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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

TWD: Creme Brulee

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When I saw that this week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection was Creme Brulee, my heart did a little happy dance. I adore everything about creme brulee, from that first tapping of your spoon through its crispy, crackly, caramelized sugar crust, to that first heavenly mouthful of soft, rich, creamy vanilla-kissed custard. The supreme indulgence!

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Over the years, I have eaten more than my fair share of creme brulee. As a matter of fact, when I was in Paris last summer, I think I probably ate my weight in the stuff! The funny thing is, I've never made it at home. I've made lots of flans, custards and creme caramels, but never a brulee. Why, you ask? Because I've always been terrified of the blowtorch!

When I was a toddler, I was involved in a terrible accident resulting in third degree burns on over a third of my body. I spent several weeks in the hospital and miraculously, I pulled through. Though my face was unscathed, I had much scarring everywhere else. Thankfully, most of it faded over time and now, they are barely discernible. Since then, I have been deathly afraid of fire.

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I almost decided to just do a rewind recipe instead this week. But, since I did have a little kitchen torch, still sitting in its box, that I had gotten as a gift several years ago, I decided that it was now or never. I read the instructions through and through, and practiced a few times to get comfortable. I still didn't like doing it, but it was okay. I felt kind of proud of myself for staring my fear in the face.

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Since the traditional vanilla creme brulee is my favorite, I made half of mine that way. For the rest, I added some instant espresso powder and made coffee creme brulee.

Dorie's recipe is dead easy and the custard came together in no time flat. Baking it took forever, though! The recipe says to bake at 200 degrees F. for 50-60 minutes. However, some of mine took at least 90 minutes to set up. I think it had to do with the size and depth of my containers. The deeper cups were the ones that took a lot longer. So, if you ever try this recipe, be mindful of that.

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The custard itself is a bit lighter and not quite as rich as some others I've had, but it was perfectly velvety and absolutely delicious. Some of my caramelized sugar did get a little too browned, but it was just the right thickness and crackled into beautiful little shards. I'm so glad that I rose to this challenge, and I'm looking forward to making creme brulee again soon!

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Many thanks to Mari of Mevrouw Cupcakes for choosing this great recipe. If you'd like to see some other creative interpretations of creme brulee, visit the Tuesdays with Dorie blogroll. The recipe cam be found on Mari's site as well as in Dorie's book, Baking: From My Home to Yours.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Daring Bakers are Awash in Lavash

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It doesn't matter how well I plan, I always seem to be pulling up the rear on Daring Bakers reveal days. I suppose that could be because of some deep-seated character flaw within me. This time, however, it was because I was a careless reader. I could have sworn that this month's reveal day was tomorrow, and I had planned to spend today leisurely completing the challenge. Last night, when I dug out the recipe and instructions, I was horrified to see that the reveal was scheduled for TODAY! In my Nyquil-induced haze, I frantically ran around the kitchen, gathering ingredients and equipment and got to work. Fortunately, I was able to get it all done before sunrise.

September's challenge is kind of an historical one for the DB group. It is our very first gluten free and vegan challenge - and a savory one at that! I've always been so impressed at the resourcefulness displayed by our alternative DBers in adapting our usual flour and butter laden creations to fit their lifestyle and dietary parameters. This month you will see an inspired array of Lavash Crackers and vegan dips all around the blogosphere, thanks to our hostesses, Natalie from Gluten A Go Go, and Shelly, of Musings From the Fishbowl.

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The lavash recipe was selected from Peter Reinhart's wonderful book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread. According to Reinhart, a lavash is an Armenian-style flatbread, similar to many others found in various middle-eastern cultures, such as mankoush or mannaeesh (Lebanese), barbari (Iranian), khoubiz or khobz (Arabian), aiysh (Egyptian), kesret and mella (Tunisian), pide or pita (Turkish). The main difference between these breads is how thick or thin the dough is rolled out, the type of oven in which they are baked or on what they are baked. Many of these breads are actually cooked, not baked, on stones or red-hot pans with a convex surface. The key to a crisp lavash is to roll out the dough in paper thin sheets. The sheets can be cut into crackers before baking or snapped into shards after baking.

In addition to the lavash, we were also asked to make a dip to serve along with them. The catch was that the dip had to be fully vegan. Oy!

I couldn't decide which way I wanted to go, so I ended up making two batches of lavash. The first was topped with a sprinkling of Asian five spice seasoning, House Spice Red Pepper Blend (Shichimi Togarashi), Maldon salt and sesame seeds. I made an Asian inspired sweet and spicy plum chutney to accompany it, using cinnamon, star anise, cloves, mustard seeds and pink peppercorns. I really loved how this chutney turned out!

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For my second batch of lavash, I used cumin, smoked paprika, sesame seeds, more Maldon salt and toasted pumpkin seeds as my toppings. My dip for these was a zesty Italian-style caponata, made with eggplant, olives, capers and garlic. My mother made this dip a lot when I was growing up and it is still one of my favorites!

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Thankfully, the recipe for the lavash was pretty straightforward and uncomplicated. The dough was actually a dream to work with. Since my skills with a rolling pin are spotty at best, I decided to use my pasta maker in order to get my dough as thin as possible. I used the lasagne sheet attachment and it worked like a charm! My sheets of dough were paper thin and the lavash were delightfully crisp and crackly.

