TNC Foodtracks Vol. 3

Here’s my last stateside Foodtracks for a while. Thanks to all my sweet friends for making these family dinners and food memories happen before I leave. It’s been bittersweet being able to spend time with everyone before I venture off to the other side of the world, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. See you on the other side for Vol. 4 in South Korea!

1. Mama Carlton’s Bolognese

Deep in the heart of Duplin County lives some of the sweetest people, specifically the Carlton family. Mama Carlton whipped this up for us on our girl’s trip and I still lick my lips and daydream of how great this Bolognese is. Slightly spicy, tons of vegetables and yummy pork sausage. I mean, it is DuCo, after all!


2. Quinn & Paten‘s Chicken and Pastry

The Soulfull Sisters continued their hospitality in the Triangle by sharing a piece of their family history with me in the tangible, tantalizing form of chicken and pastry. This version uses Anne’s pastry with crisp sweet peas and egg for added texture.


3. Gran’s Chicken and Pastry and Southern Hospitality Spread

Sweet Gran lives down in Four Oaks and uses Atkinson’s pastry in her chicken and pastry. Not to be outdone by that delicious dish in and of itself, she crafted a bounty of all the area’s finest: creamed corn, butter beans, field peas, hush puppies, pickles and relishes and chicken salad.

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4. Mocktails with The Whimsy One

Nothing better than fizzy seltzer with a heavy splash of lemon juice. Refreshing in the middle of winter or on a scorching summer day. Bonus points for the gorgeous mug and garnishing ala Tony B.



What’s in my bag?

After scouring the internet for all things South Korea and suggested items to pack, I’ve finally consolidated the list and feel confident I have enough of the comfort staples to get me through the year without feeling like I’m bringing all of my worldly possessions along for the ride. Korea is also a readily-accessible country, so I’ll most definitely be shopping at local shops, too. I’m also thankful for the friends who will be able to visit and bring me any items from home I may be missing.


I love a good deal on wardrobe items I need, along with hitting the thrift store racks to supplement other clothing essentials. My work dress code will be pretty casual, but I’ve packed a few pairs of dressier pants and casual pants to alternate, depending on the weather and occasion. The majority of the blouses/shirts I’m taking are easily packed without wrinkling, which will be great not only for packing but when I wash them in Korea. I’ve heard washers are readily available in apartments, but not dryers. So that’ll be great when having to air dry everything.


Who doesn’t love shoes? When it comes to shoes, I’m all about efficiency in them for multiple occasions, as well as ones that will be comfortable enough to withstand the wear and tear of many miles spent exploring a new country. I’ve packed a variety including boots for the extreme winter weather as well as my latest obsession, flats from Rothy’s. I’ll be packing a pair of cozy Tieks along for the adventure, too.

Work essentials

All the necessary needs not only for teaching, but for documenting my time abroad! Laptop, tablet, phone and GoPro (now you know why I really needed that GoPro, right, Elliot?!) along with all the appropriate adapters so I can properly charge up without frying them when I’m in Korea. I purchased one universal adapter (pictured in next section), as well as a few individual adapters specific to adapt to a C/E/F outlet. It was relieving to see a majority of my electronics were already in the right voltage range for both the U.S. and Korea. Here’s a handy little reference guide if you haven’t had to deal with this issue before. Another thing I made sure to do before leaving is convert my money from U.S. dollars to Korean won. Just one less thing to check off the list now and not stress about once I land in Seoul.

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South Korean money is pretty

General travel essentials

I fly often for work, but it’s not my favorite pastime. Anything I can do to make this upcoming 19 hour flight more relaxing, I will do! First off, this travel pillow is a beast because it’s super supportive as well as offering “cooling” or “warming” sides. Water bottles are key to keep me hydrated and keep me moving back and forth to the bathroom. Another sexy accessory I will be rocking are compression socks. DVT is real, people, and I do not want to experience it! I also bought a Brita water bottle to use for when I land in Korea, as I’ve read the chlorine taste is strong in the water. I’m a little obsessed with dental hygiene, so as you can see, I am bringing my own stash of toothpaste, too. Not pictured are the many toothbrushes and dental floss to accompany them.


A few travel staples


South Korea is a mecca for all foods I love, but snacks are essential to tide me over in the interim times between traveling and settling into my new home. I also think most people have some sort of portable snack in their bag at any given moment. Or am I biased because I hang out with dietitians and that’s our normal?! Seeing as I’ll be in orientation for a week or so before setting up my apartment, it’s going to be even more crucial I have these on hand so I don’t get hangry. Nobody wants that, regardless of what country you’re in.

