Chickpeas with Spiced Carrots, Dates and Pistachios

Let me introduce you to my new favorite refrigerator staple:  Chickpeas with Spiced Carrots, Dates and Pistachios.


This salad comes together in no more than 10 minutes and it’s the perfect lunch or light dinner.  In fact, I cannot wait to eat leftovers for lunch today.  Prep this salad on Sunday and you’ll be able to eat on it all week long.

This no-cook salad involves one bowl and a simple list of ingredients.

The “dressing” is a quick mix of EVOO, cumin, cinnamon (!!!) and a little salt.  The powerhouse ingredients include canned chickpeas (if you use dried, more power to you), shredded carrots, chopped dates, cilantro and pistachios.  I served the salad on a bed of lettuce last night and an extra sprinkle of flaky salt.

It’s sweet, it’s crunchy, it’s savory, it’s salty and it’s full of good-for you stuff.




Simple Leek Frittata with Roasted Almond Romesco

Last week I found myself with an almost-empty fridge but the need to put dinner on the table.  We were going out of town so I didn’t want to make a huge grocery haul or have lots of leftovers.  As I was scanning the fridge I took note of a wedge of parm in the cheese drawer and a carton of eggs that needed to be used.  After a quick flip through my Cooking Light recipes I found a simple leek frittata in which all I needed to grab from the store was a bunch of leeks.  Perfect.

The frittata is totally customizable and you can add whatever you have in your veggie crisper…spinach, mushrooms, bell peppers.  I added extra garlic because well, I love garlic and I used whole milk because I had a little leftover from another recipe.  I’m sure that any milk would work in this recipe.

To go with the frittata, a whipped up a Romesco sauce that is basically made with toasted bread, roasted red bell peppers and almonds.  The Romesco sauce is garlicky and smokey and absolutely delicious.  You could use this sauce on so many things; I personally think it would be awesome on a sandwich instead of mayo or mustard.


Simple, healthy and quite inexpensive.  A perfect meatless-Monday dinner but I think a meatless-Wednesday is okay, too.


Pumpkin Chai Muffins

It’s that time of the year again…pumpkin EVERYTHING!  I tend to lean more towards the pumpkin candles than the pumpkin spice lattes but I can’t resist making a batch of pumpkin muffins at least once during the fall months.

These pumpkin muffins are full of pumpkin along with lots of flavor from the spice combination of ginger, cinnamon, cloves and allspice.  This recipe only requires two bowls and 10 minutes of prep before their in the oven and ready for you to devour.


I made a few changes to the recipe:  I used almond milk instead of milk; I used 3 tablespoons of canola oil instead of coconut oil and I left off the crumble because I wanted to muffins to travel well.

Moist and full of pumpkin flavor, these muffins are perfect for fall!



Friday Favorites

**My thoughts and prayers are with everyone recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.  While we were in the midst of the mess, we remained unharmed by the damaging winds and high water.  Our small town of Rocky Mount is a mess, our family in Lumberton remains under water and it’s going to be quite a while until our college town of Greenville is back to normal.**

It feels like fall!  And we have a fun filled fall weekend on tap with friends.  I can’t wait to recap our shenanigans but until then I leave you with some of my favorites (fall inspired) from the week!


Favorite Tailgate:  Game Day Beer Chili.  I’m crossing my fingers it gets cool enough for Big Guy to agree to chili sometime over the next month.  I have so many chili recipes I want to try and this one is high on the list.


Favorite Idea:  Cookbook Club.  Since this is virtual, I am totally going to participate.  Here’s how it works:  “Each month [Gaby will] announce the cookbook of the month and then we can buy it, borrow it, check it out from the library and cook! Cook by yourself, invite your friends over, host your own cookbook club with the assigned book, whatever floats your boat. The idea is for us all to cook recipes from the same book in the same month.”   This month:  Alton Brown – EveryDayCook.


Favorite Crock Pot Meal:  Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Chili.   SkinnyTaste just came out with a new cookbook and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!  This taco chili looks totally comforting while also being healthy.  The perfect weeknight dinner.


Favorite Transition:  Fall Candles.    It’s time for me to switch out my candles.  Bring on the apples, pumpkins and all things fall smelling.


Favorite Date Night:  Creamy Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta with Roasted Garlic and Mushrooms.  Creamy, tangy, salty, rich.  Evvvvvverything.


Favorite Comfy:  Signature Cotton Fisherman Tunic Sweater.    Not going to lie, I’d love to be wearing this sweater with leggings curled up on the couch eating the above carb-filled plate along with a glass of wine.


