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Even More FonDOs: My Trip To The Melting Pot in Raleigh

Wednesday is kind of a hit or miss day, don’t you think? It’s either really awesome or really MEHHH. Today, methinks, might fall into the first category.

First of all, my new (to me) Cannon Rebel XT  camera body arrived this morning. Of course, since the lens hasn’t arrived yet, I can’t actually photograph anything. But still- lots of smiles.Smile

Second, Jessamyn Not Jasmine was the runner-up Best Blog in Yes! Weekly’s Best of The Triad awards! You may not be able to tell by my fairly serious facial expression, but I’m REALLY excited. Oh wait, this is the internet and not reality TV so you can’t actually see my face. AWK-ward. Anyway, if you scoped my name through Yes!Weekly and this is your first visit to my little piece of the internet- Hello! Be prepared for seemingly random very liberal hysterical rants and unplanned blogging sabbaticals. I also really like to talk about food.

Speaking of food…

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend North Carolina Arts Day, which is a day/event where NC arts supporters converge in our state’s capital and lobby in support of government arts programming. Obviously, as an arts administrator, going to Arts Day was a pretty exciting event. It was really cool to see so many arts professionals take time off to make a statement in favor of arts funding. I met a lot of people (including lots of local politicos) and (since my hotel was across the street from my favorite grocery store) even snuck in a quick Trader Joes adventure. WIN-WIN.

 The night before Arts Day, however, I had an impromptu fancy dinner at The Melting Pot. I’ve discussed my love of fondue before, and the charm was definitely not lost on me. Not even kidding, the Melting Pot is (probably) my absolute favorite chain restaurant. However, eating there is NOT cheap and I’m only able to do it on special occasions (or during emergency eating escapades in the Carolina capital). Of course, since my camera was stolen right before my Raleigh adventure, I feared I wouldn’t be able to capture the magic of The Melting Pot in photographic form. But thanks to iPhones and friends, photographic memories were still made.

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In addition to their everyday fondue selections, The Melting Pot offers a rotating Big Night Out menu with fondue/salad offerings which fit into a specific theme. Currently, the Big Night Out theme is Latin America, and the cheese fondue special is a very fancy version of queso fundido. So…OBVIOUSLY we had to get it. This wasn’t the queso fundido you’d get at your local Mexican restaurant. I mean, I love melted queso fresco sprinkled with greasy chorizo just as much as the next cheese-aholic. But this fondue contained gruyere, fontina, AND gran queso. One of the best parts about The Melting Pot is that they make all the fondues table-side, and you’re able to see every element that goes into your meal. Our waitress was EXTREMELY knowledgeable, and she made sure that we knew about every aspect of our meal. As a restaurant patron, this is something that’s very important to me and I always appreciate when wait staff take the time to build relationships with their clientele. The queso fundido was served with the usual Melting Pot cheese dippers (an assortment of fresh veggies, bread, and apples) as well as a bowl of corn chips. Seriously, this singular fondue was enough to validate the cost of the entire meal.

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Next came the salad course. I just ordered the spinach and mushroom salad- nothing fancy. Actually, I wasn’t really a fan of this salad. It’s a certain kind of person that truly enjoys sweet flavors in a savory context and I AM NOT THAT PERSON. The dressing was a burgundy shallot vinaigrette- besides the fact that I kind of hate shallots, I thought the sweetness of the wine completely imbalanced the acidity of the vinegar, and the combination proved to be fairly unpalatable. I get the impression that this is a very popular salad at the Melting Pot, so I’m not going to completely denigrate it. It’s possible that my dislike of the dressing was based purely on my personal preferences. Basically, this is the Jessamyn version of reasonable doubt.

