Sunday, September 30, 2012


I can't say enough great things about the Canon Speedlite external flash. I'm learning to use this handy gadget on my 7D and what a difference it can make when capturing my kiddo's. For those of you more experienced with photography, this will come as no surprise I'm sure, but this girl seems to learn something new literally every day and when it comes to flash photography, my lack of understanding has kept me far away from experimenting with it. The below photo's are completely undedited - right off the camera so you can see the difference with a flash as opposed to with out.
The first photo is taken with just a natural light source. Looking at the pic you can see that the light source is from the right, where a window is located, causing shadows to fall on the pillows to the left of my #3 child's face...
After positioning my external flash to angle slightly to my left (from my vantage point behind the camera), I was able to counter the shadows without over exposing my little guys face.

My less-than-willing model had difficulty sitting still and tried to pretend I wasn't there. Such a shame considering how cute he is - I could take a hundred pictures of him!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Carb Crazy

I should totally still be low-carbin' my way through life, but that just isn't working out for me right now and I think I can get back on the ball and disciplined before the carb-season Holiday Season is in full swing, but in the meantime I indulge occasionally.  When I initially made the mashed potatoes for the first recipe below, I did totally avoid them...but then I came up with this concoction for the leftover mashed taters and looking at them two days in a row just wasn't an option. So I had a couple dozen and the little peeps devoured the remainder. Such a delish side dish that I find myself making extra mashed potatoes on purpose so that we can stretch the effort into a second dinner.  I hope you enjoy them.
Potato Pancakes
4 cups mashed potatoes
1 egg
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup thin sliced scallion
Keep in mind that I always use leftover mashed potatoes that have already been seasoned with butter, garlic, salt, pepper and maybe some parsley too. When ready to make the potato pancakes, add the egg, flour, and scallions. Stir well to combine. Cook on a hot, lightly oiled (or buttered) skillet or pancake griddle until brown on both sides, about 5-6 minutes.
Next up - buttermilk biscuits....
I love buttermilk biscuits and there is nothing quite like from-scratch biscuits. Not only are they better for you (have you read the label on frozen/canned biscuits? Chalk full of all the things that give a body heart disease, cholesterol, obesity, the list goes on...), but homemade biscuits simply taste better!  There are rarely any left over and that isn't just because there are a lot of mouths to feed around here. Once, most likely in a sleep deprived stupor, I made these and forgot the salt. Totally. I always cook with unsalted butter, so no saving grace there either. Saltless biscuits. Totally reminded me of Matthew 5:13, "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted?". That really hit home as I was tasting a completely saltless biscuit and being reminded at the same time what it must mean to be the salt of the earth. Because the absence of salt did not make my mouth happy quite like it should have and I began wondering how many times I forgot my salt when I was out and about and how many missed opportunities passed right by because I wasn't being His salt when I should have been. How bland that biscuit was reminded me how bland so many lives are without the one true Salt and I couldn't help but wonder...of all the things Christianity could be compared to...why salt? Why not sugar? A sweet spirit, disposition, and merciful character could be just as effective as a salt comparison right? I mean the expression "salt in the wound" exists because salt can be painful, not just flavorful. Oh, but that's it, isn't it? Sugar is rarely painful and always feel-good! Sugar can cover up the sour, put on a mask and pretend. Sugar must be the charismatic movement...oh shut the front door, this is a food blog! I didn't just go there did I?!
However, think with me for just a moment about all of the things salt can do...aside from the obvious cooking references - brining, tenderizing, seasoning - salt is also used in the northern U.S. to clean the roads, remove ice from the windshield and front porch step. Mix salt with warm water and gargle for sore throat relief. Epsom salt in a warm bath does wonders for detoxing. Canning salt is a saving grace during harvest time. Oh the list could go on! Yes, it may sting a little in a fresh wound, but boy is salt worth it for all the depth of flavor it brings out and oh can you feel it if you forget it. So don't leave home without your salt and puh-lease don't forget to stir it into the dry ingredients when throwing together these biscuits.
Buttermilk Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
6 Tbs. cold butter chopped
1 cup buttermilk
Combine dry ingredients. Add cold, cut up butter and combine with a pastry blender until butter is incorporated and creates a meal-like quality with the flour. Stir buttermilk into flour mixture and combine well. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 8-10 times until dough has a light elasticity. Roll 1/2 inch thick and cut with a 2-inch round cutter. Bake on a non-greased sheet pan at 450 degrees until tops are lightly brown. 


Friday, September 14, 2012

Who Doesn't Love Cheese and Cream?

Fall is in the air!! I remember my first fall in Texas very well. It was late September and hot. Though I've adjusted somewhat to the temps that come with East Texas, five years ago I was no where near ready to accept 90+ degrees in September. I remember speaking with a lovely lady, whom I believe she was a furniture sales person, and she mentioned that fall was definitely in the air. I thought she was nuts. HUH?! Fall for this girl meant hoodie sweatshirts, a high of maybe 60 degrees and lots of burnt orange leaves.  Ninety degrees does not fall weather make! However, as I begin my 6th fall season in Texas, I can feel it. She was right. For East Texas fall IS in the air. Oh the temps aren't cool, I'm still wearing tank tops and flip flops, and I can't bring myself to make chili yet, no matter how much I want to curl up with a bowl in front of a football game. That will come. But right now, the beginning of fall manifests itself by shorter days, a distinctive feel in the air, the echo of the football announcer from the university stadium just down the road, and yes....slightly cooler temps. Just slightly. And I'm ready for it - comfort food and all. Sifting through my large and embarrassingly messy notebook-turned-pile of favorite recipes, I was inspired to make this dish again. After a summer of menus revolving around fruit, veggies, salads and low temp foods that can fill a family without heating up the kitchen, the entire family was ready for some creamy goodness. I'm ready to heat up the kitchen again. Serve it up alongside a roasted chicken, some balsamic green beans and a fresh spinach salad. You really can use almost any cheese - layered between the potatoes, the cheese melts into a creamy filling. We make it with Gruyere or Swiss. Sometimes sharp cheddar. Even pepper jack for a little kick.
Potato Gratin
4-6 large potatoes, thinly sliced - I use the slicer on my food processor for uniformity.
1-2 large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cup cream or half & half
2 1/2 cups grated cheese
Finely chopped parsley
3 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Butter the bottom and sides of a 9x13 casserole dish. Heat the cream or half & half in a saucepan with the minced garlic. Do not boil, bring just to a  simmer, then remove from heat and seat aside. This allows the garlic to infuse the cream for a consistent flavor throughout. I prefer to layer the ingredients as opposed to stirring it all together and pouring it into the baking dish. I'm a little OCD so this works for me. Also, I leave the skins on the potatoes for the extra vitamin content. Begin with a layer of potatoes, slightly overlapping. Then a layer of thinly sliced onion, sprinkle with salt, pepper and cheese of your choice. Repeat steps until you have about 5-6 layers of potatoes, or until you've reached the top of your casserole, ending with cheese and a sprinkle of chopped parsley. Drizzle the cream/garlic mixture slowly over the potatoes until all of the cream has been added. Cover tightly with foil and bake in a 375 degree oven for one hour or until potatoes are tender. Remove foil and place under broiler for about 10 minutes until the top of your potatoes are golden and bubbly.
I have to give props the ole iPhone for the below "in proccess" pic of raw potato/onion - I snapped it on my phone and am pretty impressed with the quality - way to go Apple, I'm your #1 fan!
This final pic was shot from my handy dandy Canon t3i with a standard 18-55mm lens and edited in Photoshop CS6. 

Photo Friday #25 - Wet T-shirt Contest