THE FRIDAY NIGHT RECIPES: STROLGHINO&SHRIMPS

Hello, how are you? Hoping that you have a great Holidays’ time! I’ve been “busy” with Christmas’ celebrations, so I had no time to upload the blog. In this day we made some typical recipes, like “anolini” and roast meat (we call it “arrosto”), but i couldn’t take any photo, it’s a bit difficult in this kind of situations…anyway, i would like to share with you the recipes of the Friday night, as usual: it’s my day off at work, so I have time to experiment!
This time I’ve used a typical “salume” (cured meat) that is produced near Parma countryside, and it’s called “Strolghino”. It’s a “salame di culatello” (a pork-thigh salami), with a delicate flavor. I sliced it in cubes, and I used it to garnish the pasta with peas. Before, I cooked the peas in a pot together with minced onions and extra-virgin oil; after i added some cubes of strolghino. (only some cubes, you’ll add the remaining at the end, so you’ll taste the hot and the cold Strolghino in the same dish – photo number 2). During the cooking, I like to squash a bit the peas, to make a velvet sauce that melts in the mouth.

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Instead of bread, I prepared some “sfogliatine”, flat puff-pastry bread with potatoes, origano, salt and pepper, cooked in the oven at 200 °C for 15 minutes. So simple and so perfect combined with shrimps.

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A friend of mine brought us some fresh shrimps from Sicily .. so the main dish, as you can imagine, were shrimps and pan-fried potatoes, flavoured with parsley, garlic, salt and pepper, and also a bit of grated bread. I have an habit: I put the shrimps (already cleaned) in a food container with cold water, extra-virgin oil and a lemon juice, then I move them in the frypan in the hot olive-oil.

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It’s really a simple dinner to make, after all. But I love simple thing, and also genuine food and great “raw materials”. See you next time!Cris

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CHRISTMAS TIPS/ MAKING CHRISTMAS’ CARDS

Hello! Time is flying away, and now there are only 2 days at Christmas… Today I’ve finished Christmas’ cards, and I want to show you my idea for this year: I made some photos to explain better. Like I said before, handmade Christmas’ Card are always the most appreciated. First of all, you need some cardboards: red, green, blue and a white one. To realize it, of course, scissors and glue, a black marker pen, and many coloured drawing pens.
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20131223_095120This year I made a nice drawing of a Santa with his reindeer dragging the sleigh. I coloured the sketch with red drawing pen , of course, for Santas’ clothes, and two tones of green for the sleigh and the writing. I curved out the drawing and I pasted it on a red card. (A4 dimensions, folded in half)  After that, I take a photo of Davide and me, and I printed it, and I cutted off our heads (said in this way, it sounds a bit “gloomy”): I pasted the “heads” on the Santas’ clothes. Inside, as you can see, I added a white card for writing my Christmas message, and to garnish it, I drawed two bay leaves with some red berries.
20131223_102939For the final touch, i added a shaped blue cardboard, to make a starry night sky. (or a snowy sky, if you prefere).
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It’s a very simple idea, if you like to cut and paste and drawing something on your own.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!Cris

CHRISTMAS TIPS/MY TOWN AT CHRISTMAS

Hello!Phew, only six days remaining to Christmas! Finally I can feel a warm atmosphere, all around me but especially in my hearth, deep inside. Today I’ve to rush to finish the last gifts, so I’ve not so much time to spend on my blog .. sigh!I would like to share with you some photos I took last week in my town-center, for the Christmas Street markets. Also our tiny town seems shining with all these decorations!

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Piazza Cavalli, Christmas Market, Piacenza

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Sweets, Flowers and Crafted Products’ Stands

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As you can see, the colour of my town are white and red, like the tops of the stands

CHRISTMAS TIPS/ DECORATIONS

Hello, Good Monday!It’s a bit ‘l do not speak about home decor and interiors, but i know that it’s a very discussed topic in this period on the blogs, so today i would give you some simple “advices” to make your home warm and friendly, without being to “lavish” – it’s not the right spirit, i think – during this special time of the year. As I was saying this morning answering to a comment on the previous post, lights and candles are basic decorations, that will put you in the right spirit. Just observing the flickering flames of candels will bring you serenity and joy.
This morning I was looking around on Pinterest, and i’ve found so many inspiring images that I’ve decided to draft a Christmas list that i would share with you.

