Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer Cooking with MorningStar Farms

Hi Everyone! Since summer is the time when most of us are trying to eat lighter and keep our meals a little healthier, I was so excited to try out some new MorningStar Farms products! If you've never heard of or tried out any of their products, they have over 30 different meatless products, and also have over 600 recipes on their website, making it easier to eat smart and to help you prepare healthy and delicious meatless meals! I love their motto that says, "We exist to make eating well exciting for those who break the mold and go meatless every now and again, or every day." It's delicious and exciting products that make healthy eating easier and more fun! While I'm not a vegetarian, I'm not a big meat eater either and make meatless meals very often, and I was really impressed with these new MorningStar Farms products, and wanted to share a favorite with you today!

One of my favorite new MorningStar Farms products that I tried was the Mediterranean Chickpea Burgers (you can find them here), which were really good! These patties, which are only 110 calories per serving (you can check out all the nutritional information for products here), are made with chickpeas, spinach, tomatoes and lots of herbs, making them both super flavorful but also very satisfying! What's great is that all you need to do is pop them in the oven for a couple of minutes (no frying! You can also grill them, which is perfect for summertime!), and you have a quick but still healthy meal to enjoy with your family on any weeknight or busy day!

I used these patties to make classic burgers with lettuce and tomatoes, but added a little twist with some pesto mayo! This is one of my favorite things to add to any sandwich or burger to add instant flavor! All you need to do is mix the pesto with the mayonnaise, I usually do about 1/2 tbs for every tbs of mayo, but you can change the ratio to get your desired flavor and consistency! This went perfectly with the Mediterranean flavors of the burgers!

More of their new products include Roasted Garlic & Quinoa Burgers, Buffalo Chik Patties, Parmesan Garlic Wings, Mediterranean Chickpea Pizza and Baja Black Bean Pizza (find more products here!), all of which are really flavorful and a good source of protein. What I really liked about all the products was that they were filling and I didn't feel like I instantly needed a snack because I was hungry already, but they didn't make me feel disgustingly full, like I can't move and never want to eat again! They are a perfect choice for light, clean and healthy eating, and are a great alternative to classic picnic foods for the summer!
Now the exciting part... For a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card, all you need to do is answer the following question in a comment below! What MorningStar Farms product would you like to try most? You can find all the products here!
Sweepstakes Rules:
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You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
  1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
  3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
  4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.
This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 72 hours to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.
The Official Rules are available here.
This sweepstakes runs from 7/28-8/31/2014.
Be sure to visit the MorningStar Farms brand page on where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Roman Holiday: Part 2

Hello Everybody! As promised, here is the second part of our Roman Holiday (you can catch up on Part 1 HERE) and it is all about the food! Because food this delicious definitely deserves a post of its own. And because much of it was consumed on this trip, and I want to share it with you all! From the pizza, the pasta and the prosciutto to the desserts and the gelato, it's hard not to fall in love with Italy at first bite. Italian dining is quite a grand affair, and the taste, quality and pace of the meal reflects that in every way. The Italians not only know how to cook the food, they know how to eat it. At a leisurely pace, in several courses throughout the meal. Traditionally, there is an antipasto course (which is the appetizer), then the first course which is a pasta dish, the second course is a meat course which could either be chicken, some kind of red meat, or fish, and lastly, dessert. The dolce. Eating isn't rushed, and it isn't just for survival. It's a pleasure. An occasion. And it's a grand one. Food is to be enjoyed and to be savored. And really, ingredients this fresh and food prepared this well deserve the time and love!

First, there's the pizza. 

The thin crust, the melted cheese, the huge variety of toppings... there's nothing like it! (And as a side note: it's really not a good idea to be counting carbs when you're in Italy. Wait until you get back home.)

One afternoon, we stumbled upon a small family run pizza shop on a little street corner after one of our very long walks. The shop had about twenty-five different kinds of pizza toppings, ranging from prosciutto (which was amazing!), shredded potato, mushroom, various grilled vegetables, and this. Zucchini blossoms and anchovies. It was so good. I later saw zucchini blossoms incorporated into a lot of different dishes since they are in season in the summer, a popular one also being stuffed and fried zucchini blossoms served as an appetizer.

More pizza. Fresh tomato & tuna.

And then there's the pasta...

Oh my goodness, the pasta. A seafood pasta on the left, and a mushroom  & bacon pasta on the right. I have no words. Pure deliciousness.

My favorite lunch stop. Cheese & Salami Focaccia sandwich. 

And then, there's the gelato.

Ever since I knew we were going to Rome, I couldn't wait for the gelato. I had heard about this cafe, or ice-cream parlor, called Giolitti which is the oldest one in Rome and really wanted to go there. So on our way back from the Vatican, we stopped there. It's a busy place, with people lining up to first get a ticket with what size ice-cream they want, then crowding around the large counter filled with more ice-cream flavors than you can imagine!

More Nutella. I'm pretty sure this wasn't even Nutella flavored gelato, just straight up Nutella. And hazelnut gelato (can you tell I love hazelnuts?!)

The interior of the ice-cream parlor.

Just a couple of the flavors to chose from!

There was something else that was uniquely Italian: coffee bars. Essentially a place filled with only coffee, where you walk up to the bar, order your coffee, drink it right there, and leave. Like a brief caffeine refill during a busy day.

The funny part is, I don't drink coffee. But I'm pretty sure my husband had enough for both of us! We had breakfast at a little cafe near our hotel every morning, and when he asked for his coffee, they automatically assumed I wanted one too. Instead (and to their horror), I asked for my usual English Breakfast Tea. To my surprise, it was served in a little coffee cup! The smallest (and probably strongest!) little cup of tea I've ever had!

