5 Healthified Southern Dishes plus HAM!

Posted on Jan 1, 2015 | 1 comment

Last month, I spent a good bit of time working on five healthified southern recipes for Our State Magazine’s online food blog.  For me, recipe development starts with research.  I look at recipes online, brainstorm, bookmark, flip through cookbooks, and talk to my foodie friends, all the while scribbling down notes and ideas.  Then comes the testing.  I lay out the ingredients and get to work, jotting down notes (usually on the back of some random envelope from the recycle bin) as I go, tasting and adjusting continuously.

Obviously, one of the perks of developing recipes is eating the wares.  Well, after you’ve snapped approximately 3,000 photos of each dish, that is.  Normally, I incorporate whatever recipe I’m working on into my weekly meal plan.  No sense in wasting food!  But, at the time of this healthy southern recipes project, I also happened to have a a whole ham to cook for the North Carolina Pork Council.

Want to throw a successful holiday party?  Just add ham.


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Barbecue Pulled Pork Tacos {recipe}

Posted on Oct 31, 2014 | 1 comment

Ladies and gentlemen.  I gots the fever.

BBQ Pork Tacos

Barbecue pulled pork.

Can’t stop.

Won’t stop.

I blame it on Midwood Smokehouse, my favorite barbecue spot in town, which I frequent at LEAST once a week.  I bounce back and forth between the pork cuban (authentic Cuban bread, hickory smoked pork, thinly sliced ham, Swiss cheese, and dill pickles… I die!) and the pork and brisket tacos.  And when I’m lucky enough to have some meat leftover, I make barbecue pulled pork omelets the next morning.

This is officially the first time I’ve made pulled pork at home, and I must say, it’s DANGEROUSLY easy.  It’s a fix it and forget it type of meal.  And the leftovers, should you be lucky enough to have some, are great on everything from pizza to mac and cheese.  And EGGS.  Don’t forget the eggs.

BBQ Pork Tacos 3

Barbecue Pulled Pork Tacos

Prepare pulled pork (see links above for suggested crockpot and oven methods).  Warm corn tortillas in the oven or gently char over a gas burner.  Toss pork with barbecue sauce of choice, then top corn tortillas with pork, coleslaw, avocado, cotija cheese, cilantro, and pickled red onions.


Disclaimer:  as a member of the North Carolina Pork Council Blogging Network, I was compensated for the cost of pork used in this post.

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Crazy Easy Crustless Quiche with Arugula Salad {as seen on WBTV}

Posted on Oct 14, 2014 | 5 comments

Now that fall is finally here, it’s time to bust out some comforting cool-weather breakfast recipes.  I’m a self-declared morning person, but when I wake up with a grumbling tummy, the less hands-on time required of a breakfast recipe, the better.  That’s why I love baking eggs in the oven.  Call it a casserole or a crustless quiche (or a frittata if you start the cooking process on the stove top).  The method is simple:  eggs are whisked with a little milk (or half-and-half or cream, whatever you have on hand) and then combined with one to two cups of the fillings of your choice—sausage, leftover veggies, cheese, whatever sounds good–and baked for 30 minutes.  Breakfast done.

Turkey Sausage Crustless Quiche 4To take the dish up a notch, top it with a simple arugula salad tossed with an olive oil and lemon dressing.  Not only does the arugula salad add extra veggies, but the tartness offers a nice contrast the richness of the eggs.  Plus, look how fancy!

Turkey Sausage Crustless Quiche

Looking for more cold-weather breakfast recipes that require minimal hands-on time?  Check out this simple recipe for crockpot oatmeal.  Oats, water, and salt cook for six hours in the slow cooker, and are then dished out and topped with whatever strikes your fancy.  My favorite combo:  fresh blueberries, almonds, and cinnamon.

Crustless Quiche with Arugula Salad

  • 6 large Eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk or half-and-half
  • 1 cup of cooked sausage, diced, such as Johnsonville’s fully cooked turkey breakfast sausage
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan, or cheese choice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tomato, thinly sliced
  • a few handfuls of arugula
  • olive oil
  • lemon
  • salt

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt, and pepper.  Stir in the cheese.  Coat a glass pie dish with cooking spray.  Layer the sausage (or other fillings of choice) in the bottom, then gently pour the egg mixture on top.  Top eggs with slices of tomato, if desired, then bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and set.  Let stand ten minutes.

Just before serving, place arugula in a medium-sized bowl, drizzle lightly with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt, to taste.  Toss to combine, then top crustless quiche with the salad.

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Chinese Baby Back Ribs {recipe}

Posted on Oct 5, 2014 | 0 comments

When I think of ribs, I think of my dad.  My dear ole dad.  Grilling has always been HIS THING.  Even if it meant standing in the driveway with a golf umbrella during a tornado warning with occasional hail (yeah, that happened).   Even in the middle of those brutally long Ohio winters when temperatures dropped so low the inside of your nose would most literally freeze.  Even after that one time he got a little carried away with the lighter fluid and singed off half his beard, even then, dad was out there grilling.

