Time Flies – Take Me Back To Europa

I truly can’t believe how fast time seems to be flying by these days. It’s been 2 years since I returned from studying abroad in Florence, Italy and 1 year since I crossed the pond to intern for my company in Lisbon, Portugal. Both summers were experiences of a lifetime, and I feel so very lucky to have been given each of the opportunities.

As a food fanatic, I was impressed by both Florence and Lisbon’s culinary identity. I’m sure you can guess the kind of food I was eating in Firenze: pasta, panini, vino, cappuccino, gelato, pizza, vino, risotto, pasta, bread, pasta (good thing I’m not gluten free). Every single meal in Italy, even a quick panino between classes, was truly a delightful dining experience. The ingredients in all of the dishes are fresh and flavorful, and it makes all the difference in the world. Spending my summer abroad opened my eyes to the way others live, and I love the Italian life style – Dolce Far Niente, “The Sweetness of Doing Nothing”. I spent many of my days doing just that , while also trying to perfect my Italian (I’ve since gotten very very rusty).

One of my favorite experiences in Firenze was centered around a course I took while I was there: The Food and Wine of Italy. While we did spend our fair share of time doing some hands on (or should I say mouth-on) learning, we were also challenged to learn about the history of Italian cooking and eating – dating all the way back to the first centuries. Of course, we studied this material over a bottle of Chianti ūüôā

246902_1823480822540_1721886_nTypical meal in Firenze

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Learning to make gelato in our Food and Wine course254109_1817090022774_3493130_nWith friends in the Chianti region of Tuscany (about 30-40 minute drive from Florence)

SAM_0210Beautiful Chianti regionSAM_0189Siena, ItalySAM_0059My Florentine room-dogsSAM_0143Waterside view of the Uffizi (famous works by Michelangelo, Raphael, Giotto, Botticelli, and many others are housed here)

photo-65Gelato on the Arnoimage-112Aperitivo in Oltrarno (beyond the Arno)

SAM_0451Ponte Vecchio (bridge that crosses the Arno River)

264205_1847781550043_6180007_nDelicious fish in Cinque Terre

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My experience in Lisboa (working) was different than Firenze (playing studying abroad), but just as enriching. ¬†I can’t explain how lucky I feel to have been selected for a global internship with my firm – I can only be thankful for such a wonderful experience! One of my favorite aspects about Portugal is the fact that it is¬†far underrated, thus not inundated with tourists. Lisboa was much quieter than Firenze, and although I had trouble picking up the Portuguese language, I almost felt more comfortable there than I did in Italy. In my experience, the Portuguese people were the kindest of any country in Europe, and they make me want to go back!

I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you all the delicious cuisine I encountered during my time in Lisboa. Much to my delight, Portuguese cuisine incorporates A LOT of fish. And Lisbon’s location on the water ensures that this fish is fresh. Some of my favorite traditional dishes included:

  • Bacalhau – The Portuguese National Dish – Cod
  • Pasteis de Belem – Deliciously hot mouth watering pastries in the Bel√©m neighborhood
  • Sardines -Better than you think they are
  • Esparregado – Creamy Spinach

These are just examples of the traditional foods one will encounter in Lisbon – the list of fresh seafood you can find there is so long it would probably not fit on my blog. Plus, a picture is worth 1000 words so I’m sure you’re ready for me to stop talking.

IMG_1898Festival of St. Anthony in nearby Sintra, Portugal

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Festival of St. Anthony in nearby Sintra, Portugal

IMG_1857Breakfast with a view

IMG_174425 de Abril Bridge in Lisboa

IMG_1894Picturesque village of Sintra

IMG_1711The colors of Lisboa

IMG_1872Palacio Pena in Sintra, Portugal

IMG_1956Date night at a trendy Lisbon restaurant when Derek came to visit

IMG_1854Ritz Carlton in Sintra, Portugal

IMG_1970Drinks with a view when Mom & Dad came IMG_1919I love them

IMG_1772Being touristy

If you ever have the opportunity to visit one of these lovely destinations, I must insist that you do. And take me with you, Please!

Switching It Up

Hey peeps! On the eats front, Thursday takes the cake in terms of “switching it up”. I typically don’t share all my meals on the blog because I eat the same ole things day in and day out. Mornings are typically some kind of oatmeal concoction or eggs if I’m feeling fancy, snacks are almonds and apples and greek yogurt, and lunch is usually a funky salad. But my stomach on Thursday was just screamin’ for all things different! So I started my morning with a huge bowl of mango and banana. The mango was so juicy and sweet and I’m declaring mango as my favorite fruit!image-94

I had a half day at work, so I came home and whipped up some quinoa with steamed broccoli and carrots, garlic and a bit of shredded cheddar. Having some real cooked food for lunch was a special treat from the norm.

