Figuring Things Out

So I’ve been in Rome 4 days.  But here are a few things I’ve learned.

1.  Supermarkets are expensive.  Fruits and Vegetables are much cheaper at the market at San Giovanni di Dio.

All this fruit for less than 2€!  Plus some sort of weird cabbage/kale looking thing and a lovely eggplant.

2.  Don’t try to walk home from San Giovanni di Dio without consulting a map.  I got lost, blisters ensued, I ended up just getting on the tram after an Italian woman gave me directions and scolded me for getting lost.

3.  Walk like you know where you’re going and people think you actually you know where you’re going.  I’ve been asked for directions at least 5 times in the past 3 days, to which I reply “Io non parlo italiano.”  Then they look at me disappointed and walk away.

4.  Crossing any of streets in the rotunda

in front of the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele

is scary as hell!  You kinda just have to walk whenever there’s the slightest gap between cars and hope the on-coming traffic stops.   Certainly not as pleasant as seen in Roman Holiday:

I feel like when I comfortably cross that street, I’ll know I’m comfortable in Rome.

5.  Today I went to get a medical certificate.  Because I can walk quickly, the doctor knew I was fit to start my internship.  Great!

6. How to use public transportation.  Well, sorta, I got the tram down.  Next, the bus…

7.  Coffee first thing in the morning is amazing.

I broke down and bought a coffeemaker (moka) at the market yesterday.  12.50€ I’ll take it!

Things I still need to figure out:

1.  How the heck do you make it from 1-2pm lunch to 9-10pm dinner without gnawing  your arm off?

2.  How to pronounce things in Italian.    Daniele, we may have to have a video chat date so you can teach me how to properly say guanciale.  Yes, I have carbonara and amatriciana on the brain!

3.  How to actually speak Italian.  Work in progress.

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Toaster

Who doesn’t love toast?

Luckily, I have a toaster in my apartment.

Looks normal right?  Well I spent the better part of 10 minutes figuring out how it works.  I pushed down, pulled, turned nobs.  Finally I figured out how easy it is.  Slip the toast in, turn the dial and when it’s done, pull it out.

I could have sworn I bought some jam, but apparently I didn’t.  So instead I had cheese on my toast with a side of yogurt and green tea. I don’t know if I was just hungry, but this cheese tasted amazing!

Strangely enough we don’t have a coffee maker.  As much as I love coffee, this just means I have to go to a bar/caffe to get coffee.  I’ll survive.

After a getting ready and going to the Cornell in Rome campus to print some internship stuff, I decided to wander.

I walked around aimlessly, and it was great.

After a while, I picked up some lunch:

and sat in a piazza to enjoy.

Great view, right?

The did some more wandering.

 

Finally, when a borderline creepy Italian man hit on me, I decided I was tired and headed home.

Now, I’m going to do more internship prep to see how soon I can start!

 

Polenta Eggplant “Lasagna”

Saturday was a serious cooking day.

Every year my department puts on a pancake breakfast for incoming Master’s students (second years are invited as well).  Naturally when the Biscotti Queen asked me to help, I couldn’t say no.  As a result, we calculated that I made about 300 pancakes (maybe more?).  Starting to think I should quit planning and work in food service.  Ha!

Then later in the day there were vegetables that needed to be used.  So I tried to pack as many vegetables into one dish as possible.  The result:

Polenta Eggplant “Lasagna”

1 medium eggplant
1/4 cup salt
1 tbsp olive oil
3 small onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 large tomatoes
1/2 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
1 3/4 cup corn meal (polenta)
7 cups water
1 tbsp onion powder
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
10 oz ricotta cheese (I used fat free)
4 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

Cut eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes.  Place in a large bowl, coat with 1/4 cup salt, let stand 15-20 minutes. Don’t worry your eggplant won’t be salty.

In the meantime, chop onions, bell peppers and one tomato.  Heat oil in a large pot and add onions.  While those cook for a few minutes, thoroughly rinse the eggplant and lightly pat dry.  Once onions are translucent, add the eggplant, bell peppers and garlic.  Cook for 5 minutes on medium heat.  Add one roughly chopped tomato and cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Add pasta sauce and simmer on low heat for 25-30 minutes.

Once your sauce is ready, turn off the heat and start making the polenta.  Combine cornmeal, water, onion powder, garlic powder and salt in a pot.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Once it starts to boil keep stirring for 5-10 minutes until your polenta thickens and starts to come off the pot.

Then preheat the oven to 375F and assemble your lasagna.  First spread 1/3 of the polenta into a deep baking dish (I didn’t have a really deep baking dish so I used a 9×13 baking dish and a souffle dish), next layer on half the sauce, then spread with half the ricotta cheese and repeat.  Lastly, top with the last third of polenta.   Top with a fresh sliced tomato and sprinkle with a few tablespoons of Parmesan cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes and place under the broiler for a few minutes to get a crispy top.  Let sit for 20 minutes before serving.

Enjoyed with

new apartment mate (one of two), Anna.

And a glass of wine

Normally, I’m not a fan of white wine, but this was pretty great.  Maybe not the best pairing with this dish, but fantastic on its own!  Definitely recommended!

