Saturday, December 29, 2012

See Ya Later 2012!

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My favorite cookies I made this year!
 So, 2012 was a good year.  Really, I have few complaints.  Let's have a peek back at some blogs, shall we?

January was a little recap, but I also posted my Aunt Evelyn's Ham Balls.  These are so fantastic.  I made them again and again, and even made them on a pizza!

February was a big month, and my Pantry Raid cookies were a hit!

Pantry Raid Cookies!

But February also saw my biggest blog of the year, Sweet Chili Chicken Wings.  And why not?  They are delicious!  I made them as a part of the Secret Recipe Club, which I graciously dropped out of.

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

March brought Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes, again from Secret Recipe Club.  Yea, they were decadent in many ways.  Mainly because they are loaded with alcohol and buttercream.  Not much can go wrong there!

I really enjoyed making these!

In April, I made some of my favorite sugar cookies for a teenage boy's birthday.  After a weekend in KY with cookie people from all over the country, I was so inspired!

Nothing says congrats like a shotgun!

Off to Vanderbilt!

May was a huge month, 12 blogs!  Lots of cookies for weddings, graduations, First Communions...I was a busy blogger!  I also made an amazing Sweet Potato Salad that we had at a wedding.  I'm sort of in the mood for that salad right now!

Sweet Potato Salad I duplicated from the Ritz Carlton...yum!

June was the start of ice cream season (even tho we had been running the AC for a few months already!), and I obliged with Cannoli Ice Cream and a Butterfinger Ice Cream Pie.

I love cannolis, and it makes delicious ice cream!

 It was pretty darn good.  I also made cookies for Father's Day and cookies that I was pretty excited about for Williams Sonoma.

Cookies for the store.  I also passed my 15 year mark there!

July is my favorite month.  A couple of birthdays, the Fourth, things are usually pretty calm, and pretty hot too!  I made these amazing Asian Chicken Sandwiches with Rainbow Slaw from one of my foodie blogger friends, Lisa.  You can find her at Parsley, Sage, Line Drives and Desserts.  She makes beautiful and delicious food.  She is also a great writer.

August stinks.  It makes me sad.  My kids pack up and head back to college.  And they are so excited about it.  I guess I am usually ready too, but it seems like I go from a home to an empty house.  Scott and I trip over each other for a few days, and we just want to talk to them to make sure everything is okay.  I mean, how do they survive without me?  I busied myself with cookies.  Creative outlets are the best cure for anything that makes you sad.

For a campaign.  He didn't win, and I am sorry for that!

A first Birthday...Arden loves my cookies!

50 is they say.

Political cookies, birthday cookies for a One Year Old and a Fifty Year Old, sorority cookies and playwright cookies.  Nothing like bags of royal icing all over the kitchen to make you forget your kids are having a blast at college.

The first ever, and it was a blast!

September through December was a little slow.  I had my kitchen tore up, I saw some college football, saw lots of college volleyball, made 3 trips to Iowa, a trip to Oklahoma and went to Cookie Con in Salt Lake City, Utah. I spent Thanksgiving with my entire family in Florida as we celebrated my parent's 60th wedding anniversary!  I blogged some cookies, but little else.  I am ready for the New Year, all those resolutions, what is in store for me and my family.  I hope the New Year is good to you and yours, and we will see you back here in January!  Happy New Year!

Cookies for Pure Barre.  I will be spending lots of time there after the holidays!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Up To My Elbows In Royal Icing

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So a few weeks back I made Santa and Rudy cookies for my friend.  I plastered them on FB and other friends were like...whaaat?  I want some!

I try to limit my cookie baking at Christmas, because I feel like so many people make time to bake special cookies at home.  Well, apparently not this year.

 I am baking non stop for my friends, and quite happily.  90% of my cookies are Santa and Rudy, and a few snowmen, holly, and other things thrown in for good measure.  I thought I'd give you a quick peek between mixing colors!  What are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Apple Croustades with Bourbon Brown Sugar Ice Cream

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I love Phyllo dough.  There are a million things you can do with it, and those flaky layers just shattering with every bite!  Growing up, we made our own.  I know, crazy, right?  We call it Pita in my family, think of that Greek pastry called spanikopita. Do not think of pita bread.  Our pita is phyllo.  My Serbian background has a lot of Greek influence.  But interestingly enough, we never had it layered and sweet like Baklava.  Years ago, we had a Daring Baker challenge where we made it, and it was a fun project.  Not the most successful, but still tasty.  I would love to make it with my mom one day...hint, hint, hint!

