consigliato per te

  • in

    One Simply Terrific Thing: Wüsthof Kitchen Shears

    Wüsthof kitchen shears are sharp, long-lasting, incredibly useful, and well worth keeping in your kitchen drawer!


    Photography Credit: Wüsthof

    Welcome to One Simply Terrific Thing, our ongoing series highlighting the small tools and kitchen goods that make life better!

    More than 25 years ago, I was gifted a set of Wüsthof knives as a wedding present, and I still have them. The collection has gotten quite a workout over the years as I’ve prepped thousands of dinners for my family of five and tested recipes for my three cookbooks.
    One surprise hit from the set? The kitchen shears. I sadly lost the original somewhere along the way but recently replaced them with Wüsthof’s 8-inch pull-apart shears ($20 from Amazon).
    Here’s why the shears are one of my favorite kitchen tools!
    Why Wüsthof Kitchen Shears Are the Best
    Kitchen shears are different than regular household scissors in a couple of key aspects. First, they’re designed to be more heavy duty, so can handle tougher tasks, like cutting through chicken bones. They also come apart for cleaning and drying, which is important for food safety and so the blades don’t rust.
    Wüsthof’s shears make quick work of so many cooking tasks. In many cases, the shears are superior to even my sharpest knife. It’s also a pretty safe way to work, which is why shears were one of the first sharp tools I ever let my kids use in the kitchen.
    I store my shears alongside my paring, bread, and chef’s knives so they’re within easy reach of both sink and cutting board.

    10 Ways to Use Wüsthof Kitchen Shears
    Here are 10 ways I use my Wüsthof kitchen shears. If you have clever ways to use kitchen shears, feel free to share in the comments section below!
    Cut herbs. Snip cilantro, mint, parsley, basil, and other herbs straight off the stem and into whatever bowl or pot you’re prepping.
    Chop tomatoes. Nosedive shears right into a can of whole tomatoes to cut them into pieces before adding them to soup or chili.
    Slice pizza. I’d seen this done in pizzerias and have adopted the practice at home. They work well for cutting lavash, pita, and quesadillas, too.
    Snip vegetables. Trim the stems off green beans, separate broccoli florets, and snip asparagus into smaller pieces.
    Cut grapes. Cut a large bunch into smaller bundles to make it easy to grab just enough for a snack. This is also a nice touch when assembling a cheese board.
    Butcher chicken. Shears are a great way to break down a whole chicken. I use them to cut through the breast bone when I butterfly a chicken for grilling.
    Trim pastry dough. I find shears handy when I need to cut rolled dough to fit a particular tart or pie pan.
    Cut bacon and pancetta. Cured meats can resist even the sharpest knife, but shears do the job with relative ease.
    Shred leafy greens. Stack kale, chard, or collard leaves and use shears to snip them into thin shards.
    Trim fish. Raw fish can be tricky to cut through, particularly the tough skin. Shears do the job without making a mess of the delicate flesh.

    This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Simply Recipes. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.

    Katie Morford
    Katie Morford is the Nutrition Editor for Simply Recipes. She is a writer, registered dietitian, and author of three cookbooks: PREP: The Essential College Cookbook, Rise & Shine: Better Breakfasts for Busy Mornings and Best Lunch Box Ever, which was nominated for an IACP award. Her work has been featured in Family Circle, Better Homes and Gardens, Health, Real Simple, Oprah, Parents, Self, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the New York Times, among others. Katie lives in San Francisco with her husband and three daughters.
    More from Katie LEGGI TUTTO

  • in

    An Encouraging Guide to Eating Less Meat

    You don’t have to go full-on vegetarian to reap the benefits of a plant-based diet. Here are a few tips to help you eat a little less meat overall, from daily habits to easy ingredient swaps.

    When I was growing up, my dad didn’t consider dinner to be complete if there wasn’t meat on the table.
    My own diet has evolved quite a bit since then. As a registered dietitian, I’ve learned the benefits of a plant-rich plate. Plus, two of my children are now vegetarians, which has pushed me to explore the culinary riches of meatless meals. I still eat meat and poultry, just a whole lot less than my parents did.
    If you’re new to the idea, here are a few reasons why a more plant-based diet might be a wise move, and tips to get you started!

