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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #doingthe99 #99YourMothersDay #CollectiveBias 

When I think of my mom, one of the things I fondly think back to is all the times she joyfully embarrassed me. Like reading my Mother's day letter in public so that I had dozens of older ladies pinching my cheek the rest of the day, or doing some exemplary mom dancing with my dad (who also pulled some serious dad moves) at a dance they were chaperoning for four of my best friends to see. I've been practicing my own mom moves the past few years so that I can offer that kind of experience to my child one day. Every child deserves the experience ;)

The past five years hubby and I have been moving all over, and have lived far away from family. So for all you peeps in the same situation I wanted to make sure I put together a Mother's Day treat that was mail-able. And I know nothing better for mailing than a good sugar cookie. They're so customize-able and pretty, and they hold up real well. I used to send them in every care package to my deployed brother-in-law, although he didn't appreciate the recipe I used back then. So I'm sharing this more-loved recipe, which is marginally adapted from my mother-in-law. And it's a good one, guys.

Everything for sugar cookies can be found super affordably at 99 Cents Only, from the cookie to the icing, to the pan, etc., even these super pretty napkins and plates. This was a fun post to put together with the 99 because it was actually my mama who introduced me to them. We both adore the 99, and I kid you not, every time we get together we at least once talk about all the goodies we've recently found there. My mom is a little more hardcore than I am, she goes first thing in the morning to get the good stuff, and says there is always a line or crowd grabbing the newest items! I wish I was a morning person. But either way I always find some favorite brands for an awesome price. There's always something new and exciting, and I never know what I'll find especially among the produce.

Below I'm sharing my basic sugar cookie recipe so that you can personalize them with your own Mother's Day decorations. You can see some decoration inspo in my photos, though. Stamping with food coloring was fun, but a tip: make sure you use clean stamps that were packaged in plastic and haven't been used before, and wait for the icing to dry overnight so that it's hard enough to hold up to the stamps.

Find more great inspo for an affordable Mother's Day at the 99's hub.







Sugar Cookies
Makes about 22 two-inch cookies
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, room temp.
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
Icing:
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted + extra for dusting
  • food coloring (opt.)

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and combine well, then the vanilla. Then beat in the baking powder and salt. Mix in the flour until fully incorporated. After the dough is fully combined, form it into two disks, wrap both in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for an hour.

Heat oven to 375F. Prep two baking sheets with silicon mats or parchment paper.

After chilling for an hour, remove one sheet of dough. On a clean surface dusted with powdered sugar, roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick. Continue to dust your surface and dough as needed to keep from sticking. Cut shapes out of the dough and place at least 1 inch apart on your sheet. Bake for about 7 minute until the cookies are just barely starting to golden around the edges. Do not overbake. Let cool on a rack. With leftover dough, reform it into a ball and repeat the process of rolling it out and letting it chill in the fridge while you work on the other dough sheet. Continue to repeat the process until done. Let cookies cool completely before decorating.

For the icing:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk, combine the egg whites and vanilla and beat until frothy. On low, gradually add the powdered sugar until incorporated. Turn the speed to high and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form. If the icing is too thick, add a teaspoon of milk or water, and if more is needed add it in tiny increments. To know you have the right consistency: drag a knife through the icing and count until the line disappears. You want it to disappear around 10 quick Mississippis. Mix in food coloring if desired.

Pour your icing into a thick plastic sandwich bag and snip a small hole in the corner. Use this to pipe the icing onto your cooled cookies. Let dry overnight before decorating.



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Whew.
That's all I really have to say after putting this dinner party together. It was a bit stressful trying to cook, decorate, and photograph all at the same time while racing the setting sun, but beyond the day-of craziness it was tons of fun to plan and execute. Many thanks to my hubby for being my helper. He gives great decor advice, is a better cook than I am, and kindly goes with the flow when he is voluntold to do random things. I love how it all turned out.

