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Food Talk

Low Budget, Low Maintenance Food Photography

Written by Hannah of Rise and Shine.
I'll get down to food photography tips and tricks, but first let me rattle on about why I have to think so hard about this subject, if you will. I'm not exactly poor and lazy (maybe a little of each) but I surely don't have a lot of money or time to burn. Or space, for that matter. I live in a small house so my "studio" is a little corner of the basement between the camping gear and the litter boxes. Another little hindrance of mine is location. For much of a Duluth winter, the sun shines only after I leave for work and sets before I get home. Shooting in natural light isn't always an option for me. On top of all of this, I have a pretty fierce streak of perfectionism that keeps me from letting things be. A very good example being my participation in the Daring Bakers club. I started a "low-key" blog with the intent of it being specifically for posting my DB challenge results and I didn't even own a camera.

Chocolate Chip Cookies 12 ways (a side-by-side comparison of fats, sweeteners and a gluten-free flour)

Written by Hannah of Rise and Shine.

Bakers work with different fats and sweeteners for many reasons. Some use certain ingredients because they swear by them (margarine versus butter remains a great debate), and some are looking for ways to reduce calories from sugar in their diet (stevia and agave syrup being hot items these days). I did some reading on the glycemic index of sweeteners with a bit about substituting sweeteners in baking, which resulted in this post: Comparing Sweeteners in Baking and in Health. Reading up on the health facts behind sweeteners was enlightening, to be sure, and the question of results of using different ingredients in baking really piqued my interest. The questions being (among others): Can I substitute honey or agave syrup for all of the sugar in a recipe?

A Minnesota Tradition

Written by Hannah of Rise and Shine.
It's an exciting time in Minnesota when we hit the dog days of summer. Our dog days are not defined by a period of lethargy. When we aren't [whining about] mowing the lawn or squeezing in every possible drop of fun before the snow flies, we are bringing in the harvest. The county fairs are in full swing and we put in for our vacation days to migrate the short distance to our own state fair. The roots of farming and agriculture run deep here. It's no surprise our Minnesota State Fair has grown to be one of the biggest in the country, 2nd only to Texas, with a current annual attendance of nearly 1.8 million people.

Exhibitors fill the expansive grounds with their best handicrafts and craftsmanship, proudly displaying the fruits of their farms and gardens. Fair goers fill a day walking many miles in their best broke-in tennies and spend a small fortune to sample some of the 500 food offerings. We might try one of the 40 new foods of this year. Beef tongue tacos with bacon ice cream for dessert, perhaps? Or some local fine dining such as Sweet Corn Chowder, Heirloom Tomato Salad and Lake Superior Smoked Whitefish. We may have a loyalty to some of the 70 different items on a stick. Maybe we'll pass on the sickeningly sweet chocolate cookie dough deep fried on a stick. On second thought add an order of all-you-can-drink milk and count us in. Then we'll head over to get our picture taken biting into our deep fried Twinkie on a stick, dropping powdered sugar and strawberry sauce down our shirts as we do. And surely we'll grab a Pronto Pup at some point, very often opting for that and other foods from a prescribed list we have refined over the years.

Potluck Soup

Written by Hannah of Rise and Shine.
I am not the type of cook to prefer, require or create precise recipes. More controversially, the same goes for my methods of baking. My "cup" or "tablespoon" may just get plucked from the cupboard or more likely the rack of clean dishes forever piled in the right-side basin. I'm one of those that scoops, dumps and mixes in a manner that causes fellow bakers to cringe until I get the "feel." This basically sums me up (and for this I blame my parents-who else?). Not everyone would enjoy to live this way, but I find this attitude in cooking and in life makes for easy adventures and a general pleasantness. This may sound decidedly European of me though I am, at times unfortunately, all-American.

Juicy Non-fiction For Lovers of Food

Written by Hannah of Rise and Shine.

In film, I love a good off-beat documentary. In books, I tend toward short stories and especially stories highlighting the humors of real life such as those written or edited by Ira Glass and David Sedaris. I am also, officially, obsessed with all things cooking and more recently baking. Which leads me to the goldmine in documentary short stories for foodies: the Best Food Writing series edited by Holly Hughes.

