Reasons Why I Fell In Love with Europe…..

I can honestly say that it was love from first sight! The first day when we arrived to Amsterdam and the taxi took us to our little apartment I couldn’t stop looking out of the taxi window. I loved everything from the little streets, charming houses, museums, street markets, cozy coffee shops by the canals….. Amsterdam was our starting point where we spent few days and then took a train to go to Paris where we spent 5 beautiful nights. After Paris everything went way too fast and I felt at times that my head was quickly spinning from all the beautiful places we visited. There was Venice, Florence, Lucca, Pisa, Rome, Vatican City, Madrid, Toledo, Segovia and Barcelona….. and each place took my breath away. So what exactly made me fall in love with Europe?

History

Europe has an endless amount of history, art, architecture … I was fortunate to visit some of the most amazing sights filled with very historically important art exhibits. I loved Louvre and gardens of Versailles in Paris, I admire Michelangelo’s David at Accademia Gallery in Florence, the ceiling painted by Michelangelo at Sistine Chapel in Vatican City was something from out of this world and Sagrada Familia in Barcelona left me speechless. There are so much more to it – there is no end!

  DSC_0465  DSC_1009 DSC_0274 DSC_0595

DSC_0426 DSC_0439  DSC_0759

Food

Food is absolutely exquisite in Europe! I am actually extremely mad at myself for only taking couple photos of the food. It was hard to worry about photos when beautifully decorated plates were placed in front of you. Here are my recommendations of what you should try when in Europe:

Paris – chocolate croissant with coffee.

Spain – jamón ibérico which is a type of cured ham.

Italy – gelato and risotto (eat these separately…haha). If you ever in Venice visit Osteria Ai Do Gobbi. My husband had seafood risotto and he claims it was his best meal ever, I had pasta with black truffles which was very delicious.

Netherlands – besides my favorite Gouda cheese you should try traditional Dutch appeltaart (apple pie) and coffee which is amazingly tasty there.

Obviously these are not the only deliciousness you can try in Europe – there are so much more but these dishes hold a special place in my heart or stomach. 

IMG_7545  IMG_7655  IMG_6567  IMG_6571

DSC_0792

Wine

Europeans take their love for wine very serious! No meals should be eaten without a glass of wine. I loved how easy it was buying alcohol in Europe – there was no designated stores and you didn’t have to break your wallet when purchasing it. A bottle of water or a bottle of wine in some restaurants were almost the same price!!! So many times I thought I was ordering a glass of wine when the waiter would bring the whole bottle (I think the cheapest bottle in the restaurant that I paid for was 3 euros which is $3.35 considering current exchange rate). Europeans do not realize how lucky they are!! 

DSC_0801 IMG_6261DSC_0821                                  DSC_0134                                            DSC_0131

Trains

One amazing thing about Europe is that you can visit as many countries as you want all by just taking a train. European trains are nothing like the ones we have in US it’s like something from the movie Fast & Furious. European trains were taking us to the beautiful places at the speed of 300 km per hour (which is equivalent to about 186 miles per hour) and did I mention that my eyes were always glued to the windows you just can’t stop soaking up all the scenery.

Outdoors

No need for cardio at the gym – prepare yourself for walking, stairs climbing and if you decide to do some shopping then you going to be doing all that with hands full of bags! During our trip we climbed so many stairs and so many domes at times we had to stop to catch our breath. If you do not like to walk or climb stairs than your days in Europe would be definitely exhausting. We had an app that would tell us how many steps we made and the average would be 25-30K a day with at least 40 flights of stairs (we climbed it all from tower of Notre Dame to tower of The Alcazar of Segovia). I was really on the mission to see everything possible in the time frame we had.

11856423_994836037216570_6848947075586090267_o  DSC_0641 DSC_0300

DSC_0101  DSC_0162DSC_0808

Back to the question why I fell in love with Europe! Maybe it’s the fact that you can visit all these completely different places with different languages, culture, food, history just by taking a short ride by train? Or maybe it’s the feeling you get wandering through museums, cathedrals or parks with your love one holding hands of absolute serenity and piece?  Or that deep feeling that comes and absolutely blows your mind that some people are so fortunate to live among the most historical remnants like Roman Forum or Colosseum, living inside of walls of Lucca that goes back to 200 A.C. or seeing Sagrada Familia from the window of your apartment?

