26 February 2017

Pasta and Potatoes / Pasta e Patata - A Classic Recipe to Chase the Chill Away

Pasta and Potato
Pasta and Potatoes
It's still chilly these days even though February this year was milder than usual and bowls of hearty vegetables and pasta still go a long way to taking the edge of that chill off. This particular recipe I started making this summer after one of our volunteers, Mascia, prepared us one of her favorite dishes, her grandmother's recipe for pasta e patata, or pasta and potatoes. It's always a treat when someone cooks for us, and especially so when its from one of our volunteers. We've had a variety of International cuisines over the years, Japanese, French, Dutch, Italian vegan / macrobiotic and even my familiar American. 

Most everyone can always use another pasta dish to add to their repertoire.This one seems to be a classic dish in many parts of Italy with as many variations as their are cooks I would imagine. In it's simplest form it is very much like what many of us think of as minestrone soup without the beans. Some people like to add a bit of saltiness and flavor punch by adding in some form of porky cut of meat with various levels of fattiness and smokiness or not. Some like a bit of red pepper zippiness or a touch of oregano. Most are a thick "stick to your ribs" kind of consistency. The Neapolitan version is  finished off in an oven proof dish smothered in smoked, or not, provolone cheese slices and heated till the cheese melts and served right away. 
This version is a simpler straight forward version that Mascia insisted that the butter used to sauté the vegetables was her nonna's secret ingredient.  Here in the north they are fond of using butter and it does make a tasty addition to this simple dish and is highly recommended. What ever your preference might be I think you will find this classic pasta dish a great comfort and "go to" recipe for any day of the week. 
Thanks Mascia for sharing your nonna's recipe. 

Yield : 4 servings


2-3 T olive oil, extra virgin
30g / 2 T butter
50 g smoked pancetta, prosciutto, or guanciale (optional)*
80 g / 1/2 c  white onion 
80 g / 1/2 c carrots, diced
80 g / 1/2 c  celery, diced
100 g / 2/3 c cherry tomatoes or pachino, blanched, peeled and diced

3 ½ – 4 cups water or stock
1 vegetable bullion cube, use if you don't have chicken or vegetable stock
500 g / 2 3/4 c potatoes (peeled and cubed)
160 g / 1 1/3 c small shaped pasta ( small tubes, wheels, gnocchetti, mixed pasta, half penne)
2 -3 Parmigiana or Grana Padana crusts (optional)*
Parsley chopped to garnish  or some oregano as some recipes call for 

Grated Parmigiana to sprinkle
Salt and pepper  or hot red pepper to taste

*Variation: In Naples and other southern parts of Italy they will put the finished dish in oven proof bowls and cover the top with some slices of smoked provolone cheese. Heating it to melt the cheese before serving.


In a medium pot, at least 2 qt/L, heat your pan, then add the butter and olive oil.
Once the butter has melted and the oil is heated, add the diced onion, carrot and celery.
Sauté the vegetables on a medium heat for a few minutes.
Cook until the vegetables are soft, but hasn't picked up any color, about 3-5 minutes.
Then add the meat if using, and tomatoes, cook a few more minutes.
Add 3 cups of water to the sautéed vegetables along with bullion cube, if using
and the potatoes and pasta.
Taste and adjust seasonings keeping in mind that the crusts will add salt to the dish.
Add the Parmigiana crusts if you have them.
Cook until the potatoes and pasta are cooked, adding the other ½ -1 cup of additional water to reach a creamy texture, but not too soupy.
Serve hot and garnish with Parmigiana if desired. 

Buon appetito!!

26 January 2017

3rd Annual "SMTA - Sustainable Mountain Tourism" Ostana, Italy

Heading over towards Monviso, in the distance, to Ostana
It's the beginning of another annual ride around the sun for all of us who mark our calendars beginning with January 1. 
What will 2017 bring to us and what will we focus on in our alpine Italian life?  
Good questions that had one immediate answer when Fabrizio was searching around the internet one night last week. Lo and behold he found a symposium on "Sustainable Mountain Tourism" that was to take place in 2 days time in Ostana, Italy, which just happens to be 65 km away and a couple of mountains over from us, where mighty Monviso peak resides.                                                               
Approaching Monviso -Ostana in the Summer
Naturally this piqued our interest as we started our own "Sustainable Mountain Eco Tourism" - "T.E.M. Association" ( Tourismo Ecosostinible Montano- Associazione Di Promozione Sociale) about 10 years ago. 

