Cookbook Review – Extra Virgin

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Last month I worked through this cookbook by Debi Mazar & Gabriele Corcos. You may recognize Debi’s name as she is an actress who made her debut in Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas”. She and her husband Gabriele (raised in Tuscany) are the producers and cohosts of the Cooking Channel’s primetime show “Extra Virgin”. I was drawn to the simplicity of the recipes and was not disappointed. Their salads were quite lovely. I made two, starting with this one

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Butter Lettuce & Pomegranate Seed Salad. It is dressed with a simple shallot vinaigrette. Delicious. When the first peaches made their arrival in the farmers market we made

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Peach & Fennel Salad. Oh man, what a combo! Really great. It also includes thinly sliced bresaola (a cured beef), which I never had before. I was going to substitute Prosciutto but when I saw my local market had the bresaola I went for it. Wow…super tasty. I could see thin strips of this wrapped around cantaloupe cubes. Will have to give that a try. This made a great starter to one of our meals

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Grilled Apricots with goat cheese ricotta. No one needs a recipe for this brilliant concoction. Just grill the halved apricots, place a small scoop of ricotta in the middle, then top with your favorite chopped herb, drizzle a little olive oil and a wee bit of salt. Simply magic. So, of course an Italian cookbook would not be complete without some pasta dishes. I just had to try this one

 

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Baked Pasta In Eggplant. This looks way more complicated than it is. The filling is pasta and a seasoned ground pork, all layered in a baking dish that has been completely lined with eggplant slices. There’s a bit of a wow factor that you experience with you pull out your first slice! The other pasta dish I tried was this

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Pesto Lasagna. This did taste delicious but I gotta say it threw me for a loop because it wasn’t thick like lasagnas I’m used to. The layers are just lasagna noodles, besciamella sauce, pesto, and parmesan cheese. So, it has a flat appearance. Because we love eggplant we had to give this a try

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Now, we usually eat our eggplant in Thai dishes, so it is cubed and cooked in a curry. This was the first time I made Eggplant Parmesan. It was absolutely delicious, however the prep was so messy that I probably won’t make it again. The eggplant is sliced, turned in flour and deep fried. I have grease splatter all of that page in the cookbook! Finally, I thought I’d give one of their desserts a try

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Lemon Brule Tart. Actually this was supposed to be made in one large tart pan, but in a recent clean-up, organizing frenzy I found my individual tart pans so thought I’d use them for this. Really good, but would probably be easier in the one large tart pan. I will make this again!

There are so many good recipes and ideas that really don’t require a recipe that I would highly recommend the book.

So, in the month of July I will be cooking from this book

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Bowl & Spoon by Sara Forte from Sprouted Kitchen fame. So many wonderful ideas in this book. Can’t wait to get started!

Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope you have been enjoying some wonderful meals in your neck of the woods.

xo

Posted in Cooking, photography | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Sparking Joy

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Hello! How are you? Summer is finally here in the Pacific Northwest and that means a lot of time spent outside, not just gardening, but also enjoying our meals al fresco.

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For me, this is also a time to cleaning and tidying. Recently I picked up the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. Her approach is inspiring. Basically she suggests you hold each item in your hand and ask yourself “does this spark joy?” If it doesn’t, thank it for its service and remove it from your life.

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So, I’ve gone through every item of clothing, eliminating 3 garbage bags full and donated them. The rest were neatly hung or folded. I’m now working on kitchen gadgets & appliances. Since Brian & I both love to cook, you can only imagine the stash! Seriously, who else has cannoli forms? A ravioli cutter? 23 tart pans of various sizes? It’s crazy!

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As I go through this process I am also thinking about the other things in my life…the tasks, the chores… are they sparking joy?

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Of course there are tasks and chores that I really must do. So then the question becomes, how can I approach these things with a joyful spirit?

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These are the things I am pondering as I go through all our stuff. As the space in our house becomes more clear, perhaps the space in my mind will find a clearing as well.

I hope whatever season you are in that it is sparking a bit of joy in your life.

