Food Memory Friday: Wedding Sugar Cookies

There are lots of sugar cookie recipes out there, but this one is very special for me. This is the cookie recipe I used to make favors for my sister’s wedding. My sister was married in June 2008 on a beautiful Sunday afternoon on Lake Erie, a place that is very near and dear to my family and extended family. Selby and Kevin had a small wedding of about 100 people and it was a blast. It was slightly non-traditional as a big party was held the Saturday night before the wedding and then a delicious brunch followed the Sunday ceremony. I wanted to do something for her to add a little extra touch to the wedding, so I made these cookies and decorated them with pink royal icing and a monogram “B” to represent their last name.  I wrapped them in clear cellophane and tied them shut with two different shades of pink ribbon.  A cookie was placed at each table setting and my sister loved them.

Since then, I have baked these sugar cookies for numerous occasions including bridal showers, my sister’s baby shower, and holidays.  I like these cookies because they are slightly crispy and they taste great with royal icing. Royal icing is wonderful to decorate with, but it doesn’t go well with all sugar cookies (in my opinion).  To save time, these cookies can be baked in advance (but not decorated!) and frozen in the freezer in a sealed, airtight container. I baked the cookies for my sister’s wedding two weeks in advance and then took them out of the freezer two days before the wedding to decorate them. They still tasted great.

It’s hard to believe Selby and Kevin’s wedding was three years ago and they are now living in Virginia with their adorable 4 month old baby boy. It makes my heart happy to see the cute little family they have become since that wonderful day in June. :)

My family at Selby’s wedding

The favors for the wedding

For my sister’s baby shower

For my friend’s sister’s bridal shower


Wedding Sugar Cookies

Yield: About 3 dozen

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cream butter and sugar, add egg and mix. Add remaining ingredients and mix until smooth. Refrigerate dough 2 hours. Roll out dough 1/8 in. thick on lightly floured surface, dip cutters into flour before each use. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Place on cooling rack for 5 minutes, remove from sheet and cool.

This cookie recipe can be doubled!

Royal Icing

Ingredients:
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. meringue powder
5 tbsp. water

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed until the sheen has disappeared and the icing has a matte appearance (about 7-10 minutes).  Add water a very small amount at a time and stir until fully incorporated.  Continue until the icing has reached a consistency appropriate for piping.  Transfer the icing from the mixing bowl into plastic containers with lids (divide it based on how many colors of icing you want).  Using a pastry bag, pipe around the edges of each cookie.  Let stand so the icing will set.  Make sure to keep the leftover icing covered at all times when not in use so that it does not begin to harden.

To fill the cookies, thin out by incorporating a small amount of water at a time, until the icing drips off the spoon easily when lifted and then smooths in with that still in the bowl.  If you go too far and the icing is too thin, add more sifted powdered sugar to thicken it again.  Once the icing has reached the desired consistency, you can use a couple of different methods for “flooding” the cookies: 1)transfer it to a squeeze bottle, 2) use a plastic bag with a hole in one corner, or 3) carefully drop a spoonful of icing within the lined area of the cookie. Flood the area surrounded by the piping on each cookie.  If it does not completely spread to the edges, use a toothpick to help it along.  Allow to set.

Use the remaining thicker icing for piping decoration as desired.

Source: Cookies- Wilton, Royal icing- Annie’s Eats

Fresh Corn Chowder

I know what you’re thinking. Why would I make soup in the middle of July in Ohio? I asked myself that as well when I was thinking of making this recipe, but then I thought about all the delicious fresh corn that is in abundance this time of year and I decided to dive right in. Jess R and I made this soup for our “Cooking with Jess” dinner a few weeks ago. It was ridiculously hot and humid that Sunday, but we brushed that fact aside. I’m glad we did because this soup is scrumptious! The recipe calls for the kernels from half a dozen ears of corn. Not only that, but you cook the soup with the “de-kerneled” cobs to add extra flavor and it really takes this chowder to another level. Sprinkle in some bacon and potatoes, and you have one very delicious dish. I don’t have  a lot of canning experience, but I bet this soup would store well for the fall and winter; and I’m assuming it would freeze well too (in case you aren’t in the mood to eat hot soup in 100 degree weather).