What is sustainable mountain tourism you might ask?
 A simple definition of sustainable tourism that lines up with our beliefs I found on the   The Sustainable Tourism Gateway website. 
"Sustainable tourism in its purest sense, is an industry which attempts to make a low impact on the environment and local culture, while helping to generate income, employment, and the conservation of local ecosystems. It is responsible tourism that is both ecologically and culturally sensitive."

Our Eco Sustainable Mountain Tourism Association Logo

The addition of Mountain into Sustainable Tourism, creates a specific viewpoint as life in the mountains can be a delicate balance between maximizing economic development and protecting fragile environments and sensitivity to cultural heritage.
According to "Euromontana", a European association of Mountain areas, with whom we presented our Bella Baita B&B  mountain living model to their annual meeting in 2013; 60% of all Europeans live in the mountains. I found that statistic to be rather astounding and important to consider how important it is to support these rural and sometimes fragile communities. 


We were thrilled to write to the SMTA and within minutes find out that they were happy, on short notice, for us to attend their 3rd annual international  edition of "SMTA  Sustainable Mountain Tourism Alliance"
It was with great excitement that we set off to join the discussion. We really knew nothing about them, but off we went on Friday (the 13th no less)  to check out this day of exploring what Sustainable Mountain Tourism means, building a meta-network (a network of networks) and the circular economy. 

Arriving at Ostana in winter was just as as impressive as arriving in summer. We drove over there in July for a days outing on my birthday to see a restored and revitalized mountain village that we had heard a lot about. The mayor of this village has been committed to revitalizing for the village for the past 20 years or so to try and breathe new life into what was an almost deserted village.  The buildings were neglected and crumbling after the town was all but abandoned when people moved on to look for economic opportunities, mostly after WWII. We have the same scenario in our mountain neighborhood.  And it was the same story in the mountains of Colorado that I use to live in until they started the ski areas. 

Ostana has struggled along, mostly being home to a few hearty souls and a few who came for the beauty of the area and the outdoor mountain activities that are on hand. The Monviso ski area use to draw in people in the winter when the ski industry was buzzing in the 70's. That however has slowed to a trickle as many ski areas have felt the sharp pinch of the Italian economic slow down along with aging equipment and a lack of funds to upgrade. 
The town's mayor has made a real effort to bring in support for getting the buildings renovated and attracting new life into this small but now growing community. 
Sant Antonia - a small borgata, a part of and up from, Ostana, where our meeting was held. 

We had lunch this summer and also during the symposium at the beautiful Galaberna rifugio, another project that has brought business into the  mountains. There is also a bar and a couple of stores, one offering quaint home accessories and another with outdoor sporting goods and local artisanal products which adds quite a lift to this charming hamlet. The revitalization of this community is a testament to commitment to a vision to bring growth and find the ways and means to do so. Good for Ostana and its residents, you are inspiring. 

Back to the symposium. 
Our symposium was up, and I do mean up, the hill to another cluster of houses and buildings  that had a very state of the art meeting room,  along with a tiny bar that made for a cozy day of exchanging ideas and lively discussions on mountain tourism. 

We met some fascinating people that share many of our ideals of supporting life in the mountains through tourism that supports tradition and innovation. The symposium was led by one of the founding members of SMTA, Swiss educator, Dr. Tobias Luthe, who presented what work they have done in working towards making sustainable tourism a concrete and  viable means of income in the mountains of Europe.  Starting with the focus on concrete means of bringing money for rebuilding and attracting others to live in rural areas that are in need of new ideas for saving abandoned hamlets and revitalizing these communities through reconstruction and touristic activities that can support small local businesses. Tobias was the main moderator but there was at least one other founding member and other students and educators and various business partners who participated and shared their vision for mountain redevelopment. 

