Sunday, August 17, 2014

Special Event: Toast And Jam at Twin City Hive #wsnc #myws

You like Toast and Jam.
I know you do.
Guess what?

NEXT Sunday at Twin City Hive in Winston-Salem, you will be able to have the best of both worlds.

Mark your calendars, add it to Google Calendar, it's going to be an epic event.

So what's this toast & jam about?

In May of 2014, The New Yorker published this:

"Artisanal toast...represents our intensifying obsession with and fetishization of food. Every meal is special and important, every dish should be elevated, revered, and broadcast—even something as pedestrian as toast."

Yes. It's the newest hipster trend to hit the large cities with large populations of hipsters. Winston-Salem is not a metropolis, but boy do we have our hipsters! And boy, we do we like our toast. We are a bread-making, coffee-drinking, music-playing town. Toast & Jam will highlight the City of Arts and Innovation in an artistic and innovative way.

Come taste and see the artisanal toast bar with several types of locally-sourced, handmade breads, jams, jellies, honey and other toppings paired with local coffee roasters such as Krankies Coffee, Counter Culture Coffee and Beans Boro Roasters.

Key Ingredient

Sit and listen to the cool tunes and voice stylings of some local musicians and singers. It's really going to be a fun time. For more information, call Twin City Hive at 336-653-9924 or email

Friday, August 15, 2014

$20 Challenge [Country Gumbo + Skillet Biscuits] #dcfarmkt

To prove that you can eat locally grown food AND stay within your grocery budget, the Dixie Classic Fair Farmers Market and the City of Winston-Salem is sponsoring the $20 Challenge twice a month from now through September in 2014. I will stage a live cooking demonstration in which I will  prepare a meal for a family of four for $20 using ingredients I buy at the market that day.

This week I was joined by renowned local chef and owner of Springhouse Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar, Chef Tim Grandinetti. I don't keep it a secret that Springhouse is my favorite restaurant in Winston-Salem. I'm a little biased when it comes to eating great food and receiving great service at a place. The 'House is tops for me. Along with that, I respect and revere Chef Tim. It was truly an honor to have him on the show and as my sous chef for the day. It's too bad I wasn't planning to create anything difficult. I could have REALLY put him to work! Ha!

Screenshot of the show!

Did you not make it to the market on Saturday? Watch the $20 Challenge on WSTV-13 on Time Warner Cable (Channels 74.3 and 1303) OR subscribe to the City of Winston-Salem's You Tube channel.

So what did we make this week? Country Gumbo and Skillet Biscuits

gumbo with andouille sausage

I won't reiterate it much here, but gumbo and biscuits are both very important to me. The ultimate comfort food.

Country Gumbo

1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped green pepper (or yellow squash)
1 cup chopped celery
2 cups lima beans
1 cup corn kernels
1/4 lb andouille or other smoked sausage, sliced or minced
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 to 4 bay leaves
6 cups water or stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large stock pot. Whisk in flour and continue to stir constantly—either with a whisk or a wooden spoon—until roux turns a deep, dark chocolate brown (or another shade of your liking). This should take around 30 minutes. If you sense that your roux is in danger of burning, reduce heat immediately and continue to stir.

Once roux has reached desired shade, carefully stir in onions, squash, and celery, and continue to stir about 5 minutes, until vegetables begin to wilt. When the vegetables hit the roux, be careful of the cloud of steam. Add salt, cayenne, and sausage, and continue to cook about 5 minutes.
Rip and add bay leaves and stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for an hour, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Skim off any fat that rises to the surface. Add andouille and continue to simmer uncovered for thirty minutes to an hour. Adjust seasoning. Thin out with more stock or water if necessary. Serve with/over white rice, if desired.
Skillet biscuits
1 Tablespoon oil
1 Tablespoon butter
2 cups of self rising flour 
3/4 to 1 cup cold buttermilk

In an 8-inch cast iron skillet, melt the oil and butter over medium high heat. Meanwhile, add only enough buttermilk to the flour to form into a thick dough. 
Use a wide a spoon to drop dough into the hot skillet. Cover and reduce heat to between medium and medium low. Cover and cook until the bread browns on the bottom, then flip over and cook until browned on the other side. 

To answer a few questions I've received:

*I did not chop or slice the gumbo because the pods were already so small. I like to work smarter, not harder.

