Monday, June 17, 2013

All quiet.

It's been a while. A really long while. And it's bad blogger etiquette to be this quiet but I have good reason, I swear.

I got a new job. A full-time job. One I really like it. How cool is that, right?

But I find that with this new job (you know, the kind where you have to go to work every day) and my freelance work on the side, there is little time to create, photograph, and share new recipes. I am still  cooking, still tasting, but I find that most of the time I am lucky if I get a healthy meal on the table, as I am sure many of you can understand. I also find that most of my creative energy is going to my work, leaving little left to put towards an exciting new dish.

I have been avoiding writing this post, because I was hoping for some sort of clarity. Am I just too busy now? Will I want to write again in the future? Am I all blogged-out?

I don't have the answer now, but what I do know is that a good blog is consistent. A good blog speaks to current trends, seasons, and happenings. A good blog is dependable.

So it is with a little bit of sadness that I will be closing my blog for now. I will keep Sprout published so you can access any of the old articles, photos and recipes on here. Some of my favorite foods are on this blog and I hope you can still find them useful.

This blog started as something share with my family and friends. Over time, it grew to something more.  I met strangers who thanked me for a recipe. I got emails from all over the country asking me how to prepare certain foods. I became a freelance food writer. My photography was published on national food websites. What began as a hobby gave me purpose and direction when I needed it, and for that I am grateful.

So I want to say thank you to all of you who read it over the past five years. If it helped you just once to try something new, make a healthier choice, or grow in your culinary abilities, then I achieved my goal.

Thanks for being my foodie friend.

Signing off (for now),

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Local Bites with Lynchburg Living

I am really, really excited to be writing for Lynchburg Living. They have a beautiful publication, and can really showcase the food. Happy to share my first article with you!

Lynchburg Living's Local Bites

Originally Published Jan/Feb 2013

Winter soups are a given. On a cold, frosty night, there is nothing that can nourish you, body and soul, like a piping hot bowl of brothy goodness.

But instead of opening the closes can of chicken noodle, consider making your own yummy concoction. Homemade soup is not only more exciting, it’s often much tastier, too.

This Spicy Black Bean Soup is the perfect winter comfort meal. It’s savory, satisfying, and super healthy. It’s also a great dish for a big family or dinner party. Everyone gets a bowl, and they can make it their own by topping it with an infinite number of choices. Cool it down and give it a creamy richness by adding sour cream, crème fraîche, Greek yogurt, or avocado. Add some bite with chopped fresh white, red, or green onions. Up the comfort factor by mixing in shredded white cheddar or queso fresco. Give it crunch by sprinkling with sliced radish or jalapeno. Or add additional flavor with fresh lime juice, red wine vinegar, or a drizzle of olive oil.

Serve this soup alone, or on top of long grain white rice. Enjoy!


Serves 6-8
1lb bag dried black beans (alternatively, 6 cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 white onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 large stalk celery, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup sherry or dry white wine
2 jalapeno peppers, minced
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
4-5 cups vegetable broth

1. (Skip steps one and two if using canned beans). Place dried black beans in large pot along with twice as much cold water. Cover and soak overnight, or for at least 6 hours.
2. Drain beans, place back in pot and cover with fresh water and a handful of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cook until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Drain and set aside.
3. In large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium-high. Add onions, carrots, celery, bell pepper, sea salt and pepper. Sauté until edges begin to brown. Add sherry, jalapeno, garlic, cumin, and oregano. Stir to combine, and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.
4. Add vegetable broth and cooked (or canned) black beans. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Puree roughly one cup of soup in a blender and mix back into pot to thicken the soup. Taste for seasoning and adjust.
5. Serve in soup bowls topped with any combination of the suggested garnishes.

Burg Article: Revamping New Year's Food Traditions

For the past few years, I have watched with curiosity as my husband made himself a bowl full of ramen at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Ramen? I mean, it’s not exactly a party food, and it doesn’t really pair that well with champagne.

