Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Paleo Project Recap

On August 20th I flew to Buffalo, New York for a week of vacation! Sorta. Still complete with a daily itinerary for my boyfriend's best friend's wedding. What a mouthful. A week outside of Charlotte is still nice. However, it does put a kink in my project plans. 

After talking to friends and family, I have decided to cut the project short. It would be foolish of me to be on vacation for a week and limit what I'm allowed to eat. Honestly, I really decided this so I can enjoy a piece of the wedding cake! Haha I'm only halfway kidding. 

Why I really decided it was okay to cut it short is because I have already found the answers to my questions for the project. Yes, I hosted an efficient experiment.  

Here's some notes on my findings about eating Paleo: 
  • lose weight
  • intense hunger cravings at beginning 
  • personally had to eat more often
  • more expensive to buy food
  • feel healthy, feel good
  • more energized! no caffeine and didn't miss it (after headache went away on the 4th day of the experiment. oh detox...)
  • my hair fell out less (in shower, when brushing)
  • personally bruise less (I used to bruise wicked easy, but I got hit with a hockey puck and it didn't bruise immediately like it normally would have. unexpected)
MY FINAL WEIGHT: 117. total loss of 11 pounds in two weeks during the experiment.   

Today is day three of not officially doing the experiment, and I have noticed my eating choices have changed. For example, I went to Jims Steakout in Buffalo with the boyfriend and instead of getting a greasy sub like I did the last time I was there, I chose to get a salad. Not because I felt like I should, but because that's what I was craving. Eating Paleo for a couple weeks altered my preferences, and I think I'm a little healthier for it. Overall, I consider the experiment a success. 

Now on to tomorrow...who knows how this experiment will further change my perspective on life and eating...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Days 10 - 14: Paleo Project

This week, I sat down and read through my project blogs and I discovered something. It was pretty repetitive. Realizing my life right now is a bit busy and I am stuck in a specific schedule right now, I decided to combine days in an attempt to save you from any confusion. So here's what I ate on the days; you can assume I went to work and back each day haha

Day 10:
breakfast: four slices mango, 1/2 C. blueberries and three spears pineapple
lunch: spinach salad with sliced tomato, pork tenderloin, broccoli slaw, shredded carrots and sliced almonds. 
dinner: veggie salad with sliced cucumbers, carrots, celery, salami and tomatoes, topped with Chiavetta's. 

Day 11:
breakfast: banana and a semi-failed almond flour waffle experiment (I didn't use enough egg and it completely fell apart...became breakfast for my shiba inu!)
snack: sliced mango
lunch: grilled steak with steamed carrots, squash and broccoli with a saute of okra from Tennessee garden.
dinner: spinach salad with pork tenderloin, carrots and broccoli slaw with Chiavetta's. 

Day 12:
breakfast: two oranges
snack: one peach, two plums
lunch: two apples with almond butter
dinner: spinach salad with sliced carrots, broccoli slaw, Chiavetta's baked chicken breast and veggie salad (cucumber, carrots, celery, salami and tomato)

Day 13:
breakfast: two oranges, two plums
lunch: spinach salad with sliced carrots and broccoli slaw
dinner: ten strawberries, one apple with almond butter

Day 14:
breakfast: 1/2 C. mandarin oranges
lunch: spinach salad with sliced carrots and broccoli slaw
dinner: one apple and almond butter

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Day 9: Paleo Project

Today started with a smile because I was off work for the day! Followed quickly by a juicy peach for breakfast. I will spare you my extensive to-do list play by play of the day...

For lunch, Steven and I stopped by Zoees Kitchen. I always get nervous when having to grab a bite out somewhere, but I always manage to find something paleo. Today I had a greek salad (no feta) with a cup of tomato soup (no cheese). Not exactly my go-to meal at this place, but it's fun trying new things. And I think I'm finally used to having a salad without cheese. Never thought I would say those words!

For an after errand running snack, I had a plum and half an orange. I do love fruit on this Paleo thing. If they alter it and add a "no fruit" clause, I'm screwed! 

So I was faced with a new challenge today. I had a new intense craving in addition to the detox side effects...women readers out there may understand what I'm talking about. Once a month or so, I crave chocolate like that's the only thing to eat on the planet. Particularly difficult to figure out how to make that happen while on Paleo. So I went to a health market in Charlotte and they were able to hook me up with organic dairy and sugar free chocolate!!! Best day of my life. 

So of course I bought two bars of it, headed home to build a make-shift double boiler and grabbed the strawberries I just got from the market. Yeulp, chocolate covered strawberries (among other things).
 For dinner, baked chicken breast and my favorite salad: sliced cucumber, celery, carrots, salami and fresh tomato from Tennessee garden :)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Day 8: Paleo Project

Today marks a week of the paleo project! So this morning I was immediately faced with a dreaded task...I had to weigh myself again to mark the progress of the experiment. I don't really feel or look any different, so I was expecting the scale to say 128 again, or maybe 126 if I lost anything at all. However, I was surprised and did a double take as I read "121" next to my toes. Honestly, I got a little freaked out and had to weigh myself three more times. Yeulp, same 121. 

I guess your body takes the nutrients and burns them, and maybe moves on to stored fat to burn? I have done some more research and have purchased some literature on paleo on Amazon, waiting for them to come in! 

So today I worked brunch at work, so my brunch meal was 3 apples and 1 cup of almond butter that I snacked on between 10 am and 2 pm. Busy days don't really allow me to have elaborate meals, but that's okay. 

