Htipiti gets its name from the traditional method of “beating” the cheese with a mortar and pestle. Also known as Kopanisti (pounded) in some parts of Greece, this is a quick and easy dip that combines the sweetness of red peppers and the salty tang of Feta cheese if you get the right cheese!

This stuff is the bomb!! This will probably be the shortest post I have ever written because it's so easy to make!! We learned how to make this in Greece probably the most simple and delicious thing we ate while in the country. There are a TON of variations I will include at the bottom and I encourage you to be creative with this after you make the original.

BEST Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Spread/Dip/Sauce (Htipiti)

I don't know what it is with me and cooking but sometimes it takes a few times to perfect a recipe before it's actually up to my serving standards. Maybe it's because I'm picky and worked in the restaurant business for too long, maybe it's because I have a hard time following recipes, or maybe it's because I get so inspired with add in's that I lose my mind and my dish becomes a mess pot? Either way a great chef has to experiment every once and while and learn from their mistakes.

Every time we go out to restaurants I am confused as to why their chicken chili is so good and mine kind of (actually) really sucks! This has always bothered me that I couldn't figure out their "secret recipe" (which probably comes from a thawed out bag.) With a chili cook off as my inspiration I got to work! I've made white chicken chili multiple times in the past and it never comes out right. It was always watery and the solids would sink to the bottom and I felt like I was eating spicy chicken broth not chili. I've tried adding flour or corn starch to thicken it up with no luck. I decided to challenge myself and make something restaurant worthy.

Finally I reviewed about 30 different recipes pulling what I liked and thought would work from each one and I finally think I've figured it out. I know it's good too because I made this twice in the same day and had almost no leftovers both times!

Rome is so far my favorite city in Italy. It's so historic every where you look you will see ruins or a statue stuck in time. There's great shopping, friendly people, and yummy food everywhere your eyes can see! This post is going to be about a cooking class Jay, Claudia, and I took together while in Rome.

Cooking Class in Rome, Italy
A Cooking Day in Rome
Just like phone companies and cable companies want all of your TV, internet, wireless phone and home phone business so do travel companies want all of the pieces they can.  There are a bunch of them like Priceline, Travelocity, Orbitz, Bookit, Kayak, Hotwire, Expedia, TripAdvisor and more.  They put together amazing deals at amazing prices but there are some drawbacks and hidden fees to many that may not make it worth the savings.  

When we travel Jay is responsible for the booking of flights, hotels and rental cars. We get so many gasps when we mention how much we paid for our airline tickets so I'm having him write a series of posts for my blog with how to find the best price for these things.

Posts to look forward to:
Miles and miles – How to get them and what to do with them
Seats and baggage – You got a ticket, now what – Tips and tricks to the travel game

To bundle or not to bundle – Discount sites and the Pros and Cons

How to Find a Cheap Ticket to Anywhere.

$5 flight to Richmond, Virginia for the weekend. (used miles for purchase)
Jay and I crave culture and love food we have been taking a cooking class in every country we go to and learn so many new ways to cook. Although when we try to re-make some of the things at home we realize we might need more than just 1 class! I had randomly booked this class last minute on one of my friends travel websites it was only $62 per person and the only thing related to cooking that was available in Athens so I just booked it not expecting anything special. Walking into this totally blind all I had was the name of a train stop we were supposed to meet at and what I thought was the name of a restaurant emailed to me in the form of a voucher. After printing this out at the hotel I asked the front desk if they knew how far away it was. Knowing from the past experiences train stations and stops can be very confusing I thought we would just take a taxi directly to the restaurant. Assuming we would be schlepped away in a stuffy van then cooking in a corporate kitchen style setting with a bunch of other couples. The man handed me a paper with the address of the restaurant and said that he had never heard of it. I'm thinking... Great!! This is going to be an interesting experience!!

When we got ready to leave the bell boy pulled up a taxi for us and I handed him the paper. The first thing he said to me was "I'm taking you to a really amazing restaurant." Now I'm thinking we are way under dressed because he talked it up like it was the best restaurant in town. After driving down a few alleyways going away from the city I started seeing a lot of graffiti and a lot less people. Jay and I just looked at each other with that "Oh Shit" look and the car stopped outside this brightly yellow painted building with a cute little sign out front that said "Klimataria Tavern" I walked in a little hesitant only because I really had no idea what I was in store for.

Inside it's a little wonderland of wine barrels, vines grown down from the ceiling and little fun trinkets hidden everywhere in the decor. Not what I was expecting at all but as I saw the table filled with spices, herbs, and fresh produce my face lit up as a man handed me a glass of wine.

This post is going to be about how I pack for a Greece beach trip with days of hiking through old historical sights. It's a 12 day trip total with 5 hotel changes:
1 night in Chicago
3 nights in Stoupa
4 nights in Sparta
3 nights in Athens
1 night in Chicago

In order to keep this trip as stress free as possible I'll have to keep my stuff organized. Being prepared for TSA searches and 5 hotel changes. This means packing enough without over-packing. If you have read any of my blog posts before you should know I'm not the type of girl who is going to attempt a 12 day trip to Europe all carry-on washing my clothes in the sink but I won't pack more than I can handle. I'll have a 21" expandable carry on suitcase with a briefcase size purse to take with me on the plane. Then I'll have my medium size suitcase as my checked bag.

