Saturday, November 23, 2013

New Work

So I finely have some new work to share. I'm super excited about my new horse art and have been crazy busy editing and printing test prints before getting them up on my Etsy shop.  I've been kind of obsessed with shooting horses lately and have 3 new pieces to show for it. The first I'm crazy about and have already framed and hung on my own wall.  It's titled, "Intense Beauty"... and he is, isn't he?!

The next two are "Strong & Silent #1"...

and "Strong & Silent #2". 

These both look good alone but I love them together as part of a dyptych!

I have many more new pieces to share with you so if you're interested head on over to my Etsy Store to check them out!

I'll be back early next week with more from my Italy trip. But for now, here's a little teaser.

Ciao for now!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Italian Holiday" Part 1

So I'm back home in Toronto and back to my "real" life!  Processing all my photos is causing me to suffer Italy withdrawal big time! Everyday of the trip was just so fabulous that I really don't know where to start so I guess I'll just start where it all began.... Rome!

 After a long, stressful flight (long story), we arrived late at night.  Just enough time to grab a quick bite to eat at a unremarkable restaurant close to our hotel and then off to bed.  The next morning we woke refreshed and eager to start our "Italian Holiday".  We had lunch reservations at Aroma near the Colosseum so spent the morning walking around the Monti area. After building up our appetites we headed over to the restaurant.  We had read numerous online reviews of the restaurant and were anxious to see if it lived up to its reputation. We were not disappointed! The staff did everything they could to make sure that we had an extraordinary experience. We had asked for a table on the terrace to make sure we could experience one of the most incredible features of the restaurant... the unobstructed view of the Colosseum!  We were delighted when we were led to a table right at the front of the terrace.  Check out this view!


It really was spectacular and so was the food!  We ordered the "Menu Degustazione" or tasting menu with wine.  If you are planning on being in Rome and want to treat yourself, I highly recommend it. It is 7 delicious courses with the appropriate wine pairings but you can also order without the wines if you prefer.  Unfortunately we were too busy ooohing and aaahing over every delicious morsel, not to mention the yummy wines, so I forgot to take photos of all the courses but the pic above is the homemade "Filine" pasta with pork and wild fennel.  Here is the complete tasting menu from their website;

 Tasting menu

Capesante arrosto profumate alla menta con fonduta di finocchi e porri fritti
Mint flavored roasted scallops on a fennel fondue with fried leeks

Magatello di vitello al punto rosa con insalatina olio e limone,
duetto di bignè e cannolo alla mela verde
Lightly cooked veal “Magatello” with baby lettuces and a duo of bignè
and green apple filled cannolo

Torciglioni con aliciotti, pinoli tostati,
filetti di pomodoro e panure di pane profumato all’aneto
Homemade “Torciglioni” pasta with anchovies, toasted pine nuts,
fresh tomato and dill flavored bread crumbs

Filini fatti da noi con costarelle di maiale e finocchiella selvatica
Homemade “Filini” pasta with pork and wild fennel

Medaglione di branzino con olive, pachino, origano
e fagottino di scarola
Medallion of sea bass with olives, “Pachino” tomato, oregano
and lettuce parcel

Sella di coniglio profumato alle erbe delle nostre terrazze
con tortino di patate al latte
Saddle of rabbit perfumed with herbs from our terraces
and potato flan

Mousse al mascarpone con gelato al pan speziato e gocce di caffè
Mascarpone mousse with “Pan speziato” ice cream and coffee drops

It was all excellent and I discovered a couple of fav new wines.  First the Weingut Niklas Sudtiroler Sauvignon 2012 which was served with the Mint flavored roasted scallops on a fennel fondue with fried leeks. It had a strong, clean mineral taste with a lovely fruity finish. 

I also discovered my fav new desert wine.  Ben Rye by Donnafugata from Scicily.  I was hooked at the first tasted.  It has lovely syrupy layers of apricots, dates, and candied citrus fruits with a tobacco tinged finish. Yum!

All in all we spent a leisurely 3 hours at Aroma thoroughly enjoying the wonderful food and wine, not to mention that wonderful view! It was the perfect indulgence to start off the perfect "Italian Holiday"!  Have you been to Aroma Restaurant in Rome?  I'd love to hear what you thought. To leave a comment please click on the individual post heading at the top of this post.

