Nik Snacks

Bite it and write it. That's what I do. Fueled by butterbeans & collard greens.

.

.
On 8:00 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , , ,    No comments
This is the FOURTH of FIVE posts featuring travel tips from me, Nik Snacks. Each post will have tips to help you live your best travel life with 0% hassle and 100% fun.

IF you missed the first post, click HERE for 5 travel tips, from me, Nik Snacks.


The worst part of travel is NOT the unpredictable weather, the flight plan or not being in control of the vehicle you're in--it's being out of your comfort zone and not having the comforts of home within arm's reach. While you can't hitch up your luggage to your house and drag it along, there are a few things you can do to reduce your discomfort and potential anxiety.

1. Flight Essentials
Most airlines allow one personal bag in addition to your carry-on and this is where you really get to shine.
Get yourself a water bottle: #StayHydrated! It's the best piece of advice and the best way to accomplish that is with a portable water bottle. There are collapsible water bottles for those who REALLY want to conserve space, but a simple Nalgene or branded water bottle from the company picnic will do. The circulated air on the plane is dry and the 6 oz. of drink during beverage service is not going to do anything for you.

2. Wipes
Any parent will tell you that baby wipes are basically a bath in a box and they are exactly right. Since you're an adult, upgrade your bath-in-a-box to facial wipes. Throw in some antibacterial wioes, too, for wiping down any surface youre going to touch: door handles, thermostats, table trays, seat belts, windows, etc.


Also, the dry air of the plane and the dirt of domestic travel will have you feening to freshen up pre-final descent. I chose to pull personal wipes out as a separate tip because when all of your chips are down and you just don't feel like a person anymore, if your face, hands and other places that house lymph nodes are clean, you may feel like a person again.

3. Snacks (including water enhancers)
I've already covered snacks in a whole other post of this five-part series, but I have to emphasize its importance by listing it here again.


Spend $60 for a day pass and reap the benefits of your airline's club. Snacks, drinks, alcoholic beverages, strong wi-fi, clean restrooms and in some cases, showers and live entertainment.

4. Toiletry bag

You don't want to be caught in the middle of nowhere looking like "Who shot John?" and the horse he rode in on. You want to be as liquored up and lacqured down as possible. These items are the absolute bare minimum that should be in your personal bag. Anything else is probably extra. Also, everyone's travel comfort level is different, so keep that in mind if you're packing for other passengers in your group.


  • deodorant
  • earphones
  • device of choice (phone, Kindle, iPad) 
  • book, magazine, suduku/crossword
  • writing implement
  • international adaptor
  • credit/atm/debit card
  • passport/ID
  • lotion/oil
  • personal wipes
  • a few dollars and some change

Be smiling when you land with all of the tips presentend here & throughout the 5-Part Nik Snacks Travel Series

5. Flight outfit: pants/shorts, shoes, shirt, jacket WITH pockets
While you want to be comfortable, you also want to look as polished and put together as you can be. Because flight travel takes us out of our element and can potentially bring out the worst in us, looking the part can get us into the right frame of mind. Compression leggings and compression socks are becoming popular although their function transcends fashion. Prevent blood clots and DVT by wearing them.

BONUS TIP:
6. Money




Every bank, credit card company and other financial institution is different when it comes to traveling domestic and abroad. The first thing you should do is notify your card company that you will be traveling. Next, decide how you are going to get your money. If you need a substantial amount of cash to carry (less than $1,500) order foreign currency from your bank.

I like to wait until I'm in my host country and withdraw from a bank once I get there. The fees are usually low and it's best to have cash on you as well as your favorite bank/credit card while traveling.
Ways to keep that money safe:

  • fanny pack (very fashionable, right now in the year of our Lord, 2018)
  • neck wallet (keep it tucked in your jacket or your shirt)
  • national titty bank of america (my favorite bank; everything is ALWAYS secure)
  • wristlet (also fashion-forward, but not very safe)
  • money alternatives (Venmo, PayPal, Zelle, GooglePay or ApplePay)


Next up: Top 5 Travel Tips HOW TO BOOK TRAVEL
On 12:13 PM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , , , ,    No comments
This is the THIRD of FIVE posts featuring travel tips from me, Nik Snacks. Each post will have tips to help you live your best travel life with 0% hassle and 100% fun. 

