happy birthday, papa

Today is my Grandfather's birthday.  To be exact, it's his 85th birthday.

I couldn't actually visit him today but plan to see him tomorrow.  I thought I'd make him and my grandmother (who also just celebrated a birthday) some Vegetable Beef soup.  Let's get started...

First, I chopped half of an onion.

Browned 1 pound of hamburger with the onion and drained.

Returned the hamburger to the pot and added some veggies and beef stock.

Don't forget the seasonings!

Simmer, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.

Taste periodically, adding salt, pepper and a dash of sugar to taste.

This yummy soup is just as good the next day and freezes really well.  I made it with love and hope my grandparents enjoy!

Happy Birthday, Papa!


mamma agata's lemon cake

Eating this cake is how we started and finished our day of cooking at Mamma Agata's Cooking School in Ravello, Italy back in September.  As part of the class we were given a handout with the recipes we'd be eating.  I also bought the cookbook, but the handout went to the Gorilla.  This is where I am today and today was the day to attempt the infamous lemon cake.

Sadly, I did not take any photos of the process.  It would have been very amusing if I had.  I'm not a "baker."  I have a very small handful of things that I bake -- White Chocolate Cheesecake, Jiffy Cornbread and Chicken.  None of these things require flour.  Or baking powder.  Or alternating flour with milk and eggs and lemon zest. 

Anyway, after what seemed like an eternity, this is a lemon cake. It's pretty tasty, but I'm not sure it's "The" Lemon Cake.  I don't believe I had enough lemon zest in the batter and it's suppose to be garnished with hazelnuts (which I forgot to buy). But this may show up on the Thanksgiving dessert table...


the in-laws are coming for a visit

This upcoming week and next weekend should be fun.  First and foremost I get to return to the Gorilla for a few days!  I've not visited the Gorilla since August 23 and look forward to spending some time there just "hanging out".

David's parents and long time friends will be joining me next Friday to stay the weekend.  I've never met the Liners and look forward to doing so.  Mr. Liner was the best man at my in-law's wedding almost 54 years ago and they've remained in touch ever since.  I'm very impressed.

Since my last post, we've taken our bi-annual trip to Disney World with Adam, Drew & Gabe.  We had a blast! Sadly, I didn't take a single picture, but Amy managed to snap this picture of Adam and me.

I'm now off to work on my "To-Do" list for the upcoming week / weekend! Thanks for stopping by! Have a fantastic week...


what's wurstel?

This is David's question to a waiter at a cafe in Florence.  We hadn't had lunch and were looking for a quick afternoon snack when we came upon this outdoor cafe with seats available.  The waiter hands us this menu to look over while he goes for our drinks.

When he returns David asks, "What is Wurstel?"  The waiter proceeds to explain in his best Italian English that, "it is shaped like a hot dog, like a the sausage."  At first we thought he was describing an actual sausage dog which would have been perfect.  Only after we ordered it and he said, "just one? just one pizza?" did we realize he was talking about it being a sausage pizza... even better!  Then it arrived.

Seriously?  We're in Italy and we've just ordered a cheese pizza with cut up hot dog on top? And I'm pretty sure it wasn't even Oscar Meyer hot dogs! We both got a good laugh out of it and were very happy it was a just a snack.

Now we know.  Now you know.  Wurstel needs a bun with mustard and chili.


cooking with mamma agata

David and I are celebrating our 25th Anniversary with a trip to Italy.  We started in Rome, continued to the Amalfi Coast and will finish the trip with Florence.  We had a wonderful travel agent make all the arrangements. One of those was a cooking class with Mamma Agata.

Mamma has cooked for many famous people... Humphrey Bogart, Jacqueline Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor and Pierce Brosnan, just to name a few.  Mamma can cook.  Mamma can't speak a lick of English. Luckily, Mamma's daughter, Chiara was there to translate and made the day so much fun.

We arrived at Mamma's home in the quaint town of Ravello at 10:30 am and while meeting the other couples in the class, we enjoyed Mamma's famous Lemon Cake. Then the schooling began...

After showing us how to make a multi-purpose frying batter and a simple tomato sauce, we moved on to making the Antipasta (Appetizer). An Eggplant Roll-up using fried eggplant, parmesan & an assortment of fillers...sundried tomatoes, pickled pumpkin or plain smoked cheese. 

Next up we prepared the Eggplant Parmigiana since it would take over an hour before it could be served.  She used the same technique for the eggplant as she did for the roll ups only layered them, lots of them and included parmesan, mozzarella, smoked provolone and her simple sauce. The pan looks a little full to me...

Once the Parmigiana was in the oven, it was time to start the Lemon Chicken. It would also need time to simmer on the stove.  This chicken was cooked with absolutely no oil or butter.  The juice of the chicken would make the cooking broth for this dish.

Now it was time to start chopping the peppers and tomatoes for the Pappardelli Pasta with Sausage and Peppers and the Farmer's Spaghetti.  She let all who were willing help with the chopping. Once all the ingredients had been chopped we took a short break and walked around her garden that was perched along side of a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean.

Everything started coming together by mid-afternoon and we stopped tasting and started eating...

First, Mamma's zucchini and ham fritters

 Next comes the Eggplant Parmigiana

 Follow that with Farmer's Spaghetti

Now it's time for the Pappardelli Pasta with Sausage & Peppers

But wait, there's the Lemon Chicken with a small salad

And just as we began the day, we finished the day with
Mamma's Famous Lemon Cake

When David and I left Mamma Agata's home, we swore we'd not be eating again while we're in Italy... ok, perhaps we just swore off dinner that night!  We had a wonderful and fun experience.  I'm thrilled that David joined me in taking the class. (Otherwise there wouldn't be these great photos!)

I can't wait to try and reproduce some of these dishes for some Family Night dinners when I return.

Ciao, Ciao for now!  Arrivederci!