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Weekly Menus: Week of 10/27/2013, N.C. State Fair Edition

Gentle Readers, so much for good intentions! Apologies for the delayed posting, but this weekend has been slam-packed with fall festivities. Let’s run down the list, shall we: pumpkin selecting, pumpkin carving, costume provisioning, bowling with friends (do not take on POTUS2040), Neko Case, soccer, and the N.C. State Fair!

Fear the pumpkin uprising!

Fear the pumpkin uprising!

We are full up to our eyeballs with pumpkin and deep-fried, shaken and not stirred. Thank goodness it’s a school holiday so I can recover. As a result of all of this, you’ll find a grocery list that’s light on pumpkin but otherwise very heavy on vegetables and ease of use.

Dinner Grits, an idea whose time has come.

Dinner Grits, an idea whose time has come.

I found that we were less crazed about the deep-fried aspects of the fair this year. Perhaps because we haven’t held back the previous years, the novelty has worn off in favor of rides and games. However, I continue to display hound-dog like accuracy in discerning one fried food from another, and could detect the difference in funnel cake vs Krispy Kremes at several hundred feet and in an competitive smell environment. It’s a gift and a curse.

We tried the new deep-fried red velvet Oreos with cream cheese drizzle. Good, but not my favorite fried.

We tried the new deep-fried red velvet Oreos with cream cheese drizzle. Good, but not my favorite fried.

None of us were interested in the Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joe, the new offering at the fair this year. They need to work on the KK McGriddle–think doughnuts and pig people, not cow! We also bid farewell to The Pork Chop Shop.

Farewell Pork Chop Shop. #blessyourheart

Farewell Pork Chop Shop. #blessyourheart

In a testimony to my kids’ amazing manners, we were offered free sheets of ride tickets not once, but twice, from folks who had to leave before using their allotment up. Thank you to both donors–you are reinforcing the use of “please and thank you” with several underlines and an exclamation mark or two.

Free ride tickets paved the road here: the swings.

Free ride tickets paved the road here: the swings.

But I digress. On to this week’s recovery Weekly Menus:

Weekly Menus: 10/27/2013

Weekly Menus: 10/27/2013

And the Four-Square Grocery Shopping List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 10/27/2013

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 10/27/2013

Which all means:

Sunday: Spinach Quesadillas
My pantry staple, and a good quick end to a long day at the fair. We paired them with homemade refried black beans (which really just means rinsing a can of black beans and heating with some salsa of your choosing, mashing a few of the beans with the back of a spoon to thicken the texture, and then thinning and simmering with a bit of water).

Monday: Salmon and Couscous
Did I mention I had to get my cholesterol checked soon? Every year right after the fair. Sigh.

Tuesday: Nachos
A great way to use up a little of this and that. We have another pack of veggie chili to go. When you add mushrooms and avocado, you can make something pretty interesting.

Veggie Nachos Perfected! With pickled jalepeno on top, for good measure.

Veggie Nachos Perfected! With pickled jalepeno on top, for good measure.

Wednesday: Thai Tofu
I have a jarred sauce I need to try. I’m going for broke and pairing with the much maligned tofu.

Thursday: Tuna Melts!
High protein and interesting courtesy of being open faced and sprinkled with cheese, we go for a bit of hot sauce kick and a lot of pickle relish.

Peanut Butter Tuna Salad Being Invented

Peanut Butter Tuna Salad Being Invented

Friday: Pasta Primavera or Omelets
Read: I need to use up little bits of vegetables accumulated during the week.

Saturday: Dine Out!
Adventure dining awaits, I look forward to see what it will be!

Raising Rock Stars: Before the Neko Case Concert at DPAC

Raising Rock Stars: Before the Neko Case Concert at DPAC

What’s your fall quick meal these days? Don’t say pumpkin or I’ll scream. We always strive for something simple and attractive pre-Halloween candy march. Post a comment below, let me know you’re out there!

