Monthly Archives: September 2013

Cherry Whiskey Turkey Burgers

Cherry Whiskey Turkey Burgers

World, meet Eastside Distilling.

I will tell you up front that I do not have any relationship with Eastside Distilling nor have they compensated me in any form for this blog post. I simply like the business and their product, and I hope you do too!

I discovered Eastside Distilling through a Groupon deal for a tour and tasting at their distillery, which is right next to my favorite local pie shop, Pacific Pie Company, and my favorite wine bar, Vie de Boheme. I figured the business was in good company so it couldn’t be bad, and boy was I right!

The tour wasn’t much, especially when I had just returned from a trip to Ireland where I went on a very Disneyland-like tour of the Jameson distillery in Dublin. Well, in truth it’s not a distillery anymore, it’s a showpiece for tourists like me. Still, after having gone through room after room of large pieces of equipment, complete with mannequin workers displaying the distilling process, touring a small business, such as Eastside, with just a single production room didn’t exactly bowl me over.

The people and the product, on the other hand, were phenomenal. The master distiller – a woman! – wasn’t on-site that day, but our tour guide and the servers were extremely knowledgeable about the process and their spirits. I love that they make everything there on-site and source most of their ingredients locally, such as the Oregon-Idaho potatoes for their Potato Vodka, grounds from Portland Roasting Company for their Coffee Rum, and Hood River cherries for their Cherry Bomb Whiskey. And bonus: the prices are extremely reasonable. I wound up buying a few bottles to take home with me.

I particularly fell in love with the Cherry Bomb Whiskey. It’s smooth and slightly sweet without being overly syrupy like some flavored whiskies can get. I immediately started thinking about how I could use it in a recipe.


Cherry Whiskey Turkey Burgers


Given that it was summer when I started working on this recipe, is it any wonder that my mind latched on to some version of a whiskey burger recipe? For my first attempt, I caramelized a sweet Walla Walla onion, threw in some mushrooms, cooked them in a reduction of the whiskey, and added this mixture to some ground turkey. By folding the whiskey mixture into the turkey, though, it lost much of the sweet alcohol bite that I love about the Cherry Bomb Whiskey.


Cherry Whiskey Turkey Burgers


The winning combination was when I decided to use the whiskey onion mixture as more of a condiment, a nest for the burger if you will. For the burger itself, I used an extra lean ground turkey, adding in some dried cherries to bring out the sweetness of the whiskey, and some bulgar and an egg to help bind the mixture together. Topped with a bit of melted brie, this burger is a piece of heaven on a bun.



Cherry Whiskey Turkey Burgers
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 4
  • Serving size: 1 burger
  • Calories: 396.8
  • Fat: 8.3
  • Saturated fat: 2.0
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.7
  • Carbohydrates: 40.5
  • Sugar: 7.5
  • Sodium: 405.9
  • Fiber: 8.2
  • Protein: 35.2
  • Cholesterol: 95.6
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Poultry
A lean turkey burger nestles in a bed of sweet onions and mushrooms caramelized in a reduction of cherry whiskey, all topped with a bit of goat cheese brie. Can you say yum?
  • 1 lb. extra lean ground turkey
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup raw bulgar
  • ¼ cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups sliced crimini (brown) mushrooms
  • ½ cup cherry whiskey
  • salt
  • 2 oz. goat cheese brie
  • 4 sandwich thins
  1. Combine the turkey, egg, bulgar, cherries and a pinch of salt. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and saute, stirring occasionally, until the onion pieces are caramelized (brown and melting), about 20-30 minutes.
  3. Add the mushrooms to the caramelized onions and cook about 5 minutes more until the mushrooms are cooked through.
  4. Slowly pour the whiskey in to the pan, stirring with a wooden spoon and using the spoon to loosen anything stuck to the bottom of the pan. Let cook until the whiskey has reduced by half then remove from heat.
  5. Form the turkey mixture into 4 equal-sized patties and grill 2-3 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Top each burger with a ½ ounce piece of the cheese.
  6. To serve, lightly toast the sandwich thin. Put a scoop of the cherry whiskey-onion mixture on the bottom bun, place the burger patty on top of the onion mixture, and finally put the top of the sandwich thin over the cheese.
Since the whiskey is reduced by half before consuming, the nutritional value of the whiskey has been reduced by half. The nutritional values include the sandwich thin. If you elect to use a standard bun, you will need to adjust the nutritional values appropriately.


IFBC Day 3 and Beyond

Pike Place Market

I had every intention of waking up early and taking advantage of the quiet morning hours at Pike Place Market to explore and capture some photos of the market coming to life. After such a late dinner the night before, though, I found myself turning off the alarm on Sunday morning and sleeping in a bit.

Finally around 8 o’clock I emerged from my warm bed, took a quick shower and headed out for my last day in Seattle. I had enough time before the last workshop began at 9:45 to brave the cold, brisk Seattle wind and walk down to Pike Place Market, sip some coffee, nibble on a bagel, and snap a few photos.


Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market on a stormy Sunday morning


Pike Place Market

The bronze mascot of the market


Pike Place Market

The infamous fish stalls of the market


And let’s not forget the stop at Cupcake Royale to pick up some cupcakes to take back for my coworkers.

Cupcake Royale

Delicious cupcakes await!


For my last workshop, I attended a talk on Google+ and how to leverage the rel=author and rel=publisher tools to improve my Google search rankings and drive more traffic to my site. It was totally techy and I’m still going through my notes and trying to figure everything out. But what I did realize is that I need get on Google+.

I’ve been avoiding Google+, honestly. I just don’t think it will ever overtake Facebook, and frankly keeping up with Facebook and Twitter is enough work. However, without nerding out on you, let me just say that there are some benefits for bloggers in these tools. So today I set up my Google+ profile and page. Did you notice the new badge on the upper left of the page?

This is the first change of many you’ll see on my blog as a direct result of attending IFBC. I learned so much at this conference, and had so much fun, that I registered for next year’s conference as soon as they announced that it would be in Seattle again. Seriously, I registered from my laptop right there in the conference room at the closing session.

I decided to set 3 goals for myself to achieve before next year’s conference, so these are the major changes you can expect to see this year.

  1. I will publish a blog post daily. This is a huge move for me, prior to this I’ve been publishing once a week. First, working full time I simply don’t have the time to write a blog post daily. And second, with the focus of my blog posts being original recipes, there’s just no way I can come up with an original recipe every day of the week. However, I think that there are plenty of food, health, nutrition, and fitness things that I could blog about, and I’m also working on bringing in some guest bloggers. This won’t happen overnight, but expect to see a build-up in my post frequency.I’m working on coming up a daily cadence or theme for my posts and here’s what I have so far:
    – Sunday Supper (my original recipe for the week)
    – Manic Monday (a post focusing on relaxation or stress management techniques)
    – Tightwad Tuesdays (how to eat healthy on a budget)
    – Winesday (my wine pick of the week and a recipe to pair it with)
    – Throwback Thursday (a look back at the recipe I was working on this week 1 and 2 years ago)
    – Fit Friday (a nutrition and fitness article)
    – Saturday Night Out (a review of a restaurant, generally local but could also be on my travels)
  2. I will further improve my photography. By the next conference, I will have at least one photograph accepted by Foodgawker.
  3. I will fully monetize my site. By the next conference, I will have revenue of at least $50 per month from my blog.

So what do you think? What additional content would you like to see on my site?

IFBC Day 2

Spur Gastropub

Saturday, day 2 of the International Food Bloggers Conference, was the day I had been looking forward to the most. One of the primary reasons I signed up for the IFBC was for the session with Andrew Scrivani, a food photographer and food stylist who is a regular contributor to the NY Times as well as many other widely recognized publications, cookbooks, and websites.

I’ve been actively working on improving my food photography over the past few months. Have you noticed a difference? I’m almost embarassed to point out some of my earlier works, such as one of my favorite recipes, Slow Cooker Italian Chicken Sausage and Bean Stew. But compared to one of my recent favorites, my Summer Vegetable Tart, don’t you think I’ve come a long way? I think I have. However, given that I continue to get rejected by Foodgawker, and have only had 2 photos accepted by Tastespotting so far, I believe there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

So I packed my humble little Sony Cybershot into my purse and scurried off to the conference first thing in the morning. Waiting for me when I arrived was a breakfast spread befitting of any 5 star European hotel: freshly baked organic breads, an assortment of top-quality meats, cheeses and fruits, jam, yogurt, pastries, and even gluten free granola. All of this was courtesy of Pastry Smart, a local Seattle business that produces organic, ethically made breads and pastries under a variety of brand names to stores such as Whole Foods. The founder of Pastry Smart was then joined by a speaker from the American Human Association for an enlightening conversation on the treatment of animals in the food industry. Something long overdue in the industry, in my humble opinion.

After this deep conversation, we had a bit of levity. A chef team from renowned restaurant Morimoto Hawaii (The Iron Chef, anyone?) engaged in a contest with local chef/comedian John Miskewich. The chefs competed to see who could filet a whole salmon the best and the fastest.


The chef throwdown

A salmon filet throwdown between the executive chef and chef from Morimoto Hawaii and Chef John Mitzewich of Guess who won?


These guys made the whole event look so easy that I, who have always had my butcher do the cutting for me, suddenly had visions of myself confidently filleting a whole salmon and whipping up a delicious salmon tartare, which I must admit I have never made before. In reality, it might be more of a finger tartare if I were to do that myself, so not sure I will attempt that by myself any time soon. But the idea is still niggling in the back of my mind!

After the salmon comedy show, Andrew Scrivani took the stage with a number of his photos to illustrate lessons in lighting, angles, focus, and composition for food photography. My biggest challenge with food photography is that I often lack natural light as the food I’m preparing is also dinner for the night and many times it’s already dark by the time I’m plating it. So I walked away with many ideas for improving my lighting and using the light and shadows to achieve different effects. I would say, though, that the biggest tip I walked away with was to use smaller props so I can fit more in the frame. This means I need to do some more shopping for plates and accessories. Darn.


