Friday Faves

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{New Glassybaby: Cherish, Valentine, Princess. Happy Valentine’s Day to me!}

Happy Friday the 13th! I just realized what day it is, yikes! I’ve had the hardest time getting into this blog lately, but I couldn’t miss a Friday Faves the day before Valentine’s Day – way too much pink and red to post. I hope everyone has had a wonderful week and is looking forward to a fun and/or relaxing weekend ~ and a happy heart day! Some fun links and pics to get you a little closer to 5pm:

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{spectacular venue for my friends’ Katie and Brian’s lovely Seattle wedding last weekend}

photo-111{last minute valentines}

photo-110{Coop and I are in the spirit (even if he won’t look at the camera)!}

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{treat baskets for my two favorite babies}

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{basket and liner from pottery barn, books, lifefactory bottle (with valentine peanut butter m&ms of course), sleepers from old navy and gymboree and onesie from the baby gap, valentine glassybaby, heart teether from land of nod, reusable squeeze packets from amazon, and stickers from etsy}

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{basket and liner from pottery barn, books, lifefactory bottle (also with m&ms), sleeper from hanna andersson, onesie from old navy, heart tutu and headband from gymboree, pink headband from nordstrom, princess glassybaby}

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Jimmy’s Pink Cookies

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Just in time for Valentine’s Day – barely! (and let’s not talk about how I didn’t post a single recipe all of January). I read about these cookies awhile ago, and have been patiently waiting for the right time to make them. And while one could argue that anytime is the right time for pink cookies, I think these are best saved for either a (baby girl) baby shower or Valentine’s Day. I made them for my sister-in-law’s baby shower a couple weeks ago, but of course didn’t think to take pictures, so I had to make them again this week for the blog (the sacrifices I make for you people!). They’re super easy, adorable, and delicious, so if you’re in need of a last minute treat for Saturday, I think these might be it.

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I read about these cookies in Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life. Molly Wizenberg of Orangette and Delancey, so if she’s writing about a sugar cookie you know it must be good.  I’m guessing Jimmy is her friend; she credits him with the recipe.  I make sugar cookies pretty frequently so I’m a little disenchanted with them, but something about these – be it the excessive amount of butter, the cream cheese frosting, the pink – really makes them extra special.  They might not be as fancy as my usual royal-icing holiday cookies, but they taste a lot yummier – and you can frost them in about one-fifth of the time.  Coming from someone who was up an extra three hours last night (and missed Scandal) outlining and flooding three dozen Valentine hearts, that’s worth a lot.

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Please note the cherry extract in the photo. The frosting calls for kirsch or cherry extract – per my Google research, kirsch is a cherry-flavored brandy, traditionally used in fondue (gross?). I couldn’t find it anywhere, although if I’m being honest I didn’t look that hard, because cherry extract sounded more like something that belongs in frosting. However, when I made these for my sister-in-law’s baby shower a couple weeks ago I couldn’t find the cherry extract either, and I actually DID look – at seven different stores.  SEVEN. Including a Wal-Mart, because when I Googled “cherry extract” Wal-Mart popped up. Again, the things I do for this blog – it takes a lot to get me into a Wal-Mart. But alas, they didn’t have it, nor did any of the other six places I tried – so I just used vanilla and the cookies were delicious. And then for purposes of blog accuracy I ordered cherry extract on Amazon and used it this time, and I have to admit I kind of liked it. But I have a weird palate for artificial fruit flavor I think – it smells just like cough syrup, which I also weirdly love.  All of this is to say, if you have kirsch on hand (or find yourself at a liquor store and feel like splurging on a bottle, even though you only need a teaspoon for this recipe), by all means please try it (you can always use the rest of the bottle for fondue, apparently). If you’re planning ahead and want to order cherry extract on Amazon, I definitely wouldn’t discourage you (you could also just borrow mine). But if both of those options sound stressful, you could definitely use vanilla – or almond – or any flavor you like – and your cookies will be just fine.

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Aren’t they so cute? My only regret is that I didn’t use more frosting – Molly tells you to spread it on thick but I was worried about running out so I scrimped a little, and then of course I had tons left over. The frosting really makes the cookie – I think it should be as thick as the cookie itself. Happy Valentine’s Day! (And incidentally, happy second birthday to B&B! Valentine’s Day Year One and Year Two, if you want to kill some time). XOXO.

