Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. As a child, my brother and I would dress up every year and go to the Halloween carnival at school and later go trick or treating in the neighborhood with our cousins. We would then come home and separate out the candy and trade with each other...and by "trade" I mean fight over it.  Maybe it's because I associate Halloween with these fond memories growing up, that I enjoy it so much.  Now a days, our activities are a bit different. It's more about making festive dishes and less knocking on doors for candy, although I do wish I could still do that.

I wanted to share a super easy recipe for a Halloween inspired cheese ball that makes a great appetizer. I made this cute little pumpkin for our office potluck today.


Tasty and simple!  I served the cheese ball with sea salt & olive oil flatbread crisps.



 
Halloween Ham & Cheese Ball

(Adapted from Flying on Jess Fuel)
Ingredients
2 (8oz) packages of cream cheese
2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
5 Slices of deli ham or bacon (any kind will work)
1 (3 3/8oz) bag of nacho cheese Doritos
1 stem of a green bell pepper
Garlic Powder to taste
Flatbread crisps (or cracker of choice)
Instructions
1. Place both packages of cream cheese into a microwave safe bowl. Warm for just a few seconds, just enough to soften, making it easier to manage. (do not over heat)

2. Add the softened cream cheese in a food processor along with the shredded cheese.

3. Dice the ham into small chunks and add to the food processor, adjusting the amount of ham to your preference.
4. Add a teaspoon or so of garlic powder to the mixture and blend until mixed well.

5. Scrape the mixture out of the processor onto a cutting board and form a round ball. Wrap up the ball well in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
6. Remove the cheese ball from the refrigerator just before serving.  Leaving the Doritos in the bag, crush them up into tiny pieces. Pour them onto a plate and roll the cheese ball around coating the entire ball.
7. Cut them stem off of the bell pepper and place it on top of the cheese ball.

Enjoy!

Btw...I was a ninja turtle this year...


And Monster was a bumble bee!



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Creamy Tomato Soup + Gouda & Fontina Grilled Cheese

Nothing is more comforting than a hot, creamy, rich bowl of tomato soup to warm you up on a chilly day.  However, living in Charleston, we haven't really seen "chilly" weather just yet. I believe the high today was 81...not that I'm complaining.

But none the less, I have had tomato soup on my mind for quite some time now.  This past weekend we took a trip to the mountains to Bryson City, NC. Not only was it the perfect weather to break out some Fall attire, but also the perfect weather to make some tomato soup!

We did a lot of cooking while we were at the cabin and this was the perfect recipe that didn't require me staying in the kitchen all night. And of course we had to have a gooey grilled cheese sandwich to accompany the soup.

I like most any tomato soups, but the thick and creamy ones are my favorite. This particular recipe is full of fresh flavor and is healthy if you omit the heavy cream, but we were on vacation so I went for it!  Everyone needs a good go to soup recipe, which is why I wanted to share this one with you. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

These gorgeous fresh tomatoes were the star of the show


Along with some fresh chopped veggies for sautéing


After adding the liquids in with the vegetables, cooking for 30 minutes and blending, the end result looked like this.



And let's not forget the grilled cheese


This was the finished product. Sorry for the lack of good quality photos...I was not in my own kitchen so I was working with what I had.




Creamy Tomato Soup + Gouda & Fontina Grilled Cheese
 
TOTAL TIME: 1 HOUR, 15 MINUTES
Soup Serving Size 6 to 8
 
INGREDIENTS
Tomato Soup
3 pounds of large fresh tomatoes
1 cup of celery (approximately 2 stalks diced)
1 cup of diced carrots (I used the shredded ones in a bag)
2 cups diced onion (one large)
3 teaspoons fresh minced garlic
11 ounces of Tomato Juice (low sodium)
1 cup of Chicken Broth (low sodium)
6oz can of tomato paste
½ Cup of EVOO
Salt & Pepper
1 tablespoon of butter
Dried Parsley
1 pint Heavy Cream (optional)
 
Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Fresh sourdough bread
2 slices Gouda cheese
1 hunk of Fontina cheese
2 tablespoons butter
 
Instructions
1. Rinse and core tomatoes. Slice them in half horizontally and remove the seeds. Tip: To save the juice from the tomatoes when removing seeds, scrape them into a strainer. Have the strainer placed over a bowl to catch the liquid left behind. Once all tomatoes have been seeded cut each tomato into 4 chunks, making them easier to manage when cooking.
2.  Pour olive oil into a medium to large size Dutch oven. Add minced garlic, diced onion, carrots and celery, sautéing over medium to high heat for 5 to 7 minutes.  Next add in the chunks of fresh tomatoes. 
3.   Add chicken broth, tomato juice, tomato paste, salt & pepper to taste, cover and let simmer for 30 minutes.
4. Once the soup has simmered for 30 minutes, pour into a blender and mix well. (or use an immersion blender) After the soup has been well blended, pour back into the pot on low heat.
5. Add butter and heavy cream to the soup, stir and let simmer on low heat for 5 minutes.
6. Garnish with parsley when serving.
For the Grilled Cheese
1. In a small size skillet heat a tablespoon of butter on low/medium heat.                                  
2. Take sourdough bread and place 2 slices of Gouda cheese on one side of the bread. Layer the Gouda with thin cut slices of Fontina cheese. You may substitute any type of cheese, but these had great flavor and really complimented the soup.
3. Cook the sandwich in the skillet (adding butter to coat the bottom of the pan as needed) until brown on both sides and cheese has melted all the way through.







