Last weekend I had the privilege to attend Food Blog Forum Orlando at Walt Disney World! For months I had been looking forward to this day and last Friday morning I loaded my car up with boxes of Goo Goo Clusters, OXO, King Arthur, and Le Creuset products and drove a whopping 25 minutes to Disney where Food Blog Forum was being held. I unloaded the car with the help of a bellman and checked into my gorgeous room at the Polynesian Hotel.

A spacious room awaited me, and luckily it was just a few steps from the pool. After unpacking (we were only their 2 short nights yet it felt like I packed for a month), I slipped into my swimsuit and made my way down to the pool.

That’s where I met up with Christine from Cook The Story, Carroll from Vanilla Lemonade, and Emily from Sage Recipes. As I sat poolside with these lovely ladies I sipped on a luscious Miami Vice (Half Pina Colada Half Strawberry Daiquiri). If this drink doesn’t scream “vacation” I don’t know what does.

Later that evening we made our way to the Grand Floridian where our welcome reception was being held beach side. Overlooking the Seven Seas Lagoon and from a distance we could see the Magic Kingdom. We were greeted with Granberry Cosmo’s (pictured top left corner) which were much sweeter than a traditional cosmopolitan and were ridiculously easy to drink. We were passed shot glasses of a pureed vegetable soup (pictured bottom right corner) and spoonfuls of seared scallop with caviar (pictured top right corner). I had my first caviar experience that night. I didn’t like nor dislike it; therefore I really don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. My favorite dish of the evening was the Macaroni & Cheese bar that had toppings galore. I had not 1 but 2 servings (shhh don’t judge) of the macaroni & cheese with lobster, panko bread crumbs with shredded crab, and green english peas.

At another table close by, plump jumbo prawns awaited us. The traditional steamed, chilled variety was found that accompanied a cocktail sauce, followed by a seasoned prawn bathing in a pool of honey mustard sauce. Lastly, their was the infamous deep fried prawn accompanied with a creamy white sauce. All three were equally delicious although I like to stick with the classic.

And then it was time for dessert! Oh–their were desserts. More desserts than anyone knew what to do with. Pictured in the top left corner is one of Disney’s Chef’s preparing creme brulee. My favorite dessert of the night was the silk smooth warmed milk chocolate and caramel shot (pictured bottom right corner). I could have placed my mouth under the spicket and let the large vat of warmed milk chocolate flow into my body.  I refrained from having multiple servings although the thought crossed my mind. The cake pops were delicious and moist, and I was a bit sad I only took one… and it was for the “road” never-the-less.

Our evening was winding down and we all parted ways. A few of us chose to watch the 10:00 Magic Kingdom fireworks on the beach at the Polynesian. I mean, we did have the best seats in the house–how could we have skipped the fireworks!??!

The next morning came way too early, and these lovely swag bags awaited us. A big thanks to Goo Goo ClustersOXO, Scharffen Berger, Land O’Lakes, KitchenAid, and Bob’s Red Mill and all the other sponsors who donated to make our swag bags that much more special.

Upon picking up our swag bags we indulged in a traditional Irish Breakfast (it was St. Patrick’s Day). I had never thought to make an egg white frittata before, and I’m so glad Disney was able to introduce me to it! It was beyond amazing!

Scott Hair otherwise known as Mr. Steamy Kitchen opened up the conference. This man is an incredible speaker, and if you ever get the chance to listen to him speak you are in for a treat!

Food Photography & Styling: Sharing your food story through your creative voice:

White on Rice Couple otherwise known as Todd Porter and Diane Cu presented a very moving session that had everyone in tears by the end of the session.

“Your eyes are your lens” “your heart is your shutter” and this was definitely apparent in all of their photos. They also let us attendees in on a little secret on how to utilize your mood via light source. For the past year I’ve been intimidated and afraid of shadows, but Diane & Todd reminded us to embrace the shadows. I walked away from their session “thinking about my life recipe”.

PRspectives: 

This session was led by Jaden of Steamy Kitchen, Arianna from OXO, Rachel from KitchenAid, and Thomas Smith from Disney. Jaden moderated the session while prompting a variety of questions. The most important thing you must remember when working with brands is be authentic. If you can’t write about the product then you shouldn’t be working with them.

