The Sweet Life

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“La Dolce Vita” is an Italian phrase meaning “The Sweet Life” that we picked up on our first visit to Italy. We’ve used it often to describe our life together over the years, but I have to tell you, life over the past six months has been even sweeter than ever. This little girl is such a joy! I don’t know if anyone will even see this post since it has been so long since I last wrote, but if you are reading this and you were one of the many people who prayed for us during this pregnancy, thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. It still amazes me that we get to be her parents. ❤

Over the past few months I’ve had several people ask if I’m going to start writing in this space again. And the truth has been that I just didn’t know. As I’m sure most of you who follow me on social media have guessed, we are currently keeping our daughter’s online presence to a minimum. Which means that I’m not planning to write about her here. I could write about the same types of things I used to write about here: recipes or fitness or time with friends or travels or photography or DIYs or house updates all without mentioning her or sharing photos of her. But, my friends, that’s just not where my head is right now.

I’m still doing all of these things that I was doing before her arrival, but she is just so much a part of our lives now that I don’t want to blog without talking about her. Maybe at some point down the line I’ll be ready for that or we will decide to share more about her publicly. But for now I guess this is me officially saying a goodbye to this blog.

I may not be writing in this space, but I’m not completely gone! You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest. And of course if you have questions about recipes or travel or baby things or just want to chat, you can always email me (thisitalianrach@gmail.com). I would love to hear from you! 🙂

I started this blog in 2010 and am so thankful for the connections I’ve made thanks to blogging. What a sweet and supportive group of bloggers I ran into in this corner of the internet. Thanks for being part of that and for reading along over the years! ❤

Love Rach

 

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The Ultimate Guide of Where to Eat in Memphis

When we found out we were pregnant, we decided to do all the things that people say you aren’t able to do (at least as easily) once you have kids. One of those things is to eat out. So we picked our favorite places and made sure to eat at them all. Which made me realize that I should share all these amazing places with you guys! So if you are in Memphis and looking for some awesome food, here’s a little guide! Each one is linked to a blog post with more pictures and information.

corky's ribs

BBQ Ribs: Corky’s

Showboat BBQ
BBQ Sandwich: Showboat BBQ

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BBQ Nachos: Rendezvous (but don’t bother going to the restaurant – the line is always long because it’s a touristy spot. Instead, get these at any event you attend at the Fed Ex Forum or at the Red Birds Stadium).

las delicias guacamole

Mexican: Las Delicias (all their food is awesome, but the guac is a MUST here!)

rock 'n dough pizza

Pizza: Rock ‘n Dough (the Ridgeway location is closed now, but we really like their Germantown location!)

ciao bella

Italian: Ciao Bella

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Sushi: Tokyo Grill (their sushi is awesome both in restaurant and to-go!)

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Pho & Chinese Food: Tycoon

kookamonga

Burgers: Kooky Canuck’s (the 7 pound burger is what they are famous for and it’s definitely fun to order, but their other burgers are super awesome too!)

celtic crossing fish 'n chips

Fish ‘n Chips: Celtic Crossing

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Middle Eastern: Casablanca

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Mediterranean/Greek: Zam Zamz

majestic ribeye steak

Steak: The Majestic Grille

the mempho

Best Sandwich: Patrick’s (get the Mempho! It’s awesome!)

brother juniper's

Breakfast: Brother Juniper’s

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Pancakes: Staks

Putting this post together has made me so hungry, haha! Memphis is full of incredible food, my friends!

Love Rach

Chocolate Chip Scones

A little over six years ago I found this recipe for Cinnamon Chip Scones on the How Sweet Eats blog. With a tiny swap (to dark chocolate chips), these are my favorite scones!

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Chocolate Chip Scones

Ingredients:

3 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar-in-the-raw
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cups cold butter
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425.

2. In large bowl combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter until it forms coarse crumbs. Stir in buttermilk and vanilla. Fold in chocolate chips. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently.