Another Italian favorite? Nutella. In everything. Like this Nutella filled croissant. This is my kind of place. 

Delicious pastries and cookies.

Like these. (More Nutella on the right)

Or this.

Lots of restaurants displayed the seasonal ingredients they were cooking with out front (like the picture on the left). They had big baskets of huge lemons, fresh vegetables and lots of different kinds of mushrooms. And on the right, these little stalls with roasted chestnuts were all over the city!

More deliciousness.

Another street cafe on Piazza Navona.

Cafe seating.

Olive trees. And more coffee.

And maybe my favorite thing of all, this amazing appetizer dish. Prosciutto, cheese and fresh figs. It was to die for. Eat this, and you will never want to leave. Or at least that's how I felt.

This trip was quite a culinary adventure, and I came back with lots of ideas that I can't wait to try out in my kitchen (as soon as I get over this jet lag!) Every time I go to Italy, I fall in love with it all over again. There's just something about those little streets and piazzas, the way of life, and the amazing food, you can't help but be enchanted by it! One day I will have a summer home in Italy. Hopefully around the corner from a little trattoria. I have lots of "one days" on my list, but this one is pretty high up on there :) I hope you've enjoyed coming along on this trip (if you want to read Part 1 which is all about the city of Rome, you can find it HERE), and that you are having a wonderful week! Thanks for stopping by today, and come back soon for some new recipes and projects!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Summer Boxwood Wreath

Good Morning, Everyone! With the summer flying by so fast, I have a quick little summer project to share with you! You could really make this wreath for any season (I made a square-shaped Christmas one last year that you can check out HERE), but I thought the white lace ribbon added a cute summery touch here! All you need are a couple of supplies and you have a sweet little wreath to pretty up your door!


Boxwood (real of faux)
Round wreath form
Lace Ribbon (mine was about 2.5 inches wide)

Or make your own wreath form out of thick wire (like from a clothes hanger!)
Floral wire (or Christmas ornament hooks!)
Scissors & wire cutter
Hot glue gun

1. First, gather all your supplies. You can either use a pre-made wreath form, or you can make one out of some thick wire (like from a wire clothes hanger). Just make your circle out of the wire and twist the ends to secure them, and add some hot glue around where you twisted the wire, just to make sure the wire doesn't move!

2. Next, start attaching your boxwood in little bunches. Either insert those bunches into your wreath form, or if you are using a wire one, secure them onto the form in bunches with some thin floral wire, or even some Christmas ornament hooks. Make sure you wrap the wire around tight enough so the boxwood bunches don't fall out (they may dry and shrink as the wreath hangs and you don't want them to fall out!) Keep going around the wreath form with the small bunches of boxwood until you have filled the entire thing! 

2. Once you have filled the whole wreath, check to see that it looks nice and even. If there are pieces of boxwood that are sticking out of place, trim them, or if there are bare areas, add in a couple extra pieces of boxwood. Once you are happy with your wreath, attach your ribbon. Cut a piece of ribbon to use as the wreath hanger, then make your lace bow and attach it onto the front of the ribbon you used to hang the wreath, either with some hot glue, or with some wire. 
And here's the Christmas Boxwood Square Wreath (with a tutorial) that I mentioned!

Happy Crafting, Everyone!
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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Roman Holiday: Part 1

Hi Everyone! I hope you are all having a great weekend and are enjoying your summer! It's been a busy couple of weeks for us with lots of travel and I wanted to share some pictures of our time away, starting with Rome! It's really hard to sum up a city as grand and beautiful, and as old and charming as Rome into one post (so look out for Part 2 soon!) and a couple of pictures, but I'm going to try to at least show you some of my favorite things from the city! I've been to and lived in some beautiful cities, but there is just something about Rome; the ancient history that's constantly surrounding you, the incredibly delicious food and the quaint little streets and piazzas lined with trattorias and cafes, filled with people eating (and drinking espressos!) late into the night. Just magical. 

So come take a walk around the city with me...

One of the most famous places in Rome is St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. Our hotel was in the center of the city, and looking at our little tourist map, the Vatican didn't seem like it was that far away... a couple of blocks, one or two piazzas and a walk across the bridge and you're there. Three and a half miles later, we were there! It was a super hot and humid day, but this was definitely worth the walk! 

St. Peter's is absolutely beautiful, both from the outside and the inside. The glorious size and grandeur of the church are breathtaking, with ornate decorations and intricate paintings filling the whole cathedral.

St. Peter's Square... and the long walk back begins! Why is the walk back always longer?! I did have a pretty special ice-cream stop planned though (more about that in Part 2!) which made the walk back in the heat and the uncomfortable shoes (also, why do I always decide to pack the most uncomfortable shoes?!) a little faster!

One of my favorite things about Rome are all the piazzas, which are are squares that often have a big fountain or statue in the middle, were often used as market places in the past, and are filled with little shops and restaurants today.

Piazza Navona

It's also hard to believe how long these streets and piazzas have been here for, how many people have walked down them and how much history has taken place here. It's almost surreal.

And of course you can't go to Rome without going to the Colosseum...

And the Pantheon...

We walked for miles and miles every day, but with so many things to look at on every corner, you forget how long you've been walking for, or how much your feet hurt!

Lots of balconies were filled with flowers.

Another little trattoria (left) and Rome's favorite mode of transportation (right)!

And because I couldn't resist sharing this.... one of the oddest things I've ever seen: someone walking a pet pig on a leash in downtown Rome. I don't even know what to say.

I hope you enjoyed this little tour of this beautiful city, and that if you've never been to Rome, you get to go one day! Stay tuned for Part 2 of the tour, which will be all about the food! Yes, the food deserves a post all of its own. And trust me, you don't want to miss it! Have a great weekend, Everyone!
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