Ciao for Now

With "ciao" meaning both hello and goodbye, it's the perfect title for this post. First of all, hello! It's been a while! My summer has been pretty exciting, filled with tons and tons of travel. Likely excuse, I know. But, but, but, I've also been super busy working on a new business venture. It seems that writing this blog has led me to discover what I actually want to do with my life, but more on that later! I'd like to thank everyone for your kind emails, tweets, and blog shout-outs during my hiatus. I sincerely hope that your summers have been full of excitement and exploration too! 

Second of all, goodbye! Yup, I'm leaving on a jet plane...again. Thomas and I are packing up and heading to Italy for our 5th anniversary. These have been the absolute BEST years of our lives, and what better place to celebrate than in paradiso Italiano? If anyone has recommendations for Venice or Lake Como, don't be shy and let me know! Hey, that rhymes! I hope to return teeming with fun stories, scenic pictures, and of course, new recipes! Ciao for now!


Authentic Maryland-Style Crab Cakes

I am from Maryland.

I know crab cakes.


Authentic Maryland-Style Crab Cakes

Makes 4 large crab cakes

1 pound lump crab meat
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
6 Saltines, crushed
Pinch of freshly chopped parsley
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Pinch sea salt
Cooking spray


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a bowl, combine mayonnaise, Dijon, Worcestershire, Old Bay, egg, lemon juice, Saltines, and parsley. Mix until combined. Gently stir in the crab meat. Be careful not to shred or break it up too much (that’s not the Maryland way). Spray a glass dish with cooking spray. Carefully spoon the crab mixture onto the dish, forming four crab cakes. Don’t use your hands and compact them (again, that’s not the Maryland way). Brush each crab cake with melted butter and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, and then broil for an extra few minutes until golden brown. You can, of course, fry them in oil or pan-sear them if you'd prefer. Serve immediately and enjoy!


Butternut Squash Fries w/ Maple-Miso Mayo

I’m happy to say that eating French fries is not one of my vices – sweets are more my style. Making a healthy alternative for French fries may seem strange since I don’t even eat them, but I do happen to be totally addicted to butternut squash. Typically, when Thomas is away on business and I am left to my own devices, it is not uncommon for me to go to the market and grab the largest butternut squash I can find and lug it home for dinner. Yes, I’ve eaten a two-pound squash all on my own. So what? For this recipe, I turned my squash into fries and added a yummy maple-miso mayo to dip them in. Maybe I’ll make this recipe again when Thomas is actually around to enjoy it with me. Or, maybe not.

Butternut Squash Fries w/ Maple-Miso Mayo


1 butternut squash
½ teaspoon corn starch
Cooking spray
Coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayo
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
½ teaspoon white miso paste


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut the round bottom off the squash and save it for another use like soup. Peel the long top part and dice into French fry shapes. Toss with corn starch until absorbed. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, lay out the fries in a single layer, and spray again with cooking spray. Sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 30 minutes, turning halfway through. Cooking time may vary based on the thickness of the fries.

In a small bowl, combine the mayo, maple syrup, and miso paste. Serve the fries immediately with the mayo dipping sauce. Do not stack them on a plate because they will get soggy quickly. Enjoy!


Coconut Shrimp Gratin

It seems like the benefits of coconut oil are everywhere these days. After using it to care for my dry skin and hair for months, I decided to use it properly for once and cook with it. Go figure. This dish is a play on the ever-popular coconut fried shrimp, but I’ve side-stepped the pesky breading and frying process. And, contrary to its alternative, coconut shrimp gratin is über nutritious thanks to the healthy fats found in the coconut oil. Panko breadcrumbs and toasted coconut make a deliciously crunchy topping that certainly won’t have you missing the fried version. In fact, the only thing that’s missing is the moisture in my skin and hair. Go figure.

