Pinkies up… for a winner!

I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend!  Did you try anything new and delicious?  Please  share if you tried anything different.
First, I would like to announce the winner of my Blogher Food 2011 giveaway!  Congrats to Chelsey of Clean Eating Chelsey!  I’m pretty sure I have your address somewhere in my archives but email it to me again just to be sure.
I wish I could have mailed all of you some of the goodies.  Better yet, I wish you would have been there with me.  Hey,why don’t you come next year so we can spend the whole weekend eating and being blog buddies.
But since the next Blogher Food won’t be for a year, how about I tell you another way to treat yourself?
I recently went for tea with some friends at Amelia’s Tea and Holly in Mullica Hill, NJ.  I had been several times with my Mom, sister and Grandmother but this was the first time I was bringing friends.



Now, I know what you might be thinking.  Tea?  For adults?  Isn’t that what little girls do while playing?  Of course it is.  But why can’t we play as adults?
Having tea makes you feel fancy, elegant and poised.

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You get to use sugar cubes, tiny tea cups and floral tea pots.



You sip instead of slurping.  And soup tastes better when you eat it slowly. (Actually I think Amelia’s soup is really that amazing.)
Most tea places will do layers of an assortment of food such as this one.
Tea sandwiches are so delicious and simple.
A scone, pound cake and fresh fruit.
And assortment of small dessert bites.
But most importantly, having tea is about enjoying the company you go with and actually taking time to slow down and relax.
You deserve to be treated like a queen!  And I was under the impression that queens didn’t have to pay. Winking smile

Spinach & Bacon Salad

Whether you’re barbecuing, relaxing or working this Memorial Day weekend, one thing is for sure… this weekend kicks off summer eating!  Ok, so maybe you already started eating caprese salads and fresh watermelon, I am guilty  too.  But, prior to this weekend it wasn’t official.
I  have a salad for you that will make you the star of any barbecue, work picnic or family reunion.  It is simple, fresh, and an explosion of flavor with each bite!
Strawberry Spinach Salad
You will need:
For salad:
•2 bags of baby spinach
•1 pint of strawberries, sliced
•3/4 pound of grapes, cut in halves
•1 pound of bacon, cooked and crumbled
For dressing:
•1 cup olive oil
•1 cup sugar
•1/2 cup wine vinegar
•1 tsp salt
•1 tsp minced onion
•1 tsp worcestershire sauce
The hardest part of this recipe is just prepping everything.  Make sure  you wash your spinach well and dry it even better.  Mix together the ingredients for the dressing well.  The dressing will tend to separate so make sure you keep stirring.  Combine all of the salad components and you’re finished!
I always serve the dressing on the side because it will become extremely soggy if you put it over the salad ahead of time.  And if you have vegetarians you can obviously put the bacon on the side as well.  Feel free to substitute  the bacon for turkey bacon too!
And you might want to print this recipe out because everyone is going to  want it.  Oh, and you might as well get used to making it because not only will your friends and family be asking you to make it…but you’ll probably have a stash of it waiting in your fridge all summer long.  Yup, it  is that good.
And if you haven’t entered my GIVEAWAY yet, make sure you do!

Blogher Food 2011 Recap & Giveaway!

Are you tired of my Blogher Food posts yet!?  I promise this is the last one Smile  If you haven’t checked out my posts yet, Pre Blogherfood, Blogher Food Day 1, Blogher Food Day 2.
Because there was so much to read in my posts which may be overwhelming, I’ve decided  to make a brief top 10 list to highlight things that I learned that  were most important to me.
1.) Take photos and notes while attending different sessions so you will have information to look back on and share with others.
2.) Tweet!  I realize that this was one of my tips before I attended, but I wanted to reiterate its importance.  This was the second food blog conference I attended and the first that I had a smart phone.  I didn’t realize everything I was missing out on during the first conference!! Oh,  and download TweetDeck while you’re at it.
3.) Keep an open mind and listen to any  ideas and advice from other bloggers.
4.) Download Windows Live Writer !!! Instead of posting blogs directly through the site you use, you can write on WLW, which is similar to Word, but with all the blog features.  Danica introduced me to it and it has made life so much easier!
5.) Try foods that you might not normally try.  I tried bison for the first time and I retried lamb for the second time.
6.) Don’t be afraid to use public transportation.  Just plan ahead and you can save yourself a lot of money.
7.) Ask locals  for ideas of where to go and eat.  I asked someone who lead me to a great shopping area!
8.) If you are going to be at a different hotel than the one where the conference is being held, make sure it is very close otherwise you will spend too much money and time going back and forth.  I learned this at my first conference and this time was much better!
9.) Go against your routine.  Wake up early, stay up late, try something new!
10.) Plan on attending next year!
I also wanted to point out that I added 5 additional tips to my travel tips for those going alone.  I didn’t want to add this prior to leaving because I didn’t want to let the world know I’d be alone!!
Lastly, I wanted to announce a GIVEAWAY!  While at Blogher Food 2011 everyone received a lot of swag and I wanted to share with you.  So I will be giving one lucky reader a basket filled with samples/products/coupons for products including companies such as Starkist, Scharffenberger , POM Wonderful, Dole and more! To enter:
1.) Leave a comment and share something you learned while traveling.
2.) Follow me on twitter and comment saying you do.
3.) Tweet this giveaway and comment saying that you did.
Each entry will give you another chance to win!  The contest will go until Sunday, May 29th at 11:59 PM EST.  I will announce the winner and contact you via email.  Good luck!

