Friday, March 21, 2014

How to Make Cacio e Pepe at Home

Cacio e Pepe.   Cacio e Pepe.   Cacio e Pepe.

Cacio e Pepe at Home

Doesn't that just have a nice ring to it? Well guess what, it is not just an appetizing name! Cacio e Pepe is basically fancy Italian mac-n-cheese! Yes, the Italians like "mac-n-cheese" too! I first heard about this Italian dish while watching Rick Steves to prepare for our family Europe trip. If it is good enough for Mr. Steves, the Godfather of European travel to eat, then it is good enough to go to the top of our must-try list! We did get the chance to try cacio e pepe in Rome, you can read about it here. Just as we imagined, we loved it and could not wait to make it back home. Easier said then done! Our first attempt was a disaster, the cheese balled up, nothing melted, it was a hot mess. 

I was determined to master cacio e pepe! The Italians would not win this round, I WAS going to make it and it WAS going to be GREAT. After scouring the internet for tips and tricks, I eventually decided on this recipe to guide me.

  • 1 package/box of spaghetti
  • 1 wedge of high quality Pecorino Romano cheese (the more aged the better)
  • Black pepper to taste (better if freshly ground)
  • Coarse salt (yes you will need some even though Pecorino Romano has lots of salt, otherwise the dish will be bland)
  1. Grate Pecorino Romano cheese. This can be done ahead of time.
  2. Bring water to a boil in a tall pot.  The level of water should not exceed ¾ of the pot’s height.
  3. When water boils, add salt. Consider that Pecorino Romano cheese is very salty, therefore, my advice is to add HALF of the amount of salt for cooking Cacio e Pepe.
  4. Add pasta and cook al dente.
  5. 1-2 minutes before pasta is cooked, place a glass serving bowl on top of the pot to heat it. This is a very important step in order to get a creamy sauce.
  6. Reserve some pasta water using a ladle. While you’re boiling spaghetti, the pasta releases starch into the water.  Since starch is naturally sticky, it helps Pecorino Romano cheese fats to amalgamate well with both water and pasta.
  7. Drain pasta and transfer it to the heated serving bowl.
  8. Gradually add Pecorino Romano cheese and water tossing vigorously until you get a creamy consistency.
  9. If the sauce becomes too watery, add Pecorino Romano cheese; if it becomes too dry, add water.
  10. Season with lots of freshly ground black pepper and toss.

M&M Cookie Bar Recipe

Thick and Chewy M&M Cookie Bars 

There is no way a combination of M&M's, sugar, butter, and flour can go wrong! I do not know why it took me so long to make "bar" treats; perhaps the calories? Hey, what the heck, every once in a while you need to say "screw the calories!" right? When my husband asked me what a "bar" was I described it as a cross between a cookie and a brownie?  Upon consumption, he agreed and approved. He already sent half the police officers on shift tonight pictures of what was to come. I hope the police officers like them too!

See below for the steps to make M&M Cookie bars

2 1/8 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
12 Tbsp butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 tsps vanilla extract
1 12oz bag M&M's, divided
1.) Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Adjust the oven rack to lower-middle position. Grease a 9x13 pan and set aside.
2.) In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.
3.) In a large bowl, whisk the butter and sugars until combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix well.
4.) Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until just combined; do not overmix. Fold in 1 cup of M&M's and turn the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the spatula.
5.) Sprinkle remaining M&M's on top and press in slightly.
6.) Bake 25-30 minutes, until the top of the bars is light golden brown, slightly firm to the touch, and edges start pulling away from sides of pan. Cool completely before cutting.

Recipe adapted from here :)


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Looking Chic in Stripes

From preppy, 60's Mod, or nautical inspired, stripes reappear time after time. Stripes have been trendy for several years now, especially since Kate Middleton has made them a staple in her wardrobe. Stripes can look chic in many variations from wide and bold, to skinny subtle. Stripes can act as a neutral or be the star of your ensemble. Even mixing a striped top with a floral scarf is on trend! Moreover, J.Crew for 2014 mixed a business-y striped scarf with a playful tee. I think it is safe to say, stripes are here to stay! Happy, happy, happy!

