Heart-Shaped Sugar Cookies

11 Feb

Well folks, it’s that time of year. Stores cover their windows with hot-pink hearts. Candy of all fillings show up on every shelf. And everyone seems a little happier (or angrier if you’re the anti-love type). It’s Valentine’s Day.

This year I’ll be spending Valentine’s day without a male special someone. Not unlike most of my Valentine’s day. But just because I don’t have a boy doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate the day and shower my loved ones with something sweet.

Since I love to bake (and my friends love to eat my baked goods), I decided to whip up a few sweet treats for those special people in my life.  Tonight I tackled the heart-shaped sugar cookie, a classic holiday treat.

I’ve made this recipe many times, so this time I wanted to try something new. I made two versions of the dough. The first is the original and the second is a healthier version. I recently had to write an article about healthy ingredient substitutions (shameless plug), and decided to give them a try.

So let’s see how it went.

Valentine’s Day Sugar Cookies

Dough Recipe One

The magic behind the first cookie dough.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-1/2 cups All Purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Directions

  1. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and sugar.
  3. Blend in eggs and vanilla extract.
  4. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, and mix together.
  5. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, place in container, and refrigerate over night.

Dough Recipe Two 

The pieces of cookie dough two.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup mashed bananas (roughly 2 medium bananas)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-1/2 cups All Purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Directions

  1. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and sugar.
  3. Blend in bananas and vanilla extract.
  4. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, and mix together.
  5. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, place in container, and refrigerate over night.

After the dough is made, the preparation is the same.

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cover surface with flour (to avoid dough sticking to the table)
  3. Separate the dough into four sections.
  4. Roll section from 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
  5. Cut out cookies using any type of cookie cutter.
  6. Place cookies, 1-inch apart, on baking sheet (sprayed with Pam)
  7. Bake 6 to 8 minutes.
  8. Let cookies cook completely before icing and adding other decoration.

But before loading these treats up with frosting and sprinkles, take a look at the nutritional info per cookie.

Dough 1: 110 calories, 5g fat

Dough 2: 86 calories, 4g fat

Ok, so not a huge calorie difference in the long run. But if you plan on piling on the extras and eating more than one, you’d be better off with a low-calorie base.

Aside from nutritional info, there are a few other tiny differences. The second dough doesn’t hold its shape as well when baked. It also rises a bit more than the typical sugar dough, so you may want to roll the dough a little thinner. As far as taste, the second dough isn’t as sweet, which is great if you want to avoid going into a sugar coma.

Dough One(L) vs. Dough Two (R)

But when it comes down to it, both are amazing cookies that your special someone will love!

What’s your go-to cookie recipe?

Red and Green Oatmeal Christmas Cookies

4 Dec

There are three distinct Christmas scents: evergreen, peppermint, and cookies!

Truth be told, my mom makes the best Christmas cookies. Some seem fancy while others are simpler, and they are all delicious. Unfortunately, given the variety of cookies and the amount of them, these treats take about two days to mix, bake, and decorate.

So after scouring the internet and making a few minor adjustments, I settled on Red and Green Oatmeal Cookies. They’re festive and, as an added bonus, low in calories (only 75 a cookie!).

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1 1/2 cup Quaker Oats
  • 1 cup All-Purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup M&Ms

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Beat butter, sugars, and apple sauce together until smooth.
  3. Add the egg whites and the vanilla extract, and continue mixing.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and ground cinnamon.
  5. Slowly add the wet ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon.
  6. Add the M&Ms and combine well.
  7. Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons onto the baking sheet. Space the cookies about 2 inches apart from each other.
  8. Bake the cookies for 7 to 10 minutes. Yields about 24 cookies.

What’s your favorite Christmas cookie? Share the recipe below!

Olympic Torch Cupcakes

27 Jul

Tonight marks the beginning of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Athletes from across the country will gather to “go for the gold” as all those old school commentators like to say.

If you’re anything like my friends and me, you use this event as an excuse to get together, eat tasty treats, and watch a spectacular opening ceremony. Now, I could have baked something simple. But face it folks, if there is a theme then my dessert will revolve around it. Since tonight’s ceremony revolves around the lighting of the torch, it only made sense to make torch cupcakes.

Fear not. This recipes doesn’t require anymore time or skill than a regular cupcake. It just looks like it.

Olympic Torch Conecakes

 

Ingredients

  • 1 box of cake mix, any flavor of choice
  • 2 boxes of flat-bottomed ice cream cones
  • 1 can of vanilla frosting
  • Red and yellow food dye (or orange if you can find it)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare cupcake batter according to directions on the box.
  3. Pour batter into cone. Make sure to leave at least 1/2-inch so, when baked, the cupcake lines with the top of the cone.
  4. Place cones in cupcake pan (one cone per tin, of course).
  5. Let conecakes bake for 18-21 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
  6. While cupcakes cool, mix food coloring into the frosting. I do about 40 drops of yellow and 10 drops of red, but you can experiment as needed.
  7. Frost conecakes and enjoy!

