Friday, May 27, 2011

BlogHer Food, Arrival and RockHer Party

I still can't believe I attended the BlogHer Food Conference in Atlanta. Did I really board a flight in Austin and fly all the way to Georgia by myself to rub elbows with fellow food bloggers? To geek out about seeing Jaden of Steamy Kitchen, Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen and the David Lebovitz from Paris? It all feels like a wonderful dream!

I started tweeting with other attendees long before the conference started by searching for the hashtag #blogherfood. When I had a longer than planned wait in Houston for the second leg of my flight to Atlanta, I used that time to check in with other food bloggers via twitter to find out how everyone was doing. There were a lot of tweets about driving in, flying in, and also about taxi sharing from the Atlanta airport. Sweet! What a brilliant idea!

I also saw some tweets thanking Moe's for the party bus. Party bus? Who? What? Where? I sent a tweet to Moes Southwest Grill @Moes_HQ to see if they were providing a shuttle from the airport to the host hotel. I was surprised when I landed in Atlanta and received a tweet back from Moe's asking when my flight landed. I tweeted that I had just touched the ground and was walking towards baggage claim now.

The picture above is how I was greeted at baggage claim. What a warm welcome! Although we don't have Moe's Southwest Grill in Texas, they were more than happy to let me crash their little party bus.

Look, there is the Executive Chef of Moe's, along with other food blogger from around the country who were selected to be on the bus. Moe's served wine, chips and salsa on our trip to the hotel and I had the chance to chat with the President of Moe's and one of their PR/Marketing Representatives. Moe's targeted 20 bloggers, and 1 blogger targeted them. (Me) Thanks again Moe's for the ride, and the wine. You guys rock! Let me know when you open a store in Texas.

Although checking into the Westin Peachtree was not a smooth experience (don't worry I tweeted them too) the room had a really nice view.

From the 55th floor, the floor to ceiling windows revealed a beautiful downtown Atlanta.

Here is a picture of my hotel room. I didn't photograph the bathroom, it was so tiny I don't think any pictures would have turned out...but just imagine a sink, toilet and shower - bam, a bathroom.

Continue reading about my first night in Atlanta here....

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Easy Breakfast Muffins

Last month I had a contest on Home with Mandy where I gave away a few dozen cake balls. In order to ship them and ensure they made it in one piece, I packaged the cake balls in egg cartons...then I was left with a bunch of eggs in my fridge. That's when I started looking for recipes calling for large amounts of eggs, hence the recent Creme Brulee post.

I found these super easy breakfast muffins are perfect to make on the weekend and then eat them one by one during the week. You can pop them in the microwave for 45 seconds before sprinting out the door because you are late for work… again. Oh, that’s just me?

I’m not the sharpest crayon in the box in the AM. It takes me a long time to get moving and time just gets away from me. Eating a good breakfast is the absolute last thing on my mind. Jim has tried really hard to get me to eat breakfast and stocks the fridge each week with something quick and easy, like greek yogurt, cut up fruit or a protein shake. He makes the best protein shakes with a frozen banana, protein powder and a squirt of honey for sweetness.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pork Loin with Pineapple Relish

Ever feel like you are running in a chicken rut? Yes, chicken is a versatile protein and I’ve made it no less than 100 different ways…but there are times when I just can’t do it one more night in a row. I asked Jim to pick something for dinner other than chicken and he asked for pork. I really haven’t cooked with pork a whole lot. My favorite cut is boston butt or pork shoulder because I just love to slowly roast it and serve pulled pork to a crowd. I used my epicurious iPhone app to search for a pork entrée and just loved the tropical relish proposed in this recipe for pork loin chops.

It’s hot in Texas, so just thinking about the Caribbean climate and the palm-tree breezes had me singing Jimmy Buffett all the way to the grocery store. The ingredient list is short, but each component adds a very special “zing” to this recipe. I encourage everyone to experiment in the kitchen, but know that this recipe was written just perfectly in my opinion.

Yield: Makes 2 servings

Active Time: 25 min
Total Time: 25 min

Yes, I'm telling you that in under 30 minutes (from start to finish) you can have dinner on the table!

1 1/2 cups chopped fresh pineapple.
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh serrano chile, including seeds.
1 teaspoon chopped thyme. I used dried thyme because I had it on hand, I would guess the fresh thyme would be better.
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar. Yes, it’s just a splash but the tang of the vinegar helps with the sweetness of the pineapple and the heat from the chile.
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 (1-inch-thick) boneless pork loin chops
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons dark rum. Yes please. I love every opportunity to cook with alcohol. Sometimes I add it to the food.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Hunger is Unacceptable

I am thrilled to be a member of the newly formed Austin Food Blogger Alliance (#AFBA or @ATXfoodblogs on twitter). Our mission is to work together to set a standard of transparency and fairness in food blogging. We also support each other and our community through classes, social events, and philanthropy.

The first official event for AFBA happened last month at the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) where I met other Austin food bloggers to embark on our first philanthropy project. Our visit to the CAFB really opened my eyes to the myths of food stamps and my misconceptions. I was shocked to hear that 82 percent of CAFB clients are not homeless and 41 percent are children.

Let me let that sink in just a second. In December 2010 the CAFB dealt with 49,409 cases in Travis County with 110,756 people receiving benefits...and nearly half of those were children.

It was really great to meet Lisa Goddard and hear from her about the positive programs CAFB has implemented in our city. At the same time it was heart breaking to hear the large number of folks who have to decide between buying food for their family or paying the utility bill. The Federal Food Stamp Program changed it's name to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) in 2008.

If you live in Texas you may have seen signs in grocery stores that say "Lone Star Card Accepted." Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) gives food (SNAP) benefits through the Lone Star Card. This is a plastic card that is used like a debit card. Each month, your approved monthly benefit amount is placed in the card's account. I thought this debit card system was a smart way to allow clients to be discrete at the grocery store.

Hunger exists when an individual lacks access to the resources needed to provide enough healthy, nutritious food on a regular basis. 1 in every 2 people in the COUNTRY will be on SNAP at some point in their life. Alex Cruz would know, she is one of the case workers who helps families and individuals sort through the very LONG and confusing application for the SNAP program. She knows first hand how to debunk the many myths about SNAP benefits.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee

Even though I've heard over and over again how EASY creme brulee is, I never attempted it because I am not confident when it comes to baking anything. Hand me a bag full of groceries and I bet I could whip up a spectacular dinner - but ask me to bake cookies, brownies, pudding, cupcakes...uh, I will look back at you with a blank stare. I hate how the measurements on baked goods have to be exact, maybe it's the fact that in my kitchen I don't follow the rules. My cooking is exactly that...mine. I like to use recipes simply as a guide...but a recipe for a baked good isn't a guide, it's a road map that must be followed exactly or else you run off the road and down a cliff. Next thing you know, you are crying in front of the stove as your cupcakes fall into a concave shape in the muffin tins.             Oh, that's just me?

Now that you know my angst surrounding baking you are probably wondering how in the world I talked myself into Creme Brulee. Last weekend I had seen yet another cooking show where the chef whips up creme brulee and exclaims to the audience how utterly easy it is to do. Well, I've about heard enough! That was it! I am going to the store to buy my own butane blow torch (it was the ONE kitchen gadget I have yet to own) It was the blow torch that really sent me in a tizzy. Blowing fire and burning things never looked so fun! I settled on a recipe, made my grocery list and hit up my HEB...only to leave with everything I needed except for the blow torch. I wasn't going to let that stop me. After all, I should find out if I am even capable of making a creme brulee before I purchase another kitchen gadget.

For my Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee, I stuck to a pretty traditional recipe. If you search online, you will find so many variations for the "basic" creme brulee. I found recipes calling anywhere from 3-10 eggs for one batch. Some say use vanilla bean, some say use vanilla extract. Some use whipping creme, some use whole milk, some half and half. Really, the recipes I found online ran the gamut. I pulled the best out of all I read to make my own - and I used both vanilla extract and a bean (for the black specks). My sweet Mother-in-Law brought me back the vanilla extract from her recent vacation to Mexico. Thanks Deb! And Jim thanks you too!