Category Archives: Cooking

Becky Homecky

For Christmas gifts, this year, I’m giving a recipe book I’ve been making using Blurb’s Book Wright software. Over the course of the year, I’ve been taking photos of food I’ve cooked. Some of the recipes I made up, some of the recipes are my sister’s that everybody loves, some of the recipes are keepers I’ve taken from cookbooks, and some of the recipes come from online. Not all of the recipes have exactly been keepers – they’ve been ok, but I won’t ever fix them again. In truth, this is a way to keep all the really good recipes together within easy access. And of course, I give credit with each recipe, along with the website or the book name. These books can only be gifts and not something I’m selling.

Anyway, I when I realized I needed to get cracking on putting the recipe book together, I started sifting through my food photos and discovered somewhere along the line, I either forgot to get photos for certain recipes, or else I’ve lost them onto other hard drives along the way (and I can’t remember which portable HD they are stored). So, I’ve been cooking up a storm in order to get photos to go with the recipes in the book. Tonight’s recipe is a slow cooker cream cheese chicken chili recipe with homemade guacamole on top of the chili. I’m serving prosecco margaritas with dinner, too.

A friend of ours, who likes to give people nicknames (my sister, Kathy’s name, for example, is Kathella), gave me the name Becky Homecky since I do 99.9% of the cooking in the household. As such, earlier in the year, I also ordered from Etsy an embroidered apron and chef hat, as you can see in the photo.

I decided to set up the camera and tripod to get posed photos of me in the apron and chef hat for the cover of my recipe book gift. Please notice I am wearing makeup, including bright red lipstick. I haven’t worn makeup in three years, and I learned a couple of things. First, you really *do* lose it if you don’t use it – I had a hard time trying to put on eye makeup and finally gave up on that – it was difficult enough to put on the lipstick neatly. Second, makeup has a shelf life. The mascara was all dried up in its tube, and if I had any lipstick (which I didn’t, so I had to go buy some), it would have probably been dry/gummy as well.

One of the most important things you should have for your camera for shots like this one, is a wireless shutter release. Vello is a pretty decent brand for that, and I purchased mine from BH Photo online. Mind you, the plastic used to make this little wireless wonder is pretty cheap, and it wouldn’t take much to break it. Nonetheless, it’s an integral part of any good selfie or group shot with you in it. It works better than your camera’s 10-second timer, because with that, you pre-focus before running to get into the photo, and unless that focus is on Infinity, then more than likely, you’ll come out a little on the blurry side. Truth.

Oh, and just how did I manage to click on the remote, since you can’t see it anywhere in the photo? I placed it on the floor, then took my shoe off so my toe could push down on the remote’s shutter release button. And, as mentioned before, I had to be very careful not to push down too hard and crack the plastic casing. 🙄

This image is not the one I used for the recipe book cover. It’s more of a test shot, because I was trying to figure out what to use for foreground food objects on the cutting board and had to get some test shots, first. It’s how I realized I needed lipstick – My face looked far too washed out without a little color.

Here’s something else you need to watch for: glare on glasses. Sometimes, it can be removed simply by the way you hold your head (turning it one side or the other, or bowing your head a little). Other times, it takes more than just a head tilt. I used only the ambient light around me – no light stands for the shots – so I knew it wasn’t a matter of moving the lights to eliminate the glare on my glasses. Because of these test shots, I discovered I needed to pull the shades down on some of the windows to keep reflections and glare off of my glasses.

And yes, that glass of bubbly is real. I was shooting around lunchtime, and figured it must be Happy Hour somewhere in the world. 😃

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Tuna Noodle Casserole (With and Without LumeCube)

Finished Tuna Noodle Casserole (Without LumeCube)
Finished Tuna Noodle Casserole (With LumeCube)

WTF? What on earth is this? Food photos? And not even really good ones. Well, yeah, I basically just saved them as-is without any fancy touches. It’s to demonstrate my new toy: the LumeCube panel. And no, I’m not a paid whatever – I’m just impressed, that’s all.