Send your deep-fried, exercise tips, and non-gummi Halloween candy to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Wednesday (or thereabouts), Pumpkin Madness Take 2! Oh there’s more.

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Weekly Menus: It’s Finally Fall Edition, Week of 10/20/2013

Gentle Readers, wow, what a week. I managed to sit down to eat 3 or 4 actual meals in the span of a week–the rest were food grabbed on the run. Not to downplay the awesome that is Barcelona, but work travel is not the same as leisure travel. Being immersed in a different food culture always makes one think about their own.

Ham and cheese with a side of cafe con leche from Tapa Tapa in Barcelona.

Ham and cheese with a side of cafe con leche from Tapa Tapa in Barcelona.

Barcelona is driven by local, fresh, and reasonable portions. It’s a great concept, and one to which I subscribe. One of the best things I ate all week was this humble croqueta, which was akin to a mildly cheesy chicken pot pie in croquette form. We found it by turning down a side street in a non-touristy neighborhood famed for its cakes. (Guess what in that sentence prompted me to hop off the tour bus.)

My favorite from the week: a chicken, vegetable, and cheese croqueta from El Canalla.

My favorite from the week: a chicken, vegetable, and cheese croqueta from El Canalla.

In a random chance, I also had a rather interesting conversation about sustainable food with someone high up in one of the major international food corporations. We talked about Michael Pollan and the tension between profit and sustainable, especially as pertains to meat. I don’t envy him his job.

Fresh ingredients fill the markets in Barcelona.

Fresh ingredients fill the markets in Barcelona.

But I digress. Look for inspiration from Barcelona appearing in posts for the next few weeks. I respect a culture that is not fussed about diet crazes and every new trend. Barcelona has strong foodways that are built to be flexible and incorporate new traditions. I love that. Visiting always makes me want to go back again.

Eggplant fries with honey and lime from El Canalla. OMG good.

Eggplant fries with honey and lime from El Canalla. OMG good.

Which means my menus for the week are:

Sunday: Leftover surprise
I’ll be eating whatever TPC’s Mom left in my fridge. Surprise! Sometimes, even oatmeal or cereal is enough after traveling.

Monday: Tapas!
Figs and cheese? Tomato bread? Prosciutto and melon? I’m not sure what I’ll combine, but it will be small bites of whatever is in the store.

Fig filled with marscopone and jamon from Cervezeria Catalana.

Fig filled with marscopone and jamon from Cervezeria Catalana.

Tuesday: Spinach Quesadillas and Beans
Simple and direct, one of our favorite easy meals. We’ve got a lot going on this day.

Wednesday: Bratwurst and Pierogie
Just add Brussels sprouts.

Thursday: Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage in Brown Butter Sauce
One of my favorite easy meals courtesy of Trader Joe’s. Served with a green salad, and you’ve got a multi-colored delight for dinner. It’s worth browning some sage in butter–it’s just fun.

Friday: Nachos!
Using up the last of our leftover veggie chili, I’m pouring it over chips, topping it with cheese, and serving it up with a side of guacamole.

Saturday: Deep Fried Everything
This might be our N.C. State Fair Day, and we have a long list of things to eat. Apple fritters, corn, fried okra, and whatever the “it” thing is in deep-fried. We are so ready.

Ironically, I never saw this brand of water in Barcelona, but saw it promptly in NYC upon landing.

Ironically, I never saw this brand of water in Barcelona, but saw it promptly in NYC upon landing.

Have you been to your state fair already? What should we find and consume? No deep-fried goodness too strange. We’ll try it on video even. Post your challenge below!

Farewell Barcelona, see you next time.

Farewell Barcelona, see you next time.

Send your winter squashes, your mad carving skills, and your airline miles to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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The Deep-Fried Review of the N.C. State Fair or I Can’t Believe I Ate That

Gentle Readers, though The Practical Cook no longer wears the crown or sash of Deep Fried Ambassador, her commitment to Fried remains strong as always. This past weekend, Team Practical Cook headed to the fair to try, well, almost one of everything.

