6 Year Bloggiversary

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Dang, guys.  It doesn’t feel like a whole year has passed since I wrote my five-year-bloggiversary post, but here we are.  SIX WHOPPING YEARS of blogging under my belt.  Last year, I reminisced on starting the blog and how over the past five years my blog has become my wing man of sorts.  A support system, really.  A crutch.  Who woulda guessed year six would be one for the record books?

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I had a few cool media spotlights this year, including being listed as one of Charlotte’s 16 food accounts to follow on Instagram on Charlotte Agenda, and a fun introduction on #weloveclt written by my pal Vanessa Smith Have you met Mary Cowx?

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I was also selected as a Design Charlotte Influencer and got to talk all about how cool Charlotte is in this video:

My most popular post over the last 365 days was my Buffalo Chicken Dip recipe (originally posted in 2010, most popular blog post, six years running), dangit… Followed closely by my Charlotte Foodie Guide and this HIGHLY informative post on how to make leftover pizza taste like it was just delivered.

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Say yes to lunch.

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When I started this blog,  I was 25 and living in Akron, Ohio, in a house I’d bought because, well, that’s what I’d thought I was supposed to do.  Everyone else was settling down, so I strapped a mortgage on my back, and hunkered down.  I spent my first summer there in the backyard, mulching and weeding like a good homeowner.  I filled the rooms with second-hand furniture, replaced the water heater, and worried endlessly about that weird clicking noise the fridge made.  The house was a fun and infinitely stressful addition to my life, but after a year or so, it lost its luster.  I was bored.  With the house, with my job, and especially with living in NE Ohio.  And that, my friends, is when I decided to start a food blog.

I named the blog Fervent Foodie because I love food, I can be a little intense, and I love alliteration.  *dusts hands off* 

[mug by JMNpottery]

Since then, the word “foodie” has developed some negative connotation.  Eatocracy referred to it as “the other F-word” and HuffPost Taste listed it (along with “moist” and “nom nom”) as a most-hated food word.  I don’t care.  Definitionally speaking, I’m a foodie.  531798_510904095612767_717723832_n

Fervent Foodie was birthed five years ago, to the day, which is, by all accounts, the longest relationship I’ve ever been in.  That’s what this blog is to me.  A relationship.  A life partner, of sorts.  Like any relationship, there have been ups and downs, times when my blog was my priority, and others when it was a burden.  But through it all, the blog was there.  Every time life got turned on its ass, I poured myself into the blog.  My blog became my wingman, support system, and crutch.  When I wasn’t confident enough to go at it alone, I used the blog as my excuse.  We’ve even traveled together, me and the blog, to Chicago, Nashville, Birmingham, Greenville, and Seattle for the International Food Bloggers Conference, TWICE (soon to be thrice).

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[with Nichole (Gap Creek Gourmet) in Seattle, IFBC 2014]

Shortly after moving to Charlotte my birthday rolled around.  I didn’t have a friend in the entire city, so I sent an email to a group of random Charlotte food bloggers asking them if they’d like to come to lunch.  Guess what?  THEY CAME.  The food blogging community is incredible.

[Julie (Willow Bird Baking), Vanessa (Life Undeveloped), Katie (Honeystuck), and Jamie (Bibliophiled Away), looking like straight up babies here.]

After that birthday lunch, I implemented a new life mantra:  say yes to lunch.  If someone asks me to lunch (or coffee or dinner or drinks, whatev) I just say YES.  Even if I don’t know the person, or think we have nothing in common, and ESPECIALLY when I really just don’t want to go, I just say yes.  This is how I built a circle of friends and colleagues from scratch in Charlotte.  “Say yes to lunch” was my personal policy, but somehow it seemed everyone else was on board.  I can’t think of a time when I’ve asked someone to lunch and had the invitation turned down.  That’s Charlotte for you.

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[#cltfoodbloggers Holiday Potluck]

Looking back over my posts in those early years is somewhat embarrassing.  My views of healthy living have shifted drastically.  Back then, I was the captain of Team Fat-Free Everything.  The fewer calories, the better.  PB2?  I was all about it. For those who aren’t familiar, PB2 is basically peanut butter that they sucked all the fat out of, turning it to peanut dust, which is then reconstituted with water to a flavorless, peanut butter-colored paste.  Yes, I was ALL about that.

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[#cltfoodbloggers event at the Punch Room; Corri (Black Wednesday Social Co.) & Chrissie (Off the Eaten Path)]

These days I care more about whole foods than about how many calories are on my plate.  Thank god, because I don’t want to live in a world without peanut butter.  My cooking skills have improved drastically over the years, so it’s somewhat embarrassing when a friend mentions she looked up an old recipe post.  The most popular post on this blog to-date is by far the Buffalo Chicken Dip recipe I posted back in 2010.  Part of me considers this a personal failure, but ultimately, I’m just happy to contribute to game-day grubbing festivities across the globe.

