Carrot Raisin Chicken Salad

Carrot Raisin Chicken Salad

My husband told me when we first started dating that he wasn’t a fan of mayonnaise based salads. Well, that was then. These days? He can’t get enough. Now whenever I make a batch mayo based salad, it usually doesn’t last until the end of the day. I have a few secrets that make my mayo based salads addicting.

First, I use homemade mayo. I make my own because its truly superior to store bought, and ever since I learned how to make it in culinary school, I was hooked. Also, I can control the ingredients that go into my mayo ~ good quality egg yolks, real lemon juice, and a healthy oil like avocado oil or light olive oil. Most store bought mayo is made with rancid canola or soybean oil, and 25 other ingredients, most of which are cheap and unpronounceable. Anyway… I digress. There are a few really good quality healthy mayos out there, like Sir Kensington’s or Tessamae’s, but I’ll be honest, they are a bit pricey, even if they are very delicious. So I make my own.Carrot Raisin Chicken Salad

And I may get crucified for even saying this, but if you aren’t going to make your own mayo or buy one of the healthy ones, taste wise the best ‘regular’ store bought mayo, in my opinion, is Duke’s Mayo. It’s not made with healthy ingredients, but most southern chef’s agree that Duke’s is as close to homemade as it gets. I would hate for you to miss out on making my recipes that include mayo if you are staunchly against making your own mayo.

But I highly encourage you to make your own.

Other than a great mayo, the other trick to a great mayo based salad is finely chopped veggies, and shredded and chopped protein. I always have a batch of cooked House Rub Roasted Chicken Breasts in my fridge, and I think it is always important to start with chicken that already tastes really good and is well seasoned. When it is cold from the fridge, it is really easy to pull it apart and shred it with my fingers, then run my knife through it and chop it even further. When your veggies and chicken are minced and shredded like this, it makes the mayo cling to the ingredients better, and the whole salad is creamier and just more delicious.Carrot Raisin Chicken Salad

This recipe is a combination of two retro classics, plain chicken salad and carrot raisin salad, but with better ingredients, and no granulated sugar. Instead, I use a few tablespoons of honey, but if you are avoiding all sweeteners, you could leave it out and this salad would still be delicious. Avoiding dried fruits? You could also substitute diced apples or pineapple.

Carrot Raisin Chicken Salad

Ingredients

2 cups of freshly shredded carrots (about 4 carrots)
2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded and chopped
1/3 cup of minced red onions
1/3 cup of organic raisins
1/3 cup of sliced raw almonds
1 1/3 cup of mayo 3 Tablespoons of raw organic honey (local if possible)
1 Tablespoon of Dijon Mustard
1 Tablespoon of Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
1 teaspoon of sea salt
about 20 grinds of fresh pepper

Combine all ingredients together thoroughly. For best results, allow to chill in the fridge for an hour before serving to allow the dressing to soak into all the chicken and vegetables, and for the flavors to marry and blend. Serve over organic arugula or spinach as a salad, or in lettuce wraps.

Carrot Raisin Chicken Salad

Whole Roasted Carrots with Rosemary

So this is the last recipe in my Instagram Recipe series. Some people like to chastise people like me who create a meal and arrange it in a beautiful styled way, just to post it on Instagram and make it look cool. They do it just to make themselves look cool, right? Well, that’s a pretty negative way of looking at this unique, digital art form. Yes, it is extremely easy to make your life appear in a way you desire on Instagram. Plenty of people do that. BUT there is also a whole host of people who have been introduced to photography through Instagram, and by being pushed daily to create a beautiful image to share with the world, we curate creativity and appreciation for beautiful things on a constant basis. That’s an extremely positive thing in my opinion. I used to just want to make food that tastes really good, but now I want it to look really good too. And my desire to take a pretty photograph influences the food, and often improves it ten fold.