What to pack for a beach vacation
<3 this luggage set!!! 

When Jay and I travel we like to go off the beaten path a little bit, avoid crowds and create our own adventures. After a few times to Napa we found our favorite little spots to visit without doing a whole lot of research. Sometimes you find the best places by just stopping road trip style when you see something interesting. There are wineries everywhere so you can't make a wrong turn. I will provide you with some guidelines and reviews of places we have gone in the past.  Hopefully this will help you gauge the direction you want to take in wine country as I will not be writing about your typical downtown Napa tasting room experiences. St. Helena, Calistoga, and Yountville are not the same experience as Downtown Napa but I guarantee it's one you'll never forget...

Napa Valley Vacation Tips

Normally when I make Mexican food I usually make some form of tacos either with pulled chicken breast, beef, ground turkey, ground chicken or a mix of all these. I have made them so many times it's just boring and let's be honest tacos are something a child can make. It's time to step it up a notch people!! I love nothing more than going out to those little "Not-so-authentic" Mexican restaurants and ordering the ginormous sizzle fajitas with all the fixings. This left me thinking you know what? Tacos are boring and I'm pretty sure I can pull together a Fajita dinner and I can surely make a margarita 100 times more amazing. With that being said this post is pure gold. How to make the best fajitas EVVVEEERRR!!! Seriously, no joke.

How to Make the Best Steak Fajitas

One of my favorite dishes to make from my childhood is this "Green Bean Casserole in a Skillet" I don't really know what else to call it. I have searched high and low to see if this is an actual real recipe but I can't find anything exact so I'll write about it. When I was little we would go over to my Aunt Sue's house all the time and she was a vegetarian. Most of the meals she made for us were with no meat only carbs, veggies, and fruit. She always made this dish for us and I loved it so much I learned how to make it. It was actually one of the first stove top meals I ever cooked on my own. My Dad just called me today asking me how to make this so I thought to make it easier I would just make a post about it. Here you go Dad......

Ok guys I am REALLY REALLY REALLY excited about this post!! The idea came to me as I was logging into my Delta account seeing all of the trips Jay and I have planned and all of the trips we have already been on. Let's be honest everyone gets caught up in the stress of traveling and forgets to be FABULOUS!!! I'm going to try to break it down for you in this post I will focus on how to be fabulous and frugal during traveling. Look and feel like a million bucks when your tired, over traveled, and on a budget.

For those of you who haven't been to Cincinnati Hyde Park it's a cute little town to check out. It's happening but not overly congested and it's pleasant to walk off your dinner on a nice summer day. (great shopping too) We always park a little farther away from the square for that reason so we are forced to walk it off after we eat.

Teller's is located in the heart of the Hyde Park square in a historic old savings and loan building turned restaurant in 1995. You can actually request to sit in the old vault they have turned into a private dining room.

Growing up I never ate guacamole because it is just a weird green color and mushy. I always thought it tasted like that paste you use in elementary school. The real problem was I wasn't using QUALITY ingredients, I was using that processed avocado crap that you buy in a bag loaded with preservatives because everyone told me "it doesn't turn brown." yuck! No wonder people don't like guac!

Let me tell you something, using fresh avocados is the ONLY way to make delicious guac. If you make a bunch and let it sit out for hours it probably will turn a little brown. No big deal!! Just stir it up and the flavor will not be tainted! (mine never lasts that long anyways.)

If I don't go to bed early (which is almost never) I always get the late night munchies!! It's so bad to eat before bedtime and I always feel so guilty afterwards. I spend a lot of time thinking of small healthy snacks I can make as low-cal and low-carb as I can. Then I came up with these little guys, I'm sure there is a similar recipe out there somewhere but 100% came up with this specific recipe right out of my own fridge!!

These are also an easy appetizer to make for your skinny girlfriends or bring to a party :)

Welcome to the most American wine on earth (it's grown almost nowhere else)!

I tend to be more favorable of California wines because I have been there so many times and they are easier for me to choose vs. a french wine because you actually know what varietal you are buying. Zinfandel is one of my favorite red wines because most of the time it has an added spice that a Merlot or Cab will not have. I prefer the ones with notes of berry and chocolate with the added spice. The jam flavor it can have really pairs well with a lot of foods. They won't get too sweet however because the spice cuts it down a bit.

I have always loved every thing bedazzled and recently starting making these phone cases to pass by the time. I am getting compliments and requests everywhere which is sort of giving me the idea of selling them to people!

Tell me would you pay for a phone case like this? They could be made for any type of phone and almost any theme you can think of!!

Please comment below if you have any suggestions or were interested in getting one :)

Thank you my bedazzle lovers :)

I made these Greek pita sandwiches that were AMAZING yesterday.

