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Watermelon and Microgreens Salad

This weekend Chet and I bought probably the best watermelon I’ve had all summer maybe even in the past few summers. Watermelon is my favorite summertime food. There is nothing better to me than sitting on my porch slurping down some juicy, sweet watermelon to take the edge of the heat and humidity of a Wisconsin summer. This particular melon was huge and while I knew it wouldn’t spoil I figured I better think of multiple uses for the melon to be sure we could enjoy it to the last bite. Chet made some watermelon lemonade which was quite good. I ate probably half of the watermelon just cut up, snacking on it all weekend when I had a pang of hunger. We visited the farmers market and came away with a great haul. I love summer so much, there is always something growing and blooming and producing bounty for me to enjoy. I’m so grateful to live in a world where I get to enjoy these things. If I had my way I would quit my job and find myself a piece of land that I could work to provide for myself and live out the rest of my days in the beauty of it, carefree and always with a bit of dirt underneath my fingernails. For now I can only lean into that fantasy in the small moments of visiting the market and coming home with delicious produce. I was excited to bring home amongst the goodies a bag of micro-greens from Sun Brothers Naturals consisting of Broccoli, rose radish, mizuna, and scarlet mustard. Micro-greens are said to hold much more nutrients than their more developed selves. For more information about the emerging health benefits check out this article from NPR. I couldn’t wait to come home and make a tasty micro-green salad with watermelon. I decided to add a few sliced hydroponic tomatoes from the market as well as some feta cheese. I topped it off with a homemade balsamic vinegar and honey dressing. Essentially I added about a tablespoon and a half of honey to 2 tsp of quality balsamic vinegar. Soooooo good!!! Enjoy the images and next time you are at your farmer’s market keep an eye out for them so you can try to make your own micro-greens salad!

 

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2014 4th of July

Happy late 4th to you all! We celebrated the 4th of July at our cabin this year which does not have any access to the internet, so I apologize for the late post. We are fortunate and are able to view Appleton’s firework show from our own backyard. It is so nice to beat the crowds and noise and just enjoy the beautiful fireworks while relaxing in our yard. I think the treeline grew a bit taller this year as many of the fireworks didn’t seem as high as they were in years past. Maybe eventually I will have to brave the crowds and make my way down to the park, but until then I’m happy not to. Enjoy the shots!

 

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Strawberry Milkshake Cake

 

 

Chet and I went for our annual strawberry pick at Porter’s Patch this past weekend. I think the late spring yielded a smaller berry than in past years, but their flavor was still delicious! Normally we turn our picked strawberries into jam, but we have so much left over from last season that we decided to pick a lot less this year and just use them for baking and desserts. Last year I think we picked around 30 or 40 lbs. This year we only did about 12. Twelve pounds of strawberries is still a lot, especially when you have to hull all of them out so you can freeze them properly. :)

I found a recipe on pinterest for a strawberry banana milkshake cake many moons ago. I think anyone who uses pinterest can relate that so many times you pin first, then read later…well…you intend to read later but soon you have boards upon boards of things that you forgot you even saw. This cake is one of those. I have a strawberry galore board where I find recipes and other strawberry related material. Since we didn’t do our normal jam fest I decided to poke through the board and decided to finally give this cake a try. The recipe was developed by Hungry Rabbit NYC  as a strawberry banana milkshake cake, but upon reading the recipe I decided to leave out the banana layer as I had suspicion that it would taste more like a banana bread (and let’s be honest I really didn’t feel like making a four layer cake) . My husband loves cakes that have a jam or custard center versus frosting, so I decided to use our homemade strawberry jam as the filling for this cake. I wasn’t thinking when I made the frosting for the cake and forgot that the frosting recipe is intended for a four layer cake, not just a two layer cake. I ended up having tons of frosting left over which now I don’t know what to do with. I hate to throw it out but with this cake in the house I really don’t have a need to make cupcakes or something to use it up with. I also don’t need the temptation to just start eating the frosting alone…or with graham crackers or something ridiculous like that.

