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February 3, 2017

Delicate Doodles by Elisa Aiuti


I believe what is good and beautiful deserves to be in the spotlight, and recently, I realized that I stopped blogging and sharing with you about the things I love and find on sites and other social medias. So today, this space is dedicated to the lovely art of Elisa Aiuti. Take a look...


Elisa, like many of us, has found a way to freely express her creativity online. She works as a nurse, but from a very young age her tool of choice has been a pencil, and whenever she has some free time she likes to spend it creating her simple and fun drawings.

I first came across her art on Instagram and ever since have become a fan of the clean simplicity of her doodles.


Just a simple doodle, a pencil, some pencil shaves, and lots of imagination...



Everyday objects, even food,  their shapes, colors, textures, get a new purpose and meaning.


Elisa explains her creative process: "Creativity has always been a part of my life, as a child, I would spend hours drawing. My artwork has evolved naturally and slowly. I love abstract and fantasy art, all that makes my imagination to fly away. I am inspired by colour and texture, and like to experiment with everyday objects adding them to my drawings to create a unique piece."


To enjoy more of Elisa's drawings head over to her Instagram and Facebook pages.


(Artwork copyright Elisa Aiuti)

January 29, 2017

A Cooking School in the heart of Litchfield Hills & An Apple Cider Braised Chicken Recipe


Nestled in the heart of beautiful Litchfield Hills in a renovated circa-1800's horse barn is The Silo Cooking School at Hunt Hill Farm, established by Skitch and Ruth Henderson in the late 60's, is now a non-profit organization dedicated to cultivating love of land, food and arts, and it was there that Brady and I spent some pleasant and fun hours last Saturday.



It's the second time Brady participated in a cooking class at the Silo, it was my birthday gift to him, a Slow Cooking class with chef/instructor Trish Lobenfeld.

I had contacted Dawn Leahy, the Cooking School Director, for the possibility to be there just to take some pictures. She graciously made me feel most welcome.

Unfortunately, my pictures did not come out as good as I wish, it was a cloudy day with just some rays of sun every now and then, and it was my first time shooting a social event, I felt a little uncomfortable, did not want to disturbe the students and ended up missing great shots.

Preparing the braised lamb shanks. 


Peeling pears and apples for the crumble.


Draining potatoes for the pancakes.


The menu consisted of:

  • Split Pea and Barley Soup with Smoked Ham Hock
  • Apple Cider Braised Chicken with Potato-Kale Pancakes
  • Braised Lamb Shanks Provençal over Creamy Cannellini Bean Puree
  • Simple Salada with French Vinaigrette
  • Candied Ginger Apple and Pear Crumble
  • French Vanilla Ice Cream
Everything amazingly delicious, really!

Trish explaning the best method for breaking down a chicken.


Classes at The Silo are beautifully organized and packed with information. Students are given printed out recipes of what they are cooking, and then they get to sit down together, have some wine, and eat the most delicious food that they cooked together


The class consisted of 4 groups with 4 people each. Brady was part of the group that prepared the Apple Cider Braised Chicken and the Potato-Kale Pancakes, and let me tell you, these recipes are so good that Brady made the braised chicken once again the next day, with a slight variation.



Apple Cider Braised Chicken
6 serves

♥ 3 1/2 pounds boneless and skinless chicken breasts & thighs
♥ 2 cups apple cider
♥ 2 cups thinly sliced onions
♥ 1 cup thinly sliced carrots
♥ 1 cup thingly sliced celery
♥ 1 garlic head (12 cloves)
♥ 2 tbsp olive oil
♥ 1 bay leaf
♥ 1 large rosemary sprig
♥ 1 thyme sprig (about 5)
♥ coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper. 

Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottom pan over medium high heat. stir in the onions, garlic and salt, cover and sweat for about 5 minutes, stir once. 

Remove the cover, reduce the heat, and let the onions and garlic cook down until soft, stirring occasionally. Continue cooking for another 20-25 minutes until they are deep brown - adding a little water if they start to stick to the bottom. This delicious brown caramelized sugar is what gives color and flavor to the food.

Stir in carots and celery and sauté for about 3 minutes.

Add the seasoned chicken, apple cider, bay leaf and rosemary sprig. Stir to combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to barely a simmer, just an occasional bubble comes to the surface. Cook for 1 1/2 - 2 hours.



Undoubtedly, The Silo Cooking School is a great place for communal cooking learning and eating the freshest of foods. Cheers to a fun afternoon!


January 22, 2017

First snow and a hearty, warming potato & apple soup


I woke up to a white and silent world, the first snow storm of the season had fallen throughout the night, and was still falling.
What is there not to like when a blanket of  fluffy white snow covers the entire landscape? Shoveling, gray skies, slippery and icy roads, bitter cold... I don't like winter in the northeast, it lasts for so long! But when the first snow falls, ah, it's simply magical!

