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One of my favorite posts to date highlighting 13 year old baker and fighter …

Hi Everyone! Did you miss me?

Days get busy and it seems as though there is never enough time to do it all in a day, week…..or even month! Get my drift? The answer is NO, I could never forget about contributing to my blog. Especially Bella Piccolina, this alter-ego character I created that has taken on such an entrepreneur spirit in me and life of its own, filled of purpose, pasta-making and passion to share with other my fond appreciation for my deep Italian heritage and roots.

I feel like I owe an explanation to my readers and followers as to why I have been MIA on the WordPress site these past few months, although I have not been writing, I have not forgotten about you all, Bella Piccolina, or even my unconditional love for Pasta-making and Italy.

For the season of LENT (although it is over, it is lon-lasting) I gave up something that I have been wanting to do for some time. I dedicated “my time.” I did not “give up” my time but rather “dedicated” my time. With hopes of inspiring the community and those especially close around me, I dedicated the past TEN weeks of my life to focus my efforts in strengthening my community which I believe would make me a better, stronger and more compassionate person filled with purpose. I wanted to find a deeper meaning to “time” and spending my own “time” dedicated to helping those around me that are in need, by leading by example and servicing my community doing something I truly believe in.

I am honored and humbled to have been nominated as a candidate for this year’s Leukemia and Lymphoma Society RI Chapter Man/Woman of the Year (MWOY) Campaign. Each year the LLS organization nominates a small group in the community in which they feel can bring about awareness of blood cancer research.  LLS is a very special organization here in RI that looks to improve the quality of life not only for patients but also their families and research here in RI to help find a cure to blood cancer. For each dollar raised a point is given to the candidate, wrapping up the campaign this Friday, April 24th. The way it works is just like this – the Male with the highest dollars (donation $’s / points) and Female with the highest dollars (donation $’s /points) brings home the title as Man or Woman of the Year.  Let me be very honest, although I am flattered and honored to have been nominated, I kindly admit this has NOTHING to do with me and EVERYTHING to do with my community. I have met some of the most incredible people, both families, adults, siblings and children along this quest and I am blessed to have met every one of them! Myself along with my dedicated and tirelessly working team and my stellar (and AMAZING best friend, Brooke!) have teamed up to host events within the past TEN weeks to help raise awareness and funds for blood cancer and this organization. We have hosted an Silent Art Auction at EUNOIA (a fine art gallery located in Chapel View Cranston RI) on March 19th where children and their siblings affected by blood cancer had the opportunity to paint their stories on magical 11×14 canvases. These pieces of artwork were spectacular, they lit up the entire gallery with so much inspiration, brightness and magic! These kids are the future of our world, their painting showed that when cancer hits a home it not only affects that one individual but their entire family and friends, so their siblings eagerly and enthusiastically participated in creating their own artwork. Not only did the community come out and support this event, and donate to raise funds for LLS….they each came with their hearts of gold! The Mayor of Cranston made a kind appearance as well and my team and I were highlighted on the 5, 6 and 11pm local news station’s News along with a local radio station plug! EUNOIA, the fine art gallery and it’s AMAZING co-founders, opened their gallery doors to make this event possible with so much support, dedication and hard work towards my LLS campaign. Friends and local businesses donated items for the raffle tickets, cheese and crackers were plentiful throughout the night and so many smiles shined bright from ear to ear. The most memorable part of the evening was having many of the children in attendance with their families to display and talk about their artwork with the community. From artwork created and titled, “YOU CAN-CER VIVE” by this year’s LLS Girl of the Year, Emma to artwork created and titled, “STOMP OUT CANCER” by LLS Boy of the Year, KJ this event was filled with meaning not only during the preparation of the silent art auction when we collected the artwork from the children and their siblings but also the silent art auction itself. How special it was to be surrounded by artwork representing compassion, hope, inspiration and courage and lot of “HEart” at the art gallery that evening.

 

From Karate “kick-a-thon Tournaments including six Mastery Martial Arts schools across RI with dedicated instructors and their students donating funds to LLS and my campaign all the way to my team reaching out to as many people as possible to help raise funds for blood cancers to improve the lives of others and truly make a difference to one day make cancer a thing of the past !

One of my main goals for my campaign when I agreed to be a candidate for this year’s MWOY campaign was to make a commitment to myself to make my campaign all about the community and in my last week campaigning I feel confident in saying I ACCOMPLISHED JUST THAT. I wanted to bring people together, make them aware of LLS’s mission and how it is improving the lives of others and that we are striving to find a cure for blood cancer. I want everyone who has ever lost someone to cancer, someone who has battled cancer or someone who has fought and survived cancer to never feel alone, that there is always someone there to help, guide, give a helping hand, a word of encouragement and hope.

Throughout the past two years, I have been showcased in several pasta making demos across RI and I will share with you that this is one of my favorite blog posts to date!

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Bella Piccolina Pasta-making demo at Hope and Main Culinary Incubator –  In picture, myself with Baker helper Grace.

 

For those of you that know me well and read from my posts, you know how much I love pasta-making and well, Italy. Through my pasta-making Bella Piccolina demos I had the pleasure of not only being on the radio but actually teaming up to demo with one really special kid that I had the opportunity to meet through this LLS journey. At the recent Home Show at the Convention Center, Bella Piccolina was pasta-making at the Rhode Island Kitchen and Bath sponsored demo and I had the opportunity to demo some pasta-making tricks with 13 year old, baker and stellar kid, Grace. Her courage and tenacity to live life to its fullest and her strength is beyond her years, she is stronger than not just most kids her age and is sronger than I’ll ever be! She blew me away with her positive attitude, heart of gold and enthusiasm for life. Why is this post so special? Because today, I am highlighting Grace. This blog is highlighting her and her achievements. Here is a young girl who has set her mind and goals to DREAM as big as the sky!

