Monday, November 30, 2015

Sunday Sweets - Ricotta Birthday Cake and an Old Fashioned Love Story

This past weekend was pretty hectic. We had Thanksgiving and a Birthday Celebration all in one weekend. The funny part was that I had no idea we would be celebrating a birthday until the morning of! My Aunt was celebrating her 69th birthday and she didn't tell anyone. When we woke up Saturday morning, she got a text message where someone wished her a happy birthday and we were all left dumbfounded and feeling pretty crappy about not remembering her birthday....but she is a wonderful lady and didn't want anyone to know it was her birthday in the first place. She is my Uncle's wife on my mother's side of the family. This past year they celebrated 50 years of marriage and they are such a wonderful example of love and understanding. 

They definitly have their ups and downs as most marriages do but they are able to get over all those little bumps in the road like champs! My Uncle isn't the easiest person to get along with, but he loves her with all his heart and I know that he couldn't go a day without her. When I look at them together I admire their relationship very much and I pray that my future with the man that I love is similar to theirs....through thick and thin! 

They married when my Aunt was only 19 years old and my Uncle was 30. My grandmother used to say to my Uncle that she was too young for him and that one day he would be old and she would find another man because she would still be young but none of that was true. They ended up getting married and having 3 beautiful children. They have 5 grand children today and as I said before have been married for 50 years. 

They came to spend Thanksgiving with us and so on her birthday the following day we went out to dinner and I made a ricotta cake for dessert that we ate at home. 

Ricotta cake

 - 300 grams of cake flour
 - 300 grams of ricotta cheese
 - 3 eggs
 - 100 grams of butter
 - 250 grams of sugar
 - vanilla flavoring
 - 2 teaspoons of baking powder

Mix the eggs with the sugar and butter add the ricotta cheese while mixing. Then slowly add the sifted flour, vanilla and lastly the baking powder. 

Bake in preheated oven at 180° Celcius for 45 minutes. 

This cake is very moist and soft thanks to the ricotta cheese and has a delicate flavor that can be decorated with simple whipping cream. Chocolate frosting would go great with this as well. Or if you like you can add just a simple dusting of powdered sugar. 

I decorating with whipped cream and sprinkles as well as cake decoration flower toppers. 

It ended up being a lovely intimate birthday party and I was honored to have had her at my home for her special day. She is a fantastic wife, mother and grandmother and a person I look up to greatly. I'm happy to have made her day a special one :-)

I wish everyone a Happy Monday and a great week ahead!!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

Thanksgiving came and went and it was a fantastic day! We celebrated on Friday the 27th because Thanksgiving is not a holiday here is Italy so we had to work on Thursday. It was just easier to have it on Friday. My relatives from southern Italy came and stayed with us and it was wonderful. I finished my list of things and people (and pets) that I am thankful for and I found it to be a list filled with wonderful points that I will cherish forever. Things I am truly thankful to God for <3. Here are some pictures of our Thanksgiving and the delicious dishes that I made. I think I did a pretty good job if I may say so myself! 

This is the table scape. I know it's Christmassy but who cares? It was beautiful and inviting and that's all that really matters, right?

I made the classic stuffed bird :-) I let it marinate over night with a delicious balsamic vinegar marinade with lots of herbs and spices. 

It got stuffed with a classic dressing, my Grandmothers recipe. 

My side dishes were classic, good old American Thanksgiving dinner staples. Sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole and mashed potatoes. 

And for dessert I made an outstanding apple pie with a brown sugar and cinnamon crumble topping. I used this recipe from Inspired by Charm. Michael's recipes are amazing!

We had a wonderful evening. We ate a lot, drank a lot and I missed my family greatly that day but I'm so grateful that my relatives were able to spend the day with me and make it special. 

I hope my fellow Americans had a wonderful Thanksgiving as well <3 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Whole Wheat Brussels Sprouts Pizza

I'm a very big fan of Brussels sprouts. They are my new food obsession. I think they are delicious and nutritious at the same time and I particularly like them roasted with Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. I also love anything whole wheat so on Sunday night I decided I would try making a whole wheat pizza with roasted Brussels Sprouts on top. I got the side eye from my hunny when I was making it in the kitchen but he ate it anyways...and enjoyed it I must say, because he ate three slices of it so in my opinion an empty plate means he liked it. This is a winner recipe in my book. 

Here is the recipe for the whole wheat crust. After making the dough it's easy as cake to put together. 

Ingredients for whole wheat pizza:

 - 300 grams of whole wheat flour
 - 200 grams of bread flour
 - 15 grams of activated yeast
 - 30 ml high quality extra virgin olive oil
 - 280 ml of lukewarm water
 - teaspoon of salt

In a bowl mix the two flours and salt.

