Farro Salad

If you need something to eat for lunch this week.

If you’re out of ideas for healthy recipes.

If you’re running out of patience with your New Year’s resolution to eat better.

Then, this Farro Salad is just for you! It’s full of goodness: pecans, feta, green onion and parsley. Then, the bright dressing comes together with olive oil, lemon orange juice and zest.

It’s a bowl of health, but highlights the wonderful depth and texture that farro adds. Throw some chicken on it for extra protein. Plate it next to a nice piece of salmon. Or just eat it in a deep bowl with a fork.

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13 Things I’ve Learned Before 30

30th

It’s here. The day has finally come…well, it’s coming tomorrow.

I’m turning 30!

It has hit me in different ways on different days, but overall I’m looking forward to this new decade of life. It’s hard to believe all that has happened in the past 10 years (the usuals: graduated college, worked a few jobs and finally found a job I love, got married, moved, bought a house). Still waiting on the get a pet and have kids thing.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to recap 13 lessons (my bday is on the 13th after all) I’ve learned over the years that I hope to take through my thirties and beyond:

1. Be confident and assertive

I feel like I’ve really learned to come out of my shell in different ways over the past decade. I remember when I studied abroad in England and had to learn to be assertive at the pub bar to get my order in. With life, I’ve learned that it’s OK to stand up for yourself and others and let your voice be heard.

2. Good communication = good relationships

Even though I work in communications (as a marketing writer), I’m always working on my communication skills. With all of the friendships and marriage conversations that I’ve had in the past few years, I’ve realized that good communication is key…to a lot of things. Be honest instead of holding frustrations inside. Communicate straight with the source, instead of gossiping. Over-communicate rather than under. It will serve you well in your relationships and the work world.

3. Career isn’t everything

This was a hard lesson to learn in my mid- to late-twenties, but it was also an important one for me. I’ve always been more of a high achiever, and it was difficult for me to be at jobs for years that didn’t put me exactly where I wanted to be in my career. It wasn’t until God helped me learn that career isn’t everything that I could let go of trying to prove that to others. And then I found a killer job, so that worked out in time. Work is important and a great way to connect with others and use your God-given skills, but there is much more to life (relationships, family, community, volunteering, etc.). I’ve benefited greatly from putting my faith and trust in something bigger than my career.

4. Friends come and go, but true ones stay

This may sound sad, but it’s a good lesson. Friendships are wonderful, but it’s likely by the time you reach your late twenties that you have a small but core group of friends. I really enjoy having friends from my childhood, college, past workplaces, current work and church. There were times when I wondered why I didn’t have lots of people inviting me to their homes every week, but I value the infrequent time I spend with true friends. With the good ones, you can always pick up where you left off, no matter how long it’s been.

5. Sleep on it

This is a huge lesson I hope to take with me into my thirties. When you wonder if you should do something, talk to someone, publish something, argue with a coworker, cry about something, etc., you should sleep on it. You will make much better decisions (and not do rash things you will regret), if you give yourself some time to cool off and chill out. Trust me on this one!

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N.C. One Bite at a Time (Part 18)

It’s truly hard to believe that we’ve been in North Carolina for 4 years as of next month! We’ve celebrated several birthdays, bought our first house, welcomed a niece and soon a nephew, and we have eaten a lot of great meals here. Also, I keep discovering local food in our region that amazes me.

So, let’s dive in with what I’ve explored over the past few months:

Full Bloom Coffee Roasters

full bloom garner nc

We had a few chances to explore some new spots in Garner this summer, which was a treat. We live kind of in between Raleigh and Garner, so it’s nice to support local businesses like this coffee shop/bar. They roast their own coffee, and they have a selection of local beers on top. They also host food trucks every so often!

La Republica Taco Truck

la republica taco

Speaking of food trucks at Full Bloom, we got the chance to try tacos from La Republica there, and they were really great. I especially enjoyed the vegetarian option with sweet potatoes. They also had an impressive array of hot sauces for topping your order.

