NC Mountains Apple Pickin’

After making the apple crisp dessert the other week, I have been itching for a trip to the mountains to visit an apple orchard. Eric and I went with one of my old roommates several years back and I haven’t been back to one since. I googled apple orchard and what do you know… Sky Top Orchard is the first hit. Seems pretty popular. So I decided I was going. After finding out that this place was also only 36 mins away from Tupelo Honey Cafe, I knew another stop was mandatory.

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If you have seen my post from another trip I had to Asheville, you will see why I love Tupelo Honey Cafe so much. I’ve been back twice more since that trip and every time the food is out of this world. I loved it so much that I bought the cookbook and I am actually making a black bean burger from from the cookbook this week for dinner. I’m seriously obsessed. Luckily, we are getting one of these restaurants in Charlotte in the coming months. Let me tell you, I will be first in line.

We invited my mother-in-law on our day adventure as well, and I’m so glad we did. I am very fortunate to have a mother in law who is amazing. We have so much fun hanging out. So off we went bright and early Saturday morning up to the mountains. We got to the Orchard right at 9 am which was when they opened. Note to others: that is the way to do it. The place was packed by the time we were ready to leave. So getting there early is the way to go if you want a peaceful experience and not one with a bunch of crowds and chaos.

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You would not believe the amount of apples they had. I was blown away with just the large selection of apples in the front store. Once you are ready to pick some apples, they hand you a map of the farm. Looking out from the store, you can see apple trees for days. Plus there are so many different types of apples. Apples I have not even heard of.  They even have a sample table which is a great way to try all the different kinds of apples. We just wandered around the orchard picking apples as we chose. We ended up picking several different kinds.

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Eric loves Granny Smith apples, so we got a good amount of those for him. We also got my favorite apples: Fuji; love me some Fuji apples. Then we picked up a bunch of random apples in twos including: Rome, Cameo, Arkansas Black, and Pink Lady. I’m sure we will not be able to tell the difference now between all of the apples, but we picked the nonetheless.

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After picking apples we headed back to the storefront where we browsed through all the jams, jellies, butters, and apples. They also have fresh apple cider and apple pies. We all bought cider but Eric’s mom bought an apple pie (I need to ask her how it was). It looked mighty tasty!

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But the best part of the trip is the apple cider doughnuts. OMG… you walk up to the stand to purchase doughnuts and the heavenly smell of sugar and fried bread is in the air. It’s enough to make anyone salivate. I of course had to buy a dozen and it took all I had not to eat them all while holding the warm package in my hands. Ohh they are delicious. Eric and I had several with apple cider for breakfast the following day. You HAVE to heat them up. They are 10X better warm. Throw them in the oven at 200 degrees for about 10 minutes and its sheer perfection in your mouth.

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The views at the top of the orchard were also wonderful. You can pick your apples while enjoying the mountain views in the background. The air was crisp and the leaves were just beginning to turn. The skies were overcast which all came together to make a perfect day for apple picking. I plan to make it a tradition to go up there every year. And hopefully with Sarah and James, Eric’s sister and boyfriend. This is an experience that everyone should have. Nothing like a day in the NC Mountains.

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We went home with 10 pounds of apples each. Now I’ve got several dishes in mind this week with all these apples. We are having apple, fig, and Gruyere cheese paninis this week, apple based salads, grilled apple, and I may even make some apple cinnamon buns with whatever is leftover next weekend.

How are you celebrating fall?

Pumpkin Delight

Now that we are officially in the Fall season and it is starting to get cooler, my cravings for all things pumpkin begin to come to the surface.

I’m sure I’m not the only one in the world with this condition since there are so many pumpkin products out there in the market today. I have to recommend Trader Joe’s Pumpkin bread first, because it’s easy to make and oh so scrumptious.

This past week I made two pumpkin delicacies. In the process of figuring out what to make for dinner and skimming my Vita-Mix recipe book, I came across a gem of a recipe for “Pumpkin Spice Syrup.” Say what? And as a side-note in the recipe book, it provided that this was a great recipe for pumpkin spice lattes and chai-lattes. Did you read my mind Vita-Mix?

This recipe does not contain many ingredients which makes it quick and easy to make. I think I went a bit strong on the ginger or possibly the nutmeg because there was a strong after taste. Still delicious though! I’ve been enjoying this syrup in my lattes every morning, in part thanks to my Nespresso machine which in my opinion is the only coffee machine you need. It has changed my life… and maybe made me a coffee snob. 😉

I also made pumpkin fro-yo but this one did not turn out as good. I think mainly because I let the mixture churn in our ice cream machine too long. It’s a little hard to eat but I think if I mix it with some water or milk in our Vita-Mix, that should soften it up for eating.

Finally, we picked out our pumpkin for Halloween! We are so blessed to have a farm by our house that supplies yummy strawberries in the summer and then pumpkins in the fall! Hall Family Farm in Charlotte, NC is definitely worth the visit.

Today we took several friends to the corn maze which took us about an hour to get through. It was two acres of corn maze and very impressive if I say so myself. They have tons of activities for children including hay rides, mini corn-maze, and a hay spider perfect for picture taking. They have many pumpkins to choose from and you won’t leave spending more than $15 for a pumpkin… and a huge pumpkin at that.

Not to mention, if you stop by, you CANNOT leave without trying their strawberry slushie and taking home a loaf of jalapeno cheese bread.

We haven’t carved the pumpkin yet but I’ll be sure to share when we do.

How are you celebrating this fall season?

PS If you want the Pumpkin Spice Syrup recipe, leave me a comment and I’ll be sure to share. 🙂

A Sight to See in Charlotte, NC

A friend of mine came into town and so we looked for different things to do in the Charlotte area. I have lived here for over seven years now and have yet to visit the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens.

 

To say the place is beautiful is an understatement. I can see why they have so many weddings at this place.

They have what has to be several miles of brick lined with as many different types of greenery and flowers as humanly imaginable. Ninety percent of the plants, I have never seen before.

 

The layout and landscaping of the place is breathtaking. Every turn is a new scene that just makes you stand back in awe. You almost feel as though you have to whisper not to break the tranquility of the place.

 

It was such a beautiful day. They had many different fountains and areas of shaded benches where you can sit and rest and take in the gorgeous views.

 

We even learned about butterflies. This one you would think had a broken wing but actually just broke out of its cocoon and was drying out its wings. Apparently butterflies just don’t come out and fly they have to unroll their wings and sit for hours prior to taking off in flight. They had a spot where you could see lots of different kinds of butterflies fluttering from different plants and if you are lucky they might land on you.

 

I believe we ended up spending two overs there just walking around for only $10 or $12 a person. I would recommend it for anyone visiting the Charlotte area as well as anyone who lives in Charlotte and has not seen this place. Definitely worth the drive and I expect I will be back again.

 

Football is Back!

Last weekend we had a big group of friends over for the first Carolina Panther’s Football game.

Eric is a huge Carolina Panthers fan and wanted to make sure we celebrated the first game right. We invited our friends for tons of yummy food, corn-hole, drinking, and of course televisions all over the house with football on.

Eric decorated his man cave for the game. The room was not short of Carolina Panthers paraphernalia.

Almost every seat included a “Growl Towel” which I can only assume was in imitation of the Steeler’s “Terrible Towel.” Eric wanted to ensure that every fan was ready for whatever celebration may be necessary.

The funny part is, we didn’t even know we had these Growl Towels until cleaning our a dresser in our master bedroom. We are FINALLY getting new furniture for our master bedroom (coming soon!).

We had lot and lots of food available including three types of wings, fried pickles, fried jalapeño poppers, veggies with dip, pimento cheese with crackers, chocolate chip cookies, banana pudding, rice crispy treats, and tons of meat. I for sure thought we were going to have a ridiculous amount of leftovers, but would you believe we had just enough!

All in all it was a great time. I didn’t end up taking many pictures once people starting coming (need to work on that) but everyone had a great time.

This might become a new tradition for our household.

How did you celebrate the starting of a new football season?

New Obsession: The Gym… Or is it?

I’ve decided to start sharing some of my finds for fellow Charlotte residents.

This find has become my third love… after Eric and Bailey of course!Who could have thought that a gym could become a fun obsession. Many people obsess over the gym because you must in order to stay in shape. However my obsession is due to the awesome experience that this place offers.

Flex & Fit

When I first heard this establishment was coming into our building I thought oh, a fancy over priced gym in the uptown area… just what we need (sarcastically of course).  It wasn’t until they started offering $5 Hot Yoga classes during my busy season that I discovered there is more that meets the eye with this gym. For a while I was obsessed with hot yoga. I still love hot yoga but thanks to Flex & Fit, I have expanded my horizons and taken on new challenges including Pilates, Air classes, and even barre classes.

Flex and Fit does not contain the usual gym equiment such as treadmills and elipticals although they do have a spinning studio. The rest of the space is filled with two other studios: one for hot classes another with silks. Silks?? What is that? Hammock looking objects that hang from the ceiling and allow you to stretch further, makes planks more intense, and adds excitement to your workout routine. WCNC, a local new station, did a news report on the gym and it’s unique technique of working out.

In addition to spinning, a variety of yoga classes, and AirFit with the silks, they also offer barre and ballet classes. Hot Ballet is actually one of their most popular classes where they mix hot yoga with barre-style work in a 105 degree studio. It’s awesome. Barre Strength includes toning exercises with light weights in the beginning and then actual plies, kicks, and lunges at the barre for the finish. Finally there is Air Ballet which mixes barre and silks to create a unique workout. Each class is different and the instructors are phenomenal to say the least.

I would always dread going to the gym but now I plan my workouts a week in advance out of sheer excitement. Is that normal? I just joined this past June so it’s been a month going on number two. I’ve spoken to other members of the gym that have been there longer and all of them say how much they love Flex and Fit and how it makes working out not a chore but actually enjoyable.

I will admit membership and classes are more pricey than your average gym, however, if you look at the current prices of yoga and barre studios its quite comparable. I lucked out by working in the same building where the gym is located and get an employer discount through my workplace. This helps knock the price down a good amount. Not to mention they validate parking for 2 hrs. No need to worry about paying for parking to work out uptown!

If you are in the Charlotte area, it’s COMPLETLEY worth checking out. Currently they are doing a 30% discount for course packs of 5 or 10 that ends today. Just visit their facebook page for the details. They also ran two Groupon specials in the past so keep your eye out for another one and try it out!

What is your current obsession?