*Biscuits in a pan or a non-stick skillet will still work--they just won't get the crusty brown tops and bottoms like a cast iron skillet.

*I forgot to buy green peppers for the trinity! There was nothing I could do about it, so I just did without. That happens sometimes! Not having the peppers did not detract from the flavor.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Springhouse Luv Luv Festival 2014

It's one of the most wonderful times of year! Dr. Brownstone's Sweet Summer Luv Luv Festival is upon us in Winston-Salem! I attended the five days of deliciousness in 2012 and 2013 it was a week of amazing food, meeting amazing people and enjoying the creative menus of world-renowned chefs using lots of local produce, local products and local craft beers, wine and spirits.

Chef Tim Grandinetti, culinary powerhouse who you may have seen on the latest episode of $20 Challenge or even on Chopped Grillmasters, holds this annual event where he invites all of his chef friends to cook, make menus together and celebrate each chef with amazing menus and fun times.

Wouldn't you like to call up your friends and say, "Hey, would you like to come to my house for a week or as many days as you can, and cook all week long?"

That's exactly what Luv Luv Festival is. Each night and each course is paired with select wines, cocktails and there is also live music. This year Springhouse  has partnered with the non-profit organization, Reap More Than You Sow Community Gardening Project, Inc. to help support and support its mission here in Forsyth County. Every place setting had packets of seeds. I'm not a gardener, I leave that up to the experts, but I might throw a few seeds over the fence and see what happens...

The first night of Luv Luv featured Kansas City Barbecue Society Champion, World Food Championships competitor and Food Network Grill Master Doug Keiles along with Winston-Salem Chefs: Chef Shane Moore of Foothills Brewing; Chef Mark Grohman of Meridian Restaurant, & Chef Timothy Grandinetti of Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar.

The first course was presented by Doug Keiles. Before I met him, I knew I liked him.
And that is all you need to know about him.
But on the real: I met him in 2013 during the World Food Championships. He placed 2nd in the Bacon category and he'll be going back to Vegas in November to vie for number one.

So, the food! To the left: A mini BLT. The B is Doug's signiture bacon. It's rubbed with one of his signature rubs and smoked for over FIVE DAYS. FIVE. And to say that the bacon was thick cut would be an understatement. It was a half-inch thick and was amazing. The tomatoes and the lettuce and the mayo on the profiteroles distracted me from the bacon goodness, but it was delicious nevertheless. To the right: Bacon Jam with Sriracha aioli. This was my favorite part of this course. It was salty, it was a little spicy, the umami of the bacon knocked every thing else out of the park.

The second course was presented by Chef Shane Moore of Foothills. This pretty little seared scallop sat on top of an arugula salad and a corona of dried cherries was decorated with bits of raw yellow squash, for color. I have a love/hate relationship with scallops, but this one was tender and delicate in all of the right places. I could have eaten four more of these and been perfectly fine.

Instead, I filled up on oysters and clams from the Rappahannock Oyster Co. boys. Outside on the patio, Travis and Bernie were shucking and jiving (OKAY, I'm lying--they weren't jiving. Joking, but not jiving) and I was thrilled to see them set up when I got to the restaurant.

I took this pic last year. Same clams, different day.

They were back again and I couldn't resist slurping and sipping and swallowing these babies. Honestly, these are the best oysters and clams I've ever had. Do yourself a favor and have some shipped to your house. It will be a life-changing food experience for you.

The next course is part of a series I like to call: Dude Food. Food for dudes who like it simple and easy and in their mouth quickly.

Presented by Doug Keiles, THIS was the best piece of meat I've ever put in my mouth. I'm not even playing. The filet was perfectly cooked, to a medium rare and it was so soft, I cut it with my butter knife. I'm not even joking. The bacon was the complete opposite of the first bacon, as it was sliced very thin and it was almost like a grosgrain ribbon, with striations of meat and fat marbling through the piece of pork. I have to admit: I got a little but misty-eyed. Underneath that ribbon of bacon was a nodule of cream cheese whipped with diced jalapenos and Doug's Hot Salt, for seasoning. If there had been an announcement that there would be no dessert, I would have been completely satisfied.

