Thursday, September 30, 2010

How 'bout THEM apples?!?

I volunteered to make cookies for a teacher appreciate dinner last week and since it was September, and the beginning of the school year, I had apples on the brain.

These apples are inspired by my friend, Jennifer, a FABULOUS cookie decorator who makes cookies for Frost Bake Shoppe.  This summer, she made these cute little sun cookies...aren't they darling?!?  Well, I thought my apples needed smiles as well.

{One note on these...the dots are just a lighter red, but next time I make them, I'll make the dots a bit darker....I think the eyes blend in a little too much with them. And wouldn't green apples be fun, too?}

To make them, you'll need:
    Using a #3 tip, outline the cookie (apple & leaf) in black icing (I STRONGLY recommend AmeriColor Super Black).  Pipe the stem.

    Because of the black outline, you may want to let the outline set for a bit longer than normal.  One hour should be fine.

    Thin the red and light red icings with water, a bit at a time, until it is the consistency of thick syrup.  Cover with a damp dish towel and let sit several minutes.

    Stir gently with a rubber spatula and transfer both icings to squeeze bottles.

    Working 6-8 cookies at a time, fill in the apples in red, using a toothpick to guide to edges.

    Go back over the same 6-8 cookies and drop dots of the lighter red icing.
    Let stand at least one hour.

    With the #4 tip, pipe eyes on the apples with white icing.

    Using a #2 tip, add the pupils to the eyes and a smile. :)

    With another #2 tip, fill in the leaf.

    Let dry overnight.

    You know what they say...
    "An Apple a Day Keeps the Skinny Jeans Away." 
    Or something like that.

    Tidy Mom I'm Lovin It Fridays

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    Brownie Batter Ice Cream ( and a giveaway! )

    Have you heard of Naturally Nora?  Naturally Nora is a line of baking mixes, such as cake, frosting and brownie, that is all-natural with no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. What's more? They're really yummy!

    Naturally Nora sent me a (big!) box of their goodies and wants to send one to a Bake at 350 reader, too!

    {There is something very exciting about a box full of baking mixes arriving on your doorstep!}

    I love to bake from scratch, but I'm not opposed to using a boxed mix....sometimes I need a little help!

    So far, we've made Chocolate Chunk Brownies (no picture as we ate them all too fast), cupcakes from the ALot'a Dots cake and frosting mix and Brownie Batter ice cream from the regular brownie mix.  I think I'm using the next box of cake mix & frosting to make Pumpkin Spice Cake Truffles!

    Everything has been delicious!  And my boys went ga-ga over this ice cream!
    Brownie Batter Ice Cream
    {modified from Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream Book 's French Vanilla}

    1 tsp. vanilla
    1/2 tsp. instant espresso powder
    2 eggs (pasteurized if you'd like)
    3/4 c. sugar
    2 c. heavy cream
    1 c. milk
    1 c. brownie mix

    Combine the vanilla and espresso powder, set aside.

    Whisk the eggs 1-2 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add the sugar a little at a time, whisking until completely blended.  Once all the sugar is added, whisk for 1 minute more. 
    Add in the cream, milk, vanilla/espresso and brownie mix.  Whisk until smooth. 

    At this point, the mixture can be refrigerated until ready to use or transferred to an ice cream maker.  Follow the manufacturer's instructions for freezing.

    To enter the giveaway for a box of goodies from Naturally Nora:
    • visit Naturally Nora and leave a comment here with the mix you'd most like to try,
    • for an EXTRA entry, tweet about the giveaway and leave a separate comment letting me know that you did: " Win a goodie box of Naturally Nora all-natural baking mixes from @bakeat350tweets! "
    A winner will be randomly chosen October 3rd at 8pm CST.  Good luck & happy baking! :)

      Saturday, September 25, 2010

      Spa Sweets : Chocolate Banana Muffins

      What's the first thing you think of when you think of going to a spa?  Food, right?
      I know, it's strange, but when I think of spas, my mind wanders to thoughts of "spa cuisine" (especially if it involves the HERSHEY SPA)!

      So, when Chevy sent a friend and me to the spa for 1-hour massages, my mind naturally went to Chocolate Banana Muffins.  Lori from Recipe Girl (love!) featured a recipe from The Rancho La Puerta Cookbook , Chocolate Banana Bread last year and it's delicious!

      I changed it up just a bit and made Chocolate Banana Muffins.  They may just be the unhealthiest, healthy muffins you've ever eaten.  No added sugar...except for the chocolate chips and banana chips, and well, the sprinkling of sugar on top.

      They also have a secret ingredient: PRUNES!

