Inspiration comes from many places for me. As a new cook I tend to stick to the basics (ingredients, techniques, etc.) and learn as I go.
For recipe tracking I use LivingCookbook because it’s *perfection* in recipe form. I have about 52,000 recipes in my LivingCookbook from all sorts of places. You can import (and export) Mealmaster format, a LivingCookbook format, plaintext and more. I use the RecipeFox plugin for Firefox to grab and save recipes off the major sites. It comes with a list of 100s of recipe sites. These are some of my favorites, many of which use RecipeFox.
Great for finding recipes from your favorite FN stars (such as the ever-hot Giada). A dedicated Healthy Eating section, full episodes of your favorite shows and recipes that easily export to MealMaster, LivingCookbook or plain text format. A large database of great recipes makes this a no-brainer at #1.
A little higher-end fare (read: fancy) makes Saveur a keeper. While not being as culinarily challenging as Epicurious, many of Saveur’s recipes are accessible, tasty and excellent. RecipeFox integration makes this my 3rd favorite recipe site. RecipeFox friendly.
You will be more likely to find a Roasted Vegetable and Prosciutto Lasagna with Alfredo Sauce than a traditional chicken alfredo but that’s why I love Epicurious. This site is advanced and typically not what the home cook makes. (The first recipe under Christmas is a Prosecco-Raspberry Gelee) If you have orange-flower water and Prosecco in your pantry, this is the site for you. (If you have no idea what those are, this site may be overwhelming at first.) RecipeFox friendly as well.
Under the Radar
Quite possibly the only mixed drink site you need. I have never really had much trouble finding anything on here. Recipes for everything from A Berry Breakfast Drink to the Zipper. Search by ingredient, drink name, etc. Terminology, a glossary and drinking games. RecipeFox friendly!
Step-by-step photographic how-to of each recipe. This site is a MUST for new cooks.
This is my favorite healthy-only site. With a healthy cooking 101 section and my favorite – recipe makeovers, and one of my favorite magazines, this was a must-include on my favorite recipe sites.
Another *huge* recipe site with all sorts of great and simple foods. This is my go-to site when I just need something I can make tonight.
I’ll admit it – I’m a sucker for Jamie’s cooking. I am the only American I know who watches Oliver’s Twist. I don’t understand his temps or half the ingredients he says until I see them. I don’t care. I would watch Jamie cook all day (and sometimes do!) My mini shell pea pasta and smoky bacon sauce is a Jamie food. They are homecooked goodness and rich, high quality skill. Does he cook 89-star food? Not usually. Is he amazing in a kitchen? Absolutely.
One of my goals for a long time has been to complete the 31 Days to a Better Blog project from ProBlogger. I didn’t start with 3 blogs with growing readership but apparently that is where I am now. Pushing each further means more advertising revenue each month and more opportunities opening around me. I like money and I like opportunity so … starting June 1 I began the 31 Days …
Day 7 was the most relevant day for me.
7) Plan your next week’s posting schedule
I did the project dutifully and mapped out 7 days of blog entries. (This was not one of them, by the way.) I felt good having accomplished a week of blogging topics on all 3 blogs. I didn’t know I could feel so far “ahead” on work for the blogs. My style has always been to blog impulsively which is why sometimes I blog frequently and sometimes blog infrequently. I often treated blogging as the red-headed step child of my businesses. Shooting, networking, marketing, advertisements, social media, gawker submissions, editing, uploading, keywording … if there was time left over maybe even talk to my woman, hit the gym and cook some food.
Since leaving Syracuse and going out on my own last year I felt it was time to get more organized about how I do things, more controlled as far as my blogging habits and get back some of the momentum on this blog. I knew I wasn’t doing what I wanted when an opportunity presented itself to make serious money blogging and …
I didn’t qualify. I hadn’t posted frequently enough at the time. On ANY of my blogs.
So where are we today?
Prep, course … these are food words. Today, they are blogging words. I need to prep posts ahead of time and plan my course. Maybe blogging is my fourth course of the day. I think of planning my blogs like I plan my food shoot ideas. It doesn’t take long one day a week to get FAR ahead on it but it takes you a very long time to do everything on the fly. Last night I was inspired to create blog ideas and actually came up with topics for all 3 blogs FOUR weeks in advance. (Click on image to enlarge it.)
I always decide at the beginning of the week what foods I will make that week (this week I’m making scallop linguine, chicken alfredo, blueberry smoothies, caramel flan and maybe a peanut butter dessert.) Planning foods to shoot keeps me from either forgetting to shoot, being too lazy to shoot or simply coming up with last minute plans. The same seems to be holding true for my blogging.
It’s been 9 days since I planned my first week and with only a few minor changes in plan, I’m sticking to it. Good news for my blog readers! I should have brand new content up 2-4 times per week, every week.
Do you plan your food shoots? Do you shoot everything you eat? What is the plan on your blog?
Yes, I obviously love dessert. Fried banana torts, pies all the time, perfect gluten free chocolate chip cookies, and checkerboard cookies. Yeah, just to name a few. My favorite? This…by FAR.
No words can do justice to the beauty, taste and incredibleness that is a Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake. Everyone knows I’m still “starting to cook” so I clearly am not nearly this good. But the recipe? That is!
All I can tell you is to make this for your next party. You.will.win.
Ok, so this isn’t a “recipe” as much as a couple short techniques. I love LOVE egg muffins. A few issues always plagued me until recently. Those issues? First, I hate breaking the yolk and having it drip through my hands. Second, a typical English muffin is a little boring. Third, I’d prefer to eat egg muffins more often but only if they’re healthy enough. Finally, bringing it all together in a perfect way never happens.
