Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Christmas Spirit

Exams are quickly approaching at Davidson. Friday is the first day of exams, but already the stress is suffocating. I just don’t like being in an environment of sleep-deprived and stressed, often sick, people. Therefore, I find it very difficult to have Christmas cheer at this time of year here. Christmas in Davidson, a community Christmas celebration is an exception.

This year to get in the spirit, Jerry and I decorated a gingerbread house together (from Trader Joe’s). Jerry was definitely better at cementing everything together and other important things like decorating the roof and gluing the people on with the royal icing. I was the one that was more creative. I incorporated cereal and other random food laying around into our design. I was a little bit more fearless decorating; for example, I put the gummy fruit on the Christmas tree. I didn’t even realize how little sense this made until Jerry so kindly pointed it out to me. However, it was so much fun to do this. With a stomach full of Pops (I didn’t even know these existed) and royal icing, I was able to start to anticipate the Christmas season.

 IMAG0123    IMAG0125

The Masterpiece, left: back of the house, right, front of the house (the people and dog/cat? were included)

Earlier, over Thanksgiving break, I participated in the centuries old Christmas tradition of making fruit cake. My parents like it (I do not but am always up for baking) and had not made it in several years. So, my dad hauled the huge pot done from our attic and we scraped out the cobwebs. He repeated many times (I think it was directed at me) that we could not mess this up because it was an expensive cake to make. I think this clues you in to my unreliable track record with baking. After 16 hours of steaming on the stove, the cake actually turned out just as it was supposed to. Whether it is making a fruit cake or decorating sugar cookies, whatever fun food tradition (or soon-to-be tradition) you have  I encourage you to do it with people you love and get in the Christmas spirit!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

So, what do you eat?

When I tell people that I don’t have a meal plan and that I am not in an eating house (Davidson’s version of sororities) their first reaction is, “So, what do you eat?” Although I don’t find it strange that I am competent enough to shop for and feed myself, evidently some of my friends and peers do. For all of those doubters and students who don’t think they could do it, let me just say that you could. I happen to be passionate about food and about eating healthy, minimally processed food so honestly you couldn’t pay me to go back to a 19 meal plan. I love the gratification that comes from making a delicious concoction, even if it is totally random or not the most visually appealing (like that one time I mixed together tuna, guacamole, and Sriracha).

In case you are interested, here are some of the things I eat. I would hope that you might just learn something or find some inspiration to try to cook for yourself.



0% fat Fage with Trader Joe’s cranberry sauce mixed in

Whole grains with almond milk (unsweetened vanilla), dried fruit (right now I love apples and cranberries), and nuts (walnuts and almonds are my favorites!)

Oatmeal (made with water in the microwave) with Greek Yogurt (for creaminess) and something delicious mixed in (caramelized pears, baked sweet potatoes, and sweet potato butter are all delicious!)

IMG_3991Waffle stacker (this one made with pumpkin puree, agave nectar, and cinnamon + cranberry sauce+ spiced almonds, buckwheat waffle base)

Overnight oats with almond milk, peanut or almond butter, and dried fruit

Go to: anything with peanut butter and bananas, peanut butter on toast





Waffle sandwich (with organic freshly ground peanut butter, local NC apples, and chia seeds on buckwheat waffles) [yep, this could be breakfast too, but many of the meals I eat blur the line between lunch/dinner and breakfast]

Carrots with peanut butter or yogurt dip (dijon mustard, Greek yogurt, and Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute)

Apples with peanut or almond butter

Hummus wrap

Egg mugs (egg, milk or water, and veggies, heat in the microwave)

Go to: Whole grains (brown rice, farro, wheat berries, quinoa) with falafel balls, tempeh, or veggies (and usually Sriracha) [I have a rice cooker in my room that makes this super convenient]


Hot Drinks


Mum tea (the dried blossoms unfold in the hot water and make it turn a beautiful pale yellow color)

Almond milk with spicy fair trade hot chocolate mix

Almond milk with sweet potato butter and cinnamon

Organic chai tea or white tea with roses (loose-leaf)



When I am feeling gourmet (or just want to procrastinate):


Whole wheat bread bowls from How Sweet It Is, the one on the left with leftover veggie chili (mine) and the decidedly carb-loaded one on the right with white cheddar macaroni and cheese (Jerry’s)

DSC_0539Egg poached in the microwave (crack an egg in a mug with 1/2 cup water and a tablespoon or white vinegar, microwave for a minute)

A fried egg on anything (toast, eggs, roasted vegetables)

Tuna burger (canned tuna, egg, peppers, Sriracha, wheat germ, cook in a frying pan)

IMG_3894Noodle dishes (mainly with peanut butter and veggies)


Cake in a mug




Honestly, the main principles I follow for feeding myself are simple:

1) Take advantage of free food, especially if it is ethnic or healthy (this is easy for college students)

2) Don’t waste food, eat food that are will go bad soon first (Duh!)