Favorite Sunday:  Roasted Butternut Squash Apple Burrata Pizza.    I can’t find anything wrong with this pizza.


Favorite Chewy:  Never Fail Blondie Bars.  I think I a platter of these sweet treats needs to happen next weekend.


Favorite Trend:  The Striped Turtleneck.  Except it’s not really a trend to me – it’s a fall staple.  And I’m in need of an updated version.


Favorite Cocktail:  Fall All Over.  This drink reminds me of a moscow mule but with gin instead of vodka.  Let’s give it a try!


Tailgate Thursday {homemade soft pretzels + a trio of dips}

After a three-week hiatus from tailgating, I’m back with a recipe for you.  These homemade soft pretzels take  little bit of work in the kitchen but they’re totally worth the effort.

To make the pretzels you start with a simple dough that’s made by mixing together warm water and sugar and then sprinkling yeast over the mixture.  Allow this to sit for five minutes before adding in flour, salt and egg.  This is mixed (I used my Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough attachment) and then allow the dough to rest and rise for an hour.  Once doubled, the dough is rolled out and then cut into strips.  The strips are formed into pretzels and then boiled in water that has baking soda added in for about three minutes.  Allow the pretzels to dry; sprinkle with salt and then bake until golden brown.  Use the above link for the full step-by-step directions and exact measurements for the ingredients.


To go with the pretzels, I served a trio of dips.

The pimiento cheese dip was made by microwaving 8 ounces of Velveeta and then whisking in 1/2 cup whole milk, a jar of diced pimientos, paprika and black pepper.

The buttermilk ranch dip is a simple combination of a 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup mayo, 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar plus a handful of chopped dill and chives.

The creole honey mustard dip comes together in a snap by whisking together 1/2 cup Dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons mayo, 1 tablespoon honey and 1 teaspoon creole seasoning.

Happy Dipping!!!

#watsonsgogreek {santorini + more athens}

I hope you haven’t missed my three other posts recapping our dream vacation to Greece!
The Planning

Day 8:  Saturday, September 24

We had to be up bright and early on Saturday for a 6am pick-up so that we could be transferred to the Heraklion Port, which was about a two hour drive.  Once again, this was something arranged by Petros and I cannot stress how helpful having a travel agent was for moving from island to island.

The ferry that we took was so nice!  I’ve been on cruises before but I imagined the ferry would be something like what we take to go to the aquarium at the beach.  You had assigned seats, there was WiFi and I was even able to order a latte.  After a quick ferry ride over, we were finally going to arrive in Santorini.

Thank the good Lord for having a travel agent.  When we arrived in Santorini at the ferry docks it was mayhem.  Had it not been for knowing there was a driver with our name held up, I would have turned right back around.  So many people.  But after grabbing our luggage and departing the boat we quickly found our driver and our van and we were off to our hotel, Astra Suites, situated in Imerovigli.  I had a picture in my mind of what Santorini would be but it was absolutely breathtaking and I couldn’t have been more excited to be there.

Our hotel room at Astra Suites was by far the nicest room our entire stay in Greece.  It was HUGE.  We had a massive outside area, complete with our own pool (this was an upgrade that we added on to the original package), living room, bedroom and bathroom.


Side note:  I can’t help but mention this (though it may be TMI), you can’t flush anything down the toilet in Santorini.  So yes, toilet paper goes in the trash.  Oh, and the hair dryer at this hotel was AMAZING.  I know, that seems weird but after what I worked with in Crete…life changing.

Once we got checked in and situated, it was time to start exploring.  Santorini it very walkable – it’s a strenuous walk as you go up and down the rocky pathway but you are separate from cars.  We finally stopped for lunch at a little charming cafe, Galini.    The views were spectacular.  I finally felt like I was in Greece.


To start we ordered a round of drinks – Bellini for me and a local beer for Big Guy.  I kept lunch pretty simple with a Santorini salad and my better half ordered the Club Sandwich.

After lunch we continued exploring!  Every where I looked I was blown away by the beauty.


 We finally headed back to the hotel and took a dip in our pool – how could we not?!?!

On our first night in Santorini we opted for something a little different for dinner.  Petros had recommended a new sushi restaurant not too far away and we couldn’t resist.  After eating like a Greek for a week, our taste buds were so excited to try Ginger.  And we were not disappointed.  The food was amazing and the cocktails were super refreshing – a nice break from all the Greek white wine I had been enjoying.

Day 9:  Sunday, September 25

At Astra Suites, you place your breakfast order before you go to bed and it’s delivered to your room each and every morning.  The food wasn’t as good as our breakfast in Crete but the views more than made up for it.  It was so relaxing to enjoy coffee and yogurt and fruit on our balcony before getting started with the day.

