Homemade Focaccia Bread

Who doesn’t love bread? I LOVE bread, and one of my favorites is probably focaccia bread. I made it for the first time, and decided I am never going to buy focaccia bread again, so much better homemade.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves (2 tsp minced garlic)
  • 1 tsp dry thyme
  • 1 tsp dry rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/4 tsp honey
  • 2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt

To make to oil: add the olive oil, garlic, thyme, and rosemary in a pot and warm on the stove for about 10 minutes. The oil should not get to a boiling temperature, just warm. The house smelled amazing in about 5 minutes, I just left it on the back burner on warm while I did everything else.

I used a large glass bowl, and added a the cup of water, honey and yeast together and let it sit for about 5 minutes while my oil cooled. I then added 1 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of the oil mixture into the water/yeast/ honey mixture. Finally add the remainder 1 1/2 cups of flour and salt to the mixture.

Knead the dough until it becomes a smooth texture, cover the bowl with a warm towel and let the dough rise for 1 hour. After an hour, preheat the oven to 450. Use a few tsps of the leftover olive oil to oil a 9×13 pan. Push the dough out into the pan. You can use your fingers to make craters on the dough. Pour the remainder of your oil mixture over the top of the pan. Let the pan sit for another 20-30 minutes before baking. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a cooling rack for at least 20 minutes before cutting the bread.

I served the bread with honey/ ricotta as well as honey butter with black pepper.

bonappetit

I can’t wait to make this again when I make pasta! It would be a great combo.

🖤

Costa Rica: Tamarindo

After over a week of adventures, we were ready for the warm city of Tamarindo on the West coast of Costa Rica! We spent Christmas Day driving to the beach town. It took us about 4 hours to get there…fortunately we were in a private bus transfer with WiFi. Once we checked into our Airbnb we spent the afternoon walking around and exploring the city. We walked along the beach and enjoyed some street-side acai bowls.

We then ran into someone who suggested we go to Dragonfly Bar & Grill for our Christmas dinner. So after happy hour at our house we were off to dinner. The flavor of the food was amazing with a great vibe. We had the best time that evening!

We immediately knew that the food in Tamardino was going to be the best compared to the rest of our trip! We decided that we were going to try as many places as we could. The city is extremely tourist driven, and there are a lot of cuisines owned by people who migrated to Costa Rica after leaving their respective countries. The next morning we went to a place called Breaking Bread. We had an amazing breakfast with fresh bread, the owner comes in at 4 am and bakes every morning.

We spent the rest of the day at a pool club day drinking at Langosta Beach Club. We enjoyed the whole day in the pool with drinks and a beach view!

We were having such a wonderful time while at the Beach Club, we decided to stick around longer and order food poolside. We actually had decent sushi and seafood for lunch that afternoon.

Most of our late afternoon and evening was spent resting and relaxing at our house. There were still so many different places we wanted to eat, but ultimately we ended up at La Baula for some brick-oven pizza.

After pizza, we went to a bar under our airbnb called Sharky’s to watch the Bulls game. That next day was our last in Costa Rica so we wanted to make the most of it. First, we grabbed breakfast across the street at Cafe Tico. Then we decided to relax at the house pool, just to get a little bit more water fun before our trip was over.

After our time in the pool, we went to Falafel Bar for lunch. The food was amazing, and the homemade sauce was so good we brought some back to Chicago! After lunch we went to Sol for frozen yogurt.

Then we were off to the beach after ice cream for our final sunset in Costa Rica! This was bitter sweet because it was our last night and we missed our home and our puppy!

The boys wanted to do their own thing that night, so my cousin and I went to Bamboo Sushi Club for dinner.

The next morning we got acai bowls from the same spot as the first day, and then we were off to the airport. We had Priority Pass, so we just hung out in the lounge until it time for our flight. Costa Rica was a wonderful time with wonderful company. Truly a trip to remember, but I don’t know if we would ever go to Costa Rica again since it’s so far. I’m glad we did a 12 day trip, so we could see everything we wanted in this beautiful country.