I don’t believe there is a more delicious vegetable than fresh Ohio sweet corn. So, consider yourself warned-  there may be several corn-filled recipes coming your way.  :)

**Just a little housekeeping- you may have noticed a few changes to the sidebar of Lolly’s Sweet Treats. I’ve added a search tool, a recent recipes section, and a subscription section. Feel free to subscribe to LST (for free, of course) and get notifications via email when there’s a new post.

In addition, I’ve created a Facebook page for Lolly’s Sweet Treats. Once I get 100 “likes”, I am going to start doing giveaways- because it’s always fun to give people things for free! (Thanks for the idea Mike Brice)!

Fresh Corn Chowder

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 6 ears corn
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans whole kernel corn, drained
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 slices bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped medium (about 1 cup)
  • 1 pound red (I used Yukon gold) potatoes (about 3), scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup lowfat milk
  • 4 scallions, sliced thin
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Cut the kernels from the ears of corn; reserve the kernels and cobs separately. Puree the canned corn and 2 cups of the broth in a blender until smooth.

Cook the bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and reserve. Cook the onion, corn kernels, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in the bacon fat until the vegetables soften and turn golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the potatoes, corn puree, remaining 3 cups broth, and reserved corn cobs to the Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Discard the cobs and stir in the cream, scallions, and reserved bacon. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve. Garnish with fresh chives, if desired. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Source: Adapted slightly from The Best of America’s Test Kitchen cookbook

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies


Today is my friend, Jamie’s, 25th birthday!  I’ve known Jamie since grade school and she is and always will be one of the most special people in my life. She is one of those rare friends that, even if you haven’t seen each other in months, you can instantly pick up right where you last left off. Jamie has such a fun-loving and outgoing personality and people are naturally drawn to her.  She is very accepting and always interested in others and I admire her greatly for not only being a great friend, but f0r being a genuinely kind person. I love you dearly, Jamie.

In honor of her 25th, I made Jamie peanut butter swirl brownies. The recipe is from Martha Stewart and it is a mouthwatering combination of rich chocolate brownie batter and a sweet and salty peanut butter filling. I sampled a brownie before sending them in the mail and they were dense, rich, and full of that PB/chocolate flavor that so many of us love. A cold glass of milk is  requirement for these puppies :) !


Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

Makes 9 large or 16 small squares

Ingredients:

For the Batter

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for pa
  • 2 ounces good-quality unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 4 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the Filling

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line with parchment, allowing a 2-inch overhang. Butter lining (not overhang).
  2. Make batter: Put butter and chocolates in a heatproof medium bowl set over a pan of simmering water; stir until melted. Let cool slightly. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
  3. Whisk granulated sugar into chocolate mixture. Add eggs, and whisk until mixture is smooth. Stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture; stir until well incorporated.
  4. Make filling: Stir together butter, confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, salt, and vanilla in a bowl until smooth.
  5. Pour one-third of batter into prepared pan; spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Drop dollops of peanut butter filling (about 1 tablespoon each) on top of batter, spacing about 1 inch apart.

        6. Drizzle remaining batter on top, and gently spread to fill pan.

7. Drop dollops of remaining filling on top.

8. Gently swirl peanut butter filling into batter with a butter knife, running the knife lengthwise and crosswise through layers.

9. Bake until a cake tester inserted into brownies (avoid center and edges) comes out with a few crumbs but is not wet, about 45   minutes. Let cool slightly in pan, about 15 minutes. Lift out; let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares. Brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

Recipe from: Martha Stewart Living


Also, just a side note- Jamie and her family own a very successful craft store in Berlin, Ohio (aka “the heart of Amish Country”) called Sol’s in Berlin. If you are interested in handmade crafts , I recommend checking it out!


A Wedding Shower

This past Friday two of my girlfriends (Chelsea and Jess R) and I threw a shower for Jess N, who is getting married this October. The event was held at my house and it was a nice, small affair with 8 guests. We decided on a black and white theme and had simple decorations with black and white tissue poms, a lovely flower bouquet arranged by Jess R, and subtle touches of purple and green incorporated as well since those are Jess N’s wedding colors.

