Thursday Thoughts: Taking a Break

Thursday Thoughts

After almost 4 years of solid blogging, it’s time for me to slow down and focus on my family and myself.

Everson -8
Photo credit: Magical Moments by Megan
Blogging has been a great adventure and I’ve “met” some fantastic people. I’ve enjoyed cooking around blogging events, expanding my culinary horizons, and working with fun companies during themed weeks.

I’ve been feeling the pull to step back from Sew You Think You Can Cook since before last year’s holiday season. But how could I take a break during the busiest cooking and baking season of the year?! I couldn’t!

A little over a year ago I thought I’d attempt to monetize Sew You Think You Can Cook, but I never managed to find the time to put towards exploring that side of blogging. And truth be told, making money had never been my goal.

I started this blog almost 4 years ago as a way to stay busy. My husband and I had been trying to conceive for over a year and I simply needed something to help take my mind off it!

Since we’d been married in 2010, I’d been perusing Food Network, food blogs, and foodgawker and cooking unique dishes each night. I’d type up the weekly menu as well as each recipe and send that Word Document to my mom. I’d include how I planned on changing up each recipe. So in a way, I’d already been blogging. I just wasn’t photographing every little bite!

35952_854183427471_6415061_n
Photo credit: Cher Hanna Photography
My site will not be dead. I’ll keep my eye out for some blogging events that I simply can’t pass up and join in the fun. In the mean time, I’m going back to my old way of menu planning and going back through these past 4 years of cooking and remaking some family favorites. Odds are I’ll be re-photographing them and updating some old posts. Because, can I really cook something and not photograph it anymore?!

So what are my plans now?

This summer we have some travel time on the calendar, Firecracker’s 3rd birthday, and some VBS fun at two different churches.

Healing my sprained wrist is also a major priority! I tripped over a soccer ball in April, landed on my weak wrist, and two weeks later I found myself at the doctor’s office receiving a brace. Another two weeks later I returned to the doctor’s office to get an X-ray, as my wrist was getting worse. Latest news: it might be fractured. I have an MRI scheduled next week. Either way it’s going to take a while to heal. Raising two young active toddlers doesn’t exactly allow me much recovery time. Which brings me back to needing to take a break. Doing too many dishes aggravates my wrist and typing isn’t the easiest thing to do either.

The biggest and newest project I’ll be tackling is homeschool.

The cost of preschool is quite high here in the South Bay of Los Angeles and after some serious discussion, we’ve decided that I would homeschool Firecracker for a year. If it goes well, maybe for two years. Three if Treat stays home with me until he goes to Kindergarten, too!

I know the time I used to set aside after bedtime for blogging will need to be preparing our curriculum (aka crafting prep!). Who knows, maybe this blog will be turning into a crafting blog with some cooking instead of a cooking blog with some crafting.

As an exhausted mom, I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to sending Firecracker off to school a couple of days a week. However, the more I’ve been thinking about our schooling plans, I’ve been getting a little excited. I think it will be fun to figure out what Firecracker really is interested in and finding ways to use those interests to help grow his brain.

I know I’m going to miss having alone time with Treat, but other moms have assured me that he really isn’t “missing out.” Besides, he’s going to learn a lot by watching his big brother!

I’m looking forward to seeing where my little bit of “R&R” will take me. I’m hoping for more relaxed playtime with my boys. For more “me time” before crashing into bed each night. For less distracted time with my husband.

18698317_10104849389182071_2611128298871484070_n

I’d like to thank my readers for stepping into my little world of the internet and I hope to see you again, soon!

Thursday Thoughts: The Liebster Award

Thursday Thoughts

Guys! Hey, guys! Guess what!?

Okay, that’s probably not that difficult a question to answer if you look at the blog post title.

But do you know what the Liebster Award is?! I didn’t. Until I was nominated for it by Valerie! Val is the blogger behind Lifestyle Food Artistry. I assume Val discovered my blog through #SundaySupper. I have enjoyed the Sunday Supper community and now I love it even more!

I am very impressed by Valerie. Valerie had the courage to re-evaluate her life and received professional culinary training. Something that I’d love to do some day. She followed her passion and is now a licensed personal chef!

My favorite thing about blogging is the amount of support I’ve received from fellow bloggers and this award highlights that aspect of this community. The idea behind this award is a “pay it forward” form of acceptance.

Liebster Award

There are conditions behind accepting this award – and I happily accept! Not only am I to thank and link back to my nominator (check and check) I am to answer questions posed by my nominator, share 11 random facts about myself, nominate 5 other newer blogs with less than 1000 followers, and create a list of questions for my nominees (I also need to inform them personally of their nomination).

So here we go!

