University of Cookie: Royal Icing

Hey guys! A quick note to let you know there's a new vlog over at University of Cookie. This one is called "making royal icing."

Come take a peek! {I may or may not have invented a new drinking game to go along with it!} ;)

My Top Three Asparagus Recipes

Fresh asparagus at the farmers market
Spring asparagus at Santa Monica Farmers' Market

Asparagus. The queen of spring. Elegant, fresh- and addictive. For many of us, the primavera arrival of asparagus is big news. Huge. Exciting. We simply can't get enough. You see, there is something magical about asparagus. Maybe it's the sexy reputation. Isabelle Allende describes asparagus as phallic in her memoir,  Aphrodite, describing gardens lush with it, and stalks thick as trees. She throws in a few maidens with obvious oral fixations and well. You can guess the rest. 

To be honest, the whole thick as a tree trunk thing, though, is a bit much. Big stalks? Not gonna impress me. I tend to gravitate to the slender young asparagus, myself. The slimmer the better, in my gluten-free part of the world. Why? I barely cook them. It's more like a coaxing. A gentle flash in the pan with some fruity olive oil and a kiss of balsamic vinegar. A pinch of sea salt. Nothing fancy. Keeping them tender-crisp is the key to maximum enjoyment-- for me. But I know some folks prefer long, slow roasting. 

And that's what makes the world go 'round, darling.

Continue reading

For a very POPular Teacher . . .

Can it be? Summer is almost here? But before's time for teacher appreciation gifts!

Welcome to those of you coming from Woodlands Family Magazine (and to everybody else, too)! I'm so happy to be working with Melissa of Domesticated Lady (you're going to love her!) to bring you not only a how-to for cookies, but an adorable FREE printable topper as well!

Let's get started on the cookies (you can make these NOW and freeze them until the end of school!):

  • Make sugar cookies using a candy corn cookie cutter (it's a multi-tasker) and let cool.

Using red royal icing and a #3 tip, pipe the outline of a popcorn box (AmeriColor Super Red).

  • With a #2 tip, pipe a wide oval in yellow icing (AmeriColor Egg Yellow).

  • With another #2 tip, pipe the outline of popped popcorn above the box in white (add AmeriColor Bright White for extra white).
  • Thin the yellow icing with a bit of water, stirring gently until it is the consistency of thick syrup. Let sit several minutes covered with a damp dishtowel (see a video of this process here).
  • Gently stir the icing with a rubber spatula to pop any air bubbles that have risen to the surface and transfer to a squeeze bottle.

  • Fill in the oval and part of each popcorn piece.
  • Thin the white icing in a similar fashion.

  • Fill in the popcorn box and the remainder of the popcorn. Swirl the yellow and white icings together on the popcorn.
  • Let dry at least 1 hour.

  • Using a #5 tip, add wide red stripes to the popcorn boxes.
  • Switch to a #2 tip and pipe "POPcorn" in red on the oval.

  • Outline the oval in red using the #2 tip.

  • Let the cookies dry overnight before packaging.
My favorite part? The swirly popcorn pieces:

The free printable topper is available from Domesticated Lady here.

Melissa, of Domesticated Lady) has so many wonderful ideas...I know you'll want to check out the rest of her darling blog while you're there! (And the online version of her article about the toppers/cookies is here.) It was a pleasure working with Melissa...this theme was all her idea...she is so creative!!!

If you want to make a few individual popcorn pieces to go along with these, check out these too cute cookies from The Decorated Cookie! Is that the cutest idea, or what?

You know what? I made popcorn cookies about 5 years ago and I am so glad to get a chance to update them. Wanna see?

I like this year's version much better!

I'll be linking it to TidyMom's I'm Lovin' It linky party. :)

Have you planned your teacher gifts yet?

Making Extra Cookies . . . Works For Me Wednesday

Well, you probably knew it was coming after last week's WFMW, but something simple that works for me is making extra cookies.

I *always* make a mistake when decorating cookies. Even if only I can see it...there's always "the ugly one." Knowing I have cushion (and not just on my hips) takes the pressure off and I actually think I make fewer mistakes because of it.

Example...I made these 40th birthday cookies a few weeks ago. Next to last cookie, I spelled "Robyn" as "Roybn." ROYbn. There is no recovery from that. I had extras, so....I ate it.

Besides eating them myself, I find my husband is more than willing to eat the evidence of ugly cookies as are my neighbors. (Good neighbors like that are hard to find.)

What is working for you this week? I'll be linking to Works For Me Wednesday!

Our Homeschool Home

PS....any grill queens out there? I'm honored to be guest judging On The Grill at Our Homeschool Home starting tomorrow (Thursday). Link up your recipes and pictures. You'll get bragging rights, a darling WINNER button for your blog and a FANTASTIC prize! Get your GRILL on!!!

Kiddo in the Kitchen: Milk Chocolate Pretzel Tart

Kiddo would live on pretzels if I would let him. I've leaned down to kiss him good-night only to hear a crinkling sound and find the bag under his pillow.

But, I'm a mean mom and make him vary up his menu a little with fruit and protein, veggies, and well, cookies.

For this edition of Kiddo in the Kitchen, kiddo chose from my stack of recipes torn from magazines. I'm not sure where this one came from, but I'm going to guess it was Food & Wine.

