How many holiday gatherings is too many?

Sorry for not posting any life updates n a while. I know, you’re all probably wondering what I’ve been up to besides baking (because let’s face it, that’s all I’ve been posting about). Well, I assure you, the days these past few weeks have looked pretty much the same. Wakeup. Workout. Work. Go to ____ holiday party/get-together/dinner/drinks/etc. Go home, finish up last minute holiday activities or work, go to bed. Repeat.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOOOVE all my holiday gatherings and love a chance to catch up with different people – I realllly love this time of era and the holiday lights, drinks, get=togethers, sparkly outfits, etc. but it hasn’t given me a lot of time to blog! Anyway, here are a few ways I’ve been enjoying the holidays in Cleveland before heading home to New York:

Running in the mornings when it’s cold and dark can be tough but with views like this? It isn’t soooo bad:


Drinks (and dinner) with my sisters-in-law! Every year in lieu of gifts during the holidays we all make time to hang out – for dinner, drinks, or really anything we want. We were going to get manis this year but it didn’t work out so instead, a delicious meal and tasty festive drinks.


Holiday party with my coworkers! We hit up Platform Brewery for a tour, tasting and fun.

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Holiday baking makes me happy. I wish it were acceptable to marathon bake like this yearround! (Recipe for the below peppermint Oreo bark is here)


The Holiday Flea! I love the Cleveland Flea (giant flea market with crafts, local food, antiques, etc.) all year long, but there’s just something about the Holiday Flea that makes me feel all warm inside (and it could be the holiday beverages).


More treats! Holiday cookie exchange with coworkers.


FaceTime with my brother who is on the opposite coast. Happy to be able to see him thanks to technology – even happier to see him in person for Christmas!


Making limoncello. And finding it to be easy and quite delicious! (Recipe coming soon)


Holiday parties with friends. Because holiday drinks+treats+Santa outfits make this time of year splendid.


Buying gifts for our adopt a family, wrapping them, and delivering them.

Groceries, blankets, etc. wrapped up and ready to be delivered with gifts!

Groceries, blankets, etc. wrapped up and ready to be delivered with gifts!

And enjoying this lovely lights right in my neighborhood. So. Beautiful. I stop to take a picture nearly every time.


So yeah, that’s what we’ve been busy with. How about you? Any holiday events still to come? What are you most looking forward to now that December is halfway done?


Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini

My friend Alisa was in town from Finland (yes, the country) last week for a few days. She’s a friend from high school – and was one of my bridesmaids – and I hadn’t seen her since my wedding more than a year ago! Trips back from Finland are hard to make – it’s expensive and long – so Alisa doesn’t get to make it back to the U.S.  to see her family in NY often. That’s why I was excited to hear she was going to make the trip not only to the U.S., but also from NY to Cleveland with her boyfriend to see me!

It was a quick trip – and during the week, so I was working during the day – but I’m so glad I got to see Alisa and meet her boyfriend Jiri. We planned a few fun Cleveland activities for them – local food, visiting the lake, checking out the public library, taking the bus to University Circle to see the art museum – to see the city. We ate dinner at Greenhouse Tavern one night (Alisa and Jiri are very into Farm to Fork, local food, etc.), but the second night Jiri requested something American – steak! So I tried to think of a fun side dish to serve with our steak and mashed potato dinner that B was making, that was also gluten free, since Jiri had just started a GF diet.

I found it! This recipe had shown up in one of my daily Real Simple emails and I had printed it out to try sometime – and although it doesn’t shout “serve me with steak and potatoes,” I did. And it was great! It was also great leftover with my lunch the next day.

quinoa stuffed zucchini (gluten free and vegetarian)

Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini (slightly modified from Real Simple)

The original recipe says one serving is one zucchini – if this is your meal, I’d agree, otherwise a half a zucchini will serve perfectly as an accompaniment to a main dish. Yields 8 half stuffed zucchinis.

