DISCLAIMER: I was not compensated in any way for this post. While Cosmos Creations has donated a prize for the giveaway, I have not received any compensation and the opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.
Like many people striving to live a healthy lifestyle, I too have cravings for sweet or salty snacks. I know, you’re in shock, I am human, too. So I was very pleased to be introduced to Cosmos Creations through the International Food Blogger Conference. And the bonus? Like me, the company is from Oregon so I get to support a local business!
Cosmos Creations makes premium puffed corn that is baked not fried. It’s non-GMO, gluten free, trans fat free, and the corn doesn’t have any kernels or hulls so it’s also easy on your teeth. In flavors such as Sriracha, Sea Salt & Vinegar, White Cheddar & Cracked Pepper, Sea Salt & Butter, Coconut Crunch, Salted Caramel, Caramel, and Cinnamon Crunch, there are sweet and savory flavors to satisfy every craving. And, they don’t leave me feeling guilty after!
Would you like to try this delicious snack for yourself? Simply enter the giveaway below and you could win a Cosmos Creations Swag Bag with 2 big bags, 6 snack bags, and 4 single serve bags of assorted sweet and savory flavors. Just leave a comment telling me the flavor you’re most anxious to try. For additional entries, follow the instructions below.
I’ve teamed up with 9 awesome bloggers to bring you a massive blogger giveaway! Once you enter my giveaway, head on over to I’m Gonna Cook That to enter the giveaway there for a handy Crisp 4 in 1 citrus peeler and get the link to the next blog giveaway. Wouldn’t it be something if you won all 9 prizes?! Be sure to check back here on 9/30/2014 after 8:00 am PST to see who won!
*This giveaway is sponsored by Colleen’s Kitchen and is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Cosmos Creations. Giveaway will end on Monday, September 29th, 2014 11:59 p.m. PST. One winner will be selected at random and will be announced (and tagged) in another post. Be sure to check back here on 9/30/14 after 8am PST to see if you’ve won. Winner will have 24 hours to respond to notification of win or a new winner will be chosen. Prize will be sent via US Post so you’ll need to provide your mailing address if you win. Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery. Open to US residents only, must be 18 years or older to enter.*
This week I donned my boots, skinny jeans, t-shirt, cardigan and scarf and made it official. Forget the fresh smell of the rain, the crunch and crackle of fallen leaves, and the plethora of pumpkin flavored products lining the store shelves. If the boots and scarves are out, you know it’s autumn.
It’s the time of year that I start cooking indoors more, looking for quick and easy dinners to make the most of these ever shortening days. My cast-iron skillets come out of the cupboards and are the stars of many a fall meal. They’re easy and versatile, and what’s better than a one-pot meal?
Around 20 minutes to make and all cooked in 1 pan? Yes please!
For my 3 Pepper Sausage and Potato Skillet, I wanted something hearty and filling with a little heat and lots of color on the plate. Because food is not just about the taste, it’s also about the presentation. Our eyes are the gateways to our stomachs. I love the party pop of color that the peppers add to this dish.
Of course, the bonus is that this is a super quick and easy weeknight meal, perfect for those nights on the go with the kids. I used baby gold potatoes in this recipe, but it would be fantastic with baby red potatoes as well. Add in some lean Andouille chicken sausage for some heat and smoky cumin and crisp cilantro for flavor, and it’s truly a one-pot wonder.
Normally when I make a spicy Asian dish, I go for a Riesling or a Gewurztraminer. For my Sriracha Soba Noodle Bowl, though, I wanted something a bit different. I was looking for something that was fruity and just slightly off-dry to counter the spicy Sriracha and peppery Thai basil that I use in the recipe. Lucky for me, this Columbia Valley Chenin Blanc from L’Ecole No 41 was the perfect pick.
L’Ecole No 41 is a family-owned winery founded in 1983 in Washington state’s Walla Walla Valley. The winery is located in the historic Frenchtown School, the image so prominent on their label, and which also inspired the winery’s name.