I first learned about Grace’s passion for baking when I noticed her 11×14 canvas while she was painting her artwork that would later be donated for the silent art auction event that my team and I were hosting as part of my campaign to raise funds….Grace was painting a perfectly centered bright purple cupcake with a green backdrop, I connected with her right away when my eye went to her masterpiece! Although, I am a home cook and baking is not at all my specialty, I was blown away by this young aspiring entrepreneur. I look up to Grace as a young role model for other kids, she’s special because she took her strengths and passion for baking and followed that path and did not let anything get in her way! She is a fighter in ever sense of the word and she represents an positive example for our local community. I will also share with you a story I tell at almost all of my demos, when I was in a pasta making demo with Grace back in October, I was having difficulty getting the food processor lid on, if any of you have ever made dough from scratch in a food processor you know how tricky those lids can be especially when your demo has a time limit and you are given a short amount of time to showcase your pasta-making skills and tips! After I made about 5 attempts to get the lid on, I asked for some help….and without hesitation, Grace jumped right in and saved the day. Sometimes it is okay to make mistakes while in the kitchen and it definitely okay to ask for help with with a food processor or in life…. when it is needed!

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Grace and I at the RI Home Show pasta-making at the Convention Center in Providence, RI.

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So below you can read one of most favorite blog posts to date dedicated to highlighting talented 13 year old, Grace.

People help other people because that is what makes the world a brighter place. It may be help getting a food processor lid on or helping others in life, the journey is so much more worthwhile when we take time to help others.

How did you get into baking?

“I started to help my mom cook and bake when I was about two years old. I would stand on a chair pushed up to the counter and help her mix and add ingredients to the bowl. I always asked to help cook and over time wanted to do more and more on my own. I started with boxed mixes and now everything I do is homemade from scratch.”

What is your favorite thing to bake?

“I love making cupcakes and my favorite type is a chocolate cupcake with salted caramel frosting.”

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Grace with her cupcake painting, “Sugar Rush” for the LLS Silent Art Auction

 

What does baking mean to you?

“Baking has become a big part of my life especially after I was diagnosed with leukemia. I had severe neuropathy from the chemotherapy and could barely move my hands. I hated doing my OT exercises but my mom let me cook and bake as much as I wanted. Being in the kitchen and using my hands helped me to regain the use of my hands. It also helps me get through tough days when I am sick from my treatments. I loved baking so much that I started my own home baking business.”

“I love seeing the reaction from people when they eat my baked goods. My dream is to own my own bakery someday.” – Grace

How can someone purchase your baked goods and learn more about Grace?

“Right now I am so busy baking for friends and family that my mom wont let me set up my own webpage just yet. But, I do post my products on Instagram at @ConfectionCollectionByGrace”
Watch out for Grace, she already is and will be moving more mountains in this young girl’s bright and promising future. I am blessed to know her and her beautiful family. Grace is an inspiration to us all.

If you or someone you may know are interested in donating to my LLS MWOY 2015 campaign, please visit www.HUNGRY4ACURE.COM by April 24th, 2015. I thank you in advance.

With a grateful heart,

Daniela

and as always,
PEACE, LOVE, GELATO



Top Five Reasons to make Homemade Pasta as a Team!

There are over 150 different variations of Pastas….textures, shapes, sizes, colors…..from black squid ink pasta to spinach pasta, to stuffed ravioli to lasagne, Pasta-Making has always been my “fan favorite” activity when it comes to gathering together with family and friends in the kitchen. Of course, the final dish and actual pasta eating makes it all worth while, but more importantly, the preparation and time it takes to create a pasta dish is in my opinion, what it is all about.

Pasta- Making is a labor of love – it takes a great deal of effort, a keen eye to detail, a delicate hand for this art, and lots of patience. If you are looking for a work-out, just wait until the step when you begin to knead the dough. Anyone who has attempted kneading dough with the palms of their hands from scratch may feel the after effects the following day of their triceps aching, it is a true workout indeed to create “the perfect, textured, dough.”

This pasta “Art” is for all ages. I currently led a Bella Piccolina Pasta-Making workshop series this past January titled “Culture through Food.” I encourage the involvement between families and children through the experiences of learning Italian language and culture through the art of Pasta-Making. Parents/Guardians and Grandparents were equally as interested in the workshops as the children were (Ages 6-9) participating in Italian Pasta-themed songs, basic Italian language and food phrases along with activities of learning how to make fresh pasta dough from scratch using basic ingredients that families can find right in their own kitchen. From Tagliatelle and Spaghettini to Ravioli to Farfalle ….we certainly made pastas that encouraged learning though the food we create with our own hands, which Today sometimes feels like a lost art. Of course, it takes time to make pasta from scratch but I began to think if we can learn and use this an activity in the households (like parents/guardians encourage piano lessons, ballet, karate and sports), then it could become part of a tapestry of learning through food.

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During the Bella Piccolina workshop, families were introduced to their five senses in relation to food, and how their senses play such a vital role while in the kitchen. Besides learning the basics of food safety when in the kitchen always together with an parent/guardian, families learned key takeaways to help create interest and awareness when creating a meal in the kitchen together while sharing conversations through food.