Here’s what you need:

  • ½ cup quinoa
  •  4 medium zucchini
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans or chick peas
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • ½ c pine nuts (original recipe called for chopped almonds, but I only had pine nuts on hand) 
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ c diced onion
  • ¾ c grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 tbs olive oil

Here’s what you do:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400° F.
  2. Cook quinoa according to directions. (you’ll probably need to combine quinoa with 1 c. water and bring to a boil in a saucepan. Once boiled, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 13-15 minutes or until water is absorbed and quinoa is soft. 
  3. While quinoa is cooking, cut zucchini in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Assemble zucchini halves in a large baking dish, skin side down and cut side up.
  4. Quarter cherry tomatoes, chop garlic and dice onion.
  5. After the quinoa is cooked, fluff it with a fork. Mix in the canned beans, cut tomatoes, pine nuts, chopped garlic and diced onion.
  6. Add in ½ c of the parmesan cheese and 3 tbs of the oil.
  7. Spoon the quinoa mixture into the zucchini.
  8. Top the zucchini with the rest of the oil and parmesan cheese.
  9. Cover baking dish with foil and bake 25-30 minutes, or until zucchini is tender to a fork. Remove foil and bake for an additional 8-10 minutes until the top is slightly golden. 

Alisa and I cooked dinner together!

coring zucchini

Alisa cut the zucchini and removed their seeds, making little zucchini boats

I made the quinoa and chopped the veggies to mix in

I made the quinoa and chopped the veggies to mix in

zucchini mixing filling

yummy quinoa/bean/vegetable mixture

Serving suggestion: two halves (one whole zucchini) for vegetarian meal, or as a side to a meat-friendly meal

Another Summer Weekend is Gone

I can’t believe that summer is almost over and the first weekend in August has come and gone! And what another great, fun-filled weekend in Cleveland it was. Friday, after working late and a somewhat stressful week, B and I decided to stay in. Boring? Perhaps. But with a bottle of red wine, a pizza from Vincenza’s and a movie from our Netflix plus the Olympics to keep us busy, I was more than content.

Saturday morning B and I hit the gym for an indoor workout, as of course as soon as we headed outside it looked like rain. Notice a pattern here? Same thing happened last weekend. Anyway, after our workout, it of course cleared up, so B and I hit the golf course for a STEAMY round of golf. It was my third time ever playing a round, and I have not only gotten worse, but nearly melted in the heat. I apologize to the guys who were behind us and had to wait as I slowly got the ball closer and closer to the hole. After golf, we hit up Yogurt Plus in Rocky River to enjoy our soft serve creations. I meant to take a photo to share my Thin Mint, Cookies and Cream and Cake Batter Yogurt Creation, but of course I forgot to and instead ate it up before even taking out my phone.

love me some E 4th (and LOVE Samantha’s stilettos)

Saturday night, a group of us went out to celebrate my coworker Samantha’s birthday (which is actually today! Happy Birthday Samantha!!). We grabbed dinner and drinks on E. 4th, and bar hopped from Flannery’s to Greenhouse Tavern’s Rooftop to Wonder Bar before the torrential downpour/crazy storms hit downtown.

Group at GHT – Devin and his gf, Sarah and her bf, Samantha, B and me

Late night on GHT’s rooftop. Love the lights!

After the bars, we decided to watch some DVRed episodes of Through the Wormhole, a new show on the Discovery Channel by Morgan Freeman. The show will blow your mind! And, after a few beers and/or cocktails the show gets even weirder. Trust me. Don’t believe me? Here’s the description of the show: “Hosted by Morgan Freeman, Through the Wormhole explores the deepest mysteries of existence — the questions that have puzzled mankind for eternity. Can we eliminate evil? What is nothing? Is there a superior race?” See? Mind blowing.

Sunday morning we dropped Samantha back at her apartment and decided to grab brunch at Panera before heading back downtown for a lazy day. And by lazy day, I mean I baked, grocery shopped, napped, went for a run, napped some more, caught up on the phone with some college friends made dinner, then went to bed. A perfect, relaxing Sunday!

How was your first weekend in August?

Weekend Recap – Parents, Art, Sports and A Marathon

This past weekend was the Cleveland marathon. As you may know, I was supposed to run it and my parents had planned to come in town to watch – but on Friday I learned that I would not be running. My parents still came into town and B and I showed them a great weekend and beautiful weather (for visiting not running) and more of what Cleveland has to offer.

