Best Cookie Cutter Cookies

Cookie Cutter Recipe

Ok, so I'm going to be real honest. I'm 34 years old and have NEVER (until this past Christmas) been able to bake perfectly shaped sugar cookies no matter how much I spent on fancy cookie cutters. Christmas trees always came out like wonky triangles, valentine hearts like big blobs, and Easter Bunnies - well, I gave up on those years ago.

I've always been a fairly decent cook, with the exception of baking. I naively never understood why my cookies wouldn't hold their shape - yes, truthfully, it didn't really occur to me that the key to perfectly shaped cookies was in the dough. And more specifically, my new, not-so-secret ingredient for sugar cookie dough - CORN STARCH, and parchment paper! (Ok, for those of you that have known this for years, don't laugh. I admittedly recognize that common sense in baking is not a skill of mine!)

Anyhoo, this winter I've successfully made Christmas cookies in recognizable shapes and now, hearts that look like HEARTS! I'm convinced that the corn starch is the key weapon.

Here it is:

Ingredients

  • 4 cups flour (all-purpose)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup corn starch
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cold
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • Parchment paper (It's magical!)
  • *Makes approximately 24-30 cookies depending on cookie size

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cut sticks of butter into cubes. Mix butter and sugar until well combined using a stand mixer or hand mixer. (If using a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment, not the whisk attachment! Mixture will be thick and somewhat clumpy.)
  3. Add eggs
  4. Slowly add flour, cornstarch, and salt. (I add my flour 1 cup at a time allowing the mixture to slowly and evenly blend.)
  5. Dough will become doughy(!) - and start to form into a ball and pull away from mixing bowl.
  6. Roll dough out between 2 sheets of parchment paper, about 1/3-1/4 inch thickness.
  7. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes
  8. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper and add cookies to sheet
  9. Bake for approximately 8-10 minutes
  10. Allow cookies to cool completely on cooling rack before decorating

*Pro-tip: If you're like me, sometimes you want to take a break after mixing, rolling, cutting, baking, etc. If you want to save your decorating for the next day, store your cookies in a tupperware container with a slice or two of bread! Keeps the cookies from drying out and becoming hard.

*Wilton Heart Cookie Cutters Here!

If you get a chance to try the recipe, let me know how it goes! AND, if you have any secret weapons for great royal icing, send my way!

xoxo

Laura

 

 

Fall/Winter Menu Preview: The Order at Hotel Vandivort

I love Instagram. And I LOVE #foodie Insta-posts. Facebook, on the other hand, I barely pay attention to and have an embarrassing two likes on my Page. Yes. I said two. So imagine my surprise when I received a message from a real-life person via my Happily Midwest Facebook page. A wonderful, exciting message from the Sales & Promotions Coordinator at Hotel Vandivort, inviting me to taste and preview the newest menu for The Order.

EXCITING!

Of course, I jumped at the opportunity, and I'm thrilled to share my personal take on this new menu dropping this week at The Order.

Disclaimer: I don't recommend reading this if you're hungry!


The Order

"A nod to the masonic history of the building, The Order features upscale cuisine in a sophisticated yet approachable atmosphere. Located on the lobby level of the hotel, the space was designed to create a lively social experience. " - theordersgf.com

Image Source: theordersgf.com

"Sophisticated yet approachable." I can't think of a better way to describe The Order. The mixture of cool and warm textures, classic and modern design, and trendiness intertwined with coziness, creates one of my favorite atmospheres in the Midwest. The food? Delectable. Hearty. Delicate. Local. Beautiful. Lively. Tantalizing. Mouth-watering. Basically, ALL THE THINGS.

After a lovely introduction from The Order and Hotel Vandivort staff, the first course was presented compliments of Chef Zach White:


TATERS & GRAVY

Chef White describes his Taters & Gravy as The Order's take on classic French poutine. As with every ingredient, every plate, and every glass served at The Order, emphasis is given to their commitment to sourcing all local products. House fries are perfectly seasoned with salt and smoked paprika. (Smoked paprika!) Coating the fries, their veal bone marrow gravy, (incredible on its own) is partnered with aged cheddar fondue and aged diced cheddar from Southwest Missouri's Edgewood Creamery. A sprinkle of green onions give the dish a perfect amount of color and the finishing flavor touch. 

The flavor combination of this dish was ahh-mazing! I was hooked by the smooth, earthy texture from the aged cheddar and the rich, creaminess of the gravy. A beautiful, sophisticated appetizer that is sure to be a hit with foodies, non-foodies, and kids alike. It's comfort food at it's finest.