Although, I would never have thought to make these on my own, I'm so glad I did. Mr. SGCC absolutely loved them. Actually, they were the first of my DB concoctions that he ever really enjoyed, as he is not a fan of sweets.

My thanks go out to both Natalie and Shelly for giving me yet another chance to stretch out of my baking comfort zone. Don't stop here, though. Head on over to the Daring Bakers Blogroll to see many, many other wonderful versions of this lavash!

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Lavash Crackers

(Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers)

1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)-I used Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-if-Bre … ong-Enough for a description of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

or

For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.

or

For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Lay out two sheets of parchment paper. Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper. Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

Spiced Plum Chutney

Ingredients:

2 whole star anise
4 whole cloves
1 2-inch piece cinnamon stick
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp whole mustard seeds
1 tsp pink peppercorns
4 medium red, black, green, or blue plums pitted and cut into chunks

Method:

Combine ingredients in a small saucepan. Stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until chutney thickens and a chunky sauce forms, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Cool.

Eggplant Caponata Dip

Ingredients:

5 tbsp olive oil
1 pound eggplant, unpeeled, cut into small cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 14 1/2-ounce can Italian-style diced tomatoes
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp drained capers
1/4 cup Gaeta olives, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Toasted pine nuts for garnish

Method:

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add eggplant, onion, and garlic cloves. sauté until eggplant is soft and brown, about 15 minutes.

Add diced tomatoes with juice, red wine vinegar and drained capers. Cover and simmer until eggplant and onion are very tender, stirring occasionally, about another 15 minutes.

Season caponata to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in fresh basil.

Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with toasted pine nuts.

Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Enjoy!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Dry up the Sniffles with My "Quick, But it Tastes Like it Took All Day" Chicken Soup

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For the past several days I have had the mother lode of colds. You know the kind. One of those sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, feverish affairs where your eyes won't stop watering and your head feels like it's locked up inside a steel drum. Many of you out there have shared with me that you are going through this too. Now, I don't know about you, but when I feel this way, all I want to do is sit on my pathetic, sick little butt and let certain other people wait on me hand and foot, (like I do for them when they're sick). Yeah, right. Like that's ever gonna happen!

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Wouldn't it be nice to at least have some nice, hot, homemade chicken soup to slurp up? You bet your a$$ it would! But, that can take hours, and frankly, when I feel this crappy, I just can't be bothered.

What if I told you that I've found a way for you to have a whole pot of nurturing, comforting, restorative, delicious, made from scratch Jewish penicillin in under an hour? Would you be interested? Well, this is your lucky day, because I am about to show you how! I promise that if you'll keep an open mind, your sinuses will soon follow suit.

The first thing you will need for this soup is one of these:

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This is just what it looks like, a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket. I generally try to get the plain, roasted kind, but in a pinch, a lemon pepper one will do. Just don't go for the barbecue kind. Not a good flavor for chicken soup! The great thing about using an already roasted chicken is that whomever you send to the store really can't mess it up.

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The next things you'll need are some vegetables. I always use carrots, celery and onions to start, but sometimes I add parsnips, rutabaga, green beans or zucchini. It just depends on what you have and what you like. If you feel so crummy that you can't even bear the thought of chopping a few vegetables, you can also use frozen ones. I would still suggest you use some fresh carrots, celery and an onion though, because they will help to flavor your soup.

You will also need some canned chicken broth. Either regular or low sodium will do. I mix it half and half with water.

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I also suggest having some kind of small pasta or pastina on hand to add at the end. You could also use microwaveable rice. Personally, I don't care for it, but it works in a pinch.

Fresh parsley or dill adds a nice touch, but if you don't already have some, skip it. The whole point of this is to keep things quick and easy, so you can rest!

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Once you have all of your ingredients ready, all you have to do is toss them all (except the pastina) in a large stock pot and simmer for about 30-40 minutes. Then, take out the chicken and remove the meat from the carcass. Shred it and add it back to the soup. Remove the vegetables, slice them up and add them back in too. About ten minutes before you plan to eat your soup, add the pastina or rice to cook and voila! You're done!

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This soup is really hearty and full of deep, rich homemade flavor. It's the perfect thing to nurse yourself back to health!

"Quick, But it Tastes Like it Took All Day" Chicken Soup (Printable Recipe)

Ingredients:

1 fully cooked rotisserie chicken

3 carrots, trimmed, rinsed and scrubbed

3 ribs celery, trimmed and rinsed

1-2 onions, unpeeled and quartered

4 whole cloves

Small handful of parsley or dill sprigs

1 quart chicken broth

1-2 quarts water

1-2 cups uncooked pastina or other small pasta

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Stud each clove in one onion quarter.

In a large stock pot, add the whole chicken, carrots, celery, onions and parsley or dill.

Add broth and water until chicken is just covered. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes.

Remove chicken and vegetables. Strain soup and return to pot.

Add pastina to the soup and simmer about 8-10 minutes more, until pasta is tender.

Meanwhile, remove chicken meat from the carcass and slice the carrots and celery. Add all back to the pot.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh parsley or dill, if desired.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

TWD: Dimply Nectarine Cake

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Bah! I have a nasty cold. My nose and ears are plugged up and my taste buds are on the fritz. So, while I'd like to tell you how delicious this week's TWD offering is, I really can't. I can tell you that the other people who tried it really liked it. I can also tell you that many of my fellow TWD bakers had good things to say about it too. I guess that will have to do for now.

