Some Goals for 2011…

Christmas Aftermath

I can’t believe it’s a new year AND a new decade! Super exciting stuff, y’all! Of course, that means time to make some goals happen, too. In case you don’t read my life blog, a while back, I made a 101 goals in 1001 days list. This list of goals ends in May of this year! There are a good chunk that aren’t done yet, and some of those involve food and this blog! Check out some of these…YUM!

63. cook 4 times/week for 20 weeks (0/20)
68. successfully bake a loaf of crawfish bread
69. learn to make Memaw’s spaghetti and meatballs
72. make fresh pasta
75. update food blog 20 times in one month
76. make fruit roll-ups
77. make beef jerky
78. go to a Pampered Chef party
80. make a cookie bouquet
81. smoke and BBQ a piece of meat

It’s quite a list, but I’m looking forward to making these happen. I have a feeling a couple of these won’t get done on time, but hey, even if I miss a couple of goals out of 101, I think I’m doing pretty well!

What are your foodie goals for 2011?

Top 10 Recipes of 2010

What a year! I can’t believe that 2010 is almost over, but I have to say, it’s been a pretty great year! This year, I moved my food blog (and changed the name), made some amazing food blogger friends and tried some great recipes. I’m so excited to see what 2011 will bring. :)

A lot of food bloggers are doing their top 10 of 2010, and I personally love the idea. It’s great to look back on the year, and I know I’m starring a lot of posts for recipe ideas from posts like this. :) So, here’s the top 10 based on popularity of posts!

10. Iced Coffee – This recipe will make you wonder why you ever spent $4 on an iced coffee. This is delicious and very refreshing!

Iced Coffee

9. 4th of July Cupcakes – Basic white cupcakes with a basic vanilla buttercream. Can’t get more traditional than that!

4th of July Cupcakes

8. Strawberry Cake – A light, summery dessert which is very easy to throw together!

Strawberry Cake

7. Berry Mash Bruschetta – I made this recipe for a contest. These make wonderful little desserts and no utensils needed!

Berry Mash Bruschetta

6. Garlic Lemon Chicken Kabobs – This is a quick dish to throw together. Very flavorful and healthy!

Garlic Lemon Chicken Kabobs w/ Grilled Vegetables

5. Louisiana Strawberry Jam – One of my canning adventures. I love Louisiana strawberries so much, so I knew I had to can them to keep them around all year!

Louisiana Strawberry Jam

4. Sloppy Joes – a very classic American recipe. Beats the pants off of Manwich!

Sloppy Joes

3. Pumpkin Blondies – This is a new way to enjoy pumpkin in the Fall. Warning…these are very addictive!

Pumpkin Blondies

2. Caramel Apple Pie A La Mode Bites – This was another recipe I made for a contest. No utensils needed for this one either and it’s SO easy to throw together!

Caramel Apple Pie A La Mode Bites

1. Blueberry Scones – This was the most popular recipe of 2010, according to blog stats! These scones will knock your socks off. WAY better than coffee shop ones in my opinion, and the time you put into making them seems daunting, but it’s worth it!

Blueberry Scones

Thanks so much for reading! I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year, and I’ll see you in 2011!

A fun (hopeful) challenge ahead

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I’m no stranger to a challenge. One of my favorite shows on Food Network is Chopped, because I enjoy watching chefs come up with ideas for random ingredients. Lately, I find myself brainstorming ideas with the ingredients as well. It’s just so fun to think up ideas.

Check out this challenge:

Iron Foodie 2010 | Here's Why that will be me:
MarxFoods.com -- Fine Bulk Foods The Foodie BlogRoll

When I got the email from Foodie Blogroll about an Iron Foodie challenge, I was intrigued. 25 bloggers will get chosen to compete to come up with a recipe using a few random ingredients sent from Marx Foods. The winner will get a $200 credit to Marx Foods.

So y’all, I need you to cross your fingers for me again. This blog post counts as my official entry for the Iron Foodie challenge. I’m really hoping to get chosen, because Marx Foods has some really interesting ingredients that they offer, and I’d love the opportunity to come up with a dish for this contest!