 

I grew up making fresh pasta since I was five year old. I never realized it was something unique. I thought everyone knew how to make fresh pasta and what “the combo” called for- Eggs, Flour and Water- these basic three ingredients are used to make fresh dough from scratch. Instead I had an awakening when I entered high school and learned classmates were referring to combos as “1-10 on a dashboard of a fast food drive thru.” I have been very fortunate to have been brought up in an Italian home where pasta-making was part of my culture and heritage. As I got older, I realized it is something that not everyone knows how to do, nor do they know fresh dough can be made from scratch from basic ingredients. This did not make me want to just hold onto this tradition but instead, share with this world. I want to share the gift I was given as a child from my Italian family, to others, this way more families will cook together in the kitchen, engage in meaningful conversations and share “food for thought.” I believe if we change the habits of not eating together and go right to where it all begins in the preparation of the home, we will have more conversations in the home and more healthy meals. We all have our plates full (no pun intended) but in today’s every so changing and fast-paced world, it is time we slow down for an afternoon or weekend and participate in an activity with family/friends to grow through new experiences while using our five senses.

Top FIVE Reasons Pasta-Making Makes a Food-Filled Family Activity:

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1.) Unique Perspective:

It encourages something NEW. A new perspective for families/friend. Children like to show their parents things they do not already know. It makes them feel like they can participate in something that allows them to learn at the same time that a family member is learning that same thing. Working together in an activity where basic ingredients are transformed into a magical masterpiece, is truly inspirational in learning what cooking is all about. It does not matter if one chooses t make fresh dough through a food processor or entirely by hand, instead watching basic ingredients transform into a finished master piece educates people on what an art food is and what goes into preparing a meal. One of my most memorable takeaways from my workshops is when I see a child’s face light up as they see the dough transform through pasta maker. It appears to be magic. How can a big piece of dough turn into strings of spaghetti? This encourages a new way of thinking and learning about the food one eats.

2.) Problem-Solving:

Through pasta-making there are key details that one must pay attention to in order to create the paper thin textured dough prior to running it through the pasta maker. It takes listening and practice to develop the right dough texture. Problem-solving skills take place when a hole may appear in the dough from over worked and stretching it. Figuring out ways to make the dough even and all come together require team work, communication and like anything, practice.

3.) Culture and Diversity:

Educating and teaching all ages “Culture Through Food” allows individuals to expand their knowledge while thinking out of the box. We live in a world of diverse cultures and many international traditions and cultures can be taught through food, in a way that is interactive, engaging and encouraging for not just children but all ages to learn from. Learning what Parsnip ( a root vegetable) is is different from seeing what a parsnip looks like in its shape and color. How to recognize the difference between all things leafy and green: Lettuce/Broccoli/and Broccoli Rabe “Rapini”? Being able to see these ingredients first hand and learn what cultures use these ingredients in their signature dishes all over the world, helps to develop a wider appreciation for cultures, deeper meaning and knowledge of the world as a global space and interest in foods and ingredients.

4.) Math:

I am always thinking of creative ways to tie together math skills into the Pasta-Making activities. For example, a memorable way to understand measurements and serving sizes are as follows:

1 egg + 1 cup of flour will yield approx 2 servings

2 eggs + 2 cups of flour will yield 4 servings

3 eggs + 3 cups of flour will yield …. (Do you see a pattern here?)

This is a pretty accurate way to remember serving sizes in theory and involves a great deal of math addition exercises!

5.) Sparks Creativity:

Children love to play with their food, we all know this. Pasta-making is like science! But what if there is a way that they can play with their food and actually learn from it and remember what they learn

Learn about the ingredients, Learn what their five senses are, learn how to problem solve, work as a team, learn about diverse international cultures, languages and cuisine as well as basic math skills? Children and adults like to be engaged and food engages us all to think about nutrition, the food we put into our bodies and the lifestyle we choose to live.

 

Debating where to take your child/children one weekend afternoon for “fun”,  the answer could be right in your kitchen inside your HOME 🙂

Buon Appetito! Enjoy your meal!

 

Peace, Love, Gelato,

Daniela



Did you wake up to “caramelle” “candy” in your shoe?

In the United States and in some other parts of the world, families and children are familiar with who Santa Claus or Saint Nick around Christmas time.

In Italy there is a very special busy and “buona” “good” woman / “Witch” that is known (she is said to come from Northern Italy) called “La Befana.” A Witch that bakes treats and works very hard all day, who sweeps the house with her broomstick! She is loved by the children of Italy as well as other parts of the world. She, like Santa Claus and Saint Nick, brings small gifts (mainly candies and chocolates) to the children of Italy and all over the world where vibrant Italian/Italian-American communities exist, only La Befana flies on her broomstick on “Epiphany Eve” January 5th delivering these gifts to good children. Because there are 20 regions in Italy, in the different regions in Italy, the folklore varies, in some regions, children place their shoes outside doorsteps and La Befana fills their shoes, other regions she is said to have “soot” on her face and hands from the keyholes and chimneys she enters upon leaving her gifts.

Although there are several different readings of the ancient tradition of La Befana and how the story began with the “Three Wise Men” and also various descriptions of her, all the stories stem around the same thread. Today, on January 6th “L’Epifania” which marks a special day where you will find locals in Italy wishing and greeting you with a kind  “Buona Befana” as a festive celebration that marks this season. Locals in Italy may attend festivals and parades today acting out “presepi viventi’ (Nativity scenes).

