Labor Day and Peach Pizza

Hello all!  The pinup gypsy is back!  Sorry for the long hiatus, but I’m finally back and have some great posts coming up with some delicious recipes.  To make up for my absence, I thought that my first post should be extra special packed with lots of pictures and stories.

It’s become a tradition to visit Warwick, NY during labor day weekend.  My boyfriend and I discovered Warwick three summers ago when we were looking for a drive-in movie theatre.  We went for the drive-in and we keep going back because of the wonderful town.  Warwick is about an hour and a half from NYC and is a great place to visit for the day or a weekend.
We weren’t planning on going this year but at the last minute decided to go.  It wouldn’t be labor day without a trip to Warwick.  This time we stayed over-night. While the highlight of our trip has always been the drive-on, this year we were able to visit an orchard and pick apples, pears and loads of veggies and it was pretty amazing.
We visited Ochs Orchard, which provides you with bags and boxes and lets you run wild through it’s sprawling acres of land, letting you pick whatever is in season.  I’m sure if picking fruit was my full time job I’d probably hate it, but it’s pretty amazing when it’s a once-in-a while kind of thing.
I came home with a huge bag of peaches, apples, and veggies.  A bounty, as I like to call it.  My bounty.
There’s something really extraordinary about eating food that’s been picked by your hands.  It really inspired me in the kitchen.  I wanted to take full advantage of the fresh flavors of the produce.
I kind of became obsessed with my peaches.. yes, my peaches (I picked them with my own hands, you see).  As the days went on, I realized there was no way I could use all the peaches I had picked before they went bad.  So, my boyfriend and I decided that there was only one thing to do, make an all peach dinner.
This dinner was amazing.  I mean no words could recreate the experience.  There were peach bellinis, peach salsa, peach crumble and the piece de resistance…. Peach Pizza.  Yes my friends.  Peach. Pizza.
Pardon the photos, it’s not my best work.  I was hoping we would have some leftovers so I could take some shots with better lighting.  But alas, this thing was inhaled.
A note about the dough.  After searching online to find the best pizza dough, I found several sites where people recommended approaching your favorite/local pizzeria and buy dough from them.  It just so happens that my local pizzeria is also my favorite in the city and they were more than happy to sell me some dough.  I would definitely recommend doing this.  The dough is fresh and you’re literally getting restaurant quality ingredients.

Ingredients

pizza dough
2 large, ripe peaches thinly sliced
gorgonzola
mozzarella or parmesan (or both)
freshly chopped basil
balsamic vinegar
olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

1.  I wanted to take the skin off the peaches, so I decided to slightly poach the peaches so the skin would come of easier.  But I don’t think the skin will make much of a difference with the final product and you can totally skip this step.
To poach: Bring a large saucepan of water to boil, while doing this prepare an ice bath (meaning a bowl of ice cold water).  Mark an x on the bottom of each peach.  Once the water has come to a boil, lower peaches and let them sit for about 2 minutes.  Take them out with a slotted spoon and put in the ice bath. Once they’ve cooled the skin should come off easily.

2.  Roll out dough (I would recommend watching a video or two on this subject matter).  Once the dough has been rolled brush some olive oil on top.  Top the pizza with mozzarella/parmesan, peaches and gorgonzola.  Place pizza in oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.

3.  While the oven is baking make the balsamic reduction.  Pour about 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan, bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the vinegar has reduced to about 2 Tbsp.

4. Once the pizza is done drizzle it with the balsamic reduction and top it with some freshly chopped basil.

 

Trust me, your taste buds will thank you.

Get in my Belly!

Happy Father’s Day

I seem to have taken an unintended hiatus of sorts.  I sincerely apologize with the lack of posts over the past month.  My new job has been so hectic that I barely have time to keep up with my favorite blogs, let alone write one.  I assure you though that things will be back to normal by the end of June when I head back home.

Even though I am on break, I wanted to take some time to honour my wonderful father.

My dad is a true renaissance man.  He excels at everything he puts his mind to. He is an amazing entrepreneur, artist, cook, story-teller, leather craftsman (seriously!)…. I could keep going, but the point is that my dad is one amazing guy.
He has always pushed himself to be better.  In turn, he has always encouraged me and my sister to work harder and to try our best.  I get my strong work ethic from my father.  I also get my wit and sense of humour from him.  My dad can tell  a joke that will make your sides hurt from laughing so hard (okay, so I’m not as amazing at jokes, but I am pretty good).
He has always been a source of unconditional support for me.  Even though my life is far from conventional, my father has always encouraged me to follow my own path.  And when I have fallen (which is often), he has always been there to pick me up, brush the dirt off, and send me back on my way.