We broke out into several small groups to discuss specific topics and came back together to share our thoughts.  One of the things that struck me was even thought we all had the exact same discussion topics, we came up with such diverse ideas and angles of approach. I think that is what makes getting people from different countries and diverse touristic backgrounds together such a worthwhile endeavor. It brings many different points of views and ideas to the table. I found the topics stimulating and the company pleasantly interesting. 
SMTA 3rd Annual Symposium Ostana, Italy
 Dr. Tobias Luthe presenting in the top middle photo
We took a break for lunch with a walk down to Galberna Rifugio for a convivial and traditional Piemontese mountain lunch that was outstanding. High quality food and wine, prepared simply with the personality of the chef shining through, made for a delightful meal together with new friends. Then after our break we trudged back up the hill which seemed to get just a tad longer and steeper on the way back, but the fresh air and beautiful mountain scenery made it all worth the effort. It also helped to keep us alert after such a satisfying meal and enabled us to remain engaged for the afternoon topics. 

Photos of Ostana this past July when we had lunch at La Galaberna.
The food was excellent both times we ate their. Highly recommend it!
The small group discussions included not only what exactly is needed to identify what exactly sustainable tourism is, but how to you brand it so that people will know what they are looking for and what exactly they will be receiving.  Also, how do you measure if this type of approach to mountain tourism is easily recognizable and effective. How do we bring this movement forward together and also concretely measure progress being made. 
Sharing our ideas 
I'm not sure how the symposium found its way to Ostana, but I am sure there is an interesting story there. We learned there is the beginnings of a "Monviso Institute" in progress to bring yet another portion of this cluster of mountain neighborhoods back to life. 
Some of these same folks have bought a small cluster of abandoned houses even further up from these buildings and have started to renovate them to turn them into a project 
"as an experimental real-world laboratory for sustainable design and living." MonViso Institue  
It all sounds very exciting to not only meet people that are trying to generate a way of bringing economic life back to the mountains, but who are actually putting in to practice the systems they are trying to create and nurture. 
In summing up the whole concept of sustainable tourism we talked about a circular economy. The term has been used in the industrial realm to move away from the linear model of 'take, make, dispose' economic model to  "a circular economy that is restorative and regenerative by design, aims to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times. "  
For me a circular economy is really just a getting back to basics of relying on your community to provide services and goods from local sources and sourcing things closer to you so that the money stays in the community and recycles itself around. I love purchasing our food from the farmers that produce it and try to make a habit of keeping that in mind whenever possible. From my perspective we are looking to go back to a system that we lost sight of when the promise of globalization seemed to be an answer to so many needs. Communities use to rely more on each other. I think you still find this interdependence in rural communities still, but it is ever increasingly important to commit to buy and work with local professionals for supporting a healthier and more robust local economy in order to keep the circle to include your neighborhood.  
I think that one of the biggest takeaways from the conference was to generate enthusiasm for thinking globally and acting locally, through talking together and sharing ideas to take back home and see what can be implemented and what other ideas can be generated with ones own community. Our concerns for our natural environment, our neighbors, and communities economic health is brought into clearer focus with an eye towards generating more opportunities to work together with ur neighbors to build the community we dream of. Lofty goals indeed, but starting from where one is situated and reaching out to others is a place to start and communicating around a table, usually laid with  great food, is where we like to start. So we shall see what we can bring about in our community and we look forward to participating with this group again as well as discovering what the MonViso Institute will have on offer as well. 
View of Monviso from our neighborhood
Onward and upward, I say. 
Ciao for now!!

21 December 2016

A Few Easy Gift Ideas Just in Time for Christmas

"And we've really no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow....."

Christmas is more than rapidly approaching and the countdown is almost at ground zero. If you are in need of some inspiration for any last minute ideas, I just happen to have a few that mostly should be there in time for making an appearance under the tree or on someone's device. The wonder and glory of downloadable gifts or certificates. I don't know about you, but I love this new virtual world, most of the time at least. When you don't live close to many of your loved ones, the internet highway is a high speed way to get the message that I love you and am thinking of you done fast.
Many people think the internet option is too impersonal, but I love all the choices and possibilities on finds on line. However the look and touch of real books and other tangible items will never be completely replaceable, but there are some great options to there to be had.

