Bread with Pecorino, Honey and Orange Zest ~

Since SO many of my readers requested it, I’ll do a very brief summary of my trip to Italy. I think I will have to do a separate post about my cooking class with some recipes, since there’s too much to tell about that! 

Unfortunately, my family isn’t big on remembering to take photos (thank goodness Nate loves to!), so all the photos I have were taken with my iphone.

I began my trip in Florence, where I met up with my parents who had already been traveling for a week. Here’s the famous Duomo which was a short walk from our hotel.

Duomo, Florence, Italy ~

Sadly, I didn’t consume as much gelato as i would have liked because my stomach was bothering me for most of the trip…and I was too full after meals to get it. It’s pretty crazy how often you see people eating gelato, though, and at all times of the day!

I’m pretty sure there more gelato stores in italy than Starbucks are in the U.S., and that’s saying a lot since I love in NY where there’s practically a Starbucks on every corner. But in both Florence and Milan there were at least 2 places to get gelato on every single block. 

Florence is pretty small, so we could walk pretty much everywhere. The Ponte Vecchio was so close by that we ended up walking over there for shopping and dinner a couple times. 

Ponte Vecchio, Florence ~

As I mentioned in my other post, we took a day trip to Chianti where we had a private cooking class at the Ristorante Malborghetto with Chef Simone.

Here’s our first course. A juicy, grilled porcini with rosemary, garlic and truffle oil.

Cooking Class, Ristorante Malborghetto, Chianti ~

We also made the most amazing homemade gnocchi in bolognese. We made parmesan bowls to serve it. 

Cooking Class, Ristorante Malborghetto, Chianti ~

 Here’s my mom helping make the tiramisu.

Cooking Class, Ristorante Malborghetto, Chianti ~
Here’s my dad enjoying the finished product. 

Cooking Class, Ristorante Malborghetto, Chianti ~

On the way home from Chianti, we stopped at San Gimignano, a small walled medieval hill town in the province of Siena, Tuscany. It was so so beautiful!

San Gimignano ~

We ended up doing a lot of walking while we were in Florence…we had to go up a bunch of steep staircases and hills to get to Basilica di San Miniato al Monte.Florence, Italy ~

Basilica di San Miniato al Monte, Florence ~

But it was worth it because the view at the top was spectacular.

Basilica di San Miniato al Monte 2 ~ Elephant

Next up was Milan. The most beautiful Cathedral was near our hotel. The Duomo di Milano is a Gothic cathedral that took nearly six centuries to complete and was literally JUST finished, if you can believe it. It is the fifth largest cathedral in the world and the largest in the Italian state territory.

Milan Duomo ~

We were told that the church needs money, hence the billboards on the scaffolding!

Milan Duomo ~

Milan has a bike share program just like the CitiBikes that were recently introduced in NYC. Europe is way ahead of the U.S.!

City Bikes, Milan ~ Elephant

One of the days that we were in Milan, we took a day trip to Lake Maggiore. The climate in the lake region is mild all year long, and so there’s the Alpinia botanical garden above the town of Stresa there.  

We visited it and it was gorgeous.

Botanical Gardens, Lake Maggiore ~

Alpinia botanical garden  ~ ElephantEats.comAlpinia botanical garden  ~

Alpinia botanical garden  ~

But anyway, back to the important stuff…the food!

My parents have been to Florence several times now, and this was my second time although I don’t remember the first too well. Anyway, my parents had apparently been to this one little cafe that they really wanted to find again because one of the things they had was this delicious bread with honeycomb, cheese and orange zest. We walked all around trying to find the place but couldn’t. Finally my mom remembered that she had sent an email to her friend with the restaurant name in it so we went back to the hotel just to get the info! Luckily after some searching we found the email and went immediatey back out to go there for lunch. 

cantinetta dei verrazzano, Florence ~

It was called Cantinetta Dei Verrazzano and I HIGHLY recommend that if you’re in Florence, you stop in for lunch or dinner. 

We split some meats and a salad but the highlight of the meal was when the server came to our table carrying a giant honeycomb! He put out plates with a small slice of a whole wheat bread, with a slice of some sort of Pecorino Romano cheese (i think). He then scraped the honeycomb with a spoon and put the delicious honey drippings on top of the cheese. And finally he zested an orange on top. The combination of flavors was incredible and I knew I had to recreate it at home so Nate could experience it!

Bread with Pecorino, Honey and Orange Zest 2 ~

This isn’t a recipe so much because honestly, there are no real amounts, but I thought I should introduce you all to this flavor combination that somehow I had never heard of before. It’s not so easy to find honeycomb around here, so I just used regular honey. I hope you’ll try this at home!

