Tag Archives: mediterranean

Mediterranean Foodie Penpal! {Reveal Day}


No, my Foodie Penpal this month was not from the Mediterranean.

{All U.S. residents are matched with other U.S. residents.} However, Brandi from Kansas really took what I said about liking Mediterranean food to heart! Just wait until you see all of these goodies!

FPP post Foodie Penpals

The package I received was decorated beautifully in festive wrap as well as some French phrase stickers to make this Francophile smile. 😉

photo 1I opened the box to find a cute card atop all of the goodies that Brandi chose especially for me. She bought from three different stores! She said she had fun carrying my list of likes/dislikes around in search of just the right items. How sweet is that?! 😉

photo 2(1)

And the contents:

photo 3(1)

  • Mediterranean Risotto – We love risotto in our house, but I’ve only made it once. This one has dried zucchini and red peppers right in the mix. It’s on our dinner menu in the near future. Perhaps with these Mediterranean Pork Chops?
  • Chocolate – Chocolate and hazelnuts always remind me of FRANCE! Oh la la… I had to divvy this baby up into eight pieces so I wouldn’t eat the bar in one sitting. I’d rather have a little bit of chocolate every day. Chocolate with hazelnuts never disappoints!
  • Apple Chips – A healthy snack. Love these!
  • Halva – Totally new to me! It’s made up of ground sesame seeds and cocoa. A decandent treat that reminded me a bit of the flavor of a Butterfinger, but the texture of fudge. Yum!
  • Dry Roasted Edamame – Wasabi flavor – Brandi chose these because I said I liked nuts and she said they “seemed a do-able cousin. Plus it’s a healthy snack packed with protein.” And spicy! I like spicy!
  • Tomato Basil Cheese – Um, cheese? Yes! Um, tomato? Yes! Um, basil? Absolutely! Win, win, win!
  • Mediterranean Quelitas Snacks – Cheesy. They are from Mallorca. I’ve seen it as a stop on Mediterranean Cruises when Rob and I were planning our Honeymoon.

Brandi, you are so sweet to think of me when picking out these goodies. I’m loving trying everything. I can’t believe there are so many new-to-me items!

Thank you again!


Would you like to be a part of Foodie Penpals? You don’t have to be a blogger and don’t have to participate every month – just the months you want to! Here’s how:

Thinking you want to become a Foodie Penpal? You don’t even need to be a blogger to do it! Nor do you have to participate every month. Here’s how:

1. Sign up by the 4th of the month that you want to participate.
2. On the 5th of the month, you are assigned a Foodie Penpal.
3. You communicate with your penpal about any food allergies or preferences, as well as where to ship the package.
4. By the 15th of the month, send $15 worth of food to your penpal that may include homemade goodies, local treats or just some of your favorite discoveries that you want to share! The box must also contain something handwritten.
5. You’re Foodie Penpal will ship a package to you as well by the 15th!
6. If you are like me, you squeal with delight when your package arrives.
7. You enjoy said goodies, which you may have never known about otherwise.
8. If you are a blogger, you post about the package you received on the last day of the month – Reveal Day! {If you are not a blogger, you do not need to do anything, but thank your Penpal, of course! However, if your Penpal does blog, you can choose to write a guest post, if you so wish.}
9. To sign up for January {they’re taking a break in December}, click here.


Come back tomorrow for a guest post written by Brandi on what she received from me!

What is your favorite Mediterranean Food?


Mediterranean Pork Chops {Food & Fitness Link-Up}


I made two blog-post worthy meals out of last week’s

Food & Fitness Linkup!

I’ll be showcasing one today.

Mediterranean Pork ChopsMy plan for Tuesday was to make some sort of pork chops with pesto green beans or zucchini and onions with herbes de Provence.

I decided on the zucchini and onions because I had three zucchini in the fridge that needed to be used and also found some fresh mozzarella which I no longer had tomatoes {gasp!} to make a Caprese salad.

So I improvised.

