Make a special memory with preschoolers this winter by baking cookies! If you didn't get around to cookie baking and decorating over the December holidays, Valentine's Day – with its hearts in all shapes and sizes – might be the perfect (and a more relaxing) time of year to get your hands in the dough.
This easy sugar cookie recipe uses powdered sugar rather than granulated sugar in the dough, producing a melt-in-your-mouth cookie. It's a family favorite whether we eat them plain or decorated with a few swirls of icing.
Valentine sugar cookies
(Makes 5 dozen cookies)
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, plus more for rolling
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Granulated sugar (optional)
Assorted candies, sprinkles or icing for decorating (optional)
Cream the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the powdered sugar and start the machine slowly; when the sugar has been incorporated, turn up speed and beat until light and fluffy. Blend in egg, vanilla and almond extract.
In another bowl, sift together the flour and salt; add it gradually to the batter. Mix on low until dough comes together. Divide the dough in half, shape into flat disks, cover and chill at least 1 hour.
Heat oven to 375 F. Line baking sheets with parchment. Remove one dough disk from the refrigerator, roll out 1/8 inch thick on a board dusted with powdered sugar, and cut with a 2-1/2-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter. (If dough sticks to it, dip in flour, shake off excess, then cut dough). Place the hearts on prepared baking sheets. Repeat with second disk.
Sprinkle hearts with granulated sugar, if you wish.
Bake 8-10 minutes or until very light brown on edges. Cool on wire racks before serving or decorating. Makes 5 dozen 2-1/2-inch heart-shaped cookies.
Tip for young bakers: Collect vintage cookie cutters with small handles on top to make it easier to cut dough.
Warm up with baked black bean dip
A good appetizer brings everyone together whether you've just come in out of the chill from an afternoon of sledding or you're hosting a party.
This baked black bean dip definitely fits the bill. It's a crowd favorite every time I serve it at home or when I bring it with a bag of tortilla chips to a potluck. It's both chunky and creamy, with a yummy chipotle flavor that keeps you dipping for more.
Baked black bean dip
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
1 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, plus 3 tablespoons of sauce (find canned in the Latin/Mexican food section of your grocery store)
2 (15 1/2 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 cups thawed frozen corn kernels or drained canned corn
2 cups grated four-cheese blend, Mexican-style
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
Fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
Heat oven to 400 F. Grease a 1-1/2 quart baking dish. (I use a soufflé-style baking dish.)
Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium high heat. Add onion, reduce heat to medium and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, about 4 minutes.
Add garlic, chili powder and pepper; stir and cook one minute.
Loosely chop the chipotle chilies in adobo. Add to the skillet along with 3 tablespoons adobo sauce, one can of black beans and the water. Bring to a boil and simmer four minutes, stirring occasionally.
Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add vinegar. Use an immersion blender to process mixture until smooth. (Or, use a food processor and transfer to mixing bowl.)
Add the second can of drained beans, tomatoes, corn and grated Mexican style cheese. Stir well. Transfer to baking dish. Sprinkle grated Monterey Jack cheese on top.
Bake 15-20 minutes or until bubbly and cheese melts.
Top with cilantro. Serve warm with tortilla chips for scooping.
Tip: Freeze leftovers. Thaw and reheat with a fresh sprinkling of cheese on top.
Donna Erickson's award-winning series "Donna's Day" is airing on public television nationwide. To find more of her creative family recipes and activities, visit donnasday.com and link to the NEW Donna's Day Facebook fan page. Her latest book is "Donna Erickson's Fabulous Funstuff for Families." (c) 2017 Donna Erickson. Distributed by King Features Synd.