To treat myself for dinner, I decided to make baked chicken breast basted with my new favorite--Chiavetta's dressing! I steamed some broccoli, squash and carrots as well to add some more veggies to my day. I snapped a quick picture to tease you:

On to tomorrow...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Day 7: Paleo Project

When mom comes to Charlotte, we shop a lot. Today was another morning of shopping before she headed back to Tennessee and I headed to work. But before we stormed the stores, I wanted her to check out one of my favorite spots for brunch: Terrace Cafe. My boyfriend and I have eaten here several times, and it gets better each time. One of their signature items is unfortunately not paleo-friendly. This item, a red velvet cake waffle with homemade cream cheese icing, is what lured mom to try the restaurant. She, like me, LOVES red velvet. Who doesn't? 

I was right--mom chose the red velvet waffle. I snapped a picture of her plate before she started: 
 So with this on the menu, you may be wondering what I found to eat...I knew they would have something for me. I was more worried about the temptation to steal a bite of mom's! Thankfully, my choice was so delicious, I was done before everyone else was even halfway there: 
Steak and eggs! Sunny side up, of course. So very delicious. Steve, my oh so very sweet boyfriend, pulled a fast one on me as soon as they placed my plate. "Oh look, a bird!" And of course I look up, but look at him to ask "Where?" just in time to see his fork leave my plate with a slab of my steak!!! Not cool. Only I would look for a bird in a restaurant...

We continued shopping for the afternoon until mom and I had to say our farewells. It was so nice to have her here for the past few days. It sucked to have to leave an afternoon with her to go to work, but that's life I guess. Lunch was an orange and a handful of raspberries on the walk to work. I packed my dinner, a spinach salad with baked pork tenderloin with carrots. I barely had enough time at work to eat it!

Almost a full week down!

On to tomorrow...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Day 6: Paleo Project

Exhausted and half deaf from the events of last night, I woke up to the smell of mom making scrambled eggs for breakfast. A smart way to lure me out of bed, I must say. She also brought me some yummy produce from her garden in Tennessee. (Score!) So we also enjoyed some red tomatoes with our eggs. 

With a busy day of shopping ahead of us, we left with the sales and coupons in hand. As lunchtime approached, we were in a large mall and it was most convenient and time savvy to eat at the food court. I immediately became nervous and my mind raced as to what I could possibly find to eat with the options. Chinese, Mexican, Subs...the odds weren't in my favor. Until I looked closer to the menu at a Mexican restaurant. They had a taco salad, served in a giant tortilla bowl. So I asked if I could have mine on a plate, and they didn't mind at all! Yay! So I had a salad with diced tomatoes, guacamole and grilled steak, topped with a lime vinaigrette. Mom had one with me, except she had grilled chicken.

We had to cut our shopping trip shorter than expected because I had to go into work late, so I grabbed my favorite snack: apple and almond butter. I also grabbed a can of pears (in water) to eat during work if I got hungry, and I was glad I did! With a busy day full of literally walking the entire day, I was burning off some energy fast. After work, I had a handful of grapes while we watched a comedy movie. 

I'm starting to notice the headaches are going away. I think I'm no longer addicted to caffeine! I'm sure my boyfriend is the most excited person about that, so I can join him in no caffeine. Can you imagine living your life without ANY caffeine for 25 years (and counting)?? God bless him! I want to see how long I can go without any caffeine.

On to tomorrow...

Friday, August 10, 2012

Day 5: Paleo Project

I first must apologize for posting later than normal these few days. My mommy is in town for the weekend and we've been running the roads having fun! She tagged along with me in my paleo project for a week and ate with me. Love her. 

So for breakfast, I scarfed a can of peaches (in water) and a banana at work during my shift. I was busy at work for sure--doing work while making a to-do clean list for myself for the afternoon because mom would arrive shortly after I got off work. For lunch, I wanted to replicate the salad I had yesterday because it was SO yummy: spinach with shredded carrots, avocado, grilled chicken and Chiavetta's. However, today, since I was running around cleaning and feeling extra "nutty," I close to add some sliced almonds to this salad. I enjoyed it!

So mom arrived and I surprised her with the fact that we had meet and greet passes for a concert I had been talking to her about trying to go to. We managed to get second row tickets an hour before the show to see Eden's Edge, Eli Young Band, Little Big Town AND Rascal Flatts!!! We had such a blast, and we even found a paleo-friendly dinner at the amphitheater. We had an Italian sausage with grilled red and green peppers and onions. It wasn't the best meal in the world, especially for what we paid for it! But it was better than going on an empty stomach OR messing up my whole experiment by cheating and eating a cheeseburger, fries and slamming sodas and beers...

The concert was fantastic and I wasn't lusting over anyone's food or drinks. So much fun!  

On to tomorrow...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Day 4: Paleo Project

I got a fantastic night's sleep, and found it was easier to wake up and get out of bed today. Great start, so I decided to treat myself to some egg scrambles. I added some sliced mushrooms, spinach and grape tomatoes. It was good, but I REALLY didn't like having eggs without cheese in them. If my mother is reading this, she's probably laughing because I put cheese in my eggs to the point where it looks like my eggs aren't cooked because there's so much melted cheese. Okay on to something else before I wish my arm to turn into a wedge of cheddar...

I went to work with a glass of orange juice in hand. I brought a can of peaches in water as a snack, and I was glad I did. I'm finding my body needs a mid-morning and a mid-afternoon snack between meals now that I'm on Paleo. I'm not sure if it's because my body is burning the energy faster because my food is easier to break down? or if I'm just experiencing some of the popular side-effects of the dreaded detox period of Paleo. We'll see if it continues. 

