Wednesday, March 23, 2011

recipe alert

2 new developments in cooking at the casa stephens: homemade pizza and inventing pasta recipes.

ryan has been craving and thick crust pizza (doesn't really exist in this part of italy and it's cheaper to make my own anyway) so i found a homemade crust recipe and we have been making our own...pretty delish. i have kind of avoided (until now) any recipes where i had to use yeast because i'm intimidated by anything that depends on some sort of chemical reaction for it to work right in cooking, but i gave this a shot.

i found the recipe here and it made enough for 2 pizzas this size so i froze the other dough ball for the next time.
for the toppings i slapped some crushed tomatoes on there for sauce, threw on some browned ground beef, sliced onions, sliced (real) mozzarella, and salt and pepper. (can i just say that i can eat real mozzarella for every meal of the day, and seeing as though i can get a tennis ball sized ball of it at my grocery store for 40 CENTS, that just might become a reality pretty soon). ok, then i baked the whole thing for 20ish minutes, until the crust was brown in a few places and the cheese was amazingly melty.

of course there is no after-being-baked picture because we always
begin to devour it before we have time to snap a photo, oh well, you get the idea
and the crust worked perfectly, it rose just like it was supposed to and was the perfect texture, it even browned on the bottom making it perfectly crunchy on the bottom and soft on top.

second: peas, pancetta, and panna pasta. so easy and sooooooo good (and i don't even like peas, well i used to not).

the stuff:
extra virgin olive oil (always)
3-5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 little container of diced pancetta (pre-diced bacon pieces)
pinch of ground pepperoncino (chili powder or spicy paprika)
healthy pinch of salt
1/2 cup white wine
3/4 cup of green peas per person, frozen
1/4 cup panna da cucina (kind of like heavy cream but better, martha is tearing up memphis trying to find some place that sells it, but just use heavy cream for now)
enough pasta for how ever many people you have

alright, put your hot water on to boil for your pasta. meanwhile saute the garlic and pancetta in the olive oil for 5ish minutes until it's smellin really garlicky awesome. throw in your pepperoncino and salt and mix those around. then put the wine in there and let it simmer for a few minutes to get the alcohol out (you know how to do this). when the wine has reduced a little, after a couple of minutes, throw in your peas. you may need to add a little bit of water if there doesn't seem to be enough liquid for the peas to soak up, but not too much or your sauce will be too liquidy. ok, let all that simmer and talk to each other while you're cooking your pasta. turn the heat off on your peas when you go to drain your pasta. when the simmering has stopped on your peas, add your panna (or heavy cream) stir it up and let it set up for a minute (the panna does this, it gets thicker after a few minutes but i don't know if the cream will). then mix your pea mixture with your drained pasta and enjoy! mmm, boy it was good. it's good with grated parmesan on top too.
happy cooking!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

the gathering

sunday night was our first "gathering". this is a group of high school and college students where we want to be Jesus to them and show them the relevance of a relationship with him in this world.
so the first one went like this:
we had 5 people (other than avanti workers)
we played some "get to know you games"
we told them our goals:
  • relaxed/supportive environment where they feel comfortable to talk about the difficult and wonderful things about life and where they want to come back and bring their friends
  • place to form close relationships with other people their age
  • a place to practice their english
  • a place of spiritual encouragement even though everyone there doesn't believe the same things we want to share the love and hope of Jesus with them and we want them to see the relevance of him in our lives today and how he changes our lives through that relationship with him
  • we want them to eventually take ownership of the group and initiate activities and growth
  • we want to serve in the community together and learn the significance of putting others before self
  • we want to have fun together and display everyones skills, talents, and creativity
we watched a francis chan video "basic. follow jesus." (awesome)
we talked about the video's message
we ate and mingled and got to know everyone
it was AWESOME

obviously, our main goal when forming this group was evangelism, but there has to be something drawing them in that pushes them to come hang out with us over the other things they could be doing so...

we are going to have a monthly rotation of activities:

1st sunday of every month: reading. we are going to read an inspirational story, an excerpt from a book, something we can all relate to, and then tie it to a scripture and discuss it.

2nd sunday of every month: singing. we are going to sing some in english, some in italian, translate some american worship songs into italian, teach parts, and practice our new songs.

3rd sunday of every month: video. we are going to watch rob bell's NOOMA videos.