Ok, here’s the backstory. I am a pretty damned good cook, and I do almost all of the cooking for our family (me, my sister, and my youngest nephew). My sister suggested I create a little Blurb-made cookbook to give as Christmas presents this year. I have tons of recipes that I’ve been using over the past 3 years, and I take photos of my daily dinner creations. They aren’t fancy, posed, food photos because I get these suckers right before we chow down, and frankly, I don’t have the time (nor do I want to make the time) to get everything all just perfect in terms of composition. I just take the photos and then will work on them later for my cookbook.So, last night’s dinner was an awesome tuna noodle casserole (how 1950’s, right?). I took a photo of it sitting in the oven after it was done, then remembered I’d just gotten my LumeCube panels (one for the camera, complete with little mini ballhead that sits on the flash shoe, and one for my laptop so I’ll look only slightly better and more lit-up during Zoom meetings. I’d not yet even tried the LumeCube panel for my camera and decided this would be a good opportunity to test it out. I’m totally impressed.Yes, I might be able to get the same view with a regular camera flash, but with LumeCube, the light is on all the time so I can actually see how everything looks lit up through the viewfinder before clicking the shutter button.

To learn more about LumeCube, click the photos.

Anyway, I can tell you from personal experience that the tuna noodle casserole was very good, and it’s going to end up in the cookbook, tentatively titled “Becky Homecky’s Cooking Template.” That Becky Homecky moniker was bestowed upon me by my hairstylist a year ago. She likes giving people nicknames and since I’m the cook, she thought up that name. It’s a “cooking template” because all the recipes I use can either be cooked per the recipe, or tweaked (and I’ve tweaked many if not most of the recipes I use). So, if somebody wants to add cheese, or take it out of the recipe, they can, since all the recipes are basically “templates” which can be changed to suit the cook’s preference. Clever, eh?

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Does Your Chicken Recipe Call For It To Be Boiled In A Hot Spring?

Emerald Pool On An Autumn Day At Black Sand Basin

This is Emerald Pool, at Black Sand Basin, just a couple of miles or so from Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park. Black Sand Basin is pretty cool because it doesn’t seem to be visited as much, being between the very popular Upper Geyser Basin, where Old Faithful is located, and Midway Geyser Basin, where Grand Prismatic is located.

So, it was on a quiet autumn day back in 2019 that I visited this pool of hot water. It was a teeny bit breezy so that the steam rising from the hot spring was not so thick you couldn’t see the actual color and shape of the pool.

I posted it today because National Parks Traveler published an article yesterday about some crazy idiots who took a couple of plucked chickens with them on a hike out to Shoshone Geyser Basin. They then put those chickens in a burlap bag and threw the bag into a hot spring to boil.

I’m sure those people thought they were being incredibly clever, but instead, they were being incredibly stupid. First of all, the waters in those hot springs are pretty caustic, so I’m sure the chicken would not have tasted very good, if they had not been dissolved in the first place by those caustic waters. Secondly, doing something like that disturbs and changes the delicate ecological and chemical balance and character of the hot spring, just like people throwing trash and coins into Morning Glory Pool have, over time, changed the once pristine saturated blue color into a yellow and green color. Thirdly, those morons on their little backcountry trip were extremely lucky they didn’t step onto thin crust and fall into a boiling hot spot during their little cooking venture.

Thankfully, a backcountry ranger caught them. But I’m sure the penalty will only be a slap to the wrist. Honestly, if those people wanted cooked chicken (and I wonder how they got that chicken out there on their backcountry hike in the first place, without it spoiling in the process), they should have just gone to a Wally World-type recreational venue, with lodging and restaurants.

Ok, that’s my eye-roll story for the day. Click on that image above to read the article.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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More Figs In A Box

Figs in a boxSometimes, fun photo ops can be found right at home, without ever having to get in the car and drive anywhere. These are just some of the figs my mother picked from the now-prolific fig tree in her back yard.

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Fried Ravioli With Marinara Sauce

My sister is a gourmet cook.  Sometimes, though, I think she goes overboard.  Like when I was there in April 2012 to visit and help celebrate my brother-in-law’s birthday at a themed party with 11 other people (not counting me, my sister and bro-in-law).  My sister had already made dessert (crème brulee), the main course (a loooonnnnggggg sandwich with three different fillings), crispy baked buttered wontons with garlic, spicy cheese coins with pepper jellies, roasted garlic and cambozola on crispy baked pita chips, and lentil soup.  She looked at all she’d cooked and then looked at me and said “Maybe I should make some fried ravioli too”.  I told her she’d gone above and beyond already, but my sister NEVER listens to me.

She made the fried ravioli.

And I photographed the process, using my Canon 5D Mark III and 50mm f1.2 lens.

