BBQ Chicken Burgers with Grilled Pineapple | BBQ Recipes

Did you know that May is National Barbecue Month? It’s true! So I hope you’ve been indulging in all things barbecue and grilled. I meant to start sharing these recipes earlier in the month but, as you can relate to, life got in the way. I was also very focused on getting the Official Lattes, Life & Luggage Shop launched and boy am I glad that baby is finally live! I actually have three barbecue recipes to share with you starting with today’s Chicken Burgers. They were all meant to be cooked on the grill but in true Christine fashion, I didn’t check to see if the propane tank had any juice left from fall. So when I went to grill these babies up, the grill wouldn’t start. It’s a great lesson learned but here’s the best part: you don’t have to actually grill outside to get the grill effect.

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Grill pans are the most genius invention to ever enter the kitchen. For those of us who live in locations that have more cold months than warm months, grill season is limited. Being able to grill up an easy dinner inside is convenient all year round. Ever since I started using the Porcelain Enamel Grill Pan from Ayesha Curry’s Target Collection, I’ve begun grilling everything on the stove. Her porcelain enamel kitchenware is honestly the best I’ve ever used. One of the main reasons to grill outside is to keep the house cool. Lucky for us, we haven’t had tons of hot weather yet. A few days here and there but for the most part, cooking inside has yet to pose a real problem. With that said, this recipe works with an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan on the stove.

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Chicken burgers tend to get the side eye. People say that chicken burgers aren’t real burgers. Well, of course not, they’re not beef. But the same idea applies and just because they’re chicken doesn’t mean they can’t blow your mind. In my experience, the most difficult part in dealing with chicken burgers is that they have a tendency to fall apart, especially on the grill. Beef is sturdier than chicken when ground so you have to give it something to firm up the patty. This is where the breadcrumbs come in. It might seem weird that the ratio of ground chicken to breadcrumbs is 1:1 but it’s for good reason. The burgers gain density and they’re bound well which keeps them from falling apart. Add in some dried herbs and garlic, top with a few delightful ingredients like grilled pineapple, and you have yourself one damn good burger. Bon appetit!

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BBQ Chicken Burgers with Grilled Pineapple & White Cheddar
Ingredients:
1lb. Ground Chicken
½ small Onion, finely chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 cup Breadcrumbs
¼ tsp. Dried Thyme
½ tsp. Dried Marjoram
4 Pineapple Slices
2 slices White Cheddar Cheese
4 Hamburger Buns
Salt & Pepper
Optional Toppings: tomato, lettuce, aioli, thousand island dressing, barbecue sauce

Directions:
1 - Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Brush with a little oil or spray with cooking spray.

2 - Prepare the chicken patties. In a large bowl mix together the ground chicken, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, thyme, marjoram, salt and pepper. Mix well and form into patties. The breadcrumbs will create a pretty dense patty.

3 - Place each chicken burger on the grill or grill pan. Let cook 6-8 minutes on each side until browned and cooked through. Add the cheese and cover for a minute or so to melt. Set aside.

4 - Add the pineapple slices to the grill or grill pan. Cook 2-3 minutes per side until you see char marks.

5 - Top the burgers with the pineapple slices and your preference of other toppings. I added barbecue sauce for extra flavor but a garlic aioli, Thousand Island Dressing, or buttermilk ranch would be equally tasty.

Announcing The Official Lattes, Life & Luggage Shop!

Happy Sunday! How many of you watched the Royal Wedding yesterday? I can’t stop scrolling through the pictures, I’m obsessed! Her dresses were absolutely stunning and both 100% my style. Givenchy has always been one of my favorite designers, especially because of his friendship with Audrey Hepburn and all the stunning designs that came out of it. While the wedding of the year was on everyone’s minds this week, I was otherwise occupied. If you follow me on Instagram and happened to see my stories Friday night, I finally launched the Official Lattes, Life & Luggage Shop!!! It’s been a long time coming and something I have been looking forward to for a few months now. It’s both terrifying and exciting to finally have it launched! Consider this post your official introduction...

