Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Season of Giving--Giving Tuesday

Gifts come in all shapes, sizes, and price points. The photo above is of a man who bought a "Pasta Pass" from Olive Garden, then proceeded to try and feed the homeless with the food that he received with the pass.  As we think about the gifts we give this season, it's important to remember those who won't be receiving gifts, let alone have enough to eat. 

Here in San Diego it's simple to donate to the Jacobs-Cushman food bank; you bring non-perishables to a red barrel in supermarkets, and some supermarkets will charge you an extra $10 (with your permission) to donate to a bag of food to the food bank. 

There are many ways to give, but my point is that we should give generously to those in need.  Today in San Diego it is a cold and rainy day; there are homeless under the overpasses, just trying to find shelter from the storm.  Donating to local charities will help some of these people get a hot meal or shelter if they need it.  So instead of buying Uncle George that tie, maybe donate in his name to your favorite charity.  If he's like me, it would mean more than a gift bought at the last minute that I don't really need. 
Today is "Giving Tuesday" and after all the hype with Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, take the time to think about those in need, and give. If you order things from Amazon you might want to order from Amazon smile, some proceeds from the sale of your items will go to a charity of your choice. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Season of Giving

It's that time of year again, and whether you celebrate Christmas or another holiday at this time of year, there will be presents.  This year (barring any unforeseen shoulder breaks, or broken bones) I will try and post a gift a day for the next two weeks.  My first book published in 1993 was The Perfect Mix, a book filled with nothing but mixes that you put together and gave as gifts.  Unfortunately now out of print, some of these recipes will be from the book, as well as new recipes that I've developed since then.  These are items easily put together in your home kitchen, to give as gifts to friends, co-workers, and those you want to remember at this time of year.
Trust me, homemade gifts are as rare as dinosaur eggs, and it's time to teach your children, and those you love that gifts from your kitchen can make the holidays merry and bright.  Try enlisting your children to make some of these gifts, since they are simple, but filled with great foods to enjoy during the holidays.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who doesn't love a cookie?  This gift practically makes itself and you can have your kids layering the ingredients into the jars, while you print off the recipes for your friends.  This recipe will make 1 jar, that holds 8 cups.  Layer in the order given, or change it up to suit your needs.

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup quick cooking oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla powder (or sub in vanilla extract in the recipe card)
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Variations:  Add 1 cup dried cranberries to the layer between the oats and flour.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 4 dozen
One jar Oat Meal Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
1 egg yolk

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, line baking sheets with parchment or silicone liners.  
  2. Put the mix in a large bowl, and blend in the butter, egg, and egg yolks until the mixture is incorporated.  
  3. Using a portion scoop, scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, 2inches apart.  
  4. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until the edges are dark golden brown.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack. 

Ideas for decorating the jar can be raffia tied to the recipe, custom made labels (www.avery.com) bits of seasonal fabric cut with pinking shears to cover the jar top and sprigs of silk holly, or ivy.  I tend to use wired ribbon since it holds up well. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


As I look forward to tomorrow and Thanksgiving, I realize how grateful I am for so many things.  I'm grateful every day (for the most part) but when Thanksgiving rolls around, I realize how many people, experiences, and rewards have come my way, and I am so very thankful for it all. Scientists say that people who are grateful, are happier people.  
As you sit down to your Thanksgiving dinner, I wish you all a joyous holiday filled with the love, laughter and joy of being together with those who mean the most to you. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Since Dr. C. and I took my car to NYC for our daughter and her family, I have been wondering what kind of car I will get when I get back to the US.  Unfortunately, some of the best cars, aren’t sold in the US, so I’ve been taking photos of the ones that have tickled and intrigued me and I thought I’d share.  
I know that Italy is famous for Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati, which are all out of my price range, and I’m really not interested in any of them, except to appreciate the design and the look. 

