Spreading Some Sugar

I baked my Valentine’s Day cookies on Monday and spread the sugar by distributing them on Tuesday. It’s my tradition to proclaim my love with a cookie, although I’ve heard others do it with flowers and sometimes precious gems.

This past week, friend and fellow blogger Judith Ross proclaimed her love for my blog and four others by nominating us for two awards, the Blog on Fire Award and the Liebster Blog award.

What a Valentine’s Day gift! Some people send cookies or flowers or gemstones, but Judith thinks really big and gives prizes. After a career of writing copy for others, Judith launched her blog, Shifting Gears, a few weeks ago and she lauds the format by drawing attention to blogs she loves, each one about a topic she says “makes my heart sing, challenges my brain, and/or whets my appetite.”

I’m so honored that she chose to send the love my way and in return, I’m paying the love forward by introducing you to five of my favorite reads, thereby giving them all these awards as well. As part of both awards’ guidelines, I should be honoring blogs with readerships of 200 people or fewer. Honestly, I have no idea what kind of readerships these blogs have; I only know I love them and you should too.

Here are my winners of the Blog on Fire and Liebster Blog awards, in alphabetical order:

Agrigirl’s Blog Agrigirl, aka Tammy McLeod, writes from her home in Arizona about food and building healthy communities, and through her lovely, straightforward prose and her wealth of knowledge, she is able to make healthy (often vegetarian) cooking-eating-living both attractive and attainable. I had the pleasure of meeting Tammy last summer, and we chatted as if we’d known each other always as the late afternoon sun set over Scottsdale. She is the real deal. If I went on and on forever about how much I love her blog, I’d never do her work justice. Just read it. Subscribe to it. By turns thought-provoking and tender, Agrigirl’s Blog will steal your heart too.

Boston Bakery Babe Wow! is all I can say about this babe’s blog, the newest addition to my reading list. The Babe finds bakeries in metro Boston I never knew existed and writes honestly about her experiences at each one. When you send folks out in search of food, the honest part is important. You build trust as an expert when you can document the highs and the lows in a respectful way, and BBB does. Plus, the writing is solid (check out the post about the cats and the cat-centric catnip cupcakes from Kickass Cupcakes in Somerville and have a laugh…or a hundred). While I try to balance sugar with healthy green veggies in my home life, I admit to a weakness for reading about bakeries. If you do too, this blog’s for you.

Boulder Locavore Oh, oh, oh. I found BL last year, during the winter when my son was dead set on going to college at C-U Boulder. Right, I told myself, better get tuned into the Colorado food scene; you may be spending some serious time there. Well, I spent just a little time there, but have spent serious time with this blog ever after. How do I love this blog? Let me count the ways. BL reviews Boulder-area restaurants that showcase local ingredients; BL visits local farms and CSAs; BL cooks and bakes with local seasonal ingredients and products; BL makes cocktails; BL also highlights vintage recipes with modern makeovers. And the photography? Simply stunning.

Heather Atwood’s Food for Thought Heather and I took a college course together years ago yet barely knew each other. How to know we’d end up, all these years later, living in the same part of Massachusetts, both writing about food and life? I’m so glad we reconnected and actually got to know each other this time around. You’ll get to know Heather, too, once you visit her blog. She writes with passion about her family and the journeys they make together over every good meal or new food discovery. Heather is also an accomplished painter, so if you care about a side dish of art with your food, this is the blog for you.

The Roving Home The Roving Home’s Sarah Kelly may say she’s “WRITING ABOUT INTERIORS, THE LANDSCAPE OF STUFF, AND DESIGN” but I say she’s writing – with humor – about life and her place in it. Oh, and also the place our most important stuff has in our lives. I recently professed my love for Sarah (in the comment section of her blog so it’s on public record, in case you want to go find my declaration there). What she doesn’t know yet is that I really want to be her, messy basement and all.

Award winners, please see the “rules” that follow, and consider nominating your own favorite blogs for these awards. I’ll bet your readers will love to know something about your own favorite reads.

The Rules for the Winners

To keep these awards going to both recognize and draw new attention to really good work, please honor your five favorite blogs with under 200 followers and:

  1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to their blog.
  2. Choose five blogs to nominate and let them know by leaving a comment.
  3. Request that the chosen blogs pass the Award on to their favorite five.
  4. Copy and paste the award on your blog post.
  5. List five things about yourself.

Oh, right, part of accepting the Blog on Fire Award means I must share five things about myself that you may not know. And you thought I’d told you everything. What you may not know:

  • I’m an elected official in my town – a library trustee! And I campaigned like no other candidate for library trustee has ever campaigned for the honor of sitting on this nine-member board. I’m in the middle of my second term, with two years to go.
  • I’m usually up every day at 4 am, which means I’m usually in bed every night by 8:30 pm. Yes, I’m a real firecracker, folks.
  • Things get ugly if I do not have a really tall cup of coffee first thing every morning. I mean really ugly.
  • Once caffeinated, I work out for about an hour every day from 7 to 8 in the morning. Starting my day with either weights or cardio really screws my head on straight for whatever follows. I love the gym.
  • I really, really, really do not like to drink milk. At all. Enough said.

Now, dear reader, here’s my Valentine for you all. This classic sugar cookie reminds me of going to the Muffin Man Bakery in Melrose Highlands (where sugar cookies used to be handed out gratis to the children of customers) with my mother when I was a young girl. Everyone should have a sugar cookie recipe in their repertoire, and this is a good one adapted from Martha Stewart’s Every Day Food. The cookie is sweet, make no mistake, but the sweetness is tempered with the tang of sour cream and the littlest bit of kosher salt. Everything sweet needs a little salt to balance. Please use kosher salt if you can; it’s salty without being metallic tasting.

Sugar Cookies

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 stick (8 Tbsp.) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Adjust one rack in the upper third of the oven and the other rack in the lower third.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a large bowl with a hand held mixer), beat the butter together with the sugar on medium high speed for 2 to 4 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the egg and the vanilla and beat well to combine.

With mixer set to medium low speed, add half the flour mixture and blend just until incorporated. Add the sour cream and blend just until incorporated. Add the remaining flour. Scrape down the sides and mix the dough until the last of the flour has been incorporated. Then blend for an additional 10 to 15 seconds, just until smooth.

Line baking sheets with parchment. Using a small ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, scoop up mounds of dough.

Dip the tops in granulated sugar or sanding sugar, if you have it. Place 12 mounds on each cookie sheet (recipe makes about 24 cookies). Dampen the flat bottom of a heavy glass and flatten the mounds slightly.

The cookie dough should be about 3/8 of an inch thick once flattened.

Bake the sheets on the pre-set oven racks for 7 minutes, then shift the top sheet to the bottom and the bottom sheet to the top. Bake for another 7 minutes for a total of 14 minutes (or until the edges of the cookies just begin to turn a very pale golden brown). Cookies should remain pale in color. Cool on the baking sheet then transfer to cooling racks to firm up.

Enjoy with or without a glass of cold milk.

©2012 Jane A. Ward