Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Career in Photography?

I might have to give up cooking you guys:-). The moment that I have been waiting for has finally arrived. At last, someone took notice of my ability to photograph. It was bound to happen eventually and the "inner photographer" in me was just waiting to be unleashed. Oh boy, did that sounded real? You bet:). 

A few days ago, one of my closests friends called and asked me a favor to photograph her cousin, who is due in less than a week. Unfortunately, their photographer bailed at the last minute. I was more or less their second best:-) I was a little hesitant at first. Sure, I have a dslr, but I don't have the accompanying tools every professional photographers own. Giant lenses, sun shades, adobe photoshop, etc. You name it. Everything that can enhance a picture, I lack.  What I don't lack, however, is attitude and a little bit of vanity. They go a long way.  So I told my self that I will take this challenge.  

On Sunday afternoon, I went to my friend's house super excited for my "shoot". I got my Canon T2i in tow, and one stem of white rose that I pulled from one my flower vase at home. Flowers always make a great prop. I came to shoot with no expectation. All I had in mind was to take as much pictures as I possibly can so that they have the options to pick and choose whatever they like. Most importantly, I wanted to take is as a fun experiment.  

Okay, I am prolonging my story. Here are some of the pictures that I have attempted to edit. No, I don't have photoshop. I just used the software editing tool that came with my canon. I will let you be the judge.

It seems like this year, every one is giving birth to baby boys. I know a few friends that are expecting boys including my sister.

During this time, I think the baby is having a blast too. He was dancing inside his mommy's belly. It was a fun moment to witness.

Hello? When I get pregnant, can I look like her? She makes pregnancy look good. I think the only weight gained she had is in her belly.

My take on the classic white button down shirt with the focus on her belly.  There is something about this picture that is so serene.  Her pregnancy radiates joy and peacefulness. Awwww!

In sephia tone. I like that it looks so crisp and clean.

The pregnant lady with the pearl necklace. HA!HA! Atleast, I am pretending to be artistic.

I think being pregnant is a beautiful thing. Women should learn to embrace their body. Who cares about weight gain? Imagine that glow their radiate? Sigh....makes me want to get pregnant...hahaha!

The glowing mom to be. Can you believe she is due in less than a week? Almost same as my sister's due date.
Now tell me. Do I have what it takes to become a photographer? I think I had beginners luck. I have been taking pictures all my life but not in this capacity. Thank God I was able to do it though. It was a success and the best part of it was all the fun we had. My friend, who was my assistant during the shoot was a wonderful help. We were in a serious photoshoot mode. And the mother to be was game in our craziness.  

But mes amis, let me just tell you that I won't trade this for my day job. HA! HA!. On occasion, if another opportunity arises again, I will be happy to take on another challenge. For now my true passion in cooking and styling is still my priority. Photography is just an added bonus:-). 

Happy Tuesday, Contessa

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ribs for Breakfast?

Sure, why not? If you read my previous post Dinner with the Auger's, you'll know that I took the ribs out of my pork loin roast for ease of cooking.  After I marinade my chops, the last thing on my mind was to put the ribs back in the freezer. It was easier that I cook it right then, or it was never going to happen.  Since it was still pretty early (is 9:30 a.m. too early?), I had time to get my work out done while slow roasting my ribs.

I seasoned these ribs with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Slow roasted it in a 250 degree (the low heat keeps the ribs moist and succulent) oven for 2 hours. The last half hour time remaining, I then mixed some bbq sauce (I used bone suckin sauce) with some cider vinegar, and a little agave nectar. I used this sauce mixture to brush up on the ribs. The verdict? A little sweet, sour and peppery. Yum if you ask me. B was a happy puppy:-)

It looks like a giant claw, doesn't it? I know it's not attractive looking, but trust me, this was tasty.

Per B's request, I made him scramble eggs with cheese. Served with fresh slice tomatoes on the side.

And who doesn't like waking up in the morning to see a perfect bloom?

Happy Monday Mes Amis.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dinner with the Auger's (please don't watch on an empty stomach:-)

Ever since B got a big screen TV, he would not stop inviting our friends over for dinner. Of course, the onus is on me in preparing a scrumptious meal for our friends. In his defense, he's not doing it to show off his TV, but rather to show off his wife's amazing cooking skills. Sure, hon! Fatten my heart why don't you:-). But when you have a hard crowd to please, it becomes challenging on what to prepare. I started brainstorming on my menu a day before our dinner party. Since I had purchased an 8 lb pork loin rib in awhile back from Whole Foods, I wanted my menu to revolve around the main course. I had a lot of ideas running through my head and it was decided that I was going to make Tyler Florence's Ultimate Pork Roast with Apple Cider Gravy that I had seen him make in his show. I wanted to make this so bad so that I can use my roaster again. But once the pork had thawed, I did not have the proper roasting knife to work it.  Instead, I butchered my rib in pork loin and took out the ribs and left with small cuts of pork chops. I was left with Pork Chops to make. Country Fried Pork Chops it is:-)...I was in for a country style dinner.  So please feast your eyes with all the pictures.

Winter White Table Scape
My table scape does not scream country, but it screams winter white, which is more appropriate with the weather that we are having lately. 
Loving the Red on Black

White Roses for my Winter White Theme Decor
Fresh Roses all the way;-)

The sun was just setting

My batter for my cheddar broccoli cornbread
This Cheddar Broccoli Cornbread was taken from Food Network's Down with the Neely's. An appropriate side dish for my pork chop, right?

You can't go wrong with a lot of cheese. Cheese, cheese, cheese!
Freshly baked:-)

Love the combination of fig jam and goat cheese (this particular goat cheese is from Spain).

Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini with Fresh Sage
Who doesn't love fig jam and goat cheese crostini? I know, it does not scream country. I just had to make it. This particular goat cheese from Spain is so good. So cheap too. The smell wasn't so pungent and the taste is very creamy. Work's perfectly with the fig compote.
My take on Fried Green Tomatoes using Roma Tomatoes with Sour Cream and Bacon
I love tomatoes. Fried tomatoes? Even better. Used almond flour as my breading for a healthier twist and low fat sour cream. And the bacon? Thick slab, fresh from the butcher, which I brushed with maple syrup and bake in a 400 degree oven until golden and crispy. It tasted like candy.
Spinach Salad with cranberry, apples, feta cheese and Balsamic Dressing

Mac and Cheese
Mac and Cheese was the perfect pairing for the pork chops. As if we can't get enough cheese from the cornbread already:-) I used four different types of cheese in this baby. Please e-mail me for recipe.
My plate...forgot to take the main course, which was Country Fried Pork Chops

Drinks for the night..
Overflowing drinks of the night.
Our Signature Drink: Bratney Tini:-)
This cocktail was so good. I used vodka, prosseco, simple syrup, lemon juice, and lemon sorbet. You can just measure it according to how strong you want it to taste. A refreshing drink to end the night.
Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies
This is John's Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies. Please e-mail me for recipe. They came out so perfect and chewy. I must have had like three of them:-(.

I hope you all have a happy Sunday!


Thursday, January 20, 2011

I have a new crush....but shhh don't tell B!

Meet my new crush. Chuck Hughes. Host of Chuck's Day Off. The sole reason why I was lured into watching the Cooking Channel. Before I get in trouble here with B, let me just say that I admire his playfulness in cooking.  His show is set in his restaurant, which makes it more real. His food are always so easy and quick to prepare with out being ambitious. So fresh and modern. And boy, that French accent? I can have him cook for me any day. Tres Bien!

I think he is the "it" chef of the Cooking Channel at the moment. He recently proved that he is the man when he beat Iron Chef Bobby Flay in the battle of Canadian Lobster. Bobby Flay you are so totally out:-) 

Every episode on his show has a story behind it. One particular episode that left me drooling was "The Knife Guy," in which he talks about not owning his set of knives (no I didn't drool over the knives, lol). Instead he commissions this company that specializes in loaning knives. I wish I can just do that too so I can have different types of knives I want in my disposal. Anyways, he prepared a brisket sandwich for his knife guy. I am all about braising meat for longer periods of time. I just love having the permeating smell of the marinade sauce around the house. And who does not love tender fork melt in your mouth meat? It just happened that B went away over the weekend to go skiing, so I wanted to surprise him with a nice hearty meal when he got home.  

Unfortunately, I did not have any brisket available and I was not about to go to the grocery to get some. I also did not have time to make his rub as the recipe called it (as it required at least four hours drying the onions, shallots, ginger in the oven). I am sure it would have been good but perhaps next time.

Good thing I had Grass Fed Chuck Roast in the freezer, which is just as good to braise. I happened to have some onion rolls too (which is B's favorite). I was pretty luck that I had most ingredients in my pantry and fridge. 
Apple BBQ Marinade Sauce (my own version of the sauce, you can always go to the Cooking Channel's website to get the complete ingredient)

In a large bowl, mix together the onion, garlic, ketchup, agave nectar, molasses, reduced sodium soy sauce, Bone Suckin BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, to taste. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the chuck roast into a dutch oven. Pour the marinade over it and bake for 2 to 3 hours or until fork-tender.  Strain and pour the sauce in a stockpot and let reduce for about 10 minutes on medium high heat until thick. Remove excess fat. Toast your rolls and serve it with freshly sliced tomatoes and lettuce bib.

I also added some cremini mushrooms at the last hour while I was braising my meat. For the side, I boiled some asparagus and blanched them with cold water.  I also made with Herbed Parmesan Potato Fries. 

B was a happy camper when he came home. But I was happier coz deep in my mind, I know Chuck would have been proud of my braised chuck roast sandwich:-). 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Food for the Big Kid...at Heart that is:-)

It has been almost a year that I had taken a 180 turn on my food consumption and grocery habit. Proudly to say, I am living and continue to live the fat loss lifestyle. Not sure on how my B feels about this honestly. He knows that it's good for him, but on occasion, he would give me the pout look when I serve nothing but steamed vegetables (no salt please, ha!ha!) or anything grilled (except for steak:-). He would often say, "Where are my carbs?" Little does he know, veggies have carbs too! I guess he'll never grow out of what he believes that carbs only equal to white bread, white pasta, white rice, or white potatoes. Sometimes, I would just compromise and try to indulge him with familiar foods. But the health freak in me,  tries to put a healthier twist to it. Tasty, but healthy. And oh, he doesn't need to know:-).
For instance, natural free range chicken breast is always on my weekly grocery list every week.  One can also get tired of having grilled or baked chicken all the time. Since B loves chicken nuggets from McDonalds (only once in a blue moon that we buy those), I tried to recreate my own version of it at home. Chicken nuggets/chicken tenders. Using almond ground meal, egg whites, whole wheat flour, a little bit of salt and pepper.  Cut your chicken breast in strips. Pat dry with paper towel. Season them with salt and pepper.  Dredge the tenders with a little bit of whole wheat flour mixed with paprika. Dipped in egg whites and coat with almond meal flour. You can deep fry them in olive oil or for a more healthy alternative, try baking it. They come just as crispy as when they are fried.

Ahhhh, broccoli! Who doesn't love them? The only time B would eat his broccoli is with melted cheese on top. And it so defeats the purpose too. So I thought why not make cheddar broccoli soup? I used low sodium chicken broth, low fat cheddar cheese, and just a little bit of heavy cream (gotta cheat a little, right?). In a medium pot, saute onions, salt, pepper, and nutmeg for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme cook, stirring, until fragrant, for 20 seconds. Add 3 tablespoons all purpose flour and cook, stirring until the mixture is well blended and smells fragrant for 2 minutes. Add your chicken stock and whisk slowly. Let it boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened. Add the broccoli and cook until tender. Remove the pot from the heat and puree in a blender or food processor. Return to the pot.  Add 1/2 cup of heavy cream and let it simmer. Add 1 and 1/4 cups of lite cheddar cheese and cook until melted. B loved it:-)

If I could only eat pizza everyday, I would. Although, I don't remember the last time I've had it. It's so bad for you. So for a treat, I made some home made pizza for B. I cheated because I did not make my own dough. I used whole wheat dough and pizza sauce from Trader's Joe. It was still good. I used lean turkey deli as my meat, lite mozzarella, spinach, mushrooms and tomatoes. Layer them up and bake in a 425 degree oven until brown and crispy. 
This shows you that we can still eat our childhood favorites without compromising our waste line. There are numerous recipes online that offer a healthier alternative. Who says healthy does not have to taste good?

Friday, January 14, 2011

My New Years Resolution

I am here. Sorry if you missed me. I highly doubt that though. My schedule starting this new year has definitely pre occupied me. Work. Gym. Family (not necessarily in this order:). Although, I try not to have any resolutions beginning of the year because I just don't know if I can commit to it. But if must have one, that is to manage my time wisely. When I say manage my time wisely, that is to incorporate more time and effort in updating and keeping this blog. I'd like to think I have a few followers out there who miss me from time to time. Just indulge me, why don't you:-) It's the New Year!

Starting this New Year, I promise that I am going to only surround myself with beautiful and inspiring things. In my opinion, what we see is what we often imitate. So if we see something beautiful and worthwhile, we like to think we want to look or feel that way. Just think about reading you favorite magazine or watching your favorite cooking show.  If it made enough impact on you, you'd want to eventually follow it, right? Dont you agree?

So in my path to move forward, I will only indudlge to things that are beneficial. Positive emotions yield to positive outlook. We must feel and breathe things that are beautiful. As a result, we will have a more confident attitude towards everything. 
Flowers are one of my indulgence. Having fresh flowers adds color and warmth in your house. It makes up for the cold, gloomy and depressing weather this winter.  It's also a positive way of looking ahead of the future and thinking that Spring is upon us.  
If I had unlimited space in my condo, I will just fill the entire place with lots of flowers. The smell and look of it makes me feel delicate and dainty:-). There's nothing like having fresh flowers to greet you in the morning when you wake up and greet you in the evening after a tiring day of work (well of course B is there to greet too:-).

Tell me what are your indulgences?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

My Bird for the New Year!

No, I didn't get a pet bird. I got a roaster as a Christmas present for myself instead. So for new year's eve, I decided to give this toy a try.  May I present to you Contessa's Roasted Herbed Chicken with Bacon, Cremini Mushrooms and Potatoes.

I am so glad that my bird came out moist and tasty. My family loved it:-). I think this recipe is a keeper and will be making it again. Here is what you need: whole organic free range chicken, rosemary, thyme, garlic, onions, lemon, about 3 lbs of cremini mushrooms (wiped with damp cloth), olive oil, salt, pepper, potatoes, bacon and maple syrup. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash chicken and pat dry. Season the chicken with salt and pepper inside the cavity and as well as rub the chicken with salt and pepper.  On a mixing bowl, mix 2 lemons (sliced quarterly), one onion sliced quarterly, about 8 cloves of mashed garlic, two sprigs of rosemary, two tablespoons of thyme, olive oil (just eye ball), and salt and pepper. Mix them well and stuff the bird with this mixture. 

Place the chicken breast up in a roasting pan.  Layer the strips of bacon up breast until covered.  Roast this for about 45 minutes (make sure you baste the pan juices half way). For the mean time, cut up your potatoes in quarters and season it with rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper, and a little bit of paprika. Mix well. After 45 minutes, add your cremini mushrooms and potatoes. Mix the pan juice with the mushrooms and potatoes. Make sure they are arranged evenly. Brush your bacon and chicken with maple syrup and roast for another 45 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees F (if you have a meat thermometer). Remove from the chicken from the oven and let is stand for 10 minutes to rest.  Serve and enjoy!

I hope that 2011 will bring us more fabulosity. I thank you for your support and I hope that in the next year, I will continue to inspire you. 

Happy New Year! Bisous, Contessa