Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! A Very Quick Update of our Year

Merry Christmas to all of you! It has been quite a year! We are praying for many blessings on your new year! 
A quick review of 2013:
-January: Monster Jam, basketball.
-February: more basketball and a super quick trip to Atlanta to see our friends, the Jacksons.
-March: I took Munchkin on a girls overnight and horse back lesson. 
-April: The kids hunted eggs in our neighborhood for Easter. I ran the Country Music Half Marathon, Munchkin played in her first solo and Ensemble festival, and we went to the Strawberry Festival. 
-May: The kids ended 5th and 2nd grades and Little Man learned to ride his scooter and his 2 wheel bike, Munchkin got braces and Little Man got an appliance to stretch his palate, and Bobby went to the Google conference in San Francisco. 
-June: Little Man had a Duck Dynasty bday party, Bobby played guitar with Mark and Melissa at Jozoara Coffeehouse, and with Nate at Nashville Shores. 
-July: Munchkin had a horseback riding birthday party, we got a visit from Grandma Reinsch, hung out with sweet friends, made our annual trek to Michigan for the Foust family reunion, and Peppa the hamster joined our family. 
-August: Kids back to school, I entered a recipe contest at the Tomato Festival, and went to The Wild Cow with my cooking club (Spam and Anchovies) and Bobby and I did Whole 30. Bobby also fixed our AC. -September: I went to IFBC (food blogger conference) and got to meet Dorie Greenspan and the Doristas, got to hang out with Sarah and Andrea. We took our kiddos on their first camping adventure in Beth and Grants backyard, Little Man got his first brackets for braces, and Bobby and I got to go to Josh and Liz's beautiful wedding. 
-October was girl scout camp, pumpkin patch, The Color Run, and another quick trip to Atlanta. Bobby dressed up as Thor, I was a unicorn, Little Man was Wolverine, and Munchkin was a mermaid being captured by a pirate for Halloween. 
-November: We drove 40 hours and got to hang out with my mom and dad, 2 sisters, 1 brother in law, and 1 niece and 1 nephew. 
-December: I go to go to a lovely ladies Christmas party, we have decorated and baked and now have opened all of the gifts. Bobby read to the kids from the Bible before we opened everything helping to remind them why we celebrate.
Whew! :) 

Friday, November 29, 2013

{FFWD} Sugar Crusted French Toast {TWD} Challah

 I know, I know, I am combining French Fridays with Dorie and Tuesdays with Dorie this week. But, I have a good reason! The Challah recipe from Baking with Julia is the recipe for this coming Tuesday. Knowing it was a brioche I thought it would be perfect for the Sugar Crusted French Toast from Around My French Table. I am using an unfamiliar oven this week so of course I have to give myself room for error on some things. I started the dough early on Wednesday and let it go through all 3 rise cycles. I was at a high elevation so I was a little worried about high altitude baking issues. The dough rose really well though. Things I would change for next time: use a stone instead of a baking sheet and try to braid a little more evenly. I was very disappointed when I pulled the Challah out of the oven and the bottom of both loaves were burned to a crisp. Thankfully, I was able to trim the burnt part off with a good bread knife. My sister has chickens so she took the burnt pieces and gave her cluckers a treat. Of course her dog really wanted those burnt tidbits and tried to break into the chicken coop to get them.

It was up to me to make breakfast for everyone this morning and Sugar Crusted French Toast was on the menu. My dad made bacon while my mom fired up the griddle for me. I was a little skeptical of the Cuisinart GR-4N 5-in-1 Griddler at first but when the plates popped off and were able to be washed in the dishwasher I was hooked! As a quick sidenote, I love my griddle but I despise cleaning it. Easier cleaning makes me happy.

Everyone, of course, loved this sweet french toast. Who couldn't love french toast that has a caramely, sweet coating on it? The Challah was the perfect brioche to make this with. I have actually made this recipe several times. Once was for Christmas breakfast last year and once was for my husband's band that was over practicing at our house one night. It is definitely a keeper of a recipe.The best part of course was sharing this with family that I love! I used half and half instead of heavy cream this time as there was no heavy cream to be found this morning. It worked out just fine. If you haven't tried this before I highly suggest picking up Around my French Table and Baking with Julia and making these right now! Enjoy!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Suja Juice Cleanse Giveaway!

Way back in September while I was at IFBC we had the opportunity to live blog while tasting a bunch of products. One of those products was Suja Juice and I got to taste the flavor called Fiji. It has apples and ginger in it and was memorable!  Suja is a company out of California that does cold pressed juices. They have regular juices, smoothies, and 1, 3, or 5 day cleanses. All of their juices are 100% organic and made to Kosher standards and the bottles are recyclable.

One of the perks of being a conference attendee was that Suja  provided anyone that was interested with a free 3 day cleanse to try. Now that I have completed my 3 day cleanse I get to give away a second 3 day cleanse to one lucky reader! For a 3 day cleanse you get 18 bottles of High Pressure Processed  juice and instructions on what order to drink the juices. My favorites were Fuel, which has carrots and oranges in it, and Vanilla Cloud, which has coconut and almonds in it. I have to admit, the first day I had a bit of a headache but I think that is because I recently picked up the caffeine habit again. By day two though the headache had disappeared. I was not hungry during the 3 day cleanse because the juice really did fill me up. It is about 1200 calories for the 6 bottles. The hardest part of the three days was cooking for my I made them eat out....not every meal! I also made muffins for one of my classes on one of those days but was a good girl and didn't eat those either. My kids and students had to let me know if they tasted ok. :)

One major benefit for me was that I slept better those 3 days than I had in a few weeks. I am sure that is partially from detoxing from the caffeine. I also liked not having to worry about what I was going to eat for those three days.

