up.  The original blog, linked here, Happy Joe's Taco Pizza, is one of my most popular ever.  People move away and crave this stuff.  I encourage you to try it, I promise it is unlike any taco pizza you have ever eaten! And don't get fancy.  There is a reason this is so popular. But you know I make my mad money on cookies.  Lots of them.  So here are a few themed cookies perfect for the 5th of May!


It's an excellent time to plan a shower.  Instant theme, super colorful and an abundance of great food that people can bring! These were made for a girlfriend's party, and we watched the rain come down all day.  And miraculously at 5pm, the sun popped out!  It was a tiny bit humid, but no rain!!!



These were also a wedding shower, but it took place on St. Patrick's Day.  Funny right?  But the Irish food theme can only go so far, and the green beer could be problematic.  I'd much rather decorate with piñatas!  And eat fajitas!

This is my go to salsa.  I love this stuff.  It's delicious on a corn chip, but also great on fish, grilled steak, a beef fajita, or on a spoon.  You can alter the heat with jalepeños, and add anything that might be hanging out in your crisper!



Salsa of the Tropics

2 Mangoes, pitted, peeled, diced
4 Roma Tomatoes, seeded, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 orange bell pepper, diced
1 red onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
5 small jalepeños, or to taste, diced
1 teaspoon cumin
generous shakes Crystal Hot Sauce
4 Tablespoons Sherry vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
fresh chopped parsley (it calls for cilantro, but hey, I'm a Petitti!)
2 fresh limes, zested and juiced

Toss everything together and you are good to go!  If it is going to be chilled for a long period of time, you'll want to make sure your olive oil doesn't get hard in the fridge.  Some less expensive brands tend to do that.  





Thursday, April 19, 2018

Happy Birthday Kiddo!

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Birthdays are a special celebration, and it seem like kid's birthdays have drifted away from the traditional birthday cake.  Cupcakes are a biggie, and cookies are popular because they can take them home with them.  I don't do character cookies, but we can channel the idea of them . This is a sampling of some kid's celebration cookies.



I've posted these before, but really, what kid doesn't love a bowling party!?




These were for a family party, to use as favors.  They were a big large, but I love my custom sprinkles mix!  And the colors are so sweet.


These were for a one year old as well, but the theme was a little more girly!!





These were for a farm party.  Not a great picture, but this Iowa girl loved them.



 This 1st birthday was a snow theme. Not many people in Buffalo wanting a snow theme birthday I bet, but in the South....bring it on!




This grandma was hosting the party for the first birthday.  She asked for a lot of cookies...must have been a heck of a party! I like the tone on tone pinks.



Did you know the light saber's color means something?  I didn't,  but you can Google the specifics.  This little boy knoew exactly how many of each color he needed for his friends!




Basketball cookies are stunning when done.  It's that color contrast.  I have airbrushed the balls to give it the texture look, but I find it unnecessary.  Certain the 6th grade girls didn't notice!



I bought these cutters at a certain Kingdom.  They are small...so I did 2 cookies per bag for the 2 year olds.  Pretty cute!  I love that kids still love the mouse.



And the unicorns were made for someone at the Mouse party.  She loved the little favors, and I was excited to make sparkly unicorns!

Many more celebrations, we all have one a year, right!?  What are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Dark and Stormy for an April Storm

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Dark and Stormy, something is definitely brewing, not just the weather... You see I really like cocktail hour, not that I drink a lot, I just drink, well, often. Five o'clock is sort of a sacred hour around here. I love a glass of wine (Cab or Pinot please), a frosty beer, or Scotch and soda water with a hunk of lemon. I tend to steer clear of mixed drinks. I enjoy one every now and again, but they can get me into big trouble. Not because I drink in excess, but there is this small allergy I have and I can only pinpoint a few culprits.

Triple Sec is one. Stand back if I am unknowingly drinking something with Triple Sec. You'll see the flush rise up my neck, my ears, my face, my body temperature climbs and suddenly I feel very much like there isn't enough air in the room. A few glasses of ice water, a blast of cold air, and I can usually bounce back. But it only took a couple of times for me to reach that hot point, and now I order just wine. Even in one of the very nicest Memphis restaurants, I ordered a Cosmo and about died right there. I wouldn't dream of putting Triple Sec instead of Cointreau in a Cosmo, but that $14 Cosmo was built as cheap as they could manage. When the bartender saw the color of my face and chest, I hope he decided to rework the recipe. So basically I avoid Margaritas, Cosmos, any tropical, fruity drinks, especially the blue ones. There is definitely something to do with the citrus. But I know when it's coming and can stop before any permanent damage is done. Even an imported "big" beer has had these effects on me. But I am not out of the game.

