lunch

Birthday Feasts

Last Friday, I celebrated my 22nd birthday! The week leading up to it, I had four friends stay with me because it was their spring break. It was great because I got to play tourist in my own city and celebrate my birthday with them as well! I took them to the Country Music Hall of Fame, some iconic Nashville spots, and the Jack Daniels Distillery. And of course, we ate some pretty amazing food. We didn’t eat out every meal so stay tuned for some new recipes I tested on my village people.   10422920_10152832039623237_6489192471436421229_n1620788_10152833828918237_554891954402108823_n 11081135_10152832037508237_301153506368428946_n

Wild Cow

This entirely vegan restaurant in East Nashville is easily one of my favorites (shocking!). Their intricate menu items show just how easy and delicious it can be to go dairy-free and meatless! We shared the nacho and spinach and artichoke dip appetizers. The spinach and artichoke dip got it’s creaminess from cashews rather than pounds of parmesan cheese, mayo, and/or cream cheese. It gave it a rich taste without being too heavy. For my entrée, I got my favorite salad of theirs – the Market Veggie – loaded with fresh vegetables, nuts, and seeds, and topped with their grilled tempeh. It blows my mind how they make such a seemingly simple salad so outrageously tasty.

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Blvd

On St. Patrick’s Day we rented out a backroom in Blvd as an early birthday celebration for myself and my KD little who turned 21 two days before my birthday. We started off with the butternut squash salad, and then I got the quinoa falafel wrap with a side of kale. Everything was extremely tasty and well priced and having the room was a great way to be able to mingle with all of our friends.

20150317-IMG_9903 20150317-IMG_9906 The Row

No visit to the south would be complete without biscuits, and I couldn’t let my village leave without trying some from The Row. Their four homemade jams – tomato, peach, strawberry, and blackberry are a perfect condiment for their flaky, warm biscuits.
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Fido

I can’t believe I’ve never blogged about Fido. Easily my favorite and most frequented breakfast/lunch spot. Their coffee is top notch, their banana nut pancakes are arguably better than Pancake Pantry (gasp!), and their hash browns could end wars (or at least massive hangovers). My go-to’s are the simple eggs (nothing wrong with a classic), the village scramble, or the huevos rancheros. But don’t forget about the baked goods! If you’ve never tried their Sweet Potato White Chocolate Chip muffin, you’re missing out.

20150319-IMG_0894 20150319-IMG_8046 20150319-IMG_5146Wild Ginger

I first visited this place back in May when my dad visited for the weekend, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have dinner with my roommate and her mom on my actual birthday here. We tried the edamame hummus (delicious!) a few new rolls (The R2D2 will definitely be a repeat offender next visit!) and of course I had to get the Amazon roll (shown with the huge shrimp on top) and the key lime pie.

20150320-IMG_0009 Mack and Kate’s

My wonderful friends, Alex and Stacey took me out for an amazing brunch out in Franklin. Alex has been multiple times and hasn’t stopped raving about it since, so I was eager to try it out myself. Our waiter gave above and beyond service with complimentary mini muffins and a huge piece of cake once he found out we were celebrating my birthday! The salad I had was so fresh with big chunks of crab meat, juicy mango pieces, and creamy avocado.

20150321-IMG_0013 20150321-IMG_0014 20150321-IMG_0017Merchants

Saturday night, I went out with my KD little’s family to Merchants downtown. The menu upstairs is drastically different than the one downstairs so I was excited to try new things. My favorite appetizer was their tuna tartare because it had olives and capers mixed right in, giving a new twist on the classic. My dinner was the roasted cauliflower salad with pine nuts and golden raisins, which made for a delicious dish with interesting combinations of flavors and textures.

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So unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures, but probably because I was so overwhelmed by the amount of different menu items we all tried as a group. We literally ordered every appetizer and every side dish and each one was better than the next. My favorites were definitely the grilled octopus with avocado and peanuts and the stewed swiss chard. Fun fact – it’s the first time I’ve ever liked octopus!

