Category Archives: Uncategorized

Healthy Homemade Banana Pumpkin Dog Treats

Pumpkin Banana Dog Treats - Pook's Pantry
My dog is spoiled, but I’m guessing yours is too.  Healthy, homemade banana pumpkin dog treats are quick and easy to make, plus they only have four ingredients!  For less than $5, you can make approximately 100 treats, which is a much better deal than store bought.

Our pets are like family.   We do everything we can for them, right?  Which is why I make treats for her instead of buying them when I have the time.   Sugar has always had a very sensitive stomach and sometimes store bought foods/treats have given her tummy issues.   For example, when she was a puppy I went through NINE different dog foods before I found one that didn’t make her sick.  Eventually, the vet suggested that I cook vegetables for her and mix them with her dog food.  Sugar has been on this diet for a few years now with no issues, so I’m quite happy.  She eats what we eat most of the time, so it’s not really any extra work.  Chicken, broccoli, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, apples, bananas, etc.  She eats better than some of my friends!

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Food Wine Conference 2016 Recap #FWCon

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Where do I even begin? This past weekend was a whirlwind.

I arrived in Orlando on Thursday afternoon so I could spend some much needed time with old friends before the conference went into full-swing.   There were so many hugs and smiles followed by raucous laughter, eating and drinking.   Some of my friends I actually know in real life and some of them I met IRL for the first time last week.   We “talk” to each other every week online, in groups on facebook, through emails, etc. But we are spread out across the globe, so we rarely have the opportunity to see each others faces and just hang out and talk like friends do.  That was the absolute highlight of my weekend.  “Meeting” people I have adored for years and finally getting to wrap my arms around them.

Work Hard, Play Hard

This year, I was a brand ambassador for Idaho Potato and I have to tell you,  it was a match made in (potato) heaven.  I spent the majority of my weekend with the folks from Idaho Potato and I had a blast with them.   They were some of the most wonderful people I have ever met in my life.   Here’s evidence of how much fun we had – Idaho Collage
See those awesome potato gloves in the top right? Part of my swag bag from them…  I love them!  And Don & Linda!!!   The people from Famous Idaho Potatoes know how to have a good time!  

Thank A Farmer

One of the sessions I enjoyed most was our sponsors speaking about farming.  As you know, I grew up in a rural community and I was fortunate enough to be aware of  the source of my food.  I was surrounded by local farms and many of my classmates were farm kids,  so the sight of dirt-caked boots is not unfamiliar.   One common theme from each of the sponsors: Idaho Potato,  Certified Angus Beef, Cabot, CK Mondavi and Florida Strawberry Growers Association  was their passion and commitment.   Dan from Idaho Potato said something that really rang true :  “You have to love what you do to be a farmer”.  There is so much care and love that goes into what they do everyday and the amount of work that it entails to produce what they raise/grow on their farms is staggering.

Friendships, New & Old, are Good for the Soul

FWCon Friends Collage
So Much Fun with these Gals!  Copious amounts of food (and drinks!)  were consumed this past weekend, all with these beauties by my side.  This really is the BEST part of the conference for me.   It’s not all play…  we’re WORKING!   It might look like we are just hanging out and having fun all the time  (and we kinda are), but we are also talking shop most of the time.  How to grow our blogs, what photo editing program works best for us, what we learned in the session we just attended, etc.  Oh, and pass the margaritas, please…  

Oui, Chef!

On Sunday,  there was a cooking competition.  We had a handful of mystery ingredients and had about 10 minutes to figure out what to do with them.  There was Certified Angus ground beef,  Fingerling Idaho Potatoes, Blueberries from Wish Farms, wine from CK Mondavi and cheese from Cabot, a tomato based vinaigrette dressing and a sweet and spicy sauce… Everything had to used and the focus of our dish had to be blueberries.   We put our heads together and came up with a menu, I was nominated to cook (I had 15 minutes!) and then make 3 identical plates.  It was a little crazy, but we pulled together and made it happen with time to spare!hashed collage

 

Here are a few more shots from this amazing weekend!FWCON collage - misc
From making facial masks with Greek yogurt to dressing up for our Denim and Diamonds bash, a great time was most certainly had by all!

A huge thank you to Idaho Potatoes for making my first experience as a Brand Ambassador so fantastic!  They provided an AMAZING lunch for us and were gracious enough to give me links to the recipes so I could share them with all of you!!!

Thai Curry Idaho Potato Soup   https://idahopotato.com/recipes/thai-curry-idaho-potato-soup

Carnitas & Potato Hash:  https://idahopotato.com/recipes/dos-caminos-carnitas-and-idaho-potato-hash-1

Penne with Arugula Pesto, Idaho Red Potatoes and Spring Vegetables: https://idahopotato.com/recipes/penne-with-arugula-pesto-idaho-red-potatoes-and-spring-vegetables

Potato Cakes with Mint Chutney:  https://idahopotato.com/recipes/potato-cakes-with-mint-chutney

Salmon Calcutta with Idaho Fingerling Potatoes: https://idahopotato.com/recipes/salmon-calcutta-with-idaho-fingerling-potatoes

Chocolate Potato Donuts with Creme Anglaise:  https://idahopotato.com/recipes/chocolate-potato-donuts-with-creme-anglaise

Idaho Potato Pound Cake: https://idahopotato.com/recipes/idaho-potato-pound-cake-gluten-free

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Food, Wine & Fun #FWCon

In a few short weeks, I will head to Orlando once again to attend the Food Wine Conference.  This is one of my favorite blogging conferences for many reasons.  I get to see my friendshave lots of laughs (which is always needed) and I have the opportunity to learn so many things.

I cook for a living.  Six days a week, I’m in front of a stove and this is a nice change of pace to be able to put my “blogger hat” on for a few days and learn about blog-related things.  This conference isn’t just for bloggers or Chefs, it’s for anyone who really has a passion for food and likes eating, drinking wine, hanging out with super fun people and learning along the way. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it?  

Speaking of learning…  I am MOST excited about 3 of the speakers this year:  Lenny & Denise of Chez Us,  Denise Vivaldo, Food Stylist Extraordinaire  and Kita Roberts of Girl Carnivore.   I will be the nerdiest nerd with my notebook in hand, ready to soak up every tidbit of knowledge they are droppin’.

Another bonus for me this year is getting to meet some of the #SundaySupper people in person.  Isabel started The Sunday Supper Movement about 6 years ago and it has grown exponentially since it’s launch.  So much so, that this conference is a direct result of it.  As a blogger, the world in which we exist is inside our computers or phones.  We don’t have offices to go to every morning or company lunches where we all hang out.  We have the internet.  It can be a little isolating at times, but the beauty of these groups that we belong to is the camaraderie that comes with it.   Thanks to the social media sharing, it’s not all that odd to see people taking photos of food anymore, but we don’t just snap a pic and move on.  We have to check the lighting, adjust a single piece of lettuce, wipe a smudge on a plate, etc.  This isn’t weird to ANYONE else in the blogging world,  that’s just a normal day.  It’s nice to be around people who “get me” and don’t look at me sideways for taking 73 photos of the same thing before I’ll eat it.

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As if that’s not enough, I was chosen as a Brand Ambassador this year.  I’m beyond excited and I can’t wait to find out who my brand partner is and start working with them!  There are so many great sponsors this year from Florida Strawberries to Cabot Cheese, you know there will be lots of good things to eat!  And, as a brand ambassador, I get to pass a little savings along to you!  How great is that?!WEB2015FWCon-242-689x460

cheese

 

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I will be posting tons of photos on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram  with the hashtag #FWCon so you can follow all the adventures!

Oh yeah, and did I mention where we stay?!  I have to tell you, Rosen Shingle Creek Resort is stunning.  I mean it,  it is absolutely beautiful. Don’t believe me?  Here’s some hard evidence:

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photo courtesy of Rosen Shingle Creek

We get to stay here!!!! There are pools, bars, restaurants, huge meeting rooms, etc. and the best thing of all?!  A culinary school On. The. Property!  I nearly lost my mind when I found that out on my first visit.

As you can tell, I’m a little excited about this conference.  You can head over to the website now to REGISTER and use my special code:  PooksPantry to save $50.

There are fun contests like this one or this one from Florida Dairy Farmers.  Enter for a chance to win a FREE ticket to the conference!   

To follow all the fun and happenings at the Food Wine Conference, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and G+. Don’t forget the hashtag #FWCon !

Hope to see you there!

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As a brand ambassador, I receive a credit when my code is used.

 

 

Teaching Tuesdays

I’ve started a new series on the Facebook page called “Teaching Tuesdays”.   Below is the post from this Tuesday…   Follow and Like the Pook’s Pantry page on Facebook to get all the tips and answers to everything (kitchen-related…  I can’t really help on the Big Questions in Life) that you’ve always wanted to know!