With a keen eye for fascinating topics, clever wit and brilliant writing, Holly has been gathering the best of the best stories and essays from food journals, books, newspapers, blogs and newsletters and compiling them into a roughly 350 page publication since the year 2000. The books are a recent discovery for me. I was hooked in 2010, have since read 2011, and am working my way back to the beginning (currently breezing through 2006).

Mumbai Street Food

Written by Ketaki of The White Elephant Cooking.

A great man once said "You have never really visited a country until you have tasted it’s food”. In a country as large and diversified as India it is more like “You have never really visited an Indian city unit you have tasted it’s food”. Every city has it’s own unique food and flavor.

When I think of my home town Mumbai and the foods that truly represent it are the Wada Pav, Pav bhaji and Mumbai Chaats. No trip to the city is complete without trying these foods. The delicious aromas get you salivating even when you just walk or drive past a street food vendor.


Please be careful while trying the food from road side carts and vendors in India. It is spicy with loads of chilies and various spices and may not suit everyone’s stomach.

Sourdough Starter: A Stand Alone Ingredient with a Place at the Table

Written by Rebecca of CakeWalk.

I am passionate about quite a few things in my kitchen, but nothing captures my heart quite the way that sourdough starter has. I grew my starter more than a year ago using grapes grown on my family’s rural Wisconsin property, and ever since I saw my first bubble, I began finding ways to use it in things other than bread.

Honestly, this quest to use up my discard starter really began because when it was a young starter, it wasn’t strong enough to raise bread. Out of my frustration and frugal mindset, I started finding ways to incorporate it in nearly every baking opportunity I could. At first, I used it up in things like pancakes and loaves of bread that also used commercial yeasts to help with a good rise. (I like to call breads that use both wild and commercial yeast breads “hybrids”, and they are still my favorite “quick” yeast breads; they are the ones I turn to when I don’t have the extra time needed to bake my favorite all-wild yeast sourdoughs.)

Cooking to Learn

Written by Ruth of The Crafts of Mommyhood.

I grew up in the kitchen. My mother cooked and baked all the time, and therefore my siblings and I did, too. I remember the excitement I felt one night when I was around nine years old and I was allowed to create my own dinner. While my rice, green pea and fish stick creation might not have been gourmet, it did show my comfort in the kitchen, and my desire to learn and create. What I didn’t know at the time, though, was that I was learning a lot more than what things tasted good together. (At least to me…!)

Now that I am a mother, I am seeing just how much there is to learn in the kitchen. True, my oldest is only two years old, but that doesn’t mean that she is too young to learn. The basic skills she is learning now will serve as building blocks for her as she grows, both in school and in the world.

So what are kids learning in the kitchen, other than how to make yummy food? Well, here are just a few of the lessons, life skills and habits you and your children can learn, all while having fun in the kitchen.

Homemade Gifts - Something for Everyone

Compiled by Ruth of Makey-Cakey

Homemade edible Christmas gifts are always a joy to receive, and knowing that someone has taken the time and care to make you something beautiful and delicious can be a welcome antidote to the over-commercialisation of Christmas that seems to be all around us.

However my enthusiasm for them conceptually is often outweighed by my lack of forward planning – I’m sure I’m not alone! Instead of busily preserving the best of the summer’s bounty so that come Christmas, I have a stash of nicely matured chutneys and jams to give, I generally find myself in late November with nothing more to show for my plans than a bookmarks folder on my laptop full of interesting pickles and a packet or two of labels and lids bought in optimism in August that this year would be different.

Thanksgiving Recipe Round-Up

Compiled by Margie of more please

Your Thanksgiving menu probably includes the usual assortment of time-honored recipes, but just in case you’re looking for something new this year, we’ve compiled this selection of holiday recipes from our member Daring Bakers and Daring Cooks.

For most of us, the iconic turkey sits plump and proud at the center of the Thanksgiving table. That gorgeous bird pictured at left was brined in maple syrup and smoked to perfection over cherry wood. You can find the recipe for Maple Brined Turkey at Burp! including instructions for either smoking or roasting the bird. (Photo by Burp!).

We’ve got more turkey recipes below. Plus, you’ll find a festive assortment of side dishes, some traditional, some daring. Be sure to save room for dessert, because we’ve got quite a tempting array of sweet treats. Thank you to all the participating bloggers for sharing their holiday recipes and photos. Go ahead and scroll, then click through and try something new on your Thanksgiving table.