Perfectly Iced Sugar Cookies


Here it is! The sugar cookie recipe (if you can call this a recipe) and a great way to ice them.  I have to giggle at all of the nice, but firm comments that have been left about wanting the recipe, but  you are going to giggle when you see how easy this is.  I have to thank my friend Katie's mother, Mrs. McAfee, for sharing this with me.  All through college, Katie would receive the most darling sugar cookies and I was just sure they were from a bakery, but it turns out her mom would whip them up all the time.  After several attempts of making sugar cookies that wouldn't keep their shape and canned icing that you would have thought a kindergartner schlepped on them, I got up the nerve to ask Mrs. McAfee for her secret recipe.  She was more than happy to share with me this "secret" recipe, which turned out to be a bagged cookie dough.  I could hardly believe it... they were so tasty and seemed so special.  Although this is basically a mix, I look at it as simply pre-measured ingredients.  You are still adding your fresh eggs and butter so there is a distinctively different taste from the refrigerated cookie dough. It turns out there are slightly different directions for "cutout cookies" on the back of the bag, which helps the cookies keep their shape and make that thin perfect cookie.  So here you are, get yourself a bag and get crackin.

I am by no means am a great baker, but I have found success with royal icing and the more times I have tried it, the better it gets so I will share what I have learned.

From my little kitchen to yours... enjoy.

Cutout Sugar Cookies
Recipe Notes
The technical term for this icing that goes on liquid and dries hard is royal icing.  It allows you to get that smooth glossy look.  Mrs. McAfee told me she just uses powdered sugar and milk with a pinch of salt.  You just mix in milk to the powdered sugar till you get a thick, but liquidy mixture.  After researching royal icing, I found that a lot of people used meringue powder.  I decided to use this in my icing and loved the results.  I purchased it from Michael's craft store, but you could also get it at specialty baking stores.   So if you are just experimenting, you could start with milk and powdered sugar or delve into the world of meringue powder and follow the directions below.

More on the icing...
Start with the ingredients below, but then make adjustments according to how your icing looks.  You want a liquid substance, but not thick enough to hold when you outline the cookies.  You can easily change the consistency by either adding a few drop of water to make it more runny or more powdered sugar to thicken it up.
small squeeze bottles or a piping bag fitted with a small tip
small bowls or tupperware, one for each color icing you would like
Ingredients for dough
Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Dough
+ Ingredients listed on the back of the bag under Directions for Cutout Cookies
Ingredients for Icing
3 cups confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)
3 tablespoons meringue powder
4 tablespoons water or milk
a pinch of salt
Step by Step
Follow directions on back of bagged cookie dough and allow to cool completely.
*A note about the cookies... when these cool, they will actually be on the crispy side.  Do not throw them away! They magically become soft again when you ice them and let the icing soak into the cookie.

Mix all icing ingredients on low speed for 5 to 7 minutes or until the icing loses its shine.  To test the consistency, pick up some icing with a spoon and let it drizzle back intot he bowl.  The drizzle should disappear back into the bowl in about 6 seconds.  If icing is too stiff, add a few drops of water. If icing is too liquid, add a bit of powdered sugar.  Optional: If using different colors, divide icing into separate bowls.  Add color to icing and cover until ready to use.

*If you will be using a lot of different colors or will be icing for a long time, make sure and cover any icing that is not being used because royal icing dries and hardens when exposed to air.
Icing A Sugar Cookie
Outline the cookie with a piping bag fitted with a thin tip or a small squeeze bottle. 
Allow the border to dry slightly.
Flood the cookine by spooning icing into the middle and smoothing it out with a spoon or knife.
If adding sprinkles, do so before icing hardens.  Allow icing to harden for at least a few hours.  If adding another layer, wait until first layer is completely dry and hardened.  
Kinda fun to do half with sprinkles to switch it up a bit...



Pesto Pasta Salad with Feta & Tomatoes

This little pasta salad seems to be just what almost any party needs.  It comes together so quick, which is essential for you, but it seems to be a star.  Yep, a real star.  There is something addicting about the combo.  Almost like a pizza, but fresher.  Yeah, that's it... fresher pizza.  All of the flavors, but none of the grease.  Who wouldn't want the flavors of pizza served in a dainty form?

From my little kitchen to yours... Enjoy.

