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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cooking with Pancetta

Today I was a total cooking fiend - I decided to make meals to freeze for future use on those work days when there is just no time to cook. I don't usually like to freeze things, but I am going to try it to see how good the meals are. Perhaps many of you have good luck with this...if so, please pass on your wisdom to me :) I made two meals: a Polpettone (meatloaf) and slow-cooked Stewed Ribs. Both of these recipes called for some chopped pancetta. I don't know about you, but if I can shortcut any of these chopping rituals without compromising on quality, I will take it! I have found just such the thing for pancetta - Trader Joe's carries chopped pancetta from Citterio and it is absolutely perfect for using when you need to flavor your meals with pancetta. I have used it for many dishes, and it is perfect for Carbonara Sauce!! Mmmm...mmmm...anything with pancetta is delicious :)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Gratitude Friday - The Internet!!

I know that being thankful for the internet is kind of an odd thing to get excited about...but if you really think about it, you will see how many wonderful opportunities the internet has created. Speaking personally, I can say that without the internet I would have never met so many nice people! I have met people through blogging, through an online sight for speaking Italian, and through Etsy (the handmade forum where I have my photo notecards). Even though I have never met these people in person, I feel like I know them and can see their generous personalities shining through from the online discussions we have had.

The internet has also brought me closer to my loved ones in Italy. We have been able to stay in contact so much easier and the miles between us all but disappear! I "chat" with my cousins every week and keep current with all the daily activities! I feel like we are together for those precious moments!!

The internet's value for those quick "catch up" moments with family and friends not so far away is amazing as well. Keeping in touch has become all that much easier :)

Thank you to all those pioneers in the computer industry for allowing me to connect with so many wonderful people!! And I hope to one day be able to meet in person all my new online buddies!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My Inner Italian

Today I read an entry on Simple Italy's blog about someone's inner Italian and it inspired me to write about it as well. Here are my musings...

Italy has always been in my heart, only I didn’t realize it until I had my own children. I was raised by Italian immigrant parents who came to the US in the late 50’s. Back then, it was important to assimilate into your new culture. But both my parents had the good sense to teach me to speak Italian (in fact, I learned Italian before I learned English) and to continue speaking it to me throughout my life. As my relatives in Italy tell me, I am lucky because I never had to learn to speak a language – it was always there for me!
In so many ways, I am a true combination of American and Italian – and not really totally one or the other. Sometimes this is a bit unsettling because I feel I don’t really fit in with any one culture. My actions and decisions are based on my intuition which results from being exposed to both cultures throughout my life. But I feel that I have been blessed with the best of both worlds. My inner Italian is evident in so many aspects of my life from cooking to interpersonal relationships. I almost always cook in an Italian tradition – using fresh ingredients and creating simple, yet tasty meals. I enjoy sitting around the dinner table, long after the meal is over, to talk to my family or guests and to catch up on the happenings of the day. Whenever I hear a traditional Italian song, I am instantly happy and want to start dancing and singing to it. I love Italian home decor with its brightly hand decorated ceramics. To my eyes, there is nothing more perfect than seeing an Italian landscape – every part of Italy is beautiful. And it’s funny, I also have an inner Italian that worries like every good Italian “mamma” does about their children – are they eating enough? Are they sleeping well? Did they arrive home safely?
I can honestly say that when I am in Italy, I am at home. Italy is in my core and in my heart.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

When in the Mood for Pasta (and you don't want to cook)

Do you ever have those nights when you just want some great pasta, but you're not in the mood to cook it yourself? Well I have the place for you if you live in the San Jose area! In the middle of downtown Los Gatos is a tiny little place with some wonderful homemade pasta! There are only about 10 tables; the activity is bustling and the ambience is very nice with frescoes on the wall. It is simple and unpretentious (the napkins are in paper!), and the prices are reasonable. They have all the regulars (pasta alfredo, primavera, arrabiata) as well as lots of unique and, in my opinion, much more interesting pasta dishes. We had their special tortolloni filled with veal served with a light sauce of prosciutto, mushrooms and peas, and their Primadonna which was fettuccine tossed with spinach, pancetta and prawns in an olive oil and garlic sauce. Both were excellent! You can order a good bottle of imported Italian wine to go along with your dinner and you will leave with a happy tummy! We were there mid-week and it was packed, so it's best to make reservations in advance. The restaurant is called The Pastaria & Market. They even have a brisk take-out business! I was glad that I was finally able to experience their wonderful pasta - it's been in Los Gatos for 15 years but this was the first time that I was fortunate enough to eat there! I will definitely keep this place when I need to quench that occasional Pasta Fix!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Experience the Olive Harvest of 2010

A friend of mine is organizing this wonderful trip to Italy in November 2010...check it out!!

