Thursday, 31 January 2013

No need to knead

Better than any bread from your local bakery: home-made artisan bread.
Thanks to my Norwegian friend Kristin I made my first no-knead bread about three weeks ago. She suggested I would give it a try, because Norwegians just like Germans love a hard crust on their fresh bread and she thought I would like it. Would I ever?!?! This is the most delicious bread I have made so far and it really is almost no work at all. By now, I must have already made about six loaves and I want to share with you how it's done. It's so easy.

I basically watched the youtube video by the inventor of this great method, Jim Lahey, from Sullivan Street Bakery in New York. I'ld suggest you watch the video by clicking here.
I tried the recipe exactly as it was suggested and loved the first loaf, but then made little alterations and now I even like it better. You need:

3 cups or 384 grams all-purpose or bread flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 5/8 or 406 ml lukewarm water

After step one, the dough will look like a big lump, just cover it.
After 18 hours the dough is smooth, ready to be folded. 
Your house smells like a bakery when the bread is done.


  • Step 1) In a large bowl add flour, yeast and salt and mix the dry ingredients. Add 1 and 5/8 cups or 406 ml lukewarm water and just mix with your hand, no need to knead! Cover with a towel and put in a warm place for at least 12 hours, but 18 hours is even better, I find.
  • Step 2) After 18 hours the dough should be smooth. The yeast did all the work, not your hands. Carefully place the dough on a dusted parchment paper (I use oat meal for dusting) and fold the dough over from the corners to the middle (watch above mentioned video for details). 
  • Step 3) What Jim leaves out in the video is that you should let the dough rise again for at least 30 minutes, better one and a half hours. 
  • Step 4) Place an oven-safe pot that has a heat-proof lid in the oven and preheat to max. (225 degrees celsius is mine, Jim suggests 500 degrees fahrenheit). Detach the dough from the baking sheet and place it into the hot pot. I just flip it over and it comes off easily. I then dust the dough with some more oat bran. Quickly put on the lid and place it in the oven for 30 minutes with the lid on, then another 20 minutes without the lid. Done!


The crust on this bread is amazing. To me and my boyfriend V. this bread tastes better than any artisan bread at the local bakery. It seems like a lot of waiting in between steps. That's why I came up with a schedule that works for me. Here is what I do: I make the dough at around 6 p.m. before I get supper ready, it takes literally 2 minutes, no dirty dishes except for the the measuring cups. The day after at around 10 a.m. I fold the dough. At 11.30 I preheat the oven and at noon I put the bread in the oven. At 12.50 p.m. the bread is ready for lunch or it will be cooled down later-on for supper. Do the calculating and see what schedule works for you. 

Of course I did not only make white bread, but tried some variations. My favourite is this whole wheat bread with flaxseed.


The whole-wheat bread does usually not last more than 12 hours in my house.
1 cup  or 128 grams all-purpose flour
2 cups or 140 grams whole wheat flour
1/4 cup flaxseed
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt 
some oat or wheat bran or cornmeal (I used oat bran)

With your hand just gently mix the ingredients, no kneading at all.
You get a smooth dough without kneading after 18 hours of no work.

The process is exactly the same. Add the flaxseed to your dry ingredients before adding the water. The rest is just the same. This is my personal favourite!

Monday, 28 January 2013

Lacy, dressy, comfy

Strolling through the boutiques in northern Italy, I found this cute Molly Bracken dress. I loved it at first sight. It goes with so many items in my closet and is much more than just a simple underdress. I am showing a few combinations here, others might follow.

    
For combo number one I threw on a long blue shirt that I used to wear mainly at home with leggings. The brown chunky boots (Clocharme) dress the outfit down a lot. The grey high heels (Caf√© Noir) make the ensemble look a bit dressier. 
The second outfit is a red lacy dress that I wear with high heel black shoes and (again) lacy socks.
In the last three pictures I wear a simple brown cardigan and a leather belt.