    Why Eat Less Meat
    Lowering your intake of meat and poultry leaves more room for vegetables, beans, legumes, and other fiber-rich plant foods, which is not only better for your health but also an exciting entry into a whole new world of flavor and textures!
    Let’s look at all the benefits of eating less meat.
    The health benefits: If you look at populations across the globe that live the longest with the lowest incidence of chronic disease, those populations tend to eat a lot less animal protein than the typical Western diet. Eating less meat means scaling back on a big source of artery-clogging saturated fat.
    Along with more vegetables, beans, legumes, and other fiber-rich plant food, this collectively can add up to a decreased risk for heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, and other diet-related diseases.
    The environmental benefits: Another good reason to cut back on meat and poultry are the environmental benefits. Growing plants demands less water and emits less carbon than raising animals. And of course, there’s the impact on animal welfare when you choose, say, a black bean burger rather than a ground beef one.
    The budget benefits: Eating less meat may be easier on your wallet, too. A study in the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition comparing a diet with and without meat found the former to cost nearly $750 more per year and delivered fewer servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
    The ‘new flavors and textures’ benefits: When you take meat off the plate, with practice you’ll develop an appreciation for the many ways vegetables, beans, legumes, and meat substitutes like tofu rise to the occasion and create exciting meals that are delicious and filling—no meat required!

    Will I Get Enough Protein If I Reduce My Meat Consumption?
    The truth is that we Americans eat far more protein than we actually need and not enough of the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals that are a natural part of plants. So, for most folks, the protein concern isn’t really a concern at all.
    Plus, plant foods provide protein all on their own! For example, a three-ounce serving of whole-wheat pasta or half cup of cooked lentils delivers 12 grams of protein.
    And don’t forget you can still enjoy the likes of eggs and dairy foods, which are also good sources of protein.
    It’s Okay to Be Flexible!
    Experimenting with a more plant-heavy diet doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. You’ll gain many of the benefits from eating less meat even if you don’t shift to an entirely vegetarian lifestyle.
    It’s called being a flexitarian, which is effectively a mashup of vegetarian and flexible. The idea is to eat a mostly meatless diet, with room for a burger or roast chicken dinner when the mood strikes.

    How to Eat Less Meat: 7 Helpful Tips
    If you’re interested in exploring a more plant-centric diet, consider any or all of the following strategies:
    Take it one meal at a time. Go meatless for one or two dinners a week. Meatless Monday is an excellent place to start. Allow your tastebuds to adjust and then build from there.
    Find vegetarian swaps for favorite dishes. You won’t miss the meat if you land on great recipes like Mushroom Bolognese, Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie, Vegetarian Lasagna, or Vegan Sloppy Joes.
    Go meatless before dinner. This is a concept popularized by cookbook author Mark Bittman, which he calls Vegan Before 6, or VB6. The idea is that breakfast and lunch are entirely plant-based, but come dinnertime, anything goes. You can read more about this philosophy in his book.
    Cut the amount of meat. Meals don’t have to be entirely meatless to make a difference. Replace some of the ground beef or turkey with other ingredients. Chopped sautéed mushrooms make a fine substitute for one-third of the beef in burgers; black beans can take the place of half the meat in chili and tacos, and cooked grains can be swapped for some of the meat in casseroles.
    Embrace tofu. If you’re slow to the tofu train, now might be the time to get to know this nutritious and versatile food. These Black Rice Bowls with Tofu and Veggies are a good place to start, as is this Vegetarian Pad Thai.
    Look for flavor makers. You may miss the umami that meat offers (like the lip-smacking quality of grilled pork), but you can get that same effect by relying on meatless sources of umami. You might be surprised what a hit of soy sauce, tomato paste, or miso can do for flavor. Add a Parmesan rind to a pot of soup for a savory kick. Try olives, capers, and Calabrian chiles to brighten vegetarian dishes.

    Photography credit: Erin Alderson

    15 Terrific Meat-Free Meals 
    Ready to try a few delicious and filling meat-free meals? Here are 15 we love:
    Recipes with a * next to them have photos in this post. LEGGI TUTTO

  • in

    Our Team’s Favorite Healthy Swaps

    Looking for some simple ways to feel healthier and more energized for the year ahead? We’ve got you covered with these five ingredient swaps our team swears by.


    This post is written in partnership with Walmart. 
    To say our entire team is eager to welcome 2021 and all that it brings is an understatement.
    While we always look forward to fresh starts, this year we’re welcoming what we’re calling the tiny tweak: low-lift changes we can make to our diets to feel energized and healthy for the year ahead. 
    As food writers and recipe developers, it’s easy to get stuck in our ways when it comes to ingredients, but one of the simplest changes you can make is an ingredient swap, and thankfully Walmart+ makes it super simple to get your favorite high-quality ingredients delivered or shipped with ease!

