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Entries in Iaciofano (5)

Monday
Dec152014

Eat Like a Iaciofano - Christmas Cookies!

Season's Greetings, readers!

How's everyone's holiday shopping coming along? That good, yes? Excellent.

I've managed to make more cookies than purchases this year, and that's been a conscious effort. I've been finding it fascinating to focus on my family's eating habits, especially as they revolve around holiday traditions.

You know when you have a group of caged animals at the zoo? Like lions? And then a zoo keeper throws in some raw meat and CHAOS ensues? Welcome to Christmas cookie time at Iaciofano HQ.

Russian Tea CakesI talked about some of these habits before. It does seem that for a family of four, the Iaciofanos make and consume an inordinate amount of cookie. So much so, at least on the consumption side, that Marmo has taken to hiding them. I detailed some of her favorite places here, and indeed, when I returned home this weekend for baking, she whispered in my ear, "There are biscotti in the laundry room."

Close up pizzelle actionI don't think she is fooling anyone anymore, because as baking commenced on Sunday, one or other male Iaciofano crossed the path from TV room to laundry room, emerging cookie-laden (cue Marmo, exasperated, shouting: STOP EATING THOSE!!!).

This post, recipes and corresponding flip through book (link below) stem from both my amusement at these family habits and my own cookie-making frenzy.

This weekend, Marmo and I made three types of cookie: The Russian Tea Cakes (probably my all-time favorite), Pizzelle, and some iced-gingerbread cookies. 

The iced-gingerbreads were not initally on the menu. They're not a traditional "Iach" cookie. But I had a plan.

Usually, when I have a plan the Iaciofano parentals brace themselves against said oncoming idea as one might tape down the house windows in preparation for a hurricane. It's not encouraging behavior. However, I must press on and will not be dissuaded by exasperated looks, sighs of defeat, moans of exhaustion or other nonsense.

My plan this year was to ice the gingerbread cookies to look like...wait for it....mini margherita pizzas!!

Yes? YES! 

I had first played with icing Christmas cookies here, and had much fun with it. But this time, I had an icing agenda: to make the sugary medium look like tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil. 

To prep, I ordered a few things from Amazon (since I signed up for Prime, I can't stop ordering things from Amazon. I think I need a support group). I had this decorating kit, this icing mix (oh yes, I was cheating), and this pack of food coloring shipped to Iaciofano HQ.

For the recipe, I used this gingerbread cookie recipe that I had made previously, here. It's super-fantastically easy and tasty.

The cookies came out even better than I thought they would. They really looked liked pizzas! In cookie form!

I even made a pizza oven out of gingerbread.So thrilled was I, that I began excitedly snapping photos of said cookies and then everything else, including what Marmo was making for dinner: her special Lasagna Bolognese (recipe at end of post).

Marmo prepping the pan.My favorite shot of the day - steam from freshly boiled pasta.Filling in the layersReady for the oven!I have to say, her lasagna is really a masterpiece. It sports a beef-based Bolognese sauce complemented by a smooth Bechemel that is both velvety and decadent. She translates the recipe from the Harry's Bar cookbook. We added a salad, some California Merlot, tree decorating and more cookies as sides.

Some of my take-aways from the day were:

1. The light in the dining room is Northern light and much better for food photography. I've been taking photos in the kitchen like a fool (Western light) for too long.

2. Toby's new jingle-collar is really dashing.

3. John prefers to play the "foreman" instead of actually decorating the tree. This apparently involves very half-assed art direction as to which ornament should go where. And wine drinking. It involves that too.

3. I do not know the difference between the Shuttlecraft and the Enterprise (we own both as Christmas ornament representations, and I can't tell the difference much to The Box's horror and dismay).