🖤

Costa Rica: Monteverde

Our transfer from La Fortuna to Monteverde was “jeep-boat-jeep”. OH BOY were we in for a treat. Little did we know this was going to be the biggest, most unforgettable adventure of our lives. We got on a bus which was going to bring us to our boat, which kept driving along the coast with no dock in site. News for us…there was no dock, the boat was just pulled up on shore and they threw our luggage on for us and we were on our way across Lake Arenal. The view of the volcano as we drifted away was absolutely breathtaking. We thought we were in a Jurassic Park movie in that moment.

As time passed the water was getting a little choppy as a storm was rolling in. The sky got darker, the wind was picking up, and we were getting anxious because we wanted to get off the boat before the rain started. We slowly approached an inlet where there was a wooden stool AKA our dock! There was no one there to help us with our bag, so we had to lug our luggage up a gravel path to charter buses waiting for us. This is where the adventure actually began. The rain began, and we quickly realized that the gravel road the bus was parked on was going to be the road for the rest of the journey. This was probably the most terrifying ride of my life. We scaled the mountain edges in a charter bus, and often the tire was inches away from the edge…hundreds of feet above the ground below. I think my heart rate was 180+ BPM the whole time. Finally we were about an hour away from our drop off point when we got Costa Rican coffee at sunset.

We got to our drop off point pretty late and our airbnb host drove us up the the highest peak of the area where our rental was located, in Rainbow Valley. It was so dark and windy up there we had no idea where we were until we woke up the next morning and saw the breathtaking views.

The first thing we had planned that morning was a coffee tour at Don Juan. Who knew that coffee beans came from what looks like a red berry that grows on a bush! We learned so much on the tour, not only about coffee, but also chocolate and sugar cane.

After the tour we decided to go to lunch in town. We picked a local spot called Sabor Tico, with more authentic Costa Rican food. The food was very good.

We got back to our airbnb just in time to enjoy our first sunset at the house and it was beautiful. Pictures don’t even justify how amazing the sunsets and sunrises were.

After the sunset we went to Ristorante D’ Thomas to have a nice Italian dinner. Monteverde, as well as the rest of Costa Rica was very tourist driven. Their whole economy basically runs on tourists, so they had a lot of different restaurants. Everything from Italian to sushi places.

The next morning we were off to Selvatura Adventure Park to hike some hanging bridges. It was beautiful, another instance where pictures didn’t do justice.

After a long morning of hiking we were off to a cute brunch stop called Orchid Coffee Shop. Turns out, there was one in La Fortuna and we didn’t even know.

Later that night we went on a night hike to see the creatures that come out at night. We saw a sloth and a poisonous viper among other creatures that are nocturnal. We definitely went out of our comfort zones that night.

After our night walk we decided to try a taco place that we had passed earlier that night. It was called Taco Taco Taqueria. We spent the evening enjoying some Mexican food, which was pretty good. They even had beer flights with a surprisingly extensive beer list.

The next morning we were just going to go explore, with no real plans in mind. We first stopped for breakfast at the lodge down the road from out rental. The lodge owner told us to check out Sky Adventures Monteverde Park, where we could see more hanging bridges and take a gondola ride up into the mountains above the clouds. It was an excellent recommendation!

Afterwards we had definitely worked up an appetite and we were off to a restaurant called World Street Food. Sounds better then it was. Their fryer was unfortunately broken and they couldn’t make a number of things on the menu. Their service was also slow. Later that night we enjoyed our LAST sunset in Monteverde over a bottle of wine and had dinner at Sabor Tico again since it was one of our favorite food spots in Monteverde. It was a perfect Christmas Eve!

Our final morning we were able to see a breathtaking rainbow with the moon as we walked down to the lodge to wait for our transportation to our next stop: Tamarindo!

