Friday Links

There are lots of good reads this week! What have you been reading? Since there’s a lot to cover, let’s dive right in.

With a name like “Farm to Fable,” you know it can’t be good. Spoiler: It’s pretty appalling, and sometimes scary, what restaurants are doing, serving and saying about the food they serve. It’s a long, engrossing read by the Tampa Bay Times worth your time if you care about food or integrity.

To counter this, imagine a sustainable home garden. A guide on Active shows you how to get started with a garden in your yard. Talk about my happy place; how amazing would that be?

RELATED: Tips for planning and growing your garden and what to expect when joining a community supported agriculture (CSA) program

The Washington Post has this food video satirizing a genre of lazy social media shares: The quick food video. As the article points out, it’s high on processed food and light on technical details. I see these ALL. THE. TIME. and wonder how many people actually make what they are sharing on social media?!? What is your stance on this, I would really love to hear in the comments. Watch the mock video below.


Grilled cheese tips | Kale and Ale

National Grilled Cheese Day was this week, and my guest blogger and boyfriend Aaron shares tips and tricks for the perfect grilled cheese. Um, yum. Trust me, these are no-fail, dressed-to-impress tips. Did you celebrate the special day? If so, how?

Thug Kitchen Party Grub review | Kale and Ale

And this week I posted my first cookbook review, Thug Kitchen’s Party Grub. Check it out and find a recipe from the book. Be sure to sign up for my e-newsletter, the next cookbook review also features a giveaway!

Buffalo potato ‘wings’

potatobakeThese Buffalo potato ‘wings’ are incredible. It has some of my favorite foods: hot sauce, potatoes and cheese. And not a lot more. When I saw this dish, I said aloud, “Why didn’t I think of this?!?!” I would be jealous I didn’t think of it, but my mouth was drooling and my mind was racing about what ingredients I needed and how fast could I make this.

Other than baking for more than an hour to get the potatoes cooked through, this is a crazy easy dish to make, using very common ingredients. I used half russet potato and half sweet potato. I wouldn’t change a thing about this recipe and the people I have shared it with that I know are into hot foods (yes, there is a group of us at work who bring spicy foods for one another to try) have saved the recipe to make in the future.

This miiiight be slightly better/more addictive than my breaded tofu wing bites.

Two other Buffalo-inspired dishes I plan to make soon include the spicy Buffalo cauliflower wings and these tofu hot wings.

Are you into hot foods? What is your favorite spicy vegetarian dish? If it doesn’t bring heat to my face or tears to my eyes, it’s just not hot enough!

Creamy chipotle sweet potato and quinoa bake

Oh my gosh, just made perhaps the best casserole ever. All my favorite foods in one. Cheese! Sweet potatoes! Quinoa! Chipotle! Black beans! All together in layers and flavors to create an awesome, mostly healthy flavor bonanza in my mouth.

So easy, got to use my cast-iron skillet and has my favorite flavors. It’s a little gooey, creamy, smoky, crunchy all in one.

The recipe is here, but I used less cheese, almond milk instead of cream (it turned out fine) and vegan mayo. So this is what I call almostvegan (like me, vegan except cheese).

Iowa raised

This week I went home to Iowa to hang out and visit family. I didn’t have much planned, so it was a nice, relaxing time hanging out with friends and family in great weather. I came back refreshed; it was a really great trip.

While I was home some last-minute exciting things happened:

  • One night, the Northern Lights were supposed to be visible. So my mom and I jumped in the car and drove around away from city lights for a while looking for them. Unfortunately, we didn’t spot them. Viewing the Northern Lights has been on my bucket list since learning about them, probably in middle school, so I was bummed I didn’t see them. If they were visible, I think we went to bed too early, as the best show was after midnight until 4 a.m.
  • I was leaving Iowa to come back to Florida the same time as President Obama. He made a quick trip to the University of Iowa during his two-day university tour to talk about student-loan rates, and flew out of the Eastern Iowa Airport the same time as me. Because of the timing, I saw the motorcade as I was on the road waiting to enter the airport and saw Air Force One take off once inside the terminal. It was a pretty cool site.

The motorcade entering the Eastern Iowa Airport

Air Force One takes off. I saw it a lot closer but due to excitement and poor window placement, I couldn't get a better picture.

Other than that, I hung out with my family and friends, enjoying the weather and activities of my hometown. And, if you know me or this blog, you know some of my favorite things to do when traveling is sample local food and beer.