IF you missed the last post, click HERE for 5 travel snack tips, from me, Nik Snacks.


I am often told by friends and family alike that I am BRAVE to travel solo to international destinations. I agree, but it's not as daunting and frightening as some make it out to be.
PLAN.
PLAN.
PLAN.
And then PLAN some more--that's how I get the most out of every situation. Going into it all with a sense of adventure and wonder will DO wonders for your travel life. Along with that sense of adventure, you cannot throw caution to the wind and have a devil may care attitude about traveling through a country of which you are not a citizen. I DO take personal safety precautions because I don't want to end up a subject of a Lifetime movie.

So, here are 5 personal safety tips and suggestions for traveling abroad; while not all of them apply to every person, at every location, or in every situation, in some cases, putting them into practice may save you or a loved one from serious danger.

Safety in numbers: Choose an Airbnb experience OR Yelp! event to be around others

1. Be aware of your surroundings.

Know where you're going, what time you're supposed to be at your designated place and have alternative routes mapped out just in case your first plan does not work out.

When I was in Paris, I planned to go to Mass at the only English-speaking Catholic Church in the city. I mapped out how to get there, what time the metro came, which streets to walk down and what time services were. WELL--when it was time to get off the train, the exit I needed to take was blocked. When I exited the metro station, the street was filled with armed military guards with machine guns and rows and rows of bullets crossing their bodies. To say I was scared was an understatement. I figured "Let me get to the Church, I'll be okay" But EVERY INTERSECTION WAS BLOCKED. And then--I had to use the restroom. BADLY. Long story short, the military guards and theblocked streets were because the French president was being inauguarted and it was his parade day. I didn't know that. I thought there was another terrorist attack. I ended up having "church" in a drug store with a large macaron and a shot of espresso. I was done for the day.
2. Join in group activities like tours, seated dinners, movies, performance art shows.

As a food tour guide for an amazing company, I've learned to travel via food tours in different cities, not only for enjoyment but for education about the city I am in.
Airbnb isn't just great for finding lodging, it's great to source activities in and around your chosen destination. Also, you can sign up to eat with locals who prepare food for you and other guests in their homes in a litany of cities on the social app, EatWith.

In Montreal, I signed up for a FREE walking tour and ended up meeting a group of friends who came from all around the world to meet up in the old city and WE all ended up hanging out, eating dinner and it was a magical night. I never felt so safe while being so far from home.


3. Hotels chains offer best safety. Choose Airbnbs and rental properties in safe neighborhoods near public transportation or major tourist attractions.

I only travel to cities that have extensive, reliable public transportation systems. I am not against renting a car, but when you add up rental + petrol + parking + time wasted = I'd rather take the bus or an Uber.
4. Learn key phrases in foreign language.

I don't think I need to expound upon this one.
Hello, Goodbye, Please, Thank you, Where is the bathroom and Help are the bottom of the basement, bare minimum you should know in every country you visit.
5. Do not dress as a tourist (ie. American). Research the typical mode of dress for the season in which you are traveling. Avoid sneakers, fanny packs, carrying big bottles of water.

Pickpocketers, con artists and other swindlers will be able to spot you from a mile away.



BONUS: 6. Contact the American Embassy to make them aware of your presence in the foreign country you are traveling. The embassy can also provide additional safety tips germane to the area.

There's that phrase "Safety in numbers..." and it's real and true. Take note of these 5 things beFORE you go. Three times is the charm and you have TWO more travel tip posts coming from this one blogger you know: Me. 

Enjoy!


