Our Maple Tree

Keeping up with The Maples


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Mini Meals

We love food in this house, if you haven’t guessed. We love cooking and trying new things. Thankfully, we have been blessed with a little one that loves food too! I have really enjoyed introducing food to Ada. I love researching new meals for her to try and watching her discover new tastes and textures.

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A lot of times, Ada just eats what we eat, but I do make some things just for her to enjoy. Here is a round up of her favorites:

Mini Cheese and Asparagus Fritattas: This is super easy and tasty! I diced the asparagus and sautéed them with a salt and pepper. I wisked up 4 eggs and a splash of milk, added a small handful of shredded cheddar cheese and the asparagus. Baked them in a mini muffin pan and done! I froze the frittatas and I reheat them when needed. Ada loves them so much! I have to watch her carefully, otherwise she will stuff her mouth full of them and choke.

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Greek Yogurt and Fruit: This is another favorite of Ada’s. Our favorite greek yogurt is Cabot French Vanilla, it seriously tastes like vanilla ice-cream. It is my favorite yogurt and I always join her when I make this for her. 😉 I will sometimes give this to Ada as a dessert at the end of the day. Since she is such a good eater, I don’t mind giving her something sweet.

Healthy Banana Pancakes: This is a simple recipe and it is delicious! They taste similar to banana bread but they are much lighter. We eat them with and without maple syrup. And Ada’s favorite fruit is banana, so she eats them like candy. I make a batch and freeze them to use throughout the week.

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Turkey and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches: These have been a favorite for everybody around here. I found some sliced white cheddar cheese and they make the best grill cheese! I add turkey for some protein and a tiny bit of mayo – best grilled cheese ever!

Mini Chicken Pot Pies:  I have actually never made chicken pot pie before, so I wanted something easy. This recipe is so easy and fast, which is necessary in my book when it comes to cooking dinner. The witching hour occurs during dinner prep – ya’ll know what I am talking about, right? Worst time of the day!

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Pasta e Fagioli: This is an all time favorite in our house. We all love this stuff! It is easy, so delicious, and healthy. What more can you ask for? I use my mother’s secret recipe, sorry can’t share! But there are lots of recipes out there that I am sure are amazing. I usually make a large batch and pressure can it.

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Mexican Sweet Potatoes Skins: This is another favorite that everyone loves. I just add black beans, cheese, and a little bit of salsa to Ada’s potato. She loved this combo when she was eating purees, now she eats it like we do. For ours, we add a little more flavor with cilantro, cumin, onion, hotter salsa, etc.

You can find so many ideas and recipes for babies/toddlers on blogs and Pinterest. This is just some ideas that have worked for us and meals that Ada just loves. What are some of your go to meals for your littles? Happy Friday ya’ll!


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Spaghetti and Meatballs

A few nights ago we had a date night in… life has been so busy that all we have wanted to do is stay home! So I made a spaghetti and meatball casserole. This was actually the first time I have ever made meatballs. Sad, I know!

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I got the recipe from my favorite magazine, Celebrate. This magazine has never lead me a stray! Great ideas and great recipes!

And you can’t go wrong with this recipe! Spaghetti topped with hearty meatballs, rich marinara sauce, and a modest amount of melted mozzarella cheese on top – this one is a keeper!

Spaghetti and Meatballs Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound ground round
  • 1/2 
pound ground mild Italian sausage
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 
cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated onion
  • 2 
tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 1 
(8-ounce) package sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 4 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 
(16-ounce) package spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
  • 2 
cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
  • 1 
cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place a wire rack over pan, and spray with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine ground meats, next 4 ingredients, 
1/2 teaspoon salt, and next 
2 ingredients. Form mixture into 
1 3/4-inch balls. Place on prepared rack, and bake for 10 minutes.
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 350°. Spray a 3-quart baking dish with cooking spray.
  4. In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 5 to 6 minutes or until vegetables are slightly tender. Add mushrooms and garlic, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add marinara sauce and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirring to combine. Add cooked pasta, 
1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack, and 1/2 cup mozzarella, stirring to combine. Spoon into prepared dish; top with meatballs and remaining 1/2 cup Monterey Jack and remaining 
1/2 cup mozzarella. Cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover, and bake 10 minutes more or until cheese is melted.
http://ourmapletree.com/spaghetti-and-meatballs/

 

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The salad was simple – baby greens, broccoli slaw (a new thing of us), bell peppers and tomatoes all served with ranch dressing.

