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Taste of the Nation Orlando 2014.

August 18, 2014 by Carolina

TOTN

What’s better than great food? Great food for an even better cause! I have been fortunate to attend Taste of the Nation Orlando for several years now & am always blown away by the event, not only due to the great food & drinks but also because of the amazing contributions it makes to Central Florida. Funding solutions for hunger relief in the area for the last 25 years, Taste of the Nation Orlando has raised almost $3 million for the Coalition for the Homeless & the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida — amazing! This year’s event was bigger & better than ever.

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My guest & I had an incredible time sampling offerings from the best local chefs & spirits. Because I have such a sweet tooth I began with desserts: cheesecakes, local fruit & pastries as far as the eye could see. We couldn’t help ourselves & paired desserts with delicious wine. A wine aficionado, tasting different wine offerings is always one of my favorite things to partake at Taste of the Nation. This year my favorite wine was Barefoot‘s Sparkling Pinot Grigio, it’s the perfect drink to have on a hot summer day. Make sure to grab a bottle next time you’re at the market, give it a taste & tell me I’m not right. Heaven.

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As a vegetarian, I’m always nervous I won’t have many options at events but at Taste of the Nation that’s never a problem — there are plenty of delicious plant based options! And even if a dish is listed with meat in it, most chefs are happy to accommodate vegetarians by excluding the meat. The JW Marriott station had shrimp with grits & as soon as I informed the chef I was a vegetarian he had his team prepare a non-shrimp version for me that was to die for. I’ve never been a grits fan but after that dish I’m a convert. Bring on the creamy, buttery, southern grits!

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In addition to all the delicious food & drinks I had the incredible opportunity to meet Food Network’s Melissa D’Arabian. I’m happy to report she’s as nice as she looks on TV, super approachable, friendly & engaging. I would expect nothing less from a fellow Alpha Chi Omega (shout out to my sorority!); we couldn’t help ourselves & took a picture representing AXO.

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In all, Taste of the Nation Orlando 2014 was a delight. If you have never attended make sure to put this event on your calendar for next year. It’s a must do in Central Florida!

 

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Cauliflower Rice Bowl.

July 23, 2014 by Carolina

cauliflower rice bowl

Have you tried to make cauliflower rice? The first time I made it was for a stuffed peppers recipe Katie & I created while I visited her in Boston. I have been making cauliflower rice often ever since, it really is a good alternative to rice when you’re trying to cut down carbs. If you haven’t tried making cauliflower rice yet I think this recipe will convince you to, because this cauliflower rice bowl is to die for. It’s packed with fresh vegetables, made in one pan (easy clean up), simple to make & it’s finger licking good. This bowl is good either hot or cold, though I enjoyed it right off the stove. Make this for lunch or dinner this week!

Ingredients (makes 2 servings)

1/2 head cauliflower, chopped

1 tablespoon coconut oil, divided

1 cup white onions, chopped

1 cup white mushrooms, chopped

1 cup zucchini, chopped

1 cup carrots, shredded

Juice of 1 lemon

Sprigs of fresh thyme

Splash of vegetable stock

Salt & pepper

Place chopped cauliflower in a food processor & pulse until it reaches rice consistency & set aside. In a skillet, heat 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil & cook the onions for 3 – 4 minutes until caramelized. Place onions on a plate & use the same skillet to cook the mushrooms with a few sprigs of thyme & a splash of vegetable stock. After mushrooms are tender (3 – 4 minutes) remove them for the skillet & cook the zucchini for 3 – 4 minutes with the juice of half a lemon. Remove zucchini from skillet, add the carrots with a splash of vegetable stock & cook for 2 – 3 minutes until al dente. Remove the carrots & add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil & cauliflower rice, salt, pepper, & cook for 2 – 3 minutes until cauliflower is warmed through & remove from heat.

Place the cauliflower rice in the middle of a bowl & pile the onions, mushrooms, zucchini & carrots all around. Serve with a few thyme leaves, 1/2 fresh lemon & salt & pepper to taste & enjoy! If you rather mix all ingredients together go ahead, still a beautiful dish that tastes amazing. Buen provecho!

cauliflower rice bowl 2

 

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National Dance Day.

July 22, 2014 by Carolina

NationalDance

This is an invitation to all of my fellow Central Floridians to come dance with me. And I’m serious. I grew up dancing, from ballet classes to cheerleading, dancing was a big part of shaping who I am today. Dance teaches you character, perseverance & most importantly teaches you how to have fun! A few years ago So You Think You Can Dance (Go Ricky!)  instituted National Dance Day, an annual celebration of all forms of dance aimed to introducing people to dance & furthering the love of the art all around.

