Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Individual 7-Layer Dips

My Devilish Nephew and his sweet wife come to visit pretty often.  Like a Mama Duck, nothing makes me happier to have all of my little ducks in a row.  I'm truly overjoyed when everyone is here.  I'm the happiest of course when everyone is here eating.  They have a pretty long drive here from Texas, and often they arrive at odd hours.  Not really a meal time, but definitely a snack time.  On their last visit, they were coming to Oklahoma to pick up their new puppy Finley.  He's an English Cream Retriever, who got to spend a few, very entertaining days with me before their arrival.  They rolled in late on a Friday evening, hungry of course.  Nothing makes a better late night snack than chip and dip.  Even better are these individual dips.  Unlike the traditional large pan of 7-Layer Dip, these were easily made ahead and the guacamole didn't turn brown and the salsa didn't get watery.  The colors were vibrant and the flavors were delicious.  I cheated and used a store bought guacamole and salsa because face it, I had better things to do.  Like snuggle with an 8-week old puppy.  A terrific snack, and still good a couple of days later.  Definitely perfect for a party or tailgate.  I will be making my 7-Layer Dip this way from now on.  More free time to play with pups!

The Party Perfect Portion
Just add tortilla chips!

A new twist on a traditional dip.

8 snacks.  7 layers.
Aren't they fun?

And isn't he fun?
Just a puppy in pajamas.
Advertising 7-Layer Dip.

Individual 7-Layer Dips

Makes 8 servings

1 (16-ounce) can refried beans
1 (1 ounce) package taco seasoning (I use gluten-free!)
1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
1 (8 ounce) package prepared guacamole
1 (8 ounce) container prepared salsa or pico de gallo, drain the liquid out
1 (8 ounce) package shredded Monterey Jack/Cheddar cheese
2 Roma tomatoes, finely diced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
8 (9 ounce) clear, disposable cocktail cups

In a small bowl, combine the refried beans and taco seasoning.  Divide evenly among the 8 cups.  Use a small spatula to spread it out.  Repeat with the sour cream, guacamole, salsa and cheese.  Finally sprinkle the top with chopped tomatoes and green onions.  Cover each with plastic wrap until ready to serve with tortilla chips.

Prep Time:  Approximately 20 minutes     Cook Time: 0 needs to chill



Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Antipasto Skewers and Foodie Photography

A while back I was given the idea of a food photography post from a company called Light.  I was very flattered, but also a little embarrassed to tell them that I'm really not much of a photographer. I explained the challenges of taking photographs in my own kitchen, i.e. it's too dark, my space is limited, and there's even a dog underfoot.  They went on to explain that photography and cooking are very similar in that there are so many factors that contribute to creating a good final product, and they were interested in hearing how food bloggers like myself adapt their individual situations to produce good photographs.  Light is working on a food photography project, and I was invited to participate!  Thanks to their encouragement, I created these Antipasto Skewers with some straightforward photography tips in mind.  Like photography, they are simple to create, but the final product has a serious wow factor. 
A wonderful snack and appetizer.
Look at the brilliant color!
The perfect go-to snack.
Even better for the upcoming
Summer BBQs.

My kitchen walls
are black.  Lighting is a big challenge
in my kitchen.  I usually try to open curtains and
let in as much natural light as possible.
Sometimes natural light isn't enough.
I've been known to sneak the lamp from my
sewing table onto the kitchen counter, sans shade
for an additional light source.
I try to focus on the food as much as possible.
So you don't see the clutter in the background.
I may be a food photographer and blogger, but first
and foremost I'm a wife, mom and woman with
a messy kitchen just like everyone else.
So when I take a picture of my antipasto skewers...
What you don't see is the mess in the background.There's
always a Diet Coke, a dish rag and usually ingredients for
a million other things when I'm cooking.
The biggest space on my counter happens to be in front of
my display of favorite cookbooks.  I think they make a
nice colorful background for my photos so that's usually where
I place my dish and take my pictures.
I try to zoom in so you don't see that is also my catch-all
spot for recipes, my grocery list, and to-do list.

As I said, my counter space is limited.  Why? Well we have
our food sealer, food processor, toaster, three utensil holders
and two mixers out on the counter.  I guess you could say
we are true foodies around here.  Two mixers is a bit of an
extravagance, but one is for very large tasks, and the baby mixer
is my favorite for everyday cooking.
When I focus on the food you don't see all of
those appliances in the background.  All you see is the
food.  And sometimes a bit of color.  Whenever possible
I'll try to add a napkin or place mat to liven up the photo.
My counter tops are grey and when you use a white serving dish,
the photo seems washed out.
I also try to capture the food from an angle.  When I stand directly
over the dish for an "aerial view" I make a shadow and
the food just doesn't look as pretty.