Deep Fried Mini Cinnamon Rolls with Bacon Sprinkles

Deep Fried Mini Cinnamon Rolls with Bacon Sprinkles

This year’s sensation is the Deep-Fried Mini Cinnamon Roll with Bacon Sprinkles. Hot, sticky, and bacony. Wow, just wow. It was disturbingly delicious. We scraped off the bits for the Eldest so she could remain true to her vegetarian ways.

How was it? Roll the tape:

We also tried the Deep-Fried Girl Scout Cookies (aka, Caramel Delites) and were less wowed by them. Beautiful, but empty.

Deep Fried Girl Scout Cookies: Caramel Delites (aka Samoas)

Deep Fried Girl Scout Cookies: Caramel Delites (aka Samoas)

The single most requested item: fried okra from the State Farmers Market food stand. It was the bomb, as always. That was lunch. Followed by corn and an apple dumpling. I actually lost count of the desserts.

Fried okra from the State Farmers Market food cart. It is a family favorite.

Fried okra from the State Farmers Market food cart. It is a family favorite.

So if you are heading to the fair this year, do not go halfway. Upon hearing that certain individuals weren’t planning to eat anything fried, the Eldest offered a mildly Elvis-like sneer and said, “why bother going?” And that is how I know I’m raising my children properly.

If you don't eat fried, why bother going to the fair? -- The Eldest

If you don’t eat fried, why bother going to the fair? — The Eldest

If you haven’t been to the fair in a while, consider going on a weekday, or early. It’s not as crowded, and it is a lot of fun. Don’t miss the endless samples in the made in NC tent and the Kerr Scott building. Also, we love the oversized vegetables and creative art made from them.

Say pumpkin pie!

Say pumpkin pie!

This is our fall family tradition. We go, we eat an obnoxious amount of Fried, and we break every rule of common sense. Then we go home and have a nice salad. Have you been to the fair this year? What fried goodness did you try?

Fearless on the Ferris Wheel.

Fearless on the Ferris Wheel.

Send your celery and carrot sticks to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Friday, Broccoli Pasta Recipe.

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One Ingredient, Three Ways: Maple Butter (with Video PLUS Kellie Pickler Tickets Giveaway!!)

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook settled in to her blogging chair, thinking a nice cup of tea and a simple blog post were in order. But life doesn’t always work out that way, sometimes an opportunity comes knocking. Back to the business of Lilly’s Gourmet Maple Butter. Here it is, One Ingredient, Three Ways:

Lilly's Gourmet Maple Butter: I Think I Love You

Lilly's Gourmet Maple Butter: I Think I Love You

1.Apples. As a taste-test, I put a small spoonful of Maple Butter out next to the old stand-by peanut butter. The Maple Butter, with its seductive sweetness, was gone in a hot minute. It’s like what a caramel apple wishes it was on a good day. Bonus, fairly low calorie spend for the amount you’ll need with your apple. My fave Honeycrisp was a maple match made in heaven.

Apple Snack Tray with Peanut Butter and Maple Butter

Apple Snack Tray with Peanut Butter and Maple Butter

2. Oatmeal. Stir Maple Butter into your oatmeal, add a few pecans or walnuts, a little milk, and bam, breakfast. The warmth of the oatmeal makes the smell and flavor bloom, and it’s amazingly inspiring as the mornings grow darker and colder.

Hot Bread with Maple Butter Glaze

Hot Bread with Maple Butter Glaze

3. Hot Bread. I turned the Brown-N-Serve Rolls (atypical for me to have them, from the failed Doughnut Experiment) into glistening lures to eat vegetables with a simple dollop of Maple Butter on the top. It doesn’t take much to do the job, and would be fantastic on practically any bread product. I’ll be working it with sliced apples on waffles soon.