What I had on hand:
  • Fresh red pepper
  • Cucumber
  • Non-fat feta cheese
  • Red onion
  • Whole wheat pita pockets
  • Cilantro Jalapeno Hummus
  • Lemon

UPDATE: 3/31/13 ---> I made this again recently for my boyfriend (I always test things in my own kitchen first to make sure it's up to par when I make it for him) I made a couple changes by adding sun dried tomatoes and this time I actually used real cream (not much.) It also goes quicker if you cut the peppers in half to roast them my updated pictures are at the bottom of this blog. You can see the sauce is a little lighter than the last time.

Since I have had so much time to myself at home I have been trying to cook new things to blog about. Once again since I cannot drive I took a look in the fridge and saw 2 and a half red peppers and instantly became inspired. After some serious googling I came across a recipe for Red Pepper Pasta and when I read the recipe I decided I could wing it and make a healthier version for myself. To make this meatless just leave out the meat :)

Istanbul, Turkey was never on my list of places to visit I didn't know anything about this country good or bad. My boyfriend Jay found a cheap airfare flying out of Chicago for $400 so we decided if we are going to be world travelers we need to have an open mind and I was craving for some culture. After I started telling people I was going they were starting to make me worried because everyone was telling me it was a bad place to go a lot of danger and terrorists there. I googled news for Istanbul and couldn't find anything frightening enough to cancel our trip. Surely there are bad people there but there are bad people all over the world! I think as long as you respect the culture, use common sense, go with your gut ..if something doesn't feel right don't do it.

About halfway through our day tour in Istanbul our best taxi driver Ihsan took us to a restaurant that Anthony Bourdain had ate at located under the shadows of the Valens aqueduct. When I saw Bourdain eating at this restaurant in the TV show they brought him all of these huge plates of food and were greeting him kindly and explaining everything to him in English  Surely I thought I would not get that treatment but surprisingly this was the most welcoming restaurant we ate at! We walked in and there were about 3 workers there who greeted us and Ihsan. Our table was upstairs and the restaurant was packed for a 4 PM dinner. There are seats by the windows so you can people watch, and check out framed articles from all of their known press on the walls.

Sur Ocakbasi, Istanbul

Update: 3/21/14- I will probably start a new post on this but just wanted to get this tid-bit out ASAP.
I don't know if we got lucky or what but the weather in Paris this past week was INCREDIBLE!! Nothing was busy it was actually even less busy than in November. Who would have thought? Oh and the trains were free!! We found our old love locks finally!! So we added these on. I wanted to post some links below of where to find the "cool" locks so just in case you ever make it back it will be easier to find! Now we have 3 locks linked together :) I am going to start a fun love lock bridge contest here soon! It involves locating our locks and there will be fun prizes!!

Updated: 11/8/13
-Jay and I went back to Paris this last week and we couldn't find our lock :( After speaking with some locals we were told that if you use the cheap locks they just come through and "prune" them. We were able to find most of the ones by where we had ours last year. Anyways I surprised Jay by getting a big heavy lock engraved. Good luck trying to get this one off the bridge!!

Love lock Bridge in Paris, france
Love lock Bridge in Paris, france

"We'll always have Paris"

I was one of those people who thought I would never get a chance to go to Paris but after losing my job my boyfriend decided to cheer me up in a late night email with a Paris itinerary leaving in 2 weeks! I was pretty much the happiest person on the planet! I called everyone I knew and stayed up till 7 AM doing research.

It all began when Jay magically got us upgraded into first class on our way to Hawaii!! This was my first time sitting in first class and I was so excited. One thing about first class is that there are a lot of cool people to talk to since it's quiet there and you get free alcohol. It's like a club hang out up there! We were talking to this guy who was from Kailua, Hawaii (where we were headed on Oahu.) We talked about the different islands and his living experiences here. Eventually he brought out this little gem near the beach called Buzz's its a local hangout definitely not very fancy. He said when he is home the family always gets together there for a good meal and they make a mean Mai Tai.

Since Jay and I are trying to get our frequent flyer miles we took a crazy course to Puerto Rico. We went from Cincinnati, Detroit, LA, New York, then San Juan. He booked the flight to LA separately so that left us with a 9 hour layover in LA. My Dad took me to LA when I was little and I don't really remember it but after talking with him he reminded me that Venice Beach Boardwalk is about a 15 minute drive from the airport. We made the decision to rent a car for half a day instead of taking a taxi. We chose the cheapest one available and if you top off the gas tank before you return it and bring a receipt they will refund you for it.  At the end of the day it ended up costing about $40.00 which I thought was a good deal especially because we were able to leave our luggage in the car, walk around and get some fresh ocean air!

So you can't go all the way to Hilo, Hawaii and not go to the Volcano National Park! We stayed about 45 minutes from Hilo city center to be near the lava. From what I remember this was about an hour drive from our place to the national park. We had a 4PM lava hike scheduled so minimal time at the park. We took an extra hike and after leaving realized that we had not eaten with a 6 hour hike ahead of us we had to stop somewhere!! When you are driving out in the middle of no where that's not as easy as you think missing one single turn can take you miles out of your way before you can turn around and you'll be lucky to get a phone signal here. Battling through all of this we discovered Cafe' Ono!

