12.12.2018

Easy White Bean Chicken Soup for a Crowd

When I'm feeding a crowd, I always look for recipes that are easy. I first served this white bean chicken soup earlier this fall and I thought it was great. My mother-in-law was such a fan of this easy chicken-based soup that she wanted me to text her the recipe the next day. 


I liked this chicken soup so much that I plan to serve it to friends at a holiday gathering later this month for the holiday season. Surprisingly, the recipe originated from a Southern Living kid's cookbook that I bought years ago. 


This easy white bean chicken soup is great for entertaining a large crowd.


This white bean chicken soup can easily be doubled for entertaining. You could also saute your own boneless chicken and use a rotisserie chicken breast seasoning instead of deboning a chicken from the store. This easy chicken soup takes on a holiday look when you add cilantro for a touch of green.

I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did.  It also freezes well. 
Ingredients:
  • 1 tablespoon butter 
  •  
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, skinned, boned, and coarsely chopped
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 3 (16-ounce) cans great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
  •  

      **You can double the recipe, but I still use only one onion. If the chicken soup is too thick, you can add water or extra chicken broth on the reheat. 

    Directions: 

    Melt butter in a large pot over low heat: add carrot, onions, and garlic. Saute until tender then stir in chicken, chicken broth, green chilies, cumin, and red pepper. Bring soup to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 20 minutes.  Place beans in a medium bowl and mash using a potato masher until about half the beans are still whole. Add beans and the whipping cream to the chicken soup mixture. 
    Cook 10 additional minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in cilantro (optional). 
This easy white bean chicken soup is great for cold days and for a crowd #soups #stews #Mainmeals




My time for writing and sharing this blog post is made possible by sponsor, Rivenrun Dental in Richmond, Virginia. 

12.08.2018

Holidays in Raleigh, NC: The Iconic Angus Barn is a Southern Tradition for Families

When you drive down Highway 70 between the cities of Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina, you will spot an iconic red barn that has created pure holiday magic in the Triangle for families for more than 50 years.

And every year, holiday decorations at the Angus Barn, a premier steakhouse in Raleigh, gets better and better. It's like the NC's mountain's Biltmore Estate for the eastern part of North Carolina, just on a smaller scale.


The famous iconic Angus Barn in Raleigh, NC


The exterior of Angus Barn twinkles as soon as you see it. It's surrounded by car lots and commercial businesses now on a very busy highway, but despite the hustle and bustle around it, the Angus Barn still projects that same holiday magic of yesteryear. When this restaurant was first established in 1960 in Raleigh, it was located in the country. Seriously, the country! The country where you would see barns in rural North Carolina.  I have photos of my parents all dressed up attending business Christmas parties. Even though Raleigh's Angus Barn is spread among urban sprawl on Highway 70,  it is one of Raleigh's most iconic places to visit, especially during the holidays.

The Angus Barn still maintains its country roots with a rustic, elegant interior. But, this is no country Cracker Barrel even though there is the Angus Barn Country Store which sells its famous cheese and crackers. Of course, Angus Barn elves are modern now and they ship everywhere so non-Southerners can have a little taste of what's so great about Raleigh destination. With most entrees priced above $30 and a children's menu starting at $14, it's a place where many Southern families splurge during the holiday season.

Diners inside the Angus Barn love the Holiday Season


People flock here because it's an experience like none other. A purely magical, joyous experience for kids. To dine during normal dining times like 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm, in December you may need to make Angus Barn dinner reservations up to a year in advance. The Angus Barn extends its hours during the holiday season though, and if you can sit down to eat dinner at 10:00 pm, then you probably can snag a reservation during this busy time for the restaurant.

Inside the Angus Barn at the holidays


Dinner at the Angus Barn is steeped with tradition, and unlike most high-end steakhouses in America these days, they do not do that a-la-carte business of sharing a larger side with the table. Your 14-ox "IronChef" Ribeye (Oh, yeah. There's that, too. Angus Barn Executive Chef Walter Royal won TV's Iron Chef Competiton. He beat chef Cat Cora) comes with your choice of soup or salad and a side.  Bread, homemade crackers, cheese, and fresh raw veggies are on the table for every Angus Barn diner to enjoy. Even for non-beef eaters, the Angus Barn menu has something for everyone to enjoy.

The Angus Barn is beautifully decorated during the Holiday Season


But, the view of the Angus Barn restaurant through the magic of a child's eye is where this eatery has its edge. Beautiful trees, appearances by Santa, life-sized elves greeting you at the door with homemade gingerbread cookies, and hot cocoa. It's like North Carolina's own North Pole.

