green beans

The Best of 2009: Personal Food Photography Favorites.

I think when I look back, the whole reason that I started food blogging was because I was taking all of these food pictures, and I was only showing them to the same 3 or 4 people. I've loved my kitchen for quite a few years, but only somewhat recently entered the digital age of photography. I like to think that I know what's going on with technology, but yet really, I'm in the dark ages. Until I got married, I never even had a computer in my home, and most people were surprised at how many computer-related things I knew for really not being all that interested in them.

A few months ago, we had to invest in a terabyte of extra storage, since I was taking thousands of photos in super high resolution. It seems ironic that food photos were eating up tons of space. I've since started shooting in smaller formats, but still have a day or so in the future I must devote to paring down the digital clutter. Digital clutter, it seems to me, is much worse than the physical type, since you don't see it and it overwhelms your computer before you know it. More than once everything has frozen up due to space issues, and I've frantically had to transfer things over and cross my fingers that I wasn't loosing anything.

That said, I've dug into the external hard drive storage to unearth some of my favorite food photos from each month of 2009. Since I started blogging in April, I have quite an online collection of photos both here and on flickr. The ones below are of die hard obsessions, and are compositions that appealed to me, if not to the larger photographic community.

Off we go:

Granola from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

Granola is absolutely an obsession with me, and its one that appears to have no waning in sight as we enter a new decade. Of the many varieties that I've tried and tweaked and eaten (I can not imagine the pounds of rolled oats I've eaten this year...) this one is still one of my most favorite. In fact, I made a batch today, in spite of the lack of freezer space. In addition to being obsessed with granola, I am obsessed with frozen granola. I love it mixed in with day-old oatmeal, sprinkled on top of a Wheatabix biscuit, sprinkled on ice cream or poured directly into my mouth from a ramekin. You really must try it.


Dorie Greenspan's Cupcake.

Yes, it is the same as the banner cupcake above. I made them for a Super Bowl party, which is ironic since the thing I love most in the culinary world is chocolate cake, and the thing I hate most would have to be football. I forgot that I took quite a few different shots of this ganache topped beauty, and I like how it appears that I was shooting in a glamorous white facility somewhere and not on my sunlit dining room table. I'm pretty sure I ate a lot of them myself, and like I've said before, it is truly a miracle I am able to maintain my current weight.


Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Granola.

I went through a DVRing craze of watching Nigella on Food Network near the end of last winter. While I can't say I've watched much Food TV lately, I guess when the holidays are over and the rush of January is gone, and the whole of winter and snow seems to be beating me into couch potato-ing submission, I do catch up on DVR'd obsessions. As I recall, I was also watching all of the Jamie Oliver's I had recorded as well - so I must have been feeling rather British at the time.

This granola
is so different than any of the others I've tried, and has the benefit of being the recipe to introduce me to brown rice syrup, which is seriously one of my favorite things. It's so good and not so sweet, and has the best crunch of any I've tried.



I started the blog this month, and it was just a couple weeks after unexpectedly loosing one of my uncles, who was quite young. I think a great silence fell over me, since though I was far away from him, I remembered him so well from when I was small - and my brother and I were regularly (and gladly) tormented by all of my Mom's brothers (she had 4!). He had such a natural ability to be funny. Not just funny - an incredible wit that goes unmatched to anyone I've ever met. I like to think that the Northwoods are missing the laughter that he brought to everyone who knew him.

Eggs will forever remind me of this, and for a good reason. They do embody the necessity and the circle of life. It seems like a cruel truth, until closer observation. There is such joy to be found in every part. God has given us this set clock to which all of us are bound, and there is no escaping it. Whatever you believe, "When the game is over, all the pieces go back into the same box" as a fortune cookie I had once said.

While it seems like a strange way of coping with something so unexpected, eggs for a week in April did help me, though I felt in no way able to help my family as much as I would have liked to.

Alton's English Muffins.

My boys went to Chicago, and I stayed behind to catch up on knitting and being alone. Of course, this found time led me to do some rare shopping and I bought some egg rings. (Read more about it here.) It took me three tries to get them to turn out properly, but they were very tasty and ready for their photo op...


Black Beans.

I think this is just a random picture from one dinner one night back in June... before I was aware that I would be obsessed with Rancho Gordo, I'm sure these were just regular Non-Gordo's. I am always amazed at the agriculture in our country, and that even if you are short on cash, you can step into any supermarket and buy a pound of beans for about $ .99. These were mostlikely from the bulk bin at my food co-op, so they may have cost slightly more.

I took this
related picture in November (with a Rancho Gordo variety), and one of my favorite flickr contacts left the nicest comments aboutthe respect due a black bean... you'll have to click over and read it.


Mango Salsa.

My first post back in April was about mangoes and mango salsa. I think I ate mango salsa or a mango crisp for so long that the last time I bought one I made it into salsa and then couldn't even eat it! This never happens to me very often, but I think a new category has emerged: Foods I'm Tired Of. They still are amazing, and I wouldn't want to offend any mangoes who happen to be reading this. I'm pretty sure it's just a phase, and maybe by next June, I'll be ready to devour them once again.



In a Saveur article from this fall, I read about a "real life Johnny Appleseed". I never gave so much thought to the "American-ness" of apples before reading this article, and having it explain how there are so many unique American varieties due to the unique way that apple trees are propagated. I think that each tree must then taste unique to itself, since that is why this sauce is the exact taste that comes to mind when I think of applesauce, since I've been eating it pretty much since birth.

The applesauce I made above was from my Gram's tree in Northern Wisconsin. I don't know the variety, but it is sweet and tart. I didn't add any sugar to it at all - and if you'd ask the Boy-O, I know he'd agree that it is plenty sweet. I had a great time being a whole season canner this summer, and looking back at all of the photos I have of my processing, reminds me of this everyday miracle of food preservation.

