Fondue for Two

Greetings from Antarctica!  Oh wait…I mean Arkansas.  We are iced in…again…and it makes me forget where I live.  But that gives me time to catch up on the blog, so I won’t complain!

As mentioned in my previous post, my husband and I had to postpone our Valentine’s plans on account of the flu in our household.  Our plans finally came to fruition last Saturday, and we had such a great night!  Let me give you a little backstory first….

My hubby, Jeremy, and I have a tradition of taking turns surprising the other with Valentine’s Day plans.  So one year, he’s in charge of planning Valentine’s, and the next year, I’m in charge of our plans.  And so on and so forth.  Several years ago, I surprised him with a trip to Memphis to see “Spamalot” (which was so stinkin’ fantastic) and dinner at The Melting Pot.  When I told him it was a fondue restaurant, my usually up-for-anything husband said, “Do what?!?”  Haha!  He is a very picky eater, and fondue was something he never intended to try.

When we got to The Melting Pot, we were shocked to discover that you cooked your own food.  We were like, “We came all this way and are paying all this money to cook our own dinner?”  Little did we know what a fun experience it would be!  For any readers who have not experienced The Melting Pot, you get four amazing courses when you order the whole nine yards: cheese fondue, salad, entrée, and chocolate fondue.  The entrée is the part where you do your own cooking – and it was so much fun.

We were hooked upon the first bite of the cheese fondue, but if we hadn’t been, the variety of meats would have sealed the deal for my husband, and the chocolate fondue would have made a believer out of me.  All this to say, we love The Melting Pot!  It is a bit pricey, so we usually only go once a year, usually for Valentine’s Day or our anniversary.  We love the fondue experience so much that we asked my parents for a nice Cuisinart fondue pot for Christmas four years ago.  And they bought us one.  And we never used it.  Until now….

Flash forward to Valentine’s Day 2014, my year to be in charge of Valentine’s Day.  I thought to myself, “By golly, I am going to use that fondue pot that’s been in the cupboard for four years to fix a romantic fondue dinner for us at home.”  I hadn’t gotten around to using it because I knew it was going to be a huge undertaking.  But I was determined to make it happen!  I got on The Melting Pot’s website back in January to see if they had any of their recipes listed, and lo and behold, they are now selling a Melting Pot cookbook!  I ordered one right away, along with some marinade, salad dressing, seasoning, and chocolate wafers.  My goal was to recreate a night at The Melting Pot…and we did.

It really was quite a production…it took us five hours!  Lol!  We started at 5:00pm and didn’t finish until 10:00pm.  There was a half hour break in there for me to rest…I was worn out!  Not only was there TONS of prep-work that started the night before, I had to clean the fondue pot between each course.  My back was killing me from all the cooking and dishwashing.  But it was so much fun.  Jeremy was my sous-chef, and I every time I needed him I’d holler, “Get this, Sous!” or “Fetch that, Sous!”  It was great bossing him around the kitchen, and he learned a lot.  Together, we cooked a fabulous meal.

Here are some pictures from each of our four courses:

We started with a traditional Swiss cheese fondue.  Not nearly as good as the cheddar one we order at The Melting Pot, but I wanted to start with a classic.

cheese fondue

Next up were salads with The Melting Pot’s house dressing.  Can you guess which salad is Jeremy’s?

salads

The main course included teriyaki sirloin, jumbo shrimp, barbecue pork loin, and four cheese ravioli (for me).  On the side, we had potatoes and broccoli.  We had so much leftover food, it was ridiculous.

main course

The fourth and final course was Bananas Foster fondue, which is made with white chocolate.  Absolutely. Divine.  This course was all mine, and I had all kind of goodies for dipping: strawberries, bananas, pound cake, marshmallows rolled in graham cracker crumbs, Rice Krispie treats, and sugar cookie pieces.  And of course, plain iced sugar cookies for my honey.

chocolate fondue

It was a memorable evening for sure, and even though it was hard work, I look forward to doing it again.  Not anytime soon, but sometime.  I am so thankful for my Valentine.  He is my best friend, amazing father, hard worker, and love of my life.  He has been very supportive of my weight loss goals, and I look forward to celebrating with him when I accomplish them.  Maybe we’ll celebrate with a trip to The Melting Pot.

Chocolate, Chocolate Everywhere!

Chocolate.  Mmmm.  One of my favorite sweets.  It seems chocolate has been popping up in my life quite a bit here lately….