94C7409-2_Fried Ravioli Recipe

94C7473_Fried Ravioli Ingredients

94C7478_Frying Ravioli

94C7481_Frying Ravioli

94C7485_Fried Ravioli

94C7497_Fried Ravioli and Marinara Sauce

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Crème Brulee

(Burnt Cream – refers to that crunchy brown candy top created from the caramelized brown sugar)

94C7601_Creme Brulee

This is the dessert my sister made for 13 people at my brother-in-law’s birthday party in which I partook.  Recipe from Chef Francisco Gutierrez of New York City’s Le Cirque 2000 via Martha Stewart (my sister adoresMartha Stewart and has all of her cookbooks).

Notes:

· Always use fresh eggs

· It’s easier to separate the egg yolks from the whites if the eggs are chilled first

· For best flavor, use vanilla beans (NOT liquid vanilla flavoring)

Crème Brulee:

1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed

4 cups heavy cream

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

¾ cup granulated sugar

7 large egg yolks

· Spread brown sugar in a large pan or baking sheet and let dry uncovered for about 3 hours. When sufficiently dried, the sugar will feel sandy. Pass the dried brown sugar through a sieve to remove any lumps. My sister then stores it in a glass jar.

· Heat oven to 300 degrees F

· In a small pot over medium heat, combine cream, granulated sugar, and vanilla bean and scraped seeds. Heat the mixture, stirring occasionally, until bubbles start to form around the edges. Make sure the cream does not boil. Remove the pot and set aside.

94C7249_Vanilla Beans

94C7234_Scraping the Seeds

94C7238_Vanilla Seeds and Scraped Bean

94C7246_Vanilla Seeds and Bean

94C7307_Custard Mix

· In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks.

94C7227_Eggs For Brulee

Continue to whisk the yolks while slowly pouring cream mixture into yolks. Whisk until the mixture is smooth, then strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a large measuring cup to remove the vanilla bean pieces and any overcooked eggs.

94C7259_Stirring The Mix Into The Eggs

94C7261_Straining The Mix

· Place nine 5-ounce shallow ramekins on a baking pan with 1-inch-high sides. While the recipe instructs the pan to be placed in the oven and then the custard mix to be poured into the ramekins, my sister pours the strained custard mixture into the ramekins and then carefully places the entire pan into the oven. Make sure the ramekins are filled all the way to the top with custard, because shrinkage occurs during baking. Once the pan with the custard-filled ramekins are in the oven, pour enough hot (not boiling) water into the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekin.

94C7219_Ramekins

94C7323_Pouring Into Ramekins

94C7269_Ready For The Oven

94C7277_The Water Bath

94C7272_The Water Bath

· Bake about 40 minutes, until the custard is set and trembles slightly when shaken.

94C7341_Baked Brulee

94C7290_Baked Custard

· Remove the ramekins from the water bath and place on a cooling rack for about 30 minutes. Then chill for 2 hours (they can chill up to 3 days) before serving. The custard will finish setting in the refrigerator.

· Now, you could actually serve the custard as-is. But, if you like that crunchy caramelized sugar coating, then:

· Just before serving, heat the broiler, or – as in my sister’s case – use a kitchen torch – to caramelize about 2 tablespoons of the dried brown sugar sprinkled over the top of each custard. To do it the broiler way, transfer the ramekins to a clean baking sheet and place the baking sheet about 4 inches from the broiler. Broil until the sugar is caramelized – about 40 seconds – then serve immediately.

94C7594_Carmelizing The Top

94C7845_Torching The Brulee Top

94C7853_Carmelizing The Brulee Top

Thanks to my sister, I now  know what freshly-made crème brulee tastes like (and feels like in the mouth) and will use that as my standard for all other crème brulees which I order.

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Spicy Cheese Coins with Pepper Jelly

94C7436-2_Cheese Coin Recipe

As promised in my previous post, here is the next recipe post with photos.  My sister made this during my April 2012 visit.  While I have tried for myself the recipes about which I previously blogged, I have not yet tried this one.  However, since my own tries at her other recipes have been successes, I’m pretty sure this one will turn out well too when I finally decide to make this one on my own.

Above is the recipe, below are the photos.  For the jelly, my sister bought a bunch of different pepper jellies produced by Micks.  I had no idea they made so many!

94C7189_Pepper Jellies

I unfortunately did not get any shots of the cheese dough preparation.  They were already mixed and rolled into logs and in the fridge before my arrival at my sister’s home.

94C7178_Slicing The Cheese Coin Roll

94C7181_Cheese Coins Ready For Baking

94C7201_Spicy Cheese Coins

94C7316_Cheese Coins on Platter

94C7608_Cheese Coins and Pepper Jellies

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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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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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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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