Sunday, February 28, 2010

Drop In & Decorate® - Huntsville

Today our family hosted a Drop In & Decorate® event in our home. The purpose of Drop In & Decorate® is to bake, decorate and donate cookies to a local charity. Our family chose the Downtown Rescue Mission in Huntsville, AL.

On Saturday, we started the weekend off with a kid-friendly breakfast of "homemade" cinnamon rolls. "Homemade" equals one can of crescent roll dough; one tablespoon of softened butter; cinnamon and sugar. Simple enough and really yummy, especially when paired with a sweet and buttery frosting. These definitely ain't your run-of-the-mill Pillsbury cinnamon rolls.

Then it was time to start cutting and baking the cookies.

One batch of dough down, and one to go.

And once all of the cookies were baked (even a few Toll House Chocolate Chip cookies) we were ready for the decorating.

Let the decorating begin!

There were colorful cookies.

And spring-like cookies.

Kid cookies.

And cookies made with love.

Beautiful cookies.

Patriotic cookies.

Even spiritual cookies.

A lot of cookies!

Happy cookies.

More cookies.

Even abstract cookies.

All kinds of cookies.

And, last but not least, one particular cookie by my beloved daughter - because she loves hearts.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ina Garten's Baked Shrimp Scampi

I love shrimp. Ranked right up there with butter and chocolate, I really love shrimp. And besides, any food that comes with it's own ready-to-eat handle ranks high in my book. Even Forrest Gump's pal, Bubba, found a plethora of ways to eat shrimp. And last night, in the Tyson Kitchen, we found another.

Shrimp scampi happened to be one of my mother-in-law's culinary triumphs. My beloved Mr. Tyson isn't terribly fond of shrimp (he also calls them "little tubes of cholesterol) but he loved his mother's shrimp scampi. Personally, I could eat shrimp 365 days a year.

This working mother has very little time during the week to triumph in the kitchen. But last night we discovered a simple, no frills shrimp scampi recipe from Ina Garten. Having modified for our family (specifically, time constraints) by using frozen shrimp (peeled, deveined and cooked), it was a triumph indeed.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Preparing for Drop In & Decorate!

We're hosting a Drop In & Decorate event in our home in a few weeks. And in preparation of the event, I decided to start baking the cookies as early as possible. Since I'm planning to [hopefully] have about 100 cookies, I knew I'd need to "get on the stick". And quick. I'm a procrastinator that should really seek help in the form a 12-step program. But I doubt I'll ever get around to it.

Today was an ideal day for making dough and baking cookies. For the 5th time since January 1st, Huntsville encountered winter weather and today it was snow. We're not setup to deal with icy conditions. And at the Tyson house, our driveway resembled the glaze of a Krispy Kreme doughnut. Sadly, the thought made me hungry for one, but traveling down our driveway had only one likely destination - slipping and sliding through our neighbors front door.

Our Drop In & Decorate cookies will be donated to the Downtown Rescue Mission in Huntsville - an organization that provides services to displaced and homeless persons. We're already considering the next event for our cookies to go to Hope Place.

I devised my own recipe, with the direction of several others. Finding a fool-proof, non-spreading sugar cookie recipe is difficult, if not darn impossible. But I persisted and came up with this.

Sugar Cookies
2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup vanilla sugar (see note)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
6 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 3/4 teaspoon table salt)

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until light, fluffy and pale. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Add vanilla and almond extracts.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add 2 cups at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition, until dough forms a ball.

Divide dough into 3 (or 4, depending on your thickness preference) freezer (gallon sized) bags. Roll dough to bottom corners, cutting a small hole in the corners to allow air to escape. Roll in the bag to create an even square. Seal the bag and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 12 minutes. (8 minutes if you separated into 4 bags. Or 12 minutes if you separated into 3 bags.)

Note: Combine sugar and vanilla beans in a tight-sealing container. When using vanilla sugar from the container, replace the amount you used. That way, you'll always have vanilla sugar.

Using freezer bags allow for even thickness and cooking. It's a trick I will use forever!

These cookies really hold their shape and the spreading is very minor.

We're using several cookie cutters - circle, tulip, heart, star, fluted circles, fluted hearts, cross, butterfly, and geometric circles. Lots of fun shapes for spring and Easter. All in hopes of spreading love and the message of Christ.

I'm thinking of ways to incorporate Bible verses in the cookies, whether something printed and tied on the cookie with ribbon. Or even a label on the bag containing the cookie. Still pondering...

Cake Pops!

Seems there's been a lingering theme in the Tyson Kitchen... cake pops. Whether just plain 'ol cake pops or cake pops with a theme, they're still tempting little orbs of smooth and sweet cake and icing.

These cake pops were designed for a fundraiser for the American Heart Association Heart Walk in Huntsville this coming weekend. And piggybacking on Valentine's Day, they're filled with love and yumminess.

The original cake pops recipe I found on uses a box cake mix and canned icing... not very tasty, in my opinion. But the beauty in making cake pops is the possibilities are endless. So I found a top-rated red velvet cake and simple cream cheese icing to create a sublime cake pop.

I used vanilla coating for half of the pops.

And even carried the heart theme through from hearts to love.

There's even chocolate covered cake pops.

Since these are for a fundraiser I'm pondering the going rate for these little treasures.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Marshmallow Fondant-Covered Double Chocolate Cupcakes

My beloved 3-year old daughter will go waltzing into school tomorrow with these for her preschool class Valentine's Day party.

Simply sublime double chocolate cupcakes with marshmallow fondant. I'm curious to hear how a gaggle of 3-year olds take to fondant (as opposed to the chain supermarket, preservative-filled buttercream). Hopefully they'll find a place in their HEART for fondant.

If nothing else, they can peel off the fondant and play fondant frisbee.

And perhaps I'll bring a smile to the faces of friends and co-workers come Monday with heart-shaped red velvet cake pops.