A Hungry Girl’s Guide to Hydra, Greece

The Perfect Greek Island Vacation: Hydra, Greece | My Guide to the Best Hotels and Restaurants

I feel comfortable admitting now that I spent the majority of my time in Spetses wishing there was someone else with me on the trip. Someone, say, who’s used to me opening bags of potato chips at restaurants to use in place of bread for dipping in tzatsiki, and someone who would agree that the Greek table wine tastes better when chased with a mouth full of olives.

I’ve traveled to about a half dozen countries by myself (including here and here), and learned that some are better than others to do solo. Greece is a particularly sad place to eat alone, as all the meze come separately and are meant for sharing. But I’ve also learned over the years that you have to be in the right mindset for solo travel. It can be great when you’re single and feeling confident and self-indulgent and you want to try and compare every shrimp skewer in a 10-block radius, or go night swimming with a pair of male Dutch field hockey players, just to cross it off your bucket list. But if you’re in a lonely depressive mood, solo traveling can make your mind a more inhospitable place to be than a 5 Euro youth hostel in Latvia.

The Perfect Greek Island Vacation: Hydra, Greece | My Guide to the Best Hotels and Restaurants The Perfect Greek Island Vacation: Hydra, Greece | My Guide to the Best Hotels and Restaurants The Perfect Greek Island Vacation: Hydra, Greece | My Guide to the Best Hotels and Restaurants The Perfect Greek Island Vacation: Hydra, Greece | My Guide to the Best Hotels and Restaurants

My time in Spetses was not this type of dire circumstance. But still, in a place as romantic as Greece, you’ll find yourself missing your partner in crime more than usual. So after my Alive Tribe retreat was all said and done, I was particularly excited to meet up with my favorite dinner date in Hydra and to commit some crimes on a plate or two of whole grilled fish.

It was my first real trip with Charlie and I think we chose the perfect island, in the perfect part of the world to have a safe, conflict-free adventure. Part of the beauty of Hydra, both physically and emotionally, is that there are no wheeled vehicles on the island. This means that the majority of your adventures must be had by foot, and that most of said adventures are in close proximity to the main harbor.

The Perfect Greek Island Vacation: Hydra, Greece | My Guide to the Best Hotels and Restaurants The Perfect Greek Island Vacation: Hydra, Greece | My Guide to the Best Hotels and Restaurants dakis guilty + donkey We spent our days walking the shoreline from beach to beach and exploring the small one-horse fishing towns along the way. At night we scoped out the town for the best traditional tavernas and the tastiest tourist traps right on the water. The process of scoping can easily go horribly awry. So I was relieved that we didn’t fall victim to one of those catastrophically typical and stupid travelers fights that couples get into when they’re hungry and can’t find a good restaurant on the cartoon hotel map.

Our restaurant wandering did at one point take a turn for the creepy when we spotted the infamous Jeff Koons yacht, “Guilty,” and decided to casually stalk its owner, Dakis Joannou, to see where he was eating dinner. Unfortunately, we didn’t end up making it to his pick at a later, less blatant hour. But I’ve included the recommendation below, along with all our other picks for where to eat, sleep, and beach, should you not have access to a neon purple and yellow floating mansion and have to travel by donkey like the rest of us.

The Perfect Greek Island Vacation: Hydra, Greece | My Guide to the Best Hotels and Restaurants The Perfect Greek Island Vacation: Hydra, Greece | My Guide to the Best Hotels and Restaurants

Getting There and Around

Hydra is one stop closer to Athens on the same ferry line as Spetses. By hydrofoil (hellenicseaways.gr), it’s only 1 1/2 hours from Pireaus, though I found that every ferry in Greece took 30 minutes more than the ticket estimated, so plan accordingly. “Greek Time” is definitely a thing.

