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?

Advertisements

Vegas {Baby}

We’ve been busy.

Busy having a swinging’ WinterBlues Party…

{Carnitas tacos, Lettuce Wraps, Red Wine Sangria, La Paloma}

And busy getting to…

Vegas.

Here’s the low-down!

Our Blues Party is an annual event at the FreshlyMinted household, and is really a pre-party for a sweet festival held in our city each year. Friends gather for food, drinks and fun, before heading downtown for a blues benefit concert.

{Pears with Goat Cheese, Pistachios & Cranberries, Cheese, Pear & Gorgonzola Flat Bread, Hummus, Salsa, Whole Wheat Beer Bread with Spinach Dip}

This year, we had some fabulous eats, and the festival was held at Alexandria’s! (you KNOW that’s one of our favorite spots…)

A visit from Cole & Steph also made the weekend perfect. Along with a relaxing super bowl party at a new friend’s house on Sunday (and those Nutella Cheesecakes above).

{Brownie & PB Mousse & Mini-Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies}

After that weekend, we had to hurry and pack…. because we’re in VEGAS. The Husband had a training for work, and so I tagged along (with my laptop and a few days of work for the road) to spend some time in this fascinating, crazy, bright city. We’re here much more for the food, the sights and exhibits than the “usual” local activities – having the chance to travel to a new place is exciting!

My goals were: To spot a Kardashian and a famous athlete.

The Husband said that was crazy.

But today, we lunched at Serendipity 3 (after a morning that started at 5am to keep up with work – darn time zones! – and a workout) and we saw THE Dick Clark!

I felt like an idiot snapping pictures, but the guy looked great (better than on TV), and I couldn’t help but think of all of the New Year’s Celebrations he’s hosted in my living room. And yes, we even googled a photo of him and his wife together, and… it was really them!

Even better than a Kardashian.

Almost as good as the Frozen Hot Chocolate.

{As good as it looks….}

So, as we have our adventures this week (including our crazy flight), Ill be keeping track of the cool places we see, restaurants we visit and characters we meet (there have been a few already…)

{WARNING: Mini rant! NEVER fly with Spirit Airlines. This was the filthiest, most wretched flight I’ve ever been on… and it was four. hours. long. “First Class” was apparently too hard to understand, so they re-named it the “Big Font Seats”; The lady behind us was using the sink to drain her canned Vienna sausages; $3 for water; snacks included a Cup ‘o Noodles for $5, our seats didn’t recline; 27,000 children were onboard; people were yelling; stewardesses were swearing; and a large, scary, foreign woman took our window seat… and proceeded to give us candy filled with some sort of strong liquor… The Husband was convinced that she was trying to poison him, but he was too afraid not to eat it.}

So, bear with me while I try to keep up (and try to stay on track for our Europe plans as well… a cruise booking is in our very near future!)

:)

Have YOU ever been to Vegas? Any suggestions?

More coming soon!

{festivities}

It’s only just begun…

It’s okay. Go ahead and sing the Carpenters’ song in your head.

I won’t judge.

We’ve been busy getting into the holiday spirit: Our tree, my parent’s tree and our annual “Thank God it’s Christmas” party with friends! I LOVE the Holidays (read: pretty much crazy/obsessed/drive-The-Husband-nuts-with-non-stop-christmas-music). So, I am totally in hog heaven right now.

{Best Christmas Tree impression}

We went to Kaleidoscope Farms to cut down our tree – our third “married” Christmas tree! They have a lovely little shop, a donkey, a reindeer, and absolutely beautiful trees…

{Hot Cider – Yum!}

It’s a tradition to go out to a fun dinner before we set the tree up. This year, we went to Alexandria’s (remember this concert?) for cocktails and appetizers, and then headed over to Revolver (Yum) for dinner and dessert.

It was divine.

After that, we trimmed the tree, drank “egg” nog (really soy nog… surprisingly tasty!) and listened to music… perfection.

The next day, we ran errands, strung lights outside, cooked, cleaned and headed over to Andy and Sara’s house for the Annual Thank God It’s Christmas party with our friends!

{Brussels sprouts with maple, cranberry and sliced almonds and roasted squash & harvest grains were my contributions. So much good food!}

Everyone brought delicious food and fun drinks, and we laughed, talked and ate until late that night. We also worked with Halley on her Christmas card project – she is sending cards to soldiers overseas and in VA hospitals. This is her second year of the tradition – such a worthy cause. It’s a great feeling to give back during the holidays. Learn more on Halley’s blog.

