Saturday, November 30, 2013

It's Nuts! (The Loaf, That Is)

  We were recently invited to a friend's home for dinner, and to my delight, she prepared  the most delicious, nutty non-meat loaf I've ever eaten. I could not wait to try making one myself, and Thanksgiving gave me the perfect excuse.

  Each year, as vegetarians, I've tried to find some recipe or another that would satisfy us as a substitute for the bird. Last year at Christmas, I made this vegetable strada, which was great….but I wanted to try the amazing  nut loaf that we had enjoyed at our friend's house. Turns out, it is a Deborah Madison/Tassajara cookbook creation. At least, that is what I came across trying to find the recipe….

  We always make little piglets of ourselves with the yummy side dishes, like everyone else, and could be happy just eating those, but I do like to have something that passes as a main dish sort of thing, to join the big bird at the table. 

  This is it. 
  And let me tell you, it's worth the effort to make it. Though I haven't included each and every step here, I did manage, between many other chores, to take photos while I was preparing and assembling my favorite new recipe….. which you will find a link to at the bottom of this post.


Dried porcini soaking in hot water.

…and after. Drained and chopped fine.

  Before I go on, I recommend that you read the entire recipe (below, at bottom) before you start. I like to have all the many components ready to use in a dish like this. It's just easier for me. Plus, I get a certain pleasure out of seeing all the ingredients lined up, ready to get all mixed together.

  Ok, where were we….oh yeah…. nuts...

Toast up your walnuts and cashews, to get that extra roasty flavor developing.

…and after you have chopped them fine. Yes, I used my food processor here.

  This is not a vegan recipe, just so you know….there is cheese. Both various grated cheeses and cottage cheese. Oh, eggs, too. 
  Sorry, my vegan pals….I am one hundred percent certain that you have a dynamite "no meat loaf" recipe that is vegan, and I would love, love, love to have that recipe.

  That being said…we add our cheese. You can use one kind, or in this case, I had some gruyere and parmesan left over from some other dishes we were making, which I mixed in with the sharp cheddar, that was the main cheese I used.

Mushrooms, nuts, cheese….you can't go wrong.

  This is when I got busy with a couple of other things I was helping fix, and I put the camera aside for a few steps…mainly the addition of cottage cheese, cooked brown rice and beaten eggs. ("beaten eggs" always sounds so….well…violent and mean to me. Sigh.)

  Anyway, everyone knows what rice, eggs and cottage cheese looks like, si?

  I skipped outside to rampage through Mom & Dad's herb garden to get just enough sage, marjoram and thyme, some parsley, too……chop fine...

Herb-y goodness!

All the above and more get mixed in a big bowl….

Spread into a loaf pan…AND….

Now that's what I'm talking' about.

  A dish truly fit for the Holiday table. I sliced it up into several pieces before bringing it to the table, which was barely able to hold more….

In fact, I ended up putting it on a side table…..but you can see my yummy veg gravy here,
along with lots of other tasty holiday treats!

  This year was great. We had lots of helping hands….salad, cranberry sauce, and cake from the young folk, turkey and dressing from big brother, mashed and roasted things from dad, cauliflower goodness from mom….It was a real family affair, for sure. 

  And I only had one….ummm…two helpings. Of everything. And salad at the end.
  And some pie. And cake.

I was so excited about eating that my hands were shaking. A rather blurry shot, I'm afraid…
But doesn't it look good? Doesn't it look like Thanksgiving?

  I can't wait for Christmas.

Here's the nut/cheese loaf recipe, so you can try it, too:
Nut/Cheese Loaf Recipe

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sigh. Yet More Gnomes...

 I know.
 Last year I went and made a big old proclamation on this blog post about not doing this ever again. I know.  
 But I'm weak. I'm so very,very weak…
  I can't let a perfectly good, easy-as-pie photo opportunity pass me by. Especially if no one is around, and I'm not crossing into the territory of trespassing (read last year's post, you'll understand).

