Sunday, March 29, 2009



Bob and I did not make plans to go anywhere for spring break this year, opting to go to Hilton Head Island for a wedding in May. So winter has been long for us and we felt like we needed a little breath of spring yesterday. So we crossed the river and made our way over to Como Park in St. Paul ( . At the Marjorie Mcneely Conservatory the spring flower show is currently running and it is simply beautiful. Since it was the weekend it was a bit crowded, but so worth the visit. The conservatory is just a burst of color with beautiful flowers, from the usual spring tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and lilies. The other rooms are filled with ferns, palm trees of all sorts and kinds and exotic flowers including orchids. I can heartily recommend a trip to the conservatory if you need a little spring and with the forecast for more snow this week, I say head on over and feel the warmth!

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Sunday, March 22, 2009



I spent the long winter months with my nose in a book, hoping that winter would flee and that spring would arrive. And after finishing two of Ken Follet's books,( each over 1,000 pages in length I have discovered that spring has finally sprung! The two books, Pillars of the Earth and World Without End are about the building of great cathedrals.

Since, I lead culinary tours of Italy and because I travel their frequently with my family, I can boast that I have been in some of the world's most beautiful, renowned and impressive churches, cathedrals and basilicas in this world. I have enjoyed the Tridium and Easter in St. Peter's in Rome as well as experiencing an audience with Pope John Paul the II with 32 cadets of St. Thomas Academy in St. Peter's Square. I have visited all 5 major churches in Rome and minor ones as well. I have been to the Duomo and Santa Maria Novella in Florence and small places of worship. And have visited the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi while leading tours. In Sienna I have taken countless clients to the Church of St. Catherine and viewed her remains. We have been part of the vigil known as Volto Santo in Lucca that leads us into the magnificent Cathedral every Sept. 13th.

With friends I have toured the church at Knock in Ireland, where the Blessed Virgin appeared to young children and have visited the church of St. Bridget as well. In the states I have been in many beautiful churches, the church at the University of San Diego, Sacred Heart Cathedral on the campus of Notre Dame, St. John's on the Creighton University Campus are all great and magnificent structures.

But until recently I never thought about how they were built. This morning my husband, Bob and I decided to go to the Bascilica of St. Mary's ( in Minneapolis for Mass. I have been to Masses at this beautiful church many times, have attended weddings there and our 3 sons were confirmed there as well. But today, it was as if I saw that church for the first time. The grandeur, the beautiful stained glassed windows, the marble statuary, the incredible crucifix, it was all new to me. And then I thought about those who built these beautiful places of worship. How did they do it? The time the labor, the expense, to honor our Lord and God.

Ken Follett's books take place in the 1100 and 1300's. How back then in those ancient times did they have the where with all to build the magnificent buildings, structures, pillars that we call our churches today?

In the past I have travelled over the great pond to see these beautiful churches. I have enjoyed tours given by guides that have explained the details of the buildings to our groups. But today I drove just 20 minutes from home and after reading these two books, I actually took in the meaning of what it must have taken to actually build a place of such splendor for us to worship in. I will never take these holy places for granted again. I thank God to be lucky enough to be able to visit his holy home and I thank the builders for doing God's work.

I hope that you too, might take a weekend off from your usual visit to your church and visit the Basilica of St. Mary or perhaps the Cathedral in St.Paul and really look at their beauty, drink it in, savor it, thank God for his holy home where we can find refuge in these troubled times. You don't have to go as far as I do to relish these beautiful structures, they are in our own back yard.

And for next winter I whole-heartily suggest you read Ken Follett's two novels, but for now get out and enjoy the greatest cathedral God has ever built, the out-of doors. For after our long dead winter, the hope of spring and new life is now upon us. Let us give thanks.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Tuesday, March 17, 2009



I will be teaching a class that I fondly call Endless Pastabilities at the Nordic Ware Store in St. Louis Park on March 24th from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. To register for this class you may call them at 952-924-9672, the cost is $25.oo per person.

