Step 1 on How to Make Greek Yogurt: Add the 2 quarts of half and half into a non-stick pot and turn to medium heat. Photo by Megy Karydes.

Step 1 on How to Make Greek Yogurt: Add the 2 quarts of half and half into a non-stick pot and turn to medium heat. Photo by Megy Karydes.

Making Greek yogurt is surprisingly very simple. And, dare I say, cheaper and healthier to make at home than to buy at the store. I asked my mother to show me how to make it since she makes it regularly and it tastes delicious. Here are her step by step directions on making Greek yogurt using two ingredients and in five steps.

First, gather the items you’ll need to make your Greek yogurt:

  • A glass bowl
  • A pot
  • Wooden spoon
  • 2 quarts half and half (any brand is fine)
  • 3 ounces Greek yogurt (any brand is fine)
  • Blankets
  • Glass containers with a lid
  • Whisk

Now…let’s do it.

How to Make Greek Yogurt with 2 Ingredients and 5 Easy Steps

  1. Add the 2 quarts of half and half into a non-stick pot and turn to medium heat.
  2. Watch the liquid until it’s about to boil. This might take about 3-7 minutes depending on your heat but you must watch it because you don’t want it to boil over.
  3. Once it’s about to boil, turn off the heat and let the liquid sit in the non-stick pot for 25 minutes to cool off (it doesn’t need to be cold – it just needs to cool down otherwise it will burn the plain yogurt that will be added in the next step.
  4. At the 25 minute mark, add your 5.3 ounce Greek yogurt cup into a glass bowl and slowly add the half and half from the pot into the glass bowl by the spoonful. Whisk and keep adding more into the glass bowl until a good chunk is in the glass bowl. Then take the contents of the glass bowl and add it back into the pot and mix it all in there.
  5. Pour your liquid into glass containers and cover them with the container’s lid. Then cover your containers in blankets. You want to keep the containers warm and place them in a non-drafty area (like where the furnace is in your home). The yogurt needs to sit for 12 hours. If you like your yogurt more tart, let it sit for longer than 12 hours. 

After 12 hours, take them out of their warm and cozy blankets and place the containers in the refrigerator for another 12 hours. 

Check out the video on How to Make Greek Yogurt for step by step visual directions.

Megy Karydes is professional freelance writer and founder of Wandering Tastes, a lifestyle and travel site that is meant to inspire adventure and exploration through traveling and food. She’s also a regular contributor to USA Today Travel10best.com, TravelingMom.com as Foodie TravelingMom and writes for several other print magazines and online media outlets. Find her at KarydesConsulting.com or on Twitter @megy.

Our first Starved Rock hiking adventure - mid-April 2014.

Our first Starved Rock hiking adventure – mid-April 2014.

Living in a big city like Chicago doesn’t always lend itself to exploring the outdoors but that’s only the case if you don’t know where to look. Sure, it’s more concrete jungle than lush forests and weeping willows but nature exists all around us. Even better, Discover The Forest, recently launched so it’s easier to find new outdoor spots to explore.

Discover The Forests provides a map of outdoor spaces making it easier to plan your outdoor adventures!

Discover The Forests provides a map of outdoor spaces making it easier to plan your outdoor adventures!

One of my favorite features available online is Where To Go. Simply enter your zip code and the map will pin outdoor areas based on your interests. For example, my kids and I love to hike so I entered hiking, state or national parks as part of my query and added zip code and, viola, instantly I received a list of places to hike. Granted, none of them is in Chicago (which is to be expected because Chicago proper doesn’t really have hiking trails) but what I did learn is that there are several spots I hadn’t thought of visiting for some time or haven’t visited at all since my kids were born.  Now I have a new list of places to explore!

Prefer biking, fishing or camping? Those options exist, too, and you can find them using the Where To Go feature. There’s even an app for it: NatureFind!

Spending time outdoors has become an obsession with me personally because my husband and I have decided to raise our kids in Chicago. While the city affords us wonderful culturally-rich experiences from museums to art performances, we crave breathing fresh air, being surrounded by huge trees and soaking in our natural surroundings. It’s not unusual for us to spend our weekends in a nearby forest preserve or park. I think it’s how we stay sane during the cold winter months, frankly.

Wondering what there is to do or need some ideas of things to do while exploring the outdoors? Discover The Forest has a handy What To Do section on its website that provides activity ideas to do outdoors for the whole family that can be printed in advance or accessed on your phone.

