Buttery and Soft Lemon Cookies with Icing Recipe

This week we’ve been having outrageously beautiful weather in Portland.  The sun is shining, the temperatures are warming, birds are singing, and there’s that distinct smell of spring in the air.  I decided to bake a batch of cookies that reflect the cheeriness I feel with this gorgeous weather, and the lingering sun (thanks to the time change).

Buttery and Soft Lemon Cookies with Icing RecipeLast year I had stumbled on this lemon cookie recipe while randomly searching for cookie recipes on Pinterest.  They sounded pretty good to me, so I decided to make them.  Guys, I cannot even begin to describe how amazing these cookies are.  They are SO buttery and soft, and have the perfect amount of lemon flavor.  They are addictive.  Daniel and I seriously can’t hold back when these are in the house.

So in honor of spring (hopefully) being around the corner, here is the Lemon Cookies with Icing Recipe!

Lemon Cookies IngredientsHere’s what you need:

  • 2 cups + 2 TBSP flour
  • 1 TBSP cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest of 2 lemons (about 2 TBSP)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 TBSP milk

Here’s what you do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together softened butter, sugar, and lemon zest until light and fluffy.  About 2-3 minutes.  I used an electric hand mixer for this, but an electric stand mixer would also work well.

Cream Butter, Sugar, and Lemon Zest

Add in the egg and egg yolk.  Then add in the lemon juice and vanilla extract.

Add in Eggs to Lemon Cookie Batter

Slowly add in thirds of the flour mixture until just combined.

Zesty Lemon Cookie Batter

Drop large tablespoons of cookie dough on lightly greased baking sheet (or lined with parchment paper) about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 9-11 minutes.  I baked mine until they had just set up and were lightly brown on the bottom.

Allow to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, and then GENTLY (as they will still be very soft) transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.

Buttery and Soft Lemon Cookie Recipe

Once cookies are completely cooled it is time to ice!  I just made a simple sugar icing by whisking the powdered sugar with just enough milk to make it spreadable, while still being quite thick.  You’ll want it to be thick so it doesn’t drip off the sides.

Refreshing Lemon Cookies with Icing

Once the icing hardened, I stored by cookies in airtight containers with wax paper separating each layer of cookies.  For me, this recipe made 18 cookies.

The original recipe was just for plain cookies, but I thought adding a little sugar icing would create the perfect balance between zest and sweet.  Boy, was I right!  This is one of my absolute favorite cookies to make and, of course, eat!  And now I hope it will be one of your favorites too!

Be sure to let me know in the comments section if you try out the recipe!  Enjoy!


Spinach and Prosciutto Lasagna and Other Christmas Recipes

Before Christmas, I shared with you all a few recipes I intended to make for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  As promised, I now want to share how they all turned out!

You may remember that the main event was a Spinach and Prosciutto Lasagna from Martha Stewart.  After reading the reviews, I omitted quite a few things and added others.  I also made mine a lot bigger since the original only made 4 servings.  Not nearly enough leftovers for the amount of work, I think!

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 (10 oz.) packages of spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 16 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 4 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, diced
  • Lasagna noodles
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 1/2 jars of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 9 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 green bell pepper (optional)
  • 3/4 red bell pepper (optional)
  • 3/4 yellow bell pepper (optional)

Here’s what you do:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Over medium high heat, saute your onion and mushrooms in olive oil for 3-4 minutes.  Add your spices and saute another minute or so.  You don’t need to cook the veggies too long, since they will finish cooking in the oven.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Sauteed Vegetables for Lasagna

Lasagna Spinach and Mushroom FillingIn a medium bowl, combine ricotta, spinach, garlic, and cooled veggies.  Set aside.  Also in a medium bowl, thoroughly mix your diced prosciutto with your tomato sauce.  Set aside.  You can use any sauce you’d like, we combined a four cheese sauce and a basil marinara, both from Trader Joes.

In a 9×13 casserole dish, spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan.  Then place a layer of noodles on top.  I used no boil noodles because that’s all Trader Joes had, but either will do!  If you do use no boil noodles, I highly suggest soaking them in hot water for 5-10 minutes before working with them.  This will make them more pliable, and help to ensure they will cook all the way through.