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As far as the entrée goes, each diner chooses a selection of dipping items and they share the actual fondue cooking liquid. My companions and I chose the court bouillon fondue (a no-nonsense veggie broth), and we each chose different entrée selections. Since I lead a functionally vegetarian lifestyle (save for the special occasions- you know, locally raised meats and barbeque festivals), I decided to get the Vegetarian selections. This particular plate includes Portobello mushrooms, asparagus, (REALLY FREAKING DELICIOUS) Thai-peanut marinated tofu, artichoke hearts, spinach-artichoke ravioli, and the Big Night Out Pasta (a fire-roasted corn salsa ravioli– stop drooling on your computer).

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It also included a bowl of semi-frozen edamame which, after they went for a swim in the court bouillon, were perfectly cooked and delicious. The Melting Pot also offers several delicious post-cooking dipping sauces for your entrée. My favorite, the gorgonzola cream cheese, is hanging out to the left of my edamame.

We also ordered the Dark and Dulce chocolate dessert fondue( a combination of dark chocolate and thick dulce de lece sprinkled with coarse sea salt) but I was too busy stuffing my face and soaking up the awesomeness of that flavor combination to remind Anna (my very patient photog companion) to take a photo. Have you ever met anyone who didn’t like chocolate and sea salt? PLUS DULCE DE LECE? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Fondue is not just a delicious style of eating, but a study in food culture. It forces people to communicate while eating, and it can be reinvented in countless fashions. In my mind, that’s the essence of food- like music, it can bring any manner of people together in a positive way. The Melting Pot encapsulates this theory, and I will always recommend that my friends and family (that’s you, by the way) take the time to seek out one of these restaurants.

If you’re concerned about the price (a CONSTANT concern for yours truly), eating at the Melting Pot with a few friends can definitely help alleviate some of the financial pain. By splitting a cheese fondue between four people, you’re only paying about $8/each for a first course which could easily serve as a main course. Each salad is only $7. A Chocolate fondue for four is about $5-6/each. And if you decide not to get an entrée ( roughly $19-30), you can have a VERY filling cheese, salad, and chocolate fondue dinner for about $20. While it’s not the cheapest dinner for a student living on the verge of imminent bankruptcy, it’s definitely still a viable special dinner option.

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Filed under blogging, food, money honey, photography, restaurant reviews

Photographic Evidence of the PART 5K

Hello. Oh, I’m sorry- do I blog here?

You might not know considering I decided to take an unplanned two week sabbatical.

I’ve been a little consumed with all the details of my life. And even though I’ve had multiple entries queued in my mind, the motivation to actually write has been difficult to find.

While my thoughts on this topic are extensive , I want to share a few more photos from my April 9 race. Remember when I talked about a theatrical performance piece featuring a purple spandex clad superhero, a gas guzzler, and a kangaroo? Well, feast your eyes on some visual proof.

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I suppose I was feeling festive enough to pose for a photograph…with a kangaroo…and people I don’ t know. Papa Bear Stanley is cheesing over my left shoulder.

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Apparently the official photographer was creeping on our camera phone photo sesh with my little brother.

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So….the purpose of the race was to encourage alternative forms of transportation in the triad. So of course, the ARCHNEMISIS of the alternative transportation movement is The Lone Rider, a triad resident who cruises around town alone in a gas guzzling vehicle. Apparently, The Lone Rider also has a gas pump for a tail.

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Who are the only creatures in the land that can save our community from The Lone Rider? A purple spandex clad superhero and a kangaroo wearing sneakers, obvi. Yeah, I couldn’t explain the relevance of either character, but their “showdown” with the lone rider was almost too much for me to handle.

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Action shot of the environmental ass kicking. No really, who could keep a straight face during this madness? I kept looking at my brother in shock, expecting it to be a dream.

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But…apparently they are all bros in real life. What a jip

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Downhill is always the easiest.

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(organic!) Post race refreshments provided by Earth Fare. See those bananas? I probably ate about 26626827 of them. And by that I mean 2.

What a great day. Because of the epic Southern rainstorm last weekend, my second race (15th Annual Hospice Hope Run) was cancelled Sad smile. I didn’t schedule a race for today, but I’m thinking about doing a race next Saturday to make up the difference.

