Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by Nicole at Cultural Comments Blog. Thank you for the honor. I 'met' Nicole through her blog when she was updating the world about the October 25th mudslide and flood devastation that occurred in Vernazza and Monterosso, in the Cinque Terre, Italy.
I want to be part of the solution for full quick recovery for these two beautiful towns. Each September, I bring a group of women to Monterossso, where I teach a transformational workshop, ITALY RETREAT FOR WOMEN to live la dolce vita. We also travel to Italian Riviera towns, including Vernazza. I love most areas of Italy, but especially the Cinque Terre. It's a magical land, and Nicole is one of the bloggers who has kept the world informed about the devastation and recovery--a sweet gift of service. The Cinque Terre is a listed as a world heritage site, and I'm just saying they must be rebuilt.
DONATION TO CINQUE TERRE: So, before reading any further, if you would like to donate to their recovery, (any amount is appreciated), please click HERE The money goes directly to rebuilding Monterosso and Vernazza. Another local site created by four expats, that directly supports Vernazza is SaveVernazza.
Now....back to the Versatile Blogger Award! There are a few rules:
Rule #1: Link back to the person that gave you the award
Rule #2: Pass this award on to 15 other deserving blogs
Rule #3: Share seven facts about yourself
15 Bloggers I read and enjoy for many different reasons. Some write about Italy, travel, food, or life experiences in general...but all inspire, educate and comfort me. Read their blogs and enjoy!
I nominate the following wonderful BLOGGERS for the Versatile Blogger Award.
1) Bleeding Espresso
2) 2 Baci in a Pinon Tree
3) My Bella Vita
4) Diario di una Studentessa Matta
5) Euro Bimbo
6) Who's Your Gladys?
7) My Melange
8) White Hot Truth
11) A Path To Lunch
13) Bell' alimento
7 Things About Me:
1. I have dual citizenship with Italy. I have 100% Italian heritage as both sets of grandparents immigrated to the US from Italy in the early 1900's. I love all things Italian.
2. When I traveled to Italy in 2006 for the first time, I met over 40 relatives. One aunt I met was Aunt Carmella, who was 92 years old, and my maternal grandfather's baby sister. When my grandfather was 17, he left for America alone, before she was even born. They first met when she was 50 years old and he was 67.
3. I have meditated twice a day and have done yoga for 38 years since I was 20 years old.
4. My life's work has been focused on helping individuals to be happier, to create an enriched life, and all the possibilities that brings. I started teaching workshops on marriage and parenting three decades ago, and have been focused on helping individuals break free from limiting beliefs, so they can be happier and healthier for the past 20 years. Love my one-one-one work that I do coaching over the phone and in person.
5. I love gardening and have been eating healthy wholesome organic foods my whole adult life. I'm a foodie. It's important for me to eat well, spend time in nature and get exercise.
6. Cooking and traveling are great passions. Love to watch the cooking channel and Food Network shows. Italy is my favorite place to visit, and my life's goal is to visit every part of each region of Italy, and to live here several months every year. I have visited France, Holland, Germany, Italy, England, Cayman Islands, Mexico, India, Canada, Cayman Islands, Virgin Islands, and Tahiti.
7. Reading has always been a fun past-time for me. I usually read self-help books and cookbooks, but also memoirs, novels and books about Italy.
Blessings to all of you!
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
I wanted to bake a light cookie for the Christmas holidays, and the Florentine Lace Cookies fit the bill. This recipe is from An Edible Mosaic which was adapted from Food Network Kitchens. I made a few changes also. For one thing, I used agave liquid instead of corn syrup. There are only three tablespoons of flour in the whole recipe, so almost gluten-free, if that matters to you. I love the nutty orange taste combination, and the kitchen smells deliciously of nuts and citrus for several days after. Besides, they are so lacey thin, how could they have many calories!?
Please note: Only place 9 cookies on the cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, or else they will run together. It's highly suggested that you just bake one pan at a time, which keeps you in the kitchen longer, but well worth the effort.
Florentine Lace Cookies: 6 dozen (3-inch) cookies
1 3/4 Cups sliced blanched almonds or pecans (5 oz), finely chopped
3 TBL all-purpose flour
1 orange zest, finely grated (about 2 TBL)
1/4 tsp fine salt
3/4 C white sugar
2 TBL heavy cream
2 TBL light corn syrup (I use agave as I do not use corn syrup).
5 TBL unsalted butter
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2-4 oz semisweet chocolate (I use ghirardelli)
Place a rack in the center of oven and preheat to 350 F; line a baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
In food processor, pulse almonds until 'finely' chopped but not pasty.
PHOTO #1: In separate bowl, stir together the nuts, flour, zest, and salt.
