Buckle up friends - the blog is about to the bombarded with pictures from my latest vacation. #consideryourselfwarned 🤣 Not to worry though, I'm committed to showing some restraint and not sharing the comprehensive file --- at least in the first post. 😅 I mean, I feel like sharing 900 pictures at one time might take away from the recipes. 😂
Greece was amazingly beautiful. A photographers dream - even for an amateur photographer like me.📸 It's so beautiful that it was actually hard to take a bad picture in Greece. And that my friends, is my explanation for the ridiculously extensive collection of vacation photos. 😅 Here we go - I'll begin by sharing a sunrise photo of our hotel balcony in Santorini.
This was the courtyard of our hotel in Athens. It was under this beautiful lime tree where we sat and dined on the most amazing gourmet breakfasts before we headed into the city each day. Egg white omelets, potato soufflés, breakfast tacos, yogurt, bagels, breads and chocolate croissants! 😅 Safe to say, we were completely spoiled by the breakfasts that we were served in Greece.
Those first couple of mornings after returning home from our trip were an adjustment.😅 No one knocked on my door at precisely 8:30 to hand me a tray of hot coffee and breakfast charcuterie. And to my dissapointment, there was no chef preparing a gourmet breakfast in the kitchen when I stumbled out of bed in the morning. 🤣 #Imissvacationbreakfast
It's up to me to fix breakfast again ... I guess. 😂 I actually like to fix breakfast food but, I call it brunch so I don't have to get up and start cooking too early. 😅 These breakfast potato skins were one of the most popular brunch foods that I've ever served. They're surprisingly simple to make, super tasty and loaded with the protein that you need to keep you fueled all morning.
Breakfast Potato Skins
5 baking potatoes scrubbed
8 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
4 eggs scrambled
2 cups cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons butter melted
Chives for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
I hope that you didn't think that you were going to get away with just a couple of vacation pictures today. 🤣 Enjoy!
I'm baaaaack! It's always sad when vacation comes to an end but it's good to be home. I have yet to figure out if I'm experiencing residual exhaustion from our adventures in Greece or if I'm still adjusting to the 7 hour time difference, but in either case - it's been a struggle to get back into the swing of things. 😴 If you love to travel you know that the mountain of dirty laundry, the piles of mail to sort through and the empty refrigerator that you return home to - are all totally worth it though. 🧳 😁
We had some fantastic adventures on our trip to Greece. 🇬🇷 We hiked, we fished, we cooked, we rode donkeys, we snorkeled and we ate LOTS of amazing food. I don't know what I was expecting but I was absolutely blown away by the incredible food and wine that we experienced in Greece. The fresh seafood from the Aegean Sea was so tasty. 🐟 I had a grilled octopus dinner and a risotto with shrimp meal that would rank in the top 10 favorite meals I've eaten in my entire life. 😋
Octopus and shrimp might not be everyones cup of tea, but Greece also produced some of the sweetest cherry tomatoes that I've ever put in my mouth. I don't know if it was the mineral rich, volcanic soil on Santorini or the atmosphere where I ate them but the tomatoes, the wine and the olives all seemed more intense and flavorful in Greece. 🍅 I'm fairly certain that I consumed my body weight in olive oil last week. 😂 The Greek olive oil was just soooo good - I could not get enough. 🫒
I didn't stop with oil consumption either, I ate more pasta, pizza, pita bread, gelato and baklava last week than I have in an entire year. 😅 No regrets though - that's what vacation is all about. Now that vacation is over and it's time to get back to a healthy diet again. When I got home, I stocked my refrigerator with fresh vegetables and lean proteins to encourage me to get back into healthy cooking, and eating.
Pan Seared Chicken with Herbs de Provence
4 bone in split chicken breasts
1 Tablespoon crushed Herbs de Provence
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
Transfer chicken to a plate.
Transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle chicken with pan sauce.
I didn't talk much about this chicken but don't let that fool you. This chicken is really delicious. Super juicy and tasty and easy to make. As a matter of fact, this is my new go-to recipe when I need chicken for a salad or a sandwich or just an easy, healthy, weeknight meal. And one pan meals also mean quick and easy clean up, which is always a bonus when it comes to meal prep. Hope you enjoy!
It's come to my attention that I haven't spent nearly enough days of my 51 years on this earth, wandering through beautiful gardens with people that I love. I have responsibilities and commitments like everyone else but, at some point, I just let those things take priority over making time to just hang out and enjoy the serenity of nature. I struggle because I thrive on accomplishing tasks and checking things off lists, but I also crave peace, stillness and quietness in my soul.
