Archive | May, 2013

life lately

I haven’t shared any Instagram photos recently, so I thought that might be a fun way to start our Thursday!  (Follow me here or search for @beccagarber on Instagram if you’d like more frequent updates.)  These are from the past month and include a few from this week when my sister was visiting.  (She left this morning — boo hoo!  We love you, Auntie Em!)


My baby and her baby doll… and now all she needs is a plane ticket!
& Sunday morning post-church photo… the only successful one in a whole lot of failures (thanks to Lena’s ‘tood)


Sibling love one weekend morning; we were trying to be quiet so Daddy could sleep in!
& I bought these pants soon after I had Gil because I just believed I’d one day fit into them.  Happy was the day when I did!


pretty in pink ombré
& Saturday morning book-reading in bed


gleeful over a chocolate bar from Nonno, the owner of the general store in our town’s piazza
& Bacio-flavored gelato on a weekday morning… don’t mind if I do!


so beautiful in her dress from her to-be-uncle Charlie
& one handsome fella’s first time in the Bumbo seat


welcoming our friends’ new little baby Eden!
& so adorable in their new summer hats


a “birth day”/welcome home cake I made for Baby Eden
& they’re up to something…


Auntie Em is visiting!!!  We had the most wonderful time with her in town this past week.
& another granite (Italian ice) date on a warm afternoon


our Memorial Day: a cookout with friends & a trip to the pool with Auntie Em (and a little surfer dude)


Lena got her first pedicure yesterday!  She might have smeared nail polish on her face…
& a trip to the mall to buy a new swimsuit


What are you up to this Thursday?

3 :: in family, Instagram, life lately

an Italian tradition :: Tiramisu!


I have a confession: I really am not a huge tiramisu fan.  In fact, I didn’t even know what it was until I moved to Sicily.  Am I alone in this?  It seems like a lot of people have a love/hate relationship with tiramisu.

But then my friends and I got together recently for another Italian cooking class and we all learned how to make tiramisu.  My first reaction was: wow, it’s really easy!   Surprisingly so, considering what an elegant dessert you can create in so little time.

My second reaction came when I bit into the fresh tiramisu itself: wow… I think I love this.  Cool on a hot day, the perfect blend of cream and coffee, light as well as rich… I was hooked.  One piece wasn’t enough.  I wanted to eat the whole plate!

And now here’s how to make a whole plate for yourself.  I’ve included the kitchen-friendly recipe at the end of the post for easy reference.


First, brew up 6 cups of Italian espresso, which is how much one Italian espresso pot makes.  In American terms, that’s 9 oz, or about 1.5 measuring cups of very strong, very dark coffee.

Admire any cute babies while you’re at it.

Pour the espresso into a shallow dish, add 2 teaspoons of sugar, and let it cool while you prepare the cream filling.


Assemble your ingredients: 4 eggs, 120 grams of sugar (1/2 a cup), 400 grams of lady fingers (about 50 cookies), and 1 lb of mascarpone cheese.  Divide the eggs into two medium-sized bowls.


In the bowl with the egg whites, add a pinch of salt and then beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.  This picture of Ester beating egg whites on the floor made me laugh because it is so typical of my own cooking experience in several Italian kitchens, ie. electric sockets are not always where you expect them!

In the bowl with the egg yolks, add the 1/2 cup of sugar and then beat the mixture until it is a very light yellow.  After that, add the 1 lb of mascarpone cheese (see above) and mix it by hand until it is white and fluffy.


Fold the two egg mixtures into each other in one bowl.

Now it’s time to assemble your tiramisu!  Make sure you have your shallow dish of cool coffee, your bowl full of the cream mixture, your packet of lady fingers, and a dish for your tiramisu.


