cutting cookies

My senior year of college, back when I was still going to become a teacher, I had to present a lesson to a class of fellow education majors, as if I were teaching high school students, and I must have practiced five or six times. It had to be a certain length in size—maybe 15 minutes?—and it needed to include visual aids and an outline you handed the instructor ahead of time, with handouts maybe. I don’t remember what I was teaching on, but I remember there was a puzzle involved.

cookies closer

So there I was, holding up cardboard pieces of some greater picture, lecturing about how each puzzle piece seems ugly and pointless on its own but beautiful when it fits in with the others—who knows how this linked to the subject matter—and my professor was in the back, looking at his watch, not calling “time,” which would mean I could stop.

Palms sweating, completely out of material, I kept yammering, on and on about those puzzle pieces, how our lives were full of small circumstances that were just segments of something larger, how the underside doesn’t reveal the master design, how you have to keep a bigger perspective about things. The professor still hadn’t said anything. So I did the one thing he told us never to do: I finished, picked up my things and sat down, tears in my eyes signaling the nervous breakdown I would have in the hallway later.

Cookies on Cookie Sheet

(The irony was, a week or so later when I got my grade, I found out I hadn’t been under time, but the professor had just forgotten to signal.)

cookies on table

Anyway, I still think about that day sometimes, both about how ridiculously important that one assignment in that one class seemed and about how, while I talked about not forgetting the bigger picture, I was doing exactly that.

cookies closer

Life feels busier in the summer. Do you feel that way? There’s so much more you can do, so many more opportunities to do all of it, and even with so much more daylight, you find you drop things and start to feel behind, like you’re not catching up.

iced cookies

For me, there’s this blog party we’ve been talking about. On different days, I range from worried no one will come (and I’ll have all this food! and I’ll feel so silly!) to worried that everyone will come (and what will I feed them? how awful if we ran out of things to eat!), so I over-worry about lists and details and logistics, thereby sucking every bit of fun out of the process.

In reality, things are coming together, and there are lots of fun things to look forward to: My Facebook friend Melissa of Sugar Magnolia Pastries is bringing a cake, mousses and possibly pecan tarts; Andrews McMeel has donated three of their finest cookbooks for a giveaway; I have a rough menu in place (barbecue chicken with crusty bread, a strawberry poppyseed salad, fingerling potatoes, banana bread, biscotti, mint lemonade).

iced with sprinkles

As promised, there will be a cookie table, complete with icings and sprinkles. I even tried out a new sugar-cookie recipe this weekend, which I’m posting here, so those of you who can’t come can still celebrate in spirit. It’s slightly chewy inside, with firm golden edges, perfect for topping with icing or eating alone. And there will be an online giveaway the first week of August, finishing the day of the party, for something I think you’re really going to like.

In fact, when I let myself step back, and look at the bigger perspective, I feel very excited about this crazy idea for a blog party, like it’s a dinner party of people I like, eating and laughing outside, under white lights, on a summer evening.

STAY IN TOUCH! Beyond Twitter, if you’re interested, you can stay updated with party details here or at the Facebook invite here. Speaking of Facebook, if you haven’t heard, Food Loves Writing has a fan page, and, not to brag or anything, but the number of fans officially reached double digits (!) yesterday afternoon! Clearly, we’re going places, people. I hope you’ll stop over and say hello.

Alphabet Cookies
Adapted from Gourmet, January 2004

When I got to the bottom of the dough with this recipe, I had the inspired idea of rolling little bits in cocoa powder and placing them in the center of the flower-shaped cut-outs. Crazy, right? See? I can have fun.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
*Recipe for icing

In a small bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl to use with a hand mixer), beat together softened butter and sugar at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture until just combined.

Form dough into two balls, and flatten each into a six-inch disk. Wrap them in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

After dough has chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll out one piece of dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut out as many cookies as possible with cutters (I used my grandma’s vintage flower cutter—isn’t it adorable?). Transfer shapes to baking sheets lined with parchment paper or Silpat mats.

Bake cookies until edges are golden, about 12 minutes. Repeat process with remaining dough. Let cool completely before icing.

*Icing: This is so unlike me, but I just threw powdered sugar, a squeeze or two of lemon and some milk in the stand mixer and kept adding whichever ingredient I wanted to change the consistency (more sugar for thicker, more milk for thinner). I didn’t use any measurements because the process was very simple.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 22 Comments

  1. Lan

    oh how i wish i could attend your lovely blog party, if not to sample all the wonderful foods but to hang the eff out with you and your blog buddies. :) your college story reminds me of when i took an instructing aerobics class all because i liked the professor and i needed an extra credit. keeping a beat, giving direction AND doing the actual moves confirmed that Madonna’s 80s hits are genius and that is all.
    your cookies look divine, crisp without hurting the teeth but sweet with the extra icing and colored sugar, coming all together to make one hell of a sweet snack. :)

  2. Gemma

    Really wish I could be at the blog party! You’ll just have to take lots of photos for those of us who live a few thousand miles too far away to make it. These cookies are so pretty – must find more excuses for digging out the cookie cutters.

  3. Jacqui

    these look easy enough for even ME to make! but one question: can i mix by hand? i don’t have a mixer…

  4. Gloria

    Loved this entry! And, I totally remember those teaching presentations! I’m sure your party will be delightful!

  5. Shannalee

    Lan – Seriously, best comments ever. Love the image of that aerobics class. I am so uncoordinated, I would have been a blast there, too.

    Gemma – What is it with my recipes lately, always requiring some kitchen tool you have to pull out of storage!? HA! Something easier is coming, I hope. BTW I really wish you could come, too!

    Jacqui – Absolutely mix by hand. It will just take a little longer, and you’ll get a little bit of a workout.

    Gloria – Yay! A comment from someone who witnessed that crazy day! Your presentations were always SO good and pulled together. That all feels like so long ago. Thanks for stopping by here!

  6. Kathi D

    I love people and cooking, but combining them into a party puts my stress level UP, which happened just last week with a dinner party for 12 that I hosted. Eek! Have I set the table? Did I forget something in the fridge? Will my veges be ready in time?

    Reading this post with its accompanying photos of cookies coming into being was a Zen experience for me this morning. As calming as a slowly unwinding summer’s day (with no dinner party on the horizon).

    You have become an excellent teacher, whether that was your intention or not.

  7. Elizabeth

    Your blog party sounds so fabulous, I am extremely sad to be missing out. Thank you so much for your Chicago recommendations. You are the best! I found myself getting excited about the move just reading about the pizza places you mentioned! I will definitely get in touch for more suggestions when I get to town.

  8. Shannalee

    Kathi D – What a sweet, sweet comment you’ve left! Thank you for your encouraging words of empathy and kind compliment on top of that. You are lovely – and it’s so nice to hear from someone on the other side of a large dinner party. Thank you!

    Elizabeth – Yay! We have to have Chicago welcome you properly, and food always seems like the best way to do that! Looking forward to seeing this area through your eyes when you move!

  9. Linnea

    Your blog is amazing! I loved this post, too :o) Thank you for the big picture reminder… that’s really important. I so wish I was a bit closer so I could go that party :o) It looks like you’ll be all set in terms of cool people & delicious food. I hope it is a blast & I can’t wait to read about it & see pictures. Take care & enjoy your Thursday.

  10. Shannalee

    Thank you, Linnea (and I love your blog, too!) – wish you were closer and could come, but yes, stay tuned for all kinds of pictures and stories. My friend who is a FAB photographer will be on duty, which I am so excited about. Thanks again for stopping by!

  11. My First Kitchen

    I really wish I could come. I’ll definitely make the cookies though and celebrate from the humidity juggernaut that is North Carolina. It’s great to finally get a chance to really sit down and read what’s been going on with you. Congrats on your blog party and how awesome things have been on this pleasant little slice of the web. I’m so glad I get to experience it.

  12. The Duo Dishes

    Too bad CA is not closer to IL. Sounds like it’s going to be more than fun. Surely we’ll get to see pics of everything you made. Looking forward to it!

  13. Sues

    WIsh I was in the area and could attend! Because a cookie table? Is something I can definitely get behind. And stay behind. Until all the cookies are gone.

  14. carolyn

    cute post! burlington to chicago is just a little too far, or i would totally stop by your blog party. i’m sure it will be great!

  15. Shannalee

    Kendra – I miss you! It was so nice to read your comment! Promise me if you and Kaz and baby Sam every come out to Chicago that I get to see you, OK? We would have so. much. fun.

    DD – Too bad, indeed. But pictures will come!

    Sues – LOL. You sound like a girl after my own heart.

    Carolyn – Thank you and darn that geography! Wish you could be here!

  16. Susan

    I bet your presentation was great!

    I wish I could attend your party :)

  17. Lenox Ave

    How wonderful. Wish I was there.

  18. chocolate shavings

    Those are too cute!

  19. Shannalee

    Thanks, Susan! Me, too!

    Lenox – I wish you were, too!

    Chocolate Shavings – Thank you so much!

  20. Mags

    Even 30 years later, your college story had me sweating all over again. Lovely cookies.

  21. Kathryn

    These cookies look fantastic! I love how you decorated them; I imagine cut-out cookies to be reserved for holidays, but these are so nice and summery. Thanks for sharing!

  22. Pingback: a sneak peek | food loves writing

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