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[#cltfoodbloggers group dinner at Red Ginger]

It’s been five whole years of recipes, ramblings, and restaurant reviews.  Through the blog, I’ve written for the official Urbanspoon blog and Our State Magazine’s Food Blog, did a series of recipe videos for Tropical Foods, and appeared on the morning news to talk about sausage, not once but twice.  Yes.  I’ve made friends, found inspiration, and grown immensely.  It’s been a heck of a ride, these past five years.  That’s the thing about anniversaries–they force you to reflect.  What I’ve realized, over the past year or so, as I’ve watched friends pursue their passions and opt to take the roads less traveled, is that I’ve spent a lot of my time working toward things that I’m not necessarily passionate about, just going through the motions, doing what I thought I was supposed to do.  For what?  For who?  For why?

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[#cltfoodbloggers fancy date night at the Fig Tree – LeAndra (Love & Flour), Vanessa (Life Undeveloped), Chrissie (Off the Eaten Path) ]

My new favorite line is, “You’re in charge.”  I say it to myself and to my friends all the time.  Each of us is in charge of ourselves and our lives.  I believe that if you don’t take the time to set your priorities, someone else will do it for you.  Over my four years in Charlotte, I’ve watched from the sidelines as Charlotte’s food scene exploded.  This year, I want to get involved.  Get my hands dirty.  Work with organizations whose missions I’m passionate about.

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[ with Keia (Ink & Fork) and LeAndra (Love & Flour) ]

Because, why not?  Change is coming, and I’m excited.

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Tell me a story?

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One of my ongoing life goals is to get better at being present and in the moment, that is to say: mindfulness.

I’m a planner by nature, always looking ahead and assessing progress toward whatever goal I currently have my sights on, and because of these innate, Type-A tendencies, life inadvertently becomes one big set of to-do lists to accomplish, tick, and account. I find myself having to make the conscious decision to let loose. To be inefficient. Meander. This is coming from the girl who just referred to her calendar as a “time budget”… I only have so much time. I can only spend it on so many things…

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Thinking about this, and how I miss writing just for the fun of it, coupled with the fact that I think my creative brainwaves may (finally) be unclogging, I thought it might be useful (fun, even) to look back every so often and reflect on life in the Queen City here on the ole blog. I guess you could say I’m attacking mindfulness from the backside, which isn’t being PRESENT, per se, but I hope it will help me to improve that skillset, in a roundabout sort of way.

It’s an exciting time to live in Charlotte (well, except for the annual inch worm infestation, anyway); the city is growing rapidly and there are new things to see and do and eat everywhere you look. This past week alone, I helped judge a round of the Competition Dining Series; stopped into Ri Ra to check our their new Whiskey Room; ate lunch at Draught and met Ted Williams of Charlotte Agenda in person(!); went to Tuckfest at the US National Whitewater Center, ate some awesome tacos, and saw Jason Isbell play (amazing); got breakfast sandwiches from Laurel Market (Mercado, for the win) and ate them at a tiny table on the Sugar Creek Greenway; checked out the J Crew Warehouse sale (still asking myself WHY.); inhaled too much pizza at Revolution Ale House; spent an absurd amount of money at Trader Joe’s; dined with friends at Viva Chicken; saw Spirit Family Reunion play at the Visulite; and ate my weight in barbecue pulled pork at Midwood Smokehouse.  Boom.

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Topical Taters {IFBC 2013}

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I remember eating mashed potatoes on the sunporch at my friend Allison’s house.  We were sitting cross-legged on the floor, huddled around a wicker coffee table, our plates just inches from our mouths.  There was other food, I’m sure, chicken or maybe meatloaf or some other forgotten piece of protein I’d pushed to the side to make room for the Halasa family mashed potatoes.  I’d started with a mountain of them, yellow from the excessive butter content and so dense they required I carry the paper plate two-handed to our roost at the kids’ table.

Sitting there on the floor with my girlfriends, I momentarily admired the mass on my plate, eager and anxious, before bringing one mounding forkful of those creamy, lumpless potatoes to my mouth.  I delicately slid the fork mashed taters between my lips, twitterpated as my eyes squeezed closed and the warmth of the potatoes coated my tongue and throat.  After each bite, I’d drag the edge of my fork over the potatoes, smoothing out the craters, like a Zamboni methodically perfecting the surface of an ice rink.