Next up: Top 5 Carry-On Items FOR Traveling
On 4:12 PM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , , ,    No comments
This is the second of FIVE posts featuring travel tips from me, Nik Snacks. Each post will have tips to help you live your best travel life with 0% hassle and 100% fun.
IF you missed the first post, click HERE for 5 travel tips, from me, Nik Snacks.



1. If you have not purchased or were gifted a membership to your favorite major airline's sky lounge/club, spend $50-$60 for a day pass and reap the benefits of the club. Snacks, drinks, hot breakfast, lunch items, non-alcoholic beverages, strong wi-fi, clean restrooms and in some cases, showers and live entertainment (epic people watching, even though most are just on their devices being boring).

I had TWO 4-hour layovers to get to Oakland to visit with some family and attach a work-related excursion onto it. GSO >LAX >OAK = LONGEST flights of my life. I bit the bullet in Greensboro and purchased a day pass for $50 in order to relax all day. It was the best decision of my travel life.

View from one of the Delta Sky Clubs at LAX

2. PB and J is an easy and popular sandwich choice to pack on a trip, but using an alternative spread such as Sunbutter or Speculoos/cookie butter will be great to try and definitely safe for anyone suffering from tree nut or peanut allergies who may be traveling with you or sitting around you.

3. Utilize your water bottle by filling up at a water fountain. For those of you who cannot stand the taste of plain water, use those water enhancer packets for a little flavor boost. One packet is too much for me, so I use 1/2 packet and it's perfect for me.

4. Be careful with your salt and alcohol consumption the day/night before your flight. It's tempting to party hardy and tie one on the night before you travel home, but don't do it. Your feet swell, you get dehydrated faster and you feel like a miserable whale. Or is that just me?
The same goes for the night before leaving on your trip, too.


Me. Not being bloated after a 5 hour flight to Las Vegas.



5. Whether you're flying solo, in a couple or with a group, here's a list of snacks from which you should choose:

unsweetened applesauce pouches (or cups),
fruit cups packed in water or light syrup
crackers
cookies
potato chips
Carnation instant breakfast
oatmeal packets
beef jerky or pepperoni logs

cereal bars
candy
dried fruit
chocolate bars
shelf-stable dips like salsa or hummus; water enhancers without aspartame
pre-packaged cakes
cookies
granola bars
trail/granola mix [see recipe below]





Granola 
[Recipe adapted from Machete: Greensboro]

2 3/4 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup pepitas (shelled, raw pumpkin seeds)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup maple syrup (Grade A or light amber)
1 cup unsweetened coconut chips
1 cup chopped pistachios [optional]
1 cup sliced almonds [optional]
1/2 T kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup dried, chopped sour cherries*
1/2 cup milk or dark chocolate chunks

Combine oats, pepitas, coconut chips, nuts and olive oil in a container or bowl.

In a saucepan, bring vanilla, maple syrup, salt and brown sugar to a boil, pour and mix into the dry ingredients in the large container or bowl.

Spread mix on a parchment paper or silicon baking mat lined sheet pan and bake in 325°F oven for 23-25 minutes.

Mix in cherries and chocolate chunks after granola has cooled to room temperature.

*DO NOT BAKE CHERRIES. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED


Next up: Top 5 Personal Safety Tips WHILE Traveling

This is the first of FIVE posts featuring travel tips from me, Nik Snacks. Each post will have  tips to help you live your best travel life with 0% hassle and 100% fun.

Bonjour, je m'appelle Nicolette* and I spending my free time traveling around the world. I have a yearly goal of visiting ONE international destination every year. I cannot believe my luck. I get to travel to the most amazing places.

Most of the time, I travel solo and occasionally I pick ONE or two friends to accompany me on my international adventures. I have been traveling solo for over 10 years and I have packing down to a SCIENCE. I have never missed a flight, I don't pay for extra luggage and I manage to have everything I need and look like a fashion plate at every port.




Lavender fields at Matanzas Creek Winery





Only pack ONE carry-on.
That's it.
No checked luggage. No baggage fees. No problem.

