Halloween Cookies

Decorated cookies are fun for kids, but they do take extra time to make. The good news is you don't have to stress over decorating cookies at the last minute for a holiday. These cookies can be baked ahead and frozen. Freeze them plain or already decorated, just bag them or wrap them up tightly in foil. Fill your freezer with ghosts and pumpkins and you'll be ready for a Halloween party.

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Vanilla - Almond Sugar Cookies

3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup vanilla sugar (sugar that has been stored with a vanilla bean)
2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter, cold and cut into pieces
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a sheet pan by lining with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine the flour and baking powder; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg, vanilla extract, and almond extract, mix well. Gradually add the flour mixture, and mix until combined, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl. This will be a crumbly dough and must be kneaded together after it is poured out on the floured rolling surface. Roll the dough from 1/4 to 3/8-inch thick, then cut out into shapes. Place cookies onto prepared pan and place pan in freezer for 5 minutes before baking. Bake in preheated oven for 10 -12 minutes. Allow to cool on pan for a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Royal Icing

4 tablespoons meringue powder
scant 1/2 cup water
1 pound powdered sugar (MUST be sifted)
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
a few drops of almond extract

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the meringue powder and water, beat with the paddle attachment until foamy. Sift in the powdered sugar and beat on low until combined. Add the corn syrup and almond extract and beat on medium/high to high for about 5 minutes or until the icing is glossy and stiff peaks form. Icing can be used in this form for outlining or for projects such as gingerbread houses. To use for cookie icing for "flooding," thin with 1 teaspoon water at a time until the consistency of syrup.



Cream Cheese Pound Cake

This cake may look plain, but it's one of the best cakes ever. It's flavorful enough to serve all by itself, or it can be dressed up with fruit and whipped cream. I've made this cake to give away for different occasions, and it's always a success.

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Cream Cheese Pound Cake

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt or tube pan. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating well. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined after each one is added. Combine flour and salt, then gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended. Stir in vanilla. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and 40 minutes or until inserted wooden pick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing from pan. Allow cake to cool completely on wire rack.



Aprons as Gifts

We all know how much home cooks love a pretty apron, but there are others who appreciate aprons, too. At a recent writers' conference, I received an apron as a door prize. This hand made apron is perfect for writers, teachers, and librarians.

I wanted to share this apron and its cute design because it's never too soon to start thinking about hand made gifts for occasions such as Christmas. There's probably someone on your gift list who would love one of these aprons. I'm calling it my literacy apron.