Monday, May 8, 2017

Kumquat Coconut Cake

Remember in my last post where I shared with you a photo of my bountiful kumquat tree and had no idea what to do with the fruits? Well I tried a great recipe that I'll share here today. It's really simple to make and the kumquats give the cake a delicious citrus flavor that pairs together rather nicely with the coconut. 


I saw many recipes online for kumquat coconut cookies and thought I might try mixing the two ingredients into a cake topped with cream cheese frosting and it turned out fantastic.

So I picked the kumquats from my tree and I used about 30 of them in this cake. If you want a more citrus flavor you can go ahead and just add more. 


Ingredients for the cake: 

 - 3 cups all-purpose flour
 - 3 eggs
 - 1/2 cup milk
 - 1 cup vegetable oil
 - 30 chopped kumquats 
 - 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
 - 1/2 cup desiccated unsweetened coconut 
 - 2 teaspoons baking soda
 - 1 teaspoon salt


When chopping up the kumquats make sure to remove the bitter seeds if they have any. Mine had a lot and it was kind of a pain but it's a necessary step. 


Mix the ingredients together in your mixer until everything is blended evenly. 


Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and pour batter into a previously greased and floured baking dish. 


Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. 


You can't even begin to imagine how good this cake made my house smell. It smelled divine for the whole day...no Yankee candle can even compare!


I let the cake cool completely and frosted with home made cream cheese frosting which went really well with this cake. 


I shared some with my next door neighbor and her family (so that I wouldn't eat it all myself lol) and they enjoyed it as much as I did so I'm happy to say it was a hit. 


Who says you can't eat cake for breakfast? I sure enjoy it :-)

Have a spectacular week ahead! 

xoxo, 

Silvana

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Gardening and Spring Cleaning

I have been quite the busy bee these past few days, as my Grandmother used to call me. I did  a lot of general house work, cleaning, decluttering, etc. Basically all (or most) of the tasks that have been put on the back burner.  I just haven't really been home that much because of work and trips away etc so I'm happy to say that many of the things that have been bugging me for some time got done and I feel quite accomplished as I type this albeit full of muscle aches because of the yard work, but they're good aches if you know what I mean. 


For me personally gardening is more therapeutic than running because I tend to think a lot about my problems and what I have to do later in the day when I run whereas with gardening all I'm focused on at the moment is what I'm doing with my hands so my mind just turns down the volume, if you will, and relaxes. I know I got a good workout because boy was I sore the next day..


I'm quite embarrassed to be showing you these before pictures because my yard, although small, really needed some work...I mean REALLY ... 


So I put on my gardening gloves and started weeding...and weeding some more.  I initially wanted to call a gardener to do the dirty work for me but it was a beautiful day out and I thought to myself, why do I have to pay someone when I am perfectly capable myself? Plus, it'll be good for me! So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. 

Why did I let it get this bad you ask? It's just not an area of our house that I'm particularly happy with I guess.  I don't do anything to the yard in the winter months and I wasn't home enough to deal with it since Spring arrived.  I just finally got around to it now.  I am definitely more of a flower person and when we moved in there were already all these fruit trees and its not like I want to uproot them but unfortunately there's not that much room for flowers so this is it for the time being. I guess this little area is still a work in progress. So for now... I just pulled out all the weeds. 


And it looks a whole lot better :-)


 While I was weeding, I did however find either a really thorny weed or a wild rose bush. So I just left it there. Who knows, I may get some flowers after all in my garden!

On another note, my kumquat tree is full of fruits! Don't really know what to do with them so I might just make a pie or some jam. We shall see. 


That pretty much covers the yard area. Now let's move onto the patio which I am quite happy with. 

We brought out the patio furniture and I stained the bench just to freshen it up a bit since it was looking rather weathered down. Here it is before.


And after two coats of stain voila'!


It looks much better now as the stain matches the other outdoor furniture. I also planted some beautiful red roses that I bought. I love adding flowers to the outdoor space but I'm not the best at watering so I just hope they don't die... Mental note: I need to be better at keeping my plants watered.  


Then I added some white geraniums by my front door and I love the look. Now that's a flower that doesn't need much TLC! Geraniums  smell beautifully and if you forget to water them once or twice they won't mind too much. So you know I stocked up on those LOL.


Here's my little helper holding down the fort  :-) 


We put up the gazebo but still have to get around to covering it. I can't wait to eat outside more now that the weather is nicer. 


Aren't those flowers pretty? Not too sure what they're called but they are gorgeous. I know they need a lot of water because by the end of the day they were already starting to wilt a little but as soon as I gave them some water they perked right back up. So I need to make sure to water them every day. 

Another project I've been putting off for way too long was deep cleaning my oven. I took care of that as well this past weekend and am super proud! The glass on the front door was BAD.  I would scrub and scrub but the grease and grime would just not budge! 

I found some tutorials online for removing the oven door and it really wasn't that hard. There are two little clamps at the bottom that you unlock and the door just comes right off. 


I was always so embarrassed about my dirty oven door and didn't even know where to begin on how to clean it thoroughly. I happened to have a can of this stuff lying around that I think my aunt bought me and it was fantastic. 


Here's a close up of the dirty oven glass. I am telling you that stuff was NOT budging no matter how hard I tried. 


So I followed the directions on the can and let the stuff sit for about an hour.


 I tried it without turning on the oven the first time but it didn't really work too well.  So I redid it again with the oven preheated and that's when the grime really started coming off. 


When I finished wiping everything down with a damp cloth, some water got in between the double glass door so I just took a yard stick wrapped with a clean towel and got in between the glass through the bottom and that took care of any streaks that were left in between the glass.  


I love how it turned out and it actually wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Now I know exactly what to do so I'm not going to let my oven get so grimy. 


It feels great to get so much done and while sometimes all you want to do is sit on your bum and veg out other times it's good to roll your sleeves up and do the dirty work! I also find that it's much more rewarding if you do it yourself. 

Hope all is well with you all! Be back soon.

xoxo, 




Sunday, April 16, 2017

Traditional Sicilian Easter Cookies - Cuddura

Happy Easter!!! I would like to wish you and all your loved ones a Blessed and Peaceful Easter. Yesterday we made these Sicilian Easter Cookies which originated in Sicily but are made all throughout the south of Italy and are called Cuddura even though the name changes slightly with the different dialects of the southern regions.  

In the olden days, no meat, eggs or dairy were consumed during lent therefore when Easter came around all of the traditional desserts and dishes were very rich.  These cookies were made on the Saturday before Easter and brought to church to be blessed before giving them away to loved ones as an Easter offering.  Young ladies typically gifted their sweetheart with a cuddura in the shape of a heart as a sign of affection. How cute is that? I feel like everything is so different now a days and so much more complicated.  I guess I'm just too old fashioned... Now it's like you never know what to buy someone because everything is so accessible through online shopping and malls etc. Back in the day all it took was a cookie made with love to  let your sweetheart know that you were interested in him or her. 



Ingredients for the dough:

 - 600 grams of all purpose flour
 - 200 grams of butter
 - zest from one fresh lemon
 - 4 large eggs
 - 200 grams of sugar
 - 1 teaspoon of baking powder
 - pinch of vanilla extract

Mix all of the ingredients,  cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Prepare your hard boiled eggs ahead of time and let them cool. You can color them if you want or leave them as they are. I colored mine but since they were brown eggs the colors weren't as bright as I wanted them but they turned out fine all the same. 

The technique is pretty self explanatory so I'll leave you with the pictures so you can see what I did. 




After you roll your braid in a circle to place the egg on, you proceed to make a cross on top of the egg to hold it in place. 


Now brush a little egg white on top and add your favorite topping, sprinkles, chocolate chips, confetti, whatever you like. 




Now you're ready to bake in a preheated oven at 200°c for 35 - 40 minutes. 

This is my Easter offering to You :-)

Happy Easter my friends!



When our faith 

stands at the grave,
grieving
for a stone that's rolled away,
forgive us.

When our faith
is short of
understanding
though the truth is there to see,
forgive us.

When our faith,
beset by doubt, sees
no further
than an empty tomb today,
forgive us.

Bring to mind 
the cry of Mary,
‘I have seen the Lord!'
and grant us faith to believe!


God Bless, 

Silvana


Monday, April 10, 2017

Birthday Weekend Recap

Last week I turned 35... I was dreading this day because as of April 5th 2017 I am in an entirely new age range...Let me explain: I am a huge fan of Sex and the City and I own the entire dvd collection and never get sick of the show even after all these years.  I also know for a fact that Carrie's actual house is not really where they say it is and I know this because I dragged my mother and my boyfriend all over the Upper East Side looking for it last summer thus eventually finding out that the actual brownstone is located in Greenwich Village on the complete opposite side of the city...  Needless to say they were pretty mad at me by the end of the day and I had to listen to my mother say over and over again that I was trying to kill her by making her walk so much... ANYWAYS, I distinctly remember the episode (Season 4 - episode 1) in which Carrie turns 35 and she talks about checking the age box when filling out forms.... and that was all I could think about for the entire week... Yeah so, I switched boxes. Not cool. 

Anyways... aside from some temporary tears and depression... my sweetheart made a real effort in trying to lift my spirits and for this I will be forever grateful and he booked a one night stay in a Relais & Chateaux Luxury Hotel. :-)  It was truly magical! We had a spa session when we arrived and a three course candlelit dinner for two.  The Resort is located in the province of Perugia in the Umbria region.  Borgo dei Conti Resort is an estate that originated as a fortress in the twelfth century and was later inherited by Count Bernardino Rossi and his wife Countess Angelina Scotti of Perugia in the second half of the 19th century. It includes a 50 acre park with trails for hiking, a gourmet restaurant, outdoor and indoor pools and a wellness center. 

   This is the entrance to the hotel. 
Below is a picture of the entrance to the park/forest and some other pictures I took of the external grounds. 




This is the fitness area with huge windows overlooking the park. 

Inside it was a mix of modern and classic.  I personally thought that they should have stuck with the classic decor but that's my humble opinion.  I'm not too into mixing modern with baroque. However it was beautiful nonetheless. 


I absolutely fell in love with this mirror. There were so many beautiful antique mirrors. 


We stayed in the Countess suite.  At the time the Count and the Countess slept in separate rooms. The room had a gorgeous fireplace and original fresco's all around the room. 


There is also an adjoining library which was connected to the Countess and Count suites. The door pictured below is the entrance to the Counts orginal bedroom while ours was on the other side. 


The library had Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy transcribed on elephant folios which you can see pictured above. Each book contains one of the three canticas: The Inferno, The Paradiso and The Purgatory. 







This is the fireplace in the library...swoon!!

Pictured above is the restaurant which was originally the ballroom in the 800's. I had a squash risotto with truffle and pistachios. It was seriously exquisite...like I literally have no words to describe it other than amazing.


Then as a second course I got grilled lamb chops with an olive tapenade over sauteed zucchini...also amazing and cooked to perfection. 


I had a magical time and while I was there I forgot about all my problems and of becoming older and just enjoyed my time with my sweetheart.  We really needed a nice romantic getaway both as a couple and for each of us individually. A little TLC is necessary at times.

...And for one day I truly felt like a princess in an enchanted castle...
(no matter what age box I'm in)


Have a great week friends!

xoxo, 

Silvana