      Spa Chocolate Banana Muffins
      {adapted from Recipe Girl &The Rancho La Puerta Cookbook }

      10 oz. pitted dried prunes
      2 c. water
      1 c. minus 1 TBSP all-purpose (or WHITE whole wheat) flour
      1/2 c. dutch-process cocoa powder
      2 tsp. baking powder
      2 tsp. cinnamon
      1 and 1/2 tsp. baking soda
      3/4 c. mashed ripe banana (about 2 bananas)
      2 eggs
      1/2 c. chocolate-covered banana chips (or reg. banana chips)
      1 c. bittersweet chocolate chips (Ghiradelli)
      sparkling or sanding sugar (optional)

      Combine the prunes and water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce to a simmer  and cook for 20 minutes.  Drain.

      Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350.  Butter 12 cups of a muffin tin.  If you are really paranoid like me, line the bottoms of the muffin cups with a small circle of parchment paper.

      In a large bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cinnamon and baking soda.  Set aside.

      Process the prunes and bananas in a food processor until smooth.  Add eggs and process until combined.

      Stir the prune mixture into the flour until combined. Add in the banana chips and chocolate chips.  Spoon into prepared muffin cups.  Sprinkle with sparkling sugar.

      Bake 16-20 minutes until the tops bounce back when lightly pressed.  Cool on a cooling rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely.  Enjoy!

      {And thank you, Chevy, for the massage! }

      Friday, September 24, 2010

      Lucy in the Sky with . . . Polka Dots

      Usually when I use my icing printer, I format the image to the size I want before printing.  I decided to play around with something new and print out a patterned page frosting sheet and cut it to fit my cutters.

      Some of you have printer is an Epson WorkForce 30 Color Printer ; it is compatible with the food coloring cartridges.  You can find a list of all the compatible printers from KopyKake.  The printer itself is pretty affordable; it's the ink that is expensive....$90 for the set.  {That's why it took me so long to order one!  It was a major dent in my Starbucks fund.}

      First, I ordered some digital paper from etsy.  Oh my gosh, there are SO many cute designs available!  I think I now have 100 digital papers in my arsenal.

      {The smart thing would have been to TRY my idea before buying all of them, but I got a little carried away.}

      Second, I printed the image on a full sheet of icing paper.

      Third, using a food coloring pen, I traced the cookie cutters I used and then cut the icing sheets.
      Forth, the cookies were outlined and filled with white royal icing.  While the flood icing was still wet, I applied the icing sheet.  It's not a perfect fit, so....

      Fifth, after the cookies were dry, I went over the borders and added piping.

      Do I love my icing printer?  Yes.  

      But here's my problem with it...and maybe somebody can help me. 
      The original image was this:

      It looks so different on the cookies.
      But, when I made these cookies, the colors stayed pretty true.  I'm so confused.

      Tidy Mom I'm Lovin It Fridays

      Anyone have experience with this they'd like to share?

      Tuesday, September 21, 2010

      "So, just how long is it going to take me to make and decorate cookies?"

      works for me wednesday at we are that family
      "So, just how long is it going to take me to make and decorate cookies?"   The short answer depends.  It depends on how many you're making, of course, and how many colors of icing you are using, and how detailed the cookie design is, and how you are packaging them. Whew.

      But, let me try to give you a rough idea. Let's go with 2 batches of cookies because if you're going to take the time to make them, you might as well make more than one.
      First, the cookies.  Using this cookie dough recipe, plan on about 1 hour per batch.  With a 4.5" cookie cutter, you'll have around 12 cookies.  I bake mine 6 at a time, since I have a single oven.  I could do 2 sheets and rotate the them during baking, but I am usually too distracted by twitter getting in some housework (ha!) and forget to rotate.

      Cookies (two batches)....2 hours
      Cookies (cool completely)...1 hour

      Next, the icing.  I use royal icing.  It's just as quick to make a double batch as it is to make a single.  I usually double my recipe just to ensure I have enough.  To make the icing and tint it, assuming you're making more than 2 colors, takes about 45 minutes.

      Icing....45 minutes

      Decorating the cookies. This is a little difficult to estimate and you'll have some down time here.  Assuming you have 24-30 cookies, you'll need to prep your icing bag and outline your cookies.  For a simple outline, allow 30 minutes.

      Outlining....30 minutes

      Next, you'll want to "flood" the cookies with thinned icing.  For me, thinning takes a while because I add water just a bit at a time.  You'll need to thin the icing, let it sit, stir, then flood.

      Flood icing (thin)....15 minutes
      Flood Icing (rest)....10 minutes
      Flood icing (fill)......45 minutes

      Usually, you'll have some sort of detail to add to the cookies.  First, the filled cookies need to "rest" for an hour or so before the next step.

