Our final day in Rome was spent exploring Vatican City.  My mom had scheduled a special tour of the necropolis and St. Peter's tomb below the Basilica for the afternoon, so we started our explorations in the morning at the Basilica itself.  It was a terribly long line that wrapped all around the plaza in front of the Vatican, but thankfully, it moved along rather quickly and before we knew it, we were through security and into the grand cathedral.
The pictures didn't come out great, but it was absolutely gorgeous inside!
We were all super hungry after our escapade through the Basilica, but we didn't have much time before our tour so my dad and brother ran to get us all sandwiches and we ate them in a little square in front of Vatican City.  Mine had just roasted red pepper, eggplant, and zucchini, but it was wonderful, especially since the bread was delightfully fresh and chewy.
After we were re-fueled and re-hydrated, we set off for our tour!  We entered through a special gate guarded by Vatican guards dressed in stripped red, yellow, and blue outfits.  We walked back into an area of the Vatican grounds that is not normally visible to the public but was absolutely gorgeous.
Unfortunately we weren't permitted to take pictures inside the Necropolis, but it was incredible.  Luckily I found a few images online!  They don't even compare to the actual experience of what felt like walking through an actual city of the dead (it was literally like walking down a very narrow street), but at least they help give an idea of what it was like!
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Source: http://daniesitaly.blogspot.com/2011/05/my-time-underground.html
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Source: http://www.travelplusstyle.com/magazine/vatican-top-secret-the-exclusive-tour-of-necropolis-below-st-peters-basilica
We even saw what are believed to be the bones of St. Peter!  We exited the tour through an arched hallway.  But when we got to the exit gate, it turned out to be locked!  To make a long story short, those of us who chose not to hop the gate (I didn't think it to be the best idea in a long skirt!) had to wait about 20 minutes before someone with a key came by to let us out.  Not too many people can say they got locked in the Vatican. ;)

We had tickets for the Vatican museum for 3pm (pre-paid to avoid the line that extended out the doors and wrapped around the block), so once we were free, we booked it to the museum!  By the time we got there, we were hot and beat.  We kind of wandered around just gazing at things as we drug our feet behind us, and eventually my mom and I just couldn't take it anymore and stopped at a bench to rest while my dad and brother went on to see the Sistine Chapel.  

After about 20 minutes, we decided we had enough energy to march on to the chapel, but it turns out that the journey required more energy than we had thought (and hoped).  I have never been in such a big crowd or seen as many people squeezed into one room as I did on the way to the chapel.  The endless hallways lined with paintings and tapestries were beautiful, but made us feel like we were on a wild goose chase.  The details in the ceilings was especially incredible.
We eventually did reach the chapel, however, (after about half an hour of shoving our way through endless passes of people) and it was definitely worth it to see the incredible room painted by Michelangelo himself.  Again, no pictures were allowed, but that was honestly a relief - it was nice to just be able to take in the majestic beauty of the sacred room.  After our adventure to the chapel, we were all thoroughly beat and about ready to call it a day.  But on the way out, I saw a postcard of a painting I had studied in art history class, so I drug my dad with me back through the endless hallways, and we eventually found it!  I was so excited to finally see in person Raphael's School of Athens.
Afterwards, we wandered through a little more of the museum, but it was almost closed so we didn't get to see much more.  It was kind of sad that we were in one of the top museums in the world but hardly got to see it.  Oh well, just another excuse to go back! ;)