4. Our TV has only one channel: The Golf Channel.

Here any and all Iaciofano Family Christmas Cookie Recipes for your enjoyment (and one lasagna recipe)

Pizzelle

Russian Tea Cakes

Iced Lemon Knot Cookies

Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti

Gingerbread Cookies

Lasagne Bolognese

Ingredients:

1 box of no-boil lasagna

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (as much as you like)

For the Bolognese Sauce
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
1 small onion or large shallot
2 T butter and Olive oil each
¾ lb of ground beef
¾ lb ground veal
2 Tbsp of tomato paste
2 Tbsp of flour 
½ cup of white wine
4 cups of chicken broth
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 Tbsp rosemary
1 Tbsp thyme 
salt and pepper to taste


For the Bechemel Sauce:

1/4 cup of butter (1 stick)
2 cups of milk
1/4 cup of flour
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
Process
For the Bolognese Sauce:
Process the carrot, celery and onion in a food processor until fine.
Heat the butter and olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Sauté the processed vegetables in the skillet until soft—about 10 minutes.
Then, add the ground beef and veal and cook thoroughly.
Next, add the tomato paste and flour to the skillet and stir until well combined.
Now add the white wine, and simmer until most of the liquid has reduced.
Add the chicken stock and all the herbs. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer for about 45 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste!
For the Bechemel Sauce:
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.
Add the flour and stir constantly until the mixture starts to turn a golden color.
Add the milk and stir until it starts to thicken. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste!
Assembly:

Bring a large stock pot filled with water to a boil. Salt the boiling water and add in the lasagne noodles. Boil for about 3-4 minutes. You don't want to cook them, you just want to get them started. Even though we indicated no-boil pasta, boiling them for a short amount of time prevents a dry lasagna. You don't have to pre-boil, but if you don't, add a bit more sauce to the dish for extra moisture.

Grease a 9x13" oven-proof dish with butter. Add a row of the lasagna noodles.  Layer Bolognese sauce on top of the noodles, then dollop a little Bechemel on top of that. Continue layering until all the noodles have been used.

The top layer should be a Bolognese layer with Bechemel around the edges (as seen in the above photo). Dust the top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes at 350°F degrees.  

 

 

 

Thursday
Apr042013

Eat Like It's Easter All Year

Today, I'm bringing you the Iaciofano Easter 2013 highlights. These recipes can (and should) be made all year long.

For example, the first dish was something I made up! I ran around the Morristown King's produce department picking up fruits and vegetables that matched. In color. Just to see what would happen. The result was a Golden Beet, Blood Orange and Pineapple Roast (pictured above). This recipe is fantastic all year long, as beets are easily attainable. You could use canned pineapple in a pinch. But try not to pinch, ok? 

Here's how to do it:

What You Need:

3 large golden beets, roasted and chopped into cubes (recipe below)

1 blood orange, peeled and chopped into cubes (remove seeds)

2 cups cubed pineapple

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

fresh cilantro, chopped (as much as you like)

1/3 cup shredded, unsweetended coconut (i actually prefer the big flakes instead of the smaller shredded kind)

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

What To Do:

First, roast the beets. Remove the leafy stems, and slice the beets in half. Wrap each loosely in aluminum foil and place in an oven heated to 400 degrees. Bake until soft when pierced with a knife - about 40 minutes.

Remove the beets from the oven and allow to cool. Remove the skins from the beet, and chop into cubes (BONUS: because these are golden beets, they won't stain your hands like the red ones!).

Break out a cast iron skillet, or some kind of other shallow baking dish. I used this amazing copper one that I found at a flea market. It's French! Oolala!

Throw the chopped beets in the dish, along with all the other chopped fruits and veggies. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, cilantro and coconut.

Place the dish back in the oven (which should still be at 400 degrees, and bake for about 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and garnish with more fresh cilantro, if you like. Serve!

And then we roasted some MORE. And we couldn't get enough of this crazy copper dish, so we used it again. But this time, we did it on the stove top. Oh yes, there is more than one way to skin a cat, people. Or in this case, a tomato.

For this, we used Ina Garten's recipe for Garlic and Herb Tomatoes, which you can find here.

And then Toby and I went for a walk.

I discovered that Toby is camera shy. 

John and I, however, are not.