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Very colorful and the broccoli slaw adds a nice crunch to the salad!

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And dessert was just as simple! I mixed a box of brownies and added toffee and semi-sweet chocolate bits. Baked as instructed on the box, then added carmel, toffee bits and chopped pecans. The carmel is what makes this oh so good! (I used Breyers brand of carmel.)

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All washed down with a glass of red wine, of course! As Gino said in Italy, “Wine should never leave the table!”

This meal is great for weeknights, it is quick and easy (just cook the meatballs ahead of time). And it is perfect for a big crowd… I’m pretty sure we ate on this casserole for a good week – lunch and dinner!

Something about spaghetti and meatballs just hits the spot! Enjoy!


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August Love List

Fall is right around the corner and I couldn’t be happier! But it is not quite here yet. 🙁 Until then, here is a list of transitional items I love!

1. This perfume from Caudalie smells amazing. My good friend discovered it while she was visiting Paris and I am so glad she shared it with me. It is the perfect balance of sweet and musk. And it helps that Randy absolutely loves it too! 🙂

2. This Crock Pot Beef and Sweet Corn Queso Dip looks delicious! Everything I have made from Iowa Girl Eats has been out of this world good. (If you don’t follow her, I suggest that you do!) I can’t wait to give this one a try this weekend!

3. I bought this gray sweater from Loft and it is the perfect transitional sweater. It is warm enough for those chilly mornings and light enough to keep me comfortable in the afternoons. Plus, the eyelet detail on the sleeve is adorable!

4. As you all know, I have an obsession with Hello Apparel. I just love their stuff! I saw this on their Instagram and I am super excited! It isn’t available until September, but I will be the first in line to buy this one when it becomes available. It will be great for football season, even though I am not a football fan… or any sport for that matter. I feel like Brian Regan when it comes to sports, “Go my favorite sports team! Make a goal, unit, basket!” Anyways, I digress…

5. And last but not least, this utility jacket from Sierra Designs. I bought this jacket in gray (of course, my favorite color!) from the online REI outlet store . I have wanted a utility jacket for a while now, but they mostly come in olive. I love the color olive, it just doesn’t love me. So when I saw this jacket in gray, I just had to have it! 😉 It is a great weight for this transitional weather and water resistant (a plus in my book, since we live in a rain forest!). It is going to be my new go-to jacket for travel. It will be getting it’s first test at the end of the month (more info on that later!).

I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend and that you are having a good start to your week. Just 3 more days till the weekend!


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Our Weekend + A Photoshoot

We had a lovely weekend in Boone with my parents. And had a much needed girl’s day with my mama – shopping, getting our nails done and of course, cooking. 🙂

We woke up bright and early and went to the farmer’s market on Saturday. The farmer’s market in Boone, in my opinion, is the best. The food is beautiful, the flowers are gorgeous, the food is great and it is where you can get the best honey ever! We got a cup of coffee, some homemade hand pies and took in all the beauty. 🙂

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Afterwards, mom and I went shopping and got our nails done. I love that my mama can be silly with me!

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We spent the rest of the day at the farm where my grandparents live. My dad has worked so hard on this farm and it has paid off. It is such a beautiful place to go and relax with the family. And Randy took photos of me in my new favorite dress. I got this dress at Belk and I just adore it. It is a bit old fashion, but that is what I like about it.

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The dress is perfect for spinning! The skirt is so voluminous! 😉

 

I love this field of Queen Anne’s Lace. I hope my backyard can look like this one day! And the best part about this dress, it has pockets!

Randy got this photo while we were at the farm. Not bad, uh? 😉

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Next morning, we had a wonderful breakfast and mom introduced us to her blackberry wine cake. It was so good and refreshing, perfect for a hot summer day! You can find the recipe for the cake here.

Then we made our way back home. 🙁 It is always hard to leave my family, I hope one day we can all live closer together. At least the ride back home has beautiful scenery.