The Framed Winter "Bella Baita View "
I have started to embrace the written word on electronic devices even though I don't have a dedicated reading device, I do have an ipad and that has made recipes in the kitchen a delight to use. I also have started to read fun novels and even a magazine or two on my iphone and ipad. It makes for an enjoyable read without more magazines and books around our small apartment. I have even taken to scanning or photo graphing some of my favorite cook book recipes so that the recipes are readily available. I have even found some cook book titles that have been on sale and so I have tried them out and that helps me decide if I want to have an actual hard copy of the cook book to my ever groaning cook book shelf. I do think there are limitations with cook books as they are sometimes difficult to get to the page you want in some of the formats that the authors have laid them out in, but still I love my little collection of mostly bread cook books and a smattering of various titles of cuisines around the world and my new expanded love of fermenting and culturing foods. It's been exciting learning all about foods that are alive and often feel like being a mad scientist. But I do digress.

I have gathered a few of my favorite reads at the moment and one fantastic apparel company with some suggestions for gifts that can give more than once and sometimes to different recipients. These are easy to purchase ( I guess that is the case in most purchasing now isn't it, although you can do it from the comfort of your home ) and easy to tuck under the tree, stuff in a stocking or have delivered to your designated device. Some of these ideas are so nice you may just want to some for yourself as well to enjoy as well. I hope you find something to intrigue and delight you this year. 
and visions of sugarplums danced in their head..

#1  First up  -  "Living in Italy The Real Deal" Stef Smulders

If you have ever thought you might want to chuck it all and live in Italy, run a B&B or some other type of business, then this is a book you cannot afford to miss! When Stef Smulders reached out to me to have a go with his newly English translated version of his ebook, Living in Italy - The Real Deal, I readily accepted. How lucky for me. His book about his and husband Nico's experiences of deciding to leave their native Holland to purchase a home in the Oltrepo Pavese region of northern Italy is a fun and enlightening read. You may think you have read this story before and maybe you have, but this book is a fresh and engaging story that has real benefits if you are seriously considering this very adventure. Stef's use of real  Italian phrases while telling their tale  will also be extremely useful as you will most likely encounter many if not all of these chapters in this process of buying in a foreign country such as Italy. He doesn't sugar coated their experiences here, and that is a good thing. You will find there is always a way through the morass of red tape and cultural differences that makes for light hearted entertaining reading and hopeful happy endings. Of course, the process is always a journey and Stef will have you enjoying the journey along with them. This really is an entertaining must read if you are serious about moving and purchasing a property in Italy. It is also a story that will have you scratching your head and chuckling along with them on their journey. 

You can purchase a copy of his book here  at Living in Italy - The Real Deal

You can also find our more information about staying with them at the destination at the heart of this book here Villa I Due Padroni. You can stay and let them point you in the best way to discover yet another worthy "off the beaten path" destination in Italy. I am sure they are very happy to share more stories about their whole adventure with you as well. Tell them Marla at Bella Baita sent you. 

Susan Van Allen's very popular book is a must read also for anyone wanting to visit Italy and doesn't know quite where to start. Even seasoned Italophiles will find much to discover on her website and in her book, blog and "Golden Day Series".  Susan has let me know that the book has been fully updated in the newest edition. 
You ca find her website here, and information as to where to purchase her book. 
You will find my blog Bell Baita View listed in the book's new edition in its Online Resources.

You can also read about what I consider a perfect day out and about in our beloved Val Chisone at  my post on her Golden Day series. 
You'll find it here.
Golden Day Fifty-Three: A Little Piece of Heaven in Serre Marchetto

#3 - Dream of Italy Newsletter and now TV Show

Kathy McCabe's website and Travel Newsletter is a wealth of information about traveling in Italy. It is a subscription service that also offer the subscriber many extra perks aside from the premium content that is on offer. There is also an abundance of free content  to entice you and help you make the most of any visit you might make to Italy. She now has a new TV Show in PBS about here visit and suggestions of Italian travel and you can find more information on the website here  and the this other link takes you directly to the membership page.
Dream of Italy - Travel Resource and Now TV Show

You can find us mentioned on her site on the Piedmont Page as well as on her  Cooking School page .