Coconut Shrimp Gratin
Serves 2


2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil (found in health stores)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
¼ cup whole-wheat panko breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg white
½ pound shrimp, cleaned and deveined
Splash lemon juice
Parsley for garnish


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a non-stick pan over medium heat, toast the shredded coconut until slightly golden and then set aside. In a small bowl, combine coconut oil, lemon juice, parsley, breadcrumbs, salt, egg white, and shredded coconut. Stir until combined. (Note: coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so you can soften it first with a spoon or quickly warm it in the microwave.)

Divide the shrimp between two 4 ½ inch ramekin dishes. Add a splash of lemon juice and then top with the breadcrumb topping. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes. Broil for a few extra minutes to brown the topping, if necessary. Sprinkle with parsley and enjoy!

P.S. If you like this recipe, try my Coconut-Ginger Quinoa with Carrots and Shrimp. Click here for the recipe!


Roasted Haricots Verts Salad

Our recent trip to Paris had me thinking about bistro fare. We came across a very simple salade de haricots verts on pretty much every menu. Haricots verts are green beans. If you’re French, you say it that way – or if you’re fancy. This salad is fancy. It not only has haricots verts, but roasted haricots verts, along with goat cheese, walnuts, and shallots. I whipped up a simple salad dressing for it, but I’m going to call it a vinaigrette just to make it sound fancy too. Roasted Haricots Verts Salad makes a great starter or side dish and despite its fancy name, it’s incredibly easy to prepare. Bon appétit!
Roasted Haricots Verts Salad
Serves 2


Olive oil
½ pound French green beans
2 ounces crumbled goat cheese
Handful toasted walnuts

1 tablespoon champagne, white wine, or sherry vinegar
½ shallot, very thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt & cracked pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash and dry the beans. You can trim the ends if you’d like, but I like the rustic look with them whole. Toss beans in a bit of olive oil and spread onto a baking sheet. Roast in oven for 15 minutes, turning halfway through.

Meanwhile, pour vinegar into a mixing cup. Add the shallots and let them sit to pickle a bit. Add mustard after a few minutes and then whisk in the olive oil.

Toss the roasted beans with the vinaigrette and top with crumbled goat cheese and toasted walnuts. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper and enjoy!


I love Paris in the winter...

And, we’re back! Paris was absolutely wonderful. Despite the record low temperatures, Thomas and I managed to stay warm in cozy cafes with plenty of French onion soup, spiced wine, and enough butter to make even Paula Deen gasp. Watching snow fall around the Eiffel Tower from inside an adorable bistro wasn’t too shabby either. It seemed as if we were looking into a Parisian snow globe. One of the benefits of visiting Paris in the winter is the absence of tourists. We were the only Americans for miles, apart from our time at Versailles or Père Lachaise Cemetery. Yes, I celebrated my birthday with a bunch of dead people (Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, etc). This trip had quite a different feel from our last time in Paris, which was during autumn, but like the song says, “I love Paris every moment – every moment of the year.”


Anniversaire Parisien

Dear 29-year-old self,

You’re turning 30 this week. I’m going to need you to be a big girl and not have a nervous breakdown at the thought. That means no crying in corners, smashing birthday cakes, or fleeing the country. Well, actually that last request sounds pretty awesome. How about a trip to your most favorite place in the whole wide world? I think we can both agree that Paris would do the trick. Plus, you’ve been taking all those French lessons, so let’s put them to good use, shall we? Sounds like the most perfect birthday gift to me! Bon voyage, 29. Bonjour, Paris!

French hugs and kisses,
(Well, not French kisses – that’s weird)

Your 30-year-old self

Photo Sources: 1) Deviant Art 2) Eye Poetry 3-8) Little Brown Pen


Cacao Nib Caramel Corn

These are cacao nibs. Get to know them. They’re pretty awesome. These little guys are all-natural bits of ground cocoa beans. Cacao nibs have a nice crunch factor, major amount of antioxidants, and a subtle chocolate flavor, making them perfect for chocoholics who are looking for a healthier or more exotic option. They also happen to be my after-dinner snack that I nibble on with red wine or coffee (and when I say after-dinner, I’m actually referring to all day).

