Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pork and Veggie Lo Mein

You know those days when you wake up and just get a little, nagging feeling that things aren't going to go your way?  The clue is usually small and never the same, but its always there on one of "those" days.  Today I knew I was doomed when I woke up and clicked on my Words With Friends App on my iPhone and it wouldn't work.  Now, I don't know if that was a simple omen that I was going to have a rough day or if it was God's way of telling me I suck at Words With Friends and I should just stop trying.  But I do know that I was sad before I even got out of bed.

After making a mental note to force my husband into playing Scrabble with me this weekend (so I can flex my evidently sub-par vocabulary muscles), I make my way downstairs at 7:30.  I'm excited to watch a DVR'd episode of House Hunters before getting my work day started (I work from home).  The digital cable doesn't work.  Flustered, and not quite ready to delve into business matters quite yet, I attempt to watch an episode of Law and Order SVU on Wii/Netflix.  No dice.  Finally, I'm out of options and decide to get the work day started.  I try accessing the internet.  No signal.  Now I'm pissed!  What's a girl who works from home to do with no cable!?!  I mean internet!!!  What's a girl who works from home to do with no INTERNET!!  So I call Verizon and in a very un-Ann-like manner, I calmly tell them the problem and am chipper and kind when they put me on hold and tell me to unplug the cable box and plug it back in.  And you know what?  It worked!  They agreed to send a technician this afternoon instead of 2 weeks later (unlike SOME companies I know.  Like, *cough, cough* Comcast). 

After spending the day at Starbucks and annoying my fellow coffee-drinkers with my constant, loud participation in conference calls, I headed home to meet the technician.  At first, he couldn't find the problem, so we went outside and walked around the yard, looking for wiring catastrophes.  Just as he was saying, "this seems completely random, I don't see any issues with the cables", he bends over and picks up our cable/internet wire that is supposed to be buried in the yard.  Its been chewed in two.  Complete with little teeth marks and dog slobber, just in case anyone thought it was me who chewed through the wire.  I look up at the house and see Miss Lola standing at the glass door, looking awfully guilty.  Little rascal.  So the guy runs a new wire but has to leave it above ground until some contractor can come bury it again.  I'm POSITIVE that the dog will not be tempted at all by a 30-foot wire running through the yard and will totally leave the new one alone.  Looks like I have a lots of Starbucks hours in my future.

Anyway, the good news is that is almost 10 PM and this day is nearly over.  Sometimes that's the best you can do...just wait for it to end.

I ate takeout soup from a grocery store cafe for dinner so I won't be sharing the details of that with you.  I do, however, have a great recipe for pork and veggie lo mein that I made the other night.  It was legit.  Hope you like it.

Pork and Veggie Lo Mein
Source: Inspired by Rachael Ray

3 rounded tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons hot sauce, eyeball it
few splashes of sesame oil

Lo Mein:
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
1/4 cup vegetable oil, divided
4 large eggs, beaten
3 pork chops, fat removed, sliced into thin strips
Black pepper
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 inches fresh ginger, chopped or grated
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
large handful of snow peas, halved width-wise
6 scallions, cut into 3-inch lengths then sliced lengthwise
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into quarters, seeded, then sliced
1 small can sliced water chestnuts
1/2 pound shredded cabbage

Mix together sauce ingredients and reserve.

Bring pasta water to a boil, salt water and cook spaghetti to al dente.

While pasta cooks, heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large, nonstick skillet over high heat. When oil ripples, add beaten eggs and scramble them to light golden brown, remove and reserve.

Season the pork with salt, pepper and coriander. Heat the remaining vegetable oil to a ripple, then add meat and stir-fry 4 minutes, push meat to the side and add ginger, garlic and veggies. Stir-fry veggies 2 minutes, then drain and add pasta and eggs back to skillet. Pour sauce over the spaghetti and toss to combine. Turn off pan. Toss 30 seconds and let the liquids absorb.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Friday Night Dinner Crew - Eggplant Rollups, Shrimp and Grits, and Pumpkin Cheesecake

