As we head into the second month of 2015 (that’s crazy talk, right?) it’s a good idea to reassess goals made at the start of the year. One of mine has been to eat more healthfully, especially at breakfast. Because I work from home, I often cozy up to my desk with a cup of coffee first thing in the morning, swearing I’ll make it downstairs for a snack in a little while. It’s easy to get caught up in emails and client work and forget all about the most important meal of the day. I’m working on making breakfast more of a priority, even if it’s as simple as a smoothie.
My friends at Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Co. sent me some of their juices to try, and I think they’re some of the freshest juices I’ve ever tried. Mix any of Natalie’s amazing juices with fresh and frozen fruit for a tasty breakfast smoothie. I love that Natalie’s has lots of options for fresh-squeezed citrus juices that don’t have any preservatives or hidden ingredients.
This Winter Sunrise Smoothie is a bright and sunshiny blend that’s both delicious and good for you. To make it, you’ll blend Greek yogurt, a banana, fresh and frozen berries and some fresh grated ginger plus Natalie’s sweet Orange Mango Juice and Pure Lime Juice. The tropical notes in this smoothie give me a glimpse of summertime, something I’ve been craving lots in this ice-cold weather.
Natalie’s selection of fresh juices will certainly elevate any smoothie. If you are, like I am, working on eating better breakfasts this year, then this Winter Sunrise Smoothie is a great recipe to get you started.
(This post was sponsored by Natalie’s. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who allow me to create delicious recipes for you.)
Click below for the Winter Sunrise Smoothie recipe!
When I was a kid, it used to delight me to watch the bananas ripen on the counter. Even though I wouldn’t touch them on their own (it’s a texture thing), I sure hoped my mom would make them into banana bread for us to snack on. She used to send me or one of my siblings over to our elderly neighbors’ house with an extra loaf.
Nowadays, I still do the same thing. I’ll eat a few bananas off the bunch, then I’ll wait until they’re covered in brown spots and make my own version. I like to throw in a handful of dark chocolate chips. There’s definitely nothing like a slice of warm Dark Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, and it’s even better to share it with friends. Bake three loaves — one for yourself and two more for a friend or neighbor.
Sharing is caring right? Good, because I’m sharing the recipe for Dark Chocolate Chip Banana Bread over at My Cooking Spot today. It’s an awesome site that features great recipes and kitchen tips from lots of food bloggers. I’ll be contributing recipes there more frequently, so be sure to keep an eye on their Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram accounts. Happy baking! // susannah
I talk a lot about cocktails on this blog. I love showing you how you can get the most out of your home bar, but there is so much more you can do with your liquors than just make cocktails. All month long I’ve been sharing bourbon cocktail recipes, but today I wanted to highlight what you can do with it in the kitchen. If you missed it, you can see here what I wrote about this month’s Kindred Spirit and how to mix drinks with bourbon. Keep reading to learn how to cook with bourbon.
WHAT IT TASTES LIKE
Traditionally, bourbon has been used to flavor confections and desserts (like pumpkin pie!), but it has a place in savory dishes and sweet sauces as well. Bourbon lends the flavors of caramel, vanilla and a faint taste of wood to your recipes.
Freezing it: Alcohol has a lower freezing point than water, which means it might not freeze properly. If you’re making a frozen dessert, an extra kick of bourbon might kill the ice.
Cooking with it: When you cook with any alcohol, the heat makes the alcohol evaporate. Depending on the cooking method and temperature, the alcohol won’t burn off entirely, but your dish won’t be as potent as drinking straight alcohol. In general, the longer you cook something with alcohol, the more it will evaporate.
Bourbon is quite similar to brandy, so you can use bourbon in its place in most recipes.
If you don’t want to invest in a big bottle of bourbon for a recipe, you can’t go wrong with the tiny airplane bottles. That’s also a great way to test out any liquor to see if you like it.
WHAT TO MAKE WITH IT
Savory dishes: Bourbon works beautifully as a marinade or glaze with meats, fish or poultry, or even as a flavor in a sweet sauce. You can also add it to vegetables, like mashed sweet potatoes, or to soup.
