Lentil Dal with Spinach and Carrots {healthy recipe}

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When I was kid, my parents didn’t sneak vegetables into my meals, per se.  (Though, my step mom did occasionally “hide” Brussels sprouts under a blanket of Velveeta cheese.)  Rather, it seemed like they picked the vegetables they knew the kids would eat.  BROCCOLI.  POTATOES.  POTATOES.  POTATOES.  This worked out well for me, because as a kid I hated most cooked vegetables, including green peppers, tomatoes, and CARROTS.  Oh, how I loathed the mushy cooked carrot.

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This dal recipe has three cups of minced carrots and ten ounces (two regular-sized bags) of spinach (or more, if you like).  While the spinach is discernible, the carrots blend right in with the lentils and you forget they’re even there.  Hallelujah.  This lentil dal is a very healthy dish, yet hearty and satisfying.  I’ve made if many times over the last several months, and finally made the effort to write down the ingredients on the last batch.  This recipe is forgiving — add as little or as much of the seasonings as you like.  Extra veggies always welcome.

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Corkbuzz Charlotte: much more than “just” a wine bar {restaurant review}

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My level of wine expertise falls somewhere between red wine neophyte and casual red wine drinker.  While I enjoy drinking [red] wine, just pronouncing “Tempranillo” or “Sangiovese” gives me quivers of self-doubt.  Over the years, I’ve developed some “tricks” to make it appear as if I know more about wine than I do.  In fact, I once wrote an article for Urbanspoon (on their now extinct official blog) called How to Order Wine Like a Boss.  The article consisted of 600+ words of advice on how to successfully order a bottle of wine at a business meeting without looking like a schmuck.

corkbuzz entrance

Despite this light-grade wine anxiety, one of my favorite nights-on-the-town is spent sharing wine and small plates with friends.  Recently, I did just that with Frank Vafier, co-owner of  Corkbuzz, a restaurant and wine bar in South Park.  You’d think drinking wine with a wine bar owner would be intimidating but Frank is an easygoing sort of guy.  We spent the evening talking about ping-pong tournaments, karaoke, and our shared interest in dinner parties while we tasted several dishes on the Corkbuzz dinner menu.

According to Frank, the idea for Corkbuzz was hatched by his niece, Master Sommelier Laura Maniec.  Laura is one of about thirty female Master Sommeliers in the world, and at one point in time she was the youngest Master Sommelier, period.  Despite these rather impressive credentials, the Corkbuzz philosophy on wine is relaxed, with a focus on “enjoying wine and talking about wine in a way that makes everyone feel welcome and never intimidated.”  Their approachability is exemplified by their knowledgable unpretentious servers, the restaurant’s no-corkage-fee policy, and the “ask the Master Sommelier” link on the website that invites website guests to send their wine questions Laura’s way.

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Oysters in Uptown: a look at Sea Level in Charlotte, NC {restaurant review}

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We were on a family vacation to Daytona Beach the first time an oyster graced my presence.  I was about 10 years old and, needless to say, disgusted.  Fast forward twenty+ years, and here I am writing about Sea Level, a delicious new oyster bar in Uptown Charlotte.  What is it about oysters that entice people?  For me, it’s the contrast of the fresh garnishes with the cool, salty meat.  Horseradish, cocktail sauce, and Tobasco.  A squirt of lemon.  A saltine.  A traditional French Mignonette (my pick).  Sure, oyster purists like them plain, but I prefer to approach oysters as if they’re the nachos of the sea.  Who’s with me?

Sea Level Entrance

Sea Level is located uptown at the bottom of the Hearst Tower (entrance off of 5th street) and is co-owned by the same folks who brought us Crepe Cellar and Growlers Pourhouse in NoDa plus Paul Manley, who helped open Pearlz Oyster Bar in Charleston, SC.  I’ve eaten at Sea Level three times (so far), including an informative and delicious evening of oysters and drink pairings with my CLT Food Blogger friends.  While the farm-to-fork and sustainable foods concepts are becoming well represented in Charlotte, Sea Level is applying these food sourcing missions to seafood by shortening the food chain between oyster farmers and restaurants and by only purchasing non-threatened species.  Sea-to-fork, if you will, which doesn’t have quite as nice of a ring to it. . . So, since we’re talking oysters, how about sea-to-slurp?  (HOT NEW PHRASE ALERT.)

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Taxes for Food Bloggers: Deductions.

