May 27, 2013

Food Blog Forum

Remember when you used to wait for concert tickets to go on sale?
Dialing over & over desperately trying to get through?
(Here's where my age shows) Back then, we didn't have redial and all I could imagine was ticket after ticket being sold & my seat would go to someone who CLEARLY didn't love Van Halen as much as I did. 

Snagging a spot for this conference was kinda like that...  These tickets were a hot item.  Apparently it sold out in 10 minutes flat.   My ticket had been hanging on the front of my refrigerator (an appropriate place) for the past 3 months.   I was anxiously awaiting for the day to arrive and this past weekend it finally had.

The Food Blog Forum was here! 

I left early in the morning to drive up to Orlando because registration started at 10am and I had already planned to say hello face to face with a few blogger buddies I only knew online.  We also had passes to the parks, and we were free until the evening to play!  Hello Epcot!

Friday evening was our "Welcome Reception".   I only knew one person going in and although I'm generally not very shy, walking into a room of over a hundred people who all do what you do is a little intimidating.
I just kept telling myself  "pretend you're not scared, it will be ok".

This was my first food blogger conference, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect.  Walking into that room of bloggers was overwhelming.  I'll be honest, it was a little scary.

I'm sure that I am not the only one who thought to themselves "will they like me?"  "is my blog good enough?"

There were people there that are a very big deal and have huge followings on their blogs.
Some of them have been doing this for well over a decade and they really know their stuff.
So, yes...  I was scared walking into that room, but I didn't need to be. 
I met some great people, some of whom were just as nervous as I was!

Lobster Salad with Avocado

After a few hors d'oeuvres and a glass of wine, chatting with some new friends the reception came to an end and it was time to get ready for a full day of presentations on Saturday.

Day 2:

Jaden & Scott Hair of Steamy Kitchen  started the day with their presentation "Redefining Success & Setting Goals"

The points made during this presentation were applicable to real life and not just blogging life.

- You need to clearly define your goal.  If you can't define it, how will you be able to achieve it?
- When I achieve _______, then I'll feel _________.
- How do you define success? For some of us it is financial, for others it is a sense of freedom to do more of what they'd like to do.  For example, being able to spend time at home with their families.
-Life changes when you change your focus.

Next up was Diane Cu & Todd Porter of White on Rice Couple.  This presentation was titled
"Taking your Visual Ideas to Flight" and I could've listened to them for hours. 
They spoke about finding your visual voice, telling a story and finding inspiration.  The best camera? It's you.  Your eyes are your lens, your heart is your shutter.  That really resonated with me, because sometimes I am so busy taking photos that I feel like I'm missing the experience.
One of the best little nuggets of info from their presentation was learning about Animoto, a website that helps create video from your still images.

The day ended with a Grassroots Community Building talk with panelists and organizers of FBF Julie Deily and Lindsay Landis, Jeff Houck and one of my favorite guys David Leite.

This group led a discussion on community and the various communities that surround us.  From our closest friends and family to colleagues, fellow bloggers and blog readers everyone is critical to the growth and success of what we do. 
My big takeaway from this was that to someone out there, you are a star.  This again, I feel goes beyond blog life and into real life.  Each one of us is special to someone out there in the world and each person we interact with is a potential member of our community.  Be authentic and engage your community.
I have always been fairly open, but there will be a few changes coming in this little space of the blogosphere.  I want to connect with my community, my readers in a way that perhaps I haven't before.  It is daunting to really put yourself out there, but that is exactly what I'm going to do because it's worth it.  You guys are worth it.  Without you, there is no blog and I am so very appreciative for the time you take out of your day to be here.

Sunday, our final day, was a brunch at Whole Foods. It was our last chance to see a few of our new friends before everyone went back home.  It was a great time, yummy food and more canoodling with like minded people who also need to photograph their food before they eat it.

Here is the entire group!
photo courtesy of: Jennifer Holt

Lastly, a big thank you to the wonderful sponsors of Food Blog Forum:
Walt Disney World
OXO (I won a gorgeous steel mandolin from OXO in one of the giveaways! YAY!)
Kitchen Aid
Whole Foods
Florida Dairy Farmers

May 10, 2013

A foolish mess...