Now for the good stuff! The giveaway will run from today until next Saturday November 30th. There are several ways to enter this giveaway. Check out the rafflecopter below and enter away! Several of the options are daily so come back and enter again. You can leave a comment, tweet, follow me on twitter and on Facebook if you don't already. I don't know about you but after a week of Thanksgiving overindulgence I would definitely do this again! For more information on Suja Juice you can go to their website, Facebook page, twitter, instagram, and Pinterest!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, November 15, 2013

National Bundt Cake Day - Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake- I Like Big Bundts

In case you didn't know, it is National Bundt Cake Day! My children have been running around gleefully yelling "butt" cake and using it as lyrics in all manner of songs. Mary over at Food Librarian has baked bundts leading up to this day for the last several years. A couple of years ago Jenn at Just Jenn Designs made pins for everyone that participated in the bundt round up that, appropriately, said "I like big bundts"!

Last time I participated I made a Milky Way Bundt cake. This year I looked in my pantry..if shelves attached to the wall leading to the basement can be called a pantry...and spotted a can of pumpkin. I remembered seeing a Pumpkin Bundt cake recipe on Jamie's blog, My Baking Addiction, and thought I would give that one a whirl. Make sure to click on the link in her post to make your own pumpkin pie spice as well!

Confession, I made this last night, not today, so I could take it to my daughter's girl scout meeting. They were having their bridging ceremony. I managed to grab plates but did not get forks. Good thing bundts are easy to eat with your hands.

Instead of cream cheese icing, you need cream cheese to make that and I didn't have it, I made white chocolate ganache. This is the easiest recipe ever! Make sure to head over to Mary's site and check out all of her bundt's under the "I Like Big Bundts" tab!

For the Cake:
Click My Baking Addiction

1 cup white chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli)
1/4 cup heavy cream

Bring the heavy cream to a slight boil in a saucepan
Pour over chips
Let sit for several minutes
Stir and pour

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Coconut Chicken

Way back in August when Bobby and I were doing Whole 30 I made coconut chicken and then added it to salad. Yes it is as easy as you think it is!This particular salad was especially tasty with the lovely ripe strawberries and blueberries! I think I added a little bit of red wine vinegar to finish this off.

1 Tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill Flaked Coconut Unsweetened
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
fresh berries
prepackaged salad mix


Cut chicken into bite size pieces
Place coconut in a small bowl and coat the chicken with it
Melt the coconut in a small pan over medium high heat
Cook chicken until no longer pink
Place coconut chicken on top of lettuce and garnish with berries

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Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Cascade Ice Giveaway Winner Announced!

The winner of the Cascade Ice giveaway is Justin W! Soon you will be enjoying a prize pack of Cascade Ice! :)

Monday, November 04, 2013

IFBC Roomies

Ashlee, Jesseca, Me, Carolyn
OK, this may be my last IFBC post for awhile. I think I could write a ton more. One of the best parts of the conference for me was meeting so many talented cooks/writers/photographers! Of course finances was a huge part of this trip so when I saw Jesseca was looking for an extra roommate I sent her a message asking if I could join her. She and Ashlee flew in together on Friday and were able to get checked in. They were not there when I got into the room so I had a few minutes to call Bobby and let him know how things were going. They came back soon after though and introductions were made. Later that evening I got to meet Carolyn, with whom I was sharing a bed.

I have to say, I gained a lot of insight from the different workshops I went to but just sitting down with these three talented ladies in our room, talking about analytics, and sharing tips (them a lot more than me) about how to do this food blogger thing was probably the most helpful thing for me!

If I get to go to another conference in the future I hope I will get to room with these ladies again!

Check out their websites to see their gorgeous food photography and their scrumptious recipes!
Jesseca - One Sweet Appetite
Ashlee - I'm Topsy Turvy
Carolyn - All Day I Dream About Food

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Andrea and Seattle

Andrea and I became friends during our Master's program at Azusa Pacfic University. She was my roommate for a NASPA conference in Santa Barbara and such a sweet friend throughout our short time together at APU. After graduating I stuck around L.A. and she trucked back up to Washington. The next time I got to see her was 10 years ago at Tacoma High School. Bobby's band Daily Planet was on Shoutfest and Munchkin and I traveled a bit with the band. It was so fun to see her then and to introduce her to my little miss. Munchkin was only about 3 months old though and slept through the concert with cotton in her ears. Andrea gave me one of my very favorite Christmas ornaments years ago. It is a little filigree angel that adorns our tree every year.

When I decided to go to IFBC I knew I wanted to see Andrea and spend some time with her! As it so happens the week I was up was also the beginning of the quarter for the college. Anyone in higher education knows that is a crazy time for everyone. Andrea picked me up from the W hotel Sunday evening and we headed out to dinner at Toulouse Petit Kitchen and Lounge. We didn't have reservations but we were able to snag a spot at the bar. The bartenders were very helpful and ...we'll say offer suggestions. :) We ordered Housemade Boar Garlic Sausage, Slow Roasted Duck Confit, and Grilled Asparagus Wrapped with Prosciutto Fennel and Pea Shoot Salad. Every bite of each dish was delicious. I don't think I have had duck or boar before so both of those were interesting to try. The decor was beautiful. Even the bar was carved with intricate designs. It is a place I would definitely go back especially to catch up and have good conversation with a sweet friend!

Andrea graciously let me crash at her place that night and then offered me a conference room at her work the next morning so I could work on grading some papers, writing some blog posts, and general internet frivolity aka trolling Facebook and Twitter before my flight home. :) We were able to spend some time catching up at her place Sunday night. Before we headed into work though (taking full advantage of the carpool lane) we stopped by Top Pot donuts and Stumptown for coffee. My favorite doughnut was old fashioned salted caramel..sooo tasty! Taking in a dozen doughnuts also encouraged all of Andrea's coworkers to come meet me in the the conference room and to partake in the sugary goodness that is Top Pot.