Thank you, dad, for being such a source of love and support.  I love you!

Dear Momma…

I’ve been fortunate to have grown up surrounded by many amazing females.  My grandmothers, aunties, and sister have played a strong role in making me the woman I am today.  But the one woman who truly shaped me, who gave me my foundation, and who gave me my sense of self, is my beautiful mother.
I’m not sure my mother realizes how strong she is.  My sister and I have witnessed her overcome some overwhelming obstacles.  Life has not always been easy, but through it all my mother managed to make us feel loved and supported.  I believe that much of me and my sister’s drive and tenacity comes from the example that my mother set us.
My mother is many things.  She is hilarious.  She is beautiful.  She is intelligent.  I truly could keep going but when it comes down to it, she is my mother.  She nurtures and loves and keeps our family together.  This is no easy task considering that we live in three different countries.  And when my family does have the opportunity to all be together my mother creates such an amazing feeling of home, it’s as if we never left.  She is my number one fan, supporting me in all my endeavors and picking me up when I occasionally (most often) fall flat on my face.

I am so grateful and blessed to have her as my mother.  I love you, mom!

To shorts or not to shorts?

I think most girls get a little nervous as the temperature starts to rise.  It means the end of leggings and the beginning of short skirts and even scarier, shorts.  I don’t know why shorts scare me so much.  My aversion to them probably started in elementary school where we are all forced to wear shorts in gym class.  No matter what the weather or the activity, everyone had to don a pair of school sanctioned shorts.  And while most of the girls looked cute and girly in theirs, my soon-to-be child bearing hips could not be contained.  I was so self-conscious, constantly pulling them down as they rode up, inching closer and closer to my crotch.  Sigh.  Yes, that is probably where my fear began and it definitely grew worse when puberty hit and my hips grew into their full glory.  I swore off shorts at the ripe age of 13.  No good could come from them.

But, lately I’ve come to accept shorts.  I think the reason is two-fold.  One, we now have so many types and styles of shorts to choose from.  Most girls can find a pair that is both flattering and fashionable.  And two, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to accept my body for what it is, big hips and all.  I still worry when I put a pair on, reverting back to my young self.  But, on most days, I can silence those voices and don a pair of shorts so bright and beautiful that you would see me from a mile away.

 When you feel comfortable in the skin you’re in, you can make anything work.  Even a pair of coral shorts :)

Cactus

These past few months have been tough for me.  I’ve been far from home and far from those I love most, and I’ve been dealing with both professional and personal struggles.  I try not to dwell on my problems and for the most part I’m okay.  But every so often I get into a serious funk and I’m reminded that everything is not peachy.
Last week I took a different path to get to work and I stumbled on the beautiful flowers pictured above.  After I took the picture I realized that they were cactus flowers.  I had never seen such large cactus flowers before.  They were beautiful.  I started thinking about the cactus, a plant that has adapted to live in some of the harshest conditions.  It endures extreme heat and drought, and it thrives.  Not only that, it’s able to create beauty.
I want to be a cactus.  I want to take my harsh conditions and be able to endure, be able to thrive and to be able to create beauty.

dress: Forever21; cardigan: H&M; shoes: target

 

 

Red Lips

Red lips can completely change an outfit.  In fact, red lips can make an outfit.  Lately I’ve been veering away from my tinted glosses and venturing into lipstick territory.  For me, there’s something very self-conscious about wearing lipstick.  I feel the same way I do when I’m wearing a hat, as if all eyes are on me.  But, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
I  often feel that women are conditioned to not attract attention to themselves.  It’s a bit of an oxymoron though.  You want to stand out (and kind of expected to), but not that much.  And with red lips, you can’t help but stick out.  As I’ve been getting older though I’ve started to embrace those things that make me stand out, and accentuate them.  And I think this lipstick thing is another step in my journey to accepting who I am and accepting my body.  Who knew a little tube of lipstick could spark so much introspection?

dress: Francesca's Collection; cardigan: H&M; shoes: target

 

Acceptance

Image

2012 has so far been a year full of ups and downs.  And unfortunately, there have been far more downs than ups over the past month.  It’s been a tough time for this gypsy and even though I’m an optimist, it’s been hard for me to see the lighter side of things.
Last night, I had a long conversation with a good friend of mine and something she said really struck a chord with me.  It went against everything that I was doing but it gave me a great sense of peace.  You have to embrace and accept that you are going through a bad time.
Accepting that things were going bad, that I was sad and angry made me feel so much better.  Of course, I would feel much better if things weren’t going so terrible but at least now I’m much more calm about what is going on around me.
My natural instinct is to fix things and at the moment, I just can’t.  My problems are out of my hands and all I can do is wait.  Wait and see. I have to accept that things are out of my hand.  I have accept that I can’t fix things.

Maybe 2012 has started this way to teach me some big lessons for what’s to come in the next 11 months.  Who knows.

Should Auld Acquaintance be Forgot

Happy New Year, Everyone!
I hope you all had a wonderful New Years Eve whether you decided to celebrate it with a huge crowd or spend it with the ones/one you love most.  Adam and I had a wonderful night meeting new friends at a vintage themed party (pictures will be forthcoming).
I’ve never been one for resolutions.  I feel like they put too much pressure on you and it sucks when a year passes and you feel like you failed at something.  I do like to however reflect on the year .  Reflect on what the past year brought both the good and the bad.  Reflect on all the changes and surprises.  If there’s one thing that 2011 taught me is that you never know what is going to happen.
I’m excited for 2012.  Excited for what it has in store for me.  I want to enjoy every day and every moment, and let the next 365 days take me where they will.

Happy 2012!

Shab-E-Yalda and Pomegranate Soup/Aashe Anar

Growing up in Canada as a non-Christian immigrant child can be a difficult thing, especially around Christmas.  In our household we celebrated both Iranian and Canadian holidays.  We got Christmas and Easter but we also got Shab-e-Yalda and Norooz.  I don’t know how my Mom did it, but she managed to raise both me and my sister looking more forward to the Iranian holidays rather than the Canadian ones (very impressive).
Shab-E-Yalda is one of the most fun nights of the year.  It is a celebration of the winter solstice; a celebration of the longest night of the year, meaning that shorter nights and longer days are coming (something many of us are very much looking forward to).  It’s a night where friends and family come together and dance and eat.  It’s tradition that you should stay up all night (at least past midnight) to prevent misfortune falling on you.  It’s an awesome excuse to stay up all night dancing and partying the longest night away with the people you love most.
I always look forward to the food.  There is always an abundance of dried fruit, nuts, sweets, watermelon and of course pomegranates, which are a staple.   I remember that there used to always be huge heaping bowls of the red seeds all over our home during Yalda.

One of the best things about Shab-e-Yalda is my mother’s pomegranate soup, also know as Ashe Anaar.  This is a delicious soup that is both sweet, tart and savory. There are many recipes out there but my mother’s is the best. Unfortunately, since she cooks like me (with no recipe), I can’t provide you with her recipe but here is one that comes close.
You can omit the meatballs if you are vegetarian.  Or make them and put them on the side.  Also, you may have to head to a Middle Eastern grocery store to get some of the ingredients (mainly the pomegranate molasses and golpar).  If you do head to a store be sure to also pick up some Sangak or Barbari bread.  Trust. Me.

Ingredients

1/2 cup      yellow split pea
1/2 cup      red lentil
1 cup         lentil

1 chopped onion

1/2 cup rice
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup chopped parsley and chive (or green part of green onion)
1/2 cup chopped mint leaves  (or 1 tbs dried mint)
2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
salt and pepper

3 to 4 cups water
1 bottle (32 FL OZ) pomegranate juice or 3/4 cups pomegranate molasses
Add the three first ingrients to water and bring to boil under high heat. (If you are using pomegranate juice use 3 cups of water. If you are using pomegranate molasses add 4 cups of water.) Let the legumes boil for 15 minutes. Add onion and rice and let them cook together for about 20 minutes or until the rice begins to split apart.  Add the herbs, sugar, salt and pepper and the pomegranate juice or pomegranate molasses and let the mixture boil for 30 more minutes or until it reaches a creamy consistency. After adding the herbs, stir the soup several times during cooking.
*You may add chicken or meat stock instead of water or just let it be a vegetarian dish. You can also add meat balls to this soup.You may add 1/2 cup of pomegranate seed to the soup in the last 15 minutes of the cooking.

Field Trip: Key West, FL

Okay, so I realize that a day trip to Key West is probably not possible for most of you.  I have to say that there are some definite perks to living in south Florida; one of them being that Miami and Key West are only a couple hours drive away.  Me and my colleagues sadly weren’t able to head back to our respective homes for Thanksgiving so we thought we would take advantage of the time off and head down to Key West, which we were told is gorgeous.  Well, ladies and gentleman, Key West did not disappoint.  It was gorgeous and beautiful and the fact that it used to be pirate hub, made it all the more amazing (I may end up quitting my day job and becoming a Captain Jack Sparrow impersonator just so I can live full time in Key West, those guys made bank, yo!).

On our way down we stopped off at Bahia Honda Park.  We didn’t get to explore a lot but what we saw was beautiful.
 By evening we arrived in Key West and decided to check out the infamous Duval Street.  If you’ve never been, think of a cross between the French Quarter in New Orleans, The Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney Land and every Girls Gone Wild ad you’ve seen.  Yup, it’s that infamous.  Needless to say not much should/could be described of that night.  But I will say this, daiquiris are the most evil/ingenious invention ever.  They are an adult slurpee that taste even better than a slurpee, who does that??!!

The next day we headed to Fort Zachary Park.  For those of you who know me, you know that I love to swim.  My entire family loves to swim; We really should have been born with gills.  I cannot tell you how excited I was to swim in the Carribean.  How beautiful is this?
We then went on a walk around the park and saw this:
And this guy was in the wild.  He wasn’t being carried on some creeper’s shoulders or behind a glass cage.  This guy was just chilling, eating leaves and stuff. It was amazing.

Snorkeling / How the Titanic was recreated in Key West
Little did I know however that our final day in Key west would be one of the most exhilarating/traumatizing experiences of my life.
The one activity that I really wanted to do while in Key West was to snorkel.  Key West has the third largest coral reef off of its coast, and it’s the only living coral reef in the continental US; so there are some amazing sites to see below the water.  We bought a package from our hotel called the “Ultimate Adventure” tour.  We would be spending 6 hours on the open seas doing different water activities including jet skiing, water kayaking and what I was most excited for, snorkeling.
The first half off the day was spent doing the “fun” activities.  We went paragliding (amazing!), jet skied (not as amazing; my partner and I managed to fall off within the first 5 minutes….), swam and kayaked.
I should at this point tell you that our boat was being captained by Brad Pitt circa Legends of the Fall or for you Saved by the Bell fans, Rod Belding.
I have to mention his handsom-ness because it comes in handy for the next part of my tale.

The second half of the day was to be spent snorkeling.  Yay, snorkeling, right? No.  This is pretty much where everything went downhill.  We were told that since we would be going out further into sea, the waters would be slightly choppy. Choppy?  What does that mean?  At the time, I thought it meant, baby waves; waves that would indecipherable to my body.  Well friends, choppy is pretty much a euphemism for big-ass waves.  Waves that will make you feel like you spent the previous night downing an entire bottle of Jack Daniels followed by shots of Tequila.  Yes, my sea sickness was that bad.  I was hoping that once we arrived at the reef, the water would calm down a bit.  But, I was wrong. So wrong.
Since parts of the reef are only about 5 feet deep, the boat had to dock about 100 metres away.  Meaning one would have to swim 100 metres in “choppy,” jelly-fish infested water to get the reef.  Folks, I was determined.  No amount of nausea, or vertigo would hold me back.  I wanted to find  Nemo.
There were 2 ways of entering the water.  One was to jump off the side, which we were told could be “slightly traumatic” (the snorkeling instructor’s words verbatim….. right, so who wants to do that now?) or you could shimmy down a set of wide stairs that led straight into the water.  No-brainer.  Here’s the catch though, everyone wanted to shimmy down.  Another point worth mentioning is that about 60% of the passengers on our boat were first-time swimmers. Meaning they had little to no swimming experience.
So, here is what happened.  Everyone began to shimmy down and then once they hit the “choppy” water they began to panic.  It was scary.  As I began my descent down the stairs, all I saw was sheer terror and panic on my fellow passengers faces.  It was like a scene out of the Titanic, except that we were all in wet suits and had snorkels and Legends of the Fall Brad Pitt was there, shirtless, wet and tanned….. but I digress.  So as I begin to shimmy down, Legends of the Fall Brad Pitt sees me.  He grabs my wet suit, stares in my face and yells “Swim past the people, or they’ll crawl all over you!”  And with those final words he pushes me out into the open waters.  What could have only made this more terrifying/better was if he had a British/Scottish accent, and then it really would have been the Titanic (except for the aforementioned facts that we were all in wetsuits with snorkels, and honestly in no real danger).
Of course the first thing I saw was a huge jellyfish.  I deftly navigated past him and his other buddies and after a little bit of swimming, I made it to the reef.  Was it all worth it?  Yes.  It was beautiful out there.  Tons of fishes colored in bright blues and greens.  Unfortunately however, after a while I got seasick.  I didn’t even know you could get seasick while swimming…..
Of the 80 people on board only 15 of us made it out alive…. I mean, made it out to the reef.  It was definitely an accomplishment for me and I am so happy that I did it.  All in all, the trip was totally worth it.  Even if I did think I was about to die a couple times while snorkeling.  Still totally worth it.