After breakfast, we changed into our “athleisure” wear and went for a long walk to the mountainous area of Skaros Rock.  Walking is a serious workout in Santorini!


Before we knew it, it was time to head back to our room to get ready for our Sunset Cruise with Santorini Sailing.

Side note:  This activity was included in our package that we purchased through Hellenic Holidays. And while I thought it would be “touristy” and even “cheeky” it was a highlight of our time in Santorini.

We were picked up at 2:30pm from our hotel and taken to the marina in Oia.  We sailed past the red and white beaches, we swam in the sulphur springs and we explored private bays.  We stopped at one of the private bays and the Captain and his mate prepared us the most amazing barbecue dinner.  We were seriously blown away by the food.


After dinner, the Captain popped some bubbles and we sailed into the Aegean to see the most stunning sunset.


Seriously a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

We returned to our hotel from the sunset sail at about 8:30pm.  We grabbed a drink from the hotel bar and called it a night.

Day 10:  Monday, September 26

Another balcony breakfast and morning walk around Santorini to start our day on the most positive of notes.

Our hotel helped us arrange to take part in a Santorini Wine Tour.  We were picked up at 10:15am from our hotel where we joined others on a tour of three wineries around the island.


Due to the lack of water and irrigation in Santorini, the grapes are very distinctive in flavor.  The grapes grow very close to the ground and look nothing like the vineyards you see in Crete (or Sonoma, for that matter).  Our tour had about 12 individuals and we were led by a sommelier who was rather humorous.  It was amazing to hear about the process and really taste the difference in the wines.


Post-wine tour we enjoyed some more wine and appetizers with “new friends.”  But we didn’t eat too much because we didn’t want to ruin our dinner.

We had reservations at Metaxy Mas, a favorite of our travel agent, Petros.  This was by far the most authentic meal of the trip and we felt like locals.  The restaurant was packed and so many people knew one another.  I’m telling you – eat where the locals eat, you won’t be disappointed!  We were starving by the time we ate dinner (10pm) and the food was incredible.  I am so glad we took Petros’ advice and made time for this taverna.

Day 11:  Tuesday, September 27


Our last full day in Santorini started with the usual breakfast and a long, long walk.  There was definitely still items I wanted to check off of our to-do list but honestly, we felt guilty not enjoying our amazing balcony with a private pool.

So I’m going to be honest – we spent the rest of the day doing nothing.  We ordered lunch from the hotel, made mimosas, I finished a book and we just enjoyed being in Santorini.


And guess what, I don’t at all feel guilty.

For our last dinner in Santorini, we had made reservation at Red Bicycle which is located in Oia.  The restaurant is super romantic and we were say outside where it was chilly from the breeze.  They provided blankets so you could get cozy and we enjoyed “an inspiring twist on traditional Mediterranean cuisine.”

redbicycle Day 12:  Wednesday, September 28

Most of our time in Greece went at a slow speed but I swear, time flew as soon as we got to Santorini.  We needed about two more full days in Santorini to do everything we wanted so I told Big Guy that is where I want to spend my 40th birthday.  (Wishful thinking.)

On our last morning in Santorini, we slept in a little bit and had planned to have a late breakfast since we would be picked up at 12:30pm to go to the airport for our flight back to Athens.

Before breakfast we walked towards Oia (it’s a 2 1/2 hour walk there – and something we’ll do when we return) and just took in our last few hours in Santorini.  It really is a dream.

Our flight to Athens was short and sweet and while I was sad to say “bye” to Santorini I was more than excited to have two more nights in Athens.  Vacation wasn’t over yet.

We arrived to the Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens and I couldn’t help but fall in love with the hotel.  It is beautiful!


After getting settled in our room, we headed to the pool bar for a cocktail and to discuss our plans for our final time in Greece.

We ultimately decided to have dinner at the hotel (after already being in Athens at the beginning of our trip, there was nothing I “had” to do) and that was a good decision.

The restaurant at the hotel is magnificent with spectacular views.


I can honestly say that our dinner at the GB Roof Garden is the best dinner I’ve ever eaten at a hotel.  We shared a salad and calamari and for dinner I went with the homemade pasta special that had veal and the creamiest cheese I’ve ever tasted.  It melted in my mouth.  I never order pasta when we eat out and this was truly a treat.  We ended with dessert from one of the world’s top pastry chefs before heading to the cigar lounge.

Big Guy enjoyed a cigar and I enjoyed some pink bubbles and I honestly just wanted time to stop.