Begin by dipping a lady finger into the coffee mixture.  Lay it in the mixture, flip it over to soak the other side, and then remove it.  Take care not to leave the lady finger in the coffee too long or it will become too soggy and begin to dissolve.  Lay your cookie in your tiramisu dish.  (Note: we used both a casserole dish and a plate, and in our opinion the tiramisu on the plate looked prettier in the end.)  Continue this process, laying lady fingers next to each other in a neat row, until you have made the base of your tiramisu as large as you would like it.


Spread about half of the cream over the top of the lady fingers.


Dust with a layer of unsweetened cocoa powder.


Continue the process with another layer of coffee-soaked lady fingers.  Add another layer of cream and unsweetened cocoa…


… and voilà!  Tiramisu!  Isn’t it pretty?  I love the sloppy elegance.

Chill in the refrigerator at least 4 hours before serving.  Alternatively, you can put it in the freezer for 30-45 minutes and serve.

Here are a few possible variations:

  1. You might have noticed that this recipe includes raw eggs!  Not good if you’re pregnant… or if you’re just not a fan of raw eggs.  You can use panna montata (whipping cream) with mascarpone and omit all eggs for the cream.  Beat the whipping cream with the 1/2 cup of sugar and whip in the mascarpone cheese.
  2. If you do not like the flavor of coffee or just want a different option you can use crushed strawberries mixed with sugar.  Soak the biscuits the same way and you can also add fresh strawberries as garnish.
  3. Liqueur is sometimes added to the cream to add a twist to the dessert (and is commonly included in tiramisu gelato, too!).  Add brandy or another liqueur if you would like.

Tiramisu Recipe

  • 6 Italian cups of espresso + two tsp sugar (cooled)
  • 4 eggs
  • 120g sugar (1/2 cup)
  • 400g lady fingers (about 50 cookies)
  • unsweetened cocoa
  • 500g or ½ kilo or 1 lb mascarpone cheese (if you are in Italy, I recommend the Galbani Santa Lucia brand)


  • Prepare 6 Italian cups of espresso.  While still hot, add 2 teaspoons of sugar and let it cool in a shallow dish.
  • Divide the egg yolks and the egg.  Put the egg whites in one bowl and the egg yolks in another bowl (both bowls large enough to beat the eggs in).
  • Put 120grams (1/2 cup) of sugar in the bowl with the egg yolks.  Make a cream by whipping it by hand until it changes color to be light yellow.  Mix the mascarpone cheese in with the egg yolks until it is white and fluffy.
  • Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and beat until it forms stiff peaks.
  • Fold the two egg mixtures in together to form a cream.
  • Dip lady fingers very quickly into the espresso mix and place quickly in to the pan.  Don’t do them too long or they will be soggy.  Place lady fingers only in the bottom of the pan.
  • Spread less than half of the cream on top of the biscuits.
  • Sprinkle unsweetened cocoa on top of the cream.  Add another layer of biscuits, the rest of the cream and top with unsweetened cocoa.
  • Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or you can put it in the freezer to eat it faster.  You can also freeze tiramisu and eat frozen; just pull it out of the freezer 30 minutes before you want to eat it.
7 :: in eat this, Italy, Sicily

the last blood orange of the season


Elliott and Lena have befriended the farmers that live in the valley below our house.  Not only do these farmers have pigs, chickens, ducks, rabbits, and puppies (one of which Elliott has named Luigi and really wants to adopt), but they also have a huge vegetable garden and an orange grove.  On multiple occasions Elliott has returned home bearing bags of produce and fresh eggs.  Farmers are good people to know!

A few weeks ago the farmer handed Elliott a bag of blood oranges and told him that these were absolutely the last blood oranges of the season.  Feeling nostalgic for my favorite Sicilian delicacy, I took a few photos as Lena and I ate the final orange.

(Am I being absurdly sentimental?  Maybe… but after my friend Desiree moved back to the States, she told me that she can’t get blood oranges there and that its cousin — the Cara Cara orange — costs $1.30 per orange.  So I’ll savor these oranges for as long as I can… especially when they’re given to us for free and were picked from trees growing right outside my house!)




“Mmm… bloody,” Lena’s friend Lucas exclaimed the other day as he bit into a blood orange.

