Blog Writing 101

I had the opportunity to spend a weekend with Elena in Wilmington, NC to discuss blog writing, food photography, recipe development and goals for my practicum project. We started out by visiting the Columbus County Community Farmers Market and stopped at Dale’s Seafood in Lake Waccamaw on the drive back. To my delight, this was the start of a summer filled with visiting small, local restaurants and trying the local cuisine such as steamed baby shrimp and hush puppies.
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Throughout the rest of the afternoon and weekend we discussed many topics as I picked Elena’s brain to absorb all the knowledge I could and learn a few steps she took in becoming a successful food blogger. Below is a list of list of important and interesting tidbits of what I learned over the weekend. Talk about a motivating 24 hours! I walked away with pages of notes and a feeling of excitement and eagerness to dive into the project.

Blogging: How to connect further with readers and gain audience?

    • Stay consistent. Write quality posts on a regular basis.
      • Google will start to verify posts as current

Photography: How to photograph food?

      • Use angles and beauty from natural light and serving dish to form beauty
      • Move body around subject
      • Keep an eye out for dishes online/thrift stores/clearance
      • Paint foam board preferred color for backdrop
      • Using a phone’s camera (specifically iPhone 5) can work as well as a DSLR camera, mainly for convenience purposes
      • Use Instagram for process shots
      • Check out Photojojo for gifts & gear for photographers

Posting articles with pictures: How to size images and edit?

      • Make photos the same width website theme/template
      • Photoshop
      • Phone photo editing app: VSCO cam

Using Widgets and plug-ins in WordPress: Which to use?

      • Plug-in to easily print recipes: Shareaholic
      • Option for embedding Twitter feed

Using social media: what to post where?

      • Post different content on different platforms
      • Creating a voice within each will lead to more followers

Computer: Which to buy?

      • MacBook Pro with Retina

Promoting blog: How to choose business cards?

Recipe development: How to start?

      • Relate recipe back to personal life
      • Research basic recipes, experiment to make your own
      • Make recipe 1-2 times…or until satisfied
      • Follow other bloggers and read cookbooks and modify at least 2 ingredients to make it your own, credit original author for inspiration
      • Use Bloglovin’ to follow blogs
      • Use Flipboard to collect and save recipes by URL
      • Remember simplicity
      • Stay seasonal

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‘Tis the Season for Farmers Markets! #1

It is officially summer. This may be my favorite time of the year. Not only do we have sunshine for over 12 hours, but the opportunities for in-season, local, fresh produce are almost endless. From farmers markets to roadside stands to CSA’s, each week we can be sure to find a mouthwatering summertime favorite.

As part of my practicum project, I have the opportunity to make it a point to visit farmers markets outside the Raleigh area. This makes me happy, as I get to drive to new places, meet farmers from various counties and most importantly…..EAT! Eat real, wholesome, locally grown food. Anyone who knows me will agree that I absolutely love grocery shopping. It doesn’t get any better when you actually get to MEET the farmer who grew your food. When it comes to waking up early on a Saturday for a market, I’ll be there.

I decided I will start a series of posts of farmers markets I visit over the course of the summer, which will very well lead into fall and winter. I’m so grateful for those farmers who brave the weather all year round! (Thank goodness I live in the South!)

The first ‘non-Raleigh’ market of the year started with a trip to Columbus County. After a drive through back-country roads to meet Elena, not knowing what to expect, I ended up at the pavilion.

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After speaking with a few farmers and buying cucumbers, beets, and turnip greens, grown mostly pesticide free, I was extremely ecstatic when I found a farmer from Higher Ground Gardens selling rhubarb!! Yes, North Carolina grown RHUBARB!!! Being from WI, this was a treat. I have not once found a farmer who was able to grow rhubarb in this state in the past 4 years I’ve lived here. Every time I asked about it, I received the same response: “It’s too hot for rhubarb to grow here.” Well, this farmer has proven that he is able to grow some great looking (and tasting) rhubarb!

The Columbus County Community Farmers Market is surely one I would recommend to anyone who is looking for good quality, wholesome food who lives south of Fayetteville, near Wilmington or even close to the eastern South Carolina border. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

Carrot, Beet, Rhubarb Smoothie
Serves 1

1 cup water
½ cup sliced raw carrots, frozen
¼ cup sliced raw red beets, frozen
¼ cup chopped raw rhubarb, frozen
½ tablespoon Coconut oil
Sprinkle of Ginger
Handful of Goji berries

1. Slice and chop carrots, beets and rhubarb after getting back from market. Freeze together in 1 bag for convenience.
2. Pour water into blender, add frozen ingredients and blend to break up.
3. Add coconut oil and ginger, blend. Taste. If the flavor is too earthy, add Goji berries to sweeten.
4. Enjoy!

I thank Elena for inspiring me to add beets to my smoothies and drink them out of blue mason jars!

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 Read more about my ‘Discovering North Carolina’ project here

Food for thought: What is your favorite summertime food or favorite smoothie ingredient?

Got to be NC Festival

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This month marks the start of my project, ‘Discovering North Carolina.’ Last weekend I had the opportunity to experience a ‘state-fair’ like festival held in Wake County, the Got to be NC Festival. This three day event had everything from carnival rides and antique tractor pulls to John Deere Ice Cream Makers, a Food, Wine & Beer Expo and a North Carolina local bluegrass band competition.

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My focus of attending this festival was not only to enjoy the sunshine and listen to some traditional live bluegrass music, but I was hoping to speak with anyone who might be from Wake, Forsyth or Buncombe County who was selling a local food/product in which I could learn a little more about their particular unique food culture and heritage. (see ‘Discovering North Carolina’ page for project details.) While I was strolling in the Food, Wine & Beer Expo I came across a booth from Old Salem Museums & Gardens, featuring the renowned Moravian Cookies from Forsyth County, NC.

