This Is Virginia

This is what I remember falling in love with when I first came to Virginia with family on vacation probably 15 years ago. We went back the next year to visit colleges because the land was so breathtaking to me that I knew it would be a great place to go to school. My college decision ended up sending me farther north, and I never imagined that I’d end up actually getting to live in Virginia and be so close to this beautiful country. Today we decided to get away from the ‘burg and head to the western side of the state to soak up the sun and beautiful fall colors of the Appalachain!

We started our afternoon at Dickie Brothers Orchard, which is in the mountains about an hour west of Charlottesville.

You drive down a long country road with so many beautiful pastures and homes before actually reaching the orchard’s main building.

We picked up some bags and headed out to pick some apples from their orchards! We went apple picking last year and I loved being able to stock up and make all sorts of goodies with them, so I KNEW that I wanted to get a ton of apples again this year. We picked Fuji and Rome apples–Fujis are best for eating and Romes are great for baking!

The orchard we went to last year was huge and really touristy so the apples were so picked over and hard to find. Not so at Dickie Brothers! There was a bounty of beautiful apples to pick from!

With every apple I picked I was thinking about all of the things I can’t wait to cook and bake!

I think we ended up picking about 15 pounds worth! 😮

The orchards are so beautiful–the air up there is so crisp and clean and lightly scented with apples. I could pitch a tent and live up there.

After we finished our picking we headed back to the main building for more good stuff.

They had LOADS of pre-picked fruit inside, all of which were great prices and looked amazing.

I picked out some more apples inside: Golden Delicious, Stayman, and Winseap! The amazing woman who worked at the orchard told me all of those varieties would be great for baking, apple butter, etc. We also picked up some delicious looking apple cider that’s made by another local orchard.

We had so much fun at this place and would go back in a heartbeat! The staff was wonderful and the grounds are incredible. Again, I would like to please live there. Amongst the apples.

But apples weren’t our only mission. Since we made the 3-hour drive out to there, we had to see more of the sights. And luckily for us, the sights happen to include THIS:

This is Crabtree Falls, the tallest waterfall in Virginia!

When you arrive at the parking lot you can see the base of the waterfall that flows into a river, and then you can choose to hike through the mountains to see more of the falls.

Who is that strikingly handsome young man on the bridge?!

😉

Well I was certainly not planning on doing the hike, and was definitely not prepared in the footwear department.

But once you see the bottom you can’t help but want to see the entire waterfall. So hike we did!

We had to tread very carefully though!

I think a couple more people have died there since they put up that sign, actually. 😦 But we stayed safe and really enjoyed the beautiful trail.

The further up you go, the more amazing the views of the falls are.

Neither of us have seen a waterfall of this scale before so it was an incredible experience. The sound of the rushing water is incredibly calming and almost surreal.

We’re DEFINITELY going camping in this area in the spring. Hold me to it!

We wanted to head back before dark because the mountainous roads out there are SCARY, so after enjoying the scenery for a while we started the drive back. As we were driving down Blue Ridge Parkway, the sun began to set and the views were too incredible to miss. I pulled over at an overlook so that we could take it all in.

I may be a little biased, but I say this is the most beautiful part of the world.

What’s that you say? Too many pictures? Huh? I’m sorry, that doesn’t register with me. There’s no such thing as too many pictures. I took well over 300 today so trust me when I say that I picked out each and every one that I wanted to share with you all! And trust me when I say that there will be lots of applelicious recipes coming soon. 🙂


Thanks for reading!

-Lauren

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Quick & Easy Crab Cakes

Today I had to argue before a judge for the first time ever! Okay, so maybe the judge was really a professor pretending to be a judge…and maybe the case is a fake one for one of my classes…but STILL! It was scary. I haven’t done any public speaking since my thesis defense senior year of undergrad. But it went better than I expected and I actually won! Great feeling. But coming through the door after that and needing to come up with a fast dinner with not many groceries in the house…not a great feeling. Lately I just haven’t had the time. But only an hour later and dinner was served!

I got some canned crab from Trader Joe’s a while ago and decided earlier today that I would attempt some crab cakes with them to have with a salad. It was super easy and only required things I already had in my pantry! I whipped up an avocado aioli to go with it and it was mmmmmm good.

Quick & Easy Crab Cakes

  • 1 6 oz. can of crab meat, drained well
  • 1/2 egg
  • 2 T. mayonnaise
  • 1 T. dijon mustard
  • 1/2 t. Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 t. red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 t. black pepper
  • 2 t. lemon juice (optional)
  • 1 c. Panko bread crumbs
  • olive oil

-combine the egg, mayo, mustard, seasonings, lemon juice, and 2 T. of the breadcrumbs in a small bowl until completely combined. Fold in the crab. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

-Remove the bowl from the fridge and shape into 4 equal sized patties with your hands (you may need to drain off some liquid first). With the breadcrumbs in a shallow dish, coat each cake with crumbs on both sides. Refrigerate for at least another 10 minutes.

-In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon or so of oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, remove the cakes from the fridge and gently transfer them to the pan. Cook until brown, about 5 minutes on each side. Serve on a bed of greens and enjoy! Makes 2 servings (4 crab cakes).

Note: DON’T ADD SALT if there’s salt already in your canned crab (check the ingredients, there probably is). It doesn’t need it, trust me!

Avocado Aioli

  • flesh of 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/4 c. plain yogurt
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 t. salt and pepper
  • 2 T. lime juice

-Blend ingredients in a food processor until completely smooth. Enjoy with fish cakes, burgers, or sandwiches! Makes about 2/3 c.

Best part, it didn’t cost me anything extra! Canned crab is not ideal, obviously, but for a law student budget it’s fantastic. I need to start cooking more fast meals like this!

I’m watching a special on TV right now called “Our Nation, Overweight” and it’s getting me so FIRED UP! I get SO ANGRY thinking about how unhealthy our nation is and how the government, drug companies, and food corporations are not only just standing around and letting it happen but PROFITING off it on top of that. Honestly, it’s an issue I’m extremely passionate about and I’m starting to realize that I need to find a way to make sure that my career is based around that passion. It’s actually job searching season for law students and so these are things I really need to start thinking about! So many decisions to make…it’s crazy. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks for reading!

-Lauren

 

 

 

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WIAW, Halfway There

I realized something pretty fabulous a couple days ago…we’re officially past the halfway point in the semester! Which is a great thing to realize. That means in a couple short months we’ll be halfway done WITH LAW SCHOOL! Holy wow. But today was a typical Wednesday for me, which involved an all-nighter with HGTV in the background and lots of time at school. These kind of days aren’t the most fun, but I can’t really bring myself to complain. A couple all-nighters here or there is nothing compared to what these three years are going to be worth to me when I’m done!  I’m sure one day I’ll look back fondly on the days when I shoveled oatmeal in my face while reading cases and ate at Moe’s every single Wednesday to get the student discount.

 

Breakfast: oats cooked in vanilla soymilk and topped with banana butter, peanut butter, and half of a crumbled sweet potato muffin

The banana butter from my CSA box is soooo good! Perfect in oatmeal.

Lunch: leftover stewed chicken, rice and beans, a salad topped with avocado, and some physician assisted suicide law on the side (not kidding)

Dinner: A big surprise…Moe’s! Steak taco stack with mushrooms, onions, salsa, black beans, and queso

Yeah, I think we have an unhealthy Moe’s obsession. But the student discount is too good for us to pass up! It’s cheaper than me cooking and since I have an evening class on Wednesdays anyways…it just works for us right now. They have good quality ingredients and fresh food, and that’s good with me. We always say that Moe’s is the only “fast food” place our kids will be allowed to eat at!

I don’t have official class tomorrow, but I do have to go and argue in front of a fake judge. Eep! I’ve gotta put the suit and heels on and everything…should be sufficiently nerve-racking.

Thanks for reading!

-Lauren

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Sweet Potato Muffins with Molasses Glaze

Remember those gorgeous sweet potatoes we got in our late September CSA box?

Well I never used them up! And since the day we got them Jason has been asking me to make sweet potato muffins with them. I’ve never had a sweet potato muffin before and I don’t think he has either, but for whatever reason he decided that he sure did want some. He asks, I cook.

There are surprisingly few sweet potato muffin recipes out there, so this one is my creation that I made after looking to similar types of muffin recipes (pumpkin, carrot, banana, etc). It includes all the flesh from a large baked sweet potato, and is made with whole wheat flour. I topped the muffins with streusel topping for texture (the same streusel I used for my American Streusel Bundt Cake, I always have extra in the freezer for stuff like this) and drizzled them with a simple molasses glaze for color and a little extra flavor. They came out very moist and mild in flavor, and they’re not too sweet so would go great with breakfast.

