Thursday, May 15, 2014

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

My Pantry Baking Essentials

When Luke and I first got married, I was still very new at the whole baking and cooking thing.  It wasn't brand new for me but I was still unsure about a lot of it.  I remember being in the middle of cooking or baking something and I'd realize I didn't have one of the ingredients I needed so I'd have to turn off the stove or the oven and drive to the grocery store.  Fortunately, the grocery store was only a mile from our house but it was still aggravating to be in the middle of cooking something and have to stop to run to the store.  This didn't just happen once or twice, this happened on numerous occasions.  I think that's why I'm a little obsessive about making sure I keep my pantry and refrigerator stocked with items we use on a regular basis.  I actually make jokes about it with Luke.  Since I don't have to go grocery shopping every time I bake/cook now, I tell Luke I'm going shopping in the pantry. 
I have a few suggestions to save you from having to grocery shop every time you want to bake something.  These are a few items that are baking essentials in our pantry.
1.  Semi-sweet chocolate chips and dark chocolate chips.  I also keep semi-sweet chocolate melts which are super yummy in brownies.
2.  Heath Bits - the Chocolate Toffee Bits and the Bits O' Brickle Toffee
3.  Reese's Peanut Butter Chips...these are delicious in any dessert!
4.  Baker's Chocolate Bars - White Chocolate and Unsweetened Chocolate
5.  Graham Cracker Crumbs
6.  Duncan Hines cakes mixes and brownies mixes
7.  Hershey's Unsweetened Cocoa
8.  All-purpose flour
9.  White sugar, raw sugar, confectioners sugar and  brown sugar
10.  Baking soda and baking powder
11.  Salt
12.  Peanut Butter...I actually like to always have 2 jars at all times
13.  Sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk
14.  Old fashioned oats
15.  Vanilla Extract
I've found it's easier to keep track of what you have if the pantry is organized.  It's also easier to grab what you need if you have all of your baking goods are in one section of your pantry instead of having to rummage around the entire pantry.  We try to keep all of the baking bits, chips and chocolates together, the box mixes together, the sugars and flour together, etc.  
I've also noticed the pantry looks a lot neater and even more organized if you use clear canisters to store most of your items.  I always label my canisters because I want to make sure Luke can find what he needs if I'm not around.
What baking goods do you keep on hand in your pantry?

Duplin's Peach Bellini

I thought I'd stick with the NC theme for Thirsty Thursday. :)  At the wine tasting, we sampled Duplin's Peach Bellini and everyone loved it so of course I couldn't leave without buying the Peach Bellini kit.  You can order the kit on the Duplin Winery website and have it shipped to your house.  It's super yummy so I definitely recommend you order some! ;)
 To make a pitcher of Duplin's Peach Bellinis:
1/2 package of the Peach Bellini mix
1/2 bottle of dry white wine (Duplin's Carlos Wine)
In a pitcher, stir the bellini mix and wine together.  Then fill half of your blender with ice and pour the bellini mixture over the ice.  Then let your blender do the work for you.  Once you have the consistency you want, pour your Peach Bellini into a pitcher or your individual glasses.
You can do what I did and make an individual serving.  I wasn't in the mood for a frozen drink so I decided to make it my own way.  I poured about 2 teaspoons of the Peach Bellini mix into a champagne glass and then poured the chilled Carlos wine into the glass and stirred it together with a drinking straw.  Delish! ;)

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Duplin Winery

A lot of you may not be familiar with Duplin Wine or the Duplin Winery.  Duplin Wine is made from muscadine grapes so the wines are sweeter than most wines on the shelf.  Luke isn't a big fan of wine but he loves the Duplin Wine.
The Duplin Winery in Rose Hill, NC is such a great place to visit.  They give free tours and free wine tastings Monday through Saturday.  I've been to the Duplin Winery three times now and every one of my experiences there have been wonderful.  
They also provide evening performances throughout the year. The shows aren't free but they are reasonably priced.  For this past weekend, I bought the Murder Mystery Dinner package which included a hotel room, transportation to and from the winery and the Murder Mystery performance and dinner.  The Murder Mystery package was a great deal!
When my mom and I arrived at the winery, we took the free tour and then participated in the free wine tasting.  After the tasting, we went into the gift shop and the actors were there waiting to interact with everyone and drop hints.  After about 20 minutes, everyone made their way into the dining room for dinner and the show.
The free tour
The free wine tasting
The Murder Mystery performance was great and so entertaining!  The actors interacted with the audience the entire time.  Unfortunately, our table didn't win (or even come close) but it was so much fun!!!
The murder mystery show
Did I mention the amazing peanut butter pie we ate for dessert?  Oh my goodness!  It was pure heaven on a plate!!!
My mom and I are hoping to attend another murder mystery dinner at the winery within the next year, and I highly recommend all of you attend something like this at some point.  It's even more fun than I thought it would be!!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Our Weekend in Wilmington

My mom and I had a wonderful weekend in NC.  We spent most of the day Friday and Friday night in Wilmington, NC and on Saturday, we drove to Rose Hill, NC for an afternoon at the Duplin Winery.  I'll tell you more about our time at the Duplin Winery tomorrow.  Right now I want to fill you in on our Wilmington experience.  Get ready for picture overload! :)
 My mom and I absolutely love Wilmington!  We didn't want to leave.  There's something about it that makes you want to stay there.  There is so much history there and the Riverwalk is absolutely beautiful.  The downtown area is so quaint and the people are so friendly.  There are also many different kinds of tours you can take so there is plenty to do.  There are horsedrawn tours, water tours, ghost tours, Hollywood tours and history tours.
Horsedrawn Tour
Water Tour
We stayed at The Wilmingtonian which is where Luke and I stayed when we went to Wilmington several years ago.  The Wilmingtonian is a great place to stay.  It's so much better than staying in a hotel.  It has the feeling of a bed and breakfast.  If you've ever stayed at a bed and breakfast, you know the rooms are much cleaner and the staff is so friendly.  The staff genuinely cares about making you feel comfortable and they want you to have a great time. 
When we first arrived in Wilmington, we immediately walked to the Riverwalk and had lunch at The Pilot House.  They serve the most delicious and incredibly moist cornbread muffins!  The taste is a cross between cornbread and hushpuppies.  I could have just eaten a basket of those for lunch and been a happy girl! 
The Pilot House Restaurant
For lunch, my mom and I shared the Hot Crab Dip and we both ordered salads.  The Hot Crab Dip was amazing!  It had horseradish in it which made it so unique from any other crab dip I've had before.  Luke and I are definitely going to have to try to recreate this some time. 
The Hot Crab Dip
After lunch, we continued exploring downtown Wilmington, checked into The Wilmingtonian and then drove to Wrightsville Beach.  Once we got back from the beach, we started getting ready for dinner. 
Wrightsville Beach
We had dinner at the Riverboat Landing which is on the corner Market Street.  The food was beyond AMAZING!!!!  For our appetizer, we ordered the Crispy Pickles.  They were better than any fried pickle I've ever had!  For dinner, my mom ordered the Riverboat Crab Cakes and I ordered the Char Grilled Tuna.  My mom loved the crab cakes.  They were very lightly looked like they used Panko breadcrumbs.  I can honestly say the Char Grilled Tuna that I ordered was the best tuna I've ever eaten.  It was perfectly cooked and seasoned and the avocado salsa fresca on top was so delicious.
Riverboat Landing Restaurant
The sun setting behind the battleship.
After dinner, we walked to Hell's Kitchen for a drink.  For those of you who used to watch "Dawson's Creek", this is the bar where they filmed the college bar screens. 
They claim this is the boat they used on Dawson's Creek.
Before we left Wilmington on Saturday, we shopped a little and enjoyed the Saturday Market.  You wouldn't believe all of the tents that were set up.  We stopped and checked out at least 15 - 20 tents and we didn't even see half them. 
 We had lunch at Elijah's Restaurant which is on the Riverwalk.  Mom and I both ordered the fish and chips which we really yummy but surprisingly, the batter wasn't a beer batter which is what is usually used for fish and chips.
Elijah's Restaurant
My prayers were answered...the weather couldn't have been more perfect!  We heard there were tornadoes and flooding throughout the entire state of NC on Friday but in Wilmington, we only saw a few clouds and had a sprinkle of rain that lasted about 30 seconds.  I'm so thankful for the way things worked out for us.
Tomorrow I'll tell you about our visit to the Duplin Winery. :)



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