It turned out to be really freaking organic and vegan friendly. I think it was completely vegetarian actually which made me feel good because I knew we would be getting feel good food! When drove in it's a little confusing to park because there are art tents everywhere and private dining parties so we did not know where to go at first. The restaurant is around back, the dining room is very small about 4 tables and they have a small menu. Outside they have about 6 tables you can eat at as well. While we were waiting for our food we went shopping the local arts and jewelry. I found a bracelet I really liked it was $180 so I just took a picture will post below! Jay bought me these really cute earrings made out of local nuts! I love them will post a picture soon.

This was the super cute cuff I found but its not worth $180 to me and the lady was not willing to haggle with me. I settled for $32 earrings made out of nuts they are really cute too. 

I ordered the Spinach Quiche at about $15 and got all of this. Everything is homemade and locally grown you can taste it. The garlic bread was very tasty and flavorful! The Quiche was also on point. However this soup was a little weird. It was some kind of tarrot root soup and it tasted like nothing even after I added salt and pepper. The salad dressings were good I got some extra and dipped my bread in it. I think I had the Tahini dressing made from ground sesame seeds. 

cafe ono

This is the little outdoor eating area. Its a very peaceful and tranquil place to eat as you would read in reviews on trip advisor. There is also randomly a goat. Just one goat and they tell you not to go near it. 

Jay got the spinach vegetarian lasagna (even though he swore it had meat in it) He had a mushroom seaweed soup and it tasted more like sea weed than mushrooms! Mine was better than his by a long shot unless you have a flavor for sea water do not order this! We never found out what the white things were floating in that soup. He had a garlic herb dressing and it was also good. 

Bottom Line-- 
I think this was a great stop! I got a new pair of earrings and a full belly even though neither of us really cared for either of our soups we were still full. I am sure if you asked them for more bread instead of soup or more salad that would be fine but we were trying to be adventurous. The staff was friendly and informative and the atmosphere was boutique and peaceful. We were lucky to find this little gem and still get to our hike on time!! The lava post is coming soon! Stay tuned! 
When Jay and I went to Hawaii I was determined to see lava!! Since this is only at the Big Island on the Hilo side we had to go!! It's about $100 a plane ticket to get from Oahu to the Hilo Airport. It is annoying because you have to go through security and all the BS that goes along with airports but in the end it was worth it! I will write about my lava experience in another blog post. This one will be about a restaurant I found on my phone as we were waiting for the plane to taxi in. We were SO hungry!! Hawaiin airlines does not take care of you like Delta does and we didn't eat anything before leaving. After a long wait in the rental car line we were off to the Hilo Bay Cafe! I didn't know much about this place other than these Guinness Onion Rings I was dying to try. The guy at Hertz told us this grill place down the street was good but we drove by and it didn't look good.
Our GPS directions took us through a loop trying to find this place though!! Since I saw it was ranked number 1 on tripadvisor I was looking for a singled out fancy restaurant type. Not the case!! I called them and they are about 3 stores away from a HUGE Walmart super center. So I have to say after that I was a little skeptical. The Walmart in Hilo is the place to be! Probably because there is not a whole lot else to do Hilo pretty much shuts down at 9PM you will not find a restaurant opened.
This place is very small, it is jammed packed with as many tables as they could fit in and you can barely open the door without hitting the host stand! Luckily we got here about 5:00 PM and were seated immediately after every single table was full and they were on a 2 hour wait! Once I saw that I knew this place had to be the bomb. As I scrolled through the menu I noticed that the Guinness Onion Rings were not on there and the waitress said they were a special they only do some days. Darnit!! I settled for some fried mac and cheese bites and Jay cringed at me. He thought that they sounded disgusting.
The drink menu is happening! They have a great selection of traditional drinks with a twist. Since I used to be  a bartender and love alcohol I was very excited about this as well. Went ahead and ordered a Cilantro Mojito which was just a blend of Cilantro and Mint I thought it would pair well with the fried mac n cheese and it was fabulous. The herbs and limes were very well muddled. I always drink these without the straw because it tends to get clogged easily.
The fried mac and cheese was really delish! They have like half marinara and half pesto sauce on the plate and they are fried in these perfect little cubes. We thought they probably put them in ice cube trays and refrigerated them to get that perfect cube size. I thought it was cool! Afterwards I ordered my next drink! The strawberry basil spritzer! It was not what I was expecting, the basil was faint and they just used real crushed up strawberries and sugar. Not sugar syrup like most bars and restaurants use. I was surprised and happy because I felt more healthy drinking it! ;)
For dinner we had a filet cut of a sirloin meaning it was a thick cut of meat. It was OK I am a huge fan of Filet Mignon and it's pretty much the only steak I will order. The potatoes are probably the best potatoes I have ever had in my life! They were perfect texture buttery and rich! It wasn't until after the dinner I found out everything was grown local and organic so that's why all of the food was so amazing because I am not used to that!

Below is my Cilantro Mojito! It was refreshing and paired well with the fried mac n cheese. 

Hilo Bay Cafe, Hilo Hawaii

As you can see I am looking very refreshed after my flight! 

Hilo Bay Cafe, Hilo Hawaii

Fried mac n cheese twas delish! 