Especial thanks to some awesome brands I got to work with as well. The gorgeous yummy candles are from Voluspa, the amazeballs cake is from Studio Sweets in Vacaville, CA, and the rentals that tie it all together are from Classic Party Rentals, which has locations all over, though I worked with the one in Napa. I want to write paragraphs about each of these brands and how much I love them, but keep reading for all the party deets and links to the recipes:

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Rentals
The tablecloth, china, gold flatware and napkins are all from Classic Party Rentals. There are tons of rental companies here in the Bay but they are the only one that stood out to me, so it was kind of a no-brainer contacting them, and I was so happy the feeling was mutual. How gorgeous are all these pieces??

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Candles
I can't even express how obsessed hubby and I are with Voluspa candles. You should recognize them if you love to peruse the knick knacks at Anthropologie and Nordstrom like I do. Whenever we come across their candles my hubs always tells me stories about his freshman year of college when he was super hipster and would sit around reading newspapers and burning his favorite Voluspa Ebony & Peach candle. He's still pretty hipster and we still have their candles all over our house, we love them. I used their larger candles for decorations, and these sweet mini tins as favors, all in Pink Citron, Suede Blanc, and Saijo Persimmon, so yummy.

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Easter Cake
Keep scrolling for more photos, but how gorgeous is this cake?? I'm completely smitten by Samantha's creations at Studio Sweets. She makes all sorts of elaborate cakes, but after sending her my haphazard Easter Pinterest board, she came up with this beautiful thing that hubby and I couldn't stop heart-eyeing over. I mean just look at those cute bunny ears and the gold foil and flowers. By the way, it's carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. So perfect for Easter!

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Pink & Gold Easter Eggs
What is Easter without eggs, amiright? At first, I had used my gel food coloring to dye some eggs, but although they were pastel colors they came out nearly neon on the eggs, so...that didn't work out great. So on my second attempt I tried out spray paint and it was painless and turned out perfect. I sprayed them with a matte pastel pink, then used a gold paint pen either polka-dotting or stamping. I absolutely love how the floral stamped ones came out, but here is a tip: the smaller the stamp the better. In fact, what I did was I used the gold paint pen to paint on just one small section of my stamp. If you go too big then there is a better chance of slipping on the rounded egg edges.

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Flowers
The flowers are all from Whole Foods. In terms of selection and value I feel like not much can beat them. The bright pink ranunculus didn't really match my planned color scheme but they were so pretty I couldn't help throwing them in.

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Tables, Pillows, Blankets
Ikea was honestly my best friend for this. I really wanted to do this low table idea, so I found these Ikea end tables for literally $8 each, bought six, and lined them up together. They are just a bit taller than I ideally wanted, but totally work, and now hubby and I also finally have nightstands haha! The blankets and pillows are also super cheap finds at Ikea. The blankets were only $10 and the pillows were like $7. You just can't beat that. Keep scrolling for recipes!

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Roasted Carrots with Chives.

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Mama's Deviled Eggs. There are all kinds of unique spins on deviled eggs out there, but nothing could ever beat my mama's. I make them just how she taught me, with only one tweak.

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Braised Lamb Shanks over Creamy Polenta. These turned out better than I even hoped. The butcher recommended cutting into the bones so that the marrow would escape when cooking and make for a more flavorful dish. Glad I took him up on that. These were falling-off-the-bone tender and so delicious. I got hubby to braise them along with some vegetables that he afterwards pureed into a super yummy gravy, and served it all over creamy polenta.

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Root Vegetable Gratin. It doesn't look like much, but this is one of my favorite holiday dishes and surprisingly the most expensive besides the lamb. It's an adaptation from my beloved Ina Garten, and contains all sorts of yummy things like celery root, fennel, sweet potato, etc. tied together with a light cream sauce and Gruyere cheese.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Mocktail. Actually I'm still working on this one, it didn't quite live up to my expectations so I'm tweaking the recipe. Stay tuned.