We had a hard time finding a place for dinner, but I eventually settled on some flatbread pizza for my meal!  It had fresh tomatoes, roasted zucchini, and roasted mushrooms with globs of fresh mozzarella.  Much better than the pizza I had the first night!  I also had a side of sautéed chicory (spinach).
And of course you know we couldn't end the day without same gelato!  Usually we take it to eat while we walk aournd, but this time we were too tired so we ate at the gelateria.  They served it in glass cups with waffle cone cookies!  I tried lemon and melon this time.  The lemon tasted like a perfectly ripe cantaloupe!
The next day was a driving day to the Sorrento area.  But I couldn't leave Rome without trying a Cappuccino!  Mine was decaf, and even though I'm not a coffee drinker, it was fun to stand at the counter and drink it like a true Italian. 
I managed to get a picture of Mount Vesuvius from the car!  Unfortunately we didn't have enough time to hike it, but I guess that's just something to add to our list for our next trip! ;)
After checking into our bed and breakfast, we decided to check out the town!  First, we went to a lemon farm, seeing as the Amalfi coast is especially popular for lemons.  The paths were canopied by lemon tree branches speckled with lemons.  
Afterwards, my brother and I hiked down to the water and snapped some pictures of the lovely little harbor.
Our bed and breakfast recommended a ristorante called La Rosa for dinner.  They said it was a local, family run cafe - our kind of place!  They served bread as usual, and even though it wasn't coated in garlic and olive oil, it was perfectly chewy and flavorful.  It didn't need anything!
We were already happy, but then they brought us what appeared to be a naked pizza.  From what we could tell, it was salted pizza dough fired in a brick stove.  And it was one of the best things I have ever tasted - in fact, it was one of the best things any of us had ever tasted.  We could have made a meal out of that appetizer alone.
But thankfully we didn't because if we had, we would have missed out on some pretty amazing food.  We had already ordered some pesto gnocchi as an appetizer since gnocchi was a food we all wanted to try while on our trip.  The light little pillows of potato-y pasta were just wonderful!
I had decided that I wanted to fish that evening, and when we told them we wanted something fresh, they brought out a platter showcasing all their raw, fresh fish for us to pick from.  I think I turned a bit green at the sight of it, but it was reassuring to know that we were getting the freshest fish possible!  I ended up ordering the citrus glazed ahi, and I think it was the best fish I have ever had.  It didn't have the slightest hint of fishy flavor but instead had the taste and texture of some kind of a turkey steak.  It was so rich though that I couldn't even eat half of it, especially not after all those delicious appetizers!
I also got a side of garlic sautéed broccoli… at least thats what I thought I ordered.  It definitely looked more like spinach!  Maybe it was just baby broccoli?  Whatever it was, it was delicious!
And I will leave it there for now!  Our next destinations were the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii, and Herculaneum - my favorite site of the trip!

I hope everyone has a great day! <3

 
 
Green tea has always been one of my favorite flavors.  Not only do I drink a daily mug of green tea every morning, but green tea ice cream, green tea frappucinos from Starbucks, and green tea flavored mints make common appearances in my life.  Now these pancakes are being added to the list.  

They require matcha powder, which is a Japanese powdered green tea.  It can be rather expensive and difficult to find (I actually never found it - my mom brought it back from a little store in Hawaii), but the intense green tea flavor is worth the hunt if you're a die-hard green tea fan like I am.

I want to experiment more with matcha because I can envision so many possibilities, but until then, these pancakes will do.  In fact, they will more than "just do."  Just look at that beautiful intense green color.  The slight bitterness of green tea remains present in these subtly sweet pancakes yielding a wonderful flavor dimension. You can feel good about eating these too because you're eating green food, and all green food is good for you, right?  Actually, matcha IS good for you (hello, antioxidants), and I even snuck in some zucchini; so make these and you're green…. er, golden.
Matcha Green Tea Pancakes
Serves 1

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup spelt flour
  • 2 tbsp coconut flour
  • 2 tsp unsweetened matcha green tea powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup egg whites
  • 1/2 cup shredded zucchini, pressed between paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible
  • 5 tbsp almond milk
  • 2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • stevia or additional honey, to taste


Directions:
Combine dry ingredients (spelt flour through baking powder) in a small mixing bowl.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Cook on a preheated skillet until bubbly in center and dry around edges, flip, and cook for about another minute, or until bottom is golden brown.  The batter will be thick so you will need to spread it around into pancake shapes on the pan.

Have you ever tried matcha?  What is your favorite way to to enjoy it?  Feel free to leave recipes or links!  Have a great day everyone!
 
 
Hello everyone!  A bit behind on the Italian shenanigans?  No problem!  You can find my other posts here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

When I last saw you, we had just finished our first, rather memorable, dinner in Rome.  The next day really wasn't spent in Rome itself but in Tivolli, a nearby town in the hills.  Just outside of Tivoli is Villa Adriana, and Tivoli itself is home to Villa d'Este.  These two Villas were our destinations for the day!

