ltalian Butter Cookies

‘Tis the season to be jolly, but yet Christmas is a week away and I can’t seem to get in the true Christmas spirit. I’ve tried to listen to my Christmas music every day, but today I gave in and went back to my recent obsession, Taylor Swift. I put up a Christmas tree, but I’m never home long enough to keep it turned on more than 20 minutes and it just seems out-of-place. I even had a Christmas cookie party with some of my friends, but it seemed like a typical Sunday, except we were eating cookies and drinking wine instead of having cocktails and going out to the bars after. Hopefully once I am home and with my family the Christmas spirit will kick in, but for now all I can say is, “I’m cold and it’s winter time.”

For my Christmas party I wanted to make an Italian Christmas cookie, but none of my friends really like fig, which is what my family typically makes for the Holidays. I found a recipe in my family cookbook for Italian Butter Cookies, and thought I would make those and add in a snowflake shape and christmas icing! I am glad I ventured to another recipe because they were so good and easy to make. Definitely something I will make again when I need to decorate cookies because they were easy to ice and were quick to make.

Pastafrolia (Italian Butter Cookies)


Dough:

1 lb butter (I used a little under a pound)

2 cups powdered sugar

4 egg yolks

2 lemons, grated

6 cups flour

Icing:

See Cream Cheese Icing in my Recipes!

Mix the butter, powdered sugar, egg yolks, and lemons. Slowly add the flour. Roll the dough on a flat, floured surface until desired thickness. Cut into favorite Christmas shapes and sprinkle with colored sugared (or opt to ice them after they are done!). Bake at 350º for 10 minutes.

I forgot to buy the lemons so I had to go with lemon juice. I definitely think the cookies would have been less dry if I had used actual lemons, so make sure you don’t skip that and use lemon juice (from a bottle…) like I did. It was a slacker move on my part, but Chicago was in the midst of getting 8 inches of snow, it was about 1 degree outside and I had no intention of going back outside once I was back in my apartment.

At the request of my lovely roommate I also made my Coconut Chocolate Chip cookies, which were once again a hit! She decided to make sugar cookies and all of our guests helped her ice them. For fun we decided to make a christmas cocktail and we went on a whim and used ingredients we found in our kitchen and it actually turned out to be SO delicious!

Laura & Lucia’s Christmas Cocktail


Absolute Citrus Vodka

Pomegranate Crystal Light

Soda water

Sprite

Sugar-free Instant Apple Cider

Mix all ingredients in a pitcher, add ice and serve!

I am headed home this week for Christmas, so I am bound to have a lot more kitchen adventures along the way. If you read “An Italian Thanksgiving,” stay tuned for an “Italian Christmas” because Christmas time in my family is taken seriously, and always accompanied by a lot of laughs, a lot of wine, a lot of cards/gambling, even more food, and overall a lot of love – if all of that doesn’t get me in the Christmas spirit, I don’t know what will….

I also want to wish a very happy birthday (I won’t say the number) to my wonderful mother, friend, and role model. I love you mom (sorry I won’t be there to celebrate with you!!) and I hope you have a wonderful birthday. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today if it wasn’t for you – so since I won’t be there on your birthday, Cheers to you!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Lucia

Edamame Risotto

I had the pleasure of trying Edamame Risotto one summer evening with my parents while we were having dinner at Meridian Hills Country Club. I instantly fell in love and have wanted it ever since. It was something about the texture that hooked me. Also, I love risotto and edamame, so putting them together just seemed like a genius idea and I was jealous I didn’t come up with it all on my own.

I concocted a recipe and have had it saved on my computer, waiting for the right time to make it. I am fairly picky still so I decided on my own ingredients and a mixture of a bunch of recipes. I also don’t measure because I think it adds to the adventure! I have always been told how hard it is to make a good risotto, so I wanted my adventure to be at the right time. What better time than a night spent drinking wine and celebrating two of my best friend’s birthdays!

The Edamame Cooked in Sesame Oil and Seasoned

The Risotto cooking (you have to be patient and constantly stir!)

I was surprised at how easy I thought it was to make the risotto. This dish, which seemed so complicated at first, was fairly simple and I can’t wait to continue to experiment with the flavors.

Edamame Risotto

Sesame oil

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1 cup Arborio Rice

2 cups (or more) shelled edamame

Soy sauce (reduced sodium)

Ground ginger

2-½ tbsp olive oil

½ cup white cooking wine

4 cups hot water

Crumbled goat cheese

Romano cheese

Dried basil

Salt and pepper

Heat sesame oil over medium heat (just enough in to lightly cover the bottom the pan). Once hot, add the edamame,  lightly cover in soy sauce, and add a few shakes of ground ginger. Continue to stir until the liquid has evaporated and let cool.

Heat olive oil and butter in a large pan. Add the rice and coat in oil. Toast the rice for about 3 minutes. Reduce heat and add some garlic powder (a few shakes) and the white wine. Once the wine has evaporated, add in 1 1/3 cup of hot water. Stir continuously until the water has evaporated and the consistency is creamy. Continue this process two more times. Remember to keep stirring. Once the rice is creamy, but still slightly firm, remove from heat.

Add the cooked edamame, Romano cheese, basil (to taste), and some goat cheese (to taste). Season with salt and pepper and Enjoy!

Baking Binge

So, unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to cook on Sunday.  It started off as a really pretty day and I had every intention of baking a lasagna, but I went to brunch with my friends and ended up sitting in a cute French restaurant, drinking Mimosas, and watching it pouring rain outside.  It turned out to be a wonderful Sunday, but the time to cook got away from me.

