Archive for February, 2011

Exploring New Directions: The Making of a Mission Statement

Thisaway BadolatoIn my post Life Lessons in Southern Italy: It’s the Simple, Stupid, I quietly started down a new path for this blog as I begin processing my journey to where I am today — physically as well as psychologically. Although I’ve been writing here for years, up until now, I haven’t really stopped to evaluate the lifestyle choices I’ve made. Various posts have touched on this theme (The Meaning of Calabrian Life, Settling Into Southern Italy, and generally, I think, in all the Love Thursday posts, among others), but there’s nothing like the seven-year (itch) mark for the expat to take account of her life.

Yes, over the past seven and a half years, I’ve been so busy simply living (no pun intended), I wasn’t really processing it all — and I thought that “leading by example” for lack of a better term could help others follow their own dreams. And I still feel this is possible, but I’m ready for a slightly new direction. I’m ready to conquer challenges beyond learning a new language, starting a freelance writing career from nothing, and raising goats; I’m ready to delve into the emotions and thought processes behind my life’s changes and more explicitly help you identify areas in your life you’d like to improve as well.

I would be honored if you would accompany me on this journey.

I will be exploring various concepts that have become central to my daily life, including simplicity, being present in the moment, decluttering, making meals from scratch (continuing this theme, actually) acknowledging feelings deep within your soul, and much more, but please know there are no obligations here. I will be writing about a highly personalized journey to be sure, but hopefully with applications in your daily life as well.

It’s a journey that may not interest you in the least, and that’s OK. Even if you’ve been a Bleeding Espresso reader from the start and you feel like jumping off now, there are truly no hard feelings on my part. I wish you the best on your own life journey, and you’re welcome to come back at any time.

A blog is a living, breathing being, and mine follows my waves because I’m the one writing it — this is where I am in my life right now, and these are things I need to write about, not only to gain some clarity and perspective in my own mind but also to hopefully encourage you to do the same.

Look at your life: where you are, from where you’ve come, and where you’d like to go.

And I don’t necessarily mean physically.

WallflowersSome of you got the impression from my last post that I believe simplicity and/or the good things in life can only be found in on a hilltop in rural southern Italy or even in Italy generally. Hardly. For some of you, life on my hilltop would be absolute hell. I can guarantee that. And life in Rome might not be much better for some of you either. Indeed, if you look around a bit, you’ll find plenty of disgruntled expats and former expats who can tell you all about their frustrations with living in Italy.

That’s not what you’ll find here, though, as I don’t dwell on the negatives naturally, but also because for me, the positives of living here so far outweigh the negatives for me that the latter are barely worth some quick Facebook rants. Always remember though, that I’ve been here for seven plus years, and I live a very particular kind of lifestyle — my experiences are mine and mine only.

I can’t and don’t speak for anyone else.

But my goal was never to convince you to move to Italy. It’s certainly not the right choice for everyone or even most people. And that’s why I’m giving fair warning that this blog is destined to veer off the subject of Italy as I explore universal concepts that apply to human emotions and actions no matter where you live; at the same time, though, I can’t deny that my location — consciously chosen by me because I felt in my very being that I was meant to be here in my ancestors’ village — has played an important role in my personal journey and my lifestyle choices, so the shadow of Calabria will likely never be too far behind.

No matter our physical locations, though, it’s important to acknowledge that we are all just doing our best to maneuver through this agrodolce vita — bittersweet life. No life anywhere is dolce all the time, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to find some sweetness in each and every moment. For me, simplifying certain aspects of my life has helped me do that, and I’d love to tell you more about it.

I hope you’d love to listen and share your experiences as well.

Le Quattro Volte: Cannes Winner Beautifully Describes Calabrian (and Universal) Life — Without Words

Le Quattro Volte courtesy of MUBI

Le Quattro Volte courtesy of MUBI

Le Quattro Volte (The Four Times), a film set in Calabria by director Michelangelo Frammartino, won the 2010 Europa Cinemas Label as Best European Film in Cannes Directors’ Fortnight. From the trailer and clips I have seen, it beautifully captures the simplicity of life in this gorgeous land I’m proud to call home while effectively relating the universal idea that each of us has “four distinct lives [mineral, vegetable, animal, and man] and so we have to get to know ourselves four times” (my translation from the official trailer below).