Here are some of my favorite looks featuring stripes



Thursday, March 13, 2014

Easy Oven Roasted Asparagus

"I DON'T LIKE ASPARAGUS!!" No, that is not the voice of a child. That is the voice of a 27 grown adult., ME. I have never liked the green, dragon scale finger vegetables. However, the weird and scaly vegetable has grown on me. The only way my husband can get me to eat asparagus is by the recipe below, how childish I am! ;-)

Oven Roasted Asparagus

Easy Oven Roasted Asparagus


- 1 bunch of asparagus, washed
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil 
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh Parmesan cheese
- Garlic cloves, or garlic powder to make it easier
- Salt Pepper 

  1. Preheat an oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  2. Place the asparagus into a mixing bowl, and drizzle with the olive oil. Use tongs to toss and coat the spears, grate fresh Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, and pepper. Arrange the asparagus onto a baking sheet in a single layer.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until just tender, 12 to 15 minutes depending on thickness.
Easy Oven Roasted Asparagus
Recipe adapted from here

Sunday, March 9, 2014

How to use the Vaporetto (water taxi) in Venice, Italy


Anyone who has been to Venice, Italy on a cruise ship knows the cruise docks a little outside the city. If you didn't, now you do :) You need to use transportation to get in the city. In this post I detailed how to use the Vaporetto (water taxi) in Venice, Italy. Let me know if you need questions!

Why use the Vaporetto? This allows you to go all over Venice and Murano, and is scenic! The other shuttles are direct to St. Marks ONLY. 

I was very lost getting off the ship and figuring out how to/where the people mover is located and the Vaporetto. I decided to photograph the journey to help future travelers!

I will attempt to explain in detail and pictures on how to get from the ship to St. Marks via Vaporetto.

1.) Depending on which side your ship docks at, you walk to the end of the pier/dock/platform you are docked at and make a left. There will be a red 2-story, long building to your right. You will first pass the express water taxis right there that take you to St. Marks (San Marco) direct from Celebrity (or your cruiseline). Next, the non-cruiseline direct water shuttle is 18 Euor PER trip and takes you direct to St. Marks. The non-cruiseline shuttle is between the 2 boats. However, we used the cheaper and quicker people-mover to get into the main part of Venice.

Pictured below: We are standing on the dock, in the center of the two ships in port. This is the spot where you can pick up the non-celebrity express shuttle. What would be in front of us, where we are looking would be the red, 2-story building.

We wanted the opportunity to possibly go to Murano, and possible go back out at night so a direct only route was not for us. The Celebrity shuttle was $22 but this is direct so if you want to see Murano or take more of a scenic ride, this is not the best option for you. But if you just care about St. Marks than this would be a good option for you.

The Vaporetto (water-bus type system) and People Mover are what we used; they give you the options to go as many times as you wish and allow you to go to other parts, such as Murano. Prices below. It is similar to a hop on/hop off land bus. If you get on an empty boat you can take a seat at the front for a nice scenic ride!

Pictured below: sitting in the front of the Vaporetto enjoying the scenic ride!

2.) Keep walking past the express shuttles. You will pass a kiosk selling the express tickets for express boats, we could not see the “people mover” from this viewing point. The nice lady told us we have to keep walking through a parking lot. You walk past a red colored port terminal building (the 2 story building I mentioned above). Once you get past this building (building on R, water on L) that is where the parking lot is. You make a right to walk across the parking lot. You kind of need to loop around that red building.

It is going to look a little sketchy but we did see other people from the cruising heading through the parking lot and construction zone. This whole area is under construction, which makes it even more confusing. Eventually we saw a monorail type track and a big banner that says “People Mover”

It took a little while, due to construction fences, to figure out how to access the people mover. It really is a short walk from the cruise, we were just confused due to construction. You make a right once you get past the construction to access the People Mover.

