Veggie U Food and Wine Celebration, with Sweets by Maggie!

My girl Maggie came down to Florida a few weeks ago for a visit and over a few glasses of our beloved sangria, she told me about her upcoming event at The Chef’s Garden.  Wow!!! I was excited to hear that she would be participating in The Veggie U Food and Wine Celebration, an event I have been hearing about for many years.  The event is put together to combat childhood obesity, with chefs, wine vendors, and food & beverage companies all participating to make the magic happen.  There are wine seminars, chef demos, book signings and of course, lots of tasting!!  By the end of the pitcher of sangria, she had me convinced, I must travel to Ohio and help the Sweets by Maggie team!

The event kicked off with a welcome reception for all the participants and their teams!  The scenery was lovely; the wine was flowing and the buffet was plentiful.  The host of the event, the staff of Veggie U, The Chef’s Garden and the Culinary Vegetable Institute welcomed us graciously.  It was a perfect summer evening to meet many new friends and reconnect with old ones!

The Culinary Vegetable Institute, also known as CVI

Welcome to Ohio Chef Brian!! Maggie and Brian worked together years ago at WDW. I guess it IS a Small world after all ;-/

Birds eye view of the dining room at the CVI. The chefs were finishing up their prep for the evening before joining the welcome reception.

Chef's finish your mise en place!!

The Grand Tasting Tent- this is where the action would take place! Vendors, chefs, sponsors will thrill guests with their bounty from The Chef's Garden!

Our favorite sales person, Michele!

We were home from the welcoming party by 12:30 AM, grabbed a quick nap before heading to Maggie’s shop at 3:00 AM.  (My friends at work thought I was taking a vacation, hahaha).  We made up batters, beat buttercream, baked cupcakes, packed all the equipment and shoved it in the car by 1:00 pm.  And we were off to the races!

The Subaru was loaded! But it all fit! And that is the lovely Cheryl, who rocked all weekend long with us! Attention Wrigley, you have a new Life Saver flavor!

The Culinary Vegetable Institute, I ran by those chairs all evening long....tempting!

The Reefer Truck- It was refreshing to run and get supplies from the truck, despite the distance, as it gave me break from the heat!

Port Wine Brownies by Sweets By Maggie- We prepped in the reefer truck and were able to keep the desserts from spoiling....mostly... I ate the other ones! 🙂

Wine Seminar Tent - This was great because we were very close to it, while I was busy being a Cake Ball Ninja, I listened closely to the Master Sommelier Serafin Alvarado!

The gardens around the property were gorgeous! I love that you can see people hustling in back before we get started!

Such a beautiful setting to work in!

The Sweets by Maggie table! Getting close to opening, JUST a few friends to feed! 🙂

The tent before the action started.

Tart Cherry Cupcake with Grand Marnier Buttercream; and Lemon Lavender Cupcake with Local Honey Buttercream! They were fabulous!

Port Wine Brownies. I gotta say, the reduction was beautiful -hollllaaaaa!

Cake Balls! There were teams developing amongst the guests, arguing which one was better. (It was a tough decision, but I finally sided with Team White Cake Ball)

Sea Turtle Cake Balls, caramel, pecans, chocolate, sea salt, a few other things and of course, love! Just make sure you don't call them Sea Turtle Balls- I got a few looks when I quickly spieled the desserts.

Salted Caramel Cake Balls! These are soooo good, unfortunately I didn't have any to bring home to my friends in Florida! Hoping Sweets by Maggie starts shipping soon!

That's me- Cake Ball Ninja

Pipe Away Maggie!

I did manage to slip away before the event got going, taking a tour of all the chefs and what they were serving.  The caliber of creativity and culinary responsibility (local, sustainable, fresh, ect…) was extreme!  So many dishes I could not wait to try!

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream, by far the best thing I learned about on my trip north. (Excluding everything I learned at the Sweets by Maggie Shop)

Flavors from Jeni's treasure chest!

Jeni's Sweet Corn and Black Raspberries Ice Cream. This will be in my freezer by the weekend. It was A-maZing!

Rockmill Brewery- I can't say enough about this brewer, every brew I tasted was...sooooo good.

Our new and old friends! Brian from Gary's Seafood, Chef Brian and Chef Garrett. We knew there was a great chef next to us, but was delighted when Garrett shared his beverages with us too!

Whoop, Whoop!!!  The event was amazing, the Sweets by Maggie table had guests raving….A complete SUCCESS!!! And like after any huge event, it is time to join in the party!

Welcome to The After Party!

The After Party! Good times were had by all!!

 

Steelite International was a sponsor of the Chef competition. The award was a trip to Alinea!! #Awesome! Congrats @Jonathon Sawyer!!!

The After Party! The winning chefs were announced, the volunteers, chefs, participants gathered as a team, broke bread, drank wine and relaxed!

By the end of the evening, with the bustle winding down, I was able to look around and soak in the atmosphere, the friendly faces, all the talent and passion in one beautiful field.  Knowing that all the effort that went into the event was going to fight the rising epidemic of childhood obesity was “icing” on top!

To learn more about Sweets by Maggie, take a look at the http://www.sweetsbymaggie.com website or “Like” them on the Sweets By Maggie Facebook Page.

Ginger and Ghost Pepper Peach Sangria

Summer started today,  although here in Florida, summer feels like it starts much earlier!  What is even more fun about June 21st, is that it is the unofficial start date of sangria season!  The perfect answer to the humid, sweaty days of Florida summers!  My favorite girl, @sweetsbymaggie is here for the week, and we love to enjoy sangria together, it is just what we do 🙂

A friend gave me a bit of homemade ghost pepper honey a few weeks ago, which is the hottest pepper out there blended into honey.  I also had a bit of ginger left in the cooler, so I made a ginger simple syrup to use it up before it spoiled.  I saw a bottle of white wine on the pantry shelf and I knew what direction we were heading. It is so fun to play with sangria flavors, once you have the general idea of how to make a traditional white or red sangria, I highly recommend getting creative with the flavors.  I love muddling herbs in ours, basil and cilantro are great.

Here is the recipe I used, it made about 5 quarts and took me about 20 minutes to do.  We left it overnight and the next day it was nicely blended, all of the flavors had time to hang out together and bond 🙂

Ginger Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon chopped ginger

Put all ingredients into a heavy sauce pan and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes. and cool.  The flavor will develop as it sits, so don’t be afraid to let it rest before you use it.

Simmer down Ginger!!!!!

Ghost Pepper Honey

  • 1 pinch ghost pepper flakes*
  • 3 teaspoons honey

Mix pepper flakes and honey together well, the longer the honey has to sit the stronger the heat will get.  A perfect item to have in your cabinet.

*You can use any pepper here, dry them slowly in the oven and then put in a coffee grinder to grind, you could even red pepper flakes if you would prefer.

Ginger and Ghost Pepper Peach Sangria

  • 2- 12 oz cans peach nectar
  • 1.5 liter Pinot grigio
  • 1 cup peach schnapps
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 2 peaches, cut in small bites 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 pint blueberries, muddled
  • 3 teaspoons ghost pepper honey
  • 2 cups ginger simple syrup

Sangria Fruit

Mix all ingredients together in pitchers (I used two which allowed room for stirring, and just split everything in half, for each pitcher).  Refrigerate for a few hours before serving.  If you let it sit longer then 12 hours check that the peaches haven’t been “overcooked”, they can become rancid over time.

Ginger and Ghost Pepper Honey Peach Sangria