Food Blog Forum Orlando: Disney Fun

I had the best time this past weekend at Food Blog Forum in Orlando, Florida in Walt Disney World. I was so fortunate to get to share a round table speaking with the amazingly talented, humble and genuine, Angie of Bakerella. We spoke on “Writing a Cookbook From Two Perspectives” to four different groups.

Food Blog Forum was founded by Jaden and Scott Hair of Steamy Kitchen and Todd Porter and Diane Cu of White on Rice Couple. This one day conference is always so inspiring (this was my 3rd event), and this is the most wonderful, sharing, open and welcoming group of speakers and food bloggers. I must give a shout out to the fantastic staff at Walt Disney World for their incredible hospitality and generosity as well as to Julie, from The Little Kitchen, and Dawn Viola for coordinating this event. One the big themes of the weekend which spoke to me is: “Dream big and share your dream with others” via the man himself, Walt Disney.

Of course, there was food to be had at a “Food Blog Conference.” We had the most incredible parties, including Friday night by the beach at the Grand Floridian, lunch by a multitude of top Disney’s chefs (see above), and a wonderful Irish dessert party while watching fireworks in Epcot on Saint Patrick’s Day.

I met so many new fabulous food bloggers, and I had the pleasure to connect with old friends as well. (See Kelly, from “Just a Taste”, and me at Epcot, above).

I also had the chance to check out some of the best Disney attractions. The Epcot “International Flower and Garden Festival” (above) was this month. It was unreal!

This shot (above) from Animal Kingdom is the mountain of Expedition Everest. Doesn’t this look like I could actually be at Mount Everest?

We went on the Kilimanjaro Safaris ride (above) in Animal Kingdom, and we saw so many rare, beautiful animals. I can’t believe how close this giraffe got to our jeep.

Downtown Disney is always a blast. You never know what you might find in Disney World. Did I mention that my kids came along as well? They haven’t been there in seven years, so it was quite a treat. My son, Zachary, was a little timid of her (above).

My daughter, Leigh, (above) told me she wanted a picture with Mickey and Minnie. Honestly I wasn’t sure that it would be possible, but if there is a will, there is a way.

We loved staying at the convenient, and very, fun Polynesian Resort. Their beach (above) was so pretty, and their water slide in the pool was a hit with the kids. It’s a perfect way to spend time outside of the parks for some down-time.

Chia Seed Banana-Nut Muffins

Have you heard of Chia Seeds? If you haven’t, read on. These wonderful seeds are on my list of top super foods of 2012. Chia seeds have more calcium and fiber than flaxseed, and they are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. They are also said to boost energy levels. They have a nutlike flavor, and they add flavor and crunch to baked goods, oatmeal, cereal, salads and in yogurt. Try them in this recipe for Chia Banana-Nut Muffins. It’s so easy, with no mixer needed. I made these on sunday, and before I could turn around, all of them were gone. My kids went wild over these. Feel free to use mini muffin pans for variety. If you use mini pans, bake them at 350F for 13 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Enjoy, and check out this powerful seed.

Chia picture from Pinterest

 

 

 

 

Holiday Fitness Gift Ideas for “Her”

Okay. I am a fitness fanatic. I admit it. I want everything fitness related for my holiday gifts so here is a list of some of my favorites. To start, is this great workout bag called the “Triumphant Tote” from Lululemon. Not only does it fit a 15-inch laptop, but it’s so roomy, cool-looking, has a waterproof outer layer, and an exterior pocket with removable bag for grubby gear (perfect for my cycle shoes and sweaty clothes). $118. I want this in black if anyone is listening…Here are some of my other favorites:

For the Runner: How about this Roga Short for Oiselle. It combines the flattering waist of a yoga short with the technical function of a great running short with a rear zip pocket and moisture protection. $44

For Anyone: The “Energy Bra” by Lululemon, is my newest favorite workout bra. It fits perfectly, is so comfortable and it’s great for any sport as well as hot yoga. I just splurged on this pink one!  $42

For the Runner: I just bought these running tights from Saucony, and they are comfortable, have a reflective stripe for maximum visibility (if you are running early in the morning or late in the day), have a roomy pocket and ankle zippers. $65

For a Challenge: How about a great workout DVD? If you’re looking for a great overall workout that is tough and will tone you up, try my friend, Sandra’s,  Horizontal Conditioning or Boot Camp DVD. $19.99

For Tennis: I love this new Nike Rival Tennis Skirt, part of the Sharapova holiday Dry-fit collection. The fit is awesome. $60

For Yoga: This Burn Out V-Neck from Yoga Fit is so soft and the perfect fit for yoga, running or just lounging at home. I love that their collection is made in in the USA. The yoga posture illustrations on the shirt are too cute.

Healthy Holiday Appetizer: Pear, Pecan and Gorgonzola Crostini

If you’re looking for a simple holiday appetizer for Christmas or Hanukkah, look no further. These Pear, Pecan and Gorgonzola Crostini are so fresh, pretty and easy to make. I am making these on television today for a  “healthy holiday appetizer” show on NBC 13 Daytime Alabama. You can find this recipe and 399 others in my latest cookbook, “400 Best Sandwiches: From Classics & Burgers to Wraps & Condiments” published by Robert Rose.

 

In Search of the Perfect Pumpkin Pie Recipe

This weekend I have been in search of a great Pumpkin Pie recipe to make for Thanksgiving. You see, I’m getting off easy this year (yea!). I’ve hosted Thanksgiving at my house the past several years, but my sister and I swapped holidays this year (her request). I still have to make several things to bring to our family event of over 20 people. Since she assigned me the Pumpkin Pie, I have been searching for something new and different. The recipe (above) is a Pecan Streusel Topping from my friend Marge at A Sweet and Savory Sweet Life. It looks so fabulous, and it was one of the first ones I came across. Here are some others, including a “lightened up recipe from Cooking Light as well as vegan version. Enjoy!

