Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas Cookie Of The Year - Snowballs

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a very soon to be Happy New Year! Wow... 2016. I'm not going to go there. Though personally I have much to be grateful for, I am very ready for us all to move along to a fresh new start. One thing is for sure, it's going to be interesting.

As this year draws to a close, I find that as is usual for me, I feel the urge to cook the homestyle dishes and family recipes that bring with them wonderful nostalgia and warm family memories. As I think of the people behind those foods, I'm sorry to say that there are many who can no longer join us around the table at Christmas. That doesn't mean their spirit isn't there. 

Photo: NK 
Enjoying the cookies you see above always makes me think of my Great Aunt Mary. She made these powdery confections every Christmas and referred to them as Snowballs. It's also come to my attention that these crumbly, light cookies packed with ground Pecans and Butter go by many names and enjoy obvious cross-cultural popularity at holiday tables and beyond. Some call them Butterballs,  Rum Balls, and still others, Russian Tea Cakes. Come to think of it, they're also a bit like Mexican Wedding Cookies.  

When I think of Great Aunt Mary, a sweet and gentle soul known for her caution and tidiness, I can't help but also think of the phenomenal Eggplant Rollatini she was also known for. She delighted in its methodical, meticulous preparation, and let me tell you, if you were lucky enough to take home a tray of these leftovers, you knew you were in for some good times.

Though Aunt Mary passed away several years ago, I wanted to honor her this holiday by remaking Snowballs. Without access to her original recipe, I scoured the web for something that looked similar. Truth be told, I can't picture my Aunt Mary adding Rum to these, but what do I know. The winner was a recipe that was featured in Bon Appetit's roundup of Old School Italian Christmas Cookies Sounds about right...

I followed Bon Appetit's Butterballs (aka Snowballs) Recipe exactly and I am happy to say they were fabulous. Light, crumbly, melt in your mouth. The perfect cookie for dessert of even breakfast/brunch with coffee! Even better, these are super easy to make and look beautiful and festive dusted with Confectioner's Sugar. They make great hostess gifts or just any special occasion. Old school though they may be, they have a chic quality to them; I could see serving them at a bridal shower or even chic cocktail party. 

If I had to pick another of my all time favorite Christmas Cookies, I'd definitely go with the Pignoli, but the Snowball is nonetheless a fab addition to any table, any time of year. I hope they bring back good memories for you, and today, I enjoy mine with my Great Aunt Mary in my heart. 

For the recipe, click HERE.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Holiday Cheers - Sugar & Spice Old Fashioned

There's no place like home for the holidays, but the season is always a little more merry when toasted with an exceptional cocktail. And that's just what we had thanks to my husband's ingenuity. After only a few tries he came up with the perfect Old Fashioned with a little holiday flair thanks to notes of Cinnamon, Vanilla and a Brown Sugar rimmed glass. It was a wonderful way to kick off our 6th Annual Feast of the Seven Fishes

Sugar & Spice Old Fashioned, Photo: NK

Sugar & Spice Old Fashioned
Makes 1 Drink

Light Brown Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Sugar & Spice Simple Syrup (recipe & ingredients below) 
2 Ounces Bulleit Bourbon
3 Dashes of Bitters
Handful of Ice 
1 Wide Strip of Orange Zest
Club Soda 
1 Maraschino Cherry or Luxardo Cherry
1 Cinnamon Stick

Set out a plate with Light Brown Sugar spread on it. 
Rub the rim of the glass with Orange Zest, twist it in half and set it aside. 
Lightly rim half the glass with Honey and dip in the Sugar to rim.
Place Simple Syrup in the glass.
Add the Bourbon.
Add the Orange Peel. 
Add three dashes of bitters and a Tablespoon or two Club Soda.
Taste. If you like it a bit more sweet you can add another 1/2 teaspoon Simple Syrup.
Drop in the Cherry and garnish with a Cinnamon Stick then serve!

Sugar & Spice Simple Syrup
Makes about a Half Cup

1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Water
3 Cinnamon Sticks
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract or 1 Split Vanilla Bean

Combine Water and Sugar in small sauce pan. Bring to a boil.  
Add Vanilla and Cinnamon Sticks.
Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so. Stores in the fridge for several days.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Something For Everyone - Comfort Food Dinner Party

There have been many changes in our lives these past few years, and one such new reality is that our dinner parties now tend to include little people. Lots of little people. 

If you've ever met a toddler, you'll know they really are just like tiny little restaurant critics, except instead of a scathing review, you're more likely to have your food tossed at the wall. Since we don't get out as much, we also call that dinner and a show. 

A classic comfort menu kids and grownups will love, Photo: NK 
So what do you do when you have to please big and little palates all in one fell swoop? Today's simple menu of comfort food will answer that very question. 
Here's what to expect:

The world's best, universally delicious Mac & Cheese from the one and only Martha Stewart (it's nicknamed Crack 'n Cheese for a reason)

A simple Salad (so you feel like you're getting your veggies)

Fabulous Vanilla Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

Here's the plan: 

The night before
, make your Cupcakes and Buttercream. Store the Cupcakes in an airtight container and your Buttercream in the fridge. 

The morning of, make your Mac & Cheese up until where you bake it. (Set aside the breadcrumbs and grated cheese to top it before you pop it in the oven).

A few hours before guests arrive, put together your favorite Salad and put the dressing on the side. Store Salad in fridge. Dress and toss just before you're ready to serve.

Let your Buttercream soften a bit and pipe or spread onto cupcakes. 

Now let's get to THE RECIPES:

Perfect Mac & Cheese, by Martha Stewart. Click HERE 
Amy Sedaris' awesome Vanilla Cupcakes, Click HERE, with our very own Vanilla Buttercream, Click HERE
Salad- I will leave this up to you, but keep it light and seasonal! The rest of the meal is filling. 

The most amazing Mac & Cheese on the planet, Photo: NK