Introducing Groceries with Grace

If you follow the blog on Facebook, then you might have noticed a new weekly video of me unpacking my grocery bags and discussing my meal plan. I can see that some of you really enjoy this view into my food life, so I hope to keep doing these videos.

What did I get at the grocery this week?

  • Celery, onion, chicken stock, cornmeal and buttermilk for cornbread stuffing.
  • Beef stock, chuck roast, baguette, provolone and arugula for French dip sandwiches.
  • Chips and salsa, as usual
  • Black beans and avocados for rice bowls with chips and guac
  • And more!

See Groceries with Grace 1, 2 and 3 on YouTube. You can even subscribe to my channel to see the videos as soon as I publish them!

Tasty Vegan Banana Bread

I think we can all agree that banana bread is a staple, especially during the cooler months.

It takes old bananas and makes them amazing.

I’ve always loved homemade banana bread, but I’ve had trouble finding a recipe that is delicious, a good consistency and not too unhealthy. You know that I’m into my baked goods, and I always love when I can find healthy baking recipes like this one.

This Vegan Banana Bread calls for coconut oil instead of butter and maple syrup and honey instead of sugar. You can also use water instead of milk, or perhaps the non-dairy milk of your choice. And it still tastes really great and has the crumb texture that you exepct.

And, if you’re not vegan, then you can throw in some chocolate chips or nuts either way.

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6 Fave Recipes for 6 Years of Blogging

What’s happened in the past 6 years?

Well, other than 643 blog posts, a lot. I’ve switched jobs a few times, built this blog on my own on WordPress,  and improved my writing and photography (still improving, I hope). Although the blog and I have changed somewhat, the reason why I do the blog has stayed the same.

Think fruitful is a good writing and cooking outlet for me and a good recipe/food inspiration spot for you!

It’s been such a treat to grow with you all, experimenting with recipes, types of posts and even my writing style. I feel like I’m writing to a small but dedicated group of folks, and that’s pretty special.

In honor of this auspicious 6-Year Blogaversary, I’m going through 6 of my favorite recipes. These are foods that I just can’t stop cooking month after month and year after year.

Here are my 6 faves:

Mom’s White Bean Hummus

This dip is my go-to appetizer and can be ready in only a few minutes with a can of white beans, rosemary, garlic, lemon, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Great with crudites and pita chips!

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

I heard from many of you that this was one of your favorite think fruitful recipes, and I totally agree. We usually make this once every few months, and it hits the spot when you’re craving some Indian food.

Pulled Pork Tacos

This is another recipe that has a good following, and I’ve been making this one for many years. It’s another slow cooker wonder that is great for a group!

pulled-pork-tacos

Curry Dal

My husband and I have been hooked on this recipe for many years, and it’s such a great weeknight recipe to serve on rice with cilantro yogurt.

curry-dal recipe

Vegetable Stock

I keep my vegetable scraps every week so I can make a batch of stock every other week or so. It’s such a great way to use what you would throw away to make a delicious liquid for soups, sauces and more.

Easy Pie Crust

I don’t make pies every month, but when I do, I definitely use this pie crust recipe. It’s almost foolproof and so simple with the food processor. Perfect for holiday cooking!

easy-pie-crust

Here are some of your fave think fruitful posts:

Thanks for reading. Here’s to another 6 years!

Labor Day Meal Plan

It’s always nice to have a little holiday to plan some extra special meals with family or friends.

Earlier in the week while driving to work, I started dreaming of what special meal we would enjoy this weekend. These chicken wings have been on my list for awhile, but I’ve recently been reminded that I don’t eat enough seafood.

I already bought the ingredients for some of this classic spinach dip, so that’s definitely happening.

For the main meal, it’s got to be something on the grill, so I think we’ve landed on grilled shrimp tacos or tostadas. I’m grabbing some shrimp from Locals Seafood. I would love to do some black beans and green rice on the side. There will also be guacamole and chips, obviously.

For drinks, I’m not sure yet but there are always some local beers in the fridge for sipping. I also have some leftover key limes on hand that could make a tasty limeade.

What are you thinking for your special weekend meal?