PHOTO #2: In small saucepan, add the sugar, cream, liquid agave, and butter. Cook over medium heat (stirring occasionally) until sugar dissolves and comes to a rolling boil; continue to boil for 1 minute. Turn off heat and add vanilla.
Then pour liquid into almond mixture and stir just to combine. Set aside until cool enough to handle, but do not let it cool as it will harden!
NOTE: (I've read that the dough must be dropped onto cookie sheets while it is still warm. Once it cools, it crumbles and becomes unworkable. So, you may need to place cookie balls onto many pieces of parchment paper, while dough is warm. They will then be ready for the oven, as soon as one pan comes out. If cookie dough gets too cold, try adding 1/3 C water, so it is workable, NOT crumbly).
PHOTO #3: Scoop 1/2 teaspoonful onto parchment lined cookie sheet. 9 to a sheet. (Cookie balls should be smaller than a quarter). Cookies will end up being about 3 inches in diameter, as they spread a lot.
Bake one pan at a time until the cookies are thin and an even golden brown color throughout, about 8-10 minutes, rotating the pan after 5 minutes. Set the timer as they can burn easily. Once cookies are out of the oven, slide the parchment paper off the cookie tray, and allow cookies to cool completely before removing from parchment.
PHOTO #4: Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, or place chocolate inside a smaller pan, that fits into a larger pot with boiling water. You can drizzle chocolate on top of cookies or sandwich it between two cookies. Or add chocolate into a sandwich bag, then place the bag in a pan of barely simmering water to melt. Remove bag when chocolate is melted and snip off the corner of bag to squeeze chocolate squiggles onto cookies. Allow chocolate to set on cookies before storing.
Store in an air tight container at room temperature. They freeze well also.
Enjoy your holidays! Buon Natale! Merry Christmas. May your cookies fill your house with sweetness.
Let me know how your Florentine Lace cookies turn out.
Monday, November 7, 2011
Video of the flood in Vernazza, of the Cinque Terre, and cars being washed away on Tuesday, October 25.
Hiking Trail and the Vernazza Harbor BEFORE THE FLOOD:
Last week I wrote about the flooding and mudslide devastation in Monterosso, and today, about another beautiful Cinque Terre town, Vernazza.
It's hard to believe that only a month ago, I was hiking the Cinque Terre Trails, and marveling at the beauty of the five villages. When I think of Vernazza, I remember eating pesto pizza under colorful umbrellas on the promontory by the sea, and then lying on the stone walls in the harbor watching the Italian water taxi owners navigating into the idyllic turquoise waters of the harbor.
Artists and photographers love capturing this perfection. Participants of my Italy Retreat for Women and I passed a lazy afternoon digesting the pizza and resting from our 90 minute breathtaking hike from Monterosso to Vernazza, which included hundreds and hundreds of steps. A wedding was taking place at the church, and my group and I thought we were in heaven or shangri-la. We truly deeply experienced la dolce fa niente, the sweetness of doing nothing.
Then, like a horror movie, on Tuesday, October 25, this jewel on the Italian Riviera was covered with up to 12 feet of mud. Cars, boats, and possessions were sucked like corks in an undertow, into a mudslide and street turned into a raging river.
I have spent a week each year, for the past three years, in Cinque Terre, and this year I repeatedly commented that the water was crystal clear, more beautiful than any other time. It reminded me more of the Caribbean. Now the harbor water is muddy and the streets and piazza covered with mud.
But, they will recover, although our support is crucial.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Firstly, plan to visit the Cinque Terre during the tourist season, so that their businesses can prosper. Secondly, please give to their recovery fund. Every small amount will add up. This is a part of the world that is paradise, and we can help insure that it rebuilds.
Several ex-pats from the US, who now live in Vernazza, have created a website called Save Vernazza ONLUS, so you can donate DIRECTLY to Vernazza. Please spread the word.
If you have ever visited Cinque Terre, you would know this is a cause worth supporting. And if you have not had the pleasure, please add Cinque Terre to your travel list in 2012, or join me in September 2012 as I will be returning there for my Italy Retreat for Women.
The residents of Vernazza were evacuated, however, members of the army and rescue team have continued with the clean-up.
You can view a video of the clean up progress that has been made so far at YouReporter.it.
Be sure also to visit Nicole at CulturalComments Blog for more photos and updated information on Vernazza.
Photo credit: Before photos I took in September of Vernazza Harbor and some of the steps on the Vern-Monterosso Trail
Photo credit: After the flood: from Come To Liguria Blog.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Shockingly, on Tuesday, October 25, mudslides and flash floods turned beautiful Monterosso and Vernazza upside down (along with other towns in southern Liguria and northern Tuscany). Cinque Terre, a World Heritage Site, consists of five pictueresque villages, where annually tens of thousands of tourists hike the connecting trails, and visit the quaint stores, restaurants, and hotels. Even more distressing is the idea that hundreds of the local people are homeless.
