October 31, 2010

No mom, don’t be scared! These are not the usual Halloween treats


We had Halloween parties on both Thursday and Friday at the school where I work. I have to admit that I’m not a bit Halloween fan myself, but with the kids…everything is different. The problem in doing the party at a school is the treats. There are kids with allergies, there are kids with weight problems, there are kids that are vegetarian or even vegan, and there are kids that simply have parents that do not want them to eat processed food or too many sweets. I do not disagree on any of these standings. I respect everybody’s choice in life in general and in how to raise kids and deal with their diet in this case.

The only issue is that with all these restrictions to comply with, what the heck CAN moms (dads) bring to school?! Of course, their kids will want to bring something but it is very hard to accommodate everybody’s dietary choice. On top of all this, there are moms (dads) that don’t find cookies and cupcakes decorating as easy as it is for many food bloggers I know! There are also moms (dads) that work full time and can’t afford the luxury of spending an entire afternoon baking goodies for their kid’s Halloween party. And finally, there are moms (dads) that simply can’t afford buying expensive treats (because let’s say it…many of these whole grain, organic, fresh, local - or whatever else denomination they might have – treats are sold in expensive store that not everybody can afford!).

I spent the whole week thinking about this and feeling bad for those moms (dads) that would simply want to make their kids go to school happy with a fun treat. I looked around on the blogsphere and all I could find were very sweet treats…adorable, cute, scary, spooky, everything you might want in a Halloween treat. But also very much covered in icing and/or containing ingredients prone to create allergies problems.

This is what I came out with: puff pastry cream cheese ghosts. You don’t need much money. You don’t need much time. You don’t need to be Martha Stewart to be able to make them. You just need frozen puff pastry, cream cheese at room temperature (so that it can be spread easily) and raisins to make eyes and mouth (if you don’t have calories issue you could make eyes and mouth by piping some melted chocolate).

I let the puff pastry defrost for a few hours in the fridge and I rolled it out pretty thin. Then the only thing I did was to cut out a little ghost shape from parchment paper that I used to cut out the puff pastry of the right shape. After baking the puff pastry, I let it cool down and then I spread the cream cheese and decorated with raisins.

I have to admit they were a pretty sweet treat even if not covered with a thick layer of icing. And again, if you don’t have calories restrictions you could always make a sweeter version by pouring melted white chocolate on the puff pastry instead of spreading the cream cheese.

Have a sweet Halloween!

October 30, 2010

Photography crisis and the best sweet pastry crust I’ve ever tried


I have been drooling over the gallettes that Jean @Lemons and Anchovies posted about a couple of weeks ago. They looked so perfect! And when I read “This crust was flaky but not greasy and was quite enjoyable to eat even without the filling…” I knew I had to try it. And I’m so glad I did. There is only one way to define this pâte sucrée: THE BEST. It tastes amazing and it’s super easy to make. I’m famous for being able to fail fool-proof recipes but this one is really Sara-proof. So, come on, give it a try! If I succeeded, anybody will!

October 27, 2010

I believe I can fry….thanks to the October Daring Bakers Challenge!


Donuts! One simple word, two feelings.

  1. I love them! I really love donuts! Every single donut: cake donuts, yeast donuts, filled donuts (we call them bomboloni in Italy, or Krapfen, the German name). I just love them all. But I don’t exaggerate with them. I never go crazy eating 3 donuts (well, I did a couple of times in my life - such as when I went to Woodoo Doughnuts in Portland - but honestly who didn’t?!). I usually behave like a good girl…I have them seldomly and, thus, when I have them, I do so without guilt.
  2. I am (was) afraid of frying. Yeah, you heard me. I was terrified at the idea of a pot with hot oil in front of me and anything splashing in it. I’ve tried to make French fries a couple of times and my experience has always ended with burnt-outside-uncooked-inside French fries or with super duper greasy ones that tasted nothing but the oil. This fear of frying always meant I could not make neither all those yummy Carnival sweets we have in Italy nor donuts.

October 23, 2010

Two celebrations, two flavors: Wine and Chocolate Cake


Our two-month crazy period has finally ended! At least for a month ahead, no more trips out of town, no more weddings, gigs, big events that require driving 6 hours straight, flying or staying away for sleepless weekends. We are home!

October 21, 2010

They’ve got me…not once but twice!

OK…so this is a non-food post. Yes, you know that sometimes this happens, even at CaffeIna! The fact is that I’ve been tagged. And not only once, but twice. Phew! How many questions to answer. But I can’t escape this and for two good reasons. First of all, the two bloggers who tagged me are two of the bloggers I’ve been following and loving since the very beginning of CaffeIna’s adventures. I consider them my friends as if they were people I hang out with in a coffee shop every day, even though we never met! The second reason is that their questions were just so intriguing that I knew that answering them was going to be a lot of fun.