photo-62I did some exciting CPA studying after lunch, and went to the gym after my food settled. I was feeling bored so I kept my run interesting with the following interval work out:

Super sweaty intervalsI finished up my time in the gym with some weights. I’m pretty boring when it comes to my weights work outs, but they went like this:

  • Front raises, 15 reps, 2 sets
  • Lateral raises, 15 reps, 2 sets
  • Walking Lunges with weights, 20 reps per leg
  • 100 crunches on stability ball
  • Tricep dips, 15 reps, 2 sets

Dinner was by far the most exciting time of the day. I met 3 great friends for dinner at Carmel Cafe. Megan, Katie and Jessi are all sorority sisters of mine, but we’ve known each other years before Kappa Delta brought us together. We all try to get together every so often, and this dinner was a special occasion, because Katie recently got engaged! Katie’s fianc√© proposed to her a few weeks ago, and I was dying to hear every bit of the tale. Katie is truly one of the kindest people I know, and she and Sean are the perfect couple – I am so happy for them!

After hearing all about the beautiful proposal, we finally decided it was time to order some food. Everything on the menu looked delicious and we were having some decision issues, so we decided to get several dishes to share.

image-102Chicken Artichoke Flatbread – we were hungry if you couldn’t tell
edamame hummusEdamame Hummusvegetable plateRoasted Vegetable Platterbrussel sproutsRoasted Brussel Sproutschicken skewersChicken Skewers with Peppers and Onion

It’s hard to pick a favorite because each dish had such unique flavors. But, if I must, I think the chicken skewers win this contest! I’m very excited for what’s in store today – more wedding cake tasting!! This time we are being surprised by the baker with the cake flavors – I can’t wait to taste what she has made for us!

Have a happy Friday, friends!

Jingles Make My Ears Bleed

Derek and I had quite the laugh this morning. I woke up and couldn’t get the Toyota Prius jingle out of my head – “let’s hum hum hum hum let’s hum.. a Prius for everyone”. Of course, I couldn’t deal with the tragic reality of singing this all day by myself, so we tried to drown it out by singing other jingles. ¬†Bad idea, because now I have the worst of all time stuck in my head on repeat: “I work hard for my money so it means a lot. I wanna buy but I don’t wanna spend a lot.. My dollar goes far at Save-A-Lot”

I JUST CAN’T DEAL WITH THIS JINGLE!! It drives me crazy every time I hear it, yet it sticks with me all.day.long. I think it’s absurdly annoying, and it will probably prevent me from ever shopping at a Save-A-Lot.

Now that I’ve got that out of my system (and probably ruined your day, sorry!), I can move on and rewind to my day yesterday.

My morning was a normal work day, and my afternoon was my 2nd to last meeting for my 2nd to last class EVER! I’m itching with excitement (not hives, don’t worry) over the fact that I’m almost done with school forever. After work I planned on a long run and workout, but Derek had more exciting plans in mind, so I instead went on a 3 mile run.

What were the plans, you ask? Well, if you’ve read the blog for a little while, you may remember that I’ve spent several weekends painting and renovating our new little fixer-upper house. Yesterday most of our new kitchen was installed (AHHH!!!) and we went over to bask in its’ glory. I don’t want to share any “after” pictures until it’s a finished product, but here is a “before” picture of the kitchen:

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Yikes.

Can’t wait to share when it’s finally finished!

Following our field trip to the house, Derek and I went to Ciccio’s with his parents. I actually worked up the courage to snap a quick food pic, but felt supremely judged by the server who was still standing by the table.

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Maybe that’s why my Fit California bowl looks like a blurry mess. If you can’t tell, it’s packed with chicken, broccoli, sun dried tomatoes, goat cheese, lettuce and brown rice. It was delish.

On the specials menu was a Lobster Taco dish – I couldn’t say no.¬†image-95

Today I have fun dinner plans with 3 sweet friends – one of whom is very recently engaged! I can’t wait to hear all the details about her engagement!

Happy Thursday, everyone!

A Busy Week and…Baked Chicken, Penne, Vegetables and Mozzarella Recipe!

G’day mate! I hope you are all having a lovely week – mine has been jam packed with school, work and tons of CPA studying. I’m trying to stay motivated for this final CPA exam (out of 4), but the studying is draining my brain. I know as long as I focus and put in the work, it will be over sooner than I know it – keep your fingers crossed for me please!

I’ve managed to work in a couple quick 40 minute work outs.. Monday’s was a steady run for 3.5 miles and Tuesday’s looked like this:

Pick up the pace intervals

After my run on Tuesday, I also completed the following ab work out that I saw on FitSugar. I was hoping the video would be a little more challenging, but it was a good way to get in 10 extra minutes.

I spent Monday night watching the Bachelorette at a friends’ house, and Tuesday night I cooked dinner for my parents and my Uncle George. I was feeling an Italian night, and I came up with a chicken and penne dish, packed with vegetables and mozzarella.

