Double Chocolate Coconut Cookies- The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

Confession- there has not been a trip to the grocery store in the last two months that I have not bought a cooking magazine, mostly from the cookie category. Every year the same thing- that one to five minutes spent waiting in the darn check out line is just too long to resist. Holiday baking- I love it, the search for that perfect gem of a cookie. This year I participated again in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap along with over hundreds of other participants (search #FBCookieSwap to find mouth-watering cookies to bake or torture yourself with). The cookie swap was all to raise money for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, over $13,778.40 was raised!

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2013

Martha Stewart contributed to the cookies I sent- after an evening of heated debate and taste testing these were the winners that I was going to ship and bake.

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 cups white-chocolate chunks (about 9 ounces)
  • 1 ¾ cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 ¾ cups coarsely chopped walnuts (about 6 ounces)

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Mix in eggs, 1 at a time. Stir in vanilla.

Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Mix into butter mixture on low speed until well combined. Stir in chocolate, coconut, and walnuts.

Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop, drop batter onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart. Flatten slightly. Bake until set, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks 2 minutes. Transfer cookies on parchment to racks to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 1 week.

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We totally lucked out this year with our cookie swaps- all three of the cookies received were out of this world- so ummm, umm good!   Cranberry Orange White Chocolate Cookies from Stephanie at 52 Kitchen Adventures were Sir Wes’s favorite- he “allowed” me to have a couple.  Kate at Fleur-De-Licious sent Ginger Crinkle Cookies, which I am wondering if she knew about my ginger devotion- so yum!  And lucky for me, Sommer, of A Spicy Perspective, could not decide what cookie to send so we got both Sour Cream Whoopie Pies with Chocolate Hazelnut Filling and Tangerine Shortbread with Chocolate Drizzle.  Love that I found another indecisive lady in the kitchen!

Thanks to Lindsey and Julie for organizing such a fun way to “Bake-Back” to a great cause! If you want more mouth watering temptation follow their blogs!  Also to the sponsors of The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, OXO, Dixie Crystals, Gold Medal Flour, and Grandma’s Molasses!

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Turkey, Brie and Raspberry Waffle Bites

Maybe it’s just my experiences, but brunches often follow fun-filled, celebratory evenings, I assume that’s how Bloody Mary’s became so popular.  Nothing like the hair of a dog!  Thinking about brunch foods the last few weeks, made me consider my favorite hangover meals.  It would be a smart assumption the “favorite” came to be in my college days.  In Charleston, South Carolina there are endless possibilities of the cure all meal- during my days at C of C, my friends and I favorites were either Juanita Greenberg’s Burritos or Vickery’s Turkey and Brie Pita, maybe Andolini’s Pizza also..  The french fries made the Turkey Pita stand out as my preferred “not feeling so hot” meal and I still love to make it to Shem Creek every so often when I am in Charleston for a reconnection.

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The warm pita was coated by a layer of raspberry cream, a stack of sliced turkey and warm gooey brie.  It’s a classic but still fabulous combination.  So when thinking about a #BrunchWeek inspired sandwich- what else- fruit, creamy, savory, and of course, perfect for any accidental hangovers that your guests that might stumble in with.

Figured I would twist the pita a bit and make it more “brunch-able”, with using waffles instead. I have a few different waffle makers/pans that I collected over the years, but my favorite is this pan.  I love the small size and thinness of them, making them super versatile and fun to play with.

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Store bought waffle mix is fine to use, but this pan is not the most forgiving tool, so I recommend using an “extra-crispy” waffle batter as it tends not to stick to the waffled surface (not fun to clean)

This recipe makes about 12 waffles (6 sandwiches)

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole eggs, separated
  • 1 cups milk
  • 1 cups flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/3 cups canola oil
  • 1/3 cup raspberry preserves
  • 12 ounce sliced turkey
  • 6 ounces brie cheese

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Directions:

With a mixer, beat the egg whites until they are stiff. In another large bowl, put remaining ingredients and whip until smooth.  By hand, gently fold in beaten egg whites.

Heat the waffle pan over medium heat on the stove.  Drop about 2-3 tablespoons of batter into the wells, just filling them and spread with the back of the tablespoon. Cook until air bubbles come to the surface and break, about 1-2 minutes.  With 2 ends of forks gently ease out the waffle pancake and flip onto the opposite side.  Allow to cook another 1-2 minutes.

