Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto and Mozzarella Flatbread

For whatever reason, I have been craving pesto like crazy lately. However, as usual, I thought to myself, “How can I switch it up a bit?” Well, by adding sun-dried tomatoes, of course!

Being that I love me a good flatbread, I decided that I would use my pesto as the base and add fresh mozzarella. Many times, less is more, and this meal is a shining example of that. Simple ingredients and intense flavor are what this flatbread is all about.

This recipe yields enough pesto to last a while. I plan on using it in pasta dishes and on sandwiches. Any other ideas on how I can incorporate this mouth-watering pesto into upcoming dishes?

PART 1: SUN-DRIED TOMATO PESTO

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil, de-stemmed
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano, grated
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Cracked black pepper to taste

What you’ll do:

  • Combine all ingredients in a food processor
  • Blend until smooth
  • Spoon into a serving dish or mason jar

PART 2: DOUGH

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 package Fleschmann’s Pizza Crust Yeast
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. grape seed oil

What you’ll do:

  • Combine warm water and yeast in a small bowl; stir and allow to sit for 5 minutes
  • In a large bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups flour, sugar, and salt; mix together with a whisk
  • Add yeast mixture and grape seed oil to the large bowl; mix with a hand mixer until the dough forms
  • On a well-floured surface, knead the dough for about 5 minutes, adding the remaining 1/2 cup flour as needed
  • Form the dough into the shape of a disk

PART 3: FLATBREAD

What you’ll need:

  • Dough
  • Sun-dried tomato pesto
  • 15+ fresh mozzarella balls
  • Cracked black pepper

What you’ll do:

  • Preheat the oven to 425 ºF
  • Spread the dough onto a greased baking sheet
  • Brush on a moderate layer of sun-dried tomato pesto
  • Strategically place mozzarella balls so that the cheese will not overlap once melted
  • Bake in the oven for approximately 12 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown
  • Garnish with cracked black pepper

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Camera Chic

I recently (and finally!) got a DSLR camera, something that has been on my wish list for years. To say that I am excited about my new purchase would be the understatement of the century. Although, now that I have it, I am pretty dang intimidated by all of its settings. It takes stunning photos on auto-mode, but I bought it hoping to learn how to take beautiful photos manually. Hopefully, I’ll get to that point sooner rather than later!

This long-awaited purchase not only means a new hobby for me, but also means gorgeous photos for the blog. Confession: thus far I’ve been using photos taken from my mom’s camera, which she graciously allowed me to borrow for a couple of weeks, and my iPhone. Yes, my iPhone. I can’t wait to step it up a notch in the photo department!

The reason that it took me so long to make this purchase is that I wanted to invest in high-quality equipment. To many that probably means the body and lens alone. However, I probably put as much research into the accessories as I did the key items – specifically, a bag and a strap.

First, can we talk about how ugly most camera bags are? How people can invest so much money into quality camera bodies and lenses and carry them around in those hideous things is beyond my comprehension. So, if you’re in the market for a camera bag that is attractive, well-made, and functional, look no further! I scoured the internet for hours searching for camera bags that I’d be proud to incorporate into my everyday attire. Even better, despite their appearance, they are bags made specifically for cameras. Between being made with sturdy genuine leather and having protective inserts with adjustable dividers, these bags are worth the splurge.

For now, I went with the insert pictured in photo #9. I am currently way too indecisive about which splurge-worthy camera bag I want. Also, I absolutely love how it fits into most regular bags that I already have. When I’m in the mood to venture out and snap some photos, all I have to do is throw it in the bag that I’m already using that day.

1. Isaac Mizrahi – The Liz // 2. ONA – The Chelsea // 3. Jill-E – Juliette // 4. Kelly Moore – Songbird // 5. Timbuk2 – Snoop // 6. Etsy – ionnoi // 7. Jo Totes – Siena // 8. Etsy – MagnusLeather // 9. ONA – The Roma // 10. ONA – The Palma // 11. F-stop – Smoky Mountain, Millar Series // 12. Epiphanie – Charlotte

My search for the perfect camera strap was much simpler. It started on Etsy and ended on Etsy. There are tons of options, but when I discovered that I could order a custom, personalized camera strap from viveo, I was sold. The price for the quality of leather and craftsmanship is insane!

