photography & food:: a challenge or two


A world-class photog I am not, but I really enjoying capturing my world.

I was visiting Lou’s Labyrinth on this post, and I snapped a screen shot to keep the list handy.  It looks like a fun challenge from the Idea Room, and a way to improve and expand my skills.  It’s also a good way to keep on track with photographing every day.  Sometimes the days get away from me and I realize it’s been way too long since I’ve had a camera in my hand.

I shared the list with a friend that likes photography as well,  and we are trying each day to exchange our snaps in texts.  Double fun, right?

screenshot idearoom

  As you can see, I am using my iPhone camera and at this size they seem pretty grainy, but it’s an enjoyable exercise.

1) colorful


4) water


5) on my desk

on my desk

Another self-imposed challenge is to work harder at changing up the menu at home and trying at least 2 new dishes a week from cookbooks or my pinterest recipe board.

This week we had a delicious chicken salsa dip.

chicken salsa dip

In a crockpot on low for 6 hours or so: 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken, 1 can corn, 1 jar salsa, 1 can black beans, and a brick of cream cheese.  Shred the chicken with 2 forks before serving with tortilla chips and a salad.

This one was a keeper 🙂


food:: apparently one serving of wine does not equal one bottle

While imbibing in a little vino, surfing the web, in the midst of SNOWMAGEDDON; I happened upon a treasure trove of recipes for jumbo pasta shells.  The problem was that none of the stuff I saw SPOKE to me.  Yeah, I love jumbo shells as much as the next girl, and basically I love all Italian food (not a bit of Italian in my ancestry btw), but none of the recipes was JUST RIGHT.  Sorry to shout, but again please refer to the title of this post.  It’s kinda necessary to get my point across after a good bottle of red…Which, if you are interested, is a local wine called Bandana Red made at Sugar Clay Winery.   I’m not paid to promote the winery, I just lurve the owner Amy because she is awesome on many counts.  She introduced me to the fab recipe link on this post, and hosted my amazing boob party.

Anyhoo, where was I?  Oh, none of the recipes was exactly what I was in the mood for.  Nay, none of the recipes included all of the schtuff I currently had on hand and needed to use in my fridge.  Don’t judge.  So what does a food artist do in these situations?  Well, IF in fact I was an actual food artist, I would probably do something way more fancy.  Since I was only asking myself, “What would a food artist do?”, let’s just assume this is what I came up with to clean out my fridge and use the jumbo shell pasta that was getting stale in my pantry.  Cuz that my friends, is the truth.  (Pssst don’t tell the Frankster and the Boy.  They are unwilling guinea pigs and I will never live this down even though they really liked it.  You know…they put me on a pedestal and whatnot.  If it weren’t for me they would be dirty, hungry, and naked.  I try to remind them of it regularly.  Your family would be the same without you too, so make sure they know it. You have my express permission to use that line.)

Once again, back to the recipe.  You can definitely swap healthy substitutes for my version, but why?  Live a little.

chicken broc shells 5

Chicken Broccoli Shells according to LisaV::

1 egg lightly beaten

1c sour cream

1c shredded mozzarella cheese (plus some to sprinkle on top)

1c cooked diced or shredded chicken (leftover rotisserie from the deli works great)

1/2 – 1c chopped fresh broccoli, steamed

chopped fresh parsley



salt & pepper

1 jar spaghetti sauce

1/2 pkg. jumbo shell pasta, cooked and rinsed in cold water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the first 7 ingredients using the seasonings to taste.  (I went heavy on the parsley and light on the rest.)  Spoon some spaghetti sauce into the bottom of a 9×13 pan (because I didn’t and I wish I had), and then start filling those shells.  Once the shells are stuffed and in the pan, spoon over some more sauce, top with more mozzarella, and maybe a dash of parmesan too.  Bake for 30 minutes and serve with a salad and garlic bread.  It’s enough to feed 4 easily with leftovers.  Lunch at work tomorrow?  I think so.

