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Pumpkin cupcakes with chocolate pumpkin frosting

2 Mar

I recently started a nutrition program in an effort to eat healthier this year. The challenge this past weekend was to make something I’ve been craving but in a clean way. I have a pretty big sweet tooth so I decided to find a modified cupcake recipe.

Luckily there are a lot of clean eating sites out there, and I found one on The Gracious Pantry for pumpkin cupcakes. The recipe is below if you’re interested. And yes, they were delicious.

Clean Pumpkin Cupcakes |

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Chocolate Pumpkin Frosting

Cupcake Ingredients:
-1 cup canned pumpkin – just pure pumpkin, not pie mix
-1/2 cup almond milk
-2 egg whites
-1/2 cup light extra virgin olive oil (the original recipe called for safflower oil)
-1/2 cup honey
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon ginger
-1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Frosting Ingredients:
-1/2 cup canned pumpkin
-1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-1/4 cup honey
-1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line your pan with cupcake tins.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, almond milk, egg whites, oil, honey and vanilla extract.
4. In a second bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.
5. Whisk the flour mixture into the liquid mixture and blend well.
6. Pour into tins, and place in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
7. To make the frosting, whisk all ingredients in a bowl until well blended.
8. Remove cupcakes from oven, allow to cool, then spread frosting over the tops.

Clean Pumpkin Cupcakes |

I garnished mine with raspberries to add a pop of color. I’m excited to try more recipes like this and continue doing my best to eat healthier.

Eating in Berlin, part 2

19 Dec

Guess what?! This time next week I’ll be on my way to Germany. Sebastian and I debated New Year’s Eve plans, but we both decided it would be fun if I went there this year. I can’t wait to be back in Berlin, a city I fall in love with more and more every time I visit.

As I prepare for the trip, I thought it would be fun to share some of the awesome restaurants we tried on my last visit. Please excuse the lack of photos for some locations.

Melbourne Canteen
Pannierstraße 57, 12047 Berlin – Neukölln
+49 030 62731602

If you’re in the mood for a laid back breakfast, this is the place to go. Sebastian often comes here on the weekends for brunch and newspaper reading. When we went together, I ordered scrambled eggs with avocado and toast and some tomato juice, although I should have opted for the Bloody Mary. Next time.

Ständige Vertretung
Schiffbauerdamm 8, 10117 Berlin – Mitte
+49 030 2823965

Located on the Spree, this is a great spot for a cold beer and some people watching. Sebastian says his Dad loves to come here when he visits Berlin.

Standige Vertretung  |

Drinks at Standige Vertretung |

Fratelli La Bionda
Bergmannstraße 31, 10961 Berlin – Kreuzberg
+49 030 63901770

We went here for date night during my visit. It was the perfect place to sit outside, share a bottle of wine and enjoy some authentic Italian cuisine.

Burrata |

Steak Tartar |


Dortmunder Strasse 1, 10555 Berlin – Moabit
+49 030 94883728

This bistro is located along the Spree and is actually quite close to Sebastian’s apartment. We went here for a late breakfast one morning. It has a lovely deck that is built around a giant tree. There is also a bookshop inside, but we never checked it out.

Buchkantine in #Berlin |

German Breakfast |

Chez Michel
Adalberstraße 83, 10997 Berlin – Kreuzberg
+49 030 20845507

We met our friends Maik and Kristine here for dinner. We sat outside at a tiny table and shared different dishes. It’s a no fuss kind of place – you order at the counter and they bring the food to you. But the food itself is simple and good.

Monsieur Vuong
Alte Schönhauserstraße 46, 10119 Berlin – Mitte
+49 030 99296924

I’ve shared this restaurant before, but I’m doing it again anyway. I love the cozy atmosphere and the amazing Vietnamese food. I know no matter when we visit, we’ll always get a great meal. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Monsieur Vuong  |

Spring Rolls  |

The California Breakfast Slam
Innstraße 47, 12045 Berlin- Neukölln
+49 030 6869624

This is one of those restaurants that feels so European yet so American. I can picture walking into a place like this in Portland or Ohio City, but here it is on the streets of Berlin. If you’re looking for fancy decor, this is not the place for you. The food was fantastic though. Order the pancakes and thank me later.

Breakfast Platter  |

Pancakes |

Gastón Tapas Bar
Weichselstraße 18, 12045 Berlin – Neukölln
+49 162 8199853

I loved this restaurant – it’s probably my favorite out of all the stops on this list. We ended up here on a Friday night with a group of friends, ordering rounds of beer and sharing tapas. If I ever live in Berlin, you’ll find me here often.