Yields about 24 “conecakes.”

I’ll admit, it looks more like an ice cream cone than a cupcake, but it’s the thought that counts. right?

As you can see from the photo below, I also made basic cupcakes with the Olympic rings as decor. What will you be making to celebrate tonight’s Opening Ceremony?

Go for the gold with these desserts!

 

Homemade “Ice Cream” Sandwiches

17 Jul

Very few people find similarities between school and summer. Well, except for the fact that they both begin with “s.” But one trait (or should I say treat) I’ve always associated with the two is ice cream sandwiches.

In elementary school, my mom would give me 50 cents one Friday a month so I could buy something sweet at lunch time. I’d always follow up my PB&J with and ICS. Licking the smooth vanilla ice cream off the sides and biting into that soft, chewy chocolate cookie was often the highlight of that particular day.

These days, however, I’m trying to watch my wallet and weight, and the in-store ice cream sandwiches are not friendly to either ($6 for 4four sandwiches?!). So tonight, with a little help from Pinterest, I decided to whip up my own frozen treats and I have to say, they were pretty damn sweet.

Homemade “Ice Cream” Sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 1 package of pudding mix, any flavor
  • 2% milk
  • 1 container fat-free Cool Whip
  • 1 package of graham crackers, any flavor

Directions

  1. Prepare pudding according to directions on the box. Make sure it is well blended
  2. Mix in container of Cool Whip. Let mixture sit in fridge for an hour.
  3. While mixture sets, break graham crackers in half.
  4. Scoop about 2 Tbsp. worth of mixture onto one cracker.
  5. Place second cracker on top and put sandwich on a tray.
  6. Continue until you run out of mixture or graham crackers.
  7. Place tray in the freezer for at least one hour. Once set, move sandwich to plastic bags.
  8. Take out and enjoy whenever you want a frozen sweet.

For a little something extra, roll the sandwich in sprinkles or chopped nuts before placing in the freezer.

What combinations of pudding and crackers will you try? Let us know!

Wedding Wednesday: Alternative Wedding Cakes

11 Jul

Summer time means an increase in temperature, mosquitoes, and ice cream consumption. It also means an increase in marriages. According to TheKnot, 34 percent of weddings occur between June and August. Even though I may not be invited to all these ceremonies, I want to celebrate them in my own special way. Wedding Wednesdays will be devoted to all the sweet things that come with that special day.

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As hard as they try, every bride and groom deals with some level of cheesiness at their wedding. Whether it’s an hour of Macarena like music, or kissing every time some smart a– hits their glass. One cheesy moment most couples don’t mind, however, is feeding each other cake. It may be messy, but it adds a little casualness to the wedding (and for some couples, it may be the only thing they get to eat).

Lately, however, it seems this tradition , like the bride’s garter, has been tossed aside. Not because it’s dorky, but because less couples are consuming cake at their wedding. Instead, couples are opting for “creative” versions of the classic wedding dessert. While this may break some people’s cake loving heart, these five alternative cakes could change their mind.

 

Rice Crispy Treats

Think this cereal-marshmallow-combo is just for kids? Think again. With the help of dessert chefs across the country, this treat has grown up and become wedding worthy. Best part – You don’t have to worry about someone sneaking some frosting.

 

Doughnuts

Don’t worry folks. This isn’t a Dunkin’ Donuts creation (unless that’s your thing). This chewy concoction has become center stage at receptions this year. While you can have hundreds of doughnuts places on a tiered-platter, I recommend a few larger doughnuts stacked to look like a real cake.  Places like Allie’s Donuts in Rhode Island makes some true masterpieces.

 

Cookies

Chewy chocolate-chip cookies don’t sound sophisticated . Instead, couples can choose a simple cookie, and jazz it up with frosting, fondant, and other yummy decorations. A big cookie, however, may be a lot of work. Opt for individual or medium-sized treats instead.

 

Cake Balls

Ok, this option doesn’t stray too far from the classic. This is a perfect choice for couples that love cake, but love too many types. With this options, you can choose as many flavors as you want. You can even set them up at the tables to avoid any cake ceremony all together.

 

Chocolate Fountain

Want to get rid of baked good all together? Try the trendy chocolate fountain. I’ve seen these at a lot of weddings as a supporting desserts, but if you’re a chocoholic you can make it the star. Just be careful not to spill it on your white dress.

