The Woven Clutch

Since last spring, I’ve loved the look of a woven clutch. It all started when I spotted this beauty at Anthro. At the time, I couldn’t justify purchasing such a trendy piece being unsure of just how much use I would get out of it. Considering that it’s a year later and I’m still thinking about that particular clutch, it’s safe to say that it’s one of those items that I will always regret not buying when I had the chance. However, with summer weddings and many Center City Sips outings in my near future, I’m determined to purchase a similar clutch this time around.

Now that I’ve found a dress for my friend’s wedding in early June, it’s time to accessorize. I absolutely love the dress I decided on, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the price tag. (Sadly, it’s extremely rare for me to genuinely love an item in my price range. The good news is that I now have a little more wiggle room in my budget to tie the look together.) One of the best parts about this dress is that its style happens to be perfect for one of the many woven clutches I’ve been eyeing up lately. It’s a mint-colored, flowy, backless number with a boho flair. When paired together, this dress and the clutch I ultimately decide on, along with a few other fabulous accessories, will scream laid-back elegance.

From designer splurges to handwoven, fair trade options, I found a variety of woven clutches at different price points. In fact, to my surprise, I came across so many that I adore that I’m having the worst time making a decision. If it were up to you, which of my finds would you go for and why?

1. Henri Bendel – Debutante // 2. Francesca’s – Topeka // 3. J. Crew – Havana // 4. Kayu – Baha // 5. Kayu – Ada // 6. J. Crew – Convertible Stationary Clutch // 7. Purse & Clutch – Woven Ombre Clutch // 8. Kayu – Capri // 9. Etsy – Handwoven Ikat Clutch by EstiloDesign // 10. Clare Vivier – Foldover Clutch // 11. Stella & Dot – City Slim Clutch // 12. Michael Kors – Santorini

Sunday Dinner: Mother’s Day Edition

First and foremost, Happy Mother’s Day to all the amazing mothers out there! I hope your kiddies showered you with all the love you deserve!

Anyway, I’ve always been into cooking and food, but I have yet to cook for my mom since I’ve really gotten into cooking and food (read: when I moved out and had no other option). My mom is an excellent cook, so going from having delicious meals regularly to eating a bowl of cereal for dinner was simply out of the question. I figured Mother’s Day was the perfect opportunity to make her something really special and show off some of the skills I’ve worked on over the past year.

When I asked my mom what she’d like for Mother’s Day, she instantly mentioned seafood. Shockingly, I’m not much of a seafood gal, so it took a while for me to get inspired. But suddenly, it hit me: homemade ravioli with lump crabmeat. I’ve been dying to make homemade ravioli for a while, and crab is seafood that both my mom and I love. While I’m not quite ready to make ravioli completely from scratch, I’d say this was a good first attempt.

Several posts back, I mentioned the Italian Market in South Philadelphia. It has most definitely become my go-to for special occasion dinners. Knowing that the Italian Market is home to some of the freshest pasta in town, I headed in that direction to check out Talluto’s thanks to the recommendation of my roommate, Danielle. While Talluto’s has many varieties of fresh pasta, including handmade ravioli, I opted for a pound of their pasta sheets so that I could skip making the dough and begin my adventure by assembling the ravioli (the fun part!). Talluto’s offers several varieties of pasta sheets: egg, spinach, tomato, whole wheat, and black squid ink. I went with the spinach since I’m all about colorful food. Plus, that provided the perfect opportunity to add fresh spinach to the sauce as a complement.

Of course, while I was at the cash register, loaves of delicious-looking Italian bread were staring at me, so I had no choice but to pick up one of those up as well. There are few things as satisfying as dipping crusty, Italian bread in premium olive oil topped with cracked black pepper, sea salt, and grated Pecorino Romano. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Also while I was in the area, I bought some organic iced coffee and handmade cannoli from Anthony’s Italian Coffee House, fresh ricotta from Di Bruno Bros., and fresh lump crabmeat from Anastasi Seafood. Have you noticed that the words fresh and handmade keep popping up? Well, in my opinion, those two things make for extraordinary meals, hence why my love affair with the Italian Market is quickly spiraling out of control.

Now, on to the recipe, which yields approximately 25 ravioli. Thus, be prepared to feed a group of 5-6 or have some leftovers. (Leftovers is the way to go. I’m craving more already!)