After work, I went home to hang out with my dog, Lilli, and fix a salad. Today was a spinach salad with shredded carrots, avocado, grilled chicken and Chiavetta's. I LOVE avocado, especially on my salads. On my break, I also prepared dinner to take back to work. Ground lean sausage, mixed with roasted mushrooms, red and green peppers and grape tomatoes. I packaged my dinner up and back to work I went. 

However, I was so busy for my afternoon shift, I wasn't able to even enjoy my dinner! Thankfully, a fruit salad was also on hand and I snacked on sliced strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and a sliced banana. I was too busy to even think about being tired, so I don't have an update on my energy level. 

When I came home, I passed out. Maybe I'll enjoy my sausage and veggies tomorrow...

On to tomorrow...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Day 3: Paleo Project

When I woke up, I reminded myself of what I learned yesterday: even though it looks like a lot of fruits and veggies, it doesn't feel like a lot to your belly and if you don't eat enough, you'll be hungry in an hour. 

In an attempt to start the day off right as far as portions go, I decided to take a fruit salad to work for brunch. I sliced a whole banana, five strawberries, tossed a handful of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries in there and off I went. It was very tasty, and it kept me full til I got off from my morning shift, which was an improvement from yesterday!

I came home for lunch and had four pieces of roast beef and an apple with almond butter. I am growing to be quite fond of almond butter, so it may seem. I haven't mustered the courage to try my unsweetened almond milk by it self tho. For now, that is still a smoothie ingredient, and only such.  

I was smarter today than yesterday, as I prepared a larger dinner to take back to work. I sliced a cucumber, carrots, grape tomatoes, salami and celery and tossed them in the only Italian dressing I could find that is Paleo--Chiavetta's. My Yankee boyfriend who grew up in Upstate New York introduced me, and I fell in love. I will definitely be buying more when I fly to Buffalo later this month! I wish North Carolina sold it in stores...Oh well.
Tonight I also snapped a teaser picture to share:  

Let me be the first to tell you, when I opened my little container of this delicious goodness at work I had forks dipping in left and right people were so jealous of my dinner. Paleo or not, everyone would love this little salad. It's actually a take on a pasta salad, except without the pasta or cheddar cheese! 

As far as how I'm feeling, I'm having trouble kicking the caffeine headache. I guess the detox period affects people differently, but so far I'm just tired and have a headache. Maybe my coworkers or boyfriend would say I may be experiencing a bit of irritability as a symptom as well? Haha who knows. My hunger was more under control today, so that's improvement. I'm also noticing that I'm more thirsty during the day, and as a result, have to urinate more often than usual. Part of the process of cleaning my system? We'll see if these symptoms continue throughout the week. 


On to tomorrow...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Day 2: Paleo Project

I woke up feeling as I usually do. Exhausted and hitting snooze a couple times before grunting to myself and mustering the energy to get out from under my comfy-cozy sheets to hop in the shower. Knowing the long day of working a double I have a head of me, I want to make sure I have time to eat breakfast. Realizing I had a bag of frozen organic raspberries in my freezer, I grabbed my unsweetened almond milk and my blender and went to town. Smoothie for breakfast! And I made enough to have one in the freezer at the ready for later this week. Planning ahead is essential for Paleo. For those of you who know me personally know that planning comes naturally for me. Maybe I'm an obsessive planner...

Anywho, I went to work my morning shift and didn't drool over everyone's fatty and carb-filled plates. I was nervous how I would feel in the restaurant, but it was fine. I grabbed a banana on my way out the door, and was so thankful I did. Having a snack to tide me over till my break helped. 

For lunch, I had an apple, 1/3 C. almond butter, and a spring mix salad with tomato and carrots. I had never had almond butter before, and was honestly freaked out when I opened the container. Inside at the top of the almond butter was a layer of oily water just sitting there on top. Not really knowing what to do, I just dumped it out. It looked gross, and I didn't want to just stir in the oils. I don't need extra oils in my body, right? After dumping the oil layer and giving it a good stir, it looked just like a darker shade of peanut butter. This, I could handle. The taste kicks you in the face at first, but I liked it paired with apple slices. Yay for new things!

I went back to work, and had dinner during my shift. Tonight, I had roasted asparagus wrapped with prosciutto. Sprinkled with a tad of pepper, this was a delicious dinner for sure! I also had 1 orange and 10 cherries to round out my day. A little Vitamin C boost during a shift really helps! Nature's best energy. Though I wish this "dinner" stayed with me a bit longer. Two hours later, I was starving. After talking to some of our chefs, we determined I wasn't eating enough. So I texted my sweet boyfriend to bring me some hummus and veggies. A few minutes after I make that request, I wonder, "can I even have hummus?" Then began a discussion with the chefs as to wither or not garbanzo beans were legumes. Don't bother googling, I'll save you the trouble. They are. So that was a bummer. So I appreciated his sweet effort to come to my hunger rescue and bring me snacks, so I chowed down on the carrots and grapes and gave the hummus away to a coworker.

The frustrating thing about this Paleo project is I'm a newb. I don't know everything there is to know about it, so I have to research a lot. During research, I stumble upon the differing opinions within the Paleo community. Yes, there is a community, and yes, there is a heated debate full of unnecessary judgement as to what is "Paleo" or not.

Regardless, I did miss my Diet Mt. Dew about half way through my shift. Closing is a bummer without caffeine. I have found considerable about of research that supports having whatever drink you want as long as it doesn't have sugar. With those regulations, Diet Mt. Dew is not exempt, because it has 0 g. sugar. However, in order for me to make an accurate judgement as to wither or not Paleo helps you feel better and boosts your energy, I need to refrain from caffeine. I was craving it tonight, and got a headache from withdraws. Yes, I was, or am, addicted to caffeine. And I'm pretty sure this is what detoxing from drugs feels like. Hoping that changes in the coming weeks.

On to tomorrow... 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Day 1: Paleo Project

For August 5th, 2012: 
I imagine the first week of a new diet plan is difficult, simply because it's different. And I was reminded that as soon as I woke up this morning and realized that I couldn't have my ritual bowl of cereal--no grains and no dairy. Well that's a bummer. 

So instead, I remember a supportive friend from work gave me a sample of one of her recipes: an egg muffin. Yes, the whole idea intrigued me too. I wasn't sure it was going to be good or not, but I loved it! It had spinach, sausage, tomatoes and yummies inside. Paired with almonds and orange juice, and I enjoyed my first Paleo breakfast! And completely forgot about the cereal. 

However, I was faced with a bit of a situation. I'm testing my will-power with this 30 day experiment, and in a moment of weakness or complete exhausted forgetfulness, I could relapse. To Paleo-proof my apartment, I decided to box up everything from my pantry and refrigerator that I'm not allowed to eat and send it to my boyfriend's house for him and his roommates to devour. Win-win for everyone.
 For lunch, I had 11 carrots with some roasted red pepper hummus, 3 pieces of roast beef and 15 white grapes. Sounds like a lot, and I guess it was! I am finding you can eat more fruits and vegetables and it's still less carbs than a handful of greasy chips. Fun stuff. 

Dinner posed a bit of a difficulty at first. It was tax-free weekend in North Carolina, and a few friends and I went shopping for a few hours. Bargain hunting can work up an appetite in a girl, so we decided to have dinner. The first few ideas they suggested, I realized there wouldn't be anything within Paleo for me to eat. Then, they wanted to go to a pizza joint, and I decided that would probably be fine? On a hunch, I went, and luckily they had salads. So for dinner, I had a spinach salad with bacon, carrots, tomato and balsamic vinegar. And I wasn't lusting over their pizza and wings one bit!

Day 1 was a success! And it wasn't bad at all. Now on to tomorrow...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Paleo Diet for 30 Days!

Within the past few years, I have been encountered with more people who claim to be vegan, vegetarian, gluten or lactose intolerant, and the list is endless. While some live by choice because of morals, others are trying to improve their health. A "diet" I am particularly intrigued with is Paleo. While it seems to be the new cool diet fad from an outsider's perspective, the claims of it (if true) could drastically improve one's health.

Now I realize that discussions can get heated in a hurry when people voice their opinions about diets, health and the like. And obviously if I ask someone who is doing Paleo, they're going to tell me it's the best thing they've ever done and it's the best simply because they are doing it. So I have come to the conclusion that the only way I am going to get a non-biased option if the claims of the Paleo diet actually benefit the body is to sacrifice my body for science and do it myself. 

While some of my friends think I have completely lost my mind, I have done hours of research and eating within Paleo guidelines can't be bad for me. So why not try it? Most studies say it takes the body a few weeks to fully adjust, so in order to get an accurate judge regarding the energy boost claims I have decided to do this for 30 days. Since I am completely addicted to Diet Mt Dew, SweetTarts, and an array of other things that I'm sure are harming my body, I feel I will be a good specimen to test the Paleo claims. 

The whole idea of a Paleo diet is to eat how people did in the beginning. If a caveman couldn't eat it, neither can someone doing the Paleo diet. When I think about it, if cavemen were given our technology and medicine, they probably would have lived a very long time because they didn't have the sugary processed foods we have available now. 

I keep throwing the word Paleo around like everyone has also done research on this. If you are unfamiliar with the diet claims, here is the short version:

  • Cut out grains, dairy, soy, sugars, legumes, and basically all processed foods. 

    So what does that leave you to eat?

    • Meat, fowl, fish, eggs, vegetables, oils, fruits and nuts. Basically, the fresh, raw good stuff :)

My "before" stats:

  • weight: 128 lbs

  • energy level: exhausted and addicted to caffeine

Let's do this!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Supermarket Smarts

Have you ever wanted your own supermarket guru? Well you may have an answer to that wish, as Phil Lempert is attempting to fill that void in American society. 

I stumbled upon something interesting on his site today, what are your thoughts on this video and issue in general? 

Some of his sources for this video include: 
The Why? Behind the Buy
Food Category Price Increases 
Smarter Shopping 

Share your thoughts on this!

Hunt for the Best Burger in Charlotte

When I move to a new area, it is important for me to explore and find my go-to places for emergency cravings. For example, it wasn’t a coincidence my apartment in college was centrally located between the best BBQ in Knoxville and the best enchilada & margarita deals in town. However, moving to a new state proposes challenges to settling into a foreign community. I live in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina and had never visited prior to apartment hunting and moving. Charlotte is a bigger city than I grew up, and is full of new opportunities for culinary enjoyment. 

Because of this, I’m not surprised it’s taking me longer than ever before to find my favorite joints. Working and going to school full-time doesn’t help the equation, but I like to juggle like everyone else. I’ve come to accept finding my favorites will be a work in progress. 

So cheers to the hunt for the best burger in Charlotte!