Andrew Scrivani

My entire reason for attending — a lesson in food photography from Andrew Scrivani, food photographer for the NY Times and many other publications.


I have to admit that I was a little intimidated to attend this workshop because I know that as a professional photographer Andrew shoots with a crazy expensive camera, and I just have my little Sony Cybershot that I work with. So when he talked about things like aperture and different lenses, I felt a little out of my league. But Andrew is a really personable and funny guy, and as he mingled with the bloggers over lunch, I shoved aside my star-struck self and decided to introduce myself and ask him a question.

“I use a point and shoot camera,” I said. “What advice would you give me to improve my photos, aside from buying a new camera?”

His response? “It’s all about the lighting.” He went on to say that there are some really great point and shoot cameras out there, there’s even a new cell phone with a 40MP camera that takes amazing photos. You need to have a good camera, he said, but in the end you have to pay attention to the lighting, that’s where the magic happens.

Noted. Investments in new lighting and cards are coming. More shopping. Dang.


Urban Growers

Urban growers showcasing direct from the farm vegetables


Rogue Creamery

I absolutely love Rogue Creamery! If you haven’t tried their Smoked Blue Cheese yet, you haven’t lived!


Dried fruit

The dried fruit was a delicious add to the lunchtime noshing.


Sahale Snacks

I love Sahale Snacks. They are perfect for packing along on a hike.


After lunch involving more local restaurants and vendors serving up more food and giving away more swag (artisan marshmallows!), I attended another workshop with Andrew Scrivani on photography workflow. This was not about how to take the photos, his previous topic, but really about how to plan to take the photos. I loved this because, totally out of character with my true Virgo planning self, I am not good at planning my food photos in advance. While I know the recipe, I don’t think about how I want it to look in the photo until it’s time to actually take the photo and I often find myself thinking “Darn! I wish I had bought more of that ingredient to use as a prop!”

Silly, huh? My lessons from that workshop are to write out the steps of my recipe in advance, determine the story I want to tell with my photos, decide which steps or techniques I want to photograph, what I want those photos to look like, and then how I capture that completed story in the picture of the final product. This will allow me to determine, in advance, what props I need and when I need to shoot to not only improve the quality of my photos but also my time management. This seems so basic, only a pro like Andrew could bring it to light.

The last session of the day was a writing workshop that was really more of an improv workshop. That is we used improvisational acting tools to create a tighter, more interesting storyline. There were some great tips in here that absolutely apply to writing, such as finding the details within the story to link pieces together and create a seamless flow. However, I found it a bit odd that food bloggers, who are generally introverted by nature, would be put into a situation where they are required to be spontaneous in front of a large group of people. I know I said that I would take Dorie Greenspan’s advice and say yes more, but I found this extremely uncomfortable and the more public the activities got, the more I found myself withdrawing from the class.

Yes, I can hear you tsk-ing me from here. In my defense, as a writer, I am much more internal: I like to mull around my thoughts, write them down, think about them, and come back (typically the next day) and edit them before I publish them to the world. To come up with stories on the spot in front of a hundred of my new best friends was just too far out of my comfort zone. The yeses are coming, but please – baby steps people!


Taste of Alaska Seafood

Salmon bites on a special buffet from our friends at Taste of Alaska Seafood


Luckily, the day was over. After a brief reception of more delicious food (bacon wrapped scallops!) from Taste of Alaska Seafood, I had a brief break before embarking on our Saturday Dine Around Seattle courtesy of UrbanSpoon.

This was such a fabulous surprise. UrbanSpoon sponsored and organized dinners at 20+ different 4 and 5 star restaurants around Seattle for all of the conference attendees. Can you imagine the work involved in coordinating this? And how terrifying to be a chef hosting a bunch of food bloggers!

Our group of 11 met our lovely UrbanSpoon host, Grace, at 7:30, boarded our shuttle and arrived at Spur Gastropub, an innovative downtown Seattle area restaurant from Chef John Howie. We were treated to an unforgettable 5 course meal, with drinks, that lasted about 3 hours. We were all so full when we left that we happily walked the +/- 10 blocks back to the hotel to shake off our food coma.


Spur Gastropub

The Amuse Bouche: Sockeye Salmon Crostini with mascarpone, caper, and pickled shallot


Spur Gastropub

First Course: Chicory Salad with candied pecan, blue cheese, sorrel

Spur Gastropub

Second Course: Venison Tartare with yogurt, dark berry and cucumber

Spur Gastropub

Seared Gnudi with sharp cheddar, soubise and radish

Spur Gastropub

Fourth Course: Slow Cooked Pork Cheeks with red cabbage, crispy spaetzle and cider

Spur Gastropub

The chef’s palate cleanser: grapefruit granita with fennel and blueberry

Spur Gastropub

Fifth and final course: White Peach, Jasmine and Leatherwood Honey sorbet, sponge cake and meringue


I sleepily crawled into my bed and was asleep before my head hit the pillow, visions of gourmet food and wine dancing through my head.

