Wednesday, December 22, 2010


In 2 days, it'll be Christmas.  Another year has come and gone, and somehow Christmas has snuck up on me again.  As an adult, time goes by so quickly, but as a child, Christmas couldn't come soon enough.  I sometimes think about that eagerness and earnestness and wish for a little while I could return to that innocence when my biggest anxiety was wondering what was waiting for me under the tree.  The world seemed simpler back then--but maybe what's changed is my own awareness of how life moves around me.  And with the bustle of this time of year, there seems to be barely time to savor the season.  Speaking with a friend this evening, she mentioned how someone was talking about spending less time getting presents and spending more time in the presence of friends.  Though there is something to be said for showing love to others tangibly with gifts, quality time with loved ones is priceless.

One of my favorite holiday movies growing up is White Christmas.  There are no special effects, no sophisticated story lines, but the premise is simple: Christmas can be a time to show appreciation to others while expecting nothing in return (and you can sing and dance while you're at it).  This year I won't be dreaming of a white Christmas (I've given that idea up long ago, since it never snows where I live).  But I'll be dreaming of quality (and peaceful) time spent with those I care about.

Attempt #1

My Christmas recipe this year is for ricciarelli, Sienese almond cookies (I might have mentioned them in a prior blog about my trip to Italy, I can't remember).  I loved these in Italy, and I've tried making this three times now, trying to get them to look and taste somewhat similar to what I had in Siena, but I can't seem to get it right.  The first time, they were too wet and spread out too thinly.  The second time, they were almost too dense--perhaps because of the almond flour I used.  The third time, they puffed up like pillows.  They may not have looked like how I remembered them but they all still tasted pretty amazing, and the white dusting of powdered sugar make them perfectly festive for the holiday season.  There may not be snow here but these might do as a substitute.  Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

Attempt #3

Makes about 20 cookies

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

1.  Mix together in a bowl:
- 3 cups almond flour
- 1 cup superfine sugar (regular granulated works too)
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 t. baking powder
- grated zest of one medium orange

2.  In a separate bowl, beat until soft peaks:
- 2 egg whites

3.  Stir egg whites into almond flour mixture from #1 using a spoon.  The mixture should be a sticky mass.

4.  Spoon out lumps of dough with a tablespoon and form into oval or diamond shapes approximately 1 cm thick and 2 to 2-1/2 inches long.  Roll in powdered sugar, and place on the cookie sheet 1/2 inch apart.  Sift powdered sugar over cookies.  

5.  Allow cookies to dry for 2 to 3 hours at room temperature before baking.  This is an important step to get the right texture.

6.  When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 275F degrees.  Bake the cookies for 30 minutes, until the outside is firm.  Cookies should be crunchy and chewy on the outside and soft on the inside.  Cool completely before serving.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6)