Instagram is a simple social media platform to understand and execute. BUT a truly beautiful feed that amasses thousands of followers organically is an art of a kind. Instagram definitely introduced me to photography and more specifically food photography, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. I have grown into a DSLR and I am learning to shoot in manual mode, but there are so many things you can do simply with an iPhone camera, and it is a great way to learn about composition.

I’ll openly admit, this recipe was originally just an idea in my head that I thought would look beautiful on my Instagram feed. Sometimes you can find rainbow carrots in Trader Joe’s and other grocery stores, and wouldn’t it be cool to showcase their beauty against the dark contrast of a cast iron skillet? I’ve roasted carrots before, but I usually chop them up, like in my Winter Roasted Veggie Medley. But I had the idea of a photo in my head, so that’s what I cooked.

Turns out, they are delicious roasted whole. They were so delicious when I made them for brunch one Sunday, my husband asked for them AGAIN for dinner. That’s a good dish. And I have served him roasted carrots many times before, as I said, but he raved about these whole roasted carrots. That’s Instagram influencing real recipes. I’m going to challenge myself to share these recipes with the Instagram photographs more often. Sure, it is fun and worthwhile to take the time to improve my skills behind my DSLR camera, and I won’t abandon that. But so many of my quick, simple recipes are only shown on Instagram, so I am going to start putting those recipes up here more often too. Maybe the picture quality isn’t as clear or focused as with my nice camera, but they are still art to me, and the recipes are definitely worth sharing and eating.Whole Roasted Carrots with Rosemary

Whole Roasted Carrots with Rosemary

As many carrots as you can fit in your cast iron skillet without crowding, ends removed
a few heaping tablespoons of lard, bacon grease, ghee or coconut oil
generous amount of coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper
a few pinches of dried rosemary

  1. Put your cast iron skillet on the stove and melt the cooking fat. Add your carrots and toss so they are coated evenly with lard, and then spread out so they are in a single layer. They can be touching, but don’t over crowd. Season liberally with coarse salt, pepper and dried rosemary.
  2. Roast in the oven at 425 for 30-40 minutes until the carrots are starting to caramelize on the edges and are cooked through. Serve immediately.

My Go-To Balsamic Vinaigrette

If you have read a few of my blog posts, you know I make a lot of salad and a lot of dressing. I try to make a dressing that will compliment the ingredients in the salad, and not every dressing goes with every salad…. well, maybe with the exception of this one. This is my go-to dressing that I make that goes with almost everything, and almost everybody likes it. I learned this method of using honey and mustard as the emulsifiers for this dressing originally from a Southern Living Cookbook my mom had, but I don’t remember the exact measurements. I also added in whole grain mustard because I like the flecks of mustard seeds. Originally the recipe had diced shallots as well, which is a delicious touch you can add, but I don’t always keep shallots on hand. I do have garlic on hand almost always, so that’s what I use now. Plus my husband also is a garlic lover to the max. However, if he reads this he is going to whine, “Why don’t we always have shallots?!”

When I like someone I meet and want to make friends, I cook for them. That’s just my “love” language. That’s how I show people, “I appreciate you.” A while back, I was in search of a new hair stylist, and I wanted to chop off my long locks and get a fun, modern bob that was easy to style. I used Yelp, read some reviews, visited some websites and found that a salon, Hair Graphics, was around the corner from my house, reasonably priced, and one of their stylists was young with a short do herself. So I called and made an appointment requesting Meghan, and I’m so glad I did.

Usually I am shy, and I feel awkward talking to people doing my nails or my hair. But Meghan and I immediately hit it off and had great conversation the whole time. She’s a foodie into healthy eating, a mom interested in natural childbirth and women’s health, and she is really sweet. She also gave me the cutest hair cut ever, that makes me feel confident and beautiful, and it is so easy to style… and she took the time to teach me to do it. Since I worked in the restaurant and customer service industry for 10 years, I really appreciate people that do a great job.

We followed each other on Instagram, and she had made some salads for her family that she posted, saying they were inspired by my salads. She also posted a picture a while back about another client bringing her a cupcake as a surprise.