Evenly crumble 1/3 of the spinach and ricotta mixture on top of your noodles, and then spread 1/4 of the remaining sauce.  Repeat noodles, mixture, sauce two more times.  Place one more layer of noodles on top, the last 1/4 of your sauce, and then top with shredded mozzarella.

Assembling Lasagna Layers

Bell Pepper Christmas TreeNow, if you did see my previous Christmas recipe post or just went to my Pinterest board, you know I planned to create a Christmas tree topper for my lasagna.  That’s where those optional bell peppers come in!  You’ll want to slice the green peppers, dice and create a tree stump from the red pepper, and dice and create a star from the yellow pepper.  I thought it was pretty awesome looking, what do you think?

With or without the topper, bake uncovered until brown, about 35-40 minutes.  Then let stand 5 minutes before serving and enjoy!  My recipe will make about 12 servings, and Daniel said it was the best lasagna he’s ever eaten!

Here are a few pictures of our tasty lasagna and our Christmas Eve!

Christmas Lasagna

We served our lasagna with garlic bread and salad, and plenty of wine, of course!

Christmas Eve Dinner

Christmas Eve Table Setting

Daniel and Michele on Christmas Eve

For dessert, as I suspected, we were too tired to make this peppermint bark cheesecake.  So sadly I can’t tell you if it was delicious or a fail, BUT I can tell you that the frozen cheesecake sampler from Trader Joes is worth a try!  It comes with 2 slices of 3 different kinds of cheesecake, and all you have to do is thaw it for an hour on the counter.  A great find if you want something easy!

Cranberry Mimosas

We did make breakfast and mimosas for Christmas morning though!  We made cranberry mimosas, and they were pretty tasty, although the orange juice really overpowered the cranberry.  I think next time we make them I’ll fill the glass with mostly cranberry juice and add just a splash of orange.

We had a few unused glasses already rimmed with green sugar from our holiday party, and Daniel had the brilliant idea to use them that morning.  I LOVE how festive they look!

We also made baked french toast and baked bacon!

Christmas Day Breakfast

I followed this french toast recipe exactly, and it turned out beautifully!  The top is the perfect french toast consistency, and the bottom has a delicious buttery brown sugar sauce – it didn’t even need syrup!  This was the first time I had ever baked bacon in the oven, while I wouldn’t say it made the clean up any quicker, it did produce an entire pan of perfectly crisp bacon.  So I definitely think I will be cooking it in the oven from now on!

Family on Christmas MorningWell, it’s always a little sad to see Christmas come and go.  It was a very relaxing and quiet Christmas with my best friend and love, and all around favorite person in the world.  It will be a Christmas that I will cherish forever!


A Very Pinteresty Holiday Party

Happy New Year!  I hope you all had a fantastic New Year’s Eve, I’d love to hear how everyone celebrated!  Daniel and I procrastinated, so we ended up just going out for dinner and then watching New Year’s Eve specials while drinking champagne at home.  Even though it was pretty low key, it was one of my favorites thus far!  We realized we had never spent New Year’s in our home!  It was fun to experience something new, and it was also our first New Year’s Eve in Portland!

Now that the holidays are over, I can finally catch my breath and start blogging about everything we did.  If you read my post about holiday party ideas, you know that pretty much all inspiration came from Pinterest.  And now I want to share my results with you!

Christmas Tree Cheese Platter

 

 

Let’s start with food, shall we?  You may remember that I wanted the food to act as the decorations, and I had quite a few examples of festive cheese platters.

You can see I chose to do a combination of all of the examples I found, and did a mixture of salami, cheese, and grapes.  I thought it was pretty cute, and a very quick and easy appetizer to whip up before a party.

Another Christmas-y food I wanted to replicate were these cookie cutter pizzas.  They were adorable, and were a big hit with my guests!  I will say they were a little difficult to work with because they were so small.  If you can find bigger cookie cutters, I think it would be a bit easier.

Cookie Cutter Christmas Pizzas

Because the pizzas were a little hard to make, they took a bit longer than we had planned.  Luckily, we had a backup plan and made one full sized pizza… in the shape of a candy cane!  Equally as delicious and adorable!

Christmas Pizza

Melted Snowmen Gngerbread Cookies

For dessert I made melted snowmen cookies, and they turned out beautifully!  You can find the gingerbread cookie recipe and what I changed on my previous blog post.  The only suggestion I made that I hadn’t tried out at the time was replacing white sugar with brown sugar.  I made that adjustment for the party, but I didn’t notice much of a difference in taste, so you can really use whichever you prefer.

