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Before the next stop on our Italian adventure, we made a little pit stop just a few towns over from Scalea. Cherrye had arranged a cooking lesson for us. We toured the kitchen and got down to the real work. Making fresh pasta. Fusilli is a regional type of pasta, and we were able to learn from the best teacher in all of Italy.

We’ll skip all the details of mixing the dough and get down to the kneading,  which you have to do a precise way. And a precise number of times. See how confused we look?

After you let the dough sit for a few minutes, you cut it into strips, and then pinch off enough to roll into a long worm. Then you wrap the dough worm around a thin little stick (as thin as spaghetti almost) in a spiral, and then you roll that on the counter to flatten it into the shape (which is like a flat spiral I guess). Our teacher made it look SO easy.

Here’s the finished product, pre-cooking. We made at least 5 pans of these, which is no easy feat.

Here’s a video of the process. I’m really happy one of the guys at the place picked up the camera and filmed us doing this. You can also hear Cherrye translating for us in the background. And by the end, despite our limited Italian skills, we knew if we were in trouble by the teacher.

Another of our lovely cooking lesson teachers helped us make eggplant parmesan and stuffed zucchini.

Baby Max even got in on the fun.

After a little appetizer of cedro soda and chicory on toasted bread, it was time to eat.

And we ate lunch for about 3 hours. The pasta was delicious (even though I wasn’t adventurous enough to eat more than a few bites of the sauce cooked with goat meat.)

Fresh made fusilli.

Peppers.

Stuffed zucchini.

Eggplant Parmesan.

There was plenty of wine and after dinner, homemade limoncello. And after everything, we even tried homemade bay leaf liquor. And yes, bay leaf liquor tastes as strange as it sounds.

After we were thoroughly stuffed, we got back on the train for a few hours headed toward Cherrye and Peppe’s house!

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I didn’t think I was going to write one of these, but then I finally looked back to see what I wrote last year, and thought I’d do it again. I kind of like having a little summary all in one place. Here’s 2010 if you’re interested.

This year Taylor and I :

Moved into a new apartment, and survived.
Celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary.

Visited

  • New Orleans (March)
  • New York (May)

And I:

Completed a 2nd Warrior Dash, without barfing

Celebrated

  • New Year’s Day in New York City
  • My 30th birthday

Cooked – Not as much as I would have liked. Learned how to cook risotto.

Visited

  • Italy (July)
  • Austin (October)

Read

  • Room

Harry Potter Series

  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow

Started but couldn’t finish

  • The Pioneer Woman, Black Heels to Tractor Wheels
  • Chelsea Handler, Chelsea, Chelsea Bang Bang

Watched

  • True Blood (Seasons 3)
  • Lots of How I Met Your Mother &  Big Bang Theory
  • Tosh.0
  • The New Girl
  • Lots of Intervention, Addicted and Obsessed

Listened to/Discovered MusicAgain, not all new stuff, but I love all the same.

  • Matt & Kim – Cameras
  • Eric Hutchinson – Sounds Like This
  • Freelance Whales – Weathervanes
  • Discovery – Discovery LP
  • Ke$ha – Animal
  • Grouplove – Never Trust a Happy Song
  • Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros – Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
  • O.A.R. – King

And talking about 2011 wouldn’t be complete with a special new category.

Developed Friendships

  • I became closer to friends I already had while planning our trip and traveling to Italy together.
  • I also met new friends at the Blathering. Some of them I think will be friends for a very long time.

Can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store!

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Ok ya’ll. I know I’m taking forever at writing about my Italy trip. I’ve been busy, but also somehow I think that once I quit writing about it, I won’t think about it as much. Dumb I know. But, I’ve got plenty more to share. Rome and Florence were great, but the next two stops on our trip were really the best.

Scalea was my favorite place. I think the other girls would agree, but I won’t speak for them. We had so many fun times there on our trip. It’s a small coastal town on the western coast of Italy, south of Naples and even more south than Amalfi. (Google it for a map.) We picked it, because we wanted to do something less touristy but beachy, and my wonderful friend Cherrye recommended it to us.

And what’s not to love about this?!

Honestly, Scalea was awesome. We were only slightly pissy at each other when we first got there because a local pointed us in the wrong direction of our hotel, so we walked for almost an hour longer than necessary, in 100 degree heat, just to get to our hotel.  Waahh! I know. Once we got to our hotel though, it was bliss for the next two days.

I’ve never taken a beach vacation, but this place made me want to book one immediately.

On our sightseeing day, a guy opened the gate to Talao Tower just for us.

The views from the top of the tower are just awesome.

And lets revisit that first photo…

Um. Yeah!

Our first night there, we killed time until the recommended local restaurant opened. We even waited (creepster style, right across the street, where they could see us) until way after 8PM because the hostess wouldn’t let us in. We killed A LOT of time. What can we say. We Americans aren’t used to eating that late.

We got hollered at by some Italian boys cruising the main drag, and told them we’d meet up with them later. NOT!

Before going into dinner I caught a spectacular sunset shot.

Finally, at dinner, we ate for what seemed to be hours. I had a steak.

And I even tried clams for the first time. (We were right across the street from the ocean!) This is Linsi’s Frutta di Mare plate. I wish I could tell you what everything was.

We tried cake made from the locally grown Cedro fruit.

And after several liters of wine, and complimentary limoncello, I played banker and paid our bill.

Then, we joined the locals for a little passeggiata (stroll through town) before calling it a night.

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Mushroom risotto

When we were in Italy, my friend Cherrye’s husband, Peppe, made us salmon risotto one night. It was so heavenly, and I made sure to pay careful attention to his cooking methods so I could make my own risotto at home.

Of course, several weeks have passed, and admittedly that night we drank copious amounts of cheap italian wine and home-made limoncello, so I found a recipe that seemed similar to use as a guide. You can check it out here.

You can make almost any kind of risotto using this general recipe. Just use a different broth and substitute vegetables or meat for the mushrooms.  It would be easy.

First, prepare the broth. I made 6 cups of vegetable broth. But you could use chicken, beef or mushroom. Taste the broth to make sure it has good flavor. The first rule Peppe taught us is that each part of the risotto must taste good on its own. Put the broth aside, keeping it on low heat.

Then start the base for the risotto. Heat your pan up to medium heat. Add one tablespoon of butter to a big pan. Then add about half an onion, diced. Cook the onion until it is soft but not quite caramelized (but I bet if you did caramelize it, it would taste good too).

In a separate pan, add one tablespoon of butter, and a tablespoon of minced garlic. Then add your chopped mushrooms. I used a whole pound, but honestly half a pound would have been good too. I did half a pound of sliced white mushrooms and half a pound of chopped Portobello mushrooms.  After the mushrooms start cooking down, taste them you can add another tablespoon of butter if you want. Don’t forget, the mushrooms should be delicious enough to eat on their own. Here’s a blurry shot of the onions and mushrooms starting to cook. 

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Then when the onions are cooked how you like them, add in your arborio rice. I used 1 and 1/2 cups. Stir around until the rice starts to get a little translucent. Then add in half a cup of white wine and stir until the liquid is almost absorbed.

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Meanwhile don’t forget to keep an eye on the mushrooms. You can even add in half a cup of white wine to them too.

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Don’t go to far away from the risotto. Now is the labor intensive part. Add a ladle full of the broth into the rice and start stirring until most of the liquid has been absorbed. It’ll look kind of like this. You can see a little bit of liquid still, but it’s not runny.

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Then add another ladle full of broth to the rice. Same story, keep stirring until mostly absorbed. Then add another ladle. You’ll keep doing this using most of the broth.

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When the risotto has more than doubled in size, and seems like it’s almost done, taste it to see if it’s ready. When it’s done, it should be al dente and have a little texture to it, but it shouldn’t be crunchy. If it’s just a little under cooked you’ll start getting ready to add the mushrooms in.

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I drained the liquid off the mushrooms but you could add it all in to the risotto if you wanted. (It was all black and gross looking if you ask me.)

Dump the mushrooms in and add another ladle of broth. This will probably be your last ladle (there may be a little broth still left, that’s ok as long as your risotto isn’t crunchy). Stir until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Taste everything and see if you need to add salt or anything.

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You can turn the heat down and step away for just a minute now. Grate up about 1/3 cup of pecorino romano cheese, toss it in the pan and stir well. Last, add one tablespoon of butter and stir it in and taste. The butter adds richness, so if you think it could be a little more rich, add one more tablespoon. If you aren’t sure, just go ahead and add it. You won’t regret it.

And now you’re ready to enjoy.

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Yes, it was a somewhat labor intensive process, but honestly, the cooking part wasn’t too bad. I probably took more time cleaning and cutting the mushrooms than I did getting the onions, mushrooms and rice started cooking. If I had to guess, I think I got everything done in just over an hour. Not too bad if you ask me. Even Taylor (who isn’t a major mushroom fan) thought it was delicious. And ate leftovers for lunch the next day.

That’s success!

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So I saw this breakfast recipe a couple of weeks ago, and have been dying to make it. Finally this morning I did.

Honestly, I took it as less “actual recipe” and more of “suggestions” of what to do with some eggs, butter and seasoning. Here’s the recipe I followed. http://aiminglow.com/2011/09/brilliant-breakfast-for-less-than-brilliant-mind/

But of course, I changed it a little bit. What I did was, melt a tablespoon of butter under the broiler in my toaster oven, then add two eggs, a little milk, chopped red onion, some fresh chives, fresh cracked pepper, and romano cheese. I cooked it for the suggested 3-5 minutes but wasn’t sure it was done enough. Being all nervous about raw eggs, I cooked it for almost 10 minutes total, poking it with a fork several times after about 5 minutes.

Here’s the halfway mark of cooking. I forgot to take a picture at the end and anyway it looked kinda messy in the end after all my fork poking. But more or less, in the end the egg will be solid and the top and edges of the eggs will be browned.

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End result, delicious! You may want to add some salt or try different herbs. But I really liked it. It probably will be easier to do several of these in your big oven, but if you’re doing just one or two, a toaster oven works just fine.

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Pizza

You should make this.

Homemade crust (follow the Pioneer Woman’s recipe. (I like the crust crispy, so I bake it before I put toppings on.)

Take a small can of tomato sauce, and add a few shakes of salt, italian seasoning, and a drizzle of olive oil. Spread over the crust and top with prociutto, buffalo mozzarella, red onion, and fresh from the garden yellow cherry tomatoes.  Bake for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees or until the cheese is bubbly and melted. Top with fresh from the garden arugula, fresh grated parmesan and crushed red pepper.  

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