IT’S NOT CHRISTMAS WITHOUT …

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LANTERNS: I’m crazy about lanterns, i think they always add to home a special romantic touch. There are outdoor lanterns in different sizes, made by iron or coloured wood, and I often put them also indoor, in the hallways or on the stairs.
BLINKING LIGHTS: Usually we use them on the Cristmas Tree, or on the balcony. I think this kind of lighting, spotted and suffesed, it’s just perfect for the winter nights. It’s beautiful to decorate some corners of the home with lights, I’m a great fan of luminous branches (to put in transparent vases) and of the floral bouquets on a console woven with blinking lights.
CANDLES: a must have during all year, especially in this period. Green and red candles go together in this season, even if I prefere simple white candles, slightly scented, especially for the dinner table.

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CHRISTMAS SOCKS: Extra-large coloured socks in which we put sweets, candies or lollipops. I don’t have a fireplace in my home, so i hang them at the windowsill. When i look at them, I suddenly come back to my childhood.
INDOOR TINY LANTERNS: (see previous trio) I think that these tiny lanterns with Christmas subjects are just adorable. I’ve seen something similar at Ikea and Maisons du Monde shops.
CHRISTMAS COOKIES: it can’t be Christmas without festive recipes! Cookies and cupcakes have the starring role: decorated with sugar paste, and sugared almond; cookies shaped with beautiful cookies’ cutters, to make tons of stars and reindeers. (someone hangs them even on Christmas Tree). Here in Italy candy canes and gingerbread men aren’t really popular, short crust pastry remains the main ingredient in the most part of the recipes.
CHRISTMAS WREATH: to hang up at the house’s doors, they welcome the guests; they’re made by woven wooden branches, red berries, coloured ribbons and pine leaves, and many others ornaments; a sprig of mistletoe brings good luck for the New Year. Lovers always kiss each other under the mistletoe, it’s a common habit.

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CHRISTMAS BALLS: These ornaments are widespread all over the world: we use to hang them on the Chistmas Tree, but they’re good decorations to use for a centerpiece, or to hang at the windows with coloured ribbons for decoration.They’re made by many materials: glass, plastic, fabrics, paper, ecc…
ADVENT CALENDAR: This calendar is very common between children, and it’s used to count the days remaining at Christmas (from 1st December to 24th December). Every day is a little box that contains sweets or candies.
CHRISTMAS CARDS: nowadays few people still use the postcards, or the Christmas cards to give to family and friends; I love to make Christmas card by myself, not to buy them. I like to personalize the cards, it’s part of the gift, and i can’t think to make the same gift for two different persons. If you have the time, make it by your own, the people who receive it will be so happy!
MUGS: To fight winter cold, nothing it’s better than a hot chocolate cup. I love mugs, and every year I always find so many mugs with Christmas’ subjects that I’m not able to choose a single one. Perfect for a tea-time with friends, or after dinner, when you’re on the couch, under the plaid.

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas time!Cris

CHRISTMAS TIPS/TRADITIONAL SYMBOLS

Hello!How are you? Here we’re super-busy right now! Only 12 days to Christmas! We’re getting all excited, preparing the house with decorations, thinking something original for Christmas cards, and so on .. anyway, I really don’t like too much consumerism, it seems to overshadow Christmas true meaning in the last years .. I still remember when i was a kid, when the Christmas lights warmed the atmosphere, and I felt safe and sound, with my family and friends. I love to see happy people around me. I love to donate, much more of receive. (sure, receiving from the persons I care is fantastic, but i love to see the “effect” of my gifts on the others, because i always choose them carefully)
We work hard last Saturday and the result in our tiny, confortable home is the following ..et VOILA’!

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I was thinking today to say something about Christian Christmas symbols, cause not all the symbols you know are strictly related to Christianity and to Holy Bible. As you surely know, the most famous symbols are the Christmas Tree and the Presepe (or Presepio), that is the “Nativity” Scene of Jesus. A Christmas tree is a decorated tree, usually an evergreen conifer such as spruce, pine or fir. The tree was traditionally decorated with edibles such as apples, nuts or dates. In the 18th century, it began to be illuminated by candles, which with electrification could also be replaced by Christmas lights. (i’m really happy to live in this era!) Today, there are a wide variety of traditional ornaments, such as garland, tinsel, and candy canes. An angel or star may be placed at the top of the tree to represent the host of Angels or the Star of Bethlehem that guides the Three Wise Men to the cave Jesus was born.The custom of the Christmas tree developed in early modern Germany with predecessors that can be traced to the 16th and possibly the 15th century, in which “devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes”. It acquired popularity beyond Germany during the second half of the 19th century. The Christmas tree has also been known as the “Yule-tree”, especially in discussions of its folkloristic origins.

