Tuesday, June 18, 2013

frugalish day trip: Cape May

Summer's here! Got any fun day trips planned? Need a little inspiration? Looking for a day trip that won't break the budget? I've got one you'll love! Here's what you need: a picnic lunch, a full gas tank, and some spare dollars for a few tolls (bleh). Cape May, here we come!
First stop, the Cape May County Zoo! It's a donations-only zoo. Drop a couple of bucks in the bucket and you're free to roam for the day. I should mention that we were expecting a small local zoo with the standard set of animals, but this zoo is incredible! Why? 1) It's huge. Ok, not San Diego huge, but huge as in over 200 acres with lovely boardwalks through the forests between habitats. 2) Giraffes! Lion! Cheetahs! Bears! Oh my...;) Bird aviary! Reptile house! I could go on and on... 3) Got kids? There's lovely places to picnic right beside new playgrounds. 4) Did I mention free? FREE! Just go. Oh and if you have a zoom lens, don't forget to bring it...!
Now, drive twenty minutes farther south towards Cape May Point State Park. The park is free, picturesque, a birder's wonderland, and has bathrooms! Head towards the beach with picnic basket in hand. Embrace the roar of the ocean while stuffing your face with goodness. Our chosen deliciousness: Mom's "4th of July" chicken salad, pita chips, juicy watermelon, and Honest half and half tea (one day I will recreate this drink's perfectly proportioned amazingness).
No time to make a homemade picnic? Throw a few ice packs in a bag and grab some Wawa sandwiches on your way "down the shore."
Lounge, walk the shoreline, explore the birding paths, visit the lighthouse (note: the lighthouse part cost $).
What you do next is up to you, but we highly suggest you grab some take out in town and take it with you to Sunset Beach. Have another picnic while watching the sun go down over the Delaware Bay. The view truly looks like you've been transported across the states to the Pacific. Oh and by the way, this beach is made of billions of the tiniest pebbles or "Cape May diamonds." If you can't make it for sunset, visit for the fun of exploring a pebble beach.
We're a bit grainy, but it's not easy to run back and forth through tiny pebbles while trying to rig the camera's timer and focus...
Truly the perfect day getaway and you're still home by midnight. Happy Summer, friends!

Monday, June 17, 2013

a tribute to summer

Well, friends this is the week that we've been waiting for...school's out and sweet, sweet summertime begins! In honor of one of my favorite seasons (let's face - they're all my favorite seasons...I'm just a four-seasons-kind-of-girl), I present a collection of summer beauty seen through the eyes of a lens. Enjoy!
an alfresco snack on the deck - homemade brioche bread topped with Ma's applebutter
meandering walks through history
 picnics in the park (note for all you history buffs: this is quite literally the spot where Washington crossed the Delaware)
 sweet daisies - it's impossible not to feel a little happier in the presence of such bright, little flowers
 green thumb success! the peas are growing!
 tomato season...there's nothing quite like a sun-warmed tomato right off the plant
walks through enchanted woods...minus the ticks...
the golden light of an evening on the farm

Friday, June 7, 2013

creamy cream-less broccoli and cheddar soup

Today is one of those rainy days when nothing seems more exciting then lazying around with a book and a cup of tea. Unseasonably chilly and soggy days call for the warm, satisfying comfort food. Today's choice: classic broccoli and cheddar soup with a twist. It's the perfect blend of vegetable and cheese in a bowl of creamy goodness. I've spent months searching for the perfect homemade broccoli and cheddar soup. We've tried at least six different recipes that all claimed to be the BEST. Some were truly delicious, but loaded with cream and calories. Then I found this Broccoli and Cheddar Soup recipe from EatingWell and the search was over! We found our winner! Thanks to the addition of cannelini beans, this soup is creamy, filling, and flavorful without the addition of cream! AND ready in 30 minutes!! Serve with a side of salad and a slice of crusty bread, pat yourself on the back, and call it a night!

I've tweaked Eating Well's recipe to give it some extra umpphh and tastiness. Feel free to spice my version up or down depending on your own personal taste.  Note: Bear with me on some of these pictures - the lighting, camera, and I were not agreeing...

Creamy Cream-less Broccoli and Cheddar Soup
Adapted from Eating Well

1 onion, diced
1 shallot, diced
1 carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tbsp. canola oil
2 cans of chicken broth (preferably low sodium)
3 large broccoli crowns (about 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 lbs), chop the stalks off so it's pretty much the florets you have left
1 can of cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
4 dashes of hot sauce
1 tsp. worcheshire sauce 
 salt and pepper
1- 1 1/2 c. extra sharp cheddar cheese 

Chop the first three ingredients and smash the garlic.
Heat the canola oil on medium high in a large pot. Add the onion, shallot, carrot, and garlic. Saute until soft and starting to turn brown.
Add the 2 cans of chicken broth and let it come to a boil.
While the broth is coming to a boil, roughly chop the broccoli crowns.
Once the broth has come to a boil, add the broccoli crowns. Cover and allow to cook in liquid until tender (about 6-8 minutes). Use a fork to test their tenderness. Sometimes there isn't liquid for the crowns to cook in, so I add an additional 1/2-1 c. of water to the pot. 
While the broccoli is cooking, grate the cheese. When I have a huge cheese block, I pull out my Cuisinart and let it go to town grating for me then I freeze the leftover for the future. If you prefer to get an arm work out then, pull out your trusty hand grater...
I always take out the two smashed garlic cloves before I add the beans. I prefer the flavor, but not the aftertaste that comes with eating garlic. If you are a garlicholic then by all means leave the cloves in and puree them up with the rest of the soup. Add the beans and cook for another minute. 
Stir in cheese, salt, pepper, worcheshire sauce, and hot sauce. 
Puree with an immersion blender until smooth and green. Or transfer very, very careful to a blender and blend portions at a time...
Garnish with some homemade croutons or a little extra cheese and serve with a side of crusty bread for dipping. Slurp up with glee!
I realize the finished product doesn't quite look as amazing as it should, but 1) we were starving and 2) trust me it was simply delicious! Get cooking, my friends!