June 21, 2017

Maggie’s Florence Adventure

I know what you’re thinking; those LMP girls must REALLY love Italy. I know Abby just took a trip to Italy this spring and you’ve already heard all about it, but I promise I have a unique experience to share too!

When my friend Colleen said she was thinking about going to Florence in June, I knew I had to nudge my way onto her trip. Colleen and I studied abroad in Florence 5 years ago, so although it’s a city I know well from living there for 4 months, I couldn’t help but think “this trip is exactly what I need right now.” No exhausting lines with other tourists. No pressure to see the sights. All I had to do was focus on eating, drinking, and getting inspired.

If you haven’t heard yet, I’ve recently been hired full time (yay!) with Little Miss Party. For the past 2.5 years I’ve worked remotely with the team from Boston, where I’ve lived for 7 years. I traveled intermittently to NYC, which is when you may have seen me on Seri’s Snapchat or Instagram. We were finally ready to make a big transition, so I will officially be moving to NYC on July 1st! It’s been quite the journey for me over this past year, but I knew in my heart that working with LMP was my dream come true. You can learn more about my journey and all the reasons I was ready to leave Boston on my personal blog.

Needless to say, it’s been a crazy couple months for me, and knowing I would soon be VERY busy with the move to NYC, I knew that I had to take the opportunity to travel now before life gets in the way. Because so much of my life revolves around creativity, I planned this trip knowing my main focus was to take in the beauty, photograph my experiences and EAT EVERYTHING IN SIGHT.

Let’s start with sights:

The Darling details of Italy

Gorgeous cars, posed perfectly against the traditional architecture of Florence.

Every building has rooftop & porch gardens. It brings beautiful new life to this old city.

Bicycles EVERYWHERE! And more plants!

Archways over narrow streets, casting the most beautiful light. Your eyes will never be disappointed on a casual walk through this city.

Sights for Sore Eyes

The Duomo is easily the most famous building in all of Florence. This feat of architectural beauty creates a “wow” factor for any passerby. Although I recommend seeing the views of Florence from the top of the Duomo Bell tower, the lines during tourist season are INSANE and walking around the outside of this building is impressive in itself.

The Arno is the river that divides Florence, and while in town, walking across its many bridges is necessary. Lined with many restaurants and hotels, this river is a beautiful sight, especially at sunset. Be sure to walk across the Ponte Vecchio but the better views are from the bridges surrounding it.

For the best views of Florence AND the surrounding Tuscan countryside, I would suggest walking up to Forte di Belvedere. All the tourists go to Piazzale Michaelangelo, and although it’s beautiful up there, it’s always packed. This location is much quieter and offers a grander view of the area. We only knew about this spot because we spent the whole week with our wonderful local friend who shared the secret with us!

Next, let’s discuss food and drinks:

Pasta

One of our favorite pasta stops was Trattoria Sant’Agostino which of course, we stumbled upon after a couple hours of walking and feeling famished. We purposely sought out locations off the beaten path, in small alleyways where we could tell everyone inside was speaking Italian. We wanted the authentic experience, and this place did not disappoint.

Pizza

If you’re looking for a freshly made pizza, Gusta Pizza is a must-go. Although a tourist attraction and always busy, this spot makes your pizza to order in their own brick oven so it comes out piping hot and delicious.

truffle everything

Truffle is in season in Italy, and you see it very frequently at the local restaurants. One night in search of a late dinner, we found Trattoria Napaleone which had a menu with a section of pasta that included truffle in every dish. So, we ordered truffle carbonara, truffle ravioli, and truffle gnocchi. No regrets. this place was beyond amazing with a true Florentine atmosphere.

Coccoli, prosciutto and stracchino

This is a famous appetizer in Florence, which is essentially fried bread, soft cheese, and prosciutto. It was simply delicious everywhere we tried it.

wine

We cannot forget one of the most important parts of going to Italy. THE WINE. It flows like water, and boy, did we drink it like it was.

We were lucky enough to go with our local friend, Angelica, outside of Florence about 45 minutes via public bus to Marchesi Antinori, a famous winery of Tuscany. The region is famous for Chianti Classico, an esteemed red wine that has been made there for hundreds of years.

Although we all tasted the Chianti Classico with lunch it was a HOT day. After learning about the winery and walking the grounds, we cooled off with their equally delicious rosé.