There are several variations but there is an old Italian poem that goes like this:

La Befana vien di notte
Con le scarpe tutte rotte
Col vestito alla romana
Viva, Viva La Befana!

The English translation is:

The Befana comes by night
With her shoes all tattered and torn
She comes dressed in the Roman way
Long life to the Befana!

If you thought the Holiday season was over, you really do have one more day to celebrate ….and for me, my Christmas tree and bright lights won’t come down until after January 6th each year! If you have someone special in your life, be sure to bring them a “treat” or small “sweet” today and be sure to wish them a “Buona Befana.”

 

Peace, Love, Gelato,

Daniela

 



Coin-shaped tradition on New Years – You Lucky Lentil, You.

This is the first post of January 1st 2015

 

Let me begin by first off, thanking you all for reading and subscribing to my posts in 2014 as this inspirational food blog took flight! The journey has just begun …

Secondly, a big bright, warm welcome 2015 as I wish you and those closest to you a very, very Happy New Year! Tanti Auguri di Buon Anno!

For some people, the start of a New Year marks a new beginning filled with new or continued inspiration, a fresh glimpse of hope and ways to thrive in the new year ahead, resolutions, goal-setting and revisiting and evaluating old goals, a fresh new outlook on the year ahead, a reflection on the previous year that may have been filled of accomplishments, blessings, challenges -for some good times for others bad times, resilience, adversity, tenacity, memories shared together with new friends, old friends …family, co-workers, neighbors. A New Year with a new focus on the potentially positive year ahead filled with wonder, curiosity, adventure and perhaps a brand new vision on how to lead and live daily.

Food enthusiasts and home cooks alike, you see, a New Year marks the beginning of discovering new dishes and flavors while continuing to mix ingredients, trying diversified dishes, combining textures and flavors and using the five senses to connect a particular scent linked with a memory or moment in time.

All over the world, you will find different cultures eating and recognizing traditions through a particular food and/or dish that uniquely symbolize Good Luck in the New Year. From USA to Japan, many countries have a dish that represents a story leading into the New Year!

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Homemade Lentils “Lenticchie” on New Years Day

Welcome, “Benvenuto” 2015. Today signifies a new, fresh start to the 365 days ahead. Although New Years is a celebration where often no “presents” and “gifts” are usually shared and exchanged, a “present” in an Italian-American home that is enjoyed on the First of January is one of my most memorable. The tradition of Lentils, “Lentichhie” which signify prosperity and abundance in the year ahead is a favorite family tradition of mine.  This celebratory meal is served warm as a hearty comfort dish. Although lentils can be prepared many different ways, I am a big fan of the lentils with carrots and celery while enjoying the brown small legumes that resemble a coin-like shape. Lentil soup recipes are often carried along from families to families over generations and as new generations try the recipes they may add their own twist on to the dish. Often times Lentils are served seconds after midnight leading into New Years Day but primarily on New Years Day accompanied with sausage, sometimes pork, or even a pork sausage. Lentils can be served with pasta, “pastina”, extra virgin olive oil, grated cheese (Romano, Parmesan … ) and of course several cloves of garlic, white onions and tomatoes (for best results, peel them so they are skinless for the soup!)

You can call it a New Years Day tradition filled with hope and cheer, you LUCKY LENTIL, you.

2015, may you be food-filled!

Peace, Love, Gelato,

Daniela



It’s not Christmas Eve without Baccala’ !

 

I always get sentimental around this time of year when talking to people about Christmas Eve stories and family food-filled traditions. For centuries, Italians and Italian – Americans have prepared the Seven Fish Dinner on Christmas Eve, December 24th. My family being one of them.

“The Vigil” or “La Viglia” which derives from Southern Italy is an Italian-American tradition (and celebration) on Christmas Eve.

“The table has always served as a symbol of togetherness, the place where we celebrate our loved ones through the generations – old tradition of sharing a meal.”

It is a time where everyone gathers together and shares “La Vigilia, The Seven Fish.” There are variations in theories as to where the Feast derived from especially in relation to the number 7 and what it represents.

 

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“Spaghetti alle Vongole” Spaghetti (often served with Linguine pasta with a red clam sauce)

 

Seven to this day is still my lucky number, I’m not certain if it has to do with “La Viglia” but it is also the day I was born, the 7th of December, “Il sette di dicembre.”

 

Italian-American homes on Christmas Eve are filled with fish aroma and hours of preparation in anticipation to serve seven different types of fish. Throughout the years, different households have grown in fish spectacular wonderland serving nine, ten, or even eleven various types of seafood and fish plates all served in light of the Seven Fish Dinner Celebration. The common thread is “La Viglia” represents togetherness, enjoying a meal together at a table with family and friends, savoring the Seven Fish. Conversation and stories shared. (No meat is generally served).

 

 

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Fish sole “sole meunière” Served alongside a Lemon wedge …

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Baked Stuffed Shrimp – A Bella Piccolina favorite!

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Anchovy, Onion, Red Pepper spread over a baked dough pizza…makes a delectable app!

 

Popular and Traditional Fish Dishes Include:

 

Baccala’, (salted cod) Baked Cod, Fried Smelts, Calamari (also a Rhode Island, Ocean State favorite and staple calamaRI!), deep fried cod, octopus salad, shrimp, seafood salad, fish sole “sole meunière”, fried eel, baked eel (which you may be surprised by baked eel however this is very common in many Italian homes), oyster shooters, scallops (deep fried or baked), Quahogs, Lobsters (boiled or broiled), Linguine with anchovy, tuna, crab, clam sauce (marinara sauce) … and the list is endless! Even clownfish! There are various ways to prepare, savor, serve and enjoy.

