Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Summer Boxwood Wreath

Good Morning, Everyone! With the summer flying by so fast, I have a quick little summer project to share with you! You could really make this wreath for any season (I made a square-shaped Christmas one last year that you can check out HERE), but I thought the white lace ribbon added a cute summery touch here! All you need are a couple of supplies and you have a sweet little wreath to pretty up your door!

SUMMER BOXWOOD WREATH

YOU WILL NEED
Boxwood (real of faux)
Round wreath form
Lace Ribbon (mine was about 2.5 inches wide)

Or make your own wreath form out of thick wire (like from a clothes hanger!)
Floral wire (or Christmas ornament hooks!)
Scissors & wire cutter
Hot glue gun


DIRECTIONS
1. First, gather all your supplies. You can either use a pre-made wreath form, or you can make one out of some thick wire (like from a wire clothes hanger). Just make your circle out of the wire and twist the ends to secure them, and add some hot glue around where you twisted the wire, just to make sure the wire doesn't move!

2. Next, start attaching your boxwood in little bunches. Either insert those bunches into your wreath form, or if you are using a wire one, secure them onto the form in bunches with some thin floral wire, or even some Christmas ornament hooks. Make sure you wrap the wire around tight enough so the boxwood bunches don't fall out (they may dry and shrink as the wreath hangs and you don't want them to fall out!) Keep going around the wreath form with the small bunches of boxwood until you have filled the entire thing! 

2. Once you have filled the whole wreath, check to see that it looks nice and even. If there are pieces of boxwood that are sticking out of place, trim them, or if there are bare areas, add in a couple extra pieces of boxwood. Once you are happy with your wreath, attach your ribbon. Cut a piece of ribbon to use as the wreath hanger, then make your lace bow and attach it onto the front of the ribbon you used to hang the wreath, either with some hot glue, or with some wire. 
And here's the Christmas Boxwood Square Wreath (with a tutorial) that I mentioned!
Happy Crafting, Everyone!
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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Roman Holiday: Part 1

Hi Everyone! I hope you are all having a great weekend and are enjoying your summer! It's been a busy couple of weeks for us with lots of travel and I wanted to share some pictures of our time away, starting with Rome! It's really hard to sum up a city as grand and beautiful, and as old and charming as Rome into one post (so look out for Part 2 soon!) and a couple of pictures, but I'm going to try to at least show you some of my favorite things from the city! I've been to and lived in some beautiful cities, but there is just something about Rome; the ancient history that's constantly surrounding you, the incredibly delicious food and the quaint little streets and piazzas lined with trattorias and cafes, filled with people eating (and drinking espressos!) late into the night. Just magical. 


So come take a walk around the city with me...

One of the most famous places in Rome is St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. Our hotel was in the center of the city, and looking at our little tourist map, the Vatican didn't seem like it was that far away... a couple of blocks, one or two piazzas and a walk across the bridge and you're there. Three and a half miles later, we were there! It was a super hot and humid day, but this was definitely worth the walk! 

St. Peter's is absolutely beautiful, both from the outside and the inside. The glorious size and grandeur of the church are breathtaking, with ornate decorations and intricate paintings filling the whole cathedral.

St. Peter's Square... and the long walk back begins! Why is the walk back always longer?! I did have a pretty special ice-cream stop planned though (more about that in Part 2!) which made the walk back in the heat and the uncomfortable shoes (also, why do I always decide to pack the most uncomfortable shoes?!) a little faster!

One of my favorite things about Rome are all the piazzas, which are are squares that often have a big fountain or statue in the middle, were often used as market places in the past, and are filled with little shops and restaurants today.

Piazza Navona


It's also hard to believe how long these streets and piazzas have been here for, how many people have walked down them and how much history has taken place here. It's almost surreal.




And of course you can't go to Rome without going to the Colosseum...


And the Pantheon...

We walked for miles and miles every day, but with so many things to look at on every corner, you forget how long you've been walking for, or how much your feet hurt!

Lots of balconies were filled with flowers.


Another little trattoria (left) and Rome's favorite mode of transportation (right)!

And because I couldn't resist sharing this.... one of the oddest things I've ever seen: someone walking a pet pig on a leash in downtown Rome. I don't even know what to say.

I hope you enjoyed this little tour of this beautiful city, and that if you've never been to Rome, you get to go one day! Stay tuned for Part 2 of the tour, which will be all about the food! Yes, the food deserves a post all of its own. And trust me, you don't want to miss it! Have a great weekend, Everyone!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Happy Weekend!