IFBC Day 1

Cupcake Royale Ice Cream

I am resisting all temptation to try and pack the enormity of experiences I’ve had at IFBC over the past 3 days into 1 teeny, tiny blog post. It’s really difficult because I want to share so much, but I am forcing myself to break into smaller, more palatable chunks so that I don’t overwhelm you, and also to allow my busy brain to sift through all of the thoughts and ideas that are currently churning like grandma’s old washing machine. So are you ready for day 1? Okay, here goes.

I woke up rested and ready to embrace the day on Friday, the first official day of the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC). Believe it or not, the sun has actually been shining in Seattle most of the time I’ve been here! Okay, there was a little rain Friday night, but it was late and it was gone by morning so it doesn’t really count. The point is, the sun was shining and I set out on foot to explore Seattle before the conference started at noon.

I browsed, I shopped, I stopped for coffee at one of the many, many Starbucks that dot literally every street corner in downtown Seattle, and I counted down the minutes until the conference began. Tick tock. Tick tock.

Finally it was time. I practically ran up the hotel stairs to the conference rooms, confidently grabbed my name badge from the check-in table, and courageously dove into the river of food bloggers that crowded the hallways. Some I had met the day prior at the pre-conference excursion, and others were new. We eagerly exchanged business cards and talked food and writing while exploring the vendors. And suddenly, we were all quickly side-tracked by the Cupcake Royale table whose staff were doling out generous scoops of ice cream.

Wait. Cupcake Royale makes ice cream too? Well yes, it turns out they do, and some damn good ice cream at that. I had their new flavor, Bourbon Crackerjack, which they debuted at IFBC. Yum!

After dessert, we had lunch, generously provided by Chipotle who was serving up burrito bowls of either pork carnitas or their new tofu sofritas. I had to try the tofu, while I’m not a vegetarian I just love that a national food chain is adding tofu to their menu. And let me tell you, it was delicious! For my bowl, I had a little of Chipotle’s famous lime and cilantro rice with the tofu sofritas topped with guacamole, salsa, and pickled red onions. Double yum!

Chipotle Tofu Sofritas Bowl

Chipotle’s new tofu sofritas with rice, salsa, guacamole and pickled red onions. Yum!

Full and happy, I stumbled to the opening session with the conference keynote speaker, Dorie Greenspan, a well-renowned author who is currently living my own personal dream of living, cooking and writing in Paris. Aside from being a great cook, Dorie is also a humble, charming, genuine human being. In the midst of talking about her evolution from a writer in the typewriter age to a social media savvy author, she generously dropped charming stories of working with the legendary Julia Child, one of my idols. More importantly, though, as a speaker Dorie made herself vulnerable to the audience, allowing me to connect to her in a way that made me feel she understands where I am and maybe, just maybe, someday I can live my own dream too.

Dorie Greenspan

The charming Dorie Greenspan

The one thing that Dorie said that has stuck with me the most is “I have been fortunate because I always said yes.” She went on to say that she said yes to things that terrified her, and to things that didn’t translate into a lot of money but she did them anyway because it was interesting. I love that. After all, there is no risk without reward. I need to start saying yes more. Even Especially to things that terrify me.

After this wonderful opening, we had a live blogging session where a number of vendors, sponsored by grocery and gourmet foods, trotted out 16 different products for us sample and review via blog or social media. Some of the products were amazing (Fever Tree Ginger Beer, Brookside Chocolate Covered Acai Berries, and the Zico chocolate coconut water to name just a few) and others were inedible (not going to name any names here). In the end, I wound up with a full shopping bag of product to tote back to my hotel room. (Side note: by the end of the conference I have a duffel bag and 2 shopping bags full of swag! Wow!)

Amazon live blogging

Wow that’s a lot of stuff!

Next, I attended a session on building internet traffic. I have to tell you, that over the last few weeks I have been seriously thinking about discontinuing my use of videos. They are extremely time-consuming to produce and edit, the quality is not as good as I would like it to be, and I am not sure that videos are something I want to invest more time and money into improving, versus investing it in my writing and photography skills, for example. But at the beginning of this workshop, the presenter, one of the founders of, showed a lovely chart of where people are turning to for recipes. And what site do you think is listed in the top 3 highest growing sources of recipe content? Yep, YouTube. He then tells all the food bloggers that they better think about that.

Okay, okay. This blogger is thinking that maybe she doesn’t want to abandon her videos just yet. So I better figure out how to up my skills there. Game on.

After the workshop we had a brief break before the opening night reception and gift fair. That sounds like a fairly innocuous affair, right? Um, no. It definitely wasn’t.

First, the reception was a giant room full of wineries and some of the best restaurants in Seattle serving up bites of their amazing dishes. My favorites: the smoked scallops from Boka, the burrata from Volunteer Park Cafe, and the gnocchi from Los Alamos Winery. And let’s not forget the sipping caramel with mezcal from Hot Cakes. Oh. My. God. I was practically crawling to the door.