Armed with some new culinary knowledge I set out to find the way to make a “perfect” egg muffin.
First, I decided the perfect egg muffin would be one that stands tall and proud – not a little egg overrun by bread and doughy taste. I also decided to get as much egg inside the muffin border as possible. It’s not that tasty to eat just egg whites poking out from the edges. Fun? Maybe. But not so tasty. To get these two requirements together, I bought a round, tall plastic container. The base is flat and round and goes up in a very straight line – it will create the perfect shape and size egg.
Second (and third), I decided to make my egg muffins healthier by going from two muffins and two eggs to one muffin, two egg whites and one egg yolk. Spray the container lightly with nonstick spray, blend the egg whites and yolk into your bowl and don’t mix the egg entirely. You don’t want a perfectly yellow mix. Some whites, some yolk creates a streaky look that doesn’t look as homogenous and fake-egg. This step also solves the “not drippy” problem.
The final issue was the “boring English muffin issue.” I bought some honey wheat English muffins instead of the plain regular ones and wiped just a VERY little warm plain butter on them, sprinkled just a touch of pepper and toasted them. These muffins are about three times as good as pulling a plain muffin from your box and toasting it up.
Finally, I put these together by toasting the muffin, adding a slice of lowfat american cheese to the bottom muffin, adding the cooked egg (microwave for 1 minute) on the cheese and finish with the muffin top. Microwave the entire thing for another 10 seconds.
This is the most delicious, amazing egg muffin you will ever imagine! When I’m feeling slightly less healthy I’d add 1 slice of turkey bacon microwaved for 1 minute sliced and criss-crossed on top of the egg. Warm, tasty, and full of protein for energy – this sandwich truly is the PERFECT egg muffin.
I wanted to document a bit of how we prepare for a new stock shoot. Unfortunately I’m not shooting hot models a la Chase Jarvis so I’m not going to be live demo’ing anytime soon!
Our thought process on a new photo shoot works something like this:
- Overall concept/theme/ingredient
- Specific recipe
- Shoot Day
1. Overall concept/theme/ingredient
We shoot two days a week – Friday and Sunday. If we shoot more that’s fantastic. If not, oh well. We plan those two days to have one breakfast or lunch type shoot (Friday) and one dinner/dessert (Sunday). It’s easier to spend a long time cooking/shooting on Sundays for us and dinner/dessert usually seems to take longer than breakfast/lunch.
I follow some really great foodies on Twitter/Facebook/blogs. One thing I always look for is a recipe that a) will taste great and b) will LOOK great. As a bonus I often look to see if I can find a healthy version so nobody gains 10 pounds per recipe I shoot.
2. Specific Recipe
So Friday we need to create a lunch. I bookmarked a delicious looking recipe two weeks ago and decided quickly I’d try that this week. The recipe will be 3 Cheese Chicken Cacciatore Manicotti. That was easy. We also need to figure out dinner for Sunday. I wanted to find something not as “fancy” as cacciatore manicotti so we looked at several recipe sites, some cookbooks and finally decided on something the Biggest Loser Cookbook called “Mom’s New Beef Stew.” That fits my requirements: tastes great, looks super yummy and bonus: it’s fairly healthy at 275 cals per serving.
Some weeks I will decide on a recipe by ingredient. Take Kahlua for instance. We have leftover Kahlua from the chocolate mousse we made a week ago. This Chocolate Truffle Pie also uses Kahlua. If we don’t make that Sunday for dessert I’m certain we’ll make it next week. Using ingredients you have on hand greatly reduces wastes and product going bad/old.
After printing the recipe and making a shopping list we write on the back of the recipe some ideas for the shoot. Mostly this is just note-form. Here are some examples from our banana split shoot:
- high key
- OJ – don’t think milk will work
- Balance the color
- Angles: will be propped up
Generally meaningless until you get in the shoot. We did end up using a yellow napkin and orange juice – it balanced the color very well. We did some shots near the end of the shoot with a spoonful of split in front of the dish. We tried but didn’t use milk because it did, in fact, look bad. We ended up propping the bowl with a small bottle cap for a few shots.
Shopping day is Thursday. That dictates our Friday shoot – if we need something super-fresh we may have to pick that up Friday morning before the shoot. Sunday’s shopping is done except fresh on Thursday as well. WE have a local Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings year-round so we do our fresh shopping for Sunday then.
With our recipe and our ideas already in place shopping day is generally pretty straightforward. Pick the best items you can find.
5. Shoot Day
Well, shoots are shoots. The only thing we try and do specifically at each shoot is pre-organize our ideas so we don’t cut up the food before we’re done with it. The further into a shoot we get the more we “mess” the dish and the more we feel free to cut, chop, move, adjust, add to, take from, etc. We want to get those setup shots first, the meat of the shoot, then start playing with the outer edge of the shoot – closeups, eating, some unusual stuff just to see how it works, etc. Get the bulk of work done when the food is as fresh and perfect as possible. Once you get that THEN experiment.
So that’s the way a typical shoot has been going for us. We are pro photographers but very amateur food photographers. The combination is sometimes an interesting one. I can figure out how to light something I’ve never shot before but I may not know how to drizzle syrup “correctly” yet. We continue to read foodie sites, blogs, watch food stylist tutorials on Youtube and read food photo books. Many many ways to learn in 2010!
Hope you enjoyed the post! It’s great to be back and thank you for all the comments and well-wishes recently.