Food

The Easiest “Fancy” Bread

The Easiest Fancy Bread

Hey everyone! I’m popping in to share my latest obsession: this bread. I have to start off saying that in no way am I a baker. You might even remember when I made it a goal to learn how to make a decent cake which I feel like is fairly decent proof that I’m not always amazing in the kitchen. But this bread is foolproof. I’ve made it multiple times now and it’s always turned out beautifully, which for me is probably a first in regards to anything I’ve ever attempted to bake. It’s truly a testament to the ridiculous easiness of the recipe which is why I had to share it. This recipe is for you, all my timid baker friends (as well as my generally lazy friends too).

No Knead Fancy Bread

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
  • 11/2 cups of lukewarm water
  • Swirl of olive oil

Prep: 12-24 hours before baking

Mix flour, yeast, and salt in a medium sized mixing bowl then add the lukewarm water. Mix until fully combined. Swirl just a bit of olive oil on the top of the dough and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside at room temp for 12-24 hours. In a pinch, you can do as a little as 9 hours but it will result in a smaller loaf.

Baking:

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Dust flour on the counter and place all the dough on the flour. Lightly cover the dough with flour (dough will be sticky) and fold in edges to create a round shape. Place dough into a deep baking dish (I use my dutch oven) and cover it with a lid or foil. Bake for 20 minutes then remove the lid and bake for another 20 minutes or until the top is a medium golden color. Then grab butter and eat.

If you’re more visual (or don’t trust me- it’s OK), Mark Bittman has a great 5 minute video showing you the whole step by step process.

It’s really that simple and it’s such a delicious and beautiful bread that would be perfect for entertaining or even as a gift- just wrap it in a simple white a red dish towel. Although I’m sure my friends and neighbors would a love a loaf, I’m probably going to sit here with the bread and butter and call this lunch!

Have a great day and happy baking!

-Katy


Fresh Strawberry Cookies

Best Strawberry Cookies

Hey guys, I’ve been pretty busy this weekend but I thought that I’d let you in on my go-to recipe for anything potluck. We had a welcome BBQ this weekend but most of the cookies never made it- they’re too good to not sneak a couple every few minutes. I’ll warn you that this is pretty much the best sugar cookie recipe ever. I love that the dough doesn’t need to be chilled, perfect with or without frosting, and completely easy to make. I follow her recipe pretty closely except halve the frosting amount and add half a teaspoon of lemon juice.

It’s a great way to use up some strawberries at the end of the season that might be a little over ripe. Check out CelebratingSweets for the recipe!

-Katy


Make a Difference Monday: Keep Your Mondays Meat-less

Meat vs Veggies

 

Meat-less Mondays aren’t a new thing. They’ve been growing in popularity since 2012 and three years later the movement is still going strong. I love this movement for so many reasons, but especially because it normalizes the idea of having a meal not centered around meat. In the past it’s been very un-American to see carrots or beets (or any veggie) taking center stage on your dinner plate, but more and more it’s changing. For about three years my husband and I were vegetarians and going out to eat, inviting friends over for meals, and eating at other people’s homes were often frustrating and sometimes even awkward. Thanks heavens that now it’s pretty widely accepted that having meat-less meals are not only acceptable, they’re healthy.

Save Money

  • The average cost of organic carrots is $2.26 a pound. The average cost of regular beef is $4.10 a pound.

Help the Planet

  • Did you know that for every pound of meat produced in the U.S., it takes 1,850 gallons of water. For a pound of vegetables it’s only 39 gallons. Not an insignificant amount when you think about the drought in California where much of our food in the U.S. is produced.

Help Your Waistline 

  • Limiting your meat intake can help you decrease your chances of cancer. Yes, cancer, the worst “C” word. Even just one additional serving of veggies a day to can also lower your risk of heart disease by 4%.

If you’re nervous about what to cook without throwing chicken into a pan, don’t worry, there are tons of vegetarian options.

