Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Easter Weekend Getaway in Umbria

We had a long weekend here in Italy and decided to take a trip to Umbria where we stayed in a beautiful Relais in the province of Perugia. This is going to be a pretty long post so grab a cup of coffee and I hope you enjoy the pictures of the Umbria Region as much as I enjoyed being there! 

We arrived Friday evening and left yesterday morning. It was short but sweet and hopefully we'll go back this summer because it is such a beautiful place to visit. 

We stayed in a small Beauty and Wellness hotel called Villa di Monte Solare in the outskirts of Perugia. It is a villa that was once the home of an aristocratic family in the 1780's and was transformed in a luxury hotel immersed in the Umbrian countryside. 

The Hotel has only 25 rooms available. There is a spa, wellness center, two pools, tennis courts and an esteemed restaurant with a Chef that is not only really really good looking but also very talented. He came out to greet us the last night we were there and got loads of compliments from all the guests. Here are a couple of the delicious dishes that he prepared. I apologize for the bad lighting. 

This was a cream of pumpkin soup with almonds and toasted amaretto crumbs. To die for!

This was a rack of lamb with a pistachio crust that I got two nights in a row as a second course because seriously....I have never tasted anything so good in my ENTIRE life! This was outstanding!

Saturday morning I went for a run around the hotel property. I woke up at about 6:30 and couldn't go back to sleep. I saw it was such a beautiful day and I wanted to take in all the fresh morning air. 

It felt so good taking in all that beauty. 

There was a beautiful abandoned stone house along my morning walk and I dreamt about fixing it up and decorating it. My dream is to own an old stone house like this one, fixing it up and blogging about it. Maybe one day...

I love stone houses and in Umbria the majority of the villas are stone. 

Later on we went to Assisi which was about a half hour drive from our Hotel. Assisi is a very characteristic town that is famous for its Basilicas.  

This is Saint Clare's Basilica where you can visit the Tomb of the Saint. 

I was able to sneak in a picture while down there. It was very touching being able to see the tomb and all the people that go there to pray and worship the Saint. 

Later we walked around the square and visited some of the shops.  I was surprised to see there were so many Americans visiting Assisi. Everywhere I turned I heard someone speaking English! 

I loved looking around all the souvenir shops. 

We walked so much that day! My legs were killing me that night.

The town is filled with so much historical and medieval architecture.

We finally made our way to the Basilica of Saint Francis which was a sight to see. 

That concluded our trip to Assisi. 

I loved the stone houses and the typical Umbrian roof tops. 

The rooftops are so pretty. 

On Easter Sunday we had a spa appointment at the hotel at 3:00pm so we decided to check out Perugia in the morning. 

Perugia is definitely a bigger city with respect to Assisi and we happened to arrive when the big Easter Antique Market was taking place. Ahh.. be still me heart! I wanted to buy ALL. THE. THINGS.

Above is the main square in Perugia. At the other end of the square is where the market was going down. I was all of a sudden in shopping mode. You know what I'm talking about...like even if a bomb was going to drop in the middle of the Piazza and I saw something I wanted NO ONE AND NOTHING was about to stop me from getting what I wanted!

Oh those chandeliers were so beautiful!

I fell in love with these night stands and I was such an idiot for not taking them home with me! They were so beautiful up close. This picture does not do them justice... 

I was in heaven here!

Aren't those old irons adorable?

I debated on whether or not to take home those plates but I decided not too. I wasn't pleased with the asking price and the guy wouldn't budge.. 

This is what I bought from the market in Perugia. 

I bought this set of six crystal Vintage Champagne coupes which are just beautiful. One of the glasses has a little chip on it so I was able to get a good price. 

Here they are in my hutch. 

Then I found a big green vintage glass bottle that I have been looking everywhere for and I finally found it for 10€!

I've been collecting wine corks just so I can put them in a bottle just like this one and I finally found it! Now I have to rinse it out and finally fill it up with my corks :-)

That pretty much sums up my Easter weekend. It was rough going back to work and getting into the routine again even if it was just three days. 

