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I'm Melissa!

A Food Network chef + mama obsessed with Aperol spritzes, travel, and mouth watering food. I also own a gorgeous cooking school in Italy. My mission? To share the secrets of La Dolce Vita so you can create a healthy, beautiful, delicious life filled with joy!

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This week marks the official start of fall in Italy.

The leaves are starting to change colors and people are getting out their warmer coats. It’s also vendemmia. A time when wine producers get ready to harvest the grapes.

Stores are decorated with autumn-colored displays and mannequins don cozy scarves, boots and gloves.

Living in Los Angeles I never really got to experience the seasons’ change. It’s the city with year-round summers. Which is a good thing, because I am allergic to snow. But this year I am excited to experience an Italian winter.

It’s almost time to say goodbye to the flavors of summer.

I’m bottling up the last of my tomatoes to use in the wintertime. I can’t lie. I am going to miss the ripe and juicy heirlooms, to-die-for peaches and stone fruits, and all the summer melons.

Fall makes way for hearty stews, meaty ragus, soups and holiday baking.

The grocery store is overflowing with pumpkins and squashes, chestnuts, and porcini mushrooms. I cannot wait to start making tarts and pies with all the gorgeous citrus, apples, pears, and figs. And stay tuned for one of my all time favorite Tuscan desserts Panforte.

And I’m so excited for truffle season.

Truffles grow best in a humid, cold climate. They’re found in forests throughout northern Piedmont and central parts of Tuscany and Umbria growing beneath willow, poplar, hazelnut, and oak trees.

Italian truffles are sought after by gastronomes the world over and can fetch as much as €5,000 per kilo.

They grow underground beneath trees and rocks so they cannot be farmed or cultivated. Since they never break the surface you need some canine help locating these gems. I am excited to join the dogs on a real truffle hunt this autumn.

These funghi are related to the mushroom family. And there are nine edible types of truffles. They are usually named for their color – white or black and they are delicious.

In a couple of weeks Italy gets ready for the olive oil harvest.

Each year my neighbors collect the olives from my trees to be pressed. This is the first year I will be able to take part in the fun. So stay tuned for more and I will show you exactly how it is done.

I have rounded up some of my favorite fall recipes:

Split Pea Soup

Poached Pear Salad

Pasta Alla Vodka

Charred Eggplant Zucchini + Garlic

Durban Chicken Curry

Orange + Thyme Scones

Negroni

I absolutely ADORE cooking.

I know for a lot of you it can feel like a chore at the end of a long day of work. But for me, the kitchen is a place to unwind and relax and slow down.

I am totally emersed in the magical dance that takes place. All my 5 senses are firing and this helps me stay present and check-in with myself. It feels like I am coming back home to me.

But I know a lot of you struggle with meal prep.

So, I wanted to share tips to simplify the process. So check out this Sunday Strategies For Success post. The goal is to have fun and play in the kitchen.

And this really comes down to having a basic stocked pantry. That way you have all the ingredients on hand to whip up quick and easy meals.

SHOP MY PANTRY ESSENTIALS!

This past weekend I spent some time exploring the town of Pietrasanta.

It’s a little artists town tucked between the Northern coast of Tuscany, the marble hills of Carrara, and the Apuan Alps.

The medieval town founded in 1255 is considered the center of all marble processing in Italy. It has attracted great sculptors like Da Vinci, Donatello, and Michelangelo who worked in their sculpting laboratory.

Today the courtyards serve as an open-air gallery with a non-stop rotation of new contemporary artwork. I’ll be putting together a post on the things to see and do in Pietrasanta. And where to shop, eat and stay in this gorgeous town.

I wanted to dive in and share some of the things that I am loving at the moment.

Check out my favorite fall fashion finds

CURRENTLY CRUSHING HARD ON THESE

  • Reading – “Greenlights” a memoir by Mathew McConaughey that is raw, funny, authentic, and down to earth. He tells funny stories and shares prescriptions for life’s lessons hard-won. It’s an absolute must.
  • Watching Lupin on Netflix. It’s a French series inspired by the adventures of Arsène Lupin, a gentleman thief. And since I am practicing my Italian, I changed the French to Italian with English subtitles and I am loving it.
  • Lathering on my favorite Kerastase hair masque in an attempt to restore the moisture to my sun-bleached locks from all the salt, chlorine, and sun. And using their oleo relax oil to calm down the frizz.
  • Could not survive without my Nespresso Lattissima. And I have finally figured out how to make the perfect cappuccino with it to so I have added this to my endless daily intake of espressos. I know, I know. I drink way too much caffine. But hey… a girl has to have a vice. And life is too short for bad coffee. Am I right?
  • Making pizzas round the clock in my Breville (USA)/Sage (EU) PIZZAIOLO Smart Oven. This baby gets up to 700 degrees and creates a wood fire pizza crust in an oven the size of a toaster oven.