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Jimmy’s Pink Cookies, from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

For the Cookies
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons (3 ounces, or 3/4 of one stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/4 teaspoons kirsch, or more to taste, or a capful of cherry extract
Red (or pink) food coloring

To make the cookies, combine the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat, first on low speed, and then slowly increasing to medium, until light and fluffy. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt and whisk well. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating until the flour is just absorbed. Add the vanilla and beat well to incorporate. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on a large, clean surface, and turn the dough out onto it. Gather the dough into a ball, press it into a thick disk, and wrap it well. Refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. On a clean, floured surface, roll the dough out to a thickness of 3/8 inch. (If you don’t have a lot of room, cut the disk of dough down the middle and work with only one half at a time, leaving the second half in the refrigerator until ready for use.) Using a cookie cutter, cut the dough into whatever shapes you like. Molly uses a 2 1/2 inch round cutter, which, once the cookies have puffed slightly during baking, yields a 2 3/4-to-3 inch cookie. Jimmy uses a much bigger cutter, often in the shape of a heart. I used small (2″) and medium (3″) hearts – the cookies are pretty rich so I opted not to use my large (4″) heart, but you definitely could just go for it and make them huge.

Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake them one sheet at a time, keeping the second sheet in the refrigerator or freezer until the first one is done, for 16-20 minutes, or until the cookies are pale golden at the edge. Do not allow them to brown (oops, some of mine did!). Transfer the pan to a wire rack, and cool the cookies completely on the pan.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and beat on low speed to fully incorporate, then raise the speed to medium or medium high and beat until there are no lumps, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the kirsch (or extract) and a couple drops of red (or pink) food coloring and beat well. The frosting should be a pretty shade of pale pink. Taste, and if you want more cherry flavor, beat in a bit more kirsch (or extract). Generously spread frosting onto fully cooled cookies. Decorate with sprinkles if you’re so inclined.

Stored in an airtight container, pink cookies will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days – and they’re delicious cold – or you can freeze them indefinitely.

Yield: 20-24 (3-inch) cookies (I yielded 15 3″ hearts and 15 2″ hearts)

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Friday Faves, Valentine’s Day Edition

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Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!  And happy first birthday to Blueberries and Basil, which celebrated the conclusion of it’s inaugural year this past week (remember my first post?)  Valentine’s Day is the best holiday for cookie decorating, I think – although I might think that about every holiday. I made these conversation hearts pre-blog two years ago (inspired by Cupcakes and Cashmere), and although my decorating skills have improved since then, I still have a long way to go. It just takes so much patience! I also really love the tiny pastel hearts and the cupcakes, inspired by this amazing cookie blog (which I discovered thanks to my friend Kristen).

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My favorite way to decorate for a holiday! Remembrance, Joy, and Baby with mixed tulips and ribbon accents (more Valentine’s colors here).

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My godmother, a fellow Valentine’s Day lover, gave me these little bowls a few years ago – I love digging them out each year and filling them with my favorite Valentine’s candy. Similar here and here.  (Let’s not talk about how many candy hearts I’ve eaten in the past week.)

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I bought this little outfit for my first niece/nephew, who is due at the end of July. I’m trying not to shop too much before we know if it’s a boy or a girl, but this little gender neutral outfit was too cute to pass up (the hat says “HUGS” on the back!!). The hat is sold out online, but you can find the little onesie here (a more girly version here, more boyish here, all on sale!) – it’s probably too late for this year, but in case anyone else is planning ahead!

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My mom and I discovered this line of Parisian specialty teas at the Plaza Hotel when we were in NYC this past December. She loves the original Detox tea, but I’m obsessed with the “BB” version, which is a lighter, grapefruit-y version of the Detox and has added benefits for your skin. Like a tea version of a BB cream, get it? And so delicious.

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Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend and a festive Valentine’s day. Thanks for a year of loyal readership! It’s been such a fun year of blogging – and a great way for me to share some of my favorite recipes and document my weeks. If anyone has any suggestions of what they’d like to see more of, I’d love to hear them in the comments. XOXO!

Friday Faves

TGIF, everyone! It’s a week before Valentine’s Day, and I have yet to do or make anything fun and festive. This week was taken up by post-Superbowl celebrations, including the parade (of course).  We spent four glorious hours in the freezing cold to cheer on our Superbowl champs, and now I have the cold to prove it.  Hopefully I’ll have my act together in time for next Friday – I have two types of brownies and two types of cookies on my to do list, and I’m going to be at a bachelorette party all weekend, so wish me luck!

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Last year’s Valentines brownies and cookies.

‘Tis the season for gifting flowers.

Dying to try these Nutella cookies.

This website will make sending Valentine’s cards so much easier.

Great idea for a Valentine’s gift.

Love this lip crayon in Roman Holiday.

I just downloaded this book – can’t wait to read it.

And my favorite images of the week:

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Happy Friday, guys! Happy (early) Valentine’s Day, and Go Hawks!!