I made a simple royal icing with powdered sugar and a little bit of milk.  I definitely recommend making sure the icing is on the thick side for optimum results.  You can see 3 of the cookies have better coverage, whereas the one in the back is a little see through.  Merely an artistic suggestion, as they were all tasty no matter how the icing looked!

Here are a few more pictures!

Melted Snowmen Cookies

Gingerbread Snowmen Cookies

Before placing the marshmallows on the cookies, we microwaved them for a few seconds to give them a more melty look.  And we used colored gel icing from the baking section at the supermarket for their faces and bodies.  Pretty good for our first try, don’t you think?

Christmas Champagne

If you stumbled on my holiday party ideas board on Pinterest, you may have seen a champagne drink that gained a lot of repins.  So many repins that there was no way I couldn’t try it out at our party!

A very simple drink that had so much wow factor!  I found green colored sugar at the grocery store, which I used to rim the champagne flutes.  I bought pomegranate seeds already deseeded to save on time, put those in the bottom of the glass, filled with champagne – boom, done!  They were seriously too pretty to drink (almost)!

Hot Chocolate Stirring Sticks

I also made party favors for my guests, which sadly I forgot to hand out!  Word of advice:  keep party favors in a prominent place, and near the front door!  Then you won’t have to sheepishly hand them out after like I do.

Other than forgetting to give them out, I was very happy with my results.  Very easy and quick to do!  Because I could only find large candy canes, I used two marshmallows for each (most examples I saw only used one).  Then I just dipped them in melted chocolate and coated them in crushed peppermint candies.

I found these super cute snowmen bags at the Dollar Tree store, and put a hot chocolate stirring stick with a packet of hot chocolate in each bag.  A very nice gesture that doesn’t require a lot of time or expense!

Snowmen Party Favor Bags

White Elephant DIY Present

I also made a white elephant gift, which I was pretty happy with how it turned out.  All I did was Sharpie instructions onto the mugs and baked it in the oven.  I had a hard time getting the Sharpie to come out as dark as the original, but perhaps my pen was just running out of ink.  It was also a little difficult to find dessert in a cup recipes that had good reviews, but I finally found these that seemed to be the best (leave me a comment if anyone wants the recipes!).

Tip:  Apparently people have a lot of trouble getting the Sharpie to actually stay on the mug after normal use and washing.  A few suggestions I found were to increase your oven temperature to 425 and bake for 30 minutes, do not preheat your oven first, and allow the mugs to cool completely in the oven after they’re done baking.  I rubbed the writing pretty hard afterwards, and it seemed like it was on there permanently!

Wine Glass Holiday Table Display

Last but not least, I had shared a holiday decoration with you all and this is how it turned out!  I already had the wine glasses, we saved trimmings from our tree, and I bought the ornaments and candles from the Dollar Tree store.  For a very elegant looking decoration, it only cost $2 and was super easy to setup!

We also used it for our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations as well.

Here are a few pictures of our coffee table and main table displays!

Holiday Party Coffee Table Display

Coffee Table Holiday Party Display

Holiday Party Main Table Display

Daniel & Michele After the Holiday PartyLooking back on it now, I probably took on a little too much, especially since it was my first time hosting a party.  But despite a few moments of stress, everything turned out great!  We had blast and so did our guests, so I’d say our first holiday party was a success!


Places We’ve Been DIY Christmas Gift

I’m sure many of you saw my original post for this project, but I wanted to re-share it with you all, because it would make a great DIY Christmas gift for your girlfriend/boyfriend or wife/husband.  It’s easy, quick, and inexpensive!  But it has so much meaning behind it, I know anyone would love to receive it.  I know Daniel did!

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 pieces of Matboard, both at least 12×12 inches
  • Mod Podge (or any glue you prefer)
  • Sharp scissors
  • A heart stencil
  • 12 printed maps
  • 12×12 picture frame
  • Cardstock, or any thick paper (optional)

Obviously this project is all about the maps, so the first thing I did was figure out how I wanted them to look.  I did this DIY right before moving to Portland, so I was working on limited time and a small budget.  Because of that, I personally chose to use Google Maps and print them out at home.  I also chose to use Google Maps because I wanted to control the zoom of each map and what would be seen within the heart.  You could also use an Atlas, Thomas Guide, or look for old maps at a thrift store!

