Easy Peasy Homemade Green Almond Liqueur – UPDATED

Green Almond Liqueur is a whole new kind of awesome with an aromatic but bittersweet flavor! I will show you how easy it is to prepare this liqueur with unripe almonds.

Apr 16 2017 – Wishing you all a very Happy Easter Day! For those of who you do celebrate, hopefully you are surrounded by family at a splendid dinner table. Easter also means Lent is over, if you observed it. In honor of being allowed to bring back a few nice vices into your routine, I offer you a naughty recipe to wake up the bootlegger in you with a homemade Green Almond Liqueur.

Update: May 22 2017 -It has been 6 weeks and the liqueur is now bottled – NEW VIDEO below!

green almond liqueur

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Pesto Bianco with Elderflower

Creative pestos are so in right now and we think they are new variants off one “real” pesto recipe. But the truth is there are hundreds of traditional pesto recipes in Italy alone. Pesto Bianco is one of them, made of walnuts, olive oil and ricotta. Inspired by the movie I Am Love, I added a touch of Elderflower flower syrup to mine.

It’s Food ‘n Flix time again! In this monthly group a host picks a movie of their choice that pertains to food. Everyone watches the movie and then makes a recipe which the film inspired. It can be any recipe you want. This month’s pick is hosted by me, here is my announcement post, and I picked an Italian movie called I Am Love. I found my inspiration in the vast palate of Italian dishes, pesto, with a touch of a flower syrup mentioned in the movie, which I just purchased on my trip to Austria. I give you Pesto Bianco with Elderflower.

Pesto Bianco with Elderflower

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Mint Basil Pistachio Pesto

Do you grow herbs in your garden? I do but I cook a lot less in the summer so I end up with more herbs than I can handle! A great way to use up a bunch of herbs in one shot is by making a pesto. And let me tell you food blogs are all about pesto right now! I am so amazed by the creativity and variety of pesto out there.

I combined a few recipes to make my own version. I live in a highrise and I have sun only after 3 pm. It can be a challenge for herbs to grow in abundance but mint it never an issue. So of course my pesto with be mint heavy. Check out my Mint Basil Pistachio Pesto recipe.

Mint Basil Pistachio Pesto

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Ariosto Italian Seasoning

I enjoying writing the occasional product review because it give me an chance to try foods or spices I would probably never discover otherwise. Often the items I get are not even available in Canada yet which is kind of funny. Most companies who contact me are located in the US even if the item is prepared on another continent. But this time it was an international company that sought me out directly…really cool. I received an email by the Ariosto company which is located in Italy. Ariosto seasonings, apparently one of the top selling spice brands in Italy, have been harnessing their craft for over 47 years.

Ah Italy, it is one of those countries that influenced me the most in my travels. If I could just pick up and go I would be looking for the best holiday deals right now and fly off to to this enchanting country.

Ξ  Tomato and Meat sauce Ξ

7gr tomato based pasta sauces
1 tbsp olive oil
1 17oz can of tomatoes, whole
1 pd ground beef

In a skillet heat olive oil and spices together for a minute until fragrant. Add ground beef and brown meat well until there is no more pink. Add canned tomatoes, bring to a boil, lower heat and let simmer 20 min. Serve over pasta and sprinkle some freshly shaved Parmesan.

The flavor of the sauce was simple but good. I modified the suggested recipe of 1/4 pd of beef because I like my sauce meaty, and oh boy it was. Happy carnivore.

There are several mixes of the Italian seasoning spices to choose from. I tested the following:

  • Seasoning for tomato based pasta sauces: salt, garlic, basil, onion, carrot, parsley, leek, laurel, mint, caper.
  • Seasoning for roasted and fried potatoes: Salt, garlic, rosemary, sage, juniper, basil, marjoram, oregano, laurel, coriander, parsley.
  • Seasoning for roasted meats grilled chicken: Salt, rosemary, garlic, sage, juniper, laurel, oregano, thyme, marjoram, basil.
  • Also available seasoning for oven cooked or Barbequed Fish, Garlic and dry chilli, and for stewed Meat.

