4th of July Berry Pie

The past few weeks I’ve been in a heightened state of spring cleaning. Throwing out random receipts (except the ones from Sur and Moonlight Rollerway in LA, obv), old shoes, and a terrible hat collection has been my go-to pastime. As I ran out of things to toss from my room, I set my sights on the refrigerator. In it, I found remnants of my insanely brief smoothie faze: a bag of frozen mixed berries. Next to this sad ghost of a healthier me sat an unopened bag of frozen cherries, which were leftover from last week’s cherry pie. In a fit of glorious, cleaning-driven energy I whipped up this five berry pie. It’s based on a recipe from Food Network, though I changed it a little bit to make it tarter since I love a good tang in my pie. I also used a star shaped cookie cutter from Christmas to make cute stars to top the pie with, turning what would be a regular, ho-hum-da-dum pie into a stunningly fabulous Fourth of July Berry Pie.

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INGREDIENTS:

4 cups of frozen berries, thawed (I used cherries, strawbs, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries)

2 Pillsbury pie crusts

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (you can use a little more or a little less depending on how sweet you want the filling to be)

4-5 tbsp cornstarch (depending on how thick you want it to be– I’d start with 4 and work your way up if you need to add more)

1/8 tsp vanilla

1-2 tbsp lemon juice

1 1/2 tbsp butter, to dot

1 tbsp granulated sugar, to sprinkle

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DIRECTIONS:

Place berries in medium saucepan and place over heat. Cover. After the cherries lose considerable juice, which may take a few minutes, remove from heat. In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cornstarch together. Pour this mixture into the hot berries and mix well. Mix in the lemon and vanilla. Return the mixture to the stove and cook over low heat until thickened, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and let cool– I always lose patience and just wait until it’s not hot… oh well. If the filling is too thick, add a little water, too thin, add a little more cornstarch.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place one Pillsbury crust in the pie pan. Using a star cookie cutter, punch stars out of the other one. Set aside.

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Pour the cooled berry mixture into the crust. Dot with butter. Top with the star cutouts, then sprinkle the remaining tbsp of granulated sugar on top.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

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Fluffy Key Lime Pie

I made this pie what feels like ages ago, and just haven’t gotten around to posting it. Which is a shame, because it’s the perfect summer pie in a couple of respects. 1. It’s made with key limes, which hit their peak around now. And 2. It’s a Weight Watchers recipe, so you don’t have to eat it and then worry about sinking to the bottom of the pool. Not that that’s how eating works, but you know the feeling.

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3 weeks ago I went to the beach with my friend Ashleigh after stopping at the deli to pick up some sammies. Naturally, I picked the hottest, most buttery, sauerkraut filled sandwich there ever was. Eating that on the beach, though decadent and clearly uprooting social norms, is probably not something I would do again. Although the melted butter dripping off of the bread did give my hands the beautiful sheen of a basted chicken, so maybe I should reconsider.

But I digress.

I first tried this recipe at least a decade ago, when some family members were on Weight Watchers. Even as a kid, I remember becoming obsessed with its light, marshmallow-esque texture and its tangy but sweet flavor. And the graham cracker crust?! Fuhgettaboutit!

INGREDIENTS:

1 package (.3 ounce) sugar-free lime gelatin

1/4 cup boiling water

2 cartons (6 ounces each) Key lime yogurt — try to find something that’s not full on Greek yogurt, since that’s so thick, but a derivative is fine

1 carton (8 ounces) lite Cool Whip

1 reduced-fat graham cracker crust (8 inches)

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DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Whisk in yogurt. Fold in Cool Whip. Pour into crust. 

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until set.

Top with more Cool Whip (I assume you bought two..).