Off to catch up on Mad Men! Have a great night!

Brownies and the French

July 14th was Bastille Day.

I’m not French.

I know that, but I’d take any excuse for a party and baking.

Some friends had a party, Sara and I made Champagne Brownies

and I tried to look French because obviously a black dress with a sassy look and an odd hairdo screams Je suis française!

But really, Champagne, we can call that French, right?

I’m not sure we should call these brownies brownies though.  They should probably just be called fudge.  They’re dense and bittersweet and intense.

Champagne Almost Fudge Brownies

adapted from Couture Cupcakes

1 lb of unsweetened chocolate (i.e. baker’s squares or coco powder+oil)
12 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar (omit if you use sweetened chocolate)
4 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1 cup champagne

Preheat oven to 325F.

In a large pot on low heat, melt together the chocolate and butter.  Remove from heat.  Add the salt, sugar and vanilla.  Stir together to combine.  Stir in 1 egg at a time until just combined.  Add the flour stirring until just combined.  Add the champagne and stir until incorporated.  Transfer to a greased 9 x 13 baking pan.  Bake about 40 minutes.  Allow to cool completely (I would even say you can chill them), cut and serve (with ice cream or on its own).

So rich!

I kept up with the French theme this morning (two days later).

Omelets are French.

Zucchini Goat Cheese Omelet

1/2 tsp olive oil
3 tbsp diced onion
1 small zucchini, diced
1/2 cup chopped chard or kale
1/2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley or basil
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup egg substitute  (or 3 eggs, beaten)
1 oz goat cheese

In a small skillet, heat oil, add onions and zucchini cook for a few minutes until zucchini is almost tender.  Add chard and cook an additional minute or two.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside.  Spray a medium skillet with cooking spray and put on medium/low heat, add eggs, cover and cook until eggs are pretty much cooked through (no longer jiggle when shaken) about 4 minutes.  Carefully flip the egg using a spatula, sprinkle with goat cheese and vegetable filling, fold over and transfer to a plate.

Sprinkle with a little more parsley and serve with a slice of homemade oatmeal bread.

Very light and tasty.

This omelette only has 200 calories, must be why French women don’t get fat.

We’ll just forget about the brownies.

Naturally Nutty Zucchini Muffins and a Wine Trick

A few nights ago, my roommate and I were talking about muffins.  Yesterday morning after my nap (at 10:30am!  Isn’t that nuts!??!  I’m ridiculously tired these days) I was inspired.

Naturally Nutty Zucchini Muffins

1/2 cup Naturally Nutty Cinnamon Vanilla Sunflower Butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup egg substitute (or 1 egg)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 small zucchini, grated (about 1 cup)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream together the sugar, sunflower butter, egg and milk.  Add whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, and baking powder  and mix together.  Fold in grated zucchini.  Place in greased muffin pan and bake for approximately 20-22 minutes.  Makes 10 muffins.

I have to confess the whole reason I made these up was because I wasn’t a fan of the Naturally Nutty Cinnamon Vanilla Sunflower Butter.  I got two jars a while back from one of Kath’s Open Sky deals.  While it tastes okay, I’m not a HUGE fan of it on its own.

However, baked into these, it tastes good!  If you don’t have Naturally Nutty Cinnamon Vanilla Sunflower Butter on hand you can use 1/2 cup of any nut butter + 1/2 tsp vanilla + 1/2 tsp cinnamon!

These aren’t the sweetest thing in the world but they’re tasty enough for a baked treat.  Definitely not bad for about 150 calories. But honestly, not what I was  expecting.   The batter tasted a million times better than the baked product.   Oh well.

A few days ago my friend sent out this video about opening a bottle of wine with a shoe. I can’t insert it here for some reason but watch it! It’s nuts!

So we tried it.  Here’s the recap.

We rewatched the video (tools ready).

Tapped the bottom.

Hit it against a wall and nothing.

Tried a door frame.

Hmmm maybe it has to be a real cork not a synthetic cork.  Good thing we have another bottle.  Start over.

Brick outside maybe?  Still looking for other hard surfaces.

Hmm maybe it’s the shoe.  Let’s try a cowboy boot (his, not mine, in case you were wondering).

Nothing. We’ll try again later.

We’re thinking maybe it has to do with the bottom of the show. We’re going to try with one of my hard bottom leather boots instead of a rubber soled shoe.

Isn’t that video nuts!?!?  Anyone speak French who can tell me if I’m missing something?

The Thought Process of the Laziest Day Ever

I woke up and looked at the clock. 7:09am.  That’s a reasonable hour to be awake on a Saturday morning.   Sat up and looked out the window and wondered what I’m going to do today. Hmm I can go to the gym, it opens at 10am on Saturdays.

In the meantime, I’ll have breakfast. I hop out of bed, make coffee and waffles.  Blog a bit.

10am comes around.  Hm I’m still full.  I’ll wait it out a bit.  Oh wait, maybe I should go to the farmer’s market real quick to pick up my CSA share since they recommend going before 12:00pm.

