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Category: Food & Drink

Made in Durham: Big Spoon Roasters


It’s Monday, and I figured that was as good a time as any to start a new series I’ve been thinking about: Made in Durham. I’m discovering so many fantastic things that are made right here in my new hometown and I wanted to push myself to learn more about them, try them out, and share them! Large and small, there is a lot going on in this little town.


First up is a product I haven’t actually had the pleasure of trying yet, but every time I see their stand at the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays my mouth waters. Big Spoon Roasters makes hand crafted nut butters from scratch using locally sourced nuts and wildflower honeys. The nut butters are small batch roasted in a method driven by a belief that food (the way it is sourced and made) matters. 


Founded by Mark Overbay and his wife in 2011, Big Spoon Roasters received its inspiration from Overbay’s experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer in a rural farming community in Zimbabwe, where peanuts were a part of the community’s main harvest. After he returned to the states, a great deal of experimentation led to the formation of Big Spoon, which can now be bought in over 31 states as well as online. With flavors as varied as Chai Spice, Cocoa Nib, Almond Ginger, and Peanut Almond nut butters, Big Spoon has a lot to offer. Head over to their website to see where you can buy their nut butters and to learn more about their process and sourcing

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Blueberry Buckle

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It’s been a long time since I featured a recipe on here. I blame moving and the extreme heat and humidity present here in North Carolina for not baking much lately. However, thanks to our killer CSA (a gift from a friend for the summer, for which we are forever grateful), we are absolutely swimming in blueberries, and I am doing everything possible to use them up! This has been one of my favorite cake recipes since high-school. It’s simple, delicious, moist, easy to make, and perfectly light for summer heat. I’ve been making it forever, and it uses up a LOT of blueberries! Enjoy! And, if you make it, let me know how it turns out!


Blueberry Buckle

for the cake:

  • 1/4 cup soft butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups blueberries

for the topping:

  • 1/4 cup soft butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Butter 8-inch square (or round) cake pan. Mix dry ingredients together. Cream the butter and sugar in a separate bowl. Add the egg and beat well. Add milk alternately with dry ingredients. Add berries and mix carefully (folding more than mixing). Spread batter evenly in the pan. Mix the topping by blending the ingredients with a fork and distribute evenly over cake dough. Bake at 400 degrees (or 375 in a convection oven) about 35-40 minutes. Serve warm.

Homestead Beer Co.


I’ve had a forced (but thankfully short) hiatus from blogging due to work and other things piling up (including laundry). But I’m back with news of the weekend celebrations at Homestead Beer Co. Located in Heath Ohio in Licking County, Homestead was founded in 2011 by Adam Rhodes and Kevin Atkinson. The brewery has a down home, historical feel that mirrors the aspirations Rhodes and Atkinson hold for their product, to “restore the roots of American beer.” Their signs feature well-worn portraits of nineteenth-century, beard-bearing men, their company name is scrawled in classic, turn-of-the-century, baseball-jersey lettering, and their growlers are styled after old medicine bottles and jugs. Rhodes and Atkinson are focused on creating “fresh, simple, drinkable beer,” and they’ve succeeded admirably. Their Claim Jumper IPA is a deliciously drinkable, even for one (me) who can’t stand overly-hopped IPAs. Their Tenpenny Amber Ale is wonderfully sweet, with a slight hop to the finish. Best of all, their beers are spreading faster than you can blink. You can now buy a Homestead brew in pubs and bars all across central Ohio, including locally for us Mount Vernonites at Flappers, Jake’s, and the Village Inn. Their bottled product is available in many specialty stores in Columbus, and they were nominated as one of ten finalists for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce’s Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award.

photo 2 This past weekend, they debuted their newly renovated tasting room with an all-day party complete with calm, neighborhood-hangout atmosphere, and a delicious Korean Taco food truck called Taco Sherpa. The tasting room space was fantastic, with a long bar space, Edison bulbs hanging inside Homestead’s own medicine-style growlers, and lots of casual chairs and tables for grabbing a pint and just hanging out. Casual, cool, and cheerful, the tasting room is open Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 3-8 pm. Flights and individual beers are available on draft, or you can purchase growlers to take home. Also available are T-shirts printed by the T-Shirt Express gang. You can also follow them on Facebook for more announcements and events!

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Saturday Snapshot

Brunch at Skillet. These were, quite truthfully, the best shrimp and grits I have ever had.

Fat Julian Fat Tuesday


Last night we had a killer evening with friends that included attending Fat Julian Fat Tuesday hosted by Actual Brewing Company at World of Beer in Columbus, and eating homemade pizza with good friends who recently moved to the most wonderful cottage ever in Clintonville. We enjoyed hanging with Fred of Actual, smelling the smoky coffee aromas with Jen of Actual, and slurping up all of Actual’s beers, now on tap at World of Beer. The star of the show last night was the Fat Julian stout and a specially made Cordial Fat Julian, a Fat Julian cask conditioned with OYO (a local distillery) Michelone Bourbon soaked cherries. Most people already know my love for Fat Julian, a beer so fat it feels like a full meal with a cup of coffee to chase it. But the Cordial Julian was downright delicious. It was full–like the original beer–but with a sweet overlay that removed all the bitterness of the stout. Though I’ll keep my stout, thank you very much, the cordial was a really nice change and a great treat from the Actual team. We just love these guys.