88 Acres bars, seed butter and granola

Hannah from 88 Acres was so generous to provide a slew of samples for me when I let her know I was moving out of country and looking for nut-free, portable protein options! These goodies hit the spot and are perfect if you don’t have a huge sweet tooth (me). They’re packed with enough ingredients and flavor going on so as not to just rely on the “sweetness” so common in many bars I’ve tried in the past. I’m really digging their triple berry bars because the tartness from the berries perfectly balance out the slightly salty, crunchy seed blend. The dark chocolate & sea salt seednola has been awesome over plain coconut yogurt for an afternoon pick-me-up or a late night snack. Lastly, their dark chocolate sunflower seed butter is HEAVEN. The richness of the dark chocolate flavor hits the spot for me when I want to dip an apple or pear into something or, let’s be honest, just a spoonful by itself!


Thanks for the samples, 88 Acres!

Somersault Life Co.‘s sea salt and dutch cocoa sunflower seed crunchy bites

These bad boys have been in the snack rotation for a couple of years now. Again, I prefer salty over sweet items, so the sea salt ones satisfy when I need a savory snack on the run. I’m also the person who prefers 70%+ dark chocolate, so their dutch cocoa bites are equally addicting. The true cocoa flavor is almost bitter and I love it. Sometimes I’ll even put a few of each in a snack container so I get my fix of both. Super wild, right?

This is by no means comprehensive of everything that made it into my two suitcases and two backpacks for the trip, but I figured it’d be fun to share to see what I thought I needed and look at it later to see if there were a few things I could’ve done with or without.

What do you pack when you’re traveling? Does my list match up with some of your must-haves? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below! Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog so you can stay updated with my adventures in Korea!

TNC Goes to South Korea

Well, it looks like I’m heading to South Korea!

I’ve been accepted to teach English as a foreign language in South Korea and will be moving there in February. This once in a lifetime experience was presented to me and I jumped at the chance to take on this new opportunity. I’ll be teaching for one year in Gyeonggi, the province surrounding Seoul in northwestern South Korea.

As a GET (Guest English Teacher), I’ll be able to explore two of my passions: teaching and cultural cuisine. This position will allow me to tour through the food and nutrition of South Korea as well as build upon my teaching and culinary skills. I can’t wait to teach the elementary kids English by incorporating fun cooking and nutrition topics into the mix, too!


I’ve always wanted to travel to South Korea and I can’t wait to venture throughout the country to absorb what makes each city so unique and special. I’m also super excited as a few friends are already planning to visit me while I’m there. I know that’ll help cure some of the homesickness I’m sure to feel at one point or another!

Of course, I do have some nerves about moving halfway across the world. It’d be silly to say it’s only going to be all butterflies and daisies. However, I know it ultimately will be a great experience to challenge myself and grow as a person both professionally and personally. I hope you stick along for the ride to see my adventures here and follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Have you been to South Korea? Do you have any must-see sights or must-stop food spots? Comment below so I can check them out!

Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss next week’s post on what I’m packing for the big move!

Easy Three Pasta

A new year is here, but there’s one thing that won’t change. Simple, nutritious recipes on my blog! This one can’t get any easier. Three ingredients: sauce, pasta and protein/veggies of choice. Yes, that’s it! You can get more creative with it to add in bits of this and that you may have leftover in the fridge, but you can’t go wrong with the original three ingredients.

The real standout for this one is Nellino’s Sauce. Nellino’s Sauce comes in three flavors: Marinara, Hot & Spicy and Pomodoro. Each has their own distinct, yet subtle flavor profile without being overwhelming. Nellino’s is also the only brand I’ve had where I didn’t need to doctor it up with this or that to be palatable. If you haven’t tried Nellino’s yet, I suggest giving them a try for this recipe. Not only does the sauce taste great, they are huge proponents in giving back to the local food community through their #SauceSelfie social media campaign.

Easy Three Pasta


One (24 oz.) jar of Nellino’s Sauce, any flavor
One pound of cooked pasta, any variety (whole wheat, gluten free, high fiber)
One pound of cooked protein (shredded pork, ground turkey, soy crumbles) or roasted vegetables


1. Mix together all ingredients until well combined.
2. Serve Easy Three Pasta hot or cold, diner’s choice!


Easy Three Pasta

A big thank you to Neal McTighe, owner of Nellino’s Sauce Co., for the product samples. They’ve been put to good use!

