ll Cibo é L'essenza Della Vita....

"The rooms that you use on a daily basis are the rooms people will always want to sit in, because they have soul." --Bunny Williams


"If you want to live forever and ever, drink wine and eat maccheroni." ~~~Sicilian Proverb

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Foodie Friday, a Thank You, and Summer Pictures

Happy Friday to All!

First of all, I want to say a very heartfelt thank you. After I typed out yesterday's post (found here ) and pressed that "publish" button, I started thinking that I might get blasted for my thoughts. I tend to think of these things after the fact sometimes.
Anyway, I woke up this morning to an overflowing email inbox- and the overwhelming support just floored me! I am still wading my way through and trying to respond to everyone. For those who thought I was a bit harsh, I'd like to step back up on that soapbox for a minute and explain. I'm copying and pasting from a couple of my responses today only because I'm the world's worst and slowest typist:

" I have no problem at all with a bit of "touch up". I am forever grateful to my OB who interned with a fabulous plastic surgeon and left me with an almost invisible scar after 3 C-sections. There are many who undergo Bariatric surgery and work very hard to achieve their health and fitness goals who benefit greatly from surgery. I'm not even talking about Botox- I'm talking about parents who are paying for breast augmentation for 16 year olds! That CHILD will never be able to breast feed HER child because of a ridiculous obsession with looking "hot". And is THAT the right way to celebrate graduating high school?? It really upsets me to see men and women every day who are so frustrated with what they see as their "inability" to compete with what they "think" they should look like. I had a husband bring his wife to me for training and while the poor woman sat there in silence, he proceeded to tell me that MY job was to get her into a bikini in 6 weeks. His buddy had a new "trophy wife" and he didn't want to be "embarrassed". I don't think he was expecting the language he heard from THIS 5 foot Italian!
Why on earth would a healthy 15 or 16 year old need Botox or Liposuction?? I may be dating myself here, but in my day every Daddy I knew wanted to throw a blanket over his little girl before she walked out the door. I can't imagine my father or my Nonno breaking out his checkbook for his little girl to look "more womanly". 
And let's talk about the boys. I'm a trainer. I've worked with Armed Forces recruiters, trained bodybuilders and worked with college football teams- I'm no "sissy girl" even if I'm small in stature. Listen up parents- NO child 13 or 14 or 15 years old should be lifting weights like a bodybuilder! Their growth plates aren't completely closed till about 17 or 18 and damage to the growth plates is a HUGE deal involving risks to their continued growth, hormones, and future health. The father that told me that his son's high school coach was going to "make a man" out of him and he'd be "a real stud" also felt my wrath. I'm talking about society's obsession with how we "look" versus how we "feel". 
Run, play, live, laugh, love, make your home a loving sanctuary, eat well, work hard, play harder, and be the best person you can be- and instill that in every child you are blessed enough to be around"

Okay- I'm off my soapbox now. And again, I thank you all so very much. 
Now go make some of those Hot Chocolate Cherries from yesterday's post- we're still licking the last bits out of the jar! YUM!!

Oak Island Beach

Some of you asked for pictures of our recent trip. Allie hasn't gotten around to downloading them all (and I'm a techno-dummy), but I have a few to share

Allie thought this was pretty cool...

Mr B giving Nick pointers on body boarding. No, he didn't demonstrate :)

Is this suit a hoot? Our little bodybuilder!

Aren't I COOL Grandma??!

You can see the Italian in him- he talks with his hands!

My pretty girls- Aunt Allie and the Princess..

Tonight we're sharing a pasta dish I made for a recent luncheon. A wonderful fresh asparagus pesto blends with cognac infused shrimp for a flavorful, yet healthy dish. Enjoy!

Spaghetti with Shrimp and Asparagus Pesto
Spaghetti -about 12 ounces
1 lb. thin green asparagus
1 lb shrimps
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
2 tbsp pine nuts
3 tbsp cognac
4.5 tbsp butter
4 garlic cloves
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
2 tablespoons olive oil
Maldon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Fleur de sel
a few roasted pine nuts

To make the shrimp:
Shell and devein shrimp .
Take a frying pan and melt 1.5 tbsp butter. When hot, add 1 chopped garlic clove.
Cook for 1 min on medium to low heat without turning it brown, then add the shrimps and bring the heat to high. Cook until the shrimps are pink on all sides (only a few mns).
Away from heat and quickly, add the cognac and flambée the shrimps. Set aside, keeping them warm.

Clean the asparagus and snap off tough ends.
Blanch them for a few mins, then submerge under cold water to cool quickly. Drain. Cut some tips off and set aside for garnish- the rest goes in the pesto
In a food processor, mix together the 3 remaining garlic cloves, the basil, 3 tbsp of butter (soft), the pine nuts, a dash of Maldon sea salt, pepper and the asparagus.
Set aside.

Grate parmesan cheese.
Cook the spaghetti till al dente.
Reserve a few tablespoons of the pesto and a few shrimp if you intend to layer the dish. Take a large bowl and mix together the spaghetti with the pesto sauce and parmesan. 
For a lovely presentation, pile a layer of pasta in a circle, top with a layer of shrimp, then more pasta. Top with some pesto and a few pieces of shrimp and asparagus. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts if desired. OR, just toss everything together in a large platter!

Come join us at Designs by Gollum for Foodie Friday. Michael Lee and her guests serve up the best food in town!!

And don't forget- take advantage of your local Farmer's Markets and email us your favorite delicious, healthy recipes- we'd love to share!! And we'd love to see you on Facebook where we always share "bonus" recipes!

As Always,

Buon Cibo, Buon Amici,

Pattie and Allie

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Spoiling a Friend- Hot Chocolate Cherries, a Fresh Lemon Tart and Some Thoughts

Hi All! 

Hope everyone is well, healthy, and happy on this wonderful Thursday. 

Today's post is about self image. 

Yup! I'm going to get on my soapbox!

I'd like to share a few thoughts that I've been having recently. Actually I've felt this way for a long time, but some recent conversations with friends and clients have started me thinking that I'd like to share some  of them with you all
Uh, oh- yes, you are going to get some of my ramblings and you may learn a few things about me that you didn't know before. 

As many of you know, we recently got back from a trip to south Florida. It's actually looking more and more like that's where Casa Bramasole might be headed, but that's for a future post. While we were there, we couldn't help but notice (and believe me, I TRIED) that quite a number of women and young girls- even as young as Allie!- were seeing, or had seen, surgeons for "help" in achieving what they thought they needed to "look good". 

They were all already beautiful!

Some of you know that I work several jobs. I teach cooking classes, I cater small parties and dinners, I'm a decorator/ stager, and I'm a highly certified personal trainer/ nutritionist.
In that capacity, I speak to present and prospective clients every day about their health and body image. 

And I write this blog.

Those of you who read it know that food is a tremendous part of my life. When clients visit our home, they're always amazed at what I serve them. My husband likes to tease and tell them that I feed them for "job security"!

The fact is that I do not subscribe to the notion that some trainers do that food is for sustenance. Food is, and should be, one of the great pleasures of life. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone with any knowledge of healthy eating who doesn't tell you that the "Mediterranean" diet and lifestyle is the healthiest. Well, guess what?? Go to Italy and you'll see Italian families eating pasta almost every day. Along with bread at every meal and wine to boot! And they wouldn't even know what whole wheat pasta is- they're making it and eating it the same way they have for centuries. 
Here's the difference- portions are smaller, the largest meal tends to be at mid-day, they are MUCH more active than Americans, and they eat much less processed food than the average American. My Nonno was always amazed at the number of out of shape Americans when he visited- it just wasn't something he was used to seeing.

And they live life passionately!

But the point of this post is this- nobody's self image should be tied to what society, clothing designers, the movie industry, or the latest trends tell us. I wanted to cry hearing that parents were giving their daughters an appointment with a plastic surgeon as a graduation gift! 
Are they telling their daughters that they are, indeed, "less than perfect"? 

And to the women AND men who come to me trying to "fix" themselves- (here's where you learn about me)-

I am a 50 year old wife, mother of 6, grandmother of 2, sister, daughter, and friend. I have travelled the world with a son who worked as a child actor (yes, you'd probably know him). I have survived cancer and 2 recent heart attacks. I became a trainer after the cancer to help other patients beat it as I did. I have competed in natural bodybuilding AND figure competitions and won. I've worked with amazing teenagers running a community service organization. I've been a scout leader for my daughter and my sons. I chair my neighborhood ARB. I've been PTA president and worked all the Board positions at various times. All these things have contributed to making me the person I am, but none more so than raising my amazing children.

I have a bit of cellulite and some laugh lines. I'm proud of those- they show that I laugh! I've earned them all!

