Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas Eve, Italian Style

Christmas Eve is traditionally our designated holiday to host, but with the end of this year being so busy for us, we were on the fence. As it is my favorite holiday meal of all time, I found that I was quite saddened by the idea of not being in the kitchen making a big fish feast, in keeping with the custom of so many (mainly southern) Italian and Italian American households. While I resolved that it would be too hectic to make seven fishes as normal, I was still very excited to choose two basic dishes that could be served to our small group of guests. Both dishes featured below can be made in less than 20 minutes once prep is done. 

First, the appetizer: Calamari alla Luciana (Squid Neapolitan Style) 

Calamari alla Luciana, Photo: NK - Recipe HERE 
and then the main, Monkfish Piccata

Monkfish Piccata, Photo: NK - Recipe HERE
 (Note: we omitted the artichokes and kale and served spinach instead) 

Do click through some of our more involved (but never difficult or unduly time consuming) Feast of the Seven Fishes menus below, but I hope today's post gives you some great ideas for your next fish-driven dinner party or family meal. 

For Dessert: Using the selection of Christmas Cookies we'd already baked and serving them alongside high quality store bought Gelato was a fas solution. 

I've featured all the recipe to links to this year's Christmas Cookie Assortment below. Five varieties to choose from may sound daunting, but the baking was made easy and achievable by spreading it out over a few days (freezing some of those made in advance helped us immeasurably). The key is also to choose easy, foolproof cookie recipes, sticking to those that require minimal prep, ideally less than 15 minutes.

Christmas Cookie Assortment, Photo: NK

Cookie Assortment, clockwise from the top:

Ina Garten's Shortbread Jam Thumbprints
Christmas Morning Biscotti
Arrowroot Cookies with Cinnamon
Pignoli Cookies 
Spiced Italian Pecan Meringues 

I hope you enjoy and that the holiday season brought happiness and peace to your home. 
We look forward to returning to our usual menu program next Christmas Eve! 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Carols, Cookies and Christmas Cheer

The holiday season is in full swing, and though this is the most busy time for some, it's actually a bit slower in our household, believe it or not. The preceding months were absolutely action packed, and try as I might, I did not get to do nearly enough blog-worthy kitchen experimentation. 

Every holiday season, I attempt to add another cookie to my highly selective baking repertoire (find two of our other favorites HERE and HERE). As a prerequisite, the recipes I repeat must be both very easy to master and predictable in outcome. Nothing bothers me more than doing everything exactly the same and getting a less than stellar result, but such is life with baking, and that's why to this day, I will always prefer to cook. 

This year I have had a bit of an inexplicable thing for shortbread (all my life I had no idea it was so easy to make, often with only 3 ingredients in the dough! ) so Ina Garten's Shortbread Jam Thumbprints drew me in almost immediately. After one test run for half this large-batch recipe, I was convinced that it was totally foolproof. A baker I am not, but I know a good cookie when I taste one. 

You'll find the link to the recipe in the photo below
. You can make them ahead and freeze them too! I used unsweetened Coconut Flake whereas the Contessa calls for sweetened. I think ours came out delicious. Pull them just when the coconut stars to get slightly golden. You can't miss! 

Ina's Jam Thumbprint Cookies - Click HERE for Recipe! 
Next up, with all sugar and holiday treats around, I set out to bake an ever so slightly more virtuous treat for my family, one a little less sweet, maybe a little more biscuit like, but still satisfying over a cup of tea or, for the little one, a sippy cup of Milk. 

Arrowroot Flour always catches my eye in the health food store, and I've always been curious about it.  Given this, it only made sense that I should try and recreate a childhood favorite, Arrowroot Cookies. Turns out Arrowroot itself is pretty interesting.  It is a tropical tuber and is native to Indonesia, though is widely used across the eastern world in particular. The starch from derived from this tropical root, commonly referred to as Arrowroot Flour, is known for being easily digestible and satisfying. It was prized in ancient South and Central American cultures particularly. Arrowroot, as the colonists renamed it sometime in the mid 1600's, is almost certainly derived from an Arawak word "aru-aru" which means "meal of meals."   

Once I got my hands on a super simple recipe from another blogger, I was pleased both by how fast the easy dough came together, the equally quick bake time and of course the results. The original recipe from Someone's In The Kitchen Blog appears below with my only change, the addition of a 1/2 teaspoon of Cinnamon, a favorite spice in our house, and the fact that I used light brown sugar instead of dark. Either would work. 

Kids and adults of all ages will enjoy these simple, homey treats, and you will love the cost savings as compared to other kid's crackers. You could get creative and cut the dough into letter shapes, stamp it, decorate with a fork as I did, or even engage your kids in the effort. 

Enjoy and I hope the holiday season is as stress free and fun as possible! 

Simple Cinnamon Arrowroot Biscuits
Lightly Adapted from Someone's In The Kitchen
Yields 25-30 Cookies 

Simple Arrowroot Cookies - So many possibilities! Photo: NK 


1/4 cup butter brought to room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla 
1/2 cup arrowroot flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon Cinnamon 

Preheat oven to 350. 

In a KitchenAid or using a hand blender, combine butter and brown sugar together until creamy

Add vanilla and egg and beat well.

Sift together flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon if using.

Combing dry ingredients with egg mixture and mix until incorporated. 

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into about ¼ inch thickness.  

Cut into desired shapes and put
 cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet, not too far apart as they will not spread out when baking. 

Bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Cool on rack.