Click on the picture or HERE to find awesome French vegetarian recipes. You won’t regret trying even one of these amazing recipes! Want an awesome blog that features a lot of super great veggie recipes? Check out OhSoDelicisioso– they are amazing, especially their vegetarian chili recipe.

Anyone else out there still observe Meat-less Mondays or maybe some of you just avoid meat all together? Any recipes you swear by?

 

 

 

Picture Source, Stats Source

 


10 Unexpected Tips For a Great Paris Trip

Top 10 unexpected Paris tips

Ah, Paris. The “city of light,” the “city of love.” We loved it and for the most part, the city loved us back. But I honestly think it’s because we did tons of research and got a million and one opinions before we left. We didn’t do everything perfectly, but after the trip I realized a few things that made our trip so much more enjoyable and allowed us to bask in the “je ne sais quoi” that Paris is known for. So I’ve made a list of the top 10 things that I think would be the most useful to new travelers.

Paris Park in the Fall

1. Travel in April/May or September

The time of year you go over might be the most important factor separating a good trip from a great one. We went at the end of September and it was wonderful. The lines for almost everything were nonexistent, everything was open (Parisians are famous for shutting up shop for vacation), and it’s easier to dress the part (more on that later). Oh, and did I mention that almost everything is cheaper in the off season? Yeah, it was great. So go right before or right after summer and as you can see from above, it’s still gorgeous weather!

AirBNB Paris Rental

2. Check out AirBNB

This was the view from our balcony. You guys, this saved us so much money and we absolutely loved it. Like saved us thousands kind of money. We used Air BNB for our entire Euro vacation and not only did it save us tons, but we also got to stay in residential areas where other Parisians live and experienced more of what regular Paris is actually like. We went to legit local boulangéries, cafés, markets, etc, and were mere steps away from the Metro because we were able to pick our place based location and not just where hotels have availability. AirBNB made our lives so much easier and while I’d love to say that they were sponsoring this, alas, they’re not. We just loved our experience that much.

Sacre Couer Basilica Paris

3. Make a List

This one seems like a no-brainer but somehow it didn’t even cross my mind until a friend mentioned it a day before we left. I’m so glad we sat down together and planned out the things that we wanted to do. We checked the weather ahead of time to help us decide which days would be museum days and which would be touring days and then filled our day based on the list. We knew that we couldn’t see and do everything in a week so we prioritized and we ended up being able to see and do everything that we really wanted to while keeping a cool Parisian pace.

Paris Fashion for Americans

 

4. Wear Appropriate Clothing

Please don’t be THOSE Americans. I didn’t really understand it until I got there but you have to take your dress up a notch there. People do not wear athletic or lounge wear. If you do, you will look like an annoying American and you will be treated differently. The French take pride in dressing nicely and I have to admit that by the time we left I really appreciated it. So pack some nice footwear, chinos or dark jeans, button downs or dresses and of course, a scarf.

Paris Cuisine via Yelp

 

5. Check out Yelp and Other Review Sites

Chances are you will not be able to perfectly plan every meal and that’s OK because things over there are more go with the flow. While in the midst of your wanderings, you will smell delicious food and want to run into the nearest restaurant thinking that “all French food must be good.” The sad truth is that while much of the food there is good, there are some places that are absolutely disgusting. The only truly awful meal we had in France was when we decided to eat in Montmartre without taking a minute to look it up. Worst. Meal. Ever. Take 5 minutes and use some of that prepaid data to find some of that amazing cuisine they’re known for.

Paris Bridge Tour

 

6. Take an Afternoon Boat Tour

Everyone told us to take a boat tour and while we thought that it would be fun, we had no idea how much we’d love it. The boat tours range in price, accommodations, and times but they all depart from the same approximate location on the Seine near the Louvre. We learned about the amazing bridges in Paris, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and about a dozen other really awesome things along the river. It’s also a great way to see a few tourist destinations and further whittle down your “must see” list while you’re there. And quite a few of their their bridges are amazing and gilded. SO freakin’ chic.