When I first asked him about this tradition, his explanation was simply: “It’s a Japanese thing.”

Now, I am not a superstitious person, but the idea of eating specific foods for luck or prosperity on New Years has always intrigued me.

Read the full article and get the recipes for Moroccan-Spiced Black-Eyed Pea Salad and Spicy Soba Noodles at

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Skinny jeans and a recalibration

A couple weeks ago, I made a discovery. I'd forgotten how to eat. 

I know, it sounds silly. I am a food writer, for crying out loud. But recently, as I attempted (in vain) to pull up my "skinny" jeans, I noticed that my body didn't look like it used to. I also realized that over the past couple months, I didn't have the same energy that I once did. So I stopped to think: what changed? 

First let me say, I try not to focus on weight. I did enough of that in college, and I am happy to say that discovering vegetarianism and a love for whole, local foods helped me establish a healthier relationship with food. It used to be an enemy, and today, it is fuel for my body, a hobby, and even a way to relate to people. 

That said, when I realized the pants weren't going to make it up, it was time to think about what I was doing differently than I had been doing for the past couple years. As I sat (sans pants) and thought, I had to admit my diet, over time, had changed. I used to eat mostly vegetables, tofu/beans/fish, and whole grains. Of course, I did occasionally splurge on some good cheese or chocolate when I wanted to, but most of my diet consisted of the good stuff. It made me feel good, and it also made me look better. I realized that overtime, I have been eating more bread, refined grains, snacks, and generally unhealthy things. And cheese. Far too much cheese. 

I also used to have a "no drinking on weekdays" rule that slowly turned into a "no drinking a lot on weekdays" rule. Those two things are not the same. 

As a result, my body was no longer in balance, and it showed. I was slow, less nimble, and lets face it - squishy.

So the week before Thanksgiving, I decided to put my body and my taste buds though boot-camp and detox my system. For one week - I ate only only vegetables, fruits, nuts, and brown rice, with a little wild fish thrown in there so I didn't pass out. No caffeine, no sugar, no alcohol. Lots of herbal tea. Fruit/veggie smoothies for breakfast. As hardcore as I was willing to go. 

I am not going to lie. It was TOUGH, and there are certain things I decided were not worth the pain halfway through. For the first two days, I was exhaused, nauseous, and had a constant headache. I fell asleep at 9pm both night. After that, I did decide that giving up coffee during a week when I had a schedule that included 3:30am wake-up times and a huge project at work to launch was not wise, so I added 1/4 cup of coffee a day. Don't judge. 

After the initial hump, I felt freaking GREAT. I mean, really great. I had more energy, more enthusiasm, and my skin began to glow. After only 6 days, I dropped 3 pounds, and started to look like the strong, healthy girl I used to be. 

But flattening my belly was not the only goal of the detox. Another important goal was to recalibrate my body to eating for health, and not for comfort or convenience. I am finally back to the point where a bowl of brown rice with olive oil and lemon is completley satisying, and I am happy to be here. 

Of course, I am a food writer and enthusiast, so it won't be steamed kale and boiled potatoes all the time. I still love making new things and exploring new tastes, and I have a true appreciation for delicious cheese (see previous blog post), artisan breads, etc. But when I'm not developing a recipe for a magazine spread, or coming up with a new tasty party dish, I will revert back to the clean, simple food that keeps me in balance and nourishes my body.

Anyway, for those of you feeling the effects of Thanksgiving, and dreading the cakes an candies of Christmas, take a week to reintroduce your body to the foods close to the ground. It will leave you feeling renewed, refreshed, and basically awesome. 

I will leave you my favorite smoothie (and new preferred breakfast).

Serves 2

2 very ripe bananas, frozen*
2 ripe pears, cut into chunks
1 ripe plum, pit removed
1/2 cup plain almond milk
1 large handful fresh spinach/swiss chard

Blend all ingredients until smooth. 