Gaston Restaurant  |

Markthalle Neun
Eisenbahnstraße 42/43, 10997 Berlin

There are several market halls like this in Berlin. This one reminds me of the West Side Market in Cleveland except on a smaller scale. You can find anything here from flowers to goat cheese to fresh bread and fish. We went for the meat, specifically Big Stuff Smoked BBQ. I can’t even describe the amazingness, so enjoy the photos below.

Markthalle Neun #Berlin |

Lemonade |

BBQ in #Berlin  |

P.S. In case you missed it, here is Eating in Berlin, part 1.

Happy Thanksgiving!

26 Nov

Give Thanks | via

Where are you celebrating turkey day? I’ll be spending it with my family, eating pumpkin pie and enjoying time with my siblings. So happy they’re both home for the holiday. What a treat!

Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful for what we already have, so I thought I’d share just three of the things I’m thankful for this year (because in reality there are many):

  1. My incredible family, including the most supportive parents in the world and two of the coolest kids to call my sister and brother. Seriously, you guys rock.
  2. My sweet boyfriend who laughs at my jokes and calls me munchkin pie. I can’t imagine my life without him.
  3. The opportunity to see the world. I feel so lucky that I continue to travel and discover new countries every year.

And in case you need it, some links to get you through the work day and in the turkey spirit:

Hope you have a delicious day and weekend! xoxo

Eating Italy

13 Aug

Have you ever been on a food tour? For a long time, I wasn’t entirely sold. Why would you spend money to have someone take you to restaurants when you could go on your own? I was oh so wrong.

When Sebastian and I were in Rome last fall, I was trying to find something unique to do for his birthday. I found a food tour company and decided it might be a fun gift. If anything we would eat some great food together.

The tour was way more than food. Eating Italy provided an incredible experience filled with amazing food, great wine, awesome locals and tons of history. We went on the Twilight tour in the Roman neighborhood of Trastevere. The best part was visiting an area in Rome we might not have gone to otherwise. Trastevere is really lovely. It doesn’t feel like you’re in a big city, but rather a quaint Italian community. We enjoyed getting away from all the tourists and feeling like one of the locals for an evening.

Here are the stops we made along the way if you’re interested:

Da Enzo al 29
Address: Via dei Vascellari, 29

Our first stop was a small trattoria on a side street in Trastevere. We had burrata with prosciutto and melon, as well as some prosecco to kick off the tour. Sebastian and I loved this restaurant so much that we came back on our last day in Rome.

Trastevere food tour #Rome |

Spirito di Vino
Address: Via dei Genovesi 31 a/b

Our second stop included some fantastic red wine and appetizers. More incredible than the food was the location. We spent our time in Spirito di Vino’s wine cellar, which is actually 150 years older than the Colosseum. Fun fact: one of the statues we saw in the Vatican Museum (see below) was found buried in the cellar.

Trastevere food tour #Rome |

Trastevere food tour #Rome |

Address: Via della Luce 21

I love sweets so this was a perfect stop for me. The Innocenti bakery is still run by the same family who opened it in 1920, and the cookies are still made in the same oven from the 1950s.

Trastevere food tour #Rome |

Trastevere food tour #Rome |

Trastevere food tour #Rome |

Antica Caciara
Address: Via di San Francesco a Ripa 140

Another family-run joint, this salumeria delicatessen is well-known to the Trastevere locals. We sampled several meats and cheese and talked with the owner who started working there when he was 13.

Trastevere food tour #Rome |

Trastevere food tour #Rome |

 –Osteria der Belli
Address: Piazza Santa Apollonia 9

I loved this restaurant situated near the center of Trastevere. It had a great patio where we sampled several dishes off the menu, including smoked swordfish, ravioli and carbonara. This was also a return spot during our trip.

Trastevere food tour #Rome |

Trastevere food tour #Rome |

La Renella
Address: Via del Moro 15

This lively bakery was one of the coolest stops on the tour. Before we sampled some of their delicious pizza, we visited the oven room. We met Massimo (seen below) who is 82 (82!) and still baking up bread, which we learned is served in many restaurants across Rome.

Trastevere food tour #Rome |

Address: Via Roma Libera 11

The last stop of the tour was the best gelateria in Rome. They offer real gelato made from natural ingredients. We could sample two flavors, and I tried the honey lemon and ginger as well as the almond apple and cinnamon. Some of the flavors were very unique like rosemary and chocolate or goat cheese and coconut. We came back here again on our last night – you know, when in Rome.