🖤

Costa Rica: La Fortuna

We went to Costa Rica with my cousin and brother-in-law this December and it was definitely a trip to remember! I am going to split my post into 3 entries since we went to 3 different areas of Costa Rica. We landed in Liberia, Costa Rica after a long day of travel that started at 4am in Chicago, along with a layover in Texas. After a long customs line, we were greeted by our driver and some Imperial Beer (the local beer we drank the entire time we were in Costa Rica). We then began our 3+ hour journey to La Fortuna and our resort, Tabacon Thermal Resorts & Spa.

Our first stop on the drive about an hour away from our resort was a COFFEE STOP! We stopped at Cafe & Macadamia. Our first of many Costa Rican coffees – pura vida! (a common local saying that means “pure life”).

The sun set, and we were still about an hour away from the hotel. We were so thankful we decided to hire a driver at this point. All the roads in Costa Rica pretty much look the same and there were no street signs anywhere, but the drivers just knew where to go.

Our hotel was beautiful, absolutely breathtaking. On a clear day, we were able to see the Arenal Volcano from the hot springs. The naturally created thermal baths were very relaxing and warm! We would venture out in our hotel robes to enjoy the natural hot springs everyday.

We spent every morning drinking Costa Rican coffee and eating fresh fruit with a beautiful view. For lunch that day, we ventured out to a local place called Red Frog Coffee Roaster. It was one of our favorite places on the whole trip.

We were able to explore the town that afternoon and check out a bar and local pizza spot for dinner. Costa Rica was very big on pizza, but I think they were just catering to tourists.

The next morning, we were off to repel off waterfalls. We took a bus ride to the pick up point where a jeep picked us up and took us to the start point of the excursion. Little did we know, we were doing more than repelling. We were cannonballing into water, walking through rivers waist deep and zip-lining! It was too late to turn around, we were all in! The experience was unforgettable.

We also got an authentic home cooked Costa Rican meal after the excursion, which was well deserved. We were hungry after all that repelling! That evening, we went to a nice dinner at Don Rufino.

The next day, we decided to go on a sloth tour. We were able to see 4 sloths during our tour!

Later that afternoon we had spa dates at the hotel. Probably one of the most relaxing experiences I have ever had!

Our last evening was spent going to a chicken place called Pollo Fortuneno, a rotisserie chicken restaurant popular with locals. Then we ended the night eating gelato.

Our last morning in Arenal was spent exclusively at the beautiful resort. We woke up, and had our usual breakfast and walked around the resort. We then spent a few hours at the pool before we had to check out of the rooms and wait for our transport.

Next stop: Monteverde! We really enjoyed our time in La Fortuna, but we were ready for the next part of our trip!

🖤

Aba

Mediterranean food is probably one of my favorite cuisines and I was so excited to find this spot over the summer. Aba is a hidden gem, you have to take a random elevator up to the restaurant and you don’t know what to expect until you get to the top. Walking in, it was absolutely beautiful. Even though it was summer it was chilly in the evening and we wanted to sit inside. The rooftop was even nicer then the inside. The restaurant was aesthetically pleasing so I loved it the minute we walked in! 

Loved all the green plants inside! 

We had gone out prior to dinner for some drinks, but the drinks here were very good. They were fresh and unique. I definitely want to go back just for the drinks one day.

The food was amazing to say the least. We actually over ordered and ended up taking the kabobs home. I can’t wait to come back and try the rest of the menu.

PSA: they have heated domes on their rooftop during the winter!

🖤

2 Ingredient Bagels

2 Ingredient Bagels

What’s better than fresh homemade bagels on a cold winter day? I love finding new recipes on blogger’s pages that I follow- thanks everythingerica! I actually ended up making these two days in a row! First I tried the everything bagels. Then the next day I tried both the everything and cinnamon raisin. Now I don’t know which I liked better, haha.