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I hope everyone is having a great weekend! Enjoy every minute of it! 🙂


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Our July 4th Weekend

July 4th was a fun packed weekend filled with family, fantastic weather and of course, good food!

My parents, brother and sister-in-law came up to spend the weekend with us. I am so glad that everyone came to us because we were pleasantly surprised with fall-ish weather! We kept all the windows opened and ate outside every chance we got! It was wonderful and made me wish for fall to get here even faster!

We started the morning with 4th of July toast.

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We had a wonderful cookout – spicy peach glazed chicken, grilled corn on the cob, potato salad, anasazi beans and of course, red velvet cupcakes! Another thing checked off on our summer bucket list!

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I loved my July 4th outfit this year from Modcloth. I could wear outfits like this everyday!

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The next day we shopped and ate at everyone’s favorite restaurants.

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me & mom

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I also put together this outfit for the weekend from Loft. This hat is my new favorite accessory!

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The last day we cooked and went downtown. And you have to cook in style of course! Mom got me this apron which is absolutely perfect! It says, “Will cook for shoes!” Yep… that’s me!

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Cooking with my mama!

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Best fish and chips in town.

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I really, really miss having these guys around. 🙁

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And that was our 4th! I hope you had a great one with friends and family!

 

 

 


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June Love List

I’m getting this one out on time! Thank goodness! 😉

 

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1. This Coleman Steel belted Cooler is awesome! I love the retro look and it feels so much sturdier than the plastic ones (our plastic one has seen better days)! They come in several different colors, but the green was my favorite. It perfectly matches our 1945 Coleman lantern that was given to us by Randy’s father! It will come in handy this summer for picnics, BBQs and camping.

2. I love, love, love my new Michael Kors rose gold watch! I have abnormally tiny wrists so finding bracelets and watches to fit is a challenge. This watch is the mini style so the face is a bit smaller, which works perfectly for me. So if you have little wrists or want a watch that is a little bit smaller, than get this one!

3. I just got this dress from modcloth.com. It fits like a glove and I love the vintage feel. It is red, white and blue so I will be sporting this dress on July 4th this year!

4. Along with the dress I got this hat. It is even cuter in person! I plan on wearing it with my new dress on July 4th! Now I just need a pair of red sandals… 😉

5. This is Essie Watermelon and I love watermelon colors. This pinkish-red hue is the perfect color for summer (well, in my opinion)!

I have discovered some new recipes this month that I am loving as well!

This kale and wild rice bowl with honey-balsamic vinaigrette is amazing! I made a few alterations, but nothing major. I added more spinach than kale (Randy prefers spinach) and I added walnuts instead of almonds (because I didn’t have any almonds on hand). But it was delicious! I love Iowa Girl Eats, this blog is my favorite place to go to find a wonderful recipe! I will be making this dish very often!

The second recipe that I tried this month was grilled angel food cake from A Farmgirl’s Dabbles. Now I like angel food cake, but grilling it makes it even better! It tastes similar to toasted marshmallow! Warning: Once you tried grilled angel food cake, there is no going back. 

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I am looking forward to July 4th this year. I cannot wait to share these recipes with my family. What are your plans for July 4th?

 


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Thanksgiving Part 1

I am going to take a little break from Italy, mostly because we have not converted our Rome pictures yet! We are working on it though!

We started celebrating Thanksgiving the weekend before – Randy’s dad and girlfriend came up to visit us. We had initially planned to go camping, but a cold front came in, bringing 12 degrees wind chill! No thanks!

So instead, we hung out at our house and enjoyed our fire pit. Randy’s dad brought a turkey breast to be cooked in a dutch oven by the fire coals. It was our first time trying anything like this before.

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Cooking the turkey this way was a lot of fun. We placed the turkey in the pot, filled it with chicken broth and all kinds of goodies – seasonings, potatoes, onions, celery and an apple. Then we placed hot coals from the fire on the bottom and the top of the dutch oven.

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Then we just waited.

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Tesla joined us too, away from the fire. She gets too hot around it.