    Greek Yogurt Rules
    We’re guessing you’ve heard of using yogurt in sauces or salad dressings instead of mayonnaise or sour cream, but take things up a notch in 2021 by reaching for creamy Greek yogurt instead. It’s not just a good substitute, it can really elevate your recipe into a silky, creamy masterpiece. Take our word for it.

    Cutting Down on Red Meat
    There are a lot of reasons folks look to cut down on red meat. Whether your reason is health or the environment, our team is vowing to reach for ground turkey or chicken more often this year. Or an alternative ground meat (our Marketing Director, Megan, loves Beyond Meat crumbles) instead.
    Depending on your recipe, there’s a good chance your crew won’t even notice and an even better chance you’ll feel more energized because of it.

    Cauliflower’s King
    How are you feeling about the cauliflower trend? Half of our team were never converts while the other half have passionately welcomed riced cauliflower and cauliflower mashed potatoes into their lives.
    Why? It’s an easy way to integrate more veggies into your week, and these days it’s super accessible in most grocery stores (have you seen the frozen packages of cauliflower rice? So easy).
    If you’ve got picky eaters who’ll call you out here, mix half cauliflower rice and half regular rice and we have a hunch no one will be the wiser.

    Amping up Pasta Sauce
    Not strictly a swap as such, but Claudia, our Community Manager, loves to finely shred zucchini and carrots into jarred pasta sauce to boost the nutrition and get more veggies on the plate. She finds when it comes to noodles, her (five!) kids don’t even notice.

    Embrace Alternative Flours
    A few of our contributing writers like to swap white whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour in easy baked goods for their families.
    Similarly, Rachel, our Editorial Assistant, loves reaching for whole wheat angel hair pasta in place of spaghetti. It’s high in fiber and the texture is more similar to a standard pasta than a whole wheat version of spaghetti noodles.

    Get Your Favorite Healthy Swaps at Walmart

    If there’s one membership service that’ll truly help you get healthy swaps on the table this year, it’s Walmart+.
    If you still haven’t heard of Walmart+, it’s a different kind of membership service that offers free delivery as soon as same day from your local store ($35 order minimum) on everything from groceries to household essentials.
    But, wait! The membership now offers free shipping with no order minimum required*. So you can get your whatever you need with next-day and two-day shipping on items from Just what we’ve been waiting for to make life easier this season!” *Excludes oversized, freight, & Marketplace items.
    To learn more and sign up for your free 15-day trial, click here!

    This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Simply Recipes. Read more about our affiliate linking policy. LEGGI TUTTO

  • in

    Instant Pot Cooking Times for Rice, Quinoa, and Other Grains

    Wondering how long to cook rice, quinoa, farro, and a host of other grains in the Instant Pot? This temperature chart provides all the info you need!


    Photography Credit: Coco Morante

    Are you a convert to cooking rice in your Instant Pot? If so, you should know that there’s a whole world of other grains you can pressure cook, too!
    From amaranth to wheat berries, here are the cooking times and tips to know.
    How to Cook Grains in the Instant Pot
    Cooking all manner of grains in the Instant Pot is as easy as adding the grains and water to the pot, closing the lid, then selecting the time at high pressure based on the chart you’ll find at the end of this post.
    Once the cooking program ends, let the grains rest for 10 minutes then release the pressure, open the pot, fluff with a fork, and enjoy!
    The ratios of grain-to-water listed in the chart will work for any volume of grains you want to prepare – just multiply or divide as necessary.
    Here are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind:
    Use the pot-in-pot method for smaller batches: Most Instant Pots have a convex surface at the bottom of the pot, so the grains in the middle may not stay submerged in enough water if you cook less than 1 1/2 cups (raw) grain at a time. When I’m cooking a small batch of grains, I use the pot-in-pot method for the best results. Pour one cup of water into a 6-quart Instant Pot (or 1 1/2 cups if you have the 8-quart size), place the wire metal steam rack inside the pot, then put your grains and the called-for cooking water amount in any steel bowl that fits inside the pot. The 1 1/2 quart bowls from Vollrath are my favorites – either their heavy duty or thinner bowls will work well.
    When cooking grains, never fill the pot more than halfway. That way you’ll allow for enough room for the grains to expand as they cook.
    Rinse less starchy/sticky grains first. Use a fine mesh colander so the grains don’t fall through and let cool water run through the grains until the water runs clear, giving them a couple shakes as you go.
    For more flavor, add salt or a flavored cooking liquid such as stock or broth. I use about 1/4 teaspoon of salt per cup of grains if I’m cooking them with just water, and I don’t add extra salt if I’m using stock or broth. A little olive oil or a pat of butter is a nice addition, too.
    Always give your grains a 10-minute timed pressure release before opening the pot. This ensures that they will be tender and evenly cooked