Anyway, enjoy these photos until I can summon the energy to fully explain my blogging departure (and finally talk about the sick Melting Pot dinner I ate during my absence.)

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Filed under blogging, couch to 5k challenge, exercise, goals, races, running, walking

Jessamyn Tackles The PART Commuter Dash 5k

In spite of my wallet/camera theft, I was determined to do the PART Commuter Dash 5k yesterday. For one thing, it was free. For another, PART is really focused on promoting alternative transportation methods in the piedmont. In an area which desperately suffers from urban sprawl (in the worst possible way), it’s great to see the transportation authority really start focusing on educating people about alternative transportation methods. I mean, the American South is not renowned for its public transportation options (this can be attributed to a myriad of reasons, ranging from the Civil War to sketchy bus patrons), but PART is definitely making the effort to create a culture of public transportation in an area dominated by single drivers.

Anyway, yesterday’s race took place at Bur-Mil Park, on the outskirts of Greensboro. It was very chilly and it misted rain through the entire race. However, I was determined not to let the weather get me down. Even though I was out late the night before (word to the wise- DON’T STAY OUT LATE THE NIGHT BEFORE AN EARLY WAKE-UP), I managed to wake up before my first alarm.  I was very excited that my dad and brother accompanied me to the race, and even MORE excited when my dad decided to race with me! Since my camera is probably in a Winston-Salem pawn shop( Sad smile), I made my brother take a camera phone photo of my dad and I pre-race:

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You can see that my big teeth smiles were hereditary.

Before the race, there was a veritable theatrical performance piece featuring a purple spandex clad superhero, a gas guzzler, and a kangaroo. No, I’m not speaking metaphorically or telling a riddle. Gabriel wasn’t able to get any photos of the action, but I’ll be sure to post some of the official PART photos when they are tacked on the facebook page.

At the start of the race, my dad and I parked ourselves close to the back of the pack. I wasn’t planning to run this race (“mall-walk” would be a more accurate description), and we wanted to stay out of the way of the serious runners. However, when the starting gunshot went off, I was slightly surprised to see us both weaving through the crowd of slower runners (we tried not to be obnoxious). We kept very different paces, but we both managed to run the last leg of the race. My dad finished about five minutes before me, so now I have a new personal goal- besting my physically fit papa bear.

Also, the race route was beautiful. It crossed through residential northwest Greensboro, and over Lake Brandt. There were some inclines, but nothing too ridiculous- I’m definitely going to keep this path in mind for future bike rides.

However, I’m sure doing this race was a great birthday gift for him- he turned 46 this week, and there’s nothing like physical activity to make you feel young again. Even though, for the record, 46 is the new 36.

All in all, it was a great day. Yeah, it rained through the entire race. But it felt really nice to be up and active early in the day. Earth Fare provided the post-race snacks (bananas and organic pretzels, OH yeah!), and my dad (and brother) and I loaded up on all the free gifts from the race sponsors.

Next week I’m doing the 15th Annual Hospice Hope Run in Winston-Salem, and even though it’s going to be sunny all week, it’s supposed to rain on race day. Oh well. After yesterday, I’m ready to run in every element.

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Filed under couch to 5k challenge, cycling, exercise, goals, parents, races, running, walking

Eating as a Non-Vegetarian- Lime and Garlic Marinated Porkchops with Cilantro-Lime Quinoa

Ok, I admit it: I like meat.

I don’t eat it very much. In fact, I eat it pretty infrequently. I rarely purchase it.

But I like it. I like the way it tastes. And there are very few photos of piglets that will make me feel guilty about enjoying a slice of bacon.

However, what I can’t come to terms with is what happened to the meat before its arrival at my dinner table. It arrives after inhumane mammalian brutality, hundreds (if not thousands) of travel miles, and undocumented harm to food workers.

All because I wanted a slice of bacon.

Yeah…that’s not ok.

