Cheese – It’s What’s for Dinner

We love cheese.  There are evenings when neither of us wants to cook, or we simply do not have an appetite for a big meal. Inevitably we head to the refrigerator in search of cheese. Add in olives, pickles, fruit, bread or crackers and of course a glass of wine and the snack becomes a light dinner.  We are not particularly fussy about what kind of cheese we eat.   While expensive artisanal cheeses are nice, we can also be satisfied with a smoked Gouda or sharp white cheddar. We are also big fans of goat cheese, which I shared here.

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Jekyll Island, GA – Picture Perfect

Bike riding is one of our favorite ways to get exercise and enjoy being outside.  We have a couple of Raleigh Hybrids that suit our leisurely style perfectly.  They are also durable and easy to transport.  We take them with us on most of our in-state travels and have ventured beyond the State line on occasion.

A few years ago we discovered a pretty magical place, just five hours from home on the East Coast.  Jekyll Island, GA is about one hour north of the Florida state line, and about fifteen miles East of the I95 exit to Brunswick, GA. This barrier island is unique for several reasons, but most notable is the fact that it is a Georgia State Park.  There are residences  on the island, along with several hotels to accommodate visitors.  Land cannot be owned here and only 35% of the park can be built upon, which leaves acres and acres for exploring. Read More

Passionate About Photography

Sunday mornings are great for a short drive to a beautiful place to enjoy nature and take photographs.  In fact, almost any morning is a great time for a drive since being retired! We have several favorite destinations, which include the House of Refuge on Hutchinson Island (Stuart, Fl), Jupiter Island’s Blowing Rock Preserve, and Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach.  Any of these locations will provide hours of entertainment. Read More

For the Love of Goat Cheese

Generally speaking, most people would expect to have a souffle for dessert, but we found a great recipe on Epicurious that we like to serve as a first course.  That is because the main ingredient in the souffle is goat cheese.  This souffle is a great starter to a main course of beef tenderloin or rack of lamb.  It is not as intimidating as a dessert souffle and can be made ahead and refrigerated.

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Goat Cheese Souffle – Ingredients

2 4-ounce logs soft fresh goat cheese

2/3 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter

3 tablespoons all purpose flour

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 ounces)

4 large egg yolks

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

6 large egg whites

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter six 3/4-cup soufflé dishes or custard cups.

Cut one 4-ounce goat cheese log into 6 equal rounds. Place 1 round in each prepared dish. Crumble remaining 4-ounce cheese log into large bowl.

Bring milk to simmer in small saucepan. Remove from heat. Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and stir 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in hot milk. Continue cooking until mixture is smooth and resembles thick paste, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Pour mixture over crumbled goat cheese in large bowl. Whisk in Parmesan, yolks, herbs and pepper. Cool soufflé base to lukewarm.

Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites with 1/4 teaspoon salt in another large bowl until stiff but not dry. Gently fold 1/4 of egg whites into lukewarm soufflé base to lighten. Fold in remaining egg whites. Divide soufflé mixture among prepared dishes. Transfer dishes to baking sheet and bake until soufflés are puffed and golden brown on top, about 22 minutes.

Place soufflé dishes on serving plates. Alternative: let souffles cool to room temperature and remove  from baking dishes, (slide a butter knife gently around the inside of the cup to loosen) wrap individually with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  To serve: preheat oven to 350, unwrap souffles and bring to room temperature on a cookie sheet.  Place in oven and heat through, about 10 minutes.  

Note:  We have served the souffles with mixed greens and Raspberry Vinaigrette, alongside a Caesar salad (middle picture) and with the Roasted Pear that we shared with you in a previous post. Obviously, it is very versatile and can be accompanied however you like!

Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

Mix 1 Cup fresh Raspberries with 1 tablespoon sugar.  Let stand for about 10 minutes then mash with a fork until juicy. Place in a salad dressing container and add 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon honey and salt to taste.  Shake, then refrigerate until ready to serve.

Plating the Salad

Toss greens with desired dressing, add about 1/2 cup per serving to a salad dish and top with the souffle.  If serving directly from the oven, set the baking dish on a plate and add salad greens alongside.  The souffle will deflate quickly, which is why we like to remove them from the baking dish and place on top of the salad.  It still tastes just as delicious.

The Raspberry Vinaigrette recipe is from Allrecipes.  We use this cooking site and Epicurious  religiously as their recipes are highly reliable.  We often tweak, or create our own recipes, but for the most part, we use reliable sources.

 

Bok Tower Gardens with a Side Trip

Florida is a long, narrow peninsula which enables us to visit many destinations as a day trip – no overnight stay required.  That works for us because we are spontaneous travelers for the most part. It is nice to decide on Friday to take a drive on Sunday and be greeted by something beautiful and interesting just a couple of hours away.  Lake Wales is one such place.  It is located in the middle of the state, about two hours from our home.  There are several reasons that you might want to visit there, but our favorite is the Bok Tower Gardens and Pinewood Estate. The Gardens and Estate are open year round, with some blackout dates.  Please check the schedule on their website before you go. Our favorite times to visit are at Christmas and in the Spring.   Springtime offers a glorious display of azaleas and camellias while the winter draw is the fully decorated Pinewood Estate. The home was built in the 1930’s for Bethlehem Steel Executive,  Charles Buck. The Mediterranean style home has distinct Latin influences throughout that reflect the owner’s interests.  It is well worth a tour even when not decorated for Christmas.

The photography enthusiast will appreciate the reflective pond in front of the tower.  Find just the right spot to set up your tripod and you will be rewarded with a full reflection of the tower.  The photo below will give you an idea of the possibilities.

Admission is reasonable at $18 per person and you can likely find a Groupon or other discount rate through a search on the internet.  Plan several hours here to fully enjoy the gardens and home.  The walking trails meander throughout the estate and vary from gravel to paved paths, so sturdy walking shoes are suggested.

Pack a lunch and eat on the grounds, or enjoy something from the menu at the Blue Palmetto Cafe.  As a side note, bicycles are not allowed inside the gardens.

Extend Your Stay

If you happen to have your bikes with you and want to extend your trip overnight, head North to Winter Garden, which is about one hour away.  There you can ride the West Orange Blossom Trail.  This well marked, paved trail extends 22 miles from the Orange/Lake County line, through  Killarney, Oakland,  the city of Winter Garden, and downtown Apopka.  We mapped a ride of about eighteen miles and took our time, enjoying several rest stops along the way.  Our favorite stop was in downtown Winter Garden for a slice of pizza at the Winter Garden Pizza Company.  Of course, you can skip the pizza (that would be criminal) and power ride the entire trail if that is more your thing.  The full trail does not loop around, but there are sections that do. It is shaded in areas and exposed in others.  Most of the trail is scenic, however, it does wind through a couple of residential and industrial areas.  Take a look at the Park website here to plan your ride.

 

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