3. Divide in half and pat into 7 inch round circles. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Cut into 6 or 8 wedges.

4. Bake at 425 for 13-15 minutes.

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I recently made a batch of these to pop in the freezer for after Baby arrives. I stored them in gallon size bags with wax paper separating them. They reheat from the freezer so well! Just pop however many you want in the oven while still frozen at 350 for 10-12 minutes and they are delightful!

Speaking of Baby’s arrival… we are SIX DAYS AWAY!! Less than a week. It is truly amazing to me (and my high risk OB, ha!) that she has stayed safe and sound right where she is all the way to this point. So thankful for so many answered prayers!

Love Rach

Casablanca

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I haven’t done a restaurant review on here in a long time because I’ve shared pretty much all of my favorite Memphis eats at some point or another already. However, Casablanca is a place we’ve discovered this year and really enjoy.

Casablanca

Hummus with pita is a favorite of ours. Casablanca’s is good, but I wouldn’t say it’s better than the hummus at other places we’ve eaten here in Memphis.

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Christopher loves their Super Sandwich which is a pita stuffed with lamb, beef, and chicken not to mention all the other goodness you see above.

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And chicken kabobs will always be my favorite. They are seasoned so well here! The “veggies” it comes with on the side are really more just a couple of starchy potato and sweet potato chunks, but the delicious kabob makes up for it.

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In general Christopher and I agree on all our favorite places to eat here in Memphis, but we are definitely split when it comes to our favorite Middle Eastern / Mediterranean place. I still prefer Zam Zamz. I love a good chicken kabob and the one at Zam Zamz is so great. And less expensive than Casablanca’s. And we love the hummus at both places equally. However, Christopher prefers the rich flavors of the other dishes at Casablanca. Plus we can both agree that the decor at Casablanca’s is more fun.

If you are looking for a quick and affordable lunch, Zam Zamz is your place. If you want a slightly nicer place where you will sit down and be there for a bit (and pay a bit more), then check out Casablanca. Or better yet, try them both and let me know which you prefer! 🙂

Love Rach

A Healthier Cake-in-a-Mug

So this isn’t a healthy snack. Don’t read the title above incorrectly. It’s a healthier version of the traditional cake-in-a-mug recipe (you know, the one that includes oil and sugar). But this isn’t exactly like having a sliced apple for a snack. 😉 Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I want to share with you guys our favorite way to make cake-in-a-mug!

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A Healthier Cake-in-a-Mug

Ingredients:

4 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tbsp granulated Stevia
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
2 tbsp Egg Beaters (or 1/2 of a whisked egg)
4 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
3 tbsp no sugar added applesauce
splash vanilla
3 tbsp dark chocolate chips

Directions:

Add ingredients to mug and mix together. We have a tiny whisk that we use for this and it’s perfect for making sure everything is combined perfectly. Microwave on high for 1 minute or until middle of cake is set. Enjoy!

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Speaking of mugs… apparently I have an affinity for them. Which means we have a bunch of them. And I love them all. Want to see?

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Travel related mugs! All but one of these were gifts from friends and family over the years. The only one we actually bought was the blue one right in the middle which we found at a thrift store. It’s from the Cinque Terre which was one of our favorite places we’ve traveled. From Left to Right: Wuhan, China (where I spent my teen years), Tupelo (where we filmed a commercial), Rome, Cinque Terre, Prague, Czech Republic, and Disneyland Tokyo (where I visited as a teenager, but apparently have never blogged about).

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The mug on the far left was the first set of mugs that we ever owned as newly weds. We ended up giving a couple of them away over the years and as our random mug collection grew I realized that I didn’t feel strongly about having all matching mugs so we gave the rest away as well. The rest of these are a mix of gifts and ones I found on sale at Target and thrift stores.

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The three on the left were gifts, but the two on the right were Target discount finds. I just love them so much!