The fact that the story revolves around a goatherd isn’t exactly lost on me either.

A description of the film from Tim Lloyd at AdelaideNow:

An old goatherd takes his flock to feed in the high pastures of Calabria then milks them at his stalls at a spectacular hilltop village, where the rhythm and ritual of life appears unchanged in centuries. His cure-all for his failing health is the blessed ash from ceremonies at the local church. He dies, and at his death a newborn goat takes its first breath. It suits the off-beat and curiously satisfying vision of the film, that the goatherd is resurrected as a goat, then as a tree, and eventually as a mineral.

Screen‘s Wendy Mitchell reports on what the jury said:

This is a beautifully evocative, humorous and subtle look at life and nature in deepest rural Italy. Never didactic or sentimental, the director takes creative risks and manages to pull them off. At a time when original film-making is so threatened, we feel it is entirely appropriate to award the Europa Cinemas Label to Le Quattro Volte, and to offer European audiences the opportunity of enjoying such a life-affirming view of a remote corner of our continent.

From Natasha Senjanovic of The Hollywood Reporter:

Frammartino uses his background as a video installation artist to create something that one could just as easily come across playing at an art gallery. The director simply turns on the camera and shows us the natural progression of time in a place where time seems to have stopped. Working from a quote from the School of Pythagoras — that each of us has four distinct lives within our one life, and thus must meet each other four times — the number four also represents four elements (man, animal, plant and mineral) and the four seasons.

I personally find the link with Pythagoras, whose work heavily influenced Plato and other subsequent philosophers, notable as the Ionian Greek philosopher spent a good deal of time in Crotone, Calabria; there he established a small group of followers, which actually may have led to the city’s troubles with nearby Sybaris, now only ruins near the current town of Sibari. Sybarites were famous for their enjoyments of all things luxurious — and they are why we still use the term “sybarites” for pleasure-seekers today — but their lifestyle did not exactly jibe with Pythagoras’ teachings.

What follows are the trailer of Le Quattro Volte, another set of clips, and an interview with Frammartino (in Italian):


I cannot wait to see this film.

Life Lessons in Southern Italy: It’s the Simple, Stupid

Barrel / botteSeven and a half years ago, I leaped off a path that was leading me to a place I didn’t want to go as a person I didn’t want to become. I was living in a large American city armed with a law degree and a recently completed appellate judicial clerkship. The next logical, practical step was a position with a large law firm — or at least some well-paying attorney job.

The only problem was that years before, I had already stopped wanting the so-called American Dream — the bigger house, the bigger car, the bigger and more more more. Something about it just didn’t feel right for me, and I needed to get far, far away from it. Literally.

Maybe by putting this physical distance between us, I was making sure I wouldn’t somehow get sucked in by staying too close. Maybe I just needed a break after 21 consecutive years of schooling (out of my 25 total years). Whatever the reason, moving to my ancestors’ village in southern Italy in 2003 made total sense to me. I came here knowing full well what I wanted to get away from.

What I didn’t know, or at least I hadn’t verbalized, was what I was searching for.

Over the past several months, I’ve been reading minimalist/lifestyle blogs such as Zen Habits, Rowdy Kittens, The Art of Non-Conformity, and Ridiculously Extraordinary, and with each post and “Aha!” moment, the realization has become clearer. The things they’re writing about so beautifully? I’ve been living them for the past seven and a half years. It was simplicity I had been seeking, and I most certainly found it here.

Or, as I like to put it, “It’s the simple, stupid.”