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This week's assigned Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was her Dimply Plum Cake, selected by Michelle of Bake-En. I'd seen this cake make its rounds around the blogs before, and it looked pretty good. When I hauled my sorry, sick butt into the kitchen to bake it, I realized that I didn't have enough plums for the recipe. Crap! What I did have was a case of beautiful California nectarines that a client had sent me. So, I made a Dimply Nectarine Cake instead. I also didn't have any oranges in the house, so I added a little orange flower water to my batter.

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Fortunately, this was a pretty easy and straightforward recipe. I was in no mood for complicated! The process only took about an hour, from start to finish, which was about as long as I could stay awake.

If you'd like to try this cake for yourself, the recipe can be found in Dorie's book, Baking: From My Home to Yours. You can also find it on the web here and here. In the meantime, check out the TWD Blogroll to see some other great interpretations of this cake.

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I'm going back to bed now. See you next week for some Creme Brulee!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Autumn Falls In: Bacon-Pecan Brussels Sprouts Saute

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Today is the Autumnal Equinox. An equinox is "either of two points on the celestial sphere where the ecliptic and the celestial equator intersect." For the rest of us, it's one of two times each year when the Sun crosses the equator, and the day and night are the same length. Today, at 11:44:18 a.m. EDT, the Sun will have crossed the celestial equator, from north to south, marking the beginning of Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere.

In most other parts of the world, there would be obvious signs hinting of this day; a crispness in the air, touches of yellows and orange at the tops of the trees, a kiss of morning mist. But in the South, Autumn sneaks in on tiptoes. An early morning 75 degrees this past few days has felt distinctly different from the early morning 75 degrees two weeks ago. And the air looks just the merest touch clearer - the curves and angles of the landscape ever so slightly sharper. The change is barely perceptible, but I know it's there. I can see it. I can feel it too.

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And then there's the moon. That magnificent harvest moon that makes an appearance around the same time each year! A few nights ago, as I was driving home from a meeting, I saw it. A giant, red-tinged golden orb in the sky, gilding everything below it with its warm, shimmering light.

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Another harbinger of Autumn's arrival is seen in our gardens and our markets. A profusion of Fall fruits and vegetables have been popping up all over. Crisp apples, juicy pears, grapes, butternut squash and pumpkins, among others, are beginning to line the shelves in the produce department, waiting to be transformed into pies, tarts, soups and the like.

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I found some vibrant and very fresh Brussels sprouts the other day. Since they are one of Mr. SGCC's favorite vegetables, I decided to pick some up and see what I could create with them. I came up with this dish, which is a variation on one that I usually make for Thanksgiving dinner. Instead of cooking the sprouts whole, I sliced them very thinly and sauteed them with chopped pecans, champagne grapes and.....bacon.

Let me tell you, they were outstanding! Slicing the Brussels sprouts enabled the other flavors in the dish to really permeate them. Each bite had the perfect balance of smoky bacon, crunchy pecans and sweet baby grapes that just popped in our mouths. If you can't find champagne grapes, you could also use seedless red grapes in this dish. I really urge you to try this one, even if you don't love Brussels sprouts. I swear, you'll never look at them the same way again!

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Bacon-Pecan Brussels Sprouts Saute with Champagne Grapes (Printable Recipe)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

6 slices bacon

1 large or 2 small shallots, diced

1/2-1 cup pecan pieces, depending upon how much you like pecans

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, sliced very thinly and rinsed

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup champagne grapes, rinsed

Steps
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Preheat large sauté pan or skillet on medium-high heat. Add olive oil.

Cut bacon into 1/2-inch pieces and add to pan. Cook 4–5 minutes until bacon just begins to crisp.

Stir in shallot and pecans. Cook 3–4 minutes, stirring often until bacon is fully crisped.

Stir in sugar and vinegar. Add Brussels sprouts and salt. Cook, stirring often, until vinegar is reduced and sprouts are done to desired tenderness.

Add grapes and saute for just another minute or two more.

Enjoy!

Here are some other great ways to use Brussels sprouts:

Golden Crusted Brussels Sprouts from 101 Cookbooks

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic, Parmesan, and Pine Nuts from Kalyn's Kitchen

Hashed Brussels Sprouts with Lemon from Simply Recipes

Curried Brussels Sprouts from White on Rice Couple

Cream Braised Brussels Sprouts from Orangette

Friday, September 19, 2008

Florida Foodbuzz FP Event

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I had wanted to get this post up days ago, but I had no idea how much time and energy it would take to get ready for my Blogiversary Bash. It wiped me out! Seriously, I don't know how some of you who regularly host events do it. It is a LOT of work! You need to let me know what kind of vitamins you're taking!

Last weekend, Mr. SGCC and I headed over to Orlando for the Florida Foodbuzz Featured Publisher event at Todd English’s Blue Zoo Restaurant. This event, hosted by Foodbuzz, of course, was part of their new Dine on Us program designed to bring local food bloggers together. About twenty-five of us were treated to a memorable evening of fun, food and fellowship.