So I go to the farmer’s market, pick up my share and I’m home by 11:30.  As I put away my CSA veggies, I have a bright idea to make something with some of last week’s veggies. They’re going to go bad, obviously they can’t sit in the fridge an hour longer while I go to the gym.

I made some Cilantro Lime Slaw.

Cilantro Lime Slaw

adapted from Epicurious

1/4 cup greek yogurt
zest + juice of 1 lime
few shakes of cayenne
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt (more or less to taste)
black pepper
3 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
1 small head of cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 an onion, thinly sliced

Combine all the ingredients together and mix well.  Refrigerate for a few hours before serving.

Then since it was sitting in front of me, I ate some Cilantro Lime Slaw.  Who else is going to eat that plate I just photographed?  I mean it can’t go back in the bowl that’s going in the fridge! I thought it was delicious!  When I was little my mom used to make cabbage with lime and salt, nothing else.  This tastes like a spicier, better version of that.  What can I say, I’m easy to please (…not true at all).

While I was at it I had some chips that my old roommate who moved out left behind.  Hmm now I’m too full to go to the gym.

Guess I’ll clean up a bit in the meantime.  As I clean, I see a bag of bread flour and have a bright idea!  Oatmeal bread!

Oatmeal Bread

adapted from King Arthur Flour

3 cups bread flour
1 cup oats
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp molasses (or honey or sugar)
2 tsp dry active yeast
1 1/4 cup milk, warm (microwaved it 30 seconds)
extra flour for dusting kneading surface

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In a small bowl combine butter, milk, yeast, and molasses.  Let sit for a few minutes until it gets foamy.  Then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix together.  Once you can’t mix it any more, turn onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.  Place dough in a greased bowl and put in a warm place to rise for an hour.  After the dough has risen, put it in a loaf pan and let it rise for another hour.  Once it has risen about an inch or so over the rim of the pan, bake at 350F for about 40 minutes.  Allow to cool completely before slicing.

So I started making that.  As the dough rises, I peruse the internet and look at the clock.  It’s about 1:30.  Oh the Germany vs Uruguay game is at 2:30, this gym doesn’t have a TV.  I better not go now, plus I’m still full.

Instead I took a nap while my bread was rising.  At 2:20, I woke up repositioned my bread into a bread pan and let it proof one more time.  Perfect timing the game is going to start!

At the half time, I put my bread in the oven.

45 minutes later.  Germany wins.  I’m bummed but life goes on.  My bread is ready.  I should probably take pictures of it.  In that process I ate two pieces (the rest is now in the freezer).  Again too full to exercise. And damn the gym closes at 5:30pm.

Around 6:00pm, I finally gave up.  Forget this, I’m not exercising today. Instead I took a shower and went to the mall for two reasons.

To watch this by myself:

and to buy this:

I’m a lonely, midwestern housewife. Don’t tell.

Eclipse was terrible.  No two ways around it.

Sure, Taylor Lautner was pretty, but the movie was horrible.  I laughed out loud a few times (not always at intentionally funny parts).  I’m glad I went alone, I think I would have been terribly embarrassed if I made someone go see that with me, especially a boy (not that I have one to go with).  There were a fair number of men in the theatre surprisingly.  You know I’ll still see the next one anyway…

So it looks like I have a date with my bed and the above mentioned book (10th Sookie Stackhouse book, I can’t say no).

I must confess: I love cheesy books.  They make me so happy.  Sookie Stackhouse fills that need for me.  For the record, the books really aren’t that much like the show.

This is the perfect example of why I need schedules (activities and meal times) and planning ahead.

I overspent both my monetary entertainment budget and my calorie budget.

Tomorrow will be a better day.

Food Snob

I don’t like to consider myself a food snob.  Some people wear that card proudly.  Not me.  I like fresh, whole foods but would be willing to enjoy some Pillsbury product if someone made me something.

That being said, I’ve had a box of Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancake Mix sitting in the cupboard since August 2009.

Now this pancake mix is supposed to be on the healthier side.

The ingredients are: Whole Wheat Flour, Whole Grain Yellow Corn Meal, Buttermilk solids, Dextrose, Leavening (monocalcium phosphate, baking soda) and salt.

I’ve made pancakes and waffles numerous times, always refusing to use the mix.

Why? I’m not entirely sure.  I guess it was the food snob in me turning my nose up at the box, reassuring myself that my own combination of flour, eggs, milk and baking soda would surely be a million times better.  This morning I decided to get over that silly attitude and use the box mix to make some waffles.

Because I can never keep things simple, I added blueberries to one and a tablespoon each of unsweetened coconut and white chocolate chips to the other.  Obviously they were topped with bananas.

Tasty enough.  I like the grainy texture.

At the risk of sounding like a food snob, I like mine better.  For some reason I always think box mixes taste salty!  When I was little I hated pancakes because my mom used to make them with Bisquick (and it wouldn’t surprise me if that box of Bisquick she used was expired), and they always just tasted REALLY salty.  Then I tasted non-Bisquick pancakes and fell in love.

Oh and I used Wegman’s Butter Flavored Light Syrup.  How’s that for not being a food snob?

What do you think of pancake/waffle/box mix?  Do you use it?  Do you like it?  Is it unhealthy?