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RECIPE | The BEST Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs + Royal Icing Recipes

Thursday, February 14


Are you looking for THE BEST...and THE EASIEST sugar cookie cut-out recipe on the planet?
And when I say "the best" sugar cookie cut-out recipe...I really mean it.
And when I say "the easiest"...I really mean that too.

These beauties are a gift from heaven for those of us who like the idea of sugar cookies but don't have the patience that's usually associated with the "refrigeration required" that comes with your classic sugar cookie recipe.


These cookies are just the right amount of sweet...
just the right amount of soft...
just the right amount of goodness...
and just the right cookie to compliment the delicious royal icing you'll want to decorate them with.

And let me say...although I am no professional cookie baker, I've been using this cookie recipe and royal icing recipe for over a decade and they both work like a charm EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Foolproof.

You won't be disappointed.





THE BEST + EASIEST SUGAR COOKIE CUT-OUTS RECIPE
Yields approximately 48 - 2" cookies

Ingredients
Wet Ingredients
1 c. salted butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla

Dry Ingredients
2 3/4 c. flour (all purpose)
2 tsp. baking powder

Directions
Preheat oven to 400º

Using whisk attachment for mixer, (my favorite mixer on the planet), cream together butter and sugar - scraping sides as needed.
Add egg and vanilla. Mix until combined - scraping as needed.

Remove whisk attachment and replace with paddle attachment.
Add flour and baking powder.
Mix until dough comes clean from sides of bowl.

Turn onto lightly floured surface.
Knead until dough is thoroughly combined and mixed.
Roll out with lightly dusted rolling pin and cut with cookie cutters of choice.

Bake at 400º for 6-7 minutes or until bottoms are lightly golden.
Remove from oven, cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute and then move to cooling rack.
Cool completely prior to icing.

Store for up to 3 days prior to icing.


-----------------------------------

THE YUMMIEST ROYAL ICING RECIPE
Makes a huge batch - feel free to 1/2 the recipe.

Ingredients
3/4 c. warm water
5 TBSP meringue powder - I use this one - which makes about 4 batches of icing
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla (clear vanilla if you have it - otherwise, your icing may take on a faint hint of yellow upon drying - no big deal though)
2 lbs powdered sugar

Directions
Using a mixer bowl with whisk attachment, (here's my favorite one ever), add warm water and meringue powder.
Mix until frothy and thickened. (about 30 seconds - scraping to ensure everything is mixed)

Add cream of tartar and vanilla.
Mix again for another 30 seconds until combined.
Swap out whisk attachment for paddle attachment.
Add all of the powdered sugar to the mixing bowl.
Turn on the lowest speed for about 30 seconds.
Scrape sides to combine.
Mix on lowest speed for 10 full minutes.

Icing will be thick and creamy.
Add warm water to icing until it becomes the consistency you need it to be.

When not using, keep bowl covered with damp tea towel to prevent drying, crusting and flaking.

TIP 1: I typically end up adding between 5-7 TBSP of warm water to reach the consistency I like to pipe with. 

TIP 2: For perfect piping consistency, use spoon or spatula to create "ribbons" of icing in your bowl. When ribbons disappear within 7 seconds...you are good to go.

HELPFUL VIDEOS:
How to Prep + Fill a Piping Bag like a Boss - will link to this tomorrow after it's been posted to my Instagram stories



So there you are my friends.
Two recipes that will change your life. *wink*

Seriously though...once you try this cookie cut-out recipe, you'll never use another one.
And the Royal Icing recipe is pretty bomb too. *wink*

If you try them...PLEASE let me know.
I'd love to see and hear how they turned out for you.

Happy Valentine's Day beauties!!

PS - Let's stay cozy + connected in-between posts...find me on Instagram for daily inspiration.
Subscribe here to have new blog posts delivered right to your inbox.

KEEPiNG iT REAL
I shared this recipe YEARS ago on the blog but after 10 years of blogging...
well...it's buried deep in the archives.

