Sunday, July 31, 2011

"Fishy" Sugar Cookies & Royal Icing Recipe

I was asked to make sugar cookies for a family event coming up in August. I decided to do a dry-run today & test out the cookie recipe I had chosen & the royal icing, since I had never worked with it before...

...and it was so easy! I had an absolute blast decorating these! They were just fun, fun, fun from start to finish. Royal icing adds a professional touch to your cookies, and honestly, it's very quick to make & easy to work with!

Here is a very simple recipe for royal icing - use it to top your favorite sugar cookie recipe!

Royal Icing

3 C. Confectionery Sugar
1/4 tsp. Cream of Tartar
3 egg whites, beaten

Mix together confectionery sugar and cream of tartar. Using an electric mixer, beat in 3 egg whites for a few minutes until fully mixed.

Immediately add desired food coloring & put royal icing in to squeeze bottles or piping bags to decorate with. The icing hardens quickly, so you need to use the icing immediately after you make it. I used Wilton Squeeze Bottles which worked fantastically. I would suggest using squeeze bottles to "flood" the cookie & a piping bag with a small tip to add details to the cookies.

Click on these links from The Brown Eyed Baker for a great sugar cookie recipe & royal icing decorating tips.

Oh yeah, click here to get the adorable candy eyes!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Little Heel, Major Deal

Ladies & Gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to my inner Bargainista.

I set out on a mission tonight to find shoes to wear with a red dress I got a great deal on ($16 - originally $90) to a friends' wedding. I was willing to spend $50 on the shoes - planning that they would be something that I could wear with this particular dress only and that the majority of their life would be spent in a box collecting dust & praying for the day I decided to break out said red dress again. I just wanted to find something that went with the dress that I could stand wearing during the course of the ceremony, full well knowing that once I hit the reception hall, I would be breaking out a pair of emergency flip-flops from my purse and my heels would be gone & forgotten - left on my chair at my designated table...watching my purse for me while I kept the dance floor company.

But little did I know what DSW had in store for me this evening. As a general bargainista rule, you never look at anything full-price....first. You only return to the full-price racks if you are desperate and the event you need to go to is less than six hours away. I, at two weeks from the wedding, was not that desperate and trotted immediately over to the clearance section. But being that one, I'm cheap, and two, I have a size eleven foot, I was not all that hopeful that the clearance section would be holding any worthwhile.

Yet there they were - Chinese Laundry nude strappy sandals. Nice, solid heel - not too high. Stylish, versatile and surprisingly comfortable. Perfect for the dress and something I could actually wear more than once. Now, let me tell you about the deal.

The shoes were originally $59.00.
They were priced at $39.94 on the clearance rack.
As part of the sale they were having, I got an additional 40% off the shoes since they were in clearance - bringing their price to $23.96.
Then, I signed up for the DSW Rewards Program, scoring me another $5.00 off since my birthday was just two weeks ago.

This brought the total price of the shoes to $18.96, meaning a 68% savings for me.

Score one for the Bargainista. ;)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ooey-Gooey Cinnamon Sugar-y Banana Muffins

When I got home today, there were two sad overly-ripe bananas staring at me from the otherwise empty fruit basket on my counter. I had gone away for the weekend, and abandoned this leftover fruit unknowingly. But although I had neglected them over the past few days, I made sure these bananas were used to their fullest potential - I allowed them to be reincarnated in delectable-muffin form. And because I was craving something extra sweet, I added a little sugar & spice to the mix.

The result was an incredibly moist, ooey, gooey muffin with multitudes of layers & flavors.

Perfect for a quick grab & go breakfast - or in my case, a mid-night snack to satiate my sweet tooth as I watch Sunday night guilty-pleasure reruns on E!

Ooey-Gooey Cinnamon Sugar-y Banana Muffins

2 C. Flour
1/4 C. Sugar
1 tbsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 C. Milk
1 egg
1/2 tsp. Vanilla
1/3 C. Vegetable Oil
3/4 C. Mashed Banana (about 2 medium ripe bananas)

3/4 C. Brown Sugar
1 tbsp. Cinnamon

Yields 12 Muffins

Preheat Oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder & salt into a medium bowl; make a divot in the center of the dry ingredients.

Mash bananas. Mix milk, egg, oil, vanilla and bananas together. Pour mixture into dry ingredients. Mix until all ingredients are evenly combined.

Put 12 liners in a cupcake or muffin baking tin. Spoon batter into tins 1/4 of the way full. Mix cinnamon & brown sugar together in a bowl. Spoon a little of the cinnamon sugar mix into each muffin cup. Pour the rest of the batter evenly into the muffin cups. Top each muffin with the rest of the cinnamon sugar mix.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the muffin comes out clean. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Best when warm - Microwave for ten seconds if enjoying the cupcakes a few hours after baking.

Enjoy the ooey-gooey!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Calories Don't Count on Your Birthday

I have a confession to make.