I am indeed still looking for someone to eat beets with, since this batch of fine looking noodles is still snuggled in the frozen depths of my deep freeze... I just haven't had the occasion to serve them. I may just have to invite a new food blogger friend over to indulge with me...


Tostadas de Salmon Ahumado and Rancho Gordo Christmas Limas.

Mostly Foodstuff's Majestic and Moist Honeycake

There are three photos for October, since I couldn't choose. GOP turned my eye to the amazing Rancho Gordo in October, and I am forever grateful. Sometimes, there is this thing called "perceived value" which can be an inflated idea of greatness that you inflict on something you really want to be wonderful.

But, dear reader, Rancho Gordo is not included in this definition.The day I placed my first order, I made the delicious smoked salmon tostadas, and the first cooking experience with said beans was this amazing Christmas Lima. They were so good, and only improved with refrigerated residence. I have the other half pound from this batch, and am going to have to make the same meal again.

And as for the cake, well this cake, is the cake of all cakes... at least for a cake lover such as myself. It is so wonderful, and only more complemented by Deena's post about it. I'll say no more, you must try it for yourself. Just look at it gleaming there, you know you need to turn on the oven and brew yourself a pot of coffee...


Turkey Sandwich with Spicy Dilly Beans.

This was a great use of the little bit of leftover smoked Thanksgiving turkey. These dilly beans are going to be a staple at my house from now on. I could easily eat as many of them as an actual side of vegetable instead of the one of a pickle that it actually is. It's spicy, and dilly: It's Foodinjars Spicy Dilly Beans! And by all means add that extra cayenne pepper.


I come from a teetotaling family, so the making of homemade hooch wasn't exactly the first thing that came to mind when I was completely obsessed with tart cherries this last July. Curiosity, however, is the mother of experimentation over here at Casa RCakewalk...

I poured a tiny little cordial cup the other day to see how it was coming along, since the recipe I used suggested letting it rest for several months. It's very sweet, I'll say that, but it's also very cherry. I'm for sure going to have to make a black forest type ice cream, I know this much. It also, strangely, didn't seem overtly strong - but I think the sugar was fooling me. At any rate, it made a very nice picture for the end of the year.

So, at year end, thank you to my small handful of loyal readers that inspire me to continue taking photos and ruminating on life (usually as it pertains to the kitchen) around my house. I've had more fun doing this than I ever thought, and I've met some interesting people who are amazing canners, cooks and bakers! It does seem like the year has evaporated on me once again, and sometimes I wish I could just put the lid on it to slow the process. But then I remember the eggs, and realize that it is all a part of the plan,and that each of these 3 grey hairs I recently noticed are par for the course.

Happy New Year!!!

All things green for the beginning of August...

I was out of town for a week, and got to spend some time at my parent's house about 3 hours west of here. They pared down the garden this year, but I was still amazed at the quantity and size of the plants... I originally was only going to take the jalapenos and green beans, jalapenos for a candied jalapeno project that R1 and I are going to tackle, and green beans for dilly beans thanks to Marisa at Food in Jars. But of course the call of the wild was overwhelming, and when I had picked the beans clean, I grabbed a bunch of green peppers and an armful of carrots. Then I couldn't stop, and also took some onions. But my car had only limited space, since I made no effort to pack lightly for a week long I had to curb my enthusiasm.

As you may have already surmised, I do run greatly in the vein of obsessions. Notably this year, I've been obsessed with mangoes, knitting, tart cherries and canning in general. I forgot how amazing it is to preserve food in jars. Already, my basement storage of preserved food is nearing its capacity, and more room will need to be made. When I planted some green beans that a neighbor had given me in spring, I immediately thought of dilly beans. The first and last time I had one was with Gina (of Square Pie fame: and I forget who gave them to her. Of course, after discovering, I knew I had to try the spicy variety she showcased there.

It's surprisingly easy to can in hot water baths, i.e, pickling and jamming. I always thought that I never had the time, but I guess you make the time for the things obsessions are made of. I hardly have any time left over to think now with the knitting and the flickr and then this canning. At least I am being as productive as I can, for the shortening of summer days begins to remind me now that winter is a long and lonely time for the stay at home types. (Truth be told though, I'm never really lonely, and there is ALWAYS something that has to be made: a bed, a cake, you know.)

cayenne spiced dilly beans, courtesy of Marissa at

When I returned to Milwaukee, I had a scorched yard and lots of basil to contend with: so the first of the pesto preserve was on. Monday, I made the first batch. I like to freeze it in little scoops on wax paper and then transfer to deep frozen storage. Mine stayed nice and green thanks to Michael Chiarello. He recommends blanching the basil, plunging it into the ice bath, then drying it well before proceeding. But I can't be bothered with that - I skipped right to his trick of adding a pinch of ascorbic acid, and it stayed bright green even after its preliminary freeze.

Of course there is no way to make a ton of pesto and not have some for dinner. This was the fastest tastiest way: a Martha Stewart recipe. First, boil a waxy potato or two cut into 1 inch chunks for 2 minutes. Then add pasta and green beans and continue cooking until pasta is done, about 10 additional minutes for the fusilli I used above. Then simply drain and toss with a little pesto. You may think I was going to be in a marathon the next day what with the potatoes, pasta AND bread all on my plate at one time...but sometimes a huge helping of carbohydrates is just what the doctors order.

All of this just since Monday! And tonight is my much anticipated knitting class on mitered mittens. I've been psyched for weeks thinking of the mittens I will make for everyone. On my week gone, I purposefully left all knitting at home so I could rest my carpal tunneled arms, but have still managed to almost finish another hat since I got home as well. Like I said, they don't call them Obsessions for nothing.