Bread with Pecorino, Honey and Orange Zest  ~

When I finally get a chance to recreate one of the dishes I made in my Italian cooking class, I’ll be back with a recipe for that :)

Bread with Pecorino, Honey and Orange Zest 2 ~


Bread with Pecorino, Honey and Orange Zest
An easy appetizer with the most amazing combination of flavors from Florence, Italy! I don't have any amounts because it really is up to you...
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  1. Whole Wheat bread, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
  2. Pecorino (or other hard cheese), sliced 1/8 inch thick and cut into pieces
  3. Honeycomb or honey
  4. Orange zest
  1. Place bread squares on a plate.
  2. Put a small square of cheese on each slice. Put a large dallop of honey on each and then zest orange on top.

Turkey, Pumpkin and Veggie Chili ~

While you’re reading this post, I’m currently in Italy, most likely ODing on pasta and gelato ;)

You see, I kind of conned my way into being included in my parent’s Italian vacation (thanks mom and dad!). Unfortunately, Nate wasn’t able to join because he doesn’t get as many vacation days as me :(

Being the awesome wife that I am, though, I wanted to make sure that my hubby was well-fed while I was away. Since he is ok with leftovers, and his mom was going to be in town to take him out for a few meals, I figured that I would cook two big meals and freeze it so he had enough for the 6 dinners he’d need.

Turkey, Pumpkin and Veggie Chili ~

Not all meals freeze and reheat well, but chili happens to be great for that. I made a HUGE batch that we ate for dinner one night before I left, and then froze two giant tupperwares full. Each one of these holds about 3 meals worth, so he’ll use one while I’m gone and the other can be taken out another time when I’m just not in the mood to cook. It’s always good to have a few frozen meals laying around for convenience!

I also baked up my favorite Trader Joe’s cornbread to go along with it. I used the butter-flavored olive oil sample that I got, and it definitely took it to another level! Also, I added pumpkin to the chili purely because I made pumpkin bread and had a little less than a can leftover in my fridge. You could make this chili without the pumpkin but you’ll need less liquid.

And while I’m talking about favorites/Trader Joe’s/freezing things, I used some Dorot garlic in this recipe. I had seen some of their products in Trader Joes before and used them, but when Natalie posted about them on her blog and I commented, Dorot reached out to me and sent me some coupons! 

What makes Dorot products amazing is that you can have garlic, ginger and fresh herbs on hand all the time! They’re basically little frozen cubes made entirely out of these fresh things. When you want to use them, you pop one or two of the little cubes out of the freezer tray they come in, and into your pan! They don’t stick to the container at all and literally pop right out. They’re SO convenient. Dorot makes crushed garlic, crushed ginger, chopped chile, sauteed glazed onions,chopped basil, cilantro, parsley and dill…AMAZING, i know!

I especially love the garlic ones because i hate stinky garlic fingers (and just generally detest mincing garlic). Do you ever notice that like 2 days after chopping garlic, you get a whiff of something funky and it’s your garlic fingers? It’s especially disconcerting/confusing when you’re eating your oatmeal in the morning. And I love the chopped ginger and basil because let’s face it, when you buy either of those fresh, you never use it all and end up wasting the rest. 

Turkey, Pumpkin and Veggie Chili ~

Apparently Dorot also has frozen cubes of sauces too!…but sadly no supermarkets near me carry them :( I wish it wasn’t the case.

But back to the chili! I find that the best way to eat this after having frozen it is to take it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge the night before you want to eat it. Giving it 24 hours to partially defrost in the fridge makes reheating it much easier. Once defrosted, youcan either microwave it or put it in a pot and heat it over the stove.

Hopefully Nate is doing ok on his own. At least I know his belly is full, and someone is home to take good care of our kitty!

Turkey, Pumpkin and Veggie Chili ~

*Note that I was compensated for these products but all opinions are my own. I would never post about a product that I didn’t love and plan to use again!

Turkey, Pumpkin and Veggie Chili for a Crowd
Serves 8
A steaming bowl of healthy chili that can be on the table in under 30 minutes!
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Marinated Mushrooms ~

 As you know, I just got back from a short vacation to Idaho with Nate. Sorry in advance for all the photos. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them. Recipe for these lovely mushrooms are at the bottom.

We stayed at Nate’s dad’s cute little log cabin. Well, it’s not so little. It also isn’t at all rustic. It has all the amenities of a typical house, complete with a beautifully updated kitchen.

Idaho Cabin ~

The cabin is kind of in the middle of nowhere. It’s over an hour from the nearest supermarket. 

Idaho Cabin ~

Idaho Cabin ~

However what the area lacks in the civilization department, it more than makes up for it in the scenery. The mountains and view behind his cabin are just spectacular. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of them in all sorts of light. 

This is in his backyard with the clouds rolling in.

Idaho Mountains ~

One morning after a light sprinkling, we even got a rainbow. I was still sleeping, so thanks to Nate for capturing this one.

 Idaho Rainbow ~

Not a bad  view to have while eating dinner. We used the grill out on his patio the first night for some tasty salmon and veggie kabobs.

Idaho Mountains ~

While there we tried to spend time outdoors, obviously. The cabin is surrounded by camp sites and hiking trails. 

 4th of July Hike, Idaho ~

One day we did a 3 hour hike up to a couple pretty lakes.

4th of July Hike, Idaho ~

The area has had numerous wildfires over the years and you can see the devastation everywhere. Here were some burnt, dead trees along the hike. In this area the grass has mainly grown back. Some areas definitely look much much worse.

4th of July Hike, Idaho ~

Despite the fact that many trees have burned down, there’s an abundance of little baby pine trees starting to grow. I think they were my favorite part of the whole trip. This one happens to be right in his dad’s yard.

Baby tree, Idaho  ~ Elephant

There were a few areas that were so close we didn’t even have to hike. This was a short drive away and then just a walk to this little creek. There were lots of salmon in it! Apparently you can see them spawning at the right time of year.

Idaho ~

Another view of the backyard, just because.

Idaho Mountains ~

And just some more photos…

Walk in meadow, Idaho ~

Idaho ~

Ok, my final mountain shot, I promise. This was during sunset on our final evening there.

Idaho Mountain~

Now back to the recipe. I made these mushrooms as part of Nate’s bday dinner party meal. They’re absolutely delicious but chock full of garlic. If you’re planning on doing some smooching, don’t make these. Unless the other member of your party eats them too…isn’t that the rule?

Marinated Mushrooms ~

They’re really simple to make- a quick boil of the mushrooms, mix up a tasty marinade, and then let them do their thing for a while, or overnight. You’re left with a tangy, flavorful side dish that goes great with just about anything.


Marinated Mushrooms
Serves 4
A zesty, flavorful side dish
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  1. 1 pound fresh cremini mushrooms
  2. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  3. 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  4. 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  5. 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  6. 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano
  7. 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  8. 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  9. 1/4 teaspoon crushed pepper
  10. 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds (or a pinch of dried coriander powder)
  1. Clean mushrooms and remove stems. Simmer mushroom caps in salted water for 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. .
  2. While mushrooms are cooking, mix olive oil, vinegar, garlic, red onion, oregano, parsley, salt, peppercorns and coriander in a medium bowl. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  3. When mushrooms finish cooking, drain and add to marinade. Toss well.
  4. Marinate in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.
05. September 2013 · 40 comments · Categories: life · Tags: ,

 Stanley, Idaho

…I’m out here in Idaho at Nate’s dad’s cabin, enjoying the view ;)

Seriously, though, that’s his backyard. How amazing is that?!

Be back next week with a new recipe!

For Christmas, Nate surprised me with a quick long-weekend trip to San Francisco over MLK weekend. He considers SF his “hometown” because he was born there- never mind that his parents moved to the east coast when he was 3 months old.

If you try to tell him that he’s from Delaware, he will vehemently deny it. I used to ask him why it was so important for him to be “from” San Francisco, but now that I’ve been there I can see why he’s so adamant about it being his birth place. It’s a beautiful city with equal parts beach, mountains, forests, suburbs, city. It has a little bit of everything.

view of SF from the Rock.

On Saturday we went to Alcatraz. The audio tour was beyond cool. If you haven’t been, you must go! We also visited the ferry building with its amazing food, the gorgeous Palace of Fine Arts, the Wharf where dozens of sea lions come to sunbathe, and the picturesque Land’s End walking path with views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Sunday morning we ventured out to Muir Woods, hoping to get there before the crowds. I think it could be one of the prettiest, most serene places I’ve ever been. There’s something about a damp, shady forest that I find so relaxing…not to mention how amazingly fresh it smells!

I don’t know about you, but my sense of smell is my strongest sense and I find myself smelling everything. It’s a little weird, actually, the way I smell any new thing I encounter. For some reason I feel the need to assess a smell even if I know it’s going to be a bad one. Maybe I’m part dog.

Though nothing will even come close to the smell of that cool damp forest, odors emanating from the kitchen come a close second ;) While this soup isn’t the most fragrant thing I’ve ever cooked, it smells pretty darn delicious on a cold winter’s day, warming the room (and your belly!) right up.

It’s a very light soup, lighter than I’d imagined. I served it with some Cheddar Dill biscuits (recipe on Friday), but perhaps it would be best as a first course or a very light meal with some crusty bread.

Winter Vegetable Soup with Lentils

Slightly Adapted from Real Simple

Print this recipe!

serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 leeks (white and light green parts), cut into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and leaves cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1/2 cup brown lentils
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp hot sauce (such as Tabasco) or more to taste
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (1 ounce; optional)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat.

Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, breaking them up with a spoon, for 5 minutes.

Add 6 cups water and bring to a boil. Stir in the sweet potatoes, kale, lentils, thyme, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Simmer until the lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread, biscuits, or as an appetizer.