You can safely pack up to 10 days worth of clothes, accessories and essentials into one bag. Let me show you how:


Most airlines allow one carry-on bag and one personal item. Your carry-on standard luggage should measure 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm), including handles and wheels. It's meant to be stowed away in the overhead compartment, but I usually slide it in the seat in front of me and don't worry about shuffling others' items in those compartments. Also, bashing someone in the head with your bag is the worst cardinal sin of airline travel next to people taking their shoes off and farting.


Your personal item dimensions should not exceed 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 cm), because FAA rules say it should be able to fit under the seat in front of you.



1. Start with essentials: undergarments (bra, underwear, socks, hosiery). Count the number of days you'll be on your trip and add 2 pair. No more than 2 bras (strapless and conventional) and 2 pairs of shoes (flats or sneakers; sandals or boots). 


2. Next, think of dresses, rompers and other one-piece options. Separates include tops, t-shirts, sweaters and pants, skirts, leggings. Mix and match your options so you have plenty to choose. Use the same formula as you do for undergarments. Count and add 2.

Don't forget nightwear. I always do and I end up sleeping in my clothes, which I hate. 



3.There's no need to "plan outfits" when your baseline choices give you options throughout your trip. Last, choose accessories: bathing suit, jewelry, outerwear (blazers, cardigans, light jackets).



4.Your toiletry bag or as I like to call it, your TSA bag, will be in your personal bag. No need to pack hair products (save for the gel you use to tame that pesky cowlick), a dryer, flat iron, and in some cases, a toothbrush and toothpaste. 


Don't forget 3-1-1 for carry-ons -- up to 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottle; 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag to be placed in the screening bin (unless you have TSA pre-check, which is worth all 8,500 pennies, even if you only travel twice a year--and it is valid for FIVE years) 
[I admit, I always pack more than 1 TSA bag in my luggage]



Call ahead to your hotel or message your Airbnb host and ask what, if any, personal amenities will be available. You can explain your conservative approach to packing and you may be surprised what the answers will be. As much planning as you put into your trip, invest the same amount of time into packing your one and only carry-on.




You can safely and securely pack one suitcase for your trip while still being fashionable. There are ways to be a fashion plate while being conservative with all of your choices. 

Next up: Top 5 Travel Snacks Tips

*My first full name is Nicolette and the only people who call me this are bill collectors and people who went to elementary school with me.
On 10:52 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks   3 comments
'Tis the season for grilled and charred vegetables and meat. People are gearing up for summer to end, I'm relishing and salad'ing into the last month and a half of the best season of the year.




This corn salad is my favorite side dish. The bits of juicy corn kernels pop in your mouth with such a soft sweetness, you won't believe it until you try it. The dressing of sour cream and line juice is tempered with dashes of smoky paprika, cayenne and black pepper.

I like adding bits of bacon because, let's be honest, EVERYTHING is better with bacon.

Whether it's silver queen, shoepeg or bi-color, this salad is a hit.

SPICY CORN SALAD
Yield: 6 cups

4 cups roasted (or grilled) corn (about 5 ears), cut from the cob

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup small red onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

6 green onions, chopped

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, diced

1/2 cup honey

4 tbsp lime juice (from about 2 limes)

1/4 tsp cayenne

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp black pepper, ground

2 cups sour cream

1/2 cup bacon, crumbled (optional)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 450°F. Place shucked corn on sheet pan lined with foil or parchment paper and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 20 minutes. Alternatively, cook corn over high heat in a skillet. Cook for about 3 to 5 minutes or until the corn starts to char. If using frozen corn, you will need a couple minutes extra to get the right charred bits.

Cut the corn off the cob. You can also use canned corn or frozen corn, thawed. If using frozen, no need to thaw it out.

Transfer the corn to a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Stir everything together until well combined. Adjust lime juice and salt and pepper as necessary.

