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Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

In between filming our melodramatic NY Jets-meets-out-of-sight-Pot-Roast video, Marmo and I made more Christmas cookies. As I mentioned on Twitter, The Box laid waste to the butter cookies (actually, Marmo made more of them and hid them in a top secret spot – he hasn’t found them yet!). But we needed more butter cookies. This time, we decided to branch out a bit.

Marmo found a fantastic recipe in the Holiday Edition of Food and Wine: Ginger-Studded Sugar Cookies, in which you use crystallized ginger. Crystallized ginger is, if you didn’t know, awesome. I was totally on board with this recipe. Also, it involved decorating them with shiny little balls of sugar, which I was also excited about.

Incidentally, Marmo left me a voicemail telling me to go purchase said glittery sugar balls at a baking supply shop near my office. I never listened to her voicemail. I usually ignore all my voicemails, just so you know. Don’t leave me one. Anyway, she had the presence of mind to figure this out for herself and get us some. And so it began!

What You Need:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp finely grated orange zest
Royal icing (recipe follows)
Colored sugars and/or dragées for decoration

What To Do:
In a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the flour and salt at low speed until smooth. Add the confectioners’ sugar, ginger, vanilla and orange zest and beat at low speed until smooth. Divide the dough in half and shape into 2 disks. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350° and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Working in batches if necessary, roll out the dough a scant 1/4 inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Stamp out shapes as close together as possible. Arrange the cookies 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until lightly golden, 14 to 18 minutes depending on their size. Transfer to a rack to cool. Meanwhile, refrigerate the scraps until chilled, then reroll, stamp out more cookies and bake.

Decorate the cookies with Royal Icing, colored sugars and silver dragées.

The baked, undecorated cookies can be wrapped well and frozen for up to 1 month. The decorated cookies can be kept in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Royal Icing

What You Need:
1 large egg white
1/2 pound confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Water

What To Do:
In a bowl, beat the egg white at medium speed until foamy. Add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating between additions until the sugar is completely incorporated. Add the lemon juice and beat at high speed until the icing holds its shape, about 5 minutes. Thin with water as needed. Throw some icing into a pastry bad and pipe onto the cookies. If you don’t have a pastry bag, no problem. Get a Ziploc bag, trim off a teeeeeeny-tiny piece of one of the corners and use that to pipe your icing.

Notes: It’s much easier to apply the little, shiny colored balls to the cookies with tweezers. Really, we tried it. HUGE difference. For fun, you can add some food coloring to the icing. We did some in light blue. Also, you cam make these any time of year. Just get differently-shapped cookie cutters. Like a groundhog-shaped one for February.

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While our Christmas traditions have morphed over the years to accommodate people coming, going, growing, moving, coming back and getting pets, if I were to be woken up at the stroke of midnight by the Ghost of Christmas Past (who I prefer to think of as Jimminy Cricket from the Disney version) and travel back in time to see Iaciofano Christmases gone by, I would probably note that not much has changed.

However, even though most families have their own traditions, for my family these “traditions” seem more like repetitive quirks at Christmas time, verging on holiday-onset OCD.

What could squeak past as normal during other times of the year somehow becomes magnified and perhaps clinically diagnosable at Christmas.

Take, for example, The Box’s insistence on being the first to descend the stairs on Christmas morning to “check if Santa came,” while suited up in a baby blue terry cloth bathrobe and coppola hat. The rest of us have to wait at the top of the stairs until he gives the OK.

Or I could site the the note from Santa (and Rudolph – signed with a paw print) that my Dad leaves speared on a Christmas tree branch ever year. When we ignore it, which we always do, he exclaims loudly, “LOOK AT THIS, GUYS! A LETTER! FROM SANTA!” Huh. Who’d’ve guessed?

We also have constant disagreements about the proper way to decorate a Christmas tree. The Box hates the angel that graces the top and refers to it as “the turkey buzzard.” He was also wildly skeptical – and categorically alarmed – by my intention to spray paint a tree gold last year. I did it anyway and the result was magical. I recommend it.