#4 - Some Cookbooks I have found of Interest this year:

These a few of the books that caught my attention this year. The first 2 titles are new this year, the third last year and the other two are older than these, but all are very worth discovering.  I know some of the authors from online and expats groups, although have not met them all in person.  

In a nutshell, I fell in love with so many aspects of this book. I have the hard cover and I love the look and feel of the matte finish cover, the recycled paper, the incredible photos and writing and lastly the recipes. I enjoyed the well researched history behind the recipes and the culture and history of Rome through its food. I read some critiques of this very fact that it isn't an exhaustive list of Roman dishes, but I found that I loved all of the recipes that made the cut in the selection process. I love that some of the classics are pure and some have a modern take and some simply are not something I would make, but still all entranced me and had me reading it like a series of short stories. 

I came across this book a bit too late in my preserving season to truly put it to good use this year. That's ok, because I now will have the winter to read through it and make a plan for next year. I have quite a few favorite recipes for preserving fruits and vegetables the Italian way, but there are plenty of recipes here to delight and try out. The syrups, liqueurs and fruits have quite a few that have my attention as well as some interesting variations on vegetables that are sure to ratchet up the flavor profile. It has a wide range of preserving methods and some recipes using what has been for later use. A very enjoyable book that portends well for putting food by the Italian way. 

I have made a number of Letizia's delicious recipes from her fabulous "Madonna del Piatto" blog, so when I heard she was making a cook book I was excited. This cookbook is exquisite in its beauty and feast for the eyes, much as they view from her kitchen offers. Her recipes are classically simple and yet refreshingly diverse with flavor. and surprises She is generous with her knowledge and that is helpful when making an unfamiliar dish. I think this would be a welcome addition to anyones Italian cookbook repertoire. 

This is the latest gorgeous book on the subject of Italian cooking close to this authors heart. Long before she moved to Tuscany full time and started her organic olive oil farm and holiday apartments, she has written numerous cookbooks on Italian cuisine. This volume celebrates the simplicity and splendor that is simple Italian cooking that elevates what is on hand in the pantry to exquisite new heights. The Italians are masters of this; making much from virtually nothing. That is the beauty of Cucina Povera. There are stories and background to put the recipes into context and for me I love this aspect of cooking, as it often brings a deeper appreciate for the dish. These type of recipes rely even more heavily on the quality of the ingredients to elevate the dish to memorable so no scrimping there. There is a very reasonable priced ebook available to might convince you that a hard copy os the way to go as well. E-cookbooks help preserve your hard bound cookbooks from the drips and splatters that happen along the way when cooking with them in the kitchen, an added bonus. 

This book is usually the bellwether and standard for which most people refer to in reverential tones when one talks about the revival of fermenting and culturing food and drinks that has exploded on the scene the past few years. I had no idea about so many of these foods until more recently when Kombucha and the revival of milk kefir seems to have taken the US by storm, and brought to light all the places where this tradition never completely went away. It's a fascinating and delicious journey that like so many disciplines, seems to be endless and that, actually, is a good thing.  The book is full of sound advice based on science and easy to glean the information. The Cultures for Health website is a treasure trove of resources to get you started and access to start this culinary journey. There are a goodly number of free ebooks on the various culturing disciplines for merely signing up for their newsletter. This community is generous with their knowledge and very helpful when needed. Just ask. 

#5 A New Active and Casual Athletic Apparel Company, 
whose goal is to empower women....

What can I say except I love this concept, this idea, these products, these 2 women who are making it happen, following their dreams and working hard to bring other women along with them. Their company was founded so the 20% of their proceeds, "supports and funds a wide array of non-profits that directly impact women who are aspiring to do more." What is not to like about that?

Founded by Hanna Bowden and Laurel Kasel, friends and basketball team mates from their years at Colorado Mesa University playing college basketball and all the other sports that Colorado has on offer. Their years in the women's sports field inspired them to found their company.
Hanna spoke about their motivation in an interview she did last month with "The WON - Women's Outdoor News" publication in which she noted,
" Mpowher was born from the fact that we saw a lack of empowerment of women from all our years playing team sports to working in corporate America. This lack of empowerment was everywhere."
All I can say is they are producing a great looking product line of casual active athletic apparel that does more then keep you comfy and styling. Have a look at their products and support this small business to reach their dreams and achieve their goals in which they realize a business that is about empowering women more than merely making money. Refreshing perspective in this world today.
Go Hanna and Laurel!  