Finally, let’s focus on the things that made this trip inspiring:

The entire time we were there, Colleen and I had our cameras out and ready to capture the things that caught our eyes. Colleen is an amazing artist, designer, and photographer and I am so lucky to call her my friend. We fueled each other during our week back in Florence to capture the beautiful moments.

Colleen and I planned this trip so we could work on one of her (many) amazing side projects, Wanderwise. She is hoping to bring change the tourist industry of Florence with these creative workshops, and I’m so lucky I was there to help her brainstorm.

This trip was very nostalgic for us. This is us in front of the apartment we lived in 5 years ago. It was this place that developed our friendship and made us into the artists we are today.

Florence is a city filled with tradition. We were there during one of the famous city-wide rugby matches and were able to watch a parade to celebrate the big game. This procession lasted about 45 minutes with hundreds of men in traditional, colorful, and heavy garb.

Our wonderful Italian friend, Angelica is the daughter of one of our professors from studying in Florence. She was kind enough to show us around her city, help us order the best food, and provide a warm welcome for our entire stay.

The beautiful, old architecture of Italy is always so entwined with nature. I was so happy to walk around and see greenery and flowers every way I turned.

I came home from this trip feeling full, happy, and READY to move! I hope you enjoyed seeing pieces of my trip. Feel free to follow me on Instagram (@maggieantalek) to see my future travels, daily BTS at Little Miss Party, and my new adventures in NYC. Watch out New York, I’m coming for you next!

xx, Maggie
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June 20, 2017

Rosé Sangria for National Pink Day

As you know, we are all about rosé here at LMP, and pink is our absolute favorite color. National Pink Day is coming up this Friday, and it felt like a very natural choice to create a perfectly pink cocktail to celebrate.

We also have 3 big events happening this week, so I decided to keep it simple and whip up some Rosé Sangria, using raspberries, strawberries and mint, with some blueberries for a hint of green and blue. This recipe is super simple and a refreshing way to kick off summer!

Here’s what you need:
-Rosé wine
-sparkling water or club soda
-sugar
-fresh strawberries
-fresh raspberries
-fresh blueberries
-fresh mint
-ice

Here’s what to do:
1) In a pitcher, combine 1 bottle rosé wine, 1 cup each of sliced strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and 2 tbsp. sugar. Stir to combine ingredients, and leave to refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
2) After you have let sit, top with 1.5 cups seltzer, a cup of ice and a handful of ripped mint leaves.
3) Stir gently to combine, and serve, garnishing with a fresh mint leaf!

Boom! Super easy, right? This sangria is fresh and not too sweet – the perfect sip to cool down on these hot summer days.

Cheers, and happy #NationalPinkDay!

Until next week…

xx, Abby
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June 19, 2017

Chef Luke makes hummus & pita chips

As the school year is winding down, after school activities are also coming to an end. So the boys have had a lot of free time lately. Since Tuesdays opened up for Gavin he’s been asking to cook with Luke!

Luke loves hummus and we’ve been talking about making it so there you have it. We found the easiest recipe on our friend’s site, Weelicious. We added baked pita chips into the mix so the boys would have something good to dip when the hummus was ready!

The best part of this recipe? It’s healthy. Ugh. I love when that happens!

We set out a plate of veggies for the boys to eat while they were cooking (because they are always hungry) and they also dipped these into their hummus.

Want to see how it all went down? Watch it here.

xx, Seri
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June 13, 2017

Peach and Raspberry Martini

National Martini Day is coming up next week on Monday, and you know I needed to whip up something delicious to celebrate! Natalie helped me do some brainstorming and she found the idea for a peach martini on Pinterest, and I decided to incorporate my favorite fruit into the mix – raspberries! So, introducing… my Peach Raspberry Gin Martini.

Here’s what you need:
-gin
-fresh peaches
-fresh raspberries
-cranberry juice
-fresh mint
-ice
-blender

Here’s what to do:
1) Combine 3 oz. of gin, 2 fresh peaches, peeled and sliced, 2 oz. cranberry juice, and ice in blender.  Blend until you reach smoothie consistency.
2) Pour mixture into each cocktail glass.  Garnish with fresh raspberries and mint!

Hope you enjoy this refreshing, fruity cocktail and that it gets you in the spirit for National Martini Day… Cheers!

Until next time…

xx, Abby
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June 9, 2017

Ready, Set, Weekend with Simply Beautiful Eating

Guess what?

I HAVE OVENS!

