Sunday, October 30, 2011


Beauty is ecstasy; it is as simple as hunger.
                                            -W. Somerset Maugham

Have a beautiful Sunday.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Apple Oven Cake or Why I am in Denial

I could feel the weather changing. We are often duped into believing summer will last forever here in the "Land of Enchantment" but I could feel it; one more day, maybe two to enjoy one last breakfast on our beloved patio. This is one of our greatest joys, breakfast together on our patio, the pups running about, enjoying the view and each other. In honor of the seasonal shift, (the one we are in denial of....) I made one of my favorite breakfasts...well, it's really like dessert for breakfast and it's quick! In Germany they call this an "Apfelpfannkuchen" or "apple pancake" a glorious way to fix an apple! No syrup required! "gutes Essen!"

Apple Oven Cake
Peter Zensius, San Francisco
Serves: 6   Prep: 30 minutes
 3 Tbs butter
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 sweet apple such as Fuji,   
     peeled, cored and sliced ( I used two apples)
3 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup each flour and milk
1 Tbs each lemon juice and powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 425°. Melt butter in a 12-inch oven-proof
frying pan over high heat (my iron skillet worked nicely).
Add brown sugar and cinnamon, swirling to combine. Stir in
apple and cook until starting to soften, about 3 minutes.
Whirl together in a blender; eggs, salt, flour, and milk until
smooth. Pour egg mixture into the pan over apple mixture,
bake until puffed and brown, about 15 minutes. 
Sprinkle with lemon juice and powdered sugar.

Prep the apples and whirl the blender ingredients (be sure to turn off the blender and scrape down the sides at least once)

Melt butter in oven-proof pan

Swirl in brown sugar and cinnamon

Add apples, cook three minutes until tender

Top with blender mixture, bake at 425° for approximately 15 minutes

 Bake until golden and puffy

 Sprinkle with lemon juice and powdered sugar

 Serve right from the skillet!

 Devour!! ...and say good-bye to summer...sniff

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bragging Rights ~ Irish Bread

My brother and his wife have been bragging on this recipe for years; quick and simple no-raise sweet bread that takes about a split-second to make. Finally I had the opportunity to try it and they were right! This recipe turned out a crusty, not-too-sweet, light bread. You could definitely choose different nuts and dried fruits to your liking. You could serve it with dinner alongside a main course; a hearty stew for example, or enjoy it as a stand-alone dessert with tea, like I did!

Irish Bread
1/4 lb butter (1 stick)
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 Tbs baking powder
3/4 cup of milk
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Melt butter in a large pot, add sugar, making sure it is well mixed. Remove from
heat and let it cool a moment. Add eggs (if the pot is still too hot, you'll have scrambled eggs!), salt and vanilla. Mix in sifted flour, baking powder and milk. The batter will be very thick (I had to pat it into the pan)
Mix in raisins and walnuts.
Pour into a well-greased loaf pan and bake at 350° for approximately one hour.
Note: for some reason, my bread only took 45min to bake (altitude??) so check at 45 minutes

 Great texture and a nice crunchy crust

Perfect, warm with a little pat of butter and hot tea...many thanks to my brother and his wife!
BTW, I have no idea why it is called Irish bread...anybody?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Light and Lovely ~ Vanilla Panna Cotta

Light and showy and easy, that was the criteria for dessert as I searched through recipes last Thursday. We were having dinner guests on Friday. Menu: Eggplant Parmigiana with Homemade Meat Sauce, Autumn Bibb Salad with Creamy Italian Dressing and, of course, garlic bread. In Italy desert was always light, a light cake with a dusting of sugar, a cool and refreshing semifredo, and panna cotta! Yes, perfect! Panna Cotta! Easy, light and lovely. Beside the fact that this is an egg-free custard (apologies to my vegan friends it does thicken with gelatin), this dish makes you look like a culinary genius!

Vanilla Panna Cotta
adapted from Harry's Roadhouse Cookbook
Prep Time: 15 minutes YAY!
Chilling Time: 4 hours (Plan ahead!)
Feeds 4 (plus one, I always have extra)

1/2 Tbs gelatin
2 Tbs water (room temp)
2 1/2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean

In a saucepan, heat the half-and-half with sugar and the vanilla bean
Bring to a simmer and then remove from the stove. Remove the
vanilla bean, split it open on one side and scrape the seeds into the half-and-half.
In a large bowl, dissolve gelatin in water. Slowly pour the half-and-half
mixture over the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Pour into flan dishes and
chill until set, about 4 hours. Garnish with fresh berries in summer, or in winter, serve
with fruit sauce and a cookie.

 Split open one side of the warm vanilla bean and scrape seeds into the warm half-and-half

Remove pan from heat, whisk to distribute vanilla seeds, then pour over dissolved gelatin and whisk to combine

 Pour into flan dishes and chill for at least 4 hours

Panna cotta by candlelight! Garnished with fresh raspberries and a sprinkling of dark muscovado sugar...makin' you look so good! Yum

Sunday, October 23, 2011

For My Nephews ~ BOO!

Spooky toxic waste punch bowl!
I have two great Nephews that love to party...well, when their parents let them. They go all out for Halloween. Here is one of their spooky masks and their toxic waste "punch bowl". This is one very talented family! Of course, I am prejudiced!  So these recipes are for my guys. Have a wonderful, spooky, fun and safe Halloween boys!!

Source: via Victoria on Pinterest

Aren't these creepy gooey cool?!!! Find the recipe and all the instructions here!