Here are some prep photos::

chicken broc shells 1

chicken broc shells 2

chicken broc shells 3

chicken broc shells 4

food:: good lord let it be over…the harvest i mean…

I am so over vegetables at this moment, it’s not even funny.

After a looooong dry spell, we were fortunate to get a good soaking rain a few days ago.  So yay…the garden is still producing. (Think yay like the dentist just said you need a root canal.)  And with the seasons quickly changing, it means I have to step it up cleaning up the garden.

The digging of potatoes is complete.  This is the haul from just 2 rows.  Yes, just 2 rows.  We grew 5 rows.  I told Frankie he was an Irish potato farmer in a previous life.  I swear subconsciously the man is worried we will experience a potato famine.  I have enough potatoes for a Thanksgiving feast for 80 bajillion people.  Wanna come over for a potato picnic?  We’ll grill it, fry it, mash it, boil it, season it and we will not know of this thing they call a famine and we shall dance the potato dance till dawn…

Did I mention we have a few tomatoes?  Yeah, I’ve been bitching about it for weeks now.  I need to bitch some more.

 So, while I am furiously trying to get ready for my craft show in a couple of weeks, I am taking near daily detours for canning and cooking.  (If you missed my sauce recipes jump here.)

For all my bitching, the least I can do is tell you thanks for stopping by and listening.  And that I may be a little spotty on the posting and the returning of emails for just a few days.  As much as I like to write, I really need to get some crafting done, like every evening.  But once the show is over, I’ll get right back on track and hopefully have a bunch of new ideas to share.

Have yourself a ridiculously amazing weekend my friends!

food:: broiled shrimp & broccoli

Hey there.  How’s it going today?

Me?  Oh, I’m swell.

But definitely not in the mood to cook.

In these situations, I rely on my son.  Not that he will actually cook dinner, but he is adventurous enough to try an easy recipe from my food & stuff Pinterest board.  Yes I am very lucky, I can get that boy to sit next to me on the couch and check out Pinterest food.  Score.

A while back, I pinned this while my child was surfing pins from the couch with me.  He’s a sucker for a shrimp recipe, and he wants pasta with everything right now.  Naturally, his suggestion was to tweak this recipe and pair it with angle hair pasta. He was quick about it when I told him it had to be easy or he would be getting a sandwich for dinner.

Let’s get to it…here’s our version.

broiled shrimp & broccoli::

1 lb. shrimp

1 bunch broccoli

1 pkg. italian dressing mix

1/4 c. lemon juice (I didn’t have any lemons)

1/2 stick butter (I could NOT justify using a whole stick like the original ~ yikes!)

salt & pepper to taste

lots of cooked pasta

Line a boiler pan with foil and melt the butter in it while the oven is heating.  Remove it from the oven, add the lemon juice, broccoli, and shrimp and top it with the italian seasoning.  Pop it back in the oven for about 15 minutes on 350 degrees for raw shrimp, or under the broiler for only about 8 minutes on low for cooked shrimp.  Toss with the drained pasta and enjoy.

We like the broccoli on the crisp-side, but you could pre-steam it for a couple of minutes if you prefer it more thoroughly cooked.

Not bad for a first go around at our house.  My foodie child told me next time to back off on the lemon.  He wasn’t so keen on the strong lemon flavor of the dish.

Since the lemon juice was staring me down from the corner of the kitchen; I made 1 little, itty-bitty pink lemondrop martooni.

Next time, I think I will try some different seasoning too.  Maybe a dry soup mix.

And check it out, the bowl I served it in?  Yeah, that was a *stellar* find at a garage sale this weekend.  Vintage pyrex is always on my radar and I got this piece for a song.  Again I say, score.