For supper club, I chose to make this apple version.  So delicious, right out of Bon Appetit.  Apple Croustades with Bourbon Brown Sugar Ice Cream.  I can't lie.  These were crazy simple to make, and amazingly delicious!

I do buy my phyllo from a specialty grocer, and it is a little pricier than what they sell at Kroger.  It is worth it.  The sheets are bigger, and the turn over is much better, so unlikely that I would get a crumbly box of old phyllo.  Also, after I made the croustades for supper club, I made a little more filling and made a more traditional Serbian Pita.  We roll them into logs.  I baked them until golden, and put them in the freezer.  I know a couple of college kids who will be most happy about this!

It seems silly for me to totally reprint the recipe, as I followed it exactly.  I know, shocker.  But I didn't use a muffin tin for my croustades, I chose to build them in ramekins.  This way if they didn't slide out perfectly, I still had a serving vessel attached.  They did release beautifully.  Perfect.  Delicious!
Where's the plating photo?  I think on my phone.  Let me look, and I will update.  If I didn't take any, which does happen after a glass of two or wine, then you'll have to make your own!  What are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!

Monday, December 3, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

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It's a Pumpkin Cutter!

Upside Down Gingerbread man, sans the feet!


You know the song.  A friend called and wanted cookies for a preschool party.  Santa faces and Rudolphs.  Yep, that was it.  Pretty straight forward, fairly basic, except...I don't have either of those cutters! So what to do?

Last month at CookieCon, Sugarbelle did a lecture on redesigning your cookie, thinking outside the cookie cutter if you will.  Well I listened, and thought I had a good grasp on it, I mean this is the 2nd time I've heard her give this talk.  So what did I do?  I came home and threw away all my undecorated, frozen Halloween cookies.  Then I confessed it on the Cookie Con Facebook page, and the lashing commenced.  I just couldn't see anything but ghosts and spider webs.  There are some amazing, talented bakers out there, and they did amazing things with their Halloween cookies.  I, did not.

So I am on the hunt for the Santa face and Rudy, and I thought, let's see what Sugarbelle may have said about this dilemma.  And there it was.  The Santa face from a pumpkin! Awesome~
I decided I could work out Rudy with my Frankenstien head cutter and prepared to bake, when I got a Facebook message from the greatest volleyball coach of all time in Bahrain.  She posted a platter of reindeer made out of an upside down gingerbread man.  So, yea.  Look at me!

Here's hoping those 1 year olds love their cookies!  And stay tuned, there is much more to come! What are you waiting for?  Get out ALL those cookie cutters, and bake!

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Stitching Baker

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As my moniker shows, the sewing machine is a comfy place for me.  I love to sew, and stitch as well.  I have a few completed projects to share with you.

In the photo above, you will see my Punch Needle Embroidery, it's a great medium.  It is relatively simple, it just requires a little patience.  I have had this kit for a few years, and finally got it framed to display this year.  I love this, it feels so old fashioned.

Then I thought I would make some little holiday pillows.  I love little pillows that hang on door knobs.  I didn't make this one, but I love it!

But these I did make.  A little Ho Ho Ho!

And this one is Naughty one side, Nice on the other.

This pillow was actually a tote bag that my mom was given from her grade school.  She really wanted it in a pillow so I made this little one, I love the white pom pons with the elementary theme!

Finally, I have been looking for a dog bed for Sookie, the one-eyed Bichon.  Dog beds are ugly.  If you don't go for a rustic plaid for a hunting dog, then you get these cheesey pink and black diva dog beds.  I am not a fan.  Plus, they are ridiculously expensive.  So, I knew Sookie likes to cuddle on our pillows, so I emulated that effect.  This is the simplest of all designs, no sew at all!  But it was cheap, like $3 for the fabric, and a few bucks worth of poly fill.  When it is dirty, it goes to the trash.  And, I can make more for other rooms.  She loves this little bed!  Especially when that winter sun comes through that window.  I can always find her chasing the sunshine.

I have more in the pipeline, but for now, what are you waiting for?  Get in there and craft!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mushroom Tart

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I love a cool autumn night.  This month, following daylight savings, is always a bit of an adjustment for me.  It really does help when the temperature is autumn-like, and this week it is.  The perfect temperature for getting in the kitchen!

