G-Free Italian

Gluten-free Italian food seems like about the worst combo in the world, am I right?  When we found out a couple years back that my mom and sister BOTH had Celiac I started panicking for them.  I’ve always worshipped at the church of gluten, so the concept of a life without it seemed unfathomable.  The idea that they’d never be able to go to Italy and taste the amazing pastas and “I’m having a relationship with my pizza” pizza, or go to Paris and eat the steaming crepes from street vendors or quiche in cute little cafes quite literally broke my heart. So I hit up Google to see just how grim their future looked. Much to my surprise, I discovered that Italy takes excellent care of its residents and visitors with gluten issues, while France could stand to make a little improvement. Better than I expected, but still not great.

Well now I’ve done the unthinkable (because I thought my vegetarian diet wasn’t quite high-maintenance enough) and started cutting gluten out of my diet.  But instead of viewing it like the terrible thing that it is, I have taken it as a challenge to recreate some old familiar favorites, try new recipes, etc. I’m still rather new to it, so I haven’t fiddled with it too much, but the G-free red velvet cupcakes were a smash, and I’m happy to say we have another success!

One of my favorite things to snack on in Italy was arancini. The delicious, fried balls of risotto are exactly as sinfully delicious as they sound and always lasted about 2.5 seconds before being completely scarfed down.

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Go ahead and add those to the list of things that came to mind as the world came crashing down with visions of going to Italy with a gluten allergy.

I finally decided to try my hand at making them for the first time and, of course, tried making them as a gluten free version.


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Although the little guys I had in Italy were filled with gooey mozzarella I made these with ricotta (I wish there was a good reason for that decision, but mostly it was just that I didn’t feel like going to the grocery) – using a variation on this recipe. Literally the only changes I made were swapping out the thyme for fresh basil, dredging with gluten-free flour, and using gluten-free breadcrumbs for the outside.

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Making these gluten-free was actually super easy and I didn’t feel like they lost anything in the swap.  Aside from being a little time consuming they were also really easy to make – and so incredibly yummy!

If you’re interested you can find more info on living/dining with Celiac in Italy here and here.

Buon Appetito!

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Rome Girls in the Circle City

So after such a lead up, it’s finally time to spill the details of my lovely little reunion with Sophia! As with any Rome Girl reunion it’s never about what we’re doing, just that we’re together … but with that said, the what was almost as good as the who in this situation.  As soon as I got off work we made our way down to Napolese.  Because after all, to have a reunion of this sort without Italian food seems almost sinful.

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Napolese is one of those rare finds of a restaurant that manages to knock it out of the park in all categories – pizza, salad, caffe, dessert, they’re all equally amazing.  I informed Sophia that, believe it or not, Napolese is the only pizza I’ve had in the U.S. that can actually almost (let’s not get carried away) rival the heavenly pizza we had in Naples.  She was skeptical, but I knew she’d be on my side in no time.

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We started with the salad, but per usual were so ravenous we dug right in before taking any photos.  Take my word for it though, their salads are insanely gorgeous and equally delish! And then our pizza arrived. The main event. No words. Just pictures.

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Of course we were getting quite full, but in true Italian style had absolutely no choice but to finish it off with dessert and cappuccini.

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For a good two hours we sat in Napolese chowing down and chit-chatting.  It was so European! To me, one of the most enviable things about the Euro lifestyle is the way they value good food and good company and devote to it the time it truly deserves.  It was so wonderful to revert back to that lifestyle we used to live, even if only for an afternoon.  When we finished lunch we made a quick pit stop at the gallery before heading back to my place.

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An evening of reading horoscopes, telling stories, and playing with the cutest pup of all (Sophia’s name sake), kept us up until the wee hours.

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Morning came, along with a delicious breakfast, and just like that it was time for her to hit the road.   Rome reunions are never long enough, but it was short and sweet as can be.

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Unsung Heroes of the Red Carpet

The Oscars are just around the corner! *deep breath, deep breath* Anyone who knows me knows that aside from Christmas, Awards Season (yes, capitalizing both words to emphasize importance) is my absolute favorite time of year- and the Oscars, well of course they’re the creme de la creme. The Super Bowl of Awards shows. Film, television, fashion, and so many forms of art all come together on one stage and the result is brilliant!

There are certain red carpet moments and iconic dresses that everyone can call to memory at the drop of a hat … and for good reason!

Julia Roberts in vintage Valentino.

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Gwyneth in pink Ralph Lauren.

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Jennifer Lawrence in show-stopping red Calvin Klein – proving less is definitely more and cementing her place as a part of Hollywood’s elite.

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But the red carpet is full of unsung heroes.  Gowns that by some miracle, hit the red carpet, and didn’t become iconic pieces of fashion history.  Let’s take a moment to honor them.

Olivia Wilde in Marchesa.

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Now, to be honest, I think Marchesa can do no wrong.  I would consider all of their gowns iconic, but this one takes the cake for me.  This is a defining example of fashion as art.  Taking their craft to such a stunning level of perfection, Marchesa designers Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig truly outdid themselves with this one.

Evan Rachel Wood in Alessandra Rich.