"Let's go for a ride?", I asked Brady. He looked back at me, and said: "Are you sure, it's very cold outside and you can't stand cold."

"I'm sure, let's drive through some country roads nearby, we can always stop at the Bridgewater Village Store and have some hot chocolate." I said, already imagining the creamy sweetness waiting for us at the store.


As I stepped outside the car to take some pictures, the cold hit me like it was the first time I was experiencing the northern winter, even though I've been living here for so many years. My intention of taking some pretty photos ended up short, soon I was ready to drive back home, thinking of preparing a nourishing soup for us.


"Apple soup? That's pretty unusual." Brady said as I asked him to help me peel some apples and potatoes for the soup I started preparing as soon as we got back home.

"Yes, right. I just feel like trying something different. You know me, I love making soups using whatever I can find in the kitchen.

This is rich, cold-weather winner soup, and couldn't be easier. It has the perfect balance of creamy, sweet and savory.

I can not tell you how delicious it is, you'll just have to trust me until you try it yourself.

Potato and Apple Soup
Serves 6

 4 large peeled, diced russet potatoes
 3 peeled, cored, chopped fuji apples (or gala)
♥ 2 large diced onions
♥ 2 1/2 cups milk
♥ 2 1/2 cups heavy creamy
♥ 1 1/2 (about) tbsp butter
♥ nutmeg, to taste
♥ freshly ground pepper & salt, to taste
♥ french baguette, sliced
grated parmesan cheese (or gruyere)

Boil the potatoes in salt water until they are tender. Drain well and mash them using a masher.

Meanwhile, mealt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, cooking them for about 5 minutes. Add the diced apples cooking them until tender. Stir in the milk and the heavy milk and heat through. Add the mashed potatoes to the mixture. Season with nutmeg, pepper and salt to taste. Simmer covered for about 15 minutes.

Place bread slices on a baking sheet and broil for about 1 minute.
Ladle soup into oven-proff bowls leaving 1 inch to the lip. Place bread slices, toasted side down, on top of soup and top with grated cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbly and golden.

December 31, 2016

May the New Year bring out the best in us

In some parts of the planet is 2017 already, here just in a few minutes... May we start it with a loving heart...

We can not change the world in large scale, we can not stop wars, endemic violence, corrupt politicians, we can only be the change we wish to see in the world.

Everyone wants changes in this caotic world, but are we willing to consider alternative ideas, perspectives or thoughts? Are we willing to truly open ourselves up to others, regardless of color, religion, sexual orientation, or any other stereotypical excuse given as to why we fear them?

We live on a vibrational planet, and each and everyone of us washes energy over it, so if we truly want a better world for all people, let's embrace our differences not fear them, let's be the source from which our light overcome our darkness and let love guide our choices.

May 2017 bring out the best in us for the sake of all living creatures in this beautiful planet.




December 21, 2016

Random thoughts and the Cutest DIY Christmas Ornament


Soon it will be the 25th of December... presents bought, cards written, Christmas decor everywhere, lots of mouthwatering dishes planned... but where is the spirit, the meaning of Christmas?

I believe it's there somewhere, in the heart of some people, but mostly what we see is an overwhelming commercialization of Christmas. Even the ones who were not raised christians get in the Christmas-themed frenzy.

Family traditions give me a feeling of belonging, they keep me close to my family and to my roots, and I cherish valuable memories with my family created over the years.
Christmas is a family tradition, so to me it's a time to be together with them, but my family is not here, they are way too far from here. My husband's family is small compared to mine, and it's almost gone, or far away as well. Mind you, we keep our family traditions even when is just the two of us.

However, my niece, who is finishing her Ph.D. at Cornell University and is the only member of my family living in America, will spend Christmas with us this year, and on Christmas day we all are going to NYC to see The Rockettes' Christmas Spetacular. One more Christmas memory to cherish.


This year, I didn't feel like posting any of my Christmas decorations, or talk about the menu I've chosen, or posting some Christmas diy, too many things out there... Nonetheless, this morning, I had a change of heart and felt like sharing this simple & cute diy Christmas ornament. The first time I made it was four years ago, but this is the first diy of it. I think it's still a fresh idea - little angels made from cupcake cups, or cupcake cups turned into little angels.

Paper Angel Christmas Ornament

You'll need:

  • cupcake cups in different motifs & colors
  • styrofoam balls and/or felt balls for craft
  • glue stick
  • regular & edging scissors
  • embroidery thread
  • needle
  • beads
  • embellishments (optional)

How to:



Tips:

  • Do not glue the bottom of the body, only the sides, the needle with the thread should be push up from the bottom to the top so the little ball can be attached to the body, besides leaving it unglued gives the body some volume.
  • Attaching a bead, or a few beads, on top of the ball gives weight to the paper angel and adds a nice touch to it.
  • Using the edging scissors to trim the wings gives them a nice finishing.
  • Adding some embellishment to the dress and wings make them look more festive.

This cute and fun to make diy is perfect not only to be hung on a Christmas tree but also as a gift tag to decorate any package, don't you agree? Any other ideas on how to decorate with them?



I must confess I'm pretty happy with myself. The last time I went to a mall was in October. I did not buy any Christmas decoration, or paper wraps, even Christmas cards I did not buy. I'm using what I already have, tweaking them here and there, just being creative, and the few gifts I bought are from some local stores, small tokens of friendship and love.


I wish you all a lovely Christmas celebration. Love and Peace.

November 20, 2016

Sharing some Autumn scenes and a Creamy Garlic Gratin Potatoes recipe


I could hear the wind blowing outside and the rain hitting up against my bedroom windows. The rain later turned into snow, a light steady snow... It was about 5:30am, and I got up.
It is still Fall, well technically but not actually, because it is cold outside today!

Today is the antithesis of the week we had. Yesterday, specially, the weather was gorgeous, sunny, blue sky, warm, so warm I opened some windows to let the fresh air in.



I had planned to make creamy garlic gratin potatoes for dinner. Also a shrimp salad. Everything delicious, simple and easy to make. Just the way I like to cook.

So I went out to buy a few of the ingredients, but I could not resist, I took my camera with me and before hitting the market I went for a stroll in the neighborhood. What a glorious day!





Some of these photos were not taken yesterday but throughout Autumn.








Back home I felt reinvigorate and more than happy to make this flavorful and mouthwatering recipe.




Creamy Garlic Gratin Potatoes

♥ 2 1/2 pounds white potatoes, thinly sliced
♥ 1 1/2 cup whole milk
♥ 1 1/2 cup heavy cream
♥ 4 cloves garlic, minced
♥ 3 1/2 cups of parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
♥ Fresh thyme springs, to taste
♥ Salt & pepper, to taste
♥ Soft butter to rub the baking dish

Preheat oven to 350F. Rub the butter all over the inside of a baking dish, set aside.

Add water and salt to a cook pan, bring water to boiling. Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and slice them thinly; I use a mandolin to achieve the same thickness.

Place the potatoes in the boiling water and cook them until almost tender, do not cook them all the way through, this process is to speed up the baking time.

Heat together the milk, heavy cream, garlic, thyme and salt in a pot until it starts to boil and slightly thicken.

Place a layer of the (semi-cooked) potato slices in even rows on the bottom of a baking dish. Pour some of the cream mixture, and sprinkle some of the grated cheese. Repeat the same steps two more times.

Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes until potatoes are tender and the top is browned. Since potatoes cook at different rates depending on size and type, use a fork or a skewer to check them for doneness.





This vivid Autumn sky took my breath away.



November 5, 2016

Sweet (Coconut) Butternut Squash Compote - Doce de Abóbora



Have you ever tried pumpkin compote? Doce de Abóbora is a classic Brazilian sweet, it can be crystallized, preserved, molded in heart-shaped tins, and jam. From all the pumpkins sold around here, I find that butternut squash is the one most similar to the one used in Brazil for this recipe.




I do believe in handmade gifts, particularly when they are edible. Who can resist them, especially when they are delicious and cutely packaged?

This sweet pumpkin compote is easy to make and fun to give away - you can share them with your co-workers, thank the hostess at your next party, or simply offering them to friends as a sweet small gesture.

It's pumpkin time so why not try a new recipe? This is a nourishing, comforting and delicious sweet with a touch of fragrant spices.

Sweet Pumpkin Compote - Doce de Abóbora

 1 lb butternut squash
 1 cup of sugar
 2 cinnamon sticks
♥ 4-5 cloves
♥ 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut (optional)


Peel and cut the pumpkin into small cubes. The smaller the pieces the faster it will cook.

Place the the pumpkin and sugar in a heavy-bottom saucepan and mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the sugar has dissolved.

Add the cinnamon sticks and cloves to the mixture and turn the heat to low. Keep stirring occasionally so the mixture won't stick to the pan and to prevent the crystallization of the sugar.
The cooking time depends on the pumpkin, but is hardly ever less than 40 minutes.

Mash the pumpkin with a potato masher or fork over halfway through cooking time.

Once cooked remove and discard the cinnamon sticks and cloves.
Add the coconut, and set aside to cool. Keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Serve it on its own, or with soft flavored cheeses.