Monday, December 22, 2014

This December in Cortina

It's no surprise that we love December in Cortina (last year I wrote about it here) and last week, I wrote an article for the Steamboat newspaper (here) about how living in Cortina in December is like living in a snow globe.

And it is, of course, because there are lights! And glasses of Prosecco! And giant Christmas trees! And skiers! And fur!

There are also some things that you have to battle in December though (and I don't just mean the crazy tourists with their crazy dogs).

The post office, for one. This December, I went to the post office six times - pretty standard for December, you may be thinking. Here's how the post office in Italy works though:

There are no lines (of course, because no one would stand in them anyway). Instead, when you walk in, you take a number from a machine by the door. The number system works like this: there are three letters (E, C and P) and then there are numbers to follow each letter. So, you may get E33 or P55 or C18, depending on which button you press on the machine.

There are usually two postal workers working at any given time, although there are windows for four. The workers make their way down the list calling out "E55! C20!" as they become available to help you.

Now, I'm not Italian, but I know how to read my slip of paper that says P40 on it. Other people though, are very confused by this. For example, if E20 is called, they may run up to the available window even though they have P20. Apparently, no one is actually reading the whole number which includes the letter.

Anyway. As you can imagine, it takes quite a long time to buy stamps.

Once you finally get up to the available window, you have to be prepared to spend. Of course the price of stamps to North America shot up this year (right before Christmas), to 2 euro and 30 cents per stamp. So to everyone we sent a Christmas card to this year: please save those for next year as well.

The other problem with the post office is that it's the only place in town where you can buy boxes to mail presents in. This means that people tend to bring shopping bags filled with presents that they pour out on to the post office counter while the postal worker finds a big enough box which is then assembled, packed, taped, addressed and finally, paid for. In Italy this process takes about 23 minutes per person. Also the post office only takes cash.

But! Now that it's December 22, I'm done with the post office! The most expensive Christmas cards in the world have been sent and all the presents have been mailed. Now it's time to tackle the grocery store. With that in mind, I'm taking the rest of the year off!

Ryan's mother is arriving tomorrow for Christmas and we're going to be relaxing and drinking Prosecco and watching Ryan's games (you can watch the live ticker here).

So! We hope you all have a very merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year and we'll be back on January 5th, ready for 2015! xo

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Last Sunday, Ryan had a few days off so we decided to head to Switzerland! Neither of us had been before and we were excited to check out a new country.

We started in Lugano, which was probably beautiful but we couldn't see the lake or the surrounding mountains because it was SO rainy and foggy! So instead we gazed at their giant Christmas tree and decided that we might have to go back again in the spring....

We huddled under our umbrella and walked around downtown and then escaped the rain and had glasses of Prosecco (Lugano is Italian-speaking and Italian-cultured so we felt right at home). Luckily all the cafes were warm and cozy and had blankets that you could wrap yourself in while having a drink.

That night we had fondue which was hot and drippy and delicious:

The fondue was served with cubes of bread and small potatoes and we drank white was a very white and completely delicious meal.

In the morning we drove to Lucerne, passing through the Gotthard road tunnel which, at 17 kilometers (10 miles) in length, is the third longest road tunnel in the world (FYI).

It was also gray and foggy in Lucerne but it was a great day for a hot lunch and a nap followed by a walk around the Christmas market.

And no trip to Switzerland would be complete without chocolate! So we took some home as a souvenir and road trip snack...

PS - Our December trips from last year: Salzburg (also rainy!) and Prague

Friday, December 12, 2014

Radicchio Ravioli

Italians don't make Christmas cookies. They make Panettone, which I would never make for multiple reasons, the biggest one being that it takes something like 20 hours to make because the dough has to rise three times. And also, I don't like it, but you're not allowed to say that in Italy.

This December though, instead of Christmas cookies or Panettone, we decided to make ravioli.

Radicchio is everywhere in Italy, and it comes in all different shapes, sizes and colors.

Italians eat it raw or grilled; they stuff it into things, mix it into salads and use it as a garnish. So if you don't feel like making Christmas cookies this's another idea:

Radicchio Ravioli
(Serves 2)

For the pasta:
Here's a previous post on how to make pasta, but for two people, we used one cup of flour, one egg and a little water for the dough

For the filling:
1 cup cooked and finely chopped purple radicchio
1/2 cup ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

First make the filling by cooking the radicchio in 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat, then chop it finely and add to a bowl followed by the Parmesan and ricotta. Mix together and add salt and pepper to taste. Roll out the pasta dough into strips and place about a tablespoon of the filling on the dough. Depending on how long the strip of dough is, repeat, leaving about an inch or two in between each dollop of filling.

Using your finger, trace a line of water around each spot of filling (this will help the top layer of dough adhere). And a side note - when we made this, Ryan accidentally dipped his finger into my wine glass and that worked fine too...

Place another strip of dough on top of the first and seal the top strip to the bottom by pressing your finger around the filling - make sure that you get all the air out for cooking. Cut out each ravioli square using a ravioli stamp or a knife.

Bring a pot of salted water to a gentle boil and cook in batches for about 3 minutes each. We like to eat our ravioli topped with olive oil, black pepper and extra Parmesan.

PS - Spinach and ricotta ravioli

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Market Season


...Christmas market season!! Christmas markets originated in the Late Middle Ages in Germany, Austria, Northern Italy and South Tyrol - which means that we're right in the thick of it. If you find yourself in this region in the month of December, you can't miss them. We put together a short list of our favorites:

Lienz, Austria - for "The Potato" 

"The Potato" is something that we dream about in July. It's a baked potato with a really crispy skin that gets split open and filled with a bacon and onion mixture and a sour cream - garlic sauce....and it's heaven. We usually have to hit this market twice in the month of December because once is just not enough. (

Munich, Germany - for the ornaments

This market dates back to the 14th century and has amazing ornaments (a lot of the ones on our tree come from here) and gingerbread. And a bonus - this market, too, has an amazing potato dish - but their version is flat like a pancake and you dip it in to a different but still amazing sour cream - garlic sauce. (

Salzburg, Austria - for the glitter

It's not December without a little lot of glitter and Salzburg's market has tons of it. I snagged as many glittery ornaments as my husband would allow (and yes, they have a good potato here too). Also, if you like Christmas music, Salzburg is a very musical city and has tons of Christmas performances - some are outside, right in the middle of the Christmas market, some are in church basements and some are in fancier halls. (

Bolzano, Italy - for the best warm drinks (and Italy's largest market)

Vin brule (gluhwein) is a staple at all Christmas markets but Bolzano takes it one step further with the Bombardino: it's a popular apres-ski drink in Northern Italy (although not so much in Cortina) made with Advocaat or eggnog and brandy and topped with whipped cream. At the Christmas market, they serve it in a small ice cream cone. (

Innsbruck - for the odd doughnut and sauerkraut snack they thought up

This is fried dough that you can eat plain or with a sauce like vanilla cream or Nutella - but the most popular way to eat it is topped with sauerkraut. It's oddly tasty and definitely worth a try. (

And last but not least....

Cortina - the hometown favorite

Cortina's Christmas market is tiny compared to the ones listed above but when it opens, it's fun (and festive) to buy a cup of vin brule and stroll through town. Our favorites are the lavender hut and, of course, the chocolate hut which sells fancy chocolates with pistachios and hazelnuts. (

Monday, December 1, 2014

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

December is HERE! It's always been my favorite month and being in Cortina just makes it that much better. In this region of the world, they take Christmas very seriously. There are Christmas markets all over Northern Italy, gluhwein is everywhere, and Cortina is decked out in twinkling lights. I love the people watching, the light at the end of the day and having aperitivo - even the Prosecco tastes better in December.

There is a rule in the Dingle household that on December 1, you are allowed to start singing Christmas carols. So, in honor of one of our faves, we decided to roast chestnuts at home. I love chestnuts almost as much as I love December. They're in season for a few months beginning in November and luckily they sneak their way into all the Christmas markets. When I saw them in the grocery store though, I realized that I didn't have to go to Innsbruck to eat chestnuts! I could roast them at home. So while we didn't quite do it over an open fire, like this:

...we still did it in the oven! (The above picture was taken from a chestnut festival that Cortina hosts every year).

Roasted Chestnuts
(About 20 chestnuts; serves 2)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, cut a fairly deep slit in each chestnut, about an inch long. Place chestnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. When they're done, the shells will be separating from the meaty part inside. Take them out and place in a bowl - careful - the shells are hot! Peel the shells away and eat.

PS - Chestnut of our friend's made this last year and it was heaven.

And also...the only bad thing about December