So the last time I went in to get my cute bob touched up, I decided to bring her lunch, and since I knew she would dig it, I brought her a healthy lunch pictured below. A big ol’ spinach salad with my Roasted Chicken Breasts, Avocado, Rainbow Carrots, Cucumbers, Red Onions, Blood Orange Segments, Orange Bell Pepper, Raisins and Sliced Almonds, with a huge side of Balsamic Vinaigrette. I also knew she liked Kombucha, so I brought her a Strawberry GT’s and a Peanut Chocolate Chip Larabar…. because they are so yummy!

This dressing is especially great with the combo of winter citrus segments (like blood oranges), creamy avocado slices, chicken and sliced almonds. From there, throw in any other veggies you like.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
1 Tablespoon of Whole Grain Mustard
3 Tablespoons of raw honey
1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar of really good quality
1/2 cup of olive oil
2 grated garlic cloves (I use a microplane zester to grate my garlic)
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Whisk together the mustard, garlic, vinegar, and honey. Slowly pour in the oil, while whisking quickly to emulsify the dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Everyday Veggie Hash

So there is something about hash. The legal kind–just to clarify. But seriously, hash is just the best thing ever invented. It’s a bunch of random ingredients cooked in ONE pan, served in a bowl, and gobbled up in a hurried fashion. In hard times, mom’s across the world use hash to fill up their families and stretch small amounts of precious protein. Hash usually contains some sort of potatoes, or other starchy filler, along with onions, shredded or diced protein, and any number of veggies. You can literally put anything in hash, crisp it up in under 20 minutes, and enjoy a bowl full of simple, humble comfort food.

I make hash all the time. Sometimes I shred sweet potatoes, carrots, or plantains for the starch, or sometimes I take the time to dice them small into pretty little cubes. There are always onions involved, usually broccoli, maybe some peppers, Brussels sprouts, and sometimes some sort of leftover protein, sausage, or bacon.Everyday Veggie Hash

Everyday Veggie Hash

1 sweet potato, diced
1 red onion, diced
1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced
2 cups of shredded Brussels Sprouts ( you can buy them shredded, or shred them yourself with a knife)
1 cup of broccoli, separated into bite sized florets
1 pound of protein (if desired. You can use bacon, ground meat or sausage, leftover shredded chicken or turkey, or chopped ham… really anything)
a few heaping tablespoons of lard, bacon fat, coconut oil or other desired cooking fat

  1. In a large cast iron skillet, brown the meat (if using) until cooked. Remove to a plate, and leave any grease in the pan.
    2. Add the onions and diced sweet potatoes, season with a good large pinch of salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper, and cook over medium high heat until both are starting to brown, about 5-7 minutes, adding more cooking fat to the pan if necessary.
    3. Add the rest of the veggies and the cooking fat, season again with salt and pepper, and cook for another five minutes until all the hash is starting to brown.
    4. At this point you can add in the cooked protein if using. Stir to incorporate and cook for just a few minutes longer until everything starts to get crusty and yummy.
    5. Serve in a bowl, and for bonus points, add a fried egg, some scrambled eggs in lard, or Soft “Steamed” Egg on top of each serving if you wish.

 

Almond Meal Pancakes

Every Sunday I want pancakes. I almost never have the ingredients, and I’m also rarely successful in talking my husband into taking me to a local pancake house that has yummy gluten free waffles and pancakes. He says we don’t need pancakes every Sunday… And I suppose he’s right. But a couple weeks ago, I had just enough ingredients to make 8 almond meal pancakes.

