Tuesday, November 30, 2010

BlogHer Food 2010 - Day 1: The Sessions

The InterContinental San Francisco

Finally, with all of the holiday posting over with - back to the conference! So let me tell you... despite only having the one small glass of wine {or was it two?}, did I sleep hard the night after the Deen Brothers event!  My flight the morning of my arrival day before had been at 6:00 a.m. which means I had to leave the house around 4ish for the airport, which means basically I tossed and turned all night and didn't sleep but maybe 2 hours max. Once I hit the bed at the hotel, I crashed.  By the way, I use one of those sleep machines at night and yes, it travels with me.  If you are bothered by extraneous noises from noisy hotel guests and slamming doors when you travel, you might want to check this baby out - I love it!

Registration started early Friday at 7:00 a.m. and breakfast was at 8:30 a.m.  I got up, showered and headed downstairs to register, received my lanyard, and a copy of the conference guide that included the agenda, session track details and a map. We also received a big, fat swag bag that was already packed full of goodies, but was intended to collect more products, promotional samples, and coupons from sponsors located in the ballroom foyer and side rooms. There were great sponsors - the likes of Kraft, Athenos, Philadephia Cream Cheese, Cas Cal, Pepperidge Farm, Scharffen Berger, Cuties, Nature's Path Organic, Nutella, Stacy's and Underwriters Laboratory.

Best I can remember, breakfast was a collection of typical continental type fare - croissants and bagels, yogurt, fruit, that sort of thing, and of course, coffee, which, in the absence of bacon and eggs, was really all my jet-lagged self was remotely interested in this first day! Note to the conference organizers - how about at least some scrambled eggs and bacon next year? Just sayin'...

By the way, if I were going to pinpoint a typical style of dress for the conference, I have to say fairly casual to business casual was the norm. I actually wore blue jeans one day and black jeans another with business casual blouses, and reserved the dressier slacks for the parties. A few people broke out the off-the-shoulder stuff and sparkly clothing for the parties, but most folks were dressed pretty casual and comfortable even for those.

This first day, following breakfast, there was a 30-minute welcome from the founders of BlogHer, three full sessions, each an hour and 15 minutes long, with break-outs in between for demonstrations and samplings by the sponsors, lunch and two keynotes, one during lunch and one after the last session and before the BlogHer/Food Fete Welcome Party finale in the evening.  It was definitely a full day.

I really liked the way that they designed the sessions along a group of tracks. There were no pre-session sign-ups, so you could follow one track completely through the entire conference, or you could mix and match tracks. In fact, the setting was pretty casual so that if you found yourself in a session you maybe didn't care for much, you could walk out of that one and right into another one at any point. There were four tracks - Values, Visuals, Vocation and Voice, each led by a moderator along with 3 to 4 experienced bloggers who were asked questions both by the moderator and the audience.
  • The Values track dealt with topics concerning food safety and health, blogging ethics, urban farming, and the old school arts of canning, preserving and foraging.
  • Visuals dealt with topics covering food styling, photography, and multimedia.
  • Vocation dealt with the business side of blogging - working with brands and media, search engine optimization, recipe and cookbook writing.
  • Voice dealt with topics representing writing tips, storytelling, social media, and the cultural and geographic elements of a a blog.
It was difficult to decide which tracks to pick - I wanted to attend at least 3 out of every 4 for every session! I won't get into the specifics here (maybe in another post), but I stuck to the straight Vocation track for day one. Session I covered the topic of "How to Stand Out in a Crowded Blogosphere," and was led by Nataya Anderson of Fête & Feast, Marla Meridith of Family Fresh Cooking - who you may also remember as my competitor in the recent POM challenge, Amanda Rettke of I Am Baker, and Carrie Vitt of Deliciously Organic

Session I was followed by the first break-out Demos and Samplings, sponsored by CasCal, makers of a hand crafted, all natural soda. Marketed as an alternative to wine, it is a fermented soda. I tried one and it was interesting - sort of reminded me of a fruity malt liquor in a way, but non-alcoholic. Basically you just wandered from table to table for tastings of product, to watch demonstrations, and take away samples to add to your swag bag if you wanted to.


