italian rainbow cookies roasted potatoes pecan sticky buns shabu shabu (japanese hot pot)


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silly things we say and do

December 17th, 2017

Recipe: italian rainbow cookies

This was the scene Wednesday night: an assembly line of gift bags, gift boxes, tissue paper, cards, ribbons, cookies, candies, labels, and a checklist scribbled four times over with crossouts, notes, tick marks, and arrows. Maybe I was tired or maybe I am getting smarter, but as the clock spun ahead into the night, I began to unload cookies from my “to make” list like ballast from a sinking ship. French macarons? No. Peppermint kisses? Nope. Mini sour cream coffee cakes? Jettisoned from the list. I like people, but I like them more when I’ve had more than 4 hours of sleep.


holiday cookies and candies



After we had prettied up the packages and set them on the table to ship or deliver the next day, I let out a big sigh (more like an agonized primal scream) and said, “I’m not making anymore EXPLETIVE cookies! And I’m going EXPLETIVE skiing tomorrow!” We actually got four inches of snow overnight, so the logical next step was…

the lovely new high-speed lift that brings us to the powder 8 minutes faster

it was good while it lasted



And can you believe less than 48 hours after declaring NO MORE COOKIES, I was in the kitchen making… cookies? It’s true. I kinda blame Jennie Perillo for that. She posted a photo of her Italian rainbow cookies on Instagram last weekend, which prompted me to finally research the recipe and buy the ingredients – except I had all of those holiday cookies to crank out. I put the project on indefinite hold until Jennie posted ANOTHER photo of those gorgeous cookies on Thursday and I waved the white flag.

italian rainbow cookies



All my life, I had zero interest in Italian rainbow cookies and here’s why: I assumed they were the same as Neapolitan coconut candies – little sweet tricolor rectangles which I thought were disgusting when I was a kid. No one in my Chinese immigrant family set me straight on the distinction between the two, most likely because they had no idea either one existed. Then a couple of months ago we stopped at Whole Foods to grab a salad and their cookie bar was 50% off. For some reason, I decided to give an Italian rainbow cookie a try and to my delight, it tasted of almonds.

almond extract, almond paste, flour, sugar, chocolate, eggs, salt, apricot preserves, butter, red and green food coloring



There are a lot of recipes for Italian rainbow cookies on the web. They’re also called seven layer cookies or three layer cookies or Italian flag cookies, and they more or less follow the same process and list of ingredients. I found Deb‘s discussion to be quite helpful regarding the chocolate layers and the slicing, but decided on a smaller quantity for my first batch because you never quite know what you’re getting into when you decide to bake something at high altitude. Jennie’s recipe amounted to about 75% of Deb’s quantity and I liked the way she baked all three colors in one pan. So I reduced Deb’s recipe by a quarter and baked it up Jennie’s way. Either way, these are not quick cookies, so set aside a full day or parts of two days.

Most people whip the egg whites first and then make the batter, but I like to reverse that order because no good can come of letting whipped egg whites sit around and deflate while you make the cookie batter. Also, the recipe calls for almond paste, which is not the same as marzipan. Marzipan has a higher ratio of sugar to almond than almond paste. Some of you already know this, some of you do not. Remember what Gandalf said, “I’m trying to help you.”


beat the sugar and almond paste together

add butter

mix in the egg yolks and the almond extract

add salt and flour



**Jump for more butter**

the sprint marathon

December 10th, 2017

Recipe: roasted potatoes

It’s coming down to the wire over here. I have three days to finish (well, start) my holiday baking. You might think that I should have a lot of extra time since there’s very very very little snow to ski in these parts, but there were these flannel rag quilts I was sewing… nine flannel rag quilts. That took a big chunk of the last two weeks. I should clarify that while I haven’t begun my holiday baking, I have most of my holiday candymaking completed. Variety is the spice of life and all that good stuff.

Life is a bit of a frenzy right now, but I did take a few hours off recently to see a rare visitor to Colorado. Deb, of Smitten Kitchen (my favorite food blog), came through Boulder last week on her book tour. While I couldn’t make the actual event, we were able to finally meet in person over some noshes before her book signing.


such a lovely woman

flannel rag quilts in progress

candied orange peels and chocolate caramels



Despite being up to my armpits in chocolate, butter, sugar, cream, and flour, my mind has actually been puzzling over our upcoming holiday menu. Typically we ski our brains out on Christmas morning and I’m too wiped out to prepare anything more than a simple (but delicious) meal. Looking at the short-term forecast, our brains may very well remain securely in our heads due to the lack of snow. Even so, I still don’t want to spend a ton of time cooking. I know Jeremy would be delighted with a sous vide steak, some potatoes, and lots of greens. We have a new favorite way to enjoy roasted potatoes, too.

yukon gold potatoes, duck fat, baking soda, salt, garlic, parsley, black pepper



It’s unclear to me how I found Kenji’s recipe or who turned me on to it (it may have been Kenji’s Instagram), but when I see the words “Best Roast Potatoes” coming from a trusted source, the logical next step is to try it out. I’ve made the potatoes a couple of times now – the first time with olive oil and the second time with duck fat. The olive oil version was good, but holy moly the duck fat version is the stuff of dreams. Kenji’s technique basically parboils potatoes in an alkaline environment to create a roughed starchy exterior, tosses them with fat, and roasts the potatoes to yield crisp outer crusts with fluffy interiors.

quartering peeled potatoes

adding salt, baking soda, and potatoes to the hot water



**Jump for more butter**

the waiting is the hardest part

December 4th, 2017

Recipe: pecan sticky buns

Instead of snow, we seem to be getting a lot of dramatic and colorful sunrises and sunsets. To be honest, I’d rather have the snow… or both! I would not say no to powder days and glorious sunworks on the clouds overhead. Mother Nature is stringing us along with a few dribbles of snow every 7-10 days or so, but that isn’t enough for a proper snowpack let alone a proper ski season. It’s a good time to keep your head down and plow through everything that needs to be done before the end of the year. My goodness, how is it December already?


stacks of brilliantly lit clouds at sunset

amazing sunrise, taken in my jammies in the driveway



My parents returned to Virginia last week. Whenever they are about to leave Colorado, they unload a lot of unused groceries on me. Despite my suggestions that they only buy what they need while they are here, they cannot pass up a deal at Costco or a sale at Nordstrom. So I was given two couch pillows (they upgraded theirs), a few pounds of frozen organic chicken thighs, a pound of hot smoked salmon, half a pint of salted caramel gelato, and a host of other random things. It’s fine. I’ve given up fighting this because I use up, give away, donate, or repurpose whatever they leave for me and they can fly home feeling that there are no loose ends.

neva loves the new old pillows (probably because she smells my dad)

dinner out with my folks the night before they left



Last night’s storm dropped about an inch of snow in our yard as of this morning. While that might be disappointing for those of us who like to strap our feet to boards and slide, I have to look on the bright side and welcome the cold spell that arrived with the storm. Cold is good. Cold means the local mountain can make snow. Cold means what little snow does fall won’t evaporate or melt away in minutes under 50 degree weather. Cold also means baking season! How about some pecan sticky buns?

for the dough: eggs, flour, butter, active dry yeast, sugar, salt, milk

warm the milk to between 110°f and 116°f

add the sugar and yeast to the milk

let sit for a few minutes – it will get foamy



**Jump for more butter**