The waffle cakes can be made ahead of time and reheated in a 300 oven for 5 minutes.  Assemble the sandwiches with a teaspoon of raspberry jam on both sides of the warm waffle cake, and layers of sliced turkey and brie.

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What a great week its been- I am so looking forward to trying out all the mouthwatering dishes I’ve seen during #BrunchWeek!  Join the PinChat from 2-3, where even more prizes will be announced!

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Another shout out to the sponsors- California WalnutsLodge Cast Iron, Vidalia Onions-The Flavors of Summer, Black Gold Farms, the Food and Wine Conference and Sunday Supper, Bob’s Red Mill, Whole Foods Market -Orlando, and Stonyfield Organic For a chance to win one of the great prizes- click on this link and sign up- super easy and legit. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here are a few more ideas for Mother’s Day Brunches!

Brunch Drink Recipes

Mango Lime Bellinis by Cook the Story
Strawberry Sangrias by Kokocooks

Breads, Grains, Cereals and Pancake-type Yums

Souffle Pancakes with Bacon Flowers by Jane’s Adventures in Dinner
Mini Breakfast Pizzas by Sweet Remedy
Glazed Doughnut Pancakes by The Domestic Mama & The Village Cook
Whole Wheat Blueberry and Sour Cream Pancakes by Sarcastic Cooking

Meat, Poultry, Fish and Legume Brunch Recipes

Thai Orchid Salmon Salad by Culinary Adventures with Camilla

Egg Recipes

Crouque Monsieur Strata by White Lights on Wednesday
American Girl Chip and Ham Scramble by The Vintage Cook
Sausage, Egg, & Veggie Casserole by Katie’s Cucina

Potato Recipes

Poutine Hash by The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen

Brunch Dessert Recipes

Vanilla Bean Cookie Bars by Rachel Cooks
Candied Bacon Brownies by {i love} my disorganized life
Turtles French Toast by Cravings of a Lunatic
Chocolate Chiffon Cakee by Love and Confections
Dark Chocolate-Orange & Walnut Banana Bread by The Kitchen Prep

Dill Pickle Crisps and Deviled Egg Brunch Dip

I know a lot of people that would swear up and down that a good party cannot be had without deviled eggs. Honestly, I have yet to meet one I haven’t liked. Hate to add it to a menu of mine as they are just so expected, and then the classic, down home southern girl inside of me tells me “what in God’s name am I talking about”, and they are saved from being 86’d from the buffet table. But nothing wrong with mixing it up, after all dip is equally important at all parties, brunch included!

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Some may say this is just egg salad, but it is served with crackers- so that obligates it to be a dip. Hands down, no question asked. The end. Dip.

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This recipe comes from way back on September of 2009 from Food and Wine Magazine

Deviled Egg Spread

1 dozen large eggs
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
Salt & pepper
Paprika for dusting

  • Place the eggs in a large saucepan and cover with cold water; make sure the water is a good inch above the eggs. Add in the vinegar and heat to a rapid boil. Place the lid on the saucepan and remove it from the heat. After allowing to stand for 15 minutes, drain the water from eggs and run cool water over them to cool. Add a few ice cubes to chill them faster.
  • Peel the egg shells and slice them in half lengthwise. Rough chop half of the egg whites and place them into a large bowl. Put the remaining whites and all of the yolks to a food processor along with the mayo and mustard. Process until smooth. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and blend with the chopped egg whites. Season with salt and pepper. Can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight.

Makes about 3 cups of DIP

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To add a special touch to the Deviled Egg alternative I took out the standard pickle in the dip and added it to the cracker- which came out great! I love the zip and sourness in the crackers- definitely a unique twist on a standard butter crack. Watch your back Keebler!

This Zestuous recipe has been slightly modified

Dill Pickle Crisps

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon powdered ranch dressing mix
  • ¼ cup chopped dill pickle (2 spears)
  • 1 egg, cracked and blended for egg wash
  • 1 teaspoon flaked sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon chopped dill
  • ½ teaspoon fresh course ground black pepper

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  • Using a food processor, add the flour and softened butter and pulse until combined. Add the oil and ranch seasoning and blend again. Add in the chopped dill pickle and mix until the dough forms into a ball. Remove the dough from the processor and shape into a disk, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Using a clean surface, a piece of parchment paper or a silpat sprinkled with flour, roll the dough to about 1/8 thickness.
  • Using a cookie cutter, cut out the crackers and peel away the excess dough. Place the cut crackers onto a parchment/silpat lined baking sheet and lightly brush the egg wash over the tops. Sprinkle with the salt, dill and pepper. Prior to baking tap each cracker with a fork to allow are to escape and your crackers to remain flat.
  • Bake in a 400-degree oven for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool and enjoy!

