Beans and Greens with Sausage

Hello, May! You are here, and the OBX is gettin’ busy. The shop is busy, you guys are busy, we’re all busy. Thank goodness for this easy peasy lemon squeezy recipe for Beans and Greens with Sausage, loaded onto some crusty, olive-oiled bread. It’s good for you (hello beany fiber and greeny vitamin K and iron), it’s simple (hi, one pot), and completely delicious (talkin’ about you, spice and garlic). Let me not forget to mention you can eat it with your hands, unless you don’t enjoy using a big hunk of toasted bread as a utensil, in which case… you’re missing out on an important part of life. I mean… ⤵⤵⤵ … yum.

3 pieces of bread toasting in a skillet
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Peanut Butter Pretzel Cookies

Well, these little superstars were a big surprise. They were voted Fan Favorite by everyone I know. OK, nobody actually voted or called them that, they just said they were really good. Like, reeeaaalllyy gooooood. Bonus: Because I made a batch for some of Joey’s beer-drinking friends, we also learned they pair incredibly well with beer. I kinda want to change the title of the recipe to Beer Pairing Cookies. Yes?

Speaking of the title, I do want to point out there is no peanut butter, in its true form, in these Peanut Butter Pretzel Cookies. The peanut butter is inside the peanut butter pretzels – you know, PeanutButterPretzels? The kind with big salt crystals that come in the big jugs.

peanut butter pretzels in a glass bowl on a white table
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Delicious, Real Food in Manteo , N.C.

Let’s chat for a bit about great food, created with a little bit of heart and soul in downtown Manteo. Maria and Thomas Williamson, the husband and wife owners of Avenue Grille, stay true to who they are by featuring coastal southern cuisine reminiscent of Thomas’s grandma’s cooking combined with clean, real food that, in some cases, also happens to be gluten-free, vegan, or vegetarian. Their menu has something for everyone and is a reflection of how they love to cook and eat at home. But there’s another element of great importance to how Avenue Grille operates: community. Maria and Thomas wholeheartedly support their town and their restaurant has become a gathering place for locals, as well as hungry visitors. We are not just customers in this place, we are friends, here to enjoy fantastic food and breathtaking views.

real food, big flavor

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Outer Banks Taco Bar’s Scratch Made Comforts and Creative New Pop-Up

Gabe Stabley’s approach to his food and the environment at Outer Banks Taco Bar is intuitively centered around what’s going to make people feel good. People, meaning all of us: me, you, Gabe, and the people who work there. It’s comfortable and satisfying; unique and interesting but still familiar. Nothing feels forced about the food or the setting, because it’s not. The empanadas, the fried rice, the Cuban sandwich – everything is made fresh to order. It’s not cooked until the feeling strikes you and you ask for it. The music is whatever the staff feels like listening to. Even the specials are often inspired by whatever the cook, Nick, or the servers were craving and plucked fresh out of the kitchen for their own lunches between customers.

hand to table

2 tacos on a blue plate
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Paynefully Good Artisans Creating Unique, Small Batch Eats on the OBX

With a careful focus on quality and regional, seasonal ingredients, Matt Payne is creating true artisan goods on the Outer Banks. While he spends his days cooking wildly-popular dishes as the chef for Bad Bean Baja Grill, more ideas for new and interesting flavors and foods are ever-present in his mind.

Nine years ago, Matt, a 2003 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, began making homemade bacon as Christmas gifts he and his wife could share with friends and family. Each year, he’d turn out a new version of bacon, with different seasonings and components. Recently, he arrived at the idea of pancetta but with a southern twist of adding smoke to the process. This, along with Bacon Jam, Habanero & Sweet Potato Hot Sauce, and Ghost of the Outer Banks Hot Sauce were the first of his Paynefully Good Artisans items available to the community for sale at Buffalo City Jug Shop’s Crafts & Drafts Holiday Market this past Christmas. The demand for the jarred Bacon Jam exceeded the supply in the first hour of the event and Matt started an email wait-list of sorts for his next batch. Now, Matt has bacon, bacon jam, and hot sauces in progress all the time and available for sale at pop-ups around town.

southern inspiration & Lacto-goodness

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Stuffed Poblano Peppers in Tomato Cream Sauce

Good news, guys! Your new favorite recipe is here, just in time for Cinco De Mayo. Phew! This is one of those sneakily simple meals with a spicy kick, smoky-tasting roasted peppers, and chorizo-corn-cheese-loaded filling that will make your family/party crowd think you A) planned ahead (but you actually didn’t have to) and B) are amazing (this part is true). You know those meals, right? Yeah – good stuff.