Tomorrow I'll tell you all about our next day and our trip to the Piazza Navona.

Ciao for now!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Hi from Positano!

Just a quick hello from beautiful Positano. We are enjoying the view from the terrace of our room and hope you will too!  We arrive back home in a couple of days and I will have plenty more stunning pics and stories to share with you then.

Ciao for now!


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Italy Starts Today

Well this is it!  Travel day!  The day I have been waiting for for the past few months.  Our flight leaves at 7:45pm and I can't wait to be on it!  Tomorrow morning I'll be having espresso and eating breakfast in Rome!  After a few days in Rome we move on to Tuscany and then the Amalfi Coast.  I will try to post from Italy every couple of days so you can share the experience with me.  Please follow along and if you have any suggestions for restaurant reccos I would love to hear them.



Thursday, September 12, 2013

What's On My Cookbook Shelf

A lot of the cooking I do involves recipes that have been handed down to me from generations past. My mother taught me all the basics of how to cook and passed on the recipes that came from her parents in England or the recipes she learned to make from my father's mother in Berlin. These recipes are often my favorite go to comfort foods that I make over and over again so I know the recipes by heart. In fact, for a lot of them there are no actual hard copies of the recipe. I couldn't even tell you how much of each ingredient to use or start to write a recipe for them without actually making the recipe again and writing as I go because I do it all by memory and instinct. But if I'm looking for a new recipe or just some foodie inspiration I most often head to the great wide world of the internet or one of the many (and I mean MANY) cookbooks that I keep on my shelves. These books have become like classics to me. Here are just a few of my favs:

First and foremost, the classic of all classics, The Joy of Cooking. I still say if you're fairly new to cooking and you can only purchase one book then it has to be Joy!  You can't beat it for its comprehensiveness. It's filled with absolutely everything you need to know (and some things you don't) about the art of cooking, not to mention great recipes. 


A number of years ago I was producing a television show in Vancouver when we featured a guest chef named Donna Hay. At the time I wasn't familiar with her but her books have now become some of my fav go to cookbooks when I'm looking for something easy and flavorful. One of her books that I resort to the most is Off the Shelf: Cooking from the Pantry. It's a great resource if you're looking for a recipe that doesn't require any fancy, often hard to find ingredients. Just stuff that you probably already have in your pantry.


I also adore Donna's book Flavours! If you love stimulating your taste buds you will love this book!

  Anyone who knows me knows that I have a fondness for cooking recipes that don't have a lot of ingredients. Some of my favorite, go to recipes only have 4 or 5 ingredients, not including seasonings.  One of the books I love for simple recipes involving only a few ingredients is The Minimalist Cooks Dinner by Mark Bittman.  I can always count on this book for fuss free, yet tasty recipes.

Indian food is one of my favorites!  In fact I often say that if I don't get it at least once a week I go into withdrawal.  Indian cooking often defies my "few ingredients" rule but the end result is soooo good it's worth it! For my Indian fix I often find myself taking out one of Madhur Jaffrey's books such as At Home with Madhur Jaffrey.

But a few years back when I was living in Vancouver I came to love a restaurant called Vij's owned by Vikram Vij. I am now back in Toronto but luckily Vikram has his own cookbook out called Vij's At Home so I can satisfy my Vij's fix without the cost of an expensive plane ticket to the west coast.

Those are just a few of my favorite go to cookbooks.  As for what's on my lust list, I'm looking forward to picking up the Jerusalem cookbook that everyone is talking about. Have you tried any recipes from it? I'd love to hear what you think about it.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Italian Pottery

My trip to Italy is now only 1 week away and I'm really starting to get excited! One of the things on my list of must dos while I'm there is to shop for Italian ceramic dishes. Also known as majolica, it seems almost every region and town has their own version, colors and patterns but one of the best places to shop for Italian pottery is in Deruta, a picturesque, medieval hilltop town in Umbria. Deruta has over 200 ceramic workshops that specialize in creating the beautiful ceramics they have been producing since the early middle ages. Deruta's trademark pattern is  "Raffaellesco" with the famous dragon design.