Sweet Potato Muffins with Molasses Glaze

For the muffins:

  • 1/4 c. butter, softened
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c. mashed sweet potato flesh (from a baked sweet potato)
  • 1/2 c. buttermilk
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. white whole wheat flour
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 2 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. ground ginger
  • 1/4 t. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 t. ground allspice
  • 1/2 t. salt

For the glaze

  • 1/3 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 T. blackstrap molasses
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 T. milk

-In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs until smooth, then the sweet potato and milks.

-In a separate small bowl, combine all of the remaining ingredients with a fork.

-Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix on low for a few seconds to incorporate the ingredients. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and finish combining the ingredients, but don’t over-mix the batter.

-Grease a muffin pan well and pour the batter evenly into each muffin cup (about 1/3 c. each).

-Top with chopped nuts or streusel if desired and bake in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

-Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

-While the muffins are cooling, prepare the glaze by whisking all of the glaze ingredients together in a small bowl until very smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the muffins and enjoy! Makes 12 standard size muffins.

You won’t have a problem getting rid of these.

You may have trouble keeping them from evaporating, though.

One of these will come in handy while I’m reading about the ethics of medical experimentation for 5 or so hours tonight. Some booze would also come in handy but I’m pretty sure that would effect my reading notes…so these muffins will have to suffice.

Thanks for reading!

-Lauren

 

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A Tasty Weekend

We had a great time this weekend with Jason’s parents in town to visit!

On Friday we got ready for the visit and I started working on dinner in the afternoon. I set up the table with a little fall inspiration:

And for dinner we had Pollo en Fricase, rice and beans, and a Cuban style chef’s salad with romaine, tomatoes, asparagus, red onions, artichoke hearts, avocado, and cilantro.

For dessert we enjoyed a pumpkin roulade that I had prepared that morning, which is a great fall treat that totally reminds me of the Thanksgiving season.

This is one of our favorite dinners to have so it was great to share it with family! Of course, the food did not stop there. We met up again at our house in the morning for a nice filling breakfast.

C’mon, you knew I was going to make waffles! This was actually my first time making the final version of a recipe for whole wheat waffles that I’ve been working on for weeks. I think I finally got it right, they were so good! I served the waffles with a fall fruit salad (pineapple, asian pears, honeycrisp apples, and dried cranberries) and some turkey kielbasa sausage.

After breakfast we spent some time at the outlet mall near our house. The weather was SO beautiful, sunny and in the 70’s! It was great to walk around and enjoy the sunshine.

After we were done shopping it was time to head out for our exciting entertainment of the day…the Williamsburg Italian Festival! An Italian-American organization hosts this event every year, and we’ve heard good things about it so it seemed like the perfect time to check it out for ourselves. There were lots of beautiful crafts being sold by the vendors there.

And some just really hilarious things…

And of course, LOTS of food to taste and eat and enjoy. There was everything from dipping oils to fried calamari to cannoli, and everything was delicious.

The best part was definitely the zeppolis at the end to top it all off. They were freshly fried and OH MAN so worth it.

The atmosphere of the festival was really nice, everyone was just enjoying themselves and having a good time. How can you not have a good time with a guy walking around playing romantic songs on the accordion the whole time?

They also had some of the best wineries in Virginia who had come and set up for wine tastings. Jason and his dad did the tastings and they both really enjoyed it. It’s great to find out about good wineries in our own state!

We got a chance to really enjoy the nice weather at the festival and after resting our feet at home for a bit we headed to Bonefish Grill for dinner. It was WONDERFUL, I highly recommend it if you have one in your area. We’ll definitely be returning there for special dinners in the future. All in all it was a great visit and we were so happy to spend time with Jason’s parents enjoying lots of wonderful food and conversation.

Come back soon, mom and dad! 🙂

 

Thanks for reading!

-Lauren

 

 

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Early October VA Produce

I was so busy today that I almost forgot to post! But we got our bi-weekly CSA share box today so there was no way I couldn’t share it with you. I decided I want to share all the boxes with you when I get them because 1)I really like taking pictures of fruits and vegetables 2)it’s fun to see what’s growing during different parts of different seasons. I know that I’m horrible at remembering what’s in season so I thought this might also help those of you that have that same problem. You can tell from this box that it’s definitely fall!

The cast of characters this week includes a head of cabbage bigger than my head:

Some lovely squash, acorn and spaghetti:

Taters:

Bibb lettuce:

Hosui Asian pears (I liked the ones from the last box! They taste really unique…):

Green beans:

The usual dozen of eggs from happy hens on a Virginia pasture:

And a little reminder of summer…a tomato! Probably the last one of the year!

We also got a couple treats. Apple cider:

And…banana butter?! WOOOAAHHH did not even know that existed. I sense a new oatmeal topping in my future.

Overall it’s another great box! I’ve never tried cooking any of these types of squash before so it should be fun trying them. I’m totally into this fall thing now.

Thanks for reading!

-Lauren

 

 

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Green Laundry

One day into fall break and I’m totally loving the freedom. I haven’t left my house today, and I am more than okay with that. Since it’s a holiday weekend, Jason’s parents are coming to spend a couple days with us! We haven’t seen them in a LONG time so it will be nice to spend some time together. Lazy old me has let our house really fall to the wayside, though, so I really need to do some cleaning up before the weekend! I dedicated today to our laundry, which has backed up into quite a giant mountain little pile. Lately I’ve been trying to make a transition into more natural and environmentally friendly cleaning products, and that includes laundry.

I have a few major reasons for wanting to make that transition.

1. I don’t want to fill our house with toxic fumes that can harm our health and harm our children’s health down the road.

2. I want to do whatever I can to use cleaners that don’t have a negative impact on the environment.

3. Instead of using chemicals and mystery ingredients, I’d rather use what nature already provides to do the same thing.

Last month I saw a product called Soap Nuts on Kath’s OpenSky and since it was on sale I couldn’t resist it. I’ve never tried a natural laundry detergent before, and it seemed like a great one to try. I got a starter kit that came with a bag of soap nuts, a bottle of essential oil, and a couple tiny canvas bags.

The soap nuts are acutally a special kind of dried fruit from the Himalayas that contain a natural cleaning agent.

I was a little skeptical about them (they are fruit after all!), but on the very first try I was shocked that they WORK WONDERS! I might even say that they work better than traditional laundry detergent. Your clothes come out so clean and very fresh smelling, with just the slightest fragrance if you add the essential oil. They really do get things clean.

Conventional detergents are full of chemicals that are hazardous to us and pollute water. Why wash your clothes with toxins and hurt the planet when you can choose a 100% natural, organic, biodegradable option for the same price? I see no reason. The medium size bag of soap nuts comes out to $0.23 per load, while a container of Tide detergent comes out to $0.25 per load (and that’s when I can get Tide on sale). Plus they are easy as pie to use! Just put a few nuts in the little bag, close the bag, and toss it in the washing machine!

I’ve been using these for a few weeks now and I love them. The company has no idea who I am, I just wanted to share with you guys what I think is a really awesome product that can make a difference.

I’ve got more folding to do. Thanks for reading!

-Lauren

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WIAW, Hello Fall Break!

After a miraculous string of events, several of my classes happened to be cancelled and my fall break has begun early! I love it when I get blessed with things that I didn’t even think to pray for! 😀 I have no class until next Wednesday and I intend to use every minute of this break wisely. And by that I mean that I’ll be sleeping for half of it. And while I’m not sleeping, I’ll be eating. And speaking of eating…you know what day it is!

If you’re new to the blog, WIAW is basically where a bunch of us bloggers get together in a link party to share all things food for a day! All courtesy of the wonderful Jenn, of course! Let’s get to it.

Breakfast: WAFFLE!

You guys, I’m so crazy about waffles. Since buying this new waffle iron, I think I’ve probably had at least a dozen. Currently I’m on the hunt for the perfect whole wheat waffle. The one that I ate this morning was half white whole wheat and half white flour. It was delicious but I still want to do some work on making the recipe healthier since I plan on eating waffles frequently for breakfast.

Lunch: restaurant leftovers, brussels sprouts salad

Dinner: fajitas @ Moe’s (chicken, lettuce, mushrooms, peppers, onions, cheese, tortillas, salsa)

Along with my meal I had my first Coke in at least a month (maybe longer…I can’t remember the last time). It was delicious but tasted so SWEET to me after not drinking soda for so long. I think that’s a good thing.

Dessert: banana split with homemade vanilla and chocolate ice cream, real chocolate syrup, chopped peanuts

So good. My stomach hates me right now for eating so much ice cream but I’m in no mood to care. Nothing says happiness like ice cream! Plus there’s fruit in there, right?!


I’m off to not do homework and watch TV until I can’t keep my eyes open any longer. I love breaks.

Thanks for reading!

-Lauren

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad

I got very excited when I saw brussels sprouts appear in my grocery store. I can’t believe it’s that time of year already! Brussels sprouts are one of those things that you either love or hate. If you hate ’em, I’m sorry. If you love ’em, then you need to try this salad.

I wanted to have my first brussels sprouts of the season to be the star of their own dish. Roasting is definitely my favorite way to cook them, and for this salad I just roasted them lightly to bring out their flavor but still keep their wonderful texture. Some mandarin oranges and dried cranberries brighten the salad up and go beautifully with the sprouts.

Brussels sprouts are a great source of protein and fiber and research shows that they protect against cancer. Plus they are just plain delicious!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad

  • 1 lb. fresh brussels sprouts, cleaned with outer leaves removed
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 2 T. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 t. dijon mustard
  • 1 t. maple syrup
  • 1/3 c. mandarin orange slices, drained and diced
  • 2 T. dried cranberries
  • 2 T. toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 2 T. crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (optional)

-Thickly slice the sprouts (I make 3 cuts per sprout) and toss them in 2 T. olive oil and salt to taste.

-Spread the sprouts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the sprouts just begin to brown, flipping them over halfway through cooking.

-Remove the sprouts from the oven and let them cool on a baking sheet for 15 minutes.

-While the sprouts are cooling, prepare the dressing by whisking together 1 T. olive oil with the vinegar, mustard, and maple syrup.

-When the sprouts have cooled (they should be lukewarm to the touch), transfer them to a bowl and toss with the dressing. Add the remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Serve at room temperature. Makes 4 side dish servings.

I’m thinking this would make a really good Thanksgiving side dish! I’m not waiting for Thanksgiving though, this was a great salad for lunch and it definitely falls under the creative veggie goal I set for this month.

My night class got cancelled tonight! Which means I have time to make Indian for dinner. 😀

Thanks for reading!

-Lauren

 

 

 

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October Goals

Someone please tell me how it got to be October 3rd already! It blows my mind that we only have November and December left until the semester is over. Time really flies. A lot of bloggers do monthly goals and while I never really got on board with it, I’m going to take a stab at it starting this month. One reason for that is that last week Jason and I watched the film Forks Over Knives, a documentary about food and health that really made me want to work harder at changing our dietary habits.

I had been wanting to see the film for so long, and I was so excited when it came from Netflix. Forks Over Knives focuses on the impact that animal products and processed foods have on cancer, heart disease, and other health problems. While the film didn’t convince either of us that a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet is right for us right now, it was definitely another wake-up call that we really need to take what we eat seriously. One thing I learned from the film is how quickly a plant-based diet can effect your cholesterol and blood sugar levels. When we started the detox I shared with you guys that my husband’s cholesterol has gotten much higher within the past year. I can’t help but feel partially to blame, since I have been the sole source of his food for the past year. I always assumed that undoing that damage would take at least 6 months or so, but the film showed people that saw dramatic changes in their cholesterol after weeks on a plant-based diet. So we’re going to attempt to eat less of this

And more of this…

We’ve already improved a lot, and buying a CSA share was definitely a good move towards eating a more plant-based diet, but I think setting some goals each month will help even more. So here it goes!

October Goals:

1. Go meatless one day a week- While we don’t intend to become vegetarians, eating less meat will definitely be beneficial for us. Having one veg day a week will help us to expand our horizons and focus more on other food groups that are actually good for us.

2. Focus on eating seasonally– The CSA share mostly takes care of this because it stocks us up on local, in season produce. But it’s still tempting to grab those California berries and peaches even when we know they’ve traveled thousands of miles and aren’t at their best. Fall in Virginia doesn’t mean berries, it means beautiful apples and pumpkins and other goodies.

3. Try new ways of preparing veggies– Jason made the insightful point that one of the reasons veggies aren’t the center of the SAD (Standard American Diet) is because most of us don’t know good ways of preparing them. It’s either steamed with a little salt or sauteed in a boatload of olive oil (or roasted if you’re very lucky). This month I want to try more exciting and creative ways of eating vegetables!

I think that’s it for now! Three goals seems like a good number to start with. I’ll check back in at the end of the month to see how we did.

Thanks for reading!

-Lauren

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My post on Triple Chocolate Mini Bundt Cakes with Peanut Butter Glaze was featured on Yummly–check it out! I’m now “certified Yummly”! 🙂

 

 

 

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