Blogger Brilliance Conference- Tampa!

Weeee!, I attended a blogger conference, Blogger Brilliance, on Saturday here in Tampa! I had such a good time! Here is my recap:

Jackie and I went together! (picture by Katie!)

Hosted by Bon Bon Rose Girls and White Book Agency and sponsored by Keratherapy, Blogger Brilliance was a success!


This is a bad picture, but our expert panelists for the day included:
I highly recommend that their blogs and websites are checked out. They all had great things to say during panel. They spoke about creative blogging (including the importance of original content, using your voice, tapping into your passion, honing your niche, knowing your audience and best blogging practices) and business and technical blogging (including working with brands, the future of monetizing blogs, banner ads and sponsored posts, building your brand, and starting a small business).

For Blogger Brilliance, attendees had the option of purchasing either a fashion or a foodie track. Given that I'm crazy about food, I'm trying to build up this blog, and that I think food makes the world go 'round, (also given that I think I lack a study fashion sense), I selected the Foodie track, which included a cooking demonstration and food tasting by Chef Daniel of Pelagia Trattoria

For the panel sessions, all attendees were together in the same room. We all received a notepad to take notes on, a swag bag that included mall coupons and gum, and products from Keratherapy.

(included Keratin Infused Argan Oil, Keratin Infused Deep Conditioning Masque, and Keratin Infused Leave-In Conditioner- all 100% safe with no formaldehyde)

Upon leaving the panel sessions, Fashion Track attendees went to the fashion show going on at International Plaza, hosted by TIM GUNN (squeee!), and featuring Kate Spade, Juicy Couture, and Lucky Brand collections. As much as I love Tim Gunn, I decided to grab some food at Cheesecake Factory prior to my Foodie Track started. Leave it to me to eat before I eat. I went with my friend Jackie and my new friend, Snacky Jackie!

Mmmm, carbs.

Fried Mac & Cheese. I'm a glutton.

Wontons stuffed with crab meat and cream cheese

Chicken Piccata 

After stuffing ourselves, we headed to the remainder of the fashion show and caught the tail end where Tim Gunn was answering questions from the audience. He was talking about proportion and fit, different trends, and helping attendees understand fashion. 


At 2pm, our Foodie Track started! We headed to Pelagia Trattoria, still stuffed, but excited for the tasting!

With @snackyjackie!! (Twitter)


We started with cantaloupe and used one piece per "spice". We had sugar (it made the cantaloupe bitter), lime juice (masked the taste), sea salt (delicioso!), cayenne pepper (pretty okay), and MSG (enhanced the flavor). Chef Daniel wanted us to see how different spices can change the flavor of a food.

We were then treated to a cooking demonstration and food tasting of ravioli and berry panna cotta, along with a glass of Grappa.

Filling the ravioli!

Veal, ricotta, spinach, and sage-stuffed raviolis. I don't even like veal and it was the most amazing thing I've ever had in my life! AND Chef Daniel made the actual pasta from scratch.

Berry Panna Cotta- so, so, so good!

Raspberry Plum Grappa! So strong, but so great!

Their different Grappas. We received a jar of their Pear Grappa to take home, along with a card for a free appetizer or dessert for our next visit!

Tampa residents and visitors: VISIT PELAGIA TRATTORIA! Their food is absolutely amazing and we had the greatest time!

Jackie and I met @tampamama, Marisa!

From 1-3:30pm, Neiman Marcus was hosting a Blogger Lounge where attendees could take a break, relax on some couches, and enjoy treats and drinks. Unfortunately (or, fortunately, since I wouldn't trade my experience at Pelagia for anything!), we arrived around 3:45 and no one was there anymore. There were still goodies, though, including Neiman Marcus look books and magazines, a Neiman notebook, and a lipstick pen.

Blogger lounge.


The very last stop of our day was Gabriella's, a lounge in the Renaissance Hotel, where all Blogger Brilliance attendees came to indulge in more Pelagia appetizers.

I officially met Kristin from Bon Bon Rose Girls!!! Eeeeee!

Manchego cheese with honeycomb on a baguette

Goat cheese, pesto, and a tomato on a slice of toasted baguette and gamba-style shrimp with tarragon sauce

We met TIM GUNN! He happened to be sitting in Gabriella's and was so open to taking pictures. He also made it a point to shake hands with and ask the name of every single person there.

Okay, so my head is blocked and this will be my only opportunity to take a picture of Tim Gunn ever, but I'm there and it was exciting and he insisted we take a picture with my personal camera. Awesome.

I really did have a best time at the Blogger Brilliance conference and I can't wait for the next one!

Have you ever been to a blogger conference??