First there was Halloween.  We took our boys trick-or-treating in the same neighborhood we visit every year.  And each year we seem to get a pretty balanced mix of candy – 1/3 fruity chewies, such as Starburst and Skittles; 1/3 hard candies, such as lollipops and jaw-breakers; and 1/3 chocolate goodies, such as Snickers and Milky Way.  This year we somehow ended up with about 90% chocolate goodies!  I let myself nibble on quite a bit of it, but there’s still tons of chocolate goodness left in the boys’ buckets.  I plan on taking it to work and putting it in our candy bowl for students so I won’t have it in the house anymore.

Next there was the onset of cool, crisp fall weather.  Each fall when cooler temps arrive, it stirs up a craving for three things: 1) flannel pajamas, 2) snuggly blankets, and 3) hot chocolate.  I discovered that Swiss Miss makes “diet” hot chocolate that tastes really good.  Only 25 calories and 2g of sugar, so it’s not a costly treat.  (My only complaint is that it doesn’t dissolve quite as nicely as regular hot chocolate.)  I’ve been making a cup nearly every morning at work.  Random Fact: Hot chocolate is the ONLY form of chocolate that my husband likes.  Go figure.

swiss miss

Finally, the women’s ministry group at my church sponsored a fabulous retreat called Café Chocolat.  That’s right – a whole retreat and Bible study based on chocolate!  We spent the night at Camp Paron where we participated in Bible study, sang worship songs, sewed a cozy fleece wrap, and ate TONS of chocolate.  I never dreamed it was possible to have too much chocolate, but I think I got very close!  The bible study was a comparison of chocolate to God’s extravagant love and extravagant grace.  It was definitely a “sweet” time of fellowship!

cafe chocolat

As much as I love chocolate, I think I’ve about reached my quota for November…and we haven’t even had Thanksgiving yet!  Guess I’ll just have to focus on pumpkin cheesecake and sweet potato casserole instead.  I’m very much looking forward to Turkey Day, knowing that I will be saving all my splurge calories that week for the biggest meal of the year.  Here’s to turkey, dressing, and cranberry sauce!  Bring. It. On.

October Recap (It’s been HOW long since I posted???)

Five weeks.  Yep.  It’s true.  Five weeks since my last post.  Oopsie!

Clearly October was a very busy month for me.  It started with a family trip to Albuquerque and my birthday – woohoo!  Then I got sick – just some upper respiratory stuff.  Then my hubby and I took a mini-getaway to Texas.  Combine all this with the everyday hustle and bustle of life, and it didn’t leave much time for blogging.  Sorry for the hiatus.  Here are a few brief stories to get you caught up…

My family – including my family of four, my parents, my brother and his family of four – went to my hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.  Of course I’d been several times growing up in ABQ, but it remains one of the most amazing events I’ve ever been to.  My husband had been with me once before we had kids, and I took my oldest son when he was 18 months old.  It’d been eight long years since I’d seen those balloons in person.  And it was every bit as magical as I remembered.

Balloons1

Balloons2

We ate our way through Albuquerque, hitting all my old favorite restaurants along the way, but I didn’t gain any weight because we walked and walked and walked around the Balloon Fiesta Park.  We burned off every goodie we indulged in that weekend, including my favorite – sopapillas with honey.  Mmm-mmmm!

Before we could leave ABQ, I caught a cold that several of my family members ended up sharing and missed a couple of days of work the next week.  No exercise occurred.  Then the following weekend my husband and I escaped for a weekend getaway.  I bought him tickets to see Dana Carvey for Father’s Day, and it was finally time to redeem them!  We stayed in the upscale little town of Frisco, Texas, which we had visited last fall for a friend’s wedding.  Again, we ate our way through the town, but again, we walked off most of it in the fabulous Stonebriar Centre mall and a Premium Outlet mall we found nearby.  My favorite meal was at the Cheesecake Factory.  I had their popular Chicken Madeira and a piece of white chocolate raspberry cheesecake.  Heaven.

Cheesecake Factory

The Monday following our trip, I finally got back on the exercise wagon.  I have only lost one pound during the month of October, but I’m okay with that considering all the activities and foods I enjoyed.  I’m back in the groove with my blog now, too, and I’m going to try my best to stick to my goals during the fast-approaching holiday season.  Halloween is Thursday – and that will provide me plenty of bite-sized temptations – then Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here before we know it!

Don’t be surprised to find a few more gaps in the blog as we enter the holiday season, but I’ll do my best not to have any more five-week lapses.  I’ve missed this!  Thanks for taking the time to catch up with me.  Goodnight, friends!

Five Reasons I Love the Fair

Well, we went to the County Fair three days ago, and I’m still feeling euphoric!  I LOVE THE FAIR!  While the first six days of the fair were miserably hot, a cold front moved through and cooled things down for Friday, the day we went.  It was about 75 degrees with a nice fall-like breeze.  Perfect. Fair. Weather.  It was a fun-filled night for so many reasons, but here are the top five reasons I love the fair:

  1. THE FRIENDS – We go to the fair with the same family of five every year, and this was our 11th year to go together.  They were a part of a historic event in my life…my very first county fair!  I milked and brushed a cow for the first time in my life…it was epic.
  2. THE FOOD – Corn dogs, funnel cakes, and caramel apples.  ‘Nuff said.
  3. THE PETTING ZOO – I love seeing, petting, and feeding the animals, especially the babies.  Missing this year was the enormous cow you can brush and the freshly-hatched baby chicks, but we had a camel for the first time.  I guess I’ll settle for a camel.
  4. THE FERRIS WHEEL – My absolute favorite ride because you get a bird’s eye view of the fair and the town.  :)  Love me some ferris wheel.
  5. THE MIDWAY AFTER DARK – Although the games are rigged and the rides (and operators) are sketchy, I love the lights and sounds of the midway, especially after the sun sets.

fair favesAs you may have read in previous posts, I have been salivating for fair food, so I saved all my splurge calories for fair night.  I really had my heart set on eating a corn dog, but we got to the fair and saw BBQ nachos advertised.  Yes, please!  That’s what I ended up ordering for dinner, followed by a funnel cake later in the evening.  I ordered my caramel apple “to-go” and ate it Saturday afternoon.  Pure. Heaven.

fair foodEvery Sunday morning we pass by the fair grounds on our way to church.  We are always excited to see the fair being set up, and always sad to see it being taken down.  My boys are already asking how long it will be until it’s fair-time again.  I think one final reason I love fair-time is that it means fall is right around the corner.  I’m so ready for cool weather, pumpkins, and fall foliage.

Thank you, Lord, for a memorable night at the fair and for the hint of fall in the air.  Amen.  Goodnight, friends!

A Football Feast!

Happy Labor Day!  Hope that you are enjoying this holiday weekend.  We certainly are!

Saturday we spent most of the day in Jonesboro for Legislative Day at Arkansas State University.  My husband is a State Representative, and he and several colleagues were honored throughout the afternoon.  It started with a lunch at 1:00pm, then we went to a reception at 3:30pm.  The main event was the Redwolves football game at 6:00pm, which we watched from the Chancellor’s Box.  Lunch, a reception, AND dinner?!?  Food was everywhere!

Even though I’m allowed a couple of cheat meals each week, I was hoping that there would be a few healthy options.  The ASU catering team did not disappoint!  Lunch enabled me to get almost all my veggie servings: cabbage slaw with pine nuts, asparagus with crabmeat, and grilled cauliflower.  Delish!  My only cheat at lunch was a piece of strawberry cake.

ASU Meals

I forgot to take a photo at the reception, but it was very nice also.  They had a variety of fruits and cheeses set out, as well as several other appetizers.  I had some cantaloupe, pineapple, and strawberries.  Not really sure how, though, since I was still full from lunch!

I figured there would be some food for us in the Chancellor’s Box, but I had already told my husband I was eating a hot dog and popcorn for dinner, my two favorite ball game foods.  As luck would have it, they had hot dogs for us, and since I did alright at the lunch and reception, I didn’t hesitate to splurge at dinner!  I had a chili cheese hot dog, a stuffed jalapeno pepper, and a Howl cookie.  Never got my popcorn, but my belly was plenty full and plenty happy.  :)

We had an awesome day, and to top things off, the Redwolves won their first home game.  Driving around Jonesboro and around the ASU campus always brings back lots of great memories since my husband and I met here.  Good times.

Stadium

We have been celebrating our Labor Day at home, and tonight we are grilling burgers and eating outside on the patio.  Kind of one last summer hurrah.  I like summer just fine, but not as much as I love fall and winter, and all the events and yummy foods that come with these two seasons.  I’m also looking forward to cooler temperatures so my outdoor exercises don’t leave me in a sweaty puddle.

Hope your Labor Day weekend has been filled with fun.  Fall is only a few weeks away!  Next weekend will be our local county fair, and I can assure you that my cheat meals will be saved for corn dogs and funnel cakes.  Woohoo!