Tag Archives: family

My Pesto Recipe:: Spread it on anything!

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fullsizeoutput_6184 For a quick weeknight dinner last week, I made my first pesto batch of the season. I often say pesto is my version of peanut butter because I can spread it on anything.

If you follow along on Instagram, you probably saw me post a few stories about this easy pesto recipe. It’s a family favorite that I found in the New York Times while living in NYC. It’s originally a Silver Palate recipe, and it’s been one of my go-to meals ever since. It’s crazy to think that I’ve been cooking it for years.

Pesto is a pantry staple in my house, and I almost always make my own because it’s so easy. If you do want to buy a prepared version, I like the Cibo brand from While Foods.

When I made dinner last week, I was reminded of this awesome recipe and knew I had to share it with all of you again, along with this video of my pesto recipe process. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Pesto Recipe
serves 6-8

You will need:
– 4 cups fresh basil leaves (from about 3 large bunches)
– ¾ cup olive oil
– ½ cup pine nuts
– 4 garlic cloves
– ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese + 4 tablespoons for the garnish
– 1-teaspoon coarse kosher salt

To prepare:
Combine basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until paste forms, stopping often to push down basil leaves.

After blending, pour oil into the mixture and blend until smooth.

This can be made 1 day ahead. Stored in a sealed jar, it can last 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

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Squash and Pesto Tortellini 
serves 8

You will need:
– 3 yellow squash cut into cubes
– 3 cloves garlic minced
– 4 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 16 oz. box tortellini pasta , either dried or fresh work great
– 1 cup toasted pine nuts
– 1 cup pesto
– 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
– salt and pepper

To prepare:
In a large skillet add minced garlic, olive oil and cubed squash. Saute until the squash is golden brown. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta until al dente. Reserve 4 tablespoons of the pasta water then drain. In a large serving bowl add the cooked squash, the pesto and toasted nuts, 4 tablespoons of the pasta water, the pasta, cheese and salt and pepper. Mix throughly and serve with extra grated cheese.

 

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Why you should bring your Mom to a La Fortezza Workshop

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Mother Daughter Truffle hunting excursion

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These sisters brought their Mom to paint with Steve. It was on the bucket list, and they ticked it off the list last year.

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Enjoying the sunshine with a picnic in the olive groves

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Hiking and photography with Emily in the hills above.

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Pasta making lessons in our commercial kitchen.

It’s been brought to my attention that we have a lot of mothers and daughters that join us on our workshops and retreats. I had never thought about it before, but I was chatting with someone about bringing her Mom to our Steve Mckenzie’s Artist in Residence Program in July. I realized how many Moms and daughters had joined us in Italy over the years. There are lots of benefits to traveling with your Mom according to Psychology Today:

“Travel, in and of itself, offers a chance to get outside of our normal, everyday self. When two women who’ve known each other as long or as intimately as a mother and daughter have head out together, they are able to shake off the cobwebs from home as they stir up the dust of adventure down a new path.” 

La Fortezza seems like the perfect place to enjoy some down time with your Mom or your daughter all while learning how to cook Italian foods, visiting our secret places like flea markets and beautiful open air markets in chic destinations and painting lessons in the Italian countryside.

Mother daughter vacations seem to be our thing, and I could not be more thrilled. Book an adventure today and make some amazing memories with your beloved Mom or daughter and bring your sister along as well. You won’t regret it. I am hoping this is a something La Fortezza Workshops and Retreats become known for during the coming years. Encouraging generations of women to explore together is a mission I am focused on. We would love to welcome you and your Mom daughter or sister, head to the site and grab your spots. NOTE* If your Mom is not participating in the workshop you will get special pricing, email me for details before you check out to save.

xx Annette

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Grab your flights to Italy! Here’s how to get the best prices.

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I was talking to my web manager, Nicole, about Italy during a meeting last month. We were talking about the workshop website and talking about booking flights to Italy. She’s considering coming, but said she was shocked by pricing to Pisa. She told me that Delta was charging $3000 economy round trip. I almost spit out my espresso. I said, “No way, let me tell you how I fly.” She had never heard about half the airlines I use when I search for flights. I thought everyone knew about these airlines. Apparently not which prompted Nicole to say…

“Annette this would be a great blog post,” and I agreed. So I have written this post just for you! That way you can book your budget flights in and out of Pisa to attend my workshops. When I book flights to Italy, my only mission is to get to Italy and then figure out how to get to La Fortezza – sometimes from Milan, sometimes from Rome, and sometimes flying directly to Pisa from a European city like London or Frankfurt. I save money flying to Italy by looking at tickets online to various cities in Europe with several carriers picking the most affordable and shortest duration. Then I fly with local airlines into Pisa from where ever I land. Sometimes I even take a train to to La Fortezza directly if possible.