Wrapping presents is yet another point of contention. I do all my Dad’s wrapping. Not because he asks me to, but because he dumps all his gifts in my old room with the assumption that I’ll do something about it. John has wrapping all figured out: most years, the gifts he gives are loosely wrapped in a paper towel held together by one meager piece of tape to which is attached a lined piece of paper – the card.

Somehow we all manage to sit down like civilized people (sort of) at the dinner table and eat with utensils – all the while shouting at Aunt Emily (so she can hear us) and peppering her with gin. The Christmas menu changes from year to year, as it’s more experimental than Thanksgiving, but here are a few consistent favorites:

Manicotti

What You Need:
For the crepes:
1 doz eggs
1 cup milk
12 scanty T flour
salt to taste
pepper to taste

For the filling:
3 lb ricotta cheese
1 T chopped parsley
1 egg
salt and pepper

For topping:
Marinara sauce – your own recipe!
1 lb mozzarella shredded to sprinkle on top of manicotti

What To Do:

For the crepes:
Beat all ingredients in a bowl until well mixed. Grease and heat a small skillet. Ladle mixture into the skillet, turning it quickly until the bottom of the skillet is covered with batter.  The crepe will be very thin and will cook quickly.  Flip it over for a few seconds (if you can do the flip in the air, you get bonus points).  Transfer to platter and stack.

For the filling:
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and fill crepes using about 1 T of filling per crepe. Place in baking pan with the “fold” side of the crepe facing down. Pour marinara sauce over crepes and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.  Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Cauliflower GratineeSilver Palate Cookbook

What You Need:
6 T unsalted butter
4 cloves of garlic minced
4 ounces of thinly sliced prosciutto
florets of 1 large cauliflower cut into ¼ inch slices
2 T flour
1 ½ c heavy cream
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
1 ½ grated swiss cheese
½ c chopped parsley

What To Do:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes.  Stir in the prosciutto and cook two more minutes.

Add the cauliflower and cook just until it begins to lose its crispness…3 minutes.

Stir in the flour and then the cream. Blend well. Season with cayenne and salt and pepper.  Heat to boiling and remove from heat.

Pour the cauliflower into a au gratin dish.  Top with cheese and parsley.  Bake until the top is lightly browned and bubbling – about 30 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Filet Mignonfrom the Silver Palate Cookbook

What You Need:
3-4 lbs of beef tenderloin
3 T Dijon mustard
1 1/2 T green peppercorns packed in water – drained
3 T coarsely ground green, white and pink peppercorns
8 fresh sage leaves
2 T butter – unsalted
salt to taste

What To Do:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Make a cut lengthwise down the center of the tenderloin through 2/3 of the thickness.  Spread the meat open and spread the mustard in a thin layer over the open tenderloin.

Scatter the green peppercorns evenly and press into the meat then sprinkle 1 Tbsp of the mixed peppercorn. Place the sage leaves in a row down the center.

Shape the tenderloin back to its original shape and tie with kitchen twine. Rub the outside of the meat with butter and press the remaining peppercorn blend onto the outside and sprinkle with salt. Place in a shallow roasting pan.

Roast meat for 45 minutes for rare. (10 minutes per 1 lb)
Let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Finally, don’t forget the cookies!

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What else did we eat at my recent holiday party? A lot more than I posted about on Monday. Actually, it’s impressive that people didn’t start rummaging through my fridge, but not because I didn’t have enough food. Here are a few more hors d’ oeuvres that made an appearance (and then subsequent disappearance) on Saturday night:

Roasted Pork Loin Crostini with Cranberry Relish
This recipe is really flavorful. The pork loin roasts up quite juicy and savory (with the herbs and salt). Topping it with cranberry relish gives it a nice sweet contrast. The added punch from the horseradish (in the cranberry sauce) brings the flavor over the top.

What You Need:

A pork tenderloin
1 semolina baguette, cut into thin slices
Sea salt with dried, chopped herbs (you can use rosemary, basil, thyme, sage…)
Olive oil – a drizzle
Stonewall Kitchen’s Cranberry Horseradish Sauce

What To Do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Place the pork tenderloin in a roasting pan and sprinkle with herbs and salt. Drizzle with olive oil.
Roast until done – about 45 minutes depending on the thickness of the tenderloin.