I usually buy Almond Meal, instead of the more expensive and finer blanched almond flour, and I’ll tell you why. Yes, I know that the blanched almond flour is more superior – I’m not stupid. But most of the time you have to buy it in a three or five pound bag, and if I have one around, I will bake and cook with it non-stop until it is gone. It’s good and has excellent baking abilities. I have no control when it comes to almond flour and almond meal. I love to eat it. But most flour, no matter what it is made from (wheat, coconut, hazelnut, whatever), isn’t really good for my digestion. So although Almond Meal is grainier and of seemingly “lesser quality,” I usually buy that, and I buy it sparingly. I like the small, inexpensive bags you can buy at Trader Joe’s. But I’ll be honest, you could use any kind for this recipe. There will be slight differences, but guys, its pancakes… don’t over think it. Grain free pancakes are rarely like their grain filled counterparts, but these are nutty, comforting and delicious, even if they aren’t the exact same as the buttermilk pancakes of my childhood. Almond Meal Pancakes

Almond Meal Pancakes

  • 1-3/4 cups Almond Meal (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • coconut oil, lard or ghee for cooking
  • maple syrup and butter to serve
  1. It’s simple – mix all the wet ingredients together, then whisk in all the dry. Add a bit more almond flour if you need to to get you favorite pancake consistency.
  2. Heat your desired cooking fat (I used lard) in a cast iron skillet, or electric pancake griddle.
  3. Now it is simple pancake cookery – ladle the batter on in 1/4 cup rounds, and wait until it bubbles to turn them.
  4. I keep the cooked pancakes on a cookie sheet and let them stay warm in the oven at about 275 degrees. Serve with copious amounts of butter and syrup.

 

My House Rub Roasted Chicken Breasts

My House Rub Roasted Chicken Breasts

My go-to, stand-by, tried and true emergency protein is roasted chicken breasts that I have already cooked and ready to go in the fridge. I actually love chicken cold better than hot, but what I can’t stand is chicken that has no flavor and is pale and flabby looking. Ick.

But having delicious chicken in my fridge at all times has become part of my secret to making sure I always have something healthy for me and my husband to eat. More often than not it ends up being the protein in our salads I pack for our lunches everyday, but it is also great as just a snack straight out of the fridge with some mustard. In a pinch it can even become a quick dinner, although we usually eat fish for dinner these days in an effort to stay lean.

The key to this recipe is my House Rub. It’s delicious, and I have had many of my friends tell me they love it too. It’s awesome on a lot of things, but it is REALLY good on chicken, and I make it in bulk so that I always have it. With the rub already made in my pantry, this takes me all of 10 minutes hands on time, and while the chicken cooks for 45 minutes I usually have time to clean my house, do some laundry, or whatever else is on my to-do list.

Here’s what I do:

  1. Twice a week I buy a few packages of the best quality chicken breast I can afford – usually free-range, organic chicken breasts.
  2. I set the oven to 375, and spread the chicken breasts out on a sheet tray (cookie sheet), season both sides of all the chicken evenly and pretty heavily with my House Rub. Sometimes I hit the top with a little extra smoked paprika because I think it makes them taste like BBQ chicken. You can also try smoking the chicken breast using any of the best electric smoker for smoking chicken breast.
  3. I drizzle the tops of the chicken breasts with either melted coconut oil or avocado oil, then using a silicone basting brush (which you can find at the dollar store!) I baste the tops of the breast with the oil to make sure that the tops of all the seasoned chicken breasts are coated with a little oil. Don’t brush so hard that you brush off the spices.
  4. Then bake for 45 minutes, cool the cooked chicken and store in the fridge. If you want, you can even cut the breasts into slices to make salad assembly even easier.

Look, I get it. You’re busy and you have stuff you have to do. But if you get in the habit of cooking a few recipes over and over so that you always have them available, eating healthy will be so much easier. All worthwhile habits take a little time and effort to become part of your natural routine.

Pear and Spinach Salad with Esperanza Dressing

Pear and Spinach Salad with Esperanza Dressing

Have you been seeing lots of pears at the market and in grocery stores lately for a great price? Pears are a winter fruit, and best when bought in season. I think pears pair great with something creamy, something fresh, and a hint of pepper and mustard, hence this lovely little salad. Esperanza dressing is another name for a creamy, mayo based Greek Dressing. This salad is great eaten on it’s own, as a side item, or as a complete meal topped with my House Rub Roasted Chicken Breasts.