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Feeding Friends: Green Goddess Avocado Dip

Green Goddess Avocado Dip Recipe with Crudites | Healthy, Dairy-Free

After our epic July 4th in Rhode Island, in addition to a rosacea flair up on my forehead from too much rosé, I came home with lots of leftovers. There was the readily edible sort like Charlie’s pull and eat shrimp and my flank steak. But then there was the annoying sort, like random half bunches of herbs, a quarter head of cabbage, and enough limes for 500 coronas.

A side effect of a full weekend of host duty and the subsequent following week of full body exhaustion is that the last thing you want to do is cook. But by Wednesday, as the contents of my crisper drawer began shrinking, despite my not having removed anything from there since I got back, my hate of wastefulness trumped my love of sometimes being lazy.

Green Goddess Avocado Dip Recipe with Crudites | Healthy, Dairy-Free Green Goddess Avocado Dip Recipe with Crudites | Healthy, Dairy-Free Green Goddess Avocado Dip Recipe with Crudites | Healthy, Dairy-Free
So I put on my creative cook’s thinking cap (which in my imagination looks more like the  Hogwarts sorting hat than an actual chef’s toque), and began coming up with ways I could salvage some of the ingredients without actually putting in much effort. One of concoctions that resulted was this easy avocado dip recipe.

My favorite salad dressing in my cookbook was a green goddess vinaigrette made with half an avocado. Since I had a few of those lying around too and they were a little too browned and bruised from the car ride to be an optimal toast topping, I decided to turn my favorite dressing into a dip and load it up with even more avocado than usual and all those random bunches of herbs that were lying around. Continue reading

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On the Job: Grilled Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas

Easy Grilled Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas with Yogurt Sauce | Gluten-Free, Healthy Recipe

I’ve had a long tortured history with these buffalo chicken quesadillas. It’s not their fault. But like the tastiest of food lovers, they’ve caused me to experience some high highs and low lows.

My affair with healthy buffalo chicken themed sandwiches began around this time last year during a downpour of recipe development for Food & Wine. I used the hot sauce spiked chicken salad as part of a wrap, with carrots, celery, red onion and romaine as the additional filling. Instead of sour cream and buttermilk, I used Greek yogurt for the blue cheese dressing. It was a beautiful thing in conception. But the only catch was I couldn’t eat it.

Grilled Chicken Easy Grilled Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas | Gluten-Free, Healthy Recipe Easy Grilled Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas | Gluten-Free, Healthy Recipe Easy Grilled Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas with Yogurt Sauce | Gluten-Free, Healthy Recipe Easy Grilled Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas with Yogurt Sauce | Gluten-Free, Healthy Recipe

Sadly, I still haven’t found a gluten-free wrap that I love. (If anyone has suggestions, please let me know in the comments!!). And for the sake of the picture, I didn’t want to use something that looked as dry and stiff as cardboard. So I wrapped up the premade sandwiches and took them with me to my friend Kate’s share house in the Hamptons, and they were subsequently consumed somewhere along 495 in bumper to bumper traffic by some very grateful boys.

I didn’t mind missing out too much, since at the time I had so many dishes in the works that my fridge was an overflowing refuge camp for leftovers. But I did want to eventually try the combination. After all, buffalo chicken wings are another dish I can’t eat now that I’m gluten-free, and that’s been hard enough.

Easy Grilled Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas with Yogurt Sauce | Gluten-Free, Healthy Recipe Easy Grilled Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas with Yogurt Sauce | Gluten-Free, Healthy Recipe Easy Grilled Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas with Yogurt Sauce | Gluten-Free, Healthy Recipe

So now that a year’s passed and I’m through dilly dallying with other chicks (in sandwich form), I decided to revisit my healthy buffalo chicken in the more hospitable vehicle of a corn tortilla. It’s a pretty hot ride, but sometimes if they’re too dry, corn tortillas can break when folded in half as a quesadilla. I picked up the most pliable ones I could find at Whole Foods by the brand Maria and Ricardo’s. I couldn’t believe how well they worked—almost too good to be true.

Spoiler alert: they were.