3) Embrace leftovers (they can be just as good as the original but allow for more experimentation)

4) Be creative!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Middle of the Week Treat


Pumpkin Petit Four from Amelie’s. Enough said.

Of course I am not serious. I think that something deep down inside me would be seriously disturbed if I just posted a picture and a seven word caption. However, the pumpkin petit four from Amelie’s is certainly good enough to deserve that kind of a spotlight, a big picture with just a few words. The attention to detail in the layering is what makes this one superb and seasonal petit four.The top layer has the most pumpkin flavor that hits your taste buds first but is very smooth, almost like a less sticky caramel. Then, there is a cream cheese layer that is fluffier and has a slight tang to balance the sweetness of the other layers. Next is a spice cake layer that is truly has lots of spice but is not dense or too sweet. Rounding out the petit four, on the bottom is a graham cracker cookie crust that is buttery with a slight crunch. The textures in this multilayered cake confection are perfectly matched. You probably know that I am generally obsessed with pumpkin; but, regardless of this obsession, this petit four is truly remarkable and worth a try if you are in the NoDa neighborhood. Also, this two or three bite small treat is very satisfying and will only cost you just over $2.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Sweet Potato Truffles

Sweet potatoes + truffles, where can you go wrong?

First of all, I love sweet potatoes! Fun fact: these vitamin-packed tubers are my favorite vegetable! Second, truffles (as in the chocolate confection, not the very different but equally delicious fungus) can be the perfect little treat to satisfy a chocolate craving. They are creamy and chocolate-y and normally have a fun filling (I once had a divine white chocolate Kahlua truffle from 20 Degrees Chocolates). So, why not combine the two?

This week I wanted to make a snack for a club and as usual wanted to try something new. This club advocates for and tries to engage students in making responsible consumption choices. My thought process was as follows: “I have local, organic sweet potatoes in my room (from the Bowers house and as mentioned in the past blog post) and I want to find something that is easy and fast to make. Hmmm… Healthy Home Market is a few minutes away and they have delicious fair trade, organic chocolate that I haven’t had in a while. How can I combine the both of these?”

Several Google searches later, I had a base recipe for my sweet potato truffles. Below is my recipe, very responsibly made, delicious (they were a hit at the meeting!), and fairly ugly (but I would like to think the first two descriptions make up for this).


Orange Sweet Potato Truffles

Inspired by Ginger Beat

Yield: 12-15, depending on the size


1/2 cup chocolate chips (dark chocolate is best)

1 cup mashed sweet potato

1-1/2 cups raw chopped walnuts (pecans, cashews, hazelnuts, or pistachios would work here too; also, toasting the nuts would give a nice flavor)

Salt to taste

2 teaspoons orange essential oil (orange zest would work well, but use 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons)


1/4 cup cocoa powder

chopped nuts

Chop walnuts and set aside. Place the mashed sweet potato in a glass bowl. Add chocolate chips and microwave for about 45 seconds (more or less depending on the microwave) until the chocolate chips start to melt. Add nuts, salt, and orange essential oil to bowl and mix together by hand.** Smooth mixture out and place in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment or wax paper.

If using, place cocoa powder or chopped nuts in a shallow bowl or dish. Use a spoon to scoop out a tablespoon of mixture. Roll by hand into a ball shape and then gently roll in cocoa or nuts until covered.

Place on cookie sheet and store in the refrigerator until serving.

**For more uniform and truffle-like balls, you can combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth (no need to microwave chocolate chips). Then, roll truffles out in the same way as mentioned above.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I did!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

New Blog Design

Well, one thing lead to another and instead of doing homework I redesigned my blog. Tell me what you think and leave a comment! (It’s okay to be honest, I can take it.)

