HAPPY NEW YEAR And A WORD FROM RUDYARD KIPLING

To my friend Josephine, I will add my words. It is true, on Dec. 31 we celebrate the death of one year and the birth of a new one and we celebrate it with food. Food feeds the soul and brings people together. In this new year, please bring good food into your life and not diets, “good food to put you in the mood” as Josephine says.

In this end of the year, don’t forget to wear something RED and to make a wish at midnight, it will be the one to come true.
Thank you all for reading me and for sharing your life’s experiences with me. It’s a load of fun and learning. Happy New Year, wishing you all a splendid 2014.
Valentina

Happy New Year

My Home Food That's Amore

The hour is drawing nigh here in Italy … girls and boys are dressing up and looking forward to a roaring “vigilia” (eve); a lot of them wearing red underwear for good luck and some of them already brandishing what will be very noisy New Year’s crackers (“i botti”) and/or fireworks that are so frowned upon because they can be dangerous and because they frighten dogs.  I remember when my father and my uncle used to draw out a hunting gun (sorry, I can’t remember what brand it was) and shoot a few rounds after midnight (yes! from the balcony of an apartment in the middle of a town!) and we all thought this jolly good fun.  All that incredible overwhelming display of emotion via boom boom boom extremely loud crack crack crack ta ta ta ta ta noise.  There is something orgiastic about New Year’s eve and we shouldn’t…

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Golden Secret Of Exotic Pineapple | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Pineapple Sliceshttps://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/canned-pineapple-slices_245799055.html

Grocery stores fill up on pineapples, this sweet fruit, mostly in December, as it is very much associated with Christmas holiday’s food, but knowing the good properties of pineapple we should be eating it all year around.
Pineapple is a good aid for digestion. Bromelain is a particular substance or an enzyme that breaks down proteins reducing them to amino acids and thus promoting their elimination. Bromelain is also used as a meat tenderizer.
Where in the pineapple is bromelain, this good property, located? Right in the center of fruit, just that part we always discard.

Numerous are the beneficial influences of a pineapple. The fruit purifies and detoxifies, thus functions as a diuretic. It prevents cellulite and for those who need to release a few pounds, would not hurt to eat pineapples only a couple of days a week, skipping other food. This practice prevents the accumulation of fat, deflates the stomach and allows losing pounds quickly without damaging the health. Do not overdo, one or twice a week is more than sufficient.

(photo below found on: http://indigena-grupo.blogspot.com/2010/06/tupi-guarani.html)

Indio GuaranoThe Guarani Indio, ethnic indigenous of the Americas from Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay and the south-central part of Brazil, called pineapple “Ananas” in their language. In my Italian language and most European languages it is called the same. I am sure when Christopher Columbus came to the new world, found the Ananas an irresistible fruit to leave behind, thus filled up his ships and took it back to Renaissance Europe, devoid of any kind of sweets, including fruit.

As a symbol of prosperity, success in work/business and as the family social status it is often found in kitchen decorations, plates and carvings; as a symbol of hospitality is often found as a carving on entry doors and bedrooms’ bedposts or headboard. In Europe, at the end of a dinner, fresh pineapple is served as a dessert, but what else can we do with this exotic fruit?

In my book: Sins Of A Queen, http://tinyurl.com/9agl5v9 , I have included one recipe of grilled chicken and grilled pineapple triangles served together in half pineapple shell, where the one half shell per person is the plate. Fun and delicious!

On my Pinterest board I find inspirations from other pinners.
This really was a good one.  A look-alike pineapple with a creamy spreadable cheese.
(Photo below found on: http://picmia.com/974282-pineapple-cream-cheese-spreadgreat-idea-for-a-luau-party)

pineapple-cream-cheese-spread

I served mine with a small variation:
on a large marble tile, I placed a mountain of cream cheese (any of your liking) covered with toasted almonds, surrounded with steamed and marinated broccoli in a simple oil and lemon citronette, accompanied with warm crostini.