That evening I will be making a couple of pastas from the different regions of Italy. From Liguria I will make a fresh pesto sauce and serve it over pasta. This area of Italy is known for both their seafood and basil and is located in the area of Italy that is called the Italian Riviera. And from Rome I will make their most famous pasta dish, Pasta Amatriciana, a spicy sauce made tomatoes, onions and pancetta. We will enjoy roasted asparagus and mini cheesecakes with a fruit topping.

The classes are located in the Nordic Ware showroom and you will have plenty of opportunity to shop at a discount that evening. Just think you might be able to purchase something special to use for your Easter dinner preparations.

I hope to see you at this class on March 24, 2009.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Friday, March 13, 2009


Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

In Ireland St. Patrick's Day is more of a religious celebration than it is here in the United States ( While many people attend parades and parties in the streets and bars, I keep our celebration on the quiet side usually making a Lamb Stew, Irish Soda Bread and serving Guinness or Hot Whiskeys.

I acquired this recipe for Irish Soda Bread so long ago that I can't remember which of my Irish friend's gave it to me. I always serve it with good butter and with the stew and I always have a very happy Irish family on the saints day.

This soda bread is really good for breakfast too. I hope you all enjoy it as much as we do.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins


3 cups all purpose flour

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup dried currants

1 teaspoon caraway seed

1 and 1/2 cups butter milk

In a large bowl stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Stir in the currants, and caraway seeds. Add butter milk, stir until the dry ingredients are moistened. Turn into a greased 8x1 and 1/2 inch round baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees until browned about 40 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Remove from pan and cool completely. Makes 1 loaf.

Thursday, March 12, 2009




Most of you know that my heritage is Italian, but did you know that my husband is Irish, making my 3 son's half Irish? We have many friends living in Ireland as well, and this past fall, we finally made our first trip to the Emerald Isle and I fell in love with it.

The food, the people, the countryside, the accent, the Guiness and the Hot Whiskeys. Now, I have to say my drink of preference is red wine, but when in Ireland drink what the Irish drink! And I did. Guiness for strength, it was a demanding trip and Hot Whiskeys for warmth, it was pretty cool and damp in Oct., but our driver Phillip did keep our mini bus nice and warm for us.

Traveling with 4 other couples who are also good friends made this a perfect trip. We began in Northern Ireland and one of our first stops was Bushmill's home of the worlds oldest distillery near the famous Giant's Causeway. We stayed at the beautiful Bushmill's Inn known for it's multi award winning restaurant and Inn. We were not disappointed. A warm fire, a cozy dining room and great food always awaited us and of course we were introduced to "Hot Whiskeys." And for the week when we were not drinking Guiness for strength you would find us with the warm drink.

We did spend a half day visiting the distillery where an excellent tour is given and we did enjoy a hearty lunch as well and of course were given a sample of their "Hot Whiskeys." (recipe to follow) And after making several purchases we were on our way to the next town and adventure.

Now on this cold winter night, I am going to go and make myself a hot whiskey and go through my photos of a very special trip. I just can't think of a better way to prepare for St. Paddy's Day. Maybe you better have a Hot Whiskey for warmth as it is after all very cold out or if you prefer have yourself a Guiness for strength.

Erin Go Braugh!

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

2 parts water
1 part whiskey
1 liter of water flavored with cinnamon sticks and whole cloves.

Take several cinnamon sticks and several whole cloves and tie them in a piece of cheesecloth and add a liter of water and spices to a pan. Bring water to a boil. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes or longer if you prefer a stronger flavor. Then add Bushmill's original white label whiskey for best results. For individual drinks the combination should be twice the amount of water to whiskey. Add a little sugar to taste when making the drink. Garnish with lemon slices and cloves.

The flavored water may be stored when cooled in a glass bottle for up to 6 days. Just pour out the amount you want to use, reheat and add whiskey.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA,Well, we were blasted with another winter storm yesterday and the wind-chill is 25 below zero this morning. Old-man winter is not giving up easily this year. By now you may all be suffering from cabin-fever as I am! At times like this I always look for a fun way to beat the winter blues. I have an idea for you too.