For the Esperanza Dressing: 

  • 1/2 cup of mayo (either homemade or I love this healthy brand)
  • 1 tablespoon of Organic Whole Grain Mustard
  • 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • 2 tabelspoons of organic apple juice
  • 2 teaspoons organic granulated garlic powder (you can sub 2 cloves of fresh
  • grated garlic for a sharper flavor)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons organic dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon sea salt, depending on taste

Simply whisk all ingredients together and refrigerate to marry the flavors. Keeps up to a week in the fridge.For the Esperanza Dressing

I haven’t provided exact measurements for the ingredients of the salad because it is totally up to you and how many servings you make. In a great salad, I love fresh vegetable ingredients that I always keep on hand, like carrots, onions and cucumbers, and then a few star ingredients that are fun and seasonal, like pears. Raisins are always fun to sprinkle on top, or you could use a few sliced almonds or sunflower seeds for a nutty crunch. Walnuts also pair well with pears because their bitter notes compliment the sweetness in the pears. Start with the spinach on the bottom of the salad, and build the ingredients on top. Serve immediately with the Esperanza Dressing.

For the  Pear and Spinach Salad:

  • Fresh Organic Baby Spinach
  • Organic cherry tomatoes,
  • halved
  • julienne sweet
  • yellow onions
  • shredded or  small diced carrots
  • organic raisins
  • sliced organic cucumber
  • sliced pears, cores removed

Eastern European Influenced Sausage and Tripe Soup

Marry someone who gets you completely. My husband took one bite of this soup and immediately said, “I love you.” This dude gets me. That being said, this is really damn good soup, but I won’t be offended if you aren’t adventuresome enough to try a tripe soup. It can completely be made without the tripe, but if you are adventuresome, tripe is a really fun offal cut, and truly unctuous.

I love to watch travel food documentary style shows like anything by Anthony Bourdain.  There happen to be quite a few Anthony Bourdain series on Netflix and on Amazon Instant Video, and I have been binge watching them all lately. I’m not sure how I am just finding out about the “Mind of a Chef” series, but I think it is especially fantastic.

On the first season, Chef David Chang of Momofuku is followed, and every episode he is shown making several dishes. There is a scene where they make an insane amount of stock, and he makes his with roasted pork neck and back bones… So I had to try that myself. I already have a great recipe for Roasted Pork Trotter Stock, so I essentially made this batch the same way as that one, but I roasted these glorious neck bones (that I picked up at the Asian Market near me) for about an hour at 425.

This past weekend, in between binge watching sessions of “Mind of a Chef,” my husband and I ventured out of our apartment and stopped in at one of our favorite coffee houses in Norfolk, VA. We were both feeling a little peckish, but not that hungry. I wasn’t even going to order anything until I saw scrawled on the chalkboard menu “Anthony Bourdain’s Tripe, Pig’s Ear, and Blood Sausage Soup.” I looked at my husband, and he was already thinking what I was thinking, “Let’s split a bowl.” Neither of us had actually eaten tripe, pig’s ear or blood sausage before, but they were all things we had seen numerous times on his shows, and we both were game to try it.

The soup was pretty delicious, especially the offal (not awful!) parts, and I really enjoyed the tripe. It was so tender, and I knew I wanted to try making it myself. I perused the internet researching all the different types of tripe soups and stews, and I decided first that I wanted to go Eastern European for a few reasons. Firstly, I already had some delicious local smoked Polish sausages in my freezer, so that would go great. Secondly, I LOVE paprika to distraction, and the Hungarian and Czech versions both have paprika. Some versions had tomato, some had cream, but I honestly don’t think any had potatoes, so my addition of the potatoes wasn’t super authentic, however I think the potatoes are delicious with the sausage.

From start to finish this soup took me two days (I include making the stock in that time), albeit I wasn’t slaving over the stove that whole time. Soup that makes your significant other immediately profess their undying love for you takes a while to truly develop the flavor the best, so have some patience with this one – it is worth it! And if you must, omit the tripe if you just can’t stomach it (pun intended), and this will be a delicious sausage soup nonetheless.