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Happy Easter!


Root Vegetable Gratin
Makes one 8x8 pan

  • olive oil
  • 1 cup fennel, top and core removed and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 3/4 cups onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 lb. sweet potato, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1/2 lb. celery root, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1/2 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded (3 oz.)
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 Tsbp kosher salt  
  • 3/4 tsp pepper
  • 1-1/4 cups panko
  • 1.5 Tbsp butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8x8 pan.

Heat about a Tbsp of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the fennel and onions. Saute until light brown and tender, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30-60 seconds more. 

While doing that, in a large mixing bowl combine the rest of the vegetables, heavy cream, stock, cheese, and thyme. Add the onions and fennel when done, and season with the salt and pepper. Pour into your dish. 

Combine the panko and butter, and spread over the vegetables evenly. Bake for 1-1/2 hours until the top is golden, vegetables are tender, and the mixture is bubbling. Let cool for about 15 minutes before serving.



Recipe adapted from Ina





Braised Lamb Shanks
Makes 4 lamb shanks
  • 4 lamb shanks (about 3/4 lb. each)
  • salt + pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 cups full-bodied red wine (we used Chianti)
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 Tbsp dried rosemary (or 3 Tbsp fresh)
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf

Directions:

Heat oven to 350F.

Season lamb shanks with salt and pepper. In a large dutch oven or oven-safe pot, warm the olive oil over med-high until very hot. Brown the lamb shanks on all sides, about 5 minutes. Set aside on a platter. 

Add the onions, celery and carrots to the pot and saute until translucent, 3-5 minutes. Remove the pot from heat, pour in the wine, then return to heat. Over med-high again, bring to a simmer, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Once you reach a simmer, add the stock, rosemary, garlic, bay leaf and lamb shanks, and bring to a boil. Cover the pot (if you don't have a cover, use two pieces of aluminum foil), and place in the oven. Braise for about 2 hours until the meat is falling off the bone. 

Gently remove the tender lamb shanks to a serving platter, and remove the bay leaf. Use a stick blender (or pour into a blender) to puree the remaining vegetables and liquid in the pot, it makes a delicious gravy. Season with salt and pepper, and serve with the shanks over polenta. 


Recipe from Williams Sonoma


Creamy Polenta
Serves 3-4

  • 2-1/4 cups water
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4-1/2 cup whole milk, room temp.
  • 2-1/2 Tbsp butter, room temp.


Directions:

Bring water to a boil in a medium pot and add the salt. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal, trying to break up any clumps. Reduce heat to low, stirring frequently until the cornmeal is tender and the mixture is thickened, about 15-20 minutes. Remove pot from heat and add the butter and Parmesan. Let them melt a bit before adding 1/4 cup milk and stirring smooth. Continue adding milk until you reach your desired creamy consistency. Season with salt and pepper, and serve as a bed for the lamb shanks and gravy.


Recipe adapted from Giada.





These are classic deviled eggs with just one tweak: I use Kewpie mayonnaise. I actually do not like mayo (except in deviled eggs), but there is something very magical about Asian mayo. It just makes things that much yummier, try it sometime.

Mama's Deviled Eggs

  • eggs (old eggs are better for peeling)
  • Kewpie mayonnaise
  • paprika
  • chives, chopped (opt.)

Directions:

Place as many eggs as you want to cook in a single layer in a pot. Cover fully with water (about an inch above the eggs). Place on stove over high heat and bring to a boil. The minute it comes to a rolling boil, immediately turn off heat and cover the pot. Let the eggs sit for 17 minutes, then drain the hot water and cover with cold water to cool. Place in the fridge until ready to use. 

Peel your eggs and slice then in half length-wise. Pop the yolks out into a medium mixing bowl. Smash the eggs yolks and add mayo until you reach a creamy consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Use a small spoon to fill each egg halve with the yolk mixture, and garnish with paprika and chopped chives if using. 



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