Italy. Simplicity. Dry bread, garlic and tomatoes = Bruschetta!

It has been too long – I have missed cooking, taking photographs and sharing with those that care to read it! I promise never to leave a two month gap again….

So, we went to Italy. Not just anywhere in Italy – we went to Tuscany. Not just anywhere in Tuscany – we went to Florence; and Florence is my favourite place in the whole world. Cannot for the life of me explain why, but the place fills me with joy, with promise, with excitement. The rolling hills, the flavours of the food, the people, the architecture, the colours…no where like it. No where.

It was a family trip (I am lucky enough to have a sister-in-law living in Florence) and we made the most of it. The majority of  the holiday was spent eating and laughing….makes me smile to think about it.

Quality time with the children and extended family and a magical place to stay (Lebbiano Residence – have a look) from where we ventured into the Tuscan country side and spent hours in the nature. The children caught tadpoles and frogs, we taught them to row a boat in the lake, trekking in the woods, catching fire flies at night and finding a hidden park that was, and I kid you not, like a fairy tale come true.

This one needs translating – will live by this…..

In The Park You Can

– inhale clean air
– listen to the silence
– stretch out in the sun (lie down)
– dream
– love
– play
– make up
– think
– slow down
– observe
– taste/enjoy
– doze/nap
– forget/lose time
– come home feeling peaceful
 

 and the food….the food….the food!

Best of all – simplicity. With nothing but paper plates and a lot of love and patience we had the best meals I have had in a long time. Eaten outdoors, with family.

Eaten indoors, on little stools – amazing!

 

So simple – the line in front of the restaurant a very telling thing…My daughter who is only 7 and claims to not like meat – well – a Bistecca Fiorentina at Mario’s….and she is converted!

If you are ever in Florence go there!!! Da Mario – behind San Lorenzo – close to Zaza (another good restaurant).

I want to leave you with a recipe – one of the simplest I know – and probably one of the tastiest too! Bruschetta. Dry bread, olive oil, tomatoes and garlic – fresh garlic – by the clove. Nothing more, nothing less.

Bruschetta

Loaf of dry bread
Fresh, ripe tomatoes cut into small pieces
Extra virgin olive oil
Red onion (can be omitted)
Basil (can be omitted)
Sprinkle of salt
Garlic – cannot be omitted – peeled cloves, sliced in halves
 
  • Slice the bread – it is fine if it is horrible and dry (just not mouldy…)
  • Place under a grill – or on a hot BBQ (perfect for summer – if we ever get one!) until dark brown and crisp
  • Place bread on plate
  • Rub sliced, peeled garlic straight into the bread
  • Throw a large spoonful of tomatoes on top of it (precut in a bowl – if red onion is wanted add it to the tomatoes in small pieces)
  • Drizzle with olive oil
  • Sprinkle with salt and a few basil leave
  • ENJOY!

If you are in need of relaxing, of a break or simply of re-falling in love with life, with your children, with your partner, with food – go to Florence! Stay at Lebbiano Residence, eat at Mario’s, go for walks, see the sites….it is a little bit of magic for the soul.

If you cannot afford to go – make bruschetta at home, put on some Italian music and pretend…! Not quite the same but hey – better than nothing!

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Parenthood

If you are feeling slightly daunted by the prospect of Christmas holidays, or simply December, or just being a parent in general….this should make you laugh (and cry!) It is so true…So stay strong, chin up, keep smiling and try to get as much love and laughter and joy squeezed out of them as you can as that is what makes it all worth it!

 

PARENT JOB DESCRIPTION

TITLE :

  • Mom, Mommy, Mama, Ma Dad, Daddy, Dada, Pa, Pop

JOB DESCRIPTION :

  • Long term, team players needed, for challenging permanent work in an often chaotic environment.
  • Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills and be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings and weekend s and frequent 24 hour shifts on call.
  • Some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in far away cities!
  • Travel expenses not reimbursed. Extensive courier duties also required.

RESPONSIBILITIES :

  • The rest of your life.
  • Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily, until someone needs $5.
  • Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly.
  • Must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule and be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds flat in case, this time, the screams from the backyard are not someone just crying wolf.
  • Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets and stuck zippers.
  • Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and coordinate production of multiple homework projects.
  • Must have ability to plan and organize social gatherings for clients of all ages and mental outlooks.
  • Must be willing to be indispensable one minute, an embarrassment the next.
  • Must handle assembly and product safety testing of a half million cheap, plastic toys, and battery operated devices.
  • Must always hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.
  • Must assume final, complete accountability for the quality of the end product.
  • Responsibilities also include floor maintenance and janitorial work throughout the facility.

POSSIBILITY FOR ADVANCEMENT & PROMOTION :

  • None. Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills, so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you.

PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE :

  • None required unfortunately. On-the-job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.

WAGES AND COMPENSATION :

  • You pay them! Offering frequent raises and bonuses. A balloon payment is due when they turn 18 because of the assumption that college will help them become financially independent.
  • When you die, you give them whatever is left. The oddest thing about this reverse-salary scheme is that you actually enjoy it and wish you could only do more.

