Roll-Out Sugar Cookie Tips/Tricks

Hello, happy Foodie Friday. I mentioned last week that my daughter’s birthday was in June and we did a Minnie Mouse theme. I made cake as well as cupcakes and cookies. The cupcakes and cookies were for one birthday party (at the lake, cupcakes make for easy transport and distribution) and the cake was for her other birthday party (with family at home).

I took cake decorating classes, but we never really worked with cookies. I had to do a little research on how to decorate cookies and I want to share some tips and tricks that I learned, plus my favorite recipe for making sugar cookies for decorating. I have a whole other favorite sugar cookie recipe if you aren’t decorating with icing!
·      When it says butter should be at room temperature, make sure it is at room temperature. Baking is a scientific method where cooking is more art. You need to be precise and putting the butter in the microwave to “come to room temperature” doesn’t really work well. It just messes with the consistency of the butter. The standard “room temp” degrees is about 70. You don’t have to put a thermometer against the butter, but keep that in mind for room temperature.
·      Even if your recipe doesn’t call for placing the dough in the refrigerator, do it, trust me. 15-30 minutes max. This allows the butter to harden up a smidge and makes it easier to roll out your sugar cookie dough recipe as well as hold the shape when moving from the cutting board to the cookie sheet.
·      Also, placing a cooler cookie in the oven allows the outside to hold the shape a little longer allowing the middle to melt and bake to help with uniform cookies.
·      Place parchment paper on your cookie sheet. It makes it easier to transfer cookies off the sheet when they come out of the oven, allows a nice golden crust on the cookies while baking, and better yet, makes clean up a cinch.
·      There is a method to the madness in the order to add ingredients. Butter and sugar is always creamed together first before adding wet ingredients. You also add wet ingredients before the dry ingredients. And go ahead, even if it makes another bowl dirty, mix the dry ingredients before adding them to the wet ingredient mixture.
·      Adding the butter to the sugar and mixing has a purpose. It allows air to incorporate into the mixture. It also allows the sugar to start breaking down. So beat it for 3-5 minutes to make sure you have the sugar broken down as well as making sure that there is air added to the mixture for a fluffier cookie. Go ahead and scrape down the mixer bowl to make sure all the butter is incorporated and then beat it for another 1-3 minutes just for good measure.
·      Make sure to check the weather. The higher the humidity, the harder it is to get the moisture out of your cookie and your cookie will tend to be a little more on the flat side. Being inside an air conditioned house during the summer helps with that a little, but if you’re having trouble, check the weather outside.
·      Use real butter. It’s the right thing to do. These treats are supposed to be treats in moderation, so it’s okay.
There are many more and I could probably go on for days, but I’ve probably bored you so let’s move to this recipe I found.
I use the Wilton Roll-out cookie dough recipe  and have had great luck with it!

 

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12 Tips to Baking Great Cakes

I wrote this blogpost a month ago for a guest blogpost on a website. They didn’t use it, they didn’t tell me they weren’t going to… so I’m posting it here since I did spend quite a bit of time writing it :). Hopefully you enjoy and maybe find a little useful information to boot!

