Behind the scenes of a recipe video shoot + Fall-n-Fire Wontons {recipe video}

Posted on Jun 10, 2013 | 8 comments

When asked if I’d be interested in shooting some recipe videos for Tropical Foods, I said YES without really thinking about how much work goes into preparing, planning, and executing a video project.  I said yes before I had a chance to think about standing in front of a camera and how sweaty that might make me.  I said yes, because, well, for better or for worse I have a hard time saying no to opportunities, and honestly who could say no to the chance to work with a large, well-established Charlotte-based company like Tropical Foods?

WontonsTo prepare for the shoot, I did what any self-respecting accountant would do:  I input all the recipe ingredients into an Excel spreadsheet.  There were columns for the description, quantity, recipe to which it related, and the corresponding grocery store aisle.  Organization was key.  Each recipe was cooked and tested three times prior to the shoot, and each round began with a massive grocery shopping trip.  After I had my initial practice round with the recipes, I used the second and third go-arounds to verbally talk myself through the steps.  “Ok, now we’ll melt the butter.  Mmm buttterrrr.”  “Give it a good stir.”  “It’s ok if it looks like poo, it’ll still taste great!”  I also found myself asking questions.  I know Rachael Ray always de-stems her chard… but why?  What’s the stem taste like anyway?  What’s the difference between black and red grouper?  What if I can’t find wonton wrappers at the grocery store?  I jotted down questions as I went, and spent a lot of time researching ingredients and cooking processes.

The night before the shoot, I measured all of the ingredients into small containers and labeled what was what, then loaded each recipe’s ingredients onto a separate sheet pan.  Even with all this prep, it took us about five hours to shoot all four recipe videos!

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Spaghetti with roasted sprouts and cherry tomatoes {recipe}

Posted on Jun 5, 2013 | 3 comments

I’ve realized lately that the kind of food I enjoy most is food that is uncomplicated.  Sure, it’s awesome to tackle a difficult recipe, but there’s something to be said for the simple satisfaction of grabbing fresh ingredients from the fridge and transforming them into a great tasting meal without consulting a recipe every five seconds.

One night, while wandering up and down grocery store aisles, searching for something that might satiate me, I became increasingly agitated.  It was mega-mart overload.  I set my basket on the ground and considered abandoning the whole thing and ordering a nice hot pizza.  After a short silent debate (during which time I’m sure I got a couple woah-crazy-lady looks), I took one final lap of the produce aisle and grabbed the things that looked best:  cherry tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, a hunk of fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano (which the uptown grocery store conveniently keeps in the middle of the veggies), and a bottle of red wine.  I had no recipe, just a bunch of things I eat often and love.

These days, we are inundated with recipes.  They are everywhere.  And if you’re like me, you’re constantly clipping and pinning and bookmarking things to try.  The recipe pool is big and bottomless, and while these are great qualities for a mimosa, I often find myself completely flummoxed when I try to decide which one to make for dinner.  I call this recipe paralysis.  We’ve all become so reliant on recipes, we’ve forgotten how simple cooking can be.

spaghetti with roasted brussels sprouts and cherry tomatoes

When I got home from the grocery store, I poured a glass of wine and cranked the oven and some tunes (and by tunes, I mean NPR, of course).  I put the halved Brussels sprouts and cherry tomatoes on a sheet pan along with a few cloves of thinly sliced garlic, drizzled on some extra virgin olive oil, and seasoned with salt.  I roasted the veggies in a 425 degree oven for twenty minutes, during which time I cooked some whole wheat spaghetti (or was it linguine?) on the stove top.  Saving a mugful of the starchy cooking liquid, I combined the drained noodles with the hot roasted veggies, a drizzle of evoo, red pepper flakes, some salt, a little of the cooking liquid, and a generous grating of the fresh parmesan.  Dinner was served without the guidance of a recipe (what?!) and it was delicious.

spaghetti with roasted brussels sprouts and cherry tomatoes 2

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Mexicali Grouper plus a nutty giveaway {recipe video}

Posted on May 29, 2013 | 2 comments

Last month, I teamed up with Tropical Foods to create videos for four AWESOME recipes, one of which was created by yours truly!  I posted the video for Buffalo Bleu Tailgate Bars last week, and today’s recipe video features Mexicali Grouper.  Take it from the girl who hates fish – this recipe makes for a delicious crusted fish with big bold flavors courtesy of the Mexicali Fire snack mix used coat the fillets.