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Behind the Scenes…

We’ve all been to schmancy events, right?   Have you ever thought about what’s going on behind the scenes?  Probably not and quite honestly, that’s the point.  You’re not supposed to.   As I’m usually working them and not actually attending,  I wanted to give you an inside peek at what really goes on while everyone is dancing, eating, drinking and making merry.  

beginning set up 2

When we arrived at the event, the designers were already there setting up the ballroom and decorating the space. There were long-stemmed white roses piled high like a snowy mountain top, their discarded petals and leaves strewn about all over the floor, the florist standing beside “rose mountain” quickly sheering off the thorns.

The musicians were setting up to do a sound check, the wait staff was beginning to trickle in and we were trying to locate the kitchen and assess the situation… 

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Holiday Spirit…

Last night as I was driving to do a little Christmas shopping, I witnessed some Very Rude Behavior.  The Girl (with whom I was speaking at the time) was subjected to a five minute tirade by yours truly and stories of similar behavior that I had been witness to during previous Holiday seasons in New York.

Instead of rehashing stories highlighting the “not-so-proud” moments, let’s instead focus on something positive.  People I happen to think are fantastic!  Some of them I know in real life and some only through the world of food blogging, but these are folks that I really, truly enjoy and I know you will too.  

They are all very genuine and lovely people.  They are riotously funny and can bring you to tears in the same post.  Their recipes make you want to chip a tooth on the screen trying (in vain) to get just a little nibble…    

They are a talented, kind and wonderful lot, please do check them out and say “hi” for me while you’re there. red velvet

Jenni, otherwise known as “Sissy” of Pastry Chef Online.   Jenni is the Best.  Plain & Simple.  She is extremely knowledgeable and helpful,  her recipes are swoon-worthy and she is one of my favorite people on the planet.  This bread recipe absolutely fascinated me.

Jamie writes some of the most beautiful words you will ever read.  Her blog Life’s a Feast is one of my favorites.  The recipes and the stories that go with them are wonderful.  I can’t even tell you how many I have bookmarked to make someday…  But, this one is next.

Kim of Cravings of a Lunatic is high-larious.  She is my Canadian connection!  Her recipes are straight-forward and delicious, she cooks and bakes with passion, loves to share the wealth with our food blogger community and is an all around great gal.  Her slow cooker pulled pork recipe is something you need.  Trust me…

Rebecca of Foodie with Family is just that.  She is a Mom of some of the cutest, funniest boys and her food consistently elicits the “Pavlov’s dog” drool reaction.  I met Rebecca at a food blog conference this year and we decided to trade goods… I was the recipient of this.  It was magic in a mason jar.  Seriously.  I’ve never had anything like it and I cook for a living.  I can’t say enough about how good it was.  I ate it with a spoon while no one was watching…

Liz of That Skinny Chick Can Bake  is a delight.  Her food and photos are beautiful and her archive of recipes is massive.  If you are looking for something in particular, chances are you’ll find it over there!  Here is an example: I was looking for a fun something for a breakfast/brunch and this called my name.  Loudly.

David Leite.  Where do I even begin…  He is amazing, his writing is so honest and genuine that he makes you feel as if you are having a conversation.   I’ve met David a few times and believe me when I tell you, he is just as genuine in person.  His site is wildly popular, his book is beautiful and his “Blahg” is like a little peek into his life.   His post about the Thanksgiving debacle had me howling with laughter…  He really paints a picture.

Becca of It’s Yummi! is without a doubt one of the sweetest people that I’ve never met 😉   She is a chef living in Wisconsin, she loves football (so you know we get along!) and she makes a mean bowl of soup.  She is also a newlywed, so go on over and give her some love.

Well, friends… That about does it.    In the spirit of giving, these are the people that are a gift to me through their words, their food and their friendship.  Go check them out and cook something wonderful tonight.  <3

Ride with Pride

Smart Ride Training
Do you remember when you first learned to ride a bike?  That feeling of newfound freedom, the exhilaration of being able to go wherever you wanted (or as far as your Mom would let you), knowing your bike was your passport to places unknown.

Riding with your friends, streamers flying in the wind, baseball cards in the spokes making that cool sound as your tires spun around and around.  

I remember getting my first 10 speed.   I wanted this bike so badly, I could hardly stand it.  On Christmas morning, I walked out into the living room and there it was.  Black, white & red.  It was gorgeous.  I rode the hell out of that bike for years.   Then I learned to drive.

Over the years, I would ride occasionally but never with any regularity.  Then, I found my friends.  This is the story of how we met…

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It was about 8 months ago, I had only lived here 5 weeks or so at that point and knew no one.  I had always enjoyed riding bikes and had heard about this charity ride and thought that I would like to do it.  The ride was called “Bike It for Life” and there was a casual meet and greet one afternoon at someone’s house.   I don’t know about you, but I get a little anxious going into an entire room full of people who already know each other…  Making friends as an adult isn’t very easy, but I knew I wanted to ride and to do that I needed to get out of my comfort zone.   Every cell in my body was rebelling against me as I walked up to the door.  Just as I approached, CC was opening the door for the pizza delivery guy and yelled “Hey! I guess you are here for “Bike it for Life!” and with that sentence, I was welcomed inside. 

CC & CB             On top of Mount St.17th 

I remember sitting at CC’s table, talking to KM and DM…  KM had the kindest eyes I had ever seen.  I must’ve looked terrified because he was so sweet to me and I have never forgotten that.  I remember seeing JM, who has become one of my favorite guys on the planet, walk up the stairs that day too.  It’s funny when you look back at when you first met people who are such a big part of your life now, I never imagined that this group of guys would capture my heart, become some of the most important people in the world to me and change my life forever.

thorn between 2 roses

My cycling group is more than that, they are part of my family.   We spend hours upon hours on the road together, training together, changing flats together, laughing together, teasing each other, sharing our nutrition bars and gu, hanging out together after rides and I absolutely adore these people. 

In a few short days, we will be riding in the Smart Ride.  It is a 2 day event, 165 miles from Miami to Key West.   We have been training for almost 6 months for this event, giving our weekends to the road.  It hasn’t always been easy, sometimes it’s been downright brutal, but as one of my teammates said last weekend “I think of the person who would gladly trade my pain to be able to do this”.  Smart Ride is hoping to raise $1,000,000 this year, on the 10th anniversary of this amazing ride.  I am beyond proud to be a part of it and a part of my team.

group shot

I settle into the saddle and feel my feet clip in to the pedals.   Slowly my body melts into its familiar routine.

Serenity washes over me as the stresses of life fade away.   I am granted a temporary reprieve from the constant stream of “things I need to do” and my brain has clicked over to auto-pilot…  pushing my legs, gripping the bars, focusing on nothing but the road ahead.  I am one with my bike.

All I hear is the sound of my own breathing, the only thing I feel is my heart beating in my chest.   Tire greets pavement as it whizzes past in a blur.   The wind races through my helmet,  I feel it against my flushed skin.   I have given the road my all.  I owe it everything and nothing.

I am drenched in sweat, yet fully cleansed.

 

Smart Ride

To make a donation to Smart Ride, please click on the link below… 

https://www.thesmartride.org/participant-home-page/5036/

THANK YOU!

Chicken Noodle Soup

“Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Kitchen”.   As soon as I walk into this space, I know if that were a real commandment, I’d be breaking it.  And breaking it hard.  Those of us who cook and are forced challenged to “get creative” with minuscule kitchens feel the sting every time we walk into someone elses’s beautiful kitchen.  We look at their (audible gasp) cabinet space, counter space & WHAT?!  You have built in ovens AND a center island?!

OK, maybe that’s just me…  I look at my tiny space & feel a tinge of frustration, but remind myself that plenty of people have it worse.  Although it doesn’t usually make me feel much better when I’m balancing things on top of one another just to find a little extra space to set down a cutting board. Continue reading

Blushing Valentine

I know it may seem a bit early to start thinking of Valentine’s Day, but it’s only a few short weeks away.   If you like to make a special treat on Valentine’s Day, this is the cake.  
It is a towering 4 layers high and lovingly encased in the most delicate rose-scented buttercream.  It is outrageously good and worth every. single. calorie.  

This is also the type of cake that could easily become adorned with say a few candles for a little celebratory birthday party?   The colors could be swapped out for any, the flavor of the buttercream could be adapted to whatever you’d like it to be.  Using a vanilla base for both cake and buttercream allows you the flexibility to change colors and flavors to suit the occasion or intended recipient. Continue reading

Dim Sum Good Eats

Unless you live under a rock, everyone is familiar with Chinese take-out.  Let me be the one to tell you that what you are eating isn’t exactly Chinese food.  It’s like going to Taco Bell and saying you had Mexican food…

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s move on shall we?

Dim Sum.  It’s an experience like no other.  For me, it is complete and utter sensory overload and I adore every second of it.  The clinging of metal and ceramic as plates of food go whizzing by and the staccato of a language I don’t understand.  The unfamiliar smells mingled with the scents of spices I know so well amidst the hurried movements of the women peddling an array of dishes from the kitchen.  It is an assault on the senses in the very best of ways. Continue reading