Daily Archives: February 24, 2014

baby elephant cookies

I used to make and decorate cookies pretty often – in fact, I think it was probably what first got me into the kitchen, baking and creating. I tried out various cut cookie recipes and decorating techniques. I’m certainly no professional, but I’m artistic enough, and I have a decently steady hand, so it was a good fit for me, and I loved doing it.

I spend a lot more time in the kitchen these days doing all sorts of things. I still try to make cookies a few times a year – usually birthdays, or occasionally as gifts or for hire. It’s been at least six months since I made cookies (F’s fruit and veggie cookies), so it was nice to be able to get out the tools and make some more.

I have five or six go-to recipes for cut cookies – several different flavors and colors. For larger cookies I like cream cheese sugar cookies – they hold their shape well when baking, they are sturdy enough for wrapping and handling, but super soft when you eat them, and just enough sugar (but not too much) as a base for all that icing. Here’s the quick and easy recipe if you are interested:

Sugar Cookies

Combine 3-1/2 cups all purpose flour and 1 teaspoon baking powder in a small bowl. Beat 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temp), 1 8oz pkg cream cheese (room temp) and 2 cups sugar together until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla and mix for an additional 30 seconds.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined but still lumpy. Turn out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap, wrapping and kneading the dough until it’s smooth. Form into a disk about 2 inches thick and refrigerate – overnight is best, but 2 hours minimum. You want the dough super cold before rolling and cutting.

Bake at 375 degrees on ungreased cookie sheet (I use parchment paper, always) for 8-10 minutes, until edges are firm and just starting to turn lightly brown. Cool on sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. This recipe makes 3-4 dozen 3″ cookies.

I use a combination of royal icings (anywhere between outline and flow consistency) and fondant to decorate cookies. For the elephants, I piped the gray outlines and then flooded the center of the cookies with thinner icing to fill. They dried overnight and then I added piped details and fondant ears that I had rolled into polka dots and stripes of white and yellow.

Onesie Cookie

I also made little onesies with gray and yellow details – for these I used a thin layer of fondant, crisscrossed with an embellishing wheel to create the quilted pattern, and then piped royal icing details to the match the party theme.

And then they were wrapped up and ready to give out as favors. (Except for the test samples – those might have been devoured just after naps – see example above.) When there are cookies in the oven, the kitchen becomes a very popular place.

let’s eat: on the menu

True to my word last week, I dialed back the dinners a bit to accommodate some extra baking. Monday night we kept it simple with a basic Pesto and Linguine – a 3/4 crowd favorite (E tolerates it.) Later in the week I was looking up something else related to tree nut allergies and stumbled on an article about pine nuts (something she’s been cleared to eat in the past), and it got me worried and thinking more about her nut allergies. Coconuts and pine nuts are a different animal – you can be allergic to tree nuts and you can be allergic to pine nuts and/or coconuts, but beyond that happenstance it’s not a given. (There were only three severe cases cited on record.) Still, I worry.

Tuesday night was TACO Night, a reference made even funnier now that we’ve seen the LEGO movie. Taco night is like our fast food night – frozen corn, spiced black beans, Spanish rice and taco shells – with cheese and lettuce and salsa. The girls add goldfish crackers on top when we have them – not sure where that came from, but it adds extra crunch.

Wednesday night M had a board meeting, and I needed to run an errand just a few blocks away from Pizzeria Tivoli, so the girls and I had a (very) late dinner there. We ordered two pies and downed all but two slices while watching some of the Olympics on the TV screen in the corner. We love that restaurant – the pizza is so good right out of the oven, and the owners are so kind to the girls. The tablecloths are covered in white paper and we always draw on it while we wait – E and I drew each other drawing each other, so we got in a little portrait action before dinner. After dinner I made two batches of Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies and put them in the fridge to chill. (More on those later.)

Sugar Cookies

Thursday night was the standout night of the week. M discovered a winning sandwich combination on Three Hundred Sandwiches – Brussels Sprouts with Fontina and Sage Butter. He made those for us, and regular grilled cheese for the girls (they ate their Brussels Sprouts plain, on the side) along with bowls of tomato soup. I highly recommend this recipe – particularly the way the sprouts are cooked and turned into something like a slaw. After we cleaned up from dinner, M and E went indoor rock climbing with friends, and I set to work on baking those cookies.

Brussels Sprout Sandwiches

Cookies

Friday night I requested something simple – easy to make and clean up so I could have the kitchen to myself for cookie icing. We made breakfast for dinner – Eggs and Crispy Potatoes with Turkey Sausage for those that eat it. 

Saturday night we had Trivia Night at Mad Art – and so we prepared a tray of snacking goodies for the girls to take over to the kids’ house, while the grownups headed down the street a few blocks with our own snacks. We ate and drank well, and put up a respectable showing until the next to last round – going down in flames on the Sochi Olympics category. We apparently aren’t watching enough this go round.

Last night we made a house standard – Roasted Butternut Squash and Greens over Bow-tie Pasta. The recipe is in The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper, and it’s an easy one (once you get the knack of quick dicing a cumbersome squash – half it lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, cut it into half moon slices like you would a cantaloupe, then quick slice the peel off each moon before dicing – don’t ever try to peel those bad boys, you’ll go insane). Everything goes into one big bowl to mix before roasting in the oven. So naturally I dirtied every single bowl in my cupboard to take this photo.

We have leftovers galore – a wonderful way to start off the work week. Hope you had a nice weekend – and ate well!