Fried Nutella Pies

This post is LONG overdue. I made Fried Nutella Pies on one of my last nights in Chicago, while I was sitting at home bored. I had spent the day packing and running errands, so when I was got home I didn’t have anything to do until my friends got home from work. While I was waiting on Laura to get home so we could head to my final going away party with some friends at Club Lucky (I highly recommend making a stop if you’ve never been), I decided to make these yummy looking Fried Nutella pies and Peanut Butter Nutella cookies (post to come soon)!

I had some food I needed to get rid of before the move and Nutella was one of the ingredients! I found the recipe on Our Best Bites and was excited to give it a try. I didn’t have all of the ingredients, but I had some things I thought would work as a substitute. They turned out pretty good once I got the frying thing down.

Fried Nutella Pies (adapted from Our Best Bites)

Pillsbury Pie Crust (I didn’t have wonton wrappers – but I did have pie crusts I needed to get rid of!)

Nutella

Craisins

Cinnamon and Sugar (mixed)

Peanut Butter

Chocolate Chip

Coconut

frying oil

Let the pie crusts sit out until they are at room temperature. Fill a bowl with cinnamon and sugar and mix. Set aside the bowl (near the stove) for dipping the “pies” once they are fried.

Cut the pie sheets into small squares and fill them with a small bit of Nutella and any other ingredients you want. I added craisins to some, peanut butter to a few and to be honest, I can’t remember what else I used, but I know I pretty much cleaned out my pantry of sweet stuff. I just put Nutella on all of the pies and then made some with chocolate chips and peanut butter, some with just craisins, some with coconut, etc.

In a large frying pan, heat the oil, but make sure it doesn’t get too hot or the pies will burn. Remember the Kitchen Adventure I had with Caprese Wontons? Once the oil is hot enough, begin folding the pies together and adding to oil. Fry until the outsides are golden brown and then immediately add to the cinnamon and sugar mixture.

My first few attempts didn’t go over so well. The pies were falling apart and getting stuck in the cinnamon and sugar mixture. I figured out that the oil wasn’t hot enough and the pies weren’t really frying, so I turned up the heat and let the oil get hotter before I added the pies.

After a few attempts they turned out pretty good – and didn’t taste bad either! They weren’t my favorite dessert, but they were definitely something different and they were fun to make. I love anything with cinnamon and sugar on them, so they got my approval!

Up next: Peanut Butter Nutella Cookies

xoxo,

Lucia

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My Return to Venice

To say I was happy to be back in Italy is an understatement. I am so fortunate to have seen so much of the world and have the opportunity to travel around Europe, but of all the places I have been, Italy just feels like home. My mom once said to me, after returning from a trip to Paris, that she felt as if she belonged there. I always wondered what she meant by that and it took years later to find out. From my first moment in Italy, in 2005, I fell in love and felt at home.

My first Gondola ride in Venice, 2005

San Marco Square, 2005

While I was studying in Italy in 2007, I loved every minute of living there. I loved the food, the sights and culture. I loved the people and their life style and most of all, I loved the language. It was such an amazing experience and I could not wait to get back. I knew I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to go more than once in my life, but in my heart I knew I would be back one day. Every trip I made to Rome, I visited the Trevi Fountain, turned my back and threw a coin over my left shoulder. They say that if you do this you will return to Rome and so far this has remained true! While I was studying in Florence, only my cousin Michael was able to make the trip to visit me and we traveled to Venice and the Amalfi coast.

Again, in San Marco Square in 2007, next to Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace)

My first time in Venice, I was so taken aback and overwhelmed by being in a new culture for the first time, I thought it was HUGE and couldn’t ever really get my bearings. The second time I was there with my cousin, Michael, we spent the day at a restaurant near the Rialto Bridge people watching, eating amazing food and drinking wine.

This trip was different. I knew where to take my family and what to see. I knew how to get around and I wasn’t overwhelmed by the culture, making it so much more enjoyable than ever before. When my cousin and I sat near the Rialto bridge in 2007, it was just something we stumbled upon. I’m glad I took time this trip to plan the day and take it all in.

We arrived in Venice bright and early and were some of the first people walking the streets. It was really cool to walk through an empty San Marco Square, get an espresso and sit in front of the San Marco Cathedral. We spent the day walking every street, shopping, eating and exploring along the way.

Enjoying some pizza in Venice

My Brother, Jack, sampled about 15 different Gelato flavors throughout the day

Shopping and being "touristy"

View from the Rialto Bridge

By the time we got to Italy, I was starving for something delicious and I was in luck. Every meal I had in Venice was delicious. We even stopped at a restaurant near the train station and it was possibly one of the best meals of the trip. Everywhere you looked there were dessert’s in the windows, in the cafes and restaurants. Sweets were everywhere!

Desserts - Sicilian Cannoli!

After lunch we continued to make our way around Venice. We stumbled upon an amazing little market that had some of the brightest and freshest looking foods. My sister got in trouble for touching the peppers because they were so beautiful and vibrant she thought they were fake.

