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Last week, I made some cookies for an auction. I made three different kinds, and it was really fun.Lately, baking has been my preferred way of passing time. As long as things are happening in the kitchen, it’s all good!

During the month of April, several friends came over for dinner on different occasions. I made my first leg of lamb for Easter, then another night had a group of college girls I meet with over for a lasagna dinner. College kids are the best, because you can feed them anything you make, and it’s like they’ve died and gone to heaven! That makes my heart glad to see them enjoy what I make.  There is something so intimate that takes place when someone is in your home, and I love what takes place around the table during meals. Better yet, I love getting to the dessert part!

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Every other Wednesday night, I co-facilitate a group called All things Italian, and it is an Italian conversation group for people who love Italy, and want to learn Italian. Once a month we have a party at someone’s house. This month, I made this tart for the party. Fruit tarts are one of my favorite things to make and eat!

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One of my favorite things to do in life is going to a cafe, and getting together with friends. In this case, I snuck in some of my shortbread Nutella cookies for my friend, and we spent a couple of hours catching up.

I’m hoping to write more often in the coming weeks. I have hardly had a chance to stop and catch my breath lately, but it feels so good to sit and write for a bit, even if it is just to ramble on…

Thank you for visiting, and I hope you have a blessed, abundant day!

 

 

 

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Life can be funny sometimes.  It’s interesting how you may set out in one direction, only to go in another.  Or, you may go in two different ones.

I haven’t been too active in promoting my personal chef business, mainly because I have had chronic pain in my heel due to plantar fasciitis. I know it sounds like a minor thing, however, it is so painful just to stand on it, and do the things I need to do on a regular basis, and the thought of standing up for several hours a day cooking and cleaning for clients in addition to my family feels out of reach until I can get the pain taken care of.

I have taken on one client, however, and I enjoy cooking for her every other Saturday. My Mom lives an hour north of me, and since my Dad passed away three years ago, she hasn’t much felt like cooking for herself. She has very simple taste, so I don’t have to do a lot to keep her happy. I just cook up a meal on the stove, and one in the crock pot for her, so she will have meals to eat right away, and some to freeze.

For now, that has been enough to keep me busy on the cooking front, however, I do look forward to being more active with my business, once my heel gets better.

For now, I have started teaching Italian lessons as another way to keep busy. So far, I have three students that I am teaching privately, and I am hoping to start up group classes for both beginner and intermediate students. I love being able to teach this beautiful language, and for now it is a wonderful way to stay engaged without being on my feet!

I have a couple of auctions coming up in the spring, and I will be donating some European gourmet cookies, so I will be doing practice runs on those soon, and posting more photos, but for now, I am taking it easy, and cooling my heels 🙂

 

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Hello, and welcome back! If you would like to know how I make my tiramisu, I would love to share it with you.  Again, I would say that even if you like it the traditional way, just try my way for fun. You really have nothing to loose!

Here are the ingredients you will need, and as far as special equipment, a mixer is a must! I shared this recipe with a dear friend, who was in New Zealand temporarily and did not have a mixer. Let’s just say the consistency will not turn out right if you try to mix it by hand. You can whisk it all day, but you will end up with a soupy mess! So if you don’t have one, borrow one!  You will also want an espresso maker a 9×9 square dish, unless you would like to make individual cups like the one pictured above. That is a fun option for a small dinner party!

Espresso freshly brewed in a large espresso maker

6 egg yolks

7 Tbsp. sugar,

500 grams mascarpone (Italian cream cheese, usually found in the specialty cheese section) I use three 8 oz. tubs. Galvani is a good brand, or one that specifically says to use for tiramisu. One other bit of advice…Once I used Whole Food’s  brand, and while it may be fine for other things, the consistency is all wrong for this dessert. It should be firm and dense, and this brand is much too runny.

@ 1 shot glass of sweet marsala

Unsweetened cocoa powder (qb) is used in Italian that means “as much as is needed.” for dusting the top at the end.