The potato seasoning was really excellent and flavorful. I par boiled the potatoes and fried them in a pan with lots of butter. The meat mix I used with a mild sausage that I removed from the casing and browned in a skillet with tons of sliced leeks. I found the sausage mix over salted but I may have used to much seasoning.

Cinque Terre Memories and a 5 Star Pizza Perfect for a Youth Hostel Kitchen Meal

Quick announcement, my article Reviewing Restaurants – You Be The Critic was published today on the Food Bloggers of Canada site. Please go visit the site after reading this post.

I am sitting here on my couch leafing through the 2 photo albums from my fist backpacking trip though Europe. What a trip it was! It was 1996, I was 22 and I left my mom and dad for my first independent trip where I traveled through 9 countries and 25 cities in 60 days all by myself. It was a whirlwind trip as I did not want to miss a single thing just in case I never got to make it back to Europe. Digital cameras were a new thing back then hence the actual photo albums….I scanned a few pics for you.

This was years before the food blog, the food group or even really realizing my passion for food. But I knew I liked to eat and I was thrilled at the prospect of trying so many new specialties. It was my formative years in ethnic food. Budget was the first priority and before anyone would go spend the day sightseeing we had a few basics that needed to be settled, cheaply: food and shelter. Shelter as usually covered with a Youth Hostel and food took on many forms like sandwiches, pastries, going off the tourist path for a local cheaper joint and the occasional Youth Hostel kitchen.

This was years before the food blog, the food group or even really realizing my passion for food. But I knew I liked to eat and I was thrilled at the prospect of trying so many new specialties. It was my formative years in ethnic food. Budget was the first priority and before anyone would go spend the day sightseeing we had a few basics that needed to be settled, cheaply: food and shelter. Shelter as usually covered with a Youth Hostel and food took on many forms like sandwiches, pastries, going off the tourist path for a local cheaper joint and the occasional Youth Hostel kitchen.

When I was contacted by HostelBookers.com to submit a recipe for the Backpackers Recipe Guide, wow I was flooded by so many memories. This cookbook will be sent out to 20,000 youth hostels worldwide with a selection of cheap, easy and delicious recipes a traveler can cook in a youth hostel kitchen. How exciting it would be to have my recipe in there.

The village of Manarola

I have had my fare share of Youth Hostel meals and they were always fun and communal. There is one meal in particular that really stands out in my catalog of memories. And not just that meal but that destination, that youth hostel and the people I met there! It’s a doozy of a story so sit down and get comfy as I take you back 15 years (yikes), in early October, to a little town called Riomaggiore located in Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera. Its a long post and story but I swear you will be thoroughly entertained!

The cool guide to travel with at that time was Rick Steves Europe Through the Back Door. Do you remember his show on PBS? His travel show took you through the unknown, the cheap, the secret treasures that you did not find in regular travel guides. It was a great book to find cheap accommodation with sometimes quirky descriptions. And in those days Rick Steves was the only guy talking about Cinque Terre, a rugged stretch of the Italian Riviera composed of 5 villages:  Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.

Ξ Pesto and Mushroom Pizza Ξ

Ingredients:

  • 12 inch pizza crust
  • ½ cup pesto
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 5 oz ( 150 gr) firm tofu, cubed
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F /180 C.
  2. Place the pizza crust on a lightly oiled baking sheet (or aluminum paper).
  3. Spread the pesto on the crust leaving a clear edge on the crust.
  4. Top with mushrooms, tofu and the cheese.
  5. Bake the pizza for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Makes 6 slices.

I served this pizza for a potluck this weekend and it got rave reviews. This is truly one of the most flavorful pizzas I have ever made and it is so easy to make. Because of the tofu and the good amount of mushrooms, a couple of slices constitute a balanced quick meal. You do not need a lot of utensils besides a spoon, a knife and a baking sheet or aluminum paper. But my favorite part of this recipe is that it will satisfy both vegetarians and carnivores in one dish, not a claim many recipes can make. And who does not like Italian Pizza?

Back then there was only one option for cheap lodging and it was listed in the guide book: Mama Rosa’s Hostel in Riomaggiore. The guide said Mama Rosa met every train that arrived to round up the backpackers. The guide also said she ran her modest hostel with her son Sylvio. Although I doubted she would actually be at the train station a fairytale setting did start forming in my head of this private non touristy stop with Mama Rosa, the vineyards and her hot Italian son. That image got shattered real fast.