Sunday, 27 January 2013

Itali-awesome... is what I am

My yoga idol and teacher Sadie Nardini actually did it. She posted a link to my little blog on her facebook page. How amazing is that?! The ultimate wellness expert from Brooklyn actually liked my blog and wanted her fans to read about my yoga experience. Here is what her facebook post says:

SEE WHAT MY 21-DAY YOGA BODY COURSE DID FOR ONE FABULOUS CHICA! And what it could do for you!! Plus her blog is Itali-awesome! Get your tips today!
http://www.myitalianfairytale.blogspot.com/


Itali-awesome! Wow! That's what I am?!? 
Thanks to Sadie I have had literally thousands of visitors to my blog, people I have never met wrote positive comments and sent me e-mails and facebook messages in which they let me know that they were inspired by me. I feel very fortunate to be able to make a little difference in someone else's life and I am more motivated than ever to continue writing my little blog, taking pictures and remain a dedicated yogi. Once more I would like to say: Thanks, Sadie, you totally rock!

Links to:
Italian fairy tale faceook page 
Sadie's facebook page
Sadie's website

Friday, 25 January 2013

Humbled by so much kindness

This headline says it all. I am really humbled by the kindness that Sadie Nardini, the world famous  Yoga teacher from New York City and the inventor of Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga said to me in a tweet:

@maryjanawege love your blog! I'll soon be sharing it on FB, I'm honored to be your teacher for realz! #YogaRockstar Warriors unite! Xo

Positive responses I am getting not only from Sadie but from friends, family and strangers are really overwhelming and encourage me to move forward with this blog. I love writing, taking pictures and share with you all the things that inspire me such as healthy food, a yoga pose or a new item in my closet. Watch out for more healthy recipes and engaging photos.

One more word concerning my 21 day yoga challenge. On day 22 I participated in the whole 1.45 hour course that Sadie Nardini provides at the end of the transformation program. I was a bit intimidated, doing all of the poses, but I feel greater than ever and cannot wait to set extra time aside to work through it again tomorrow and hopefully many more times in the future.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Tweeting Rockstar Warrior - Thanks Sadie!

What a wonderful day today! A beautiful morning, a sunny afternoon and a lazy evening made this day unforgettable. Today marks the last day of my 21 day yoga body transformation program with Sadie Nardini. This girl from New York City has developed by far the most effective, fun and engaging yoga practice I have ever encountered: Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga. As I mentioned before, I am convinced that I will engage in this particular yoga practice for the rest of my life. After just 21 days of step by step practice my body and soul feel wonderful, light, healthy, in charge and very much transformed inside and out. If you want to make some time (about 1.5 hours a day of reading, yoga and engaged thinking) I can highly recommend the DailyOM 21 Day Yoga Body Course!
I am so proud of myself for completing it and am committed to continue the practice because it makes me feel like a rockstar warrior!

My yoga block was always by my side during the 21 day challenge.
Along the way, something amazing happened: I was so excited about the course that I not only blogged about it here, posted comments on facebook and even launched my facebook page linking to this blog, no, I also started to use twitter. Why am I so excited about this? Because not only some people around the world encouraged me in my adventure by tweeting, but Sadie Nardini herself, the super busy yoga queen, who is known all over the US and the yogi world, took the time to respond personally to my tweets! Not once but four times!
I tweeted tonight: @sadienardini I completed my 21 day yoga body transformation, feeling wonderful, in charge and transformed. Thank you Sadie! You rock!
Then Sadie actually answered me by tweeting: @maryjanawege incredible!!! I am so impressed & happy that you completed the challenge. We rocked it together!
I am in awe. How great is that?!
  • My body feels lighter
  • I have been drinking more water than ever
  • I ate healthy meals
  • I have been setting personal goals
  • I let go of irritating and negative thoughts
  • I did not crave chocolate
  • I lost 3.1 kilos (6.8 pounds) 
  • I joined the twitter community with more than 500 million users
  • And Sadie Nardini personally encouraged me in this experience and is impressed with me! (If you want to read all of her tweets to me, click on the twitter button on the right or visit: www.twitter.com/maryjanawege to get to my profile.
All I can say is this: click on the following link "DailyOM", pay honestly what you can (it is worth every penny), start your 21 day yoga challenge today and become a "Rockstar Warrior"!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Lovely leftovers