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After about 3 hours of cooking, we finally opened the dutch oven and this is what we found:

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A beautiful turkey, that smelled amazing! Randy’s dad was so excited on how well it went. He has been wanting to try this for a long time.

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I made some sides to have with the turkey. Made-from-scratch green bean casserole, roasted garlic mashed potatoes and anasazi beans.

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Everything was delicious! It was a lot more entertaining cooking the turkey this way. I would love to do it again for Thanksgiving! We planned on s’mores for dessert, but by the time we finished dinner, the wind picked up. We could hear tree branches breaking off and trees hitting the ground. So we stayed inside and enjoyed our Thanksgiving inspired fireplace. 😉

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I made the “GIVE” banner with my cricut machine, the “M” book came from Altar’d State, the “THANKS” pumpkins came from Wal-mart (I drew the letters on with a sharpie) and the maple leaf garland came from yellowbirdyellowbeard.com.

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We had a wonderful weekend with Randy’s family and enjoyed being outdoors for a least a little bit!

Randy and I are so very blessed and have so much to be thankful for. We know all that we have has been given to us by God and I thank Him everyday!

Psalm 9:1

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
I will recount all of Your wonderful deeds.


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Passport to Italy: Siena Day Five

Our fifth day in Italy was October 17th – Our 4 Year Wedding Anniversary!

We had a wonderful night’s sleep and got up bright and early.

The first thing we did was look at our view. Isn’t the fog so beautiful?

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Their garden.

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At Frances’ Lodge you fill out a form every night on what you want for breakfast the next morning and slide it under your door. When you get to the breakfast room, your breakfast is waiting for you.

Now their breakfast was amazing! I mean, the best breakfast ever! You could get just about anything you wanted for breakfast. Eggs (any way you liked them), fried bacon (which was the best bacon I have ever put in my mouth), fruit, different cheeses, slices of meat, all their homemade jams, local honeys, homemade yogurt and granola. The list goes on! Everything we ordered was fantastic! We filled ourselves up to the brim every morning here!

This was our view every morning. You can see Siena in the distance.

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My sweet hubby!

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The innkeepers here at Frances’ Lodge were a husband and wife team that lived here in the farm villa. They were the nicest people ever. They made you feel so comfortable there in their home. Even though there were other guests, we felt like we were the only ones there. Every morning they asked us where we were going and they would give us hand drawn maps and give us turn by turn directions. We never got lost when we used a map from them. I was so thankful for their maps and directions since I was the navigator! 🙂

This day we went to Siena. Siena was about a 5 minute drive from the B&B. Siena, according to travel guides, is the best preserved medieval city in Tuscany. The square or Il Campo, is beautiful and unique in its shape. It has a fan-shaped square instead of the standard square or rectangle shape. Il Campo is known worldwide for the famous Palio run here, a horse race run around the piazza two times every summer.

If you look at the pavement in the square you can see nine sections. The nine sections of the fan-like brick pavement of the piazza represent the council and symbolizes the Madonna’s cloak which shelters Siena. The square is dominated by it bell tower.

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People come here and just lounge around the square. It was a very calming atmosphere. No one really rushed around you or pushed you out of the way. They just strolled around the city and mingled with others.

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Siena’s cathedral, in my opinion, was the prettiest of all the churches we visited. I have never seen so much detail in one place. Built between 1215 and 1263 on the site of an earlier structure, the cathedral is in the form of a Latin cross with a slight projecting dome and bell tower. The exterior and interiors are decorated in white and greenish-black marble in alternating stripes, black and white being the symbolic colors of Siena.

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This day we reserved a tour to take inside Siena’s cathedral. I reserved this tour months in advanced and got one of the last slots. Unfortunately, the only thing left was a tour in Italian. But the tour guide was very friendly and did her best to translate for us in english. We still learned a lot and had a great time with other people in the tour group.

We took the Gate of Heaven Tour because the mosaic floors in this cathedral are only unveiled for two months out of the year; September and October. I wanted to do this tour because they take you up in the cathedral to see the floors from up above.

The 56 etched and inlaid marble panels were designed by 40 of leading artists between 1369 and 1547. Completion of the designs took six centuries, the last ones finished in the 1800s.