Friday Favorites

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

When I started this blog last week, one of the questions a lot of people asked me was how often I planned to post. Apparently there’s a fine line between posting frequently enough that people stay interested and so frequently that people get sick of you. I’m hoping two days per week (+/-) is a happy medium, and on the off chance I can’t come up with two blog-worth recipes each week, I thought it would be fun to do a weekly “Friday Favorites” post where I can share any fun photos, ideas, or highlights from the week. Since a lot of what I’ve been doing the past few days involves my favorite holiday, however, I thought I should probably post this before we’re all over Valentines Day and moving on to shamrock cookies and green beer – or maybe just the upcoming three-day weekend. So, this week Friday is coming early here at Blueberries & Basil! If only that meant we got to sleep in tomorrow, too.

I’ve had these red and white Hershey’s kisses in my freezer since early December, when I used the first half of the bag to make these for a cookie exchange some girlfriends host each Christmas. Rather than tossing (or eating!) the leftovers, I thought they would make cute Valentines cookies, using pink sanding sugar in lieu of red and green. I think they turned out so cute, next Christmas I’m going to stock up on the kisses so that I have leftovers for the Fourth of July too – how patriotic would the red and white stripes be with blue sprinkles?

This past weekend I was visiting with my friend Heather while her two year old daughter Eleanor and my 3-1/2-year-old cousin Merrin played in Merrin’s play kitchen nearby. My sister stopped by to say hello and, having not seen Eleanor in awhile, said to Heather “she has the MOST AMAZING EYELASHES.” Merrin, not to be outdone, marched over to my sister, stuck her little face right in my sister’s face (Abby was sitting in a chair so they were eye to eye) and pointed directly to her own eyelashes with a look that said “excuse me?” Once Abby assured Merrin that her eyelashes were also very beautiful, Merr went back to her kitchen and happily poured us all some pretend tea. Point being, I guess we all want amazing eyelashes even from a young age. Tragically, I was not blessed with Eleanor’s lashes. A girlfriend at work recently got eyelash extensions, and even though I’ve had them before and they were torture on my sensitive eyes, hers now make me want them again. It’s hard enough for me to keep up with my nails, though, so I’m not sure how I would find the time (or $$$) for the constant fills lash extensions require. While in Portland this weekend I stopped by my favorite “beauty bar” in hopes of finding a new mascara so amazing I would no longer covet extensions. Blush has about 50 mascara choices, so I chatted with the salesgirl and she recommended the Lorac Pro. It lengthens, thickens, volumizes, etc. The brush has a little pointy tip so you can really get into the corners of your eyes and draw out those lashes. I still don’t have Eleanor’s lashes, or even lashes anyone is going to mistake for extensions, but for $23 I’m pretty happy with it. If anyone has any mascara (or lash extension) recommendations for me, I would love to hear them in the comments!

BFF, Baby, Joy - thanks Kyle and Alyson!

BFF, Baby, Joy – thanks Kyle and Alyson!

Anyone who lives in Seattle knows (or at least should know) about Glassybaby. These little hand-blown votives truly are one of my favorite things – I have way too many but can’t seem to get enough. I love switching out colors for the season or holiday. They make the perfect gift for birthdays, holidays, hostess gifts, or just because. My aunt Laurie gave me my very first Glassybaby (a set of three – so generous!) for my birthday in 2006, and now my collection has grown to…..let’s just say, a number too embarrassing to admit. Many I’ve received as gifts, or purchased as part of a fundraiser – Glassybaby is a wonderful company to support, so I don’t feel that bad. To date, Glassybaby has donated over $1.25 million to cancer research and other charities dedicated to healing – which means I should probably go buy a couple more this weekend!

"Lauren" polish (and my chevron phone case from J. Crew)

“Lauren” polish (and my chevron phone case from J. Crew)

I might have a manicure problem. Much like with sugar cookies, I can’t pass up the opportunity to celebrate a holiday without a thematic nail polish color. Today’s was “Lauren” from Julep, my favorite “green” mani/pedi salon in downtown Seattle. Julep is owned by a former Starbucks exec who wanted her salons to be another “third place” – did everyone already know this was the Starbucks concept? Because I only learned that when reading about Jane Park, Julep’s founder. We have home, we have work, and then we have somewhere to meet our girlfriends after work or at lunch, where they bring us tea and warm neck pillows, paint our nails, and let us watch reruns of Sex and The City. A fun fact about Jane Park – she has her law degree from Yale. Anyone who can take their JD and use it for something other than practicing law is obviously a guru of mine.

My very dear friend Lindsay celebrated her birthday this past Tuesday. Linds and I have been friends since college (which sadly means we’ve been friends for a long time now!) and one of my favorite memories of senior year is when she and I would walk to class together every morning, stopping at Starbucks on “The Ave” to get our identical double tall nonfat toffee nut lattes. We took turns paying for the drinks, and took our alternating payment schedule VERY seriously. These days, we fight over who “gets” to pay, instead – I guess that really means we’ve grown up. Linds and I live in different cities now, but on Tuesday afternoon I sat at Starbucks (really sat! with a “for here” mug!) and enjoyed a delicious toffee nut latte in her honor. Icing on the cake: Starbucks was sampling not one but TWO yummy samples. Happy Birthday Linds!