Eastern European Influenced Sausage and Tripe Soup

  • 1 pound of honeycomb tripe (found at an Asian Market)
  • 1 pound of  Smoked Polish Sausage, diced
  • 1 red onion, small diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, small diced
  • 1 small green bell pepper, small diced
  • 3 carrots, small diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, small diced
  • 3 medium red potatoes, small diced
  • 26-28 oz of crushed San Marzano Tomatoes (the tetra packs are 26.46 oz, the cans are 28 oz. Either is fine)
  • 3 tablespoons of paprika
  • 1 tablespoon of dried oregano
  • a few tablespoons of lard
  • 10 cups of homemade pork stock, plus more for poaching the tripe

Directions

  1. First, poach the stock for 1 to 2 hours in stock until tender. Mine took about 2 hours. Poaching is a method in which you cook protein in liquid that is just below the simmering point. While this is happening, you can get your mise-en place (that means all your other ingredients) ready for the rest of the soup and take a break while the tripe finishes cooking. Once it is tender and cooked, remove from the stock to cool. (You may discard the poaching liquid – I did.) Once cooled, cut the tripe into bite size squares small enough to fit on a soup spoon. In fact, that’s an important aspect of good soup making — everything in the soup should be small enough to fit on a soup spoon.
  2. In a large soup pot, melt a little lard or cooking fat of choice, and cook the diced smoked sausage until cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sausage from the pot and reserve in a bowl. Leave all the fat in the pan and add in all the veggies except the potatoes and tomatoes. Cook the aromatic veggies (the carrots, onions, celery, and peppers) for at least 20 minutes to develop their flavor, adding more lard if necessary so they don’t burn and stick, and season lightly with salt and pepper.
  3. Scoot the veggies to one side of the pot to clear a space, and melt about a tablespoon more of lard. Add the 3 tablespoons of paprika and the dried oregano into the hot lard, and saute the spices for a few minutes to bring out the most flavor. Then stir and fully incorporate with all the veggies.
  4. Add in the diced potato, the tomatoes, the sausage, the tripe and the stock, and simmer for up to two hours to develop all the flavor. My husband and I found that the soup was truly delicious served with hot sauce, as the vinegar and the spice added a nice twang. This makes a LOT of soup, and so it is perfect for freezing. We have some in our freezer now, just waiting to be defrosted on that perfect rainy, cold day that just begs for soup.

Seven Secrets to Better Food Photography

Good food and cooking has been a love of mine almost all of my life, but food photography is a passion that has bloomed slowly in the past few years. I’m a creative soul with a drive to share knowledge and teach what I love, and to me, one of the best ways to communicate the essence of a good dish is to let it shine as much as it possibly can through a picture. We live in a digital, visual age, and although I grew up learning how to read a good recipe simply by looking at ingredients, I think what draws people to cook these days is how good the recipe looks on a blog or in a cookbook.

When I graduated culinary school, food photography was not really taught, and I’m not sure if it is now included in the curriculum, but I really think it should be. Food photography can be such a dynamic way to draw people into your blog, your business, your restaurant, or even just show a side of yourself to your friends and followers on social media.

Good food photography skills are like good writing skills, and possibly just as essential for any blogger, cookbook author, or chef. Food photography has a grammar, style, and structure of it’s own, and also tells a story without saying a word. But where do you learn these rules? General photography lessons can only take you so far, and there is a LOT to be said for just trying it out on your own and seeing what works and what doesn’t by personal experience.

 

I’m so excited because this week I am teaching a local Intro to Food Photography Class at Whole Foods Market in Virginia Beach. However, I got so many comments on my Instagram account from people who were not local to Virginia Beach, expressing regret that they couldn’t make it. So I have decided to do some posts about food photography tips, and these are the first Seven Secrets that I am going to explore in my photography class:

 

  1. Simple Food Props

Simple Food Props

Let me get straight to the main point: in most situations, food looks best on a white plate. Cute designs and colors can be fun, but if your plate is too busy on it’s own, it will definitely be too busy with food on top. See the two pictures up top? Both are of eggs, and both are pretty, but honestly the eggs on the white plate look best. The teal plate that I got from Target is really pretty… but it takes away from the food I was trying to capture.

