Sunday, October 6, 2013

Making Real Italian Food in the US

Stumble Upon ToolbarThis is a difficult subject for me because food quality in the US is so far below that of Italy.  I have resorted to the simplest dishes and even that can be a challenge. I researched Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano and found that so many of the stores do not state whether it is real. 

I only trust it if I can see the rind with the stamps embedded. I saw Whole Foods selling what looked like fake Parmigiano with a ton of the heal so you pay mostly for that instead of the heart of the cheese. I have truly ruined pasta dishes with grated "parmigiano" (what I thought was real) and come to find out when i got home that it was just imitation Italian hard cheese created here. This means, Parmigiano should not be used because that is a protected name and the fake stuff needs to fall under the all inclusive name of Parmeasan (does Kraft ring a bell, or is that Crap)?  It is impossible to re-create that cheese here in the States for numerous reasons and, it is not cheap in Italy but at least in Italy there is a choice of types (there also exists Grana Trentino) and aging. If you have ever had the chance to eat 12 month Parmigiano Reggiano,  fresh, tangy and just slightly grainy (amazing for a risotto al Parmigiano... )wow, it makes life difficult here in the land of Paramesans!

Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano emerged thanks to the monks who reclaimed the marshlands of the Pianura Padana maintaining herds of cattle that grazed the fertile meadows. These herds produced an abundance of milk so they used what they needed, and transformed the remainder into a hard cheese that aged very well and in times of need and poverty had a great shelf life.

In that era the cheese was all called Grana, after the cheese's fine grainy texture, though at some point most of the people in the provinces of Emilia Romagna split off from the main body of Grana production, calling their cheese Parmigiano Reggiano. 

Though the production techniques are similar, there are a couple of important differences. Both are made by combining the evening and morning milking in brass vats yet for the Grana Padano, both batches of milk are skimmed, whereas with the Parmigiano only one is skimmed. This makes Grana Padano a little less fatty than Parmigiano Reggiano, which in turn means that Grana Padano matures at a slightly faster rate than Parmigiano. Once the milk batches are combined they are heated to 33 C (about 88 F), the rennet is added and the curds are broken up to the size of a grain of rice. The curds are gathered into a mold (giving the cheese its classic flattened barrel shape) and this is then warmed to drive out some of the water. They are marked with the cheesemaker's marks and stamps, salted, dried and aged, with repeated inspections along the way using the hammer method.

In the end, it takes more than 1100 liters to make a 75-kilo form of cheese (15 liters of milk per kilo of cheese). Grana Padano can be marketed at 9 months, though most producers hold it for 16 or more, whereas Parmigiano can be marketed at 12 months, though most producers have held it for 24 or more.

I am sure you really did not want to read about this but it is critical to understanding why putting fake parmesan on pasta, for those who can discern the difference, makes the pasta experience hugely negative. In fact, one uses less real Parmigiano or Grana in the dishes because they flavor better. So it may cost more but you use less and, most important, it is all real! The regulations on milk production and cheese and cleanliness would knock the USDA health department on it's butt.

OK with that said, or vented, I can begin posting some recipes with American ingredients that might bring the flavor of the old country back to mind.  
Here is a link for buying the real thing. Order Parmigiano

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cannelloni - Traditional Northern Dish

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Cannelloni - Traditional Veal and Lean Beef
60 gm butter
150 gm ground veal, lean
150 gm ground beef, highest quality, lean
1 onion
150 gm Parmigiano Reggiano grated
Béchamel, or white sauce – 1 liter
(makes about 10-12)
Melt the butter and add a drop of extra v. olive oil. Sauté onion for 5 minutes then add the meat and continue cooking. When  the onion is cooked, take off the heat. Add half of the white sauce (see recipe below) that you made before cooking the meat, fresh ground pepper and the grated cheese. Set aside while preparing the lasagna strips.  

Bèchamel or white sauce: makes one liter
100 gm flour
100 gm butter
1 liter whole milk or low fat do not use skim milk
Melt the butter and add the flour. Cook for 1 minute on medium heat (it should bubble). Pre warm the milk. Take the roux off the heat and slowly add the milk in a small stream while whisking it into the roux. Once all the milk has been added and you are sure you do not have any lumps, return to heat and gradually bring to a boil. If it is too thick add a little more milk even cold. When ready, season with fresh ground pepper and nutmeg.  The white sauce should not be piping hot when preparing the cannelloni. The portion added to the meat can be hot however.
Modenese Cannelloni (a slight variation, very delicate in flavor)
200 gm ground beef, lean, high quality
2-3 cloves garlic
one branch of rosemary
50 gm butter
50 gm grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Sauté ground meat with the chopped garlic and the whole branch of rosemary in the butter. Cook for 15 minutes and take off heat to cool. When almost cool, add the grated Parmigiano and stir. Set aside while preparing the Béchamel.
Add ½ liter béchamel and stir into the meat mixture set aside.
To prepare the pasta, either make it or if possible, buy fresh lasagna strips. If not, you will have to use a pastry bag to fill cannelloni shells (not as good as fresh pasta that is for sure and take forever to fill).
Grease a baking pan with olive oil. Drizzle some white sauce on the bottom. If using fresh pasta strips, make rectangles about 8 in x 6in. Fill with a spoon of meat mix and roll. Place in the pan. Fill all the strips or rolls. When done you should have white sauce to drizzle over the tops of the cannelloni then toss a couple of handfuls of grated Parmigiano. Bake in a hot oven for 20 min. 375F until bubbly and browned. Serve immediately with a green salad. These are rich so you do not need anything else but salad and or veggies.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bomboloni - Doughnuts Italian style

This recipe is great, in fact there is a video of it on Youtube but, in Italian I do not know how many times I tried making these in the past but they never turned out. Now, older and bit smarter, I found this and tired it. It worked and is an easy way to do these, time consuming but they were perfect. This recipe is without egg and I find it better.

500gm flour
50 gm sugar
250 ml milk
10 g salt
100g butter, clarified, softened!
lemon zest from one lemon
one cube 25gm of fresh yeast

Dissolve the sugar in the milk and then divide into equal portions placing 125ml in a bowl. In the other half of the milk, add the salt and stir to dissolve and set aside.
Dissolve the yeast in the bowl of sugared milk. Then add 100 gm of flour from the 500 gms measured. Mix and cover with plastic. This will be a wet mixture and needs to double in volume.
Once this is ready, add this to the rest of the bowl of flour along with the lemon zest and the rest of the milk with dissolved salt. Mix until absorbed.
Add the soft butter and work the dough for 10 minutes on a pastry board. Place in a large bowl and cover for 2 hours with plastic. If you are in a drafty kitchen you can pre-warm the oven on low, turn it off and place the bowl inside after the oven has cooled for at least 30 minutes.
Roll dough to about 2 cm thickness and cut 8 cm rounds. Use a sharp round cookie cutter, not a glass because the dough rounds need to be cut not pressed together at the edges when using a glass, which is what tends to occur instead of cutting the round.
Place the rounds on a floured clean pastry towel and let rise about 30 min.

While these are rising, prepare the pan for frying. Optimal frying is not with oil but with lard because you can cook at a higher temperature and the products are not greasy once you pull them from the oil.
These may then be filled with jam or pastry cream or just rolled in finely granulated sugar or powdered sugar.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Baked Orecchiette Pugliese

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This is truly THE BEST baked pasta dish on the planet and it is authentic, a pure Italian dish, ancient recipe from Puglia. There are so many created baked pasta dishes but few are really what I would call Italian. This is one of the few and it is fabulous particularly if you are lucky enough to use fresh Perini or San Marzano plum tomatoes from your garden or, from Puglia and buffalo mozzarella. 
The only way to make this is by using the real ingredients and that means, real Parmigiano Reggiano or Padano and not aged over 18 months. If the cheese is older than 24 months, it will be override the delicate flavors of the tomatoes and mozzarella.

This can be made ahead by putting it together and refrigerating. This dish is great as leftovers and eaten cold too but it truly is a one course meal when hot just add a salad and a great red wine. Buon appetito!

Preheat oven 400F
Put water on to boil and salt it well
Sea salt, fresh ground pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic finely sliced
1 or 2 dried red chilies, crumbled
3 ½ lb ripe tomatoes or 3 14oz cans Perini or San Marzano peeled tomatoes
large handful of fresh basil leaves
1 tbl red wine vinegar (or less, depends on the tomatoes)
14oz dried orecchiette (see photos)
big handfuls of freshly grated Parmigiano
3 (5oz) balls of mozzarella di buffala (buffalo mozzarella or fresh-made soft mozzarella, the balls stored in water) This type of mozzarella, which is the only type that can be called mozzarella otherwise it has to be labeled "fior di latte," gives the dish a creamy and delicate flavor. Do not use Precious Mozzarella – this is not the real thing and makes a rubbery disgusting dish. Mozzarella is a low fat cheese by nature so looking for a part skim or all skim milk cheese is like an oxymoron in my book.

Heat a couple of lugs or two spoons of olive oil. Add onion, garlic and chili and slowly fry for about 10 minutes on med to low heat until softened but without any color.
If using fresh tomatoes, remove the core with the tip of a small knife, plunge them into the boiling water for about 40 seconds until the skin starts to come away, then remove with slotted spoon and remove the pan from the heat.
Put tomatoes in a bowl and run cold water over them. Slide the skins off, squeeze out the seeds, and roughly chop.
Add the fresh or canned tomatoes to the onion and garlic and a small glass of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for around 20 minutes. Put them through a food processor or blender to make a loose sauce (or hand blender). Tear the basil leaves into the sauce and correct the seasoning with salt, pepper and a tiny swig of red wine vinegar.
When the sauce tastes perfect, bring the water back to the boil. Add the orecchiette to the water and cook to very al dente, even under done since this pasta will cook again in the oven.
Drain and toss with half of the tomato sauce and a handful of Parmigiano Padano or Reggiano. Rub baking pan with a little olive oil. Layer a little pasta in the pan followed by tomato sauce, a handful of grated Parmigiano and 1 sliced up mozzarella ball. Then, repeat these layers until all ingredients have been used. end with a layer of mozzarella on top. If you need more, use it.
Bake for 15 minutes or until golden crisp and bubbling.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I have lots to say and add but this has been a busy year, spent so much time with my butt on a plane I have not had much time for fun writing. I do make lots of reviews on Trip Advisor as Snow White from Milan so check them out. Lately the disgust for what is happening in our world has depressed me and it seems we are moving farther and farther away from what we need to be as human beings. Our politicians suck, their behavior, quest for power and money, the gross mishandling of our tax dollars in all cities and countries. The other day I read an article in an Italian newspaper, the parlament reps do not even show up for work on Thurs or Fri. In fact, on Wed they all show up at "the office" with their bags packed! These turkeys need to get paid for when they show up and that is it. How can a country be run when everyone is off enjoying their bennies?  Just sucks.

On that note, I am adding a photo of one of our great wonders, a place so full of emotion-evoking vistas, smells and sounds. Try the Silver Saddle at the Cowboy Club in upper Sedona, get a personal tour of Hopi land with Sandra Cosentino Crossing Worlds, the Northern Arizona Museum in Flagstaff, stay at the Old Adobe Hacienda in Oak Creek Village and have great beers at the brewery in Tlaquepaque.
The Hopi House for good Native Indian crafts both cheap and expensive and the Silver Bear for silver. Garlands is always a treat and you will not find better rugs. Do not miss the Windrush Art Gallery, The Lanning Art Gallery and across from that one, the Turquoise Turtle, these are the quality galleries of Sedona and you will not be disappointed.
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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mojito Time!

Thanks to people who wander in once in a while, Stephen Andrew Jones introduced me to a creation of his and believe me people, if you like mojitos, are suffering a bit from summer heat you must try his pineapple mojito.  

Awesome Pineapple Mojito recipe!!!!!!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Knock your Socks off - Caribbean Chocolate Rum Balls

Double the batch, these freeze well, lovely with Amaretto or coffee liqueur.

2 oz semi-sweet chocolate, melted
2 cups crushed chocolate cookies (oreos or other)
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 cup sifted, powdered sugar
3 tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 cup dark rum (Cruzan or Pussers)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sweetened, shredded coconut

Combine melted chocolate, cookie crumbs, nuts, sugar, corn syrup, rum and vanilla in a large bowl,
kneading until a thick dough forms. Roll into 1 inch thick balls. Roll in coconut. Makes about 24, it is that easy!  This recent trip to the Caribbean has got me on the rum thing...rum runners, pain killers, rum and garlic rice, steamed coconut rice...yum.

Friday, April 29, 2011

BVI! Virgin Gorda

Gathering my photos and getting my thoughts down in words regarding this pristine wonderland. So, stay tuned, you will be glad you did.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Castello Pavone, Ivrea - Piedmonte, Val d'Aosta Italy

Courtyard of the Castello

A very brief visit to Castello di Pavone in the town of Ivrea on the outskirts between the Val D'Aosta,  and Piedmonte, Italy was worth every Euro. Luky to have come in on the tail of two groups who vacated that very day and the weekend before Valentines, we had the place all to ourselves. The historic site has been lovingly restored and is dutifully maintained. You will find yourself immersed in an environment with most of the modern comforts you might desire and a nice dash of hardship to remind you how difficult it is to live in a castle, even today.

The courtyard
 The owner is the only one who has a vehicle in the upper portion of the grounds; all us lowlifers must park below the dwelling and climb a nice steep set of flagstone stairs to the outer wall where there is a door built into the rock (remember this when you pack your bags...).  :-)  You must ring the bell to enter and the door will then slowly open automatically. As it opens the view beyond comes alive and you descend into a short tunnel of brick terraces until you arrive to the front of the castle. They provide help when asked, to bring your bags up to the castle and then to your room and if you are not young and strong, take the offer because the stairs do not end here. :-) Getting to your room could add in quite a few more and every step is worth it in my opinion. The staff is wonderful, helpful and happy.
Stained glass window of the suite
We were welcomed to our Royal Suite Pavone with a glass of Prosecco and promptly reserved our table in the dinning room for dinner. Having dinned there months prior, we knew dinner was a must; the ambience is fabulous.

The suite had one window and three portholes, yes a dark room with the dark wood ceiling but so typical of these old structures it just makes the whole experience more of an adventure.  There are no elevators here and wondered how they received deliveries in the winter and during the rainy season because there is the old original river rock stone drive and I suppose their suppliers have a very difficult time during inclement weather (horribly slippery). Be sure to stop in the bar (the armory) and have a glass of wine and some outstanding appetizers.
Sunrise from the one window of the suite.

The dinning room is an experience and it is not just one room but made up of various adjoining rooms; one seems to be a little celestial room, up a few stairs off to the left of the fireplace in the main room and then to the right there is another room but I did not get a chance to see that one. The tables are large and round and stately; just perfect for a romantic and leisurely repast. The wine celler is well stocked so you can accompany their excellent food with an excellent wine. If you stay more than one day, I suggest requesting to have your bottle of outstanding red wine opened before dinner to let it air. Such a shame to not order one of these wines because you do not have time to let it breathe properly. We suggested they try out a Vinturi and see for themselves how this could give them a greater amount of flexibility with client satisfaction (and sell more of those fabulous reds).

We did not have the chance to taste breakfast but I am convinced it was nothing shy of their standard. After a late dinner, there just was not room for breakfast even though they called at 10 to ask if we would like them to bring breakfast to our room. Check out is at 11 so if you would like a slower morning, I would ask them if they do late checkouts; even at a price it is worth it. The spell you fall into while there, is  a shame to break so abruptly in the morning with the hassle of getting breakfast, packing and hauling your things back to the car. I was truly amazed watching these young waiters whisk platters of food up staircases to well hidden meeting rooms and small dinning areas for private parties and the like; I think I would have liked to have a job like that when I was young, what a great way to work and get exercise!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Heavenliness - Val d'Aosta, the Alps!

 If you have never been to the Italian side of the Alps, which means taking in the fabulous Val d'Aosta, you have not lived! Culturally Aosta is loaded with ancient history from BC to the beautiful Roman Amphitheater ruins to the Alpine culture and modern day. Everywhere you gaze there are mountains framing your views, the town piazza is crowned with tall glaciers in the background and you can have it all while sipping caffe in the square. I love Val d'Aosta


The gastronomic pleasures of this area begin with the infamous Fontina DOP. This is the queen of the alpine meadows, a cheese made from raw milk, fragrant and alive. To be labeled or considered Fontina DOP, it must be made only from cows of the Valdostana breed that forage on local grasses and meadows. This is the cheese that gave birth, to la fonduta (fondue). It was from this awesome fonduta, that was transformed into the other versions of fondue in Switzerland. If you want to savor the original, this is where you need to be! Do not forget to try Fromadzo DOP too, another very special cheese of the area, mix of goat and cow's milk. 

This area is also ultra famous for the Lard d'Arnad DOP and the Vallée d'Aoste Jambon de Bosses DOP. The prosciuto was an ancient gift for bishops and archbishops, produced in the city of Saint Rhemy-en-Bosses since the 14th century. The frigid stream of air that would come down to the valleys bordering with Switzerland and the long winter cold coupled with the manual labor of man, helped transform these raw prosciutti into authentic one-of-a-kind pieces. They are aged 12, 18 and 24 months and if you can find this ham, you must try it. 

The lard of Arnad is truly the jewel of the mountain peasant's world. Today it is found in the area for sale where previously, it was very difficult to find because it was the source of substenance during those long harsh and cold winter months. As they say, living in the mountains is about 9 months of frigid cold and 3 months of just cold. So be sure to try ultra thin slices of this served on warm crusty pieces of bread; this is something you will come back for time and again. 

A few of the brands assuring you of quality and origin are Saveurs du Val D'Aoste as well as  Alpenzu. Alpenzu is another group of the Val d'Aosta guaranteeing the origin of the products sold. While at the hotel, we were lucky to taste chestnuts in honey as part of an appetizer and while shopping we stumbled on le tegole, famous cookies of the area, another must-try!  

While traveling make sure you do the castles of the region, they are fantastic!    

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Romantik Hotels - European Class

If you have not heard of this group of hotels, then you are in for a real surprise. This franchise has hotels all over Europe specializing in romantic getaways, spas, wonderful food and dinning as well as, stunning surroundings. I suggest ordering their catalog so you can see for yourself the smorgasbord of choices! If it is possible, at least for this creature, I will try to organize my business trips around staying in one of these hotels. You definitely get value for your money and are in lovely historical environments always family owned and operated so there is a nice sense of friendliness, lacking in the large hotels.Romantik

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Oh WOW, Val d'Aosta - Paradise Unveiled!

Just got back from a quick trip to the Val d'Aosta, and man do I have some great information for you! How can anyone not be amazed at those Alps, the Roman history of Aosta itself and the ancient door/arch to the city built 25 BC...
So hold on to your knickers because I have lots to share.  :-)
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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Etruscan pasta - Simple and Honest Cooking!

This has been the month of chocolate mousse for some reason of course I am super cheating because I have found a 2 minute package from Lindt! These are amazing and come in two if not three flavors...cannot remember (brain fart again). All you add is milk and whip (no, not me even though I have been very remiss lately with my recipes and cooking).:-)

As the hot season approaches, the desire for fresh and cool is right up there with finding a way to pay off all debt in one's life ;-) and last week I tried out an old Etruscan recipe and had to wing it.  This is not a cold pasta sauce but it is SUPER simple. All you need is fresh mint, walnuts, garlic, olive oil and the real thing, parmigiano reggiano or grana padana.

For all you seasoned cooks, you just have to guess on the portions. I used quantities I would use for two people making garlic, parsley and oil pasta.

Choose a long pasta, linguini, spaghettini, pici, spaghetti, etc.

For two:
15 - 20 leaves of fresh mint approx.
2-4 cloves garlic depending on tastes
ultra finely chopped walnuts about (4 whole ones)
olive oil extra V, enough to make a sauce to cover the pasta.

Crush the garlic into the oil and begin to saute very slowly.  Finely chop the mint and add to oil mixture and saute about one minute on very low heat take off the heat.

Cook the pasta in salted water, (must use some salt in the cooking otherwise pasta is just flavorless with the sauces).  When al dente, drain and quickly toss into the pan of garlic, oil and mint that you will have deftly put back on the fire just seconds before draining the pasta. Saute high for 2 minutes or less tossing the walnuts into the sautee mix.

Serve in warm bowls and garnish with the parmigiano. Serve with a fabulous frizzy white summer wine from the Veneto region or even a Prosecco would do well with this. Buon appetito!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Texas Roadhouse!

