One of my favorite stops in Catania is the iconic fish market. It’s not only a favorite for the fresh fish, but for the experience itself. On Monday through Saturday mornings, you can both hear and smell the market before you ever see it. Located directly behind the Baroque Amenano Fountain in Elephant Square (near the Duomo), La Pescheria is open from 7:30ish to noon-ish. If you are in Catania, I highly recommend a visit even if you aren’t planning to buy anything. From fresh caught (this morning) seafood to just picked fruits and vegetables, the market has it all. While I do love the food available there, I also love the people. I feel like there is no better place to feel immersed in Sicily than walking around this market.

La Pescheria in Catania

La Pescheria in Catania - Catania fish market
La Pescheria in Catania - Catania fish market
La Pescheria in Catania - Catania fish market
La Pescheria in Catania - men in catania fish market sell fish.
A butcher in Catania fish market cuts a swordfish.
La Pescheria in Catania in black and white
Selling fish in Catania fresh fish market
Visiting La Pescheria in Catania - Catania fish market
Two men in La Pescheria in Catania - Catania fish market
La Pescheria in Catania - Catania fish market
La Pescheria in Catania - Catania fish market
Just outside of the market. La Pescheria in Catania is located directly behind the fountain in the background of this photo.
La Pescheria in Catania - Catania fish market
La Pescheria in Catania - Catania fish market
The market also offers fresh fruit, vegetables, and other meats as well.
A fruit and vegetable stall in Catania open air market.
Catania fish market during COVID-19
open air market in Catania
La Pescheria in Catania - Catania fish market
Catania fish market
Catania fish market
La Pescheria in Catania - Catania fish market during coronavirus
La Pescheria in Catania - Catania fish market during COVID-19

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After living in Italy for almost two years, we figured it was probably time to learn to make pasta. In searching for the best pasta making classes for our upcoming trip to Florence, we found the LovexFood experience. The LovexFood experience is hosted by Luca and Lorenzo in their home in the Chianti Hills just outside of Florence. One of the most attractive aspects of this class for us was the fact that it was small group. With a max of ~10 people, we thought the hands-on experience could be right for us. And, it was!

We met Luca at the train station in Florence and hopped a train for about 15 minutes. Once we arrived, we met up with Lorenzo and they drove us to their beautiful home. We got started with the pasta making experience after quick introductions and a cafe. For this experience, they taught us to make ravioli with ricotta and pecorino in a sage butter sauce (my favorite) and cocoa tagliatelle with gorgonzola sauce (a fall pasta for special occasions). We also learned to make lavender panna cotta, which was amazing! Each class is different and Luca and Lorenzo are careful to accommodate for food allergies as well.

If you’re ever in Florence, I HIGHLY recommend you join this experience. Florence was cool, but hanging out with Luca and Lorenzo and learning how to cook was even better! Check out the photos below to see what we made and a peek into how we made it!

Pasta Making with LovexFood | Florence

The final products

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A stunning Tuscan setting and their pet chicken, Ginger.
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Panna cotta, the pet chickens, cocoa tagliatelle with gorgonzola sauce.
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Ravioli with ricotta and pecorino in a sage butter sauce.

The pasta making process

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We started with just a few simple ingredients.

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Everyone learned how to make the pasta dough and received personal guidance from Lorenzo.
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Luca supervised and provided us with tips as we all rolled our tagliatelle dough.
Lorenzo impressed us all as he rolled the ravioli dough.
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Lorenzo demonstrating for Jordan how to seal the ravioli.
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They told me I have “ravioli fingers.” Highest compliments.
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The ravioli before going into the water for boiling.
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Jordan finishing up his ravioli.
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Lorenzo demonstrating.
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Luca guiding me in my pasta rolling and more ravioli making.
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Jordan using the pasta guitar to create his tagilatelle.

Happy New Year!  Wow! I can’t believe it’s already 2019.  One trip I did not mention in my “best of 2018” post was this one…. because it hadn’t happed yet!!

Budapest is a relatively popular tourist destination with good reason. I first visited the city in 2006 (yep, that’s ~12 years ago) in conjunction with a class I was taking that focused on transitioning economies. At that time, communism had fallen in Hungary approximately only 17 years earlier and the country had just joined the EU in 2004. It was an interesting time to visit as someone who had only been overseas just one time prior. That trip made the impact of a lifetime on me, so it was really fun to be able to revisit and see how things have changed. One thing that I can say about Budapest for anyone interested in visiting, it has become the cutest little boutique city with unique crafts, gifts, and food. You really won’t want to miss it!

