Italy: Part 2

My second day in Italy, we took another free walking tour that ended at the Vatican. It was a perfect opportunity to check out St. Peter’s Basilica!

CIMG5614 CIMG5615

St. Peter’s is enormous! There are markings on the floor to show how many of the world’s other large churches would fit inside this one. The dome inside is the largest in the world, reaching nearly 450 ft in height!

CIMG5619

Entrance to the basilica is free, and Noah and I did a Rick Steves’ walking tour while inside to learn all about it. Afterwards, we walked to lunch, passing through Piazza del Popolo:

CIMG5620 CIMG5622

Lunch was something I have looked forward to for approximately 2.5 years. No kidding! About that long ago I went to Italy with my fabulous besty for a fun-filled 10 day tour. While we were in Rome, we ate lunch at a vegetarian restaurant that had THE MOST DELICIOUS BUFFET IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. Part of our obsession with that lunch may have been due to the fact that we were super hungry when we got there. Nonetheless, I have thought of that restaurant ever since, and it was probably the #2 thing I was looking forward to on my visit (after seeing Noah, of course).

The restaurant: Il Margutta RistorArte.

CIMG5623

Could the lunch buffet live up to my idolized memory of it?!

CIMG5625 CIMG5626

Why yes, yes it could. So good! I wish this restaurant lived in Minneapolis. Or maybe I don’t…it would probably put a dent in my wallet. And have the opposite affect on my waistline.

After lunch, we decided to check out the Rose Gardens.

CIMG5628 CIMG5629 CIMG5630

We sat on a bench in the garden for a while talking and enjoying the beautiful weather/surroundings. Look what we found – a beautiful heart!

CIMG5633

tots.adorbs.

CIMG5605

My second day in Italy wouldn’t be complete without….

IMG_1551

Gelato! Gelato is seriously EVERYWHERE in Italy. Every other storefront seems to sell it. So, obviously, by the end of the day, it’s pretty hard not to have some. Noah and I found a great little gelato place near the B&B where we were staying that had a wide range of flavors (listed in English as well as Italian), plus some interesting gelato pops and balls:

IMG_1552

We went to this place several times during my visit and always tried different flavors:

IMG_1553

Mollie: “I feel guilty eating gelato twice in one day.”Noah: “That’s okay. One time I had gelato twice in the same lunch period.”

Other Italy Posts
Italy: Part 1
Italy: Part 3
Italy: Part 4
Italy: Part 5

Spiced Chickpeas with Mixed Greens

When I made roasted tomato coconut soup last week, the recipe called for two tablespoons of tomato paste. Unfortunately, tomato paste comes in a 6oz jar. As a result, I’ve had 6 ounces (less 2 tablespoons) of tomato paste sitting in my fridge for the last few days. I also had about half of a 12oz bag of mixed greens, so I decided to use these two ingredients as the basis for a dish. Wanting to involve a protein, chickpeas seemed like a good fit.

On my roommate’s recommendation, I checked out a Spinach and Chickpeas recipe fromΒ Smitten Kitchen. Referencing Smitten Kitchen’s spices, I made up my own recipe.Β *full recipe below

Heat 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup water, and 6 ounces tomato paste (less 2 tablespoons) in a skillet:

photo 5(80)

Stir to combine and add one can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed:

photo 1(105)

Add a heaping 1/4 teaspoon each of paprika and garam masala, stir to combine:

photo 2(102)

Add 6oz mixed greens (this is an approximation as I used about half of a 12oz bag):

photo 3(101)

Continue to mix until the greens cook down:

photo 4(90)

This entire recipe look less than 15 minutes to come together. I divided it into two tupperwares with some roasted potatoes to bring for lunch during the week:

photo 5(79)

 

Ingredients
- 6oz can of tomato paste
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- heaping 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- heaping 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
- 6oz mixed greens
Method
Combine water, vinegar, and tomato paste in a skillet. Stir to combine.
Add garbanzo beans, paprika, and garam masala. Stir to combine.
Add mixed greens and cook, mixing constantly, until the greens wilt.
Serve and enjoy!

The Herkimer

I tried The Herkimer in Uptown for the first time today.

photo 1(102)

It’s right in the heart of Uptown on Lyndale between Lake and Lagoon. I got a Groupon for brunch here a couple months ago, and I’ve been waiting for a good opportunity to use it:

photo 2(99)

It was a gorgeous day, so we decided to sit outside. Everyone else seemed to feel the same way, and the outdoor tables were packed while the inside was pretty deserted. There was a cute dog at the table next to us:

photo 3(98)

I will admit, my expectations for the food at the Herkimer were not too high. I figured it would be regular bar food – standard fare cooked in a way that wasn’t anything special. I was wrong! The food was a lot better than I expected, and there were several interesting items on the menu that looked delicious. I settled on a breakfast burrito (without sausage and without sour cream). The burrito came with cheese, eggs, onions, potatoes, black bean spread, and a side of guacamole:

photo 4(87)

Very yummy! Two of my table mates got the veggie burger which was a homemade mix of quinoa, black beans, pico de gallo, and almond basil pesto. One person ordered the burger with a side salad and the other with sweet potato fries:

photo 1(103) photo 2(100)

I didn’t taste the burger myself, but it got very positive reviews. The other order at our table was an ALT sandwich (avocade, lettuce and tomato):

photo 5(77)

This sandwich was also greatly enjoyed.

Overall, the Herkimer was a pleasant surprise – and it’s only a few blocks from home! I would definitely go back here.

Easy Tuna Bean Salad

Sorry for the hiatus in posting – I was out of town last weekend for a work related trip. While away, I managed to get in a couple workouts at the hotel fitness room. I did one 5-mile run:

photo 1(83)

And I also got in a 45 minute elliptical workout. I was staying at a Hilton, and the fitness center had the essentials but nothing fancy: two treadmills, two ellipticals, two bikes, and some dumbbells.

When I got home, I was very ready to return to normal eating (food on vacation is fun for a little, but I like to return to my regular routine). I decided to make some tuna bean salad for lunches during the week. This recipe was really easy, took about 10 minutes to put together, and will provide healthy and delicious lunches all week! This is all you need:

photo 5(65) photo 1(85)

One large can of cannellini beans, one can of tuna, plain greek yogurt, dijon mustard, and capers. I drained and rinsed the beans, drained the tuna, and combined them in a bowl. I topped them with about 1/4 cup of chobani (generously portioned), one tablespoon of dijon mustard, and approximately 1.5 tablespoons of drained capers:

photo 2(83)

Mix it all up:

photo 3(83)

Divide into four lunches (I put my tuna salad over spinach):

photo 1(86)

Top with tomato:

photo 2(84)

And eat yummy lunches all week! When I bring these to work, I’ll also bring some pita and hummus to eat with.

Butter Bakery Cafe

I’ve had my eye on Butter Bakery Cafe for quite a while. I actually tried to go there for lunch once before, but I ended up at an abandoned storefront (they had changed locations and I was not aware). Their new location, and the one pictured here, is at 37th and Nicollet. I would describe the interior, briefly, as adorable.

photo 1(65)

As soon as you walk in, you are greeted by a mouth-watering display of various baked goods:

photo 2(63) photo 3(62) photo 4(53)

Some menu items are listed on chalkboards behind the counter, but a more extensive menu is also available on paper for you to look at:

photo 5(48) photo 1(66)

Added bonus…they love the earth:

photo 2(64)

Butter describes their dishes as ‘extraordinarily ordinary,’ meaning they serve comforting old favorite dishes – but they do it extraordinarily well. After finally trying their food for myself (which – by the way – is all made from scratch and sourced from small and local farms/businesses whenever possible), I would say I agree with their description.

