Thursday, January 26, 2012

Earthquake!

Yesterday morning I was lying in bed when all of a sudden the bed started shaking. I wondered if maybe it was just a rumble from a big door slamming downstairs or something... Then, I saw the wardrobe start shaking, and the doors out to our balcony started shaking and the glass was rattling. I jumped out of bed and felt the floor moving too! I thought, "Holy crap! We're having an earthquake! Do they have earthquakes in Milan??" Well, as it turns out, they do. I ran to the doorway of the bedroom to "take shelter" (because that's what they always taught us in school, even though we almost NEVER have earthquakes in MN), and I stood in the doorway until it was over. I looked into the hallway and everything was moving! Our wine glasses were swaying on our wine shelf, and it sounded like everything in the house was rattling. Luckily nothing broke and everything was ok. It MAYBE lasted a minute, but it seemed like an eternity in my mind. I just kept thinking "Is this really an earthquake??" Since I have never experienced one in MN before, this was a new thing for me. It was a scary experience to start the day with!

I checked the news a few hours later to see if it really was an earthquake, or if it was all in my imagination. Since Josh is traveling right now he didn't experience it and couldn't back me up. Well, it was definitely a quake and it was a 4.9 on the Richter Scale. I really hope I don't have to experience that again anytime soon!! I feel for my family and all of those people that live with earthquakes on a regular basis out on the west coast. Yikes!

swissinfo- earthquake hits northern Italy


Thursday, January 19, 2012

When to shop in Italy

The Galleria, Center of Milan
I wish someone would have told me this information when I first moved here! When I first moved to Milan I was so excited about the shopping! Our apartment is one block away from Corso Buenos Aires (the longest shopping street in Europe), and we are only a few metro stops away from the city center where all of the high end shops are. All of these fun new shops and fashions right at our fingertips! Last year I shopped every now and then, and purchased things randomly. But what no one told me was the best time to shop. Every time we would go down to Serravalle (a designer outlet mall about an hour south of us) it would be almost empty, with the exception of a few tourists. This seemed strange to me because there are great stores- Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Ferragamo, Valentino, Prada, La Perla, Furla, etc.

Well, as it turns out, twice a year Serravalle is packed with wall to wall people. There are even lines outside of some stores with people waiting to get in!! Every year Italy has their big sales (SALDI!!) in January and July. These are the best times to shop!! And I realized that this is the time that most Italians do their clothes shopping. It's easy to see why when most of the items in stores are marked down anywhere from 20%-75%. And no, it's not just your H&M, Zara or United Colors of Benetton that have sales, all the high end designers do too.

At Ferragamo in Rome with Sofia- we shopped the sales last July
when they visted :)
So, when planning that big trip to the "Land of the Sun" for it's amazing fashion, plan on being here in either January or July to stretch that budget. Certainly not the best times for tourists (January is cold and dreary, while July is HOT and there are tourists everywhere), but the shopping could make it worth your while :)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Lasagne alla Bolognese fatto in casa!

IE: Homemade lasagna! From scratch!

This is probably the best lasagna I've had in a VERY long time, and may be the best. It certainly rivals my moms lasagna which is fantastic! As a Christmas gift Josh and I received the KitchenAid mixer attachment for rolling out pasta and we thought it was time to test it out. Josh decided that he was going to make lasagne, one of the most complicated pastas to make... But it was so worth it! It was something fun for the two of us to do. I would recommend taking an afternoon with your special someone and spending some time in the kitchen on this one. It was a fun day of bonding over pasta.

A question that was raised during our afternoon of cooking: Is it worth it to make homemade noodles? Does it make that much of a difference? Well, we tested that question and decided that YES! Homemade noodles are so much better!