*When you end up with over-ripe bananas, peel them and freeze them individually in ziploc bags and keep them on-hand for smoothies. Alternatively, you can use two fresh ripe bananas and a couple cubes of ice. 

Goats! And my friends at Spring Mill Farm.

My latest Burg article was a feature on a local Lynchburg farm I love - Spring Mill Farm. Not only do they make delicious fresch chevre in a variety of flavors, they also make some killer goat's milk feta and even chocolate/goat cheese truffles. Anyway, read the full article here to find out just how awesome they are, and to read about cooking with goat cheese.

For now, I will leave you with one of the recipes from the article - Cremini Tartlets with Chevre. Enjoy!

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ pound cremini (baby portabello) mushrooms, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
¼ cup dry white wine
Spring Mill Farms Bare Naked (plain) Chèvre

1. Unroll puff pasty sheet on lightly floured surface. Cut in thirds, and then thirds again, until you have nine squares. Place squares on greased cookie sheet. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a large skillet, heat butter over medium high. Sauté onions until translucent. Add garlic, mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms begin to brown.

3. Add wine and herbs to mushroom mixture and cook until liquid evaporates. Remove from heat.

4. Spread about two tablespoons chèvre on each puff pastry square, leaving space around the edges. Top with the same amount of mushroom mixture.

5. Bake tartlets until the edges are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Makes 5-6 Tartlets

**This recipe was originally published in The Burg on November 15. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Garlic 2012 - I came, I cooked, I conquered (ok I got second place)

What a weekend! This morning, I am slowly recovering from the 22nd annual Virginia Wine and Garlic Festival at Rebec Vineyards. One of our favorite events of the season, this year did not disappoint. We worked, we participated, we partook, and now we are pooped.

This year, I covered the festival for the burg, and decided to focus on the Garlic Cook-Off. As you will read in the article, I also decided to enter the contest, and I am happy to say that I took second place! More importantly, the contest was a blast. My fellow contestants were friendly, Gary Jaketic was a perfect host, and the supportive crowd made it all a real event. Read the article and get my recipe for Leek, Potato, and Garlic Soup here.

Big thanks to all who came out to cheer me on. I am already coming up with some ideas for next year. 1st place in 2013 or bust!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Livin' in LynchVegas

I have lived in a lot of places - ten states to be exact.  I have resided in the Midwest, in the South, up North, at the beach, in the mountains, and on the plains. I have liked some more than others, but what I learned from moving around so much is that a city is what you make of it.

My new home, Lynchburg, may not be the most exciting city in the US, but it does have some great stuff going on. Just this weekend, my husband and I had dinner outside downtown, saw Paula Poundstone perform, met new and interesting people at our favorite bar, found lots of local goods at the farmers market, and went to a garage festival featuring local art/food/music - all within a walkable distance. My husband also climbed a waterfall, but he was on his own there. Next weekend we will hit a two day garlic and wine festival and see a musical cabaret. All in a city that some say is "boring."

I have always found that if you make an effort to investigate, you can discover new and exciting things to do and places to visit in your own community.

So when I came across the website, I was stoked.The guys at LynchVegas created the site to help spread the word about all great local businesses and events here, and they do it simply as a service to the community.

In an effort to support what they do, I have become a contributor to their site. Check out my articles below, and if have not yet discovered LynchVegas, make sure to poke around on the site. You many discover something new about your own city.

Hot and Cold Cafe 


Lynchburg Grows

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Quick Recipe: Basil Tarragon Dressing

As summer comes to an end, I find myself snatching up all the late summer produce I can find. It's like there is a little voice inside me that screams "Quick! Grab that because it might not be here next week! Ooooooo, tomatoes! You must buy them all and eat them every day because you won't get them in January."

So here is a late summer recipe for you. This bright, creamy dressing can be used on summer salads, but my favorite way to eat it is in a tomato sandwich on multigrain bread.