 I'm talking about all those damn gnomes out there just waiting for their 15 minutes, people!
 They just keep on showing up, tempting me with their oh-so-sheepish grins and perfectly aged patina! They soundlessly beg me to whip out my camera!
  They mock me.

  All this off my (now heaving) chest, I give you this year's crop of little fellows in all their glory.
 And may I just say, for the record…
  I doubt it will ever be the last time.

  Early on in our visit, we took a drive over to Chianciano Terme, just across the border in Tuscany. In the past, we had always admired this hill town from the road, as we drove past, on our way to Montepulciano. It was on the list this year, and we had a nice lunch and great walk all around town. 
  Then the sky opened up, it thunder/lightening and poured rain…and we ran home with our tails firmly tucked betwixt our thighs. 
But, before all that, I spotted my first gnomes of 2013:

You know, I just love that so many of these fellows are drunkards.

I guess his partner in crime is more a leprechaun, but I'll give him his space here.
And what/who is he looking for??? He's got the crazy-eyes, man!!

  The next two are in rough shape, but I still love them. They stand guard on either side of a driveway  near the train station in Castiglione del Lago. I guess in time, most of the color will come from the various lichens growing all over their bodies...

Not sure if these are cool, or just kind of creepy...

  At one point, I thought I might do an entire post of Gnomes Behind Bars. There are so many of them in gardens or courtyards, behind cyclone-type fences. I have learned(the hard way) that in most cases, there is also a big, nasty, barking dog behind the fence, keeping people like me from coming near. It makes "getting the shot" a whole lot more difficult, since I have to get up close and put the lens through the fence, and I just don't want to get busted again.
  This was a super easy one though, and he's just so cute.

Hi, there, Big Boy. You gonna show me the light?
Yeah, I bet you will.

Came upon these at an agriturismo we visited, one day.
Gnomes seem to love gardening.

Another working gnome, looks like gardening is his game, too.
I really love his snail hat, and want one of my own.

What?!? Another gardening gnome? Well, it must run in the family, or something.
He lives with his pal below, under a staircase in Cetona. 

Livin' large, in a wheelbarrow, under the stairs.

  It's nice that most folks don't leave it at just one gnome. They usually get a pal to keep the first one company. Of course, we all know what this will eventually lead to.

You start with one, and then, because he looks so lonely, you find a friend.
It's a nice setup for everyone.

The guitar player would look silly, all by his lonesome, right?
It only makes sense to bring him someone to enjoy the tunes...

  And then, before you know it…
  The gang's all here:

Sette Nani!
Throw in Snow White, a naked cherub and some barnyard poultry…
You have yourself  a party!

 Another full group sighting, sort of:

This is classic… there are seven fellows, sure, but two are "twins"….
She doesn't seem to mind, though.

  I do have to say, it's hurtful to see my pals being used as trendy occasional pieces….
Philippe Starck? Really? Does it always have to come to this?
  Give me a break.

Oh, the horror, the horror….

  Until spring, I'll just look back at these images and remember the joy each and every Gnome Moment brought me. And I'll plan my attack for the next crop.
  Trust me. There are plenty more where these came from.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Great Place To Find Stuff

  I have been so bad about posting anything lately....I don't have any excuses, either. I'm just in a state of blah, maybe...waiting for the next trip, waiting for the holidays to be over, waiting for something I'm not sure of......wait...are those song lyrics?
  Here's the thing... I have so many more meals, and day trips, and this, and that to write about from our last couple of journeys. Geez, I haven't even started on all the great art I saw at the Biennale in Venice.
  I won't again let so much time go by without writing. I enjoy it, but I can get a little lazy sometimes...
  I am officially slapping my own wrist.

  On one of our drives around the Panicale area, we came across this amazing antique/restoration/salvage place that we knew we needed to return to. Last time we were here, we bought a fantastic light fixture for our garden arbor at home. 

