Panzanella Salad

Last weekend was my sister-in-law’s wedding.  I first met Matt’s sister Nicole when she was a high schooler.  She was this perky, outgoing girl who immediately made you feel at ease. It was as if you had known her your whole life.  Because that is quintessentially Nicole.  She lives her life with her heart on her sleeve. Sharing intimate stories.  Gushing love.  Always being completely honest.  So if something is on her mind, she’ll let you know.  She’s always all in or all out.  It’s something I’ve always admired about her.

and then the little frog turned into Ben 😉

She was the first sibling of Matt’s and mine to get married.  So the wedding weekend was a bit surreal.  How can she be getting married? She is the little sister.  But she looked beautiful.  The wedding was beautiful.  The family time was beautiful.  There’s nothing like a wedding to make you feel grateful for family.

Matt with his little sister.

Matt and I were in the wedding party so we got to walk down the aisle together, which was pretty fun.  The two of us hadn’t been in a wedding party together since our own wedding.  Not having to worry about anything except being where we are suppose to was a great change in pace.  Our little boys were in the wedding too.  They wore little dress pants with suspenders and bow ties. And they were too adorable. Despite complete breakdowns and tantrums at the rehearsal dinner, both boys walked perfectly down the aisle and were quiet the entire wedding ceremony (and we are Catholic so we are talking an hour and a half mass).  After the mass, the boys went off with my parents while Matt and I jumped on the party bus for photos.

Matt insisted on finding his own bouquet and snagged a lovely bundle of sticks.

Of course, the wedding was a full on traditional Italian wedding.  Guests were greeted at the reception by a table of shots.  Each guest is to take a shots to toast the new couple for good luck.  Traditionally, those shots are taken with the bridal party, but I have no idea how those Italians do that and don’t get completely bombed.  Here, there were bartenders that just handed them out so we didn’t have to worry about spending the entire reception slurring our words (because I swear, I smell liquor and suddenly I am completely incapable of articulating a clear sentence).  Our meal included antipasto, a pasta plate followed by a meat plate.  The late night snack was a nacho bar (oh man, for Matt’s and my second wedding, we are totally stealing this).  The dessert table was full of almond cookies, biscottis, and canolis. Yeah, in case it isn’t obvious, food is an important piece of the celebration.

And a panzanella salad is one of my favorite Italian salads.  It is one of the few salads that Matt loves because a good quarter of the salad is garlic, butter toasted bread.  He calls it “the bread salad” and its one of the few salads where Matt gets seconds.  The combination of the toasted bread with cucumbers and tomatoes tastes like summer.  It’s a quick and easy recipe with just simple, real ingredients.  Real Italian cooking at its finest. So for your next celebration, if you want to toss in a little Italian tradition, try adding this bread salad.

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Sausage and Mushroom Sweet Potato Gnocchi

I had never been to a Trader Joe’s until I found this recipe.  I had this idea that Trader Joe’s was this super crunchy, ultra expensive grocery store.  But then I stumbled upon this recipe that seemed like the perfect weekday meal (ie: one that takes 40 minutes or less from fridge to the table). Ok, so turns out that my perception of Trader Joe’s wasn’t exactly on mark.  There is more than just granola and organic yogurt.

This truly is a great meal.  There isn’t more than a couple of ingredients–all which are very easy to prepare.  You toss everything together and bam, you got yourself a fancy meal.

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Rome at a glance

To round out our Italian adventure, we spent an extended weekend in Rome.  When we began planning our trip to Italy, so many people said we HAD to go to Rome.  A city rich with history, ruins, culture, and just 2 hours away from Positano.  Since we can never guarantee that we will make our way back to Italy, we wanted to see as much as Italy without cheating our experience of each city.  Tacking an extended weekend in Rome was exactly what we were looking for.

because who doesn’t want to see this!
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Five things you should know before booking a trip to Italy

We booked our trip to Italy without knowing much more than cursory understanding of the culture.  Pasta, wine, ocean views.  What more did we need to know?  Well, once we got there, a couple things kept coming up that both Matt and I would say–“Someone should tell you this before you get to Italy.”  So here I am, doing just that 🙂

1. You can’t sit down for a meal at a restaurant at any time throughout the day.  Restaurants are only open from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. for lunch and 7:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. for dinner.  Any decent restaurant will be closed in the mid-day and will not be open for dinner anytime before 7:00 p.m.

We didn’t know that.  So we booked tours to see the sites from 11:00 to 2:00.  This was a bad idea.  We couldn’t eat lunch before the tour, and by the time the tour was finished and we figured out a good place to eat, we’d have about 15 minutes before the restaurant would close.  We made it work, but it would have been nice to planned around this a bit better.

2. Be a little picky when selecting your restaurant.  Great Italian restaurants don’t have pictures of food on their menus or translate their menus into other languages.  Matt and I are anything but foodies.  I do not have a refined palate and really like most everything.  So any food in Italy sounded amazing.  But there are some tips to get the best of the best.

If the menu has pictures of the food, consider finding another restaurant.  Italians know what that dishes look like.  They have been eating these meals for generations.  If there are photos, this likely is not the restaurant the local Italians are going to time and time again.  It is likely a tourist-focused (less authentic and delicious) restaurant.  In that same vein, if the menu is translated in another language, it is probably not a local’s go-to restaurant.  You want to eat where the locals eat.  That’s where the best food is at.

Also, typically the restaurants near the big tourist attractions are not going to be where you find your best meals.  The great, local Italian restaurant is probably going to a couple blocks away from the action.

3. You can make a lunch out of meats, cheeses, olives, and bread from the grocery store.  The grocery stores in Italy are full of fruit and vegetables that are unbelievably fresh.  Lemons are the size of your fist.  You can pick up a baguette, some cold cuts, and fresh cheeses and make your own sandwich.  The grocery stores have half bottles of wine that are perfect to split.  And get the buffalo mozzarella cheese.  It’s amazing.

Plus you can pick up food to try you over until dinner time if you are use to eating your dinner before 7:30 p.m.  On our second day in Italy, we picked up a bottle of prosecco, olives, and some cheese at the local grocery store and had a midday snack.  We saved a bit of money and kept the hangry Matt at bay 😉

4. Bring a water bottle to Rome.  Rome has water fountains with drinkable water by all of the major site.  Just toss your water bottle underneath and grab some cold water.  So make sure to pack a cute water bottle with you or save a durable disposable bottle.  There are people all over trying to sell you water bottles for a Euro.  Don’t do it.  Grab your own bottle and refill for free!

5. You have to pay to use public bathrooms.  Yes, if you have to use the restroom, you better be at a restaurant or near your hotel because otherwise you’ll be paying about a Euro to use the bathroom.  As someone who is thirsty most of the time, and drinks lots of water, planning was involved so that I wouldn’t spend our money on bathroom trips.

Even without knowing this information before we got there, our trip to Italy was amazing.  It was beautiful, relaxing, and everything we hoped it would be. But if we had known these things before getting there, it would have made the trip a bit more seamless at times.  Hopefully this will help you as you plan your trip to Italy!

Other Italy posts: Positano Travel Guide // A day trip to Capri // Rome at a glance

 

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Lemon and Garlic Whole Chicken

It’s no secret that I am a working mom.  It is something I am deeply proud of.  I love being a lawyer, just as I love being a mom.  But most nights, I do not get home until 7:00.  If I start making a full dinner from scratch once I get home, we typically don’t sit down to eat until after 8:00.  As much I’d love to tell you that I pre-plan our weekday meals, that would be a lie.  There are weeks where I am great.  There are lots of weeks where I am not.

I am not a fan of take-out or even eating out in general.  It’s expensive.  It’s not as healthy.  And I usually end up feeling disappointed for overindulging or because of the quality of the food for the price.  Plus two little boys in a restaurant can be exhausting. We try to avoid it whenever possible.

So on nights when we haven’t planned dinner, our go-to meal is a rotisserie chicken.  The boys love it.  It’s not ridiculously overpriced. It’s not wholly unhealthy. But like most things, I’d prefer to make it myself than buy a premade meal.  Of course, there is no way I’d have time to roast a whole chicken on a weekday.  But I still wanted to try out a homemade version.  So last weekend, Maxie and I picked up a raw chicken and decided to make our own rotisserie chicken of sorts.

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A day trip to Capri, Italy

When I booked our trip to Positano, Italy, I knew that no matter what, we needed to fit in a trip to Capri. Capri is an island that’s about an hour boat ride away from Positano on the Tyrrhenian Sea.  It is known for having these gorgeous sea caves that are flooded with crystal blue and emerald green water when daylight shines in. Yet despite deciding that we were going to make our way to Capri, I never actually figured out how we were going to get there.  After settling into our hotel room in Positano, I jumped on google to try to solidify a day trip to Capri.  No luck.  The companies on Expedia and Trip Advisor were booked solid.  I was worried we may be stuck taking a water taxi.  Thankfully, there were three companies that were set up with tents on the beach offering full and half day tours. Surprisingly, the rates were comparable.  So we secured a full day trip with this company to Capri for 140 Euro for the two of us.

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I am a travel blogger today! Positano, Italy Travel Guide – Hotel and Food Edition

The fact that I am writing this post means my dream vacation came true–I went to Italy! And you guys, it was everything I dreamed it would be.  Breathtaking views. Wine. Pasta. Uninterrupted cuddles with my husband.  Kisses without kids tugging on your leg.  Ocean waves. Boat rides. Walks on the cobblestone paths. More wine. More kisses. And swimming in the gosh-dang Tyrrhenian Sea. Because that is a thing I’ve done now.  The entire vacation was magical. Yes, you should go to Italy.

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Lox Bagels

There are two types of people in this world.  Those who wake up and don’t need to eat breakfast.  And those who need to eat breakfast immediately.  Anyone who has spent any amount of time with me knows that I am in the second camp.  Most mornings I wake up starving.  Sometimes my stomach is actually growling when I wake.  Seriously.  Breakfast is my favorite meal, and I do not understand those people who can go until lunch before eating (husband, I am talking about you).

Weekends breakfasts are a favorite in our house.  Most mornings, we have a large homemade breakfast.  When Matt cooks, that means pancakes.  But when I am in charge, it means lox bagels.

i want to eat you.
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Animal Cookies

It’s spring in Minnesota.  So naturally, it snowed over a foot this weekend.  It snowed from Friday night until Sunday morning.  Nonstop.  There are snowdrifts, snow piles, and everything is covered in a thick layer of snow.

taken by Matt Sunday morning. It snowed at least another 3 inches after taking this photo.

If you didn’t have to leave the house, you didn’t.  The boys were especially restless by Sunday.  While the snow does not typically keep us housebound during the winter, this spring snowstorm was unlike any winter snowstorm.  It just would not stop snowing.  And given we are a month into spring, you can conclude that all Minnesota drivers have already completely forgotten how to drive in the snow, not to remember how to successfully maneuver over black ice until a solid week into the following December.  So we needed a fresh in-house activity for the boys.

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