Alas, the time we got to spend together was far too short! Next time I am in Seattle I will have to make sure it is not a crazy busy time so we will get to spend more time together. I am just thankful for the time we got to spend catching up this time. Next time the photo albums come with!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Refreshing and Tasty: Cascade Ice

Way back in September you might remember I went to IFBC in Seattle..I know, I could I let you forget. ;) While I was there I connected with a representative from Cascade Ice and we discussed having a giveaway for a Prize Pack of Cascade Ice products on my blog. I gave my card to the representative and didn't think I would hear anything else as I am a baby in the food blogging world. However, they are taking a chance on me and I received some samples in the mail and the opportunity to share some Cascade Ice with you.

At the conference Cascade Ice was available to snag as I was running from one workshop to another and was a perfect thirst quencher. My favorite flavor that I tried at the while I was in Seattle was Peach Mango. It made me think of those Koala drinks from when I was a middle schooler in the 80's. Of course this is much better for you than the old soda drinks.

Cascade Ice is sugar free, caffeine free, sodium free, gluten free, and carb free. Since many of the bloggers at the conference had specific dietary requirements these flavored, sparkling waters fit the bill.

In my sample pack, not only did I get several samples of sparkling water I also got a couple of drink mixers along with recipes! I did a tasting with my kiddos (of the sparkling water, not the drink mixers) and their favorite so far is lemonade. I am going to head off to Harris Teeter to pick up more in the very near future. If you want to find Cascade Ice near you check out their locator link.

Now, for the good stuff! I am not being paid for this; I just got a sample pack to try and I get to share a prize pack with one lucky winner! Check out the Rafflecopter below. You can enter once or you can follow the directions and enter up to 4 more times. I am leaving this drawing open until November 5th, which is 2 weeks from tonight so get your entries in and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Make sure to also check out Cascade Ice on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest, or their blog.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sarah, Chocolate, Lunchboxes, and Rats

I met my husband 20 years ago. We were classmates and friends in the music program at APU for the first year that we knew each other. Now we are just about a week away from the 19th anniversary of our first date (it is the 17th or 18th or 19th...) So, even when we were just friends I heard stories about Sarah. Bobby and Sarah were in band together and also went to youth group together. Even before I met Sarah in person I felt like I knew her. With the advent of Facebook I got to peek into her life even more, introduce her to Suzanne (who I have only met in person once), and see her sweet boys as babies and as they are growing. One of her sweet boys and my sweet boy were born only days apart. When I finally decided to go to Seattle for the conference I sent Sarah a message to see if she would be willing to drive up from Portland, pick me up from the airport, and hang out with me for the night. Technology is weird. This was only the 4th time I have actually seen Sarah in person but I feel like we are great friends thanks to being able to "talk" to each other over the last few years! When Sarah said she would come to Seattle I was so excited! When she picked me up we went and checked into the LaQuinta near the airport and then headed out on a mission.

Since I was going to a food blogger conference, and because I like chocolate I checked Yelp for some suggestions. On that site I found reviews for a place called Intrigue Chocolates. The reviews spoke of a chocolate speakeasy. When you have to go up a staircase next to a sake bar and down a dark hallway and ring an old fashioned bell to get in you can see what the reviewers are saying. The door was actually cracked so we peeked in and were waved in by the Master Chocolatier, Aaron Barthel, himself! We were immediately welcomed by him and Justin (who was wrapping truffles) and asked if we would like to do a truffle tasting. As I was on a budget you know I had to ask if there was a charge. There was not so Sarah and I jumped at the chance to try 6 different flavored, handmade truffles. We were instructed to let each delectable morsel melt rather than chewing them. That way we were able to taste the flavors in each section of our mouth. We tried everything from longpepper, to bay leaf flavored truffles. I ended up purchasing 6 more for the road and Sarah picked up some hot chocolate. If you are in Seattle I highly suggest you check out Intrigue Chocolates! Not only were the truffles some of the best I have ever had, the experience of the one on one truffle tasting, seeing the entire kitchen and all of the spices used, and getting to talk to Aaron about the process, while feeling like we were in a speakeasy for chocolate is one I will remember fondly!

After our visit to the chocolate shop we went to the Trace to meet Dorie and the Doristas. Everyone was so welcoming of both me and Sarah and that was a lovely part of our evening. When that part of the evening wound down we were hungry and ready for dinner. We went to the Lunchbox Laboratory in Seattle. I had read a post from a Seattle native who said this was hipstery and fun. I ended up with Melmac (garlic alfredo mac and cheese), sweet potato fries, and a nutella shake. The shake was actually voted number 1 in Seattle Magazine! Sarah got a giant burger that looked amazing! One of the fun things about the Lunchbox Laboratory was that they encourage you to experiment with different items on the menu. I stayed with what they had already experimented with and was pleased. Once our food arrived our server, Rilke, (from New Mexico) let us continue the experiments with a tray of spices that included cinnamon for the sweet potato fries and bacon salt for the mac and cheese. And now you have another Seattle restaurant to try! Dinner flew by and Sarah I just talked and talked and talked like we had been talking for years. The beauty of this was getting to know Sarah so much better than the snippets we post for the world to see. :) I got to hear how she and her husband met, a bit about their college experience, and a few things about my own hubby! We were both exhausted and fell asleep quickly once we got back to the hotel.
In the morning we packed up and headed back downtown to the Sorrento Hotel and the Hunt Club for breakfast. You may be wondering about the rats in the title, well as we were driving near the hotel a rat ran out in the street right under a bus! You might think that mouse met its demise but you would be wrong! As the bus pulled away the rat ran back toward the curb...and then straight under our back tire....and then it met its demise. Turns out not only is Sarah a good friend she is a pretty good unintentional rat killer as well! We had a lovely breakfast at the beautiful Hunt Club and then walked back to make sure the rat was really was a grease spot with a tail by the time we got back to the final resting spot. Sweet Sarah needed to get back to Portland so she hauled me to the W hotel and dropped me off and was on her way. I look forward to the next time I get to hang out with her! Thanks Sarah for driving all that way to hang out with your friend from high school's wife! ;)