Art From Paris

 

7. Buy Art Along the Seine at the End of the Day

We knew we wanted to buy some original art from along the river but we just couldn’t decide what to buy. After casually looking while on our way to various destinations, we decided to check out some booths towards 5pm. We complimented the artists (always smart) and proceeded to try to narrow down our choices to just a few to purchase. After only 5ish minutes, the artist said if we would pick a few he would give them to us for almost half off since he was ready to go home and enjoy some wine. We happily scooped up our favorites, exchanged Euros, and were on our way. We were happy because we came home with some amazing original work and he got to go home. As Michael Scott might say, win-win-win.

Louvre Courtyard

8. Buy Louvre Tickets Before You get There

The Louvre (pronounced “loov”) is a must see for everyone but especially if you like art, architecture, or culture. Since you’re headed to Paris, I’ll assume you like all three. If you do, you’ll want to optimize your time in the humongously, amazingly large museum. The best way to do this is to avoid the ridiculously long line to buy tickets. Go online that morning before you head out and buy your tickets. It’ll save you half an hour (at minimum) and a whole lot of needless waiting.

Eating a Baguette

 

9. Buy a Baguette and Goodies at the Local Boulangerie

Every morning before we got on the metro, we’d head to the corner boulangerie (bakery) and buy a couple of quiches, a baguette and a few éclairs. We’d sit at a park and eat our quiches and éclairs like uncultured Americans (the French don’t do protein for breakfast) and then save our baguette for dinner/snack. This allowed us the ability to enjoy more of their amazing parks and gave me something to nibble on when we didn’t have time to pop into a café. And yes, that is my husband shoving baguette into his mouth.

Eiffel Tower at Night

 

10. Go to the Eiffel Tower in the Day Time and at Night

The Eiffel Tower is is far more magical than either Nate or I could have imagined. It’s right along the Seine in a beautiful park. During the day, the park filled with people laughing, singing and enjoying picnics. At night the tower lights up and even twinkles at certain times. Both times were magical and were highlights of our trip. Sing along with the accordion player when he plays “La Vie en Rose” every twenty minutes and soak in the ultimate Paris experience.

So after completing this I’ve realized that these aren’t completely unexpected ideas but maybe just unconventional advice. What are your favorite travel tips?

Don’t have time for Paris this year or just want to reminisce? Check out some of my favorite books on the City of Love(they’re waaay cheaper online than in Paris).

If you’re looking for more travel tips, check out my post on Costa Rica! Have a fun weekend!

 

 


7 Travel Tips: Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio Beach in Costa Rica

We just got back from our Costa Rica trip and it was amazing! The food was fresh and wonderful, people were fantastic, and the beaches were divine. I could write multiple posts about how much I loved certain things but I thought I’d simplify it and just give you seven tips on traveling there.

1. Rent a Car

Costa Rica Rental Car

It might be tempting to try and take public transit but if you’re going to leave the capital, rent a car. And don’t rent from a local company. Go with the standard American companies that you know and trust. Reviews for the local rental agencies are abhorrent. If you want to do any adventuring at all, spend the extra $5 a day and get a 4×4. It saved us more times than I can count because “national roads” can be nothing more than rocky dirt paths.

2. Get the WIFI Hotspot

Costa Rica WIFI

Everything we read online before going suggested that we get a GPS when we rented our car because the $15 a day was worth it. My suggestion is to pay the extra $2 a day for their WIFI hotspot. We took it everywhere with us and I’m sure we’d still be lost in the jungle right now if we hadn’t gotten it. We also completely lost our minds and put in an offer on a house while we were there so having access to email/text was invaluable. Plus, sometimes you just gotta Instagram those gorgeous beach pictures.

3. Order the Fresh- Squeezed Juice

Costa Rica Juice

It took us a few days to realize that we should order fresh squeezed juice every time we got a chance. The fruit they use to make the juice is usually picked that day and the resulting taste cannot even be described in words. Trust me, just order it.

