Discovering Local Food at Ingles Markets

One of my missions with this blog is to encourage foodies to support their local food producers, whether it be through CSA”s (Community Supported Agriculture) or buying produce at the local farmers markets.

Since moving to the Appalachian Foothills area, I have never before witnessed such support for local farmers and food products.

The regional chain of Ingles Markets has a special event called, Taste of Local, based in Western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina.

Local food producers are able to set up a table and display their products, along with free samples for Ingles’ shoppers.

Some products maybe available in your own local Ingle’s Markets, as they obtained wide distribution agreements.  I have noticed a few of the products available in my Ingle’s, in the Upstate.

Why I prefer local products

Nellino's Sauce

Made with all natural ingredients: tomatoes, olive oil,garlic, basil, black pepper.

Besides supporting local agriculture, many of these independent entrepreneurs have much higher quality ingredients than nationally know brands.

Such foods do not contain all the unpronounceable chemicals which I see in national brands, which means I am eating better. For example,

Nellino’s Sauce Company, formerly Nello’s Italy, LLC is distributed out of Raleigh, North Carolina.  Neal McTighe’s creation celebrates his Italian family roots and his appreciation for quality ingredients.

At the Taste of Local event, he was so confident in his marinara sauce, he handed out shot samples, you drink straight up.  No meat, no bread, no accompaniment.  It was so fresh and vibrant.  Full of flavor.  

Compared to a well-known national brand, Nellino’s is about the same price, BUT

  • lower in calories
  • lower in fat – containing ZERO saturated fats
  • has half the sodium
  • contains less sugar

Nellino’s is available for purchase on their website and can be shipped directly to your home.

Other Local Products I liked:

Another locally produced product featured at the Taste of Local was Roots Hummus, out of Asheville, NC.

I will admit, I was not a hummus fan!  However, after sampling their “original” and “spinach” varieties, I was convinced I probably had not had GOOD hummus, in the past.

Paul, aka #PaulTheRockStar,  served up samples of their entire product line with blue corn chips. Buying my top picks, I now eat hummus as a great snack, with carrots, broccoli or other raw vegetables.

Roots Hummus

Excited about hummus. Paul (#PaulTheRockStar) explained how The Roots Foundation contributes to food education and community enrichment.

Roots contains NO GMO’S; is gluten-free and is vegan friendly.  Made from all natural ingredients, 2 Tablespoons of hummus contains only 6 grams of fat;  ZERO trans fats; 2 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein!

Read here What Exactly is a GMO…

Hickory Nut Gap FarmIf you are a carnivore, like me, looking for grass-fed beef or pasture-raised pork, check out Hickory Nut Gap Farm in Fairview, NC.

At the Taste of Local, the farm provided samples of their beef and pork, which she only browned in a skillet, adding a little salt and pepper.

The pork had a wonderful sage flavor, without being overpowering.  The beef was tender and succulent.

Hickory Nut Gap Farm raise and process all their own meat.  As explained to me, the “breakfast sausage” I sampled, contains only pork, salt, red pepper, sage, sugar, black pepper and water.

No added hormones or antibiotics are given to their animals.  A 2 oz. slice contains 8 grams of protein and ZERO carbs!

I plan to make a day trip to their farm, where they have a store, cafe and events throughout the summer months.

Honorable mentions which I purchased:

Sunny Creek FarmSunny Creek Farm from Tryon, NC.  – Grower of a wide variety of sprouts.

I purchased their broccoli sprouts which are the best source of sulfurophane, which make carbohydrates digestible and have been linked to the prevention of cancer cells.


Tad McBride Sauces from Black Mountain, NC

Tasted a sample of his Samurai Steak & Sushi Sauce applied to a slice of flank steak; it was delicious.

Much like a soy sauce, without the lingering salt taste.  Would be great on stir fry, steak or chicken.  Be careful, a little goes a long way, hence he sells his sauce in 5 oz. bottles.  You can buy now on Amazon.


Unicoi Preserves produced in Sautee, Georgia

Partnering with other local food producers, Suzy and Clark Neal have developed a unique line of gourmet jams and jellies.

Available in the deli section at participating Ingles Markets, I sampled and then HAD to buy the Vineyard Spread.

Made from Chambourcin grapes (which they recruit from a Georgia winery), it tastes just like a fine wine from France. Very sweet, it is best paired with some cream cheese and applied to your favorite cracker.  Suzy told me, she loves it on shrimp and grits.


New Sprout Organic Farms in Asheville, NC.

Inspired by the importance of clean food and a local food economy, Alan and Jill Rose started their farm in 2011.