For many of us food bloggers, blogging is a way of LIVING THE DREAM (AKA making money by doing something we really enjoy).  While making money is wonderful, from a tax perspective, the lower your net income (that is, income earned less eligible expenses) the less tax you have to pay come April 15th.  My first Taxes for Food Bloggers post discussed the important issue of determining whether your blogging activities are business or hobby related.  Once you make that key determination, the next step is to identify any expenses you’re able to deduct to offset your blogging income.

 

Tax Deductions for Food Bloggers

Good news, friends.

There are LOTS of eligible expenses you can claim on your tax return, but before you can deduct an expense, you must determine whether the expense was incurred solely for blog purposes, solely for personal purposes, or a mixture of both.  Generally speaking, expenses related to personal usage (i.e., not blog related) are not tax deductible.  (Insert collective “dangit” here.)  Mixed-used expenses must be allocated between the portion related to personal use and blogging use.

For example:  HOME INTERNET EXPENSE.  Let’s say you spend $50 a month for internet.  If your blog is the sole purpose for having internet access at your home, the whole amount ($50 * 12 months = $600) is deductible.  Granted, most of us access the internet for more than just blogging, and thus, home internet is a mixed-use expense.  Bloggers must determine the proportion of their total internet usage time that relates to blogging usage versus personal usage.  So, if a blogger determines his or her home internet usage to be 60% blog related, then 60% of the expense is deductible (60% * $600 = $360), while the remaining 40% ($240) is a nondeductible personal expense.  Make sense?

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Broccoli, Leek, & Potato Soup {vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, whole30 recipe}

I wrote this Broccoli, Leek, & Potato Soup post as part of a series for Tasteful Selections Potatoes, which is sponsoring Katie’s Krops, an awesome hunger-focused nonprofit fueled by kid-run gardens, through January 2016 (details below).  

This January, I’ve committed to refocusing on healthy living.  Just like the rest of humanity.  Sure it’s cliché, but in my mind New Year’s Day is like hitting the “reset” button on the Nintendo.  While I’m normally pretty health-focused, things got a little crazy last year (as they do every year), and I’m thankful for this month to refresh.  At this time last year, I was timidly beginning my first Whole30–a nutritional reset program focused on super clean eating for thirty days–and I’m doing the same this year.  When I mention the Whole30 in conversation, I often get concerned looks and questions of “wait… what the heck do you eat?”  In a nutshell, the Whole30 rules out grains, sugar, beans, soy, dairy, unnatural ingredients, and booze.  Which leaves us with protein, fats, and veggies.  Lots and lots of veggies.

Broccoli, Leek, & Potato Soup Recipe {vegan, gluten free, whole30}

(bowls by JMNPottery)

The secret to a successful Whole30 (or any clean-eating program, for that matter) is planning, and my plan includes batch cooking tons of vegetables each week.  This week, for example, I sautéed an entire head cabbage, roasted three pounds of brussels sprouts, sautéed three bell peppers and two onions, bought a giant container of baby spinach to toss in EVERYTHING, and made this hearty Broccoli, Leek, and Potato Soup.  More vegetables than a vegetarian, as they say.

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Easy as Potato Pie {vegetarian & gluten free recipe}

I wrote this Potato Pie post as part of a series for Tasteful Selections Potatoes, which is sponsoring Katie’s Krops, an awesome hunger-focused nonprofit fueled by kid-run gardens, through January 2016 (details below). 

There’s something simultaneously romantic and nostalgic about gathering for a meal while you’re still in your PJ’s.  And with all the eggs, potatoes, cheese, and bread, breakfast is the clearcut best meal of the day.  The problem with breakfast, though, is that most of us are too tired or too hungry to throw together a hearty meal first thing in the morning.  Oftentimes, I circumvent this issue by having a pre-breakfast snack.  Which, since I’m already starving, ends up being the equivalent of a normal-sized breakfast, and ultimately results in me eating two meals worth of food.  And then I have to go for a run when I really just want to curl up on the couch and drink my coffee dangit.

Kale & Onion Potato Pie

Easy breakfasts are key.  I call this easy recipe “Potato Pie” because it has lots of potatoes and it’s shaped like… a pie.  The concept here is simple:  thinly sliced potatoes, eggs, and whatever vegetables or leftovers you have on hand.  Use of a food processor makes quick work of the potato slicing, and using thin-skinned baby potatoes means no peeling is required.  I prepared this version of potato pie with kale, but there are lots of options.  Broccoli, squash, or mushrooms?  Perfect.  Cheese is always welcome.  To keep things light, I used a mix of whole eggs and egg whites, but if you aren’t on the egg white train, just use a dozen eggs.

