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Happy Birthday to a Little Valentine

IMG 1916 Edited Happy Birthday to a Little Valentine

Ah, Valentine’s Day. A day that is either loved or loathed with varying degrees of emotion from year to year. I have always liked Valentine’s Day because it signals the thick of candy season. Though Halloween has a lot to offer when it comes to candy, the variety I can purchase from the beginning of February to Easter is unparalleled. Not to mention heart-shaped donuts appear – as if a donut could get any better!

 But then something happened to move me from the like to the love camp.

7 23 071 Edited Happy Birthday to a Little Valentine

This is my favorite baby picture of Shaylin. I think she’s saying, “I’m just chillin’.”

Five years ago today, Shaylin was born. Shaylin and I are cousins, and together we bookend our Grandparent’s grandchild collection. At 33, I am the oldest, and at five, she is the youngest.
IMG 1935 Edited e1329164550532 Happy Birthday to a Little Valentine

For Shaylin’s virtual birthday treat, I made red velvet shortbread cookies and decorated them to look like pigs. The Red Velvet/Valentine’s Day connection is likely pretty clear. The Pig/Valentine’s Day connection is likely less so, unless you are in an “I loathe Valentine’s Day” mood, then the “men are pigs” connection is fairly obvious (kidding!). But since it’s not all about Valentine’s Day today, allow me to share with you a Pig/Cute Shaylin Story via way of my sister.

My sister has a bulldog, June. When she was about two and a half, Shaylin came to believe poor June was a “piggy”. Given June’s a bulldog, her smooshed nose and snorty breaths gave little Shaylin no reason to believe she wasn’t a pig. It probably didn’t help that her dad called June a piggy right along with her. But Shaylin’s a pretty smart cookie, so when she saw the leash come out when it was time for June’s walk, she exclaimed, “that’s not a piggy, that’s a doggy!” Shaylin knew you didn’t walk pigs, you walked dogs! Though I wasn’t there to witness this, the story always has stuck in my mind and made me smile.

IMG 1929 Edited Happy Birthday to a Little Valentine

To decorate the pig cookies, I placed a layer of icing over the red velvet shortbread cookies, and then topped the icing with homemade fondant (post to follow).  If you do not want to go to the trouble of working with fondant, pink icing will work just as well. The ears are pink sugar wafers, the eyes are mini chocolate chips, the nose is a slice of marshmallow, and the mouth is piped on with icing. All are attached with a bit of icing.

If pigs aren’t your thing, the red velvet shortbread cookies can be easily transformed into a grown up dessert too. As suggested in the original recipe, dip an edge of the cookie into melted chocolate, then decorate with nuts or pretty sprinkles. Lovely and delicious – enjoy!

Shaylin Jolene Edited Happy Birthday to a Little Valentine

Another set of cousins. Jolene and Shaylin playing in the toybox. This is my favorite picture of Shaylin to date – so happy!

Happy Valentine’s Day  & Happy Birthday Shaylin!

Red Velvet Shortbreads
Recipe type: cookies
Serves: 24
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon red food coloring
  1. Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.
  2. Add the butter and red food coloring, and use a pastry cutter or food processor to cut in the butter until the mixture is a fine crumb and forms a ball.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, gently knead the dough then use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to about ½ inch thickness.
  4. Use cookie cutters to cut the dough into desired shapes.
  5. Repeat rolling and cutting until all dough is used.
  6. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet.
  7. Bake at 325 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes or until centers are set.
  8. Allow to cool on a wire rack

2012′s 12 Months of Giveaways {Giveaway 2: Bon Appétit} CLOSED

february 2012 cover 300 2012′s 12 Months of Giveaways {Giveaway 2: Bon Appétit} CLOSED

It’s the 12th day of the month, so that means it’s giveaway time. This time around, a one-year subscription to Bon Appétit Magazine is up for grabs.

The February 2012 cover image above features foods from the South: fried chicken, deviled eggs, chicken and dumplings, banana cream pie, and more. All you need to do for a chance to win is comment on this blog post with the answer to the question, “What is your favorite southern-style food?”

If you would like to earn an additional entry, simply “Like” this blog post. The contest will end at 1201 a.m. EST on February 19. The winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter.

Good Luck!!

 ***This giveaway is now closed.  Thank you for entering!***


Warm Up Your Weekend With Homemade Brownies

IMG 1805 Edited Warm Up Your Weekend With Homemade Brownies

When I was a kid, I remember asking my mom what was for dinner. Our conversation went something like this:

“Mom, what’s for dinner?”
“Macaroni and cheese.”
Full of hope, I replied, “From the box?”

Mom made a delicious homemade macaroni and cheese, tender pasta and creamy cheese baked to perfection, yet her kids preferred to eat the cardboard-like macaroni coated with the unnaturally bright orange, powdery cheese mix from the blue box.

IMG 1804 Edited Warm Up Your Weekend With Homemade Brownies

Brownies are another one of those foods from a box that I enjoy, yet like macaroni and cheese, I thought  it was high time I made them from scratch. Like most of the foods I have taken from buying at the store to making at home, I found homemade brownies are simple to prepare and delicious.

The recipe I used came from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking Warm Up Your Weekend With Homemade Browniesby Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. I took my typical liberties, using regular cocoa powder in place of dark cocoa powder and omitting the teaspoon of espresso powder. I would have loved to use both of these ingredients; I simply didn’t have them on hand.

IMG 1816 Edited Warm Up Your Weekend With Homemade Brownies

The brownies require 11 ounces of chocolate, and I used Baker’s individually wrapped chocolate squares. I actually had exactly 11 squares on hand, which was a pleasant surprise given my typical need to substitute something due to lack of exactly what was needed.  Given the amount of chocolate in this recipe, the cost savings of these homemade brownies are not significant compared to box-mix brownies.  However, if knowing how to easily pronounce each ingredient in your baked goods is important, homemade brownies are the way to go. As for the taste, the brownies were very chocolatey and perfectly  fudgy.

I really like the variety of delicious toppings brownies willingly accept. My mom makes this marshmallow-peanut butter-Rice Krispie topping that’s delicious, and I don’t know how you can possibly go wrong with melting Andes mints over the tops of hot brownies. I also love caramel toppings and brownies marbled with cream cheese.  While thinking of this post as I drifted off to sleep last night, I thought a raspberry topping, like the raspberry-filled chocolate Ghirardelli square I ate yesterday, would also be delicious.  I topped my homemade brownies with a light dusting of confectioner’s sugar, just like Mom does when she makes brownies…from a box. Enjoy!

IMG 1806 Edited Warm Up Your Weekend With Homemade Brownies

Recipe type: Dessert
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
  • 11 ounces dark chocolate
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  1. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently, until smooth.
  3. While the butter and chocolate melt, whisk together the white and brown sugars in a large bowl.
  4. Pour the melted butter and chocolate over the sugars and whisk until combined. The mixture should be room temperature.
  5. Beat three of the eggs into the chocolate and sugar mixture until combined.
  6. Add the other two eggs and the vanilla and again, whisk until well combined.
  7. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture and, using a spatula (not a whisk!), gently fold the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture. Traces of the flour mixture may remain.
  8. Pour the batter into a greased 9 x 13 baking pan and smooth the top.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownies comes out with just one or two crumbs.
Overbeating the chocolate mixture once all of the eggs and vanilla have been added will result in a cake-like, rather than a fudge-like, brownie.