The cake was spectacular!! The batter requires malt powder which I think makes this cake. I had no clue where to find malt powder and had almost given up on making this cake until my husband had the brilliant idea to try the ice cream topping aisle. I took a quick sample of batter off my kitchenaid mixer blade and quickly called Chet in to sample. His eyes opened wide and he didn’t hesitate to ask if he could have the beater if I was done with it. :) The frosting was good, though I think heavy on the cream cheese. If I were to make this again I might lessen the cream cheese or use my whipped cream cheese frosting recipe which is much lighter. I’m also curious to see what it would taste like if I added more malt powder to the frosting. The cake has a texture similar to pound cake–dense but moist and the strawberry flavor accents it very well. I would love to try this cake with some cut up strawberries and just a bit of whipped cream. yummmm. Overall, not a difficult recipe to make and a lovely way to use up some fresh from the field strawberries!  Check out Hungry Rabbit NYC’s blog for the recipe!

 

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Strawberry Rhubarb Drop Scones

My favorite time of the year is just ahead and I cannot wait to start doing some food shoots to reflect the awesomeness that is summer produce! My neighbors have this beautiful rhubarb plant which they generously offered up to me whenever I want. Rhubarb is one of those fickle foods which can be argued as a fruit given its contextual use in cooking, but is technically considered a vegetable.  I finally got around to picking a recipe to use the rhubarb with; strawberry rhubarb drop scones. To give it a try please visit http://www.yankeekitchenninja.com/2012/05/strawberry-rhubarb-drop-scones-recipe.html. I really like this recipe because it is low key. Scones can be a complicated affair, but these are quick and easy for those of you who are like me and have little energy after work to put together a meal that doesn’t come from a box.

It wasn’t quite time for strawberry picking, so I’m sure had I used fresh from the field strawberries these scones would have been even more amazing. Instead, I found some nice organic strawberries that looked plump and flavorful. Part of food photography which I love and think is essential for telling a story are ingredient shots. What would a good recipe be without quality ingredients that make your mouth water and your heart reflect on long standing memories? I wanted to photograph the rhubarb individually since it is such a unique plant. The particular plant that my neighbors have is pretty massive, in fact it is so large that it has sort of mutated into two plants. Some of the leaves are probably about the size of my mini schnauzer, which I think is amazing considering the small st        alky base that supports them. I noticed how thick the veins in these leaves were and felt photographing this would shed light on the amount of power and energy that is needed to keep such a plant thriving. While the leaves are interesting this is not part of the plant that is used in cooking. In fact, rhubarb leaves are poisonous. They contain oxalic acid which can be harmful to humans if the correct amount is ingested. Granted you’d have to eat rhubarb leaf salads for days to build up enough of the oxalic acid, it is important to remember to just stay away and eat the stalks.

The recipe (as linked above) was pretty straight forward. I made just a few slight adjustments based on my personal taste. I like rhubarb, but it can be a bit sour if not balanced correctly. The recipe called for two cups mixed of chopped strawberries and rhubarb. I decided to add in an extra cup of strawberries since my particular palate doesn’t handle sour well. For those of you who like a bit of that zing, I suggest following the recipe. I also added a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla because I absolutely love vanilla in baking. The buttermilk is a wonderful touch to these scones. I couldn’t help but feel like they were a heartier version of a fruit pancake. I would recommend eating them up quickly as I had a few left over in my container that ended up moldy. I wish I would have been a bit more conservative with the size that I dropped the scones out on the tray, as they were quite large and I ended up having to cook them for longer than stated in the recipe to be sure they were done all the way. These scones are wonderful paired with breakfast tea, especially if you have a nice berry tea. You can even put jam and butter on them if you find the rhubarb too sour.

Enjoy!

 

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Mitchell Park Conservatory (The Domes)

More updates for you all! At the end of April my co-worker and I decided to go to Mitchell Park Conservatory aka the Domes in Milwaukee for a little photo excursion. The domes are amazing to visit, especially with a camera! There are three domes each with a different theme. Two of the domes have permanent showcases, a desert oasis with collections of cacti, succulents, shrubs, and arid-land plants, and a tropical jungle containing a rich diversity of plants from the rainforests of five continents. The third dome is considered a show dome which showcases a variety of themes throughout the year. When we went the show dome had lots of spring plants like tulips, primroses, and mums.

Enjoy all the images and if you are looking for a quick weekend activity considering visiting the domes yourself! For more information visit the domes website at http://county.milwaukee.gov/MitchellParkConserva10116.htm

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Travels and Update

Hey All!

