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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!

 

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!

Oreo: The Cookie of Love

26 Jun

Not since Animal Crackers has a cookie caused so much controversy.

Following Sunday’s Pride Parade in New York, Kraft posted an image of a rainbow-creme Oreo on it’s Facebook page. In an interview with Mashable, an Oreo representative said the image was part of Oreo’s 100th Birthday Celebration campaign, which “bring to life trending topics, pop-culture news, milestones, or celebrations using images of the iconic cookie and milk.” In honor of LGBT Pride Month, this image symbolizes the change in society, and the company’s support for gay rights and, above all things, love.

Facebook.com

Unfortunately, the statement was not met with the love that it encouraged. Hundreds of users spammed the page with hateful, homophobic comments. Some even went as far as to say they would boycott the cookie and company.

Well haters are always gonna hate. Luckily, there are more lovers out there. Over 100,000 users “Liked” the image while another 45,000 shared it.

Kraft is not the first company to come out in support of gay rights. Earlier this year Ben & Jerry’s released Apple-y Ever After. The flavor, placed in carton that features a gay couple atop a wedding cake that’s decorated with rainbows, launched in the UK after the country legalized gay marriage.

Seeing multi-billion dollar industries support this cause shows that the times are changing. Hopefully the change in time will soon result in a change in law.

 

How do you feel about the Oreo pride? Do you think companies should show support for a cause, or stay neutral? Let us know in the comments!

Remembering a Sweet Lady

1 Jun

It’s official: I’m the worst blogger ever.

Ok, maybe not the worst. I mean, there are some really bad blogs out there. However, to go a whole month without posting, especially as a journalist, is almost unforgivable. But hopefully you can all find it in your hearts to forgive me.

So why did I decide to return today? Well, the main reason is I finally have the time. In the past month I’ve earned three additional job titles (aka more work for the same pay), which keeps me at the office late. I also spent most of my weekends babysitting, and any babysitter / nanny / mother will tell you the last thing they want to do after taking care of kids is baking or writing.

There is, however, another reason I chose to come back to the blog world. A year ago today, my grandmother passed away. Gammy, as we called her, was an amazing woman. God dealt her some difficulties, but she stayed strong and managed to come out on top, turning every negative experience into a positive.

She was wise; knowing the answers to every Wheel of Fortune puzzle, and offering advise when asked. She was compassionate; spending her spare time with charities, and opening her arms and heart to all. Everyone who knew Gammy could feel her love.

I have many memories of my grandmother. The best ones, however,  involve her baking something for me and my cousins. Every Easter, she’d spend days kneading dough and baking soft, golden loaves of bread. Although we’d smear on some butter or add a scoop of ricotta, her bread was best when it was naked and fresh from the oven.

Whenever my sister and I slept over her house, we’d wake up to a cracking sound and a salty smell – a sign that she was making her famous fried dough. Even my cousins, who were too scared to sleep in her living room, would run downstairs to snag some sugar covered goodness.

Whenever I’d visit Gammy, she always serve me some type of sweet. In between bites, she’d tell me how proud she was of me. Sometimes, I even think she admired me for stepping outside the comforts of home to follow my dreams. I want to continue to make her proud, because Lord knows she’s still bragging about her grandchildren up in heaven.

So I returned The Sweet Treat because it is my dream to become a food writer someday. . . or to own a bakery. And Gammy would be pretty pissed if I didn’t continue to follow that dream and make her proud.

Mary “Gammy” Chiaradio

 

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Do you have a special food memory of your grandmother? Share it below!

Easter Re-Treats

9 Apr

Although it’s belated, I’d like to wish all my Christian followers a happy Easter (and of course happy Passover to my Jewish readers). If your family is anything like mine, you spent yesterday consuming large amounts of food, and squeezing in several laughs between bites. You probably also bought large amounts of Easter candy thinking people would choose mass-produced sweets over homemade treats.

While you may snack on a Peep or two over the next few days, you’ll eventually reach your marshmallow supported breaking point and throw everything into the garbage. Rather than throwing all that money and food away, try giving classic Easter candy a make over with these five recipes.

Jelly Bean Cocktail

Have your treat and drink it too. . . if you’re over 21 that is. Maureen C. Petrosky‘s Jelly Bean Cocktail is the perfect way to wind down after a long (or short) day.

Candy Cupcakes

Whether the Bunny brought you Milky Ways or Reese Eggs, you can use these candies as the base for a kick a** cupcake. Grab your favorite mix, prepare the batter, and push a piece of candy in the middle for an added surprise.

Hard Boiled Egg Cookies

Not a fan of egg salad? Not a problem. With a little help, you can turn those dyed eggs into a chewy chocolate chip cookie.

Trail Mix

Add some color and chocolate to your afternoon snack. Throw some pastel M&Ms or those Cadbury mini eggs into a pre-packaged mix. But make sure not to eat too much, as trail mix can contain a lot of calories.

 

Peep Krispie Treats

As much as you want to put these suckers in the microwave, try using them in a classic dessert. Substitute Peeps for regular marshmallows to create a tye dye version of this simple sweet.

 

How do you utilize Easter leftovers? Share your recipes in the comment section!