Yoga for 30 Days

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Adriene and her dog Benji

As I told you in my first post of 2021, I have been practicing yoga for a year. I have always loved yoga, but I never practiced regularly. I did a lot of Bikram Hot Yoga in the 2000s. I mainly did yoga to counter balance my rigorous workouts. I was a long-distance runner for 30 years. I also did triathlons and biathlons for 10 years. I rowed for 15 years. Yep, I was a crazy person. But with 2020 being more challenging than training for a triathlon ever was, I looked to something calming, and meditative. I turned my attention to yoga.

My son who lives in Austin, Texas, introduced me to an Austin Yogi. Yoga with Adriene. I think it was one of the best gifts in 2020. I practice at least 5 times a week. Yesterday, I started a 30-Day practice, called Breathe. I find Adriene very approachable; I can do almost all of her videos, and there are so many choices. Her yoga sessions are not intimidating; they are of various lengths and focuses, so I do them regularly. I think picking a practice that you can do makes you want to do them. It’s as simple as that. Her practice is also available on Amazon

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I highly suggest that you start a daily ritual of some sort since staying home is so important in the next months. We will get through this, but January and February will be very challenging months. Daily meditation and self-care will be key to mental and physical well being. Won’t you practice with me? Let me know how it goes and how you like Adriene in the comments. Love you guys x

Note* this is not a sponsored post, all opinions are my own.

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2020 What can I say…

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When we welcomed 2020, we had no idea what the year had in store, nor could we have imagined it. As always, we celebrated with our family at a restaurant, but little did we know it would probably be the last restaurant visit all together of the entire year.

Frank and I went to our home in Italy as we always do in February, although the Corona Virus had already taken hold in Italy, we were blissfully unaware of how devastating it would be—how deadly how frightening 2020 would be. Frank left early, and I was 2 days behind leaving behind any notion of working on La Fortezza Cookbook winter chapter photoshoot.

As I write this blog post, help is on the way. The FDA has just authorized the use of a vaccine and is distributing it. I watched as the Vice President, his wife and the Surgeon General took the vaccine on live television. I am hoping that people will take it as well and this nightmare will be behind us. In the meantime we still have to pay close attention and alter our behavior until we are all vaccinated. I have always worn a mask, and distanced. I am a germophobe, so I wash my hands constantly. Of course, I am lucky to work at home, so I have very little contact with people in general. The only thing that’s changed is no restaurants, no dinner parties, and sadly, no workshops.

I am looking forward to heading back to Italy in February to continue photographing my latest book, La Fortezza Cookbook with David Loftus and our tiny EU, British crew. Since the US is still not allowed into Italy, for now, we will stick to a local group of pros. We have Rosie Scott a food-stylist from London, along with our Italian chef Leo. They will make up the food prep and styling team. Barbara Pederzini will continue as prop mistress, and production advisor once again.

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I am excited to finally get the winter chapter under my belt. I will stay to shoot the spring chapter in June, and IIwill be staying Italy until late fall. Frank will come back and forth since he’s a medical worker, a doctor, he will be vaccinated early. I am relieved that he will be safe.

I am pretty sure things will be looking up in the fall and all of our scheduled Workshops and Retreats will go on. It is going to be an amazing workshop roster. Bill Abranowicz will be back along with Ros Atkinson Her Dark Materials, and Our Slow Food Experience, if you’re interested in joining us, hurry because it’s almost sold out. An Olive Eccentric Experience will be once again on the schedule. I can’t wait to welcome our groups.

From my family to yours and from the La Fortezza team.

Happy Healthy 2021, see you at La Fortezza, see you in Italia! Speriamo. XO

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Holiday desserts:: Walnut Roll

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I know most of you think I am Italian, but my family is Hungarian, and this is a classic Hungarian sweet. It is called Beigli (bay-glee), and it is made with walnuts and poppy seed filling with a yeasted dough. It really has a lovely flavor.

Find the recipe below. While it does take some extra prep and TLC, the end result is worth it, and it will make such a statement on your holiday table. Let me know if you give it a try!

Hungarian Walnut Roll (Beigli)
Prep time: 2 h 35 m Serves 24

For the dough, you will need:
– 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
– ½ cup of warm milk
– 5 tablespoons white sugar
– 1 cup unsalted butter, cubed
– 3 egg yolks
– 1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
– 4 cups self-rising flour

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For the filling, you will need:
– 1 cup whole milk
– 3/4 cups white sugar
– 2 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts
– 1 lemon, zested
– 2/3 cup golden raisins

Egg wash:
– 1 egg
– 1 tablespoon water

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To prepare:

In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine yeast and warm milk. Once the yeast has proofed, add 5 tablespoons sugar, butter, egg yolks, and sour cream in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix well. Slowly add the flour until the dough comes together. If the dough feels too wet, add a little more flour; if it’s too dry, add milk a tablespoon at a time. The dough should be moist and easy to work with.

