A Weekend in Istanbul, Turkey

A bustling city resting on the banks of the Bosphorus, also known as the Straight of Istanbul. Forming the boundary between Europe and Asia or Asian Turkey side and the European Turkey side, this straight is the hub and center of the city. Tour boats, shipping docks, hundreds of men fishing off the bridges to catch fish, tourists taking pictures, families on the boardwalks selling chestnuts, mussels, and roasted corn, restaurants built underneath the bridges for visitors to enjoy the view. Its nothing but magical and exciting to see.

The various types of architecture throughout the city has something everyone will love, from the beautiful old buildings and mosques from the Byzantine Empire era to the more ornate, grandiose palaces which housed Sultans and royal families. Additionally, the Turkish people were so welcoming and hospitable, it made our stay that much better.



The weekend was filled with site-seeing, wandering around the new and old town in addition to tasting an absurd amount of Turkish delights and mixed kebab plates. On our first day, we took to the streets wandering from the new part of town, Taksim Square, through the winding and bustling streets across the Bosphorus to the Old Town. Stopping along the way to admire all of the handcrafted lights, tiling, handwoven scarves, Turkish towels, artwork and of course all the baklava and treats, I was overwhelmed with the beauty and energy Istanbul had to offer. We finally managed to make our way over the river on the Galata Bridge after stopping to watch a mid-day prayer at a local mosque while the somewhat eerie, but beautiful prayer call played throughout the city. We were finally off to explore the major attractions. The (Sultan...) Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia and Topkapi Palace. Words can’t explain the overwhelming beauty and detail that each of these places exhibited. They all were so magical. Having visited countless amounts of ornate churches throughout Europe, it was incredible to finally experience first hand what a practicing mosque looked and felt like. Shoes off, cover your head, women in one area and men in another. Although we weren’t allowed to enter the Blue Mosque while prayer was taking place, we visited another, much smaller and less popular Mosque where we were able to enter while prayer was taking place. It was a memorable experience to say the least.



Lastly, we visited the both the Basilica Cistern, Ortakoy Mosque, The Grand Bizarre and the Dolmabahçe Palace. Used during the Ottoman Empire, this palace was nothing short of immaculate. Breathtaking is an understatement. Each room had its purpose. Prayer room, musical room, tea room, sitting room, you name it, there is a room dedicated for it. But the showstopper was the Grand Ballroom. Reaching 35 meters high, this room absolutely took my breath away. Crystal chandeliers in every corner and a hand painted dome with gold plated work as far as the eye could see. I could have stayed in this room for hours. Truly something build for a “king”…or Sultan.

A quick weekend in Istanbul can be done, but is definitely not enough time to fully experience all of the amazing things Turkey and it’s people have to offer. It’s energy during the day only is amplified into the evening. Make sure to visit the Taksim Square at night. Street vendors selling chestnuts, muscles, musicians playing on the streets, smells of shisha in the air, people shopping and buying Baklava at 1 am, it’s an incredible site to see. Venture down one one of the side streets and another world of restaurants and bars appear. Be prepared to stopped at every place and asked to eat at their restaurant. Every place we tried had the most incredible Turkish food. You definitely can’t go wrong eating a unknown local spot.

Se apaixona por Portugal | "Falling in love with Portugal"

Se apaixona por Portugal or falling in love with Portugal would be an understatement. I just returned back to Prague from my Spring holidays traveling throughout Portugal and when the time came to go, it was a very hard to say goodbye. There are only incredible things to say about Portugal, along with everything and everyone in it. 

Arriving late in the evening, I was able to see Lisbon at night. Lively, sexy, dimly lit beautiful alleys and cobblestone for as far as the eye could see. I could only imagine how beautiful this city was with the sun shining. Waking up the next morning, I walked out on to the terrace at our hostel and was greeted with the most breath-taking view. Bright orange rooftops crammed next to one another and a beautiful cloudless blue sky. 

Lisbon View.jpg

As with most of my travels, I tend to not have any solid plans that I need to abide by or fulfill. Most often I love to get an early start and simply wander throughout town, the streets and enjoy getting lost. In Lisbon, this was the perfect place to wander. Around each corner were the most beautifully tiled and decorated houses, streets and buildings. The embellishments on the exteriors of the buildings changed constantly and kept your eyes staring at the beautiful patterns. It is a photographers dream. I'm pretty sure I stopped to take pictures every other building I walked by. In addition to the beautiful tiles that Portugal is known for, the street art in Lisbon is incredible as well. It filled the alleys and stairways and was amazing to see how much detail and effort is put into this. 

IMG_4859.jpg

Markets

 

 

Markets: Time Out: 

If you consider yourself a "foodie," or simply just love good food, eating and socializing, Time Out market is one of the best places to go in all of Lisbon. Opened in 2014, Time Out market has a concept of a market feel, while having high-end restaurants and shops within it. 24 restaurants to choose from all with various cuisines and incredible chefs, 8 bars and a farmers market. Also, absolutely do not miss getting an "egg tart" from the incredible Manteigaria in the market.