The first contender is at Bad Daddy’s. Has a tough name, but is nestled in the quaint and historic neighborhood of Dilworth. The interior décor is a bit masculine and nostalgic, including Eric Clapton guitars and metal Coca-Cola antique signs I’m sure my father would drool over. At least until they brought out his food.

Customers have a choice of traditional fries, sweet potato fries or tater tots. A popular appetizer is the fried pickles, which are particularly interesting. So of course, I had to get them too, since everyone else is always munching on them each visit I have to Bad Daddy's. They are not chips or spears, but a concoction of both. Personally, I have to dip my fried pickles in a ranch dip or the like. Because of this tendency of mine, I did not enjoy Bad Daddy's fried pickles due to their odd shape. They were difficult to dip. Maybe I should start a hunt for the best fried pickles in Charlotte...

Okay, now about the burgers. My burger here is the Frenchie.  My favorite feature of this delight is the brie.  It melts between the crispy bacon and the burger to heighten this ooey-gooey burger experience. Complete with sliced granny smith apples and garlic mayo, this burger has won my heart. And no doubt, my taste buds. 

Here’s the unexpected catch that even shocked me: this is a turkey burger. I’m typically one to go all in unhealthy when treating myself to a burger, but I order this every time I’m at Bad Daddy’s. I have to confess, though, the first time I went I was on a double date and had been chatting too much to really read the menu. When the server approached the table, I skimmed the burger section, saw brie in a description, and ordered that burger not knowing what else this burger had in store for me. Honestly, it can only be explained by destiny.

I make up for my healthier burger choice at the end of the meal and order a handspun chocolate milkshake. Yumm…

Another prospect best burger is at Jackeloup Jack’s. Located in the Elizabeth neighborhood of Charlotte, this funky bar has an exceptional outdoor dining area, complete with a large TV for you sports fans. My puppy likes to tag along with me here, and the server always brings her a bowl of water before I even ask. That makes an impression to any parent of a furry four-legged family member. 

The interior décor reminds me of a college town bar, with arcade games that dudes seem to be attracted to like bugs to a street light on a summer night. I can’t blame them; there is an electric beer pong game that is pretty neat. It’s a popular place in Elizabeth to grab a drink, but I like to go for the food. 

My burger of choice at Jack’s is the Cali Cali burger. It has roasted red peppers, goat cheese, guacamole and red onions all on top of a beef burger. Depending on my mood, sometimes I take the red onions off--something about raw onions doesn't always sit well with me. This burger is delicious with or without the onions, I assure you. I love the rich and creamy texture of each bite, filled with the fresh flavors that take you to California, by design.
I have told many friends in Charlotte about my search for the best burger, and have plans to stop by other joints to continue my search for the best burger...

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Attention Trader Joe's Shoppers...

Trader Joe's issues recall of several products

Provided by

Business Cards for the Blog!

I got the business cards for the blog in the mail!

I have caught myself in a situation more and more lately where someone is wanting me to write down the site for my blog. Rather than scrambling for paper and pen, I decided to have business cards printed up. They are a really inexpensive way to utilize a new form of marketing for the blog. Here's what they look like! 



Friday, July 20, 2012

grilled peaches

When you’ve spent all day at the pool or grilling out, the last thing you may feel like doing is mixing up some cookies or a cake for dessert. Or at least that’s how I feel. SO my solution in such a situation is to keep the grill on a little longer and grill some fresh peaches. One perk of living in Charlotte is being able to drive thirty minutes south to get some juicy South Carolina peaches.

When grilling fruit, remember to oil the fruit so it doesn't stick to your grill. Don't be afraid to leave them on there for a while--you still want those grill marks!

Take a look at my grilled peaches, drizzled with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Meatless Monday:: Portabella Burger

My best friend and I have been through all sorts of phases with each other since we were six years old. Some are fashion phases, curly hair phases, too short bangs phases (thank God those have ended!) and the list could embarrassingly go on and on. However, my friend Whitney made a lifestyle change two years ago that is going to stick with her--and it also affects me. Yes, I am a culinary arts student who fearlessly eats anything who has a best friend who is a vegetarian. And proud.
This post is for you, Whit. Love you.

Vegetarians have various reasons for their lifestyle choices, but all suffer together when they want to eat out in a restaurant or public cookout. Not everyone is considerate of keeping options for vegetarians....or vegans, or gluten allergies, or etc. but that's a different post ;)
Realizing this, I made sure Whitney had some yummies to munch on for Fourth of July celebratory festivities. The first night I made a portabella mushroom burger that she absolutely drooled over. If you are looking for a re-inventive way to have a healthy and hearty burger without the beef, check this recipe!

The method of production is quite simple, so don't start stressing. You simply buy whole portabella mushrooms from the farmers market or grocery store and de-stem them all. It should come right off if you gently pull on it. Then place them on a well-oiled grill to get started. If you're worried about them sticking, you can wrap them in an aluminum foil pouch and that also works. For this specific burger, I also roasted some red bell peppers on the grill with the mushrooms.
Then, toast the burger buns so everything is hot and crunchy.
Now as Whitney knows, I am a huge cheese fan so I had to pair a delectable cheese for this burger. My choice was also one of her absolute favorites--goat cheese. And it went perfectly with this burger. To round everything out with the flavor profiles, and to provide a sauce for this burger, I added a homemade balsamic glaze. I also chose to soak the grilled mushrooms in this glaze before building the burger to add extra flavor.

What do you think?

So I am ordering business cards...

You have read correctly...I am ordering business cards! I meet many new people in my line of work on a daily basis, and often they ask me how I ended up in Charlotte and what I like to do, etc.'s much easier to hand them a card with my blog info on it rather than writing it hastily in my scribble scratch handwriting...

Pictures to come of the beautiful cards! But they will look a bit like this: 

Designed by yours truly :)  

Friday, July 6, 2012

Appetizers in a pinch

You know the frenzied felling all too well…the knots in your stomach return and your mind seems to be racing at 1,000 mph but you can’t seem to form thoughts? The moment you realize you have to bring an appetizer for a gathering and you completely forgot can be tantalizing. Thankfully, there are some tried and true recipes you can always rely on that will save you time to actually get yourself ready, too. 

First up, is also a kid-friendly idea: pigs-in-a-blanket. I have memories of helping mom make these as a kid. They require little production; just pick up mini-weenies and crescent rolls from the grocery store. They are always a great snack for young and old. Don’t forget to serve them with sauces for those munchers who like to dunk their pigies before chowing down. If you don’t have time to whip up homemade favorites, you can’t go wrong with BBQ, mustard & ketchup. 

Next, I always like to rely on a flatbread. Pillsbury has a pizza dough product right next to the crescent rolls in the refrigerated section that is perfect to make a quick flatbread when you’re in a pinch. The versatile thing about this recipe idea is you can alter the toppings and sauces for the guests taste! For example, my tomato-hating boyfriend came home to Tennessee with me for the Fourth of July and I made a fresh mozzarella and basil flatbread. Simple. Quick. And everyone loved it. The options are endless, but I like to have at least one appetizer present at a social gathering for vegetarians, so keep that in mind.

Finally, something that is a well-rounded appetizer is prosciutto crustini. It takes a bit to make, and requires prior planning. But if you’re on you’re a-game, try it out! We also served this for July Fourth poolside snacks, and I think my mother ate half of them by herself! This appetizer includes sliced French bread, homemade fig preserves, goat cheese, prosciutto, caramelized onions, and balsamic glaze. 

The method of production is simple if everything is already cooked. You can find bottled balsamic glaze, but I prefer to make it myself. Despite how much the vinegar stinks up the kitchen till your nostrils and eyes burn, it tastes better and I like to control the sugar content. But to each their own. I also like to make the fig preserves, and haven’t found a market where you can buy it. It’s easy though! I take dehydrated figs and cut the stems off, then chop them up into teensy pieces. Next, I place them in a small saucepot with ½ C. water and 1 C. sugar. I start the heat on medium to medium-high until all the sugar is dissolved, then crank it up to a boil for about five minutes. 

When it’s time to build the appetizer, I find it best to stack in this order: goat cheese, fig preserves, then prosciutto, and that’s all for now. Bake on the sliced French bread in the oven on 375 degrees till the crustinis are toasted and the prosciutto is a little warm. When you pull them out of the oven, add the caramelized onions next, then drizzle the balsamic glaze. When you’re about to serve, garnish with chopped chives. 

If you have zero time and don’t have any of these ingredients on hand before your event, you can always grab cream cheese, shredded cheddar and canned crushed pineapple, mix together and roll in whatever crushed nuts you can find to make a cheese-ball and call it a day. 

Happy frantic event cooking!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Homemade Jam Making

This summer I have gotten really big into jammin'. No, I'm not referring to how loudly I listen to my music. (Though my mother would argue that I do, in fact, do that.) During a visit to Tennessee, my nana taught me how to make homemade blackberry jam using wild blackberries from her yard. Not only did we have a blast, but I was able to transfer my knowledge to make different jam recipes. I think my coworkers are happy that I live by myself and made entirely too much jam because I bring it to work and they scoff it down.

Now about the method of preparation....

Nana says it is imperative to have everything ready in advance. In culinary school, they would say prepare your mise en place, but nana has a hard time pronouncing it correctly haha. First, we measured out 4 Cups of sugar and placed it in a bowl to the side. Then, prepared a small sauce pot with 3/4 Cups of water in it, where we will later cook the pectin. Now about the pectin. We bought boxes of the cooking kind, but there are instant powders out there if you want to skip a step. Finally, it is important to not only wash the berries, but also to strain out any stems, unfortunate bugs and other debris that may be lurking in your berries.
After your mise en place is prepared, it's time to smash the berries. There are various tools of choice for this task, however, you could save yourself a lot of time and frustration using the right tool for the job. Efficiency is always best in the kitchen. Nana likes to use her momma's potato masher, but you could also use a food mill. It is smart of you to heat the water while you're smashing the berries if you're making jam alone. If you have a sous chef, they can prepare the pectin as you smash the berries. After the berries are smashed, the water in the small sauce pot should be boiling so you can add the pectin powder. Most pectin requires it to boil for a minute, but make sure to pay attention to the cooking instructions for the specific product. While the pectin is cooking, stir in the 4 Cups of sugar to the smashed berries till the granules are evenly mixed and it's not grainy like sand. Then, pour in the cooked pectin and stir till everything is evenly incorporated.
At this point, I will remind you how important it is to have the right tool for the job. Many stores like Target and Walmart carry a jam making kit that is the best $7 nana says she has ever invested in. She grew up having to use a small spoon to transfer the jam into the small mason jars, however they made a funnel that fits perfectly into a jam jar and saves you LOADS of time. And the best part is your jars aren't all sticky on the outside when you're done :)

The fun thing I have found in jam making is the flavor combinations! I added the juice and zest of 1 lemon to nana's original wild blackberry recipe and it's so bright and fresh! I have also made a raspberry lemonade version that is a coworker favorite.
Happy jam making!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Artsy-Fartsy Time...