There is a toy box for kids, and kids are taken into the kitchen by staff to make their own dessert sundae after dinner.

The only downside though is for kids who are true steak lovers because the Angus Barn kid's menu has a variety of typical kid-like items, but the only steak choice for kids is a chopped hamburger steak. I've talked to many parents (you know parents today have more sophisticated little foodies) who frequent this venue year after year, and they all have expressed their desire for a small filet option for kids. Angus Barn, are you listening? I've got one child aging out of the Angus Barn kid's menu. He'll be 13 this month and he has had an aversion to any kid-type menu for years.

My son is one expensive date these days. But, I do think more and more elementary-school-aged children are eating fish and filet cuts of beef these days. Things have changed since the 60s.

And I must not forget the ladies parlor for little girls like mine. I think Liza remembered the bathroom experience more than anything. It's a fancy parlor and they have all these toiletries to powder your nose. It's a little girl's adult version of the blingy store Justice.

It's fancy inside Raleigh's Angus Barn Ladies Room. Kids love it.


Can I wait for a Table at the Angus Barn?

During the week, you may have more luck waiting around for a table, but the wait is long. Good thing you have lots of holiday decor and elves to view while you wait for a table. However, the Angus Barn Wild Turkey Lounge, which is upstairs in the restaurant is a first-come, first-serve no reservation dining with a full-service menu. It is open in the early afternoon during the holidays with a special sandwich type menu and it typically has live music at night. I personally think this part of the restaurant is charming. 

Upstairs at the Wild Turkey Lounge inside the Angus Barn in Raleigh, NC


It is a sophisticated bar so if you have older children like I do who are used to dining in luxury hotels and do not have to dine off a kids menu,  I would not hesitate to dine here in the late afternoon with them at all. Dining in the Wild Turkey Lounge offers elegance without the family bells and whistles of downstairs. I think the Christmas season makes this lounge even more appealing.

Have you dined at the Angus Barn in Raleigh, N.C?

The Angus Barn also have a Pavillion that hosts private parties. In December, parking is at a premium. It, of course, is free to look around the Angus Barn. The Angus Barn is closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

The Angus Barn is decked out beautifully for the holidays in #Raleigh #NorthCarolina. It's great for kids and parents. #Holidays #Decor #Restaurants


My time to write this post was made possible by blog local sponsor, Gladwell Orthodontics in Raleigh, N.C. 

I last visited the Angus Barn on my birthday after Christmas in 2017.  All photos were taken by Leigh Powell Hines, and are subject to copyright. 

11.29.2018

Christmas At Biltmore in Asheville, NC: What a First-Time Visitor Should Expect

The Biltmore Estate located in Asheville, N.C. is expected to welcome more than 300,000 guests from November to January 6 this holiday season. Each year, staff work an entire year to plan, coordinate and execute a new Holiday theme yearly. No doubt, the Christmas season at Biltmore is the busiest time of year for the estate and also one of the most beautiful seasons. The 2018 theme is the "Art of Christmas" where designers are taking inspiration from George Vanderbilt's artwork as well as their travels.

Christmas at the Biltmore Estate_2018 Theme is "Art of Christmas"
2018 Press Photos by Biltmore Company


I first wrote about Christmas at Biltmore in 2011, which was the first year I started this blog. My most recent visit to the Biltmore Estate was this past summer in 2018 to see the "Chihuly at Biltmore" exhibit. Biltmore does a fantastic job of making visitors want to come back to the estate and often.

Here are some of the essential things I think you need to know to plan your holiday visit to Biltmore or any time of the year.

Overnight Hotel Biltmore Estate Guest Get Extra Perks and the Ease of Not Having to Go Through the Visitor's Center When Arriving 

The Biltmore Estate has two hotel properties inside the gates. I've stayed at both properties and would be happy to stay at either one again.  I like the location of the Village Hotel in Antler Hill Village because it is walkable to restaurants and the Biltmore winery, but both properties are unique and offer different vibes. The Inn at Biltmore has beautiful views, afternoon tea, a spa, and is a 100-percent luxury in every way. 

All hotel guests can ride the complimentary shuttle on the estate. Ticketed admission to the home can be purchased with the concierge. Often times, the Biltmore Estate offers overnight packages that include admission tickets. If you are staying on property, you do not have to go to the Visitor's Center. The estate guard will have your name and reservation at the gate.