One of the things we’re going to learn this summer is how to use a compass as well as how to be good stewards of the earth (leave no trace behind). We’ve already camped once and our goal is to get more camping trips under our belt before summer ends but more importantly, for us, is to make the time to explore every weekend even if it’s just a day trip. I can see the excitement in my kids’ eyes when I tell them we’re going to go hiking or biking.

Even if you don’t live in a big city, you can enjoy the outdoors and now with Discover The Forest, it’s easier than ever to find places to explore!

 

Megy Karydes is founder of Wandering Tastes, a lifestyle and travel site that is meant to inspire adventure and exploration through traveling and food. She’s also a regular contributor to USA Today Travel10best.com, TravelingMom.com as Foodie TravelingMom and writes for several other print magazines and online media outlets.

 

 

 

 

Bafo de Tigre is available at Sable Kitchen & Bar in Chicago; Photo provided by Sable Kitchen & Bar.

Bafo de Tigre is available at Sable Kitchen & Bar in Chicago; Photo provided by Sable Kitchen & Bar.

As World Cup fever heats up, why not treat your friends and fellow fans to some cocktails inspired by cachaca? Cachaca may be the unofficial spirit of Brazil, we love mixing it with tropical fruits and citrus for refreshing drinks during the summertime.

Need some recipes? Here are three easy to mix cocktails created using different types of cachaca.

Bafo de Tigre – Sable Kitchen & Bar in Chicago

-          2 oz Novo Fogo Cachaca

-          0.75 oz Kalani Coconut Liqueur

-          0.75 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice

-          0.5 oz Fresh Lime Juice

-          2 dashes Bitter End Curry Bitters

- Shake lightly, strain over crushed ice. Garnish with Team USA flag draped around the glass.

 

Bicycle Kick is available at Red Star Tavern in Portland, Oregon; Photo provided by Red Star Tavern.

Bicycle Kick is available at Red Star Tavern in Portland, Oregon; Photo provided by Red Star Tavern.

Bicycle Kick @ Red Star Tavern in Portland, OR

         2 oz Leblon Cachaca

         ¾ oz lime

         ½ ginger syrup

         ½ orgeat

         Dash orange blossom water

- Shake; Tall Glass; Top w/ ginger ale

Femme Fatales is available at Dirty Habit in San Francisco; Photo provided by Dirty Habit.

Femme Fatales is available at Dirty Habit in San Francisco; Photo provided by Dirty Habit.

Femme Fatale @ Dirty Habit in San Francisco, CA

         1.5 oz Avua Cachaca

         0.5 oz Ancho Reyes

         0.75 oz fresh lime juice

         0.5 oz coconut syrup

- Shake; Strain into a Collins glass

Do you have a favorite cocktail that uses cachaca? We’d love to hear about it!

Megy Karydes is founder of Wandering Tastes, a lifestyle and travel site that is meant to inspire adventure and exploration through traveling and food. She’s also a regular contributor to 10best.com, part of the USA Today Travel family, TravelingMom.com as Foodie TravelingMom and writes for several other print magazines and online media outlets.

Walt Disney World's new thrill ride, Mine Train, opens on May 28, 2014 in Magic Kingdom. Photo by Megy Karydes.

Walt Disney World’s new thrill ride, Mine Train, opens on May 28, 2014 in Magic Kingdom. Photo by Megy Karydes.

Walt Disney World fans will be excited to ride its newest ride, opening in Orlando, Florida, on May 28, 2014: Mine Train.

I was invited to test ride Mine Train and I was excited to see how much detail went into the ride. Mine Train will thrill both roller coaster enthusiasts as well as those who don’t normally love roller coasters. It has enough dips and turns at high speeds for more seasoned riders to feel like it’s a bona fide roller coaster while the younger set (or more fearful) won’t be too scared out of their minds. If I had to compare the ride, I’d say it’s close to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad located in Magic Kingdom.

In addition to having the opportunity to test drive Mine Train, several of us had the chance to test drive a Chevy Camaro and use the OnStar capabilities. Want to see how OnStar works? Check out the short video I produced during our test drive.

Mine Train is located in Disney’s New Fantasyland also in Magic Kingdom. Practice your whistling so you can join the characters as the thrill ride takes you through a beautiful visual storytelling of the popular Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs story.

Megy Karydes is founder of Wandering Tastes, a lifestyle and travel site that is meant to inspire adventure and exploration through traveling and food. She’s also a regular contributor to 10best.com, part of the USA Today Travel family, TravelingMom.com as Foodie TravelingMom and writes for several other print magazines and online media outlets.

