Saturday, September 14, 2019

My Big Fat Greek Honeymoon: Santorini

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I took a few weeks off last month to go on a honeymoon with my new husband. I had always wanted to visit Greece. My mom's side of the family is Greek, and I've always felt a sense of pride in my heritage. As expected, we had the most incredible time. We traveled throughout the entire country during the course of 2 1/2 weeks, and we fully immersed ourselves in the culture. I feel so lucky to have had this experience. I knew the country would be beautiful and the food would be incredible, but what I didn’t realize was how much my relationship with my husband would grow while traveling together.

I’m going to spend the next few blog posts going into detail about our journey, including the places we stayed, what we did, and obviously the FOOD!

My husband William planned the entire trip, and he did the most incredible job choosing lodging and authentic Greek restaurants.

Many of the places we stayed were not typical tourist areas, so I hope these posts help others who are considering traveling to Greece.

First stop: Santorini

Getting there: We took the direct flight from the Indianapolis airport to Paris, and I’m telling you, it was the best traveling experience ever. The Indy airport is consistently voted the best in North America because of its accessibility and ease at check-in and security.

We parked, checked our bags, got our boarding passes, went through security, and arrived at our gate in a matter of 30 minutes. That is not an exaggeration—I timed it!

We boarded the plane around 6:30 p.m. Indy time, and we arrived in Paris around 8 a.m. their time. I slept the entire way, which made the experience even easier.

We actually stayed in Paris for a few days because I had never been, but I’m going to write about that last because we stayed in Paris at the end of our trip as well.

From Paris, we got a direct flight to Santorini. It’s about a 3-hour long flight.

Where we stayed: Ikies Traditional Houses

Before arriving to Santorini, I didn’t realize how big it was, and there are actually a lot of towns on the island. We stayed in Ikies Traditional Houses which is located in Oia (pronounced eee-uh). 

Oia is said to be the most picturesque village on Santorini, and it was the perfect first impression of Greece (think white buildings, blue dome roofs, and windy walkways). Oia is where everyone visits to take pictures of the famous Santorini sunsets.

Ikies Traditional Houses is on the south end of Oia, so we had incredible 180-degree views of both the caldera and the whitewashed buildings. Also, I liked that it was on the quiet end of the hotel zone. That made it very peaceful and relaxing in the evenings and morning. But we were still just a short walk away from the rest of the town’s shops and restaurants.

All the Ikies houses have a private balcony and most have a private pool. There are only 11 houses, so the staff was very attentive and helpful. They even gifted us with a free bottle of champagne and rescheduled our dinner reservation when our flight was delayed.

One of our best parts about our stay was the breakfast. Every evening they give you a sheet with a wide variety of breakfast meal options, meats and cheeses, coffee drinks, fresh-squeezed juices, and pastries. You can pick anything and everything you want. You give the sheet back to them with your preferred time to eat, and the following morning they set everything up on your private patio. Everything was incredibly delicious. It was an absolute dream. I can’t recommend Ikies enough!

What we did: Catamaran cruise of the caldera

This was one of my favorite things we did the entire vacation—a 5-hour cruise around the island. There are a couple of different options and tour companies. They all seem to be about the same price and same experience. We chose the company Sunset Oia. 

Someone from the company picked us up from Ikies around 10 a.m. and we returned around 4 p.m. There were 10 people on our boat, so there was plenty of space to spread out. We made 5 different stops where we could swim and snorkel. They also made us authentic Greek BBQ on the boat for lunch. We had grilled chicken, pork, shrimp saganaki, Greek salad, and dolmades.

Where we ate: Pitogyros and Ammoudi Fish Tavern

The first night we arrived in Santorini, we just wanted gyros. We googled “best gyros in Santorini” and landed on Pitogyros. It ended up being one of William’s favorite meals the entire trip. 

We had lamb gyros and Greek salad. The Greek salad was very large with a big block of feta. The gyros were large as well with fresh pita and plenty of tzatziki. You could watch them cut the meat from the spit, so it was clearly very fresh.

Ammoudi Fish Tavern is the most beautiful restaurant I’ve ever been to. It is right on the water, and we had an incredible view of the sunset.

We ordered Greek salad, anchovies marinated in vinegar, grilled sun-dried octopus, and grilled sea bass. Everything was very fresh and prepared perfectly. The fish was served with lemon and olive oil dressing on the side. 

Make sure you make a reservation in advance though! It gets very busy. Also, forewarning if you decide to walk there: You have to walk down about 300 steps and they’re very slippery. You also have to dodge donkey poop. So no heels!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Irish Apple Cake

I realize it’s been nearly a month since my last recipe. That’s because I spent the past few weeks traveling with my new husband throughout Greece for our honeymoon! It was even more beautiful than I imagined, and of course, the food was absolutely incredible. I plan to write more about our trip and share my favorite Greek recipes in upcoming blog posts, but this week I’m focused on a fall recipe inspired by Irish Fest in Indianapolis this weekend.