Hilo Bay Cafe, Hilo Hawaii

Strawberry Basil Spritzer

Hilo Bay Cafe, Hilo Hawaii

Our dinner! Forgot to take pictures of the salads!! They were very tasty and refreshing as well! We also had a soup it was a mushroom bisque that tasted obviously homemade and was so amazing!! 

Hilo Bay Cafe, Hilo Hawaii
Bottom line- This was one of my favorite restaurants that we ate at! The food was fresh, local, and delicious although service was not on point we left satisfied. I would totally come back here it's a perfect stop because once you drive out of this little area there is NOTHING!! No grocery stores or restaurants that will guaranteed being open a lot of these places are family owned and when they are not busy they close shop! Always call ahead before visiting a small restaurant in Hilo. It was nice to eat and get some food items for a reasonable price at Walmart before heading back to our guest house. Even though half a carton of milk leaked out of the bag onto my jacket it was still a good stop. (who still sells cartons of milk?!?!?)  (they also sell liqour there)

So good we came here twice!! Lunch the day we left!! 
Hilo Bay Cafe, Hilo Hawaii

Hilo Bay Cafe, Hilo Hawaii

Jay (my boyfriend) and I are crazy when it comes to traveling. We always fly delta and I am not working right now, so when cheap tickets pop up we just pack our bags and go! This trip was perfect because we were able to rack up 18,000 miles for 2 days of travel including a 9 hour layover in LA where we rented a car and hung out at Venice Beach and we also had 2 nights in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Since we only had 2 days here and ended up sleeping mostly through the first day I was determined to find some good eats here in Puerto Rico. While we were walking I found this place on trip advisor it was an easy walk from Castillo Del Morro and perfect time for a light lunch. 

It's a little confusing when you first walk up it's more of a hang out, small plates kind of place. Everything is outside and it's set in a decorated patio full of green leaf plants all around it's very quiet. A perfect place for a causal lunch and drinks. We just asked someone who worked there where we should sit and they let us choose any table. I had a mojito first it was small for the $9 price tag after that I had a sangria that was OK. They have a decent menu like I said lots of small plates hence the tapas.

I thought this was pretty cool when we walked in they had this huge mass of melted candle wax. 

We ordered Chorizo and butter bread. 

Salad was traditional and had a herbed olive oil dressing. I added a lemon squeeze and it made it much better. 

These were the best!!! Fried Chorizo stuffed olives!!! I am going to attempt to make these sometime soon they were so good. I never thought to stuff olives with sausage then frying them ontop of that!! Amazing!! 

Bottom line I would come here again! I thought this was a really cute little lunch place. Not sure if they have a separate dinner menu? but I think its more of a lunch and cocktail outdoor lounge. It's really close to everything in Old World San Juan and a quiet cool place to hang out. A lot of the other places we passed by looked pretty questionable so if I came back I would walk the extra distance to come here! Another plus was that we had to walk pass this place on the way back so I was able to use the restroom a second time! Most places will charge you or not let you use the restroom unless you buy something and usually they are nasty. 

Since I just started the Paleo diet I wanted to get this post out of the way so I don't have a bad craving for french fries while writing this. When I read this recipe it reminded me of when I used to work at Penn Station (worst job ever) and they would fry ALL the fries in the morning and put them in these big tubs. I always thought it was so weird that we had like garbage cans of half cooked fries laying around but now I know why! They would be blanching them in the morning and then take less to cook and made to order. The second fry really crisps them up and makes them more delicious I think. So I  made these a few weeks ago and was really impressed with the final product. The website I used to make these is at the bottom of this page.

This is a process and I totally winged it. The website I used for this said you needed an oil thermometer but I am not that fancy and I really wanted french fries so figured I could test it with a few single fries and go from there. Looking back I don't really think I needed it.

 If you want your fries to look good you have to learn how to cut a potato to size. I cut both ends off and cut the sides off until it created a rectangular block. Then cut that in half and tried the best I could to get thin matchstick like pieces. Now I guess the first thing I should have told you is that it's about 3 hours before your actually going to get to eat your french fries!! But it's worth it !! Make sure to do some squats and jumping jacks while waiting!! After they are cut soak them in water for 1 hour change the water then soak for another hour. My dad says hot water helps pull out the starches better but I haven't tried that yet so don't hold me to it.

Now it's time to heat up the oil! The recipe says to use an inch of oil but I don't like waste so I used enough to barely cover a flat layer of fries and mine were very thin. You want the oil HOT but not too hot to cook the fries this is the blanching process. Blanching is frying something at a low temp to cook it then a high temp to crisp it. I think I blanched mine too long on this recipe it says to cook them but take them out when they were still pale. I couldn't figure out what that meant exactly so I took mine out when they turned light brown. Put them in the fridge as I blanched the rest of my potatoes. I let them sit in the fridge for 20 minutes or so even though it doesn't say to do that. I remembered back to my Penn Station days and it was a big deal to get the fries done early so they could cool.

After you are through the blanching process crank up the heat and let those babies crisp up! Take them out carefully when they reach your desired doneness. I saw a video of a guy rubbing salt between his hands to salt his fries, it looked fancy so I tried it and it coats the fries perfectly. So if you are feeling fancy make sure to try that!