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Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

When I think of dyeing Easter eggs, PAAS is the first thing that comes to mind. For those of you who did not grow up with the neon, staining, metal egg dippers included, brand, PAAS is the mother of all Easter egg dyeing kits. If Easter was a a game of Monopoly, PAAS would be the Atlantic City Boardwalk. I have nothing against PAAS; it’s given me and my family wonderful memories of pink and purple tinted fingers, eggs dripping with a myriad of colors onto newspapers and plastic tablecloths, writing our names on the eggs in crayon before dipping… the list goes on. BUT, for the sake of trying something new, this year I made my own *natural* Easter egg dyes out of vegetables.

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The colors of the *natural* rainbow

The process was truly exciting for me. I loved seeing the colors emerge from the boiling plants, and enjoyed it even more when they transferred beautifully onto the eggs for the first time. This process does take longer than ripping open a box o’ PAAS, but I highly recommend it if you have the time!

I combined two sets of directions, from The Kitchn, and Food52.

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Beet, turmeric, red cabbage, yellow onion, red onion.

INGREDIENTS:

1 dozen hardboiled eggs

5 cups water

1 heaping cup chopped red cabbage

1 heaping cup red onion skins

1 heaping cup yellow onion skins

1 heaping cup shredded beets

5 tbsp white vinegar, separated

2 tbsp turmeric

1 tbsp vegetable oil

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The ingredients

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Boiling veggies

DIRECTIONS:

In 5 separate saucepans, combine 1 cup of water with 1 of the vegetable/spice ingredients listed above (not the vinegar). Bring each to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the color has reached its desired intensity. Bear in mind that the color will appear several shades lighter on the eggs.

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Eggs taking a dip in the dyes

Let mixtures cool. Once cooled, strain using a fine mesh sieve into whatever bowls or cups you’ll be using for dipping the eggs. Add 1 tbsp of vinegar to each color mixture, and stir.

Dip eggs into mixtures. Remember: the longer you keep an egg in the dye, the more concentrated the color will be. Wipe off with a paper towel upon removal. Once sufficiently dry, dap with a tiny bit of vegetable oil.

TAKE THAT, PAAS.

 

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Beautiful eggs!

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They almost look like Cadbury eggs. Almost.

Chrissy Teigen’s Cheesy Guac

I know it’s been a while since I posted– I was moving, and then Christmas happened (our dinner was French-themed so I made bacon fat mashed potatoes with cantal cheese and it was fist pumping good). I don’t know what my excuse for January is, but I’m gonna blame it on Donald Trump and the family of hamsters masquerading as his hair.

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I especially enjoy cooking when it’s holiday specific, so I figured I’d make something for Superbowl Sunday (go Beardogs!). I’ve been eyeing Chrissy Teigen’s cheesy guacamole recipe for a couple of weeks now, and this seemed like a good excuse to make it. I get that adding cheese to an otherwise healthy dip seems like overkill, but it takes it from being just an inexplicably delicious pile of green goop to being an inexplicably delicious pile of green goop with cheese mixed in. Plus, who’s really trying to be healthy on Superbowl Sunday?

 

INGREDIENTS:

3 Haas avocados, halved, seeded, and peeled

Juice of 1/2 a lime

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 medium onion, diced

1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely minced (jarred is fine)

1 tbsp chopped cilantro

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Tortilla chips (NOT “hint of lime”, unless you are a “hint of lime” eating monster)

*If you’d like to add tomatoes, Chrissy says to add 2 romas, seeded and diced. I have acid reflux so raw tomatoes are my worst nightmare. But if you can eat them, they add beautiful color and sweetness to an otherwise salty and tangy dish.

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DIRECTIONS:

Put the avocados in a medium bowl. Cover with the lime juice. Mash with a potato masher. Mash. Mash. Mash away, until there are only a few delightful little chunks left.

Mash in the spices and salt.

Gently fold in the remaining ingredients. Cover the guac in saran wrap for an hour to let those flavors dance together.

Wash your hands really well so you don’t touch your eye later and get jalapeño juice in it.

Dip your chip and enjoy.

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Brie En Croute

Halloween is over, so that means Thanksgiving and Christmas are in full swing. At least according to mall decorations and Galleries Lafayette in Paris, which already boasts a giant Christmas tree that looks like a beautiful upside down ice cream cone. With the exception of a harvest-decorated townhouse on the upper west side, I haven’t seen any indications of the imminent holiday season here in New York.