Friday, I hobbled back into work after hearing the diagnosis from my new doctor. I was in a bad mood, as my coworkers probably could pick up on, and so I was grateful when two of them asked if I wanted to grab margaritas after work. Now if it had been two days before my race – I wouldn’t have been drinking. But two days before a race I couldn’t run? Margaritas sounded great!

margaritas from zocalo

Friday night,  my parents arrived and B and I introduced my parents to Greenhouse Tavern. Their first experience was not disappointing – they both loved their Ohio beef burgers, I enjoyed the seafood special (with local Lake Erie Walleye) and B enjoyed the lamb burger – which of course I snuck a taste of, yum! After dinner, we walked around and I showed off some of the new sights, including the new Casino. We didn’t go in, but the street was bumping!

Saturday morning we met my parents and headed over to the east side to experience the Rembrandt Exhibit. The last time I’d been in the Cleveland Art Museum was actually with my parents (last year), so I hadn’t seen this exhibit yet. It was really cool – not only was it a traditional art exhibit that showcased the artist’s work, but it also showed some works that were originally thought to be Rembrandt, but were later discovered to be either works by his fans or members of his studio. The exhibition showed how you could tell what was a real Rembrandt or not, and even showcased some work where it was yet to be determined if the works were his or not. The exhibition was also interactive- we tried out the audio tour and heard a few experts’ opinions on key pieces and played with the computer that let you digitally uncover a Rembrandt work (and see what had been done to touch up the painting through the years, so experts aren’t even sure it’s his). If I had better reception I would have been able to scan the QR codes to learn more about select paintings. If you haven’t gone yet, I definitely recommend checking it out – it’s here until May 28!

my family near the cleveland art museum rembrandt exhibit

Hanging out near the art museum

 After the art museum, we walked (I hobbled) around Wade Oval and then enjoyed lunch at Trattoria in Little Italy. I’m still eating leftovers of the spaghetti and clam sauce!

After our lunch, we headed to Progressive Field to watch an Indians game. Despite having to miss the first inning (for some reason, Will Call couldn’t find our tickets … and then they did but only found 3 of the 4 tickets … and then they still couldn’t find the 4th ticket and so on), we had purchased better-than-usual seats through the Cleveland marathon discount code and got to enjoy a fabulous game, up close. Both my parents were impressed with our affordable but still great seats (as you can imagine, being from NY, my parents are accustomed to pricier Yankees tickets) – and a great ending to the game (we won and Perez struck out three batters in a row in the last inning). Oh, and we also got up on the Jumbotron – the third time this season for B and me!

B and I at the Indians Game

After the game, B went home to relax before the race and my parents and I checked out Colossal Cupcake for dessert. We split two cupcakes – the chocolate peanut butter cup and the almond – which were delicious but slightly more expensive than I expected. Still, it’s nice to have a dessert shop open late downtown! (Dear awesome ice cream shop, like Yogurt Vi or East Coast Custard Truck– please come downtown soon! Thanks, signed Melissa).

Saturday night, in true pre-marathon fashion, B and I watched Saint Ralph. If you haven’t seen it and appreciate a Canadian feel-good (well, sorta) sports movie, I definitely recommend it. We watched it before we ran the Columbus half marathon and B watched it before he did the Tough Guy in England, so it was fitting that he watch it before his first marathon.

Sunday, B woke up early to head to the starting line at 6:15 a.m. I couldn’t sleep, and made it to my parents’ hotel by 7:45 to join them for breakfast and stake out our first marathon watch point-  just about the halfway point. B came by, feeling dehydrated, and at the last minute, his sister Katie (who wasn’t supposed to be running), jumped in and decided to run/walk the rest with him. A few hours later (and some sunburn later), my parents and I cheered on hundreds of other runners and saw B finish strong. I’m so proud of him for finishing the race – especially in the heat – but still disappointed that it’s not something I can cross off my bucket list. I’m so glad my parents were around – it was so great watching all the runners finish, but still was a constant reminder of the fact that I wasn’t able to compete with them all, and my parents helped to cheer me up. Anyone want to train with me for another marathon as soon as my aircast is off?

Me, B (with his Steve Prefontaine mustache) and Mary after their marathon

Hope you all had a great weekend in sunny Cleveland! Did you try something new this weekend?

Birthday [Weekend] Wrap Up

Monday was my birthday! I know, Happy Birthday to me : ) Missed it? It’s okay, I’m still accepting belated gifts, flowers, fruit arrangements, etc. And it’s easy to remember next year – 1-23!

Naturally, I decided to celebrate the birthday (it was a big one – I’m no longer in my mid-twenties… I’m in my mid-late twenties!) the whole weekend throughout Cleveland. It was a great time and involved a lot of food, surprises and more food.


Friday began the celebration! Our building had an event so B and I spent the evening enjoying Happy Hour drinks and free bowling at the Corner Alley. I didn’t take any photos because I really didn’t need any evidence of my poor bowling skills (I scored a 48 first round) or sexy bowling shoes (I got them a size up just so I could wear them comfortably with the swollen toe). Friday for dinner B let me choose what I wanted, so we enjoyed a simple feast of cheese (goat, brie and chipotle cheddar), meat (two types of salami) and bread!

Friday also brought the first of my gifts, cards from my parents and Uncle Mike and packages from Jane and my brother arrived. Jane’s gift ended up being a belated wedding gift and one of my favorites thus far – a homemade wedding photo scrapbook. Seriously, this thing is legit and includes our wedding photos, some bachelorette party and shower photos, our invitations, and more. Jane is amazing. My brother also got me an incredible package of a book, a homemade CD with specially-picked tunes (already loaded on my iTunes!) and TWO packages of my favorite ginger candies which I can’t seem to get here.


Saturday morning and afternoon involved two of my favorite activities – shopping and a manicure! I woke up early and got my nails done a fun navy blue color and then dragged B along shopping so I could find a perfect outfit for our dinner date that evening, which ended up being a fun plum colored sparkly dress!

After shopping, B went for his 6 mile run outside while I moped that I couldn’t run did the elliptical and got ready. When B got home from his run he excited me with #1 of the 2 surprises of that night – a new necklace, one I’d been eyeing for some time! Then we headed to Blue Point and enjoyed an amazing dinner dinner. I got the My Blue [Pointe] Heaven, a plate full of scallops (yum), shrimp (double yum), lobster tail (yum yum yum!) and lobster mashed potatoes. Jealous?

For dessert, I decided I wanted Ben & Jerry’s. So we walked to Constantino’s to pick up some ice cream to enjoy on our couch at home … or so I thought!

We walked back toward our apartment and decided to take a shorter, warmer route through Tower City. The next thing I knew, we were in the Ritz and heading up to our own room that B had secretly booked, checked in AND stocked with an overnight bag (including workout clothes!) for me AND champagne (all done while he was on his run). That was Surprise #2 in case you didn’t figure that out.


Sunday included a short workout (elliptical, still no running) in the Ritz’s pretty nice hotel gym/spa area, followed by brunch at the Diner on Clifton. I enjoyed a pretty awesome ahi tuna club sandwich and sweet potato fries (not the only fries of the day). After lunch involved relaxing and watching some Luther episodes (a new favorite show of mine!), afternoon mass (we got chosen to bring up the gifts … they must have known it was my birthday) and then the Greenhouse Tavern for the Chef Sawyer Iron Chef America episode watch/tweetup!

The Tweetup was great. While Chef Sawyer didn’t win :(, B and I enjoyed a night out, fun people and of course, great food. Being neighbors to the restaurant, it was really cool to see the Chef in person and even shake his hand. The chefs had specially prepared some of the food from the show and handed them out as the show aired. The secret ingredient was mint and we enjoyed a mint salad with lamb (I love lamb!) some zucchini – mint fritters and an amazing dessert, the Stoner Sandwich – a mint ice cream sandwich made with a waffle. We may have also splurged on some of the famous gravy frites before the event.


Monday was my real birthday! Finally, right? Monday involved work and then a homemade requested dinner by B. We tried out our pasta attachment for our KitchenAid (B made the dough, I just had fun putting it through the attachment) and B made sauce and turkey meatballs, one of my favorite meals by him.

Thanks so much to everyone who helped make my birthday a great one. I got so many calls, texts, cards, emails, Facebook messages, and so on, and felt so loved. Last year was pretty awesome (moved downtown, got a promotion, got married, went on a honeymoon to Tortola, BVI) and I’m excited about what’s to come. Here’s to another great year!