Foods & Drinks in North Carolina (Sunday)

I sure did eat a lot while in North Carolina over Labor Day weekend. We went to the Farmer's Market and to Cook-out Restaurant (where I got a burger, fries, hushpuppies, and a cheesecake chocolate chip milkshake- all SO GOOD) on Sunday morning/afternoon before my friend's wedding that evening! 

I don't have a picture of anything...except the wedding food, which was amazing. I mean, I salivate now just thinking about it. The couple got married at La Residence, a restaurant with a fantastic layout. 

On the menu:
1. Smoked Macaroni & Cheese
2. Wild Mushroom Shepard's Pie
3. Sweet Onion and Goat Cheese Tart
4. Sliced Sweet Potatoes
5. Green Beans with Roasted Almonds

For dessert, we had cookies, brownies, and an apple/blueberry crisp! (I didn't even take a picture of these items because I devoured them so fast and started dancing!)

La Residence Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon


Foods & Drinks in North Carolina (Saturday)

Saturday, because we had spent 11 hours in the car the previous day, was mostly dedicated to sitting on the couch and reading blogs. We all finally got up and moving around 4pm so we could go watch the Carolina Rollergirls' roller derby game. At the arena, which was on the North Carolina State Fairgrounds, I had chili cheese nachos. (What diet?)

After the game, we headed to dinner at the Red Room, a tapas restaurant. Mike and I are big fans of our local tapas restaurant in the Tampa Bay area called Ceviche and we pretty much hold all tapas restaurants to a high standard. Red Room did not disappoint.

What did we have, you ask?

  • A Watermelon Honey sangria, to start. Made with white grape & apple juices, watermelon vodka, melon liquer and champagne, I couldn't get enough of it. So refreshing and one of the best sangrias I've ever had. Ever.
  • Papas Bravas- potatoes fries and tossed in sherry barbeque, then topped with garlic aioli. Wonderful flavor and just the right amount of crisp.
  • Grilled Marinated Steak Paella- rice with julienne tomatoes, artichoke hearts, piquillo peppers, red bliss potatoes, asparagus and sofrito. This dish was the highlight. It came in either a half- or full-pan size and the half was big enough to eat and have leftovers on. (And let me tell you, the left overs were amazing). 

Our friends and hosts, Elliot and Sara, had:
  • Wild Mushroom Empanada- topped with sofrito.
  • Duck Confit Tartine- with mango endive marmalade.
  • Traditional Chicken and Mushroom Paella- rice with chorizo, roasted peppers, sofrito, green beans and pure saffron de la Mancha.
  • Raspberry Green Tea Sangria- white wine blended with Absolut Raspberri, fresh raspberries and in-house brewed green tea.
I didn't try any of theirs, but it looked great and they were happy! Red Room also has 1/2 off sangria and free Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata dance lessons every Thursday for Latin Night, and 1/2 price tapas Sundays and Mondays. 

With our tummies stuffed and a little dizzy (in a good way) on sangria, we headed to Busy Bee Cafe to drink some beers and munch on some loaded tots. Primarily a beer bar, Busy Bee had a relaxed and quiet atmosphere. They don't offer flights of beer, which we found a little odd, but they let you try any beer you want so perhaps we are the winners in that. I opted for one of my favorites- Delirium Tremens. 

After we had a mix of beers, tots, and cocktails, we decided to head to the local Applebee's to continue. Applebee's (lovingly called CRAPplebees in my household) is only good when you want to spend little money. Otherwise, yuck. We still got wings, mozzarella sticks, and a Maple Blondie dessert, along with beer and chocolate cake shots, but basically, it'll never add up to the local joints.

And that concludes our Saturday in North Carolina! Leaving the bar at midnight, exhausted, I felt a little old, but I chalked it up to the drive (again) and crashed when we got back to the apartment.

Red Room Tapas Lounge on Urbanspoon


Foods & Drinks in North Carolina (Friday)

This weekend, I traveled to North Carolina for a friend's wedding. Once Mike and I crossed the NC border, we decided to stop at Smithfield's Chicken & BBQ, which was really just one step above KFC. However, the people were beyond friendly; you don't get to see that in Tampa. Also, TRIVIA!, in North Carolina, there is apparently only one type of BBQ and that is pork. Mike asked, "What type of BBQ is it?" (translation: what meat?) and the response was, "Just...BBQ", as if there couldn't possibly be another option. 

It was true. The BBQ only applied to the pork. I decided to go with the chicken tenders, baked beans, and coleslaw. 