Let’s get to it because I’m super excited to show you these pictures and how easily these Stuffed Poblanos in Tomato Cream Sauce come together.
If you can multitask making the filling, charring the peppers, and warming the sauce, you go girls and boys. You go.

charring and stuffing things

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Coconut Curry Ramen

I’m back with some creamy, spicy noods! We’re still comfort-fooding a little bit over here after saying goodbye to our sweet dog, Caesar, and omg does this Coconut Curry Ramen hit me right in the food feelz. It’s basically the sweet and spicy coconut curry sauce of your Thai takeout food dreams, made into a broth for ramen noodles, topped off with crispy mushrooms and an oozy, soft-boiled egg. Top to bottom, this recipe takes less than 30 minutes; most of your time is spent browning the mushrooms, which you could even skip if you’re in “don’t care, need food now” mode.

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Eating and Loving Dawn Holcomb’s Food

I want to have a seat at Dawn Holcomb’s table and here’s why: her food is familiar but special, deliciously comforting, and made with intention. There’s a look, a feeling, an emotion Dawn is coaxing out of all of us when we enjoy her food; it’s love and appreciation – the same things Dawn feels when she cooks for us. Her love of cooking runs deep. She was raised in North Carolina and was surrounded by food all the time, with both commercial fishermen and farmers in the family and grandmothers who loved to feed people. Dawn described Sunday dinners to me that make me flat out jealous – her grandmother would cook to feed twenty or more people, whoever happened to drop in to enjoy plates and bowls of seasonal vegetables and platters of three or four different meats and desserts.

dawn’s kitchen OBX

As luck would have it, I did get a seat at Dawn’s table at her Taste of the Beach event in March. This event was a seven-course Italian wine dinner. More accurately, it was a showcase of beautiful, classic Italian food that my husband and I luxuriated in for the entire evening. This is the kind of food Dawn creates on a regular basis as a personal chef and caterer. Her business is Dawn’s Kitchen OBX. She can cook just about anything you ask for, and it’ll taste better than you could ever imagine.

chef searing duck breast on stovetop, seasoning with salt
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Nourishing Grief

Joey and I are grieving the passing of our sweet dog, Caesar. We called him Bear most of the time… he looked like a bear with his enormous head. We said goodbye to him early Monday morning at 12 1/2 years old. I haven’t posted any sweet goodbyes to him on social media and have barely talked to friends or family about it because I can’t find the words to do him justice and because people’s honest and heartfelt condolences sometimes just make me sadder.

But, I find I can get on here and write in this place where I’m used to expressing joy and enthusiasm. I have so much of those two feelings for Bear. Today, they’re just accompanied by pain and loss. And that’s ok. New things are warming my heart this week: the Mexican food and flowers dropped off by our friends. The cards, warmth, and sympathy from coworkers. The steadfast support of our parents and families. And all the sweet memories of Bear. I am so grateful for his 12 1/2 years here and am overwhelmed with gratitude that we got to spend them with him. He was so good to us.

cane corso sunbathing on the deck

I am grateful for every second of his life and in the moments before he left his body, I am grateful that he opened his eyes and saw us and made soft noises. I am grateful that the doctors made him so comfortable. And I am grateful for the compassion these times expose in us afterwards. Despite the sadness, I treasure the rawness. Looking over at Joey and seeing him so sad but he’s looking back at me to see if I’m ok.

I am grateful for the many happy memories that come rushing back from Bear’s puppyhood, ones that have long been buried in the cracks in our minds. Him sleeping on top of our heads because he felt weird about sleeping in the bed when he was little. Him hiding under the bed when he saw his first raccoon on the deck. His healthy body running alongside the truck on the beach. His sweetness, playfulness, and kindness will live on in our hearts forever. He will live on with us forever.

If you’re reading this thinking gosh, she’s acting like she lost a family member. You’re right. And if you’ve never had an animal that sparked these kinds of intense emotions when they passed, I hope you someday do. Their impact on our lives is priceless. Their lives and their deaths are meant to make us grow and teach us things about ourselves. What Bear has taught me at this moment is to not be afraid, to take life as it comes, with grace. And to love those around me unconditionally. If you’re reading this, thank you and I ❤ you.

Creating something is therapeutic, cooking is a release, and sharing a meal helps us heal. These old recipes I’m sharing today are the comfort foods we so desperately need at times like these.

comfort food to nourish our hearts

*Because Caesar got really sick on a Sunday, we had to take him to a 24-hour emergency vet in Virginia. The staff at Blue Pearl Animal Hospital in Chesapeake were the most caring, attentive, and helpful people we’ve ever dealt with. They treated Caesar with such care and love, we couldn’t have asked for a better team of people to help us during such a difficult time.