Lasagne alla Bolognese al Forno
Courtesy of Mario Batali

Prep Time: we didn't time... but it took all afternoon (probably 3-4 hours)
Baking time: 45 minutes
Yield: 2, 9x13 pans of lasagne (or 1 10x20 pan)

To assemble you will need:
-2.5 pounds green pasta dough (see Step 3)
-ragu bolognese (see Step 1)
-8 oz freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
-3.5 cups besciamella (see Step 2)


Step 1: Make the Ragu Bolognese
-1/4 cup EVOO
-2 medium onions, finely chopped
-4 ribs celery, finely chopped
-2 carrots, finely chopped
-5 cloves of garlic, sliced
-1 pound ground veal
-1 pound ground pork
-4 oz. pancetta or slab bacon (grind if you have a butchers grinder), we just chopped until it resembled ground pancetta
-1 six oz. can tomato paste
-1 cup whole milk
-1 cup dry white wine (we use pinot grigio)
-1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (dried will work just as well)
-salt & freshly ground black pepper

1. In a 6-8 quart pot, heat olive oil over med heat until hot. Add onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Cook until the vegetables are translucent but not browned (about 5 minutes).

2. Add veal, pork and pancetta. Increase heat to high and brown the meat. Stir frequently.

3. Add tomato paste, milk, wine and thyme and bring just to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 1-1.5 hours.

4. Season with salt and pepper to taste, remove from heat and let cool.

NOTE: the ragu can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month.


Step 2: Make the Besciamella (3.5 cups). Please see my Cannelloni post for the recipe. Set aside and let cool.


Step 3: Make the Pasta
(makes about 1.25 pounds)
-3.5 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
-5 large eggs
-one cup packed spinach
- 2 tbsp EVOO

1. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in large pot and add 1 tbsp salt. Set up an ice back next to the stove (a large bowl with cold water and ice cubes). Blanch 1 cup packed spinach leaves in boiling water for 45 seconds, then remove with slotted spoon and immediately immerse into the ice bath for 2 minutes. Drain the spinach and squeeze it dry in a kitchen towel. Remove as much moisture as possible. Chop spinach very fine and combine with eggs in a small bowl. Stir well until as smooth as possible.

2. Mound flour in the center of a large wooden board. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the egg/spinach mixture. Using a fork beat the eggs together and then begin to incorporate the flour, starting with the inner rim of the well. As you expand the well, keep pushing the flour up to retain the well shape (do not worry if it looks messy). When half of the flour is incorporated, the dough will begin to come together. Start kneading the dough, using primarily the palms of your hands. Once the dough is a cohesive mass, set the dough aside and scrape up and discard any dried bits of dough.


3. Lightly flour the board and continue kneading for 10 minutes, dusting the board with additional flour as necessary. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

4. Divide the pasta dough into 8 portions. Roll each one out through the thinnest setting on a pasta machine and lay sheets on a lightly floured surface to dry to 10 minutes. Cut the pasta into 5 inch squares and cover with a damp kitchen towel.


5. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add 2 tbsp salt.  Set up an ice bath next to the stovetop and add the 2 tbsp EVOO. Drop pasta into boiling water (6 or 7 pieces at a time) and cook until tender, about 1 minute. Transfer to the ice bath to cool, then drain on kitchen towels laying the pasta flat.


Step 4: Assemble the troops!

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Assemble the lasagne in a 10x20 in pan (or two 9x13 pans): spread a layer of ragu over the bottom of the pan and sprinkle with Parmigiano, add a layer of pasta, a layer of besciamella, another layer of ragu, Parmigiano, and pasta. Repeat until all the ingredients are used up, finishing with a layer of pasta topped with besciamella and a sprinkling of Parmigiano.

3. Bake for 45 minutes, or until edges are browned and the sauces are bubbling. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving (if you can!).


ENJOY!!


We ended up putting one of the pans of lasagna into the freezer after we baked it. We hope to have some friends over to help us eat it in the near future :)




Reference:
Batali, M. (2005). Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian recipes to cook at home. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers Inc.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Everything in Italy is more complicated...


After months of waiting, I was finally able to make an appointment to see the doctor here in Italy for my yearly exam. Now that we have health insurance (and we should FINALLY have residency this week) I was able to make an appointment.


To make the appointment I had to call the hospital, they then transferred me to gynecology... well it ended up being oncology so I had to call back. When I called back they gave me a different number to call, so I called that. The person on that phone gave me the number of the appointment service in Milan... and so on. Long story short: About six calls and 45 minutes later, I finally had an appointment. Phew! I was glad that was over with!!
 

Then came the appointment, which was on Monday morning. I went to the hospital and it was surprisingly easy to determine where to go. I had to take a number and wait until it was called, then pay the co-pay. It felt like I was waiting at the DNV to renew my driver’s license, and it was packed with people. Then, I had to go and wait in the hallway by the gynecology room until they were ready for me. What is interesting is that there is one doctor and one nurse, and only one room for gynecology. Josh's doctor here speaks English, so I was thinking I wouldn't need to bring anyone to translate- wrong. The doctor and nurse I saw didn't speak a word of English. Somehow I got through the appointment, but I didn't fully understand everything. Note to self: Next time... bring a translator.
 

Now, I have to return to the hospital in 20 days to get the results. This is strange to me. Italy seems to be in the dark ages when it comes to technology and paperwork. My doctor in MN emails the results directly to me through an automated system. They also drop the results in the mail. Talk about convenient! But in Italy everything is done on paper, by hand. Everything is more complicated.

New Year Commitment #1: regular exercise

To stay on task with this New Years commitment, I saught the help of Women's Health magazine. I really enjoy this magazine because it talks about a healthy lifestyle- eating well, exercise, beauty and healthy relationships. They do a great job of covering the bases for the physical, spiritual and emotional needs that women have. I thought about getting a membership for overseas... but it's not available outside the US and Canada. So, I had the great idea that maybe they have an online only subscription. Unfortunately, they don't. Idea for magazines... allow online subscriptions to articles and information for those of us living outside the US :)

Anyway, I was on their website and found a great workout plan for getting toned this year. I tried the first workout on Saturday and it kicked my butt!! I consider myself to be in descent shape, I can run three miles at any given time and do pilates. But weights is another story... This was a great workout that used muscles that I haven't used in a very long time! This one is a great replacement for the class I used to do at LA Fitness- Body Works Plus Abs. If you are looking for a great "get toned" plan for the new year, I highly recommend checking this one out! It will do a number on you the first day, but I already feel stronger.

To download the workout plan, go to the website (womens health- get toned) and enter your email address to download the workout. They even supply a calendar to help you track your success.

Let's do this 2012!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year, New Commitments!


First and foremost, Happy New Year!! Our first New Year’s Eve in Milano was really fun! We spent the evening with our friends Marina and Andrea, and their friend Stefano. A tradition here is to have seven types of fishes and that is what Marina prepared (well... not exactly seven, but pretty close). It was delicious! We enjoyed our time at their house and rang in the New Year with champagne and fireworks at midnight. Outside of their apartment people were lighting fireworks, and in the distance were city fireworks in all directions. It was pretty amazing!

Andrea, Stefano, Me, Marina, Josh


As for New Year’s Resolutions... I don't really believe in resolutions. Some of my friends do resolutions, some of them do themes, but I do something a little different. It seems that when a resolution is made, more often than not it isn't followed through on. Today I was reading an article that said 35% of resolutions are never completed. I am definitely one of the 35%... So, instead of making resolutions I make a commitment to myself for the year. This may be a little selfish, but aren’t all resolutions a little selfish in one way or another (quit smoking, exercise more, eat better, etc)? Here is my commitment to myself:

 1. Keep a regular exercise program- I try to stay on a regular exercise program, but being consistent is the hardest thing for me. Unless I have a specific thing to train for (IE: half marathon), I find myself working out maybe twice a week. So, my commitment is to work out on a more consistent basis. Putting together a workout plan will help me do this, and Josh and I have put together a bet on this... more to come on that.



2. Keep up a healthy diet- since moving to Italy we have been eating healthier foods, and more fresh fruits and vegetables. I have noticed a huge difference in my health as a result. I feel better, have more energy (except in the past week since getting back to Milan- the time difference is killing me this time!) and I haven’t gotten as sick as I did in MN.



3. Focus on my relationships- of course my marriage is a big part of this. Even though I feel that Josh and I are in a great place and have a stronger relationship than ever, it still takes a lot of work and dedication to keep that. I want to continue our great times and keep improving things in 2012. Also, to keep up relationships with the people that are important to me and not lose contact even though I’m halfway across the world.


4. Learning- my old co-workers at Capella University will laugh at me… but I want to be a “lifelong learner”. My definition of this is someone who is always curious, asking questions, and wanting to learn new things.  This mentality can be applied to any situation and I find that I get more out of our experiences in Italy with this mindset. Also included in this category is continuing my Italian which has been on the back shelf for the past month.



If I can continue doing these four things I think I am on the road to a great 2012! Staying physically and mentally healthy is my goal for this year. So, no resolutions for this girl… only a re-commitment that I will keep up a healthy lifestyle and keep learning. What kind of resolutions (or commitments) have you made for yourself this year?

video

Monday, January 2, 2012

The best caramel rolls ever!

Every year my mom makes these rolls for Christmas Day morning, and they are delicious! These are something that you can look forward to each year and enjoy with the family. My mom also makes a traditional Scandinavian fruit soup to accompany the rolls, but for now you only get the roll recipe. Some family secrets need to stay secret J

It’s a good thing that we only make these once a year, they are not meant for the health conscious! But eating them once a year is definitely OK. They are so easy, and quick!!


Christmas Caramel Rolls
  • makes 18 rolls
  • prep time: 15 minutes, cook time: 25-30 minutes

Supplies:
-Rhodes frozen cinnamon rolls (you need 18- we ended up buying two packs and making a 1.5 batch)
-cake pan (my mom always uses a bundt pan, but we used a regular 9x13 cake pan)
-1 cup pecans
-1 package dry butterscotch pudding mix (not the instant mix)
-1 stick of butter
-3/4 cup brown sugar
-3/4 tsp cinnamon


1. Put nuts at the bottom of the pan (we sprayed the pan with Pam cooking spray first for easy removal after baking). Line the dinner rolls in the pan- we were able to get 12 in the 9x13 pan. Sprinkle the butterscotch pudding mix over all of the rolls.
2. In a saucepan melt one stick of butter, add the brown sugar and cinnamon until it is all mixed well (it will have a thick consistency). Spoon the mixture over the rolls. Let the rolls rise overnight at room temperature (uncovered).
3. In the morning, bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees F. After removing from the oven, use a knife to cut between the rolls and the pan (this helps them to come out of the pan easier), and also between the rolls to assist with serving. Then flip the pan upside down onto a serving platter. The rolls should slide right out of the pan with the nuts on top. Scoop any extra sauce that is left in the pan onto the rolls.
 
Enjoy!!
 
These rolls re-heat really easily as well! I usually pop them into the microwave for about 15-20 seconds. Oh, they are soo good!! I hope you like them as much as we do :)
 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Well... Maybe not a Charlie Brown Christmas, but it was a brown Christmas in Minnesota with lots of Charlie Brown characters! This was the first year that I can remember when we didn't have snow on the ground for Christmas. Here we flew all the way from mild Milan to enjoy the cold and snow... Well, we ended up bringing the warmth with us to MN.
My Mom's centerpiece

Josh and I enjoyed our time with family and spent a lot of time with them. We started with celebrating Christmas at my Moms house the Saturday before Christmas. Then on Wednesday, my Mom and I took my niece Abby to the Children's Theater in Minneapolis to see the Wizard of Oz. This is a tradition that we started two years ago and it's been fun to introduce Abby to the wonderful world of theater. Then on Thursday we went up north to spend time with Josh's family over the Christmas weekend. Josh ended up getting some fun pictures- enjoy :)



My brother Scott and his Fiance Missy
Siblings :)

Ohh... the Swedish Meatballs!! Traditions in my family-
one of the best parts of Christmas :)
At the Childrens Theater, my mom, Abby and me


Abby got her very own Toto at the show


Visiting with Josh's grandparents and his brothers


Josh made my moms caramel rolls for breakfast on Christmas Day.
YUMMY!!


My biggest blog fan, Jo, and Josh's grandpa George


Josh's brother Casey with his daughter Hailey, and fiance Leslie


Josh's Christmas gift- nesting dolls
Hailey and grandma (Josh's mom)



Turkey anyone?
Ready for the feast!


The Christmas Crew


Mike and his AWESOME pjs!! Thanks to Leslie and Casey
for this! Brings back memories of A Christmas Story :)