Beach, cocktails, Dining

Kitsey’s guide to the Crystal Coast

People are always asking me for my recommendations on things to do, and in particular, places to eat on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, so here’s the quick and dirty!

About the Crystal Coast:
I love its tourism slogan “North Carolina’s Gem.” It’s so fitting for this lovely area that includes Atlantic Beach, Morehead City and Beaufort.

Where to stay:
Formerly known as the Clamdigger, it now goes by the more upscale sounding moniker of The Inn at Pine Knoll Shores. It’s a great hotel for a quick weekend trip. For longer trips we book a condo through Cannon and Gruber.

Where to eat: (The most frequently asked question!)

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Amos Mosquitos in Atlantic Beach. My number one choice though it’s really a tie between here and Floyds. Fun, casual atmosphere and great food. The pork chop with tasso ham gravy is what I’d want as my last meal if I’m ever on death row. It’s only open for dinner and always packed in the summer. Get there early and be prepared for a wait, but it’s worth it. Have a mojito in the bar while you wait. And order the s’mores for dessert cause it’s fun!

 

Floyds 1921 in Morehead City. My other number one. In a beautiful old home it’s casual but still has a fine dining flair to it. The entire menu is wonderful. The crab bisque, mac and cheese appetizer and meatloaf are all good. I usually order mahi mahi when I’m here. And I ALWAYS (well except for last year when I was pregnant) order a Big Daddy Dirty Martini! Amazing desserts too!

Ruddy Ducks in Morehead City. This is my dad’s favorite place and we usually end up eating here at least twice if not three times while we are visiting in the summer. The shrimp basket is the best deal at the beach! Sitting on the deck makes for an even more enjoyable experience. The painkiller cocktail is another yummy choice. The fish tacos are good as are all the burgers. Great place for the seafood and non-seafood lovers.

acs_0246Channel Marker in Atlantic Beach. This place has a bit of an old-school feel to it. They put out the cracker basket and cheese on the table when you arrive. The deck is great if you like to sit outdoors with a view, it’s right on the waterway. The mahi is good and just the plain ol’ fried flounder is another of our favorites. I always upgrade to the stuffed baked potato.

 

 

 

acs_0245Spouter Inn in Beaufort. Great spot for lunch. The flounder sandwich is good as is the egg salad. Another great place to dine al fresco right on the water!

 

 

 

What to do: 

North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. I just love this place. I go nearly every summer. Be sure to pet the stingrays and say hi to the otters, Neuse, Pungo and Eno. If the otters are asleep on your first trip around, swing back by again before you go. It’s worth it to see them playing!

Shackleford Banks. Take the ferry from Beaufort over to this little island to see the wild ponies and collect some shells. It’s wonderful at low tide as there is a big sandbar you can walk way out on.

Fort Macon in Atlantic Beach. If you like history this place is definitely worth a visit.

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Uncategorized

Drinking vicariously (a book review)

Mamrie Hart, a native of my small town in rural North Carolina,IveGotThisRo_JKF_rev0915_preview has just released her second book and it is a hoot!

As a mom of a six-month old I believe my drinking days are long gone. My idea of an exciting drink choice these days is trying a new flavor of La Croix.

I’ve read from multiple reputable sources that having a glass of wine while breastfeeding is perfectly safe, but the new mom syndrome of worrying over everything keeps me from indulging. My husband works at a winery so wine is always around me, but I’ve yet to have more than a small sip since bringing home my son. When the baby (finally!) goes to bed and we watch “Frankie and Grace” I also long for a dirty martini, but liquor is definitely out of the question.

Then my boss passed along an advanced readers’ copy of a new book written by a famous former local citizen and it has been the answer to my lack of alcohol! If I can’t drink I can at least read about someone else imbibing.

Mamrie Hart’s dad was an actor in the show “In the Heat of the Night” that ran in the late 80s/early 90s. She’s made her own path to celebrity with her YouTube channel where she takes a comedic approach to making cocktails. I know people who knew her when she lived her, but I had never seen her channel and didn’t know she had a book until the second one was given to me. Now I’m on a mission to watch ALL her videos and read the first book, too.