Aside from work obligations, my life now revolves around what the humans need (mostly lunch and dinner) and what the animals need, not necessarily in that order. I shop at the market nearly every day for fresh ingredients, never keeping huge stockpiles of anything — not only because there’s no Costco, but also because there’s very little storage space in a typical Italian house. Everything is smaller in Italy (think opposite of Texas), so your refrigerator and freezer don’t hold as much, your washer does what you used to think were half-loads, and your dryer? Well you probably don’t even have a clothes dryer, but if you do, you use it sparingly because your bank account groans with each spin cycle.

FontanaIn fact, the scar from your first winter ENEL bill is still so fresh, you remember to turn the light off as you leave a room each and every time — and your late grandfather’s voice echoes in your mind as you go around flicking off lights muttering something about not owning stock in the electric company. Actually, you pretty much only use artificial light before dawn and after dusk, and you also opt for natural air conditioning (open windows and balcony doors) and insulation (more layers of clothes and gratuitous snuggling).

And because in the height of summer, mountain springs dry up and pathetic ditches they call river beds suddenly appear roadside, your dishwater waters plants, and even then only when the sun isn’t beating down and only when they absolutely need it.

You get creative about reusing everything you can from coffee grounds to plastic containers of all shapes and sizes; who knew those huge plastic jugs of American coffee sold in bulk (thanks Mom!) are absolutely perfect for scooping goat chow out of a feed bag?!

You learn that growing and raising much of your food is not only great for your wallet and waistline, it’s also relaxing for your mind and spirit as you go about your daily chores; moreover, taking care of living things from birth to death whether it’s a rabbit or a tomato plant reminds you to be present in each moment because life — for all of us — is fleeting.

Perhaps best of all, you truly, truly appreciate the small stuff — after all, most days, that’s all you have. And it’s plenty. Sure, trips to exotic locations make for good Bucket List filler, but have you ever watched a hen flipping and flopping around during her morning dirt bath? Nothing like it in the world, I tell you. Nothing.

Yes, it was always the simple, stupid. It’s all I’ve ever wanted, and so much more.

No-Knead Bread Rolls – No Dutch Oven Necessary

No-knead bread

Success at last! No-knead bread.

The no-knead bread phenomenon has been sweeping the Interwebs for several years now thanks to Mark Bittman, but I haven’t waded into the fun until now. For whatever reason, working with dough intimidates me, so I tend to stay away from it, but all the rave reviews of this no-knead bread had me curious. So I had to try it, which I did in September.

Um, yeah, that didn’t help my Dough Confidence Quotient whatsoever. It was an absolute and utter disaster.

They say this dough should be really sticky; mine was nearly runny after the first rise. There could have been yeast/rising issues, but I think the biggest problem was lack of flour. But everyone says, “Don’t touch the flour! You’ll ruin the delicate balance of ingredients! The measurements must be *exact*!” So I ditched the batch, hung my head in shame, and wallowed in self-pane pity.

Then in November, I visited Diana in Piemonte, and she made an absolutely perfect no-knead loaf . . . and my Bread Envy was off the charts.

So about a month ago, I picked up the flour again, probably feeling confident after making a mean batch of cinnamon rolls around Christmas time (recipe coming). I figured hey, if the dough doesn’t feel right to me (with all my Faux-Dough Authority), I’m adding flour. I don’t care what they say. Who are “they” anyway?

So extremely happy I did. I LOVE this bread, and you will too if you haven’t made it yet, I promise.

It forms a wonderful crisp crust on the outside but is chewy and light on the inside. Simple and perfect — and the best part is, it’s easy as all get out (once you figure out whether you need to make adjustments for your humidity/altitude).

No-knead bread rolls

No-knead bread rolls

I do believe the ridiculously high winter humidity here simply requires the use of a bit more flour in this recipe. I’ll probably be OK with the given proportions come summer when the air is dry, but hey, we’ll cross that wheat field when we come to it.

The reason I’m posting this recipe even though you can find it absolutely everywhere, though, is because of some inspiration from the Panini Girl, who as you might have guessed from her name, decided to make little two-bite sized rolls out of this dough. I decided to give it a go by making six full-sized rolls, and they came out wonderfully — even P grabbed one while it was still warm, and he is very picky about the pane he consumes (paesano only!).