 

 

What alternate wedding desserts have you seen recently? Let us know in the comment section!

Sweet Things In Life: Call Cookie Monster, Maybe

10 Jul

Every day, we see something that grabs our attention. Maybe it’s a Bill Cosby look-a-like or two squirrels gettin’ it on. Whatever the phenomena, we take out our fancy phones and snap a picture (or five). Sweet Things In Life is a special blog posting dedicated to those moments in my dessert obsessed life. 

sanseverything.wordpress.com

If you haven’t heard the catchy (and kind of annoying) “Call Me Maybe” at least once, then I highly suggest you crawl out from under that rock. The pop song from Canadian Carly Rae Jepsen has been a staple and birthday parties, ball parks, and even bars this summer. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people have covered the tune, from Justin Bieber to the Harvard University baseball team.

While these parodies have been pretty funny, none have been as amazing as Cookie Monster’s cover, “Share It Maybe.” After all, this blue Muppet managed to change the lyrics AND reference cookies. Any song that does that lifts my two thumbs up.

Wedding Wednesday: Sweet Proposals

27 Jun

Summer time means an increase in temperature, mosquitoes, and ice cream consumption. It also means an increase in marriages. According to TheKnot, 34 percent of weddings occur between June and August. Even though I may not be invited to all these ceremonies, I want to celebrate them in my own special way. Wedding Wednesdays will be devoted to all the sweet things that come with that special day.

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We’ve all witnessed it; most likely on a TV show. A man, super in love and super nervous, tries to plan the perfect proposal. He’ll place the ring in a champagne flute, or bake it into her favorite dessert. Of course, in true fictitious fashion, something goes wrong. The waiter brings the glasses to another table, the bride breaks her tooth by biting on the diamond, or the ring gets destroyed.

Fortunately, that’s just what happens on TV. In real life, food proposals can be perfect.

Sarah Pease has seen her share of proposals. As the owner and creative director of Brilliant Event Planning, Pease helps people around the world prepare for popping the question. Originally a wedding planner, Pease moved to a different market after hearing how her friend’s fiancé proposed. In fact, it was his food-related fumbled that acted as the career changing catalyst.

“Her boyfriend proposed by placing her ring at the bottom of a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken,” Pease recalls. “Once I heard that, I knew there must be a better way to pop the question.”

With that, Pease became the pioneer of the proposal planning industry. In this time, Pease had planned plenty of food-related proposals. The most common request; use chocolate.

“The most popular is a traditional proposal that has “Will You Marry Me?” written in chocolate on a dessert plate.” Pease says. She adds, however, that most clients prefer “more original” ideas. She recalls one winter proposal that would leave most women speechless.

“The evening began with ice skating at RockefellerCenter,” she says. “When the couple stepped into their luxury transportation apres-skate, they discovered an exquisitely styled faux-fur cooler filled to the brim with perfectly decorated Christmas cookies and a flight of miniature stainless steel thermoses filled with different flavors of hot chocolate.  The car pulled away to visit the famous Christmas lights in Dyker Heights while the couple nibbled on delectable sweets and exotic cocoa flavors like spicy Mexican chocolate and indulgent white hot chocolate.”

A romantic evening and the ring remained safe. Looks like Pease is worth every penny. That being said, Pease says it is possible to plan the perfect food proposal without spending a lot of money. Simply follow her four suggestions, and the night will go as smooth as dark chocolate.

  • DO plan ahead. You don’t want waste time figuring out how to coordinate your proposal with the maître d’ while your girlfriend waits at the table. It takes away the element of surprise and is a bit aggravating for her.
  • DO have a ring. Just because you’re proposing in chocolate, doesn’t mean that you should leave the ring at home. No amount of decadence (or desserts) can compensate for diamonds.
  • DON’T bake the ring into your dessert, as there are way too many things that could go wrong. Plus, she won’t want to put on a ring that’s covered in food.
  • DON’T tell everyone beforehand. It’s tempting to share the finer details of your proposal with your friends and family before you pop the question. But, resist this temptation! The more people you tell, the more likely it is that word will get back to her and ruin your surprise.

Would you want someone to use food when popping the question? Share in the comments!

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Sara Pease, Proposal Planner

Sarah Pease, The Proposal Planner, is recognized as the foremost expert on marriage proposals and is the pioneer of Marriage Proposal Planning. Based in New York City, Sarah and her team at Brilliant Event Planning and Proposal-Ideas.com have designed and produced dream engagements for countless lucky couples around the world and are the go-to source for all things regarding “Will You Marry Me?” Sarah is available for press, speaking engagements and appearances as a subject-matter expert on marriage proposals and wedding planning.

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