Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Camp Blogaway Part 2 and Bacon Cheddar Asparagus Quiche

I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend full of delicious grilled food, ice cold drinks, some time by the pool and most of all a much needed rest (even if the actual Memorial Day is today). I, for one, tried to fit all those into my Monday and since I'd actually crossed a lot of todo's off my list on Saturday and Sunday, I felt zero guilt about doing nothing all day long. Relaxing felt almost as good as actually getting things done. And this is exactly how "I'll tell you more tomorrow" has turned into "Oops, it's been a week!". But don't worry, I didn't forget and since there's still so much more to tell about my Camp Blogaway trip, here you go, without any further ado:

I can't believe I wrote an entire post about camp without introducing you to the woman behind it all, our Fearless Leader: Patti Londre. A nationally recognized food PR and marketing expert, she writes a blog called Worth The Whisk, manages a marketing firm and I'm sure a dozen other things in addition to organizing this yearly camping event, and still find time to travel the globe. She kept the entire event running smoothly and on time, practically unheard of feat, considering how many people were there.

Fearless Leader

Did you know that the Food Network is now making it's own wine? Well they are and it's called "Entwine". Luckily they're not doing it on their own. They partnered with Wente Vineyards, who know a thing or two about wine, and now have several varieties on the market. I won't say that it's the best wine to ever cross my lips but it good for every day drinking. We got to try several varieties thanks to their very generous spokesperson:

Entwine Wine

We also had an incredibly funny, but also incredibly helpful session where Denise Vivaldo, the author of the incredible book called The Food Stylist's Handbook, went through dozens of images that bloggers submitted in order to get some feedback on why they didn't get accepted into the many food porn sites we all love so much for the traffic they generate. (That's her on the right there.) She had many great suggestions on what to look for, how to make pictures better and what just doesn't work. Yes, I did send a picture in that was torn to shreds with perfectly logical criticism. No, I'm not going to tell you which one. One of the funniest comments she had was about how nothing that seems casual and random in pictures ever really is, and how much deliberate work and attention every detail requires. "Random only works for sex in the 80s".

Random only works for sex in the 80s

The lovely ladies of the Mango National Board came and brought crates of sweet, perfectly ripe mangoes for us. They even did a demonstration on how to cut the mangoes as well as use them in recipes. And on top of all that, a few days after I got home, yet more mangoes showed up on my doorstep (recipe with said mangoes coming soon).

Mangoes Galore

When it was finally time to say goodbye, as part of the last minute giveaways for even more swag, a prize was given to one special guest who was the most active participant in all of camp, helping out wherever needed and making friends at every turn. That lucky recipient, Mimi Avocado, received the coveted prize, the golden pinecone. With that camp was over a rounds of goodbye and stay-in-touch ensued while people slowly collected their things and filed out the doors, still trying to wrap their brains around all the information that has been presented over the two short days at camp.

The Golden Pinecone

Back at home, I'm still deeply entrenched in the "Spring Clean my Entire Life" project. My freezer is finally organized and has room for the upcoming summer and my pantry is slowly beginning to follow suit. Asparagus is finally fresh and affordable, not to mention everywhere, so this quiche should easily fit into your weekend brunch or weekday dinner repertoire. It's simple and delicious and easily adaptable to whatever veggies/cheese you want to use.

Cheddar Bacon Quiche

Cheddar, Bacon and Asparagus Quiche
The recipe is a combination of a bunch of different recipes I found online combined into one, so I'm going to call it mine.

1 batch of pate brisee, I used the recipe from Joy of Baking
5 or 6 slices of bacon, chopped (let's be honest, you're going to add more because you're going to eat some)
1 onion, diced
half a bunch of asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
1 cup shredded cheddar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
5 eggs
1 tsp salt
couple of turns of the pepper grinder
1 tsp garlic powder (I know, I add it to everything)

1. Preheat oven to 375F with a baking sheet set on the lowest rack.
2. On a lightly floured surface roll out the chilled pate brisse dough into a 11" circle. Transfer the dough into a 9" quiche or tart pan with a removable bottom, making sure there are no air pockets trapped under it, and run a rolling pin over the top to trim excess dough flush with the rim. Pop the pan into the freezer for at least 20 minutes while you assemble the filling.
3. Stir fry the chopped bacon until just crisp, then remove the bacon pieces to a paper towel lined bowl, and drain most the grease from the pan, leaving about a tablespoonful. Throw the chopped onion into the pan and stir fry until it's translucent. Toss in the asparagus and stir fry for another minute or two until it's just tender and bright green. Remove the pan off the heat and stir the bacon back in. Set aside to cool.
4. Whisk eggs in a separate bowl until well combined then add cream, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, whisking until well mixed.
5. Bake the crust, unfilled, for about 10 minutes. You don't want it fully done, just to get a little bit of color. Once the bottom doesn't look wet, take it out. Stir the cheese into the veggie mixture and spread it on the bottom of the tart. Carefully pour the egg mixture on top and carefully transfer the quiche onto the heated baking sheet in the oven.
6. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the very middle is no longer "wiggly" when gently shaken. If the quiche is not yet done and its getting too brown, cover it lightly with a piece of foil for last part of baking. Let it sit for a few minutes to cool and set before serving, and garnish with baby greens or chives. Enjoy!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Camp Blogaway Part 1 and Orange Sweet Rolls

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.

Cambrillo Coast 1

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.

Cambrillo Coast 4

Cambrillo Coast 3

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.

Balboa Park 1

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.

Balboa Park 2

Balboa Park 3

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.

Balboa Park 4

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.

Setting up tables

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.

Honey Board

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.

Honey Honey Everywhere

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

Chopping our own dinner

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.

Camp Trees

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.

Orange Sweet Bun

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 matter how much I cook for these things, I never have any food left over when all is said and done).

Orange Sweet Buns

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.

Orange Sweet Bun Open