Heyo, it’s a Food Loves Writing FAQ! You asked to see my kitchen. I’m giving you a peek. You asked for photo tips. I’m (reluctantly, awkwardly, remembering-there-are-many-much-much-better-authorities-on-this) offering a few. You wondered how I eat so much without becoming enormous. OK, I’ll take that question on. HA! I’ll also throw in a few recently tested, recently loved recipes at the end.
So what do you say? Got a few minutes for a fun Food Loves Writing FAQ in the midst of the holiday season? Think of it like a magazine food writing feature or a bulleted handout that’s easy to read. Let’s do this.
Q1. What does your kitchen look like?
Above is my brother’s work space from while he cooked balsamic chicken for lunch in my kitchen Sunday. Below, he’s chopping chicken next to the stove.
I’d show you the other counters or the oven or something, but while my brother marinated the chicken in a sauce of balsamic vinegar, chicken broth, chopped garlic and seasonings, then cooked it in oil in a large skillet on the stove, I lost myself. I was busy roasting asparagus, boiling and then roasting red potatoes, baking rolls and listening to my friend Jackie tell a killer story, you would have loved it. So I just plum forgot to shoot the sink or the fridge. I didn’t, however, forget to photograph the important things:
*Recipes for chicken, asparagus and potatoes below
Q2. Do you have any advice for taking better food photos?
I started this site to pursue magazine food writing skills, not food photography. Nonetheless, to be a blogger, you have to learn something about photography to survive. Do you know any food blogs without photos? Me neither. I’d like to, but where are they? Anyway, we keep growing as photographers. You can check out our homepage to see how far we’ve come. I also have some highlighted work on my portfolio.
I’ve read some good articles and subscribe to some gorgeous sites (listed below) that keep me looking for ways to improve, and I’d encourage anyone looking to take better pictures to do the same. Also, for super basic, beginner advice that I have tried to implement, here it is: stop using the flash, try to shoot in natural light and, when shooting food, make friends with the macro setting. That’s it, seriously.
Look at the power of natural light below, compared to the above photos from my windowless kitchen:
See? I mean, even when you’re using your brother’s slick dSLR, natural light is still the best thing ever.
- Better photo tips and advice:
- My Cooking Hut interviews Helen of Tartelette
- Photojojo provides 10 Tastiest Food Photography Tips
- Vegan Yum Yum‘s Food Photography Tips
- Sites where the photos are always gorgeous:
- Sprouted Kitchen (which you may remember from this guest post in September)
- Honey & Jam
- Cannelle et Vanille
Q3: How do you eat so much? Do you exercise all the time?
Good heavens, no. See the double chin making its appearance above? I wish I exercised regularly, I really do, and if you have any tips at all at making exercise fun in winter, please send them my way. All I can say in answering this one is that I eat small portions—and so that we’re clear, this is because my body doesn’t let me eat large portions without feeling sick (you can read more about that here if you’re so inclined), not because I have some incredible will power or discipline (I wish!).
Update, 2016: After I wrote this post, I met my husband. Meeting him led me to a whole new way of eating and life. Moving to an unprocessed diet revolutionized my digestive problems and I’m no longer on meds. So I would say: diet matters!
[bonus!] Q4: So you’re accepting advertising now? What’s that all about
update, 2016: we tried accepting advertising for a while. It wasn’t really right for us. currently, this site is more about the food writing and the personal stories and less about trying to get bigger numbers of any kind.
On to the recipes!
Adapted from AllRecipes.com
Adam e-mailed me sometime last week to say he’d made this for dinner and loved it. So when he offered to help make lunch for our friend Jackie Sunday, I told him this is what it would be. Oh, people. There is nothing as amazing as what happens to this balsamic marinade when it reduces, becoming thicker and sweeter and more caramelized, seeping into the chopped pieces of chicken. When finished, the meat was fork-tender, full of flavor and covered in a sauce as dark as Coca-Cola. Just like he’d promised, we loved it, too.
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 Tablespoons white sugar
1 clove garlic, chopped
Italian seasonings (Adam threw in dashes of oregano, basil and some garlic seasoning blend)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, chopped into chunks
Olive oil, for the skillet
Make the marinade: In a bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar, chicken broth, sugar, garlic and herbs, and place the chicken breasts in the marinade. Let sit for 10 minutes on each side.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade and reserve the rest of the marinade. Place the chicken in the heated pan and cook until they start to brown and are no longer pink inside, about 7 minutes per side. Then, here comes the fun part where the magic happens: add the rest of the marinade into the skillet, and cook until it thickens slightly, turning the chicken breasts over once or twice, about 5 minutes.
Roasted Red Potatoes
I love baby red potatoes, and this method of roasting them was the fastest I’ve tried. The key is boiling them first, which gets them almost totally cooked before they even enter the oven. Then the oven can do the magic of browning and making them crispy, what it does best.
Bag of baby red potatoes (I think it was 1.5 pounds), rinsed and chopped in halves
A couple Tablespoons of olive oil
2 to 3 Tablespoons minced garlic
Sea salt and pepper
Boil baby red potato halves in large pan until cooked through. Drain and lay potatoes on baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil all over and toss. Sprinkle with garlic and salt and pepper. Bake for about 20 to 30 minutes in a 400-degree oven (I changed the temperature a few times, so you’ll want to keep your eye on it). Potatoes are ready when the tops have turned golden and crispy.
We had a discussion this weekend about the difference between roasting asparagus and baking it—does a difference exist? I decided when the oven temperature is at least 400, which is what I used for these, it’s roasting. So there you go.
One bunch of fresh asparagus
Lemon olive oil (or you could use regular olive oil and fresh lemon juice)
Sea salt and pepper
Wash asparagus and snap off white tips. lay flat on a baking sheet drizzled with olive oil, and toss. Roast in a 400-degree oven (I bumped it up to 425 after about 15 minutes) for 20 to 30 minutes, tossing once. Asparagus are ready when they’ve bruised and crisped on the tops.