I read in my hometown newspaper (and my first job) about a cute cheese shop, The Cheesehead Cheese Haus in Vinton, so I stopped by. It has more than 100 different cheeses, most from Wisconsin. Kris owns it with her husband, and she was very knowledgeable and helpful while we were shopping. She said she has tried all the cheeses (lucky lady!).

My mom, brother and I each picked a cheese: Buffalo wing cheddar (my brother), Farmers horseradish and chive (my mom) and cranberry white cheddar (me). They were a great variety, and all were really good, especially when sampled with our Midwest beers variety 6-pack I picked up.

Not a great picture, but great Midwest beer, cheese and crackers.

If you haven’t heard me say it before, I make a point when I travel somewhere to try to eat and drink as local as possible. And when I go home, it means sampling Midwest beers that are not available in Florida. Why travel to get something from the same chain restaurant you can find on every corner of the U.S. and wash it down with a basic anybeer? To me, a huge joy of travel is to experience new things and try something local not widely available.

This trip, my favorite beers sampled were Boulevard Single-Wide I.P.A., Potosi Steamboat Shandy and Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale.

New Orleans eats

Bill and I went to New Orleans  for our wedding anniversary (four years) and milestone of when we met (10 years). While there we had a lot of good food and drinks, met up with friends for a day and saw a lot of great sights. This post is about the great food we had in the Big Easy, but we also had some wonderful drinks on our trip.

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We arrived in New Orleans around lunchtime and the weather was perfect. We started at the French Market, on the east side of the French Quarter, and walked through it, making our way to Central Grocery for muffaletta. Unfortunately it was closed that day, so we kept walking around, taking in all the sights and sounds of a city we hadn’t seen for ten years.

Being a vegetarian in a food-oriented city full of meat stocks and broths, I did some research before we got there and had a short list of vegetarian-friendly restaurants. Near the top of that list was the Gumbo Shop, a small restaurant near Jackson Square. We headed over and sat in the courtyard. Still buzzing from just arriving in this great city full of so much meaning, we dove in with two New Orleans specialties. I had vegetarian gumbo with a NOLA Blonde beer, and Bill had a po-boy and one of the restaurant’s specialty rum punches. The gumbo was great with a good balance of rice, beans and spices. The beer really played off it well, adding great flavor. Looking back, we kept loving that meal and talking about it.

The next day we knew Central Grocery was open, so we made a point to go there. Central Grocery is home of the muffaletta sandwich, and they make it awesome. They have an awesome olive mix on white bread with sesame seeds, lots of cheese and three kinds of meat (obviously I kept that part off).

We waited until the line had “died down” and we still waited almost half an hour. You stand in a line that weaves through the old-school Italian market and can look at all the wonderful and unusual ingredients they stock. When you get to the counter you order a half or whole muffaletta (even the half is huuuuuge), if you want Zapp’s potato chips or a drink, or any of the few other items they have at the deli counter. I sheepishly asked if I could get my sandwich vegetarian (that’s right, I didn’t even know if it could be done!) and the old man behind the counter said “yes” in the most monotone, stern voice I had heard. I didn’t care, it was worth it. That salty, carbo sandwich was mine! We walked across the street to the Mississippi River and ate the awesome sandwich.

We liked Napoleon House so much, we went twice: once for drinks and a snack (awesome fruit and cheese platter, which turned into a fun game of guess the type of cheese) and once for lunch. At lunch I hoped to try the ratatouille calzone, which sounded amazing with roasted seasonal veggies, a Dijon vinaigrette and cheese, but they were out of it that day. So in haste I ordered the organic sandwich, which was also good. But I was really hoping for one last Southern/New Orleans specific dish.

However, Bill had a bit better luck in New Orleans since he isn’t vegetarian. He had oysters, a few different po-boys, the original muffaletta and jambalaya to name a few things, all of which he liked.

And no trip to New Orleans is complete without a stop at Cafe du Monde. Bill had never been, so we had cafe au lait and beignets hiding under a mountain of powdered sugar while sitting outside listening to wonderful jazz music.

And when we had a little time to kill before heading to the airport, we stopped for one last treat: Pinkberry. It was our first time trying it and we figured when on vacation, why not have one last treat. It is frozen tart and sweet yogurt with a toppings bar. I really liked it that it wasn’t sweet and the toppings ranged from fruit to nuts and granola to sweet treats and sauces. Very unique idea. Even Larry David likes it! (And, yes, some guy in line had to mention this episode from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” to the employee, who probably had heard this a thousand times.)