Paired with Lumberjack’s Punch

Grappa Piave, Smoked Apple Gastrique, Ancho Reyes, B&B, and garnished with a smoked rosemary sprig.


THE HARVEST

I love a good salad and I love winter vegetables - maybe even more than summer veggies! This next course was as beautiful as it was delicious. Their lovely root vegetable salad combines locally sourced lettuces and baby kale, roasted carrots, roasted celery root, sun chokes, and roquefort. Tossed in their house made hazelnut vinaigrette with roasted Brussel sprouts, Hammons black walnuts and perfectly poached figs.

Ok. Fresh roasted veggies + hazelnut vinaigrette. Seriously? Seriously! This salad is SO GOOD. So good. I need one right now! The dressing was perfect and really enhanced the slight crunchiness of the vegetables. Love.

Paired with To-marrow, Tomorrow

Bone Marrow Washed Chateau Arton Haut-Armagnac, Cnia Mata Vermouth, Maraschino Cherry Simple Syrup, Smoked Orange Juice. Oh-so-pretty. Oh-so-good!


THE ZESTY GREENS

Don't let the colors fool you! This is, in fact, a seasonal salad full of fall/winter goodness! Locally grown greens, spiced pecans (yum!), mandolin-sliced radishes, fresh beets, and carrots. All of this vegetable goodness is tossed in a buttermilk-tarragon (with a hint of lemon) dressing and topped with Tomme cheese and brightly-colored edible flower petals. 

Aside from being a looker, this salad is a fantastic combination of flavors! I have never been a fan of radishes OR beets (is anyone?!) but these nutrient-rich vegetables are a great match with the slightly creamy dressing. The subtle lemon zest really brings out the crisp freshness - and makes me think I'm on a warm patio enjoying Spring brunch. 

Paired with Grammy’s Yammies

Spiced Sweet Potato infused Vodka, Lustau Fino Sherry, Brown Sugar Cinnamon Simple Syrup, Jerry Thomas Bitters. Served with a toasted marshmallow made at Springfield cafe, European Cafe. PSSweet potato infused vodka! Brown Sugar Cinnamon Simple Syrup! Homemade marshmallows! All the things!


THE DUCK

Duck? Did someone say DUCK?! I absolutely LOVE duck, but it's seemingly hard to come by in Springfield. After college, I lived in Minnesota for about four years. Pheasant and duck hunting were commonplace, and I learned so many incredible duck recipes...I will dig them up and share sometime! 

Apparently, Chef Zach White also shares a love for duck and seeks out ways to use it on the menu. This succulent seared duck breast sits on top of a duck confit herb risotto. Try-colored carrots cooked in a brown butter with Pinot Noir poached cranberries round out this TO-DIE-FOR dish. 

Duck. Risotto. Pinot Noir Cranberries. I mean, really. Do I need to say anything else?! Go to The Order - and ORDER this. You can thank me later.

Paired with Ozark’s Gully Wash

Coriander infused JRieger & Co. Gin (from Kansas City!), Coconut Milk, Brown Sugar Cinnamon Simple Syrup, Lime Juice. The Order's take on a popular Bahamas cocktail. If you're needing a winter escape, this will do the trick!


THE PIG

At this point in the menu preview, I was certain there couldn't be more. The Duck was the icing on the cake and I was feeling full, happy, and plotting date night reservations with my husband. And then Chef White makes another appearance with The Pig. Let me just say that this is hands down the largest and most beautiful pork chop I have ever seen. (No, I am not getting paid to say that! It truly is beyond incredible.)

For this dish, Chef White selects a double-cut pork chop locally raised in Seymour, MO. A Southwest Missouri favorite, Circle B Ranch is known for their pork - 100% pasture and humanely raised Berkshire Pork from the Ozarks. As if more is needed for this stand-alone beauty, the chop is drizzled with a horseradish and brown sugar glaze. A creamy butternut squash puree highlights the plate with roasted Brussel sprouts, celery root, cauliflower, sun chokes, and is topped with crispy carrot ribbons.

Slicing my knife through this was exhilarating. I'm not sure that I've ever experienced this much excitement over food! And here I thought the Duck was the grand finale. Because of the size, Chef White encourages your appetite to not be in a hurry, as this masterpiece is cooked to order and takes a little time. It is beyond worth it. Trust me! Order this. And the duck. 

Paired with Smoked Old Fashioned

Buffalo Trace Bourbon, simple syrup, house bitters, served in a maplewood smoked glass. This drink right here is EVERYTHING! This drink made me a bourbon girl. This drink is perfect on it's own or with a great meal. A great happy hour cocktail or the perfect nightcap. It is hands down one of my most favorite cocktails from anywhere. Try it!

