Those summer {nights}

Our summer has sped by, and I have to say that this might have been our best yet…

We began armed with plans for a dream vacation and a “summer bucket list”, and we’re wrapping up with armfuls of memories, adventures and new friends.

<– Bucket list #7: Paddle down the Blanchard (between going to a drive-in movie, and the local old-fashioned root beer stand for hot dogs and floats).

Our recent events have included some of our oldest and dearest friends. Hannah, along with a very special guest, came up to visit! We were over-the-moon to have the opportunity to sip wine on American soil with Hannah and Federico. Our patio didn’t have quite the ambiance of our Roman terrace, but we still laughed just as much, and talked about everything from Italian politics to high school dances.

It was positively marvelous.

{Federico finds Orvieto on the map at the ice cream shop}

Thinking of what to do during their evening with us, we knew we couldn’t compete with some of the sights and eats of Boston and Philadelphia (spots they saw before they arrived), so, we went for the unique instead of the classic and Hibachi at the Japanese Steakhouse for dinner it was.

Federico had never seen anything like it, and thinking about the idea of catching flying egg in your mouth around a table – through his eyes – made us all roar with laughter. After dinner, we ran to a famous local chocolate and ice cream shop for their renowned dark chocolate covered pretzels, sea salt caramels and truffles. Then, we made a stop at The Wine Merchant for a good American wine to share.

{Kitchen laughs at the end of the night, old pictures, wine and chocolate on the patio, and Andrew’s new belt – an amazing, generous, handmade gift from Federico’s shop!}

We browsed albums of embarrassing old pictures, talked about our trip and theirs, took turns swapping questions, and soaked up as much of one another as possible before we were parted again…

It was a sweet, rich time.

This weekend, we were surrounded by friends again!{Summery drinks + summery food + laughing friends = Perfection}

We hosted a few members of “the Gang” for one of their crazy, old-fashioned fun, foodie-filled visits. Cole, Steph and Dan joined us for an evening of cocktails and grilled pizza on the patio, a round of golf (boys) and a morning run and lunch (girls) and a yummy Sunday send-off brunch. As always, we had a blast!

Steph brought an amazing cocktail with her to share. A refreshing mix of grapefruit juice, tequila, a splash of ginger ale and a wedge of lime – portion according to taste;) – try it for your next patio party!

Dinner was inspired by my mom’s amazing hostess feats, as well as the Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers menu (a gang favorite in Columbus). I made the dough the night before, we grilled it, and topped it with a fun array of toppings – everyone got to choose their own!

Grilled ‘Za Party How-To:

Dough:

I used this recipe for the dough with a few modifications – perfect for a Friday night because you can make it the evening before, let it rise in the fridge overnight, set it on the counter after work, and form into a chewy, perfect crust!

-Recipe-

Makes about 4 small pizzas – I doubled the recipe for the five of us so we could each have one, plus a few extra to sample :)

  • 2 C. plus 2T of bread flour (or, make a wheat crust using substituting 1C whole wheat flour and 1C white)
  • 1 Packet of Instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 1 C warm water
  • 3 T Olive Oil
  • 2T Honey
  • Combine flour, yeast and salt in bowl of stand mixer and whisk until homogenous. Add water, knead with dough hook for about ten minutes until ball is smooth and elastic and comes cleanly off the sides of the bowl (will be stuck to the bottom of the bowl). Cover mixer bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate over night. Dough should double in size.
  • The next day, remove from the refrigerator with floured hands and drop dough onto floured work surface. Roll into a log and divide into four pieces. Form each piece into a ball, and place in an oiled container. Lightly oil the tops of the balls, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise at room temperature for until doubled in volume – about 30min to an hour.
  • Use your hands to form each ball into a smallish “rustic” round crust shape, oil one side generously, and place on a cookie sheet for transport to the grill.

Cooking method:

Pre-heat the grill, then turn burners to low (about 350* worked for us). Flip the crusts from the cookie sheet onto the hot grill, and brush the other side with oil as it cooks. After just a minute or so, flip, and cook briefly on the second side. Then, remove from the grill and take inside for toppings!

Toppings:

We used Pesto and BBQ chicken, turkey sausage, spicy Italian ham, bacon, pineapple, mushrooms, caramelized onion, roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, feta, Gorgonzola, fresh and cured mozzarella and provolone.

Use a spoon to spread sauce – BBQ, Pesto, Garlic olive oil or red sauce all work well – then add cheese (it will melt better if added first), and toppings. Transport back to the grill, and use a lower heat and close the lid just until cheese is melted and toppings are warmed through. If your grill is equipped with a shelf inside, this may also be a good option for melting/warming the garnished pies.

And, Enjoy!

Paired with a fun selection of craft brews, hummus and salsa, my go-to Cooking Light spinach and artichoke dip, Tuscan bean salad and mixed fruit, we had a great time sitting on the patio and munching on this spread!

The party ended with a Sunday breakfast was made with the boys in mind. They woke up to sticky buns in the oven, scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits and fruit.

Those gooey, pecan-topped buns are worth it, though…. I used low-fat biscuts, so they’re practically a health food, right? An awesome Pinterest find, we had them first on Christmas morning last year. Try them (they’re soooo easy): Cinnamon Pecan Sticky Buns

I hope your summer has been fun-filled as well. What have you been up to?

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