Knead on a floured surface until smooth, then form the dough into a ball, cover the bowl with a plastic wrap, and set aside for 1 ½ hours.  While the dough is resting, make the filling. Heat the milk and ¾  cups sugar in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture has a syrupy consistency about 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the chopped walnuts and stir to combine. Remove the saucepan from the heat; stir in the lemon zest and raisins, and let filling cool.

Once proofed (keep in mind the dough does not have a big rise), divide the dough into three pieces. Roll one piece of dough out on a lightly floured surface to form a long rectangle about a 1/4-inch thick 8’x 10”. Spread 1/3 of the walnut filling on the dough evenly, leaving about an inch of dough at each edge. Roll the dough up to form a log, and press to seal. Place the dough, seam-side down, on a parchment-lined or Silpat lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Makes 3 logs.

Beat the egg with the tablespoon of water to make an egg wash. Brush the loaves with egg wash and let rest for 1 hour in a warm place. After the dough has risen, brush it again with egg wash and put the baking tray in the refrigerator for 30 minutes (this will give the dough a shiny finish).

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Bake the loaves until they’re a deep golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes.

Cool and slice into 1 inch slices.

xx Annette

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It’s the Little Things

This year more than any other, I think that the holidays will be about the little things. We will all be staying home, and cooking for a small crowd. What better time to try new things, like new recipes, and new ways to make your table setting really special? Below, I’m sharing a few ways to really make the holiday season special.

Flower Arranging:
How about honing your flower arranging skills. I personally love combining grocery store flowers and pumpkins and gourds, with branches and herbs I forage from the garden every year. It’s a great time to use an unexpected vessel, like an old pitcher or a soup tureen.

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Here are some easy tips on flower arranging:

While it might seem like a daunting task, arranging your own flowers can be simple yet stunning, and honestly, nothing gives me more pleasure than to arrange flowers for my own home or parties. If you follow a few easy steps, you’ll be arranging your own flowers in no time!

When beginning the design process, I start with what’s available at my local market (and even Trader Joe’s!), and I try to select a strong color theme. Selecting just one color flower, but choosing several varieties in that same color, is an easy way to pack a punch without a lot of thought. It honestly cuts way down on the stress, especially if you’re not quite ready for combining colors.

Step one: clean the bottom of the stems, and make a fresh cut.

Step two: place all the fillers in your container. For this arrangement, I’ve chosen a pitcher for my container, and Queen Anne’s Lace and Baby’s Breath as fillers.

Step three: add in your larger blooms. Be sure to work your way around the vase or pitcher. Either move around the table as you work, or spin your container to make sure your stems are even.

Step four: step back and fluff your arrangement as needed. Try to change the water every 2-3 days, and cut the stems on a diagonal every few days, too. This will keep your arrangement fresh and pretty! You can add the gourds and pumpkins around the table, maybe add a few smaller vases as well strewn around the table. More is more and more is better.

Making a Charcuterie Board:

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Create a special Charcuterie Board for your family. I usually prepare this as lunch. It’s super fun to design and even more, fun to eat. You can nibble while your main course cooks. Great if you’re watching games or working on a puzzle.

Setting the Table:

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This is R. Woods Tablescape small but lovely

I think that setting the table with a glass of wine in hand the night before is always fun. I like to put on some festive music and take my time.

Some of my go-to affordable table sources are Zara Home, Ikea, and Pottery Barn. Every year I try to buy some little addition to my table. This year I bought more candlesticks just to make the table even more glowy and happy. I also ordered some new colorful table wares from my friend potter Rebecca Wood, she also offers Ikebana Floral Lessons if you’re interested.

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This a table from the Zara Home Collection

My takeaway message is to make it special even if this year is so much different than every other year. Count your blessings and stay safe. Next year will be a big year to celebrate all the sacrifices we made. Keep the faith and keep your distance. And use this extra time to learn a craft and next year you’ll be a decorating pro. Happy Holidays.

xx Annette

 

 

 

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Alex’s Moon Pies

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So many of you asked for this recipe, and Nicole my web manager, was like “We have to post this story and the recipe!” so here you are…here’s the story about Alex’s moonpies.

My daughter Alex has always been a great baker; maybe it’s her analytic Virgo nature, but baking has always appealed to her. Although she is a good cook, baking is her thing. One of the best things she makes, (her Dad’s favorite) is Moon Pies. This Thanksgiving, she shared the story of how she became acquainted with the recipe I had never heard the story and thought it was fun.