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The Collections
The Official Lattes, Life & Luggage Shop has two original collections. One might even look a little familiar. The Taking Charge Collection is inspired by the tagline for this blog: taking charge of life with a latte in one hand and suitcase in the other. It’s a slogan I like to live by even though traveling might not always be consistent. It’s a slogan that is also meant to be taken metaphorically. When I rebranded to Lattes, Life & Luggage, I was closing one chapter of my life and starting a new one. In this chapter, I’ve really taken life and run with it. There have been ups and downs and a lot of risks but no regrets. If someone were to caricature this chapter, I imagine it would be me in a casual outfit dragging a suitcase behind me and sipping a latte. After all, that’s basically how I look on a regular basis. Just swap the suitcase out for an over-sized bag! It’s also so many women around the world making it someone many of us can identify with.

The second collection is titled, Rome Today. The design features a bistro table set and the slogan, “Rome Today, Paris Tomorrow.” Rome and Paris are cities that everyone recognizes and they’re places most people dream of visiting. While I’ve had the opportunity to spend months in Paris, Rome is still a dream for me, one day to become a reality. This collection embraces my own travel dreams with the hope to inspire yours. I imagine that if we had this mug on our desks every day, it would motivate and inspire us to book that plane ticket sooner rather than later.

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The Store
The shop is launching with the two collections described above. Both collections currently feature a few different mug types, tote bags, zip pouches, notebooks and water bottles. More items will be coming soon to both collections including travel mugs and additional types of bags. Starting later in the summer, we’ll be rolling out new collections every other month. There will also be seasonal collections for fall, winter, the holidays, and more. We will also host occasional sales and discounts so make sure to follow @LattesnLifeBlog on social media to stay in the loop.

That’s all for now! Happy shopping and as always, thank you for your support!
❤️ Christine

Roasted Parmesan Chicken with Tomatoes & Arugula | Spring Recipes

Happy Mother’s Day! If you’re a mama, I hope you’re enjoying a relaxing day to yourself or spending it with the little ones. Mother’s Day is like any other holiday in my family. I cook a lot of food and everyone eats it. All the moms get a night off cooking and cleaning, and I add another successful dinner to the books. Normally, Mother’s Day is an ideal time to use all the colorful spring produce and make a pretty brunch or breakfast. Sadly, since winter only ended three weeks ago our spring produce is coming in rather slow which makes recipes like this Roasted Parmesan Chicken with Tomatoes & Arugula ideal. It’s also perfect for moms who need to get dinner on the table quick on weeknights. It’s a light, flavorful meal that doesn’t take long to prepare and only takes a total of 5 ingredients (plus S&P).

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Tomatoes are at their peak season in August but with sustainable glasshouse farming like Chicago’s MightyVine Tomatoes, their accessibility year-round is rising. Tomatoes can add a lot of great flavor and depth to a dish. There’s a reason why Italians use them as the main ingredient for pasta sauce. Roasting tomatoes brings out all that sweetness and bright flavor, making this a great spring dish. It’s also simple and some of the best spring meals are the simplest. A little arugula drizzled with some balsamic and you’ve got yourself a tasty dinner that gets on the table fast.

For the chicken, I like to buy thin-cut breasts. Full chicken breasts are too much for one person in my family and they take much longer to cook. The thin-cut breasts are the perfect size and they cook fast. The less time you need to cook chicken, the less room for error there is. No one likes dry chicken. When the chicken is finished cooking or almost done, sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and return it to the oven to cook a little longer and melt. It will create a nice, cheesy crust that’s gooey and gives the roasted tomatoes something to stick to. The tomatoes and chicken can roast on the same pan. Cherry tomatoes have a lot of great flavor for roasting and they cook fast, especially when they are halved.

Overall, this is a really simple dinner that only calls for a sheet pan to prepare. Use some tin foil to coat the baking sheet and the only dishes you’ll have to wash are the plates! That’s what I call a perfect weeknight dinner. After all, who wants to spend tons of time in the kitchen when you can be enjoying a beautiful night on the back patio sipping a glass of wine? No one. That’s who!

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Roasted Parmesan Chicken with Tomatoes & Arugula
Ingredients:
4 boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts
1 pint Cherry Tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 cup Parmesan Cheese, shredded or shaved)
5 oz. Arugula, rinsed
Salt & Pepper
Optional: Balsamic Vinegar (for garnish)

Directions:
1 - Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prep a baking sheet with tin foil.

2 - Rub the chicken (or use a pastry brush) with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Place the chicken breasts on one side of the baking sheet. On the other, toss the tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

3 - Check the chicken. It should be almost done or just done cooking. Divide the Parmesan cheese evenly over each chicken breast, sprinkling over the top. Place back in the oven to finish cooking and melt the cheese. Once the cheese has melted, remove from the oven and let sit for five minutes.

4 - While the chicken cools, lay a bed of arugula on each plate. Top with the roasted tomatoes and chicken. Optional: drizzle with a little olive oil or balsamic vinegar to finish. Serve.

Finding Peace In The Fort Worth Water Gardens

While I love visiting tried and true destinations in Texas (I’m looking at you Magnolia Avenue), I also like to find things to do that I haven’t done before. The Fort Worth Water Gardens have been on my list for years now but I never seem to make it. This last time in Texas, I finally did! I wasn’t sure what to expect. To be honest, I had done the research years before and only remembered that it was supposed to be a peaceful and beautiful place to visit. The gardens are made up of three different water features with shrubbery and landscaping throughout. It’s not a place you spend lots of time in but it’s a great spot to reflect or simply sit and clear your mind.

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The Water Gardens are right outside of the main Fort Worth square, across from the Convention Center. There’s street parking along Commerce Street and the train station that runs between Dallas and Fort Worth is on the other side of Lancaster Street. I walked in on the Commerce Street side right where the main water feature is located. It’s difficult to explain what the main water feature is like. It’s got all these layers that act like steps but they almost seem like they’re floating. Water drapes over each layer culminating at the bottom in a captivating motion. Anyone can walk down towards the bottom of the garden although I did not feel stable enough managing the stairs. Oh the woes of us clumsy folk. If you like to listen to white noise, ocean waves, or rain to fall asleep at night, the Water Gardens have that same effect. The sound of the water is calming and the motion of the water focuses your brain. If zen were an object, this water feature would be it.

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The Aerated Water Pool is another one of the three water features. There are about a dozen or so fountain-like things in a pool of water that spray misty water. This produces a softer sound compared the the main Water Garden but it still has the same effect. Finally, the quiet pool is almost still water. It’s a great spot for reflection. The water is crystal clear and the walls surrounding the pool have a steady stream of water like it’s overflowing from the level above. I hope I’m explaining these well because it’s a bit difficult. I spent 20 minutes walking through but it was a nice escape from a rather busy work week. It was also something different from what I usually do while visiting Texas and something that I’m glad to have experienced. Check out the slideshow below for more photos.

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If you’re looking to fill more time in your day, Hell’s Half Acre is near the northwest corner of the Gardens along Houston Street. Hell’s Half Acre was a red light district in Fort Worth in the late 1800s. It consisted of boarding houses, gambling spots, saloons, and other businesses and became known as a place for high and violent crime. Many criminals hid out in Hell’s Half Acre and it was a place of "dark indulgence" for men. The history is really interesting and there are rumors that it’s now a haunted area. Lots of famous names have been associated with the spot including Butch Cassidy & Sundance Kid. Sound familiar? Before the turn of the century, Hell’s Half Acre was ultimately destroyed and is now only identifiable by a plaque and bronze statue.

On a lighter note, Sundance Square is a short walk away from the Water Gardens as well. There’s plenty to do there from shopping to dining and live entertainment. Grab photos of the gorgeous opera house and St. Patrick’s Cathedral whose history goes back to the 1800s. Sundance Square alone has plenty of regular events from live music to movie screenings. It’s one of my favorite places to visit while in Texas and I absolutely recommend spending a day or so there.

May Spotlight

April certainly went out like a lion. From the drastic weather change to the insanity that has ensued with not just mine but so many people’s schedules, the transition from April to May has been in a word: chaotic. I won’t complain though because April was just a rough month. And again, not just for me. I know so many people who wanted to move into May barely halfway into the second week of April. Even though it’s been absolutely insanity over here, I’ll take May over April without even blinking. For starters, I’m actually getting a few days off throughout the month with a nice vacation at the end (can I get an Amen). Second, it’s the launch of the Official Lattes, Life & Luggage Shop! This is one of the projects I’ve been working on lately and it’s been killing me not to say anything. Finally, I have a lot of posts that I’ve been working on that I’m really excited about. But let’s dive into what I’ve been looking at around the web, shall we?

