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I had an incredible opportunity to go to the McCormick Gourmet Kitchens last week with some other wonderful bloggers:  Jaden of Steamy Kitchen, Shauna of Gluten Free Girl and Nicole of Pinch My Salt.  I am really excited to work with these talented women and McCormick Gourmet.

We all met for dinner where the Chef mixed up some drinks and prepared a gorgeous dinner.  After not eating all day from traveling this was quite the treat.  I snapped some photos of our time with McCormick Gourmet, take a look :)

When we arrived to the McCormick Kitchens we were greeted by the lovely McCormick staff.  Chef Len fed us some delicious appetizers.  Tale a look below :)

Here is our menu for the evening.

Curried Chicken and Mushroom Spring Rolls.  INCREDIBLE!  Will definitely be making these again.

Marinated Shrimp with Mango and Radishes.  Perfect little appetizer.

Dirty Martini Steak Kabobs and Salad.  What a creative recipe for kabobs, full of flavor.  Loved these.

Sweet and Smoky “Pork and Beans.” I think we all had a few helpings of this one :)

Cheesecake Tart with Popcorn Crust and Berries.  This cheesecake caused quite the uproar, not kidding.  The flavor combinations here are unreal.  This will be made at my house very soon.

The next morning, we met for breakfast and enjoyed:  Tomato Zucchini Frittata, Cinnamon Apple Nut Muffins, Pepita Pumpkin Bread.

How good does this look?!

…and this?

This was one of my favorite parts of the trip…..along with the incredible meals, but learning about the history of the McCormick Spices was so fascinating.  Made me appreciate what goes into each jar I see at the store.

We also got to sample and smell a variety of spices.  The vanilla test was the most interesting.  If you’ve ever doubted buying pure vanilla….don’t.  It wasn’t even a comparison when sampled side by side.

Later in the day, we each whipped up 2 simple recipes that used a regular spice and then a roasted spice to sample and see the difference in taste.  I had a creamy cinnamon dip that I wanted to bottle up and eat with a spoon.  It was delicious!

Making my dip!

The other ladies Jaden, a sweet McCormick rep, Shauna and Nicole making their recipes :)

It was time for lunch and talk about a feast.  This salmon was one of the best salmon I have ever had.  Will be making it for my family. Smoked Paprika Roasted Salmon

Will be making these too! Harvest Vegetables with Roasted Ginger & Cumin

This was another recipe that we couldn’t stop eating, so delicious and I think it was unanimous that we will all be making these ribs! Chipotle Cinnamon Baby Back Ribs

As if we hadn’t had enough food, we ended our meal with these cute “cup” cakes with a bite.  Loved the heat that came through with each bite . Mexican Hot Chocolate “Cup” Cakes

Giveaway: An assortment of McCormick Spices with Spice Rack

3 winners!

CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED, Winners have been emailed :)

Here’s How To Enter:

1.  Leave a comment and tell us, what are your favorite McCormick Spices?

2.  For extra entries, Follow Picky Palate on Twitter, RSS Feed and Like us on Facebook.  Leave 3 separate comments for this.

3.  Contest ends Monday January 24th 8pm PST.  Winners will be chosen by and will be notified by email.  Giveaway provided by McCormick Gourmet.

*Spices will not be exactly as pictured in Photo :)

Good Luck!

*Disclaimer:  I have been hired to
work with McCormick Gourmet as part
of their McCormick Real Gourmet
Program and am being compensated
however the thoughts are my very
own :)

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What can I say, Amanda and I were at it again…..hunting down the best bakeries in the city.  The city of choice this time was San Diego.  Lucky for me, San Diego is only about an hour away so I drove up to meet Amanda where we started our day at one of the best cupcake shops I have been to, no lie!  It is called Elizabethan Desserts Bakery.  It is tucked inside a quaint nursery and flower shop that is flat out adorable.

Get a load of these gorgeous mini cupcakes!  We couldn’t resist so we ordered one of every kind.  Can you blame us?  With names such as Bees Knees, Chocolate Toffee and Monkey Business we were drooling at the counter.

More shots of cupcake goodness :)

Isn’t the rose one adorable?!  It is called “Plain Jane.”  The red velvet with cream cheese frosting to the left was one of my favorites hands down.

The Mustachio is so darn cute we were afraid to cut into his mustache.  The Pistachio butter cream was killer!

This is the “Black Beauty”  It really was the most photogenic one, pretty tasty too.

The Ho Daddy Chocolate was the first one we cut into and it could quite possibly be the best chocolate cupcake I’ve had.

After a full belly of cupcakes we decided to walk off a couple calories in the flower shop where the sweet owner took some photos of us.