Start making your espresso.  I use an espresso maker that holds about six small cups. While it is brewing, open the biscuits ( shown on previous blog post), and make two layers. You may have to split the cookies in half for them to fit in the pan.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat egg yolks and sugar until combined, and very creamy. (About 5 minutes) Don’t rush this step. The mixture should look like a creamy custard. Add the mascarpone, and combine until smooth.  Keep an eye on your espresso Once it is done, remove from heat, and allow to cool a bit.

Once the espresso has cooled down some, but not too much, poor over the biscuits until both layers are saturated. Don’t pour all of the espresso on the biscuits, as you don’t want them to be soggy. As you pour, look for dry spots, and try to avoid leaving areas dry, while not drenching them. It may take a couple practice runs before you get just the right consistency. Pour custard mixture over coffee soaked biscuits, and spread evenly.  Cover with saran wrap, and allow to sit overnight.  It should be nice and firm, and the flavors have time to blend the longer it is left to sit.

Right before you are ready to serve the tiramisu, dust with unsweetened cocoa powder.

Since there are raw eggs, it is recommended that women who are pregnant and very young children do not eat it. Also, keep the rest of the tiramisu refrigerated.

Enjoy!!

PS If you do try this recipe, I would love to know your thoughts 🙂

 

 

 

 

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Many years ago when I was living in Rome, I was introduced to Tiramisu for the very first time, and I was hooked! I had to have this recipe, so I asked my friend Simona who introduced it to me if she would share it. Thankfully, she agreed, and I have been making this version for decades. Now, before I go any further, I know exactly what you are thinking as you are looking at the picture. Where is the middle layer of ladyfingers?

Well, at the risk of being disowned from all of my Italian friends and family, I am just going to get this out there. I feel like ladyfingers tend to absorb too much of the espresso, making the consistency kind of mushy, and rendering the taste slightly bitter. Having tried it both ways, I feel very partial to my version. It all comes down to preference, though, so please don’t take offense if you prefer the more traditional tiramisu.  If, however, you are remotely curious about my twist on tiramisu, and want to try making it differently than everyone else, I am going to reveal my secret ingredient. Are you ready?

They are called “Leibniz Butter Biscuits.” I used to dip them in my cappuccino for breakfast when I lived in Italy, so perhaps the combination of espresso and these little biscuits remind me of those days. For whatever reason, I am partial to them!

I have been using them for 25 years, and my recipe has been wildly successful. Since I am only part Italian, I feel like I can deviate a bit from the norm. Although, I did learn this recipe from an Authentic Italian, so maybe there are a few other people out there who do it this way as well. While these little butter cookies are flat, and they may not give you the extra layer of fluffiness in the middle that makes the more traditional tiramisu, just hear me out. You could see that as a drawback, or you could focus on the perfect consistency that happens when the espresso is absorbed just enough into the bottom two layers of these buttery biscuits, providing a lovely vehicle for the delicious custard, instead of the espresso taking over entirely through the ladyfingers. I know I am treading on sacred ground here, but in contrast, with these biscuits, the espresso brings out their buttery taste, so you are able to enjoy all of the flavors without the soggy middle. (Again, just my opinion!)

Lastly, in addition to using these biscuits, only the best ingredients should be used for the tiramisu to be a success. I think that even if my fellow Italians have shunned me for questioning the use of the sacred ladyfinger, they would agree you must never use an inferior brand of espresso, which is why I recommend Illy. Don’t cut corners on the espresso part of this recipe. Always use a high quality one. If you use the best ingredients, your tiramisu should be a big hit!

So, for those of you who are interested in taking the road less traveled, I will post my beloved Tiramisu recipe next time!

 

 

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Ciambella Marmorizzata  (Large Marbled Donut Cake)

This is a cake that is not meant to be eaten for dessert, as it is not overly sweet. It is a wonderful snack for everyone from kids to adults, and is also perfect for breakfast with your cappuccino! I found this on one of my favorite Italian websites called giallozafferano.it. You can look it up and search for the above title. The thing I love about this website is that there are pictures to follow! You can also have the option to translate the recipe into English, but sometimes the translations are not the best.
Ingredients for the base dough for a 24 cm. ciambella

