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Ok people.

I’m about to make a bold statement.

I have thought long and hard about this.

I have tasted and tasted and tasted.

And then I thought some more.

Then, on Saturday night, I was treated to a very special dinner by my husband… and it sealed the deal.

Crispy potato gnocchi with four cheese fondue and truffle shavings. Dear Gussie. (bad photo taken by my phone)

The best flavor on the planet- hands down- is….

Drumroll please…

White Truffle

Since deciding that this is the best flavor ever, I thought I should get to know Capt. White Truffle better. Truffles (the fungus, not the chocolate) are the fruiting body of an underground mushroom.

I know that Capt. White Truffle doesn’t look like much in its washed form, but I promise you that it does not disappoint.

White truffles are found, most often, in Northern Italy (the Piedmont region), and they are pricey.

Our grocery store carries the teeny-tiniest little specs of white truffles (about the size of a chickpea) for approx. $18.00.

The most that a white truffle has ever brought at auction was $330,000 for a 3.3 lb truffle. Yes folks, $330,000. Wowzer.

I come bearing good news, however.

You can have the magic of the white truffle (or the black truffle, for that matter) for much less money.

And here’s how:

1. White Truffle Oil

My regular grocery store carries this brand in the olive oil section (at $11.99 per can, it is a little pricey but it lasts for a long time!). Several different varieties are available online- amazon.com carries a few.

I like to finish off any roasted vegetables with a drizzle of the white truffle oil. As soon as the roasted potatoes, broccoli, asparagus, or whatever comes out of the oven I drizzle about 1 1/2 t. of the magic oil on top and give it all a toss. Or, since the summer is finally upon us, you can pull your veggies off of the grill and add the oil. The oil adds about a billion times more flavor than a simple pat of butter.

2. Truffled Salt

This bad boy ingredient is from Williams-Sonoma.

Whole Foods Stores also carry truffled salt. At many Whole Foods Stores, you can buy this salt from a bulk bin. While the price per pound is very expensive, a little bit of this stuff goes a long way. So, for $5.00, you can have a few months worth supply of truffled salt.

And it makes my life.

Finish off some eggs with this stuff for an umami explosion in your mouth.

Or use a sprinkle of the salt in some bruschetta.

Or how about on vegetables?

Or even on a grilled piece of meat?

So so good.

3. Truffled Butter

For $14.99 (for 3 oz.), you can own your own slice of heaven- Truffle Butter. Again, amazon.com comes through with this delectable offer.

Buy yourself a loaf of good bread, toast up a slice, and slather some of this savory truffle butter on top.

Your life will never be the same, I promise.

If you have never had the pleasure of eating truffles, I implore you to try them… and try them soon. Your life will be changed. For the better. Forever. And ever.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

XO,

Leah

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Please.

Do yourself a favor.

Go borrow this book from the library.

Or buy it on the cheap from Amazon.

Or buy it brand new in a bookstore.

Or load it onto your Kindle.

And please do so immediately.

I read this highly recommended book (from a couple of trusted voracious readers in my life), and I tore through this true story in two days.

Unbroken is the true story of Louie Zamperini.

Louie (left) and his brother Pete.

Louie was an Olympic runner that joined the Air Force at the onset of World War 2. During a rescue mission, Louie’s plane went down and Louie and two other men were stranded at see for more than a month.

When the group finally reached land, the group found themselves on Japanese territory. They became Japanese POWs for the duration of the war.

This story. Oh, this story. It is the story of the power of the human spirit.

And it is the story of thousands of our grandparents and parents. To put a human story to the devastation of World War 2 completely altered my perception of the war. And it helped me gain a deeper understanding of the generation that lived through the war.

Along with The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank and Night by Elie Wiesel, Unbroken is a MUST READ (in my humble opinion) to feel connected to the stories and people of World War 2. A visit to Pearl Harbor (I was there in 1998, 2006, and again just a few short months ago) also helps to paint a vivid picture of the experience of the beginning days of America’s involvement in the war.

I’m not a history buff, and admittedly I don’t know as much about our history as I should. This book made me want to know more… to understand more.

I implore you. Make time to read this book, but be warned- you will be sucked in. You will be transported to a different world in a different time. You will be filled with gratitude for those that came before you, and for those that gave their lives for America’s freedom and continued social justice in the world.

If you are planning on doing some relaxing over this glorious holiday weekend, grab this book and lose yourself in it.

Have a fun and safe holiday weekend!

XO,

Leah

Please forgive me for a moment while I brag on my husband.

You don’t mind, do you?

I’ll keep it short and sweet.

Brad has big dreams.

However, unlike a lot of people with big dreams, Brad passionately pursues his dreams.

He has never been a “someday I’m going to…” type of person.

Rather, he chases every dream and passion with abandon. And I just love that about him.

With that said, a few years ago Brad had an idea to make a romantic comedy. And that dream will come true in a few short months when shooting begins.

It is not luck.

It is pure hard work by Brad and the amazing team of friends, creatives and visionaries that are in our lives.

While waiting on funding for the romantic comedy to be fully realized, the opportunity arose to create a micro-budget (that means exactly what it sounds like- super duper low budget) film.