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The Blue Zoo is located in Disney's beautiful Dolphin Hotel. It's a lovely place with an uber sophisticated feel all done up in hues of blue with strikingly modern metallic accents. We were treated to a fabulous six course tasting menu that was created especially for us. The service was impeccable! Each course was introduced by the staff and Executive Chef, Chris Windus was on hand to visit and answer all of our questions.

We all had a good chuckle over the fact that, as each course was served, instead of digging right in we all whipped out our cameras to snap photos first! Aah! We food bloggers are a quirky bunch!

Our feast started off with an Amuse Bouche of a Fresh Littleneck Clam with Bacon Ragout, which was served in a small glass filled with sea salt. Though the clam itself was raw, it has the subtlest smoky taste. It was delicious!

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Next, came the First Course of Shrimp Cocktail Steamrollers. This was a most unusual dish with an even more unusual presentation. All of the components of the dish were layered in a kind of plastic tube. You had to suck them all out where it came together in a big flavor explosion in your mouth. Strange, but brilliant!

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The Second Course was a Beet Salad with Candied Walnuts and Goat Cheese Fondue. Again, a delicious dish!

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After the salad, we were served a Third course of Spice Route Char with Curried Beluga Lentils, Zhataar Carrot and Yogurt Spill. Basically, it was a delightfully moist and flaky arctic char filet, blackened and crispy on the outside. This one drew raves from everyone at the table. I loved it!

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Our Fourth Course was Sous Vide Amish Chicken with Parmesan Polenta, Picholine Olives and a Deconstructed Tomato Sauce. The dish was good, but we were all already spoiled by the marvelous fish that came before it.

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Last, but by no means least was the Dessert Course of Warm Chocolate Cake with Liquid Ganache Center, Maracaibo Chocolate Cream Pudding and Peanut Ice Cream. In my excitement to see chocolate cake, I totally forgot to take a picture of the dish! In essence, it was a small globe of molten chocolate cake swimming in a pool of chocolate pudding and caramel sauce. A tiny scoop of peanut ice cream lay on top. It was the perfect ending to a fabulous dinner.

Though I didn't get a photo of the cake, I did get a nice shot of the excellent bread that was served with dinner. It was served with the most amazing butter laced with fennel.

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It was so much fun to get together with this wacky bunch of bloggers! It was also great to finally meet Ryan Stern, from Foodbuzz, who flew all the way from San Francisco to be with us. We've already been talking about and planning our next big gathering!

Here's the scoop on who was there:

Lys from Cooking in Stilettos
Christey and Peter from Foto Cuisine
Rachel from My Little Marshmallow
Judy from No Fear Entertaining
Chris from Pickles and Cake
Jenn from The Leftover Queen
Ingar from Taste Memory
Erin and Chris from The Olive Notes
Bryan from The Tattooed Gourmet

My sincere thanks go out to Ryan and all the fine folks at Foodbuzz for making this event possible.

Oh, and one more thing. If you ever get to Blue Zoo, go easy on the Zootini cocktails. They may taste like harmless fruit juice, but they pack a powerful punch!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Welcome to SGCC's First Annual Blogiversary Bash!

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Well, it's hard to believe, but it's true. Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy is one year old today! Never did I imagine when I started this little blog a year ago what an important and fulfilling part of my life it would become. I have learned so much, not only about cooking and baking, but about the wonderful nature of people. Through this journey, I have met so many kind, caring, creative and passionate souls, all who have enriched my life in various ways. This food blogging community of ours is a truly unique and one hell of a special group!

My heartfelt thanks go out to all of you who have kept me company here in my little slice of the blogoshere. It's been a pleasure having you. If you're visiting for the first time - welcome! I hope you return often.

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I have to say that I was truly touched by the number of you that RSVP' d for my party. I never expected so many of you to attend, and with such spectacular food and drinks! Thank you all so much! (I also never expected how much work it would be to put this post together!) With your help, we have the mother lode of all buffets here. So have a drink (or several), grab a fork and a plate, and let's get this party started!!!

I've divide the buffet line into three categories - Libations (drinks), Savories and Sweets. I tried to be as organized about this as possible, but we all know I'm not perfect. If I've missed anyone, please let me know and I'll correct it right away. Oh, and please don't judge me on my formatting skills. This post was a b*tch to put together! ;)

Enjoy!

Libations

peachhyssopsparklerEssentia Rachel (aka the Short (dis)Order Cook) from The Essential Rhubarb Pie knows how to get a party started! Her Peach-Hyssop Sparkler is made with peach liqueur and bubbly Proseco, mixed with a simple syrup infused with apricot hyssop flowers from her garden. I'd never heard of apricot hyssop before this, and now I'm determined to find some of my own!

limoncelllo-sunshineKitchen Colleen from Kitchen Diary sent over this cooling and very refreshing Limoncello Sunset all the way from South Africa. Limoncello Sunset is made up with crushed ice, a splash of Angostura Bitters and a double tot of Limoncello Liqueur. The glass is filled with Soda Water and accessorized with a twist of lemon peel and a sprig of mint.


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Mezzanotte-ProudItalianCook The lovely Chicago-based Marie from Proud Italian Cook calls her Mezzanotte "Pure Decadence". I agree! This amazing coffee cocktail, made with dark chocolate, espresso, vodka, and coffee liqueur, is like having your espresso and dessert all in one! Very efficient! Mezzanotte means midnight in Italian, and Marie figures that this special drink will help keep us partying well into the wee hours.



