Monday, June 24, 2013

Exciting News

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Whenever I learn something new, I get so hungry I could literally eat my fist. Intense meeting? Starved. Networking event? Ravenous. Starting a new job? Bring on the cheeseburgers! It reminds me of being a kid and going to a museum on a field trip. By 10:30 I’d be so hungry I couldn’t wait to get to the cafeteria!

You can imagine how hungry I was today after I finished my first day at McNeely Pigott & Fox Public Relations! I was hired as the director of digital services at MP&F/d, a new digital services division within the agency where I’ll be creating digital strategies for existing and new clients. A wonderful opportunity! You can read more about it in my first blog post on the MP&F Engage blog.

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I’m very much looking forward to digging into the new position. It was very sad to leave Just A Pinch though, but this opportunity was one I didn’t think I could pass up.

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks, that’s for sure! I traveled to Ireland, Fort Myers and Brunswick, ME. I turned 30.  And now the new gig. Sheesh!

Wanted to provide this quick update since it’s been nothing but crickets on this blog for awhile. Speaking of the blog, there might be exciting news on that front in the coming weeks as well. Stay tuned.

Anyone else get hungry as all get-out when they are thrown into something new?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Nashville Food Truck App

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By now you’ve probably seen at least a couple food trucks around Nashville. Seems like there are more each day!  These creative mobile food purveyors serve anything from donuts to Thai food and appear everywhere from festivals and breweries to downtown spots for the lunch crowd and late night service near bars. However, unless you follow them on Twitter or Facebook, it’s hard to know where they’ll be and when. Until now!

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The Nashville Food Truck Association has launched a smart phone app, which allows patrons to view all food truck locations and event dates in one place. To celebrate, they’ve named this May the innagural “Nashville Street Food Month.” The goal is to get everyone to try a food truck during the month, and use the app to help locate your favorites. AND, they’re offering $1 off a $10 purchase or more, if you download the app and mention it upon checkout. Pretty neat. 

The app is available for Apple and Android devices. Here’s a quick tutorial on how it works. Once you launch the app, the first screen you see is a listing of all the food trucks that are part of the NFTA. When you tap one of the names, you can get a description of what kind of food it offers, and where it’s planning to be in the coming days.

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Next, click on the “events” tab at the bottom and you’ll see a list of events/locations/festivals/etc. along with times detailing where various trucks are planning to be. The events go as far in advance as the food trucks program it. Currently the schedule is open through June 20. One neat feature is the pre-order option. Some of the trucks allow you to order your food and pay in advance, then just head over to the planned location for pickup. I haven’t tried this out yet but it’s definitely a nice option if you’re trying to grab something quick around lunchtime.

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The last tab is “maps.” Originally I thought this would track the truck’s location in realtime (that’s not true). Instead, it picks up the day’s location and pins it on a map. This is helpful since sometimes the locations aren’t immediately familiar to me, like if they’re assembling at a business somewhere that I’m not familiar with. (See “Cogent – HMG” example above. I don’t know where that is.)

I haven’t taken advantage Nashville Street Food Month yet, but I intend to soon! Even though I follow a lot of these trucks on Twitter, having them all in one place will definitely make the process more efficient.

The only critique I can give the app is that, at least on iPhones, if you keep the app open over night, the map doesn’t immediately update with the location of the next day’s food trucks. So if you were looking at Monday’s locations and then check again on Tuesday without closing it, on Tuesday the Monday locations will still show up. A quick fix to this is to just restart the app each time you use it and you’ll be enjoying a delightful gooey sandwich from the Grilled Cheeserie or a Mexican delight from Yayo’s OMG in no time.

Has anyone used the app yet? What do you think? What are your favorite food trucks so far? For those not in Nashville, do you have food trucks in your town? Have you used any other apps to track food trucks?

Curious to hear everyone’s thoughts!

 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My Amazing Dinner at Flyte

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Earlier this month my friend Amanda invited me to interview Susie Fogelson, VP of Marketing at Food Network and a judge on Next Food Network Star. I jumped at the opportunity. Susie was in town to speak at a NAMA (Nashville American Marketing Association) event, and to welcome her to town NAMA hosted a cocktail reception and dinner at Flyte. I went for the interview (more on that later) and they kindly invited me to stay for dinner.

