Category Archive: Deliciousness

All things food related

gwyneth to the rescue

So we are 15 days into our 30 day real food challenge.  Half-way there!  On the downhill slope!  Other than a couple little snaffoos things have been going pretty well.

After more carefully studying the ingredients in some of our typical foods, I had to rethink some of my breakfast and lunch menus.  For breakfast, I’ve been on an instant oatmeal kick of late.  I know making the oatmeal myself is better for me, but it just takes too long for me to do before work.  (I have a slight problem getting up in the mornings…)

Lisa raved about her homemade granola cereal so frequently on her blog that I decided to give it a try.  But,  along side my oatmeal, I’ve been having two small Jimmy Dean turkey sausage links and an orange.  Well, after giving a hard look to the contents of my fridge, the Jimmy Dean had to go, leaving me in search of a real food alternative as I had serious doubts that a simple bowl of granola would tide me over until lunch time.

Enter Gwyneth Paltrow…

I know what you are thinking.  “Seriously?  Gwyneth Paltrow solved your real food problem?”  And the answer is – yes, she did!  Well, she helped at least. But let me back up…2 yrs ago to be exact.

In April 2011, I entered a giveaway on my friend, Beth’s, blog and won.  The prize was Gwyneth Paltrow’s recently released cookbook, My Father’s Daughter.

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I won!  I was super excited because I’d never one a blog giveaway before.   I started a post about winning the cookbook, but because I was a bad, bad blogger for a while I never finished and published it.  I made a couple items out of the cookbook then put it on the shelf amongst the gazillions of other cookbooks I have and kind of forgot about it…until recently.

I remembered that her cookbook contained several options for vegetarian meals as well as some recipes for homemade pantry staples.    So, I grabbed it off the bookshelf, knocked the dust off of it, and started perusing.  Guess what I found…

A RECIPE FOR HOMEMADE TURKEY SAUSAGE PATTIES!  Hazzah!  I don’t have to forego my morning boost of protein after all! The recipe is super simple and tastes the same as much better than those prepackaged Jimmy Dean things I was buying.

Here’s all you will need:

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(cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, fennel seed, herbs de provence, salt, sage, ground turkey, Vermont maple syrup)

AAAAAND it’s as easy as 1-2-3.  See…

1. Combine the spices and ground turkey

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2.  Form into small meatballs and flatten into patties.  (When forming meatballs, I use a little trick I learned from Martha Stewart.  I use a small spring loaded ice cream scoop so that they are more uniform in size than if I just grabbed a hunk of meat out of the bowl.)

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3.  Cook in a skillet

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In re-reading this recipe for this post, I realized that Gwyneth’s instructions actually call for you to use a mortar and pestle or mini food processor to “bash” the spices together.  Somehow I missed that bit, as I’ve just been dumping them all in a bowl and stirring them up.  Mine have still turned out tasty, though it would be nice not to bite into a big ole fennel seed every now and then…

The whole process takes maybe 15-20 min.  Gwynnie says that her recipe makes 12 patties…but I’ve only been able to get  8-10 per 1lb of ground turkey and that’s using a ????? ice cream scoop.  Since it’s such a quick and easy process, what I’ve started doing is doubling or tripling the recipe, putting a week’s worth in the fridge, and freezing the rest.  That way I make these once a month and I’m set.

First I let them cool on paper towels to absorb any excess oil from the skillet.

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Then I layer them in a freezer appropriate container, placing wax paper between the layers.

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Then I label them and pop then in the freezer.

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You’ve just gotta love these Martha Stewart food container labels from Staples.

A bowl of Lisa’s homemade granola with local milk, one of these turkey sausage patties, and a piece of fruit is now my favorite breakfast.  And, I’m telling you, it absolutely keeps me satiated!  I usually eat breakfast around 6:30a.  With my previous breakfast, I would always notice the first twinges of hunger around 11:00-11:15a.  With this breakfast I’m good to go until 12:30p.  For me, going 6 HOURS without feeling hungry is a freakin’ miracle!

Prior to publishing this recipe in her cookbook, Gwyneth published it on her website, goop.com.  You can find this recipe here.  One of the things that I love about My Father’s Daughter is that Gwyneth has coded each recipe to indicate whether it is a recipe that can be prepared ahead of time, it’s quick, it’s vegetarian or vegan or can be adapted as such, whether it is a one-pot meal, or a “dress-up” meal.  Over the last couple weeks, it has proved to be excellent resource for vegetarian meal recipes as well as recipes for homemade pantry staples.  More posts to come on those later!

With my renewed appreciation for this cookbook gem, imagine how excited I was when I spotted this in Target last week.

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Gwyneth’s got a NEW cookbook!  You can pick it up at Target or Amazon for around $20.  Or if you so desire, you can order a personalized signed copy for $55 from goop.com.  I think Gwynnie’s cool and all…but I don’t think I’ll pay an extra $35 for her signature. I’ll get all the fun and 5% off for picking it up at Target with my Target Red Card.  I can’t wait to see what goodies it has in store.

newmrssig

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/1143

real food: a confessional

Well we are now on day 8 of our 30-Day real food challenge.  I bet you are wondering how we are doing.  For the most part we are doing really well with it. I’ve altered some shopping habits and been making several menu staples and pantry staples myself (I’ll tell you about those later) but…

I have a confession to make…

We had two instances this week where we ate some processed food.  :(  The first one was quite minor.  The second…well…

You know those kids who never drank in high school, were always home before curfew, and never broke any rules, then went off to college and went stark, raving mad and partied to be point of nearly flunking out during their first semester.  Let’s just say the second incident fell more along those lines…

Does it help if I clarify that neither instance was intentional?  I think that just illustrates how hard something like this is in our current American food climate.