Sunday, October 06, 2013

IFBC Post #3 Photography and UrbanSpoon

One of the main things I wanted to get out of this conference was tips on making my food photography better. I struggle with natural light in my kitchen in the winter and have too much direct light in the summer. One of my favorite sessions of the conference was the Live Cooking Demo by Chef John Mitzewich of Food Wishes and the A-Z's of food photography with renowned New York Times food photographer  Andrew Scrivani. Both were hilarious in the demo and both gave fantastic tips on food prep and on photography tips. Andrew's set up for food photography is pretty amazing and he uses all kinds of props. However, he did say he uses a lot of cardboard from his T-shirts to reflect light. I, unfortunately, was not one of the lucky few to get up close and personal with the prepped food for photography but I got something even better!
IFBC teamed up with  Bar Sajor on Urbanspoon who put together 25 intimate dinners around Seattle. I think there was a little apprehension about these dinners from a lot of people. Some people brought family with them and wanted to be able to eat with them, others had specific blogger friends they wanted to share a meal with. There was one group specifically formed to be gluten free. I guess it is a good thing I am not afraid to go with it as I jumped on my assigned bus and just went. My group was missing a couple of people but I ended up in the group with both Chef John and Andrew Scrivani! Not only did I get to have an amazing dinner at Bar Sajor in Pioneer Square, I got to talk more with both of these fantastically talented people not just about food and photography but about family as well! Plus I got to meet several other awesome bloggers who shared some of their story! I sat next to the fabulous Daytona Strong and across from Nico Vera of Pisco Trail. I thought this was a fantastic event and hope they will do it again.
Oh the irony of sitting with a renowned food photographer and taking rather poor quality food photos with my phone camera in extremely low light. Chef John held his phone camera over the dishes so I could get at least some light. :) We had a lovely 7 course meal that included wine with every course and a cocktail at the beginning of dinner. Anyone who has read my blog or knows me in person knows I am not a big drinker. I tasted my cocktail and it didn't really appeal to me. It seems that sipping vinegars are a new trend and that is what my cocktail tasted like. I like vinegar but apparently not for drinking. I did taste a tiny sip of each wine with each course but did not drink a lot. Confession: alcohol hurts my stomach the second it touches it. That is one of the biggest reasons I am not a big drinker. These wines went well with the meal and I am glad everyone else enjoyed them. :)
1st course: mild to spicy salami, pickled okra
2nd course:pickled peppers and smoked yogurt
3rd course: sweet peppers, shashito, lipstick peppers, Asian pears
4th course: salmon beets nasturtiums
5th course: ricotta tart with heirloom tomatoes
6th course: roast chicken, kale, roasted apple
7th course: Dessert! caramalized butter ice cream and chocolate chip cookie
And of course Espresso with rock sugar

Each dish was delicious and expertly prepared. At the end of the meal our server brought the chef for us to meet as well. Bobby and I love to eat out and it would be fun to go back to Bar Sajor with him if we get back out to Seattle sometime soon!

The other lovely bloggers at our dinner were:
Daytona Strong who writes A Scandinavian Food Blog and writes for  a travel blog called Wanderlust and Lipstick.
Our spunky, on top of it hostess Myrissa Yamashiro of Almost Fit to Eat.
Nico Vera of Pisco Trail. Not only does he love food, and take meticulous notes, he also loves to run in the mountains. We got to talk a bit about Marin Headlands where he runs sometimes and where I went to science camp! :)
Sutee Dee of Project Dinner Party, who throws dinner parties with different themes each month. He might like my Spam and Anchovies Cooking Club! :)

This was a lovely dinner with lovely company. I would love to do this again!

IFBC Swag Winner Announced!

Check out the video to see if you won!

Friday, October 04, 2013

{FFWD} Salad Nicoise

I am a cheater. That is all. ;) I bought ingredients for this lovely salad and have only cooked once this week. I made homemade mac and cheese Monday night and we have eaten leftovers from that a couple of times, Bobby and the kids made some pasta sides, and we ate out once. I am going to Girl Scout camp in  less than an hour so I took my son and went downtown to have lunch with my hubs. We went to Blackstone Brewery (they have a great kids menu that includes m & m's and homemade applesauce). I happened to see that Black Olive Salad Nicoise was on the menu and included all of the ingredients in Dorie's recipe except anchovies. They let me sub sliced chicken for the grilled tuna and I was in business. As soon as my salad arrived I whisked it off of our dark table to a table with natural light that I had been eyeing since we had been seated. The caper vinaigrette was a perfect complement to all of the ingredients in this dish. You might notice no eggs in the first picture. I noticed too after I took the picture and requested them for later. So, I still ate Salad Nicoise today, I just didn't make it myself!

Make sure to check out French Fridays with Dorie and the Leave your Link to see how other cooks around the world liked this dish this week!

Monday, September 30, 2013

{FFWD} Tuna and Caramel Apples?