TNC Bites at Little Caesars Arena

Thanksgiving break included not only a visit to see family, but also the amazing opportunity to see the ins-and-outs of the new Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit. This mammoth houses the Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Pistons and many other entertainment acts throughout the year. We received an all-inclusive tour from Mike Berend (Director of Hospitality) and Tim Martin (General Manager). With a combined career total of over 50 years in hospitality, it’s safe to say these guys know just what it takes to successfully run an entertainment arena seating anywhere between 19,500-20,000 people, depending on the night.


Pristine arena prior to puck drop


This season marks the 100th anniversary of the National Hockey League (NHL), which has given fans many years to admire stadiums across North America while watching one of the most exciting sports, ice hockey! What better way to celebrate this momentous year than by opening the doors of Little Caesars Arena. After attending a game and then receiving the tour, it’s certainly any die hard Red Wings fan’s heaven.

Mike and Tim both work for the arena, but hospitality operations are ultimately run by Delaware North. Tim shared that Delaware North is a company focused on culinary inspiration and talent. All chefs employed by the company must be certified in order for them to maintain the quality of their operations around the world. This is evident in the many company-branded restaurant concepts throughout Little Caesars Arena. Delaware North initially started selling popcorn at movies before branching out to the original Tigers stadium to sell hot dogs and popcorn. This partnership was Delaware North’s first Major League Baseball client back in 1930 and it really is something to see them still working together nearly 90 years later.

From top to bottom, this eight-floor arena covers everything you could ever fathom of needing at a game, concert or event. Upon driving up to the stadium, it’s visually unlike any other stadium I’ve been to. The exterior is brick, blending in seamlessly with the other downtown buildings. Once inside, you feel like you’re walking around a mall, as the arena itself is set back, giving patrons plenty of room to peruse and walk around looking at the restaurants, swag stands and concession stands. There are so many dining options to choose from, regardless of what your taste buds may be in the mood for. Don’t be worried if you’re looking for the original popcorn and hot dogs, those are still available, too!


Cheesesteak all the way with peppers and onions

Little Caesars Arena features six types of club level experiences to partake in that all receive VIP parking, concierge service and all-inclusive food and beverages. The most badass (sorry Mom, no other synonym will do) of the six has to be the Comerica Players Club level. This club features a glass lined hallway so you can view the players coming on and off the ice. You can also view plenty of player and team history photos and statistics on the back of the club (in the photo below).  I mean, talk about the ultimate fan experience. In order to take in any of the club experiences, you have to be a season ticket holder. However, if anyone’s looking to get rid of an extra ticket over the next few weeks, I’ll be in town. Can’t hurt to throw that out there, right?!


A History of Excellence at the back of Comerica Players Club

Whether you’re a Red Wings fan or not, you need to add Little Caesars Arena to your stadium bucket list. The rich history and love of Detroit is clear, as it’s been integrated throughout the stadium in the materials used and from the lively people working inside. Lastly, a huge thank you to Mike and Tim for taking time to show us every nook and cranny of Little Caesars Arena on game day. We can’t wait to head back!


Mom’s Date & Labneh Dip with Smoked Paprika Pita Chips

Sassool Mediterranean Cafe launched their Cary location’s new grocery and retail section on November 27th. To commemorate this, they invited me to be one of the participants in their Sassool Grocery Challenge. Sassool provided a $25 gift card to spend on at least three items from their grocery section to be used in the recipe we develop. Their new grocery and retail section boasts an impressive selection of yogurt and cheeses, frozen foods, olive oil, tahini, beans, pasta, coffee, tea, cookies, candies, dried fruits, assorted nuts and seeds and spices. With such a large variety to choose from, I decided my three main ingredients would be dates, olive oil and labneh.

I was inspired to make this dish by my Mom’s Polish and Hungarian heritage. Growing up, my mom said it was popular to have prunes stuffed with cream cheese as a holiday appetizer or snack. Using her childhood memory of the dish helped me transform it with a Lebanese twist to create Mom’s Date & Labneh Dip with Smoked Paprika Pita Chips.