Sablefish Ceviche from Poquitos

Sablefish Ceviche from Poquitos


Huitlacoche Tamale from Poquitos

Huitlacoche Tamale from Poquitos


Ethan Stowell Restaurant

Ethan Stowell’s Restaurant: fried castellano olives, lardo, caramelized pearl onions, buffalo mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, and so much more!


Boka Restaurant and Bar

Smoked scallops and guacamole on taro chips from Boka Restaurant and Bar


Volunteer Park Cafe

Sweet potato coconut curry bisque and burrata with concord grapes, brioche crouton and pancetta from Volunteer Park Cafe


The Hunt Club

Smoked sea scallops with carrot vinaigrette, curly endive and marjoram; pickled Japanese eggplant with shaved prosciutto; and blistered shishito peppers with red pepper and currant relish from The Hunt Club



Los Alamos Winery

Gnocchi and some delicious Los Alamos Malbec

But wait! I haven’t even told you about the gift fair yet! This was a room full of all sorts of food goodies to take home. I walked out with 2 overstuffed bags full of things like Sahale snacks, Scharffen Berger chocolate bars, Milagro vanilla, and so much more that I’ve lost count. I am going to have to go through everything and re-appreciate each one when I get home. One of the ladies I was with weighed her bags and they were 25 lbs. together! Wow!

IFBC Day 1 Swag

Swag haul from just the first day!

I stumbled back to my hotel room stuffed, a bit tipsy, and weighed down with goodies. Yet hungrily looking forward to the next day.

IFBC – Day 0

Chateau Ste Michelle

Thursday morning I woke up, after a night of very little sleep, surprisingly alert and eager to get going. So eager, in fact, that I was out the door a full half hour before I needed to be. That’s so unlike me, right?

The drive from Portland to Seattle seems to have flown by — the sun was shining, I was bopping to music, and traffic (believe it or not) was very cooperative. I arrived at my hotel a full hour early, which left me with enough time to unpack and settle into my new, temporary digs. Okay, this is REALLY unlike me!

I’m in Seattle for the International Food Blogger’s Conference, a weekend of workshops, networking, and lots and lots of great food. The conference doesn’t technically begin until Friday 9/20, but I had signed up for a pre-conference excursion and was also invited to a cocktail social on Thursday.

After settling into my hotel, I wandered to the designated meeting place at 2:15. Again, I was so eager that I was the first one on the scene. Wow, seriously, where did the fashionably late Colleen go? Luckily, I was soon joined by other equally eager bloggers and, after much self-encouragement over the past few weeks, I channeled my inner-extrovert and engaged. Yep, you read that right. Extrovert Colleen is taking over.


Chateau Ste Michelle

Chateau Ste Michelle Winery


The funny thing is that I have discovered that most other food bloggers are just as introverted as I am. I guess it makes sense, after all cooking, writing, and sitting behind a computer are all fairly solitary activities. But I had so much fun meeting other people and, best of all talking about food and recipes. What are your favorites? Where do you get your inspiration? How do you develop a recipe? What’s your focus? What do you want to get out of your blog? These are all great conversations that none of my friends or family have any interest in, they just politely smile and nod when I get all gushy about my latest creation. But here, amongst my fellow foodies, when I say something like “I hate it when I nail a recipe on the first try but forget to write it down,” I get hearty laughs from people who have shared in my frustration.


Chateau Ste Michelle

I could get into a lot of trouble with that much wine!


After introducing myself to several bloggers, and making some instant friends, we boarded the bus and headed for Chateau Ste Michelle, a well-renowned Washington winery. The estate and grounds are beautiful, and, in the golden rays of the northwestern sun, it was a perfect day to be met outside on the patio with a glass of brut rose sparkling wine. I sipped my bubbly, snapped some photos, and strolled through a hosted tour of their bottling plant.


Chateau Ste Michelle

A lesson in food and wine pairing


We then were seated at tables in a room set up with glasses of their Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and served plates with small bites of king salmon, chanterelle quiche, crab cakes, and lamb over hummus. Chef John Sarich led us through a discussion over what we were tasting while talking about his approach to food and cooking. Bottom line, seasonal and local food is the way to go for any quality food. And isn’t this what a healthy lifestyle is all about?


Chateau Ste Michelle

Oh yeah. I’m in trouble.


Of course, in Disneyland style, we were escorted through the winery’s gift shop.

Following a bus ride back through typical snarly Seattle traffic, I hiked over to the 1927 event center and a #FreshBloggers cocktail social sponsored by Stemilt and CalGiant Berries. The food was amazing and I loved hearing from Cupcake Royale owner Jody Hall and Chef Tom Douglass. Not only do they embrace the same quality, local food philosophy that I do, but their business model is one that all those in the food industry should embrace.