I was happy to discover Orlando is hosting a National Dance Day celebration this Saturday, July 26, completely FREE. 15 classes offered at the Orlando Ballet campus completely free of charge to anyone who wants to participate — how awesome is that?! The day will be filled with classes like beginning ballet, improvisation, jazz, swing, hip hop, contemporary, salsa, Afro-Latin, Broadway & even dance fitness. The instructors teaching the classes are well respected in the Central Florida community & are part of some of the best dance studios in town. If you like dance this is the perfect way to discover dance studios around you & experience for yourself what they have to offer!

I plan on attending several of the classes on Saturday & am hoping all you dance lovers out there will join in on the fun. Who’s ready to dance? Let’s get to it!

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Mushroom Hash.

July 21, 2014 by Carolina

mushroom hash

Sometimes the best dishes are the easiest to make. When you use fresh, organic ingredients you don’t have to do much to them in order for whatever you’re making to taste good. That’s why I’m sharing this mushroom hash recipe with you — it’s super simple but the flavors of the vegetables really shine. If you’re trying to avoid eggs, or simply don’t have any in your fridge, but want to have all the flavors an omelette or scrambled eggs have this is your dish. It’s vegan, gluten free, super healthy & very satisfying. Let’s get cooking!

Ingredients (makes one large serving)

1 teaspoon coconut oil

1/2 cup white mushrooms, chopped

1/2 cup green peppers, chopped

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 green onion, diced

Fresh cracked black pepper

Fresh cracked Himalayan salt 

In a skillet, heat coconut oil then add mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, green onion, salt & pepper & cook on high for 5 – 7 minutes until mushrooms are tender. It’s that simple! Buen provecho!

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Honey Roasted Brussel Sprouts.

July 14, 2014 by Carolina

honey roasted brussel sprouts

I have a confession to make: For as far as I can remember I hated brussel sprouts. The good news is after learning how to prepare them I’m a big fan, I mean, what’s not to like? Brussel sprouts have a rich nutty flavor that makes them super satisfying & absolutely delicious to enjoy as a side dish or even in salads. By far my favorite way to make them is with honey, it really brings out the nuttiness of the brussel sprouts! If you’ve never been much of a brussel sprout fan make this recipe & become a convert. It’s delicious!

Ingredients (makes 4 side servings)

1 pound brussels sprouts

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl, toss brussel sprouts with honey, vinegar, oil, salt & pepper then lay them on a cookie sheet. Roast for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, serve & love brussel sprouts. Buen provecho!

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Lemon Mustard Salad Dressing.

July 11, 2014 by Carolina

grainy mustard salad dressing

I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: when it comes to salads it’s all about the dressing! One of my favorite dressing ingredients is grainy mustard — it’s packed with flavor! This dressing recipe I’m sharing with you today is probably one of the easiest dressings you’ll ever make, which makes it all the better. Plus, it’s great in a mason jar salad (pictured above). The secret to a good mason jar salad is to place the dressing at the bottom & greens at the top — try it, it’s fail proof. So is this lemon mustard salad dressing!

Ingredients

2 tablespoons grainy mustard

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

1/ teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

In a mason jar or lid container mix all ingredients together & give it a good shake. Enjoy with your favorite salad ingredients. Buen provecho!

grainy mustard salad dressing 2

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Food for a Cause.

July 10, 2014 by Carolina

taste of the nation orlando

What’s better than attending a delicious food event? If the event is for a good cause! Taste of the Nation brings together foodies in Central Florida together the area’s top chefs (who donate their time) to end childhood hunger. I have been fortunate enough to attend the event twice, once in 2011 & another in 2012, & both years I had an incredible time. We’re talking delicious wine, hand crafted cocktails & a sampling of the best food in Orlando — a foodie’s dream! If you’re a vegetarian you need not worry, there are plenty of options at Taste of the Nation. Plus,everything that is left over is donated so absolutely nothing is wasted — how awesome is that?

This year the event takes place on August 9 at the Orlando World Center Marriott. Since it’s the 25 year anniversary they’re upping the stakes by having Food Network‘s Melissa d’Arabian, join the event. If you’re anything like me this is awesome news, I love Melissa’s shows on the Food Network & Cooking TV, I’m really looking forward to seeing her in person (plus she’s an Alpha Chi & well, I’m biased. Always an AXO)! I would also love to see you in person, lucky for all of us that can happen at a discount this week! Taste of the Nation Orlando is running its final discount code. So if you’re in the area (or want a great excuse to come to town) & you’d like to support an incredible cause, this is the time to get your tickets. Just use the discount code below.

orlando taste discount code

If you’re not entirely convinced yet I’m going to seduce you with restaurants.  Check out who’s coming:

Bahama Breeze
BB Kings Blues Club
Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine
Cafe Tu Tu Tango
Capa at Four Seasons Resort Orlando
The Capital Grille
Captain’s Grille @ Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
Cress Restaurant
Crimson Tavern at Orlando Airport Marriott
Cuisiniers Catering
Eddie V’s Prime Seafood
Emeril’s Orlando
Emeril’s Tchoup Chop
Empress Sissi Cake & Pastry Specialties
FreshPoint
Journeys Catering
JW Marriott Orlando – Grande Lakes
K Restaurant and Wine Bar
Kobe Japanese Steakhouse
LongHorn Steakhouse
Marlow’s Tavern
Pirate Chefs of Central Florida sponsored by Nestlé Professional
Orlando World Center Marriott
Red Wing Restaurant
Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld
SeaWorld Orlando
Second Harvest Food Bank Culinary Training Program
Soco Southern Contemporary Cuisine
Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, A Land Remembered Restaurant
Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, Cala Bella Restaurant
Sushi Pop Restaurant
Taverna Opa
Three2OH
T-Rex Orlando at Downtown Disney

Are you drooling already? I sure am! Get your tickets today & help end hunger in Central Florida…& come hang out with me. Promise it’ll be the best of times!

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Adzuki Bean Soup.

July 9, 2014 by Carolina

adzuki bean soup

I recently discovered adzuki beans & it was love at first taste! Have you ever had adzuki beans? They are some of the most nutritious beans in the market, full of protein, fiber, minerals & vitamins. Though it’s really hot in Central Florida right now it’s been raining almost every day & to me nothing is better than soup on a rainy day. Don’t you agree? This adzuki bean soup is perfect for a night in & very tasty, I have a feeling you’re going to love this recipe. I recommend you buy dry adzuki beans & soak them, for this or any bean recipe, you’ll notice the difference in the taste immediately! Plus, you’ll feel better about avoid any preservatives that may be in canned beans. It’s a little extra work but trust me, well worth it!

Ingredients (makes 5 – 6 servings)

2 tablespoons coconut oil, separated

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

2 cups squash, peeled & chopped

1 3/4 cups adzuki beans, soaked overnight & rinsed

4 cups vegetable stock

5 cups water

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

2 cups kale, chopped

Himalayan salt, to taste

Lemon juice, to taste

Wash the adzuki beans & soak overnight. In a pan, heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil & add the turmeric, saute for a few seconds before adding the onions, squash & beans. Mix completely then add the vegetable stock & water, bring it to a boil. Cover, lower the heat & simmer for 30 – 40 minutes until beans are soft.

In another pan, heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Add the garlic & kale, saute for a couple of minutes until kale begins to wilt. Remove from heat, mix into the beans & fully incorporate. Taste, add salt accordingly.

Serve warm with a squeeze of lemon juice on top. Then let me know how much you love this soup. Buen provecho!

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Cauliflower Curry.

July 7, 2014 by Carolina

cauliflower curry

Who doesn’t love a good curry? I’m a sucker for Indian food & one of my all-time favorite dishes to enjoy is curry. I typically like curry with potatoes & peas but since I’m trying to follow more ayurveda guidelines for my dosha (post on this coming soon) I made curry with cauliflower instead — it turned out great! This dish was super easy to make, full of Indian spices & deliciousness. Plus, it’s vegan, gluten free & very nutritious. Are you ready to make this curry tonight? Let’s get cooking!

Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon ginger powder

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon tumeric powder

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 head cauliflower

Splash of cashew milk

Splash of water

In a large pan, over high heat, heat coconut oil & stir in the cumin, ginger, curry & tumeric powders, heating through until fragant. Add the cauliflower, splash of cashew milk (you can use coconut milk if you like it richer) & a splash of water, cover the pan & lower the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes or so, until cauliflower is tender. Remove from heat & enjoy over a bed of brown jasmine rice or all on its own. Buen provecho!

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Yoga in the Galleries.

June 30, 2014 by Carolina

OMA

What do you get when you take an art museum and infuse yoga classes in it? Yoga in the Galleries & a whole lot cooler — Orlando is stepping up! In partnership with College Park Yoga, the Orlando Art Museum is going to begin offering monthly (ish) classes in the gallery. I attended last week’s second monthly installment (read Erica’s take on the first) & really enjoyed the experience. A $10 admission fee got me into the museum & the option to take two yoga classes back to back.

Yoga at OMA

The setting couldn’t be more beautiful, practicing yoga surrounded by beautiful art is not too shabby. I loved having the ability to check out some of the artists on display before yoga & experiencing some of the interactive displays the museum holds. The yoga instruction was hands on & beginner friendly, making this event great for anyone who is yoga curious. This event is also a great way to check out College Park Yoga‘s instructors & if you’re a fan. Though it is not my home studio, I have several friends who swear by it & sing praises about it. If you aren’t ready to commit to the studio but want to see how a class would be this is a good event to check out as well.

For me, this was a great event to go to with girlfriends & enjoy a beautiful night among art. As another yoga challenge grows near (more to come on that later), Yoga in the Galleries was the perfect way to get motivated for the feat. I’m all fired up & ready to go!

If you’re in the Orlando area make sure to check out the next Yoga in the Galleries, you’ll have a lot of fun!

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