This can be made vegan by simply using vegan mayo. Enjoy!

3/4 cups mayo
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/4 cup fresh basil (packed)
1/4 cup fresh tarragon
1/4 cup fresh flat-leafed parsley
5 green onions
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Blend all ingredients in blender until smooth. Refrigerate for at least an hour. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Autumn Inspiration

It's fall! It's fall!!! Ok maybe not officially, but I feel it. There is a nip in the air in the morning, and a cool breeze all day. I am always amazed at what the change in seasons can do to me. I feel more awake, more alive, and more excited about everything. You feel it too, right?

This new weather also awakens in me an excitement about the new fruits and vegetables that come with it.

Although I plan to take advantage of the last of the summer produce, I've been spending some time this week on some of my favorite food blogs and websites, gathering inspiration and ideas. My good friends at Peas in a Blog had the same idea this week, so I thought I would take a cue from them and share with you some of the food photos and recipes that have sparked my interest this week. I look forward to trying them all and taking a little from each to create new and fun recipes of my own!


Brussels Sprout Salad with Sour Cherries, Hazelnuts and Manchego Cheese


Honey-Whiskey Carrots


Lentil & Pepper Salad


Southwest Stuffed Acorn Squash with Goat Cheese 


Curried Coconut Pumpkin Soup w/ Chicken and Jasmine Rice


 Roasted Summer Squash Tart


Orange & Cardamom Spiced / Honey'd Fig / Olive Oil Tea Cake

Monday, September 10, 2012

Burg Article - Sans Soucy Shrimp & Wine Festival

Sometimes, my job as a food writer is SO HARD. Sweet shrimp, local wine, and outdoor entertainment. It's just exhausting.

My latest Burg article featured the Sans Soucy Shrimp and Wine Festival in Brookneal, VA. It's too late to visit the festival this year, but the article features some tips on cooking with shrimp along with three delicious shrimp recipes.

Big thanks to Paul and Cameron Anctil for their innovative recipes and beautiful photography on this one!

So I leave you with my favorite shrimp recipe. Savory, decadent, and comforting.

1 cup polenta
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 bay leaf
4 cups shredded fresh collard greens or spinach
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound medium/large wild shrimp, peeled and deveined
4-5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 cayenne or jalapeño peppers, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2/3 cup dry white wine
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons butter
handful chopped fresh flat-leafed parsley
3 ounces goat cheese
sea salt & pepper

1. In a saucepan, bring broth to boil. Slowly whisk in polenta (whisking prevents clumping), add bay leaf and a couple pinches of salt. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

2. In another saucepan, bring 1qt water to boil and salt heavily. Boil greens for 5-7 minutes, or until just tender. Drain.

3. While polenta and greens are cooking, heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add garlic and peppers, sauté for 2-3 minutes. When the garlic begins to brown, add wine and tomato paste, whisk and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

4. Add shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 2-4 minutes on each side, until just cooked through

5. Add lemon juice, 1 tablespoon butter, and parsley, and remove from heat.

6. Whisk goat cheese and 1 tablespoon butter into polenta, taste for seasoning, and add salt if necessary. In a shallow bowl, spoon polenta in the bottom, Place a mound of greens on top, and, then pour shrimp and pan sauce over top.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Little. Baby. Tomatoes.

As stated in my previous blog post, my new proximity to the local farmer's market has been both awesome and problematic. I simply cannot pass up beautiful summer produce, and this is especially true when it comes to tomatoes. I have written before about my undying devotion to the summer tomato, and now that the only thing between me and a ripe 'mater is a short walk, I find myself with an excessive abundance of colorful tomatoes.

Now, not just any tomato will stop me in my tracks. Plain ole' beefsteaks or romas don't do a whole lot for me. I am sure it is possible to grow a delicious roma tomato, but I can't shake the many experiences I have had trying to make my grocery store-bought tomato taste like something. Anything. So when it comes to picking them out locally, I stick to one rule: the more colorful (and in some cases, ugly) the better.