We needed MORE walking so we walked around La Jolla Beach which was perfectly beachy :)

After the beach, we went to this great lunch/gelato spot called Pappalecco.  My sandwich was so good I am tempted to make a drive back out to San Diego very soon!

Here’s Amanda’s Pizza :)  YUM!

Later in the afternoon we went in to the very fancy “Extraordinary” Desserts.

Get a load of these gorgeous desserts!  We spent a very long time photographing their beauty,  that was worth the pretty pricetag of these desserts :)

The Dulce de Leche Cake…it was featured on Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate.  It was my favorite of all of our choices.

Amanda ordered this lovely Strawberry Shortcake.  Gorgeous huh?

The Pots de Creme was so photogenic but if I am being honest, was just so so :(

I am a Creme Brulee fanatic, I try it about everywhere I go that offers and this one gets a 6 out of 10.  Pretty, creamy but lacked something I can’t quite put my finger on.

LOVED watching these little birds finish up what was left on the table in front of us.  They are no dummies!

Last on our list was Babycakes.  An adorable little eatery/bakery with lots to offer.  I HAD to take my order home otherwise I may have busted at the seams but my boys and husband devoured these, so I am assuming they were killer!

They are quite lovely aren’t they?  See all of their Gourmet Cupcake selections on their website :)

Cute little box to go.  Thanks for peeking into our day of indulgence!

Be sure to take a peek at Amanda’s post of our trip too :)

It’s always a blast when Amanda and I get together, LOVE it.  Stay tuned for more sweet traveling :)

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photo from google

What a great day yesterday was at the Dole Event.  My buddy Marla from Family Fresh Cooking and I were picked up by a driver at the crack of dawn and headed out to The Four Season’s Westlake Village.   I want to take my family back to this hotel, it was gorgeous!

both hotel photos from google

We started our morning with a “Breakfast for Performance” Demo and enjoyed a delicious and healthy meal :)

Mmmm, I am not  a cottage cheese fan usually, but take a look at that trifle.

My blogging buddies digging in :)

One of the highlights of my trip was meeting my beautiful friend Susan from “She’s Becoming Doughmestic.”  I LOVE her to pieces and wish she lived next door.  We need to be baking neighbors :)

Doesn’t get much better than spending time at a beautiful place with some of your best buds :)  Love all of these ladies. Photo:  Marla, Rachael, Me, Amanda, Susan and Maria.

Here we are at our Welcome Presentation where we learned about “The Wellness World of Dole” and listened to a keynote panel discussion on “The Latest Food, Nutrition and Wellness Trends.”  Great information here.  I was reminded…..Eat more fruits and Veggies Jen!  I need that reminder often :)

On our way to some product demo’s.  Had to snap a picture of this gorgeous chandelier :)

It was time to get our sampling on.  Think a great day at costco but even better :)  We had these delicious jello fruit cups and baked bananas.

Got to nibble on all the lastest Dole goodies and lots of salad.

A little chat time before getting the grand tour of the Dole Offices.  We’ve got Amanda, Ann Marie, Jennifer and Maria here :)

The Dole offices are beautiful, get a load of this centerpiece I wanted to stick in my bag for home.

Love this!

Checking out the Dole kitchen area.  Right photo:  Marla, Rachael, Ann-Marie and Sandy

We enjoyed lunch at the Dole Cafeteria where their staff gets daily healthy menu items to choose from.  If that’s not cool enough they get to eat outside by this gorgeous waterfall.  I could get used to that :)

Heading to get my facial and Nutrition Consultation….had to stop and smell the roses.  Ok, I am a geek.

photo from google

Another highlight of my day was enjoying one of the best facials I have ever had.  It was a dream.

Now, time to get ready for dinner.

Shaina from “Food For My Family”  gets the “You are Awesome” Award.  She was a rockstar on our team that had to prepare an entree with salmon, lentils, cranberries and spinach.  It turned out beautiful.  Thanks Shaina!!

Judges….our dish won for taste, but lacked “presentation.”  Lol!  Oh well :)

I happen to think it looks delish!

Overall, this was a whirlwind day packed with great information and lots of salad.  I repeat, lots of salad.  Loved every minute of it!  Thank you Dole for putting on a beautiful event!

Here are the wonderful ladies I spent the day with:

o   Shaina Olmanson (Food for My Family), @FoodforMyFamily

o   Jennifer Leal (Savoring the Thyme), @SavorTheThyme

o   Brooke McClay (Cheeky Kitchen), @CheekyKitchen

o   Kathy Patalsky (The Lunchbox Bunch), @lunchboxbunch

o   Anne-Marie Nichols (This Mama Cooks!), @amnichols

o   Katie Goodman (Good Life Eats), @GoodLifeEats

o   Sandy Coughlin (Reluctant Entertainer), @SandyCoughlinRE

o   Anne Petraeus (Fannetastic Food), @fANNEtasticfood

o   Maria Lichty (Two Peas and Their Pod), @TwoPeasandPod

o   Jenny Flake (Picky Palate), @PickyPalate

o   Marla Meridith (Family Fresh Cooking), @MarlaMeridith

o   Gena Hamshaw (Choosing Raw), @choosingraw

o   Shanna Coady (My Favorite Everything), @MyFavEverything

o   Amanda Bottoms (Kevin and Amanda), @kevinandamanda

o   Lorin Falcon (A Cowboy’s Wife), @acowboyswife

o   Amanda Acuna (Mommy Mandy), @mommymandy

o   Susan Whetzel (She’s Becoming DoughMessTic), @doughmesstic

o   Rachael Hutchings (La Fuji Mama) @LaFujiMama

*Discolsure:  Dole paid for all  expenses relating to the Dole Blogger Summit, including transportation, accommodations, meals and spa treatments.

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What a fun few days I had in Des Moines last week for the Better Home’s and Garden Cook-Off in their official test kitchens.  I was there with 5 other bloggers who were so much fun to spend time with.  Take a peek below and see what we were up to :)

Here are my fellow competitors Left:  Dan from Consumer Queen/King, Amy from Mom Advice, Kate and Sara from Our Best Bites, Aly from She Knows and me :)  By far some of the best parts of these trips is getting to know other bloggers, such a great group of people here!

Our afternoon started with a quick tour of the test kitchens to make sure we had all of our grocery items for the cook-off, this place was so beautiful!

All of the books in their library were covered in parchment paper.  Looked so cool!

That night we were off to dinner at D’Jango.  No doubt about it, all the menu items were rich and fabulous!

Here was my stuffed chicken breast with blue cheese and mushrooms and a bunch of other yummy things.

Did someone say dessert?  Lol!  Kate, Sara and I pigged out and shared 3 different desserts.  Yes, they were incredible!

Creme’ Brulee….was heavenly

Chocolate Pot de’ Creme….so sinful!  We had one more not pictured, I believe it was a chocolate raspberry cake.

Having way too much fun devouring our desserts :)

The next morning we were back at the Test Kitchens for breakfast, prep time then the big cook-off.  Here is Amy, Sara, Kate and me right before Breakfast :)

Breakfast was delish, all of the recipes were from the new Better Homes and Garden Cookbook.

Cute Katie in the red plaid, a judge for the cook-off joined us for breakfast.  She is a food editor for the BH&G website.

Here are our official aprons, fun!

Time to get any prep work done, here is a peek at one side of my kitchen space for the day.

….and here’s the other side.  Lots of great space to work in.

Back for more food….lunch time.  Not sure if we got enough food this trip :)

Macaroon brownies…to die for!

After lunch we got right to work for the cook-off.  We had about 3 hours, plenty of time.

My spaghetti pies couldn’t have been cuter!  They turned out exactly how I wanted them too and the judges loved them.  Phew!

Here’s Aly, hard at work on her Fish Tacos :)

The Best Bite Girls taking a soda break :)

The judges were really complimentary to each of us, probably the most relaxed cook-off I’ve ever been to.  Kind of refreshing :)  Nice big group shot with the judges and PR peeps.

After our cook-off was over, we got the grand tour of the rest of the building.  We started down stairs to their prop room.  This place was HUGE….and so many goodies to choose from.  This was one of their stylists passing through.

We were all drooling over all of the cool dishes to choose from.  Fun room.

The tour continued and these guys were shooting for an upcoming magazine page.

We also walked through the kitchen/photo studio where they shot their food.  They let us snap pics of their recipe that will be in an upcoming issue.  How pretty!  Wish I had that set up in my kitchen :)

Cool decor in one of the main offices downstairs at BH&G, so colorful and festive :)

Snooping around the offices :)

Our last day, we got to walk through the actual gardens at BH&G.  This was a great way to end our visit.  So beautiful!

This little guy was my favorite, hanging out in the garden sunshine!  How cute :)

Thanks for sharing my time at BH&G!  Was such a great time meeting everyone and spending time in Des Moines :)

The winner from the cook-off is decided by votes only, not our recipes over at the BH&G page.  A few more days left to enter, looks like Our Best Bites will take this one, Congrats ladies!!  xoxo

Thanks to all of you Picky Palate readers who voted faithfully.  Love you guys!!  We’ve got 4 more sets of cookware to give away and some cookbooks coming soon, stay tuned.  In the meantime, there are 2 days left to enter the 6 sets of cookware giveaway HERE.  Good Luck!

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What a whirlwind that past weekend has been!  Just got back from an incredible weekend in San Francisco for the BlogHer Food Conference.  Talk about foodies everywhere, it was awesome.

I feel like I say this all the time, but the food blogging community is truly one of a kind.  They are the most genuine and kindest people.  Really.  It was great to be surrounded by the  bloggers we all look up to…The beautiful Ree, The Pioneer Woman, gorgeous Jaden from Steamy Kitchen, the incredible White on Rice Couple, Helen from Tartelette, Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes and so many more.

I really enjoyed listening to  the sessions but I must say my favorite part of the trip is chatting/networking with my fellow blogging friends.  It’s so great to put faces to names we see all the time on Twitter/Facebook.  Love my buddies I stayed with….Shanna, Marla and Amanda.  My trip wouldn’t have been the same without them!

We all had different experiences this past weekend, but here’s a glimpse at how I spent it :)  All 62 pictues, sheesh Jen!

Day one was crazy!  Check in, breakfast and chit chat filled the room.

My first session was with the White On Rice Couple.  I LOVE hearing their discussions on photography.  What talented beautiful people they are.

Fun cookbook library to browse through.

photo via Italian Dish

Me and Lori from Recipe Girl.  LOVE you Lori!!

The conference was held at the Intercontinetal.  After the morning session, we bolted out to lunch.

We went to “Out The Door” at the mall.  REALLY good :)

Love this picture of Lori and Amanda.  Love these ladies!

Some of our menu items.

photo via Amanda

….and more :)

A bit of a rewind here.  Thursday night we were off to a few fun events starting off at Ghiradelli Square to meet the Deen Brothers.

This was the cutest little pink shop, too cute not to take a picture of :)

This is where we met the “bro’s”

Here they are chatting with Kristen from Dine and Dish

All lined up for cookbook signing and pics.

photo via Amanda

Had to do it :)

photo via Amanda

After the Deen Brothers, we went to the Underwriter’s Laboratory Event.  We did a little Iron Chef competition.

photo via Amanda

Maria from Two Peas and Their Pod and I :)

Maggy and Amanda, love these ladies!

photo via Maria

Here we are at the la Petite Soiree Party Friday night, it was a blast!

Saturday morning, Amanda and I knew we were going to sight see around San Fran…or I should say bakery hop!

First stop was Dynamo Donuts that was featured on Food Network’s The Best thing I ever ate.  Talk about heaven sent.  They were incredible!

This maple bacon donut is their famous one.  It was really good.

This was my favorite….the caramelized banana stuffed one.  Delish!

This pumpkin chocolate chip was a close tie for second with that maple bacon :)

We ate….a lot of donuts.  Luckily just a couple bites of each :)

Next stop was Fisherman’s Wharf.  LOVE it here.  Lots happening in this area.

Pier 39 was such a treat.  Gorgeous!

How cute are the sea lions?  I could watch them all day!

Boudin Bakery/Cafe was so cool.  Take a look at the Alligator sourdough?  Love it!

These ones hanging from the ceiling were adorable.  I need this in my house!

Lunch time!  Amanda and I got a little soup bowl w salad.  How good does my crab and corn chowder look?

Tartine Bakery was next on our list.  Beautiful very classic desserts.  This was the Tres Leche cake.

Chocolate Hazelnut Tart and a shortbread cookie.  We truly only had a few bites!

Next we went searching for Bi-Rite Creamery but first stumbled across the market.  How gorgeous are these flowers?

Love these colors!

Found it across the street :)

Gaby and Maria were talking about this salted caramel ice cream and I knew I had to have it.  Was absolutely worth the wait!

Later Saturday night we met up with everyone for the closing party that The Pioneer Woman, Steamy Kitchen and Simply Recipes threw.  This was such a fun night.  Great food, great company.  It couldn’t have been better.

My buddy Amanda and I.  Love her!

Fun appetizers :)


More bacon goodness!

The photo booth at the party was so much fun!  Here are my So Cal ladies!  Amanda and Lori at the top, Marla, me and Kathy at the bottom.  LOVE my sistas!

…and one more :)

Love this one too!  Think we had way too much fun w the photo booth!  Lol!

Ok, we are ridiculous now!

Soooo happy I got to see Angie of Bakerella Saturday night.  Wish we were in the same town, I just love her!

On our way to the airport.  Had a blast rooming with you Amanda!  Until we meet again…..better be soon!

This is my favorite.  Amanda, me and Marla on the right, my fellow OC buddy.  Love her to pieces too :)


Loved every minute of BlogHer Food!  So glad I was able to go :)

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We had a great time with our family visiting from AZ over Labor Day weekend.  We hit up Newport Beach and Crystal Cove….2 of our absolute favorites!  Here are some of my favorite shots of the weekend :)

It was totally overcast at Newport Beach, but the kids still had fun!

Jane’s Corndog’s is a must at Newport Beach!

Crystal Cove Beach is so beautiful.  LOVE it!

Thanks for stopping by :)  See you soon!

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I knew one of the things on my “absolutely do” list in NYC was Levain Bakery.  When I was in NY a couple years ago, I never made it there and I told myself this time I am going for sure!

Levain Bakery was on Food Network’s Throwdown with Bobby Flay and  the second I saw those beautiful gigantic cookies, I just knew I had to go!

Amanda and I had our big cameras ready to go and ordered one of every beautiful cookie they had.  Not even kidding, these were the best cookies I have ever had, by a mile.

Sitting out front of the bakery and a shot of the display case, mmmm!

Ok, starting up at the top left we have the Dark Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chip Walnut, Oatmeal Raisin and my absolute favorite…Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip :)

Does it get any better than a tower of Levain Cookies?  Seriously!

No joke, Amanda and I were taking photos of these cookies for a good 45 minutes.  People probably thought we were nuts!  Lol.

The ooey gooey inside of the Chocolate Chip Walnut

Hands down this Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookie was the best cookie on the face of the planet.  I might just have to order some through the mail :)

This Dark Chocolate Chip was a very close 2nd place.  Heaven!

Loved this Oatmeal Raisin too!

Thank You Levain Bakery for making my NYC trip so sweet.  I am beyond thrilled I was able to FINALLY get to taste your cookies.  Will definitely be back….in the meantime I’ll be placing my order for cookie in the mail today :)  xoxo

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All I can say is….”Wow” about this trip that Unilever took me on.  First the awesome hotel room, then we got our feet massaged, hair done, fed and so many other fun things?  I feel so lucky to have been invited to such an amazing event.  THANK YOU.

On 3 separate occasions Amanda and I had the opportunity to go up to the Penthouse Suite where Unilever turned it into a Culinary and Pampering getaway.  It really was beautiful.  Bloggers from the BlogHer Conference were invited to pop in to enjoy the treatment as well. Pictured above was the “foot massage” room.  None of us wanted to get up after our 5 minutes!  It was awesome especially after walking all over NY :)

This was some of the goodies over in the Culinary part of the Penthouse.  For breakfast we had muffins and scones then for dinner we had PF Changs new home menu along with Ragu pictured below and so many other tasty dishes.  Photo by Ragu team.

Another room of the Penthouse was set up with baskets of  flip flops, craft decorations and glue guns.  I got right to work on my own design.

Cute huh?  Love my yellow flippies :)

Here was another room where there were 2 little salon stations set up to get our hair done.  Amanda and I were so excited for this :)

Tada….here we are right after our “hair” appointment.  Loved the girl who did my hair, she was so great.

Saturday morning Amanda and I went to the BlogHer Expo and had so much fun.  Can you believe I met Padma from Top Chef?  I was so nervous to talk to her so Amanda ran over to her and asked if we could take a picture with her.  I would have never had the nerve to do it.  So glad she did, I am a huge Top Chef fan.

Adam Gertler from Next Food Network Star was also at the expo, he was really nice.  Had a great morning chatting with all the sponsors at the expo.  Even got a photo with a Milk Mustache at the Got Milk? booth :)

Also got to meet Marmaduke the dog!  He was the cutest ever :)

This was a kitchen set where they were filming for the Rachael Ray Show….never saw Rachael, but kept hearing about it :)

Ahhh, my long lost buddy the Dough Boy!  It was so great to see my Pillsbury friends I have worked with on Picky Palate.  Love them all :)

At the Pillsbury booth, they asked us to do some video for them for about baking tips, etc.

Later Saturday night Amanda and I went back to the Hilton to pick up a book and lo and behold Ree….The Pioneer Woman walked through the doors.  I immediately saw her and had to chat for a second.  I just love her, she is as beautiful and sweet as you picture her to be.  So glad I finally got to meet her even for a second :)

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Jenny Flake

Welcome to Picky Palate, my online kitchen! You'll usually find me with a cookie in one hand and a salad in the other. It's all about the balance :) The recipes you'll see are my creations. The Picky Palate Cookbook is now available. Enjoy!





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