The first photo below is a picture of my fries blanching


See not perfect cut sizes here I was hungry and in a rush to get the potato cut! 

Finished product was AUHMAZZIIINNN!!!! I used some SLAP YO MAMA seasoning on my fries my dad bought me a big can of it. I also have a can of truffle salt that I'm using next time I make these. 

Fun toppings:
-Truffle Salt with Parmesean
-Slap yo mama seasoning (My fave all purpose seasoning)
-Bacon, green onions, and cheese
-Gravy and Cheese
-Mozzarella cheese and Marinara sauce
-Chili and cheese

This is the website I used ----------->
UPDATE: I made the pancakes again today and they turned out much more amazing! If you wait long enough to flip them you won't have a problem. That thing I read about having a thick batter is BS I used a little more almond milk today and they cooked like regular pancakes. Photo below.

OK, I have sooooo much good stuff from Hawaii to write about right now but, I am so excited about my dinner tonight that I am putting all of that aside to tell you all about this.

It all started when I went to Hawaii...
  In Hawaii all of the restaurants serve local organic foods, the fish are fresh, and the coconuts grow on trees. I have never really eaten that way before sure we had bread and rolls when we were there but since they are all baked from scratch you just feel better about eating it.
   When I got back from Hawaii I had no real groceries in my house. Just like rice-a-roni's, lipton pasta packets, and pickles. After eating a prepared rice-a-roni meal I just felt weighed down and figured it was jetlag. The next day I ordered pizza and they don't really sell anything green so I ended up getting the veggie wheat pizza , a salad, bread sticks and still felt like groggy afterwards. Since my house was completely empty of both good and bad foods I decided it was time for a change. A new beginning of my eating habits and stocked kitchen. After doing some research and talking with friends I decided to try the Paleo way of eating. It kind of reminded me of the way I was eating in Hawaii and I just felt so  much better about myself there. I have worked out pretty regularly for almost 2 years and have a decent amount of muscle I was looking for a diet that would not deprive me ending in muscle loss. You can starve yourself and lose fat and muscle but guess what people? The fat comes back and the muscle DOESN'T!
 After a random trip to the store (had no list) I picked up some Paleo staples such as coconut oil, almond flour, coconut flour, coconut milk ice cream, some cauliflower and a lot of other produce. (spent about $80 these things are not cheap!) So from lack of groceries the last 2 days I was more inspired than EVER to get my wheels turning and hands dirty!

  For breakfast I had my first stab at Almond Flour Pancakes with bacon and some strawberries. I was for sure skeptical about the pancakes because I have never cooked with almond flour before and it seemed like a high calorie breakfast. Now these were really easy to whip up! I used 3/4 a cup of almond flour,  some vanilla, an egg, and some almond milk. I read online that you don't want the batter too thick or too thin. Personally mine turned out too thick for me. The key to this is to have the pan pretty hot because they are HARD to flip and they don't form perfect little circles when you put them in the pan either if you can't already tell. From my cooking experiences these cooked similar to a potato pancake with the way they brown and how hard they are to flip. I also read a ton of recipes for these pancakes mostly people are back and forth about what is Paleo and what isn't. I felt good about my meal afterwards next time I will try to beautify them more and post but they tasted good and that's all you need to know. I am planning to make some savory versions of these with chives and olive oil instead of vanilla and coconut oil. At the end of the day I compared the almond flour to my Bisquick mix and its roughly the same amount of calories but you are getting so much more nutrition from the almond flour I read 6 grams of protein for 1/4 a cup and 3 grams of fiber. Compare that to Bisquick and your basically eating ground up cardboard.

This is my second stab at almond flour pancakes they look and tasted much better than the first batch and cooked more beautifully with the extra milk I added. You'll see the black spots on mine I am lazy and a bacon lover so I cooked these in the same pan I cooked the bacon in yesterday. Just wiped it out so I had a small amount of residual grease and they were way better than yesterday. 

For dinner I made Oven Roasted Chicken Breast and Mashed Cauliflower. Somehow I totally forgot cauliflower even existed and how amazing it tastes!! This dinner was amazeballs really I was shocked with how delicious and satisfied I was with this meal. I had just worked out ran in the door and preheated my oven to 425 F and got some water boiling. Cauliflower is annoying to cut up so I just sort of sawed out pieces using a steak knife kept all my crumbs in the bag it came in so no clean up! Boiled that for about 7 minutes and got my chicken washed and dried. I had a plate ready with seasoned almond flour since I haven't really cooked with it ever I wasn't sure if the taste of the almonds would ruin my chicken so I literally put the whole spice cabinet in my flour. I used dried onions, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, chili powder, oregano, and a dash of Slap YO mama seasoning. Spray the pan with olive oil and after you bread the chicken spray the tops of it with the olive oil as well. I baked mine for about 30ish minutes when it's done it's done. With the cauliflower I used a small amount of butter to flavor it up but I suppose olive oil would be fine too. I began to mash it with a potato masher and it didn't work very well. I came back with a handheld mixer and it seemed to come together pretty well.The mixer gives you more of a whipped texture. I got all of this on my plate and took a bite I was astonished! So much flavor and healthiness going on don't know why I have never done this before. You will save so many calories if you make the cauliflower instead and it's taste is so similar its worth to make the change. I forgot to take a picture before I started eating so the chicken is already cut up. Might not look very good but it was amazing! Will be making this again for sure! 