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chocolatini-MagicSprinkles One of my newer blogging buddies, Lisa from Magic Sprinkles (Is that not the coolest name?) calls Atlanta, Georgia home. I'm so happy to have her here today, especially since she brought these smooth, sweet and creamy Chocolatinis with her. This girl knows how to party! Toss back one of these chic "tinis" made with vodka, chocolate liqueur and cream, and you'll feel just like Carrie Bradshaw!



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kiwifizz-EatReal Sandy from Eat Real is one of the bloggers I initially got to know through Twitter. She's smart, witty and insightful. From New York's mid-Hudson Valley, she writes about lots of delicious and healthy foods and drinks, like this cool and refreshing Kiwi Green Tea Fizz. It all starts with a mouthwatering homemade kiwifruit sorbet, to which green tea liqueur and fizzy ginger ale are added. Then, grab a straw and a comfy chair and you're set!


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WineArtAioli Nicole from Art and Aioli hails from Orange, California. She's brought this lovely bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa to go with her fab Buratta Plate below. Wine and cheese? Wait til you see it. Classic!


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Savories

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gravlaxbyLorifromLuscious

Lori from Luscious and her "Darling Chef", Marc brought this beautiful Gravlax. Just look at that stunning color! Lori, who is in NYC, says that you can get this great party food started a few days ahead and let it sit in the fridge. Slice it thinly, and either platter it with slices of bread and a pot of mustard, or make little hors d'oeuvres for your guests. So easy, fresh and tasty!



..... SalsaR2from-LibbyofAllergyM

Libby from The Allergic Kid is a neighbor from Tampa Bay, Florida. Her blog is a source for recipes and tips for cooking and living with specific food allergies. Libby brought this Zesty Tomato Salsa. She says the fresh cilantro and lime juice are simply addictive, and the salsa also makes a nice topping for chicken or fish. Ole!



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Antipasto-Square-CuttingEdgLisa from The Cutting Edge of Ordinary, in Rhode Island, submitted one of her most requested dishes, these Antipasto Squares. With an assortment of cheeses and cured meats baked inside flaky crescent pastry, these would be tops on my list too!



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grilledeggplantFoodBlogga

Susan from Food Blogga sent over this beautiful Grilled Eggplant with Roasted Red Pepper Tapenade. Susan comes from California by way of Rhode Island, hence the name of her blog. I can always count on Susan to come up with healthy, yet tasty dishes using fresh and often quite unique ingredients.


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Salmon-starterNinaTimm

Nina from My Easy Cooking sent over these lovely and elegant little Salmon Starters. They're made with baby creamer potatoes, filled with a cream cheese filling and topped with smoked salmon and caviar. (Shhh! Don't tell anyone, but I stashed a few of these away back in the kitchen for later!)



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illeatyouduxelles-hors-d'ou

Lauren from I'll Eat You brought these Duxelles hors d'ouvres. This is a simple little hors d'ouvre whipped up with puff pastry and filled with a mushroom duxelles. They look fancy schmancy complicated, but Lauren swears they are not!


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BruschettaMoreThanBurntToas

My good friend Val from More Than Burnt Toast in Canada is one of the most prolific bloggers I know! (Either that, or she's just a party animal!) Today, Val has brought over these gorgeous Golden Bruschetta with Heirloom Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella and Pesto. They are pure summer on a plate!



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Cheesy-Choux-Puffs-SweetThy

Lisa from My Own Sweet Thyme offers up these sweet little Cheesy Choux Puffs. Look at that adorable G-clef! Lisa hails from the Pacific Northwest and does amazing things with choux pastry! Visit her blog to find all sorts of tricks and tips.




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In her blog profile, Grace from A Southern Grace calls herself a Southern girl currently sticking out like a sore thumb in upstate New York. When I read that, I knew I was in for a treat! I was. Grace is full of Southern charm and New York wit!Shee sent over this dreamy looking Black Bean Dip. Careful! No double dipping, please!



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blackbeansoupSpicedLife Laura from The Spiced Life submitted another delicious dish using black beans. Her Southwestern Black Bean Soup was made with her mother's homegrown black beans and lots of bacon. How cool is that? Laura says that this soup isn't super healthy, but it sure is tasty. I heartily agree!



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ChickenKebabsPassAbtBaking Deeba from Passionate about Baking brought these light, tender and silky Chicken Reshmi Kebabs all the way from North India. Deeba says that these kebabs, a North Indian specialty, are made with minced chicken but are equally as good with minced beef or lamb. She attributes their moist, succulent texture to a marinade, featuring thick, rich yogurt. I think they look marvelous and I can't wait to dig in!



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tangy-tomato-twistiesKitche These zesty Tangy Tomato Twisties came all the way from South Africa, again, courtesy of Colleen from Kitchen Diary. They're made with sundried tomato paste, basil pesto, Bushman's HotAzHell Chilli Sauce and some very strong mature cheddar cheese sandwiched between layers of tender and flaky butter puff pastry. Amazing! Check out the Limoncello Sunset that Colleen also sent over to wash them down to wash them down with.