200 g. butter softened to room temperature
16 g. baking powder
5 eggs at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
455 g. Flour (type 00)
300 g. sugar
1 pinch of fine salt
250 g. whole milk
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For the white dough
45 g. Flour (type 00)
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For the black (chocolate) dough
30 g. powdered bitter cacao
15 g. whole milk
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Powdered sugar to dust
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To prepare the ciambella marmorizzata, begin adding the soft butter in pieces together with the sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer, using the whisk attachment. Add the pinch of salt, and the vanilla. Begin mixing, until the mixture is white and creamy.
In another bowl, crack the eggs, and beat them lightly. Add them a little at a time into the mixer, as you continue to mix, until the mixture is combined without lumps. This will take around five minutes. In another bowl, sift the flour and baking powder together. (Chef’s secret that you may already know… I sift the flour 3 times, and no less! Your cake will be lighter and fluffier). Add the flour and baking powder mixture into the mixture one tablespoon at a time, always continuing to mix, adding only when the preceding mixture is completely absorbed into the dough. Finally, add 250 grams of milk. When the milk is completely incorporated into the mixture, turn off the mixer.
Divide the mixture into equal parts (around 745 g. each), putting them into two separate bowls. In the one that will be the white dough, sift (just once) 45 g. of remaining flour, into mixture, adding it gently. In the other bowl, that will be the chocolate one, sift 30 g. of the bitter powdered cacao into the mixture, and add the 15 g. of whole milk that is left. Add these ingredients gently, as well. Now you have obtained both the white and chocolate dough. Now, transfer the two colored doughs into two separate sac-a-poche. Insert both sac-a-poche into a third one that is larger or that holds both, and bring the three points together, cutting them with a pair of scissors. Grease and flour a fancy bundt cake pan that is 24 cm. and distribute the bi-colored mixture in zigzags. {This is where the picture is really helpful!}

Once the dough is in the pan, use a fork, and drag it through the mixture as necessary to combine the dough well. Cook the ciambella at 170 degrees (Celsius) for around 55-60 minutes, or in a convection oven at 150 degrees celsius for 45-50 minutes, covering with foil after thirty minutes if you see that it is browning to much on the top. Test for doneness with a knife or toothpick, and when done, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once it is completely cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar. (optional)
I have found that this cake tastes best the day after it has baked.

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Aside from cooking, I love sharing tasty recipes that I think you might enjoy. I thought it would be most appropriate to feature this as my first one, as it is from my cousin Charlotte Muia’s cookbook called Dishing It Out {Recipes That Work}. I am making it for an event at the end of next week.  I did a little practice run on it, and was thrilled with the results!

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Almond Short Dough With Limoncello Lemon Curd

1/4 cup almond flour
1 1/4 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. chilled, chopped unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
2 Tbsp. lemon zest (optional)

Combine dry ingredients in mixer using paddle. Slowly add butter pieces until it looks like bread crumbs. Add yolk and softly mix just to moisten. It should look dry. Press lightly into pan or other container and prick bottom with fork and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until golden. Cool.
Fill with lemon curd or other filling.

Lemon Curd Filling:
1/2 c. sugar
1Tbsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. lemon zest
1/4 c. limoncello (If you like the limoncello to be more subtle, use a smaller ratio of limoncello to lemon juice. This ratio is quite strong)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tsp. unsalted butter
3 beaten egg yolks in a heat proof bowl.

In saucepan stir together sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, lemon juice, butter, and cook until thick and bubbly. While stirring, SLOWLY add 1/2 cup of this to the beaten egg yolks to temper them. Then pour the yolk mix back into the saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Take off heat and cool slightly, then pour into the short dough pie or other container. Cover surface with clear plastic wrap to keep skin from forming on the surface. Chill for a few hours. This makes about 1 cup and will store in refrigerator for about a week.
Although this is for a small pie, it can also be formed into tarts, espresso cups or any small container. Let your imagination take over!
Original recipe by my cousin, Charlotte Muia from her cookbook Dishing It Out {Recipes That Work}

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In my last post, I promised to go into more detail about the meaning of gourmet nutrition. So, I opened the article, and was going to write a summary on the criteria food should have to be considered healthy and gourmet. I decided, however that instead of writing my own summary, which may end up being a plagiarized version of the article, I would insert the link, in case you would like to read it on your own. It is a very good read, however it is also a bit lengthy. So, here it is. https://www.precisionnutrition.com/when-gourmet-meets-nutrition.