 

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Budapest Sights

Budapest is a unified city that was once three cities: Buda, Óbuda, and Pest. There are LOTS of sights to see in Budapest, so make sure to bring your walking shoes!! Despite everything being in Hungarian, public transportation is incredibly easy to use. Some of the best advice I received from a friend, was to buy the 72 hour Budapest pass, which is valid for bus, metro, and tram for unlimited rides. The pass costs one 4150 forint which is currently equivalent to around $14.

 

Országház (Parlament)

The Hungarian Parliament building (1904) is one of the most beautiful in Budapest (in my opinion, of course). Visiting the inside is possible with advanced tickets and tours are offered in a plethora of languages.

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Halászbástya (Fisherman’s Bastion) and Mátyás Templom (Matthias Church)

My favorite place to photograph in Budapest! Yes, Fisherman’s Bastion is incredibly popular, but also incredibly beautiful. The seven towers of the monument were intended to represent the seven Magyar tribes that settled in the area – one of which may or may not have inspired the logo of Disney (I think it’s debatable, but I’m going to choose to believe it).

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Budavári Palota (Buda Castle)

Historical home to Hungarian kings since 1265! Tours are available and a ride on the funicular is a must!!

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Hősök tere (Heroe’s Square) and Vajdahunyad vára (Vajdahunyad Castle)

Heroe’s Square is a major square in Budapest. It is famous for its statue complex which contains the seven chieftains of the Magyars, important Hungarian national leaders, and the Memorial Stone of Heroes (aka Tomb of the Unknown Soldier). While wandering around the area, we walked by a cute little Christmas market outside of Vajdahunyad Castle and even found a couple willing to take our photo!

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Thermal Baths – Szechenyi Termal Bath

Budapest is famous for its thermal baths! The Széchenyi Bath is the largest medicinal bath in Europe with its water supplied by thermal springs. Unfortunately, we did not make a reservation in time to be able to swim, but we did stop by to take a look anyway!

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Széchenyi Lánchíd (Széchenyi Chain Bridge)

A walk along the Danube will allow you to take in all of the beauty of this bridge. You can even cross it on foot.

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St. Istvan Basilica/ St. Stephen’s Basilica and Vörösmarthy Square Christmas Markets

One of the best parts of this trip for me was getting to visit the many Christmas markets! Even though it was after Christmas, the markets were still alive and so much fun!

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Hungarian Food

My favorite part of any trip is the food part!! Hungarian food is delicious and plentiful! Prices are very affordable and the food is hearty. Some Hungarian specialities include: Goulash soup, stuffed cabbage, strudels, and Dobos cake – all of which we tasted and devoured. My friend, Niki, was also kind enough to provide me with a list of her favorite restaurants (sights, things, etc.) in the city. We tried as many as we could!

 

A few of Niki’s recommendations included:

Szimply Breakfast/ Hotizont Café

We ventured to Szimply Breakfast, but they were already full! The host was so kind to refer us to their sister cafe, Horizont Café, that just opened (and serves the same menu). Funny enough, Horizont Café was RIGHT next to our hotel. It worked out perfectly and the food was AMAZING!

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Belvárosi Lugas Vendéglő

I didn’t take any photos here, but this restaurant is right behind St. Stephen’s Basilica and had delicious Hungarian food that was reasonably priced. I had deer stew and it was SO GOOD!!! The server was kind enough to recommend his favorite dishes as well. We were stuffed when we left.

New York Café

Niki recommended the New York Café for cakes, coffee or teatime in a gorgeous place. We enjoyed afternoon tea here shortly after we arrived. It was gorgeous! Luckily for us, it was also part of our hotel. The New York Cafe is high end, so expect to spend considerably more than you would most other places in Budapest.

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Hotel

New York Palace Hotel

The fabulous Katie from Planes, Trains, and Babies was kind enough to provide us with hotel recommendations. With Katie’s help, we booked the New York Palace Hotel and it was luxurious and so beautiful! We loved our stay there and enjoyed ringing in the New Year with new friends at their hotel bar.

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Flight

If you are flying from Sicily (or another place in Europe), WizzAir offers incredibly affordable one way flights.  Our flight back home was a 6AM (talk about early wake-up!). While I was really dreading the flight, I appreciated it once we were in the air. Hungary at sunrise is BEAUTIFUL!!!