So yes, we have 18 mugs. For 2 people. And I’ve had to slow myself waaaay down on purchasing them over the years (even when they are the cutest ever and super cheap) since we’ve been given so many as gifts. But I have to tell you guys, we use them for everything! Sometimes I use them in place of anything I would put in a bowl (like soup, cereal, or oatmeal). Obviously we use them for cake-in-a-mug and of course we drink from them as well. So while we probably don’t need this many mugs, we certainly use them! 🙂

Do you find yourself drawn to cute mugs?

Have you ever had cake-in-a-mug?
Love Rach

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

A few years ago I shared a recipe on this blog for lemon poppyseed muffins. I’m not sure where I initially got this recipe, but I’ve been making it again lately and it is such a winner! So I wanted to share with with you guys. 🙂

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Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp poppy seeds
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar in the raw
2 tbsp lemon zest (2 large lemons)
1/4 cup melted butter
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

1. Zest the lemons over a small bowl of sugar. Rub the sugar and zest together until the sugar is slightly moist and fragrant.

2. Add egg, melted butter, buttermilk and vanilla. Mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add liquid ingredients to the dry slowly and stir just until moistened. Be careful not to over-stir. Fold in poppy seeds.

3. Spray muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Divide muffin batter evenly into 36 mini muffin cups. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.

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I made these recently for a group of friends and they were such a hit! I had forgotten  just how yummy they are and how amazing they smell as they bake!

Speaking of baking things… I will be baking today. Apparently the ridiculous number of freezer meals I have stocked up suddenly doesn’t feel like enough and I’m itching to bake and freeze some scones and waffles as well. And I’m planning to bake cookies for the nurses (to take in with us when I deliver) so I’ll pop those in the freezer until we head to the hospital. I’ve never actually frozen baked cookies before, but I’ve heard they thaw quickly at room temperature and are super delicious. So here’s to hoping!

Does anyone have experience with freezing baked cookies?

What was the last thing you baked?

Love Rach

Quick Pseudo Italian Dinners

I hesitate to call either of these “recipes” because they are more like meal ideas than anything else. But they are both super delicious and both always big hits with other people. So I wanted to share them with you guys! 🙂

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So first up, French Bread Pizza. Friends, this is simple. So simple. Slice a loaf of French or Italian bread in half length ways. Cut into “individual size” portions (3″-4″) and then take a heavy tray and attempt to flatten the bread as much as possible by pressing down on the bread and compressing it. I learned this tip from Serious Eats (see link for photos of what I’m talking about) and it makes a huge difference in keeping the sides of the bread from being too curled. Pre-bake bread at 350 degrees for about 7-8 minutes and then remove from oven. Top with your favorite sauce (our recipe here!), cheese, and any desired toppings. Bake for another 8-10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Bada boom bada bing! Dinner is served!

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If French Bread Pizza is simple, then Baked Spaghetti is practically effortless. Especially if you have leftover spaghetti and pasta sauce from a previous night. It’s really up to you how much trouble you want to go to. You can even use jarred sauce and pre-shredded cheese and this meal takes on new levels of simplicity.

For us, we usually make this with leftover spaghetti sauce (our favorite recipe here!) that we tossed in the freezer after a meal. I’ll pull it out of the freezer, let it thaw overnight and the next day all I have to do is boil my spaghetti noodles and shred my mozzarella cheese (I don’t know why, but I think the block cheese that you shred melts better than the pre-shredded stuff). I combine the cooked pasta with the spaghetti sauce and pour it into a 13×9″ pan then top with a little extra layer of sauce and then shredded mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove foil and turn oven to broil. Put pan back in the oven and watch carefully so the minute the cheese begins to bubble and turn brown, you can pull it out. Or if you don’t like bubbly cheese, you can skip that last step.

So yes, two super simple meals. Neither of which are even really Italian. More Italian-flavor inspired. 😉 But they are delicious and simple and crowd pleasers therefore definitely worth sharing in my book! 🙂

Do you ever make baked spaghetti or French bread pizza?

Do you have a favorite meal idea that isn’t really a recipe, but is always a hit?
Love Rach