September 15, 2017

Ready, Set, Weekend with Simply Beautiful Eating

The issue with having a garden in your backyard is keeping up with the endless amounts of provisions you reap if you are lucky enough to have a good growing season. Enter Steve. He is out there on a daily basis picking reaping the benefits of what he has tended to all summer long.

The majority of the time, he ends up eating half of the ripe tomatoes the second he picks them off the vines and then comes in swinging another baseball bat size zucchini which really has no place for me to store in the kitchen. Those zucchs are really great to use in so many recipes during the summer.

I bet you didn’t know that you can freeze shredded zucchini. Neither did I until I saw it on Pinterest the other day.

There was one zucchini in particular that was sitting and staring at me from the kitchen counter. It was literally driving me crazy to look at because, I mean, really? It didn’t go with the new decor. In fact, zucchinis don’t go with ANY decor.

We have a giant fridge but there was no room for this sucka anywhere inside of it. Why? Because this guy had too many brothers and sisters that were already occupying the space reserved for humongous vegetables. It looked exactly like the Goodyear Blimp and each time I saw it on the counter, I cringed. I finally had enough and said “off with his head (and butt)”.

I threw the whole thing into my food processor and shredded it until I could no longer recognize it’s similarity to a big flying balloon.

So what was I going to do with all this zucchini?

Easy.

I had all the makings of a chocolate banana bread within my reach and I figured why not just add in the zucchini for a “healthy factor”. Who am I kidding? Between the chocolate and sugar, this wasn’t super “good for you” but it sure was delish and rated on a scale of +10 according to those who tasted tested it. Once again, I threw in substitute ingredients that really should have been other things but somehow this came out just fine.

Example 1:

I used 45% dark chocolate chunks instead of chocolate chips for the guts.

Example 2:

I didn’t really need to throw in a banana, yes I know I said it was a chocolate banana bread but I had to change the title due to the fact that I used half a banana in the recipe. Otherwise, it would have just been called a chocolate zucchini bread. It was a last minute entry from the fridge before it hit the garbage. Gawd I love dead bananas. Oh and by the way, if I had a whole banana I would have most definitely added it in but half was better than nothing.

Example 3:

I used a small container of blueberry greek yogurt instead of plain greek yogurt because I didn’t have any and I certainly wasn’t running to the market to get a large container when I only needed a 1/4 of a cup.

My motto is “use what you’ve got otherwise it will rot”.

What’s the worse thing that could happen? Usually nothing.

Here’s what transpired when I sent a text out to my three boys with a picture of this bread. One of them dropped everything and came up to the house to ensure the gets at least two pieces. The other two were delivered the balance this week and my eldest said “that bread should be illegal”.

If you want to hide your zucchini and puddles of chocolate, this ones for you.

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BANANA BREAD 

– 1½ cups grated zucchini
– 1 cup all purpose flour
– ¼ teaspoon baking powder
– ¾ teaspoon baking soda
– ¾ cup semi sweet chocolate chips (I used mini)
– 1 bar dark chocolate, chopped into chunks
– ½ cup good quality cocoa powder
– ½ cup white sugar
– 2 large eggs
– ¼ teaspoon salt
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– ¼ cup vegetable oil
– ¼ cup GREEK yogurt
– ½ ripe banana, mashed

1) Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a loaf pan by lining with parchment paper or nonstick spray. In a large bowl mix dry ingredients together with chocolate chunks. In another bowl whisk together sugar,eggs,vanilla, yogurt, oil & mashed banana. Mix until smooth.
2) Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix just until blended. Don’t overmix. Add in Zucchini and mix until the Zucchini is dispersed evenly throughout the batter. Place batter into loaf pan and spread out evenly. Take chocolate chips and sprinkle over batter, press them in lightly with your hand.
3) Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick is inserted and comes out clean.

xx, Debi
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September 11, 2017

DIY Broomstick Skewers

In my personal opinion, Fall begins the moment September arrives. My favorite event of fall is, of course, Halloween! At LMP we’ve been preparing for Halloween ahead of time, because we’re so excited for all the parties, costumes, and fun decor that comes with this holiday.

Our first DIY for Halloween are these easy broomstick skewers, which are perfect for adding decor to your table. You will need plain wooden skewers, dried wheat grass, hot glue, and string.

Step 1: Cut off the head of one stem, and cut down the rest of the stem into 2-3 inch pieces.

Step 2: Glue the head of the wheat to the end of a skewer.

Step 3: Line up the skewer and the wheat pieces over your string and then tie it tightly around the head of the wheat.

Step 4: Use the hot glue around the edges of the string, and cut down the excess length.

Step 5: Skewer up your favorite treats and SET THE TABLE!

Happy Fall!

xx, Maggie
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August 25, 2017

Ready, Set, Weekend with Simply Beautiful Eating

Wait….