The brie and the cranberries look SO BEAUTIFUL together!!

Obviously if you’re asking me, one of the best things about the holiday season is the food. UGH. THE FOOD. The box stuffing, the turnips with butter and mounds of salt, the canned cranberry sauce, the fresh haricots verts, the buche de Noel, the parker house rolls, the pumpkin pie, the butterscotch oatmeal cookies, and not last and also not least, the brie en croute. Or as my family calls it, baked brie.

My high school was near a Whole Foods, so my mom started shopping there sometimes while waiting to pick me up after rehearsal or whatnot. One fateful day, she purchased a pre-made baked brie. And my family went NUTS. Ever since, it’s been a must-have appetizer on Thanksgiving and Christmas. And just like, casual Tuesdays.

Brie En Croute is perfect for holiday celebrations.

This past year I decided to make it from scratch, since I figured that would be cheaper and dare I say, even more delicious than the store bought version. I used the framework of Paula Deen’s recipe; the changes I made were basically omitting the nut topping and replacing it with a tart yet sweet cranberry-apple mixture, as well as cutting the amount of brown sugar added to about half, though that alteration can be left up to your palate.

You might find that you don’t need the kitchen string, which both the original and my adapted recipes call for. Sometimes the brie you find will be slightly wider, and will therefore not leave enough excess dough to tie. If this happens, it’s totally fine. Just press the dough down onto the cheese firmly so that it doesn’t open up while baking.

Before baking, tie any excess puff pastry with kitchen string.

INGREDIENTS:

1 sheet pre-packaged frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup diced and peeled granny smith apple

1/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1, 8 oz. wheel of brie

1/8-1/4 cup light brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

Special tools:

*Kitchen string*

Ingredients for Brie En Croute

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Take out a baking sheet and set aside. You do NOT need to spray it.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the apples and cranberries and let cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the apples are slightly translucent and the cranberries are no longer hard. Add the cinnamon and stir until the fruit is evenly coated. Set aside.

Place the puff pastry onto the baking sheet. Place the brie in the center. Gently pour the  fruit mixture on top of the brie. If some falls off onto the puff pastry, that’s fine! Sprinkle the brown sugar over the fruit topping.

Fruit topping on Brie En Croute

Starting with a corner, roll up the puff pastry onto the brie, working in a circle. Using a pastry brush (TBH you can use your fingers if you don’t have one), lightly coat the puff pastry in the egg wash. Tie up any excess pastry with a piece of kitchen string.

Place in the oven for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

Finally done! Ooey gooey delicious Brie En Croute.

Enjoy!

Leslie

Haystack Rice Krispie Treats

As I write this lying in bed on a Saturday morning, I’m debating a few things. A) Do I eat the Trader Joe’s mini peanut butter cups that are lying next to me? (And YES, they are in a package, not loose). B) Do I knock on my wall to let my neighbor know that she’s playing her music too loudly? (I woke up at 7:46 am to “Glory” by Common and John Legend, a magnificent song that is not meant to be used as an alarm clock). C) DO I eat the peanut butter cups??

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See, life is full of hard decisions. But one thing that wasn’t hard to decide was whether or not to make these pumpkin candy corn rice krispie treats. I know that a lot of people think candy corn is disgusting, considering that it’s carnauba wax and all, but so are sprinkles, people. And we eat those all the time. Plus I love candy corn, especially when it comes in the pumpkin shape because that means more to bite into. Pumpkin candy corn also brings up fond childhood memories of trick-or-treating on my block. The elderly couple who (is it who or that in this context? I never know) lived across the street used to hand out small zippy bags filled with popcorn and a couple pumpkin shaped carnauba treats. I never saw them anywhere else so I thought that the couple was especially cool for having the hookup.