Chinese Baby Back Ribs 2When dad makes ribs, he slathers them in barbecue sauce, tucks them tightly in foil packets, throws them on his Texas-style offset smoker, and lets them hang out for HOURS . It’s a simple, straightforward technique, but it’s pretty much impossible to replicate this sort of perfection in a tiny apartment kitchen with nary a smoker to be found.  Remember that first time I made mussels and they were an embarrassing abomination?  Well, true to form, my first attempt at making ribs was a complete and utter failure.  When I lifted the crockpot lid after ten hours of slow cooking, I found the meat had shriveled so much I could see more bone than brown.  I was irrationally optimistic as I pulled a bit of meat off with a fork and sampled the day’s wares.  It was, undoubtedly, the dryest meat I’ve ever laid tongue on.  Ten hours in the crockpot and a little liquid smoke seemed too good to be true.  This just in:  it was.

Chinese Baby Back Ribs 3

For Mary vs. Baby Back Ribs, Round II, I modified my approach.  Who knew simmering ribs on the stove top and finishing them in the oven would make for super moist meat? Boy did it ever.  With just a slight twist of the bone, the meat slid right off.

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French Silk Pie with Lemon Fennel Cracker Crust {IFBC 2014}

Posted on Sep 29, 2014 | 1 comment

Last week, at the International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle, hundreds of food bloggers from around the globe (yes, it really does have international reach) gathered in Seattle to talk blog.  There were sessions on the creative aspects of blogging (story writing, recipe development, and wine pairing) and the technical aspects (like Google+ and SEO—that’s search engine optimization, totally nerdy, totally cool), plus plenty of opportunities to network with other bloggers and with national brands.  I was one of the lucky few who sat down with Lesley Stowe, creator of Raincoast Crips, to talk about her career path and how her Raincoast Crisps, which started as a minute part of her business, grew to become her company’s main (incredibly delicious) product.

Mini French Silk Pies

At the IFBC, Lesley announced their newest product, the Lesley Stowe Raincoast Flats, which come in two varieties:  Lemon & Fennel and Kale & Walnut.  Both the Raincoast Crisps and the Raincoast Flats are no-brainers for cheese plates and dips (check out my Cheese Plate 101 post for cheespiration), but the lemon-fennel combination immediately  had me craving chocolate.  I don’t know why.  I’ve learned not to questions these sorts of things.

Mini French Silk Pies 2

Earlier in the summer, I made Food 52’s (now infamous) Atlantic Beach Pie, which uses a combination of crushed saltine crackers, sugar, and butter as a crust.  I used this same technique here with the Raincoast Lemon Fennel Flats, which resulted in a crispy, flavorful crust, the perfect base for the light and silky chocolate topping.

french silk pie 3

 {beautiful turquoise platter by jmnpottery}

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Cheese Plate 101 {IFBC 2014}

Posted on Sep 15, 2014 | 3 comments

I’m proud to come from a family of foodies.  Though some attach a negative connotation to the word (shout out to Huffington Post and Eatocracy, among many others), I use the term “foodie” endearingly.  We foodies are people who, at the root of it all, love food, though it’s more than simply eating the food (or excessively consuming the food, as the case may be).  Food is the binding tie, the common ground, the one thing that unites us all, family and strangers alike.  It’s about sharing, and connecting, and traditions.  Food is love, after all.

My foodie family is big on potluck get-togethers.  Everyone brings a dish to share and the host handles the main course:  MEAT.  As far back as I can remember, there were two dishes we’d consistently have on hand for the hors d’oeuvre hour:  potato chips and French onion dip (Lawson’s or Heluva Good only, people) OR cheese and crackers.  This was my formalized introduction to the cheese plate.  The preferred cracker of choice was the round, buttery kind that disintegrated instantly on tongue contact, and the preferred cheese was Colby Jack.  If it was a really special get-together, like my Dad’s annual (epic) Christmas Eve parties, there’d also be some pepper jack and a little bit of Swiss.  For the life of me, I never understood why they wasted space on the plate with that shitty Swiss cheese.  No one liked it.  And at the end of the night, it’d be the only thing left, the last cheese standing, all hard and slightly yellowed from the night’s neglect.

But I digress.

Cheese board

The foodie family lesson to be learned here is that when you tell your guests to “come hungry” you better have something on hand for them to nibble on til mealtime.  The simpler the better, because as the host, you’ve got bigger fish to fry.  The cheese plate is my go-to, and though mine looks much fancier than the cheese plates of my youth, it comes together just as fast.  Plus, cheese tastes best at room temperature, so you can fix it and forget it before the guests arrive.