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Mount Etna in the morning wasn’t too bad either 😉

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If you know me, then you know I LOVE FOOD! Like, love, love food. So, when I met up with Kaylee and Kelsi to discuss the possibility of working with their company, Fuel Your Tomorrow (FYT), I was already drooling!  FYT is a local meal prep and delivery service that focuses on fresh and healthy foods. Essentially, Chef Kaylee prepares meals on a weekly basis that are hand delivered to your door. All you have to do is ‘heat and eat!’ Gourmet home-delivery meals? Sign me up!

I have to admit, I had never tried FYT’s food prior to the shoot. But after tasting all of their dishes, it didn’t take me long to sign up for my first delivery! Not only was it was incredible to watch Chef Kaylee prepare and plate the meals, but their gourmet food both looks and tastes like heaven!

Check out seven of FYT’s delectable dishes and some of the behind the scenes action below. You’ll even see a special guest chef in the photos for the third meal!

Since I know you’ll want to sign up too, head on over to their website, Facebook, or Instagram to see more of their work and order your first meal!

 

A Sample of FYT’s Fall Food Spread

1. Grilled salmon, garlic seared asparagus, basil-mint chimichurri, pea shoots, shaved radish, and crushed almonds
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2. Roasted fennel with rucola and frisée. Walnut frico, crispy bacon, red grapes, and pomegranate vinaigrette
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3. Chef Kaylee’s shepherd pie with roasted sweet potato mash
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4. Spicy pumpkin soup, bacon, and marinated feta
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5. Grilled flank steak, herb butter mashed potato, sautéed asparagus tips, and portobello gravy
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6. Sage roasted cornish game hen, cauliflower purée, pan seared brussels sprouts, and tri-color quinoa
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7. buttered scallops, butternut squash purée, lemony zucchini, and mint
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So you might be thinking… “Wait, I thought stromboli was a food.” Well, it is, but it’s also an island off of the coast of Sicily. Kind of like Turkey, you know?

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Anyway, Jordan had an unexpected three-day weekend, so instead of just hanging around the house, we decided to check out the Aeolian Islands. The Aeolian Islands: Vulcano, Lipari, Salina, Panarea, Stromboli, Filicudi and Alicudi, each have their own unique features. When deciding where to go, we read about each island and looked up their main “attractions” online and in a Sicily travel guide we own. When we learned that you could hike up to the top of a volcano AND see it explode, we decided Stromboli would be our first stop.

As a side note, I can’t overstate the utility of buying actual travel guide BOOKS and not just researching what to do online. They are soooo helpful.

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To get to Stromboli, we drive north to Milazzo. Milazzo is located in the north-eastern “corner” of Sicily. It took us about 1.5 hours – granted we left home around 5AM, so there was virtually no traffic. Once we arrived, we parked at Garage Delle Isole and they transported us to the port. We arrived at the port around 30 minutes before our hydrofoil. I was surprised at how long the line was for tickets! We purchased our tickets online the day before, so we already had spots reserved. However, we still had to wait in line to pick up a physical ticket. Silly, I know.

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The line for the hydrofoil.

 

Once we picked up our tickets, we boarded the hydrofoil and were off to Stromboli. The hydrofoil stopped at a few of the islands before arriving in Stromboli and it was fun to see how vastly different each island looked.

Stepping off the hydrofoil, the beauty of the black sand beaches and colorful fisherman boats were remarkable. The sheer size of the volcano also hit me in the face and I immediately wondered if perhaps I wasn’t quite ready for this!

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The hydrofoil, Calypso.

 

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From the port, we walked to our accommodations for the night, La Nassa. I was glad we actually had a room reserved, as they didn’t require a deposit, and because of this, I was skeptical. They also didn’t require a credit card on file or ANY money up front. It was a cash payment at the end, which is virtually unheard of (at least in places I’ve stayed). The staff were extremely friendly and accommodating and the room was very cute and quaint.

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After dropping our stuff, we explored the town a bit before we went to check in with the tour company.

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We also stopped for lunch at Bar Ristorante Pizzeria da Luciano Stromboli.  It was nothing short of amazing.
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We took a stroll along a black sand beach.

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We booked (also no deposit) our night hike with MagmaTrek. The guides at MagmaTrek let us know that, because of the weather, it wasn’t guaranteed that we would be able to see any explosions that night. Since we traveled all that way, we decided to do it anyway. And boy, it was a hike!

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We started from the very bottom of the volcano.

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See how happy I look. I had no idea what was coming for me.

 

The hike took a total of about 7 hours from start to finish. First we went through a lot of vegetation and then we did what I like to call, the “rock climb,” where the path turned rocky.

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Some shots from the vegetation part.

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Stromboli -63.jpgIf you look very closely at the top of this photo, you can see the TINY people at the top.  

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The rocky part.

 

Halfway though our hike, it began to get dark, and I was DYING, so I didn’t take as many photos. The hike up was super hot. I was sweating like no other and I know Jordan was too. As soon as we make it to the top, it was suddenly freezing cold, mainly because the sun was gone and it was windy. So, we all changed into dry shirts and put on our coats. Unfortunately, the layers were not enough for me and standing on the crater ledge for an hour was a little painful.. in more than one way! Our guide also passed out masks, as the air was not very safe to breathe. We had to wear them until we made it back to the bottom.

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Once we made it to the edge of the crater, our guide told us to pray we would see something (because it was soooooo foggy!). We got really lucky, because the clouds cleared and we were able to see all of the explosions clearly by the end!

 

Guys, I SAW A VOLCANO EXPLODE!!!!!!!!!!!

 

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The way back down was drastically different than the way up. After walking down a rather rocky path for awhile, our guide stopped us and let us know that we were about to walk though sand… and that we couldn’t stop because avalanches were possible in this area!! The sand was over the ankle deep and the slope was steep!! Eventually we made it back down to the vegetation area and the path leveled off again. From there, we continued for what felt like forever until were back at Magmatrek.

After the hike was over, I thanked my lucky stars because, holy hell that was H-A-R-D! We grabbed a pizza and a beer and settled in for the night before we retuned back home tomorrow.

Overall, the experience itself was a 10/10. I’d say it was a ‘once in a lifetime experience’ because I probably could not be talked into making that hike again!! A two to three mile run a few times a week is not enough for scaling Stomboli. However, I am ready to visit the island again. It was relaxing, low key, and gorgeous.

I miss your solitude already, Stromboli.

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You might remember that little lemon tree that hangs over into our yard. Well, I actually haven’t made any lemonade yet, but I did make some delicious lemon cupcakes!

We finally received our household goods last week and our house is almost put together. Let’s be honest, I still have tons of crap laying around. But, it feels so good to have the necessary tools to be able to cook again!

So, somewhere between the hours of midnight and 3AM this morning, I decided it was time to break in the oven. Lemon cupcakes, here I come!

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The cupcakes actually turned out pretty well considering I was baking in Celsius, and ya know in the middle of the night. I have to admit, I couldn’t have done it without my best helper around to supervise, bark orders (to drop ingredients), taste test, and guide my photo set up.

She really is the best little helper!

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If you’re up for squeezing a few fresh lemons into these spring delights, I’ll post the recipe down below (adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction).

Fresh Lemon Cupcakes

Ingredients:
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 cup granulated sugar
3 medium eggs
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
~1/4c fresh lemon juice (approx. 2-3 lemons)
lemon zest
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1/2 stick of butter (room temperature)
8oz cream cheese (room temperature)
2 cups powdered sugar
~1/8 – 1/4c fresh lemon juice (approx. 1-2 lemons)
Zest for decoration

 

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. Line cupcake pan with baking cups (12).
3. Toss together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
4. Mix the butter (room temperature) and sugar together for 2 minutes on medium-high speed using a mixer. Add in eggs and vanilla extract and mix for 2-3 more minutes.
5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low until just combined. Add in milk, lemon juice and zest and mix just enough to combine.
6. Fill up the cupcake liners and bake for 18-20 minutes.
7. Cool before frosting.
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  1. Mix butter and cream cheese for 2 minutes before adding in the lemon juice.
  2. Mix in the lemon juice and then add the powered sugar and mix until creamy.
  3. Add in more powered sugar if too thin. Add more lemon juice if too thick.
  4. Pipe or knife onto cupcakes.
  5. Decorate with zest
  6. Refrigerate
    *As a note, I forgot to refrigerate them and left them out due to sleep brain.  Buuut, I had one for breakfast this morning and I’m still alive so, yolo.

 

There ya go!  I’m sure they won’t taste like mine since I used fresh Sicilian lemons (omg so good!!), but let me know if you give them a shot!

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