Posts tagged ‘vacation’
Nothing screams springtime like fresh ingredients and brightly colored veggies. As soon as the first warm day hits, I am craving salads, slaws, and anything on a grill. These fish tacos fit the bill perfectly! My boyfriend and I recently returned from an amazing Florida vacation, where we visited my grandparents and extended family, explored Ybor City in Tampa, and replenished our Vitamin D levels on the beach.
All of the sun kicked my veggie cravings into overdrive, and so I jumped at the opportunity to make a fun lunch for my grandparents!
Fish tacos seem to have become rather trendy these days, and come in several varieties. My requirements for a good fish taco are as follows: good grilled fish, not the fried stuff. Traditional corn tortillas, not flour. Avocado, in some form. Lots of cilantro. And a good, tangy, fresh cole slaw. Hold the mayo.
Simple, right? Still, many places don’t hold a candle to this homemade version. This recipe was inspired from bits and pieces of many that I have read, taking my favorite parts from all. Feel free to do the same with mine, or try out my version to let me know what you think!
16 corn tortillas
1 lb white fish fillets (use what is local to your region – I have used Cod in NE and tilapia in FL both with great results)
spices: paprika, chili powder, cayenne, garlic powder, salt, pepper
1 small head purple cabbage, finely sliced (you can also use green, but the color makes these fun)
1 bunch scallion, whites discarded
3 cloves garlic
3 tbsp lime juice (I used from a bottle, but fresh is always fun!)
3 tbsp cilantro, finely minced
1 jalapeno, finely minced (use 2 if you like more heat)
for avocado cream:
1/2 cup greek yogurt
1 tbsp minced cilantro
Assemble slaw first. Slice cabbage and scallions finely, then mince garlic and jalapenos. Combine with lime juice and minced cilantro. Add a pinch of salt if desired. Combine and refrigerate while preparing other components to allow flavors to combine.
Next, combine avocado, greek yogurt, and remaining cilantro in a food processor. Combine until very smooth. Cover in a small bowl and refrigerate.
Wrap corn tortillas in foil and place in oven to warm while cooking fish. Alternatively, place tortillas individually on a warm griddle after cooking fish for a crispier taco.
To prepare fish, begin by washing filets and patting dry. Season both sides with aforementioned spices according to taste. (More cayenne for the spice lovers, more paprika and chili powder for a deeper and sweeter flavor.) Salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet with a cover. Add fish filets but do not crowd the pan. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes. Flip, then cook for an additional 3 minutes, or until fish is flaky and cooked through.
To assemble tacos, take warmed corn tortilla and spoon avocado cream across the bottom. Top with slaw and a small piece of fish. Fold in half and enjoy immediately!
There is nothing better for the body, mind and soul than spending a week relaxing on the beach. I have visited my family, who transplanted an hour south of Tampa about 8 years ago, several times and feel a comforting sense of familiarity when I return. There are always new places to explore and memories to make, but my goal was not sight-seeing this time. Instead, my days were structured around beach reading, studying, and hanging out with my grandparents! The best part about the beaches in the Sarasota area is that they all have their own character. You can pick the feel of your beach depending on your mood that day, all without ever having to go to far!
Lucky for us, the #1 rated beach in the US is located less than a half hour’s drive from where my family lives. Siesta Key is known for its white sand and crystalline blue water. The quartz sand is powder soft and never gets hot, which makes for great beach strolls. The beach front is also huge, so the crowds that the recent publicity has drawn can be handled quite well. The downside of Siesta Key is the parking. The lot fills up before noon, leaving cars circling for emptying spots like hawks. My grandparents have learned, and so now we always head to this beach early. We arrived by 9am, with newspaper and book in hand, and enjoyed the less crowded views of the Gulf, the warm morning sun, and the soft stretches of sand.