Cheers!

xo

Posted in Inspirational, photography | 6 Comments

Fava Bean Soup, our way

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Hi there! The above photo is the result of our own recipe for Fava Bean soup. In yesterday’s post I had mentioned that there was one recipe in Mimi Thorisson’s book A Kitchen In France that I could not make work for me. It was her Fava Bean soup. Following her recipe, mine turned out an unappetizing pale green. She had used a potato as a thickener, which I found caused a paste-like texture and starchy taste. Overall the soup was bland in flavor also. If any of you have ever worked with Fava Beans before, then you how much work is involved and can understand my disappointment

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First you have to remove the beans from their pods

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Then you have to blanch the beans, cool them, then remove the outer skin. After all of that, you finally have something you can add to your soup. After my first failure Brian & I came up with our own recipe, which tasted really great. First off, we increased the amount of Fava Beans Mimi called for (she had 4 lbs of pods, we had 6). Then, I replaced the potato in her recipe for dry white rice grains as the thickener. I also added 2 leeks and some spinach leaves, and finally some Herbs de Provence. So here you go my friends, our Fava Bean Soup recipe!

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Thanks so much for stopping by!

xo

Posted in Cooking, photography | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Cookbook Review – A Kitchen In France

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In the month of May I cooked through this book by Mimi Thorisson. First off, the book is gorgeous. Filled with lovely images and the stories in it are entertaining as well. There were so many recipes I wanted to try, but the month came to an end quickly and only had a chance to work with 5 of them. Well actually I tried 6, but one didn’t work out so well. More on that later. Here are 2 or 3 pictures of the 5 recipes that work well and loved so well that I would do them again. First off was the Roast Asparagus with Chervil

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Boy was this delicious! I loved that the asparagus are in bundles of 4 or 5 held together with prosciutto – the perfect serving size. This recipe presented itself at just the right time too with asparagus season in full swing. Next up was Chou Farci

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This is probably one of the most beautiful dishes in the book. Savoy cabbage is used here for its lovely veiny texture. Easier to make than it looks. Basically you blanche and cool the cabbage leaves, then line a souffle dish, putting the most beautiful leave, texture side down on the bottom. Then a pork sausage, tomato filling that has been sautéed with herbs, onion, and carrot goes into the prepared dish and then topped with a final leaf. Then the whole thing is baked

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Brian & I really loved this take on the usual stuffed cabbage rolls – easier to prepare as well. Will definitely be doing it again. Because our local Rainier cherries had just come into season, I decided to try her Cherry Clafoutis

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Because Rainier cherries are more blonde than the Bings, this didn’t have the deep red cherry look of the one in the book, but it was delicious. We even enjoyed it for breakfast a couple of times! Seduced by the picture in the book I had to try her Chocolate Meringue Swirls with Chocolate Sauce and Creme Chantilly

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This was unbelievably great on so many levels! So easy to make and they just look fabulous!

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Finally I finished out the month with the Artichoke Souffle

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I absolutely love artichokes. Even the way they look intrigue me.

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In the book, Mimi discarded the leaves right away to get to the hearts. We however wanted to enjoy the leaves in a aioli dipping sauce Brian made so I went the extra step of trimming the pointy end of the leaves off before cooking them.

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All the ingredients had a lovely texture and it was fun to finally be able to use my little individual casserole dishes for this

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Here’s the final result, which puffed up nicely. However, Brian & I found it a bit bland. I’m thinking when I do this recipe again I will use a sharper cheese (recipe calls for Guyere) and maybe include some sautéed leek (leeks make everything more flavorful I think).

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, there was one recipe that I could not make work for me, which was her Fava Bean Soup. The color was so much more pale than the picture in the book, and not much flavor. This was sad because there is quite a bit of work involved to prepare fava beans. So Brian & I talked about how we would go about it, so what did I do? I went back to the Farmer’s Market, bought more fava beans and made my own version – which turned out awesome! Will be posting about that tomorrow and sharing the recipe.

In the meantime, for the month of June I will be cooking out of this book

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Extra Virgin by Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar. So excited about this one because it is filled with recipes calling for ingredients that are just becoming available in the market. Will report back next month!

Thanks so much for stopping by. Bon Appetite!

xo

Posted in Cooking, photography | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Be Still 52 – Looking Back

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Top Row left to right: First assignment – Stillness, Backlight, Cookies & Milk

Middle row L to R: Like a Painting, Like a Painting (not), Butter & Eggs

Bottom row L to R: Citrus, Spoon, Breakfast

With only two weeks left of this year-long course (hard to believe!) Kim asked each of us to look back on our year and reflect on how far we have come. The above contact represents just a sampling of the images I made for class this year. I’ve chosen them because of what I’ve learned from them and what I’ve discovered about my photography in the process. Not wanting to bore you all going over each and every image, I’ll pick out 5 to discuss. First up would be the image for our very first assignment…

