Cider Cheese Soup in Pretzel Bread Bowls

Hey, friends!  I hope everyone had a great weekend.  Ours was wonderful but went by way too fast.  Doesn’t that always happen, though?  Good news:  I have lots of food to share with you this week.  But first, CHEESE.

So no one felt the need to give me a heads up on National Cheese Day last week.  I was bummed that I was unable to celebrate but we made up for it yesterday with lots of cheese.  The soup is similar to beer cheese soup that is popular in pubs but instead of beer, apple cider is used.  We used an Angry Orchard hard apple cider – the alcohol cooks out but you could totally use a non-alcoholic apple cider and it would be equally delicious.  The soup was served in homemade pretzel bread bowls.  Bread bowls have been on our “kitchen bucket list” for a couple of years now and I’m not sure why it took us so long to check it off the list.

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The soup starts with crisping up some bacon and then cooking onions and garlic in the bacon fat until softened and translucent.  Butter and flour are used to thicken the soup and then the cider is added and cooked until slightly thick and the alcohol is cooked out.  Add in the half and half for the ultimately richness and then comes the cheese.  The recipe called for cheddar and colby jack – if I were to make this soup again I might use a monterey jack for a little heat.  I felt like it was missing that.  The crisped bacon is added and then serve in the bread bowls.  We topped our soup with a little bacon, fried sage (!!!) and some chives for freshness.

The ultimate comfort food = cheese + carbs and that’s just what this dinner is all about.

Thai Basil Chicken

Christmas 2016 has come and gone – can you believe it?  The past week was filled to the brim with family and laughter.  We spent the first part of “Christmas break” with my parents in my hometown before heading to the mountains on the 26th to spend some time with Big Guy’s family.

I felt beyond blessed to be with my family for three whole days.  And the best was when we were ALL together.  OH, and in some exciting news, I’m going to be getting a new sister soon.  My youngest brother proposed to his girlfriend before Christmas so we were able to celebrate that exciting news, too.

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Christmas day was non-stop from 7am until 11pm, in fact, Big Guy and I didn’t get to exchange gifts until 10pm.  Despite how exhausting the day can be, it’s always so much fun and by far one of my favorite days of the year.

We got up on the 26th and helped clean up the mess from the night before and then hit the road to the mountains.  Big Guy’s dad rented a mountain house for us all for a few days and it was the perfect post-Christmas retreat.  I always find the 26th to be kind of depressing because all the “fun” is over but our fun started all over again.  I am so thankful for the time I was able to spend with his sisters.

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We arrived back at home late yesterday afternoon and spent the evening unloading seven days worth of Christmas.  Today was spent taking down Christmas.  And while I’m always sad to see the magic of Christmas be put back into boxes, I’m also glad to have my living room back.  The house is clean and ready for a weekend at home.

Obviously our fridge is quite bare after being away for so long, so a quick trip to the store was necessary.  (p.s. I am not a fan of coffee with almond milk…which is all we had this morning)  While putting together a grocery list, I jumped online to try and find an easy recipe for dinner.  It didn’t take me long to come across Thai Basil Chicken which looked not only easy but had a simple ingredient list.

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Dinner was delicious!  It came together in under 30 minutes with only 7 ingredients – most of which were in my fridge or pantry.

Tomorrow is not only NYE but it’s also Big Guy’s birthday!  We’re going to keep things low-key but I can assure you that our menu for the weekend is worthy of a birthday.

Cheers to all that was 2016 and all that is to come in 2017.

 

 

Pimento Cheese Ball + Sweet Potato Mezzaluna

Christmas week is here!  I hope all of you had a wonderful weekend.

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Like  mentioned the only social plans we had this past weekend was Supper Club on Friday night.  We had a blast with our friends and enjoyed seeing everyone during this crazy time of year.