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This is a girl who marches to the beat of her own drum and takes fashion risks.  Although this dress is a bit outside of the red carpet norm, it’s an absolute home-run.  She knew how to wear this dress, how to move in it, and how to present so that it’s showcased the design and allowed the beauty of the gown to really shine through.

 Blake Lively in Zuhair Murad.

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Blake Lively is a style icon on and off the red carpet. It would be an actual task to find a fashion misstep in her playbook, but this is one of her all-time best shining moments.  She epitomizes Hollywood glamour in a way that is somehow modern and classic all at once.  You don’t look at her in this gown and see just another actress, this is a movie star.

Beautiful, aren’t they? Here’s to making them their own little slot in history.  If nothing else, they’re iconic in my mind!

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An Almost Unlikely Friendship

I distinctly remember one of the first days in Italy I was standing with a group of fellow Belles in Assisi and up comes this tall, giddy, frizzy haired blonde quite literally bounding with joy. “Guys!” she said with her big blue eyes suddenly wider than before, “there is a place down there that monograms fanny-packs!” In the moment, still suffering from hellish jetlag, I’m pretty sure I gave her the most horrified look.  All I could think was who was this girl?! Who in this world comes to one of the most beautiful, historically relevant, iconic Italian villages and finds the most thrilling thing to be monogrammed fanny packs??  Her name was Sophia, and she became living proof that first impressions are total rubbish.

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Living and learning together in the heart of Rome, Sophia and I would see each other often.  She’d quickly become besties with my roommate Fran so it became commonplace to come home from class to find her lounging across my bed, watching cat videos on YouTube, and completely losing it over Cuteness Overload.

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One day Fran was absolutely passed out in a late afternoon snooze, so by default Sophia and I, both of whom it turns out have incredibly ferocious appetites, decided to go out to dinner together.  We laughed and talked for ages over our delicious dinner, realizing we had a ton in common and having such a blast that I completely forgot I was scheduled to go to my weekly job of opening the chapel and preparing it for mass.  It’s just as it sounds … a best friend love story.

For the rest of the semester we bonded and when we were stateside again, finding ourselves in the same horrible Bio class, we became completely inseparable.  Just like all of the other incredible Rome Girls that semester brought into my heart and this blog, Sophia became more than a friend – she’s a sister-from-another-mister, a confidant, a there through thick and thin kind of bestie that is far closer to family than friend.

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The Rome Girls, as I always call them, are one of the greatest testaments I have to the study abroad experience.  Whenever someone is questioning whether or not to go abroad I can’t help but reference stories like these, stories that showcase the power of friendship that can only come about when you’re taken away from your family, home, and all things familiar and tossed into a foreign land.

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So, what’s the point of this outrageously long walk down memory lane?  Well this weekend, Sophia and I were finally be reunited after far too long.  It seemed before I could post about our little weekend reunion it was all but necessary to share a little back story.  Stories to follow!

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Those Christmas Lights

On Christmas night when all the creatures were still stirring, bellies were full, and presents had all been opened I plopped myself down on the love seat to stare up at our beautiful tree.  For as long as I can remember my family has decorated with white lights only.  This year we changed it up and went with multicolored lights – and I must say they’re absolutely enthralling.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of them.

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Before the magic of Christmas could wear off the artist in me had to capture them.  I grabbed my camera to shoot their beauty in an abstracted way.

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Aren’t they lovely?  I’m like a little moth to a flame – I could stare at them forever.

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Everything and the Kitchen Sink

When it comes to salads I think just about anything goes – I’ll throw all kinds of leftovers on top of a pile of greens and call it a day.  With Thanksgiving, the leftovers game is half the fun.  My go-to in the past has been a loaded up turkey sandwich, but this year I decided to try my hand at a Thanksgiving leftover salad since I was turkeyless.

Behold this beaut … Romaine topped with our brie, goat cheese, and fig appetizer, brussels sprouts salad, fresh pomegranates, and balsamic glaze.

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Yes, it was as delicious as it looks and since everything was already made to perfection (thanks, mom!) it was on the plate and ready to eat in no time.

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Thanksgiving

For most Americans Thanksgiving is the ultimate holiday.  I personally love it because it’s the one day a year when my atrocious eating habits are completely acceptable, and piling three separate desserts onto your plate post-feast is not only considered the norm, but encouraged.

My family went above and beyond this year with the spread.  Since it was my first Thanksgiving as a vegetarian I was a little nervous, but I had more than my fair of delicious things to load my plate up with!  From vegetarian stuffing and two types of potatoes to a delicious quinoa salad there wasn’t enough room on my plate for all the goodies!

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It was a hard choice, but my personal faves of the day were the fig, goat cheese, and brie appetizers and the brussels sprouts salad which was loaded up with dried cherries, marcona almonds, apples and balsamic glaze (recipe inspired by Napolese).

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Of course the day isn’t just about the food.  I’m lucky enough to have a life filled with so many wonderful people, experiences, and things that it’s easy to be thankful most days of the year … but it is nice to have an entire day devoted to basking in the glow of the good things in life.

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