Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Irish Stew

This is my first time making Irish Stew and my first time ever buying parsnips, tapioca, and lamb, the meat that's in most Irish stew recipes I found. I looked at quite a few recipes and there wasn't too much difference between them. There were a few variations in vegetables, spices, broths, and broth thickeners used. I didn't go with any one specific recipe. I took some of the ingredients from three different recipes and made my own, altering some of the amounts a bit.

1.5 lbs of boneless lamb, cubed
2 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 Parsnip, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/4 C instant tapioca
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp dried thyme
2 C water
2 C beef broth

Brown cubed lamb in large skillet with hot oil and drain well.

Combine remaining ingredients in 3.5 to 4.5 quart Crock Pot

Stir in browned lamb, broth, and water

Cover. Cook on LO for 10-12 hours or on HI for 5-6 hours.

If you'd like a thicker broth, drain out 1.5 cups of broth and let it cool. Mix it with 3-4 tablespoons of flour or tapioca. Boil in a saucepan until it thickens. Add to stew and serve.

Irish Stew Prep

Irish Stew in the CrockPot

Is on Getty Images

I was sent an invitation through Flickr to start selling images with Getty. I have had a few images for sale on Alamy for a while but not much has come of that. I haven't really been very active on there either. They weren't accepting many of my images so it was a little frustrating. Since Getty has a partnership with Flickr it makes submitting images much easier.

I saw this blog post on the Flickr blog back in November stating Getty had a pool where you can submit photos to be considered as a contributer. Almost 2 months later I got the invite and they had selected 15 of my photos in my Flickr stream that they thought would make good stock photos. I don't know that I would agree with their selection on some of them though. They ended up not choosing any of the photos that I had submitted to the initial pool but the pics must have caught their eye since they went through my stream and chose others. Some of the photos they chose were from 2007 and really not as good as what I have posted in the last two years.

I have to fill out model and property releases for any photos that have recognizable people or buildings in them, even for self portraits. They are a bit of a pain to fill out and it will be a chore to get releases signed. I currently have 12 photos up for sale which is already more than I have on Alamy. I'm hoping the sales will be better too. I may pull my images off of Alamy and send some of those to Getty instead.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cookie Baking

Almost every year I make a batch of spritz cookies. I have been using Betty Crocker's Ultimate Spritz recipe. I usually separate the dough a few times and add different food colorings. I even added a little cocoa powder to some one year and they turned out pretty good. Mom used to make them every year when I was a kid too. It was fun making them then and still have fun making them now. I always have a hard time choosing which templates to use. I'm tempted to make two batches so I can make a few of each one, but never do.

I bought fresh cranberries this year for the first time and they were actually quite tasty. I made cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. I decided to buy another bag of cranberries and try some more recipes with them. I found a recipe for cranberry scones that sounded good and got good reviews on They weren't kidding, the dough is very sticky. I had never made scones before so wasn't sure what to expect. The recipe says to just dump the dough out on a floured surface and cut out circles using the top of a jar or a biscuit cutter. Not having a biscuit cutter, I used a jar. The recipe didn't really say anything about spreading out the dough or how thick it should be. So I had to guess on that. I just spread it out until it was about a half inch tall and then started cutting out circles. They turned out looking more like cookes than scones but that's ok. They taste like scones and they were nice and small. I still have a half a bag of cranberries left and trying to decide what else to make with them. I wonder how cranberry pancakes would turn out.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Food Photography Workshop: Penny De Los Santos

This is my second food specific photography workshop, the first being with Lou Manna as blogged a couple of months ago. This is the first year I've really heard anything about food photography workshops in the area and we've had 2 in the last half of the year. I don't know if they've always been around and I just never heard about them or if this is a new thing that's going around. In any case I'm excited about learning more about photographing food.

Since this was only my second one, I found myself comparing Penny to Lou a lot and found they do things almost totally opposite each other. Here are a few of the differences I noticed. Penny uses natural light, Lou likes to shoot in studios with lights. Penny hand holds her camera, Lou uses a tripod. Penny uses auto white balance, Lou uses custom white balance. Penny likes to step back and get all the food in the shot, Lou likes to get in close. Penny doesn't alter food to make it inedible, Lou adds inedible things to food to make it look pretty. Penny and Lou are both very successful food photographers. It just goes to show you there is no one right way to do things and there are lots of different styles out there. I think it's great to hear from two people with completely different styles, it makes you see things differently. I see my style being closer to Penny's, but I do like to use lighting equipment if I'm at home and I sometimes like to get close-ups, but I like to eat my food after I take a picture of it.

I got to Springhill in West Seattle right about on time at 10:00 AM and saw Robyn as I was parking so we walked in together. The place was already packed with people. There was coffee, tea, and mini Trophy Cupcakes, my favorite cupcakes in Seattle. I recognized a couple of other people that I had met before at Lou Manna's workshops and Brenda, who I know from the Seattle Flickr Meetup group was there too.

I really liked the layout of this workshop. It began with a fairly short slide show presentation with some samples of Penny's work along with some photography tips. The very first thing I noticed about Penny's work is that she likes to get shots of the food from directly on top. I noticed it right away because it's not something I usually do. In fact I don't think there's a single food photo on my Flickr stream taken from that angle. The majority of my shots are taken at a 45 degree angle. I just thought food wouldn't look right from that angle because you don't really get the depth. But Penny's shots looked really good from that angle. We had several "assignments" throughout the workshop.

Assignment #1: Angles
We were to shoot a bowl of butter leaf lettuce salad shooting it in 3 different angles. Straight on, 45 degree angle, and from above. We broke out into 6 teams of 5 and each team got a salad and we took turns shooting it from all different angles. Here's my favs from each. It was no surprise to me that I liked the 45 degree angle shot the best out of the ones I took, but I haven't given up on the overhead shots, I will keep trying to get some good ones. After shooting, everyone rushed back to their seats to enjoy their salads with the rest of their team and loaded their pics onto their laptops to hand to Penny to view on the screen. Unfortunately our teams' salad disappeared so we didn't get to try it. My computer is old and dog slow and I didn't bring a thumb drive so didn't have time to get any pics to her. I am seriously considering getting a Mac Book next year. Out of 30 people I think only 8 or so got to her after each assignment. That's probably a good thing because we were pretty short on time. Not only did she critique them but she let people in the class also comment on them.
salad triptych

Assignment #2: Controlling light
Penny only uses natural light so there was no talk about using on or off camera flashes. Instead she talked about different ways to control natural light using diffusers to soften harsh light and reflectors to bounce light to brighten up shadows. Brenda brought some of her small round diffusers and reflectors. For some reason I totally forgot to bring mine. I just have one fairly large one but could use some of those small ones. I wouldn't want to bring mine into a restaurant but the small ones that you can buy would be perfect. Brenda shared hers with everyone and Penny also brought some for people to use as well. Several dishes were set out for us to shoot. This time there was quite a variety of things to shoot oysters, clams, scallops, tartare, foie gras, ravioli, and toast. At this point the groups pretty much split up and everyone scattered around. Some people went outside and diffused the harsh sun light and others stayed inside and did a combination of reflecting and diffusing the light coming into the large windows of Springhill. This time I tried to get done shooting in time to get a few pics to Penny. I borrowed Brenda's thumb drive and was trying to put some pics on it but the crap laptop was taking forever to just to install the thumbnail device that I didn't get a chance to put any pics on it. grrr. I also missed out on eating any of the food that we shot because I was too busy trying to get pics ready. grr! I did however get a couple of nice shots from above during this assignment!
Shootin Outside
Duck Ravioli Oysters on the Rocks

Assignment #3: Editing the Food
In this assignment we were asked to take photos of the food using props like silverware, napkins, cups, etc. At this time we were also able to watch the chefs plate the food we were going to shoot. I think I spent more time shooting the plating than the actual food. This time I didn't rush trying to get my shots on the computer. I was hungry not having eaten breakfast and only eating a mini cupcake all day and didn't want to miss out on getting food this time. I managed to get a morsel of beef and duck before it disapeared. You got to be quick cuz once people start eating off the plates the food goes fast. The trout plate was my favorite to shoot. It was beautifully presented.
Plating Trout Pan Fried Rainbow Trout

This concluded the workshop, which actually went about an hour longer than scheduled. I learned a lot and I'm sure my food photography will improve as a result. The biggest thing I took away from the class was to shoot different angles, even if you don't want to. You may be surprised at the results. I know I will shoot more from on top of the food. It probably won't become my favorite angle to shoot from, but it will be included in my shooting angles from now on.

Many thanks to all that helped put this together and look forward to more events like this in the future.
organizer: Seattle Bon Vivant
photographer: Penny De Los Santos
food prep: Chef Mark Fuller and staff at Springhill restaurant
cupcakes: Trophy Cupcakes
coffee: Victrola Coffee
projector/screen: Glazer's Camera

Also a big thanks to Twitter! Without it, this workshop would not have happened.

If you want to check out more of my photos from the workshop, you can find them in a set on Flickr.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Chicken Posole

This post is well over due. This is a dish mom used to make and I've never tried making it myself until now.

A lot of recipes call for canned hominy rather than getting the dried kind but mom always used dry so that's how I made mine. You can usually find it in the Mexican section of the grocery store. You can used canned though I don't think I've had it. I have heard that the canned hominy has a waxy texture and doesn't taste as good. Using dried hominy takes longer because it requires you to soak it in water overnight much like you would with beans.

1 pkg dried hominy, soaked overnight
1 pkg dried ancho chiles (3-4 chiles)
3 tbsp chile powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves minced
3 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
2 quarts chicken broth
2 tbsp olive oil
cilantro to garnish
salt & pepper

1. Drain posole and put in large stock pot. Add chicken broth, chopped onion, minced garlic. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 3.5 hours, stirring occasionally.

2. While posole is simmering, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts, and cook until no longer pink and juices run clear, about 20 minutes. Remove from skillet, drain, and cool. When completely cooled, shred chicken with a fork and set aside.

3. While posole is simmering, soak chilies in hot water for 1 hour. Remove stems and seeds. Puree with a couple of tablespoons of the water to puree.

4. After posole has been simmering for 3.5 hours, add shredded chicken, chile powder, cayenne pepper, and cumin. Add more water or chicken broth if needed.

5. Push the ancho chile puree through a strainer into the pot.
Chicken Posole Stages
The color of the broth will change several colors throughout the process.

6. Add salt & pepper to taste and stir occasionally as it simmers for 1 hour.

7. I like to garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with tortilla chips or corn tortilla quesadillas.

Chicken Posole Served