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My daughter is huge in to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse right now, especially Minnie Mouse. Back in June for her 2nd birthday we decided to have a Minnie Mouse themed birthday party. I took cake decorating classes back in 2008 because I had nothing better to do with my time, so I learned all the techniques on decorating cakes. I might be a little rusty these days, but I still have all that arsenal in my back pocket to come in handy one of these days. Now I’m going to share some tips with you on how to decorate your own cake to look professional.
For my daughter’s birthday I decided we were going to have Minnie Mouse Cupcakes, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse cookies, and then on her actual birthday a cake. Yes, she got two parties. Sometimes it happens.
So my tips on making the Cake… from get this… a box mix. Shhh don’t tell anyone!
1.     I’m not picky on box mixes. In fact, I won’t lie but a lot of times I use what I can get cheapest. Now I will still go for name brand cheap, but not always. So buy the box mix of your choice!
2.     Eggs. You should have your eggs room temperature. Yeah yeah, we all hear that and sometimes we don’t all have time for that… am I right? Okay, 2 tips on getting your eggs to room temp quickly… crack the eggs individually into bowls right before you start to allow them to “quickly” rise to room temperature. Second way… while still in the shell, run them under luke warm water for 5 minutes. Or the third way (I know I said 2 but…) do it the right way and set the eggs out for about 30 minutes before hand.
3.     Preheat your oven. My cake mix always says 350˚F. There is a science to making cakes… so make sure to do this and let it fully come to temperature.
4.     Make sure you have good sturdy cake pans. I love the Wilton ones but that’s my choice. It is better to have a good sturdy cake pan though… you know, instead of the throw-away cheap type.
5.     Just before you turn that oven on to preheat, make sure your oven rack is in the middle. Maybe that should be point number 4 because it sucks to try and move that rack after the oven is hot. Trust me, I’ve done it. It’s doable but not fun.
6.     Mix it… Mix it good. Does that make anyone think of that 90’s song. Oh wait, did I just age myself? Anyway… hint, I typically don’t use a mixer to mix my cake mix. I know, I know… But I get out a whisk and I whisk it by hand. Sometimes that’s a pain and your arm gets tired, but it works for me and sometimes I’m lazy and don’t want to have to clean my mixer. The cake mix says to mix for 2 minutes usually… well… I try to do that by hand but may not always make it. Don’t tell… they might send me to cake jail…. Just mix it until it looks like it’s light, fluffy, and all the dry is mixed into the wet. You’re good to go and golden then!
7.     Remember to Grease that pan. If you don’t, you’ll be crying! So back in the early 2000’s (there I go aging myself again) Food Network did a special on cake baking sprays. Baker’s Joy won. That’s what I swear by. But if you don’t want to buy that… my other suggestion is lightly butter your pan and reserve just a bit of your dry cake mix and add that to the butter, instead of flour. Especially with chocolate cake. Then you have that layer but it’s not white flour, especially on chocolate cake. If you choose the flour method, then use cocoa for a chocolate cake mix to avoid having that white layer on a perfectly pretty chocolate cake. But really, just buy the Baker’s Joy.
8.     Bake it. Bake it good. Okay, sorry, I’ll quit that now… So I’ve learned with my oven that it is best to cook at the minimum time. So say it says 30-35 minutes. I bake it at 30 minutes, then test it. Invest in long toothpicks or wooden skewers, they are helpful when you have a thicker cake. Otherwise toothpicks will work. Place the toothpick in the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, pull the cake out.
9.     Let it cool. Here’s where I break the rules again. I try to bake my cake the day before. Doesn’t always happen, but that’s my goal. I leave the cake in the pan and let it cool, then I wrap it in aluminum foil. Most people say let it cool for X number of minutes then cool on a rack. I place my pan on a rack and let it cool. That’s only backfired on me twice and that’s when I didn’t have the bakers joy. Like I mentioned before… buy the Baker’s Joy. Then that aluminum foil, I use it to wrap my cardboard cake plate when I’m ready to decorate my cake.
10.  If you don’t have time to let it cool… ok I hear you… let it cool in the pan on the counter for 10 minutes, then place it directly into the refrigerator or freezer. Refrigerator for 30 minutes or freezer for 15. You don’t want it to freeze after all, just cool.
11.  If you don’t have the premade/precut cake board, just grab a box, use your cake pan you baked in, turn it upside down, trace the top and cut. Then cover with aluminum foil and place your cake on the board and you’re ready to run. Heavier cakes… you might want to double up on the cardboard to make it sturdier.
12.  Frost it. Get a good recipe or use store bought if you must and you’re ready to go. I prefer homemade, but that’s another discussion for another day.