Second Winter Break

Last week was my spring break – hard to believe it considering the crazy weather we’ve been experiencing across the US! I spent my vacation in New York and NJ visiting family before heading down to University of Maryland to visit a friend. Unfortunately, the icepocalypse in Nashville followed me back up north and it snowed for a majority of my trip. Luckily though I was still able to squeeze in some quality time with my friends and family, which of course included some amazing food and drinks *disclaimer it’s pretty much all terrible for you, with the exception of Hu Kitchen, but hey it’s ok to indulge every so often 🙂

Hu Kitchen

So the first day I arrived in NY, I had the whole afternoon to kill before my cousins got off of work so I had grandiose plans of meandering the city streets and doing lots of exploring since I hadn’t been since the summer. But those plans were thwarted when my best friend Stacey told me I just had to try Hu Kitchen. By now many of you may have caught on to the fact that we love cooking together and are pretty much kindred spirits when it comes to food so the bar was set high for this place. Hu Kitchen beyond exceeded expectations! It was a combination cafe, market, and coffee shop with a juice/smoothie bar and tons of “grab-n-go” snack items. Their motto is to “get back to human” so all of their foods are made from whole food non-GMO ingredients with no added sugar, preservatives, chemicals, fillers, etc. Honestly, I was in foodie heaven. I spent a solid 15-20 minutes debating what to order before deciding on their stuffed acorn squash, chili lime broccoli, curried sweet potatoes, and of course a coconut cinnamon macaroon for dessert. It was a great place to hangout as well and a friend of mine from my Israel trip met me for coffee and we got to catch up! I even tried their on tap kombucha tea, which was one of the best I’ve ever had. Between seeing her and working on meal plans for my clients, I ended up spending over 4 hours there! Before I headed out I purchased some snacks for the road – chia snap crackers, dried broccoli nuggets, and my personal favorite sweet kale chips. It’s a blessing and a curse there isn’t a location in Nashville because I’m pretty sure if there was I’d have to direct deposit my paychecks there 🙂

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Ovelia’s

Later that evening, we went to a Greek restaurant in Astoria near my cousin’s apartment. We split the tzatziki sauce as an appetizer, which is one my favorite Greek delicacies. For my entrée, I opted for the Soutzoukakia, which was essentially greek style falafel over cauliflower rice and a tomato based sauce. Perfect start to our evening out.

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Bamboo 52

The next night we went to Bamboo 52 in Hell’s Kitchen because we were all craving sushi. I had some of the most unique rolls there. My roommate and I split the Fantasy Roll which had banana topped with spicy tuna and the American Dream roll filled with scallop, lobster, jalapeño, and a honey wasabi sauce. Banana sounds so strange in a sushi roll, but trust me it worked!

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Barcelona Bar

This was a shots only bar in NYC that has over 100 shots to choose from. Some shots even come with music and props to wear while taking them. My roommate and I had the “Leggo My Eggo” one. They wouldn’t tell us what was in it but it tasted like coffee and maple syrup 🙂

The Park

The Park is a favorite spot of my cousins’ so we decided to head there Saturday night. I had only been there for brunch before (where I had the world’s best Bellini), but at night they have a great upstairs area to dance. Definitely could see why my cousins love it so much, and I’m sure it’s even better in the summer when they have outdoor areas as well.

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Amy’s Bread

This tiny cafe is famous for their hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows and since it was snowing when we were in NYC, I knew I had to take Alison here. Of course, being the weird chocolate hater that I am, I opted for a coffee instead but I couldn’t resist getting a marshmallow and I plopped it right into my drink!

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Dylan’s Candy Bar

What you are about to read will CHANGE YOUR LIFE. Dylan’s Candy Bar serves candy-themed alcoholic drinks upstairs in the NYC location. Take a minute to imagine that. Yup, it’s even better than anything you could have possibly imagined. When we went, we were the only ones at the bar (granted it was 3pm on a snowy Sunday…) so the bartender had us try some new concoctions of hers. My roommate got a gummy peach ring infused whiskey drink and I got a coffee cake martini, which mostly had espresso and caramel vodkas. It was a beyond delicious way to get a little drunk sweater going before heading to Central Park to take some pictures in the snow.

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Lombardi’s

No trip to NYC would be complete without authentic NY pizza. So what better place to take my Atlanta-native roommate than the first pizzeria in NYC. It was one of my uncle’s favorite spots growing up and it’s become one of mine as well. Whenever I have a friend visit NYC with me, I always without a doubt take them here. They specialize in margherita pizza, and to try to describe it here would never do it justice, so I’ll just leave your mouth-watering with this picture.IMG_3317

Turning Point

For the middle part of our “spring” break, my roommate and I went to my hometown in NJ. So naturally I had to take her to one of my all-time favorite restaurants at my favorite beach, Pier Village (no not that’s not the one from Jersey Shore, in fact my roommate referred to it was “quaint” so there!). Turning Point is an all-day everyday brunch place (yes, you heard me right, you can brunch here every single day). You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu from their Crunchy Monkey pancakes, Hawaiian Style belgium waffle, and pesto egg skillets to a wide array of salads, sandwiches and soups. We started with their fruit bruschetta appetizer, which has chopped strawberries and mango with mint served with house made cinnamon pita. For the main event we each got benedicts – mine with lobster and avocado and hers with sautéed peppers and sausage on cornbread. Absolutely scrumptious!

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that’s sand on the snow!

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#yolkporn

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Bagel Talk

I couldn’t let her leave NJ without having a bagel from my favorite bagel shop near my house. The south just can’t seem to get it right when it comes to bagels, sorry Panera doesn’t quite cut it. I mean take a look at this baby.

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Panda House

So Nashville has GREAT sushi places, amazing Thai, but absolutely no decent chinese food. Zero. Slich. Nada. It’s probably for the best because it forces me to come up with my own much healthier recipes, but when I’m home you better believe I’m eating chinese takeout. Two of my favorite dishes are sesame shrimp and chow mein (basically lo mein with really fat noodles). But I will say, that even growing up we always ordered the steamed dishes and got the sauce on the side because it truly doesn’t need to be swimming in the thick sugary, sodium filled sauce – just a little bit goes a lonnnng way. And of course, egg drop soup is a must have starter!

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Clydz

One evening, we met my cousin Hannah for happy hour at Clydz in New Brunswick. The drink menu actually reminded me a lot of Patterson House with their unique combination of ingredients, liquors, and bitters. I got the Fig Gin Jam (made with real fig preserves), Hannah got the Cucumber Gimlet (cucumber, lime, mint and gin) and Alison got the Decadence (essentially a chocolate martini). Great place to catch up and enjoy a nice cocktail!

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L.P. Steamers

Later that week, I made it to Maryland, despite the snow’s best efforts to stop me. We took a day trip from UMD to Baltimore to go to the National Aquarium. We spent almost 4 hours in there – it was HUGE! From a gigantic 400lb sea turtle to finding nemo, a hot and humid rainforest exhibit, and being waaaay too close for comfort to a shark, this aquarium had it all. Afterwards we headed to L.P. Steamers because what better way to end a day at the aquarium than eating crab. We ordered a dozen crabs to share, which took us 2 hours to eat! Well worth the work (and everlasting old bay spice smell) though – by far the best crab meat I’d ever had and it’s off season!

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That about wraps it up! I’ll leave you with some more pictures from my trip and be sure to look out for new recipes coming your way soon!

so glad I got to see this girl after almost 2 years!

so glad I got to see this girl after almost 2 years!

this mushball is Elmo, the dog I grew up with

this mushball is Elmo, the dog I grew up with

my cousin's bf's dog - what a cutie!

my cousin’s bf’s dog – what a cutie!

delicious homemade brunch cooked by my cousin and me

delicious homemade brunch cooked by my cousin and me – whole wheat blueberry pancakes and broccoli basil egg white scramble

frozen inner harbor Baltimore

frozen inner harbor Baltimore

Aquarium Pictures

Spotlight on Sweet Potatoes

Forget butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon as the only toppings for sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes can be a quick, easy, and filling lunch, and they are surprisingly versatile. Below are some of my favorite, out of the box accoutrements for a baked sweet potato. I know some of them may seem rather peculiar, but just give them a chance and I promise that you will be pleasantly surprised! Also, a lot of people have been asking me recently how I have so much time to cook during the school year. It’s all about finding shortcuts and planning. If you microwave the sweet potato for 6 minutes or so, depending on the size (make sure you pierce it first or it WILL explode, trust me) or bake a few ahead of time for the week, these recipes (except for the last one) will take 10 minutes or less, including clean-up – promise!

1. Almond Butter

Shown here with almond butter, shredded coconut, and cinnamon. Also try dried fruit (my favorite is dried cherries!)

Shown here with almond butter, shredded coconut, and cinnamon. Also try dried fruit (my new favorite is dried cherries!).

2. Guacamole

Shown here with homemade guacamole* and crushed tortilla chips. Also try black beans, peppers, and cheese.

Shown here with homemade guacamole and crushed tortilla chips. Also try black beans, peppers, and cheese.

**For easy homemade guacamole, mix William Sonoma Guacamole Starter or tomatillo salsa with fresh avocados** 

3. Loaded Breakfast Style

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Shown here with arugula, yellow cherry tomatoes, sunny side up egg, rosemary, lemon pepper, and cayenne pepper.

4. Hummus

Shown here with one of my favorite hummuses (...hummi?), TJ Three Layer Hummus - it has roasted red pepper, traditional, and cilantro. Also great with fresh veggies and pita chips!

Shown here with one of my favorite hummuses (…hummi?), TJ Three Layer Hummus – it has roasted red pepper, traditional, and cilantro. Also great with fresh veggies and pita chips for dipping!

5. Curried Sweet Potato

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Shown here with Greek yogurt (instead of mayo), curry, and cilantro, dried cherries, and walnuts. To really infuse the flavor, scoop out the sweet potato flesh and mix thoroughly with yogurt/mayo and spices (a little goes a long way – I used just a tablespoon or so of yogurt), then top with dried fruit and nuts.

6. “Fries”

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The secret to crispy oven baked “fries” is to soak the cut sweet potatoes in water for 30 minutes or more (even overnight!). Then, in a plastic bag put your choice spices (I used rosemary and cayenne pepper) and 1 tbsp of cornstarch or flour per whole potato used. Shake the fries until lightly coated and place on a nonstick baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over them and bake at 425F for 15-25 minutes, or until golden brown, and flip them about halfway through.

I served these with black bean burgers from the blog of my favorite trainer/singer/master chef, Megan Conner. For the recipe, check out her awesome blog here! The only change to the recipe I made was that I used black rice instead of red quinoa because that’s what I had in my pantry. Shout out to my PR/chef partner-in-crime, Julia Gabriel, for helping me out with these – warning these are difficult to make, but so worth it!
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Shown here on a bed of arugula, topped with with avocado, BBQ sauce and honey mustard, which is also great together for dipping the fries (yes, together – don’t knock it til you try it!).

I hope y’all enjoy trying some of these new variations of sweet potatoes, and let me know if you have any cool ones of your own!

Fun fact - sweet potatoes are a healthy, human snack for dogs. And this one sure seemed to enjoy it!

Fun fact – sweet potatoes are a healthy, human snack for dogs. And this one sure seemed to enjoy it!