Monday, February 27, 2012

Week 5 / 52 of Maraea

I'm a few weeks behind, but that's because I've been waiting on some film to get developed for my 52 project.  And also because I've been busy with work, and school, and being a mom.... you know, the usual.  School wraps up this week.  I'm going to take my final tonight and then have a full two weeks off before I go back.  Next week, I took off of work too, for my birthday.  So next week I will literally (hopefully) have *nothing* to do but play with my camera.... and watch TV.  And eat.

I don't know about you guys, but I've been addicted to Pinterest.  There is a Photography section that you can go through, and it does two things to me simultaneously.  First, it inspires me, and makes me want to grab my camera and run outside and shoot, or look for models to practice on.  Then, it makes me really sad.  Because I don't have the time to do any of that.  I wish I did.  I wish I could quit my job and be a stay-at-home mom and make a small paycheck taking photographs for one reason or another.  When I'm paging through all the beautiful black & white photographs, I just feel an aching in my arms, a longing and a need that I have to fulfill.  I am so moved by black and white photography, and I really want to perfect mine.

All in due time, I know.  All in due time.

So anyway, enough lamenting and on to my beautiful daughter.  Did you guys know she's gorgeous?  Seriously.  If you didn't, here's proof:

Ok so, she's making a funny face.  And her face is out of focus.  But do you know what she's doing here?  She's reaching for my camera, demanding "MY DO!", because she wants to take pictures.  Because she wants to be just like me.  :)  And this makes mommy happy.

Friday, February 3, 2012

'Tis a Day for Dips!

Superbowl Sunday is just a couple days away, and with that in mind, I realized I haven't posted any recipes here in a bit.  So I thought I'd share with you the two recipes I'll be making and bringing to my mom's house this weekend.

It is said that Superbowl Sunday is a day for dips.  Dips, spreads, and of course, platters of hoagies and sandwiches and chicken wings and other decadent fatty favorites.  In our house, we usually do our normal family get-together spread of cheese, crackers, pepperoni, and Herlocher's; chips and dips; and my mom's famous wings.  My mom is from Buffalo, so her wings are legit.  But to round out the spread, I thought I'd bring a couple of other family favorites -- Bread Dip and Taco Dip.  I already have the ingredients at home, I was going to make them for an in-home date night with my husband last weekend but I ended up getting sick.  (I had this awesome idea -- Dips n' Darts night.  I was so excited about it.  Stupid flu ruined all my plans.  Oh well, another night!)

Without further ado, here are some super simple recipes to add to your Superbowl spread this weekend....

Bread Dip

This gluttonous favorite made its entry into my family when my father was involved in politics when I was a kid, and my mom had all kinds of gatherings and parties at our house while we were upstairs sleeping.  It was always a huge hit, and once I was old enough to appreciate it, well, there's hardly an occasion I can find not to make it.  I usually make it every New Year's Eve and eat almost the whole thing by myself.  Whenever I take a day off work to just schlep around and not do anything, I make this for myself for lunch.  I craved it when I was pregnant and made it weekly for a while.  So, it's sure to be a hit with you too.

Here's what you need:

  • 1 round loaf sourdough, rye, or pumpernickel bread
  • 1 brick cream cheese, softened (this is not a time for fat-free stuff)
  • 1/2 cup hot salsa (make sure it's HOT!)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • Additional dippers like extra bread, Wheat Thins, or tortilla chips

Cut the top off the bread and hollow out the inside to make a bread bowl.  Tear the insides into large bite-size pieces and lay on a cookie sheet.  If you've got an additional loaf of bread for dipping, cut it into similar-sized bite-size pieces.  Toast in the oven for 10 minutes on 350.

While the bread is toasting, mix together the cream cheese, salsa, and sour cream with beaters.  When it's well-mixed, add the cheddar cheese and mix well.  Let your gorgeous daughter help too, if you want.  (BTW -- she loves bread dip.  Loves it cold AND hot.  Mama so proud!)

Then pour the dip mix into the bread bowl, put the lid back on, and double-wrap in aluminum foil.  By this time your bread pieces should be finished toasting.  Toss them into a bowl and crank the oven to 450.  Then put the bread dip in and bake for 90 minutes.

Yes, 90 minutes.  I know, I know.  I'm sorry.  It looks so good and you want to eat it RIGHTNOW right?  I know.  Ninety minutes is a really long time but trust me -- it is worth it.

