It's been almost two weeks now since I've come back from my vacation to California and Camp Blogaway and it's taken me this long to try and wrap my brain around it all. So much was packed into that one week that it borders on ridiculous. First of all, my friend and fellow blogger Joy was moving to Cali for good and the flight there, with her two munchkins squashed in the middle seat between us, was her final flight over. While I would still be able to nag her about proof-reading her posts, taunt her with the Pho place right across the street from my work while she's eating spam on pretzels, and make her laugh so hard that she'd fall out of her chair at work, there would be no more random visits to make rainbow colored Buddha shortbread or see how many different ways one can fry brioche. Sniffle. Though I do have to say that the sadness was somewhat dispelled when her oldest fell asleep upside down in the seat and aimed a rather noxious gas attack directly into my face. I won't miss that.
I was staying with Joy and her parents for a few days before and after camp and since she needed to coordinate work and settle in, I stole her car and took off for San Diego for my first day there. I started the morning climbing the rocks and dodging ocean spray at Cambrillo Coast, which was beautiful and completely deserted.
When the tide is high the little tide pools are supposed to be full of critters, but except for a few mussels and seaweed, I didn't see any sign of life.
I picked up a cup of coffee and headed to Balboa Park. I was here with my older sister a long time ago and during a different season. This was a weekday morning, so there weren't too many people out and about yet, which was nice. There was a "Hats Off Gold Digger Party" going on in a cafe, but it was blocked off and after hovering to catch a glimpse of all the fun hats, I moved on to explore the park.
I've never seen how pomegranates grow and I never knew how beautiful the flowers were and how much the buds resemble the fruit itself.
I popped into a few of the museums, but again, since it was off season, the ones I went into were between exhibits. I did get to see a intricately crafted fairy tower village made entirely out of twigs, leaves and natural fibers. There was even a tiny dragon on top. My pictures of it came out pretty bad, mostly because it was tucked away in a very remote corner with almost no lighting, but there are some pretty good pictures of it here.
The day after that Joy and I piled into the car and after a beautiful drive up and down the Big Bear Mountain (where Joy threatened to kill me or throw up several times), and after only a few wrong turns, we got to the camp in time to help set up. See these bags on each chair and more in the middle of the tables? That's maybe half of all the loot that each of us ended up taking home.
I can't possibly tell you about everything that happened in camp, and I'm sure the other 100 (!!!) bloggers that were there already covered most of it on their blogs, all of which I've been desperately trying to visit, but I'll share some of the highlights that have stayed with me.
The wonderful people from the National Honey Board came and talked about substituting honey for sugar in recipes with some pretty useful instructions:
- 1 cup of sugar = 1/2 cup honey (12 oz)
- For every cup of honey you use
1. Reduce the liquids by 1/4 cup
2. Add 1/2tsp baking soda (to neutralize the acid in honey)
3. Reduce the heat by 25F as honey adds lots of color to baked goods.
They also had a honey tasting with six or seven different varieties of honey (Sourwood honey being my favorite, now just to find some), and I kept running around the different tables and bringing little bits of things back to the table to top with honey. I brought a cracker with some Kerrygold butter and topped it off with Avocado honey. I stole another cracker with almond butter and topped that off with Buckwheat honey. I swiped a slice of mango from another table and squirted a bit of blueberry honey on that. I think it was during this last run that one of the girls looked up from my outstretched cracker wielding hand and said "YOU AGAIN!" I know she was joking, but I moved on after that. No need to wear out my welcome :D
A representative from Cutco came and demonstrated a few items from their line of cutlery, plus a beautiful (and incredibly sharp) chef knife was left at each seat on the tables as a gift for us bloggers. There may or may not be a picture of me using that knife to threaten Joy. To demonstrate the knives they had us slice up a pile of Idaho potatoes that would be stuffed into PaperChef parchment packets and made into dinner. The knives were great, but I think I'd just roast my potatoes next time and leave the parchment for fish. I love making fish in little parchment papillote packets. It always tastes great and looks impressive when served.
I've already mentioned that Kerrygold was represented, but what I didn't mention was that in addition to their butter (yum!), they brought several different kinds of cheeses for us to try. Now I'm already a big fan of their Dubliner, but the soft and creamy Blarney Castle cheese was pretty damn fantastic, as well as the Reserve Cheddar.
They did a blind tasting of a few of their cheeses and I have to admit, that one at the end? The one I normally can't stand and pick out? The undeniably blue? Their Cashel Blue? It was actually really good. Still not at the top of my list, but this girl won't turn her nose at a few blue veins from now on.
I'm going to have to take a break here and tell you about the rest of the trip tomorrow since this post is already starting to look like a book, but I would never leave you guys hanging, so while it's at the very bottom, this recipe is incredible. I made these orange sweet buns for Mother's day breakfast that I hosted, and despite some non-recipe related drama that led to an extra long rising time while I ran out to the ER with my sister (no worries, she's fine, but I'm pretty sure she has a voodoo doll of her immersion blender now), it still came out beautiful.
This little guy was a leftover. The dozen buns the recipe makes were either eaten or stolen away, but I had kept the end piece and a bit of the icing to show you how awesome it was (and to have a snack the next day...no matter how much I cook for these things, I never have any food left over when all is said and done).
Sweet Orange Buns
Adapted very slightly from Saveur
1 1/4 cups milk, heated to 115F
1 (1/4 oz) package active dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 cups flour
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup orange zest (from about 5 small oranges)
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tsp orange extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 Tbsp fresh orange juice, divided
1. Warm up the milk and combine with yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a hook. Let it sit until foamy, about 10 minutes and stir in the sugar, melted butter, 1 tsp. salt, and egg. Add flour, and mix on low speed until dough forms. Increase speed to medium-high; knead until smooth, about 8 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit until dough doubles in size, about 1½ hours.
2. While the dough is rising, beat softened butter, brown sugar, and zest in a bowl on high speed of a mixer until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add remaining salt, confectioners' sugar, extracts and 2 Tbsps of orange juice and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer 1/4 cup of the filling to a separate bowl and stir in the remaining juice to thin out and make an icing. Set filling and icing aside, both covered to prevent drying out.
3. Transfer dough to a work surface and using a rolling pin, roll dough into an 18″ × 10″ rectangle. Spread filling evenly over dough. Lift up bottom edge of dough and roll it into a log. Trim ends and cut log into 12 round slices. Transfer rounds cut side up to a greased 9″ × 13″ baking dish; cover with plastic wrap. Chill 6 hours or overnight.
4. Heat oven to 375°. Uncover rolls and bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Drizzle icing over rolls before serving. Lick baking dish clean.