The Best Sugar Cookies

I had these cookies at a party, and they were life changing. I had to track down the baker, and he graciously sent me this recipe. Now Jon and I will be friends forever.

He served them with pink frosting, all lined up on a red platter, and they were stunning.  Tracy agrees, these are the best sugar cookies! If they are a little crisp, just seal them in an airtight container, and they’ll be perfect the next day.

The Best Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookie Base:

4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 sticks butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine flour, salt and baking powder in bowl and set aside.

Place butter in bowl of electric mixer and beat on medium until smooth. Gradually add sugar and continue beating until well combined and fluffy (whatever that means).

Add each egg one at a time and beat until combined. Add almond and vanilla extracts.

With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture until just combined. Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a ball and place in the middle of a sheet of plastic wrap. Press into a rough 8 inch circle. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Roll out each dough piece to approximately 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutter (yield with a round 2 inch cutter is approximately 60 cookies). Place cut-outs on baking sheets 1 inch apart. Refrigerate sheets with cut-outs for 15 minutes (this helps the cookies spread less during baking and retain their shape).

Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, rotating front-to-back and top-to-bottom (if using two sheets) halfway through. Let cookies cool completely before frosting.
Tip: If they aren’t soft and moist, you can add a couple of apple slices in an airtight container and they will soften.

Pink frosting:

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 oz. butter (3/4 stick), softened
1 tsp. vanilla
A few drops red food coloring
2 1/2 to 3 cups powdered sugar

Beat butter and cream cheese together on medium speed until smooth. Add vanilla and red food coloring and mix until combined.

Gradually add powdered sugar at low speed until fully combined. (Over-mixing will result in a lighter, aerated frosting–not my favorite with these cookies). More powdered sugar results in a stiffer frosting that develops a satisfying outer “crust” once dry (my preference), less results in a creamier texture that remains satiny.

Unbelievably Moist Chocolate Cake

 It sounds so weird, but it is unbelievably moist and yummy. I know if you make this, you’ll wonder if I am SURE I gave the directions right. But trust me on this one.

Unbelievably Moist Chocolate Cake

1 chocolate cake mix
1 container chocolate coconut pecan frosting mix
glaze

Mix together the cake mix, the frosting (yes, the frosting), and the rest of the ingredients called for on the cake mix box.
 
Bake in a bundt pan per directions. When cool, remove from pan and drizzle with any glaze (powdered sugar and water is fine).

 

Magnolia Bakery Banana Pudding

I love this banana pudding.  It comes from the famous Magnolia Bakery in NYC. Beware – it’s rich, but worth it!

Magnolia Bakery Banana Pudding

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups ice cold water
1 (3.4-ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix (preferably Jell-O brand)
3 cups heavy cream
1 (12-ounce) box Nabisco Nilla Wafers (no substitutions!)
4 cups sliced ripe bananas

In a small bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat together the sweetened condensed milk and water until well combined, about 1 minute. Add the pudding mix and beat well, about 2 minutes more.

Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight, before continuing. It is very important to allow the proper amount of time for the pudding mixture to set.

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the pudding mixture into the whipped cream until well blended and no streaks of pudding remain.

To assemble the dessert, select a large, wide bowl (preferably glass) with a 4-5-quart capacity. Arrange one-third of the wafers to cover the bottom of the bowl, overlapping if necessary, then one-third of the bananas and one-third of the pudding. Repeat the layering twice more, garnishing with additional wafers or wafer crumbs on the top layer of the pudding.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours – or up to 8 hours, but no longer! – before serving.

I love this banana pudding. Please make it soon!

Mamaw’s Lemon Cake

Everyone has had that special Mamaw with that special recipe. This is from my friend Shelly’s Mamaw. It tastes just like something from your  grandmother’s kitchen……Enjoy.

Mamaw’s Lemon Cake

1 yellow cake mix
3/4 cup oil
1 small packet lemon jello dissolved in 3/4 c. of hot water
4 eggs
2 T. lemon flavoring
Icing
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
4 T. lemon juice

Mix jello in very hot water. Mix first five ingredients for 3-4 minutes.

Bake in bundt pan for 25-30 minutes at 350. Cool and turn onto platter and puncture with a fork. Drizzle with icing.

 

Easy Corn Dip

I got this recipe from a childhood friend. It is simple, quick and delicious. Great for cookouts.

Easy Corn Dip

1 can corn, drained
1 jalepeno, chopped
3/4-1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 carton French onion dip

Mix all ingredients and serve with Fritos Scoops.

 

Spinach Dip & Pita Chips

This is another recipe from my friend Jennifer; it tastes like what we get at Trio’s a fabulous restaurant in Little Rock. Yum!

Spinach Dip & Pita Chips

8 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. Monterey Jack cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1 can Ro-Tel
1/4 cup diced purple onion
1 (10-oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and excess water squeezed out
2 T. chopped jalapenos, or to taste

Melt cream cheese and Monterey Jack cheese in a large saucepan over low heat. Add Parmesan cheese, Ro-Tel, onion, spinach, and jalapenos. Stir until smooth.

May be served immediately, or made early and refrigerated several days ahead. Best warm or at room temperature.

Baked Pita Chips
Split pita bread into halves, then quarters. Brush each piece with melted butter or Butter Pam. Sprinkle with cumin and lemon pepper.

Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. The bread becomes crisp as it cools. Store in airtight containers after cool.

Sonoma Pasta

My dear friend Margit served this at our friends, the Fosters’ in Sun River. I knew I was addicted when I woke up in the middle of the night dreaming about it. When I want to throw caution to the wind diet-wise, I make this dish.

Sonoma Pasta

3 oz. halved sun-dried tomatoes
8 slices thick-cut smoked bacon
16 oz. fettuccini
2 T. fresh garlic, minced
12 medium basil leaves, slivered
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted
8 oz goat cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Drop the sun-dried tomatoes into boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and cut into long slivers. Set aside.

Cut bacon into ¼ inch pieces and brown well in heavy skillet. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel to drain; reserve bacon drippings in the skillet.

Boil pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, sauté garlic in bacon drippings for 2 minutes. Add basil leaves and sun-dried tomatoes, and toss well. Add olives and bacon, and sauté until well heated.

Immediately before draining the pasta, break the cheese into pieces, and toss it with the garlic mixture and pasta. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately.

The Best Chicken Tetrazini

I used my mom’s chicken tetrazini recipe for years, until my friend Jennifer gave me this recipe. I have always made this dish for new mom friends, but she somehow elevated it, like she always does with food, parties, her home, and all areas of her life. It is a bit of a time commitment, but it makes several servings for yourself, plus two foil 9 x 12-ish containers for friends!

The Best Chicken Tetrazini

1 whole rotisserie (roasted) chicken
1 lb spaghetti (I use whole wheat)
1 lb. Velveeta (I use 2%)
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped onion
1 8 oz. container sliced mushrooms
1 stick butter
1 can cream of mushroom soup (I use Healthy Request)
1 can cream of chicken soup (I use Healthy Request)
1 jar pimentos
1 can Rotel tomatoes (tomatoes and green chilies)
1 cup chicken broth (bullion or canned)
2/3 cup evaporated milk (I use fat free)
Garlic powder, celery salt, pepper to taste
2 cup bag grated cheese (your favorite – cheddar or a blend)

Take chicken off the bone in chunks. Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain and return to the pot. Stir in Velveeta. Meanwhile, sauté celery, onion and mushrooms in butter. Add to pasta, along with all other ingredients except grated cheese.

Put into 2 or 3 casserole dishes, and cover with plastic wrap and foil. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or so, till bubbley. Or it freezes fabulously.