The Delectable Pastries of Florence

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Since I have decided the pastries in Italy are some of the BEST pastries I have ever not only eaten but have dreamed of eating, I thought it was only right to dedicate a single blog to these pastries. The pictures don’t do them justice but they will make your mouth water and may even get you on a plane to Italy in the near future!

Enjoy…:)

My top three favorite pastries in Italy:

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THE Cannoli-mouth watering

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Lobster tail- crispy on the outside and moist and creamy on the inside. Pastry cream is stuffed inside. Continue reading

Ravioli with Butter and Green Sage Sauce

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I graduated from my first cooking class in Italy! When my cousin Brad came to visit me last weekend we decided that we needed to take a cooking class. We weren’t really sure what it would entail, but we were glad we went. I learned more than I expected about authentic Italian cooking, I had no idea it was so simple! Italians use very little spices when they cook and only a few ingredients. My favorite dish that we made was fresh ravioli with butter and green sage sauce. It is simple and luxorious. The filling is creamy and everything that I could ask for in a ravioli. I don’t typically eat ravioli but I have been craving to eat these everyday since taking the class. The sauce is simple, just butter and sage with parmessean cheese on top. I thought the sauce complimented the ravioli well. It almost reminded me of eating lobster with butter (weird right?), yes it was that good!…but if you don’t like butter you won’t enjoy this sauce.

The class website: http://www.florencecookingclasses.com/

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Chef Giovanni making Ravioli

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Learning how to make fresh pasta!

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The final product!  (I want some now!!)

Ingredients for the Ravioli stuffing

*I would only suggest this recipe if you have taken a pasta making class or if you are an experienced pasta maker. I try to stick to simple recipes typically, but this one is an exception 🙂

By the Food and Wine Academy

*serves 6

  • Your favorite pasta recipe made into ravioli
  • 6 T. spoons of ricotta cheese
  • 6 T. spoons of grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 fresh egg yolks
  • a dash of salt and pepper

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Make pasta into raviolis and stuff! Cook according to your pasta recipe, probably only about 4 minutes.

Butter and Green Sage sauce

By the Food and Wine Academy

*serves 6

  • 250 grams unsalted butter
  • 6 leaves of fresh green sage chopped
  • pepper to taste
  • 6 T. spoons of parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top of ravioli and sauce

Directions:

Add butter to sauce pan. Add chopped sage then add pepper. Melt butter on medium heat. Serve the sauce over ravioli and top with parmesan cheese.

Prayer of the week 🙂

This prayer helps me relax before I go to bed. I hope it does the same for you!

Watch, dear Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight, and give Your angles charge over those who sleep. Tend Your sick ones, rest Your weary ones, bless your dying ones, soothe Your suffering ones, and for all Your love’s sake. Amen. 

Eat lots of pasta!

-Niki

The Cioccolato Festival!

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Waffle dipped in luscious chocolate

Nothing says Valentine’s Day like chocolate AND nothing beats a chocolate festival in Italy. Have any of you had dreams about food? Sadly, I have to admit I have had a reoccuring dream about chocolate but wake up empty handed.  I am happy to say this dream came true on Valentine’s Day. As I was walking around the chocolate festival in Florence with my friends it occured to me that I accomplished something that needed to be accomplished- attending a chocolate festival of course.

We tried chocolate truffles, chocolate cannoli’s, cake, strawberries covered in warm melted chocolate and even chocolate liquor! One item served at the festival that stood out to me was a light and fluffy waffle dipped in chocolate. When I get inspired by something because it is 1) unlike noting I have ever tasted before and 2) is simply out of this world, I go home and try to recreate it. So, I went to the grocery store right by my apartement and got belgium waffles that were on sale, nutella, and caramel gelato- mission complete. Recipe below 🙂

 

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My favorite truffles!

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Pounds of fresh chocolate

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SO HAPPY!

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Hearts for V-Day

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Every kind of truffle you can imagine

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Belgium Waffle Recipe: 

*serves 4

  • 4 already made belgium waffles or homemade waffles
  • 1 C nutella
  • Caramel gelato or your favorite flavor
  • 1 C sliced strawberries or your favorite fruits
  • Powdered sugar for top

Directions:

Warm waffles in oven on 250 or on a skillet on medium heat or make your favorite belgium waffle recipe. Remove from oven and place on plate. Spread about 1/4 C. nutella on top. Top with a spoonful of gelato and strawberries. Sprkinke powdered sugar on top.

Enjoy!

-Niki

A Slice of Italia

cheese

I have finally made it to Florence, Italy! The journey getting here was a learning experience and quite eventful to say the least. The last few days have consisted of getting settled into my apartment, meeting my 4 new roommates and finding my way around the amazing and beautiful city of Florence.

