Does it mean that you're a foodie if you sign up for a cooking class while you're on vacation? (Not asking for a friend.) 😂 I'm fully embracing my foodie status today - There was no way that I was going to miss out on the opportunity to learn to cook LIKE an Italian FROM and Italian - in ITALY - even if it means I earn the title "foodie". 🇮🇹 Spending the day making classic Italian food with the love of my life in the beautiful town of Bellagio was pretty much a dream come true.
We started off our cooking class with a trip to the market where we shopped for our ingredients. Then we spent the afternoon creating the most delicious Italian food that I've ever tasted. Homemade pasta, bolognese sauce, bruschetta (aka ragu) and tiramisu - oh my.
I'll admit that it's possible that sitting at an elegantly dressed table under a grapevine awning in the middle of our favorite little Italian town on a beautiful Fall day, influenced my opinion of the food. I may have forgotten some of the details about that day, like the weight of the flour and the amount of fresh sage to put in the sauce, but I'll remember the memories that we made on this special day for a very long time.
It took 7 people (including 1 professional) 6 hours to create this dream Italian meal. I anticipated that it would take me roughly 3 days to recreate this meal at home - by myself. 😂 Soooo, I decided to tackle it in stages - or a series of days to be exact.
This is how my Italian cooking week went -
Day 1 - I shopped for ingredients including Italian tomatoes, ground veal and dried ladyfingers. (In case you're curious - I had to visit was 3 different grocery stores to get these special ingredients.)
Day 2 - I tackled the Bolognese sauce, divided it into containers and stored it in the refrigerator.
Day 3 - I made the tiramisu and let it sit in the frig overnight (A technique that our instructor recommended for better consistency.)
Day 4 - I made the bruschetta and homemade pasta, opened the wine and served my version of food.
My goal was to replicate the cooking class meal as closely as I could - with ingredients that are available on this continent. 😂 (I actually did a little happy dance when I ran across these tomatoes in World Market because this was the exact brand of tomatoes that we used to make our Bolognese in Italy.) Replicating the meal was easier than trying to recreate the beautiful ambience in stunning Bellagio.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 stalk celery
3 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
25 ounces tomato puree
1 cup water
7 ounces finely chopped canned tomatoes
1 cup red or white wine
salt and pepper
1/3 pound ground veal
1/3 pound ground pork sausage
1/3 pound ground beef
Discard bay and rosemary and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
Serve ragu with pasta.
I made two separate batches of ragu because well, it's ragu and you and can never have enough. Just to be sure that I was being thorough in my research, I wanted to make a batch of the ragu made with white wine and compare it to a batch of ragu made with red wine. (All in the name of research. 😂)Turns out - even though I'm partial to a glass of red wine with dinner - I was a fan of the white wine ragu. Don't get me wrong - both ragu sauces were amazing and I would never turn down a bowl of either. I recommend doing your own "research" though. 🍝
Ciao from Bellagio!
What makes anyone want to run a marathon? Obviously, we aren't all cut out to be marathon runners. To most people, it hardly seems worth the effort to put ourselves through all of the training to be awarded with a gatorade and a medal. But to a runner, the results are worth the time and effort that they invest in their marathon training.
We are a society of instant gratification but have you noticed that the more time and energy that we devote to something, the more fulfillment we receive when our goal is finally achieved? It takes countless hours of training for a person to get themselves into the physical condition necessary to run a marathon. What is the motivation? Is it the potential of winning or just the satisfaction of accomplishing a long term goal?
I gave up running 12 years ago because of a wimpy ankle situation but when I WAS running, I never described myself as a "happy" runner. I ran out of necessity. It was an efficient and inexpensive form of exercise and most days, I had to force myself to do it. I devoted a percentage of my day to exercise because I felt like the benefits outweighed the pain and aggravation that I had to endure. It was the long term benefits to my health that kept me motivated to run around and around my neighborhood on a daily basis.
I apply the same principles to dinners that I make. There are times when we need instant gratification - and sustenance - in a hurry. There are other times when I devote a lot of time into making a meal and I've learned over time NOT to do it for the potential accolades that I will receive from my family. I actually get a lot of satisfaction from the process of transforming raw ingredients into something that smells and tastes absolutely heavenly. There's also a direct link between the amount of time that I spend cooking a meal and the contentment that I feel when I eat it.
There are certain meals that you just can't rush. They require that you invest a certain amount of time in order to achieve the desired results and there's no shortcuts. Risotto is one of those dishes. It requires a significant amount of time and a lots of attention in the form of constant stirring. Trust me when I say that it's totally worth it though. This shrimp risotto is DELICIOUS!
1 pound extra large shrimp, with shells
1 3/4 teaspoon table salt
1 Tablespoon oil
7 cups water
15 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
4 Tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon fennel
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 ounce parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Stir in chives, lemon zest and juice and 2 T. butter.
Serve with lemon wedges and parmesan.
Admittedly, this shrimp risotto isn't the most photogenic of meals because it's a little monochromatic. I can assure you that it's anything but one dimensional when it comes to flavor. This is definitely a new favorite in our house.