Since you guys don’t follow us around town and only check in on us here, it would be very easy to skip over the bits where we didn’t follow the rules and only report back on the parts where we succeeded.  But, if we are going to do this, it only works if we are completely honest about it.   (As I sit here writing this on Easter Sunday, I can’t help but consider parallels between my temptation to hide these “real food sins” and our attempts to hide our actual sins…but that is a whole other can of worms. Let’s stick to the “real food sins” for the time being, shall we?)

VeggiePizza

We host our small group for church every Tuesday and the members of our group take turns providing snacks.  This week the provided snack was a “veggie pizza.”  It looked beautiful with all the raw broccoli, cauliflower, red peppers and tomatoes on top.  Without thinking I grabbed a small piece (~2″ square) and swallowed it down only to realize later that the “pizza” crust was made from pre-packaged crescent rolls.   Not a terrible “real food sin” in severity.  But you’d think on Day 2 I would have been a little more focused and on my guard.  Apparently not.  I’ll have to be more careful next time.

Oh, and, I’m pretty sure The Mr had like 5 pieces…

I also need to figure out a balance here.  If friends will be bringing snacks to our home weekly, then this is something that is going to come up at least 3 more times during our 30 day crusade.  I’m certainly not going to impose these rules on them and make them go to any extra work to bring us snacks.  This is our challenge, not theirs.  So, we’ve got to find ways to politely decline snacks (and eat something from our pantry) if they include processed foods.  Hmmm…

Doozy

For some reason, at the end of my work day on Friday, I was craving a burger something fierce.  So, I texted The Mr shortly before leaving the office and he was up for burgers as well, even though we had leftovers ready to be reheated in the fridge.  Our usual go to burger joint is Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar on East Blvd but The Mr wanted to try something new so he suggested we check our Kickstand Burgers-n-Bar on Central.  Y’all…it didn’t even cross my mind to worry about what real food options we would have there.

The Mr was hungry and jonesing for an appetizer.  As soon as he grabbed the menu the Shrimp & Fried Grits caught his eye.  (Yes, you read that correctly.  It was Shrimp and Fried Grits, not fried shrimp and grits…there’s a difference.)  It was a cake of deep fried grits with a “shrimp and grits” sauce on the top with andouille sausage.   It tasted like jambalaya.

Our discussion was whether or not we needed an appetizer, not

  • “No refined grains such as white flour or white rice.”  I’m pretty sure that grits fall into a refined grain category.  
  • “No deep fried foods.”  Strike two.
  • “Only locally raised meats such as pork, beef, and chicken (and preferably in moderation).”  Not sure whether or not the sausage in it was local because it did not even dawn on me to ask.

I’ve gotta say, though, it was totally worth it.  Just look at this…

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Seriously, The Mr is lucky that I didn’t tackle him to keep him away from it.  It was crazy good!

But wait, our sinful indulgence didn’t stop there.  After all, the whole reason we were eating out was because we wanted burgers.  I had The Kickstand signature burger (which is mixed with onion, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and garlic) topped  with cranberry chutney, caramelized onions, and baked brie.  The Mr had The Fender Bender with chili, mushrooms, slaw, American cheese and bacon.  He asked that they hold the fried onions.  Sides included fries for me and tots for him.  (Sorry, no pics.  I was too busy cramming that burger in my face to remember to take pics.)  So let’s see how many real food rules we broke with these:

  • “No refined grains such as white flour or white rice (items containing wheat must say WHOLE wheat, not just wheat).”  Neither of us had or asked for whole wheat buns.
  •  “Only locally raised meats such as pork, beef, and chicken (and preferably in moderation).”  Again, not sure if the meat was local ‘cuz we didn’t think to ask…
  • “No refined sweeteners such a sugar, any form of corn syrup, cane juice, or artificial things like Splenda.”  Not sure what all was in my cranberry chutney, but it tasted very sweet and tangy.  Also, both of us were freely dipping our sides in Heinz ketchup, which every one know is full of sugar…
  • “No deep fried foods.”  Um, yeah…#epicfail.

Well, go big or go home, right?  What upsets me more than the number of rules we broke in one two-hour period, is the fact that it didn’t even dawn on me/us to choose differently.  As soon as I realized I was craving burgers and started down that path, we were both on autopilot.  Back to our typical behaviors and decision making patterns.   It simply didn’t occur to us that this was not in keeping with the goals we set for ourselves for this month.  That’s supposed to be the advantage of doing something like this with someone else.  Your parter is supposed to remind you and help keep you accountable.

Neither one of us flinched.

I’m telling you, though, when we are done with our 30 day challenge, we are definitely going back to Kickstand.  It may have been an complete and total real food failure, but it was DELICIOUS!  My burger was amazing and those fries were some of the best fries I’ve had in a while.  They also had a good beer selection, not the best I’ve seen in our burgeoning beer town, but a good one nonetheless.  I guess we are just a little spoiled on the beer front here…#firstworldproblems.

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Let’s see, what else can I do I need to confess to you…

I’m annoyed by the inconvenience of shopping for local produce and meat for my weekly groceries.  I HATE fighting the crowds to do my grocery shopping on the weekend.  I’ve been working 4 10-hour days since October, getting Thursdays off, and doing my grocery shopping then.  Even then, though, I still like to get up and get my shopping out of the way first thing in the morning.  Until this last week or so, I had it down to a science.  Hit Target by 8:30a for things like toilet paper, toothpaste, etc.  Then head across the street to Trader Joe’s for the food. Home by 9:30a (or 10:00a at the latest) with the rest of my day off ahead of me.

