Sorry Folks…

ah-huck ah-huck ah-huck…park’s closed for renovations. (Sorry….quoting National Lampoon Vacation here!) Nah, the site isn’t closed, but there’s a few changes happening.

Please accept this cute picture of Millie as an apology.

Untitled

Easiest way to put it is that there have been some issues with my hosting site over the past few weeks, so I decided that I’m going to take some time to switch over and since they messed up my theme, I am going to do a temporary re-design as well.

Your favorite recipes and posts will still be around, but the site does look a little different. Thanks for your patience!

 

The 9Chefs Baking Competition

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about peppermint bark chess pie. I adapted the pie recipe for the 9Chefs Baking Competition, which was aired on WAFB (a local news station). I can’t tell you how many times I made that pie to practice, but it was to the point to where I pretty much didn’t need to look at the recipe for the competition.

I was INCREDIBLY nervous about this competition. The whole week of the competition, I would randomly get butterflies in my stomach just thinking about it. Would I drop my pie? Add salt instead of sugar? Look ridiculous on camera? I also had dreams about how it would go….I know it’s ridiculous sounding, but I’ve never done anything like this.

The morning of the competition, I left my house an hour early just to give myself ample time to settle in at the culinary institute (where it was held/taped). Well, typical Friday traffic didn’t happen, because there was a terrible accident on the Interstate, which, despite me leaving an hour early, I was 10 minutes late. I was the last one there…how embarrassing. :( I seriously thought I was going to get kicked out for being late.

When I arrived, I learned that we were going to be wearing chef jackets. Um…WAY COOL. After that, it was a whirlwind, but I remember we had a few minutes to set up our stations (we were allowed to bring any tools/appliances from home, so I had a bit to unpack haha) before interviews. Then, right after, the competition would start.

The competition allowed us 3 hours to bake two pies. One for tasting and one for presentation. With the pie I wanted to make, I knew I had to get it in the oven within the first hour, to give it ample cooling time. One thing I didn’t expect was that there were culinary students there to help us gather ingredients, and while we were frantically rolling pie dough and making fillings, the students washed our dishes for us. It was so appreciated. I’m sure the students have no idea this blog exists, but if they happen to see this, Thank You. Also, a HUGE thanks to the Louisiana Culinary Institute (LCI) for allowing us to use their kitchen, their ingredients and their equipment. It was very interesting (intimidating at first) to use commercial equipment, but with the help of the students and instructors from LCI, it wasn’t bad at all.

That first hour, I was completely in the zone. The room was actually VERY quiet, and I thought it would be crazy/loud/hectic like you see on Chopped, but every competitor was quietly doing their thing. It was so cool to glance around to see what everyone was making, and to watch how everyone works differently in the kitchen. After the first hour, I relaxed a bit and worked on decorations/whipped cream topping. I also got to really take this whole experience in once the pies were in the oven….that first hour, the room felt so quiet, but after everyone had their pies in, we all would just randomly chat and it became a pretty friendly environment, which I didn’t expect at all. It was a relief, but we were all amateur home bakers…I think we were all pretty nervous about it. Once my pies were out of the oven (about 2 hours in), I concentrated on cleaning my station/packing my tools and letting my pies cool.

9Chefs Baking Competition

After 3 hours, this is the display that I left for the judges. My pies could have cooled a bit more, and man, I was SO nervous slicing the pie that quite a few of them just broke (compared to the blog photo from the recipe post). I was really hoping that the taste would make up for it. :-)

9Chefs Baking Competition

Once the competition was over, we went to a waiting room to allow the judges to taste the pies and did our post-competition interviews. I think that’s when the butterflies really set in. My pies came out great but of course, I had to question if I did enough….

If you’d like to see how the competition went down, here’s the video on YouTube. If you want to skip to the results, just drag the player to about 20 minutes in. :-)

One of the big questions my friends and family have asked me is if I would do this again. In a heartbeat. I really loved it!

Thanks again to WAFB and LCI for the wonderful opportunity, and congratulations to the winners!

Top 10 Recipes of 2012

Man, what a year it has been! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season with their friends and family. :-)

Most years, I feel like time has flown by, but for some reason, it feels like last January was truly a year ago. So many great things have happened to us this year (as well as some really crappy events).  

Some highlights and not so highlights:

  • It was our first full year in our new house, which has been such a blessing. It’s just awesome to finally have friendly neighbors, who don’t throw their trash in our backyard or play loud music at 2am (side-eye to the neighbors at the old house).
  • My husband and I have both decided to live healthier. Between us, we’ve lost over 150 lbs. this year. (I’m sure my husband is rolling his eyes at me sharing this, but seriously..I’m gonna brag here!) That’s just amazing to me. I’m so proud of us.
  • Another weight loss highlight. I fit into a clothes size that I haven’t been able to wear since 10th grade. That was 12 years ago. OMG!
  • A not so highlight. Hurricane Isaac…don’t want to go into too much detail with that one, but yeah, hurricanes suck. Oh, and for the record, labradors don’t care if the winds are 50 mph outside. If there’s rain/water, it’s playtime! (ugh)
  • I think I’m making some good progress on my 101 Goals in 1001 Days list.

And of course, it’s been another fun year blogging. I really appreciate all of y’all taking the time to read my tiny corner of the Internet. Thank you for your sweet comments, emails and tweets. In January, it’s gonna be this blog’s 5th anniversary, and I’m just amazed by all of the friends I’ve made and people I’ve “met”  through this blog. You guys are the best!

Just to round up the year, I wanted to share with y’all your top 10 most read posts from 2012.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies w/ Salted Caramel Buttercream

10. Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Salted Caramel Buttercream – These whoopie pies were made for a work fundraiser, and they were a huge success. Great pumpkin/spicy flavor, and the salted caramel buttercream just makes them super indulgent. Pumpkin + caramel is a wonderful combination!

Red Velvet Bundt Cake

9. Red Velvet Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting – I love anything red velvet. This bundt cake is a fun change from a regular cake, and it was pretty easy to throw together and bake!

Baked Oatmeal

8. Baked Oatmeal – My breakfast has been forever changed by this. This oatmeal is not soggy at all (which I hate about cooked oats), and it’s very sweet with the addition of bananas.

Peanut Butter Cookies

7. Peanut Butter Cookies – Just simple, classic peanut butter cookies. :-) Very good!

Candy Corn Oreo Truffles

6. Candy Corn Oreo Truffles – Oreo truffles are insanely good, and it was fun to make these with seasonal flavors. Always a favorite when I bring these truffles to work!

Fresh Strawberry Pie

5. Fresh Strawberry Pie – I’m SO glad strawberry season is back. I need to make this pie again…it’s not rich at all, and since it involves no cooking (except for the crust), it tastes so fresh!

Snickers Cupcakes

4. Snickers Cupcakes – Oh, I totally need to make these again. If you love Snickers, you will LOVE these!

Homemade Strawberry Lemonade

3. Homemade Strawberry Lemonade – Meyer lemon season + strawberry season? Um…guess I need to make this too and ASAP!

Red Velvet Swirl Brownies

2. Red Velvet Swirl Brownies – These were just delicious, and so pretty too! Perfect for Valentine’s Day!

Spinach Strawberry Salad with Feta

1. Spinach, Strawberry, Pecan and Feta Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette – This is a huge favorite of y’alls. I think Pinterest made this a popular one, and it is VERY easy to throw together! This is a salad you want to make for your next party…it’s an awesome combination!

Thanks so much for reading this blog, and I hope everyone has a Happy New Year! Time to get used to writing/typing “2013”. :-)

Top 10 Recipes of 2011

Am I the only person who is shocked that Christmas just passed? I can’t believe it. Neighbors are taking down lights, and our tree looks SO empty without gifts under it. My favorite holiday is over, and crazy enough, it’s time for a new year. 2012.

Time to take the shrink wrap off of the new planner and get used to writing “2012” on papers/emails/etc. This is just crazy.

Also crazy…sometime in 2012, my 4 year blogiversary is happening and my 3 year wedding anniversary is happening too. WHAT?

It’s a lot to look forward to, but before everyone rings in the new year, I just wanted to share with y’all the top 10 posts of 2011. :-)

Yellow Cupcakes w/ Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

10. Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream – This was my first time making SMBC, and I swear, if you haven’t tried SMBC before, just do it. Please?

Pecan Pie Macarons

9. Pecan Pie Macarons – Gotta love macarons. These were really a huge favorite for Thanksgiving, and the star shape (which was a happy accident) made them super cute and festive!

Queso Blanco

8. Restaurant Style Queso Blanco – This is it. The ultimate queso blanco. If you’re as addicted to queso as me, you’d understand how wonderful it is to FINALLY have a recipe for this!