I must have really needed a good “cook” because last night I came home from work and decided to bake something.  Well, I decided to make shortbread, but when I put that in the oven, I still wasn’t satisfied, so I decided to make Peanut Butter cookies too! I was a little nervous about the Shortbread cookies because I had never made them and had no idea what they were supposed to look or feel like.  It seemed way too simple…and I assumed I did it wrong.  Basically, you mix the butter, salt, sugar and flour in a bowl until it forms a dough.  But the dough doesn’t really feel like dough because it isn’t sticky and it kind of falls apart. It’s very crumbly.  Then you just spread it in a pan, poke it with a fork a few times, and put it in the oven for about 45 minutes at 300°.

The Shortbread right out of the oven with sugar sprinkled on it!

The Shortbread cookies turned out really good!  As soon as they come out of the oven,  sprinkle them with sugar and let sit for about 5 minutes.  Then, slice into pieces (I did triangles, but you can do whatever you want) and serve!  Nikki’s mom, who is a professional baker, apparently cut them into hearts for Valentines Day and spread different preserves on them! I am beyond happy to report that they were a success and everyone got to enjoy some.  Nikki added some Blackberry preserve to hers and it was the perfect combination!

The Finished Product!

Shortbread with Blackberry Preserve!

While the Shortbread cookies were baking, I started on the Peanut Butter cookies.  I didn’t have all of the necessary ingredients (oats & crunchy peanut butter), but I decided I could create my own version of the recipe and use regular peanut butter and chocolate chips instead of oats.  I think that is more fun anyway!  I also did not have a sifter for my flour, sugar, and salt. I knew from baking with my mom that sifting really does make a difference when baking and you shouldn’t just dump the ingredients into your mixture.  I got creative in the kitchen and put the ingredients into a pasta strainer and shook it over a mixing bowl, then added the ingredients to my batter.  It worked perfectly!

Perfect Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies!

I baked the cookies for about 15-20 minutes at 350° and let them cool for about 10 minutes before serving.  They were yummy.  I love peanut butter.  I love chocolate.  And I loved these cookies.  It is probably not a good thing that I now know how to bake my favorite combination of sweets!  I am glad I was feeling restless last night and decided to be productive.  It’s always a good feeling when you come home from work and get so much accomplished!  I even went and looked at a few apartments after work because I am moving in August!

This weekend I am heading back to Indianapolis (yes, I do go home every other weekend and it will continue this way until after my sister’s wedding apparently), to go to the annual Holy Rosary Italian Street Festival.  The festival started the year I was born, and I have been in attendance ever since.  Both sides of my family run the dessert booths and have so much fun spending the weekend together.  Over the years I have had to train myself to not try all the desserts…but when you love sweets and Italian food…this place is not safe for your waist line!  Keep your fingers crossed it doesn’t get rained out and if you are in the area check it out!

Lucia’s Survival Guide and Cookbook

I finally downloaded pictures from Easter and am trying to decide what I want to do this weekend.  I am heading back to Indy again and am really looking forward to having a more relaxed weekend compared to last weekend.  Saturday my sister and I are going to look at invitations for her wedding.  I can’t believe it is approaching so quickly!  I don’t think these kitchen adventures are helping me get into great shape for her big day, but oh well.  You do what you gotta do!  Hopefully I can come up with something great tomorrow…maybe I will go back to basics and make meatballs.  Sunday’s are spent sitting around my Grandparents kitchen table eating and catching up, so normally I could have made something to bring there, but it is my cousins baby shower, so that is not an option.  Hopefully something inspires me tomorrow….

Tonight for dinner my roommate heated up some of her homemade matzah ball soup and in true Italian fashion….I tried to top it off with some parmesan cheese.  Apparently only Italians add parmesan to their soups!    I got another present for my Kitchen Adventure!!  My Grandpa found a cookbook called “Lucia’s Survival Guide and Cookbook” and on the inside…the book is dedicated “To Gina, who was the inspiration for writing this guide.”  How ironic,  Lucia’s survival guide dedicated to Gina…Gina is my sisters name.  Gina is also my best friend and someone I would dedicate a book to because she is someone I admire most.  The book was not only meaningful because it came from my Grandpa, but it was extra meaningful because it has some irony to it!

Here are the pictures from the weekend and the recipe for the Italian Cream Cake!

Italian Cream Cake

Preheat oven to 350°

Grease and flour three 9 inch cake pans

Ingredients:

1 stick of butter, softened

2 cups of sugar

5 eggs – separated

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk

2 cups flour, sifted

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup coconut

1 cup pecans, chopped

Beat softened butter and sugar until creamy. Add egg yolks, oil, flour, vanilla and buttermilk. Mix until combined. Stir in 1/2 cup of the coconut and 1/2 cup of the pecans. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until fluffy (hint: they should form peaks). Fold egg whites into batter.

Bake at 350° for about 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Ice with cream cheese icing (recipe below)

Cream Cheese Icing

**Makes enough icing for 1 cake (3 layers)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 boxes of Philadelphia Cream Cheese

1 1/2 boxes Powdered Sugar

1 1/2 sticks softened butter

2 tsp Pure Vanilla extract

In a mixer, add cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla.  Mix well until creamy and light.

Batter from the Carrot Cake…not including all the ingredients though!

The Italian Cream Cake requires egg whites – you can tell they are finished when they form peaks!

After a long day of baking – here is half of the mess

Italian Cream Cake

Carrot Cake