Hello, sweet friends! Happy Weekend! I hope your weekend is filled with blue skies, sunny days and some summer fun! I hope you are all having a wonderful summer so far. I'm away traveling right now, but will be back soon with some new recipes and pictures of our summer! Have a great weekend!


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Summer Baking

Hi Everyone! I just wanted to stop by and wish you all a great weekend, and to share some of my favorite summer dessert recipes with you! I love baking in the summer because of all the great fresh fruit that's available, it makes such a difference! The ripe, juicy berries and fresh, fragrant plums, peaches and apricots... they add so much flavor (and vitamins, I like to think!) I hope you enjoy these recipes I'm sharing with you, and that you have fun baking for your friends and family this summer! But first, how cute are these mugs that my mom got me from Whittard?! Pretty much a baker's life motto and some solid good life advice! 


Ok, now let's eat cake!

These Blueberry Crumb Bars (Left: recipe HERE) are one of my summer favorites! They are a great way to use fresh blueberries, or any other summer fruit actually! The sweet crumb topping really makes these, I can't wait to make another pan of these soon! Or if you prefer using something other than blueberries, you can make these Apple Crumb Bars (Right: recipe HERE) which are also really tasty! The tart apples, the crunchy walnuts, the buttery topping and the sweet glaze.... oh so good!


For another berry, strawberry, recipe, try this Strawberry Layer Cake (Right: recipe HERE)! I love love love layer cakes like this because they look impressive, yet are one of THE easiest desserts to throw together! All you need is three things: cake, whipped cream and fruit! I know these Sour Cream Pancakes with Blueberries (Left: recipe HERE) are technically breakfast, but they are so good they might as well be dessert for breakfast! As far as I'm concerned, sour cream makes everything better, including these pancakes! And the fresh juicy berries make this a great summer breakfast! 

If you love fruit crisps, this Plum Oatmeal Crisp (Left: recipe HERE) is a great one to try! I love Italian plums, and they work so well here! The tart, juicy filling is so good paired with the crunchy oatmeal topping! For a similar recipe, try this Summery Peach Cobbler (Right: recipe HERE) which is a great way to use fresh peaches!


To cool down on a hot day, try this Strawberry & Mint Flavored Water (Left: recipe HERE) which is so refreshing! And if that doesn't cool you down, these Homemade Ice-Cream Sandwiches (Right: recipe HERE) definitely will! I LOVE making these, because what could be better than ice-cream sandwiched in between two homemade chocolate chip cookies, coated in chopped nuts and candy bars! YUM!


And lastly, here are some s'mores inspired summer desserts! Oven Baked Banana Boats (Left: recipe HERE) that can either be made at home in your oven, or outside on your campfire! The best part is, you can stuff them with any delicious treats you can think of, wrap them up in some foil, and a couple of minutes later, you have the most delicious ooey-gooey summer treat to enjoy! Or try these Summery S'mores Treats (Right: recipe HERE) which are super quick and easy to make, and great to share with friends!

I hope this has given you some summer baking inspiration, and that you are all enjoying your summer so far! I'll see you again soon with some more recipes and ideas! Until then, have a great weekend!
Happy Baking, Everyone!
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Friday, July 4, 2014

Whole Wheat No-Knead Bread

Hey Everyone! I have another no-knead bread recipe to share with you today, and this time it's for a whole wheat bread. I have made a couple different variations of the famous NY Times No-Knead Bread, with the Pesto one (recipe HERE) being one of my favorites, and it took me a couple of tries to get the whole wheat bread just right. I tried it with all whole wheat flour which didn't work well at all and the bread was as heavy and dense as a brick! I then tried it with different ratios of whole wheat and all-purpose flour, and ended up with this recipe which I think works best both in texture and flavor.

WHOLE WHEAT NO-KNEAD BREAD
(Adapted from The NY Times)
*Makes 1 loaf*

YOU WILL NEED
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
2 tsp salt
1 5/8 cup water
Extra flour or cornmeal for dusting

DIRECTIONS

1. Combine the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, yeast, salt and water in a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until a super sticky dough begins to form. Then, cover the bowl with some plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm spot for 12 - 20 hours. 