Blogher Food 2011 Day 2

Welcome back! and thank you for being patient with me.  I wanted to get this update up sooner but I was having some technical difficulties, but more on that during a later post!
On day 2 we were given the gift of sleeping in and arriving to the festivities at 10 AM, instead of 8:30 AM.  And normally, I’d be all over that.  But the night before, Danica  and I talked about getting some exercise and since we sat for most of the weekend, learning and eating, we decided to go for a morning stroll.  So we woke up and walked the streets of Atlanta with her hubs.  I was surprised that even that early in the morning it was mild enough to not need any kind of jacket! 
At 10, we headed in for a welcome and summary of how our day would go.  Then, we were headed to session one.  The seminar choices were:
Voice: Recipe Writing: Copyright, Credit and Etiquette
Visuals: Finding Your Visual Voice
Vittles: Foodie Mom, Picky Kid – Staying motivated and challenged when your kids’ palates are challenging to accommodate
Vocation: Branding Ain’t Just for Cattle: Set Yourself Apart from the Herd
I attended the Vocation track because I am always interested in being more of "yourself”.  Sometimes it can be hard in the  blog world with so many amazing  influences that it is easy to get lost and not be true to who you are.  But this seminar really allowed me to realize that it is okay to still be figuring out who your blog self is and how to express the real you through  your blog.
After the session we were given another opportunity to speak and sample with the vendors and of course we had some more samples.  The vendors were the same which is why I did not repeat any photographs.  But, we did snap a photo with Charlie!  I’m hoping to host a Starkist giveaway sometime in the future so stay posted for that!


Then, we headed to the Sweet Auburn Curb Market.



When we arrived there were several food trucks outside where we could purchase something for lunch.


We thought it was interesting that you could get half a hot dog!

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One of the weirdest things we saw was this… yellow root tea.  It looked like, uh, well you can guess.


Apparently, it can help heal all of these ailments.


And it comes from these twigs.



Not only was there an obvious abundance of veggies and fruit, but also baked treats, homemade candy, flavored popcorn and places where you could grab  lunch.

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Grindhouse was one of the  places were we grabbed something to share.  The meat that is used for their burgers is ground on the premises, hence the name.

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We had the Grindhouse Burger: American cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, pickles, grindhouse sauce.


And we tried several items from the Sweet Auburn Barbecue.

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A chicken taco and beef brisket with coleslaw.
And after all of our palate tempting tastes, we headed back for session two.
Voice: Food Blogging for Change
Visuals: Simple, Affordable Tools, Techniques, and Accessories to Improve Your Food Photography
Vittles: Charcutepalooza: A Bumpin’, Grindin’, Sausage-Makin’ Demo
Vocation: Professional-grade Recipe Development
During this session I attended the Visuals track which wound up being my favorite session all weekend.  Some of the best information that I obtained was to BUY A TRIPOD, use inexpensive props that you may have at home and to focus on lighting sources and ways to fix them for the best possible photos.  I also learned new things about my camera while fiddling around with it while listening.  I think pictures really mean the most and allow readers to understand what the food was like, so this session really hit home for me.
During our last demo and tasting session, frozen treats were offered and then we headed to the closing keynote about The Evolution of Food Writing.


And then before we knew it, it was time for the Closing Party, hosted by POM Wonderful.








The party was great and there was plenty to taste.  I had a few small bites of everything but was trying my best to keep an appetite because I knew I was going out with Danica and Jay (her hubby) afterwards.  My only complaint would be that the lighting was terrible for food photography, kind of ironic, no?  But I understand that it was meant to be fun and have a great ambiance, which it did.  I just can’t help it but try to take photos!
Then, we headed out to find somewhere to eat.  Max’s had caught my eye when I was exploring so we decided to check it out.