Market: LX Factory

Another incredible area to check out when in Lisbon is the LX Factory. With over 200 business ranging from Cafes, restaurants, design houses, show rooms, clothing stores, bars, it has everything to offer. LX Factory offers amazing culture and design to look at. While there, make sure you stop at Mez Cais LX. This quirky, yet incredibly lively restaurant is the place to get amazing margaritas, listen to good music and eat good food (do not miss out on the avocado mousse)! It has a great vibe and both times I went there (yes I went twice in 7 days), every table was full.  

IMG_4826.jpg

Porto

IMG_5036.jpg

After spending our first days in Lisbon, my friend and I took the train to the city of Porto. As being the birthplace of Port wine, I knew I was going to be in heaven. Give me all the red and white port wine, please! Porto was a lovely, very walkable city. Small and incredibly charming. Incredibly friendly and warm people. I can't say enough amazing things about this town. Since we visited during the winter season, it was raining most of the time we were there. I would highly recommend visiting in Spring/Summer. 

First things first, we checked into our adorable Airbnb and scoped out the best places to brunch, grab wine and to eat good food. We walked around town and stopped by the infamous library, Livraria Lello. Although being overly congested with people, the library itself was charming. It felt like stepping into a Harry Potter novel, with the beautiful hanging staircase and old, worn wooden shelves. There is an entrance fee of around $11-12. 

We then braved the wind and rain and wandered throughout the streets, looking at the architecture and made sure to stop and do a port wine tasting. Also, make sure you try the local and famous dish of Porto, Franceschini. This sandwich is filled with various meat, and covered with melted cheese in a hot tomato and beer sauce.  Yum, right? It was actually incredible.

After exploring both Porto and Lisbon, I can truly say that Portugal has been one of my favorite places I've been to. If you are planning a trip there, see all of my recommendations for places to eat and cafes to stop by below. 

Places to be obsessed with: Lisbon

Cafe: Organic Cafe Estoril - Rua da Misericórdia 139
Cafe: Bowl Lisboa
Cafe: Royal Cafe (incredible veggie burger) 
Restaurant: A Cevicheria** (has 1 michelin star) - absolutely do not miss going to this place. It doesn't take reservations, but has the best fresh ceviche I've ever tried and the vibe is incredible. 
Restaurant: Costa Do Castelo
Drinks/Food: Mez Cais or Mez Cais LX (Mez Cais LX is located in an incredibly cool and trendy area call the LX Factory). 
Drinks: Fox Trot
Drinks: Park Bar or Topo

Places to be obsessed with: Porto
Drinks: Candelabro 
Restaurant: Cruel
Cafe: Zenith cafe (great vibe and amazing food) 
Cafe: Progresso

Hope you've enjoyed this post! If so, share it with others and make sure to follow my adventures @tripleoblog on Instagram. Cheers! 

Ciao Italia | Travel Umbria, Italy

Ciao everyone! 

I've recently returned from a long weekend  in Italy. While on holiday from teaching, I reunited with a few friends, Tanira and Loris, who I met while in the Grand Caymans, who are temporarily staying in a town located in the Umbria region of Italy, called Terni. Terni is located just about two hours north of Rome and is nestled within and surrounded by large hills and mountains. Its a beautiful, quaint town where the people tend to grow up and remain most of their lives. Its incredibly and quintessentially Italian and just what I needed, a real, authentic Italian experience. While in Terni, I stayed at my friend Loris's Nonna's (grandmother) house. I was greeted with such  warm welcome and by the end of my time there, she invited me to stay forever, "if I'd like." 

The best part about staying in the Umbria region is there are endless amounts of small villages you can pass through and meander throughout. We didn't manage to see them all, but made quite the dent. I fell in love with Italy this time around. Even though I had previously visited Italy years back, I couldn't help but fall more in love with the perfect blue skies shining down on the rows of olive trees covering the hillsides, the dilapidated and worn down towns once used for movie sets to film the infamous Pinocchio, flowers adorning every windowsill,  persimmon trees as far as the eye could see and The Dolomite mountains peaking out from a distance. It was a dream. The best vino I've had in ages where the tasting just so happen to be free! How could it get any better, you're asking? Well it did. I was staying with an Italian family and chef, who would make fresh bruschetta every morning and evening on their log fireplace, be served homemade espresso boiled from the kettle on the stove and pick oranges from the tree outback. It was a slower and much more simple way of living and I absolutely enjoyed every minute of it. 

Civita De Bagno | Italy

The first town we visited was called Civita De Bagno or "the dying city" as Loris likes to call it. This town's buildings cling to the edge of the cliff that has been slowing eroding away over the years. Be prepared to walk, because there's no transportation to visit this village, but once you arrive, it's breathtaking. Beautiful architecture, flowers, unending views and cats strolling along the streets everywhere. It was definitely a perfect way to start the trip. 

IMG_4055.jpg
IMG_4086.jpg
IMG_4094.jpg
IMG_4098.jpg

Orvieto | Italy

We arrived in the town of Orvieto, and were starving from all of our walking thus far. So we grabbed lunch and of course, what do you get when staying in the Umbria region...besides wine, anything with truffle, or a sandwich from a porchetta shop! So we ended up getting a truffle cheese panini from a porchetta shop. Perfecto! The umbria region is known to have incredible truffle mushrooms which are special to the region. Since I am obsessed with anything truffle, of course I bought a jar of whole truffles, along with truffle oil.  