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This image very well represents  the type of photography I was doing last year. Flowers as the subject, natural light, shallow depth of field and a texture layer added. I was rather hooked on texture layers then, though rarely use them today. I still think there is a time and a place for them. Next, we had an assignment to create side light with the prompt of butter and eggs…

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I had just started working with studio light. My reasons were the fact that often in our climate, good natural light is a little hard to come by and also, with running a business from home, often by the time I had a moment to do some photography, the light was gone. I decided if I could get comfortable with studio light, then I could take pictures whenever I wanted! Then we had a lesson prompt “like a painting”, which I did literally, then actually went off the beaten path with this image…

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Studio light again. This image was also one of the first where I started exploring dark, moody lighting. I still like this image, though if I were going to do it again today, I might go even a little darker and do a better job of the linen placement. The next image was for the lesson prompt “breakfast”…

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Studio light again. This was where I found myself really digging food photography. Of all the still life work I’ve done over the last year, it is those that feature food that I like the best and had the most fun with. There will definitely be more of this in my future. Finally, the last picture is not in the above contact sheet only because it is a recent lesson prompt “tea (or coffee) and coins…

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I think this image represents my photography right now. Dark & moody lighting, tightly cropped, and textural. Also studio lighting here. At this moment I find myself rather comfortable working with the lights and because of that I’ve been able to shoot more, regardless of the time of day. Of course I still love taking advantage of natural light, and I think there’s room in this world for both God’s Light (natural), and Goddess Light (the light we carry with us.)

Being in this class not only taught me a lot about Still Life and processing images, it was also a great supportive community of super talented students, several of which I’m connected to beyond this course. Not sure where all of this is taking me, but I sure am enjoying the journey.

Many thanks to those who stopped by today and have been following and encouraging me along the way. Deeply grateful.

xo

Posted in Art, photography | Tagged | 14 Comments

For the Love of Rhubarb!

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Brian & I love rhubarb so this is one of our favorite times of the year, when our garden explodes with red stalks and large leaves. Even if we didn’t love to eat it, we would still love its contribution to the garden. It grows well in the shade and the leaves look fantastic!

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So a few days ago I set about harvesting rhubarb stalks to cook with.

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I was able to pull 3 bunches like this out of the garden (don’t you just love my fancy gardening outfit?!)

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Once the leaves were removed (you don’t want to eat those – they will make you sick) and the stalks cleaned, it was time for some chopping.

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I was inspired by Cathy Sly’s (the link is to her blog – which is awesome!)picture on IG for a rhubarb spritzer made with simple syrup and Pellegrino. So good. Thanks Cathy! I found a recipe for Rhubarb simple syrup HERE

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Then some rhubarb jam that would go into ice cream. This jam would also be good on a piece of toast!

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This came together pretty quick. Then came the ice cream.

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This was my first time making rhubarb ice cream. Delicious! Found the recipe HERE for both the jam and the ice cream.

Then some more chopping

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to make a rhubarb crisp (click HERE for recipe)

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Of course all of these items make a great stand-alone dessert, but I like to do what I call “composed” desserts, when there are a few things served at once and each item have at least one ingredient in common, like rhubarb!

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I still have more rhubarb in the fridge so will be soliciting ideas from you all as to what to do with it!

So, do you love rhubarb? What do you do with it?

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Kim Klassen ‘kk_moodswing’ preset applied to an iPhone picture that was processed with Brushstroke app.

Linking up with Kim’s Texture Tuesday. Hope you can pop by and check out everyone’s fabulous photography. Thanks for stopping by. Cheers!

xo

Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Mini Gather at the DBG

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On the 2nd day of our “mini-gather”, Barbara Hurst, Terri Porter and I headed out to the Desert Botanical Garden. This place is a special treat for me as we do not have these types of plants here in Washington. The colors and shapes are amazing.

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Intriguing textures like the cactus above

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These insects were so busy with one another, they didn’t even notice me!

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The spiky thorns create such amazing patterns

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The contrast between the desert wildflowers and the cactus is mesmerizing

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I think I could stare into this cactus for hours!

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The cactus flowers blooming amid the thorns is a metaphor of life itself; the world can be a harsh, dangerous place, and yet beauty springs forth.

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After taking many, many pictures, we had a lovely lunch. And then, just like that, the day was done. Such fond memories. Many thanks again to Barbara Hurst and Terri Porter for our lovely time together.