One of my favorite things EVER is Filet Mignon. Usually every time I go over to my boyfriend's house and cook we make a version of this. It's fun,  flavorful, and easy to pair with wine (and all the good wine is at his house). He had his son and his friend over last night so we bought strip steaks for them (hey the good stuff is for us).

UPDATE 2/25: The next time I made this dinner I created a mind blowing change that will add extra delicious flavor!! After browning the steaks add your mushroom/shallot mix to the hot steak pan and add more marsala wine. The wine should bubble up fiercely and pick up all the yummy browned steak bits at the bottom of the pan. GENIUS!!

At the store I will buy steaks, mushrooms, shallots, baking potatoes, and a green veggie. Also I'll pick up a tray of olives, some aged cheese, and bread for oil dipping. First thing when I walk in the door is preheat the oven to 400F. I cook my potatoes in the oven or grill because of the flavor and texture you don't get in a microwave. It may take longer but if you are in a time crunch try microwaving them for a few minutes then bake in the oven you'll get the best of both worlds. I throw the bread in with the potatoes for a few minutes to get it toasty before serving. Next get a large ziplock bag for marinating meats. Usually I will do some sort of combo of olive oil, s&p, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire and fresh crushed garlic cloves. Leave these steaks in the bag on the counter you don't want to put cold meat on a hot pan or grill. Rinse off the potatoes and rub some butter on the skin, sprinkle with salt and put them in the oven. Doing this will make the skins delicious which is where all the nutrition in the potato is.

Now on to the topping! Get all of your chopping done first if you put the butter into the pan before you start this it might brown and that is an entire different flavor. As far as how much butter you use? More butter = more better so it just depends how healthy you want to be! You can buy already sliced mushrooms and the shallots are small I just peel them and slice them up really quick. While they are cooking they will break up. Go ahead and melt the butter add the shallots. Try adding garlic, parsley (added at the end), or thyme if you like. Just let them sweat out for a few minutes in the pan before adding mushrooms. Once this all starts to caramelize you want to crank up the heat and add a hefty splash of marsala wine. Turn down the heat and let it cool down until you need it.

Oh don't forget to pour yourself a glass of wine while your cooking. That's a very important step!!

For the steaks we will brown these on a skillet with a little butter then put them on a cooling wire rack (shown below) on top of a cookie sheet. Important tip if you line the cookie sheet with aluminum foil you will not have to scrub the cookie sheet later! These can cook in the 400F with the potatoes until your desired doneness is reached.

Turn this into a Sunday Dinner by making an impressive Caprese Salad to serve for an appetizer. You can read about my Caprese Salad tips and suggestions here ------>

There you have it! My amazing steak dinner!!

Steak topping made with onions and Worcestershire. Store was out of shallots and I ran out of marsala.
Steak topping made with onions and Worcestershire. Store was out of shallots and I ran out of marsala. 

Best Marsala mushroom steak dinner recipe
Showing you how the shallots cook you can break them up with the spatula as they cook. When they look like this add mushrooms.

Best Marsala mushroom steak dinner recipe
Cooking the steaks on this rack allows them to cook more evenly. Otherwise you may have to turn them once or twice.

Best Marsala mushroom steak dinner recipe
After adding the wine!! Don't forget to let it reduce before serving!! 

Best Marsala mushroom steak dinner recipe
Browning steaks before putting them in the oven. See all the browned stuff sticking to the pan? That's delicious steak flavor!! Add marsala wine to the pan while it's hot and scrape your spatula along the bottom. Add this to your mushroom topping!! Your welcome :) 

This is what your table should look like while you cook!! A glass of wine, some olives and some crusty bread with oil dip!! YUM!!! 

Best Marsala mushroom steak dinner recipe
Wine and olives at the dinner table. 

After your steaks are done serve and enjoy!! If there is a lot of steak juice left pour it in the mushroom mix before serving. You can serve with any red wine, but I have made some recommendations below. If you don't have marsala wine try this with whatever wine you are drinking or use Worcestershire sauce. try something new! Be adventurous! Remember it's kind of hard to mess up buttery onions, mushrooms, and steak!! Can't find shallots at the store? use sweet yellow onions!! It's good to try new things and mix it up!! Don't have the $$ budget for filet or eat beef? Can easily be made with chicken breast or tofu.
This is one of my favorite dinners to make so I hope you enjoy it!! Personally I think it's much better than any restaurant you could ever try. They charge almost $8 for a mushroom steak topping and use more butter than you want to know about!!(trust me I worked in a few restaurants) That's crazy! Making it at home will give you control over the quality and calorie count of your dinner. You can be eating within 45 minutes if you follow my time saver steps (buying pre-sliced mushrooms and halfway microwaving potatoes) a lot of times it takes just as long to be seated, order and wait for your food in a restaurant!!

