Florence, Italy – The Negroni cocktail!

Negroni cocktailI was reading “Girl in Florence,” blog post “A Love Letter to the Negroni Cocktail: Celebrating 100 Years of this Iconic Italian Cocktail,” and I smiled at a few points she made.

First, that this drink might look nice, but it is extremely bitter. It is an acquired taste, like drinking coffee. Second, I found her comment on friends ordering a beer and sipping it like it was a cognac amusing. I fall in that category.

In fact, last year I was visiting Italian relatives outside of Florence. We had a Sunday luncheon with aunts, uncles, cousins and their children, so there were about 20 of us. They had “one” bottle of wine on the table for all of us. I was surprised. In America the wine would be flowing — DRINK, DRINK and drink some more.

In Italy, NO, the objective of a nice dinner was not to get tipsy and drunk, but to have a little wine, while focusing on the food and good family conversation. Some children were given a few drops of wine added to their water glass.

I did not try the Negroni cocktail until a few years ago. When I went to Florence, I always stayed with my grandmother at her house. We did not go out for meals, we ate at home, no cocktails.

However, a few years ago, some American friends came to Florence, so we went out for apertivo. I saw someone having this refreshing reddish/orangey drink, given it was hot weather, I ordered the same. What a mistake! The drink was not refreshing, it was so bitter. It’s an acquired taste, I’ve ordered it over the years ALWAYS hoping for a spritz kind of taste and always disappointed. I KNOW, you’d think I would have learned my lesson, but it is a famous Italian drink; I’m Italian, I must learn to like it, right!

So, as our temperatures soar to 90 degrees today, the negroni post came as a pleasant surprise to my inbox. I am actually longing for the negroni drink a “tiny bit,” because it brings memories of Florence and I am due for a visit soon.

Ah… the Negroni!

I miss you Florence!

Coffee… Breakfast…Tradition… making blueberry scones at home

CB353366-48C2-4D65-9550-E232D8E8D880Have you noticed that going out for a coffee and a danish, which used to be a “treat,” has become so expensive that it is not enjoyable anymore?

When I was young, because we had four children in the family, we rarely went out to eat; it was too expensive. In those days, if we did go out, it was for pizza, once a quarter. When the waitress came to take our order, she would ask what the “children” were drinking. My father in a loud bellowing voice would say, “WATER for them, a beer for me.”

My mother did not believe in soda. Growing up in Italy, they did not drink soft drinks or fruit juices. As a treat, on Sunday, they went to the park and had a gelato she would say.

This will make you smile… when I started dating, and the waitress came to take our order, I was too afraid to order ice tea or a soda, I was conditioned to order water. It wasn’t until one date asked, “WHY are you only having water? You can order a drink. Please, have a soda or ice tea, whatever you’d like.”

FUNNY, I thought to myself, “Yeah, I’m on my own now, why am I still drinking water?!”

This past weekend I was in the mood for scones. A friend of mine sent me a recipe and it was time to try it out. Scones are usually triangular, I made hearts, see photo.

My goal was to entice my daughters, so they would say, “Mama, those are adorable, we want some!”

seattle tea potGood news — my hearts were a BIG HIT.  Just need to add tea.

HEART SCONES on Sunday.  A new tradition!

Once children grow up, we need to entice the “little birdies” back to the nest.

Did you know Tootsie Rolls are made in Chicago?

4808E90E-6DE6-4429-A5C0-6D35C99382C0This week I got the biggest surprise. My daughter and I were entering the freeway when she yelled, “Mama, LOOK, it’s the Tootsie Roll truck.” As I was driving I couldn’t take a look, so I said, “Quick, take a picture, my blogging friends will enjoy seeing this.”

As you can see, she was quite the photographer, she got a GREAT shot of the truck. Then one night she was “behind” the Tootsie Roll truck and got a picture of the Owl and the famous saying of “How many licks in a tootsie roll pop?”

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Why the smiles and excitement? With our changing world, it is nice to know there are a few things from our childhood grade school days that still exists — AND — that is the Tootsie Roll, which has been produced in the United States since 1907.

Oh, and Leo Hirshfield (an Austrian immigrant) created this candy for his five year old daughter whose nickname was “Tootsie,” and there you have the name “Tootsie Roll.”

American soldiers ate tootsie rolls as field rations during WWII, because of the hardiness of the candy in different environmental conditions.

So, if you are ever in Chicago, keep your eye out for the Tootsie Roll truck. When you see it go buy, you’ll have to smile and THINK, “How many licks ARE THERE in a tootsie roll pop?”