Dessert was presented by Chef Tim Grandinetti and it was a simple chocolate cake with a florette of chantilly cream. Every good chef has a go-to chocolate cake recipe in his back pocket and this was one. By the end of the night, it was dark and I tried my best to photograph the cake in all its glory, but this is as glorious as it got.

All in all, the night was Sweet Summer Luv Luv Festival Lite. It had stormed earlier and the ground was damp outside, so there was no outdoor tent action going on and everyone was split into three separate dining rooms, and that broke up the momentum and the spirit of the event too. I did, however, see multiple groups of people who were once tour-goers of mine on my Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours. That was definitely a highlight, for me, of the night.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Recap: Food + Wine Conference 2014 #FWCon

It's been over two weeks since I've returned home from the annual Food & Wine Conference in Orlando, Florida and I'm still glowing from the whole experience.

Picture courtesy of Sunday Supper, LLC
If you recall, last year I was the winner of the Dixie Crystals Brownie Dessert Contest and I have been able to meet some amazing people and do some amazing things since my win. In 2014, I had the fortunate opportunity to be the Dixie Crystals Brand Ambassador for the Food & Wine Conference. I could have have been more thrilled to take pictures of EVERYTHING and wait with sugared breath, to find out this year's winner. Before any of that took place, I had to have a little fun, right?

Friday evening we the conference kicked off with a "Blogger Blend" sponsored by Gallo Family Vineyards. It was essentially a meet & greet that unveiled the NEW Gallo Family Riesling, for the FIRST TIME! Talk about "popping bottles"... I have a great story about that later on.

Refreshing and very sweet, the new Gallo Family Riesling is redolent with peach, pear and apple flavors.

I can't resist a Step and Repeat backdrop at an event. Do I look red carpet ready?

Go Riesling, go Riesling, Go!

One of the reasons for attending conferences, whether they be for work or for pleasure, is to meet people. I met my new blogger friend, Teresa, and I could not have been more thrilled. She emailed me a few months before the conference to let me know that she saw my face on the conference website and that she was excited to meet me and most importantly--start her own food blog!

Fast friends
I also got to reacquaint myself with Emily Ellyn of Cupcake Wars and Food Network Star fame and Whitney Miller, winner of season 1 of MasterChef. I met them both when I competed at the World Food Championships in Las Vegas last Fall. I think it was Julia Child that said,
"People who love to eat are the best people..." 

That's right. I second that motion.

I spent time snacking on celery with Duda Farms, taking my fair share of Cabot cheese, relaxing by one of the Rosen Shingle Creek pools, gathering Gallo Family wine to take back home and recreating a Sunday Supper recipe in my hotel room!

So as much fun as our action-packed weekend was--the one thing I was looking forward to was Sunday Supper with all of my new blogger friends and finding out the winners of the Dixie Crystals Brownie Dessert Contest! And DRINKING ALL THE GALLO FAMILY WINE. There was a full glass of wine with each course. 

The winning brownies:

First place: Bittersweet Chocolate Balsamic Strawberry Swirl Brownies from Jenni Field of (Jenni is another NC blogger! We're like American Idol winners, hailing from the same state in back-to-back seasons)

Second place: Raspberry Brownies with White Chocolate Icing from Liz Berg of That Skinny Chick Can Bake

Third place: Caramel Macchiato Brownies from Betsy Cohen of Desserts Required

Left to Right: Betsy Cohen, Jenni Field, Liz Berg

I have personally been acquainted with all three ladies since last year or  before. It was truly an honor to be able to stand up on the stage with them and enjoy their creations. It was also an honor to represent Dixie Crystals in this special way. I hope that these ladies will be able to leverage their wins in fantastic ways, just like I was able to!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

$20 Challenge [Spicy Marinated Tacos + Cantaloupe] #dcfarmkt

To prove that you can eat locally grown food AND stay within your grocery budget, the Dixie Classic Fair Farmers Market and the City of Winston-Salem is sponsoring the $20 Challenge twice a month from now through September 2014.

I stage a live cooking demonstration in which I will prepare a meal that could feed a family of four for $20 using ingredients I buy at the market that day.
Did you not make it to the market on Saturday? Watch the $20 Challenge on WSTV-13 on Time Warner Cable (Channels 74.3 and 1303) OR subscribe to the City of Winston-Salem's You Tube channel.
This week I was joined by my friend and fellow blogger, Amanda Clark of Cuisine And Screen. We met two years ago at Fire in the Triad and became fast friends. It was SO much fun having her on set and getting SPICY with our tacos.
I'm wearing the SAME dress in this week's show! Ha!