Here are some of the questions I got this week

How did you manage to buy a home and move to Italy?

I was lucky that Saul’s grandfather was born in Italy so he has carried an Italian passport since birth. This really helped the process along. But you still need to be able to put down most of the money for your home since financing is usually not an option.

But I also spent over a decade sending daily energy to my manifestation. I outlined the steps in my book Miracles Manifested. It is a foolproof roadmap to turn you into a miracle magnet.

So grab a copy on Amazon and audible. And when you post a review and email it to [email protected] you are automatically entered to win a one-week trip to Italy valued at $7000.

I keep burning the bottom of my cast iron pan. How do you clean it?

My Le-Creuset & Staub Dutch Ovens both have an enamel coating. It’s designed to hold heat so I set the burner to medium or low and avoid super high heat. When I’m done I just add a sprinkle of Bar Keepers Friend. It cuts through up all the grime and crud. And then I just wipe off any black bits stuck to the bottom. If it is really burnt, I will put the pot back on the stove. Heating this water and powder usually helps with the cleaning.

My chopping boards are dry and cracked. How do I take care of them?

I swear by this amazing Boos Mineral oil and Boos board lock that I apply to my boards every 2 weeks to seal the wood. I also suggest rinsing the boards after use instead of soaking them or submerging them in water. I put them in the sink at an angle and let the water run over them before wiping them off and drying them with a cloth.

I love all your food photos. Do you have any suggestions for a newbie photographer?

Practice, practice, and practice. There is no one way to shoot photos and it has taken me decades to learn how to style and photograph a shot. But I like to use natural light. So I will move the dish around the house looking for the best light.

I shoot with my Samsung 20 Ultra (Android all the way) and my Nikon camera. I look for soft diffused natural light coming from the back or side. I never use flash and I do some minor editing in Adobe Lightroom. That is my style of shooting. And you can download my FREE Lightroom Presets too.

Joanie Simon from “The Bite Shot” is an amazing and talented food photographer that loves studio lighting and flash as well as natural light. Check out her book “Picture Perfect Food” and her Youtube channel with tons of food photography tutorials for artificial and natural light to get you started.

How do you eat all the dessert and still stay so skinny?

Hahaha. This is probably the question I get asked the most. You can find out more about my approach to healthy eating in this podcast episode “Eat Well, Be Stronger, Live Longer”. But the short answer is I am in touch with what my body needs and craves so I listen to it.

If I want ice cream for lunch instead of a salad (note I said instead of not in addition to) I will order it and enjoy every single morsel. Life is too short to live without dolce. So I don’t eat a salad cause it is meant to be healthy. If I did I would end up craving and still having the ice cream.

I dive deep into my food philosophy in my Reset challenge.

You can join the waitlist for the 2022 Reset. The results speak for themselves. Go check out all my tribe’s wins. Most of my students lost between 7 to 20lbs without cutting out any food groups.

How do you do it all? The blogging, the cooking, the writing the content creation? I try but I cannot seem to find the time.

I would have to say discipline and focus and very early morning marathons. I usually wake up way before sunrise to get my best work done. The house is quiet, and I can jump into a task with a fresh mind.

I don’t look at my phone or emails until around 11 am. By that time, I usually have put in a full day of work so I can focus on being a wife and mom. When I am working on a big project I go totally off the grid. I disable Wi-Fi and social media so I can work unplugged from any distractions.

And I do take off a full day each week. The magic of Shabbat is like a healing elixir for my creative soul. But if you cannot take off a chunk of time like this then set the goal of waking up an hour early and start writing, painting, and creating immediately.

I did this for years when I was working full time and taking care of my family was a priority. You might be a night owl so you might choose to use the evening to work instead of watching a TV show. But if you really want to create you will make the time for it.

This is your permission slip to start saying no to things without the guilt. And I am in the process of writing a book that will cover my creative process so that you can manage your time and save your energy for the things that matter.

I would love to hear from you….

So comment below and let me know if you have any questions or special requests.

As always, I am sending so much love and light your way gorgeous.

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I'm Melissa, your host & tour guide.

A Food Network chef, author, mamma, eternal optimist, wannabe-mermaid, spice mixologist, and “dough therapist” (yep, it’s a thing)—

I'm also the founder of Susina Cucina, the gorgeous, Italian cooking school I manifested into my reality. I’m obsessed with Aperol spritzes, travel, and mouthwatering food… especially pizza and pasta.

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