Strawberry Cream Cake

7. Strawberry Cream Cake – I’m actually glad I compiled this top 10, because I sort of forgot about this cake. Since it’s currently strawberry season in Louisiana, I think I MUST make this cake again. Yum!

Peppermint Bark Cheesecake Truffles

6. Peppermint Bark Cheesecake Truffles – This is the recipe that made my year, basically. I still can’t believe I won that recipe contest, and I’ve been told by a few friends who made this that these little truffles were a hit at their holiday parties! So happy to hear that!

Banana Nutella "Ice Cream"

5. Banana Nutella “Ice Cream” – Two ingredient “ice cream”. It’s basically awesome and couldn’t be any easier. Your food processor does all the work!

Corn Grits

4. Grilled Corn Grits – I can’t be from the South, and not have a post about grits. I promise you if you make this, your hips may never be the same again, but your taste buds will tell you it’s completely worth it!

3. Easy Pasta Salad – My first (and so far, only) vlog. I might get the courage to make one again, since you guys seemed to like it so much!

Diet Cupcakes

2. Cooking For Kids – The infamous post. Yup, who’da thought that a soda cupcake would get so much response from you guys (both good and bad)…yikes!

Homemade S'mores

1. S’mores for a Shower – Nutella S’mores. I can see why you guys loved this one so much. I’m sort of craving s’mores right now, actually. :-P

I hope you have a wonderful New Year with your family and friends, and thank you so much for reading The Nifty Foodie! See y’all in 2012!

The Kitchen is Closed (for now)

You may have noticed that I’ve been a little quiet on the blog. This is an odd time for me not to post, since Fall started and I really enjoy making dishes that scream Fall. :-)

There’s a good reason for this, I swear.

The New House

WE’RE MOVING!

We just closed on this house Friday, and have been in a packing frenzy for a couple of weeks now! :-) So, the kitchen is closed right now. It’s actually sort of hard for me, since the Fall recipes are pouring in, and all I want to do is be in the kitchen. However, in a week or so when we’re all settled in, this will all be worth it. :-)

And of course, I wouldn’t show you the house without showing you the kitchen. :-)

The New Kitchen

I absolutely love how open the kitchen is and I cannot wait to start cooking in it! :-) I also love that the kitchen will have so much natural light in it (this picture was taken with natural light alone)…easier blog pictures, right? :-)

Thanks for bearing with me during the move! We’re so excited!

7 Links

I’ve been seeing this blog idea around the blogosphere for a little while now, and last week, I got tagged by The Wannabe Athlete to post my 7 links. This was a little hard to do, because I’ve been blogging for well over 3 years. How could I just pick 7 links to share with y’all?

However, after a good bit of thought, here are 7 links on my blog that I think you should totally check out if you haven’t already!

Pumpkin Bread

Most BeautifulMy Blog, My Moments

I really enjoyed writing this post for Project Food Blog last year. It made me dig deep to share with y’all why I blog about food. Some people find it a little weird. Heck, my family and husband found it weird at first, but they realize that this is now a hobby of mine and fully support me. My mom even tells me all the time how much she enjoys my writing, which is a huge compliment.

Homemade S'mores

Most PopularS’mores for a Shower

I had no idea that this post would be as popular as it was. This dish was made for a virtual baby shower, and I think that contributed to its popularity. The picture/post also got featured on Foodgawker and Tastespotting. The result? The hits were about 10 times more than the normal daily hits on my blog! Definitely exciting!

Diet Cupcakes

Most ControversialCooking for Kids

Another post I was surprised by. I wrote this post, mainly because I wanted to share a fun cupcake coloring technique to do with children. The post was actually written, because it would result in a $50 donation towards a charity. The controversial part was the diet soda cupcake recipe idea that I shared from a Weight Watchers meeting. Since the recipe featured nothing but cake mix and soda, a lot of snarky comments resulted, which really made me realize that thick skin is really important to have as a blogger. While I wouldn’t make diet soda cupcakes for kids, I would definitely make them for myself in a pinch. I still don’t understand why some people commented so rudely.

Cutting Board Trick

Most HelpfulNifty Tricks

This was a post series idea that I had a while back featuring little tricks you can use in the kitchen. I actually forgot about this series until writing this post. (oops!) I really want to start up these posts again, since it was a fun idea, and you guys seemed to really like it, too!

Caramel Apple Pie A La Mode Bites

A Post Whose Success Surprised YouCaramel Apple Pie a la Mode Bites

I wrote this post for a recipe writing contest (no, I didn’t win). I really didn’t think the idea would be popular at all, since the crust was simply sliced bread and cinnamon sugar! Even Joy the Baker commented on this post! Seriously crazy and surprising!
Turkey Cake Pops

A Post You Feel Didn’t Get the Attention It DeservedTurkey Cake Pops

I have to admit, cake pops take a ridiculous amount of time, and usually, dishes that take time to make, get more hits for some reason. I really thought this post would be more popular, since it was written right after Thanksgiving, but maybe I should have blogged it before.

Gumbo

Most Proud OfGumbeaux

Roux is an intimidating thing. It can easily burn, and when making gumbo, you have to work on a roux for quite a while. It’s intensive and stressful for me. After many burnt rouxs, I found this idea from Alton Brown to make roux in an oven. SCORE! The resulting gumbo was absolutely delicious, and I felt so proud that my husband and I made a gumbo from scratch for the first time. :-)

Now, to tag 7 other bloggers:

Serena of Big Apple Nosh
Amy of Sing For Your Supper
Jessica of The Novice Chef
Cate of Cate’s World Kitchen
Carrie of Carrie’s Sweet Life
Stephanie of This Casita
Ali of His Birdie’s Nest

Can’t wait to read everyone else’s 7 Links! :-)

 

New Orleans or Bust?

In a little less than a month, my hometown (well, not exactly hometown, since I live in a suburb outside) of New Orleans will be hosting several amazing food bloggers for IFBC.

Originally, when I heard the announcement of IFBC being hosted in NOLA, I was very excited about going. I was definitely going…definitely.

But then the price tag hit me. $350. It was a little steep for me, and since we’re currently saving to get a bigger house in the near future, I just could not justify the expense on my hobby, as much as I wanted to go.

Then, IFBC tweeted today that they are graciously gifting 3 bloggers with free registration. To enter, all I have to do is write about why I want to attend. Where do I start?

Mom and I at a painting class

I’ve been food blogging for over 3 years, and have never had the opportunity to go to a food conference. Usually, they fall on weekends that just run into family events/birthdays. As lame as that can sound, I’m a huge family person. I just don’t skip family things, if I can help it. August 26-28th is free in my calendar. No birthdays, anniversaries, reunions, graduations, etc.

Strawberry Cream Cake

While food blogging is strictly a hobby for me, I’d love to hear from inspiring, successful speakers to learn how to take my blogging to the next level. Some of the sessions I’ve especially got my eye on are food photography (Hello, have you seen my inconsistent photos? I sometimes think I have no clue what I’m doing with my DSLR!), recipe writing and development (I’d love to dabble in this on my blog and share more original recipes.), time management (Yeah, I have no idea where my time goes), and eating on a budget (Our grocery bills are way too high lately!).

mardigras

IFBC this year is in my hometown. New Orleans is about an hour away from where I currently reside, Baton Rouge. Doesn’t everyone love a local? :-)

I look up to my elders. Literally.

Shameless cute picture. Millie can play with Dixie all weekend. Millie is my dog. Dixie is my family’s dog. They are sort of besties, and would love to spend a weekend together. :-)

IMG_3156

The food. SO many wonderful restaurants will be feeding the attendees at the conference, including one of my favorite bakeries: Sucre. Aren’t those macarons just gorgeous?

Image source (this is the link to the blogger who took this picture, since I never take pictures of myself) — Me (right) and Big Apple Nosh

Actually putting names to faces in the food blogger community. I’ve seen the blog roll of the attendees, and I would be absolutely stoked to meet everyone. I met a bunch of fellow wedding bloggers from Weddingbee this April, and had an absolute blast. It’s so fun to meet Internet friends. :-)

Whew…that was a lot to share!

As you can see, I have many reasons to attend this conference. Thanks so much for sticking around and reading this post, by the way. Please cross your fingers and toes for me to get chosen to attend! :-)

 

 

Share our Strength

It’s so great to read about how much Yahoo!’s $20,000 commitment to Share our Strength has been buzzing around in the social media world amongst other food bloggers! I’m just in awe of all the awareness that has been brought forward, because of this great contribution to help our youth.

I’ve learned so much about the astounding numbers involving child hunger while being an ambassador for Foodbuzz. I really had no idea that 1 in 4 children are hungry in this country. Numbers like that make you really truly count your blessings and realize that there are a lot of children who need our help!

