New Year, New Beginnings & Adventures

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Photogenicfood is going on the road! Last year turned out to be a doozy in terms of finding time to work on my photography and blog simultaneously. Sigh… real life takes over… We spent a lot of time on the road in 2012 with the acquisition of our silver bullet, Silvia. She’s a vintage beauty – still a little rough on the outside, but eventually we’ll take care of that and get her all shined up! I’d say we’d do it ourselves, but really, we can recognize a job that’s much too big for us – although it’s tempting since I’d LOVE to see her buffed from the dull pewter to the reflective silver shine reminiscent of a classic Airstream. Silvia is a 1971 31′ Sovereign Airstream that sleeps 6. She was renovated by her previous owner who unknowingly outfitted her perfectly for us. Now generally, I’m not a camping type of gal. But I can do this. I can do this because she has all the comforts of home efficiently and cleverly packaged in a simple, tiny rectangular box.:)

Our first trip of 2013 took us to San Diego, CA. All the photos I took were with my Iphone 4s since I regrettably forgot my camera! Real life interfers again… On the upside, I had plenty of time to figure out how the camera on my phone works as well as several photo apps such as Instagram and Picstich. Not that many food pics this go ’round since most photo ops were when we were out and about. We stayed at a lovely park on the beach called Paradise by the Sea in Oceanside, CA. Of our week long stay, we ate “in” most every night to the likes of grilled citrus lime chicken, pulled pork sandwiches, carnitas burritos with all the fixins’, cheesy lasagna (or wazaannya as Gabe would say it) and super yummy cookie brownies made by the girls in our “tiny” kitchen. We walked on the beaches, saw wild seals lazing on the rocks, rode bikes and roasted marshmallows. It was a good week and a wonderful start to the new year!

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Mai fun, no fun

It’s been a while since pancit (Filipino version of stir-fry noodles) has made it into our dinner rotation. Blessings to whomever had the brilliant idea to mass market freshly roasted rotisserie chickens. With 4 kids in tow and a busy schedule, it has saved me on several occasions. Not to mention, it’s a GREAT shortcut. So with a chicken in my cart, I grab some of my favorite veggies: sugar snap peas, pea pods, red bell peppers. Now no two Filipino families seem to make the same recipe for pancit – which literally means “noodles” in Filipino cooking. From what I could gather from my family is that it’s similar to fried rice, use whatever you have in your refrigerator as your added ingredients to your noodles. For example, I love adding bean sprouts too, but I know it’s not a traditional item added to this dish. I add them anyway. Walking down my local Fry’s grocer I noticed that the international food section doesn’t seem to have any pancit noodles – the yellow ones that look like chow mein but are thinner and flatter and evidently, more forgiving when working with them. Despite the lack of selection, I do happen to see that they at least have mai fun rice noodles. These are often used in Chinese cooking in a dish you probably know as Singapore noodles. While these noodles are very popular, I have one little worry in the back of my mind… I’m thinking that hopefully I cook it right and that these seemingly delicate, cellophane noodles don’t turn to slime. Oh, and just for variety, I went ahead and picked up some chow mein noodles to blend in. Little did I know that my selections would be my teach me a lesson or two!

Lesson #1: Ok, mai fun, yes, no fun when it comes to photographing them. To the naked eye, it’s a delicate yarning of opaque white noodles, which I thought would be an interesting texture to try and capture. My biggest challenge? Well, capturing a shot that wasn’t, simply put, a big white blob. Not to mention, waning afternoon light into the evening was placing undue pressure on me to get a shot, ANY shot that didn’t resemble a glowing ghost mound on my plate. In the end I kept circling my subject, clicking the shutter at varying angles until I got what I was looking for. I switched also from my fixed focus 50mm lens to my macro lens. I think perhaps that the 50mm was letting in too much light and overexposing the subject, whereas my macro didn’t quite yield that same result. Not sure why. I’ll have to dig into the technical aspects of my camera lenses at another time. I also realized that based on the configuration of my kitchen, my stainless steel fridge acted as a nice reflector to casting subtle light onto my subject. Neat little BoNus!
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Lesson #2: Chow mein… no, it’s not the noodle I hoped it would be. Yes, I over did it. I hit it with hot water, thinking that I could just soften them up enough and then toss them in to the pan to be fried. Somehow, I soaked it too long and the noodles at the bottom became one glutinous mess! Ugh. So thinking that I could fix it by breaking it up and tossing them in with the rice noodles…. Uh… well it nearly ruined my fine looking rice noodles as they seemed to be attracted to these yellow “gooey” balls of chow mein. I plucked out what I could. It left my dish with a few little clumps among my otherwise harmonious blend of stir-fried veggies, shredded rotisserie chicken and sea of, yes, non-slimy rice noodles. Hardly noticeable according to my eager eaters – who LOVE stir-fried anything. When I think back about this little project, I’ll remember #1: they (the sampling crew) thought that my little mishap was scrambled eggs in the dish, #2: while nothing was left in the wok, I did get comments that while it was good it simply wasn’t what Lola (grandmother) makes. Oh well! And finally #3: the dish in retrospect tasted mighty fine, just not very food photogenic!

Tangelos and More

20120103-015700.jpgJanuary 2012…. Wow, time flies! Happy New Year! Looking back, I didn’t get as far as I would have liked in my photoblogging. Posting 52 times is a lot more work than I thought!  I did however, post 15 times in my freshman blogosphere, so if I average it out… I’m looking at about a post a month.  Not too bad for this first timer! My biggest accomplishment is simply that I started one! Thank you to all who’ve checked my blog out. I’m thinking this year if I don’t have the time or feel like writing, I’ll just post a photo pic or two to get me in the routine of posting. We’ll see… I’m hopeful and optimistic! And with Santa bringing more Legos and Just Dance 3, I may get some quiet time to be able to organize my thoughts and pictures! 🙂

Well, well, what’s been going on here? Evidently it’s fruit-bearing season in the desert! Everywhere I look, citrus trees are heavy with the bountiful weight of its labor. Grapefruits, oranges, tangelos… I’m assuming lemons and limes too, but I haven’t seen ’em yet. We have 5 fruit trees in our backyard: 3 orange, 1 lemon and 1 very pitiful lemon tree. The latter lemon (well we think it’s a lemon) is the last remaining citrus tree on our property when we moved in. From the looks of it, the last owner hadn’t watered it in over a year. Hopefully it makes it. All the other trees are new and with that, none are bearing fruit at the moment. I’m hoping by next season we’ll have some goodies of our own. For now, there are plenty of trees loaded with fruit where neighbors and friends are offering bags of them. It reminds me very much of tomato harvesting season in the Midwest, where in late August you simply can’t eat or give enough away!

TANgELO… (tan-jə-loh)… A cross between a tangerine and a pomelo or grapefruit. The size of a fist. The Arizona/ Californian variety is easily distinguished by its pebbled surface and bell-shaped end.  Little to no seeds. Mildly acidic, sweet and super juicy. In one word: Delicious. I’ve got a bag of here. I can only peel and eat so many! I agree, freshly squeezed juice is a bonus, but unless you have an electric juicer (I don’t), it’s alot of work. Jams, jellies, tangelic citrus salsas, citrus marinades, orange balsamic reductions over vanilla ice cream? Really? In the end, I pulled together a tangy tangelo couscous side dish tossed with garbanzo beans and sunflower seeds. It had an earthy undertone as I seasoned it with a couple shakes of cumin, salt and pepper. Topped off with a squeeze from half of a freshly cut tangelo to add an additional bright burst of flavor. Not too shabby for on the fly. It passed the test, the kids and hubs ate it!

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Garbage Day

Garbage day is Monday.  How often does one go through the refrigerator cleaning it out in anticipation of  the traveling dumpster’s early morning arrival; and find ALL this food that you haven’t eaten yet???  On this particular Sunday I came across a couple of mangos that I’m sure I bought earlier in the week, I think. Still smooth-skinned, slightly firm and changing from an olive green to a muted orange-brown hue.  I’m thinking, “must still be good” – although not very photogenic at this point.  Dig around the ice box a little more… A few pork chops pulled from the freezer to thaw… Check the pantry for some grains… yep, looks like we have dinner for the next day!

Few items from the Pantry

Pork chops with a mango chutney – at least that’s what I called it.  Below I used the late afternoon Western light diffused through our patio. To add some color to my white dishes, I added the multi-colored cloth beneath.  I wish I would have caught the “fleck” of pork that’s sitting on the mango, but oh well!  It’s all in the details from making a good picture, great, right?  The dish by the way, was just yummy.  The kids and hubby ate it all up!

Devilish Eggs

The Devil is in the eggs.  It sure is.  Love ’em.  I can never eat just one.  I googled recipes for deviled eggs… there are thousands!  But among them, it seems that they all have similar basics:  eggs (obviously), mayonnaise/ salad dressing, mustard or vinegar of some sort, salt and pepper.  From there the variations are endless!  Most seem to come from old family recipes and are distinctive in their own right.  Ever try the pre-made deviled eggs from the grocery store?  Not quite the same as Aunt Marie’s, right?  Personally, I find store bought deviled eggs to be pretty tasteless and otherwise boring.  A complete injustice to how absolutely delicious a good deviled egg can be.  Unless their homemade, they’re not worth bringing to your next potluck or barbecue, Just Saying…

So eggs… they are tricky to photograph.  It would seem that there is not much to them.  Clean lines, uniform color, singular shape. Some would say uninteresting, or as the French would say – ennuyeux, ho-hum, nothing to write about. I beg to differ.  Light from the front, back, sides?  It’s not that easy with a white egg.  It can blend in and show a lack depth.  Not as easy of an assignment as I initially thought.  Since I like using natural light, it’s taken me a few tries to find which light and setting I like best.  It helps to see the inspiration of others around the ‘net to get some ideas!

Backlit to show off it's simple shape

And beyond the white, I love seeing eggs of differing colors.  What a delight to go to your local farmers market and see the variation in hues from white to blue, green and various shades of brown.  My hubby tells me that it’s what the farmers feed the chickens that cause some of the color variations and that the size changes depending upon the chicken laying the egg.  Also too, I noticed that depending on the eggs, sometimes the yolk colors vary in intensity too.  Pretty cool.

Tick-tock... 25 minutes and the time's up!

None the less, once cracked or peeled (in the case of hard boiled eggs), the insides taste the same.  It’s up to you how you want to doctor up your favorite deviled egg recipe!  In our house, we like it with a little tobasco, pickle juice and some red pepper flakes.  I’d be curious to try out some other add-ins for our next potluck!