I found another solution: a fun way to decorate the center table with a pineapple turned into a lantern. Dry the interior of the shell completed before adding a candle, just for your own safety.

Pineapple Lantern

(Photo above: viapin4fun5135.blogspot.com)

Fruit is really good grilled, poached, fresh, baked, or drunken in any type of alcohol. Get into the habit of serving it as dessert or appetizer. Ciao,
Valentina
 http://www.Valentinadesigns.com 

 

Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

ValentinaXmas

Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens, cooking and extensive knowledge of food. She loves to remodel homes and loves to turn unattractive spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms and entertainment rooms. 
Check out her three books on

Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0

Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

 

Roll In The Cheese | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Hello everyone,
I am back after one month of vacation and preparation of the launch for my book #3 , just published last weekend.

(Find cheese utensils at: MyHabit.com)
(Find cheese markers at http://www.napastyle.com/home.jsp)

It is so vivid in my mind how many times I have eaten cheeses at the end of each lunch and dinner in this last trip back home to Europe.
Europeans eat cheese with ease because they walk a lot, thus burn those calorie day by day. Cheese is not seen as something to entertain with, but something to enjoy everyday with a glass of wine.
In Europe we serve it without any pretense, we take cheese out of the refrigerator while we are preparing dinner and we leave it on the counter at room temperature to bring out the full bloom of each taste. The same is valid when serving cheeses at parties.

(Find cheese pots and boards at: MyHabit.com)
Many serving utensils are part of the ritual of putting cheese on the table, from knives, cleavers, marker signs to fondue pots, raclette grill and cheese cart.
There is nothing sophisticated about serving plain cheese. It comes from the milk of an animal and often is kept in rustic stone cellars, or left to ferment for months.
I can’t wait to have a bunch of boisterous friends sitting around a fondue pot tasting the latest cheese I brought from Europe. I have a Canestrato Pugliese, aged in caves for a year, with a hard rind and dark yellow interior color.  The mature version is savory and aromatic. Best paired with a red Primitivo from Manduria, a wine with a lot of round body.

The vessels needed to serve any cheese are slate stones, wooden boards, marble slabs, or clay platters, the rougher the better. It is good to mark each cheese with the proper marker fork to distinguish goat cheese from cow or sheep milk products and in the absence of these small markers, a hand-written tag placed near each specialty will suffice. The basic cutlery is simple: a cleaver and a semi-heart shaped knife will cut hard and semi-hard cheeses; a thin blade knife will cut a semi-soft cheeses and a round knife will be the spreader for soft cheeses; a shaver will help shaving the cheese, although this utensil is more used at the table to shave a hard cheese directly over the plate. If you want to get fancy and make a good presentation add grape scissors to all cheese cutleries.
One of my favorite cutters is the Swiss scraper “Girolle” used with “Tête de Moine” or Monk’s Head, a cheese from switzerland. The Girolle will shave the “Tête de Moine” cheese in small florettes, or ruffles. It is an expensive cheese, but it is worth it.

(Photo above found on: http://cookingguide101.blogspot.com/2010/12/tete-de-moine-cheese-real-gourmet-swiss.html)

I have seen cheese paired with jelly, grapes, edible flowers or other extravagant food. My favorite accompaniments are raw celery or fennel slivers, olives, nuts, or chicory heads to cut the sharp smell and balance the flavors. Don’t be afraid of serving smelly cheeses. The fermented cheeses at the end of a dinner are good to help the digestion. If you add truffle sliced paper-thin over any soft cheese, mamma mia, what a kick in flavor and in the presentation!

Stores are filling up with all kinds of food and table accessories. This is the right time to get some of these fun utensils and make your food look really good for the holidays.
Once they are in your kitchen repertoire, you will find that it is easier to treat yourself everyday, rather than waiting for the holiday to roll around to use them again.