 

 

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Dry Salted Cod Fish – “salt-cured Baccala’ ” Mostly comes from the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland, where it is fished, salted and exported all over the world.

 

How To Prepare Baccalà:

 

  • When at the fish market or grocery store, select a piece of baccalà where the meat should be close to white and the skin light colored. Stay away from meat with a yellow tone.
  • If the fish is sold whole, buy a long, thick fish; it should be one-inch thick in the middle of the filet. Remove any fins if on the piece of fish. Skin should be left on.
  • This fish has been salted so will be dried out and salted when you buy it. The goal is to rehydrate it and make it tender, salty but not too salty.
  • Cut your baccalà into large pieces (chunks). This will help cook the fish better. It will appear tough to cut through – that is okay.
  • At least two days before, three is even better, begin soaking your salted baccalà in water (for at least 48 hours) this will rehydrate the fish and make it less salty. First wash the pieces thoroughly, eliminating all the salt on the surface, and then completely soak in a bowl or container that will hold a lot of water. It is wise to change the water three of four times a day. The baccalà should be kept in a cool place while it is soaking, you can refrigerate it, but it is not necessary. In old times, centuries ago, they would not not refrigerate it but store in a cool place.
  • Just before cooking, peel away the skin and remove any bones that appear.

 

Now go ahead and pick your lucky Seven for next year’s 2015 Christmas Eve and Have a Happy Baccalà! Fa La La La Laaaa !

 

Peace. Love. Gelato,

Daniela



You’ve heard it by now, Peace. Love. Gelato, but what does it mean?

So by now, you may have familiarized yourself with Bella Piccolina’s “pleasant sign-off’s” from each blog post. People have been asking me, where does  Bella Piccolina’s “Peace. Love. Gelato” signature come from ?

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I took this photo in Rome, Italy visiting a cafe while enjoying a cappuccino gelato. (Summer, 2012)

Around the holiday season, I feel more of a need to expand upon what “Peace, Love, Gelato” represents for readers to get a better understanding of Bella Piccolina’s Inspirational food blog. The holidays mean different things to people. Holidays are often filled with joy but often times people are beyond stressed with the heavy weight on their backs to check off their holiday shopping lists, get their shopping done while waiting in massive lines in overcrowded, overpriced stores while maintaining a balancing act with work load crammed in before vacation days arrive! Stockings are up, tree is lit up, there is still so much to do, it may seem impossible to do it all …. With just 9 more days until Christmas, sometimes you just have to stop and breathe.

I kindly ask you to remember when you are STRESSED the word STRESSED is DESSERTS spelled backwards, so I say, “bring it on sweet tooth.” Much of the stress of the holiday season, we may put upon ourselves. It takes a simple reminder to reflect on what the season is truly all about. There are some people who do not have much at all, others who have too much that they do not even know what to do with it all…..no matter what way you look at it, the life you choose to live and the energy you wish to put out there is a reflection of how you welcome the holiday season.

I hope it is sweet, like….gelato.

 I come from a very, very Italian background, both my parents are from Italy and I grew up eating meatball sandwiches for well, breakfast. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way! I fondly remember the Christmas season filled with “La Viglia” an Italian tradition, Seven Fish dinner along with my mother’s homemade ” Tirimisu ‘ ” (which means “pick me up” in Italian) and of course, who could forget jolly Saint Nick visiting each Christmas. My older (and much wiser!) sister and I leaving cookies (and carrots) out on the nightstand overnight as Santa would visit from the North Pole and …..the gifts….the best one of all though, the Gift to BELIEVE.

And BELIEVING not just on DECEMBER 24th EVE you see, but we also BELIEVE of another tradition that steams from the Italy side of the world. My family and I always celebrate and BELIEVE on January 5th EVE, “La Befana” the old Italian witch that visits children in Italy who have been good all year round with small gifts.

It is important for the reader to understand not only my passion for the industry of restaurants, restauranteurs, foodie culture and “food-spiration” but also to understand THREE simple Bella Piccolina reminders to guide you not only around this holiday season but ALL YEAR ROUND. I BELIEVE the energy one must feed themselves daily with positivity, resilience and a “I CAN ATTITUDE”… all comes from “Believing.” Yes, believing for some, may mean believing in the spirit of Christmas, to others believing in oneself while cooking in the kitchen,  but believing is also a universal gift of sharing what it means to believe in what brings you happiness leading you in the direction of your dreams, your own destiny. Believing in the exchange of ideas, sharing creativity, believing in one another.

THREE Bella Piccolina Reminders To Guide You Year Round:

 

PEACE.

This is what I wish for anyone who reads these posts. I hope that inspiration and light guide you daily. In such a fast paced, global, dynamic and ever-so-often changing “digital” world, I hope you can take a second and read these posts and become enlightened with true reflection. Maybe you come to visit Bella Piccolina in search of food-spiration, pick up a travel story or two or maybe a homemade recipe. Perhaps you “are young at heart”….I hope it takes you on a journey, an adventure and a break from your day-to-day. I hope it awakens your mind to think out-of-the-box while sparking creativity and inner zen!

