July 30, 2007

falafels

falafels

These babies, they're far-from-afel!

Many years ago, I tasted a falafel pita sandwich and I was instantly hooked.

The texture and taste of this vegetarian dish is very unique. I remember googling falafels to learn more about them and how to make them. However, I was a bit disappointed because to make them from scratch seemed a lot of effort. Ground fava beans or chickpeas? How the heck was I going to do THAT? So I continued to order them when I happen to see them on the town.

Walking down the ethnic aisle of my supermarket some years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see a box of falafels that you can make at home. It was a mixture of ground fava beans and chick peas(and some other wholesome ingredients and spices) that you add water to and pan fry at home. I couldn't wait to try it out!

I make my falafels into patty shaped versus round balls and I also dip it into cornmeal before I put them into a frying pan. I find that they are very sticky so the cornmeal tends to make it easier to prepare as does making them patty shaped. The cornmeal also gives them a nice crunch.

I have tried baking falafels to make them less fatty however I did not like them that way. They were too dry in comparison to the moist fried ones. I will try to bake them again (must experiment with oven times and temperatures) but I still believe the pan fried ones will win.

Next time you hit the supermarket, try something new. I'm sure glad I did.

July 27, 2007

couscous salad with carrots and raisins

couscous salad

Couscous is made from wheat and is very small and granular. Most supermarkets carry the already pre-steamed versions and I've seen them in whole wheat varieties too.

I like to experiment with various rices and grains. Couscous is so simple and easy, especially when I need to add a side dish pronto and have little time to make rice. Steam it or put it in boiling water and voila, fluffy little grains to add to your meal.

couscous salad on spoon

I do find that couscous is a bit dry so it's best when you mix it with other vegetables or with some sort of dressing/gravy. It also is great under stews.

This couscous recipe can be served warm as a side dish or can be refrigerated and eaten like a cold salad. Since it's summertime, I usually opt for the cold version of it.

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couscous salad with carrots and raisins

1 cup couscous
1/2 cup carrots, grated
1/2 cup raisins

4 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Stir in 1 cup of couscous into 1.5 cups of boiling water or broth of your choice. Let stand, away from heat, covered for few minutes. Fluff with fork and carrots and raisins.

Whisk together the mixture of lemon juice, oil, garlic, sugar, salt & pepper. Pour onto the couscous mixture and blend together. Serve warm as a side dish or refrigerate and serve as cold salad.

adapted from Couscous with Carrots, Canadian Living Test Kitchen

July 25, 2007

raspberries

raspberries

I wish I could say I have some fabulous recipe that I used to put these beauties to work but alas, I have none. We are eating them right off the branches. And really, why not, they are best that way! There are many raspberry shrubs in our yard and the berries are so delicious that they don't hang around waiting to be put to use.

Raspberries are one of my favorite fruits with blueberries coming to a very close second. I have never minded the seeds and love raspberry jams, sieved or not. And raspberry sorbets, sherbets and ice creams make my eyes go buggy with delight especially since they are rarer in products compared to the mighty prevalent strawberry!

When I was younger, my mom used to take us to a friend's house who's yard was filled with raspberries. We had this idea to have a lemonade stand (because we were trying to come up with ideas to be rich) but the problem was we didn't have any lemonade or koolaid. I had suggested raspberry juice since there was an abundance of the berries. We became product development scientists that day, from squishing the raspberries to the right consistency to adding the appropriate ratios of sugar and water to develop the ultimate taste. Needless to say, we were stained up to our elbows in the beautiful purple-red hue of raspberries but the idea was quite novel.

And, if you are wondering, we made no money. Apparantly, we had no clue about marketing since we set up our stand in a quiet residential neighborhood where there was no customer walk through or cars driving by. C'est la vie! We had a blast making it!

July 23, 2007

crepes: savory or sweet?

I have to say right off the bat that I am not responsible for these beauties. All kudos go to my husband who is the master crepe maker in our home. They turn out light, fluffy and all in one piece. Unlike my failed attempts. I can't seem to flip them without breaking them.

Crepes

One thing we differ on is how we like our crepes prepared. I'm the savoury and he's the sweet. Mine has a feta & chive spreading. The hubby had his with nutella and a dusting of icing sugar.

Crepes- Savoury Crepes- Sweet














It's not that I don't like the sweet (I've been known to eat nutella by the spoonfuls... ooooh, yum) but I just prefer my crepes the opposite end of the taste scale. But at least we agree that we both love crepes!

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crepes recipe
3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon melted, unsalted butter*
1 1/2 cups milk

In a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the eggs and melted butter and stir until smooth. Add the milk and mix well.