On my way home from a long day of venturing around Florence, Alex (my roommate) and I came across a wine and cheese shop with many free samples. Being new to Florence, we got sucked in (the samples were delcious!). We bought Chianti (wine), salami, and a twist to a classic cheese cheese with red grapes on the outside.

Once we made it home all of my roommates and I made dinner and taste tested everything, it was delizios!

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Close up of the grapes encrusted on the outside of the cheese.

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A plethora of carefully crafted cheeses

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SALAMI!!

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The view from my apartement

A quick prayer for travelers: Lord Jesus be my companion, guide, and guardian during my journey; deliver and protect me from all danger, misfortune and temptation; that being so defended by Your divine power I may have a successful journey and arrive safely at my destination. For You are where I place my trust. Amen 🙂

Ciao!

-Niki

The Best of Memphis’s BBQ

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My friend Breezy and I on Beale Street looking for the best BBQ spots to eat!

Natalie, Breezy and I went to Memphis to watch the Iowa State Bowl Game and to explore some good BBQ eats. After leaving Memphis and beginning the New Year, one of the main things I decided to change about my 2013 cooking is making more barbecue- how simple and productive for a New Years resolution right? I’m only kidding but lets just say I’ve been inspired. (FYI I just had my wisdom teeth out and am a little wired…). While in Memphis we went to several fantastic restaurants that had very distinct flavors of BBQ. I left Memphis with a whole new outlook on ribs, pulled pork and coleslaw. Mmmmh

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#1  Prize in my book-Leonard’s Barbecue (featured on food network): My favorite BBQ ever, ever, EVER

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Pulled pork sandwich with very unique coleslaw

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Leonard’s beef ribs with BBQ sauce. This is my favorite thing I ate in Memphis.

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#3 Prize-Rendezvous menu-another great restaurant in Memphis.They have good ribs with a dry rub.

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#2 Prize-Finishing up Dillard’s BBQ right before the bowl game!

Our last stop for BBQ came at a tailgate we unexpectedly came across as… Natalie and Breezy were looking for a porta potty, which ended up being Dillard’s Barbecue’s “private” porta potty. How this happened we are still wondering. I guess following your bladder is a good thing to do because our porta potty mission led us to a tent where we were invited in to share their good eats. Pounds of barbecue such as smoked meatloaf, chicken, ribs, baked beans, and pulled pork. If anyone has a unique recipe for smoked meat loaf let me know! After eating our practically “full fledge feast” they even gave us a sample of their famous rub!

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Smoked meatloaf!!!

For More Memphis BBQ Eats

Happy barbecue dreaming and eating everyone!

-Niki

Apple Pie

Nothings better than a perfect sweet +tart apple pie..especially when it is for the holidays.  This pie is definitely a crowd pleaser. If you can make a pie that is not too sweet, not too tart, and has a crunch to it then you’ve got a good recipe!

I made a few pies from chocolate pumpkin (so good) to apple pie and this is always the winner for me. I didn’t know I could make so many pies in 2 days. I went through a bag of flour and 4 bags of apples. My face tasted like sugar and my dog Tucker was covered in white speckles of flour. I felt like I was in some sort of pie race, flour throwing at the people around you show-little did I know I was just racing myself…. The pies went from an OK apple pie to great apple pie after making so many variations and fixing little things like how thick to cut the apples and the thickness of the crust. All of I have to say is I am so glad I ran at the St Louis Turkey Trot Thanksgiving morning,  before I ate so much food if you know what I mean. I know you will like it so dive in! Hope everyone had a tasty Thanksgiving!

 

Tart organic granny smith apples from Trader Joes.

Apples and spices yum

Finished product. Can bring edges together with a fork or flute them! I prefer fluting the edges after trying the pie so many ways. If you use a store bought crust already in the pan then you don’t have to worry about the thickness of the crust and other difficult things but it also doesn’t usually taste as good.

 

Ingredients:

  • Recipe for double crust flaky pie crust
  • 8 apples
  • splash of fresh lemon juice
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/4 C golden brown sugar
  • 1/4 C granulate sugar
  • 2 T all purpose flour
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t ground nutmeg
  • 1 t apple pie spice

 

Instructions:

Make flaky pie crust according to your favorite recipe.

To make the filling, peel and core granny smith apples. Slice apples 1/4 in. thick. In a large bowl, combine apples, lemon juice, melted butter, sugars, and spices. Stir until blended.

Preheat oven to 4oo.

Roll out a bottom and top crust and line with a 9 in. pie pan. Make sure not to make too thick or else bottom crust won’t cook. Put apple mixture in and smooth out. Put on top crust and flute edges.

Bake for 15 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 350. Bake until top of crust is lightly browned and apple filling is bubbleing. about 45 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes.

*If using a thick pie pan you will want to cook the bottom crust first in the oven for about 15 minutes to ensure that it bakes.