I love collecting colorful serving dishes and am hoping to pick up a few pieces while I'm there. There are so many beautiful patterns that I have a hard time deciding which ones to buy. Some other favorites are;


                                      Pictures courtesy of Ceramiche Sberna

Some of the more popular retailers in Deruta where you can find these beautiful patterns and more are;

Via Tiberina Centro 181

Via G. Savemini

Via Tiberina, 146

While there are some retailers in North America that sell Italian majolica it's hard to find here in Toronto so imagine my surprise when I walked into a small kitchen store in my neighborhood and saw this beauty! It was the only piece they had and it was even on sale!  Yay! 

It's clearly marked on the back as being made in Deruta but unfortunately there is no pattern name. If anyone knows what pattern it might be I'd love to know.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Roasted Asparagus

Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables.  Typically a spring/early summer vegetable here in Ontario, you can still find some fairly decent local asparagus around at this time of year. My favorite way to cook it comes from a friend of mine. Roasted in the oven with olive oil and sprinkled with rock sea salt.

Roasted Asparagus
Olive Oil
Rock Sea Salt

Clean asparagus and break off tough ends.  Add to a baking pan with generous amount of olive oil.  Sprinkle rock sea salt and toss to coat the asparagus evenly.  

Roast in a 425 degree oven for approximately 8-10 minutes.  Cooking time will vary depending on how thick your asparagus is. I like to take mine out of the oven a minute or two earlier as it continues to cook even after it's removed from the oven and I prefer my asparagus al dente. 

 How do you like to cook your asparagus?


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

New Photography

This past weekend I decided I needed to get out with my camera and start shooting again.  I'm working a new series that I'm very excited about.  It's a series of water shots that reflect the feelings of comfort, peace and tranquility.  This image is one of my favorites from last nights sunset shoot at the beach here in Toronto. What do you think? Did I achieve my objective? I've been playing around with ND filters to allow me to use longer exposures and achieve that soft, glassy look in the water. This was shot with a .9 ND filter but after I shot this I moved up to a 1.2 ND filter that allowed me to use an even longer exposure.  I'm still doing some post on the other images but I'll share some more with you soon. I'm also going to be doing some more of these kind of shots during my upcoming trip to Tuscany and Positano!  I can't wait to see what kind of shots I get there! 14 sleeps today!


For more art photography check out my Etsy shop here;

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Best Kale Salad Ever!

I know. I know what you're saying.  Kale can be good?  Yes it can! In truth I've never been a kale fan so I was truly surprised when I tried this salad a few years ago & loved it!  Now I'm addicted to it!  It doesn't hurt that it's so easy to make & sooo good for you!  I've been making this basic recipe for a couple of years now but I cannot lie. The toasted breadcrumbs are a new addition that I recently came upon on this fabulous food blog (I like to give credit where credit is due!).  It's a good addition and I think I'll keep it! I haven't listed any quantities in the recipe as you can customize the quantity of the ingredients to suit your tastes.

Kale Salad

Kale (chopped thinly)
Bacon or Pancetta (sliced)
Red onion (sliced very finely)
Panko Breadcrumbs
Garlic (chopped finely)
Walnut (chopped)
Parmesan Cheese (grated)

Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar 

Fry the bacon & set aside.  Then fry the Panko breadcrumbs & chopped garlic in a little olive oil until slightly browned & set aside. 

Wash the kale then cut away the thick spines on the leaves. Cut the kale into thin ribbons & put in a serving bowl. Add the red onion, walnuts & bacon and toss with the olive oil/balsamic dressing. Just before serving sprinkle the breadcrumbs and cheese on top. Occassionally I add dried cranberries for a little bit of sweetness.  The salad makes a wonderful accompaniment to any meal or even a meal in itself on those days you just want a lighter lunch or dinner.

 What's your favorite way to serve kale?


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tuscan Cooking Class

Seeing that all I can think about is my upcoming trip to Italy (3 weeks today!), I thought I'd share with you a recipe from a cooking class I took on my last trip to Tuscany.  Our teacher Adrianna, shared recipes and techniques for a number of dishes including a classic Tomato Bruschetta, Mushroom Risotto and Tiramisu.

These are all pretty classic dishes that you've probably made before so today I'm going to share the recipe for the Tortino di Potate ail Taleggio that she made for us. It is basically a puff pastry tart filled with mashed potato with Taleggio cheese and it was yummy!

Tortino di Potate ail Taleggio 


Pasta Sfoglia (this is an Italian puff pastry but you can use any puff pastry) 
6 -8 oz. Taleggio di Grotta Cheese 
6 large Potatoes 
Chopped Italian Parsley 
Unsalted Butter 
Pepper & Salt 
Small foil muffin tins or regular 6  muffin pan 

1)   Peel & boil potatoes. Mash in pan. Add a little Salt & Pepper. 
      Add chopped parsley. 
      Add 2 spoons unsalted butter 

2)   Cut rind off cheese & chop into large chunks. 

3)   For muffin tins cut the puff pastry a bit larger than the tins & place in them casually. 
      Put in a layer of potato 
      Place in a chunk of cheese 
      Then another layer of potato 

4)   Trim pastry & cut jagged edges with scissors. 

5)   Sprinkle with pepper. 

6)   Bake in oven at 175 Centigrade or 350 degrees F. Turn tray to ensure even baking. Takes 
      about 15 minutes.

The Tortino makes a very tasty appetizer with a crisp glass of Pinot Grigio!  While I was already familiar with the techniques for making Bruschetta and Risotto I found the tips for the Tiramisu and the Tortino quite helpful.  I'm hoping to take another cooking class when I return to Tuscany in a few weeks. I'd love to take a class on home made pasta!

Have you ever taken a cooking class in Tuscany?  I'd love to hear about it!


Monday, August 26, 2013



All I can think about is my upcoming trip to Italy!  I leave 3 weeks tomorrow and I can't wait!  It's all I can think about! I'm constantly cruising the internet for all things Rome, Tuscany and Positano. I tell myself I'm doing research, like researching restaurants and places to see but really it's all about feeding my luxury obsession. Escaping what I'm really supposed to be doing (like cooking for blog posts and, oh ya... working!) all because I just can't wait to be there!  Everything is booked.  The planes, trains, cars and hotels are confirmed yet I find myself searching out the most beautiful, extravagant hotels there are in each place I'm staying.  Today I'm obsessed with this hotel in Ravello on the Amalfi Coast.  We are booked at the beautiful Villa Gabrisa in Positano so really I have nothing to complain about yet I find myself coveting the magnificent Hotel Caruso

And can you blame me!  Check out the view from the pool!  In my mind I'm there right now!

 And check out the rooms! 

Wouldn't this terrace be the perfect spot for an apertivo at sunset?!

Could you imagine arriving at the hotel in an old-fashioned car like this?  Pure luxury!

And this terrace would be the perfect spot for a romantic dinner! Sigh!

Well I've day dreamed enough for this morning so I guess it's back to work for  me for another 22 sleeps!   

At the risk of being fired, I'd love for you to feed my obsession!  Please let me know what your dream hotel in Positano or the Amalfi Coast is!
Ciao for now!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dreaming about....

26 more sleeps...

... till Tuscany!  Yay!


Monday, August 12, 2013

Italy Here I Come!

I'm going to Italy! I can hardly wait!  Just 35 more sleeps!

The plans have been made and the tickets have been booked (finally)! After 2 long months of researching, planning and anticipating, it's finally official! In approximately 5 weeks a friend and I will be heading to the airport to board our flight to Rome.  After a few days of exploring (and eating) in Rome we will be heading north to Tuscany for 5 nights then south to the Amalfi Coast for 5 nights.  I. CAN'T. WAIT!

It's been 7 long months since I've been in Italy!  That's right!  A whole 7 months!  I was in beautiful La Serenissima (Venice) for New Year's for the 2nd year in a row and have been itching to go back.
I was last in Tuscany about 5 years ago but it's been far too long since I've been back to Rome or the Amalfi Coast.

