Thursday, October 30, 2014

Miso Pumpkin Chili #WeekdaySupper

The season of Fall is definitely here.
It's not my favorite season (at all), but I tolerate it by cooking seasonal foods and pretending I like the changing of the leaves, the shortening of the days, the falling of the leaves, the cooling of the temperatures...

I've made the following recipe on the blog before, but I've decided to post it again because it truly is a tried and true signature recipe of Nik Snacks. I've changed some of the ingredient measurements and revamped the instructions a little and posted a better photo, too.

Miso Pumpkin Chili can easily be turned into sweet potato, acorn squash, spaghetti squash or any other squash chili. I topped this particular bowl with some trendy sauteed kale. Sometimes I slice turnips into batons and roast them with garlic, brown sugar, salt and pepper (350 F for 35 minutes) and top it with that.

The deep, complex and robust flavors of the miso and pumpkin make this chili a staple in my house. If I am using ground beef, I am sure to use beef stock and ground turkey gets turkey stock, etc. Serve with cornbread slathered with butter, munch on a handful of dried cranberries and you'll be dipping a culinary toe into the (nearly frozen) waters of Fall.

Miso Pumpkin Chili
Serves 6

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp white or red miso paste
1 Tbsp ancho chili powder
1 Tbsp oregano, dried
1 Tbsp cinnamon, ground
2 cups TVP (textured vegetable protein) OR
1 lb ground lean beef or turkey, cooked and drained
2 cups tomato, chopped (reserve juices)
1 cup pumpkin or sweet potatoes, cubed
1 cup low sodium vegetable stock/broth
8 oz mushrooms, small (crimini or white button), sliced
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp brown sugar

Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, miso paste, chili powder, oregano, and cinnamon. Cook until onions are translucent and spices are fragrant. Add TVP (or ground meat), tomato with juice, pumpkin, broth, mushrooms, vinegar and brown sugar. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover; stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Don't forget to check out more recipes in the lineup for #weekdaysupper for more week day inspiration this Fall for the week of 10/27 – 10/31:
Sunday Supper Movement
Monday - Sweet and Spicy Thai Squash by Curious Cuisiniere
Tuesday - Gluten Free Zucchini Lasagna by Momma's Meals
Wednesday - Tilapia Fries with Chipotle Mayonnaise by Basic N Delicious
Thursday - Miso Pumpkin Chili by Nik Snacks
Friday - Crockpot Creamy Chicken & Broccoli Soup by The Foodie Army Wife

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tickets: 2014 Got To Be NC Competition Dining Final Fire #CompDiningNC

As you know, I've been the Official Fire in the Triad Blogger for 3 years running and I am right on top of the popular Got To Be NC Competition Dining Series across the entire great state of North Carolina.

The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series is a tournament highlighting the best of the state’s food, agriculture and culinary talent, is gearing up for its Final Fire series.

If you're not familiar, let me catch you up: five chefs from across North Carolina will battle it out to take home the statewide championship. YOU are invited to attend the tournament’s Iron-chef style dinner events, savoring a six-course meal AND serving as a judge, from Nov. 19 to 22 in Raleigh, N.C. 

Tickets to these interactive battles go on sale WEDNESDAY, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. at and are GUARANTEED to sell out quickly. Click HERE to bookmark the ticket site! 
(UPDATE 10/30/14) Final Fire on Nov 22 sold out in THREE minutes. A waitlist is available for all other nights

Each competing chef won their regional series to move on to earn a place at Final Fire. Three courses are prepared by each chef, centered on a secret or featured ingredient that comes from a North Carolina farmer, artisan or producer. Featured ingredients are revealed to the chefs only an hour before they start cooking that day and must be used in each course.

Guests (that's YOU) get in on the action, savoring the combined six courses without knowing which chef prepared each plate. Alongside culinary guest judges, diners rate each dish using an interactive app, ultimately determining who moves on.

In fact, last year’s Final Fire tickets sold out within EIGHT MINUTES. Those interested should be online and ready when the tickets are released!

