Daring Baker’s Challenge: Chocolate Valentino

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(must love dogs)

Well, even though I officially bowed out of the fabulous group Daring Baker’s last month, I was happy to have the oppurtunity to do two things I had always wanted to with this month’s challenge:

1) Make a flour-less chocolate cake
2) Do a DB challenge with my good friend, and fellow blogger, Judy from No Fear Entertaining. You can find the recipe and whole story over on her blog.

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Judy and I have talked for a long time about doing a DB challenge together, since we live in the same state and have so much fun with the challenges. So since Roberto and I went to visit her and her wonderful family during February, we decided to do the DB challenge as a dessert for a dinner party.

I am glad that I was able to do this challenge also because it was hosted by my other very good blogging friend Dharm and his DB partner for this month, Wendy.

So what can I say about this challenge? I absolutely loved it. It was a wonderful change of pace from some of the most recent DB challenges, and the cake was so delicious. Something I would make again, in a heart beat.

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It required very few ingredients, not many steps, and was not time consuming. The taste was fabulous. We used a combo of bittersweet and dark chocolate – but you can really use any kind you want!

So thanks Dharm, Wendy and Judy for making this such a great challenge.

***Just for the record, I am not leaving the DBs because of any displeasure on my part. This is an awesome group, who really helped me get over my fear of baking – both bread and pastry! So I really enjoyed my year as a DB. It has just come time for me to challenge myself in other areas this year. As with any adventure, things change as you learn more, so this year with the upcoming launch of my new website (maybe April or May) I will explain the journey of this blog up until this point and where I am headed with my adventures in food!

Finest Foodies Friday – February 27, 2008

This month has just flown by! I can’t believe that it is almost March. Whew! So here is to the last FFF of the month!

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As always here is what the FFF is all about. Finest Foodies Friday! FFF is a weekly Friday post featuring favorites from The Foodie Blogroll! We do this so we can share in the rich diversity of what The Foodie Blogroll has to offer by featuring some of our favorites and yours!
What is the Foodie Blogroll? It is the first and fastest growing free membership blogroll for food bloggers and has become a wonderful community to share ideas about all things food related. With a membership of over 3000 food blogs, I am sure you can find much inspiration and new friends! :)

The only requirement to be featured here on FFF is to be a member of The Foodie Blogroll and be displaying The Foodie Blogroll widget on your blog. If you are not yet a member, but you have a food blog and would like to join us, please click here!

If you have a favorite foodblog on The Foodie Blogroll, that you would like to be featured here on FFF, please join us over on The Leftover Queen/Foodie Blogroll Forum, and post your favorite Foodie Blogroll foodblogs here.

Andrea’s Easy Vegan Cooking
This blog is written by Andrea (of course) who has been a vegan for over 25 years. She and her husband have also raised three vegan sons. So if you are interested in learning more about vegan cooking, or just for inspiration on making healthy veggie recipes, this is a good place to check out. She clearly is an expert on the subject! Don’t let the word “vegan” make you think there are no recipes there for you unless you are vegan. So not the case.

Sugared Ellipses
This is a blog I have had on my “to be featured” list for a little while now. But they were also nominated this week on the forum, so I figure now is the time. This blog is written by Aime, who got into baking thanks to Martha Stewart. I have a friend, Sunshine, who also is very inspired by Martha – so when I read that about this blogger, it felt familiar. The blog name refers to the omission of some ingredients and techniques that can either lead to failure or a new recipe, as Aimee has more adventures in baking!

Cheese is Alive
This blog is all about one of my most favorite foods – cheese. I love artisan foods made with dairy products – ice cream, cheese, kefir, etc. But cheese is certainly one of my overall favorites. This blog is entirely devoted to cheese. As the headline states: “Cheese is sexy, stinky, soft, hard, firm, smoked, blue, washed, bloomy, acidic, grassy, herbaceous, milky, sweet, savory, aged, fresh and delicious. Cheese is good.” If you want to learn more about all the lovely varieties, you must check out this blog.

Appoggiatura
This blog is written by my buddy Haley, who like me grew up an avid eater in her grandmother’s kitchen. Appoggiatura is a musical term for an embellishment commonly called a grace note. She relates her cooking to that – cooking allows her to put her own special twists and embellishments on an ordinary everyday task. I think that is a very cool and accurate analogy. Like Haley says, eating is multifaceted – you need to eat for nourishment, but it can also taste good!

