Monthly Archives: April 2012

Pita Chips, Roasted Garlic, and Cambozola Cheese

My sister always goes above and beyond with the cooking. She’s a gourmet cook and awesome! I know I will always eat well when I visit.

Here is a very tasty, addictive little appetizer my sister made for my brother-in-law’s birthday party (of which I was a guest during my April 2012 vacation to Washington State).

I must tell you I don’t have photos for every single step of this appetizer construction – I either forgot (like with photos of the tops cut off the garlic heads), or my fingers were too messy to pick up the camera, or I was too busy eating the appetizer to think of taking a photo of it, messy fingers or no.

Sorrrrryyyy.

So, for this recipe, you need:

  • A small cupcake baking pan (one of those pans that allow for 6 cupcakes)
  • Several heads of garlic

94C7013_Garlic

Now, you need to roast said heads of garlic.  My sister wanted to try a new method for doing this, rather than using the ceramic garlic roaster they have.  I can tell you I have tried the crockpot method of roasting garlic, and I am personally underwhelmed, so I was interested to see how her method turned out.  After tasting the results, she and I agreed: to get a true roast garlic flavor with some wonderful caramelization, you must roast it in the oven.

  • Slice off the tops of each garlic head so that you can see the insides of the garlic cloves.
  • Rub olive oil over each garlic head and also inside the cupcake pans.
  • Wrap aluminum foil over the pan and set inside the oven set at 375 degrees.  Bake for 1 to 1-1/2 hours.  You will want to periodically check to make sure the garlic is not only spreadably soft, but also nicely caramelized.
  • Some of the cloves may stick to the aluminum foil – my sister tried spraying the foil with a non-stick spray, but that didn’t seem to work.  So, we just ate those few roasted cloves that stuck to the foil 😉

94C7081_Roasted Garlic

Roasted garlic.  Done.

Now, for the pita chips.

  • Purchase a bag of pita bread
  • Either tear the pita bread into smaller pieces, or cut it into smaller pieces for a more orderly look to the  edges of the chips.
  • Slather melted butter (the real stuff) over each piece and then stick in the oven to bake at 375 degrees F for oh – maybe 10 minutes or so?  It’s not an exact science so you will want to keep checking the chips to make sure they don’t burn.  They should be nice and crispy.

94C7215_Cooling Pita Chips

94C7213_Baked Pita Chips

Baked pita chips.  Done.

  • Purchase some cambozola cheese.  I live in rural SE Texas (bleah) and when I made this appetizer for myself, I could not find that particular cheese even in the Super HEB some 22 miles away from my town.  So, I purchased brie cheese and gorgonzola cheese and sliced a little of each.

Now, serve your guests (or yourself) the pita  chips and slather (I mean, spread) a little of the  cheese, then the roasted garlic atop your chip.

Enjoy! Open-mouthed smile

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Filed under appetizer, Cooking, food, Photography

Caprese Sandwich

This is a super-easy one.

For my brother-in-law’s birthday party, my sister made this looonnnnggg sandwich comprised of three different fillings.  This caprese (kuh pray say)  filling served as the vegetarian offering.

The bread part of this looonnnnggg sandwich was comprised of 7 loaves of frozen bread dough, thawed and then rolled into long French baguette-sized loaves.  The dough was allowed to rise for a little bit then baked in the oven until golden.  I believe my sister followed the regular baking instructions on the frozen dough package for the oven temp and baking time.

94C7066_Bread Rising

94C7056_Bread

94C7329_Loaves For A Sandwich

94C7330_Very Long Sandwich Bread

Caprese is usually served as an appetizer or salad.  It’s simply tomato slices layered on top of  slices of fresh mozzarella with fresh basil leaves on top of all of that.   A nice little splash of balsamic vinegar is added for good measure.

94C7381_Capresi Prep

For the sandwich, my sister eschewed the balsamic vinegar  and instead mixed Dijon mustard with mayonnaise.  She did all of this by eye and taste, so I have no idea what the mix measurements were.

Prior to loading the looonnnnggg sandwich with its fillings,  the middle portions of each of the loaves were hollowed out, thus keeping the sandwich from being too….”bread-y”…with  not enough filling.

94C7402_Capresi Sandwich BETTER

94C7399_Capresi Sandwich

Yum! Open-mouthed smile

‘Nuff said.

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Washington Vacation 2012 In Monochrome

94C0330_Ferry and Full Moon-BW

The other night, I upgraded to the most  current version of Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2.  LOVE this conversion plug-in.  My aim was to take selected photos from my recent Washington vacation (April 2012) and convert them to black and white.

6267_Mt Rainier-BW

This software has a lot of very cool presets of which I made ample use, then tweaked here and there with my own changes.  One of the things that popped out immediately is how much black & white delineates texture, light, dark, shadow, and detail.  I saw things that I never noticed with the color images.  This is especially apparent with photos that have lots of clouds.