Everything Bagel ingredients :

  • 1 cup Gold Medal self rising flour
  • 1 cup greek yogurt (you can do either 0% or 2% fat)
  • 1 egg white
  • Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel Seasoning ($1.99 at the store)

If you are feeling ambitious, you can make your own Everything But the Bagel seasoning with the following ingredients mixed together:

  • 2 tbs poppy seeds
  • 1 tbs white sesame seeds
  • 1 tbs black sesame seeds
  • 1.5 tbs dry minced garlic
  • 1.5 tbs dry minced onion
  • 2 tsp sea salt

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, mix 1 cup of the self rising flour with 1 cup of greek yogurt until it doesn’t stick to your hand. If it does stick to your hand, just add more flour to compensate. Make a ball and cut into 4 equal parts (this much flour will make 4 bagels, so increase the recipe accordingly). Roll into logs and join ends to make a bagel shape, then place onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Brush with egg white and sprinkle on the everything seasoning. Bake for 23 minutes, then broil for 2-3. Let them cool and enjoy!

Follow the same recipe for the cinnamon raisin bagels. Add the self rising flour and yogurt 1:1 ratio, then add cinnamon and brown sugar to taste, along with raisins. Roll into logs, join ends, and place onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Brush with egg white and bake for 23 minutes, then broil for 2-3.

This summer I will be trying blueberry, poppy seed, seesame, onion and asiago cheese bagels!

This is what the bagels look like before you bake them:

This is what the bagels look like after you bake them:

🖤

A Look Back at 2018

A Look Back at 2018

Oh what a year 2018 was! So much happened this year I don’t even know where to begin. 2018 started with a weekend trip to New York.

New York was followed by a weekend trip to Cancun, Mexico. It was a week filled with fun, sun and relaxation!

A month after we came home from Cancun, I was off to Denver for my brother in law’s birthday weekend. It was an amazing weekend in Breckenridge spent skiing, snowmobiling and hanging out in a cabin!

My favorite place this year was the 3 Arts Cafe inside of Restoration Hardware. So pretty, and the food was great!

When April came around, it was time for another trip. We were ready to leave the Chicago cold so we went to Orlando. We visited 2 of the Disney parks, Universal Studios, plus I rented my first convertible!

The beginning of May was spent moving into a new building…and it was finally summer. The warmer weather also meant rooftop season was in full swing. We loved every moment of sipping drinks in the sky. In mid-May we went to UIUC for my sisters graduation. I also celebrated my friend/forever roomie’s Bachelorette party in Chicago over the summer. We spent 4th of July in Chicago with our friends.

July ended with a work trip to Las Vegas! What a wonderful and HOT week it was. I was at a trade show during the day for work, but we were fortunate enough to be able to enjoy the nights exploring Vegas.

We flew home from Vegas and drove straight to Madison, WI for my friends wedding. What a wonderful weekend filled with love and celebration!

I went to my first concert, and saw Drake! We took Ace to his first fest, Little Italy fest. My sister Neha got her white coat for pharmacy school. I joined Orange Theory Fitness and absolutely love it! I got my first letter board! These are just some of the highlights from the end of summer.

I had my first staycation in Chicago and did SO MUCH in the city over 1 weekend. This was right before my 29th birthday! One of my most favorite weekends of 2018!!!

2018 was filled with so much love and laughter! I traveled, went to weddings, engagement parties, birthday parties and more. We ended 2018 with a trip to Costa Rica which I will post about later. Can’t wait to see what 2019 brings!

🖤

Quiche Galore

I have always been a fan of quiche, but have never tried making it myself. I read a bunch of different recipes before improvising and creating my own!

I started with Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust (you can always make your own pie crust, but I wasn’t feeling ambitious enough to do that). I think if you want to make a more healthy quiche, you need to make your own crust. I’ll definitely be experimenting with an oats/wheat based crust next time. I pushed the pie crust into a 9″ pan, made holes on the bottom with a fork, and let the crust cook for about 10 minutes at 425 degrees.

