Monday, February 28, 2011

Cookie Break-Through

Setting the stage: Snow day last Thursday without enough snow for sledding. So after our snowball fight we came inside for some indoor fun. I have to say I LOVE LOVE LOVE snowdays where you can ignore the calendar and all of our regular "duties" and expectations. So baking was one of the requested activities. SUPER, I never turn down baking cookies. BUT then Nora stated she wanted to make cookies she could frost. UH OH, the dreaded sugar cookie. One of the few times I consider going with the refigerated dough by the Pillsbury Dough Boy. I don't know what it is but I have such a hard time with these. The mess of the flour all over the counter, the frustration of the dough crumbling as I roll it out, the disaster of having the girls try to cut out the shapes and then transfer them to the cookie sheet.

BUT I had a major break-through. Now maybe I am the only one with these problems, but in case I am not I would like to share with you my AH-HA moments.
1. The Recipe - Once again, Our Best Bites came through with an AMAZING recipe. You can find it here and it was perfect. The consistency of the dough was great and they were so YUMMY. In fact I ate them without any frosting and didn't feel like I was missing anything. Another revelation I had with the recipe is they recommended to spoon the flour into the measuring cup instead of scooping. WHAT???? I have been measuring flour incorrectly for 20+ years?? Am I the only one who missed this information? Not sure if it made a difference but I am now spooning my flour with all my baking.

2. The Rolling - In the past I chilled the dough and then would sprinkle my counter with flour and attempt to roll the dough out while trying to not think about how dirty my counter may be. Here is where my cookie rolling world changes for the better: enter parchment paper!! BEFORE chilling the dough I put it into a ball and sandwiched the dough between 2 sheets of that fabulous paper. Then I rolled the dough out between the paper. FAB U LOUS! The dough didn't crumble at the edges and seemed to be much more consistent in the the thickness. I then placed the sheets into the fridge for a quick chilling. Another bonus to this method is the chilling time is cut down to only 15-20 minutes, which is great for the impatient young chefs.

3. The Cutting - I then took the sheets out of the fridge and peeled off the paper and laid the flattened dough directly onto the Silpat mats on the cookie sheets. And if you don't have Silpat mats, that is a cookie revelation in itself. GET THEM NOW!!! The girls were able to cut out their wanted shapes and just tear away the excess dough around the shape and leave the ready-to-bake cookie right where it is at. No dough sticking to the counter and shapes losing parts. HOORAY.

Then it just went straight to the oven and out for the fun part. DECORATING. Though I really think the girls enjoyed the cutting out part just as much. For decorating we used this tool that Madison go for Christmas. I think I mentioned it before but it really is fantastic for the girls to do some special details without any help. I highly recommend it. Although, it looks like it may be discontinued or out of stock so you may want to ignore my recommendation:-)

So with this amazing epiphany I may be making sugar cookies from scratch more than once a year. And yes I am truely this excited about such a silly thing. So humor me and pretend that you are impressed:-)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cooking Plan

I am loving my new Our Best Bites cookbook that arrived yesterday. It fits all of my criteria for a good cookbook: LOTS of photos, special tutorials to help me learn new cooking tips and techniques, easy and practical family-friendly recipes and lots of yummy treats. I also like the fact that it has a hardbound cover but is spiral bound to stay open while sitting on the counter. I will say that many of the recipes may not fit under the healthy, low-fat/calorie menu plan but there are some and nothing wrong with an occasional splurge. Most of the recipes in the book can be found on their website but I enjoy having the nice pretty cookbook to leaf through instead of the ugly printed papers that scatter across my counter so often.

So after having the cooking blahs for quite sometime, I am now energized for a full week of cooking meals and treats. Here is what I have planned and I just returned from the store with all the necessary supplies. Links to recipes on the blog by clicking on the photos. Photos and recipes courtesy of Our Best Bites.

Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos

Smoky Bean Soup with Ham and Bacon

Hot Fudge Sauce

Guiltless Alfredo Sauce

French Dip Sandwiches

Fauxtisserie Chicken

Cadbury Egg Cookies

Cheesy Garlic Swirls

Streusel-Topped Blueberry Muffins

I made these last week, but am making another batch as a thank-you for someone at school

Also on the plan are a few new recipes in the book that aren't on their blog: Stuffed Apple Cinnamon Rolls, Cranberry Orange Chicken Salad and Pineapple Ginger Flank Steak.
I will return at the end of the week to give a review of the recipes.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Princess Birthday Cake

Nora found a photo of this cake 9 months ago and declared it WOULD be her birthday cake. I have had it taped to the inside door of a cupboard since then to make sure not to lose it. She stood firm on her princess themed party, though it changed from a princess tea party to a princess pool party in the last stages of planning. So after 8+ years of being a mommy to girls and escaping all things princessy I had to step up to the plate and create a pink, sparkly castle cake. And I have to admit that it wasn't that bad:-)

I think the best part about the cake was the pink "glittery" turrets. I found the pink cake cones and then regual sugar cones. To get the needed sparkle factor I warmed karo syrp and brushed it onto the sugar cones and then rolled them in pink sugar. I used a coarser decorating sugar and colored it with powdered "cherry pink" food coloring.
Then I baked 3 circle cakes of large, medium and small sizes.
I then stacked and frosted the cakes.
Then to add the the final touches I added the towers and an assortment of candy. My only disappointment was I had gotten bubble gum tape to edge each layer. But I didn't pay attention to my frosting coloring and the 2 pinks were so similar that there was no contrast betweent the two and I couldn't even tell the tape was there so I removed it.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Birthday Princess

Happy Happy Birthday to my sweet Nora! I can't believe you are six years old and I am not sure I am ready for you to grow up, but I guess I have no choice in the matter. We love you so much. Your wonderful personality, sweet smile, funny laugh, sparkling eyes..... Everything about you is so special and unique and I can't imagine life without you. Thank you for putting a smile on my face each and every day.
photo shoot with her new Mulan "princess" costume Nora has been told many times that Mulan isn't a true princess but she doesn't want to believe it and I am just fine with that. Since I am not a real fan of the Disney Princess scene, I can at least be happy that her favorite is the most independent and unique one of the bunch. So I will encourage the attachment as much as I can!