This post may contain affiliate/referral links. It’s a way for this site to earn advertising fees by advertising or linking to certain products and/or services.

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FROM AROUND THE WEB
I recently got the Monica outfit from Fabletics and I’m obsessed. The leggings are so comfy…

Purification is one of my favorite essential oil blends and it combats even the stinkiest situations like sweaty boy clothes and wet dog…

Quality downtime is something I’ve learned to embrace recently and Katie from Entropy Organized explains why that’s important…

Who doesn’t prefer to travel on a budget. Here are four European destinations that will save you a buck or two…

And while we’re on the topic of affordable travel, here are five destinations that are ideal to visit in May...

The bookworm in me is drooling over this post. Bookshops in Paris for your next rendezvous…

And while we’re on the topic of Paris, get inspired for your spring home makeover by these ten chic and sophisticated Parisian apartments

Finally, bring more positive vibes to your day with these 5 simple shifts...

TOP RECIPES
[from top left]
Chicken Milanese with Simple Spaghetti
Hosting a Girls’ Night In - Pizza Night
Hosting a Girls’ Night In - Tapas Night
Spring Green & Sausage Hash

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WHAT I’M UP TO
Besides the shop launching one week from Friday, I’ve been doing a lot of recipe writing, cooking, brainstorming, and cookbook research for lots of upcoming food content. One I’m particularly looking forward to is a Farmers Market series that will be more of a challenge than anything. It’s basically Chopped but instead of Ted Allen or Food Network producers choosing my key ingredients, the seasons and what looks good for the price will be the deciding factor. I really want to embrace seasonal cooking and support local farmers and businesses while I’m at it so I’m looking forward to making this a weekly thing.

Still on the hunt for new bedding, curtains and a car! I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations. As I mentioned last month, the colors we’ll be painting in my bedroom are Magnolia’s Panna Cotta with Cupola accents. I finally picked up primer this week so we can get finished soon. It’ll be nice to reorganize and truly spring clean. The car hunt is going slow but I’m thinking about going with a Jeep Cherokee or Compass. I still haven’t had a chance to look at the Renegade which is still a contender. I really like the Nissan Rogue too.

Finally, I have to update you guys on Pretty Woman The Musical and Julie & Julia! Last month, I was about to go see Pretty Woman when I wrote the April Spotlight. Now that I’ve seen it, all I can say is “GO SEE IT!” It’s amazing. It will be premiering in New York later this summer and hopefully they’ll put it on tour as well. I was honestly blown away by the entire thing. Samantha Barks is even better than what you can imagine in person. As for Julie & Julia, what a great book. I related to Julie in a lot of ways and learned a few things about Julia along the way. I’m currently reading Paris Ever After by K.S. Burns. I received this book complimentary for a book and so far so good! It’s hard for me to be upset with anything that’s based in Paris.

We made it!!! #prettywomanthemusical #prettywoman #broadwayinchicago

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WISH LIST
In case you’re running down to the wire for Mother’s Day shopping, Target has some great ideas broken into themes and styles as well as price points…

Really in love with this dress from the LC by Lauren Conrad collection for spring…

As if I didn’t love The Gap enough already, they have these floral shirts for summer I’m in love with like this tiered ruffle off-the-shoulder design and this twist-strap cami

Is anyone else excited for Joanna Gaines’ cookbook that recently launched in April? Because I am...

10 Spots To Grab A Bite In San Antonio

If San Antonio lacks anything, restaurants are not it. The southwestern Texas city has got a place to grab a bite almost every step along the riverwalk and every other step off of it. From umbrella lined patios, to white tablecloth restaurants, San Antonio has a wide variety of cuisines and dining experiences to suit anyone who visits, even the pickiest of eaters. It would take weeks to share all of the restaurant and dining options in San Antonio, so I can’t do that but I can share ten of my recommendations for your next trip. Bon appetit!

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Bakery Lorraine | 306 Pearl Parkway #110
If you’re as obsessed with French macarons as I am, you need to visit Bakery Lorraine. Located in the Pearl District, one of my favorite places in San Antonio, Bakery Lorraine serves up a large number of pastries as well as bites to eat. They have enormous sandwiches, soups, salads, breakfast items and more. I, of course, came for no other reason than the macarons. The flavors change often but the ones I ordered included the Fruity Pebbles, Earl Grey, and Strawberry. Délicieux!