*A quick sidenote to our toffee nut latte tradition: it began because we had a class together called “Marx and Lenin” – not sure WHAT ever possessed me to sign up for that class. It might actually have been Linds. But needless to say, it was WAY over this business major’s head, and I didn’t last long before dropping out. I think that was the only class I ever dropped in all of undergrad or grad school, although I couldn’t swear to it. Linds stuck with Karl and Vladamir, though, and I’m pretty sure she ended up with the highest grade in the class. Meanwhile, I would be hard pressed to tell you one thing about Marx or Lenin – I had to google “Marx and Lenin” just to make sure it wasn’t spelled like John Lennon, and that is the only reason I knew his first name. Thank goodness I have Linds in case I’m ever in a position where I really need to know about the history of Communism in Russia and don’t have access to Wikipedia.

I hope everyone has fun plans tonight, hot date or otherwise, and that you all have a wonderful Presidents Day Weekend! Happy “Friday”!! XOXO

Valentine’s Brownies, Two Ways

How many heart-shaped cookie cutters is too many?

How many heart-shaped cookie cutters is too many?

One of the saddest days I can remember as a little girl is the day my mom gave me one of her many pieces of unsolicited fashion advice: honey, pink and red don’t go together. I don’t remember what I was wearing – although it would have been the mid-to-late 80s so I’m sure it was atrocious – but I do remember being devastated. So even though I really should hate Valentine’s Day (all those Kay Jewelers commercials are enough to make even the most romantic of us want to vomit), I can’t help but celebrate the one day of the year when that little girl in me gets to mix and match her favorite colors to her heart’s content (heart, ha!). And if it’s also an excuse to make not just brownies, but two different types of brownies – cut into tiny hearts and with salted caramel and cheesecake, no less – all the better.

Brownie #1: Salted Caramel. Smitten Kitchen is one of my all time favorite blogs, food or otherwise. I’m not proud to admit that up until recently, I didn’t really know that brownies could be made from scratch. I honestly thought the Ghirardelli box mix was as gourmet as one could get. But when SK posted these brownies last August, I became obsessed. I’ve probably made them 20 times since then – for summer BBQs, friends with new babies, tailgates, my brother’s engagement party dinner, pretty much any excuse I can find. You can doctor them up with anything from nuts or chocolate chips to toasted coconut or crushed candy canes (which I obviously did at Christmas), but the salted caramel option Deb posted yesterday looked extra delicious so I thought I’d give it a try. The bad news is, I might now be equally as obsessed with making caramel – YUM. The brownies really are so easy, and the caramel is a not-too-difficult extra step. Deb mentions that once you add the butter/cream/salt to the sugar it might not incorporate beautifully – mine didn’t incorporate at all. But if that should happen to you, never fear, once you get the pan back on the heat the sugar melts down again and you have delicious, gooey caramel in no time!

Homemade caramel, yum yum

Homemade caramel, yum yum

Brownie #2: Marbled Red Velvet Cheesecake. I’m not typically a huge red velvet person, nor a cheesecake person – but I saw these in the Seattle paper yesterday and they were so darn cute and Pinterest-y I had to make them. I would say these are substantially more work than the first recipe, but still not hard, so if you are a red velvet or a cheesecake person they would definitely be worth the effort. The recipe makes a TON – I wanted to halve it but couldn’t figure out how to divide three eggs by two, and unfortunately I don’t own a mini jelly roll pan. Luckily my coworkers gobbled up the dozens of darling little red, pink and white swirled hearts I brought into the office this morning, but if you aren’t looking to feed an army, I suspect you could cut the recipe in half and just whisk two eggs together and only use about 3/4 of the mixture, and then bake the brownies in a 9 x 13 pan. Martha Stewart always says baking is an exact science, but I think in this case it would be ok. One minor FYI: the recipe mentions your red velvet batter will be thick – this is an understatement. It seemed more like cookie dough than brownie batter to me, but just press it into your jelly roll pan and it will work out fine. The recipe also suggests using the leftover cut out scraps for a red velvet milkshake…..not sure how I feel about that, but as I was dumping all of mine down my disposal last night to keep myself from snacking on them, I couldn’t help but think they would be perfect for cake pops! Maybe next year!

I hope these recipes inspire you guys to do some Valentine’s baking this weekend, or at least to wear your red and pink with pride. Although, sorry Mom, I think J. Crew has been telling us that’s ok now for years. Happy Valentine’s Day!!