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Here are my top tips:

1. The main thing is to be flexible with dates to find the best offers. I use all the discount sites to check if there are any great flights I might catch. Kayak, Expedia, Travelocity and Cheapoair. I set up alerts with Airfare Watchdog.

2. Always check the “my dates are flexible” box. A big tip is that I do not look at flights until I am ready to buy them. I start looking 4 months before I travel overseas. Once I find a flight, I book it on the spot it if it’s cheap and mainly if the duration of the flight is not super long.

3. I always book tickets overseas from JFK airport in New York, not from Atlanta where we live. I use points when I can to book flights from Atlanta to JFK on Delta because most of the time, flights are regular and very affordable to JFK. Timing works because most flights overseas leave starting in the early evening into late night, so timing is great to coordinate.

4. I check all the major cities from JFK Airport. Think Amsterdam, Milan, Rome, London, Munich, Frankfurt and sometimes Zurich and Barcelona (I stay out of Paris at all costs; it’s a horrible airport although if it’s super cheap, I book it). I look at budget airlines like Condor, British Airways, Turkish Airlines Iberian Airlines and  Air Canada.

Here’s an example of selections from Air Canada from JFK to Milan June 2-11th , but other dates are available as well. You can see the difference flying out different days, so flexibility is very important.

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Here is an example of Travelocity’s listing from JFK to Milan. There are lots of choices, so make sure to look at flight duration on both legs…

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5. I travel light which means with a carry on. The truth is that you do not need a lot of clothing in the summer, and if you’re carrying camera equipment you should be good with 2 carry-on bags. Plus this is important if you’re flying with budget flights or taking a train.

6. Fly smaller, European budget airlines to reach Pisa. Once I have my flight to a major European city selected, I look for my European leg to Pisa with a European budget airline. I use Easy Jet, Ryanair, Transavia  and Alitalia  for the connecting European legs. For example if you fly into London, book EasyJet or Ryanair to Pisa airport.

Here’s an example of the choices on Easy Jet  from London to Pisa:

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8. Sign-up for alerts. If you’re on an alert system like Airfare Watchdog, you should be able to find flights from JFK to Pisa sometimes as cheap at 700 dollars. So it takes a bit of time, but the effort is worth it. Honestly, I rather enjoy it. Who doesn’t love a challenge?!

If you’re coming to one of our workshops in June or July you may want to start actively looking for your flights now. The key is to look at every option, and be open to travel routes, new airlines and flexible dates.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be bringing you loads of other travel content to help you plan your trip. June workshops and July’s artist in residence program will be here before we know it! Stay tuned for packing tips, plane essentials, layover must-dos and more! Have a safe flight xx

 

 

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Swedish Death Cleaning and Musings on Marie Kondo

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WARNING THIS IS LONG POST, GRAB A BEVERAGE OF YOUR CHOICE AND HAVE A SEAT.

As you all know, I am a stylist. I edit objects for the camera, so I am great at making sure everything looks perfect and edited at all times. I am not bragging when I say that people look to me for answers about how to style and organize their spaces. I have a big prop collection that I regularly cull and edit. I go through my closet every 6 months, I used to do it every 3 months, but spending 6 months in Italy has really changed my point of view about clothing. Since I am in Italy in the summer, my summer wardrobe in the US  has shrunk considerably. I am cleaning up, throwing out, scanning and donating all of the time. It is part of my weekly routine, sometimes 4 or 5 times a week. I am always editing, asking myself, “Do I need this? Have I used this? Have I worn this?”

I like to think I am a minimalist, but I am not really a minimalist. The truth is that, like everyone, I do have hidden corners in my house, and some things I don’t want to let go of emotionally. I am a prop stylist after all, the collector of beautiful interesting objects that all have a story. So here’s my true story…

Recently our daughter temporarily moved back in with us, and she seriously lives like a monk. No stuff, very, very pared down. She is here with us for a few months while she settles into a new job and looks for a house to buy with her husband. She looked at me about 2 months ago and said, “Mom you have too much stuff.” I thought she was kidding! After all, we had just done a huge purge in the past year thanks to her. But according to her, it was not enough…

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Last year, our daughter had talked to her dad and I about Swedish Death Cleaning . I know, horrifying concept right? Dying. But it’s actually a great concept. You can read about it here.

Here’s the concept in a nutshell: as you age you should simply your life. When you’re young and have kids, it’s natural to have clutter. But as you age, you should work on getting rid of possessions. This is the ultimate kindness to your children and family.