I've always loved Friday nights more than any other time of the week.  Totally weird that Friday nights win over Monday mornings, right?  I know.  Anyway, even though I still love them dearly, my Friday nights have evolved throughout the the years.  In high school, Fridays were fun because it was football or basketball night (remember that I was cool in high school.  I WAS COOL, I TELL YOU!!!!).  In college, Fridays mattered slightly less because, well, by the time I was a senior, we treated every night like Friday.  And then once I graduated and moved to a new city for my job, Fridays were Tobacco Company night.  Tobacco Company is a fairly high end restaurant downtown with a VERY low-end basement.  Their claim to fame was a $1 rail drink happy hour and the fact that they would serve you as many at once as you wanted, state booze laws be darned.  People (and my "people", I mean my friends and me) would wait in line for like an hour to get in first so you could secure a table with a waitress.  We'd stay for an hour or so and then go across the street to a multi-purpose bar where you could play pool, practice your pickup lines, or dance.  Or all three!  I'm pretty sure we rarely if ever ate dinner.

These days, Friday nights are a little tamer (usually), but still a whole lot of fun.  Actually, even more fun than high school or college, and especially more fun than Tobacco Company and the multi-purpose bar across the street.  For starters, there is always amazing food involved, and the drinks are far more delicious, albeit more expensive.  Almost every Friday night, we get together for dinner with my husband's brother and his girlfriend, Lauren.  They live 2 blocks from us and are not only family but great friends....the four of us have so much fun together.  Sometimes too much.  There are times that we go out - either to a dive bar or somewhere fancy, and times we stay in and cook.  Lauren is an amazing cook and I've learned a lot of cool tricks and recipes from her.  She bakes stuff that I'll probably always be too intimidated to try.  But that's why we keep her around, right?  To bake stuff that I can't!  I kid.

This past Friday we decided to stay in and have a sophisticated martini and card game night.  I had been wanting to try the eggplant rollup appetizer that I learned in Italy and Lauren had gotten a request for shrimp and grits.  And pumpkin cheesecake just sounded good.  Sure, they're completely different cuisines, but that didn't stop us.  Because martinis go with everything!  The meal was amazing and the card game was a heated battle that eventually ended up in a loss for the hubs and I, but I'm pretty sure the other team cheated.  I'm just saying.

I'll disclaim this post to say that I didn't make the shrimp and grits OR the pumpkin cheesecake.  I did the rollups and the salad (recipe can be found here), and Lauren did the rest.  I also have to disclaim the pictures because taking pictures inside when its dark outside without a speedlight is HARD.  Which is why I'm going to purchase a speedlight online right after I'm done with this post.  I'm sure the 2 glasses of wine I've just consumed haven't influenced my decision in the slightest.


Mamma Agata's Eggplant Rolls
Source: Mamma Agata - Cooking School on the Amalfi Coast!

2 eggplants (they MUST be the long, thin, firm kind, such as Japanese eggplant)
1 3/4 oz grated Parmesan cheese
1 3/4 oz smoked provolone or Gouda cheese (thinly sliced and trimmed to match width of eggplant)
few pieces of salami, thinly sliced and trimmed to match width of eggplant
20-30 arugula leaves
6 strips roasted red peppers (make sure they are sliced thinly)
sea salt, as needed
1 quart peanut vegetable oil for frying
1 cup very fine white flour or pastry flour
wooden toothpicks

Wash the eggplant and remove the top and end of each.  Use a vegetable peeler to peel the skin of the eggplant lengthwise in stripes, like a zebra, keeping some of the skin on the eggplant.  Once peeled, slice the eggplant lengthwise into long pieces, about 1/2 to 1 inch thick.  Don't slice too will reduce in size during cooking.

Layer the eggplant slices around the edge of a colander and sprinkle each slice with a pinch of sea salt.  Allow to sit for 30 minutes to assist in draining out the excess water and removing the bitter taste from the eggplant.

After 30 minutes, gently squeeze out excess water from the eggplant slices, starting from the top of the slices to the bottom.  Do not rinse off the salt - eggplant is like a sponge and will absorb the water. 

Place the flour on a plate.  Dip each slice of eggplant into he flour to cover both sides.  Work quickly, as you do not want the eggplant to absorb too much flour.

Heat oil in a large cast iron frying pan or dutch oven (oil should be 2 inches deep).  Make sure it gets to at least 350 degrees Fahrenheit before frying.  Add eggplant slices to oil and fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes.  Remove the eggplant and place them onto paper towels to absorb the excess oil.