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Restaurant Roundup: The Round Bistro, Fahrenheit, Stagioni

Posted on Sep 7, 2014 | 1 comment

THE ROUND BISTRO.  I don’t make it out to Gastonia very often (once a year, give or take), imagebut I made a special trip last month to check out Chef Jack Acheson’s restaurant, The Round Bistro, and celebrate the restaurant’s two year anniversary with a wine dinner.  Within minutes of speaking with Chef Jack, one thing becomes blatantly apparent:  his strong passion for the history and diversity of American food.  That’s what fueled him to chose American cuisine as his concept for the Round Bistro, and each month, Chef Jack develops a new regional menu that features indigenous ingredients of a specific U.S. region.  Last month’s region was the Pacific Northwest, and for September, he’s taking a fun turn and featuring famous football stadium foods.  Ingredients are sourced locally whenever possible, and Chef incorporates what’s in season into his regional menu planning.

The menu at the The Round Bistro is large, and spans the gamut from fondue-of-the-day to potato-crusted crab fritters, muffaleta to “Pittsburgers”, plus several salads, She Crab soup, shrimp and grits, and fresh salmon FIVE ways (including baked parmesan crusted, olive oil poached, cedar plank roasted, and blackened).  In short, if you want it, they’ve got it, brunch included.

Every third Thursday of the month, The Round Bistro hosts a wine dinner.  Chef Jack works closely with a sommelier to select regional wine pairings for each of the six courses, and he uses these dinners as an opportunity to showcase his culinary creativity.  The menu for the wine dinner I attended included a cold peach soup with mint and cantaloupe, bay scallop over cactus and smoked gouda salad tossed in a green apple vinaigrette, cedar roasted salmon over basil tomato risotto, wine poached heritage chicken over rosemary polenta, pappardelle pasta with lamb ragu, and chocolate and raspberry mousse parfait, plus wine pairings for each course.  All for just $65 per person.

IMG_4495The Round Bistro - Salmon and Risotto

The Round Bistro - Lamb RaguThe Round Bistro - Scallop Salad

The Round Bistro - Dessert

The Round Bistro on Urbanspoon

FAHRENHEIT is one of Charlotte’s hottest (no pun intended) new restaurants.  Chef Roccoimage Whalen started the concept in Cleveland in 2002, and opened the second location in Charlotte earlier this year.

First off, SCALLOPS.  WOW.  Scallops are my go-to entree, and Fahrenheit’s are the best I’ve had in town, no exaggeration here.  They are served with a cauliflower purée, arugula, and pomegranate seeds, and they are PERFECT.  PERFECTTTTTT.  Every time.  Even during restaurant week, when perfection is practically unheard of.  I also highly recommend the fried goat cheese salad with dried cherry tapenade, pistachio brittle, and “local pig vinaigrette.”

I recently hosted a happy hour at Fahrenheit.  (As the resident foodie of my department at work, I’m on the social committee and am in charge of selecting locations for our happy hours.  Fahrenheit was a no-brainer because the bar area is large and the outdoor balcony area offers a fantastic view of the city.)  So at said happy hour, I tried nearly all of the small plates on the menu.  Not complaining.  The bacon-wrapped chorizo-stuffed dates with tomato aioli are OUTRAGEOUS.  Even the picky eaters liked them.  The lobster and sausage biscuit is very comforting and flavorful, but I’d pass on the lobster rolls next time (surprisingly boring).  The group also loved the charlotte nachos (potato chips, pimento cheese fondue, green onions, and bacon—what’s not to love?).


Fahrenheit on Urbanspoon

STAGIONI – FOUR SEASONS OF FOOD opened early in 2014 by the Moffett Group, the same team thimageat owns my beloved Good Food on Montford.  The restaurant is located in the historic Reynolds-Gourmajenko House (the one that looks like a villa) on Providence Road.  It’s a little tricky to locate your first time through, but they do have ample parking available behind the building — off of Fenton Place.  Whether sitting at the bar or in the small dining area that overlooks an especially open kitchen, the restaurant has a great feel.  Low lit, lots of energy, and its almost always packed.  Sure, it can get a little loud, but I think that adds to the overall energy of the place.

The menu at Stagioni (pronounced Sta-jo-nee, means “seasons” in Italian) features classic Italian dishes and is divided between snacks (pizza and nibbly bits) and entrees, all of which change seasonally.  The snacks are where it’s at, y’all.  First, there’s the pizza.  Pancetta and Brussels Sprout, clam and bacon, sausage and peppers…  All awesome.  The pizza (which you cut with large scissors) and a couple glasses of wine make for a stellar meal alone, but I also love their housemade ricotta and stuffed peppadews, and if mussels or octopus are on the menu — get them.

As for entrees, well, I’m a little less excited.  I’ve tried several pasta dishes (including the shrimp with saffron and the frutti di mare), and while the housemade noodles were great, I found the overall flavor of the dishes underwhelming.  Every time I venture to the entrée side of the menu, I find myself wishing I’d went with the pizza and small plates.  Yet, I keep going back.  The small plates are THAT good.  I should note I haven’t sampled any entrees off their most recent seasonal menu, so I’m hoping to stop in soon and give them a taste.   I should also not they’ve got prosecco on tap and a delicious pear skillet cake with avocado ice cream (when pears are in season, that is).



IMG_5016  IMG_6011IMG_5008

Stagioni on Urbanspoon

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