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The Balanced Diet: Healthy Broccoli Slaw With Yogurt Mint Dressing and Radishes

Healthy Broccoli Slaw Recipe With Yogurt Mint Dressing, Radishes and Raisins

This weekend my friend Sarah outlined a few important culinary tasks that she always defers to me as the queen of. The first is salad dressing. The second is scrambled eggs, particularly if part of an elaborate breakfast burrito buffet. I definitely agreed with these two. But if I got a vote on my own cooking clout, I would have to give the third place prize in my repertoire to slaw.

Unlike the first two contenders, slaw sadly doesn’t involve a whole lot of technique. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be creativity.

Healthy Broccoli Slaw Recipe With Yogurt Mint Dressing, Radishes and Raisins Healthy Broccoli Slaw Recipe With Yogurt Mint Dressing, Radishes and Raisins Healthy Broccoli Slaw Recipe With Yogurt Mint Dressing, Radishes and Raisins

The inspiration for this broccoli slaw recipe has been kicking around my head for years, ever since I went to Parm, the small sandwich outpost of the Torrisi restaurant empire. I was worried about the excursion, thinking I would have to sit on my hands in order to refrain from eating a meatball sub. But it turned out that the sides were equally delicious.

One of the veggie bowls I tried was a Mediterranean-inspired cauliflower slaw with Greek yogurt cutting the mayo, fresh mint, jalapenos, and a nice hit of lemon juice. I don’t usually like raw cauliflower, but this dish made me a believer. I recreated it a few summers ago on Martha’s Vineyard with savoy cabbage instead of the cauliflower. But this year when I was brainstorming slaw combinations, I thought I’d give it a whirl with broccoli and some colorful sliced radishes.

Healthy Broccoli Slaw Recipe With Yogurt Mint Dressing, Radishes and Raisins Healthy Broccoli Slaw Recipe With Yogurt Mint Dressing, Radishes and Raisins

I’ve been on a serious Greek yogurt kick since returning from my adventures island hopping in the Aegean, so this was a nice twist on one of my favorite American dishes. I love the nutty crunch of the toasted almonds on top and a few rogue golden raisins thrown in there for sweetness. I can’t kick the mayo completely, so there’s a little bit of that in there as well. If your health philosophy is staunchly anti-mayo, try subbing Earth Balance Mindful Mayo. It’s got a great flavor and texture without the quintessential vegan substitute, soy. Continue reading

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A Hungry Girl’s Guide to Spetses Island, Greece

My Vacation Guide to Spetses, Greece: The Perfect Affordable Weekend in the Greek Isles

Greece has been on the top of my travel bucket list for years. Even the recent economic challenges only amplified my desire to go (what can I say, this Jewish girl loves a deal). So when my next Alive Tribe retreat was slated for Greece, I knew I had to take a few days on either end to explore the islands.

I had high hopes for hopping around the Greek Isles, but as my early research proved, unless you personally have very few economic problems and own a yacht, this is easier said than done. The ferry system is a rather decentralized beast and difficult to navigate. If you’re planning a shorter sojourn, you’re better off sticking to one of the many clusters of islands or just choosing one for a quick weekend escape. Being prone to FOMO, reading through the guide book did nothing to help me narrow down my options and only made me more depressed at the unlikelihood of my food career ever affording me a yacht.

My Vacation Guide to Spetses, Greece: The Perfect Affordable Weekend in the Greek Isles My Vacation Guide to Spetses, Greece: The Perfect Affordable Weekend in the Greek Isles My Vacation Guide to Spetses, Greece: The Perfect Affordable Weekend in the Greek Isles After asking several of my fancy European friends and reading up on a few of the undiscovered spots in the Greek Isles, I decided to go to Spetses, one of the small islands in the Argosaronic Gulf. This cluster is in the Southern part of Greece and one of the main draws is that it’s close to Athens—just an hour or two on the high-speed hydrofoil ferries. Spetses is one of the historically wealthy islands, with old captain mansions lining the harbor and new floating mansions moored in the bay with easy access to the many good restaurants in town.