Heat a nonstick pan, melt 1 tsp butter over moderate heat. Pour in 2 or 3 tablespoons of batter. Cook the crepe until it is golden brown on the bottom; then flip it, using a spatula. Remove when golden brown on both sides. Continue until all the batter is used up

* we use margarine most of the time and it turns out just as well, shhhh, don't tell wolfgang :)

wolfgang puck recipe

July 19, 2007

fajita burgers

fajita burgers
I love summer because of the barbecue season. Sinking my teeth into a burger on a nice hot day is pretty damn nice. (Don't forget the beer too!) We eat a lot of burgers because of all the get togethers we have with friends and family but we like to change it up every once in a while.

I found this recipe for fajita burgers. You're supposed to top it with avocado and salsa (hence making it more fajita-ish) but didn't have avocado kicking around thus wasn't gonna put salsa on top. But I'm sure it would have been really tasty that way too. I would probably put a dollop of sour cream too. Hey, why not?

Cheers!
...

fajita burgers
makes 4 patties

500 g ground beef
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup dry crumbs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

1 red bell pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp chili powder

Mix together all the ingredients and form into 1/2 inch patties. Barbecue until done (~ 10 minutes total time).

recipe from Canadian Living, Let's Barbecue!

July 17, 2007

three bean salad

3 Bean Salad
When I think of kidney beans, I think of chili. I rarely think of them for other uses though I'm sure there are a variety of uses for them that I need to explore. It wasn't until my mother made a 3 bean salad back when I was living at home that I got my second recipe involving that red kidney bean.

The sheer idea of beans mixed together as a cold salad seemed horrifying but when I tried it I was pleasantly surprised and I've been making it ever since. The combo of sweet and sour and the crunch from the onions and red pepper makes it such a great dish. It is also a great make ahead dish for picnic's or having guests over since it's so easy to prepare.

However the downside is the hubby's gas production from eating such a dish, which is just outright displeasing. Make sure you send him out to do errands a couple of hours after eating such a dish.

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three bean salad

3 varieties of beans in any ratio you would like:

14 oz can green beans
14 oz can yellow beans
19 oz can kidney beans

1 medium onion, diced in little pieces
1 large red pepper, diced into little pieces

1 cup vinegar
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

note that many recipes also use 1/4 - 1/2 cup oil in their bean salads but I find it just as good without so I don't add it.

Make sure the beans are well rinsed and mix them together into a bowl.

Mix the sugar, salt & pepper into the vinegar. Pour the dressing over the beans, mix well and refrigerate. Allow to sit several hours or overnight in the refrigerator to enhance the flavor.

July 16, 2007

almond butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

Almond Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip CookiesWhat do you put on your blog as your first post? A cookie recipe of course!
(Yes, a chocolate torte would have been nice too but quite frankly, I think I need to start small.)

Though the original recipe called for peanut butter, I had a huge container of almond butter in my fridge that was begging for usage. It gave the cookie a nice roasted almond taste. Though I love me my peanut butter, this was a nice twist in taste for a cookie.

It wasn't too sweet but I'm sure that if I packed the brown sugar, as the original recipe called for, it would have been better in that way. Also, do NOT overbake. My first batch was a wee bit dry and I looked like a pelican trying to swallow a live fish. Best to probably eat that batch alone instead alongside the company of others. Just a thought.

...

almond butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies
makes about 30 cookies

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup margarine
1/3 cup almond butter
1/4 cup buttermilk

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup quick rolled oats
1/2 tsp. each baking soda & salt

1/3 cup chocolate chips

Cream together brown sugar, margarine, almond butter & buttermilk.

Add the combined dry ingredients (flours, oats, soda & salt) until smooth.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Roll in 1.5 inch balls, flatten onto prepared cookie sheet & bake at 350C for 10 minutes.

*modified "Cookies for Rookies" recipe from Crazy Plates cookbook

July 14, 2007

Photography


Photography:

Please visit my official website, MakiB Photography, to view my portfolio.


Tips and Tidbits:

I'm a self-taught photographer and have a deep love for photography.