Remove from oven and let set for about 30 minutes.

Cut in thin slices and place on sliced bread. Top with Stonewall Kitchen’s cranberry horseradish sauce and serve!

On an adjacent platter were arranged the teeny-tiniest quiches. These can be made and frozen weeks in advance, which is quite handy for party planning. When I first made them for last year’s party, there was a wonderful cheesy/pastry smell coming from the oven mixing with the pine needle smell from the Christmas tree, and it all made me very happy. Bu that’s neither here nor there! When I asked my mom for the recipe to make them, I received the following via email:

Recipes seem to be collected quite randomly in Marmo’s kitchen.

Moving on! We also had the famous Gruyere and Caramelized Onion Pizza (recipe here), which disappeared in a snap. I got a little adventurous and concocted a Raisin Mostarda, which I have been obsessed with ever since I started frequenting Anfora Wine Bar and eating all their Ricotta cheese (which is served with a raisin mostarda).

Here is the recipe that I cobbled together for the Raisin Mostarda:

What You Need:
1 cup chopped onion
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup orange juice
1 1/2 cup golden raisins
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 cup orange marmalade
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
olive oil

What To Do:
Heat a little olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, ginger, and garlic and sauté until soft – about 5 minutes. Stir in the OJ and all the ingredients up to the cumin. Bring the whole concoction to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 15 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove it from the heat, let it chill for about 10 minutes. Then stir in the marmalade, mustard and salt. Give it a taste and see if it needs anything else. Then let it hang out in the fridge to chill until you need it (covered, of course).

It’s pretty good, though it’s not like Anfora’s. Honestly, next time I think I will leave out the curry. I liked the flavor, but I think it might be better without it. I served it with Ricotta crostini drizzled with honey.

Onto dessert! What kind of sweets do you offer a bunch of festive maniacs that have had A LOT of wine? And beer. Did I mention that John just HAD to buy PBR lights? Cuz he did. An entire case of them, in fact. Still not sure why. Anyway, I got cupcakes from Sweet in Hoboken. They have some amazing flavors, and I told them to give me a mix of their mini cupcakes.

* Picture from Sweet’s website.

The cake part of these cupcakes is really moist (impressive for the mini cupcakes) and their cream cheese frosting is award-worthy. Especially on the Red Velvet cupcake. My favorite is the Marshmallow, which is a chilled ganache cupcake topped with marshmallow meringue. Out of sight.

I supplemented the cupcakes with my Russian Tea Cakes (a Iaciofano Family Christmas special – recipe here).

Finally, it seems that my holiday parties always end up with a dance party in the kitchen. People love the kitchen. I can’t get ’em out of there. So what kind of music was on the playlist? I’ll give you the top 5:

1. Katy Perry’s Firework – John would NOT STOP playing this song.

2. Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You – I couldn’t help it.

3. Bell Biv Devoe’s Poison – You should see people get down to this song. Yeah, even me.

4. Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls – Gotta love that one.

5. B.O.B’s Magic – So John and I could relive our pizza glory days.

It was all worth it, as a good time was had by all. Even if this was what greeted me in the morning:

* I wasn’t kidding about the PBR Light!

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On my recent trip to Italy back in October, Marmo and I had the opportunity to take a cooking class with Velia at her cooking school in Orvieto (for the full report, see my previous post here). Velia has a partner at this school Maurizio di Mario who is a pastry chef and very knowledgeable in all things CHOCOLATE. I wanted to share a few pictures of his cooking and also give you two holiday dessert recipes straight from Italy (from Velia and Maurizio): Chocolate Soufflé and Apple Clafoutis.

But first, let’s talk dessert! Maurizio has a “pasticceria” (bakery) called Pasticceria Adriano that he owns in Orvieto. The wonderful thing about the pasticceria (aside from all the fabulous baked goods, of course) is that it is located on top of medieval underground caves. And you can even take a tour. For a bakery, you have to admit, that is pretty badass.