I honestly believe this is the best $20 Challenge episode yet. I felt like I was in my element and my personality really came through. I have to admit: while I was cooking, I had no idea of what I was saying. I hoped it translated to camera and thankfully, it did! Watch it below or by clicking this link!

I always try to keep the $20 Challenge recipes simple, easy and kid-friendly. This week was no exception and I managed to save a little over $4 which could be used to purchase taco shells and additional garnish not sold at the market.

Spicy marinated skirt steak
1 ¼ skirt steak, trimmed, cut into 4-inch pieces

2 TBSP fresh mint
¼ cup fresh parsley
¼ cup fresh oregano
1 bunch chives
¼ cup cilantro
¼ cup jalapeno, diced
2 cloves garlic
Juice from 1/2 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.

Heat grill pan or cast-iron skillet over high heat. 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 doneness, 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, Greek yogurt,  cheese and any other condiments you like.

Cantaloupe with lime, sea salt & chili powder
Sprinkle ingredients on fruit to taste.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Cucumber Salad with Blackberry Browned Butter Vinaigrette #SundaySupper

It's Sunday! And time for Sunday Supper. It's the only day of the week I am committed to cooking (except today!) Join in on the virtual Summer BBQ Party! Today, I have an amazing story for you:

I am currently in Orlando, Florida for the incomparable Food & Wine Conference sponsored by Sunday Supper and a host of other sponsors and brands, acting as brand ambassador for Dixie Crystals sugar--promoting the brand and the winners of the Dixie Crystals Brownie Dessert Contest, as I won the contest last year!

Knowing I'd be in Orlando during the conference, I still signed up to post, knowing I could just schedule and be on my merry conferencing way. I made my salad, shot some photos on my back porch in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and planned to edit later. Well, the shots ended up being blurry, ugly (UGHHHH!) and supremely unusable. Did I mention blurry? I'll spare your eyes because all evidence has been deleted!

I was to leave for Orlando in just a few short hours. What's a girl to do? I packed a fresh English cucumber, fresh dill, some leftover browned butter vinaigrette in a Ziploc bag (3 oz. TSA approved, of course) and a half-pint of fresh blackberries I purchased at Food Lion in my carry-on. I was going to recreate my salad in my room and shoot the salad under the beautiful setting of the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort.

And I did.

Kind of. Ish.

The conference has been action-packed and there was plenty of down time, but the pools, the spa, the restaurants and the gorgeous view from my room pulled me away from thinking about my un-photographed dish. I had to order a knife to be delivered to my room (hello, room service) so I could complete my dish. Was it worth the trouble and this ridiculous adventure? Make this salad and YOU be the judge.

This week, Melanie of Melanie Makes and Jennie of Messy Baker Blog are kicking off this Summer BBQ party the right way by being gracious, thoughtful co-hosts. Don't forget to check them out and tell them Nik Snacks sent you!

Cucumber Salad with Blackberry Browned Butter Vinaigrette
Makes 4 cups

I looked around my blog and realized I did not have a classic cucumber salad. I don't have many "classic" things on this blog and I wasn't about to start a trend with this. The browned butter vinaigrette is an unexpected, unique showstopper. Try it for your next picnic or outdoor grilling event (AKA barbecue, anywhere except the South)

2 English cucumbers, sliced thin, on the bias
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
5 Tablespoons fresh blackberry juice
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or salad oil
1 Tablespoon chopped shallot
1/8 teaspoon mustard
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Optional: 4 ounces fresh blackberries cut in half for garnish

Slice English cucumbers into rounds, 1/4 inch thick. If using Kirby or other variety of cucumber, slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds in the middle, then slice into rounds (or crescents, at this point). 