Monday, September 26, 2011
“Art has a magic quality: the more minds that digest it, the longer it lives.” ~~~Michelangelo
My Italy Retreat extended this year because we also wanted to explore Florence and Tuscany after our Cinque Terre adventure and workshop.
This is my third time to view David, Michelangelo's 14 foot sculpture. It brings tears to my eyes every time. My heart expands, my mind slips, and my soul soars. Just having read"The Agony and The Ecstasy" by Irving Stone, I had a deeper connection to the David because I understood what Michelangelo experienced from age 13 to his death at about age 90. The 700 page book serves us a delicious treat with every turn of the page. So, in returning to the Accademia Museum in Florence a few days ago, I really feel like I knew the man, the artist and the essence of the Renaissance. Irving Stone expertly invited me to walk beside Michelangelo, sharing his agonies and ecstasies. I hope you can read the book, and then visit David in Florence.
The Renaissance was a period of history where art, life, and the essence of humanity were lifted to extraordinary heights. Now in the 21st century, every day we have a chance to experience our own renaissance. To spend time each day enjoying beauty and upliftment through nature, music, art, literature, conversation, connection....and in our thoughts.
Take notice of the thoughts you are nurturing each day. Do they uplift your personal renaissance, or contract your history? Do they lead you to expansive changes or shackle you to limitations?
It's been said that at least 60% of the world's art is housed in Italy. 100% of the world's beauty is housed in each of you. Are you nurturing that beauty? What thoughts are you sowing for your future production? Yes, art has a magic quality, and so do your thoughts.
I see that if each of us focused on beauty every day, what a glorious world we could create.
May you rise to your own renaissance every day!
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Pastry roller, yard stick, ruler
5 lbs. flour, all purpose
2 C sugar
2 oz. yeast or 3 dry packets
3 C white or red wine
Whiskey (a jigger)
¾ C Crisco, butter, or oleo
1 stick oleo, butter or oleo
Put Crisco, oleo, and wine in pot and heat until melted. Set aside and cool, then add whiskey.
In a separate bowl, dissolve yeast in 1 ½ C warm water. Add 1 TBL sugar to the yeast mixture.
Whisk the eggs. Then add sugar to eggs. Add buttery mix to this. Pour yeast mix into the buttery mix.
Add flour to this. Mix dough and knead until smooth and elastic on lightly floured surface. Dough should not be sticky. Let sit about 5 minutes to rest.
4 ½ lbs raisins. Soak raisins a few minutes and drain well.
1 orange cut and put in processor, rind and all, until crushed fine. (Or zest orange peel, and chop orange and squeeze juice)
3 lbs walnuts (chopped coarse, not fine)
1 ¾ C sugar
1 Tbl cinnamon
½ C. honey
1 ½ C orange orange juice
Mix all ingredients to marinate for two hours or overnight for the filling.
Vegetable oil in small bowl, and sugar shaker needed as you roll the pitas.
Weigh dough 7 ¼ oz. for each pita piata. Pat into ball and then use a rolling pin slightly before using pasta machine. Make oblong pieces of dough so they are uniform to fit through the pasta machine. Start machine on #1, then 2,3,4 as you run the dough through pasta machine. Measure dough 27” by 3”. Use curly edged pastry cutter to cut edges. Yard stick to measure the 27”. (Or cut the dough in half to more easily use pasta machine. Then each piece will measure 13 ½”. You would join the two pieces together after they were filled.)
Brush vegetable oil along the strip of dough. (Have small bowl with oil and brush)
Sprinkle sugar generously on strip. (Extra sugar to shake or sprinkle)
Use 1 Cup filling along dough toward top edge of strip.
Fold dough over the filling. Press firmly to hold the filling in, but DO NOT seal edges. Start rolling at one end grabbing the dough with the one hand. Start by putting finger in and roll loosely so it will cook in center. Complete rolling like a snail in a circle (see photo), and put 3-4 toothpicks on the outside to hold it together. Cook on parchment papered cookie sheets, about 45-60minutes till golden brown. Pitas should not touch the edges of the pans as they burn more easily.
325 degree oven.
Makes approx 17 six inch pita piatas, rosettes.
Cool on racks, then lightly pour honey in circles over the tops of each pita. You can freeze these and they taste fresh when you take them out of the freezer.
Do you have any favorite Italian dessert recipes?
12/13/11: This is the photo that Rosalie sent showing how her husband's family makes the 'Pita Piata' in a pan: