Saturday, September 27, 2014

IFBC 2014 Recap

I was both nervous and excited to go to IFBC this year. Excited because, hello! A conference just for food bloggers? That's me! But nervous because I don't actually like being surrounded by hundreds of people I don't know; at least not without a friend to "anchor" me...

But I did it! Even though it was made a thousand times harder by my husband going off to some convention of his own, leaving me with the kids. Luckily, my sister agreed to take us for the weekend, even though it meant late nights waiting for me to drive the hour back from Seattle each night to make the kids go to bed! It was SO NICE being able to stay there, since my sister has been practicing making gluten- and dairy-free stuff for family functions, and regularly cooks for a crowd anyways (she has 3 little ones of her own!) She was able to just tell me what to bring to sub in as needed, so I didn't have to menu plan and prep anything ahead first, in addition to shoring up my nerves to actually attend this thing! 

To say that International Food Blogger Conference had a lot of food would be a gross understatement. Friday had some pre-reception events that I wasn't able to attend due to school pick-up duties and fighting traffic to get the girls to my sister's. But I made it to the Grand Opening Reception and more importantly, the Gift Suite, where all the sponsors had put out samples, coupons, and other swag for attendees to enjoy! Wheee!

[Disclosure: as a blogger, I get a discounted rate for IFBC in exchange for writing three blog posts about the event. But I get to choose what I want to write about!]

I wasn't able to eat anything at the reception. The sponsors were Raincoast CrispsAccolade Wines, and Bristol Bay Sustainable Salmon. Raincoast Crisps had a lot of yummy looking samples, but they were all wheat or oats, which are full of gluten (or contaminated with gluten, unless you get certified GF oats...) And I don't drink, especially on an empty stomach, so no wine for me! 
Bristol Bay Salmon had an amazing spread... but the two gluten-free options both had dairy. *sigh* But all four of their offerings looked so yummy! (See a few in the upper left and bottom images below.)
I was able to sample the Theo Chocolates, since all the ones they had for tasting were dairy-free (yay!) They were giving away peanut butter cups, but only the milk chocolate variety. Their dark chocolate is dairy-free, and I've had them before, and oh my! Even if I could, I'd never go back to those cheap ones in the orange wrappers! My sister was more than happy to find a good home for the milk chocolate ones I brought back though.
There was also a local peach farm handing out ripe peaches. They were safe too, and staved off my hunger long enough to finish making the rounds before going to a late dinner-for-one at Lola a few blocks away. It had good reviews for being able to accommodate both gluten and dairy-free options on my Find Me Gluten Free app. Boy howdy! Deeelicious! Shockingly expensive for this girl, who isn't used to Seattle prices. But a treat not to be missed!

Saturday's breakfast was sponsored by Noosa Yogurt, and featured DIY parfaits and muffins. I opted to sleep in a bit instead, since I was pretty sure there wouldn't be much there that I could eat, and it wasn't worth racing up there super early just to hear them talking about yogurt.

There were some really fun speakers before lunch and the afternoon "breakout sessions," but my favorite was Chef Thierry Rautureau's cooking demo. He was a hoot!

Lunch was hosted by Ninja Kitchen, and featured several gluten- and dairy-free options for me to eat! Yum! And we got to see several recipes demoed in the new Ninja blender by celebrity chef Devin Alexander from Biggest Loser!

After lunch, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the Krusteaz "Scratch Party" session, since even though they have a gluten-free line, I still can't eat most of their products. (Dairy.) But my other options were wine (don't drink) and learning the different cuts of meat on a cow. (No. Just, no.)
The panel was about using the mixes to make fun foods. And I am all about fun foods! They did  a great job showing quick and easy foods and decor for various party themes.

Check out their creative pancake ideas here - it makes my bento-loving heart trill!

Saturday evening had my favorite event of the whole conference - the Taste of Seattle and Gourmet Fair! So many local restaurants, and they ALL had at least one GF/DF taste I could try! I had gone to Dahlia Lounge for a small dinner just in case there wouldn't be any safe foods like the evening before. So between that and all the tastes, this Mama was stuffed!
There were also samples and swag from the various sponsors, for even more delicious goodness! 
I particularly enjoyed getting to chat with Cindi Bigelow from Bigelow Tea, as well as the folks from Redwood Hill Farm goat dairy and a rep from Nutiva.

Sunday had a really great breakfast and talk from Bigelow Tea CEO (and third generation family owner) Cindi Bigelow, which I will talk about in another post, because it was really that good! After, I went to a few blogger business-y sessions that had some useful info, but would be boring to non-bloggers out there. Then the conference ended before lunch and I went to my sister's and flopped on the couch and ignored my kids the rest of the day! Hahaha! My sister got to keep all the samples and swag with gluten or dairy, and particularly enjoyed all the chocolates! So everybody won!

The highlight of the weekend for me was getting to meet Erica from Celiac and the Beast. It was nice finally getting to meet her after chatting on Instagram for a while now. And it was fun getting to grouse with someone who also couldn't eat most of the food...

One thing I was really impressed with for this whole conference was how seriously the sponsor companies took us "mommy bloggers." (Not all of us were mommies, or even female. But it's a stereotype for a reason...) Companies didn't just send reps... they sent CEOs and celebrity chefs! I'm not used to that level of respect from brands, even though it wasn't aimed specifically at me!

Needless to say, I bought my tickets for next year already!

IFBC returns to Seattle in 2015!
Organized by and Zephyr Adventures, IFBC was the first-ever conference for food bloggers, first held in May of 2009. The series focuses on three themes: Food, Writing, and Technology. This event will feature high-quality educational sessions, personal networking opportunities, and what 95% of attendees say is the best food and wine of any blogging conference! Join them for their SEVENTH annual conference in beautiful Seattle, Washington!
Dates: September 18 - 20, 2015
LocationThe Sheraton Seattle Hotel
Registration Fee: $195 / $495

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Plant-Based Grown-Up Lunches!

Plant-based #vegetarian grown-up sized lunches in #easylunchboxes
I am "mostly vegetarian," and so obviously my lunches are too! Based on the number of times my "lunch date" steals my food, I'm guessing they're pretty tasty! (And I make sure to hide my treaties first, so I know she isn't stealing my food just to get at my candy!)

Organic kiwi, GF/DF "Thin Mint" cookies, DF Cocomels, organic salad (lettuce,
cabbage, carrot, chia and sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, hemp hearts, rosemary vinaigrette)
Wednesday, 5/7/14 - I didn't have time to use any of my fun veggie cutters, so when I was chopping carrot for my salad, I cut one into slabs to use with the cutters later, and then chopped up the bits that wouldn't be wide enough for cutters into matchsticks. Even though it isn't "fancy," I like how it turned out!

[This post contains affiliate links.]

Leftover stir fry, organic dried mango, peppermint-chocolate-covered coffee beans, organic salad (cabbage,
lettuce, purple broccoli, carrot, sunflower and chia seeds, hemp hearts, dried cranberries, rosemary vinaigrette)
Thursday, 5/8/14 - Had time to make carrot shapes, so used a rabbit veggie cutter to make some snuggle bunnies. My salad is very cabbage-heavy because I had a whole tub of shredded cabbage needing to get used up. Blarg.
The dry stuff for my salad went into a Mini Dipper so they wouldn't get soggy.

My little munchkin had finished off her lunch, so started working on Mama's too! She can really pack away the salad when it's from someone else's meal! Hahaha!

Naturebox Masa Crisps, MOMables GF Apple Plum Cobbler, organic salad (cabbage, lettuce, purple broccoli, carrot, blueberries, sunflower and chia seeds, hemp hearts, dried cranberries, rosemary vinaigrette)
Tuesday, 5/13/14 - I like how this salad vignette turned out, with the fish veggie cutter, little carrot shrimpies, and the blueberry "pebbles." I packed the salad add-ons in a Mini Dipper again, to keep them fresh and crunchy.

Organic apples, PB Co Cinnamon Raisin Swirl, organic salad (cabbage, lettuce, purple broccoli, carrot, radish,
sunflower and chia seeds, hemp hearts, dried cranberries, rosemary vinaigrette)
Friday, 5/16/14 - I'm always a fan of apples dipped in Peanut Butter and Co's Cinnamon Raisin Swirl PB - enough so that I order it by the case on Amazon! Yummmm!

I attempted to cut my radish into a flower. And my carrot birds wouldn't come out of the fancy bird vegetable cutter, so have toothpick marks where I had to jab them out. Fail! Oh well. Still tasted just fine, as you can see...

Some more vile lunch thievery. I was eating in bed this day for some reason... It was my birthday, so I was probably just relaxing and enjoying my day as best I could... Until someone came and ate my lunch!

Organic hummus, MOMables GF Apple Plum Cobbler, organic sweet peppers,
leftover veggie patty w/rosemary vinaigrette drizzle
Monday, 5/19/14 - More leftover Apple Plum Cobbler. Nom! And I had one veggie-quinoa burger patty left, so packed it for lunch! I don't really enjoy gluten-free bread, so I went bun-less and added some of my usual salad dressing for moisture and flavor.

Tools of the Trade

Monday, September 22, 2014

Checkerboard Sandwich Bites

Everyone loves finger foods! So cutting a "boring" sandwich into little bites is always sure to please! Add in the alternating shades of bread and you have a very easy way to make it fun! You can either make one sandwich on darker bread and one on lighter then mix and match, or what I did here, which is one slice of each per sandwich and flip every other square. This is a fun idea for when you are finishing off one loaf of bread and starting on a different one, or to help motivate kids to warm up to the idea of "brown" whole wheat bread versus white all the time!

I added in some Driscoll's organic strawberries because they're a special treat every time!

[Driscoll's sent me coupons for free strawberries. This post contains affiliate links.]

Big Sister's Bunny Board
Gluten-free Sunbutter-jelly sandwich, organic carrots, Driscoll's organic strawberries
Both girls got their own little checkerboards, which I just hand-cut, although you could make this very easily with a FunBites Squares cutter. I was just too lazy to find it...
I included a bunny fork pick to make the sandwich bites more fun to eat.

Toddler Bites
Driscoll's organic strawberries, organic apple, carrots, and tomatoes, GF Sunbutter-jelly sandwich
Little Sis got a kitty fork pick because she's more into kitties and puppies, versus Big Sister's bunny love.

After-School Snack
GF Sunbutter-jelly sandwich bites, organic apples and grapes
Both sandwiches made 12 bites each, but I preferred the look of 9 per lunch, so I skewered the extras with music note picks and packed them with some more fruit for an after-school snack for the girls to share. Between the leftovers in Z's lunch and this extra snack, we were quite popular with Z's favorite school friends on the playground!

Tools of the Trade
     medium music picks 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Zevia - the Smarter Soda!

When we went dye-free a little over two years ago, soda was one of the first things that had to go. Most of them contain not only artificial petroleum-derived dyes, but also artificial flavors. Zevia was one of the first "safe" alternatives I found. Having Zevia available to bring to parties and such really helped my then-preschooler not feel left out.

[I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet(SM) program, May Media 
Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meets(SM) blogger, 
agree to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily 
reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of this product.]
My kids LOVE getting to have soda again. Well. They love getting soda at all, actually! But it's nice that they aren't limited to the lemon-lime varieties, which are the only ones to be found at the movies or restaurants and such without artificial colors and flavors or caffeine. I loved grape, strawberry, and orange sodas growing up. They were one of my favorite treats (along with Hostess, but since we had to save up to buy our own treats in our household, I was more likely to get soda at a restaurant (we got to pick soda or dessert when eating out) than save up for anything more expensive than a candy bar at the grocery store...)

Lemon-Lime Twist is Big Sister's favorite, probably because, like I said, lemon lime is pretty much the only soda she's known for a while. I love the other fruity flavors. I have a very sensitive palate, and can taste any sugar alternative, whether it's natural like Stevia, or artificial. Fruit flavors tends to mask that really well though. Little Sis doesn't have a preference for "toda" flavors. If it's in a can or we tell her it's soda, she is all over it! And Hubby is a cola and root beer drinker. Zevia has enough flavor varieties, we are all covered!
Zevia is the original naturally sweetened, zero calorie soda with no sugar and no artificial sweeteners. (Great for people who need to avoid sugar!) This tasty treat comes in 15 familiar flavors including Cola, Black Cherry, Cream Soda, Grapefruit Citrus and Ginger Ale. Consider it the smarter soda go-to for you and your family. Zero calories, naturally sweetened, and delicious; Zevia is the soda trifecta of awesomeness.
Zevia Zero Calorie Soda is sweetened naturally with a unique blend of high purity Stevia (grown right here in the US!) and Monk Fruit.

•  Zevia comes in 15 different flavors, including Ginger Root Beer, Strawberry, Cherry Cola, and many more.
•  This soda contains no calories, and no HFCS, sugar, or artificial sweeteners. Great for diabetics!
•  No artificial colors or flavors.
•  Kosher, Vegan, and Gluten-Free!
•  The retail price for a 6-pack of Zevia ranges from $3.99 to $5.99.

Take the #ZeviaStyle Challenge!
Zevia wants to celebrate your unique voice by discovering what makes you an original! They’re hosting a style challenge designed to highlight your calling card, whether that’s kitchen wizardry, a killer fashion sense, or just being an all-around super mom (or dad!) Simply post your original style pics to Instagram (@zevialife) or twitter (@zevia), tag Zevia and #ZeviaStyle and you’re done! Don’t forget to include #ZeviaStyle in your posts to be sure your unique voice is heard! Need inspiration? Check out their #ZeviaStyle boards on Pinterest, and be sure to follow Zevia on Facebook!
We don't drink soda at home much, except for the occasional ice cream float. But I like to bring a few cans to parties and barbecues and such, so my girls have something safe that they can enjoy. With Zevia, I don't have to feel guilty letting them have a whole can AND dessert too!