Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Easy Valentine Cookies

Happy Valentine's Day!  We had a fun filled weekend with our girls spending 2 nights and 3 days at Fort Rapids Indoor Waterpark.  Our oldest had won a coloring contest at Drug Mart, and we cashed in her grand prize for a wonderful mid-winter getaway weekend.  The kids had a great time, and I had planned a few fun Valentine treats including these super easy sugar cookies to make our stay extra special.

I'm the first to admit that I'm not a good baker.  I love to cook, but baking has never been my strength.  I like desserts, however, and recognize that sweets play an important role in the full experience of family eating.  So, over the years, I've learned how to make some easy desserts that look like I've spent lots of time on a complicated recipe when really I have not.  I'm about to let one of my biggest secrets out of the box. . . . .

Here it goes. . . . .

I hope you'll still follow along in this blogging journey after I share my secret. . . .

I use premade mixes for many of my baked goods!  In fact, almost all my Christmas cookies come from package mixes.  It's not that I can't bake cookies from scratch.  I can.  I just find that the package mixes have better end results when I'm in a time crunch and/or baking with kids.  Maybe it's because there is not a lot of measuring involved.  Maybe it's because I find that I can be a much more patient Mommy with my little helpers when all they have to do is dump a package into a bowl and help me stir.  Maybe it's because a package mix makes less cookies than a batch of homemade and so I'm not tempted to eat as many.  I'm not exactly sure of all the reasons.  I just know that I've fooled many treat eaters in my kitchen for years, and it's probably time to come clean.

So last Thursday before our trip, the 3 year old and I spent a half hour or so making a batch of heart shaped cut out cookies from a package sugar cookie mix.  I had purchased the mix on sale before Christmas using an instore special and coupon making the mix less than $1.  We added an egg and a stick of butter, a 1/4 cup of additional flour, and rolled our cookie dough out onto the counter.  She helped me cut out about 18-20 large heart cookies that baked in 10 minutes.

Now I admit that I often start with a package mix, but I almost always throw in a simple, homemade touch which is probably why most people never know they're eating a box mix goodie.  For sugar cookies, I make my own frosting, tint it with food coloring, and then the kids and I add sprinkles.  Back when I lived in Wisconsin, one of my teacher colleagues shared her tip for making excellent sugar cookie cutouts - add a bit of almond extract to the buttercream icing.   This simple addition makes these easy cookies go from okay to wow!

Here's the recipe:

Sugar Cookie Frosting
3 Tbsp butter, softened
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
food coloring

1.  Cream the butter.  (I just use a spoon in a small bowl)
2.  Add half the powdered sugar and mix well.
3.  Add the milk, vanilla, and almond extract.
4.  Add the remaining powdered sugar and stir until smooth.
You can add in food coloring and add more powdered sugar if you need to thicken it or a few drops of milk it you need thin it down.  Spread on cooled cookies and top with your favorite sprinkles.

These easy Valentine cookies were a hit on our weekend trip.  My husband said I didn't have to wait until the next big holiday to make a batch of these cookies.  Maybe we'll have them for Leap Day!

What easy Valentine treat do you have planned for your family?

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