Oh yes Mama Rosa was at the train station. Try to imagine a 50 year old woman wearing a bright Barbie pink full jump suit with a bad light blond hair dye job waving her hands like all Italian mothers should announcing loudly:(say it with emphasis) MAAAma ROOOSaaaaaa, MAAAma ROOOSaaaaaa! I picked up my jaw off the Cinque Terre terre and followed her to the Hostel. What a dump! Some online reviews call it a slum and a notorious place. But what was I going to do!  I was there, it was cheap and I was in an isolated part of Italy.

Cactus pears, Mama Rosa's kitchen and outdoor bathroom

The set up was rudimentary at best, I remember the roof of my room was a corrugated roof – it rained and it made that unavoidable musical noise you hear in movies. And the outdoor bathroom was perfectly visible to the people living in the houses above that flank of the mountain, as in they could have seen us on the toilet! The common area was the basic kitchen with a long table.

And when you thought you saw the worst of it, Sylvio teh son made his appearance: carrying a bucket of dirty water the imaginary hot Italian son was actually an ugly and toothless middle-aged bachelor in tattered clothes. As stupid and vain as it may sound I was in shock. And I was not alone as I confirmed with all the girls I met there that we had all imagined Sylvio up into an Italian Stallion. NOT!

Thank god when you are traveling like a backpacker you can put all these things aside and go with the flow. Because you know what? This was one of the most memorable and enjoyable stops on my trip in the end. I met quite a few really delightful travelers there – all with a copy of Rick Steves Europe Through the Back Door under their arm.

My first friend was a tall German guy who was also at the train station. It was late afternoon when we got in so not much to do except explore the tiny village. We spotted the vineyard terraces above the village and we decided to go for a stroll through the grapes. Of course to make it to the grapes we had to find out if permission would be granted to climb the old stone stairs leading to the terrace by the 3 typical widowed women, all dressed in black. It was like a militia guards post. A little apprehensive, German guy and I flashed our biggest smiles and said our best Hellos and How are yous in Italian. Well we got the blessing and were allowed to climb up the stairs and stroll in the vineyards. I could not resist and I grabbed a raisin and bit into it. That was the first time I ever ate a raisin right off the vine: it was heaven, sweet, luscious and destined for a great wine.

The next day I joined another small group of travelers who were getting ready to hike the famous walking trail joining the 5 villages. After all that was the point of going to Cinque Terre. I only remember bits and pieces of that hike. I know it took about 5 hours to do including very quick stops and a lunch. I have a very vivid memory of the most quintessential Italian scene I have ever seen in my life: a old man climbing out of his cellar into his house with his feet barefoot and purple from stomping the grapes. I remember the hiking path being so narrow at times it was scary.

Narrow path, Monterosso al Mare beach and a Mediterranean dip

I can still feel the little pricks on my fingers of the cactus pears I picked right of the cactus, a fruit my new friends had never seen. Yes even then I was introducing people to new foods. And my last memory of the actual hike was our destination, the tiny beach of Monterosso al Mare at the end of the day where I was going to swim in the Mediterranean come hell or high water. After all the sun was going down at the end of that cooler October day but I am from Canada and I can handle cold water. And the guy with us agreed to join me. The locals looked at us like we were absolutely crazy.

It was such a great day. We took the train back to Mama Rosa’s where we bought food for a communal dinner. During the hike we found out Pesto was from this part of Italy so we made a simple dish of pasta with a pesto sauce bought by the ladle in a small shop, got extra cheese and a few bottles of wine in tow. For dessert we enjoyed the sliced cactus pears I had picked – still feeling the tiny shards lodged under my skin. That is how I remember Cinque Terre: rugged in every sense of the word but such a beautiful raw experience. And I owe it all to Mama Rosa and her Hostel!

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Got a simple recipe up your sleeve? Enter it and thousands of people could be cooking your recipe from a special cookbook that will be in youth hostel kitchens all over the world. To submit a recipe check out how to enter.

Don’t forget to go check out my article Reviewing Restaurants – You Be The Critic on the Food Bloggers of Canada site.