Makes about 50 crackers, depending on the size of your cutter.

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These Dill Pickled Crisps make a great vehicle for the deviled egg dip. Can’t get much more southern then this!  Cheers to all parties, especially brunch!

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#BrunchWeek is rocking social media this week- The #BrunchWeek Hashtag was even trending on Sunday!  So awesome! Of course, we couldn’t do it without the generous sponsors!  I can’t wait to see who wins the prizes!   Big Kudos to –  California WalnutsLodge Cast Iron, Vidalia Onions-The Flavors of Summer, Black Gold Farms, the Food and Wine Conference and Sunday Supper, Bob’s Red Mill, Whole Foods Market -Orlando, and Stonyfield Organic

For a chance to win one of the amaze-ball prizes just play in the a Rafflecopter giveaway!

Just look at this great list- all offer a chance to win! and plenty to get hungry over!

I can’t wait to see whats going on at Girl in the Little Red Kitchen!

Brunch Recipes with Eggs

Asparagus and Leek Frittata by Rachel Cooks
Baked Ham and Egg Cups by Culinary Adventures with Camilla

Veggie Quiche Cups by Take A Bite Out of Boca
Asparagus and Eggs in Mornay Sauce by Noshing With The Nolands

Brunch Recipes with Potatoes

Traditional Home Fries by Sarcastic Cooking

Meat, Poultry and Fish Brunch Recipes

Chicken Pockets by Jane’s Adventures in Dinner
Turkey Dill Crepes by Kokocooks

Breads, Grains, Cereals and Pancake-type Yums

Cherry Coconut Granola by Katie’s Cucina
Brioche by poet in the pantry by poet in the pantry
Gold Goddess Steel Cut Oats by The Vintage Cook
Quick and Easy Early Morning Parfaits by Cravings of a Lunatic
Caramelized Onion & Bacon Croque Monsieur by The Kitchen Prep

Fruit and Vegetable Brunch Recipes

Warm Salad Three Ways by Cook the Story

Spreads for Brunch

Black & Blue Thyme Jam by Cooking In Stilettos

Brunch Dessert Recipes

Crumb-Top Blueberry Muffins by Love and Confections
Banana Walnut Scone (Gluten Free/Dairy Free) by Around My Family Table
Croissant & Chocolate Bread Pudding by White Lights on Wednesday
Honey Poached Pear “Sundae” by Amanda’s Apron
Strawberries and Cream Muffins by The Domestic Mama & The Village Cook

Tomato Basil Macarons #BrunchWeek

Today is the start of #BrunchWeek, which leads straight up to Mother’s Day.  There are bloggers across the country participating, so there is bound to be some great ideas for the coming Sunday’s feast.  Check out the end of the post for a list of recipes and posts to be inspired by as well as list of incredible sponsors.  Click on the Rafflecopter link to get a chance to win amazing prizes from the sponsors!!! Super easy!

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I have to admit- I’ve been gotten.  A little monster snuck into my head, and flipped a switch to make me believe that all the hype about macarons being “difficult” would not be true for me.   I was convinced that I, an amateur, yet successful baker would not have any issues with this simple cookie.  So when I was thinking about creative brunch ideas, savory macarons popped into my head and I signed on the dotted line- #BrunchWeek Day 1, Savory Macarons.

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Of course there was plenty of time to get started, just needed to get past that busy work week, and then Sir Wes’ birthday celebration #WEStival, my brother’s family visit, a catching up at work week, a weekend to relax, and then a crazy town week at work.  Soon I was left with just two weeks to tackle these “simple” cookies.  It turns out that the hype was real- macarons are as temperamental as they get, they are not simple at all, more like a monster in fact.  Touch them wrong and its over for you.

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It was helpful having to try and retry baking macarons nightly due to deadline, as I am certain I have actually learned about the anatomy of the French monsters.

With the help of Les Petits Macarons written by Kathryn Gordon and Anne E. McBride, I spotted my troubles and made plans for the next batch.  I strayed a few times over to good old Martha, but became sold on Kathryn and Anne’s methods and advice.

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My problems laid mostly with the feet, they had all types of problems- flat feet, no feet, wide-load feet, and most commonly,  “why don’t I have model feet”.  The monsters also had some intestinal problems, not much of a fan of this topic, but I’ll just say that there were runs and explosions.