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Sunday Dinner: Easter Edition

I really wanted to keep it low-key this Easter. However, to me low-key doesn’t mean that a delicious meal can’t be involved. I woke up without an alarm this morning (the best feeling!) and moseyed over to the Italian Market per the suggestion of my roommate, Danielle. I always go to Reading Terminal for fresh meat and produce, yet I tend to forget that the Italian Market, which has all the same offerings, is in my backyard.

For those who are unfamiliar, the Italian Market takes up several blocks of 9th Street in South Philly. I love the way the business owners set up their produce, flowers, and other goods outside of their storefronts. It’s especially lovely on warm, sunny days like today. Plus, I’m all about supporting mom and pop shops whenever possible.

I was on a mission for rack of lamb, and picked up some other things along the way. For some reason, I always associate Easter with rack of lamb, and I always associate rack of lamb with root vegetables. Thus, I decided to make both with the addition of mushroom “quinotto” (quinoa risotto). I concocted the latter a while back and it was seriously to die for.

PART 1: BALSAMIC OVEN-ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES

What you’ll need:

  • A variety of root vegetables, peeled and chopped into pieces of similar thickness to ensure that all pieces are cooked through (I opted for carrots, parsnips, beets, purple potatoes, sweet potatoes, and fingerling potatoes)
  • 1 shallot, cut into quarters
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. Italian herb blend
  • 1 tbsp. black pepper
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 cup of coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 6 sprigs of thyme

What you’ll do:

  • Preheat oven to 400°F
  • Combine all ingredients (minus the sprigs of thyme) in a large bowl; mix well
  • Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet, placing the sprigs of thyme on top
  • Cook in the oven for 45 minutes; halfway through, stir the vegetables around to ensure all pieces are cooked evenly
  • Remove from the oven, discard the sprigs of thyme, spoon into a serving bowl, and mix well

PART 2: MUSHROOM “QUINOTTO” (QUINOA RISOTTO)

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup white quinoa
  • 1/2 lb. baby bella mushrooms, diced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. grape seed oil
  • 1 tbsp. Italian herb blend
  • 1 tbsp. black pepper
  • 1 cup milk, half & half, or heavy cream (your choice)
  • 1 1/2 cups of an Italian cheese blend, grated

What you’ll do:

  • To make the perfect quinoa: combine 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water in a small pot, bring to a rolling boil, turn the heat to its lowest setting, apply the lid, cook on low heat for 15 minutes, remove from heat, allow to sit for 5 minutes, remove the lid, and fluff with a fork
  • While the quinoa is cooking, add baby bella mushrooms, shallots, garlic, grape seed oil, Italian herb blend, and black pepper to a large pan; sautee on medium heat until everything is cooked through
  • Turn the heat to its lowest setting, and add the cheese and your choice of dairy; stir occasionally until the sauce thickens
  • Add the quinoa to the sauce; mix well and spoon into a serving bowl

PART 3: GARLIC AND HERB ENCRUSTED RACK OF LAMB

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb. rack of lamb (yields 8 pieces once cut)
  • 4 tbsp. grape seed oil
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped

What you’ll do:

  • Preheat oven to 325°F
  • Cover the rack of lamb with a moderate amount of sea salt and pepper
  • On a separate, large dish, combine 2 tbsp. grape seed oil, garlic, basil, parsley, and thyme
  • Put a large, dry pan on high heat for approximately two minutes; add 2 tbsp. of grape seed oil, being sure to cover the bottom of the pan
  • To brown the meat, add it to the pan, rotating each side every few minutes; total cook time on the pan should be approximately 10 minutes
  • Remove the meat from the pan, and brush on the garlic and herb mixture
  • Cook in the oven for approximately 15 minutes (this is if you like your meat medium-rare; if you prefer your meat more well done, cook for a longer period of time and use a kitchen thermometer if needed)
  • Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before cutting; once 10 minutes has passed, cut your rack of lamb into 8 pieces and arrange on a serving dish

This meal was hearty in the best way possible. Given that my belly is full of delicious comfort food and my Easter was just as relaxing as I’d hoped it would be, I can’t ask for much more on this lazy Sunday. Have a great week ahead, everyone!