DIY Heart Maps

Because we were about to move from Los Angeles to a new home in Portland, I chose to include a map of the neighborhood we dearly loved but had to leave behind.  You can use any heart stencil you’d like – as for me, I didn’t have one (remember that whole uncrafty crafter thing?).  So I just searched for an image of a heart I liked and printed it out on cardstock, thus making my own stencil!

DIY Heart Maps

I stenciled and cut out each heart, and before I knew it, I had perfect little sentimental maps laid out before me.  This is the moment when I got really excited because I knew the project was going to turn out just as I had imagined it!  At the widest part of the heart it measured 2 1/2″, and from the top point to the bottom point it measured 2 3/4″.  This size worked perfectly for me based on 12 hearts and a 12×12 frame.  You’ll want to adjust the sizes depending on how many hearts you’re planning on using.

Next, I pasted each heart on a piece of matboard with Mod Podge and then cut out each heart again.  The reason I did this is because I wanted the hearts to have a 3D effect.  I used a pair of scissors to do this, and even though they were REALLY dull, it was still fairly easy to cut through the matboard.  With sharp scissors it should be a breeze, but use whatever cutting tool works best for you!

DIY Heart Maps

I tried to get fancy and penciled in a mathematical grid onto the matboard to try and ensure all the hearts would line up perfectly.  It…mostly worked.  The grid was totally wrong, but it still helped me eyeball them into the right placement!

I pasted each heart onto a 12×12 piece of matboard using Mod Podge (you will most likely have to cut your matboard down to size), and weighed it down with heavy books for about 48 hours to make sure the edges wouldn’t curl up.  As for placement, I arranged the maps mainly by how they looked, not by chronological order.  I didn’t want two mostly blue hearts next to each other, same with the green, I also wanted to make sure our neighborhood heart was kind of in the middle, and because a lot of the places we visited were in California and on the East Coast, I tried to vary those from each other as well.

DIY Heart MapsAfter that, all that was left was putting the finished project in a frame!  I really liked the idea of a white picture frame, since almost all the frames in our house are black.  Apparently white frames aren’t very popular.  I searched for a LONG time to find the perfect white 12×12 frame, and still didn’t have that many options.  In the end, I decided to go with this frame, and I am more than pleased with it.  It’s not the highest quality frame I’ve ever seen, but it doesn’t look cheap and feels very sturdy.

So, here it is, my completed DIY Places We’ve Been Heart Maps!

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of mine and the original inspiration on Etsy.  What do you think?  I really loved how it turned out.  In total it only cost me about $20, easier on my wallet than $500!

DIY Heart Maps vs. Pinspiration

Bonus:  The Gift Wrap!

Anniversary Gift Wrapping

I love to make gift wrapping just as meaningful as the gift itself, and I thought I’d share what I did in case anyone is looking for some wrapping inspiration.

All I did was take brown packing paper (which came from an Amazon shipment), and with a black Sharpie wrote the lyrics from our song in cursive (in case you’re wondering, our song is “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” by Elvis Presley).  Simple as that!  This was originally a gift for our anniversary, which is why I chose to use lyrics from our song.  That could also work for Christmas since it’s a romantic gift and a romantic holiday, but you could also write Christmas lyrics to make it more festive.

There you have it!  I hope this tutorial gave you all inspiration to make your own DIY Christmas gift!


Holiday Party Ideas for Christmas

Tis the season for holiday parties, and Daniel and I will be throwing our first one this year!  If you follow me on Pinterest, you’ll see I’ve been fervently pinning holiday party ideas like crazy.  While I’m still pinning last minute ideas, we had to finalize our menu and activities so we could get our invites out.

If you want more ideas, definitely check out my holiday party ideas board, but here’s what we’ve decided on… We will be throwing a Christmas sweater (ugly optional), white elephant, finger food potluck!  The reason why an ugly sweater is optional is because Daniel bought a sweater that isn’t technically ugly, and I haven’t bought mine yet… So who knows what I’ll find!

Brownie in a Cup White Elephant GiftI’ve always enjoyed playing white elephant at holiday parties, and it’s fun to see how creative people get with their gifts!  We chose to put a $10 limit on gifts, mainly because we don’t want anyone to feel obligated to spend too much.  I thought this would be a fun gift to give and very easy to do!  You could most likely find white mugs at a dollar store, then all you have to do is Sharpie the instructions on the mug!  Most tutorials I’ve seen say to bake it at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  I’m thinking of adding a second mug and writing the “cookie in a mug” instructions so they can be a pair!

After searching through pins, I decided that I was a huge fan of food being the decorations.  I saw these great appetizer ideas, which provided most of my inspiration.

Christmas Tree Cheese Platter

Grape and Cheese Christmas Tree Platter

Meat and Cheese Christmas Tree Platter

We plan to do combination of all of the these!

Wine Glass Holiday Decorations

 

While the food will be the decorations on the main table, I plan to do this on our coffee table.  It’s going to be so easy and yet so chic!  Daniel also had a great idea to use some of our tree clippings to surround the wine glasses!  I plan on getting the candles and some new ornaments at the Dollar Store!

For our main course we will be serving cookie cutter pizzas.  These are actually the reason I chose to make it a finger food potluck.  They were just too cute and festive, I was smitten with them as soon as I saw them!

Cookie Cutter Christmas Pizzas

If you happen to be strapped for time though (which we might be), you could also just make full size pizzas like these.

Full Size Veggie Holiday Pizza

Full Size Holiday Pizzas

I saw these melted snowman cookies all over Instragram, and I think they will be a hit for dessert!

Melted Snowman Christmas Cookies

Melted Snowmen Cookies

Melted Snowman Cookies

Gingerbread CookiesIt looks like they are usually sugar cookies, but I plan to switch it up and make gingerbread cookies instead.  I think it would be more Christmas-y, and they will also look like the ground the snowmen melted on!  Daniel and I made gingerbread cookies last week so we could test a recipe out, and it was a winner!  We used the Nauvoo Gingerbread Cookie recipe, and here it is with my changes.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup and 2 tbsp softened butter
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg

We halved the recipe and it made about 30 cookies.  The original recipe called for lard, but we replaced it with butter, because ew.  It also uses white sugar, which we ended up using, but for the party I’ll be using brown sugar because I think it will give it more dimension.  I also added a few new spices and upped the amount on others

Here’s what you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, molasses, butter and hot water.  Mix in egg.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.  Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until dough forms.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until firm.
  2. Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness on a well-floured surface.  Cut out shapes with cookies cutters, and place cookies onto ungreased baking sheets.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes and then cool on cooling racks.

We iced ours with royal icing and they were delicious!

Pomegranate Champagne Christmas DrinksOf course, we also need drinks at our party!  I saw this awesome looking pin, which has since been repinned over 100 times from me!  I clearly have to do it now.  The original pin was a broken link and didn’t have any information, but I’m pretty sure those are pomegranate seeds at the bottom, glasses are filled with champagne, and coarse green sugar is rimming the top.  If you buy ready to use pomegranate seeds, this drink will take no time at all, yet looks super impressive!

Another drink we’ll be serving is, of course, eggnog!  Which happens to be Daniel’s specialty, and the recipe he uses is amazing.

Here’s what you need:

  •  6 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg, ground or grated

Begin with pre-chilled ingredients for the best results.

Here’s what you do:

  1. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs together until they’re very frothy.  Add sugar and continue beating.
  2. Sprinkle in nutmeg and vanilla, continue beating.  A little at a time, add in the whipping cream and continue to beat.
  3. Beat in the milk also a little at a time.  Lastly, beat in the rum and brandy.
  4. Chill for 1-2 hours and serve cold.

Hot Chocolate Stirring SticksLast but not least – party favors!  I’ve never hosted a dinner party before, or been to one that gave out favors, but I personally think it’s a nice touch.  I also think that homemade gifts are often the best kind, and these hot chocolate stirring sticks seemed like a great choice!  I think they will be fairly easy and fast to make – we plan to pop a few in a cellophane bag with a pack of hot cocoa!

Other than white elephant, we also plan to play board games, and if we want to get a little rowdy… a Christmas Vacation drinking game!  We will also have a variety of santa hats and other Christmas costume pieces, for anyone that wants to take photobooth-esque pictures.

I hope this gave you a few ideas for your party, and if you want more, remember to check out my Holiday Party Ideas on Pinterest.  I can’t wait to show you all how everything turned out!  Happy Planning!