Where does one obtain this magical elixir? Admittedly, I sourced it after a free sample at the N.C. State Fair. I told you to beware the samples, didn’t I? In this case, I wasn’t at all sorry, and went back for reinforcements. But you can order it online. Bonus, Lilly’s Gourmet Maple Butter has a great story, too, as told to me by Nancy Foss, the force behind Lilly’s:

Are you a maple fan? Post a comment below or Tweet at me with #maple as the hashtag.

Send queries, questions, and recipe suggestions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Tomorrow, it’s time again for Weekly Menus: Deep-Fried Detox Edition!

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Highlights from the N.C. State Fair: Top 5 List(s) (with video, of course!)

Gentle Readers, what an honor and a privilege it has been serving as your Deep Fried Ambassador at the 2011 N.C. State Fair. It is with a heavy heart, hopefully only metaphorically, that I must relinquish my badge and my parking pass, and return to my kitchen to steam vegetables for the next two weeks. The good news, there are two more days in which to create your own fair memories, so run, don’t walk.

Welcome to the N.C. State Fair Memory Lane, Large Pumpkin Edition

Welcome to the N.C. State Fair Memory Lane, Large Pumpkin Edition

Here are highlights from my journey, broken into two categories: Deep Fried Food and Experiences.

First, let’s roll the tape on 3 of my Top Five Deep Fried Foods:

1. Fried Chicken at Hunnicutt’s. Hot, crispy, peppery, this was a winner. To be fair, polling other people around my table, the fried chicken is the dish to order there. Also consider the veg plate, some of the best field peas I’ve ever eaten. They were like a Southern dal, if Indian cooking utilized pig instead of ghee.

Fried Chicken, Field Peas, and Limas at Hunnicutt's

Fried Chicken, Field Peas, and Limas at Hunnicutt's

2. Barbecue Sandwich at Pik-N-Pig. I would eat this sandwich outside the fairgrounds, and hold it up against top barbecue in the area. If you’re not heading to Lexington today for the BBQ Festival, head to the fair and eat this sandwich.

Pork Barbecue (as if there's more than one in NC) Sandwich from Pik-N-Pig, Winner!

Pork Barbecue (as if there's more than one in NC) Sandwich from Pik-N-Pig, Winner!

3. Fried Okra at Farmer’s Market. Perhaps you’ve noticed, I’m a connoisseur of fried okra. This ranks on my top 5 list. Well battered without being overly heavy, piping hot (it was 10:30 AM, I’m not ashamed to admit), and not slimy (haters), every member of our crew ate this, with the Eldest ranking it on her fave fried list.

Deep Fried Okra from the Farmer's Market Wagon: Group Favorite!

Deep Fried Okra from the Farmer's Market Wagon: Group Favorite!

4. Fried Cheese at Wisconsin Cheese. This should be filed under guilty pleasures. I’m not a ranch fan, but this is quintessential bar food. The crisp was perfect, the cheese was melty, and I almost wanted fries to dip into it. Sick, I know, but a week of deep-fried ambassdorship will do that to a person. I’m sure the other flavors are good too, but I went cheddar both times.

Deep Fried Cheddar Cheese (Yeah, It's That Good)

Deep Fried Cheddar Cheese (Yeah, It's That Good)

5. Deep-Fried Brownie at Chef’s D’Lite. It is worth the hype. Chef’s D’Lite rocks the fried (I had their banana pudding as well), and tends to go with a tasty but heavy coating of batter. They weren’t my top deep-fried Oreo makers, but that thick batter WORKED on a cakey brownie. The cinnamon sprinkled on the top, a perfect counterbalance. I didn’t find this overly sweet, it wasn’t sickening, and I am not a fan of hot brownie sundaes, so this is saying something.