I ordered biscuits with mushroom gravy topped with one scrambled egg, plus a side of seasonal veggies. Unfortunately, we went in the mid-afternoon and they were out of their homemade biscuits, but they offered it to me on whole wheat bread. An offer which I accepted. πŸ™‚

photo 3(63) photo 2(65)

My dad and brother got turkey sandwiches:

photo 4(54) photo 5(49)

And my mom got a small chicken salad with a bowl of thai chicken soup:

photo 1(67) photo 3(64)

Everything was fabulous. I will definitely be coming back here and might even go so far to say that I would make it a regular stop for when I go out for a quick and casual meal. My only regrets were 1) they were out of biscuits and 2) I wasn’t hungry for any of their award-winning and drool-inspiring desserts. Next time. πŸ™‚

Muscle Massage and Everest on Grand

This is my new best friend, Mr. Shark:

photo 5(37)

Mr. Shark was given to me by my physical therapist. It works like this:
1) Butter up your IT band, hamstring, knee, (problem area of your choice) with baby oil
photo 4(42)
You could also use cocoa butter or any other sort of lubricant that won’t absorb.

2) Rub Mr. Shark down the length of the muscle you are focusing on, applying enough pressure that you can feel where the sore areas are.

3) When you feel one of the said sore areas, focus on it by applying moving pressure multiple times.

4) Marvel at how much better that sore spot feels the next day.

Seriously, Mr. Shark is a wonder tool. I ran 9 miles on Tuesday as part of my last-ditch effort to still try to run a half-marathon I’m registered for at the end of April. My hamstring was really bothering me after the run and throughout the day. I used Mr. Shark that night, and immediately afterwards my hammie felt better. It was incredible!

In other news….
I finally tried a restaurant in St. Paul that I’ve been meaning to get to for literally months. I went to Everest on Grand, a Tibetan, Nepali, and Indian restaurant. Several months ago, I had a friend tell me that they had a good lunch buffet, and I’d been interested to try it for myself since then.

photo 2(55)

The restaurant was a lot smaller than I was imagining. There was one room with about 12 tables or so, and the buffet was served on two carts:

photo 1(57)

One of the carts had hot food and the other was a salad bar. Here’s a close up of the hot food:

photo 3(53)

There were a few vegetarian dishes, one type of bread, basmati rise, one goat dish, and one chicken dish. On my plate, I had a sampling of the vegetable dishes, some rice, and some chicken. Afterwards I had a few bites of kheer:

photo 4(45) photo 5(40)

The food was fairly spicy and my stomach was not the most appreciative after. I’m glad I finally can cross this restaurant off of my ‘go to’ list, but it sort of reminded me about my love-hate relationship with Indian food. I don’t think I actually like it that much. Weirdly, every several months I get an Indian food craving and really want it, but then when I eat it, I remember why I don’t like it very much.

Next time I want to go to Indian, someone remind me that I don’t really like it, okay? Thanks. πŸ™‚

Speaking of love-hate foods…I have that same relationship with cinnamon rolls. Do you have any love-hate foods?

Cross-Country Skiing in Vermont

Although it’s late March and the end of the skiing season, I was hoping to get in at least one cross-country skiing trip while in Vermont. Lucky for me, on my second day here we were able to go to Craftsbury for some skiing. The Craftsbury Nordic Center was very affordable – only $10 for a day pass and $15 for rentals! The snow wasn’t perfect (due to it being a warm day and so late in the season), but it didn’t slow us down too much and we had a great time skiing for about 2 hours.

Outside of being affordable and fun, the facility itself was great to use. There were maps and trail signs everywhere to clearly tell us where we were going:

photo 2(47) photo 5(33)

The views were spectacular:

photo 1(49) photo 2(48)

And the trails themselves were nice winding paths through the trees:

photo 1(48)

What’s not to love about a great day skiing?

photo 4(37) photo 5(34)

Skiing always requires a great lunch to follow. I made a tuna salad to have with toast, spinach, carrots, and hummus. For the tuna salad, I used one small can of tuna packed in water, a few almonds, and a scoop of plain greek yogurt:

photo 4(36) photo 3(43)

All mixed up and on my sandwich:

photo 1(45)

Noah stuck with the basics, pb & j with pretzels:

photo 5(31)

Gotta love the classics! πŸ™‚