** Full disclosure...I have known Hanna since she was a twinkle in her parents eyes. Her mother is a dear friend that dates back to our days working together at the Sunshine Cafe in Silverthorne, Colorado and her dad when he was a snow cat driver at Keystone. This family knows a thing or two about sports. Hanna and Laurel came and stayed with us a couple of years ago on their whirl wind tour in Europe. They were a delight to have stay with us and we are just so delighted to see them really doing something that stands out in their industry. they are starting from where they are and I am sure they will be very successful. Please encourage them on their journey!**  Marla
Fabrizio, Marla, Laurel Kasel, and Hanna Bowden- May 2014

# 6  Last but not least - Take an online class and learn a new skill or craft

I discovered Craftsy a few years back when Peter Reinhart offered his bread baking class on this site and discounted it to boot just before Christmas. I just checked now and there are a lot of classes on sale on the site right now. Very worth checking out. There are hundreds of classes to choose from. I also bought a cheese making class as well. They are great, because you have a lifetime access to the class, there are recipes to download, video to watch at your leisure and over and over again if you like and an online forum where you can ask questions of the teacher or other students and share your triumphs or less than stellar attempts. It really is a nice format. There are also a number of free classes on a wide range of topics too.

Speaking of FREE.... Skill share is another site where most all of the courses are free and as wide ranging as learning to paint to learning how to code computers. there are some cooking classes and design classes and all sorts of interesting topics that people are willing to share for free with you. There now is a premium feature that gives you access to more involved , but there really is a wealth of free classes to choose from and probably something to interest most everybody.

Christmas tree in Naples bar
With love from Marla & Fabrizio 
at Bella Baita Italian Alps Retreat

Wishing everyone, everywhere a very special 
Winter Solstice, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas
and any others you care to celebrate in peace. 

"Peace on earth, goodwill toward hu-mans!"
Our Bella Baita View - Winter Version

03 November 2016

Slow Food's Biennial Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre Arrives Again

I went, I saw, I explored,  I discovered. I sampled, I chatted, I learned. I imbibed, I flagged, I stayed till the end of the night, arriving home around 2 am-ish and was, well,  exhausted, again.
That, my friends, is the nutshell version of my time visiting this years 2016 edition of Salone del Gusto / Terra Madre. Living the slow life, it seems that getting this post up has all the hallmarks of a sloooooooow post. 

There is so much more to tell and share. I was so excited to share my impressions immediately after the event, as it always leaves me in high spirits, inspired and hopeful that real change is coming to the way we eat, produce our food, treat our animals, planet and each other. However I didn't get to do that right away as we have been busy with guests, gardens and "work-away-ers", so I have had some time to digest and reflect on my experience this year and I'm still pretty excited. So was every one else too.
Bernard Elixirs with Fabrizio, Nina and Enrico Bernanrd

First off, you either are familiar with Slow Food or you are wondering what the heck is this all about?! Their Slow Food International website is a great place to start to learn about what the movement is all about. I have attended quite a few editions of the every 2 year event called Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre and have written about it every time I have gone.

Terra Madre Welcomed Representatives from over 140 countries to this years event
 I went into quite bit of detail from the 2014 edition and you can read more about my insights here, here, and here, and if that isn't enough links will come up below those posts to older editions to this event. I have been attending since 2004.  So now let me talk about this years event. 
This year saw the event taken to a whole other level. They blew the doors off of this event, moving out of the Lingotto Conference center and adjacent venues and expanded into the whole of central Torino for the first time ever. It was a risky move. The weather can be a cruel partner, but moving the event to an earlier time in September instead of October, the chances of the weather holding up were better. We were lucky this year as the weather was cooperative.  Being an almost exclusively outdoor event scattered around the town, there was no longer a need to charge to attend the event,
Piazza Reale Turin
The City of Turin Welcomed 2016 Edition of Salone del Gusto / Terra Madre
Fun for everyone