IMG_4109.jpg
IMG_4114.jpg
IMG_4128.jpg

Spoleto | Italy

Spoleto, spoleto, spoleto...a town with such stunning architecture and alleyways, that one (aka: me) nearly couldn't make it through the town without stopping every 5 minutes to take a picture. Each building carefully detailed and painted with a different color, made me realize how much beauty there is around us. We walked through the town square which was getting decorated for the upcoming holidays, grabbed lunch at another trattoria where we ate more meat and cheese on the most beautiful charcuterie board I had ever seen. It was so big, it spanned the entire table.  

IMG_4144.jpg
IMG_4136.jpg
IMG_4176.jpg
IMG_4153.jpg
IMG_4156.jpg
IMG_4161.jpg

Papigno | Italy

Pinocchio, the movie that put this town on the map. This movie was filmed in the town of Papigno. Papigno is one of the most magical villages I've ever been to. Small, but perfect. Old, but historic. I couldn't seem to understand how one small village could exude and hold so much beauty. Surrounded by mountains, next to olive tree fields and nearby the Marmore Falls, Papigno is a perfect place to getaway and enjoy the beauty in life. We walked around the town, weaving in a out of alleys, up and down stairs and greeting locals who wanted nothing but to provide us with advice on where to go and what to check out. This town, although your visit may be quick, is one not to miss. 

IMG_4192.jpg
IMG_4204.jpg
IMG_4206.jpg

Peidei Lugo | Italy

Only spending a few short hours here, wandering along the lakeside, feeling the chilly winter air, the town of Peidei Lugo was breathtaking. Known for being more of a summer town with beach and water  activities on the lake, it still had a wonderful feeling to it, where you could take in the views of the Dolomites from a distance and grab a espresso from a local cafe. Umbria was nothing but incredible. 

IMG_4224.jpg
IMG_4228.jpg
IMG_4254.jpg

Cheers to Italy, friends and more travels to come! 

Drop a comment below or give me a follow on Instagram @tripleoblog

 

Views of Vienna

Hallo! 

I am so excited to share all about my quick getaway to Vienna the other weekend. After a wild and nonstop weekend in Amsterdam, it was time to slow it down a bit and check out all of the breathtaking views of Vienna. 

Only being a four hour train ride away from Vienna, Austria, this seemed like the perfect place to getaway to for a quick weekend trip. Furthermore, since it is is peak Fall season, I knew Vienna wouldn't lack in beautiful fall colors, as the town is filled with parks, trees and areas to walk around and take in the nature. 

Vienna definitely blew me away. I hadn't anticipated the incredible amount of diversity in things to do. While there, I visited the Naschmarkt filled with vendors offering a taste of their most delicious delicacies. Falafel's, baklava, candied nuts, dried fruits, turkish candies and more. The market also had a variety of restaurants to sit down at and enjoy the crisp fall air, with of course a blanket and heating lamp provided. 

We visited the most famous Schönbrunn Palace, and made our way through the winding pathways throughout the perfectly manicured archways of trees. The gardens of the Schönbrunn Palace were magical. Spanning as far as the eye could see, the variety and types of flowers seemed to never end. 

As we continued our walking day tour around the city, we realized one of the best parts about Vienna, is that everything is located so close to each other and incredibly easy to get to by foot. Not once, did we take the metro or public transportation. This also allowed us to stumble upon narrow alley ways and admire all of beautiful and traditional Viennese architecture.  

Lastly, we visited the National Gallery and also the incredible city hall of Vienna, known as the Rathaus. This is definitely not like any city hall I've seen before. The city hall where I am from, has two rooms and a front door. Walking up to the plaza towards the Rathaus, I was mesmerized by the gothic architecture and beautiful red flowers adorning the windows. 

Overall, Vienna was a total blast and there are so many different things to do, whether you're into museums, architecture, cafes, good food, shopping, Vienna has it all. There isn't a lack of beauty or things to do in this city. Check out a few of my recommendations below for your next visit!  

Must visit restaurant: Motto & Kussmaul 

Must visit place: Naschmarkt

Must visit cafe: 

Must Visit Museum: Leopold Museum 

Schönbrunn Palace 

Schönbrunn Palace 

IMG_3684.jpg
Gardens of Schönbrunn Palace 

Gardens of Schönbrunn Palace 

austria 5.jpg
austria 9.jpg
IMG_3576.jpg
IMG_3565.jpg
Austria 2.jpg
IMG_3613.jpg
IMG_3617.jpg
Burgring Cafe 

Burgring Cafe 

Burgring Cafe

Burgring Cafe

IMG_3717.jpg
Austria 1.jpg
IMG_3503.jpg

Adventures in Amsterdam

Wow, after being in Prague for nearly 3 months now, I couldn't imagine a more incredible first weekend traveling, than my time spent in Amsterdam the other week with my girlfriend. I can't even begin to count how many times I've thought of going to Amsterdam and decided against it, thinking it was too touristy and overcrowded. I am so excited to share with you all of the incredible places we went to, but I don’t even know where to begin. There were so many places I had on my list to check out and not enough time, so we made sure we hit up the cutest neighborhoods, cafes and places to grab dinner and cocktails.  


