Monday, February 7, 2011


Right now is my least favorite time of the whole year. February and March. The ground is mushy and gray and the weather is always leaving me in a gloom. For about two months I stuck between missing the cheeriness of Christmas and dreaming of the excitement of the spring and summer yet to come. Valentine's and St. Patrick's Day aren't really special to me so I'm usually left to find ways of keeping my spirits up. Cooking and spending time in the kitchen is my usual escape, but even that practice can become dull when I start to get tired of trowing together bean soups and eating the same root vegetables day after day when I really want some fresh garden tomatoes, strawberries, melon, peppers, peaches, and blueberries all perfectly ripe and bursting with the taste of sunshine and blue skies. Even when I've made the effort to make something totally delicious, I'm constantly met with cloudy skies that leave me disappointed with dark, lifeless photos. 
It's times like these that it's so easy to become depressed as my head is fuzzy and out of focus and my body is lacking energy and initiative. 
But then there are those days that just change everything.
About a month ago, Marc, a good friend of mine found out that what he first thought was a case of pneumonia turned out to be a cancerous tumor in his lungs. After a number of tests, the doctors told Marc that he would have to go through various surgeries and treatments and his damaged lung would most likely have to be removed. Marc has always been heavily involved in all types of sports and has had his fair share of injuries that he has dealt with and then gone right back to playing. Having only one lung would be totally different. A second lung would never grow back over time, a replacement lung wasn't really an option, and no amount of therapy would ever make things go back to normal. This news came as such a shock to Marc's family and friends, but through it all he has maintained his contagious positive attitude that everyone loves. He doesn't know what the future holds for him, but he knows that God has a plan for his life and he will have faith in that. 
However, even with such a great hope, I wanted to do something special for Marc to show him my appreciation for his friendship and my support for him in this difficult time. I decided to give him some things that I knew would be encouraging to me. I made a big card with neon colored letters, glitter, markers, etc. and inside I had friends from youth group write notes to Marc on multi-colored index cards. My sister got one of Marc's favorite movies and his favorite drink and then helped me with the final piece: the cookies.
I'm not normally someone who puts a lot of work into my cookies, but I wanted these to be different, special. I decided to make round sugar cookies with neon icing that would be smiley faces, but they would be a little bit out of the ordinary. The cookies had an extra pinch of lemon and vanilla to really brighten up the taste and the icing would be a different flavor for each color. Sounds fun right?
Well the dough came together fine and cookies baked up beautifully, but at the time I was making them, it just wasn't a very good day. I'm sure the Feb/March yuckiness played a part on my damp mood, but it was a worse day than usual for a number of reasons. Ironically enough, as I was flooding the cookies with the brightly colored icings I was crying. I was so upset, but I knew I had to get those cookies done. Even after I had filled in all 28 cookies I still had tears streaming down my face and I looked like a mess. It was only when I started on the faces that something changed. As I started piping purple eyes and mouths on the cookies I could hardly help but laugh, they were SO cute! I started thinking about Marc and everything he is going through and yet he was just as selfless as ever, always putting other's needs before his own. He was always wanting to know how I was doing and asking about my silly problems and telling me it was okay. I continued decorating the cookies and I just had to smile. It wasn't the best day, but I had a lot to be happy about, the cookies had turned out great, and here I was trying to be an encouragement to Marc, but in the end he was the one who encouraged me.
So here's the recipe and directions for these adorable cookies. If you know someone who could use some encouragement, these guys are perfect, or maybe if you just need something to brighten your day, try these out. I normally don't even like sugar cookies, but I thought these were delicious. Whatever you do with them, just have fun with it, and remember to smile, the blue skies will be here soon.

§  1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
§  1 cup powdered sugar
§  1 egg
§  2 ½ tsp vanilla extract
§  1 vanilla bean, split and beans removed (optional)
§  Zest from a half of a lemon (or more if you want)
§  2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
§  1 tsp salt
§  1 cup powdered sugar
§  2-3 Tbsp milk
§  1 Tbsp light corn syrup
§  A drop of fresh lemon juice
§  Extracts and flavorings to taste
§  Food coloring as desired

1.       In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar on medium speed until smooth, 1-2 min. Beat in the egg, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds (if desired), and lemon zest until blended.
2.      Gradually mix in the flour and salt on low speed until just incorporated, scraping down the sides as needed.
3.      Form the dough into a ball and flatten it out slightly. Refrigerate until chilled and almost firm, about 1 hour, or freeze and use later, it will defrost just fine.
4.      Preheat the oven to 375 F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. On a well-floured work surface, roll out the dough to about ¼ inch thickness. Cut into 2-3 inch circles or other desired shape and place on the cookies sheets placed 1 inch apart (they will not spread very much).
5.      Bake 8-10 min, (rotating the sheets halfway through if you put them in at the same time) until fully cooked, and slightly golden, but not browned. (the bottoms should be light brown and firm)
6.      Cool on wire racks completely before icing or storing.
1.      To make the icing, pour the milk, corn syrup, and lemon juice over the sugar and stir with a spoon until smooth. Add flavoring to taste, about ¼ tsp at a time then add the food coloring a drop at a time until you have reached your desired color.

2.     For making smiley faces: Make a batch of slightly thicker frosting, flavor it with vanilla extract and color with neon purple food coloring. Use a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip or cut a very small hole off the end of a plastic bag and spoon in some of the frosting. Draw a circle around the edge of each cookie and allow the icing to dry and harden for at least 10 min. (If the icing spreads too much, see suggestions about on adjusting the consistency)
3.      Separate a batch of plain frosting into small bowls and use various flavorings and colors for each. I did blue/almond extract, green/peppermint extract, pink/strawberry extract, and yellow/lemon extract.
4.  Use a small spoon and place a dollop of frosting in the center of each cookie. If the icing is very thin, it may flood to the edge on its own. If it is thicker, use a small butter knife to carefully spread it all the way up to the purple edge. Allow the filling to dry for at least 5 min.
5.   Using the purple icing in the bag again, pipe eyes and mouths on the cookies and allow them to dry before serving or storing.  

If you keep everything covered with a light dusting of
flour, the dough should be very easy to handle and
not sticky.

I wanted cookies a little bigger than bite-sized so I
used a cup with a 3 inch rim.

The cookies baked perfectly. Firm enough to
 decorateyet not crunchy when you ate them.

Plus they barely expanded from their original
shape which is very important if you are going
to decorate them.

Make sure to cool them completely before icing
them so that the icing will not melt and run.

For the most part these circles were very easy to
draw, but some weren't perfect when I got

You should only need a small amount to "flood"
each cookie. I made 2 batches of plain white
frosting for everything and I had plenty of
icing left over.

Next time I'll do this on our dining room table
as things got pretty crowded and messy.

This is a great activity for friends or kids to help
out with as it's fun and easy and doesn't take
 a lot of concentration.My sister and I
had a great time with it.

You can do other faces on these guys too, if you
like, but I decided to stick with just the
cute little grin.

Adorable, no?

Here's the cookies with the big card
that matches!

Don't worry, I sampled them with the icing
and they were all very yummy. My family
had a fun time guessing what the flavors were.
I liked peppermint the best, but my other sisters
liked the lemon and strawberry so it just
depends on taste I guess.

Friends :)

Here they are the next day before I delivered them.
The icing stayed nice and hard, but it wasn't as
shiny, so just something to keep in mind.

Wouldn't these brighten anyone's day?

Thanks for always making me smile, Marc! 


  1. Wow... I want these =D thanks for posting!

  2. you're welcome! they are pretty easy if you wanna whip some up!