And that film is currently in post production.

I’m excited to share with you the trailer for Fenced Off.

Now, what shall I wear to the Oscars?

XO,

Leah

I think vegetables reach their full potential when they are stuffed.

Holler if you hear me.

Check out this massive zucchini I got at the grocery store- thanks pesticides!

If you are a gardener, zucchini is one of those fruits that does well. So well, that many folks end up with a plethora of these bad boys throughout the summer.

Here is a zucchini fun fact: zucchini is actually an immature fruit (not vegetable),¬†being the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower. Doesn’t that sound appetizing?

In this culinary context, zucchini is a vegetable.

And I don’t care what you say about that.

Preheat your oven to 425.

Anywho, start by chopping off the head and tail of this zucchini.

Then take off a little tiny sliver of the side of the vegetable, so that it will lay flat to be stuffed and to bake.

Slice her open.

And scrape out her guts.

Give the hollowed out inside a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Pop those into the oven- either straight on to the rack or onto a small sheet pan- while you prepare the stuffing.

The zucchini needs to cook for 15-25 minutes. The time varies by the size of the zucchini. The zucchini I had was about 10 inches long and it took a total of 20 minutes to cook (about 10 without the filling and 10 with the filling).

Pull out a non-stick pan.

Put it over a burner on medium-high heat.

And add in some olive oil.

Once the olive oil is heated, toss in some onion. For one large zucchini (serving 2 people), use 1/4 of a white, yellow or red onion.

Or if you are feeling crazy, like I clearly was, you can use 3 small shallots.

To the shallots or onions, add two finely diced or crushed cloves of garlic.

If you are ever invited to a Pampered Chef party, invest in a garlic crusher (seen below). Pampered Chef makes the best version out there (believe me… I have tried a few), and it keeps you and your hands from smelling like a hoagie for the next day.

I consider the garlic to be cooked when the aroma fills the kitchen.

DO NOT overcook the garlic. You know it is overcooked if it starts to turn brown. Overcooked garlic tastes really bitter and is nasty.

To the onion and garlic, add some chopped tomato.

I used two medium sized vine-ripened tomatoes for my zucchini.

Keep the tomato in the pan for about 2 minutes. That is long enough to warm the tomatoes through, and it is long enough that some of those extra tomato juices evaporate away.

After 2-3 minutes, add in 1 T. of vinegar. I prefer balsamic.

Side note: I hope you know this, but when I use a lowercase t. – that means teaspoon. And when I use an uppercase T.- that means tablespoon. I probably should have clarified that about a year ago. Oopsie.

Stir it all around, and let those flavors get to know one another.

Now, grab your preheated zucchinis and place them on a small foil-lined sheet pan.

Hmmmmm….. looks like something is missing.

What could it be?

What could it be?

Oh yes.

Cheese, of course!

Get creative here. I popped on some goat cheese because goat cheese makes my life.

But you could use mozzarella, parmesan, or even pepper jack. Maybe I would shy away from cheddar, but mostly I don’t think you could go wrong here with any cheese choice.

Since my zucchini had already cooked 10 of the 20 minutes, I threw these guys back into the oven for another 10 minutes.

I should mention that these guys also taste awesome on a grill. Especially a charcoal, smoky grill.

I love grillin’ season.

After the last 10 minutes of baking time, the zucchini came out looking like this.

And yes, they taste as good as they look.

And they taste like summer!

I hope everyone is having the most wonderful week.

XO,
Leah

Monday night is the night that Brad loads up our trash and puts it on the curb. We are also fortunate that we live in a neighborhood where the township workers come and pick up our yard waste.

So last night, there was a storm a-brewin’ and Brad hurried to get everything to the curb. He left the backyard with a large bag of weeds and sticks and general yard leftovers, and walked through our gate toward the front yard pulling the gate closed behind him.

Now, before we proceed with the story lets take a look at our precious pup, Lola.

This was her on Monday night while the sun was still shining.

Well, about 8 pm Brad and I were sitting down for dinner when we noticed two things:

1. A massive storm was about to start- we flipped on the TV, and there was in fact a tornado warning for our area.

2. Lola was nowhere to be found.

We searched every room in our house yelling for sweet Lola, but to no avail.

Brad popped his head out in the backyard and realized the gate door didn’t latch when he took the yard waste to the curb, and our Lola Belle saw her chance to choose her own adventure.

This isn’t the first time Lola has made an escape. She can’t help it. She is a hound, and her nose beckons her on grand adventures.

Normally, we’ll grab her leash and some treats to try and lure her home.

But we couldn’t do that last night.

The sky was black, the wind was howling, and branches were being blown about.

And all I could think about was the fact that this precious pup was out there- and she was likely very scared.

Now, I have a nasty habit of assuming the worst.

And, these days, I have slightly elevated hormone levels.

So, I stood at the front door about to go into hysterics while I pictured Lola being swept away by a funnel cloud.

Or pelted by flying lawn furniture.

Or run over by a car because visibility was so poor.

Or smashed to smithereens by a large branch.