94C9612_Raincloud Tugboats Cargo Ship-BW

94C9932_Seattle Sky and Water with plane-BW

94C0549_Olympic Kind of Day-BW

94C0425_Morning Ferry Run PANO-BW

94C9594_Late Afternoon Clouds and Ferry Run-BW

6415-2_Deception Pass-BW

6329_Yellow Rows-BW

94C6563-2_Mountains And Valley-BW

94C6604_Wind Turbines-BW

94C3111_Mt Rainier-BW

6244_Mt Rainier-BW

94C0353_Ferry and Full Moon-BW

94C0988_Plying The Waters-BW

5030_Running Water-BW

I’m also pleased with my black and white conversions of people and pet photos.

94C6778_Elsa-BW

94C7195_Friends-BW

6106_Gammy and Savanna REV2-BW

5969_Enjoying Himself-BW

6186_Niece and Great-Niece-BW

6000_Logan and Casey-BW

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Filed under Black & White, family, Photography, Travel, Washington State

Tulip Town

5080_Yellow

The last time I visited the Skagit Valley tulip fields was back in 2005.  And I left in a huff after capturing some really cool photos because I (and a number of other people, photographers and non-), were yelled at by what I assume was the foreman of the tulip pickers.  We’d parked before they opened and our bodies were in the way of the pickers (they weren’t, I’m here to tell you).  We all understood the deal and that obnoxious cretin didn’t have to yell – all he had to do was simply ask us to please move our cars because the parking area was not yet open.  That would have done it and none of us (read: me) would have been bent out of shape. I vowed never to return and I wrote a letter of complaint to the organizers of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.  There was no sign, no nuthin’ telling us the area was not open.  And apparently none of the tulip field owners or the tulip festival organizers were photographers, else they would have known that sunrise and sunset shots of the fields are the best, so there should be at least one field allowing people (who might buy their bulbs or their  cut tulip bouquets) to come and set up their tripods.

Fast forward to 2012.  I decided – now that I understood most parking areas were not going to be open at sunrise-thirty AM – this year would be a good time to break my promise never to return, and actually go back to the tulip fields.

Although I try to have no expectations, I guess for the tulip fields, I had way too many.  I do admit to being tired on the day of my arrival, having driven a little over 3 hours from Mt. Rainier National Park up to the Mt. Vernon area (about 60-70 miles north of Seattle).  I did capture some really nice images (I think).  But….well….it just wasn’t what I thought it would be.  When I lived in Seattle some 17 years ago, I remember there being more than just 3 fields, which is the number of tulip fields I found that day of my arrival  (Ok, I didn’t look too hard, I’m sure there must have been more).  Only one of those fields was open and available to the public:  Tulip Town.

Quite the little enterprise, is Tulip Town.  For $5, you can park your car, enter and walk through a huge tent full of cut tulip bouquets, a couple of food stalls, a couple of art gallery-type stalls, a few tables and chairs, and then find yourself out among a couple of small tulip fields.  Although walking between the rows was prohibited, people were allowed to get as close as possible to the flowers.  They even had a tractor trailer to ferry people around  (for a fee, I believe).

It’s been a very cool spring up there (ironic, since it’s been an exceedingly warm spring here in SE Texas), so the majority of the tulips were not in bloom or only just beginning to open up.

5169_TulipField

The red and yellow tulips were in full bloom, so  I have a lot of red and yellow tulip photos.

94C3501_One Lone Red CROP

5120_Red Row

5104_Red Row

5163_Red

5150 Red Tulips CROP

94C3508_RedRow

94C3498_Yellow Rows

5088_White Tulips

The day was sort of ho-hum, but I could discern a little bit of detail in the uniformly-spread cloud cover, so with my Lightroom 4 gradient tool, I managed to get that slight detail/drama to show through in some shots.

_MG_6329

For these images, I used a 70-200mm lens and my trusty 24-105mm lens (for the close ups).  I don’t have a macro (next on my “to buy” list) at this point in time, so no really close close ups.

I left satisfied with my image captures.  No dramatic sunrise or sunset with the mountains and foothills in the background.  No barns surrounded by tulips.  That was ok, though.  I got photos of my favorite flowers and I was content.

5174_Fuscia

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Filed under flowers, Photography, Travel, tulips, Vacation, Washington State

Evening On Elliott Bay, Seattle WA

I’ve been pretty darned prolific with the posts, I readily admit.  Probably because next weekend I doubt I will have a chance to post anything at all.  I’m photographing a wedding on the 29th and so will be readying myself and my cameras for that awesome event.  Hence, the reason for my prolific-ness (is that even a word??)

After publishing an earlier post about my Seattle 2012 stay, I found some more photos I took during that first wonderful afternoon gazing out my hotel window onto the ever-changing scenery of Elliott Bay.

So, here they are.

94C0003_Ferry and Evening Stormcloud - IMAGENOMIC

94C0008_Ferry and Evening Stormcloud

94C0022_Sun Storm Ferry IMAGENOMIC

94C0049-2_Storm Cloud Cargo Ship Sunlight

94C0169_Tugboat At Sunset

94C0113_Elliott Bay Sunset

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Filed under Landscape, Photography, Seattle, Travel, Vacation, Washington State

Crispy Buttered Wonton Wrappers With Romano (or Parmesan or Minced Garlic or Garlic Salt)

94C7160_Wontons with Garlic Salt

My sister has made these tasty little appetizers before, and we all just love them.  They are super-easy and very versatile.  They go well as a stand-alone appetizer, or with soups and salads.

Recipe:

One package wonton wrappers
One stick butter – melted
Grated parmesan cheese or Romano cheese or finely-minced garlic or garlic salt

  • Separate and lay out the wonton wrappers on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (my sister did this) or foil (I did this)
  • Use a pastry brush to spread melted butter over each wrapper
  • Sprinkle the one of the above-mentioned toppings
  • Bake at 375 until the wrappers look golden and crispy (about 7 minutes; they cook quickly you’ve really got to keep an eye on these to make sure they are nicely browned but not burnt)

Voila!

My sister has made these before using parmesan, but during my April 2012 visit, she used garlic salt.  Now, I love salty foods, but some of these were a little bit too salty – so if you use garlic salt, be judicious in how much you sprinkle.

94C7125_Buttering The Wrappers

94C7137_Buttered Wonton Wrappers

94C7148_Baked Garlic Wontons

Upon my return to Texas, I made these for my mother, aunt, and myself to accompany  lunch.  Instead of garlic salt, I used 1/2 pkg of grated Romano cheese (left over from my pancetta-wrapped turkey meatloaf recipe).   I almost burned the first batch because I wasn’t keeping an eye on them and didn’t realize just how quickly they brown up.  It would help if my oven had a little window like my sister’s ovens do (yes, she has two ovens as she does a lot of cooking).

1826_Buttered Wonton Wrappers

1833_Cheese On Buttered Wrappers BETTER

1835_Cheese On Wrapper Closeup BETTER

1836_In the Oven

1838_Baked Product

1839_Baked Product

1842_Finished Product

1843_Finished Product

WARNING:  These little things are super-addictive Winking smile

Nom, nom!

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Filed under Cooking, food, Photography

Pancetta-Wrapped Turkey Meatloaf

94C7299_Pancetta Wrapped Turkey Meatloaf

During my vacation, I spent several days with my sister and her family.  My brother-in-law has a birthday 3 days after mine, and my sister always throws a huge themed party (this year, the theme was Flowers).  I try to visit them around this time of year so I can enjoy her cooking and join in on the party, which is always a blast.

6450_Party Setup

6463_Beckys Placesetting

6519_Group Shot

94C7667_Becky

My sister is a gourmet cook.  She’s awesome!  I, on the other hand, do not cook at all unless it’s something to be thrown in the crockpot (the best invention since the microwave).  So I enjoyed every single thing she baked/sauteed/fried/roasted/boiled.

My sister cooked allllll day long on the Friday before the party.  She made it look so effortless, yet I knew it was time-consuming.  I figured the least I could do (besides vacuuming for her) was take photos of each dish she made, step-by-step.  I knew deep-down these photos would make for great blog posts, plus I’d get good practice with food photography.

So, this post, and several future posts, will deal with a particular dish my sister made for the party, complete with photographs and recipe.

As I’ve been craving pancetta-wrapped turkey meatloaf all week long since my return from vacation, I thought this would be a great starter recipe to post.  I even made it in my own home today.  Yes, I, who do not cook, made pancetta-wrapped turkey meatloaf, and it was a success!

The recipe is an original from Giada de Laurentiis.  My sister loves her recipes and – when she had time before becoming an overworked medical transcriptionist – made a point of watching Giada’s show on The Cooking Channel.

For my brother-in-law’s birthday party, my sister made this long, long sandwich, part of which had the turkey meatloaf with arugula mayo in it.

Following are the photos, and then the recipe at the end.

94C6956_Pancetta

94C6959_Starting The Pancetta

94C6966_Pancetta Wrapping

94C6962_Pancetta Covered Meatloaf

94C6969_Ready To Bake

94C7005_Baked Meatloaf

94C7305_Preparing the Mayo

94C7309_Arugula Mayo Mixed

94C7313_Meatloaf and Arugula Mayo

94C7344_Meatloaf and Mayo

94C7347_Turkey Meatloaf and Arugula Mayo

94C7350_Turkey Meatloaf Sandwich

94C7352_Turkey Meatloaf Sandwich

Recipe:

Turkey Meatloaf

The meatloaf I made earlier today turned out wonderfully, even though I had to substitute coppa for the pancetta since I could not find pancetta anywhere within a 25-mile radius of where I live.  Jeesh.  So, if you decide to make this dish and end up in a bind because you cannot find sliced pancetta nearby, then coppa will work just as well.

1824_Beckys Meatloaf

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