Tag Archives: news

Thanks a Million

Willow Bird Baking just hit 1,000,000 all-time views. Typing something to you just didn’t feel like enough. Instead, I got out my sharpie-of-a-regrettable-color and wrote you a letter.

…A letter that you kind of have to be sideways to read. Okay, so I didn’t think through all the details. What can I say — I was filled with emotion!

Basically: Each and every comment, each and every visit, each and every kitchen triumph you’ve shared with me and with your families — each one has meant so much to me. Thank you so, so much.

If you liked this post, please:
Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook
Give this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon


ShareOther ways to share this post with friends!

38 Comments

Filed under news

Willow Bird Weekly

Each week I bookmark tons of fascinating recipes, trek to interesting food-related places, find neat kitchen tricks, and make unique little dishes. Willow Bird Weekly is a miscellany of stuff I’ve collected throughout the week that I hope you’ll find entertaining.

Stuff I Can’t Wait to Make:

Red, White, and Blue Macaroni and Cheese on Taylor Takes a Taste
Sour Cream Custard Brioche (Gâteau à la Crème Fraîche) on Not Quite Nigella
Fourth of July Fruit Pops by Bakers Royale


Fourth of July Fruit Pops, photo by Naomi

Melted Ice Cream Cupcakes by Confessions of a Cookbook Queen
Bloomin’ Onion Bread by Buns In My Oven


Bloomin’ Onion Bread, photo by Karly

Places I Went and Stuff I Ate:

The Charlotte Food Bloggers had their first weeknight meeting this week at one of the 987,945,2532 local frozen yogurt (a.k.a. froyo) joints that now exist in Charlotte. We went to TCBY, which is pretty old school, but they’ve revitalized their restaurants to be hip and self-serve (with lotsa toppings) to match the new trend.

I was going to forgo the froyo because I usually try not to eat much sugar during the week, but I checked out the nutrition stats on the TCBY website and they were surprisingly reasonable. A half cup of their froyo generally has about 100-120 calories and 15-20 grams soluble carbohydrates. I got about 1/2 cup of no sugar added strawberry froyo topped with strawberries, raspberries, and mochi. It was tasty, and only $3.50.

The Food Blogsters and I had lots of fun talking about how awesome Tom Colicchio is, how not-awesome some other unnamed TV personalities are, and how one might go about getting a date with Cam Newton. Fun times!

Stuff That Rocks:

Barbara over at Barbara Bakes was craving hot dogs, so she did what any rational human being would do and made bacon-wrapped cheese hot dogs.


Bacon Wrapped Cheese Hot Dogs, photo by Barbara

I just have two words for you, Barbara, from me and everyone else heading into this summer holiday weekend: thank you.

You know what else rocks? MY TURTLE. My friend Erin pointed out that Byrd has shown up on WBB a few times now, but Squirt hasn’t made an appearance yet. Well, here’s Byrd’s handsome older brother, Squirt. He’s a 6-7 year old Red Eared Slider and he lives in a 140-gallon tank in my dining room. Love this little guy!


“I AM smiling.”

But also, Byrd is cute. And she loves flowers.

Another thing that rocks is that my lovely friend Jordan from Kitchen Karate just opened a new online shop, I’m With Cupcake! It has lots of adorable items, and from July 2 to 3, you can use the promo code willowbirdbaking to get 10% off a purchase of $30 or more before taxes and shipping. You can only use the promo code once per purchase and it can’t be combined with any other offer.

Congratulations on the grand opening, Jordan!


And Then There’s This:


What fantastic recipes have you discovered online this week? What fun food experiences have you had? What ridiculous ways do you procrastinate?

If you liked this post, please:
Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook
Give this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon


ShareOther ways to share this post with friends!

19 Comments

Filed under news

Foodbuzz 24×24: School’s IN for Summer!

My students and I wait all year to hear the words, “School’s out for summer!” but this year is a little different for me, because I was chosen to host a June Foodbuzz 24×24 party. The Foodbuzz 24×24 “highlights unique meals occurring around the globe during a 24-hour period.”

For my unique meal, I wanted to create a whimsical, nostalgic picnic celebrating my memories of elementary school. The best part was the guest list: a handful of ladies I went to elementary school with and hadn’t seen since! School’s IN for Summer!

It was the early 90s. I was in elementary school, jamming out to Ace of Base on my walkman, collecting everything that had anything to do with cats, and rocking one-shoulder-unhooked overalls. I’m not even going to bother apologizing for those, because I know you were wearing them, too. And probably poofy bangs. So shut up.