Aside from supplying Orvieto with copious amounts of “i dolci,” Maurizio and Velia collaborate at Compagnia dei Buongustai – a school where professionals and amateurs alike can learn cooking techniques alongside Italian chefs – and at Velia’s cooking school, where in addition to giving classes, they also do instructional TV shows. You can check out the classroom and Maurizio working his magic below:

Here are some other magical photos of Maurizio’s chocolate to drool over…
And check out these authentic cannoli! Velia, can you please Fedex me one of these? Per piacere (pretty please)?
If you’d like to make some Italian desserts of your own for the holidays, Velia and Maurizio have generously provided us with two recipes. First:
Chocolate Soufflè
What You Need:
2 egg – separated
1/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup of chocolate (melted in a double boiler)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 Tbsp of baking powder

What To Do:
Melt  chocolate and butter in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely  simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove bowl from  heat. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar, gradually adding the melted chocolate and butter and then the flour and baking powder.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Add 1/3 cup sugar, a little at a time, continuing to beat at medium speed, then beat at high speed until whites just hold stiff peaks. Fold about 1 cup whites into chocolate mixture to lighten, then add mixture to remaining whites, folding gently but thoroughly. Pour into a soufflé dish and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for ten minutes.
Apple Clafoutis
A clafoutis is a French batter cake, traditionally made with cherries, but other fruits often work quite well, especially when cherries are not in season. Apples makes this a perfect fall/winter dessert.
What You Need:
For the apples:
4-6 Apples
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
dash of  cinnamon
For the batter:
8 Tbsp butter
1 cup milk
3 whole eggs
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

What To Do:
Peel the apples and cut them very finely.

Combine all the ingredients (except the apples) and mix very well.

In a skillet over medium heat, melt the 4 Tbsp butter and add the apples and sugar. Cook until just warm – about 5 minutes.

Grease a baking dish with butter and dust it with flour. Add 1/2 the clafoutis batter. Then arrange the apples over the batter. Pour the remaining batter over the apples. Dust with cinnamon and a little sugar.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 350° F

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This week on the blog is dedicated to parties. We will be featuring all sorts of festive food inspiration for your holiday party needs. First up: a review of my holiday party in two parts (Part The Second to be featured later this week).

I never used to have parties. It seemed like a lot of stress to have to feed and water people at my place. And be in charge of them having a good time?? Yikes, waaaaay too much for me. And then one day I changed my mind. It happened last year at this time when I hosted my first holiday party. And it was GREAT fun. A dance party erupted in the kitchen (why do people ALWAYS congregate in that room above all others?) and lasted until 4:30 in the morning.

Based on this previous success, I decided to go for a repeat and this past Saturday was my second annual holiday party. My apartment is still recovering (as are my neighbors, most likely….sorry ’bout that…). I thought I would give you a run down – complete with recipes – of some of the edible highlights of the evening.

Since I was cooking for the occasion, all my guests were kind enough to bring the drinkables. We had some wonderful ones – not a dry glass in the place! Here a few highlights:

Hendricks Gin: My favorite. I really like gin. And this is the gin I like the bestest (many thanks to Dave for bringing this gem).

Hirsch 2008 Gruner Veltliner: I bought this one. Mostly because of the reindeer on the label. It was really light, crisp and clean.

Laird’s Applejack Rum: This was brought by Tim (hi, Tim– thanks!). This is the stuff that Van Leeuwen puts in their eggnog ice cream to give it a little punch.

New Castle Brown Ale Mini Keg: Everyone seemed to like this very much, but I have no idea what to do with the empty mini keg now. Do you throw that in recycling? Right now it’s on my kitchen floor, just hanging out.

Now onto the recipes! We begin with the Caramel Coated Brie:

What You Need:
1 wheel of Brie
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
a few pecans to make everything look pretty

What To Do:
Prepare an ice-water bath. Heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, swirling until sugar dissolves.

Cook, continuing to stir, until the mixture turns a dark amber color. Immediately dip the bottom of the pan in the ice-water bath to stop the cooking.

Place your Brie on a serving plate and pour the caramel sauce over the top. Place pecans decoratively around the edge. The caramel coating will get hard, like a candy shell.