Spirit of Italy Tours Invites Guests to Experience the Splendors of Tuscany

During the Olive Harvest Season in November 2010

“Harvest Italia”, a seven night tour to Tuscany, Italy, November 1 – November 8, 2010, is designed to coincide with the annual olive harvest which occurs each year during this time period. The tour is offered by Spirit of Italy Tours, a boutique travel company offering small groups of travelers an intimate, one-of-a-kind journey to Tuscany. This family-friendly tour is centered in the Valdarno (Valley of the Arno River) region of Tuscany, an area rich with historical art and architecture and landscapes that appear to be straight out of a painted Renaissance masterpiece.

The cornerstone of Harvest Italia will be picking olives by hand at Casa Falcioni, a 10-acre property in the charming and central Tuscan town of Cavriglia that boasts an olive grove with nearly 600 olive trees belonging to the frantoio, leccino and moraiolo varieties. Situated atop a rolling hillside, Casa Falcioni is surrounded by cypress and chestnut trees and affords spectacular views of the Valdarno. Tour guests will learn how to pick olives and the traditional olive oil making process, as well as enjoy a guided tour by the Casa Falcioni proprietors to a local olive pressing facility to see self-picked olives turned into olive oil.

“Picking olives is a wonderful, relaxing and fun way to enjoy quality time with family and friends in a natural setting. It is easy, safe and a fun activity even for young children,” says Vicky Gray-Clark, Spirit of Italy Tours founder and operator. “Olive oil is a staple in the Italian diet and is growing more popular in the U.S. During previous visits to Casa Falcioni with our young son, we found the start-to-finish process of collecting olives followed by seeing them pressed into oil fascinating. Each Harvest Italia guest will be able to take home a bottle of olive oil made from their hand-picked olives which makes the experience even more rewarding.”

Leisurely paced, the Harvest Italia itinerary encourages guests to foster an intimate connection with the Tuscany landscape with time to savor the food and wine, and explore the sights, language, culture and indescribable beauty of the region during harvest season. In addition to olive picking, the carefully selected activities include visits to outdoor markets (mercati) that feature a variety of items from farm fresh local produce to cappuccino to Italian leather goods; a journey to the famous Fiera Antiquaria di Arezzo – considered one of Italy’s finest open-air antique markets; and venture deep into the cellars of a local winery known for producing outstanding Chianti. The itinerary also includes visits to Firenze, Siena and Cortona, an authentic Italian cooking demonstration featuring seasonal fare, and basic cooking techniques. Shoppers too will be pleased to know that in the immediate vicinity there are several luxury brand factory outlets, as well as discount leather warehouses where exceptional Italian handmade goods are available at reduced prices.

Additional information, including itinerary, pricing and registration is available on the Spirit of Italy Tours website: www.spiritofitalytours.com, or by contacting Vicky at vicky@spiritofitalytours.com.

Friday, October 23, 2009

It's Gratitude Friday

This is my first Gratitude Friday blog on the right day...yippee! Today I am thankful that my youngest daughter, who is 20, is home for the long weekend from her university! And the best thing is that we have her ALL to ourselves! All her local friends are away at school and so she will be spending time with her parents :) That means we will have lots of quality time together to catch up on the happenings of the last couple of months. Even though we talk on the phone and online, it's still not the same as seeing her lovely face in person. So, I'm off for some quality bonding time....until next time....

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

And We Eat the Agnolotti!!!

A few days ago, I posted a blog about making some agnolotti - but we didn't eat them that day. I spread them out on cookie sheets and froze them. When they were good and frozen, I collected them all and placed them in a freezer bag and stored them for future use! Well, last night we tried the creations! And they were just as good as imagined them to be. The pasta was tender and the filling was flavorful. They cooked fairly quickly and I scooped them up into a bowl. In the meantime, I browned some butter in a frying pan (very slowly, I may add, because butter burns really quickly!!) Once the butter was browned, I removed it from the heat and added some whole sage leaves. I let the sage impart its flavor to the butter for about 10 minutes. Then I poured the butter sauce over the agnolotti, added a bit of parmesan cheese (very little because I didn't want to spoil the taste of the sage), and a wonderful, simple meal was created! It was a big hit with the family. And the best thing is that I still have lots of frozen agnolotti to enjoy! I can't wait until the next time :)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Gratitude Friday (on Sunday)

I'm so excited that I have become part of the Gratitude Friday Club...thank you to those in charge! Unfortunately, I'm a bit late because I just realized that I was in the club :( But it's never too late to express gratitude!

For my first Gratitude Friday post, I couldn't pass the opportunity to express gratitude for what is most important in my life - my family! I am very fortunate to have so many wonderful people in my life from my parents, to my husband, to my children, to my cousins in Italy, to my in-laws, and to my dear friends that I consider as part of my extended family. These people have all been there for every important event in my life and have offered their support and love. Even though I don't consider myself to have a wide group of friends, but those that I have are friends for life. For me, quality is more important than quantity!! I know that I can always count on them, and I hope they know they can always count on me to be there for them. That's what the most meaningful relationships are all about! When I'm feeling down, I try to think of all these wonderful people and it helps to make me feel better. Therefore, THANK YOU TO MY WONDERFUL FAMILY!!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Agnolotti

Sometimes out of boredom is born the desire to create!!! And that is exactly what happened today! While the boys were watching football, my daughter and I decided to use some girl time to putter in the kitchen. I had cut out a recipe a long time ago from a magazine on homemade agnolotti, a type of giant ravioli, which I wanted to try. And even though I didn't have the exact ingredients for the filling, the recipe gave me some good ideas of what type of filling was needed. So I raided my freezer and found the ingredients that turned out to be perfect for the filling. We used ground turkey and frozen spinach, along with pancetta and parmesan cheese and a couple of eggs to hold it all together...and voila!!! A delicious filling was created! After this we proceeded to make the fresh pasta sheets - as always, this was lots of fun. Once the sheets were made we placed generous round balls of filling in a neat row and added another pasta sheet on top. Using a bit of water to seal the edges, we used a special roller blade and cut out the agnolotti. They turned out beautifully - even though they aren't all even in size! Some bigger than others..but hey...that's the beauty of things homemade!

Unfortunately, nobody will be home tonight to enjoy these wonderful creations so I decided to freeze them for future dinners...once I try them, I will update this and let you know how they turned out :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fancy Cars Helping to Build Little Italy in San Jose

This last Monday, I participated (with Tesoro) in an event at Club Auto Sport in San Jose that helped to raise awareness and funds for the new Little Italy project in San Jose. This project plans to re-establish the once thriving Little Italy community with Italian shops, restaurants, and even a pre-school! The Italian roots, which were so important to the building of San Jose, are being replanted with the help of numerous volunteers and businesses that see the importance of keeping the Italian community alive in San Jose.
The event was held at the classy Club Auto Sport - a "condominium" complex built to house collector, sports, and race cars. The venue was first class and drew many people who were treated to world class wines, food, and entertainment while wandering by Lamborghini's, Maserati's, and Ferrari's!!! Wonderful vendors of Italian items and organizers of specialty tours to Italy were on hand to enhance the Italian theme of the event. Many of the guests came because of their love for Italy and all things Italian (including the fancy cars!)

Somehow I could see myself in this yellow beauty, with a scarf on my head, zipping along down the Amalfi Coast...would anyone like to join me???

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Reminiscing

Today's cool temperature is a reminder that Fall and Winter are quickly approaching. My thoughts today turned to the wonderful trip we made to Italy (and Paris) for New Year's of this year. I can't believe so much time has already gone by! I was reminiscing of the wonderful week we spent in Italy during the Holiday season - a season I had never experienced before in Italy. In a short week, we did and saw so much. We started in Milan where we saw the beautiful holiday lights that really reminded you of the special season. Next was the bringing in of 2009 with my cousins in Sesto Calende (near Lago Maggiore) at the "Braziliano". And then from there, we took several day trips around the area: Santa Caterina del Sasso on Lago Maggiore, Cervinia for a day of skiing pleasure, Lago d'Orta with is beautiful island of San Giuglio, and Lago di Como (where we searched in vain for George Clooney's villa!!!) The week was magical - and then the huge snow fall they had (the biggest one since 1986) - made it even more of a fairy tale. Our unexpected trip to Paris (because we missed our connection to SFO) was an added delight. It was the perfect ending to an already perfect trip! See for yourselves the magic we experienced!


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