Digging Sweet Potatoes, a Davidson County Adventure

When asked what my plans were for this weekend, I responded that I was going home to dig sweet potatoes. I got quite a few strange looks and unsure “that’s cool”s. Some of my friends are from Charlotte or Chicago or South Korea and have probably never seen a sweet potato in a context other than on their plate. However, my family treasures our garden. During the summer it is a bounty of fresh produce and provides hours of enjoyment through picking and watering (I understand that this only constitutes “fun” to a certain segment of the population).
Our family garden’s growing season extended a bit longer than usual last summer when I bought six sweet potato plants on a whim. My rationale was that I like sweet potatoes and that we probably had a place to put them, so why not? Sweet potatoes are meant to be dug up before the first frost (according to my 93 year old great-grandmother whom I trust more than most gardening authorities). Therefore, last year my parents dug up the little plot of land in which we had planted the 6 plants in beginning-mid October. I think they were initially surprised to find way more than six sweet potatoes and were surprised that they were of any size since we had literally ignored them. But, the whole bed was filled with sweet potatoes, and some were really huge (like bigger than a football). Unfortunately, I was studiously occupied at Davidson during this inaugural digging of sweet potatoes. Fortunately, I was able to enjoy sweet potatoes until well into the spring. This year, I helped plant the sweet potatoes again. The only change from last year was that we planted more sweet potatoes and one time I sprinkled chili powder around the perimeter of the sweet potato patch (deer or rabbits had been eating the leaves off of the vines and I wanted to deter them but I can’t really confirm how well this worked). I have to say that digger sweet potatoes was way cooler than it sounds.  Ripping away the leaves and vines to see sweet potatoes bulging up out of the earth, with many more hidden below the surface is a way of seeing what nature can produce and connecting this back to what you eat.
Jerry and Dad cutting away the vines
Me holding up some small sweet potatoes
Our bounty of sweet potatoes, stored in the basement on newspaper these will last for a LONG time

Below are a few things I learned from digging sweet potatoes:
-the ones on top are the easiest to spot and dig up (obvious, but true)
-the ones that you can’t see at first are prime targets for shovels or trowels to slash into or for me to snap in half while trying to pull out (oops!)
-digging sweet potatoes can be a good excuse for playing in the dirt, a trowel or shovel is not necessary as long as you use your digits
-don’t discriminate; oddly shaped and broken in half sweet potatoes are still perfect for making sweet potato butter (recipe here)
-scrubbing the dirt off of sweet potatoes is messier and more time-consuming than it seems
-sweet potato butter is right up there with pumpkin butter and apple butter in terms of deliciousness
The above mentioned sweet potato butter on top of a healthy pumpkin cake. I have also found the sweet potato butter delicious in oatmeal!
Enjoy this fall weather and please eat something with pumpkin or sweet potato, lots of spice, and everything nice!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Random Article

If you care about me, or care about some of the same things that I care about (for instance, North Carolina, the city of Charlotte, or food), then please read this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/29/dining/in-charlotte-nc-democrats-will-find-a-growing-food-scene.html?_r=1 My friend Alexandra brought it to my attention recently and I am so happy that Charlotte is getting credit where credit is due for its food scene. Charlotte is more than the home of Bank of America, the Carolina Panthers, and the 2012 Democratic National Convention. And, for the Charlotteans, let’s not forget to support these businesses and show our appreciation that Charlotte has more to offer than forty-something Starbucks and the original Bojangles.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What I haven’t written

It has been about two months since my last post. During this time I have been grappling with whether I want to continue blogging or not. It is the typical head vs. heart dilemma. Quite honestly, I am still trying to figure it out. So, bear with me and I will keep you in the loop. But for now, here is a brief recap of my life for the past two months. This is primarily in pictures and if you will notice, the second half of the pictures are considerably better. It’s because I have a real DSRL camera now! It was quite a surprise to receive it and there is a learning curve but I love using it!  (Thanks Jerry!)



Lemon olive oil muffins. These sound kind of strange but using olive oil in baked goods has become one of my new favorite things. These were light and summery!







Lemon whoopie pies that I made with my host mom. Delicious and fun to make!







Food trucks, I am obsessed with them and Charlotte has them; therefore, the perfect lunch date with a friend from work.





Hiking adventure with a lovely friend at Mt. Mitchell, North Carolina’s highest peak.





I discovered a new taste for sprouted bread. And of course, its even better with peanut butter and blueberry jam!

DSC_0054I am so loyal to this stuff. Almost every single time I have gone to Ben and Jerry’s for the past six months, I have gotten Banana and Peanut Butter Greek Frozen Yogurt (I think you can see a common thread, I probably eat way to much peanut butter).



DSC_0083Making sprouted bread. Except it honestly didn’t turn out exactly as I planned (which means that I threw it in the trashcan in frustration). I tried to get fancy and make cinnamon raisin swirl sprouted bread. Note to self: stick to the recipe, whoever ever created it knows more than you do!



DSC_0123   Succulent garden. I love this! I made it in the mountains with my grandmother and now have it sitting on the windowsill in my dorm room. Nana said they are hard to kill….. only time will tell.





Baking with friends that I missed so much over the summer. The result: delicious chocolate pudding chocolate chip cookies





New experiences! For our anniversary, Jerry and I went up in a small plane (is it possible to get motion sickness from a plane? if so, then I had it) and he got to take the controls for part of the time. Very fun!



View of Lake Norman from the window of the plane.




Last weekend I got to see two great Braves games with Jerry and his family. I don’t know that much about baseball but it was really fun (I didn’t even have to pull out my Kindle that I brought for backup entertainment)!




Waxy monkey frog, my favorite of the 12 species of frogs and toads featured in an exhibit at the Georgia Aquarium. He literally looked like fake.






Fall is here! I wore a pair of wine-colored skinny jeans today (the picture distorted the color a bit, but imagine that they have a bit of burgundy in them). It was wonderful! Next come the boots and cardigans!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ah, Simplicity

Everyone knows that cherry tomatoes are best when popped right into your mouth after picking, hot from the summer sun and exploding with the first bite. For years, my grandparents used to have massive cherry tomato plants in their garden. My sister, cousin, and I would go down to the garden with our grandparents and each fill up a small bucket with these bite-size treasures. My cousin and I would eat them with much pleasure (my sister was a picky eater), but I remember that she always would say she didn’t like regular tomatoes, only cherry tomatoes. I distinctly recall sitting in the back of my grandfather’s rusty, blue truck (which he lovingly called “Old Blue”) and eating handfuls and handfuls of tomatoes. We didn’t even bother wiping off the tomatoes before we ate them. In a way, I still enjoy them to this day unwashed, with a thin layer of red mud lending an earthy flavor and grainy texture to the cherry tomato. For me, this is summer. Cherry tomatoes are simple (I mean I don’t even have to wash them), sweet, juicy, and when freshly picked, hot. All of these adjectives also describe summer in my book.


Although I have mainly eaten cherry tomatoes in their raw form, I saw a recipe in Cooking Light the other day that was supposedly simple and included cherry tomatoes. It was a pasta dish and I was happy to see there was no marinara (I hate that stuff) but a good amount of garlic and olive oil (which are more my speed). I had noticed some whole wheat penne in the pantry. Although the recipe called for linguine, I figured I would try the recipe anyway. It was a keeper. I really enjoyed the roasted garlic and cherry tomatoes which were just starting to pop open from the heat. Although penne was not the easiest pasta to eat with chunky toppings, the taste was fantastic. I added basil and parmesan on top. The recipe was decidedly simple, it took me about thirty minutes to make the recipe but it wasn’t very much work, mainly just waiting on the pasta to boil. In the future, I think that this dish could also be good with other summer vegetables, like squash and zucchini. Less simplicity but a good way to use up these abundant summer veggies. Here is the link to the recipe. Enjoy!


