In Jennie's Kitchen: The Best Lentil-Ricotta Meatballs EVER!

Last week in Raleigh, I joined a handful of bloggers at a luncheon to meet New York blogger and new cookbook author, Jennifer Perillo.  Some of you may know Jennie's cooking blog, "In Jennie's Kitchen" and have used some of her recipes. She is warm, bubbly, and a phenomenal cook. This is the spread she had waiting for us that day.

All the recipes of the dishes she prepared are featured in her new cookbook, "Homemade with Love, Simple Scratch Cooking from in Jennie's Kitchen." 

I chatted with Jennie for awhile, and wrote this more formal story on "Homemade with Love" for Skimbaco Lifestyle so be sure to check out that story, and learn more about Jennie's style of cooking.

I loved everything she prepared. We sipped on homemade pink lemonade while she put the finishing touches on her dishes.

Slow-Roasted Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella Panzanella

Chickpea, Parmesan, and Fennel Salad

And here is the knock your socks off dish that was so awesome that I can't stop talking about it.  Lentil-Ricotta Meatballs.

Jennifer Perillo recipe

These "meatballs" with Jennie's homemade marinara over penne pasta were incredible. Most of the recipes in "Homemade with Love" are newly crafted by Jennie for the book, but the lentil-ricotta "meatballs" were featured on her blog several years ago. She said said a lot of her blog recipes were her favorites so she felt it was important to include them in her first book.

"Homemade with Love" is a beautiful cookbook.  It can be found locally in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area at Quail Ridge Books, Southern Season, and Barnes and Noble. You can also order the book online.

Disclosure: I received an autographed copy of the cookbook, and I cannot wait to start preparing some of the recipes.

Time for Tea and Mint Juleps at the Washington Duke Inn in Durham, NC

I recently had afternoon tea at the luxurious Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club in Durham, North Carolina.

Afternoon Tea at the Washington Duke Inn

I loved my experience, and as I suggested in my column on Skimbaco Lifestyle this month, afternoon tea is a great way to reconnect with a loved one. A really good afternoon tea will leave you full for hours, and have you dreaming of your next visit.  Afternoon tea at the Washington Duke is elegant and refined, but also inviting enough for children. In fact, I think I will take my mom, and Baby Diva there when we have that girl's weekend I referred to in my Triangle Mom2Mom column this week.  My daughter has had the Christmas tea at the Ritz-Carlton in Charlotte at an even younger age so she's ready for this experience.  The Washington Duke will even substitute pink lemonade in place of tea for children.

My son, on the other hand, was apparently born to drink tea.  I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. 

My friend, Kim, who wrote the great parenting post this month on using reward charts for positive reinforcement, and I took my son and her daughter to tea at the Washington Duke Inn for my son's 7th birthday after the holidays. They surprised him with this magnificent tiramisu. 

Afternoon tea at the Washington Duke Inn is served in the Fairview Dining Room. It's quiet enough for conversation. Allow yourself about an hour and half to fully enjoy the experience. Soak up the atmosphere and don't rush.  Tea is served from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday through Sunday. Reservations are required.

And if you are looking for a place to watch the Kentucky Derby this year then the Washington Duke Inn will be the perfect place to sip on that Mint Julep. 

Join them on May 4. 

Want to Go:
3001 Cameron Boulevard
Durham, NC

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. I am a fan of the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club, and am recommending it for tea based on my own experience.   Since I write about luxury hotels, I do have an ongoing relationship with many luxury hotels in the Triangle area, and like to help  promote things of interest.  The tiramisu was given to my son complimentary. 

Heart Healthy Tex-Mex Pilaf

I'm putting more meatless meals on our menu lately.  I am trying to do a better job getting vegetables and whole grains in our diet, When I find a dish that packs a punch with veggies, I'm trying it.  I like to share winning recipes with you that I've personally prepared, tasted, and served on my table.

The rice and bean based Tex-Mex Pilaf will definitely get made again in our house. The recipe is from the American Heart Association.  It's heart healthy and easy.

Heart Healthy Tex-Mex Pilaf

Tex-Mex Pilaf

1 cup uncooked instant brown rice
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
6 ounces whole button mushrooms, quartered
1 medium carrot, cut into matchstick-size strips
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 4-ounce can, chopped mild green chiles, drained
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 ounces low-fat Colby-Jack cheese, shredded

Prepare the rice according to directions. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat, swirling to coat the bottom. Cook the onion, mushrooms, carrot, cumin, for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to lightly brown, stirring frequently.  Stir in the beans, chiles, and cilantro.  Cook for 1 minute, or until the beans are heated through, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat.  Stir in the rice and cheese.

