Colorful Caprese Salad

Pin It This salad tasted as good as it looked.  And it looked as good as it tasted!  You get the picture.  This good looking salad was tasty.   It's all in the ingredients when it comes to making a delicious Colorful Caprese Salad.   Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella is preferred, though regular fresh will also do.  Vine Ripened Tomatoes from the garden are preferred, but these cute colorful ones from the store will do for now.  Freshly cut sweet little Basil leaves are mandatory, and if there is one thing to remember it is that few things in life are as important as a high quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Throw it all together with some sea salt and freshly cracked pepper and you have the perfect starter salad, or main course.  Heck, I love it so much I would eat it for dessert.
The trick to eating a Caprese salad is to get a basil leaf, a tomato, and about half of a little Mozzarella ball in each bite.  I don't think I ever took such time making "perfect bites."
and another.......
Then I got a little rambunctious and decided to drizzle on some liquid gold, a cream of Balsamic Vinegar (this kicks up the fancy factor a bit).
Now that I have bored you with my story on "how I ate a Caprese Salad for dinner one night," I'll get on with the recipe and as always, thanks for listening ;)  How do you eat your Caprese Salad?  The more details the better!  Comment below.

Colorful Caprese Salad

Serves 2 
1 medium vine ripened tomato, halved and sliced thinly
1 pint of mixed yellow, red and orange cherry tomatoes
14 mini Mozzarella balls (or one normal Mozz ball, sliced)
20 Fresh Basil Leaves
1-2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Freshly ground Pepper 
Cream of Balsamic or a high quality Balsamic Vinegar (optional, but not necessary)

I served mine on a small handful of garden spinach to get my greens in, but this is definitely not necessary.

Layer in tomatoes, Mozzarella and basil.  Sprinkle with Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper.  Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Serve immediately.  

Bon Appétit!  
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Route des Vins: Beautiful Vineyards and Enchanting Villages

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I love Memorial Day Weekend.  Normally, it's the first time we go up north for the year which means the first of many summer weekends spent on White Lake in Northern Wisconsin, my favorite place in the whole wide world.  Not to mention a Monday off is pretty much the best thing ever.  While, we weren't able to make it home this year, we did have an awesome weekend roadtrippin' through France's Alsace Wine Region, and had Monday off to boot due to the Catholic holiday of Whit Monday.  We drove on the Route des Vins, through beautiful rolling hills with vineyards as far as the eye can see, connected by one medieval village to the next and a sprinkling of old castles.  It looked and felt like a fairy tale.  Not only were the views gorgeous, the company was great and the food and wine was fit for a king.

Our first stop on the way down to Colmar, was in Obernai, where we had a light lunch.  It was an enchanting little village, with lots of shops and restaurants and colorful half timbered houses.  More than enough to entertain you for an afternoon of perusing.  From there we continued down the Route des Vins to Ribeauvillé, where we took the little tourist train through the village
 and the nearby countryside.   The countryside is absolutely breathtaking. 
It was kitschy, but entertaining enough and Paul even got a little nap in.  Then we decided to try some wine in one of the many wine caves through out the city center.  Through out the region you can do free tastings anywhere there is a sign that says "Degustation."  The only way to thank the wine house is by buying their wine.  So that's what we did.  
Picking a wine can be a tough decision.  I typically liked the Pinot Blanc of the region.  It is light and crisp and goes perfect with a hot summer day (cross your fingers that there are many more to come!).
We stopped in a few shops, then headed on towards Colmar.  We walked around in Colmar's "Petit Venise" Neighborhood and got a front row seat along the canal for an aperitif (aka more wine!).
As we walked onward there was a stand serving up the region's specialty, Tarte Flambée, which is like an Alsatian pizza topped with créme fraîche, lardons (bacon) & thinly sliced onions and sooooo tasty.
This little stand was a great find!  They served wine by the bottle (for cheap! 5-7 euros each) and these Tarte Flambée.
We paired ours with a Sylvaner from the region.  It was the perfect end to a wonderful afternoon.

The next day we headed to Riquewihr, which was probably the cutest of the villages.  This was the third of the villages I wanted to stop in.  And I have to say, each one was cuter than the next.  We walked through the village for a bit.  Seriously cute, right?  However, with cute, comes the tourists. 
Then we stopped for some crépes for breakfast.  We went halvsies, one with egg and one with ham and cheese.  Click here to see the crépes we made!
After we fueled up, it was time to hit the country side.
There are little hiking paths all over the vineyards.  The weather was perfect the views were beyond gorgeous!  This was our favorite part of the region.
If you ever get the chance to visit the region, I highly recommend doing so.  The best part about it for us was (well besides the views, the food, the wine, the towns) it's just a few hours from Brussels and an easy long weekend trip.  Side note: If anyone knows the original foot picture source, please let me know!  They are brilliant! Pin It


Spinach from the Container Garden... and Yummy Quesadillas!