Yes. Me. Little Miss Follow-the-Recipe played the thing by ear. This always makes me nervous because I’m not sure what I’ll do if Rob doesn’t like what I make. We already go out to eat too much and I fear that if I don’t make something fabulous, he’ll want to eat out more. {I’m trying to push it in the other direction for both our health and pocketbook’s sake!}

In any case, I knew that Melissa d’Arabian’s Sweet Vegetable Saute side is always a hit with Rob, so I wasn’t too worried there. However, the last time I made pork chops with a Tuscan herb rub, I over-seasoned the meat, which made them nearly inedible. We had to scrape off much of the seasoning. It was also an herb rub I hadn’t used before, so I wasn’t very familiar with it.

Tip: When trying out new spices, use a little less than you think. You can always add more later.

This time, I decided to use my absolute favorite herb blend ever – the Rosemary Herb Seasoning Mix by Pampered Chef. Unfortunately, this blend has been discontinued. I don’t know what I’ll do when I’m out. It’s what I like to use when I make popcorn my favorite way. If anyone has the exact blend for this seasoning, please send it my way. I’ve tried to look it up online and there are so many different variations or guesses. But I don’t want any other Italian Seasoning mix, I want THAT blend!

In any case, for these Mediterranean Pork Chops, you can use any of your favorite Italian Seasoning Blends, Herbes de Provence or fresh herbs of your choice. You are just gong to have to play around to find the right mix for you.

Mediterranean Pork Chops with Sautéed Zucchini and Onions

  • olive oil (I used garlic infused olive oil.)
  • onion
  • zucchini
  • Italian, Tuscan or Herbes de Provence seasoning (to taste)
  • 4 pork chops (approximately 1 lb)
  • 4 oz fresh mozzarella (sliced)


  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Start chopping and cooking the Sautéed Zucchini and Onions by following this recipe. If you don’t like onions, you can skip or use yellow squash or bell peppers. It doesn’t matter how much you use of each veggie, just season with Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper to taste. The dish can hang out and sauté on low for as long as you making the rest of this dish.
  • I like to pound the pork chops thin if they aren’t already. Then, brush one side of the pork chops with olive oil and rub with Italian seasoning mix to taste. Since my first over-seasoning debacle, I tend to under-season now because I know I can add more later. Don’t forget to add salt if your seasoning mix does not contain any.
  • Lightly spray a pan (I used a grill pan) with cooking spray or olive oil and heat to medium-high.
  • Once hot, put the chops in the pan, seasoned-side down.
  • Brush the remaining side with the olive oil and rub with more Italian seasoning.
  • Sear the chops for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
  • Transfer the chops to a baking sheet or pan.
  • Top with slices of fresh mozzarella.
  • Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until cooked through and mozzarella has melted.
  • Drizzle with a little good quality extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a little kosher or sea salt to finish.


So what’s up this week?

planningWe have a lot coming up this weekend, so I’m not planning my days out exactly. Instead, I know that we will be eating at home four of the days and will just cook one of the following on any given day.


  • Dinners:
  • Breakfasts – Peanut Butter Toast, Granola with Milk
  • Lunches – Leftovers and Snack Lunches (This week, Poorman’s Caprese, cantaloupe, a piece of dove dark chocolate, Chobani yogurt, and a Tbsp of cashews.)


A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I stopped running because my back was starting to hurt again. I switched to walking. Last week, the plan was to increase my walking mileage by 10% of the previous week. So my goal last week was to walk just a total of 8 miles.

But I didn’t do it.

By the end of the week, I realized that I need a better plan. I need some more structure. A goal. Then I remembered that what I wanted to do is finish the LOST Virtual Races. Joe has added four more races to reflect the last Stations of the LOST Dharma Initiative. Originally, I wanted to do the Couch to 5k, get back to running those and then run the last 7k, 8.15k, 9k and 10k stations.

If I can’t run right now, it’s time to get back to fitness walking. So my plan is to finish these stations by walking them, but not at a leisurely pace. I need to push myself!

So on Sunday, I completed the LOST 7k – Staff Station!

LOST Station 7 – Staff 7K


What is your favorite way to eat pork chops?


Foodie Penpal from Colorado


This month’s Foodie Penpal box came from Kelly from Colorado. She told me this was her first month with Foodie Penpals and asked me for some tips as well as my preferences.