BENEFITS :

  • While no health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and no stock options are offered; this job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth, unconditional love, and free hugs and kisses for life if you play your cards right.

A FOOTNOTE :

  • THERE IS NO RETIREMENT — EVER.
  • If you are fortunate enough you will become grandparents!

Scones? Yes please!

At half term we spent a gorgeous week in Appledore, a tiny little fisherman’s village in North Devon (have a look: Appledore Cottages), and most days we ate scones….not just scones though, stunning homemade scones with clotted cream (lots) and jam (lots) and even butter….(also lots!). OK, we did do many other things, crab fishing, fishing, walks on the beach, sites etc, but the scones stand out in my mind. I LOVE a good scone….Some say plain, boring…but no no….I say scones all the way!

Being in baking and snack mode this week, as well as having some buttermilk in the fridge, I thought I would make some. I am always hunting for good after school treats for the children (wanting to avoid abuse :-)) – scones are a great one! Very easy, super quick and the smell that fills the kitchen…heavenly!

To make things complicated, however, my husband criticized the first batch I made….said the flavour was lovely but the consistency “bready”… I am a tad of a perfectionist and it really bothered me…so I researched a bit and tried making them in a different way! Much better, or different is a better word….smiles all around…BUT we now have scones all over the kitchen – come over and have one if you like!!!!

I will put both recipes up – the first one makes a less crumbly, less sweet scone while the second is more of a sweet, soft treat!

It was a bit dark and sad outside today so a candle made it lovely and cosy inside! Important to set a nice scene when you are in the kitchen!

The first recipe – inspired by Anne Willan’s Look and Cook book – goes like this!

250g flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
60g unsalted butter
175ml buttermilk
 
  • Heat your oven to 220C and line a baking tray with parchment paper
  • Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. I used to skip this step and just chuck everything in but actually, apart from making the flour look soft and beautiful, almost snow like, it makes it more airy and therefore helps create a lighter scone.

 

Pretty right?

  • Add the butter and with your fingers, or those of your children, rub the mixture together quickly until it forms crumb like consistency. Think airy and light when you are doing this and do move rather quickly so that you do not melt the butter with the warmth from your hands.
  • Pour the buttermilk into the centre of the bowl – you will of course (!) have made a pretty hole in the flour…

  • Using a fork, toss the flour mixture with the buttermilk and stir until just holding together. Do NOT over stir – why? This will make chewy, hard scones…
  • Knead quickly on lightly floured surface, literally a few seconds, do not make it smooth. Then pat the dough into a round shape, about 2cm thick.
  • Cut out round shapes with a cookie cutter or glass

  • Place the scones on your parchment and bake them in the warm oven for about 15 minutes (or until light brown)

  • Sink your teeth into those!!!!! OR, what I did, butter and jam them, wrap them up and delight your children! (and enjoy a rare, quiet, proud “Mum is great” moment)

The second recipe is by Rachel Allen and is slightly sweeter and more light – not much – but enough to be different!

500g plain flour, plus extra for dusting   
1 heaped tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 heaped tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp salt
125g chilled unsalted butter   
25g caster sugar
1 egg,  beaten   
275ml buttermilk, plus extra for the egg wash   
1 tbsp caster sugar
 
  • The procedure is similar to that above. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and salt into a bowl. Using your fingertips, rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and mix.
  • Save 1/3 of the beaten egg and pour the rest into the buttermilk.
  • Add the liquids to the flour and stir with a fork – quickly – follow kneading and patting procedure as above, and you should see this on parchment.

  • Lightly brush the scones with the remaining egg, to which you can add a bit of buttermilk. This creates a nice, golden colour.
  • Into the oven – 12-15 minutes – until brown/golden. Below is the result! YUMMY!

Both recipes are great..my preference is probably the Sarah Allen’s though…just a bit more traditional scone…

A slight niggle remains….someone suggested that a real scone, a proper one, contains lard….Hhmmmm….I just cannot quite get myself to try it. Watch this space though, maybe I will be brave enough one day!

 

Rain!

So it rains, and it rains and it rains! Not just dripping either, but full on, heavy rain! Cabin fever is quickly approaching and everyone is itching to do something.

Rainy days can be very frustrating, especially if they come during the holidays or at the weekend, but really they need not have such a bad reputation! There are lots of fun things to do when it rains – even outdoors for the slightly nutty and brave!

My children asked me the other day – when it rains is it because God is watering his plants or having a wee or is it a cloud crying? Had to smile…. They also think clouds are made in factories after seeing a huge chimney spitting out smoke….don’t I wish that was true!

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Patience

According to Wikipedia, patience at its core is a decision-making issue relating to the preference of instant versus long-term rewards. The question is simple – does one persevere and receive an often valuable, long-term reward or does one go for the quick fix and get an instant, but probably less valuable, reward?

Growing up I, always in a hurry, was often told to slow down. Closing my eyes I can hear my parent’s voices ” Stop pushing so hard” and ” Patience is a virtue”. Today, I hear it still, but it is my voice saying it to myself and to my children! How ironic, the circle of life!

Why is it so hard to be patient?

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