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The two men who were tending the booth were both very knowledgeable and were able to tell me a brief but detailed summary of the history of the Moravian settlers. Topics we discussed included not only the history of the ever so famous Moravian cookies, but the mathematical origin of the Moravian Christmas star, traditional dishes such as the veggie-less chicken pie, and a potato and yeast bread known as Moravian sugar cake. Next to a couple cookbooks that were for sale was a gem of a book entitled ‘Preserving the Past – Salem Moravians’ Receipts & Rituals’. This book of “receipts contains a variety of topics ranging from 18th and 19th century etiquette notes to medicinal remedies to brief recipe descriptions for veggies, breads, meats, sweets and more. According to the author, this book is the first ever published recipe collection from the 250-year-old Moravian Archives in Old Salem. I immediately purchased a copy for myself as I felt this was a great find and productive start in researching Forsyth County.

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Overall my experience at the ‘Got to be NC Festival’ was enjoyable and a success. Even though I didn’t partake of any fried Oreos or corn dogs, I did indulge in a chocolate chip cookie from a Triangle (and Wake County) favorite, La Farm Bakery. This festival had something for everyone and exhibited the past and present culture of North Carolina in food, music and agriculture. Stay tuned and check back often as I continue with my series of ‘Discovering North Carolina’!

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Read more about my ‘Discovering North Carolina’ project here.
Food for thought: What is your favorite food or restaurant in Wake County, NC? I’d love to hear!

Holidays in NYC…Day 2

We woke up to bright sunshine on Saturday morning and were happy to start our day. Having one full day in NYC, we compromised and set out to explore, starting with our walk to Central Park. The wind let us know its presence as we followed the crowd to the skating rink, admiring the skyscrapers towering above us. We walked through a corner of the park, and realized how its 6.1 mile loop would be more than a breath of fresh air. Carriage rides, ice skating and a hot chocolate stand were a few of the sights that took the chill from the air, offering the city’s holiday spirit.

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As it neared lunch time, we tested our navigation skills and hopped onto the subway to head down and experience the culture of NYU and Union Square. We wandered the streets for a cozy eatery and stumbled across just what we needed, a Roman restaurant named Lupa Osteria Romana. While waiting for a table, we browsed the wine menu and chose an enticing Caraffina Di Vino Rosso.

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We didn’t mind waiting while we immersed ourselves in the savory aromas of the kitchen and were warmed by the friendliness of the staff. Once we were seated, appetizers such as Lingua (beef tongue), Prosciutto and marinated olives were ordered. We smiled and embraced the delicate textures and magnificent flavors of these fine hors d’oeuvres.

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For my main dish, I chose the Sabato special, the Heritage Pork Porterhouse.  This tender and juicy cut of meat was exactly what my palate desired. Topped with gorgeous, deep green kale and sweet butternut squash this meal was hands-down my favorite of the city. I would recommend anyone to seek out this warm and sustainable restaurant nestled in the heart of NYU.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening wandering the streets and holiday markets surrounding Union Square. It was soon time to enjoy our final meal in the big city. Friend of a Farmer in Gramercy Park was another spectacular find with a menu of local meat, seafood and veggies. This restaurant felt more like a home as its dark wood and wallpapered panels, candle lit tables and warm fireplaces surrounded us. Baskets with colorful vegetables greeted us at the top of the stairs while we settled in to enjoy yet another exceptional meal. The chef’s special of grilled grouper with steamed vegetables was my choice for the evening.

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To wrap up the night, we hailed a cab to take in the energy at Times Square. For most of us, it was our first experience to the notorious New Year’s Eve destination. We took a few minutes to embrace the sights and sounds of the enormous screens, bright lights, yellow taxis and tourists photographing this iconic attraction.

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On Sunday we packed up and made our way to Macy’s Herald’s Square just before claiming our seats on the train for our ride home.

Visiting New York City during the holidays was surely an experience to remember. I am thankful for good friends who I joined in sampling….ok, perhaps indulging, in the local cuisine. It is great to know that a city full of energy, phenomenal food and astounding sites is just a train ride away. Cheers to a spectacular weekend in the Big Apple!

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Welcoming the New Year

Friends,

It’s that time of year again, as we reflect on the past twelve months and look to a new year filled with aspiring dreams, determined goals and unwavering hopes. Some make New Year’s resolutions; others make a new bucket list. Whatever your New Year’s ritual may be, remember the here and now. Take in Pema Chödrön’s words: “We’ve never experienced this very moment before, and the next moment will not be the same as the one we are in now.” We don’t have to wait until the ball drops in order to experience our excitement, hopes and dreams for life in the New Year.

You may be reading this post for the first time, but realize you are reading for the first time, in this moment. Take a minute to look around the room. You are observing your surroundings for the first time, in this moment, even if you’ve been in this very spot a hundred times before. Notice the colors of the computer, the desk, the chair, the paint on the walls of the room. Are you drinking or eating anything? What are the flavors you are sensing? This moment is its own and will not be like any other.

As we embark on our new adventures as well as our daily routines, pause for a second, and remember this is the first time. Once we start to develop a thought pattern which promotes thinking and feeling in the moment, our mentality of how we should act or what we should say, disappears. A sense of freedom and energy passes through us for a second at first, and overtime will lengthen. We learn from the past and dream about the future, however, we live in the present. Embrace the moment, it as it is like no other. Cheers in welcoming 2014!