 

Mocktails. Photo courtesy of Hydrive Energy Water.

Mocktails. Photo courtesy of Hydrive Energy Water.

Mocktails (non-alcoholic cocktails) are growing in sophistication and popularity. Even the Wall Street Journal has noticed.

Fueled by those who are more self-conscious, it’s a true testament to a bartender’s skills when he or she is asked to created a “soft” drink.

According to the Wall Street Journal article: “I feel nonalcoholic cocktails are in the same position where vegetables were years back,” said Alex Kratena, head bartender at London’s Artesian Bar. “It used to be that a dish was constructed around a piece of meat, and then chefs became interested in stretching their creativity by experimenting more heavily with vegetables. These days, you see vegetarian tasting menus at Michelin three-star restaurants.”

I recently interviewed several mixologists who are creating healthier versions of classic cocktails and this concept keeps coming up: how can we keep the flavor profiles of these cocktails, keep them boozy, but make them healthier?

Tyler Lymer, a specialty mixologist, award-winning cocktail guru and bartender at Chicago’s tesori, has been switching out ingredients of hangover-inducing, high-calorie cocktails such as a Red Bull and vodka specialty ingredients such HYDRIVE Energy Water to create some of his mocktails. According to the folks at HYDRIVE, the low-calorie energy water combines the light, refreshing taste of enhanced water and the same amount of caffeine as a leading energy drink making it an ideal substitute for high-calorie traditional cocktails.

Want to try your hand at creating mocktails? Tyler Lymer shares two of his recipes with us

Blueberry Chamomile Boost Mocktail. Photo courtesy of Hydrive Energy Water.

Blueberry Chamomile Boost Mocktail. Photo courtesy of Hydrive Energy Water.

Blueberry Chamomile Boost

  • 2 oz. Citrus Burst HYDRIVE Energy Water
  • 2 oz. Chamomile Tea (brewed Double Strength)
  • 1 oz. Blueberry Simple Syrup
  • 1 oz. Lemon Juice

Shake well with ice and Double Strain into a coupe, Garnish with 3 blueberries on a cocktail pick.

Black Cherry High Mocktail. Photo courtesy of Hydrive Energy Water.

Black Cherry High Mocktail. Photo courtesy of Hydrive Energy Water.

Black Cherry High

  • 3 oz. Black Cherry HYDRIVE Energy Water
  • .75 oz. Star Anise Simple Syrup
  • .75 oz. Lemon Juice
  • 2 dash Fee Brothers Black Walnut Bitters (non-alcoholic)
  • 2 oz. Sparkling Pomegranate Soda (Izze)

Build first 4 ingredients in a shaker, add ice. Shake well, Strain into a Collins Glass with ice. Top with Izze Pomegranate Soda.  Garnish with a full (unbroken) Star Anise and a large straw.

Megy Karydes is founder of Wandering Tastes, a lifestyle and travel site that is meant to inspire adventure and exploration through traveling and food. She’s also a regular contributor to 10best.com, part of the USA Today Travel family, TravelingMom.com as Foodie TravelingMom and writes for several other print magazines and online media outlets.

Hurtigruten Whisky. Photo courtesy of Hurtigruten.

Hurtigruten Whisky. Photo courtesy of Hurtigruten.

Two barrels of decades-old single malt whisky are now counted among the precious cargo of Hurtigruten’s expedition ship, the MS Fram. In an effort to further enhance the quality of the fine single Highlands malt scotch, the American oak barrels will ride along as guests of the ship for nearly a year before being bottled with their own unique label, the “MS Fram Expedition Whisky”. Although the name of the distiller remains a secret, it can be disclosed that it has a near multi-century history of producing some of the world’s finest whiskies. The voyage began in Hamburg in October with bottling expected to take place in July 2014.

Hurtigruten Whisky on the Dock. Photo courtesy of Hurtigruten.

Hurtigruten Whisky on the Dock. Photo courtesy of Hurtigruten.

On their voyage aboard the expedition ship, the two 150-liter barrels will journey across four seafaring lines: the northern and southern polar circle, the zero Meridian and the equator.

MS Fram Captain Arild Harvik notes that Hurtigruten’s hope is that the continuous rolling wave movements, temperature changes and sea air will further improve the excellent quality of the single malt. After a voyage of more than 78,000 miles, the cask-strength whisky will be bottled directly from the barrel in a limited edition of no more than 200 bottles per barrel. Hurtigruten expects to begin selling the bottles, which will come with a whisky diary and certificate, in the expedition ship’s shop beginning this fall. Guests will also be able to sample the “MS Fram Expedition Whisky” at the onboard bar.

Whisky Being Loaded on the MS  Fram. Photo courtesy of Hurtigruten.

Whisky Being Loaded on the MS Fram. Photo courtesy of Hurtigruten.

Built in 2007, the MS Fram will offer two springtime voyages that focus on the topic of whisky and its origins. Both journeys begin in Bergen, Norway and are accompanied by a Scottish lecturer and whisky expert, who is keen to share his broad knowledge and expertise about his home country and its national drink.

Megy Karydes is founder of Wandering Tastes, a lifestyle and travel site that is meant to inspire adventure and exploration through traveling and food. She’s also a regular contributor to 10best.com, part of the USA Today Travel family, TravelingMom.com as Foodie TravelingMom and writes for several other print magazines and online media outlets.

Drunken Devil’s Food Espresso Cupcakes by Sara Rosso. Photo Courtesy of Ms. Adventures in Italy and Sara Rosso.

Drunken Devil’s Food Espresso Cupcakes by Sara Rosso. Photo Courtesy of Ms. Adventures in Italy and Sara Rosso.

Did Sara Rosso and Michelle Fabio realize when they began World Nutella Day in 2007 that it would still be celebrated around the world eight years later (this year it’s being celebrated on February 5)? The American writers living in Italy began the holiday to encourage Nutella enthusiasts worldwide to enjoy and get creative with one of Italy’s national, edible treasures: Nutella.

The chocolate-hazelnut spread is popular on its own but according to Rosso, prior to World Nutella Day, few considered using Nutella as an ingredient in recipes. “Through our extensive recipe list on NutellaDay.com, we’ve inspired people to experiment with Nutella and it’s become a tradition for many families to cook with it as well as just dip their spoons in the jar.” (Phew, I thought I was the only one who just ate the spread straight up from the jar!)

More than 700 recipes using Nutella are on the site, including Nutella Ganache Brownies and Peanut Butter Cream by Cake Duchess, Chocolate Graham Cracker Nutella S’mores by Baking and Boys and this Drunken Devil’s Food Espresso Cupcakes by Rosso, available on her site, Ms. Adventures in Italy.

The Unofficial Guide to Nutella by Sara Rosso and Michelle Fabio. Photo Courtesy of Rosso and Fabio.

The Unofficial Guide to Nutella by Sara Rosso and Michelle Fabio. Photo Courtesy of Rosso and Fabio.

In case you want more goodness at your fingertips, the duo released an e-book available via Amazon a couple of years ago: The Unofficial Guide to Nutella. There are plenty of great recipes available online on sites like Pinterest but the e-book also gives a nice little history about the spread if you want to dig a little deeper on what makes this hazelnut goodness loved by so many around the world.

Now I just need to find someone to make that Drunken Devil’s Food Espresso Cupcake for me!

Megy Karydes is founder of Wandering Tastes, a lifestyle and travel site that is meant to inspire adventure and exploration through traveling and food. She’s also a regular contributor to 10best.com, part of the USA Today Travel family, TravelingMom.com as Foodie TravelingMom and writes for several other print magazines and online media outlets.

Iceberg Vodka’s Chocolate Seduction. Photo courtesy of Iceberg Vodka.

Iceberg Vodka’s Chocolate Seduction. Photo courtesy of Iceberg Vodka.

Ahh, Valentine’s Day. The day we’re supposed to show our loved ones how much we love them by publicly acknowledging our emotions and showering them with gifts. It’s a holiday I could do without because, frankly, it’s predictable and predictability and romance aren’t exactly warm bedfellows.

But if you know me well enough by now, you know I love a good cocktail and I am a coffee addict and I am sucker for high quality chocolate. So if you want to swoon me, making this Iceberg Vodka’s Chocolate Seduction might do the trick. It has all of the ingredients that I love. Coupled with the right person and, well, you know…happy Valentine’s Day!

This recipe is meant for two.

Iceberg Vodka’s Chocolate Seduction

Ingredients:

2 oz. Iceberg Vodka

1 oz. coffee liqueur

1 oz. nut liqueur

1 oz. chocolate liqueur

Fine grated bittersweet chocolate

Directions:

Combine Iceberg Vodka and liqueurs in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into two cocktail glasses. Top with chocolate.

Megy Karydes is founder of Wandering Tastes, a lifestyle and travel site that is meant to inspire adventure and exploration through traveling and food. She’s also a regular contributor to 10best.com,  part of the USA Today Travel family, TravelingMom.com as Foodie TravelingMom and writes for several other print magazines and online media outlets.

Pangolin Launches Cape Town Photo Tours. Photo Courtesy of Pangolin

Cape Town Photo Tours offers guests access to more than just tourist spots. Photo Courtesy of Cape Town Photo Tours.

Taking photos while on vacation is among the highlights for many travelers. It allows us to see our experiences through the eye of a lens but it also creates memories we can re-live long after the trip ends. Apart from the obvious tourist spots we want to see and photohgraph while traveling (yes, we all have a photo of the Eiffel Tower if we’ve been to Paris or the Sydney Opera House if we’ve been to Sydney), often it’s the images of local life, the food or the buildings that capture the real flavor of a trip.

Photography is important to us for many reasons and we love it when tour operators understand that aspect of the travel experience and help show us the more of less “undiscovered” parts of their cities. Pangolin Photo Safaris of Botswana has recently launched tours specifically to help its guests shoot some of the best part of Cape Town as part of its safari itinerary called Cape Town Photo Tours.

According to the marketing director and co-owner Toby Jermyn, who is based in Cape Town, the company couldn’t find a local operator who could offer exclusive tours to the most iconic photo locations, at the right time of day in a small and like-minded guided group. So, it decided to offer it themselves as an add-on to their itineraries.

“Photographers have very specific needs” admits Jermyn. “The response so far has been amazing from tourists and locals alike. Everyone brings a camera on holiday but so often they don’t know how to use it. These tours are not designed to be a photo course in a day but at least to show clients a few hints and tips to make their images that much more engaging and interesting to see whether taken from a state of the art camera or simply their smartphone.”

The groups intentionally are kept small (12 max) and there is always a photo guide and a driver onboard. The guide is there to teach fundamental photographic techniques along the way for guests wanting to learn the basics. For more advanced photographers, not being rushed from place to place is a bonus and the Cape Town Photo Tours spend longer in most places than other tours to accommodate them.
Through a sponsorship with Samsung, guests are able to use a Samsung NX300 Mirrorless digital camera during the tours free of charge through Cape Town Photo Tours.

Offering photo tours isn’t unique but we love to highlight them nonetheless because it reminds us of the beauty each city offers.

Which photos are among your favorites when you return from vacation?

Megy Karydes is founder of Wandering Tastes, a lifestyle and travel site that is meant to inspire adventure and exploration through traveling and food. She’s also a regular contributor to 10best.com,  part of the USA Today Travel family, TravelingMom.com as Foodie TravelingMom and writes for several other print magazines and online media outlets.

Touring the city by bicycle in Italy. Photo courtesy of VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations.

Touring the city by bicycle in Italy. Photo courtesy of VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations.

How do you enjoy seeing the sights and hearing the sounds of a new city? Walking, bus tours or biking? I’m a big fan of bicycling vacations because you get to cover more ground and feel like you’re seeing the city from a local’s perspective.

Last year I seriously considered doing a tour with VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations in Italy but my plans changed and I booked a trip to Cyprus to ride in the Tour of Cyprus. Which, sadly, changed again and got stuck in Germany (long story).

I just learned that VBT is adding a new bicycling vacation in the northwest corner of Tuscany: Cycling Italy’s Middle Ages: Lucca to Pisa. Six departures begin starting this fall on September 7.  

Among the tour highlights are traveling to Pisa and Lucca, as well as more off-the-beaten track destinations such as Montecatini and Vicopisano. Through the tour, you’ll also be able to experience local culture through fun off-the-road experiences such as home-hosted meals, museum visits, guided tours and unique accommodations.

  • Enjoy a prepared lunch with descendants of the Ginori Lisci family, of the world-famous Italian housewares brand. Lunch will be served on the manicured grounds of the Ginori villa.
  • Cycle along undulating rivers, through quaint villages and even atop Lucca’s famous city walls.
  • Discover the Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa.
  • Museums are often a highlight of many trips and this one is no different. Visit the Leonard da Vinci museum as part of your tour.

Bike tours aren’t new and you can certainly plan your own for any of your trips. For those who prefer to travel in groups, may feel better being with others who speak the language or want to hit up some spots they may not have discovered on their own, bicycle tours are a great alternative.

Megy Karydes is founder of Wandering Tastes, a lifestyle and travel site that is meant to inspire adventure and exploration through traveling and food. She’s also a regular contributor to 10best.com,  part of the USA Today Travel family, TravelingMom.com as Foodie TravelingMom and writes for several other print magazines and online media outlets.