Let me say that I think we should appreciate our Mom's on more than just one day a year...  It is an incredibly important job that is sometimes thankless.
Through terrible two's and rebellious teenage years, through laughter and tears, joy and fear... you are there for it all.
So, to every Mom out there:  Happy Mother's Day today and everyday for all that you do!
Now that I've earned my birthday and Christmas presents for next year, let's get to it.  

This weekend is Mother's Day and the Internet, food magazines, morning shows, cooking shows, even the evening news is filling the space between our ears with recipes to make for Mom...
Most of them even look really good!  But here's the problem:  MOM isn't the one making them!
(I hope!)  

More than a few of the recipes featured have ingredient lists long enough to make even the average home cook sweat under the collar, much less someone who rarely ventures into that mystical space from where food magically appears.

May 01, 2013

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie.   These three little words make me sit on the edge of my seat in anticipation.  In my book, it is one of the most perfect desserts.  The fact that it is ridiculously easy gives it major bonus points. 
Growing up, I don't think I'd even heard of key lime pie.  We had apple, peach, strawberry-rhubarb, blueberry, pecan, pumpkin, lemon meringue, chocolate cream, but never key lime. 

Perhaps that is why I have developed a serious love for this barely green, barely sweet little tart.
We weren't introduced until I was able to have a proper appreciation for something so perfect in its simplicity.
My insatiable sweet tooth has been discussed on several occasions right here on this very blog and although I won't deny that I love dessert, what I do not love is desserts that are cloying.

That makes this pie the perfect sweet for me.  It is creamy and smooth,  just barely sweet with a nice tart bite that gets you right on the sides of your tongue making you immediately go back for more (or maybe that's only me).
The graham cracker crust harkens back to pre-school with it's sweet smell that makes one long for mandatory nap time.

Key Lime Tart
recipe barely adapted from America's Test Kitchen

I wouldn't dare suggest that you only make this pie with actual key limes, as most of you probably don't have access to them.  I made this filling with regular (Persian) limes and their zest.  I also tried bottled key lime juice, but preferred the juice of fresh limes for their bright, citrusy flavor.

Normally, the filling for this pie is not cooked and it sets up in the refrigerator.  I'm sure those of you that have ordered (or even made) key lime pie have found yourselves a bit disappointed on occasion.  Although the filling is set enough to slice, it can be a bit too loose.  After reading dozens of recipes, I found a solution: 
a short stint in the oven to set the filling resulted in a creamy, custard-like filling that set beautifully and sliced perfectly clean. 

-This recipe will make a 9" pie or 4 tarts (4 1/2" size)

For the filling:
4 large egg yolks
1 heaping tbsp. grated lime zest
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 5 - 6 limes)
1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz)
tiny pinch salt

Whisk egg yolks and lime zest together in a medium bowl.

After 1 1/2 - 2 minutes, your mixture should look like this.  Bright yellow - green from the lime zest.  No need for green food coloring!

Whisk in condensed milk until mixture is smooth, then whisk in lime juice.  Cover and set aside.

Now make the crust...

For the Crust
8 graham crackers, broken into pieces
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tbsp. sugar
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 325.   Put graham crackers in food processor and run for about 45 seconds until you have fine crumbs.   Pour melted butter over crumbs, add sugar & salt and pulse (5 -7 times should do) until you have what resembles wet sand.

Pour crumbs into pie plate, (or if using tart molds: 1/4 - 1/3 cup in each) pressing crumbs into an even layer on bottom and sides. 
Using the bottom of measuring cup makes this task much easier!
Bake crust for 13 - 16 minutes (tarts: approx. 12 minutes); remove from oven and set on wire rack. 
Do not turn off oven.

Pour filling into warm pie crust and bake 15 - 18 minutes (tarts: 10 - 12 minutes).  Remove from oven and let them cool for about an hour before refrigerating. 
Once cooled, place in refrigerator for 2 - 3 hours until chilled and set.

Top with whipped cream.