I thought it was time to pull it to the surface...just in time for Valentine's Day! 

STYLE | Sweets Charcuterie Board

Tuesday, February 12

If you didn't know, charcuterie boards are all the rage right now.
You'll see them everywhere on social media and if your favorite restaurant doesn't already offer one I'm guessing you'll see one on the menu soon.

If you don't know what I'm talking about...charcuterie is a french word referring to meats that have been smoked, dry-cured or cooked. (think bacon, hard salami, or a soft pâté). It's also the french word for butcher shop or delicatessen. So in essence, a charcuterie board is typically a combination of the types of meats I mentioned above beautifully arranged on a board, platter, tray or plate and served to guests for nibbling + grazing. The charcuterie board has evolved to include a few selections of cheeses, fruits, nuts, olives, crackers and spreads, which in my opinion takes things to an entirely new level. Not only does is make for a gorgeous presentation but it also caters to multiple palettes + food preferences.


That said, it's now officially evolved into something even more today with the "Valentine's Sweets Charcuterie-Style board" I've created. Ha!

No meats. No cheeses...just chocolates and treats.
Originally, I was thinking I would just use nothing but chocolates. (since I have an abundance from the work I do for Hershey).


But...I decided to mix in a variety of "cracker-like" cookies, heart-shaped candies, a little bit of fruit, a handful of nuts as well a selection of dips to appeal to more people and most certainly give it a more "charcuterie-vibe".


This was my very first charcuterie-style board and friends...it was SO easy and SO fun.
The options are endless with the items you can use and the many different celebrations you can create them for.

Create a charcuterie tray for two or assemble one for a crowd.
There really are no rules so have fun with it.




Here's everything I used to create mine but these types of boards are so versatile feel free to get creative and use your personal favorites. 

SUPPLIES
Cutting board, platter, tray or plate to feed a crowd or the specific number of people you're expecting
Fresh strawberries
Valentine Pretzels - I couldn't find the ones I bought but these are cute!
Heart Crackers - these are way too expensive - you can find them at some Walmarts
Peanut Butter
Fresh Roses for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS
I started with a slab of marble as my "board", added three small bowls, strategically placed the big items on the board first and then filled in the empty areas with the smaller treats.

To finish it I added a few fresh roses and sprinkled a little bit of rose petals for touches of "Valentine's Day".

-----------------------


I sure hope you'll try your hand at creating one of these.
It really was fun to put together and I'm looking forward to making another one for Easter.


PS - Let's stay cozy + connected in-between posts...find me on Instagram for daily inspiration.
Subscribe here to have new blog posts delivered right to your inbox.

KEEPiNG iT REAL
Not even kidding when I tell you it took me longer to collect + decide on the items I wanted to use than it took for me to throw it all together. (Less than 15 minutes - for real)
And those dark chocolate mini hearts? YUM!!
First time I've ever tried them and was pleasantly surprised at how good they are!

GIFT IDEA | Valentine's Day Lindt Bar Wrappers

Monday, February 11


A few weeks ago I took a poll in my Instagram stories asking for feedback on some custom Valentine's Day candy bar labels for Lindt's footlong candy bar I recently came across.

I loved the feedback I received...there were so many fun responses.
I ended up combining similar answers and the majority of responses that came through to create 11 different FREE WRAPPERS/LABELS for you to print and use as gifts + treats for Valentine's Day!


The selections include candy bar wrappers for teachers, principals, besties, coaches, friends, and more.

I found these GIANT FOOT-LONG Lindt Bars in my local grocery store for $5.99 - just happened to pass by them one day!! 



They really make a statement and the custom labels help to make them extra special + personalized to gift to the people you love!


I'm taking things a step further and gifting the chocolate bars to all three of my girls along with one of these ADORABLE + super soft stuffed animals that are filled with organic french lavender.