The best part about making the rolls? You don’t need a dutch oven or similar vessel for baking — just grease up a cookie sheet. Thanks so much Panini Girl for showing me the way to these no-knead bread rolls!

No-Knead Bread Rolls

(Adapted slightly from the famed recipe published in The New York Times by Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery)

No-knead bread rolls

No-knead bread rolls

  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour (note you can play with the types of flour but make sure you know the proper substitution ratios)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water

1. Stir together flour, salt, and yeast in a medium mixing bowl, then add water. Mix together until you have a “shaggy and sticky” dough. I use a silicon spatula for this part after trying both a wooden spoon and hands. The spatula works wonderfully because you can also use it to scrape down bits that have climbed the sides of the bowl.

2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit for 12 to 24 hours; 18 hours is the recommended time. Seeing that it’s winter, I put mine in the unheated oven as it’s warmer in there and the most safe from drafts — we don’t have heat in the kitchen, so it’s nowhere near the ideal 78°F (25°C) for dough-rising. Generally people seem to agree that it’s great to whip this dough up in the afternoon or evening, let it sit overnight, and then bake the bread the next morning. Works for me, too.

3. The dough is ready “when its surface is dotted with bubbles.” Dust a wooden board or other work surface with flour, and put dough on it. I do recommend watching the video below so you can see what’s a normal dough consistency at this stage. Add a little more flour and fold the dough over on itself once or twice so that you’ve created a “seam” on top.

4. Put a large cotton towel nearby and dust it with flour (or cornmeal, wheat bran). Put dough on the floured spot in the towel, seam-side down. Dust again with flour before folding up the sides of the towel to cover it. The dough should now sit for another two hours or so before it’ll be ready to go in the oven.

5. Half an hour before you’ll be baking, preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C) and grease a cookie sheet with olive oil.

6. The dough is ready when it has doubled in size and no longer springs back from your touch. Divide the dough into six pieces, roughly shaped into balls and arrange them on the cookie sheet leaving at least an inch between them. They may bake together a bit, but they’re easily separated anyway so long as they’re not touching too much.

7. Place sheet in the oven and bake for about 35 to 45 minutes, until rolls are golden brown.

Buon appetito!

I’m also sharing this video for you visual folks; this helped me greatly in understanding the steps:

Have you made no-knead bread? What did you think?

World Nutella Day 2011 Roundup Part 2

World Nutella Day*Remember the other half of the roundup is at co-host Sara’s Ms Adventures in Italy.*

Nutella lovers, last year I said you had outdone yourselves, but WHOA did you go nutty for the 5th anniversary of World Nutella Day!

If you were following @nutelladay on Twitter (2,400 followers), World Nutella Day (over 20,000 fans!) on Facebook, or at the Nutella Day Flickr pool, you already know that this past weekend has been crazy with Nutella, but today we’re here to talk about all the great recipes and tributes to Nutella you sent in.

Please consider sharing the roundups on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, etc., especially if you’ve participated and are included — any and all spreading of World Nutella Day love is much appreciated! Remember recipes from *all* World Nutella Days (about 500 recipes plus this year’s soon to be added) can be found at

In case you missed it, Sara whipped up a Flourless Nutella Chocolate Cake for the occasion, and I contributed this Nutella Spice Cake with cinnamon and peperoncino:

Nutella Spice Cake with Nutella Icing

Nutella Spice Cake with Nutella Icing

Now to the rest of the roundup; thanks so much to everyone who participated in World Nutella Day!

First, let’s start off with a special mention of Jennifer at The Onyx Plate, who had an entire Nutella celebration — this is a homemade cupcake stand filled with Nutella goodies, and Jennifer also made my Banana Nutella Brownies from last year. Woohoo!

OK, moving on to all the other wonderful contributions; I do apologize there’s not more color commentary, effective organization, or other bells and whistles, but we wanted to make sure the roundup got out today with all the important details, i.e., Entrant name, blog, and submission. So here we go!