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We shared an amazing twist on a caprese salad.  Fried green tomatoes, roasted red peppers, mozzarella cheese, arugula and balsamic glaze.  All of my favorite things in one dish!


This pizza was a Mediterranean pizza: artichoke, roasted red pepper, mixed olives and cheese.


And a margarita pizza.


We all agreed that the Mediterranean was our favorite.
After a tasty dinner we said goodnight (and goodbye!) and I headed back to pack.  I had another day left in Atlanta on Sunday and I visited Atlantic Station to shop!
I had an amazing time in Atlanta at Blogher Food and I learned so much!  I hope you’ve enjoyed my posts and maybe you’ve learned something.  (you can learn more by visiting the online seminars!)
I was sad to leave Atlanta and all of my new blog friends, but how could I be sad when I came home to this face?


Tomorrow  I will be posting a summarized top 10 as well as a giveaway announcement so make sure you check back!

Blogher Food 2011 Day 1

To say that I am not a morning person is an understatement.  But I must have been overly excited for Blogher because I bounced out of bed and rushed to get ready.
We started by registering and obtaining scheduling information and were then given a great breakfast.
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There were plenty of options, even for those with dietary needs.
After being welcomed by the Blogher Food 2011 team, we were given the opportunity to choose between several sessions that were categorized in 4 categories:
Voice: Fortity Your Culinary Prose
Visuals: Branding and Design 101 for Food Bloggers
Vittles: Fast, Healthy, Family-friendly: Not the Oxymoron You Might Think!
Vocation: How Bloggers Work with Brands and Media
It was really hard to chose, but I decided to go to the Visuals seminar.  Luckily, all of the seminars are posted on the Blogher Food 2011 site and if you click any of the links above you can read a summary of what was taught and discussed.
Irvin Lin and Sabrina Modelle inspired me in so many ways, the one thing that stood out to me most is the importance of a logo mark and creating a sleek, unique site that defines you.
Throughout the conference we had the opportunity to try products from different sponsors as well as have the opportunity to introduce ourselves and create relationships.
Of all the sponsors, Scharfeen Berger was my favorite.  They gave you an opportunity to choose a baking product and 2 kinds of chocolate bars to take home.  If you have yet to try their chocolate no need to fret because I may have a giveaway up my sleeve Winking smile
Dole provided different items to taste throughout the day such as salad, fruit cups and at 3 pm…banana margaritas!  Hey, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere!
POM Wonderful was another great sponsor and I obviously was excited!  They were giving away bottles of original, blueberry and cranberry juice as well as coupons and recipes.
Bob\’s Red Mill was showing an array of products and samples.
Then it was time for lunch and even though I had been snacking all day, I was excited to eat!
Here was my plate before:
And after:
While we had lunch we listened to an amazing speaker, Molly Birnbaum, author of How I Lost My Sense of Smell and Found My Way.  Her unique story described an accident where she suffered multiple injuries, including her sense of smell.  As a chef and food enthusiast she learned to use all of her senses to create an in depth understanding and appreciation for the food she was making and tasting.  When I tweeted her and asked at what moment did she realize that her smell was lost, she said, “The exact moment I realized was weeks later.  My stepmother baked an apple crisp, held it under my nose, and there was nothing.”
After lunch our choices were:
Voice: Off the Dish: Writing About Food in Travel, History and Experience
Visuals: Vlogging for Beginners: Bring Your Cooking Videos to Life
Vittles: Cooking Without Recipes
Vocation: Effective Social Networking for Food Bloggers
After lunch I attended a seminar about cooking without recipes.
Sarah Breckenridge, senior web producer for Fine Living, taught us how interchangeable recipes are by allowing us to pick the ingredients and make a unique dish based upon the choices we made.  She also taught us about flavor notes that pair well together and how those flavors can be inspiration for creating new ideas.
Next, we had the choice of attending:
Voice: The New Generation
Visuals: Take Your Food Blog Mobile
Vittles: Recipe Development and Adaptation for Special Dietary Needs
Vocation: SEO Smackdown
I hopped between Taking your Blog Content Mobile, which discussed using different applications and programs you can use on your phone to make your blog more accessible and The New Generation, where young bloggers discuss their role in the blogosphere and what it is like growing up blogging.
It was then time for some more tasting from sponsors!
We loved these Bays English muffins topped with feta cheese, jam and walnuts. They were crunchy, sweet, savory and came together perfectly for a great afternoon snack.
We stopped by Quaker Oats where Danica got a little friend with Mr. Quaker.
Each time we had the opportunity to check out the sponsors there were different snacks for us to munch on.
Snacks includes cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, kalamata olives, pita chips, natural potato chips and black bean dip – all of which was fresh and satisfying.
After attending an interview that touched on Food, Health and the Environment, we had a few minutes to refresh ourselves before we attended the welcome reception.
We then stopped by a dinner hosted by The Pioneer Woman (no she was not there) to get everyone excited about the new Tasty Kitchen.  Not only was there great food, swag, t-shirts and bloggers, but The Pioneer Woman’s sister was also there!
As if we didn’t have enough food, I went with Danica, her husband Jay and Robin to Ted’s Montana Grill.
I had to try some sweet tea, it just seemed like the right thing to do in the south.
We decided to try several things that way we could try more things.  The homemade chips and dip were amazing!  And they were unlimited.
We also tried bison sliders, steak with green beans and squash casserole and a chip salad.  I think the salad was my favorite although everything was delicious!
And to end our amazing fun filled day we ended up at the Sun Dial, a revolving bar on top of the Westin.
The view was gorgeous and gave you a breathtaking view of the city at night.  These pictures do it no justice!
There is plenty more to tell about so stay tuned for more!

