Valentine’s Day Treats + Cocktail Recipe

Every Valentine’s Day while we were dating, engaged and now in our marriage, it’s been a little tradition for me to create some sort of heart-shaped treat for Steve. I love taking some of our favorite things and giving them a special Valentine’s Day makeover twist. In the past I’ve make heart-shaped personal pizzas, mini cheesecakes, fruit salads, and of course classic frosted sugar cookies. Pink frosted sugar cookies evoke a nostalgic feeling of childhood and simply make us happy this time of year. What better way to spend Valentine’s Day than cozied up with a fresh strawberry Champagne cocktail, homemade treats and the one you love?

It’s hard to believe Valentine’s Day is just a week away!  What are your traditions or plans to celebrate the one you love? Here are a few ideas and a cocktail recipe we created to help inspire your holiday.

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Sinclair & Moore Valentine strawberry cocktailphoto credit: O’Malley Photographers 

Recipe illustration and design:  la Happy 

Download and print the recipe card for our Strawberry Champagne Cocktail


As Easy as Cherry Pie

Who doesn’t love a fresh, made-with-love homemade pie? Pie seems to make its appearances at the best times in life – cozy holidays, warm summer dinner parties and more recently at weddings. There are several songs about pies, children are entertained with pies thrown in people’s faces, and we cheer as they’re competitively gulped down in pie-eating contests. What it comes down to is pie makes us feel happy, entertained and very American.

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When it comes to the eating of pie, ice cream should most definitely be involved. And truth be told, I usually find myself dishing up a bigger scoop of ice cream than piece of pie into my bowl. But when it comes to the actual making of pie, I’ve found that most people I know don’t know how to make one, feel intimidated and are scared of the idea of homemade dough. This is why the phrase “as easy as pie” pertains to the eating of pie, not the making of pie.

But, I’m here to tell you that the making can be as easy as the eating. So let’s start with a cherry pie, because February is National Cherry Month and it’s an easy filling to make. Literally all you have to do is measure and stir the filling. You can do this.

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For a beginner pie dough maker, it’s a little overwhelming as there is so much information out there about the science of the dough, various techniques and the great debate of shortening vs. lard vs. butter. Personally, the thought of Crisco doesn’t sit well with me, so I am a big fan of the all-butter pastry. And in my experiences venturing outside of the all-butter camp, I’ve found that Crisco recipes tend to be more fragile and break easier which leads to frustrations (and no one wants that).

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The key to good pie dough is keeping the butter and water very cold. Also patience comes into play and has a big role, too. Here are a few of my personal tips I’ve picked up in my experiences making piecrust…

Don’t rush. Give yourself plenty of time to make the dough and let it chill. You can even make the dough the day before you assemble and bake your pie. Every time I try to quickly make a pie, I wind up with dough that falls apart and I have to remake it. Frustrating.

When adding the water to your dough, mix it in a little at a time. Sometimes you won’t need the full amount. If it feels very sticky, add some more flour. The dough should not stick to your hands.

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Use your hands to finish mixing and form your pastry. I use a pastry blender (pictured above) to begin incorporating the butter into the dry ingredients, but always end up using my hands once the water has been added.

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If your dough breaks or splits when rolling out or transferring to your pan, mend/squish together any tears that may have appeared. You can also mold it back into a disk and start over, if needed. Try not to do this more than once to avoid having your crust dry out.

Trim the overhang evenly around the circumference of the pie pan. This will keep the edges an equal thickness when crimping.

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This is the super easy part I mentioned – the stirring of the cherries and ingredients to make the filling. While it may be National Cherry Month, February is definitely not the best time of year for fresh cherries so I used jarred sour cherries. This is not to be confused with pre-made cherry pie filling. My philosophy is if you’re making crust from scratch, you’ve got to go as homemade as you possibly can throughout the whole pie, even if the fruit isn’t in season.

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For my cherry pie, I chose to make a lattice crust for the top. I find that diagrams and instructions for lattice tops look incredible confusing, as it’s a pretty simple concept of a weave pattern. Evenly cut strips of dough and weave them over the top of the cherry filling. Think: over, under, over, under, over, under and alternate the pattern. That’s all there is to it.

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Then trim the overhang of the strips and fold the bottom crust over the lattice pieces. We are in the homestretch now!

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I chose to crimp the edges into a classic zig-zag pattern by pinching the dough between my forefingers and thumbs. Sometimes in this step the dough may crack a bit, and if this happens just pinch and squish it back together. It’s not going to be perfect all the way around and that’s okay. I tend to obsess about any tiny tear in the crimped edges and in the end when it’s baked I can never really tell.

