An Italian Out West

Coming from an Italian family that, for the most part,  lives within the city limits of Indianapolis, I rarely traveled anywhere other than Florida while growing up. It’s warm there and my family has an aversion to the cold, so it’s the perfect travel destination. To say that we stayed away from any part of the country that goes below 65 degrees and isn’t sunny is an understatement. My family takes up almost two full condo buildings in Florida and everyone in the family spends time there. So the fact that I had the opportunity to travel to the opposite side of the country and spend time in the Mountains is rare and I was one lucky girl. Ryguy loves the mountains and while it is a complete culture shock for me, I think after this trip I am getting used to the idea. I also had the best time and can’t wait to go back. There may not be a beach to lay out on, but some of the lakes I saw surrounded by the Mountains are a million times better than the Gulf of Mexico. Now the thought of spending time on a large mountain is not so daunting anymore, but before I left…that’s a different story.

I had anxiety for weeks about packing and how I was going to handle being all “outdoorsy.” Ryguy and I drove all the way from Chicago to Glacier National Park in Montana, with stops in Fargo, ND and Big Sky, MT. I don’t like being unprepared. I am a planner. I make lists about what I need to pack, then I make a list about what I’m actually packing, then I lay everything out that I am going to pack and I organize it multiple ways before actually putting it in my suitcase. To put it lightly, my friend Maegan literally refers to me now as “timeline.” Not knowing what I will need for the trip was causing me to lose sleep and making the trip seem more stressful than eventful. I got advice from a few friends and Ryguy helped me pack once he came to pick me up so I felt pretty confident before the trip started, but I still was slightly nervous.

Luckily, I had everything I needed, and the things I was missing I was able to buy (at a discounted rate!). I didn’t do a ton of cooking while I was away, but here is a little recap in photos of my trip!

Driving through Montana

Horseback riding in Big Sky, MT for my 25th Birthday

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

Hiking to Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park

The Huckleberry Patch in West Glacier (a tourist trap I loved!). I can’t wait to make a Huckleberry Pie when Ryan gets home with my Huckleberries!

The vacation was much needed and amazing. I was so sad to be home, and I am pretty sure I had the vacation blues for over a week. Once I got home though, I realized I had NO food in the apartment and needed to make something new and fun to help with my vacation blues! I got this recipe out of the magazine Health, and I am now officially obsessed with it. I even made it again last night (a different version with no meat and zucchini and tomatoes) and I still can’t get enough of it!

Orzo with Chicken and Peas

3 cups lower-sodium chicken broth

1 cup uncooked orzo

2 tablespoons unsalted butter (I used 1 tablespoon of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter)

1 large shallot, finely chopped (I didn’t have this and substituted Garlic Powder)

Zest of 1 lemon, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, divided (I didn’t have a fresh lemon, but I used Lemon Juice)

2 cups frozen green peas, thawed

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves (I omitted this as well)

1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

2 Chicken breasts (cut into small pieces)

1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Dash of Saffron

David Page’s special seasoning

Heat a large saucepan over high heat. Add broth to pan; bring to a boil. Stir in orzo and saffron; reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, until pasta is al dente and most of the liquid is absorbed (about 10 minutes), stirring occasionally.

Heat butter in a medium nonstick skillet while orzo is cooking, over medium heat. stir in shallot and zest (I just added lemon juice and garlic powder), stirring frequently. Add peas; cook until peas are bright green, stirring occasionally. Remove skillet from heat; stir in lemon juice, chopped tarragon (I didn’t add), salt and pepper. Transfer pea mixture to a plate.

Season the chicken with m special seasoning (or whatever you would liked!) and cook through. Add the orzo and mix until cooked through, stirring frequently. Add Parmesan to pan; stir until creamy. Stir in pea mixture and enjoy!

Stayed tuned for my fun night of homemade pizza with some friends!

Banana Bread

Where has this summer gone? Oh yea, it just started here in Chicago! I haven’t posted in a while, but I’ve still been cooking and having adventures in all kinds of kitchens! The summer started off to a great start, so I thought. I couldn’t wait to head home to Indy for the Italian festival in June. Ryguy had just gotten home from Europe so I was not only going to get to see my family, but finally spend time with him! Long story short, I got to Indianapolis and instantly felt sick. I was lucky enough to make it to the festival Friday night, but honestly, I couldn’t enjoy it because I felt so miserable. Ryguy definitely enjoyed himself though and I’m pretty sure he tested food at every booth, which is a good thing because we didn’t make it Saturday night and got stuck staying in with a no fun, sick girl watching movies! Here are a few pictures of some of the delicious food I remembered to take this year.



Before I left for the Italian festival I was so anxious to finally see Ryguy and get home to my family and I couldn’t sit still. Whenever I’m anxious, nervous or stressed, all I want to do is cook. For some reason, it calms my nerves and really allows me to think clearly. Maybe this is because it takes me out of my head and allows me to just be in the moment – in the food – which is what I need sometimes! So, while I was waiting for my fun-filled (or so I thought) weekend, I baked Banana Bread! I didn’t have a family recipe for this (that I know of, hint hint Mom!) so I used the cookbook, Baking, my sister gave me last year as a present for my blog! I didn’t have all of the below ingredients and kind of just went on my own with this one – and it didn’t turn out the BEST, but it was still good and I enjoyed them, but I am going to share the actual recipe below!

Banana Bread


Butter, for greasing

1 cup flour

3/4 cup light brown flour

Pinch of salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

2 large ripe bananas, peeled

3/4 cup orange juice

2 eggs, beaten

4 tbsp canola oil

Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 2-lb loaf pan. Sift the flours, sugar, salt and the spices into a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, mash the bananas with the orange juice, then stir in the eggs and oil. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix well.

Spoon into the prepared loaf pan and bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour; then test to see if the loaf is cooked by inserting a skewer (I use a knife or toothpicks) into the center. If it comes out clean, the loaf is done. If not, bake for an additional 10 minutes and test again.

Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan. Turn the loaf out, slice and serve! This recipe serves 8.

(Sorry for the awful quality of this photo!)

The banana bread wasn’t my best, but I was glad to finally attempt making one of my favorite breads! Stay tuned for adventures of an Italian out west and one of my new favorite recipes!!