I thought it was delicious.  The kids loved it. I served it with roasted asparagus and fresh farmers' market tomatoes.

Enjoy! Let me know if you try it. 

A Parenting Coffee Chat: How to Use Reward Charts for Positive Reinforcement

I'm handing over my blog to one of my dear friends, Kim, today.  Her children are the exact same age as my two. One day over coffee, I was complaining about my children's behavior, and I stated that I needed some parenting notes because I didn't have time to read a whole book. Well, that coffee conversation brewed up the first HinesSight Parenting "CliffNotes" that she wrote for us today.  

How to use Rewards Charts for Positive Reinforcement

Do you feel like you are constantly telling you child “no”?  Do you feel like a broken record?  It’s so easy for parents to fall into the trap of harping on negative behavior instead of accentuating the positive behavior.  Well, I have a simple, easy, “Why Didn’t I think of That?” solution to help you: Reward Charts!

When my second child was born, I fell into this trap with my oldest daughter, Alyssa.  She was BEGGING for my attention.  And any attention, positive or negative, was attention to her.  So, there I was, constantly telling her “no!”  It brought her down, it brought me down.  I started to feel like a terrible mother.  Until I realized something: by giving her attention for the bad behavior, I was actually motivating her to continue with it.  See, in her four year old mind, any attention was MY attention, something she so desperately craved. 

I needed something, and I needed it fast!  My poor sleep-deprived brain couldn’t handle anything too complicated, and Reward Charts were the perfect solution: simple, easy to use, and effective.  Sounds good, right? 

Here’s how they work:

*Figure out what motivates your child (i.e. what would be a good reward to her?)  Alyssa really wanted to see the movie, Toy Story 3, in the theater, so that was the reward she was working towards.  The reward does not have to cost money.  Some of the best rewards just involve spending a little extra time with your child doing something they love. 
*Create a chart with a select number of boxes.  At the beginning, I used fewer boxes so that she would get to the reward quicker.  The next time, the chart had more boxes, so it took a little longer.  I also added a clipart picture of a girl at a movie theater and text to remind of us of the goal. 
*Decide what behavior you are trying to change.  Make it as broad or specific as you want.  The beauty of this chart is that it is custom tailored to your child.  What is she doing that is driving you batty?  For me, Alyssa was just being plain difficult and demanding. 
*Turn the behavior into something positive.  For us, the target behavior I was seeking was that Alyssa be “helpful”.  I wanted something broad, and I could turn most positive behaviors into her being “helpful.”  If Alyssa did what I asked her to do, she was “helpful.”  If she behaved at the grocery store, she was being “helpful.”  If she was quiet when the baby was napping, that was “helpful.”  See what I mean?
*Every time your child demonstrates the target behavior, they mark a box.  Once all the boxes are filled, they get the reward!

 I loved using these charts because not only did focusing on the positive behavior, rather than harping on the negative, help Alyssa’s self-esteem, but the Reward Chart reminded ME to focus on the positive.  It was a win-win for all! 

Did I have to use the charts forever?  No way!  I just used them until her behavior improved, and then we stopped.  I do pull them out now and again when I fall back into the negatives or if she has started a new behavior that I want to put a nix on.  

Now, the real test will be how they work with her strong-willed little sister! 

And her little sister is my daughter's best friend.  Kim and I have known each other since our first children were babies. In her before-kids life, Kim was an early childhood educator with degrees in psychology and education.  These days, she can be found in carpool line, at PTA meetings, taking her kids to play dates, and enjoying all those everyday perks of being a mom to two wonderful girls.

A Southern Parenting Tale: Nightgowns and Butterfly Wings

Sometimes I just want to freeze time. Other times, I can’t wait for the time to pass.

I had this exact conversation with my girlfriend the other day.  Do you ever feel that way?

This was one of those times that I wanted "time" to pass.  Someone at our table didn't want her photo taken.
We both have children ages 7 and 3. She has experience raising girls. I don’t. My son didn’t sleep much when he was 3, but 95 percent of the time he was pretty “happy-go-lucky.” If you plopped him in front of a TV, the chances were pretty good that you wouldn’t hear from him until you turned it off. He also didn’t mind a little help from me, either. In fact, he still likes for me to lay out his clothes.

 With my daughter, it is a different tale, and there is really no rest for the weary. I feel like a servant in “Downton Abbey,” and if I’m not waiting on her, I’m arguing with her.