They provide organic potato and sweet potato slips to commercial growers and backyard gardeners.

Sweet potatoes aren’t started by seed like most other vegetables, they are started from slips.

Slips are shoots that are grown from a mature sweet potato. 

Sweet potatoesAt the Taste of Local, they gave me the biggest surprise of the day.  Samples included, sweet potato chocolate chip muffins and raw turnip.

First of all….I am NOT a sweet potato fan, much less turnips (which I really have never tried).

However, those muffins were delicate, delicious and did not taste like sweet potatoes at all.  The raw turnip strips were crunchy and similar to eating a raw potato – which i do periodically.

I bought sweet potatoes and made the muffins at home AND I served up raw turnips, along with carrots, celery and broccoli on a vegetable tray for Sunday munching.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Taste of Local Event, sponsored by our regional Ingles Market.  For more info see their Facebook Page. 

If you would like the Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Muffin recipe – drop me a line at



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Crushing My Craving For Pasta

Foodies, I am still battling my love for PASTA.

Despite my recent doctor’s advice, see my post

I am still cooking it at least once a week (okay, it was twice last week).

Believe me, the Lightlife plant-based, soy product  was great, but I can’t travel 30 miles to the nearest store for it, on a regular basis.

Lightlife meatless protein based food

Imagine my jubilation, when I saw an advertisement for a new Dr. Oz show titled…


Food journalist, Mark Schatzker, who wrote, The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor was the guest, who explained a new research study released in the Nature’s Nutrition and Diabetes Journal which suggested:

maybe PASTA is not to blame for American’s obesity rates?

I see Italians, living in Italy, eating the luscious noodle all the time and they are slim and trim.

What are Italians doing differently, than Americans?

Americans Are Cooking Their Pasta Wrong

Best Practices for Cooking Dried Pasta

Cook to ONLY al-dente. The pasta will take longer to digest, thus you fill fuller quicker and tend to eat less.

Cooking it to just barely tender, al-dente, will prevent a spike in your blood sugar during digestion.

Make sure to use A LOT of water when boiling dried pasta. Recommendation was one pound of pasta to six quarts of water.

That is a lot of water.

Make sure to salt the water BEFORE you add the pasta.

Water must be at a strong, rolling boil BEFORE adding the noodles.

Stir it frequently! Moving it around in the pot will DECREASE the amount of starch ABSORBED by the pasta.

Starch is bad!

Allow it to cool before eating it. The carbohydrate enzymes will take longer to digest from a cool noodle.

A Pasta Realization

As foodies, we know the problem with pasta is the type of FLOUR used to make industrialized, mass-produced, boxed product. However, some brands are selling pasta made with soft, low-gluten wheat flours, as well as protein-free starch from beans and vegetables.

This originates in China where epicureans make long noodles or thin wrappers, prepared fresh, by hand; cooking them only for a few minutes, serving them while they are soft and slippery.

I need to experiment with different types of noodles and see which one can fill the void of my carb-loaded, spaghetti and meatballs ?

Alternatives To Consider

Of couse, there are zucchini noodles, which are delicious and great every once and while, but they do not have the silky texture, which I would miss.


 I am going to try Shirataki Noodles, which I think I have seen in the Asian section of my local supermarket. They are made from konjac yams and are naturally low-calorie, low-carb and gluten-free.




I wonder what whole wheat, gnocci pasta, which is not made from white flour, tastes like?

What about red lentil pasta, which has TWELVE times the fiber and SEVEN times the protein than the white flour counterpart.

According to  It serves up 30 percent of the day’s folate, a nutrient that can aid weight loss efforts, and it’s also packed with 20 percent of the day’s thiamine, a vitamin that helps the body convert carbs into fuel.



Do you have any suggestions on how to crush my pasta cravings?  Let me know in the comments….

-happy cooking!



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5 Places Foodies Must Eat in Greenville, South Carolina

Dining across the United States

Save on your Pinterest Travel Board

As a food blogger, you might imagine that FOOD and finding the “good” places to eat, is always at the top of my agenda – especially when I travel.

I want to eat where the locals eat.  But it can be intimidating, just walking up to a stranger, in a strange town and asking, “where is a good Tex-Mex restaurant around here?”

And yea, I know…there are several apps which can help…but they are not always reliable (I can speak first hand on that).

Today…we have a solution!

Below, you will find my top 5 food (or drink) must visit spots for Greenville, South Carolina.  In collaboration with fellow foodies across America, we have accumulated our top picks for our respective cities.

Need a good steak in Austin, Texas? – Erin recommends Roaring Fork.