Sunday, July 1, 2012

I Heart CLT

I am living in Charlotte for the summer, in case you didn’t know. This week, I have taken public transportation everywhere and I feel as if I am a little bit more of a city gal. (However, I can’t wait to go home in a few days, pick our grapes, cook with vegetables straight out of the garden, play with my dog, grill out with my family on the back porch, read on a rocking chair on our front port, and walk around barefoot in the backyard.) Through this somewhat trying public transportation experience, I have found out that I love the light rail! Most people keep to themselves and there are a  few guys that are a little too friendly if you know what I mean, but there is air conditioning and it is almost always a pleasant trip. As a result, I have tried to go as many places I can to explore this week. 
Here are just a few of the adventures I have had: spur-of-the-moment trip to NoDa/Amelie’s with intern S, check, uptown to King’s Bakery for lunch with intern H, yep, to the Visulite Theater in Elizabeth to hear Erick Baker and Jill Andrews with interns A and H, uh-huh, random trip to Harris-Teeter, duh, and treating myself to a peanut butter blondie from Cloud 9 Confections in 7th Street Public Market, most definitely (it had been a rough day, I needed it). As you can see, many of these revolve around food, but I just wanted to take advantage of my week pass and I think I can say that I did. I am actually a bit sad that I can no longer use my weekly pass. While using the pass and exploring the city, it has made me love and appreciate Charlotte even more, the people, places, and even the relatively efficient public transit system.
Uptown Charlotte at night.
Last weekend I was fortunate enough to eat at two wonderful and swankier restaurants. Last Sunday, I reached a milestone; I ate at my tenth restaurant on the list of the “25 Best Restaurants in Charlotte”. Last weekend I ate at Halcyon Saturday night and at Customshop on Sunday for brunch. Because I have hit a small milestone, I have decided to start a series about my impressions of these places (although it may be interrupted by recipe posts to mix things up a bit). Eating at these one-of-a-kind restaurants in Charlotte has deepened my appreciation for the Queen City and made me love this place that I am temporarily calling home even more. In the restaurants, I can see the visions of their owners and I love the creativity, the attention to the quality and sourcing of ingredients, the array of different ethnic options, and welcoming atmosphere present in all of them. I will start with an overview of the last two of these restaurants that I have eaten at.
Left: scone with apple butter; right: huevos rancheros
This farm-to-fork restaurant in Elizabeth definitely was surprisingly not crowded for Sunday lunch at 12:45 but with the delicious food it is a wonder that there were few people there. The atmosphere is modern but simple with large industrial looking booths and tables as well as patio seating. Evidently the atmosphere is a bit fancier and more intimate for dinner when house made pastas are featured and are supposed to be quite a hit. We had a good server and the service was prompt. However, I specifically asked for my dish without beans and it came with beans anyway. Also, my grandfather ordered the Focaccia Panini but they had just run out a few minutes before (no worries though, he still enjoyed the short rib burger). Our meal began with crescent-shaped scones and apple butter. The mini scones were still warm and studded with dried fruit (raisins or possibly currants). It was a nice two bites to start the meal. The menu wasn’t huge but everything that I tried proved that the kitchen emphasized quality over quantity of choices. I ordered Huevos Rancheros. The roasted corn pancakes were light and served as a good base for the spicier and more vibrant flavors of the pico de gallo and sauce. The two eggs perched atop the corn cakes were cooked perfectly to my liking, poached and soft. My grandmothers ordered the  Blueberry & Marscapone French Toast and Spinach Salad, Scallops, Cottonmill Mushrooms & Warm Bacon-Mustard Vinaigrette. The French Toast was delicious and not too sweet, made with good quality bread and fresh, local blueberries. The spinach salad was a warm salad, with complex flavors from the carmelized onions, roasted mushrooms and tomatoes, and bacon. This isn’t a light, summery salad, but it was a delicious and filling meal. The scallops themselves were large and tender, seared on both sides to perfection. Customshop is known for their house made charcuterie which was listed on a blackboard by the door as well as local cheeses. Although I didn't get to try this, the wild boar was especially intriguing. I would love to go back and try their dinner selections and charcuterie/cheese selection.
The outdoor seating area of Halcyon, tucked into the Mint Museum.
Another farm-to-fork restaurant, Halcyon is located uptown in the Mint Museum. The atmosphere is true to the vision of the restaurant. There are exquisite high tables with tabletops made of a cross-section of a large tree, showing the rings. The other tables inside are intimate but not stuffy. Jerry and I sat outside, which may have been a mistake considering the humidity and high temperatures that night. However, the seating was positioned to give diners a nice view of downtown. The chairs were large and slightly reclining, adding comfort and relaxation instantly. Even the silverware and plates were in keeping with the natural theme and added to the overall ambience. Our service here was excellent, from the warm greeting by the hostess to our waiter that treated us like old friends. However, I would definitely recommend making reservations; the restaurant filled up quickly after we came for our 6:15 reservations. We were first served some bread with specialty butters, basil and tangerine. These were different but equally tasty on the crusty French bread slices. The menus here are unique in that there are grazing (appetizers), grown (salads), and raised (main course meat) sections to the menu, as a well as a libations and dessert menu. Jerry and I decided to try several different things to try to have the best experience here. We started off with the Trio of Regional and Inspired Cheeses and the Hearth Skillet Cornbread. The cornbread came hot out of the oven in a small cast iron pan. The sweet, moist bread was studded with bits of salty country ham and a dollop of blackberry butter was melting on top. The sweet and salty combination was amazing and made for a unique twist on cornbread. We literally polished off the whole pan (this was when I started to feel full although Jerry tried to tell me there was no way I was full already) before getting to the cheese board. That night there was a goat cheese, an aged cheese (reminiscent of Swiss) with cocoa nibs, and a Stilton blue cheese with sliced apples, dried fruit, and a fruit chutney. The cheeses came from Asheville, Greensboro, and somewhere in Georgia; our waiter was very knowledgeable about where the cheeses came from and the flavors of each. We enjoyed them all but the one with cocoa nibs might have been my favorite, although there wasn’t a strong chocolate flavor. For our entrée, we ordered the Lardcore Quail which came with farro and greens in a delicious jus. The quail (it was the first time I had tried this delicacy) was fried to perfection. I normally do not even like greens but these were packed with flavor and the farro was cooked well, absorbing some of the jus from the greens. All of these components made a very interesting bite with complimenting flavors and textures. By the time, we finished the entrée, we were stuffed and unable to try one of the four desserts (they change daily) which I would have been hard pressed to pick from because they all sounded so delicious. Halcyon put a new spin on old southern favorites using local produce and the appetizers are especially quirky and fun.
Top: cornbread with blackberry butter melting on top; bottom: fried quail on top of greens and farro.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Dog Days are Over

