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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Blogher Food '11 Atlanta

I decided I better post something here, lest you all think I had been taken aware during the rapture. I have been busy having fun in Atlanta, and now Charleston. After spending days talking about food, learning about food, and meeting other food bloggers; it is hard to find the time to actually write a blog post.
Many of you have asked what one does at a food blogging conference? I wasn't really sure what to expect as this was my first one. I can tell you now that you can expect a lot of socializing, networking, learning, and eating; not necessarily in that order, but pretty close. I have tried to figure out how to write this post; I want to give shout outs to all the lovely people I met along with sharing some of the knowledge I gained during the event. I have decided to highlight my favorite moments of the weekend...
1. Dinner at Cakes and Ale with Rachel from Hounds in the Kitchen, Amy from Idiot Mom, Melissa from Taste Sip Travel, Janet from A Cook at Heart, and Kate from Blue Chair Fruit. Such a lovely group of ladies. It was so nice meeting them all right away as there was always a familiar face in the hallway to smile at or  chat with for a bit between sessions or during breaks.
2. Being roommates with Kate from Blue Chair Fruit. I have been a big fan of their jam and the cookbook for a while. It was great to meet Kate and see how much she loves her job and believes in the company. You often wonder it the pretty pictures, happy faces, and tea parties are all a facade to sell more jam. I can tell you after meeting Kate that they are not. They love what they do. That makes me happy.  The next time I am in San Francisco I am taking a jam class for sure!
3. Meeting up with the folks from Bob's Red Mill and all the great samples. I'm especially excited about the whole wheat cous-cous. I also learned that my local Fred Meyer store will carry any of their products, all I have to do is ask.
4. Scharffen Berger chocolate. They were one of the most generous sponsors; I'm headed home with pounds of baking and eating chocolate. I can't wait to make something with that 70% chocolate baking bar.
5. Four cocktail parties in two days! Thanks to Rockher, Blogher, and Tasty Kitchen for all the great drinks; Banana Margaritas, Peach Martinis, POM Martinis, and the Starbuck VIA Martini, and also my new favorite beer Sweetwater 420.
5. Sweet Auburn Curb Market. It was a small little market, but it was so much fun seeing all the collard greens, beautiful peaches, and huge watermelons. The produce all looked so good. The best part was a peach lemonade. They roasted the peaches with raw cane sugar and then blended them with lemonade. See more pictures from the market on my Arctic Garden Studio Facebook page.
6. Thanking Jaden Hair from Steamy Kitchen for being the first commenter on my blog.
7. Sitting down next to Molly Birnbaum, not recognizing her and then going on to talk about her trip to Denali National Park, and life in Alaska. She is a sweetheart, I look forward to reading her new book.
8. All the great sessions, the biggest lesson learned is that everyone who has been successful did it by being themselves, and having passion for their work. They didn't worry about marketing and SEO, this was good to hear. All the photography tips were incredibly helpful. If you want to learn more, check out the live posts online from Blogher.
9. Dancing at the Tabernacle. I don't think I have danced in years. They had a great selection of music that evening and after some serious toe tapping I decided to get out on the dance floor. It was so fun to watch all of the other bloggers cut loose as well.
10. After waiting all weekend for Hank Shaw to have a free moment (this guy is really popular with the ladies), I finally snuck in a quick hello before leaving the Tabernacle. He said that  he "loved his Alaska readers, because they are doing this every day".  I am a huge fan of his site Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook as I always find some inspiration for cooking in Alaska. I wish he would have been around when I was in college during all those edible food classes.
11. Finally, Sublime Doughnuts are amazing. Caramel Apple Fritters, Smore's Doughnuts, Orange Cream Stars...Oh my!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mexican Goddess Dressing

This could replace ketchup,sriracha, or whatever your condiment of choice might be at the moment. I really like creamy salad dressings, but lately I have been trying to eat a little healthier. The calories in Ranch, Blue Cheese, and Green Goddess Dressing add up fast when the mayonnaise and buttermilk come out. I really wasn't too sure about this recipe when I first looked at it. I just didn't think it would turn out right. Would it be creamy, and would it really be as good as Green Goddess? I had avocado standing by just in case it needed a little help, but it didn't. Honestly, I think it is better than Green Goddess. This isn't just a good salad dressing; it would also be great on meat, sandwiches, tacos, burritos, you name it. David was really excited about it too, the only complaint was that it needed some heat. So, if you like things spicy I would recommend adding a little red pepper, not too much though as I would hate to see you ruin the delicate flavor.
This stuff is so good David asked if I could make some more before I leave for Atlanta. I did, plus I doubled the recipe and included that version below. I'm not sure it helped though, we just ate twice as much of it last night.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Meyer Lemon Liquor

