Discover how macarons + mortadella = a happy marriage in my latest blog post for About.com’s Newlyweds site. If you’re lucky enough to be in Ischia, Italy, then head to Gran Caffe Vittoria to pick up the macarons in the photo above. The bakery, which I consider one of the best on the island, recently started making them and they are divine. My favorites are cherry, lemon, and pistachio. But Baby Boy, of course, prefers the chocolate.
My husband and I love ourselves a good ol’ American breakfast. Pancakes have always brought us – and our friends and family – together, even in the darkest of times. So, when it’s time to celebrate or throw a pity party (take your pick), I usually surprise my loved ones with these sweet treats. When I travel to Italy, I’m often found slaving by the stove making American pancakes for Italian friends and family. They can’t get enough of them. Besides, I have learned – from my mom – that you feed the ones you love. Of course, you want to feed them something yummy to boot.
You can read more about pancake surprises in today’s blog on the About.com Newlyweds site that I write.
I’m all about child-like wonder these days. That might be why I thoroughly enjoyed waving to my niece Maria and her parents as they took a spin on the merry-go-round at a local mall. It might also have something to do with why I posted a photo of the Legoland Royal Wedding on the About.com Newlyweds site today. You should find the kid in you and respond to him or her; go on the swings at the nearby park, play with your food, and blow bubbles in the garden. (More photos below the ad)
Back in September my husband surprised me by taking me to sample the tasting menu at Il Mosaico, the restaurant at the five-star Manzi hotel in Ischia, Italy, the island off the coast of Naples that is the home of my husband and my ancestors. With two Michelin stars, Il Mosaico offers nouvelle cuisine at its best. Chef Nino Di Costanzo is a true artist who makes dishes that are as beautiful to the eye as they are delicious. I loved the food and the experience so much that I’ve gone on a writing frenzy about the chef’s table; I wrote a blog for the About.com Newlyweds site about how couples could splurge on tasting menus for date night or anniversary celebrations and an article that will appear both on the ItaliansRus Web site and in an upcoming issue of the La Voce newspaper, which is dedicated to Italian Americans in Las Vegas. For more Manzi madness, and my own personal photos from the night at Il Mosaico, visit the “Dinner at Manzi” photo album.
Gnocchi, pasta made with potatoes, has always been a friend of mine. Gnocchi, the best of it anyway, melts in your mouth and serves as the perfect carrier of sauce. My favorite sauces are brown butter with sage (which goes nicely with the potatoes in the gnocchi) or tomato sauce with mozzarella, which is also known as “alla Sorrentina.” Gnocchi and I are BFFs who go back a long way, but it wasn’t always a simple relationship.
I was frustrated with gnocchi. It’s hard to make the potato pasta from scratch. The first and last time my mother tried her hand at gnocchi, she seemed to have done a great job. Then, she popped her delicate gnocchi into the pot of boiling water and they would simply disappear. It was magic. Actually, she probably just didn’t use enough flour, which does make the gnocchi heavier. She had good intentions. But the trick is to get a feel for the gnocchi. After lots of practice, you start to realize just how much flour you need to keep the gnocchi light but also keep them in one piece. Ever since my mom’s gnocchi blunder, we always keep a box of pasta nearby in case our gnocchi doesn’t make it.
Making gnocchi is a wonderful distraction and probably even reduces stress (once you get past the practice stage that is). One Sunday morning recently, I set out to make gnocchi. (To view photos, visit the “Gnocchi alla Sorrentina” photo album.) I’ve gotten pretty good at it over the years. I use instructions and the recipe from Lidia Bastianich. To make them alla Sorrentina, I used my own recipe. I basically made a marinara sauce (minus the onions), boiled the gnocchi, put the gnocchi in individual baking dishes, smothered it in mozzarella and put it in the oven until the cheese was melted, bubbling, and slightly brown.
My next goal: To try Bastianich’s recipe for butternut squash gnocchi, which appeared in a recent issue of Bon Appetit magazine. My mouth is already watering.
Please share your recipes with my readers at the About.com Newlyweds’ Recipe Exchange. I can’t wait to see them!
This is the photo on the About.com Newlyweds site today. But it’s also the view I have from my office window. That nest and those birds have inspired me to better prepare for growing a family. I’m hoping it has the same influence on my readers. Check out what I told them about saving money and getting their own nest in tip top shape in today’s blog.
When I was in Italy for five months in 2009, my nieces spent a lot of time in my room with me. We made cards and pictures, played Sorry, baked muffins, and played with my computer. One of our favorite things to do was use the iPhotoBooth on my MacBook to create wacky photos like the one above that has Laura and Giulia looking as though they’re fresh out of a comic strip in the Sunday newspaper.
Lately, I’ve been on a photo kick. I put some new pictures around my house, and I’ve been carefully storing all my images (even the ones my friends and family send to me) in iPhoto. As the Guide to Newlyweds for About.com, I’ve been inviting people to share stories and photos from their wedding, honeymoon, home, and personal blogs. I’ve even asked them to share their baby stories and photos with readers. A few people have done just that.
There’s something magical about seeing people’s photos. After all, they are sharing an important and beautiful memory — one of the reasons we enjoy living — with all the world. A special photo is inspiring and even motivational. Indeed, just looking at Laura and Giulia above makes me want to laugh more. Feel free to share your photos with my About.com readers and continue to inspire pure and lovely emotions.
Bella is part beagle and part basset hound and all love. Shilo is pure beagle and pure joy. They are the dogs of my brother and sister respectively — and they are great additions to our family. After spending the weekend with them in Florida, I miss having a dog around the house. That’s why today I focused on the benefits of adopting a pet on the Newlyweds blog that I write for About.com. Check it out and leave a comment. Don’t those cute faces make you want a pet yesterday? (For more photos of Bella and Shilo, visit the “Family Dogs” photo album.)
My husband’s romantic gesture in the snow yesterday inspired today’s blog on the About.com Newlyweds site. Check out the Newlyweds blog and leave a comment about what you plan to do to lift the spirits of someone you love today. You can learn how to write a love letter to boot. Make sure to express your love in a meaningful way as often as possible. I know I’m grateful that Antonio makes me feel loved all the time — even when the snow isn’t falling.
As most of you know, my husband Antonio arrived in Naples this morning, so that he could spend the holidays with his mother and sisters, and I’m still here in the United States working and spending time with my family. I miss him terribly, but I realize we’re pretty lucky. Military families who have deployed loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan have it much harder than I do. You can check out my About.com blog about the vow renewal ceremony some Army couples took ahead of holiday deployments. Leave your comments because I would love to know if you think these kinds of ceremonies help married folk who have to be separated for long periods of time.
In case you’re wondering, the photo above is from a glorious night Antonio, our friend Ludovica, and I spent breaking bread at the New York City apartment of our friends Alex and Rosario, who are also hosting an Italian native who is studying English, Cinzia. Alex is a fabulous chef and a dear friend, and we’re still talking about the meal she prepared, which featured spaghetti, meatballs, rolled chicken and beef for seconds, mulled apple cider and a pear tart (and that’s not even everything). One of the highlights of the evening — besides Alex and Rosario’s lovable dog Molly — was our visit to their rooftop and the beautiful view of the New York skyline. See more pics below. Grazie ancora to Alex, Rosario, and Cinzia!