While the eggplant is still very hot, begin assembling the rolls.  Place the slices on a hard work surface, with a paper towel underneath.  Sprinkle each slice with grated Parmesan cheese, provolone, and whatever else you like (I used salami, arugula, and roasted red peppers).  Carefully roll each slice of eggplant, making sure to keep the ingredients intact as you roll.  Place a wooden toothpick through the middle of each eggplant roll to hold the ingredients in place.

Once the rolls have cooled a bit, slice the individual rolls into two pieces to create your own little Italian eggplant sushi rolls!  Serve immediately.

Shrimp and Grits
Source: Bon Appetit

1 cup yellow grits
1 cup grated sharp white cheddar (we used provolone)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 jalapeño, seeded, diced
1/4 cup heavy cream (we used half and half to make it a little healthier)
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup 1/3" cubes tasso, andouille sausage, or bacon (we used andouille and also used about 2 times the amount of sausage since who doesn't love sausage!)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (optional)
3 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, divided
20 large shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled, deveined 
1/4 cup (or more) beer
1/4 cup low-salt chicken stock
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

Bring 3 cups water to a simmer in a large saucepan. Gradually whisk in grits. Turn heat to low; gently simmer until grits begin to thicken. Continue cooking, stirring often and adding water by 1/4 cupfuls if too thick, until tender, about 1 hour. Stir in cheese, butter, and jalapeño, then cream. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add tasso; sauté until fat begins to render, about 5 minutes (if tasso is very lean, add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet). Add garlic and 1 tablespoon butter; stir until butter melts. Add shrimp. When garlic begins to brown, add beer and chicken stock. Simmer until shrimp is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat; set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter to skillet; swirl to melt and cover bottom of pan. Crack eggs into pan and cook until whites are just set but yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes.

Divide grits among bowls, forming a well in center. Spoon shrimp mixture into center of grits. Top with egg.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Bourbon Spiced Cream
Source: Food Network

For the cheesecake:
1 1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs (about 45 crushed wafers)
1 cup pecans, ground
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 pounds cream cheese, cubed and softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
6 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups canned pure pumpkin

For the topping:
2 cups sweetened whipped cream
dash of bourbon
3/4 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (1 1/3 cups)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Prepare the cheesecake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the wafer crumbs, ground pecans and melted butter in a bowl. Press into the bottom of a 12-inch springform pan. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, mix the cream cheese until smooth. Add the brown sugar and process until blended. Add the eggs one at a time, processing until fully incorporated, then blend in the heavy cream. Add the flour, salt, cinnamon and vanilla and blend until smooth. Add the pumpkin and blend until smooth.

Pour the filling over the crust in the pan. Bake 1 hour, 15 minutes, or until the cheesecake is just set. Remove from the oven. Use a knife to loosen the cake from the side of the pan; this will prevent it from splitting down the center. Let cool completely before slicing.

Meanwhile, make the toppings: Combine the whipped cream and bourbon in a bowl and mix until blended. For the chocolate sauce, combine the half-and-half and butter in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Heat until a thin, paper-like skin appears on top; do not boil. Add the chocolate chips and vanilla and stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Remove the side of the springform pan and slice the cheesecake. Top each piece with a drizzle of chocolate sauce and some bourbon whipped cream.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pioneer Woman's Braised Short Ribs and Goat Cheese Polenta

Uhhh, have you ever had short ribs?  I....kind of even don't know what to say about these beauties because they were so danged amazing.  I mean, I submerged them in like almost a whole bottle of red wine and put them in a nice warm place for hours while they got nice and happy.  That's pretty much my dream day...I want to be submerged in a whole bunch of wine and get all warm and snuggly somewhere.  Why doesn't that ever happen to ME?  Oh wait, it kind of does.  With a fairly decent frequency.
Anyway!  Enough about me. 

I'm not sure what made me decide that I wanted to try cooking short ribs, but once I had the idea in my head, there was no stopping me.  I spent an inappropriate amount of time scouring the internet for the perfect recipe.  I also spent an inappropriate amount of money at Home Goods on a new Le Creuset dutch oven.  Because short ribs need their red wine bath in a FANCY pot.  Anyway, once I had the pot, I finally settled on Pioneer Woman's short rib recipe, because, well, she's the Pioneer Woman.  And everything she makes is pretty amazing. 