It’s still summer right? Lately, I’ve been so caught up in all the kitchen reno’s and weddings that I almost forgot to post these simply beautiful refreshing drinks.

They are 100 percent pretty enough to serve at your next party or whenever. I used to make floats all the time, until I figured out that there was more to this recipe than using a can of soda pop and a scoop of ice cream. These were just made on a whim one day with ingredients that were at hand, which in my opinion, is embarrassingly easy.

Let’s face it. I’m not a drinker, so you won’t see many cocktails on this blog BUT….if you do happen to see a recipe that can be spiked on here, feel free to let loose. This specific one can be made with any sparkling, non-alcoholic drink or just throw in some bubbly Proseco or champagne if you feel inclined.

Feeling extra summery? Add in a touch of purple like I did, with this fresh rosemary. How in the world can you not, when they produce these out of control purple flowers? COME ON.

Oh and another thingie…..this was one of the first things I created when the new kitchen was almost completed. I had the contractors in that day and was working at my island while they were drilling and installing the cabinetry. Good thing I use Manual Mode on my camera and put up a nice background! Amazing what you can blur out with a little tweaking. Which brings me to this. Many of you have asked what kind of camera I use and what modes I shoot in.

First of all, let me explain that I’m by far NOT a professional photographer. Ya, ya, I know my pics are pretty good, but by no means are they STELLAR. Having said that, I’m going to give you a few tips here today.

1) Get yourself a DSLR camera. It doesn’t have to be top of the line (although that is something that I have contemplated changing, because I think I need to step it up a notch). I use a Canon Rebel T5, with the lens kit that is included, plus a 50 mm lens for close up shots. I also bought a Vivitar Magnification Kit which is great for ……..I dunno…….getting up close to the fur on a peach? It was something that I was told to buy a while ago and have used it once. Not necessary, but looks impressive in your camera bag.
2) Shoot in daylight. How many times have you heard this from food bloggers and food photographers? A billion? Yep. They are ALL right. It’s absolutely imperative that you take advantage of any daylight you can grab to shoot the best photos of food. I like shooting in my north facing window, but now that my kitchen island faces south, it works just as well. Just be aware of too much light overpowering the images. Use reflective boards and try to shoot without bright sunlight. What happens when it’s already dark and there is no daylight? Well. I have an indoor lighting system which I use once in a blue moon, because frankly, it’s just not my cup of tea. It’s a last resort, and if I’m desperate for a photo, I will set it up and make it work. THERE IS NOTHING LIKE NATURAL LIGHT. NOTHING…….
3) Manual Mode v.s. other modes. Okay, you’re going to unbox your camera and wonder what the heck to do with that dial at the top. There are lots of options here and whatever you do, NEVER, I repeat never, shoot your food in AUTO. I think they should rename this mode to L. (lazy mode). Learn to use your camera, take a photography course – I did a day course and it was invaluable. I tend to shoot in Manual all the time now and it’s the absolute BEST. I will dedicate a full post on how to shoot in Manual, but in the meantime, I will let you in on my favourite settings. Depending on the light in the room, I shoot with my ISO set at anywhere from 200 to 800, APERTURE at f2.5 to f4.5 (if I really want a good background blur, I can scale that down to f1.8) and my shutter speed hovers between 1/50 and 1/100 depending on how much light I’m dealing with.
4) To tripod or not to tripod, that is the question. You may not like this, but I ALWAYS shoot freehand. I need to get up into my food and I find a tripod just gets in my business. What about camera shake? I balance my camera against an object or just hold it really tightly to ensure that my hand doesn’t move. Videos are a different story. That’s the only time I use a fixed position on a tripod.
5) Shooting in the Raw. And no, that doesn’t mean taking pictures in your birthday suit. I shoot all my photos in raw format. Yep, that means that camera and computer space is eaten alive by the shear size of these photos. THERE IS NOTHING LIKE SHOOTING RAW.  This is why. When shooting in a format like JPEG, image information is compressed and lost. Because no information is compressed with RAW, you’re able to produce higher quality images, as well as correct problem images that would be unrecoverable if shot in the JPEG format.
6) STORAGE. Buy yourself an external hard drive to place your photos on, so you have room to store them. Here’s a quick fact. I love editing my photos on my Ipad. I have 64GB of storage space on there. What I need to do is change my settings on my mobile device to store my pictures at low resolution. As we speak, I have over 18,000 photos on there. Is that nuts? Yes. I also store all my photos on ICloud, but I don’t trust those APPLE people as far as I can throw them. I have a large 2TB hard-drive which has every single photo I have ever taken. I don’t even want to know what that amounts to, because I shoot 200 plus pictures for every single recipe I do.

That’s it for now. I don’t want to bore you too much, but I am going to give you more tips on how to make your food look beautiful in photos in an upcoming post. Stay tuned and in the meantime, try these drinks. They are guaranteed to float your boat.