I felt helpless that our ding-dong pup was out there on a very scary night all alone.

I begged Brad to get into his car and just go drive around the block looking for her. And yes, I was ok with him leaving in the middle of a tornado warning.

I didn’t say that I have a logical brain.

Clearly, I do not.

Brad refused to leave while the storm raged on.

I continued to bite my lip to not go into the ugly cry.

Eventually, the storm died down.

Brad grabbed Lola’s leash and some treats, and he headed out to hopefully find our beloved ding-a-ling.

I waited.

And waited.

I said a prayer.

I looked out the window.

I waited some more.

I texted some dog lovin’ family and friends to send their prayers Lola’s way.

And eventually…

Eventually, Brad walks through the door with a soaked to the bone Lola.

The minute I saw her, I was relieved.

And then I wanted to kill her.

Brad proceeded to tell me that as he searched for Lola, a neighbor walked toward him with Lola on a leash.

Apparently, Lola was mid-adventure when the storm hit.

She must have been scared because she burst into our neighbor’s house unannounced.

Our sweet neighbors graciously allowed her to take cover while they too waited out the storm.

Here is Lola after her return.

Still pretty darn wet.

But also pretty exhausted.

I like to think she was glad to be home.

But part of me knows that she likely loved every moment of her grand adventure.

Nothing like a tornado and a dog escape to take an otherwise Monday evening and turn it into a drama packed evening.

I’m hoping for a calm and relaxing day today.

I hope for the same for you, my friends.

XO,

Leah

Miss and Lola’s cousin, Bosco, came to visit over the weekend.

Bosco came with my sister and sister-in-law.

This video should give you a glimpse of what every moment of Lola and Bosco’s time together was like. Miss mostly tried to just stay out of the way.

Click Here. 

Happy Monday!

Leah

Today my heart is in Connecticut.

And, the rest of me wishes I was there.

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

May God be with you and bless you;
May you see your children’s children.
May you be poor in misfortune,
Rich in blessings,
May you know nothing but happiness
From this day forward.

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the warm rays of sun fall upon your home
And may the hand of a friend always be near.

May green be the grass you walk on,
May blue be the skies above you,
May pure be the joys that surround you,
May true be the hearts that love you.

Congratulations!

Here is to a lifetime of happiness and love.

We can’t wait to celebrate with you in person.

With love,

Leah

Mussels.

Mmmmmm.

More specifically, mussels cooked in wine with garlic and butter.

Please feel free to whip up a batch for me and then drop it off at my house.

I would be grateful forever and ever.

I would also love a crusty piece of bread to dip into the broth.

Thank you friends.

Ok, this is book review and recommendation numero two for this week.

I absolutely devoured this book:

Again, my cousin’s fiancee Jen recommended this book. I shall forever more read what she recommends because she is two for two.

The book starts in Scilla, Calabria, Italy in 1890, and it tells the story of Giovanna Costa Pontill Siena (how’s that for a mouthful?). Giovanna immigrates to the United States in the early 1900s, and the story captures her love and loss, her career, her family, and ultimately her terrifying experience with the early American Mafiosi.

When the Black Hand, the Italian neighborhood mafia and terrorists, entered the story I could not put the book down- yes, the Black Hand was a real organization that thrived in New York from 1880-1920. The extortion that early immigrants faced at the hands of exiled Italian criminals was unjust and left little option except compliance. But Giovanna resisted… and then suffered because of her resistance.

What makes this story so compelling is that it is based on the author’s real family history. It is a novel, but the characters, main events, and story line are all true. Unbelievable at times, but true.

My Great-Grandpa Montella immigrated to the US from Southern Italy around the same time as Giovanna. I couldn’t help but wonder what his experience was like. And I desperately wish that someone would have captured his story as eloquently as Laurie Fabiano did for her family. What a treat for all of us to catch a unique glimpse into our country over a hundred years ago.

I own the book, so if you want to borrow it- let me know. I highly recommend Elizabeth Street. Even if you are not an avid reader, you will thoroughly enjoy this story. I promise.

Next on my book list is Unbroken. This book comes highly recommended from my friend Liz. I can’t wait to get started on it.

I’m always open to a good recommendation, so keep them coming!

XO,
Leah

Have you read this book?

I hadn’t either until this past week.

My cousin’s bride-to-be, who is a food, wine, and literature lover (yes, she will fit right in with this family) recommended this fun and fascinating read.

Garlic and Sapphires is a memoir written by Ruth Reichl who chronicles her tenure as the Restaurant Critic for the New York Times.

It is a light and easy read that pulled me into the world of the best restaurants of NYC. The author took me on a culinary adventure through the city’s best and worst restaurants with her delectable detail of every morsel of food she consumed.

What makes this book even more interesting is the fact that Ruth was so uber recognizable in the city that she had to develop disguises and characters to go unnoticed as a critic in the restaurants. It was fascinating to see how the critic acted and was treated when she was in character.

The book is peppered with Ruth’s favorite recipes, and it is a must read for any food lover.

This summer, if you are headed to the beach, this is the perfect light-hearted read.

Happy Monday Friends!

XO,
Leah

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