And then we had some cupcakes. Colossal Coconut Cupcakes. These are intense. There's coconut everywhere. In the cake, in the icing, garnishing the icing, in my hair...all over the floor...on the dog. The Box hated it. He dislikes coconut. The rest of us were thrilled. These would be fabulous at a summer BBQ. Just saying...

This recipes is also from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. Marmo loves the Barefoot Contessa. I've always been more of a principessa myself, but that's another story. You can find the cupcake recipe here.

And then, Aunt Emily harassed John about getting a hair cut. Like a man, she said. Like his father. And then she looked pointedly at my mother and asked, "What's wrong with these kids?"

But that's also another story...

 

Tuesday
Apr242012

Elana in France! Followed by the Iaciofano's on Maneuvers in Italy!

This is big news. BIG. Nope, you're not thinking big enough....therrrre you go. Ok, here it is:

Starting tomorrow (that means Wednesday) I will be leaving town. Just for a spell, I'll be coming back (I think). I'm going to France to cycle with my triathlon team, Full Throttle. We are going to be landing in Nice and cycling parts of the Tour De France. This will most likely be the most difficult cycling I've ever done.

Consider the itinerary:

Intimidating, no? However! We will be stopping for wine and food along the way. For those of you that read the above graphic, you will have noted that we actually stop for a wine tasting in between legs of one of the bike rides. This strikes me as hilarious.

I've only ridden a bike a few times after drinking. The first time was in Paris, and the bike had a flat tire. It was one of those pay-a-Euro-take-a-bike dealio's. I had a confusing conversation with an inebriated Parisian about the state of my bicycle.

The other times have been on the handlebars (yes, I'm aware this isn't safe) of my giant pink beach cruiser, piloted by John as we depart from some Jersey Shore related entertainment (namely, The Sea Shell on LBI).

So this will be a new experience! I'm hoping it will look everything like this...

image from: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/07/2009_tour_de_france.html...And nothing like the Paris or LBI experiments. But we shall see.

Immediately afterwards, I am hopping on one of those high speed trains (at this point I will probably be thankful for a mode of transport that propels itself) and going to Milan, Italy where I will meet the rest of the Iaciofano's (three in total: Marmo, The Box and John) for a reverse carbo-loading experience.

Here is the Italian itinerary:

This agenda, as you can see, is woefully lacking in detail. Where are we eating? What are we doing? And what is this mysterious villa mentioned on May 5th? This agenda was supplied by the enigmatic Marmo, so no one should be surprised by the scarcity of information. SHE knows exactly what's happening. The rest of us are clueless.

And so, this is how we will roll through Northern Italy, as Marmo (a.k.a. The Little General) marches us to heaven only knows where!

I'm not sure if this is more or less frightening than the drunk cycling. Both are likely to cause some kind of international incident.

What is it that you pack for such an adventure? I'm going with "everything" or so it would seem from this snapshot of my packing area:

That is a terrifying mess, is it not? Let's have that in a close-up:

Even scarier. Anyway, I promise to get this under control. I also promise to keep you updated. Once a day I will post something to this blog. It will most likely be an iPhone camera snippet of what's going on. What's been eaten, seen, stumbled upon, and hopefully not crashed into.

I invite you to join me, my fellow cycling maniacs and my family as we traipse around Europe and attempt to behave ourselves! Stay tuned....

Friday
Apr132012

Food Foto Friday – Random Stuff!

I've been spending some time at Iaciofano HQ lately and rummaging around Marmo's kitchen. 

I don't recommend doing this without safety goggles, by the way. Random stuff sort of JUMPS out at you....sometimes from the refrigerator, sometimes from the drawers....sometimes you can't even open the drawers at all.

But when you can, and you do there are exciting things inside. I compiled some of the more interesting ones for this post which I am titling "Random Old Cooking Utensils and One Golden Beet." 

It will be on display at the MOMA next month.

An antique pie dish!

An old meat grinder (think meatballs, people. Meat. Balls.)

And that golden beet! We later roasted this little guy to rave reviews.

These photos are purely for your enjoyment. I'm messing around with food and design and I wanted to share.

• Please note: This will not be on exhibit at the MOMA next month. Or the month after that...

