The Next Food Network Star

1 Jul


There is was. The “submit” button. I sat on the edge of the bed staring at it as it stared at me with a daring glow, turning the lovely evening ambiance into that bright, sickish, blue-ish hue only computers emit. My eyeballs read those letters – s-u-b-m-i-t – for a long time. My computer mouse tempted to hover over it every time a rush of bravery came over me.

“Are you going to do it, babe?” Rob asked.

“I’m not sure,” the apprehension in my voice was thick.

“Why not? You’d be great. You should totally do it!” my ever-supportive husband was doing his best to be, well, supportive.

“No,” the words of finality echoed the closing slap of the laptop lid. “No, I’m not. Maybe next year though.”

That was four years ago. I had filled out the application for The Next Food Network Star and then totally and completely chickened out. When the next year rolled around, and the year after that, Rob reminded me of my secret wish to apply.  It really was a bit of a secret – I hadn’t really told many people. Maybe for fear that telling would take away my freedom to chicken out, or maybe for the insecurity of knowing others may think I couldn’t do it (although everyone I know is fabulous and wonderful and would, of course, never say that to my face!).

So last fall, when I received a casting call email stating The Next Food Network Star was currently taking applications, I faced my fear – my fear of applying (yeah, I know it’s pathetic), and finally did push that submit button.

First off, Steve Williams is a genius. Rob just happens to know a guy through the Coast Guard community, who just happens to be an excellent videographer, and who just happens to have done a television show application video in the past. He was kind, professional, and directed me on exactly what to do, as I clearly had no idea having never been in front of a camera before. The video turned out great.

But for anyone currently watching the Food Network, I obviously was not selected to be on the show. The funny (and also, again, slightly pathetic) thing is, even as time came and went without the ring of the phone, I still wanted to wait to blog about the video until after the show was already airing on television. Like I was waiting to really see that I hadn’t made it. Ha!

So now every week I watch The Next Food Network Star, cheering on those fellow foodies, and wonder if I actually could have done it. Being a home cook I knew that my chances weren’t super great, but I’m also so happy to see that there is a fellow food blogger currently competing. You go girl!

On a side note, school is out (insert real big PHEW here), and summertime has been ever relaxing. Having already traveled a bit and recorded lots of food on Instagram, I’m also working on many delicious recipes for more blogs to come. So please stay tuned!

In the meantime, enjoy the video, and many thanks to Steve!

Broccoli Slaw

27 Mar


Lately, in our CSA farm basket, we have been receiving the most fantastic broccoli I’ve ever tasted. The hearty green grows well here in north Florida; that is if you don’t get any crazy spurts of unseasonably super warm weather making it bolt and go to seed (speaking from experience here). It is so healthy, so filling and satisfying; broccoli is quickly becoming one of my favorite veggies to eat.

It’s funny how tastes change. Growing up, whenever broccoli was served with dinner, I would only eat it doused in nacho cheese sauce. Maybe even a couple of times, I did the whole hide-the-broccoli-in-the-napkin trick. I’m sure my mom and dad never figured that one out (right, guys?). At some point, I matured in my broccoli taste and the boring crudité of raw florets dipped far enough in the endless bowl of ranch to actually be considered “dunking” became my sole broccoli experience.

Times have surely changed again. Years ago, after watching Ina Garten make her Parmesan Roasted Broccoli, I stretched my broccoli comfort a bit farther, and whatcha know? I loved it! Broccoli became a staple in our house from that point on. Roasted, steamed, chopped into risottos, soups, and certainly not loaded down with heavy creams and mayo-based dressings, broccoli has finally received the badge of culinary honor it’s always deserved.

The weather is starting to warm up (sorry cold-weather readers – while we, too, had our wintery bout of frigid weather, it is currently 82 degrees in Jacksonville. Love you guys!). So the innate cravings for springtime foods are in full force. Especially moving around every 3-4 years, Rob and I really try to make the best out of the areas we experience. Food, of course, falls into this category. We have definitely given the true, Southern Food experiences a valiant effort and I, personally have fallen in love with slaws. We’re not talking the globby, sticky, sweet, mayo-dripping, brown-sugar laced kinds of slaw, but the tangy, fresh, crunchy, shredded veg mixtures that have endless possibilities.

During the warm months, when salads just get too monotonous, and the grill needs a break, a slaw is the perfect meal. Yes, meal. Not side dish, but full-on, full-flavor, smack-your-taste buds around, meal. While the classic red/green cabbage with carrots is always an easy go-to, the slaw is the perfect avenue for veggie creativity. Here are a few of my faves (all greens and veggies shredded, to keep the slaw texture genuine):

Kale, savoy cabbage, pumpkin seeds, and dried cranberries
Arugula, green cabbage, carrots, celeriac, celery seeds, almonds, and apple
Red cabbage, zucchini, carrots, curry powder, cumin seeds, and pine nuts

And probably the best (and easiest) of all:
Spinach and Broccoli


The Spinach and Broccoli Slaw came about with my continually expanding broccoli-love, as well as the fact that our CSA has delivered stalk after stalk of the stuff. Using a food processor fitted with the shredding blade, simply shred 1 whole head of fresh, raw broccoli, a few florets at a time. Then, using 8 oz. of baby spinach, stack them, then roll them into a cigar shape, and slice them thinly into a julienne cut (the leaves then look like little ribbons). Mix the shredded spinach and broccoli together in a large bowl, and lightly season with a pinch of salt.

My Slaw Dressing generally stays the same: 2:1 nonfat Greek yogurt to mayo, lemon juice, red wine vinegar a heavy touch of very good honey, and s&p, really all just to taste. Sometimes, if a particular sassy feeling arises, I’ll throw in some finely chopped rosemary, thyme, or even tarragon for an herby note. Usually, I prefer a thinner, more vibrant dressing (resulting in less to use), so I go heavier on the lemon juice and less on the yogurt and mayo, but it’s really all a preference with room to experiment (also, a great tip is to lightly season the shredded veg with salt before dressing it, so it all the veg juices start to release, adding even MORE natural flavor to the slaw).

Slaws are wonderful – they marry flavors over time, they are sturdy (so they hold up well), and completely portable. They are a foundation to add protein, much beyond the stereotypical backyard BBQ pulled pork. Try hot-smoked salmon, grilled chicken, nuts galore, or braised lamb. Really, the possibilities are endless.



4 Mar

Today was one of those mornings where the sound of my alarm left me hoping it was Friday, but the realization that it was only Wednesday threw me into a tailspin equivalent to a 3-year old tantrum of really-really-really-do-I-have-to-wake-up-right-now?  

Then, the beautiful new Starbucks near the house had a liiiiiine (which isn’t really a big deal in hindsight, but after waking up on the Wednesday-when-it-should-be-Friday side of the bed, it’s the little things that get irritating, you know?).  

While the Americano softened the morning edge just a bit, anyone that works with children on a daily basis knows that when the weather changes, so do the children’s behaviors.  Here in Jacksonville, we’ve gone from record breaking cold to record breaking highs in a week, leaving everyone craving the doles of summer.  Thus, simply walking in the door, the students were wild with warm weather, yet snotty with the lingering sickness from the past week’s frigidity.  Today, we had an almost “vom” incident (the term we tenderly use for throwing up), a sudden and vehement bloody nose, and one girl blew yet another snot bubble out of her nose.  Gross, yes.  But not as interesting as last week, when another girl sneezed so hard that she fell over.  

To top the cake, one student told me I looked like I was 182 years old.  I corrected her and told her I was 21 (she doesn’t know that I’ve been 21 for the last 12 years).  

Sigh.  One of those mornings.  But it all started to pick up with lunch.  I had a fresh and simple spinach and strawberry salad, but what made it special was the Maple Balsamic and Black Pepper Drizzle; so flavorful that no oil was required.  It was purely 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 2 tsp good maple syrup, a pinch of salt, and a healthy heavy hand of cracked black pepper, mixed until combined.  It’s a great pairing with strawberries and sturdy enough to cut through spinach tannins.  With a toss of parmesan cheese, or nuts (for a vegan experience), or even roasted turkey breast, an easy and super healthy lunch is at the ready.  

Most days I’ve been able to turn the last night’s leftovers into something different and yummy for lunch, and it certainly provides that midday boost, especially on a Wednesday.  

So, to honor the Lunch, and give well-deserved credit to the often forgotten, fast-food driven, oh-I’ll-just-eat-a-piece-of-bologna-and-be-fine food experience, I’ve decided to start photo documenting my work lunches.  Lately, in my new social media frenzy, I have been posting Instagram pictures of my lunch with the hashtag: #LunchAtWork.  It would be awesome to turn this into something big, but being one that has never been “trendy” (people, I still think Birkenstocks are cool), I don’t know how to do this.  

Here’s where YOU (the fabulous readers) come in!  Take photos of your lunchtime eating experience and hashtag them #LunchAtWork.  Feel free to also send it to @42potatoesblog #42potatoes.

More than fun (and, trending, is the word?), let this be about sharing your food culture – are you a vegan?  A vegetarian?  Do you follow a Paleo diet?  What is your lunchtime craving?  Sushi?  Thai curries?  Personally, I love a good salad but also have been having fun experimenting with hearty grain bowls lately.  Leave a message, leave a recipe if desired, and let’s make Lunch important! 



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