Pin It Woo Hooo!  This year's container garden is in full swing and better than ever... well better than last year, but that isn't saying much.  It's a learning process.  This year we did a little research and at least got the right sized pots.  It looks like things are working out... so far.  I better knock on wood (I'm superstitious like that), before we end up with only one edible pepper (like last year).
Tomatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, Pea Pods, Spinach, Peppers and Strawberries! 
 Picked fresh spinach for tonight's dinner.  As sad as it is I don't think I have ever had fresh spinach before, but it was so delicate compared to the store bought kind.
I made these little herb garden labels with wine corks as I saw on recylart.org.  As you can see, the mint plant has difficult keeping up with my mojito addiction.  Good thing we are going to Alsace Wine Region this weekend so it will have time to catch up.  We are staying in the cute little town of Colmar.   Read a lovely little article about about Colmar from Alison at Cheeseweb, a Brussels blogger,  here. Note to self:  Do more wine cork art! 

The patio is ready for long Belgian summer evenings.  It stays light until past 10 in the middle of summer...best parts of Belgian summers.  Okay, so now onto Chicken Mushroom Spinach Quesadillas.  I think this is one of my favorite meals.  It is one of the first meals I made following a recipe and I didn't mess it up, so anyone can do it.   I have also tried substituting black beans for the chicken, which was pretty good and a perfectly fine substitue if you are a veg.  If you aren't though... Chicken is the way to go.  
Chop onions, mushrooms, spinach & mince garlic.
Heat a large skillet to medium with a little Olive Oil.  Sauteé onions and mushrooms for a few minutes.  Add garlic, sauteé until mushrooms are cooked through and most of the excess water has evaporated.  Add the chicken, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cilantro and squeeze of half a lime (save the other half for lazy girl pico).  Mix and cook for about 2 minutes. 
Add spinach and cook until wilted.  Remove from heat.
Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Heat to medium.  Set in a tortilla, layer with some cheese, filling a little more cheese and top with another tortilla.  Cook for about 3 minutes, until tortilla had browned and flip.  Cook other side for 2 minutes or until browned.  Repeat.
Quarter and serve with a dallop of sour cream and some lazy girl pico.  The toppings bring these flavorful quesadillas to a whole 'notha level.  So just do it.

Chicken Mushroom Spinach Quesadillas
adapted from Ellie Krieger at the foodnetwork

serves 4


2 organic baked and chopped chicken boobs (I seasoned mine with a little paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper and cumin)  
1 c mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano
a dash of cayenne pepper
fresh cilantro, chopped (about 1 tbsp)
squeeze of half a lime
1 cup cheddar 
4 tortillas (preferably whole wheat, but I can only find them at one store nearby and didn't get the chance!)

sour cream 
Lazy girl pico (as follows)

Lazy girl pico: 2 -3 chopped tomatoes, 1 scallion sliced, half a lime squeezed, small drizzle of Olive oil, Dash of garlic powder, cayenne pepper, sea salt and cracked pepper.  Mix.


Heat a large skillet with a little olive oil to medium.  Sauteé onions and mushrooms for a few minutes.  Add garlic.  Once mushrooms are softened and most of the water has evaporated, add chicken, cumin, chili powder, oregano, cayenne, cilantro, and squeeze the juice of half of a lime over the top.  Mix and cook for about two minutes.  Add spinach and cook until wilted.  Remove from heat.  Heat another large skillet sprayed with non-stick.  Layer in a tortilla.  Top with a little cheese, the chicken mixture and a little more cheese.  Place another tortilla on top.  Cook for about 3 minutes, until tortilla has browned.  Flip.  Cook for about 2 more minutes or until browned.  Repeat.  Quarter and serve with sour cream and lazy girl pico (or the real thing if you aren't lazy)! 
 I enjoyed it, solitary on the patio.  
Oooooohhh it was sooo gooood. 
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Quinoa Patty Cakes

Pin It Little Debbie Little Debbie, these Quinoa Patty Cakes are damn good!  I have to admit I was more than a little skeptical when I came across this recipe, but my girl Martha knows what up.
 Look at those little patty cakes, full of wholesome goodness.  Here's the deets:
Cook quinoa (I did mine the night before to save some time), chop carrots, onions, garlic and shred a little chez.  If I were you, I would use a little extra onion and garlic (originally I was planning on making only 3/4 of the recipe, but then realized I had more quinoa than I knew what to do with).
Start by mixing the quinoa with whisked eggs and salt and pepper, then toss in the rest of the ingredients.  I threw in some red pepper flakes for a wee bit of kick!
Mix it up and let sit for about 10 minutes before making yo' patties.
Then make yo' patties.  Roll them in a ball, smoosh them together a bit, then gently shape them into patty cakes, about 10-12 of them.
Heat up a skillet (to medium) with a little olive oil and throw these cakes on.  Let brown for 7-10 minutes.  Crank the heat a bit more if you need to!
Once nice and toasty brown, flip and let the other side brown for about 5 minutes.  Cook your cakes in batches.