Everyone has a bucket list – the things you want to do before you die. I believe that by traveling to Europe my list got shortened by half! The sharing kiss on the top of the Eiffel Tower, holding hands riding a gondola in Venice, climbing the tower of Notre Dame, wonder inside of Rome’s Colosseum, “holding” leaning tower of Pisa, say a prayer inside of Segrada Familia, take a picture with Michelangelo’s David or silly selfie with Mona Lisa in the background……. My trip to Europe was full of those dreamed moments that I always thought about!My friends and family know about my passion and love for traveling and I am so glad to share it with my husband.  

DSC_0681DSC_0598 DSC_0715 DSC_0333 DSC_0448  DSC_0441 DSC_0570DSC_0605  DSC_0497 DSC_0309DSC_0199 DSC_0008 DSC_0109

Packing….

Since husband and I are getting ready for our 3 week trip to Europe I thought it would be great idea to share my tips on packing for vacation. I started doing it about 5 years ago and I would never go to old ways..

1.     Pick the lightest suitcase possible, everyone knows that airlines charge an arm and a leg if you go over the allowed weight limit. All those suitcases that look like pretty shiny boxes (I think some made out of Polycarbonate or aluminum, hard shell suitcases) are heavy without even you starting filling them in! That’s why I always choose the lightest and the least expensive suitcase (which happens to be made from fabric) because you can pack more clothes!!! I personally don’t own any expensive brand luggage for once I traveled quite often to see the way our luggage been handled so why spend money on luggage that could be abused?

2.   A Packing list is very important. It’s the safe way to ensure that nothing important is forgotten, plus it gives me enough time to buy any additional items I need. Who wants to leave for the Caribbean without the only swimsuit you love?

3.     When packing don’t just throw random clothes in your luggage thinking you are going to figure out the whole outfit while on vacation. No no no – no one has the time for this on vacation!!! We are there to have fun and look good. So what I begin doing is that about few weeks before my vacation (you can even start earlier than that) start putting together outfits and I do take pictures so that I don’t forget what goes with what. You can be as detailed as you wish with this process and add jewelry and shoes to it. I make this process fun and enjoyable, I call it my “closet night” I turn the music up and pour myself a glass of wine and ideas just keep pouring out of me…. This is just little visual of what my packing looks like….

IMG_2158[1]

4.    I pack my clothes in separate bags so it keeps things more organized and also if you are carrying bottles with shampoo, lotions, etc. and they get damaged it won’t get all over your clothes.

5.    Since our trip will be 3 weeks long each of us are planning to bring one carry – on and one check-in luggage but usually if I go for less than a week I only bring carry -on luggage with me or the rule is one checked in bag for the family. You probably heard many stories about luggage being lost or delayed  because of some airline hiccups… well try not to ruin your vacation if something like this happens to you. That’s why I suggest to always pack half of your pre-organized outfits in your carry-on luggage. I personally don’t want anything to get in a way of me and my vacation.

Most important rule not to forget to pack your speedos when traveling in Europe!!!!!

Grocery List….

I have been asked how do I come up with the grocery list for the week. I used to drag this subject with all my passion – who likes to make grocery list or go grocery shopping for that matter??? But one evening while going through Pinterest I saw this idea of writing down a menu on a chalk board…and something clicked in my Russian brain. I thought it was perfect idea for my picky eaters!!!! I love to cook, but I hate cooking routinely – I like to make new dishes but I don’t like to cook the same things over and over! So it became kind of like a game in the family. Some days I put together a menu (because men in my family leave this important subject up to me) or sometimes we make a theme week. One week we had international week, or one week we made all our favorite meals… possibilities are endless.

After I put together a menu I start working on my grocery list. By doing just this, you are actually saving money (when I shopped before making a menu I would get more things then I actually needed meaning I would spend more money then I should). Another big plus of making  a weekly menu is that you won’t have unused food in your fridge.

My chalk board is not big enough to write all three meals of the day so it only shows my dinner menu for a week. Since I make smoothie bowls with chia pudding pretty much almost every morning – my breakfast menu stays the same and shopping for it very easy (all I need is fresh almond milk, Chia Seeds, plain Greek yogurt and fresh fruits). For lunch we usually go very light something like a salad with either low sodium turkey or grilled chicken.

Here is  how my menu for this week looks:

IMG_3581[1]

Monday dinner was absolutely delicious and so easy to make (total time that I spent in the kitchen was not more than 30-40 minutes including prepping and cooking).