Sweet dishes: You’ll often see bourbon paired with honey, caramel and vanilla. It goes well in most baked goods, like cakes, pies and cookies. It’s also lovely as a flavor in frosting or whipped cream.
Infusions: Flavor your bourbon with vanilla, cinnamon, star anise, cardamom or dried fruits. This will give you your own version of bourbon to bring into your recipes and drinks.
I rounded up eight bourbon food recipes to try. There are sweet ones and savory ones alike. If you’re after a cocktail to go with it, look here. You could also try any of the bourbon cocktails I made this month, including:
One of the most delightful things in life is finding a friend who shares a hobby with you. For me, it’s rare to find a friend who shares my love for mixology. In other words, a friend who loves making the drinks as much as drinking them. For me, it’s so much fun to try another’s cocktail concoction. It’s very curious to me to see what other people will make with similar ingredients.
When I learned that my new pals Amanda and Paul of The Great NC BBQ Map share my love of cocktails as well as our already established love for barbecue, I asked them to design something special for Feast + West. They combined both of our common interests and pulled together this Southern Islander Shrub, a unique cocktail combining bourbon, pineapple juice, honey syrup and a North Carolina vinegar-based barbecue sauce.
Yes, you read that correctly. Barbecue sauce. In a cocktail.
Shrubs are cocktails with a tangy mixture of vinegar, sugar and fruits added to the alcohol. The Southern Islander Shrub also has a honeyed rim with hickory smoked sea salt for added sweetness and spice. This cocktail puts a tropical spin on North Carolina favorites, and it would be delicious year-round. (Local readers could even use all-North Carolina ingredients like whiskey from Troy & Sons and farmers market honey.)
Many thanks to Amanda and Paul of The Great NC BBQ Map for sharing this unique recipe. If you haven’t checked out their amazing map of North Carolina barbecue eateries, you absolutely must. // susannah
Click below for the Southern Islander Shrub recipe!
I’m so thrilled to be sharing the first travel guide in my new series! I already have tons of incredible bloggers from around the globe lined up to show you their cities’ hidden gems over the next several months. First up is a Charlotte travel guide by yours truly.
Charlotte, N.C. has been my home for most of my life. I was born here, grew up here and moved back here within the last couple years, though I have lived a few other places in between. When I was in high school, I couldn’t wait to leave, but I am enjoying getting to know the Queen City in a new light.
Named for Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (who was the wife of King George III), Charlotte is lively, bustling and full of surprises. The Queen City is well-known for its banking industry and its racing empire, but Charlotteans also place value on the arts and the environment.
If you visit, I think you’ll find that it’s an up-and-coming Southern city with lots of charm, trees and history. It has lots of options for foodies like me, gorgeous shops and beautiful green areas. Though you can ride the light rail from Uptown to the South End neighborhood, you’ll benefit from renting a car to get to all these hot spots. I hope you enjoy my tour! // susannah
If you’re interested in writing a Hidden Gem guide to your city, I am putting together a list of interested bloggers. If you’re curious, please click here to find out more, then email me.
Click below to see my top hidden gems in this Charlotte travel guide!
I can be a very messy cook. I tend to dirty what seems like every single knife, spatula, bowl and spoon in the cupboard, and then I’m left with a bunch of dishes to clean after dinner. And I hate, hate, hate doing the dishes. I mean, I’ll do them, but sometimes I have to ask, ‘Why do I do this to myself?!’
Because of this, I often crave recipes that require very little measuring and few dishes, just to make it easier on myself after a meal. Enter One Pot: 120+ Easy Meals from Your Skillet, Slow Cooker, Stockpot, and More from the Kitchens of Martha Stewart Living. This book is based on the premise that you can cook an amazing meal using just one dish. In other words, this cookbook is the answer to my dirty dish prayers.
One Pot is organized by vessel, featuring meals you can make in a Dutch oven, slow cooker, skillet, roasting pan, pressure cooker or stock pot. There’s a recipe for every diet — meaty, vegetarian and vegan. There’s even a whole dessert section, but we’ll get to that in a minute. For some of the recipes, you might need a measuring spoon or chopping board, but by and large each recipe is pretty simple.