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Bella on the River | 106 River Walk
A common denominator among many of these restaurants is their location...the riverwalk. The riverwalk in San Antonio is the mecca of entertainment and while I do encourage you to break off, I also encourage you to take advantage of the convenience it offers as well. Bella on the River is a white tablecloth restaurant but not a pretentious one. Bella is a local and independent restaurant with a strong Mediterranean menu. It’s a smaller restaurant with European style but still cozy and welcoming. Try their Gazpacho on a particularly warm day or the Kale Salad with fresh strawberries for a refreshing start to the meal. The Rigatoni sounds divine and the Pork Tenderloin features a sweet and savory flavor profile that has my mouth watering. Dietary restrictions? No problem! Bella has a vegetarian and gluten-free menu. And don’t miss out on their vast wine list boasting bottles from California to Bordeaux.

Boudro’s on the River | 421 East Commerce Street
Boudro's is a “Texas bistro” but feels like a French bistro. With indoor seating and outdoor seating along the river, Boudro’s is a casual restaurant with an upscale vibe. My Noni and I went to Boudro’s for lunch where we dined right near the river. We both had salads and split a side of French Fries because why not. The service was incredible, honestly one of the best restaurant experiences I had. There were many things on the menu I wanted to order and had to live with the disappointment of only ordering one. I’ll have a full review of Boudro’s up later this month.

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Guenther House | 205 East Guenther Street
Guenther House is a breakfast or lunch restaurant located in an old historic home that currently serves as a museum. It was the previous home of C.H. Guenther who owned C.H. Guenther & Son, a company over 160 years old that produces flour, grain, and other products. The Guenther House sells many of them from pancake mix to coffee. The restaurant is a favorite breakfast and brunch spot to both locals and visitors. The property alone is worth it to visit but if you come hungry, you’ll leave with a full belly. Try the Pioneer Pancake Platter, the Buttermilk Biscuits & Sausage Gravy, or take it back in time with the 1851 Breakfast Platter featuring a Pioneer biscuit with country gravy and crumbled sausage, bacon, a sausage patty, breakfast potatoes and eggs. Still hungry? I’d be remiss not to mention all their pastries and desserts!

Hard Rock Cafe | 111 West Crockett Street
Normally, I don’t like to include chain restaurants in my posts but the Hard Rock Cafe in San Antonio has a great location on the riverwalk and it’s a comforting spot to those who don’t like to go out of their comfort zone. My Noni is very much a “regular” at the places she dines so I think she enjoyed being able to go to a restaurant with a name she was familiar with. If nothing else, they play great music. We went to the Hard Rock Cafe with dessert in mind but if you have a larger appetite that needs to be fed, I’d recommend the Margherita Flatbread as a starter and any of their legendary burgers because...when on vacation!

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Ocho | 1015 Navarro Street
If you love Latin flavors like I do, Ocho should be on your list. Serving up primarily Cuban cuisine with a touch of Mexican and Texan thrown in, Ocho knows how to deliver on flavor. Kick things off with a cocktail inspired by Ernest Hemingway and the Salsa Platter. For the main, enjoy one of their tortas like the classic Cubano or one of their plates like the Crispy Snapper in Coconut Sauce. Indulge your sweet tooth before leaving with their Fresh Fried Churros which make my mouth water as I write this.

Rebelle | 300 East Travis Street
Rebelle is a farm-to-table restaurant in the St. Anthony Hotel. My Noni and I went to brunch here with my cousin and it was pretty darn good. The menu is a little slim so if you or anyone you’ll be dining with is a picky eater, I’d recommend checking out the menu beforehand to make sure you’ll find something you like. A few recommendations include The Southerner, The Parisian (duh), and the Jamaican. Rebelle has a lot of interesting, unique condiments to go alongside the main dishes like the raspberry coulis with the Parisian ad the green tomato jam with the Southerner.

Restaurant Gwendolyn | 152 East Pecan #100
For a more upscale dining option, Restaurant Gwendolyn is your spot. It’s also one-of-a-kind in that they use old-school cooking. I mean, really old school. They cook their food without any electronics reverting back to the cooking methods of the early 1800s. There are no machines in the kitchen at Restaurant Gwendolyn and the food is locally sourced in a 150-mile radius. Everything is done in house from the butchering of animals to the mixing of jam. Because of the high quality that Restaurant Gwendolyn serves and the amount of labor put into each dish (at least that’s what I’m guessing), prices are a little higher. So if she’s not in your budget for dinner, consider stopping by for lunch where menu items are much more affordable and, with that said, simpler.

Rita’s on the River | 245 East Commerce, Suite 100
Rita’s on the River, I’ve learned, is the place that everyone takes company from out of town. I can understand why considering it’s a friendly, fun place with a huge outdoor patio and fantastic food. It was the first restaurant my Noni and I went to for dinner while visiting San Antonio and I consider it a huge hit because my Noni loved it. She’s not a huge fan of Mexican food, because I think she hasn’t had the good stuff, but she loved her Taco Salad at Rita’s. I also had her try guacamole for the first time which she wasn’t a fan of but I got it all to myself so you won’t hear me complain! Rita’s was in our Dining on the Riverwalk post not too long ago so head over and check it out!

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Supper at Emma | 136 East Grayson
Supper at Emma is in Hotel Emma in the Pearl District. This restaurant was one of my favorite that we visited in San Antonio. Supper serves Modern American cuisine in a beautiful restaurant that has all the charm of Hotel Emma. There is a ton of light throughout the restaurant, the staff is super friendly and the food is delightful. We (luckily) dined at Supper for breakfast and each had very different dishes: one of us went savory, the other went sweet. We couldn’t leave without ordering the Beignets either, which were out of this world. Supper was such a phenomenal experience that you’ll see a full featuring on her in the future as well.

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Have you visited San Antonio? What were some places you dined at? Tell me in the comments below.

5 Things You Must Do In Paris

It’s been awhile since I’ve written specifically about Paris. I reference it a lot and mention some of my experiences while traveling there but never focus on it. That’s a shame! It’s also changing today. Organizing all the information in my brain is a challenge in itself so I thought I’d start easy: 5 Things You Must Do In Paris. This list can expand and it can be edited. Everyone has different recommendations after visiting a particular city. However, if you’re visiting Paris for the very first time, I recommend these five things be at the top of your list.

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The best advice I ever received about Paris was to be realistic while planning. For example, the Louvre is enormous. If you think you’ll cover it in a day you’d be insane because you couldn’t cover it in a week. Don’t worry, I have a solution to this. Another great piece of advice, manage your expectations. For example, most people don’t realize that the Mona Lisa which is in the Louvre is about the size of a large textbook. So don’t expect a giant canvas. It’s not the Sistine Chapel you’re going to see. If you want large paintings, I have a recommendation for that as well (keep reading).

Paris is like any other city in the fact that you have to do your research before you get there. Don’t plan a trip to Paris and wing it. There are far too many things to do and see and there’s never enough time to do it all. There’s nothing wrong with having a flexible schedule. I encourage it. But don’t leave for Paris without a general itinerary of what you’d like to spend your time doing. It will be a colossal waste of funds and time. Paris is not the cheapest city to travel to so if you’re making the trip, take advantage of every second you’re there.

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#1: Tackle the obvious places. This would be spots like Le Tour de Eiffel and Le Louvre. Sure it might seem cliche to have these on this list. It’s obvious, right? Absolutely, which is why I’m taking it a step further. Le Tour de Eiffel has a few viewing spots and also a restaurant. I did not visit any of these and I’m 100% ok with that. Here’s why...the lines are excruciating unless you get there at opening. There is a law in Paris that no building can exceed 7 floors. You can get a great view of the city from a lot of spots including #5 below...Le Sacre Coeur. Instead, enjoy a leisurely lunch in the Champ de Mars. It’s much more French anyhow.

As for Le Louvre, be specific. This is a must visit even if you only walk along the grounds outside. It’s a magnificent space and the past home of French royalty. It began as a fortress to protect Paris before turning into a place of stay for royals who visited from the Loire Valley. It was in the 20th century that it became what is now known as one of, if not the, greatest art museums in the world. Le Louvre is home to too many exhibits and types of art to count. The best piece of advice anyone can give to those planning on visiting is map out your top priorities. If you want to see Renaissance art, focus on that. If you want to see sculptures, focus on those. Plan to visit a handful of exhibits but don’t expect to cover the entire space. That is unless you have an extended amount of time to spare.