Grilled Shrimp & Pineapple Skewers: I cut fresh pineapple in cubes (1.5” x 1.5″) and then I skewer the shrimp alternating with the pineapple (I made 5 skewers each had 4 shrimp, adjust to the size of your family). Once my kebobs were ready I brushed them with the sauce. I made my own sauce by mixing 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, I added a little bit of Italian seasoning then I brushed it all over my skewers and sprinkled a little bit of Old Bay seasoning (more for color). Then I grilled my skewers for about 3-4 minutes on each side.

For my side I made Quinoa Mango Salad. I used 1 cup of cooked red quinoa (you can use any quinoa and cook it according to the package), 1 diced mango, 1/4 of diced medium size red onion, 1 small diced cucumber and 1/4 diced green bell pepper (you can use any color it’s just what I had in my fridge…red bell pepper would add more color to your salad), half can of black beans (I drained and rinsed mine), handful of chopped cilantro. For my dressing I mixed 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of red vinegar, 1 tablespoon honey, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of lime juice and salt and pepper to your taste. Mix it all together and enjoy. I like this salad when it’s cooled for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

IMG_3584[1]

Tuesday dinner was extremely easy to make and it took me total of 20-25 minutes ! We had Grilled Caprese Chicken and to make it you will need boneless skinless chicken breast (it was just two of us eating so we needed only 2 chicken breasts), balsamic vinegar, 2 slices of mozzarella cheese, 2 slices of tomato and basil leaves.

While my grill was warming up I sprinkled chicken breast with little olive oil, garlic salt, black pepper, paprika, Italian seasoning and rubbed it all over. Then we prepared chicken breasts on the grill (we grilled our chicken for about 6 minutes on each side).

Once my chicken was ready I topped it with mozzarella cheese, tomato slice and then basil leave (you can drizzle balsamic vinegar on your chicken)  – dinner was great and easy to make!

IMG_4044[1]

Wednesday dinner was fantastic!!! Pan seared scallops on top of asparagus puree and for the side dish I had pan seared asparagus with roasted tomatoes.

Ingredients you will need: scallops, 1 pound of asparagus, 1 avocado, handful of chopped cilantro, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, olive oil, one big tomato, I also used tiny piece of jalapeno, Old Bay seasoning, 2 cloves of minced garlic, salt and pepper to your taste

First, I started with the asparagus (half of it went to make asparagus puree and half of it I pan seared with tomatoes). I rinsed and trimmed the asparagus, and then I drizzled it with olive oil, freshly chopped garlic and salt and pepper to your taste. Make sure your asparagus is evenly covered with olive oil and the rest of listed ingredients. Then I placed the asparagus on the skillet over medium-high heat and cooked for about 10 minutes, you have to turn asparagus to make sure its cooking evenly on both sides.

While my asparagus was cooking I chopped tomatoes into small cubes and pan seared them in separate skillet with garlic salt. It cooked for about 4-5 minutes at the end I added a little bit of chopped cilantro. When tomatoes are cooked set them aside.

When your asparagus is ready take half of it and put it in the food processor (I used my Nutri Ninja Bullet) then add one avocado, handful of chopped cilantro, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of olive oil (I also added tiny piece of jalapeno), salt and pepper to your taste and blend it all in – this will be your asparagus puree (I would actually call it asparagus/avocado puree).

Scallops were the last ones to cook as they are pretty quick to make. Melt butter in a skillet and place your scallops. I cooked my scallops for about 3 minutes on each side and I do not like to use much seasoning on my scallops so I just added a little Old Bay (again mostly for the color).

When you are done with scallops decorate your plate to your liking and it’s ready to be served!!! We felt like we were eating in some upscale restaurant!!! 

 

IMG_4273

Thursday dinner was Angus Ribeye Steak with Bruschetta Eggplant.

For steak I only used garlic salt and pepper (I don’t like too much spices on my steak) and I grilled it on 600 F for about 7 minutes on each side (the steak came out medium rare.. so you chose timing based on your steak preference).

While steak was grilling I cut tomatoes in small cubes, chopped cilantro and few cloves of garlic then sprinkled it with olive oil, salt and pepper and mixed it.

Then I took few Asian eggplants (you can use regular eggplants it’s just what I had) and cut them in half (lengthwise). After eggplants are cut , I placed them on frying pan with preheated olive oil and I let them cook for about 3 minutes on each side (I had to turn them few times to make sure they cooking evenly).

When eggplants were done I removed it and topped with tomatoes, cilantro…. easy and so good!!!

IMG_4412

Finally it’s Friday and the perfect way to celebrate it with the good dinner. I made Blackened Ahi Tuna with Mango Salsa.

For tuna spice I mixed together (I measured everything in pinch of this and pinch of that this time, next time I promise to be more specific) paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt, thyme, basil and garlic powder. Then I rubbed this spice mix all over my tuna and placed it on preheated frying pan with butter. I cooked my tuna for about 4-5 minutes on each side (your cooking time will depend on how you like your tuna cooked, I like mine to be pink in the middle).

While my tuna was cooking I made mango salsa. I cut one mango, third of a red bell pepper, third of onion (I used red onion), handful of cilantro and one small jalapeno. I mixed it all in the bowl and then added 2 tablespoons of lime juice, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper to your taste.

When my tuna was ready I topped it with mango salsa. Dinner served in less than  20 minutes and I can’t even describe how tasty it was.

image

Morning heavens…..

I am one of those people who struggle with getting up and moving in the morning……. it’s one of those things we have to do but not necessarily enjoying doing. It took me few month to get myself into a routine where I am actually looking forward to each morning! Yes yes you heard me right!!! My alarm is set for 6:30 (the goal is eventually move it to as early as 5:45, but hey few months ago it was set for 7:30) I start my morning by immediately doing my 20 minute ab workout (I promise to get into detail about it in one of my next blogs) then I jump into every girl routine: shower, makeup, hair…… But here comes the part that I am super excited about!!! I love love love creating my morning breakfasts!!! That’s where my Healthy Pretty Yummy comes in play … I became obsessed with creating my smoothie bowls and I would love to share my passion for Healthy Pretty Yummy breakfasts with you too!!!

How do I make them:

Step 1

              I always make my Chia Seed Pudding the night before. As you may know chia seeds packed with all sorts of good stuff like omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, fiber, protein and antioxidants. The reason why we need to make this pudding the night before is that chia seeds absorb up to 10 times their weight in water (well I use Greek yogurt or almond milk or combination of both). I mix these ingredients all together (I use 3 – 4 table spoons of yogurt, splash of almond milk, 2 table spoons of chia seeds and one tea spoon of flaxseed):

IMG_2535[1]

This is how my pudding looks like after I mix all the ingredients together.

IMG_2536[1]

Step 2

            In the morning when I am ready to eat my Yummy breakfast I blend fruits/vegies (I use Nutri Ninja Bullet to make my smoothies). I always freeze the night before few fruits (banana and pineapple, or any other fruits you planning to use that morning) the reason behind freezing is that it gives your richer smoothie taste (you can pretend you have ice-cream or slushy for breakfast). On the picture below I used frozen banana, few slices of frozen pineapple, few frozen strawberries, few slices cooked beets, not frozen (you can boil or bake it) and few cherries, not frozen (don’t forget to remove seeds) and I added a splash of almond milk.

IMG_2540[1]

So your smoothie would look like this

IMG_2610[1]

Step 3

My favorite part of making Yummy breakfast is decorating, mixing and adding fruit. This is the photo of that exact smoothie with Chia Seed Pudding that I described above. Enjoy this Healthy Pretty Yummy!!!!!

IMG_2624[1]

These are my smoothie bowls that I made in the last few weeks:

11811480_983177205049120_3040645902782046192_n

Blueberries, banana, blackberries and almond milk along with chia seed pudding

11224464_982704481763059_4543773928588542101_n

Banana, pineapple, strawberries, cherries, beets and almond milk over Greek yogurt chia seed pudding

11800097_982704475096393_3130425539206581668_n

Orange, banana, pineapple, mango and almond milk

1509094_981822591851248_2693065220872435632_n

Cherry, blueberries, banana, pineapple and pomegranate smoothie and vanilla chia pudding at the bottom

IMG_2732[1]

Banana, mango, pineapple, spinach and splash of almond milk

 

Hello world!

 

This is my first blog ever and I am excited to share with you my ideas about all things Healthy Pretty Yummy. I am a full time mom and a wife who struggling for all things Healthy Pretty Yummy. With our busy schedules it’s hard to stay healthy, travel to pretty places and make yummy dishes for our families but it’s not impossible! I am hoping that this blog would help you to find your Healthy Pretty Yummy!