Italian Shells and Cheese

When I was little, my mom made Italian shells and cheese quite often, and I loved them! But then, one night, my little sister got sick and threw up Italian shells and cheese on the carpet in the den. Gross. After that, I was scarred for life. Probably the wrong way to start a food on post (sorry!), but I recently decided to try to overcome this memory by making shells and cheese.

Back in the summer when we visited Amanda and went through some of West’s mom’s things, we found a copy of her recipe for Italian shells and cheese.

West says this is one of his favorite dishes his mom made, so I was so excited to try it out despite my bad memories (one thing that works in its favor is that it is meat-free!!)

Italian Shells and Cheese

8 oz jumbo pasta shells (we used ab 20?)
8 oz cream cheese
1 C cottage cheese
1 C mozzarella, shredded
1 egg, beaten
1/4 C Parmesan and Romano cheese
2 T parsley, chopped
2 t dried basil
1/2 t oregano
1/2 t thyme
14 oz stewed tomatoes
8 oz tomato paste
1/2 C white wine
1 t oregano
1 t thyme
1 clove garlic, minced

I started by boiling the water and throwing in my jumbo shells.

While the shells cooked, I mixed the next 9 ingredients together to create the filling. I was ready to eat it then – so much cheese!

Then we stuffed those jumbo shells until they were happy little babies, covered them with foil, and stuck them in the oven at 350 for 25 minutes.

While the shells were in the oven, I simmered the remaining ingredients on the stove for 25 minutes to make the sauce.

What was the outcome of this easy little meal?

The most delicious dish of Italian shells ever. I’m completely over my phobia.

We totally ate more of this than we should have. I think I ate 5 and West at 7 or 8 (news flash! this should feed 6 people, it [barely] fed us twice!).

I just told West I was finally writing this post, and he asked me to make it again right now, ha-ha.

This one is a keeper.

Weekend Getaway

Ever feel the urge to get away? Last weekend, West and I got to satisfy that urge with a overnight trip to Charlotte to see one of our favorite little families. Upon driving up to their home, we were met curbside by this little man:

Melissa and Tyler invited us over for dinner, and while they were finishing getting things together, Ethan shared this yummy salsa his mom made.

He also gave us a tour of the house (he wasn’t home the last time we visited, so he didn’t know we’d already seen it). In case you forgot, they live in the cutest townhome in downtown Charlotte. West and I are green with envy :) They had hung pictures up / rearranged some things since we visited in the summer, and it was even cuter!

Melissa and Tyler made us individual quesadillas that were so gooooood.

While we ate, we talked and listened to records in their living room. Then, before E went to bed, he read us a story.

Since West and I are pretty much like 60, we were yawning like crazy around 10:30; we said goodbye and headed to sleep at the DoubleTree near the airport, which, by the way, is really depressing feeling even though it says it’s 3.5 stars (but don’t worry, we pricelined it, Dad ;)).

Sleeping in a king bed, however, was absolutely amazing. West and I have a double at home, and I think one of our goals for next year is to save enough for a queen because it is SMALL. Before we knew it, it was time to wake and run!

Melissa and me looking our best before our run. ha-ha.

West looks equally out of it. Melissa took us on a run through her neighborhood area. Downtown seriously has some beautiful neighborhoods; of course, we would have to sale our first born (or maybe all future children) to afford to live there, but it was a gorgeous place to run, despite the 40 degree weather.

As we ran, Tyler coached Ethan on some photo skills with our camera. Here’s one of his shots:

After running, we were starving, so West and I headed back once again to shower and grab some brunch. Even though Melissa tried to sway us to eat at the Original Pancake House (is that right, Melissa?), we couldn’t resist the call of the Flying Biscuit.

I can’t move away from my fascination with carbs, so I ordered the goat cheese grits, potatoes, two over-medium eggs and one of their fluffy biscuits.

West ordered sort of the same thing, except no potatoes and add meat.

His also came with a side of decadent french toast.

I was so full after the meal I had trouble breathing. No joke.

After brunch, we met up with T & M one more time for a trip to IKEA! West and I had been saving some money to purchase a futon for our back bedroom so that I could hang out with him while he worked on website design stuff and so our future visitors would have a place to sleep.

We took our time testing our choices and finally settled on what we wanted by the time we ran back into our friends.

IKEA was a mad house on Saturday because apparently ALL of Charlotte had received this $25 coupon.

We were very nervous about our purchases because we knew that length-wise, we were pressing our luck with getting the futon in the car.

I got more and more nervous as we waited in line for like 20 minutes.

Once everything was paid for, we enlisted Tyler and Melissa’s help to getting everything in the car. Thank the Lord they were there!

While we thought about letting the boxes hang out the trunk, we ended up shoving it all into the car (30 minutes later), which, though uncomfortable, felt safer to me.

We said goodbye to our favorite Charlotte family that we had so much fun with. I am just waiting for Melissa to tell me that I can start praying for jobs for them in Greenville. :)

Then, it was the tight ride back to G-ville.

Yes, there is a mattress on our heads. We laughed the whole way home. hahahaha.

We worked hard to get it done before the football game came on that night.

Ta-da! Ryan refused to move, claiming he was too busy on the interwebs.

We are now ready for visitors; contact us today to reserve your stay ;)

I’m not sure what it was about last weekend, but West and I agreed that it was the longest, most relaxing, most fun weekend we had enjoyed in a loooonnng time. I’m hoping we get away one more time before the year’s out for my b-day!

Best Vegan Dish Ever

A few weeks ago, my sweet little Laura G came to town for her fall break. She recently returned to her vegan ways, and I wanted to wow her with a really good vegan dish. Sadly, she had to return to D.C. and her school work sooner than planned, so I ended up just making the dish for West and me. This one’s for you LG!

As I’ve noted before, I don’t really like tofu, but I decided to give it another chance using this method called dry frying. Basically, you cook all the moisture OUT of the tofu first and then marinade to add flavor.

I started the process by pressing the water out of my tofu with towels.

And then I patiently waited while the water cooked out of my uncrowded tofu slices.

You know they are done when they turn golden! Once they were all dried up, I soaked them in a mixture of the following (recipe also found in the dry frying link…):

I let the tofu soak for one hour in the fridge while I made some brown fried rice (and, yes, I added an egg since we didn’t really have a vegan eating with us) and stir-fried some veggies.

I also whipped up a delicious batch of Momma Pea’s Mmmm Sauce to top our rice bowls with.

At the very last minute, I threw the tofu and marinade in a hot pan, where the juices thickened up, creating a glaze over the tofu.

This meal was SO YUM. Honestly, I’m always skeptical of vegan dishes (I have a hard time with believing something without dairy could be delicious ;)), but this was by far the best (-egg) vegan meal I have ever had. West really liked it too and has already requested it be put into our rotation.

Laura, I wish you had been with us to enjoy our first almost vegan meal as a married couple; we need to recreate it soon!

First 5k and Halloween

Since July, West and I have been training for our first 5k, and this weekend we finally got to race! We picked up our packets the night before, which included these snazzy shirts.

West did some research and found out that it is apparently a newbie faux pas to wear the race shirt to the actual race, so we didn’t wear them the day of :)

We woke up around 6:00 am on Saturday, fueled up with some coffee and p. butter smothered bagels, and headed downtown to get in place.

Our race numbers! We got to watch the Half – Marathon and the Kid Fun Run start. Those babies looked so cute! And before we knew it, it was time for us to start.

The course was pretty hilly in comparison to what I’d been running, and it was way colder than anything I’d ran in before. While I don’t know that warmer weather would have resulted in a better race time, I do think warmer weather would have resulted in a more enjoyable race. It was HARD.

But we finished with a final chip time of 29:23 – 37 seconds faster than my goal! West, of course, wasn’t even winded, but I’m so glad we ran our first one together! We already have plans to run the Cooper River Bridge Run in March (which will bump our mileage up to 10k), and West definitely wants to run the half-marathon next year.

Before this summer, I had never ran longer than a mile and a half in my ENTIRE life and certainly not at a 9:30-mile pace. I’m proof that it’s never too late to pick up running!

After the race, we headed to feed our growling tummies at Stax.

West had grabbed a turkey + cheese sandwich after the race (I was too nauseated to eat, ha), but he was still starving. He ordered the biggest omelet and ate every bit of it!

I was in carb + dairy heaven with this two egg, cheese grit, and potato breakfast plate. When we were done, we headed back to the apt to collapse into an afternoon of Breaking Bad on the couch.

We had to recoup because we had a Halloween party to attend, which included

Cupcakes

Bread-shaped spiders

Victorian Industrial Ghosts

And Best Friend necklaces.

West and I did attempt to dress up as Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper, but most people just thought we were hipsters or ourselves, which is actually kind of funny since West was totally wearing mom jeans. haha.

Costume fail. We’ll do better next year and take pictures; I promise.

Fall for Greenville 2011

A few weekends ago, we celebrated Fall for Greenville with a few thousand locals.

I love Fall for Greenville because the festival centers around food, but I also love it because I got engaged to this handsome man during it last year :)

While we waited on Shannon and Daniel, we stood in line to get some tickets. We got there just as the sun was starting to go down.

I had a plan. I had highlighted what I wanted to eat where. But when we got down there, I just sort of threw it all to the wind. The night started with a brisket sandwich from Brown Street. Julie claims this was the best thing she ate last year.

Shannon ordered it to (upon my suggestion via Julie), and I felt bad because it was so big! We could have all shared bites.

Look at those trees. We just love how GREEN GREENville is. haha.

The festival has designated wine & beer gardens, so we headed down to the beer garden for some local / micro brews.

I really wanted to try the apple ciders, pear ciders, and pumpkin beer, but I knew I didn’t want one full cup of each. Lucky for me, they had these small little sample cups.

Not too big, not too small – just right!

Buddie Picture :)

After a few sips, we were ready to get back to eating. Next up was the pulled pork sandwich from Two Chefs.

Good but not as good as North Carolina BBQ. ;) We enjoyed it while watching the jalapeno contest. It’s so crazy – your nose burns from just smelling the massive amount of peppers!

We headed back up to the beer garden area for another sample, and I snagged this lobster mac and cheese on the way.

Before we knew it, it was getting dark, so we said so long to Shannon and Daniel headed back in the crowds one more time in search of…

Kettle Corn! By far the best thing we had. We finished the whole bag with the help of this young lady:

Laura! We ran into her and got to spend some time with my long-lost roommate! Also, West looks wild.

They are snacking on some fried bread pudding that was deliciousss. Laura, ended her tour de Greenville with a tiny little icing shot!

As if our weekend wasn’t awesome enough with Fall for Greenville and friends, I was able to catch up with two of my favorite Charleston Peeps!

They were up to see Andrew’s little sister who goes to school up here, but they had enough time to have coffee with me.

We had such a good time catching up :) And I spent a good amount of time trying to convince them to move to the Upstate. It is my goal to get everyone I love in Greenville.

While I doubt any Fall for Greenville will top 2010, this one was pretty fun, and we’re looking forward to next year when (hopefully) West’s whole family comes up to go with us!

Roasted Tomato & Basil Soup

The first day there was a slight chill in the air, I headed to the store to buy three pounds of roma tomatoes to make soup. I made it last year using this recipe, and it was delish. However, I did make a few changes, and I’ll tell you how that went as we go.

I stuck with the amount of called for tomatoes along with the oil and salt & pepper.

And I roasted them as directed. Before:

After:

Now, here is where I began to deviate from the path. I used 1 cup of packed basil instead of 4 because that junk is expensive. I would recommend using less than four as the flavor was still present but not overwhelming.

I stuck to the basic amounts of onion and garlic, though I might would add MORE garlic next time. (<– note to self.)

But when I started adding all the ingredients together, I decided to double the liquid. I used 1 1/2 quart of chicken stock and two cups of water. I did this because the very first time I ever tried to make this type of soup, the end result was closer to spaghetti sauce than soup. Oops.

After letting it simmer for awhile, I took the extra servings (around 10 total with the extra stock), and then stirred in a little milk (also an addition) to what West and I planned to eat.

We topped it with asiago croutons, and it was very mmmm. The first time. As we’ve been defrosting and consuming the leftovers, though, we both noticed the soup seems “watered down.” So, of the changes I made, I would NOT recommend adding extra stock / water.

I think tomato soup is doomed to be somewhat chunky. Sorry West. ;)

Shows, Fairs, and Deer

A few weekends ago, West and I drove 10 hours to see friends, the fair, and family. We started the weekend by driving to Charleston after work because West had a show in downtown.


(Photo Cred Idea: Gabby)

There was an important meeting in the boardroom before the show.

This was a very monumental show because all the girlfriends were there! Beauts.

After the show, we drove all the way up to my parent’s house in North Carolina so we could go to the Cleveland County Fair with my mom and little sister.

The famous water wheel.

It wasn’t too crowded when we got there, but it was packed by the time we left! Prepare yourself for a massive amount of fair food and fun pictures. :)

Fries with salt & apple cider vinegar. My favorite!

I am aware that this is not an ideal picture of any of us, but this is the only one that was snapped of all 3 out of 4 Tinnin women that were present that day :)

Grilled corn on the cob

After the homemade potato chips, we started to feel a little like this . . .

so we took a break to look at some livestock.

Baby horsies.

Then, mom paid West a dollar to milk a cow. It took him awhile, but he eventually got it. He even got some milk out of it (ha. ha.)!

We played some games, starting with the classic Fat Albert.

You place your bet on a color, and if the white rat (Albert) runs in the whole of your color, you win tokens. When I was a kid, though, I really think you won money, which is way better than dirty stuffed animals.

West also tried to win a prize by throwing dimes in cups.

He may have hit someone with a dime…

Hope also played her first game of BINGO.

But she lost.

While I won’t get on any of the rides, I love their retro looks.

After all that walking, we had an appetite for fried pickles,

which kept us full as we walked through the exhibition halls filled with award-winning can goods

and HUGE produce.

I wonder how many pumpkin spiced lattes those would make… :) I really can’t wait until I have enough yard for a garden so I can enter one of these competitions!

We left the fair after a few more undocumented eats (a corndog and chocolate dipped cheesecake on a stick [and yes, I felt sick.]) and headed back to the hills where these guys met us.

Goats apparently now run free at the camp, and they are not scared to approach people. Later, West had the opportunity to help Caleb with a deer, so he suited up in some of my dad’s gear (fyi: I don’t think my dad has ever hunted, and I have no idea why he has all this camo).

The deer…

West lasted about 45 minutes, and then he got too nauseated and had to come back inside. I swear he had no color in his face for like an hour. lol.

It was such a fun-filled weekend, and I’m glad that after last year’s disappointment I finally had good fair food again. :)