When it's done (by now you will be smelling it in the air and your stomach will be growling and you'll probably be watching the timer -- What?!  Only 35 seconds have passed?!  I could have sworn it's been at LEAST 7 minutes since the last time I looked!), unwrap it and take the lid off and stir it up a bit.  Serve it on a platter with the dippers around it, and enjoy.

Oh, and try not to burn your tongue.  It'll be tough.

Taco Dip

Now for a nice, refreshing cold dip.  This is my mom's taco dip, but I've modified it slightly.  Her original recipe didn't have any sour cream in it, so you could leave that out if you'd like.  But I find that adding the sour cream gives it a nice body and consistency.  But I've found you need to use fresh sour cream -- a new container -- and a thicker sour cream.  I always use Daisy.  It's not organic, but it is all-natural, and hell, it's just the best sour cream out there.  It's thick, and creamy, and delicious.  It never gets too runny or watery.  They don't sell it at Whole Foods so I have to make a special trip to my (gasp!) Acme to stock up.  Yes, it's just that good.

Here's what you'll need:

  • 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 8oz taco sauce, any heat level
  • 16oz sour cream (use Daisy!!)
  • Chopped lettuce
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Diced green peppers
  • Finely shredded cheddar cheese

Mix together the cream cheese, taco sauce, and sour cream.  You may not use the entire container of sour cream -- just mix in however much you want, so you get the dip consistency you want.  I normally use most, if not all, of the 16oz container.  Spread into the bottom of a large baking dish, 13x9 size should be fine.  Refrigerate for a couple hours so it can set.

Chop all your veggies, and -- this is important -- if you've washed them (and I sure hope you have), make sure you dry them well, especially the lettuce.  And seed your tomatoes!  Otherwise all that liquid will drip down to your dip base and make it a watery mess.  It will still taste delicious, but please, people.  Let's not sacrifice the creamy consistency.

Layer your veggies on in the following order -- lettuce, green peppers, and tomatoes.

Then top with your finely shredded cheddar cheese, and stick back in the refrigerator to set for a little bit or just to keep it cold till you're ready to serve it.  Serve with strong tortilla chips -- this is not a dip for flimsy, easily-breakable, wimpy tortilla chips.

You know, I've always wanted to make little individual dip cups with Tostitos Scoops.  Scoop a little bit of dip into each and top with the toppings and lay them all out on a platter.  I'm not sure how it would turn out, but if anyone tries that, get back to me and let me know how it works.  And take pictures!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Week 4 / 52 of Maraea

As I said a few days ago, I've been working on my black & white photography.  I tend to like darker black & white images.  When I use black & white film, and get it developed, I feel like it always comes out with a green tint to it.  This week, I figured out why.  To spare you a lot of technical details, it's basically the way the black & white film I was using was made.  I've since purchased some "good" black & white film (aka, not any black & white film you can find at your corner CVS) and am working my way through a roll.  In the meantime though, I started fiddling around with the in-camera settings on my DSLR to take images in Monochrome.  I found that I could make some adjustments that give me the types of black & white images I have always longed to take.  THIS EXCITES ME.  And renews my passion in photography even more.

So the other night I was playing with these settings and taking pictures of my lovely daughter.  It was 'quiet time' -- the time after dinner and before bed, when we usually get her pajamas on, let her have a binky, and lay down on the couch and watch a couple cartoons.  She was laying down and was therefore perfectly still, and even better, she barely noticed I was taking her picture (she was very interested in Bot on his crazy skates... thanks, Team Umizoomi).  The living room was dark but there was some secondary lighting coming from both the TV and the dining room, so she is lit only by that.  I had to hold very still -- even the images I felt were the best when viewing on my camera's screen, were actually somewhat blurry when viewing on my computer screen.  So this week's image is:

I'm very pleased with this picture.  I love the shadows, the color of her hair, the lighting.  I'm very happy with the crispness and the contrast too.  Like I said, I like darker black & white photography.  If you go with the default settings in your camera, you come out with a very grey-toned image.  When I first shot in Monochrome on my DSLR, this impressed me, because what did I have to compare it to?  Oh yeah.  Green-tinted images developed at CVS.  But now.... oh, yes.  Now, I have figured out how to take the black & white photography that I love.  Higher contrast (the darks are darker and the lights are lighter), more sharpness.  Less blah, less greyscale, less blur. 

I am very excited to have added some knowledge to my photography toolbelt this week.  :)

I'm not quite sure what this week will bring.  I've been recovering from the flu, so I haven't even had my camera out.  But maybe something this weekend, something soon.  You might see more black & white from me in the coming weeks.