But first, we needed some morning fuel for the day.  We walked to a nearby joint called Caffe Van Gogh.  On my list of foods to try in Italy was a panini and lo and behold - their "cheese and tomato sandwich" turned out to be just that!  It also tuned out to be the best panini and one of the best sandwiches I have ever tasted.  There was really only tomato and cheese on it, nothing fancy, but it was all so fresh and just plain amazing.  Just like the pasta, the simplicity is what made the dish!
After breakfast, we were off!  Villa Adriana, which was built for the Roman emperor Hadrian, greatly resembled the ancient Olympia ruins in Greece, at least that is what it reminded us of!
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The reflecting pools were just gorgeous!
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One of my favorite parts was this adorable mini fire hydrant!
Between visiting villas, we decided to refuel our tired tourist bodies with some lunch!  I ordered the grilled vegetables (complete with zucchini, eggplant, and bell pepper - the three most common veggies in Italy from what I could tell!) and the tomato bruschetta.  The veggies were grilled to perfection and drizzled with olive oil, and the bruschetta was rubbed with garlic and also drizzled with olive oil - so much better than the dry stale stuff we had in Florence!
And then, of course, it was gelato time!  they offered to give us three flavors so I tried kiwi, peach, and pineapple.  Three wonderful flavors, though I especially loved the peach.
With full and happy tummies, we headed to the other villa.  The gardens at the palace of Villa d'Este are home to hundreds of waterfalls composed of nearly 500 jets.  It was truly one of the most gorgeous places I've seen.  I felt like I was walking around a fairytale.  
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The Fontana dell'Ovato
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Le Cento Fontane (the hundred fountains)
We were very thirsty and although we were a little skeptical of this drinking fountain at first, it turned out to be some of the coldest, most refreshing water I have ever tasted!
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The Fountain of Neptune
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The Rometta fountain
We spent quite a bit of time exploring the grounds, and we all found it hard to leave the gorgeous place!

The next day was spent in the heart of Rome at one of the sites that I have been wanting to see for as long as I can remember - the Colosseum!
This was one of the attractions where we booked tickets ahead of time and also booked a tour that took us inside the stadium (otherwise you can only look down into it), as well as below the stadium where they kept the animals and up to the highest level of the stadium, which had great views of the surrounding area and Palatine Hill!  We entered the stadium through a large archway, and it felt just like entering a big football stadium.
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Below the stadium where the animals were kept. This was originally covered by a wood floor with trapdoors, and the floor was covered with sand.
We learned on our tour were that the stadium could hold up to 70,000 viewers.  Another tidbit that I found particularly interesting was that the animals were lifted from below to the trapdoors via a wooden "elevator" moved by pulleys.

We did more than just view Palatine Hill - we also explored it on foot!  But first, we needed some lunch.  For some reason, I had a huge feta craving so I took a break from traditional Italian food and went with the Greek salad at an Irish pub we stopped at.  Obviously not a traditional Greek salad thanks to the lettuce (and corn) but tasty nonetheless and had a decent amount of feta (way more than it looks!).
And guess what followed?  You better have said gelato! ;) I did my best to try lots of new flavors on the trip, and this time I went with hazelnut and banana.  The hazelnut was wonderful, but in all honesty, the banana was gross.  You know those foam-like orange circus peanut candies?  Well I happen to despise those with bloody passion, and that is exactly what the banana gelato tasted like.  After one bite of it, there was no way I was going to torture my tastebuds with that horribleness.  Luckily, my dad happens to like those horrendous candies, so he ate my banana gelato and I ate his berry gelato (which tasted like berry pie filling!).
With tastebuds finally satisfied, we headed back to Palatine Hill!
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I found this story to be sad, interesting, and touching all at the same time!
We were all pretty tired from our escapades around the Colosseum that day.  While my brother and dad stayed in Rome to explore even more that night, my mom and I returned to the hotel and walked to a nearby local restaurant for dinner.  The bread was a bit special again as it was toasted, rubbed with garlic, and drizzled with a very flavorful olive oil.
For my main course, I ordered the pasta with tomato sauce and basil and a side of sautéed chicory (aka spinach).  The wonderful thick, chewy noodles told me once again that this was homemade pasta.  And as before, the fresh tomato sauce was not overpowering, but instead complemented, the fresh pasta.
I will leave it there for now, but next time the Roman adventures will continue!


Do you like circus peanuts?!  If so, I'm sorry to say that we can no longer be friends. ;)
 
 
And the great saga continues! (Click for Part 1 and Part 2.)