I know they say that when you have company over, you should make something you've made before so you know it won't suck.  But that's not how I roll, so we invited my in-laws over for dinner as my short rib guinea pigs.  I went in hoping for the best and had a backup plan of feeding them a whole lot of wine if the short ribs were terrible.  Its always best to plan ahead.

Anyway, my wine collection made it through the night fairly intact because those bad boys were awesome!  The meat literally fell off the bone and the sauce was rich and juicy and the whole thing went perfectly with the creamy goat cheese polenta (I mean, really, what DOESN'T go perfectly with creamy goat cheese polenta?).  Everyone was super impressed!  And the best part was that it was really easy...braising sounds really fancy, but really its just putting a bunch of stuff in a pot and putting it in the oven.  Easy peasy.

I still kind of dream about them.  I think I would like to have short ribs at least once a week.  I'm sure my butcher's cash register would like that, too.

Anyway, enjoy!  Try these bad boys immediately!

Braised Short Ribs with Creamy Goat Cheese Polenta
Source: Pioneer Woman

8 whole Beef Short Ribs 
Kosher Salt and Pepper To Taste
1/4 cup All-purpose Flour
6 pieces Pancetta, Diced
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 whole Medium Onion, Diced
3 whole Carrots, Diced
2 whole Shallots, Peeled And Finely Minced
2 cups Red Or White Wine
2 cups Beef Or Chicken Broth (enough To Almost Cover Ribs)
2 sprigs Thyme
2 sprigs Rosemary

Salt and pepper ribs, then dredge in flour. Set aside.

In a large dutch oven, cook pancetta over medium heat until complete crispy and all fat is rendered. Remove pancetta and set aside. Do not discard grease.

Add olive oil to pan with the pancetta grease, and raise heat to high. Brown ribs on all sides, about 45 seconds per side. Remove ribs and set aside. Turn heat to medium.

Add onions, carrots, and shallots to pan and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in wine and scrape bottom of pan to release all the flavorful bits of glory. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes.

Add broth, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Taste and add more salt if needed. Add ribs to the liquid; they should be almost completely submerged. Add thyme and rosemary sprigs (whole) to the liquid.
Put on the lid and place into the oven. Cook at 350 for 2 hours, then reduce heat to 325 and cook for an additional 30 to 45 minutes. Ribs should be fork-tender and falling off the bone.

Remove pan from oven and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes, lid on, before serving. At the last minute, skim fat off the top of the liquid. (Can also refrigerate mixture, then remove solid fat from the top.)

Serve 2 ribs on bed of creamy polenta, spooning a little juice over the top

Creamy Goat Cheese Polenta
Source: Pioneer Woman

1 cup Yellow Cornmeal
1 teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Butter
4 ounces, weight Goat Cheese

Bring 4 1/2 cups water to a boil.

Add cornmeal to the water in a thin stream, whisking constantly to avoid lumps.

Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes, adding salt and extra tablespoons of water as needed.

When polenta is done, stir in butter and goat cheese. Check seasonings, and add salt to taste.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pistachio-Crusted Chicken and Back to the Grind

Uh wow....I've been a bit of a bad blogger lately.  Its hard to blog when you're living in hotel rooms and not cooking a damn thing (somehow I've managed to EAT lots and lots of things, though).  I've been home for less than 10 days in the last month and if it sounds like I'm complaining, I'm not (or at least not THAT much).  I've been to Texas for Austin City Limits, Italy for Italian food and wine adventures, and Philly, Boston, and Tampa for business trips with co-workers that I quite like and have a lot of fun with.  But, its a bit exhausting.  The other day I woke up in a Hyatt somewhere and couldn't remember what city I was in, and when I went to get in my rental car in the garage, I was looking for the Ford Escape I'd had in the last city instead of the Chevy Malibu I should have been looking for.  I was craving sleeping in my own bed and driving my own car (not a Chevy Malibu) and cooking my own food.  I've got a million recipes that I've bookmarked to try (I've been spending a lot of time reading food blogs on airplanes when I should be working).  I promise not to abandon this here blog again...I'm here to stay whether you like it or not.

