Animal Cookie Party Favors

By Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong (as seen in Country Living Magazine, May 2020)

I like to send off guests at the end of a party with something whimsical, delicious and homemade. Usually the delicousness is found inside a tin and it’s always worthy of a smile. These cheeky and nostalgic animal cookies were packed inside decorated Altoids tins. Perfect for holding 4 small cookies and a note. PRO TIP: Make sure to soak the tins in a cleaning solution first or your cookies will taste and smell like Peppermint…or wintergreen.

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The Only Sugar Cookie Recipe You Will Ever Need
(makes 3-9 dozen cookies depending on the cutter size)

What you need: 
3 cups all-purpose flour (more for bench flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter (softened)
1 cup sugar (I use vanilla sugar)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (can substitute 1/4 teaspoon bubblegum extract)
Sprinkles (optional for dough)
Royal Icing (recipe to follow)
Nonpareil sprinkle mix for decorating (I used a mix of pastel colored nonpareils, you only need about 3 tablespoons total)

What to do:
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and extracts.
4. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. The dough may be stiff…this is okay! PRO TIP: at this point you can stir in 2-3 tablespoons of sprinkles to your dough.
5. Do not chill the dough, just get right into it! Lightly flour a work surface and cut off enough dough to be workable. Roll out to a 1/4-inch thickness and cut shapes with your cookie cutters. Place on the prepared baking trays and bake for 6-8 minutes.
6. Allow to cool completely before frosting and decorating.

Royal Frosting
(makes 3 cups)

What you need: 
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons warm water
1 tablespoons powdered egg whites (or meringue powder)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Food coloring (optional)

What to do:
In a large bowl, stir together sugar, water and meringue powder until completely mixed. Adjust as needed for consistency. Add a bit more water if too thick and a bit more powdered sugar if too thin. Tint with food coloring if desired. Cover until read to use.
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Gift Tins
1. Thoroughly wash and soak tins (if you are upcycling an old Altoid’s tin) to get the minty smell out.
2. Cut 2 pieces of scrap paper or paper napkins the size of the lid.
3. Using Rubber Cement or Modge Podge, glue the pieces of paper to the outside and inside lid.
4. Trim edge with any fun trim. I used a wee pom pom trim.
5. Cut a piece of parchment or tissue paper for the inside and fill with your treats!

Fresh Orange Centerpiece

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey
Cuisine Apron in White Linen from Libbie Summers Yum Yum Smile Shop
Orange Gingham Trimmed Linen Napkin from Libbie Summers Yum Yum Smile Shop

While your cake is baking, there’s time to make a sweet zesty little centerpiece.
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Fresh Orange Centerpiece
makes 1

What you need:
1 quart wide-mouth mason jar or other clear sided jar
1 clear juice glass or small clear jar that will fit inside the larger jar
1 par scissors
2 oranges, sliced
1 small grouping of orange, yellow and white flowers
2 sprigs fresh rosemary or other herbs/greens
1 small rubber band
1 piece ribbon, jute or twine for tying around neck of jar

What to do:
1. Place the small juice glass or small jar inside the larger jar. (NOTE: You can use putty or tape on the bottom of the juice glass to keep it in place) 2. place orange slices around and down the sides of the large jar between it and the smaller juice glass/jar. The small jar will keep them in place.
3. Make your flower arrangement by grouping the flowers and rosemary together into a sweet bouquet (Don’t overthink this…it will be adorable). Cut ends just long enough to fit inside the juice glass and secure ends with a rubber band.
4. Fill juice glass with water and place bouquet in it. Adjust flowers as needed.
5. Tie ribbon, jute or twine around the neck of the large jar.
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Two Last Minute Gifts From The Kitchen

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey

Two fun gifts that require very little time, but pack a big punch! Don’t forget to package them in reuseable containers!