Biltmore Ticket Costs

During the holiday season, there are two ticketed admissions for visiting. One can visit the Biltmore Estate during the day, but to see the Biltmore Estate by candlelight then you have to have an additional entry time and ticket.  Depending on the day of the week, estate admission begins at $65 for an adult ticket but the Estate offers $10 off if purchased seven days in advance and can be as high as $85 per person.  The Biltmore website has more on ticket prices. 

When picking up your tickets, prepare for lines. This is where you get your maps and passes. This summer, I was in line for a good thirty minutes. It moves fast, but during peak times the visitor's center is busy.  Make sure you allow plenty of time for a restaurant reservation or house entry time.  Biltmore advises allowing at least 45 minutes drive-time between areas on the estate. 

Candlelight Christmas Evenings at Biltmore are more costly. Prices for tickets begin at $70 and can be as high as $90. Daytime visitors can get an upgrade for evening admission. Candlelight Christmas Evening guests can arrive as early as 8:30 am, and if you arrive after 4:30 pm then you can visit the estate gardens the next day. 


Beautiful Biltmore Estate at Christmas
2018 Press Photos by Biltmore Company 


Biltmore Estate Grounds are Pet-Friendly, but the Main House, Restaurants, Estate Shuttles, and Hotels Do Not Allow Pets

We took Andy, our dog to Biltmore on our last visit to the grounds. I really do not recommend taking your pet. The Biltmore  Estate does have some first-come, first-serve kennels for visitors to use, but animals are not allowed on any of the shuttles, overnight at the hotels, or in the Biltmore House. Cedric's Tavern does have a dog-friendly patio in Antler Hill Village for dining. 

If you are taking your pet on the grounds, you will need to tell the guard that you need to park in the closet parking lot to the house because you have a pet with you. Otherwise, they will steer your vehicle toward the shuttle lots. 


Holidays at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C.
The Biltmore House in Asheville, NC in 2011

Is the Biltmore Estate Worth the Expense to See?

The Biltmore Estate in North Carolina is absolutely worth the cost of admission. It is a wonderful experience for all ages. The food on the estate is fabulous. 

You will fall in love with Asheville and the tranquility of the estate. If you think you want to go back often then the annual Biltmore Visitors Pass is the way to go for admission.  Each holiday season, the estate offers a special discounted rate. 

The Biltmore Estate, an 8,000-acre estate looks like a storybook wonderland during the holidays.  It’s absolutely gorgeous, and many North Carolinians go every year because it certainly gets you in the Christmas spirit.  

Known for being one of the largest holiday displays in the Southeast, guests will 55 decorated Christmas trees inside the Biltmore home, nearly 500 wreaths around the estate; 445,000-holiday lights and 150 candles inside the Biltmore House, with another 135,000 LED and Mini holiday lights found around the estate.

Biltmore at the Holidays, Biltmore Estate, Christmas, Candlelight Christmas Evenings
The Banquet Hall Christmas Tree is 34--foot tall Fraser Fir from 2011 press

Around 46,000 lights illuminate the Front Lawn tree in front of the house. Two hundred fifty luminaries line the driveway and Esplanade in front of Biltmore House. Every day, staff lights all the luminaries for Candlight guests and extinguishes them at closing. 

Here are some other fun decorating stats:

There are over 55 decorated trees in the house.  The largest is a 35-foot tall Fraser fir in the Banquet Hall.

Biltmore Estate, Biltmore at the Holidays, Asheville, N.C.
The Banquet Hall in the Biltmore House in 2011

Fresh garlands are made of white pine and Fraser fir. Biltmore changes them weekly to keep them fresh for guests.  They use over 7,000 feet of fresh garland during the season.  Silk, dried and artificial garlands add another 1,200 feet in Biltmore House and around 1,500 feet in other areas.

Biltmore uses more than 1,000 poinsettias and other fresh plants.

More than 7,000 feet of Garland is used in the Biltmore House
2018 Press Photos from Biltmore Company


Are you going to the Biltmore Estate? Be sure to use the hashtag #OutaboutNC and I may just feature your photo.  My favorite room in the Biltmore Home is the library, and the kids love the pool.

The Library at Biltmore Estate at Christmas
2018 Press Photos from Biltmore Company


Photos are not allowed to be taken inside the home. These photos are from the Biltmore Company and are not my own.

Pin for Later:

Christmas at Biltmore: What to Expect for a First-Time Visitor. Costs. Breakdown of Holiday Decor


My time to write and update this post was made possible by local blog sponsor  Lane and Associates Family Dentistry in Durham, N.C. 

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