She was not very familiar with Moon Pies. Although it is a quintessentially Southern sweet, it’s not something that she grew up with in our house. Most kids grew up on Little Debbie’s Moon Pies in Atlanta, but not our kids. Although we do enjoy Southern fare, this was not something in the pantry while they were growing up. Not because they aren’t delicious, but they were never on my radar probably because of my Midwestern roots. (Note* I had never tasted a biscuit until I was 23 years old when we moved to Atlanta.) Southern food was a mystery to me. I digress…

Alex went to Law school, and when she graduated she found herself in Fitzgerald, Georgia, in the deep South clerking for a Judge. She loved living in this small town and working in the courthouse. The Judge was very kind, and she learned a lot.

One day, she walked into the Judge’s office and said, “I know it’s your birthday next week, and I would love to bake you something you would enjoy, so if there’s something special you like let me know.” The next day the Judge came into her office with a recipe for Moon Pies. Having never tasted a Moon Pie, she was a bit nervous about making them for his special day. Even though the recipe was involved, she thought they turned out great, although she never tasted the batch, she delivered them on his birthday hoping for the best. The next day he came into her office and declared that the Moon Pies were absolutely delicious! Relived and curious, Alex made the recipe again, this time tasting them. Wow, she thought, worth all the effort. They were truly incredible.

Moon Pies have now become Alex’s signature dessert, her Dad asks for them for all birthdays and holidays. They have become a staple dessert. Who knew what we were missing all those years.

Here is the recipe from Garden and Gun Feb/March 2014:

It is labor-intensive, but truly worth the effort.

Do-It Yourself Moon Pies

For the dough, you will need:
– 6 oz. unsalted butter
– 1/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
– 1/4 cup Steen’s cane syrup
– 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
– 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs, ground fine
– 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
– 1/2 tsp. baking powder
– 1/2 tsp. baking soda
– 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
– 2 tbsp. whole milk

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For the Marshmallow, you will need:
– F4 tsp. powdered gelatin
– 1/2 cup water, ice cold, plus 1/4 cup at room temperature
– 4 tbsp. light corn syrup
– 3 tbsp. honey (clover or wildflower)
– 3/4 cup granulated sugar
– 3 large grade-A egg whites

For the chocolate coating, you will need:
– 1 lb bittersweet chocolate (61-70% cacao)
– 2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil.

To prepare:

For the cookie dough:

    Cream butter, brown sugar, syrup, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, for 1 minute.
    In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix with a fork. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture and mix on low speed; slowly stream in milk. Continue mixing until the dough comes together. Press dough flat, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
    Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
    Turn out chilled dough onto a flour-dusted surface, then roll it until it is ¼ inch thick. Stamp out cookies using a 3-inch round cookie cutter. Place cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake 10 to 12 minutes. Remove sheet from oven, and while the cookies are cooling, start your marshmallow.

For the marshmallow:

Sprinkle gelatin over ½ cup ice-cold water, and set aside.

Combine ¼ cup room-temperature water, corn syrup, honey, and sugar in a small pot, insert candy thermometer, and simmer until mixture reaches 240 degrees. When the thermometer reaches 200 degrees—but not before—place egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, and whip on high.

Once the sugar mixture hits 240, remove it from heat, and stir in the bloomed gelatin. Then, while egg whites are whipping, slowly drizzle the hot sugar mixture down the inside of the bowl to avoid spattering the hot syrup. Continue whipping for an additional 8 minutes, until the mixture stiffens. The pan will still feel warm to the touch but no longer hot.

Flip over half of the cooled cookies. Lightly coat a spoon with nonstick cooking spray, and spoon approximately a quarter cup of marshmallow onto each flipped cookie. Use the remaining cookies as tops; gently push down until you can see the marshmallow come just to the edge. While making the chocolate coating (see below), allow cookies to chill in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.

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For the chocolate coating: 

Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a small saucepan of simmering water. Stir until chocolate has melted, then remove bowl from heat and let it cool slightly. Once the chocolate is no longer hot, but warm, slowly whisk in oil in a steady stream. Allow chocolate to cool at room temperature for about 5 minutes before proceeding with assembly.

To Assemble: 

Submerge chilled cookies in the chocolate, using 2 forks to gently lift the sandwiches out of the bowl. Let stand until shell hardens.

Photos: Garden and Gun, Feb/March 2014 Photo Credit : Johnny Autry, Recipe by David Guas Current restaurant: Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery, Arlington, VA

 

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