What to do with leftover veggies? Italians would answer by saying: passato di verdure! The other day I had my hopefully-soon-to-be-in-laws over for supper. As a side dish I made crunchy carrots and zucchini (for my recipe click here). They were perfectly crunchy when we had them, but I made way too much of that side dish. Had I heated them the following day, they would have been too soft so I decided to make a soup. It was delish! I will give you two recipes today, one with the leftover vegetables and one with all fresh vegetables in case you don't have already cooked veggies on hand:



Recipe one - with barley and leftovers (serves 4)
The quantities depend on how much veggies you have got left over. I would say, cut up as many vegetables as you like and adjust the quantity of water. The vegetables should fill 2/3 of your large pan to allow enough space to add water.

leftover baked zucchini and carrots (for my recipe, click here)
 "Passato di verdure" with barley and bread. 
2 leeks (cut up)
2 more carrots (cut into small cubes)
2 small potatoes (cut into small cubes)
2 liters hot vegetable stock
salt, pepper and parsley (if desired)
1/2 cup barley
sunflower oil (if needed)
  • Heat the stock.
  • Wash barley well (at least three times with fresh water or until water is clear), then put in a bowl and cover with water. Let soak for at least 20 minutes or entire cooking time of the soup. 
  • Put the leftover veggies in your large pot and let them fry a bit, they should already have enough oil on them, otherwise add some more. Add leeks, let them fry for 20 seconds, they should not change colour, just get a bit translucent. 
  • Add remaining veggies and about 1.5 liters of the hot stock. Cover with a lid and let cook on low to medium heat for about 40 minutes. When the vegetables are cooked, put everything into a blender and blend. That's your "passato di verdure".
  • Put the "passato" back in the pan, add remaining stock and barley, let cook for 15 minutes over low heat or until barley is cooked. Do not overcook. Add salt, pepper and parsley. Serve with fresh bread (recipes will follow soon) or kamut sticks or grissini ("bibanesi di kamut" they are called here)

Recipe two -  all fresh veggies without barley (serves 4)
6 medium size carrots (cut into small cubes)
4 small size zucchini (cut into small cubes)
2 leeks (cut up)
2 small potatoes (cut into small cubes)
1.5 liters hot vegetable stock
salt, pepper and parsley (if desired)
1 tbs oil (I use sunflower oil)

  • Heat the stock.
  • Heat oil in the pan. Add some carrots and leeks (not all of them, just a few to fry in the oil for better taste). The leeks should not change colour, just get a bit translucent.
  • Add hot stock and remaining veggies. Cover with a lid and let cook on low to medium heat for about 40 minutes. When the vegetables are cooked, put everything into a blender and blend. That's your "passato di verdure".
  • Add salt, pepper and parsley to taste. Serve with fresh bread (recipes will follow soon) or kamut sticks ("bibanesi di kamut" they are called here).
  • If you wish you can add barley, follow steps from recipe one.
We have vegetable soups all the time, you can use all kinds of different vegetables. I love to see what colour the soup turns out to be. Always a great surprise!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Waterfall pigeon and challenging crow

I wish I had the right word to express how much I love the 21 day yoga body transformation course from DailyOm that I have been taking for the past 19 days. I love it. I love it and, oh right, I love it! I must say I do not even feel bad about quitting my other 21 day yoga challenge from the Yoga Journal. Yes, this was supposed to be a double yoga challenge, doing two programs for 21 days simultaneously. Along the way, however, I realized that I not only love Sadie Nardini's lesson much more than the other one, but I acknowledged the fact that Sadie's course was also much more effective - and on day 16 I quit the other program. Why do I not feel horrible about quitting? That's because I have transformed not only my body but also my ways of thinking thanks to the course. I managed to follow through the one yoga challenge that I really like and in fact, I have been feeling even more than satisfied these past few days, because I listened to what my body wanted: Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga by Sadie Nardini!
Sadie's program is very challenging though, the crow pose is impossible for me to do, but I loved the waterfall warrior and my favourite of all times is the waterfall pigeon! Two more days to go. Cannot wait for the next lesson tomorrow!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Not just rice, risotto!