The menu was made up of tasty finger foods and included:

  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Greek pinwheels
  • Ham and cheese sliders with a mustard butter sauce
  • Trail bologna and swiss sliders
  • Berry Brie dip with homemade pita chips
  • Stuffed cherry tomatoes
  • Basil boats
  • Spiced nuts
  • Chocolate-dipped strawberries
  • Rice Krispie treats
  • Mini chocolate cake trifles with raspberry cream and chocolate ganache
  • Palmiers
  • Stone fruit sangria

Everything was very good, but if I must choose my favorites for the night, my top three would be: the delicious mini chocolate cake trifles (made and assembled beautifully by Jess), the stone fruit sangria (made by Chelsea-quite possibly my new favorite cocktail), and the hot ham and cheese sliders (a recipe from Annie’s Eats). I had originally planned to make purple blackberry macaroons for dessert as well, but there was a heat index of 110 degrees and what seemed like 99% humidity on the day of the shower. I tried and tried (for about an hour), but I just couldn’t get the egg whites to form anything more than a very soft peak. So, sadly, I had to scratch the macaroons- maybe I’ll get to make them some other time. :(

It was a lot of fun planning this party with Jess and Chels. They are really wonderful girls and we made a great team. Most importantly, the bride-to-be, Jess N,  had a lot of fun. All in all, it was a very successful event :)

Jess R’s Trifles- YUM! These are her mini glass cups as well- aren’t they pretty?

Chocolate-dipped strawberries and Rice Krispie Treats

Jess’s Baked Berry Brie Dip, served with baked pita chips. This was very addicting!

Stuffed cherry tomatoes and basil boats. Both delicious, light and seasonal snacks.

Homemade macaroni and cheese

Chels and her fabulous stone fruit sangria

The bride-to-be and her special trifle with extra chocolate ganache. :)

Jess R, Chelsea, and me before the shower. I don’t normally feel short, but I did in this picture!

Food Memory Friday: Wilted Lettuce

This recipe isn’t particularly exciting to most- it’s a salad with a homemade hot bacon vinaigrette. But for me, and I’m sure for my mom and dad, my siblings, and many of my aunts, uncles, and cousins, it means so much more.  We called it Wilted Lettuce; and it was a salad that my maternal grandmother, Grammy, used to make all of the time when we vacationed at the cabin in Barrow Bay, Canada. Grammy’s father (my great grandfather) would go fishing in a tiny town in Ontario, Canada called Barrow Bay. He loved it so much he purchased land and  built a cabin up there. While my grandmother was growing up, she and her two sisters would vacation in Barrow Bay during the summer with their family. After Grammy married my grandfather, Dadsey, they eventually bought the land and cabin and it became their go-to summer trip for their family of 7, which, of course, included my mother- the middle child. As Grammy and Dadsey’s children grew older and got married, everyone still visited the cozy cabin as frequently as possible. Grammy and Dadsey spent a lot of the warm-weather months up there after they retired and they were always happy to welcome their children and grandchildren for a visit.

My parents were (and still are) avid fishermen and they would often be gone fishing long before anyone else had awoken. During the day, my siblings and cousins and I would play in the stream, fish off the dock, swim in the bay, and go as we please. Grammy and Dadsey worked around the cabin and in their garden, where they grew their own lettuce. As the evening crept in, Grammy usually made dinner for everyone and, almost always, she prepared Wilted Lettuce with the delicious greens from their garden. It was one of Dadsey’s favorite salads and rightfully so- it’s made with bacon! I have a vivid memory of the salad being passed around the table and, as Dadsey was passing it, he transported a massive heap of salad straight from the bowl and into his mouth.  If I remember correctly, he used to eat the Wilted Lettuce out of his favorite old, metal popcorn bowl.