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#2: Make a trip to Versailles. Located about 45-60 minutes outside of Paris, Versailles is the most famous chateau in France. This palace saw a lot of wealth, a lot of strife and was almost destroyed on the interior during the revolution. It’s actually quite sad if you look into its history. Greed and privilege built this historical space but anger and desperation near destroyed it. It’s since become a treasured piece of French history and has even been home to several monumental political moments like the Treaty of Versailles. Besides having a rich history, Versailles is stunning to visit. The Hall of Mirrors feels almost surreal as you walk through, the royal apartments are larger than my house, and the grounds alone are breathtaking. Let’s also not forget the the Petit Trianon which was designed and built especially for Marie Antoinette. Sorry, no cake included.

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#3: Drink plenty of great wine but don’t overindulge. Here’s a fun fact about France. You can get a great bottle of French wine for 2 or 3 Euros. I’m talking about quality French wine. Why? Because you’re in France and it comes without all the crazy importation fees! If you love wine and appreciate it, let yourself enjoy great French wine for a fraction of the cost. It is important to note that Parisians don't like drunks, especially loud American drunks. Becoming one will not only disrespect their culture and annoy them, it will make you an easy target for petty crimes like pickpockets and thieves. Drink responsibly. Visit wine bars, attend tastings, do what you will. But be smart about it.

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#4: Take a trip to MontMartre and visit Le Sacré-Cœur. Remember the part where I mentioned there are great views of Paris not in the Eiffel Tour? Well, here it is. MontMartre is a neighborhood on top of a hill in the 18th arrondissement. The Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur is at the peak and has some of the most mind blowing views of the city. Better yet, those views are free. Le Sacré-Cœur itself is a gorgeous Basilica inside and out. It translates to “The Sacred Heart” and has become a notable landmark in Paris.

MontMartre has an interesting history. It’s referenced in Moulin Rouge as being the home of La Vie Boheme, or, The Bohemian Life. They weren’t far off as this was a hot spot for artists in the late 19th century into the 20th century. Artists like Monet, Degas, Modigliani, Picasso and many others you’d be familiar with spent much of their time here. There’s actually an old cabaret spot still there called Au Lapin Agile that hosted many of said artists. You may even find a piece of their work or two along the well-decorated walls. It’s a unique experience, one I recommend, but it’s almost all in French if I remember correct. They’re still in service nearly 150 years later. If that’s not reason enough to go, I don’t know what is.

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#5: Take a walk through the Tuileries gardens. It might seem like a very simple request but it’s one I cannot leave off this list. The Tuileries are in the 1st arrondissement right off the the Louvre. The gardens are serene yet full of life. They hold beautiful statutes and one of my favorite museums of all time, L’Orangerie. L’Orangerie is where the lily pad paintings by Monet are displayed. The museum also has a few other pieces of art from artists like Picasso. If you’ve seen the movie Midnight in Paris, you get a great idea of what the lily pad paintings are like. They cover the walls from floor to ceiling and stretch across over dozens of feet. They provide such a peacefulness that you don’t want to leave. Silence is requested to respect other guests’ experience. So while you’re taking a morning stroll through the gardens, stop by L’Orangerie for a quick walk through as well.

There are so many more things you must do in Paris. Narrowing it down to five is near impossible but it makes for more fun posts that allow me to expand on tips and experiences that I had. These five particular recommendations might not seem like much but I can promise, once you’ve reached your destination and start to take in each experience and adventure, you’ll understand why I recommend them. What would your top five things to do in Paris be?

My Father's Daughter | Cookbooks By Lovely Ladies

My Father’s Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow is one of the many cookbooks I received for Christmas this past year. It’s one of the almost two dozen cookbooks currently sitting on my bookshelf. This cookbook has gotten the least amount of attention from me since Christmas but the recipes I have made are quite tasty. Today’s menu to highlight the cookbook is a simple and quick pasta with salad. I made this on a Friday night for only me but it’s a great weeknight meal when you need to get dinner on the table quick.