Not one but two. Yep. That’s what I wanted in the new kitchen, because God only knows what the future will bring. I figured that it was a practical move since entertaining for a crowd will be inevitable. My mom always loved  her double ovens. When she hosted  large family gatherings twice a year, there was always enough room to place extra dishes in both to keep all the food nice and toasty.

Last night I made my first pizza in the lower oven. Why the lower one? It’s much easier to reach into. Despite the fact that there is still no running water on the main floor, I am absolutely thrilled to be able to bake, broil and roast again.

As an added bonus, Steve has planted all our fresh herbs in the garden and you know what that means? I’m out there snipping and clipping. Now, I’m not a big chive lover but to be honest, they were unbelievably good on this pizza. Along with the fresh herbs, I used sliced zucchini and farmers cottage cheese for my toppings. This was one fancy dancy pizza, don’t ya think?

Oh, and I also have counter space to work on now. OODLES of counter space, which I’m going to tell you about.

I’m in the midst of writing a detailed renovation blog, but I wanted to share this one piece of information with you today. If you have been following along in this adventure, you will remember that I have ISSUES in making up my mind. It’s not that I’m indecisive. Well, maybe a little. Okay, maybe A LOT.

I just want things to be RIGHT. I figured that I have to be in love with the choices I make for this kitchen, otherwise I will be waiting for the opportunity to change things in the future. Deciding on a counter top was one of the toughest decisions for me to make.

You see, being a food blogger means that you are going to beat the crap out of your work space. It means drips, spills, scratches and work space abominable messes. What does all that mean? It points towards choosing a durable surface that can withstand ME.

I searched and searched through every possible man made quartz counter top sample and finally decided on one.

THEN.

I changed my mind. (insert Steve’s eye roll thingie here) Let me tell you what happened.

I walked into a showroom to choose my quartz slab and the salesperson said “don’t look to the right”. When I asked her what she meant by “don’t look to the right”, she informed me that all the marble slabs were to the right and all the quartz slabs were to the LEFT.

So naturally I went to the right.

That was my first mistake, because I fell hopelessly IN LOVE. All the slabs I saw were exactly what I have dreamt of having in my kitchen. There wasn’t one person who didn’t try to talk me out of getting marble. I was basically told “it would be the worst decision ever”.

So what did I do?

I chose marble.

Am I insane for doing so? Probably. Is it beautiful? YES. Is it perfect? No. With every natural stone there are flaws, but I guarantee that there will be more once I start my usual kitchen antics.

I was super careful last night with this pizza. I used every trivet I had in the house to make sure that the pan didn’t come in contact with the counter. Worth it? Uh huh.

Making my own pizza dough is something that I love to do, but for a quick version and since I’m still running up and down the stairs for water, I used a store bought whole grain shell for this pizza. Easy peasy.

The whole shebang took me less than ten minutes to throw together and look how pretty it is!

I’m starting to see a light at the end of the kitchen tunnel. For instance, I have a couch now which has nothing to do with the kitchen, but it’s somewhere that we can sit now. Or should I say, the cat can sit. She was ecstatic that we gave her back some furniture to park her butt on. Why is it that she thinks she owns everything? Most likely because she DOES.

ZUCCHINI & FARMERS CHEESE PIZZA WITH FRESH CHIVES

– 1 store bought pizza shell
– flavored olive oil, I used garlic& herb
– 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
– ½ cup fresh baby spinach leaves
– 1 teaspoon dried oregano
– 2 zucchinis, thinly sliced, steamed and blanched
– 6 tablespoons farmers cottage cheese or goat cheese
– kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
– fresh basil leaves, for garnish
– 2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives for garnish

1) Preheat oven to 450F. Grease a 14-inch round pizza pan. Place your pizza shell on the pan and brush with flavoured oil.
2) Evenly sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over the crust. Top with spinach leaves. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and sprinkle the dried oregano evenly over the top.
3) Bake in the lower third of the oven until the crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly and browning on top, 8 -10 minutes. Meanwhile, steam zucchini slices for 3 minutes in the microwave with 2 tablespoons of cold water. Drain and blanch in ice cold water.
4) Remove pizza from oven and top with zucchini, dollop farmers cottage cheese over it and sprinkle with chives. Place back into the oven for two to three minutes just to warm through. Slice and serve immediately.

See you next week!

debi @simplybeautifuleating

xx, Debi
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