I marked a page in a book I had read several years ago and came across it the other day. A Prayer That Moves Heaven offers comfort and hope for those going through difficult times, and we all have gone through or … Continue reading
I just finished reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. A friend had given me the book a few years ago, and I had it in my stack of books to read. I never have as much time to read as I’d … Continue reading
If you’re wanting to do some redecorating in your home, you may want to check out Simple Sustainable Style, a Country Living Book by designer Randy Florke. It’s filled with lots of wonderful ideas and tips. The author shows you how … Continue reading
In mid-October, I finally got around to buying a pumpkin for my porch. I was at Wal-Mart, and I saw a display that said “Pink Pumpkins.” When I went over to look, I found that these pumpkins benefited breast cancer … Continue reading
If you enjoy making your own ice cream, or would like to start, you’d probably love the recently-published book The Ultimate Guide to Homemade Ice Cream: Over 300 Gelatos, Sorbets, Cakes, & More. Written by master chef Jan Hedh, this … Continue reading
Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots is dedicated to “…foodies, food bloggers, home cooks, and chefs…and to anyone who craves a delicious meal, chases beauty, and wants to make people hungry with their photographs.” That certainly includes me! :) So I was glad to have the chance to review this very helpful, comprehensive guide to taking better food photos. Author Nicole S. Young specializes in commercial photography and is an accredited Adobe Certified Expert, so she has lots of expert advice and tips to share!
This book has seven chapters…
- Photography Fundamentals
- Photography Equipment
- Styling and Props
- Framing and Composition
- Processing Images with Adobe® Photoshop®
- Behind the Scenes
The chapters cover everything from getting the right camera equipment, using the right camera settings, creating the best lighting and composition, helpful food styling tips, and photo editing techniques with Photoshop. The last chapter, Behind the Scenes, is especially interesting because it goes into detail about how some great food photos were created.
Throughout the book, there are also photo tips and how-tos highlighted on various pictures…
I thought these pages were really helpful!
Overall, I think this is a great book to have if you’re wanting to improve your food photography skills. Don’t worry about having to get the newest, most expensive equipment…Nicole recommends working with what you have while you’re learning before you run out and buy anything new. My own camera is about 7 years old (it’s a Canon Rebel XT), but I’m still going to be using this for awhile!
I feel like I still have a lot to learn when it comes to photography and I’m really excited about trying out what I’m learning from this book!
What about you–do you enjoy photography? Do you know a lot about it, or are you more of a beginner?
If you’re a beginning baker or just wanting to improve your baking skills and learn helpful baking tips, you’ll have to check out the new cookbook, Baking Basics and Beyond (Second Edition, softcover) by food consultant Pat Sinclair. I received a copy of this book to review, and it’s filled with great photos and recipes!
At the beginning of the book, you’ll find tips and information on baking equipment, ingredients, measuring, and some helpful “how-tos” (How to Dissolve Yeast, How to Melt Chocolate, etc.). Each of the 12 chapters in the book focus on a different kind of baked good, such as Biscuits and Scones, Coffee Cakes, Cookies, Pies and Tarts, Yeast Breads and Rolls…just about anything you’d want to bake! The beginning of each chapter has several pages of helpful baking tips and there are additional notes and tips included in each recipe. Baking Basics and Beyond focuses on simple baking techniques and directions, so it’s great for beginning bakers, but has great recipes that any baker would love to make.
There are over 120 recipes in the book and I decided to try something from the Brownies and Bars chapter. Since I love cashews, I couldn’t resist trying the Butterscotch Cashew Blondies. They are really yummy–thick and chewy, with lots of buttery, butterscotch flavor. Very rich. These are great just as they are, but if you want to make them into a fancier dessert, you could top a blondie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzle some butterscotch sauce over it…maybe even sprinkle on a few more chopped cashews…yum!