Trastevere food tour #Rome |

Trastevere food tour #Rome |

Trastevere food tour #Rome |

Not only was the food out of this world, but we learned some cool facts about the city and spent time in an incredible neighborhood. I definitely recommend Eating Italy if you find yourself in Rome.

Eating Italy

P.S. Sebastian and I will be in San Francisco for a few days in September. Any great food recommendations?


17 May

Italy feels so long ago, but I still like to close my eyes and go back there. It was a wonderful trip – filled with friends, food and amazing cities. Although we spent the majority of our trip in Rome, we also visited Milan since Thomas, Sebastian’s twin, was studying there at the time. And we never pass up an opportunity to explore a new city, so we started and ended our vacation there.

Lucky for us, Thomas’s girlfriend Milena was also visiting – I love it when the four of us can get together. The first day we took things slow, starting at this great little restaurant called Bello e Buono that Thomas discovered on, you guessed it, Trip Advisor.

Bello E Buono #Milan #Italy | Gnocchi #Milan #Italy |

We came in at the end of a very busy lunch hour. The place was tiny so we waited patiently for a table. Everything felt quintessentially Italian – loud kitchen, homemade pasta and pizza, and traditional decor. We talked to the owner after our meal, such a nice guy, and he generously gifted us a bottle of homemade wine. Our day was off to a great start.

Eating Gnocchi #Milan #Italy |

Fresh Pasta #Milan #Italy |

Group Photo #Milan

After lunch we walked to the Milan Cathedral (Duomo) and its plaza filled with pigeons and tourists. I loved people watching there. We also checked out the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the world’s oldest malls. I wouldn’t call it a mall, though.

#Milan #Italy |

#Milan #Italy |

#Milan #Italy |

Then we headed to Sforza Castle – the inside was closed but it was cool walking around the interior courtyard. It would make for a cool movie set. We wrapped up our evening at a little café to catch up and swap stories about how we met.

After Rome, we came back to Milan. The last day of our trip we went back to the Duomo and met up with Thomas and Milena at an outdoor market. We decided to pick up some fresh ingredients and spend the evening making dinner together.  Before heading home we stopped at California Bakery, near Thomas’s school, for dessert and a cappuccino. Then it was off to cook!

Duomo Daytime #Milan #Italy |

Pigeon Chasing #Milan #Italy |

Market #Milan #Italy |

#Milan #Italy |

We had a blast making dinner together. Me and Milena were dancing around in between chopping veggies, and the boys were figuring out how to recreate the deep-fried artichokes we had in Rome. When everything was said and done, our dishes included homemade guacamole, tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella, fresh bread and fried eggplant.

Dinner #Milan #Italy |

With just a couple of days, we only scraped the surface of Milan. But it was more fun hanging out with good friends versus trying to be super tourists. As I always say, it’s just another reason to go back some day.

I’m a bad blogger

13 May

Well, hello there. It’s been awhile. Looking back at my blogging history, April is always a rough month for me, and this year was no different. I’ve been a bad blogger again.

I leave for Germany in less than two weeks… say what?! And I still want to finish all my vacation recaps from Italy (which was MONTHS ago) and Boston before I go. More travel posts to come in the next few weeks!

In the meantime, why don’t we cover some highlights from April since I didn’t blog THE ENTIRE MONTH…

Best Part

Spending a weekend in Boston with my parents and catching up with my cousin Alli. This was our first time visiting the city, and we absolutely loved it. There is so much history in the streets, and since we were there right before the marathon, you could really feel the unity and spirit. If you’ve never been, book your trip ASAP. I’ll post a recap soon!

Family in #Boston |

Favorite Thing I Did

Touring the USS Constitution in Boston. I really love boats, and this one is especially cool. She is the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat. And in case you didn’t guess, the ship was named after the Constitution of the USA, by none other than George Washington himself. It was one of my favorite stops on the Freedom Trail.

USS Constitution #Boston |

Favorite Thing I Ate

I cheated big time on my nutrition plan Easter Sunday – with good reason. We went to Limoncello in Boston’s Little Italy, and I ordered a very delicious veal parm. The meal was topped off with a stop at Mike’s Pastry and an enormous cannoli. Don’t tell my CrossFit coach.

Italian Food #Boston |

Cannoli in Boston |

Places I Visited

Just one: Boston. Seeing a theme here?