Pesto Pasta Salad with Feta & Tomatoes
Adapted from Dave Lieberman
Recipe Notes
Marinated mozzarella balls from Costco are amazing in this dish.  Feta provides a great kick if you do not have that option. To make this extra quick, you can use store bought pesto.  The pesto can make or break this pasta so you want to use a good one if you choose to do so.  Two fresh ones that I like can be found at Central Market on the fresh dip and sauces aisle or Costco has a great pesto as well.
1 pound bow tie pasta (also called farfalle)
3/4 cup pesto
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup crumbled feta cheese or 1 cup marinated mozzarella balls, cut in half
1/2 cup pine nuts
kosher salt and pepper
olive oil, as needed
Step by Step
Toast pine nuts. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread pine nuts in a thin layer on a baking sheet and toast until golden brown. Watch carefully so that they do not burn. Shake the baking sheet if necessary to get them browned evenly.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Stir in the bow ties and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and run it under cold water just until it stops steaming. Drain the pasta well to remove all excess water.

Dump the pasta into a large serving bowl. Stir in the pesto until the pasta is coated. Toss in the cherry tomatoes and the crumbled feta. Season to taste with salt and pepper. You can make the salad up to about 1 hour before you serve it. Check out the salt and pepper just before you serve the salad. If it's looking a little dry, add some olive oil and stir it around.

To do more prep work in advance, you can make the pasta the day before. Follow the directions on cooling the pasta and draining. Drizzle with olive oil and toss so that the noodles do not stick together. Refrigerate until ready to use.

5 big handfuls basil leaves (about 2 hefty bunches
1/2 cup pine nuts or 3/4 cup walnuts
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
Juice of 1 small lemon
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Kosher salt
About 20 grinds freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients with 1/2 cup of the oil in a blender and blend. Gradually drizzle in the remaining 1/4 cup of oil until pesto is thick and smooth.

Yield: about 1 1/2 cups
If you have any leftover ingredients, you could make this tomorrow night for dinner!


Pesto Pizza with Feta & Tomatoes


This right here makes me very happy I discovered homemade pizza.  I looked in the fridge and saw a few leftovers here and a few leftovers there.... and voila, the creation of this pizza.  I didn't buy a darn thing.  I had half a block of feta, half a bag of grape tomatoes, some leftover toasted pine nuts and some pesto in the freezer.  Sadly, I had no crust in the freezer or this would have been a cinch.  But after making up a batch, the pizza only took about 10 minutes.  So enough about me, let's talk about you... go look in that fridge of yours... come on, there is got to be something you could throw on a pizza.

From my little kitchen to yours... Enjoy.

Pesto Pizza with Feta & Tomatoes
Recipe Notes
As I mentioned before, this was all leftovers and I just took stuff out of the fridge and started throwing it on.  I tried to estimate about how much of each ingredient I used, but you will be able to judge that based on what kind of pizza you like... whether you like a lot of cheese or a little, just a bite of tomato or a ton... you get the point.
1 recipe of basic pizza dough, or store bought
3/4 cup pesto
3/4 cup feta
3/4 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half longways
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
Step by Step

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2.  Heavily flour a clean surface.
3.  Roll out pizza dough on floured surface into a rectangular shape that will fit a baking sheet.
4.  Cover baking sheet with parchment paper.  Transfer pizza dough to parchment paper.
5.  Spread a thin layer of pesto on entire crust.
6.  Sprinkle with an even layer of feta cheese.
7.  Top with halved tomatoes and pine nuts.
8.  Bake for 15 minutes, until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbling.



Heart Cookie Explosion


First of all, I would like to apologize for another Valentine's post.  You either a.) like Valentine's Day, but already celebrated and have moved on or b.) you hate the day to begin with and would rather be spared for at least another year.  But I just had to share...
Our home was invaded this weekend  with pink, red and white icing and lots of sprinkles.  I was hired to make 300 valentine's cookies and while I just had a ball making these, they kind of took over our sweet little 900 square feet that we live in.  I am pretty sure the bed is the only surface that was not drying cookies on Saturday (and if Mr. Hungry had not been taking a nap, I do not think it would have been spared).  I ended up with 3 sizes... a teeny mini heart with pink icing, a medium sized heart that I adorned with different sprinkles, and a fairly large heart, which I made into conversation hearts.
I share these because I have picked up a few tricks on how to make that perfectly iced sugar cookie that I thought only existed in magical bakeries.  I realize some bakeries can still blow these out of the water with their precision, but I thought these hearts turned out pretty darn cute.  Just thought I would share and I will be back soon with the tips I picked up on how to ice a sugar cookie.






Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day.  For more about the little candy cane heart sussies, click here





Rolo Pretzel Bites


I had quite a few people tell me they loved the pretzel bites and many told me of other sweet and salty treats using the same square pretzel.  Many of you mentioned the Rolo Pretzel Bites and I just couldn't wait to try them!  I have to say my heart still belongs to the Pretzel Bites with peanut butter M&M's but if you are looking to change it up a bit you should try these too! 

From my little kitchen to yours... Enjoy.




Rolo Pretzel Bites
Square Pretzels (I used Snyder's brand)
Rolo's (one per bite)
Parchment Paper
Step by Step
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
2.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
3.  Place a single layer of pretzels at least an inch apart.
4.  Place a Rolo on top of each pretzel.
5.  Bake in oven for about two minutes.  When Rolo's are slightly melty, remove from oven.
6.  Place a pretzel on top of each and push down slightly.
7.  Allow to cool in refrigerator until completely hard, about 30 minutes.
8.  Before serving, bring pretzel bites back to room temperature.  Make sure and do this or the center of the Rolo's will be quite chewy.
9.  Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.


A Lovely Ladies Luncheon


I find it quite ironic that the busier the little kitchen is, the quieter this site is.  But that's just the way it goes when the cook, photographer and writer is yours truly (who also has a little thing called a full time job).  And when I say busy, I mean real busy... I catered a luncheon for eighty women on Friday and three hundred finger sandwiches later, I lived to post about it.  I thought I would give you a little sneak peak with the pictures and promise the recipes to follow.  This doesn't really give you an idea of how much food there was because there were two servers that were refilling the trays, but this was the menu...

Herbed Goat Cheese Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Feta & Pesto

Egg Salad Tea Sandwiches

Pimento Cheese Tea Sandwiches

Chicken Salad Tea Sandwiches

Fresh Berries and Melon






Oh yeah, and these aren't the greatest pics, but I tried to snap a few shots with my phone when I went to the party.  Another problem, the busier with the cooking, the less time I have to document with photographs... my apologies.  So instead, I creeped around the party trying to get a few quick photos.  The women at the party who did not know I made the food probably thought I had a weird obsession with tea sandwiches as I shot them from all angles. 

I also have to give a very big thank you to my wonderful mother and sweet friend allison for helping me with all those teeny little sandwiches!


Pretzel Bites


In the land of taste, the combination of sweet and salty is the bee's knees as far as I'm concerned.  Sometimes, you taste the salty first, and just when you've had enough, you get the perfect balance as the sweet kicks in.  Sometimes the sweet comes first, but no matter which way it comes, you end up with the perfect satisfying treat.

These little nuggets are my new favorite in the salty and sweet combo.  And the best news is they couldn't be easier.  The largest time commitment is unwrapping the Hugs and if you have a Mr. Hungry of your own or maybe a few kids, you can give them this task while they watch TV.  And once Mr. Hungry had a couple of the finished product, he is always more than willing to do the unwrapping. 

I have to thank my friend Rachel for passing on this wonderful recipe.  They make a great snack or dessert for any group.  I would also dare you to try and find a treat that is so adaptable to any holiday.  Valentine's Day?  Only use red M&M's... Christmas? Use red and green M&M's... St Patrick's Day?  Use green M&M's... okay, hopefully you get the point.  And the combinations are endless... At certain holidays,




{read the recipe note below if you want to know why I didn't use a bunch of these little guys}

Pretzel Bites
Recipe Notes
You might be wondering why I don't suggest the obvious Hershy Kisses for this recipe.  They will work, but I find them to be not as pretty if you are making them for company (or in my case, a catering job I did over Christmas).  The white chocolate Hugs melt really well and the chocolate Kisses tend to crack and not melt down quite as well.  I have also decided that I definitely prefer peanut butter M&Ms over the regular, but you will have to find out for yourself which one you like better.
Square pretzels (Snyder's makes a great square pretzel)
Hershey Hugs, unwrapped
M&M's or Peanut Butter M&M's
Parchment Paper
Step by Step
1.  Preheat oven to 200 degrees f
2.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
3.  Spread pretzels in a single layer about an inch a part.
4.  Place a Hug on the center of each pretzel.
5.  Place in the oven and watch carefully.
6.  Remove from oven after 4 to 5 minutes of being heated.  To test pretzels to see if they are ready to come out of the oven, place an M&M on top of one Hug.  If it melts down, they are ready.  If just the tip melts down, continue to bake.
7.  Place one M&M on top of each Hug.  Place baking sheet in the refrigerator and allow to cool and harden completely; at least 30 minutes.

Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.