Don’t, like, do your hair for picture day or anything, Julie.

My entrepreneurial spirit was strong even back then — over the years I created a stuffed animal school, a stuffed animal savings bank, and a lotion company (wherein I mixed several of my mother’s lotions together and sold the result with a handmade label. Sorry, mom.)

I was also already a writer (albeit of questionable quality). I started writing a collection of stories on my toy typewriter called Julie and the Strawberry Point Patrol that I was sure would eventually be a profitable series of detective novels. I also, in all seriousness, sent off a handwritten/drawn book manuscript to Harper Collins. I was That Kid. If only I’d had some thick coke-bottle glasses.

Those were definitely days worth remembering, but more importantly, there are so many people worth remembering. That’s why this past weekend, I threw an elementary school mini-reunion picnic and invited three lovely ladies I hadn’t seen in years. I wish all of Lebanon Road Elementary School class of 1996 could’ve been there, too, because it was so much fun.

I set the picnic table in bright primary colors with sunflowers, foam ABCs, striped party straws, and gigantic candy jars full of nostalgic treats: Ring Pops, Pixie Stix, Dubble Bubble gumballs, Pez dispensers, Nik-L-Nips, and Tootsie Pops. A homemade party banner and some balloons stretched over our picnic table. Everyone brought childhood photos, elementary school yearbooks, mementos, and tons of fun memories to share.

The Cast of Characters:

Amber was a pint-sized dynamo in elementary school. She was tiny, but she took gymnastics and could do all sorts of amazing things. I remember thinking Amber was the sweetest friend in 4th grade, when we were both in Ms. Oatman’s class together.


Amber, then and now.

Now, Amber is married to her high school sweetheart, Patrick. She’s a nurse and lives in Charlotte with her zoo: 4 dogs and 2 cats!


Amber in elementary school.

Oh, yeah, and she’s still a dedicated athlete. Amber’s now a powerlifter, and, um, she could totally kick your butt:


Photo by Jeff “Boomer” Alred

Alisha was my BFF from second grade until distance finally got the best of us: she moved away in the middle of fifth grade. We lived down the street from each other, so almost every day would find me scuttling off to her house to play with her and her sister, Lauren. Her mom, Loretta, is also so important to me — she drove me to church youth events with Alisha when I was little, in addition to driving us home from school, driving us to get ice cream, driving us to the moon and back. You get the idea.


Alisha lovvvved Bradley Hood — well, most of the time.

Alisha and I were the perfect pair of friends: she was the cute, social one and I was the strategic, nerdy one. When our powers combined, we could tackle anything. I still remember the day 6 or 7 years ago when she called me and told me she was going to be a mommy! Here was the girl I’d played in the creek with at 7 years old, and she was going to have a baby of her own. Now Alisha and her daughter Olivia live in Mt. Pleasant, where Alisha works at an eye doctor’s office.


Alisha and Olivia

Ashley was so sweet in elementary school (and still is)! She lived down the street from my friend Tamara, and in fifth and sixth grade I’d go over to their neighborhood and we’d all hang out. She jokes that she had horrible hair in elementary school, but I always thought her hair was adorable.


Ashley, then and now.

Today, Ashley works in sales at a software company and is married to — get this — a guy we went to elementary school with! His name is Scott, and he was my buddy in second grade, before he moved to another school. Though he and Ashley are both from North Carolina, they actually reunited in Georgia after college. Now that they’re married, they live with their dog and their pet pig, Clyde.


Ashley and her future husband, Scott, in elementary school.

The Menu: School Lunch Redux

I set a nice table and invited a fun bunch, but a picnic’s not a picnic without the food! To make the menu match the theme, I took foods you might remember from your cafeteria tray or lunchbox and updated them for adult tastes. Thanks to my coworker Anne for this fun idea!

Here’s the lineup:

Cardboard-like, square lunchroom pizza became a homemade Fig and Prosciutto Pizza topped with fresh arugula and shaved Parmesan. Instead of a classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I made a bright Italian Pressed Sandwich. Baggies of grapes and potato chips morphed into Pickled Grapes with Goat Cheese and Savory Sour Cream and Fig Cookie Spirals, slathered with whipped cream cheese and fig jam. Fruit Roll-Ups and Hostess Cupcakes became homemade Straw-Raspberry Basil Fruit Leather and Fauxstess Cupcakes. We drank lemonade and root beer with our updated lunchroom fare.

