Italy: Day 1 Rome

Welcome to the Coliseum

Even rushing full speed from the airport, to the hotel, to the tour meet-up, we were a few minutes late. If you ever have the chance to go on a City Wonder tour, punctuality is key! They leave exactly on time. Luckily, they were able to squeeze us in to the next group, an hour later, so we had a gelato and caffeine break.

Sev, our tour guide for the Vatican portion of the day was amazing! He knew so many details and kept us laughing the whole time. My favorite line he used was when we were crossing the street to enter the Vatican. He said crossing the street in Rome requires a little faith, the cars will stop or they won’t. Which is true because the Italians drive like it is a competition and winning is everything. Its terrifying!

St. Peter’s Basilica

I had no idea the history of the Vatican. Starting as the Pope’s art collection, before becoming a museum, there is art from every era. The architecture, the statuary, the paintings, it was all so beautiful!

Sistine Chapel ceiling

We all were impressed with every part of this tour, even though we could barely keep our eyes open!

Chiara falling asleep on the floor of St. Peter’s Basilica

When we finished at the Vatican it was a quick trip to the Coliseum for part two of our tour. Tiziana was our guide for this portion and she was another delight. She charmed Chiara by calling her princess the entire tour, because of her Italian name and Italian descent.

Did you know it was oval?

The Coliseum was mind boggling. The size of it, the history of it, and there were details I was completely unaware of. I’m a little embarrassed to say I didn’t know it was oval. We were able to see the rooms where the slaves were kept, the ancient plumbing, and the fact that it’s still standing makes it all the more impressive!

It was a short walk over to the Roman Forum, to see more of these ancient structures and the tour ended there. By this point everyone was drooping, ready to fall in to bed. As we had skipped lunch, we were also starving!

On the walk back to the hotel, we found Pasqualino al Colosseo. Delicious does not begin to describe it! I had the tenderest steak drizzled with basalmic vinegar and I could hardly bring myself to share it. Stumbling the rest of the way to the hotel, up to our rooms, to fall into bed before 730. Approaching 48 hours awake, a walking tour that encompassed huge pieces of Rome, and we had all earned a good night’s rest.

Stupid Easy Orange Chicken

I’ve discovered an amazing recipe for sweet and sour chicken and it’s always a hit when I make it. The only down side is that it takes FOREVER to make, so I have to save it for days with no after school activities. Whenever my kids stay with my parents, they rave about Nana’s orange chicken. She gets a kit to make it, which is kind of a cheat to me, so I had to find something different!

Stupid easy orange chicken

Most of my dishes end up looking messy, but this was a big hit.

To make this stupid easy orange chicken, you need four things:

1) chicken (obviously)

2) sweet orange marmalade (I used Smuckers 13oz)

3) barbecue sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s Sweet and Spicy 18oz)

4) soy sauce (I use Kikoman)

Start by cubing your chicken and cooking it in a frying pan. Once its cooked, dump in the whole bottle of barbecue sauce, the marmalade, and 4Tbsp of soy sauce. Stir until it’s all mixed together and let it simmer while you make rice.

Serve over rice and enjoy! My kids loved this. This is actually my second time testing this out, and I can tell you I’m not an orange chicken fan. I’ll deal with it a time or two every month though because the kids love it and it’s easy to make. Can we say #momlife ??

Crock Pot Chicken & Dumplings


This was delicious! The amazing blogger had this recipe floating around on Pinterest, so this was a quick pin and make for me. I pinned it before going to work, picked up the few ingredients and made it the next day.

For this recipe you need:
•3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thawed
•garlic powder
•onion powder
•1 tbsp chopped onion (I didn’t use it because Arthur doesn’t like onions)
•2 cloves chopped garlic
•1 stick (or half cup) of butter
•14 1/2 oz chicken broth (I rounded to 16 because that’s what my measuring cup had)
•3/4 cup flour
•2 cups milk
•1 bag mixed veggies (I used a 1lb bag)
•1 tube of biscuits

To start with, take your chicken breasts and sprinkle with your salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Put them in the crock pot and put the minced garlic and chopped onions over the top.
Next, you need to melt the butter on the stove, stir in chicken broth and flour. Add in a sprinkle of salt and pepper. The directions say to hold off on the veggies till the end, but I put my veggies in here.


Let it cook on low for 6 hours
At the 6 hour mark, shred your chicken. I normally hate shredding chicken, but all I had to do was stab the chicken and it came apart.


After your chicken is shredded, open up your biscuits and cut them into quarters.


Throw the biscuit pieces into your crock pot and let it cook for another 2 hours on low.


This was delicious! The kids didn’t care for it, but they get weird with new stuff. Tony ate two bowls at dinner and took the leftovers for lunch today, so he was a big fan. We’ll definitely be making this again!