Take Out, Knock it out: Easy Chicken Fried Rice

Although I LOVE cooking, after a busy week of classes, there is nothing more that I want than an easy dinner that is some way and some how healthy. Yes, something other than pasta and red sauce or cereal hits the spot and is preferred.

Anyways, this meal is easy and cheap. It gave me at least 6 meals so I didn’t have to make a new dinner every night. What could be more cost efficient, tasty, healhty and smart for a college student!? If your wondering, this is the dinner I have had hmm lets just say 4 out of the 5 weeks being at school. I was thinking about how I was going to accomplish eating healthy and costly my first year of living in a house and this is how! Meals like this are perfect for college students on a budget and especially for students who love eating good food.

So simplistic yet so beautiful.

Organic zucchini from the co-op. Start by laying out all left over veggies or cooked chicken. All these left overs are helpful!

Cooked chicken and onion mixture.

Ginger adds that flavor in the fried rice that everyone always wonders where it came from. Sesame oil is also called for in this recipe and is another key ingredient. It’s soo good!!

Mushrooms add a unique flavor to this fried rice.

Do the egg trick! You only have to use two pans if you make a space for the eggs then stir them.

Everything besides the rice. The whole thing including the rice costs around 12 dollars and gave me 10 lunch/dinners! What a deal!

Chicken and rice. Either with left overs or all fresh it works either way! Nothing better than a hot bowl of rice full of nutrients and flavor. :))

My best friend Breezy. Its that good. Perhaps a double batch is in order!

Take Out, Knock it out: Easy Chicken Fried Rice

Ingredients:

  • 2 C. Jasmine rice – makes a lot, will need a big skillet or just cut in half.
  • 2 Chicken breasts cut into small pieces
  • 2 medium zucchine cut
  • 1 C. onion chopped
  • 1 C. mushrooms cut
  • 1 package frozen medley vegetables
  • 1 t ginger (if desired)
  • 4 eggs scrambled
  • 3 T sesame oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • About 1 T garlic powder
  • Soy sause to taste about 1/4 C (use low sodium soy sauce to keep that salt down!)

Instructions:

Cook rice according to package directions.

Heat 1 T. of seasme oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add cut chicken, season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Cook until tender. Set aside.

Saute chopped onions in a separate large skillet with oil. Add all of the other vegetables besides the frozen bag of medley veggies.  Cook until tender. Push veggies aside and add eggs. Add frozen veggies once eggs are cooked. Cook until veggies are tender. Add chicken to vegetables.

Add cooked rice and soy sauce. Toss to combine well. Enjoy!

-Niki

 

My Lovely Mother

Encountering An Angel

When I encounter an angel I feel safe where my fears are acknowledged

When I encounter an angel I feel loved and accepted in all my vulnerabilities

When I encounter an angel my tears flow freely relieving tension

When I encounter an angel I feel hope and meaning in life

When I encounter an angel my pain is more bearable

When I encounter an angel I believe in friendship and devotion

When I encounter an angel I experience the Spirit

-By Kim Worrell

My mom Kim wrote this poem for my family and I last Christmas. When she gave us this poem I could see in her eyes how much she loved all of us. She is a true angel and I will always carry a part of her with me. Forever and always you will be with me in Spirit. I love you Mom, you are best mom I could ever ask for.

A Prayer for my mom:

Call upon You to grant Kimberly rest in the place of Your rest, where all Your blessed saints are, and where the light of  Your face shines forever. Oh Christ our God, and to You we give glory: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen. 

Along with Your saints, O Christ, give rest to the soul of Your servant Kimberly, in a place where there is neither pain, nor grief, nor longing, but life everlasting. 

My mom eating chocolate covered strawberries I made for her on Mother’s Day. She LOVED strawberries and picnics.

An unbreakable bond. Whether Don will admit it or not he loves to be teased 🙂

My sister Eleni and my precious mom at Racoon River Beach. My mom loved being outdoors whenever she could.

My brother Peter and mom after he ran the Hy-Vee Triathalon-inspiration. She is so proud.

Family ❤

Hiking in the woods on a yoga retreat. I love this picture. I like to call it “mama in the love land”.

10 inch logs on prepared baking sheet.

Slicing the logs into the 3/4 inch thick pieces

Back in the oven for a bit!… the craving for a sweet treat will soon be met 🙂

These cookies are my mom’s favorite cookies. She even enjoyed them on her last days when most foods did not taste good to her. Enjoy everyone. Please say a prayer for my mom.

Cranberry-Walnut Cookies

  • 2 C all purpsose flour
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1/2 c unsalted butter melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 t orange zest
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 t almond extract
  • 1 C chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 C dried cranberries

Instructions *24 cookies

Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine eggs and sugar. Beat on medium speed until light in color, about 3 minutes.

