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Top 5 Dinner Recipes on Repeat for 2020

2020 has pushed us to cook & plan more meals than ever before.  Here I have compiled a list of my Top 5 dinner recipes on repeat for 2020.  These are on “the rotation” – tried and true, easy-to-make and delicious recipes from some of my favorite food blogs and websites. Hope this gives you a little inspiration if you are looking for something good to cook!

These recipes are listed in no particular order – it all depends on what you are in the mood for. These are ALL 5-Star recipes in my book! If anything catches your eye, try it out and let me know what you think!

BONUS: I’ve also listed a couple of my favorite Spotify playlists at the end that are great background for cooking!

  1. Sheet Pan Chicken Pitas with Tzatziki – Pinch of Yum 

I make this recipe at least once a month – I love the combination of flavors – salty, sweet, acidic and savory. I usually serve these with naan bread that I’ll crisp up on the grill or my air fryer. The secret ingredient is the curry powder- don’t skip it! Also, be sure to make the homemade Tzatziki sauce – all the flavors work together. This is just plain tasty.

2. Crispy Chipotle Chicken Tacos with Cilantro Lime Ranch – Half Baked Harvest

This recipe is fun because you can make crispity-crunchity tacos out of regular corn tortillas by adding a little bit of oil to the tortillas and putting the tacos in the oven. The process of baking them will crisp them up!

One tip that I learned by experience is to be sure to cover the tortilla with a wet paper towel in the microwave so that they don’t break when you put the filling inside and then into the oven. I also make this with ground turkey instead of chicken – I like the ground turkey from Trader Joes (Get the one that has the most fat content for the most flavor). The Cilantro Lime Ranch is delicious and worth making – it makes the dish. 

3. Turmeric Salmon with Coconut Crisp – Bon Appetit

This recipe caught my attention because I’m all about food as medicine, and Turmeric is good for you. I also like salmon and I was intrigued by the coconut crisp. This recipe has all kinds of flavor combinations that are somewhat uncommon – and SO delicious. I got the unsweetened coconut flakes from Trader Joes. Don’t skip this part – this is where the flavor gets interesting.

4. Spicy Chipotle Turkey Burgers – Allrecipes 

I tend to make this recipe more during warmer months, as it’s great on the grill – but I did put it in my air fryer and it was delicious. This seasoning blend with the Chipotle pepper is very flavorful and keeps you wanting another bite. I like to serve this on a pretzel bun with Swiss or Havarti cheese on top. If you are ever making burgers, DEFINITELY add this one to the list.

5. Best Vegan Lasagna Recipe – Cookie and Kate

This recipe is a stunner – a guaranteed crowd pleaser for vegans and non-vegans alike. It’s the cashew cream for me. You can eat this as a side item with meat, or as the main course. See my blog post below for more details – I absolutely loved this recipe.

So there you have it – hope that these make your life a little easier and a lot tastier!!

In the meantime, below are a couple of Spotify playlists that I like to play in the background when I’m cooking:

Check them out – I think you may like them!

Lo-Fi Hip Hop Beats: This is chill with a little beat that’s great for the background & won’t distract you from concentrating.

Serotonin Playlist on Spotify – Feel-good music to lift your spirits.

Enjoy! Here’s to good food and good music!

The Vegan Lasagna That Tastes Better Than Regular Lasagna! (No Joke)

Vegan Lasagna with Cashew Cream Sauce

Even though I’m not vegan, I decided to take a chance and try this lasagna because it’s a light, lactose-free option with plenty of vegetables (I try to get my vegetables in my diet every day because eating your vegetables + drinking water are the fountain of youth – but that’s for another post…). Let me tell you. I’m not kidding…this vegan lasagna was better than regular lasagna, and it was all because of the cashew sauce. I PROMISE YOU!

This recipe is so creamy and delicious, and I NEVER would have thought that this would have taste THIS good. I served this dish with roasted chicken and it was the perfect comfort meal for a cold winter evening. The best part was that it didn’t feel like I just ate a brick – I felt light and well-nourished and my taste buds were very happy.