I made two different fillings:

Spinach Mushroom: 1 frozen slab of spinach (thawed and water squeezed out), half a container of fresh mushrooms (cooked on low heat for 3-5 mins), 1 cup milk (I used 2%, feel free to use a heavier milk if you want something more rich), 1-1½ cups of shredded gouda cheese, 2 eggs, 3 egg whites, salt and pepper 

Veggie: 1 tomato, 1 white onion + 1 jalapeno (cooked on low heat for 3-5 minutes), 1 cup milk, 1-1½ cups of shredded cheddar cheese, 2 eggs, 3 egg whites, salt and pepper 

I poured each of the mixtures into the cooled pie crusts and put them back in the oven at 350 degrees for 55 minutes. I took it out right before it started browning because I was taking it to a potluck. Then before they were served, we warmed them in the oven again. This made the pies a little crispy at the end, which was perfect. 

There are so may different ingredients you can put in a quiche. I am going to try making my own version of the Lou’s Special deep dish pizza next time. 

🖤

Guilt Free Apple Pie

I made an improv apple pie one morning without 2 key ingredients: flour and butter. Granted it wasn’t the best pie I’ve ever eaten, but it was definitely a healthy alternative!

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 apples (honesty you can use whatever kind of apple you want)
  • 2-3 cups of oat (whatever you don’t use to make the crust becomes the crumble on top)
  • brown sugar
  • sugar
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  • lime juice
  • 2-3 eggs
  • warm water

I first used my Ninja Blender to grind the oats into a fine powder. To the oats I added 3 eggs, a few teaspoons of water, and about a 1/2 cup of sugar. I then pressed the “dough” into an 8in pan and cooked it for 10-12 minutes at 375F. While the crust was cooking, I pealed and cut up 3 apples. Then added about 3 tablespoons of lime juice, a half a cup of both brown sugar and sugar, 1 tsp nutmeg, and cinnamon to taste.

When the crust came out, I filled it with the pie filling, and added the remainder of the oats as crumble on top. I baked the pie for about 30 minutes until it was slightly brown on top.

There were 2 great things about the pie: that it didn’t take long to make, and it was truly guilt free.

I definitely want to play around with this recipe and maybe try a different filling in the next few weeks!

🖤

Girls trip to Arizona

Girls trip to Arizona

With my birthday right around the corner, I wanted to look back to my birthday trip last year. It was the first girls trip I had ever taken and it was the best time! We picked Arizona because we knew the weather would be awesome and we found an amazing Airbnb. It was a weekend trip, so we had to make the most of it. The day we got there, we decided to drive straight to Sedona and spend the day there. It was absolutely beautiful!

The first stop was lunch with a view!

We had some time to kill before the Pink Jeep Tours that afternoon, so we just walked around town for a bit. The sights we saw while on the tour were so breathtaking! There is no other way to see Sedona then that tour.

IMG_6319.JPG

At the end of the day, we made a long drive back to Arizona and stopped at Costco for dinner at the food court and groceries. We finally got to our Airbnb that night and just had a girls night in!

The next morning we started off with brunch at Snooze. There was a PANCAKE FLIGHT on the breakfast menu!

We spent the rest of the day hiking on Echo Trail at Camelback Mountain! It was a difficult hike to say the least. But we did it!

After the hike we went to a juice bar called Nékter Juice Bar. It was just what we needed after that long hike.

After a long nap we were ready to go out that night and celebrate my birthday. It was a successful night out filled with dancing, good music, bottle service and pizza!

The last day in Arizona was a pool day at the Airbnb pool. Before everyone woke up, I went and visited my nieces that live in AZ, glad I got to spend some time with them. The weather was wonderful and it was the perfect way to end the weekend!

Can’t wait for another girls trip!

🖤