The Fiat Cinquecento on the other hand is one of my favorite cars,  but they aren't practical for me, unless I bought the 500L, but it’s style just doesn’t speak to me like this one does!  

You could actually pick this one up with one hand!
There are lots of car brands that are sold here, that we never see in the states.  Peugeot, Renault, Citroen, and Opel don’t appear on car lots in the US.  (Some would say that’s just as well)  
Alpha Romeo

this is a Nissan Qashqai (what?)


This one is called a KA (like in The Jungle Book)


Other brands that are sold in the US, have different configurations in Europe, and they are kind of fun to see, but we can’t bring them back.   
I had been driving a rented VW Tiguan Diesel while I was here, it was fine, but didn’t really make me swoon.  I suppose when I get back, I’ll probably get the same car I had before, just a newer model, but for now enjoy the slide show.  

Fiat Punto

The ubiquitous Smart

This is a Leon

Fiat Multipla

Fiat Punto

Lancia (I'm convinced that is Italian for junk)

Cinquecento L (4 door)

This is a cute little three wheeler that is used for carting things up and down hills here in Italy

These French cars, made by Deux-chevaux are making a comeback--used on farms in France they have a rather ridiculous look, but can drive on rutted back roads with ease thanks to a suspension built for the rough road.  I would love to drive one of these in San Diego---all those Tesla-loving drivers would be tres envious!

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Prized the world over for their flavor, and aroma, truffles are an experience.  Musky, earthy, and full of flavor to add to pasta, risotto and meats, truffles can cost up to $5000 per pound.  
With my cousins visiting from DC, we decided to go on an adventure and signed up with Wild Foods for a Truffle Hunt.  Umbria is know for its truffles (tartufi) and since this has been a banner year for Porcini and truffles, we thought it would be a lot of fun.  

We began the day at the top of the hill in Spello, where we were picked up in a Land Cruiser by Mack Ryde the leader of a band of residents in the village of Pettino, and joined 2 New Zealanders in Umbria on holiday.   
Heading South towards Spoleto, we turned off the highway and headed up the mountain to the small village of Pettino, deep in the country.  Along the way, we met the rest of our crew, (Australians) who would join us for the day once they changed their flat tire.   
Mack peppered the drive with lots of interesting facts and stories about Pettino, and how a “Kiwi” ended up in this tiny village.  The original 7 families (and their progeny) in Pettino own the land where the truffles are located. 

After introductions to Mack’s beautiful wife, Francesca, children Dante and Polly, and his mother-in-law Giuseppina, we were offered coffee while we were waiting for Luca (a cousin of Francesca) our truffle hunter. 

My cousins and I rode in Luca’s truck, perfumed with the aromas of truffles and Marlboros.  We set out over a leaf-strewn, muddy rutted road, jouncing and stuttering, until we were at the beech tree forest with the dogs.   

We found (with the help of the dogs) a good amount of truffles, weighed them, and then set off across the valley.  

 After leaving the main road we climbed up a stone and rubble studded twisty road, giving us a teeth chattering, bone jarring ride to the top of the mountain where we arrived at the pastures where the sheep were grazing. 

Mack served Prosecco and salame, Luca proceeded to make us truffled eggs.  A wild wind was blowing and the small propane stove took its time, but the end result was well worth the wait as you can see.  

Heading back to Pittino we watched Giuseppina, Francesca's mother make fresh egg pasta.

Then we to their beautiful new state of the art kitchen and dining room.  

We enjoyed Sunday lunch at its finest, truffle pasta, guinea hen with tortino of potato and spinach.  Umbrian apple cake, copious amount of local red wine, and espresso rounded out the meal. 

After such a great day, we piled back in the Land Cruiser filled to the brim with new memories, friends and once more an appreciation of rural traditions, and farm life that live on in the small villages that dot the hillsides of Central Italy.  Grazie Mille, Mack, Francesca, Dante, Polly, Giuseppina, and Dante Sr. for a memorable day.