Overall, we spent 11 hours in the car on Friday, driving from Tampa to Raleigh, and were exhausted. But, the bride was out in Chapel Hill, celebrating after her rehearsal dinner. So, we headed to dinner at Tasu Asian Sushi Bistro & Bar (where we had an amazing wonton soup, General Tao's chicken, jasmine rice, and chicken with broccoli) and then down to the Carolina Brewery for a yummy beer. I opted for the Copperline Amber Ale, a red ale brewed with caramel and pale malts. We relaxed, had good conversation, and enjoyed each other's company. The atmosphere is great and they sell these growlers to take home!

After, there didn't seem any other option than to go across the street to Time-Out Restaurant, a restaurant visited by Adam Richman of Man vs. Food. Famous for their Chicken Cheddar Biscuit, Time-Out also had other delicious options. I ordered the mac & cheese and the green beans and was very pleased with both. 

Stay tuned for my food recaps through the rest of the weekend!


Zucchini! Loves it!

Zucchini is my favorite vegetable. I like to make a chicken/rice/zucchini dish. I've made Sausage Stuffed Zucchini Boats. I frequently saute zucchini as a side dish. Being that zucchini's prime season is May through August (FYI- it's still available year-round), I have been seeing tons of zucchini recipes popping up on food websites lately. So, in celebration of the zucchini squash that I love, I'm going to share zucchini recipes that I've picked up around the web.

Sweet Zucchini Pancakes via Tasty Kitchen

Zucchini Fritters via Smitten Kitchen

Chicken Rollatini Stuffed with Zucchini & Mozzarella via Gina's Skinny Recipes

Easy Cheesy Zucchini Bake via Kalyn's Kitchen

Gazpacho with Zucchini via Eat at Home

Chocolate Zucchini Cake via Zoe Bakes

Ideas for baking with zucchini via Baking Bites

Also, Eat at Home had two posts (here and here) that highlights recipes with zucchini.

Be sure to check these recipes out from some of the best food bloggers I follow!


True Life: I'm A Food Blogger!

Welcome to my blog! This blog was started about 1 week ago and while I don't have many posts just yet, I have a plan, an idea, a direction and I encourage you all to hang in there with me. I am going to try to post every day, though as you can imagine, it's difficult to cook every day and document every meal when you work over 50 hours a week. 

Anyway, look around! I have a sweet navigation bar- including tabs for a recipe directory, go-to meals (usually in a box or bag), and restaurant reviews. I will also be continuously adding tips & tricks to use in the kitchen.

Some tidbits about me:
  • I frequently pin food to my Food & Drinks board on Pinterest. I find so many great recipes through Pinterest and other blogs and this particular board of mine vastly outnumbers any other board of mine.
  • I'm Cuban and Italian, with a little bit Spanish (from Spain) thrown in. Needless to say, I come from a family, on both sides, of great cooks and good meals.
  • I dream of moving gracefully around my kitchen (a joke in and of itself- I don't think I'm graceful with anything I do), making primarily Italian food, and pronouncing Italian words like Giada DeLaurentiis does. I tried once; I sounded ridiculous.
  • I take pictures of my food when I'm eating out and I feel like I'm a crazy for doing so. But, I have to! How else would I share anything with you all. If you take pictures of your food when you're out, do you use a cell phone to hide the fact that you're taking a picture? Do you use your best DSLR with a super lens and just not worry about other people? 
  • My favorite food is pasta. I also love a nice, full salad. 
  • I subscribe to 5 food magazines (Food Network, Cuisine At Home, Everyday with Rachael Ray, Bon Appetite, Food & Wine).
  • I also subscribe to 3 different email lists for daily recipes.
So, I'm glad you stopped by! Like I say in my About Me section, cooking is a passion of mine. An intense hobby. Something I enjoy doing all the time. Sometimes, instead of relaxing and reading a book, or partaking in some reality TV watching, I decide to spend a couple of hours in the kitchen, making new dishes.

Coming up on the blog? Featured desserts!

Cannoli Cake...Omgeee. 

Nutella Peanut Butter Pie...wow. Just, wow.


Pillsbury Quick Bread Banana Bread

So good.

While normally I like to bake from scratch (when I decide to bake, anyway- I'm more of a cooker), sometimes you just have to get a box of ingredients so you can be as efficient as possible (whether you need efficiency because you don't have any time or because you just cannot wait to eat your delicious treat)...

So, while grocery shopping, I saw this banana bread on the shelf, on sale!!!, and decided to try it out. Mike loves banana bread and has asked me to make some before, but I hadn't yet. I thought it would be a nice treat for after dinner.

After about 30 minutes, my bread was ready to eat! It was moist and yummy. According to the package, it's made with real bananas. (I always wonder about products that claim to have real something-or-other in it. Is it true? Who knows). I think next time I'll place some chocolate chips in the batter, or maybe some raisins. Or maybe I'll top with some creme and slices of real banana on top.

Have any of you made banana bread? Did you add yum-yum ingredients to it?