It has been a bit since I’ve posted, but I assure it is not for lack of photographing. I have been busy traveling for work and my personal life so I haven’t had a lot of time to sit down to update you all. The first update I wanted to give you is of a few fun images I took on my off time while I was in Atlanta Georgia for a business trip.

I was sent to one of our facilities in Roswell Georgia to photograph some executive portraits both in the studio and on location. It was a good time, their campus is beautiful and has a nice open walking trail in between campus buildings. We did a lot of shooting outdoors to take advantage of the beautiful landscaping. I was there for three days. I wanted to take the opportunity to drive downtown to the aquarium and get some imagery. The aquarium itself was relatively large with lots of different sights to take in, a great place for a family to go on vacation. I was exhausted from my long day so I didn’t linger. I made my way through everything I wanted to see and photograph in about an hour. One thing I will say is that I was impressed with how easy Atlanta and Georgia was to navigate. I am usually pretty timid when driving in new cities, but found my way around easily. It isn’t to say that the drivers were any safer in Georgia, in fact just the opposite.

Anyways, enjoy the images from the aquarium and a few things around!

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wisteriat that grew on campus, though I believe this is an invasive species it still was beautiful

wisteria that grew on campus, though I believe this is an invasive species it still was beautiful

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schools of fish

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Beluga Whale

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Albino

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Lion Fish

Lion Fish

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Balsamic Steak & Veggie Roll ups on the Grill

Hey all!

I’ve been waiting to post this recipe for a bit. I made it last weekend, but never got a chance to post as I was preparing to leave for Georgia for a week. I finally have a bit of down time and figured I’d post before I forgot! This recipe is very easy, and a great way to get more veggies into your diet. I saw something similar to this on pinterest and created my own spin.

In my house, balsamic vinegar is a staple food. If I could put it on everything, I would. We are fortunate to have a place called the Olive Cellar in Appleton, which specializes in gourmet balsamic vinegars and oils imported from various locations. This place is a vinegar and oil connoisseurs dreamland. It is similar to VomFass, I believe there is in Madison but it is a locally owned business. Anyways, we love trying different vinegars from there for all kinds of meals.

They have a wonderful aged balsamic, which is pretty expensive but totally worth the money. The flavor is exquisite. I decided to marinade some flat iron steaks in this balsamic vinegar. You don’t necessarily have to use a flat iron steak, I did because it would save me the hassle of tenderizing a thicker piece of meat. Then I decided what veggies I wanted to use. It is best to use veggies that don’t have a lot of bulk, as you will need to wrap the meat around them and be sure they don’t fall out and into the pit of the grill!

Marinade:

1/2 c balsamic vinegar

2 gloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp thyme

a pinch or two of freshly ground black pepper and coarse salt

Combine in a Ziploc bag, add your steaks and let sit refrigerated for at least four hours, rotating sides after 2 hours. Meanwhile, prep your veggies. I used asparagus, yellow, orange and red peppers, purple onion, and green onions. You could also use zucchini or squash, cut into very thin straws. If you choose to do veggies that may need more cooking time, it might be a good idea to steam them just a bit before grilling. I don’t mind a bit of crunch to my asparagus so I chose not to steam, though for some it may be a good idea.  Be sure that you cut your veggies into thinner strips so they are easily rolled.

After your meat has marinated lay out the individual steaks. My flat irons were quite wide, so I cut them in half to make them more manageable. Next, place your veggies in the center of the steak. Take one end of the steak (doesn’t matter which one, I started with the right because I am right handed) and roll it over the veggies, making sure to tuck the end of the steak aggressively around the veggies. Continue to roll until the steak has fully wrapped around all veggies and overlaps itself. Secure the veggies and steak in place with bamboo skewers.

Now my husband is the grill master in my household, so he was preparing the grill while I was creating the rolls. If you are doing this solo, you will likely want to start your grill just before you make the rolls so that the grill is at about 250 degrees. If you want it hotter that is fine, but be aware that your steak may dry out if you have a hotter grill temp. Place your skewers on the grill, shut the lid and let cook for about 5 minutes. Check to see if you get those beautiful grill marks on the bottom, if so, then it is time to rotate the rolls to the other side. Again, let sit under a closed lid for about 5 minutes or until sear marks show. Remove from grill and enjoy! I like to eat them like sandwiches though I will warn you there isn’t a graceful way to eat these without taking them apart! :) Enjoy!

 

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