Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Birthday celebrations & German Chocolate Cake

This past weekend we celebrated Jason's 35th birthday. The celebration's started Saturday night as I surprised him with dinner at our favorite restaurant here in Charlotte, Barrington's. Sunday was his actual birthday so after going to church we met up with my parents for an afternoon of beer tasting. I didn't tell him what we were doing until we were on our way and boy was he excited. My man loves his beer, especially IPA's. We went to two brewery's that are relatively new to Charlotte, Birdsong Brewing Co. and NoDa Brewing Co.

It was a really fun afternoon and we both agreed that we would have to go back, especially with football season coming up. We all headed back to our house after the tasting, where we met up with his sister and her husband for dinner.

Jason has always talked about how German Chocolate Cake is one of his favorites and that it reminds him of his grandmother because she would always have it whenever he would visit.
When I came across this recipe that Jason's mom had I knew what I was making for his birthday. This is an easy version of a German Chocolate Cake but it is not lacking in flavor one bit. A super moist cake with a crunchy topping of pecans and coconut makes this one incredible dessert.

Easy German Chocolate Cake

- 1 box of German Chocolate cake mix
- 2 cups of sugar
- 1 large can of evaporated milk
- 1 stick of butter
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1 cup of coconut
- 3 egg yolks

- Bake the cake mix according to the package directions.

- While the cake cools combine the sugar, milk, butter, pecans, coconut, and egg yolks in a saucepan and cook until thick. Let the mixture cool before spreading it onto the cake.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fresh Tomato Soup

My mom gave us a bag full of tomatoes last weekend that she had accumulated from several different people. It is that time of year when people are finding themselves with an overload of vegetables from their garden so they give them to neighbors and friends because they know they can't possibly use them all before they go bad.
For the record...I will kindly accept fresh fruits and vegetables if you are one of these people.

In order to use up some of the tomatoes I decided to make homemade tomato soup for tonight's dinner. I realize it is 95 degrees and the middle of summer but for some reason soup was on my mind. This is a healthy and delicious meal full of fresh ingredients. With a grilled cheese on the side this is the perfect comfort meal and lets face it, sometimes comfort is what we want (even in the middle of summer).

Fresh Tomato Soup

- 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup chopped red onion
- 1 cup chopped carrot
- 1 tablespoon sliced fresh basil
- 2 1/2 - 3 cups sliced tomatoes ( 5 to 6 medium sized tomatoes)
- Salt and pepper
- Greek yogurt and basil as a topping (optional)

- Pour the chicken broth in a large saucepan and add the chopped onion, carrots, basil, and tomatoes to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

-Using a handheld blender mix all the ingredients until the mixture is smooth.  If you don't have a handheld blender you can use a regular blender or food processor, mixing half of the soup at a time.
Spoon the soup into a serving bowl and if you choose top with a tablespoon of Greek Yogurt and chopped fresh basil. You will be glad you did.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tangy Country Style Pulled Pork Barbecue

If someone asked me what my favorite kitchen appliance is I would say hands down my crock pot. There is nothing like coming home after a long day to the wonderful aroma of a home-cooked meal ready and waiting for you. I have made barbecue in the crock pot a few times before but I have never made it using this sauce that I found in Phyllis's recipe box. My goodness was it good. You could really taste the lemon in this recipe, which really brightened the dish and balanced well with the other flavors. I chose to use pork tenderloin to save on both fat and calories but you could certainly use a different cut of meat such as a pork shoulder. It's quick and easy making it perfect for a weeknight meal.

Tangy Country BBQ Sauce
- 3/4 cup ketchup
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1/2 cup vinegar
- 2 1/2 tablespoons Worchester Sauce
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon dry mustard
- 1 1/2 tablespoons grated ginger
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2 lemon (sliced thin with peel)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
- salt and pepper

Mix the ingredients together in a medium sized bowl. Place your tenderloin in the crock pot and pour the sauce over top. Cook on low heat for 6 to 8 hours.

 Before serving shred the pork (I did this by using two forks) and remove the lemon slices.

This recipe is great for leftovers and the best part is you can do different things with it so you aren't eating the same thing several days in a row.

Great topping or side to a salad

BBQ and Cheese Quesadilla

Thursday, July 5, 2012

4th of July Celebrations

I hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July.We started celebrating Tuesday night by attending Pops in the Park with some of our friends. Pops in the Park is a summer tradition here in Charlotte where people can set up a picnic on the lawn for an outdoor orchestral concert. In honor of Independence Day they put on an American themed concert Tuesday night with music and fireworks.

Before we left I put together a bean dip that was both easy to make and tasty.

In the mix:- 1 15 oz. can black beans- rinsed and drained
- 1 cup grilled corn
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion
- 1/4 cup diced avocado
- 1 tbsp good olive oil
- salt and pepper

We packed up our cooler, blankets and other picnic supplies to meet our friends Rob and Katie early in order to get a good spot. It was insanely hot when we got there so after we set out our blankets we decided to grab a drink inside with the AC before our other friends arrived.

Despite the heat we had a great time talking, laughing, singing, eating, and drinking.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sweet Summertime

Jason and I spent all of last week at Ocean Isle Beach for our families annual beach trip. By family I mean my parents, brother, sister-n-law, niece, nephew, grandparents, aunt, uncle, two cousins, and one of their friends. 

As if having 15 people staying in one house isn't enough entertainment we also have themed nights where we all dress up and cook dinner that relates to our theme. This year we had a luau and a pirate night.

Pinned Image

We spent our days relaxing on the beach or at the pool and our nights included cocktails, wine, sunsets, and amazing dinners.

I love my wonderful family and our week at the beach.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Kauai Recap Part 2

It is because of my wonderful husbands hard work that we were able to go to Kauai. His company brought us, along with about 300 other employees and spouses, to the wonderful island to express their appreciation for the work that was done last year. To end a wonderful week they concluded the trip by throwing a luau. This was our first ever "real" luau and it was more or less how I pictured it to be. There were Hawaiian dances, hula girls, a spread of food and of course BBQ. Yes those are real pigs in the photo below and yes I did eat some of the BBQ after seeing that. I was going for the full luau experience.:)

Of course I can't tell you about our trip and not mention the food. I have to admit I was a little disappointed. We ate a lot of fish and although it was extremely fresh we found that many of the dishes were lacking in flavor. However, I will tell you what I did love. Fruit. Oh My Goodness! I have found a new love for papaya that I was not aware of before. 

There is of course some really good food in Kauai, you just have to do a little more searching to find it. And we did.

Osso Bucco and Shrimp Romesco (Bar Acuda)

Dates with shaved parmesan and aged balsamic (Bar Acuda)

Tuna Tartare served with crusty bread upon request ;) (St. Regis Resort)

Dinner at Bar Acuda (our favorite restaurant).

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Kauai Recap Part 1

I am back at home after two weeks of vacation. Once Jason and I left Hawaii and landed back in Charlotte we loaded up the car and drove to Ocean Isle Beach to meet the rest of our family for our yearly beach trip. It was an exhausting day of travel but completely worth it once we were able to join everyone for what I consider my favorite week of the year.

While in Hawaii we stayed on the island of Kauai (also known as the "Garden Isle"). There are hundreds of hiking trails on the island as well as tropical rainforest, waterfalls, and mountains so we spent most of our time exploring the island. We knew from looking at pictures how beautiful Kauai is but I still wasn't prepared to see some of the things that we did. There were moments when it literally took my breath away.

The view from our room

Kilohana Overlook-The end of a 4-mile hike, part of which was through a boardwalk swamp trail.

View from Na Pali trail

Hanakapi'ai Waterfall-The end of our 4 mile hike on the Na Pali Trail

Jason and I did a guided tour on horseback that took us to another waterfall

Waimea Canyon

PiheaTrail- Trail located 4000ft above the ocean overlooking the Kalalau Valley

We didn't hike the whole time we were there so I will be writing another post to share a few more highlights from our trip.