Have you seen these?  These cuties are so snuggly and weigh about 2-3 pounds and can also be heated up in the microwave for some added warmth for cuddle time.

This sweet puppy is for Ella but Ema is getting this adorable Koala Bear and Clara's puppy is sold out but here is one that's similar. 


Friends...as a mama who has struggled with anxiety issues my entire life and having two daughters that struggle as well...these are SUCH a perfect gift. The lavender creates calm, the heaviness of the animal creates security and the softness gives comfort. 

I love them so much I want to get one for myself. *wink*


So, whether you decide to just stick with the chocolate bars...
or add in a plush stuffed animal...
I really hope you're inspired to try at least one of these options.

You could even save the stuffed animal idea for EASTER!!!


Here's all you need to make the Customized Candy Bars Labels...


SUPPLIES
1 - Valentine's Day Lindt Bar Candy Bar Wrapper
1 - sheet of 8.5x11" white card stock
1 - 10.6 oz. Lindt Chocolate Bar <--- this link is from Amazon but I found mine for $5.99 at Publix
Clear Tape to secure wrapper on back
Ribbon (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Print Candy Bar Wrapper onto 8.5x11" white card stock.
2. Wrap around candy bar and secure with tape.
3. Crease edges for a nice finish.
4. Add a ribbon if you'd like to jazz it up a bit.

TIP: If you don't like the gold outer packaging unwrap it to find a plain silver foil wrapped candy bar inside.

Love you friends!!

PS - Let's stay cozy + connected in-between posts...find me on Instagram for daily inspiration.
Subscribe here to have new blog posts delivered right to your inbox.

KEEPiNG iT REAL
There are soooo many different adorable plush stuffed animals to choose from I really don't know which one to pick for myself. Ha!! It took me forever to pick out the ones for the girls.

And honestly, Clara picked out a pink elephant at first and then traded it for the puppy because the elephant nose was a little awkward to snuggle with. (I didn't tell her what i was getting, I just gave her a few "stuffed animal" options to choose from and then when she realized what it was for she chose something she could really get cozied up to). *wink*

My Word of the Year for 2019

Saturday, February 2

Res • cue /'reskyōō/ verb - to find, save, recover; to set free from, deliver, to liberate; 

Well there she is...in all of her glory.
RESCUE... the word (and symbol +) I've chosen for 2019.

Yep.
I plan to rescue ME...
which makes me the rescuer AND the rescuee.

If you remember, last year I chose the word "FREE".
Even a year ago I had this underlying desire to "rediscover, unbury and reconnect
with the girl I once was." The primary emphasis being on my health.

Ironically, I even used the word "rescue" a year ago when I said, "I am running fiercely to meet her; to grab her hand and continue the journey together...I'm sprinting through the wide open prairie to wear she is standing and has been waiting for me to return. And I know when I reach her...I will not have rescued her...she will have rescued me."

With much disappointment in my heart to have to admit this...she's still waiting for me my friends.

So yeah...I started January feeling so much disappointment because although I made some progress in 2018 with regards to my health, it's not even close to what I envisioned "FREE" to look like or better yet...feel like.

But...I can tell you after spending the entire first month of 2019 "planning, dreaming, diving into what really matters to me this year and especially what steps I need to take to make important things happen" I have definitely felt a shift.

Instead of allowing myself to be stuck in disappointment, I've adopted this mindset I recently wrote during some brainstorming/journaling:

"...maybe what I need to do is surrender to the place I am at right now. Perhaps let go of the unmet expectations and the failures related to my health. And just start where I am at. Let go of what worked or what didn't work and just listen to my body. And start exactly where I am...as ugly or as messy as I believe it to be."

Besides, remember the Reflect + Release post when I said, "We feel all the feels, we reflect on the progress or lack thereof and then...we close the chapter with gratitude."

Today I am grateful for...
- the self-care steps I implemented in 2018.
- the things I learned and tried that did not work well for me.
- the hope and expectation I feel for 2019.
- the renewed commitment to becoming a better version of me.