I have not drunk much Chenin Blanc outside of France’s Loire Valley Vouvray. I am simply smitten with the array of Vouvray available: sparkling or still, sec or demi-sec. So when I came across this domestic – and somewhat local to me – Chenin Blanc, I was a little dubious. But, I am always game to try something new.
L’Ecole No 41 2013 Chenin Blanc and my Sriracha Soba Noodle Bowls are a perfectly easy and delicious meal.
One sip of L’Ecole’s Chenin Blanc and I was immediately transported back to my first encounter with Vouvray. I distinctly remember I was sitting on the beautiful patio at La Terrasse, a wonderful restaurant that sits in the shadow of the glorious castle of Amboise, France. This Chenin Blanc has an aromatic nose of jasmine and orange blossom with flavors of juicy apple and a surprisingly crisp finish, it was just as delightful as any Vouvray I’ve had the pleasure of sipping.
More importantly, the fruitiness of the wine was a perfect foil for my spicy Sriracha Soba Noodle Bowl. I love it when a plan comes together.
Here I’ve been sitting on this scrumptious and incredibly easy recipe for my Sriracha Soba Noodle Bowl. What is wrong with me? How could I be so selfish to keep this bowl of spicy deliciousness to myself?
A spicy bowl of deliciousness!
Well my friends, I’ve been busy. I’ve been learning, networking, and just having some fun at the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC). This was my second year attending IFBC and, just as last year, my mind is literally exploding with ideas and inspiration. I’m still digesting what I learned so that I can thoughtfully set some smart goals for my blog. In the meantime, though, I have to share my top 3 highlights from the conference.
1. The Sur La Table and KitchenAid pre-conference excursion
I have to admit, I did not realize that my go-to kitchen shopping mecca is headquartered in Seattle. When I saw this pre-conference excursion to the Sur La Table corporate test kitchen, co-sponsored by KitchenAid, I signed up without hesitation. And lucky I did because there was a waiting list a mile long.
Sur La Table’s CEO, Jack Schwefel, and KitchenAid’s Senior Marketing Manager, Nikki Lockett, talked to us about their respective companies, business philosophies, and partnership. Sur La Table’s Culinary Director and Culinary Program Content Manager also gave a cooking demonstration using the KitchenAid appliances, after which we got to chow down on the delicious Fettucine with Kale and Walnut Pesto and Warm Cranberry Crumble Tarts they made.
My favorite part, though, was the preview of the new products for Holiday 2014. KitchenAid has a beautiful line of modern retro-looking appliances debuting as well as amazing new attachments for their infamous stand mixer. The crowd favorite was a wireless immersion blender with multiple attachments. The group of bloggers literally exploded with excitement when it was brought out. I think I was actually drooling. I know what I want for Christmas!
One thing that I really admire about Sur la Table, though, is their dedication to innovation in the kitchen. They are so committed to bringing new ideas to Sur La Table that they actually monitor crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter for new products to distribute. They have 2 new products debuting this season that came from Kickstarter, one a fantastically compact sous vide machine. What a wonderful way to innovate and support entrepreneurs at the same time!
And before I finish on Sur La Table and KitchenAid, I have to tell you about the swag bags they sent us home with. AH-MAY-ZING! Each of the 50 attendees got 2 bags full of goodies, including KitchenAid’s new food processor attachment for their stand mixer that retails for $299 each and isn’t even available in stores yet. We also all received a bottle of California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 2 bags of flour from King Arthur Flour, a Spatula, Holiday Tree Ornament, an Aquasana Filtration System, Berard Olivewood Spreaders, Chilewich Table Runner, Kerrygold Cook Book and Coupons for FREE butter, Le Creuset Tea for One Pot, Lekue Disposable Pastry Bags, Lekue Microwave Steamer Basket, and 3 bags and 2 tins of various TCHO Chocolates. Wow!
Then to top that, they randomly selected 10 attendees to take home KitchenAid’s new Electric Kettle, which retails for $175 . And I won!! What an unbelievable day!
2. Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg
In my pre-conference post, I mentioned how much I was looking forward to hearing Karen and Andrew speak. After all, I’ve spent more than a little time digesting The Flavor Bible this summer. Shortly after publishing that post I received a lovely thank-you tweet from the pair. I was smitten!