I have had so many motivating, inspiring and influential persons in my life that I have been blessed to connect with. Finding Peace in the people around you, the community of friends and peace within oneself in the energy you put out into the universe is what makes the world rotate in a full, complete circle. I am a firm believer of the “Law of Attraction” as the book “THE SECRET” suggests. Attract the energy you wish to surround yourself with in this world. Although this is my personal opinion, the kinder you are to someone else, that same kindness will one day be yours. And who does not like a kind person in 2014? To me, if you are not being kind or making someone else’s life easier or better, then what is the point? Be kind to everyone you meet, you never know what someone else is experiencing, battling or going through and a simple smile or “hello” goes a long way to brighten someone else’s day. Bringing peace not only will make others feel good, but will make you more complete. Try it.

 

LOVE.

 

Love is a universal language. The more you share a smile, a kind word or compliment, a helpful hand to someone in great need, that is what it is all about. I show much of my love through the art of cooking and by creating dishes and making “good food.” My soul is food. I love when someone eats a meal of mine and smiles with satisfaction because it is not so much the meal but what the meal represents. It is not just food to feed the stomach and hungry but energy to feed the mind, body and soul. A shared conversation usually comes alongside all my meals and it is interaction and exchanging ideas and creativity that has really allowed me to be passionate about food and cooking. Making pasta is a “labor of love” …You have to love what you do, in order to really be successful at it. In order to create a masterpiece and make it your own you have to LOVE what you do and be all about it.  Name your own dish, mix colors, ingredients, flavors, textures and call it yours.

GELATO.

 

WHO DOESN’T LIKE GELATO? In all reality, Gelato is one of my favorite sweets when I visit and travel to Italy. “Cappuccino con panna” to be exact.

Gelato is my personal reminder of the variety there is in life. There are so many paths, which one to take? So many flavors, which one to choose?

Only you can decide which way to go. Do you want to create the world you choose to live in, or live in a world already created? It is your own destiny and only you can pick the flavor of your choice. Although so many choices, may it be a sweet life you choose to live. Bring on 2015 with lots of positivity and well, gelato (or sorbet, take your pick).

Remember, Stressed is Desserts spelled backwards.

Wishing you and those closest to you a very Happy and Healthy Holiday Season. Visit back soon, for my mom’s holiday Tirimisu’ recipe.

Peace, Love, Gelato,

Daniela



Lights, cheer, roasted chestnuts, Oh My!

Ever dream of a winter wonderland? A cozy house filled with delectable smells and good treats?

What is your favorite Holiday memory? Lights, Cheer, Gingerbread cookies, Ornaments, Christmas Trees…

 

For me, this season is about chestnuts and here is why …

 

Bella Piccolina writes for the  “kid at heart.”  One of my fondest memories of living in New York City was always observing the cheer around Christmas time,  this time of year especially brings out the ‘kid” in many of us  and the “magic to believe.” The spirit of giving, especially to those in need around the holidays is really what it is all about. The gift to inspire. To do a good deed. It is the time of year you wake up in the morning and just begin singing Holiday music or keep whistling the same holiday choruses and themes over and over again…..then do something else, then repeat the song or whistle!

 

New York City. Bliss. Buildings trapping ice cold air in between city street, I would walk street blocks passed street blocks and observe all the shopping window displays and bright streets all lite up. Families and friends getting their last minute shopping done, Grand Central Train Station on 42nd street completely packed with people eager to come in to the city for the “Big Apple” experience. Who could forget the giant Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center in Mid-town, streets pouring with tourists traveling from all over the world to experience NYC in the winter months. With so many activities to choose from like The Radio City Christmas Spectacular’s well-known Rockettes’ Dancers performance. How about ice skating in Bryant Park between 40-42nd and 6th & 7th Avenues with loud Christmas music echoing in the background from a guitarist doing his thing through music to make some holiday cash….hot cocoas at every street block cafe and people breathing in and out inhaling sweet “street nuts” near Union Square…so many enjoyable and remarkable moments to be had in the “City that Never Sleeps.”

 

chestnuts

NYC Street Roasted Chestnuts … Do you smell that goodness?

 

There is NOTHING more perfect at Christmas time than walking along Manhattan busy streets and come to a firm stop to ‘take it all in.’ What seemed directly in front of me but rather was miles away…..was the everlasting smell of roasted chestnuts. Words cannot describe this scent! If you have never inhaled roasted chestnuts, it is pure amazing-ness.  I remember my “nonno,”  grandfather in Italian, would sit at the table around the Christmas season, peel and then bake the chestnuts in the oven. The entire house would be warm with the roasted, smokey smell. Often times a scent, like the one I have from chestnuts, can take us back to a memory. It leaves us at a moment in time that seems like just yesterday and brings back so many beautiful childhood memories. “A kid at heart.”

It is not always about the food but what the food represents. It takes you on a journey back in time and that is why today, I still love the smell of roasted Chestnuts.

 When Selecting the right Chestnuts:

Chestnuts can be purchased at a grocery store. Be certain you know the difference between chestnuts. Water chestnuts are not the same as the dry chestnuts you roast that come from a tree. Water chestnuts come from the Aquadic plant.

 Directions on how to bake chestnuts in your oven …

                                                                  Bella Piccolina Tips:

Serving Size: 15-20 chestnuts

Heat your oven to 425 degrees F

Using a damp cloth, wipe down the chestnuts for any remaining excess that does not belong. Place the chestnuts on their “face up” onto the cutting board.

