Thursday, December 27, 2012

Wee Gingerbread Houses for Mugs

Like thousands of others on Pinterest who originally saw the pin of those adorably tiny gingerbread houses made to perfectly nestle onto the side of your coffee mug, I instantly added it to my holiday board with an actual intent to create them. Weeks went by and the list for Christmas baking grew and grew and I decided that it would be a nifty little added Christmas surprise. I would make them, hide them until it was time for dessert then place them on the mugs and line them up and down the table while everyone was inside playing with new toys or taking a well needed nap. Then everyone would come in for dessert and people would sit down and chose their houses and hopefully they would be cheerfully surprised. . . .

Well, after two straight days of baking and decorating, and planning and running around, it didn't go to plan. I was tired, no one left the table and when I placed them out, no on seemed particularly surprised, but more so daunted at the prospect of yet another dessert. So never again; it just wasn't worth the effort and time (the dough for gingerbread is rather sticky and difficult to work with and I'm not the best at decorating the wee houses), ultimately it just left me a bit crestfallen.

But I digress, anyhoo I found the template for the houses through Good Housekeeping and used a super simple royal icing recipe and used almond extract instead of lemon rind to give the frosting a different taste.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Portraits 2012

So it was that dreaded time of year again... Christmas Portraits. Although the day started out a little rough, I have to admit this time was just a wee bit easier to orchestrate, hopefully next year goes even smoother.

We started the day with what I thought would be simple and easy photographs, the kind with the kids just standing and smiling, which would work up to what I ultimately had in mind. Well the easiest photo to take turned out to be the hardest one to get and the more complicated shot (featured below) turned out to be a little easier; go figure. So here's my favorite shot from the 2012 portrait session with my niece and nephew (and yep they've tied up Santa and are looking through the loot).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

17 Sort of Steps to Making Italian Fig Cookies

A couple of years ago my siblings and I got together one winter day and decided to try and make cucidati, aka Italian fig cookies. This particular recipe belonged to my great grandma Runza who immigrated to New York from Sciliy almost a century ago and her recipe has been passed down from generation to generation. My uncle has made them every Christmas since I could remember and now my brothers, sister-in-law's and I are continuing the tradition.

The first year was experimental, the second we picked our uncle's brain trying to figure out how to make our cookies more like his, and well this year I think we've hit the mark pretty close.

So I present to you an abbreviated sardonic guide for making cucidati with the help of my wee niece and nephew.


Make an inordinate amount of dough. 


Start cutting some delicious figs. 


Toast your nuts. Almond nuts that is, now get your mind out of the gutter...


 Grind your nuts and sift 'em good, nothing can ruin biting into a cucidati like finding a chunk of nut... almond nut. 


Now take those delicious figs and process them into unappetizing, worm like goo. 


Lots and lots of unappetizing worm like goo will be needed.


Add processed raisins to pile of processed figs. 


Get ready to combine ground nuts into unappetizing pile of goo.

Step 9: 

It looks like the title of Greenday's 1994 album (Dookie for those not in the know), but I promise you that with some secret ingredients a-la my Great Grandma Runza's recipe that this will taste wonderful.

Step 10:

Now kick back and relax and reminisce about the Christmas when a squirrel got stuck in the chimney, ran out of the house and the tree fell over, while you have the wee ones do the dirty mixing work.

STEP 11:

Soften the dough. Al Capone style.

STEP 12: 

Now roll it out.

STEP 13:

And pretend that you're having a fantastic time making these cookies, because there are about 200 so or more to make.

STEP 14:

Continue making these as the day grows dark, as will your soul.

STEP 15:

 And remember to enlist the wee ones in tasks such as moving cookies from baking sheet to cooling parchment zone and delivering cookies for quality control testing (aka my mouth) while you're wrist deep in flour and dough.

STEP 16:

Let your ever mounting pile of cookies cool and get ready to make 'em purdy and such.

STEP 17:

Now admire all the hours and hard work you've to make these cookies, because they sure as hell won't last long....

Not long at all.