The five chefs recently drew knives to determine the championship bracket for the upcoming Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series Final Fire, which is scheduled as follows:

Nov. 19 Dinner: Fire on the Dock Champion Antoine Murray of Cape Fear Country Club in Wilmington, versus Fire on the Rock Champion Michelle Bailey of Season's at Highland Lake in Flat Rock

Nov. 20 Dinner: Fire in the City Champion Jon Fortes of Mimosa Grill in Charlotte, versus Nov. 19 winner

Nov. 21 Dinner: Fire in the Triad Champion Tim Thompson of Marisol Restaurant in Greensboro, versus Fire in the Triangle Champion Dean Thompson of Flights in Raleigh

Nov. 22 Championship Dinner: Nov. 20 winner, versus Nov. 21 winner

Along with bragging rights, at stake in the Final Fire series is a grand prize of $4,000 cash, two handmade chef knives by Ironman Forge and a trip to the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley, California, compliments of Kikkoman and the Pro Chef Program.

All Final Fire events are held at Renaissance North Hills Raleigh. Tickets to attend the first three battles are $129 each excluding beverage, tax and tip. Tickets for the final championship battle are $139 each excluding beverage, tax and tip.

The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series is sponsored by the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, Pate Dawson-Southern Foods, Certified Angus Beef®, Pepsi Bottling Ventures, the NC Wine & Grape Council, Hits Technology and local partners in each region of the state.

 The goal of the series is to celebrate local North Carolina products and agriculture, and to showcase the culinary ingenuity and talent across the state. For more information, visit or get in on the conversation at and @CompDiningNC on Twitter or Instagram.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Caramel Apple Pie Biscotti #cookiemonth14

It's week THREE of National Cookie Month and #CookieMonth14 and we are all sharing the best cookies to give as gifts.

This week's sponsor is Wilton. Everyone was sent a different product, so you should check out the other 9 blogger's posts this week to check out Wilton swag that you can get for yourself for the upcoming gift season:
I was sent flavored candy melts and the cutest gift bags. 

I gifted my mother my biscotti. I really think she's enjoying the taste testing part of Cookie Month.

To create the biscotti, I decided to add apple pie spices to remind you of fall's favorite fruit (sorry, pumpkin). I dipped each cookie in the caramel apple flavored candy melt. They remind me of something a kid would like for Halloween or during a festive holiday party. Or maybe that's just me.

Apple Pie Biscotti
Yield: 20 pieces
1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground nutmeg
1 Tbsp ground allspice
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 325° F.
Place butter, sugar, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice in a large mixing bowl. Use a paddle attachment or hand mixer, cream these ingredients together at a low speed. Blend to a smooth paste.

Add eggs, vanilla extract and blend at a low speed.
Sift in the flour and baking powder. Mix until just combined. Do not overmix.
Shape into 2 logs about 2 inches thick. The dough will be sticky and a little difficult to handle. Do not press dough down.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until light golden brown. Let cool slightly, 10-12 minutes, and slice diagonally in 1/2 inch pieces. Place cut side down on sheet to bake an additional 20 minutes until toasted and dry. Turn over halfway through second bake.
Remove from oven. Biscotti will harden upon cooling.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Spicy Marinated Steak Tacos #SundaySupper

The holiday season is coming and budgets are even tighter with the extra expenses that come along with it. This Sunday, I'm sharing a recipe that won't take a bite out of your wallet. Sunday Supper shouldn't suffer just because there aren't many extra dollars to go around to make decadent meals. You can still make creative, flavorful meals for mere pennies on the dollar.

THIS WEEK, Sunday Supper is being co-hosted by T.R. of Gluten Free Crumbley and David of Cooking Chat!

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on Twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest boardWould you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

I'm not sure if you know, but I am the host of a budget-friendly TV show that is filmed and produced by the City of Winston-Salem. This year we shot 9 episodes of a show called "$20 Challenge" where I took a crisp $20 bill, shopped at a local farmer's market and created a meal for four using the market's ingredients. I always try to use minimal pantry ingredients that most everyone should have on-hand at any time. And if you don't have a pantry, the extra items are fairly inexpensive and can be purchased at discount retailers like Dollar Tree, Big Lots (my favorite) or your local grocer. 