Why Me & Why Food?

grace pennington as a child

I hope that you are enjoying your time on think fruitful, whether you’ve been following my food blogging journey for the past nearly 6 years or if you’ve just hopped on recently.

I wanted to take some time to talk about why I’m a food blogger and why I’m so fascinated by food.

It all starts with Yan Can Cook.

You know, that Chinese cooking show that used to air on PBS on the weekends. My two sisters and I loved to watch it. Well, actually, I remember thinking it was really boring at first, then getting in to it.

And then there was Food Network in its hey day. I used to watch Molto Mario, Barefoot Contessa, Giada and that Jacques chocolate show for hours. I was also obsessed with Jamie Oliver a.k.a. the Naked Chef. I even watched Emeril, though I wasn’t his biggest fan, and remember learning as a teen what chiffonade meant. I started my weekends by watching Iron Chef and reveled in the odd facts they shared about the Japanese eating culture.

Suffice it to say, I’ve been enamored by food and cooking for quite awhile…but my cooking days didn’t come until later.

Another reason I’m a good cook (I think), is that I’ve got some pretty good cooking genes. My mom is an incredible cook. There is normally not an ingredient I can mention that she won’t know of, and I was raised on her home-cooked meals almost every night of the week. We ate meatloaf and mashed potatoes, grilled BBQ chicken with the best sauteed yellow squash (sour cream and a little sugar being the secret) and bundt cake and pies for special occasions. It wasn’t and isn’t just Southern food that my mom excels at (though she has deep Kentucky roots). She can pick up anything from Indian to French food, and she’s probably where I get my adventurous palette.

Here’s a pic of my mom and me from our Charleston beach vacation this past May.

While my mom was and is an amazing cook, she also didn’t leave too much room in the kitchen for the rest of us to learn. I did most of my learning by watching and hospitality had a huge role to play in it. That’s where I got to see how food for special visitors (from Spain, India and all over the world) and family friends made visitors feel welcome, as well as comfortable and appreciated. It’s probably tied to that beautiful Southern hospitality and also to our faith (didn’t Jesus spend time eating with his best friends before he was crucified?).

So, I didn’t really have a need to cook for myself until I studied abroad in England.

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Brewery Bhavana in Raleigh, NC

brewery bhavana

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but one of our very own downtown Raleigh restaurants is one of the top 10/hot 10 new restaurants in the country!

Thanks to Bon Appetit, Brewery Bhavana, this new and amazing dim sum restaurant/brewery/bookshop/flower shop, is now at the top of their game in the eyes of eaters across the US!

Pretty cool, right. I’ve got a lot of pride for the Raleigh (and the Triangle) restaurant scene, so I thought I would share a little bit about my experience eating and drinking at Brewery Bhavana recently.

brewery bhavana

First off, this place really is special.

The moment you walk in, you feel a calmness with a communal aspect. Everything is light, modern with warm touches from the greenery everywhere and light wood accents. It is bright and welcoming, open and organized.

We lucked out and got a table easily by arriving at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday night. It was hard to remember to look at the menu because there was so much else to stare at from the florists to the new cookbooks for sale to the other beautiful tables awaiting diners.

brewery bhavana

And the beer.

In this area of the country, we have some dang good beer. I have traveled a lot this year, to many beer destinations, and I can’t find a city that holds a candle to what we have here. Brewery Bhavana fits in nicely with some really tasty and balanced beers. I tried Bloom, their dry cardamom tripel that was full of flavor and warmth. I also had a few tastes of my husband’s Glean, a mango peppercorn saison that was sweet, not too sweet, and so refreshing.

brewery bhavana scallion pancakes

On to the dim sum.

Bida Manda, the sister restaurant right next to Bhavana, is one of our favorite dinner spots in the city, and I have a serious craving for a big bowl of their coconut chicken curry when the weather gets cooler. But, it was really neat to see how they differentiated the food of this spot. Sure, it shares some flavors, but it’s a new reimagining of Asian cuisine, still with the simplicity we’ve come to love about these restaurateurs.

