…and what have I done?
Well, I have cooked. And eaten. And drank. And fed people. And then started cooking again.
I have baked sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, macadamia nut cookies and date cookies.
I have feasted on London broil, cocktail shrimp, pad Thai, crab dip, meatballs, miniature egg rolls, lobster amandine, pistachio-crusted salmon, chicken piccata, breakfast casseroles and much more.
I have torn open boxes of Frango chocolates and cans of piroulines; crates of tiny, liquor-filled chocolate bottles and bags of Belgian candy; pillowy sacks of brownie mix and pancake mix.
I have stocked my kitchen with cooking-themed gifts — a pink spatula, a digital thermometer, a tea pot, a tea ball, a fridge magnet with measurement breakdowns, a tiny frying pan for melting butter or browning nuts.
About 10 days (and probably 10 pounds) later, I wonder which dish, which candy, which gift I treasure the most. But it isn’t any of those tangible things. Instead, it was the chance to laugh with my dad over a plate of Thai food and to get in the kitchen with my mom and cook up a big meal like we used to.
Food would be nothing without fellowship. That’s what the holidays always teach me.
But I cannot ignore the dishes I learned to make and the joy of eating them, too. Surprisingly, when I thought back on my Christmas holiday, I found that the easiest, most simple dish I learned to make was my favorite. And the most subtly sweet cookie I learned to make tasted the very best.
Here are my top two recipes of the holiday season. If you aren’t tired of cooking yet, give them a try! And please write in and share your own culinary experiences this holiday season. Which recipe are you most likely to make again before next Christmas?
This is an easy and deliciously simple dish to add to your weeknight repertoire this year. It can be halved to feed fewer people.
6 to 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika, or to taste
3 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup chicken broth or water
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
6 to 8 thin slices of lemon
3 Tbsp. capers
1. Put chicken breasts between 2 sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap and pound to flatten to about 1/4-inch.
2. In a shallow bowl, combine flour, salt, pepper and paprika; dredge chicken breasts to coat well.
3. Heat butter and olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté chicken breasts in batches, about 3 minutes on each side.
4. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of fat. Stir in chicken broth, scraping to loosen browned bits. Add lemon juice and heat through. Return chicken to the skillet with the lemon slices and heat until sauce thickens. Add capers. Serve with rice or pasta and a vegetable.
– Adapted from About.com.
Stuffed Date Cookies
Makes 30 cookies
30 whole, pitted dates
15 pecan or walnut halves, halved again lengthwise
2 Tbsp. softened butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. butter
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 1/2 tsp. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1. Stuff one nut quarter inside each date. Set aside.
2. Cream butter and brown sugar together in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Blend in egg yolk.
3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and baking powder.
4. Mix dry mixture and sour cream alternately into butter mixture until everything is incorporated. Gently stir dates into cookie batter.
5. Drop batter by teaspoon onto a greased cookie sheet, making sure you have a date in each cookie. The batter will be sticky so it will be impossible to form perfectly round balls of batter.
6. Bake at 375 degrees for 7-9 minutes, or until cookie tops are lightly golden. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.
7. For frosting, melt butter in a small saucepan and let cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until butter just begins to brown.
8. Remove from heat and quickly stir in vanilla, milk and confectioner’s sugar to form icing.
9. Spoon icing on top of each cookie.