The Lingotto center had just gotten too expensive to justify holding the event hostage there, according to Carlo Petrini, Slow Food International's President and founder. Carlo Petrini really is the father of this movement and person to whom most look to as the driving force of this grass roots movement. He has written many books and works tirelessly to bring about a change to peoples awareness to preserve our culture and heritage of our basic need to survive, and of course that is our need to eat.
Carlo Petrini, leading the way
To eat. To eat together, to eat with pleasure, with awareness and mindfulness of all that goes into the production of our daily ritual and all of the ripple affects. To be aware that others do not have enough to eat  and to consider the consequences of our food choices that affects not only our health, but our planets health and so very much more. This is a celebration and hopefully a raising of awareness of all these issues and more. It's a mammoth undertaking, but in the words of philosopher Lao Tzu "the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step", and so we take a step on the journey. 

Terra Madre Parade and Welcome that included trading of native foods with one another

The opening ceremony for this edition of Terra Madre featured a parade of representatives from over 140 countries attending this year. It was colorful and joyous. People were also carrying sign boards, with slogans, such as, Love your Mother, Save Biodiversity, Vote with your Fork and other statements. There was a ceremonial exchange of of traditional foods between diverse countries on stage and an general exchange  in the piazza with much merriment. It was an emotional and inspiring symbolic fellowship. It was a festive start to the festivities.
Terra Madre Opening Parade 
I love seeing what people from near and far are producing and eating from all around the world. Parco Valentino hosted most of the many Italian producers as well as the rest of the world.

Parco Valentino Vendors
There was so much to sample and discover and so little time. I arrived early and stayed very late, but truly I really didn't feel like I had been able to take it all in. I did have some nice chats with various Terra Madre people, but didn't have time to attend the many fascinating forums about such diverse food issues, in just one day, but so it goes. I did really savor every delectable experience that I could absorb in the day. I love too that there are always some crafts that go hand in hand with the food traditions and on display representing other aspects of our food cultures and ways of living as producers of our worlds foods. 

Traditional block stamping for material and paper making lovely crafts
I think I will try and finish off this never ending homage to one of my most favorite events in the world, with a variety of photos, so you can experience a tiny slice of what was on offer. I hope you enjoy the tour.

Beans and Corn of Every Type - Saving Biodiversity

Food, Costumes and Fun
A Few of the Wonderful Things on Offer to Sample and Buy if You Like
People From Around the World, Sharing Their Food and Other Traditions

Perhaps one day you might consider experiencing it on your own. 

Piazza Reale at Night during the Salone del Gusto
Next time around will be in 2018.
See you there.

31 August 2016

Serre Marchetto Mountain Trail Mix for National Trail Mix Day 2016

My Serre Marchetto Trail mix and local maps of our area
Who knew that August 31, was National Trail Mix Day? I didn't, that's for sure, until the folks over at Nuts.com let me in on this American designation. So, when they told me about a contest they are cosponsoring where the winner of the contest's recipe will be featured on their Nuts.com blog, I thought it would be fun to participate. What's not to love about making a great snack worthy of tucking into your rucksack, backpack, or hand bag  for when you are hitting the walking, running, cycling or traveling trail. I thought, hey, why not? Why not indeed, as hiking, or as the Brits much prefer to call it, just plain ole walking, is one of my favorite pastimes and our very own Serre Marchetto neighborhood in Val Chisone, Italy is just full of trails in every direction from our house. Our Bella Baita B&B -Italian Alps Retreat is a great choice for exploring the trails and beauty our neighborhood has on offer. 

All roads lead to Serre Marchetto, well at least some do
My husband has been making wooden trail signs, marking and cleaning paths in collaboration with our local chapter of C.A.I. (Club Alpino Italiano, passionate mountain enthusiasts), for a number of years now to reclaim our neighborhood paths for all to enjoy and find their way round our neck of the woods.
Some of Fabrizio's , my husband, handiwork