You might be a-wondering why I added vanilla to the pre-existing rice krispie recipe. That’s because vanilla is already the prominent flavor in marshmallows and candy corn, so the extract enhances it and makes the end result more robust.

Also, how cute are these pumpkin Peeps?! I’ve always been into Peeps, so they were an exciting find for me.

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INGREDIENTS:

6 cups Rice Krispies cereal

4 cups mini marshmallows (these melt more easily than the large ones)

3 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Orange food dye (just enough to make the marshmallow-butter mixture slightly orange so that it looks more hay-like)

1 bag pumpkin shaped candy corn

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DIRECTIONS:

Spray a 9×13 inch pan with non stick spray.

Melt butter in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Don’t turn the heat too high, or the butter and/or marshmallows will burn. Once the butter is melted, add in the marshmallows. Stir until a shiny, smooth mixture has formed. Add the orange food dye and vanilla, and stir until evenly distributed. Remove from heat.

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Add in the rice krispies, and stir until combined. Move mixture into the 9×13 pan, and press down using wax paper or an off set spatula that’s been sprayed with non-stick spray. Push the pumpkin candy corn into the top of the krispies. Let cool.

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Using a sharp knife, cut into squares that are the size that YOU WANT THEM TO BE.

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Valentine’s Day Red Velvet Cake

Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays, and not for the reasons you might think. Yes, if you have a significant other, it’s about celebrating your “relationship” (i.e. it’s actually about overdone Hallmark cards, overpriced roses, and last minute restaurant reservations made by frantic boyfriends and husbands… I know, because I take said reservations). For me, Valentine’s Day has always been about celebrating all forms of love in my life. Every year, my mom has given me and my sister a few small goodies on the morning of Valentine’s Day. Last V-Day I was living in California, and she sent me an awesome package: Dove chocolate, cherry/vanilla tootsie rolls, the movie “It’s Complicated”, themed socks, and decorations.

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^The package from my mom.^

Growing up, we also had an annual Valentine’s Day tea party for friends. We stopped doing it at some point, but, inspired by Leslie Knope’s Galentine’s Day festivities, I decided to revive it. Instead of doing a tea party, though, we’re going to be having dinner, cocktails, and cake. And thanks to my friend Lauren, buff chick and heart shaped mozzarella stick appetizers. HEYOOO. Buff chick for the win.

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At the afore mentioned Valentine’s Day tea parties, my mom always made a heart shaped cake. Usually vanilla, and usually with those little red heart gummies that you find at CVS perched on top. As an homage to that cake, I made a red velvet heart shaped cake with cream cheese frosting. I generally think that red velvet cake is slightly overrated, as compared to say, peanut butter and chocolate cake, but it was the most festive option. If you have a heart shaped tin (mine is from Wilton), you can use the following cake recipe and it will fit perfectly. I used Alton Brown’s cream cheese frosting recipe, but feel free to use your favorite. Whatever recipe you choose, I recommend sifting the powdered sugar before adding it to your wet ingredients, or you’ll have lumpy frosting.

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Original Cake Recipe: http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016329-red-velvet-cake

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature

2 tbsp cocoa powder

1 ½ cups sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

pink/red food coloring

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 ½ flour, sifted

1 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon white vinegar

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DIRECTIONS:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare heart shaped cake pan by greasing heavily with butter or crisco, then coat with a thin layer of flour or cocoa powder, tapping out excess.

Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time and beat vigorously until each is incorporated. Mix in vanilla.

Add food coloring and cocoa powder. If you’re using pink food dye, add more than you think you need in order to make a deeper red color.

Sift together remaining dry ingredients. Alternating in 2 batches each, add dry ingredients and buttermilk to the butter mixture. In the last batch of buttermilk, mix in the vinegar before adding to the batter. Mix until blended.

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Pour batter into cake pan. Cook for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

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Let cool, invert onto wire rack, then frost as desired.