How to Write Bigger, Better, More Badass Food Posts:

The amazing David Leite shared his 12 step writing plan to us attendees. The first thing he suggested to us is purchase English Grammar for Dummies and read it cover to cover and then read it again. Oh, and another vow us food bloggers made to David was to stop using the word delicious… this is a tough one to break! He also spoke about how “enough is never enough” and his biggest criticism is that bloggers do not know how to write in first person. I want to improve my writing both personally and professionally and plan to buy the book and study it.

From Hobby to Professional: Taking your Blog to the Next Level:

Dawn Viola shared on how to turn your blog into a business.  For the non Marketing savy she shared Marketing tips and tricks along with free tools to utilize.

After Dawn’s presentation one of Disney’s head chef’s talked to us about lunch. As one large group, we made our way over to lunch. Where we had a wide variety of both savory and sweet dishes to try. We had 2 hours for lunch yet it felt like 2 minutes.

One of my favorite stations was soda floats (pictured above) and pork sliders with homemade chipotle ketchup (pictured below). First off, the soda floats were made with a Rotovap. If you don’t know what this is–go read about it. It’s basically a $10,000 machine for food chemistry of sorts. That is what made these soda floats so special!

As for the pork sliders… this was a big deal for me. 1. I’m not a huge fan of meat and definitely not pork *although bacon does not count. 2. I ate homemade chipotle ketchup. This is an even larger deal for me. You see, I hate ketchup… dislike it to the tenth degree. To me it smells of dirty feet and taste worse than it smells. I talked with the chef for a good 10 minutes about this ketchup. I had my reservations but he encouraged me to try it… so I told him to serve it how he intended the dish to be consumed and boy am I glad. After 20 years–I’ve finally had ketchup! To be honest, it tasted like a well seasoned tomato paste and multiple friends argue that I can’t proclaim I ate ketchup because their was no vinegar in it therefore I had merely a tomato sauce.

Another dish that stood out to me was the Chicken Picatta. It wasn’t so much the chicken as the actual whole wheat pasta and spinach in a white wine lemon-butter sauce that did it for me. I could have eaten a massive bowl of that pasta. Simple yet delicious flavorful.

No meal is complete without dessert. I believe their were 8 desserts and since I had one of each of the entrees I knew I needed to give each of the desserts a taste test. I loved the green tea rice pudding (pictured bottom right). It was accompanied with a biscotti cookie.  Pictured top left is what Disney was calling a Chocolate Ravioli; however, Paula from bell’ alimento put it, it’s like a chocolate oyster!

After lunch we had the opportunity to attend 4 – 30 minute sessions. Here are the sessions I attended and the 1-2 major points I took away from them.

Pitch with Jaden Hair:

-#1 rule treat your blog like a business and know your worth.

-Elevator pitch should be one sentence.

Recipe Development with Jennifer Perillo & Kelly Senyei:

-Difference between “Adapted” and “Inspired”; Adapted shows you have the least ownership of the recipe although you’ve made it your own. Inspired by shows that you’ve added more character to the recipe.

– Check your fear at the door when you are ready to begin developing “sweet” recipes. Be prepared to waste dozens of eggs and bags of flour!

Working with Brands with Arianna and Rachel:

-Be authentic

-Be sure you can integrate product with your content

Writing a Cookbook from 2 perspectives with Bakerella and Alison Lewis

-Make sure everything is clearly spelled out in your contract

-Be prepared to write 20+ page book proposal

 

After our informative round table sessions that could have easily been an hour-to-two hours long each, Jaden and Scott and Todd and Diane wrapped up our amazing day with words of motivation and encouragement!

After the conference my hubby met up with me along with Ricardo from Beer Guerrilla and his wife, Rachel, Julius of Droolius.com, Chris of Eat Local Orlando and Suzanne of KokoCooks. We all made our way of to England in the world showcase and grabbed a beer at the pub in honor of St. Patricks Day!

We capped our day off with a dessert party with spectacular seats to watch the Illuminations firework show. My favorite dessert of the evening was the bacon brittle (pictured left corner). Most of the desserts were Irish themed and full of liquor, and at that point I wasn’t in the mood for boozie desserts.

Our last event was on Sunday morning where we gathered one last time at Whole Foods Market in Orlando, Florida for a brunch. I finally had the opportunity to stop focusing on content and food and focus on taking photos with all my new and old food blogging friends.

In between taking photos with countless foodies I munched on (2 bowls) Banana Stuffed French Toast. I could have seriously bathed in the caramel maple syrup sauce that it was dredged in. I could not stop indulging in the Thompson Farms Sausage with Sweet Potatoe Tots.  I definitely ate more than I’d like to admit!

Jaden of Steamy Kitchen stopped by our table and chatted with Suzanne (KokoCooks) and I along with posing for a picture.

Top Left corner: Rachel and I.

Top Right corner: Denise from Creative Kitchen Adventures and I.

Bottom Left corner: Jessica from The Novice Chef, myself, and Tina from My Life as a Mrs.

Bottom Right corner: Julie of The Little Kitchen and I–this girl is amazing times 10 and organized EVERYTHING for the weekend.

Top Photo: Julie from Table for Two Blog, myself, Suzanne from KokoCooks, and Angie otherwise known as Bakerella!

Bottom Photo: Ricky from TastyChomps, myself and Suzanne from KokoCooks

The amazing Jennifer Perillo of In Jennie’s Kitchen and I.

Top Left: Terri from Love & Confections and I

Top Right: Lindsay from Love and Olive Oil and I

Bottom Left: Amanda from Amanda’s Cookin’ and I

Bottom Right: Myself, Robin from Simply Southern Baking, and Jenny from Picky Palate

The amazing Todd & Diane of White on Rice Couple with me–this couple is truly inspiring.

The people that made Food Blog Forum possible; Jaden and Scott, JulieTodd and Diane and Rachel.

After a whirl-wind of a weekend I picked up my pooch, Lola. As soon as we got home I unpacked and we took the worlds longest nap together. I think this is by far the longest post I’ve ever written, but I had to be authentic and I had to be me–and I didn’t want to miss out any details! I hope you enjoyed reading my Food Blog Forum recap.


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I love soup. I could eat soup in the middle of summer when its over 100 degrees here in sunny Florida. In the past few years I’ve began loving dumplings in soup. In the January/February issue of Rachael Ray Magazine they had a full 10 recipe spread of different variations of soup. They made what they called a Chicken Parmesan soup. I’m not a huge fan of Chicken Parm, but I’ll eat it if that’s my option. My husband on the other hand is the worlds biggest Chicken Parm fan–so much that we served that as one of our food choices at our wedding! I knew he would love this soup and I would love it thanks to the ricotta dumplings! Yes, these aren’t chop up refrigerated biscuit dumplings… these are homemade cheesy-goodness dumplings.  Best of all the ricotta dumplings were incredibly easy to make. After some major tweaking of the recipe Italian Style Chicken & Herbed Dumpling Soup was born!

Inspired by: January/February EveryDay with Rachael Ray Magazine

Italian Style Chicken & Herbed Dumpling Soup
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
 
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 14.5 oz can of chopped stewed tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp basil, chopped + more for garnish
  • 1-1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 tbsp each fresh chopped basil, parsley, and thyme
Instructions
  1. Place a large pot over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the chicken to the pot along with 2 cups of water, 2 cups of chicken broth, onions, and garlic. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Reduce to medium heat and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes or until chicken is tender enough to shred.
  2. Remove the chicken from the pot, and shred. Keep to the side.
  3. In the mean time add the can of stewed tomatoes (you may have to chop them a little more than what they already are in the can), 2 tablespoons fresh basil, and red pepper flakes to the pot and season with salt and pepper to taste if needed. Add the chicken back to the soup pot.
  4. Begin making the ricotta dumplings. In a large bowl mix ricotta, 1 cup parmesan, flour, and 1 tablespoon each chopped basil, parsley, and thyme. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix well until all ingredients are combined.
  5. Begin rolling dumplings into a half-dollar size ball and add to the simmering broth. Let dumplings cook 5 minutes or until puffy.
  6. Serve the soup topped with a generous helping of Parmigiano Reggiano and more basil.

 


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I love to eat fish, and typically try to make at least one seafood dish each week. I’ve talked about before how I’m blessed to have an abundance of fish at my disposal thanks to my husband and brother in-law for their love of fishing. I’m always looking for new fish recipes, and this recipe just so happens to take one of the top ranks for awesome fish recipes! I found this recipe at the Best Meals Happen at Home website. I would have never though to use Lemon Pepper Panko bread crumbs on my fish for fish tacos. The flavors are robust and require very little  ingredients to prepare.

Publix Supermarkets is currently hosting the Best Meals Happen at Home event from now until March 28th. If you live in the south or shop at Publix, you’ll notice a wide variety of coupons available this month on products you love in store. You’ll also want to visit BestMealsatHome.com and register to receive coupons and recipes, which can be cooked in 30 minutes or less. Like these delicious Lemon Pepper Fish Tacos. I loved the simplicity of this dinner and on a busy work night their is nothing better than knowing I can cook a flavorful dish quickly.

General Mills is offering one lucky reader a $25 Publix Gift Card!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Lemon Pepper Fish Tacos
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 5
 
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 cup Progresso® Lemon Pepper Panko Crispy Bread Crumbs
  • 1 lb white fish fillets (such as tilapia or catfish)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 10 Old El Paso® Flour Tortillas for soft tacos & fajitas (6 inch; from 8.2-oz package)
  • 1 medium avocado, pitted, peeled, and chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded, diced
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 small jalapeño chile, seeded, finely chopped, if desired
  • 2 cups shredded lettuce
  • 1 small lemon, cut into wedges
Instructions
  1. In 3 shallow dishes place flour, beat egg and water in one, and bread crumbs in the last dish. Coat the fish with flour, then dip into egg mixture, lastly coating well with bread crumbs.
  2. In a nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add fish; cook 6-8 minutes, turning once, until fish flakes easily with fork. Cut into 30 bite-size pieces. Repeat this step until all of your fish is cooked.
  3. While the fish is cooking mix in a medium bowl; avocado, tomato, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Stir in cilantro and jalapeño chile.
  4. Heat tortillas as directed on package. Fill tortillas with fish, avocado mixture, and lettuce. Serve with lemon wedges.
Notes
If you don't want to fry the fish you can easily bake the fish. To bake: Heat oven to 375°F. Spray 13x9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray. Follow step 1 above. Place fish in baking dish; drizzle with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Bake uncovered 15 to 20 minutes or until fish flakes easily with fork. Continue as directed in recipe above.

Disclosure:  The Publix gift card, information, and giveaway have been provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark.


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Last week, I played bunko for the first time, and at bunko were rice krispie treats. To be honest, I cannot remember the last time I indulged in the marshmellowie goodness of rice krispie treats. That’s when it instantly hit me. I wanted to make a St. Patty’s dessert for the blog (and my family and friends), and thus the mint chocolate chip rice krispie treat was born.

I love the mint chocolate chip combo; however, my husband isn’t a big fan. So I knew that my brillant idea would not strike a cord in his book. Oh well, I remind myself time and time again that we can’t please everyone, and this treat I automatically knew would not please him. He did try a bite which I was shocked and he said that they tasted like the candies from Olive Garden. In my book I knew this treat was a success because that’s how I wanted them to taste like… like, mint chocolate chip!

Source: Katie Original (mint chocolate chip) inspired by The Original Rice Krispie Treat recipe

Mint Chocolate Chip Rice Krispie Treats
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
Ingredients
  • 6 cups Rice Krispies
  • 1 bag Marshmallows
  • 4 tbsp Butter
  • ¼ tsp Peppermint Extract
  • 10 drops Green Food Coloring
  • ½ cup Mini Chocolate Chips + 2 tbsp for topping
  • Pam Cooking Spray
Instructions
  1. In a large sauce pan melt the butter. Remove the butter off the burner once melted and add in the green food dye and peppermint extract.
  2. Add the marshmallows to the pot and stir until the marshmallows have dissolved completely.
  3. Carefully, begin stirring in half the Rice Krispie treats, and ¼ cup of the mini chocolate chips. Once well incorporated repeat until the Rice Krispies and mini chocolate chips are all incorporated into the marshmallow batter.
  4. Spray a 9x12 pan with pam cooking spray and begin spreading the Rice Krisipie treats out on the pan. Once completely spread out on pan sprinkle two tablespoons mini chocolate chips on top. Let cool in refrigerator for 1 hour, slice, and serve.
Notes
Store in a sealed container for up to 2 days.

 


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Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend the Southeast Produce Councils Southern Exposure Conference in Tampa, Florida. Some people love sweets–I love produce. I cook and eat a lot of produce each and every week, so when I was contacted to attend the conference I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

(Pictured Left to Right: Jeff Houck from The Stew, Julie from Peanut Butter Fingers, Ricky from Tasty Chomps, and Aggie from Aggie’s Kitchen)

My day started early, 6:45 am on a Saturday early. I drove an hour and a half and made it to the convention center with a few minutes to spare. I attended the “How Food Bloggers are Influencing Produce Consumers and How to Create Advocates for your Brand” educational workshop where I had the chance to support 3 of my food blog friends in real life.

 

After the educational workshop our small group of food bloggers made our way to the keynote brunch where we heard the Honorable Adam H. Putnam, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture speak. He addressed many controversial issues happening not only in Florida but around the United States as far as agriculture goes. I must add he was pretty funny and down to earth kind of guy. We dined on fruit salads, chicken and a whole lot of veggies (which by the way Aggie and I eat the same exact way–glad to know I’m not the only person in the world who eats 3-4 bites of chicken) and for dessert we all choose from key lime pie or chocolate peanut butter pie. And, yes… I’m proud. I got my first press badge at this conference.

Here is a picture of all of us before the brunch started. Pictured left to right: Me, Aggie, Dawn, Ricky, Julie,  Julia, and Rod.

After brunch was over we all headed up to the convention center floor. Aggie & I both decided to pose with the cut-out mascot of the event just for good measure.

WPRawl featured their Nature’s Greens line as well as Paula Deen’s Southern Dishes line. I’m not going to lie the “Butter & Bacon Flavor Sauce for the Green Beans caught my eye. These products can be found at Super Targets in the state of Florida.

We stopped by the Modern Mushrooms Farms to check out their products.

We stopped by the Chilean Hass Avocados booth and each got to take home an avocado (which I used the next day for a delicious avocado smash dip). Did you know that the Chilean Hass Avocado is the complimentary season for fresh Avocados in the Fall and Winter?

I got to meet a few sales representatives from my favorite go-to fruit snack company, Crunch Pak. I buy a box of 8 individual packs of pre-sliced organic red apples each week. I love this brand!

Aggie, introduced me to the fine people of Duda Farm Fresh Foods. Little did I realize I had been buying their celery for years and on occasion their iceberg lettuce! They are also a local farm here in Florida.

We were also on the mission to stop by the Wholly booth for two reasons; 1. to snack on awesome dips 2. They had these amazing straw like bags. We accomplished both task and got to try their brand new fruit salsa which come to market in the next few months. Let me tell you–I was instantly dreaming up recipe ideas. I cannot wait until these hit store shelves!

I made my way over to SunnyRidge which is also another local Florida farm. I buy their berries regularly so it was nice to meet a few faces behind the brand.

One of the last vendors at the show I got to see was Makoto. By far my favorite Asian salad dressing company, and little did I know that they are located just 45 minutes from my home (and they have a restaurant. I’m sure the guys at the booth thought I was crazy because I pretty much had a rush of excitement to see them at the show! Looking back, I was probably just delirious. I got to try a few products and we all shared different recipes on ways we like to use the various salad dressings.

Here are a few more products I got to see at the show; Sweet Tango Apple Cider; unfortunately this is not sold in Florida (yet) it was amazing! Mariani Nuts had a wide variety of samples to take and try. So far I’m loving the milk chocolate almonds–I could eat bags of them. Gourmet Garden had samples of sweets that used a variety of their herb pastes. The Chili Chocolate Bites looked deceiving… these bad boys were packed with spiciness!

After a few hours of walking the conference room floor and feeling like I died and went to produce heaven my conference time was complete. Not only did I learn some new tips and tricks about produce, but I left with quite a bit of “swag” and products to try over the next few weeks.

Disclaimer: I received free entrance into this conference; however, I was not required to blog about this event nor was I compensated for writing about any of the companies above mentioned. I, like every other conference attendee, received free products to try.

 


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