Photos From My Mid-Day Runs

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Wildflowers

My joints have hurt all day.  I have no idea what is going on but I feel like a rickety old man and it is seriously bumming me out.

I thought a long passeggiata (Italian for stroll) would help loosen the joints and maybe clear some clouds from my brain.

I decided to walk down to the next town where there are gobs of wildflowers growing in the ditch.  

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Along the way I passed these adorable little bunnies.  Actually, they are not little, they were huge.  These pictures do not do their size justice.

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I love the coloring on the dark bunny.  His front left paw is white, which makes him even cutter but he wouldn’t stick out his leg for the camera.

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Of course I had to pick the wildflowers and cart them back home where I tried to make a nice bouquet.  I originally imagined a large messy bouquet, but no matter what I did it just looked strange so eventually I settled on a nosegay-type of arrangement.  Turns out, wildflowers are not like florist flowers, sometimes they look better in a ditch by the road than on your kitchen counter.  

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35 Before 35: Learn to Make Gluten Free Gnocchi

My life just got a helluva lot better; I learned how to make gluten free gnocchi! Incidentally, this was number 20 on my 35 Before 35 List so I am doubly happy!

For those of you not in the know about gnocchi, let me introduce you.  Gnocchi are small potato dumplings boiled and served with any kind of sauce you like. They are best described as small pillows of heaven.

The problem with gnocchi is that the ones you find in restaurants are often laced with wheat flour, which we all know makes my stomach very angry.

Enter Anna, the Italian Mamma.

Anna is a fantastic woman who lives in Tuscany and was in charge of feeding a bunch of hungry women during my yoga retreat last month.  She also gave out lots of hugs and kisses on the head and even Italian cooking lessons, so she is pretty much my favorite person in the world right now.

She invited all of us into her kitchen to watch her cook pasta from scratch and when she mentioned that she would be making gluten-free gnocchi from scratch I just about died from excitement.

So here is how you make amazing gluten-free gnocchi:

First, you boil a bunch of potatoes.  I am sure some varieties are better than others, but we used the small white ones with very thin skins (we don’t get the giant Idaho potatoes ’round these parts) and they were delish.

Anna says you should boil them for about 40 minutes but that will vary depending on how many spuds you have.  Just boil them until they are soft when poked with a fork.

Then you peel them with your hands since the skin slides right off.

Once the potatoes are skinned you put them through a ricer like so:

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Then you add enough eggs to bind the potatoes.  For a large bowl of potatoes we used two eggs.

I would like to draw your attention to two things in the photo below.

One: Can you see how orange the egg yolks are?  Those are eggs fresh from the farm and they are amazing.

Two: I am totally taking credit for the hard work of others in this photo.  The other ladies riced the potatoes while I took pictures, then I tossed my camera to another girl, grabbed the bowl and said “Here, take my picture so it looks like I did this!”  See that smile?  It’s the smile of an impostor.

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After you have mixed the eggs with the potatoes you start throwing in your rice flour (or any other flour you like, wheat flour is the norm).  You want just enough flour to make the dough a little drier than sugar cookie dough.

When the dough is ready you roll it out in long strips.  You want the rolls to be about the circumference of one of your fingers.  If it is too long just chop the roll in half, easy-peasy.

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Here you can see Anna’s hands moving lightening quick as she makes her rolls.  you can also see that she has a giant mound of flour in front of her to toss the gnocci in after she has cut them.

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So once your rolls are as thick as a finger you take a knife or one of those choppy things and chop the roll into little pieces about half an inch long.  Then you toss the little pieces in the flour (to keep them from sticking together) and set them to the side.

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When you are done just drop the first batch into boiling water and wait a few minutes.  Seriously, only a few, like three minutes.

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The gnocchi float when they are done.

Just skim the floaters off the top and dump them in a bowl with a little olive oil.

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Then you serve the gnocchi with whatever sauce you like.  My favorite is a cheese sauce or a basic meat sauce.

Buon Appetito!

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Sleep! Now!

It’s 4:30am.  I am awake and very annoyed.

I am not exactly sure why I can’t sleep.

Well, now that I think about it, it might have something to do with the rivers of caffeine I drank before bed.

Anywho, did you know it’s National Singles Week?  Yeah, I don’t get it either.  As a Singleton I can wholeheartedly agree that living alone and answering to no one is pretty freaking sweet, I’m just not sure we need a week of observance.

In unrelated musings, I have decided to dust off my running shoes and start pounding the pavement again.  I stopped running last summer when it was so hot I wanted to get violent, and I just never started up again.  If you remember from my previous adventures, I am not a strong runner, but lately I have been missing it.  Running is so difficult for me that it forces me to focus only on breathing and keeping one foot in front of the other, so it kind of becomes a moving meditation (when I am not muttering profanities about how much it sucks).

It is now almost 5am and I am no closer to sleep.  Time for some Downton Abbey and hard-boiled eggs.

Ciao For Now!

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DIY Diffuser

This month is kind of a lean one for me and I am cutting back on frivolous spending.  And as much as I love scented candles, they are firmly frivolous, at least for August.

No worries though, because I have plenty of old candle jars and some leftover BBQ sticks!  That’s just as good, right?

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So, here are the stars of today’s DIY project:

– One empty spice jar
– One empty candle holder
– Seven wooden BBQ sticks
– Essential oil (I used lavandin oil, which is cheaper and more fragrant than lavender)
– Any kind of filler (I used lavandin)

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This project is pretty straightforward, essential oil and wooden sticks in the spice jar, spice jar in the candle jar with some filler to make it pretty.

You can skip the candle jar and filler, but I have a kilo of dried lavandin sitting around waiting for a purpose in life, so I gave it one.

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And there you go, my loft/study smells amazing and I get the smug satisfaction of a DIY project!

Next I am thinking of cinnamon for the kitchen!

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My New Favorite Thing: Wine Bottle Plant Watering

I managed to kill every single one of my plants this summer.  Except the aloe plant, he is kind of a tough guy.  I am slowly rebuilding my indoor plant garden with mint, basil, marjoram, sage, and oregano and I would really, really like to keep them alive this time.

Enter my new favorite thing: hollow ceramic spikes for continuous watering.

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You just stab the ceramic spike down into the soil and the overturn an old wine bottle (filled with water instead of wine, no need to waste good wine) into the spike.  Voila!  The plants are sure to get enough water even if you forget to water them for a week!  I’m crossing my fingers on this one, having dead plants around is seriously getting me down.

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I Finally Made a Good Iced-Coffee

Iced-Coffee is not really a thing here in Italy.  A shot of espresso with a shot of grappa is a thing, but god forbid you put ice in that drink.  It’s a shame really, since the only time I truly enjoy coffee is when it’s over ice and sugar.

You would think iced-coffee would be an easy drink to make, but for me it has been trail and error, and error, and error.  You get the point.  I tried every method, but the end result was always a bitter cup of iced-disappointment.  Finally I just gave up.

The other day I read this article and it was like a cappuccino colored cloud opened and a ray of light shined down on me.  I was using the wrong kind of coffee!  I would usually just grab the strongest brew available (more bang for your buck, right?) for my experiments, then I would wonder why my iced-coffee always tasted so bitter.  Kind of a ‘duh’ moment for me.

So, here is what I learned:
1.) Use a mellow blend of coffee with a ratio of 1 part coffee grounds to 2 parts water
2.) Let it cold brew for at least 16 hours
3.) Throw in some fresh mint while it’s brewing

When the coffee was ready, I put a smidge of sweetened condensed milk in the glass instead of milk and sugar (learned that little trick from the pioneer woman).  Holy cow, that’s good.

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