I shop for simple inexpensive white porcelain plates at Ross, Homegoods and Marshalls, and I usually never spend more than $10 on a plate or platter. Sure, the plates at Athropologie are beautiful, but I’d rather spend my money on quality ingredients and save on the plates. The eye needs white space, and think of your plate, bowl, or platter like the matte in a frame for your picture.

Also, choose a bigger plate than your food so that enough of the white space shows well. See how this big plate frames my Almond Meal Pancakes well?

You might be telling me, “But Katy! A good picture needs color!” and you would be right. For color, you can use fresh herbs, a lime, a pretty tea towel, or my personal favorite, a snazzy vinyl background. Yes, the secret is out folks, I LOVE my vinyl photography backgrounds. My  favorite  vinyl backdrops are from Swanky Prints.

  1. Remove One Thing

 

It can be tempting to put lots of props in a photo, but when you don’t think your shot is perfect (or even when you do,) remove one thing and see if the shot isn’t greatly improved. I originally had a pretty cloth napkin in this shot above from my Go-to Balsamic Vinaigrette, but it was competing too much with the other elements. I took the napkin out, and this is one of my most “liked” photos on instagram.

As far as photography trends go, less is WAY more. Minimalist is the bees knees, and honestly it just doesn’t have to be all that complicated. You know how when you really like a guy, you play it close to the vest so as not to scare him away with too much affection? Photography is like that. You may have tons of adorable props in your collection, and lots of great styling ideas, but don’t use all your tricks in one act.

  1. Scotch Tape

This one is super simple… but surprisingly awesome. Wonder how some people get those awesome arial shots, but your food keeps moving around? Scotch tape it.

 

This awesome vintage spoon balanced on this bowl of Eastern European Influenced Tripe and Sausage soup? Yup, I used scotch tape to make it stay.

 

These eggs? Some of them are made to stay in place with scotch tape.

  1. Food Doesn’t Have to be HotHouse Rub Roasted WingsSauces, gravy, dressings and syrups and such run less when they are cold. True story. Soups? Those definitely don’t have to be piping hot. In fact, if they are too hot, the steam can fog up the shot. My House Rub Wings were definitely not hot when I was photographing them.  Plus, you don’t have to shoot the food the same day you make it. Make a great dinner, with enough leftovers to shoot the next day, and you can warm it just enough to make it photograph well.
  1. Follow Great Photographers on Instagram for Inspiration

Athletes try to play with other athletes that are better than they are, and for a good reason. Surrounding yourself with talent makes you learn and pushes you to be better than you are currently. Find some great photographers, and try to emulate them and learn from their teqniches. Oh, and by the way, don’t limit yourself by only following people who eat the way you do. If you follow a specific diet, of course follow people who isnpire you with their food. But just because you eat gluten free or vegan doesn’t mean you can’t follow people who do eat gluten or who eat meat. I also like to follow professional photographers who are not necessarily food photographers, because you can always learn from different genres.

You can check out this post for ten Instagramers to follow who take great foodie shots. Want to find more? Check out who those people follow, and find some you’d like to emulate.Follow Great Photographers on Instagram for Inspiration

  1. Tell a Story

A good photograph is like a good story. It has a main theme, it has movement, it has depth.

tell a story 1

You can use fabric to create movement, like in this Instagram shot above of Roasted Winter Veggie Medley where I use a draped, fringed tea towel.

 

You can use ingredients scattered around to tell the story of the dish, like how I used some of the ingredients from this salad when sharing a Tahini Lime Honey Dressing.

Shadows create depth, so if your photo seems flat, make the room darker by closing the shades some, or pulling a curtain.

