Last weekend Tara, from Tara’s Multicultural Table, and I joined hundreds of other food bloggers in Birmingham, AL for Food Blog South. Each of the speakers at the conference had their own inspiring story and advice to give.
Before breaking up for the sessions that interested us most, Virginia Willis kicked things off with a thought provoking list of things she’s learned from cooking: FAITH, faith that sugar, eggs, and flour will turn into a cake, faith in yourself; PATIENCE, this is one that I need to work on the most, not only patience when a recipe calls for it but patience in understanding that a career in the food world takes time; SEASONING, what is life with out a little flavor?, what is a recipe without a little spice?; LAISSEZ FAIRE, don’t interfere with that steak on the grill, don’t focus on what others are doing and focus on yourself; DEDICATION, with dedication comes passion and with both comes success.
The first seminar we attended was Photography & Food Styling run by food stylist Tami Hardeman and photographer Helene Dujardin. Together they taught us tricks of the trade in both styling the food and how best to photograph the food. Helene’s collection of food props (aka plates, bowls, utensils, trays, etc) was enough to make anyone jealous. The less than 1% of her collection that she brought to the conference was like walking through an Anthropologie, a vintage thrift shop, and a Pottery Barn all at once. I immediately had the urge to rush out and find some fantastic pieces. (not that I have) When I research food photography everyone says to use white, that white makes food pop and look more appealing, but I was excited to see that they plated soup in an off-white bowl with a navy center. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to food photography, especially in dealing with my lack of natural light. Which you will see in the photos associated with this blog post – my ability to photograph and then edit cheese shot under artificial light at night is awful! Unfortunately when I asked how to shoot photos without natural light the answer was, “If it’s dark, put it in the fridge and try again tomorrow.” Too bad I only cook after dark… Oh well, I’ll figure it out one of these days… hopefully.
Next we switched tracks where Cathy Barrow shared her experience in turning her blog into a career. Upon returning from the conference I adjusted my twitter account (@Tiny_Chef_829) to be public and have started tweeting my blog posts. In a couple of weeks we get new phones and I’ll be going over to the dark side by getting an iPhone – I will then figure out what Instagram is and how to use it. I have figured out how to add a contact page to my menu bar! Unfortunately she informed us of the harsh reality that in a world over-saturated with food writers, it’ll be hard to “make it big”.
After lunch Tara and I split up. She attended the Creativity Lightning Round while I attended Better Recipe Writing & Development. Nancy Huges was such a delight! She gave us great advice on creating recipes, tips on how best to write the recipe, and had countless stories to share from her impressive career. I am now in the process of going through my blog posts and addressing any recipe writing mistakes I’ve made. Attending this session really re-motivated me to create some more original recipes. And that’s exactly what I did when I got home. It’s the recipe at the end of this post. I wanted to utilize one of the many vendors’ products. I had grabbed Roland’s Instant Black Bean Quinoa from their table thinking I could use it for Mexican Monday. I used traditional Mexican spices to flavor the chicken, and am so pleased with how perfectly my end results complimented the quinoa. Additionally, the red bell pepper rounded out the flavor profile perfectly.
I rejoined Tara for How to Win a James Beard Media Award where Marion Laney and Diane Jackson introduced us to the world of awards.
To round out the conference, keynote speaker Molly Wizenberg, gave an inspiring speech. Before her speech she sat down at our table and spoke one-on-one with us in such a personal way. She understands where we are in our budding “careers” and I found her to be very relate-able. I enjoyed her story and how far her passion for cooking has taken her. My favorite quote of hers (and I jotted down a few) is
What do I stand to lose by following my nose; what do I stand to lose to not follow my nose.
That philosophy is the reason she’s so successful. And that philosophy is the one I need to stop being afraid of.
Chicken and Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers
- 1 pkt (5.46 oz) Roland® Black Bean Quinoa
- 1 1/2 C water
- 1 lb chicken, cut into small bite-size cubes
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1 1/4 tsp chili powder
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3/4 C your favorite salsa, not a chunky one though
- 2 C shredded Mexican blend cheese, divided use
- 5-6 red bell peppers, tops cut to create a cup and seeds and ribs removed
- Bring 1 1/2 C of water to a boil. Add quinoa, stir, reduce heat and cover. Cook for 15 minutes, or until all the liquid has evaporated. Transfer to a large glass bowl.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Toss pieces of chicken in seasonings.
- Heat olive oil a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot add in chicken and cook 10 minutes, or until cooked through. Transfer to the same bowl with the quinoa.
- To the chicken mixture add in the salsa and 1 C of shredded cheese.
- Place peppers cut side up in a casserole dish. Fill peppers completely with chicken mixture. Top with remaining cheese. Place the pepper tops back on and bake for 30-35 minutes. Note: I like having a bite to my peppers, if you prefer a softer pepper cook for 45-50 minutes with 1/4 C water or chicken stock in the casserole dish.
Disclaimer: I was not asked to create a recipe using a Roland product. I was provided Roland products for attending the conference. All reviews are my own.