Experiments,Emotions,Experiences with Food
This is just a great blog. One of the ones I visit and always feel like I could eat anything that is posted about. Lots of great healthy recipes, but also some sweeties too. There are a lot of Indian flavors here, but also tons of international cuisine as well. So please go over and say hi. Curry is a very gracious hostess!

That’s it for this week! I hope you enjoyed this week’s FFF. Remember, if you would like to see a blog featured here, who is part of the FBR please visit the forum and nominate them.
I NEED NOMINATIONS!!!!!!

Also we all love to know how people came to find our blogs, so please visit all of our featured bloggers today and don’t forget to tell them that you found them via Finest Foodies Friday!

Foodie Blogroll Community Event: Cook the Books

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Rachel of Crispy Cook, Johanna of Food Junkie, not Junk Food, and Deb of Kahakai
Kitchen
started a bimonthly foodie book club called Cook the Books , where participating bloggers all read a designated book, cook up an inspirational recipe and then blog about it. The winners receive a cool badge for their blog, get added to the Cook the Books blogroll and get a book from Rachel’s used bookstore!!!

The really cool thing about the event is that is has gotten the acknowledgment of the authors of the books that have been read already. “La Cucina”, a bawdy foodie novel by Lily Prior featuring Sicilian cuisine and Diana Abu-Jaber’s memoir about growing up in a Arab-American family “The Language of Baklava” – to the point where the authors for the last two events chose the winner, themselves!!!

Johanna of Food Junkie, Not Junk Food, in Athens, Greece, is the current host of Cook the Books and has just picked her selection:

Kitchen Confidential by Tony Bourdain. How cool would it be if they got Tony Bourdain to chose the winner!!!

Participants are asked to read the book, cook something up “Bourdainish” or otherwise inspired by the book and then blog about it by April 25.

March Foodie Blogroll Giveaway: Flirty Aprons!!!

I am pleased to announce another great giveaway we are doing during the month of March.

I am putting it out there first and foremost that EVERYONE can be eligible, no matter where you reside. Those out of the US just may have to wait longer to get their prize, if they win…the only thing you have to do to participate in this giveaway is post on this forum thread which apron you like the best on FlirtyAprons.com and we will chose a random winner from those that posted once a week through the month of March (meaning there will be 4 prizes)!

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We at The Foodie Blogroll found out about this great company when Becca, from Baking Becca became our 3,000th blogger on The Foodie Blogroll.

On her sidebar, she had a little icon saying she was saving her pennies for a Flirty Apron, so since she was our 3,000 blogger, we decided to gift her with the apron of her choice. After perusing the Flirty Aprons Website we found out what a great company and product it was and I contacted them to see if they wanted to do a giveaway and they said yes!

Flirty Aprons was founded by two married couples whose passions really worked well together to create the vision and mission of the company. From their website:

” Flirty Aprons is a business that acts as a force for good in the community, in the nation, and in the world. At Flirty Aprons, doing good is not confined to traditional methods, such as community volunteer work and donations. As with all aspects of the company, Flirty Aprons seeks to innovate new methods of impacting the community. The company differs from others in how it employs and compensates people, in helping other businesses around it, and promoting good values. ”

“The Vision of Flirty Aprons emerges in the company’s efforts to create products that truly help women feel important and noticed—products that give new life to mundane activities, and bring color and style to the home. On a broader level, the Vision emerges in the positive day-to-day interactions that customers have with Flirty Aprons employees. We want the community to feel like businesses are on their side and not at odds with individuals. We hope that their interactions with Flirty Aprons will inspire them and help them gain a more optimistic, hopeful view of the modern role of businesses in society. “

So please join us over on the forum for your chance to win a Flirty Apron! :)

FromTheFarm.com: Koda Farms Rice and Leftover Chicken Soup

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So remember that chicken I roasted in a tagine last week?
Well, after we ate most of the meat heated up again, I decided to make a chicken soup from the carcass, as I always do. Homemade chicken soup is just amazing stuff and a really easy way to get even more out of your whole chicken. One whole chicken usually is 4 or 5 meals for us, including the soup, a pretty good deal, when a nice free range, organic whole chicken is about $7- $8 – making it about .75 cents a meal…

Well it just so happened that the same day I set out to make my chicken soup, I got another package in the mail from FromTheFarm.com , the awesome company that is sponsoring one of our March and April giveaways on The Foodie Blogroll . For details on this giveaway, click here

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This package was from Koda Farms, which is a family farm and the oldest continuously run rice farm and mill in California. All facets of production are managed by members of the Koda family from growing and harvesting to milling and packaging.

