Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Single Serving Mac & Cheese Au Gratin


Macaroni and cheese is one of my favourite comfort foods, especially when baked with a cheesy, buttery crust.  It's incredibly simple to make, but if I'm cooking for just myself, I usually don't go through the efforts to bake an entire panful and usually stick to the stovetop version.  With these CorningWare Meal Mugs from World Kitchen LLC, single serving macaroni and cheese au gratin is not only do-able, but since they also come with a BPA free microwave safe vented lid, it makes transporting and re-heating leftovers a breeze.  We have a few of these mugs in our kitchen so even if I'm not feeding a crowd, I can still make a family sized batch and portion it out into my mugs for an easy weekday meal on the go.  

Friday, December 9, 2016

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing


I have been infatuated with decorated sugar cookies for as long as I can remember, especially with the increase of the foodie how to videos that have fast become an adult version of a bedtime story before I fall asleep for the night. Over the years I’ve collected all of the necessary supplies, but I’ve never actually sat down and worked with royal icing before.  I mentioned to Sarah that I had been making the dough and cutting out cookies in hopes to decorate them this week, and before we finished our conversation she already had a dough of her own happening in her kitchen.  We decided to combine forces and the next night her son and daughter in law stopped by we all listened to Christmas music and decorated sugar cookies until late into the night.  We had so much fun; both of us are already planning our next batch for tomorrow.

For the cookies, we adapted this recipe from The Pioneer Woman:

Ingredients

Cookies
- 2/3 cup shortening
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ tsp grated lemon zest
- ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or extract)
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup milk
- 2 cups flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 ½ tsp salt

Royal Icing
- 3 tbsp meringue powder
- 4 cups sifted icing sugar
- 5 tbsp water

Directions

Cream together shortening and sugar until light and fluffy.  Stir in lemon peel, and vanilla.  Beat egg, and add mixture.  Stir in the milk and mix thoroughly.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together, then add to cream mixture mixing until well blended.

Divide dough in half, and shape into disks.  Wrap with plastic wrap, then refrigerate for a minimum of 1-2 hours, overnight if possible.

Once dough has been chilled, roll out onto a lightly floured surface to approximately ¼ inch thick and cut into shapes using your favourite cookie cutters.  Transfer to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 375 for approximately 6 minutes, being sure that cookies don’t brown.  For best results, allow cookies to cool and harden 1-2 hours (or overnight) before decorating.

For icing:

Whip ingredients together in a stand mixer set to medium speed for 7-10 minutes, or until stiff peaks form and the icing loses its glossy sheen.  If using a hand mixer, increase whipping time to 10-12 minutes.

This icing is now ready for edging consistency. Add food coloring to the icing, then split 1/4 of the icing into a piping bag or squeeze bottle with a small round writing tip (Wilton Tip 1 or 2).

For flooding constancy, add water to remaining icing ¼ tsp at a time until you have what’s called a 5 second icing.  This means that the icing will easily run off the spoon and lay smoothly back in the bowl after 5 seconds.  Youtube is your friend here.  Add icing to a squeeze bottle (or piping bag if you don’t have a squeeze bottle) fitted with a larger round tip (the size will be dependent on a number of factors, though I used a Wilton Tip 3 for ours).


Use the edging icing to create an outline around the edges of your cookies to help contain the flooding icing.   Once the edging has set, flood the cookie with the flooding icing, using a toothpick to spread the icing to the edges. Use a different coloured flood icing to create designs (it will dry completely flat).  Allow cookies to dry for 1-2 hours (or overnight).


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