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A nativity scene (also known as a manger scene) is the special exhibition, particularly during the Christmas season, of art objects representing the scene of the birth of Jesus. While the term “nativity scene” may be used of any representation of the very common subject of the Nativity of Jesus in art, it has a more specialized sense referring to seasonal displays, either using model figures in a setting or enactments called “living nativity scenes” in which real humans and animals participate. (in Southern Italy there are many Nativity representations) Nativity scenes exhibit figures representing the infant Jesus, his mother Mary, and Joseph. Other characters from the nativity story such as shepherds and sheep, and angels may be displayed near the manger. A donkey and an ox are typically depicted in the scene, as well as the Magi and camels (that we put near the cave only on the night of the 5th January, cause of their travel time to Bethlehem ). Several cultures add other characters and objects that may be Biblical or not. (I really don’t like it, it has nothing to do with Christmas meaning)

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Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first nativity scene in 1223 (a “living”one) intending thereby to cultivate the worship of Christ, having been inspired by his recent visit to the Holy Land where he had been shown Jesus’s traditional birthplace. The scene’s popularity inspired communities throughout Catholic countries to stage similar pantomimes. The figures may be made of any material, and arranged in a stable or grotto. (nowadays there are any sort of presepe, with materials like paper, sugar paste, porcelain, wood, cork, ecc..)

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Untitled 2The third symbol is Babbo Natale (Santa Klaus):  he’s not properly a Christian symbol nowadays: at the very beginning, he was referrred at Saint Nicholas of Myra: he was a 4th-century Greek Christian bishop of Myra (now Demre) in Lycia, a province of the Byzantine Anatolia, now in Turkey. Nicholas was famous for his generous gifts to the poor, in particular with three impoverished daughters of a pious Christian so that they would not have to become prostitutes. He was very religious from an early age and devoted his life entirely to Christianity. In continental Europe (more precisely the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Germany) he is usually portrayed as a bearded bishop in canonical robes. The tradition wants him living at the North Pole or in other places in northern Europe, but the real Sant Claus is located in Italy. In 1087, the Italian city of Bari, mounted an expedition to locate the tomb of the Christian Saint and procure his remains. The reliquary of St. Nicholas was conquered by Italian sailors and the spoils, including his relics, taken to Bari where they are kept to this day. A basilica was constructed the same year to store the loot and the area became a pilgrimage site for the devout. Sailors from Bari collected just half of Nicholas’ skeleton, leaving all the minor fragments in the grave. These were collected by Venetian sailors during the first crusade and brought to Venice, where a church to St. Nicholas, the patron of sailors, was built on the San Nicolò al Lido. This tradition was confirmed in two important scientific investigations of the relics in Bari and Venice, which revealed that the relics in the two Italian cities belong to the same skeleton. Saint Nicholas was later claimed as a patron saint of many diverse groups, from archers, sailors, and children to pawnbrokers.He is also the patron saint of both Amsterdam and Moscow. (I must say that for this part I’ve helped myself refreshing my memory with Wikipedia)

In conclusion, Santa Klaus is a figure that nowadays is much more used unfortunately for commercial business: for kids means to receive many gift and sweets. The origin are religious, but i don’t like the way in which we transform it in “mere consumerism”. Despite of this, i must say that i can’t dislike Christmas decorations, all the sparkling lights trought the streets, and even Santa Klaus big face! Have a Nice Christmas Period!

CHRISTMAS TIPS/LES TRUFFES AU CHOCOLAT

Hello!I’m so busy during these days that i have no time to upload the blog!So many things both to do and to think about, i’m feeling like on a merry-go-round! Here Christmas’ mood has finally sprout, so in this period also on the blog, i’ll post some home decorations i usually make for Christmas, and also some Christmas recipe. I like this special atmosphere.Today i want to start with a winter classic recipe: Truffes au chocolat (in italy we call them “praline” or “tartufi” al cioccolato) The “truffes” are pralines made of chocolate flakes melted into milk cream. When the choco-cream is cooled and consolidated, you shape it in small irregular pralines, and after you roll them into cocoa powder, or some other ingredients.

In this recipe, i’ve covered the “tartufi” also with pistachio (chopped in small pieces), flakes of chocolate and coconut, or with simple icing sugar; but, if you wish, you can use many other ingredients, like minced hazelnuts and almonds.

