Roasted Cherry Tomato & Basil-Mint Pesto Pasta [Nut-Free] | Weeknight Recipes

I love pesto but with a nut allergy in the house, I’ve had to forgo it one too many times. The green paste traditionally gets its rich, toasty flavor from roasted pine nuts. Most store-bought versions will have this included in the ingredients and making a homemade pesto without the pine nuts isn’t the same. Recently, I’ve discovered a solution and created a nut-free pesto that everyone loves. Well, almost everyone.

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Did you notice mint in the title? I thought it would make a nice interesting touch to an otherwise traditional pesto recipe. Not for my aunt. She hated the mint. The kids, on the other hand, weren’t too mad about it. I loved it, of course. Like all of my other recipes that I encourage you to customize to your personal tastes, if mint is not something you enjoy in your pasta, simple remove it. You can sub parsley in or add more basil. Whatever floats your boat.

Back to this being a nut-free pesto. I had roasted sunflower seeds on hand for another recipe and decided to give them a whirl with pesto ingredients one day. What do you know? It added that toasty flavor that I love about pesto without the nuts! Sunflower seeds have become the anti-nut best friend. With things like Sunbutter on grocery shelves, sunflower seeds replace peanuts and other nuts where those with allergies can’t go. It’s a great alternative and has a similar flavor. Milder and not as nutty as, well...as nuts but close enough to work as a great substitute.

The roasted cherry tomatoes add a nice level of flavor to this pasta dish. You could just have the pesto and call it a day. Roasting tomatoes takes almost no effort and lend a beautiful flavor to any dish. They become sweet and release any bitterness. They also add a different texture to the dish which is always a good thing. Try it out and let me know what you think!

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Roasted Cherry Tomato + Basil-Mint Pesto Pasta (NUT-FREE!)
Ingredients:
1 lb. Cherry Tomatoes
2 tbsp. Olive Oil + ⅓ cup
1 cup Fresh Basil, packed
¼ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
2 tbsp. Sunflower Seeds, toasted
1 Garlic Clove
¼ cup Fresh Mint Leaves
1 lb. Cavatappi or Fusilli Pasta
Salt & Pepper

Directions:
1 - Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss the tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake 20-25 minutes until bursting.

2 - Bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and add your pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain.

3 - Prep your pesto. To a food processor, add basil, Parmesan, toasted sunflower seeds, garlic and mint. Pulse until ground. Process on low and gradually add the olive oil until a thick paste has formed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4 - Toss pasta with ½ of the pesto* and the tomatoes. Serve.

*Save any leftover pesto for another night or use on sandwiches.

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Acorn Street | Boston

Before traveling to Boston, my aunt insisted that I visit Acorn Street. Since I live under a rock and had no idea what that was, she showed me photos. According to several sources, it’s the most photographed street in America. Why is it so special? It’s gorgeous. That’s all. The cobblestone road goes uphill and is lined with townhomes on either side and very thin brick sidewalks. After doing some research, there is absolutely no significance to this block-long street. It used to be home to artisans and traders and has become one of the most prestigious streets to live on according to a Boston tour site.

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It’s visited purely for its beauty. It’s an escape to colonial Boston with the historical lampposts and cobbled walkways. Many people come here for photo shoots, especially for engagements. It’s especially beautiful in the fall when the leaves are changing color. Tip: be careful walking this street when it’s wet outside because it gets a bit dangerous. Instead of going on about this street, I’ll let the photos paint a picture for you.

Lattes, Life & Luggage's Guide To The Best Fall EVER!

The countdown to fall is almost over! 2 days and counting and summer is behind us. To some, that might be a sad day but for me, it’s the BEST DAY EVER! I was born a summer baby but I swear I was destined to be a fall baby. There’s something about the crisp fall air, the colorful leaves and scent in the air that brings me joy. Football season is in full gear, pumpkin everything fills the stores and drinking a hot cup of coffee no longer causes the sweats. The days are shorter and the holidays are approaching. All things that me and so many people I know love. Whether or not you’re looking forward to welcoming the new season, we’ve got a guide to fall that will get you excited in no time.

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Things to Do
- Grab a pumpkin spice latte. I know this is overdone but there’s a reason for it. There is nothing more exciting than sipping the first PSL of the season. I prefer to wait it out and grab one on the first perfect fall day. There’s nothing worse than sipping a PSL in 80 degree heat. It has to be at least in the 60s and I have to be wearing a sweater. No exceptions! If you’re not a fan of the PSL price, make one on your own using our recipe.

- Take a walk through a park. Even the biggest summer fans have to admit that walking through a park or a forest mid-fall is magical. The different color leaves are gorgeous and it gives you all the feels. I'm even on board to experience nature in the fall, something I generally avoid. Check back next week for our post on where to see the prettiest fall leaves.

- Go shopping! It’s sweater season and that alone should be an excuse to head to your favorite store and invest in a few new pieces. I get monthly StitchFix boxes which have delivered some of my favorite sweaters over the last year. It’s the easiest way for me to update my wardrobe, especially since I hate shopping.

- Go to the farmer’s market. This is the best time to shop local and get a cozy pot of soup or chili on the stove. Squash are great to include in your meal planning and they also make festive decor. Grab a large pumpkin and carve it out to use the seeds. If you’re not ready for Halloween decorations, you can carve out fall designs like leaves or scarecrows. It’s a great activity for kids and adults and 100% worth it if you get salty pumpkin seeds in the end.

- Bonfires + Movie Nights! Maybe I’m crazy but I love the shorter days fall brings. It means bonfires for roasting marshmallows and sipping hot cocoa and extra long movie nights. You know I’ll be breaking out my favorite Halloween movies like Hocus Pocus, Practical Magic, Sleepy Hollow, all the Addams Family movies and Tim Burton films. I can’t do the grown-up movies like Halloween because I’m a big baby but you can find me most weekends wrapped in a blanket with some kind of hot drink watching one of my favorites.

Listen To…
I love playlists for everything. They have the ability to make or break my day. I’m also a Spotify snob. I always have it playing, I have playlists I’ve created myself, radio stations that are my go to and ready-made playlists that I can’t resist in certain moods. This includes fall playlists. There are several that have already been updated for the new season including the two below. What makes a playlist perfect for a season? You have heard of songs of summer, right? It’s the same idea for fall! Whether it’s the song title, the lyrics or the vibe it gives off. It gets you in the mood to embrace the cooler weather and shorter days.

Get In The Kitchen
Try out one of our fall recipes!

Chili Stuffed Acorn Squash

Chili Stuffed Acorn Squash

Tombstone Cups

Tombstone Cups

Top 10 Tourist Sites In Washington DC

The nation’s capitol, Washington DC, is full of things to do for locals and visitors alike. We recently shared the top tourist spots to visit in Boston and we’re kicking off our DC adventures with a list of 10 tourist sites as well. According to a recent article from Business Insider, Washington DC is the 12th most popular destination in the US for travel. You might think that’s a pretty low number but not if you consider Hawaii, New York City and California. I’m proud to say my home city of Chicago is listed at #7! Anyway, I digress. Regardless of DC’s place on any list, it does have a lot of incredible things to do, most of which pay homage to United States history. A few of these sites will also be included on our list of historical sites to visit coming soon. A lot of the tourist sites and historical sites are interchangeable in their category because the historical sites are the ones people most want to see. The number of things to do, not only in DC, but any city could fill up pages of research. So we don’t make your eyes cross, we’ve narrowed the list down to ten. Mention other suggestions that you have in the comments below.

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Capitol Building
Every city has one building or specific site that defines it. For Chicago, we have the Sears Tower (aka Willis Tower). San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge. New York City, the Empire State Building. In Washington, DC, it’s the Capitol Building. The domed structure is one of the most photographed spots in the city. Many tours can be a waste of time but not this one. Take a tour of the Capitol Building and if you get a chance (and you have the patience for politics), see Congress in session. It’s a memorable experience and you will learn so much. Tour passes are available the day of at the Visitor’s Center but they recommend to schedule one in advance. They make it simple to do so on their website or you can book one through your Representative or Senators. Looking up tours for the next two months, many of the time slots are already full up so this is something you do not want to chance.

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Jefferson Memorial
Embodying Neoclassical architecture, this memorial was made for Thomas Jefferson, the third president. The memorial is surrounded by water on the National Mall and located near many of the famous Cherry Blossom trees. This is one of my favorite memorials because of how beautiful it is. If it weren’t crowded with people so often, you might even find it a serene memorial because of the water.

International Spy Museum
The International Spy Museum opened in July of 2002 as the only public museum dedicated to espionage. It has the “largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever placed on public display” according to their website. Many of the people who had a hand in putting this museum together were either spies themselves or involved in the “spy world.” The museum features interactive exhibits for the ultimate experience. One in particular is the “Covers & Legends” experience. Visitors adopt a cover identity and memorize everything they need to know to understand the importance of keeping that cover. Learn about the history of the spy business, go through 50 years of James Bond villains, learn about modern challenges spies face today and more. It’s a fun, educational experiment for people of all ages. This is another one we recommend buying tickets for in advance.

Lincoln Memorial
This will forever be the memorial that Megatron destroyed in Transformers to me. Dedicated to Abraham Lincoln, this is one of the more magnificent memorials in DC. It’s considered the most beautiful at sunrise when the sun shines directly on Lincoln. I was not lucky enough to experience this but my cousin has and she assures me it’s a memorable moment and worth the early wake up call. The memorial also includes a carving of the Gettysburg Address on one side of Lincoln.

Memorials - All of Them
There are a few particular memorials included in this list but to include all of them would mean a very long post. I don’t even know what all of the memorials are to include them all! There’s a memorial for both World Wars, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Franklin Roosevelt, Einstein, Theodore Roosevelt, the Navy, The Marines. According to a recent article by CBS, there are more than 160 monuments and memorials. To visit them all, you either need superspeed or months to dedicate visiting each of them. My advice, think about what you’re interested in the most. A certain part of history? Architecture? Specific individuals? Wars? Start from there and narrow down which memorials and monuments pay respect to those interests. Once you have that list, decide which ones you’d most like to visit and hit those. Otherwise, you’ll spend an entire trip to DC seeing a fraction of the memorials it is home to and nothing else.

National Archives
The National Archives are one of the more interesting sites on this list. This is a huge building full of letters, records, photographs, maps and so much more. If you are a history buff, this site is for you. A few things to do while visiting the National Archives include browsing historical records and presidential papers, records specific to research, attending a public event and more. You can see photographs documenting history, arrest warrants, telegrams, speech notes from public figures. So much! Make a plan and visit.

National Mall + All the Museums
The National Mall is visited by millions of people each year. It’s home to many different monuments, memorials and museums including the Washington Monument, the Smithsonian Museums, White House, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial and more. The National Mall is a wonderful place to take a minute, slow down and take it all in. The lawns are meticulously manicured and there is no shortage of things to see.

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United States Holocaust Museum
The Holocaust Museum is not an uplifting site to visit by any means. It’s sad and sobering in many ways but it’s an experience everyone should have at least once. This is a piece of history that should never be forgotten. Walking through the museum, you’ll be taken through a history of the era with displayed artifacts, video and photographed footage as well as personal accounts. It informs on how the Holocaust came to be and what made it possible to exist. It takes you through the experience as a child which is emotional beyond words. Besides their regular exhibitions, they also have several temporary ones including a look inside Nazi propaganda and the Nazi Germany plans to create a “master race.” It’s not an uplifting experience but it is an important one. You can purchase tickets in advance or buy them same day from March through August only but it’s recommended you buy them in advance.

Washington Monument
If the Capitol Building didn’t exist, I’d say the Washington Monument was the one piece of architecture that defined DC. This 555-foot monument is made of marble and was built to honor George Washington. Normally, you can take a ride to the top for spectacular views of the capitol but it’s currently closed for repairs (as of September 2017). You can still take photos of the monument and visit the gift shop where they have fun old-fashioned mugs.

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The White House
It would be remiss to not include the White House as part of this list. Visiting is not easy though. If you insist on having a tour of the White House, this is something you have to do in advance. There is a process to being invited inside the house for tours and it means you have to go through your member of Congress. If you’re not a US citizen, this means going through your embassy in Washington DC. If you absolutely have to see inside the building, go through the proper methods to get that tour. If you’re content with taking a photo of the outside, don’t bother. Others may disagree and say that the White House is an absolute MUST when visiting the capitol but it’s not something that I find worth the effort.

Prosciutto + Ricotta Pizza with Spring Onions | Summer Recipes

Pizza isn’t something that I get to experiment with very often. The two teenagers in my house are very opposed to anything BUT traditional pizza. I made a barbecue chicken pizza once and you would have thought the sky was falling with the reaction it received. Fortunately, that was not long after I moved in and they’ve since become a bit more open to experimentation. Just not when it comes to pizza. I was really craving a “white” pizza one night earlier this summer which inspired this recipe. To get away with it at dinner, I called it a flatbread instead. You’d be surprised what tweaking the language can actually do in this house.

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A “white” pizza is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of a red sauce at the base, it’s a white “sauce” or in this case...cheese. Ricotta is an ingredient I fall more and more in love with. It has a mild flavor making it a perfect canvas ingredient. Use it as your base and build up. I love to mix it with herbs which is how this creamy and herby base came about. It’s a summery pizza, light but full of natural flavors.

Ricotta, unlike many other cheeses is not salty. Prosciutto, on the other hand, is super salty. They were practically made for each other! Add some sauteed spinach and onions, a little more flavor with additional herbs and a touch more cheese. A nice, pungent Parmesan on top rounds out the flavors well. The secret ingredient that will add brightness is the lemon zest. It’s hardly noticeable but brings a touch of acid to the pizza cutting the saltiness. This is a pizza that you’ll want to make year round, but especially in these last few summer days. And if the kids insist that they only want “real” pizza, just do what I did and tell them it’s a flatbread.

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Prosciutto + Ricotta Pizza with Spring Onions
Ingredients:
1 roll or package of store-bought Pizza Dough
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
4-6 Spring Onions, sliced
5 ounces Spinach
1 cup Ricotta Cheese
¼ cup Parsley, chopped
⅓ cup Basil, chopped
1 tsp. Lemon Zest
5 ounces thinly sliced Prosciutto (about 8-10 pieces)
1 tbsp. Chives, finely chopped
¼ cup Parmesan, shredded
Salt & Pepper

Directions:
1 - Preheat the oven to 425 degrees*. Arrange the pizza dough onto a rectangular baking sheet or pizza pan and brush with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Set aside. (The shape of your pizza crust will depend on the store-bought version you buy. Mine rolled out in a rectangular shape.)

2 - Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet. Add the onions and cook 3-4 minutes until softened. Add the spinach and season with salt and pepper. Saute until the spinach has wilted, about 2-3 minutes. Set aside to cool.

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3 - Mix together the ricotta, parsley, basil and lemon zest until all of the ingredients are well-incorporated. Spread evenly over the pizza dough using a small rubber spatula. Be careful not to pierce or rip the pizza dough.

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4 - Top the ricotta mixture with the sauteed onions and spinach. Rip the prosciutto slices once or twice and arrange on top of the pizza. Sprinkle with Parmesan and chives. Bake 10-15 minutes until the dough is golden and the Parmesan cheese has melted. Cut into squares and serve.

*For the temperature, follow the directions according to your pizza dough. The directions for mine required a 425 degree oven but if your dough says differently, use that temperature instead. All of the ingredients are cooked except for the pizza dough so you’re baking it specifically for the crust.

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Chicago Coffee Shop Series | West Loop + Ukrainian Village

Coffee is in my blood. I swear the smell of it alone can instantly put me in a good mood. Unique coffee shops with interesting stories or funky vibes indulge my addiction. One of my favorite things to do while traveling is find the local favorites. What I love to do in my own city is become the expert so I can share the best spots whether you’re looking to unplug, catch up with a friend or get things done. We’re heading to the West Side of Chicago for a few gems that have become personal favorites. From hidden spots in the West Loop to a unique coffee shop with cool history in the Ukrainian Village, you’ll be heading to at least a few of these whether you’re in town visiting or a local.

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Atomix | 1957 West Chicago Avenue
Located in West Town, Atomix Cafe is more diner-like than coffee shop. Classic diner tables, chairs and booths fill the space for a cafeteria-like feeling. For not being a particularly large space, Atomix has plenty of seating . You'll find people getting in a few emails during a break or using the coffee shop as a makeshift office for a few hours. Their food and drink menu is expansive offering organic goods as well as vegan options. It’s a spot for everyone with plenty of natural lighting, good music and most important...lots of outlets. **Expert tip: Make sure to try the chips and salsa. DIVINE!

Wi-Fi: ✓ ← can be slow at times
Good for working: ✓
Food Selection: Full breakfast, lunch & dinner menus including vegan and vegetarian options.
Service: Friendly staff
Noise Level: Mild. Nothing too extreme to note.
Seating Space: Plenty of tables to crank out your day.
Outlets: Plentiful
Music: Great mix

Big Shoulders | 1105 West Chicago Avenue
For a classic corner coffee shop with tons of natural light, an ideal location and great coffee, Big Shoulders is your spot. With plenty of space and large tables for co-working, this would be a great spot for group work sessions. Host team meetings, interviews, whatever you need. If you need a place to chill between appointments, Big Shoulders is right off the blue line for easy transportation access.

Wi-Fi: ✓
Good for working: ✓
Food Selection: pastries and snacks
Service: Friendly
Noise Level: Low
Seating Space: Decent. Spacious but it’s a small space so it fills up during peak times.
Outlets: Not too many
Music: N/A

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C.C. Ferns | 2806 West Augusta
As far as uniqueness and originality go, C.C. Ferns wins the award. Located in Humboldt Park, C.C. Ferns is unlike any other coffee shop you will visit, guaranteed. The coffee shop has a funky, old-school vibe...kind of like you entered your grandfather’s dream den from 1955. It’s the type of place you could picture Marlon Brando or James Dean having a cigar or cigarette in the morning reading the paper and sipping the coffee. Did they even read the paper? Regardless, you get where I’m going with this. As if the design wasn’t enough to contribute to C.C. Ferns’ originality, they also sell a curated cigar selection. What’s even more, there’s a space in the back where you can book events or attend local musical gigs once in awhile. Like I said, award-winner for originality.

Wi-Fi: ✓
Good for working: ✓
Food Selection: Selection of doughnuts from Doughnut Vault, house-made croissants and local oatmeal
Service: Friendly
Noise Level: Low-Medium
Seating Space: Tons
Outlets: N/A
Music: N/A

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La Columbe - West Loop | 955 West Randolph
La Columbe and I had a rough start. When visiting a coffee shop, I almost always expect wi-fi...that was until I met La Columbe. I must have been the only person on the planet that didn’t know it was a “thing” that they didn’t have wi-fi. So when I stopped in on my first visit, expecting to have a productive morning, you bet I was let down. After that first visit and knowing what to expect, my next visits were much more pleasant. For example, I didn’t look like a complete idiot by asking the barista what the internet was. I also made sure that I had a day of writing planned for myself. The internet is a deadly distraction when it comes to productivity sometimes, especially while writing. Many of the visitors at La Columbe have their own means of attaining internet capabilities but I like to visit for an internet-free day of work. I’ll use my tablet or phone to stay on top of emails and social media but when I’m turned to my computer, my focus is on point. As far as customer service, they’re pretty chill. Besides that weird look I got that one time I asked for internet, I’ve always had friendly baristas who handle your drink order in superhuman speed.

Wi-Fi: NONE! I did not know this the first time I visited so please be advised if you don’t have some sort of traveling wi-fi or hotspot.
Good for working: ✓
Food Selection: Pastries and Snacks
Service: Efficient and Friendly
Noise Level: Varies
Seating Space: Plenty - Long tables for co-working and smaller tables for privacy
Outlets: Bountiful
Music: N/A

Sawada Coffee | 112 North Green Street
Located across the street from Soho House Chicago, this is one of the most un-coffee shop like coffee shops I’ve ever been to. It’s a funky spot in the West Loop that has become one of my favorites. The entrance door is adorned with graffiti making it blend in. If you’re not looking for it, you’ll definitely miss it. The coffeeshop is located within a loft building (like every other business in the West Loop). It expands farther because it’s also home to Green Street Smoked Meats. Find a selection of doughnuts from Doughnut Vault at Sawada while they last and expect one hell of a fantastic cup o’ joe. They also happen to own C.C. Ferns! Masterminds, these people are! **Expert Tip: Beware the blinding sun at the window seat in the morning. It’s brutal.

Wi-Fi: ✓
Good for working: ✓
Food Selection: Pastries available at the coffee shop but if you get hungry, just walk over to Green Street.
Service: Fantastic
Noise Level: Low during non-meal times, a little noisy when diners come in for lunch but not too bad.
Seating Space: Plenty of space especially since it extends into Green Street Smoked Meats.
Outlets: Scattered generously
Music: N/A

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5 Day Boston Itinerary

With a few extra days in a trip, you can afford to take your time seeing the sites. While that may be nice, you also don’t want to waste any time. The trick is to find a nice balance so you cover a lot of ground without feeling rushed or overwhelmed. Being a walkable city, Boston makes that easy. And if a destination happens to be a little too far for walking, their public transportation system has you covered. Keep reading while we take you through a five-day trip in Boston.

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DAY 1: The Natural Side of Boston
Your first day in any city should always have flexible plans. You never know what delays you’ll run into and then there’s always traffic. Isn’t that fun? Assuming your first day has at least a few hours to explore, go without a specific plan. Visit the Boston Common and the Esplanade. Both are open to the public and have plenty to see and do. It’s an easy way to get your trip started and they should be on your Boston bucket list anyway.

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DAY 2: Embrace Your Inner Tourist
Let go of all the negative connotations that come with being a “tourist” and embrace it for a day. Every city, including Boston, is full of sites that are considered tourist attractions. Chicago has Navy Pier, Boston has the USS Constitution. Chicago has Millennium Park, Boston has the Boston Common. Chicago has Lou Malnati’s, Boston has Neptune’s Oyster Bar. I could go on for days. To encourage tourist behavior even more, we recently shared 8 tourist spots to visit in Boston. This includes the Cheers Restaurant and Fenway Park among other popular destinations you will find groups of tourists visiting.

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This is also a great day to visit a few monumental sites like the JFK Library & Museum, USS Constitution or Museum of Fine Arts. A few tips to keep in mind, do a little research before you go. Make sure you know the hours of the locations you’d like to browse around like museums and historical sites. Find out what their entrance fees are, if there are any tours available and buy tickets in advance for everything that you can. This will save you lots of time and it will usually guarantee your entry.

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DAY 3: Day Trip to Cambridge
Even in our three-day guide to Boston, I still included a trip to Cambridge. This neighbor city is a gem all on its own. With the Harvard and MIT campuses located here, it’s full of lively coffee shops, restaurants, bars and town squares. Walk through the Harvard Yard, take a photo on the steps of the Widener Library, enjoy one of the many museums from archaeology to art. Take a tour of the Harvard campus led by students, grab a cup of coffee in one of the local cafes and reflect on what you’ve seen and done in Boston so far. It’s a great place to pretend like you’re a local and just enjoy the beautiful day.

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For the history lovers, take a walk over to the Longfellow House - Washington’s National Headquarters. This gorgeous historical home takes tours through late October/early November before closing for the season. Grab photos of Memorial Church which has a beautiful architectural design before a bite to eat at one of Cambridge’s many restaurants. Check out our recommendations in our Cambridge Neighborhood Guide.

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DAY 4: Walk the Freedom Trail
This is the ultimate tour of Boston. It takes you through all the hottest spots in the city including the sites with the most historical significance. It’s also a great route to deviate off of in case you want to see extra sites like Acorn Street. The tour itself is free and will take you through the North End, Downtown and Beacon Hill neighborhoods. Most of the sites are free like the Granary Burying Ground, Boston Common and many churches. You can view all of them and grab photos but several like the Paul Revere House cost an admittance fee.

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Do a little research beforehand to create a route that suits your interests and allows you to veer off course if you’d like. This is also a great time to check out any of the freedom trail destinations that allow you to explore inside. Check out their hours and if there are any admittance fees so you can budget both time and money. Again, anything that you can purchase in advance is ideal so you can skip potential lines and save time.

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DAY 5: Eat Your Way Through the North End
I can’t think of a better way to end a trip than eating your way through an Italian neighborhood. Am I right? The North End has everything from Neptune’s Oyster Bar to traditional white tablecloth Italian restaurants and pastries so divine and indulgent, you’ll feel guilty for weeks. If you’re lucky enough to walk through on the weekends, they have a farmer’s market in the morning with all kinds of produce and fish that were caught that morning. Being a Midwestern native, this is something I have never seen before so it was pretty cool.

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A few recommendations while you’re eating your way through the North End. Grab coffee at Thinking Cup. This local coffee shop has incredible lattes and cappuccinos and there’s a ton of space to sit down and take your time. Grab some pizza at Umberto’s Galleria or Locale. They’re two different experiences so it depends on what you’re looking for. Umberto’s has traditional Sicilian-style pizza offered first come-first serve during lunch and is cash-only. Locale is a more trendy pizza joint with equally tasty pizzas that have every topping you can imagine plus appetizers and a great drink list. Grab some sweets at Mike’s Pastries but be ready to wait in line. If you still have room left, head over to La Galleria 33 for mind-blowing pasta. As far as I’m concerned, you haven’t had Italian until you’ve had pasta.

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Mini Lamb Meatballs with Quinoa & Roasted Veggies | Weeknight Recipes

Lamb a treat in my family. There are few of us who really enjoy it and it's not easily available so buying it is an occasional thing. I was craving a lamb dinner one week but not a heavy one and it inspired this recipe idea. Quinoa is such a versatile grain and works with almost anything. The tricky party was finding a combination of veggies that would compliment the meat well without taking over the dish.

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Lamb is similar to beef in texture, color and cooking method but the flavor is a bit more gamey. It's really delicious and almost lighter in a way because lamb pairs beautifully with lemon and rosemary, both ingredients that I took advantage bit in a subtle way. The quinoa can be mixed with any veggies you have on hand but being a fan of seasonal ingredients, the pepper, asparagus and radishes felt right in the moment. You could also try mushrooms, tomatoes, different squash and other veggies as well. The trick is roasting them to bring out all of their natural flavor. Be careful you don't let the vegetables outshine the meatballs though. They should be the star of this dish.

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As excited as I am for fall and all the amazing produce that comes with it, spring and summer veggies are something I look forward to every year. The vibrant colors and bold flavors are an easy way to brighten a day and bring a little happiness to the dinner table. You don’t need much to create a great meal full of flavor. All it takes is seasonal produce, herbs and the right combinations.

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Mini Lamb Meatballs with Quinoa & Roasted Veggies
Ingredients for the Meatballs:
1 tsp. Fresh Oregano, chopped
1 tsp. Fresh Thyme, chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
½ tsp. Grated Lemon Zest
¼ cup Breadcrumbs
1lb. Ground Lamb

For the Quinoa:
1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
½ lb. Radishes, quartered
1 bunch Asparagus, trimmed
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
3 sprigs Rosemary
2 cups Chicken Stock
1 cup Quinoa
Salt & Pepper

Directions:
1 - Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare two baking sheets with tin foil. Mix the meatballs. Gently acclimate the oregano, thyme, garlic, lemon zest and breadcrumbs into the ground lamb. Roll into 1-inch balls, about the size of a jumbo gumball. Place on one of the baking sheets and bake 15-20 minutes.

2 - Prepare the veggies. Toss the pepper, radishes and asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread onto the second baking sheet and top with rosemary sprigs. Roast 8-10 minutes until the veggies have softened but still have a bite to them.

3 - Bring two cups of chicken stock to a boil. Add in the quinoa, stir and cover to cook about 15 minutes until all of the liquid has absorbed. Toss with the veggies and top with meatballs. Serve.

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