Following In His Light Creates A Winning Recipe

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Recipe contests aren’t what they used to be. In the olden days (going back 30 years) I could create a recipe, type it up and snail mail it to the sponsor. On occasion, I did need to include a UPC symbol as proof of purchase, but that was about it. All of my creative energy actually went into developing a tasty recipe and finishing it off with a clever name. There were big cash prizes, fabulous vacations and even a Harley Davidson to be won back in those times.

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Over the years entering recipe contests has gotten more complicated, time consuming and competitive. Social media and the economy have played a huge part in how a sponsor may present a contest. The expectations are much higher. The work much greater. If I wanted to be in it to win it then I would need to stop living in the past and make some big changes.

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Learning food styling and food photography is paramount if one wants to enter recipe contests these days. Just about every contest now requires a photo. Eat with your eyes first has a whole new meaning, but what it takes to capture a truly stunning, mouth-watering, I want to eat my computer food photo is so much more than a click on the iPhone. Professional food stylists and photographers earn every penny and have my utmost admiration.

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Truth be told food photography is not only difficult, but also expensive. Cameras, lenses, tripods, lighting, props….the list is endless. I resisted investing in it and sadly myself for a long time. It was not only the money that held me back, but more a total lack of confidence that I could actually learn to take a good picture. Like everything else these days it’s technical and I am not wired that way. I knew it would be a difficult challenge.

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Quite frankly it scared me, but a great teacher changed all that. A gentle motivator and filled with kind encouragement Christina leads and facilitates a food photography group on Facebook. I lurked in her group for months reading and learning from the members. They range from amateurs to professionals and are a generous group when it comes to sharing food photography tips and tricks. Christina also has a blog covering just about every food photography subject one can imagine and in language one like me can understand. The more I lurked the more I thought it might be possible for me to upgrade from my iPhone and get on the fine food photography band wagon.

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I still have a long way to go when it comes to food photography, but I have been so over the moon since Eggland’s Best chose me as their grand prize winner in their “foodtography” recipe contest. As always hard work pays off. I’m just really proud of myself for stepping outside the comfort zone to learn something I never thought I could. Following in his light has its rewards.

Thank you Eggland’s Best for this challenge. Thank you Christina for being the most encouraging teacher. Thank you to all my family and friends and even strangers who voted for my photo and helped get me into the winner’s circle. Thank you always to my children who inspire me beyond words. These days it does seem to take a village to win a recipe contest.

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Thank you Eggland’s Best

I love this cake for its ease of preparation and deliciously healthy ingredient list. Decorate it with your favorite fresh fruit and own artistic flair. Send me a photo please!

Fruit & Yogurt Smoothie Bowl Cake

1¼-cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup almond flour

1-tablespoon chia seeds plus additional for garnish

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

3 Eggland’s Best Eggs

1-cup sugar

1 ½ cups plain Greek yogurt (I use 2% fat), divided

½ cup canola oil

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

½ teaspoon almond extract

1 to 1 ½ -tablespoons honey

fresh sliced fruit and chopped toasted chopped almonds for garnish

Heat oven 350F. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with no-stick baking spray. In large bowl, whisk flour, almond flour, chia seeds, baking powder and salt until mixed. In another bowl, whisk eggs, sugar,1-cup yogurt, oil, lemon zest and almond extract until well blended. Pour wet ingredients into dry and whisk until batter is smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan. Tap pan on counter a few times to remove any air bubbles and evenly distribute batter. Bake cake in center of oven for 40 to 50 minutes or until golden brown and wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn out cake and cool completely. Mix remaining ½ cup of yogurt with ½-tablespoon of honey; spread over center of cake leaving about a 1-inch border. Decorate top with sliced fresh fruit, toasted almonds and chia seeds. Drizzle with remaining honey.

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Garden Tour & Cream of the Crop

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thank you slateplate for this beautiful serving tray

Good morning dear followers. Not exactly sure what the weather is like in your neck of the woods, but the mid-Atlantic feels like spring this winter. Bulbs are pushing their bright green shoots through the dirt already with temperatures climbing into the 70’s. Warm and loud thunderstorms are replacing snow. Will it stay this way? Doubtful, but hopeful.

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speckled trout lettuce in a cold frame

The fear of winter’s return hasn’t stopped me from getting into the garden and finishing  some clean-up. The north wind has a nasty habit of burying the landscape in leaves and riddling the yard with sticks. Being in the garden is as much therapy as cooking, so I don’t mind the dirty work. It’s the best distraction thinking March winds and April showers are just around the corner.

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hoping for some fresh asparagus in a month or two

Good Grief Cook thought throughout the gardening/growing season it might be interesting to take you on a good, the bad and the ugly of the garden. It’s February. All looks dark and dead right now, or maybe it’s just asleep. Anyway, this will be your first glance of the winter garden. Should be fun to watch it transform month to month. Let the tour begin.

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protecting the fig trees-unveiling come May

Hope you have enjoyed these few photos today. In addition to the garden I am working on improving my photography and food styling. Isn’t that black slate tray beneath the creme brûlée a natural beauty? It’s made in the USA. You will be seeing a lot of it. Thank you, Garmon for this gift.

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sleeping raised bed

Let’s make some creme brûlée. It seems to be the cream of the dessert crop. I posted this photo on instagram and was surprised to learn how many people consider creme brûlée their favorite dessert. A simple, but rich and creamy vanilla custard topped with crispy caramelized sugar….okay I get why people love it so much. Plus it involves fire.This recipe is adapted from Christopher Kimball’s Dessert Bible.

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Crème Brûlée

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup light cream

3 eggs

½ cup sugar, divided

1/8 teaspoon fine salt

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

Heat oven 300F. Place a cloth napkin over the bottom of a roasting pan. Place 4 (5-inch) brulee dishes or 6 ( 6 oz) ramekins in the roasting pan leaving space between each dish. Boil water in a tea kettle or a pan with a spout. In a saucepan, bring the heavy cream and light cream just to a simmer. (you should see whisps of steam). In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, ¼ cup sugar, salt and vanilla. While gently whisking, very slowly pour hot cream mixture into the egg mixture until combined. Strain mixture into a large measuring up or bowl with a spout. Divide mixture evenly among brulee dishes or ramekins. Pour hot water into roasting pan until it comes up half way the sides of the dishes. Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until custards are set but still quiver in center. Remove from water bath and cool. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Can be made 2 or 3 days in advance at this point. Just before serving sprinkle tops evenly with remaining sugar. Using a kitchen torch melt the sugar. Serves 4 to 6

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my little jelly bean dressed for some garden work