Most weeks on the show, my task to make budget-friendly meals was easy. Some weeks it was hard, but I'm sharing this recipe for Sunday Supper because personally--I love tacos. I can't get enough. I eat more tacos than anything. My diet pretty much consists of tacos, pizza, whole-wheat bread, cake, beer and tacos. I'm like a five-year-old child (minus the alcohol)!

So to make this meal on "$20 Challenge", I spent $15.40! I did have a spicy marinated cantaloupe that cost $4, so you can easily make these tacos for less than $15 including all of the usual taco toppings like: shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, onions, radishes, lettuce and fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley. You can also use dried herbs in the marinade in place of fresh herbs and save even MORE cash. A simple side like rice, corn, or baked beans, can make the tacos into a fantastic meal for four OR MORE!

Spicy Marinated Steak Tacos
1 ¼ skirt steak, trimmed, cut into 4-inch pieces
2 Tablespoons fresh mint
¼ cup fresh parsley
¼ cup fresh oregano
1 bunch chives
¼ cup cilantro
¼ cup jalapeno, diced (remove some or all ribs and seeds for less heat)
2 cloves garlic
Juice from 1 lime
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon oil
Salt and Pepper

1 10-count package corn or flour tortillas

Put all ingredients in a resealable plastic bag and release all excess air OR a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it against the surface to eliminate excess air. Marinate steak for 10 minutes up to 12 hours in refrigerator.

Heat grill or stove on high.

Use a scant 1/2 teaspoon of oil on the pan. Sear on one side until golden brown and slightly charred, about 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the steak over and cook to medium-rare, about 3 to 4 minutes longer. Let rest 5 minutes then slice against the grain into 1/4-inch thick slices.

Fill each tortilla with 3 to 4 pieces of meat, tomato salsa, sour cream or Greek yogurt, cheese and any other condiments you like.

Don't forget to check out the dozens of budget-friendly recipes and meals put together by other Sunday Supper bloggers below:

Scrumptious Mains (Breakfast and Dinner)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Gluten-free Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies #cookiemonth14

I'm excited about this week's cookie. It's (mostly) allergen-free and uses two new-to-me products from SunButter and Bob's Red Mill that have changed my life.

It's week two of National Cookie Month and this week we are sharing cookies that are the best shippers. Care packages sent to loved ones, soldiers and military overseas and random holiday cookie swaps all beg to have fresh, delicious carefully packed cookies.

I'm not an expert on shipping baked goods, as I've only done it a few times, but fellow #cookiemonth14 blogger Wendy at The Monday Box sends a care package to her son each week, so I defect to her expertise. 
Please check out her blog for best cookie shipping practices.

I LOVE oatmeal butterscotch cookies. They're my favorite and it's been documented. As much as I love them,  I usually have to make them myself because most bakeries cannot guarantee a truly allergen-free confectionery item. A few things I can't have: tree and ground nuts, most stone fruits. I'm not gluten-free, but I empathize with others who have dietary requirements and these cookies are perfect. I've never used a gluten-free baking mix before and Bob's Red Mill gluten-free flour blend completely blew away my expectations. I didn't have to add a thing. I only added an egg and baking powder for leavening.

Instead of using pre-made butterscotch chips, I took my idea one step further and made SunButterscotch chips! A blend of roasted white chocolate, SunButter and a pinch of salt produce roasty, toasty, sweet chips that I had to stop myself from eating by the handful. SunButter allowed me to have the first 'butter and jelly sandwich I've had in EIGHTEEN YEARS! Nut-free and soy-free, and made from non-GMO sunflower seeds, I'm always going to have this in my fridge! I love this stuff! Squeeeeeee!

Oatmeal SunButterscotch Cookies
Yield: ~24 cookies

These cookies bake up crisp and sweet, just like gluten-filled cookies.