I made this chicken on one of the few nights that I was actually at home and not too tired to cook.  I've convinced myself that breading something with an ingredient besides actual bread automatically makes it healthier, because, well.... its not breaded and fried, its coated and baked!  This applies even when that "other" ingredient happens to be a calorie-heavy nut.  Coating chicken with crushed pistachios is a fantastic idea and you should try it.  This was super easy and can be adapted to use pretty much any nut if you don't have pistachios on hand or don't have the stomach to pay one million dollars for a can of shelled pistachios.  Why are those little boogers so dang expensive?

Pistachio-Crusted Chicken
Source: Adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride

1 cup pistachios, shelled
Salt (if pistachios are unsalted)
Ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of paprika
Pinch of chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 Chicken breasts, pounded to even thickness

Preheat oven to 425.

Run pistachios through the food processor for 15-20 seconds, until coarsely ground into small and medium-sized pieces.

Pour nuts into a large baggie and season with salt, pepper and spices.

Drop chicken breasts into the baggie, seal, and shake until coated.

Place on a rack set in a baking sheet and bake until center temperature reaches 170 degrees (15-18 minutes ).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mamma Agata's Cooking Heaven

We booked our trip to Italy like a year before we actually went.  This was partly because we thought we'd get better prices on airfare (IS there such a thing as a good price on airfare?  Not really), and partly because it was easier to convince my husband that the trip was a bargain.  See, if you buy the tickets a year in advance, then by the time you actually GO, the cost of the plane tickets is a sunk cost and therefore doesn't count towards the total bill.  See how I did that? 

Anyway, after I bought the plane tickets (suck cost), I started doing research on things to do in Italy and came across Mamma Agata's Cooking School in Ravello, Amalfi Coast.  It was basically rated the best thing to do in all of Italy by TripAdvisor.  The more I read, the more obsessed I came with going, despite the fact that it was logistically damn near impossible to get to, and that it was a bit pricey.  Oh, and that my husband may not think a day of cooking is the most amount of fun one can have in Italy.  But if you know me at all, you'd know that once I have my mind made up about something, there is no stopping me.  I worked with a travel agent to find a private driver to take us to class, an hour away from where we were staying (on narrow, winding roads with hairpin turns, 200 feet above the sea with no guardrails).  I ignored the crappy exchange rate and paid the entrance fee in Euros and told my husband that there was unlimited food, wine, and limoncello at the cooking class (all true), and that I was sure there would be other dudes there with their irrational wives that he could hang out with.

Let me tell was worth every penny, every hairpin turn, and the 5 pounds we each gained that day.  Chiara (Mamma Agata's daughter and English-speaking translator) was the most gracious host in the world...she was so sweet and funny and I never wanted to leave.

The class is held at Mamma Agata's home, where she lives with her husband, daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren.  The house is built high on the hillside of Ravello, a small down on the Amalfi Coast of Italy, and overlooks the sea.  All of the ingredients they use, from the sausage to the basil, to the lemons, to the grapes and the wine, are all grown on their property and made at their home.  The view is breathtaking, and the food is downright amazing.  It exceeded even my wildest was my favorite day in Italy.

You arrive at this amazing house, and come down these steps:

And then you see this straight ahead of you:

And this to your right:

And inside the house was this lady:

The class was 6 hours long....we ate the most amazing lemon cake I've ever had....we learned how to make the perfect homemade tomato sauce...we were told how to make eggplant sweet and perfectly textured instead of watery and bitter.  We sampled olives and hot pepper sauce and organic wine and homemade limoncello.  We learned how to make the perfect eggplant parmesan and how to properly fry something.  I was fascinated by the whole thing...Mamma Agata cooked and her daughter Chiara narrated.  And then we all sat down (there were 10 of us there....a few young couples and then one old couple who didn't seem to like each other very much) to the best meal ever.  It looked a bit like this:

I'm going to post the recipes as I make them here at home.  And believe me, I will.  Those who get invited over to dinner on these nights will know we like them better than our other friends.  Just sayin'.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Italy - 10 Days, 10 Pounds, 10 Pictures.