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Ingredients

1 box whole wheat penne

1 pound lean chicken

3 roma tomatoes, diced

1 zucchini, diced

1 squash, diced

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 white onion, diced

2 cups almond milk

1/2 cups part skim mozzarella cheese

1 tbsp oregano

1 clove garlic, chopped

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 400¬į F.

Pasta: Bring pot of water to a boil and cook penne until al dente. Drain pasta and set aside.

Chicken: Season chicken with oregano, salt and pepper. Pour olive oil into a deep skillet, and cook chicken about 5 minutes per side. Remove chicken from pan and set aside on a plate. 

Vegetables: Add zucchini, squash and onion to a skillet. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring to ensure even cooking. Push vegetables to one side of skillet and add chopped garlic to the empty side. Cook until golden, about 45 seconds. Remove vegetable and garlic mixture from heat. 

Cheese-y Sauce: Add almond milk and 1 cup mozzarella cheese to a skillet or shallow pot and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 8 minutes (until mixture thickens.

Add pasta, chicken, vegetables and cheese sauce to an oven-safe dish and stir until incorporated. Top with remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese and bake for 10-12 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve immediately

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I finished Tuesday evening watching 2 episodes of Homeland (AKA best show to ever hit the screen) with my parents and little Lou (although I’m not sure how much watching he actually did).

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I love so many shows on HBO and Showtime (Game of Thrones, News Room, Girls, VEEP, House of Lies), but in my opinion, none hold a candle to Homeland. It keeps your mind working and your behind on the edge of the seat. This is my second time watching the series, but I’m as amazed/perplexed by Carrie, and as petrified of Abu Nazir that I was the first time through!

Does anyone else feel as strongly about Homeland as I do?

Any other HBO/Showtime fanatics out there?

Great Company & Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Hi, friends! How goes it? My weekend was a wonderful one surrounded by great company. I spent the weekend dog sitting Sam and also helping some friends with their sweet pups – Derek and I figured we walked at least 3 miles on dog walks every day. Doesn’t get much better than that!

We were able to get together with friends for dinner on Friday night, and family on Saturday night – my nephew Fuller was in town (he’s almost 21, no one understands that he’s my nephew) and came too!

Sunday was family day after attending Mass at 7:30, and we went casual on the food front – panini for everyone!

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My runs included a 4 mile outdoor run with Derek on Friday, a 3 mile incline run on Saturday, and the following HIIT run/workout on Sunday:

June 23 HIIT

*This last work out really got my heart rate up and pushed me to run much faster than I’m used to.

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Since I was already in the process of destroying the kitchen by making cannoli last night, I figured why not whip up dessert # 2.

I’m not going to lie to you all – there’s nothing low-cal or low-fat about this recipe! However, we all know dark chocolate has plenty of health benefits, and peanut butter ain’t too shabby either.

This was one of the simplest recipes I’ve ever made. Easy ingredients, easy assembly, easy clean-up, and a mouth-watering good taste.

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20 oz. dark chocolate morsels

1 cup natural peanut butter, divided in 2 parts

1/3 cup powdered sugar

2 teaspoons butter (I use Smart Balance)

In a mixing bowl, mix 1/2 cup peanut butter, powdered sugar, and butter until thoroughly incorporated. Place dark chocolate and remaining peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until completely melted, stirring half way (my microwave took about 1 minute and 10 seconds).

Line a mini-muffin pan with paper liners. Scoop a spoonful of chocolate mixture into the bottom of each muffin mold, top with a smaller spoon of peanut butter mixture, and finally, cover with another spoonful of dark chocolate. Refrigerate until firm – store in tupperware!

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(I used a regular sized muffin pan, but recommend using a mini muffin pan, as these things were ginormous)

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If you need a quick fix for some serious sweet teeth, I’d recommend whipping this bad boy up. My sweet tooth was satisfied in a matter of 30 minutes!

Leave The Gun, Take The Cannoli

I didn’t watch The Godfather this weekend, but I did make cannoli!

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I’ve been wanting to make cannoli ever since I tried a couple of years ago with extreme difficulty. Cannoli (fun fact, singular of cannoli is cannolo) require metal cannoli “forms”, which are really just tubes to wrap the dough around in order to deep fry them into crispy shells. The last time I attempted, I made my own “DIY cannoli forms” – this was a huge mistake and the process was a mess. A couple of weeks ago, I ordered cannoli forms online to take a second whack at the endeavor. I had Derek’s help in the kitchen (he’s a master when it comes to anything that’s dough related – cue Homemade Pizza and Homemade Pasta recipes)

This time I combined 2 recipes: The first, a recipe from our family cook book, and the second, a recipe from The Food Network

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I was thrilled with the way the cannoli turned out and I plan to make a double the batch next time I make them, as it’s quite a messy process for just 20-24 cannoli!