They are well known for their Heirloom Kokuho Rose – Japanese style, medium grain rice. To this day they maintain their own seed program to preserve the purity of this heirloom rice strain. It is slow to mature, low in yield and tall in stature, making it a true heirloom. To plant this strain of rice every year requires a three year commitment to merely produce the seed. Koda Farms is also known for their Sho-Chiku Bai brand – which is a sweet rice.

In their own words, “One could aptly summarize that rice is our life”. They can trace back their rice growing ancestry back to the 1600’s in Japan. So it is more than their livelihood, it is the continuation of a family legacy and the preservation of their cultural heritage.

They are big on quality control, making sure that even in the processing, the entire rice drying and milling facility is cleaned of rice grains whenever production changes from one rice variety to another. They are also certified organic and all products are also certified kosher.

Besides these two rice varietals I also received three varieties of Organic Nirvana Heirloom Organic Rice and Grains. Each box contains artisan blends of certified organic, all natural ingredients in which whole brown rice is combined with other healthy and nutrient-rich grains and seeds. These rice mixes are prefect for vegetarian, vegan and macrobiotic diets. I wanted to add one of these rice and grain mixes to the soup. So I decided to use the California Whole Grain Goodness which contains heirloom brown rice, pearled barley, millet, oat berries, quinoa and rye berries.

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Fun Giveaway: Do You know what to cook with this?

Hello food lovers!

I have a bit of a food mystery here…I have some wonderful friends who travel the world, and when they go somewhere they come back home with spices from their vacation destination. They have acquired so many spices over the past few years, that they had an overload, and thought to send some of their extras to me. I received a huge box of exotic (to me) spices in the mail some weeks back. Some I have shared with foodie friends I have gone to visit in the past month or so, and I have been fun experimenting with the rest.

There was however, one item in the box that I was not familiar with and when I asked my friend about it, he told me that they are organic day lillies from Taiwan and that they are usually used in rice or meat dishes. The only characters that I could understand on the bag says: “ciharaay”.

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Even with that information I have remained perplexed about what to do with them. So, I thought it would be fun to do a little experiment with my fellow food bloggers. If you are feeling adventurous and would like to cook with these flowers, please leave a comment here. The first 3 people to leave a comment or anyone who leaves a comment on this post before Thursday (which ever comes first), will get some of these flowers in the mail from me and can feel free to create a dish using these lovely flowers :) All I ask in return is that you post about your own experiment, whether it is a success or failure, so we can all learn something new.

Finest Foodies Friday – February 20, 2008

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As always here is what the FFF is all about. Finest Foodies Friday! FFF is a weekly Friday post featuring favorites from The Foodie Blogroll! We do this so we can share in the rich diversity of what The Foodie Blogroll has to offer by featuring some of our favorites and yours!
What is the Foodie Blogroll? It is the first and fastest growing free membership blogroll for food bloggers and has become a wonderful community to share ideas about all things food related. With a membership of over 3000 food blogs, I am sure you can find much inspiration and new friends! :)

The only requirement to be featured here on FFF is to be a member of The Foodie Blogroll and be displaying The Foodie Blogroll widget on your blog. If you are not yet a member, but you have a food blog and would like to join us, please click here!

If you have a favorite foodblog on The Foodie Blogroll, that you would like to be featured here on FFF, please join us over on The Leftover Queen/Foodie Blogroll Forum, and post your favorite Foodie Blogroll foodblogs here.

Just a Taste
Kelly Ann writes this blog that is all about her adventures in the kitchen and with food. She enjoys a healthy lifestyle by eating balanced meals and not depriving herself of just a taste of some of her favorite indulgences. Her photos are really bright and beautiful and there are a lot of wonderful and delicious looking recipes!

Ridiculous Food Society of Upstate New York
Mr. Dave writes a wonderful blog. I am having difficulty coming up with a way to describe it. There are the out of the ordinary products he procures, taste tests and writes about – canned meats, interesting beers, restaurants with regional cooking and also recipe experiments. All I can say is I have thoroughly enjoyed all the posts I have read. It is entertaining and informative.

The Inner Workings of a College Graduate
This is a blog that looks at how to maintain a healthy lifestyle within the demands of a 40 hour work week and still trying to enjoy a social life. Written by a really down to earth person, Meghann, she talks about how easy it is to let your weight get away from you without you really noticing and how to get back to a healthier way of being and finding balance again. Her inspiration for her blog is to give back to others because of the many healthy living blogs she read while she was trying to get back to a healthier self. Very cool!