Thanks so much for stopping by. Linking up w/ Kim Klassen’s Texture Tuesday today.

xo

Posted in Gardening, photography | Tagged , | 11 Comments

Cookbook Review – The Kinfolk Table

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In the month of April I tried some of the recipies in The Kinfolk Table by Nathan Williams. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to cook all the recipes I wanted, but the ones I did were superb. First was the Citrus Lentil Salad

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This was super easy to make and quite tasty. I substituted Blood Orange Olive Oil for the regular EVOO, just to put my signature on it. This is a light salad, perfect for the summer days to come. After that I made the Sweet Potato Biscuits

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I rolled out the dough a bit too thin so that’s why they are not as high as they should be (my bad), but that didn’t adversely affect the wonderful flavor. I am now a fan of sweet potato biscuits! Then there was a fun play with the Hummingbird Cake (you may remember an earlier post on this related to a new prop I had found)

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I can’t say YUM enough! Brian loved it so much he wants it for his birthday cake this year, which will take place tomorrow. The last recipe I had the chance to make was a very simple  Cucumber & Fennel Salad

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Another simple to make and light salad that would be perfect paired with a grilled salmon (which is what we did.)

The book’s tagline reads “recipes for small gatherings”, so quantities won’t overwhelm. The book is also beautiful and the portraits of those who presented recipes in the book are posed in ways I haven’t really seen before. Just wonderful. I would recommend this book highly.

For the month of May I will be exploring recipes from this book that I learned about on Kim Klassen’s website (shown here without its jacket)

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A Kitchen In France by Mimi Thorisson. The book is full of gorgeous photography – I think it would make a great coffee table book even if you never cooked a thing out of it. Recipes are intriguing and am looking forward to seeing how they work out. Will let you know next month. Until then, Bon Appetite!

Thanks for stopping by. Cheers!

xo

Posted in Cooking, photography | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Mini Gather

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It all happened here, at Barbara Hurst’s home. Isn’t it beautiful? The tree frames the house  perfectly. Terri Porter drove up from Phoenix and we spent the entire day doing still life photography, eating lunch, playing in Lightroom together, eating dinner, laughing, and smiling. I can tell you we didn’t starve!

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Meet my new friend, Sasha! She is Barb’s faithful companion who watched us all like a hawk while we took pictures.

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These chocolate croissants were left over from the breakfast Barb & I had Saturday morning before Terri arrived. She gets these from the frozen section at Trader Joe’s. You must pull them out the night before and the puff up and then you put an egg wash on them and bake for about 20 minutes. They are delicious! Barb also had the idea of using a tea ball to sift the powdered sugar on them. Smart lady! Barb picked up the gorgeous plate at the swap meet that she, Brian, & I attended after the Gather event in November. Serious prop envy here!

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Everywhere you looked there were vases of flowers in Barb’s home. These lovely hydrangeas made wonderful subject matter, along with the wooden letter (H is for hydrangea, Hurst, and Hart!)

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Terri brought things to play with too like this fabulous spool of thread.

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Barb had several of these fun little air ferns, which I thought paired nicely with shells she had in a blue birdbath outside.

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I needed to pull away to start preparing lunch (Paella) and thought Barb’s cool cutting board with the garlic would make a nice still life. Isn’t the background awesome! It’s one of those canvas printed ones from Swanky Prints.

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It took a little longer than planned to get the lunch made, but finally it was ready and Barb set a lovely table for us outside.

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The Paella turned out pretty good if I do say so myself! It was kind of Barb to let me cook in her kitchen.

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Barb & Terri doing their thing!

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As I was clearing the table after lunch I saw this lovely set up that Barb created and had to stop to take a picture of it. It was one of just a few pictures I took w/ my iPhone.

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The three of us met at Shutter Sisters Oasis 3 years ago. Who would have guessed back then that we would develop this beautiful friendship. My life is richer because they are a part of it and I am grateful for their love and light.

The next day we went to the Desert Botanical Gardens, but that’s a story for another post!

Thanks so much for stopping by. I am linking up with Kim’s Texture Tuesday. Hope you get a chance to stop by and check out all the links to blogs belonging to very talented people. Cheers!

xo

Posted in Inspirational, iPhoneography, photography | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

Nasty Spam Attack

Just a quick post to let you know that my email account was hacked (they got in through my blog site) and as a result many people I know received bogus spam email. My apologies if you were one of them. The problem has been resolved and the hacker has been blocked. Sure wish those hackers would get a real job!

Cheers, xo

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments