Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

It's the last day of 2012 and I have much to be thankful for. It's been a busy year with lots of accomplishments and opportunities that I'd like to highlight for this end of year post.

I don't usually do new years resolutions but I kind of have one this year.  I've decided I need to be better prepared to defend myself should something bad happen whether it's a home invasion or an apocalypse.  There's been a lot of talk about gun banning lately. I really don't think that will solve the problems we're facing and only make them worse, but I won't get into that here.  I've decided the best way to protect myself would be to purchase a handgun.  This isn't something I take lightly or am rushing into.  I've signed up for a women's handgun safety class in January with Insights Training and will be trying out many different guns before making a decision on which one to purchase.  Mark has taken me out to try his handgun collection of 9mm and .22's so I've got my first shooting experience at least.

After many years of shooting with an Olympus DSLR camera system, I've sold nearly all of it as I've switched to an Olympus micro four thirds (mirrorless) system. I take the Olympus OMD EM5 with me wherever I go and have really enjoyed shooting with it and building up my lens collection. It was with a mirrorless Olympus camera that I captured photos that grace the front and back covers of a book by Ned Vizzini called The Other Normals.

2012 was my 3rd year with Getty. Each year I sell more and more photos even though it has become more difficult to get photos submitted due to changes they've made in their processes.  I currently have 244 photos available for licensing.

I haven't been as active in the photo meetup group community this year, only making it to four photostrolls.  I hope to go on more in 2013 and go on more hikes too.  Much of this summer was spent constructing a shed in my back yard which we still need to get filled up.

This blog continues to be focused on food but I've also been invited to make blog/vlog contributions to a couple of photography sites: and  I post photography tips and gear & software reviews among other things.  Food isn't the only thing I photograph, I also enjoy landscapes, nature and anything else that gets in front of my lens.  I put together this collage of my most interesting photos that I posted this year according to Flickr.  As you can see there is quite a variety of subjects.  You can get a closer look at these photos in this Flickr set.

I look forward to what 2013 brings and I wish you all the best in the coming year!

2012 most interesting

Author: Paula Thomas

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Gluten Free Avocado Pesto Pasta

Avocado Pesto Pasta PCC posted this recipe on Facebook and when I saw it, I just had to try it. I eat a lot of avocados and I'm always interested in finding new ways to use them and I'd never heard of using it in pasta before. The original recipe can be found here on Oh She Glows blog.  I'm not sure if I used less pasta or maybe I used more basil but I noticed my pasta turned out a lot more green than hers did.  I really liked how it came out, very creamy. I had a lot of sauce leftover and I know leftover avocado doesn't do so well so I put the left over pesto in the freezer and hope that it will still be good when I thaw it out.

Recipe: Gluten Free Avocado Pesto

Yield: 2 servings
Total time: 15 minutes

6 ounces gluten free pasta
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
1/4-1/2 cup fresh basil
1 medium avocado, peeled, pitted and roughly chopped
ground black pepper to taste
lemon zest to garnish
small basil leaves to garnish

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. While pasta is cooking, place lemon juice, garlic and olive oil in food processor and process until smooth.
3. Add salt, basil and avocado to food process and process until smooth and creamy.
4. When pasta is done, drain and put in a large bowl, toss with the pesto and serve garnished with lemon zest and basil leaves.

Author: Paula Thomas

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sugar Free Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread

Gluten Free Sugar Free Pumpkin Bread 
I made this pumpkin bread a few weeks ago. Unfortunately it didn't turn out as well as I had hoped but it wasn't the fault of the recipe it was baker's error. All because I accidentally left out an ingredient. The main ingredient. Yeah I forgot to put the pumpkin in the batter. Who forgets to put the pumpkin in the pumpkin bread? I realized it about 10 mins into baking. I had to do something about it so I took it out of the oven and poured it back into a bowl and added the pumpkin. I poured it into a new pan and put it back into the oven.

I had no idea if it would turn out at all but I had my fingers crossed. It ended up tasting actually pretty good but the texture was not great. It wasn't very fluffy, was more a cross between a pumpkin bread and a pumpkin pie. I still have a bunch of pumpkin puree left that I put in the freezer so I really want to try this recipe again and do it the right way next time.

The recipe I used was from I didn't make any changes to the recipe so I won't repeat the recipe, you can find it on the site.  I went through the trouble of making my own pumpkin puree which really wasn't too much trouble.  I used a red kabocha squash, also called a Japanese pumpkin.  I had never tried one before. People say that it tastes like a cross between a regular pumpkin and a sweet potato.  I could see that and I think it works well in bread and would probably make a good pie too.

I always used to buy canned pumpkin but not anymore. It's really not that difficult to make your own and one pumpkin makes quite a bit and you can just put the leftovers in the freezer for another day.  If you've never roasted your own pumpkin or squash before try it!  Here's a video I made on how I roasted my kabocha.  Many people half the squash and roast it cut side down and that is probably the easiest but the kabocha is so hard, it was really difficult to cut in half so I decided to cut it in small pieces and roast it that way.

Author: Paula Thomas

Friday, December 07, 2012

Rack of Pork Recipe

Rack of Pork I bought this rack of pork several months ago and it's been sitting in my freezer for quite a while. I finally decided to thaw it out and do something with it.  I guess I was procrastinating for so long because I've never cooked one before.  So I scoured the web for a recipe that looked good and I came across Chef Dennis' recipe for Oven Roasted Rack of Pork. I only made a few small changes to the recipe. I didn't have any carrots and I forgot the garlic but I did add garlic to the pan sauce at the end.  I also added leeks and used a red onion instead of yellow. I didn't have any Montreal Seasoning so I made my own using a recipe I found on I gotta say I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to make and how well it turned out.  It was cooked perfectly and was juicy and tender all the way through.  The only thing is it was a huge amount of food for 1-2 people. I've been eating leftovers of it for lunch and dinner all week.  I probably should have froze some of it.

Recipe: Oven Roasted Rack of Pork

Inspired by Chef Dennis

  • 8 bone rack of pork
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • Montreal Seasoning (recipe)
  • 1 red onion, quartered including peel
  • 1 leek, rough chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, rough chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Add onion, leek and celery to a roasting pan.
  3. Rinse rack of pork, pat dry and place fat side up on top of vegetables.
  4. Rub the rack liberally with olive oil and sprinkle the rack with salt, pepper and a good amount of Montreal Seasoning.
  5. Bake uncovered in oven for 15 minutes.
  6. Reduce heat to 325 degrees and roast for approximately 2 hours more or until meat thermometer reaches 160 degrees on outside of rack.
  7. Remove rack from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
  8. While rack is resting, make pan sauce by placing pan on the stove over medium heat and adding 2 cups of water and the garlic to the roasting pan with the vegetables.  Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan and loosen any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
  9. Strain out the vegetables and reserve the sauce.
  10. Cut the rack between the bones and serve with the pan gravy.

Raw Rack of Pork

Author: Paula Thomas

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Seattle Underground Market

Food Porn Exhibit

The Seattle Underground Market brings foodies and food entrepreneurs together. You may find caterers, new chefs or even established restaurants who are looking for feedback on new menu items.  This new private event requires signing up on the website to become a member.  The location and secret password of the monthly events are announced via email the day before the event. You'll also be provided with a list of menu items and there is usually a selection of gluten free and vegan options. The December market will be a brunch theme with a Food Porn exhibit where several of my food photos will be on display and available for purchase.

I attended my first one in November with Mark and every place we stopped at we each got something different.  The food station charges between $1-$5 for their small plates but found that the majority of the servings were priced at $3.

I put together a little video from the evening and below that is an overview of what we tried out.

Our first stop was empanadas where we tried Barolo Braised Osso Buco and Roasted Turkey Empanadas.  The pastry dough was not what we were used to.

Barolo Braised Osso Buco Empanada
Turkey Empanada

Next we hit up one of the more popular spots, Wontons!  There were 5 choices there and we went with the Greek and the Crab Rangoon. They had a variety of toppings and sauces for each wonton, a Tzatziki sauce for the greek and a chile oil sauce for the crab.  

Greek Wonton
Greek Wonton
We stood in a long line for the Peking Duck Style Sliders and Winter Squash Ratatouille. The Peking Duck Sliders could have used more salt and/or sauce. The Ratatoulle came with a couple of tasty gluten free cheese bread balls.
Peking Duck Slider
Peking Duck Slider
We hit up my favorite dish, seared ahi tuna with pickled jalapenos, lime dressing, napa cabbage slaw with basmati rice.  I thought the jalapenos were a little too spicy for the dish but it was still the best thing I had for the night.
Seared Ahi and Slaw
Seared Ahi with Napa Cabbage Slaw

Last stop we had to hit up the Filipino food station. Mark got some Chicken Adobo with Jasmine Rice and a side of Ginataan, some kind of dessert soup.  I had a bite of the adobo and it was nice and tender.

Adobo and Ginataan
Chicken Adobo and Ginataan
Author: Paula Thomas

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Honey Glazed Pork Belly with Mashed Cauliflower

Honey Glazed Pork Belly I've made pork belly 3 or 4 times now but always used the same recipe. I decided to try something a little different with my last pork belly. I found a recipe for honey pork belly on that looked good. Mine didn't look quite the same as what's on that site. I probably cooked it longer because I wanted to render out as much of the fat as I could.  It was nice and crispy though, like bacon and I like bacon.  The texture was similar to something like general tso's chicken.  It was the first time I've ever tried glazing meat. After the pan cools, you're going to be left with a hard, crusty coating of sauce stuck to your pan.  I thought it was going to be a real pain to clean but it wasn't so bad.  Just add some water to the pan and put it on the stove.  When the water gets hot enough the sauce will just melt for easy clean up.

If you are gluten free, it may be difficult to find oyster and soy sauces that are gluten free but they do exist. If you can't find any, you can always buy it online.  Wok Mei has an all natural gluten free oyster sauce.  There are a lot more options for gluten free soy sauces. There's a whole list of them here on

I decided to pair the pork belly with mashed cauliflower.  I steamed the cauliflower, added a little sour cream and butter and added it all to a food processor with some salt & pepper.  It made a nice creamy puree that almost tasted like mashed potatoes.  I actually made the cauliflower first and made the pork belly while the potatoes sat in the oven.

The photos in the last couple of blog posts were taken mostly with wide angle lenses.  I just got the new Olympus 60mm macro lens and have been shooting with it a lot lately so all the photos below were taken with that lens.  If you're a micro four thirds shooter and interested in finding out more about this lens you can watch my video review.

Mashed Cauliflower

1 head of cauliflower
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tbs butter
salt & pepper to taste

Remove forets from head of cauliflower and wash.  Steam cauliflower until soft, about 15 minutes.

Add cauliflower, sour cream, butter, salt and pepper to a food processor and process until smooth.

Add cauliflower puree to a casserole dish, cover and cook in a 375 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until pork belly is done.

Recipe: Honey Glazed Pork Belly

3/4 lb pork belly
coconut oil
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 garlic cloves, crushed

Slice pork belly into 1/4" pieces.

Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork belly and render fat until pork is golden brown on both sides.

Drain pork fat into a glass container and refrigerate for future use.  Use a paper towel to soak up any excess oil from the pan.

Turn heat back to medium and add the honey, soy sauce, oyster sauce and garlic to the pan.

Stir sauce and pork together until well coated and cook for a couple of minutes to glaze being careful not to burn the sauce.

Remove from heat and serve over a large spoonful of mashed cauliflower.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Gluten Free Zucchini Tart

Gluten Free Zucchini TartI hope you all aren't tired of tart posts.  This will probably be the last one for a while.  I meant to make a zucchini tart earlier in the year when I had so many zucchini's coming out of my garden but it didn't happen so I had to buy some zucchini to make this one.

I tried yet another tart crust recipe, this one came from a recipe I found on Cake and Commerce.  I did make a few alterations to the original recipe, one by mistake.  The recipe called for an egg yolk but I used the whole egg.  I used dark buckwheat flour instead of light and I left out the parmigiano.  I also used almond meal rather than blanched almonds.  The crust came out surprisingly crispy. I liked the dark color the buckwheat flour gave the crust.  It worked pretty well for a savory tart crust. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

I used a different recipe for the filling than I had originally planned.  I couldn't find the one I was going to make so I used one I came across on that received good reviews.  Other than using a different crust, the only change I made was using thyme rather than lemon thyme.  I also used a little less cheese.  3 medium sized zucchini's turned out to be just enough for one large and one small tart and the dough recipe made just enough for the same so it worked out pretty well.

Recipe: Gluten Free Savory Tart Crust

1/2 cup almond meal
1 cup buckwheat flour
4 Tbsp cold butter cut into 1" cubes
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 egg
1-2 Tbsp cold water if needed

Add almond meal and flour to food processor and pulse a few times to blend.  Add cold butter and egg and mix until ball forms.  If dough is too dry, add small amounts of water until ball is formed. Flatten the ball of dough into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 mins.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove dough from fridge and place on floured sheet of wax paper. Dust top of dough with flour and cover with another sheet of wax paper.  Roll dough to about a 1/8" thick circle and transfer to a tart pan.  Push the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan and remove excess dough.  If there's enough left over you can roll it out for a small tart.

Place tart pan(s) on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool while you prepare the filling.

Zucchini Filling

3 medium sized zucchini, thinly sliced
2 tsp salt
6 oz goat cheese crumbles
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Toss the zucchini with 2tsp salt in a colander and let drain in the sink for 30 mins. Gently squeeze the slices to remove excess water.

Preheat oven to 400 F.  In a small bowl toss the goat cheese with the chopped thyme.  Place the cheese in the tart crust, leaving about a half inch border around the edge.

Place the zucchini, olive oil and ground pepper in a bowl and toss to coat, using your hands if needed.  Place the zucchini rounds over the cheese starting in the middle, tightly overlapping the slices in a circle moving outward going all the way to the edge of the tart pan.

Place on middle rack of oven and bake for 40-50 minutes, until zucchini begins to turn golden brown.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Willie Greens Organic Farm

I had the pleasure of taking a tour of Willie Greens Organic Farm a few weeks ago.  I found out about it through a Facebook post by Whole Foods Market - West Lake.  I follow several of the Whole Foods' Facebook accounts because they all seem to have fun things going on all the time for the community.  This particular event was hard to pass up since it's not far from my House.  It was only a 15 minute drive to the farm for us.  Not quite so close for those coming from Seattle but they were kind enough to offer a shuttle to the farm from Seattle.  Not only was there a farm tour but lunch was also provided, courtesy of Chef Hayden Smissen.  A farm tour and lunch for a mear $15 donation to The Whole Kids Foundation was a great deal.  Those taking the shuttle paid a bit more.

We started the tour off with the owner, Jeff Miller.  He told us about how the farm started in 1987 on a small plot of leased land in Woodinville.  They provided a few local restaurants with fresh greens. They have grown a lot since then.  Today they have 55 acres in Monroe and are working with Whole Foods to increase their production.  They are also working with Cedar Grove to test out various compost to see what kind of affect the various composts have on the veggies.

They also have a CSA where you can pick up a box of their fresh veggies weekly at the farm or at one of their delivery locations.  If I wasn't already in a CSA with Full Circle I would consider joining this one.

Lunch was pretty awesome.  We started by being served a curried spinach and mushroom bisque with hazelnut gremolata.  We then served ourselves a plate of lacinato kale salad with pumpkin dijon dressing & shaved root vegetables and roasted beet and ricotta ravioli tossed with an herbed acorn squash butter sauce.  And there was plenty of leftovers for people to go up for seconds.

After lunch we were offered a small box of their fresh greens.  It was such a great day, we decided to stop by another farm before heading home.  We drove over to Carnation to visit Jubilee Farm's pumpkin patch and go on a hay ride.

Below are a few pics that were taken at the two farms.  Additional pics can be found on my Flickr sets: Willie Greens Farm SetJubilee Farm Set

Fall Flowers Lunch at Willie GreensWillie Greens Tour Curried Spinach and Mushroom Bisque
Pumpkin Bokeh Winter Squash Horsey Hay Ride Author: Paula Thomas

Friday, October 19, 2012

Spaghetti Squash Tart

Spaghetti Squash Tart
Spaghetti Squash Tart
This spaghetti squash tart is both gluten free and sugar free. I made spaghetti squash pie several times last year but hadn't made it in tart form until this year.  I tried a different crust recipe this time that has a few more flours and an egg and it seemed to hold together a little better than my previous attempt.  I loosely followed a recipe I found on for Savory Gluten-Free Tart Crust. I did make a few changes to the original recipe.  I substituted 1/2 cup of coconut flour for brown rice and omitted the pepper and herbs. I didn't have any millet flour but I did have a small amount of millet that was just laying around in my cupboard. I'm not even sure what I bought it for. I decided to grind it up into a flour and it turned out to be just enough.

Spaghetti squash is a good alternative to pumpkin.  It has a similar flavor but a little more mild and with pumpkin spices added to it you would hardly be able to tell the difference.

Tart Crust

1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup almond flour
1/4 cup millet flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 egg slightly beaten
1-2 tbsp ice water

  1. Pulse first 5 ingredients in food processor until combined.  Add butter and pulse until butter is pea sized.  Combine egg with 1 tbsp of ice water.  Add the egg mixture to flour mixture and pulse until dough comes together. Add more water if needed.
  2. Transfer dough to work surface and knead two times.  Form a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Remove from refrigerator and divide dough in half.  Place one half back in fridge until ready to use. One half should make a large tart crust or 3 small tart crusts. Sprinkle brown rice flour on both sides of dough and roll between two sheets of wax paper until 1/8" thick.
  5. Remove wax paper and place on top of tart pan, gently patting the dough into the pan and removing excess dough from the sides.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove from oven and cool on wire rack until filling is ready.

Spaghetti Squash Filling

2 cups spaghetti squash, cooked (see below)
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tbsp melted unrefined coconut oil
4 whole eggs
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, or to taste
1 tsp ground cinnamon, or to taste
1/8 tsp ground clove, or to taste
1/4 tsp ground stevia leaf, or to taste

  1. To cook spaghetti squash, cut in half, remove seeds and membrane with a spoon. Put cut side down on a cookie sheet and bake at 350°F for 45-60 minutes.  squash should be tender when poked with a fork. Let cool and shred out inside of squash with a fork.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  3. Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor, and blend until thoroughly mixed.
  4. Add to prepared pie crust.
  5. Put it in the preheated oven, and bake it for 30-40 minutes, or until it doesn't jiggle when you reach in and shake it.  Let cool on wire rack.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Gluten Free Sugar Free Pear Tart

Gluten Free Sugar Free Pear TartThis is my first time participating in the Gluten Free Ratio Rally where bloggers post a recipe using weight measurements rather than volume with a different blogger hosting each month.  This month the theme is tarts, hosted by Charissa, author of Zest Bakery.

I actually enjoy cooking using weight measurements but you can't find hardly any recipes that use weights. The main reason I bought a kitchen scale was for my soap making but rarely bring it out for cooking anything.

At first I was going to do a savory zucchini tart since I have zucchini coming out of my ears from my garden but then I got some delicious Tosca pears from Full Circle and decided I wanted a pear tart. I've been eating mainly gluten and sugar free for the past year with the only sweeteners being used are small amounts of green leaf powdered stevia which is not processed.  I will probably still make that zucchini tart but wanted to make this one first before the pears go bad.

I made this crust recipe up myself but I'm not sure it's the best crust in the world. I was hoping for something more crispy like a shortbread but it turned out very delicate. It was so delicate that the crust crumbled while trying to get the pie weights out.  I tried half with and half without pie weights and they didn't seem to make much of a difference.

For the filling, I used a modified version of this Rustic Pear Tart recipe from Delish.Com

Tart Crust


100g almond flour
60g coconut flour
1/2 tsp salt
113g butter (very cold, cut into 1" pieces)
40g coconut oil
ice water (if needed)


1. Add almond flour, coconut flour and salt to a food processor and pulse until combined.

2. Add cold butter and coconut oil to flour and pulse until dough starts to come together.  If the dough doesn't stick together, add small amounts of ice water and pulse until it does.

3. Divide dough in half and form into two balls. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 mins or longer.

4. Place sheet of wax paper on work surface and flour generously with coconut flour.  Remove one of the balls of dough from the refrigerator.

5. Tear off 1/3 of the ball, place on the wax paper and sprinkle more flour on top.  Roll the dough to about 1/4" thick, adding more flour if needed.  Place dough in a 4.5" mini tart pan and gently push in the bottom and sides of the dough.  Fold the top out to the side and push down to cut off the excess dough.  Repeat until all of the dough is used.  Each ball should make enough for 3 mini tarts.

6. Place tart pans with crust back in refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

7. Preheat oven to 325 if using convection or 350 if not. Once oven is preheated, place tarts in oven on a baking sheet. Bake for about 12 mins on convection or 15 if not.  Crust should be a light golden brown. Set aside to cool while you make the filling.

Pear Filling


2 pears (skinned and thinly sliced)
1/8 tsp green powdered Stevia (or 2 tbsp sugar or other sweetener)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp sea salt


1. Preheat oven to 350 for convection or 375 if not.

2. Toss all ingredients in a medium bowl

3. Lay pear slices overlapping decoratively on the prepared cooled tart crusts. Spoon any remaining juice onto the tarts.

4. Bake for 25-30 mins or until pears are lightly browned.

Recipe makes 6 4.5" mini tarts.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Gluten Free Asian Dumplings

mushroom dumplings  Mark on 1st
Original photo on the left photographed by Chris Court, Styling: Steve Pearce.  My version is on the right.

This is my 5th time participating in the Donna Hay Challenge hosted by JungleFrog Cooking.  I've been enjoying these challenges not only because of the delish recipe but also for helping me be more creative with food styling and my prop collection has also grown because of these challenges.  However I decided to challenge myself in a new way this month.  I was determined to do this Mushroom Dumpling challenge using only props I already owned.  This is the first challenge I didn't buy any props for.  I was really tempted to go out and buy some more colorful soup spoons but I held back. Since I didn't buy any props, the photo doesn't looks as much like the original as my other photos did but I like the result anyway.

I've been eating gluten free for a while now and gluten free wonton wrappers are not easy to find and am not sure they even exist.  I suppose I could have tried rice paper for the wontons but I decided to challenge myself by making my own.  I wasn't about to experiment making up my own recipe so I found a recipe on Penniless Parenting's blog.  It was the only recipe I could find that didn't include some brand named flour blend.  I wanted to make my own flour blend since I have a fridge full of Bob's Red Mill gluten free flours that I would rather use instead.  The only substitution I made was guar gum for xanthan gum.  I also used a lot more water than what was called for in the recipe.  I must have used at least 1/2 cup of water.  The dough rolled out nicely but was a little challenging to fold into dumplings. It kept wanting to rip but I managed to get them made.  It appears that is the price you pay for making them gluten free. The dough is more delicate and you can't roll it out as thinly as a gluten dough.  I was pretty happy with the way they turned out in the end though. They didn't explode in the water or anything and they tasted great.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Gluten Free Sugar Free Oatmeal Cookies & Giveaway

Gluten Free Sugar Free Oatmeal CookiesI don't make many sweets or desserts these days since I'm on a no sugar diet and not just the white stuff but fruits too.  I've also been avoiding gluten and eating organic as much as possible.  If you're gluten free, you most certainly know of Bob's Red Mill products. They have tons of gluten free grains and flours and I have a refrigerator shelf full of them.They also have gluten products that are packaged in a separate facility than their gluten free ones. If you have wheat allergies you can trust Bob's Red Mill products.

They sent me four of their gluten free products to try out a couple of weeks ago.  I've been wanting to make a sugar free oatmeal cookie so I spent a long time scouring the internet trying to find a good recipe.  I couldn't believe how difficult it is to find a gf/sf one that actually looked good and didn't look like mini pancakes.  I finally ended up giving up on finding a recipe and decided to just make my own using three of the four products I got from Bob's Red Mill.

I was pretty happy with how they turned out. Mark even seemed to like them. For some reason they kind of have a raisin flavor to them.  I'm not sure if it's from the Stevia or the alcohol free vanilla flavoring or maybe a combination of both.  The size and shape of these cookies does not change during baking so make sure you make them the size and thickness you want your cookies to be. The texture is similar to what you might find in an energy bar.

I've never done a giveaway on my blog before so I'm excited to have this opportunity for Bob's Red Mill to send one of my readers the same four gluten free products they sent me which includes quick cooking oats, almond meal, coconut flour and green pea flour.  You can probably guess which one isn't in the cookies.  I have yet to make anything with the green pea flour but there is a recipe for green pea soup on the back of the package that I may give a try. There are also some tips on the package for using it in baking.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Avocado Soup

Avocado SoupI love avocados they contain a lot of good fat and calories so if you're watching your weight you probably don't want to eat too many of them. 1 avocado weighing 150 grams contains 240 calories and has 22 grams of fat.  I'm no where near over weight so bring on the avocados!

When I saw Brenda (@culinaryfool) tweet about the avocado soup she blogged about I just had to try it.  She used a recipe from Martha Stewart Living Magazine for this and a cantaloupe soup which also sounded interesting but I am unable to eat any fruits high in sugar content for a while so couldn't try that one.  They look so cute in the little shooters she served them in.  The recipe makes quite a bit and I wasn't feeding an army so I served mine in some small bowls and still had some left over.  You might want to half the recipe if you aren't feeding a lot of people because the soup doesn't keep very well.

As you may know, avocados don't stay good for very long once you cut them open and the soup was no exception.  In fact, it seemed to start getting a little brown even while blending it.  A hint of acid like lemon juice might help to keep it greener.  The soup tasted more like basil than avocado, not sure if I may have used too much basil.  It's hard to measure leafy herbs like that. I never know how much to pack them into the measuring cup.

You can find the recipe over on Martha Stewart's site:  If you're interested in the cantaloupe soup head over to Brenda's blog which I linked to above.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Herbivoracious at Emmer & Rye

Last night I met up with a group of fellow Seattle Food Bloggers at Emmer & Rye restaurant in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle.  We were served a variety of small bites made special for us by Chef Seth Caswell.  We were one of if not the first group of people to be able to enjoy the upstairs deck which they just got a permit for. I had never been to Emmer & Rye but I quickly discovered it was my kind of restaurant.  They use all local ingredients and frequent farmer's markets looking for the best and freshest ingredients.  Even their wines and liquors are all made by local wineries and distilleries.  I've been on a pretty strict diet and was happy I was able to try almost all of the appetizers we were served.  The only one I didn't try was one that had strawberries on it.  I really enjoyed the ones I did have, they were all pretty tasty and I look forward to having dinner there some time.

The reason for our meeting was to chat with Michael Natkin about his new vegetarian cookbook, Herbivoracious which is also the name of his blog.  This is no ordinary cookbook.  It's got a hard cover and is filled with amazing photos and 150 recipes.  Not every recipe has a photo to go with it but most do.  In the beginning of the book he talks a bit about some ingredients and useful cooking equipment.  There are 11 categories of recipes including appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches & tacos, pasta & noodles, from the stovetop, from the oven, side dishes, desserts, breakfast and sauces & condiments.  There's quite the variety of dishes and ethnicities.  I did notice a lot of the recipes are Asian influenced.

I've been following Michael on twitter and Facebook for a while. A few years ago when he started working on his book he asked for volunteers to test recipes and I did.  I didn't know what recipe I was going to get until he sent it to me.  I think it was probably one of the more challenging recipes. I made the loaded otsu noodles which I also blogged about.  It was one of his Asian inspired dishes and I had to make a trip to Uwajimaya to get some of the ingredients. I enjoy cooking with new ingredients so it was fun and tasty too.  I'm looking forward to trying more of the recipes in this cookbook.

Special thanks to Keren Brown for organizing and Emmer & Rye for hosting us. I've got additional photos over on Flickr.

Herbivoracious Cookbook Signing Cookbook Viewing

Monday, July 09, 2012

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Review

This is the first camera I've ever pre-ordered and I finally got it last month. This camera has been so popular that Olympus had some trouble keeping up with the demand. People who pre-ordered after March from any of the big online companies (B&H, Amazon, Adorama, etc) had better luck getting them from a local camera store.  So why is this camera so popular?  For me, it was the weather sealing and the ISO performance that did it for me.  It was just announced the other day that the sensor was made by Sony which explains why this camera is so good.

You have the choice of an all black model or a black one with silver accents, much like the old OM-1 film cameras. You also have a few choices in kits:  the 12-50mm, 14-42mm or body only. I've got a few 14-42mm lenses already from previous PEN cameras so I decided on the 12-50mm kit. It's the first micro four thirds weather proof lens and it also has a macro mode and a new electromagnetic zoom option that provides a smooth zoom for video. It sells for $499 by itself but if you get it with the camera it's only an extra $300. It's not the fastest lens on the block at only F3.5-6.3 but honestly it doesn't really matter that much because the great ISO performance of the OM-D makes up for it.  Olympus has always put out some great lenses in their kits and this one is no exception, it's sharp!
OMD vs OM1
The EM-5 is only the first of probably many models of OM-D's that Olympus will produce. There are already rumors of an OM-D Pro coming soon. I can't imagine what the Pro version will have that the E-M5 doesn't have. I have tested it in many shooting situations including street, event, product and landscape photography. There's nothing this camera can't do.  I haven't even picked up my DSLR since its arrival.

Menu Settings:
Even though I've used Olympus cameras for years I still sometimes get confused by the menu system when I am customizing it. I can imagine those not coming from other Olympus cameras would be even more confused. Luckily there are some good guides out there to help you figure things out.  The best one I've come across is this user guide on  It gives some great tips on some settings you should change and I did most of them. I won't repeat them all but I will second that you should activate the Super Control Panel (SCP).  I seem to have trouble figuring out how to do this every time I get a new PEN. The trick is to activate it in all modes (iAUTO, P/A/S/M, ART and SCN).  It should say Live SCP On in each mode.  This will allow you to see a screen full of various settings when you click the ok button, allowing you to change settings more easily and quickly than surfing through the menus.

There is one thing they do not make easy to change and use, the "myset" function.  This lets you customize your camera settings for different shooting situations. You can have up to 4 different settings.  Some people set theirs up for day and night shooting.   I set one up for normal daytime shooting and one for shooting HDR.  When I do HDR I switch to continuous shooting mode and turn on exposure bracketing to 3f 1.0EV.  It's only two settings but it's inconvenient to manually changing those settings between HDR and non HDR shots so having an HDR setting saves some time.  There are only two ways to swap between mysets. One is to go into Shooting Menu 1, select reset/myset, scroll to desired setting, push ok then select yes.  Be careful not to use the right arrow button because that will reset your myset.  The other option is to assign a function key to each myset.  This is a great idea however the implementation was not well thought out.  You have to hold the function key down while you shoot.  I hope that in a future firmware update they change this so you only have to press the function key once to change to the function button's assigned myset.  There is a good Guide to Myset Functions on that has much better instructions on how to set this up than the camera's instruction manual.

Picture Quality:
We are talking DSLR quality, much better than many of the DSLR's on the market today.  I've seen many sites comparing it to various DSLR's, even some top of the line ones and it is hard to tell the difference between them.  ISO performance has always been Olympus' biggest area of weakness with all of their cameras but not anymore.  The ISO performance is what made me pre-order this camera as fast as I could.  I set my max ISO setting on my other Olympus cameras to 1000 but this one has no problem with going 4-5 times that and still get great shots.  I set the max ISO on mine to 3200 but may increase it even more. I have no complaints at all about the picture quality.  I may even sell my E-5 and E-3 and the majority of my four thirds lenses.  Yes I do have an adapter to use four thirds lenses on this camera but the focusing is a little slow on them.  I've heard many people have sold their DSLR's and have moved completely over to this camera system and I think the transition to mirrorless cameras is only going to increase

Kit Lenses:
Kit lenses are one thing Olympus doesn't skimp on and the 12-50mm hasn't changed that.  It's the first splash proof micro four thirds lens, the first Oly lens with electromagnetic zoom and the first to have a macro button and a function button.  This lens introduces lots of firsts that will likely be seen in future micro four thirds lenses.  It took me a while to figure out how the macro mode worked on this lens. Just pushing the button will not do anything.  You have to hold the button down and slide the barrel of the lens out to kick it into macro mode.  It's not a true 1:1 macro lens but it does x0.36 (x0.72 in 35mm equivalent), which will work just fine for most situations.  You can't zoom while in macro mode, the focal length is fixed at 43mm and the aperture starts at F6. I've gotten some great shots with this lens so far and have no regrets getting this kit.I also have the 14-42mm kit lens from the E-PM1 and E-P1.  I haven't honestly used those kit lenses that much. Once I got the 20mm pancake it pretty much stayed on my camera and was the only lens I used until the E-M5 arrived.

Below are a couple of macros taken with the 12-50mm kit lens.
Lens Macro
12-50mm macro - F6 - 1/20 - ISO 1600
Gypsy Dancer Rose
12-50mm macro - F8 - 1/400 - ISO 200

Sharing a Meal
12-50mm macro - F6 - 1/160 - ISO 200

Monday, June 25, 2012

Goat's Cheese Lemon and Pea Pasta

This was another recipe from Jungle Frog's Donna Hay Food Styling and Photography Challenge. Unlike the past few challenges, this one was a very easy recipe and the styling was pretty easy too.

I again purchased a few props for this challenge.  I was thinking about buying an old frying pan from Goodwill and spray painting it white but then I thought eating from a spray painted pan might be a little toxic.  I decided to check out ebay and came across a ceramic white fry pan sizzler server for $10 and it worked out pretty well for the shot.  I also needed a white napkin.  I was just telling Mark a few weeks ago that it was weird that I have so many different colored napkins but no white and that I should get some.  I figured plain white napkins would be pretty easy to find, not so much.  I didn't want a whole stack of em, just one.  I ended up just buying one at Fred Meyer at the last minute.  The only white ones they had were checkered pattern ones but luckily you can't see the pattern in the photo.

This is the second challenge in the last few months that contained peas.  I hated peas as a kid and I still don't care for them much.  I have never even bought them for myself except for these two challenges.  The first recipe with them turned out pretty good so I decided to take another chance on them and this recipe was pretty tasty too.  I added the peas after draining the pasta though to keep the peas bright green for the photo. Now if a recipe comes up that calls for lima beans, I'm going to pass. If you want more information on how to participate in the challenges, check out the DHSPC page.

For my version of the photo, I used my light tent and a piece of white board in the front to bounce back some of the light to get rid of the harsh shadows. I bounced the flash at about 1/4 power into the inside left wall of the tent.

Centered below is the photo of the dish from one of last summer's issues of Donna Hay Magazine taken by William Meppem and styled by David Morgan

I did one version of the photo with the blue hue similar to the original and another without the blue hue.  I don't usually like photos, especially food photos that have a blue hue. It makes me think the photographer had the camera on the wrong white balance setting but I tried it out just to show that it can be done and it's not some special light they only have in Australia.  Here is how I did it:

How to add a blue hue to your photo:
You either need to shoot in RAW or take multiple pictures at different white balance settings to achieve this look.  In RAW you can change the color balance of your photos to whatever you want. You can try to change the white balance in post processing with a JPG but it will not look as good, trust me.  I used Lightroom to make the photo look normal with correct white balancing and exported that file into photoshop then I modified the RAW file again to change the color balance to have a blue tone and exported that into photoshop. I copied the blue looking photo as a new layer on top of the normal one, added a mask and painted over the mask to remove the blue hue from the pasta because blue pasta is just not appetizing.  I also added a gradient mask so the top half of the photo would be less blue than the bottom half.  And there you have it. It took  less than 10 mins of Lightroom/Photoshop work to get this look.
Goat Cheese Lemon and Pea Pasta Pasta with blue hue

Goat's Cheese Lemon and Pea Pasta
400g penne pasta
2 Cups frozen peas
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp lemon zest
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
240g goat's cheese, crumbled
50g baby arugula
sea salt
cracked black pepper
Cook pasta in saucepan of salted boiling water per package directions, adding peas in at the last minute or until al dente.  Drain and return to the pan.  Add the garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil and toss well to coat. Add the goat's cheese, arugula, salt and pepper and mix until just combined and serve.

Friday, June 15, 2012

BlogHer Food 2012 Day 2 Recap

Day 2 began much like day 1.  I drove to the South Kirkland Park & Ride to catch the same bus to Seattle.  The Saturday bus doesn't come as frequently so if I miss the bus I'd have to wait a half hour instead of 10 minutes for the next one so I got there a little early to make sure I didn't miss it.

I decided to travel lighter on Saturday.  On Friday I brought my laptop after reading that a lot of people brought theirs to take notes.  Unfortunately I did not think it was a good idea.  I have a 17" laptop and also had bags of swag that I had to carry all day.  Maybe if I had a tablet or smaller laptop it wouldn't have been so bad.  I took notes the old fashioned way and did not miss not having the laptop too much on Saturday but I also didn't take as many notes.

I had just received the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 the week before the conference and had a few borrowed lenses from Olympus (12mm F2 & 45mm F1.8) for the occasion and was glad the camera arrived in time.  Even though the camera was released a few months ago, getting one was difficult even though I pre-ordered it in February.  The demand for this camera was apparently much higher than expected and there are many people still waiting for theirs.  One of the best things about this camera system is everything is so much smaller than a DSLR and the picture quality is just as good so I was able to carry it and 4 lenses in a tiny little backpack so it was perfect for the conference.  I'll be posting an in depth review on my blog a little later if anyone is interested. I did get quite a few people ask me about it.

I again had my regular morning shake for breakfast and was looking forward to more bacon and eggs at the conference unfortunately there was none of that on day 2 it was all pastries and bagels.  I broke my diet a bit here and ate half a bagel with my herbal tea as I watched the breakfast keynote.  Jory Des Jardins interviewed Alicia McGlamory from MasterBuilt, Cassidy Stockton from Bob's Red Mill, Elise Bauer  from SimplyRecipes and Jaden Hair from SteamyKitchen on the topic of the intersection of brands, bloggers, ethics and opportunity.  It was noted that in the last 2 years the blog traffic from phones has increased by 50% and continues to increase.  Other than using Google Analytics for web traffic stats, another site was mentioned called Quantcast.  I use Google Analytics but haven't heard of Quantcast.  It will give you traffic stats publicly so other people can view your stats.  You can share the link to your stats to people you might be pitching something to so they can see what your reach is rather than you telling them.  I haven't checked this site out yet but I plan to.

I had good luck with attending a food photography session yesterday so I took my chances at attending another one.  Taylor Mathis spoke on the topic of Taking Your Food Photography Outdoors and On Location.  It was the first session that only had one speaker and was listed as being for all levels.  I beg to differ, beginner and possibly intermediate would have been more appropriate.  I know there were a lot of beginners in this session, many questions were being asked and lots of people learned some things.  Unfortunately I can't say that I learned anything from the session.  He talked about hard light and soft light and how to change the light using reflectors and diffusers, all stuff I've been working with for years.

Following the class he was leading a photo excursion through Pike Place.  I had originally planned on joining that group but decided I would join the Shutterfly excursion instead.  There is a BlogHerFood iphone app that includes a scavenger hunt where you send in specific photos and there was a section for the Shutterfly stroll requesting photos of things at Pike Place Market like the gum wall, Starbucks, Beacher's Cheese, etc. So I met them at their table and a small group of a dozen or so of us started walking towards Pike Place and while walking there we bumped into another group that was doing a Pike Place tour. I recognized a couple people in that group from Day 1 so I decided to switch groups on the way.

We met up with a tour guide and he took us on a whirl wind tour of the best restaurants in Pike Place.  He kept apologizing for going so fast because we only had a half hour and his tours are normally much longer and include some tastings.  The only thing we got to taste was some salt at Market Spice. What was worse is it was 12:30 and we were all hungry.  After the tour a group of us (Kathy_Writerbooklovercook, jennifersmentionables, beege, brenn24) decided to go to Piroshky Piroshky and got piroshkys to go.  The line was so long it wrapped around and down the side of the building.  I got the beef and onion.  It wasn't bad but it was a little greasier than I would have liked and also wasn't on the list of foods I can eat on my diet.  We headed back to the hotel for session 2.
Market Spice Salt Walking Pike Place

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

BlogHer Food 2012 Day 1 Recap

I took last Friday off from work to attend the two day BlogHer Food conference at the lovely Fairmont Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle.  I decided to not pay for parking all day and instead drove to a park and ride in Kirkland and paid $2.50 to take a bus.  The bus dropped me off just a block and a half from the front door of the hotel so it was very convenient.

I've been to a similar conference called IFBC (International Food Blogger Conference) that was held in Seattle a few years ago and will be held in Portland this year.  BlogHer was a much bigger conference than IFBC but I'm sure after a few years IFBC has grown too. At BlogHer food we got to choose between 4 different topics at each session.  There were three sessions on Friday and two on Saturday.  Sometimes the decision on which one to take was easy and other times it was difficult.

Friday started with a nice breakfast spread.  Even though I had my regular morning shake for breakfast at home, I couldn't resist having a little bacon and eggs when I got to the conference.  There wasn't much else I could eat because of my candida diet.  I brought my bacon, eggs and a cup of herbal tea to the Spanish Ballroom for the opening presentation.  Diane Cu and Todd Porter from gave a "Pioneer Presentation".  My favorite quote from their presentation was "Your eyes are your lens. Your heart is your shutter."  They showed a few of their videos, one of them was titled "Our Life Recipe" and you can view it on their blog.  They spend a lot of time finding the perfect song for their videos and it certainly shows.  The whole room got teary eyed when Diane started talking about their dog, Dante.  There were some sad stories but also some happy ones, it was the perfect way to open the conference.
Dian Cu and Todd Porter
For the first session I of course decided to go with Food Photography Trends: Beyond Pretty.  Anita Chu owner of Desserts First blog and Stephanie Shih owner of Desserts for Breakfast were the presenters.  In case you are wondering, Stephanie really does eat desserts for breakfast, I asked her after the presentation.

I'm always a little worried going to photography presentations at conferences like this because I'm afraid the material would be too basic and I won't get much out of it being that I would consider myself advanced in my photography skills.  The itinerary we received displayed beginning, intermediate and advanced below each of the sessions which I found to be helpful and this one had Intermediate/Advanced under it so figured it might be ok. I'm glad I chose this session because it was my favorite session.  The great thing about it is they didn't only talk about techniques but they talked more about the different styles of photography and the evolution of styles over the years.  I always knew there were different styles but I never tried to categorize them or really think about them that much.  They grouped food photography into 6 main styles:
- product photography
- journalistic
- bold/clean
- bright/propped
- lifestyle inspired
- chiaroscuro/dark

I don't think many people have heard of the word chiaroscuro before, including me.  It's an Italian word used in the art world that means "light-dark".  I was able to easily identify which style was mine. Product and bold/clean is definitely me.  I'm just not very good at using a lot of props in my photos though sometimes I try.  The presentation was centered around a single slide that had 8 differently styled photos of the same chocolate cake to illustrate the different styles.  It was really interesting to see the same subject photographed in so many different ways and I was surprised to find out that they were all photographed using natural light. The slide below must have been the most photographed slide at the conference.  I saw everyone holding up their phones and cameras to take a picture.  Stephanie just posted on her blog yesterday the individual photos from the slide below along with the characteristics of the styles used for each of the shots.  It's a great write up and highly recommend checking it out if you didn't get to see the presentation.
One Cake 8 Styles

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Whole Foods Pollinator Picnic

I took some time off from work last week to attend the annual BlogHer Food conference which happened to be in Seattle this year, only an hour drive for me.  I took half a day off on Thursday to attend a pre-conference "Pollinator Picnic", hosted by Whole Foods.

We learned about the importance of bees in our community and how the bee population has gone down over the years due to pesticides, mites and stress from being moved from one place to another.

Some interesting bee facts:
- Since 1974 we've lost half of our bee colonies
- 1 hive of bees can pollinate 3 million flowers a day
- It takes 3 hours for bees to resettle after being moved or handled
- Queen bee will lay 2000 eggs a day during the peak of the season
- Bees never sleep
- Each bee hive has 10-30k bees per acre
- 75% of our fruits and vegetables are pollinated by honey bees

We got to hear from some local companies like Seattle Bee Works who helps people get set up with hives in their own back yards, FinnRiver Cidery who rely on bees to pollinate their orchards, John Rogers from Organically Grown Company who uses bees to increase his blueberry production and Denise, The Local Forager who gets to visit with local farmers, ranchers and producers.  The Seattle rain paused just enough for Krista from Seattle Bee Works to take us on a little tour of the apiary at the Washington Park Arboretum where the picnic was held.

Finnriver Ciders Beek's Honey

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Green Garlic and Spinach Soup

Green Garlic, Leek and Spinach Soup I've never used green garlic before but got some in my Full Circle box.  I kept putting off looking for something to do with it. Two weeks went by and I still hadn't used it.  I pulled it out and looked at it. It was starting to get wilty and wasn't sure it was even still good anymore.  I peeled back the outer layer and chopped off the tops and it looked good as new!

I saw @brandiego post something on twitter about using green garlic and I asked him what he was making with it.  He replied back with "green garlic and spinach soup".  The following day I decided to look up a recipe for this soup.  I came across Orangette's recipe and it turned out to be the same recipe @brandiego made the night before.  I only had 3 green garlics and I had some extra leeks in the fridge that were getting close to needing to be thrown out so I tossed some leeks into the soup. I left out the crème fraîche in the original recipe.  I thought about just adding a bit of milk but the soup was already pretty thin so decided against it.

I was really surprised how easy and quick this recipe was to make.  Most soups I've made take hours but this one is done in less than an hour.  I will definitely try it again and maybe add some various herbs to the soup.

Recipe adapted from Orangette's Green Garlic and Spinach Soup recipe.

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 leeks, thinly sliced
3 green garlics, thinly sliced
salt & pepper to taste
1 qt chicken broth (homemade if possible)
1 bunch of spinach leaves

Heat oil and butter in large pot over medium heat and add green garlic, leeks and a pinch of salt.  Cook, stirring frequently for 10-15 minutes, until garlic and leeks are softened but not browned.

Add stock and increase heat to bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add spinach and remove from heat. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Working in batches, purèe the mixture in a blender.  Do not fill more than 1/3 full or you will have a mess.

Return the soup to the pot and cook over low heat to rewarm for about 5 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spinach Green Garlic and Leeks Pouring Soup

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Roasted Potatoes with Chimichurri Sauce

Chimichurri SauceThis is my second time making these potatoes and chimichurri sauce though it's the first time I've taken photos highlighting the potatoes.  The first time I made them was for the steak portion of the Donna Hay Challenge last month.  We had the choice of trying to duplicate the photo for steak or potatoes and had two months to work on them. Most people did one or the other but I decided to try both.

Finding the right props for the potato challenge was the most challenging part of creating this photo.  I went to several different thrift stores trying to find a square wire holder to use for the photo but did not have much luck.  I know other people had similar issues and some decided to not use a holder at all and I almost did that too.  We made a stop at the Goodwill in Monroe, WA and again couldn't find anything that came close but we did come across this rectangular container that we made some modifications to that actually turned out pretty well.  A few cuts and bends and we had something to work with.

The original photo, taken by Ben Dearnley and styled by Steve Pearce has two butter knives in it and I actually found some butter knives that had a similar design at a thrift store I went to a few weeks ago that I've been holding onto for this photo. I even took one of the knives with me to Portland and I think I may have left it in Portland because it was no where to be found so my photo unfortunately only has one of the knives.  The knife and spoon were also thrift store items.  My props shelves are going to grow fast doing all these challenges.  The only props I didn't have to buy were the salad bowl and the glasses which I had left over from my jam and candle making.

I didn't take this photo in the same place as the steak photo mainly because it was raining and the sidewalk was all wet.  I decided to take the photo in my laundry room which has a nice smooth cement floor which I thought worked out pretty well.  I didn't take a behind the scenes photo this time because I didn't use any off camera flash for this shot.  I used my flash on camera and pointed it at the left wall at about 1/4 power.   I probably could have turned it down even more and used a larger aperature to get a little more dof on the salad.  The cup in front is a bit of red wine vinegar which is an ingredient in the chimichurri sauce though I didn't actually use it. For one thing my red wine vinegar is several months expired and my candida diet only allows cider vinegar so that's what I used in the sauce.  The cider vinegar wouldn't have looked as good so luckily I had the old red wine vinegar otherwise I would have just opened a bottle of red wine for the shot.

To go along with the crispy roasted potatoes I made up a batch of pork and beef meatloaf using a recipe I found on Simply Recipes.  It's a little different than the meatloaf recipe I usually make.  This one has more vegetables and doesn't contain any milk.  I also substituted some garbonzo bean flour for bread crumbs. I need to find me some gluten free bread crumbs. The meatloaf seemed a little greasy to me but that might be in part because it got a little cold while I was taking pictures of the potatoes.  I have another loaf of it to eat as leftovers this week.
Chimichurri Sauce
1/3 cup flat leaf parsley (chopped)
1 tablespoon oregano (chopped)
2 teaspoons rosemary (chopped)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
1 clove garlic (crushed)
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt
cracked black pepper
place the parsley, oregano, rosemary, paprika, chilli flakes, garlic, bay leaf, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix to combine. Set aside.

Roasted Potatoes
1,5kg large sebago (starchy) potatoes
(peeled and chopped)
2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt
cracked black pepper
100g wild rocket (arugula) leaves (to serve)
Preheat oven to 220 C (425 F). Place the potato in a large saucepan of salted cold water over high heat and bring to the boil. Cook for 10 minutes or until the potato is just tender. Drain, return the potato to the pan and cook for 1 minte to remove excess moisture. Shake the pan to fluff the potato. Place on a baking tray, drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 40-45 minutes or until crisp and golden. Serve the potatoes with the chimichurri sauce and rocket leaves.

Left: My version; Right: Original from Donna Hay Magazine
Roasted Potatoes with Chimichurri Sauce

Monday, May 07, 2012

Steak Skewer Challenge

Steak SkewersThis will be my second month participating in the Donna Hay Styling and Photography Challenge, organized by Jungle Frog Cooking. In case you missed my post last month, the challenge is to follow a recipe in the Donna Hay magazine and duplicate the photo that goes along with it.

This month we had the choice between Salted Rump Steak and Potatoes.  This was a much more difficult photo to duplicate than last month.  So difficult that it was decided to extend the challenge for another month.  I chose to do the steak however I may also do the potatoes later this month.  Ben Dearnley photographed the pictures we were to duplicate. Both photos were beautifully styled by Steve Pearce. They have a very rustic feel with old rusty props.

I had never seen or heard of rump steak so I decided to pay a visit to a local butcher specializing in organic, natural grass fed meats.  He mentioned how tough a cut of meat rump steak was and recommended new york steak instead.  So I got 2 steaks, a little over half a pound each.  I have bought new york steaks at Whole Foods for my Xavier Steak and was impressed with how tender they were.  Unfortunately these steaks were pale in comparison.  Not so thick and they had a surprising amount of fat on them and they weren't as tender either.  I was a little disappointed considering how much I paid for them.  They also got quite cold since I did the photo shoot outside so that didn't help.

Even though I didn't do the potato photo, I did make the potatoes and chimichurri sauce since those were elements in the steak photo.  The potatoes turned out great. They were nice and crispy and I look forward to making them again.  The chimichurri sauce didn't have quite the same look as the photo since I substituted cider vinegar for the red wine vinegar so it wasn't nearly as red but it still tasted good.

I ended up buying a few props for the photo since I didn't really have anything that looked close to what was in the picture.  I paid a visit to a few Goodwill stores to find a knife to use.  None of them were nearly as dark and rusty as the one in the photo.  Mark Lea helped take care of that by rubbing a combination of muriatic acid, hydrogen peroxide and some blue steel making solution on the blade.  I also bought some new pizza stones because the one I have is too big and square and I couldn't find any used at Goodwill.  In order to get it to look used I rubbed some tomato sauce on it and put it in the oven until it got dark. It worked like a charm!  I also bought some metal skewers which I've been meaning to buy anyway. I've been using bamboo skewers and had planned to buy metal ones after finishing those off so now I don't have to.  I ordered them on Amazon and when they arrived they turned out to not be the right ones and had to return them because they just were not right for the shot.  They were quick to send me the correct ones in time for the shoot.

As for the making of the photo, I didn't spend nearly as much time as I would have liked on the lighting.  It was getting dark and was trying to rush so the food didn't get too cold but it did anyway.  I shot it out in my backyard on a not very clean cement patio to give it that old look.  I didn't even use an umbrella this time and simply put the flash on my camera and hand held a large white reflector to bounce the light onto the food.  If I could do it again I would definitely use an umbrella to get a softer shadow.


Sunday, April 08, 2012

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

Naturally Dyed Easter EggsIt's been who knows how long since I've dyed Easter eggs. It's been many many years. I've always used what most people color eggs with, food coloring and vinegar. I thought I'd try something a little different this year. I did use vinegar but instead of food coloring I used some natural and safe ingredients.

I tried four different ingredients for my colors:

  • Dark Blue/Purple: Simmer 3/4 Cup blueberries in 1/2 cup of water and 1/4 cup of vinegar for 10-15 minutes. Crush blueberries with a potato masher to release all the juices. Cool and strain liquid into small bowl or jar.
  • Yellow: Simmer 1/2 Cup of water and 1/4 Cup of vinegar with 2 tbs turmeric for 10 minutes. Pour into small bowl or jar.
  • Light Blue: Simmer 1 Cup chopped red cabbage in 1/2 cup of water and 1/4 cup of vinegar for 10-15 minutes. Cool and strain liquid into small bowl or jar.
  • Brown: Mix 1 Cup cooled strong coffee with 1/4 cup vinegar in small bowl or jar.
  • Green: Can be done by dipping egg in yellow then blue.

I attempted to use plants from around the yard like grass, chives and leaves as a stencil and wrapped the egg in cheese cloth before dipping. It didn't work out quite the way I had hoped. The grass didn't come out too bad but the other things were a little too stiff and didn't stick to the egg very well so the dye got around it. I also wrapped some of the eggs in rubber bands and those turned out pretty well. The rubber band was tight and didn't move.

If you want to try doing a stencil using leaves or grass, make sure the leaf is very flexible and will stick well to the egg without leaving any space. You can wet the leaf to help it stick. Wrap the egg with cheese cloth if you are using a leaf and tie the end together with a string or rubber band. You can also put rubber bands around the egg if you want to add white lines.

Dip the eggs in your jar or bowl. The egg should be completely submerged. If it's not you can add a little more vinegar or color solution if you have extra. Be sure to check on them every once in a while. If the cheese cloth is draped over the bowl/jar it may start dripping onto whatever surface you have it on. It might be a good idea to set them on plates to avoid a big mess. I let my eggs soak for an hour or two for darker coloring but you can test it out and soak for less.

I'm pretty happy with the way all the colors came out. I did make the mistake of rinsing some of them in water to get off the excess color which turned out to be a bad idea because it ripped off some of the color. This was such a success that I don't think I will ever go back to using food coloring for dying eggs again.

Egg Coloring Ingredients Naturally Dying EggsEgg BathDying EggsEaster Eggs in a Basket