Friday, February 26, 2016

Book Review and a Prayer Request

I just got finished reading a great book yesterday and I wanted to share it with you. It's called Don't Be Afraid written by Daniela Sacerdoti and I read it all in one sitting. It's a wonderful story about a woman who suffers from severe anxiety and depression but eventually overcomes it with the help of a special person that comes into her life.  

The author does a wonderful job in describing what goes on in the mind of the depressed woman and really touches on the seriousness of this illness.

I've talked about my anxiety issues before here and this story allowed me to see that even the most difficult struggles can be overcome. 

It's funny how our minds work and how depression can just creep up on you without even a reason why. In southern Italy there is still an ignorance about depression and that it is not a serious illness.  Psychiatrists and psychologists are not necessary and strong people are never supposed to get depressed... This mentality really bothers me. The younger generation is improving but most elders still think this way.

I think that if someone is depressed they need to get help from a professional but I also think that an effort needs to be made to push the negative thoughts away by forcing yourself to think positively and find activities to keep busy. I think strength and faith is also necessary to pull yourself through the worst situations.  

In this book the main character really puts in everything she has to overcome this ugly monster that was inside of her... and in the end with some help she was able to. 

Today I ask you to please pray for my sister Cathy who was admitted to the hospital this morning. I won't go into detail but please keep her in your prayers if you can. My family and I would be most grateful. 

Thank you and I wish you all a great weekend. 

God Bless. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Fisherman's Risotto

Good morning and Happy Monday to you!!!

Today I am excited to share my favorite recipe of all time with you! This is what I usually order whenever I go out to an Italian seafood restaurant and is a big favorite of mine.

I really enjoy making risotto's and I've shared some recipes with you before. Here is my pumpkin risotto recipe and here you can find my asparagus risotto.

Using just one main ingredient for a risotto (like porcini mushrooms, asparagus or even spinach) makes things a lot easier because the cooking time doesn't vary; but when you're using more than one ingredient and especially when using seafood, you have to be extra careful with the different cooking times.

Ingredients for 4 people:

 - 300 grams of uncooked white rice
 - 500 grams of mussels
 - 500 grams of clams
 - 1 fresh calamari
 - 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
 - 1 shallot
 - 1 tablespoon of butter
 - 1 litre of vegetable stock
 - one  spoonful of fresh chopped parsley
 - pepper to taste

Start by preparing the calamari. Rinse it well and cut into small pieces. You don't have to be precise here but keep in mind that they shrink a bit while cooking.

Next prepare the mussels and clams by cooking them on medium heat as done in my Seafood Cavatelli recipe.   Remove the shells and filter the juice with a sifter and napkin to catch any sand that is inside the fresh clams. Set aside.

Now that you have prepared your ingredients, you can heat the chopped up shallot in olive oil until translucent. 

Next add the calamari and let that cook for a couple minutes making sure to stir continuously. Then add the rice.

Let the rice heat up a bit in the skillet then proceed by adding a couple ladles of stock. When you see the rice start to dry up add another ladle and so forth.

Again, the secret to a great risotto is to give it time and let the broth absorb into the ingredients. Check the cooking time indicated for the rice you are cooking with and at the half way point add the mussel and clam juice. 

Taste the rice as you add the broth so you make sure not to overcook it. When the rice is almost done and you can feel it is still a bit firm (usually after 12-14 minutes) add the mussels and clams. Turn off the heat and add the butter and parsley. Keep stirring and let sit for about 5 minutes before serving. Add some pepper if you wish...but no salt is necessary.

If you like seafood, I hope you'll give this a try. I'm sure you'll enjoy it as much as I do!

I wish you all a great week ahead :-)

Linking to:

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Random Act of Kindness

So my blog friend Manu started a linky party on her blog that I thought was really sweet and such a wonderful initiative especially since we're in the time of Lent. So with this I'm linking to Cooking Manu's RAK week!

I usually give something up for Lent but this year I have decided to do things differently. Instead of giving things up, I want to make an effort of DOING things. Doing random acts of kindness every day is something that I'm sure will make all of us feel better about ourselves. Everyone has problems and whenever I meet someone who is in a bad mood or grumpy I always try to remember that I don't know what this person has gone through/is going through. There probably is a reason that he or she is being mean, or is in a bad mood or doesn't smile all the time.

I too have been going through some personal issues right now and I recognize it in myself that at times I can be rather hurtful towards the people that love me the most. Sometimes I'll close up and not be the best at keeping in touch with friends of mine or just be too indulged in my own problems to worry about others. So I'm going to try and make an effort of being more present and loving towards the people in my life.