4. Go See the Monkeys

Costa Rica Monkeys

Costa Rica has a fairly decent amount of protected national forest. We were staying in Manuel Antonio, one of their most renowned national lands. Wake up early and wear your tennis shoes.

5. Visit Pacific Side Beaches

IMG_1831

Thankfully we had already booked our hotel on the Pacific side when someone told us that the Atlantic side was pretty seedy and mostly drug running. If you’re looking for somewhere safer to lay out on the beach, stay out on the western side on the country. We left our beach bag unattended every day and we didn’t have any issues. We tipped the local “security guard” a couple bucks and he kept an eye on it which was totally worth it.

6. Go Into the Rain Forest

Costa Rica Forest

The beaches in Costa Rica are so nice that you might not want to venture out much while you’re there. Resist the urge and get into the rain forest for a least an afternoon. The smells, the animals and the scenery will blow you away.

7. Bring a Bunch of American Dollars

Costa Rica Banana Farm

This pictures has nothing to do with this tip but I didn’t exactly take pictures every time we were extorted for money. Many times when we parked our car, we paid a “parking guard” to watch our car so nothing happened to it. This type of thing happened frequently while we were there. American dollars are accepted everything (even national toll booths) so bring a couple hundred and be prepared to tip often. Having cash also allowed us to haggle a little bit more which made things a bit cheaper. Although Costa Rica is a Central American country, don’t expect cheap prices on almost anything since tourism and ex-pats relocating there have really driven up prices.

Extra Tips:

Costa Rica Flip Flops

  • Bring a nice pair of flip flops (like these) to wear going out to dinner. They’re about as dressy as you’ll need
  • There is a $29 fee to leave the country- give yourself an extra hour at the airport to stand in that line.
  • If there’s not a price written on a tag, haggle hard.
  • Exchange is about 500 colones to 1 American dollar. Don’t bother with getting colones, just use dollars.
  • Go see the UNESCO World Heritage Stone Spheres in Palmar Sur. They’re amazing, mysterious and pre-columbian.
  • Go in turtle season to see the turtles hatching- we’re sad we missed it!

Any other tips you recommend for Costa Rica travel? Anything you loved or didn’t love?

-Katy

 


The Perfect 3-Minute Vinaigrette and Salad for Summer

The perfect vinaigrette

I’ve been tweaking my recipe and I think that I’ve finally made my perfect vinaigrette. It’s just in time too because I leave for the beach in a little over a week and I’m not feeling a 100% beach ready. But anyway, this is my super easy, absolutely delicious, extremely flexible vinaigrette recipe. So let’s get down to it and start with what you’ll need.

Perfect Vinaigrette Ingredients

 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Shallot- Minced
  • 3 Tbs Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1 tsp Minced Garlic
  • 3/4 tsp Salt
  • 4-5 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon Mustard

Step 1: Mince Shallot

Step 2: Mix ingredients together

Easy, right? I have used this on so many types of salads and it’s great for outdoor parties or events because there’s no dairy or anything in the dressing that could spoil. It really will make your salad stand out and I’m sure you’ll get at least a few compliments where ever you take it.

While we’re talking about salads, I thought that I’d share one my favorites and perhaps the easiest salads. What you’ll need:

  • My Vinaigrette
  • 1 Bag of Trader Joe’s Brussel Sprout Mix
  • 1/4 cup of Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 cup of Pine Nuts

Step 1: Mix ingredients

Step 2: Eat the salad because you’re pretty hungry

Now all you need to do is just buy a baguette or some other artisanal bread and you’ve got a great lunch or dinner. Add a fried egg on top and you’ve got heaven on a plate, my friends.

*A helpful hint I learned from a cooking blog is to mix it about 10 minutes before serving it so the greens soften just a little.

The Perfect Summer Salad

Try the recipe and let me know how you like it! I’d love to hear about your favorite summer salads or if you have a recipe that you absolutely swear by.