 

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Dude’s Daylight Donuts {Joplin, MO}

I’ve been on the hunt for the best donuts. Have I found them? Maybe…. But I can tell you one things for sure… these donuts are AWESOME! And they’re Daylight Donuts so they should be like the ones we get from Daylight Donuts in Carthage, but they aren’t.

A while ago I asked my dad where his favorite donuts were from and we got into a huge discussion. Then last week he had to be in Joplin for some work training. On his way from training to work, he brought a donut by for us to try from Dude’s Donuts. The next day was Wednesday. That’s Donut Day :). So we decided to try donuts from there.

OMG, they were all warm. Can you believe that? Warm Donuts. Wow! I got a Maple Bar and hubby got a Chocolate Bar. Then we got donut holes, then donuts. No they aren’t all for us. We share. But neither of us shared the maple/chocolate bar. We’re not that nice :).

The place we get donuts at in Carthage only has enough donut holes for the number of doughnuts they make that day, but Dude’s makes donut holes special. OMG. I love donut holes.

These were even Excellent.

One thing to note… this is another one of those donut places that only accepts cash. Make sure if you go, you have cash or you’ll be crying!

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Black Rifle Coffee Company

Up until a few years ago, I wasn’t a coffee drinker. In fact, it didn’t happen until like 2011 or something when Mark and I went on the Showboat Branson Belle and it was complimentary with dinner so I decided to try it. Mark looked at me like I grew a horn out of my head and after I said, hey that’s not bad, he tried it. We both converted to the “dark” side. Pun intended :). haha

So now jump forward to 2016. Are we avid coffee drinkers? No, but we do like the occasional cup of Jo.. wonder where that term came from anyway. Maybe some research on my part is required. Anyway, somehow Mark came across this company that is veteran owned called Black Rifle Coffee Company that is based out of Salt Lake City, Utah. He never told me how he came across it, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is, he found it. And I mentioned it is Veteran Owned… well note on the package that 5% of the profits go toward veteran organizations. Bam!

So he and a few guys at work went in and ordered some of the coffee. I’m not going to lie, I’m glad they did!

This is one of the flavors he ordered, Silencer Smooth. This is a lighter roast coffee, which I think I prefer. We shared it with a bunch of friends and they’re huge coffee drinkers. They approved of it.

But this is the stuff we tried at home…. Snipers Hide and I think I prefer it above the one above. There was a third one he bought (that I know of) called CAF. It stands for Caffeinated as F*ck… I can’t remember if I got to try that one or not… but the name cracked me up just a bit.

And no, these people aren’t paying me to tell you about this… they don’t even know about me, but I’m just sharing my opinion. If they ever stumble across this, send us coffee please…. haha.

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Newton County Christmas for Kids & Chili/Non-Chili Cookoff and Silent Auction

Imagine it’s Christmas morning. You’re laying under the covers and wondering just exactly what Santa has brought and left for you under the Christmas tree. Now, imagine that your family has stumbled across some hardship in the form of loss of jobs, extreme medical bills, etc. Christmas might seem like just another grim morning when you wake up. Enter the NewtonCounty Christmas for Kids organization.
What exactly is Newton County Christmas forKids? We are a non-profit organization run solely on the generous donations to help make a better Christmas for the less fortunate kids in Newton County. The Newton County Christmas for Kids is made up of volunteers from the local Newton County Fire Departments, Newton County Ambulance, and the Newton County Rescue and Recovery groups.
With local support, the Newton County Christmas for Kids helps over 190 children from Granby, Neosho, and Joplin Head Start with gifts at their Christmas parties each year as well as helping over 400 children in Newton County have a better Christmas each year. All donations are used to supply toys at Christmas for the less fortunate Children of Newton County.

Now that you have a history of what Newton County Christmas for Kids is, let me tell you about one of the fundraising events coming up October 22, 2016… Drum roll please…. The 4th Annual Newton County Christmas for Kids Chili/Non-Chili Cookoff and Silent Auction.
Four years ago we set off to come up with a way to help raise funds for the Newton County Christmas for Kids fund. The idea of a chili cookoff was presented, put into action, and here we are on the 4th annual chili cookoff.