On Saturday evening, after getting a few things done around the house, it was time to simply relax and enjoy some Christmas music.  As an appetizer, we had a pimento cheese ball.  For some reason, the only time I really think about cheese balls is during Christmastime.  They’re such a retro appetizer, in my opinion.  This cheese ball was stuffed with cream cheese, cheddar cheese, some habanero Monterey Jack cheese, pickles (!!!!), garlic and of course, pimentos.  The entire cheese ball was rolled in roasted pecans which gave great texture and nuttiness.

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This is an awesome appetizer option for the coming weeks because you can totally make it in advance.

The real show stopper of the night was our dinner – homemade sweet potato mezzaluna with a garlic and sage cream sauce.  Honestly, it’s the best homemade pasta we’ve ever made.  We were still talking about it this morning.  The pasta is stuffed with a simple mixture of mashed sweet potatoes, Parmesan, rosemary and salt and pepper.  Once the pasta is cooked, it’s tossed in a rich and savory cream sauce that was loaded with flavor thanks to a head of roasted garlic, shallot and lots of fresh sage.  Incredible!

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The pasta was topped with toasted pecans and dried cranberries.

By far the best bite of the weekend!

I know everyone has a busy week ahead and I can’t wait to see my family in a matter of days.

6 days…

Christmas Baking 2016

On the 1st day of Christmas my true love the anti-technology gods gave to me, an iPhone that woooon’t work.  Y’all.  I’m on the brink of an anxiety attack.  Last night I reluctantly decided to update my phone (all because of a dang avocado emoji) and well, it froze.  I went through the same steps I went through a month ago when this happened and nothing.  Finally this morning, at 3:30am, I was able to restore my phone only to have it freeze up again.  This time, I can see the screen and that I have text messages but touching the screen does nothing.  OH, and if it tells me Hello in all the languages of the world any more I’m going to throw it across the room.  I know it seems silly, but say a little prayer that when I have my call at 8:15am with an Apple Tech person that they know more than me and can solve the problem.

In order to avoid a nervous breakdown, let’s talk about recipes!  For the past several years, I pick a day (typically a Sunday) to bake all the things.  I put together little boxes of treats to take to friends around town.  I know I’ll be making a few bundt cakes but I also want to make at least one cookie.  Help me decide!

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Chewy Gingerbread Cookies.  All the flavors of Christmas rolled into one soft, chewy cookie.  Super simple but would be incredible on any cookie platter.

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Chocolate Espresso Thumbprint Cookies.   These bite sized cookies look insanely decadent and rich.  Perfect for all the chocolate lovers out there.

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Christmas Crack.  A non-cookie option!  A family friend brings a big bag of this addictive mix over to my parents every year.  It’s salty and sweet and it keeps in the freezer (!!!!).

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Old Fashioned Iced Brown Butter Oatmeal Cookies.  I adore oatmeal cookies.  Filled with cinnamon and browned butter, these chewy cookies sound incredible.

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Cranberry Almond Shortbread Bars.   Soft, buttery and filled with sweet cranberries and zesty orange peel.  These remind me of a treat I’ve seen at Starbucks in the past.  These would be amazing with a cup of coffee.

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Christmas Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Who can resist a cookies full of chocolate chips and green and red M&Ms?  Not me.

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Five Ingredient Cheese Straws.  A little something savory!  Cheese straws are a staple in the South at holiday parties.  This homemade version requires only five ingredients and would be the perfect for the non-sweet tooth person in your life.

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White Chocolate Ginger Cookies.  Spicy and sweet!  A classic Christmas cookie with some festive decorations.  So pretty!

 

So what should be on my list for this year!?!  My baking day is coming up this Sunday.  I think I’m going to try some apple cider mulled wine for the first time and just spend the day listening to Christmas music, watching Christmas music and making an absolute mess in the kitchen.

French Onion Tartlets + Caramelized Leek and Spinach Dip

Not one but TWO recipes coming your way today.  December is busy.  There are holiday parties to attend, gifts to be purchased, and preparations to be made for family gatherings.  These two appetizers are the perfect bites for any cocktail party or holiday get together.  I made both for Thanksgiving and they were a hit.  The best part – I prepped both recipes the night before and simply assembled and baked (one of them) the day of.

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The French Onion Tartlets are addictive!  They taste just like french onion soup except they come in a little phyllo shell.  To prep in advance, simply prepare the entire recipe up until you fill the tarts.  Place the french onion and cream cheese mixture into a container and store in the fridge.  Simply fill the shells and top with gruyere before baking the day of the party.  Changes I made to the recipe:  I used red wine to deglaze the pan (it’s what I had opened for my sangria) and I added a little more decadence with the addition of shredded gruyere on top (only because it was in the cheese drawer and I figured WHY NOT!?!).

The best part about the caramelized leek and spinach dip is that it can be prepped in entirety the day before.  I doubled the recipe and simply stored in the fridge until it was time to eat.  I served the dip with crunchy crackers plus carrots and celery.

Do you have any go-to appetizer recipes for the holiday season?

A couple other easy, peasy recipes:  bacon wrapped dates (so good!) and cream cheese topped with pepper jelly (Trader Joes has a great one).

Friday Favorites

So I just realized I totally forgot to post yesterday.  My bad.  I promise you a BRUNCH tailgating recipe next week – it’s delicious.  And no one will know it’s healthy.

Halloween has come and gone so bring on the most wonderful time of the year.  I adore November and December.  This month I’m focusing on being grateful – not necessarily for physical, tangible things but for moments that I so easily let pass by without second thought.

We’ll be with family this weekend – an 80th birthday dinner followed by a little “sprinkle” shower for my sister (my 5 year old niece really wants to throw Mommy a shower – so that’s what we’re doing).  Hope you all have the most amazing first weekend of November!

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Favorite From Scratch:  Homemade Apple Cider.  From cocktails to braised beef, I use a lot of apple cider this time of year.  I think I need to step up my game with some of the homemade stuff.

Favorite List:  13 Rules for Female Friendships.  Yes. Yes. Yes.  Every single one of these rules deserves a YES.

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Favorite Pull Out the Crock Pot:  Slow Cooker Thai Peanut Chicken.  This looks so dang delicious.  And you don’t even have to sear the chicken.

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Favorite Upgrade:  Jewelry Storage. Two words:  life altering.

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Favorite Intrigued:  Popcorn Polenta with Mushroom Jus.  Let me repeat, popcorn polenta.  Like, you make the polenta from popped popcorn.  Whhhhhaaatt?!?!

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Favorite Never Have I Ever:  Mojo Clams.    I’ve never made clams at home.  Sign me up!

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Favorite Date Night:  Butternut Squash Mezzuluna.  I’m kind of obsessed with homemade pasta at this moment.

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Favorite Looking Ahead:  2017 One-Year Intentional Goal Planner.    I already have a planner but I love the idea of this – AKA I love it because I’m obsessed with planning.

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Favorite Classic:  Craig Claiborne’s Chicken Salad Sandwich.  I have no idea who Craig is but his recipe appeared in The New York Times in 1981 and they just republished it.  Therefore it must be worthy of trying.

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Favorite Spiked:  Pomegranate Orange Punch.  I’m finding an excuse to make this gorgeous drink this month.

Cheers!

Tuesday Things.

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  1. I could honestly eat sushi three times a week.
  2. How is it already November?  Seriously – there are two, TWO months left in 2016.  How?
  3. We made homemade pasta over the weekend and it was amazing.  The more you make it, the easier it gets so I think we should keep making pasta.
  4. And pizza is everything.  Sushi and pizza.  That’s what I could eat for the rest of my life.  We made buffalo chicken pizza on Saturday night after the ECU game and it was perfection. (Recipe is from the How Sweet It Is cookbook.)
  5. I’m kind of bitter that we don’t get CMT anymore.  I really miss Nashville.
  6. Everyone keeps telling us to get Netflix.  We will as soon as someone physically comes to our house and shows us who to “get Netflix.”
  7. I need a new pair of tennis shoes.  Like bad.