This is a great, easy recipe and makes a 9×13″ pan of blondies. You can cut them into 36 bars, but I cut mine larger, so I didn’t end up with quite so many. :) Here’s how you make them…
BUTTERSCOTCH CASHEW BLONDIES (from Baking Basics and Beyond)
The opposite of a brownie is a blondie–the colors are different but the texture of the bars is similar. It is much easier to determine doneness in the blondies than in the brownies. If the blondies are not done, you can see the batter move under the top crust when you shake the pan. Because of the high amount of sugar in these bars, the edges rise and get dark and chewy–I think this is the best part!
Makes 36 bars
- 2 cups (242 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons (10 mL) baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt
- 2 cups (456 g) firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 cup (227 g) butter, melted
- 2 teaspoons (10 mL) vanilla
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup (168 g) butterscotch chips (6 ounces)
- 1 cup (150 g) cashew halves and pieces, coarsely chopped
Heat oven to 350˚F (180˚C) with oven rack in middle. Line bottom of a 13 x 9-inch (33 x 22.5-cm) baking pan with aluminum foil, extending foil about 2 inches (5 cm) beyond pan on each long side. Spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
Combine brown sugar, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl and stir slowly to mix. Add eggs and mix with a wire whisk until well blended. Slowly stir in flour mixture until it is moistened. Beat with wire whisk 30 seconds until smooth.
Add butterscotch chips and cashews. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until center seems set when touched lightly with a finger. The blondies will also start to pull away from pan edges. When set in the center, the batter won’t jiggle. A toothpick will come out dry. Cool in pan on wire cooling rack.
Remove blondies intact from pan by loosening ends with a metal spatula and lifting out, using the aluminum foil. Cut into bars. Make sure foil is not stuck on bottom of any blondies.
BAKER’S NOTE: When you combine the brown sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla, mix until smooth, crushing any lumps of brown sugar.
That sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? Enjoy making these chewy treats! :)
It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is coming up so soon! And who doesn’t look forward to eating all that special holiday food? It’s always great when you can find delicious and healthy holiday recipes, which is why I was so interested in reviewing the new cookbook, Vegan Holiday Kitchen.
I’m not a vegan myself, but I do like to eat healthy and enjoy making vegan dishes. Author Nava Atlas has put together a collection of more than 200 tasty-sounding recipes you can whip up for different holidays year-round: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Jewish Holidays, Easter, and Independence Day/Summer Entertaining. There’s also a chapter devoted to Brunches, Appetizers, and Potluck Dinners.
This hardcover book is beautifully designed and has lots of great photography. It would make a wonderful holiday gift–or you may want to add it to your own “wish” list! :)
There are so many unique, great-sounding recipes in Vegan Holiday Kitchen. Here’s a few to give you an idea: Coconut Butternut Squash Soup, Sweet Potato Biscuits, Green Chili Cornbread, Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tortilla Casserole, Smashed Potatoes with Mushroom Gravy, Cranberry-Carrot Cake with Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting…and these are just from the Thanksgiving recipe section! There’s so much more, you’ll have plenty of delicious recipes to choose from and make throughout the year!
I decided to try the Maple-Pecan Sweet Potatoes, because I love the flavor of pure maple syrup and the maple-sweet potato combination just sounded wonderful to me! You may want to try this yourself at Thanksgiving. It’s a great side dish, both yummy and healthy. I love the natural sweetness of the maple syrup baked into those tender sweet potatoes! The recipe says to make this in a shallow 2-quart casserole, but the closest thing I had on hand was my glass pie plate. That worked fine, although I couldn’t quite fit all the potato slices in.
Here’s the recipe…hope you get a chance to try it over the holidays!
MAPLE-PECAN SWEET POTATOES (Gluten-Free, from Vegan Holiday Kitchen)
- 4 large or 6 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup Earth Balance or other non-hydrogenated margarine, melted
- 1/4 cup orange juice, preferably fresh
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
- Leaves from 2 to 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Arrange the sweet potato slices in overlapping rows in an oiled shallow 2-quart casserole. In a small bowl, combine the syrup, margarine, juice, cinnamon, and salt. Pour evenly over the potatoes.