Around here Farmer’s Markets are only open on Saturdays.  There are crowds there too and you have to get up at the stinking crack of dawn to get there before everything gets picked over.  The “stinking crack of dawn” is not where I like to start my Saturdays…and did I mention that I HATE fighting crowds?  However, there are two local public markets which sell only goods from local farms and are open on Thursdays – Atherton Mill Market and 7th Street Public Market.  However, one opens at 10:00a and the other opens at 11:00a.  So, if I want to get everything that I can locally, before heading to Trader Joe’s for the rest, I’m not even getting started on this until 10:00a.  I have found that I can consistently get the meat I want from 7th Street and between the two can always get local milk, eggs, and cheese on Thursdays, but neither of these places seem to be as stocked in the produce department on Thursday as they are on Saturdays. (I started researching this part of it before we started our actual 30 days.)  That means I end up running around to 3-4 different places in the middle of the day on Thursday just trying to get local grown food.

I miss the one-stop shopping!  Frankly, though, it’s starting to annoy me that it is more difficult and inconvenient to get the local food.  It should be the other way around. (Markets, if you are reading this, it would be immensely helpful if you would post on your websites the produce you have available each week.)  I am thoroughly pleased with the goods I get from these places, I just think it should be easier to get local stuff than imported stuff.  Ya feel me?

Final real food airing of grievances – I. MISS. MY. HAZELNUT. COFFEE. CREAMER!!!  My morning coffee is just not the same with plain half-and-half.  To say I am not a morning person is the understatement of the century.  Needless to say, taking away my favorite thing about the morning, makes for one unhappy momma (pup momma, that is.)

Despite our Friday night epic failure and my griping here today,  we are enjoying this challenge and have been able to stick to the rules for the remaining 95% of our week.  When we have eaten the food that I’ve prepared we have stuck to the real food rules beautifully.  And I am really glad that we are making a better effort to support our local farmers and economy.  I’m getting some tremendous satisfaction out of making some of our menu and pantry staples myself.  You’ll have to tune in later in the week to read all about that.

Until then, we will keep trucking along and trying to keep it real!

newmrssig

 

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/1144

quickie quiche

Little factoid for  ya – I HATE eggs…but I LOVE a good quiche.  Weird, huh?  That falls along the lines of other food idiosyncrasies such as the fact that I love a good salad, but will not eat lettuce on any kind of sandwich/burger.  I can’t stand how papery the lettuce feels in my teeth between the bread.  Similarly, I love coconut flavor, but will not touch anything with coconut shavings on it. (This quirk is useful when trying to avoid various forms of wedding and German chocolate cake.) Again, it’s a texture thing.  Can’t stand how the coconut shavings feel between my teeth when I chew them.  Oh, and don’t even get me started on water chestnuts!

I’m not really sure what it is about the eggs.  My parents said I’ve hated them since the first time they tried to give them to me as a toddler.  We’re talking total meltdown here.  As in, a reschedule-an-appointment-for-those-Olan-Mills-one-year-old-portraits meltdown.  (If you were born in the 70’s you know the portraits I’m referencing.)   I’m not so sure that it’s a texture thing with the eggs because I’ve tried to eat them pretty much every way they come – scrambled, fried, poached, over easy, omelet.  You name it.  Nope. Nada.  Nothing doing.  Can’t get them down.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at brunch and watched someone order a fabulous omelet, and ask to try a bite, only to end up (discreetly) spitting that bite out into a napkin.  Classy, I know.  But for some reason a quiche works.

This baby is no exception!

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Another weird factoid – I HATE cold lunch.  Oh…and I’m the teensiest OCD about being organized.  Not that there is anything wrong with that…especially when your spice cabinet is alphabetized. :) (I’ll have to show you that one later!)

By now, I bet you are thinking – Where is she going with this?  Here it is…

I like to make one big lunch item for the week on Sunday afternoons and divvy it up into daily portions.  That way all my lunches for the week are ready at once and all I have to do each day is replenish my lunch box each evening when I get home from work.  I hate cold lunch.  So this never involves me pre-making five sandwiches or pasta salad.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine posted a quiche recipe on Facebook.  I had never made a quiche before because, for some reason, I assumed it would be this really complicated thing.  But, after looking at my friend’s recipe I realized how easy it actually was.  She posted a basic recipe and commented that you could fill it with anything that struck your fancy.   I knew that one quiche would yield about 6-8 servings, which would give me a hot lunch to take to work for a week.   That got the old wheels a turnin’.  Hmmm….

My for my first try I used broccoli, Trader Joe’s Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage, and whatever cheese I happened to have in my fridge at the time.  I think it was part Parmesan, part Pecorino Romano.  It was okay, but nothing to write home about.  So the next week while perusing the meat/poultry aisle at Trader Joe’s, I found new inspiration – Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Sausage!

And this Sun-Dried Tomato Quiche was born!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c half & half
  • ~6 oz Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Sausage
  • ~6 oz of Sun-Dried Tomatoes in olive oil
  • ~2 oz of goat cheese
  • 2 portabella mushroom caps
  • fresh herbs (to taste)
  • kosher salt and pepper (to taste)
  • pre-made pie crust

Preheat the oven to 375.  Slice the sausage (on the bias) and mushrooms and brown in a little bit of olive oil.

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Meanwhile mix the eggs, half & half, salt, pepper, and herbs thoroughly using a hand-held mixer.  (On my first try with this, I tried mixing the goat cheese in at this stage thinking it would blend into the egg mixture.  It didn’t. I was left with a clump of wet eggy goat cheese at the bottom of my mixing bowl. So, I don’t recommend that.)  I have some fresh herbs growing in a window sill.  So I just grabbed a little thyme and rosemary, but you can use what ever you have on hand.

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Mix browned sausage and mushrooms in a bowl with the sun-dried tomatoes.

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Place your pie crust in pie pan.  Add your sausage, mushroom, tomato mixture.  Crumble goat cheese on top.

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Pour egg mixture over the filling.  Bake for 30-60 min until firm and the middle is no longer jiggly.  (My oven takes ~ 45 min.)

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Let cool, then cut into 6 even slices.

Out of curiosity, I used this recipe calculator to figure out the nutritional stats on this yumminess.  As best I can figure, each serving is worth the following:

  • Calories 243.5
  • Total Fat 16.3g
  • Total Carbohydrate 5.3g
  • Protein 14.9g

I like to serve mine with a side salad and some fruit.

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Now, how’s THAT for brown bagging it!

newmrssig

 

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/1047

Bravo, Luciano!

If you’ve paid attention to my Instagram feed in the side bar, you’ve noticed that I have a problem.  What started out as a “treat” one lazy Saturday morning has now be come an addiction.  At least one morning each weekend – sometimes Saturday, other times Sunday – I find myself driving to Sunflour Baking Company for a cheddar biscuit with bacon.  This weekend was no different, but I fear it’s getting worse.  Last week I also grabbed some Duck Rabbit Milk Stout cupcakes and a couple sandwiches while I was in there.  This has got to stop soon.  Otherwise, before I know it, I will be walking out with an entire case of Ham & Gruyere Croissants, all the while cramming yet another cheddar biscuit into my face.

Each week as I wait for my biscuit, I see this quote on the chalkboard style menu that hangs on the wall just inside the bakery door:

I think that’s lovely.  Don’t you? As much as I am an opera fan, I had never heard or seen this quote from Pavarotti before.  All I can say is – “Bravo, Luciano!  Bravo…

and I HAVE to stop coming here so often or otherwise I’m gonna start to look a little too much like you.”

Cheers y’all,

The Mrs. Signature

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/1038

You Heard Me…A “Porkapalooza”

If you’ve read this blog for any period of time or actually know me, you know that I am not one of these skinny-mini-eat-salad-on-a-date kind of girls.  I like to eat.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not Miss Piggy or anything…I just like to eat.  That also means that I’m not one of these girls who lets the fact that the pig is the universal symbol for fat get to me.  Samuel L. Jackson’s proclamation (as “Jules” in Pulp Fiction) that “A pig is filthy animal” doesn’t bother me one bit.   A couple weeks ago, when my friend Gretchen reminded me that she doesn’t eat pork and requested that I leave the bacon crumbles off her serving of the Pumpkin Goat Cheese Risotto I made to kick off our Walking Dead Season 2 marathon, the only response I could muster was “But…you’ve TASTED bacon, right?”  It just blows my mind that someone could have actually tasted bacon and decided against it.  Pulled pork, I get.  Even ham, I understand.  But bacon?  Seriously?!?

But I digress…I mentioned to you that I spent last weekend in the Durham-Chapel Hill area for a work-related workshop.  What I didn’t tell you was that while up there I attended a “porkapalooza” event.  Yeah, you heard…uh, READ me right – PORKAPALOOZA!

Every summer, Foster’s Market does regular Farm to Table dinners.  I’ve known about these for years and I have never been able to go because they are always at 6:30p on a Thursday night.  Since Chapel Hill is about a 2.5-3 hr drive from Charlotte, and I always find out about them after my work schedule is full of patients, going would mean having to cancel my Thursday afternoon patients as well as my Friday ones (‘cuz there’s no way I’m gonna drive back from dinner 3 hrs away, then get up early for work the next day).  Well, my workshop started early Friday morning, so I drove up Thursday night (‘cuz there’s no way I’d get up in time to leave Charlotte at 6:30a on Friday morning) and, as luck would have it, Foster’s was having a Farm to Table dinner that night!!

This dinner was to celebrate Cane Creek Farm of Snow Camp, NC, who specialize in “unique breeds of pigs” and an “ever expanding family of goats, chickens, turkeys, sheep, donkeys and ducks.”  Knowing that, is it any wonder that Foster’s theme for their Farm to Table dinner was a “Porkapalooza” in which the entire pig was cooked…in multiple ways… invading every course…even dessert?

I know the word “Porkapooloza” sounds…well, what’s the word I’m looking for here…ummm…ok, I’m just gonna say it – redneck! Don’t worry.  In true Foster’s fashion it was very farmer chic!  (And, yes, “farmer chic” is a real thing and I TOTALLY dig it!  Remember our lunch here 2 yrs ago?)

The meal was served family style on the mismatched farm tables throughout the market.  The Mr. chose not to couldn’t come with me, so I was on my own but quickly made friends with my table mates. We sipped on a fantastic 2011 Mendocino County Gerwurtztraminer while we chatted about missing our grandparents home grown veggies and wishing that we’d payed more attention when our grandmothers were canning them, all the while nibbling on hors d’ oeuvres of Pork Rillette and Country Pâté with Crostini and tons of pickled veggies.

I’m not really a fan of pickled anything, so I passed on most the veggies.  (Besides, what am I – a chump? What kind of dummy fills up on veggies when there are four courses of pork on the line?  A girl’s gotta conserve energy where she can.)  I didn’t love the rillette (weird texture) but, surprisingly, I really enjoyed the pâté.  (Little known secret – I was a pâté virgin until this dinner.)  Next came the soup course – Split Pea and Ham Hock with a side sliver of fresh bread loaded with herbs and caramelized onions.

I lie to you not, the bread basket came with a little dish of LARD to spread on the bread instead of butter.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture, but I promise you I’m not making that up!  After all, they did say that they would be using the WHOLE pig…I guess that includes it’s fat.

We switched colors and nationalities of wine for the entree…a 2010 Tempranillo to be exact.

Maybe I should say ENTREES, because it involved 3 pork offerings – 1) Housemade Italian Sausages with Peppers and Onions, 2) Porchetta, and 3) Braised Pork with Plums, Sage and Onions

served with sides of Creamy Polenta that was topped with some sort of sweet potato glaze and Wilted Kale and Spinach with a Warm Bacon Dressing.

I had a little bit of everything.

It was all crazy good, but that sausage was out of this world.  BEST.  SAUSAGE. EVER.  There was TONS of food and, since sausage is The Mr.’s favorite food group, I (thoughtfully) boxed up some left overs to take back home to him…

only to get back to my hotel room and discover that I didn’t have a mini fridge in which to keep it until I headed back home on Sunday.  Sorry, dude.  Ya snooze, ya lose.

Sarah (as is Sarah Foster, herself – owner of Foster’s Market, former apprentice to Martha Stewart) came by our table while the staff cleared the entrees to inquire as to whether we were enjoying ourselves and the meal.  She urged us to save room for the dessert because it was “incredible.” She also informed us that although the menu listed Caramelized Apple Upside Down Cornbread Cake with MAPLE Bacon Ice Cream, it had been changed to a SORGHUM Bacon Ice Cream, because the “sorghum just worked better with the bacon.”  Since she was standing right next to me, I made a little joke that, in my humble opinion, there just weren’t enough desserts that involved bacon.  She gave a little laugh and patted me on my shoulder!

(You know what that means, don’t you?  It means that Sarah and I are kinda like BFFs.  I imagine that, had Martha been dining with us, she would have laughed at my joke too.  So…if Sarah and I are now kinda like BFFs…and she’s also BFF with Martha…and Martha probably would have also laughed at my joke then…by extension, that means me, Sarah, and Martha are all BFFs together…just three peas in a pod… What?  It could happen.)

But, again, I digress…Now, about that dessert.  Actually, there are no words.  I’ll just let you look…Oh, and look closely.  Do you see what I see?

Uh-huh.  Little chunks of bacon IN the ice cream.  I know it sounds weird, but it was really REALLY good.  I’m not a person who loves sweets and this was a great balance of salty and sweet.  The cake part was a little dry, but it was a cornbread cake.  When have you ever had cornbread that wasn’t dry?  Besides, who really cares about the cake anyway when there is bacon in the ice cream on top of it?

You would think that bacon-laced ice cream would be the clincher to my porktastic weekend, but the next day when my workshop broke for dinner, I made a b-line here

to check out some local brews, only to find the Big Mike’s BBQ food truck parked outside.  I washed down a BBQ sandwich with Fullsteam’s Carver Sweet Potato Lager.

I loved the beer.  Not too heavy, but very tasty.  Perfect for an early fall afternoon.  (Wish I’d had more time to spend there…)  The sandwich was good, but I’m not a huge fan of BBQ.  But their dessert was something else entirely.  As I close, I’d like to post this question to you – What’s better than banana pudding?

Yep, you guessed it – BANANA PUDDING WITH BACON!!  Now THAT is certainly worth a trip to Big Mike’s.

With this weekend, I think I’ve had my allowance of pork for the next 6 months or so…which is good because, according to Stephen Colbert, we’re on the verge of an Aporkalypse due to the recent drought.

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/997

Easy Like Sunday Mornin’

There’s just something about a lazy Sunday morning in a college town that I love.  The cool autumn morning air, no particular agenda for the day, good food and coffee in a quaint local eatery…oh how it makes me yearn for Oxford.

I’ve been in the Chapel Hill-Durham area all weekend for a workshop which ended too late last night to make the trek back to Charlotte. So I stayed the extra night.  The only thing I had to do today is to get home…but by not particular time. So, I decided to forego the alarm and the wake-up call (yes, it takes multiple trials to get me up in the morning), wake-up when my body decided it was time to wake up, take my sweet time getting packed up, and treat myself to a yummy breakfast here.

I spent about an hour here sipping on a Great Pumpkin Latte and leisurely munching on Lucas’ Cinnamon French Toast.

The french toast was out of this world, but ladies and gentlemen, can I just brag on this latte for a moment?  It was so beautiful and so delicious!  I could seriously have spent my entire Sunday curled up with it, in a cozy little nook, reading something equally delicious.  Let’s look at it again, shall we?

Don’t you want to just dive right in?   No…so that’s just me?  This is how lattes should be served.  I honestly don’t know why I was so enamored with this latte.  Maybe my urban existence just has me at Starbucks too often and I’ve grown too accustomed to the commonness of the paper cup, cardboard grip, and plastic lid.  Being served this latte just sent me into sensory overload – the FEEL of the warm mug big enough to require two hands, the SMELL of the pumpkin spice, the SIGHT of the creamy-caramel colored foam on the top that, of course, left me a foamy ‘stache after the first sip… I tell you, it was heaven!  Easy Sunday morning perfection…

After finishing my breakfast, I ventured next door to Flyleaf Books, a local independent book store.

I’m not sure I’ve shared with you before my affinity for indie book stores.  I seek them out whenever I travel and was thrilled that this one just happened to be next door to my breakfast.  I have yet to find one that I haven’t adored. (I love them all, but of course, none more than the mother of all indie book stores, Square Books in Oxford, MS.)  Much like the latte, they simultaneously set all my senses ablaze and make my soul let out a relaxed “Aahhhh…”  I love the dim lighting, the mismatched chairs, the somewhat dusty book smell, the boutique-style small quantities of the selections, and the overly-scarfed-thick-rimmed-funky-glasses-wearing clientele that tends to favor this type of bookstore to the big booksellers.  Even if I don’t buy anything, I have so much fun just wandering the stacks.

