Hey Ya’ll, I went to Nashville (and Memphis too!)

Plucked straight out of Jersey, when I visited the south I stuck out like a sore thumb. In fact, someone even likened me to, dare I say it, SNOOKI. Nevertheless, I went to Nashville not knowing what exactly to expect, and with well, an open mind. I must admit though, that by the time I came back home, I had an entirely newfound appreciation for good ol’ country music, and was about as southern a girl from Jersey can get. Here are some of the highlights from my trip. Enjoy!

STAY:

The Omni Hotel. You can FEEL the music when you walk in. Brand new, the Omni aesthetic perfectly encapsulates everything that is Nasvhille. Why exactly? There is a biscuit bar, it is attached to the Country Music Hall of Fame, and it’s just minutes from Broadway (i.e. Honkey tonk heaven). Did I mention there is a biscuit bar?

THINGS TO DO:

1) Nashville, the SHOW! One night while strolling Broadway after dinner, we stumbled upon the real live taping of Nashville. Basically, they were recreating the Country Music Awards and as extras we played maniacal fans by the red carpet. It was one of the coolest experiences ever, and I had the chance to be extra creepy playing paparazzi with Connie Britton who plays Rayna James on the show. By the way, this lady is a true southern bell; she has the sweetest demeanor and is absolutely FLAWLESS. Apparently the show tapes all around town and often, so try to catch a glimpse if you can, ya hear?

2) Honkey Tonk Highway. One of my favorite parts of the city is its culture, and what better way to experience it than walking up and down Broadway, popping in and out of the local honkey tonks. Brimming with neon lights and loud music, this little street screams country. Not to mention all of the bars are cover-free, and these bands are AH-MAZE.

3) RCA Studio B Tour. So at the other end of town is Music Row, where a whole bunch of recording studios breed country stars (Tay Swift, Reba McIntyre, etc. etc.) It’s also the home to the itty bitty Studio B, famous mostly because of it’s history. This little gem is where Elvis Presley happened to record over 200 songs. The place is totally untouched from the 60s, and it was almost as if you could feel these legends prancing in and out and doing their thing.

4) Graceland. Speaking of the King, we also took a 3 hour detour to Memphis to see Graceland, i.e. the home of Elvis Presley. This had to be one of the coolest parts of the trip, and reminded me a lot of Disney (wierd I know, but let me ‘splain). Every single room in his house was unique, from his jungle room (waterfall included) to his pool room (adorned with multi-colored textiles form floor to ceiling), to his shag rug hallways (also floor to ceiling) to his dining room (which was utter GLAM). The whole experience was just really neat, and although Elvis was before my time, visiting his home made me appreciate the legend that he truly was. Oh, and there are about 5000 themed gift shops to boot, which is why it reminded me of Disney. Hawaiian Elvis Christmas ornament, anyone? Thank you, thank you very much.

5) The Grand Ole Oprey. Okay so now we’re back in Nashville. This place is like the mecca for country stars. It’s a gorgeous old concert hall where some of the best singers in town got their starts, not to mention Lady Antebellum who we were able to catch perform. Angel. She has the voice of an ANGEL.

6) Lonnie’s Karaoke Bar. This is the most fun I’ve ever had at a Karaoke bar without singing Karaoke. Located on Printer’s Alley, this hole in the wall catered to both Presidents and comedians (Jimmy Fallon!!) alike.

EATS & TREATS:

1) The Southern. (Nashville) It’s country swag, I tell you. This place is trendy meets cowboy all rolled in one. It’s also home to the BEST seafood gumbo EVER.

2) Central BBQ. (Memphis) When I woke up from my food coma, I eventually realized that I temporarily left planet earth for barbecue HEAVEN. Their baby back ribs are deeeeee-lectable, and when paired with baked beans, friend onion rings, and the best mac&cheese even yo mama can’t make, you just, well, die.