While Siesta Key may get the fame, the local beaches are an equally good option. The beach along the Venice fishing pier is the best local beach for swimming. The sand shelf drops off quickly, but the Gulf waters are warm and usually calm, which makes swimming pleasant. The beach grass and fishing pier also add some nice scenery, and there is great bird watching as the pelicans flock to see what share they can catch.
If you like nature and solitude, Caspersen’s is the place to find it. Along the side of the peninsula, the beach is narrow and the water edge is lined with huge rocks. Only one or two rows of chairs and towels can fit, which keeps the private beach feeling. The rocks also make excellent nets for shark tooth hunting, which is this beach’s claim to fame.
After a hot day at the beach, nothing beats a soft serve ice cream cone. My favorite Florida treat is the orange soft serve ice cream at Nokomis Groves. They also have flavors like lime, pineapple, vanilla, and chocolate, but the orange is the biggest draw. While my favorite combination is orange and vanilla, I branched out to try the pineapple swirl. While it was tasty, I didn’t like that the pineapple overpowered the orange. I will stick to my favorite on my next visit! There is always a line, but it moves quickly and is worth the wait. You can also get fresh Florida citrus, citrus-inspired foodie treats, and fresh squeezed juices in the attached market.
The best part of visiting Southwestern Florida is getting to see the sunset over the ocean. As an East Coast girl, this is something that I always love, seeing the flaming sun plunge into the cool ocean. The Venice Beach is an excellent spot to watch the sunset, but the Nokomis Inlet is another great option if you don’t want to sit in the sand.
Writing this post and looking through my vacation pictures makes me long to be at the beach instead of facing a long week of school and studying! Good thing the weather has been unseasonably warm, or I might face true sunshine withdrawal!
Hello from sunny Florida! Even though this winter has been mild, there is still never a need to rationalize a week spent in the Florida sunshine. Add in a visit with your amazing grandparents, uncle, aunt and cousin, and then there is even more reason to escape to the sun! I have spent my mornings squeezing in some studying, afternoons soaking up some sun at the beach, and evenings running as my Grandma makes amazing dinners. I could get used to this! Here are some pictures from my Tuesday, and look forward to a travel post on Southwest Florida when I get home!
Grandma is an oatmeal fan as well, so I have still been able to enjoy my favorite breakfast! It is strawberry season in Plant City, FL, so the berries are abundant and cheap in the grocery store. I love them mixed in with some banana and cinnamon into plain oats!
We headed out early for the number 1 beach in the US: Siesta Key! If you don’t get there early, you are unlikely to get a parking spot, so we spent the morning reading and watching the beach slowly fill up. Nothing like a morning in the sun and a swim in the Gulf to work up an appetite! I enjoyed a great wrap: basil hummus, sunflower seeds, sun dred tomatoes, tomatoes, and baby spinach. We have been adding spinach or field greens to all of our sandwiches or wraps, and always include a toss salad with dinner to make sure we get in our greens! Lunch was rounded out with a handful or two of potato chips (I am on vacation!) an apple, and lots of water, of course!
After we got our fill of sun and sand, we headed to Nokomis Groves for their famous orange soft serve ice cream! This is one of my favorite parts of my visits to Florida. The orange-vanilla swirl cone is like a creamsicle, but better since it is made with fresh, Florida oranges. I was adventurous this time and got pineapple as the other swirled half and loved it! There is nothing better than a cone of soft serve ice cream on a hot afternoon.
My grandparents are well-traveled and love good food, so they like to be adventurous in trying restaurants. One of their favorite finds is the Curry Creek Cafe in Nokomis, FL. It is easy to pass by on the outside, but this place should not be missed. The cuisine is a fusion of classic Indonesian and Florida seafood, and the service is incredible.
We all started with a house salad, bread and olive tapenade. The salad is incredibly fresh and tasty, and the bread comes warmed from the oven.
For dinner, I enjoyed the Spicy Eggplant with Grouper cheeks, covered in an amazing spicy, tomato based sauce. Yes, that is from the fish’s head! My grandparents said that the grouper cheek is incredibly tender and well cooked at this restaurant, and so I had to be somewhat adventurous! This was incredibly spicy, but the rice and cool cucumber salad on the side tempered it. I could hardly put my fork down, this was so good! The chef himself came out to see how we liked our meal, and I tried to get the secret for the recipe I liked it so much!