Their presentation was about the growth in plant-based diets and the culinary innovation that is happening at restaurants all over the country as a result. I am definitely not a vegetarian, but the presentation struck a note for me because since adopting my healthy lifestyle almost 6 years ago now, I have consciously incorporated at least 1-2 meatless days into each week, many times more. I do this because the food is leaner and helped me to first lose and now maintain my weight. (Not familiar with my weight loss story? It’s pretty inspiring! Take a read here!)
I carried my copy of The Flavor Bible around all day hoping to run into Karen and Andrew. Finally, in the Bordeaux Wines session, it paid off. I waited for an opportunity and approached, asking if they would sign my book. Karen looked at my nametag and exclaimed “Are you Colleen?” I grinned like a silly fangirl and said I was. She then gushed about my pre-conference post, thanking me for the nice article, and asked me “Can I give you a hug?” And just like that I got a hug from Karen Page. Weekend made.
3. Bordeaux Wines
If you know anything about me by now, you know that I’m not only a wino, but I’m also a total Francophile. France is hands-down my favorite country to visit and I go as often as I can afford it. I have not yet been to Bordeaux – it’s on my list – but I have long been an admirer of their wines. After all, some of the finest wines in the world come from Bordeaux.
I had the pleasure of meeting representatives Jeffrey and Clara over breakfast Saturday morning. What better breakfast topic than wine and travel, right? I then attended the wine pairing session sponsored by Bordeaux Wines in the afternoon. We walked through a history of the region and its wines before beginning a blind tasting. We had 10 glasses of assorted whites and reds at each table that we had to swirl and sniff then name the aromas we were smelling. I must admit, I didn’t guess correctly on all of them. But I did get most of them right, including the wine with notes of green bell pepper that seemed to stump everyone else at my table!
This session was a highlight for me because it made me realize that I want to further educate myself on wine. I need to do more research before I commit to something, but I’m seriously considering studying to be a certified sommelier. Not only does that interest me personally, but I think it would give me and my little blog more credibility in the industry.
I accidentally discovered Remy Wines this summer while doing some winery tours in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It wasn’t on the agenda, but their tasting room, baR, was located next door to another winery we were visiting so we decided to stop in on a whim.
I was immediately attracted to the ambiance of the tasting bar. It’s open, hip, and inviting, without that pretentious quality that so many wineries have. Our host told us the story of owner winemaker Remy Drabkin, who grew up in the area and knew from the age of 8 that she wanted to be a winemaker. At just 8 years old! When I was 8, I wanted to be Wonder Woman. (I may still want to, if I’m being honest.)
The tasting room of baR (called R Bar) is very casual and inviting.
Remy strives to make old world European style wines from single vineyard sourced Sangiovese, Barbera, Lagrein, and Dolcetto. Intrigued by the winery’s story, I settled in for my tasting. Let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I was so blown away by the quality of the wine, at affordable prices, that I joined their wine club on the spot. This past weekend I attended my first wine club pickup party at Remy Wines and it was so much fun! In addition to tasting the new releases, there was a ton of food on hand, a band, and of course the wonderful staff.
Remy Wines Sangiovese 2012 Ciel du Cheval is absolutely delicious with my summer inspired Whole Wheat Spaghetti Nests
For my last summer inspired recipe, Whole Wheat Spaghetti Nests, I wanted to pair a classic Italian wine with the nutty whole wheat spaghetti, peppery basil, and sweet summer veggies. I immediately pulled my newly acquired bottle of Remy Wines Sangiovese 2012 Ciel du Cheval out of the cellar, and of course it was a brilliant pairing.
Sourced from the Ciel du Cheval vineyard in Washington state, Remy Wines Sangiovese 2012 Ciel du Cheval is big-bodied with aromas of cherries and tobacco. On the palate it bursts with notes of berries, plum and a peppery finish that plays well against the basil in my Whole Wheat Spaghetti Nests. What a perfect end to a perfect summer!