Here’s the blog interview questions:

  1. Why do you want to compete in this challenge?
    Answered above
  2. Limitations of time/space notwithstanding, whose kitchen would you like to spend the day in & why?
    I’d have to say Julia Child. She changed her career so late in life, and I find that so inspiring! She was very driven and her food is just AMAZING. She’s got a great sense of humor and I imagine we’d get along awesomely.
  3. What morsel are you most likely to swipe from family & friends’ plates when they aren’t looking?
    Chocolate….don’t leave your chocolate sitting around unattended. I’m serious.
  4. Sum your childhood up in one meal.
    Mom’s Beef Enchilada Casserole. I requested this meal every year for my birthday after my Mom discovered this recipe for a potluck in my Spanish class one year. It’s delicious.
  5. The one mainstream food you can’t stand?
    Beans. It’s a texture thing. Totally gross to me. I might be from New Orleans, but you won’t see me eating a red beans and rice dish. Yuck!

Thank you!

Millie (1)

::insert puppy picture just because::

You guys, my readers, are amazing. From the bottom of my heart, I really appreciate every comment, email and lately, votes for Project Food Blog. I made it to challenge 2, which was very surprising, because there are so many wonderful bloggers out there. I still think of myself as a blogger with 5 readers, and I was so overwhelmed with happiness when you guys pushed me through to round 2.

I appreciate it.

Unfortunately, the talents of other bloggers got the best of me. I didn’t make it to round 3. I will admit that I cried a little, because I’m a girl and girls are emotional :). However, on the bright side of things, I can now fully support/cheer on my awesome blogger friends who are still in the running! I can’t believe one of them can possibly win $10,000! How life changing and amazing is that?!

So, instead of voting for me from now on, can you take a minute to vote for/support these spectacular bloggers? Round 3 was a Luxurious Dinner Party, and I sort of wish I crashed each party. The menus were spectacular and these gals are just so dang creative. :)

Amy of Sing for your Supper
Tara of Smells Like Home
Jessica of The Novice Chef
Serena of Big Apple Nosh
Erin of Milk & Honey

Again, thanks so much for y’all’s support during Project Food Blog! Making it as far as I did gives me warm fuzzies. :)

Caakiri: My First Adventure with Couscous

Caakiri

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate y’alls support during Project Food Blog so far. You better believe I was jumping in my chair when I saw that I get to compete in round 2! So, thank you very much. You guys are the best!

Round 2’s challenge is called The Classics.
Ready to tackle a classic dish from another culture? Pick an ethnic classic that is outside your comfort zone or are not as familiar with. You should include how you arrived at this decision in your post. Do your research then try to pull off successfully creating this challenge. Try to keep the dish as authentic as the real deal, and document your experience through a compelling post.

So, with absolutely no clue what to do, I went to my local library and picked up 4 books. 3 of them were Asian inspired and the other one, which was a direct opposite, featured German cuisine. Not exactly sure why I picked that one up, but heck, why not? I flipped through pages and pages, bookmarking some recipes, but none of them felt like it should be the dish for this challenge. I walked away from the books for a while, feeling pretty bummed. What dish was I going to make?

I wanted to find a recipe that was different, featuring ingredients that normally make me turn the other way. I ended up finding this dessert recipe featuring couscous. Can you believe I’ve never tried couscous before? I was intimidated by it..completely.

This recipe also has sour cream, which is an ingredient that does not appeal to me at all. I rarely use it in recipes, because it’s a personal food aversion of mine. So, why not go all out with an ingredient I’ve never tried and an ingredient I really don’t like? Challenge enough, no?

I’m sure you want to know where this dish is from. Ultimately, I ended up going to a whole different continent for this challenge: Africa!

The dish is called Caakiri, which is a yogurt based couscous dessert, originating in Western Africa. The dish tastes a lot like rice pudding, but with a very different texture. I found the dish to be a little too tart for me, probably due to the high amounts of yogurt and sour cream. However, more sugar seemed to help that issue. :)

Caakiri Components

Couscous and yogurt mixture pictured.

The best thing about this dish was that the ingredients weren’t too hard to find, and it introduced me to couscous. I’m pretty sure I’m going to make this grain again really soon. :)

Note: this recipe is halved from the original source and it still made PLENTY!

Caakiri
Source: The Congo Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 2 cups water
  • pat of  butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup vanilla or plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 can of crushed pineapple, drained

Directions:

  1. Bring water to boil in a medium pot. Add couscous, butter and salt. Stir, cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Then stir and let couscous cool.
  2. Combine all of the other ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Add couscous to yogurt mixture and add sugar to taste. Serve warm or cold.