We enjoyed watching the sunset over the inlet after dinner, a peaceful end to a day of beautiful weather and good eats! Hope that you are enjoying your week, whether it be routine or vacation!
Question: What is the weirdest food you have ever eaten?
Happy Wednesday everyone! I have had the best few days at home and have thoroughly taken advantage of my vacation from school. For anyone still facing 2 more days at work, keep that sweet holiday vacation in the forefront of your mind… Christmas will be here soon! My days have been filled with baking Christmas cookies, making awesome meals with my mom and sister, crafting, gift wrapping, and relaxing on the sofa. I could get used to being this spoiled with so much free time pretty quickly! Here is a peek into my day that isn’t spent hunched over textbooks for hours on end. Be sure to check out Peas and Crayons and the WIAW link party for other weekday meal ideas.
I enjoyed sleeping in and waking up to no alarm. I caught up on some blog reading from bed on my phone, snagged a handful of peanut butter pretzels, and then went out for a short run. I am finally over the worst of my head cold and was itching to get outside. I only made it a mile, but it felt good to just get out and get moving. After a short set of free weights and a shower, I made eggnog spiced oatmeal. I am not a huge fan of eggnog because it is too thick and sweet, but like the way this hints at the Christmas time classic. A little banana for natural sweetness, with vanilla and rum extracts, cinnamon and nutmeg for eggnog flavor. I loved it the way it was, but my sister added a bit of brown sugar to make it taste more like classic eggnog. A great and filling holiday breakfast either way!
My mom is much better stocked with salad veggies and fun condiments than I am, so I enjoyed making a killer salad for lunch. Red leaf and romaine salad, carrots, radishes, snap peas, roasted broccoli, goat cheese, and black bean and corn salsa – salad heaven! With a slice of bakery bread on the side, I could barely finish! My eyes were bigger than my stomach, and I had to sacrifice a few of the snap peas.
I spent the rest of the day at my friend’s house for a crafternoon. I am really excited about what I made, all out of recycled magazine pages! The top is a coaster, then a pair of earrings, and what will soon become a necklace. I was Pinspired again, and was happy to have a few hours to kill making a craft. It is much easier than it looks, so check out the tutorial and give it a try.
My mom and I love coming up with dinner creations based on what we have lying around the fridge and pantry, and tonight’s meal was a definite winner! We sauteed up about 1/3 head red cabbage, 1/2 head green cabbage, 1/4 of a large red onion, and 4 grated carrots in some sweet ginger sauce, and then made vegetarian dumplings out of them. A quick boil to cook the shell, and dinner was ready! Enjoyed with some shelled edamame and what was left of the dumpling filling for a delicious, vegetarian meal! (My dad has had
vegetarian vegan dinners 3 nights in a row now without too much complaining – now that’s a good dad!)
My sister and I made our last batch of Christmas cookies, so of course some taste testing had to happen! We like to create characters out of our Gingerbread men, so I chose to eat the “Running Man Gingy” since I love to run! These were our best ever Gingerbread men, and our best looking ones too! If you are looking for Christmas cookie recipes, check out my posts from earlier this week, and stop back tomorrow and Friday for the last two!
Question: Are you on vacation yet, or are you still counting down the days?
As you can tell by now, I am jumping around my trip’s timeline. Instead of progressing between places, I decided to share snapshots and stories of my favorite part of each place that I visited. Back to Italy, where I split my time between my friend’s house in Bologna and our adorable rented room in Vernazza, one of the five towns of Cinque Terre. My friend picked Vernazza because it is the only town with a harbor, which we figured would make for the best beach destination. As soon as we arrived, we changed into our bathing suits and headed to enjoy the waters of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. While we were swimming, we were surrounded by tiny fish, likely the small anchovy that the region is famous for, and the rocks were covered in tiny mussels. While soaking up some sun on the rocks, we were passed by a baby crab, and harassed by the biggest sea gulls I have seen in my entire life. It was so cool to be surrounded by such amazing wildlife!
