Signing up for a camera class was one of the best ideas I never had. I did so much complaining about being an inadequate photographer to my husband that he finally got tired of hearing it and he bought me a gift certificate to the Atlanta School of Photography. His not-so-subtle gift was just the nudge I needed to get myself the help that I needed to improve my photography skills.
I hesitantly signed up for the most basic level workshop that the school had to offer and and invited a friend so I wouldn't have to endure the class alone. If I was going to look like a complete incompetent, I needed to bring along some emotional support. Even though my friend and I were confident that we were about to make fools of ourselves, we packed up our gear and headed to Atlanta for our 5 hour, intensive, hands-on camera workshop. What did we have to lose - except our pride?
Much to my surprise, we were not the most unknowledgeable students in the class. Our class was made up of 6 other inexperienced camera users just like ourselves. The instructor was amazing and at the end of the day our heads were swirling with terms like aperture, focus points and metering mode. Feeling overwhelmed with information, I feared that it would all be forgotten unless I started to practice right away. So, Ben and I spent the next several weekends practicing my newly discovered camera skills.
We scoped out the most picturesque places in Georgia. We visited majestic waterfalls and beautiful gardens - all in the name of experimenting with my camera. My family was SUPER patient with me while I honed my camera skills. They carried around all my gear and patiently waited 4-5 minutes for me to make all of the necessary adjustments to my camera to set up a single shot.
I had a great time snapping pictures of landscapes and people but I still feel most comfortable with food photography. There's no wining, squinting or moving from a cheeseburger. I've been doing it so long that I know how to put the product in the perfect lighting to avoid shadows and over exposure. With any luck (and lots of practice) someday, I'll be just as efficient at landscape and portrait photography as I am at food photography.
Today, I'm back in my comfort zone. Capturing the colors, the textures and the juiciness of this Brandy Chicken. I only wish that my photographs could capture the amazing aroma and intense flavor of this dish.
4 boneless chicken breasts
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
2 onions, sliced thin
1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon brandy
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
Spread onion mixture around chicken and sprinkle with parsley to serve.
Clearly, brandy chicken isn't the most photogenic of food subjects. Even though the colors are monochromatic, this chicken is anything but bland. The rich brandy, onion sauce really takes this chicken to a new level.
Our summer has barely begun and I've already got a severe case of "summeritis." Haven't heard of it? Summeritis is a serious condition I develop every summer that results in an aversion to cooking hot meals. I crave hearty, vegetable based meals but I don't want to turn on my oven or stand at the stove stirring hot sauces for hours. I've also chosen to live in a climate where cooking dinner outside on the grill becomes a sweaty, uncomfortable experience in May.
So what's a girl with summeritis to do? Quick and easy summer meals packed with garden fresh vegetables and energy boosting carbohydrates. I try and make them as light as possible because you know - it is bathing suit season after all and no one wants to see my food baby after I've devour an entire pizza. 🍕👙
This Pasta dish is an absolutely perfect summer meal. I've got heaps of fresh basil in my garden and I couldn't think of a better way to use it than to combine it with some home grown tomatoes and perfectly ripe corn on the cob. I love this dish and I didn't even break a sweat while I was making it. 👍🏻
Pasta with Corn, Tomatoes and Basil
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
3 Tablespoons salt
4 ears corn
4 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup onion, minced
1/2 jalapeno chili, minced
12 ounces campanelle
1 cup fresh basil, sliced
Remove from heat. Stir in 2 T. butter, basil and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
I love the kick of the pepper in this pasta. Dial it up with more jalapeno or take it out completely for a kid friendly version. Half of a seeded pepper was the perfect amount of "heat" for my family. We gobbled up this summer meal up in no time.
I am simultaneously bewildered by the fact that my youngest child just completed her second year of college and reassured by the fact that we only have 4 semesters of tuition left to pay. I don't really know how I feel about her tearing through her first 2 years of college in what seemed like half that time but I can tell you that I'm excited about the fact that she's home for the summer and I'm treasuring this time that we have under the same roof.
To celebrate the completion of the first half of her college coursework and the beginning of her summer break, we had a celebration dinner. Since she's a fan of all things pork - I went with the traditional welcome home dinner of St. Louis Style Ribs. 😂 The fact that these ribs weren't smothered in her favorite ketchup based barbecue sauce and she was still a fan, speaks volumes about their quality. I actually think these Tuscan Grilled Pork Ribs might just be our new favorite way to enjoy pork ribs.
Tuscan Grilled Pork Ribs
5-6 pounds St. Louis style spareribs
2 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
Transfer ribs to cutting board and let rest 10 minutes. Cut ribs apart. Serve with vinaigrette.
My no fail spare rib cooking method has always been to wrap them in foil and cook them in the oven for 3 hours at 300. They come out so tender that the meat actually falls off the bone. We've always loved our ribs like this but the thought of my oven heating up my kitchen for 3 hours on a steamy afternoon was less than appealing. I put these ribs on my Big Green Egg for about 45 minutes and they were cooked to perfection. (and my kitchen was still cool)
When my kids were small, I decided that they should be responsible for preparing a meal at least once a week. I hope you're not picturing a kids baking championship scenario where children willingly stand at the kitchen counter atop their little stool and chop vegetables with kid safe knives, because you would be wrong. The truth is that with my kids at the healm, my kitchen resembled the last 15 minutes of Master Chef Junior cooking show. Hangry, hormonal cooks running around the kitchen, frantically trying to pull together anything edible to put on a plate.
As my kids got older and acquired more culinary skills, having them make dinner should have gotten less hectic and in some ways it did - but in a lot of ways - it didn't. 🙄 Over time, they became more experienced which meant that they were more independent and required less help and supervision from yours truly. Unfortunately, their independence in the kitchen also meant that they developed their own ideas about the way that things should be done. Well into their teen years they insisted on stirring absolutely everything like the Swedish chef from the Muppets and they dressed in complete firefighter gear anytime they had to put anything in or take anything out of the oven.
The fact is that they are really good cooks - now. The final product was never the issue. It was watching the process that gave me anxiety. Every cabinet door in the kitchen was left open, there were broken eggs laying on the counter and a Hansel and Gretel worthy bread crumb trail scattered throughout my kitchen. Traits that my mom claimed I also had as a child.
The collaborative cooking efforts between my kids and I were anything but flawless. My kids really didn't appreciate me hovering over them while they perfected their kitchen skills any more than I liked to be in the kitchen with them. I get it. No one wants to be criticized for using a whisk to stir spaghetti or correcting them when they try to add a "bulb" of garlic to the marinara instead of a "clove". True story.
I realize that I have my own way of doing things in the kitchen and I can be kind of a snob when it comes to proper use of cooking utensils. In retrospect, I was way too focused on teaching them proper use of kitchen equipment when I should have been more concerned with teaching them cooking survival skills. I'm happy to report that we all survived the very messy and awkward early kitchen experiences and I now have two adult children who are very competent and experienced cooks.
I did learn early on that finding the right recipe was key to keeping my kids interested in cooking. My daughter was a big fan of anything that she could get her hands into. The messier the better. She especially loved mixing up burgers, meatballs and meatloaf with her hands. Squishing raw eggs through her fingers is what really made cooking fun for her. One of her absolute favorite things to make (and eat) has always been meatloaf. Whenever I find a new meatloaf recipe, I wait for her to come home so we can make it together. (Cooperative cooking goes much better now that she's 20.)
Mediterranean Mini Meat Loaves
3/4 cup panko
1/2 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup roasted red pepper
1/4 cup tomato sauce
4 Tablespoons fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fennel
1 pound lean ground beef
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon oil
The same theory that I applied to my kids first kitchen experiences also applies to my husband when he's in the kitchen. He really does TRY his best in the kitchen but I've found it in my best interest NOT to watch him while he cooks. I find myself saying things like "why are you stabbing that avocado" and "what did you do to that melon?" when I observe his unusual techniques. The fact is that he has made some pretty amazing meals considering his unconventional methods. I try and encourage his experimentation in the kitchen but I have to admit that it's even harder to be positive with my husband than it was with my children. I'm still trying.
It took exactly one visit for Ben and I to fall in love with Richards Wine Bar. It is the cutest little restaurant with the most personable and interesting owner - you guessed it - Richard. The food and the wine offerings are more than I ever expected from this unassuming little piano bar. If you're a foodie like me, you are in for a real treat. And if you feel like your knowledge of wine is somewhat minimal (again, like me) you will leave educated and pretty much achieve sommelier status. 😂
Richard is a wine expert in my book. He knows his wine and the best food-wine pairings in his restaurant. I needed a LOT of help with my wine choice - but food choices - now that was easy. I excel at eating. There were a lot of great looking dinners on the menu but the one that called out to me immediately was the lemon dill salmon. The other thing that spoke to me - California carrot souffle. 🥕What??? I love carrots - I love souffle but I've never heard of a carrot souffle. I was just curious enough to give it a try.
Turns out - the carrot souffle at Richard's Wine Bar is AMAZING! I don't really know how to describe it but it's creamy and buttery and complex. I was so enamored by it that I gobbled up the entire dish of souffle before I stopped to analyze exactly what might have been in it. 😂 My goal has been to go back to Richards Wine Bar with the primary intent of ordering the carrot souffle so that I could dissect and figure out how to make it for myself at home. Well, that hasn't happened yet so I'm giving it my best attempt today.
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 2" chunks
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 2" chunks
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
Bake 25 minutes at 425.
What happens when you add potatoes, heavy cream and cheese to a batch of carrots? Rich, creamy, delicious carrot souffle happens. And it's fabulous. Now I need to ask Richard what wine he would recommend as a perfect pairing for my carrot souffle.
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