This week, summer has come in in full force. In Charlotte, the humidity has been oppressive and it has been just plain hot, with highs hitting the 90s almost everyday this week. On days like these,who feels like cooking? (Admittedly I still like steamers, hot chocolate, and hot tea in the summer, don’t judge.) But, I have to eat and I still want to eat well. So, here is the dilemma, stand over a hot stove sweating or stick with salads. But, alas, it doesn’t have to be this way! Although I have been on a smoothie kick lately (lots of super ripe peaches + blueberries +  yogurt= smoothie), I have also been obsessed with my host mom’s Eating Well cookbook. Herein was the answer. A meal that didn’t require much preparation or a long cooking time and wasn’t too heavy.

I discovered this recipe Monday, after realizing that I was starving. At 5:00 I felt confident in taking on rush hour traffic if it meant that I could get home to some nourishment. Needless to say, when I got back to the house, dinner was my first priority. I had picked up a beautiful purple Asian eggplant at the farmers’ market a few days before and thought there was a roasted veggie sandwich recipe I had seen in the Eating Well cookbook. I put my own spin on this sandwich and came up with one that I actually made again a few days later it was so good. It was still summery and light, using fresh produce but also substantial enough for a filling Meatless Monday dinner.

Roasted Eggplant Open-Faced Sandwich

Serves 1

1/3 Asian eggplant, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds

1/4 red bell pepper, cut into strips

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 Laughing Cow wedge

Pinch of crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon each of chopped fresh oregano, basil, parsley

Two slices of good whole wheat bread

Combine eggplant, red bell pepper, olive, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Arrange on a baking sheet and put under the broiler. Once eggplant and red pepper slices are browned and tender, which takes about 10 minutes, remove from oven and let cool. Meanwhile, toast bread until lightly browned. Then, spread with Laughing Cow cheese and sprinkle with red pepper flakes, according to taste. Chop eggplant and roasted red pepper into 1/2 inch pieces and mix together. Spoon thismixture onto each sandwich half. Sprinkle with fresh herbs.



Coming up soon: I will tell about my recent trips to several “Top 25” restaurants in Charlotte. Mouth watering pictures included!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Can You Spell Tradition?

Every family has traditions, many of which center around holidays and food. My family goes to the Christmas Eve service at church and then to my grandparents house for dinner every year. Each member of my family’s birthday is also treated like a special holiday. We all get up early on that special person’s birthday to open presents and have breakfast; also, birthday celebrations absolutely must last at least a week or two, getting together with both sides of the family, the immediate family, and friends. I also shared traditions with my friends in high school. We went to a certain restaurant that served a bucket of in-the-shell peanuts on every tables. Now, with some of my friends I make very regular visits to Summit (THE hip coffee shop in Davidson). It is obvious that many of the traditions I share with the people I love center around food. And, I’m not sad about it.

Well, Jerry and I have officially coined a new tradition. So far, our tradition is only two years strong. Although this tradition is still young, we have no plans of stopping it. This Saturday we went to the Taste of Charlotte, a food festival celebrating restaurants in Charlotte. There we met some of my fellow intern friends and ran into other Davidson students, making this year even more fun. Fun fact: last year we spotted Michael Jordan at the festival. This year, no celeb sightings but the weather was far better, perfect for a sundress or shorts and no need for an umbrella.