To serve garnish with bacon and green onions, if preferred.


I live in the Triad, so my scale may be a little skewed, but there are more breweries in North Carolina than there are in Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia COMBINED. That says a lot about the craft brewery scene in the Old North State whose motto is "esse quam vederi", to be rather than to seem.

To be perfectly honest, this list is just my personal opinion. I do count myself as a semi-professional beer drinker and hedonist, so there's also that.

According to my Untappd check-ins, my Top 5 beers are:

1. Hoppyum IPA, Foothills Brewing
2. Yuengling Traditional Lager, Yuengling Beer Company
3. Not Your Father's Root Beer, Small Town Brewery
4. Golden Monkey, Victory Brewing Company
5. Yadkin Riverkeeper Doppelbock, Foothills Brewing

I don't always check in on Untappd, but when I do--it's usually so I don't forget the excellent OR truly horrible beers I've had. More often than not, most beers fall in the 3-4 bottle cap range. Also, more often than not, beers produced by small craft breweries are one-offs, never to be produced again. Those beers lie in wait in our memories and all we have to show for it are hopefully, photos of us enjoying ourselves, bottle stickers and maybe even a collection of bottles or growlers above the transoms of our kitchens at home.

I have to pay homage to my favorite beers that are no longer produced, so I can move forward and discover new-to-me brews that will never take the place of the old ones, but will remind us how are craft brewery in North Carolina has come

Cackalacky, Fullsteam Brewery
The best and most true ginger ale, I've ever had. It was always my beer of choice when visiting the Durham brewhouse and it blew me away every time I snapped open a can at parties, gatherings and in the comfort of my own home. When

Fat Boy Baltic Porter, Old Mecklenburg Brewing

Maplewood Aged Sauvignon Blanc Jade, Foothills Brewing (no longer in production)

Hoppyum, Foothills Brewing

Coconut Cream Ale, Hoots Beer Co.

Walter White IPA, Small Batch Beer Co.

Dead and Berried Imperial Stout, Foothills Brewing

Freak of Nature, Wicked Weed Brewing




On 8:00 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , ,    1 comment



Easter Butter Mints
Yield 150 pieces

Ingredients

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1-inch chunks

2 cups Dixie Crystals powdered sugar, sifted, plus extra for rolling

1/8 teaspoon pure peppermint oil

1 tablespoon whole milk

Food coloring (optional)

Instructions

1. Combine the butter and the powdered sugar in the mixer bowl. Beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is smooth and creamy, 6 to 8 minutes.

2. Add the peppermint oil and milk, and beat on medium speed until combined.

3. Lightly dust some confectioners' sugar onto a cutting board, and turn the dough out onto the board. If you're using food coloring, add 1 to 2 drops (or more for deeper color) and knead it into the dough with your hands until incorporated.

If you're making multiple colors, divide the dough into several pieces first (one for each color) and add the food coloring to each piece, starting with 1 drop and kneading, adding 1 drop at a time, until the desired colors are reached. Gather each piece of dough into a ball. Cover so it does not dry out.

4. Sift more confectioners' sugar over the cutting board. Divide the dough into 4 pieces (if you haven't divided it already). Using your hands, and dusting them with confectioners' sugar as needed to reduce any stickiness, gently roll one piece of dough into a log about 1/2-inch in diameter.

5. Use a sharp chef's knife to cut the log into 1/2-inch pieces. Lay the pieces in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet to dry. Repeat with the remaining 3 pieces of dough, and allow the candies to dry at room temperature, uncovered, overnight.

Store the buttermints, layered between parchment or wax paper, in an airtight container at room temperature, away from light, for up to 2 weeks.

You can also substitute creme de menthe or peppermint schnapps for peppermint oil. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons in place of the oil.


Check out the amazing #EasterSweetsWeek recipes from our bloggers today!