Especially when I’m traveling solo, as I was on this leg of my Greece vacation, I love places where I can walk. The best part of Spetses is that there are very few cars and most people get around by bike, scooter, or horse drawn carriage. I am infinitely happier when the sounds outside my window include the clop clop of pony hooves, so this small fact sealed the deal.

Harbor Sunset My Vacation Guide to Spetses, Greece: The Perfect Affordable Weekend in the Greek Isles White Walls | My Vacation Guide to Spetses, Greece: The Perfect Affordable Weekend in the Greek Isles Harbor Sunset My Vacation Guide to Spetses, Greece: The Perfect Affordable Weekend in the Greek Isles Harbor Sunset My Vacation Guide to Spetses, Greece: The Perfect Affordable Weekend in the Greek Isles

The island is definitely a bit on the sleepy side, compared to some of the more popular tourist destinations like Paros, Santorini, or Mykanos. But it was the perfect size for a weekend escape and just the right speed for me. The beaches are also not the most sought after because they are rocky and lack the white sand that grace so many covers of Travel and Leisure. The water though never disappoints. And even if I found myself for the first time in my life wishing I owned a pair of water moccasins, it wasn’t enough to stop me from spending multiple hours a day porpoising around the shore. Continue reading

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Gluten-Free is Me: Red, White & Blue Coconut Panna Cotta with Berry Compote

Red, White & Blue Coconut Panna Cotta with Summer Blueberry Strawberry Compote | Gluten and Dairy Free Desserts | Healthy

Since becoming gluten-free, dessert out at restaurants has been a much less joyous affair—unless, of course, there’s a salted caramel ice cream sundae on the menu, and then I’m IN. But most of the time there are only one or two options. And since most restaurants follow a certain formula with their dessert menus, those options are usually ice cream, crème brulee, or panna cotta.

For years I was resistant to panna cotta as my default dessert choice. It wasn’t something I would have ever ordered before I was gluten-free, so why waste my sugar consumption on something that didn’t make me want to do Meg Ryan impressions at the table?

Red, White & Blue Coconut Panna Cotta with Summer Blueberry Strawberry Compote | Gluten and Dairy Free Desserts | Healthy Red, White & Blue Coconut Panna Cotta with Summer Blueberry Strawberry Compote | Gluten and Dairy Free Desserts | Healthy

The root of my bias was that panna cotta resides in the flan family. And there’s just no more mediocre dessert than flan. But I’ve discovered through many a family-style forced consumption that panna cotta is a much more delicate beast. It’s creamier, lighter, and less egregiously wiggly jiggly on the plate, even though it’s made with the help of gelatin. It’s also silly easy to make.

Because of my resistance to being put in a (gluten-free cake) box, this was the first time I actively accepted panna cotta as a willful part of my life and attempted to make it. I went with a dairy-free version using velvety full-fat coconut milk. I was a little afraid of heating the milk to the point where it boiled over the pot and created the world’s most annoying mess on my stovetop, which, as you can guess, is something that I’ve cleaned on more than one occasion (usually at the hand of this dish). As a result, my coconut panna cotta recipe didn’t set to the point where I would have turned them out onto a plate. But I didn’t mind this. They tasted no less creamy and delicious when eaten as a pudding.

Red, White & Blue Coconut Panna Cotta with Summer Blueberry Strawberry Compote | Gluten and Dairy Free Desserts | Healthy Red, White & Blue Coconut Panna Cotta with Summer Blueberry Strawberry Compote | Gluten and Dairy Free Desserts | Healthy IMG_1845 Red, White & Blue Coconut Panna Cotta with Summer Blueberry Strawberry Compote | Gluten and Dairy Free Desserts | Healthy
A few pointers for new coconut panna cotta makers: whisk the coconut milk thoroughly before adding the gelatin since it tends to separate in the can. Some people deal with this later on by running their mixture through a sieve before pouring it into ramekins, but as I mentioned here, I am way too lazy to this step. I used a bit less maple syrup than I found in other recipes and found that it had the perfect sweetness for me. If you have a highly honed sweet tooth, you might want to add more. Continue reading

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