The word "RESCUE" has a sense of urgency associated with it.
And that's exactly how I'm feeling about tackling what's ahead for me.

I'm on a "Rescue Mission" my friends...a "Search + Rescue" specifically.
Aside from writing the rescue symbol (+) on my wrist every morning as a part of my new morning routine, I've been using some other tools to help me carry out my rescue plan this year. I'm excited to be sharing those with you soon.

What's your word for 2019? I'd love to know what's inspiring you and what goals you are looking to reach this year!!

PS - Let's stay cozy + connected in-between posts...find me on Instagram for daily inspiration.
Subscribe here to have new blog posts delivered right to your inbox.

KEEPiNG iT REAL
I've got about 50 Hershey products to photograph and style and I'm definitely feeling a tremendous
amount of pressure to meet a January 8th deadline. (it's a working weekend for me my friends).

Good news is...I vowed "no sugar" in January despite the daily temptations of the chocolate I'm surrounded by...and I DID it!! I stuck to my promise.  It's amazing how powerful the "+" symbol I've been writing on my wrist has been. *wink*

RECIPE | Stamped Gingerbread Cookies

Wednesday, January 30


I shared these beauties at Christmastime on my Instagram feed and then I also included them in my Simple Christmas Decor Holiday Recap, as well as in my most recent Reflect + Release post). 

Well...despite the fact that Christmas has come and gone, I made a promise to my "InstaSistas" I'd get the recipe and instructions for these Stamped Gingerbread Cookies up on the blog before the end of January. And we are one day away from the end of January...so here they are... *wink*


I'm sharing the recipe and technique I determined to produce the most favorable results after testing a couple of different recipes and a couple of different techniques.

These cookies are a soft gingerbread cookie, created from a dough that works specifically well with cookie stamps and has a little bit of bite to them.

Recipe first followed by the step-by-step pictures.
But first you'll need THESE COOKIE STAMPS!

•••••••••

STAMPED GINGERBREAD COOKIES
Makes one dozen cookies + a couple more
Adapted from Sue Moran from www.theviewfromgreatisland.com

Ingredients
Wet Ingredients
6 TBSP unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 packed cup plus 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1 large egg yolk

Dry Ingredients
1 3/4 cups plus 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
1 TBSP 100% Ghirardelli cocoa powder, unsweetened
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Glaze
1 cup sifted confectioner's sugar
1 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 TBSP plus 2 tsp warm water (or more)

1 small bowl of granulated sugar - approximately 1/4 cup - for rolling dough balls prior to stamping

Additional Kitchen Tools needed
Cookie Sheet
Silpat Baking Sheet or Parchment Paper
Cookie Stamps

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 375º F.

Put your cookie stamps in the freezer to chill.

Cream together the butter, sugar, and molasses in a stand mixer (or with electric beaters).

Beat in the egg yolk.

Sift together the dry ingredients in medium size bowl.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, beating on low until the dough comes together and begins to pull away from the bowl. If dough is sticky add a little more flour.

NOTE: My dough was still pretty sticky even after adding more flour but I proceeded to the next step and it turned out fine.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until all the flour is incorporated. Flatten the dough into a disk. If dough is soft, wrap and chill in refrigerator for about an hour.

NOTE: On my first attempt, my dough felt really good but tended to get a little sticky while working with it and also spread too much during baking process. So, I chose to chill my dough. PS - I also live in Florida and we have high levels of humidity and heat which can also effect the baking results.

Roll dough into golf ball size balls.

Roll dough balls in small bowl of granulated sugar and place on cookie sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper.

Press a chilled cookie stamp firmly and evenly into a dough ball until you see the dough start to peek out from all of the edges of the cookie stamp. Lift stamp.(if it sticks, slowly peel dough from stamp to maintain shape and then dip stamp in flour for remaining cookies).

TIP 1: I had no problem with sticking as long as I kept the cookie stamps in the freezer while not in use.