Are you craving a crab cake in Baltimore, Maryland? – Theresa says G & M Restaurant and Lounge has what you need.

Searching for sushi in Miami, Florida? -Sabrina says Iron Sushi is the hot spot.

Check out our recommendations below…37 different cities!
Sur La Table

Shucks Oyster Bar

Shucks Oyster Bar Oyster RockafellerShucks Oyster Bar is a husband and wife owned eatery just 30 minutes southwest of Greenville, South Carolina. Not only do they serve great oysters, the James River variety from Virginia was my favorite, but they have a full menu sure to please even the pickiest eaters.


The casual comfortable elongated dining room welcomes those craving good, honest food, reasonably priced.



Dark Corner Distillery

Dark Corner Distillary Birthday Foodie WeekendSitting on Main Street, in downtown Greenville, is an inconspicuous tasting room of Upstate whiskey.

Patrons can pay just $5 to sample six spirits and keep the Dark Corner Distillery shot glass.

Of course, I enjoy the sweeter flavors such as peach, apple/maple, and butterscotch.  After trying those three spirits, I had to buy a bottle of each.

Buttery Nipple Cocktail Recipe:   1/2 shot glass with Whiskey Girl Butterscotch Whiskey

Finish filling a shot glass with Bailey’s



Coffee Underground

Coffee Underground White Chocolate Mocha Coffee Underground Build Your Own Omlete








Another downtown spot to visit is literally underground (under street level).  Be careful, not to miss it, as it sits on a side street from Main Street Greenville.


Located in the heart of downtown, but hidden literally below street level, hence underground, Coffee Underground is a full-service coffee bar, offering a vast selection of hot coffees, frozen smoothies, flavored milkshakes, frappes, and other beverages.

Hungry? Coffee Underground has an array of pastries, cakes and sweet treats available. But they also have more substantial choices, with simple breakfast plates served all day. Sandwiches, salads, burgers and a kids menu are available. Food can be prepared from open to close.

 Sidewall Pizza

Known for FULL-SIZE, loaded pizzas…you will never go away hungry at this establishment.

Sidewall Pizza

This place is always hopping.  With its simplistic exterior and casual setting, it is a great spot for a cyclist to stop and dine.  Complete with bike racks, it sits adjacent to the Greenville Health System Swamp Rabbit Trail.  For those readers not familiar with the Upstate, the trail is a 21-mile multi-use greenway system that runs along the Reedy River connecting Greenville County with schools, parks, and local businesses.  Frequented by cyclists, joggers, and all recreation enthusiasts, it is a great way to enjoy everything Greenville has to offer.

Grill Marks

Grill Marks is a casual, quaint burger restaurant that offers not only fries, burgers and shakes – but also, comfort and southern hospitality.  Established restaurateurs, Mark & Larkin Hammond constructed over a dozen burger options, blended with Angus beef, chuck, brisket and short ribs, Grill Marks offers indispensable burgers in downtown Greenville.

Hamburger Grill Marks

Grill Marks Milkshake










A long marble bar sits where gourmet milkshakes, adult milkshakes, beer, and wine are served.  Call ahead seating is available through their website.  Be warned; wait times can exceed 30-45 minutes on weekends.

I hope locals and visitors can appreciate the exciting food options Greenville has to offer.  Come and check them out!

What are your favorite local spots?  Leave me a comment…

Do you like food-related reads?  Subscribe HERE!

Fellow Bloggers Top Picks:

Eastern US

Asheville, North Carolina – A Thousand Country Roads

Baltimore, Maryland – Theresa’s Reviews

Boston, Massachusetts –  Bianca Blogs

Charleston, West Virginia – Honey and Pine

Fairfax, Virginia – Cook With 5 Kids

Fort Lauderdale, Florida – Acupful

Lanham, Maryland – Jenny Day by Day

Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania – Cindy’s Recipes and Writings

