Category: Special Ingredient

5 Best Flavors from the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival 2017

Every year the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival offers the best from the Southeastern culinary scene. This year I was credentialed media. So beyond the renown tasting tents, I was able to attend some of the educational experiences and VIP parties. Between the Thursday preview event, the Friday kick off and the Saturday classes– here are the five best things I tasted at the 2017 at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival.

1 Smoked Gator by Chef Kenny Gilbert
Kenny Gilbert is probably best known as a contestant on Top Chef. As the owner of two southern restaurants in Jacksonville, FL, he knows how to adapt Floridian ingredients into southern traditions. He talked us through his process of procuring a farm raised gator, brining it, seasoning it and finally smoking it. Talk about slow cooking! The result was one of the tenderest, juiciest meats I’ve ever eaten. Gator has a reputation for being chewy, but when done right, as Chef Kenny Gilbert proved, it will fall off the bone.

2 Rivulet Pecan Liqueur
The world is accustomed to other nut based liqueurs. But being a Georgia girl, I have deep love for the pecan. Enter Rivulet Pecan Liqueur. I remember while growing up, my aunt had a tree in her yard. Not so fun to pick them up when they fell, but totally worth it when she made a pecan pie! Rivulet is reminiscent of that joy. The owner of the company actually attended the tasting tents and gave me the rundown about how many different types of pecans there are (20 in Georgia). I can honestly say that I will definitely be supporting this brand. I can’t wait to try it with a cola and/or a bourbon. So delicious. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

3 Red Velvet Cupcake from Sugaree’s Bakery
I am really hard on red velvet cake. I’m super critical. For me, it must be dense, not light and airy. It must be dark red, not pink. It must be moist and buttery. And the icing must be creamy and heavy, preferably with nuts, NOT whipped. Sugarees delivered on all of these things. I cannot tell you how I nearly melted when I bit into the cupcake. They were generous enough to give me a case. Sadly, I decided to share them rather than eat a whole dozen. I will definitely be ordering from them as they ship nationwide.

sugarees bakery red velvet

4 Spicy Coconut Wahoo from the US Virgin Islands
All throughout the tasting tents, I could hear steel drum music and see a woman towering above everyone while dancing on stilts. I finally made my way over the U.S. Virgin Islands tent, which was a cool lounge area with, as it turns out, a live steel drum player accompanied by an instrumental calypso track.  Of course, they served food and drinks. Wahoo is one of my favorite flaky white fishes, it was served with a light coconut broth and fresh peppers. It had the perfect amount of heat and the right balance of sweet. I washed it down with cruzan rum. The whole experience made me want to go to the Caribbean.


5 Arkansas Bourbon Bread Pudding by Chef Scott Rains
At the preview event, Chef Scott Rains served a bread pudding. While sharing my experience live on facebook for my friends, I walked past the table with all the Arkansas chefs and restaurants. I was reading the sign when this attractive tall man said to me “you know you want it”. I burst out laughing and made my way back to him after my video ended. Seriously. This man knows how to make a bread pudding! I think I got the last one. The next day, I went to a breakfast hosted by the Arkansas CVB, here again Chef Scott Rains was serving the famous bread pudding. I should have had a second serving that day. I got a selfie with him instead, which has managed to disappear. Damn.


Healthy Living| Kicking the Sugar Habit in 2017

I decided to cut sugar from my diet in 2017. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is hard and its even harder when you have a sweet tooth. But even for those of us who don’t, cutting sugar can be difficult because nearly everything we eat has sugar! And LOADS of it! You can find sugar in the most unexpected places. And even if its natural, that doesn’t mean the glycemic load will work in your favor. Certain natural sugars are just as bad as high fructose corn syrup. So watch the video below to talk learn what steps I’m taking in 2017.

I’m posting my videos hella late, but I’ll be keeping you guys in the loop. I fell off the wagon recently, but I’m doing better! Lets talk on social media!

Purchase your monkfruit sweetener using the link below to keep this site running. This is the best price you’ll find for this brand! I put it in my black coffee every morning now.

Champagne… How to Choose Your Next Bottle of Bubbly

I love champagne! I don’t indulge nearly as much as I would like. I’d wake up to champagne if I could, but real life. And also, maybe you can relate, I’m overwhelmed by options. The info graphic below (from the Aria Resort and Casino in Vegas) might be helpful.

Champagne Guide Infographic

Below, click MORE for more details about champagne pairings.
“Pleasure without Champagne is purely artificial.” – Oscar Wilde


Eat Your Way to a Prosperous New Year

Champagne goes with everything!
Champagne goes with everything!

Growing up, my family got together every January 1st for lunch or dinner. It was always the same meal, but I really never realized that pattern. One year, I heard someone say “I gotta get some more collard greens, I need all the money I can get!” This confused me, so of course I asked my mom what that meant and she explained it all to me.


It is a tradition in some cultures to eat a specific meal on New Years Eve or New Years Day. In Span and many latin american countries, they eat 12 grapes at midnight. In Pakistan and India people eat rice to symbolize prosperity. There are even behavior traditions, like packing a suitcase to encourage travel in the new year. Other people believe the first person to cross the home’s threshold will be the most lucky. And in my family, we make sure that we have a very clean house by midnight.


As for food, our tradition is fairly simple. We eat black eyed peas, collard greens, candied sweet potatoes and ham. The black eyed peas and ham are for good luck. The collards represent financial gain. But I have no idea why we always have candied sweet potatoes. There are other foods around too, but those four are the main staples.


Even some restaurants get in on this game. One year a lot of my relatives were traveling, so my mom, my aunt, my cousin and I went out for lunch. In honor of the new year, South City Kitchen was serving a black eyed pea and collard green soup as a special starter. We all indulged. It was fantastic.


Anyway, I wish all of you a very happy new year. If you’re even a little bit superstitious, be sure to eat some good luck foods! The list below could be a good place to start. Happy New Year!!

Click for more ideas for good luck meals on New Years Eve and New Years Day!


Cocktails| The Bitter Truth About Bitters

The Bitter Truth Cocktail Bitters Traveler's Set
The Bitter Truth Cocktail Bitters Traveler's Set
The Bitter Truth Cocktail Bitters Traveler’s Set

Bitters are an important ingredient for any true bartender or cocktail aficionado, with an interesting history. 

I have to admit that for years I had no idea what “bitters” were. I would see the word in cocktail ingredients list and shrug it off. 

I also didn’t know that there were so many different types of bitters. I only ever saw angostura bitters and orange bitters on the shelf at the grocery store. So you can imagine my surprise when I started talking to “mixologists” about why they used bitters in drinks. 

So for those of you who don’t know:

What are bitters? Bitters are literally liquid extracts of herbs, seeds, barks, roots, rinds, flowers and leaves. .

What do bitters do? Bitters were historically used by apothecaries to aid in digestion among other things. Today they are used to add very specific flavors and to add amazing smells that bringing out mild, unique flavors in your cocktails.

Can I use bitters at home? If you want to upgrade your home bar, you should absolutely include at least two different types of bitters. You’ll seriously really impress your friends with your extensive home bar if you include these key ingredients.

Where do I start? Purchase The Bitter Truth Traveler. This set includes five different flavor bitters in a cool box. As an added bonus, this set is TSA regulation for in-flight carry-on bags! And from my personal experience, since you only need a few dashes per drink, this kit will last you a long time! 

Thank you for purchasing your bitters starter kit using the link below. It helps to keep this blog up and running. I appreciate your support!

For more information about the kit click here



Thanksgiving Prep… Never Feel Overwhelmed Again!

"The Turkey" by Antony Quintano (CC)
“The Turkey” by Antony Quintano (CC)

For many home cooks, Thanksgiving dinner is one of the most stressful meals of the year.  This year, however, can be different thanks in part to these 7 Thanksgiving Cooking Hacks from the team at Chef Works, the leading supplier of culinary apparel for chefs and home cooks alike.



1. Create a timeline and master grocery list

Cooking a meal for a lot of people can be quite the challenge. To help make the process easier, you can spread out parts of the meal and cook it throughout the days leading up to it. By the time your Thanksgiving guests arrive, you’ll have everything ready sans the extra stress and clean up.

Start by making yourself a cooking timeline and a master grocery list several days before the big day. Not only will this allow you more time to enjoy your family and friends, but it also gives you wiggle room for mistakes and ensures that you won’t be making last minute grocery trips because you forgot an essential ingredient.


2. Prep ahead of time

One of the biggest challenges on Thanksgiving Day is juggling multiple dishes at the same time.  Instead of trying to do everything at once, take a look at your menu and see what can be done ahead of time including:

  • Pie dough. Make your dough far ahead of time and freeze it. That way all you have to do is thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and you have homemade piecrusts to impress everyone the next day.
  • Turkey stock and gravy. You can easily go to the butcher and get all the turkey extras you need (necks, wings, etc.) to make your homemade stock that you will use for stuffing and side dishes and freeze it weeks in advance. The same goes for gravy, which is usually the most stressful part to make with everyone breathing down your neck anyway. Making gravy ahead of time gives you plenty of time to pay complete attention to the process (we all know that stepping away from constantly stirring the gravy can mean disaster) and give you time to strain it so that you don’t have bits of anything in it. Plus, gravy freezes well, so all you have to do is reheat it Thanksgiving day.
  • Casseroles, soups, and roasted vegetables. When creating your menu, consider items that can be done a day or two ahead of time then reheated just prior to the big meal including corn, green bean, and/or sweet potato casseroles; creamy squash or carrot soups; and roasted root vegetables and/or Brussels sprouts.  And if refrigerator space is limited, simply store them in an ice filled cooler until they are ready to be reheated.
  • Prepping vegetables. Cut down on the prep time Thanksgiving Day by chopping all of your vegetables, peeling all of the potatoes, and sauté the stuffing ingredients ahead of time.
  • Add frozen butter to the dough. Adding cold butter to your pastry or biscuit dough rather than melting it or softening it to make it easier to mix in is what makes the end result deliciously soft and flaky. However, “cutting in” cold butter is the ultimate pain. Instead, use a cheese grater to grate frozen butter into your flour.
  • Skip peeling the potatoes. My family doesn’t serve mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving, BUT… One of the most tedious tasks that usually ends up with peels flying all over the kitchen no matter how careful you are, peeling the Thanksgiving potatoes is not necessary. Boil your potatoes with the peels on, then once they’re cooked, “shock” them by dunking them in ice-cold water and the peels will slide right off when you rub your hands over them.

3. Cook your turkey outdoors

We all know how precious stovetop and oven space is before holiday meals.  This year, consider cooking your turkey on the grill or in an industrial fryer (grilled turkey with citrus-herb salt and sage butter here).  Not only does this free up a large amount of room in the oven for side dishes and desserts, the smoky flavor from the grill will be a welcomed surprise for all of your guests. And who doesn’t love fried meats?


4. Tape all your recipes to your cabinet doors

Printing out all of your recipes and taping them to your cabinet doors not only gives you a visual of what still need to be done, it’ll save precious minutes as you won’t be searching for recipes online, in cookbooks, and elsewhere. Plus, this makes it easier for others to jump in the kitchen and help.


5. Ran out of butter but have heavy cream?

It’s crunch time and you suddenly realize that you’re out of butter.  No need to panic, however, as you can make your own as long as you have a jar, heavy cream and salt. Watch this video to learn how.


6. Have your emergency contacts ready

Okay so Thanksgiving is rarely an absolute disaster, but there are definitely moments of panic and second-guessing throughout the day. Have this list of holiday hotlines on hand if you need a quick answer about your Thanksgiving dinner preparations. From turkey preparations to how to store and what to do with leftovers, these hotlines can help you out in a pinch (especially if you’re the stubborn kind who doesn’t like to ask family for help).


7. Don’t forget about your slow cooker

Your oven will be getting a workout and you might be panicking about getting all your dishes heated in time for dinner. Slow cookers are an excellent and out-of-the-way cooking option for veggies, mashed potatoes, or cranberries. There are plenty of Thanksgiving recipes for slow cooker casseroles, so don’t let this space-saver go to waste!


I you have tips for how to make Thanksgiving dinner prep much easier, send them to me via twitter or facebook! Talk to you soon. Until then remember life is good; eat it up!

TACO TUESDAY… My Simple Ground Beef Tacos Recipe

CC gnokii

If you follow me on instagram, you probably know that I take Taco Tuesday seriously. Not really, but I do love tacos. My mom used to make something like this when I growing up. But a few years ago, I stopped buying taco kits and started making my own seasonings. Its so much better. And I can control the sodium content. Plus there is no secret high fructose corn syrup, etc.

No, I’m NOT claiming that these are authentic Mexican tacos, but I promise you that they are YUMMY! Tried and true! I intend to make a video for the guacamole– so stay tuned.

Anyway, this recipe is SUPER simple– as all of my recipes are. Enjoy!


Dine With Dani Tacos (serves 4)

[please read the entire recipe before you shop and again before you begin cooking]



  • bowl
  • stove
  • oven
  • pan
  • spatula
  • whisk
  • baking sheet

DineWithDani Taco Seasoning (large batch):

  • 1-cup chili powder
  • ¼ cup garlic powder
  • ¼ cup onion powder
  • ¼ cup red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup dried oregano
  • ½ cup paprika
  • ¼ cup cumin
  • ⅛ cup course sea salt (to taste)
  • ⅛ cup course black pepper grinds (to taste)
  • [dry whisk together in a bowl, store in a resealable container, will last forever!]

Meat Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp taco seasoning (see large batch recipe)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ white onion diced
  • 1 minced garlic (or one tbsp from the jar)
  • 1 bell peppers diced (optional)
  • 1- 1.25 lb ground beef (90% lean or more)
  • 1 tsp salt (to taste)


Serve with:

  • corn taco shells [3 per person]
  • arugula [to taste– just a few leaves per taco]
  • shredded cheese [to taste– likely a tbsp per taco]
  • sour cream [to taste– likely a tsp per taco]
  • salsa [to tast– likely a tbsp per taco]
  • cilantro [to taste] (chopped fresh or dried)
  • guacamole [to taste– likely a tsp per taco]


  1. Dice one half a white onion (and 1 garlic clove, optional: one bell pepper)
  2. In a pan heat 1 tbsp of olive oil on medium heat.
  3. Sweat (saute) the diced onion (along with bell pepper)
  4. Preheat oven on 350 degrees.
  5. Once onions are translucent (and peppers softened) add optional tablespoon of minced garlic
  6. When garlic is fragrant and toasted, add 1+ lb of ground beef.
  7. Salt the beef mixture to taste while meat is still pink.
  8. Raise heat to high and brown ground beef constantly moving around with the spatula (or spoonula) .
  9. When beef is brown, turn off heat and stir in 2-3 tbsp of the DineWithDani taco seasoning.
  10. Add quarter cup of water and simmer on the lowest heat possible.
  11. On a baking sheet, arrange shells in an overlapping pattern and heat in the oven for five minutes.
  12. IF your beef was less than 90% lean, drain off half of the liquid fat.
  13. Lay out guacamole, sour cream, cheese and salsa (or whatever you like on tacos).
  14. SERVE!


Re-gram’d my own gram! Happy Taco Tuesday! #upgram #recipe #dinewithdani #foodblog #simplemeal

A video posted by Dani Styles (@dinewithdani) on

Super Food Kale… 10 Ways to Prepare

Heralded as a “super food,” (and featured on a sweatshirt worn by Beyonce) Kale has rich nutritional value and its role as an antioxidant make it a perfect addition to your diet. There are many different types of kale, so find the one(s) that you like best and get creative.

PS– I prefer dinosaur kale.

And in case you need thought starters, below are 10 things that you can do with Kale courtesy of my friends over at Chef Works:


1 Make Smoothies

Green smoothies are becoming a popular breakfast choice for the health conscious, but the green of choice is usually spinach. Kale makes a good option, as it is just as nutritious (if not more so) and it has a mild flavor that you can’t detect when blended with fruit. It goes well with just about anything from apples to pineapple, to berries, so experiment until you find your favorite. You may want to leave out thick stems, as they may not blend as well and also add a somewhat bitter flavor.


How to Make an Yummy Salad… My 5 Rules

Salads get a bad wrap for being boring, bland rabbit food. But its a good rule of thumb for cooking that if you use good ingredients– you’ll likely end up with a good product. And I made this particular video when I got a craving for something healthy. I started thinking about what makes a good one. Watch this 30 second video for some of my favorite ingredients and below I’ve shared some tips making your own yummy salad.


National Margarita Day… Feb 22

Mango Scotch Bonnet Margarita
Mango Scotch Bonnet Margarita (recipe below)

Cinco de Mayo is not the only day you should celebrate with Margaritas. There is actually a NATIONAL MARGARITA DAY! I’m in!!

Some people struggle with making good margaritas. Here are some tips from the good people at Herradura Tequila so you can ditch the poorly made margaritas. And remember to say goodbye to artificial lemon juice.

1.       Avoid cheap tequila – If you are going to get serious about margaritas, you’ll need to invest in high-quality tequila. The key is being 100% agave, which means no additional sugars were added during fermentation process. Casa Herradura has been crafting 100% agave tequila since 1870 using traditional production methods. Use Herradura Silver for a taste of sweet, mild cooked agave notes with a touch of oak.

2.       Use real lime –using real lime juice is just as important. Avoid the artificial lime plastic ball, or any prepackaged sour mix and buy real limes. Limes are not expensive and they last a long time.  This will make a big difference!

3.       Get the orange stuff –Triple sec is key! This orange flavored liquor is sweet and it’s made from dried orange peels. You can substitute with blue curacao to make a blue margarita if you are feeling adventurous.

4.       It’s all about the measurements – The basic ratio measurement of a margarita is 2:1:1 which means two part tequila, one part of triple sec and one part lime juice. This will always depend on how strong you like your tequila so feel free to experiment with it.

I’ve shared below a recipe below! Cheers!


Enjoy this blog? Share it with your friends!