On each chestnut, take a small knife (a pairing knife) and make an X on each chestnut. This will allow all of the heat room to breathe. Be sure not to skip this step as it is critical to the chestnuts to not overheat and explode while in the oven.

Place the chestnuts in a baking pan so that they are facing upfront.

Place the chestnuts in the oven for about 25-28 minutes.

 

When are the chestnuts done roasting / baking in the oven?

 

Easy.

When the shell begins to lift itself and pop off, they are ready. The color should be a golden brown on the inside. If you overcook the chestnut, the inside will become hard and too tender. The chestnuts may still be warm from arriving out of the oven so use caution. You may notice as you are making the chestnuts the entire house may smell delectable, this is a good thing! Who needs scented candles anyways? 🙂

Bella Piccolina Tip:

When I make chestnuts I always make a few extra in the event a chestnut is too small after I crack open the shell, there needs to be plenty for everyone to try! Also in case a few do not crack open as easily.

With that in mind, I wish you all a very happy winter season and Happy Holidays! “

Keep grubbin’ …until next time” And remember , preparation and baking/roasting of chestnuts should always be done by an adult with a ‘kid at heart’ attitude!

Peace. Love. Gelato.

Daniela



Sunday means, Football in your house? Meatballs in Mine.

Sunday in my house means Meatballs…

Bella Piccolina Recipe for Sunday Meatballs

“Polpette” … MAKE THESE WHILE YOU WATCH THE GAME!  …

SERVING: 17-20 MEATBALLS

Est time: 1 HOUR 20 MINUTES

PREP TIME: 45 MINS

 

INGREDIENTS:

1.5 LB (1/2 VEAL, 1/2 PORK, 1/2 GROUND BEEF) BLEND

TEASPOON SALT (ADD MORE IF NEEDED)

2 EGGS (BEATEN WELL)

1/3 CUP OF MILK (INSTEAD OF WATER)

1 CUP PARMIGIANO GRATED CHEESE

1 CUP BREAD CRUMBS

1/4 PARSLEY FLAKES

2 CLOVES GARLIC (DICED, CHOPPED THIN)

TEASPOON GARLIC SALT

1 WHITE ONION (1/4 INCH CHOPPED IN SMALL CUBES)

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

BROWN GOLDEN RAISINS (OPTIONAL)

RED PEPPER FLAKES (OPTIONAL)

 

DIRECTIONS:

 

IN A FRYING PAN, COAT BOTTOM OF PAN IN OIL. BRING TO A HEAT. ADD THE WHITE ONIONS AND INTO THE HEATED PAN. ALLOW 5-6 MINUTES FOR ONIONS TO SWEAT. ADD THE GARLIC AND PINCH OF SALT FOR ABOUT 1-2 MINS. INHALE. SMELLS GOOD, RIGHT? 🙂

IN A ROUND BOWL, COMBINE THE MEAT, BEATEN EGGS, PARMIGIANO CHEESE, PARSLEY. USE YOUR HANDS FOR BEST RESULTS AND SQUISH TOGETHER THE INGREDIENTS. ADD A TEASPOON OF SALT, GARLIC SALT, AND THE SWEATED ONIONS AND GARLIC FROM THE FRYING PAN INTO THE MIX (MAY STILL BE HOT SO USE CAUTION). MIX WELL WITH HANDS AND ADD THE MILK AS MIXING WITH HANDS. MIXTURE SHOULD APPEAR MOIST AND WET.

 

PREHEAT OVEN TO 350 DEGREES F.

 

ON A CLEAN SURFACE, TAKE THE MIXTURE AND BEGIN TO ROLL THE MEATBALLS INTO THE BREADCRUMBS. THE BREADCRUMBS SHOULD STICK TO THE MEAT AND COVER ALL SIDES. I SUGGEST MAKING THEM THE SIZE OF A SMALL CLEMENTINE ORANGE OR GOLF BALL. ADD THE RAISINS (ABOUT 2 TO EACH BALL, RED PEPPER FLAKES – OPTIONAL). CONTINUE UNTIL YOU HAVE ABOUT 17-20 BALLS. PLACE ON A SHEET TRAY IN THE OVEN FOR ABOUT 15-20 MINUTES OR UNTIL COOKED ALL THE WAY THROUGH.

 

FOR BEST RESULTS, COMBINE THE MEATBALLS INTO A MARINARA SAUCE WHILE SAUCE IS COOKING (SLOWLY SIMMERING) ON THE STOVETOP ON LOW.

 

Peace. Love. Gelato.

Daniela

 

 

 

 

 

 



Travel to Italy without leaving RI, mark your calendars November 23rd!

Looking for a fun holiday themed family event? How about some basic Italian language and culture? How about some pasta making for the entire family to enjoy?

Join me next Sunday, 11/23  at the MEET YOUR MAKER holiday event at Hope and Main, Rhode Island’s first culinary business incubator!

Hope and Main helps local entrepreneurs jump-start early-stage food companies and food related businesses by providing low cost, low risk access to shared-use commercial kitchens and other industry-specific technical resources. (Hope and Main website, www.makefoodyourbusiness.com)

The event will take place from 1-5 p.m., and will feature dozens of specialty food products from Hope & Main member companies, as well as a number of community partners, for purchase or pre-order for the holidays!