Spooky Eyeballs and Breadstick Bones ~ Another good one from Mel's kitchen cafe! Find the recipe here

      Can't get enough eyeballs, ugh! More eyeballs from  in Katrina's Kitchen. Find the recipe here
Have fun boys! What great concoction of spookiness are you making for Halloween?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dreaming of....this time last year

What was I doing this time last year?
...enjoying a quintessential Italian moment with my wonderful husband at a café in the hilltop town of Gubbio in Umbria, Italy....*smile*

...and celebrating the surprise announcement of my son Sean's engagement to the beautiful Meghan Clancy.

...enjoying a fabulous meal at the Locanda del Gallo with the newly engaged couple, my mother (who met us there pre-retreat!) my husband and the fabulous staff, who are, after ten years of traveling to this little slice of heaven, our family too.

...enjoying teaching our workshop and watching our wonderful students hone their watercolor painting technique on a glorious fall day in Umbria

 ...traversing the quaint and lovely Hilltop town of Spello

 ...relaxing in the villa's newly constructed and divine Turkish sauna...mmmmmm

  ...enjoying the villa portico

 ...enjoying the view of my husband enjoying the view from our room

 ...coveting time with Mother on the Arno!!

 ...remembering why Florence captured my heart the first time

...enjoying sharing the local cuisine with our students, now friends

...wanting to "freeze frame" this moment incredible Tuscan meal...our fav Tuscan red...Villa Antinori... and thou...

If you would like to come make memories with us, paint, play, sketch and travel, we are heading to the Locanda del Gallo in Umbria Italy in June 2012. Click here for all the details! Ciao and pleasant dreams!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wish I'd Thought of That!

Wish I'd Thought of This Sooner!

We have a 16'  x 7' window in our home. Do we love it? Well, yes and no. Of course, the view and the light, we love, but for years we shopped in vain for a window treatment that wouldn't break the bank AND would fit our design style (no vertical blinds please). Our DIY solution was to purchase two 8' curtain rods, take them apart then fasten them at the center (where the two raw edges came together) with a washer a bit larger than the rod (which we painted to match the copper color) and a bracket that disguised the join and kept that 16' rod stable in the husband Mike's eureka moment, thankfully!

We then found six 42" curtain panels, fastened clip-on rings at the top and after years of hand wringing we finally had a budget-friendly window treatment. 

Short of having a curtain rod fabricated of wrought iron (not really budget-friendly), we could not find an alternative to a traditional curtain rod. We searched everywhere  for a material strong enough, long enough, pretty enough and cheap enough with which to build the rod. In the end, it was our local box store to the rescue. Who knew!? Moral...your local box store is harboring a wealth of solutions!! Just the box? ;)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Authentic Eggplant Parmigiana

I was raised in Michigan. Now, you may think we are just your generic, Mid-Western types there, but truth-be-told, like so many other regions of the U.S., Michigan is a melting pot of many different cultures. Even in the suburbs we have our Greek, Asian and Italian specialty stores and restaurants. As kids we were treated to everything from the Polish perogie (which I loooove!) to German bloodwurst (which I don’t!). Recently, I was perusing one of my favorite cookbooks, “The North End Italian Cookbook” by Marguerite DiMino Buonopane and I realized just how much authentic Italian cuisine our mother actually cooked while we were growing up. I also realized that over the years I have been modifying those “authentic” recipes to fit a healthier and busier lifestyle, not a bad thing, but when I came across this recipe for Ms. Buonopane's Italian Eggplant Parmigiana I remembered just how wonderful it is, in all it's breaded glory! I couldn’t resist.  So, continue at your own risk. I guarantee you’ll get hungry!

Eggplant Parmigiana with Meat or Marinara Sauce
Serves 8-10 

2 small, dark, firm eggplants
1 1/2 cups oil, or more as needed
4 eggs, beaten
1 recipe of your favorite meat sauce or a plain marinara sauce about 6 cups
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, sliced or grated
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (I did half of each)
chopped fresh parsley
Remove the stem from each eggplant. Cut the eggplants crosswise into slices 1/4" thick.
Do not remove the skin as this helps hold the eggplant together
Heat oil in a large heavy skillet
Dust each eggplant slice with flour, dip into the beaten eggs, then dip into coarse bread crumbs, and fry on both sides until golden brown. Drain on paper toweling.
Line a 2 1/2-quart shallow baking dish (I used my 9 x 13 baker) with a little of the tomato sauce. Arrange a layer of eggplant slices over the sauce. Cover with a layer of mozzarella cheese, more sauce and a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used. Pour leftover egg, if any, around the edges of the eggplant.
Bake in a preheated 350* oven for 30 minutes or until the eggplant is tender and golden on top.
Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and serve.
For best results, let eggplant rest for at least 30 minutes before you cut it.

 Slice eggplant about 1/4" in width

Dredge in flour, dip in egg, dredge in breadcrumbs

 Fry until golden on each side. I used canola oil and a good set of tongs!

 Drain each golden batch of eggplant on a plate lined in paper towels

 Layer: sauce, eggplant, mozzarella, sauce, Parmesan.....repeat

 Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until it looks like this...

I served this yumminess with garlic bread, sliced heirloom tomatoes (my favorite Black Russian variety) and fresh lettuces drizzled with Alziari olive oil (also my favorite, find it here).
Bon Appetite!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Form and Function

Bridges, the perfect marriage of artistic form and function. I shot these on a recent trip to
London...always trying to find a fresh view (whilst sailing down the Thames, mind you!) Enjoy

 Okay..not a bridge but still awesome


This is not a London bridge. It is my very favorite though, the MacKinaw bridge, a beautiful
suspension bridge that joins the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan...a Michigan girl's prerogative!

Do you have a favorite combination of artistic form and function?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...