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!

Chocolate Covered Date Nut Squares

By Libbie Summers

A 3-ingredient delicious dessert that doesn’t involve eggs, flour or sugar? I’m ALL IN! 
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Chocolate Covered Date Nut Squares
(makes 16…depending on how big you cut them)

What you need: 
1/2 cup packed fresh dates, pitted
1 1/2 cups nuts (you can mix any nuts here, use the bits and pieces of whatever you have on hand)
6 ounces dark chocolate, melted (a heaping cup)

What to do: 
Prepare an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper so as the ends come over the sides of the pan.

1. Soak Dates If Needed: If your dates are on the drier side (mine were), soak them in warm water for 5 minutes and drain before using.

2. Make Nut Mixture: Add nuts and dates to a food processor and process until mixture is sticky and small pieces of nuts can still be seen.

3. Start Bars: Press date nut mixture into prepared pan. Use an offset spatula or butter knife to press down flat.

4. Finish Bars: Pour melted chocolate over date nut mixture and spread evenly. Place in freezer or refrigerator until chocolate has hardened completely (about 10-20 minutes).

5. Cut Bars: Remove bars from pan onto a cutting board. Use a sharp knife and cut into squares.
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Chocolate-Avocado Blender Pudding (VEGAN)

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey
Recipe from Bon Appetit and adjusted for ease and sprinkle
Cuisine Apron Dress in White Linen available at Libbie Summers Yum Yum Smile Shop 

I’m off to cook for sailors again…and there’s always one vegan. Finding desserts that speak to my non-vegan senses and are easy and delicious are sometimes difficult, until today. THIS ONE IS INCREDIBLE! Make it right now! Kiss me later.

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Chocolate-Avocado Blender Pudding (VEGAN)
serves 6

What you need:
Pudding:
2 large avocados, pits removed
1 vanilla bean, split lenghtwise
3/4 cup high quality cocoa powder
1/4 to 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange or nectarine juice (I used nectarine)
1/2 teaspoon flake sea salt

Topping Optional (non-vegan):
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar
Hey Sailor Sprinkles

What to do: 
1. Make Pudding: Scoop the flesh from the avocados and add to a blender with 3/4 cup HOT water (not boiling), seeds scraped from the inside of the vanilla bean (save the leftover bean to add to a jar of sugar for vanilla sugar!), cocoa powder, 1/4 cup maple syrup, agave, juice and salt. Blend until creamy smooth. Taste and add remaining 1/4 cup maple syrup if you feel you need more sweetness. Divide among 6 small dishes and refrigerate for a minimum of two hours if you can wait (uncovered).

2. Make Topping: In a medium mixing bowl add the whipping cream and whip for 30 seconds. Add confectioners sugar and continue to whip until soft peaks form.

To Serve: For Vegan eaters, top each bowl of pudding with a beautiful light dusting of cocoa powder. For non-vegans, add a dollop of whipped cream and Hey Sailor sprinkles.

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Gingham Trimmed Linen Napkins available from Libbie Summers Yum Yum Smile Shop
Blue Bowls available from Keith Krieger

Kiss Me Frosting

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey
Chamber Apron in Light Pink and Chambray Striped Linen from Libbie Summers Yum Yum Smile Shop

 

STOP! If you save no other recipe…save this one. Kiss Me Frosting is my go to, never fail, everyone loves it, “what the hell is in that frosting” frosting! This time of year when love is in the air Kiss me Frosting tastes even sweeter on the tongue. I love this cinnamon candy colored frosting on everything from my Hot and Heavy Baby Cakes , chocolate cookies, graham crackers, cupcakes, biscuits and my husband’s lips (I had to). BOOM!
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Kiss Me Frosting
(cinnamon candy buttercream)
yields about 3 1⁄2 cups

What you need:
1 cup (2 sticks ) butter, at room temperature 4 1⁄2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (can sub vanilla extract)
2 tablespoons evaporated milk
1/2 heaping cup cinnamon candy/Red Hots (basically a 6 ounce box), pulsed in a food processor to a fine sugar

What to do:
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until fluffy. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the confectioners’ sugar. Increase the speed to medium and add the salt, vanilla paste, and evaporated milk. Beat for 2 minutes. If the frosting is too thin at this point you can add more of the confectioners’ sugar and mix for 30 seconds, or just until combined. If the frosting is too thick, add a bit more evaporated milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix for 30 seconds, or just until combined. Add the crushed cinnamon candies and stir until combined (BONUS!! They will also color the frosting pink). Frosting can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.

 

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Italian Orange Cake

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

A had my first warm slice of this cake on the island of Sardinia. It was a game changer –not too sweet, refreshing and easy to make. The perfect weeknight OR entertaining cake. There’s something about bringing a sprite little cake pulled from the oven just a few minutes before straight to the dinner table.
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Italian Orange Cake
serves 8

What you need:
1 orange
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia extract (optional) *recipe to follow
Powdered sugar for dusting

What to do:
1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Spray a 7-8″ springform pan with non-stick baking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment and spray the top of the parchment. Set aside.
2. Boil and Process Orange: Add orange to a small saucepan with boiling water. Boil orange, moving around often, for 30 minutes. Remove from water to drain. Cut into quarters and remove any visible seeds. Add the entire orange to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and pulse to process until any large chunks are gone. Set aside. (BOILING IS OPTIONAL, I think it makes the rind less bitter and produces more juice but if you are in a time crunch just pulverize the thing!)
3. Start Batter: In a large mixing bowl. Whisk together eggs and sugar until light and fluffy, whisk in yogurt and butter until incorporated (Note: there may still be lumps of butter in batter…this is totally cool.). Set aside.
4. Mix Dry Ingredients: In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour and baking powder.
5. Finish Batter: Gradually add flour mixture to batter until incorporated. Do not over mix! Stir in pulverized orange and extract (optional).
6. Bake Cake: Pour mixture into prepared springform pan and bake until set in the middle (about 1 hour or until the internal temperature reaches 205ºF.)

To Serve: Allow to cool for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and dust with powdered sugar. Serve warm.
*Fiori di Sicilia Extract Recipe: 1 part orange extract + 1 part lemon extract + 2 parts vanilla extract

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