Yes, I am one of those people that LOVES to celebrate birthdays - not just my own, but my family's, friends', peers. If there's a birthday, I have to know about it. Birthdays to me are incredibly special & significant. It's a time where you can look back on the last year and see how you've grown, how life is changed, reflect on lessons you've learned and appreciate the good that has resulted from the last year's worth of experiences.

My birthday was this week and I must say - it is the only thing I still look forward to with childlike giddiness & joy. I can't wait to be surrounded by the people that I care most about & to celebrate in my favorite way possible - over a lovely piece of cake.

And for my birthday, there is only one kind that is acceptable: white cake with white frosting and flowers - lots of flowers.

My bakery of choice? Fratelli's Pastry Shop in Quincy, MA. They crafted the beautiful cake above!

Let me tell you - it was amazing - moist, flavorful, just the right amount of frosting & sinfully sweet. If I was issued only one meal for the rest of my life, it might just have to be this cake.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Bridal Shower in Paris

One of the girls that I work with is getting married this summer & today we threw her a bridal shower at our office. She is going to Paris for her honeymoon so the whole shower was Parisian themed! Everything from the napkins to the desserts screamed Paris - and every bit of it was a pleasure to the eyes & the tummy!

Everyone in our department (as you can tell, we work in the Creative Department) pitched in and contributed something for this great event. Below is just a small sampling of the lovely treats that were there. I, of course, made cupcakes with Parisian toppers. I was so impressed & inspired by the talents of my co workers. Martha Stewart, eat your heart out!

Raspberry Trifle

Petit Fours

Creme Brulee

Vintage Luggage (packed with travel tips!)


Lovely Centerpieces

(note the adorable note cards - also designed by our Creative team!)

Chocolate Croissants

Cheese & Fruit Tray

Strawberry Cake Pops

Congratulations, Shawna! - Let's hope the desserts in Paris can stand up to the talents of your coworkers! :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Raspberry Shortbread Bars - Prepare Yourself to Be Hugged.

I make these tasty raspberry bars whenever possible. Mostly because they're quick, easy and a cinch to clean up. Even better than all of that, I have made them so many times that the recipe is burned into my brain.

I'm so often asked for the recipe, but shy away from divulging my oh-so-simple secret. Well, here it is! I'm admitting publicly how simple they are to make - but don't be fooled. Although the ingredients are few, the flavor is multi-faceted. Perfect mix of salty, buttery, savory sweetness.

Try them for yourself. They are great to pack & go for any event - a definite crowd pleaser. The perfect summer cookout treat - pairs great with lemonade!

Warning: Any one who comes in contact with these will instantly feel compelled to hug you.

Raspberry Shortbread Bars

2 1/4 C. Flour
1 C. Sugar
1 C. Butter
1 egg
Pinch of Salt
Raspberry Jam (your choice, I prefer seedless)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line the inside of a 9 x 9" pan with aluminum foil. Grease lightly.

In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, butter, egg & salt. Mix thoroughly until it forms a ball of dough. If dough is too sticky, add a little more flour.

Leave about 1/5 of the dough in the bowl. Spread the rest of the dough along the bottom of the pan to form a crust.

Spread a thin layer of raspberry jam over the top of the shortbread batter. Break up the remaining dough into small pieces over the jam layer.

Bake for 40 minutes or until crust & top is slightly golden. Let cool & cut into bars.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Snow Cone Crazy

I'm sure you will be shocked to know that the only time I spent in the kitchen over the course of this weekend was when I was eating or refilling my water bottle. Sadly, I did not find the time to bake. Alas, I was too busy enjoying other people's lovely cooking, the beach, some fruity drinks, beautiful weather & time spent with good friends.

I did have the great pleasure to enjoy a Snow Cone made by my boyfriend, Bobby. I must say, when he stood there in Target a few weeks ago, eyes wide at the sight of this silly Snow Cone maker, I scoffed and mumbled about what a waste of money it would be...

But, I can admit when I'm wrong and I was wrong about this one! This thing was worth the money and definitely enjoyed by all! I did love my tasty Snow Cone, but even more than that, I am in love with these penguin cups!

We mixed classic flavors (Watermelon, Cotton Candy & Blue Raspberry) to create a patriotic twist on this classic!

Looking for a grownup twist on this childhood favorite?
I suggest topping your snow cone with Midouri or Razzmatazz liqueur! Delicious.

Here's all you need to make some sweet snow cones of your own! It's only the second week in July - Go get your Snow Cone on!

Nostalgia Old-Fashioned Snow Cone Maker - $29.99
(Photo Courtesy of

Back to Basics Snow Cone Cups & Straws - $4.79
(Photo Courtesy of

Shaved Ice Flavored Syrup - $7.95/bottle

Fun flavors include Blueberry Muffin, Cajun Red Hot & even Wedding Cake!