Answers to Valerie’s questions:

  1. When did you decide to start a blog and why?
    1. I always picked something new to make for dinner and decided to document my adventures in the kitchen as a distraction from difficulties conceiving our first child.
  2. What do you hope to accomplish through your blog?
    1. In the land of dream world – to be “discovered” by Food Network! In reality – just to have one person read my blog and enjoy it.
  3. Do you find it helpful to read other blogs for inspiration? If so, do you have a favorite?
    1. Yes! My favorite is Lauren’s Latest. (Must be her name…)
  4. Did you design your blog or did you hire someone to design your site?
    1. Neither? I use one of the free layouts on WordPress.
  5. What is your best dish to make?
    1. My coffee cake – in any flavor (Cranberry, Nutella, Pear, Raspberry)
  6. Have you ever attended a blogger conference or training? If so, which one(s)?
    1. Yes! Food Blog South. (You can see my review of it here.)
  7. Do you use a professional camera for your photography?
    1. I use a Cannon Rebel T5i.
  8. What is your favorite photography app?
    1. I use Lightroom to edit my photos.
  9. What is your best social media platform as far as number of followers and ease of use?
    1. Instagram
  10. If you could give anyone advice on starting a blog, what would you say?
    1. Create a separate email address for all blog related correspondence. It’s not a great piece of advice but organization is key!
  11. (Optional, but fun!) Name up to 5 random facts about yourself that you think are unique or unusual.
    1. I used a different set of rules and have 11 random facts below! ūüôā

11 random facts about me:

  1. I played violin from 4th – 11th grade.
  2. I am a recorded artist; sure it’s a CD my high school created but hey, I’m on an iPod.
  3. I don’t like the color pink.
  4. I play Candy Crush way too much.
  5. I am still waiting for my letter to Hogwarts.
  6. I can eat a large popcorn at the movies… by myself.
  7. I have a very irrational fear of Palmetto roaches.
  8. I kinda secretly wish I could be a Victoria Secret model… but I’m only 4’11″…
  9. I love playing board games and cards; if I’m with family it’s a must-do!
  10. I didn’t experience morning sickness when I was pregnant with my son, and haven’t with this pregnancy either. (Go ahead and hate me.)
  11. I feel very weird that all of these started with “I”.

My 5 nominees:

  1. Tara of Tara’s Multicultural Table
  2. Emily of Emmy’s Crafty Corner
  3. Tux of Brooklyn Homemaker
  4. Rebekah of Making Miracles 
  5. Jenn of Sweet Eats and Crafts

The questions for my nominees:

  1. What is your favorite holiday?
  2. Do you crave sweet or salty snacks?
  3. What is your favorite photography prop or tool?
  4. What software do you use to edit photos?
  5. Who do you cook for? (For Emily and/or Jenn: Who do you craft for?)
  6. Which meal of the day is your favorite (a) to eat (b) to cook?
  7. What recipe is on your culinary bucket list? (For Emily and/or Jenn: What craft do you want to make next?)
  8. What vacation destination is on your travel list?
  9. Where is your Happy Place?
  10. What is your favorite thing about blogging?

Liebster-Award-Large

I would like to thank Valerie again for believing in my blog and congratulations to her as well! Happy blogging!

Blog-iversary

1yrToday is my blog’s anniversary! I can’t believe it’s been a year. ¬†In my first year I have gained 132¬†followers and 113¬†Facebook friends.¬†I’ve really enjoyed blogging. I will admit that I hit a spell in my first trimester of pregnancy when I was questioning my desire to continue with Sew You Think You Can Cook. Blame the hormones and exhaustion.

But I’m glad I stuck it out. I’ve met some great bloggers through The Crazy Ingredient Challenge, #BundtBakers, and Secret Recipe Club. I think joining in these link parties has brought me the most joy. It’s been nice to expand my horizons and get creative in the kitchen. In fact, I just joined another group – Foodie Extravaganza!

For my blog-iversary I decided to try something that’s always intrigued me. Using olive oil in baking. These cupcakes are beautiful – The olive oil gave them a nice golden color and the edges had a little bit of crisp to them which I adored. They’re not overly sweet so the¬†cream cheese frosting accompanied them perfectly. I typically find icing to push cake over the top on sweetness level. I brought them to work and they were gone before lunch!

Olive Oil Cupcakes

Ingredients for cupcakes:

  • 1 1/4 C cake flour
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 C sour cream
  • 1/4 C milk

Ingredients for frosting:

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 C powdered sugar

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a cupcake tin, or line with cupcake liners.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer mix the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Add the olive oil and vanilla and beat until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, until fully incorporated. Add the sour cream until combined. Add the milk. Mix until batter is smooth.
  3. Place cupcake batter into prepared cupcake tin. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool.
  4. Make the frosting: Cream together butter and cream cheese. Add the powdered sugar in two installments. Beat until smooth. Add milk 1/4 tsp at a time if needed (I didn’t need it).

*This recipe is adapted from Brita at http://www.bakingisascience.com/lemon-lime-olive-oil-cupcakes/*

Olive Oil Cupcakes

Chicken and Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers

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.

Stuffed Peppers

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.

An Original Recipe

Chicken and Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers

Ingredients:

  • 1 pkt (5.46 oz) Roland¬ģ 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

Steps:

  1. 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.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Toss pieces of chicken in seasonings.
  4. 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.
  5. To the chicken mixture add in the salsa and 1 C of shredded cheese.
  6. 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.

Chicken and Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers

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.