There are some foods that I consider to be just a catalyst for other, more appealing foods. Take french fries, for example. I actually refer to the long fried potatoes as ketchup sticks because without the ketchup, I really see no point in eating a french fry. I've always applied the same principle to my english muffin eating experience. The crater filled muffin has always served as a suitable holder for my butter, jam, peanut butter, eggs or avocado but beyond that - they really didn't serve any purpose.
It's not that there's anything inherently displeasing about english muffins, but on their own, they've never been that appealing. Then it occurred to me that perhaps I just haven't been eating the right kind of English muffins. I honestly don't think that I've ever tasted a made from scratch, freshly baked English muffin. Is it possible that I could make a muffin at home that is crave worthy, all on its own?
If anyone can turn an ordinary English muffin into an exceptional breakfast treat filled with nooks and crannies, it's America's Test Kitchen. I'm wasn't completely convinced that making homemade English muffins would get me to put aside my jar of peanut butter, but it was certainly worth a try.
2 3/4 cups bread flour
1 Tablespoon yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup + 6 Tablespoons warm whole milk
2 Tablespoons honey
5 Tablespoons cornmeal
2 Tablespoons butter
Let muffins cool completely on wire rack.
Split muffins with fork or knife.
Toast and serve.
Well it turns out, I really DO like plain English muffins. As I suspected, I was eating the wrong kind of muffins all this time. Homemade from scratch English muffins are AMAZING! And I can eat them plain - without any toppings. And when I do add my favorite toppings or filings, they're even more amazing.
Summer nights at the Davis house mean engaging in epic corn hole tournaments and board games competitions. We love late night movie marathons, ice cream shop visits and evening swim sessions. The three of us have to go our separate ways most days but when we come together in the evening, we make the most out of these warm, humid summer nights.
I know that I've hit full blown summer mode when I start staying up past my usual 10:00 bed time. (Normally, my body just shuts down at precisely 10 pm every night - regardless of what I'm doing or where I am.) 🤣 For some reason, I'm oddly energized and invigorated by summer nights I find myself wide awake and making smore's on the grill at 11:30 at night. 🤷🏻♀️ These late summer nights are amazing but they make it harder and harder to drag myself out of bed before 7:00 AM with each passing day.
Hold on to your hats folks, because if you struggle to get yourself out of bed in the summer like me - I'm about to make your morning a whole lot easier. Meet your new incentive to get your butt out of bed - the magical Breakfast Cookie. I'm willing to bet that if you have a batch of these in your freezer, you'll wake up thinking about them and dare I say - leap out of bed to get one, the minute that you wake up.
Since I've started making these cookies, I've gone from dragging myself out from under the covers in sloth-like fashion to springing out of bed kangaroo style. What can I say? I'm motivated by food. 😂🤷🏻♀️ Feel free to adjust my recipe to suit your own needs. Swap out the pumpkin seeds with walnuts or the raisins for dried cherries. The key is to make them your own.
1 carrot, grated
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir together with a wooden spoon.
Scoop onto into rounds on a silpat lined cookie sheet. Flatten slightly.
Bake 25 minutes at 350.
I wrap these cookies individually in plastic bags and put them in the freezer. Freezing them is a great way to keep them fresh but it also stops me from eating all of them in one day. (You know a cookie is good when I have to hide them from myself!) A quick 30 seconds in the microwave is all the you need to defrost these little treats. I recommend making a double batch - you'll be glad you did.
My relationship with avocados started out innocently enough. I enjoyed the creamy slices that were served alongside my street taco or floating on top of my bowl of tortilla soup. But slowly, over time, my love for the little green fruit grew into a full blown obsession. The beloved avocado has worked its way into my heart and now I just can't get enough of them.
Avocados are a staple in our house. I don't even bother adding them to my grocery list anymore - I just pick up 1 or 2 every time I go to the grocery. It seems pointless to question whether or not we NEED more. Of course we need more avocado and the thought of facing a day without an avocado in the house is just a little heart breaking.
I love freshly made guacamole and I adore avocado toast. I put sliced avocado on just about everything that I can - salads, soups, sandwiches, tacos, etc. They just make everything better. I've even put them in muffins and burgers. Oh, and if you happen to be my server at a restaurant - save yourself the trouble of asking - YES, I do want avocado with my meal. I know it costs extra - it's worth it. Bring me all the avocados in the kitchen, please.
If you're still teetering on the edge of admiring avocados and a full blown avocado obsession - do NOT make these avocado fries. The crispy panko crust over the warm, creamy avocado slice is absolutely ridiculous and will likely turn you into a super fan. These baked avocado fries are so good and I dare say that they're one of my very favorite ways to enjoy my favorite superfood.
Baked Avocado Fries
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon water
1/2 cup panko
I was first introduced to avocado fries at my favorite little Mexican restaurant. They serve perfectly browned, deep fried, panko crusted avocado slices as an appetizer alongside crispy tortilla rounds. They're just about the only deep fried fruit that I can see myself eating. I dare say that my baked (healthier) avocado fries are even better than the original deep fried version. You NEED these avocado fries in your life - trust me.
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