Mom’s Date & Labneh Dip with Smoked Paprika Pita Chips
Makes roughly 24 servings of the Date & Labneh Dip of 2 tablespoons per serving

For the Date & Labneh Dip:

1/2 cup pitted dates, finely chopped (also known as baking dates)
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups labneh
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the Smoked Paprika Pita Chips:

10 whole wheat pitas, cut into quarters
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika


1. In a small saute pan, heat the dates until they’ve softened over low heat.
2. Add in the honey and olive oil. Continue heating over low heat for 5 minutes.
3. Remove mixture from heat and let cool for a few minutes before putting it
into a food processor.
4. Process the mixture until the dates are smooth.
5. Add in two cups of labneh and process again.
6. Season dip with salt and pepper.
7. Refrigerate dip while preparing the Smoked Paprika Pita Chips.
8. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Place pita pieces on a lined sheet tray.
9. Sprinkle olive oil and smoked paprika onto the pita.
10. Bake pita for 8-10 minutes until Smoked Paprika Pita Chips are crispy and
serve with the chilled Date & Labneh Dip.


Mom’s Date & Labneh Dip with Smoked Paprika Pita Chips

As you can see, this dip is easy to whip up and keep on hand throughout the holiday season or anytime you need an appetizer to bring to a potluck. I hope you try out this recipe and give your feedback! Fingers crossed it will be featured throughout the month of January at both Sassool locations!

TNC Holiday Gift Ideas

‘Tis the season and that means holiday gatherings and ugly sweater parties, aplenty! Whether you’re Buddy the Elf or Scrooge when it comes to this time of year, there are many things to partake in to get lost in the feeling of the holidays or just to enjoy the chilly winter weather that is sure to follow.

There are many holiday parties to attend between friends, family and colleagues over the next several weeks. While indulging in the holiday spirit and treats is fun, I’ve included both food and non-food gift ideas. Here you’ll find just a few local items that are perfect to give this holiday season!

Hottest Chefs of the Triangle Calendar

Of course, this beautiful calendar should be gracing your home in the 2018 year! Each month features an amazing chef who is cooking up delicious dishes and giving back to the community in a unique way. All profits benefit the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina, so this is a gift that keeps on giving! Check out my blog post on why we created this calendar and be sure to order yours here!


Hottest Chefs of the Triangle calendar benefiting the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina

Second Act Artisan Cheesemaking Workshop

Do you love cheese? Look no further than a hands-on cheesemaking workshop with the cheesemaster himself, Rich Nathan, of Second Act Artisan Cheese. From beginning to expert cheese connoisseur, Rich offers a variety of experiences for learners of all levels. Rich and his wife, Lauren, host these private classes in their home so there is no lack of personal attention nor hospitality. After making cheese during the class, the workshop concludes with a beautiful spread of the cheeses made along with other bites prepared to be enjoyed by all!

Nellino’s Sauce

You may be thinking – Tessa! Why are you listing a jarred tomato sauce as a holiday gift?! Trust me, you won’t buy another brand once you try Nellino’s. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Nellino’s is the only jarred sauce I haven’t had to doctor up with a dash of this or a splash of that. Pro tip – grab an extra jar for yourself. You’ll thank me after you whip up my recipe coming to the blog before the New Year!


Nellino’s Sauce at its finest

Benny T’s Vesta

Spice things up this holiday season with Benny T’s Vesta. This one-of-a-kind dry hot sauce kicks up just about anything; pasta, eggs, soup, veggies, even chocolate! Many hot sauces want to blow your taste buds away with pure heat. Benny T’s changes the spice game by keeping it hot and flavorful. With five flavors to choose from, there’s one for every heat seeker in your life.

Carolina Hurricanes tickets

Hockey is the perfect juxtaposition of grace and grit. The players effortlessly speed down the ice, dodging players along the way to score a goal. On the other hand, these players will put some weight into it to shove a guy into the boards or even drop the gloves for a brawl. NHL games offer a lively evening perfect for the whole family. From intermission games to being able to get your favorite player’s autograph, it’s entertaining from the moment the puck drops until the buzzer sounds. You can’t forget the yummy food to eat while taking in all the action, so check out their offerings in my post here!


Cheesesteak with a side of hockey

Videri Chocolate

The intoxicating scent of the freshly ground cocoa nibs is more than enough to make any chocolate lover swoon once you step into Videri Chocolate Factory. The chocolate is undoubtedly some of the best I’ve ever had, let alone in Raleigh. What’s even better? Their facility is completely nut free, making it safe for those with nut allergies. What’s even better than that?! They offer several dairy free options that are great for those with any dairy allergies or who are vegan.


Jeweled bonbons from Videri

I wish you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season! What are some of your favorite gifts to give during the holidays? Comment below!