Smoked Old Fashioned

THE BIG COW

And the medley of perfectly prepared meat concludes with this classic, yet reimagined dish...

So this is a winter menu. And when I think winter + food, I think warm, fill-me-to-the-brim-becasue-it's-leggings-season comfort food. And The Big Cow is just that. This hearty 16oz USDA Prime grade strip loin is first seared in a cast iron skillet. It's then finished on the grill and served with roquefort cream and bacon hasselback potatoes, hunter sauce, and roasted asparagus. So tender. So good. So comforting.

Ladies, if you have a meat-and-potatoes significant other and would love a date night experience beyond Texas Roadhouse - put on your sassiest red lipstick and go on a DATE at The Order. Ask your sever to review this feature. Order. Eat. Enjoy. I don't need to know the details of what happens afterwards. You're welcome.


A huge THANK YOU to the entire staff at The Order for the lovely invitation and the incredible food. Our growing corner in Southwest Missouri is making a huge impact on the foodie scene - and it's because of places like this.

If you're in Springfield for a weekend, or a mid-week visit, make plans for dinner and drinks at The Order. You'll leave feeling impressed and wanting more. Oh - and don't forget to capture your visit with the trending #hotelvandivortbathroomselfie!

Cheers,

Laura, xoxo

 

 

 

Easy, Breezy Patriotic Spritzer

Red, White and Blue Patriotic Spritzer Cocktail

With only five ingredients, this Americana hued spritzer makes the perfect summer refresher - with or without a splash of vodka!

The star ice cubes really make this drink super fun and "instagrammable!" I snagged a star-shaped silicone ice cube tray (doubles as a great chocolate mold, too!) from the seasonal aisle at HyVee. There's also a great one available on Houzz. *Hint, make your ice the night before! This ensures your ice will freeze and be ready when it's mixing time. I really wanted to make my stars red, however, my husband and I are not juice drinkers - so no cranberry juice or fruit punch in our house. On the flip-side, we are definitely cocktail drinkers! Haha!  I had a jar of Marchino Cherries in the fridge and added a few drops of the cherry juice into my star tray with the water. Voila! Red star ice cubes.

For the drink I used one can of La Croix Grapefruit Sparkling Water (I seriously use this as a mixer for EVERYTHING!) a splash of club soda, a 2 shots of Tito's vodka (one in each drink), and frozen blueberries. Definitely easy, breezy.

Red, White, and Blue Patriotic Cocktail Spritzer

Ingredients

  • One 12oz Can La Croix Grapefruit Sparkling Water
  • Two shots of vodka (or go virgin-style and skip the booze!)
  • 4-6 ounces of club soda
  • Star ice cube tray
  • Red juice of choice (optional for red star ice cubes)
  • Frozen blueberries for garnish

Directions

Pour 1/2 of a 12oz can of La Croix Grapefruit Sparkling Water into each glass. Add 1 shot of vodka into each glass. Add star ice cubes and a sprinkle of frozen blueberries. Top with club soda. *Note, you could easily just use La Croix and skip the club soda, however I am always trying to cut the sweetness and I personally enjoy the extra fizz from the club soda.

*Note, you'll notice that I ended up with a pink/red drink. I didn't anticipate that the cherry juice in my ice cubes would bleed, but it made that much prettier :)


Literally, any flavor of La Croix makes a great mixer for at-home cocktails. It has zero calories and zero sugar making it my absolute go-to favorite drink in the entire world. And did I mention that it's delicious?! Ha. (If you can't tell, I love this stuff!)

Hope y'all enjoy this easy drink recipe! Let me know what you think and if you end up making one, tag me in your pics on Insta! I'm always looking for easy fun drink concoctions, so share those, too!

Have a safe and happy Memorial Weekend!

Laura 

St. Patrick's iPhone Wallpaper

Add a little green to your mobile with this fun St. Patrick's Day mobile wallpaper!

Happy St. Patty's!

St. Patrick's iPhone Mobile Wallpaper

On an iPhone, first click the "Download" button above. The image will appear in a new tab on your phone. Next, hold your thumb down on the image. A menu will appear at the bottom of your screen. Select "Save Image." Next, go to your "Photos" app. The download you just saved should appear in your Camera Roll. Select the photo. In the bottom left corner, select the blue icon with an arrow pointing up. Scroll left and select the option, "Use as Wallpaper." Finally, select "Set."