Sunday, February 12, 2017

We've Moved!!

Hi friends!

I have been continuing my blog on a new platform: Wordpress!!

I found that I had more creative control on it and so decided it was time to switch. I have also been finishing all my study abroad posts (yay) to make room for new content.

Please follow along via

I would love to see you again - thank you so much for following along so far!



Saturday, September 17, 2016

Anyone Can Cook: Quick Tips from the Italian Kitchen

I loved coming out of my comfort zone and taking a cooking class in Italy. I was so worried about messing up all my meals - or being the (former) picky eater I am, that I wouldn't eat them. I was so surprised that all of them turned out fine AND I loved every. single. one. Going from having the shortest list of foods probably anyone has ever liked to expanding my palette to a normal person's was such a relief and now every time I go out to eat I always try to eat different things besides the same meal every time I stop by. 

Here are a few tips I picked up in the class along the way:

1) Cook pasta with salted water & cook "al dente" or partially cooked - salt adds flavor and al dente doesn't let the bad starches get released from the pasta (therefore healthier). Also, do not put a lid on it - just put it on high and it'll cook faster (plus the lid makes them soggy). Side note: do not EVER crack spaghetti in half before putting it in! It will release those starches if you do and its best for the flavor to just put it in as is and then stir it in to fit it once it's cooked a little bit.

2) When making spreads for things like pesto and cannoli filling, use a sifter to make it smooth instead of clumpy and scrape the bottom to get it all out (also used for sauces so things used for flavor like Rosemary are not in the sauce while cooking but still have the flavor and can cook evenly.

3) Adding salt to veggies stops the chlorophyll from producing, which is why it's important to do so.

4) Always taste your dish as you make it to make sure it cooks correctly & add more salt/pepper accordingly. You can't tell what your food will taste like unless you taste it.

5) Put a wet paper towel under your cutting board so it doesn't slip when you use it - could risk an injury otherwise.

6) Olive oil was mainly used to preserve things like basil in pesto and veggies in ribollita and bread in papà alla pomodoro. Olive oil doesn't just need to be used for cooking purposes.

7) Besides adding more oil to something that is cooking quickly and needs to be slowed so it doesn't burn (like sauce or garlic) - use salted pasta water/stock instead & then just add salt if the flavor is watered down. This is healthier and adds to the flavor of the dish too.

8) If a meal is served hot/cold - make sure the dish that it's served in is of the same temperature too so the meal doesn't get cold/melt faster. Example: when serving pasta, take a ladle full of the hot pasta water and put it in the bowl to heat it up, then get rid of it once the pasta is ready and serve. If serving Tiramisù, put the serving bowls into the fridge along with the mixture so they keep it cold longer when served

9) If using an ingredient that oxidizes (turns black or other colors when cut & exposed to air) quickly, like artichokes, rub it with a slice of lemon or have it soak in water with lemons inside if you want more lemon flavor to keep it from oxidizing.

10) New tools I learned about: slotted spoon - a big metal spoon with holes in it to serve pasta without using a drainer - I did not drain my pasta once and only used this in class. Another is an immersion blender - a hand held blender used to make sauces and is so light in weight yet so powerful. A pasta machine can prep pasta/cannoli shell dough with flour first and flatten, then can send it into the machine to roll out flat so you can cut and make the correct shapes.

11) To cook meats evenly (or anything really), cut them so they all resemble the same shape before cooking.

12) How to "clean" meat - cut off the fat (on red meat it's the little white parts) of the meat to remove the chewy/bad tasting parts before cooking so that it tastes better.

I learned a lot over the course of four months so I thought I'd share the wealth.

Let me know of any other cooking tips you have found below!


Friday, September 9, 2016

Cinque Terre: Monterosso, Manarola & Vernazza

Another trip on the blog today - and this time, it's the Italian Riviera! Otherwise known as Cinque Terre (The Five Villages),  where candy colored houses and beautiful views from the hills line this Ligurian coastline. This region is especially known for it's famous sauce, basil pesto as well as foccaccia bread.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site includes Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. I got to explore three of the five and that was just enough. Read on to learn a little more about this beautiful place:

One thing I definitely recommend for this coast is to do a hiking tour of a few of the towns. I loved hiking through all the mountains (especially in Manarola) and the views were STUNNING! Plus since its a bit of a climb, you will definitely feel proud of all the calories you burned off to earn your next pasta binge later in the day. 

The beaches here are so beautiful. Monterosso was my favorite (and also favorite town of all the ones I visited) because it seemed to have the most options of things to see, eat and do. You can sit on the cliffs and swim in the Mediterranean, tan by some cute & colorful umbrellas and even take a boat tour of all the towns if you want.