Lunch was sponsored by Kraft, who fed us choices of pasta, grilled chicken and fish, along with a several varieties from their new line of Philadelphia Cooking Creme sauces - a new product to be released in February 2011. That's my plate and as you see, I had a little taste of all of them. Since I didn't eat breakfast, I was a little bit hungry!
I have read some criticisms about the food around the blogosphere, and heard that some foodies took off to the hills of San Francisco for lunches, skipping out on afternoon sessions to experience San Francisco cuisine and that's fine, but I was there to learn and experience so I wasn't going anywhere! Besides, I'm not much of a food snob and along with the pasta, chicken and fish, there was a very nice soup, a gorgeous salad, with tender baby greens, veggies, grapes and raspberries, an assortment of grilled vegetables and slices of prosciutto with melon, so essentially I was pretty okay with the food.  It was way better than any conference food I've ever had before, and I think I took about a bite of everything offered just about and it was all delicious. There were even separate buffets set up with gluten free selections, and plenty of vegetarian options as well, throughout the conference.


During lunch, there was what they call an Innovative Interview with Dominique Crenn - Chef at Luce Restaurant at the InterContinental, but if you are a fan of Iron Chef America on Food Network, you may recognize her as a challenger who beat Chef Michael Symon. Basically there was a moderator who conducted an interview with Chef Crenn basically about the progression of her career from her home in Vesailles to running the Luce restaurant.

After lunch it was time for Session II.  For me that was "How Bloggers Work with Brands and Media," with Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen, Georgia Pellegrini, Anupy Singla from Indian As Apple Pie, and David Leite of Leite's Culinaria.  This session led directly into Session III, which for me was "Beginner Level Search Engine Optimization," led by Stephanie Stiavetti of Wasabi Mon and Stephanie Manley of CopyKat Recipes. Both sessions, like the first, were informative and I enjoyed them.


Course there was great wine everywhere to be tasted - it is wine country after all - but one of the most popular cocktails at break out were the Clemen'thyme Sparkles. Made by Chef Kathy Casey they contained Cuties - California mandarin oranges - plus fresh lemon, vodka, a bit of fresh thyme, and a splash of champagne. They were mighty fine, I tell ya! Check out the recipe at the bottom of this post.


The final keynote of the day was another Innovator Interview, this time with Aida Mollencamp star of the Food Network Show Ask Aida (I watch her all the time). She seemed a bit uncomfortable and kinda nervous to me. Isn't it funny how you think somebody like that who is on television and doing all these public things to be a total natural in front of a crowd and turns out often they are as shy as the rest of us?  I guess being on a stage in front of a bunch of folks staring at you is a little unsettling for anybody. To be honest, I really didn't get a lot out of either one of the Innovator Interviews - I guess because I don't see becoming an Executive Chef or Multimedia Mogul Food Network Star anywhere in my future, and had I known that, I would've likely just skipped the keynotes altogether, though it was nice to have the break to settle down a bit from brain overload.

After the closing keynote for the day there was just enough time to run upstairs, freshen up and change clothes to head across the street to Élan for the BlogHer/Food Fête Welcome Party. Now this was really foodie fun. Three solid floors of tasting and samplings from all kinds of food vendors, we were instructed to start at the top and work our way downstairs. Silly me, I didn't bring my swag bag, so I basically walked out with just a few things in my hands - cookies mostly for midnight snacking later.


After the Welcome Party, I had to high-tail it back across the street to meet up with some other bloggers and a few folks from ZipList who were treating us to dinner.  ZipList is a free shopping list management tool that you can compile from your favorite recipes. To see it in action check out the recipes on Martha Stewart's website!