Next week on March 19, 2009 in the evening I will be teaching one of my favorite cooking classes, "SUNDAY DINNER AT MAMA'S". This class has been very successful in the past and the people at Cook's of Crocus Hill ( tell me that there are still a few open spots. Give them a call and sign up for this event. It will surely warm up your spirits and I will teach you a great southern Italian meal just like Mama taught me. This is the dinner that was on our table every Sunday while growing up, that always attracted many family and friends to the table. Once you have the skills down, you can be sure that your table will be plenty full as well.

In Italian families Sunday dinner at Mama's is tradition. No one can make a Sugo (sauce) like she does. This class includes all of the recipes and secrets that have been handed down for three generations that originate in our little village in Calabria, Italy. And it is not just about the food, I will share with you the customs and stories about growing up in and Italian-American family.

I will demonstrate and you will eat an antipasto of Gorgonzola and honey crostini with sauteed pears while enjoying a crisp glass of Prosecco (the sparkling wine of Italy). We will enjoy Mamma's rich tomato sauce with meatballs and steakrolls, a mixed field green salad with a crisp Frico basket (Parmesan cheese basket) and for dessert you will enjoy Nutella Ravioli with a dusting of powdered sugar and fresh strawberries.

And if this doesn't cure the winter blues, then go to my web-site at and click on the tours button and sign up for a fall trip to Italy, where it is always warm and beautiful.

I hope to see you at a class or on a culinary tour to Italy in the very near future.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Monday, March 9, 2009



I went out to the mailbox one day last week and found a box from my publisher, Norton Stillman. While opening it, I thought, "it's March it, must be my annual gift of Hamantaschen cookies." And I was right, I dug right in and enjoyed one of the Jewish cookies celebrating Purim.

Yearly Norton hosts a baking party for his entire family in March where they all bake together the traditional cookie that celebrates Purim ( . They spend the day baking together and then carefully wrapping and distributing this lovely pastry filled with a prunes.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009



It is the beginning of March so it must be restaurant week in the Twin Cities. Last year, my foodie son, Teddy informed us about this one week bargain at many of our area restaurants. Another couple joined Bob and I at D'Amico Cucina for a fantastic meal at a very affordable price.

Well, it is that time of year again. For complete information and details go to for a complete listing of participating establishments and menu offering.

Yesterday was my first meeting of the Edina Magazine Advisory Board and our meeting was being held at Crave in the Galleria in Edina. Our waitress told us about the Restaurant Week offering for lunch that they were featuring and I decided to go with it. It was two courses and I did not pick up the tab, but my understanding is that the lunch offerings are between $10-$15 and dinner between $20 and $30.

The first course was a wonderful fresh spinach salad with slices of pears and apples, cheddar cheese shreds and pumpkin seeds in a light vinaigrette. The portion was so large, that it was a meal in itself. But I did manage to enjoy the next course even though I was already pretty full. Nealy a half of a pork tenderloin was cut into coins and served with the center still lightly pink. The pork was tender and moist with a light sesame sauce over it. Delicious! And with it was a pesto risotto. I would like to have seen it a little creamier, but it was tasty. The risotto was made with fresh basil and freshly grated Parmesan Cheese and the color was just beautiful.

We were a group of about 20 and were seated in Crave's new patio area, with the fireplace burning. It was perfect for a cold winter day. I can't wait to return when it is warm and the windows to the patio are all thrown open and we surely will be seated in a garden like setting. It will be fantastic. The service at Crave was great too, especially since we were a large group and also trying to conduct a lunch meeting. The portions were generous and our waitress was well informed and kept our beverages full.

Restaurant Week was created to keep our eating establishments filled in what is considered to be a pretty slow week. In this economy I am sure even slower than usual. The prices are right so take a look at the web site and make some dinner reservations for yourself and get to eat in some of the Twin Cities best. I am off to Cave Vin on Friday night. I hope to see you there.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins