Sunday, February 12, 2012

It's Valen-Time!

It's Valentine's Week and I love it. (Or as my little Lucy sometimes calls it, Valen-times).  It can be a really fun day: so pink and filled with sugar and love.  I know some people can't stand it.  They revolt, wearing black and are anti-Valentine's. But I've never felt that way.

And I was even dumped by two different boyfriends on Valentine's ridiculous is that!?  I told my friend this fun-fact about myself the other day and she asked, "Did their mothers not teach them that it is not okay to break up with a girl on Valentine's Day!?"  "Evidently not," I replied! My first boyfriend, a long-distance relationship, broke up with me via letter, which included his reason for breaking up, "I just got tired."  Well that makes a lot of sense.

But I'm not bitter. It's been a couple of decades.

And I really like Valentine's Day. I really do.

As a child, my mom always made Valentine's a day of friends and love and sweet treats.
I'm not very romantic, so that suits me well! I love a chance to make something beautiful, have a sweet treat and honor people I love.

We are gearing up for the holiday at our house:
My kids have been working on their Valentines for their classmates,

my friend Connie made a fun garland-of-love to hang in my house, and

I made my favorite Sugar Cookies.

Last year I wrote about the Linzer cookies that I think are just delightful.  They are a lovely Valentine's treat.  But most years I can't resist making my mom's timeless sugar cookie recipe for Valentine's.  They are just so pretty when they are heart-shaped!

I remember when my son, Asher, was one or two, I packaged bags of heart-shaped iced sugar cookies with little love notes attached for all of the adults in our life who loved him so well.  It was such fun to give "Valentines" as a way to thank friends for being so loving year round to our little boy!

I wrote last year about some of the Valentine's traditions that we enjoy at our house (My husband's clever tackiest Valentine's pursuit, dinners and bingo, etc.).

I'd love to hear of your great celebrations and ideas!

If you're looking for a good sugar cookie recipe, this one is time-tested and adored.

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
4 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1½ tsp. butter flavoring (extract)

Blend softened butter with sugar. 
Add eggs, then flour, baking powder and salt. 
Add vanilla and butter flavoring. 
Chill dough for at least 30 minutes. 
Roll out dough to ¼“ thick. 
Dust cutters and rolling pin with powdered sugar. Cut out cookies in desired shapes. 
Place on ungreased cookie sheet, (I line with parchment), allowing about 2 inches between cookies (they will spread). 
Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes (or until edges begin to turn golden). 
Remove from cookie sheet immediately. 
When cooled, glaze with the following glaze or frosting of your choice.

Glaze for Sugar Cookies
3 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. milk or water (approximately)
1 tsp. almond OR lemon OR vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients until smooth. 
If glaze is too runny, add more powdered sugar. 
If glaze is too stiff, add more milk.

Some tricks about these cookies that I've learned along the way:

*Mom taught us to sprinkle our cookie cutters, surface and rolling pin with powdered sugar rather than flour.  That way it provides the dusting effect without drying out or dulling the dough’s taste.

*Make sure you space these cookies apart a couple of inches because they really grow.

*It takes a while to make the batch of these cookies, as there are several steps and it makes a big batch.  I suggest you break down the steps into different sessions if you don't have a big time block.  You can mix up the dough and refrigerate it for another day.  Or you can make the cookies and let them cool until the next day when you ice them.

*If you  don’t want to deal with icing the cookies, you can put sprinkles on them prior to baking so they can stick on by baking OR my mom, when we were young, would sometimes let us “egg paint” the cookies prior to baking them.  Mix an egg yolk with some food coloring and a little water and use clean, new paintbrushes and paint the cookies.  Then bake and they come out looking glossy and colorful.

*Since being married to a lover-of-soft-cookies-husband (with a dislike of crunchy cookies) I have worked to find the correct amount of cooking time on cookies of all kinds.  The timing makes such a difference in the softness of the cookie.  Two minutes can make a huge difference.  So I remove them from the oven at the sight of the golden edges.  It is good to note, however, that glaze added atop a cookie will soften the cookie by the next day.

*I started making the almond glaze when I was inspired by Ham and Goody’s bakery that makes these yummy teacakes and sugar cookies with beautiful, smooth, glossy glaze that I am in love with.  I think it is the perfect companion to this great cookie and makes them so beautiful!  My friend Karin and I have observed the “marriage” that happens between the cookie and the glaze that makes the cookie soft and sweet and it is just mysteriously beautiful (kinda like marriage).  And I use the back-of-the-spoon technique where I blob some glaze on the cookie and then use the back of the spoon to guide my smoothing it all over the cookie.

*These cookies are fun on a stick (I use the paper lolly-pop sticks).  They are a great party favor or teacher gift (we have given “bouquets” to teachers and have given “single” flower cookie sticks to teachers).  

*Some of our young friends have milk allergies and thankfully there is a margarine that is oil based rather than milk that can be used in this recipe and it works! And tastes great.  And they can have a “normal beautiful sugar cookie" just like everyone else! ( Just a good thing to know.)

So, make something yummy and send a little love to someone this week!

P.S. I have the honor, this week, of being featured on (in)courage, for a Bible Study I co-authored, Relate.  I have written 3 posts for their blog this week on relationships. CLICK HERE if you want to check it out!

If you have made your way to my blog via (in)courage, then WELCOME! I'm honored you stopped by.  I hope you can look around and find some ideas and inspiration for food and life!


  1. Julie, what a cool project! I had no idea. I'm definitely going to check the Bible Study out.

  2. YUM!! :) we're making heart cookies today!!

  3. Woaawww!!! simply seems to be delicious!! I want just a bit ^^, thanks for share, I love dessert's :D

    Happy Valentine's day to all!

  4. Thank you for including the dairy allergy tip. My son is allergic to dairy and on valentines my heart sank a little as we walked into our music class and another student was carrying in cookies. My son is only 22 months and so I am still learning to anticipate the times when I should bring an alternate food item for him. Thankfully the mom announced before handing them out that they were both dairy and gluten free. Such a blessing that my son could have a cookie for valentines just like everyone else and not have to feel different. Kelly

  5. Kelly, I'm so glad I included the tip about the butter substitute, after reading your comment. It must be tricky at every holiday and gathering, wondering if your child can partake and hoping he can. I am glad that this valentine's he was able to have a valentine cookie with his music class!