TIP 2: For an even press/cookie, I chose to press down on the round part of the cookie stamp with my fingers instead of just using the handle.

Use a round cookie cutter a tad smaller than the stamp itself to cut out the cookies leaving nice finished edges.

Bake for 8-10 minutes. Cookies will be soft when you remove them from the oven, but will firm upon cooling.

While the cookies are baking make the glaze.
Using a whisk, combine ingredients together until they become smooth. Add more water if necessary until the glaze resembles a thin honey.

Place the baked cookies on a cooling rack and after about 10 minutes, brush them with the glaze while still slightly warm. The glaze will harden within about 30 minutes.

NOTE: Dough can be made and refrigerated for up to 2 days before baking . Baked cookies can be stored in airtight container for up to 5 days.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Stamped Gingerbread Cookie Ingredients


Gingerbread Dough rolled into golf ball sized dough balls and then rolled in granulated sugar

Pressing the cookie stamp into the Gingerbread Dough Ball


A perfectly stamped Gingerbread Cookie


Time to use a round cookie cutter to remove the rough edges of the stamped cookie


Round cookie cutter should be slightly smaller than the stamped design to create a clean edge.


Stamped and cut cookies ready for baking

Beautiful stamped, baked and glazed Gingerbread cookies - ready for gifting and eating

Sure hope you loved the recipe and quick tutorial.
They are such pretty cookies and they taste delicious too.

I sure do love you my friends!!
Stay tuned for my "Word of the Year" announcement coming tomorrow!!

xoxo,
Jess

PS - You'll find me on Instagram sharing tips, fun finds, current projects, daily inspiration and so much more to keep us connected + cozy in-between blog posts! 

Oh! And If you’d like new posts delivered to your inbox - subscribe here!

KEEPiNG iT REAL
As silly as I feel for finally posting these at the end of January...
a promise is a promise. Am I right? 

Now go ahead and pin this for next cookie baking season!! *grin*

Reflect + Release

Saturday, January 26


Hello friends!! I've been spending the month of January planning, dreaming, diving into what really matters to me this year as well as what steps I need to take to make important things happen.

However, before I can forge ahead I need to take a look back.
I believe a little bit of reflection allows us the opportunity to see how far we've come, assess where we currently stand, allow feelings of regret about areas we may have fallen short in, experience the pain of something hard + difficult we may have had to face and then guess what? We MOVE ON!

That's right.
It's what I call "Reflect and Release".
We feel all the feels, we reflect on the progress or lack thereof and then...
we close the chapter with gratitude.

Gratitude for all of the good things.
Gratitude for another year...another chance to make things better.
Gratitude for a fresh start, a clean slate and a heart filled with new hopes and dreams.

So here I am today reflecting on 2018 and all that it brought with it...


Icicle mornings and a visit from Jay's parents



A BFF weekend with Ella's bestie, Elise, (including a "rainbow pancakes" breakfast), another visit from Jay's parents, long walks with Hamilton down by the river, planting tomato seeds, pulling out landscaping plants, RiverTown's Daddy Daughter Dance, and Ella's first gymnastics competition of the year with her new gym, Florida Elite.






A trip to Savannah for another gymnastics competition, new landscaping, a family reunion in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Ema turning 19 and coming to live with us in St. Johns to finish school, and lots of tomato plant watering.







New Spring flowers for around the house, a visit from Clara with bath bomb experimenting, Ritualistic coffee runs with Ema in the mornings after we dropped Ella off at school, Ella's very last gymnastics competition of the season at Regionals...and little did I know...her very last competition as a gymnast ever. *tears* and an unexpected love note from my sweet Ella pie.



Lot of sidewalk chalk art in the driveway with Em + Ella, wildflower picking after school, riding scooters in the rain with the girls, recipe experimenting from the Magnolia Table Cookbook, Ella deciding to walk away from her 4th and final year in gymnastics, *insert tears*,  a visit to Mt. Dora to see Ella's bestie perform in the school Talent Show, implementing a daily walking program with Em, and my beautiful Emalyn receiving her high school diploma! (WaHoo)!!