We decided to get several of the starter plates to share for our meal. We tried the:

  • Scallion pancakes with oxtail (my favorite of the night)
  • Char siu bao- bbq pork bun
  • Shrimp and corn dumpling (good but probably my least favorite)
  • Xiao long bao soup dumpling

Everything was presented so beautifully and tasted creative yet familiar. The scallion pancakes took the cake for me with a nice crisp outside paired with the juiciest braised oxtail that tasted a bit like roast beef, along with marrow- if you’re into that. The dumplings were all delicious, as well.

Overall, we had a great experience at Brewery Bhavana, and I can’t wait to go back. Also, I just love my city and am very proud of the creative minds within it.

Heavenly Local Cupcakes

pink lemonade cupcakes by heavenly cakes by tanya

Ya’ll probably know by now that I love supporting local.

I’m also a fan of supporting local businesses and women who start their own businesses.

And I’ve got a serious sweet tooth.

pink lemonade cupcakes by heavenly cakes by tanya

Put all of those things together, and it makes sense why I would want to bring to light a baker like Heavenly Cakes by Tanya.

I got to sample these seasonal pink lemonade cupcakes, and they were a sweet treat with a nice zing of lemon. Aren’t the decorations cute, too?!

pink lemonade cupcakes by heavenly cakes by tanya

Tanya has a nice selection of cakes, cupcakes, cake pops, sweet breads and even French macarons, and she says that whatever you request, she can make. She cooks out of her home in East Raleigh, and everything is homemade.

Here’s to summer, pink lemonade, a passion for baking and eating local!

Happy Things

I know, I know. Things don’t make us happy. True happiness comes from our relationships and living in close community, and lots of other things.

But…sometimes you find things and experiences that add to your happiness and interest in life. And these are a few of the things that have been adding to my summer vibes lately.

Finding a v-neck that is inexpensive and comfortable

I feel like for years I’ve been on the hunt for the most comfortable, wearable and cute v-neck tees to dress up or dress down. I love a good v-neck, but they can be tricky to find. I have a few from Everlane that I like, but I just discovered these wonders from Target. On sale, comfy and a range of colors. Score!

Spending cool evenings reading on the porch

I’ve been finding a great way to relax and enjoy the back porch is by spending 30 minutes to an hour outside right before the sun sets to enjoy the surroundings. I grab my current library read and enjoy the cool night breeze.

Discovering new sparkling waters to try

Like many others, I’ve really got into sparkling waters in the past year. What’s really fun is finding various types of tasty waters to try. I just discovered that my grocery store carries Mout Valley’s sparkling water, so I’ve been enjoying a bit of this bubbly water in the afternoon at work. Also, it’s from my hometown, so that’s pretty neat.

A fresh, new computer background

You know that feeling when you find a new desktop background that fits you perfectly?! I just re-discovered some really great ones on Design Love Fest. Check out the lemon one!

New landscaping projects!

I know this is super #adulting, but my husband and I have really enjoyed spending weekend time landscaping. We just extended our patio, so last weekend we trekked to a local landscaping place and farmers market to gather plants, shrubs and herbs to make our yard our own.

What has been making you happy lately?

6 Summer Fruit Desserts

6-summer-fruit-desserts

Happy Memorial Day!

I really do love this time of year. Not only is it nice to get a long weekend here and there, but summer produce is becoming available (and my tomatoes and peppers are growing up slowly). And the fruit!

I love how summer moves from sweet strawberries to tart blueberries and blackberries to cool melons and juicy peaches. There’s always some new fruit to savor just as is or cooked in a tasty dessert.

Maybe you’re thinking about what fruit dessert you want to make today or for the next few months. Well, if that’s you, I’ve got a few ideas to get you started on your way!

6 Summer Fruit Desserts

Strawberry Biscuit Cobbler

This dessert is really good with any summer fruit: strawberries, other berries, peaches. Anything fruity is great under this pillowy biscuit topping.

Strawberry Lemon Ice Cream

This ice cream takes a little bit of extra effort, but it is so worth it. The strawberry is sweet and creamy, and the addition of lemon adds a nice tartness.

Gluten-Free Blueberry Crisp

Calling all gluten-freers (and those who like almonds), this is the perfect summer dessert to enjoy with friends and your favorite fresh blueberries.

Blackberry Galette

This French dessert is the perfect “crust envelope” (if you will) to wrap your favorite summer fruits in.