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Coffee Kahlua Brownie Bites

Every Christmas, I bake the same three types of cookies: chocolate chip, sugar, and oatmeal butterscotch. Though I love these cookies and the memories that come with them, I also like to try a few new recipes every year. My friend Casey is hosting a wine and fondue tasting party tomorrow night, which gave me the perfect excuse to make these mini brownies. Because they’re miniature, they’re perfect for entertaining or bringing to a friend’s house. They also make you feel like a giant that’s eating normal sized brownies, so that’s a plus. The original recipe (Better Homes and Gardens) actually calls for creme de menthe, but I have a giant bottle of Kahlua in my cabinet so… these are now coffee and Kahlua brownies.

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I kept the proportions the same as they were in the original recipe. But, if you want a strong Kahlua flavor in your frosting, add more, a half tablespoon at a time, after the first two tablespoons have already been blended. If the frosting becomes too thin, compensate by gradually adding more confectioners sugar.

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INGREDIENTS:

BROWNIES:

1/2 cup butter

3 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tbsp strongly brewed coffee

1 tsp vanilla

2/3 cup all purpose flour

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/8 tsp salt

FROSTING:

1/3 cup butter, softened

2 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 cups confectioners sugar

2 tbsp Kahlua

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DIRECTIONS:

BROWNIES:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8x2 baking pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan. Spray with non-stick baking spray. Set aside.

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In a small saucepan, cook and store butter and chocolate over very low heat until melted. Let cool slightly.

Stir sugar into cooled chocolate mixture. Add eggs one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon after each until just combined. Stir in coffee and vanilla.

In a small bowl stir together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to chocolate mixture and stir briefly until it looks uniform. Spread this batter into the baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Place pan on a wire rack and let cool completely.

Lift the foil and brownies out of the pan. Cut brownies into roughly 49 small squares. Set aside.

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FROSTING:

In a medium bowl, beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in 1 cup of confectioners sugar, then beat in Kahlua. Add the second cup of confectioners sugar.

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ASSEMBLY:

Using a spatula, spoon frosting into a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe a dollop of frosting onto each brownie bite. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Chewy Sugar Cookies

All sugar cookies should be chewy. Even if they’re crispy in texture, they should melt in your mouth. I inherited this belief from my mother, who spreads awareness of the evils of hard, store-made sugar cookies suffocated in cellophane (“they taste stale!”) to anyone eyeballing said cookies at bakeries and on grocery store check out lines. Consequently, I regard these cookies with the utmost disdain. They trick innocent people into believing that they are worthy of consumption, which they are not. Selfish cookies.

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Though hard sugar cookies are, admittedly, easier to decorate than chewy sugar cookies, they aren’t nearly as enjoyable to eat. This is why I compromise by making chewy sugar cookies rolled in granulated sugar and holiday sprinkles; they’re delicious and festive.

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Original Recipe: http://addapinch.com/cooking/chewy-sugar-cookies-recipe/

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INGREDIENTS:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1½ cups granulated sugar

1 egg

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup granulated sugar for rolling cookies

1/4 cup festive sprinkles

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DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper for an easy clean up.

Cream together butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Make sure to get all of the chunks out, or some cookies will be way too buttery. Add egg and mix until well-combined.

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Stir in flour, baking powder, salt, and vanilla.

Scoop cookie dough by the tablespoon full and roll into a ball. I usually eyeball this step, which is why I always end up with less, larger cookies than the recipe is supposed to make.

Add granulated sugar to a small bowl for rolling cookie dough in before baking. Add sprinkles to a separate small bowl. Place each ball of cookie dough into the bowl of granulated sugar and roll to coat well. Next, roll each ball in the sprinkles, pressing down slightly so that they stick. Each ball won’t be completely covered in sprinkles- that’s okay!

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Place cookie dough onto baking sheet, spacing about 1½-inches to 2 inches apart. Place cookie sheets in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes before baking so that the cookies retain their round shape.

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^The two cookies on the left were refrigerated prior to baking. The one on the right was not. I.e., refrigerate your cookies prior to baking.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until very lightly browned.

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Enjoy!

Leslie