But today's recipe makes use of the most beautiful varieties I have found lately - tiny, adorable, perfect little globes in all shades. Growers have been bringing red/green, purple, bright orange, yellow and green striped. They have delightful names like chocolate cherry, orange blossom, and banana gold, and they also happen to be intensely sweet. They pop in your mouth and taste like a burst of summer. How can I pass them by?

I have been bringing these beautiful little treats home by the bagful, and figuring out the best way to enjoy them (other than eating them right from said bag). Because they are so incredibly delicious on their own, I like to do put them in dishes that allow their flavor to shine.

I have also been coming home with a lot of bread from Lorraine's, so my go-to dish these days is Panzanella - Tuscan bread salad. I cannot get enough of this dish. I have made it 4 times in the last week, and yet my mouth waters just thinking about making it again. The juxtaposition of the super sweet tomatoes with the salty olives, rich olive oil, and acid from the vinegar is a pretty amazing combo. Throw some fresh basil on that and you got a slice of summer heaven.

My recipe is not traditional, but I make it how I like it. It is usually made with larger tomatoes, but the baby heirlooms work perfectly here, preventing the soupyness you might get from lots of seeds.  I also like to toast my bread so it doesn't get soggy. The measurements are rough because this is one of those "throw some stuff in a bowl and eat it" dishes. Play with it and see what you like. Feel free to also add garlic, cucumbers, or even feta to yours. Enjoy, then make it again, and enjoy again.

1/2 loaf rustic white or whole wheat bread, cut into bite-sizes pieces
2 pints local baby tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup green olives
1/4 red onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
sea salt
black pepper
large handful fresh basil (about 15-20 leaves), roughly chopped
small handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped

1. Preheat oven to 400. Toss bread pieces with 1 tablespoon olive oil and toast until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

2. In large bowl, carefully combine tomatoes, olives, onion, olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Cool toasted bread and add to tomato mixture. Add basil and parsley, stirring to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust. Throw in a splash of olive oil or vinegar if needed as bread soaks up dressing. Devour.

Monday, August 13, 2012

I'm a Burg girl now....(and why I have 5lbs of okra in my fridge)

Hello fellow foodies. Thank you visiting my blog after a long summer hiatus. It was a busy one, but I am happy to say that since my last post, I have become an official Lynchburg, VA resident. This move has been a long time coming, and I am excited by the possibilities it brings to my life, my family, and my cooking.

When Geoff (husband) and I were looking for a place to live, we decided we wanted to be close to the downtown area. We were lucky enough to find a house in a beautiful historic district just a couple blocks from downtown restaurants, bars, and most importantly, the Lynchburg Community Market.

This means, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, I am merely 3 block from local produce - which is both awesome and potentially dangerous. For the 2-3 weeks we have been in our home, I have been obsessing over the summer produce, bringing home multiple tote bags overflowing with tomatoes, basil, fresh corn, okra, parsley, dill, summer squash and zucchini. Because it is late in the season, I feel this irrational sense of urgency to scoop up everything I can before it is too late - nevermind my budget or carrying capacity. Sure, I may drop most of my grocery money in one morning, and it may take me half an hour to haul my vegetables three blocks, but summer is almost over, and I am going to soak up every last bite!

This past trip, I came across some tiny young zucchini and squash. I have cooked baby zuchhini before with the blossoms attached, and I remembered them being so sweet and tender that they needed very little else to create a delicious summer side dish. When I cooked the blossoms, I stuffed them with goat cheese and herbs, so I decided to use these baby squashed to make a deconstructed version of that dish.

This Young Zuchhini With Chevre & Basil is so simple, yet it tastes of summer in the way I want all my dinners to taste in August. Fresh. Herby. Light. Sweet. Serve with fish or meat from the grill, corn on the cob, and a tomato salad for a truly summerific spread. Enjoy.

1lb young zucchini/squash
olive oil
sea salt
black pepper
2 oz crumbled goat cheese*
handful fresh basil

1. Preheat oven to broil.
2. Chiffonade the basil by stacking the leaves, rolling them tightly and then slicing thin with a sharp knife to get little ribbons.

3. Remove stems from zucchini, slice in half lengthwise (and again for larger ones). Toss in good amount of olive oil and spread onto large baking dish. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Broil for 7-10 minutes until edges are brown.

5. Transfer to a serving dish, top with crumbled goat cheese and basil and drizzle with additional olive oil. Devour.

*A note about goat cheese. When I say "crumbled" I do not necessarily mean that you should buy it that way. Although store-bought crumbled goat cheese exists, it is usually incredibly over-priced. Next time you shop, compare the prices between the block or roll of goat cheese and the crumbled variety by looking at the ounces. Chances are, you will pay the same amount for 8oz of solid cheese as you will 4oz of crumbled. So buy the regular kind, and crumble it with your hands. It's an expensive ingredient, so don't get tricked my packaging. Or just buy local and you won't have a problem. :)

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Hi friends. Just checking in with you to let you know that I will be taking a short break to move, put up a summer festival, and settle into our new home in Lynchburg, VA. I am so excited to finally be a permanent member of the community, and I can't wait to meet new growers and make new delicious food. Hopefully I will find some moments to myself during the summer to post once or twice, then I will be back in fall with a hunger for some veggies and the unexplainable need to photograph them.

Be back soon. :)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It's Asparagus Season - AHHHHH.

Spring is here, people! And when I say "here," I mean everywhere. In the past few weeks, I have checked out produce in Florida, North Carolina, New York, and Virginia - and I can say with certainty, Spring has sprung!

Why is this a big deal? Tank tops? NO! Spring vegetables! Asparagus! Peas! Leeks! Peppers! Avocados! Fennel! Bah!!!!! My enthusiasm is insane, but I can't help it. For the next few weeks, farmer's markets across the country are going to be filled with one delicious surprise after another. After the consistent kale and acorn squash of winter, everything will be new and exciting. So I urge you to get out there and see what your farmers have to offer.

 If you have not stopped reading this blog post due to the excessive use of exclamation points, you would enjoy my latest article about asparagus in The Burg. What a delicious writing process this was.

The article includes a few recipes from early blogging days, but what is new is my Roasted Asparagus with Poached Egg & Parmesan. I am not even sure you can call this a recipe. I did a quick Google search, and confirmed the fact that thousands of people have made this before. But I chose to share it with you on the off chance you have not encountered this miracle combination because it is SO FREAKING DELICIOUS. I can brag on it because I did not invent it, but I certainly did eat it 4-5 times this week and take a pretty picture of it. The salty, lemony flavor of the asparagus dressed in the rich creamy egg and nutty parmesan is a winner. I give it a 10.

1 lb asparagus, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt & pepper
1/2 lemon
2 eggs (preferably local)
parmigiano reggiano

1. Preheat oven to 450. On large baking sheet, toss asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast asparagus is tender but not mushy, and edges are brown. Remove and dress with lemon juice.
2. Poach eggs, keeping the yolk runny.
3. Plate asparagus, and carefully top with poached eggs. Season with a little salt and pepper. Grate some fresh parmesan on the top. Break yolk directly before eating every single bite.

Enjoy and Happy Spring!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Video Post - Red Bell Pepper Prep

Hi friends! Today is an exciting day. I just made my FIRST EVER video blog and am so excited to share it with you. In anticipation of a recipe I will post later this week that includes diced red bell pepper, I made this technique video showing how I cut peppers.

Big thanks to my husband, Geoffrey, for his camera work, and my dog, Tommy, for keeping quiet long enough to make this happen.

I hope you guys enjoy it. Click on the YouTube link to see the video in full screen. More to come in the future. Anything you want to see?