Instead of catching a cab we took a very brisk stroll across a couple of city blocks, which frankly I was not too crazy about. I may be a small town girl but I know that big city downtown transforms into something totally different when the sun goes down! But there's safety in numbers so I felt a little bit okay with it.  We finally arrived at Mint Plaza, a small area of restaurants and bars in downtown San Francisco


We ate at the French restaurant, Chez Papa.  I'll be honest with ya. It was a nice place, but far too packed, way too hot, dark and so noisy, that it was impossible to even have a decent conversation at this restaurant.  We sat in the very back where you see that big shell colored headboard looking backdrop on the wall.  I wish I could remember the exact description from the menu, but I had the fish, which on this night it was a sautéed Cod, on melted leeks, with an amazing butter sauce. It was delicious, though the fish was a little on the cool side and the leeks were stringy.  Ah well, not the best food experience for a visit to San Francisco, but the company was nice and the staff at the restaurant were very attentive.


Again, I didn't know any of the other bloggers who had been invited to the dinner previously, so it was nice meeting them - well briefly anyway given the darkness and the noise level of the restaurant. Invited were Tricia from Once a Month Mom, Kathy from Panini Happy, Maris of In Good Taste and Vanessa of ChefDruck Musings.  {I'm sure I've missed somebody.} After the meal, most everybody took off for some other commitment and the restaurant emptied a bit, so it got quiet enough that those couple of us left there were able to at least talk a few minutes before the trek back to the hotel. That was kinda interesting.

As we passed the Old Mint building on 5th Street, there were obvious homeless folks making their spots on the wide stairs for the night.  They shouted at everyone on the street, and some just to themselves it seemed, but I followed the lead of our fearless leaders, kept my eyes straight ahead and walked quickly by. It made me sad though. We have our own homeless in the south of course, but they are generally not so bold or vocal and pretty much keep to themselves hidden in the wooded areas rather than out in the public.

Got back to the hotel, got ready for bed, and hit the sack, exhausted again. What a full day!  Here's that cocktail I told you about.

By the way, I haven't tested all the links here yet, so let me know if any of them aren't working!


Clemen'thyme Sparkle
Courtesy Cuties

1 large sprig of fresh thyme
1-1/2 ounces of vodka
1-3/4 ounces of Cuties Citrus Mix (recipe below)
Splash of champagne or sparkling wine
Small sprigs of fresh thyme and wedges of Cuties, for garnish

Drop the thyme into a shaker; add the citrus mix and vodka and fill the shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into martini glass, topping with a splash of champagne. Garnish if desired.

Cuties Citrus Mix:

1/4 cup of hot water
1/4 cup of local honey
5 Cuties, juiced (about 6 tablespoons juice)
1/2 cup of lemon juice

In a pitcher, mix the honey with the hot water until dissolved. Add remaining ingredients and refrigerate for up to 5 days.  Makes enough mix for about 6 drinks.

Non-alcoholic:  Use the mix on the rocks with a splash of soda water.

For more recipes visit Cuties on the net
Follow Cuties on Facebook

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Homemade Comeback Thousand Island Dressing

Iceberg wedge salad with Homemade Comeback Thousand Island Dressing and garnished with thin slices of red onion, sliced grape tomatoes, chopped pimentos and crumbled bacon.
Iceberg wedge salad with Homemade Comeback Thousand Island Dressing and garnished with thin slices of red onion, sliced grape tomatoes, chopped pimentos and crumbled bacon.

Homemade Comeback Thousand Island Dressing

I'm guessing that just about every southerner has a recipe in their recipe box for Thousand Island Dressing - and every one of them just a little bit different.  It's a pretty simple dressing really - just a mix of mayonnaise, add in some ketchup or chili sauce, throw in some chopped sweet pickles or pickle relish and a bit of chopped egg and you'll have a perfectly fine Thousand Island dressing.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Turkey Bone Thanksgiving Gumbo - Turkey Carcass Gumbo

A delicious gumbo made from the carcass of the holiday turkey.

Turkey Bone Thanksgiving Gumbo

Turkey bone gumbo, Thanksgiving gumbo or Turkey Carcass Gumbo - no matter the name you use, it is a great way to transform at least one of your Thanksgiving leftovers into a whole 'nother meal, by extracting every ounce of flavor from that holiday bird. While everybody is busy traveling and gathering for the big feast on Thanksgiving, I wanted to remind you not to toss that turkey carcass after your Thanksgiving feast!

