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!