    Instant Pot Cooking Time Chart for Grains
    All grains should be cooked at high pressure.
    Water-to-raw grain ratio
    Cooking time (in minutes)
    Cooked yield (cups)
    Barley, hulled
    Barley, pearl
    Basmati, brown
    1: 1 1/4
    Basmati, white
    1:1 1/4
    1:1 1/4
    Brown rice
    1: 1 1/4
    Buckwheat groats
    1: 1 3/4
    Bulgur wheat
    1: 1 1/2
    Couscous, Israeli
    Jasmine rice
    1: 1 1/4
    1: 1 2/3
    Oats, old-fashioned
    1: 1 2/3
    1: 1 1/4
    Steel cut oats
    Wheat berries
    White rice
    1: 1 1/4
    Wild rice
    1:1 1/3

    This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Simply Recipes. Read more about our affiliate linking policy. LEGGI TUTTO

  • in

    5 Reasons Strawberries Are Our Morning Go-To

    The beautiful, healthy fruit that’s there for us all year round? Florida strawberries! There are innumerable reasons to sing their praises; here are our top five!

    This post is sponsored by Florida Strawberries.
    Of all the fresh fruits to reach for at breakfast, strawberries are far and away our favorite. It’s hard to beat their sweet, juicy flavor coupled with their vibrant, cheery red color.
    Lucky for us (and you, too!), it’s Florida strawberry season, which means there’s no time like the present to get your morning fill. We recently sat down with our team to round up all the reasons we turn to these gorgeous berries as our breakfast standby.
    Reason #1: Seasonal Goodness
    You know when you walk into a grocery store in the heart of February and encounter a bounty of onions, brussels sprouts and kale? Maybe some apples and citrus? Well, good news! You’ll also find strawberries, from mid-November through late March.
    Yes, you can find these red jewels even in the dead of winter because Florida is the second-largest producing region in the United States, and February is the peak of their winter strawberry harvest.

    Reason #2: WFH … or On The Go
    Florida strawberries are easy to enjoy regardless of your morning routine. Whether you’re working from home or are on the go, they’re a quick and feel-good choice, and easy to incorporate into warm oatmeal, yogurt, cold cereal, fruit salads, scones and muffins!
    So as far as fruit is concerned, strawberries are the real MVP this year (and every year); they’re as easy to pack up and take with you when you’re running around with the kids as they are to reach for as you’re hustling to your home office.

    Reason #3: A Treat for the Whole Family
    Mornings are hectic for families, especially when just about everyone wants something different for breakfast. Luckily, Florida strawberries are an easy choice.
    The last thing any parent feels like doing first thing in the morning before their coffee (or, really, anytime) is thinking through accommodating different meals and palates, and thankfully strawberries are a perennial crowd-pleaser. Keep them around, and there won’t be any more scrambling to find healthy options for the whole crew.
    Reason #4: Kick the Day Off, Healthfully
    They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why not make it count?
    Florida strawberries are virtually fat-free and contain no cholesterol. One serving of about eight strawberries has only 45 calories and provides more vitamin C than an orange, or about 140% of the U.S. RDA for vitamin C. When you kick off your morning with something so healthy, there’s no doubt you’ll have the energy to tackle whatever the day brings.

    Reason #5: Endless Options!
    When shopping for strawberries, select those that are firm, plump and fragrant and have a bright glossy-red appearance. Their fringed caps should be bright green and look fresh, too.
    Once they’re home and in your kitchen, Florida strawberries are endlessly versatile. Bake them into muffins, scatter them on oatmeal, blend them into smoothies, or even make homemade jam! LEGGI TUTTO

  • in

    5 Kitchen Shortcuts to Make Dinner Prep a Breeze

    Getting smart in the kitchen means finding small shortcuts that make a big impact! And we’re excited to share all our best tips today, guaranteed to buy you more time (and sanity) in getting dinner on the table this week.