Taste tester was more than a little in love with these Patty Cakes.  He has requested extras to eat cold for snacks... that I am not so sure about.  Hot and Crispy is how I prefer them (but, I have yet to try them cold).  I'll keep you updated.  Would make a great Memorial Day BBQ side dish!  Or a Vegetarian Burger replacement?   

Quinoa Patty Cakes 
Adapted from Whole Living Martha Stewart 

2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
4 large eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp salt
Cracked pepper
1 medium carrot peeled and finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano (Or any cheese, you may want to add a bit more if you use another)
1/2 cup chopped scallions ( I only used about 1/3, but I think more would have been better!)
1 cup bread crumbs
Red chili flakes to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp)

Sour Cream and Cilantro for garnish


Combine quinoa with whisked eggs.  Add salt and pepper.  Add carrot, garlic, scallions, cheese, bread crumbs and red chili flakes.  Mix.  Let sit for about 10 minutes.  Form 10-12 patties with the mixture by rolling and forming patty cake shape with your hands.  Heat a skillet with a little olive oil to medium heat.  Throw on your patties.  Let cook for about 7-10 minutes until browned.  Flip and cook other side an additional 5-6 minutes.

Serve with Sour Cream and Cilantro and a side salad.  Eat leftovers cold as a snack (Taste tester's recommendation, not mine). If you try it let me know, I would like a second opinion.  Not that I don't trust the taste tester, I just don't really trust the taste tester. 

Side Note: When quinoa gets very hot it will pop a little, so be careful when frying the patties if parts of the quinoa break off a little.  I had more than a little quinoa popping around!
Bon Appétit!

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London Part I: Food Glorious Food @ Borough Market

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Never have I ever met a market I loved so much.  We have visited markets in most European cities we visited and find interesting items in each one.  In fact I normally come away with some type of souvenier from most.  Souveniers range from aged Balsamic Vinegar (Florence Market), a handmade purse (Budapest),  a bottle of Latvian Wine (Riga Market), a woven basket (Munich Market) and if we are lucky a really delicious lunch to boot.
The Borough Market is a foodie's dream and a must stop for a local London gastronomic experience.  The market offers a plethora of choices.  So many you might just want to come back for lunch a second day (which is exactly what we did).
I could definitely do my shopping here on a regular basis.  Yes, Please.  And aren't Round Zucchinis (Courgette in England) the cutest thing ever? 
And nothing beats market olives.  Nothing

The Lunch options are endless. 
Giant Dishes of Paella, in multiple flavors.
Pulled Pork or an Uber Burger?!  You have got to be kidding me.  How the heck is a girl to decide?  You are now beginning to see why we came back a second day.  We were in line for the pulled pork, but then saw someone in front of us ordering what I would call the Thanksgiving Sandwich: Roasted Turkey, Fresh Cranberry Sauce and a stuffing that was to die for, and we changed our mind.  We were so busy stuffing our faces we forgot to get a pic. :(
Londoner's in the queue during lunch.
 After lunch beverage anyone? It's Pimm's o'clock!
or maybe a fresh meringue is more your speed.......

With all the hustle and bustle, it's a nice place to do a little people watching after lunch.  The market was my favorite part of London.  I think its safe to say that I am officially in love with food.   
Food Glorious Food. 

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Sautéed Veggie Quinoa Salad

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More Quinoa.  This time with Basil.  I love my little herb garden.  Fresh Basil, Mint, Cilantro, Parsley, Thyme all right at your finger tips.  It makes cooking a lot easier since all these fresh herbs are right outside the door.   
Empty out your produce drawer and throw what you've got on the stove for a little sautée action.  I had some carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, orange pep and a handful of spinach that was seeing its last days.  I hate throwing food away.  When its getting near the expiration date, its time to make something like this, Special Pasta or Garden Veggie Quinoa Soup.
Sauteé in a dash on olive oil, then salt and pepper.  Once cooked to your liking, serve over a bed of quinoa with homemade Italian Balsamic Vinaigrette and freshly chopped basil.
Healthy and hearty.  Quinoa really is a super food.

Sauteéd Veggie Quinoa Salad


Garlic Balsamic Vinaigrette:
3 Tbs Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Squeeze of half a lemon
Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper
1 t Garlic infused Grapeseed Oil (optional) I used Wildtree brand (So good!)

The Quinoa:
3/4 cup Quinoa (uncooked) cooked
2 large carrots, peeled and slivered
1 orange pepper, sliced
1 small zucchini, sliced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
a handful of spinach
any veggies on hand
1/4 c basil, roughly chopped
Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper


Cook Quinoa according to instructions (I normally use a 1.5:1 water to quinoa ratio). Sauteé chopped vegetables.  Whisk together ingredients for the vinaigrette.  Once vegetables are cooked to your liking, layer over quinoa.  Top with vinaigrette, mix.  Salt and Pepper to taste.  Stir in Basil.
Bon Appétit!  Serve with some freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, if desired!
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