Miami, Florida – Sabrina’s Sea of Colors

New York City, New York – Smiling Notes

North Jersey, New Jersey – Crayons and Cravings

Western Finger Lakes, New York – Home in the Finger Lakes

Western US

Austin, Texas – Kitchen Concoctions

Austin, Texas – My Big Fat Happy Life

Austin, Texas – Hi Lovely

Forney, Texas – My Life Homemade

Houston, Texas – Pop Shop America

Houston, Texas – It’s Pam Del

Los Angeles, California – Moore or Less Cooking

Palm Desert, California – Tabler Party of Two

San Antonio, Texas – Sincerely Onyi

Seattle, Washington – Revel and Glitter

Seattle, Washington – Satsuma Designs

Skagit County, Washington – Long Wait for Isabella


Northern US

Bloomington-Normal, Illinois – Become A Coupon Queen

Canton, Ohio – Hall of Fame Moms

Carmel, Indiana – Home Maid Simple

Cleveland, Ohio – Greatest Escapist

Fort Wayne, Indiana – Kiddies Corner Deals

Grand Rapids, Michigan – The Epicurean Traveler

South Suburbs, Chicago – Home Everyday

St. Louis, Missouri – And Hattie Makes Three

Southern US

Atlanta, Georgia – Sunshine and Holly

Charleston, South Carolina – My Borrowed Heaven

Greenville, South Carolina – Joann’s Food Bites

Macon, Georgia – Intelligent Domestications

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee – Creative Southern Home






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5 Tips for Hosting A Wine Tasting

5 Tips for Hosting A Wine TastingI love going to vineyards and wine tastings, which have provided first hand experience on the techniques for proper wine tasting.

After visiting dozens of vineyards, AND actually HOSTING my own wine tasting. I want to share my knowledge with you.

Believe or not, I hosted two tastings as an adult fellowship program at our home church back in Georgia.

The wine events were very popular.  For such a small congregation, I think we had almost all the adults show up.

Preparing for the event was fun!  Most importantly, I also had to consider what wine to taste.

What country?

What varietal?

Was the tasting going to have a theme?

Red or white?

What food to serve?

5 Tips to Hosting a Wine Tasting Banrock Station

The tips below include exactly what I said during the event I hosted.

I featured Banrock Station of Austrailia.

      Why did I pick Banrock Station? 

  • experience with the wine and I thoroughly researched the product.
  • I really like their product.
  • I  picked something readily available and inexpensive, so attendees could purchase it for themselves


Five tips for hosting a wine tasting

1. Decide a theme for your tasting.

In my opinion the easiest theme is picking a particular vineyard you want to profile, and feature varietals they produce.

So I chose, Banrock Station.  They produce a wide range of varietals, but we limited our tasting to (3) whites and (3) reds for an even balance.

Because whites are typically lighter on the palette, sample whites first and finish with the reds.

2. Educate your attendees without insulting their skill level.

Tips for Hosting Wine Tasting Event Don’t interrogate your attendees about their wine knowledge. Most people do not want to divulge this information for fear of sounding “uncultured” or “snobbish,” so it is best to avoid it all together.

Start by introducing yourself and your experience with wine.

“I’ve been attending wine tastings for over 10 years and I found Banrock Station to be my favorite white shiraz ever.”

Then educate your tasters by telling them about the region where the wine is grown.

“Austraila, like the U.S., follows the tradition of categorizing their finer wines by grape variety. The top five grape varieties grown in Austrailia are Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Semillon.”

You can talk about the grapes further, or do it later as you taste each sample.

***Remember – RESEARCH, you don’t need to know everything, but you need to be confident in your selection.

3. Provide the necessities

There are few things you must supply, in order to provide a good tasting event.

Clean, proper stemware.  Realize wine does taste differently from the type of glass it is drank.

Provide water for each taster.

Provide food at the event.  Whether it be heavy horderves or a concluding meal.  And make it conducive for wine.

Set up and label dump buckets for participants to dispose unwanted wine.

Helpful Hint: Think of wine as a food, instead of a beverage.  The sense of smell and taste are as interrelated with wine as they are with food.

5 Tips for Hosting a Wine Tasting

4. Provide tasting notes and worksheet

Each taster at my event received a list of descriptive words which could be applied to their tasting experience and a chart describing each wine we sampled, as well as an area for them to make their own notes.

At almost every tasting or vineyard I have visited, a worksheets describing their wines was provided.





5. Put on your patience hat

A good wine host will patiently walk attendees through each wine.

Have an assistant or two, go around and pour a small sample of each wine, in each person’s glass, as you introduce each wine.

“First, we will sample Banrock Station’s Chardonnay.  This is a sassy wine with tropical fruit flavors and a crisp finish.”

Hold the corresponding bottle up as you speak about the wine.

Encourage participates to use ALL their senses before actually tasting the wine.

“Is the textue light or heavy?”          “Does it taste like a fruit?”

“Is it sweet, dry, spicy or plain?”      “Is it bitter?”

Some wines include effervescence, therefore, they will have a sound.

Take your time – DO NOT rush through the tasting.  Tasting six wines, at my first event, took about 60-70 minutes.

My first wine hosting event was so popular and successful, I was asked to do another one.