Lael & Giuliano Hazan, Educated Palate: Nutella Semifreddo.

Ivonne, Cream Puffs in Venice: Nutella Meringues.

Pip, Zenzero e cannella: Nutella and Hazelnut Cookies.

Elizabeth, Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome: White Chocolate and Pistachio Nutella.

Linda, Recipes Remixed: Nutella Banana Bread.

Maria, Crafty Cre8tions: Nutella trifle.

Danny, Thyme4Food: Nutella Krispies with Vanilla Peanut Butter Frosting.

Xiaolu Hou, 6Bittersweets: Chocolate Nutella Alfajores Cookie Sandwiches.

Nisrine, Dinners & Dreams: Baci ice cream.

Anne, Haute Apple Pie: Orange Scented French Toast with Nutella.

Rosie, Kitchens Are Monkey Business: Molten Nutella Truffle Chocolate Cake with Sweet Vanilla Creme Fraiche and Creme Anglaise.

Hannah, Wayfaring Chocolate: Chocolate Nutella Fudge with Sprinkles.

Mary, The Flavors of Abruzzo: Nutella Salami.

Nancy, Spicie Foodie: Appletella Sandwiches.

Sandra, dans tous ses états: How her 5-year-old son enjoys Nutella.

Veru, La Cuochina Sopraffina: Nutella fatta in casa (homemade Nutella).

Arfi, HomemadeS: Morning Boost with Nutella.

Jen, My Kitchen Addiction: Nutella Sandwich Cookies.

Lea, Lea & Jay: Nutella and Banana Filled Peanut Butter Ebelskivers.

Zeli, From Yeast to Zest: Hazelnut Chocolate Pear Cake.

Ann, I Heart Cupcakes: Chocolate Chip Nutella Cupcakes.

Lisa, Gluten Free Canteen: Simple Gluten Free Valentine Kiss.

Lisa, Gluten Free Canteen: Little Gluten Free Nutella Bites.

Ana, anasbageri: Nutella Cake in a Cup.

Kokomama, My Adventures in Food: Nutella Milkshake.

Swah, Love Swah: Butter Cookies with Nutella.

Cherrie, Sweet Cherrie Pie: Chocolate and Nutella Thumbprint.

Judy, Over a Tuscan Stove: Rice Fritters Filled with Nutella.

Deidre, DecoyBetty: Nutella Moustache!

Sameena, A Muslimah’s Home: Easy Nutella Cake.

Claudia, What’s Cookin’ Italian Style Cuisine: Nutella Melting Moments Gem Cookies.

Carole, Nipette: One of Nutella Day’s Youngest Fans!

Eleonora, Aglio, Olio & Peperoncino: Nutella and Coconut Tart.

Pia, La cocineral loca: Nutella Fudge Brownies.

Lisa, Charleston Treasures: Grilled Nutella and Banana Flatbread Sandwiches.

Haalo, Cook (Almost) Anything: Nutella and Banana Crumble Slice.

Caffetteria, La Caffetteria Rosa: Nutella Truffles.

Carrie, Carrie’s Sweet Life: Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Mardi, eat. live. travel. write.: Nutella Lamingtons.

Lynn, And Then I Do the Dishes: Nutella Filled Cream Cheese Cookies.

Maria, La Dolce Vita: The Sweet Life with Three Sons: Nutella Poem & More!

Elisa, The Girl with the Blue Apron: Banana Nut Cupcakes with Nutella Ganache.

Heather, Girlichef: Fried Nutella Ravioli.

Erin, The Spiffy Cookie: Nutella Rice Krispies Treats.

Susan, My Life’s Joys: Gluten Free Nutella, Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Paula, bell’alimento: Sweet, Spicy Bacon Coated with Nutella.

Stephanie, Confessions of a City Eater: Nutella Panna Cotta.

Kristen, Kristen’s Day: Adorable Daughter Enjoying Nutella.

Valerie, Living Out of the Box: Montezuma-inspired Nutella Gooey Cupcakes.