I realize there are still two weeks left of summer, but in my mind September equals fall. It already feels like such a short season, so I’m excited to get it started as soon as possible. 

I’m kicking off the fall cooking season with Irish apple cake!

Apparently apple trees have been growing strong in Ireland for 3,000 years and desserts and beverages made from apples are very popular.

Traditionally, Irish apple cakes were made with crab apples, but any tart, crisp apple will work well. I’m using granny smith apples. Even though I would never eat a granny smith apple on its own (too tart and crunchy), they’re great for baking because they maintain their firmness.

One of the best parts about this cake is all of the textures at play—firm apple chunks suspended in tender cake with a crunchy cinnamon sugar topping.

Just as a heads up—even though it’s called a cake, it’s more like a quick bread in the sense that it’s not as sweet as a traditional American cake. So if you’re the type of person who likes cake for breakfast (just learned this applies to my husband and his brothers!), this is the perfect cake for you.

Irish Apple Cake
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 12 Tablespoons Challenge butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 granny smith apples peeled, diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg
  3. Cut in butter using pastry blender
  4. Stir in sugar and apples
  5. In separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla
  6. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix everything until just combined
  7. Pour mixture into springform pan and spread top evenly
  8. In small bowl, mix together 2 Tablespoons sugar with 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over top of cake.
  9. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Skip the sandwich, pack cucumber sushi for school lunch

As school starts back up across Indiana, I thought it would be fun to share a unique lunch idea—one that kids enjoy making and eating. Let me preface this by saying I don't have children, but I do pack my lunch every day! For the first five years post-college, I packed a turkey sandwich on multigrain bread with provolone cheese and mustard every day. And I liked it. In fact, I looked forward to it!

But one day, I just couldn't do it. I could not eat another turkey sandwich.

I needed a replacement that was equally healthy and equally cheap.

I present you with cucumber sushi! They're easy to make and easy to customize.

Use a melon baller to remove the seeds from the inside of a cucumber and stuff the hollowed-out part with your favorite fillings. The sushi in these pictures consist of ham, cheese, carrots, and peppers.

Serve your cucumber sushi with hummus or soy sauce (I actually use amino acids) for dipping.

Cucumber sushi
  • 1 cucumber
  • 2 slices ham or lunch meat of choice
  • 1 string cheese, cut in fourths
  • Matchstick carrots
  • Red pepper, cut julienne style
  1. Cut off ends of cucumber. Slice in half.
  2. Hollow out center of cucumber using a melon baller. Leave about 1/2 inch of cucumber from the edges.
  3. Stuff cucumber with rolled-up ham, cheese, carrots, and peppers until center is filled.
  4. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.
  5. Serve cold with hummus and soy sauce. Refrigerate leftovers.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Indianapolis Colts Grazing Platters

You probably already know what a charcuterie board is—a platter with meats (like salami, ham, and prosciutto), cheeses, crackers and other small bites such like nuts, olives, gherkin pickles, and spreads.

I’m sure charcuterie boards have been around for a very long time, but I feel like they gained popularity several years ago with the bite-sized snack trend. You can find them everywhere, from grocery stores to fancy restaurants.

What’s great about charcuterie boards is how simple they are to put together, yet they look very impressive.

In the past year or so, charcuterie board’s cousin, the grazing platter, has become more popular. A grazing platter is very similar to a charcuterie board with the focus still on bite-sized eats, but it has a wider variety of foods. Pretty much nothing is off limits. I’m talking fruit, candy, nuts, chips, popcorn, cookies, etc. The beauty of the grazing board is that it involves a little bit of everything.

That being said, it’s a lot of fun to design a grazing platter around a theme, which is exactly what we’re doing today. With the start of the NFL season right around the corner, I thought it would be fun to create a Colts-themed grazing platter with blue and white foods.

So I’m going to walk you through the steps of preparing a grazing platter.

First, start with a big serving platter. Large wooden boards, either rectangular or circular, look really nice and are really sturdy. They’re especially great if they have a lip because it makes them more portable. Crate and Barrel has some really nice options (like this one), but they’re a little on the pricier side. I recommend looking at HomeGoods for some cheaper options. Plastic serving platters and even regular old cutting boards will do the trick. What’s most important is you have a lot of space to work with.

Second, let’s talk about the food on the platter. I like to incorporate the five basic tastes: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami (savory). However, depending on your mood or theme you can focus on just one or two of the tastes. For example, the platter picture here with candy and popcorn focuses on sweet and salty.

Third, arrange everything on the platter.
  • The first thing I do it place a few small bowls on the platter to hold things like jams, dips, and small candies. 
  • Add bigger items, like cheese, to the board next. It’s fun to play with the shapes and sizes of the cheese. For example, it can be served as a wedge, a circular block, or slices.
  • After the big items are in place, add fruit, crackers, and any other medium-sized snack items.
  • Sprinkle in the smallest items, like nuts and dried fruits, for the finishing touches. This is the time to fill in any gaps.

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