Frosty mug beer...yes please!

My sister in Iowa, who lives on a farm, is crazy about a Dark and Stormy. Which is ironic as she has had not one, but two homes demolished by tornadoes.  Really.  It's an amazing and frightening statistic right? According to her, a Dark and Stormy is a shot of Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum and a Ginger Beer. We'll get to that in a minute. But first, I had no idea that there was Ginger Ale and Ginger Beer. Is there a difference? Yes! I think it is safe to say that Ginger Ale is a soda pop, lighter and a little sweeter and friendlier to drink. The Ginger Beer I bought totally rocks, spicy and very gingery. And mixed with a little Captain, it really rocks, and now I am a little flushed, so I could probably only have one, but what a delicious diversion on a Tuesday evening with flowers starting to bloom and the smell of spring in the air...but alas, it is not really a Dark and Stormy. Let's call it a Dark and Cloudy, shall we?



See, according to the Internet and this guy named Jeffrey Morganthaler, who seems to know a lot about cocktails, I need to drink my yummy ginger beer with Gosling's Black Seal Rum. This dark Bahamian Rum is supposed to go in at the end and settle like a dark, stormy cloud. See my tantalizing picture at the beginning of this post. He also insists on homemade ginger beer. He obviously has never had the epic fail-homemade-root beer-explosion (another post, but the stickiest and stinkiest thing ever), so I am sticking to Cock and Bull Ginger Beer.

These folks have been brewing it since 1946. Why mess with perfection? But the rum. I found in my assortment of adult beverages some Meyer's Dark Rum. I bought it to make Jerk Lamb Chops (which I will blog if I ever find Scotch Bonnet Peppers) I am sure it will work, but I decided to head to my favorite liquor store first to see if I could get the real thing. After all there were 3 more bottles of Ginger Beer to tinker with! I called the nice guys at the liquor store and he asks, "Are you making a Dark and Stormy?" So, everyone knows what this is except me.

Moscow Mule, good stuff. Never saw one in Moscow though, for the record.

And since we were mixing drinks, why not make a Moscow Mule. I know, it requires one of those copper mugs.  And no, I don't own any.  I am a copper collector, but as delicious as this cocktail is, no one here will be drinking them on the reg, so no copper mugs for me. According to the carton of Cock and Bull Ginger Beer they make this cocktail with a shot of Russian vodka, ½ a lime squeezed in and a bottle of their Ginger Beer, mixed in a copper mug. I served mine in a great Triple Old Fashioned crystal glass from my very favorite store...I gave Scott the Moscow Mule, and he gave it a thumbs up made with Stoli Gold. But I digress...blame it on the rum.

I made the Dark and Stormy just as directed, and my land...This Goslings Rum is over the top. It has a very distinct flavor, and with the Ginger Beer, well it is deeelicious. Am I slurring yet?  I am headed (tomorrow, sober) back to the market for more Ginger Beer. And what a coincidence that I have 3 weather alerts on my phone as the severe weather comes in tonight, high winds, hail, possible tornadoes. Perfect stormy weather!

What I have discovered on this cocktail journey is that it is quite fun trying new concoctions....I may have to experiment more! Also, blogging while drinking cocktails, especially strong cocktails makes spell check a necessary addition! But I also like the idea of taking one ingredient (in this case that Ginger Beer) and sort of finding its best presentation. There are so many ideas swirling in my rum-crazed brain...where to begin? For now, though, get in there and have a Dark and Stormy! Cheers!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Hoppy Easter Cookies for the Family!

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I love Easter.  It really does herald in Spring here in the South.  Most years, I am already a week or so into running the AC, and this year, I am using up the firewood trying to keep warm and pretend this rain is warm (it's not!).

I also love to make place card cookies.  It's funny though, we never seem to get around to eating them!  I sat down and ate mine the day after Easter, and you know what?  It was delicious.






He was made for a shower...but bunnies!!!

An assortment for a cookie class.

These are for all of spring!

such a great cookie to use up lots of various colors icing!

Instead of platters, we sent the cookies out in baskets!

Sweet and simple.  The most popular design this year!

And there are more, many more.  Here's a link to some oldies.  Always fun to look back on previous designs.  Happy Easter!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Less Formal Love

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The previous post highlighted some of the more formal cookies for engagements and weddings.  These are a sampling of a less formal, but equally delicious, love.  They are such fun to make! 

Ice blue was the request here, and when she forwarded me the invitation, it also had white hydrangeas.  They were a nice addition to the blue.  I love the font.


These were for an older couple getting married, and they were selling their homes and hitting the road for a year.  Yikes! Nothing I could ever do, but I am sure it was quite an adventure,  


This stick drawing is a favorite of many cookie decorators.  And why not?  It is adorable.  Such a fun platter to make.  She requested some bite size which I think is such a good idea with a big gathering.


When the canning jar craze hit, I bought the cutter and anxiously awaited the opportunity to make some cookies with it.  It took awhile but I really thought they were cute. The hydrangeas made an appearance here, I thought they went well.  The texture is a nice addition to a platter.  I decided to make some Valentine cookies with the canning jar cutter too, which I may like even more!



When my girlfriend asked for shabby chic, I was a little befuddled. I just wasn't sure how I could achieve this.   It's hard to see how the painted hearts are a coppery/pink color, but I just loved them. My adorable daughter pointed out that I didn't "stay in the lines" which was kind of the shabby point. They were just different, and I think that's what they wanted.  Non traditional.





Unconventional perhaps, but lovely none the less.  So, what are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Engagement Rings and Monograms

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Lots of engagements and weddings.  Perfect celebrations for cookies.  Either as favors for a wedding or shower, beautiful platters for an engagement, a little happy for the couple for a smaller get together.  I love them all.  Monograms, the date, the rings, the cakes...so many ideas to put on a platter!  And the colors! These are the more formal. 


The ampersand has made a big comeback.  I do love it, however the ampersand cutter I invested in was a bust.  Very fragile and almost lost its shape.  The ampersand in icing seems to work well. This grey and lavender shower was different for me.  I like the subtle colors for fall. 





I love the rose pink color with the silver, such a classic combination.  The pearl airbrush really popped in this picture, but truthfully it is very subtle.


 These cookies were special for me to make.  This was for my son Nic and Madison's engagement. I would never have believed how fast that year passed from engagement to wedding!!!  The champagne bottles were made with edible paper labels.  I just love them, they make such a statement.  The gold roses were not my favorite.






These wedding cookies have a more formal flair, I think it is the addition of the black tie cookies.  I just love that pop of black on the platter!  The rose cookies add a lot of depth to the platter and I use them quite a bit.  They are a nice eating size and really stunning to look at.  The small roses are something I always (ALWAYS) have on hand.  Takes a simple plaque to something special for sure.



The roses make another appearance here and the gold with the pink is stunning. The stripes are a favorite and I suspect this may have been a "blush" request, but that pink grows darker...




Same, but different!



This platter is a much more subtle pink, and it was gorgeous.  All the usual suspects on the platter plus some wonky roses  ala Sugarbelle and that ampersand cutter I don't love.



 So just a sampling of the wedding fever.  What are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Medical Cookie Emergency

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Doctors, Dentists and Nurses are a common theme for cookies.  I do a lot of graduations and milestones.  It's especially fun when it's a family member, such smart children and their amazing careers. These were made for my dentist office and they sent them to some referring doctors.  I am not a fan of the dentist, but I do love mine.  I especially love not having to go back for anything after the cleaning!




These cookies were for our friend's daughters.  Two, graduating together from medical school.  One in Pediatrics, the other, Obstetrics.  Talk about an over achieving family!  Was so happy to be a part of the celebration.



And these were for my niece and her fiancé (now hubby) when they graduated from Medical school.  She is a Pediatrician and he is an Urologist.  Wow!



These were for an Optometry practice that Christina worked at following college.  They eyeballs!!!



One of the many nurse platters I have made.  My grandma was a nurse, huge respect for this career choice!  This nurse is at a Memphis institution, LeBonheur Children's Hospital.  Awesome.


Lots of fun things...career day cookies galore.  So, what are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!