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With all the love, time and effort poured into making a homemade pie, you’ll want to share it with someone special. What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day and partake in National Cherry Month than with a gorgeous pie and big heap of vanilla ice cream!? Yum.

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Download and print our recipes for Lattice Top Cherry Pie and Perfect Pie Dough

Photo Credit: Matthew Land Studios

Recipe Layout and Design: La Happy

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How to Marry a Wedding Planner: Decorating Cookies

Three years ago, my college girlfriends started an annual Christmas tradition: a couples’ gingerbread house decorating contest. Each couple gets a freshly baked gingerbread house and a variety of toppings to work with. This event is kept to a strict time limit, and like any healthy competition, there tends to be some trash-talking amongst rival couples and bribery of the judges… all in good fun of course.

When Steve and I begin strategizing our decorating plan, we tend to a lot grief from our opponents. Things like, “This is not fair at all! This is what you two do for a living!”

Although neither of us had ever decorated a gingerbread house for a client’s wedding before, there is some fact behind those statements. Steve is obviously my not-so-secret weapon at the contest and I’d be lost without his icing skills. At times like these, it pays off to be married to someone who knows how to create beautiful work with a pastry bag.

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When he and I set out to make snowflake cookies, I envisioned myself piping out lovely, tiny intricate details. This daydream came to a halt when Steve told me he spent one entire summer just practicing piping. He’d spend hours upon hours creating designs on parchment paper just to practice his technique. All that practice paid off, and man, he sure makes it look easy!

I started my first few cookies with the intention of delicately icing them around the edges with some dots mixed in. Simple. Let’s just say my cookies ended up fully frosted and covered in sprinkles. It takes a steady and stable hand that I’m not used to. It makes me feel like a kindergartner, awkwardly practicing letters when my hand can’t quite do what my brain is telling it to do. Although after some practice, I have gotten a little better and have some pointers to share for making a successful batch of decorated Christmas cookies.

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1. Make your dough the day before if you can. Both gingerbread and sugar cookie dough should chill for at least 4 hours, but it is best if the dough can rest overnight.

2. If you are making the classic gingerbread dough, purchase 2 bottles of molasses. We didn’t realize we would need this much, and I had to return to the store mid-recipe. Annoying.

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4. Divide your dough into small disks and wrap with plastic wrap. Smaller disks will make rolling out the cookies more manageable.

5. Only remove one cookie dough disk at a time from the fridge so that the rest can stay chilled.

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6.  If you don’t have a granite or marble countertop, try rolling out the cookies on a table covered in a vinyl cloth. My mother-in-law uses this technique and prefers it over a countertop.

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7. Shape your disk into a ball and sprinkle a bit of flour on top before starting to roll out your dough.

8. As you roll, carefully lift your dough and sprinkle flour underneath. You don’t want too much flour because it will make your cookies dry, just enough so it won’t stick to the surface.

9. Roll out your dough so that it’s 1/4 of an inch thick. If the dough is much thicker, the cookies will lose their shape in the oven when they bake.

10. Be aggressive and press very firmly on your cookie cutter so that the entire shape is cut out from the dough.

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11. Small cookies are easy to transfer from the counter to the cookie sheet, but larger ones can be a challenge. Using a large spatula covered in flour is the best technique that we have found. Also, work quickly before your dough warms up. The colder the dough, the easier it is for the cookies to to be transferred to the baking sheet.

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12. Keep an eye on your cookies while they’re baking. The longer they’re in the oven, the firmer and crispier they’ll be. Larger cookies, like our snowflakes, need to be fairly firm or they’ll crack when you try to decorate them.

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13. Let your cookies cool for about 10 minutes before attempting to transfer them from the baking sheet to the wire cooling racks.

14. Let your cookies cool completely before you attempt to decorate them (otherwise it’ll be an oozy mess).

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15. Ok – this is where we might lose some of you. Remember that decorating your cookies should be fun. Also remember that Steve has been using a piping bag since age 12 – he has had a ton of practice! You can use store bought icing or use the recipe we have below. Either way, have fun and experiment with special sugars, silver balls and sprinkles. If you want to try piping, check out this tutorial for a few techniques and tips.

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17. If you don’t like how your cookie is looking (like the majority of mine), this is when I suggest to completely cover your cookie with crystalized sugar. This is as easy as frosting the entire cookie (to cover the mess-ups), and pouring sugar on top. You can’t go wrong with this technique!

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I think Steve and I have possibly started a new Christmas cookie tradition of our own – decorated snowflakes! I’m sure in a few years mine will look like the ones above – ha! What are your annual holiday baking traditions?


Download and print our recipes for Classic GingerBread Cookies and Icing

Photo Credit: Matthew Land Studios

Recipe Layout and Design: Spruce 

Classic Gingerbread Cookies Icing