Pictured below: we are at the base of the people mover, you can see the top of one Celebrity ship and the red building that blocks the view of the ships, and you can see the construction lot we had to walk around:

3.) The people mover is 1 Euro. There are little machines at the bottom you use to buy your ticket. The People Mover (PM) is very fast, comes in 3-4 minutes, it has a count-down clock letting you know.

There are 2 directions: Roma and Tronchetto (might have the spelling wrong). When going to Venice you want the Roma direction, when coming home back to the ship you want Tronchetto.

4.) You exit the PM through a garage.

Here is a picture of the PM exit:

Make a left when you exit the garage and cross the street. We bought a map from a little kiosk here, I highly recommend you get a map. You should see a bridge at this point.

Walk towards the bridge and there to the left you will find the place to get tickets for the Vaporetto and pick up the Vaporetto. Make sure you note stations names so you get off at the right one .

This is what the bridge looks like:

ticket booth, left of bridge:

The tickets for a 2 day, 24 hour pass were 20 Euros. The Vaporetto is very fast and easy to use. The stop here, at the bridge where you access the PM is called P. le Roma. (easy to remember since the PM is Roma). We took the Vaporetto from P.le Roma to Rialto Station. We walked to St. Mark’s from this stop. You need to cross on foot the Rialto Bridge to get to St. Mark’s. As I mentioned before, do souvenir shopping on this side (before crossing bridge).

**If you want to go to Murano, just simply catch the Murano boat at the Ferrovia Station. It is a 30 minute ride.
** TO get to San Marco just follow the signs or ask people and thyey will kindly point you in the right way. We found it very easy to make our way to St. Mark’s.

VIDEO: Riding the Vaporetto in Venice. Very nice, relaxing, and scenic if you get a seat in the front

5.) To get back to the ship. Take the Vaporetto back to P.Le Roma and cross the street to enter the garage and take the PM back.

I hope this made sense and will help some of you out planning! If you have questions please ask me and I will do my best to answer them.

Ciao Ciao,

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Drinking Soy Milk Protein Shakes to Lose Weight

Replace one meal a day with this protein-packed shake to lose weight.

Soy Milk Protein Shake

My husband LOVES working out and staying in shape (I applaud anyone who loves working out, bless your heart). It kills him that I hate breakfast and that it takes me SO long to finally eat in the morning. My typical breakfast is a single cup of natural apple sauce, yep that's it. I am just not a breakfast person, I know I am not alone in this! Right? 

He is always drilling me, wait, that is not polite. He is always "telling" me I need protein in the morning. SO we came to a conclusion, and I hate to admit this, but why did I not listen to him sooner? 

I started drinking a protein shake with organic soy milk in the morning to get my day started! And let me tell you, it works! I feel fuller longer, have more energy, and has improved the waist line! 

So tell me, why does this work?
Protein: feel fuller and longer, takes more work to digest (when compared to carbohydrates)- which means you burn calories during the process, build lean muscles, and many studies prove high calorie diets work

Soy Milk: easier for the body to digest (when compared to animal milk), better for those with intolerance, slower to spoil, less calories and fat (depending on milk), greater amino acids, and more filling!

Cinnamon:  "Cinnamon also delays the passing of food from the stomach into the intestine. Hence, you feel satisfied for a longer time and eat less. This helps you lose weight. Cinnamon also helps the body to process carbohydrates more efficiently and this assists you in losing a few pounds." source

This is how I make my shake:
1.)   Fill shaker cup with 400 ml of organic soy milk (I use Publix brand, vanilla)
2.) Fill to the 600 ml line with purified water. I do this instead of filling up entirely with soy milk to save on calories.
3.) Dash of cinnamon
4.) 1 scoop (you could do 2) of vanilla Whey Protein
5.) Shake away and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Customize iPhone Icons

One night while stumbling around on Pinterest I came across the coolest image ever of an iPhone; It had cool and stylish icons for apps! Who knew you could change these???? Have you ever wondered how people are able to customize their iPhone icons to cute and stylish ones? Well, I played around in the app store one night during an insomnia attack and figured it out. It can be a little complicated at first so I took screen shots along the way to help. Let me know if you have any questions!