When arriving in Amsterdam I was completely overwhelmed with the charm and accessibility of the city. Not once, did we take public transportation as most places are easy to get to and stumbling upon hidden alleyways, graffiti painted walls, local shops and the endless canals throughout the city were some of my favorite times while in Amsterdam.

I still can’t describe to you how much I fell in love with Amsterdam after visiting and the best part is that we barely did any of the “touristy things,” that most people come to do. Having no agenda and getting lost within the city made for the most enjoyable times.

Although my major recommendation to anyone visiting, would be to first just wander and explore the streets and canals, I of course have some incredible places you must check out as well.

Shown below: 

Must Visit Café: Lavinia Good Food Café

Must Visit Café: Café Georgette

Must visit restaurant: Bull & Dogs

Must visit place: Pulitzer Hotel

Must visit restaurant/bar: Palladium (mainly for drinks) (not pictured)

IMG_2899.jpg
IMG_2903.jpg
IMG_2919.jpg

Must Visit Café: Café Georgette

Recently opened this cafe, is light, bright and incredibly well decorated. Their healthy and incredibly creative food options are endless and beautifully done. We both ordered avocado toasts, one being pomegranate, feta and avocado and the other with arugula, prawns and a soft-boiled egg. YUM! Oh and of course, I needed to test out their acai bowl. Pretty much in love.

IMG_3007.jpg
IMG_2988.jpg
IMG_3024.jpg

Must Visit Café: Lavinia Good Food Café

So, I have to be honest, this place was so good, we went back for a second time. The food is so fresh, healthy and there are a ton of veg/vegan options, it is the perfect place for everyone. Additionally, the endless options of fresh juices, nut mylks, dairy free options and the turmeric golden latte, had me swooning. I ordered their breakfast truffle, egg and tomato flatbread and can pretty much say it was one of the best things I've ever tried. Clearly this is a must stop when visiting Amsterdam. Oh...and its incredibly cute inside. Perfect for taking photos. ;) 

IMG_3053.jpg
IMG_3058.jpg
IMG_3062.jpg
IMG_3077.jpg
IMG_3097.jpg

Must visit restaurant: Bull & Dogs

This place...I literally have no words. It was heaven. Look at this milkshake. After coming across this place while doing our research, we knew we NEEDED to stop and check out Bull & Dog's incredibly creative and artistic milkshakes and hot dogs. Interesting combination, but it works. My friend Catie & I decided to go with the Big Banana Bash surrounded with peanut butter and chocolate mixed somewhere in there. Needless to say, it was gone within a matter of minutes as well as the Bourbon Bacon Dog we ordered too. This is definitely a must on my list of places to check out. 

IMG_3112.jpg
IMG_3120.jpg

Must visit place: Pulitzer Hotel

If you are looking for a perfect place to grab a cocktail or glass of wine with incredible decor, this is the place. Located centrally in the Nine Streets neighborhood its incredibly convenient to get to. Make sure to check out the incredible gardens

IMG_3169.jpg
IMG_3172.jpg
IMG_3161.jpg

I can't wait until you experience all of the wonders this adorable town has to offer. Comment below if you visit and have anymore tips for future travelers. 

Cheers!! Make sure to follow my adventures on Instagram @tripleoblog 

Prague's Cutest Cafes pt. 1

Hey all!! 

Can you believe almost a month has gone by since my arrival in Prague? Things have been nonstop since getting here, and I've made sure to jump right in and explore something I love to do most...relax while drinking a beautifully handcrafted coffee amidst a cafe's eclectic and charming decor. 

While there are many more cafes that I have yet to explore here in Prague, I managed to visit a handful of the ones I love most. I think that these top picks of mine are definitely worth exploring and visiting when and if visiting Prague. I also managed to stop by and of course taste some delicious donuts at one of the cafes as well. 

I started my search early in the morning and headed to an area in central Prague known as JZP, Jirio Z Poděbrad.

1. Spižírna 1902- My first stop started at a cafe which just opened nearly a week ago. I was lucky to stumble upon it & was overwhelmed with the charm and artistic mural paintings along the walls and ceiling. Comfortable chairs to lounge in and windows that span from floor to ceiling, there is no lack of natural sunlight shining through. I have put this not only at the top of my list, because it was my first cafe to visit, but in regards to ambiance, comfortability, taste & decor it the best. The cafe offers beautifully crafted foods and drinks, with the option of non-dairy options, using nut mylk. In the evening, this cafe turns into a Tapas bar and serves food + beers & spirits. Its a must on my list. 

IMG_2325.jpg
IMG_2327.jpg
IMG_2335.jpg
IMG_2340.jpg
IMG_2342.jpg
IMG_2345.jpg

2. Coffee Room - Right down the road from the first cafe, is the Coffee Room. The Coffee Room is much smaller in size and but overflowing with people. There is a reason why this coffee shop is consistently busy. Its incredibly "California-esk" type food will make you swoon. Avocado toast with sesame seeds...do I need to say more? Acai smoothie bowls with beautiful fruit overflowing, grain bowls with roasted sweet potatoes, tomatoes and pomegranate seeds, and these are just a few dishes. The food menu is only a portion of the amazing items to order. There are a variety of drinks, which also include nondairy options, but one thing that stood out the most to me was the homemade lemonade. Freshly squeezed lemons, thyme and kiwis all come together to form a fresh, heavenly and refreshing beverage. Again, this cafe is a must visit for me. Make sure to grab a seat outside, if there's room. 

IMG_2352.jpg
IMG_2355.jpg
IMG_2357.jpg
IMG_2369.jpg
IMG_2359.jpg

3. Donut Shop - I know this isn't exactly a full on cafe, but, who cares, they have donuts...and coffee. This adorable and unique shop is also located in the JZP area and funny enough has the same owners as the Coffee Room. I had to put this place on my list of cafes to check out, because every morning donuts are made fresh and they also offer a delicious oat milk latte. Their oat milk latte is creamy, smooth and not overly sweet. Furthermore, its located right beside a wonderful park where you can take your coffee and donut to sit and eat outside. To make this place even "sweeter," they offer "plant based" or vegan donut options for those vegans out there, but you wouldn't ever be able to tell the difference. I'd highly recommend the blueberry and peanut butter donut for your next visit. 

IMG_2393.jpg
IMG_2397.jpg
IMG_2398.jpg
IMG_2400.jpg
IMG_2405.jpg

4. Pekárna - I saved one of the best for last. Located right around the corner from my flat in the area of Prague 2 - Vinohrady, I feel incredibly lucky to live in such a lovely area and this cafe only makes it that much better. The highlight of this cafe, is the homemade bread freshly made every Monday, Wednesday & Friday when they are open. Their traditional Czech bread fills the air with an incredible aroma and the lovely table decorations along with the record player quietly playing tunes creates for an atmosphere you won't want to leave. The first time visiting this adorable cafe, I was greeted by a lovely young Czech girl, who spoke such wonderful English & made all of the customers feel welcome. If you're looking for a place to relax, spend some time doing work & enjoying a latte or espresso, this cafe is another one I recommend. 

IMG_2436.jpg
IMG_2441.jpg
IMG_2450.jpg
IMG_2446.jpg

I have only started to skim the surface of cafes and restaurants here in Prague & I am sure I will have many more recommendations to come. Can't wait to share more about my cafe & restaurant obsessions in the coming months. 

-Ciao xx

Czech Republic Day Trips pt. 1 - Kutná Hora

I am so excited to finally be in the Czech Republic! It has only been one week, and I already feel an instant connection to Prague and the place I live. Very similar to where I grew up, it has trees, parks, running trails everywhere and everyone loves to be outdoors. I have been so busy getting my new life organized that a day trip outside of Prague sounded like the perfect way to get immersed into the culture and see what this amazing country has to offer. So, this past Saturday, I decided to head to a town called Kutná Hora. 

Just an hour east outside of Prague by train, Kutna Hora is an incredibly easy and accessible town to get to. Most known for its unique Sedlec Ossuary or "skeleton church," which adorns skeleton bones on its walls and throughout the building and St. Barbara's Church which showcases its beautiful gothic architecture, it is worth just coming here for that. 

But, Kutná Hora is so much more than that. Developed in 1142, this sweet, charming town seems to have withstood time. I was immediately transported back into the early ages while walking over the broken cobblestone roads and sidewalks and admiring all of the well-kept buildings painted with every color the eye could see. To really experience all that the town has to offer, one needs to explore and get away from the tour groups and typical scenic areas, as I did. Walk along quiet streets, stop into small shops and restaurants that are open. Grab a beer and maybe a sausage too. 

So that is exactly what we did. Situated near St. Barbara's Church, we finally came across one of the only open restaurants around and stopped in. Having not eaten all day, I was starving and ready for a hearty Czech meal. Beers were ordered and we asked for menus, only to find out they weren't serving food and only had a total "4 sausages left and two pairs" of what looked like pairs of hotdogs left. Needless to say, we left that place still hungry, but was a perfect place to rest our feet. 

If ever visiting the CR or Prague, visiting Kutná Hora is definitely a recommendation of mine. It can easily be visited in one day or if you leave early enough, a half day. It gives travelers and tourists a taste of rural life and the villages which border Prague. Life is slower, people are friendly and the beers are amazing. 

Summer Style

Is there anything better than enjoying summer and the sunshine in a sundress? Summer is my favorite season and I can't think of anything I'd rather throw on than an flowy, colorful dress. This summer has been filled with sunshine, fun hangs with friends, travel and shoots with my favorite cousin! 

A couple of my favorite pieces are below and they're the best because of how versatile they can be. Perfect for a casual day walking around or dress it up for a night out. Both items were purchased at Kittsona. The handbag is from The LionHEART Collective

IMG_9844.jpg

Pesto Chicken Caprese Salad

I am so happy to be getting back into the swing of things and picking back up creating recipes, shooting and writing blog posts and sharing them all with you. These past 3 months of student teaching have been crazy and I couldn't be happier to finally be a license/certified Elementary Teacher here in Minnesota! It is definitely time to celebrate and there is no better weekend to go out and enjoy friends, family and the summer weather than over Memorial Day weekend. 

I was trying to think of how I could get back on track with my healthy eating, while still keeping the recipe flavorful and filling and I knew that this Pesto Chicken Caprese Salad would be the perfect thing! Light, healthy and full of variety, this salad will have something everyone can enjoy & share! 

To make this recipe even better, it is super quick easy to throw together and can be done in a variety of ways, with or without meat, add veggies, etc. To simplify, you can use already made pesto sauce, but I have made my own! 

I can't wait for all of you to try this recipe out and bring to your Memorial Day get togethers this weekend...or just eat it all to yourself! Why not? :) 

Salad Ingredients: 

Shredded Romain Lettuce
Arugula
2 chicken breasts (cubed)
Cherry Tomatoes
Shredded parmesan cheese
Mozzarella cheese
Salt & pepper (to taste) 

Dressing Ingredients: 

1 cup Basil leaves
3 Tbsp EVOO
Pine Nuts
1 garlic cloves (or minced garlic)
Juice of 1 lemon 

Directions: 

1. Cut chicken breasts into cubes and put onto wooden or metal skewers
2. Grill for 3-5 minutes on each side at 250 degrees
3. Shred romain lettuce and add to the large bowl along with the arugula
4. Cut cherry tomatoes into halves and add to the salad along with the mozzarella and add to the bowl
5.  Add cooked chicken to top of salad and shred parmesan cheese over
6. For the pesto, add pesto, pine nuts, lemon juice, garlic cloves and EVOO together in a food processor and blend until creamy. 
7. Add dressing to the salad to your liking. 
8. Enjoy! 

Coconut Cream Protein Cookie Sandwich

Lately I have been on a coconut kick and can't get enough of its creamy, delicious taste. This morning I wanted to make something quick, easy and relatively healthy. Something which was gluten-free, low in sugar and filling. Thats when these coconut cream protein cookies were brought to my attention and I knew I had to make them. They are made with all-natural sweeteners and are packed with protein from my favorite Vega protein powder. 

Also, this recipe is vegan, making them perfect for anyone. The coconut cream filling gives these cookie sandwiches the perfect sweetness and makes them fun to eat. They're the perfect anytime snack or for breakfast or an after workout snack. 

Lastly, these protein cookie sandwiches take less than 20 minutes to make with only a handful of ingredients required. The recipe calls for sunflower seeds, but I didn't have any in my pantry so I added pumpkin seeds and walnuts instead. You can find the recipe here. 

To make the Coconut Cream filling, you need 1 can of coconut cream, 1/2 cup of coconut flakes (or enough to thicken the coconut cream mixture), 1/4 c. maple syrup and 1 tsp. of vanilla. 

Chocolate Coconut Cups (V)

I've found my newest obsession and its in the form of sweets...obviously. Also, its just in time for Valentine's Day. These Chocolate Coconut Cups are incredibly easy, all naturally sweetened and vegan. Also, they take no longer than 10 minutes to make and require no more than 5 ingredients. 

These are an absolutely must-try and are the perfect little thing to satisfy any chocolate craving. I found the recipe from one of my favorite blogs: Its To Die For

Ingredients 

For the filling:

1 414mL can coconut cream (refrigerated for at least seven hours)
1 1/2 c. unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla
1 tsp. Himalayan or sea salt

For the chocolate coating:

1 c. coconut oil
1 c. cocoa or cacao powder
1/3 c. maple syrup (or more, to taste)
3/4 tsp. HImalayan or sea salt
Splash vanilla

Directions

  1. Add all filling ingredients into a bowl and combine until smooth with a whisk. Note: for the coconut cream, use only the solid ‘cream’ component (discard or save the watery part for a smoothie). Set in fridge while you make the chocolate coating.
  2. Melt coconut oil in a medium bowl. Add remaining ingredients and whisk together until smooth.
  3. Place baking/muffin cups in your muffin pan (if your paper muffin cups are firm enough you may not need the muffin pan — I find it helpful). Pour a small amount of liquid chocolate sauce into each cup and roll it around so that the chocolate coats the lower sides of the cup. Set in fridge to firm up and then repeat this process up to four times.
  4. Next, add your coconut filling to a ziploc bag and snip off the corner of the bag. Pipe the filling into the cups – as little or as much as you like. I like lots.
  5. Lastly, with a spoon, finish the cups by spooning more liquid chocolate into each muffin cup — make sure the coconuty filling is completely covered. Place in fridge until completely firm and enjoy!

Lemon Thyme Chicken (Whole 30)

There has been a major shift happening in my household lately. My entire life I was all about eating and cooking with white meat chicken breasts. Not anymore, when cooked correctly, chicken thighs are so succulent and juicy and never dry. They are smaller in size and perfect for portion control as well. I found this recipe from the blog Kitchn and it is incredibly easy. One pan, 5 ingredients and so flavorful.  

I love this recipe, because the cooking and the cleanup is easy. Place the chicken thighs in the cast iron skillet skin side down and leave in place for 15 minutes to crisp and brown. Easy, right? After that, add some sliced lemon, thyme sprigs and throw in the oven to finish cooking for another 15 minutes! 

I can't say enough about this easy Whole 30 approved recipe. Its also easy to get creative with this dish and add additional herbs and spices. Enjoy immediately and at work throughout the week! 

 

Lemon Thyme Chicken Thighs

Serves 4

2 pounds chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on (about 4 to 6 thighs)
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1 lemon, sliced thin
5 to 6 fresh thyme sprigs

Directions

Preheat your oven to 400° F. Drizzle the chicken thighs with olive oil and season them well with pinches of salt and pepper.

Place the thighs in a large, cold cast iron skillet, skin-side down. Place the skillet on a burner over medium heat. Let them cook, undisturbed, for 14 to 15 minutes.

When a lot of the fat has rendered out and the skin is crispy and brown, flip the thighs so the crispy skin is up. Dot the cast iron skillet with lemon slices and thyme sprigs and stick it in the hot oven. Let the thighs finish cooking in the oven for 13 to 15 minutes, until they reach an internal temperature of 165° F. If you're in doubt, leave them in for another few minutes.

Coconut Milk Meatballs (Whole 30)

Hello Motivation Mondays! We are back on after this extended quiet period while I've been busy with school and out of town traveling. But, don't worry, because this week's Motivation Monday recipe is back and with a bang!

Over a week ago, I decided to start the Whole 30 challenge for the second time and have been constantly searching for flavorful, creative and healthy meals to make. I then came across these Coconut Milk Meatballs from the blog I Heart Umami, and had been craving them for days! I have always loved all types of curry dishes and this recipe is the perfect combination of East and West cuisine.  Yesterday, I finally got around to making them and am still dreaming about the creamy, decadent, flavorful taste of these coconut curry meatballs. Like me, you guys will never look at meatballs the same way again. They are amaze-balls!!! :) 

This recipe is also easy to double and take the additional leftovers (if there's any) with you to work throughout the week and reheat. 

This kind of recipe makes the Whole 30 challenge a breeze. I can't wait for you all to try them and make sure to share some love and tag me on Instagram @oliviasobjectionsofobsession and follow me live on snapchat @oliviajoan21

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs ground chicken (50 % breast, 50% thigh) or turkey, lamb, veal
  • Lime juice
  • Cilantro for garnish

Meatball seasonings:

  • ¾ cup cilantro
  • 2 small shallots
  • ¾ cup diced carrots
  • ¼ cup basil leaves
  • ½ tbsp ginger
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cumin powder
  • 2 tbsp coconut cream

Sauce:

  • 14 oz full-fat coconut milk 1 can
  • 1 tbsp red curry paste I use Thai Kitchen (sub green curry paste) 
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste no sugar added (sub 2-3 tsp of marinara sauce) 
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander powder (cilantro) 
  • ¼ tsp garam masala powder (combination of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, cumin, black pepper) 

Instructions

  1. Combine and blend the first 5 ingredients listed under "meatball seasonings" in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the rest of meatball seasonings and blend well.

  2. Pre-heat oven to 410/420 F. LIne a non-stick aluminum foil over a large sheet pan. Mix ground meat with the seasonings from Step 1. Mix well and form golf ball size meatballs (about 20 meatballs). Bake first side 20 minutes and flip side 15 minutes or until the meatballs are completely cooked through.

  3. While the meatballs are cooking, mix ingredients under “sauce”. Slow simmer over medium-low heat. Keep stirring the sauce until everything is combined and reduced to a thicker sauce (similar to tomato soup texture). Taste and see if more salt, tomato paste, or red curry paste is needed. * keep stirring the sauce to prevent it from burning in the bottom.

  4. Once the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce is thickened, add the meatballs back to the sauce. Simmer for another 3 minutes. Coat the sauce over meatballs. Drizzle with lime juice and garnish with cilantro leaves before serving.

Chocolate Sea Salt Stuffed Caramel Cookies

Ok, three words: Christmas came early! You're welcome to showing you this amazing, delicious, sweet, salty and chocolatey goodness of a cookie from Ambitious Kitchen! It will change your outlook on all cookies and you can make it just in time to share with all of your friends and family for this holiday season! 

During the holiday season I love trying out new recipes and sharing them with the people I know...and obviously eating some (or mostly all) of them myself. I have always loved baking cookies, especially around this time of year, because its such a great activity that brings all of your family together, whether it be taking part in the actually baking or just sitting around the table eating and enjoying the deliciousness of a cookie!

If you love the sea salt and caramel combination or caramel and chocolate combination, these cookies should be your go to from now on! Plus, they have all of those quintessential holiday spices of cinnamon and nutmeg in them too! They are actually super easy to make, grab some already made caramels from the store, put them in the center of your cookie dough and then roll them into balls! Of course they are best when served warm! 

I can't wait to hear all of your thoughts about these cookies. Have a wonderful holiday and/or Christmas!! Spend lots of time with family and friends and eating good food. 

Share some love with me on Instagram and make sure to follow on Snapchat to watch my weekly Motivation Monday stories! 

White Chocolate Dipped Mocha Cookies

Hello weekend!! I have been in full force Christmas mode recently and frivolously brainstorming tasty and adorable holiday treat ideas...and when I came across this recipe, I knew I needed to make them immediately. They are the perfect combination of minty and sweet, but not overly sweet, because of the dark cocoa powder which is included. Also to add a boost if extra flavor, I added in additional chocolate chips. 

These cookies will be the perfect thing to serve at any holiday party and will be the cutest ones at any cookie exchange! To make these cookies really stand out, I melted some white chocolate to dip in, and sprinkled a variety of green and red sprinkles to make them that much more festive! Chocolate on chocolate with sprinkles? Who wouldn't love these!! 

To see the full recipe, you can find it on the adorable website, Sally's Baking Addition, here.  Enjoy! xx

WEEKEND IN SCOTTSDALE, AZ

Scottsdale. Perfect weather. The perfect combination of relaxation & adventuring. The perfect getaway destination. 

Having visited the Phoenix, Scottsdale area many times while since I was young, I have seen this area change immensely into a iconic destination for celebrations, fun, hiking, exploring and just a place to enjoy the heat. There is a perfect blend of the old city charm with chic new restaurants, rooftop pools and amazing views. 

A perfect weekend getaway in this lovely city should include a stay at the adorable and chic Saguaro hotel, which is also a "bloggers paradise." This colorful, lively and well decorated hotel is located in the heart of Old Town and a short walk down the road from another favorite of mine, Misson restaurant. Hands down, some of the best Mexican cuisine I've had. Make sure to try their traditional marg and make to order guac!  Of course Fashion Square shopping will have everything your heart desires and lastly stop at the W Hotel Scottsdale for some cocktails next to the rooftop pool. 

Photos from my weekend getaway below: 

Cranberry Almond Bundt Cake

This post is short and sweet just like this recipe! Isn't it the best when you can utilize the leftovers you have from a meal or a holiday gathering, like this past Thanksgiving and incorporate them into a new dish. It just spices your meals up and allows you to get creative! Well, that is what this recipe and post is all about. I am a huge cranberry fan and I could eat them all the time. Therefore, since I had a large amount cranberries leftover from Thanksgiving, I knew this Cranberry Almond Bundt cake would be the perfect recipe & who doesn't love a beautiful bundt cake!? You MUST check out this recipe and it can also continue to be the perfect dessert for this holiday season! You can find the recipe here!! 

P.S. I subbed whole fat greek yogurt in place of the sour cream to reduce the amount of calories! Its a 1:1 transfer ratio! 

Make sure tag @oliviasobjectsofobsession if you share on social media & follow along on snapchat @oliviajoan21 to see live recipes every Monday! 

Maple-Roasted Hasselback Butternut Squash

Lets just say this is one of the most impressive dishes I've come across and it actually looks much harder than it really is. Oh and with a maple syrup glaze mixture to highlight the beautiful flavors of the butternut squash, this dish will be a reoccurring staple for all of your future thanksgiving meals or week night dinners! This recipe was inspired by Chez LaRae and the recipe can be found here

The best part about this recipe, is that it doesn't require much assistance. Throw it in the oven, pour the glaze on here and there & after 45-55 minutes, its done and ready to serve! 

Make sure to share the love on social media and tag me @oliviasobjectsofobsession 

Thanksgiving Sides (Zesty Cranberry Sauce + Orange Basil Sweet Potatoes)

Its the beginning of the best time of year, holiday season!! Its Thanksgiving this week and I have been non-stop getting in the holiday spirit, baking, making recipes for Thanksgiving and spending time with friends and family. But, lets be real, the holiday season is one of the busiest times of year and who doesn't want an easy way out or a quick recipe to make! Thats why I am sharing with you these two amazing and incredible easy recipes that your friends and family will love. 
Push that can of already made cranberry sauce to the side and say hello to this fresh & zesty cranberry sauce that takes no longer than 10 minutes. Throw in some fresh cranberries, orange zest, some sweeteners and let boil, then you're ready to go! You can find the recipe and details, here

Moving on to my second favorite and technically more healthy item than your average mashed potato is this incredible orange, basil mashed sweet potatoes from Andie Mitchell's recipe book Eating in the Middle.  Throw a few whole sweet potatoes in the oven for an hour. When the sweet potatoes are soft in the middle scoop the insides out and transfer to a bowl. Add 2 Tbsp of butter, 1/4 cup of maple syrup, nutmeg, salt & pepper and mash together well! Before serving add some chopped fresh basil and serve!! 

Duh, these are the two easiest side dishes you could make on this crazy day of cooking, prepping, traveling, or just relaxing. Make prepare these ahead of time and reheat as well to ease your stress away! 

Thanks again for following and have the best Thanksgiving day!  

Wild Mushroom Stuffing

I know that Thanksgiving and the upcoming holidays have been on everyone's minds lately, especially my own, and that is why these next few weeks are all going to be focused around Thanksgiving! I am thinking about you all and that is why I went searching the internet to find the best and most delicious holiday recipes that you can make and share with your family and friends, or all to yourself...lets be honest! I found this recipe from one of my favorite sites, What's Gaby Cooking

The past couple of weeks, I have been testing out this new stuffing recipe, since I've never made any sort of stuffing before in my life. Not even boxed stuffing! So after trying this out a couple times, I am certain, that this Wild Mushroom Stuffing will be the best dish on your plate without a doubt! It is fresh, flavorful and down right delicious! It also gets better with time and as leftovers, as the bread soaks up all of the amazing flavors and juices! Also, I know not everyone LOVES mushrooms, so you can definitely leave them out & it will still be a winner!! 

I can't wait to cook this for my entire family and for every Thanksgiving holiday from here on out!  Make sure to share some love and tag me on Instagram @oliviasobjectsofobsession and follow me live on Snapchat @OliviaJoan21