My Blog, My Moments

Pumpkin Bread

Since it’s almost Fall, I thought I’d post a picture of this pumpkin bread for y’all.

This post serves as my entry into Foodbuzz’s Project Food Blog: Project Food Blog is the first-ever interactive competition where thousands of Foodbuzz Featured Publishers are competing in a series of culinary blogging challenges for the chance to advance and a shot at the ultimate prize: $10,000 and a special feature on Foodbuzz.com for one year. Starting next week, Foodbuzz will start the voting for the next food blog star, and I’ll repost a link for y’all to vote for me, if you think I should advance. :) Thanks in advance for all of your support!

Most people think of cooking and baking as simply putting food on the table. I’ve been there. I used to think that way and just dreaded it. I started this food blog after I graduated from college, because I moved back in with my family and wanted to help my parents with dinner. My first ever blogged recipe was for turkey meatballs.

Those meatballs were quite the chore. I dirtied up tons of dishes, which I had to clean, and while my family appreciated the meal, we all knew it wasn’t mouth-watering, amazingness on a plate. It was discouraging, to say the least. Oh, and obviously, I really didn’t care how the photo looked. I just took a photo with my point and shoot and uploaded it.

After blogging for a while, I hit a point where I thought this was really boring. I got maybe 1 comment in a week’s time, I felt as unpopular as the last picked kid on the kickball team and just got super jealous of popular bloggers. I knew nothing big would ever come of this blog, so I just sort of lost interest.

After a couple of years of on and off blogging spurts, I realized that I shouldn’t blog to be popular. The competition out there is crazy, and I should do this for me. I thought back to the days when I could barely form a turkey meatball and looked at how far I came. I came to the conclusion that blogging isn’t about popularity….it’s about the moments you have in the kitchen and sharing them with others.

I remember the moment when I made my first batch of biscotti from scratch. It felt so amazing that something as simple as flour, butter, and sugar could come together to form biscotti. I always made bought them, and thought you had to be an authentic Italian bakery to get those to come out right!

I remember how proud I was when I made that first buttercream rose.

I was so excited when I didn’t make anyone sick after making my first pot roast.

I remember when the yeast actually rose for my first batch of rolls.

I remember hosting my first family get-together.

I found that blogging was so much more fun when I was able actually meet a personal challenge and bask in the moment, whether it be taking that perfect picture of a cupcake or making a dish I found to be intimidating.

While I’m not very well known in the blogging community, I feel that I should be considered to be the next food blog star. My blog is here to show everyone that recipes are completely approachable. Anyone can make an amazing meal or dessert for their families and friends.  Before I ever blogged, I considered my kitchen accomplishments to include heating frozen skillet meals and baking rolls of cookie dough. I didn’t know the names of most ordinary produce. I thought a cup was a cup no matter what type of measuring tool you use. I’ve been there. I’ve messed up, and I still mess up.

It took me a while, but I find that I truly enjoy food blogging now. It’s not a career for me by any means, but it’s a huge passion of mine. I love knowing that my kitchen is a place where you can take simple ingredients and turn it into a great dish. It’s a complete transformation every time, and in my two and a half years of blogging, I don’t see the fun dying down anytime soon.

Learning to Adapt

So, as you may know, I’ve been on a weight loss journey for a while. I lost 20 lbs. before the wedding, and then, after the wedding, gained it all back. Typical.

I’m back to square one.

One of my biggest problems with food blogging is the insatiable urge to bake. I haven’t baked much lately, but with the Fall season and upcoming holiday season, I’m afraid the urge is going to only get greater.

This summer, I’ve really gotten into smoothies and one of my favorite things to put in there is yogurt. It thickens up a smoothie and has great nutritional value. I will admit, I’m not a fan of eating yogurt out of a cup. I find it way too tangy, however, smoothies sweeten it up and sort of mask the tartness.

When I received an email from Foodbuzz about Activia Desserts yogurt, I was all over it.

Image source

With flavors like Strawberry Cheesecake and Peach Cobbler, I was intrigued. I only tried this stuff in smoothies, but man, it really did make my smoothies seem more indulgent! It’s a definite must-try!! I think I might have to make these while I’m baking to satisfy the sweet tooth. It’s worth a shot.

Knowing me, though, I’ll probably drink the smoothie AND eat baked goods…sigh.

If you are skeptical, they are offering $1 off coupon currently. Like I said, I didn’t try this straight out of the cup…I tried it in a smoothie.

Note: I didn’t receive this product for free. I used a coupon as a discount, and am writing a post about it for the Foodbuzz Tastemaker’s Program.

The Cooking Channel Likes Me

So, last week, I got an email from someone at The Cooking Channel. They mentioned that they are featuring food blogger’s pictures of Julia Child’s recipes and asked if I would be interested in letting them feature my picture of Julia’s Boeuf Bourguignon. Of course I said yes, but didn’t think anything would happen, since so many bloggers are great photographers.

I did, however, like a dork, squee around the house and call my hubs and mom about it! :)

I checked The Cooking Channel on Monday and this is what I see. The prompt I’m pointing to says “Food Bloggers Cooking Julia“. I hold my breath…

I'm on Cooking Channel!

Click through each picture and lo and behold, I’m picture #3! WOW!

I'm on Cooking Channel!

I also noticed I was thanked in one of their blog entries. Lots of happy links for The Nifty Foodie, that’s for sure!

Happy Birthday Julia, and thank you Cooking Channel for featuring my lil’ ol’ blog. :)

**Images are from from The Cooking Channel’s website!**

Caring a little more…

I’ve had a blog since 2005. That’s a long time in the Internet world, y’all.

I remember my first blog, which was on a LiveJournal-like platform, and I really can’t even remember the name. I used to blog about things that no one cared about: college classes, boys, discovering my independence, etc. I moved over to LiveJournal, because my friends were there. My LiveJournal is still online with a Christmas looking theme and an avatar with Will Ferrell from Elf, but I’m too embarrassed to share the link. I look back on it from time to time and laugh at the things I used to care about in the college days.

I wonder if I’ll ever look back on this blog and laugh at what I cared about in my 20s.

One thing I’ve noticed through the years, is that I carefully plan/care about my posts more. No more posts about the professor who embarrassed me in class or the fact that I had a faceplant in front of the student union. It’s rare that I post about a day in the life here, because, well, I doubt that readers would care about that.

When I started my food blog in 2008, all I cared about was finding good recipes and keeping a record of them, so when I was married, I could totally cook something up for us. My food adventures took place in my parents’ house for a good year or so. The pictures didn’t matter to me…it was the recipes that I cared about, obviously.

Example: One of my pictures from my first ever food blog post. I thought it was an excellent picture of bowtie pasta and meatballs, but I didn’t care to take 20 pictures of the food…I just wanted to eat.
My first ever food blog picture

A year later, at what would be my husband and I’s house (his house at the time), this is what I took a picture of. Oh yeah, Italian again. At least this time, I focused in on the food. At this point, I was getting a little better, and had a good steady following, so I wanted to give my readers fairly decent pictures of recipes.

One year later

Then, around April 2010, I bought a dSLR and moved to my own domain. I really started developing a passion for food blogging and decided my own URL was the next step, along with a fancy camera for great pictures.

When I got my camera, ultimately, I wanted to be able to play with settings and make my photos eventually drool-worthy. Right when I took it out of the box, I immediately put it in “manual” mode and got to work. It took me a while, but check out one of my favorite photos (which was taken in July 2010).

4th of July Cupcakes

It’s funny how much I care now about blogging. It’s an everyday thing for me, and I love networking/talking with other bloggers about what works for them. I know I will never be Bakerella or Pioneer Woman, but it always gives me confidence when I see my hits rise and my readership increase. :)

Now, I know this is a post about my food blog, mainly, but I will say that this blog has also become important to me. I know this blog will never be as popular as the food blog, since there’s no real theme here (and themes usually mean a stronger readership), but I still love posting here about hobbies, housewife-ness and other topics that pop in my mind. I’m not sure if this blog will ever have a theme, like food, sewing or gardening. I like that it’s fairly random in its own way, and it offers me the freedom to blog about whatever. :)

Giveaway Winner!

I really had fun with this giveaway, but I’ll admit, I was worried no one would want these dish towels I had sewn! Y’all have some awesome hobbies, some of which, I wish I could do myself! ::jealous::

Ok, I know…on to the winner, right? Well, another extra entry won this time! It pays to do that, folks!

Winner (Dish Towel Giveaway)

Congrats to Carrie!! Please email me at niftyfoodie at gmail dot com to redeem your prize! And by the way y’all, her food blog rocks, so if you have a sec, check it out! :)

Thanks again for participating! Hope to have another one of these sometime soon!