Rules for the Chili Contest:

A new category that has been added this year is the Non-Chili Category. Make sure to read the rules and enter a Non-Chili category!!

For fun, let’s check out the past winners:

We would love to see your face on the 2016 photo! Please be sure to mark this event on your calendars!!

And I also mentioned a silent auction. We are currently collecting donation items for the silent auction. As of now, these are the items that we have, but please not these are NOT ALL THE ITEMS. I repeat, these are not all the items and the best way to keep up on the newest addition of items is to like our Facebook page. As items are being donated, the Facebook page is being updated!

Remember, all proceeds and donations go to making a better Christmas for the Children of Newton County.

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D’Arpino’s Italian Cafe {Springfield, MO}

Back in 2009 I had a big group of friends that got together once a month and tried new restaurants. The girls liked to dress up so it was usually business casual or higher in dress, we tried to pick restaurants that were local to the area versus being a chain restaurant, and we went back and forth between the Joplin area and the Springfield Area. 12 Restaurants and I made 11 of them. D’Arpino’s Italian Cafe on National in Springfield was one of the places that we went to.

Jump forward to 2016, about a week ago or so, and a sort of date night, but the baby was with us, and Mark and I were trying to decide where to eat. Our normal go to in Springfield is Zio’s but we wanted something a little different. We threw out this suggestion and that and eventually landed on D’Arpino’s and asked why we’d only been there the one time.

It was settled, we were going to D’Arpino’s. Oh and the answer to why we’d only been there once… well because we usually go to Zio’s because we like it that much. But after this night, D’Arpino’s is back on the radar.

Each of our meals started out with a salad. We were asked what kind of dressing we’d like… Ranch because is there any other :). haha. The salad was good. I didn’t really miss the cheese (although there was sprinkled Parmesan Cheese) and croutons. The Kalamata olives were a great addition although I gave most of mine to Mark because he likes them a bit better than I do. I’m newer to the liking Olives bandwagon.

We also started with bread sticks. These bread sticks are good. We got more to go with our meal. I like carbs and these were definitely worth it.

We actually started with an appetizer. We got the Stuffed Pepperoni Bread. This stuff could have been a meal it was so good. It was bread stuffed with pepperoni and Mozzarella cheese… can you get any better? Definitely a good choice.

I went with the Pepperoni Stuffed Chicken. It was a chicken breast stuffed with pepperoni and mozzarella cheese, breaded and pan fried, served over a bed of Fettuccine topped with Alfredo Sauce. This was excellent, don’t get me wrong, but I think they could have cut back on the Afredo sauce and it would have been just as good. I love Alfredo but I felt like it over powered the excellent chicken. And i’m telling you, it was good as is.

Hubby went with a special. It was Seafood Ravioli in a red sauce and cheese. He was exceptionally pleased. I tried a bite, but not being crazy about seafood, it was a little fishy tasting to me. He liked it so much though, he ate every last bite.

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RSV Paint {Joplin, MO}

A blog that I’ve followed for years, Jill’s World, up in Canada started discussing how she and her friends were attending a paint night. I wondered what that was. Basically, she and a group of friends go to a place, learn to paint, and have fun. How awesome is that I thought. I figured something like that had to exist here in Southwest Missouri, right? I mean we’re not always the most cultural people but….

Not long after I read one of Jill’s posts, my friend Danielle asked if I’d be interested in doing that. I said sure but I’m not artistic at all! That’s no joke! Well nothing came about from that conversation. I didn’t know where to find it and she never said anything about it again so the dream kind of died… until…

My friend Jody posted something on Facebook one day that had something to do with a paint night. I shot her a message and asked if she knew anything about it and had done it. She said no, but she wanted to, so again, we started pursuing it, but this time she knew of a place in Joplin called RSV Paint.

So basically you go on line, sign up for a class, show up, and it’s a date! Now it stands for:

Relax. They say don’t get too uptight about your painting. Easier said than done….

Sip. Yes, you can sip wine, alcohol, do a shot, whatever. If you bring your own, there is a $5 cork fee for a bottle of wine or every 6 pack of beer you bring.

Visit. You’re amongst friends. We even had our instructor visiting with us about Kayaking, Canoeing, Fishing, SCUBA diving, and Riding horses.

and lastly Paint. Because well that’s the reason you’re there….

The classroom is set up where the instructor is at front instructing you on where to paint the next thing. I’ll admit, I was a bit intimidated at first, but like I stated above, I don’t really have artistic abilities. I’ve always wanted them, just lacked them.

Jody and I happened to be the only 2 students in class that night so we got VIP attention :). It was kind of fun, but I definitely want to attend when there are more people. One thing you note when you’re signing up is who you’d like to sit by, whether it be a party you’re with or the one person you’re with.

There is a calendar that shows all the different pictures you can come learn to paint. This wasn’t our initial first thought, but I had to back out on the first date we chose because I forgot I had prior commitments so we went on this night which was one of our second choices. We had a list of like 5 or 6 we liked/wanted to do so that hopefully one date would work with both of our schedules. Normally my schedule is so flexible it’s sad, but I just so happened to have plans the one night we chose initially. Isn’t that how it always works?

Karen was our instructor. She walked us through how to start and where to go next. She kept saying that art is to be seen from a distance so if we thought we didn’t like it, step back and reassess. At this point I accidentally mixed blue and orange which are complimentary colors but make a yuck brown color when mixed together and my picture was fairly dark. I was worried. It worked out though, we fixed it all.

Then it was time to add the trees into the horizon. We lightened up a spot for my fisherman dude and fixed that yucky brown. And yes I said fisherman dude :). Just keeping it real :).

Finally, we added in the Fisherman. I still think where we put him in my picture is a bit dark, but it’s supposed to be sunset and he’s a silhouette so I think it works. I have absolutely no artistic abilities. I can barely draw a stick figure and I painted this. I kept making a reference to Girl Meets World and Riley’s Purple cat that I might be able to draw that. If you don’t know what that is, google it. You’ll be amazed :).

Karen took pictures of us throughout the night for the Facebook page but she also took finished pictures.

And one last photo with a goofy face. This is one to make my mother happy. She just loves with I stick my tongue out in pictures… Whatever… it just happens sometimes. And this was my goofy face :).

I had so much fun, now I want to go again and learn to paint even more.

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The Original Gringos {Webb City, MO}

Did you know that yesterday was Taco Tuesday? It was also National Taco Day (Oct. 4). What does that mean? Well obviously you need to have Tacos for dinner. I guess lunch would have sufficed or better yet, both meals! :). My friend Jody met me at Gringos in Webb City for dinner. We know the owner and he came and talked to us a little bit. I mentioned how crazy it was to get into the parking lot just to park and he said that it’s typically like that on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

Tuesdays there is a special for 2 Tacos since it is after all Taco Tuesday. Friday’s the special is Taco Salad. I’m not sure what was Saturday’s draw. I didn’t pay attention to the menu I guess.

Here’s the thing though, someone asked on Jody’s Facebook where the best place in Joplin is to get Tacos and we were like Webb City. That would be Webb City Gringos in case you wondered. It really is.

These tacos are awesome. I personally like crunchy tacos. The cheese is partially the whole reason for the taco but truthfully, the tacos are awesome. And my drink. I know you can’t see it but if you’re wondering what it is… Brown Sugar Sweet Tea. Yes, Brown Sugar Sweet Tea. The only place in town to serve it. Yum!

If it hadn’t been Taco Tuesday and/or National Taco day, my food of choice is this… Waffle Nachos. It’s everything on Nachos but on Waffle Fries.

So what am I telling you? Go. Eat. Here. NOW! You can thank me later!!

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