Put the sliced cucumbers in a colander and sit the colander in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and let sit in the refrigerator for an hour. Drain the cucumbers and toss with black pepper and the fresh dill.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat until browned but not burned (it should smell like toasted nuts) about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a blender or food processor, combine the fresh blackberry juice, (or blend 1/4 cup blackberries in juicer or food processor before beginning) vinegar, shallot and mustard. Blend until smooth. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the reserved brown butter and blend until thickened. Season to taste and set aside at room temperature until ready to toss and drizzle with the sliced cucumbers.
Don't forget to visit others sharing Summer BBQ Party recipes through Sunday Supper. You will find something to help you take your next BBQ up a few notches!

Sides and Accompaniments
Main Dishes
Sunday Supper MovementJoin 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 board. Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

$20 Challenge [Better Butter Burgers + Sweet Peach Compote] #dcfarmkt

To prove that you can eat locally grown food AND stay within your grocery budget, the Dixie Classic Fair Farmers Market and the City of Winston-Salem is sponsoring the $20 Challenge twice a month from now through September in 2014.

This week's menu:
Better Butter Burgers
Fresh Succotash
Sweet Peach Compote

I stage a live cooking demonstration in which I prepare a meal for a family of four for $20 using ingredients I buy at the market that day.

This week, I was joined once again by my temporary sous chef and friend, Chris Blackburn, chef/owner of Josephine's Bistro and Lindley Park Filling Station in Greensboro.

Did you not make it to the market on Saturday? Watch the $20 Challenge on WSTV-13 on Time Warner Cable (Channels 74.3 and 1303) OR subscribe to the City of Winston-Salem's You Tube channel. 

This week was full of simplicity and decadence. Putting a knob of fresh, creamy butter in the center of a burger is not unheard of, but it's certainly not for the faint of heart. Adding even more butter to the fresh, crisp vegetables of a classic succotash is where the simplicity comes in. Succotash is near and dear to me and I don't take making it lightly. This version is EXTRA special because instead of the classic butterbeans, I use a variety of bean new to me: pink-eye peas. Watch the freshest episode of $20 Challenge to learn all about the fresh, local ingredients from North Carolina.

Better Butter Burgers
Serves 4

Mixing whole butter into your hamburger meat or incorporating it into your meat patty is a sure-fire way to make sure your burger is juicy and full of flavor. Be sure not to handle your beef too much, as that will make it tough. You'll see in the video that I barely touch the meat as I seal the burgers before putting them in the skillet.

6 Tablespoons salted mountain butter, at room temperature
1 cup onions, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons Montreal or steak seasoning
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 pound ground grass-fed beef
4 soft hamburger buns, split

Additional Condiment Ideas
Lettuce leaves
Sliced ripe red tomato
Mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, relish, Cackalacky sauce

Divide the meat into 8 loose portions, then gently flatten into thin patties.
Season ground beef with Montreal steak seasoning. Place one Tablespoon of butter in the center of four of the thin burger patties, placing another burger on top. Pinch the outer edges, sealing the butter inside each patty.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a mid-sized skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and cook until butter melts, 3 to 4 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper and continue cooking.

Add the burger patties to the hot skillet with the onions and cook burgers for 5-7 minutes per side for medium, or until done to your liking.
Allow burgers to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Spoon the now caramelized onions on top of the burgers. Meanwhile, toast the buns, season three tomato slices with salt and pepper.
Assemble and serve burgers on buns with the toppings of your choice.

Fresh succotash
Serves 4

There is not much more delicious than fresh corn and tomatoes in the summer. Both of them together automatically equal summer. As the summer goes on, the tomatoes will be sweeter and so will the corn. Hold out until you can't anymore to get the freshest ingredients for the best succotash.
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 Tablespoons salted butter
1/2 cup onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 cups fresh pink-eyed beans, rinsed
1 1/2 cups fresh (2 ears) corn kernels
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
In a large skillet, heat oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add beans and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are tender, about 8 minutes. Add corn. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Serve.

Fresh peach compote
Serves 4

Peaches are sweet without adding sugar but why not make a little caramel to add a little extra goodness to your plate? By leaving the skins on the peaches when you cook them, the peaches will be less likely to fall apart.
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
2 cups sliced, peaches (skin on)
1 teaspoon salt

Place a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat. Add butter and sugars to the pot. Do not stir. Let the butter and the sugars caramelize and melt.
Add peaches and coat the peaches with the caramelized sugar.  Bring them to a simmer and heat them until the peaches start to break apart. Stir again to coat peaches with sugar.  Sprinkle with salt. Serve.