Easter Sugar Cookies

Easter is here and it is one of my favorite holidays to bake for!  Last year's Easter Cookies were some of my favorites and I like this years cookies even more.  I love how colorful all the cookies look together.  They are almost too pretty eat...almost!
I love decorating with royal icing, but I one of the most important lessons I have learned when decorating with royal icing is to stay organized and plan ahead.  I made about six dozen cookies and had six different shapes, plus variations in colors amongst the shapes.  In order to keep my sanity I had to make sure I knew which colors each cookies were going to be decorated and to try to work in batches of the same color together.
A new addition for this year is the eggs with the chicks inside and the carrots.  I don't know why I like the carrots so much, but the simplicity of them looks great juxtaposed with the decorative eggs.
Happy Easter! 

Bacon Mac and Cheese

Bacon and macaroni and cheese: two of my favorite comfort foods.  These two foods put together is like a match made in food heaven.  Mr. Apron is still talking about it.  Upon eating the mac and cheese he promptly said, this is defintely a dish to be listed as one of his favorites and claimed the leftovers for his lunches. I don't know why it took me so long to embrace bacon, but now Mr. Apron and I are on a total bacon kick. 
I wanted to make the dish a bit more adult so I used penne rather than elbows and added cream of mushroom soup to give the flavor more depth.   I know that cream of mushroom soup seems unusual for mac and cheese but it adds a lot of flavor.  I have found that some macaroni and cheese can be a little bland and one dimensional.

I used a nice cut of thickly sliced bacon which isn't too salty and has big flavor.  Much better than the standard bacon you find at the grocery store. (I purchased this bacon at Whole Foods.)   I recommend trying a higher grade of bacon.  It is definitely worth the few extra dollars.

The bacon is baked right in the dish, so its hard to see in the photos all smothered with cheese, but I promise its in there.  I even took some nice photos of the bacon all cut up to prove to you that it is in there! 
Like most other baked pasta dishes it is very important not over cook the noodles.  The pasta will absorb the access moisture while baking.
This dish is certainly not diet friendly, but everyone needs a day to indulge.  I highly recommend trying it, your tastebuds will not be disappointed.   Enjoy!

Bacon Mac and Cheese
1 lb penne, cooked al dente
1 lb  cooked bacon, cut into one inch pieces
1 small onion, diced
1 cup of milk
2 cans of cream of mushroom soup (fat free works great)
4 cups of shredded cheddar cheese (I like to mix mild and sharp)
1/2  cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 13x9 baking dish with cooking spray.  Cook the onion in a large pot over medium heat until softened.   Reduce heat to low.  Add the milk, soup and 3 cups of cheese to the pot.  Stir constantly until the cheese is melted. Turn off heat.  Add bacon and penne to pot.  Stir to combine.  Spread the mac and cheese in the prepared baking pan. Top with remaining cheese.  Mix the breadcrumbs and the melted butter.  Then spread the bread crumbs over the mac and cheese.  Cook until brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes.

This post was created as part of the Food Buzz BACONALIA Challenge!

Pink, Black and White Baby Shower Favors

This weekend I made favors for a baby shower.  This shower didn't have a "typical" baby shower theme. Rather than onesies, or baby bottles or ducks, this shower's theme was pink, black and white! As a lover of all things pink, I love the theme!  I'm not sure if the baby is a girl, or if the mommy-to-be loves these colors, but I thought the color combo was a great idea.

I was asked to make favors to coordinate with the invitation.  The invitations had a black ribbon with white polka dots and those were also going to be used to top the favors.   Since the ribbons were black and white, we decided to to so a simple pink square cookie with white polka dots.   Then I wrote in the due date in black.   

I love the simple look of these cookies with the color combo.   I also really liked the modern take on a baby shower theme.  I've been doing a lot of onesies lately, so it was nice to change it up!  

The royal icing and sugar cookie recipe can be found here

French Toast Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream and Bacon Sprinkles

I feel like bacon is popping up everywhere now.   Chocolate covered bacon;  bacon salt; there is a bacon of the month club; a friend of mine had on a bacon bandaid the other day; and there are websites devoted to just bacon.  I was a little skeptical about bacon on a cupcake, but  I've seen these cupcakes on other foodie blogs, and I have been dying to try them. 
If you love breakfast, these cupcakes are for you!   I like the idea of making non-traditonal flavored cupcakes and they did not disappoint.  I personally really liked the way the maple buttercream and the french toast flavor melded together.  These cupcakes use cake flour, so they are dense and the bacon adds a little saltiness and some crunch. 
My sister described these cupcakes as "like having a whole breakfast in my mouth!"  I think these cupcakes would be really good adapted into a muffin. (Perhaps a future post?)  A lot of the people I gave these cupcakes to waited to have them until breakfast the next day since it is loaded with traditional breakfast flavors.   Even Mr. Apron said he would rather have these in the morning.    But don't let the flavors scare you.  Go ahead, give them a try!

French Toast Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream and Bacon Sprinkles
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 large eggs, separated

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons heavy cream, at room temperature
1/3 cup maple syrup

6-8 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

Adapted from Let's Dish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a muffin pan with paper cupcake liners.  With a stand mixer, mix the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon; set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and vanilla and set aside.  Add the egg yolks to the creamed butter one at time, waiting for each one to be fully incorporated before adding the next.  Alternately, add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions, waiting for each to be fully incorporated before adding the next.  Raise the speed to medium and mix briefly until a smooth batter is formed.

Transfer the batter to a large bowl. Thoroughly clean the bowl of the mixer and put the egg whites inside. Whip the egg whites on high speed, using the whisk attachment, until stiff peaks are formed. Working in 3 batches, using a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into the batter, until just incorporated. Divide the batter evenly among the cups in the muffin pan. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, mix the butter and sugar on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to high, and mix until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Reduce the speed of the mixer to low. Add the heavy cream and maple syrup. Beat until fluffy and well blended.  Frost cupcakes and sprinkle with crumbled bacon.

This post was created as part of the Food Buzz BACONALIA Challenge!