For all you Christmas Slackers….;)
I admit that this post is way overdue. I mean, seriously. I took these photos and made these treats back in the day when not keeping your Christmas lights plugged in for over 48 hours consecutively meant you were probably related to the distant relatives of Scrooge himself. The fact that ours are still ablaze is clearly a testament to the lazybones that have moped through this household for the past week.
Christmas ended up being the whirlwind that it always seems to be. It creeps up so slowly, it feels. As soon as November 1st hits, the whole world takes on a new frosty glaze. Mysteriously smashed pumpkin bits littering abandoned on the roads twinkle from the glow of freshly strung Christmas lights, carols take over your standard elevator 98.1 tunes and tinsel seems to be a constant in your peripheral vision. The season almost feels like it lasts a whole year on its own–cookie dough, wrappings, turkeys, wreaths and garlands filter through every aspect of your life until you literally feel like you live perpetually in Santa’s Village. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, it’s the week of Christmas, then you blink and it’s Christmas Eve, sneeze and it’s Christmas Day, throw back a shot of sambuca and it’s all done. Then, after complaining that you are always suffering what you thought would be a never-ending-chocolate-induced tummy ache, you’re whining that it came too fast and was just too short.
Right!? Or am I among the few that suffer an acute form of depression once Christmas is over?
Anyways, as I said, the season always seems to get the best of us. No matter how early we start to prepare, we will always be doomed to partake in the last-minute mall scramble for those feel people who may have slipped our mind (oops). And by we I mean me, in particular. Every. Year.
As it is New Years Eve day, we are all in a preparation mode. My belated Christmas+New Years gift to you this year (my procrastinating tendencies often result in gift combining) is my tip for a great last-minute gift. Really, I’m going to be honest with you. This is nothing at all new. I’m actually positive I read about a hundred posts just like this one in November. But it was a new thing for me, and I enjoyed making and giving it as much as the recipients enjoyed receiving it (and that’s a lot!:))
I’m a thinker more than I’m a do-er. I brainstorm idea upon idea of the next dinner party I’m going to host, the next adventure I’m going to embark, the next craft I’m going to attempt and, most often at this time of year, the next homemade gift I’m going to give to a person I care about. This year, I had promised myself I would go through with it, at least once–and so, as I was plagued with a last-minute gift dilemma once again (what to get the new bosses?) I decided to finally go through with it.
Well, it wasn’t exactly a last-minute gift. I mean, I was intending on giving a gift of some sort to these people for a while, I had just originally intended on the standard bottle of wine, box of chocolates deal. But after being welcomed so warmly into my new work environment, I knew I needed to show my appreciation in a more obvious and pronounced way.
So I decided to give them these cute little guys:)….
Filled with these fun little treats….
It’s so simple, yet it can be as creative as you wish. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s from your heart, and when it comes to food, so much of our love for it is connected with our soul, so how much more special can you get?
The first recipe I chose is a family, Flushing Ave, neighbourhood, city, Italian favourite: Vivian’s Almond Cookies. Vivian is a good family friend and former member of the coolest block ever, Flushing Ave. We grew up next door to Vivian and her family–Mel Sac and her daughter Jenny are still best friends to this day, and many of my childhood memories include following them around, and likewise being shunned away from their games. I didn’t mind, it meant I got to hang out with Jenny’s older sister Vanessa, who I admired and who never had a problem entertaining and watching over me, and teaching me what colour my hair was: “lellow”, according to me. Vivian was always the type to make you feel like you were at home in her house–from the endless servings of her famous pasta fagioli that always seemed to fill your plate, to the constant inclusion in her big family and friend get togethers, right down to the screaming fights of terror she was never shy to engage in with Jenny while you patiently waited at the door for them to go to school. If there is one thing that always made me excited to traipse over to Vivian’s house, no matter what time of day, fully dressed or even pajama clad, it was the thought of her food. She has never failed to impress us with her amazingly authentic Southern Italian fare that my central-bred relatives couldn’t truly introduced me to. It didn’t come as a surprise when she decided to open and run her very own catering business. (Those lucky business people!) The almond cookies always made an appearance at every function either she or others hosted, and at several friend and family weddings and wedding showers. (have you ever seen the sweet table at a typical Italian wedding or baby shower? It is quite a magical site to behold…the best part are the plastic take home containers every guest gets…oh, and the part where all the nonni fight to the death to fill theirs, plus 6 others, up). Typically they are called “Italian Wedding Cookies” (surprise, surprise). After recently acquiring the recipe from the master herself, and running a successful test run, I knew they had to be included.
3/4 cup of ground almonds (plus more for rolling)
1/3 cup sugar
1 stick of butter, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix all the ingredients, except for the powdered sugar, with a wooden spoon just to get the ball rolling. Continue mixing with your hands until it’s thoroughly combined. Break off chunks of the dough and form crescents by rolling the dough into logs and then shaping them with your hands. Roll in ground almonds. Bake at 350 for about 10-13 minutes, or until lightly browned on the edges. Once cooled, cover with powdered sugar.
The second recipe I chose was slightly more labour intensive from Martha Stewart Living’s Holiday issue. I was craving making thumbprint cookies this year for some reason, despite not being a fan of butter cookies. But they just scream Christmas to me so it was an obvious second choice. The recipe for the dough is similar to the one we always use from my Mociute, with the added twist of the jam centre, and the fact that they are rolled in finely chopped pistachios (such an amazing addition). I thought they came out amazing, but Mom and Mel Sac both agreed that they could’ve baked a bit longer. (what can I say, I’m a sucker for raw cookie dough).
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Whisk together flour and salt. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture, beat until combined.
At this point, we covered the dough and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.
The recipe also called for apricot jam, but we decided to use raspberry to make it more festive. The magazine suggests you can roll them also in candy, nuts, sugar, or whatever you like. We chose pistachios and needed about 1/3 cup, finely chopped, for our batch.
Once the dough is ready to go, roll it into 1-inch balls, then roll in the finely chopped pistachios. Arrange on a baking sheet, spacing each 1 inch apart. Press a well into the centre of each using your finger. Bake at 350 for 7 minutes. Remove from oven, and press well again with handle end of a wooden spoon. Bake until firm, 7 or 9 minutes more. Let cool completely. Spoon filling into thumbprints.
I was so happy with the outcome of the overall package. When it comes to gift giving, I’m always one to be overwhelmed with a sense of anxiety. Being both a perfectionist and a yes-man, I aim to please. But I must say my mind was to put to ease when I got an email from Shari telling me how much she loved the cookies…”I just ate three.” was how it ended….
So worth the work:)