“Now that,” commented his mother, “is a unique word for a two-year-old to have in his vocabulary.”




Next winter, Gil, I’ll give you all the blood oranges you want to eat!


Although there were no oranges in my favorite market truck today, it was loaded with other things.   I bought ruby-red cherries and the first sun-kissed apricots of the summer.  I reached out to touch rock-hard peaches with something akin to reverence; I hadn’t eaten one in almost a year.  That is the comfort of eating seasonally: one delicious thing is just replaced by new ones… all year round!

13 :: in eat this, Italy, Sicily

we have a castle in our front yard

becca-garber-motta-sicily-castle-8 When people in my little Sicilian town ask me where I live, I love my answer: “Io vivo vicino al castello.”  I live near the castle.

They raise their eyebrows and smile appreciatively.  Not many Americans would ever choose my neighborhood, which was originally built in the Middle Ages and boasts narrow cobblestone streets barely wide enough to fit our Honda Civic.

“You live near the castle?” they repeat, smiling.  “The Campinole neighborhood?”

I nod, thinking of the green-and-gold neighborhood pride.  “And I love it,” I reply sincerely. becca-garber-motta-sicily-castle-3

And I do.  Living in our neighborhood isn’t always easy.  Our car has lost a lot of paint as we have learned how to drive and park on streets meant for horses and ox carts.  We’ve shivered through the winters in a house without any heating system.  We often feel out of place and isolated in a neighborhood that is entirely Sicilian (and mostly elderly).  Many evenings our dinnertime conversation is almost drown out by drumbeats outside our front door as the neighborhood’s musicians practice for the annual Medieval festival.

But for all its quirks, this neighborhood is impossible not to love.  The faded buildings and cobblestone streets are so quintessentially Italy.  The old women with their shawls smile from the windows, the old men pause to greet Lena (“ciao, bella!”) on their walks to the piazza.  There is a closeness, a real spirit of the neighborhood, which comes from its endless preparation and hosting of the Medieval festival every summer.  All year round the youths practice their baton twirling, their dances, their drum routines, their flag throwing.  For a week every August the whole island of Sicily knows about Motta Sant’Anastasia, and the best performances of all happen just outside our house in the piazza in front of the castle.


Last week Lena, Gil, and I went on a walk on a windy afternoon and ended up inside the castle itself.  I only visit the castle every 6 months or so, even though I look at it every single day outside my front door.  In the photo on the left above, our house is the yellow one, and the photo was taken from the castle’s window.


The castle was built in Motta when the Normans invaded Sicily, and the costumes and artifacts inside the castle are from that time period.  I love watching the informational video with our visitors because it reminds me of the generations that have lived on the edge of the cliff for centuries before my little American family took up residence here.  In the castle there’s even a dungeon (above right) with a true story of a rightful duke who was thrown into it!


Stairs (and stairs and stairs) lead up two more levels to the top of the castle, where there are beautiful views of Etna over the valley (above right).


And finally, more mannequins in Medieval garb and more beautiful views from windows.  What an amazing privilege to live in such a place, where we have gelato in the piazza, a volcano across the valley, and a castle right outside our front door!

11 :: in home sweet home, Italy, Sicily, Uncategorized

new in the Etsy shop


Yesterday I took Lena to a friend’s house to share their babysitter, put Gil down for a nap, and then worked furiously to update my Etsy shop.  I’ve made a few fun new things recently and also wanted to give the shop a facelift while I was at it.  Well, Gil didn’t stay asleep for long, and Lena’s playful morning was all too short, but finally by around 11pm last night I did accomplish my goal!

Check out Making Room {Handmade} on Etsy to see what I’ve been working on.  I’m especially in love with those darling little purple Mary Janes in the photo above.  I made a pair for my friend Becca’s new baby (who arrived last night… yay!) and can’t wait to see them on those little baby toes!

Have you been crafting lately?

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4 :: in Making Room {Handmade}

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