We have a little neighborhood Bunco group, nothing serious, really just an excuse to get out of the house on a Thursday night, sip wine with the neighbors and catch up on what is going on around the hood.  I decided this Mushroom Tart from my chef crush would be wonderful on a chilly night with a glass of Pinot.  How right I was.  I have blogged about Chef Chiarello before, from my anniversary trip to Sonoma last year.  And this year, on our anniversary, Mr. Preppy and I placed another order from his amazing store, Napa Style.  I can almost feel like I am nibbling appetizers with his great wine and a fire outside of Bottega.  Oh, well, For now, this will have to do!

I think the squid ink made my teeth dull!  

Here is the original version from Michael Chiarello.  My few little changes are below. And I couldn't resist putting up my picture with this amazing chef.

Olive Oil
2# mixed mushrooms (I used 1 1/2# baby bella and white, and 1/2# mixed, dried)
Salt and Pepper
2 T Butter
3 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground thyme (my grocer was OUT of fresh thyme...this is not okay)
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup shredded parmesan
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 egg, beaten
2 Tablespoon chopped, fresh, parsley
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed if frozen

If using dried mushrooms, place them in a bowl and just cover with boiling water.  Let stand at least 10 minutes to soften the mushrooms.  Remove from liquid and chop well.  Strain the soaking liquid and set aside.  You should have 1/2 cup or less.
Heat oil in large skillet, just enough to gloss the bottom of pan.  Add 1/2 the mushrooms and a tablespoon of the butter.  Stir and add salt and pepper and saute until the mushrooms shrink and are caramelized.  Remove and set in a bowl and repeat with the second half of the mushrooms, also adding the rehydrated mushrooms.  When this batch is cooked, add the first batch to the pan and add the garlic, shallots and thyme.  Stir well and add mushroom soaking liquid a little at a time until it is absorbed.  Add the cream and allow the pan to simmer until the cream is reduced by half.  Stir gently.  Add the parmesan and the lemon juice, stir in.  Turn off the heat and quickly add the beaten egg and parsley.  Allow the mixture to cool thoroughly.

Sauted Mushrooms....yum!

Mmmmm, delicious right off the spoon!

Preheat oven to 425 and roll the puff pastry out on a floured surface to fit into your tart pan of choice.  He used a 10" round, I chose a 4 1/2" X 14".  Place the tart pan on a cookie sheet. Lay the pastry into tart pan and trim your edges.  Lay parchment paper in the tart shell and fill with beans or ceramic pie weights.  Make sure your weights are evenly distributed and in the corners so the pastry doesn't shrink up.  Bake for about 10-12 minutes and allow to cool thoroughly before removing weights and parchment.

Yep, that is my cruddy cookie sheet...Yikes!  I never bake cookies on it though!

Heat oven to 400, and carefully put the cooled mushroom mixture into cooled tart shell.  Carefully sprinkle the blue cheese over the top.  I didn't use all 4 ounces, and his recipe actually calls for 8 ounces.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes (I bake on convection at a lower temperature).  Cool completely before removing the tart pan and serving.

Keep your parsley like a bouquet of flowers, lasts a long time!

 So, what are you waiting for?  Get in there and cook!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Iowa Girl

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Where I come from...

There are many important factors that make me who I am today.  One of the most significant is my upbringing in Iowa. It's one of those places that people in big cities have a hard time understanding. Especially since I didn't live on a farm.  I was a townie.  My hometown was Clinton until I went to high school.  In grade school, I would get on my bike and my bestie Barb and I would ride for hours.  And I mean like 6 hours.  All over town, no helmets, no bike trails, just us and our banana seat bikes.  We were just blocks from the Mississippi, and many times went to the water's edge, I have ice skated in the slough and we would wander the railroad tracks looking for these flat metal things that we would bend into a whistle.  We picked onions from the neighbors garden, ate mulberries until our hands were stained and climbed trees deep in the woods.  We would walk over the bridge crossing the Mississippi and go from Iowa to Illinois and back.  We chased fire trucks, bought penny candy at one of 2 little stores within walking distance and spent endless summer days swimming in the large public pool. There were about 16 of us in our grade.  We went to the same church, lived in the same neighborhood  our parents were friends, and we knew everyone's siblings.  Those friends are still a part of my life.  I still love driving those streets, and retracing those bike rides.