    This post is written in partnership with Perdue.You’d think after all this time, our team would have the weeknight dinner thing figured out. But while we all talk about food all day, the struggle is still real.
    Whether you have kids or not, the truth is that planning meals, shopping for ingredients, and cooking dinner each night of the week is a pretty major feat. Our new motto that’s proven to make life so much easier: Assembly versus cooking. Try it on for size. We think you’ll like it.
    Take Help Where You Can
    There’s no shame in the shortcut game. Store bought pesto may not taste quite as fresh as homemade, but it’s accessible and delicious, and it helps get a pasta dinner on the table fast.
    Likewise, bottled salad dressing can be a total lifesaver, as can PERDUE® SHORT CUTS®, convenient packages of fully-cooked and sliced chicken breasts that make for an easy addition of protein to your favorite meal.

    Do Ahead: Roast a Pan of Veggies
    It’s no secret that doing your meal prep in advance saves tons of time as the dinner hour nears. This, too, takes planning of course.
    But there’s no need to break out a cookbook or consult the internet here: simply grab the seasonal veggies you have in the fridge and roast up a big pan for the week ahead.
    Once cooked and cooled, simply add PERDUE® SHORT CUTS® for an easy sheet-pan meal. Alternatively, refrigerate the chicken and veggies in a covered container and use them throughout the week in your favorite grain bowls, pastas, quesadillas, or your favorite lunch salad.

    Condiments and Sauces are Key
    When you’re assembling a meal, condiments are key. If you’ve got a good pesto or green sauce, a good basic dressing, and maybe a few dips (hummus and edamame avocado dip are favorites on our team), meals can come together quickly.
    Here’s the game plan: break out your leftover rice or pasta, warm your PERDUE® SHORT CUTS® and grab your favorite sauce and a meal is made. Just think of all the possibilities: burrito bowls, saucy chicken pasta bakes, warm grain salads – the opportunities are endless!

    Wash and Prep Your Veggies (Now)
    We know, we know. When you get home from the store the last thing you feel like doing is washing and prepping your veggies.
    But truth be told, your week will be infinitely easier if you take the time to do it straightaway. Just think: with pre-prepped veggies and PERDUE® SHORT CUTS® on hand, your next assembly meal practically makes itself.  Talk about timesaving!
    Batch Cooking (and Freezing) is Your Friend
    If you’re actually taking the time to cook dinner for your family, you might as well double and freeze the other half for a lazy weekday in your future.
    A well stocked freezer is, indeed, the busy cook’s secret (and savior). Make a big batch of quesadillas to freeze using PERDUE® SHORT CUTS® or double up on soups, chilis or curries. Your future self will thank you.

    A Few Recipes for Inspiration LEGGI TUTTO

  • in

    5 Ways to Explore New Flavors and Spice Up Your Holiday

    Wishing you could travel this holiday? Looking for ways to celebrate BIG this year even though your gathering may in fact be small? We’ve got you covered with our favorite ways to transport the senses, explore new flavors and treat yourself this holiday season!

    This post is written in partnership with The Spice Hunter. 
    Holiday gatherings will most likely be smaller this year, and our tried and true traditions may look different … yet no less memorable.
    We’re thankful to toast with our close family (and FaceTime with those not so close), enjoy our favorite meals, and celebrate with familiar–and new–traditions alike.
    So this season, let’s not just muddle through: let’s elevate the holidays at home. From trying new flavors and recipes to closing our eyes and momentarily escaping to exotic locales, join us as we cook, share, imbibe and toast to the good things ahead.

    Make One Small Change
    Doing it up for the big holiday meal need not mean big changes. In fact, making one small tweak can transform a so-so turkey or a good-enough pie into a real holiday MVP.
    Here are a few of our favorite ways to take things up a notch:
    Citrus: Brighten and lighten things up this year with fresh, fragrant citrus! Make a beautiful green salad with sliced oranges or grapefruit, add fresh orange zest to your pie crust or pastries, or give your Brussels sprouts a squeeze of lemon juice as they come out of the oven.
    Turkey Brine: Break out the Spice Hunter’s Original Turkey Brine to guarantee a memorable bird. It’s a savory blend of fragrant fruit and rosemary, and is your ticket to a super tender, moist and flavorful turkey.
    Brown Butter: Once you’ve tried brown butter, you may never go back. And if you loved pie, cornbread, and stuffing made with regular butter, you’re going to really love them with brown butter. The game plan? Simply brown your butter and swap it in for the melted butter called for in your pie filling, cornbread, mashed potato, and stuffing recipes!
    Break Out of Your Comfort Zone
    Pulling off the holiday meal can feel daunting enough at times, so most of us get in a groove and stick with what we know.
    But if there were ever a year to shake things up, it’d be this year. Maybe you go the non-traditional route and serve Texas-style barbecue or Korean Bibimbap. Or maybe you decide to try a new spice in a favorite dish, like this Dalmatian Sage, which perks up turkey, veggies, stuffing and sides. It’s a bit more mild than many varieties of dried sage, so it won’t be off-putting for young or picky palettes. Win/win!