Beat in melted butter, orange zest, vanilla and almond extract until combined.

Add dry ingredients and beat until incorporated.

Stir in walnuts and cranberries. *The dough will be a bit sticky.

Scoop out half of the dough onto prepared baking sheet. Form into a log 10 inches  and repeat with the remaining dough. Space logs 3 in apart. Press logs down and make them 3 in wide. Smooth tops of logs.

Bake until crisp about 25 mintutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 mintures. Reduce oven temp to 300.

Transfer logs to cutting board. Use a serrated knife to cut each log crosswise on the diagonal 3/4 in thick. Put slices cut side down and bake until cookies are golden brown if that 17 minutes.

Thank you mom. I already miss you.

Love,

Niki

Baked Root Vegetables

 

Beets, parsnips and sweet potatoes before going into the oven. You can add other vegetables that you like for example, red potatoes, but I thought this combo was great. All of the flavors went well together, not to mention it’s super healthy!

Baked and ready to eat!

Yes, this is my sous chef Tucker.

It has been a crazy last two weeks…or should I say a crazy summer in general. In the last couple of weeks I left my home in Des Moines and moved into a house in Iowa City. I also started recruitment for my sorority and lastly, started my Junior year of college. Time sure goes by fast! Although I miss living in my house on Waterbury, yes that means you Mom and Donald, I am glad to be back on a routine and starting classes. I’m also hoping to have time to keep up on my blog for all of you followers out there!Something that I have been working on are easy recipes that target college students, as a request from my best friend Natalie and many other of my college friends :). Keep an eye out for those. Now that I’m not living in my sorority house and don’t have a cook that provides the meals for us, I am experiencing what it is like buying my own groceries, cleaning and well you get the picture.

Anyways, before I left for school I made a recipe that my mom showed me how to make. It is one of my favorite strictly vegetable dishes that had me excited the moment it entered my mouth. I would suggest to use this either on top of a salad or as side dish. It may be very healthy but it is equally as delicious!

-Happy Monday and first day of classes to the college students!

-Niki

Baked Root Vegetables

  • 1 large sweet potato or 2 small cut in small cubes
  • 2 large parsnips peeled and cut
  • 1 large red beet peeled and cut
  • 1 large golden beat peeled and cut
  • 3 T olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • 1/2 t fresh or dried rosemary (Can add parsley or basil)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss sweet potato, parsnips, and beets in a bowl. Add olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and rosemary. Stir until vegetables are coated evenly.

Spread on a cookie sheet. Pop into preheated oven. Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour until vegetables are tender to the fork. Toss half way through baking to evenly cook vegetables. Enjoy!

Peach Pie

Take the skins off after boiling the peaches for 45 seconds. They slip right off!

Flaky and perfect with vanilla ice cream!!:)

I wanted to make something that 1, required my favorite pie crust, and 2, peaches since they are in season. This is the first peach pie that I have made and I loved it! My mom was so excited I made something with fresh organic fruit and even more excited once she tasted the pie. I couldn’t believe how many slices she had! My whole family loved it considering most of the pie was gone at the end of the night. I do have to mention a few things about the crust. I have a recipe from my mom’s Aunt June that my grandma used (you get the picture). But anyways, it is the best pie crust that I have ever made and tasted! My mom and I have been talking about if we should let the secrete to the pie crust get out or not. I think we have come to a conclusion that it would be ok if I did a blog, just about the pie crust. Look out for that blog! It will be a good one!

Happy Monday!!

Niki

Ingredients

For the filling:

  • 6-8 peaches sliced
  • 5 T sugar
  • 2 t fresh lemon juice
  • 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t nutmeg
  • 1 recipe flaky pie crust for a double crust pie (the one I used is soon to be coming out on my blog!;)

For topping on top of crust

  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 T heavy cream or milk
  • 2 t sugar

Make the pie crust you choose to use and refrigerate to chill as directed.

For the filling, bring a saucepan three-forths full of water to a boil. Put the peaches in boiling water for about 45 seconds, then transfer to work surface. Take the skins off with your hands (picture above). Cut the peaches in half and take out the pits. Slice lengthwise about 1/2 inch thick (make sure not to go too thin or else is will turn to mush when baked).

In a large bowl combine peaches, sugar, salt,flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon juice. Stir until coated. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400. Roll out half of your dough for the bottom crust and line a 9 inch pie pan. Add filling evenly. Roll out the top crust and put on top or roll out the crust and cut into lattice strips (long strips) and place over pie for a lattice topped pie. Flute edges. Brush crust with egg and milk mixture. Sprinkle with 2 t sugar.

Bake pie until edges of crust are golden brown (about 15 mintues). Reduce heat to 350 and continue to bake until crust is lightly browned and peach filling is bubbling. About 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool.