Aunt Ann’s {Hummus}

We’ve seen approximately 99.9% of our extended family in the last four weeks. That means: Lots of hugs, lots of travel, lots of cousins, lots of food!

Every family has their specialties, but I have to say that one of my favorites is Aunt Ann’s hummus.

Creamy. Flavorful. Fancy. Easy.

A staple at family gatherings in her lovely home, and something I look forward to every trip, this is the best recipe I’ve tried (and I’ve tried – and have been disappointed with – several). Use it for carrots, pita chips, on sandwiches, or eat it with a spoon… yum.

 

I think the secret is the herb-oil blend…but I’ll let you be the judge.

Aunt Ann’s Hummus

Serves a crowd!

Ingredients:

  • ½   cup packed herbs (any combination of parsley, basil, cilantro, and/or dill)
  • ½   cup olive oil
  • 2 – 19 oz cans chick peas ( drain one, leave the juices in other)
  • 4 garlic cloves (or 4 T of diced garlic from jar)
  • 2/3 cup well-stirred tahini (found in Middle Eastern section of market)
  • 5 T lemon juice (fresh or Real Lemon)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 large chipotle peppers OR roasted red peppers (my addition!), sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, spinach… the options are endless!

Directions:

  • Mix herbs and oil in processor thoroughly
  • Add all above ingredients to herb-infused oil in processor until smooth

Enjoy!

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The Trip: {Sicily, Ephesus, Athens & Crete}

After a week of having no power at home, I can say that I am extremely thankful for deodorant, fresh foods, blogging, air conditioning, and not having to fold laundry by candlelight while sitting on a towel because you are sticking to your leather furniture.

True story. Winds 85+ mph aren’t good for power lines, fences and trees, apparently. And, when it’s 90* inside your house, it makes you very hard to live with.

So now, on to the FINAL chapter of this trip thing… I promise!

(Missed part I, II & III? Read ’em!)

After our first 10 days of travel, we needed a break.

As in: If I didn’t get to just sit for several hours at some point (and maybe get a drink with an umbrella in it), I might die. Also, not sweating all day long and walking more than 10 miles in a day would be great, too.

{Read more about the particulars of the cruise below – it was wonderful!}

Enter, The Navigator of the Seas. This beauty was a floating resort, and included multiple pools, restaurants, bars, a theater, a rock climbing wall, putt-putt, sport courts, free frozen yogurt machines and an ice skating rink: H.E.A.V.E.N.

It was also going to carry us – in our well-appointed state room with a balcony view of the Mediterranean – to Sicily, Ephesus, Athens and Crete.

{Mt. Etna’s black lava, landscape, lunch, the terrifically blue sea}

Our first destination was Sicily. We hired a private tour with Sicily Life, and totally enjoyed having our local guide walk us through the sights we had arranged. We saw Mt. Etna, an active volcano; an oil & honey shop; and the pristine village of Taormnia. But – our favorite spot of the day, and arguably the best meal of the trip – was at a little mountain side restaurant. We enjoyed three types of pasta (one with wild mushrooms and a light cream sauce; one with pine nuts, fennel, and raisins; and one with a fresh vegetable primavera) and two fabulous desserts (a sponge cake with icy cream drizzled with chocolate, and small fried pockets of crispy dough filled with mascarpone and chocolate chips. I. die.) with our guide as we spoke in depth about politics, education, marriage & courtship, cooking, the mafia, economics and everything else we could think of! The views were spectacular, and we purchased luscious olive oils, pesto, flavored honey, a painted bowl, and a vintage embroidered handkerchief.

{Fresh pom juice, ancient ruins, rug making, Mary’s House, and a view of our ship}

After a peaceful day at sea spent lounging in the sun by the pool, we arrived in Turkey. Another private guide, booked with Celsus Travel, and a driver awaited us to whisk us off to Mary’s House, Ancient Ephesus and the Terrace Houses, the mountaintop village of Sirince, a rug maker and bazaar. We walked where Paul preached, drank fresh pomegranate juice and Turkish coffee, and picked up a beautiful scarf, Turkish delight (which always makes me think of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe!) and lovely pottery to take home.

{View from the Acropolis, olive tree, Mars rock, Greek yogurt, new watch}

A quick overnight journey brought us to the shores of Greece, and a short taxi ride brought us to the foot of the Acropolis. We were awed. The ruins were positively majestic, and the clear sunny day allowed us to see the rest of the ancient city sprawled out below us. We visited the Agora, Acropolis museum, walked the streets, browsed the shops, and ate spanakopita, Greek Salad, Baklava, and my favorite (and a MUST on my trip to-do list) authentic Greek ewes milk yogurt… cold, creamy and tangy with a spoon of rose and strawberry preserves. I can taste it now… totally delightful. We took home a lovely gold anchor charm (a Christian symbol used in the catacombs we saw in Rome), and cool watch for the Husband.

{Blue, blue, blue…}

Finally, we reach our final destination: The crystal blue waters of the Greek isle of Crete. We simply hopped on the city bus at Chania to the center of the city, and took an amazing walk to the beach. A shorter excursion day, we lounged in the sun for a few hours, and then wandered back to port, stopping for gyros and an olive wood serving set. This spot was gorgeous – each house was dripping with flowers (no matter how small or dilapidated), and the port (which was designed by Venetians!) looked like something from a painting.

We arrived back in Rome after another delightful day at sea, and took the train to the airport to fly back to our cozy home… We were tired and happy, with minds and hearts and souls expanded to capacity with the joy of discovery, and the richness of fresh knowledge and life lessons.

It had all bee totally worth it… and we were better for it.

{Happy to be home at last!}

Special thanks to all that helped us dream, plan and explore: {Our awesome parents, our “Friends up North”, Hannah & Federico and many, many others…} Missed part I, II & III? Read ’em!

A few notes about the cruise – Just in case you’re planning a trip soon!:

Booking – We booked the trip ourselves over the phone after checking the Royal Caribbean website, and monitoring deals and special offers. A travel agent wasn’t necessary at any point during our trip!

Food & Drinks: Even the somewhat critical foodie that I am, I was surprised at the freshness and variety of the meals offered on board. Partially because the passengers were made up of people from a wide variety of nations, you could find brioche, baked beans, pancakes, curry or muesli for breakfast, and always had a variety of pretty well-prepared dinners in the dining room at night. We purchased a wine package, which was also a great value for us. Bottles were expensive on board, and you (technically) weren’t allowed to bring any on with you. We enjoyed a few drinks around the pool, but mostly stuck to enjoying a bottle at dinner. We also got a water package, but two bottles were provided in the room, and it wasn’t really necessary. Personally, I would steer clear of soft drink packages – pricy and too easy to fill up! Regular coffee was free, specialty drinks from Starbucks had a regular charge.

Room: We were advised to pick a room away from elevators, and close to the upper decks – great advice for a quiet, smooth trip with easy access to amenities. Also, the balcony was a must, as we ate quick room-service breakfasts there at each port before we disembarked (and opening our anniversary champagne would have been difficult without it ;).

Excursions: Don’t. Use. The. Ship’s. Tours. We zoomed passed groups of 50+ that followed rather lame guides through the sights of each stop. They might be a little cheaper than booking private tours like we did in Sicily and Ephesus, but you really miss out! And, if you have a group, or just need a taxi or city bus, you can SAVE by going it alone, like we did in Crete and Athens! Don’t be fooled – it’s easy to find great companies and deals at your port cities. Check Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor to see what other passengers recommend!