Two Roosters Ice Cream

two roosters ice cream

Even in the cold months, local ice cream is a real treat. And Two Roosters is no different with the cutest little food truck and really good flavors. Their Cookies n’ Cream flavor hit the spot!

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Simple, Slow-Cooked Pork Ragu

Although my husband and I made this for the first time last Valentine’s Day, it’s fresh on my mind since we just made it for New Year’s Eve dinner.

Here’s the deal with this pork ragu:

  • It’s easy: Just sear meat, add some stuff to the pan, throw it in the oven, then combine with pasta.
  • It’s slow-roasted but a no-brainer: It cooks for 3-4 hours in the oven, but all you have to do is turn it a few times.

pork ragu

  • It’s great for date night or a group: It cooks enough for 6, so you can feed a crowd or just have lots of leftovers.
  • It’s comfort food: The flavor is rich and coats the pasta to create a perfect one-bowl meal.

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2018 Food Resolutions

2018 is off to a great start!

I had a super relaxing and fun week with family back in Arkansas, and now I’m back home and ready to dive back into work and normal life. We also got to bring in the New Year eating tasty food at home, playing Linkee and then Mario Kart on our new Nintendo Switch. Today, I’m catching up on the blogging (obviously) and enjoying my last day off.

It’s also been a good day to consider my 2018 food resolutions.

So, here’s what I accomplished in 2017:

  • Cooked from cookbooks and paper recipes more. I cooked from just cookbooks for one month, and it was a great way to use my recipe books!
  • Made my meal plan budget a priority and encouraged you to, as well, with the How to Save Money series.
  • Hosted several Sunday dinners and had people over for dinner every few months. This was a really fun thing to do to host new people and work on our entertaining skills.
  • Made more homemade foods, like dumplings and homemade pasta. I also made homemade flatbread with yeast (gasp?!), which I used to be scared of.
  • I didn’t give up any foods or eating out, but maybe I can this year?!

So, now on to my resolutions for 2018:

1. Eat more seafood

I am not very good at buying and cooking seafood often (other than canned tuna and fresh shrimp), so I would like to eat and cook more seafood this year. We have so much great local seafood in NC, so I’m dreaming of steamed mussels, fresh fish and maybe even some grilled fish!

2. Cook from my recipe box

I have this wonderful recipe box of family recipes that my mom gave me several Christmases ago, and there are lots of recipes in there that I haven’t made or haven’t cooked in quite awhile. With this in mind, I would like to use more of those recipes, as well as use my cookbooks more.

3. Start a cookbook club

In an effort to cook from my cookbooks more regularly, I have an idea to start a cookbook club in my neighborhood and host get-togethers where we all bring a dish cooked from a cookbook. Hopefully I can get this started in the next few months!

4. Give up something

Since I didn’t do this well last year, I’ll continue it into this year. I would like to give up eating out for a month and/or try to cut down on sugar or meat sometime this year.

5. Watch food documentaries

Have you noticed how many food documentaries there are on Netflix? Chef’s Table, Mind of a Chef, the list goes on and on, and I want to watch more of them! They’re interesting and educational, so it’s really a win-win. I’ve also started watching The Great British Bake Off Masterclass show.

What are your food resolutions for 2018?

Top 5 Posts of 2017

top 5 of 2017

It’s been a great year for food. I mean, other than the unicorn foods, and it’s also been a fun year of blogging. If you’ve been around the blog for 2017, you’ve seen:

Wow- how fun, right?!

Let’s take a trip back through the year to find out what your favorite and most popular posts were!

1. Slow Cooker Recipes

slow cooker recipes

This was a fun post to write, so I’m glad you guys have been enjoying it. This season is the perfect time to get inspired about cooking in your slow cooker!

2. Falafel-Style Chickpea Fritters

chickpea fritters

This recipe is easy, tasty and super healthy, as well as great with hummus and tzatziki (some of my favorite dips). Definitely add this one to your weeknight meal plan!

3. How to Save Money: Eating Out

I really enjoyed using my budget brain to write the How to Save Money series on the blog, and I hope it was helpful to get you thinking about saving money in everyday situations. Maybe you’re looking to make a New Year’s resolution about budgeting or eating out without blowing your budget. If so, check out these tips!