Well this is it, my last recipe for this year featuring summer produce. Before those cherry tomatoes, basil and zucchini disappear for the season, though, you have to try this deliciously simple recipe.
I lightly brush a grill pan with olive oil and grill slices of baby zucchini for about 2 minutes on each side.
I start by grilling slices of zucchini either on the grill or in a grill pan on the stovetop.
Use a fork to twirl the noodles into a nest shape.
Then I cook some whole wheat spaghetti noodles and toss it with olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and some chopped basil. Simple, right?
Sprinkle finely shredded Parmesan cheese over the nest.
To spice up the presentation, I use a fork to swirl the noodles into a nest shape, sprinkle it with some finely shredded parmesan cheese, and then top it with pieces of the grilled zucchini and whole cherry tomatoes.
Top your nest with pieces of the grilled zucchini and whole cherry tomatoes. Delicious!
The entire dish takes less than 15 minutes to make yet it’s so pretty and delicious your family will think you slaved over the stove for hours.
For my last barbecue of the season, I wanted a big, juicy wine that would pair well with meat and veggies cooked on the grill. As soon as I tasted the Black Dot from Washington’s Domaine Pouillon, I knew that it would be perfect for a summer barbecue in my backyard.
The Black Dot is a red blend of primarily Zinfandel grapes, which are always a great go-to for barbecues. Add in Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre, Dolcetto, and Grenache and you have a lip-smacking delight.
I featured Domaine Pouillon earlier this summer for their equally delicious Rose. Located in Washington state’s Columbia Valley AVA, Domaine Pouillon is an independent, family-owned and operated winery. The tasting room, located near Lyle, Washington, is a beautiful place to be on a warm summer day. Owners Alexis and Juliet Pouillon have brought a touch of the French countryside to both their winery and the wine, with red blends to rival those of Bordeaux and the Cotes du Rhone.
The Black Dot is no exception. With flavors of juicy cherries and a smooth licorice finish that lingers on the palate, it is a wonder of a wine. I love that the blend changes from year to year depending on the grapes leftover at the end of the harvest. It reflects the adventurous spirit of the winemakers.
Big and juicy, the Domaine Pouillon Black Dot is a great barbecue wine.
I served the Black Dot with grilled sausage dogs, corn on the cob, and my smoky, sharp, and delicious Grilled Red Potato Salad. Add in family, friends and laughter, and it was a fitting end to a lovely Northwest summer.
The heat is hanging on here in the Pacific Northwest, it was in the high 90’s yesterday. But the nights are crisper, it dropped into the high 50’s last night, and the leaves are beginning to fall from the fruit trees in my yard. Yes, the end of summer has arrived.
I’m always a little sad to say goodbye to my favorite season. It means the end of scenic hikes, outdoor concerts, fresh garden vegetables, road trips to the beach, and backyard barbecues. So before I say goodbye, I wanted to host one last barbecue. And isn’t potato salad essential to any barbecue?
For easier grilling, place the red potato slices in a burger grill basket.
I decided to put a twist on my potato salad by grilling the potatoes with a red onion and then using a dressing base of lean, protein rich Greek yogurt to cut down on the fat. It took me a while to perfect this recipe, though, I couldn’t seem to get the flavor of the dressing right. And then I did.
Can you guess the ingredients that made the potato salad?
My Grilled Red Potato Salad makes a perfect barbecue side!
Worcestershire sauce and Rogue Creamery’s Blue Heaven blue cheese powder.
That’s it. The worcestershire added a nice salty, smoky flavor while the blue cheese added a sharpness, both of which play well against the grilled potatoes and red onion. They are absolutely essential to the dish.
For my last barbecue, I served my Grilled Red Potato Salad with some sausage dogs, local corn on the cob, and a homemade spicy-sweet ketchup. That’s right, I said homemade ketchup. I had a great tomato year so I turned some of my tomatoes into ketchup using the recipe here for Sweet and Spicy Ketchup. It’s absolutely delicious, so much better than store-bought ketchup. The only tweak I made to the recipe? I added 1 tbsp of worcestershire sauce. 🙂
An essential barbecue side, the classic potato salad is grilled and leaned down in my smoky,sharp, and delicious Grilled Red Potato Salad.