My last post was all about the Doristas and how lovely they all are (don't for get to go leave a comment on that post to sign up for my giveaway). It is a good thing they are all understanding because here I am late again! The first recipe I am including is Piquillo Pepper Wrapped Tuna. Now, I was convinced that I purchased Piquillo pepper but I got roasted red peppers instead. I am pretty sure I looked straight at the ones I wanted and then picked up the ones that looked similar and were $2 cheaper, hence the roasted peppers. This came together very quickly even with a run next door to borrow some paper towels to pat the peppers dry. I tasted a bit of the filling and thought it was tasty. To say thanks for the paper towels I took one of these peppers to my neighbor and then took the rest of them to my neighborhood coffee shop so they could partake in the lemony goodness of these peppers! :) Everyone that tried them said they were delicious!

The second recipe for this post is Caramel Apple Rice Pudding. I will start out by saying that I do not like cottage cheese or tapioca. And I am not really a fan of the texture of rice pudding either. However, caramel apples are one of my fall favorites so I knew I needed to make this. It took a little time to get the milk to boil down but once it did I was able to add some Lagrima Vanilla (smelled heavenly). I put together one lovely cup and gave it to my son after school. He loved the apples on top but said "it kind of got grosser as I got to the middle". He still liked it though and ate more of it later. I gave another small batch to my daughter later who ate the entire cupful! She loved it even though it was cooked apples. I think she likes cooked fruit more than she thinks she does. :) I knew Bobby would not eat this so I gave the rest to the same neighbor from earlier. She has 3 kiddos including a sweet girl who just turned one. She told me that her grandmother's rice pudding was the gold standard of rice pudding so this had a lot to live up to. :) She texted me later and said even her baby girl liked it. I am not sure my prep lived up to her grandma's but at least they got a fun dessert. :) If you have not had a chance you can still pick up a copy of Around My French Table  and join us in year four of cooking through this awesome book! Check out Leave Your Link to see how other cooks enjoyed this recipe this week!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

1300, IFBC, Doristas, and a Giveaway

Way back in June of 2005 I posted my very first blog post. I didn't know what I was doing only that I was at home with two small, sweet babies and thinking of things to do. My son had just turned 1 and a month into blogging we got the diagnosis for Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum. In June of 2008, after many posts about kids and life in general I discovered Stumbleupon and posted one of my first food posts. In August of that year I stumbled upon Tuesdays with Dorie and made my first ever recipe (a chocolate banded ice cream torte) by Dorie Greenspan. The rest is history and this is my 1300th post! I have baked and cooked along in Baking: From My Home to Yours and Around My French Table (on and off as life happens) since that fateful August in 2008.

Several months ago one of the faithful French Fridays Doristas (as we like to call ourselves) posted a link and told everyone that Dorie was going to be the Keynote speaker at the International Food Bloggers Conference hosted by Foodista! Well, they had a deal that if you agreed to write 3 posts you only had to pay $95 for the conference. If you were not an active blogger it would be $395. Bobby and I started talking about it and thinking about logistics and if we could work it out financially. I was able to find a reasonable plane ticket, found roommates (I will tell you all about them in another post!), talked 2 of my sweet friends into coming and hanging out with me (I will tell you all about them too), and started saving money from teaching flute lessons so I could go and meet the lovely Dorie and her amazing husband, Michael (the original Dorista), in person!

Alice arranged a cocktail hour for all of the Doristas on Thursday evening before the conference at the Trace so we could meet Dorie and spend a little time with her before all the crazy began the next day. To meet all of these sweet people in person after so many years of seeing them on their blogs was priceless! Trevor designed a canvas bag for us and a pin that said "Beware the Dorista's". Susan also designed a pin for each of us to wear. Mary organized a newsletter with all kinds of information in it and the organizers also got two tables reserved for us right in the front for Dorie's keynote speech!

Adriana, Alice and I ended up in an improv class together. Liz was good friends with one of my roommates. Patty and I discovered I had lived in the same town as her. Cher, Kathy, Michelle, Betsy, Tricia and Nana, and Guyla were so sweet and fascinating to talk to actually in person!
The cocktail hour was really special to spend time talking to Dorie about baking but also about life and kids and family. She is incredibly easy to talk to and as sweet as you would think she is. My friend Sarah came with me and was included as a Dorista! Dorie brought each of us a container of Beurre & Sel cookies and Michael insisted that Sarah take some cookies too! :)

The next morning as we gathered for the opening session I was able to sneak in a few pics with my fellow Doristas and then pop to the front for the opening session. As luck would have it I got to sit next to Dorie at one of the front tables. She gave a sweet talk about social media but more about community. She had very sweet things to say about Laurie also, who started the Tuesdays with Dorie group all of those years ago.

Saturday morning several of us got up at 4:30 in the morning to visit Pike Place Market to see the shops opening and to capture some shots before the market was completely jam packed. I loved being down there with several of the Doristas and Barry, who organized our little excursion. He told us that the original Starbucks is not really the original Starbucks. The original actually burned down..or was destroyed. There wasn't a ton going on when we were there but I was able to capture some detail shots that I wouldn't be able to get with a million people milling about and being annoyed that I stopped in the middle of the road to take pictures. Some of the group went to Lola for breakfast and I walked all the way there with them but decided to go back to the hotel for the breakfast provided by Pastry Smart. I was glad I did because it was delicious but I would have enjoyed breakfast with them as well.
Sunday morning we decided on one last Dorista get together. We went to Macrina Bakery which was named one of the top 10 bakeries in North America by Bon Appetit. My throat was feeling a little scratchy so I ordered a lovely pot of jasmine tea with lemon and the pastry of the day which happened  to be an apple ricotta tart. So delicious!! Of course I had been out to a nine course dinner the night before so there was no way I could finish it. But I was glad I ordered it anyway.
I am so thrilled to be part of this group of bakers and cooks and that I got to meet all of these lovely people face to face! It helps put a face with each blog that I am reading each week!