Jerry contemplating his next move on the giant Connect Four board. We have each played too many games of Connect Four for one of us to best the another. Although we tied, it was still fun.

There are always random fun things going on other than eating, like the man that escaped from a straight jacket laced with chains, a soulful jazz band playing on the corner, cooking demonstrations, or an over-sized Four Square board. Oh yeah, did I mention the free samples? There are plenty of those although most of the good stuff you have to buy with tokens. All food ranges from one to three tokens. Tokens are 15 for $20. Jerry and I have learned from last year and were able to both eat our fill (although we did take advantage of EVERY sample) with just one cup of tokens. This is cheaper than most of our meals and the atmosphere made it a great way to kick off the summer.

Here is a sample of what I got this year:

IMG_3623Masala Dosa (3 TOKENS) from Woodlands Indian Cuisine (thanks to Jerry for holding the plate, I am no good at juggling a camera, camera case, massive pocketbook, every coupon or brochure that I passed by, and a plate). This classic Indian dish had a bright yellow and well seasoned potato filling wrapped in the equivalent of a crispy Asian crepe. One sauce tasted as if it was a cauliflower puree and was very silky and cool, especially compared to the red sauce which was served hot and had more of that classic Indian spice that I love! Definitely a good choice.


Muffaletta Slider (2 TOKENS) with Almond Cheerwine Pudding(1 TOKEN) from e2 Emeril’s Eatery which utilizes local, seasonal food. The muffaletta was made with capicola, which lent a richness to the slider, and tangy olive tapenade to balance the meat and cheese. I have always wanted to try this Cajun classic and this was a good first experience. The almond Cheerwine pudding was a cute and delicious end to the meal. It played on the classic pairing of cherry and vanilla, while also incorporating North Carolina’s favorite soft drink. Great way to finish the night!

After our bellies were full, we just walked around uptown and visited our favorite Harris Teeter. It is a slightly more compact Harris Teeter because it is located uptown and it even has an upstairs (although I haven’t been up there since it is reserved for wine)! We got drinks (I found out that dark chocolate almond milk is quite tasty and something I want to drink more of) and continued our aimless wandering.


The day after the food festival, Jerry and I were talking about it when he said, “Can you spell tradition?” I knew what he was referring to but had never heard of that expression. I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying,  “Yes, T-R-A …” and instead agreed that we would most definitely have to go again next year. Here’s to new traditions!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Lime Tartlets

I am a cake person, plain and simple. If given a choice, I would choose cake (especially if it is carrot, hummingbird, or red velvet) over about any other dessert. I love the texture of cake, the different flavors of icing that can be paired with it, and how it can even be eaten for breakfast on your birthday or special occasions. I appreciate that cake is associated with weddings (I actually did a whole research paper on the evolution of wedding cakes and their cultural values) and birthdays, can be made in all different sizes and shapes, and is so fun to make. This cake is what Jerry and I devoured after we got engaged and Rainbow Chip takes me back to many birthday parties.
But, to each his own. Jerry’s favorite dessert is key lime pie (although there is definitely some overlap, red velvet cake is a shared love). Key lime pie is a dessert that his grandma makes for him, the first dessert that we ate together (if I am not mistaken, although we didn’t feed each other or anything romantic like that), and it is what he had on a trip to the Florida Keys, made with fresh, local key limes. For Jerry, I will eat pie instead of cake. I figured that after over two and a half years of being together, it was time that I make him key lime pie. I put a spin on his favorite treat using ingredients that I had on hand and surprised him with it. I basically looked at a lot of recipes and then just improvised.


These last several years, my interest in baking and all things food related has intensified and I have made a lot of desserts. But, after trying one of these lime tartlets Jerry remarked that it is one of the best things I have ever made him. This comment really touched me. Needless to say, I was on Cloud 9 for the rest of the night. So, this post is for Jerry as he enjoys the rest of his tartlets and I try to find other ways to show him I love him as well as he shows me.
Let them eat pie! Enjoy!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Crème de la Crème

I am no expert in the French language. In fact, the pronunciations for this beautiful language totally elude me. However, I do know this one phrase, “Crème de la crème”. Literally translated it means “cream of the cream” but it less literally means “best of the best”. To me, the phrase sounds foreign and sophisticated, so every once in a while I might try to throw it into conversation. However, Saturday I made a dessert that truly embodied this phrase, it was the best of the best and one of the best desserts I have ever made.

Friday, I went strawberry picking for the first time with Jerry and his grandparents. I know, I know, why hadn’t I been before? I really don’t know but I am glad that I had the chance to the other day. It was an experience that left me with red, strawberry-stained hands, a full belly, and a further appreciation for where my food comes from.


Strawberries still on the vine

Ingram’s Strawberry Farm is a family-owned farm in High Point, North Carolina. You can pick your own strawberries (which is actually a bit cheaper) or buy already picked berries. They also have goats, cows, chickens, and honey bees. Visitors can see where hens lay their eggs and the inner workings of a beehive. The farm workers here are extremely friendly and seem to love what they do. Another plus, if you pick your own you can eat while you work.


Unfortunately, we went right after a rainy period and many of the strawberries were starting to rot on the vine. But, there were still plenty of plump, red strawberries waiting to be picked from rows marked with yellow flags (to let people know where to pick). We each filled up a full bucket with the sweet, red berries. Each one was juicy and my mom later said that it tasted as if they had been soaked in sugar. The natural sweetness of the warm berries fresh from the vine made them addicting and I couldn’t stop eating them! It gave a new meaning to local for me. It wasn’t just fruit that I bought from a farmer at the farmer’s market but it was farm to mouth, berries with dirt on them and we picked the “best of the best”. There was no packaging, pesticides, or shipping but pure delicious simplicity.

There was a tractor with an attached trailer that would take you to the rows to be picked and then back to the barn. A small family-run kitchen with strawberry-inspired and other fresh desserts, like cobbler and homemade ice cream. The cobbler was enough to entice anyone waiting to pay for strawberries to the eatery and outdoor dining area. Preserves and honey produced onsite were also for sale and looked nearly as good. It was refreshing to see honey without a label on the jar because it was just honey, from bees on the farm, and preserves with a small label just large enough to fit the several ingredients, not one of which is high fructose corn syrup, that it is made from.


Me picking strawberries

When we got home, I had a lot of very ripe strawberries. I thought that I could somehow incorporate them into a dessert but I have already made a freeform strawberry tart this season and from this experience I decided no pie crust for me (besides, pie isn’t my favorite). But, I have been wanting to make crème brûlée for a while. So, I thought, “Aha, crème brûlée with strawberries and fresh mint!” I just knew that it would be equally creamy and fresh. (The mint would come from my mom’s herb garden.) Shockingly, I don’t have a blow torch but I found several recipes that said that the broiler would do the same sugar crystallization . I tried a recipe from The Kitchn because I always like their recipes and they didn’t let me down this time either.

I had deeper ramekins so the recipe made three larger desserts. I had to watch the top of the dessert like a hawk . The broiler didn’t cook the tops very evenly and it was necessary to rotate the ramekins every minute or two. I think if I made this with any regularity I would invest in a blow torch; for the time being, probably not. I served them after only letting them sit for 5 minutes because I like a warm custard underneath. The top caramelized better than I thought and it was perfectly crisp when my spoon broke through the top. If you are feeling slightly ambitious, try this recipe and you won’t be disappointed.

Vanilla Almond Crème Brûlée

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract


  • 1/3 cup fine white sugar

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Whisk together egg yolks, then add the confectioner’s sugar and a pinch of salt and stir. Add the heavy cream and whisk until it becomes a light yellow. Pour mixture through a sieve into another bowl to strain out the lumps. Add the extracts and stir. Use a ladle to portion into 4 to 6 ramekins. Place ramekins into a baking dish and place in preheated oven. Pour 3 cups of boiling water into the pan, surrounding ramekins. Cooking times for the custard will vary depending on the size and depth of the ramekins. For shallower ramekins, the custard will take only about 30 minutes to cook but 50 minutes for those in deeper ramekins. (The custard should be wobbly but not liquid in the center when it is done. It will set up in the fridge.) Take ramekins out of pan. Allow to cool at room temperature for 5 minutes and then put in the refrigerator.

Only 40 minutes (at most) before you are ready to serve, take custards out of the refrigerator. Lightly dab the tops with a paper towel to remove the condensation. Sprinkle the tops with an even, light layer of sugar so the tops will brown evenly. Place in the oven (right on the rack, not in a baking dish) and turn on broiler. Rotate every one or two minutes to ensure that the top caramelizes and does not burn. Allow to broil for about 5 minutes. To serve, let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes and eat slightly warm or put in the refrigerator for no more than 30 minutes (to ensure that the top remains crunchy). Optional: top with fresh berries and mint.


Vanilla almond crème brûlée with fresh strawberries and mint