Fab Find - Decorating Gadgets

I just love well-presented food. Something about clean lines and garnishes make me excited to tear into a yummy-looking treat. Don't get me wrong, sometimes abstract and messy can look very cool, and taste even better, but I like to make something home-made -- say, deviled eggs, twice-baked potatoes, pies, cakes or cupcakes -- and give them a professional-looking finish. I have a few tools that make it all happen, so today they are featured as my FAB FINDS, and quite frankly, I couldn't cook without them.

First on the list, the Decorator (or decorator pump, it has many names). My mom gave me the one from The Pampered Chef a few years ago, and I will never again make my signature deviled eggs without this wonderful contraption. It actually makes the process quicker, cleaner, and you are sure to get the right amount of filling in each egg.

I also use this tool for icing cupcakes or filling twice-baked potatoes. You just need to be sure to use the right tip. A wider decorating tip allows the thicker filling (eggs, potatoes) to not get clogged. Some come with very cool tips too, so you can go nuts when decorating cookies or cupcakes.

And next, we have a tool that I have only recently discovered at a trip to Sur La Table, the Squeeze Decorator Bottles. I don't know about you, but these things totally remind me of the puff-paint I used as a kid to decorate my Keds or my sweatshirts with neon paint. They were perfect for writing and doodling and stuff. Anyways, I think this is a great concept for decorating cookies and the such, especially when you need several colors or smaller quantities. Who wants to waste an icing bag on a few tbs of icing? These little bottles are popping up everywhere, and I am going to buy them the next chance I get (especially after decorating those sugar cookies a few weeks ago).

So no matter which item you choose (I would choose both!), you will be sure to have amazing-looking dishes that everyone will want to try.  



Sole Mate

My husband and I (along with about a half dozen other friends/family) have signed up to participate in the Rodeo Run 5k or 10k this weekend in downtown Houston. We have been working on successfully completing the 6 mile trek, without passing out, and are doing quite well in our training efforts if I do say so myself (for a bunch of non-runners). My husband went and bought new Nikes for the event a few months ago and has been telling me that I need to go get some new running shoes (I am notorious for keeping my running shoes for years...I dont like change). I am by nature a Nike girl, committed ever since I bought my first pair of Nike Shocks in 2003. They seemed to be the only shoes that gave me support with all my knee problems. Plus, they looked super cute too :) I have been running in my other pair of Nikes and they are horrible, so yesterday I caved and went to Luke's Locker to get fitted and tested for good running shoes. That was quite an experience! They check out your foot, watch you walk and run, fit you in several shoes, and make you walk/run again all until you are matched with your perfect pair.

I have always thought that Asics were a runner's best bud, but I tried on Mizunos, Sauconys and a few others and ended up getting these by Mizuno, and love them!

I also got the Nike + Plus piece for my iPod, so that I could track my miles, calories, etc. I really enjoy having it because I am the kind of runner that needs some motivational points. Having a voice come over my workout jam telling me "You have reached 3 miles at a pace of...", that motivates me to keep going. To me, there is nothing worse than running aimlessly through our neighborhood, without any real indication of distance, so I can go home and say to my husband "I ran like 5 miles today. Must have been, it was hard" and then he looks at mapmyrun.com (which is great by the way) only to find that I ran 3.5 miles or whatever :( So that did it for me - I bought the Nike + Plus and it is great motivation and encouragement. And since I do not have Nikes now, I bought a little pouch that goes on my shoelaces that holds the censor, so now I have the best of both worlds!

I will be sure to let you know how we do this weekend, although I am really just hoping to finish :)


Head over to the Recipe Box to check out an easy cheesy alfredo recipe - yum!

And the Photography page has officially kicked off. Let's get clickin'!


Travel Planning Woes

We are planning our trip to Puerto Vallarta and it hit me that this is the first 'international' trip that we have planned on our own. When we studied abroad, that was all planned out for us, as was our honeymoon (we have a great travel agent). So I didnt even know where to turn...internet search engines? Book through the resort itself? Use our travel agent? Well when it was all said and done, I found some great deals online and sent them over to the travel agent to see if she could offer us something comparable (I like the idea of going through her versus paying a website--eek!). So if anyone has suggestions on booking a trip like this -- whether you used Expedia.com, Travelocity.com, your destination's website, an agent, or your own trusty skills -- share with me, please! :)


Ready to Launch!

