Friday, September 9, 2016

A Chef's Life Fourth Helping

A Chef's Life teaser from A Chef's Life on Vimeo.

Have you watched this show yet? The "Fourth Helping" (season 4) debuted last Thursday night on SC ETV.  A Chef's Life is truly one of my favorite shows--Chef Vivian Howard is a gem, and I enjoy watching her create amazing and creative food using local ingredients.

James and I visited Kinston, NC last year and we LOVED every second of our visit, especially our trips to Chef and the Farmer (Vivian's premier restaurant), and The Boiler Room, her more casual oyster bar.  I blogged about our experience here.

Vivian has a new cookbook coming out this Fall and she will be in Columbia, SC on October 12th signing cookbooks with her food truck in tow. You can purchase tickets to meet Vivian, have some of her delicious food, and get an autographed copy of Deep Run Roots.

Here's to many more helpings of Chef Vivian Howard & A Chef's Life!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Save the Easy Way with Digit!

I don't know about you, but some days adulting is just too much. The house constantly needs to be cleaned, the kids need a lunch for school, the animals must be fed. I mean, our lists go on and on and on, right? (All good problems to have, I realize--it means I have a home, healthy children, access to schools, and sweet animals...but still). I'm sure you can all relate to the overhwelm that you feel some days trying to be a semi-functional adult.

So, I'm about to make your life a little easier.

You know how you should be saving money for the future? For things like college for the kids, retirement, future travel, a new kitchen sink, and so much more? Well, here's how to do it with as little effort and pain-in-the-wallet as possible: Digit.

Digit is an app that helps you "save money without thinking about it." There are no hidden fees and it has bank-level security. But it's all digital and you can set it up on your phone. The app will move money from your checking account to your Digit account automatically (if you want it to) when it sees that you have enough dough to do so. It analyzes your deposits and expenditures to determine how much would be appropriate and when.

For me, the average savings transfer has been $5, and in less than 2 months, I now have $98 in my Digit account! I know that doesn't sound like much, but it's more than I would have saved on my own in that time. All-inclusive resort vacation, here we come!

I was not compensated by Digit for this post, I just really like their app. I will get a $5 referral deposit for every person who uses my link to sign up, so thanks in advance if you do!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

More Forays Into Vegan Cooking

Last week I made cauliflower & pea pockets from The Plantiful Table cookbook and whole wheat biscuits from the Thug Kitchen cookbook.

Both of these recipes intimidated me at first. Biscuits are terrifying to me, and always have been--I am a chronic dough-over-mixer and in case you don't know, that is not a good thing.

And phyllo dough is kind of tears really easily, you have to thaw it in the fridge for a while because it usually comes frozen, you have to keep it moist and brush it with melted's kind of involved!

Anyway, apparently I was feeling ambitious; here are the results:
The pea & cauliflower pockets turned out great!  The phyllo dough wasn't that difficult to use after all; only one wasted sheet for the whole recipe.  The pockets were delicious and I ate on them all week long since my kids wouldn't touch them.  [They are both in a very picky stage. I don't really want to talk about the angst it conjures in me when they won't eat something I have creatively made for them from scratch...]

Here's the filling for the pockets:

I had some leftover & just ate it plain as a side dish--very tasty.

The biscuits were a bit of a different outcome, but not a total fail:
pre-baking...I was pretty psyched for how they looked right here!

Surprise--I over-mixed the biscuit dough. The biscuits were a little tough and very flat. Not unlike hockey pucks.  But my kids & ate them just the same!  I mean anything's edible with some butter (vegan butter for me!) and cinnamon and sugar, right?

My favorite part of the Thug Kitchen biscuit recipe? This line: "Make your own biscuits because that store-bought shit is shady as hell.  Food shouldn't be packaged like a stick on explosives. That shit is unnatural."


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Thursday's Thinking of Food: Adventures in Semi-Veganism

So, I'm a few weeks into vegetarianism and part-time veganism, and I'm not missing meat at all.  Even my beloved tacos, (which James and I typically make at least once week), have been delicious; I've used roasted cauliflower & chick peas as the filling instead of ground beef or chicken.

I am really giving Mark Bittman's Vegan Before 6 school of thought a go, and during the week it doesn't  prove to be too difficult for me.  I've been preparing dishes on Sunday afternoon that can carry me through the week for lunch and quick dinners.  Dishes like Thug Kitchen's tortilla soup, vegan "mac & cheese" from The Plantiful Table, and veggie samosas.

My new go-to dip, snack, between-meal nosh is this dip I found on the pages of the January 2016 Shape magazine, vegan "Nacho Cheese:"

The first time I made it I was skeptical. The ingredients do not sound like a swoon-worthy culinary combination, but I must say, I am smitten.  It does not really taste like nacho cheese, but it is delicious!

And James and I have eaten this dish more times than I care to admit the past 2 weeks: sticky garlic noodles.

image via here

I seriously could eat this every day.  I've been using vegan butter and brown rice Japanese noodles, but you could also use zuchinni noodles or gluten-free noodles.  I've also been throwing in extra veggies, like carrots and broccoli.  Oh, and I always throw in a handful of raw cashews! You could also substitute the brown sugar for honey or some other sweetener.  These noodles are addictive.

So, I want to hear--do you have any vegetarian or vegan recipes?

Interested in learning more about the benefits of a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle?  My dedication to this new diet was solidified last night as I watched Forks Over Knives, a documentary of the idea that rejecting animal-based foods can actually prevent or reverse certain degenerative diseases such as heart disease.  The evidence in the film is pretty overwhelming. I highly recommend it if you're contemplating a veggie or vegan lifestyle, or have a serious health concern that could be treated with nutrition.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Thursday's Thinking of Food: New US Dietary Guidelines

image via here

The Obama administration has released an update to the US Dietary Guidelines.  These guidelines are reviewed and revised every 5 years, and this year the biggest change concerns sugar.

