Kickin’ Up Route 66

After Vegas, we headed down to the Grand Canyon. Um, wow.

GCGrand Canyon

Yep, we went there. We stuck around til the sun went down, and saw one of the most beautiful night skies on the planet. Sadly, I’m not skilled enough in photography to have captured it, but this is the idea:

stars

We didn’t see a whole lot of wildlife on this trip, but one thing we did see was…. Elk. One one of the heavily populated walkways at the Grand Canyon, a big ol’ Elk was just hanging out, people-watching. At night as we drove through the Coconino National Forest en route to Flagstaff, we had to slow down twice for Elk crossing the road.

Flagstaff was FREEZING. Seriously, between the cold and the reindeer I could have sworn we were at the North Pole.

For breakfast, we decided to warm up at Brandy’s, a wonderful local restaurant and bakery that was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. What a place! Just a small hole in the wall place with great people and absolutely delicious food. The best pancake of my life. And the best pumpkin spice latte I’ve ever had. I ordered a chipotle scrambler (eggs, chipotle, cheddar, and a tortilla). James had eggs and a pancake. Oh. my. gosh. I would almost move to Flagstaff just to be close to this place.


Brandy's
Brandy's insidePumpkin Spice LatteChorizo Scrambler
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

And with our stomachs full, we hopped in our car and headed for the Pacific!

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What Happens in Vegas…

On this first installment of TCL Goes West, we’re heading to the wild, wild west- Las Vegas.

Day 1

First things first, check out the view from our room:

34th Floor of the Marriott Grand Chateau

34th Floor of the Marriott Grand Chateau

Pretty sweet.

The first night, we went to a rehearsal dinner at the Italian American Club. Turns out the bride’s father, a transplant from NY, is the president.

That night, we had the best Italian Food I’ve ever had outside of the Northeast. In true Italian fashion, first came the antipasto.

Plate of Christmas

Plate of Christmas

This is what we at The Cheese Log like to call Christmas on a Plate. Salami, Capicola, Sopressata, Mortadella along with Provolone, Mozzarella, Fontina and olives. I can hear the Hallelujia Chorus. Hark those herald angels. Amen.

 

I had a bunch of fun explaining the names to my new Uncle John. He’s always a good sport about everything, and tried his best to pronounce them all. And, of course, after 6 Christmases on my side, James knew what to do.

Italian American Billboard Hits

Italian American Billboard Hits

This was the main course. Buffet. Holy goodness.

 

Day 2

The next day, we had several hours to kill before the wedding, so we took off to Red Rock Canyon for some desert hiking. It was gorgeous! And sandy, and hot, and… dry. Very dry.

Red Rock Canyon

 

After all that hiking (which, really, was mostly done from our car. Not sure what that’s called. Let’s call it hiking.) it was time for lunch. Finally, I got to experience the Holy Grail of the American West. The true relic Indiana Jones was searching for in the desert.

The In-N-Out Cheeseburger, Animal Style.

Animal Style

May I just say, WOW? I mean, like Five Guys out here, except better, toasted bun, crispy lettuce, special sauce, and…. WAY cheaper. 2 burgers, fries and a shake and it’s under $10. WHAT?! So, so sad that they are probably never coming to the East Coast.

In-N-Out Menu

In-N-Out Menu

Seriously, did we go back in time? Where did those prices come from? And those hats…

The wedding that night was fun, and the food was good, but not as good as the rehearsal. So, skipping ahead to our last day in Vegas.

 

Day 3

After Mass on Sunday, we went to brunch at the bride’s parents’ house, then headed to the Hoover Dam. Which was like, Damn.

Dam. Just, Dam.

Dam. Just, Dam.

We were really hungry that night, so we went right next door to the buffet at the Planet Hollywood Casino: Spice Market.

This was the entrance to the escalator leading down to the buffet.

This was the entrance to the escalator leading down to the buffet.

They had everything. And to be honest, the food was just kind of OK. It reminded me of… dare I say… college. (Oh no she di-int!)

If I’m ever back in Vegas, we would probably go somewhere else. But the dessert selection, now THAT was pretty impressive.

DESSERT

And that’s only about 1/4 of it. It was way bigger. Plus the soft serve ice cream. And there were some pretty creative items.

Chocolate and Marshmallow

Chocolate and Marshmallow

Cannoli Cupcake

Cannoli Cupcake

Creme Brulee- best thing here

Creme Brulee- best thing here

 

 

 

James was happy.

Pizza, Pasta and Ice Cream, Oh My!

 

After dinner, we saw this:

Bellagio Fountains

 

 

And so concludes the Vegas edition of TCL. Stay tuned for our trip to Flagstaff, Arizona where we almost got killed by an elk. And almost froze to death. And, well, ate stuff. Good stuff. Trust me, you’ll love it.

 

The Cheese Log Tries Paleo #EatLikeYourAncestors

In the last few weeks, here at The Cheese Log, we’ve gone Paleo.

Yes, it’s rather ironic, given the name of this blog. Paleo is diary-free. No dairy (cheese, yogurt, milk), no grains (bread, wheat, rice, quinoa, etc.), no legumes (beans, peas, peanuts).

Omg reaction gifs

I know, right? WHY WOULD WE DO THAT? Won’t we, like, starve… or something?

Quite the contrary, friends. This is what we eat:

  • Veggies (lots of salads, greens, broccoli, peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes)
  • Fruits (Bananas, plums, strawberries, blackberries, apples, grapes, dried fruits)
  • Meat (Chicken, lamb, turkey, pork, sausage, beef, fish, crabs)
  • Nuts/Seeds (Almond butter, peanut-free trail mix, cashew flour)
  • Baked goods (made with coconut flour, honey, maple syrup, almond flour, cashew flour, almond milk and dark chocolate)

It’s the last item on that list that has made this diet sustainable. I don’t feel like I’m giving up everything because I’m still eating cookies, brownies, banana bread, pumpkin bread, pancakes, you name it. I’m just making them out of healthier ingredients.

And guess what. It’s working.

I’ve lost 9 pounds so far. Aside from that, I feel so much better. No more bloating, no more sluggishness, no more GI issues. I feel awesome. I’ve “cheated” a little, having a bite of cake or ice cream or “real” cookies at parties- but I was able to control myself an only have a bite, since I know that my new way of eating is making me feel so much better.Plus, how can you feel deprived eating this breakfast:

Paleo Breakfast

 

Yes. I feel like I eat more now than I used to eat. Yet I’m losing weight and feeling better.

Disclaimer: I don’t know if this will continue to work, but with 20 years of dieting, this is the most promising endeavor I’ve ever begun. I’m going to stick with it for at least 2 months to see if it continues to be so awesome.

So how ’bout those egg muffins? I made a dozen on the weekend and heated them in the microwave each morning for breakfast. It was perfect.

You die-hard cheese lovers can make these with a bit of shredded Colby or even Manchego baked right in, but I do encourage you to try this Paleo-style and see what you think.

Egg Muffins

 

Ingredients:

10 eggs, beaten

1 lb bulk breakfast sausage

1/2 red pepper, chopped

1/2 green pepper, chopped

1/4 cup chopped red onion

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the muffin tin with baking cups. If you don’t, you’ll ruin your pan.
  2. Cook the sausage on the stove until it’s almost done- no pink left. Remove from skillet, place on paper towel to drain grease.
  3. Saute the peppers and onion in the pan until soft. Add the sausage and remove from heat.
  4. Divide the pepper and sausage mixture among 12 muffin wells.
  5. Fill the wells the rest of the way with egg.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes at 350°F

S’mores Party!!!

Over the weekend, James and I threw a s’mores party- just for the fun of it. We got the idea from my bachelorette party, and decided to make it boys-allowed this time. We had so much fun putting things together, together.

I found some gorgeous lanterns at Michaels. We put some in the gazebo, and lining the steps so no one would trip in the dark. Also, we decorated the party area with these beautiful lights:

Pergola at Night

 

Along with your typical graham crackers and marshmallows, homemade chocolate chip cookies we an added bonus for s’mores making.

Lazy susan with graham crackers, marshmallows, and cookies. Extra bowls of marshmallows at either end of the table. 2 sterno-fuel fires, one at each end. An extra platter of s’mores ingredients. Fondue forks-a-plenty. Hershey bars scattered around the table, at least one per person.

S'mores

We ended up moving the appetizers to the same table. I had made bacon-wrapped smokies, which turned out to be the perfect savory alternative for roasting over the little fires. Taco dip was also present, along with strawberry shortcake brought by one of my awesome cousins, and this fabulous cheese plate:

New Zealander, Applewood Smoked Cheddar, Gouda, and Bruschetta Jack

New Zealander, Applewood Smoked Cheddar, Gouda, and Bruschetta Jack

We also had melted Brie. I love Brie.

Drinks included Corona, 2 flavors of Mike’s, and Smirnoff Ice, along with Lemonade, Tea, Water and Sodas.

It was a complete success! I can’t wait to do this again sometime!

S'mores Party Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Weeknight Chicken Caprese

Last night, the weather here was absolutely beautiful. After a week of 100° days and evening thunderstorms, the weather finally broke, and we experienced the 80s again. Gotta love Maryland! 

It was so great to finally be able to eat outside! People don’t realize how crazy the weather is in this state. You literally can experience all 4 seasons in the same week. Wednesday felt like summer in the tropics. Last night felt like Autumn.

To take advantage of this gorgeous opportunity, I decided to make Chicken Caprese and dish it on a bed of garlic spaghetti (spaghetti aglio e olio for those of your who aren’t familiar with the Italian-American term), presented in a gorgeous plate I got for my wedding from Williams-Sonoma.

Chicken Caprese

Minimum effort for maximum deliciousness. You seriously cannot get any easier than this. I found it on Pinterest, then made it my own. The only thing I should have done differently is remove the foil for the last few minutes to brown the top a little. Also, it would probably go very well with spaghetti squash, if you’re trying to be good.

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts, filleted so there are 4 thin pieces
  • 2-4 tablespoons pesto
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced thin
  • 1 handful shredded mozzarella
  • a few fresh basil leaves if you have them on hand

 

What you do:

Spread pesto on top of chicken. Top with tomato slices, cheese, and basil leaves. Cover and bake in 375°F oven for 20 minutes.

 

Our First Spaghetti Squash

About a week ago, James and I started working out together to Shaun T’s Rockin’ Body. It’s really intense and definitely takes a lot of effort, so I’ve been trying to cook a little healthier so we don’t sabotage our exercise. We don’t have a particular diet, really. Just trying to go whole grain with lots of veggies.

Saturday Morning, I sautéed some peppers, red onion, and thyme from my herb garden, sliced up a little sausage, then mixed in an egg and added a little cheese on top. It was really good!

Breakfast Done Right

Breakfast Done Right

 

After breakfast, I went to the grocery store and bought a bunch of fruits, veggies, quinoa, Ezekiel Bread, and chicken. It’s hard to eat poorly when your house is full of healthy stuff, right?

The rest of the weekend was nice. Sunday after church we took a walk to the library. I picked up a few random history things- one about medieval female rulers of England and one about little known snippets in American history. Then we went to our local farmers market and bought crab dip mix, a soy candle, pizza for lunch, and wine for dinner.

Sunday afternoon I cooked my first spaghetti squash. It was really good! We both enjoyed it. All you do it cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, brush with olive oil, and roast face-down in a 450°F oven for 30 minutes. Let it cool, then scoop out the flesh with a fork. So easy! We ate ours with sausage and peppers.

Dinner

 

We got so much done this weekend, but still had time to eat healthy, take walks, read books, go to Mass, and visit family. I love our beautiful life.

Use your Egg-noggin :)

In the last month, we’ve had 4 holiday parties at our house. Now that we’re done with entertaining every other week, today I decided to have a little fun finding uses for leftover eggnog. I know, eggnog isn’t exactly helpful for achieving your January health goals. But still, you hate to let it go to waste, right? Two recipes in particular were definitely worth repeating.

1. Eggnog Bread Pudding

eggnog bread pudding2

Um, who wouldn’t want to wake up to this? Good Morning Beautiful!

For 2 servings:

Whip up 2 eggs, add about 1/2-3/4 cup of eggnog, a splash of rum, nutmeg, cinnamon, and about 2 heaping handfuls of cubed bread leftover from Christmas. Cover and refrigerate overnight if you’re into that sort of thing. Bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes or until set. Serve with maple syrup.

2. Eggnog Ice Cream

Eggnog Ice Cream

The inspiration behind this was a realization that eggnog is almost the same thing as what is found in more complicated frozen custard and gelato recipes. Skip all the whisking over the stove and refrigerating over night.

For 1 Qt.:

Whisk together 2 to 2 1/2 cups eggnog, 1 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, a splash of rum (about 1/4 cup), about 1/8 tsp of vanilla, a fist full of sugar (about 1/2 cup) and some nutmeg and cinnamon. Pour into ice cream maker. In my Cuisinart, it took about 25 minutes to reach the consistency I wanted. It was soft, and amazing. You could freeze it for a few hours if you want it to be harder.

Ice cream maker