      Rest....1 hour

      Finally, the detail work.  You may be adding sanding sugar, sprinkles, luster dust, extra piping, or all of the above, so this really varies.  Assuming the detail is a bit of simple piping on each cookie, allow at least a minute per cookie.

      Detail.....30 minutes

      Then, let them dry overnight.


      ***This does NOT include clean-up time!***

      So, for about 2 dozen, simply decorated cookies, I would allow 5 hours of baking/decorating with 2 hours and 10 minutes plus overnight of inactive/rest time. (Did I add that right?) But, remember, it depends! :) 

      {In other words, don't start a cookie decorating project at 8pm the night before you need them.}

      My advice....make the cookies a day ahead.  Even two days.  Even more than that and freeze them.  Yes, they freeze...even fully decorated.

      Another hint, royal icing can be made ahead of time, too.  The icing will not be as stiff the next day, so if you have fine detail work to do, you may want to make it the same day.  Otherwise, it's fine.

      I love this post from my friend Gail of One Tough's a little nugget of wisdom from her blog: "No matter how much time you allow for decorating the cookies, allow more."    See, she's smart and CRAZY TALENTED!

      That's what works for me.  Do you have any hints for timing your cookie decorating?

      Saturday, September 18, 2010

      My new best friend : OnStar (and a tip about white royal icing)

      "People let me tell ya 'bout my best friend..." (Raise your hand if you are old enough to recognize that song.)
      OnStar...yes, OnStar is my new best friend.  There for me in an emergency, always answers my call (no matter the time of day), helps me find my way when I'm lost...sounds like a best friend to me!

      One the perks of test-driving this Chevy Malibu this month is getting to play around with the OnStar system.  I always used to cry during their commercials, but I didn't realize everything else that OnStar does!  The turn-by-turn directions are definitely my favorite part. It's like having my own little concierge right there in the car.

      If only it would go fetch me a Starbucks without my having to leave the house.
      I brought these cookies over to the Chevy dealership where I picked up the car two weeks ago.  Maybe they think I'm crazy professing my love for OnStar in cookie form? 

      Let's talk about making white icing...

      Royal icing looks pure white when you make it, but have you ever had it change to an off-white color as it dries?  It happened to me only once in a blue moon, but that was enough to drive me insane.
      Here's how to fix it: Americolor Bright White gel food coloring.  Add some to your white icing....and add more than you think you need. It's a toughie because your icing is going to look white already and it depends on how much icing you are coloring.  Pretend you are making a "color" icing and go from there.

      (These cookies were made with royal icing colored with AmeriColor Bright White and Americolor Royal Blue mixed with Navy Blue.  Letters and star were piped with a #2 tip.)

      {psst....if you live in the Houston area, you can click here for a chance to win a trip for 2 to the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa from Gotta Love Chevy Houston!}

      Tuesday, September 14, 2010

      Cookies for The Mercy House

      Mr. E and I have moved A LOT. We've also been blessed by some wonderful neighbors.

      In Dallas, we had retirees on both sides.  Mae, who brought us veggies and roses from her garden.  Joanne and Randall...she made pies and homemade ice cream and always shared. Randall...he, who spied me standing on a ladder trying to beat the pecans out of our trees with a rake, very sweetly came over to tell me they would fall when they were ready.

      Alabama is where I met Lisa.  Lisa...who brought us chocolate chip cookies the day we moved in.  Lisa who invited kiddo & me to lunch at her house and didn't blink an eye when kiddo wasn't *quite so* potty-trained and also made off with a toy from her son's room. sweet, sweet friend who I could call right now and we could pick up right where we left off.

      And now, we're here.  You know those people you see on the news and read about in the paper.  GOOD people who do BIG things...and you think, "who are those people?"  Those people are our neighbors. Kristen, of We are THAT Family, her husband and her kiddos.

      Kristen went to Africa this year and she was moved.  MOVED. She knew they were called to do something and they are DOING IT.  What's it?  They are starting a maternity home in Kenya called The Mercy House.

      " The Mercy House exists to provide alternative options for pregnant girls living in the streets of Kenya. The Mercy House will aid them in nutrition, housing, prenatal care, counseling and job skills for sustainable living."

      I'll let Kristen tell you more about it here...and here.

      Besides direct donations, The Mercy House will be supported by an etsy shop.  And I'm pleased as punch to have cookies play a small part in it.  (There is also a link in the sidebar.)
      Normally, I don't think of polka dots when I think of Africa. But, I wanted the cookies to be hopeful and beautiful, because I think that's what Kristen and her family are bringing to Africa.  Hope. Beauty. Love. 

      We may offer other designs as time goes by, but for now, please take a few minutes to read about The Mercy House and visit the shop.

      {There is also a giveaway going on over at We are THAT Family today.  Pop on over.  I think you'll be glad you did.}