When ever possible I try to get my books from local, independent bookstores.  The benefits of shopping local aren’t just limited to produce shopping.  I noticed this hanging in the ladies room and couldn’t resist taking the shot.

Flyleaf is small, but it doesn’t disappoint.  My favorite part, however, were the staff’s hand written descriptions and “plugs” for books.  These were most prominently displayed on the “staff picks” table in the middle of the room, but were also scattered throughout the stacks in the rest of the store.  The handwritten notes just give it a “We-Don’t-Just-Work-Here-We-Actually-Read-This-Stuff” vibe.

A personal favorite…

My only disappointment was that I had to finish my latte and walk through here to get to the lovely bookstore…

It would have been so much better if Foster’s Market and Flyleaf Books would have joined forces, knocked down the wall that separates them, and let all the good food, great lattes, and lovely books mingle like God intended.

Here’s hoping your Sunday morning was just a good!

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Truckin’

I’ve known for a while that a food truck phenomenon was sweeping the nation.  I’ve also known that a Charlotte food truck contingent existed, although I wasn’t all that interested in chasing them down.  Until recently, however, I also didn’t know what I was missing.  Enter my friend Jenn who, a couple weeks ago, offered to take me to the South End Gourmet Food Trucks for a belated birthday celebration.

Charlotte’s South End is a historic, but urban/funky neighborhood adjacent to Charlotte’s Uptown.  Apparently, every Friday night in South End is known as Food Truck Friday.  Who knew?!?  (I seriously have to get out more.)  Each Friday, 4-5 of Charlotte’s food trucks park directly across the street from the Phat Burrito and serve deliciousness from 5:30-9:00p or until they are out of food, which ever comes first.

With so much deliciousness to choose from right there in one spot, it was impossible to choose just one.  So, we made the rounds.  Not being her first visit to the food trucks, Jenn, in her infinite wisdom, suggested that we hit the cupcake truck first because “They always sell out and if we have any hope of getting cupcakes for dessert we need to get them now.” So, first stop…the Southern Cake Queen truck…a mobile cupcakery!!

The cupcakes were $3.00 each, or 4 for $10.  I ask you – how’s a girl supposed to pass up that kind of a deal, especially for a belated birthday celebration?  I mean, you’ve GOT to have cake at birthday celebration!  We got one Turtle cupcake, one 14 Karat cupcake, one Crimson & Creme, and one Lemon Drop.

Dessert – CHECK!  Now onto the main course.  Stop number two – The TIN Kitchen.

For $9 each we got two tacos and a side.  Jenn ordered the Pork Carnitas tacos with red rice…

while I chose the Porchini Grilled Steak tacos with chips and salsa.

The two taco serving size made sharing and sampling one of each very convenient.  They were both delicious, but I’m here to tell you those steak tacos were OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD!!!

Main course – CHECK!  Now, it’s true that sides came with our delectable entrees, but Jenn and I had both noticed something of interest from while menu browsing.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Truffle Parmesan fries…

from The Herban Legend, our third (and final) stop.

There are no words.

We did not hit the food trucks on a corresponding South End Gallery Crawl night which was a little disappointing, but totally fine at the same time because we were then able to take our food truck fare to the South End location of the Common Market, get a couple of draft brews, and enjoy our dinner on the patio with a little music while chatting the night away and taking in the local culture.  Jenn’s Pale Ale is captured in the fry picture above.  But I went with something a little darker…

A Saison Black to be exact.  You’ll have to forgive me because 1) I was apparently too busy salivating over my brew…or the cupcakes…or both to bother focusing my shot and 2) because I’ve forgotten the brewery name.  Trust me though, it was delish! And a perfect pairing for the steak tacos!  We managed to polish off every crumb of our tacos, sides, and fries, plus the Turtle and 14 Karat cupcakes.  Lucky for him, I got to take the remaining two cupcakes home to the The Mr.

Of course…they were cupcakes for MY birthday…so we cut each of the remaining two in half and shared.  Of the four, the Crimson & Creme (red velvet with creme cheese icing) was my favorite.

The Mr. and I had a LONG day the next day with a ridiculously overdue “clean-out-the garage-day.”  After dropping off two car loads of donations at the Salvation Army, The Mr. didn’t have to ask twice as to whether or not I wanted a beer.  Since we were in the neighborhood we ended up at the Plaza Midwood Common Market location.  (You know, where we had so much fun at the Southern Tier beer tasting last year, and heard the first rumblings of the NoDa Brewing Company.)

Speaking of NoDa Brewing Company, we grew a little peckish while sipping our brews and just happened to notice via Facebook that the Maki Taco food truck was currently parked in its side lot.  I was keen to introduce The Mr. to the joy that is the food truck, so we jumped in our cars and headed towards NoDa.  There we grabbed a couple tacos

(his…)

(hers…)

The tacos were yummy, but they were a little skimpy on the shrimp for my taste.  We enjoyed our tacos on NoDa’s patio and chatted up the brewery owner, Todd, for quite a while as he personally zested limes for their NoDable Series NoDajito brew.

The Mr. chose this mojito inspired barley pop to pair with his tacos

while I sipped the Monks Trunks.  What can I say?  I’m sucker for Belgian.

So, in a matter of 24 hrs, I hit 4 out of Charlotte’s 8 food trucks.  The weather in Charlotte has been perfect for dining al fresco lately.  Naturally, I repeated the process the following Friday.  The Mr. was out with the boys so, once again, he did not get the South End experience.  But, never fear, he’ll get his chance.  As for me, if you are looking for me on a Friday night, I’m probably truckin’!