Cooking Stuff
This is a great blog with a very keen attention to detail. There are lots of photos to show you how recipes are prepared step by step. Bob, the author also likes to discuss cats, beer and wine sometimes, depending on his mood.

Cookie Pie
This blog is written by the food editor of All You Magazine
She is one of those lucky people who gets to do what she loves best for a living, come up with new recipes, read food magazines and cookbooks! She is even coming out with her own this year. If you like dessert, you will love this blog!

That’s it for this week! I hope you enjoyed this week’s FFF. Remember, if you would like to see a blog featured here, who is part of the FBR please visit the forum and nominate them.
I NEED NOMINATIONS!!!!!!

Also we all love to know how people came to find our blogs, so please visit all of our featured bloggers today and don’t forget to tell them that you found them via Finest Foodies Friday!

FromTheFarm.com: Poached Pears and Honey Balsamic Strawberries

So here is another couple of recipes that I made using wonderful products from FromTheFarm.com who will be sponsoring a Foodie Blogroll Giveaway during March and April!

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I received some lovely pears from EW Brandt & Sons. The Brandt family has been a part of Washington state agriculture since 1907. Located just south of Yakima, WA they grow, pack and ship premium pears, apples and stone fruit. This farming family strives to deliver the most flavorful and unique products that can be grown in their region. Through the years, they’ve added acreage, new packing facilities, and a nursery program that allows them to better coordinate their own tree development to diversify into various tree fruit varieties. And these are some beautiful and tasty pears. I really have never seen such lovely ones before – not a blemish on them, super smooth outer skin. Just gorgeous- and the taste? Like a pear should be – crisp and delicious!

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The first thing I did when I got a case of pears from EW Brandt & Sons was start asking around for wine poached pear recipes – something I had always wanted to make. So I went on Twitter and asked around. My good friend Peter, from Kalofagas had two recipes to share with me, (hereand here) and so I kind of took the method of how he did his and added my own twist to it.

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I had leftover mulling spices from the Gløgg I made for our Winter Solstice Cocktail Party and so I decided to use that in lieu of cloves, cinnamon sticks and star anise. I used Pumpkin Blossom Honey and Blackberry Honey Creme from Honey Ridge Farms to make the wine syrup.

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Honey Ridge Farms is a really fantastic company. When I read the materials they sent me with the package I was really happy to read this statement: “We are a long time bee keeping family (5 generations) who believe that honey is nature’s best sweetener”. I would have to agree. I am a huge fan of honey, and maple syrup – if I could figure out how to bake with them, that is all I would ever use…sounds like another good project for me…Anyway their artisan honey is minimally processed, gently warmed and strained, but not filtered. This retains all the complex flavors this honey has to offer. The Pumpkin Blossom honey we got has a sweet and spicy robust flavor – and the color is beautiful.

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I also received 3 Honey Cremes, and decided to use the Blackberry Creme in this recipe as it would compliment the berry notes in the Shiraz-Grenache wine I was using. Their honey cremes are blended with the finest fruits and spices and are never cooked – again retaining the natural goodness of the honey. It is delicious stuff and there is so much you could do with them – topping for ice cream, yogurt, on hot cereal, even spread on toast.

Anyway, I also decided to make a vanilla – maple cream to go with the pears – you can see the recipe after the cut.

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We got another interesting product from Honey Ridge Farms – Balsamic Honey Vinegar. I know, I wondered what it was too when I saw the bottle. So I got to reading labels and literature to figure out what it was. It is a balsamic type vinegar made entirely from 100% honey! This makes it sulfite free and really does have the flavor of balsamic vinegar. You can use it in place of grape balsamic in salads, marinades and sauces. Plus, Honey Ridge Farms donates a percentage of their profits on this product to fund research for maintaining bee colony health – which is very important.

Strawberries are in season here in Florida right now. I am not a huge fan of them, but I do enjoy them when they are soaked in balsamic vinegar. If you have never tried this, it may sound weird, but I promise you that the flavors work together like magic! The vinegar brings out the sweetness of the berries. So I chopped up some strawberries and added 1/3 cup of Honey Balsamic over the top. I also mixed in about a TBS of the Clover Honey Creme (also from Honey Ridge). I let that all sit in the fridge for about an hour or two – you could do it over night, if you can wait that long! It was really delicious over vanilla ice cream! I am also looking forward to having some over yogurt.

Please check out this post and The Foodie Blogroll’s Contests and Giveaways Page to see how you can be eligible to win one of our awesome giveaways we have going on.
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