Creamy risotto - the more often you make it, the better it gets. Don't give up.

Before I moved to Italy, I had never made a real risotto and I admit that I was really intimidated as I had heard a million times how difficult it is to make this dish. My boyfriend V. asked me pretty early in our relationship if I could make risotto for him, since I loved cooking so much. I choked, smiled and said "sure". Then I started a day long internet research and consulted all the cook books I owned to understand how to make a real Italian risotto. I combined three recipes, planned the cooking process down to the littlest detail and made my first risotto. It turned out alright. V. loved even my first not so perfect version. I improved over time and now I make it about once a week. Every time I made risotto I learned a new things and even included tips from V.'s mum, grandma and aunts.

Risotto is so versatile as you can throw in whatever you have in your fridge. I love to put in one large zucchini and two carrots for example. I made a truffle risotto yesterday, so I will let you know how I made this one, but you can put in anything you want. This recipe is for two eaters.

Step 1: Italian "soffritto"

Before you start, heat the stock, you will need it later.
Making "soffritto" is the most challenging part, but the most important as well. "Soffritto" is what Italians use as a basis for most pasta sauces, soups, risottos and even side dishes. You need the following:

1 carrot
1 small onion
1/2 stick celery
1 tablespoon olive oil
some water or stock

Cut the veggies in very small pieces, the smaller the better, don't be lazy, this is important. Heat oil in the pan but make sure it does not get too hot, low to medium heat is fine. Throw in your veggies and heat slowly. The onion should not burn. You can add water or stock to prevent the veggies from burning. The "soffritto" is ready when the veggies are soft. This takes about 15 minutes.

Step 2: Add the rice

You need:
1/3 cup (75-80 g) risotto rice per person
1/4 cup of white wine
750 ml of hot broth (I use vegetable broth, but you can also use chicken broth)
a few grams of sliced/grated truffles

There are various kinds of rice you can use, the most common type is Arborio, however, I use Vialone Nano. Try different kinds every time you make risotto and you will know which one you like the best.
Do not wash the rice (unless it's brown rice), you need the starch for the risotto.

Add the rice to your "soffritto", turn up the heat to high and stir. After a minute the rice becomes translucent. That's the moment when you need to add your wine.When all the liquid is evaporated (less than a minute), add your first ladle of hot stock and stir gently just to make sure that the rice does not burn on the side of your pan.

 The rice should looks like this after the wine has evaporated.

This is the moment when you put in your veggies such as zucchinis or carrots or in this case the truffles. You can also add a pinch of salt here, but for me, the stock usually is salty enough. Do never put on a lid. Wait until the water is 95 per cent evaporated, then add the next ladle of stock. Repeat this process until either your stock is used up or (this might be sooner or later) the rice has the right consistency. To determine this, you need a bit of experience. When the rice is soft outside and still a bit crunchy inside, I start the following step. Important: start step 3 when the rice is still a bit "harder" than you would actually like to eat it.

Step 3: the final act

You need:
1/3 cup (35 g) grated parmesan or grana padano cheese
1 teaspoon butter (if you like, I don't personally, but it makes the risotto creamier)

On your last ladle, when your rice is a little bit "harder" inside than you would like to eat it, and there is still some liquid around the rice, add the cheese (and butter if you like), put on the cover right away and turn off the heat. Let stand (do not stir) for two minutes. After two minutes, open the lid, stir up the risotto and serve right away!

Italians eat rice as a "primo" after your appetizer and before your main meat dish, however, V. and I often eat only risotto for lunch maybe with a side salad. 80 grams per person does not seem to be a lot of rice, but Italians are very picky about their pasta and rice measurements, because they actually do what we all know: cut down on your carbs!

If your risotto does not turn out perfectly well the first time, do not give up, make it often and you will improve over time. You know you got it right when the inside of the rice is still a tiny bit crunchy and the outside is super creamy - and then you want to make it all the time! I promise!