Here are the skewers from the side.  You can even see
the char on the fire roasted red peppers.  See how those
cookbooks are barely in view?  It's okay because
they are out of focus.  The important part of the image
is the food.  You can even see the bits of peppercorn
in the salami.  When you see that, can't you almost
taste that salami?  Like my husband always says,
"We eat with our eyes first."
Food photography has come a long way.
Check out this 1950's meal.  They've got the whole
table in the image.  Plus that groovy plant and lots of
artwork in the background.  I'm not sure if we are supposed
to focus on the shrimp cocktail or that giant lettuce bowl.
These days the trend in food photography is to zoom in and
capture the food.  It's okay to show the crumbs on the plate
or a half-eaten cookie.  It looks so much more lifelike this way
doesn't it?
Light has the answer to every food photographer's struggle.
The Light L16 has 16 lenses that work together to produce
pictures that are worth a thousand words.
And yes, there really is a dog underfoot!
Here's Ghirardelli "Elli" for short, hoping a crumb gets dropped.
Check out the wagging tail action shot!

Antipasto Skewers

1 carton Ciliegine or Bocconcini (Mozzarella Balls), drained
1 package Italian salami
1 small jar Pepperoncini peppers, drained
1 small jar roasted red pepper pieces, drained
small skewers

Slice the salami into bite size chunks.  It the Pepperoncini peppers are large in size, cut those into bite sized pieces as well.  On each skewer place a Mozzarella ball, piece of salami, Pepperoncini pepper, and piece of roasted red pepper.  Place on platter and serve.

Other skewer ingredient possibilities:

pitted olives
pickled okra
artichoke hearts

Prep Time:  Approximately 10 minutes     Cook Time: 0

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Grape Salad

Remember all of the church potlucks and family reunions with all of the colorful salads?  That weren't really salads at all?  Because salads don't contain marshmallows.  Those "SALADS" belong at the dessert end of the table.  This is one of THOSE SALADS.  When Little Devil asked what was for dinner on Memorial Day I replied, "BBQ Beef Tips, Crockpot Cheese Corn and Grape Salad."  Of course I got an Ewww Face along with, "Grape SALAD???" in a grossed out tone of voice.  I said, "Well you know how Snickers Salad isn't really a salad, but it's fruit and candy bars and a bowl of awesome? Think variation on Snickers Salad."  It was a huge success.  I think the crushed Butterfingers on top were the biggest hit.  Mr. DD who rarely eats seconds in the summertime actually brought the bowl to the table for more than one refill.  It's cool and decadent and hardly a SALAD.  But boy is it good.  Totally a "Don't knock it til you tried it" Recipe.  Seriously.  Give this one a try. It's unusual but it is a keeper! 
It's hardly a salad.  I don't know what to call it
besides bowl of awesome!
I used my Great-Aunt's Vintage Pyrex bowl.
Perfect for this recipe!

Butterfingers on top?  Yes please.
Now that is MY KIND of salad!

2 pounds red seedless grapes
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (8 ounce) carton sour cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 full-sized Butterfinger candy bars, crushed

Wash the grapes, remove from stem.  With an electric mixer combine the cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and vanilla until smooth and creamy.  Gently fold in the grapes until well coated.  Place in serving bowl and garnish with crushed Butterfinger candy.  Serve immediately. 

Prep Time:  Approximately 10 minutes     Cook Time: 0

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Orange Julius Fruit Dip

Without giving away my age, remember when it was cool to go to the mall with your friends?  And get the latest cassette tape?  And lots of Mrs. Grossman's stickers for your sticker album?  Yeah, I don't either because I'm not that old ;)  But the quintessential mall treat back then was an Orange Julius drink.  Cold, frothy and citrus-y.  Not quite a milkshake and not quite a smoothie.  But totally awesome-ly satisfying for 80s kids every where.  I don't know about your area, but we no longer have Orange Julius at our local mall, but you can still enjoy the flavors in this refreshing fruit dip.  It's a slightly healthy dessert with just a few ingredients that will take you back to the good ol' days when you listened to Tears for Fears and had those little teddy bear stickers stuck to all of your notebooks. 
Tastes just like 80s hair bands, jelly shoes and
ORANGE JULIUS at the mall!

Orange Julius Dip

1 (6 ounce) can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 1/4 cup whole milk
1 small package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 (8 ounce) Cool Whip topping, thawed

In a mixing bowl, dissolve the orange juice concentrate in milk.  Add the pudding mix and mix well.  Fold in the Cool Whip and chill several hours or overnight.  Tastes just like an Orange Julius.  Serve with fresh fruit for dipping.
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