During the picnic, we shared scores of memories. We talked about Terilyn Cunningham, our sweet friend who died from an asthma attack after elementary school. I remember her having an attack one day in gym class and the teacher asking me to walk with her to the classroom to get her inhaler. On the way, she explained what it felt like to be unable to breathe. In just a year or two, she was gone.

On happier notes, we laughed at our sixth grade newsletter, The Leopard’s Roar, written on an early 90s Word Processor with a big block font. Alisha recalled the field trip when I called out to Bobby Joe (and his dad, who was chaperoning) that she liked him. Oops. We remembered teachers and administrators — Mrs. Shaughnessy! Ms. Oatman! Mr. Meserve! Mrs. Foster! Mrs. Hildreth! Ms. Horne! Mrs. Borders! Mrs. Taylor! — as well as friends who’ve been flung far and wide over time.

The Inevitable Near-Disaster

Right smack in the middle of our meal, though, this happened:

Picnics and parties never seem to go off without a hitch, and this one was no exception. Though I’d made a point to check that the picnic area we were using hadn’t been reserved, turns out it had been! After all the work setting everything up, we had to quickly shuffle everything back into my car and relocate to another picnic table to finish up.

The girls didn’t miss a step before pitching in, and a helpful park employee assisted. In no time at all, we were laughing about the mess, eating, and picking up our conversation where we left off. The new picnic table might not have been decked out quite as nicely, but it was in the shade and turned out to be the perfect place to continue the festivities. All’s well that ends well, right?

And things did end well! The huge candy jars I filled for table centerpieces doubled as party favors. At the end of the picnic, each of us grabbed a treat box to fill full of candy. It might have been easier to sort through the candy when it was sitting on a pretty picnic table, but at this point, we weren’t above scrounging through the jars in the parking lot. Not even a little bit.

I had so much fun with these interesting, successful, strong, lovely ladies, and I can’t wait to see them again soon! Despite a few obstacles, the elementary school throwback was a fantastic blast from the past, and worth every ounce of this:


Tons of picnic planning.


Over the coming weeks, the following recipes and crafts will appear on Willow Bird Baking. I hope you enjoy these updated cafeteria classics as much as we did!

School’s IN for Summer:
Recipes and Crafts

  1. Homemade Red Berry Basil Fruit Leather
  2. Pickled Grapes with Goat Cheese
  3. Savory Sour Cream Fig Spiral Cookies
  4. Fig and Prosciutto Pizza
  5. Italian Pressed Sandwiches
  6. Fauxstess Cupcakes
  7. Easy Homemade Party Banner

P.S. A special thanks to Taylor Mathis for bringing his pretty blue tablecloth and gigantic diffuser to help me out!

What’s your favorite elementary school memory?

If you liked this post, please:
Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook
Give this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon
Buzz this post up on Foodbuzz’s 24×24 site!


ShareOther ways to share this post with friends!

41 Comments

Filed under other

Willow Bird Weekly

Each week I bookmark tons of fascinating recipes, trek to interesting food-related places, find neat kitchen tricks, and make unique little dishes. Willow Bird Weekly is a miscellany of stuff I’ve collected throughout the week that I hope you’ll find entertaining.

Stuff I Can’t Wait to Make:

Cheesy Puff Pull Apart Bread on How Sweet It Is
Cranberry Pistachio Butter Cups by Mommie Cooks (and just think of the possibilities: cashew butter! almond butter!)
Chocolate Covered Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches by Sophistimom (via Good Life Eats)


Chocolate Covered Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches, photo by Jaime

Strawberry Milk Whoopie Pies by Sprinkle Bakes
Oatmeal Brownie Milky Way Bars by i am baker
Peach Shortcake by Ezra Pound Cake


Peach Shortcake, photo by Rebecca

Places I Went and Stuff I Ate:

Today I grabbed my already-beloved copy of Hélène Dujardin’s Plate to Pixel (I know you’ve been hearing about it everywhere, and for good reason — what an amazing, all-encompassing resource for food photographers!) and headed down to the local French bakery for a book signing. Sweet Tartelette herself was there and is definitely even sweeter in person! It was wonderful to meet Hélène.

Thanks to Taylor Mathis for organizing the book signing, and to the lovely folks who showed up.

Speaking of people I love, I love this girl!


Ashley

I’ve mentioned Ashley on the blog before — she teaches Spanish at the school where I teach language arts and cooking. Ashley left Monday to spend her summer in her beloved España completing the first half of a masters program. Before she left, though, she and her parents threw a lovely fiesta with a delicious roasted pork tenderloin with rosemary, couscous, lots of fun appetizers and desserts, and my favorite part: what I like to call the flaming pineapple! I hear Ashley’s mom was responsible for the fantastic presentation of the grilled pineapple bites. Too fun, and what a good idea for folks who love to entertain:

Stuff That Rocks:

You may have heard about the total lunar eclipse that occurred recently, but I for one am more impressed by BraveTart’s Total Eclipse of the Tart. You have to go see it. You just have to. I hear in North America we have to wait until December to see the real total eclipse, anyhow!

Also, stacked pies. What?! Apparently people do this?! It’s pure insanity, and y’all know I like some to do some crazy stacking when I get the chance. Cannot wait to stack a pie or two or three!


Stacked Pies, photo by Karen

And finally, something that totally rocks and is news to me: geocaching! Has a worldwide scavenger hunt really been going on without my knowledge for ten years? Speaking as someone who never grew out of the thrill of an Easter egg hunt, I can tell I’m going to adore this. I love the idea of being able to leave messages and ideas for someone across time and space, to lead someone to important places and important conclusions, to weave webs between strangers.

What fantastic recipes have you discovered online this week? What fun food experiences have you had? Anyone out there participate in geocaching?

If you liked this post, please:
Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook
Give this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon


ShareOther ways to share this post with friends!

11 Comments

Filed under news

Willow Bird Weekly

Each week I bookmark tons of fascinating recipes, trek to interesting food-related places, find neat kitchen tricks, and make unique little dishes. Willow Bird Weekly is a miscellany of stuff I’ve collected throughout the week that I hope you’ll find entertaining.

Stuff I Can’t Wait to Make:

Coconut Shrimp Poppers with Chili Mango Cream on Pinch My Salt
Bacon Lovers Mac and Cheese by Annie’s Eats
Frozen Strawberry Squares by She Wears Many Hats


Frozen Strawberry Squares, photo by Amy

Coffee Pancakes by A Cozy Kitchen
Apricot Honey Almond Tart by Sass & Veracity
Brown Butter Banana Strawberry Bread by Joy the Baker


Stuff I Already Made:

This week was the last full week of school. After two full days and a short graduation next week, school’s out for summer! That’s usually bittersweet for me, but I’m looking forward to cleaning my apartment and getting things in order for next year.


Clare and Hannah

I’ll miss scenes like this, though! Yesterday was my last middle school Cookies enrichment class of the year, and the kids loved the Oatmeal White Chocolate Cherry Chunk Cookies they made.

My high school cooking classes also finished up this past week. I’ll be telling you about that in a post coming up soon. For now, I’ll just say that you should go read their awesome food blog, the Woodlawn Kitchen and tell them how fantastic they are!

Some individual students were even inspired to create their very own blogs: Sayre blogs at G.R.I.T.S. Gone Green (a food blog), Isaac at Memoirs of a Gaysha (a food and theatre blog), and Alexa at Swimming In A Raindrop (a food and photography blog).

Places I Went and Stuff I Ate:

On Thursday I returned to the Chow Down Uptown Food Truck Rally, the new weekly gathering of food trucks in Charlotte.

This time around I had to try the grilled cheese sandwich with pulled pork (!) and, from the always-impressive Roots Farm Food truck, pork belly sliders topped with blueberry chipotle sauce and cucumbers. Vanessa of Life Undeveloped accompanied me and shared her fried deviled eggs (which turned out to be a sort of deviled egg salad battered and deep fried).

It was a good week for grilled cheeses! In addition to my homemade grilled sharp cheddar and caramelized onions on beer bread and the grilled cheese with pulled pork above, I went to Firebirds with the parents for Memorial Day and had a grilled cheese with tomato and candied bacon.


I also got to hang out with my sweet little brother, who’s home for college. We went to eat some Serbian food and the best pizza in Charlotte at Intermezzo’s Pizzeria and Cafe.

Stuff That Rocks:

Did you know you can make homemade ice cream cones with your panini press?! I didn’t, but Panini Happy just posted these gorgeous cones and filled me in:


photo by Kathy

This is adds to the already-significant temptation to get an ice cream maker!

What fantastic recipes have you discovered online this week? What fun food experiences have you had?

If you liked this post, please:
Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook
Give this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon


ShareOther ways to share this post with friends!

12 Comments

Filed under news

Willow Bird Weekly

Each week I bookmark tons of fascinating recipes, trek to interesting food-related places, find neat kitchen tricks, and make unique little dishes. I eat fun stuff, read fun stuff, sing fun stuff (okay, not relevant).

These things don’t warrant a blog post all their own, but I still want to share them! Introducing Willow Bird Weekly, a miscellany of stuff I’ve collected throughout the week that I hope you’ll find entertaining.

Stuff I Can’t Wait to Make:

Homemade Gingerale with Cucumber on Food52
Fish Tacos with Cucumber Salad and Lime Creme by Chez Us
Egg Nests by Simply Recipes


photo by Elise

Maple Bourbon Bacon Jam by Creative Culinary
Strawberry Black Pepper Biscuits by A Cozy Kitchen
Rootbeer Float Cake by Brown Eyed Baker
Fudge and Coconut Custard Pie by La Fuji Mama

Stuff I Already Made:

In addition to language arts and high school cooking, I teach a middle school Cookies enrichment class. I know: poor kids slaving away all day reading, writing, ‘rithmetic-ing, and making cookies. School is torture.


This week we made a special treat: Picky Palate’s Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies. The students had sugar-coated fits of joy while eating. Thanks Olivia, Sam, Clare, Natalie, Arianna, and Matthew for doing such a great job in class.

Places I Went and Stuff I Ate:

The Chow Down Uptown Food Truck Rally is a new weekly gathering of food trucks in Charlotte. There have been two rallies so far, and I’ve hopped downtown to enjoy them both.

Food trucks are so flippin’ hip right now, y’all — I kind of feel like they’re an indicator of the coolness of a city (Queen City, please take note). Because they require less capital to start, food trucks can express all sorts of unique, homegrown food viewpoints. Their mobility facilitates the creation of a foodie fan base that can be a stepping stone to opening a successful restaurant. In short, food trucks are creative, dynamic, and just plain neat.



I enjoyed some mind-blowing food at both rallies: banh mi tacos, rillets with hoisin vinegar, zeppole, grouper tacos, carne asada tacos, cupcakes. But some of my favorite bites showed up yesterday at the Roots Farm Food truck; they had an organ meat extravaganza! I ate belly, heart (both pictured left to right, above), tongue, and crispy salt and vinegar skin (cracklin’) — all for the first time — and it was amazing. The belly, in particular, was one of the best things I’ve tasted in Charlotte.


Some Charlotte Food Blogger treats at our last picnic.

Another cool place I ventured this week was the Charlotte Food Bloggers meeting. Taylor Mathis and I decided it’d be fun for Queen City food blogger friends to gather for monthly field trips and meetings (i.e. picnics!)

This past Sunday we held our second meeting, which was strawberry-themed thanks to our pickin’ party the previous week. Go see the fabulous blogs of the CFB members here.

Stuff That Rocks:


The Willow and the Pina Colada

Organ meat isn’t all that showed up at the Food Truck Rally, though! The Southern Cake Queen, Emma, showed up with her cupcake truck. This is the food truck that has a cupcake named after Willow Bird Baking! That’s it on the left (above). It’s called the Willow and it’s made up of banana cake, vanilla buttercream, caramel drizzle, and a banana chip. I also had to buy a Pina Colada, because I have a thing for toasted coconut.

What fantastic recipes have you discovered online this week? What fun food experiences have you had?

If you liked this post, please:
Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook
Give this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon


ShareOther ways to share this post with friends!

12 Comments

Filed under news

Big News for Willow Bird Baking!


From top, clockwise: Yours Truly photographing Red Velvet Cheesecake, a cooking class at Woodlawn School, and the aforementioned cheesecake. These photos by Todd Sumlin.

Remember that mysterious photographer pictured at the bottom of my Red Velvet Cheesecake post? That was Todd Sumlin, and I finally get to reveal some big news to you about why he came to photograph me photographing my cheesecake (say that three times fast).

It’s because Willow Bird Baking was featured in The Charlotte Observer! Kathleen Purvis, the food editor, contacted me some weeks ago for an interview, and the article made the front page of yesterday’s paper. To say that I’m humbled and so, so grateful is an understatement. Thank you for visiting Willow Bird Baking and reading, baking, and eating with me!

* * *

In other news, congratulations to Jenna, who won the Pestos With Panache giveaway! Jenna will be receiving an email shortly with instructions on how to claim her prize. In the meantime, even if you didn’t win, feel free to skip on over and try some of their fun pesto flavors for yourself.

If you liked this post, please:
Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook
Give this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon


ShareOther ways to share this post with friends!

53 Comments

Filed under news