Take the Fruit Skillet Cake recipe for example. I made it over the weekend, and my mom and I fought over the last piece. It’s a luscious, soft cake that you can whip up in 15 minutes and have ready in an hour. The batter goes straight into a greased and floured cast-iron skillet, then it’s topped with the fresh, seasonal fruit of your choice. (I opted for berries.) The result is a gorgeous and easy dessert that requires next to no clean-up. More of that, please!
I just know One Pot: 120+ Easy Meals from Your Skillet, Slow Cooker, Stockpot, and More is going to become a staple in my kitchen. I am dying to try some more of the recipes, like the meaty Texas Red Chili made in a Dutch oven or the slow cooker-made Garlic Chicken with Barley. I’m also excited to try the skillet Macaroni and Cheese you can make three (!) ways, the Salmon with Kale cooked in a roasting pan, Easy Chickpea Curry made in a pressure cooker or Split Pea Soup in a stockpot. There’s also a whole host of other dessert recipes, like the Skillet Chocolate-Chip Cookie.
Give the cookbook a try by trying out the Fruit Skillet Cake recipe at the end of this post and see how nice when there are fewer dishes to wash! // susannah
Full disclosure: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this honest review. This post contains affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking one of them at no additional cost to you. All opinions are purely my own. Thank you in advance for supporting Feast + West!
As a graphic designer, I get asked all kinds of questions. I don’t mind one bit — questions from non-designers always fascinate me. That’s what makes me better at my job. I get a lot of queries about logos, but a logo isn’t always enough to take your blog or business to the next level. In fact, a great brand is a lot more than a logo, a business card or a website design. It’s everything you put forth into the world. Branding is a way of establishing your blog or business and setting it apart from the rest.
There are three main points I want to drive home about what branding really is, and why bloggers should pay attention:
1. Your brand will be easily recognizable and distinguishable.
Back in the day, farmers branded their cattle so people would know whose cow was whose. While I’d like to think design is a bit more humane these days, the idea of differentiating what’s yours is nothing new. Like those cows, you want your brand to be distinctly yours, not easily confused with someone else’s. You want potential readers and customers to recognize and remember your brand, right? And you don’t want them to confuse you with a competitor, either? Well, you’ve got to train them.
Take the ultimate trainer, Target, for example. There are many things inside and out that bear Target’s brand. There’s, of course, the big red target logo on the front of the store. Big red doors. Big red shopping carts. Employees’ bright red shirts. Red and white shopping bags. The ads on TV. The mobile app. The website. All these elements work together as a system.
Target has trained us to recognize its brand through the colors red and white and its clean, modern aesthetic. Everything at Target has a similar look and feel. When we see a brightly colored ad on TV, we immediately recognize it as an ad for Target — not Wal-Mart or TJ Maxx — even if we don’t see the Target logo until the very end. We do it without even thinking about it. This is true for lots of big brands, like Apple or Coca-Cola. Even though we’re talking about branding on a much smaller scale, these principles still apply.
2. Your brand will look professional and polished.
If you take your blog/business seriously, you should invest in tools for a consistent brand. Your consistent, professional graphics should show your potential customers why they should use your business or read your blog.
Here’s where that recognizable, distinguishable brand comes in: You want potential customers seeing your site for the first time to bookmark your site and follow you on social media right away. Later, when they see an image you pinned or stumble across your site a second time, you want them to think, “Hey, I’ve seen one this before,” and keep reading. The goal, of course, is to get them to keep coming back again and again until they remember your brand and spread the word about you.
Setting guidelines for the way you create your visuals is of the utmost importance, and I hope you’ll check out Madison’s post for some actionable tips for creating consistency in your brand.
3. Your brand will showcase your personality and style.
Since your logo, graphics and design are the first things people will notice about your brand, you can subtly and visually let people know what to expect from you by incorporating a little personality into your brand. That might be a favorite color, a hand-drawn icon or a classy font.
Your brand should reflect the tone and theme of your business as well as set the pace for your future content. For instance, if your blog is all about law (AKA serious business), it’s likely that you want a no-nonsense brand. If your business is about inspiring women to create their own company, you can take a softer, more feminine approach. If you blog about living minimally, your design should reflect that trope.
At the end of the day, your identity is what you have to let your target customers know what to expect from you. Above all, design consistency will build authenticity and trust for your brand communications.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received in design is this: “Don’t do anything without a reason.” And no, “because it’s pretty” is not a reason to make a design choice. Be sure to check out Madison’s post five ways to act on these challenges to achieve consistent blog branding. // susannah
Let me know in the comments your opinion on why consistent branding is important.
Today’s Friday Night Delight is a classic, sophisticated cocktail. I haven’t done too many of the very classic drinks on the blog yet, but since I’m focusing on one liquor per month, I thought it would be fun to share some of the very classic recipes along with more modern ways to use each liquor. January is bourbon, and the Manhattan is probably as classic as you can get — tied only with the martini.
If you’re new to Manhattans, you should know right now that this is not a beverage for the faint of heart. It’s a strong, serious, Mad Men-esque cocktail. Though it’s typically made with rye whiskey, I like the Manhattan better with bourbon as I find it makes it a bit sweeter and easier on my palate. It’s also the Southern way to do it, which is totally fine by me. You should try the Manhattan both ways — with rye whiskey and with bourbon — and decide how you like it.
To make a Manhattan, you’ll need bourbon or rye whiskey, Italian vermouth and a couple dashes of Angostura bitters. Everything goes into a cocktail shaker filled with ice before shaking and straining into a cocktail glass. I like to shake mine vigorously until the ice is ‘bruised,’ which means there are tiny ice crystals that float on top of the drink. Bruising is technically a martini term, but it can apply here too.
Then, you’ll garnish with a twist of an orange peel and a maraschino cherry. But if I’m being totally honest, for this one, I used a cherry leftover from the Cherry Bounce I made over the summer. My family and I drank it throughout the holidays, and now I am left with two jars of incredible, spiced fermented cherries that go surprisingly well in the classic Manhattan. Don Draper would be proud. // susannah
Click below to learn how to make the Manhattan cocktail!
Back when I started Feast + West, I envisioned it to blend together equal parts design, food and travel. For me, all of those things intersect and it’s hard to say which one inspires me most. I was able to share a lot of recipes and products in my first year, but I hit a roadblock with the travel section. How could I possibly share a travel guide for, well, everywhere?
Well, I finally figured it out, and I’m thrilled to announce my new travel guide series, Hidden Gems. On Thursdays for the foreseeable future, I will be welcoming bloggers from around the world who will take you off the beaten path in the cities they love. These guides are going to be packed with the kinds of places locals go, the spots not in the travel guides. Keep a bag ready to go in case you’re inspired to travel somewhere new, big or small.
Next week, I’m kicking off the series and giving you a taste of my hometown, Charlotte, N.C. Every week after that, one of my blogger friends will take the tour guide reins. If you’re a blogger interested in contributing a travel guide, check out the guidelines then drop me a line. // susannah
When my sister was visiting last month, she whipped up a huge batch of baked pita chips for a party we hosted. We served them alongside a big bowl of hummus and a cheese plate for people to snack on while they mingled. These chips went so quickly! And then my sister left just a few days later and I totally forgot to ask her for the recipe!
And then I noticed there were a few pita pockets hiding in the fridge so I decided to try to recreate her recipe. I had watched her brush wedges of pita bread with olive oil, then sprinkle salt, dried herbs and sesame seeds over top. My sister and I cook the same way, often without measuring, so I was pretty sure I could closely match the ones that she made.
Sure, you can buy a box of pita chips at the grocery store. But why? You can easily make four times as many for a lot less. Buy a stack of pita pockets to cut up, season and bake yourself! These Sesame Thyme Pita Chips are amazing as a snack all on their own, but you could also serve them with party dips or alongside a bowl of soup for something totally different. They would go so well with my recipe for Italian Hummus, too.
Better yet, you can season them with anything you have on hand. I bet they’d also be delicious on the spicy side with cayenne pepper and garlic, or even with cinnamon sugar for those with a sweet tooth. You really can’t go wrong here. // susannah
Click below to see the Sesame Thyme Pita Chips recipe!