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crostini-FoodHunter Theresa (The Food Hunter) from The Food Hunter's Guide to Cuisine brought some beautiful Neapolitan Crostini to my buffet table. They're a quick and easy appetizer and are just the perfect thing for a party! Theresa hails from Arizona, by way of Philadelphia and is a girl after my own heart. These tasty crostini are covered with a creamy ricotta spread and then topped with anchovies. Anchovies! I love anchovies!


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redpepperdip-TaketheCannoli Tanya from Take the Cannoli blogs from Illinois. She says that while this luscious Roasted Red Pepper Dip is a snap to make, it packs a big flavor punch. With roasted peppers, garlic and cream cheese, how could it not?


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chipirones-en-su-tinta-Span When I first laid eyes on Nuria's Chipirones en su tinta, my salivary glands went onto overdrive and I haven't stopped drooling since! Chipirones are small squids and these are prepared Basque-style in a sauce with their own ink, tomatoes, garlic, peppers and onion. Nuria and her delightful blog, Spanish Recipes, are based in sunny Barcelona, Spain.



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SeafoodCanapesHeartandHeart Ning from Heart and Hearth sent over these lovely Seafood Canapés from her home base in Manila, Philippines. These little beauties are made with a tomato, green onion and anchovy mixture which is spread on toast points and topped with tender, sweet baby shrimp. Ahem...have I mentioned how much I love anchovies?


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A-Veggie-Venture-Balkan-Egg This Balkan Eggplant Casserole sent over by Alanna from A Veggie Venture is just the thing for a party buffet. Lightly sauteed eggplant slices are baked in a creamy, cheesy and subtly spicy sauce. It is a wonderful vegetarian offering that can be served either hot from the oven or at room temperature. Alanna dishes up her tempting veggie fare in St. Louis, Missouri.



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salmon-tartletsCakelaw My good friend Cakelaw from Laws of the Kitchen has brought these terrific Salmon Tartlets all the way from Australia. To make these little gems, pre-baked puff pastry discs are topped by a tangy cream cheese spread, a strip of smoked salmon and a sprig of dill. Cakelaw says they are dead easy to make, yet look and taste impressive. I know that I'm impressed!


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tetrazzini-NoSpecialEffects Manggy from No Special Effects is one of my favorite people in the whole world! Talented in so many ways, he is truly a Renaissance man. As busy as he is, he found the time to send over this outrageous Spaghetti Tetrazzini for my Blogiversary Bash by way of the Philippines. It is an uber rich pasta dish baked in a creamy sauce brimming with cheese, chicken, mushrooms and......bacon! This one is not for the faint of heart! As a matter of fact, I think I'm swooning right now!



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minipizza-FruttoPassione Joanne from Frutto della Passione is living my dream life in Milan, Italy. What a wonderful place and what a warm and kind woman! She has sent over the kind of party food that I grew up with - adorable Mini Pizzas and Calzones. She even made her own dough! These babies have it all. Mushrooms, onions, ham, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella! Buonissimo!


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Balsamic-Tomato-Bruschetta- The first time I visited Nicisme's blog, Cherrapeno, was was after I found myself drooling over one of her stunning photos on Tastespotting. Since then, I have spent quite a bit of time enjoying this UK blogger's tantalizing fare. Today, Nic has sent over these Balsamic Tomato Bruschetta with Grilled Blue Cheese. Grilled Blue Cheese, people! Need I say more?




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boursin-Culinography Michelle from Culinography has brought over this Better than Boursin Cheese Spread. It's a dreamy, cream cheese based concoction loaded with garlic and herbs. Michelle says she makes it because she is too frugal to pay Boursin's high price. I say it's because this Arkansas girl is too smart! Either way, this spread looks way too tempting!



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BurrataPlate-ArtAioli Nicole from Art and Aioli has come to the party with a most thoughtful offering. She's brought a gift of Buratta, her new favorite cheese along with tomatoes and basil from her garden, served with olives, organic ciabbata bread and a dish with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Nicole describes this Rolls Royce of Italian cheeses as "sheer heaven", and so do I! This is going to go so well with that great Cabernet!



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scalloppedtomatoes-FranticF Heather from Diary of a Frantic Foodie whipped up this Italian-style Scalloped Tomatoes and Eggplant. She says this is just the kind of dish she likes to serve to keep things interesting at her book club meetings up in Arlington, Virginia. Not only does this casserole contain tomatoes, eggplant and a host of zesty Italian herbs, but it's baked with a topping of tangy goat cheese and pine nuts too. Delicioso!


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Bierocks-DineDish One of the best things about being a food blogger is discovering all kinds of new foods that you've never known about before, like these Bierocks sent over by the sweet and charming Kristen from Dine & Dish in Kansas City. Biercocks are a German food, commonly seen at Oktoberfest events. They're kind of like a German calzone, with a soft, chewy dough encasing a garlicy meat and cabbage filling. Kristen calls them a little pockets full of goodness with something unexpected in every bite!


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Polpettine-al-limone-Lien Lien from Notitie van Lien sent these intriguing Polpettine al Limone aka Lemon Meatballs over all the way from The Netherlands. Grated lemon zest and ground pine nuts give these meatballs their unique flavor. Lien serves them with just a squeeze of fresh lemon. I can't wait to try them!


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Sweets

Lemon-Cookies-Lucy-teenbake Lucy from Teen Baker brought these tasty Lemon & Sultana Cookies. How did she know that I love all things lemon? I am so impressed by Lucy. Did you know that she is only 13 years old? This little Londoner has quite a baking career ahead of her!


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CinnToastFinger-NancTwoP Nanc from NancTWoP, in Gotham City, brought these Cinnamon "Toasty Fingers" Lightly sweet and crispy, they fit neatly on the saucer. Plus they're ridiculously easy to make, using items you always have on hand. They look totally addictive to me! I met Nanc back during Top Chef season. She blogs about her favorite TV show and did a great job with her Top Chef recaps. I'm so happy to have her at the party!



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pinacoladacupcakeswhatweeat Lisa at What We Eat sent these delectable Pina Colada Cupcakes all the way from Dublin, Ireland. Don't they look adorable all dressed up with their cute umbrellas? Lisa says that these are her favorite thing to bring to a party. I'm so glad she brought them to mine!



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figssndricottaDishingUpDeli Esi from Dishing up Delights says that she'd been dreaming of these Figs with Ricotta and Pistachios for days before she made them. I can see why. Just look at them! Those juicy, ripe figs with creamy cheese and glistening honey are making me long for a bite! Esi is from L.A. and remembers the fresh fig trees in her backyard while growing up. Me too.


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Another Florida neighbor, Judy from No Fear Entertaining sent over this fresh and delicious Fruit Pizza. Can you believe that this elegant looking dish started with sugar cookie mix and a tub of cream cheese frosting? Now, that is some creative cooking!


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Bubbies-mochi-ice-cream-Che Nathan from House of Annie brought something really unique. His Bubbies Mochi Ice Cream looks totally fun and festive! Traditional mochi is a Japanese confection made from sweet glutinous rice paste, filled with sweet azuki bean paste. Ice cream replaces the red bean filling in these. Love these!



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cocochipcookies-ChewOnThat Hilary, another Chicago gal, from Chew on That brought these delectable fresh baked Chocolate Chip Cookies. She happened to use my favorite recipe for them too. They are a chocolate lover's dream.



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Revani-with-pineappleKopias The lovely Ivy from Kopiaste...To Greek Hospitality brought over this gorgeous cake called Revani all the way from Greece. It is made with flour or semolina that is bathed in syrup, and topped with whipping cream and coconut and decorated it with pineapple and sour cherries. She calls it a sticky, gooey, creamy, chewy dessert. I call it heavenly!


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blacksesameDessertFirst Anita from Dessert First brought this equisite Black Sesame Panna Cotta with Five-Spice Peanut Brittle. Black sesame is a classic Chinese flavor, especially in desserts, and is perfect in this creamy, barely set panna cotta. The crunchy, buttery, spicy-sweet brittle makes a lovely complement to it.


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phemomenon_cookies Holly from PheMOMenon brought some yummy looking Almond Glazed Sugar Cookies from her home base in Utah. These are the cookies for you if you're into instant gratification. Holly says there is no chilling, no rolling and no waiting involved. I think they look indescribably delicious (and there isn't an elf in sight)!



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oatmeal-raisin-cupcakesCupc Stef from Cupcake Project asks "What's a party without cupcakes?" I agree and am thrilled that she sent over these tasty Oatmeal Raisin Cupcakes topped with adorable maple bacon lollipops for my Bash! She says they're just like oatmeal raisin cookies, but moister and with less oatmeal texture. I say WOW!



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polkadotcheesecakeFeastWith Gabi from The Feast Within has brought over the most divinely decadent looking cheesecake ever! This Polka Dot Cheesecake is made with both a plain and a chocolate cheesecake batter. The chocolate batter is actually piped into the cake to form these wonderful "polka dots". The finished cake is then topped with a sinful bitersweet chocolate ganache. Be still my heart!



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ChocMousseHCTFood These elegant glasses are filled with rich and creamy Chocolate Mousse topped with Caramelized Strawberry and Orange Sauce. This luxurious dessert was created by the FFichiban, Cupcake and D from Here Comes the Food out of Sydney, Australia. They had me at chocolate mousse, but that delicate fruity sauce sealed the deal! Doesn't it look dreamy?



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coffeecookies-Medicine Claire from Cooking is Medicine is a doctor from Jackson, MS. Despite her busy schedule, she found time to bake her signature Claire's Coffee Cookies. These cookies are loaded with chocolate chips, oats, nuts and rich coffee flavor. How efficient is Claire? She can have her coffee and cookies together in one bite!


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espresso-browniesFunFoodCaf Look at the fudgy goodness of these amazing Espresso Brownies made by Mansi from Fun & Food Cafe! Who could resist these sinfully delicious brownies filled with the richness of cocoa, a shot of espresso and a hint of Kahlua liqueur? I know I couldn't! Mansi sent her delectable treats from sunny California. I wish I lived closer so I could have them all the time!



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blueberrypeachgalette-SassV Kelly from Sass & Veracity sure knows to make the summertime last! Of course, being in California, she has access to some of the best fruits available. This Blueberry Peach Galette is a gorgeous showcase for two of the season's most popular bounty. For her galette, Kelly makes a dough using yogurt and cornmeal, which is filled with fresh, ripe peaches and blueberries kissed with honey and thyme. To. Die. For.

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galette-ChezUs Those wild and crazy kids, Denise and Lenny from Chez Us also had peaches on their minds. They came up with this oozey, gooey Peach, Vanilla Bean, French Thyme Galette, even though they've both been down with nasty colds all week. I'm touched that they went to all that trouble for little old me!



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applespicebars-PeasinPod Maria and Josh from Two Peas and Their Pod are getting in the Fall spirit with their Applesauce Spice Bars. I'm sure the weather is quite a bit cooler up there Salt Lake City, Utah! These tasty treats are chock full of apples, raisins, brown sugar and spices, all smothered in a gooey vanilla/brown sugar glaze. You better grab one fast. They won't last long!


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PannaCottaKitchenTreasures The Happy Cook from My Kitchen Treasures has certainly made me happy with the Mango Panna Cotta she sent over all the way from Belgium! Panna Cotta is one of my favorite things and this one is rich, creamy and fruity all at the same time. Plus, could those glasses any cuter?


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Tartelette's-Entry--Pine-Nu Helen, everyone's favorite Tartelette, has brought these stunning little Pine Nut Tartelettes to the party. She is a lovely lady and one of the most talented and creative bloggers I know. Everything that comes out of her kitchen is perfection and these sublime little jewels are no exception! From the South of France to South Carolina, Helen bridges the gap with her tartelettes intended to be a riff on pecan pie, swapping out pecans and corn syrup for pine nuts and acacia honey. C'est Magnifique!




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lemon-meringue-cake-Technic Dear, sweet Patricia blogs from her Technicolor Kitchen in Sao Paolo, Brazil. She has sent over this fabulous Lemon Meringue Cake for us all to enjoy! The cake has a sticky, gooey, and chewy meringue base, similar to a pavlova, and is filled with a glorious lemon cream filling. To top it off, she has sprinkled on white chocolate shavings. It is everything I could wish for!



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lemonbarVeronicasTestKitche Veron over at Veronica's Test Kitchen has sent over another delectable lemon dessert, Lemon Bars on Brown Butter Shortbread. Based in Richmond, Virginia, she is also among those of us trying to squeeze the last drop out of Summer! Tart and sweetly delicious, these bars feature a cool, lemony filling nestled on a rich, buttery crust. Lemon bars have always held a special place in my heart, an I'll be first in line for these!

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GroundCherryCompoteLyBDishe Lynne from And Then I Do the Dishes sent over a batch of her delicious Ground Cherry and Vanilla Compote. She's serving her compote up on lightly toasted French bread topped with a smooth, nutty Gruyere cheese from beautiful from Quebec, Canada. It's the perfect balance of sweet and savory!



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French_apple_pie-AndreasRec I believe no party would be complete without a good old-fashioned apple pie. Fortunately, Andrea from Andrea's Recipes felt the same way and brought this French Apple Pie! She makes it, in her Northern Virginia kitchen, with thinly sliced Granny Smith apples spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon. Then, she tops it with a buttery, brown sugar crumb topping. It doesn't get much better than this!


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cupcakes-RecipeGirl One of my daily treats is visiting Lori, The Recipe Girl - especially when she has one of her wonderful desserts on the menu! Imagine my delight when I saw these sinfully good Devil's Food Cupcakes she sent over. That rich, gooey chocolate frosting topped with those festive sprinkles is making me weak in the knees, I tell you!



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cinnamon-palmiers-JumboEmpa One of the very first food blogs I ever read was Jumbo Empanadas written by Brilynn from Canada. Before that, I didn't really even know what a blog was, but I was hooked! I have to say that Brilynn was part of the inspiration that prompted me to create SGCC. I'm very honored to have her as a guest at my BB! I knew she would bring something fabulous and she did not disappoint. Brilynn says that her Cinnamon Palmiers, (or Elephant Ears!) are ridiculously easy to make, look fantastic, make your house smell like Cinnabons and will have people begging for more. Whew! She really means it when she says "Go big or go home"!

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bananacake-NoblePig One of my daily reads I never miss is Cathy's blog, Noble Pig out of Northen California. Sometimes, I laugh. Sometimes I cry. I'm always entertained. Cathy sent over this amazingly delicious Banana Cake with Cream Cheese-Sour Cream Frosting. She guarantees this one takes banana baked goods to a whole new level of yumminess. I'll take that bet. I've been dreaming about this cake ever since I first saw it on Cathy's site!

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And now, for my party gifts!

You've all been such patient and gracious guests, but I know you're all dying to know who one my special Blogiversary giveaways. Take a look at this little video I made (with my Flip Video, natch!) and all will become clear! Now, be forewarned that this is my very first attempt at filmaking, so be kind. Also, any snarky comments about my tiara will be promptly deleted! ;) Um.....and please don't look at my hair too closely. I shot this after a very long day!




Sooooooo, to recap, the list of winners is as follows:

Nuria from Spanish Recipes wins Working the Plate!

Laura from The Spiced Life wins the NBC Sunday Night Football Cookbook!

Lauren from I'll Eat You wins Martha Stewart's Cookies!

Lisa from What We Eat wins Digital Food Photography!

Aaaaaand last, but by no means least, Manggy wins the Flip Ulta Video!

Congratulations to all of the winners!

Thank you all so much for coming to help me celebrate my blogiversary! I hope you all enjoyed yourself. Take care and see you soon!