A girls camping trip to Salt Springs with my mom, baking hummingbird cake + cupcakes with Clara, faithfully walking 10k steps every day, horseback riding camp for Ella, a dinner with my cousin Karson and her family at Marker 32, celebrating Father's day with a unicorn freak shake at new smoothie place, a visit to Mt. Dora to watch Elise's recital and drumroll please...harvesting our very first tomato.






Cultivating my love for maidenhair ferns, lots of outside dog baths for Hamilton, a summer painting class for Ella, our first visit to Sweet Pete's, Ella deciding to try cheerleading to replace gymnastics, creating 10k steps challenges between Clara, Jay + I to push and encourage each other every day to do better, and my sweet Em going back to Mt. Dora to secure a job at Starbucks and continue her education.





We harvested lots of cherry tomatoes from our thriving tomato plants, Clara visited a lot and became a dog walker through the Wag App, Jay and I ate at Preserved for a special night out - (now one of our favorite dining experiences), Ella ran her first 5k with her bestie, (Elise), and Ella started 4th grade at a brand new school (Freedom Crossing Academy) AGAIN this year after our new neighborhood was re-zoned. 





Clara and I experimented with making slab pies, we went to Julington Creek Fish Camp with my mom + Rick when they came up for a visit, my cousin Karson and her daughter Riley stayed with us for a few days when they were evacuated from South Carolina due to Hurricane Florence, our family dog, (Hamilton), turned 17 this year, Ella attended her first NFL football game when she went to see a Jags game through the "Honor Row" program at her school and Clara continued to walk the cutest pups as a Wag Walker.






Ella became a little more independent and took Hamilton on lots of walks around the neighborhood by herself, Clara came to visit and while she was here she painted the cutest UCF pumpkins with the Ivory Ella brand logo, we participated in a neighborhood garage sale and I purged sooo much, I did some door decorating for Ella's class, Ella and I traveled to Orlando to spend the weekend with her bestie + her bestie's mom at the Omni Champions Gate so the girls could celebrate their "double digits" birthdays early.




Ella got her first pair of prescription glasses days before she officially turned 10, Ella chose to have a birthday DAY with Jay + I instead of having a party and asked for a Breyer horse themed cake as well as horse themed oreo cookies to bring to her class, I helped organize a "Pie Bar" for Ella's class for Thanksgiving, we stayed home for Thanksgiving this year and enjoyed the company of Clara, Mom + Rick and Jay's parents. (I was missing Ema).






I made a dream of mine come true when I traveled to Waco, Texas to visit Magnolia Market with my cousin Karson (recap post coming), I experimented with dried oranges as part of my Christmas decor, (go see this post) I baked stamped Gingerbread Cookies (recipe coming January 30th), we visited friends and family in Mt. Dora the weekend before Christmas and to also participate in our first-ever family 5k,  I discovered the wonderful Comfort + Joy Apothecary I can't seem to get enough of and are now my new favorite things to gift.



Although it took a lot of time and effort to create this post, (scrolling back through all the images of 2018 and choosing my favorite memories), it was so worth it and I'm so grateful I did it.

I'm mainly grateful because being able to reflect on everything 2018 brought to my life excites me even more for what's ahead. My eyes were opened through this posting process to so much good that surrounded me this year even though there were definitely some difficult situations and circumstances mixed in with everything. Sometimes it's so hard to see the good right in front of you but when you take a step back your whole perspective can change.

Thanks for taking a look back with me friends.
Now I can officially move forward...


KEEPiNG iT REAL
You have no idea how relieved (and proud) I am to finally have this post completed.
Looking forward to posting the Gingerbread Cookies recipe and my word of the year for 2019 before the end of January. (that's only a few days away). Eeeks!!















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