I just happened upon this restaurant, Texas Roadhouse while in New England and thought I had discovered the mother lode. What a fun place, where one can eat peanuts and just toss the remnants onto the floor and listen to country kicking music and yell "ye ha" every hour! If you go, you must try the rattlesnake bites, which are out of this world; not even chili poppers, so popular in So. Cal. come close to these! The steaks were cooked to perfection, the fresh hot bread is really something else (while trying to cut down on bread) served with cinnamon butter as well as, the daily assortment of awesome fresh veggies.

So for a fanatic against chains...I have to admit, this one has got me changed along with RiRa (Irish pub and grill -FAbULOuS food and cocktails)! This is one amazing restaurant and bar serving perfect Irish fare (try the Reuben with their homemade corned beef), great hand cut fries and since I was in New England, had to try their clam chowder finding it to be just perfect (as well as their potato leek soup). Most of these pubs have taken over old historic buildings and while maintaining the decor as it was when it was either a bank (or something else), they have transformed these into working bars and restaurants while preserving a part of our past, fantastic!

One last recommendation before I have to run out the door here, is Jumping Jays Fish Cafe! This is located downtown Portsmouth, NH and was the best meal I had in the 3 week vacation. The fish was unbelievable; ultra fresh, prepared with a choice of sauces and each one done to perfection. The martinis were good, the bread superb and the caesar salad was (finally) the way it should be, just olive oil, lemon, garlic, anchovy and parmigiano (nothing saucy or over dressed)! Mind you to eat here on a Friday or Saturday, you MUST make a reservation way in advance otherwise forget it. Even during the week you should make a reservation especially during the tourist season.

Portsmouth offers wonderful coffee houses, fabulous bakery items and oodles of Italian restaurants as well as the classic pub, brewery and chowder houses. The one thing I did not do with my other half was go to a great martini bar  (I was told by an insider it has the best).  The Red Door Martini Bar and martinis are not all they serve, check out their music line up, damn wish we had found out this little tip earlier, before we had to leave (guess I have a good excuse to go back)!  ;-)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Eye Opener of a Vacation

I am now convinced after spending time in New England, variations on a theme regarding clams, lobster, cod and such are really hard to find. After three weeks of the same type of menus, I never thought I would say this, I almost broke down and went to an Italian restaurant in the US (OMG)!  Nonetheless, the freshness of the shrimp, the three sizes available for clams, the lobster and great tasting fresh cod seemed to take away the boredom of the choice. I love New England but to eat some of their traditional food means you really have to exercise; those chowders are not low fat (but wow, are they delicious)! 

New England strives to be eco-friendly, green and eco-correct but I found that to be just a "tad" hypocritical when everyone drives SUVs! America has GOT to get a grip on it's over sized engines in these over sized vehicles to drive around in town. Just because it snows does not mean one must have an SUV unless you live in an area where the road to your own home is long and off the main road then yes, most of the trucks have their own snow blade attached to the front. Again, the cost of pushing that heavy blade added into the size of the truck = how much gas consumed? Salting the roads is bad for the rivers and streams and such because it is not just pure salt flowing in when the melts arrive. Snow plows paid for by the cities are for the main roads only so, what is a person to do?  

Well I have one suggestion, downsize the cars and engines without sacrificing power (as done in Europe for decades) and still have a four wheel drive vehicle able to pull a trailer, or pack your kayak on top.  Check out these photos of the Fiat Panda 4x4 and the ultimate dream of making the Fiat 500 into an SUV ...

For most of us who drive from the house to town for marketing and errands, why not downsize to the revamped Fiat 500? Remember this the old one?  Check out the new one and talk about gas savings!

After driving around Vermont and seening how beautiful that state was and how nice to see all the eco-correctness there as well and fierce pride in serving Vermont-made products and using 7th Generation products in hotels, I was severely disappointed to see again, the massive number of SUVs, trucks and, the incredible amount of trash at rest stops, in town (Burlington), cigarette butts all over and the number of people who smoked. Wow, what a dichotomy.  
So as we approach another year of crisis proportions for jobs, taxes and less money to buy gas...I think it would be a good time for America to really wake up and not just talk the talk but walk it. We have an amazing country and a great people but we really need to downsize our standard of living for the good of all.  Take a few lessons from Europe and its small cars and truck/vans. :-)

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