One of the great benefits of working in the food industry has been the delightful meals I sometimes get to enjoy! But I haven’t posted much of that here. I thought I would this time to showcase the artistry of dishes at Flyte from Chef Matthew Lackey. They were really incredible. The flavors, presentation, wine pairings – it was a fantastic evening. I’ve only been to Flyte once and it was a few years ago. Honestly, with all the new restaurants popping up around town and in East Nashville alone, I haven’t paid as much attention as I should to the more established hot spots.

It should be noted that Flyte, which opened in 2006, has an amazing happy hour deal in addition to its fine dining-dinner menu. From 4:30-7:30 Tuesday through Saturday they offer drink specials and their lounge menu at 25% off. I happened to be there last night for drinks and grabbed a pic of their lounge menu below (there’s a dish called Bourbon Barrel Pastrami Fries on the menu, people!). It’s also posted online, here. That happy hour time alone is amazing. Any place that offers deals on Saturdays is a gem to know about! And 7:30 is generous, too.

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So, to the dinner. When we finally sat down to dinner a few weeks ago, Chef Lackey treated us to quite a spread. In addition to each small plate, there was a wine pairing. It was a feast for the eyes and the palate. The meal was held in a special dining room that opened to the kitchen so we got to keep up with the action.

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First up was a panzanella (bread) salad with shaved Brussels sprouts, paired with a sparkling white wine.

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Then we had a dish of albacore tuna, sticky rice porridge, daikon radish, kohlrabi.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mom’s Carrot Cake

Dear Mom,

Happy Mother’s Day! Do you know that I think you’re a really great Mom? Because you are. And I really love you. I also really love your carrot cake recipe. I didn’t even know you had a carrot cake recipe until we spoke a few weeks ago and I mentioned I was going to a carrot cake party and needed a recipe. And, like the awesome Mom you are, you came through with this gem! It’s a great recipe. The cake is spiced just right, it stays super moist, and the cream cheese frosting was just tangy enough and not too sweet. I’ll definitely make it again.

I ended up making these cute little stuffed cupcakes instead of a regular cake, and I thought they were so cute, I wanted to share them with you. I dedicate this post to you, Mom. You really are the greatest. Happy Mother’s Day!

Love,

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A closeup of my concoction.

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How sweet are these?!

For everyone else, here’s the recipe. Hope you enjoy as much as I did!

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Peggy's Carrot Cake Recipe

This recipe is the perfect balance. It's not too sweet, is earthy, spicy and moist, and has the perfect complement of tangy cream cheese frosting. Thanks for the recipe, Mom!

Ingredients:

Cake:
4 eggs
2 c white sugar
1 1/4 c vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3 c grated carrots
1 c chopped pecans

Frosting:
1/2 c butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 c confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 c chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare your pan, 9x13" for a sheet cake, 2 9" round pans for a layer cake or use a cupcake tin for cupcakes.*

Beat together eggs and sugar. Add oil and vanilla. Sieve together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and add to egg mix. Stir in carrots and fold in pecans. Be gentle with your mixing - if you overmix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, the cake will come out tough.

Pour batter into prepared pan(s). Bake 40-50 minutes or until cake raises and pulls away SLIGHTLY from sides. Don't overbake.
Let cool about 10 minutes, then cover with foil and let cool completely.

For the frosting, cream butter, cream cheese and add vanilla. Add sugar until spreading consistency is reached. (I didn't need to add any extra.) At this point you can either add the nuts to the frosting or save them to decorate the cake with. My mother loves cream cheese icing and will often double this recipe so she has plenty.

*To do what I did, fill a muffin tin with about a 1/2-inch of batter and bake for 10 minutes or so. Then you can stuff them with icing in the middle and on top. Once I had them filled, I rolled them in crushed pecans and walnuts.

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Best Black Bean Veggie Burgers

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If you’ve never made a recipe from this blog, make this one. How’s that as a dramatic way to start out a post?! These are, hands-down, the best homemade veggie burgers I’ve ever had. They’re flavorful, have great texture, stay together when you cook them and are super easy to make. What more could you ask for in any recipe, really?! I got the original recipe from a user on www.justapinch.com (I work there – read more about that here) but I changed up the seasonings and added an egg to bind it all together.

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I served them open-faced on a piece of whole grain bread with mustard, sprouts, and topped them with avocados. They’re also great crumbled over a salad or as a regular burger on a bun. 