The key to making a good potato pie is making sure the fillings taste great on their own.  Season them until they’re good enough to eat solo. Then be sure to season the eggs before you combine them with the potato mixture.

potato pie {gluten free vegetarian breakfast recipe via FerventFoodie.com}

Few things beat sharing breakfast with your loved ones, buy you can add a little more love to your meal by purchasing Tasteful Selections potatoes.  Through January 2016, Tasteful Selections is sponsoring Katie’s Krops, a non-profit organization that donates crops from youth-run gardens to help feed people in need by donating a portion of the profits from specially marked bags of Tasteful Selections’ Ruby Sensation and Honey Gold Potatoes.  So pick up a sack of their potatoes and give this Kale and Onion Potato Pie recipe a try!  If you’re interested in learning more about Katie’s Krops, check out this video.

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German Potato Salad {vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free recipe}

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I wrote this post as part of a series for Tasteful Selections Potatoes, which is sponsoring Katie’s Krops through January 2016 (details below). Thanks, Tasteful Selections, for sponsoring this post and for growing the adorable baby potatoes I used in this German Potato Salad recipe.

In my family, potato salad is a big freaking deal.  My Grandma June has been making her family-famous potato salad since before I was born–it’s been at every family dinner or cookout I can remember, just a bowling-ball-sized mountain of potatoes, green pepper, celery seed, and Hellmann’s mayonnaise.  Last Thanksgiving, I asked Grandma June where she originally found the recipe, but she couldn’t remember—she said she made it once back in the seventies, and it tasted good, so she just kept on making it.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how legends are born.  One time, my stepmom made Grandma’s recipe using Miracle Whip instead of Hellman’s, and the family was absolutely horrified.  NO ONE ate it, and she never attempted Grandma’s potato salad again.  Then, a few years ago, Grandma June passed the torch and transitioned potato salad making duty to my sister, Jenny.  Lucky girl.

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Taxes for Food Bloggers: Business or Hobby?

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Eater, writer, bean counter.  So say my business cards, yet I’ve never touched the topics of accounting or taxes on this here blog.  I mean, taxes…  Blegh.  Am I right?  But after attending the International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle last week, I got to thinking.  Did these foodies know food blogger conference expenses are tax deductible?

Business or Hobby?

You dedicate all of your free time to your blog.  It’s like, a second job or something.  Right?  That’s how most serious food bloggers feel about their blogs, but the IRS may see it differently, and that could majorly impact the Federal tax due on your blog earnings.  Whomp. Whomp.

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Phyrefly: the new way to save money dining out in Charlotte

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1436994445743I first heard about Phyrefly through social media stalking, and then again on Charlotte Agenda.  Then I bumped into Phyrefly founders Kaitlin and Josh Krogh at a Piedmont Culinary Guild event, and then AGAIN at #weloveclt last month, which I took as a sign I needed to try out Phyrefly already.

So, what is Phyrefly?  It’s the self-dubbed Hotwire for restaurants.  Meaning you log into the site, check out the various deals available, and select one based on location and price range.  The specific restaurant is not revealed to you until after the offer is selected, just as Hotwire doesn’t reveal the specific hotel until you’ve committed to the deal.  You can browse Phyrefly deals by neighborhood, price point, food type, user rating, and ambiance.  Bonus:  these are all local restaurants.  No chains.

Double bonus:  unlike Hotwire, Phyrefly currently doesn’t charge you upfront—which means there is no fee if you decide to pass on the Phyrefly offer once the restaurant is revealed.  (Though this will likely change in the future, once the beta stage is complete.)

This concept is exciting for three reasons.  1.) it gets diners to step outside their usual routines, 2.) it helps restaurants fill tables during off-peak hours, and 3.) it saves you money.  Boom.

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Where to eat at Charlotte Douglas Airport

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Sure, everyone complains about the parking and the construction, but after spending too much time in some straight up nasty airports the last couple of years (I’m looking at you, LaGuardia), I’ve really come to appreciate and enjoy Charlotte Douglas.  After my return flight home from visiting family in Ohio last week, I stopped into the new 1897 Market and was blown away by all that they’re doing.  I mean, local sourcing at an airport restaurant?  Come on!  That’s when it hit me.  Charlotte Douglas is actually pretty awesome.

This is my third post for the #DesignCharlotte campaign, a cool program (details below) encouraging Charlotteans to share their favorite things in the Queen City.  Not surprisingly, my first two posts were completely about food.  Interested?  Check out my Foodie Guide to Charlotte and Foodie Guide to Charlotte Restaurant Week.

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