In a separate cup dissolve the yeast in the water and add the olive oil. 

Once mixed well, add to the flour and begin kneading. I kneaded this myself, but if you prefer you can use a dough mixer. 

Now knead everything for at least 10 minutes until the dough forms a nice elastic ball. If you need to add more flour because the mixture is too sticky go ahead and add a little at a time until you reach the right consistancy.

Place in a large bowl and cover. Place the bowl in a room temperature area away from drafts. I like to let my dough rise in the oven with only the light turned on. Let this sit for about 2 hours until it doubles in size. 

Now you can spread it out on to a baking sheet with lightly oiled parchment paper. 

Let this sit for the time it takes you to make the Brussels sprouts. Begin by cleaning your sprouts and cutting them in half. Remove any yellow leaves and wash well. 

Coat in olive oil add a pinch of salt and pepper and abundant Parmesan cheese and roast in the oven for about 15 minutes. You don't want them to cook all the way through because they will complete the cooking time on top of the pizza. 

This is how they should look after about 15 minutes. Now spread them out evenly on top of your pizza dough. Make sure to lightly oil the dough first. These are about 500 grams of Brussels sprouts. I could have easily added another 200 grams but they sufficed. Add another sprinkle of Parmesan and bake at 250° Celsius for about 10 minutes or until the pizza crust browns. 

Here is the finished pizza :-)

It was sooo good! I want to make another one like right now it was that good :-)

Who said pizza had to be bad for you?

Hope you enjoy the recipe as much as I did :-)

O Christmas Trees, O Christmas Trees

I was able to get most of my decorations out as planned over the weekend except for outside. I ended up really going all out this year and I love how it turned out! I won't be going to the States for the Holidays so that's one reason I decided to put in the extra effort, that way I can feel the Christmas Spirit more in my own home. I realize that it's not Thanksgiving yet and I did write a whole post on Christmas before Thanksgiving but I have come to realize that decorating for Christmas is something that you just feel ready for. No one can tell you whether it's too soon or too late but you. If you're not feeling ready and you force yourself, it just won't turn out right. If you're the one decorating, you are the one that has to decide when the right time is. I did get made fun of a bit by my relatives though especially since I have TWO TREES this year!! Yes, you heard that right, TWO CHRISTMAS TREES :-) And I couldn't be happier... Now without further ado, I give you my Christmas Home Tour. 

White and Silver Living Room Christmas Tree

I decided to DIY a flocked tree for my living room. They were just so much more expensive already flocked so I thought I would try to do it myself. I don't know if this is the right way to do it or not, but it's what worked best for me. I set up my tree and put the lights on it. 

Then I lightly sprayed it with artificial snow all around just to give it a subtle look. 

This stuff is wet and stays wet for a while unfortunately. So I waited about a half hour (it was still wet but I have no patience so that was A LOT for me.) then decorated it. The fun part!

I then sprayed it some more just in the areas that I wanted to highlight. 

Isn't it beautiful :-) It looks so pretty in the evenings. The pictures just don't give it justice. 

So what to do with all the red ornaments I had left over? Hmmmm.... 

Red and Gold Kitchen Christmas tree

I don't know but for some reason I kind of prefer this one. The red just makes me happy:-)

It looks so beautiful lit up in the kitchen when I'm cooking... I love them both!

Gigia seems to prefer the red one as well :-) Here we go again...

Now for the most important part: the Nativity <3

I glued down the statues this year... I don't know why I didn't think of that last year before the beheading of the statues by my cat.

Nativities are very famous here in Naples. I'll talk more about them in another post because there is a whole street dedicated to the Nativity with so many beautiful shops that sell these hand made pieces. Some families choose only to make a very elaborate Nativity instead of the traditional Christmas Tree. 

I went a little happy with the artificial snow and sprayed the Nativity as well. I think it adds a special touch. This is the stuff I used on the tree as well as the Nativity. I ended up using about one and a half cans. They cost about 2 bucks a can. 

Here are some other decorations that I put around the house. 

This little guy is so cute and sparkles all over.

I found these at a craft store. I thought they were adorable so I bought two. 

Well, I hope you enjoyed the tour and I hope your creative Holiday decorating juices are flowing as much as mine are this year :-)

Happy Monday!!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Contemplations - Flocked Christmas Tree Inspiration

I'm having Thanksgiving at my house this year and I'm so excited! I decided I want my Christmas decorations to be out when my guests arrive so I will be putting my tree up this weekend. #icanthelpmyself

I have had the same tree for about 5 years. I bought a cheap-o tree and every year it loses about 5 pounds of needles. From the time I take it out of the garage and drag it upstairs to when the cat jumps on it and knocks it over multiple times a day to when I put it back in the garage around mid - January, it loses lots and lots of needles. 

By the way, if you have any tips on preventing cats from knocking down trees, that would be very helpful. I would also appreciate tips on preventing cats from knocking over nativity scenes because Mary, Joseph and the 3 Kings are all headless as of last year. Baby Jesus thankfully has survived unharmed. Thank you.

So you can imagine what my tree will look like this year... yep, pretty naked.  I must say though that I can't bring myself to throwing it away (hoarder tendencies) so I might put it in the kitchen and put my new one in the living room. Not sure yet...

In any case, I am on the hunt for a new tree... and I really really really with cherries on top want a flocked tree. But then I start thinking that maybe I would get sick of it easily. If I invest in a high quality flocked tree I will have to live with it for at least 6 years. Flocked trees are so beautiful though.  I'm thinking of going with a neutral white and gold this year. Too boring maybe? These flocked trees are really inspiring me.

This one is just gorgeous!

I particularly love this one <3

I wasn't able to find that much information on pros and cons of flocked trees online. The only obvious point made was that the majority of people who choose flocked trees live in an area that doesn't get much snow. I guess that makes sense. I love snow and miss it sooooo much during the holidays. We don't get any where I live.

I'm not a "Real Tree" person just because they take work and for me it's easier to re-use a tree for 5 - 10 years than switch it out every year. I also read somewhere that pets can get sick if they drink the water from the tree bowl becasue of fertilizers and things like that. We never had a real tree growing up either so that might be a factor in my choosing but nonetheless, this year I'll be going for an artificial  flocked tree! There, I made up my mind. 

Hopefully come Monday I'll be posting about my Christmas decorations. Until then, have a fabulous weekend my friends! <3

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Hand Written Love Letters and Easy Gluten Free Zucchini Bake

There's a thing about hand written love letters that is so special. So much more so than a text message or an email. Now there are Hallmark greeting cards with pretty images and glittered pages that have the most beautiful phrases printed on them and all you need to do at the bottom of the card is write "Love, your name."...

This might seem romantic but in reality it's so cold and distant to me. My mother used to recycle my father's Valentines day card over and over again through the years and he never even noticed... Romantic, huh? 

I love to write letters to the person I love. For my sweetheart's birthday, Christmas or Valentines day, I don't go buy a greeting card but I make my own and write something special that comes from my heart. 

The other day I was cleaning out his closet and I found a card that I had made him for his birthday. He kept them all... They mean so much more than an over priced greeting card. When my mom came over from the States to visit this summer she gave me a heapful of greeting cards from friends and family that she kept over the years. I guess she wanted to get rid of them but felt guilty about throwing them away so she gave them to me...

I will confess to you that the majority went in the trash and I kept only the ones that were made by hand, like old mothers day or fathers day cards that my brother and I had made. They were just more special to me than the signed "Love, xxx" cards. 

My sweetheart wrote me the most beautiful poem when we first started dating. He wrote it on a wrinkled piece of paper with words crossed out and then re written and ink blotches on the page with tea stains on it and I cried and cried and cried when I read that poem....(he got teary eyed as well but I'm not supposed to say that...oops). I will treasure that wrinkled piece of paper for as long as I live. I keep it in my nightstand and I had a poster made with the poem written on it and had it framed. Now it's hanging in our bedroom.  Then he wrote 3 promises on a piece of paper that he wanted me to make him and I did the same. These are little things that hold so much meaning. The promises? Very simple but meaningful: To love always, cherish forever and be loyal... 

You don't have to be a good writer, it doesn't have to be a poem, you don't need fancy stationary... It's the act of writing down the words that are in your heart that mean the most. A simple I Love You will do just fine.

If there are any guys that read my blog...write your lady a hand written love letter. You have no idea how much she will appreciate it! You can thank me later :-)

This is a letter written by Ludwig Beethoven. It is not addressed to anyone , so it is impossible to know who he was writing to. Historians think it was written to a married woman who he loved very much, and who was leaving the city at the time of these letters. This is my favorite love letter of all time....

If you enjoy reading love letters like I do, here is a book that I recommend.  There are so many beautiful poems from important men like Beethoven, Napoleon Bonaparte, John Adams, Winston Churchill and Mozart just to name a few. 

And now to the recipe:

Easy Peasy Gluten Free Zucchini Bake

Just layer zucchini slices prosciutto or thinly sliced  ham and cheese in a baking dish and top with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Bake for about 20 - 25 minutes or until top browns. Extraordinarily good I promise...

Happy Thursday :-)

Weekend's almost here...yay!!