With my daughter living at home and pushing for another purge, I decided we needed to revisit the entertaining pantry (I have 2 of them)–lots of platters, plates, coffee makers and cups and saucers and bowls and decorative trays, baskets and bowls and bowls and bowls. She and I tackled the pantries. It took us 2 days to excavate the items and rearrange everything. Believe me, it was not smooth sailing. She was merciless and ruthless in her editing. Yes it’s true, even I have to have some things pried out of my hands.

I love organizing, and I think everyone needs to do more of it, everyday and every week of the year. That’s why I was very excited to see that Marie Kondo was getting her own organizing show on Netflix.

Marie Kondo is a Japanese organizational guru. Her show “Tidying Up” started streaming January 1st on Netflix – perfect timing for organizing and cleaning right?

A little about Marie… Marie Kondo achieved worldwide fame in 2014 when her first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, was translated into English and published in the United States, where it became a New York Times best seller and sold more than 1.5 MILLION COPIES!!!

My take on her show...anything that brings awareness to cleaning up your stuff brings me great joy! Anything that makes YOU think about purging and cleaning is a good thing in my book.

On to the show…Marie shows up with her translator and briefly speaks to her clients through a forced smile. First things first, she “introduces herself to the house” by doing some kooky made up woo woo ritual which involves her meditating when kneeling on the floor.

I am an organizing freak and wanted to love the show! But honestly, I found the show very boring. Her offerings are superficial fixes. She never addresses the real issues–like what to do with paperwork? She never talks about technological fixes like a scanning paper and becoming paperless. Instead she has people put things in paper boxes? Huh? She’s very simplistic, and of course, very Japanese in her approach. No one ever reminds her that Americans do not live like the Japanese, we have larger spaces and as a result, MUCH MORE JUNK. Her show features clueless band-aids on the epic problems of the obsessive, non-stop-buying culture of America.

Though entire show, I wondered what she really thought of our culture of hoarding and buying beyond our means compared to the pared-down lifestyle in Japan. I am sure she thinks it is horrible! But her face cracking smile never lets you know what she is thinking. Mostly it just got on my nerves. Basically, Marie offers small boxes to people that have BIG box problems.

The best thing about this show is that purging and cleaning is now the part of a larger discussion in America. And people are indeed looking at their stuff and assessing and tossing and donating it. For us, the Swedish Death Cleaning lifestyle is a better fit, but if Marie’s method is your style, go for it. The truth is: We all need a complete paradigm shift in how we shop, how we consume, and how we teach our children to live.

*to read more about the mental effects of clutter click here

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Cauliflower Week:: Cauliflower Rice Tofu Bowls

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Welcome to another installment of Cauliflower Week! I hope you’ve been inspired to give this veggie a try. There are so many recipes out there to completely transform cauliflower, and here is another.

Today’s recipe was created by Sydney, my son’s girlfriend. When I told her about Juice January, we had a long discussion about nutrition and the benefits of eating clean. Sydney and I wound up in the kitchen making lunch. Full disclosure, I had no idea how to prepare tofu. Sydney said she would show me how to make a cauliflower rice topped with curried tofu. Of course I took her up on her offer. We had a fun morning putting together these Cauliflower Rice Tofu bowls. What a perfect recipe to share during Juice January. Thanks Sydney for sharing this recipe; I finally feel like I know how to work with tofu.

Cauliflower Rice Tofu Bowls
Serves 2

Preheat oven to 375 F

You will need:
– 1 block of firm tofu
– 3 tablespoons of olive oil
– 1 cup carrots
– 4 cups cauliflower
– 1 1/2 cups snow peas
– 1/2 small onion finely diced
– 1 large garlic clove minced
– 1 tsp tumeric
– 1 tsp ginger
– 1/2  tsp ginger
– 1/2  tsp chili powder
– 1/2  tsp salt

To prepare:

To prepare tofu: Place tofu on a paper towel or dish towel, wrap and then place a heavy book on top of the tofu and press gently, Allow to drain liquid for 15 minutes. Set aside.

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In a food processor fitted with a blade, place cauliflower into the bowl and pulse until cauliflower becomes the consistency of rice.

Once the tofu is drained, cut into 1 inch cubes. In a medium frying pan, add oil and toss the tofu cubes with the curry powder and fry on both sides about 10 minutes. Place the cubes on a parchment lined cookie sheet and place into a 375F oven. Bake for 10 minutes until tofu is crispy. While the tofu bakes, in the same pan, saute the onion, garlic, carrots and snow peas, about 10 minutes. Set aside veggies and in the same pan, toss the cauliflower rice with spices and saute for 10 minutes until cauliflower is lightly browned. Serve immediately.

To Finish:

Place rice in a bowl top with tofu, veggies and serve.

Optional toppings*

*Fresh Basil
Sriracha

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