I hope you all had a fun and relaxing weekend as well and I wish you a great week ahead. 


Friday, March 18, 2016

Spumante Poached Salmon Steaks

I wanted to share this recipe with you because it was so incredibly good when I first tasted it and I had to try making it again. My father introduced me to this when he came to visit me in February.

He found the recipe here. In reality it's a champagne poached salmon recipe by Emeril Lagasse. I switched up some of the ingredients to accommodate what we have readily available here in Italy. Spumante is Italy's champagne (it's also a lot cheaper) and I had a real tough time finding dill as well which is fundamental to Emeril's recipe so I ended up substituting the dill with Italian parsely.  My dad said I need to get a dill plant from the States next time I fly over LOL. We'll see if I make it through customs! j/k

Anyways, I have never had poached salmon before and it was a very new technique for me. It has such a delicate and sophisticated taste that I just could not get enough of and I had to share it with you in the hopes that you give it a try if you have never made this type of salmon before.

The poached salmon is accompanied by a creamy vanilla sauce that is just perfection and goes so well with the delicate taste of the salmon.

Here is my version of Emeril Lagasse's recipe:

For the salmon

 - 2 salmon steaks
 - 1 bottle of spumante
 - 1 shallot
 - 1 tablespoon of butter
 - 6 parsley sprigs
 - 1 teaspoon of salt
 - 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the vanilla sauce

 - 2 shallots
 - 1 cup spumante
 - 1 cup heavy cream
 - 4 tablespoons of butter
 - 1 teaspoon of brown sugar
 - 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
 - 1 teaspoon of salt
 - 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper

I began with the sauce since that is probably the trickiest part. Start by adding the butter and shallots to the saucepan and heat on medium.

After heating for about 5 minutes add the cream and lower the heat. 

Next I added the Spumante, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and pepper and left that to simmer for about 10 - 15 minutes. 

In the mean time, in a wide skillet heat the butter and add the bottle of Spumante, parsley and shallots heating on medium. 

Add the salmon steaks and poach until cooked through. I would say about 5 - 7 minutes on each side depending on the size. Salmon easily over cooks so be careful to check on it often. 

While the salmon is cooking, I strained the sauce so as to remove the shallots. 

And now your delicious Spumante poached salmon is ready to be served!!  I probably should have added another half a bottle of Spumante to the skillet because most of it evaporated during cooking and so I guess it wasn't technically "poached" at that point but it was still really, really, really good :-) 

Have a spectacular weekend and a Blessed Palm Sunday 


Monday, March 14, 2016

The Kitchen is My Happy Place

Good morning and happy Monday! I hope you all had a great weekend and are feeling energized to start a fresh new week.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I changed some things around in my kitchen. I love my kitchen. The kitchen truly is my happy place. It's where my sweetheart and I sit and chat at the end of the day, it's where I make my favorite foods and experiment new things, it's where I sit and look into my oven when I have a cake that's baking or a pizza that's cooking and can't wait to taste it, it's where I sip my wine while I'm making chicken cutlets and a caprese salad. So needless to say, I like my kitchen to be a cozy and happy place for me and for my guests.

I wanted to share this with you so you can see where my cooking takes place. It's my most favorite room in the house and it really reflects my personality. It's feminine, warm and inviting and until my next switch up...I'm loving this look :-)

I didn't do anything dramatic like paint cupboards or anything, I just changed a few things, added some new art work and switched up the fabrics. I changed my chandy as well. I Love it!!

Here you can see what my kitchen looked like before my little makeover.

And this is what my kitchen looks like today:

I bought a new chandelier that was on sale and that I immediately fell in love with. The pictures really don't do it justice as it is so much prettier when you see it lit up in the evenings. It adds so much color to the room. 

Gigia photo bombs a lot during this post but she's cute so it's ok :-)
I bought some new art work that I added to that back wall just because it was pretty bare before and I think they go so well together displayed like that. I switched them up a lot before deciding on that set up. 