3. Cover with lid or foil and bake, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until readily pierced with a fork but still firm.
4. Scatter the pecans and rosemary leaves over the surface of the sweet potatoes. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes longer, uncovered, or until glazed and golden around the edges. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
What yummy side dishes are you making for Thanksgiving this year?
It’s called Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day, and I had the opportunity to review and try a recipe from it! Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe Francois have created 100 new easy-to-make recipes for not only pizzas and flatbreads, but also soups, salads, sauces, and spreads, which make great meals with all those pizzas and flatbreads! And for a special finishing touch to your meal, you’ll find some recipes for dessert pizzas and hand pies. The Banana Cream Hand Pie sounds really good and I’m intrigued by the recipe for Chocolate Dough, being the chocolate-lover that I am. I will definitely need to try that out! :)
When I received the book in the mail, I immediately started flipping through it to look at the full-color photos of many of the recipes. I decided to try a focaccia recipe because I really love focaccia and have never made it. It was kind of a challenge for me. Not being an experienced bread-maker, I was wondering if I could really make a delicious focaccia flatbread. Well I’m happy to tell you, “Yes!” I thought the recipe was easy to make and tasted as good or better than any I have ever bought. And it was fun making it!
I definitely will be trying out the pizza recipes, too, especially after watching a pizza-making video on Zoe’s site, Zoe Bakes, and seeing this photo of incredibly tasty-looking pizzas taken by her friends.
Photo by Todd Porter and Diane Cu of White on Rice Couple
As you can see, there are plenty of delicious pizza options to choose from! :)
And so I chose to make focaccia, specifically the Leek, Herbes de Provence, and Garlic Focaccia. It was delicious! You can choose from a variety of dough recipes in the book, and I chose the 100% Whole Wheat Dough, making it with white whole wheat flour. That was another first for me, using white whole wheat flour (which has a less “wheaty” taste than regular whole wheat). This is such a good recipe…I hope you get a chance to try it soon!
LEEK, HERBES DE PROVENCE, AND GARLIC FOCACCIA from Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day
100% Whole Wheat Dough:
Makes enough dough for at least eight flatbreads. The recipe is easily doubled or halved. This dough can be used for pizzas, too!
- 3 1/2 cups lukewarm water
- 1 Tablespoon granulated yeast
- 1 to 1 1/2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
- 2 Tablespoons sugar, honey, malt powder, or agave syrup (I used honey)
- 1/8 cup olive oil
- 7 cups white whole wheat flour (or traditional whole wheat flour)
Mixing and Storing the Dough…
- Mix the yeast, salt, sweetener, and olive oil with the water in a 5-quart bowl or a lidded (not airtight) food container.
- Mix in the remaining dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor with dough attachment, or a heavy-duty stand mixer with paddle. If you’re not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.
- Cover (not airtight), and allow it to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.
- The dough can be used immediately after its initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use for flatbread (or pizza) over the next 7 days. Or store the dough for up to 3 weeks in the freezer in 1/2 pound portions. When using frozen dough, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before use.
The Focaccia Recipe (makes one 10-inch focaccia):
- 3/4 pound (large orange-size portion) of your homemade dough (refrigerate beforehand for easier handling if desired)
- 5 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 leek (white part only), halved lengthwise, well rinsed, and thinly sliced crosswise
- 2 Tablespoons herbes de Provence
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon capers
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup white wine (I used white cooking wine)
Prepare the leeks: In a skilled over medium low heat, add 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil, leeks, herbs, garlic, capers, salt, pepper, and white wine. Cook slowly until the leeks are soft, but not brown. Allow to cool slightly.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rub 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil in the bottom of a pie tin and set aside (I just had a glass pie plate, so I used that and it worked fine). Dust the surface of the dough with flour and cut off a 3/4-pound (large orange-size) piece. Dust with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go (the pizza-making video on Zoe’s site that I mentioned earlier illustrates this technique).
