Monday, June 29, 2015

Travel snacks.

travel snacks (c) nwafoodie

It’s official.

Summer has cashed in on her save-the-date announcement and she is ready to dance.

For many of us, summer means summer road trips, trips to the lake, the beach, the pond, or simply the backyard.  Lightning bugs are working feverishly and their presence reminds us how special this time of year is. Let’s make sure we take the time to really embrace summer and all that it offers us.

Perhaps you are planning a summer adventure that includes exploring all that Arkansas has to offer from the Northwest, down to the South, and finally over to the East. While friends may battle their budgets to jet off to exotic places, we know that we only have to explore our backyards. Arkansas is a rich and diverse state!

If your exploration includes a road trip, perhaps it is time to upgrade your travel snacks. Quick, what is the first thing you think off when you want to snack while on a road trip? Was your answer healthy, yummy, fresh, refreshing, balanced, and fun foods?  Or, was your first thought fast, greasy, unhealthy, and junk foods? No worries if your answer was the latter, because some of that is what makes a summer road trip so much fun. If your answer was the latter because that is all you usually eat, well, maybe it is time to mix things up a little.

What makes a well-rounded travel snack?

Variety does not mean pack everything and the kitchen sink. It also does not mean you break the bank. Variety means thinking through the different tastes such as sweet, sour, bitter, and salty.

Convenience stores are not in the business of fresh and healthy. They are in the business of high margin and profit. Be sure to pack fresh fruits and vegetables that stand on their own as well as with healthy dips such as hummus and peanut butters.  Lettuce wraps are a gold mine and often will hit-the-spot when you want something a bit more than a nibble.

If you want to skip the dum-dum suckers, plan ahead. Now is the time to slip in that new local chocolate or trail mix you’ve wanted to splurge on.  Believe me, the cost of candy bars and slurpees from a truck stop add up much quicker than one well thought-out dark chocolate bar.

Vacations often mean splurges. Splurges means sugar.  Sugar means more sugar. Nuts, cheeses, or bean dips like hummus help with that surging sugar rush. And crying kiddos.

Road food is most often cold food. Or, at the very least, room temperature food. If you are like me, fast foods are tempting because they offer a nice break via a warm meal. I like to pack a thermos or container that keeps food hot for hours by heating up soup, casserole, or hot pasta just before heading out on the road. It is amazing how a little thing like nibbling on something hot can make for a great experience.

travel snacks up close (c) nwafoodie

So, there you have it. Now all you have to do is roll down your car windows, let the breeze flow through your hair, and sing at the top of your lungs. It’s summer! It’s summer! It’s summer!

Eat well, my friends.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Binge watch the Chef’s Table series on Netflix. It’s awesome.

Screen capture of Francis Mallman, Patagona on Chef's Table

It’s been raining here in Northwest Arkansas. Tons.

Torrential tons.

I love it. It energizes me.

For many, rains that seems to never cease brings a melancholy or, at the very least, the overwhelming desire to curl up with a blanket and read a good book or watch a movie. Are you in that camp? In today’s world we no longer have to wait for our weekly episodes of our favorite television shows or brave the elements to head to the movie theater. Nor do we have to settle for whatever the broadcast stations determine that we want to watch. Yes, nowadays we get to choose. And the choices available to us are torrential.

Do you subscribe to Netflix?

Recently they posted a Netflix Original documentary (kinda) called Chef’s Table. I say “kinda” because this series feels more than a documentary to me. It feels like a masterpiece of beautiful cinematography mixed with interesting characters that opens up the mind to the wonderment of innovators in the world of cuisine.  That last sentence was a mouthful to me. Essentially, I think this series is stunning and blew my mind with the beauty and the stories.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Figuring out your signature sauce means you can make it with your eyes closed.

#denigris1889 balsamic and dijon signature sauce (c)nwafoodie

Content sponsored by #denigris1889

Last week I was interviewed for an upcoming local podcast and the interviewer asked me “what food or dish are your really excited about right now?” I admit I paused a bit longer than I should have. How do you answer when thoughts of everything edible comes piling in all at once, begging to be the one that gets the nod? I danced around the actual question and replied something to the tune of, “actually, it’s more of a sauce that I am currently excited about.”

How does one get excited about a sauce, you say?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sharing food… a little bit here and a little bit there.

There are times when you don’t feel like cooking at home and you have a little fun eating out, trying new places, visiting with family and friends, and eventually you come back home.

That’s what I’ve been doing lately.  Have you noticed my last post here was May 4th? Yep. I’ve been out sharing food… a little bit here and a little bit there.

The spring issue published spotlights I wrote showcasing local food stars Anne Harris of Zuppa Zuppa Soup Kitchen in Fayetteville and the House of Webster in Rogers.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Four courses of balsamic.

#denigris1889 four courses of balsamic - three ways (c)nwafoodie

Content sponsored by #denigris1889

What is your go-to ingredient?

Perhaps it is a spice, such as cumin or coriander. How about an herb? Is it thyme, cilantro, or maybe oregano?  Is it cream of mushroom soup? Butter? Chicken broth? If it is red wine, please tell so we can be best friends.

I have to think about what is mine. Cumin, maybe. Chicken broth, for sure. Butter, more and more than ever. Dijon mustard, yes that one is creeping up in the ranks. Same thing with balsamic. Ever since I learned about the De Nigris of Modena balsamic vinegars, I definitely can tell you that the more I learn about their fabulous vinegars, the more dishes they are showing up in.

Take tonight for instance.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The bar cart has made its comeback. Wondering how to stock it with essentials? Vintage bar cart in the living room (c)nwafoodie

This is a love story where the main character is the proverbial “man vs. himself.”

That “man” is me.
The love story is mine.

Almost thirty years ago my beloved and slightly eccentric Aunt Peggy from New Jersey died, leaving behind a household full of trinkets from travels around the world, photographs of generations of the Cole family {my maiden name}, and beautiful furniture pieces that her father, my grandpa whom I never knew, either crafted himself or had a prominent spot in his own home. I inherited much of Aunt Peggy’s goodies at a young age, perhaps too young. You see, I didn’t fully appreciate what I had been gifted, although my late-teen self would have vehemently denied it.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Pan roasted sweet onions with balsamic.

#denigris1889 Pan roasted sweet onions with balsamic - full shot (c)nwafoodie

Content sponsored by #denigris1889

Something was off.

I made this dish and it didn’t work.  Dennis took a bite and gave me that look that spoke volumes. It was a kind look yet one that showed sensory discomfort after that first bite.

Something was off.

Two weeks ago I browsed my cookbooks and Pinterest for inspiration.  I was determined to make a pan of simple roasted cipollini onions with balsamic and sugar.  What could go wrong?

A lot.

The balance was off and I couldn’t figure it out. It looked gorgeous but the taste wasn’t quite right.

#denigris1889 Pan roasted sweet onions with balsamic - in pan (c)nwafoodie

Fast-forward a week. I planned a half-day of vacation to attend a vinegar 101 school here in Bentonville that was hosted by two of the De Nigris family members. We are talking generations of grape growers that produce some of the finest vinegars in the world. I was excited to learn all about their complete line of De Nigris balsamic vinegars that spanned the classification spectrum of white eagle, bronze eagle, silver eagle, gold eagle, platinum eagle, and aged.

“Why would we need so many different types of balsamic?”

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