Now on to the giveaway! I will ship anywhere in the continental US.  When you win I will ship to you 1 - 1 oz bottle of Lagrima vanilla, 1 - bar of Scharffen Berger chocolate, 1 - 1 TBSP packet of California Olive Ranch Olive Oil, and I will order a copy of Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours since that is where my baking adventure began! I am not sponsored by any of these companies but love the products.

To enter all you need to do is leave a comment below about what you like to bake. If you would like to enter more than once I have a couple of options for you. 1. Tweet about the giveaway. 2. Share on Facebook. 3. Click that Plus 1 box for Google Plus. Make sure to leave a comment letting me know that you shared the post in those ways. I will accept entries until 3PM Central Time on Sunday October 6th.  4 ways to enter! 4 shots to win! May the odds be eva in your favor! :)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Let Them Be Eaten By Bears

Recently I read a book called Let Them Be Eaten By Bears by Peter Brown Hoffmeister. The general idea is that kids do not get outside enough. They are addicted to technology and are losing their way. Most people cannot navigate by the sun or the stars (I know I can't), and have a general distaste for being outside. The author runs an outdoor program at a school in Oregon where he takes kids into the wilderness. He gives plenty of tips for getting your kids outside and back into nature.

When I was in college I spent the summer after my freshman year living and working in Yosemite. I worked Tuesday through Saturday at the Wawona Hotel at the south end of the park and I was part of a ministry called A Christian Ministry in the National Parks (ACMNP). On Saturday I went campground calling, Sunday my ministry partner, Jason, and I would lead a worship service, and then Sunday afternoon and Monday we would hike. The hotel work was hard and I was tired, the ministry was fulfilling, and the hiking renewed my spirit. Being outside, in nature, was an amazing thing. 

My senior year I was a Resident Adviser. All student leaders went on Walkabout. This is an 11 day backpacking trip in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. Each team packed in all food and gear, we spent all nights sleeping outside under the stars, each person had a 2 night solo time, and came back changed. During my solo I stood and sang in my little prayer circle and a hummingbird came and hovered right in front of me. I would stop singing and the bird would fly away. I would sing and he would come back. This went on for a good hour and is an experience I will never forget!

Have you ever been at the park and heard a parent tell their kid not to run? They are afraid they might get hurt. I have heard this countless times and it just makes me sad. Children cannot climb, they cannot run, they cannot shout. I was at girl scout camp with my daughter a few years ago and we were outside on a hayride. The girls were rambunctious and yelling. A mom said "Stop yelling! We are outside!" Where else are our kids supposed to yell? It might have been a bit annoying on the hayride but when are they supposed to yell and be kids? They were telling scary stories and reacting to that. 

My kids have technology in their lives. Far more than I did as a kid. We had Colecovision and I will admit I was pretty darn good at jumping over gates in the Smurf game and I was a master at Donkey Kong! But, I played outside a lot. I rode my bike and played with friends outside. As an adult however, I am not outside nearly as much as I should be and my kids are inside far more than they should be. 

All of that to say, after I read the book I started to get that outdoor itch. Bobby has not had fantastic camping experiences so he was not terribly thrilled but since it was my birthday weekend he couldn't say no. Well, he could but he didn't. :) I put out a call to my neighborhood asking if anyone had tents we could borrow and immediately found two, a 3 person and a 6 person. We started looking for someplace inexpensive to go and asked the Facebook universe what they would recommend. We received many great suggestions but my sweet friend Beth said to come to her house. They recently moved to an amazing property on the lake. It was ideal for a first camping trip. We didn't have to pack in all of our food, we had a beautiful view, got to set up tents for the very first time, and if it stormed we would be able to head into the house.
This was the last night of our Whole 30 challenge so I brought marinated chicken. We technically finished Whole 30 at 5 pm so I did indulge in a S'more but still did ok that night on program...unless you count the baked beans and hummus....ok so maybe I didn't do so well that night. :)

Whole 30 Chicken Marinade
I was making a lot of chicken so  I made quite  bit of marinade
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1//2 cup Olive Oil
3 minced cloves of garlic
Half a handful of fresh basil, chopped
Mix together in a Gallon size Ziploc bag
Marinate for several hours, turning occasionally
Grill until no longer pink. Be aware though that olive oil tends to blacken quickly so watch your chicken carefully.

Grant was our grillmaster and cooked everything to perfection. After setting up tents, homerun derby, eating dinner, and making s'mores it was time for a guitar lesson. Bobby gave some tips that were taken and used right away!

Bedtime was a little crazy. We didn't sleep for quite awhile and as we were getting into the tents we were watching lightning across the lake. One point the author makes is that there is no bad weather only bad clothing. If you are not prepared for the weather you could be rather uncomfortable. Thankfully, the rain held off where we were all night long.

Bobby woke early the next morning and went down to the dock to fish. Little Man joined him not too long after. Munchkin slept longer but joined him too. When we woke up I noticed an entire flock of geese down by the dock. They just sat there and I thought that as pretty neat since Bobby fishing right next to them didn't seem to bother them. The kids went down to the dock and still didn't scare them off.  Later when a hawk swooped down and didn't scare them off it still didn't dawn on me that they were decoys! Beth and I were watching the guys and the kids fishing while we whipped up pancakes and turkey bacon for breakfast. When we went down to get them for breakfast they said one of the geese had been looking at the sky for several hours. Just a few minutes later a boat pulled out from the island right near the decoys. The fishermen we decently camouflaged because none of us knew they were there. Goose and dove season had just opened so I guess we kind of ruined it for those guys in the weeds but fishing was eventful, fun, and the kids will remember fishing with their daddy and the geese that didn't move!

After breakfast the dads and kids played homerun derby again, Munchkin jumped in a kayak, and one of our sweet friends hung out and went swimming/hanging on the kayak.
This was a pretty amazing first family camping trip with our friends! Thank you Gus Crew for having us out to Camp Gus! :) Baby steps people! Next time maybe we will tackle a campground in a national park! If you are interested in the book Let Them Be Eaten By Bears you can click the link down here. I have recently become an Amazon Associate so when you click the link I may get a small proceed from your sale. Get your kids outside! Mine loved camping and I hope yours will too!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Whole 30 Lasagna

Last month when Bobby and I were doing Whole 30 I found some great recipes that I will definitely use again. In our 15 years of marriage I have only made lasagna once or twice. Part of the reason for this is that my hubs does not like ricotta cheese and will not touch it with a 10 foot pole. Since this lasagna is dairy and pasta free I thought it would be a win! I used this recipe from CupcakesOMG! and changed it just a bit to suit my family. Instead of Italian sausage I used turkey sausage and I used a white onion instead of red. I did use a small 8 x 8 pan and used 2 zucchinis. I started out trying to slice the zucchini with a knife but was quite unsuccessful and I was a little afraid of chopping off a finger so I busted out the Pampered Chef Mandolin. I lost the guard long ago so there was still the possibility of chopping off a finger but I was aware and managed to come out unscathed.

After browning the ground beef and turkey sausage I mixed all of the other ingredients in and layered them with the zucchini and black olives. If you have read my blog for long you know black olives are not on top of my must eat list but the rest of my family loves them.

All I can say is "win, win , win"! Not only did this make a fantastic, filling dinner, it heated up quite well for lunch the next day! If you are looking for something dairy or gluten free check this out! You cannot go wrong!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

{FFWD} Pork Chops with Rosemary Butter and Two Catch Up Recipes

Whew! It has been a couple of weeks since I have been on the blogging band wagon with French Fridays with Dorie. I have made some of the recipes but while we were doing Whole30 items like Floating Islands were out. However, we are done now and I have added food items back in that we were not eating.

The pork chops up at the top of the pictures was supposed to be veal. I did look for veal but did not see anything that fit the bill at the grocery store. Others said they were using pork chops and that is something I usually have in the freezer. I took 4 tablespoons of butter and mixed in rosemary, thyme, and garlic salt. This went back in the fridge while I made the pork chops. The chops cooked in my big skillet with a little olive oil, minced garlic, and more rosemary. Once they were cooked through I added white wine and chicken broth, cooked it down and sprinkled it over the cooked chops. I sliced a dollop of rosemary and put it on top of the chop and served it with lemon steamed spinach. Have you been to a fancy restaurant where they have a flavor infused butter on their steaks? This, this is what you want! I will definitely be making this butter again to add to chops and steaks! So delicious. Unfortunately, I did not have time to savor my dinner that night as I was running out the door to work.

The next set of pictures is for duck chicken breasts with fresh peaches. The chicken turned out pretty good but the peaches did not. I think if I had used duck instead of chicken there may have been a big difference in the taste. When I said that was what I was going to get at the store though Munchkin made the puke face and my hubster may have copied her. My family has no problem eating chicken but ducks seem to be another story. I think if I had just sliced the peaches and placed them on the plates instead of trying to roast them they would have tasted better. The peaches also may not have been quite as ripe as they needed to be.

The last set of pictures is for Swordfish with Frilly Herb Salad. You can see I am missing frilly herb salad. Sometimes I have fresh herbs but more often I have dried. I did have lovely yellow squash to use though and it steamed up nicely. I have to admit, I have never been much of a fish fan. Before this day, I had never had swordfish. I didn't even really know where to look for it. However, the day I went looking for it at Publix I found it on sale! It was meant to be. :) I was a little afraid but this was delicious! Both kids and my husband loved it as well. I am sure part of it was the marinade that included capers that made it so tasty. What ever it was I will likely make this again.

I am still missing several recipes from the last month or so but I am hoping to catch up soon. Make sure to check out French Fridays with Dorie to see how other cooks around the world enjoyed these recipes. You can also pick up Around My French Table at Amazon. I just became an affiliate so if you click the link I may get a small percentage of sales.

Next week:Tuna Packed Piquillo Peppers

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

{TWD: Baking with Julia} Blueberry Muffins

Welcome back to Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia! I haven't post much on Tuesdays for the last little while. This blueberry muffin recipe was an easy one to pop back in on. I have a blueberry muffin recipe that I use on a regular basis but this one went over pretty well with my family this morning. It included sour cream but no struesal topping like my other recipe. The kids liked these, my hubster liked these, and I liked them. I was not thrilled that the berries sank even after dusting them with flour but they were tasty anyway!

To see how other bakers around the world did with these make sure to check out the Leave Your Link

Monday, September 02, 2013

Our Whole30 Experience

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am going to IFBC, the best food blogger conference in the country, in a couple of weeks.  To get in shape...or at least try to jumpstart some healthier eating...or at least have looser clothing before I go to the conference,  my hubs and I decided to tackle Whole30. This is an elimination diet, or a short term "nutritional reset". You eliminate grains, dairy, soy, and anything manufactured. You basically include the best quality meat you can, preferably grain fed, organic. You can have vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, and healthy oils. You can go all out and get all high end stuff but I still had to actually feed my family on our budget. While I do 93/7 ground beef, and tried to get nitrate free bacon we did the best we would with the rest of our meat.

We ate A LOT of eggs and bacon for breakfast. For a family that eats cereal, oatmeal, toast, pancakes and bananas for breakfast this was a big change. How many ways can one eat eggs? Scrambled with a tiny bit of ghee, scrambled with green onions, scrambled with spinach (not anyone's favorite), scrambled with ghee, green onions and rosemary, fried in ghee, fried in same pan bacon was cooked in, scrambled with sausage mixed in, scrambled with breakfast steak mixed in, and hard boiled.

Lunches for my hubs included a lot of salads with grilled chicken. He did get a hot dog with chili minus the bun one day and we went to lunch at Qdoba once as well. That was kind of a cheat day. I had a naked burrito with brown rice, chicken, grilled veggies, and guacamole. He also had rice that day as well. Lunches for me tended to be grilled chicken with veggies and fruit I had around the house. I tried to be prepared the days that I was teaching by bringing a salad, again with grilled chicken and fruit on it.

I have to say, for dinners I spent more time in the kitchen over the last 30 days cooking than I have in quite some time. I had to be creative because I couldn't just order a pizza, or make tacos with the sleeve of taco seasoning or make a pan of mac and cheese. I cooked with olive oil and coconut oil. I coated chicken in shredded coconut. I made marinades from scratch, and found plenty of ways to cook veggies we don't normally eat.

About day 16 I got this timeline from a friend asking if that was really they way it went. There was some truth to it however, I have not been drinking soda since December of last year so I didn't have a caffeine detox to go through. Bobby did but managed to get through it with a few headaches. The "Kill All the Things" came on day 14. I was irrational and completely crazy. And I felt bad for taking it out on everyone. But it was one day and then I was ok again. About week 3 I was getting a little bored with eggs and not feeling as inspired to put together meals in the kitchen. I like cooking but was tired of washing all of the pans But we kept going. Bobby was extremely encouraging and stuck to the program so much better than I did. I bake for my classes on weeks 1 and 5. This particular class asked for peanut butter fudge for week 5. I will admit I ate 1 piece and discovered I could have eaten the entire pan if left to my own devices. Thank goodness my students liked it and took the rest of it home with them.

I hate to admit this but I felt really good eating this way. I had heartburn 1 day after eating almond butter by itself but other than that my stomach has felt really good. I had a couple of days when my stomach was growling a bit but then we would eat a good dinner and not be hungry at all after that. After the first few days sugar cravings went away. It was not difficult for me to give up bread, pasta, pizza, or Mexican food. I don't have a a sweet tooth I have sweet teeth so giving up sugar was more difficult. Bobby loves his bread, pizza, and Mexican food so that part was more difficult for him. He did say that he was not feeling sluggish in the afternoon and didn't feel like he needed a Diet Mt. Dew for a pick me up.

As an added bonus, I lost 14 pounds and I lost an inch in one area and 2.5 inches in other areas. Bobby lost 20 pounds and 2-4 inches in different areas.

Overall, we did a pretty good job sticking to the program for 30 days. This is my birthday week so we have a few things planned that are not the healthiest options but we are planning on sticking pretty close to what we have been doing for the next few weeks. Perhaps I can lose a few more pounds and inches before my conference. I will post some recipes from our Whole30 in the coming week or so. Good luck to you if you choose to join in!

Monday, August 19, 2013

{Spam and Anchovies} Wild Cow Edition

Me, Denise Vanessa, Melissa, Sara, Beth, Becca, and Leanne
I love these ladies! :) It has been a couple of months since I have had the opportunity to eat and laugh with this hilarious group of women. Of course this month I was available but my hubs and I decided it would be a good idea to do Whole30.(It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways)...30 days of meat, veggies, fruit, seeds and nuts, and healthy fats. After thinking about a theme to go with Whole30 we decided on a vegetarian restaurant. It is summer time so everyone was all about going out to dinner. You would think I could find all kinds of great stuff to eat at a vegetarian restaurant but I ended up cheating quite a bit that night (I have done well the rest of the month).  

Our adventure began when we all had to look for parking. East Nashville is hipstery and trendy and cool but parking is not easy. After driving around for awhile I finally found a spot next to a building that looked suspiciously like a triplex. I was a little worried that I would come out after dinner and my car would be gone. Alas, all was good and I was able to drive away at the end of the evening. 

Beth and her sweet mother in law, Denise, got to The Wild Cow first and put our names in. It was perfect timing as everyone arrived just as we got to go in. Sara had popped a tire and was on the phone trying to get it fixed but joined us quickly. She was the only one of us who had been to the restaurant before and we were all excited to hear what she though about some of the different dishes. 
 As we were ordering all of our delicious sounding dishes we exchanged concerns about our servers extremely unkempt beard. We were a little weirded out that it was so bushy. It may have been Melissa that wanted to offer him a hairnet. I did order Kombucha because that is something that I can have on Whole30. Unfortunately it never came as they were out. I ended up with unsweet raspberry ice tea which was quite tasty. Each and every one of our meals were delicious. A couple of ladies joked they were going to go across the street to Rose Pepper Cantina. But, the point of cooking club is that we try new things so everyone stuck around and ate vegetarian food. :) We did have quite the range of dishes. I had Beans and Greens which was garlicky kale, pinto beans and garlic aioli over brown rice. I added the avocado and was glad I did. I have to admit I woke up with garlic coming out of my pores.

The Wild Cow has a cool vibe for the area. The servers wear slouchy hats and shirts with the sleeves ripped off. You can see their tattoos and nose rings. They even have cuddly pictures of cows, ducks, and chickens on the walls. You are not eating them so it is fun to see them. We did think it was funny though that some of our conversation was concentrated on which burger places are the best around town. It was a fun place to go but it was really loud in there.
At the end of dinner and post check payage Leanne and Vanessa had a little bit of backwash water and adult beverage left over so they chugged to finish their drinks off. I am not sure who won but Leanne is giving thumbs up to Vanessa. Crazy ladies.

We thought about leaving the Wild Cow and heading over to Jeni's for ice cream but the line was out the door. We just stood around for a little but longer chatting in what could have been a dance off circle, ended with a group hug and went our separate ways. I think I may miss again next month as I am heading to the food blogger conference. Can't wait until October when I get to see all of these fun women again!