Picnic lunch on the rocks in front of the lighthouse, visiting roadside stands in search of fresh peaches, strolling through the beautiful Shedel gardens, wine and dinner at a favorite Italian restaurant and a few rounds of cards with my parents - a wonderful, soul-filling day. Good food, time spent with loved ones and adventures in nature - those are the things that fill my empty bucket. Not necessarily in that order. 😅
September is one of my favorite months to visit Ohio. The temperatures are cool, the leaves are starting to change and it just feels like the very definition of Fall. I came home from my trip with a reenergized soul and all excited about the new season.
Nothing is more Fall-like than pumpkin spice and I don't want to throw shade at the pumpkin spice latte drinkers, but I prefer to consume my pumpkin spice in non-drinkable forms. Cakes, cookies, cupcakes and now -- biscotti.
Pumpkin Spice Biscotti
1/2 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 cup pure pumpkin
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Bake 12 minutes. Flip. Bake 12 more minutes.
Biscotti - the crispy, crunchy, spiced, white chocolate dipped, cookies that go great with a cup of coffee, tea or even a glass of wine. Enjoy!
My parents tell me that I was an extreme home body as a child. I lived in the same house until I moved into my college dorm. I was 20 when I got on an airplane for the very first time. ✈️ I just never had any desire to leave the 50 mile radius where I grew up. Then... I fell in love with a guy who dreamed of serving in the military while traveling the world. 🤷🏻♀️
Fast forward 5 years - I married that jet-setter and within a few months, we took off on our travel adventures across the country - compliments of the US Air Force. 🇺🇸Who would have guessed that being forced to move from place to place and from state to state would actually make we want to travel more? 🧳 And just to be clear - I caught the travel bug - NOT the moving bug. There's a BIG difference. 🤣
Exploring far away places around the globe is awesome but short road trips and weekend get-aways are pretty great too. Getting out of the house and out of my routine, even for a couple of days, does wonders for my mood. And being away from my kitchen is always gives me a renewed sense of enthusiasm for cooking and baking when I return. There's no doubt that it was my latest little get away that inspired me to make this charcuterie style lunch for friends this week.
Just to be clear - this cheeseball contains no pumpkin.😅 It's a delicious cheeseball that's shaped like a pumpkin and it's way easier than you might think to make. You can even make this in advance and store it in your freezer until you're ready to eat it.
Pumpkin Cheese Ball
16 ounces cream cheese , softened
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
2 green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Cut the top off of a bell pepper and press into the top of pumpkin shaped cheese ball.
Pro tip: If you want a smaller portion, you can divide the recipe in half or make a full recipe but form it into 2 cheeseballs instead of 1.
If you can't say the phrase "Dad is great. Give us the chocolate cake" without singing it like Bill Cosby - you might have been born in the 70's. 🎶😅 #showingmyage For those of you who aren't familiar with this popular sketch, it was Cosby's hilarious way of justifying his unconventional breakfast choice, arguing that chocolate cake contains healthy ingredients like eggs, milk and flour. 🎂 😅
I can remember my brother and I chanting this phrase to my dad at the breakfast table, on more than one occasion, in hopes of convincing him that we needed a 7:00 AM sugar rush. 😂 And although I don't ever remember sharing a slice of chocolate cake with my dad for breakfast, it wasn't uncommon for him to eat leftover desserts as his morning meal. My younger cousins still remember my dad as the guy who would eat a slice of cheesecake or pie for breakfast and much to the dismay of their parents, he always shared with the kids who shared his breakfast table.
Ironically, I don't ever remember having sugary cereals in the house when I was a child --- we had pie for breakfast, instead. 🥧😂 I'm pretty sure, my mom didn't approve of the dessert for breakfast theory and she made sure that there were lots of healthy options as well.
I do a lot of baking but I wouldn't say that pies are my specialty. It's an art that I haven't yet mastered. I struggle to get my crust flaky but not crumbly. And my pies usually taste a whole lot better than they look. 😅
I made this banana cream pie for my dad earlier this year and he's on a lactose free diet so I made some adjustments to the recipe to make it lactose and dairy free. You can check out the substitutions that I made to the recipe at the bottom of this post if you want to see the dairy free version.
Caramelized Banana Pie
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoons salt
4 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup water
1 pound ripe bananas
2 eggs + 1 yolk
1/4 cup whole milk
14 ounce can condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 Tablespoons sugar
Serve with whipped cream or top with meringue.
To make this a dairy free banana cream pie - you only need to make a few simple modifications to the recipe.
1. Replace the butter with shortening in the crust or use a plant based butter.
2. Replace the condensed milk with condensed coconut milk (available at Wal Mart)
3. Replace the milk with a non dairy alternative (soy, almond, coconut, oat)
Both the dairy version and the non dairy versions of the recipe are delicious. Hope you enjoy.
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