{Bottom right: Zane (14), Dad, Me, The Husband, Joe (21), Bekah (9)}

The Christmas-themed marathon didn’t stop there: on Sunday we headed over to my parents to get their tree with my siblings! Mom, Dad, Bekah, Zane, Joe, The Husband and I packed ourselves into the car for our annual trek to Timbuk Tree Farm.

We ALWAYS ride the bus, and we ALWAYS go to Granville for dinner and ice cream afterwards. We started these traditions with my great-grandparents years and years ago.

We ate at Brew’s Cafe (portobella mushroom sandwich with sweet potato fries) and then went to Whit’s Custard (PB Whister) for dessert. Everything was. to. die. for.

We trimmed the tree when we got home (it was MY year to put the star on top!) and drank egg nog… only UDF brand will do in that household (it is sinfully delicious).

{Whew! Yes, that did take as long as it looks. But I got the job done. Eventually. Let’s just say that there were some picky bystanders.}

It was a wonderful kickoff to the Christmas season, and we’ve got so much more to look forward to! Potluck at the office, Ugly Christmas Sweater Party, The Husband’s huge office party,  The Nutcracker, a cookie exchange, Office Christmas lunch downtown, family celebrations and lots of traveling… can’t wait!

What do you have in store in the weeks leading up to Christmas?

A {Happy} Harvest

Happy Harvest!

Our weekend involved music, friends, a race and far, far too much pumpkin fluff. In other words, it was great :)

We woke up on Saturday for a “Pumpkin Run” at a local park. Proceeds from the two-mile trail run went to benefit a Youth Leadership program. It was c-c-c-cold early in the morning, but our two miles through trees, puddles and over bike paths warmed us up in no time! We dressed up (keepin’ things festive) and had a fun time with a few friends that joined us. I placed second for women, and one of our friends took home the first place prize. It was for a good cause, but the race was also a great reason to go to a fun breakfast out :) We didn’t meet anyone famous this time, though…MMMMM… Oats!

We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out, watching movies, and getting ready for one of our FAVORITE seasonal traditions. Danny & Halley’s Annual Pumpkin Carving Party! Danny works with the Husband, and his lovely wife Halley is the queen of all hostesses, She always makes every party delightful with her attention to detail and fun, crafty decor. I could have taken pictures all night!

I brought Pumpkin Fluff that I made using this amazing recipe (I just switched out the whipped topping for marshmallow fluff, and used a little less sugar. It was good on everything…. including pancakes the next day!) and an old favorite, Spinach Artichoke dip (from Cooking Light! Try it…it is easy and so, so yummy. Just use the whole box of spinach instead of half : )

We actually had to leave the party a bit early to make it to our next event, but Halley and Danny had a special announcement for their guests that they shared with us before we left:

Congrats on the ‘lil punkin’ (to arrive May of 2012)! And thanks to good friend Heather for the beautiful photo. We can’t wait to meet him or her!

After the party, we made a quick change, and went to a brand new venue for a special throwback concert – The Contours. Their big hit was, “Do you love me? (Now that I can dance)” recorded in 1962. I adore music from that era (I have a stash of my parents’ records and have seen Paul McCartney (Beatles), Paul Simon (Simon & Garfunkel), Bill Medley (Righteous Brothers), Don McLean (American Pie), Peter Noone (Herman’s Hermits) and Mickey Dolenz (The Monkees) in concert!) They sang a ton of great hits by other Motown artists, and Alexandria’s – a new tapas bar and event space downtown – was breathtaking.

Look at that lighting…and those sparkly suits! We danced the night away, enjoyed fun cocktails and got autographs… Loved every groovy minute of it.

Because we had to leave a little early from the pumpkin party, I didn’t get to finish my carving. But, I loved the design I had picked out so much (and my white pumpkin) that I rounded out my festive weekend by carving it on Sunday!

Loved the finished product! Super easy, too (yay for stencils!)

All of these activities put me into full-fledged harvest/crunchy leaves/thanksgiving/just-double-digits-until-christmas mode. So, for dinner I HAD to whip something up that matched my autumnal-hued mood…

I have something special for you coming soon!

Sorry -But this little post is a book already. Get the recipe next time!

{In the mean time, visit Halley’s blog – The Halley Daily!}