I’m reaching a point in my life where I can’t bear to purchase meat that’s been produced in ways I can’t stomach. I mean, my ancestors ate meat- but the meat they ate is not the meat I buy at my local grocery store.

As regular readers of this blog know, I can pontificate on this topic for pages and pages. But all I really need to say is that in order for me to eat meat, I need to be prepared to find meat that was harvested from animals who were raised humanely.

Yes, it will be expensive. But that’s the price of being an omnivore in the 21st century first world.

ANYWAY, since yesterday was the most beautiful day ever (seriously, anyone who wasn’t in the North Carolina triad yesterday missed out on a gorgeous Southern spring day), I decided to make my girlfriend a spring-y dinner of pork chops and quinoa.

So where does an ecologically conscious Winston-Salem resident go when they want fresh meat?

Whole Foods Market, of course.

Whole Foods has a remarkable devotion to the sale of sustainably produced food items AND (probably most importantly) to crafting and maintaining solid relationships with farmers and ranchers. Since the food chain from farmer to consumer grows with every congressional bill and ‘science innovation’, it is more important than ever for us to support companies who strive to cut out the millions of middle men who get in the way of Americans eating food which doesn’t go against the evolution of our bodies.

As far as meat sales go, Whole Foods adheres to the stringent guidelines of the Animal Welfare Rating Standards, which are produced by the Global Animal Partnership. Basically, they have a 5 step standards list which details the requirements for a livestock animal’s living conditions. It looks like this:

Step 1: No crowding
Step 2: Enriched environment
Step 4: Pasture centered
Step 5: Animal centered: No physical alterations
Step 5+: Animal Centered: Entire life on same farm

As you probably noticed, there’s no step 3 for cattle. There are separate charts for poultry and pigs. And at Whole Foods, all the meat options are labeled with the number which corresponds to this chart. It’s another way of letting you know where your food came from.

Since I was making pork chops, here are the five steps I looked at:

Step 1: No crates, stalls or cages
Step 2: Enriched environment
Step 3: Enhanced outdoor access
Step 4: Pasture centered
Step 5: Animal centered: No physical alterations
Step 5+: Animal Centered: Entire life on same farm

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I ended up buying some very pretty chops from a local farm with a 4 rating. There were other options, but the fact that the meat came from a nearby farm means that the journey from farm to table was very short, and it insures the freshest ingredients possible.

It does not, however, insure the cheapest price.

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But here’s the thing- I can’t pretend to not know what I know about factory farming. And if I want to eat meat in spite of that knowledge, I need to be prepared to pay the price.

Plus, the flavor of this finished dinner was more than worth the money. I’m not a huge fan of lime and/or cilantro, but both of those flavors keep popping up in my recipes recently. I’m blaming it on Chipotle– I mean, who doesn’t love their cilantro-lime rice? But instead of making rice, I decided to try out the same flavor combo with quinoa. I’d say it was a success- Kate basically licked her plate clean.

(Ok, so she didn’t lick it clean. But she probably wanted to lick it clean.)

Both of these recipes are unbelievably simple, and can be whipped up very quickly. They can be served together, or paired with other dishes. For example, substituting cilanto-lime quinoa in a homemade Chipotle burrito bowl is a healthier option than eating mounds of fluffy white rice.

(I mean, don’t get me wrong- I LOVE fluffy white rice. But quinoa is just as delicious, and packs an unbeatable nutritional punch.)

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Lime and Garlic Marinated Pork Chops

(Adapted from Gina’s Skinny Recipes)

Yield: 2-4 servings (depending upon size of pork chops)

Ingredients:

4 (6 oz) lean boneless pork chops ( for the record, I made this recipe using 2 super thick bone-in chops, and the proportions still worked perfectly)

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp paprika

1/2 lime, juice of

lime zest

salt and fresh pepper

1. Trim off extra pork fat.

Basically, go from here:

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To Here:

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2. In a large bowl season pork with garlic, cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Squeeze lime juice and some zest from the lime and let it marinade at least 20 minutes.