Day 13:  Thursday, September 29

After a large dinner the night before, we decided to walk around Athens before grabbing breakfast at the hotel.  But I can’t lie, this day was all about relaxing before we had to head back to reality.

After breakfast we went on another walk and then we headed straight to the pool where we remained for the rest of the day.  I had to practically drag Big Guy away so that he could get ready for dinner.


The weather couldn’t have been more perfect and the people watching was fun, too.

The surprise dinner of the trip (meaning, we didn’t have reservations until the day before) was my first Michelin-star restaurant experience at Spondi.  As most of you know, I’m obsessed with food and having the opportunity to dine at such a fine dining establishment was quite the treat.  We obviously decided to enjoy the seven-course tasting menu with wine pairings and it was everything I wanted and more.  Our meal lasted well through the night (I don’t think we left the restaurant until after midnight) but since I don’t know when my next Michelin experience will be, I savored every minute, every sip and every bite.

Unfortunately Friday came far too soon and we were on our way back to the airport for our long journey back to North Carolina.

Words cannot express how lucky I am to have gone on this two-week vacation.  It truly was a dream come true and I am so grateful to have a husband that not only works hard so we can explore the world but that also loves traveling and eating his way through new places by my side.





#watsonsgogreek2016 {crete}

In case you missed the first two posts:

The Planning

Day 4:  Tuesday, September 20

After a quick flight from Athens, we arrived in Crete at about 8:30am.  We were quickly met by our driver and taken to Old Town Chania, which is where we would be staying for the next four days.  In Chania we stayed at Serenissima Boutique Hotel was the most picturesque and perfect seven-room hotel.  The hotel staff was unbelievable and since it’s such a small hotel, they soon learned your names and were the most helpful of any of the staff we encountered over our two week vacation.

When we arrived to the hotel, we were starving.  The hotel was very accommodating and before we knew it, I was eating my bowl of yogurt with granola and Big Guy was eating his new favorite breakfast:  scrambled eggs with fresh tomato and feta.  Petros had arranged for a lady from Diktynna Travel to come and meet us at our hotel so we could start planning our few days in Chania.  Natalia arrived at about 10am and while she was full of resources, it was also rather overwhelming.  I think it was a mixture of being tired and hungry but Big Guy was not in the best of moods.


Thankfully we were able to wrap up our meeting with her that included us booking a walking tour around Chania for later in the afternoon.  After breakfast we got settled in our room which was quite small but I’m certain most rooms in Crete are small due to the Venetian architecture and age of the building (built in the 1600s).  We freshened up and then headed out for a little exploring of our own on foot including walking around the Venetian Harbor and seeing the lighthouse.


After lots of exploring, we stopped for lunch at Kouzina E.P.E. for an authentic laid back Greek lunch.  The place was packed when we arrived but we were able to grab a table for two outside.  My favorite bite was the fried feta with honey.  Delicious.

After a long lunch we headed back to our hotel to meet our walking tour guide.  She led us on a two hour walking tour throughout Chania and it definitely made us more comfortable navigating the town alone.  At the end of the tour we stopped by a family owned knife shop and ended up purchasing a pizza cutter they were making at that moment.  It was so cool to watch the entire process and talk to the family.  The daughter who manages a lot of the shop is getting married this year and she’s actually coming to the USA for her honeymoon.  There will be over 700 guests at her wedding!!!!


Once our knife was wrapped up, we headed back to our hotel to get ready for dinner.  The staff at the hotel were very helpful in making our dinner reservations and we had reservations at Tamam which was very close to our hotel in the deep Old Chania.  This was probably my favorite dinner in Crete.  The food was absolutely incredible and I have never had more tender lamb in my life.  The lamb was cooked with a tomato sauce that included olives and it was to die for.  We also started with Cretan dipping cheese and fennel fritters and it remains some of our favorite bites from the trip.


With full bellies we headed back to the hotel for a good nights sleep.

Day 5:  Wednesday, September 21

We worked with the hotel the day before to set up to have a rental car for the day.  The car would arrive at 9:30am so we got up and had breakfast at the hotel before heading out for a day of exploring.

dsc00322Renting a car in Chania was SO different than renting a car in America.  If we totaled the car, it would only cost us 200 euros.  And we were told bumps and scratches were no big deal.  After a day of driving – we understood why.  Thankfully our car had GPS but it was in Greek…so that proved interesting.  I definitely had to pay attention during this trip.  We drove to Kissamos first with many pit stops along the way.


There were olives and grapes growing everywhere!


The hotel had helped us arrange a tour at the Biolea Olive Oil Factory at 1:30pm so we made sure to give ourselves plenty of time to make it there without getting lost.  The daughter, Miss Chloe, gave us a semi-private tour (two other couples were with us) and I learned SO much.  It is amazing how much work goes into making olive oil.  Some tips:  make sure to always, always, always purchase Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  “Pure” olive oil means nothing – it actually just means it’s purified and you’re not getting 100% olive oil.  Also, make sure to purchase olive oil that is in a glass bottle, preferably green or dark in color.


After the tour we watched a quick video and got to taste the olive oil.  We purchased a couple of bottles to bring home and I plan on getting in touch with the distributer here in the U.S. so I can buy some more.  They have a lemon olive oil that is amazing!

All of our exploring built up an appetite and we finally made it to Gramvousa back in Kissamou.  Finding this restaurant proved challenging with the one way streets that aren’t labeled but it was totally worth it.  The menu was huge but we finally narrowed it down and our favorite dishes were the garlic dip, fried meatballs and the homemade grilled bread.


The food in Crete was the best food of the trip and I credit it that to the freshness and simplicity.  The quality of the ingredients was beyond anything I have ever tasted.


After lunch we explored a little more and then started to make our way back to Chania.  We had so much fun with our Fiat and this day of exploring is still one of the highlights of our time in Greece.  I wish I could tell you everything we saw and did.


Dinner on the second night was at The Well of the Turk, a cozy taverna located in the old harbor.  We dined al fresco where I ordered the Turkish Pizza for dinner.  The restaurant has so much history and I didn’t want to dinner to ever end.

Side note: Since we ate dinner much later than normal, we never really found ourselves wanting to go out afterwards.  We typically just headed back to the hotel so that we would be well rested for the day ahead.

Day 6:  Thursday, September 22

This day we kept breakfast super light because we knew we would spend the day eating during our Tastes of Crete cooking class.

Side note:  The cost of the cooking class was included in our package we purchased through Hellenic Holidays.

We were met by Natalia at our hotel at 9:35am and she had another couple with her that would be in the class, too.  We started the tour at the market in the center of town and learned a little about the culture as well as tasted some olives and cheese from one of the venders.


We were then escorted from the market to an 18th century farmhouse that is surrounded by organic gardens.  As soon as we arrived we were introduced to Stella, a grandmother in Crete who would be teaching the class.  We immediately fell in love with Stella and by the end of the class she wanted Big Guy to come home with her.


The class was incredibly fun and after a morning of cooking, we all sat down to enjoy lunch together.  We prepared Kalitsounia pies, stuffed vegetables, stew lamb with wine, tzatziki dip and dakos.  And yes, I received a little cookbook so I plan on hosting a Taste of Crete dinner sometime in the near future.


Unfortunately the lunch had to end and we had to say goodbye to our friends.  Once we arrived back in Chania, Big Guy and I stopped for a glass of wine and a beer along the harbor at Salis.    While we enjoyed our drinks, we chatted about what we wanted to do on our last day in Crete.  The day was wide open and after debating whether to rent another car for the day we ended up deciding to book a private daily cruise on the Sea Star.


After drinks, we walked some more and then headed back to our hotel to freshen up for the evening.  We didn’t want a heavy dinner after eating a heavy lunch so we chatted with the front desk at the hotel and unfortunately her suggestion fell through due to a private event that night.  We ended up heading back to Salis and shared the most amazing meat and cheese board with wine.  It was a slow and simple dinner that I never wanted to end.  The ocean breeze, the liveliness of the town – it was intoxicating.

Day 7:  Friday, September 23

Unfortunately we awoke to hearing there were choppy seas but we were still able to go on our daily cruise.  It was just us plus the captain and mate and I was just happy to be on the water.  We sailed from the Old Town Harbor to Theodorou Island where we able to snorkel (including the wreck of the German aircraft Junker 52 from the WWII), lay out and just enjoy a day of relaxing in the sun.  It was perfection!


We were served a light lunch and enjoyed some wine and beer on the boat.  The best part was teaching the captain the meaning of “booze cruise.”  We returned back to the dock at around 5pm and it was time to shower and get ready for our last dinner in Crete.

We went back and forth on where to make reservations but we ended up at Portes, which means “doors.”  This dinner wasn’t my favorite but I totally have myself to blame – I think I was overwhelmed and just ordered wrong.  Big Guy had the lamb and it was so delicious.

Back to the hotel we went to pack for our early transfer to Santorini (eeeek!!!!!)

Crete, I had no idea that I could fall in love with a town I knew so little about.  You were full of history and your food was simply the best.  I hope I’m able to visit you again in my lifetime because there is so much more of you I’d like to explore.