And if someone wants to judge me based on a wrinkle, or a tiny jiggle, or a sagging knee (yes, I hear that complaint ALL the time from clients), then I choose to believe that it's their problem- and their loss. Those things aren't what make me who I am or who I want to be

Exercise for your heart, your health, to prevent diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol. Run and play with your children, grandchildren, and friends. Take a walk after a wonderful meal. Visit your local Farmer's Markets and try something new! Use real, whole foods and shop the perimeters of your supermarkets- produce, bakery, seafood, meat, and dairy- most of the center aisles are processed foods.

 And smile! It burns calories!

Be the best person you can be- beauty comes from the inside out

Today's table was set for dessert with a very special friend. 

set by the window in the study...

an old copy of Veranda which holds the inspiration picture for the room we're working on in her home

An old drawnwork cloth and vintage hand embroidered linen tea napkins

Old and worn, but beautiful :)

Grandma Josie's silver and my Waterford- past and present come together...
Silver and crystal for a special friend

handled soup cups work well for today's dessert...

True decadence- hot chocolate cherries with cognac...

and a fresh lemon tart

We'll run together tomorrow :)
Coffee and homemade chocolate ice cream....mmmmmm...


Fresh Lemon Tart

1 sweet pastry crust- The one I used is below
grated zest of 3 lemons
1 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup superfine sugar
6 tblsp. creme fraiche or heavy cream
6 eggs plus 4 egg yolks
confectioner’s sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out pastry and line a 10 inch tart pan with removeable bottom. Prick well. Line the pastry shell with foil and fill with pie weights or beans. Bake for about 15 minutes until the edges are set and dry. Remove foil and beans and bake an additional 5-7 minutes till light golden.
  Beat the zest, juice and sugar till combined, then gradually add the creme fraiche and beat till blended. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then beat in egg yolks and pour filling into crust. Bake for 15-20 minutes till set. If pastry starts to brown too much, cover edges with foil. Cool and dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving

Pastry crust; 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 tablespoons sour cream
 place the flour, butter, and sour cream in food processor and pulse to combine. When the dough forms a ball, roll out and place in a
n ungreased 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and 1/2-inch sides. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the crust is set but not browned. Let cool while preparing the filling.

I can't even tell you how insanely good these cherries are. I served then with homemade chocolate ice cream which you'll find here

Hot Chocolate Cherries

1/2 cup water
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 large strips of lemon peel- not the white part
1 1/2- 2 pounds sweet cherries- I used yellow Rainier today
2 TBLSP unsweetened cocoa
good pinch salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup cherry cognac (or mix 3 parts Amaretto with 1 part maraschino cherry liquor)
Bring water, sugar and lemon peel to a boil, stirring frequently to dissolve sugar in a heavy saucepan. Add cherries, return to a boil and simmer, stirring for a minute. Remove from heat. Remove cherries with a slotted spoon and put them in a flameproof casserole dish which has been sprayed with Pam. Set pot of syrup aside- discard lemon peel. 
Put the cocoa powder and salt into a small bowl and whisk in cream till smooth. Stir chocolate cream into syrup till smooth and return pan to heat. Bring to a boil stirring frequently, reduce heat to very low and simmer about 10 minutes till reduced to about half. Stir frequently to prevent burning. Preheat broiler. Turn off heat and stir in liqueur. Pour sauce over cherries in casserole and broil 3-4 minutes till bubbly- watch carefully. Serve over cake or ice cream

We're linking up today to Susan's Tablescape Thursday party at Between Naps on the Porch. Come join us for one of Blogland's best events!

Join us tomorrow for Foodie Friday at Gollums's- and come hungry!

Do you have any quick, healthy, and delicious favorite meals or desserts?? Email me through our profile page and we'll be sure to share!

As Always,

Buon Cibo, Buon Amici,

Pattie and Allie

Monday, July 26, 2010

Meatless Monday- Herbed Pasta, Beets in Jackets, and Cornbread Tartlets!

Happy Meatless Monday Everyone!

We JUST got back from Oak Island at the beautiful Carolina coast 

and between unpacking, laundry, antsy kids, and work, I almost forgot what day it was! Fortunately, my wonderful friend came through again and delivered a bounty from this weekend's farmer's market. I have a LOT to tell you all in the coming days, but this post is going to have to be a bit short and to the point.

And the point is.....

Meatless Monday and quick delicious foods from locally grown sources.

One of my very favorite side dishes is roasted beets- golden or red- oven caramelized with just a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Tonight, I decided to make a dish that my aunt used to call "Barbabietola in Giacca" or Beets in a Jacket. Sweet roasted beets in a crispy batter with a bit of heat. She always paired them with some form of homemade aioli- tonight it's a citrusy mint one since I'm drowning in mint! She made her batter with wine and I had this dish in a NYC restaurant where the chef told me he also used wine. I'm not sure if this is a regional Italian thing, but it's so good! You'll also find fresh mint in the pasta tonight- hot pasta tossed with chopped fresh herbs, raw and roasted tomatoes, and salty, creamy ricotta salata cheese (Feta or goat cheese are delectable substitutes here). For dessert I flipped through a wonderful new book I found at our local Harris Teeter- the Farmer's Market Cookbook from Vegetarian Times. Blackberry Cornbread Tartlets with Ricotta Cream were a hit! The only change I made to their recipe was the addition of a bit of fresh chopped basil to the cornbread batter since basil pairs so beautifully with citrus and fruits.

Pasta with Herbs, Cheese and Roasted Tomatoes

1/2- 3/4 lb ricotta salata (you can use Feta too)
2-3 TBLS each chopped basil and chives
2 TBLSP chopped mint
1 TBLSP each chopped oregano and thyme

1/2 cup olive oil plus more if necessary
1/4 cup or slightly more balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
1 1/2- 2 pounds cherry, grape, or heirloom tomatoes (or a mix), roasted (see note) ( I used a combination of roasted and fresh raw tomatoes tonight- just cut the raw ones in half)

1 pound pasta- a short pasta such as a shell or penne works well here

Crumble the cheese in a bowl and mix well with the herbs. Set aside in the fridge. Pour olive oil and vinegar over tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and set aside on the counter while the pasta cooks.
Put a large pot of well salted water on to boil and cook the pasta till al dente. Drain the pasta and immediately toss with the cheese mixture and tomatoes

** NOTE- to roast cherry or grape tomatoes: Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place halved tomatoes cut side up on a foil lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and roast for about 3 hours 

Barbabietola in Giacca

1 bunch red beets
1 bunch yellow beets
olive oil

2 rounded cups flour
salt and pepper
 good pinch of cayenne
2 eggs
2 cups white wine

Canola oil for deep frying

Your favorite aioli- see below for Lemony Mint Aioli

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put the beets in a baking dish in a single layer- use separate dishes for red and yellow beets. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, and cover with foil. Roast for about an hour till tender when pierced. remove foil and cool. When cool enough to handle, slip off peels and slice beets in thick (at least 1/4 inch) slices. While they're cooling, make your aioli

Whisk together the flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Mix eggs and wine and whisk into flour mix. Whisk till smooth. If you're using 2 colors of beets, divide batter between 2 bowls. Put beet slices into bater and stir to coat- keep red and yellow separate. Heat about 2 inches of oil to 375 degrees in electric fry pan. Fry beets in batches- yellow first- till crisp and golden on both sides flipping once. Drain on a rack and serve hot with aioli

**NOTE-  Mint Aioli: In a food processor, put 4 egg yolks, 2 cloves crushed garlic, juice of 1 lemon, salt and pepper. In a measuring cup combine 1/2 cup olive oil with 1/2 cup canola oil. Process egg mixture till well blended, then with motor running, dribble in oil very slowly. When 2/4 of oil has been added and mixture has begun to emulsify, add 2 good handfuls of torn mint leaves. Start processor again and finish adding oil slowly. Stir in the zest of 1 lemon and refrigerate till ready to serve.

Blackberry Cornbread Tartlets with Ricotta Cream
adapted from the Farmer's Market Cookbook` the Vegetarian Times

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
3 TBLSP sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup low fat milk (I used 2%)
1 large egg
2 TBLSP unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
2 TBLSP chopped fresh basil

2 6 ounce containers blackberries
6 TBLSP sugar

1 cup whole milk ricotta
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
zest of 1/2 an orange

Toss blackberries with sugar in a bowl and set aside stirring occasionally. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 12 muffin cup pan with cooking spray. Whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together milk and egg. Fold milk mixture into flour mixture till moistened. Stir in corn, and basil. Divide among muffin cups (about 2 TBLSP each)  and bake for 14 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pan and remove to wire rack to cool completely.
Whisk together ricotta, sugar, vanilla and orange zest till creamy.
To assemble, slice tops off muffins to form a flat base. (I saved the cut off tops to use in a panzanella salad tomorrow). Top each cornbread tart with a spoonful of ricotta cream and top with a few of the berries. Serve immediately

Be sure to join us on Facebook and get our Bonus Recipes for Facebook Friends!

Stay tuned and join us on our journey as Casa Bramasole gets ready for a new chapter

As Always,

Buon Cibo, Buon Amici,

Pattie and Allie