Apricot and Nut Cookies

We were among the lucky ones this Christmas: no nightmare travel stories to relate. It's all I have been hearing about from friends and family. My daughter arrived from New York City in between storms and was only a couple hours late.

My sister was not so fortunate. She had to worry about five children traveling to her Leland Michigan cabin and they were coming from both the east and west coast. The closest airport giving access to Leland is Traverse City but everyone traveling there has to make a stop-usually Grand Rapids, Detroit or Chicago. And the weather in those cities is always iffy in December and this year it was a lot more than iffy. Her daughter from San Francisco was stuck in Chicago for Christmas day. And if the photos of O'Hare are accurate, she had lots of company.

I don't like to brag (I'm going to anyway) but our Florida weather has been lovely so far this holiday. Not perfect, but really nice. Still, you can't get here if your plane is coming from an airport closed down by weather. So we sympathize because if affects us as well.

Lots of people can't imagine Christmas in Florida- but we really get into the spirit of the season; lots of lights, wreaths and outdoor decorations. I am in awe at some of the displays; the lighting has gotten so intricate. Of course in Florida we light up our palm trees rather than pine trees which is amusing the first time you see it. Deer, Santas, snowmen and snow globes decorate the lawns. Someone has a full size Santa descending from the roof on a rope; another has Santa on a huge swing.

And boat parades! I love the smaller parades like the one we have in Boca Raton; we missed it last year because the city just did not have enough money. But it was privately supported this year and back for us to enjoy. I find the larger cities like Ft. Lauderdale have boats that are somewhat more commercial- still fun to watch, but I like the down home look. Bridges are held open for the boats which of course causes problems if you have someplace to go other than the parade. Boat owners call on their friends to help decorate their boats- all sizes, large and small, and their enthusiasm is obvious as music is blaring and they are waving, cheering and hollering out Merry Christmas! as they pass by. Such fun to sit on the grass by the intercoastal waterway and wave back. This year someone set off a fireworks display that put the July 4th show to shame.
The boat parades put everyone in a holiday mood and to me that means planning holiday surprises in the kitchen. Now that I don't have small children at home and my grandchildren did not come this year, I did not make as many Christmas cookies as usual. But I do love using them as last minute gifts for friends so I tried some new recipes this year. I found an interesting recipe with apricots, almonds and pine nuts as ingredients and a frosting made with amaretto. Hmmmm. Sounded good to me so I made them. Delicious! They are rather nutty and chewy and have a very slight cinnamon flavor. But the frosting makes the cookie. My son was gobbling them down as fast as I could turn them out and my daughter was happy when I gave the last of them away as she said she would have eaten the entire plateful. Well, it's never off season for cookies so give these a try; make it a New Year's resolution: bake something new!

Apricot and Nut Cookies
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis, Everyday Italian

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

1 and 3/4 cups confectioners sugar
5 to 7 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur

Beat the butter, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Add the flour and stir until just blended. Mix in the apricots, almonds and pine nuts. The dough will be sticky at this point.

Transfer the dough to a sheet of wax paper and shape it into a log about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter, rolling the dough in the wax paper until the shape is right. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours.(After I rolled the dough in the wax paper and started to chill it, I opened the refrigerator door a few times to form it better.)Preheat your oven to 350° and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut the dough crosswise into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices and place them on the parchment paper. Space them evenly apart. Bake about 15 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are golden brown. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

To make the icing: mix the confectioners sugar and Amaretto and beat until smooth. I poured the frosting into a small baggie and made a tiny slit in a corner and then drizzled the frosting over the cookies. Allow to set, about 30 minutes.

This recipe makes about 2 to 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

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