3) The Tavern. (Nashville). It’s where the locals go, according to some random local I stopped on the street to ask where we should go for dinner. (JUDGE ME!) Their chimichangas and buffalo fried cauliflower were LIFE-CHANGING.

4) GOO GOO CLUSTER. (Nashville) Just get one (peanut butter is my fave). You’ll thank me later.

5) The Loveless Cafe. A Nashville classic, with white-trash-hash that will blow yo’ mind. Not to mention their Hams & Jams gift shop, and their bluegrass and biscuits fest, and their jalapeno flavored bacon. MUST.TRY.THE.BACON.

All in all, both Nashville and Memphis turned out to be amazing little cities. Packed with culture, country and culinary delight, I’d love to visit again soon. With some Pepto though. CANNOT forget the Pepto.

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Lady Antebellum @ The Grand Ole Oprey

The Loveless Cafe

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Threads fit for a King in Graceland

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Miranda Lambert’s High-Heeled Boots!

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Elvis’ Living Room

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Connie Britton @ the Nashville Taping

 

 

The Little Things

SO. I’ve decided. Life is all about the little things. Yes, I know – jobs, money, cars, religion, Bravo TV, health – all of these things are of course vitally important to your well-being (especially the Bravo part, duh). However, what I’m starting to realize is that sometimes, no matter how “in line” all of the big things are, they don’t always make you want to spring out of bed in the morning. Sometimes, it’s the little things – the perfect cup of coffee or flowers or tzatziki – that refresh you, that bring you back into the game…that make you, well, happy. So with that, I’ve decided to start my first ever series – The Little Things – which will highlight life’s little pleasures.

Because, who WOULDN'T want to start their morning with LUCY?!

Because, who WOULDN’T want to start their morning with LUCY?!

Petal perfection.

Petal perfection.

My home-made tzatziki. You can start calling me Giada NOW.

My home-made tzatziki. You can start calling me Giada NOW.

PS. TRY my recipe for Tzatziki, it’s ridiculously easy, HEALTHY and you’re going to look like a BOSS the next time you make it for yah friends. Click HERE.

Water, Sexified

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Yeah yeah, 8 cups per day…keeps you hydrated….skinny…young…blah blah BLAH. I get it, I need to drink more water. But sometimes, well, I just get TIRED of the same old lame old. Sort of like Mariah Carey did with Nick Cannon (say it isn’t soo!!). Anyway, my point is that water, unless injected with a heaping dose of caffeine for which it then becomes coffee….can just be so blasé. So friends, without further ado, I present to you WATER, sexified, three different ways. Not only are these infused concoctions delicious…they are healthy too. Enjoy :) 

Cucumber: Here’s the deal guys. These little suckers [cucumbers] are loaded with vitamin B, eliminate toxins, contain electrolytes (which are super replenishing), and even support weight loss and digestion. SCORE! Oh, and they are said to prevent AM hangovers too, if ingested the night before. DOUBLE SCORE!

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Strawberry Mint – First up, strawberries, aka natures candy, are packed with fiber, are low in calories, and most importantly, are fat burners. Second, mint, other than smelling DEVINE, promotes digestion and is said to relieve stomach nausea and headaches.

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Lemon & Rosemary: Lemon – its like nature’s grenade of goodness, locked and loaded with vitamin c and potassium, they aid in digestion, cleanse your system, prevent wrinkles, freshen your breath, promote weight loss and even pay your bills. Okay, everything except for the last one, but you get the picture now right? Now onto rosemary…it stimulates the immune system, improves concentration, is a mild diuretic (i.e. eliminates bloating..YES!!), and is even said to improve concentration. Sign me UP!

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Hope you all enjoy my infused water tips!