PART 1: PESTO, SPINACH, & CHEESE RAVIOLI

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb. of spinach-flavored pasta sheets
  • 15 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend (think: Locatelli, parmesan, asiago, provolone, mozzarella, etc.)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup pesto (my recipe for sun-dried tomato pesto can be found here)

What you’ll do:

  • Thoroughly mix the ricotta cheese, Italian cheese blend, egg, and pesto together
  • One pasta sheet at a time, using only one half of the pasta sheet, place teaspoons of filling 1 inch apart from each other
  • Brush water in between the filling to moisten, and fold one half of the pasta sheet over the other
  • Press down between the filling, and cut into individual pieces with a pizza cutter
  • Brush additional water onto the edges if needed, and using a fork, press down on the edges of each piece of ravioli to create both a seal and an attractive border
  • Repeat the previous four steps with the remaining pasta sheets
  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add 6-8 ravioli, and immediately bring the heat down to a simmer
  • Cook approximately 2 minutes, or until the ravioli are tender and float to the top
  • Repeat the previous two steps until all the ravioli have cooked

PART 2: BECHAMEL SAUCE WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATO & FRESH SPINACH

What you’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tbsp. crushed fresh garlic
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2/3 cup sun-dried tomato, diced
  • 2 packed cups of raw spinach, de-stemmed
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Cracked black pepper to taste

What you’ll do:

  • Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat
  • Once the butter has melted, add the flour and stir until mixed thoroughly
  • Gradually stir in the milk, stirring constantly, until the milk begins to boil and thicken
  • Turn the heat down to its lowest setting and stir in the heavy cream and wine; allow to simmer, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes
  • Stir in the garlic, mozzarella cheese, sun-dried tomato, and spinach until the cheese is melted and the spinach begins to wilt
  • Season with sea salt and cracked black pepper

PART 3: SAUTÉED LUMP CRABMEAT

What you’ll need:

  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 lb. lump crabmeat

What you’ll do:

  • Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat
  • Add the crabmeat and lightly sauté until the crabmeat is heated through

PART 4: ASSEMBLAGE & GARNISH (PER DISH)

What you’ll need:

  • 1/3 cup sautéed lump crabmeat
  • 1 tbsp. grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped
  • Cracked black pepper

What you’ll do:

  • Place 4-5 pieces of ravioli onto a plate, followed by a moderate amount of sauce
  • Assemble the lump crabmeat on top of the ravioli and sauce as pictured
  • Top with the Pecorino Romano, oregano, and cracked black pepper

At some point over the course of preparing this meal my mom became my photographer and sous chef. Between the wine flowing and oldies blasting in the background, we had a really great time. Plus, we both love a challenge in the kitchen, which this certainly was (in a good way). Speaking of kitchens, hers is newly renovated, so it was a treat to prepare a meal in A) a gorgeous and highly functional kitchen, and B) a kitchen that isn’t the itty bitty, extremely basic kitchen in my Center City apartment.

Anyway, if we had that much fun preparing the meal, you can only imagine how much fun we had eating it. Holy moly! This dish is easily one of the best things I’ve ever made. Initially, I was going to put the crabmeat in either the ravioli or the sauce, but I’m so glad I didn’t. Using it as the final touch added instant freshness and elegance to the dish. If you want to impress a certain someone in your life, this is likely to be the recipe you’re looking for. I served it with a simple salad dressed in my homemade agave-balsamic vinaigrette (recipe to come) and Italian bread accompanied by olive oil seasoned by yours truly.

Since we engaged in many of my mom’s favorite things in just one evening – cooking, drinking wine, photography, listening to music, and eating delicious food – I think it’s safe to say that she really enjoyed her Mother’s Day. And because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I thoroughly enjoyed myself as well. Happy Mother’s Day, Juj! I love you.

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White Bean Avocado Dip

Similar to my Spicy Black Bean Hummus, this dip is ridiculously easy to make; however, despite its simplicity, it’s packed with tons of flavor. The white beans make for an amazing texture – one that is both light and airy. Once all the ingredients are blended together, the end result is a delicious, healthy dip that is perfect for summer entertaining.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 can of white beans
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/2 cup EVOO
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Cracked black pepper to taste
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1/2 a vine-ripened tomato, diced

What you’ll do:

  • Drain the liquid from the can of white beans
  • Combine all ingredients (minus the diced tomato) in a blender
  • Blend until smooth
  • Spoon into a serving dish and top with the diced tomato as pictured
  • Serve with pita chips or tortilla chips, and enjoy!

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Beautiful Bucks County

Yesterday, my mom and I engaged in some early Mother’s Day festivities. We woke up bright and early and head over to Allure West Studios in Doylestown for a private photography lesson. If anyone is interested in learning the ins and outs of manual photography, I highly recommend taking a class with Jung. By the end of our three-hour session, we had all of our questions answered and then some. Plus, he simplified everything to the point that all of the jargon and settings associated with manual photography no longer intimidate me.

After our class, we grabbed a bite to eat while waiting for the weather to clear up. Then, we took a short drive over to Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve in New Hope. Given that my mom’s explored pretty much every park and nature preserve in Bucks County, I tried really hard to find a place that she had never been to before. Luckily, it turns out that Bowman’s Hill is just about the only place she had never visited prior to yesterday. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it! It’s beautifully maintained, and there is always something new blooming.

It ended up being a picture-perfect day, literally and figuratively! We wandered around the preserve for several hours. Between landscapes and macro shots, as well as the many variances in light depending on where we were in the preserve, there were plenty of opportunities to put our newly-gained knowledge to use. I am proud to say that not a single photo that I took yesterday was taken in auto-mode. I still have a long way to go, but I’m happy with my progress so far!

On our way home from the preserve, we agreed that we were seriously craving burgers on the grill – bison burgers, to be exact. We decided to stop by None Such Farm Market to pick up some goods. While I was there, I couldn’t resist the urge to check out their fresh produce. The majority of their products – meats, cheeses, flowers, fruits, and veggies, to name a few – are organic and come straight from either their farm or other local farms. Among several other items, I ended up purchasing an ataulfo mango (a variety that I’d never tried before) and an apricot (which I’d never tried raw). I really enjoyed them as components of this morning’s fruit bowl!

Bucks County is a strikingly beautiful place with so much to offer. Between its outdoor sanctuaries, farms, eateries, architecture, and endorsement of the arts, it would be extremely difficult to run out of things to do for folks like me and my mama. We had lovely day, indeed.

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DIY Window Box

Last week, I had my favorite handyman, Dan, turn one of my darling flea market finds into a window box. Now, whether this planter was meant to be a planter remains a mystery. However, that’s the beauty of flea markets: one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. As soon as I laid eyes on it, I knew it was what I’d use for my long-awaited urban garden.

In my opinion, just about the only downside to city living is the fact that there is limited to no outdoor space. Luckily, Washington Square is only a couple blocks away from my apartment, but when it comes to outdoor space of my own, I have none whatsoever. My mom has maintained an amazing herb garden over the years, and being that I’m so into cooking, it’s been something that I’ve really missed since moving out. Thus, I decided to grow a mini version of my own.

Because the planter I chose is relatively small, I was limited to selecting just three herbs. The decision was tough, but I ultimately decided on mint for mojitos and other libations; oregano for Italian dishes; and cilantro for salsas, guacamole, and Asian dishes. I wanted select a nice variety so that I can use them in my recipes regularly.

As long as you purchase the right hardware, you can select just about any rectangular-shaped container you desire. The only stipulation is that there is some means of allowing water to drain − something porous that will keep the soil in while allowing for excessive water drainage. Dan used weather stripping foam to fill the already-existing gaps in mine, but if you were to use a container without an opening on the bottom, you could simply drill several tiny holes.

Shout out to my handsome guest blogger for typing up these instructions for me!

What you’ll need:

  • The rectangular-shaped container of your choice
  • Weather stripping foam or a drill to create the means for proper water drainage
  • 2 metal L-brackets with screws
  • 2 metal flat-brackets with screws

What you’ll do:

  • Fill the gaps with the weather stripping foam (or drill several tiny holes depending on the container you’re working with)
  • Mount the L-brackets on the inside of one side of the planter; make sure they are long enough to screw into the window sill
  • Before the planter is secured, prefit it to see if it will sit flush against the outside wall; if it doesn’t, take the flat brackets and attach them to the bottom of the planter, allowing the planter to sit away from the wall while adding extra lateral support
  • When all the brackets are installed, center the planter on the window sill and mark spots to predrill holes into the flashing; make sure you find a solid area on the outer brick molding (the wood that frames the outside of the window, which is covered by the aluminum flashing)
  • After the holes are drilled and and the planter is ready for mounting, fill it with the plants of your choice, place the brackets over the drilled holes, and drive the screws in

All together, this project cost me about 20 bucks. Because many of the beautiful, already assembled window boxes that I found online were upwards of 75 dollars, I’m thrilled! Although my herbs (lovingly referred to as “herbies”) still have some flourishing to do before they can be harvested, I am so excited to incorporate them into upcoming recipes!

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