If you haven’t already, you should visit their tasting room at 655 N. James Rd, open Thursdays through Saturdays, 5pm to 10pm. Or you can try their beers on tap at these locations. Get drinking!

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The Dream Team. Fred, me, and Kris, left to right.

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Look at all those Actual brews.

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The Fat Julian Stout in all it’s deep, dark glory.


Our friends Laura and Brendan made that glorious pizza!

Blood Orange Pound Cake


I happened upon this clementine pound cake recipe on the brilliant food blog Food52 thanks to the great Hannah (Dragon) Withers. It has since become a winter stand-by since its easy to make and perfect with a hot cup of tea on those miserable February days (or days in March that still feel like February). However, I’ve modified the recipe to be a little more seasonally appropriate by substituting blood oranges for the clementines. It makes for a richer flavor full of winter, beat the february blues away goodness. Eat up! And let me know how it turns out for you.

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Blood Orange Pound Cake

  • 1 and 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 and 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 and 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 Tbsp blood orange zest (from about 2 blood oranges)
  • 4 Tbsp blood orange juice (from about 2 blood oranges)
  • 1/4 cup milk

Heat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour a 9x5x3″ loaf pan. Cream the butter, olive oil, and sugars together until smooth. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, until completely blended. Stir in 1 cup of the flour, followed by the salt, vanilla, cardamom, blood orange zest, and juice. Add the milk and the rest of the flour. Beat until the batter is smooth and consistent, but do not over-beat! Scrape the cake batter in the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the edges are browned and just pulling away from the sides of the pan and a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Run a knife or spatula around the edges to release it from the pan and flip onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving. The original writer of this recipe notes that you will want to eat this cake before it is completely cooled, and I agree (it smells so  amazing!). But you really do need to refrain. If you slice and eat this cake before completely cooled it will be gooey and will not have reached its ideal consistency and maximum deliciousness

Actual Brewing Company’s Website Expansion


Just a quick post to rave about the drastic expansion to Actual Brewing Company‘s website. As in, their site is no longer just a page (with admittedly great art) stating that their page is a work in progress. Nope, it’s a full blown site now, with sections on the brewery, laboratory, and roastery. Each page features “how its done” graphics and information about Actual’s range of brews and beans. You can even order their (delicious) coffee online now, which may be the most exciting part about the site expansion for me, considering we live an hour away from any supplier. You can also buy Actual Tees, printed by Kris and the team at T-Shirt Express. There are still a few kinks working themselves out, but the design is impeccable and the process infographs fun and informative. Another bonus? The site is plastered with Mira Lee’s brilliant label art. Be sure to take a look!



Local Roots, Farm and Artisan Market


Local Roots is a Market and Cafe peddling local foods, organic farm goods, and locally produced craft and artisanal goods in Wooster, Oh. The space combines a year-round farm market, with a cafe of goodies made with local, farm-fresh ingredients, and a community center that hosts classes in everything from gardening, to healthy cooking, to crafts, fitness, and the art of preserving foods. Kris and I visited the market last summer for my birthday and the warm weather and sunshine that has suddenly and surprisingly descended upon Ohio has me wishing for a visit to the place again soon.

The Local Roots team is passionate about boosting the local food and farm market as well as creating a community around that market that supports each other in more than monetary ways.  One of their biggest projects in this process, the community kitchen started in 2012, has yet to fully open, but I think it will be a brilliant addition to the market when it does. There is even an affiliate market in Ashland, Ohio now, and I’m glad to see this business ever-expanding. If you’re interested, you can read more about the market on their website, take a look at their list of producers or events calendar, order online for delivery at the market, or become a member of the co-op. Or you can simply drool over these sun-soaked summer photos I took on our visit to this lovely, local market. You choice!





Boyfriend Birthday Cake: Or, Chocolate Sour Cream Layer Cake

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Over the years I have developed my own recipe for decadent chocolate layer cake by combining four or five different recipes. I’ve found that it is perfect for birthdays and special occasions, because it’s fairly easy to make, but is quite a stunner. For those who love dark, bitter, very rich chocolate desserts, this is a winner. I made it this weekend for Kris’s 36th birthday and we were rolling around the apartment in chocolate comas.

A versatile recipe, you could make this as a 2-layer cake, double the recipe for a 4-layer cake, or bake it as a sheet cake for a very easy option. One year I even baked and frosted as a sheet cake and topped with a walrus I fashioned out of frozen frosting. Why a walrus? I am not sure, but the birthday girl seemed to like him and his dripping chocolate tusks very much. This cake has always been a crowd pleaser, though I do warn all of those out there living under a tight budget (proudly raising my hand): all of the chocolate the frosting calls for makes this babe of a cake a bit of a splurge. However, I can say that the richness helps make this girl go further: most people finds themselves able to finish only a small piece. So go ahead and flirt with this chocolate Goddess, you’ll be calling her up whenever you need a hot date on your arm.

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Chocolate Sour Cream Layer Cake

for the cake:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 6 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 10 Tbsp unsalted butter (room temp)
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (room temp)

for the frosting:

  • 1 and 1/4 lbs dark chocolate
  • 10 oz semisweet chocolate
  • 3 cups sour cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 2 8-inch diameter cake pans (again, this can be flexible. You can make this as a 2-layer cake, double it for a 4-layer cake, or bake it as a sheet cake in an 8×10 rectangular pan). Sift first 5 ingredients into smaller bowl. Beat the butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar. Beat in vanilla extract. Add eggs one at a time and beat well. Add dry ingredients and alternately with sour cream in two additions each, beating until just blended. Divide evenly between the two prepared pans and bake until cakes begin to shrink from side of the pan, about 25 minutes. Cook cakes in pans on racks about 5 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks and let cool completely before frosting.

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When ready to frost the cakes, slowly melt chocolate on the stove either in a double boiler or a thick-bottomed sauce pan. If simply using a saucepan, be sure to melt on low heat and stir often so as not to burn the chocolate. When melted to a perfectly smooth consistency, remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and sour cream. You may want to add a few tablespoons of sugar to taste, however, I like this cake to be very bitter and dark (I drink my coffee black, what can I say?), so I leave it as is. Let cool to room temperature.

Place first layer of cake on plate or cake stand and frost to desired thickness, about 1/4  or 1/2 inch thick. Add second layer of cake and finish frosting.

This cake is best served at room temperature or only slight cooler as the frosting gets really really hard in the refrigerator. However, because of the sour cream, this cake should be refrigerated if you are saving it for another day. If refrigerated, I recommend removing the cake an hour or two before eating to give it enough time to come to room temp.

Drinking Whiskey on a Budget


This year I have discovered a new and deep love for rye whiskey. However, with Kris and my’s move on the horizon we have been very strict about our spending. This means we’ve done a bit of testing around to find a good budget rye. Our favorite so far is Bulleit, which clocks in at our local Rite Aid at about $23. It’s a bit more expensive than we would like, so we’ve been trying to buy it only when our frozen toes and sunshine yearning minds are really desperate for a pick-me-up. I just recently read about Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey, which is typically around $18. It seems to appear on blogs fairly frequently as the best budget whiskey. It doesn’t seem to be readily available where we are (though if you know where we might find some, please comment below), but I would love to try it, and maybe even replace our Bulleit splurges with Overholt splurges. This article on the best budget ryes from “Serious Eats” has also piqued an interest in finding Pikesville’s Supreme Straight Rye Whiskey, described as being “sweeter” and “grassier” (I do not know what “grassier” means when referring to whiskeys; as admitted above, I’m a complete amateur at this).


Anyways, with those recommendations in mind, I thought I would share a few simple, budget-friendly cocktail recipes made with rye whiskey, though I tend to drink mine straight with a single ice cube, thank you very much. Also, for measurements in these recipes, Kris and I measure our drinks in mason jars. The jam sized jars are perfect for cocktails and have lines on the side marking ounces, very handy for measuring liquid.


Traditional Hot Toddy (serves 1)

  • 1 tsp honey
  • pinch of cloves, cinnamon (or cinnamon stick), and nutmeg (optional)
  • slice or two of lemon
  • slice or two of fresh ginger (optional)
  • 1 and 1/2 oz rye whiskey
  • 1/2 cup (or more to taste) of already brewed, hot tea. Chamomile works particularly well as does traditional English breakfast tea.

Add honey and spices (if desired) to the bottom of a mug. Spices can be places in a strainer if preferred. Add whiskey and hot tea. Stir in ginger and lemon (if using) along with whiskey. May want to squeeze a bit of the lemon into the drink.


The Gold Rush (makes 2 drinks)

  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp boiling water
  • 4 oz bourbon (or whiskey)
  • 1 and 1/2 lemons juiced (about 4 tbsp or 2 oz)

Yes, this is sort of just a toddy served cold, but it’s delicious and refreshing. Pour honey into a small jar or mixing bowl. Pour in the boiling water and whisk vigorously until they form a thin syrup. Whisk in the bourbon and lemon juice. Mixture can be refrigerated until ready to serve. To serve, shake vigorously with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain over a big ice cube in a glass.

**Recipe taken from TheKitchn


The Blinker Cocktail (serves 1)

  • 2 oz rye whiskey
  • 1 oz freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1 tsp grenadine (not liking grenadine, I often opt for a different sweetener)
  • lemon peel

In a shaker filled with ice, combine all ingredients except for lemon peel. Strain into a glass and garnish with lemon peel.

**Recipe taken from TheKitchn