Monday, April 15, 2013

Asheville Trip {very photo heavy post!}

Mike and I went up to Asheville for a few days and had so much fun. I decided that I would be one of those girls that took photos of everything for the sake of her blog. Yes, including meals! 

We stayed at the Aloft in downtown Asheville and loved it. We're able to use the SPG points + cash deal to get a great price on the hotel. It is super nice to be able to not have to drive at all! One of my favorite things about this Aloft was the chalkboard wall. Our last day in Asheville, there was an engagement announcement! So sweet! :)

Like I said: photos of everything. :) We love staying in hotels because we get cable TV. Awww yeah! We spent a lot of time watching ESPN and HGTV. Also, I had to take a photo of the Bliss products that Aloft hotels have. I <3 Bliss!

I posted on Facebook & Google+ that our trip was all about eating good food. Everything else was just waiting for the next meal. This was so true and there are a LOT of photos of food in this post! 

Sunday night dinner was Salsa! I had put out an inquiry on Facebook asking friends where to eat and this is one of the places that was recommended. It was also right around the corner from our hotel which made it an obvious choice for our first night. When you eat at Salsa, you are definitely packed in there, but it's not terrible. Also, the chairs looked like they'd be uncomfortable, but they were actually quite nice. The room is painted a bright yellow, but most of the walls are covered in very cool pieces of art.

Mike and I split the "Fifth Element" Fajitjas--a lot of the meals had movie names, like the "Pulp Fiction" Plantains--and I had a pineapple margarita--yummy! We find that when we split meals not only do we save money, but we don't stuff ourselves so full that we're wandering around going, "Ohhhhhh I ate tooo much..." Because that's never fun. I am certain we will be back because our meal was amazing. Best fajitas I'd ever had.

After dinner at Salsa, we went next door to Bomba for some coffee (or hot chocolate for me!) and biscotti. Bomba and Salsa are owned by the same person, but Bomba has a very different feel. The walls are grey and the room was dimly lit. The coffee was very good--or so Mike tells me. The hot chocolate was rich and delicious and the perfect way to top off my night. 

Monday morning, we went to Early Girl Eatery for breakfast. From what I read online, if you visit this place on the weekends, you can expect to have quite the wait. If you visit on Monday, you get seated right away. :) Working for yourselves and not being restricted to the weekends FTW! There was adorable folk-y farm and animal themed art on the walls and there were hanging baskets of greenery in the windows. The room was open and airy, but they still put your table two inches away from the next table. I didn't like that and found it to be very odd. I'm sure it's so when they are busy they can fit the maximum number of customers in the restaurant...but it was still a little too close for me.

Mike got granola with fruit for breakfast and I got the Southern Breakfast. It was exactly what you would expect: two eggs, toast, grits, and your choice of bacon or sausage. While we both enjoyed our meals, we didn't think it was anything spectacular. Other than the table situation, we didn't really dislike anything. But we weren't wowed either and probably won't be back. (Try instead: Tupelo Honey. Went there last time and LOVED it! However, from what I understand they also have a ridiculously long wait time on the weekends.)

We spent the rest of the morning wandering around and poking into shops.

For lunch, we visited Doc Chey's. Also recommended by my friends and also right near our hotel. I got the Pad Thai and Mike got the Chinese Stir-Fry. I wish we had decided to split because I only ate about half of my meal. I love Pad Thai, but it was just a lot of it. The Pad Thai was delicious but, again, nothing spectacular. I actually thought that Mike's looked yummier. We might visit this place again and split something next time!

After a nice nap, Mike and I popped into the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. Our first time there! We  got three different flavors for a chocolate ganache tasting: Indian (cinnamon and pistachio), lavender & honey, and pure dark. My favorite was the pure dark, I think. They were all delicious and very rich. I think Mike ended up consuming most of the chocolate because I couldn't. But oh, sooo yummy! I can't wait to go back and visit--I need to try their truffles!

We stopped by The Gourmet Chip Company to get some yummy yummy chips to eat while watching the final March Madness game that night. If you have never been to the Gourmet Chip I would *highly* recommend it. Easily the tastiest and most creative chips I have ever had in my whole life. I forget which ones we got The Parisian and The Americana. SO GOOD. Oh, and guess what? They ship some of their chips! Definitely worth a stop.