Of course we took more than 10 pictures in Italy (I think it was well over 2000), but I'm going to pick my 10 favorite for a quick little Italia recap.  I debated on how to blog about the trip because I could seriously devote several posts to my rants and raves about this beautiful country, but I decided to narrow it down to just two.  The first will be a general "Why Italy is Awesome" post, and the second will be a "Why You Should Take Mamma Agata's Cooking Class in Italy" post.  More on the cooking class later, but it was the one part of the trip that I was the most excited about, and it didn't disappoint.  It was the highlight of the trip for me.

Anywho, we've been home for about 24 hours now and I'm just starting to feel my food baby begin to recede.  The Italians do not mess around when it comes to food and drink.  Salami is a snack.  Pasta is a appetizer, and drinking at lunch is encouraged.  Gelato is a daily occurrence.  Vegetables?  Didn't see one.  At least you walk everywhere there.  And its quite hilly in many areas, thank goodness.  I think I managed to burn off at least a gelato and a shot (or three) of limoncello each day.  Too bad gelato and copious amounts of limoncello were just the tip of the iceberg.

We actually did do more than just eat and drink.  At least I hope we did....let me think.  Yes!  There were a couple of things I can remember doing that didn't involve food and booze.  At least two.

We arrived in Florence and spent 2 days in an awesome river-front hotel with amazing views (including views of the famous Duomo that you could see from our bed).  We took a walking food tour through the city where the guide took us to all the "insider" places that the locals frequent and we ate and drank our way through Florence from a non-touristy point of view.  We sampled pastries, delicious beef, 5 kinds of gelato combinations, numerous local wines, cheese, 25 year old balsamic vinegar, truffle honey, the works.  It was worth every penny!

From Florence, we headed to Orvieto, a small city in Tuscany.  We stayed at a small bed and breakfast which is part of the growing Agritourism business in Italy.  It is owned by a jolly fellow named Giampiero, who is the best host in the entire world.  He even drove us into town one day when we wanted to go exploring (at breakneck speed around hairpin turns, no less).  Every night, all of the hotel guests gathered in the dining room and ate a 5-course dinner, family style.  They served some amazing dishes....fresh fig and prosciutto on foccacia, pasta with fresh truffles, roasted sausages, various kinds of bruschetta, apple cake, and copious amounts of organic wine.  Oh, and unlimited limoncello and grappa.  Danger. 

After Tuscany, it was off to Positano, a town on the Amalfi Coast.  I seriously could have stayed there forever...I did not want to leave.  The town is built into the mountainside, which makes for breathtaking views, and a rare chance for at least some semblance of exercise.  Our hotel was about halfway up the mountain, so if you wanted to go anywhere, that was great.  Until it was time to go home, which meant that you either climbed 300 stairs, or walked 45 minutes through town and around a winding road, all uphill.  Doing this made me feel better, but I'm pretty sure it never really put a dent in the calories we were consuming.  Thus, the 10 pound food baby.

During our time on the coast, we traveled to Ravello, another small coastal town.  It is home to Mamma Agata Cooking School, and honestly, there are no words to describe how amazing it was.  I'll try to do it justice in tomorrow's post, but honestly, you just have to go.  Its not easy to get to, and Lord knows it ain't cheap, but it was well worth it.  It was my favorite day of the trip, and that's saying quite a bit since, well, what's NOT a good day when you're in Italy?

Anyway, after Positano, we headed to Rome.  And...I know this is probably blasphemy to a lot of people, but I was underwhelmed.  Don't get me was beautiful and has a ton of history, but I found it to be crowded and impersonal and just didn't feel like Italy to me.  There were SO MANY TOURISTS.  I guess I just didn't find it to be as unique and authentic as the other places we visited.  Maybe it was because it was last and we were tired, but I wasn't wowed.  We did have a wonderful meal, though, which added pounds 9 and 10 to round out the food baby.  So at least there's that.

It was a wonderful trip...a trip of a lifetime for sure.  I'm happy to be back, though.  I missed Lola and my comfy little home.

Here are some of my favorite photos from the trip...they certainly don't do the country justice, but we tried.  And its actually more than 10.  Sorry!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

There's No Place Like Home.

I'm back!  Italy was wonderful....delicious and beautiful and everything else I had dreamed of and more.  And I'm exhausted.  Creating a food baby the size of a basketball is hard work, let me tell you.

So I'm off to bed to sleep it off and I'll be back tomorrow to post pictures and tell you all about it!

Ciao for now!