Favorite Instagram Photo

Captain in #Boston |

 Just call me Captain MJ

Looking Forward to Most in May

A week in Berlin with Sebastian with essentially no plans. We’re going to try out new restaurants, meet up with friends and have the most relaxing time. CAN’T WAIT.

The meal I still dream about

17 Mar

Can you think of one meal that you would repeat over and over if you could? I’m not talking about your go to comfort foods (mine is tomato soup and grilled cheese) or your favorite food of all time (I can eat salt and vinegar chips like it’s my job). I’m talking about the most delicious meal you had in your entire life that still makes your mouth water just thinking about it.

For me, it was a dinner I shared with Sebastian at a little restaurant in Paris called Chez Marie Louise. The bf and I both adore Trip Advisor and spend many hours researching before our travels. I wish I had stumbled upon this gem, but it was Sebastian who discovered it.

If you read the reviews, you’ll see that it’s now ranked #37 of restaurants in Paris, and with good reason. The atmosphere is lovely, the prices are reasonable, the service is outstanding and the food is out of this world amazing.

Eggplant at Chez Marie Louise |

We started our meal with warm eggplant, ricotta cheese and tomato confit. After one bite, I knew our evening was going to be awesome. For the main course, I chose the scallop ravioli with lemon butter and fried zucchini, and Sebastian had veal kidney with beans and orecchiette pasta. Let me just say, I would eat those ravioli for every meal if I could – to die. The kidney tasted like kidney, but I was proud that I tried it – the bf thought it was very tasty.

Scallop Ravioli at Chez Marie Louise |

Veal Kidney at Chez Marie Louise |

We finished dinner with a dark chocolate cake with hand-harvested sea salt. You guys, I was in heaven. From the cozy, intimate setting to the chalkboard menu to the wonderful food selections –you really can’t go wrong.

Chocolate Cake at Chez Marie Louise |

If you ever find yourself in Paris, head to the 10th arrondissement near the Saint Martin canal. The place is small, so I recommend reserving a table before you go. And seriously, you have to go.

Chez Marie Louise
11 rue Marie et Louise – 75010

Afternoon at the market

11 Feb

I spent the afternoon at the West Side Market this past Saturday to celebrate my best friend’s birthday. Despite the crowds, it was such a relaxing day. We browsed all the amazing vendors, enjoyed delicious crepes (goat cheese on a crepe – yes please) and people watched from the upstairs gallery. And of course we bought cannolis to take home (although mine never made it home).

West Side Market | #cleveland

West Side Market meat vendor | #cleveland

West Side Market visit | #cleveland

West Side Market interior | #cleveland

West Side Market cannoli | #cleveland

Afterwards we decided to hop on over to East 4th Street for a stop at CLE Clothing Co. and some coffee at Erie Island. We even ventured into The Arcade for a little stroll.

The Arcade | #cleveland

I don’t make it to Cleveland nearly enough and should visit more often. It will just have to wait until spring arrives and the weather gets warmer for venturing out.

12 hours in Austin

4 Feb

Gosh dang it, I wish we had spent more time in Austin. The city is so lively, so quirky and yes, so weird. You know how the slogan goes, keep Austin weird, y’all. Well, I added the y’all, but you get the point. Austin is a blast and lucky for us, just an hour drive from San Antonio.

We only had one day to explore, and we did our best to make the most of it (even with my disgusting head cold). A big thanks to Sebastian for putting up with my constant nose blowing, slow walking and whiny moments.

Here’s how we spent 12 hours in the capital of Texas:

Late breakfast/early lunch at Lucky’s Puccias
Open: Mon-Tues 11a.m.-3p.m.; Wed-Fri 11a.m.-3p.m. and 6-9p.m.; Sat 12-2p.m. and 6-9p.m.; Sun 12-2p.m.
Address: 817 W. 5th Street

Lucky's Puccias in Austin | #austin

Since I felt like I was on my death bed the day before we visited Austin, we spent a lot of time in our hotel room watching the Food Network. Ever see Eat St.? They cover all the amazing street food you can find in the U.S. and we just so happened to see an episode featuring Austin. Coincidence? Maybe. Destiny? Definitely. Our first stop in Austin was straight to Lucky’s Puccias, where the bread is made to order – crispy on the outside, soft on the inside delicious Puccia bread. I tried one with prosciutto, mozzarella, arugula, tomato and basil oil, while the bf had the Puccia Classica with smoked ham, fontina cheese, mixed greens, tomato, onion and chipotle mayo. This was a great kick-off to exploring Austin.

Lucky's Puccias in Austin Texas | #austin

Get your history on at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum
Open: 9a.m.-5p.m.
Cost: $8 for adults
Address: 2313 Red River Street

Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum in Austin Texas | #austin

This was the second Presidential Library I’ve ever visited, and I have to say, I was very impressed. There were great exhibits, including a legacy gallery of the legislation passed by LBJ, images and artifacts from the fatal day JFK was assassinated, a social justice gallery featuring Civil Rights background, LBJ’s limousine, cases of gifts received by the Johnsons and a reproduction of the Oval Office. The museum showcases so much history, not only on LBJ, but America as a whole during his presidency.

Leisurely stroll at the Texas State Capitol
Open: Weekdays 7a.m.-10p.m.; Sat-Sun 9a.m.-8p.m.
Address: Congress and 11th St. (although you really can’t miss it when you’re downtown)

State Capitol in Austin Texas | #austin

This wasn’t on the top of my list, but when in Austin. However, the Texas capitol building really is beautiful (and it’s free). We enjoyed leisurely walking through and checking out the chambers of the Texas Legislature and the interior architecture. Fun fact – it’s taller than the U.S. Capitol in D.C., and the dome itself is worth the visit.

State Capitol Dome in Austin Texas | #austin

Inside the capitol building in Austin Texas | #austin

State Capitol building in Austin Texas | #austin[how cute is this guy?]

Afternoon pick me up at Chupacabra Cantina
Open: 11a.m.-2a.m.
Address: 400 East 6th Street

Chupacabra Cantina in Austin Texas | #austin

After learning about LBJ and walking through the state capitol, we were hungry – but not hungry enough for dinner. We wanted to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine so we randomly happened upon the Chupacabra Cantina with an outdoor patio. It had a bit of a hipster flair, but the Tex-Mex was delicious. We tried the deluxe nachos, and I had a massive margarita. It was the perfect place to people watch and felt oh so Austin.

Bar hopping on Sixth Street

In addition to the Chupacabra Cantina, there are a bunch of different restaurants/clubs/bars you can check out on Sixth Street. It’s part of the entertainment district in Austin, and most places we passed had live music playing. We didn’t actually bar hop, but it would be a fun place to do it if you have more time.

Dinner at Foreign & Domestic
Open: Tue-Thurs 5:30-9:30p.m.; Fri-Sat 5:30-11p.m.; Sun-Mon Closed
Address: 306 E. 53rd St.

Chefs cooking at Foreign and Domestic in Austin Texas | #austin

This restaurant was another stop on our Diners Drive-Ins and Dives tour, and along with the others, it did not disappoint. It’s located in a tiny building on the outskirts of the city. We opted to sit at the counter and watch as our dinner was prepared. They have a clear attention to detail, resulting in beautiful and delicious food. I tried the salmon with cauliflower, brussel sprouts, capers and almonds, and Sebastian had the cacao e pepe with parmesan, chestnuts and black truffle. If you ever make it there, ask for the gruyere popovers as an appetizer. Beyond amazing.

Foreign and Domestic in Austin Texas | #austin

Delicious dinner at Foreign and Domestic in Austin Texas | #austin

If I wasn’t so worn out from the day (stupid cold), we would have headed back to Sixth Street, but I was ready to go home. I’m looking forward to going back some day – I know we only scratched the surface of this city.

Banana pancakes

27 Jan

I’ve started a journey this year to try to be healthier. My muscles are sore from working out regularly again, and I’m doing my best to cut the crap out of my diet.

Eating healthy isn’t hard for me, but I’m human, I get cravings for the foods that I really love. Instead of throwing all my progress out the window, I’m finding ways to modify my favorites. So this weekend I set out to make healthier pancakes. The best part is the ingredient list: bananas and eggs. That’s it.

Banana pancake ingredients |  #healthyeating

Start by mashing two bananas in a bowl (the riper the better). Don’t worry about mashing them all the way – it’s better with some chunks of banana (see below). Then add two eggs and whisk together. It will be a lumpy liquidy texture.

Mashing bananas for pancakes |  #healthyeating

Set the griddle to medium heat and ladle about a 1/3 a cup per pancake. Cook about 2-3 minutes each side. I topped mine off with fresh strawberries, but I also think they’d be delicious with cinnamon.

Banana pancakes with strawberries |  #healthyeating

Bon appétit!