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar 
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
6 oz. Bob's Red Mill Gluten-free flour 
1 egg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup SunButterscotch chips (recipe to follow)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream butter and sugars together until smooth. Add vanilla and eggs; beat well. In a separate bowl, blend flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Stir flour blend into wet ingredients. Add oats, SunButterscotch chips and mix well. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto ungreased cookie sheet. 

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool one minute then transfer to wire rack. Makes about 2 dozen cookies. 

SunButterscotch Chips
Makes 2 cups
1 1/2 cups White Chocolate
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups SunButter

Preheat the oven to 250°F
Sprinkle the white chocolate chips on a baking sheet and place it in the oven for ten minutes.

Remove it from the oven and spread it out with a dry spatula.
Continue to cook it in the oven for an additional 30-40 minutes, stirring and spreading it out with the spatula at 15 minute intervals. Cook until the white chocolate is peanut butter brown color.
Remove from the oven and scrape it into a medium bowl with a pinch of salt and the SunButter. Stir the ingredients until they are thoroughly combined.

To make chips: Line a sheet tray with plastic wrap, foil or wax paper. Place the SunButter mixture in a piping bag fitted with a small tip or plastic bag with a small hole cut in the corner of the bag. Lightly squeeze the bag and make a chip the size of a nickel. Repeat. Place the sheet tray in the freezer for a minimum of 30 minutes. When ready to use the chips in the above recipe, use them in the recipe frozen.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Food Blog Forum Asheville #FBFAsh

In late August, I attended the 7th annual Food Blog Forum in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina. The conference was held in and around the historic Biltmore Estate, the largest private residence in America! And it's located in my home state! (Little known fact: Do you know where the 2nd largest private residence is located? Still in North Carolina--In my hometown!)

And even though Asheville is only 2.5 hours away from me, I'd never been to Biltmore.

This trip was truly a once in a lifetime experience and I feel forever changed. Not only did I get to meet dozens of new-to-me bloggers, but connect with real-life blogger friends and Twitter followers I've been stalking following since I began blogging in 2007, a few of my culinary heroes and eat and drink my way through the best of the best of the city of Asheville.

Remember that feeling you used to get when Santa Claus left gifts for you or the Easter Bunny left you a basket brimming with candy? Or the Tooth Fairy managed to slip her (or his) hand under your pillow and leave money? That's exactly what this trip was. I swear.

I spent time with my blogging buddies Kathy Hester of Healthy Slow Cooking and Janet Cooper-Bridge of at the historic Omni Grove Park Inn and I could easily see why presidents, dignitaries, playwrites, artists and authors were inspired by the climate, the mountains, the rolling hills and the fresh, clean air. I was inspired too. The spa, there have to be over a dozen nooks and crannies available to sit and write.

It all started on Sunday evening at the Doubletree Asheville reception. The hotel used to be the Biltmore Dairy which supplied milk and other creamery items to the house and surrounding areas. In the lobby there is a huge display! We were handed swag bags chock full of goodies AND we were treated to a self-guided assembly line of items to add to another swag bag provided by Foodtopia. The reception was in the outdoor garden area and we were treated to cocktails, ice cream, canapes and good ol' mountain music--bluegrass. It was magical and beautiful and a perfect start to the conference.

Monday was full of informative sessions and great food. The evening was the most magical experience I could ever have imagined.

We caravaned to a parking lot and boarded coach buses that took us right to the front door of the Biltmore Estate. We went on an after-hours, behind-the-scenes kitchen tour. We saw how life as a guest and a kitchen employee would be during the Edwardian era.

Now... when I went to Versailles, I was overcome with emotion and the sheer history involved in the palace. I felt the same way touring the house. Looking out of the same windows, standing in the same kitchen, catching the same glimpse of the copper pots and pans nearly a century old really overwhelmed me. As a regular tourist/guest at the Biltmore, you are not allowed to take photographs. Guess who was allowed to take photos! I took a selfie in every. single. room. Not all of them turned out, but I was so super stoked to be at the Biltmore, see the Biltmore and soak up all of the history, I couldn't resist.