How about we nibble on these little nibs in a batch of homemade caramel corn? Caramel corn can be kind of daunting since candy thermometers, rapid boiling, and extended baking times are typically involved. For this recipe, though, everything is made in the good ole microwave (for the most part). Not only are we popping popcorn that way, but we are also nuking the caramel. It’s so simple! And it’s made even better when our little nib friends jump into the equation. Let the nibbling begin!

Cacao Nib Caramel Corn
Serves 4


5 cups popped lightly salted popcorn
¼ cup salted sweet cream butter
½ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup cacao sweet nibs (found at health food stores or online here)
Sea salt (optional)


Preheat oven to 300 degrees and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Microwave popcorn according to package instructions and pour into a large microwave-safe bowl. In a separate glass bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Microwave for one minute, stir until melted, and then microwave for 45 seconds more until boiling. Quickly add baking soda and vanilla extract and stir to combine. Pour over the popcorn, add cacao nibs, and toss. Return to microwave for 1 more minute. Spread popcorn onto a prepared baking sheet and place on the oven for 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle with sea salt, if desired. The caramel corn will harden as it sits and cools. Once cooled, break popcorn clumps apart and enjoy!


Chocolate-Covered Potato Sticks

Sweet and salty is so hot right now. Not only have milk chocolate-covered potato chips found their way onto the shelves of Trader Joe’s, but they also have a staring role in Ben & Jerry’s new ice cream flavor, Late Night Snack. Now, I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t need to wait until the late-night hours to snack on chocolate-covered potato chips. In fact, let’s do it right now! Well, let’s switch it up a bit and use potato sticks instead, just because they are cool. Aaand, let’s make our potato stick treats look just like dainty boxed chocolates for a sneaky, sweet, and salty little surprise. Okay, ready, go!

Chocolate-Covered Potato Sticks
Makes 12


1 cup Potato Sticks or Shoestring Potato Chips
12 ounces milk or dark chocolate chips
Sea salt


Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave, heating and stirring every 30 seconds until melted. Fill mini baking cups with chocolate, just to line the bottom. Lightly crumble potato sticks into each cup, and then cover with more melted chocolate. Sprinkle with sea salt. Place chocolate cups in the refrigerator until set. Unwrap and enjoy!


Fennel Seed & Sea Salt Flatbread

New York City treated me very well – while I lived there and during my recent visit. A phenomenal dinner at The Dutch, delicious brunch at Colonie, and wild mushroom risotto that was delivered to our door made me feel like I was right back in the fabulous New York food scene. Where else can you have risotto delivered? Oh, how I miss having the power to order absolutely anything to magically show up at my doorstep – and I do mean anything.

Anyway, brunch at Colonie in Brooklyn was definitely one of the highlights of my weekend. My friend and I sat at the counter overlooking the cute, hipster-type chefs hard at work in the open kitchen. Not only were they incredibly talented, but they were also super charming (single Brooklyn girls take note). We enjoyed champagne, oysters, duck rillette crostini, and some rustic yet innovative charcuterie, which was served with deliciously seeded flatbread. I returned home with the urge to recreate Colonie’s flatbread, resulting in this fennel seed and sea salt version. Whether you break this bread with cute, hipster-type chefs in Brooklyn or with your friends in your own living room, you certainly won’t be missing out.

Fennel Seed & Sea Salt Flatbread
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen


¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup water
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
Coarse sea salt and fennel seeds


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dissolve salt in water. Add flour and stir until combined. Knead a few times until the dough forms a ball. Roll out the dough on a well-floured surface, the thinner the better. Transfer to a baking sheet. Brush dough with some water and then sprinkle with sea salt and fennel seeds. Poke holes all over with a fork. If you would like, you can cut the dough into cracker shapes. Bake for 20-30 minutes until crisp. When cooled, break the crackers into pieces. Serve with a cheese and meat plate and enjoy!