With enough nights to work on them and the help of some friends at work, along with this monster bible, I managed to be satisfied with the macarons.  All had not been lost, I won the war against the savory macaron monster- as I would say at work- “Kiss it B*^@ches….”

This recipe and method came from Les Petits Macarons with some very slight modifications to adding the savory-

  • 1 ¼ cup almond flour (Bob’s Red Mill is in my pantry)
  • ¾ cup confectioner sugar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato powder
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon powdered egg whites
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ cup aged egg whites (from 4 eggs, aged covered in the fridge for 1-2 days) – Room Temperature
  • 2 drops red gel food color (optional)
  • 2 tablespoon crystalized basil
  • 10 tablespoons garlic herb cream, goat, brie or preferred cheese spread

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Makes about 40 macaron sandwiches

1. Preheat the oven to 200ºF. Pulse almond flour, confectioners’ sugar salt and tomato powder in the bowl of a food processor 4 times for 4 seconds each time. Sift dry ingredients over a piece of parchment paper.

2. Hand whip the powdered egg whites and the granulated sugar in an electric mixer bowl, add in the egg whites and cream of tartar until the mixture is homogenous.  Whisk on medium-high speed, when the egg whites reach soft peaks add the food coloring if you choose to use.  Continue whipping until glossy stiff peaks form (about 8-11 minutes).  The meringue should look like marshmallow fluff when ready or when you are able to hold the bowl upside-down without it falling out.

3. Sift the dry ingredients into the meringue and J-fold until you reach the, almost impossible to know, macaronner stage. It is important to fold the different components just enough,(sadly I think this only comes after you’ve learned what doesn’t work), but not too much or the macarons will crack. To make sure that you have reached the right point, once the ingredients appear combined, lift some of the mixture about 1 inch above the bowl with the spatula. If it retains a three dimensional shape, fold it again. When folded just enough, the mixture should fall right back into the bowl, with no stiffness, in one continuous drip.   Fill your piping bag halfway, allowing the maximum piping control.

4. Pipe the macarons 1 ½ inches apart on silicon baking sheet lined sheetpan. (again, more of the practice makes perfect saying).  Slam the baking sheet down to remove excess air (slam 6 times, from 6 inches above the table). Sprinkle the crystalized basil on top of each macaron.  Bake for 15 minutes and then turn the oven to 350 and cook for another 6-9 minutes depending on size.

5.  Fill with your preferred garlic herb spread, creamed brie, goat cheese, ect.  Refrigerate until an hour prior to serving.

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***With any failures there are learning’s.  Pay attention to what didn’t work so you know what to try or avoid in the future.

I have to admit, there is no way I am done with these monsters.  I feel like they might have won this round, but now that I’ve cut my teeth, I am ready for round 2.

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I secretly love getting stumped in the kitchen, as it makes successes so much sweeter.

Take a look below to see this great list of #BrunchWeek  Posts!!

Today’s Brunch Recipes From Participating BrunchWeekers Beverages

Blood Orange Mimosas by Love and Confections

Strawberry Mimosa by Jane’s Adventures in Dinner

Margarita for Mama by poet in the pantry

Candied Bacon Bloody Mary by Sarcastic Cooking

Eggs

Breakfast Won Ton Cups by Small Wallet Big Appetite

Meat Lover’s Quiche by Savory Sweet Eats

Chorizo and Garlic Frittata by {i love} my disorganized life

Cherry Tomato and Chorizo Omelet by Katie’s Cucina

Meat, Poultry and Fish

Candied Bacon by Cravings of a Lunatic

Shrimp-Grapefruit Orchid Stirfry by Culinary Adventures with Camilla

Savory Treats

Hollandaise Sauce by Kokocooks

Breads, Grains, Cereals and Pancake-type Yums

Apple Cinnamon Crepes by Sweet Remedy

Grain-free Apple Walnut Pancakes by Seasonal and Savory

Desserts

Biscoff Coffee Cake Muffins by White Lights on Wednesday

Bob’s Scottish Oat n’ Walnut Sticky Scones by The Vintage Cook

A big thanks to all the sponsors, California WalnutsLodge Cast Iron, Vidalia Onions-The Flavors of Summer, Black Gold Farms, the Food and Wine Conference and Sunday Supper, Bob’s Red Mill, Whole Foods Market -Orlando, and Stonyfield Organic,

Click below on the link and see all the generous and incredible prizes the #BrunchWeek sponsors have donated!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disney’s ‘Ohana Coriander Wings

I know, I know…more wings…

But these are baked. And they have coriander, my favorite spice. And they are sticky.  I love sticky, crispy, spicy wings so much better then drippy sauce wings.  I’d say they are healthy, but really they are just baked, healthier at least.