Moderation was a mystery to me, and each swallow brought me simultaneous pleasure and nausea; I was powerless to the potatoes.  Forget meat sweats, I was fighting carb-induced hysteria.  As I battled my inner ever-present demons of gluttony, I placed my fork on the table, letting my fingers linger on the warm metal while the internal turmoil waged on.  Abruptly, I jerked my fingers away from the fork and scooped up the remaining mashed potatoes with a cupped right hand.  I brought them to my mouth, hesitating for just a moment at my lips, questioning and confused, when a brash flash of clarity zapped through my mind and I quickly and swiftly smeared the mashed potatoes across my right cheek, followed immediately by a scoopful slathered across the left.  It was fast, like an impatient father slapping sunscreen on a squirming toddler, and when I lifted my potato-masked face I found two silent, slightly horrified teenage girls staring at me.

Unlike most people, when I say something is so good, I want to smear it all over my face, I’m speaking from hands-on experience.  I know exactly what it takes to trigger that sort of primal action.  I know the complete lack of self-control delicious food can cause.  I know what potatoes can do to a girl.


Of all the sessions at the 2013 International Food Blogger Conference, my favorite was Kim O’Donnel’s interactive writing workshop, which focused on breaking through writer’s block by reminding us that we all have something to write about, the trick is starting small-scale.  We started with “I remember” and then rapidly jotted down as many memories as we could conjure over the course of three minutes.  “I remember eating mashed potatoes on the sunporch at my friend Allison’s house” was one of many memories on my list, and I’m so happy to finally have this specific memory written on the blog.

I would like to send one last HUGE thank you to Truly Good Foods for sponsoring my attendance at the IFBC!  Truly Good Foods specializes in premium snack mixes, raw and freshly roasted nuts and seeds, dried fruit, and hundreds of bulk and packaged candies, spices, grains and specialty foods. Truly Good Foods has an extensive line of retail branded products, including Grabeez®, Buffalo Nuts® and Dip & Devour Dipping Chocolates.


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Foodie Penpals

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What is it about getting a package in the mail that makes me squeal with excitement?  Just the sight of a box on my doorstep makes a Cheshire cat smile spread across my face.  As I carry the box inside I start playing the guessing game.  I wonder what’s inside?  Who’s it from?  I know I ordered a book on Amazon four days ago, and since this is an Amazon box that’s probably what’s inside… but maybe it isn’t?!  (p.s. it was.)

I think this package induced excitement is a large part of the allure and success of online shopping because deep down we’re all little kids dying to tear through that brown mailing paper.  Occasionally (when I find a free shipping promotion) I’ll partake in an online shopping spree and buy hundreds of dollars of clothes only to return each and every piece at my local mall the following weekend.  When will I learn that nothing I buy online fits?  Even if I buy one of every size available, one size will inevitably be too small and the next size up is absurdly large.  And since they don’t make clothes in half sizes…  Yes, it all goes back.  (My sincere apologies to both Banana Republic and the Limited for the large deficits I’ve created in your sales figures over the years.)

I recently realized this obsession with packages was a little pathetic (and neurotic), so I starting seeking other more respectable means of receiving packages in the mail.  I considered Cravebox and my local CSA, but decided both of those required too much commitment.  Then I found my answer:  Foodie Penpals.  The concept is simple—you send a package full of foodie goodies to your assigned foodie penpal, and then a different foodie sends you a package too.

Kim, who blogs at This Healthy Endeavor, was my foodie penpal, and she sent me a TON of goodies from a store in Cincinnati called Jungle Jim’s.

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Jungle Jim’s is new to me.  Have you heard of it?

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Tastefully handling distaste

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Fervent Foodie is a contributing writer for the official Urbanspoon blog.

I’m three bites into my shrimp fajitas at a new (to me) Mexican restaurant, when the waitress appears at the table inquiring how the meal tastes.  I pause, wiping my mouth as a stall mechanism, while I frantically try to piece together words and form a polite response.  A simple “it’s good” is all I can muster.  She smiles and walks away.  I frown.  The shrimp’s fishy odor, which arrived at the table well before the plate, lingers over me like a putrid fog.  The menu touted fajitas with onions and peppers, but…

(continue reading on the Urbanspoon blog)

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Crazy big news!

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A month or so ago, I was piddling away evening hours on Facebook when something caught my eye in a big way—Urbanspoon, the leading online local restaurant guide (and a resource I use religiously), was seeking bloggers for the official Urbanspoon blog.  What!  A crazy excitement washed over me, and with blazing eyes and a butterfly filled belly I began furiously typing an application letter.  I introduced myself and my blog and my deep passion for carbohydrates.  I wrote about my love of Urbanspoon and how I am both a long-time user and contributor on the site.  I flaunted my Urbanspoon Prime status, and even though I couldn’t visually emphasize that elite status with sprightly jazz fingers, the page was sparkly enough to imply them.

That was the easy part.