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The oldest designs are those in the center near the entrance – the Wheel of Fortune and the Sienese Wolf Surrounded by Symbols of Allied Cities, which dates back to 1369, but they have been maintained and redone throughout the centuries when it wasn’t customary to protect them. Some of them have parts that are pretty worn out. Each panel has its own story.

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Beautiful city of Siena.

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I love how the ceilings have stars on them.

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The greatest sculptors of every epoch worked in the Cathedral of Siena: Nicola Pisano executed the Pulpit from 1265 to 1268; his son Giovanni authored the sculptures on the facade; Donatello created the statute of John the Baptist, Michelangelo sculpted Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Saint Pius and Saint Augustine for the Piccolomini altar, and the art of Gian Lorenzo Bernini is represented by the Mary Magdalene and Saint Jerome in the Cappella del Voto.

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The front of the facade contains a stained-glass depiction of the Last Supper, executed in 1549 by Pastorino de’ Pastorini, a student of Guillaume de Marcillat.

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After touring Siena’s cathedral, we had to leave quickly because we needed time to get to our cooking class. I reserved a cooking class through Jul’s Kitchen. I stumbled across her blog about 2 years ago and I have been following her ever since. I told Randy two years ago that if we ever go to Tuscany, I wanted to take her cooking class. Wish granted! 🙂

The cooking class took place in Jul’s house. The same house her grandmother grew up in, her father and now her. She emailed me her address and we mapped it out in mapquest. Directions were easy enough, or so we thought. (This is where a GPS would have come in handy!)

We left 45 minutes early to give us plenty of time to find her. Finding a city in Italy is easy, it is finding a house or building that is difficult. Mostly because once you get into the city, there are no road signs to be found. We spent 1.5 hours trying to find Jul’s house! We stopped 3 times to ask for directions. No one really spoke english so all our directions were in Italian. It wasn’t so bad, you can understand a lot by watching hand gestures. After driving around for 1.5 hours I started to cry. We were 45 minutes late to our cooking class. Finally we drove by a house and I recognized Giulia and her dog walking around outside.

I yelled to Randy stop the car, that is Giulia! I rolled down the window and said, “Giulia?” She smiled and said yes. I can not described how relived I was at that moment. I apologized profusely and explained that we go so lost. I was terrified that we would not be able to do the class because we were so late. But she laughed and said, ” No, no! We will cook fast!”

Giulia lives in the most picturesque house. It is surrounded by rolling hills and cypress trees. This is the view that everyone envisions when they think of Tuscany. Her house was just as perfect as the view. Her kitchen was perfect with a large wooden table in the center to work on, mason jars lined her shelves full of spices and flour and a large window overlooking her garden and the rollings hills. *Sigh*

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We started cooking right away. We put on our Jul’s Kitchen aprons (which is included in your cooking class) and started slicing up apples. We first made our dessert, which was apple cake. Kind of like an apple upside down cake. Then we diced up some root vegetables for roasting, sliced more apples and onions for our meat and then we started making our pasta. We made pici, which is like a thick spaghetti. Very easy to make and taste so good! I don’t think I will ever buy dry pasta again!

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While cooking we talked, laughed and learned about our different cultures. We learned about Tuscan cooking; like, Tuscan cooking is about the quality of food. They use very simple, fresh ingredients that they grow themselves. Also, taking time to cook their food, building up the flavors and enjoying the aromas. No microwave food here!

After cooking, we all sat together at her farm-house wooden table. We ate family style, passing the food around and pouring the local red wine. In her dining room was a bookshelf full of cook books. For the longest time we talked about our favorite cook books, our favorite foods and cities we visited and what foods we ate there. Giulia has an obvious passion for food, as do Randy and I. It was so nice to talk to someone from another country who enjoys and loves food as much as we do. The food was so delicious and Giulia was an absolute delight.

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After stuffing ourselves it was time for our time to end. 🙁 Giulia hugged us both and sent us off with her cook book, filled with her recipes that she has been around all her life. It was so much fun to learn how to cook from a real Tuscan native. But the best part was making a friend while we there. If you ever go to Tuscany and want to take a cooking class, go to Giulia. It will be the highlight of your trip, just like it was for ours!

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