Friday
Dec232011

Iaciofano Family Christmas 2011 – Prep Time!

It's that time of year again, folks! Time for Santa to squeeze his corpulent figure through tiny crevices for the purpose of Easy Bake Oven delivery. Time for Aunt Emily to drink tumbler after tumbler of gin on the rocks while complaining about John's hair and the lack of grandchildren in the family. Time for The Box to don his baby blue bathrobe and distribute gifts to his 30-something children.

Let me tell you this: a good time will be had by all.

In preparation, Marmo has stocked the fridge with all kinds of edible nonsense. Behold!

I've itemized some of the more exciting residents of the fridge:

1. Grapefruit Juice: for making this drink.

2. Orange Crush: The Box's beverage of choice.

3. Truwhip: The all-natural alternative to CoolWhip.

4. Limoncello: For proper Italian digestion. Make your own like this.

5. A Lot of Seafood: Christmas Eve is all about the seven fishes. I believe Marmo has plans to combine all seven of them into one masterful, magnum opus of a seafood salad. Stand by for that.

6. Tomatoes: And a lot of them. I don't know what these are for specifically, but I'm sure we'll put them to good use.

7. Brussels Sprouts: Roast 'em!

8. A Red Pepper: Roast this too!

In addition to an overflowing refrigerator, Iaciofano HQ is also crammed to the gills with cookies. Marmo has taken to hiding them around the house because both The Box and John will find and eat them all before Santa has a chance to get his white-gloved mitts on them.

In fact, The Box has something to say about MARMO AND THE CASE OF THE HIDDEN CHRISTMAS COOKIES:

As Christmas approaches each year, Marmo devotes her considerable talents to the creation of a range of exceptionally edible Christmas cookies.  She packs these cookies always in a selection of tins intending to preserve them from consumption until the holiday actually arrives.  That is where the fun starts!
 
Just as Sherlock had his nemesis, Professor Moriarty, Marmo is bedeviled by John and The Box who, individually and together, do their best to locate each cookie stash and, of course, to eat all cookies found with no thought of preserving any for the holiday.  An appropriate image for the reader to have in their mind would be of two white sharks  cruising the beach of a fat farm.  In years past, total decimation of the cookie population has occurred well in advance of Christmas causing Marmo to have to engage in a fit of re-baking amidst screams, admonitions (and denials).

Over the years, Marmo has become sneakier and sneakier in her efforts to hide cookies in locations that she hopes are immune from discovery.  Sometimes these efforts work, and sometimes they don’t.

As the score sheet has not been filled in for this year, we bring you some of Marmo’s favorite hideouts.  No doubt, John and The Box will be up to their usual tricks. The Box has threatened to employ Toby in the process...

If you are ever at the Iaciofano house at Christmas time, here is where you can find the cookies:

In the laundry room above the dryer, keeping things like bubble wrap and shoe polish company:

In the bottom most drawer under the "catch-all" shelf in the kitchen:

In the cabinets where the "seasonal" and "random" dinnerware is stored:

 John Chimes in: First let me say... J.....   E..... T.....  S....... JETS JETS JETS!  Christmas could start a bit earlier this year in the Iaciofano household if Rex and Gang Green deliver a Christmas Eve, Revis Island smackdown to the stupid a$$ Giants.   Ironically, the spread of the game (last I checked, the Jets giving two and a half poitns) is the same number value assigned to myself and the Box's over/under for cookie tin's cleaned out during the game.  I devour those Christmas tree shortbreads like it's popcorn.

But aside from the Jets. It is our wish that all readers of this blog - and I suppose non-readers too - have the Merriest of Christmases/Holidays/Festivuses.  And while you cannot physically join us at the table, rest assured that you'll be hearing about all of the food, antics, and Aunt Emily sponsored Italian guilt trips in the days that follow.  Happy Holidays. 

Oh, and for those asking the obvious question - "John, aren't you going post your amazingly creative and hilarious 'Twas the Night Before Christmas poem for all to read?"  Why, yes.  It's right here.  Thank you for the compliments.