Remember, the goal is to provide an enjoyable, uplifting event – not to get trashed on wine.     Happy sipping!

tips for hosting a wine tasting






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Lightlife’s Savory Plant-Based Food Innovations

As I mentioned at the beginning of the year, one of the biggest food trends for 2018 will be the expansion of plant-based food innovations, such as plant protein sources and Lightlife is one of the pioneers.

2018 Food Trends JoAnn's Food Bites

 Read my Food Trends for 2018 article here

Plant-based diets are dominating the food world.  Several manufactures are diving head first into using science to manipulate plant-based ingredients resulting as innovative products.

Lightlife uses plant proteins, such as soy and beans to create delicious, healthy food choices for those wanting to steer away from meat based protein sources.

What is Lightlife?

In 1979, Lightlife was created to provide protein alternatives to vegetarians.  However, recent food trends have stimulated demand for healthy, plant based nutrition.

Lightlife provides quality, delicious food and make it accessible for those desiring a more healthy lifestyle.

Lightlife plant-based food

Offering an array of products from pasta to meatless alternatives, Lightlife’s products can be conveniently stored in the freezer.

Where to find Lightlife?

Lightlife’s has a wide variety of vegan and non-GMO products, including frozen meatless bowls, pastas and snacks.

Lightlife meatless protein based food

In the deli area of Kroger, Earthfare and Publix, you will find a wide-array of flavorful meats and sliced products, including pepperoni, turkey, ham and bologna.

Lightlife plant based protein

In the produce and dairy department, meatless choices include chicken, sausages, burgers and even an alternative to processed hot dogs.

Lightlife Plant Protein Food

Delicious Convenience

Lightlife Plant proteinMost of Lightlife’s products can be heated in your microwave, however, I prepared the Wild Mushroom Ravioli, the traditional way for dried pasta.

I dropped the ravioli in rapidly boiling water. They took only 3 minutes to float, which indicated they were done.

After draining the water off the pasta, I made a quick Alfredo sauce and mixed it with the pasta; topping with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

The ravioli was delicious.

I should have ate it WITHOUT the sauce.

Each ravioli was loaded with flavorful mushrooms and at only 390 calories, the signal portion sized package, made for a delicious, satisfying lunch.

To get a second opinion from a true meat eater, I prepared the veggie sausage ravioli for my husband.  Filled with veggie sausage, roasted red peppers, kale and vegan mozzarella cheese; accompanied by a simple marinara sauce.

Easy Tomato Sauce Ready in 5 minutes

Lightlife sausage ravioli

My husband was shocked.  The meatless sausage ravioli filling was flavorful and tasted like traditional pork sausage.

The ravioli were not heavy like other store bought pre-made products.  With just a small amount of sauce, the veggie sausage ravioli could be ate as a late meal, and not keep you up at night.

Because we are watching our cholesterol –

see my Lower Bad Cholesterol

the veggie sausage ravioli, as with most Lightlife products, contains ZERO cholesterol and is loaded in fiber (8g).

Tempeh Product Line

Lightlife has a selection of tempeh products. 

Originating in Indonesia, soybeans are fermented in a controlled environment; then formed into a cake-like product.

Check out their bacon product here: Tempeh LightlifeLightlife is using science to advance recipes and manipulate plant-based ingredients and proteins.

According to Whole Foods Market,  new production techniques are also bringing some new varieties of nut milks and yogurts made from peas, bananas, macadamia nuts and pecans.

Click to locate a store near you where Lightlife Plant-based Protein and vegetarian products are sold.

I was financially compensated for this post. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.



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8 Ways to Lower Bad Cholesterol and Triglycerides

A recent health checkup caused me to reassess my dietary needs.  My labs results indicated a jump in my LDL, or bad cholesterol numbers.

My husband, recently evaluated due to a new health program at work, was told his triglyceride numbers were too high.

What are LDL and triglycerides?

LDL or low-density lipoprotein,  is the “less desirable” type of cholesterol in your body, (that is how I remember which is which.)

LDL causes plaque build up in arteries, which causes blood to be restricted and can result in heart attacks, heart disease and strokes.  I already have a family history of heart disease and my father has survived several heart attacks – so this is cause for concern for me.

Ideal LDL numbers – if NO OTHER health risks exist

Less than 100 mg/dL  — Optimal

100-129 mg/dL  — Near optimal

 130-159 mg/dL — Borderline high

My LDL number was 171.

However, my HDL or high-density lipoprotein level, which is the “highly desirable” type of cholesterol was 65 mg/dL.  Anything greater than 39 mg/dL is considered good.  Doctors believe the HDL proteins carry away the LDL proteins to the liver, where it is broken down and exits the body.

Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the body; they store excess energy from your diet. A high triglyceride level combined with low HDL cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol is linked with fatty buildups in artery walls; therefore, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

My husband’s Triglyceride level was 282 mg/dL, whereas, 150 should be highest.

HDL level 35 mg/dL, whereas 39 mg/dL should be the lowest

LDL level 146 mg/dl, wheras 100 mg/dL is optimal

Reasons for elevated numbers

Meta MucilI believe my numbers were elevated because I have not been taking a daily dose of Meta Mucil.  Before we moved into our new house, I was walking five-days each week, water bottle in hand – which contained a dose of Meta Mucil.

Rich in fiber, which reduces LDL numbers, it also helped me feel less hungry, maintained good blood sugar levels and promoted digestive health.

Going from almost daily – to nothing HAD TO affect my numbers.  Therefore, I have returned to taking a daily dose.

I only take a tablespoon daily, with 8-10 ozs of water.  The orange flavor is pretty tasty.

Another reason for our elevated numbers; we have over-indulged in our consumption of pasta recently.

Not trying to use as an excuse; but it has been on sale, frequently, at my local grocer; so, I have been stocking up.

Not to mention, it is probably our favorite meal – anything with pasta.

Therefore, we are changing our meal plan, to only include pasta once, every two weeks.  There is no way we would make it, eliminating it completely.  I think reducing the frequency, will affect our numbers.

Foods to reduce LDL

Obviously, these few changes will not completely resolve any issues; therefore, we need to incorporate LDL reducing foods into our diet.


This will be an easy first step to improving our cholesterol numbers.  Having a bowl of oatmeal, at least 2-3 times per week, will give us 1 – 2 grams of soluble fiber.  Current nutrition guidelines recommend getting 20 – 35 grams of fiber per day, with at lease 5 – 10 grams coming from soluble filter.


Not one of my husband’s favorite foods, but I love beans, which are rich in soluble fiber.  They can also make you feel fuller longer.  There are many varieties to choose from – navy, kidney, pinto and Lima.

A 1/2-cup serving of cooked kidney beans provides 7.9 grams of dietary fiber


My doctor told me eating almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are good for the heart.  Eating 1 ounce of nuts each day can slightly lower LDL numbers.

Roughly, an ounce of nuts is the equivalent to a small handful.

Almonds = 3.5 grams of fiber = 1 oz.

Pistachios = 2.9 grams of fiber = 1 oz.

Walnuts = 1.9 grams of fiber = 1 oz.


Alive Protein SmoothieAll fruit, especially citrus fruits are a valuable source of cholesterol lowering soluble fibers.  Apples, grapes, bananas and strawberries are great choices too.

My Breakfast Smoothie

4-5 frozen strawberries
1/2 of a banana (or whole)
1 scoop of your favorite protein shake mix or whey protein (I like chocolate flavors)
pinch of chia seeds
12 oz. of Lactaid 2% milk (or your favorite milk product)

Place all ingredients in a blender or Vitamix.  Thoroughly mix until smooth and enjoy.



Replacing meat with fish is going to be a major meal planning change for us.  Salmon is loaded in Omega-3’s which reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream and also protect the heart by helping prevent the onset of abnormal heart rhythms.

Traditionally, wild-caught Pacific salmon is the most desirable, however, it is very expensive and is ideal when purchased “in-season.”  Farmed raised Atlantic salmon is a great alternative.

Buy thick, center-cut fillets, which can be poached, steamed, pan-seared, roasted or grilled.  Cut from the head end or center, these fillets are the prime cut of the fish.

Stay away from thin fillets you see at the market.  These are cut from the tail end and cook so fast, it is impossible to get a nice sear before the fish is overcooked.

Some recipes call for salmon “skin-on.”  For recipes that call for “skinless,” you can easily remove it yourself; however, the skin is completely edible, it is just what you prefer.

Bone-in steaks are great for pan-searing, grilling or roasting.  Be aware if buying pre-packaged, frozen salmon as you may not be able to judge the thickness of the fillets.

Raw Salmon Fillet

Alive Protein Smoothie

Easy Breakfast Smoothie

Breakfast ready in five minutes, with only a few healthy ingredients and a blender; even the kids will love this one!

Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Keyword banana, breakfast, protein shake, smoothie, strawberries
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1 serving


  • 4-5 frozen strawberries
  • 1/2 of a banana or whole
  • 1 scoop of your favorite protein shake mix or whey protein I like chocolate flavors
  • pinch of chia seeds
  • 12 oz. of Lactaid 2% milk or your favorite milk product


  1. Place all ingredients in a blender or Vitamix.
  2. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Enjoy.

Supplement to lower LDL?