Cheesecake Pumpkin Pecan Pie by Parsley Sage, Desserts and Line Drives

Pumpkin Pie Pops from Munchkin Munchies

 Pumpkin Pie Bites from Bakerella

 Vegan Pumpkin Pie from Vegetarian Times

Spiced Pumpkin Chiffon Pie from Cooking Light

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Lazy Lasagna and “Substitute Yourself Skinny” Cookbook Giveaway

This summer, I was lucky enough to travel through Italy with several journalists from around the U.S. One of them, whom I hit it off with immediately, was Susan Irby. Susan is known as the “Bikini Chef”, the host of the well-loved Bikini Lifestyles on 790 KABC in Los Angeles, CA. This radio station actually spans the globe with listeners in Italy, France, Germany, Australia, Canada and many other countries worldwide. She was a blast to be with on the trip, and I’m so excited to share her current cookbook with you, Substitute Yourself Skinny. Susan is a 7-time author who helps people obtain their healthy bikini goals by focusing on lifestyle changes rather than a short term diet.

Her recipe for “Lazy Lasagna” really caught my eye. It’s perfect for when the weather is cool, and kids love it. For only 308 calories and 3 grams of fat per serving, everyone can feel good about eating a hearty slice of this family favorite. This is just one of many delicious low-fat and beautiful recipes in her book. I am excited to give away one copy of her book. Just follow the steps below for a chance to win a copy. Winner will be chosen Sunday, October 30th at 8 a.m.

1. Leave a comment below telling me your favorite healthy pasta recipe.

2. Follow Alison Lewis on Twitter

3. Like Ingredients, Inc. on Facebook

4. Follow Susan Irby, The Bikini Chef on Twitter

5. Like The Bikini Chef on Facebook

Off to Nashville for Food Blog Forum

I’m so excited to be heading to Nashville this Friday to attend and speak at Food Blog Forum. Nashville is one of my favorite cities, and what better place to host a hugely talented bunch of food experts, bloggers and brands. I am honored and thrilled to be speaking with Kelly Senyei, from Gourmet Live and Just a Taste, on a “Recipe Writing & Development” panel. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with and getting to know her over the last few months, and we have some great information to share. I am also speaking on an “Experts” Round Table on “Working with TV and Media”. I think this conference will be so much fun! Join us if you can.

So who else is going to be there? OMG, where do I start? Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen, Todd Porter and Diane Cu of White on Rice Couple, Amanda Bottoms from Kevin and Amanda, Jenny Flake of Picky Palate, Beth Sachan of Eat.Drink.Smile, Lindsay Landis of Love and Olive Oil, Tami Hardeman of Running with Tweezers and so many of my fabulous new (and not so new) blogger friends which I can’t wait to meet and see. Have a great weekend everyone!

An Evening with Southern Chefs to Benefit Share Our Strength

Last month I felt so fortunate to attend the Share Our Strength’s Benefit Dinner in Nashville at the incredible Hermitage Hotel. Seven top notch southern chefs prepared an array of five courses for “A Tasteful Pursuit” to raise money to end childhood hunger in American by the year 2015. The Chefs involved included Tandy Wilson of City House in Nashville, Hal Holden-Bache of Eastland Cafe in Nashville, John Currence of City Grocery in Oxford, Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Diner in Raleigh, Tyler Brown of Capitol Grille in Nashville and Anne Quatrano of Star Provisions, Bacchanalia and Abbatoir in Atlanta. Above was our Pre-Dessert: House-Made Nasturtium Yogurt with Charentais Melon Gelee, Compressed Edisto Musk and Blackberry Honey by Anne Quatrano. Amazing, huh? Also, see the fabulous menu (below)

All of these chefs had fun creating this unbelievable menu. You can see Hal Holden-Bache, of Eastland Cafe in Nashville, cooking it up in the kitchen (below).

And, this is a great shot of Chef John Currence, of City Grocery, Snack Bar and Big Bad Breakfast in Oxford, Mississippi (below).

Tyler Brown, Chef of Capitol Grille at The Hermitage Hotel, is a Nashville icon and a man with great heart and talent. His work and farming prowess are on display at the Land Trust for Tennessee’s “Garden at Glen Leven” which is where he farms and grows produce used in his restaurant as well as to donate to charities in Nashville that incorporate fresh vegetables in their food programs. The day before the event, all of the chefs visited this garden to choose the produce used in this benefit dinner.

The Hermitage Hotel in Nashville was the ideal venue for this event. Honestly, it is also one of my favorite hotels in Nashville. The rooms, the ambiance, and it’s character are unlike any other southern hotel. Besides its fabulous restaurant, Capitol Grille, there is a fabulous bar which is one of my favorites in the city. This infamous summer cocktail, called “Watermelon Sour” is a mixture of Jack Daniels single barrel and watermelon puree from watermelons grown at Glen Leven was served before the event (below).

 Share Our Strength is such a great cause. More than 17 million children in America struggle with hunger. Share Our Strength’s campaign, “The Time is Now: No Kid Hungry”, is a national effort to end childhood hunger in America by 2015. I must thank Tyler, Janet (below) and everyone from Share Our Strength for making it possible.

Book Signing Tomorrow at Birmingham Bake and Cook Company

Come see me to this Saturday, July 30th at Birmingham Bake & Cook Company from 12 p.m to 2 p.m. for food and fun.  I’ll be signing copies of my new cookbook 400 Best Sandwich Recipes: From Classics to Burgers & Wraps to Condiments. You can also try these Grilled Peach and Brie Panini Sandwiches (from my book) so come have a bite. Have a super weekend and thank you for your wonderful support!