Notes and Tips: When you are cooking the sugar and water, the mixture will get foamy. This completely freaked me out. Just keep stirring and acting like everything is normal, it will turn dark soon enough. Also, getting the pot clean after torturing it in this manner is quite an adventure. I added more water to the pot and heated it until the remains were all dissolved. Then I poured it out and immediately washed the pot.

* Recipe from Martha Stewart.

I think everyone’s favorite hors d’ oeuvre that I made was “Le Cake,” a recipe that I got from the book A Table in the Tarn, a French cookbook written by two British expats that live in the French countryside and run a boutique hotel. It’s a savory cake that I stuffed with Kalamata and green olives and Havarti cheese. I modified their version a bit, but it’s essentially the same. Here is how you make Le Cake (thereby becoming best friends with every one of your guests):

What You Need:
3/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup Green olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
plenty of freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cubed Havarti cheese (or other semi-soft cheese)
2 tbsp freshly chopped herbs (I used thyme)
1 cup milk (Note: I actually ended up using a bit more because my dough was a bit dry)
3 1/2 tbsp melted butter
1 large egg
3/4 cup créme fraîche (try not to eat it all before you mix it into your dough)

What To Do:
Grease a baking pan (or several smaller baking pans) and sprinkle with half the grated Parm. Whisk the flour, baking powder and seasonings in a large bowl (this is easier than sifting). Mix in the cheese, herbs, and olives.

In a small bowl, whisk the melted (and cooled) butter, egg, milk, and créme fraîche. Using a spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the dry until just mixed – the dough will be thick and sticky – stop mixing when it is just combined.

Turn the mixture into your prepared baking pans and sprinkle with the rest of the grated Parm. Bake for 30 minutes (for small pans) and 45-50 minutes for large pans at 350 degrees until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Keep in mind, if you hit cheese when you skewer-test your cake, it will be sticky.

Blammo: amazingness! Added bonus: your apartment will smell so good, guests won’t know what to do with themselves.

Continuing on with olives, I would like to mention something I did NOT make (GASP!) but was brought over by my friends Stacey and Tony: Blue Cheese Stuffed Green Olives. I think I ate the whole bowl by myself. Just get some green olives, some blue cheese, and stuff the cavity of the olive with the cheese. Put them in a pretty bowl with some toothpicks on the side and watch them disappear. Most likely by me, if I’m at your party.

You can also throw these little guys in a Bloody Mary as a garnish. And as my friend Meg says, “Who doesn’t like a drink that comes with food?” I just don’t know.

Also featured were Avocado Bruschetta (recipe here) and Bacon Wrapped Prunes. If you like bacon (YES!) and you also like that salty-sweet food combination, you’ll love this. And it’s ridiculously easy. Here’s how it goes:

What You Need:
Some dried, pitted prunes (get some plump juicy ones)
Bacon – one slice per prune, please!
Toothpicks – to hold the whole delicious device together

What To Do:
Fry up the bacon. When you have achieved your desired level of bacon crispiness, wrap the the strip of  bacon around the prune and spear it on a toothpick so it doesn’t all fall apart.

I will continue the rest of the recipes later in the week, but I am leaving you with two images from the evening to gear up your holiday party excitement. First, is our friend Drew. Drew wanted to be on the blog. And since he won the award for “Most Festive Pants,” I really felt like he deserved to be on it.

Now, I don’t give out the Most Festive Pants Award to just anybody. But look at those – kudos to you, Drew!

Finally, here is my Christmas tree. For those of you that are crazy enough to follow us on Twitter, you may know that my Christmas tree and I have been fighting. It was threatening to fall over the other day, so there is currently a mini pumpkin and an old, empty tin of pepper shoved into the tree stand to help it remain upright. Why don’t they try that with the Leaning Tower of Pisa?

* The graphic at the very top is a postcard I designed back in my old stationery-designing days. © Rosebud Design Studio.

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Like many families, the Iaciofanos have their own Christmas cookie traditions. We work with a general rotation of around 18 different species of cookie, depending on Marmo’s level of energy for baking (unbounded), our relative moods, and the amount of free space in the house for cookie hiding places.