And by the way, once all the feasting is over, pop back by here and check out my list of Thanksgiving leftover recipes too. You're bound to find something to transform those leftovers into something else your family will be happy to gobble down.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bourbon Glazed Sweet Potatoes

Fresh sweet potatoes baked in a cane syrup and brown sugar, bourbon glaze.
Fresh sweet potatoes baked in a cane syrup and brown sugar, bourbon glaze.

Bourbon Glazed Sweet Potatoes

Here in The Deep South, we absolutely love our sweet potatoes. And we love our cane syrup. Oh yeah, and our bourbon. You'll find it expressed in an awful lot of recipes, especially around the holidays, so it's no surprise that we love our sweet potatoes glazed with a syrupy bourbon too. For us down along this way, that's most often made using Steen's pure cane syrup, a well loved and local favorite from Louisiana.

Top 10 Turkey Tips - How to Open Roast a Turkey Perfectly

Top 10 Turkey Tips - How to Open Roast a Turkey Perfectly

Top 10 Turkey Tips - How to Open Roast a Turkey Perfectly

This time of year it's all about the turkey, or more importantly, not only how to roast a turkey, but how to roast a turkey perfectly so that it's at it's most juicy, tender perfection. Here are some of my favorite tips to help you achieve the perfect turkey.

Monday, November 22, 2010

7 Top Tips to Perfect Your Holiday Dressing

My top tips to perfect your holiday dressing or stuffing.

How to Perfect Your Holiday Dressing

The perfect dressing, or stuffing... however you look at it, can be a bit elusive, and to be honest it just takes practice to get it to the consistency that you like. Some people like their dressing on the dry side, others like it almost soupy. Here are some of my favorite dressing tips that I've picked up along my way of practice.

Stuffing Topped Cheesy Green Bean Casserole

Another great way to enjoy green beans in a casserole is to add a little onion, bacon and cheese and top it off with a stuffing mix!
Another great way to enjoy green beans in a casserole is to add a little onion, bacon and cheese and top it off with a stuffing mix!

Stuffing Topped Cheesy Green Bean Casserole

I remembered seeing this cheesy green bean and stuffing casserole in Kraft's Food & Family magazine a few years back (okay, so I'm slow) and really liked the idea of a stuffing topped green bean casserole. Or, I guess, technically this would be a dressing topped casserole since it's not stuffed into anything.  But, anyway... I thought it'd be a great side dish anytime really, but especially for the holidays, if you are stuffing your turkey and always have that little bit of leftover stuffing. If you have leftovers, it sure would make a fantastic holiday leftovers casserole too!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Perfectly Cheesy Potatoes au Gratin

Perfect Potatoes au Gratin, made with thinly sliced potatoes in a cheesy dreamy cream sauce.
Perfect Potatoes au Gratin, made with thinly sliced potatoes in a cheesy dreamy cream sauce.

Cheesy Potatoes au Gratin

Hello Scalloped Potatoes, meet the best, perfectly cheesy, Potatoes au Gratin, evah. Ya know, seriously... I am of the opinion that it'd be kinda hard to mess up a dish of potatoes au gratin no matter what you do to them - I mean c'mon now. Potatoes. Cheese. Butter. Cream. Hello. If you're making this for the holidays, you'll want to double the ingredients and do extra layers.

Well, I personally love Julia's way with this classic potato dish, however I decided to play with it a bit. You know. For the holidays. Julia uses Swiss cheese to transform her scalloped potatoes to cheesy au gratin potatoes, but since cheddar is more mainstream in most households, I switched over to cheddar for this one.

Baked Garlic Cheese Grits with Sausage

A souffle'd casserole of baked grits with cheese and sausage.
A souffle'd casserole of baked grits with cheese and sausage.

Baked Garlic Cheese Grits with Sausage

I love my stovetop version of garlic cheese grits. They are a creamy, cheesy, and perfect garlicky cradle for eggs in purgatory, shrimp and grits, or grillades and grits, or as a tasty side dish, great with scrambled or fried, dirty eggs.  Last week though, we were chatting over on the Facebook page about everybody's favorite way to make a baked, casserole-style cheese grits, like this one; souffle-like and fluffy.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weekend Cocktails: Hot Buttered Rum

Hot Buttered Rum

Hot Buttered Rum


Hot buttered rum. A warm drink made from butter, brown sugar and a few typical spices - cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice - oh yeah. And rum.

It's a delicious, heartwarming winter drink that is just perfect for the adults over the holidays. Though it is traditionally made with plain water, I thought why not make it with apple cider?

Careful. These go down real smooth, especially on a cold night, but they are rich and with a punch. Enjoy, but drink responsibly!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Old Fashioned 5 Cup Salad

Five cup salad, and all of its expanded cup versions, is another old fashioned fruit salad that is perfect for any holiday table. A very simple but delicious and well-loved dish.

Old Fashioned 5 Cup Salad

Five Cup Salad is another fruit salad that has been around forever - well, for as long as I can remember anyway - and, while it's good any time of the year, is a great addition to the holiday table too. Many of us will remember it from days gone by in our Mama's and Grandma's kitchens, but as always, there are some variations that have appeared in this fruit salad over the years. Some adding additional cups of various ingredients, some even changing up the fruit, but I think this version represents the old, basic 5 cup salad.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

A thick and creamy soup with all the goodness of a loaded baked potato - bacon, butter, sour cream, cheddar cheese and green onion.
A thick and creamy soup with all the goodness of a loaded baked potato - bacon, butter, sour cream, cheddar cheese and green onion.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

I blame the creation of this Loaded Baked Potato soup recipe on Facebook.  Yep. One day Randy, a reader over there, posted on the wall asking for potato soup recipes so, of course, I gave him links to my Creamy Potato Soup, and my Creamy Cheesy Potato Soup with Bacon. Then, I started thinking... one of those is a shortcut soup and is creamy; the other I used the immersion blender on, so it is also creamy. I really need a chunky potato soup up here on the site.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Homemade Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup Substitute

How to get through the holidays without a can of cream of mushroom soup using a homemade version. 
How to get through the holidays without a can of cream of mushroom soup using a homemade version.

Homemade Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup Substitute

Now if y'all have been reading this recipe site for long, you already know that I am fully endeared to my Campbell's condensed soups and most especially our beloved southern béchamel (that's Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup for those of y'all with a more sophisticated palate). I have several that are pantry staples around here.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Old Fashioned Cherry Coke Salad

UNDER REVISION

This 2010 recipe is currently under revision for updating. While it tastes amazing, it's not setting up well, so I'm retesting it for needed revisions. My apologies for the inconvenience.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Southern Chicken and Cornbread Dressing with Homemade Chicken Gravy

Chicken and cornbread dressing in a casserole form and served with homemade gravy is pure comfort food anytime of the year. It's a perfect dish to carry to a potluck or church social too!
Chicken and cornbread dressing in a casserole form and served with homemade gravy is pure comfort food anytime of the year. It's a perfect dish to carry to a potluck or church social too!

Southern Chicken and Cornbread Dressing

I have shared several dressing recipes along the way and I've even had my hissy fit rant about my feelings on the dressing vs. stuffing debate to which, I will reiterate, once again... whatever you grew up with, and what you do in your Southern kitchen, is right, bottom line. It's all good folks, so let's just eat, okay?

I know. I am such a rebel.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Butterball Indoor Electric Turkey Fryer Review


Fried turkey. Inside. In my own kitchen. If I had not done it with my own two hands, I would never have believed it.

Ever had a fried turkey? Well, let me tell you, y'all know how we are with our frying Down South, and believe me, we are fully endeared to our fried turkeys around the holidays. Once you try it, I think you'll be hooked. It gives you a nice, juicy and tender turkey in flat out no time hardly at all.

Frankly, you hear so many stories about turkey fryer disasters, that I was always scared to even try to fry a turkey at home. I settled for putting an order in with one of the many people in my area who fry up massive batches of turkeys to sell to other people over the holidays.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Chili Spaghetti - Homemade Stovetop Beef Chili with Beans

My homemade beef and bean stovetop chili, served "Cincinnati Style" on a bed of spaghetti noodles and topped with cheese. If you've turned your nose up at this and never tried it, you must try it at least once. I got hooked first bite.
My homemade beef and bean stovetop chili, served "Cincinnati Style" on a bed of spaghetti noodles and topped with cheese. If you've turned your nose up at this and never tried it, you must try it at least once. I got hooked first bite.

Chili Spaghetti

Oh Chili Spaghetti, Chili Spaghetti (or is it Spaghetti Chili?), where oh where have you been all of my life? ♥

I'm gonna tell y'all straight up front before y'all get all over me, that yes, this is a dish stolen straight away from above the Mason-Dixon line. Yep, sure is.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Broccoli and Rice Casserole with Cheese

A well loved casserole of broccoli, rice and cheese, uses canned cheddar cheese soup and cream of mushroom for the sauce and is topped with your favorite shredded cheese.
A well loved casserole of broccoli, rice and cheese, uses canned cheddar cheese soup and cream of mushroom for the sauce and is topped with your favorite shredded cheese.

Broccoli and Rice Casserole with Cheese

Broccoli casseroles, whether alone with cheese, with chicken, or like here with rice and cheese, have been a favorite casserole for potlucks, church suppers, family gatherings and especially holidays for as long as I can remember. Many people like to include Cheez Whiz in their broccoli and rice casserole and certainly you can use that, or even our southern favorite Velveeta as well, but I like to use the canned cheddar cheese soup from Campbell's. It's a pantry staple in my house and is an easy addition. Feel free to sub either of those ingredients if you prefer, or simply increase the amount of shredded cheddar to 2 cups, dividing it as noted in the recipe.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Corn and Crab Chowder

A nicely seasoned chicken stock based chowder made with a small roux,     sauteed veggies, potatoes, corn, half and half and sweet blue crab.
A nicely seasoned chicken stock based chowder made with a small roux, auteed veggies, potatoes, corn, half and half and sweet blue crab.

Corn and Crab Chowder

We've had a quick shot of wintry weather in The Deep South, for at least a few days anyway, and a good chowder made with corn, crab and a little cream, really hits the spot when that cold weather blows in. It's been such a hot fall that as much as I love them this time of year, thinking about soups, stews and chowders has been hard to do frankly. Leave it to The South to go from beach weather to frost in about 8 hours! Apparently we decided to just pass by fall altogether - gotta love The South! Course, we'll be back to beach weather in no time, which explains why my garden looks like a laundry right now, with sheets and blankets strewn across many of my plants.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pillsbury Grands Mini Biscuit Topped Mini Chicken Pot Pies


Thanks to MyBlogSpark, I recently had the opportunity to try Pillsbury® Grands!® Frozen Mini Biscuits, the new, tiny freezer-to-oven biscuits from your grocer's freezer case.  Now I love my own homemade biscuits, and I'll be honest. I had never tried these.  Lawdy mercy, they are good!  Fantastic piping hot and straight out of the oven, I loved these. I mean look y'all, seriously.


They are the cutest, tiny little biscuits, about a Southern Belle three-biter, and fluffy on the inside but with that loveable crunch on the outside that we southern cooks are already endeared to, only with a smaller surface area.  Translate:  ♫More crunch y'all!♫

Monday, November 1, 2010

Scalloped Cabbage Casserole

Creamed cabbage, seasoned with bacon and onion and baked in a white sauce is a delicious and favorite southern dish.
Creamed cabbage, seasoned with bacon and onion and baked in a white sauce is a delicious and favorite southern dish.

Scalloped Cabbage

Love cabbage like me? Then I think you'll love this recipe for escalloped creamed cabbage. When I make this, I could eat the whole thing. Oh wait. Since my husband won't give cabbage a second look, I actually do always eat the whole thing! Okay, well, now... not all at once of course.

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