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

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


  1. Pattie, great post sweetie, I agree with you whole heartedly. I felt the same way after visiting Santa Monica beach, Oh My!!! Crazy looking women with face lifts. You are a well traveled and experienced lady, I am impressed. Here is to Your good Health and Hopefully mine too, Kathysue

  2. Patty-Go for it--I'm behind you all the way. I am amazed at the number of my daughter's friends (she's 29!!!!) who are doing Botox. I just think this obsession is sad. I have thought about a little "restoration" and don't judge anyone who does, but I have tried to teach all of my children that what is on the inside is much more inportant! Now, I TOO will get down off the soapbox--I am your friend and I love lemon tart :) I have never let my body image get in the way of dessert. Do you need my address ? :)

  3. God Bless You Pattie.All you do is just amazing.Celebrity, pop culture, and "perfection" utopia are the themes of the times and being strong in values and morals are to commended and practiced. I love the tart and cherries and gorgeous lace tablecloth is so elegant. Hope you find and settle into your next Casa Bramoasole with ease and nearer your grands. Take care,Emelia.

  4. Hi Pattie,
    I so agree! Life is too short to worry about what others think of your appearance. Enjoy life, cherish time with family and friends and be kind and passionate about something! These are the important things!
    Take care Pattie!

  5. GREAT SOAPBOX POST Pattie! So much pressure on all of us, especially our young girls! Love the tart...I do love a lemon tart! Joni

  6. This is one of the reasons I love you so much. You can stand on that soapbox and preach all day! Loved this post, Pattie. You are right. I am sick and tired of people worrying themselves silly over body image, looks, etc., when what really counts resides on the inside.

    One of the most physically unattractive people I've ever known was also one of the most beautiful people I've ever known. You know why? Because of what was on the inside. She could smile and light up a room. Her laughter was like the sound of bells tinkling, and she laughed a lot and smiled a lot. She was one of the most well liked people I have ever known, and she never knew a stranger. People fought to be near her. And she never had plastic surgery or fine clothes or the lastest whatever. She knew how to laugh and love, and that was her secret.

    So preach on, my friend, and hopefully the people who need to hear this will listen. I need to shop the produce aisles more for my health, so I could stand to hear this, too!


    Sheila :-)

  7. Very beautiful dishes and setting. The lemon tart looks simply srumptious. Yum! :)

  8. Bonjour Pattie,

    Marvelous post and very well said! It is so sad to see so many beautiful ladies and 'teenagers' going under the knife! True beauty begins in the heart, and springs out from that point.
    I am adding your Lemon Tart to the growing list of your other delicious recipes. I'm positive the hot chocolate cherries will be my favorite. We have several cherry trees loaded with berries here in France. Made confiture the first time this year, and now honey and I thank you!!

    Wishing you a wonderful day,

  9. Miss are one amazing and talented lady. I was blessed to find you. God bless you and your family.

  10. This is favorite time, time to get to sit down and see the beautiful table scapes. I love lemon and I love chocolate cherries. I never thought to do cherries like that. Ours are over on the tree, but the store has plenty more. I am printing that off for this weekend. Thanks.

    I feel so sad as you do. It is horrible what media has done to us, convincing us and our men that we should look like that. Our young girls can't possibly have the ability to like themselves the way they are when their mothers don't and their mothers are pushing it (or their boyfriends and husbands). My daughters and I are all more well endowed than we would like. We can't believe people would pay good money to have to "pack these around". Guess the grass is always greener on the other side!

  11. Such a beautiful table! I'm sure your guest will feel special!

  12. Oh boy does this look good! Thanks for your sage words too -- I've always thought it would be like when you paint a room and then the carpet looks shabby -- if I fixed one thing, it would probably make me think something else was glaring -- I'll just age gracefully....sort of...still going to cover the grey though.

  13. Pattie,
    you are absolutely right with your post. And - Food is a lot of fun, too. And so is your table. Always wonderful covered with the prettiest tablecloth I ever have seen. Such a treasure again. The golden chargers make the whole table very festive. Crystal and silver, finde china and srumptious food - everything is wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing this pretty table.
    Greetings, Johanna

  14. Your table is very pretty, love the beautiful cream soup bowls, and that lemon tart is making me drool.

    Pattie, that was a great post...I agree, too much tuck this and tuck that in this country. One comedienne comes to mind...she has had so much facial surgery she can no longer smile, sad, sad, sad.

  15. Pattie, You are an amazing woman! You've done a lot, experienced a lot, provided great experiences for your children, survived serious illness and thrived afterwards. You work hard doing things you love doing and you're a fabulous cook and blogger. Looks are nice but there are other things far more important. You said it well. And I do think Botox and plastic surgery have their place. One has to have the proper priorities.
    On another note, I can't wait to hear about your "new life"! Pattie, I've lived in the same state all of my life, in just three cities/towns. I got married, he was in college so we lived in the city of his college. Then I started back to college and we continued to stay. And we've remained here since 1976. Perhaps we should have ventured out/been more adventurous. We have travelled, but expect to stay in this city for awhile...maybe forever...? So, I am naturally curious about your motives to move. For your husband's job? To be closer to your adult children and grandchildren? Just because you feel the itch to do something else? It will be fascinating to hear your story, Pattie.
    Your desserts look fabulous tonight. So does your table. You always do things in an elegant way. You're great at photography, too, Pattie. Thanks for stopping by earlier and I'd LOVE to give you some tomatoes if you came by the house (instead of just my blog - hehehe)!
    Hugs, Beth God bless all of you in your new adventure. Congrats on having what it takes to make your dreams come true!!!

  16. Oh Patti, what a wonderful post. You are so right that we need to appreciate ourselves for who we are. I've been enjoying your post for some time now, but hadn't realized all of the bumps in the road - cancer and two heart attacks! I need to get myself into better shape. You've got some good pointers.I know you have a lot going on now, but it sounds like you have the right mind set to handle it.

    - The Tablescaper

  17. Pattie, I agree! Eat healthy food and enjoy life. Laughing and smiling makes for a better day for everyone.
    Now, I'll have some of the lemon tart with the hot chocolate cherries. I'll be making these soon. ~ Sarah

  18. Pattie, I agree with everything you write! And I am now your follower! I live in a town where I am one of the few who still has my original face/wrinkles/you name it from toosh to schnoz. I have instilled in my daughter the idea that her health is important and beauty comes from within, and I can see that she knows it. And, not to forget that this is Tablescape day, your table and the desserts look fabulous! I am going to try those cherries! Linda

  19. Wonderful post! You are so right about it all!! What is on the inside is what makes someone beautiful and healthy!!
    P.S.(love my laugh lines, too!!)

  20. I've always admired and appreciated you , Patty, but nevermore so than right this moment.
    Thank you for your knowledge and insight. Its opened my eyes in the best possible way..


  21. I agree too! NP has so much Botox I think she will shatter if she ever tries to laugh!

    Your table is lovely, and your food, divine.
    I do hope the good Lord is giving you guidance in this new chapter in your life!

  22. The cream soups are gorgeous, and I can hardly wait to try the hot chocolate cherries. You blessed your friend with your charming design. Thank you for sharing it with us. Cherry Kay

  23. Amazing post,and some very good advice. I have to admit, my problem is "portions". :)
    Lemon tart and cherries look so delicious.

  24. Great post Pattie. I think we waste too much time trying to fit into what the world would tell us we should be. We need to just enjoy who we are with all our bumps and lumps. Life it too short not to. Love the tart. AS always, it looks fabulous!

  25. I love your table and the chocolate cherries. I'd like to sit there and enjoy the lovely atmosphere that your pictures show.

    Have a great day to both!!

  26. Good to read those words as a reminder of what is important! Your table is lovely and that lemon tart looks beautiful as well as delicious.

  27. Some very wise words to live by Pattie. I think we should all strive to be the best healthy person we can be.

  28. Very interesting post! you tell it like it is. Looking beyond the outside, and seeking what's within is really what our focus should be.
    Great blog!

  29. Great post. We need to spend more time thinking about what is important to us...and doing something very special for a friend!

  30. Loved this post! Totally agree with you. It's such a shame some people can't see real beauty and try to "fix" the wrong things. Happiness comes from within. Wish you and your family all the best in your future move. Can't wait to hear about it. Thank you for making my day.

  31. Of course, now I can't stop wondering about your son, the child actor, and where I may have seen him :)

    I love this post, Pattie. How did we get to this point in the United States? (I have many theories, of course.) I don't like seeing the changes in my face and body as I get older but I would much rather try to exercise and eat sensibly than have a scalpel or needle enter my body.

    I can't wait to hear more about your move. Florida would be wonderful and you could be closer to the rest of your wonderful family!

    Thank you for the delicious recipes too - you know I LOVE lemon!

  32. A great post! Your table is beautiful and the tart looks yummy!


  33. Hi Pattie,

    Since the princess entered our lives quite by surprise, I have done a lot of soul searching and come to so conclusions about my life and lifestyle. I won't bore you with a big commentary but, one of the most important things I want to give her is good self image. And in order to do that, I have to live that. Okay, I can feel myself ready to ramble so, I will just say, good post!

  34. Your table and tart look beautiful and your words were ones of great import. I hope the day treats you well. Blessings...Mary

  35. Well said! Your tart and cherries look wonderful.....Great post:)

  36. Hello sweet lady...

    Girlfriend, I knew there was a reason why I just adore you!!! Thank you so much for your "heart to heart" talk with us...I would like to add a hearty "AMEN"!!! I totally agree with every word that you said, my friend! Ohhh my, we do live in a world of "instant gratification" don't we? Thus all the plastic surgery, etc. I have come to the conclusion...after 53 yrs. of life experience...that not everyone is born with a perfect body shape. I have always fought being overweight...even as a child. I bet I've been on every kind of fad diet there my lifetime. I have finally come to the conclusion that just being healthy is where it's at!!! I'm very happy with myself, flaws and all! hehe! Inner beauty far exceeds that outer beauty. I have known some gorgeous looking people but they have the most terrible dispositions and attitudes! Okay...getting off of my soapbox now! Hehe!

    Girlfriend, as have prepared the most exquisite table!!! I love that lace tablecloth and ohhh, that lovely china!!! What a treat...cherries in chocolate sauce? Ohhh my!!! And that lemon tart looks so scrumptious as well!!! Thank you for sharing your fabulous table and recipes with us! Also...thank you for sharing your heart with us too! Just the way that I like to start my day, sweet friend!!!

    Thank you so much for coming by and leaving such sweet notes...I have read each and every one of them, Pattie! I am just now getting to my blogs after having company, etc. I always enjoy our visits...thank you, dear lady!!!

    Warmest wishes,
    Chari @Happy To Design

  37. besides presenting a beautiful table and giving us some wonderful sounding recipes i definitely want to try, your post was so absolutely true and timely...i couldn't agree more. well said!

  38. "Old and worn, but beautiful" ... I hope that's how I'm thought of someday -- just like your much-loved and lovely tablecloth. I'm glad I happened upon your blog today at Tablescape Thursday.

  39. Dear Pattie ...

    Wonderful post, from soup to nuts. I just love you, tootsie.


  40. Thank you for your wonderful post..... Susan's quote (which I love) "Old and worn, but beautiful" doesn't help trying to find a job and a man (sad but true)..... I do not believe in surgery, but I do understand why an older woman might. P.S. Everything looks beautiful and yummy.....God Bless and Best Wishes

  41. Wonderful post. I love bloggers who actually have something to say and are not afraid to say it. I concur with everything you have to say. I live in Miami and see it everyday. But if you turn on the tube, young women are bombarded with images of fake doctored up people.

    I kind of feel the same about food bloggers who spend ridiculous amounts of money on cameras and lenses to get on the FB Top 9, taste spotting, or food gawker. Then you look at their recipes and they are total crap. What's the point of that?! Be honest to thyself...I read that somewhere once.

    Great post!


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