Why make cookies and hide them, you may ask. Frankly, it is because The Box and John will eat them all before anyone else has a crumb.

The Box prefers 3am cookie feasts, delving into the overflowing tins when no one else is around. He thinks no one notices, and will even categorically deny eating any cookies at all. However, when you open a tin first thing in the morning (cookies are good for breakfast) and it looks like low tide at the bay, you know The Box has struck again.

In contrast, John will eat the cookies out in the open, but treats them much like popcorn, grabbing actual handfuls and walking away with them.

So we hide the cookies. Under side tables, up in high cabinets, inside dresser drawers, in the dryer. It only throws them off temporarily, but that’s usually all we need to make it to Christmas.

What follows are three Iaciofano cookie staples. Whichever other cookies we make, these are never out of rotation. They are:

The Pizzelle: a traditional Italian wafer cookie made with anise seeds.

Mexican Wedding Balls (aka Russian Tea Cakes): little snowballs of butter, sugar and pecans.

Butter Cookies: tree and wreath shaped cookies that are almost solidly butter.

My favorites are the Pizzelle. About 10 years ago, I rolled an uncooked ball of Pizzelle dough in a bowl of circular rainbow sprinkles before putting it in the special Pizzelle iron to cook. The result looked like a cross between a Fourth of July firework and a tie-died shirt. We’ve been doing this brand of abstract expressionist Pizzelle ever since. Here’s how it works:

What You Need:
6 eggs
2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup sugar
6 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup melted butter
2 Tablespoons anise seeds (or to your preference)
Special Gear: pizzelle iron

What To Do:
Heat up your pizzelle iron.

Beat the eggs, adding sugar gradually. Beat the sugar and egg mixture until smooth. Add the COOLED melted butter (if you don’t cool the butter you will cook the eggs when you add it in).

Sift the flour and baking powder and add it to the egg mixture. Mix well, adding in the anise seeds as you go.

Roll the dough into small balls, then coat with sprinkles. Press them into the pizzelle iron and close the lid. Let bake a few minutes until very lightly golden. Lay flat to cool.

John loves the Russian Tea Cakes (an extremely close contender to the Pizzelle for me). Dusted with confectioners sugar, these buttery, pecan-y snowballs practically melt in your mouth. You can always tell when someone’s been at them, however, as the confectioners sugar tends to make a mess and you end up looking like the powdery version of a child with his first ice cream cone.

The following Russian Tea Cake recipe has been handed down from my grandmother (on The Box’s side) and is surprisingly easy.

What You Need:
1 cup of butter
1/2 cup confectioners sugar (plus more for dusting)
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour

What To Do:
Mix together the butter and sugar until creamy. Add in the flour, nuts and vanilla to the butter and sugar mixture.

Roll the resulting dough into 1″ balls. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes (may need a few more minutes – the bottoms of the cookies will turn a light brown). Remove them from the oven and while the are still warm, roll them in confectioners sugar.

Note: I also like to dust them a bit with the sugar after I roll them around in it. Makes them look a little more even (if you like that kind of thing).


Unsurprisingly, The Box prefers the simplicity of the Butter Cookies. Consequently, these are usually the first to disappear. This year my mom and I juuuuuust managed to get them packaged up and put away in a top secret location before he arrived home.

What You Need:
1 cup butter
3 oz. of cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 cups flour
Special Gear: one of these cookie presses featured below:

What To Do:
Cream the butter and cream cheese, adding in the sugar while you mix. Then add in the vanilla. Slowly add the flour in increments, and mix well. Put the dough (not all of it at once, calm down!) in the cookie press and follow the directions on the box (this usually involves pressing the handle until the dough squeezes out through the stencil at the base of the cookie press).

Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

When you’re done, get a hold of some cookie tins in which to store all this buttery madness. The ones we have are horribly cheesy. Some of ’em are pretty darn old too. But they work. Then hide them around the house. If you’re lucky, you’ll forget where you put them and come across them accidentally in April while Spring cleaning your gutters.

Bonus points of you give me a good cookie hiding place!

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