1 lb. baby red potatoes, sliced into ½" thick slices
½ red onion, sliced into ½" thick slices
1 tbsp olive oil
⅓ cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
2 tbsp lowfat buttermilk
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp Rogue Creamery Blue Heaven blue cheese powder
½ tsp ground dry mustard
pinch of salt
3 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (I used chives, tarragon, and society garlic)
1 hardboiled egg, chopped
1 cup loosely packed fresh arugula leaves
Preheat your propane grill then reduce the flame to low.
Brush both sides of the slices of potatoes and onion with the olive oil.
Grill the potatoes for 4-5 minutes per side or until the potatoes are cooked through. Grill the onions for 3-4 minutes per side or until they are charred and cooked through. Remove from the grill and let cool.
Whisk together the yogurt, buttermilk, worcestershire, blue cheese powder, mustard, salt, and herbs.
Chop the cooled potatoes and onions and place in a medium salad bowl. Toss with the dressing.
Before I tell you all about this scrumptious Heirloom Tomato Polenta Tart, I have to digress. Because the countdown is on!
In less than 3 weeks I will be soaking up invaluable information at my second International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC) in Seattle. IFBC was my first food blogging conference ever last year, and it was a tremendous experience. I learned so much about writing, technology and photography that I was able to put into practice immediately. I can’t even tell you how many followers have noticed and complimented me on the improvement in my food photos, and I credit that entirely to the superior workshops I attended at IFBC last year.
So it is with great excitement that I’m studying the agenda for IFBC and strategically planning my time. Here’s what I have so far:
Friday – September 19th:
I’ve pre-registered for an early afternoon pre-conference excursion to the Sur La Table corporate test kitchen where we’ll learn how to create buzz and build excitement for our blog through recipe development. Doesn’t that sound right up my alley? Afterwards is the grand opening reception where we’ll fill our swag bags and enjoy fabulous food and wine from conference sponsors.
Saturday – September 20th:
This is a jam-packed day, starting with a keynote address from Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, award-winning authors of The Flavor Bible. This year I’m making sure to pack my book for an autograph opportunity. Next is Modern Editorial Photography: Scrappy Light, Hidden Props and Magic with Todd Coleman, Tasting Table’s Creative Director and Co-Founder. This is followed by a cooking demo with Chef Thierry Rautureau who will be sampling a popular dish from his new Seattle restaurant, Loulay.
In the afternoon, I’ll attend a workshop on wine tasting and writing presented by Bordeaux Wines. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to that one! And finally, I’m planning on attending a writing workshop designed to help me better describe the food I create.
Sunday – September 21st:
On the last day of the conference, I’m planning on attending a session on creating compelling video content. You might have noticed that I haven’t published a video in several weeks, and that’s mostly because of the time it takes to shoot, produce and edit the video. I’m hoping to pick up some tips in this workshop that will help me get back into the game. Then, for my last workshop, I will attend a session on SEO for bloggers in the hopes of improving my search ranking and driving more traffic to my site.
How fabulous does IFBC sound? I can’t wait!
So now, let me tell you about this pretty Heirloom Tomato Polenta Tart. Because aren’t heirloom tomatoes the best taste of summer?
Spoon the polenta into individual tart pans – 6 in total – and chill them in the fridge overnight.
The crust is fairly simple to make, although it does need to be prepped ahead of time. I just whip up a batch of polenta, spoon it into the tart pans, then refrigerate it overnight. Chilling the polenta firms it up so that it makes a nice solid crust for the tart.
The tarts are topped and ready for the final bake.
Once chilled, I do a pre-bake on the crust to firm it up even more and give it a light crisp before then filling it with a creamy mixture of cheese, shredded zucchini and herbs. This adds a creaminess to the tart while making good use of all that zucchini from the garden.
The finished tart is as delicious as it is pretty.
Finally, I top each tart with a thick slice of heirloom tomato and finely shredded parmesan cheese. The result is a bite of summer heaven.