4th sunday of every month: share your talent. we will take turns volunteering to teach the group something that we are good at. cooking, drawing, playing an instrument, singing, knitting...anything people want to share to demonstrate their special, god-given talents.

some verses that emphasize our mission for this group:
philippians 1:9-11 & 2:1-5
1 timothy 4:13
ephesians 5:19-20
psalm 9:1-2
1 peter 4:10

please pray for us (the avanti members) as the leaders (for now) of this group and that our motives will always be for God's will as we begin these new friendships

Monday, March 21, 2011

from ryan: "...a great door for effective work has been opened." (1 Cor. 16:9)

i don't really spend a lot of time 'adding' things to this blog (other than pictures), but i wanted to share some specific things that have been going on in my life over the last few months. in 1 corinthians 16:9, Paul is talking to the church in corinth and he is debating over how/when he will see them again. it appears that he struggles with this decision (v. 7), but he can not deny the opportunity that has been presented (v. 9) in Ephesus. personally, i have felt these same feelings living here in florence. i think about the opportunities that are awaiting in memphis (or wherever else) and i can't help but think about the great door that has been opened here in florence. two people have made me think about this more over the past month and i would like to talk to you about these two guys that have already begun to make a huge impact on my life.

first, this is arnold packler. i had the privilege of meeting arnold at the university of florence's "festival of nations". Arnold is 26 years old and was born near Salzburg, Austria. He is participating in the erasmus program in florence until the end of July and is working towards completing his masters in chemical engineering. i invited him to our friday night activities at the bible school in scandicci & also the thursday night italian bible study at the church and he has not missed an opportunity to meet with us since. honestly, all i did was offer. he is a outstanding person and is always the first to try and help. he has a wonderful attitude and outlook on life and has offered a fresh perspective to our group. i'm looking forward to getting to know him better as we develop our friendship. also, arnold is a runner & he has persuaded me to start running with him in hopes of maybe participating in a half marathon in april here in florence. oh boy...i'll keep you posted on that
second, this is moses (or mose). moses was invited to our italian thursday night bible study by an italian member of the church almost a month ago. he is from china and he is in his thirties. ever since coming to the first devotional, he has become a staple of our monday evening men's bible study at the bible school in scandicci. he is not fluent in italian or english but communicates incredibly well. somehow, every week he manages to impress upon us a different perspective and i firmly believe its the work of the holy spirit in his life. he, also, has a wonderful heart and has been given an incredible ability to paint. the reason he is in florence is to study art because the government in china has apparently decided to begin allowing christianity AND has decided to FUND IT! according to moses, the chinese government has spent millions of dollars building christian churches throughout the major cities in china in hopes of building christianity in the country. incredible. the government has sent him to florence to study art because they have commissioned him to do several works for some of the new churches they are building. also, this has become an awesome addition to my notes section in my bible:
(this is john 1:1-2 written in chinese by moses at our men's bible study on monday nights)

so, i came to italy to serve italians and two men from austria & china are making an impact on my life on a daily basis. i don't think i comprehend how truly awesome the God i serve is nor do i understand how powerful the life & message of His Son was/is. i ask that you continue to pray for us as we attempt to simply follow Jesus everyday.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

kids class

i love it!

all the avanti people rotate each month to help teach the kid's class at church and it makes my week!

at first i was intimidated (stupid of me) because i thought i didn't know enough italian to keep their interest. i still don't know enough italian, but i have realized that they love class and i don't have to "get" their attention. they are split into a big and little kids class. the little kids sing and do crafts and the big kids have their little notebooks with all their lessons. they all come in and sit down and behave so well. the "big" kids take turns reading the verses that they are studying and they all pay such good attention to each other. they go around and answer their questions and then they draw the story and write on a timeline. it's just so cool to see them focus like that and spout out all their bible knowledge and help each other.
i can't help but think of matthew 18:1-4 every time!

p.s. tonight at 8 is our first meeting with high school and college students for our outreach to them. we are going to start meeting every sunday night and we are calling it "the gathering" (sorry if i copied that name without permission, i have heard it recently but i can't remember where). please be praying for this population in italy and all around the world. we are so excited to start and i will post details soon of our specific plans with them.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

first friends in town

our friends, grant and mandi burke were here this week scoping out italy so that they can bring some of grant's students here this summer. we were lucky enough to work it out so that we could hang out with them wednesday afternoon. after our classes that morning and afternoon, we walked over to their hotel and met up with them for some walking, talking, and of course, gelato.

it was raining on and off and still a little chilly, so we took them to an artisan that we love and his workshop in the piazza santo spirito (my favorite church and area of the city). he has been doing this work for 49 years and has this machine that was made in 1900 that presses different metals through and imprints a design onto it, this is all after he has hand carved the pattern on a little block of steel (this part takes 6 months). he makes stuff for neiman marcus, christian dior, saks, southeby's, and a lot of other fancy shmancy places (the stores of which i will never step my feet in). he pressed a gigli into a euro for us and i also got this bracelet. i think the burkes really liked him and mandi got a few goodies, so i'm sure she did.

we were so enthralled with their work that we all forgot to take any pictures but ryan took one of our goodies and his info.
after that we wondered south through the streets, stopped at a few art stores that i wanted to show mandi and then to the art institute of florence (which used to be the horse stables for the medici). there is a big loop trail in front of it so we walked that and then back into town.

by this time we were getting hungry and we wanted to use some of our american money that we've had since we arrived here in september and we had planned on eating a restaurant we know of that takes american money on wednesday nights. however, we figured the burkes would want pasta and pizza, but they were tired of it too, so it was perfect. we sat there for a couple of hours, got full and rested our feet.

now, thursday was the 150th anniversary of the unification of italy and italians love an excuse for a party. so, at about 9 wednesday night the streets started filling up in preparation for midnight celebrations, and right outside the window of our restaurant the genuine historical renaissance minstrels started lining up for their parade in their historically accurate costumes (tight tights with short shirts included) and instruments. we watched them stretch and warm up and after they took off we did too.
(an awesome band we followed around)
(some of the crowd)
(there was a market of some of the artisans of florence, this is a mosaic!)
(every major monument was lit in green white and red,
mandi and i are really small but we're there too)
i'll let the pictures tell the rest because i'm tired of typing but it was a really fun day/night to catch up with friends in town. we ended the night on top of their hotel waiting for fireworks that were supposed to start at 11:30 but when we finally had to leave at 12:40 to catch our bus had still not started.
(what a view we would have had if the fireworks had started on time)
it was a great day!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

cooking school usa number 2, check!

as i said earlier, i had to direct our second cooking school usa...remember i was nervous.
it was last night.
ryan and i arrived at the bible school at 2pm yesterday and i didn't sit down again until we got on the bus at midnight last night.
angela, ermenita, and andrea set up and decorated and helped me with cooking, preparing trays, printing menus, cleaning, organizing, collecting wouldn't have happened without them!
then ryan and peter were the dish washers which made ALL the difference! we were a great team and it was really really fun and funny!
oh, and i wasn't nervous after about the first minute of talking, i told you our students are so kind and patient and their smiling faces made me feel so comfortable.

ryan took a lot of pictures and video so i just decided to make it into a movie, but it won't load on here for some reason so check my facebook wall, hopefully i can get it to go there. hope you like it!

also, ermenita used the demonstration dough to make some more cookies and this happened. i think she scooped them just a little too big :)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

fun things, as of late

we are still working hard, as usual, but this weekend was an especially fun time.

we went had a agape meal (potluck) after church on sunday:
we went to the soccer game sunday afternoon with the harding students:
we went to the beatles concert at the villa sunday night:
then tuesday was the "feste delle donne" in italy or "women's day", so after our classes tuesday morning, ryan and i spent the afternoon in piazzale michelangelo enjoying the sun and the view. we also hiked up to san minato, the church on the hill up there behind the piazzale michelangelo.
ryan took pictures of me like this:
i took pictures of him like this: (we also probably annoyed a lot of people but we had fun together and that's what's important, right?)
when the sun started going down, we walked back into town and went to the academy of art and design to a photo exhibit of one of ryan's students, valentino.

his daughter (my student) olga was there too:
then last night we celebrated angela's birthday at "the clubhouse" in florence and then strolled around our beautiful city at night and enjoyed birthday dessert in the piazza o the duomo. it was quite a treat!
coming up friday will be the second american cooking school but watch out...guess who's teaching this one? that's right, it is me. debbie is going out of town and i'm left in charge, really scary. i'm really nervous but our students are very gracious and patient so i hope they will still enjoy it. i'm making meatloaf, potato casserole, california cabbage, and chocolate chip cookies. i know it's easy, i did that on purpose. ryan is the designated photographer (always), so there will be more to come after friday.

have a great rest of the week!

Friday, March 4, 2011

festival of nations

yesterday we participated in the festival of nations at the university of florence. ermenita goes to school there and she said last year there wasn't a table for the united states (even though there are students from the united states in school there). so she asked us if we would represent. so...we made chocolate chip cookies, brownies and caramel corn and the HUF students made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and we made a slideshow.

every country had a table and you just walked around and tried their food and talked to them about their country. it was really fun and we met a lot of fun people.

this is one of my students, olta, she was there representing albania, her homeland. these hats are what old people wear in albania.
this is ryan's student, florian, he is from albania too and he was there. also sporting the hats.
the caramel corn was amazing as usual. go emily!
robbie and ermenita enjoying the festivities (and the hats again).
everyone's favorite "american" couple. look at that USA table, doesn't that make you want to go there?
the americans and albanians (we are all friends), i don't know what we were doing in this picture but i just get tired of everyone smiling sometimes.
the festivities
the americans
setting out our decorations, whoa
it was a fun day and we met a lot of new people. in fact a guy we met from austria at the festival came to the bible study at the church that night and he is planning on coming to church on sunday! that was very exciting and hopefully some of the other friends we made yesterday will want to study with us eventually!