Sunday was Valentine's Day and I received a beautiful bouquet of flowers from my Love. He really is my rock and I would be lost without him.

To me Valentine's Day is kind of a dumb "holiday"... I think that a couple should celebrate Valentine's Day all year round and not just one day a year.... but I guess I see how it can be a special day. I didn't get my sweetheart anything but I wanted to do something special all the same.

You know how my friend Alessandra got me to start making sourdough bread? I've talked about her many times on my blog. She is an exceptional person and I'm sure she would have many RAK to share on Manu's blog! Well, for Christmas she sent me this proofing basket.

I haven't been making bread in a while even though I have been refreshing my sourdough and keeping it in good "health" in my refrigerator....  Even my sweetheart mentioned a while back that he noticed I stopped making bread at home.

He's the one that actually got me to start making homemade sourdough bread because I know how much he loves it.  I don't know what it was...I just wasn't in the bread-making mood I guess. So for Valentine's Day I decided to surprise him by making a loaf of bread in the proofing basket that my friend Alessandra gave me. I woke up on Valentine's Day ready to bake some bread!

(Make sure to flour the basket well or the dough will stick!!)

I know it may seem dumb and insignificant but it was a special act that my sweety appreciated greatly and I was happy to use my sourdough again that I had put so much time, effort and care in making. I also wanted to use the basket for the first time and now I can't wait to use it again!

Bear in mind that I have never used a proofing basket before. Alessandra sent it to me in late November and it's been sitting in my kitchen cabinet since then.  It's supposed to shape the bread and absorb the moisture from the dough while it's rising.

I added poppy seeds and sunflowers seeds all around the dough. 

I made sure to coat the bottom of the basket with seeds as well and placed the dough in the proofing basket to rise. 

I left it to rise for 7 hours. I probably should have left it another couple hours but I couldn't wait any longer! It was just beautiful and it flipped over without sticking at all. 

So I baked it on parchment paper for about an hour and it was good and done!  My house smelled A-mazing!

With this post I would like to point out that I was also the reciever of a Random Act of Kindness when my friend Alessandra who never even met me before sent me this wonderful present <3

Thank you Manu for the linky party! I will be joining with this post on Friday and I invite others to join in as well!

Hope you all are having a wonderful week!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

❤ Weekend with Dad ❤

My Dad came to visit me this past weekend. He arrived on Friday afternoon and left early Monday morning. He had four layovers and pretty much spent over 48 hours travelling just to spend the weekend with his daughter... all because he heard I was upset during a phone call we had a couple weeks prior.

We talked a lot, laughed a lot and cried a lot.

We visited Monte Cassino on Saturday. I had never been there before but my father told me stories about how he and his father visited Monte Cassino years ago. My Grandfather was very passionate about history and read many books about the Battle of Monte Cassino. It was nice to go there with my father and hear all the stories about World War II that he had learned from his father many years prior.

Here are some pictures I took, even though they do not capture the beauty and emotion that encompasses this special place.

This was the entrance to the abbey. 

The abbey was bombarded in 1944 and completely destroyed in a matter of 3 hours.  The Italian government began reconstruction in 1949, just 5 years after the aerial bombardment.

We asked a guard if there are any monks that are living there today because we didn't see any while we were there.  The guard said there were only 15 monks and 1 abbot (the superior) living there.

We had such great weather.  It was just a beautiful day.

Below is a picture of the Basilica in the Abbey. 

It is such a beautiful church with so much ornate detail.

This is the cemetery where all the Polish soldiers that died during the Battle of Monte Cassino are buried. 

It was very touching to see such a well kept cemetery after all those years. 

The cross points North in the direction of Poland, their home country. 

I was so moved by this cemetery. 

There is also an area dedicated to the Jewish soldiers that died during battle. 

Below is the tomb of the Polish General that died years later but wanted to be buried in Monte Cassino, Italy with the rest of his soldiers.  His wife is buried next to him as well. 

After our visit to the Abbey, we went to lunch at a very famous Restaurant called Evan's in Monte Cassino.  If you ever happen to visit Monte Cassino, I definitely suggest going to this place as it is the number one restaurant in Monte Cassino listed on Trip Advisor and Michelin....needless to say it was out of this world good! 

Then on Sunday we visited Pompeii.  

This was the only picture I got of the Madonna of Pompeii Basilica. There was a Mass taking place when we got there so the church was packed. Mass is held every hour as it gets hundreds of tourist visits each day. 

On Sunday my father made a delicious champagne poached salmon with a cream sauce that was extraordinarily good! I'll write a whole different post on that because it was just heavenly. 