A Birthday Feast through Italy appetizers and Avocado Ice Cream

Ah the first big menu planning of the year! It always coincides with my mother’s birthday on April 1st when I have my parents over for dinner. Younger I would choose very long and elaborate recipes that would take an entire day to prepare. Now wiser in years I have learned to plan very sophisticated looking menus consisting of easy but wonderful recipes. If I am well organized I can pop out such a meal in 2 or 3 hours…exhausting ones. The hard part is finding the first inspiration.

In this case it was a bunch of rapini I had bought a few days before. It is not a vegetable I have cooked with very often but after seeing it a blog post ton it I was inspired to try my hand at it again. From there came an Italian theme spread over the whole menu. I like to think of it as  Southern Italian menu filled with cured meats, fish, fresh vegetables, ricotta and nuts. I hope you will enjoy my presentation of the meal….

The evening started of with a cocktail and lovely bites to nibble on while we toasted  to my mom’s birthday: Prosciutto Purses by Giada de Laurentis. A few handfuls of Sesame Roasted Nuts accompanied the purses. I adapted the recipe with walnuts, pistachios and almonds. I did not have the mentioned spices so I used cinnamon, cocoa mole rub, chili pepper flakes and garlic salt.

The Prosciutto Purses are very easy to make. I just used half a cantaloupe and scooped out 9 balls with a spoon. Then I just rolled up the cantaloupe balls with a slice of proscuitto and tied my purse with a sprig of chives. Here is the secret:  blanch the chives briefly until just a bit limp. This way they will not break when you make the knot.

My appetizer consisted of three Zucchini Ricotta Roll-ups per person served on a bed of pureed snow peas. I just cooked the peas till soft in a bit of vegetable stock and added a bit of garlic salt and pepper. I passed this through the blender and got an amazingly colorful shiny dark green puree.

The main course was a simple baked white fish recipe which was accompanied by Polenta with Beans and Rapini, the inspiration dish of the whole menu. A bigger portion could be a vegetarian meal on its own. I went with a soft polenta in which I added cheddar cheese. I loved this dish, the mix of flavors and textures was sublime, from the acidic sweetness of the tomatoes, the earthy mellowing taste of the beans to the perfect bitterness of the rapini.

The meal ended with a wonderful gluten-free Blueberry Almond Cake. This cake is just about all eggs, 6 to be exact. I followed the recipe but added some blueberries: I poured half the cake mix in the pan, sprinkled the berries and then covered then with the other half. I think this made the cake but my cake deflated. A little simple looking but there was no shortcoming in taste.

A very unusual but perfect pairing was a portion of homemade Avocado Ice Cream. I had this ice cream in the freezer for a while and had just enough for 3 small portions. I melted a bit the ice cram down and placed it in 3 canellé mold. The resulting presentation is reminiscent of the classic Tartufo ice cream.

Avocado Ice Cream

Avocado Ice Cream

Ingredients

1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 1/4 cup milk

3 ripe avocados

Directions

Peel and seed the avocados; put flesh into a blender with the milk and purée. Pour all the ingredients an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Buon appetito!

Viva Italia Exchange

Another Italian exchange! This time this latest care package comes from Elga of Semi di Papavero. Elga is located in Ferrara, about 50 km NE of Bologna in Italy.

This package is a perfect mixture of sweet and spicy! Its like Elga looked into my foodie soul. Here we find 5 sweet items. The first is a wonderful dark chocolate bar flavored with red Italian chili peppers. Next up are 4 different flavored nougat…I had one already its just to die for. They won’t be around for very long.

On spicier note I also received 4 dried red Italian chili peppers with a warning: “Please be careful with them.” I guess they pack a spicy punch and I cannot wait to find out, love spicy food. Finally we have a package called Lo Zafferano, a local saffron perfect for flavoring a sumptuous risotto. I am a huge fan of saffron so I could not be happeir with this inclusion.

Thank you Elga for a fabulous exchange. Would you like to do such an exchange with a fellow foodie? Then join us on the Foodie Exchange right now. We are a group for foodies from around the planet who wish to exchange their local food specialties as a care package with other foodies.