Then the hysteria began to diminish and the self-doubt speak started flowing.  Was anyone even going to look at this thing?  There had to be thousands of applicants…  What am I doing?  My shoulders hunched, but I trudged onward and began to plead.  If selected, I promised not only homemade chocolate chip cookies but also a 5-course Italian dinner, complete with my famous tomato basil bruschetta and Amazeball’s meatballs (of course, famous here is used in relative terms).  I sat and stared at the blinking cursor on the screen.  It didn’t seem like enough–it wasn’t enough.  I had no choice but to level with them, so I wrote “If given the opportunity to be a blogger for Urbanspoon, I’d probably poop my pants (in a good way, if that’s possible).”

Then I emailed it off, poop reference and all.

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The Banana Party (plus links to 7 great banana recipes)

Banana Pina Colada Recipe

Back in college, I would often carry a banana in the front pocket of my pea coat, like a yellow edible pocket square.  This was back before energy bars were all the rage, and my banana was not only all-natural but also quirky and cute and totally college (trust me).  I was always prepared with a snack on hand, should I have to miss lunch for a study date (or a nap in the student center).  To this day, I still open my banana from the bottom (the end without the stem), just like my mom.

Try it.  Thank me later.

Recently, my friend Vanessa and I received emails from Dole asking if we’d like to co-host a banana party.  You heard me.  A banana party.

Obviously, we said yes.

dole banana party (4 of 24)

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The death of ice cream.

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There are frozen yogurt shops everywhere.  Every plaza, shopping center, and mall has one–literally within feet of each other.  Recently, a friend asked me where he could find good ice cream in town.  I told him, “heck if I know.”  All I can find around here is frozen yogurt.  It disgusts me.  Hipsters across America are killing ice cream one ounce of fro-yo at a time.

It’s true.

I had my first frozen yogurt experience last year after moving to Charlotte.  I fell right into the fro-yo trap.  It’s healthy?  Shut up!  Let’s fill this pint-sized bowl to the top!  Since it’s healthy it won’t hurt to try a little spoonful of each of the 37 varieties of toppings.  Heath, sprinkles, Oreos, peanut butter sauce, cookie dough bites, butter finger, bits of cake, a hunk of brownie, and a swirl of hot fudge (if you’re lucky enough to find a fro-yo shop that carries it), and since we’re being healthy here, let’s throw on some blueberries and mochi (even though I have no clue what the heck mochi is, but it’s trendy so it must be good for me… right?!).

I fell hard.  It wasn’t quite love, but it was definitely topping lust.  I carried my overflowing bowl to a table outside and surveyed my masterpiece in the sunlight.  I took my first bite–it was all toppings, and it was undeniably amazing.  Then, I took a second bite, making sure to get a good yogurt-to-toppings ratio.  I sat there, with a mouth full of god knows what, confused, wondering if I had, in fact, just paid money for the stuff.  As it melted in my mouth, I sketched out a mental list of pros and cons.  In the pro column, it was cold, just like ice cream.  And….?  Was that it?  I felt empty.  IT felt empty.  There were so many ice crystals that I was certain the fro-yo was freezer burnt.  It was just… wrong.  Yogurt is smooth and creamy, so why wasn’t the frozen version?  It didn’t take long for the eater’s remorse to kick in.  I realized that all those toppings I’d piled on had substantially negated the whole “healthy” concept, and, worst of all, it wasn’t even good.

That evening, I put frozen yogurt on my HATE list (right after eggplant, olives, and Miracle Whip).

A few weeks back, my friends Jaci and Tim came to visit.  We were skipping down the sidewalk giddy from laughter (due to some especially good wine at Wooden Vine), when Jaci said something along the lines of “oooh we should get fro-yo tonight!”  I grabbed her arm and pulled her to a stop, all the happiness draining from my face, and said, “I’m going to pretend this conversation never happened, Jaci.”  She just stared at me, as if she expected my skin to turn green and my muscles to rip through my clothes hulk-style as I pounded my chest and howled painfully toward the sky.

I can be scary sometimes.  Just ask Tim.

Some people make the fro-yo health argument, stating frozen yogurt is better because it’s low fat.  This is true, but here’s the thing:  frozen yogurt is not health food–it’s full of sugar (having more grams per serving than ice cream, without factoring in any toppings) and thus it is a treat, just like ice cream.  It’s also important to note that the fat content in ice cream helps to slow down the body’s absorption of sugar.  If I’m going to have a treat (and trust me I’m going to) I want it to be the real deal–one scoop of rich, creamy, decadent ice cream.

Come on people!  We need to band together and save ice cream in America.  Who’s with me?

*If you are lactose intolerant please disregard the rant above.

 

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Last day to vote!

Hello readers!  Fervent Foodie has been nominated for Charlotte’s best Food Blog in the City Web Awards.  Many of you have already voted for my blog, and to you I say THANK YOU!  Voting ends Monday July 23rd at 10am, so if you are inclined to vote please head on over to the awards website (and a big THANK YOU to you as well!).  You can vote up to four times (one vote for each Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+).

Thank you for your support and for reading my blog!

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