Looking ahead to February, here are more fresh ideas to elevate the everyday.
MAKE & TAKE
The way to your valentines’ hearts may be through their stomachs, but play to their eyes, too. These sugar cookies are super simple to bake and decorate in a big batch (because you’ve got a lot of love to give).
Rolling the dough between two sheets of floured parchment keeps it from sticking to the rolling pin. Dip the cookie cutters in flour as well before each cut, and dust the spatula, too, before transferring the uncooked dough to the baking sheets. This is about a two-hour project.
Makes 2 dozen
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture; beat until combined. Divide dough in half; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic and freeze until firm, about 20 minutes.
2. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Remove 1 disk of dough; let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Roll out 1/8-inch thick between two sheets of floured parchment, dusting with flour as needed. Cut shapes with 2 1/2-inch heart-shaped cookie cutters. Using a spatula, transfer to prepared baking sheets (if dough gets too soft, refrigerate 10 minutes). Reroll scraps and cut more shapes. Repeat with remaining disk of dough.
3. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are golden, about 12 minutes. (If bubbles form, tap baking sheet firmly against oven rack a few times during baking.) Let cool completely on wire racks. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container up to 1 week.
Royal icing for sugar-cookie hearts
Makes 1 1/2 cups
- 1/2 pound confectioners’ sugar (2 spooned and leveled cups)
- 1 large egg white, or 2 1/2 tablespoons meringue powder
- Gel food color (optional)
1. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine confectioners’ sugar and egg white on low speed. Add a scant 1/4 cup water, then increase speed to medium-high and mix until icing holds a ribbon-like trail on surface for 3 seconds when you raise paddle, about 10 minutes.
2. Reduce speed to low and mix 1 minute more to eliminate air bubbles. Add food color, a drop at a time, until desired color is reached. Use immediately, or store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 3 days. Stir well before using.
MORE SWEET TECHNIQUES
The same three components — sugar-cookie hearts, royal icing and food coloring — produce wildly different results depending on the decorating method you choose. Each technique is easy enough for a child making treats for classmates, and all create one-of-a-kind artworks. To ice the top, pour icing into a bowl, hold a cookie face down and gently dip it in, letting excess drip off and tapping gently to remove bubbles.
1. Drizzle: For simple drizzling, gradually dilute frosting with water until it’s the consistency of paint. To decorate all at once, fill mini squeeze bottles with different shades of royal icing, and channel Jackson Pollock.
2. Dip: Submerge half of a heart in icing and scrape off the bottom on the bowl’s edge. For gold specks, dot on edible luster dust mixed with a bit of lemon or other clear extract.
3. Paint: Interlock iced cookies. Dilute gel food coloring with water, then paint vertically and horizontally across the hearts with a 2‑inch‑wide brush.
ALL YOU NEED:
Mini squeeze bottle, for speedy drizzling.
Wide natural-bristle brush, for diagonal and plaid patterns.
Detail brush, for luster dust.
Kids will flip over these fun insects, which run and jump for joy. Adults will appreciate that they’re a candy-free Valentine’s-Day alternative. Download our leaf template at marthastewart.com/love-bugs, attach them with double-sided tape, and voilà — #cuteoverload.
Source: Fun Express Flipping Wind-Up Lady Bugs, $18 for 12, amazon.com.
It’s a tall order to make kids’ winter accessories entirely from scratch, but it’s a snap to add a little sweetener. Warm their hearts (and hands) by sewing a trio of buttons onto each mitten. Stitch pompoms along the edge of a scarf. Or follow the weave of a knit hat to overstitch a heart, initial or any other shape.
Sources: Heart buttons, 60¢ each, mjtrim.com. Creatology pompoms, $3 for 80, michaels.com.
To send your little one an edible lunchtime note, take two slices of bread (one white, one wheat) and use a large heart cookie cutter to shape a sandwich, then use small letter cookie cutters to punch out a message like “Be Mine.” Fill the holes in each slice with the cutouts from the other, and look forward to extra hugs after school.
Source: Rectangular stainless steel ECOlunchbox, $20, containerstore.com.
Try using “la vie en rose,” lilac, yellow or any of the 25 shades of Solyx clear polyester films ($14 per foot, decorativefilm.com). Cut them to fit your windowpanes, peel off the liners, spray them with water and press them onto the glass with a squeegee. You’ll regain the privacy you lost when the tree in front of your house shed its leaves — as well as create a pretty stained-glass effect that will brighten your home on the grayest days.
To pretreat clothing stains without having to hoof it to the laundry room, hang a mini-kit in your hamper and stock it with a small bottle of acetone (it helps remove grass and grease), detergent (for collars) and vinegar (great on mustard, coffee and more). For more stain-removal tips, go to marthastewart.com/stain-chart.
Sources: Woven hamper, $165, brookfarmgeneralstore.com. Bamboo utensil holder, $8, containerstore.com.
PLANT NOW, PICK LATER
Scatter poppy seeds (like Papaver somniferum) directly on bare winter ground — even on top of light patches of snow. The seeds need weeks of cold to germinate, and plants will begin to emerge in spring.