Here's NPR's take on the changes.

I am happy to see some positive changes, as we obviously have some very real health crises going on in the US and many can be attributed to our over-consumption of sugar, namely in processed foods.

What do you think of the changes--did they go too far or not far enough?  I personally wish they had called for more explicit changes in our meat consumption, but I guess the meat lobby was too strong for that this go-round.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Eat More Plants

So, that's pretty much my New Year's  resolution in a nutshell.  I've decided to give up making huge, sweeping dietary changes that are not sustainable past about January 9th.  I've decided not to "diet" anymore, just to eat better.  According to Michael Pollan's "eating manifesto," In Defense of Food, the seven words we should follow as rules for eating are "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."  In other words, eat clean (not processed), and less meat & dairy.

In anticipation of this goal, I bought myself a new cookbook for Christmas, The Plantiful Table by Andrea Duclos.  It is by far my favorite cookbook to date.  And it's vegan.
image via here
What? Vegan!? Anyone who knows me is probably laughing out loud right now, knowing that I would never give up cheese.  And they may be right. But I'm working on eating less dairy, and for me that means less cheese. I've already made a few recipes involving nutritional yeast (which has a cheesy sort of taste), and I'm a fan. I will probably never totally give up Parmesan cheese, because it is basically my favorite food in the world, but I'm OK with that.

James' first attempt at homemade ravioli!

The very first recipe James and I created from the new cookbook was artichoke, cashew, & garlic ravioli.  And we made the pasta with James' new KitchenAid pasta maker attachment! I won't lie, I was pretty intimidated to make pasta at first, but it's really simple. And fun. Just a little time-consuming.

And here's the second attempt, a few days later:
Same recipe, 3 days later. It's that good.
Nearly everyone who tried this ravioli was enamored. We served it with a bit of pesto on top, but honestly, the filling is so good you could eat it alone.

The other cookbook I've been relying on for recipes this week is The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which James gifted me last Christmas.

menu planning
More recipe adventures to come while I work on eating more plants!  What are your New Year's resolutions? Do you have any awesome vegetarian or vegan recipes I should try--I'd love to hear!?


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Chef & the Farmer and Our Anniversary Trip to Kinston, NC

(via here)

Have you heard of A Chef's Life?  I wrote about it in a post about my favorite "foodie shows" here.  It's one of the shows that I make a point to watch each week.  Chef Vivian Howard and her husband, Ben, have a restaurant called Chef and the Farmer in small-town Kinston, NC.  The show is about their adventures with the restaurant and in life.

The couple is incredibly endearing and very real--and the cooking is fun to watch and farm-to-table, as you may have guessed from the name.  Ever since the first season of the show, (they just finished season 3), I have wanted to visit Kinston, NC to eat at Chef and the Farmer.  That wish became reality in November, as a mini-getaway for James and my 7th wedding anniversary.

the ceiling at The O'Neil
We drove up on a Saturday morning and stayed the night in a beautiful, newly-renovated boutique hotel called The O'Neil.  I highly recommend this place--not only is it beautiful and affordable, but it's right next to all the fun spots in Kinston.  The hotel was once a bank, and the decor is made up of mid-century vintage items--carefully curated to provide a cozy and kind of down-to-earth-swanky feel to the place.  Check-in and out is extremely easy and our bed was amazing.

To kick-off the afternoon we visited Mother Earth Brewing to sample some local brews. They happened to be having a release party that day for their Silent Night seasonal beer, so there was a great big ole party going on--and everyone was invited! Great beer and a really cool place with indoor and outdoor seating, as well as a corn hole game and tours of the brewery every hour.

Next stop was The Boiler Room for more drinks and appetizers before our reservation at Chef and the Farmer.  The Boiler Room is a new restaurant also owned and operated by Vivian and Ben--it's a more casual place, but equally delicious and fun.  James' favorite thing was the Pork and Beam: bacon-infused bourbon served with a piece of candied bacon.

 I loved the broccoli and cheese with crispy fried onions on top. (The best way to eat a vegetable.)

And finally it was time for us to head to Chef and the Farmer. I have to admit, I was a little star-struck and loved being able to look around the restaurant and see staff that I have watched on TV all these years!  Ben was working the front of the house, and we noticed pretty quickly that Chef Vivian was not working in the restaurant that evening. (Not that I was going to be an annoying super-fan or anything, promise!)

We started with flash-fried collards with sea salt: addictive. And fingerling sweet potato skins loaded with deliciousness.

Jedd's lettuce salad

Next I had a Jedd's lettuce salad and a savory beef hand pie. 

James had dayboat flounder with a mustard and brown butter vinaigrette.  His was our favorite of these dishes, but they were all delicious.

For dessert we ordered the bread of the day and a slice of chocolate beet cake.  The homemade bread, shaved meat accompaniment, and garlicky whipped butter was hands-down my favorite part of the meal.

To top this amazing day and drinks and food, ever-so-randomly, a friend from Columbia walked through the door with 3 other women, and stopped to say hello on her way to her table. She casually mentioned that she was in town visiting Vivian--an old friend from boarding school--and did we want too meet her?  Um, did we want to meet Chef Vivian Howard--my favorite current TV persona?  The answer was undeniably yes, so Elizabeth asked Vivian to come say his and she graciously complied.  She was exactly as she seems on TV: beautiful, humble, embarrassed by her fame, and very real. Talking with her was the perfect ending to an awesome weekend in Kinston.

Thanks for saying hi, Vivian and thanks for sharing your life with us viewers.  And thanks to Elizabeth for hooking it up!  

James and I are already planning our next visit to Kinston; well-worth the 4 hour drive from Columbia, SC.