I had some friends over for dinner the other night, no one among them a vegetarian, and I made these. Everyone loved them! If that isn’t a testament to a great veggie burger, I don’t know what is.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Raising Backyard Chickens

*This article also appeared in the Tennessean, here.

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I have two hens clucking around my backyard at this very moment. When I tell people this, even my smartest, hippest friends, I get the funniest looks. “Chickens?!” they exclaim. “Why? For their meat? Aren’t your neighbors bothered by the rooster crowing?” I sigh. (Neither of these things are true – read on.) Hey – I’m not judging. Before we got these hens last fall, I had the same questions. But what really strikes me about these questions is how very disconnected we all are from the food we eat, myself included.

DSC_0442Look at those beautiful birds!

Case in point: I grew up in a small Ohio town, east of Columbus. The middle school I attended was near one of Ohio’s largest egg farms. When the weather was warm, the part of the bus ride past those chicken farms – long, one-story hen houses stretching out side by side for acres – was nearly unbearable because of the smell. We kids would try to hold our breath for as long as we could as we went by. And this was from a bus out on the street. I can’t imagine what it was like inside those buildings. Granted I was a kid, but not once did I connect that the eggs we bought at the grocery store likely came from a facility like that, and I imagine neither did our parents.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Food Bloggers Against Hunger

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Forty-nine million people in the U.S. – one in four children – don’t know where their next meal is coming from. If that isn’t a frightening, infuriating, confusing piece of data, I don’t know what is.

Today I’m donating my post to building awareness about hunger in America, and inspire you to get involved.

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The above stat came from a new film called A Place at the Table, created by the makers of Food Inc. It’s got a star studded cast of actors, chefs and political personalities all trying to send a message. I haven’t seen it, but I plan to soon. So what can we do about this?

1. Educate yourself about the issue by watching the movie. Here’s the trailer:

There will be a local screening of the film in Nashville at Downtown Presbyterian Church (154 5th Ave N) Monday, April 29, 6 p.m. (begin film at 6:30 p.m.). Afterward, there will be a panel discussion so you can learn how to get more involved. I know I’m excited about that.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Carrot Apple Ginger Soup

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I was in Chicago last weekend for a friend’s birthday/graduation party. In between all the planned events, I was able to fit in several delightful meals, including one at Birchwood, in Ukranian Village. Our host and hostess, Davis and Laura, had their rehearsal dinner there. They also have a killer brunch.

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I ordered a Croque Vert, which was a version of a Croque Madame, a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with egg on top, but with veggies instead of ham. While we were waiting for our food we were curious about the translation of the dish. Turns out that “croque” means crunch in French, indicating the bread is grilled. There’s also a Croque Monsieur (i.e. Mr. Crunch) which is the same as Croque Madame (Mrs. Crunch!) but without the egg…Some good trivia for your next brunch date.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Spicy Sausage & White Bean Stew

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One of my favorite, most-flavor-for-the-least-effort, go-to meals is this white bean stew. I’m amazed I haven’t written about it before. I originally found a version of this recipe in a magazine but I’ve tweaked it so much over the years I have no idea what that recipe was – I just have my version. It comes together in 20 minutes (though it’s better after having chilled out in the fridge for a day). Plus it’s totally easy to make a double batch for a friend or just for the freezer. It goes great with some crusty bread or just a simple salad. Enjoy!

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Wheat Berries!

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Now that all that lovey dovey business about Chris and Maria is posted, let’s get down to business: Wheat berries.

In January, during my meat-free month, one of my three goals was to cook a new grain. I make brown rice, basmati rice, jasmine rice, barley, cous cous, quinoa, and arborio (for risotto) with some regularity. But I rarely branch out. The most recent new grain I’d tried was black rice, which I used in this Thai-Inspired Black Rice Salad.

We’re lucky in that Turnip Truck Natural Market is just up the street. They have a bulk grain bin with all kinds of interesting grains in it in addition to nuts, granola, specialty flours and dried beans. I didn’t have to commit to an entire bag of wheat berries – I got just what I needed, and it was cheaper that way too.

Wheat berries are the whole, unprocessed kernels of the grain, and they taste like it. They’re chewy, nutty and substantial. I loved the way they tasted while my husband said they tasted “healthy.”

Too cook these babies, you boil them like pasta in salted water. They could cook from 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours depending on how many you have in the pot. I boiled mine about 45 minutes until they were cooked, but still quite toothsome. I might cook them a little longer next time.

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Here’s what they looked like before they were cooked.