Stretch the focaccia dough: Flatten the dough with your hands and/or a rolling pin on a work surface to produce a 1/2-inch-thick round. Dust with flour to keep the dough from adhering to the surface. Use a dough scraper to unstick the dough as needed, and transfer to the prepared pie plate. Drizzle with 1 Tablespoon olive oil and dimple the surface so the oil won’t run off the top.
Add the toppings: Spread the leek mixture over the dough and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Just before baking, press your fingers into the dough to dimple it throughout; this prevents the toppings from popping off when baking.
Here’s what my focaccia looked like before I put it in the oven:
Place the pie plate in the oven on the middle rack: Check for doneness in 15 minutes, then turn the focaccia around in the oven if one side is browning faster than the other. It may take up to 5 minutes more in the oven (my total baking time was about 18 minutes).
Remove the focaccia from the pan and allow to cool slightly, preferably on a wire cooling rack. Cut into wedges and serve.
Recipe reprinted with permission from the publisher.
Here’s the fresh-baked focaccia…
I tasted it while it was still a little warm. Here’s a picture of the first slice…
All the topping ingredients are so good together. The leek, the herbs, and the garlic cooked in the olive oil and white wine make a wonderful savory topping for this bread!
Have you made focaccia? What do you like to put on yours?
Linked to Foodie Friday.
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
LORD, shine the light of Your Word on the path of my life today. Make it a lamp for my feet so that I do not stumble. Bring it alive in my spirit so that it illuminates my mind and soul. Let it be a guide for every decision I make, every step I take. Keep me from turning to the right or the left so that I will stay on the narrow path that leads to life. Help me daily to carve out time to be alone with You and to feed on Your Truth. “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97). Open my eyes to see new treasure every time I read or hear it. Speak to me and comfort my heart. Make your Word come alive in me and use it to nourish my soul and spirit like food does for my body. Align my heart with Yours and give me revelation and guidance so that I may know Your will for my life. Shine the lamp of Your truth where I am right now and show me the next step to take.
Isn’t it encouraging to know that God will always light our way when we seek His direction? He may not show us the whole picture, but He’ll give us all we need to take that next step!
A new cookbook, At My Grandmother’s Knee, which I had the pleasure of reviewing, celebrates food, family, and warm memories. It’s filled with 166 treasured recipes shared by Southern women who inherited them from their grandmothers, along with special memories about the grandmothers who made these delicious comfort foods. Author Faye Porter describes the book as part cookbook and part history book. “It captures the love and guidance that so many of us soaked up from watching and listening to and asking questions of our Southern grandmothers as we helped them prepare a meal or bake for some special occasion,” says Porter. “Recipes allow us to pass on the love and legacy of a grandma so she can be remembered, revered, and celebrated for generations to come.”
The nostalgic-looking book includes full-color photos of many of the recipes. There’s a wonderful variety of Southern classics to choose from–Biscuits ‘n’ Chocolate Gravy, Nanny’s Hash Brown Casserole, Southern-Style Chili, Sweet Slaw, Spicy Sweet Potaotes, Dixie Meat Loaf, Creamed Chicken on Cornbread, Peach Cream Pie, Lemon Tea Cakes, Grandmother Kelly’s Chocolate Pie…and so many other great-sounding recipes! I decided to try Lizzie’s Sour Cream Pound Cake because I love pound cake and had not made one yet with sour cream…it sounded so rich and good!