There are so many ways that we can help, too. From donating money to contributing our talents and time (hint hint to the bakers out there…Great American Bake Sale), every little bit helps. If you can’t even do that, take a small step now by showing your support of Yahoo!’s commitment to Share our Strength by making Yahoo! your homepage now. (click on the button in my sidebar or click here) and/or share the campaign with your Facebook friends and Twitter followers.

I can’t wait to see the impact that Share our Strength has on our youth in the near future, and I appreciate everyone who has read about this wonderful cause. I know it’s not the norm on here to post about something other than recipes, but I’m really glad that I was able to write about this organization on here.

Share our Strength

Last week, I posted about how Yahoo has generously donated $20,000 to Share our Strength on behalf of Foodbuzz bloggers and readers. It’s amazing how many children this amount of money can help!

Since Share our Strength is a national organization, there are many parts of the US that are taking strides locally through No Kid Hungry. Since I’m from the New Orleans area, I was especially interested in reading about the endeavors out there.

No Kid Hungry in New Orleans partnered with local organizations, such as Second Harvest, Greater New Orleans Afterschool Partnership, Kingsley House, Tulane Community Health Care Centers, marketumbrella.org and Edible Schoolyard NOLA to help children in New Orleans have nutritious meals in the school and summer programs, as well as at home. I’m also glad to read that head start programs in New Orleans hold classes for low income families called “Cooking Matters“, which helps families plan and make nutritious meals for their families on a limited budget.

It’s so wonderful to read about the programs being offered in New Orleans. While it’s known as a great spot to travel, there are well over 32,000 students in New Orleans alone who qualify for free or reduced lunch programs, so a program like No Kid Hungry is definitely a necessity in the New Orleans area!

More information about the No Kid Hungry program in New Orleans can be found here.

Here’s more information about other state and city partnerships that are taking place with Share our Strength and No Kid Hungry! It’s amazing reading what everyone around the country is doing, and seeing that there are so many ways that we can all help with this fight against childhood hunger!

And don’t forget to join me in support of Yahoo!’s $20,000 commitment to Share our Strength!

Here are two quick things you can do raise awareness about this important cause:

1. Make Yahoo! your homepage now. (click on the button in my sidebar or click here)
2. Share the campaign with your Facebook friends and Twitter followers.

Share Our Strength

I usually don’t post about anything but recipes on this blog, but please read this post…it’s an important one!

Child hunger.

It’s a very sad reality, but in America alone, 1 in every 4 kids is struggling with hunger. 25%!

I know one of the things that you’re immediately thinking about…free lunch programs at schools. Sadly, did you know that the federal nutrition programs are so underutilized that over 16 million children who are eligible for the meals do not receive them?

There’s an organization out there called Share our Strength, whose goal is to end child hunger. A hefty goal, but I am so glad to see the strides that this organization is taking to help our youth. You might have heard of some of their fundraising efforts, like Taste of the Nation and the Great American Bake Sale.

In addition to those fundraisers, larger companies are starting to help with the fight against child hunger as well!

Yahoo! has generously committed to donate $20,000 to Share Our Strength on behalf of all of us, the Foodbuzz community of publishers and readers. Isn’t that awesome!?

To put things in perspective, just $1 will feed 10 nutritious meals to children this summer, so this donation will impact so many of our youth.

Why am I posting this?

 I was chosen as one of the Brand Ambassadors for the  Foodbuzz/Yahoo! Support Share our Strength Program! I decided to apply as an Ambassador, because I love helping when I can, and if I can use my blog to raise awareness, why not? I was offered a gift card to restaurants.com for being an ambassador, but I opted to not receive it since they also gave me the option of donating the gift card to this cause. :-)

And I’ll be honest with y’all..there is a tiny chance of a perk…one of the Ambassadors will get an all-expense paid trip to the 2011 Foodbuzz Festival! (crosses fingers)

However, I would have definitely applied to be an Ambassador anyway. Like I said, I love that I can use my blog to raise awareness for a good cause. :-)

How you can help.

You have the opportunity to show your support of this partnership by setting Yahoo! as your homepage by clicking on this link. Like what they’re doing? Let them know by changing your homepage! You can also tweet or Facebook about the Foodbuzz/Yahoo! Support Share our Strength program to bring awareness to the cause. :-)