2. Check on the dough once the 12 hours or however many hours you are letting it sit are up, and you should be seeing lots of bubbles on its surface. Take the (very sticky at this point!) dough out of the bowl and place it on a generously floured surface and gently try to shape it a little bit, and sprinkle more flour over it. Then, place the piece of plastic wrap over it again and let it rest for 15 minutes. 

3. Next, form the dough into a ball (you can use more flour if you need to) and place it on a floured cloth kitchen towel (make sure it's seam down), then sprinkle the bread generously with more flour (the dough will absorb a lot of the flour as it sits) and cover it with another towel, and let it sit and rise for about 2 hours, until it has doubled in size.

4. Preheat your oven to 450 deg F, and place a Dutch oven or covered casserole dish inside it as it heats up (if you use a covered casserole dish, make sure it's at least a 3 quart dish). Once the oven is ready, remove the dish from the oven, and carefully place your dough ball inside it and cover it with the lid. Bake for about 30 minutes covered, then take the lid off and bake for another 15 - 30 minutes, until golden brown on top! Let the bread rest and cool before slicing.

For other no-knead breads, try these recipes:
No-Knead Pesto Bread (recipe HERE)

The NY Times No-Knead Bread (Recipe HERE)

Happy Baking, Everyone!
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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Grilled Chicken Salad with Strawberries

 Hi Everyone! Happy July! This summer is flying by so fast, I can't believe it's July already! If there is one thing that I have been loving this summer, it's strawberries. I can't even count how many big containers of strawberries we have gone through so far, but I have been adding them to literally everything! Like this refreshing flavored water, breakfast bowls like this one, or salads like the one I'm sharing with you today! I've made this salad over and over this summer, and hope you love it as much as I do!

GRILLED CHICKEN SALAD WITH STRAWBERRIES

YOU WILL NEED
Mixed salad greens
Grilled chicken, sliced
Fresh strawberries, halved
Black olives
Slivered Almonds
Dried Cranberries
Vinaigrette of your choice (like this one)

DIRECTIONS
There is nothing complicated about throwing this salad together... Grill your chicken first, then place it on a plate and cover it with foil and let it rest for a couple of minutes, so it's easier to slice. Whisk together your vinaigrette and mix it in with your greens. Add in the strawberries, cranberries and almonds, then place the chicken slices on top of your salad on each individual salad plate.

Happy Baking, Everyone!
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Friday, June 27, 2014

Traditional Shortbread Cookies

Hi Everyone! If you are a tea lover like me, you are going to love this shortbread to go along with your tea! I can't make it through the day without my favorite English Breakfast Tea in the morning, and sometimes an extra cup in the afternoon, which is always made better by a sweet treat, of course! Shortbread is one of my favorites, and this recipe, which only requires three ingredients, a couple simple steps, and can be prepared in under an hour, is both delicious and super easy! There's nothing like that sweet, buttery cookie with a big cup of tea!

 TRADITIONAL SHORTBREAD COOKIES
(Recipe via BBC FOOD)
*Makes about 20 cookies*

YOU WILL NEED
4oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2oz (about 1/4 cup) granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
6oz (about 1 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour


DIRECTIONS

1. First, whisk together the softened butter and granulated sugar until you have a smooth, creamy mixture. Slowly add in the flour and mix until a soft dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out into a rectangle that's about 1/2 inch thick.

2. Next, either cut out shapes using a cookie cutter, or cut out rectangles using a knife or a pizza cutter. Place your shapes onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Using a toothpick, make little holes in your cookies by inserting the toothpick and wiggling it around a little bit. Then, sprinkle the cookies generously with more sugar (the cookies themselves are not super sweet, so if you prefer a sweeter shortbread, add extra on top of each cookie). 

3. Preheat your oven to 375 deg F, and place your cookie sheet with all the shortbread in the fridge for 10 - 15 minutes. Then, bake the cookies for about 12 - 15 minutes until they are just slightly golden brown around the edges. 


And as for the tea, these are some of my favorites...
 Left: My all-time favorite tea, the Royal Wedding Tea by Harney & Sons, created to celebrate the royal wedding in 2011. It's made with almonds, coconut and rose petals and both smells and tastes incredible! (Find out more HERE!) Middle: English Breakfast Tea. My favorite everyday tea! It's like a hug in a teacup! Right: One of my newer favorites, Brioche Tea from the American Tea Room. This tea seriously smells like you just walked into a Parisian bakery. Besides it being a delicious light tea, the scent is just incredible! (Find out more HERE!)

Happy Baking, Everyone!
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