I often have people asking about camera equipment and photography. Here are my basic tips for you newbies out there:

Camera:

  • DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera)? If you are planning to step up in cameras, I'd recommend you buy a digital slr. I have an entry-level crop-sensor DSLR. It is an older model: Canon Digital Rebel xt that I bought many years ago, and I absolutely love it.
  • Crop-sensor or full-frame cameras? Most of the introductory line dslr’s are crop-sensor cameras. Generally the higher-end (more expensive) cameras are full-frame. If you are starting out in the photosnappin’ world, I recommend the less expensive crop-sensors. It is both fully-automatic and fully-manual with regard to functions, just like full-frame cameras. Most of the full-frame camera's are generally bigger, heavier and give photographers less noise at higher ISO settings, a little more wide-angle advantages and maybe bigger screens on the back.
  • Manufacturer? Canon, Nikon, Sony, Leica, etc? They are all reputable brands and they all have entry-level & high-end cameras into the dslr world. I can’t answer this one for you. Do your research and go with what feels more comfortable for you.
  • Lens? The kit lens that comes with most cameras are multi-purpose and would probably do you fine for what your needs are. I bought a used Canon EF 50mm F1.8 for $60 that I used for a long time for my food photography. Nothing fancy or expensive but it gave me wonderful results. I do use a more expensive multi-purpose lens now but it’s really not that necessary.
  • Flashes? I try to use natural light as much as I can, however, sometimes, you need a flash. I often tell people to forgo spending lots of money on the camera body and instead save it for a flash. The itty-bitty flash on the camera isn’t very good and trust me, a basic add-on flash will change your photography.
  • My #1 Camera Tip? I really recommend you go and hold a variety of cameras. If it feels too heavy or clunky, you are less likely to bring it along with you or even use it. Trust me on this.

Photography:

  • Let there be Light! I use natural light almost all the time. The more, the better. Get thee to a window! Too harsh? Use a white curtain or see-through material to soften the light. If you are using a flash, try bouncing the light off a wall, ceiling or other reflective material. Straight-on flash often gives harsh results.
  • Reflect that Light: Once you got a source of light streaming in from a window, reflect it back. Use a mirror, tin foil or spend $5 on white foamcore from the art store. It will light up your subject, brighten up the area so you are less likely to have blurry image and give you a different look.
  • Angles, Angles, Angles: Who says you have to take a picture of the whole plate of food. Boring. Get in closer and take a picture of half the plate. Take a picture from up top, 45 degree angle or get down lower. Experiment. Changing even the slightest angle or getting closer to your subject really makes a difference.
  • Snap a lot: Really. That’s the beauty of digital, you can take hundreds of photos and keep the best 2-3 and delete the rest.
  • Picture processing: I use Photoshop to post-process all my photos. Post-processing is something I’m not really going to expand on here since that would take up an entire 2 years worth of blogposts … and some.

Hope that gives you a starting point to head down the camera buying and picture-taking world.

For more info, my fellow blogger, Simone at Junglefrog Cooking, has also written some amazing photography tutorial posts that will help you out if you are looking for more info. You can find the tutorials here.

Advertising

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Looking to advertise?

I have started offering sponsor advertising on my blog. It will be displayed in the right most column of my blog. First come, first serve, in regards to order.

Your choices are:

  • Text Link
  • Jpg/Gif Links(up to 150 pixels height/width)

My rates are really reasonable. Give me a shout at oomelement@gmail.com for more details.

...

I do not generally do cookbook or gadget reviews. If you are still interested in sending me your wares, I can not guarantee that I will post or include them in my photography.


About


About My Blog:

I mostly consider my blog a “photo blog” with a huge bent toward food. Though I am adding more non-food photography posts.

I often tell people that I started this blog as a way to practice my photography. My children got tired of having the camera in their faces and food never complains.

But truthfully, it’s more than that. Food has been a big part of my life. From home-cooked meals throughout my childhood, to me carrying on the tradition of cooking and baking at home, to my non-stop chitchat about it, it is never is a dull topic for me.

Food also brings people together. I love having friends over and sharing conversations over bites to eat. This blog is my virtual way to do just that with you all.

So, pull up a chair and spend a minute or two with me. I don’t bite.


About Me:


Profile Pic

I don't consider myself a "foodie", I just like to eat, cook, bake and talk about food. I like ketchup on saltines, most "foodies" would think it's absurd. I say, don't knock it until you try it :)

I often tell people that I am a jack of all trades, master of none.


I’ve been called Martha Stewart many times, though I don’t consider myself crafty. I actually don’t like crafts at all. Nor do I like gardening.

My house is in perpetual construction. We are DIY-ers and are constantly renovating.

I have a chair fetish that I try to keep curbed and a mad love for the mid-century modern era.

I’m a wise-cracker and a bit silly at times. People who know me will tell you that.

I joke that if I won the lottery and was set for life, I would probably be a professional student or a Walmart greeter. Though I say it jokingly, I believe there is some grain of truth to it. Which one you ask? Buy me a winning lotto ticket and we'll find out.


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