How to Customize iPhone Icons

Follow the steps below :)

To start, download the FREE (and awesome) app "Cocoppa"

Open the app, make sure "icons" is highlighted  

Scroll down past all the categories until you get to the bottom where you can search:

Search for the name of an app if you want icons to match. For instance, use search terms like Facebook, yelp, snapchat, pinterest, blogger, etc. 

I suggest you click on popularity. Browse the icons until you find one you like. Warning: this is not an easy task! Good luck, you will want them all!

Once you find an icon you like, click on it

Click "use this icon"

Now you need to select the app you want this icon to match. If we stick with the Facebook example, in the search box type in "Facebook" (or whatever the app is) and apps should pop up. Click on the app that you want to use, for instance Facebook.

Make sure it matches, and click ok. You will see in the example below I have a Facebook "pretty" icon and it shows the actual real Facebook icon below. This is how I can make sure they are in sync.

Note: DO NOT DELETE YOU ORIGINAL ICON! See the highlighted portion below :) 

Add the new icon to your homepage. I suggest you make a folder in your phone for the original apps and hide it away on the last page of your iPhone pages or something. I simply call mine "old apps" and have it on the last page.

And that's it! Now you can have pretty iPhone icons too! 

If you have any questions, please let me know!

I hope this was helpful to someone :)

*disclaimer: I do not own the Cocoppa iPhone application. This post is a review and demonstration on the app works on the blog owners personal iPhone. All the pictures in this post are from the blog owners phone.  I am not responsible for the app or how this app will work on your phone.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Oreo Brownie Trifle and Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

Like most newlyweds, at least I imagine, I was dying to use my new wedding and shower presents. Our very close friend had a coming home party from serving our country in Afghanistan for the Marines. As soon as I heard about the party, I started day dreaming of the goodies I wanted to make! 

Here are 2 of the treats I made, with a patriotic twist!

Oreo Brownie Trifle
Star shaped brownie for our Marine!

Oreo Brownie Trifle

  • Family sized box of brownie mix (I used a 9x13 pan)
  • Ingredients to make the brownies (eggs, water and oil)
  • 3.4 oz. box Cookies and Cream pudding mix
  • 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 oz. container Cool Whip
  • Oreos (as many as you want to add)
  • 8 oz. container of Cool Whip (yep, another one)
  1. Make the brownies and set aside to cool. TIP: make the night before (or earlier in the day) and put in freezer. Brownies will be easier to cut when frozen.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat the cookies and cream pudding mix, water and sweetened condensed milk until thick. Fold in the first tub (8 oz.) of Cool Whip. Set aside.
  3. Cut the cooled brownies into small squares and shapes if desired (about 1x1).
  4. Layer the brownies, cookies and cream pudding mixture, whipped cream and crushed Oreos.
  5. Repeat layers again and top with crushed Oreos and brownies. 
  6. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Recipe adapted from here 

Oreo Brownie Trifle

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries
Add a blueberry on top for a patriotic look! 

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

This is really simple...

1.) Wash and cut off tops of strawberries
2.) Use a strawberry stem remover tool to remove centers
3.) I used store bought, already made cheesecake. Put in a bag, cut of the corner to make a piping bag.
4.) Pipe cheesecake into strawberries
5.) Top with a blueberry

Recipe: myself :)

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

Saturday, March 1, 2014

J.Crew Tilda Rhinestone Top

Outfit Of The Day 
Featuring the J.Crew Tilda Rhinestone Top

J.Crew Tilda Rhinestone Top

Top: J.Crew
Cardigan: American Eagle
Jeans: Jessica Simpson