I’m all about unconventional Valentine’s Day dates…but I’m obvi always up for a nice dinner. I love food, what can I say (& spending time with Leo…sometimes). Though Leo and I have frequent dinner dates, I still look forward to our Valentine’s Day plans. There is something special about the time and thoughtfulness put into a night celebrating your relationship.
Another thing special about Valentine’s Day? How fast the restaurants book up. You don’t want to be scrambling last minute trying to find your spot – trust me, I’ve been there, and it’s less than ideal. For all my Chicagoans, I’ve pulled together a list of my favorite cozy & romantic restaurants in the city, all of which would be perfect Valentine’s Day dinner destinations.
We’ll be spending Valentine’s Day early this year due to work travel, but I’ll let you guys know where we end up! PS – here are gift ideas for him too.
The first time I spent Christmas in Athens, I fell in love with how much Greeks embrace Christmas. Despite the economic crisis, people were out and about, shopping, grabbing coffee, going out to dinner. The energy was unbelievable. It was a totally different experience visiting Athens in the winter months – the city was alive with people who are normally vacationing in August.
One of my most memorable discoveries during this trip was the Greek Christmas cookie. Every single bakery was stocked with them, restaurants would treat you to them for dessert. They were everywhere, and I didn’t mind it one bit. When baked, the cookie is actually quite dry, but it is then soaked in honey-based syrup & topped with walnuts. The end result is a perfectly baked macaroon with a crispy outside and a center soaked in honey. I’ve never had anything like it.
Every Sunday, I try to drive up to the burbs and spend the afternoon at my mom’s. Usually, she’s in the kitchen cooking away, and I’ll sit at the counter and vent about my week while treating myself (aka stuffing my face) to all of the amazing food within arm’s reach. This Sunday, I walked in and was invited by the delicious smell of these beautiful cookies.
My mom was sitting at the bar in the kitchen, jamming up these tasty little things. They’re incredibly easy to make…don’t let their beauty make you think otherwise. I’ve shared the cookie recipe with you before, when I posted these Christmas cookies last year. The only difference here is that you replace the frosting with jam, and make a cookie sandwich.
This weekend flew by! Though I wasn’t as productive as I would have liked, I’m thankful I got to spend quality time with friends & family. Every moment this weekend was enjoyed with people I love, and there isn’t a better way to celebrate a holiday…don’t ya agree?
I had “baking something new” on my to-do list, so it was natural to bake a 4th of July dessert. I came across these delish krispy treats with cheesecake topping and knew I’d hit the jackpot. I’m usually not impressed with themed desserts, but I thought this one was tasteful & subtle enough. They were so easy to make, yet looked so elaborate! The sweetness of the krispy treat was a match made in heaven with the tartness of the cheesecake.
Last weekend, I had a MAJOR Mexican food craving. It was my lucky night on Saturday as we were out for drinks in Logan, and I had been itching to check out this new Mexican spot nearby, Dos Urban Cantina. I somehow managed to grab a table of 6 last minute (it was meant to be!), and a group of us indulged in a delicious Mexican cuisine. Although I’m not usually one for upscale Mexican, this place was absolutely worth the visit. The chef used to work with Rick Bayless over at Frontera Grill , another one of my favorites. Every dish they brought out was bursting with flavor and the presentation was impeccable.
One of our favorite items on the menu was this pumpkinseed dip they brought out as an appetizer along with chips & salsa. We loved it so much that I Googled the recipe on Sunday afternoon, determined to replicate it. I managed to find Rick Bayless’ recipe that was pretty darn close (it’s got to be the same, minus a few tweaks here and there). We ate so much of the dip we ruined our appetite for Sunday’s dinner – I’m pretty sure we nailed the recipe. Boom.
Yesterday was Leo’s Saint’s Day. What is a “Saint’s Day” exactly? Great question (the things you learn when you date a Greek). Well, Saint’s Day, also known as “Name’s Day” is a celebratory event in the Greek Orthodox church. Every day of the year is dedicated in memory of a saint or martyr, and those who are named after that saint have a big celebration in his or her name day. Moral of the story is, it’s a big deal, and basically like another birthday. Why don’t we all do this?! Anyway, his one request was that I make him a peanut butter chocolate cake.
I’ve never made a tiered cake in my life, but thought I might as well give it a try. I was drooling at this recipe on isaynomato, so I went with it. Granted, my cake didn’t turn out nearly as pretty, but hey, it was my first time! I dialed down the extra toppings as the cake already seemed pretty rich as is. Overall, the cake was a hit…the peanut butter cream was out of this world.
I visit San Diego quite frequently, and one of the things I look forward to every visit is the Little Italy Farmer’s Market…mainly because that’s where I stock up on my favorite treat, Bitchin’ Sauce. This stuff is seriously amazing – it’s similar to hummus but not as heavy (I didn’t ever think I would use the word “heavy” to describe hummus…), it’s also gluten free and vegan! I’ve been wanting to figure out how the sauce is made, because I was convinced it was simple (I mean, you just grind up a bunch of almonds and add some spices, right?). Luckily, I found that I wasn’t too far off when I came across this recipe on thefauxmartha. And…it’s pretty damn close to the real thing. I’ll definitely be making this again, probably soon because there is no chance this will last in my fridge for long. Paired with with carrots or cucumbers, this is the ultimate healthy snack. I can’t wait to try the chipotle flavor.
I don’t know about you guys, but my goal for the next month or so is to lose the extra 5 lbs I put on over the holidays. I’ve been trying to cook more, snack healthy, and exercise 4 days a week. Dieting for me typically comes with researching recipes, as salads, chicken & vegetables can get boring realllly quick. I’ve made chocolate chia seed pudding in the past and loved it, so when I came across this Matcha Green Tea version I knew I had to give it a shot.
One cup of Matcha green tea has 10x the antioxidants of normal green tea. That being said, this pudding makes for a great quick & healthy snack…and you can add your favorite toppings to make it your own. I added coconut, banana & honey – deliciousness.
Since I can remember, one Saturday in December was always dedicated to decorating my mom’s delicious butter cookies for Christmas. The last few years, this tradition sort of fell through the cracks as my brother and I have been either out of town or busy for the holidays. Being home for the holidays this year, I made sure to set aside time to make these delicious treats. Not only can I enjoy them with a nice cup of coffee Christmas morning, but making them brought back so many precious memories of holidays in my childhood.
As you can tell, they aren’t perfect (& my mom slightly burned one batch – fully blame her for that), but that’s the beauty of decorating your own cookies – right?
Hope you all have a wonderful holiday.
Yup, that’s right…ANOTHER pumpkin recipe. I just can’t get enough! My boyfriend’s mom had an amazing recipe for pumpkin squares, and with her recent move she lost it. I’ve been trying to dig up her recipe – it was a bit healthier than the norm (with no butter or eggs), so I knew that when I came across this recipe on Chocolate Covered Katie, I’d hit the jackpot. I must admit, for my first attempt at replicating the recipe, I’m quite proud of myself. It’s the perfect treat and I don’t have to feel guilty about eating it (it contains ground flaxseed after all). I’ve included the recipe below as I made some adjustments; I also changed up the cream cheese frosting recipe (used this cream cheese frosting recipe from Gina’s Skinny Recipes).