Cupcakes from Cupcake Royale


Aside from meeting so many new friends, and lovely rep from Stemilt, I sincerely enjoyed the cupcake tasting from Cupcake Royale. I am normally not a cake fan but these were divine. We had to select from Blackberry Creme Brulee, Salted Caramel Granny Smith Apple, and Roasted Bosc Pear Crisp. They were all good, but I have to say the pear was my favorite. It had this wonderfully unexpected crispy top. I may have to pick up a box of cupcakes to bring home. Not for this healthy foodie – especially after a weekend of indulging! – but perhaps for some deserving coworkers, friends and family back home. Yes, you know who you are!

And now on to day 1 of the conference. Stay tuned!

Chipotle Flank Steak and Barley Salad

Chipotle Flank Steak and Barley Salad

This week I decided to pull a couple of favorite recipes out for you: a spicy, grilled Chipotle Flank Steak from my Entrees cookbook and this cool, sweet Barley Salad from my Salads cookbook.

This steak is one of my earliest recipes, created a couple of years ago when I first started my blog, and it is a delicious today as it was then. I love the flavor combination of tart citrus and spicy chipotle in the marinade that coats the steak. Grilled on the barbecue, it is absolutely perfect.

The salad is much more recent, developed last summer after a salad I had at Tarla Mediterranean Grill. I was impressed with the flavors of nutty barley, cool mint, sweet raisins, and crunchy pistachios in their salad. I added pomegranate seeds to my salad to give it a little extra crunch and burst of juicy flavor, then also used a bit of pomegranate juice in the dressing. Fixing it again this week reminded me how much I absolutely love this recipe, and what a hit it always is with my family and friends.

To round out the meal, I grilled some corn as well. Grilling corn is super easy so I won’t bother posting a formal recipe, but here’s what I did. I gently pulled the green husk back from the ear and removed the silk from inside. I then pulled the husk back into place and secured it around the ear with some kitchen twine. I soaked the ears in water for about 1 hour — the same amount of time it takes to cook the barley for the salad and marinate the steak for the grill. I then just pop the ears on the top rack of my grill and let them steam inside their husks while I cook the steak. For a bit of extra flavor, I pulled the husk back one mid-way through the cooking process and brushed each ear with a mixture of melted butter, lime juice, salt and pepper, then put the husk back in place, re-secured it with twine, and continued to cook it. Delicious!

Chipotle Flank Steak
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 6
  • Serving size: 4 oz.
  • Calories: 221.7
  • Fat: 13.2
  • Saturated fat: 4.3
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.8
  • Carbohydrates: 1.5
  • Sugar: 0.7
  • Sodium: 311.6
  • Fiber: 0.0
  • Protein: 23.2
  • Cholesterol: 56.7
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Beef
Flavors of spicy chipotle peppers and tart citrus combine for a knockout steak that is perfect for summer grilling.
  • 1.5 lbs flank steak, all visible fat trimmed
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 chipotle chile peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • pinch of salt
  1. In a blender, or using a handheld immersion blender, puree the orange juice, lime juice, olive oil, garlic, chipotle peppers, cumin and salt.
  2. Place the flank steak in a shallow dish or large resealable plastic bag and coat with the puree. Let marinate at least 30 minutes, up to overnight.
  3. Grill about 7 minutes on each side for medium doneness.
  4. Let sit for 5 minutes to allow the juices to settle before slicing and serving.

Barley Salad
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 4
  • Calories: 215.5
  • Fat: 3.4
  • Saturated fat: 0.4
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.0
  • Carbohydrates: 44.3
  • Sugar: 19.0
  • Sodium: 50.4
  • Fiber: 5.4
  • Protein: 4.3
  • Cholesterol: 0.0
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Vegan
This Mediterranean inspired salad of nutty barley get a flavor boost from cool mint, juicy pomegranate, chewy raisins, and crunchy, salty pistachios for a dish that your family will be clamoring for.
  • ¾ cup pearl barley
  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
  • ⅓ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup chopped pistachios
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate juice
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • pinch of salt
  1. Bring the water to a boil in a medium pot, add the barley, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 45 minutes or until the barley is tender.
  2. Drain the barley in a fine mesh strainer and rinse with cold water.
  3. Mix the barley with the mint, pomegranate seeds, raisins, and pistachios.
  4. Whisk together the pomegranate juice, lemon juice, honey and salt.
  5. Combine the barley salad with the dressing and serve.


Summer Vegetable Tart

Summer Vegetable Tart

Today I find my thoughts on my intended topic of the benefits of fresh, local food flitting away like the last rays of summer sunshine. I developed this Summer Vegetable Tart with bounty from my garden and local farmer’s market. I have to admit this is also a bit of a personal triumph for me as it turned out so darned pretty. When I was first experimenting with this dish, I had to take a photo to show off the beautiful vegetable arrangement and my mother promptly responded “It’s a work of heart!” And that it is – a true work of (he)art.


Summer Vegetable Tart


But as much as I champion the use of local, fresh, seasonal ingredients in whatever I might be cooking, my uncooperative brain is preoccupied with other thoughts today. What am I obsessing over? Why the International Food Blogger Conference, of course!