Vegan tip: Your risotto will still be creamy without the cheese or with any substitute cheese, use a neural tasting oil instead of butter.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Craving carrots and cucumbers

I have been practicing yoga for almost a decade, but I must say that yesterday's session from Sadie Nardini was the most challenging yoga practice I have ever had. The lesson is part of my 21 day total yoga body transformation from DailyOM and is titled "Finding balance". Well, whatever I tried during that session, I did not find my balance to say the least. Thankfully, Sadie mentioned in her video that yogis don't mind falling. So, you watched me Sadie?
I practiced the same poses again today and I must say that it was a little less disastrous, although not really balanced either. That's the fun of it though, trying hard and harder and feeling the body transformation slowly but continuously.

Add colour to your water with grapefruit and oranges.
Sadie's yoga style is so very different from all the other yoga practices I have tried and by far my favourite one. After the 35-40 minute training I am soaked, exhausted, satisfied and feel lighter all at the same time. Anyone reading this might think that Sadie Nardini is my cousin or pays me to be her biggest advocate, but that's not the case. She is simply amazing and her yoga style is the one I love and will practice for the rest of my life. Yes, that's quite a statement, but I am totally convinced.
My body is transforming, that's for sure. Without any effort, just by following Sadie's eating tips, I have shed 2.4 kilos (5.29 pounds) until today. I have not been craving either chocolate nor potato chips but healthy, whole foods such as apples, carrots, almonds, my healthy muffins (see recipe below) and even cucumbers (no kidding). I drink only one coffee per day and have not touched a diet coke in twelve days. This transformation program is totally working for me. Here are the recipes of some tasty infusions I made. Follow these recipes or simply be creative!

Tangerine grape infusion

one liter water
freshly squeezed lemon juice from half a lemon
tangerine pieces (cut up the slices) from two tangerines
a handful of cut up white grapes

Grapefruit orange infusion 
one liter of fresh water
one freshly squeezed grapefruit juice from half a grapefruit
orange pieces (cut up the slices)
add some ginger for extra spice

Tasty tangerine water with grapes and a hint of ginger.





Sunday, 13 January 2013

Start with a healthy treat

When I opened my new lesson from Daily OM today, I was a bit sad, because I am almost half way done my 21 day yoga body transformation course. This is how much I love it. I have been incorporating the little changes Sadie Nardini suggests and: guess what?! It was completely effortless.
Other than drinking 2.5 liters of infusion water a day (I have come up with some really tasty and pretty looking creations, photos will be posted shortly) I finally have an alternative to smoothies in the morning: whole wheat healthy muffins.
I made the second batch of healthy breakfast muffins today. I made minor changes to Sadie's recipe, I used frozen raspberries rather than fresh blueberries and I used 100% whole wheat flour where Sadie suggests half white, half whole. I also added some lemon zest, because I like the taste. Here is my slightly changed recipe for 12 muffins.

1 1/2 cups (165 g) of oat bran (substitute with wheat bran)
1 cup (250 ml) non-fat milk
1/2 cup (100 g) unsweetened apple sauce
1 egg
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup (40 g) ground flaxseed
2/3 cups (125 g) of brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (140 g) whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (240 g) frozen raspberries (Sadie suggests 1 cup or 190 g blueberries)
  • Preheat oven to 375 F/190 C
  • Grease muffin pan or use paper liners.
  • In a bowl mix bran and milk and let stand for 10 minutes 
  • In a second bowl mix together egg, apple sauce, brown sugar and vanilla, then blend with the bran mix. 
  • In a third bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, then add ground flaxseed. Stir the flour and flaxseed mix into the bran mix. Do not over beat. Mix the lemon zest with your berries first, then blend the fruit in with the dough. Scoop into muffin cups.
The muffins should be ready in 20-25 minutes. Sadie suggests to freeze them individually and pop them in the microwave oven in the morning to have a tasty breakfast. However, V. liked them a lot so that, between the two of us, they did not last a very long time. I made another batch today and I cannot wait to try them tomorrow morning - although... I was already told they were tasty!





Italian fairy tale on facebook

What an exciting day for my boyfriend V. and I today. He lowered his handicap to 12.5 and I finally published the facebook page of "my italian fairy tale". This is such a huge step as it is the first time I mention the existence of this blog to my friends all over the world.
As of today my buddies near and far can either check out my facebook entries on www.facebook.com/myitalianfairytale or sign up directly here by clicking the "follow me" button on the right hand side of this blog. I am so excited and very motivated to keep on going. Next entry is to follow in a few minutes!