    Opt for Fresh
    One great tip to ensure your holidays will be as flavorful and delicious as they deserve to be is to do a quick audit of your spice drawer. Toss expired spices, and replace any that are running quite low or that you know have been taking up valuable real estate for awhile (remember, the longer they sit on the shelf the less fragrant and flavorful they’ll be!)
    In addition to dried spices, fresh herbs make a huge difference when pulling off the holiday meal. Chop fresh rosemary for the bird, parsley for the stuffing, and fresh thyme for the green beans.

    Let Your Senses Guide You
    While we can’t travel this holiday like we could in year’s past, we can still transport ourselves to the fields of Madagascar or the roads of Saigon thanks to The Spice Hunter. Their vanilla extract is a must for all your seasonal baking–it’s super fragrant and makes the house smell like a dream.
    Cinnamon is another holiday baking mainstay and Saigon cinnamon, in particular, wins our heart for its sweet and slightly spicy flavor. From morning cinnamon rolls to mincemeat pie, this special spice gives your favorite recipes a worldly, exotic spin with a simple shake of the bottle.

    Treat Yourself … And Your Home
    While we often think about others during this season of giving and sharing, carving out a moment just for ourselves is the gift many of us really want.
    And to maximize that moment, put a little pot of Mulling Spices on the stove to simmer. Featuring cinnamon, orange rind, allspice and cloves nothing says holidays at home quite like this aromatic blend.
    To cap off an evening of celebrating, Hot Buttered Rum always hits the spot (and can be easily made without the rum for those not imbibing). Featuring brown sugar and warm spices, it’s great on its own or added to your apple pie or morning french toast for a flavor boost.

    Now … Really Treat Yourself
    Lucky for us, The Spice Hunter is extending a great offer to further inspire our readers to pick up a few things for the holiday season. Enjoy 25% off and free shipping with orders over $25 by using code SIMPLYRECIPES25 at checkout (offer expires 12/31/20). LEGGI TUTTO

  • in

    Royal Icing

    Want to make cookies so pretty they could be in a bakery? Royal icing is your answer! We have a basic recipe, plus lots of tips and instructions for making beautiful decorated sugar cookies for Christmas, birthdays, or other celebrations.

    You know those fancy pants cookies that look like they’ve been decorated by Pinterest fairies? The ones that are impossibly pretty to look at and you (almost) feel guilty about eating them?
    Yeah, those cookies are decorated with royal icing!
    And I’m here to tell you that even YOU can make gorgeous cookies that will impress your family, friends, coworkers, and complete strangers on the Internet. Here’s how to make the best royal icing for decorating your cookies.

    Royal icing is a decorative hard white icing made with egg whites, powdered sugar, and some flavoring and coloring. That’s it. It’s super easy to make, but there are some pretty specific things you need to know about making it and using it.
    There are three basic ways to make royal icing:
    Using raw egg whites
    Using egg white powder
    Using meringue powder
    Traditional royal icing used regular raw egg whites as an ingredient, but that’s not recommended nowadays because of the potential for salmonella and other pathogens that might occur in raw eggs.
    But pasteurized raw egg whites are readily available in almost all grocery stores, and that’s the ingredient that I use in this recipe. Just look for a carton of them near where you buy the eggs. The cartons look like a quart or pint of half-and-half, but they’re actually egg whites. These egg whites have been heated to the point of killing off any bacteria, but not enough to have cooked the eggs, and they are safe to use for making royal icing.