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INGREDIENTS (for about 30 “tartufi”)
Fine Fondant (Extra Bitter) Chocolate: 150 gr
Fine Milk Chocolate: 100 gr
Fresh Milk Cream (or double cream): 150 ml

FOR COVERING:
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Chocolate Flakes
Pistachios
Icing sugar
Coconut Flakes

PREPARATION:
First, you mince finely the chocolate (both fondant and milk). Pour the milk cream in a small pot,  and  bring it to a boil. After, remove it from the cooker and add to the cream the two types of chocolate. Keep melting since all the chocolate liquefy: the result has to be a smooth, without lumps mixture. Melt till the chocolate became dense, then let the mixture cool down. When it will be cold, but still not completely solid, melt energetically one more time to obtain a lighter mixture. Put together small quantities of mixture helping you with hands, or with two teaspoons, to make small balls: put the “truffes” on a tray and put them in the fridge to make the “tartufi” become solids. (at least for 1 hour and 30 minutes) When pralines are solids, you can finally roll them in cocoa powder and in the other covering that you have already prepared. Preserve the “tartufi” in the fridge into a covered container till you’ll serve them.

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To make the presentation of the “tartufi” even better, you can use an old pralines’ box, putting each “tartufo” in a tiny coloured cupcakes’ wrapper. (in the first and last photos you can see one of the boxes i’ve prepared) For Christmas usually i use silver or white wrappers. You know, nobody can resist at these delicacies!Happy Christmas time! Cris

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HOSPITALITY&CUDDLES

Hello!How are you? Last Friday I had some guests. At the beginning of the week Davide and I decided to have fun together with our common friends .. so I spent the free time thinking of something easy and tasty to cook, in only a half-afternoon available. First of all, friday afternoon I prepared the table “dressing”: something simple, informal, and blue-coloured. Squared floreal dishes and blue glasses. Big blue daisies on the table cover. Some white candle for a nice, cozy atmosphere. “All right” – i said to me-“now i can start prepare the dinner!”

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I started preparing “pomodori confit”, they’re good both as a “antipasto”, that is a small appetizer, and as a “contorno” (side-dish); i can say for explanation that they’re dried tomatoes flavored with salt, pepper, sugar, extra-virgin oil, oregano, parsley, and garlic, if you like it. I cutted in halves the tomatoes, i put them on a baking tray (already dressed) and i regulated the temperature of the oven at 140 °C for 120 minutes. (convention oven, not fan oven or thet’ll burn)

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I like them cause they’re both salty and sweety flavoured, they’re perfect with delicate fish dishes. I served them in some tea-cups. I used a quality of tomatoes that we call “Pomodoro Pachino”, that is a variety grown in Sicily and in the Southern Italy.
Instead of the slices of bread to accompain the dishes, i made some breadsticks (salatini). In the middle, I put a tiny slice of bacon (pancetta) and i made some twisted stuffed “salatini” with the puff pastry. (pasta sfoglia)

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My main dish was a classic”risotto with salsiccia”: i used meat stock to cook the rice, in a frying pan I cooked the sausage (without oil, salt and pepper: I used a bolognese sausage, handmade and really spiced, with much pepper). After 35-40 minutes, i added to the rice the sausage and finally the butter, and out of the burner, I continued to amalgamate the ingredients, till the risotto become creamy.

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The second dish was made by fried shrimp tails with mashed potatoes: I had flavoured the shrimp fisrt with water, extra-virgil olive oil and lemon juice. (that means, you have to keep soaking the shrimp for a while in this “emulsion”) Then, while cooking, i added minced garlic, parsley, salt and pepper; the last two minutes, i added smashed potatoes together with the shrimp, mixing up the ingredients for a better tasty and creamy flavour. For the presentation, i have divided the shrimp from the mashed potatoes in every portion, making a stripe of smashed potatoes and a circle of shrimp. I cannot take a single shot cause i had no time, i was too busy serving!

This time i couldn’t make “dessert”too, but Cinzia, my best friend, brought to us some delicious chocolate and caramel biscuits .. two packs .. we finished them .. all!The flavour of caramel was just so perfect with our strong espresso coffee we prepared. I must say we enjoyed good food and nice company!Everybody had kind words for my cooking, and i enjoy myself so much.. cooking for the people I care it’s so much fun, and it’s a way to make them feel cuddled!I must repeat the experience… as soon as possible (maybe with more time and some days to organize it!)