Sugar Cookie Decorating Party for Valentine’s Day

Sugar Cookie Hearts

Happy Valentine’s Day!

For many years, I succumbed to the commercialism of this holiday, usually in the form of a depressed single woman with no date for the big day. One year, I realized that I didn’t need a special man in my life to make the day special. Instead, it dawned on me that surrounding myself with my beloved family and friends made for the perfect celebration of Valentine’s Day.

Even though I am now married and have that special man to celebrate with, I still think the essence of love is sharing time with others, especially on this particular day and especially sharing it with others who feel the pressure of this extremely commercialized holiday.

So today, I invited a handful of friends to my place for a sugar cookie decorating party. We had a blast. We learned some new skills. We bonded. We felt loved.

The basic details, in case anyone is interested:

  • I used the Lemon Vanilla Bean recipe from Annie’s Eats. I quadrupled the cookie dough recipe.
  • I made 6 batches of royal icing: 1/3 white, 1/3 red, and 1/3 pink.
  • I filled 6 piping bags, 2 of each color, for outlining and design work. We used #2 & #3 sized tips for decorating and outlining.
  • I also filled 3 large condiment containers with icing for flooding.
  • I placed all decorating materials on a large baking sheet in the middle of the table, along with a small damp towel for each guest.
  • I baked about 100 3-inch heart cookies (so start ahead of time and freeze them!) for four people.
  • I bought aluminum cookie trays at Smart and Final so the guests could store their cookies on them and take them home. At the table, though, we used my flat cookie trays for decorating. Before guests arrived, I filled each cookie tray full of cookies.
  • I collected images from of sugar cookie heart designs, saved them on my laptop, and showed those to the guests for ideas. Then, I had traced the cookie cutter heart on paper for each guest and had them sketch out some designs before we began.
  • The night before, I had flooded a dozen cookies of each color, so each guest started with 4 red, 4 pink, and 4 white cookies. On these, we began our first round of designing. Lots of laughter as our designs often failed, but it was the company and the learning that we cherished, not the final designs.
  • It was time for a lunch break after all that decorating. I served a Southwestern Tomato Soup from Cafe Sucre Farine, Grilled Cheese Croutons from Food Network(smoked gruyere makes awesome sandwiches!), and salad. Later, for dessert, we had Mini Raspberry Cheesecakes baked in mason jars (from Simply Recipes) served with Raspberry Whipped Cream! To die for dessert, I tell ya.
  • For round two of cookie decorating, we watch SweetAmbsCookies videos to learn how to marble using wet icing design.

All in all, the party lasted about 4-5 hours and was a lovely way to spend Valentine’s afternoon.

Now, off to stuff myself with sugar cookies!

Festive Fudge (White Chocolate Fudge with Cranberries and Pistachios)

White Fudge

Festive white fudge studded with cranberries and pistachio nuts

A baking frenzy took place in my kitchen yesterday. All day–from early morning until evening–I whisked, stirred, melted, rolled, filled, dipped, and baked an assortment of cookies and candies. I made ol’ favs: Walnut Pillows, Pecan Balls, Pecan Tarts, and Macadamia Nut Butter Cookies.

And I tried a few new recipes, such as this Festive Fudge: luscious white chocolate studded with green pistachios and red cranberries. Nutty and fruity. Tart and chewy. Perfect holiday fare.

Ever made fudge? It’s a hit or miss situation with me, kind of like my caramel experiences. But this one worked easily enough: dump a bunch of stuff into a pan, boil for 4 minutes, add to chips, mix in nuts and fruit, and voila–lovely, festive fudge!

Now on to today’s project: packing all these goodies to give away as well as freezing some for Christmas day.

Festive Fudge (White Chocolate Fudge with Cranberries and Pistachios)

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  • 3 cups white chocolate chips
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios (roasting optional)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract


  1. If you want to roast the pistachios, heat oven to 350 degrees F, spread nuts onto a pan, and roast for 5-8 minutes. Allow to cool.
  2. Prepare pan by lining with parchment paper. Tip: spraying the pan with a bit of oil helps the parchment paper to stay in place. If you want 2-inch high fudge, use an 8 inch x 8 inch pan. If you want 1-inch high fudge, use a 9 inch x 13 inch pan (I like this option because the pieces feel more bite sized and you get a lot more fudge pieces).
  3. Place white chocolate chips in a large bowl and have electric mixer  or whisk ready. If using a stand mixer, use the whisk attachment.
  4. This next step involves boiling, so use a large saucepan (I used my 6 quart Dutch oven): over medium heat, bring the sugar, butter, cream, and salt to a full, rolling boil, stirring occasionally. Once it begins to fully boil, set a timer for 4 minutes, continuously stirring at this point. If you use a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 230 degrees F.
  5. Pour the hot mixture over the white chocolate chips and whisk on medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until chocolate is completely melted.
  6. Add cranberries, pistachios, and vanilla; stir until combined.
  7. Pour the fudge into your parchment-lined pan; use a spatula to evenly spread it. Allow to cool, which will take a couple of hours, then cover with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator to cool for a couple more hours before cutting. When ready to cut, use a pizza cutter to make smooth, even, and straight cuts.
  8. The fudge can be stored in an airtight container, on the counter or in the refrigerator, for about a week or two. Or you can wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then place in resealable bag, and freeze for a couple months.

SOURCE: adapted from Chocolate, Chocolate and More

Dark Chocolate Fudge Pops


rich, decadent fudgepops!

Happy Labor Day!

I awoke before 6am, and after reading emails and a few blog posts, I remembered the fudgesicles I had whipped up yesterday afternoon. So yes, at 6:30 a.m., I ate a fudgesicle. Oh-so-very healthy of me, huh?

And it tasted yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuumy!

I’m using a HUGE amount of willpower right now to not eat another. And another. ‘Cause I easily could.

I took one bite, then a second, followed by a third. I really wanted to devour it pronto. But I made myself stop long enough to snap a quick picture. Luckily it came out okay enough to share on the blog. And then I promptly devoured the remaining frozen treat!

It has taken me over a year to find a fudgesicle recipe that I like. This one works. And it works well. The others tasted grainy, powdering, chalky… But this one? Creamy. Rich. Decadent.

And it uses NO added sugar. None. Can you believe that? I’m still stunned by that one. Granted, the chocolate has sugar in it, but not one spec of added sugar to the ingredients list.  So cool.

Heavy whipping cream plus milk plus a bit of cocoa plus finely chopped chocolate and a bit of vanilla. That’s it. Only that. And it produces a rich, chocolatey scrumptious frozen treat. I’m in awe right now. And so darn excited.

And really annoyed that my impatience last night caused me to lose one of the fudgesicles. I pulled the cap off the popsicle mold only to have the not-yet-frozen chocolate spill ALL OVER the kitchen floor. Into far corners. Little dots of chocolate mess speckling the tiles. Not happy. About the mess. And now about losing a darn yummy fudgesicle.

I had planned to use a bar of Ghirardelli baking chocolate in this, but I only had chocolate chips in the pantry. And I grabbed the container of Hershey’s Dark Cocoa so I used that. Both worked out just fine. Very fine, actually.

So, I guess we can call this a Dark Chocolate Fudgesicle. Or maybe Darn Delicious Dark Chocolate Fudgesicle.

I just had a thought. Is “fudgesicle” a brand name? If so, then I guess I should label these fudge pops instead?

Dark Chocolate Fudge Pops

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  1. Finely chop the chocolate, then place in a 4-cup (or larger) bowl with a spout (makes pouring into the pop molds much easier).
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine cream, milk, and sifted cocoa (to break up lumps). Place over medium heat, whisking until cocoa dissolves and mixture comes to a simmer. If you go beyond a simmer, you risk creating a grainy texture for the pops.
  3. Remove from heat; pour over the chopped chocolate and allow 2-3 minutes to pass before mixing. Then whisk gently until the chocolate melts and is thoroughly mixed in.
  4. Add the vanilla and mix.
  5. Pour the mixture into ice pop molds and place in freezer until solid.
  6. To unmold, place pop in lukewarm water for 1-2 minutes until it easily releases from mold. Now, enjoy every last rich and decadent bite!

SOURCE: Alton Brown’s Fudgepops from



Parsley Log

Do you have an excess of parsley growing in your garden? Need a method for saving it? Then read on…

I spent a few hours playing in the dirt today. (That means I gave my garden some lovin’ and my arms a sunburn.) Since I have to start teaching again in two weeks and won’t have as much free time as I do during the summers (big boo hoo!), I had to pull out the spring/summer plants and get the veggie beds ready for fall planting.

I had an excess of parsley in one area and wanted to make room for growing cilantro instead, which we use more often. However, I didn’t have the heart to just throw it all away (but considered it), so I brought it into the house with plans to just toss it in a baggie and freeze it.


Abundance of parsley

Then the stars aligned! As I read my email from the gals at (love their site), they had a link to a method for saving loads and loads of parsley in a small package: the parsley log. How oh-so-very convenient for me!

Parsley Log

Yep, all that parsley from the photo above got squeezed into this bag

The method involves pulling all the leaves off the parsley, stuffing them tightly into the bottom of a resealable bag, then tightly rolling  up the bag and securing with rubber bands, and finally popping it into the freezer. When a recipe calls for parsley during the winter season, just pull out the log, cut off a slice, and voila! Brilliant method!! Now I know it won’t provide fresh-from-the-garden parsley, but it sure beats having to pay a few bucks for a small bunch of parsley at the market every time I need some for a soup or stew recipe.

So, my parsley didn’t go to waste and I am a happy camper.

Definitely check out the pictures on Margaret’s A Way to Garden blog for making these parsley logs. My pics are limited (in both quality and process) while hers clearly show all the steps.