Thanks for stopping by 🙂

food:: tomato sauce

In my last post, we talked about the sorting of tomatoes and the blanching part.  Onward to the sauces…

T~O~P (that’s tomatoes, onions & peppers)::

since they aren’t all ready from the garden at the same time I chop and freeze the  onions & peppers until the tomatoes are ripe

45 lbs of tomatoes/onions/peppers should make approximately 7 quarts of canned sauce

lemon juice

garlic & chili powder are optional add-ins if you plan to use it for chili

In batches with the blender, or with hand blender in a stock pot (the easy way), blend up the blanched tomatoes, fresh or frozen onions & peppers (I use about 4 cups of each).  Crank up the heat on the stove, cooking the mixture for about 3 hours to reduce the volume by one half.  Add fresh clove garlic during blending if desired, or 2 T powdered garlic and 2 T chili powder after the mixture has reduced (more or less to your taste).  Use 2 T lemon juice per jar, then ladle the hot sauce into the hot jars and process for 40 minutes (per the Ball Blue Book).

Spaghetti Sauce::

45 lbs of tomatoes should make approximately 7 quarts of canned sauce

lemon juice

4 cups chopped onions & peppers

10 – 12 cloves fresh garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

1 T sugar

1 T salt

1 tsp pepper

1 T oregano or italian seasoning

2 T chopped fresh parsley

2 T chopped fresh basil

In batches with the blender, or with hand blender in a stock pot (the easy way), blend up the blanched tomatoes, fresh or frozen onions & peppers, and garlic.  Once pureed, add the olive oil and seasonings, and crank up the heat on the stove, cooking the mixture for about 3 hours to reduce the volume by one half.  You will want to taste it…several times.  Adjust your seasonings if you wish.  Use 2 T lemon juice per jar, then ladle the hot sauce into the hot jars and process for 40 minutes (per the Ball Blue Book).


Thanks for stopping by!

food:: the year of the tomato

2012 will forever be known at my house as “THE YEAR OF THE TOMATO”.

(I said that in BIG VOICE-OVER GUY’S voice in my head ~ try it, it really makes it sound better.)

While much of the garden is done and over with, the tomatoes just keep going…and going…and going.

So I keep canning…and canning…and canning.

(I said that in Ben Stein’s “Bueller~Bueller~voice” in my head.  Go ahead if you need to re-read it, I’ll wait right here.)

So, now that you’re back, let’s talk about my recipes.

For years I hated the blanching part.  I burned my hands, the bowls of ice water never stayed cold, and it took hours to get the job done.  Martha, my canning guru friend, couldn’t figure out why I was having so many troubles until she taught me this method.  OMG ~ I can blanch a HUGE batch in minutes now, with no mess and no raw burning fingers.  Finally!

Blanching with ease::

Step 1 ~ only use the completely ripe tomatoes.  If they are not ripe, they are NOT ready.  Don’t get ahead of yourself because it will just be frustrating.  Patience is a virtue, trust me on this one.  It’s an easy enough method if you do it with only ripe tomatoes.  You can always blanch a batch and store it in the fridge for a few days till the rest catch up, then blanch them and cook/can the batches together.  A little planning is worth the effort.

Lets get started.

Fill a large pot of water, cover and get it boiling.

While you’re waiting, rinse your tomatoes, get a big slotted spoon ready, and start filling your kitchen sink with cold water and ice.

OK, once you have a rolling boil – toss a couple of handfuls of tomatoes into the boiling water and set the timer for 3 minutes.  Then using the slotted spoon lift them from the boiling water  (I use the lid to transport several at a time) over to the icy sink water.

Start the next batch on to boil, set the timer, and by the time you get that done the first batch in the sink is ready to core and peel.  They should cool quickly enough to cut out the core with a small paring knife and the skins should be loose enough to nearly squeeze them right out.

When they are at this point – I put them in large bowl to bleed some of the water off and make the cooking time shorter.  You can also freeze them if you don’t like to can.

Stay tuned.  Next I’ll be posting sauce recipes.

Thanks for stopping by!