Our next great adventure was the lovely city of Florence.  My dad and brother spent the day visiting car factories, so my mom and I had the day to ourselves.  We caught a morning train into the city and soon began exploring the bustling streets.  There were a tad too many tourists for our taste, but we still greatly enjoyed our time.  Our favorite attraction was the Central Market.  It was an indoor market filled to the brim with vendors, and they had every type of food you could imagine from pasta, to cheese, to nuts and dried fruit, to fresh fruit and vegetables, to breads, pastries, and biscotti, to olive oil, to every cut of meat you could imagine (clearly just for me), and everything in between.  There were also a good amount of samples, my favorite being an exquisite truffle paste.  Truffles are very popular in Italy and for a good reason!
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Ohhh look at all that cheese!!!
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Talk about huge blocks of cheese… I can't even imagine how much these weighed!
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It was like they managed to find a way to dry every single fruit!
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Fresh pasta!
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While I'm not a fan of dry American biscotti, the real Italian deal is an entirely different, tastier story!
Florence really does have some gorgeous buildings.  While we didn't have the opportunity to see even half of them, we saw as many as we could!  And of course, we did see the Basilica of Saint Mary.  We were expecting the inside to be quite intricate to match the finely decorated exterior, however we found the gothic interior to me quite simple, though still beautiful.
The paintings in the dome were quite detailed however, and I loved the 3D nature of the floor.
While it may have been one of Florence's most famous buildings (and it was indeed beautiful), the city is full of other noteworthy buildings and architecture as well.
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Florence's oldest bridge is lined with shops.
Now of course Florence is home to Michelangelo's David, but the line was wrapped around the outside of the building, and mom and I decided that we didn't want to spend our day in Florence standing in a line.  I have never seen more lines than I saw in Florence in Rome.  Thankfully, you can pre-purchase tickets and avoid most of the lines.  We did that in Rome but hadn't thought the lines would be so massive in Florence.  We did up in one to see a museum (we had to see something!), and even for a line that had maybe 20 people in it, we waited nearly 45 minutes!  So the lesson: pre-order tickets whenever possible!

You're probably wondering what we dined on while in this gorgeous city.  Well, we ate at a little ristorante on a quiet side street.
We started with bruschetta, but it was nothing like the first time we had it.  In fact, it was rather disappointing.  The bread was dry and flavorless, matching the tomatoes that scattered the top.  There wasn't garlic or even olive oil!  We managed to get it down, but it took a hefty amount of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Luckily, the mushroom risotto that we split as our entree was quite delicious.  Much like topped the crostini the night before, the mushrooms were thick and meaty.  They really know how to do their mushrooms in Italy!  The risotto itself was also quite good, though I admit that I've made better at home.
The best thing we ate in Florence was the gelato (no surprise there I'm sure!).
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Just look at those fluffy pillows of gelato!
This time I tried fruit and yogurt (one flavor) and mint.  The fruit and yogurt was good, but oh goodness, that mint was incredible!  There were huge, glorious chunks of chocolate in it.  My mom got mint too, and she had a piece of chocolate that was bigger than one inch by one inch!
Although we greatly enjoyed Florence, one day was enough.  I had heard that I should as much time in Florence as possible, but I enjoyed the smaller, quieter towns more.  And as far as cities go, I liked Rome and Venice more. 

Speaking of Rome, that was our next destination!  Our first night there we didn't have anything scheduled so we wandered around the city and ended up visiting Castle Sant'Angelo.
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Bridge in front of the castle.
If the castle and small courtyard look at all familiar, you may be recognizing them from the movie Angels and Demons.  I watched that movie with my parents shortly after returning home from our trip, and there was a scene of "Robert Langdon" racing through that castle and courtyard, as well as several other places we visited.  That's one of the things that's so cool about visiting places like this - you see a movie filmed there and you can say, "hey, I was there!!"

There was an amazing view of the surrounding city from the top of the castle, and we even caught or first views of the Vatican!
Our first dinner in Rome was probably the most memorable meal of the trip - but not in a way you would think, or hope.  The food was crazy expensive, so we had to search for something cheaper in price, which we eventually found.  It was a cute little cafe with wide open doors welcoming us in.  The menu was written on a white board on the door, and although it was sparse, there were pizza and pasta options.  The rest of my family ordered pasta alla carbonara, a pasta dish with an egg sauce, bacon, and black pepper, a very popular dish in the Roman area, and I ordered the pizza margherita.  The man took our order and then retreated through a door in the back.  He emerged from what turned out to be a freezer with three boxes of frozen pasta, proceeded behind the counter where the microwave was stationed, and, without shame, began the "cooking" process.  He then whipped out a pre-made pizza crust with sauce from under the counter, sprinkled some cheese on top, and placed it in what looked liked a panini press.  We all watched, our eyes wide, not sure what to think.  He scraped the pasta from the plastic containers onto plates, slid my pizza onto a round tray, and dinner was served!
We all tried to keep an open mind, and my family said their pasta wasn't too bad.  While I wasn't expecting a pizza from a five star restaurant, that crust made rubber sound like fine dining.  I just couldn't eat it.  I hate to say something like this, but it was the worst pizza I have ever had.  The cheese was still fine, so I ate it off the top, leaving a naked crust behind.  I felt terrible, but I just couldn't stomach it.  The man was super nice though and even brought us complementary cookies!
We learned something that night - cheap price equals cheap food.  But like I said earlier, it was one of the most memorable meals, one that none of us will ever forget!

Since dinner was, well, kind of a bust, we decided we must end the night on a good note.  Of course, that meant getting our daily dose of gelato!  This time I got cherry (though I thought I had ordered almond - guess I can't read Italian very well!) and soy chocolate (again, I thought I was ordering regular chocolate…).  The cherry was okay, but the soy chocolate tasted like a fudge brownie!  Maybe it's a good thing that I can't read Italian. ;)
And that concludes Part 3 of my Italian adventures!  More of Rome to come in my next recap!

Is there a meal that you remember very vividly, though perhaps not for the reason you would hope?
 
 
If your missed my first recap post of my summer Italian adventures, be sure to check it out here!

The next site on our agenda was Cinque Terre.  Cinque Terre is cluster of five "sister towns" on the west Italian coast.  What's special about these towns is that there are walking paths along the coast that connect them so that you can hike from town to town.  That is what motivated us to hop in the car and visit them, but unfortunately the paths were closed due to weather damage.  We still had a wonderful day however (I mean, how is it possible to NOT have a good day when on vacation in Italy?), with one of the coolest things being this marble mine we passed on the way to the towns where they were mining real Italian marble!
The towns were still lovely, though rather touristy.
Look at these tiny little farm trucks!  They have them all over Italy, especially in the country side.  They don't even have steering wheels!  Instead, they have a horizontal bar you push and pull on the ends to maneuver the automobile around Italy's twisting roads.  I'm bigger than it is!
And of course we had to get our daily gelato!  This time I tried lemon and pistachio.  The lemon was very refreshing, but wow, the pistachio was especially amazing!!
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Look at how blue that water is!!
Because the paths were closed, we had to take a train to the last town and didn't get to see the middle three towns.  Luckily, I think all three towns were pretty similar, but it still would have been nice to see all of them.
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An old World War II barricade that I explored with my brother!
My mom and I hiked up to the top of a hill where there was a really neat old cemetery (most of it above ground - it reminded me of the cemeteries in New Orleans), as well as gorgeous views!
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See the grape vineyards lining the hills?
We explored the town a bit, and then headed back to our pension, hoping to find dinner on the way.  We ended up stopping at this little place, in a rather abandoned feeling small town, called Ristorante Eloise.  It was an adorable, quaint cafe with only one other table occupied, but it was very homey feeling, and we felt like we got the true "Italian dining" experience (meaning that we weren't rushed out with the check but encouraged to stay and relax after dinner).  Pretty much every restaurant in Italy brings you bread as a part of the "cover charge."  As much as I love bread, even plain, white, rather flavorless bread can get old after a while.  Thankfully, this bread was extra special.  I believe it was bruschetta, the best bruschetta I've ever had!  The bread was toasted, rubbed with garlic, and drizzled with olive oil prior to being topped with the most delicious tomato topping.  I could have eaten a plate of that bread alone for my meal!
But thankfully I didn't do that or I would have missed out on the best pasta of my life.  It sounded simple on the menu (pasta with spicy tomato sauce), and it was simple, but that is what made it so perfect.  Rather than the sauce masking the flavor of the pasta, it complemented it.  The sauce wasn't hot spicy but very flavorful, showcasing the fresh tomatoes and spices.  The pasta was obviously homemade as it was wonderfully thick and chewy.  My whole family agreed that this was one of the best entrees we tried that night (though everything we had was fantastic), and by far the best pasta dish we had ever had.
I ordered a side of swiss chard and could only dream of being able to cook it like that at home!  Olive oil and garlic were obvious components of some of the best greens I'd ever tasted, but the swiss chard flavor shone through as well.  Still, there was not a drop bitterness.
Whille in Italy, my mom and I had a list of foods that we had to try, and on that list was Tiramisu.  We figured that this little eatery would be the perfect place to try it, as it was homemade, and it turned out we were right.  We had never had it before and weren't even expecting to like it, but we ended up loving it.  The coffee flavor was light but still present, and the cake was incredibly moist, rather dense (in a good way), and topped with the thickest, creamiest, whipped topping ever.  It was better that we had ever imagined.
 While the night was already perfect, it became even more perfect when our waiter/host brought this complementary drink to the table:
That would be a bottle of ice cold cream limoncello.  We found during our time in Italy that it is tradition to end a good meal with a shot of limoncello.  Because lemons are a big agricultural commodity in Italy, limoncello is a product commonly sold in Italy, much like olive oil.  And since the legal drinking age in Italy is 18, I got to taste it!  I only had a few sips, but it was truly wonderful.  Sweet, creamy, smooth, and as thick as cream.  That dinner was one of the best meals on our entire trip.

We drove to Tuscany the next day and so didn't see a whole lot that day (except for the gorgeous countryside), but we did have the opportunity to visit a really neat walled medieval town, San Gimignano, for dinner.
The gelato flavors of the day were yogurt and fruta de bosca (mixed berry).  We consumed our gelato just prior to dinner because it was late, and we didn't want to take a chance that the gelaterias might close! ;)
And for dinner, I had the most amazing mushroom crostini topped with plenty of cheese and fabulously thick, meaty mushrooms.
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The walled city was even more beautiful at night. Just look at that incredible sky!
My next Italian recap will include Florence and the beginning of my Roman adventures!  Stay tuned. 

Happy Wednesday everyone!
 
 
You know when you see a recipe and you're so excited to try it that you can't get if off your mind?  That was me yesterday morning when I saw a recipe for french toast casserole with praline topping and decided that it was the perfect dish to make my parents for their anniversary today.  It was an overnight casserole, so I put it together yesterday afternoon before work and then this morning excitedly made the topping, piled it on the pan, and shoved it in the oven.  I imagined my parents waking up in about half an hour to the smell of sweet cinnamon and vanilla and stumbling down the stairs half asleep to be greeted with a melt-in-your-mouth delicious breakfast.  

Well, if there was a smell that woke them up, it was definitely not cinnamon or vanilla but a burnt smokey smell.  I didn't set the house on fire or anything, but I had to turn on the hood fan, open the doors, and stand under the fire alarm waving a towel above my head so that the fire alarm wouldn't set off.  There was so much smoke in the oven that I couldn't even see the casserole.  Fortunately, the topping actually turned out pretty good, but the bread itself was still sitting in egg batter and was rather goopy.  It wasn't a complete disaster, but I just wanted it to be perfect for my parents, and it was far from perfect.

That whole experience almost deterred me from doing any more cooking today, but I finally decided to bite the bullet and try out a recipe I had thought up in my head this morning.  Yesterday I bought some millet because I love trying new grains, and I love it in bread.  I also happen to have a ton of mint growing in my garden, and of course anything is better with fruit and cheese.  I sure am glad that I didn't let my cooking experience this morning stop me from whipping up this dish because it. was. incredible.  Good enough to serve at some fancy restaurant incredible.  Please do yourself a favor and try this.  I promise you won't have an experience like I did this morning with the casserole.
Creamy Goat Cheese Millet with Honey-Balsamic Roasted Strawberries and Fresh Mint
Serves 1

Ingredients:
1/4 cup uncooked millet
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup milk of choice (I used coconut almond milk)
Sea salt + fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 ounce crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Fresh mint leaves

Directions:
For the millet:  Heat a small pan over medium-low heat and add the millet.  Toast, stirring frequently, until the millet begins to pop.  Cook for a few more minutes and then add 1/2 cup water and the milk.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Towards the end of  the cooking time, stir in the remaining water and continue cooking until the liquid is absorbed.  Stir in salt and pepper and about two-thirds of the goat cheese.
For the strawberries:  Preheat oven to 425 degrees, line a pan with aluminum foil, and spray with non-stick spray.  In a small bowl, whisk the honey and vinegar together.  Toss with the strawberries and spread them out over the foil.  Save honey-vinegar mixture.  Roast the strawberries in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.
To assemble:  Spoon the millet into a bowl and top with the roasted strawberries, mint leaves, and remaining goat cheese.   Drizzle the left over honey-vinegar mixture on top. 
This truly is one of those recipes that needs no perfecting because it already is perfect.  I'm not trying to toot my own horn, it just made me so happy that something actually turned out after I was nearly in tears with that casserole this morning!  This is also a perfect summer dish as fresh berries have actually been tasting like berries lately!  This dish definitely made up for my cooking flop this morning, and I know it will brighten your day as well.

Have you had any cooking flops lately?
What are you favorite summer foods?
 
 
I feel like I haven't posted a recipe in, well, ages really.  It's probably been about six months, and that is just way too long.  Thank goodness I'm breaking that streak today!
Yep, it's being broken with donuts.  Why?  More accurately, why not?!  I mean, chocolate donuts spread with luscious, creamy frosting and packed with about 20 grams of protein… do you really need any more convincing? Ya, I didn't think so.
CHOCOLATE PROTEIN CAKE DONUTS WITH CREAM CHEESE PROTEIN FROSTING
Donut recipe based on my chocolate peppermint donuts.
Serves 1

Ingredients:

For the donuts:
•  1 /4 cup spelt flour
•   1/4 teaspoon baking powder
•   1/8 teaspoon baking soda
•   1.5 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
•   smidgen nutmeg
•   1/4 cup Greek yogurt
•   1 tbsp applesauce
•   3 tablespoon liquid egg whites or 1 egg white
•   1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
•   sweetener to taste (I used liquid stevia)

For the frosting:
•   2 tbsp whipped cream cheese
•   1/4 scoop vanilla protein powder
•   1 tbsp almond milk

Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (or 375 on convection) and grease two donuts of a donut pan.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, and nutmeg.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt, applesauce, egg white, vanilla extract, and stevia/sweetener.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and fold together until well combined, but don't over-mix.  
  5. Spoon the batter into the greased donut pan and bake in the preheated oven for about ten minutes.  Test with a toothpick!
  6. While the donuts are cooling, mix together the frosting ingredients in a small bowl until combined and smooth.  Remove the donuts from the pan, frost, and devour!
Now my absolute favorite part of this recipe is the awesome frosting.  Seriously, I could have a bowl of just the frosting for breakfast and be one happy camper.  I'm thinking the frosting would also be great on pancakes or waffles.  Don't worry, I'll be testing it out ASAP.

So go make some donuts, drown them in frosting, and sit in the kitchen (or in bed, I won't judge) with a smile on your face as you have your donuts and eat them too.  

Do you like donuts?  Are you a fan of frosting?


I hope everyone's week is off to a great start!
 
 
A few days ago, Enlightened sent me a coupon to try out their healthy, natural ice cream bars.  I love trying any new product, but I especially love ice cream of any kind, and healthy ice cream is even better!
The bars come in fudge, peanut butter, orange cream, coffee, and toasted almond.  They also sell ice cream sandwiches in vanilla bean and mint flavors.  My store only had the fudge and peanut butter bars, so I snatched up the fudge flavor wondering if it would taste at all like fudge bars!

But first off, let's take a look at the nutrition facts to see just what makes these bars so healthy!  The bars have 8 grams of protein (yes, 8!!!), 5 grams of fiber, and only 3 grams of sugar.  They also have only 70 calories making them perfect for a light treat or snack any time of the day!

I excitedly opened up one of the little packages awaiting inside the box and found this inside:
I loved that even though they are low calorie and healthy, they are still a good size!  It's always disappointing when something is so small that it only lasts a bite or two.  Not the case here!  Of course if it had been even bigger I definitely would not have complained because these bars are awesome.  But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here… let's talk taste!  

It is recommended that the bars sit out to temper for three to five minutes before eating.  The first time I had one, I was so excited to try it that I completely forgot to do it, but I was sure to remember next time and set it out for a full five minutes.  It was a bit softer when I let it sit out, but I honestly didn't notice any other difference.  Both ways the bars were soft but firm (in a very "fudgey" way - they live up to their name!) and were so creamy and rich in flavor that if I had been wearing a blind fold, I never would have guessed I was eating something low fat and most definitely nothing healthy.  At first, I claimed that these were better than fudge bars, but then I realized that I hadn't had a regular fudge bar in years so perhaps that isn't a very good comparison.  Like fudge bars or not, however, Enlightened worked some real magic into their healthy ice cream bars, and I can't recommend that you try them enough.  I can personally say that I will be buying their bars again and am excited to try their other flavors, as well as their ice cream sandwiches.

Also, I wanted to mention that I found this company to be very nice, helpful, and responsive.  The corresponder that I worked with was awesome!

So if you haven't had luck with low fat, "healthy" ice cream in the past, don't pass up these bars thinking that they will be the same.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised!
Have your tried Enlightened ice cream bars?
What has your experience been with "healthy" ice cream?

Disclaimer:  Although I was able to try these ice cream bars free of charge, I was not compensated to write this review, and all opinions are my own.
 
 
Hello everyone!  It is time for me to spill my Italian adventures to you!  Obviously there is more than can fit into a single post, but I have to start somewhere!  I realize that Part 1 isn't a very creative title, but I thought it was better than a laundry list title of all the different places I talk about in each post, so they will be broken into "parts".  Who wants to read a title that's five or so lines long?!  But I digress....

We flew into Zurich, Switzerland and spent our first afternoon exploring Luzern.  Of course we had to walk across Chapel Bridge, which was absolutely lovely and so "old" feeling, almost like walking back in time.
We also hiked up to the top of a hill, and our eyes were rewarded with some gorgeous views of the town and the Swiss Alps.  Unfortunately it was a rather cloudy day so we couldn't get a full view of the Alps, but what we could see was beautiful.
Picture
A clock tower at the top of the hill.
It was in Luzern that I had the amazing cream cheese and cucumber sandwich that I was talking about in my last post.  It may not look like much, but you can't judge a sandwich by it's appearance.  Behold...
We stayed the evening in Genoa, a coastal town in northern Italy.  But to get there, we had to drive through the picture-perfect Swiss Alps.  
I love Colorado mountains, but they still don't quite stand up to the Swiss Alps. The mountains towering over the road were lined with hundreds of waterfall streams.  It was truly beautiful.

When we arrived in Genoa, we had one thing on our mind: food!  So we walked down to the water and settled with a classic for dinner.  Can't go to Italy without having pizza, am I right?!
My mom and I split this margherita pizza.  We imagined that, being in Italy, it would be cloaked in basil (which we were excited for because we both LOVE basil) so we were a bit disappointed when we found only a tiny sprig.  It was still a good pizza though!  The crust was the thinnest, most "cracker-y" crust I'd ever had, which was nice because it made the meal light and not too filling, leaving plenty of room for gelato. ;)  My dad had informed us before we left on our trip that we must eat gelato everyday, so this was our first round of it.  I had strawberry, which was nice and refreshing!
The next morning, we departed Genoa, and our Italian adventures began!
We did spend some time in the country exploring some smaller towns, but for the most part, we acted like the tourists we were and hit the major sites.  I mean, how could we not see the Leaning Tower of Pisa?!
Outside was magnicient, but my brother and I decided that it was also necessary to hike to the top.  Thus we embarked up the spiral staircase together and found that not only does the tower look tilted - it also feels tilted from the inside!

The top of the tower had some amazing views of the surrounding area.
That night for dinner, we ate at a local restaurant in a small walled city.
We had bread to start, as we did in most restaurants we ate at in Italy, and then ordered sheep cheese with honey and walnuts as an appetizer.  Cheese and honey was a pretty common thing in Italy, and after trying it, I know why!  I want to try it again here at home because it is truly a wonderful combination of sweet and salty.
For my main course, I ordered the vegetable soup.  It was a very simple soup, but one that I found to be quite common in Italy.  It was almost like minestrone but with very few beans and no pasta.
The gelato for the day was once again strawberry!
Well these are only the first few days, but I think this post is already long enough, so the adventures will continue next time!  I hope everyone is having a lovely week!
 
 
And once again, summer is here.  This past school year was the busiest yet, but also the best because I tried so many new things and felt that I had a true college experience.  I learned that I don't have to spend every minute studying to get good grades, and that in fact life is much more fulfilling when you spend spare time in other ways.  However, I did greatly miss blogging so hopefully this summer I will be able to reconnect with all of you and continue to share my love for food!  Also be prepared for some posts with pictures of Italy sprinkled in here and there as I recently returned from a three week vacation to the beautiful country with my family.

Now, what better way to return to the blogosphere than to participate in my favorite WIAW party?! 
These are Monday's eats (with a few recycled pictures from Sunday because some of the meals were just too good to not repeat)!

I'm still recovering from jet lag so I was up by 5am!  Breakfast was so good though that I really didn't mind.  Like most of the blog world, I enjoy  pumpkin all year long.  These pumpkin pie pancakes were the best pumpkin pancakes I've ever had!  They were adapted from a recipe on instagram and were just incredible.  I didn't even need or want to top them with anything - they were perfect on there own!  I also had an apple and my daily mug of green tea.  Breakfast perfection.
My morning snack was my favorite KIND bar flavor.  I will never tire of the sweet and salty combo!
Lunch was a repeat of Sundays' lunch - Vegetable cream cheese spread on Rudi's seven grain bread, a peanut butter chocolate chip chickpea blondie, steamed broccoli with honey mustard, and almond milk with vanilla protein powder!  When I went to Italy, we flew into Zurich and stopped for lunch in Luzern.  There I had the most amazing sandwich that was simply cucumber and cream cheese on a hardy bread roll.  I couldn't stop thinking about that sandwich the whole trip and this was my first attempt at an at home recreation!
Afternoon snacking consisted of some gorgeous fresh berries and a black forest carbmaster yogurt!  It was my first time trying this flavor, but after one bite I was in love.
While in Italy, I got an intense craving for Mexican food, and Monday night, I satisfied that craving with my favorite vegetable enchiladas and black beans from my local Mexican restaurant.
And of course no day would be complete without dessert.  I topped a peanut butter chickpea blondie with Halo Top chocolate ice cream, truwhip, and Walden Farms caramel sauce.  So good!  I've been having this combination every night this week.
Do you see batman?  Clearly I have talent in pouring caramel sauce. ;)

Now how have all of you been?!