  The place is just off the SP308, between Ponticelli and Piazze, near Chiusi and the A1. 
You know, just in case you're in the area. Hey, it could happen. Sadly, I don't remember the name of it, even though I was determined to. Best of plans, and all that. 
  Look for stuff. Lots of stuff. On the left, if you're heading towards Piazze.

  There are a few outbuildings where the guys do the restoration and wood working, but there is also a main building with all sorts of things that have been restored, etc. 

These entry doors are the kind.
I want these for Johnny's studio that we need to build in our back forty.

  When you walk in, the lights will most likely be off. Eventually a cool old guy in a great hat will come around and turn the lights on. He is usually in another building, restoring something wonderful. He's great, friendly, totally old a good way. Not much English, naturally. 

  Though I want to get a photo of him, it's too early in our relationship still. Maybe next time. For now, I just like the fact that he shows us around and will make us a sweet deal on old rusty junk. And I like his chewed up skinny cigar. And his hat. And his perfect tattered sweater.
  I must get that photo of him.

Lights now on, we explore the indoor area. Some things have been restored beautifully,
some stuff is just kind of funky.

  I want to bring home so many choice items I see here, but where would I put them at home, and how would I get them there? I always find some little treat, though.

A nice collection. I love the 'Virgin Mary" plasic water bottles.
 you use these to bring home the healing waters that are so popular around this area.

  Besides big armoires and chests of drawers, farm tables and bedroom furniture, they have so many collections of little things. That's what I end up coveting..and bringing home.

Who doesn't love a basket full of old clocks?

So fancy.

  We went way into a back room this time that we hadn't been in before. It was a jackpot of even more cool little collections. 
  There was one display that really made me think of my pal, Mary:

Hey, Mary! This one's for you!

  Growing up Catholic, I have an attraction to certain iconic religious symbols. I am not a collector of these sorts of things....I just have to take a closer look. The display below really caught my wandering eye...

  Looking at these beauties now, I really wish I had bought several. The texture of them all together is pretty great. I just am loving looking at them all there... Flying without moving. Diving without splashing. They are tiny and spectacular.

There is a an art piece here, I can totally see it.

These were small, measuring only a couple of inches at most.
I think they must have come off of rosaries.

  Ok. I'm over it. I'll just go back next time and hope that are still there.

  Back outside, we got down to what we really came for. We wanted to find another funky, rusty, old light fixture for the garden here at home. Last time we really scored a good one, which now happily lights my way into the herb garden:

Johnny just had to rewire it and, presto-chango.....

I love the textured glass panels.

  We knew right where to look, and we had a whole bunch of fun doing so. The hardest part is being good and not buying a bunch of what-nots. It's difficult enough getting one rusty, semi-fragile, often pointy and dangerous item into our luggage and through security.
  I can righteously say...we've now done it twice. The newest fixture is still being "refurbished", and I can't wait to have it in the garden soon. Pictures at 11!

  You can find all sorts of bizarre and useful items on these tables. I like to bargain with the hat man. He's fun, and also easy to deal with. I have to assume that he thinks we're nuts to want to pay anything for this stuff. Whatever, it's fine by me. We both end up very happy.

Loves me some rust.
The really cool stuff is often under the tables....

Want. So. Bad.
Killer sinks for the garden, for the kitchen, for the bathroom....Me likey.

  My poor hubby...When I saw this photo, it just made me laugh out loud. I can just hear him as he is looking at these handmade, olive wood "Ladders Of His Dreams"....
"My GOD, this isn't fair! How can we get this home? Better yet, why can't we just buy a place here so we can have this ladder? You're killing me!"

  Don't even start with the old windows and doors.... and the above mentioned sinks...

Johnny, we'll have that ladder some day, and in Umbria.
I promise. You just keep painting, mister.

  And then they have terra cotta pots. Lots of big ones. Though I see many just like these here, at local garden centers, it's still fun to see them in their native land.

  Just another little adventure on a rainy spring day in Italy. Can't wait to return.