In collaboration with our "Regione Piemonte", Fabrizio Roncaglia and our friend Silvano Damiano, have worked tirelessly to clean, reclaim and map out our trails, putting all the trails on a GPS system. We are one of the first communities to utilize this equipment that literally puts our trails on the GPS system. They have made a small map of the area with descriptions of 6 classic walks in the area for all to use. We're really proud of this undertaking and happy to help make this happen in what ever way we can.
The Pinasca trail map resulting from all that hard work
This is an ongoing project with many paths being dusted off and made walkable for the public to discover and will continue to maintain the trails for years to come. 
Fabrizio, Silvano and Valentina, Silvano's daughter working on the trail signs and others coming along for the guided walk
 We live in the Italian Alps, off the beaten path, in the lower part of the Piedmont Alps where we are spoiled for choice, where every type of mountain exploring is possible. A high energy snack that is easily portable is a necessity to keep you going when the energy levels dip. Sounds like a handy, energy filled, natural snack is an essential part of what to take along when you are out on the trail, don't you think?
Hitting the trail in nearby Val Pellice
So why take the time to make a trail mix when there are so many options available and they are all just the same, right? Well no, not exactly. I have to admit, that often I find commercial blends to be just a tad boring or they don't have the right combinations or proportions of the ingredients I like, so making ones own is a smart and often economical choice.
So you say a trail mix is a trail mix, which is just another trail mix? Well, I might agree with you except I just happen to think that roasting your seeds and nuts make the flavors stand out rather than the somewhat bland and familiar raw taste of the seeds and nuts. Maybe that's just me. I like to  add a little saltiness by way of using soy sauce to the seeds after I have lightly pan roasted them to give that little "je ne sais quoi"? ( translates as "I don't know what" ), or what I think of as an added depth and flavor profile to this mixture, which for me, makes this combination a real knock out. Naturally, like most trail mixes, the amounts are variable depending on your particular preferences. If you prefer your mix without the saltiness or can't be bothered toasting the seeds and nuts, then by all means, don't, but I think you'll be happy that you did if you go to a little extra effort. Happy munching and tramping around in the woods, or enjoying this mix in all the ways this powerhouse of flavor and energy can stand in for your average neutral trail mix.
Serre Marchetto Trail Mix
Serre Marchetto Trail Mix Recipe

Yields about 5 1/4 cups


1 c / 5 oz /150g          Sunflower seeds
1/4 c / 1 oz / 30g       Sesame seeds
1/4c / 1 oz / 35g        Pepitas or pumpkin seeds
1 Tb / 1/2 oz / 12g     Soy sauce
1/2c / 5 oz/ 150g       Almonds
1/2c / 2 oz / 75g        Hazelnuts
1c / 5 oz / 150g          Golden raisins
1c / 5 oz / 150g          Dried Cranberries
1/2c / 1 oz / 40g        Dried Apple cubes
1/4c / 1 oz / 25g        Goji berries
3 Tb / 3/4 oz /25g    Cacao nibs 


  • Measure out all of your ingredients so they are ready to toast and mix
  • I like to begin by warming up my heavy  cast iron skillet.
  • I toast my almonds and hazelnuts in the pan, stirring or shaking the pan to evenly toast to desired color. I tend to like them only slightly  toasted. Remove from the heat and set aside in a mixing bowl to cool until you add the other ingredients.  Place your pan back on the heat. **You can do this in the oven as well, but I don't like to turn the oven on for such a simple task that doesn't require a lot of time to achieve the right color and flavor. Your choice, just don't walk away and forget your nuts as they toast up fast either way. 
  • Now add the sunflower and pumpkin seeds to the pan and lightly toast them, stirring or shaking the pan regularly. As the seeds begin to get a little color I sprinkle the sesame seeds in and stir them to toast. Note that the sesame seeds will pop and dance about, so you might want to have a lid handy to keep them in the pan. 
  • Once you have the seeds to a light color, turn off the heat and add your soy sauce to the seeds and stir to coat all. The heat makes the seeds stick to the pan a bit, but also adds a bit of flavor as well. Let cool a bit before adding to the other nuts. 
  • Add all of your other ingredients while the seeds are still warm as they will soften the dried fruits and slightly clump up for your snacking pleasure. 
  • Let cool completely before storing in an air tight container. 
  • Take along whenever a high energy snack is needed. 
  • Happy Trails!!!!
Serre Marchetto Trail mix and local maps of our neighborhood
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