Well, it was very rich and very good–dense and moist like a classic pound cake should be. I guess we should expect no less from a grandma-tested recipe! :) Here’s Lizzie’s recipe, along with a special memory from the cookbook:
LIZZIE’S SOUR CREAM POUND CAKE (From At My Grandmother’s Knee)
Arlene Raines (Goodlettsville, Tennessee) shares that her grandma, Mary Elizabeth Redding Hughes, was affectionately known as Lizzie. “Lizzie and her husband owned and worked a 300-acre farm in Naylor, Georgia,” Arlene says. “She was the quintessential countrywoman who raised her children, worked the fields, cooked for the farmhands, sewed her children’s clothing, and kept the house. My grandmother was a wonderful cook and one of my favorite things was this pound cake. The entire farmhouse would smell wonderful while it was baking, and the cake only became more delicious each day that it sat under a glass cover on the kitchen table. Grandma Lizzie died in 1986 at the age of ninety-seven, but she is remembered in a specialway each year at our family reunion because her pound cake is always on the menu.”
- 2 sticks butter, softened
- 3 cups sugar
- 6 large eggs, at room temperature
- 3 cups all-pirpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 8-ounce container sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar. Add 1 egg at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the flour mixture to the batter and beat thoroughly. Add the sour cream, vanilla, and lemon extract and beat thoroughly. The secret is to beat lots and lots of air into the batter. Pour the batter into a greased and floured 10-inch tube pan.
Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (NOTE: my cake was done sooner-in 1 hour and 20 minutes, so you may want to check yours sooner, too). Cool before slicing.
This tastes great served with fresh fruit, like some nice juicy strawberries!
Now I’m ready to try the Spicy Sweet Potatoes…you can never have too much comfort food, right? :)
And in the evening, when I lie in bed and end my prayers with the words, “I thank You, God, for all that is good and dear and beautiful,” I am filled with joy.
Anne Frank, from Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
Eating healthy is something I’m trying to do more and more. I limit the amount of red meat I eat and try to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. But when it comes to baking, I’ve never been quite sure how … Continue reading
I’m reading a book called Crazy Love: OVERWHELMED BY A RELENTLESS GOD by Francis Chan. If you’re seeking to experience God in a deeper way, you need to read this…but be prepared to be challenged! I’m being tremendously challenged by the first few chapters I’ve read so far. In his preface, Chan writes, “This book is written for those who want more Jesus. It is for those who are bored with what American Christianity offers. It is for those who don’t want to plateau, those who would rather die before their convictions do.” His hope is that this book will convince you “that by surrendering yourself totally to God’s purposes, He will bring you the most pleasure in this life and the next.”
The first chapter begins by talking about the awesomeness of God and how we can see His divine nature through His creation: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” ROMANS 1:20, New International Version, ©2010. And Chan has a great video he refers you to, to illustrate this point so clearly (the image above is from his video). You can watch it by clicking HERE–I hope you get a chance to view it–I think you’ll find it pretty amazing!
This Betty Crocker cookbook was published in the 60’s and was one of my mother’s favorite cookbooks. I used it here and there too, but didn’t really develop an interest in cooking and baking until I was in my late twenties. As a teen, the only things I knew how to make from scratch were chocolate chip cookies and grilled cheese sandwiches! :) One day I decided to try a new recipe. I looked through the cookbook in my mom’s kitchen and picked out the Butter Cookies recipe…it only had 4 ingredients, so I figured I couldn’t mess it up too badly! When those cookies came out of the oven and I tasted one, I was surprised at how good they were…and how easy they were to make. So now I could not only make chocolate chip cookies and grilled cheese, but I could also make these wonderfully rich homemade Butter Cookies! I gained a little more confidence in my baking skills that day.
My mom gave me this cookbook a few years ag0, since she doesn’t cook or bake as much as she used to. I found the cookie recipe that I had made in my teenage years and have made it several times since. It’s so good and easy, I thought I’d share it with you.
- 1 cup soft butter
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients and blend well. Roll dough on floured surface to 1/4″ thickness. Cut with 1 1/2″ cookie cutter. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes, until set but not brown. Cool. Makes 8 dozen cookies.
These cookies taste great just the way they are, but if you want to make them fancier, you can frost them with your favorite icing or make cookie “sandwiches” with raspberry jam.