So I collect corks from when I drink wine...and from bottles I sell at periodically I use them for a purpose other than collecting dust in a basket. Here's the latest:

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Term 1 Complete

I have successfully completed my first term at Johnson & Wales University with a wonderful GPA! Whahoo!

This post is going to be a bit of an update on what I've been keeping secret, but also to give a sneak peek of things to come in future posts. 

So regarding culinary school...
It was more difficult than I expected to balance going to school full time, working full time and of course taking care of myself and my puppy. So unfortunately, I didn't allocate as much time as I wished to post on here. However, I am challenging myself to a whole new level of time management and discipline. 

My first term of culinary school included the following classes:
Soups, Stocks and Sauces
Traditional European Cuisine
Introduction to Dining Room
New World Cuisine
Introduction to Baking and Pastry

With one term down, I am confident in the proper method of production to techniques I have been doing in my apartment throughout college and the beginning of my young professional years.  I think the thing that was so unpredictable about culinary school was the tests. Prior to starting, I had imagined all the possibilities of how they would test me on materials and my mind raced to competitive Food Network shows and chefs like Gordon Ramsey screaming and waving a whisk at me. However, the balance JWU found with written information exams and cooking practicals was fun! The practicals had a bit of a Chopped feel, with certain ingredients required and time constraints. I loved every minute of it and I'm looking forward to the second term this fall!

Looking forward to...
A summer in Charlotte to explore farmers markets!!! I pledge to post what I find :)
I'm also taking a WSET certification class in July, and I couldn't be more thrilled. It will definitely be a journey worth blogging about, so stick around to find out how it goes for me!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Things I've made at JWU, term 1

School is keeping me a lot busier than I expected, so please forgive me for not elaborating. BUT here's some teaser pictures of things I've had a blast making so far during my first term here at Johnson & Wales University!

More to come...

Now off to do homework...

Monday, April 2, 2012

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

So I did a bit of experimenting with my favorite flavor profile in muffin: lemon blueberry.

I made some my traditional way:

Then I made some with a homemade blueberry compote on top:
And finally some with the compote swirled throughout the muffin:

You be the judge on which is best! Here is my basic muffin recipe:

3/4 C. granulated sugar
1/3 C. veggie or canola oil
3 T. melted butter
2 large eggs
1/3 C. buttermilk
1 T. vanilla
1 1/2 C. self-rising flour
1 1/2 C. blueberries
Juice and zest of two lemons
2 T. raw sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Whisk sugar, oil, melted butter til smooth and fluffy. Add eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla to mixture, whisk together. Fold flour into mixture until all flour is moistened and batter incorporated. Add juice and zest of two lemons, fold in blueberries until evenly incorporated. Sprinkle raw sugar over top of muffins as desired. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Picky Eaters

My parents will be the first to tell you how I grew up being the poster child for a picky eater. I spent many evenings alone at the dinner table scraping green beans back and forth hoping they would disappear and I would finally be granted permission to leave the table without having to eat them (which were my household rules). I remember how frustrated and discouraged I felt being forced to eat everything, but that was also part of growing up in the South. Using my personal experiences, I would instead advise parents to forget the "clean plate award club" and to encourage your picky eater to just try one bite of each item on the plate. That way, they're less discouraged and they will most likely find out they like items, and will be more willing to eat them in the future. Also, I was skeptical of my parents plate. I imagined their food must be drastically better than mine since they were making me eat a pile of green mush that smelled funny. Then one day my mother had me try something off her plate, and instead of slowly analyzing it I just ate it. And liked it. So when I saw the green mush on my own plate later, I just ate it because I remember I liked the taste, just smells funny. (An early memory of eating collard greens and cabbage).
People's tastes change over the years; mine certainly did. I wouldn't touch an onion with a ten foot pole when I was nine years old, but I love them now. Breaking a picky eater's habits should be focused on championing over small victories, one at a time. Things will become gradually easier. Though it's particularly difficult with adult picky eaters, like my boyfriend. Yes, I am a culinary arts student who has the challenge of feeding one of the most picky eaters I've ever known to exist. The picture below is a post-it of the things I am not allowed to cook with for our dinners. In his defense, he knows what he likes and he's confident in those items. And he is slowly branching out and trying new things. Mainly because I just cook casseroles or other items of the like with ingredients I know he doesn't enjoy by themselves. Then once he tries it and says he likes it, I'll add a "oh, there's ricotta cheese in that." It's a bit funny to watch him cringe, but he continues eating. So angles I would suggest to help adult picky eaters are to incorporate skeptical ingredients into something else and not to showcase them on their own until they are no longer taboo. Also, if a person is involved in the cooking or production process, they are more proud of the end result and will be more willing to try the food.
We all know some, or maybe we are the picky eater ourselves and know we need to branch out and eat a more well-balanced diet. Try some of these short tips to break through those barriers and to ditch the post-it on the fridge with what you're not allowed to cook with...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What did I do with MY cranberry sauce leftovers?

During my last post I confessed my love for cranberry sauce and went on a rant about how I think it's under appreciated. In another attempt to convince others to utilize cranberry sauce, I'm going to share what I did with my leftovers: 

Pictured above is my cranberry sauce on top of honey goat cheese and a rosemary raisin cracker. The perfect sweet and savory snack!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Who said cranberry sauce is only for the holidays?!

Okay, okay. I'm not sure if anyone ever said that, but it seems the understood expectation of cranberry sauce is:
1. It must be part of every Thanksgiving spread. 
2. It adds color to the table, but rarely is the entire batch ever eaten. Most people run to the turkey or casseroles. 
 3. It sits in the back of the fridge for a few days, then tossed out because not many people know what else to do with it.
Why is that?! I LOVE cranberry sauce. No, not the congealed kind that flops out of a can. I love the kind my momma makes, with fresh cranberries and hints of orange. Yummy!

Why am I ranting about this, in January? Because I was craving some cranberry sauce yesterday afternoon and I didn't want to wait till Thanksgiving to enjoy some. So I went to Trader Joe's (my new favorite grocery store in Charlotte) and got a bag of fresh cranberries to make some cranberry sauce to accompany dinner.
It wasn't until I returned home, had the berries on the stove top with a cup of sugar and fresh squeezed orange juice that I realized...what the heck and I going to eat with cranberry sauce tonight? I'm not going to roast a 20 lb. turkey. That's stupid. And it also won't fit in my teeny tiny studio apartment oven. (Seriously guys, it rivals an Easy Bake. Bless it.) So I began rummaging around the kitchen to see what I had to put a semi-cohesive meal together for my boyfriend and myself. 

I ended up making one of my favorite meals I've ever made myself. Yes, I think so. Here's the recipe of something I developed and served with turkey meatballs and my cranberry sauce:

Harvest Hash
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
Fresh Sage, chopped. (I used 6 leaves, but can adjust to taste)
2 T. unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Asian pears, cubed
2 apples of your choice, cubed (I used Pink Lady)
1/2 C. crushed walnuts
3 T. molasses 
1 T. honey
1 T. ground cinnamon
3 T. melted unsalted butter
1/2 lb. bacon
Take a saute pan on medium-high heat. Lightly saute sweet potatoes in butter and fresh sage. Salt and pepper to taste. You don't want the sweet potatoes to be completely cooked through, just giving them a head start. Saute for 3 minutes. 
Take a casserole baking dish and place warmed sweet potatoes, cubed pears, apples and crushed walnuts in dish. Stir together. 
In a separate mixing bowl, add molasses, honey and cinnamon. Mix together. Then, while still mixing, slowly pour in melted butter. Mix together till evenly incorporated. Pour sauce over contents of casserole baking dish and stir everything together. 
Cover casserole with aluminum foil and bake on 350 degrees for 30 minutes. (Since I made this with an almost Easy Bake oven, you may have to keep an eye on this and make sure your oven requires a different cooking time. Most likely, it will be less than 30 minutes.) 
While your casserole is baking away, turn on your grill pan and cook up the bacon. When it's to your likeness, crumble or cut up in diced pieces. After your first 30 minutes of baking time for the casserole is completed, remove aluminum foil and add cooked bacon. Stir together and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Serve hot and enjoy!

2012 brings new things...

I have successfully have started a new year in a new city. Settled in my new apartment, and applying for a new job. In March, as previously discussed on here, I will start a new school program to jump start my dream career as a food writer. I'm excited about studying culinary arts at Johnson and Wales University. March can't come soon enough! Yes, you could say this new year has brought several new things to me already, and I'm hoping for even better things to come. 

During my first week here in Charlotte, I have been fortunate enough to do a little exploring. Living in Uptown gives me not only many opportunities, but they are also convenient and within walking distance. My boyfriend, Grant, has lived in Charlotte since August, so he has a bit of an advantage on local info on me. It's been nice to get tips from him, though. He took me to my first Bobcats game, too. (for you non-sports fans, that's Charlotte's NBA basketball team). It was fun, but I still support Rondo and his Celtics! 

Lily, (my three-year-old Shiba Inu), also relocated with me. She sure enjoys the extra outdoors time with walking to do errands rather than driving with me. She even has a window in this apartment location to perch and look across her territory, just like she did in Tennessee.
Apart from the adjustment to the smaller apartment and the new noises, I think she's also settling in quite nicely. I've heard rumor of a dog park located close by, so I plan on going on a little adventure with her to check that out. She really misses her friends Jackson, Bear and Jabez, who still live in Tennessee. In an attempt to make opportunities for her to have new friends, a trip to the dog park may be in order. 

Now enough life updates, let's talk food. 

One of my new favorite restaurants is called the Dandelion Market. Located on 5th St., this American tapas bar has delicious food and a wide range of beers and wines, some are also of the local variety. My boyfriend and I have eaten there twice already! If you ever have  a few hours to spare in Uptown, I suggest checking it out if you're hungry. Sorry I don't have a teaser photo...the food smelled so good, I had to eat it immediately after they sat it in front of me!

Another restaurant I really love (and have also already visited twice!) is a brunch cafe called Toast. It's not walking distance for me, but a ten-minute drive away, nestled in the neighborhood of Dilworth. If you taste their hollandaise sauce, you'll understand how I feel they're definitely worth the drive. Here is a picture of a Sunday special, the lox benedict, with a side of hash browns.
For those who aren't up on their brunch dining options, lox benedict is commonly composed of smoked salmon on top of an English muffin, accompanied with none other than hollandaise sauce. I have also had Toast's four cheese quiche, which was also velvety and flavorful. There are many different options of baked items on the Toast menu, too. And if you're looking for just a good piece of toast, you have a variety of breads to choose from as well. 

Also, I did a little experiment in my own kitchen last night. Stay tuned for a post about those yummies!