Turn this into a Sunday Dinner by making an impressive Caprese Salad to serve for an appetizer. You can read about my Caprese Salad tips and suggestions here ------>

Wine Recommendations: 
Pinot Noir- 
-Meiomi - A mild red wine. For me it has a tad bit of spice and sweetness to it and is perfect for a steak when I am not feeling a heavy bold red wine. You'll feel fancy drinking this at about $20 a bottle.
-Segehsio- A spicy, zesty zin! For me this is when I am feeling a little bold and spunky! Zinfandels always seem to have a little kick to them I think and this balances out perfect with any BBQ!!! Around $20ish you'll be kicking that dinner up a notch and definitely make an impression.
-Ruffino Aziano Chianti Classico- Sweeter of the Chiantis I have had but still dry for a red wine. For me sometimes I just need a good ol' Italian wine. If I am feeling sweet and worth $20 I'll buy this. If I'm feeling a little more expensive I might go for the drier $25 bottle listed below.
-Ruffino Ducale Chianti Classico Riserva- For when I'm feeling classy.
-Da Vinci Chainti- My favorite cheap Chianti. (sooo much better than Gabbiano) It's about $10 a bottle.
-Castello Trebbio Chianti- You are lucky if you can find this one. I've only found it in New Jersey and New York.
Louis Martini- Is my favorite cheap Cab. I have no problem ordering this at a restaurant. Especially because it's normally $9 a glass! Or something crazy like that. Why not buy a bottle for $15 and pretend like your all that and a bag of chips? That's what I say!

Happy Cooking :)
Ok people I am 24 years old and have NEVER had my license. Living in a suburb that is near everything and having great supportive friends I haven't had the need for it. Always working in walking distances at restaurants meant even if I didn't have a ride to the grocery I still had food. To get to my point I always just buy random things at the grocery store and make something out of them. I usually try to pick what produce is in season and looks the best or pick up any cravings I had. Keeping my fridge stocked with long lasting items such as capers, olives, canned red peppers, and canned artichokes helps me be able to make more delicious meals at the drop of a hat.

This is what I made tonight below.

When I looked into my cupboard and saw an unopened box of noodles I decided to get creative. One of my favorite things to do is to make my own meals and recipes. Really I wanted to make something with a cream sauce but being as that I am going to Hawaii in 2 days I wanted to make it lighter. Looked in the fridge and saw capers, lemon, and onion. Super sweet cherry tomatoes I picked up the other day were an added bonus!! 

Firstly I boiled my white fiber barilla pasta about 2 servings worth. I envisioned this in my mind with a long noodle but this was all I had. For the sauce I melted a little butter and cooked my 1/2 onion with some garlic powder and dried Italian herbs. I added a little lemon zest and capers then the tomatoes and a decent size splash of some white wine. Let that reduce down until the tomatoes split. Add the pasta and let it all simmer together for a few minutes (the pasta will get a chance to absorb the sauce.) 

This sounds sad but I am a cheese lover and was out of cheese! I had some string cheese sticks in the fridge and I just broke up one of those and it melted beautifully in the pasta. 

Lastly I broke off some parsley and basil from my window plants and sprinkled that on top! Perfect dinner! 

Below is a picture of the sauce I had simmering

If you come to Cincinnati or already live here I highly recommend this place. There is a variety of events and beer tastings to attend here and it's right in the heart of Cincinnati. They capture the spirit of Cincinnati within their menu including pretzels with beer cheese, hot metts, and many other delicious German food options. However if you are not in the mood for German they do have a paella and hamburgers. I really liked it here we did make reservations but were about 45 minutes early and STARVING!! The place was packed but we managed to get a seat at the bar I noticed they had booths with views of the river but I was more concerned with the food. Jay had the dark lager while I had an IPA both draft and we were happy! The service was decent here it wasn't the best but it wasn't bad. Since we sat at the bar we had a quite a few people waiting on us which got confusing because one of the bartenders told us he couldn't help us. Other than that no complaints. I would love to come back here great food and great atmosphere.

I ordered the pretzels right off the bat who can resist the beer cheese!! So fluffy and warm I was happy with this menu item for sure. There was also a spicy grain mustard too but I didn't even try it!

We also got this meat and cheese platter they offer you can choose from like 5 cheeses and 5 meats. Then it automatically comes with saurkraut, pickles, and bread. I really liked this menu item, Jay and I like to just eat slowly and enjoy a nice pairing with beer so this was perfect! We got hot metts, and some kind of ham. Then the solid beer cheese and fresh mozzarella (my fave.)
Below is the corn chowder soup we ordered just a cup but it was COLD good flavor but COLD. No one likes cold soup! I was going to send it back but seeing as how it was only $3.00 and we had already ate alot we just pushed through the meal! 
Finale!!! Below is a picture of our filet with cheddar mashed potatoes. In addition to that is a side of asparagus, angry mac n' cheese with hot metts. (the mac n' cheese was amazing!) Mashed potatoes were gummy, dry, and overcooked. Steak was cooked to temp and the little shallots around it were tasty. I wish they put some parsley on the plate or something to make it look more appealing 0 points for presentation on this dish. 

That concludes my review for the Moerlein Lager House I would recommend anyone to go here. We got good service, good beer, good food at a decent price. You can't beat that. Just don't order the soup and you'll be fine ;)