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  1. Wednesday, May 11

    Plate to Pixel, Hélène’s Beautiful New Book…and a Fab Giveaway!

    This giveaway is now closed. But please keep reading to learn more about this great book!

    About a year ago I received an email from Hélène Dujardin. I had never met Hélène, only heard her speak at a conference and admired her beyond-lovely food blog Tartelette from afar. When I saw her name in my inbox, I think I might have squealed. And then I read the email…not only did she know and read my blog, but she wanted to room together at the Evo conference. I responded immediately, I think in a relatively non-spastic way because she didn’t seem too frightened of me.

    Anyway, we roomed together at Evo and I finally got to know Hélène in person. She is delightful. Oh so French, oh so talented, oh so fun. I love her to pieces! Evo was a blast…and then I was able to convince Hélène to throw a party with me last fall at BlogHer Food. Working with her was just as much fun as rooming with her!

    So, when her new book Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography and Styling came out, I knew I had to promote the heck out of it. I emailed Hélène and her publisher offering to do a giveaway, before I even saw the book, counting on the fact that if it was anything like her blog or her photography presentations, it would be great.

    Then the book arrived. And it is beyond great. It is beautiful as well as a thorough and helpful photography resource. Nate and I were both stunned by the fact that one person could write it…let alone a person who’s first language is not English. Not only is her writing good, it is fabulous. That Hélène…you can always count on her for excellence.

    If you don’t know Hélène’s background, she started as a pastry chef and eventually became a professional food photographer. You can read more about it in her book (hint, hint). You can trust her food and her photography. The girl knows what she’s talking about on both fronts. And she has a wonderful artistic eye. Her composition and styling are both perfect.

    If you are someone who wants to take better photos of food, you need this book. If you could care less about food photography, you’ll still love the book. The photography basics (and beyond basics) that she outlines will help anyone looking to improve their photography skills. The book is very well-organized, offers clear instructions and information, and I love how every single photo in the book has the technical information for the photo listed beneath it. She also provides comparisons of different types of shots with different settings, so you can actually see what she’s talking about.

    I could go on and on. But I won’t. You get the drift. I love the book.

    And, we’re giving away FIVE copies of Plate to Pixel! That’s right, five of you lucky people will get your very own copy to drool over at home! Same drill as always…leave a comment and you’re entered to win! One comment per person, and we’re not limiting this to U.S. addresses only…anyone can enter, no matter where you live! Please leave your comment before Midnight PT on Tuesday May 17.

    Bravo, Hélène! I am so happy for you and all of your well-deserved success!


  2. Tuesday, May 10

    Grammy McCarthy’s Brownies

    Nate’s Grammy lives south of Boston in a perfectly scenic, coastal New England town. Her home is on a lovely little gulf where you can watch the tide and the plethora of birds go about their daily business. I have so many memories there, of time spent with Nate and his family, experiencing all the emotions and rites of passage you experience with family, including our own wedding reception.

    Of course, as is often the case, there are many food associations with Grammy’s home. The two food items that are always in abundance when we visit are blueberry muffins and brownies, both of which we all eat far too quickly!

    Nate loves Grammy’s brownies. There are a few things in Nate’s mind that I think no one will ever live up to in comparison with Grammy. Her brownies are one of those things. I, of course, am always trying oodles of different brownie recipes, so I actually rarely use her recipe. Not because I don’t love them. I’m just into comparing brownie recipes! So, on Mother’s Day evening, after Nate had cooked up a divine filet mignon dinner, he said, “Do we have stuff to make brownies?” To which I replied, “Yes!” And then he said, “Okay, I’ll make them, but I’m making them my way.” Which means Grammy’s way, of course.

    The brownies tasted exactly like Grammy’s. Nate was beyond happy with the result. And it was a great Mother’s Day present for me…delicious brownies and happy memories of days and nights on the gulf. Who could ask for more?

    A note on this recipe. Yes, she uses shortening. And, yes, Nate used it, too. And, to be honest, these brownies come out with a great texture – not gooey at all, but not dried out, either.  They are the texture you expect a brownie to be and have a nice crust on top. Also, they are not uber chocolatey. If you have Julia Child’s brownies on one end of the spectrum (i.e. the super duper gooey moist chocolatey end of the spectrum), then these are on the other end. Chocolatey enough, but not overwhelming. Nikki, my anti-chocolate friend, might even give them a try!

    Oh, one more thing, unlike most brownies in my life, I actually think I like these better the second day.

    Grammy McCarthy's Brownies
     
    From Grammy McCarthy
    Author:
    Cuisine: Dessert
    Ingredients
    • 2 squares unsweetened chocolate (Grammy uses Fleishmans, we used whatever was on hand)
    • ⅓ cup shortening
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • ¾ cup flour
    • ½ teaspoon baking powder
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    Instructions
    1. Melt chocolate and shortening in a double boiler over hot water. Take off heat and add sugar. Add eggs when mixture has cooled a bit. Mix dry ingredients together then add to the wet ingredients. Mix in ½ C broken (wal)nuts. (Since it was Mother’s Day, Nate left these out for me. Because we all know how I feel about walnuts.) Spread in well-greased, 8″ X 8″ pan.
    2. Bake at 350 degrees for ~20-25 mins.
    3. There will be a dull crust when almost done – take out. You also want your fork or toothpick to come out clean.
    4. Cut when cool.

     


  3. Sunday, May 8

    Week 224 Menu…and Happy Mother’s Day!

    Happy Mother’s Day! Cate told me yesterday that Mother’s Day was my day to relax, so I’m taking up her on it. It’s funny, when I planned my menu last week, I forgot that Sunday was Mother’s Day. We will not be having breakfast for dinner tonight. In fact, Nate is cooking filet mignon. I can’t wait for dinner!

    We received some Japanese sweet potatoes in our CSA bag last week. I kept neglecting them, so Nate roasted them up yesterday. They were so good. They taste like sweet potatoes, but they have a more buttery, almost squash-like flavor. Just another wonderful item we’ve discovered through our CSA. So glad I finally got my act together and signed up!

    MONDAY:
    – Leftovers

    TUESDAY:
    Caprese Paninis (didn’t get to these last week)

    WEDNESAY:
    Whole Wheat Pancakes

    THURSDAY:
    – Eat out (Kindergarten open house that evening)

    FRIDAY:
    Barbecue Chicken Pizza

    SATURDAY:
    – Chicken Teriyaki
    – Veggies and rice

    SUNDAY:
    Kitchen Sink Quesadillas

    Time for you to share your menu for the week! If you’re a meal-planning mom, you don’t have to post your menu today. I’ll cut you some slack. Consider it my Mother’s Day gift to you! (That said, you still better share it sometime this week!)

    Oh, and if you’re looking for Mother’s Day reading material, be sure to check out the Top 9 on DailyBuzz Moms right now. I forgot to tell you, but DailyBuzz Moms is a new, beautiful website that I have the honor of editing. So excited about my new gig! ANYWAY…like I said, there are some good Mother’s Day posts on there right now. “So we dance” made me cry while I was editing the other night. My non-pregnant coworker said that post got her too, so I don’t even think it was my hormones. 😉


  4. Thursday, May 5

    Confession: I Hate Grocery Shopping

    The other day I posted the following status on my personal Facebook page:

    “I hate grocery shopping. That is all.”

    I immediately had a bunch of “Likes” and comments. Most comments were in full agreement. And Carina’s comment hit the nail on the head: “I only like to grocery shop if I go to certain out of my price range stores, with disposable income, and by myself. Every day grocery shopping? Sigh….”

    This is the problem. Sure, farmers’ markets are loads of fun! Fancy stores with fancy foods…bring it on! But that is rarely reality. Each Sunday I plan a menu. I feel good about myself. I’m organized. I know what we’re eating that week. My grocery list is ready to go. Then Monday rolls around. And things get crazy. And 75% of the time we don’t have time to get to the store. Then Tuesday rolls around, a day which is usually even busier than Monday. Finding the time to go is killer…and when I do, I have to get it done as quickly as humanly possible, usually with two grumpy daughters in tow. Between being a mom, working and watching American Idol, I simply don’t have disposable time (let alone income) to devote to the kind of grocery shopping that is in fact enjoyable.

    My friend Emily commented on Facebook that I should confess my feelings on the blog. So, here I am. Confessing. Laying it all out there. This food blogger hates grocery shopping!

    This is not the first time I’ve used the blog as a confessional. And, to be honest, when I confess things, I usually get good dirt on all of you, so I kind of love it. So, at the risk of causing you to wonder why I write a food blog, here I am…in all my grocery store hating glory.

    So, are you with me?


  5. Tuesday, May 3

    Beets That Are Pure Gold + Roasted Beet Salad

    I’ve tried to convince you to like beets before, and I’m not going to stop until I get at least one of you beet haters on the beet bandwagon. As a beet convert myself, I know it’s possible. And, today, I’m going to make it even easier for the beet haters to give them another try.

    Here’s the secret: eat golden beets. I don’t even know where you can find them because I found them in my CSA bag the week before Easter. But all of you (beet haters and lovers alike!) should try to find fresh, in-season, golden beets sometime. The flavor is milder and, well, just plain yummy. (I think the food magazines are knocking on my door after that amazing description.)

    Before I get you thinking golden beets don’t taste like beets, they do. And, I’ll be straight with you…the non-beet lovers at the Easter feast did not gobble these beauties up. But the non-beet lovers did admit these beets are better than your average, run-of-the mill red beet. I consider that success.

    Plus, they’re gorgeous. Seriously. My camera ate them up almost as enthusiastically as I did.

    Roasted Beet Salad with Spinach and Goat Cheese
     
    Prep time
    Cook time
    Total time
     
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • - Beets (golden if you can find them)
    • - Spinach
    • - Goat cheese
    • - Your favorite salad dressing…Girard’s Champagne dressing is awesome with this salad
    Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the greens and ends off of the beets and wrap each beet in some foil. Place in a roasting pan. Roast 40-60 minutes, until beets are pierced easily with a sharp knife. Let cool a bit, then peel of the skins.
    2. Slice beets then top with spinach, crumbled goat cheese and salad dressing.


  6. Sunday, May 1

    Week 223 Menu

    Two years ago I posted with great pride a picture of one of my beautiful baby tomato plants that I had just planted. I had high hopes for those plants. But, as we all know, pride goeth before the fall! A combination of diseased soil in our garden plot and a gardener without the faintest idea of what she was doing (that’s me!) killed every last one of the plants I put in the ground. It was Hamlet tragic.

    So, not surprisingly, I was a little gun shy last year and didn’t plant any. This year, however, I will not let my fears control me! And I’m taking a new approach – potted tomato plants. And I’m asking people who do know what they’re doing what I should be doing, over and over again, no matter how pesky I get! So far so good…my plants are growing like crazy! I’m hesitant to be excited about our forthcoming tomatoes, but I think it might actually happen this year.

    I seriously can’t believe it’s time to plan a menu again. AND it’s May. I can’t keep up with Father Time. That guy is fast.

    MONDAY:
    Mushroom soup (love this soup, btw)

    TUESDAY:
    – Enchiladas (not sure what kind yet)

    WEDNESDAY:
    – Spaghetti
    – Salad

    THURSDAY:
    – Leftovers

    FRIDAY:
    Caprese paninis

    SATURDAY:
    – Eat out (crazy busy day!)

    SUNDAY:
    – Breakfast for dinner…I’m loving this as my plan for Sundays.
    – Smoothies

    Please share your menu for the week! As always, THANK YOU for sharing!!!!!! 🙂