You can't really see the curtains too well but I made them from Ikea Berta Ruta fabric. It's a sheer cotton fabric that allows light to come in while at the same time providing privacy to the balcony door.BERTA RUTA Tessuto a metraggio IKEA Tessuto tinto in filo: la fantasia della tenda è visibile da entrambi i lati.

I also bought these cute seat cushions for my kitchen chairs.  They are Ikea as well and they are double faced so I can switch them over if I want.  This is what the other side looks like:
ELSEBET Cuscino per sedia IKEA I legacci tengono fermo il cuscino per sedia. Double-face.
picture from Ikea
Then I wanted to cover my bench with  a similar fabric but didn't want EVERYTHING gingham so while I was at Ikea I found these curtains that looked perfect. We all know that Ikea curtains are super long and wide so I figured it would be cheaper to buy the curtain set, use the fabric to cover the bench and then have extra to make a table runner...and that's what I did!

I bought these Lenda curtains in light red which turned out to be the perfect color. 
LENDA Tenda con bracciale, 2 teli IKEA
I had plenty of fabric to use. I added buttons to the bench cushion as well. 

And that pretty much sums up everything I did. I was debating on whether or not to get a kitchen island. In fact I'm still on the hunt for one but I don't want to spend too much. For now this will do. I have to say I'm pleased with how it turned out.

I wish you all a great week ahead! 


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Angel Food Cake without Cream of Tartar

This past weekend I wanted to make an easy low fat, low calorie dessert and remembered when I was a little girl my mom used to come home very often with Angel Food Cake as it was one of her favorite desserts. I loved the lightness of that cake and did some research online for recipes.  The thing all the recipes had in common was cream of tartar... Obviously cream of tartar doesn't exist here in Italy and if it does I have no idea what it's called....so I was faced with my first dilemma.

But this didn't stop me from making my much desired Angel Food Cake! I did some more research and found that the cream of tartar is used mainly to keep the egg whites firm when whipped but I learned that you can achieve the same result with a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice or vinegar. I preferred using lemon juice. Another tip I can give is not to use liquid egg whites in the cartons because they won't give you the firmness that regular eggs will for some reason even though I think it has to do with the liquid eggs being pasteurized. Anyways, I tried using carton egg whites and it was a flop so just use regular eggs if you can. 

I served the cake with a sauce made from red oranges and decorated with some orange slices. I wanted to use strawberries but I didn't have any unfortunately. The oranges were a hit all the same!

Here is my recipe for Angel Food Cake. 


 - egg whites from 10 medium sized eggs
 - 1 teaspoon of lemon juice 
 - 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
 - 1 cup of cake flour 
 - a pinch of salt

Begin by separating the egg whites from the yolks. It is imperative that you whip the egg whites in a grease free glass or metal bowl. Since I didn't use the cream of tartar, this was important so the eggs whip up well and form stiff peaks. 

Add the lemon juice and begin whipping on low. When the whites start to firm up add half of the sugar and mix the other half with the flour and pinch of salt.  Set aside.

Continue whipping until you see the eggs have formed stiff peaks. 

At this point you will very gently incorporate the flour mixture by folding the flour into the egg whites with a spoon a little at a time. 

Once the flour is all incorporated your mixture should look like this. 

Now in an ungreased tall tube cake pan (...it's ok...I didn't have one either, all I had was a silicone bundt pan LOL), gently add the cake mixture. The cake rises during cooking time and I was a little scared that it might overflow at one point but it was all good! 

Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for about 35 - 40 minutes. 

Now you need to let that baby cool before removing from the pan or else it'll break apart. 

Once cooled gently flip onto your plate and it's ready to be decorated :-) YAY

You can let your imagination run free at this point with visions of nutella, strawberries, whipped cream, blueberries, etc... anything your heart desires!

All I had available were organic oranges whomp whomp...

but it was a success nonetheless!! 

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