4. Mac & Cheese Tator Tot Casserole

mac and cheese tot casserole

This was a winner of a 2017 recipe, and I loved hearing how many of you tried and succeeded making this. Who knew that mac and cheese, broccoli and tater tots are magic together?!

5. Think Fruitful Travels: Asheville, NC

What a great way to end this year’s top 5 with a travel post of a city near and dear to my heart. I’ve been to Asheville several times now, so it’s fun to add to this list of things to do, breweries to explore and restaurants to enjoy.

Thanks for reading and eating. Cheers to 2018!

(Check back in a few days for my 2018 food resolutions.)

Beans N’ Leaves Tea Subscription Box

Calling all tea and coffee lovers!

Side note: Are there people who don’t like tea or coffee? Would those be people who only drink plain water…or only La Croix?

Either way, it’s safe to say that most of us enjoy a warm beverage in the morning or on a break. It’s a treat to help us relax, start conversations or enjoy a moment to ourselves.

With all of the subscription boxes out there these days (for dog toys, food, makeup and more), it’s wonderful to know that there is such a thing for us hot beverage drinkers.

beans n' leaves tea box

Enter Beans N’ Leaves. It’s a lovely service that provides you with a box of tasty, unique tea or coffee delivered right to your door. Or you can even get a combo of both artisan tea and coffee selections.

Y’all probably know by now that I’m a tea drinker through and through, so I opted for the Tea Box.

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Ingredient of the Month: Extracts

extracts

I’m going full holiday mode in the Ingredient of the Month!

This is your perfect partner for baking, your creative touch for confections and your secret to successfully flavored sweets: Extracts.

By extracts, I mean vanilla, almond, peppermint, orange and any other flavor of extract you may have or want to try!

These little bottles (when you buy the pure kind) are full of so much flavor and can add an interesting touch to many recipes.

Tell me more about extracts:

Flavor extracts are a bit like bitters, made from leaving a certain flavoring to sit in alcohol for an extended amount of time. There are even several easy recipes out there to make your own extract!

extracts

Where can I buy extracts:

You can buy the basic flavor extracts at your grocery store or specialty food store. Just make sure you buy those labeled “pure” that have a better flavor than those labeled “imitation.”

Pro tip: I live by my Mexican vanilla, and I highly suggest going to a Mexican grocery store to buy your vanilla. It’s so much more flavorful, and a decent sized bottle will last for a long time!

How do I store extracts:

I store my extracts in my pantry, which is also cool and dark. The great thing about those flavoring agents is that they usually last for a year or more (especially since you only use a little at a time).

How do I cook with extracts:

Most the uses for flavoring extracts are for baking purposes, but there are so many ways to jazz up your recipes with them!

One trick my mom taught me is to put a little vanilla extract on your morning fruit and yogurt. It sweetens it up a little bit and adds some nice vanilla flavor.

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Slow Cooker French Dips

This is one of those rare times that I offer you a classic, meat-focused recipe…so get excited!

I happened to be craving a good French dip sammy a few weeks ago, and so I set out to find a nice slow cooker recipe that would make flavorful and tender meat with a tasty dipping sauce.

The slow cooker is perfect in this case since it’s a set it and forget it type of situation that results in really tasty meat and broth. You can almost drink this au jus, it’s so good!

We enjoyed eating off of this recipe for many days, creating delicious sandwiches, or you could even throw it on a crisp salad. We added some greens to our sandwiches with some baby arugula.

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Pastry-Topped Apple Pandowdy

apple pandowdy

Am I the only one who gets excited when they hear of a food with an unusual name?!

I am a pretty curious person (like the type of person who always looks up words they don’t know), so I love learning new food knowledge. That’s probably also why I have the capacity to sustain a food blog for 6 years and not get bored…and cause you readers are so awesome!

apple pandowdy

So, when I saw that Bon Appetit had a recipe for Apple Pandowdy and that it combined the season’s best apples and puff pastry, I was all about it!

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