I'll end here for now.  

It's difficult for me to express in words just how meaningful it was for me to spend that short weekend with my father. I will treasure those three days for the rest of my life. 

God blessed my sister, my brother and I with an amazing father that gave us everything we needed growing up and more. 

He always put his family first and made many sacrifices for the well being of his children. We couldn't ask for a more amazing Dad and I truly mean that. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday Contemplations - Fiber Lash Mascara Review

Well I have recently discovered fiber lash mascara and I know you're probably saying... "welcome to planet earth...where have you been for the last six years?!"... yes I know, I'm late to the fiber lash party but let me tell you ladies something.... I'm hooked and am never going back! 

How did I discover the fiber lash trend? Instagram.

I was sucked into the Instagram page of a Younique employee and my feed kept getting bombarded with her mega long eyelashes LOL. 

To be perfectly honest with you, at first I wanted to unfriend her because it was really annoying in the beginning but then I felt bad because she kept liking my pictures and commenting and she seemed like a really sweet person so I said ehh whatever... 

Then something happened and I started becoming rather curious about this mascara and was considering buying it. The Younique Fiber Lash Mascara costs $29.99 BUT...they don't sell it in Italy.

They DO however sell the Too Faced Better Than False Lashes Extreme!! 


It costs $35 at Sephora and it's kind of a splurge but I had to try this miracle mascara.... I NEEDED to see the magical powers that these little fibers do to your lashes!

These were the type of pictures I was bribed with... I am NOT crazy for spending 40€ on a mascara!!

*not me*

So after looking at about 300 pictures of long ass lashes and watching YouTube tutorials comparing the Younique brand vs the Too Faced Mascara I decided to just buy the damn mascara already! 

By the way, are you curious as to which brand is better according to the YouTube makeup gurus?
Younique wins...but it's pretty close. So considering I can't order Younique yet (hint hint Younique let's get international shall we?) I bought the Too Faced. 

I will NEVER EVER EVER go back to regular mascara again! The stuff is amazing! So there are 3 steps to the technique. If you are also new to this let me explain. 

The first coat I apply is a light coat of my regular mascara (any brand). 

Then I apply one coat of the Too Faced black mascara followed by a layer of the white lash fibers. Apparently Younique's fibers are black whereas the Too Faced fibers are white. Now I haven't tried Younique yet but I would think that the white would be better because you can see where they latch onto your lashes. Then you do a last coat of the Too Faced Black Mascara. 

So basically you can keep building and building onto your lashes until you achieve the length you desire but I just stop at the first three steps and am VERY happy with the end result. 

 What a cutie :-) 

And on that happy note...have a lovely weekend everyone! 

PS...I only do my top lashes. Some do the bottom as well but I prefer to do only the top. one paid me to review this mascara. This is my opinion only. 


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Smoked Bacon and Provolone Chicken Wraps with New Potatoes

Good morning friends! Last night I made a delicious and very easy second course with a side of new potatoes which was out of this world. New potatoes are the small freshly harvested young potatoes with very thin skin and lots of moisture inside. They are my favorite type of potato by far. 

I also had some thinly sliced chicken breast, speck (Italian smoked bacon) and provolone cheese in my fridge that I needed to use up. 

So I decided to make chicken wraps differently than how I usually make them. I usually make them breaded, add a slice of prosciutto inside and a slice of cheese and bake them. This time I eliminated the bread crumbs and wrapped the bacon on the outside of the chicken breast. This was so much better because the bacon formed a crispy crust and kept the chicken breast moist on the inside. 

The potatoes were able to absorb the flavors of the provolone and smoked bacon and the whole dish was just heavenly!

All I did was wrap a slice of bacon and provolone around the chicken breast. It really doesn't get much easier than that. 

I drizzled some olive oil on top and added some Ariosto spices.

I love these meat seasonings because they add just the right amount of flavor. 

After I prepared the chicken wraps, I washed the new potatoes well and cut them up coating them in olive oil, salt and pepper.  

I debated on whether or not to cook them whole but in the end I decided to cut them in four sections to shorten the cooking time. 

I put everything together in a baking dish and baked at 215°C for about 20 - 25 minutes. Everything was cooked through to perfection. The potatoes were done and so was the chicken. 

I added some freshly cut parsley and served. Just looking at this is making me hungry again! 

I will continue making chicken wraps like this because I found that, in this way the chicken really retains moisture which is so important to me. Dry chicken is the worst, don't you agree?! 

Hope you're having a wonderful week. 

Buon appetito!!