MANGO TANGO SUMMER FLOATS  

– 1 part mango juice
– 1 part sparkling water, proseco or champagne
– 1 part fresh tangerine juice
– 1 part pink lemonade
– 1 scoop vanilla ice cream
– 2 – 3 tangerine segments, seedless
– 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
– crushed ice

1) Fill your glasses with crushed ice.
2) For each drink, place first four ingredients in the glass, add in tangerine segments, scoop of ice cream and garnish with fresh rosemary.

xx, Debi
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August 9, 2017

Chef Luke Makes Candy Sushi

Chef Luke is BACK! He took a short break from his cooking show because he’s been extremely booked; camp, dates with mom, swim lessons, and all the attention throughout “The Summer of Luke” have been very exhausting. Luckily, his partner in crime, Chef Gavin, returned home from sleep away camp last week, and they insisted on cooking together.

They’ve done it again with this super fun recipe for Candy Sushi, which we adapted from Kraft. Watch the full video to see how it’s done!

Enjoy!

xx, Maggie
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August 4, 2017

Ready, Set, Weekend with Simply Beautiful Eating

Here’s a perfect example of baking something that I didn’t need, but was happy to stuff into my face. Guys, I have to fit into a very tight dress for my other son’s wedding in five weeks. Although there are healthy ingredients in this recipe, I went overboard and added streusel and drizzle to what would have been an acceptable muffin recipe.

Okay, so streusel and drizzle definitely takes this to the NEXT LEVEL, but really? I may has well have just plunked two of these bad boys directly on my hips before they passed through my lips.

Now, as for the size of these muffins? Well, they certainly ain’t muffkins. I like them BIG. Why? Why not?

Is there anything better than a muffin top? With the exception of one that sticks out if your pants are too tight (which may happen if you scarf down a few of these – consider yourself warned).

I absolutely love fresh peach season and throwing in the dried dates into this recipe was a nice twist. I’m getting tired of adding the usual cranberries and raisins to things. Aren’t you?

Oh yes! What about this muffin pan? The nice folks at USA PAN sent this to me a few months ago (pre-demolition), and I have been saving it until we finished the kitchen and had our ovens in full gear. I’m sure you can imagine how many muffin tins I have collected over the years, but this one is special. First of all, it has an amazing design. Love the stripes! Secondly, although I’m always cautious to either spray or line my muffin tins, this pan didn’t need ANYTHING because it’s super non-stick. My muffins practically fell out on the floor when I released them. Five second rule applies here if you happen to drop one.

Speaking of which, I get many requests about freezing baked goods. These muffins are perfect to pop in the freezer for up to three months or they will stay fresh in an airtight container for three days. Having said that, why is it that I never have to freeze anything? Most likely because I either take my goodies to the office OR I polish them off myself before they have a chance to make it into the freezer.

There are no secret ingredients in this muffin recipe. Just plain old fashioned DA BOMB diggity peachy keen muffins here.  Ready, set, let’s get baking!

For the streusel topping
– ⅓ cup packed light or dark brown sugar
– 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
– 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
– ⅔ cup all-purpose flour

For the muffins
– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 cup rolled oats,quick cooking
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
– ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
– ½ teaspoon salt
– 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 1 cup granulated sugar
– ⅓ cup light brown sugar, packed
– 1 large egg plus 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
– 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
– ¾ cup milk (almond, rice or soy will work too)
– ⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
– 3 fresh peaches peeled and diced into small cubes
– ½ cup chopped dried dates

For the vanilla drizzle
– 1 cup powdered sugar
– 3 tablespoons milk
– ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1) To make the streusel topping, in a large bowl combine both sugars, cinnamon, melted butter and flour until the mixture is very crumbly. Set aside or place in fridge while making your muffin batter to keep the streusel from getting too warm.
2) Preheat oven to 400F. Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with non-stick spray; set aside.
3) In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the rolled oats and set aside.
4) In a large bowl using an electric mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and both sugars and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy; about 3 minutes.
5) Add in the egg, egg yolks, and vanilla and continue beating until well combined. Turn mixer off and set batter aside. In a large measuring cup add the milk and sour cream; whisk well to combine; set aside. With the mixer speed set to low; alternate adding the flour mixture and the sour cream/milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Be sure not to over mix. With the mixer turned off, add in the diced peaches and dates and use a spatula to gently fold the fresh and dried fruit into the batter just until incorporated.
6) Divide the batter evenly among prepared muffin tins. Don’t be shy, fill those tins to the brim. Top each muffin cup with about 3 tablespoons of crumb topping.
7) Bake for 27 to 30 minutes, or until the tops are lightly golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool muffins 10 minutes in the pan before transferring to a cooling rack. Once the muffins have cooled completely, make your drizzle by combining the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla. Drizzle over each muffin and let set. These freeze well, but I’m going to be honest here, there won’t be any left to freeze once you get your hands on these. Makes 8-12 large muffins.

xx, Debi
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