Cheeses are a good source of calcium and protein. Don’t be afraid of having small bites everyday. Visit my Pinterest board for food inspiration – http://www.pinterest.com/vcvalentina/food-with-character
Ciao,
Valentina
http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved


Valentina Cirasola has been a lifetime designer in fashion and interiors. Her extensive knowledge of colors and materials led her in both directions successfully. Besides her regular work, Valentina is now teaching etiquette, table manners, table setting and life-style. Her deep interest in food led her as an autodidact in the studies of food in history, natural remedies, nutrition and well-being, then finally she wrote two books on Italian regional cuisine and one book on the subject of colors. Find Valentina’s three books on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

 

Christmas Markets Under The Stars | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Today December 8th the Catholic world celebrates the Virgin Mary Immaculate Conception marking the official opening of the Christmas holidays. The Catholic dogma believes the name Immaculate (pure, the purest of the angels, innocent) was given to Mary when the angels announced to her that she to had been chosen to become the mother of Jesus through the Holy Spirit without any human contact. Up to that moment, Mary lived a life without any original sin, nor mortal or venial sins, thus she had that special privilege to become the mother of Jesus.
The celebration of Mary Immaculate Conception was introduced in the Roman calendar in 1476  and since then Christmas holidays start with this celebration in anticipation of the birth of Jesus. On this day Catholics are expected to fasten for the entire day until the evening. Around 7:00 pm they can sit down and have a really scrumptious meal with different kinds of meats, panzerotti, some stuffed pasta like tortellini or ravioli, fried or cooked vegetables, but mostly rich filling food, good wines and typical Christmas sweets.

On this day, most of all the cities in Italy and Catholic Europe will have an area of the city designated to Christmas street markets. The market will be open for business all day and all night until midnight or 1:00 am, every day until Christmas Eve and in some cities the market will reopen after the first of January for a few days until the Epiphany. Giving Christmas gift to kids is a fairly new custom. Up until twenty years ago, more or less, kids received their gifts the night of Epiphany, January sixth. For Christmas they would get some new clothes and special home-made sweets. The adults celebrated with special food, special wines consumed with family and friends. Christmas was for kids only.

At the street markets, especially at night with all the flickering lights, the atmosphere is very Christmassy and sweet. It is December after all, the air is fizzy and cold, perfect for hot cocoa or warm brandy. Women are bundled up in fur coats and boots, kids are wrapped in woolly scarves, hats and heavy clothes looking like petit Michelin men. Some vendors’ kiosks are filled with curious arts and craft, some have specialties food and some sell Christmas delicacy or sweets. There are music and street musicians playing their favorite instrument, but what will catch your eyes is the willingness of people to leave computers and TV’s at home and come out in the streets to enjoy the evening with their kids, kids’ friends, families, to  meet people they have never seen before and to shop at small artisans, where they can find unique gifts. I also noticed the gentleness of people in this time of the year. It is kind of puzzling to me why some people are only nice at Christmas time.

Here in the States, I have seen and experienced many different kinds of Christmas celebrations, but I have never seen a nighttime Christmas market. The closest I got to this idea last week was the market organized in the courtyard of the International German School in my area. I was the only author in a kiosk with books for sale, all others kiosks displayed hand-made art and craft items, jewelry, pottery, ceramics and German food. It was an enjoyable evening, despite of the cold wing and my frozen feet. Kids gathered on stage to sing so graciously Christmas carols in German language, the adults instead played modern rock and roll music.

Both of my books sold well that evening, my easy and healthy recipes from Puglia, my home land of Italy, will delight people’s tables this holiday season and will make a nice addition to their Christmas specialties. Both books are available here in this site on the Books page and on Amazon.
Just in case you are in a bind and need my help in decorating your holiday table, just leave your name in the box, I will answer in 24 hours time and I will be delighted to help you. Ciao,
Valentina

www.Valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2011 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Red Fascinator copyValentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking. She especially loves to design all those rooms with a “make me feel good” tag attached, such as kitchens and wine grottos, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms and entertainment rooms. She is a public speaker and a mentor. She is also the author of two Italian regional cuisine books and she the author of the forthcoming book ©RED-A Voyage Into Colors on the subject of Colors, due to be published very soon. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lnq8baaAq0M

Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

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