Below is the modified recipe using the Cookie and Kate Best Vegan Lasagna recipe as a base – check out their page for all of the pictures, videos and tips. I’ve also listed the recipe below for your convenience with my notes.

INGREDIENTS:

Sauce:

  • 2 Cans of whole peeled tomatoes (San Marzano if possible)
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 heaping Tbs pitted black olives (if you don’t like olives, you can’t really taste them – they just add a salty flavor and “umami” to the sauce)
  • 1/2 cup Vidalia onion (diced)
  • 4 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbs dried marjoram
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2 Tbs granulated Sugar
  • 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Freshly cracked pepper to taste

Cashew Cream:

  • 2 cups raw cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours if you do not have a high-powered blender (If you have a Vitamix or Ninja, you don’t have to soak)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

Vegetables:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium-to-large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 large or 3 medium carrots, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 8 ounces Baby Bella mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 5 to 6 ounces baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • *You can use whatever vegetables you have on-hand – I also added some orange bell pepper.

Everything else:

  • 2 ½ cups marinara sauce, homemade or store-bought (I strongly recommend homemade)
  • 9 no-boil lasagna noodles

INSTRUCTIONS:

Make the Sauce:

Start by making your sauce (you can use canned to save time, but once you make your own sauce, it’s hard to go back) This sauce is from Chef Jason London of Boe Love Personal Chef: (It’s delicious and makes more sauce than you need for the lasagna, and it gives you extra for serving later)

Remove the tomatoes from the can and place in a large bowl. Squeeze the tomatoes with your hands until there are no large chunks remaining. Set aside.

Peel the garlic cloves, dice and set aside. Dice the onion. Give the olives a rough chop.

Pour the olive oil in a saucepan and heat over medium low heat. Once the oil is warm, add the garlic, onion and olives then sweat until the mixture become aromatic. Do not brown the garlic. Maybe 2 -3 minutes.

Pour in the squeezed tomatoes and mix well. Add the dried spices, sugar, and balsamic vinegar. Cover the saucepan partially and simmer until the sauce reduces by about 15% and looks velvety and rich. Add kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. If you soaked your cashews, drain and rinse them until the water runs clear.

Make the Cashew Cream:

In a blender, combine the cashews, water, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, and mustard. Blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. If you’re having trouble blending the mixture, slowly blend in up to ½ cup additional water, using only as much as necessary. Set aside.

Prepare the Vegetables:

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Once shimmering, add the onion, carrots, mushrooms, salt and several twists of black pepper. Cook, stirring every couple of minutes, until most of the moisture is gone and the vegetables are tender and turning golden on the edges, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add another splash of olive oil if necessary to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Add a few large handfuls of spinach to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until the spinach has wilted. Repeat with remaining spinach and cook until all of the spinach has wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds. Remove the skillet from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Assemble the Lasagna:

Spread ¾ cup tomato sauce evenly over the bottom of a 9” by 9” baking dish. Layer 3 lasagna noodles on top (snap off their ends to fit, and/or overlap their edges as necessary). Spread 1 cup of the cashew cream evenly over the noodles. Top with half of the veggies. Top with ¾ cup tomato sauce.

Top with 3 more noodles, followed by another 1 cup cashew cream (save the leftover cream). Then add the remaining veggies.

Top with 3 more noodles, then spread ¾ cup tomato sauce over the top to evenly cover the noodles.

Wrap a sheet of parchment paper or aluminum foil around the top of the lasagna, making sure it’s taut so it doesn’t touch the top. Bake, covered, for 25 minutes, then remove the cover, rotate the pan by 180° and continue cooking for about 5 to 10 more minutes, until it’s steaming and lightly bubbling at the corners.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the lasagna cool for 15 to 20 minutes, so it has time to set and cool down to a reasonable temperature. Drizzle leftover cashew cream on top (if it’s too thick to drizzle, thin it out with a small amount of water first).

SO GOOD! Enjoy it – it makes a small pan so if you are feeding more than 2 people, you might want to double the recipe. Bon Appetit!

New Pop-Up Turkey Dinner Boxes for Thanksgiving 2020!

I’m joining forces with Chef Jason London of Boe Love Personal Chef to launch a Chef & the Baker (he’s the chef, I’m the Baker) Turkey Dinner box for this Thanksgiving season! 

This homemade Thanksgiving dinner is from our hearts and we want you to taste the love in every bite. The menu has been designed to give you a classic menu with a twist – it’s bursting with flavor!

Pre-order until Wednesday 11/19 for Curbside Pick-up in the South Loop of Chicago (18th & Prairie). 

We are looking forward to sharing flavor from our hearts this season. 💕 

Here’s a little video on what to expect!

CLICK HERE to order your box!

Meet Jason London, the Chef/Owner of Boe Love Personal Chef. 

Educated at Kendall College, Chef Jason has been creating menus and specialized meal plans for corporate executives and local celebrities for the past 10 years. Specializing in rustic American and Italian cuisines, his love for food and cooking shine through. He offers delivery, in-home cooking, dinner parties, cooking lessons and catering. 

Louisville Covid-cation Guide: Top Places to Eat & Things to Do During the Pandemic

Many of us feel like we need a change of scenery after dealing with COVID for about 6 months now. Although we are in the midst of a pandemic, a road trip and local vacation may be just what you need.

I went to Louisville, KY for a little getaway last weekend, and it was a nice change of pace from Chicago. It’s only a 4.5 hour drive, which makes it a great place to go to get a taste of small-town charm coming from a big city. Even though everything wasn’t open, I was able to find things to do and great places to eat. Louisville has a fantastic food scene.

Below is my summary of my trip – if you live in the midwest or if Louisville is easy for you to get to, bookmark this page for some of my top picks!

Louisville Covid-Cation (Covid-Vacation) Guide

Stay:

Air B&B in the trendy NuLu (New Louisville) neighborhood

  • The NULU location is great, as you are in the bourbon district and close to distilleries, including Angel’s Envy. There were a number of restaurants and shops within walking distance, and all of the locals were super friendly, offering advice on places to eat and things to do.

Eat:

  • Lunch at Another Place Sandwich Shop. They make scratch-made sandwiches with freshly-roasted meats and handmade breads and sauces. The food was high-quality and excellent. The staff provided some great recommendations on other places to eat.
Sandwich from Another Place Sandwich Shop in Louisville, KY
Delicious scratch-made sandwiches from Another Place Sandwich Shop in Louisville, KY
  • Please & Thank You – Cute place for coffee and tea. They had an Earl Grey tea with Rose so I had to try it and it was tasty. They claim to have the best Chocolate Chip Cookies & they were tasty. Reminded me of the Soft-Batch cookies from back in the day. They also have a walk-up window, which was nice.
Coffee cup from Please and Thank You shop in Louisville, KY
Stop by the walk-up window at Please & Thank You for some tasty coffee, tea and cookies!
  • Biscuit Belly – a must-go for breakfast. I thoroughly enjoyed my biscuit breakfast sandwich and the next time I go to Louisville, I will be sure to visit again and get another one. 
Outdoor sign for Biscuit Belly restaurant in Louisville, KY
Biscuit Belly in Louisville is a must-go breakfast spot!
  •  Dinner at Bar Vetti –  Seriously had the BEST pork chops I’ve had in my LIFE! We kept raving about it so much to the point where the chef came out and told us how he made them – they were brined and pan-fried and DELICIOUS. Definitely going back there. 

Bar Vetti had the BEST pork chop I’ve had in years! Maybe in life!

  • Lueberry – I like to get green smoothies and drink my vegetables, and Lueberry had a number of unique smoothie options, and the portion size was HUGE at 24 oz. so I really felt like I was getting a lot for my money. 

Drink:

  • Many of the distilleries were closed, but Angel’s Envy was open just a block away from where we were staying and they were offering bourbon tastings. They also had some DELICIOUS pre-mixed cocktails that you can take to-go and pour over ice. Definitely get the Henderson. 
Pre-mixed cocktail-to-go from Angel's Envy Distillery

Things to Do:

  • Art Exhibit at the 21c Hotel & Museum – Free admission – they had some very interesting pieces that kept my attention – I spent over an hour looking at all of the art – this installation had some powerful pieces that spoke to political power. Worth seeing!
  • The Kentucky Castle – This castle is located about an hour outside of Louisville and worth the drive. The castle is used as a hotel, restaurant and spa. Both the inside and outside are stunning. I had dinner here and the food is delicious. My favorite item on the menu was their short ribs and gourmet macaroni and cheese. The staff was wonderful with top-notch service. This castle is so fabulous that some members of the cast of Vanderpump Rules got married there.  Definitely add it to your list if you have the time.
The Kentucky Castle is a stunning beauty – great for a romantic night out or girls trip!
  • Steamboat Ride – There happened to be a steamboat race that weekend with the Belle of Louisville, and we enjoyed a 2-hour boat party on the deck of the boat with a great DJ. It was fun to see the big red wheel turning and ride along the river.
The Belle of Louisville Steamboat
  • Historic Old Louisville Mansion Tour – This was a guided tour where we learned about some of the old historic homes in Louisville along with the architecture. Very interesting and it’s always fun to look at historical houses. 

Shop:

  • There are cute boutique shops up and down street. I enjoyed Red Tree  – it’s a quirky, eclectic shop that sells furniture, home goods and gifts, and it is much bigger inside than it looks outside. You must go outside to the back patio to see the umbrellas and the garden- it’s truly an oasis in the city.
Decorative back patio with umbrellas
Beautiful back patio area at the Red Tree shop in Louisville, KY

Overall Impression:

Louisville is officially on the map for me as a destination to get a change of pace from Chicago. There was overwhelming amount of support for Breonna Taylor (who was from Louisville) with window signs and street art showing her love, and Black Lives Matter signage. We went during Derby week, and many times the city seemed deserted. Despite this fact, the people we encountered were incredibly friendly and wanted to help us to have a great time. Louisville definitely captured my heart – it’s a quirky city, and their saying is “Keep Louisville Weird” which means to me that there will always be something interesting to see and do.  I look forward to returning when things are more back-to-normal. I have nothing but love for Louisville! 

(Socially-Distanced) Cookout-Approved Tiramisu Banana Pudding Cake – Recipe Review

Hi everyone! 

I have another recipe review for you that I highly recommend. I made the Tiramisu Banana Pudding Cake by Grandbaby Cakes, and it did not disappoint. The creator is Jocelyn Delk Adams, who is a national TV personality and creator behind Grandbabycakes.com where she takes classic recipes from her grandmother and gives them a modern twist. 

Check out my video review below:

This is a classic Banana Pudding recipe with the twist of Tiramisu, where it calls for Ladyfingers as an ingredient. This was my first time working with Ladyfingers, and you can find them in the Italian section of the grocery store. 

The special part about this recipe is the RUM SAUCE! Once I tasted it, I wanted more of it, so when I make this recipe in the future, I would add more sauce to the layers. The ladyfingers definitely make this more of a cake vs. the traditional banana pudding, and I liked the sturdier texture. 

The other update I made was to chop some pecans and sprinkle them on the top of my portion. Not everyone may like pecans, so I didn’t sprinkle it all over the cake, but as a person that loves pecans, I thought that this was a great addition! It adds another layer of texture with the crunch, and of course the flavor is fabulous. 

One modification that I made was that I put mini Nilla Wafers on every-other row for the second layer. I felt like I might miss the Nilla Wafer flavor so I added them in for a little bit of nostalgia – I enjoyed this and would do it again the next time I make it.This recipe is a crowd-pleaser, and since you make it in a 9” x 13” pan, it will feed a lot of people. If you have a big family, this is great, but if not, be sure to have some people in mind to share it with. 

I would absolutely make this recipe again and I highly recommend that you try it this summer. You NEED to go ahead and add this to your summer rotation.  Taste Bud Diaries Approved! Enjoy every bite! 

Since COVID is still out in these streets, I have not been frequenting restaurants as much, so instead I’ve decided to do more recipe reviews until I’m more comfortable with dining out. That said, if you have any other recipes that you would like me to review, let me know and perhaps your will see them featured in the future!

Until next time! 

The Easiest (and most delicious) Homemade Bagels EVER!

I decided to start doing recipe reviews since restaurants are closed for dining in due to COVID. This first review is for the 5-ingredient NO YEAST Everything Bagels that everyone is raving out. For good reason! These bagels are easy to make & absolutely delicious and there is no turning back after you taste them. You need these in your life. I give these 5 stars and two thumbs up. 

I found this recipe on Skinnytaste, and I’ve listed the recipe below for your convenience:

Skinnytaste Easy Bagel Recipe: 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup (5 oz) unbleached all purpose flour, whole wheat or gluten-free mix*
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder, make sure it’s not expired or it won’t rise
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, use less if using table salt
  • 1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt, not regular yogurt, it will be too sticky
  • 1 egg white, beaten (whole egg works fine too)
  • Optional topping: everything bagel seasoning
INSTRUCTIONS
  • Preheat oven to 375F. Place parchment paper or a silpat on a baking sheet. If using parchment paper, spray with oil to avoid sticking.
  • In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt and whisk well. Add the yogurt and mix with a fork or spatula until well combined, it will look like small crumbles.
  • Lightly dust flour on a work surface and remove dough from the bowl, knead the dough a few times until dough is tacky, but not sticky, about 15 turns (it should not leave dough on your hand when you pull away).
  • Divide into 4 equal balls. Roll each ball into 3/4-inch thick ropes and join the ends to form bagels. (or you can make a ball and poke a hole in the center then stretch it slightly)
  • Top with egg wash and sprinkle both sides with seasoning of your choice. Bake on the top rack of the oven for 25 minutes. Let cool at least 15 minutes before cutting.

Also take a look at my video to see how I made them along with my reaction to how they turned out.  

If you make these, let me know how you liked them and be sure to share these with other people! Front line workers are some great people to share these with and you can even make mini-bagels – just cut them into smaller sections. Enjoy!

Brunch Inspiration: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake!

These Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes are a great brunch recipe and so easy to make! I modified a recipe by Grandbaby Cakes (one of my favorite food blogs) by putting the recipe in muffin cups & used crushed pineapples instead of the rings. I added 1/4 tsp of cinnamon to the batter as well. Fun, tasty & easy recipe! You can eat leftovers with vanilla bean ice cream for dessert or along with your coffee or afternoon tea.

Below is the modified recipe:

Makes about 12 cupcakes

Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsps pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
About 1 cup of crushed pineapples (either canned or fresh)
Maraschino cherries

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Liberally grease your muffin tin with vegetable oil or cooking spray.

For the cake batter: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, vanilla extract, eggs and pineapple juice until well mixed. Set aside.

Next melt butter over medium heat.
Once melted, whisk in brown sugar and cook for 1 minute.

Put one tablespoon of the brown sugar/butter mixture into each of the muffin cups.

Add about 2 teaspoons of crushed pineapple on top of the brown sugar mixture in each muffin cup. Be sure to spread the pineapple evenly.

Add a maraschino cherry if you so desire (I like to cut the cherries in half instead of using a full cherry. If you use half a cherry, be sure to place it upside down so that it looks nice when you flip the muffins)

Pour cake batter on top of the pineapples/cherry mix.

**Only fill the muffin cups 3/4 full so that it won’t create a “muffin top”. This will make it easier for them to release from the muffin tin after baking.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes then invert the muffins onto a cooling rack or serving plate and serve.

*Note – be careful when you are inverting the cupcakes – this can get a little bit messy as some of the cupcakes release faster than others.

Tip- before you invert the cupcakes, run a knife along the ring of each of the cupcakes to help them come out of the tins easier.

Enjoy!!

Easy, Healthy & Delicious – Turmeric Salmon with Coconut Crisp

New Year, New Blog Posts! It’s a new year and I decided to jump back into my blog! I took a little break but I’m going to continue using my blog as a creative outlet. You’ll see me experimenting with some different posts and content. I’m going to keep it simple and share my love of food with you!  My first post of the year features this DELICIOUS recipe.

I made this Turmeric Salmon with Coconut Crisp recipe from Bon Appetit Magazine and it was SO delicious and full of bold flavors. Ginger, turmeric- which is good for you, and I used rainbow chard which I cooked for the first time – tasty. I got the coconut flakes from the bulk section at Whole Foods, and Trader Joes also sells small bags of coconut flakes. I took this picture just before putting it in the oven. Gorgeous!

I HIGHLY recommend it- easy to make and it tastes like something you would eat out at a restaurant. I’m adding this to the rotation.

Here’s the link – If you make this, let me know what you think!

https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/turmeric-salmon-with-coconut-crisp

What I Ate in Iceland

When my friend asked if I would be interested in going to Iceland, I said “Why not?” (I read Shonda Rhimes book the Year of Yes, so I’m very open to things this year).

It’s a surprisingly short flight (only 5 hours from JFK airport in New York), it’s clean, modern, they speak English, and there are drop-dead gorgeous landscapes.

As I started my research, I kept reading that Iceland has terrible food. I will admit that I didn’t have any of the dried fish or rotten shark BUT I was able to have some food that was tasty and delicious. I will note that the food in Iceland is expensive. It seemed as if everything costs a minimum of $20. Minimum.

If you ever make your way to Reykjavik Iceland, be sure to check out these dishes and restaurants:

Breakfast/Brunch

Slippbarrin

I stayed at the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina (excellent hotel that I would HIGHLY recommend) and the breakfast and Sunday brunch were excellent. They have a fantastic variety with foods including oatmeal, flatbreads, waffles, bacon, quiche, breakfast pastries, fruit, etc.

The Sunday brunch costs about $30 USD and the breakfasts during the week are about $25. This breakfast/brunch is worth the price. We ended up going there 3 times. So good.

 

Lamb Soup:

I had some lamb & vegetable soup at Geysir Restaurant during one of the tours I went on to see a Geyser, and it was absolutely delicious. According to my tour guide, sheep live as wild animals in the mountains resulting in excellent quality meat. The soup had a light broth, had a mild in flavor, and great texture. I would highly recommend it if you like lamb. The cost was $20 and included bread and butter along with 1 free soup refill.

Lamb & vegetable soup. Fantastic!
Lamb & vegetable soup. Fantastic!

 

 

 

Ice Cream at Valdis:

As cool as it was in Reykjavik in August (Mid-50’s), Ice Cream was a popular treat.

A local suggested that we visit Valdis over by the marina, and it did not disappoint. The flavors were incredible. I had a flavor called Bailey’s & Ranill, which tasted like RumChata, and I paired that with a coffee-flavored ice cream. Best combination of all time. They also had an interesting grey-colored licorice flavor, which tasted like a black jelly bean. The shop is a little bit off the beaten path, and there seemed to be mostly locals at this shop. They also give huge portions if you wanted to share with a friend. My two scoops of Ice Cream on a cone cost me about $6 USD.

 

Seafood at Saegreiffin – The Sea Barron

 This place was so good that I forgot to take a picture. There was a line out the door that was about a 30-minute wait. They are known for their lobster soup & they offer a number of grilled fish items on skewers, and you can also get potatoes and vegetable skewers. I had the salmon skewer, and it was perfectly cooked and seasoned. After I ordered, they said that it would take another 30 minutes for the food to come out. It was worth the wait – definitely stop by here for some fresh seafood. It was also relatively inexpensive at ~$25 USD for the Salmon skewer and the potato skewer.

 

Hot Dogs at Bæjarins Beztu

This is a famous hot dog stand in Reykjavik where celebrities frequent, including Bill Clinton and most recently the Kardashians. The hot dog was tasty and had unique toppings including ketchup, a mayo sauce, sweet mustard, and fried crispy onions underneath the hot dog. The crispy onions added nice flavor and crunch – I would definitely get it again. My hot dog cost about $5 USD.

 

 

Ramen at Ramen Momo

For a change of pace, we tried a Himalayan-Tibetan restaurant with Ramen noodles. I had the chicken broth and chicken added to my noodles but found it to be bland. Be sure to ask to for it to be spicy, as my friend did and liked hers better. The chicken dumplings were ordered as a side item and those were crunchy & delicious! The space is tiny, so we got the food to-go and ate it at the hotel. The cost for the Ramen and fried dumplings was about $25 USD.

Nice change of pace
Nice change of pace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lava Restaurant at the Blue Lagoon

The food here was good, but ridiculously overpriced. For lunch, I ordered the Cod fish with potatoes along with a beet salad, and tasted my friend’s crème brulee. The cost was about $65 USD.

 

Skyr Yogurt

The Skyr yogurt in Iceland is delicious, silky, smooth, and packs a lot of protein. In general, be sure to have any dairy products that you can – the texture really is fantastic. Almost luxurious. This yogurt is available everywhere, from hotels to convenience stores – you won’t be able to miss it. I’m going to be looking for this at Whole Foods here in the states.

Silky, luxurious yogurt
Silky, luxurious yogurt

 

 

Fast Food: Domino’s Pizza

I hate to admit it, but I ate Domino’s Pizza in Iceland. (I know. Shameful.) There was a late bus schedule at the Blue Lagoon and we got back to Reykyavik after 10pm. Little did we know that all the restaurants close around 10pm in Iceland. We ordered pizza delivery because we were tired and cold and didn’t feel like walking across town to the one restaurant that was open. Note that a small pizza in Iceland is more like a personal-pan pizza size in the US. Itty bitty. I live in Chicago so I never eat Domino’s but it was actually pretty tasty (or maybe we were just hungry). The cost for a small pizza and wings was about $25 USD.

As a side note, there is no McDonalds or Starbucks in Reykjavík. I was told that there was a McDonalds but it closed down because the prices were too high.

Reykjavik is a charming city and I hope that it can maintain it’s charm with the influx of tourists. I ate very well in Iceland & hopefully with these tips, you will too!

Við skulum borða! (Bon Appetit!)

Adventures in Hong Kong and Shanghai!

I had the amazing opportunity to visit Shanghai for work, with a little side trip to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is a fabulous, modern and trendy city with something for everyone. I enjoyed the Soho area on Hong Kong Island with all of the trendy shops and restaurants. There is an international vibe in this area and a creative energy that reminded me of New York. I would definitely go back to Hong Kong & spend more time – maybe get some custom clothes made.

Below are some of my tips & observations in Hong Kong:

  • The Regal Kowloon Hotel in Hong Kong was a pretty good place to stay –the price was moderate at about $150/night, the rooms were clean, it was in a good location, included free WiFi, and the breakfast buffet was great! They had breakfast choices available for all cultures including American breakfast, Chinese, they had Indian food, and it was quite a spread. If you want a more glamorous hotel, the Peninsula and Langham Hotels are a staple on Kowloon. It could also be fun to try a boutique hotel on Hong Kong Island, but it won’t be cheap!

My hotel room at the Regal Kowloon Hotel
My hotel room at the Regal Kowloon Hotel in Hong Kong

  • Be sure to visit the Soho area  Soho reminded me of a mix of San Francisco (with the huge hills) and New York, with the cute shops and restaurants.  I enjoyed the Olive Greek & Mediterranean Restaurant, which had great service and delicious food. It has good reviews on Trip Advisor as well. I also spent a nice amount of time in a boutique called Goods of Desire where there is a variety of trendy Chinese-inspired gifts, clothes & jewelry.
  • The Temple Street night market is a fun experience, but don’t expect much as far as the merchandise. Like my co-worker said, it’s like visiting a huge dollar store. Still a great place to take in the sights and sounds of the city.

Temple Street Market in Hong Kong
Temple Street Market in Hong Kong

 

Egg waffles are a popular street food to try with long lines. They tasted a lot like a hot fortune cookie but in a waffle format. Not very sweet, but they seem to be all the rage. I personally could have used a little bit of vanilla ice cream and nutella – that would have taken them over the top.

Egg waffles are the thing to eat in Hong Kong!
Egg waffles are the thing to eat in Hong Kong!

 

Public transportation is a breeze! So easy and clean. There is an express train that goes from the airport to Kowloon, and a shuttle that goes straight to the Regal Kowloon Hotel.

On the train in Hong Kong. So clean and quiet.
On the train in Hong Kong. So clean and quiet

  • The Big Buddha was an interesting experience, with beautiful views and a little village full of places to shop and things to do.

Me in front of the big buddha
Me in front of the big buddha

 

Shanghai:

Shanghai has the best skyline I’ve ever seen. The city is slightly overwhelming as it’s very large and spread out with a population of 23 million people. Being from Chicago, our skyline is hard to beat, but I fell in love with the gorgeous buildings and the Shanghai pearl tower.

Shanghai's breathtaking skyline!
Shanghai’s breathtaking skyline!

Tips & Observations in Shanghai:

  • Be prepared for the toilets. They are literally a hole in the ground. It takes a little maneuvering to navigate. Keep some tissues on hand just in case you need them. There are the “western toilets” in some places, like the shopping malls, but this style is common as well.

The toilet situation in Shanghai. Get ready!
The toilet situation in Shanghai. Get ready!

  • Napkins don’t seem to be a thing in Shanghai. Many times you will get a hot towel, but that’s about it.

 

  • In the touristy areas, many of the people from other provinces haven’t seen many people from other cultures. As a black woman, I felt like a celebrity sometimes. People’s eyes would get big, they would start whispering to each other, and sometimes walk over and ask for a picture. I even caught some people sneaking pictures – acting like they were taking a selfie, but they were really taking pictures of me! It was crazy how excited they were. They said that we were “foreign beauties.” I’ll take it!

 

  • Yu Garden is a fun place to walk around and shop. The French Concession area also has some trendy little unique shops where they had unique restaurant concepts and stores with beauty products.

In the French Concession area frolicking under the umbrellas!
In the French Concession area frolicking under the umbrellas!

  • China bans Facebook and Google. You need to get a VPN before you get over there.
  • Personal space is very small in China. People get very close to you in elevators and trains, and you may be cut off while walking or pushed in a large crowd. Get ready!
  • The food in China is different than it is here in the states. The sauces are different. It’s still tasty, but just different. Chinese food every day got a little bit tiring, I will say. The thing that I appreciated coming back to the states is our wide variety of cuisines from around the world. The first thing I ate was Lou Malnati’s pizza!

Overall, this was a trip to remember – my first major international business trip. I flew business class for the first time & that’s definitely the way to go for a 15 hour flight. The fully reclining seats & lounge access are a huge bonus. Traveling truly makes you appreciate different cultures, but also reminds you of the things you take for granted (like our freedom of speech and our wonderful variety of food). So long, China! It’s been real!

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