Monthly Archives: November 2015

Homemade Pizza

18th November 2015

When we received our Kitchenaid stand mixer last Christmas, one of the items I was most excited to make at home was pizza! I love pizza and find it very hard to find good pizza in our area. (Although we did stop for lunch at Pizzeria Toro in Durham and we really love that!) This past winter I was only working part-time and so I started making homemade pizza a lot. It helped us hone in on how to make good pizza, what sauces and cheeses we like, and how to cook it perfectly.

One of our favorites that we haven’t looked back on, is the Nello’s marinara sauce. It’s actually made locally and it has the best flavor! I’ve become so picky on tomato sauce because some are too sweet and over powering that I don’t get to appreciate the other ingredients, but Nello’s has been the perfect solution. Plus it’s great to shop local!


To start with homemade pizza, I love to use Bobby Flay’s pizza dough recipe:


  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups bread flour, plus more for rolling (Chef’s Note: Using bread flour will give you a much crisper crust. If you can’t find bread flour, you can substitute it with all-purpose flour which will give you a chewier crust.)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 envelope instant dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water, 110 degrees F
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons


Combine the bread flour, sugar, yeast and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and combine. While the mixer is running, add the water and 2 tablespoons of the oil and beat until the dough forms into a ball. If the dough is sticky, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together in a solid ball. If the dough is too dry, add additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead into a smooth, firm ball.

Grease a large bowl with the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil, add the dough, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in a warm area to let it double in size, about 1 hour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cover each with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let them rest for 10 minutes.

Recipe courtesy of Bobby Flay © 2015 Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.


A few ingredients and about an hour later, you have an excellent pizza dough, like above! Yum!

Once your ready to cook, preheat your oven as high as it can really go. If you can get it to 500 degrees, that would be great. You don’t need a pizza stone, but if you have one, make sure to preheat the stone! If you’re cooking on cookie sheet, it’s good to pop it into the oven for a few minutes too. While doing so, roll out the dough with a rolling pin, or even a glass! Stretch it, roll it fluff it with your hand on a floured surface. Grease your baking sheet if you’re using one and place the dough on the baking sheet and roll it out a bit more. Go ahead and put the dough in the over to crisp up for 3-4 minutes before we add any more ingredients.

Once the dough has crisped (check underneath to dough to see if it is no longer sticking), take the dough out of the oven and add all ingredients except for the cheese, and cooking for another 4-5 minutes. Take the pizza out and add your fresh mozzarella (use fresh!), bake for 2-3 minutes, and broil for the last minute to bubble the cheese, and viola! All done! Definitely use your oven light though and vary your cooking times depending on your oven and how quickly it bakes though.

Use any of your favorite ingredients and you’ll have an amazing pizza!


Bon appétit!

Anniversary Recap

16th November 2015

We celebrated our third anniversary on Tuesday, November 10th and we had a wonderful weekend together! I took Tuesday off so that I had a three day weekend to have a little extended rest and relaxation. On Sunday we kicked off our weekend by watching the Carolina Panthers of course. Sunday was really low key but that’s how we prefer to spend our Sundays. On Monday we went to lunch at Bida Manda. We have only been about two or three times but every time we go we remember just how great the restaurant is! Get the Pumpkin Curry, you won’t regret it! (Thanks for the recommendation Jenni Turner!) After lunch we made our way to the IMAX theater to see the new James Bond flick, Spectre. It was great as always. Lots of action, fashion, adventure and beautiful people. We actually saw Skyfall before we left for our honeymoon two days after we were married so it was only natural that we spent our day the same way!

In case you haven’t seen the Spectre trailer, now you have. 😉

On Monday after the movie, Nick told me to get dressed and get ready for dinner at a location unbeknownst to me. So we got all decked out to the nine’s and headed out first for a drink at the Umstead and then to our mystery location..

Here’s a fun animation that Google put together at our attempts at selfies of us all gussied up for dinner! Followed by a fancy cocktail at the Umstead. Hubby didn’t have a great idea for getting me out of the house for the chef to set up so cocktails were in order.

So after an hour of being away for cocktails, we headed back towards Raleigh and Nick said he had to use the bathroom and couldn’t wait so he pulled off at our exit to run inside to “use the bathroom” and told me to come in too. When we walked in Nick surprised me with an at home chef!! Chef John Upsal was cooking a private meal for two, super romantic and cozy to be at home. Chef Upsal owns a catering company in the Raleigh area, called Spread, and does corporate events, catering, weddings, etc so we HIGHLY recommend him for any of your party needs (Christmas is coming up!). Chef Upsal used to be the chef at Poole’s so if any of you Raleighites know a thing or two about dining in Raleigh, you know it’s one of the restaurants in the area!

Scratch made: Smoked trout rillette, house made pork paté, and house made pork rillette with Yellow Dog Bread.

Local North Carolina Beef Tartare!

A salute to the chef but also a homage to our last bottle of Champagne from Reims, France that we bought on our trip last year. Their last Vintage as well. But also the culprit for our dinner being postponed to night 2…

A little special something from the chef, fresh caviar!

North Carolina oysters with fresh caviar!

Pumpkin, beet and blue cheese salad

Unfortunately after all these yummy courses, we’ve come to realize Nick has an allergy of sorts to CHAMPAGNE. Of all things, CHAMPAGNE, and the real stuff too, not prosecco which we had the morning before with mimosas.. Unfortunately it causes him to get sick, and this has happened a few times this past year. It’s definitely an inconvenient allergy and we’re not quite sure about it, but needless to say, Nick could not eat any further on Monday night. The chef was SO gracious to come back on Tuesday night to finish our meal after our trip to the Umstead for a couple’s massage on our real anniversary. We are so thankful for the chef to finish our lovely meal and truth be told, I was definitely full by all the yummy-ness above!

Ahh… The Umstead Spa is FANTASTIC! I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a getaway in the Raleigh area. The only real co-ed areas though, are the pool pictured above and the lounge area above as well. (The fireplace unfortunately is in the ladies spa.) It is a really relaxing place and the massages are GREAT! Definitely check it out for a special occasion. Then after our massage and spa day, it was time to finally finish our anniversary meal!

Our beautiful bottle of Brunello we brought back from our trip to Italy!

Whipped eggplant puree, grilled octopus, shitake mushrooms, and roasted red peppers!

Probably the most amazing part of the night: Pork belly, homemade ricotta gnocchi and butternut squash.. SIMPLY AMAZING!

Braised short ribs with shitake mushroom risotto

And the grand finale of homemade pecan pie with homemade vanilla ice cream.. I mean, what more could a couple want?!


13th November 2015

Clearly we have an affinity for France and even more so Paris, so these attacks on Paris come as a complete shock. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved and we are happy to hear most of our friends in France are OK. #peaceforparis

Minted Christmas Cards

12th November 2015

I can’t believe it’s already that time of year, but yes we have already started shopping for Christmas cards! I really love the tradition and love checking the mailbox everyday to find goodies from friends and family. It’s just warming to see your friends smiling faces, pregnancy announcements, babies, couples, and even their pups. So naturally I love putting effort into selecting the perfect Christmas card!

The past few years I have found myself using Minted for our cards because they offer an economical solution to sending photo cards, enter holiday POSTCARDS. I am able to receive the same photo quality for a third of the price and I can even buy cheaper stamps. For me it’s a win-win. Especially since Minted has SO many options for postcards too. It really makes the process easy but also difficult to choose a winner.

Since our wedding three years ago I have used their postcards for our holiday cards and I have been always SO happy with the result! Here are our past holiday cards.

If you’re interested in trying Minted, I suggest you use this referral code and get $25 off your first purchase!

Minted holiday card from 2012

Minted holiday card from 2013

Minted holiday card from 2014

Wish I could share my selection for this year, but you’ll have to wait a little longer! But definitely check out Minted and let me know what you think! (This is is no way, sponsored by Minted either, I just love their products! :))

three years <3

10th November 2015

Nick and I are celebrating three wonderful years together and it’s always so hard for me to choose a few of our favorite photos, but there’s always our wedding video that REALLY relives the magic! Thanks to Scott Simerly for giving us this epic gift that we can relive all the time. Happy anniversary Nick! I love what we have made together and am so excited to continue to watch it grow, but our wedding night was definitely one epic party! <3

Amanda & Nick [A Simile Wedding Film] from Scott Simerly Jr. on Vimeo.

Fall So Far

4th November 2015

I know I know.. EVERYONE loves fall. I get it. But it is amazing. The trees are on fire and blazing colors that are more amazing than crayola can put in a box. The cool weather just seems to calm everyone’s soul and we are settling in for a season of thankfulness and giving. It’s a pretty fantastic time! Our good ole’ state of North Carolina really capitalizes on fall with a definite changing of the season but also the State Fair, ACC football, fresh apples, and Halloween. So if you haven’t realized just how much I love fall yet, here’s a few photos to prove it.