  1. Learn the Techniques of Manual PhotographyLearn the Techniques of Manual Photography

Like I just mentioned, when I hop on Instagram, the people I love to follow most are the truly talented photographers. I want my feed to be full of beautiful images I can learn from, and to some degree, I think that really started when I started following Trisha, of Eat Your Beets.

I “met” Trisha while working for another blog, but when I saw her instagram profile, I was blown away. Every. Single. Shot. was absolutely stunning. She has a minimalist mindset, and she has mastered the art of natural light.  Her blog is also filled with incredible photography, and engaging posts and recipes.

After working with Trisha on a guest blog post project, we became blogger friends. I really see her as my mentor, and she has been so helpful, kind and genuine with her guidance on all thing photography and blog related

She has just released her eBook, Eat Pretty Things, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. The wonderful thing about this ebook is that it is a wealth of information that you can start using immediately, no matter your level of photography skills.

Even if you are still taking foodie photos with your phone, Trisha can help you make them the best they can be, and when you are ready you can delve into manual photography. She makes it easy and approachable.

For me personally, I have been shooting in manual mode for about 6 months, so “Eat Pretty Things” was a great refresher course on shooting in manual mode, but from a specific food photography perspective, instead of just a general photography perspective. I also instantly learned things I could apply to my photography, as well as some tips on a better lens specifically for food photography, and a light I can use for night shots when I can’t take advantage of natural light.

What’s great about the lens, is that they make it for a variety of different camera brands, so even though Trisha shoots with a Nikon, I can still buy the same lens she uses, but for my Canon.

So that’s it for my first Seven Secrets to Food Photography! I”ll be scheduling more classes in the Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads Area soon, but I will also be posting more photography posts here for those of you who don’t live in my area.

House Rub Roasted Wings

Yesterday I shared with you a Steak Dinner for Two featuring Grass Fed Steak that is on special this weekend at select Whole Foods Markets, and today I am sharing a recipe with you that I have been making for YEARS.

My husband is originally from Columbia, SC and in the Soda City, they LOVE their Buffalo Wings, and my husband is no exception. When we decided to make a serious effort to eat a healthier, real food diet a few years ago, I had to figure out a way to cook wings a better way so we wouldn’t miss them. And when I’m in doubt, I roast. It’s my go-to method of cooking for anything really, and it works great for chicken wings.

 

This weekend, Air Chilled Buffalo Wings are on Sale at Whole Foods Market Virginia Beach,  so I made sure to grab some! (Check your own local Whole Foods Market for specials, but sometimes they have the same ones.) Usually I pay about $11-12 for a tray of wings, and this weekend with the discount they were only $8 – that’s a great deal! Along with their high standards for humanely raised meats, Whole Foods specifically carries “Air Chilled Chicken” rather than water chilled chicken. Water chilled chicken is the most common method of chilling chicken after processing, but Air Chilling is more sanitary, and makes for juicer chicken with better texture and crispier skin. And crispy skin is almost the whole point to Buffalo Wings, in my humble opinion.

House Rub Roasted Wings

I season these wings with my House Rub, which is a spice blend that I keep on hand in large amounts because it is delicious on EVERYTHING from pork chops, to scallops, to salmon, and especially on chicken. My Rub is even great sprinkled on veggies. These wings have minimal hands on time, and can be prepped and in the oven in 5 minutes if you already have a batch of my House Rub made.

House Rub Roasted Wings

Ingredients:

About 30 Air Chilled Chicken Wings
3-4 Tablespoons of Katy’s House Rub
1/3 cup of Avocado Oil, Melted Coconut Oil or Light Olive Oil

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400. Spread the wings out top side down on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Generously coa
  2. t the underside with half the rub.
  3. Using a pair of tongs, flip the wings over and season the top sides with the remaining rub. Make sure there is space in between the wings, and that they don’t overlap.
  4. Drizzle the oil over the wings, making sure each wing gets a little splash.
  5. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the wings and desired crispy-ness. I like mine really crispy.

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