Welcome, welcome! I have been dreaming of doing a blog like this since I created our family blog a little while back -- somewhere to share my favorite finds, fads, recipes, photography tricks (since I am learning like crazy) -- so here it is: Sassy Southern Housewife! I figured that summed me up pretty well (among other things, I'm sure....). So, let's get started:

I was waiting to post a good first entry and since Valentine's wasn't too long ago, I decided to share this AMAZING sugar cookie recipe (perfect for iced cookies) and an accompanying royal icing recipe. For future recipe posts, they can be found in my recipe link. Just look for the Recipe Box icon.

First thing's first though - sharing with you a truly fabulous find, which helped me immensely in this cookie-making process:

The BeaterBlade
An attachment for your stand mixer (most major brands) that scrapes the bowl as it mixes!

I love this fab find! My KitchenAid is used about 98% of the time for baking, and I always have to stop the mixing process to scrape the bowl. This little contraption totally eliminates that hassle, scraping the bowl for you! Love love love it :) I tried to find it at Williams Sonoma but they were out (with no hopes of getting more) so I found this one at Sur La Table for about $25. A little steep I suppose, but it will serioiusly come in handy!

Now for the cooking....I read the Bake at 350 blog pretty often to get great inspiration for my baked goods, and since she specializes in decorative cookies I thought it only appropriate to use her sugar cookie recipe. You can tell it has been tweaked and is absolutely perfect for cookies for decorating - sturdy, tasty, beautiful color.

Vanilla-Almond Sugar Cookies

3 c unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 c sugar (I use sugar that I've stored vanilla beans in)
2 sticks butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure almond extract

Preheat oven to 350. Combine the flour and baking powder, set aside.


Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg and extracts and mix.

Gradually add the flour mixture and beat just until combined, scraping down the bowl, especially the bottom (unless you have the BeaterBlade! Look at that clean bowl!).

Roll onto a floured surface and cut into shapes.

Place on parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes.

Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Now the royal icing, that was a bit of an internal conflict for me. See, my family makes homemade Christmas cookies and icing every year, and this year I did royal icing instead of the usual 'powdered sugar and water' mix. I LOVED it, and it worked very well. So when I came across a few other recipes requiring meringue powder instead of egg whites, I got nervous. I decided to try out the meringue powder recipe, just for comparison's sake, and it turned out just fine. My only issues - less flavor, and the meringue powder is probably not likely to be hanging out in your pantry. So here is the recipe I prefer, compliments of the Food Network:

2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
Food coloring, if desired

With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the lemon juice or extract until frothy. Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined, smooth, and shiny. Turn to high and beat approximately 5 minutes till stiff and glossy. Add food coloring, if desired, and transfer to a pasty bag to pipe onto cookies.

And here is the recipe that I used:

3 3/4 c. powdered sugar, sifted
4 TBSP meringue powder
scant 1/2 c. water
With your trusty mixer, beat the meringue powder and water until frothy.
I gradually added the sifted powdered sugar, beating on low.
Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, beat on high for five minutes until stiff peaks begin to form. A good rule of thumb - the icing should stand up on the edge of the beater.
Put the icing into a bowl if you plan to use food coloring to change the color. If not, you can put it directly in an icing bag. If using food coloring, make sure that the icing is covered with a damp cloth as to prevent drying and solidifying.
Now, you can decorate the cookies however you want!  I did some piping (using an icing bag and some ziploc baggies with a hole cut in the corner....what? They both work!). I also attempted some 'flooding' - filling in the outline with icing that has been slightly watered down so that it spreads quicker. They were  so much fun that I even made some butterflies for my sister's birthday.
I hope you store these recipes away in your recipe box, and maybe consider getting yourself a BeaterBlade; you could be whipping up some great looking (and tasting) cookies in no time!

Thanks for checking out the Sassy Southern Housewife! Enjoy!