    Egg white powder and meringue powder can both be found in specialty stores or online. You can substitute the egg whites in this recipe with:
    Egg white powder: Follow the instructions on the package to create the equivalent of three egg whites. Make sure to let the powder fully hydrate by beating it together for five minutes. Proceed with this recipe as written.
    Meringue powder: Meringue powder is actually comprised of powdered egg whites plus sugar and a stabilizer like cornstarch. Combine three tablespoons of meringue powder and five tablespoons of warm water. Beat together for about five minutes to fully hydrate the powder, then proceed with this recipe as written.
    The base color of royal icing after you make it is white. But this white color might be more of an eggshell beige white than a stark brilliant white. This is because pure vanilla extract is dark brown and will tinge the final icing.
    Normally this isn’t an issue, but if you want to make bright, stark white icing, do the following:
    Use clear vanilla extract, or use a different clear extract for flavoring (like peppermint or lemon).
    Make sure to also use conventional powdered sugar. Organic powdered sugar is often made with evaporated cane sugar, which has impurities left in it, and this results in a slightly beige color. Conventional powdered sugar has been processed in such a way that it is white in color.
    Finally, you can actually buy a professional White or Bright White food coloring. This will help brighten up the icing! The white food coloring is also a great way to make true white buttercream frosting, which is often a slight off-white because of the butter in it.

    My preferred method to color royal icing is professional grade gel food coloring. It is an intense coloring agent in gel form and doesn’t dilute the icing much. One or two drops is often all you need to get the vivid color.
    Unfortunately most grocery stores don’t carry gel food coloring, but you can find it easily at craft stores like Michael’s as well as online.
    A lot of well stocked grocery stores will carry Betty Crocker gel colorant, which doesn’t thin down the icing as much as liquid food coloring. But the Betty Crocker gel colorant isn’t as intense as the professional grade coloring, so you do need to use more of it. To get the same amount of vivid color that I want, I’ve noticed that I have to use a lot of the Betty Crocker gel, which does thin my icing down a bit. So keep that mind.
    Yes, you can use the regular liquid food coloring in royal icing, but keep in mind that you often need to use a lot of it to get the same intense color. So make sure the icing is thick before adding the coloring, and you may want to test the icing after adding the coloring.
    One thing to note, royal icing frostings tend to darken slightly after they dry. So keep that in mind. The darkening will depend on the type of food coloring you use and what color you use. If this is a concern, you can make the royal icing the day before, and then let it sit overnight in the fridge. The icing color will deepen and give a better sense of what the final product will look like.

    Most natural colorants won’t work in baked goods, as the high heat will break down the coloring agents. But this isn’t an issue with royal icing! There are a number of natural based food colorings on the market now. Keep in mind the colors might not be as vivid as the artificial based ones (I find the colors are more pastel). The natural-based colors also tend to fade after a few days, so make sure to serve the cookies right away!
    There’s no way around the fact that you need some special equipment for decorating cookies. That said, most of the equipment is easy to find online or at a well-stocked grocery store (look in the section where you would find sprinkles and colored sugars). That said, almost all of the equipment is relatively cheap and easy to store!
    Piping Tips: Round piping tips come in a variety of sizes, ranging from #1 on up. The larger the number, the larger the hole. I usually go with a #4 tip for super basic shapes like a circle or a square and a #3 tip for most other shapes. I might opt for a #2 if I’m doing more intricate work, or a #1 if I really want to get detailed.
    Coupler: A coupler is a plastic screw that allows you to change the tips. If you think you’ll be changing tips in the icing process, use a coupler
    Piping Bags: I like to use clear plastic disposable bags, because then I can see the exact color I’m using.

    There are many ways to decorate royal icing. The two main ways to use it are piping and flooding, both of which are dependent on the thickness of the icing. For piping, you want a thicker icing, and with flooding, you want a thinner icing.
    Piping is exactly what it sounds like: You are piping the icing from a pastry bag onto the cookie into a thin line. This is for “drawing” a decoration or outlining a large area that you will cover with icing. You want a slightly thicker icing for this technique, for more control.
    Flooding is also as descriptive as it sounds. This technique involves filling a piped area with a thinner icing, covering it with a flat color.
    Think of it like a coloring book: First you outline the area that you want the color (with piping), then you color in the area completely (with flooding).
    Since it’s difficult to get the exact same tint of color frosting between two batches, starting with one colored frosting and dividing it in half is recommended.
    There are more advanced techniques on decorating, as well. Check them out HERE.
    TIP: If you are new to royal icing, I highly recommend first baking up and decorating large cookies (instead of smaller cookies or delicately-shaped cookies). The bigger the surface, the less “detail” work that you need to do. You can get a feel for how the icing works on larger surfaces, and you’ll be way more satisfied with the outcome.

    Royal icing piping consistency should be thick enough that it holds its shape when you pipe it out of an icing bag, but not so thick that it doesn’t adhere to the cookie itself or break as you pipe it. I’ve heard different comparisons in terms of consistency, but “toothpaste” is usually what I am aiming for. Don’t worry, it sounds like a narrow window but there’s some leeway with it!
    The recipe below should give you a decent piping consistency for royal icing. When you pull the whisk or beater up from the mixer, as the icing falls to the bowl, you should still be able to see the strings of icing on the surface for a good eight to 10 seconds before it melts back into the pool of icing. If it’s longer than that, you should thin the icing down with a little water (try one teaspoon at a time) and if it’s too thin, sift in one tablespoon of powdered sugar at a time.
    Keep in mind that if you add food coloring to the icing, depending on what type of food coloring, you will be thinning down the icing with it. So thicker is always desired at first.
    Once the icing is at the right thickness, pour half of the icing into a piping bag fitted with a small round tip or a coupler.
    TIP! The easiest way to fill a piping bag is to place it in a pint glass, then invert the top of the bag over the sides of the glass, creating a “cuff”. Then pour the icing in, about 1/3 full, and then pull up the sides of the bag and twist and seal it shut with a twist tie. This prevents the icing from back-flowing and getting all over your hands.
    Transfer the other half of your colored royal icing into in a bowl. Thin the icing in the bowl down to flooding consistency. Here’s how:
    Add some water to the icing, a teaspoon at a time, until you get a consistency of glue, something that slowly flows.
    Spoon some icing up and then allow it to drizzle down onto the icing in the bowl. The drizzle should stay on top and then melt back into the surface after two or three seconds. If it immediately disappears, your icing is too thin.

    If you’ve never used royal icing before, practices makes perfect! I always pipe a little bit of icing onto a piece of parchment paper and do swirls and lines to make sure I get the feel of the icing, the pressure I need to pipe, and to get the movements down again.
    You’ll find that if you work slightly above the surface and think of the icing as a “string” that is falling from the piping bag, you have less shakes and the icing will look more organic. The closer you are to the surface, the more control you have, but also the more wobbles will show up! As you get more experienced, you’ll find yourself naturally moving up and down for more or less control and flow.
    Pipe the design you want on the paper, or just jump ahead and pipe it on the cookie itself!
    Start by pipping the outline of the area that you want to fill, or “flood,” with icing. This outline acts as a barrier or wall to the icing. Then fill in the area with the thinner flooding icing.
    A lot of folks use squeeze tubes and bottles for flooding the icing, but I tend to throw caution to the wind and just spoon my icing up! Yep, I carefully spoon some icing into that area, then use the spoon tip to push the icing around carefully. Once most of the area is done, I’ll use a toothpick and push and pull the icing to fill the corners.
    But if you are more particular or are looking to fill in detailed areas, I definitely recommend a squeeze bottle.

    There are tons of royal icing techniques you can explore, but even with simple piping and flooding, you can do a whole range of decorations. Here are a few ideas:
    Outline intricate designs and patterns with piping.
    Flood whole areas of the cookie, then add sprinkles or small candies on top.
    Flood whole areas of the cookie, let it dry, then draw on them with food coloring markers, available at craft shops.
    Outline patterns and fill in part of the pattern with flooding. Think checkerboards or argyle patterns.
    LOOKING FOR MORE IDEAS? 6 Ways to Decorate Cookies with Royal Icing
    Royal icing immediately starts to dry and get crusty when exposed to air. The thicker the icing, the faster it dries! I immediately cover any bowl with plastic wrap or place the icing in an airtight container to prevent it from drying out.
    Royal icing will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks, so you can make the royal icing ahead of time! Just keep all royal icing in airtight containers. If you have royal icing already in a piping bag, just place the bag in a zip-top freezer bag. Some folks even place a toothpick in the piping tip before placing it in the zip-top bag to try and seal the icing more.

    Cookies decorated with royal icing need to dry completely before being stored. I like to allot at least a two hour period for drying. It also helps to have a gentle fan blowing over the cookies to make sure the icing is completely hard. But you can also leave the cookies out overnight on the countertop or kitchen table to make sure they are completely dry.
    Once dry, place them in an airtight container with a piece of parchment or wax paper between layers. They should keep at room temperature for up to five days.
    I don’t recommend freezing cookies with royal icing. The colors tend to bleed into the cookie when they thaw out because of condensation.