In her latest work “I’ve Got This Round” Hart shares her escapades which involve a lot of drinking. From the first chapter I was hooked as she described a weekend in the resort of her childhood dreams which features a champagne glass shaped tub! I promptly googled the place after finishing that chapter and planned an imaginary trip there.

New mom or not, if you’re in the mood for lots of laughs, definitely check out this book!

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cocktails, pregnancy

Pickles and pina coladas

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Flashback to being 32 weeks pregnant with my sweet little boy.

“When are you due?”

“Are you having a boy or girl?”

These are some of the most frequently asked questions of pregnant people. People also want to know what crazy thing you have been craving to eat. I’m a little bummed to report that I didn’t really have any weird cravings while I was pregnant. I was very lucky to not have any morning sickness but my appetite all but disappeared, particularly during my first trimester.

As someone who loves food and loves to eat, it was very weird to not feel hungry. Every day when he got off work, my sweet husband would call and ask what I wanted for dinner. He would beg and cajole and offer to fix anything I wanted. I would just sigh and tell him to fix whatever he wanted and I would try to eat a few bites.

The closest I did have to a craving I’m convinced was brought on my other factors than my pregnancy. In the early months of my pregnancy I really wanted a pina colada. I didn’t want alcohol I just wanted a cool creamy coconut and pineapple drink. At the time I was using a shampoo that smelled strongly of coconut and I blamed the craving on that, and perhaps my constant desire to be somewhere warm and tropical.

After several trips to the grocery store and talking myself out of getting the makings for a pina colada, I finally did it. My pregger pina colada was a simple mixture of cream of coconut and pineapple juice, add ice and put it in the blender. It really hit the spot and that was the end of my craving for it.

I confess that I did want to eat pickles while I was pregnant, but I’ve always loved pickles. I didn’t eat any with my pina colada. The weird thing was I didn’t want my homemade pickles. I only wanted the plain store bought dill pickle chips.

While I didn’t have any cravings while I was pregnant, I pretty much crave all the food all the time now that I’m breastfeeding.

 

motherhood, Uncategorized

Happy New Year!

I’d like to say that my New Year’s resolution is to get back to blogging, but there’s a good chance that won’t happen. The reason I have neglected the blog of late is a good one though. I made a tiny human! Being a mother is the most amazing thing I’ve ever done, but gosh is it tiring!

A few years ago I gave up making resolutions anyway, so I’m not going to beat myself up over forgetting to post on the blog. The reason I gave up resolution making is because I couldn’t even manage to keep silly ones. I once made a New Year’s resolution to wear sexy underwear and drink champagne more often. Even that frivolous goal I couldn’t manage to achieve. As a new mom, fancy panties and champagne are definitely out the window now!

Being a mom is a grand adventure though and I hope to carve out some time this year to share my thoughts on this wonderful experience.

Wishing you all a bright and lovely 2018!

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Cooking

A pasta warning

I’m going to warn you about something. Don’t, I mean don’t, ever try homemade pasta. If you do, you will never want to go back to the pitiful dried up stuff in the box. It’s a sad dilemma, but one we now face in my household.

My husband Morgan was given the pasta maker attachment for our Kitchen Aid mixer as a birthday gift. He teases me about how he always seems to get gifts that I benefit from too. It’s not my fault he likes kitchen gadgets! He said he wanted the pasta attachment and so that’s what my dad chose to give him for his birthday. I may or may not have been the one to suggest this to my dad.

img_2488As I may have mentioned, I am not good with dough. Well, other than spending it. Morgan, however, has mastered this skill. On his first run with the pasta maker, he made homemade spaghetti. Once the dough is made, it runs through the roller attachment several times which smooths and flattens it to the desired thickness. A second attachment is then used to cut the noodles. One important thing to remember when making homemade pasta is that it doesn’t take nearly as long to cook.

Since acquiring this magical new device, Morgan has made us homemade spaghetti with meat sauce, chicken Alfredo with fettuccine and Italian sausage and mozzarella stuffed ravioli. I have a hard time deciding which of these dishes has been my favorite. For the ravioli he made last week, he also made a homemade tomato cream sauce that was good enough I could have eaten the entire pot, with or without any noodles.

If you have a pasta attachment and want to try making homemade noodles, Morgan’s recipe is below. Even if you do use store-bought noodles, I recommend trying this homemade tomato cream sauce, it is divine!

Morgan’s Pasta Dough (makes half a pound)

Ingredients:

• 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour

• 2/3 cup of whole wheat flour

• 2 eggs

Instructions:

Whisk flours together to combine. In a separate bowl whisk eggs. Make a well in center of flour and pour in whisked eggs. Use a fork to slowly stir flour into the egg. If dough is not combining properly, add a teaspoon or less of water till dough combines. Once dough is combined to the right consistency dump it onto a floured surface and knead into a ball. Knead dough for at least 10 minutes. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 to 40 minutes to rest. Follow pasta maker instructions to roll dough and cut into desired pasta shape. Reminder: fresh pasta takes less time to cook than store bought.

Morgan’s Tomato Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 1/2 tablespoon basil

•1/2 tablespoon oregano

• 2 large cloves of garlic, finely minced

• pinch of crushed red pepper

• 1 medium onion, diced

• 3 ounces (or half a small can) of tomato paste

• 1 large can diced tomatoes

• Salt and pepper to taste

• Half a carton of heavy cream

Instructions:

Add olive oil to saucepan on medium heat. Add in herbs and garlic and saute for less than a minute. Add in diced onions and cook until lightly brown in color. Add in tomato paste and cook for a minute or less to awaken flavors. Add diced tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Reduce to simmer for 30 minutes. Slowly stir in half a carton of heavy cream. Using an immersion blender, blend sauce until smooth. Serve over your favorite pasta.

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Happy Fat Tuesday!

A holiday that involves the phrase “Fat Tuesday” is definitely something I can get down with! Though far from the parades routes in the famed Crescent City, I have been lucky to experience my own local version of Mardi Gras thanks to my dear friend Judy. Judy lived for many years in New Orleans and brought the wonderful Mardi Gras traditions back home with her. She has graciously shared these traditions with us!

Aside from the flamboyant masks, costumes and sparkly beads that accompany Mardi Gras, my favorite part is the food. The dessert in particular is a favorite thing of mine. King cake is a traditional dessert associated with Mardi Gras. In light of the elaborate nature of Mardi Gras, king cake is actually a very simple dough-based dessert usually with a filing of some sort. The cake is in honor of the three kings who brought gifts to baby Jesus. In New Orleans king cakes are typically served from Epiphany (twelve days after Christmas) on through Mardi Gras. Baked inside the cake is a tiny plastic baby representing the baby Jesus. The tradition is that the party guest who receives the lucky piece of cake containing the baby is then responsible for hosting the next party or providing the next king cake.

I have been the recipient of this lucky piece of cake on several occasions but have never followed through with the tradition as I did not know how to make a king cake. Now I will no longer be able to use that as an excuse. A few weeks ago Judy came over and taught me step by step how to make this delicious confection.

While simple in nature, the baking of a king cake is quite time consuming as it requires time to make dough and allow it to rise. Working the dough is quite a process as well. I have a tendency to be fearful of dough recipes as I’m always afraid of overworking the dough and making it tough. Judy had to instruct me to be a little more forceful in my kneading in order to get the dough to the right consistency. Once you really get going with the dough has this very sensuous silken feel to it that is quite delightful.

Once the dough has been thoroughly kneaded and allowed to rise, it is then rolled flat to be filled. For our king cake making day, Judy and I made a cream cheese filled king cake and a cinnamon filled. Judy said that fruit filling is also an option. Once the dough is filled and rolled into an oval shape, it must then be allowed to rise again before placing the plastic baby under one edge of the dough and baking it. Once cooled, the cake is then covered in a simple powdered sugar based icing and decorated with purple, green and gold sprinkles, the traditional colors associated with Mardi Gras. The colors are said to represent justice, faith and power. I admit putting on the sprinkles was my favorite part of the process, well aside from eating it that is!

As we were making the cakes I thought the cream cheese filled would be my favorite, but I actually like the cinnamon filled just as much. My recommendation is to make both and have a slice of each, alternating bites between the cream cheese and the cinnamon. The thought also crossed my mind to try combining the fillings the next time I make them. The question remains, will I be brave enough to attempt making king cake without Judy’s assistance? The recipes is below if you want to give it a try!

Judy’s New Orleans King Cake

(Makes two medium sized king cakes)

Ingredients:

Dough:

• 1/4 cup butter

• 1 16 oz container sour cream

• 1/2 or less cup sugar

• 1 tsp salt

• 2 envelopes active dry yeast

• 1 tsp sugar

• 1/2 cup warm water (100 – 110 degrees)

• 2 eggs

• 6 cups all purpose or bread flour

• 1 tsp ground nutmeg

• 1 tsp. dried lemon peel

Cream Cheese Filling:

• 1 or 2 8 oz packages cream cheese, softened (If making both king cakes cream cheese filled use two packs cream cheese, if doing the other as cinnamon filled, just one cream cheese will suffice.)

• 1 egg

• 3/4 cup sugar

• 1/8 tsp salt

• 2 tsp vanilla

Cinnamon Filling:

• 1/4 cup softened butter

• 1/2 cup sugar

• 11/2 tsp cinnamon

Icing/topping

• 1 to 11/2 cups powdered sugar

• milk

• 1/2 tsp almond flavoring

• purple, green, gold sugar sprinkles

Instructions:

1. Cook first four ingredients in a saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until butter melts. Cool mixture to 100 to 110 degrees.

2. Dissolve yeast and one teaspoon sugar in 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl; let stand five minutes. In a mixing bowl, combine yeast, butter mixture, eggs, nut meg, lemon peel and two cups flour. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer for two minutes or until smooth. Gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.

3. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic; about 10 minutes. Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, for one hour or until doubled in bulk.

4. Using an electric mixture, mix cream cheese until smooth. Add egg and blend well. Add sugar, salt and vanilla and mix until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

5. Punch dough down; divide in half. Turn one portion out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll to 28 x10 inch rectangle.

For the cream cheese filled cake, spread half of cream cheese mixture on dough, leaving a small 1/2 to 1 inch margin all around.

For the cinnamon filled, brush dough with softened butter, leaving 1/2 to 1 inch margin, then sprinkle surface with sugar and cinnamon mixture.

Roll dough, jellyroll fashion, starting at long side. Place dough roll, seam side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bring ends together to form an oval ring, moistening and pinching edges together to seal. Repeat with remaining dough and cream cheese or cinnamon mixture.

6. Place a small plastic king cake baby underneath the king cake. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 20 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

7. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden.

8. In a small bowl gradually add small amounts of milk to powdered sugar and stir until icing is the desired consistency. Add almond flavoring if desired.

9. When cool, decorate with thick white icing glaze and bands of purple, green and gold sugar sprinkles in alternating colors using a N-S-E-W fashion or as other desired pattern.

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Cooking

Snow day baking

We got our first winter snow here in North Carolina over the weekend. As protocol dictates here in the south, we all rushed out and bought bread and milk. Actually, truth be told, I bought neither of those things as we already had them. I did buy some other items so I could bake while we were “snowed in.”

My Dad got us a Kitchen Aid mixer for Christmas and we’ve been so excited to try it out!

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Great Aunt Grace’s Lemon Pound Cake

On Saturday I made my Great Aunt Grace’s Lemon Pound Cake. It’s one of my favorite all-time recipes. It’s so simple to make and tastes so good. The tangy lemon flavor was perfect for brightening up a cold winter day.

For some reason I’ve also been craving scones lately. I usually chalk that up to all the British crime shows I like to watch. I found a great recipe for Parmesan Rosemary Scones on the Tea Time Magazine website. I highly recommend trying these! They were divine. We served ours with butter and homemade strawberry preserves.

Just a couple of teensy notes on the recipe. I did not have fresh rosemary so I used dried which I ran through a small electric chopper first. Also, I found the dough to be very dry and unmanageable at first so I added maybe two more tablespoons of cream to get it to the consistency to be able to roll. Also, they were wonderful warm from the oven, but I ate one cold this morning with no butter or jam and it was still delicious! The sprinkle of salt on the top is really delightful.

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Parmesan Rosemary Scones