After careful consideration, I am going to take the advice of my #bbqbestie and begin taking a dietary supplement, CholestOff, with plant sterols and stanols.

According to WebMD:  “sterols and stanols look a lot like cholesterol. So when they travel through your digestive tract, they get in the way. They can prevent real cholesterol from being absorbed into your bloodstream. Instead of clogging up your arteries, the cholesterol just goes out with the waste.”

According to Ruth Frechman, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association (ADA), three servings a day of plant stanols can reduce LDL numbers by 20.

The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends just 2 grams of stanols or sterols each day.

I think we will start with one supplement capsule each day.

As per Nature Made website:  “Caution: Not for use by pregnant or lactating women or children. Do not use this product if you are allergic to pine trees or any other ingredient in this product. Check with your physician before using CholestOff® if you are currently using any medications, including medications to lower your cholesterol
Read more at″

We will know in six months if our dietary changes have made a difference.

Do you have any suggestions for lowering LDL cholesterol?  Please share them in the comments!

Posted in Breakfast, Fish & Seafood, Food For Better Health, Healthy Eating, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Cooking For a Group: A Dinner Party Strategy

My hubby and I are getting settled into our dream house and after three months, we decided to host our very first dinner party.

He has a rather large family, spread out between several states; therefore, all of us only gather twice or so, each year.

Because Christmas is so crazy, this clan celebrates Christmas in January.

Strategically Planning the Party

In the past, hosting a large party would totally stress me out for weeks!  However, for this event, I was gonna make sure things were different.

I want to share with you a few things which made my life, so much easier, leading up to AND the day of the party.


JoAnn's Food Bites Family Dinner Party

Invitation, with menu I sent via email

Thoughtfully planning a menu;  I wanted to make sure at least a few dishes could be prepared the night before, so as to alleviate my oven of being overworked.

Being in the professional barbecue competition circuit and just acquiring a new smoker – we planned to use the event for a test cook in the new vessel.

Once I was satisfied with my menu, which included food for a vegetarian;  I created an invitation, asking for RSVP’s; so as to have an accurate head count before the event.

Because our guest were traveling for quit a distance, I did not want to ask them to prepare any dishes to bring – plus, it gave me a chance to shine.

Invitations were sent via email; one month ahead.  I received RSVP’s from everyone within two weeks.

Appetizer: Chicken Cheese Ball
Main Course: Smoked Green Ham & Portabello Mushrooms
Sides: Ranch Potatoes; Spinach-Artichoke Casserole; Candied Carrots; Macaroni and Cheese; Cheese; Garlic-Cheese Biscuits
Dessert: Cinnamon Spice Cake

***I also make a list of household chores to be completed before the guest arrived.


Shopping at the grocery store, using a list, I picked up everything needed for the party.

I was prepared to buy the green ham, however, I was not able to find one at several of the local chain grocery stores.

Therefore, my husband visited Vaughn Packing Company, who were more than accommodating.

A green ham is pork which has NOT been cured; nor precooked like traditional hams found in the grocery store.  The ham can sit in a brine; however, we chose to inject our ham, which prevents it from drying out during the smoking process.

More on preparing and cooking the ham can be found at Smokin J’s Barbeque


A lot had to be accomplished, so I started early by cleaning the guest bathrooms.  I also vacuumed and cleaned all the floors, except for the kitchen (a touch up would be done the morning of the party).

The ham was injected and left in a cooler, with a bag of ice, until it was placed in the smoker at 10 P.M.

For the injection recipe and instructions on smoking the ham, go to Smokin J’s

JoAnn's Food BitesI designated specific dishes as serving dishes and placed them on my kitchen island, to serve as the buffet.  I also placed corresponding serving utensils in each dish.  This was so I could make sure not to dirty something I would serve with.

I also placed a table runner on the island, underneath the serving dishes and a table-cloth on the main dining table, to make for an easy clean up.  Small candles completed the table-scape.

A smaller card table, with chairs, was set up for kids.  Extra chairs were scattered throughout our main room.

Meanwhile, I prepared the appetizer, Chicken Cheese BallClick here for recipe.

I placed it in a Lock & Lock container, in the refrigerator.  DONE!

Next I baked the Cinnamon Spice Cake.  I also prepared the cake icing and worked on the Spinach-Artichoke Casserole.

Cinnamon Spice Cake

Cinnamon Spice Cake

Cinnamon Spice Cake

Incredible full flavor in this sweet dessert.  Surely will be a family favorite.  Great for a family event or pot-luck dinner. 

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword cake, sheet cake, spice cake
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 16 -20 pieces


  • Baker's Joy - for spraying the quarter sheet cake pan
  • 1 package plain spice cake mix - I used Duncan Hines
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup of sweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup safflower oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • For Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting
  • 8 Tablespoons = 1 stick of butter; room temperature
  • 3 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar; sifted
  • 3 - 4 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  1. For cake:
  2. Place a rack in the center of oven; preheat to 350ºF
  3. Spray Baker's Joy on all sides of quarter sheet pan
  4. Place cake mix; buttermilk; applesauce; oil; eggs and cinnamon in large mixing bowl.
  5. Blend with electric mixer on low until incorporated (I used my KitchenAid paddle)
  6. Stop machine and scrape down the sides of bowl with a rubber spatula.
  7. Increase mixer to medium speed and mix for two minutes more.
  8. Scrape down sides of bowl again, if needed.
  9. The batter should be thick and well combined.
  10. Pour batter in quarter sheet pan, spreading evenly.
  11. Lightly tap the pan on the counter, to remove air bubbles in the batter.
  12. Cook for 30-35 minutes or until top of cake springs back, when touched.
  13. Cool in the pan, on a cooling rack for 10-15 minutes, then flip cake out and allow to completely cool before icing.
  14. For the Icing:
  15. Place butter in a large mixing bowl; blend with electric mixer on low speed till fluffy.
  16. Stop the machine; add sugar; 3 Tablespoons of the milk; vanilla; cinnamon
  17. Blend on low speed till incorporated, 1 minute.
  18. Increase speed to medium, beat until fluffy. If icing seems stiff, add remaining Tablespoon of milk
  19. Spread on cake.
  20. Top with chopped pecans.
Spinach-Artichoke Casserole

I did NOT cook the Spinach-Artichoke Casserole. With a lid on the baking dish, I placed it in the refrigerator, until the next day.


I peeled 7 lbs of russet potatoes, cut into 1″ cubed, bite-size pieces and placed in a large pot, covered with water and placed on medium-high heat.

Cook the potatoes till tender and can be easily pierce with a fork.

Drain the potatoes and place in baking dish, sprayed with cooking spray.

Cut a stick of butter into small cubes and spread on top of the potatoes.  Then top with ranch salad dressing – in row formation.  Shred 6 ozs. sharp cheddar cheese and spread over the potatoes.  Top with scallions and chopped bacon.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, I was making Kraft boxed Mac N’ Cheese, mainly for my granddaughter; therefore I put a pot of water on the stove for it and prepared according to package directions.

For the candied carrots; 3 lbs of carrots were peeled and cut into bite size pieces.  They were steamed for approximately 30 minutes; then placed in a large bowl and mixed with 2/3 cup of orange marmalade; 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar; 2 Tablespoons of butter; 3 Tablespoons of spiced rum.  Mixed together and sat aside till right before dinner.

The portabellow mushrooms were sprinkled with herb d’Provence and brushed with extra virgin olive oil.  Placed on the smoker 2 hours prior to guest arriving.  Cook for approximately an hour at 225º, or until tender. Remove and allow to rest.

I prepared the garlic cheese biscuits and placed on two sheet pans, and baked in the oven, according to package instructions.


By now, all the food is done.  I have vacuumed the kitchen floor and washed all the used dishes.

When I sent the invitations, I asked for volunteers to bring strong disposable plates and eating utensils.  This saves me from washing dishes and it encourages guest to help you out.

The oven was preheated to 400º.  I cooked the spinach-artichoke casserole for an hour, till heated through and bubbly.

Meanwhile, I turned on my slow-cooker to the warm setting and lined with aluminum foil.  I placed the cooked garlic-cheese biscuits in the cooker and placed the lid on.  This kept the biscuits warm through dinner and the foil prevented condensation from making the biscuits soggy.  Our guest ate over two dozen.

After the casserole was done, I turned the oven to the warm setting.   I left the casserole in the oven and placed the ranch potatoes on a separate rack in the oven.

I placed the macaroni and cheese, along with the candied carrots in the microwave.  Just prior to serving, I heated them both up, separately, for about 1 1/2 minutes each.

Everything was put into place; candles were lit and Grace was said – LET’S EAT!

Dinner Party Planner JoAnn's Food Bites

Do you have any tips for hosting a dinner party for a large crowd?  Please share!

Cinnamon Spice Cake augmented from The Cake Doctor Cookbook
Candied Carrots and Spinach-Artichoke Casserole augmented from Southern Living Christmas Cookbook
Posted in Desserts, Dinner Party, Pork, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment