Thursday, May 26, 2016

Cooking Class: Meatballs, Fresh Pasta, Focaccia & More

Last week we had some friends in town and we did a cooking class with them and some of our local friends.  It was a wonderful class; delicious food, and the group was really, really good- fun and got along well.  (I did another one yesterday, too, which I'll talk about some other time).
For this class, we made tomato focaccia bread (with potatoes in the dough), meatballs with a red sauce over polenta, fresh pasta with a creamy tomato sauce, and a strawberry tiramisu.  Everything was SO GOOD!!!
Here is the recipe for Tomato Focaccia bread.

Recipe for the meatballs.  (We fried them first for a few minutes before adding to the tomato sauce.) We made a tomato sauce with canned tomatoes and I can't find it on his website.  It might be similar to this one, just using canned tomatoes instead of the fresh.  We ate the meatballs over white polenta cooked with Gorgonzola.  It was delicious.  My polenta pics didn't turn out.  Here in Italy, meatballs aren't eaten over pasta.

Next up is the fresh Semolina pasta we made.  The dough is only egg and semolina pasta.  It was kind of hard to press it out and get it through the pasta machine, but the results were amazing, tasty fresh pasta.

The six photos above are of us making the Creamy Grappa Tomato Sauce.  (Grappa in place of Vodka).  We got to watch the grappa being lit on fire, which was awesome.  Some of us almost got our arm hairs burned off.  First, you saute onions with pancetta and olive oil.  Then add the grappa and light in on fire until it burns off.  The onions will be flavorful and caramelized after.  Then add one tube of tomato paste and a can of diced Italian tomatoes.  Next, add in your freshly boiled homemade pasta.  Serve with cheese and oregano.

The strawberry tiramisu isn't on his website yet- this cooking class was the first time he's made it for a class.  (And it was my idea- yay!)  For this tiramisu, you don't use coffee.  Instead, you can use orange juice, limoncello, or ginger ale for dipping the ladyfingers.  Then you add an egg and mascarpone custard with lots of fresh strawberries.  It was so light and delicious.  I can't wait to make it for the kids.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Peanut Butter Snickers Brownies

I made these brownies on a whim Friday because they looked so easy.  I haven't make any baked goods in FOREVER and wanted to make something for the fam even though I was tired from a long week.  They came together so quickly that it wasn't really a big deal to make them, and they were SO good, so much better than I thought they'd be, given how simple the recipe was!  (The base is similar to that Bombshell Brownies recipe that was floating around the internet a few years ago. But it's so much better with the additions of chopped Snickers bars and peanut butter.)  I only baked these for 25 minutes and they were perfectly moist and fudgy.
Peanut Butter Snickers Brownies
from Two Peas & their Pod

1 cup butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
3/4 cup dutch processed cocoa
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chopped Snickers candy bars (4 regular-sized candy bars)
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

2. Place butter in medium saucepan on the stove. Heat over medium heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat and stir in sugar and vanilla extract. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well with spoon after each addition. Add cocoa; stir until well blended. Add flour, baking powder and salt; stir until combined. Stir in Snickers candy bar chunks. Pour batter into prepared pan.

3. Drop dollops of peanut butter over the batter. Using a knife or skewer, swirl peanut butter into brownies. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. (Mine were perfect in 25 minutes- 35 would have ruined them.  Check them early.)  Cool brownies completely in pan on a wire rack. Once cool, cut into squares and serve.
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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Hiking Cinque Terre

Here are some pics from when we hiked in the Cinque Terre.  We hiked from Monterosso to Vernazza (pictured above).  It was a steep, challenging hike, with many, many stairs- some of them huge- but we did it.  Our four kids did great.  We just stopped along the way when we could for rest and snacks/water.  Most of our fellow hikers were friendly.  One group kind of came up behind us and pushed us out of the way, but that only happened once.  It was an overall good experience.

The two pics (above and below) are not from our hiking day, but from the ferry we took through the CT.  It was kind of an overcast day.  

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Cinque Terre

We finally went to the Cinqe Terre during spring break in the first week of April.  We had beautiful weather most of the time and we loved it.  (We went to a beach town for 3 days before that, near Livorno, and had fun there, too, but I won't post about it.)  These pics are from our first day there. We went on a hike from Monterosso-Vernazza on the second day, and I'll post about that later.  The first day, we just walked around old and new Monterosso, taking pictures, eating a nice lunch, and relaxing.  We also enjoyed our AirBnB apartment (in Levanto, not part of the CT, but the next town over.)
The Chef at Ristorante Ciak, above.  The food we ordered, pictured below.  Fried seafood platter, two pics of shrimp ravioli, and then fresh gnocchi with local pesto.  Everything was so good!

Old town Monterosso- the train tracks are there in front of the tower.
The light and airy kitchen in our AirBnB in Levanto- I really loved it.  Two pics below are the view from our balcony.

The beautiful house (with tons of wisteria) right next to our AirBnB.  There was a great patio out here for hanging laundry and hanging out in.

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Lucca, Italy

Last week, during our Spring Break, we went to the Western coast of Italy.  We spend a few days on the beach in the Livorno region, and then went to Cinque Terre for 3 days.  I'll post about that later. We took a day trip one day to Lucca.  It's a beautiful walled city where you can walk along the old city wall.  The walkways are HUGE!  About twice as big as the roads for cars up by my house.  We rented a big pedaled buggy thing (that fit all of us) and cycled around the whole wall.  Then we got focaccia bread with different toppings, and then strolled through the old town (within the wall) and took pics.  And got gelato, of course!  I'll just leave a bunch of pics here.  The wisteria was gorgeous!

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