My Fave Deep-Fried Sweet: Deep-Fried Brownie from Chef's D-Lite

My Fave Deep-Fried Sweet: Deep-Fried Brownie from Chef's D-Lite

Now for the highlights reel, including some of my Top 5 Experiences:

1. The People. From the Deep-Fried Crew to last year’s Ambassador (@pretty_swell) to the food vendors to the Food Bank Peeps and the many, many Deep-Fried friends who helped me taste, what an experience. Thanks to one and all, you were amazing and made the experience one to remember. If you’ve been to the fair in the past, and don’t think you belong there, go back and try again. I’m pretty converted and will be back next year.

The Corn Husk Dolls, Because TPC's Jr Want to Share

The Corn Husk Dolls, Because TPC's Jr Want to Share

2. Village of Yesteryear. Speaking of the people, the generosity of these people in explaining their crafts to the Juniors was impressive. These are long hours, a labor of love for many, and non-stop traffic. I learned a lot in the stops we made around the place. Way to go, good job bringing the old into modern times. They weaved and hammered, I tweeted about it. Harmony.

Good Night Ferris Wheel, I'm Still Afraid of Your Magestic Heights

Good Night Ferris Wheel, I'm Still Afraid of Your Magestic Heights

3. Overlarge Vegetables. As a foodie, it’s impossible to resist. The varietals, the beauty, the pageantry, the obscenity of bounty and size, not to be missed.

Gene Simmons Cow refuses to face the camera.

Gene Simmons Cow refuses to face the camera.

4. Animals of All Ages. Not only did I see a cow who looked like Gene Simmons, I got to see baby animals nursing and jumping about, and cows on the runway. Cows define “bucolic” for a reason. I could’ve watched them for hours, like watching the ocean.

Crochet Krispy Kreme Burger, Just Because

Crochet Krispy Kreme Burger, Just Because

5. Prize-Winning Baked Goods, Junior Edition. I root for the up and coming cooks and bakers. Practical Cooks are everywhere, putting their time in at their home kitchens, the next generation to feed us. I salute you.

Deep Fried Ambassador, Amy Lewis (aka The Practical Cook) interviewed by Alyssa Marcus from the North Carolina News Network.

For the new readers, thanks for joining us, I hope you’ll stay for the ride. For my original crew, we’re getting back to a little less deep-fried tomorrow. Thanks to everyone for the kind words, the comments, and the support online and in person. It means more than you know.

The Sun Sets on Another Day at the N.C. State Fair

The Sun Sets on Another Day at the N.C. State Fair

What are your fair highlights? Share them in the comments below, or Tweet with #ncstatefair as the hashtag.

Send your deep fried confessionals and serious, ahem, cooking questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

Coming up tomorrow, One Ingredient, Three Ways: Maple Butter.

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First Time at the Fair: The Practical Cooks Junior Review (And Love-A-Fair with video)

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook is proud to introduce today’s guest bloggers, The Practical Cooks Junior. As first time fair-goers, their perspective is energizing and a reminder that a field trip is a worthy investment of time and energy.

Let’s hear from TPCs Jr, shall we? Roll the tape:

To quote the Youngest upon arrival: “They have everything in the world here.” Yes, yes they do.

Stick Together at the Fair: We Descend Like a Barrel of Monkeys

Stick Together at the Fair: We Descend Like a Barrel of Monkeys

First, the Eldest in her own words, her journalistic debut, because nothing is wasted on a writer:

The Eldest's First Trip to the Fair, Journal Entry

The Eldest's First Trip to the Fair, Journal Entry

Here’s a transcript of the Eldest’s journal entry, with a little editorial clean-up:

I went to the state fair. It was fun. There were animals. There was fried food. There were rides. We went on the Ferris wheel today. I saw the animals. I ate a hot dog. I ate a fried okra. I ate a fried Oreo. I ate an apple dumpling. I drank lemonade and a cider.

If you wondered if TPC Jr was related to me in the food department, there you go.

Deep Fried Okra from the Farmer's Market Wagon: Group Favorite!

Deep Fried Okra from the Farmer's Market Wagon: Group Favorite!