Pre Blogher Food 2011!

Hey readers…those attending BlogHer Food and those just catching up on how it is all going!  I arrived in Atlanta this* morning at 8:00 from Philadelphia.  And my flight was at 5:50.  So you do the math and try to guess how tired I am!  But that does not matter because I’m having a blast!  The official convention doesn’t start until tomorrow but I arrived a day early so I could see the city and attend the pre-party, RockHer, at the Hard Rock Café.
I managed to figure out the MARTA, Atlanta’s  train system, which wound up saving me a good deal of money!  And I was able to drop my bags off at the hotel so that was nice not having to lug everything around.  The I was off to adventure!
I seriously started off just walking and taking photos.  Not before grabbing some Starbucks of course ;)

I wound up in Centennial Park where I strolled through and soaked up some sun.  As I continued to walk I just so happened to come across the World of Coca Cola and the Georgia Aquarium.  I had heard a lot of good things about both of these places so I decided that I might as well be tourist and check them both out!

Because it was so early in the morning I was literally one of the first in line for the Coke exhibit.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect but everything was very interesting!  Basically, they give you a background of when and how Coke was developed (in Atlanta of course!) and you get to see all kinds of interesting pieces like old commercials and artwork.

My favorite part was getting to try the different sodas that Coke produces!

  These were  my  2 favorites:

And this one was just awful:

Next up I went across the street to the Aquarium, which is the largest in the world.  I’ve been to many aquariums before but this one definitely stood out. Everything is very organized and there was a huge variety of fish and sea life to see.


I then decided I needed to eat something so I tried to find a farmers market but apparently my phone mislead me because I was walking around for almost an hour trying to find it.  I wound up eating at the Vietnamese Noodle Soup restaurant which wound up being very tasty.  It was the first time I tried Vietnamese food and I was pleasantly surprised.

I had lemongrass chicken which came with rice, a salad and some veggies.  It reminded me a lot of Japanese and Korean food.
By that point I was getting pretty exhausted so I headed back to my hotel and waited for my room to be ready.  I was able to relax a bit before heading to RockHer!!
I met up with some awesome ladies ahead of time and we all went over together.  There was a ton of delicious food being served and the atmosphere was amazing.  While we were all eating and mingling we also had the opportunity to win some prizes by tweets companies that sponsored the event which was fun!

Liz Lisa and Robin
The vibe was so positive and exciting!
And now I’m just hanging out in my room, relaxing and getting anxious about the next few days.  I love learning new things about being a foodie/food bloger but I guess I better get some sleep to I can make it through the long day ahead of me!  Goodnight and I hope to be able to post tomorrow :)
Note: I wrote this post Thursday night and was just now able to upload it, thanks for understanding!

This girl was made for travelin’

In a few days I will be traveling to Atlanta, Georgia for a food blog extravaganza, Blogher Food.  It will be the second food blog event that I will attend and I am so excited!  I’ve been thinking about the trip a lot lately and what I need to do in order to prepare.
So I decided that while I’m going through checklists in my head, I might as well share what I consider travel tips.  And I’m sure a lot of you are planning vacations this summer so these tips may come in handy.  You may have heard some of these before and I will reiterate them and some may be completely new.

Allie’s Travel Tips.