Sorry that I am so late getting this to you, but hopefully you will remember and save it when meyer lemon season rolls around again. I also know that some people do still have some meyer lemons on the trees in their yard, so maybe they would be up for one last project. One of the projects I had at the top of my list this past winter was to make Limoncello. I love the idea of a great little lemony summer beverage. Those bottles will look so beautiful frosted up on a hot summer day.
This past February after receiving a wonderful bunch of lemons from the Lemon Ladies Orchard I decided to get going on the project. I started researching recipes. I wanted something spectacular, not just a lemon flavored vodka. There are a lot of quick Limoncello recipes out there and I wasn't really sold on any of them. Pretty much all the recipes called for adding water to the mix. Our water isn't the greatest and I didn't want to muck up the recipe. I thought about using bottled water, but then it struck me; why not use lemon juice? The problem was that the juice doesn't get used until 30 days in. So, I froze the juice for 30 days or so. Then used it instead of water for the simple syrup.
I kept forgetting to strain mine, so the time between step 3 and 4 was a lot more than 30 days. I wasn't too worried about it though as I had been extremely diligent in scraping all the pith off the lemon peels to avoid any hint of bitter flavor. The final result is beautiful. The flavor is just the right amount of sweet, with no bitterness at all. The thing is with all the changes I made to the recipe, I'm not really certain that what I made is actually Limoncello. Not really sure what the exact requirements are, so just to be safe I am going to call it Lemon Liquor. I can't wait for the first hot summer day to break into that chilled bottle waiting for me in  the fridge.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Italian Tuna Salad with White Tepary Beans

Why do I blog? I get asked this question alot. It's a question I can't really answer beyond the fact that I really enjoy it. I really enjoy the process of cooking and sharing with a community. There are parts of blogging I like more than others. I'll be honest; writing is not my strong suit. I do however love the photography; both taking photos and editing them. I want to learn more. For me, blogging is a hobby I guess. I say "I guess" because I wouldn't necessarily turn down a good financial opportunity if it came my way. The thing is that I am not ready to sell my blogging soul to the corporate sponsor. I have at various times tried advertising, but the $3.13 I made didn't really seem worth having ads cluttering up the space. I do provide amazon links to the cookbooks I cook from, and if someone ever bought a book through that link I guess I would make a little something, but that hasn't happened yet. I like the idea of convenience that the book is just a click away if you were interested in ordering it, although I have to say that I would prefer you buy it at your local bookstore. 
The reason I am telling you this today is because I am really excited about these beans. I don't want you to think that someone paid me to say these are the greatest beans. Really, they are the best little beans I have ever tasted. They are White Tepary beans from Rancho Gordo. They are rather small, but they hold their shape well. I have a tendancy to cook my beans too long, so I am always happy when they hold up to my abuse. Never before have I cooked a pot of bean and then proceeded to eat them straight from the pot, unadorned. There is something slightly sweet about them. They were perfect in this Italian Tuna Salad. While I am telling you about the beans from Rancho Gordo I also wanted to say that their cookbook is amazing too. I have owned this book for over a year and had not cooked anything from it until David's birthday about a month ago. You see I am trying to make some space on my bookshelves by possibly getting rid of some cookbooks I don't use. The plan is to at least give them a chance before I send them on their way. Now I am sorry I didn't start cooking from this one sooner, even if it doesn't free up any room on the bookshelf.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Margarita Brownies

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Do you remember when you first learned that there was a holiday devoted to drinking margaritas? I'm not sure how old I was when I learned this fact, but I know that I was at least old enough to look like I was 21. A bunch of friends were going to a local restaurant called Los dos Amigos for dinner. Then I learned it was to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, suddenly I felt like someone had forgotten to tell me about Santa Claus. Since then I have tried to make up for it. Homemade Guacamole and Margaritas are a staple of the day.
This year I also wanted to celebrate the day here on the blog. I was trying to come up with a fun dessert idea. Margarita Cupcakes have already been done 100 times over on the internet. I was thinking about Margarita sorbet, a nice cooling way to end a dinner. Then I found a recipe on The Kitchn for Extra Dark brownies with Sea Salt and Lime. I was torn, which do I make? In the end it was our rock solid limes at Fred Meyer that made the final call. I juiced the first one and netted about 2 teaspoons of juice. At that rate I was looking at at least 20 limes at .78 cents a piece to make sorbet. Brownies it is. I switched up a few ingredients to make them more Margarita like. I loved the smell floating through my kitchen when I put them in the oven, first it smelled like I was having a Margarita party and then slowly the chocolate smell of fresh baked brownies took over. Because I was bringing these to work I took it easy on the salt on top. Next time I would be a little more generous with it. In the end I couldn't really taste a strong citrus presence, just a full bodied chocolate flavor. It reminded me a lot of a chocolate bar I recently had from Rogue Chocolatier. The lime gave the brownies a really rich flavor. I don't think they will replace regular chocolate brownies, but I could definitely see them becoming a Cinco de Mayo tradition.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bulgur and Coconut Breakfast Cereal

It is May 3, and it is snowing here in Fairbanks. When I went out to the truck this morning the geese were flying south. I could hardly blame them. I'd move my flight south up two weeks if I could. It is 81 degrees today in Atlanta. I'm thinking about warm Georgia peaches, fresh from the tree. In the mean time I'll be sticking with hot cereal for breakfast.
This is my new favorite breakfast cereal. I have been a fan of oatmeal for years, but lately I am finding it kind of Ho-Hum. I have branched out with a few varieties of baked oatmeal, but those are all fairly complex endeavors for a week day breakfast. I have also been perfecting my porridge recipe which I hope to share with you soon.
This recipe makes weekday hot cereal feel special, even decadent. I love the nutty flavor and chewy texture. The coconut milk makes it incredibly creamy. Plus, it includes Meyer Lemon. What's not to love?

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