Cheers y’all!

The Mrs. Signature

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/944

Chocolate Steak

Last Friday night I had one of the most intriguing entrees that I’ve ever eaten.  You remember that BG whisked me away for my 35th birthday, right?  As part off our reservations at the Mast Farm Inn, we were scheduled to have dinner there on Saturday night, leaving Friday’s dinner up for grabs.  Upon recommendation from the Inn Keeper we decided to try Crippen’s in the nearby mountain town of Blowing Rock.

The weather was perfect, so we opted to dine al fresco in the front garden.

We were warned, both by the Maitre’D and our server that a family of ducks lived there so that we wouldn’t be alarmed if they decided to come fuss at us for dining in their happy home.  Fortunately they did not decide to fuss, but I was at least hoping to catch a glimpse of them.

I have to say, for a “country inn restaurant” in a relatively small town, this place had quite an eclectic menu and a wine list to match.  For apps we enjoyed Popcorn Dusted Sea Scallops with Bacon Creamed Corn.

Yes, that’s actual crumbled popcorn on the top.  We also had a little bread with our choice of three dipping or spreading options:  homemade butter, white bean hummus, or olive oil infused with a Scotch Bonnet pepper.

Let me tell you, that last one had a kick!  Of course, no lovely dinner out is complete without a nice bottle of wine.  Our server told us that all the wines in the list had been hand picked by the chef to compliment the current menu, so anything we chose would be complimentary to our meal.  We decided to go with an Australian Shiraz.

Of course, I’ve got to do my thing.

It was nice, but given the richness of my entree I think I would have preferred a full-bodied Cab.  And speaking of entrees…

That’s what this whole post is boiling down to.  BG ordered a Juniper Marinated Venison Tenderloin.

Oh, and FYI – it was floating in a Blueberry Sauce with Truffle Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes on the side.  I just want to make sure y’all got all that -

TRUFFLE GOAT CHEESE MASHED POTATOES!!!

The only thing I can manage to say about that is – DDDAAAAMMMMNNN!  Truth be told, even though they came with BG’s entree, I ate about half of them. :)

As awesome as those potatoes were, I have to admit that they were not the star of the show.  That, instead, would be my entree – the Bittersweet Chocolate Infused Espresso Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Irish Cream Sauce and White Cheddar Potato Au Gratin.

Now, the concept of cocoa, coffee, and steak was not new to me.  While on our 10th anniversary trip to the Russian River Valley, I enjoyed an Espresso Crusted Filet in a Cocoa Cabernet Sauce at Mosaic in Forestville, CA.  Let me tell you, that was out of this world!  Needless to say, I was expecting something similar this time around.  But what I got…

was chocolate OOZING out of my steak as I cut into it.  Seriously.  No, SERIOUSLY!!  Check out that pick again.  Please note the oozing!

According to our server, it is prepared by slicing the tenderloin and having a bittersweet chocolate square placed inside before it is then rolled in crushed espresso beans and cooked.  It sounds weird but it was INCREDIBLE.  I, of course, let BG have a bite of this unique dish.  He agreed with me, but stated “It’s hard to tell whether that is dinner or dessert.”

I didn’t care, though.  How many times in her life does a girl get to say she had CHOCOLATE STEAK for dinner?

Cheers y’all!

Wine Girl

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/831

Adventures in Sconing

Happy belated Easter to you all! I hope you were all blessed with as beautiful an Easter Day in your home towns as we were in Charlotte. Simply gorgeous!

To celebrate this joyous day we joined some friends for an after church outdoor brunch. It was potluck. After last week’s potluck fiasco resulting in me showing up to a cookout with store-bought potato salad (gasp!), I knew I had to redeem myself. My foodie/cook reputation could be hanging in the balance…

So, I thought long and hard about what my contribution to this brunch would be and the answer was clear – SCONES!!  I ask you, what is more “spring brunchy” than SCONES?!?

Once again, I turned to The Foster’s Market Cookbook for inspiration.  More specifically, I chose to make Sara Foster’s Chocolate Chip Espresso Scones.

I got up early before church to whip these babies up.  Did I mention that I’ve never made scones before?  So they didn’t exactly “whip up”.  They were a little labor intensive.  Maybe that wasn’t a good idea when I’m trying to redeem myself from a major foodie faux pas!  I was nervous and in a rush after waking up 30 min later than intended.  So I don’t have a lot of pics because 1) I hadn’t had my requisite two cups of coffee (which is dangerous in and of itself) yet while I was making these and 2) these scones were stressing me out.

The recipe called for cutting the butter into the dry ingredients mix with a food processor.  I only have a mini-Cuisinart, not a full sized one.  So it took me several attempts to figure out how I was going to make this work in shifts.  Ultimately I cut little cubes of butter into the large bowl of dry ingredients then transfered it into the mini-Cuisinart for some pulsing in 3/4 cup shifts.  We got through it, but ultimately my kitchen looked like a flour bomb exploded in it.

Once cut and mixed, it was now time for me to add in the wet ingredients…buttermilk with espresso dissolved into it.  The Foster’s Market Cookbook maintains that it is the use of buttermilk, versus the typical heavy cream or half-and-half, yields a “lighter and flakier” scone.

The recipe called for this to be mixed in a large bowl, so I whipped out the largest bowl I have.  It apparently wasn’t large enough as I could really couldn’t stir the ingredients without sloshing it all over my already flour dusted countertop.  So…I dove in with my hands, trying my best to distribute the ingredients evenly.

So as I’m attempting to mix with my hands, thinking “This isn’t going well” to myself, and becoming increasingly aware that I’m running really late, I read the words “Do not overwork the dough” in the recipe. But that’s it.  No further indication of what action would result overworked dough.  Clearly, Sara’s target audience has prior biscuit making experience. I’ve said it before – I cook.  I don’t really bake.  Which, again, makes me think this wasn’t the best idea for today.  Don’t overwork the dough?!?  What does THAT look like?  How would I know?

I finally get frustrated trying to finish mixing the dough by hand in the bowl and just dump it out on the kitchen counter,

wash the espresso-buttermilk goo off my hands, and head back to the recipe.  Well, what do you know.  I was SUPPOSED to dump it out on the counter.  Maybe I have more “baker instincts” than I thought…

Confident in my new baker skills, I commenced rolling.  Gigantor chocolate chip cookie anyone?

Incidentally, the recipe makes two of those so that you end up with 12 total scones.  From here, it’s pretty easy.  You just cut it into six equal triangles, brush them in an egg wash, and bake them up.

The only problem now is, it’s 9:50 a.m. and I have to serve them at 12:30 p.m. – piping hot!  Will they be okay if I put them in the fridge for 3 hours before baking them?  Surely they will right?  That won’t mess up the baking chemistry will it?  AAAAHHHH….now I’m nervous again.  I should have asked somebody about this first.   I really don’t want to mess up my contribution to a friend’s potluck gathering for the second week in a row!

At this point I have no choice.  I’m pretty sure that it’s more “dangerous” to leave the raw sliced dough on greased  baking sheets sitting on my countertop.  So into the fridge they went.  And I rushed home from church an popped them into the oven before heading over to brunch…holding my breath along the way.

Well, they look like proper scones to me…

Okay, so we were 20 min late, but we showed up with fresh-from-the-oven, piping hot scones as everyone was sitting down on the lawn to eat.  Half of them were gone before I could get them to the buffet.

Rave reviews all around!  Comments from the peanut gallery went something like “Those are awesome!”  “These are fantastic!”  “Did you make these from scratch?”  I am redeemed…which has more than one meaning for me on this lovely Easter Sunday.

So, I think I can safely say that my foodie reputation in firmly in tact!

Cheers y’all!

Wine Girl

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/782

poTAYto/poTAHto

Last Sunday BG and I attended an appreciation cookout as supporters of a friend’s ministry.  She was providing the main course and the rest of us were to bring sides.  I’ve mentioned that I have a reputation a foodie and cook amongst my Charlotte friends, so I wanted to make sure my side was especially scrumptious.  I settled on Sara Foster’s Potato Gratin with Tomatoes, Chevre, and Thyme from The Foster’s Market Cookbook.

I first made this about 5 yrs ago when taking a meal to my dear friend who was just home from the hospital with her first baby.  I mentioned to her then that it was all I could do to avoid sticking my face directly in the pan while I was making it.  You see, I’ve never met a potato I didn’t like.  Baked, scalloped, stuffed, mashed, whipped,  roasted, au gratin, or twice baked – you name it, I like it devour it.   But back to my original story…

The last three weeks in the Beer Guy/Wine Girl household have been ridiculously busy.  And, in keeping with that, I had another event I had to attend prior the aforementioned appreciation cookout.  This potato dish is quite rich and I don’t even want to know the calorie count, so this is not a dish I make on a regular basis…despite its orgasmic deliciousness.  This is a special occasion dish and, as such, I haven’t made it in a couple years.  Meaning…I totally forgot how long it takes to build and cook it!

Our cookout started at 5p.  I got home from my first event at 2:30p and meandered towards the kitchen at about 2:45p to start prepping my dish.  I set to work slicing my potatoes

and melting my butter.

The recipe recommends that you slice the potatoes (~1/8 inch thick) as needed while you build the layers. Something about the starch in the potatoes holding it together.  The butter is to brush along the surface of the baking dish as well as on top of each layer of sliced potatoes.

So I’m slicing, layering, buttering while throwing in some goat cheese, parmigiano reggiano, and thyme in the mix…

then layering in the tomatoes…

(Note to self – Buy a mandoline before making this again.) all the while, merely glancing at the portion of the recipe that said to “bake 30-40 minutes.”  Well, at 4:40p, I moved out of the slicing and layering zone, and looked at the recipe to refresh my memory on the final steps.  At this point I knew we were going to be late but, as I was thinking it only had to bake for 30-40 minutes, I thought it would be a fashionable 15-20 min late.  That’s when I saw it… the instructions to “bake, covered, 45-50 minutes” then “uncover and bake 30-40 min MORE!”

In a panic, I let a few choice words fly, slammed the layered concoction into the fridge, and yelled to BG upstairs that we had to go NOW!  We ended up taking a sad little store-bought side to the cookout, which was a total let down.  Luckily the good food (provided by other people) and even better company at the cookout lifted my spirits.  Then we came home and that’s when I really started to grin…

You see, I had already spent the money to purchase the necessary ingredients for this side as well as a lot of time putting it together.  I couldn’t just throw it out because I hadn’t finished it or taken it to the party.  I had to press on and see it through to the end.  It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.  Really at this point all I had to do was add the toppings and bake (albeit for nearly an hour and a half).  The recipe calls for pouring half-and-half over the ensemble, but I just happened to have some whipping cream left over from my recent creme brulee adventure.  So…

I went with that, then topped it off with some homemade bread crumbs, and baked it until it looked like this.

BG just so happened to be flying out on (yet another) business trip the next morning…and I would be at home…alone…all week…with my creamy, goat cheesy, potato gratin!  Hmmm…

Don’t mind if I do!

Like I said, I never met a potato I didn’t like.  It will be a miracle if this dish survives the next three days!

So was this an honest mistake or an evil brilliant plan?  You decide!

Cheers y’all!

Wine Girl

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