1.)    Do your research when planning a trip.  Check as many travel sites and compare dates on different sites.  My favorite sites for checking flights are Bing, Kayak and Fly.  When researching whole trips I like Expedia and Travelocity.  And when booking just hotels I love bidding on rooms on Priceline.
2.)    Plan! Create a rough list of what you are doing each day so that organizing your schedule, clothing and eating is easier to figure out.
3.)    Check the weather.  Obviously the weather is not always 100% accurate, but it will give you an estimate of what to pack.
4.)    Follow the 1+ rule.  If you are going on vacation for 5 days, pack 6 outfits.  It allows you to have a “just in case” outfit, but you won’t over pack.  Also pack staple items that you can mix and match such as jeans, solid skirts, tank tops and shirts.
5.)    Shoes. Pack no more than 3 pairs of shoes.  1 sensible pair, such as running shoes for walking long distances, which will also come in handy if you plan on working out. 1 casual pair, for when you will not be walking far distances but want to look cute. 1 dressy pair if you have any formal events to attend. (I always carry the casual pair in my purse in case the dressy shoes start to hurt.)  And the 1 exception to this rule is 1 light pair of cheap flip flops that you can wear in the shower.  Because hotel showers=sharing shower with strangers=you need to wear them.
6.)    Pack snacks.  Snacks are great to have in case you are flying before anything opens in the airport, you need fuel while flying or in the hotel and in between meals.
7.)    Leave extra room in your suitcase.  This will allow you to have room for souvenirs and dirty laundry.  I also recommend bringing a plastic bag to separate dirty and clean clothes.
8.)    Leave all unnecessary toiletries at home.  This would include shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, and body wash.   Hotels carry these items so you don’t have to.  And don’t forget that hotels have hair dryers!
9.)    Things to remember! Toothpaste, a toothbrush, a contact case, glasses, hair styling products, and any medication.  Always remember to pack liquid items in a checked bag , buy small versions or pour into small containers.
10.) Carry “just in case” items on your carry on.  Always pack a pair of underwear, 1 outfit, medication and contacts/glasses in your carry on in case your luggage is lost.

Allies Food Blog Event Tips.

As I mentioned, I have only been to 1 food blog gathering so this is just from my experience.
1.)    Do as much research as possible ahead of time.  Make sure you know what the event will be like, what it will cost, who will attend and what types of events will occur.  I suggest looking into previous years’ conventions to see what others said and view photos.
2.)    Try to talk to those attending!  Try your best to tweet, comment or message some fellow attendees to make some contacts before attending.
3.)    Be open, willing and friendly.  When meeting new people it is best to just be yourself and realize that everyone is there for the same reason.  Especially at FOOD conventions.
4.)    Bring your gadgets.  Bring your camera, phone, computer…you will definitely fit in!
5.)    Bring your appetite.  Obviously there is going to be a ton of food at a food blog gathering, so I suggest taking small bites to fit it all in.  And if you haven’t tried something before, give it a try!
6.)    If possible, bring business cards.  I had mine made on but there are a lot of sites that make them inexpensively too.  This way you can spread the word about your blog and help others remember your link.  When others give you their card sometimes it helps to write a brief statement on the back to remember who they are/what was said.
7.)    Visit sites outside of the organized events.  Make sure you get a feel of the city you are visiting and the foods that are offered!
8.)    Bring an extra bag.  I brought a reusable bag and this worked great.  You will receive a good amount of giveaways and samples so you might not have room in your bag.  (Though I do warn you that security spent a good amount of time looking and asking what the whisk, meat thermometer, and random gadgets were!)
9.)    Share with others who cannot attend.  Tweet, blog, share on Facebook!
10.) Have fun!  This is an experience of a lifetime and you are a part of an amazing community.  Soak it up and enjoy yourself.
So as you prepare for your next trip, I hope you’ll keep my tips in mind.  If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask!  Happy traveling and if you are going to Blogher Food don’t hesitate to leave a comment and say hi this weekend! :)

Allie’s Trips for Traveling Alone.

1.) Take advantage of last minute deals.  Because there is often one random seat on a plane, you can get flights for great rates.
2.) Email/handout your itinerary. Make sure that your family and friends know where you will be and check back often so that they know your whereabouts.
3.) Don’t tell anyone that you meet that you are alone.  (unless it is a fellow blogger friend) This seems obvious but sometimes it can slip when having conversations.  Sometimes I even talk about my friends, family, boyfriend that is at the hotel or meeting up with me later to throw people off.
4.) Pack as light as possible because you are the only one that will be able to carry your belongings.
5.) Don’t be afraid! Be confident and smile, you are on an adventure.  Traveling alone means you can do things on your own agenda and you really can have fun!  Just make sure to be safe.