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I always recommend long marinade times, but if you need to make this in a hurry, 20 minutes should get the job done. I had to whip up this meal pretty quickly, and I think 20 minutes was long enough to get a good flavor infusion.


3. Line broiler pan with foil for easy clean up. Place pork chops on the broiler pan and broil about 4-6 minutes on each side or until nicely browned.

While that’s cooking…

Cilantro-Lime Quinoa

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup dry quinoa

1 1/4 cup Water

1 lime, juice of

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

1. Follow my instructions for fool-proof quinoa.

2. While quinoa is cooking, combine chopped cilantro, lime juice, and remaining oil in a medium bowl and toss until completely mixed. When quinoa is finished cooking, add it to cilantro-lime mixture and toss until coated.

Bam, dinner is served.

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Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you: Kate and I also ate French fries with our dinner. But those French fries are extra special, and will be reviewed in a separate post. However, just for the record, they were absolutely delicious. Smile

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Wait, Is All of This An April Fools’ Joke?

So, yesterday was probably the best April Fools Day on record. Well, the best April Fools’ day in my personal history. And I’m pretty sure none of this was part of an April Fools’ joke.

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1. Student Loan Refund Checks were distributed- Self-explanatory. I’m no longer in the proverbial poor house. I mean, I’m still broke. But at least I’m not scrounging for pennies under seat cushions. Ok, I’m still doing that. Whatever, I CAN OFFICIALLY PAY MY RENT LET’S CELEBRATE.

 

2.  Jessamyn Not Jasmine Takes On The World- Yesterday was packed with a lot of REALLY exciting blog-related developments. Some of them are so exciting that I can’t talk about them quite yet. But one thing that made me super pumped was my mention in Backyard Produce’s weekly newsletter! I wrote a review of their service earlier this week, and they were kind enough to give me a shout out in their publication. As a result, I have quite a few new readers- HELLO NEW READERS! I hope you realize that I get as much from  you as you do from me- if you ever have any suggestions, comments, complaints, requests, ideas, magic tricks, hula hooping tips, etc., feel free to blow up my comment boxes or e-mail me (jessamyneatspraysloves@gmail.com). I’m so glad to internet-meet each and every one of you.

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3. WGBH- Yesterday I found out that I am going to be a WGBH/Kenan Institute Summer Fellow. This fellowship is beyond the cat’s meow- I’m going to spend my summer working at the WGBH headquarters in Boston, as well as spending time at Seftel Productions in NYC. I’ll be working on a project about- well, actually, I don’t know if I’m allowed to reveal the details of the project. Just know that the topic is EXTREMELY interesting, and it is going to involve a lot of interaction and conversation with people from all walks of life. I don’t think there’s a way to express how stoked I am. My excitement about this opportunity extends to every aspect of my personal and professional life. Plus- did I mention I’m going to be in one of my favorite cities all summer?

Speaking of Backyard Produce, have y’all seen some of their offerings this week? Here are three I’m especially excited about:

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Tatsoi, a green I’ve wanted to try for a long time. I’ve heard the flavor is similar to a hybrid of bok choy and mustard greens. I love both of those plants, so I’m really excited to try tatsoi. BY PRODUCE POINTS: 7

collard greens

I went off on an extended tangent about proper collard green preparation after my trip to Milner’s restaurant last week. This week, I am really excited to make some collard greens the way my grandma taught me. However, I’m crafting a  vegan friendly version of my family’s famous ham hock-soaked greens. This week I’m going to put in some time with this recipe, and Backyard Produce is going to play a huge role. BY PRODUCE POINTS: 5

purple sweet potatoes

Um, purple sweet potatoes. Need I say more? Smile BY PRODUCE POINTS: 5

If you’re still on the fence about trying Backyard Produce, try this on for size- tell them Jessamyn referred you, and we’ll both get 10 extra points. Is that a win or what?