Monday, October 27, 2014

Weekend in the Mountains

To say this past weekend was full of natural beauty would be an understatement.  Whit and I took a road trip to the Great Smoky Mountains to celebrate our 1 year anniversary and relax, which is exactly what we did. We stayed in one of the Watershed properties luxury log cabins just outside of Bryson City near the Nantahala River. Our cozy secluded cabin was perched on the side of a mountain and included all of the right amenities.

Before heading to our cabin, we started the trip off with a scenic tour through the mountains via The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.

The tour was 4 hours round trip, stopping for an hour at the Nantahala Outdoor Center.  We booked an open air car, which is definitely the way to go. It was a little chilly, but so worth it!  Here are some of the scenes we saw from our train car. The photos just don't do it justice...

Fontona Lake 

Another view of the Lake
 
Nantahala Outdoor Center

 After an enjoyable train ride, we made our way to the cabin for some peace and quite. The rest of our evening looked something like this.

 
 


Dinner compliments of Chef Whit

 
Keeping with tradition, our dessert was a slice of the top of our wedding cake

Saturday morning we headed out for a 3 mile hike to the Wesser Bald lookout tower, a historic location on the Appalachian Trail/Tellico Gap . The views were totally worth it once we reached the top. It was breathtaking (literally).



View from the Wesser Bald Lookout Tower



Creek along the way back

After our hike we headed back to the cabin to enjoy some time by the fire and get started on dinner.




Nothing like Homemade Tomato Soup & a Grilled Cheese
We really enjoyed our long weekend at the cabin, although it wasn't long enough. It was decided that we definitely will be making a trip back in the near future.

"Call of the Wild Cabin"

On Sunday, we said goodbye to our little cabin in the woods and headed back to SC, but not without one more stop in Bryson City.  We spent some time checking out a few of the shops in town, the ones that were open anyway.  Looking for a few things to bring back home, we came across this little store called the Choo Choo Coffee & Trading Company. This charming country store has homemade fudge, an espresso bar, gifts, souvenirs, and assortment of specialty food that will tempt your palate.

The Blueberry Cheesecake Fudge Looked Amazing

Assortment of Relishes


 

We may have left with a few shopping bags in our hands......

One last stop was made at the National Park, where we found a pretty waterfall.


Perfect end to a great trip!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Weekend Recap

So, it's Wednesday and I'm just now getting around to recapping the weekend.....I will get better at this, I promise.

We had quite a busy weekend filled with celebrations!  Whit and I hit the road back to our old stomping grounds in Myrtle Beach, SC.  Friday evening was spent at one of the best sushi spots in Myrtle Beach (or at least we think so). We went to Soho, which is where we had our first date. The restaurant does not take reservations, has a mile long sushi menu and has the perfect romantic ambiance, accompanied by delicious food. Below are some photos from our dinner.




Dancing Eel Roll
Sushi Assortment 
Did I mention the sushi is amazing!? And side note, this may sound strange, but the hummus appetizer  is a must.  It's creamy and fresh served with warm fluffy pita bread.

Saturday we managed to squeeze in a quick lunch date at The Cheesteak Factory (steak not cake).  They have the best cheesesteaks and what's even better...you can create your own. The photo may look standard but the flavor is anything but.


Make Your Own: onions, peppers, mushrooms, cheese
 
After lunch it was time to get ready to go see our two good friends tie the knot. The wedding took place at this charming little farm in Conway, SC. We had such a great time!

Whit was one of the groomsmen

 
After a fun filled weekend, we were back on the road to Charleston on Sunday, which also happened to be our 1 year wedding anniversary! Here is a little flashback I posted on Instagram.  Due to our busy schedules over the weekend, we postponed our anniversary trip to this coming weekend.  In the meantime, we did manage to have an amazing dinner at Peninsula Grill.  If you are a Charleston resident, or even if you're not, you must check this place out. Below are some photos from dinner.

Baked Oysters Rockefeller Style
with Arugula & Asiago  


Seared New York Strip au Poivre with Crispy Potato Cake,
 Benne Beans, & Brandy Pan Sauce
And of course we couldn't leave without having the famous 12 layer "Ultimate Coconut Cake"

A sweet end to a great weekend!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Let Me Introduce Myself...


My name is Ryan and I live in beautiful Charleston, SC with my husband Whit and our cat Monster. Although I am new to the blog world, this has been a venture I've thought about for far too long.  I decided it was time to just go for it. So as I sit here pondering where to begin, I thought it would only be fitting to start with a simple introduction.  I am enthusiastic about food and entertaining, drawn to the world of fashion, enlightened by travel and  appreciate good taste.
 
With this blog I hope to share a tasteful lifestyle through food, fashion and décor,  all on a polished palate. I'm excited for this new journey, and I hope you will join me!