 Unlike servants, I don’t just say, “As you wish, my lady,” either. She has an independent streak. I do, too.

 She doesn’t like my help on anything, even when she truly needs it. My daughter was an easy baby, but she’s giving me a run for my money during the preschool years. Her stubborn streak drives me crazy and leaves me feeling exasperated.

She has quite a strong personality

 Having an older child, I know this will pass, and things will get somewhat easier as she ages. However, I always know that a new set of issues and challenges always lurks around the next corner, too.

 There is no easy street in parenting. I told my friend that I sometimes can’t wait until my daughter is 5. Not because she will be in school all day, but because she will truly have some independence, and I can actually sit down for 30 minutes and not be bothered. She said she has thought the same thing with her 3-year-old.

 We tire of the pant color battles, the putting on your shoes battles, and the not wanting to rest battles. The more these girls fight rest, the worse it gets. Of course, we forgot that children can be bad at the age of 5, too. But, in our minds, parts of it sure seemed easier than what we are now dealing with at the age of 3.

 That same night after my conversation with my friend, it happened.

 It was God’s little reminder that life is perfect right now. And at that same moment, I felt so guilty for saying earlier that day that I couldn’t wait until my baby becomes 5.

Sweet moments like this fall into the "freeze time" category.

 Right before bed, my daughter put on butterfly wings while wearing her little pink nightgown and flew across the entire house.

 It was magical. She was precious. It was angelic. She is 3 -- an age when little girls truly believe in fairy tales and believe that when they put on butterfly wings that they can really fly.

 Right there, while she wore her nightgown and butterfly wings, I wanted to freeze time and not let her grow up. I just contradicted everything I said earlier in the day. But it was the reminder I needed.

 She is only 3 once in a lifetime. Let’s not rush it!

But with that said, I'm going to need some parenting skills to help me cope with a strong-willed 3-year-old.  My friend, Kim, who has degrees in psychology and education, has written a special blog post for parents on how to use reward charts efficiently.  We will call them the HinesSight "Cliffsnotes".  Remember those?  I don't have time to read a parenting book right now. Bet you don't either.  That post will run on Friday. 

Linking up with:

Yippee Ki-Yay! It's Time to Find Your Inner Cowboy in the NC Mountains

I have shared this little secret before, but when I was a little girl I aspired to be a "can-can" girl in one of the wild west theme parks in the North Carolina mountains.  Come on! Fish-net stockings, colorful skirts, and high-heel dance shoes.   Why not? 

Um! I think someone else may have the same thoughts.

The Salon Girls at Tweetsie Railroad

Tweetsie Railroad in Blowing Rock, North Carolina has officially opened for the season.  We spent a day there last May, and had a great time. 

North Carolina’s first theme park, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Blowing Rock, will treat guests to Wild West family adventure this year through Sunday, November 3. Golden Rail Season Passes are now available for purchase at

Visitors enjoy Wild West action, exciting amusement rides, live shows and more all season long. Hop aboard a train pulled by Tweetsie’s historic steam-powered locomotives for an unforgettable three-mile Wild West adventure. Explore the streets of Tweetsie Railroad’s very own Western town, complete with cowboys and Indians. Be a part of the show at Diamond Lil’s Can-Can Revue, Hopper and Porter’s™ Musical Celebration and the Miner’s Mountain Magic Show. Experience the gold rush while panning for gold at Miner’s Mountain, get to know the friendly critters at the Deer Park, and much more. 

Blowing Rock, NC

I love the Blowing Rock/Boone area of North Carolina.  It is a beautiful area.  Be sure to revisit my series on the area from last year. 

Mast Farm Inn, beautiful b and b in Valle Crucis. Photo by Leigh Hines
Mast Farm Inn
One of my favorite Inns in the area is Mast Farm Inn in Valle Crucis, NC.  The Inn was featured as a "Pack Your Bags" in May of last year.  It's a perfect place to relax, sip a coffee, and take in the cool, summer mountain breeze. 

I have also stayed at the Courtyard Marriott in Boone, NC and was very pleased with my stay. It is the area's newest chain hotel.  

Summer is just around the corner!

I'm Back with a New Look!

We're back from Highlands, NC. 

Bridal Falls near Highlands, NC

This is Bridal Falls.  Trust me, it is more impressive in person.  Highlands is beautiful.  And the Old Edwards Inn and Spa is magnificent. 

Here is a sneak peek of the cottage we stayed in our last night on property. 

The Blue Valley Cottage at Old Edwards Inn and Spa

Look at the these two acting like a king and queen.

Interior of the Blue Valley Cottage at Old Edwards Inn and Spa
I have so much to share, but I just got the kids back in school today.  If you followed me on Facebook or Instagram then you already know that Will, and the kids got a stomach bug while on the trip.  Old Edwards Inn and Spa took fabulous care of us.  If you ever have to be sick on vacation then I hope you are in a luxury hotel.  It certainly made the experience less of a nightmare. 

I am thrilled with the job Laura did on my new site.  We are still working on it, but I didn't want another day to go by without mentioning it since I'm sure you may have noticed the change. 

Meanwhile, it's almost 80 degrees in Raleigh. It's hard to get much writing done in weather like this.  It's gorgeous! I hope this means that Spring is here to stay. 

Talk soon!

Beer at the Ballpark: Draft Picks Score Across NC

A spring breeze, the crack of a bat, the sense of place that defines Minor League Baseball — all that and a choice of craft brew: What more could a baseball fan want?

From Asheville to Zebulon, games unfold in towns where Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Curt Schilling, Manny Ramírez, Chipper Jones, Cal Ripken Jr., Derek Jeter and “Crash” Davis once played. And at the ballpark, beer lovers can sample dozens of the state’s finest craft brews. 

Durham Bulls Park
Photo by Bill

With the season opening during North Carolina Beer Month, here’s a rundown of the state’s Minor League teams and what makes each experience a grand slam.

Colorado Rockies (A). Home season opener: April 11. theashevilletourists.comBEER HERE: Oskar Blues (Dale’s Pale Ale, Old Chub, G’Knight Imperial Red, Mama’s Little Yella Pils), French Broad Brewing (Wee Heavy-er Scotch Style Ale, Gateway Kölsch, 13 Rebels ESB); Highland (Gaelic Ale); Asheville Brewing (Shiva IPA).
GRAND SLAM EXPERIENCE: Zipline delivery of the opening pitch. At Thursday-Sunday games, a rider selected by drawing flies 30 feet above the field and lands in time for the “play ball” call. Visit the stadium to register for this Asheville Zipline Canopy Adventures opportunity.
Chicago White Sox (AAA). Home season opener: April 11. charlotteknights.comBEER HERE: Olde Mecklenburg Brewery (Copper, Captain Jack Pilsner, Rein Pale Ale); Highland Brewing (Gaelic Ale, Razor Wit Belgian Wheat, St. Terese’s Pale Ale).
GRAND SLAM EXPERIENCE: Southern-style chivalry. The Knights take cues from their name with jousting between innings, Dragon Chips at the concession stand and Homer, the hardest-working dragon in baseball, as team mascot.
Cleveland Indians (A Adv.). Home season opener: April 5. carolinamudcats.comBEER HERE: Natty Greene’s (Buckshot Amber Ale, Wildflower Witbier in the stadium; additional choices at Cattails Restaurant).
GRAND SLAM EXPERIENCE: The dining. In the stadium, fans can try the catfish sandwich, a one-of-a-kind baseball delicacy. Cattails Restaurant offers destination dining before the game and premier skybox seating during.
DURHAM BULLSTampa Bay Rays (AAA). Home season opener: April 8. durhambulls.comBEER HERE: Carolina Brewery (Sky Blue Golden Ale, Bullpen Pale Ale, Copperline Amber Ale, Flagship IPA), Natty Greene’s (Buckshot Amber Ale, Southern Pale Ale), Foothills Brewing (Pilot Mountain Pale Ale, Torch Pilsner, Carolina Blonde, Hoppyum IPA), Oskar Blues (Dale’s Pale Ale).
GRAND SLAM EXPERIENCE: “Bull Durham.” To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the baseball classic filmed at the team’s old ballpark, look for a host of in-game features, themed merchandise and “Bull Durham”-era throwback jerseys worn every Sunday. And as always, the mechanical "Hit Bull Win Steak" bull stands tall above the 32-foot-high Blue Monster, Durham Athletic Park’s answer to Fenway’s Green Monster.
Miami Marlins (A). Home season opener: April 11. gsohoppers.comBEER HERE: Natty Greene’s (Southern Pale Ale, Buckshot Amber Ale, Guilford Golden Ale, Wildflower Witbier).
GRAND SLAM EXPERIENCE: Canine batboys. A pair of black labs — Miss Babe Ruth and Master Yogi Berra — retrieve bats, reload the umpire’s ball supply and entertain fans.
Texas Rangers (A). Home season opener: April 4. hickorycrawdads.comBEER HERE: Howard Brewing (Action Man Lager), Loes Brewing (Loe’s Pale Ale, Vienna Lager and others).
GRAND SLAM EXPERIENCE: Day in the Minors Experience. This special program starts with the morning meeting and covers batting practice (you might get to take a few swings), a mascot appearance (you can even don the costume) and other experiences. Email if you’re interested.
Chicago White Sox (A). Home season opener: April 11. intimidatorsbaseball.comBEER HERE: Foothills Brewing (Carolina Blonde), Natty Greene’s (Buckshot Amber Ale).
GRAND SLAM EXPERIENCE: NASCAR crossroads. Kannapolis native Dale Earnhardt, the late motorsports legend nicknamed the “Intimidator” for his aggressive driving style, was a part owner of the team, which flies a No. 3 flag in his honor and sells items with an Earnhardt Race Day logo at the shop, called “Intimidation Station.”
Chicago White Sox (A Adv.). Home season opener: April 12. wsdash.comBEER HERE: Foothills Brewing (Carolina Blonde, Foothills Hefeweizen, Hoppyum IPA, Pilot Mountain Pale Ale, Torch Pilsner).
GRAND SLAM EXPERIENCE: The Dash Pack, the high-energy entertainers who keep things lively at fabulous BB&T Ballpark, 2010’s Ballpark of the Year. Beer lovers should find the downtown ballpark’s shuttle convenient: Foothills Brewing is one of its stops.

Visit to find more ways to enjoy April.

Set Sail to Ancient Lands of Romance, Couture Fashion and Mouthwatering Cuisine (Guest Post)

Ok ladies, it's time for a vacation. And not just a 2-hour drive to a nearby cabin but a real vacation. You remember... The kind where you and your hubby take a full week off from the daily grind to relax by the ocean or hike through historical sites oohing and ahing at the grandeur and mastery of architecture. Oh the memories, right? I'm here to tell you to stop dreaming and start living. If the kids are old enough and you have willing sitters (isn't this what grandparents are for?), I suggest you get your passport stamped as you set sail to Europe for romance, adventure, architecture, delicious food and the latest fashion.

And, I have an idea for you. Take a much deserved voyage across the Atlantic to Europe with nothing to worry about except which cobblestone street you'll stop for lunch or which onboard spa treatment you'll treat yourself to. In my experience, luxury cruise liners are ideal in that they have planned excursions leaving you more time to tour and less time fiddling with maps. And the food...the food is plentiful and delightful.


Je voudrais flaner avec toi (I would like to take a stroll with you). Imagine you and your love, walking arm in arm in the crisp Paris air while gazing upon the illuminated Eiffel Tower; bask in the summer sun on the shores of Barcelona as you sip sangria; travel through Norwegian fjords and take port in the charming small towns surrounding Olso where you can peruse folk art and cuckoo clock shops. Any of the Celebrity cruises to Europe you choose for your voyage are sure to ignite your fire inside.


Get a true feel of ancient Greek temples as you channel Zeus and Athena at the Greek Theater and the Parthenon. Guided tours through the temples and fallen structures of Athens are sure to make an unforgettable journey. Then tour Rome's treasured highlights, including the Colosseum and one of Christendom's most revered churches, St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. Perhaps you would prefer getting your Irish on at the Blarney Castle where you can kiss the Blarney Stone and forever be granted  the gift of eloquence.

Renaissance masterpieces in ancient capitals, art nouveau along the Spanish shores and medieval runes blanket the English countryside. It's a beautiful thing.


You haven't experienced a magnificent old glass of wine until you visit the Spanish vineyards. Perchance a true English cup of tea for you, miss? An extreme advantage to taking a cruise is, simply, the food. Whether you want intimacy or a dramatic open space restaurant, trendy upscale decor or French country charm, Tuscan or an Asian, the Celebrity ships offer these options. There is food available anytime. By day you can stroll into the Lawn Club Grill and enjoy the outdoor ocean views as you eat a Mediterranean flatbread in your flip-flops and by night dance by the light of the moon at the Sky Observation Lounge.

Whether in the market for a pair of classic Italian leather boots or just window shopping, it won't hurt to catch up on the latest couture before they come to America.

Whatever vacation you choose, you can cruise your way to a sense of freedom you haven't felt since before that first baby was born.

Stephanie Griffith
After working on as a travel agent, Stephanie decided it was high time she switched gears and became a travel writer. She visits faraway lands by plane, train and car, but loves to go on cruises the most.

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