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We had these wings last year when we stayed at Disney’s Polynesian Resort for the Food Blogger Conference.  They were one of the many highlights of the weekend.  I was reminded of their finger licking perfection when I came across the recipe in the Cast Member Magazine called Walt Disney World Eyes and Ears. 

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So in case you need another wing recipe- give this recipe a try, it is the official recipe from WDW, owned by them in fact!  These wings look on the dark side, its the sugar in that turns them, no burnt flavor 🙂

For the Wings:

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground paprika
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 tablespoon canola oil
  • 4 pounds chicken wings or drummettes

For the Coriander Sauce

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

 Procedure: 

For Wings:

  1. Preheat oven to 500 F.  Line a baking sheet with 1-inch sides with foil.
  2. Combine all ingredients except chicken in a large glass bowl.  Add chicken and toss to coat well.
  3. Spread the seasoned wings on the baking sheet and roast them until browned, about 35 minutes.
  4. To serve, toss with wing sauce.

 For Coriander Sauce:

  1. While the wings are baking, combine the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until liquid reduces to a syrup, about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and keep warm.

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I’d like to blame Sir Wes for this repetitive wing recipe chapter I seem to be working on, but I have to take some ownership in it. Wings are good. Simple.  They were balanced perfectly with a Back Forty Naked Pig Pale Ale…if your wondering!

Port Wine Cherry Cordial Cookies- #FBCookieSwap

Coffee and/ or cereal for breakfast, on your own for lunch and cookies for dinner.  This was our household meal plan for the last few weeks.  What outstanding timing for The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap to happen, it was the same time Sir Wes and I were both barreling thru our busiest weeks of the year.  Three deliveries of cookies landed on our doorstep, perfectly synched to provide our nourishment thru Crazytown.

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Cookies for dinner, for two weeks, and I am not even embarrassed.  These gems were fantastic.  Rachel from Kvell in the Kitchen made us Iced Whiskey Ginger Cookies (great week for whiskey), we got a batch of Chai Snickerdoodles that I loved (a couple made it into my morning coffee) and Traci from Burnt Apple’s cookies landed last- melt in your mouth butterscotch delights.

I recruited a few chefs that I work with to help me brainstorm what kind of cookie to make, the idea list got pretty long and I have a few of them planned in the future- but we finally landed on the perfect cookie to sip a glass of wine with.  Chocolate Cherry Cordial Cookies, made with port wine, 70% dark chocolate chunks and sun dried cherries. 

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Inspired by a couple of great chefs and slightly modified from the Food Network

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup good quality cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup port wine
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate, broken into chunks
  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries

 Directions

 Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

 Combine flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda in a bowl. In a bowl of an electric mixer, or with a handheld mixer, combine butter and sugars until fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, and wine and combine. Slowly in batches add the flour mixture until just combined. Fold in the chocolate and cherries. On a nonstick cookie sheet, place a heaping tablespoon of dough for each cookie about 2 inches apart from each other. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until tops are still soft looking but edges look firm. 

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The cookie swap this year was a ton of fun- I can’t wait to see all the posts and get my cookie baking on!!  Thanks to Lindsay from Love and Olive Oil and Julie from The Little Kitchen for organizing such an enormous event.  And a huge shout out to the participants that all supported a great cause- Cookies for Cancer.  I can’t wait to see how much The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap collected for such an important cause! 

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Cheers to all the cookie monsters out there- and though it isn’t a diet I would recommend for any length of time- remember, cookies for dinner are OK.  (sometimes)

“Be Our Guest”- Standing on the Other Side at the Food Blog Forum

I was fortunate to attend the Food Blog Forum last weekend, which came to Orlando through the diligence of Julie Deily (The Little Kitchen)and Dawn Viola (Dawn Viola), and the  sponsorship of Walt Disney World, Kitchen Aid, La Creuset, OXO, Whole Foods and many more.   It was my first food blogging conference and quite frankly, it left me with an overwhelming sense of encouragement, both personally and professionally. I was able to pick up great tips and soak in the group’s creative energy; I was a sponge. 

The weekend was a unique one for me,  as the event was held at Walt Disney World.  I mentioned in my previous post that I had helped plan a few of the FBF events, writing menus, station design and layout, which led to my excitement.  The entire Disney team rallied to make these events unforgettable – chefs from across Walt Disney World happily volunteered to participate.  The Food Blog Forum Orlando was destined to be the tops.

Of all my credentials, this one is my favorite!

We spent the weekend at the Poly –Cast Member lingo for the Walt Disney Polynesian Resort—keep reading you will be an insider soon.  We were welcomed by the famous Little Lady Laura, who I spent a few days with when I started working in Park Events.  She was fabulous at connecting with all of the guests and helping to create a seamless event (I did see her slip down the Poly poolside, so rest assured, she had a blast).

The Poly Lobby

After a long week of “getting it done” at work, Sir Wes and I happily enjoyed the season’s first poolside sangria before I went to the reception at The Grand (AKA- Disney’s Grand Floridian).  I knew the reception would be the perfect way to start the weekend- it was held outside at Summerhouse, overlooking the lake and the pool.  Beautiful weather, fantastic service and food that would be talked about all weekend!  I knew how great it would be, the dishes were flavorful and elegantly presented.  I actually even tried the beef short ribs (for those who are not aware, I stay away from pork and beef). Just a bite, though – Sir Wes wanted to make sure the flavor he added came out right.  Kudos to Chef Douglas, Chef Larry, Sir Wes and the talented Grand Culinary Team.

Perfect weather!

Before sunrise, the bloggers were on their way to Epcot for the day-long forum, but before the speakers started, we broke bread.  And here is where I start to get proud- it was AWESOME.  The Park Event Operation (PEO) team delivered a St. Patrick’s Day Eye Opener that continued the culinary train started the previous night at the Grand. 

The speakers were captivating!

The morning was spent listening to inspirational talks by Jaden and Scott Hair of Steamy Kitchen, Dianne and Todd of White on Rice Couple, David Leite, who spoke about Bigger and Bad Ass Posts, and Dawn Viola, who rounded  this talented group. They all offered so much great advice, inspiration, and constructive criticism that I’m sure you could not get out of a book. My scribble-scrabbled notes were miles long. 

I snuck out a few minutes early so I could get a sneak peak, and I felt like a child waiting to give mom a present- I just couldn’t wait for everyone to see.   The room set up was fantastic, full of bells and whistles.  

The team did a wonderful job setting the stations and the tables-  plenty of room to accommodate 100+ bloggers and their huge cameras.  I told one of the chefs before the guests arrived- “wait until you see the mass of camera’s about to walk into the room”!  The “Healthful Taste of Disney” lunch was recorded by many as the most creative and flavorful meal they had experienced.  How could I not be grinning from ear to ear!?!?

The Chefs were creative and healthful, they also were able to accomodate so many different allegeries and dietary concerns, which, by itself, is magical for some guests!

After the lunch, we had roundtables of small groups which was great for getting a ton of my questions answered. I was also comforted to see the other Bloggers had similar questions and doubts.  And then came my favorite part, a food styling and photographing demo from Aran of Cannelle et Vanille and Diane Cu of White on Rice Couple.  There are a few reasons I started blogging, but the biggest was my love of taking photographs and wanting to grow that hobby.  Aran’s photographs are like Food Ballet – colors and textures just dance and they leave you feeling enriched.  Just beautiful.

Inspiring!

The forum broke and Bloggers spread thru Epcot to enjoy the remainder of the day before gathering back to a dessert party with a phenomenal viewing of the fireworks. The desserts were all amazing, but the talk of the event was the Guinness Ice Cream with Bacon Brittle- I’m thinking of getting the recipe for you soon!   The following morning was a brunch hosted by Whole Foods Orlando, which I was unable to attend. You can, however, read about it by searching Twitter for #FBFORL and see for yourself how big of a hit it was. 

Kudos to Pam and Karen!

It is difficult to sum up the feeling I had when I drove home. I took so much away from the weekend and I am certain that it will impact my blog, my work and my life.  I shared with my leaders and peers at work just how much all the bloggers enjoyed everything.  They felt Walt Disney World went over the top, and showed a tremendous amount of gratitude.  The reactions of the guests at the Food Blog Forum is what we, as cast members, take away; to be able to take a part in creating this type of magic, is an honor.  A lot of hours and hard work were put into this event and I was fortunate enough to see firsthand how magical it is for our WDW guests.  I wish every Cast Member was able to experience how impactful their efforts are, it is a gift that will resonate with me every day.