German Oktoberfest is here! Time to go to Munich.

Oktober fest collageI almost forgot it was Oktoberfest! I was at Cost Plus / World Market the other day and they had a German section of food for Oktoberfest celebrations. The usual variety of sausages, mustards, beers, spaetzle, pretzels, chocolates and more.

Lederhosen group of men

Have you ever been to Munich for Oktoberfest? It’s really beautiful to see the men in their lederhosen and the women in their dirndles. I think this is the only place in the world where you will see grown men wearing leather shorts with bright colored shirts and as you see in the photo, you have to have the right shoes and socks too!

schnitzel

They really celebrate with fabulous music, singing and good food. Who can resist some schnitzel?! It’s a special tradition they have. My in/laws are German, so we always celebrated with their German friends, it was fun! They would sing all the German songs together, locking arms together swinging back and forth. Singing from their hearts.

My favorite is the Chicken Dance, here is a Youtube video (Wurstfest – How to Chicken Dance) that explains the steps for the chicken dance. In Germany, (EVERYONE) old and young get up to dance this dance. Enjoy this German tradition!

Pizza in a cast iron skillet?

cast iron pizzaFourth of July holiday is coming up, which means a lot of barbecuing. BUT, what if you prefer pizza.

I have exciting news for you. If you own a cast iron skillet you can make your own gourmet crunchy crusted pizza in 15 minutes. Make life easy on yourself, buy the pizza dough already prepared.

Here’s what you do:

Roll out the pizza dough. Warm up your cast iron skillet on medium/high on your stove top, dust the pan with a little bit of flour, no oil needed. Put your dough in the pan. While your dough is warming up, sprinkle some olive oil on it, pizza sauce and add your chosen pizza toppings (i.e. mushrooms, pepperoni, whatever you like) and then pop your pan into the oven at 425 degrees. Your pizza should be ready in 12-15 minutes.

I had no idea!

Now, I just need to find a good deal on a cast iron skillet and I’ll be a Chef in no time!

Bon Appétit!

Baci – Want some KISSES anyone?

55DBB27E-DAB9-4901-806A-435CE3CD096AIf you are in Italy and someone asks you if you want a “Baci,” at first you might think they are being fresh! That is until you see they are starting to hand you a chocolate. For those of you who don’t know Italian, the word “baci,” means “kisses.”

If you like chocolate and you like hazelnuts, you’ll fall in love with Baci chocolates. As you see in the photo, each chocolate has a full size hazelnut inside. It’s a treat to eat one, they are delicious. Now, they are a bit expensive, so receiving one as a gift means the person wanted to surprise you with a decadent gift. Oh, and they are similar to fortune cookies, in that they ALWAYS have a love note inside written in four different languages (Italian, English, German, Spanish, French, or Chinese).

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Baci’s are made by Perugina (1907), an Italian chocolate company, located in Umbria, the town of Perugia. Nestlé company purchased Perugina in 1988. This past trip I did not have a chance to visit Perugia, but that is for next time.

On the Perugina website, they offer chocolate cooking classes. The classes are 3-4 hours long, which would allow for site seeing in Perugia. I know, some of you might be thinking… I cannot make it to Italy, how will I ever take their master chocolate class. Well, if you are in or traveling to America, you have the option of going to New York or Chicago for master chocolate classes.

While I am not an expert cook or baker in any way, I do find the idea of being surrounded by Italian chocolate exciting! Something to add to the “Bucket List.”

When I was staying with the relatives in Florence, I gave them Baci’s right after dinner, because I wanted it to be a surprise. It’s amazing how one box of chocolate created such excitement! Baci’s can do that!

Happy Chinese / Lunar New Year! Chinese Food Recipes…

Chinese New Year DumplingsHappy Chinese / Lunar New Year!

If you are celebrating and want to try some new Chinese recipes, I have just the website for you.

I came across Elaine’s “China Sichuan Food” last year. She has a variety of great authentic recipes.

As I follow her Blog when she has a new recipe I receive an email. Yesterday she sent an email with a nice story about how her family celebrates Chinese New Year and the types of foods they normally cook at this time.

If you are celebrating Lunar New Year or enjoy Chinese food, you’ll find her website a real delight. Elaine’s recipes look easy and delicious to make. You’ll see she walks you through the recipes with detailed photos, so it’s hard to get it wrong.

There are so many recipes I want to try (i.e. Kung Pao Cauliflower)… I’ve got to get started!