She more than exceeded my expectations!

photo 1

Kelly is a cupcake blogger over at High Altitude Cupcakes. {Love that name!} As I drooled over the photos of her creations, I knew there was no way she could send me a cupcake without it flattening in transit. Or, if she had perfected cupcake shipment, she would more likely have to send only cupcakes, which could be a beautiful thing. But it also could be bad thing if all cupcakes were consumed {by me} in one sitting! But as I suspected, cupcake shipment still proves difficult. In fact, when I wanted to send last month’s Foodie Penpal some banana chocolate chip muffins, I opted to send her the dry ingredients along with the recipe instead.

photo 2

Her beautiful, hand-written card was fitting and adorable!

photo 3In this note, Kelly went into detail on each item she sent and why.  She carefully selected some items from her beloved home state as well as some of her own favorites.

photo 5Clockwise from the Cupcake note:

Doxy’s Smoky Chipotle Starter – Aurora, CO | This is the only item I have not yet tried. It’s a packet of natural herbs and spices that can be used to make salad dressing and dip or to season fajitas or pasta. It will not go to waste!

JJ Sweets Cocomels – Boulder, CO | Oh, Cocomels! Thank you for making another appearance in my life! I was first introduced to these when a sample arrived in my monthly Love with Food box. I once again adored these cream caramels made with coconut milk.

Justin’s Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups – Boulder, CO | I’m familiar with Justin’s Nut Butters, but I wasn’t aware that the company also made peanut butter cups! And with dark chocolate? There was no way that this could go wrong. And it didn’t. Each cup made it into a day starring as my daily piece of chocolate. Mmm.

Chuao Chocolatier Chocolate Covered Potato Chip Bar | I adore this chocolatier! Kelly just discovered it and with my love of chocolate, knew that she had to share.

Homemade Peach Jam | This is the best jam I’ve ever had! I am dead serious about this one. It’s made from Colorado’s famous Palisade Peaches. What I adore most about this jam is that the beautiful peach flavor shines through. It is not overly sugared. In fact, I told my husband that it kind of tasted like mashed fresh, ripe peaches. Beautiful and refreshing.

Clark’s Wildflower Honey – Fort Lupton, CO | This honey is produced from wildflower and bees out of Fort Lupton. I had recently run out of honey and always like to replace it with a new one from a local producer often found at the Farmer’s Market. Getting some from a Foodie Penpal is even better! I love the Wildflower variety of honey, too.

Homemade Fig & Olive Tapenade | Kelly sent this to cater to my love of Mediterranean inspired food. She said that she also shares that love. Of course, I’ve had  tapenade before, but I’ve never had it made with figs, which are something else I really love, but rarely ever get to enjoy here in Minnesota. And let me tell you, this tapenade is divine! It’s so versatile, too.


Kelly suggested that I spread the tapenade with goat cheese on sliced French bread.

Perfect suggestion. This was an excellent way to enjoy it. I truly believe that if you are not a fan of olives, combining it with the figs mellows those distinct olive flavors out a bit with just that hint of sweetness. It also went perfectly with the honey ale above, which you’ll hear more about at a later date.

But then I got some ideas and enjoyed this beautiful Fig & Olive Tapenade in other ways!

with sliced tomato!

I added sliced tomato!

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Drizzled with the wildflower honey!

I drizzled it with the wildflower honey!

Why didn’t I think of this sooner?!

Tapenade (4)

I put it in a salad!

I made a simple salad for a work lunch one day which included fresh farmer’s market greens, tomato, goat cheese and the Fig & Olive Tapenade. At work, I drizzled a little lemon grapeseed oil over the top to dress it and topped it off with a few sliced almonds for some added crunch. Highly satisfying. It reminded me of sitting in the sun at a café in Provence. {I smile as I sigh here…}

Thank you, Kelly, so much for this beautiful box of lovely treats.

I can tell that you put a lot of thought and heart into it.

Everything has won me over!

I shipped a box of Foodie Penpal goodies this month to Maggie in Georgia, who is a big lover of Cheez-its. Let’s just say that she set me up to send her some of the cheddar variety of our local Pop’d Kerns. 😉

If you’d like to participate in Foodie Penpals, here’s the best part:

You don’t need to have a blog to participate!

Here’s how it works:

1. Sign up by the 4th of the month that you want to participate.

2. On the 5th of the month, you are assigned a Foodie Penpal.

3. You communicate with your penpal about any food allergies or preferences, as well as where to ship the package.

4. By the 15th of the month, send $15 worth of food to your penpal that may include homemade goodies, local treats or just some of your favorite discoveries that you want to share! The box must also contain something handwritten.

5. You’ll receive a package from another Foodie Penpal, who was assigned to you.

6. If you are like me, you squeal with delight when your package arrives.

7. You enjoy said goodies, which you may have never known about otherwise.

8. If you are a blogger, you post about the package you received on the last day of the month – Reveal Day! {If you are not a blogger, you do not need to do anything, but thank your Penpal, of course! However, if your Penpal does blog, you can choose to write a guest post, if you so wish.}

What is your favorite food from your neck of the woods?


Mediterranean Salsa Dip


I was inspired to post this recipe today by Katie over at Wish & Whimsy. She was inquiring about a healthy dish to bring to Christmas dinner. It got me thinking about the appetizer I’m bringing to a holiday party this weekend. It’s easy and one that people rave about and ask me for the recipe every time! Plus it’s something fresh and different from all of the heavy stuff you find at most holiday parties.

I think I found the recipe online years ago, but I’ve come to learn that it’s originally a Pampered Chef recipe that is paired next to hummus. Here is my adaptation:

Mediterranean Salsa Dip

  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled & chopped
  • 1 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small (4.25 oz) can diced or chopped black olives
  • 2 plum/Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
  • 2 (4 oz) packages of crumbled feta
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Just mix together and serve with your favorite chips, bread or pita slices. I use blue corn tortilla chips. Sometimes I use the garlic and herb feta, too! You can make ahead and chill to let the flavors meld; but it tastes great right away, too.

P.S. This is actually a doubled recipe, but I always make it that way because people devour it! {Plus, I plan to keep a small container for myself this time. I might just top a black bean burger with it!}

That simple!

What’s your favorite easy go-to holiday recipe?


Santorini Taverna – Eden Prairie {Closed}


While Labor Day may signify the end of summer for many people, it is also the beginning of The Rush. In Minnesota, we rush to get all of the things done that we wanted to do over the summer, but only have so much time left before the weather changes.

My birthday is at the end of September. Over the years, I’ve learned that even when the temperature can be in the nineties over Labor Day weekend, it’s nearly always cold, windy and rainy by the time my birthday comes around. This has made for difficult birthday plans. I make them while it’s nice out and by the time the day rolls around, it doesn’t quite work out. I usually end up saying to myself, “What was I thinking?! This happens every year!”

Still, one of the things that Minnesotans try to do as long as they can before the weather turns cold and bleak, is dine out on the patio.

One night, the girls and I went to Santorini Taverna in Eden Prairie. Luckily, it was not long after that unbearable summer heat wave. And dining out on the patio that night was absolutely perfect. I adore Mediterranean cuisine, too. So when Jen picked this place, I was delighted. There were so many appetizing options on their online menu!

When Jen pointed it out, I was really excited to try this cocktail:

Blueberry Lavender Mojito – Bacardi Rum & Blueberry Lavender Lemonade

I had really been missing the Lavender Cosmo at Palomino. And since I love just about anything with blueberries, I gave it a try. Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed. It didn’t really have much flavor and wasn’t anything special. I felt the same way about the:

Santorini Caipririnha Cachaca with Limes & Sugar

However, Jen’s Sangria was by far the best cocktail served at the table:

It was a specialty Sangria that I cannot find on their online menu. It had some interesting ingredients. Perhaps Thai basil? Regardless, it was one of the best Sangrias I’ve ever had. Of course, the St. Germain Sangria from Burger Jones still rules on this one. But let’s just say that the next time I’m at Santorini sitting out on the patio, you’ll find me sipping on Sangria. 😉

Our meals were delicious. We all went away satisfied!

WOOD GRILLED CHICKEN & SHRIMP KABOB Marinated lemon and oregano chicken, with two jumbo shrimp – $21

With dried figs, golden raisins, red cous cous and a curry yogurt sauce – $23

From the famed Turkolimano restaurant near the Piraeus Harbor. Sautéed shrimp with tomatoes, feta
cheese and flavored with fresh garlic and oregano
over angel hair pasta – $21

The Shrimp Mikrolimano was my dish. And while I think the photo looks good, it really doesn’t do the dish justice.

I cleaned my plate.

I’m quite certain I will not be ordering anything other than this ever at Santorini.

What’s better than spending a late afternoon and early evening dining on Mediterranean cuisine?

Passing that time with friends.

What one thing do you want to make sure you accomplish before the weather no longer allows you to do so?


La Chaya Bistro – Minneapolis {Closed}


Remember when I showed you this picture?

It was from a night when my husband I went out and I practiced The 50% Solution.


My husband likes to surprise me. He knows that the Twin Cities area has a lot to offer in terms of culinary delights. He loves it when he finds a restaurant that I haven’t ever heard of before. In fact, we found one of our favorite “south of the river” restaurants that way.

But this night, my husband drove just 15 minutes to south Minneapolis. {I love where we live!} Before we left, however, I asked him what type of restaurant it was.

“Mexican and Mediterranean,” he said.

I laughed. Who would possibly put Mexican and Mediterranean food together to make a restaurant? He must have been mistaken. He probably meant Mediterranean with a heavier influence on Spanish cuisine.

But I was wrong.

La Chaya Bistro is definitelya combination of Mexican and Mediterranean Cuisine – and the combination actually works very well. {What’s funny is that later that week, we saw Bobby Flay on the Food Network create a sauce that he said was both Mexican and Mediterranean inspired.}

So why Mexican and Mediterranean? The highly skilled chef is from Mexico, but also lived in Southern Italy. You can read more about him here.

One of the things I love about this place is the focus on quality ingredients:

  • Seafood that’s wild-caught and fresh {never frozen}
  • Meat that’s hormone-free and often from grass-fed animals
  • Fruit, vegetables and dairy products that are organic whenever possible
  • House-made pasta, sauces, and chorizo
  • Made-to-order tortillas

What’s more is that the restaurant supports local farmers as much as possible.

And as stated on their website, this is why the restaurant is named La Chaya:

“Chaya is a plant that is native to the Yucatan. It grows in the form of a bush; the leaves are edible and can be used much like spinach. Using this plant as our company name is to represent the freshness of food that grows wild without the use of chemicals. Along with the fact that it grows in Chef Garcia’s native Mexico!”

Because this destination was a surprise, I had no opportunity to check out the menu online beforehand. So I ordered a bit of bubbly and drooled over the options.

The bread you see above looks pretty basic, but is no joke. I have no doubt in my mind that it was one of Rob’s favorite bread baskets ever. I can’t tell you what makes this bread different than others. You’ll just have to try it for yourself!

We started with the Oyster Mushrooms Sautéed with Garlic and Guajillo Chili served with Grilled Bread:

Sometimes I have trouble remembering to take a picture before we dig in!

I wanted to order this because the description reminded me of tapas I’d had in Barcelona, Spain. However, the guajillo chilies gave this dish a unique flavor with just the right amount of heat. I don’t know that I’ve ever had guajillo chilies before, but I can tell you that I’ll have them again! The spice was perfect. I don’t know if that is thanks to the chili itself or to the chef’s ability to work with these ingredients so well, creating that perfect balance. Whatever it may be, I can tell you that this chef knows flavor. This is one place you’ll never find me screaming, “Season It Already!”

Rob ordered :

Housemade Fettuccini in a Light Cream Sauce

This dish is usually prepared with chicken. However, due to his allergies, he asked if he could substitute the housemade chorizo. Talk about flavor!

And while there were several things on the menu I wanted to try, I decided to go with the seafood special: the Mahi Mahi Tacos shown at the top of this post. I just had to have the made-to-order tortillas! While I could only finish one {after a piece of bread and the sautéed mushrooms on grilled bread appetizer}, I was a little nervous about boxing it up to go:

How would this taste the next day? Turns out, it didn’t need any reheating. The fish, salsa, cilantro and tortilla were perfectly fine cold and the guacamole had not browned as much as I had expected. It was a perfect lunch!

I can’t say enough about this restaurant.

The quality ingredients, the talented chef, and even the history behind the decor make it something special. Thank you, Rob! We will most certainly be back.