Kate, Diethood: Mini-Nutella Cheesecakes.

CurryLeaf, TastyCurryLeaf: Simple Nutella Pudding.

Arena, The Nerd’s Wife: Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Joshua, Carbonara: Bad Crêpes and Beauties in Berets.

Marzia, White Dark Milk Chocolate: Brownies Nutella e Nocciole.

F_A, Seelensturm: Hazel Blondies.

Marla, Fresh Family Cooking: Cocoa Dusted Hazel Nuggets.

Kochtopf, 1x umrühren bitte aka kochtopf: Nutella Tart.

Emma, Uno scatto al giorno: Una piccola coccola.

Joanne, Frutto della Passione: Nutella Stuffed Pandoro French Toast.

Ashley & Jason, La Tavola Marche: Nutella & Walnut Torte.

Natalie, Iowasthinking: Nutella Cookies.

Natalie, Cross Country Food: Nutella Sable/Tartelette/Parfait Creation.

Gul, Aegean Eating: Homemade Nutella.

Stacie, One Hungry Mama: Nutella Brownie Bites and Nutella Hot Chocolate.

Kylie, Mmmm For the Love of Food: Heavenly Nutella Chocolate Hazelnut Meringue torte.

Maria W-J, Meals with Maria: Nutella Banana Brownies, Nutella Cookies, and More!

Sarah, Chop’s Cakes: Nutella Cake with Ganache.

Silvia, AMIGASTRONOMICAS: Memories of Nutella in Italy.

Lori, Creativity Is…: Chocolate Nutella Bliss Cupcakes.

Jen, Put a Spork In It: Nutella and Fresh Ginger Mousse and More!

Christina, Tasty Talk: Nutella Brownies.

Elyse, The Cultural Dish: Mascarpone Cheesecake with Nutella.

Kathy, Food Lover’s Odyssey: Nutella Love Cake with Nutella and Chocolate Ganache.

Christy, cat fur to make kitchen britches: Nutella-Brie Panini.

Tamara, The Kitchen Chemist: Nutella-Filled Shortbread Cookies.

Sue, Simply Cooking 101: Nutella Brownies.

Sonia, La Dolce Vita: Nutella Monkey Bread.

John, Going Places: Lazy Man’s Nutella S’mores.

Roxana, A little bit of everything: Nutella Brioche.

Anne, The Cooking Campaign: Simple Joy of Nutella on Toast.

Abbhirami Rajagopal, Soulful Creations: Nutella Pearl Tapioca Pudding.

Jenna, Whatca Got Cookin: Nutella Bread Pudding.

Nithya, Hungry Desi: Nutella Peanut Butter Cookies.

Hannah, Fleur-De-Licious: Marshmallow, Peanut Butter, & Nutella Swirl Blondies.

Maria, Maria D’s Musings: Nutella Crepes.

Andrea, green tea: Nutella Hot Chocolate and More!

Angela, California to Sicily (and back): Nutella Cookies.

Joy, Gastronomy: Hazelnut Chocolate Marble Muffins and More!

Lae, tinymango: Nutella Crepes.

Sandra, La Petrin: Nutella Bouchées.

Candy, Dessert by Candy: My Nutella Valentine.

Vicky, La Pasticcioneria: Crostata alla Nutella.

Joy, Joy’s Misadventure: Nutella Au Pain.

Megan, Megan’s Cookin’: Nutella Cream Tart.

Grace, Absolutely Nutellicious: Festive Nutella Par-tay!

And last but not least, be sure to check out Gary McLeod’s on his last-minute World Nutella Day celebration at English with Gary, and Ester’s tribute to a family favorite on Carpe Diem at Nutella. The Immigrant- part two.

Make sure you head to Sara’s Ms Adventures in Italy for the other half of the roundup, as well as past roundups:

And do feel free to make every day World Nutella Day by visiting year-round!

Michelle FabioMichelle Fabio is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer living in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy and savoring simplicity one sip at a time. 

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