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Elegant Easter Eggs

I haven’t decorated Easter eggs since I was a kid, but I saw beauties similar to these on Pinterest a few months back and had to give them a whirl. Between the vibrant colors and the touch of glam, these eggs couldn’t be more lovely. What I love most about these eggs is that, to me, they look like miniature globes. Can we say wanderlust? I can’t wait to have these as the centerpiece at tomorrow’s Easter dinner!

What you’ll need:

  • A dozen white eggs
  • McCormick’s NEON! Food Color and Egg Dye
  • A gold, copper, or silver leafing kit (I opted for this silver leafing kit from Blick Art Supplies), from which you’ll need six sheets of leafing, a brush, and adhesive size
  • Six bowls or jars
  • Six spoons
  • An old newspaper or catalogue to serve as a protective surface

What you’ll do:

  • Hard-boil the eggs; to do so, put the eggs in a large pot and cover with cold water, bring to a rapid boil for about one minute, remove from heat and cover with a lid for about 15 minutes, and finally, submerge the eggs in cold water until cooled completely
  • Meanwhile, in a smaller pot, bring 3 cups of water to a boil
  • Divide the boiled water into six different bowls, adding 1/2 a cup of boiled water to each
  • Add egg dye to each bowl and stir with a spoon; feel free to use whichever color combinations you’d like (get creative!), but I followed the instructions provided in photo #1 below
  • Once your hard-boiled eggs are completely cooled, transfer them into the bowls; I used two eggs per color combination
  • Allow the eggs to sit in the bowls for however long you desire, making sure to rotate the eggs every so often so that all surfaces are evenly colored; the longer you allow them to sit, the richer the color of your eggs will be
  • When you’re satisfied with the coloring of your eggs, transfer them back to their original carton; store in the fridge and allow them to dry overnight
  • The following day, tear six leafing sheets into quarters for a total of 24 pieces (you’ll need two pieces per egg)
  • One egg at a time, dab the brush in the adhesive size and paint one side of the egg with random brushstrokes, leaving some surfaces dry; allow to dry for about 30 seconds; apply a piece of leafing and repeat the process on the other side of the egg
  • Once the entire egg is loosely covered in leafing, rub the leafing closely to the egg’s surface; after some time, the pieces that are not adhered to the egg will fall off, resulting in a marbled look
  • Repeat the two previous steps with the remaining eggs
  • Transfer the eggs back to their original carton and allow to dry for several hours

This was my first experience with leafing, and while it was messy, it wasn’t tricky at all. Typically, a satin sealer (included in the kit) is used as a final step, but since these eggs are (sadly) perishable, I saved myself a step. I’m excited to incorporate leafing into future DIY projects, especially on items that will stick around for a while. Any ideas are both welcomed and encouraged!

Happy Easter!

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DIY Soy Candles

My infatuation with candles started when I was relatively young. The dim lighting that they provide add instant coziness and warmth to any room. Plus, who doesn’t love a wonderful scent taking over their living space?

What’s more, I raised in an environmentally-friendly home in which my brother and I were encouraged to use the purest products available whenever possible. In fact, my mom owned a “green” home decor and interior design studio, which is where my obsession with soy candles in particular began. At the rate I go through soy candles (which can be quite pricey), I eventually decided to create my very own. It has quickly become a beloved hobby.

Because I put hours of time looking into both the best supplies for candle-making and the best way to go about candle-making, I’m excited to share my findings with you! I found a lot of great tips and tricks while researching, and I don’t know about you, but I’m all for making things as easy as possible as long as it doesn’t compromise the quality of the final product.

Now, for some tips and tricks:

  • Tip 1: Nature’s Garden has the best selection of candle fragrance, hands down. I bought many 1 ounce samples of fragrance so that I can have a nice variety of scents. Plus, Nature’s Garden recommends using 1 ounce of fragrance for each pound of wax since their fragrances are more highly concentrated than other suppliers’ fragrances. I’m all about perfect ratios!
  • Tip 2: World Market has adorable containers (not necessarily meant for candles). I especially loved these, these, and these. The generic candle containers offered on suppliers’ websites just weren’t cutting it for me.
  • Tip 3: I bought the remaining supplies from Candle Science. Their products are high quality, yet affordable. Plus, their website really guides you in buying the best products for your needs.
  • Tip 4: Many DIY websites call for supplies and steps that are simply unnecessary when it comes to making soy candles in particular. Specifically, pouring pots and thermometers are not needed, because soy wax does not need to be heated, cooled, and poured at very specific temperatures like other waxes do. Melting soy wax in the microwave is a perfectly okay thing to do and makes the project much, much simpler.
  • Tip 5: Unbeknownst to me prior to researching this endeavor, the type of wick you use is extremely important. There are not only different kinds of wicks, but also different sizes of each kind of wick. Essentially, the kind of wick you choose should be determined by the type of wax you plan on working with, and the size of the wick you choose should be determined by the width of the containers you plan on using. Otherwise, tunneling will occur (the worst!). Candle Science’s wick guide is extremely helpful. Thanks to their recommendation, I’m going with their pre-tabbed ECO Wicks in various sizes.
  • Tip 6: Also extremely important is the type of wax you buy. Clearly, I’m partial to soy wax, mostly due to the fact that it’s all natural. Even in the realm of soy wax, however, there are different waxes for different types of candles (think: container candles vs. votives vs. pillars). Candle Science recommends Golden Brand’s 464 Soy Wax, as it is ideal for container candles and has an amazing ability to hold fragrance.
  • Tip 7: Candles are typically made on pound-of-wax basis. I highly recommend investing in a kitchen scale so that you will know exactly how many fluid ounces your wax will yield once melted. To put it simply, one pound of non-melted wax results in 16 fluid ounces of melted wax. Knowing this makes selecting the proper quantity of containers much easier. For instance, one pound of wax will be enough for one 16 oz. candle, two 8 oz. candles, four 4 oz. candles, etc.

Now that I’ve filled you in on some tips and tricks, let’s do this!

What you’ll need:

  • container(s) of your choice
  • Wick Stickums
  • pre-tabbed wicks
  • large microwave-safe container
  • kitchen scale
  • 1 pound soy wax
  • stirring utensil
  • 1 ounce fragrance oil
  • wick bars

What you’ll do:

  • prepare your containers by applying pre-tabbed wicks to the bottoms of the containers using Wick Stickums
  • using your kitchen scale, measure out one pound of wax into a large, microwave safe container
  • microwave on high for 5 minutes; remove with pot holders and stir (if the wax is not fully melted, microwave for 30 second intervals until melted completely)
  • add 1 ounce of fragrance to the wax and stir for 2 minutes, allowing the wax to cool
  • pour the wax into your containers
  • center the wicks using wick bars and allow to cool overnight
  • the next day, trim the wicks to 1/4 inch
  • apply the lids and allow to cure for another 24 hours before burning

*Note that the photos posted show two 16 oz. candles. Thus, I used two pounds of wax, requiring me to repeat the process twice.

Let’s just say that I am absolutely thrilled with the results! This extremely simple process yields beautiful, high quality soy candles that burn evenly. The fragrances I chose, Mint Mango Tea and Honeydew Pear, smell delightful, and the containers I used accent my apartment’s decor fabulously. The best part: I’ve found a fun, cost-effective, and fool-proof means of feeding my soy candle addiction.

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