Cookies:
  Cake:
  Candy:
  Ice Cream:
  Baked/Cooked Desserts:
Welcome to this year's #EasterSweetWeek event hosted by Angie from Big Bear’s Wife. We’re so glad that you’ve joined us for this week long event of Springtime and Easter dessert recipes! We're sharing tons of treats this week plus a few fantastic giveaways! You’re going to love what we have in store for you.
#EasterSweetsWeek Logo
This year we have are 28 fantastic bloggers participating in this year’s Easter dessert event! Throughout the week we’ll be share tons of great Springtime and Easter themed dessert recipes with you. With over 75 sweet dessert recipes being shared this week we just know that you’re going to want to save some of these recipes to make again and again! We even hope that some of these recipes end up in your Easter recipe keepsake collection! Plus, don’t forget that we have 5 (five) great giveaways for you this week thanks to our amazing sponsors!
Scroll down to take a look!

PRIZE #1


Prize #1 — Dixie Crystals is giving away one (1) Instant Pot (8 Qt) to one lucky winner!


PRIZE #2



Prize #2 — Adam’s Extract is giving one (1) winner 5 different extracts including a bottle of Pure vanilla and a color pack.


PRIZE #3


Prize #3 — Rainier Fruit is giving one (1) winner a box of Apples and some wonderful Apple themed goodies from Sur La Table


PRIZE #4


Prize #4 — Anolon is giving one (1) winner a Anolon® Vesta™ 9-Inch Square Baker in Cobalt Blue


PRIZE #5


Prize #5 — Microplane is giving one (1) winner a Twist & Zest, grip & strip and a classic zester/grater
Easter Butter Mints
Yield 150 pieces

Ingredients

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1-inch chunks

2 cups Dixie Crystals powdered sugar, sifted, plus extra for rolling

1/8 teaspoon pure peppermint oil

1 tablespoon whole milk

Food coloring (optional)

Instructions

1. Combine the butter and the powdered sugar in the mixer bowl. Beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is smooth and creamy, 6 to 8 minutes.

2. Add the peppermint oil and milk, and beat on medium speed until combined.

3. Lightly dust some confectioners' sugar onto a cutting board, and turn the dough out onto the board. If you're using food coloring, add 1 to 2 drops (or more for deeper color) and knead it into the dough with your hands until incorporated.

If you're making multiple colors, divide the dough into several pieces first (one for each color) and add the food coloring to each piece, starting with 1 drop and kneading, adding 1 drop at a time, until the desired colors are reached. Gather each piece of dough into a ball. Cover so it does not dry out.

4. Sift more confectioners' sugar over the cutting board. Divide the dough into 4 pieces (if you haven't divided it already). Using your hands, and dusting them with confectioners' sugar as needed to reduce any stickiness, gently roll one piece of dough into a log about 1/2-inch in diameter.

5. Use a sharp chef's knife to cut the log into 1/2-inch pieces. Lay the pieces in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet to dry. Repeat with the remaining 3 pieces of dough, and allow the candies to dry at room temperature, uncovered, overnight.

Store the buttermints, layered between parchment or wax paper, in an airtight container at room temperature, away from light, for up to 2 weeks.

You can also substitute creme de menthe or peppermint schnapps for peppermint oil. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons in place of the oil.

Giveaway open to US Residents 18 years or older.. All entries will be verified. No PO Boxes Please. Prizes will be sent directly from sponsors to winners, bloggers are not responsible for prizes. This giveaway runs from Marh 26th - April 1st at 12AMEST. Winners will be selected soon afterwards and contacted by e-mail. Winners will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. There are a total of 5 (five) prizes and therefore we will have a total of 5 (five) winners. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited by law.

Disclaimer: These posts and recipes are part of the week long event, #EasterSweetsWeek but all opinions are 100% mine! We would like Thank our amazing sponsors: Dixie Crystals, Adam’s Extract, Rainier Fruit, Anolon and Microplane! These wonderful sponsors provided the prize packs for our giveaways and also sent samples and products to the #EasterSweetsWeek bloggers to use in their recipes.