Though the Eldest mentions okra as singular, let me tell you, she chose to eat more of this than the ear of corn her sister had. It was in fact that good, and every member of the crew, including all Complicated Vegetarians, like it. We’ll be going back for more.

Apple Dumpling: From Smitty's, These Rock in Ways I Can't Express

Apple Dumpling: From Smitty's, These Rock in Ways I Can't Express

Speaking of the CVs, witness the three-straw action on the apple cider freezie, found in Heritage Circle.

Apple Cider Freezie: Another Refreshing Delight (as Witnessed Here)

Apple Cider Freezie: Another Refreshing Delight (as Witnessed Here)

But we weren’t the only ones dining. We also got to see some piglets and a calf having breakfast:

Piglets Need to Eat Too!

Piglets Need to Eat Too!

And of course, we had to take the ceremonial photo in front of the overlarge produce:

The Junior Deep Fried Crew + The Pumpkins

The Junior Deep Fried Crew + The Pumpkins

This just in, if you’re afraid of heights, and the Youngest isn’t, the Ferris Wheel can be a challenge (“sit down, mommy’s trying not to barf”). However, it was a highlight of the trip for everyone:

Ferris Wheel: We got the Carolina Blue car, much to the joy of the Eldest.

Ferris Wheel: We got the Carolina Blue car, much to the joy of the Eldest.

Special thanks to my guest bloggers today, for the great review and for generally being awesome.

The Eldest, Having Just Enjoyed Maple Butter (from the fair) in Oatmeal

The Eldest, Having Just Enjoyed Maple Butter (from the fair) in Oatmeal

The Youngest Masters the Art of Mobile Eating

The Youngest Masters the Art of Mobile Eating

The Corn Husk Dolls, Because TPC's Jr Want to Share

The Corn Husk Dolls, Because TPC's Jr Want to Share

Do you remember your first trip to the fair? Have you taken your kids? Share your stories in the comments below, or Tweet with #ncstatefair as the hashtag. (And do please comment and “like,” the Youngest is very metrics driven and will inquire how many people “liked” this. What can I say, future Social Media expert.)

Send thoughts and queries (cooking ones, not just fried ones) to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Tomorrow, we wrap things up with Highlights from the N.C. State Fair: Top 5 List.

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Deep Fried Is Fun, Hunger Is Not: Hunger Relief Day at the N.C. State Fair (with video)

Gentle Readers, we’re going to change things up a bit today and address a problem that affects us all, hunger. The Practical Cook was raised in a farming family whose goal was to feed anyone who came through the door, and that still stands true. There’s an easy way to help on Thursday, October 20, 2011: bring 4 cans of Food Lion brand food to exchange for 1 free admission ticket to the N.C. State Fair.

Deep Fried Friends (Left to Right): @carterhcrain @yelpnctriangle @charityjen @FoodBankJenC

Deep Fried Friends (Left to Right): @carterhcrain @yelpnctriangle @charityjen @FoodBankJenC

If you’re a food fan like me, it’s one more way to enjoy the N.C. State Fair: stop and reflect on the hard work put into food production and bringing the good stuff to the table. For those reading this blog outside of N.C., I encourage you to find ways to give in your community. If you’re not going to the fair but still want to contribute, visit Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina for more ways to give back.

Roll the tape:

So give a little, get a whole lot. Once you’re inside the fair, this is waiting on you:

Deep Fried Cheddar Cheese (Yeah, It's That Good)

Deep Fried Cheddar Cheese (Yeah, It's That Good)

So thanks for listening to this Deep-Fried-with-a-Purpose Message. Hunger is a problem we can do something about.

Are you planning on coming to Hunger Relief Day at the Fair? (It’s one of the most popular, so plan ahead!) Post a comment below, or Tweet with the #ncstatefair hashtag.

Email The Practical Cook at practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Tomorrow, The Practical Cooks Junior Review the Fair: Blog Debut!

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