Thursday, 10 January 2013

The secret lies in the water

On day 7 of my yoga challenge, I must say that I really feel the difference. I sit up straighter, my mind is more rested and, yes, I did lose weight: 3.75 pounds (1.7 kg). I see a more glowing Mary-Jana when I look in the mirror. This might be due to the little changes in my eating habits which are recommended by yoga teacher Sadie Nardini during the course - the secret might also be in the water of which I finally manage to drink a lot of.

Drinking more water used to be so difficult to me. I just forgot to drink during the day and I am not fond of the plain taste of nothingness. Thanks to Sadie I have been drinking about 2.5 liters every day - without any effort. The secret is: infusion! I simply throw some berries, an orange, some ginger slices or a lemon in fresh water. I keep the drink in a pretty glass container with a lid. Since I like my drinks at room temperature, I place the water bottle on the table where the floating fruit looks pretty. Every time I look at it, I pour myself a glass. Thank you, Sadie for helping me drink more water!

Just throw a handful of raspberries in your water; the outcome is pretty and delicious.

Making time for yoga every day means to show a lot of discipline but the reward I am getting is worth it! Plus, I learn to be organized. Sadie Nardini is so motivating and inspirational, although she is only present on the screen of my i-pad, it seems as though she goes through the transformation process with me. Knowing that she lost 40 pounds doing yoga and making little changes in her life gives me energy to reach my personal goals. During her course "21 day yoga body on Daily Om" (http://www.dailyom.com/cgi-bin/courses/courseoverview.cgi?cid=167) she encourages the participant to keep a journal, list transformation goals and get negative influences and thoughts out of my life, mind and body forever.

The other yoga challenge from the Yoga Journal (http://www.yogajournal.com/21daychallenge/) takes about 30-40 minutes a day and is mainly focussed on yoga poses but not so much on overall transformation. After one week I would totally recommend Sadie Nardini's course over the Yoga Journal one, but taking both of them, makes the experience a true challenge!



Monday, 7 January 2013

New Year - New MJ

New year resolutions are lame to some. Why change on a specific date? Why not change on a specific date? That's my opinion. If you want a transformation, the date is today.
There are not many things I would like to change about myself. I am a loved member of my family and my wonderful boyfriend makes me feel like a princess every day. I am healthy, I have a wonderful home and my life in Italy is sunny and full of little pleasures. What would I want to change? Well, there is always something: discipline and patience for example are two things I would like to show more in my every day life. In order to work on my inner self and get back into shape after all the Christmas cookies and German nut triangles I ate, I decided to to start a transformation by doing more of what I love to do: yoga.
I took on not one but two yoga challenges. I am already on day 4 of both programs and I can feel my body and mind have changed already!
Both courses are taught online. The first one I chose is the 21 day yoga challenge from the Yoga Journal. It is completely free of charge, so no excuses. Here is the link: http://www.yogajournal.com/21daychallenge/. I am participating in the intermediate program. The lessons are quite intense but the teachers explain each pose really well. This program compliments the other challenge I took on: 21 day yoga body by Sadie Nardini and DailyOM and I must say: this program rocks! Here is the link: http://www.dailyom.com/cgi-bin/courses/courseoverview.cgi?cid=167. You can pay as little as one dollar, but I suggest you honestly pay what you can, these lessons are definitely worth every cent. Sadie Nardini teaches a great yoga style which I have been practicing through her online lessons for a while: Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga. The poses are challenging and highly intense and that's why they are really effective. I can feel my body changing already!
What's more, Sadie gives great tips on how to incorporate little changes in your life to become the person you want to be by making healthier choices when it comes to inner thoughts as well as food.
She gives practical advice that I do not want to all share with you as I believe you should really take the course yourself and follow the expert. However, I will show you how some of her recipes turn out and how I changed them to fit better into my lifestyle and diet. Change today. Take the 21 day yoga challenges and tell me how this works for you! Namaste.