I’d love to stay and chat, but the sun is peeking out from behind the clouds which means it is a perfect Farmer’s Market day. If you’re racing today, I’m sending you lots of positive vibrations. Actually, I’m sending everyone positive vibrations. Smile

Have a great weekend, y’all!

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Food, Inc., Corporate Farming, Online Farmer’s Markets, and Backyard Produce- An Exercise in American Consumerism

Last weekend- remember  when I went on a pilgrimage to Charlotte and lost my mind at Trader Joe’s? Remember when I mentioned that I didn’t buy very much produce, but that the reason would be explained in the future?

Well, the reason is about to be revealed- but first, let me give a little back story.

(STOP: By reading below this disclaimer, you are allowing yourself to read a stream of conscious and potentially nonsensical rant. You were warned.)

I don’t know how clearly I can state this- I am a cheapskate. I hate paying more money than is absolutely necessary. It’s not just because I hate spending money- it’s because I don’t have a lot of money to spend. There’s never been a point in my life when I haven’t been on a very restrictive budget.

One of the biggest problems with the Western food industry is that it is SIGNIFICANTLY more expensive to eat whole foods than it is to eat processed foods, from potato chips to factory farmed “Idaho Potatoes”. I’ve spent the past three years actively trying to resolve my budget issues with a healthy balance of organically produced food and cheaper options. Up until about four months ago, I thought I’d finally struck the perfect balance.

That was before I saw this:

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If you are able, rent/buy this film. It’s on netflix instant right now- when you are done reading this entry, WATCH IT*. As one of my friend’s recently said, Food, Inc. should be broadcast on CNN 24/7. EVERYONE needs to see this film.” I can’t tell you how many people I’ve told to watch Food, Inc. who’ve told me that they’ve held off on watching it because they don’t want to feel guilty about or grossed out by their eating habits (i.e.- they will feel guilty about eating meat). I understand this dilemma. But here’s the thing- the movie does not seek to shame anyone. It is not very visually graphic. It doesn’t promote vegetarianism, or any specific diet. It puts the food industry into colors so vivid that you can’t help but wonder why we’ve become so complacent in our food choices.

Here’s the truth- if you didn’t buy your food directly from a farmer, you probably have absolutely no idea where it came from and you CERTAINLY don’t know what’s in it. I’m not just talking about the center aisles of your grocery store- you know, “foods” that come in boxes, or that arrive to your store frozen. I’m talking about the “healthy” fruits and vegetables, the dairy products, and every piece of “fresh” meat and fish homogenously wrapped in plastic for your enjoyment. There is a deliberate veil between food manufacturers and food consumers, and when you start looking behind the curtain you’ll be repulsed by what you see. It’s not just about the literal ingredients of your food- this film exposes all of the unseen costs of producing the food you eat, from distorted food laws and travel costs, to the horrific exploitation of ALL food industry workers. We’re not just talking about exploitation in other countries- the things happening to our American brothers and sisters (hell, our NORTH CAROLINA brothers and sisters) will make your head spin.

And we support them. Every time we go to the grocery store or a restaurant, we support corporations which deliberately try to mislead us. Every time you buy fruits and vegetables produced in far-reaching parts of the globe (which is more than often the case), you are directly furthering deep set afflictions between farmers, workers, governments, and the international oil industry. It is important that, as consumers, we make ourselves aware of the real decisions we’re making, and change our actions in order to affect a balanced economy and work-force.

The balance I struck in my personal eating/buying habits was not where it should be. I was perfectly happy purchasing food that wasn’t produced in an ethical fashion simply because it made my wallet feel less pain. However, the source of pain I feel now has much less to do with money and more to do with the power of my individual dollar. It is much more important for me, as a tax-paying American consumer,  to buy foods which do not support unhealthy corporate farming, which are organically produced, and (whenever possible) support my local economy. In my opinion, this is the most important decision I can make as a consumer. I know how easy it is to say, “I can’t afford to do this” or “I can’t afford to do that”. And it’s true- there are millions of Americans who simply can not afford to make the necessary changes to their lifestyles. BUT I AM NOT ONE OF THEM. And I have to lead by example.