Wilted Lettuce will forever be one of my most profound food memories. It’s one of those dishes that, whenever I taste it, I am instantly bombarded with intense feelings of nostalgia. If I close my eyes, I swear I am five years old again, swinging on the hammock with my cousins or playing in our playhouse- the Jenny Wren. Life wasn’t just good back then, it was grand. It was a time when my biggest concern for each day was figuring out how we could convince our grandparents to take us out for ice cream that evening (we typically succeeded). Grammy and Dadsey are no longer living, but the memories I have of them will never die. I am so blessed to have had such wonderful grandparents. What are your favorite food memories?

My sister and me cuddled up with Grammy and Dadsey out on the screened-in porch of the cabin

A picnic by the Little Lake with Grammy and Dadsey- my brother was less than a year old

My sister and me hamming it up in the kitchen of the cabin

Wilted Lettuce

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3 pieces of bacon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch of lettuce (Romaine, green leaf, or red leaf)

Directions:

Cut up the lettuce and rinse it well.

Cook the bacon in a cast iron skillet or other pan until crispy. Place the bacon on a plate with a paper towel and dab off excess grease. In a microwave-safe bowl, measure out the oil and vinegar. Add in the sugar, salt, and pepper. Whisk together and heat in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

Crumble the cooked bacon and. Add the onion, vinagrette and crumbled bacon to the lettuce. Toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Recipe from: An O”Neill family original

Crème Brûlée

I never used to get that excited about creme brulee, or crème brûlée (if I want to pretend that I understand French punctuation and didn’t just copy that directly from Wikipedia). However, my indifference completely changed when Robert and I had it for dessert during our anniversary dinner at The Refectory. We actually ordered a chocolate hazelnut torte, but the waiter brought us a complimentary Creme Brulee as well because we were celebrating a special occasion. O.M.G.- it rocked my world! The burnt sugar topping tasted like a perfectly-roasted marshmallow and the “creme” portion was baked just right with a very intense vanilla flavor. It was served with a crispy palmier and, from that moment on, my view on this custard treat changed forever.

To recreate this dish, I used a recipe from Alton Brown as his cooking and baking methods never disappoint.  It’s made up of only a few ingredients, but it does require  a whole vanilla bean. Vanilla beans are a little pricey and sometimes tough to find; however, the waiter at The Refectory claimed it was what made their creme brulee stand out-and I’d have to agree after tasting it. Luckily, our local Kroger carries them.

This dessert is definitely a special occasion treat- in part because of the time required to make it, but also due to the fact that it’s pure cream. So if you’re in the mood to indulge, this dessert is absolutely for you. Don’t cut corners with this recipe, just run an extra mile before you sit down to enjoy it. ;)

Creme Brulee

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1 cup vanilla sugar, divided
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 2 quarts hot water

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Slit the vanilla bean down the middle with a paring knife and scrape out the beans. Get as much out as you can- they’re like gold!


Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and reserve for another use.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually.


Pour the liquid into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins. Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan (I used two 9-inch round cake pans).


Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. I recommend putting only one rack in the oven, placing the cakes with the creme brulee on the rack (don’t pull the rack out), and then pour the hot water in the pans to avoid splashing the water into the ramekins during the transport. Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

Remove the creme brulee from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup vanilla sugar equally among the 6 dishes and spread evenly on top. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top (this is the best part! :) ). Allow the creme brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.


Recipe from: Alton Brown

Cooking with Jess

While I was creating this blog, I was thinking of ways I could “sass it up” and incorporate more of my wonderful friends and family into it. One of my very close friends, Jessica, is an excellent baker and cook. She is a superstar with fondant icing and she was notorious for bringing my PT classmates and me a variety of treats while we sat through hours of class in rooms without windows. We love to talk food (and exercise too ;) ). So after speaking together, we came up with the idea of doing a special event where we cook together and try new recipes. I like to call it “Cooking with Jess.”

This past Sunday afternoon, we got together at my house  and made a menu of: panko-crusted perch, corn chowder, wilted lettuce, artisan bread, and creme brulee. It was a lot of fun. One of the things I love most about cooking with others is that I learn different ways and methods of preparing food. Jess helped her mom cater events as she was growing up, so she has a lot of good tricks up her sleeve.

Stay tuned for the pictures and recipes from our afternoon together!


Photo from: My dear friend Chelsea