Ohhh...yum. In typing up this blog, I'm remembering what an amazing food day the Monday was. good. Okay, for dinner, we went to the Black Bird. It's located in the same building as our hotel. Again with the super convenient. We weren't super hungry, so we both got a glass of wine (red for him, white for me) to go with our cheese board and meat board. I have never liked brie until I tried their brie. On a cracker, with some kind of jellied something. The boards were full of local yummy goodness (some of it award winning!) Feta, goat cheese, bleu cheese, chicken liver pate, prosciutto, pickled vegetables, etc. It was a seriously delicious meal and I would totally have it again.

Tuesday breakfast consisted of us going across the street to City Bakery & Cafe. This time, I was the one who got granola (in the form of a parfait) and Mike got a bagel. I don't get granola much but man was my granola tasty. We loved City Bakery and it made us wish that Greenville had a place like that. 

Our trip demanded a stop at White Duck Taco Shop. Partly because it is amazing and partly because last time we went, I was so not hungry that I didn't order anything. White Duck Taco Shop is in the River Arts District and it is a long way to walk (trust us!), so after checking out of our hotel, we stopped there on our way out of town.

The place was packed and the line was very very long. They have indoor and outdoor seating. We shared our picnic table with another couple, because one of the nicest days of spring, everyone wants to eat lunch outside! I normally would have ordered a fish taco, but I decided to get something different and go with the Jerk Chicken. It was spicy--very spicy for me! I'm a spicy food wimp!--and I drank a LOT of water, but it was really really yummy! It took a little while to get our tacos, so I was glad we got an order of queso and chips. Some of the yummiest queso every, you guys. So delicious. 

Our food was so good, we didn't even stop of a McDonald's ice cream cone on the way home! Something that almost always happens when we are in the car for an hour or longer. We did stop at Greenlife for some GreenMan IPA and Hive Five Coffee Bar for an americano.

Hope you enjoyed this little tour of Asheville with us! There are good posts to come. I've decided to join Mike in trying to cook yummy things and I'll be sure to blog about that!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Peggy & Joan, Urban Chickies

Meet Peggy and Joan, brave and adventurous Urban Chickies. Can you figure out which is which? Here's a clue:

Yep, our chickies were named after Peggy & Joan from MadMen. It actually all started with the name Joan for the Rhode Island Red, but then we decided to name the White Leghorn Peggy to go with the theme. I suspect if we ever got a rooster (which we have absolutely no plans on doing), we would name him Don.

Joan is the friendlier of the two. When I saw them out front scratching around, I went outside to grab a few pictures. As I walked down my front steps, Joan came rushing over. "Hello human! Have you got any scratch for me?"

Peggy kept her distance.

We were about to leave, so we tossed them back over the fence where they could scratch in safety. I think these two chickies need their wings clipped! I love that they feel comfortable but am a bit scared for their safety sometimes.

Mike (Joan only)
Their coop

Neighbor cats
Being picked up (mostly Peggy)
When you accidentally peek in on them while they are laying eggs
Flying into the window

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Michigan Sweet Corn

At the end of August, Mike and I took a few days to visit family in Michigan. And, because we timed our trip just right, we were able to bring home some of that yummy Michigan Sweet Corn! We stopped by the Cornmobile in Richmond and loaded up our car with five dozen ears of sweet corn.

Two dozen were for Cathie, a friend who knew Mike back when the both lived in MI, and the rest of the ears were to blanched, cut off the cob, and froze for future use. Except, of course, for a few to snack on. ;)

Last year, we brought home corn after a cousin's Labor Day weekend wedding. The frozen corn in the freezer lasted us until the spring. We used it in soups, chilis, and other yummy meals.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The TV fast

Summer is here, the garden is in bloom and theres lots to do. So Tiff and I decided to try something new this summer. We're going to not watch TV, play video games, or even watch TV online for the next two months. Our hope is this will be an opportunity to go to bed early, get up early, break bad living habits and start new healthy ones. I'm looking forward to getting my day started earlier and having time to read my Bible, exercise, and start the work day ahead rather than even at best.

We have so many exciting things we're a part of, its nice to trade a lesser joy for a greater joy. The first of September we'll reassess and decide what we want to do. I'll miss my Xbox friends, but this doesn't mean we can't hang out in real life!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Greenbrier Farms CSA: Weeks 7 and 8

Sorry for not posting for a couple weeks. Not that there's nothing to write about, actually quite the opposite. Lots of good food coming and going and lots of neat experiments and things we're learning about.