After a day in the sun and heat, there is nothing better than a great dinner to end the night. We asked around for a recommendation of where to go for dinner, and the apartment owner’s husband recommended his favorite place for seafood. He obviously has great taste! This restaurant had some of the best food I have ever eaten. We started off with a sample of five small seafood dishes, the highlights of which were lemon anchovies and a warm octopus salad.
Anchovies, usually very salty and definitely not something I am prone to eat
often ever, are actually an amazing and delicate fish when not so heavily salted. They are so fresh in this region, most likely straight from the ocean to the table in the same day. That makes all of the difference! The sample contained the classic salted version, which were still quite tasty and so much less salty than what I expected. However, the unexpected highlight for me were fresh anchovies in a light lemon sauce with bits of fresh tomato. The lemon was so fresh and really let you appreciate how flavorful the anchovy itself is! What a great surprise.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the warm octopus salad, which honestly freaked me out when they first presented the plate. The tentacle still had the suction cups on it, and it was bright purple and looked like it was straight out of the ocean. But that was what made it so great! The octopus was really tender, which can only be accomplished if it is really fresh and cooked perfectly. It was served with potato wedges, olives and fresh herbs, giving it incredible fresh flavor. This alone made the whole appetizer worthwhile!
For dinner, I stuck with the seafood theme and ordered a pasta dish with mussels and tiny clams in a red sauce. Not always a fan of shellfish, I was a little nervous about if I would like my dinner or not. However, I had heard rave reviews about the region’s shellfish, and figured that they would be incredibly fresh since I had seen them coating the rocks earlier in the afternoon! All I have to say is best shellfish ever. The clams were tiny and really tender, and the mussels were perfect with a twirl of fresh pasta and a bit of red sauce. I was in food heaven. My plate was literally clean by the end of dinner, both because of how good the food was and because of our waiter’s insistence that we clear our plates. His games got us a free round of drinks by the end of dinner, so we weren’t complaining!
The food continued to be amazing in Cinque Terre. Other highlights of food that I enjoyed in my time there were a sandwich with prosciutto and fig, fresh foccacia, and a bowl of pasta with real pesto. Did you know: Pesto originated in the Liguria region and is traditionally made in a mortar and pestle (hence pesto!)? Fun fact! I brought home some trofie pasta, the regional specialty, and hope to make my own pesto to go with it sometime this week!
I have had a lot of French toast failures lately. When my sister came to Boston in May, I attempted a dairy-free French toast that flopped. It was too soggy; edible but not pretty. So I tried again on vacation, but we had no vanilla or cinnamon. Trying to be creative, I used cinnamon apple sauce, vanilla yogurt, and egg. Too bad the “wheat” bread couldn’t stand up to such a heavy mixture. The flavor was incredible, but it definitely needs a fair attempt with a sturdier bread (maybe challah?)
During my last week at home, I finally had my French toast day. I was inspired by a recipe over at Rufus’ Food Guide, and by a giant bowl of the prettiest nectarines I have ever seen on my mom’s kitchen island. We had a leftover whipped cream from the bridal shower and a small French baguette that was just begging to be used for breakfast, so it looked like things finally fell into place for perfect French toast! Not the healthiest of mornings, but my hour and a half bike ride later makes up for it, right? ;) My last week off means a lot of leisurely (read: not so healthy) breakfasts enjoyed with a lot of coffee and reading for fun!
Question: What is your favorite special breakfast? Pancakes, French toast, waffles, pastry, omelet?
Vanilla French Toast with Stone Fruit
For French toast:
small french baguette, in 8-9 pieces
1/4 cup vanilla soymilk
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1 tbsp agave
For fruit topping:
2 very large nectarines (3 if they are normal sized fruit, or use peaches or plums)
1/4 – 1/2 cup of water (depending on size and juiciness of nectarines)
1 tbsp vanilla
Slice the nectarines in half to remove the pit, and then slice into thin strips. Cut the strips in half. Add to a small saucepan and cover with 1/4-1/2 cup water. Season with vanilla. Bring the liquid to a boil, and then allow to simmer over medium heat for at least 10-15 minutes while preparing the French toast.
Meanwhile, combine all of the wet ingredients in a small bowl. Slice the French loaf into 2 inch thick slices. Soak the bread slices in the egg mixture for at least a minute or two on each side. Once the bread has soaked up the liquid, cook on a griddle or a hot pan coated in cooking spray. Each side will take about 3 minutes to brown, and the crusts can be balanced to brown for about one more minute.
Serve two to three slices on a plate topped with a spoonful of the warm fruit. Use the liquid from the fruit as a syrup, or use pancake syrup. Serve with or without whipped cream, as desired.
I am back from vacation and, after a month of traveling, it certainly feels great to be home! I have one more week to relax before school starts, and then it is back to the grind! It is crazy how fast a summer will fly by when you are having so much fun! But before I reminisce about a vacation that is not quite over, let me recount one that is!
My family has been vacationing in Cape May, NJ for decades. Some of my earliest family memories are from these beaches, or from the campground that we have always gone to. The Depot is not really that special – the sites are small, there is no pool, the bath houses are basic, but this place holds a special spot in my heart. We love it because it is only a mile from the beach, so we can throw our chairs and towels on our backs and bike to the beach. I remember days when we used to have three campsites, with sand toys strewn everywhere and family dinners that stretched late into the evening. Now it is just my immediate family left in NJ and we have matured past the days of sand toys, but some traditions have not left us. We still stop at Duckie’s Farm Market for corn (for more than one dinner), still go to Sunset Beach to marvel at the concrete ship and search for diamonds, still walk the beach with distance measured by space between piers, and still sing that old song “On the Way to Cape May” even if no one knows the words. This trip was filled with many more family moments, and reminders of family moments from the past.
A highlight of this vacation for me was the food! In celebration of my mom’s 50th birthday, we enjoyed dinner out on the town, twice! The first was a girl’s night out to Bella Vida Cafe – right down the street from the campground with a menu that boasted a number of vegetarian/vegan options. My mom and sister had been eyeing the restaurant with me in mind for the whole week before I joined them at the beach. It was such a fun foodie find! In a town filled with seafood dishes, their options all had a fresh, flavorful spin, be it through a fruit salsa or some sort of unique glaze. Plus, it had so many vegetarian options that it was hard to choose what to eat for dinner!
I settled on the Island Style Christina – rice and beans with plantains and fresh mango-pineapple salsa. So many great flavors that reminded me of my time in the DR!
My mom and my sister both chose the Coconut Encrusted Grouper, of which I stole a bite or two. It was delicious, but accurately described by my sister as a little too sweet. Not too much to stop everyone from clearing their plates though! We finished off our night on the town with window shopping, which usually drives my dad crazy. Good to have a girl’s night out once in a while!
Birthday celebration part 2 – a day trip to Lewes, DE. My mom has always wanted to take the ferry that runs between Cape May and Lewes, but has never gotten around to doing so. We decided that her birthday would be a perfect time to do this! Lewes is a tiny town with a much different feel from its sister. It is smaller, more quaint, and less crowded than Cape May – perfect for a day of exploring. We filled the afternoon with more window shopping (Dad was drug along this time but put up without complaint – a birthday present in its own right!). My favorite store was Lewes Gourmet, from which I purchased a cinnamon grinder and a jar of No Sugar Added Beach Plum Jam. Beach plums are a tiny fruit that grow wild in the marshes, usually too sour to eat but make great jams! After tiring ourselves out with shopping, we sat down for a late lunch/early dinner (linner?) at The Wharf. We enjoyed sitting out on the water, and chose the restaurant for the location and not the menu. Shouldn’t have been fooled by the plastic chairs and patio furniture – the food was absolutely excellent.
We enjoyed Thai-stlye calamari for an appetizer – definitely not your ordinary calamari! It was lightly fried and then drenched in a sweet and spicy chili sauce with jalapeno peppers. I savored every bite!
For my meal, I enjoyed an Ahi Tuna Salad – a seared tuna steak served over Romaine with edamame, peanuts, wonton strips, and a light peanut dressing. It was possibly the best salad I have ever eaten.
My parents enjoyed the crab cake sandwiches, the option I almost got. The crab cake was huge and was all crab and no filler, but I enjoyed my meal too much to even try a bite! They both loved the sandwich, though!
I had so much fun trying fresh spins on seafood in places I wouldn’t expect. There is always a good foodie find, even in small beach towns! And what better way to celebrate a birthday than with great food at the beach?
Full disclosure: I am still on vacation! I got home from Europe, did a few loads of laundry, and hopped in my dad’s car the next day to meet my mom and sister at our favorite beach. We are camping in Cape May, NJ for the week to celebrate my Mom’s 50th birthday. This again has left me away from the blogging world and the kitchen, but normal posts will return soon enough! Until then, another story from my trip!
Life in a beach town has a much different rhythm. You wake up with no alarm, check the heat and humidity on the front porch before deciding to go running, and lazily stroll to the market to get your food for the day. You stop at the bakery for fresh bread, a street-side stand for produce, a butcher for meat, and another stand for fish. Most places are open all morning, but the fish stand is only open from 7am-10am, which we found out the hard way on our first attempt. They have buckets on ice filled with the catch of the day, and they sell out each morning. I couldn’t tell you what any of the fish at the market were that day because their names were all in Croatian, but you basically could not make a poor choice. All of the fish looked very similar – some just a little longer or shorter, thinner or fatter. We chose 3 medium-sized fish, figuring it would be the perfect ratio for individual portions without the tiny, dangerous bones.
After a day on the beach, we made a pit stop at an Internet cafe to get a little background in fish filleting and cleaning. Seriously, what did one do before Google? I read about how to take off the scales, which fins to remove, and how to gut and wash the fish. With a basic plan of action in mind, we headed home to start on our feast.
I sat out under the outdoor shower, fish and a few
sharp knives in hand. Realizing I didn’t quite have the proper equipment, I began to improvise slightly. I used a dull knife to take off the scales, a slightly sharper knife to get the fins, and a spoon for the insides. I decided against taking the bones out, figuring I would end up with lump fish meat instead of fillets. I was more than a little grossed out and will admit to a few girly freak out moments, especially when I was under attack from a swarm of bees (who knew they liked meat?!) But I got the job done! I finished rinsing them off and carried them inside.
I cut up some lemon wheels and stuffed those with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs inside of the fish. I then created a bit of a steaming device – I put a larger frying pan on the bottom and covered it with a slightly smaller pan on top. I let the fish cook for a few minutes on each side, watching what was left of the skin melt away in my improvisational set up. Once the fish was flaky and white, I took it away from the heat. I cut off the head and tails, and served what looked like beautiful fillets of fresh fish!
Alongside, I mixed some fresh tomatoes and cucumbers together with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper for my take on a traditional Eastern European salad. I also steamed up some cauliflower, and Azra made her version of her mom’s potato salad (some raw white onions, cooked potato slices, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper). The dinner was fantastic! The fish was tender and flaky, and it was easy enough to avoid the bones. The lemon and herbs perfectly enhanced the flavor without overpowering anything. And our volumes of veggies on the side were a nice fresh addition, and were especially appreciated after a severe lack of veg in Bosnian cuisine (more to come on that!) We fully enjoyed our 4th of July fish feast, but it might be a long time before I am running to fillet fresh fish again. I am willing to try almost anything once when on vacation, though!
I am back! After a lot of traveling, sight-seeing, and trying new things, I am glad to be back in the familiarity of home for a bit. I am so thankful for such an incredible trip, filled with great memories of amazing friends and unique places and experiences. There are so many things about the past three weeks that I will never forget. A brief recap of my trip in numbers…
Number of countries visited: 5
Number of big cities visited: 7
Number of small towns visited: 6
Number of beds slept in: 8
I am so lucky to have such an international community of friends! In three weeks, I visited Bosnia, Croatia, Italy, Czech Republic, and Germany. I explored Sarajevo, Korčula, Dubrovnik, Split, Bologna, Prague and Dresden, as well as some smaller towns in Croatia and Italy. I stayed with friends and their families in each place that I visited, and really feel like I got to experience what makes each region unique. We of course saw the tourist highlights of each city as well, but also got to enjoy family dinners, days at the beach, and non-tourist sights as well. I even got to reconnect with a friend from college while in Prague, thanks to Facebook!
Number of modes of tranist: 9
Number of overnight trips: 2
Number of early morning departures: 4
Number of books read: 5 1/2
I spent a lot of hours traveling between places, but most of these hours were spent on buses or trains that offered gorgeous views of the countryside along the way. Sure, there were some late nights, early mornings, and days that sort of disappeared into each other, but taking a slow train through the countryside really gives you an idea of the landscape much more than connecting through a sterile airport each time! All that time left a lot of time for reading as well, giving me a long desired opportunity to read for fun. (If you are looking for a great read, the best book I read was The Help by Kathryn Stockett, a fictional work about maids and the Civil Rights movement in the South – definitely a must read!)
Number of runs: 4
Number of bike rides: 4
Number of swims: 2 (plus a lot of floating ;))
My roommate from college brought her running shoes, so we kept our goal of running at least once in every country! I also got to do a lot of biking in Italy. My friend’s parents are cyclists; her dad, excited about my biking enthusiasm, even took me on a 60km tour through the Italian countryside! I also got to swim in both the Adriatic and Mediterranean seas, but kept forgetting the goggles so they were shorter than I should be doing in training for my upcoming triathlon (in 2ish weeks – yikes!) Not to mention all that walking, and those stairs! Old cities are beautiful and historic, but those stairs are a killer!
Number of home cooked meals: 7
Favorite new fruit: fresh figs
Favorite simple indulgence: bread and cheese
Food themed souvenirs: Parmigiano Reggiano cheese from Bologna, Trofie pasta from Vernazza, and homemade blackberry jam from my friend’s Dad!
My favorite way to experience another culture is through food, and I got to try so many new things! I ate a lot of great Italian home cooking, did a little of my own cooking in Croatia, and indulged in many new dishes from street vendors, cafes, and restaurants. I am so glad I decided to reincorporate meat into my diet before going on this trip, since all of the places I visited (except Italy) seemed to have a meat and potatoes cuisine. I am excited to be back to my normal ways of eating, though – I have some unsatisfied veggie cravings!
Number of unread blog posts: 557
Number of upcoming travel posts: 15+
I will never getting around to reading that many posts, but am excited to skim around for new recipe ideas and to hear a bit about what my friends and fellow bloggers have been up to! Good thing I received my first blogger give away – a batch of Sunflower Seed Protein Bites from Alexa… something yummy to nibble while catching up on reading and writing! I am also going to start writing some posts about my travels, but these will be spread out over the next month or so. Corny, yes, but I am going to have Travel Tuesdays and Thursdays for the upcoming weeks until I run out of pictures and stories to share! All of my posts will be centered around food, but email me or comment and let me know if you would like to hear more about the places I visited. I love to share stories!
Question: What is your favorite way to experience a new culture?
And I’m off! I have been alluding to my big summer trip since the start of my blog, but have been vague about the details. Time for me to share a little bit about where I’m headed for the next three weeks!
Country 1: Bosnia
My friend, Azra, from college is originally from Bosnia. She and her family moved to Boston during the Bosnian War in the early 1990s, and I have learned a lot about Bosnian culture over the past 5 years. Her mom is incredibly hospitable and loves to feed me. Her meat pies are incredible, her chicken and rice moist and tender, and her coffee ever flowing. It is impossible to decline a meal when visiting her: “Oh, you just ate? I’ll make something small.” She slaves away in the kitchen while Mr. B yells loudly on the phone in Bosnian about politics; 3 courses later and barely able to move, I can feel the love she pours into her family and guests through her hospitality. Now I have my chance to go and visit their home country! My roommate from college and I leave today for an overnight flight from Boston to Sarajevo. We have very loose plans and have left most things up to our native tour guide. Whatever Azra thinks is worth to show off in her home city is okay with me! Hasn’t stopped me from reading just a bit online though… some tourism websites say to look forward to beautiful mosques and cathedrals, wartime memorials, beautiful bridges, and an interesting fusion of architecture between the original Ottoman rule and the later Austrian influences. I can’t wait to see Azra again and get to finally explore where she and her family are from!
Country 2: Croatia
After exploring Sarajevo for a few days, we are heading with Azra to Croatia to stay at her family’s vacation home. Croatia sits like a cap on Bosnia and is a more well-known tourist destination. It is known for its hilly towns and beautiful beaches, so I am so excited to see this scenery in person! Again, we have left a lot of the planning up to our more well-known friend and guide. We will be visiting Orebic, Dubrovnik and Korcula, but will play most things by ear until we get there! I am beginning to explode with excitement as I type this… Those who have heard me talk about my trip in person know that I let out a little squeal of joy when sharing about our loose plans!
Country 3: Italy
At this point, my roommate and I will leave Azra and take an overnight ferry across the Adriatic Sea to Italy. Our ferry will land first in Ancona, and then we will take a train up to Bologna to meet our friend, Miriam. Her mom, originally from Boston, met her Italian husband on vacation years ago, and has been an American-Italian ex-pat ever since! Miriam grew up in Bologna, and has invited Melissa and I to visit her since our first year as housemates. We are finally taking her up on her offer! We have a little bit more planned out for what we will do/see in Italy since some reservations were involved, with some strong guidance from Miriam! We will spend a few nights in Bologna, as well as make day trips to Venice and Florence. We are also going to spend two nights in Cinque Terre, an incredible grouping of 5 seaside towns carved into the mountain. I am so looking forward to the food and wine, to the scenery, to the art and culture, and to meeting Miriam’s family! It is hard to choose which part of my adventure I am most excited for. The whole thing? :)
Country 4: Czech Republic
This last stop in Prague was totally spur of the moment. Azra was over for dinner way back in January and we were looking at airfare to Bosnia and back from Italy. We had a map open, and she remarked how she had family friends in Czech Republic, which was so close and yet she was unsure if she’d get to go because she had no one to go with. After a few clicks around Travelocity, we saw that it would be the same price for me to fly from Bologna to Prague to home as it would to go straight home from Bologna. A host in Prague plus no added cost for airfare? I’m in! Our plans are again quite loose, as Azra’s friend has told us she will let us know where are the best places to see. We will have 5 days in Prague, so may even take a day trip to visit Dresden, Germany. (It is only 2 hours away by train!) This will depend on funds and how much we have seen in Prague – keeping my mind and itinerary open!
I am excited to be a free-spirit for the next few weeks. I am packing my suitcase lightly, leaving my laptop at home, and immersing myself in the company of my friends and the culture of other countries. If I stumble into an Internet cafe or make an occasional email check on a friend’s computer, I will post brief updates about my adventures to let my friends and family know that I am alive and enjoying exploring! I also have some pre-scheduled posts (I have cooked more than I have posted in the past few weeks and have a few treats to share!) and will also have guest posts from my mom and my sister.
All of these pictures are from tourism sites, but I will share much more of my adventures through my own pictures when I am back!
Question: Do you have any vacations planned this summer?