So here it goes. The first set of questions comes from Christiane @The Mom Chef.

1. What's the best live event (concert, comedian, etc.) that you've ever attended and when/why?
Can I be honest with you? The best live events are Wally’s shows (Wally is my husband, for those who are new to my blog). He is the leader of and plays with a (very weird for many of you) great band (miRthkon). I’m his fan number one and I love the fact that he always looks for me in the crowd to wink at me J When I was a teenager, I always dreamed of having a musician as partner…for me it’s like a cool dream come true. But no, he does not write songs inspired by me…really, his music is way too weird! I don’t even think I would want those songs to be inspired by me hehe

2. If you were given the opportunity to cook alongside any one professional chef, who would it be?
Ok, here is the shocking truth: I do not watch any food reality show and I do not really follow any big name. I always had an aversion towards having “idols”, of any sort. I never had posters of my favorite musician on the wall (I just dreamed about marrying him J) and now as a grown up I just do not “fan” any big name. If I could, I would rather want a chance to cook together with my favorite bloggers!

3.  When you were growing up, what did you want to be? Are you doing that? If not, what?
I was never a wannabe ballerina girl! But I sure had a clear idea in my mind: I wanted to travel the world! Up until my teenager years I thought of doing that as a tourist guide or a travel agent. Eventually I grow up and I started to become more aware of social and political issues and started instead a career in international development. I am not doing any of these things now. As many of you know, I am now a pre-school teacher and I think it’s the best (and most tiring!) job I’ve ever had!

4. If your house was on fire, what one item would you grab from the kitchen to save?
The scones I just baked! Seriously, I don’t have any fancy equipment in my kitchen and there is nothing that cannot be replaced. I’m not a very materialistic person. Instead, if my house gets on fire I will probably have to spend several hours outside waiting for the firefighters to put out the fire and I will be very sad….I will need something to cheer myself up. So, scones it is!

5.  Coke or Pepsi?
Diet coke, no doubt. But let me put one thing straight. I HATE HATE HATE corn syrup. So, in Italy I always want Coke but here in the US I just cannot stand the terrible back taste left by corn syrup (unless it’s Mexican coke!) and so I go for Diet Coke.

6. How many years have you been friends with the person you've known the longest?
30 years. My very first best friend in Italy was born only 4 months before me, lived two blocks down the street and came to my same pre-school since age 3. That’s when our friendship started (yeah, you’ve done the math well, I’m 33 now)

7. What food dish do you consider the most daunting and have not yet gotten up the courage to attempt it yet?
Oh gosh, sooooo many! But if I had to choose I would say any fried seafood-based dish. I’m terrified at frying and I don’t deal well with fish. I’m always scared I’m not cooking it thoroughly (man, I love it though!)

8. If you were an animal, what would you be?
Any need to ask? A hippo, of course!! And please, don’t tell me they are mean animals. I so don’t care. They are just too cute and they have a gigantic adorable butt! And btw, did you know that hippos let a lot of river and ponds fishes feed themselves with the insects that constantly populate the hippo’s thick skin? See, deep inside, they are good-hearted!

And now, let’s come to the other set of questions. Kate @Kate’s kitchen dared asking me the following ones.

1. What is your favorite food? I know…I know…you all know me for my sweet tooth. But if I have to pick one food that I could never never never get tired of eating, that’s pizza. Good pizza, of course!

2. If you could star in a foodtv show, what would it be about?
Uhm…I think I have to refer to my answer #2 above: I do not watch any food related tv show so I really do not know how to choose L

3. What is your favorite season and why?
Oh gosh this is a hard one. I’m a lover of the four seasons altogether! Each and every season has something unique to offer: flavors, colors, activities…if I really have to pick one I would say spring. Spring is the time of Nature rebirth and, I believe, also of human souls and body rebirth. I love the idea that fresh fruits and vegetables are going to come back in season after the cold, dark days of the winter. I love the flowers blooming and I love how the recipes become all a bit lighter.

4. If you could save one thing from your kitchen, what would it be? Opsie, again, you should refer to my answer #6 above.

5. What is the one place you've not visited that you'd most like to visit?
Latin America, and in particular Argentina. Oh, the tango, the great food, the cool people. What is there not to love about it!