The last time I was in Tuscany I was very fortunate to stay at a private villa owned by a Contessa who's family once owned the incredible Villa Vignamaggio seen below. In fact my bedroom window looked down onto the Vignamaggio estate! The villa has been around since the 14th century and is also famous because it is widely believed that the Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo Da Vinci, was born here. More recently it has been used as the location for the Kenneth Branagh film "Much Ado About Nothing" among others.

The estate is currently owned by Mr. Gianni Nunziante and is now run as a hotel as well as a vineyard that produces around 230,000 bottles of wine every year. Vignamaggio is just south of Florence near the town of Greve and a must see if you are in the area or looking for a unique place to stay.

This time we are staying at 2 different hotels in Tuscany.  The first, Villa Scacciapensieri, is a marvelous 19th century Villa set in its own large park and gardens perfectly situated on top of a little hill only 2.5 km north of the medieval walled city of Siena.

After a couple of nights there we are heading north a little back to the area just south of Florence where we will stay at Villa La Palagina overlooking the hills of Chianti.

Villa La Palagina is in the area of Figline Valdarno and is apparently right next door to Sting's villa.  Maybe we'll have cocktails!  I'm sure our invitation will be waiting for us when we check in! 

Figline Valdarno is near Greve where I stayed last time so I'm looking forward to heading to my favorite wine shop Le Cantine. Here you can taste over 140 wines and 20 olive oils before making your selection. They feature over 1000 labels from all over Tuscany as well as a wine museum.  We will also be making a reservation for lunch at my favorite restaurant in the Greve area.  Ristoro Di Lamole is set high up on a hill in the small town of Lamole and if you are fortunate to have a nice day and a table on the terrace you can take in the incredible views of the Chianti area right to San Gimignano. If you get there don't miss the cheese tray at the end of your meal!  It features a wonderful truffled honey made by the restaurant.  In case you become addicted like me, they also sell it at the shop!

Next it's on to Positano on the Amalfi Coast where we will be staying at the beautiful Hotel Villa Gabrisa.  After driving all through Tuscany, here I am looking forward to just relaxing and walking around the village. Not to mention eating (a lot of) the delicious food and just sitting on our hotel balcony sipping wine. And yes, this will be the view from our room! Fantastico!

There are a few restaurants that have been recommended to me that I'm dying to try such as Da Adolfo on a small cove in Positano and Il Flauto di Pan in Ravello but I'm definitely interested in finding more so if you have a fav resto on the Amalfi Coast or even Capri I'd love to hear about it so I can add it to my list. I'd also love to hear your reviews if you've stayed at any of the hotels I've mentioned.

Ciao for now!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Potato & Spaghetti Frittata

In the true spirit of a peasant kitchen I don't like to waste food.  I always try to use up everything that I buy.  One of my favorite ways to use leftovers is in a Frittata.  Frittata's are great because you can add almost anything to them.  Usually it's leftover vegetables that I don't want to turn into soup in the bottom of my fridge but this morning I had some left over boiled potatoes from last night's dinner and some spaghetti from 2 days ago as well as some cherry tomatoes. When I was younger my father used to make his famous "farmer's breakfast".  It was the only thing he cooked but my brother and I loved it.  Basically it was eggs with potatoes, spaghetti if we had some left over as well as bacon and onion.  It was delicious!  This morning I didn't have bacon but into the pan the potatoes and spaghetti went to heat up. 

The trick is to add the potatoes first and cook them very, very slowly.  You don't actually want them to fry but just heat up slowly until they are very soft.  Almost like velvet in your mouth.  When they are almost ready add the spaghetti and cook on low for a while.  Again you only want to cook it until it's almost crisp but not crunchy.  Add the tomatoes at the last minute.  I also had some basil growing on my patio so I added that. Once the tomatoes are just warm add the egg mixture. About 3 - 4 large eggs beaten with a little milk, salt & pepper is good.

Once the eggs on the bottom of the pan have cooked I add a little grated parmesan and put it under the broiler until the eggs are no longer runny. Once it's ready I let it cool for a few minutes in the pan and then it's ready to serve.  

 The great thing about Frittata's are that they can be eaten hot right away for breakfast but they are also yummy at room temperature for lunch or dinner served with a salad.

What's your favorite way to use up leftovers?