Bella Piccolina invites you to come travel to Italy without leaving Rhode Island! Inviting family and friends to enjoy a Pasta Making Demonstration as I lead a cultural Pasta making cooking demo with chef helpers rocking BELLA PICCOLINA CHEF APPAREL ! Bella Piccolina’s Workshop Series is coming to Hope & Main (691 Main Street Warren, Rhode Island) come 2015 and I cannot wait to share the details with you and your “Piccolini” (little ones!) Gift Certificates for the January Pasta-making workshop series ‘Culture Through Food’ workshops will be available for purchase soon along with ‘Piccolini’ cooking apparel ! Hope & Main Products, Music and FUN for everyone! Pasta making with Bella Piccolina will take place at 1:30pm and 3:30pm (each Demo is aprox 45 mins in length) and Admission is FREE of charge for the event on 11/23.

‘Culture Through Food’ workshop series -stay tuned and be sure to check back under the “Workshops” tab for details! But in the mean time get ready for some international food knowledge, creativity through food art and cooking and food-spiration (positive inspiration for learning!) in the KIDCINA (‘cucina’ means kitchen in Italian)…More to come!

Check out the details below regarding featured Hope & Main Member businesses participating and details on parking to Hope and Main:

http://makefoodyourbusiness.org/2014/11/10/hope-main-invites-community-to-meet-your-maker-at-holiday-market-on-november-23/



Good Morning, Joe … coffee is making Monday morning more complicated ….

Hello, Monday Morning.

… this is for many, when the weekend has come to a serious halt and the reality of the work week is setting in. The grind of waking up in the morning is challenging along with the pressure of getting everything organized for the week, the start of a 7 day week. This is known to some as, ‘Monday blues.’

The positive spin on Monday? It is the beginning of a new week, an opportunity to start a week all over, a change to strategize a game plan …

Does this sound familiar? WAKE UP and SMELL the coffee! Now I for one have always jaw dropped over the smell of Lavazza or illy espresso when I get smacked in the face with it as I inhale when entering a coffee shop. And coffee shops, man…are they my favorite. My appreciation to Mr or Mrs Coffee Shop owner comes from the inspiration I get from sitting at a coffee shop, the people I meet, the conversations, the ambiance, for quaint “cuteness”in design and for the main attraction….C O F F E E …coffee shops allow me to be the closest to Europe without getting on a plane.

There are so many blends of coffee to choose from that at times it can get overwhelming for someone who may just want a simple plain coffee. The phrase  “A cup of Joe” seems to have gotten a serious upgrade and makeover! Monday morning is becomming much more complex, more than ever before with more choices for coffee drinkers.

Coffee lovers with diversified tastebuds have several choices ranging from….. Macchiato to Espresso….or is it eXpresso? Cafe? Cafe with an accent on the letter “e”? Cappuccino….(two p’s and two c’s), Mocha, Regular House blend Coffee, decaf…..Cortado, Sweetened, Unsweetened… “Cup of Joe” it was so much easier when it was just you and me.

So how do you choose? And how do you know what is in what? Stick with Bella Piccolina and below we will walk you through some coffee knowledge with a little Italian lesson on the side!

In ‘La Coffee Land’ you may find ….

The “Espresso” – Not to be mistaken with the common mispelling “eXpresso,” this is a small shot of caffeine – to get you going in the morning, usually about 30 ml.

The “Americano” – An Americano is for your folks who want to sip longer than what an espresso will provide your tastebuds. It is a shot of espresso about 30 ml with twice the amount of water at about 60ml.

The “Cappuccino” – Everyone loves ordering this one! A cappuccino should have equal parts (about 60 ml each) of espresso, steamed milk and foamed milk. Remember, two “P’s” and two “C’s” when spelling Cappuccino!

The “Latte” – This sounds familiar right? Maybe you heard it in Italy when locals refer to it also as “milk.” A latte is a  60 ml shot of espresso with about 300 ml steamed milk with about 2ml of foamed milk on the surface.

The “Mocha” – Are you craving sweetness fro those taste buds? Try a 60 ml of espresso, 60 ml of chocolate and 30 ml of steamed milk. Sweet tooth, please behave!

The “Cafe Au Lait” – This means “coffee with milk” in French. If brewed coffee is on your top three list of favorites, then Cafe Au Lait is probably also on there. It is essentially a cup of coffee– calling for warm, steamed milk instead of cold milk.

The “Shakerato” -This is usually found in Italy… these were my favorite to order when I was studying in Italy – especially in the hot summer months. I do not want to compare this to a “root beer float” but it does somewhat resemble one. There is not much to this beauty classic refreshing cold beverage, it is a shot of espresso poured over ice cubes and simple syrup, then shaken usually in a martini shaker. Not only did I love ordering these but I enjoy saying “Sha-ke-ra-to.” Shakerato is usually served in a champagne flute or martini flute for glassware.

The “Ristretto” – You want your espresso and you want it immediately. This is a very concentrated espresso shot, about 22 ml.

The “Doppio” – “Double in Italian” and that’s what you will get with espresso. A doppio gets you a 60 ml shot, you are probably expecting a 30 ml shot.

The “Macchiato” – You will get a shot of espresso with just a dot of foamed milk.

The “Noisette” –  The relative of the latte and macchiato. A large shot of espresso with half of that amount in hot milk.

Above is a list of coffees I enjoy with matching descriptions. Don’t get upset at “Cup of Joe,” after all, he is as simple as they get. The simple coffee is growing to be more complex in popularity and for this, there are certainly choices. But I for one, will stick to my ‘Cup of Joe’ on Monday mornings and welcome with arms wide open these coffee delights for a coffee shop experience 🙂

WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE!

 
Peace, Love, Gelato.
 
Daniela