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Everything Bagel Topping Mix
makes 2 cups

What you need:
1/3 cup black sesame seeds
1/3 cup onion flake
1/3 cup garlic flake
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1/3 cup poppy seeds
1/3 cup flake salt

What to do:
In a large sauté pan over medium-low heat, add all the ingredients and stir together. Cook, stirring constantly until spices start to become fragrant. Remove from heat to a bowl and allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

Uses:
•Sprinkle over a poke bowl •Top a fried egg •Mix into coleslaw •Sprinkle on a salad •Season roasted vegetables
•Make a compound butter •Sprinkle on a bloody mary •Sprinkle on avocado toast •Season popcorn •Sprinkle on mac and cheese.
•Sprinkle on fried rice •Sprinkle over white rice •Sprinkle over a hot dog •Season grilled vegetables
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Tipsy-Spiced Cherries

What you need:
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cinnamon sticks
1 stem fresh rosemary (optional)
1 ¼ cups Gosling’s Black Seal® Rum
12 ounces frozen Sweet Black Cherries, thawed

What to do:
1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the sugar and 1 ¼ cups water. Cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the cayenne pepper, cinnamon sticks, rosemary (optional) and rum. Cool slightly. Add cherries and let stand 30 minutes. Remove rosemary stem. Store in airtight jars and refrigerate for 3 days before using. Will keep, refrigerated, for up to 2 months.

Uses:
•Spoon over ice cream •Make a Rum Old Fashioned •Use cherries for a Tipsy Black Forest Cake •Spoon onto chocolate mousse.

 

DIY: Felt Fortune Cookie Ornaments

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey

Tie on a package or holiday tree or my favorite…a Chinese takeout container filled with homemade sprinkle fortune cookies! 
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Felt Fortune Cookie Ornaments
makes 1

What you need:
Felt Scrap (6″x 6″), I like to use a heavier weight felt
Ribbon, I used a printed holiday ribbon but you can use a blank ribbon and write your own message on it
Embroidery thread
Adornments like small beads and pom poms
Needle
Scissors
Pencil
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Step 1: Cut the felt. 
Using an item that is a 6-inch diameter (I used a bowl), trace around it with a pencil onto the piece of felt. Cut out circle.
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Step 2: Cut the ribbon.
Cut a piece of ribbon that is 2-inches larger than the circle.
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Step 3: Fold the Fortune Cookie. 
Place the ribbon (fortune) in the middle of the felt circle and fold in half. Hold/pinch the half circle at the top of the arch with two fingers. Use the other hand to push the bottom flat side in toward the top causing a crease and creating the fortune cookie shape. At this point you can hold the two ends together. If you need a more guided tutorial, watch my video HERE at :46.
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Step 4: Sew ends together. 
Using the needle and colorful embroidery thread, sew a stitch to keep the ends of the fortune cookie together. At this point, you have officially made a Felt Fortune Cookie! I love this idea for a place card or to use hundreds of them for a fun tablescape!
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Step 5: Make it an ornament (if you like). 
Using your needle and thread, knot one end and thread through the top of your fortune cookie. Thread on a bead and pom pom and tie a loop at the top.
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Hang your ornament on a holiday tree, tie it on a present or do what I LOVE TO DO and let it adorn a colorful Chinese takeout container that’s filled with easy to make SPRINKLE FORTUNE COOKIES.
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DIY: Candy Cane-inspired Holiday Table

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey

A simple red and white candy cane inspired this fabulously festive (and fun) holiday table! It checks all the boxes…inspirational (yes), attainable (YES, anyone can do it) and affordable (yes, minimal dollars spent).

Here’s How You Can Do It!
Step 1: Make a Tablecloth (create a woven ribbon “tablecloth”)
Lengths of inexpensive holiday ribbon were cut to run the length of the table and taped securely under the edge. My table was white so I love the idea of using the white as part of the pattern, so I left space between the ribbons. Then going the width of the table more of the same ribbon was cut as well as widths of a coordinating bandana ribbon. Then the ribbon was woven (under and over/alternating) into the already taped ribbon. Once each piece has been woven, adhere under the edge with tape.
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Step 2: Make a Centerpiece (we made “kissing balls” out of starlight mints). I hot glued starlight mints onto a varying sizes of styrofoam balls that had been painted with red craft paint (optional). You could also use other soft candy and pin the candy to the styrofoam ball with long straight pins.  Soooo much fun drama. The balls were placed on old milk glass as holders for elevation and some just on the table.
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Step 3: Set the table.
Since the woven ribbon tablecloth and centerpieces are so over-the-top, I wanted to keep the place setting fairly neutral. I used hand thrown white dinner plates, simple white-handled flatware, clear tall cut-glass water glasses and pink champagne glasses. To bring the bandana ribbon into the rest of the setting, I used a ric-rack trimmed red bandana from the Yum Yum Smile Shop as each napkin. For the name card, I wrote my guests name on white paper cut into a tree shape and tied it onto a peppermint stick with red and white baker’s twine.
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Finally, add a little extra candy cane flare with candy canes as glass “garnishes”.
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