Let me give you a little background on me…

By day, I am an Human Resources professional. That’s right, it has absolutely nothing to do with food. Good food and cooking, however, have always been a personal passion of mine.

Those of you that know my story, know that I spent roughly 20 years of my life being obese — my highest weight was 304 pounds. Long story short, I turned my life around and through nothing more than old-fashioned diet and exercise, I lost 100+ pounds and escaped the clutches of obesity. Through this journey, my cooking style also changed.

I began paying closer attention to what I was putting into my food and how much of it I was using in order to make every calorie count. I looked to cooking shows on TV for inspiration and I was disappointed to find that there wasn’t anything there for me. The majority of cooking shows have no regard for portion sizes or the fat and calorie content of the ingredients they’re using.

Going through my own transformation, I became somewhat of an evangelist; I sincerely believe that if I can lose the weight like I did, virtually anyone can if they put their mind to it. And so I started with simple videos of me making various dishes in my kitchen. My goal was to show people how easy it is to eat quality, healthy food without compromising on taste. Eating healthy doesn’t mean you’re relegated to a life of “rabbit food.”


Summer Vegetable Tart


This led to requests for written versions of my recipes which led to my blog, and everything has mushroomed from there. So now here I am, gingerly taking that next step, by embarking on my first food blogger conference, the IFBC.

My goal for this conference is to meet other food bloggers, learn how I can grow my business, and improve the quality of my blog. Those of you that know me in person, know that I tend to be a bit of a wallflower in large groups especially. Going into a conference where I don’t know anyone is a bit intimidating. However, once I get to know people, the extrovert in me comes out. So, I have already signed up for the pre-conference winery excursion on Thursday and a #FreshBloggers networking social that same night in order to meet people.

I’ve also been pouring over the agenda and there are so many amazing events! I am having a hard time choosing between some of the sessions, but this is what I have come up with so far:


Thursday 9/19:

  • 2:30 – 5:45 Food and Wine Excursion to Chateau Ste Michelle Winery in Woodinville
  • 6:00 – 8:00 #FreshBloggers Reception


Friday 9/20

  • 12:00 – 1:30 Welcome and Registration
  • 1:40 – 2:00 Conference Welcome
  • 2:00 – 2:45 Keynote Speaker: Dorie Greenspan
  • 2:45 – 4:15 Live Food Blogging with Grocery
  • 4:30 – 5:45 Sessions – Session 3 Tech: The Elements in Building Traffic
  • 5:45 – 7:00 Reception
  • 7:00 – 9:00 A Taste of Seattle and Gourmet Gift Fair


Saturday 9/21

  • 7:00 – 9:30 Breakfast
  • 8:30 – 9:30 Educational session presented by Pastry Smart
  • 9:00 – 10:00 Happiness Bar
  • 10:00 – 12:00 Food photography and cooking demo
  • 12:00 – 2:00 Discovery Expo
  • 2:15 – 3:45 Sessions – Session 3 Tech: Food Photography Workflow From A-Z
  • 4:00 – 5:30 Sessions – Session 2 Writing: Story Telling : The 7-Part Structure of Stories
  • 5:30 – 6:45 Taste of Alaska Seafood Reception
  • 7:00 – 10:00 Urbanspoon Dine-Around Dinner


Sunday 9/22

  • 6:00 – 9:30 Wake Up with Pike Place Market
  • 9:45 – 11:15 Sessions – Session 3 Tech: GooglePlus, AuthorRank, and Where Search is Going?
  • 11:15 – 11:45 Conference Closing

I’ve also been devouring all of the tips from veteran food blogger conference attendees to prepare myself for the event. Lots of business cards are at the top of my packing list.

Are you going to IFBC? What are you looking forward to?



Summer Vegetable Tart
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 4
  • Serving size: 1 wedge
  • Calories: 421.8
  • Fat: 16.6
  • Saturated fat: 4.0
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 1.7
  • Carbohydrates: 52.4
  • Sugar: 2.7
  • Sodium: 493.7
  • Fiber: 9.7
  • Protein: 16.0
  • Cholesterol: 12.0
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Vegetarian
This beautiful vegetarian tart is a true work of heart! Let me show you how easy it is to make this pretty, delicious dish for your own table.
  • 3 oz. whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3 oz. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp coarse sea salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh oregano leaves
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 3 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
  • ½ cup 2% cottage cheese
  • 1 oz. shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 oz. shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 large sweet onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 1 large baby yellow squash, sliced into ⅛" thick rounds then cut in half to make half-circles
  • 1 large baby zucchini, sliced into ⅛" thick rounds then cut in half to make half-circles
  • 1 small eggplant, sliced into ⅛" thick rounds then cut in half to make half-circles
  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced into ⅛" thick rounds then cut in half to make half-circles
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. In a food processor, combine the flours, baking powder, a pinch of the sea salt, garlic, and oregano. Pulse to combine.
  3. Whisk together the water and 3 tbsp of the olive oil.
  4. With the food processor on low, slowly drizzle in the water/oil mixture until the dough forms a crumbly ball.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 12" round. Transfer it to a 10" tart pan, pressing the dough into the sides.
  6. Trim off any excess dough, prick the bottom of the crust with a fork, and bake for 6 minutes until the crust is set. Set aside to cool.
  7. Heat the remaining 1 tsp of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of the sea salt. Cook until the onion is browned and gooey, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.
  8. Add the red wine to the onion and use the back of a wooden spoon to scrape up all the crusty bits from the bottom of the pan. Once the wine has cooked down by half, remove from heat and set aside.
  9. Combine the cottage cheese, mozzarella and parmesan in a small mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Spread the cheese mixture across the bottom of the crust.
  10. Spread the caramelized onions across the top of the cheese mixture.
  11. Take pieces of the yellow squash and arrange them in a single layer, rounded side up, against the rim of the crust (using the crust to help them stand up-right).
  12. Arrange pieces of the zucchini next, standing them up against the yellow squash, then repeat with the eggplant and tomato. Keep repeating with each vegetable until you reach the middle, finishing with pieces of tomato.
  13. Bake 30 minutes at 375F. Let sit for 5 minutes before slicing into 4 wedges and serving.


