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When I started my retirement travels - the first of which was my solo overseas trip to Italy in 2009 - I wanted a way to share it with family and friends as it happened. Hence, "My Travel Journal". However I realized I wouldn't always be on a trip and wondered what to do with the blog in between times. My daughter pointed out, wisely, that travels can also include trips to the kitchen to try a new recipe, trips to visit family, trips to my neighborhood Starbucks, or a fun day trip with a friend. You're welcome to join me on any of these journeys!

P.S. I've set up separate pages for each of my major trips (see tabs above).

I recently added an "Italian Word a Day" thingie which shows up at the bottom of every page. You see the word and can click to hear it pronounced. I've been enjoying it and I think my accent is improving as time goes by.

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January 16, 2011

A Nice Surprise From Florence

If you've read my posts from my 2010 trip to Italy, you might remember how I had several nice chats with the husband and wife owners of the Hotel Anna where I stayed while in Florence.  Especially the two times Loretta gave me recommendations - one for good gelato and the other for a really nice trattoria, both of which were as good as she said.  I sent them a Christmas card of a photo I took of the Duomo and an Italian greeting rather than an English one.  Recently I heard back from her, via e-mail and, in addition to telling me if I go back to Florence, they'd be happy to have lunch with me(!), she also sent along a couple of photos of a recent snow in Florence which she says is quite rare.  So I thought I would share them with you.  They're taken from the building where they live, not the historic center.

Pretty, isn't it?  I switched this one to black and white too.  I like it for snow shots.  I'm wondering if that's actually a palm-type tree on the right...

And another one, I would assume from their balcony.  Gosh, maybe I should ask them what an apartment there costs! : )

She also told me that they are no longer running the hotel.  They still own it but have rented it out to a man who is now in charge of it.  So hopefully, they are heading into those golden years of retirement which in Italy should be truly golden.

As long as I'm here, I might as well relate my latest cooking experiments.  A few nights ago (yes, still somewhat sick and puny but bored out of my mind), I decided to try making some kind of pasta sauce using ricotta cheese.  While at my kids' watching the food network, I've seen this done and it makes a creamy sauce but not as heavy as the American Alfredo sauce which I find way too rich.  So I searched around and found one that used garlic and zuchinni sauteed in olive oil, then ricotta cheese added to that and melted down, and then - my recipe said - spaghetti tossed around in that, adding a little of the pasta water to make the sauce creamier and then giving it a good dose of parmesan regianno.  I did all that and it was good...but...I will be trying it again with a few changes so won't post the recipe now.  But here are pictures of some of the cooking and the finished product.

The ingredients...nice and simple...

The sauteeing and smelling good...

And the finished dish.  You can see from the picture there's not much zuchinni.  I tossed and tossed and even then, I didn't get a good mouthful of it until I had pretty much emptied out the bowl.  So one of the changes will be a different kind of pasta - something small that will let the zuchinni mix in.  That last mouthful with more zuchinni was really tasty!

And then tonight I decided that I was going to try making homemade naan bread.  I had asked for and received some jars of this Indian tikka masala sauce I found at World Market when I was there after my Italy trip and I liked it so much I added it to my "wish list".  But I like naan bread with my Indian food so...I called Maggie to see if she had ever made it - she's getting to be quite the Indian chef much to January's delight! - and she had so she gave me her recipe and some moral support and I dug in.  For my first attempt I was quite happy with it and I think it's going to be the perfect excuse to go buy a pizza stone.  I love a good excuse to buy kitchen stuff. :)  I will post a recipe sometime, but not tonight.  But here are pics to prove I did it..

The dough (looks sort of like brains but it's dough)...This was half a recipe - enough to make three naans.  I made four cause I wanted to try two different methods of cooking so I divided the dough into quarters and froze two balls of it and can now have naan again without all the hassle.

The finished bread - I actually got some nice browned bubbles!

The chicken tikka masala for which I can't take any credit except sauteeing the chicken and adding some frozen peas.

And, obviously, it was good enough to eat (tee hee). 

And my mama would be proud - I've already cleaned up the kitchen and run the dishwasher.  So now, I'm going to put my jammies on and watch a movie or something - sure wish there was anything good on TV ever!


rosanna said...

HI, you would try cutting the zucchhini in smaller bits.Each slice in quarters I mean.Then let them cook but not that crispy, they must be still tender. You can add some oregan or maggiorana to add flavour and some pinenuts for crispiness. Have a nice day, Rosanna

Christopher said...

I don't associate Florence with snow... how interesting! And I had no idea naan was so easily made at home... your dish look just like take-out!

vrmichie said...

What impressive cooking for a sick lady! Does the sauce come with the peas or did you add them? And is it chicken chunks? Makes me hungry and makes me want to try Maggie's bread recipe. And Florence is looking soooo beautiful. Guess you'll have to visit in the winter sometime. xoxo

January said...

Good job with the naan, Mama! The Indian food Maggie made me for my birthday dinner last night was deeeeelicious!
And how nice to get some pictures and a note from Florence - it is weird to think of snow there...

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