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I put My Father’s Daughter on my wish list with apprehension. Gwyneth Paltrow isn’t someone who you’d think would have approachable recipes. She’s always talking about these crazy ingredients that are hard to find and freakishly expensive. All the reviews I’d read and previews I saw made it see like this particular cookbook was applicable to anyone. I’m not shy to new ingredients, I did cook through A Kitchen In France which had me using things I didn’t even know existed. However, I’m not fond of spending a thousand dollars for one week’s worth of groceries. Flipping through My Father’s Daughter, I realized that not only did Gwyneth share recipes for the everyday home cook, she shared options.

The beginning of the cookbook shares essential tools Gwyneth always has in her kitchen, directions for any kind of special technique, and my favorite...a substitution chart. There’s nothing worse than finding a recipe that looks divine and realizing you need a specialty flour or sugar for it. This chart includes common substitutions for things like spelt, barley and buckwheat flour, non-dairy milks, and meat alternatives. It’s handy for someone like me that might not have a ton of experience with those ingredients and doesn’t feel confident make the switch without guidance. I’ve taken a photo of this chart on my phone and saved it so I can use it with recipes in other cookbooks! It’s such a useful tool.

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Besides the special tools, My Father’s Daughter includes a personal note from Gwyneth, recipes for soups, salads, burgers & sandwiches, pastas, main courses, side dishes, breakfast and desserts, tips on how to use the book, and more. Many of the recipes include little notes from Gwyneth sharing tips, experiences or memories. Many of them also have substitution suggestions and recommendations for cooking like prepping the sauce ahead of time. I chose a few of her simpler recipes to spotlight for this post. I hope you like them!

The Menu:
Italian Chopped Salad
Penne Puttanesca
Fudgy Chocolate Brownies

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Fun Fact: Italians do not eat their salad as a starter or appetizer like Americans do. The salad is instead more of an in between course or final dish after the heavier meat course is served. Personal Fact: My (Italian) family has always served salad as an optional add-on to whatever meal we’re having. I enjoy having it alongside the main dinner course. Case in point, today’s menu! The Italian Chopped Salad from My Father’s Daughter is a light and veggie packed recipe that is both easy to prepare and a treat to eat. Leafy greens are tossed with scallions, tomatoes, tiny balls of Mozzarella (bocconcini or pearl Mozz - whatever you can find), green beans, and a light vinaigrette. Gwyneth’s recipe also calls for preserved artichoke hearts, roasted bell peppers and anchovies but I left them out for various reasons. It took no time to pull this salad together and it was the perfect accompaniment to the Penne Puttanesca.

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Penne Puttanesca originated in Naples, not far where part of my family is from. It consists of ingredients that are strong in flavor like anchovies, capers and olives. These three ingredients in particular can have a briney, salty flavor. The sweetness of a basic tomato sauce balances that acidity and saltiness well. Gwyneth’s recipe calls for her Basic Tomato Sauce recipe which I have not tried my hand at yet. But I did buy a jar of marinara from the grocery store. I know most people who are Italian cringe at the thought but I am not above convenience. A batch of gravy takes a day to make and lots of freezer space to store. The only tweak I made to this recipe was leave out the anchovies. I don’t mind using anchovies in cooking because they do add a great depth of flavor but if I’m not going to use the entire can or jar, I won’t do it. I feel like it’s a waste to open up a package for one or two. Not to mention they start to smell if you save them.

The Penne Puttanesca was in one word, delightful. I made this entire meal for myself one night. It was late, I hadn’t eaten a real meal in days and I needed to make the recipes for this blog post. I ignored my lazy - “It’s Friday night”- mentality and got to cooking. I don’t know what I was waiting for because the salad and the pasta together took hardly any time. It was a comforting, yet still light dinner and it reminded me of home (I was living in the city at the time). Another reason this meal was so great...the leftovers lasted for days!

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Finally, Gwyneth has this recipe for Fudgy Chocolate Brownies. They're as healthy as you can possibly get them without sacrificing flavor. Let me tell you, no flavor was sacrificed in the making of these brownies. One requires a giant glass of milk alongside it and they are crazy rich. Little confession, her recipe uses spelt flour and soy milk but I used regular white flour and lactose-free milk. So hers, in hindsight, are probably a bit healthier. I did not make these to go alongside my pasta and salad dinner but I did make them for Tapas Night with the girls and they were the perfect finish.