Pisa Pizza
Ok so I know this is not in Cinque Terre but I just had to include it since it was so good! On our way to Cinque Terre (I went twice so this was round two for me and round one for Mom) there was a train strike when traveling from Florence. My Mom and I were basically stuck at multiple stations for a whole day while trying to get there - it was awful. One of the places we stopped in was Pisa. Since we were hungry and wasn't sure how long we'd be stuck there for, we went to a place only a short walk away from the station and at first glance it seemed a little rough. However, their pizza menu was extensive - more options then I think I ever saw in the country! We settled on a sausage and walnut concoction and it tasted better than I thought! The nuttiness of the walnuts and the saltiness of the sausage mixed perfectly together.

The food here was a little hit & miss, definitely not my favorite compared to the other parts of Italy I've been to but still good! The highlights were definitely the walnut cream ravioli after our hiking day and the chicken dinner we had at Ristorante Ely our last night. Both were heavenly - especially the crispy potato medallions on the side of the chicken, yum!!

Overall, I loved the beautiful views of the towns but since there wasn't a whole lot to do, I recommend just staying a night.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Diamonds of the Kitchen: Truffles

For those that know me, you know that I haven't stopped talking about truffles since returning to the States - and it's not the chocolate ones. These so-called "diamonds of the kitchen" are flavorful little fungi that grow near the roots of trees in Italy & France. The only type I can speak on are the Italian kind but if you want to know more about these little beauties and why they are amazing keep on reading!!

So what makes these so rare and expensive? Well, one reason is because both white truffles as well as black can't be found without the help of dogs (and sometimes pigs, but that's more of a French technique) to find them. They are also only found in Italy and France (nowhere else) and only grow during a certain time of year. In fact, they hold a festival every September to celebrate the start of the truffle hunting season! 

Truffles can be purchased in a variety of ways, one being the ever-famous truffle oil. 

White truffle oil is sold in a can (keeps the oil fresh longer) or a glass bottle.  No oil actually has truffle in it, though, instead the white truffle is put in olive oil and then after the aroma is released, the truffle is removed. When purchasing truffle oil, make sure it is authentic (only lists white truffle aroma and olive oil as ingredients) but you don't need to spend a fortune on it since there is no actual truffle still in it. Pricing can run from 10 euros and up depending on the quantity purchased.

Fake oils have a chemical in them as well as the olive oil and aroma - you can tell if you taste the oil and you immediately taste the truffle (if it's real, you first taste the olive oil then the truffle since the truffle is put in the bottom of the bottle and should take time to come through. 

Truffle has a very strong taste so either you love it or hate it. The best way to use the oil is mainly pasta and bread, but also can use with salad or just about anything savory.

Truffle Oil Gnocchi

White truffles are more expensive and more prized than black truffles since they are harder to find and taste better as well as a shorter season for harvesting. The most expensive one was a world record size and went for 330,000 euros - no joke!!

Black truffles, on the other hand, are still expensive but are more accessible than white truffles and so are cheaper. These truffles can be sold as is to be grated over dishes, mixed with porcini mushroons into a creamy spread, or cooked whole. 

Black Truffle Gnocchi

Black Truffle Ravioli with White Truffle Cream Sauce

Black Truffle Fries

Black Truffle Carbonara with White Truffle Oil

White Truffle Oil Pizza Topped with Black Truffle

Black Truffle Cream, Pecorino and Salami Sandwich

Is your mouth watering yet?

If you don't believe me, try some the next time you see it on a menu!

One place to look for is Zaza's - they have multiple menus and one is dedicated to all things truffle!! Almost all of the black truffle meals pictured are from there (except the pizza and sandwich).

That's all for now - ciao!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Cooking Class Round Up: What I've Made

One great part about this trip besides all the travel was also the food. Italy is known for having amazing creations (no wonder Italian is my favorite)! I've made quite a few dishes during my cooking classes here in Italy to embrace this food culture and willing to share them all with you.

One class was purely food and the other was pairing food & wine.

Here are some of the magical recipes I've made through these classes (ignore the chicken scratch on some - I had to take notes!):

Spaghetti with Homemade Pesto

Bucatini alla Amatriciana


Chocolate Lava Cake with Pear

Polenta with Mushrooms

Risotto Milanese with Veal Shank

Spaghetti with Clams


Orecchiette with Broccoli Version 1 (above)

Orecchiette with Broccoli (Version 2)

Pumpkin Ravioli

Eggplant Parmigiana Version 1 (above)

Eggplant Parmigiana Version 2

Baccala (Cod Fish) with Potatoes

Chocolate Mousse with Cat's Tongue Cookies

Saltimbocca (Veal & Prosciutto Slab) & Involtini (Veal & Prosciutto Rolls)

Lamb Shanks with Pan-Fried Artichokes

Pumpkin Risotto


Pork and Rosemary

Chocolate Truffles

Pasta alla Chitarra

Cantucci (Biscotti)

If you want to recreate any of these recipes yourself, feel free to and comment your results below!