California Walnut’s Virtual Dinner Party {& Giveaway}

A few weeks ago I was contacted by California Walnuts, a group I connected with a few years ago when I was more of a healthy living/food blogger.  I have now kind of stepped away from the food blogging, but when they offered me the opportunity to join a virtual dinner party and make a dish with their walnuts from one of 4 amazing chefs, I jumped at the opportunity.

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Immediately when I was making my decision on which chef to choose, Aida Mollenkamp stood out to me.  She had a number of recipes that were already gluten free and dairy free friendly, and when I saw the Kale, Apple, Pancetta, and Walnut Salad with Creamy Walnut Dressing I knew I had to make it for the Virtual Dinner Party.

For the most part I followed the recipe above, but I made a few substitutions based on what I had in the house, and what I could find at the local grocery store: (1) I couldn’t find endvies, so I subbed in sunflower sprouts, (2) I didn’t have white wine vinegar, so I subbed in rice vinegar, (3) I couldn’t find pancetta, so I used bacon.  I do wish I could’ve tried it with the endives, since I’ve never had them, but sometimes you have to make do and adjust.

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The recipe came together so quickly — the longest portion was the frying of the bacon (which took all of five minutes), and it was a delicious, fairly healthy meal that filled me up.  The only requirement is that you have a food processor for the salad dressing, but if you don’t mind it a little chunky, and more of a ‘spread’ I think a blender might work in a pinch.  And speaking of the creamy walnut dressing, I can’t wait to use on other salads, and possibly even as a dressing for meats!  Soooo good!

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Aida Mollenkamp and California Walnuts for the win, that’s for sure!

I am so happy I had the opportunity to join the virtual dinner party — check out some of the other food bloggers who joined Aida’s Virtual Dinner Party here.  It felt great to get back in the kitchen and do some cooking again!  Thanks California Walnuts for this fantastic opportunity!

As a part of the Virtual Dinner Party, and on behalf of California Walnuts, I was also sent TWO copies of Aida Mollenkamp’s recipe book: Keys to the Kitchen.  What does that mean?  That I have ONE copy to giveaway to one of you!

Although I was disappointed the recipe I made wasn’t in the cookbook, I still loved Keys to the Kitchen at first glance.

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Its got a great set of recipes, a number of which I’m really excited to make, but one of its greatest aspects I think is the informational and instructional information the first two chapters have.  And it has photos, which is always a bonus in my book.

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It gives you great instructions on mastering grocery stores, knife skills, and etc, before diving into the delicious looking recipes.  I mean, if the Kale, Apple, Pancetta and Walnut salad I made says anything about what’s in her cookbook, it should be pretty fabulous.

The Giveaway

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Aida Mollenkamp’s Keys to the Kitchen.  The giveaway will be open through Friday, March 8 at noon PST, and I will announce the winner later that afternoon, and get the cookbook sent out asap.

How to enter?

You must do one of the following to enter:

(1) Take a look at Aida Mollenkamps’s recipes used for the Virtual Dinner Party and leave a comment on which recipe (from the Winter or Spring menus) you’d like to try.

OR

(2) Leave a comment telling me about your favorite way to eat walnuts (in a recipe, raw, candied…etc).

For an extra entry:

(3) Tweet about the giveaway, and leave a comment back here saying that you did so.  example tweet: “I just entered to win an @aidamollenkamp cookbook from @phdstrides virtual dinner party giveaway http://wp.me/pVOD1-1k5″

*California Walnuts provided me with the walnuts for this recipe and the cookbook for the giveaway.  However, all opinions are my own.

Foodbuzz Festival: Decadent Tastes

The highlight of Foodbuzz Festival for me last year was the Tasting Pavilion.  Three hours of tasting decadent foods produced (mostly) locally to the Bay Area and learning about the companies, their stories and the product.  So Saturday, when it came time for the Tasting Pavillion, I put on my big girl stretchy pants (jeans + spandex), and got ready to let my taste buds go insane.

Though there were a ton of products I truly enjoyed, I thought I’d share with you a few of my favorites:

Perhaps the best thing I’ve eaten in my life: Honey Walnut Spread served over goat cheese, provided by California Walnuts.   It’s a great appetizers piece – expect to see it make an appearance at my holiday meals! (The recipe can be found here.)

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It was a serious food orgasm, no joke.  I ate at least 4 of them.  I stopped counting after 4.

Vignette.  Wine Soda – alcohol free wine.  All of the flavor, none of the alcohol.  foodbuzz 026       foodbuzz 027

21st Amendment Brewery – I sampled the Watermelon wheat beer – made with real watermelon, which would be a great summer drink.  Though, lets be honest: I wanted to drink it for the can designs alone…

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Sonoma Syrup.  Hand crafted syrups, extracts and drizzlers that will make you drool.  After trying their vanilla bean simple syrup, I was in love and wanted to lick my spoon until I could taste it no more.  They also gave me a bottle of the vanilla bean to try at home – look for it on top of delicious recipes soon: I’m thinking drizzled on top of cinnamon rolls, apple crisp, vanilla soy icecream…

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Culinary Twist all natural sauces.  They were flavorful, but not over powerful and made with ingredients of which I could pronounce everything – and they even had some gluten free options!  My favorite was Maya Bay, a Thai marinade, sauce and dip.  Really awakened my tastebuds.

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The station I fawned over for hours: Redwood Hill Farm Goat Cheese and yogurt (not pictured).  I love their products, that it’s a small, organic farm that treats their goats with love and feeds them right, and provides a quality product to their consumers.  Its one of two goat cheese/yogurt products I buy, and will remain so.

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Fat Toad Farm Goat Cheese Carmel from Vermont.  It’s a product currently being featured in the Foodzie cooking box, and one I recommend checking out if you’re looking for a new twist on carmels for the holiday season.  I tried all four flavors, and my favorites were the Cinnamon and Vanilla Bean.  Sooooo good.  I tried to run away with a box of it, but they didn’t let me Winking smile

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I also really enjoyed the House of Balsamic vinegars.  I was actually so in love with their product (though to be honest, I can’t really afford it), that I forgot to take photos.  But their 6, 12, 25 year balsamic vinegars made me want to make love to the spoon it was on.  And their white balsamic made me swoon – the flavor and price — and I actually was given a bottle to try at home, so I’ll hopefully be sharing recipes with you soon! .

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The bbq sauce that stole the show was J. Lee Roy’s Dippin’ Sauce.  It was true bbq flavors, with none of the preservatives or ‘bad stuff.’  Natural ingredients of which I could pronounce every single one of them!

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And I also couldn’t help but be won over by the wonderful, cheerful owners!

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And on the way out of the Pavillion, these TCHO bad boy’s caught my eye.  Decadent chocolates – where the flavor comes from the type of cocoa, and no two batches taste exactly the same.  LOVE it!

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Julia and I, post-three-hour-eating-binge after the Pavillion.  We had a great day.

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There were so many other wonderful products at the Tasting Pavillion, but I don’t have photos of them all, so these are just a few of the most memorable.  I had a great time networking with companies and trying new products, and I’m excited to use some of them that I just can’t live with out on a more regular basis to ‘spice’ up my meals!

Is there a product listed above that you would love to try?!  What is your favorite ‘indulgent’ product to cook with or have around the house?