Dinner was another ride and short walk where all 5 of the property's restaurants awaited us with buffet style eats. Biltmore Estate wine was available for drinking (Did you know Biltmore is the most visited vineyard in the world)

Tuesday, the last day was just as fantastic as the first. A quick ride to Highland Brewing began 4 hours of eating and drinking.

Sassy Nik

Sometimes you experience something so grandiose and beautiful that you want to hold it close and keep it to yourself as long as you can. That's exactly how I felt about this conference. I took more than 200 photos and met dozens of bloggers and even though I'm telling you about my time, it doesn't begin to scratch the surface of how transcendental this trip was for me. I can't wait to go back to Asheville very soon and capture a few more pieces of foodie heaven.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Red Velvet Sugar Cookies #CookieMonth14

It's week one of National Cookie Month and #CookieMonth14 and we are all sharing our family favorite cookies.

I have to be honest: My family doesn't have a favorite cookie. We are mostly a cake & pie family. Our holidays and celebrations are flour-fueled cake frenzies spackled with buttercream and flat icing. But we're also a Southern family and we love red velvet cake (okay, maybe it's just me) so here I get to start a new tradition with my newest creation:

The plethora of sponsors for Cookie Month '14 have been generous and this week I'm featuring Bob's Red Mill All-purpose Flour, GIR Spatulas and supplies from restaurant supplier, KaTom.

This is not my first experience with GIR (stands for Get It Right) spatulas. I've been collecting spatulas of all colors, shapes and sizes for over a year. Once a successful Kickstarter project, GIR has absolutely gotten it right. High-heat safe (up to 425°F), ambidextrous and available in numerous colors, they are one piece and easy to clean. Made of silicone and true works of art, I'm looking forward to getting more products from this great company.

This is, however, my first time using Bob's Red Mill All-purpose Flour. It's unbleached and softer than the other brand of flours I use and I was sent a generous 5lb bag, so plenty more experimenting will happen this month!

So when baking, I usually hand-mix everything. I hate washing dishes and it takes just as much time to whip up a batch of cookies by hand in a bowl. Hand-mixing produces a more dense cookie (or cake) and that's the way I like my baked goods. And what better to stir the batter and scrape the bowl than a GIR spatula?

Red Velvet Sugar Cookies
Yield: 24 2-inch cookies 

1 1/2 cups Bob's Red Mill All-purpose   Flour
1/3 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
1/2 cup Dixie Crystals Extra Fine Granulated Sugar
1 egg, beaten
40 drops red food coloring
1/2 tablespoon milk or cream
Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in large bowl and cream together until light in color. Add egg, food coloring and milk. Beat to combine.

Gradually add flour mixture to bowl, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl. Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap or place in 2 airtight containers. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375° F.
Sprinkle work surface with powdered sugar. Remove 1 wrapped pack of dough from refrigerator at a time, sprinkle rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Move the dough around and check underneath frequently to make sure it is not sticking.

If dough has warmed during rolling, place cold cookie sheet on top for 10 minutes to chill. Cut into desired shapes, place at least 1-inch apart on a greased baking sheet, parchment, or silicone baking mat, and bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to turn brown around the edges. Let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes after removal from oven and then move to complete cooling on wire rack.

Use a chilled cookie sheet or chilled baking pan turned upside down and covered with wax paper to help keep the dough chilled and to make rolling out the dough easier.

Be sure to check out my cookie month partners and their amazing recipes:
Jess at The 104 Homestead
Kathie at Homespun Seasonal Living
Tessa at Homestead Lady
Chris at Joybilee Farm
Sheila at Life, Love, and Good Food
Wendy at The Monday Box
Shari at Pure Grace Farms
Angi at Schneiderpeeps
Lauren at Wicked Spatula

The following companies generously sponsored various cookie month projects. I may not have used all of them in my recipes, but this project is in no small part thanks to the incredible contributions of: Bob's Red MillThe Daily MealIndia TreeKerryGoldKing Arthur FlourProduct of GIRKaTomSunButter, and Wilton.

DISCLAIMER: I have been compensated and received product in exchange for this post, but all opinions and views are my own.