6. What and where was your most memorable meal? On my first date with Wally, he “dared” bringing me to Lo Cocos, an Italian restaurant in Oakland, claiming it had an amazing pizza. In fact, it does! The meal was not memorable just for the pizza though but for the great time I had with a guy I met 3 hours before and that now is my husband.

7. How many places have you lived and which was your favorite?
I lived in 7 different countries but I left my heart in Mexico City. I know, many people hates it, other loves it. I’m among the latter.

8. What got you to start blogging?
Last March I found myself having a lot of free time for the first time after many years. I dropped out of my PhD studies in January and I could not work yet because I was waiting for my green card. I already loved baking and was doing so very often. My husband suggested me to start a blog. And so I did. I know, it’s not a very original story but that’s how it went.

Now, I know I am supposed to make up 8 questions myself and tag other bloggers but I need time to think about the questions (and the bloggers that might be available to answer those questions) and in the meantime I want to post these long overdue answers. So, I’ll get back to you guys with questions later on!

Have a sweet day!

October 17, 2010

When the fall is in the air, think Grape Cake


Reading through the hundreds of blogs I usually read every week (yes, although I don’t comment to every single post, I read many of you guys!), these days I see apples, cinnamon, and pumpkins everywhere. Everybody is very much focused on the start of the autumn. I am too somehow, even though in the Bay Area it really doesn’t seem fall these days.

October 11, 2010

When you are having a bad day...play with your favorite animal


Today I suffered a momentarily (I hope) blog depression. These are the symptoms: you look at your blog and you don't like it; you even start asking yourself why on earth are you spending your free time on this; you are stuck and have no idea in which direction to move to improve it; you want to take action but you feel uninspired.

This was definitely a day of bad moods between me and my blog. Oh well, it happens, from time to time. I'm sure to everybody. I had to react. So I decided to play a little bit with my favorite animal.

No, I am not talking about my daily pet therapy with the kitties. I love them dearly but cat is not my favorite animal.

Now, did you get what my favorite animal is or is it only my distorted mind that sees it?

Yeeees, it's a hippo. Now I can add a few more to my home hippo collection :)

Btw, the recipe is from Elra's baking, who adapted it from "Your Place Or Mine? 

"Cooking at Home with Restaurant Style, by: Jean-Christophe Novelli. I really did not change it and I think you should read her instruction if you are using a mixer (as always, I did it by hand.) Check out the recipe here! The only change I made is that I used a milk and honey glaze instead of the egg wash.

Have a sweet day!

October 10, 2010

Cashew White Chocolate Cookies


The other day I went grocery shopping and I bought cashews. Dangerous. Very dangerous!

October 09, 2010

Maple glazed coffee cake for my first baking experience in the new home!


I’m done! With many things!

To begin with, I’m done with the moving. Well, not that we have finished unpacking but I did open all the kitchen-labeled boxes (and those are the important ones, right?). Also, I’m done with the Project Food Blog Competition. Yep, I’m out. And I have to admit I have mixed feeling about it. On one side, I can’t deny I’m a bit bummed! Well, of course I thought I deserved to be proclaimed the next food bloggers’ star J

October 04, 2010

Voting is open for Challenge #3 of the Project Food Blog Competition!


Ciao a tutti!

I'm sorry for my absence these days! As you all know, I'm moving tomorrow (actually right now!) and I have very little time to spare...let aside the fact that all my baking stuff is packed (sigh!). I am taking the time to read as many entries for the the third challenge of the Food Blog Competition as I can. I have to say, I have seen some amazing posts! So, what are you waiting for? Voting is open until Thursday. Go through the 200 posts, drool and vote!

If you want to check again my entry, follow this link. As always, if you want to vote for me you can follow the link from the home page of my blog or through this link at the Foodbuzz competition page. 

Good luck to everybody and see you back once I'm done unpacking (of course I will start with the kitchen boxes!)

Have a sweet day

October 02, 2010

Welcome to my luxurious...ehm...rustic dinner party: project food blog challenge #3

I still can’t believe it! I made it to the third challenge. Surprise and happiness were overwhelming when I read “advanced” on my profile picture of the Project Food Blog competition page. And then, fear kicked in. I really have to write the third challenge now. Opsie. That’s how the challenge prompt reads:

“Celebrate! You've made it this far, and the next challenge is to hold a party for your friends and family (at least four guests). Whether you're an experienced host or an entertaining newbie, get creative and host a luxurious dinner party where your guests will discover new tastes and exotic flavors. Share your hosting secrets with readers, like how to cook for a crowd, plan a menu, or involve guests in the prep. And don't forget to document the party with pictures of the table spread, food, and guests.