Anyway, one of last week’s groupons was $18 for delivery of one box of local and organic produce from Backyard Produce, a North Carolina online farmer’s market. I have read extensively about online farmer’s markets, and was already well aware of Backyard Produce- but, to be frank, I’ve always thought fruit  and vegetable delivery was a luxury I couldn’t afford. Though this groupon deal was a steal, the typical price of a medium box of produce is $23.49, not including the $12 annual packaging fee. However, after critically looking at my produce buying habits, I decided it would be worth it to try out Backyard Produce with this groupon.

Here’s how it works:

You choose from three different sizes- small, medium, and large. Each package size equates to a certain number of points- 20, 40, or 60. You then use the points to choose from their weekly selection of food options. The options rotate every week, and are subject to availability- while not all selections are locally produced, they are organic, fresh, and arrive to your front door the following Wednesday in refrigerated boxes to ensure freshness.

Sign-up is really simple, and you have up until Sunday night to decide which fruits and veggies you want in that week’s delivery. I made my choices, sent in my order, and waited with bated breath until Wednesday.

Yesterday, after a very stressful day, I was pleased to see this waiting on my front porch:

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I gave very specific directions on how to reach my apartment (which can be a little confusing), and I was super pleased to see that the delivery person had no trouble figuring it out.

As promised, the produce was protected by refrigeration insulation:

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Just in case you were wondering, the annual $12 packaging fee helps them reduce the amount of packaging they use. Every week, they pick up your packaging from the previous delivery and reuse it. Great system.

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Let’s see what I ordered, eh?

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Granny Smith apples, organic WA – 2 count- 4 points

Baby Carrots, organic CA – 1lb- 5 points

Navel Oranges, organic FL – 3 count- 5 points

Tommy Atkins Mango, organic Ecuador – 2 count- 3 points each  (6 points total)

Salad Mix, Cottle Farm NC organic – 1/2 pound- 4 points

Kiwifruit, organic Chile – 2 count- 3 points

Bibb Lettuce, Green Haven Farms hydroponic NC – 1 head- 7 points

TOTAL POINTS USED: 34

As you can see, I only used 34 of my 40 points, leaving 6 points for a future delivery. I was extremely pleased with the quality of my items- bruise free, chilled, and clean. The mangos are nice and large (which is not always the case with mangos), and everything smells great.

At this point I can’t decide if it will be worth it to use Backyard Produce in the future. I still think it’s a little too expensive- but is it really?

I mean, I spend a lot of money on produce every week. In fact, I’m probably spending more than $23.49, not including the gas to/from the grocery store/farmer’s market. Though I’ll keep going to these spots for the rest of my items (and any incidental vegetation I might want), it is really awesome to have fresh, local, organic produce arrive at my door and ready for the week without having to judge by sale prices. I can change up my order every week, depending upon my weekly meal plan. Hmm.

All in all, I’m very pleased with my Backyard Produce experience thus far. This particular company only services the North Carolina Triad, Triangle, and Charlotte area. However, there are online farmer’s market delivery services all over the country- I’ve heard about them in urban centers, and in other parts of America. At the very least, they are worth a try-the convenience factor is unbeatable, and the price might be in your ballpark.

*And yes, that was an inadvertent plug for netflix. I love netflix- and so should you.

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The Frugal Student Takes On: Texas Pete Twin City RibFest

I actually wrote this entry several months ago when I was writing under another blogging alias, The Frugal Student. However, while writing about a recent dinner party involving barbeque and other tomfoolery, I decided that this entry is absolutely necessary in order to understand my love of Carolina barbeque. Enjoy, and try not to slobber all over your computer.

There are few things in this world which get me as giddy as a food festival.

1. The Victoria’s Secret Semi-Annual Sale
2. Tax-Free Weekend
3. The Week When Harris Teeter Triples Manufacturer Coupons up to $1.99

But, really, I think entire festival weekends devoted to specific foods are too epic for words. Therefore, events like Twin City RibFest are too good to miss out on.


Actually, this is the third year in a row I’ve attended TCRF and I actually considering sitting it out this year. However, the Frugal Girlfriend convinced me to go, as she’s never been and I realized I couldn’t miss out on a good old fashioned, down n’ dirty rib competition.

For those of you who’ve never attended a food festival, there are typically vendors who come from all over to showcase their talents in the realm of said food. In the case of ribs, meat purveyors come from all across the continent to show their stuff. And the true rib fan knows there are as many ways to prepare ribs and barbeque as there are cooks who try their hand. In fact, there’s another renowned North Carolina food festival (Lexington Barbeque Festival) which conquers the chopped and sliced pig/cow, and I’m here to tell you that BBQ is a whole other “animal” from the quintessential rib.

Personally, I like my ribs slow cooked so that the meat is unable to attach to the bone, with very little sauce.

Others like theirs drenched in sauce. I think this is kind of disgusting. But I digress.

Anyway, the Frugal Girlfriend and I ate several versions of cooked pig at TCRF.

First up: a barbeque sandwich. Some people think finding a good barbeque sandwich is as easy as hitting up your local drive through and ordering the singular barbeque sandwich option. Or worse, they wait for the McRib to be offered at McDonalds. Blegh. In my opinion, the perfect barbeque sandwich has a vinegar base, very little (if any) sauce, and a thick (NOT RUNNY) coleslaw on top. Nothing more, nothing less, right? However, the barbeque sandwich we ordered from Camp 31 BBQ broke almost all of these rules. Meat laden with thick sauce, topped with a mayo heavy coleslaw. However, as you can see from this photograph, the meat is literally CASCADING from the bun. Not to mention that the meat was so moist it would make a grown man cry. Final verdict: well done, sandwich man. Very well done.

I also ordered a sausage sandwich from Camp 31. It was pretty simple: I mean, it’s really difficult to complicate a hickory grilled kielbasa, sliced in two pieces and served on a hamburger bun. However, I did dip it in two of Camp 31′s signature BBQ sauces. Absolutely delicious.

Then, after a quick lap and a hand washing, The Frugal Girlfriend and I decided it was time to get down to the main event.

These ribs (what’s left of them) came from Big Boned BBQ, straight out of Hixson, TN. Since they won last year’s People’s Choice award, I decided to make them my rib of choice. I also decided to go whole hog (look, I had to say it) and try both of their house sauces. The cashier told me that the first sauce was rated a 5 on the heat Richter scale. It had a nice, smoke-y flavor, without being too overpowering. The second sauce, on the other hand, was rated 9 on the heat Richter scale. It also accidentally coated one of my ribs. Now, being the true Southern girl I am, I finished all of my ribs like a champ. However, I did have to search for extra napkins to clear up the ensuing nasal drainage. Also, I’m sorry this picture doesn’t show the ribs in their true glory. I went into a food panic upon seeing them, and this is the pre-trashcan shot. Hey- a girl’s got to do what she’s got to do.

However, it would be ridiculous for me to say this was a Frugal trip. Since I’m not a big fan of spending money, my head hurts when I think about purchasing meat. But all in all the prices at TCRF are pretty typical pork prices. The BBQ sandwich and sausage sandwich were each $6. Ribs? $6 for four bones. Add in the lemonade and Belgian waffle ice cream sandwich I felt the need to buy (trust me, they were both worth it), and you’re looking at spending almost $25. However, this was a very special occasion. And I did enjoy myself. Even if I did get barbecue sauce all over my new sundress.

Basically, if you’re in North Carolina next June, you really must attend the Texas Pete Twin City Rib Fest. If nothing else, your sinuses will thank you.

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