Mexicali Grouper Recipe PDF

Speaking of BIG FLAVORS, Tropical Foods just rolled out their How Bold Can You Go site, which features all of their boldest nuts and mixes.  Check it out!  And don’t forget, if you see something you like, you can place orders online at The Nut House.


Now onto the fun part! Tropical Foods has generously offered to give three lucky readers gift baskets, chock full of the bold nuts and snack mixes used in the recipe videos!  There are several ways to enter–check out the rafflecopter below!  The giveaway ends at midnight on June 15, 2013.



a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Buffalo Bleu Tailgate Bars {recipe video}

Posted on May 17, 2013 | 2 comments

Tropical Foods

Tropical Foods is a Charlotte-based food manufacturer and importer and distributor of bulk and packaged snacks and specialty foods.  Phew, that’s a lot of hats!  What this translates to is snack mixes, dried fruits, nuts and seeds, dipping chocolates, salad bar mix-ins, and garden chips, just to name a few of Tropical’s thousands of products.  The Charlotte production plant roasts nuts and seeds daily (in trans-fat-free oil), and goods are shipped from one of their six locations:  Charlotte, Atlanta, Dallas, Memphis, Orlando, and Washington DC.

Back in the Fall, Tropical Foods sponsored a recipe contest at Johnson & Wales University here in Charlotte, and I recently partnered with Tropical on a super fun project to create recipe videos for the top three recipes from the contest (plus, one video for a recipe that I specially developed for Tropical).  The whole video shooting process was new to me, and it was both fun and challenging!  I’ll post more about the videos in the coming weeks including a HUGE TROPICAL FOODS GIVEAWAY, but in the mean time here’s the first of four videos, my official YouTube debut.  Enjoy!

Buffalo Bleu Tailgate Bars

Buffalo Bleu Tailgate Bars Recipe PDF

Looking for Tropical Foods products?  You can buy nuts and snacks direct from their new retail site:  Tropical Foods products are also available in many grocery stores, including Harris Teeter and Healthy Home Market.

 Buffalo Bleu Tailgate Bars -- Tropical Foods Buffalo Nuts

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On the cover of Epicurean Charlotte Magazine!

Posted on Mar 11, 2013 | 14 comments

Happy Monday, friends!  I have some exciting news to share today…  Drum roll, please!  Several of the photos I recently shot for Napa On Providence were featured in the March/April 2013 issue of Epicurean Charlotte Magazine!

Including the magazine cover itself:

Fervent Foodie - Epicurean Charlotte cover

I never in a million years thought I’d walk by a newsstand and see something I created on the cover of a magazine.  It’s simultaneously weird and exciting!  I have big aspirations for 2013, and this magazine cover has revitalized my desire to pursue new food outlets in the coming months.

Also in the magazine, next to my delicious looking bean photo, is the chef’s recipe for Napa’s white beans and sausage.  I haven’t cooked the beans myself, but I’ve eaten them, and they’re outstanding!


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Baked Shrimp with Fire-Roasted Tomatoes {recipe}

Posted on Feb 25, 2013 | 7 comments

One of the perks of working in the city is having the world at your fingertips on your lunch break.  When the clock hits noon, I like to hit the street.  Often, I’ll swing through the library or take a stroll through the 7th St Public Market.  When it’s warm, I find a nice table in the shade and read while I eat, and when it’s cold, I saddle up next to the fireplace at Carribou.  There’s a grocery store just a few blocks away, and I’ve found squeezing my shopping into my lunch break to be not only productive but surprisingly liberating.

Shrimp and Fire Roasted Tomatoes

Last week, on a lunch-break grocery shopping spree, I picked up ingredients for this shrimp and tomato bake.  It’s a low-stress meal that can easily be made after work or prepared the day before.  (I find that recipes using canned tomatoes taste even better when they’ve had time to sit.)  Shrimp, tomatoes, and a bit of cheese–it’s a dish built for carbohydrates.  I recommend a crusty bread or a twirly noodle.

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