Happy dining all!

Buffalo Chicken Lasagna


I’ll say this up front, mine did not come out anywhere near as pretty as the original blogger’s did, but I have never claimed to be a food photographer. More to the point, I can’t present food to be photogenic, but it tastes delicious!

This recipe calls for:
•1 tbsp olive oil
•1 tbsp butter
•1/4 cup diced onion (I left this out because Arthur doesn’t do onions)
•1 clove minced garlic (I used 1 tbsp of my homemade minced garlic)
•8oz cream cheese, softened
•1 cup buffalo wing sauce
•Tabasco or other hot sauce to taste (I didn’t need any)
•2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (I cooked some boneless, skinless chicken beasts and ripped them apart)
•1/2 cup ranch dressing
•8oz shredded mozzarella cheese
•lasagna noodles (I used the Great Value oven – ready ones, just soaked them in hot water to soften them a bit)


Start by melting your butter together with the olive oil. Once the butter is all melted is when you would add your onions if you are using them. Garlic in the pot next. Sorry the picture is dark!


Put your cream cheese in the pot. Original blogger said to cut the cream cheese into cubes, but I’m lazy, so I just stirred it in. Once it’s all liquid, add your buffalo sauce. This is where you would add the additional hot sauce if you so desire.


Smear a little of your buffalo mixture on the bottom of your casserole dish, then lay your lasagna noodles on the sauce.


Add your shredded chicken to the remaining sauce and mix it all up.


Put half of your chicken mixture on top of your base noodles, then half of your ranch. I just spread some, not measuring, in my usual estimating manner. Place another layer of noodles, then repeat with the chicken mixture and ranch.


After using the last of your chicken mixture and ranch, put a final layer of noodles on top, then layer with your mozzarella.

Place in your 350° oven for 25-35 minutes. I only did 20 minutes. The cheese had melted perfectly, I knew the chicken was already cooked, so I figured that would be good. It was delicious! Arthur devoured his, he’s a big fan of spicy food, Tony inhaled his, I think he was just really hungry, I loved it too. Chiara was the only one who didn’t eat it, but she’s not a big fan of spicy food.

Definitely check out the original site, as they feature much better pictures, and be sure to try this recipe, it’s delicious!

Happy dining all!

Fried Rice


I was both shocked and appalled at myself when I realized I had never blogged about this amazing fried rice recipe that I found here months ago. I’ve made this enough times that I’ve actually memorized the recipe!

All you need for this delicious recipe is:
•3 cups cooked white rice (I have made it with 2 and it’s just a thicker concentration of veggies)
•3 tbs sesame oil
•1 cup frozen peas and carrots (I mix them together in the cup as I make it 1 cup between the two veggies)
•1 small, chopped onion
•2 tsp minced garlic (learn how to make your own here)
•2 scrambled eggs (don’t cook them yet, that comes later)
•1/4 cup soy sauce

You start by putting your sesame oil, frozen veggies, onion and garlic in a large skillet and cook until the veggies are tender. Push your veggies to one side, then cook your eggs on the clear side of the pan.


I use a huge pan for this, so it looks a little sparse, but it works, trust me!

After the eggs are cooked, add your rice and soy sauce and stir it all together. Then you have a delicious side to go with sweet and sour chicken, this is a favorite meal of Tony’s, so he’s always happy when I make it. It never seems to go right when he makes it, so he observed me the last few times. He thinks he’s ready for another attempt, but we’ll see……

Anyone hungry?

Delicious Pork Chops

This is a super delicious recipe that I found through Pinterest, of course. Last night it was my turn to make dinner. I had to do something with pork chops, as it was the use or freeze by date. I wasn’t in the mood for one of our usual recipes so I started browsing Pinterest.
This was an amazingly easy to make recipe and it required only three ingredients, that are found in most kitchens! All you need is:

•2 tsp salt
•1 tsp black pepper
•4 tsp brown sugar

I did adjust the recipe a little as I was going because I was running out of the rub and because we were making four chops instead of the two called for in the original recipe. It was also a little too pepper-y, so I did cut back on the pepper!

First step is to preheat your oven to 325°.


Mix your spices together in a bowl.

Place your four chops on your baking tray, lined with aluminum foil.


Then you go to town rubbing in your seasoning on both sides of your chops. Rub it in good!

Place them in your oven for 15 minutes, flip over and bake for another 15 minutes.


When they are done, you will have juicy, tender pork chops! We served them woth peas, mashed potatoes and gravy. It was so yummy that it was devoured in record time!

Happy dining all!