My Dirty Confession

Anyone who knows me knows that I am Greek…and that, like all of my other fellow Greeks, I am VERY proud of it. In other words, in short, like any good Greek girl does, I believe the following about Greeks: they are the most gorgeous beings on this planet (John Stamos Uncle Jessie, I’m talking about you), they have the most beautiful country (Santorini, I mean comeeee on), have the best culture (OPA!), the warmest personalities, and the most delicious cuisine. Basically, being Greek is the bomb.com. However, my dirty confession — and you have to promise you WON”T tell my mama and baba — is that I kinda sorta really love Italian food (in addition to of course, gyros, dolmades, etc.) I mean, I have to hand it to our cousins across the Ionian…they can cook! Anyway, today I had a major craving for one of my all time favorite Italian dishes: Broccoli Rabe with Sausage. Check out the deets below.

By the way, what were you guys expecting my dirty confession to be?  ;)

Ingredients:

Broccoli Rabe (2 bundles)

Sweet Italian Sausage (3-4 average size links)

Ground Chili Pepper (to taste)

Olive Oil (to coat the pan)

Oregano (1/2 a tsp)

Salt (to taste)

Garlic (to taste, but I reco. 1 clove (~1/4 a tbsp. when sliced)

Optional: Lemon (just a few squeezes here and there); Cheese (Parmesan, Manchego, etc.)

Directions:

1) Trim off the rough ends of the broccoli rabe and boil in salted water until al dente.

2) Cut sausage links into bite sizes pieces and sauté  in a separate – lightly oiled – pan on medium-high until both sides are browned; Add oregano and a light dusting of chili pepper.

3) Once sausage is browned on both sides, add minced garlic and cook on LOW. Add in the cooked broccoli rabe to the pan and mix (works best with tongs).

4) Squeeze some lemon over the entire dish and top with the thinly grated cheese of your choice.

5) Enjoy! I mean, Opa! Or Mangia! OR….I just hope ya like it, k?

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Mediterranean Crab-cakes

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In my quest to both be Giada De Laurentiis, and quench my unwavering craving for crab cakes, this morning, I scoured the world wide web for recipes. However, to no avail, I found NOTHING. I mean sure, there are about 10,000 recipes on Pinterest alone, but I just wasn’t feeling it…not a single one. Whether they were too fatty, or too complicated (truffle vinaigrette, really?!), or whatever, I found nothing that made my taste-buds twirl. SO, like a good Greek girl would do, I decided to create my own. For the first time ever, [drumroll please] I present to you, The Mediterranean Crab-cake!

Yield: 15 crab cakes

Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

Crab meat – 1 lb.

Chives – a handful

Red Onion – 3/4 cup (about 1/2 of a regular-sized whole onion)

Bread Crumbs – 1 cup

Red Pepper – 1 whole

Egg – 1 large

Mayo* – 2 tbsp.

Dijon – 1 tbsp. (optional)

EVOO – umm, well it depends on just how mediterranean you want to get here.

Salt & Pepper – to taste

Lemon – a squirt here and there

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Directions:

1) Chop onion, chives and pepper as small as you possibly can (the smaller/thinner, the better) and cook on low-medium heat until the veggies sweat. I’d say 3-5ish minutes. Set aside and let cool.

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2) While the veggies are cooking, beat the heck out of 1 egg, and blend the rest of the ingredients together (egg included). Once the veggies are “cool” enough, fold them into the mixture. Add salt & pepper to taste, and squeeze some lemon in for good measure (also to taste–I’d say about 1 tsp.) Dijon is a plus here, too!

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3) Shape mixture into golf-size balls and pack tightly! If you want to get really fancy, you could measure each patty to be 1/4 cup. I prefer to go au naturel.

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4) Drizzle some EVOO in a pan, and cook on each side until brown. [Be careful! Before you smush said balls into patties, make sure each side is lightly brown, so that the mixture doesn't fall apart.]

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5) Serve on a pretty little plate with sliced lemon and a few sprigs of chives, and proceed like a BOSS.

* I use mayo made from EVOO, just because it makes me feel like less of a fatso, BUT, if you really want to get healthy, replace with Greek yogurt (Fage, of course).

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ENJOY!