If you read the article, the author gives a lot of very tangible ways to eat well without sacrificing taste and enjoyment. As I plan menus for this new year, my hope is to offer plenty of variety using the best ingredients.

My theory on why resolutions often fail is because they are often times too rigid, and don’t allow one to enjoy the occasional splurge. My hope is that Friday night dinners can be a combination of balanced eating, with a little treat every now and then. I definitely have goals this year of losing weight, and becoming more active. Knowing how I am wired, I need to have a reward system built into my plan. The occasional piece of tiramisu, for example will not throw me off completely. It’s just a little “pick you up,” which is what the name entails.  Everything in moderation, right?

I am dreaming up my first menu for February, and while I think I have chosen something, suggestions are always welcome! I look forward to experiencing heartfelt connections with you through food and community in the coming year!

 

 

 

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It’s almost the beginning of a New Year, and for those of you who know me, and what I have been up to during the month of December with my bake sale, you may think I focus primarily on desserts and sweet treats. While I love to bake, and unfortunately have very little discipline around chocolate, nutrition and healthy eating are things I do my best to prioritize the rest of the year.

I once read an article titled “Gourmet Nutrition,” and it so perfectly embodied my thoughts on food. Growing up in an Italian American family,  and having spent my teen years living in Italy, I came to appreciate delicious food, and have continued to value food, not only as a means to fill the void, but it is also a way to connect with friends and family, which is priceless. The difficulty around the enjoyment of good food is that it usually shows up in your waistline. What to do..

Many people think the worlds of gourmet cooking and healthy nutrition live in  contradiction to each other. Those who enjoy eating gourmet food think they have to sacrifice nutrition and beautiful presentation in order to eat nutritious food. Those who want to be lean think they have to sacrifice taste and enjoyment of food. At least, that is what I have observed.  I believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

I think you can have it both ways, which is why I love the term “gourmet nutrition.” Food can be flavorful and visually appealing, and nutritious, which is what my focus will be on as I provide dinners to my family and yours.

I will go into more detail about gourmet nutrition in my next post, however, I would like to briefly sum up my philosophy on food. I do my best to avoid extremes, and shy away from the latest trendy diets. Maybe they work for some, but not for me. I want to enjoy being creative with what I prepare, and want to love what I eat.

For me, the most important value I have around food is cutting out the processed stuff.  While it is impossible to cut out processed foods 100% of the time, I do my best to use real foods with the fewest number of ingredients possible.  It is important for me to know what is going into the foods I prepare.

Gluten free options will sometimes be available on my weekly menu, however I also have a weakness for freshly baked honey whole wheat bread. When I do use flour, I attempt to substitute whole wheat for white, maple syrup for white sugar, etc…in order to keep things on the healthier side without sacrificing too much flavor.  Several years ago, my friend Kim introduced me to a website called 100 Days of Real Food. The recipes cut out processed foods, and there are hundreds of easy and delicious ideas in the cookbooks and blog. It didn’t take me long to embrace this mindset, and incorporate these recipes into our lifestyle.

My dear Italian friends, Patty and Pamela introduced me to website they use called giallozafferano.it. The recipes are authentic, Italian ones I love to make. To prepare some of these is a true act of love, as they can be very time consuming, however, they are so much fun! The website is in Italian, however, it can also be translated into English. The challenge is learning how to do the conversions if you are not used to that. Patty and Pamela always tease me in regards to how complicated our system is with all of these measuring cups and spoons, etc…while I watch how they weigh everything, and it boggles the mind!

I will be the first to admit that I am not one to invent my own recipes from scratch. I admire anyone who can write their own cookbook. I want to always be careful to give credit where credit is due. After making a dish a time or two, I may give it my own twist according to what I like, however I will always tell you where I get my ideas. I was mentored by an amazing chef named Traci, and she always shared freely, and I want to do the same.

Well, all for now! Time to get dinner for my crew.

“For the happy heart, life is a continual feast.” Proverbs 15:15b