Tuna Pasta Mozz Melt


So, I’m a big tunafish fan. I love making up a can and having a couple of sandwiches with pickles. It’s my go to snack. This recipe evolved from this love!
To start, you need:
•12oz chicken broth
•12oz water
•1 box of rotini (about 16oz)
•2 cans of tuna (5oz each)
•2 cans cream of mushroom soup
•2 cups milk
•1/2 – 1 cup mozzarella cheese (it depends on how much of a cheese-a-holic you are)


First step is to mix broth and water in a pot and cook your pasta till it is tender. You will have to stir consistently as there is not a lot of fluid compared to the amount of pasta. You won’t be draining it, so you don’t want too much liquid.
After your pasta is tender, add in your tuna, pasta and milk. Continue to stir consistently until it is well combined.
The mixture will be very liquidy at first, but will thicken as it cooks. I usually cook this on medium-high.
After the mixture has thickened to a stew-like consistency, add in your mozzarella cheese and stir.
Afterwards, enjoy!
Happy dining all!

Meatball Casserole


This was a yummy little recipe that I found here and it was perfect for the Memorial Day picnic we went to on Saturday!
You start with a loaf of French (or Italian) bread. Slice your slices about 1″ thick and layer the bottom of your casserole dish.


Any gaps you have, just fill in with chunks of bread. The website said the bread may get soggy, to prevent this toast your bread slightly, but I didn’t have a problem.
Next step is to take 8 oz of softened cream cheese, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 tsp Italian seasoning and 1/4 tsp pepper and mix it all together. It looks a little gross, but it comes out ok, I promise. Layer this mixture over your bread and sprinkle a cup of shredded mozzarella on top of that.


Next step is to mix 28 oz of pasta sauce with 1 lb frozen meatballs and place on top. I used Hunts sauce.


Next step is to sprinkle another cup of mozzarella over the top.


Last step is to bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes. I went for 35 due to the meatballs being frozen solid.
This was a big hit at the picnic and I know we’ll definitely be doing doing this again!
Happy cooking!

Chicken Kiev


I’m going to start this by saying I did alter this recipe a bit, as I do for most recipes, but I will include a link to the full recipe at the bottom.
I started out by chopping up some onion, really you only need 1 Tbsp so don’t chop up more than you need. I added 1 Tbsp of minced garlic and mixed them together.
The next step was mildly entertaining for me. You need to take 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, fully thawed, and bound them flat with your meat tenderizer. Unless you don’t have a meat tenderizer, in which case I used pressure (with my hand) and flattened them out. It was kind of fun and gross at the same time.
Take an egg, beat it and add 1 Tbsp of water to it. Put flour in a bowl, enough to coat your chicken. In a separate bowl, have enough bread crumbs to coat your chicken as well.


Take your tenderized chicken, add a little salt and pepper, sprinkle 1/4 of your onion and garlic mixture and add a spoonful of butter. The original recipe had specific amounts for butter, but I just scooped some out of the tub. Once all of the above is done, roll the chicken up and dip into the flour, dip into the egg, dip in the bread crumbs, back in the egg and back into the bread crumbs. It seems like a lot, it is, it is also messy!


Once you go through all of these steps with all of the chicken, place them in your baking dish and refrigerate for 1-24 hours. I left mine in the fridge till the next day. Remember they must be refrigerated for at least an hour! I missed this step when I made it the first time and it threw everything off.
After the refrigeration is over, you will melt some butter in a pan. Place your ‘chicken rolls’ in the pan and fry until they are golden brown on all sides. After you’ve achieved golden brown perfection, place them back in your baking dish. Bake them at 400° for 15-18 minutes.

They are really good. Even Tony said so, and he ended up doing the frying after I did the prep work. It is a lot of work though!

If you make this, it is good, but be prepared to work for it and plan accordingly!

Full recipe found here.

The Real Crockpot Italian Chicken


So, I’ve actually tried this recipe before, but misread the directions. It was a good meal, but I decided to try it the way it was intended. You start by taking 4 chicken breasts, 1 packet zesty Italian dressing mix, 8 oz softened cream cheese and 2 cans cream of chicken soup. I cut my chicken up into cubes before putting it in the crockpot. Think bite size pieces.
Cook on low for 4 hours.
As you approach the end of your 4 hour cook time, cook some pasta. I used rotini out of preference. It’s a personal favorite of my kids. Even though I made this for my parents and cousin while on vacation, you stick with what you know! At the end of the 4 hours, if you think your mixture is a little thick add some milk to reach your desired thickness. You’ll want it to be a little soupy, but not super runny. Serve over pasta!
After that, you just enjoy!
I do like being able to reference the original pin, but apparently it was flagged as spam so I can’t. Still a good choice for a meal!
Too see how this turns out with a ranch dressing packet instead of Italian,  check here.