Oregon Summer Rice Cakes with Corn & Tomato Salsa

Oregon Summer Rice Cakes with Corn & Tomato Salsa

And after 2 months of diligently experimenting with various rice recipes — and all of the prep, cooking, and tasting that goes along with that — I have finally reached the deadline for Jaime Oliver’s Search for a FoodTube Star with Uncle Ben’s Competition. I came up with 3 entries in total, starting with Hoisin Marmalade Glazed Chicken Skewers with Lemongrass Rice and most recently my Chargrilled Veggies and Rice with Salmon. I think this third and last installment, Oregon Summer Rice Cakes with Corn & Tomato Salsa, is my favorite though.

I really wanted one of my entries to feature locally sourced ingredients, an ode to my hometown if you will. I started by mixing shredded zucchini and yellow squash from my garden with the rice, after all food doesn’t get more local and fresh than my backyard. I had some leftover grilled salmon, a delicious locally caught variety, that I then flaked into the mixture.


Oregon Summer Rice Cakes with Corn & Tomato Salsa



I wanted to use a local cheese so at first I tried a Rogue Creamery’s Smokey Blue, which is a blue cheese smoked with hazelnut shells. The cheese is absolutely phenomenal, particularly in my Urban Farmer’s Salad, but I didn’t care for it with the salmon in this dish. Then I tried an alpine style gouda from Willamette Valley Cheese Company. Winner! This gouda is hard and shreds up beautifully, and the mild flavor pairs nicely with the other ingredients without overpowering the dish.


Oregon Summer Rice Cakes with Corn & Tomato Salsa


I add eggs to the squash, rice, salmon and cheese mixture to help bind the cakes and then simply form it into patties on a greased baking sheet. I found that baking them at 425F for 15 minutes then turning the patties over and baking for another 10 minutes yields rice cakes that are crispy on the outside and moist on the inside.


Oregon Summer Rice Cakes with Corn & Tomato Salsa


For a final touch, I created a salsa using a variety of cherry tomatoes from my garden, a shaved ear of locally grown sweet corn, chopped fresh herbs, and a wee bit of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Spooned over the top of the cakes, this meal boasts all of my favorite flavors of Oregon summers. What are your favorite local flavors of summer?



Oregon Summer Rice Cakes with Corn & Tomato Salsa
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 4
  • Serving size: 2 cakes per person
  • Calories: 395.2
  • Fat: 13.2
  • Saturated fat: 4.3
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 2.2
  • Carbohydrates: 42.8
  • Sugar: 5.3
  • Sodium: 816.8
  • Fiber: 3.0
  • Protein: 27.5
  • Cholesterol: 147.1
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Seafood
In my 3rd and final entry for Jaime Oliver's Search for a FoodTube Star with Uncle Ben's competition, I am incorporating my favorite seasonal flavors of my hometown into crispy, baked rice cakes. It's fresh, local food at its best!
  • 1 box Uncle Ben’s Long Grain & Wild Rice, cooked according to package directions -- omit the seasoning packet and oil/butter
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup shredded yellow squash
  • ½ lb. wild-caught salmon filet, cooked and flaked
  • 2 oz. gouda cheese, shredded
  • 2 large raw eggs
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 ear sweet corn, cooked and kernels cut off
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Grease a baking sheet with a little olive oil and set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the rice, zucchini, squash, salmon, cheese, eggs and a pinch of coarse sea salt until well mixed.
  3. Form the rice mixture into 8 patties, about ¾"-1" thick, on the baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes then use a spatula to turn each patty over and bake for another 10 minutes until crisped on the outside.
  5. In a small mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, corn kernels, basil and parsley. Whisk together the vinegar and oil, adding a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss the tomato-corn mixture with the oil-vinegar mixture.
  6. Serve the rice cakes topped with the corn and tomato salsa.