Peach Blueberry Buckle

The name is odd, but the taste of this almond-infused treat with blueberries and peaches is amazing! Trust me, after one bite, you will totally be on board.

Coconut Lime Bars

Grab some zesty limes, macadamia nuts and coconut to whip up these indulgent bars. They are the epitome of summer flavors!

Mother’s Day Memories

igor-ovsyannykov-116671

It’s Mother’s Day this weekend and while I’m not a mother yet, it’s got me thinking about my wonderful mother and the food-related memories I share with her (which include tea, pie, Southern favorites, crumbles and crisps, Indian food in Myanmar and much more).

In that vein, I asked some of you Facebook friends to share your food memories with your mom, and I just loved seeing the answers.

It’s wonderful to share the love of certain foods and skills making family recipes, but it seems just as important the way our moms make us and others feel. They offer family, comfort and love through food. It’s quite beautiful finding our place at the table, and so many moms are good at making a place for this to happen. And for that we are blessed.

Here’s what some of you said about your food memories with your mom:

Food for the masses! Always feeding 20+ people like it ain’t no thing and deliciously. I realize I get older that it’s really overwhelming for some people to cook for that many but luckily all the recipes I’ve inherited from her make it no big deal- jambalaya, chicken noodle soup, enchiladas, porkchops and spaghetti.

Lasagna and green bean casserole. I remember when I was middle school that was the first thing she taught me to make.

Here’s my recipe for White Spinach Lasagna.

If dinner was taking a while and we were all ravenously waiting in the kitchen, she’d throw in a pint of sliced fresh mushrooms with butter, fry them up, and we’d snack on that while dinner finished simmering or baking. She’d put the frying pan right on the table and we’d gather round with forks, and a few slices of lightly toasted wheat bread to sop up the buttery goodness left in the pan.

Chicken and dumplings, mom made one million times (with fluffy dumplings). I remember she would take the time to let us request what dinner we wanted for our birthdays. When I was a kid, I remember asking for asparagus and seared sea scallops. She obliged.

Chicken broccoli casserole! My mom would make it for me every time I came home from being away in boarding school and college. I can smell and taste it right now!

When I met my husband, his mom and dad often hosted gatherings for their very large family. I observed his mom’s ways and pitched in to help and learned the beauty of setting up a buffet dinner. Things were prepped together, people were allowed to bring side dishes, she set up the drink station so it’s serve-yourself; and put the cutlery and napkins at the end of the buffet so people don’t have to balance them while filling their plates! I’m really thankful for her teaching me about being hospitable, because I’ve made so many good friends by opening up our house in the same way.

Chicken Enchiladas and homemade salsa.

Making pie crust was one of those things I had to learn before I felt like a real adult. Always homemade from scratch crust that is rolled so thin you can see the countertop underneath it. That’s the trick. I learned from my mom, who learned from her mom. Every holiday or family gathering involves pie. We even served 20+ pecan pies at my wedding that my mom and I made in the days leading up to the big day.

Here’s my Pie Crust recipe.

Pie and molasses spice cookies. All pies are judged v. mom’s.

When I think of my dear mother, it’s actually her dislike of cooking I most remember and her hilarious shortcuts. Like using ketchup for marinara sauce for spaghetti. But she did have her triumphs she concocted herself that has made it through two more generations as favorites. Her non-alchoholic version of a mint julep is in no way recognizable to it’s more spirited cousin, but we drink it every St. Patrick’s Day.

Here’s my recipe for Mint Juleps.

The thing I have loved forever about my mom is the way she’s so gracious and accommodating. She may be cooking for four or 30 and tries to make sure there is something for everyone.

Sugar cookies at Christmas.

My Mom was a “foodie” before that was a popular term. She loved to cook and often had fresh baked cookies or some other pastry for us when we got home from school. She was a Southern cook and served fresh black eyed peas, turnip greens and cornbread sticks cooked in a wrot iron pan, with fresh sliced tomatoes and marinated cucumbers. She could fry chicken and make the best roast, rice and gravy. She had the gift of hospitality and always welcomed family and friends in our home. She could also set a beautiful table around which we shared lots of stories and laughter.

Here’s my recipe for pot roast.

Happy Mother’s Day and here’s to many more comforting food memories in your life!