(This recipe has a lot of waiting time...chilling the dough, rolling and re-chilling, cooling the crust, cooling the ganache and finally time for the tart to set-up. That said, I don't think it's the best recipe to make with a 4-year-old. Not much instant gratification. :))

Milk Chocolate Pretzel Tart

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 & 1/2 c. thin pretzels, coarsely crushed
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. flour
1 egg
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 & 1/2 c. heavy cream
3/4 lb. milk chocolate, chopped
Sea Salt (Maldon or Fleur de Sel)
crushed pretzels

Beat the butter with 3/4 c. crushed pretzels and powdered sugar at low speed until creamy. Beat in the flour and egg. Stir in the remaining 1/2 c. pretzels.

Flatten the dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350. Roll out the dough between the waxed paper to 12" round. Peel off the top sheet and invert over a 10" tart pan. Press dough into the corners and patch any tears. Trim dough and refrigerate 30 minutes.

{Kiddo wants you to know he did not CHOOSE the heart-shaped's the only one I have. Whew...crisis averted.}

Line the shell with parchment and fill with pie weights.

{Or dried black-eyed peas in our case.}

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights and bake for another 10 minutes. Cover the edges with foil if needed. Let cool completely.

Brush the crust with melted bittersweet chocolate. Refrigerate 10 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer. Place the chopped chocolate in a bowl. Pour the cream over the chocolate; let stand 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Let sit at room temperature for 45 minutes, until it is a room temperature.

Pour the filling into the shell and refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

Before serving, sprinkle lightly with sea salt and crushed pretzels.

Kiddo gives it a...drum roll, please...


Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Quinoa Cookies

Gluten free chocolate chip cookies made with quinoa flakes instead of oatmeal
Quinoa flakes make a lovely gluten-free oatmeal-style cookie.

My last cookie post stirred up a veritable stew of feelings. From oat-loving high fives and boogie till the cows come home oatmeal cookie bliss, to very sad, That's okay, I'll sit this one out in the corner moping. Because oatmeal? It's not for everyone. Apparently, oats can be unkind to sensitive celiac tummies. So while many celiacs celebrate the availability of certified gluten-free oats (thank you, Bob's Red Mill!), just as many shun this humble cereal grain for the sake of symptoms or safety.

Avena sativa? Not welcome in many a gluten-free kitchen.

Some believe the trouble starts with its globulin or legume-like protein called avenalin. Some think it's the soluble fiber factor. Others believe that the prolemine in oats called avenin triggers a celiac-like response. The debate rages on. And I'm no scientist, I'm sorry to tell you, so I'll sit this one out. But.

The truth is, Babycakes, you don't want to be around moi after I've eaten oats- gluten-free certified or not. Although I tested negative for oat allergy, these tasty chewy little cereal devils produce enough, um, wind in my nether regions to keep Wyoming well lit for a week. 

It ain't pretty, is all I'm saying.

Continue reading

University of Cookie has taken me a few, well, 6 months, but I did it.

When I posted a survey back in October to find out what YOU wanted, it never occurred to me that you might say videos. But you did...or some of you did.

So, I present to you my first how-to video. I thought it would be easier to put all of the videos in one place on a new blog called University of Cookie!!!

Disclaimer #1:
University of Cookie is looking a little plain right now, but will be much cuter once the fabulous Jessica of The Frilly Coconut gets a hold of it!

Disclaimer #2:
Isn't it always a little disappointing when you've pictured someone in your head and then you SEE them and think...."that's not what they look like!"

Well, you're about to see and HEAR me. I have my apron tied a little too high, my hair is a mess and so on and so on. In my mind, I looked a little bit more like this:

(photo source:

So feel free to picture Giada in my place.

{Except for you, honey.}

So, pop on over to University of Cookie!!! And, boy, do I have some talented bakers who are going to join me there from time to time. Come see!

Tell me....what other cookie decorating videos would you find helpful?

Make Gluten-Free Brownie Cupcakes with Namaste Baking Mix

Gluten free brownie cupcakes made with Namaste baking mix
Brownies baked as cupcakes- from Namaste baking mix.

Check out these fudgy little gems. Chocolate chip brownies dressed up like cupcakes. These are Steve's creation. He's been making gluten-free brownies for- let me think a minute- almost nine years. (How, I ask you, is that possible? Nine years gluten-free? Yep. We'll be celebrating nine years of gluten-free living this December. Perilously close to a decade.) So he's the resident brownie expert. I bow to his expertise.

He's baked brownies from scratch. He's tried all the gluten-free mixes. He's added flavors. Coffee. Peppermint. Vanilla. He's added extra chocolate chips. Chopped walnuts. Pecans. Even raisins. He bakes brownies weekly. But lately he's got a new twist to this favorite classic treat. He plops the batter into a cupcake liner clad muffin tin

Steve swears this creates a better, moister brownie.

Continue reading

This is as close as I'll ever come to quilting . . .

Blogging has been such a wonderful experience. I've met so many amazing people...even if I've never actually met them in real life.

One of those people is Sheri Howard. Sheri is a quilter and author of quilting books (here's a link to her first cute!). She asked if I could make cookies for the editor of her second book, Not Your Grandmother's Quilt.

{Here it is...aren't those quilts pretty?!? See that one in the lower right corner? We decided to do a simple square based on that for the cookies.}

I really enjoyed making these quilt square cookies. My mom was a is my sister, my aunt, my cousins.

I love that even though my mom is gone, we have these "pieces" of her in quilts. Something tangible, something to hold on to, something to pass down to our children. A lot of time and LOVE goes into quilts.

I think my mom would have liked these cookies. And I know she would have loved Sheri's books.

That pop of turquoise with the light blue dots is my favorite part. I can just imagine how pretty a quilt must be in these colors!

Congratulations, Sheri, on your new book! I think I may need one for more quilted cookie inspiration!

I'll be linking these up to TidyMom's I'm Lovin' It party!