At this point in my life, I have lived in the South for over 20 years, and it would be tough to move back to the land of snow blowers and wind chills.  My children are complete Southerners.  They twang, drink sweet tea, hate shoes and socks, shoot guns, and love biscuits. And that's good.  You gotta love where you come from.

So where is all this going?  Why are there barn cookies?  Well a farm birthday party of course!  It was a fun cookie to make.  Made me a little nostalgic for Iowa, and I took you right along with me.  SO, what are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Acorn Cookies

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So my first cookie post since Cookie Con.  But the truth is, I had these cookies rolling around my noggin' for a few weeks. However,  with the construction and the traveling, I just couldn't get to them.  But here we are!

Last fall I made some Acorn Cookies that I was pretty proud of.  I thought they were cool with that Disco Dust on them.  I have a little obsession with glitter.  Really.  I have glittered my poinsettias, pine cones, candles, and of course in the process my floors, cheeks and carpets.  I can tell you this from experience though, Martha makes the best (and priciest) glitter, hands down. But for cookies, we stick to Disco Dust!  So I had every intention of making the same cookies again, and then I read this.  Splatter Acorn Cookies from Sweet Sugarbelle.  Callye (we're on a first name basis here...) was at Spring Fling and Cookie Con, so I have gotten to know her a little over this last year.  She made these splatter autumn cookies, and I knew I had to go there.  As a kid, I can remember the blue splattered tin dishes we used in the summer around the pool.  I knew I wanted to splatter my cool, Disco Dust acorns.

Last year's acorns. They were cute.

This years acorns are a little more special!

I started with chocolate cookies, and you may already know that I use LilaLoa's chocolate cookie recipe. It never fails and is delicious.  Of course I am a cocoa snob and use only Pernigotti.  When it came time to ice the cookies, I took my standard Royal Icing (really, it is nothing special, no secret, read the can for directions), and added a little snooty vanilla and more Pernigotti.  Then I thinned it to the right consistency and made it brown.  It tastes delicious!  I piped the borders and flooded only the bottom half and let them dry.

Once they dried, I mixed up some copper Luster Dust and vodka to the right splattering consistency and using a larger paintbrush, I splattered it on.  I used a large coffee filter as my paint area, and I have to say it worked pretty well.

Splattering area

I made a few extra cookies so I could experiment on the flinging method, the sprinkling method or whatever.  Find what works for you.  After I splattered them all and cleaned up the splatters everywhere else in my kitchen, I flooded the tops of the acorns and using another coffee filter cut in half as a shield, I dusted the tops with Disco Dust.  I think they are pretty stunning.  Such gorgeous colors and delicious too!  So, what are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Cookie Con

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Yes, there is a place for cookie decorators!
I have returned from Cookie Con, the first annual, held in Salt Lake City.  A wonderful event with 200 sugar cookie decorators like me!  We laughed, we shopped, we ate and we learned from the most amazing people.  The presenters included, Callye, also known as Sweet Sugarbelle, Mary Ann the Cookie Artisan, Glory from Glorious Treats, Pam from CookieCrazie, Ali from AliBee's Bakeshop, Arty McGoo,  Lisa the Bearfoot Baker and of course Karen and Mike from Karen's Cookies and Julia Usher, author of Ultimate Cookies and Cookie Swap.  It was entertaining and educational, and I fell in love with Salt Lake City!

Mandy (I adopted her this weekend) and Costello.  Sorry, Italians call other Italians by their last name!
Mary Kate, Laura, Mandy, Julie, Rachel, Me, Becky at the banquet.  Hate to say goodbye!

Free Beer and Popcorn!  Me, Mandy, Julie, Laura, Becky and Rachel.  Mary Kate is missing!
I also made some amazing new friends from all over, and I know we will be busy sharing our stuff!  My friend Rachel at Baked by Rachel has pictures of some of the presenters and cookies that were made for the show, so head over there.  I swiped the pictures of us girls!

The gorgeous Mormon Temple at 6 a.m.  Rachel and I felt pretty special there!
So stay tuned.  I am inspired to get back to the kitchen and fire up the ovens, and can hardly wait to share the cookie creations that are running around my brain!  Until then, what are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!