Mini Peppers at the market

Market in Venice

Checking out the Venice Market

My sister and her husband, Grant took a break from the family to have a romantic Gondola ride before we had to head back to the ship to get ready for our night out in Venice. While they were enjoying the romantic qualities of the city, my Dad, Mom, Brother and I continued to explore the city. After walking a while I noticed there were a lot of children playing in the Piazza we were in. There were mom’s everywhere chatting and watching their children. I realized we had stumbled into a very residential part of Venice. I am so glad we did, as it was one of my favorite parts of the trip. We stopped and got directions back from a man who was chasing after one of his children and he was wearing a Chicago t-shirt! What a small world.

Gina and Grant's first Gondola ride!

After regrouping on the boat and getting ready for dinner, we headed back into Venice. We had heard from a friend on the ship that Drew Barrymore was in Venice and they had seen her walking around. My sister and I were hoping we would get to see her too – but weren’t getting our hopes too high.

Venice was even more beautiful and romantic at night. The streets were lit up and it really wasn’t overcrowded. As we shopped around looking to buy some leather purses my brother-in-law motioned in another direction to me and whispered “there is Drew Barrymore.” I wanted to get a better view so I sped down the street, pretending to be heading in the same direction as her and got a pretty good look as I walked by. We were in an empty street at this time and I heard her say to her friend “that girls dress is really cute.” I was the only person in front of her so she was definitely talking about me. I felt pretty cool and will probably never get rid of that dress now.

The boys trying to get us to stop shopping!

Last family photo of the trip before heading to dinner

Where we had dinner

After dinner we headed back to San Marco Square and sat at an outdoor cafe and had a few cocktails, some coffee and dessert. Even my parents felt the romance of the city – my Dad swept my Mom off her feet, literally!

Enjoying some romance in the city of love!

It was such an amazing vacation and not just because I had the opportunity to visit a new country and return to Italy. Family is everything and I am glad we were able to experience new cultures together and take some time out of our busy lives to just enjoy one another and spend quality time together! We were all sad to leave Venice and I think everyone would agree that a family vacation around Italy is a MUST in the future!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I am thankful for my family, friends and everyone who takes time out of their day to read these posts and share their experiences as well! Next up, my very first Pecan Pie (or as I say to my sister, Pe-CAN Pie!)

Ciao!

Grecian Adventure Part II: Katakolon and Corfu

If you read Part I of my Grecian adventures you know my family and I started our cruise in Athens and made our way through Mykonos and Monemvasia. After Monemvasia we headed to Katakolon, Corfu and last, but not least, Venice!

Our first stop after Monemvasia was Katakolon. While this island has beautiful views and crystal blue water, it is nothing short of a tourist trap. If you have never heard of Katakolon, it’s where the first Olympics took place.Well, 30 minutes from the Olympic stadium.

Gina and my Dad at the entrance to the Olympic Stadium

Crossing the finish line!

Sure, I think the Olympics are cool. Yes, I am glad I was able to stand on the field where the first Olympics took place, but it was an empty field – not really that exciting. There was also a museum, but…I’m not the biggest fan of museums. They usually just make me sleepy (I shouldn’t admit that, but it’s true). My dad, sister and I (the only non sea-sick family members that day) made the best of it and I am grateful I was able to experience the culture and history. We had fun exploring the grounds and reading the stories about each ruin, but I would have rather stayed another day in Mykonos or had the chance to go to Santorini.

Dad at the Ruins

Next up was Corfu. Corfu was unbelievably exquisite. The city streets were tiny and lined with shop after shop and tiny cafès, and everywhere you turned was a beautiful view of the ocean. As we walked down the streets, my sister and I tried every sample of Kumquat we could find and enjoyed looking at all of the colorful trinkets, scarfs and souvenirs.

Sampling Kumquat in Corfu

Shopping in Corfu

After spending the morning walking around the town and shopping, we hopped in a cab and headed to a popular beach town, Paleokastritsa. We had lunch at the top of the cliff with some of the most breathtaking views. It was absolutely stunning. While the food was once again sub-par at best, the views more than made up for it.

View from top of the Cliff

After lunch we headed to the beach where we rented kayaks, swam in the ocean and relaxed on the beach. My brother was the first to take the kayak out in the ocean and I think my mom had a slight panic attack. My brother is fearless and my mom is nervous about everything, so it wasn’t a good combination. He of course was perfectly safe and came back after about 30 minutes of exploring the caves around the cove. It was quite possibly one of the best days I have spent with my family.

Beach in Corfu

While the food was sub par, one of my favorite things about Greece was the beer! Since I found out I can’t drink wine (tear…) I did enjoy a few beers every now and then and we came across Mythos, which was by far the best!

Grant and Jack enjoying Mythos - the Greek beer

After our long and adventurous day in Corfu, we headed back to the boat for one of our last dinners on the ship. We spent the next day at sea, laying by the pool, getting massage’s and just relaxing. It was a much-needed break from all of the sight-seeing. After our day of rest, we embarked upon the homeland – Italy! Only my mom and I had been to Venice before and everyone was overly excited to get there. While my dad had been to other cities in Italy – he had never been to Venice and said it was by far one of his favorite cities in the world!

Enjoying dinner our last night on the ship!

Next up (and I promise it will come soon!) our family adventure in Venice and some big life changes!

Grecian Adventures Part I: Athens, Mykonos and Monemvasia

After a short hiatus due to work, vacation, life and some more work, I finally found time to actually sit down and recap my family vacation to the Greek Isles and Venice. We had such a wonderful time on our cruise and I feel so lucky to have been able to visit a new country with my family. We have never traveled outside of the U.S (all together) and my brother had never traveled to Europe. It was exciting to experience his first European adventure with him, as well as visit Italy with my family. We spend so much of our time talking about being Italian and eating Italian food, so it was such a great experience to actually BE in Italy with my family.

Our first stop was in Athens, where we spent the day walking around the Acropolis and enjoying our first Grecian meal! The view from the Acropolis was amazing and it was unreal to be standing two feet from the Parthenon. We had spent the entire day traveling so after visiting the Parthenon and the new Museum, we had to stop and eat.

Before heading up to the Acropolis

My Dad enjoying the view from the Acropolis

This is my one and only complaint about the entire vacation. The food. When I studied abroad I basically ate my way through Europe. The pizza, pasta and bread in Italy, the sausage and beer in Germany, the cheese, bread and crepes in France…the croquettas and churros in Spain. I could go on, but I will spare you. The food in Greece and on the cruise ship was, well, disappointing. So disappointing, in fact, that I ended up losing weight on this vacation.

While the food was a disappointment, there were a few highlights in there – starting with my first meal in Greece. I didn’t like what I got, but I definitely enjoyed sharing my brothers lunch of chicken and potatoes. I love Greek potatoes and these were unbelievable. I also had my first cup of Greek coffee, which is thick and delicious. One thing to note if you are traveling to Greece; their version and the American version of the Greek salad are not the same thing. My sister and my Dad both ordered Greek salads and while I didn’t try it, I don’t think the salad actually came with lettuce or even half of the ingredients the American version does.

Greek Potatoes

After a very long, fun and tiring day in Athens we were excited to board the cruise ship and head to Mykonos! Oh, Mykonos. With beautiful white buildings everywhere, crystal blue waters, small winding roads and beautiful beaches, Mykonos was like a dream. It was perfect and we had a perfect day there. We walked the streets and shopped our way around the entire island town. I bought my first evil eye charm and we enjoyed Greek coffee at a small cafe while watching locals sweep the streets and talk among one another.

My sister and I worked on perfecting our Greek by saying “kalumera” to everyone we encountered (the only Greek word we knew) and also learned a few along the way from the extremely nice locals. Kalusera (good evening), kalunita (good night) and effatso (thank you). Mind you – I can’t speak or write in Greek, so I just spelled those words the way I believe they sound.

Mykonos

My family in Mykonos

We were told by a local guide on our ship that there was a famous church we could not miss. We had our map, but mindlessly stumbled upon the church. We were there on a Sunday and were lucky enough to find the church right before Mass was ending. My Dad, being the man he is, somehow found a way to involve himself in the ceremony and convinced a young boy to let him help ring the church bells at the end of Mass. My sister and I were also lucky enough to get the homemade bread and cookie a little old Greek lady was handing out to the locals after Mass. She overheard us talking about how we wanted to try them and quietly called us over to sneak it to us! The bread wasn’t very good and when we tried to throw it away in a shop the owner wouldn’t let us and told us to eat all of it. The cookie on the other hand was delicious!

Ringing the Church bells

The next day we headed to Monemvasia, a small island with two towns. The  Old town and the New town. I am a planner, so I had attempted to do some research before the trip, to determine what we should do in Monemvasia and to learn a little bit about the city. After reading a few blog posts and articles, I determined there really wasn’t anything that exciting about this sleepy town. One travel writer even said “there is nothing to do here, but sit and have lunch and enjoy the beautiful view.” So when we landed on the tiny island of Monemvasia, to my surprise, it was not only gorgeous, but there was more than enough to do in my opinion! Yes, we sat and had lunch at an amazing restaurant on the cliff overlooking the ocean and enjoyed the view, but we also climbed all over the giant rock, which is the Old Town, and explored the ancient ruins, churches, stores, and so much more. The Old Town is actually an old castle and everywhere you turn is a reminder of the way they used to live – with arrow holes so they can protect themselves from invaders, peep holes and so much more. My Dad said this was the first home of the Knights of Templar, but I have yet to confirm or back that up with research. My Dad, brother and brother-in-law climbed into uncharted territory and found a small church with painting from around 1100 B.C.

The view of the Old Town from the New Town

We spent the entire day in the Old Town and did some shopping and exploring. They had beautiful Olive Oil Wood items to buy. I bought two stirring spoons for when I make sauce and I can’t wait to use them. Monemvasia was also the only place in Greece where I had an amazing meal. As we sat on the edge of the Old Town at a quaint little restaurant, we enjoyed some of the best Saganaki I have ever had. We ordered it again in Corfu and not only was it not that good, it was fried and had no flavor. This particular Saganaki was cooked perfectly and was full of flavor.

Check back later for Part II of my Grecian adventures and my return to the beloved homeland, Italy!