Week 7 of our CSA included cabbage, fennel, leeks, carrots, kale, cilantro, and fresh homemade pesto. The pesto used walnuts an economical substitute for the typical pine nuts. 

Week 8 or our CSA included cabbage, fennel, carrots, rainbow chard, green beans, beats, and pizza dough. 

The past month, we haven't been cooking as much as freezing, drying and canning. The hot summer is bringing the end of the green vegetables, so I bought more kale and have frozen about 20 servings. I take back everything bad I ever said about kale. But I still hate chard. We've also been freezing beans from the garden as well as leeks and green onions. 

We've canned salsa verde and dill pickles. Tried adding red pepper flakes to a couple jars to give them some kick. We also invested in a pressure canner and lots of pint-size canning jars.

The cilantro went to seed so now we have some dried coriander. Also cut the fronds off the fennel and dried those for a simple licorice tea. This rain has caused our herbs to grow like crazy, so we're drying and putting up for winter soups.

I've never done much with cabbage and we've had a steady supply through the CSA. So I'm trying several approaches to making sauerkraut. You can see how the color changes, the jar on the left is a few days old, the jar on the far right is two weeks. It all smells terrible, but I cooked a sample yesterday and it was good! In fact it'll probably need another week or two.

This week, I was surprised to learn that fermented foods are actually very good for you. Saurkraut in particular is good for you. I've been homebrewing this year as well, so its interesting to apply the same principles to preserving these kinds of foods. 

The garden is loving all this rain and I've picked my first tomatoes. These are supposed to be Roma, but as you can see they aren't getting much bigger than cherry tomatoes. This is my first time planting in this part of my yard, I guess the soil will need some work.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Greenbrier Farms CSA: Week 6

Hard to believe it's already week six of our CSA. It's a been a cool experience and this week we got a couple new vegetables. This week we received a couple kinds of salad, arugula, rainbow chard, cabbage, carrots, leeks, cauliflower, and fennel.

We've gotten into the routine of consuming a large amount of salad every week. Finishing the carrots is no problem. The arugula will go into a stir fry and the leeks will go into the freezer for soup later this year. I'll fry the chard with some garlic and I've already used the cabbage for my second batch of sauerkraut. I'm going to try roasting the cauliflower and fennel.

Tonight's dinner was an epic fail. I tried making chicken butter masala with some spices from the Indian store. They were burn through your stomach hot. So this was our back-up plan, and it was so good...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Greenbrier Farms CSA: Week 5

Life has been busy, busy, busy, but here's a belated updated for this past week.

This week in our CSA we received carrots, greens, green onions, leeks, kale, two heads of cabbage and some tasty raisin bread. The bread was perfect toasted with a little butter, it is long gone. I finally took all our green onions and leeks and froze them for later. Carrots and greens for salads. And kale was blanched and frozen along with peas and beans from our garden. After two years, I finally went under the house and hooked up the ice maker on the fridge so no more going to gas station to buy ice!

Removing the stems, prepping to freeze
I wasn't too sure what to do with the cabbage, so I'm trying my hand at making sauerkraut. It sounds simple enough, we'll see how it turns out. Tiff won't eat it, but I'll find an evening when she has other plans and stink the whole house up with it.

Improvised weight to press the cabbage down
The freezer is slowly filling up with things for the rest of the year. I've frozen a lot of strawberries, kale, green onions and leeks, some broccoli, beans and peas. I boil and freeze batches of beans as we go through them. I'll keep adding as the growing season progresses. Our grocery budget is $400/month. We've been spending more than that, but will save later in the year. 

Trying to start two businesses and our neighborhood association, I haven't time to cook much new. I made some mediocre salmon the other day. And I improved on our saag paneer this week. My basil needed to be topped off and I had some left-over parmesan so I made pesto. Mixed with pasta, it makes a nice early summer meal. Or spread on some rye bread and made into a grilled cheese. I plan on making a bunch and freezing it before summer's over.

The garden is doing well, though we're having a serious lack of rain. My beans and tomatoes are both fighting some bacterial thing (early blight?), so I'm treating them with selectively placed fungicide. We have a perfectly good growing area along a fence, so I built 3 new 1 x 4 foot raised boxes and planted more peas and pole beans. I also had the opportunity to be a part of the community garden up the street so I planted a 4 x 12 foot section of corn and quinoa. 

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