Photography: A Walk Down Memory Lane…

When I started Sing For Your Supper over 2 1/2 years ago (almost 3!), I had just gotten a hand-me-down Canon 30D camera from my father-in-law and couldn’t have been happier. I didn’t know about natural lighting or flashes or color balance…or even HOW to take a good shot. I just aimed the camera at my dinner plate and hoped for the best. I thought those pictures were amazing. Looking back (not so far back, even), I know now that they were pretty terrible. But you know what? I’m still so proud of those old, out-of-focus, unedited pictures; because they meant so much to me. They meant that I had started something. Something that was all my own and 100% Amy. Something to be proud of. 2 1/2 years later and I’m still writing what I want to write, shooting how I want to shoot and cooking what I love to cook.

I’ve grown a lot and since learned a few more things about my camera, but really, I’m still the same girl who just aims and hopes for the best. Which is why I thought it would be fun to give you a glimpse into the past. A few of my first shots. I’ve been slowly re-shooting bunches of my old recipes, in hopes of updating the old, ugly beginner pictures. But I don’t want to just throw them away- they deserve more than that, so I’m honoring them here, one last time before they visit the archives forever.

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First up, one of my earliest posts, Potato Soup. We had just moved into our new house. I had made this for dinner and it was dark outside, but I didn’t care- I went ahead and just put the bowl on the table and snapped a few quick pictures.

I recently re-shot this one, this time with better lighting and a teensy bit of food styling. Much better.

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Up next, Cinnamon Pound Cake. I shot this in my florescent-lit kitchen (what was I thinking?!), and I’m pretty sure I didn’t even bother to edit it.

Once again, better lighting (taken around 2 or 3 pm), a simple place mat and a couple of cinnamon sticks made a huge improvement!

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Here’s my great-grandmother’s stacked enchiladas. I’ve always loved this recipe, but sure didn’t make it seem very appealing with this picture…this was taken when I was really struggling with the lack of light after Daylight Savings.

I’ve since learned better ways to get around the early sun setting, AND choosing better colored plates helps a lot too.

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And lastly, here’s my Cheater Chicken and Dumplings (one of my most popular recipes ever!), taken February of 2009. I had recently found the “white balance” function on my photo editing software and abused it tremendously. It makes things appear blue-ish and washed out. I thought I had no choice and it was the only way to brighten pictures. Silly me…

Once again, bright, natural light is our friend. And learning a few things about the F-stop and ISO settings doesn’t hurt either.

Over the past 2 1/2 years, I’ve learned SO much from other food bloggers; watching them grow and learn has in turn, helped ME to grow and learn! And boy, the pictures have sure come a long way! Not that they’re anywhere remotely NEAR perfect – I still have a lot of learning left to do, which is what makes this so much fun! These old pictures represent so much, which is why I’m so happy to share them here today- they show just how much I’ve grown and how far I’ve come. From just taking one or two shots, hitting the ‘white balance’ button and calling it a day, to taking a wee bit more time and care with each shot and learning a few more tricks about my very loved camera. I’m so happy to be where I am now and so proud of where I came from! So bye-bye, ugly pictures- thanks for the memories! :)

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A Very Merry Christmas!!!

…from my family to yours! I hope you all enjoy safe, wonderful, and happy holidays!

Love,

Amy, Joel and Izzy

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Christmas Cookie Fail (yes, another one…)

Yep. I’ve done it again. Severe cookie fail. For your information, it is QUITE hard to use a cookie press if you don’t know what you’re doing it’s your first time. I learned this the hard way. My spatula broke. These cookies BROKE my spatula. My grilled cheese spatula.

However, I fully intend to get the hang of this cookie press business….eventually.

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A Little Christmas Spirit…

BOY, do I love Christmastime!!! And you’d better believe I squeeze out every second I can- I’m not letting one single holly, jolly moment go to waste! And based on your emails, tweets and facebook comments, I happen to know that there are quite a lot of you out there that get into the spirit of things just as much as I do! So, I decided (just for the fun of it) to post a few pictures of some of my favorite Christmas keepsakes. Ornaments are a very big deal to me- I’m not one of these people who decorate their tree in one shade of glass balls. Nope. I need colored lights, candy canes, precious glass balls of every color and all the funky homemade stuff my husband and I made as kids for our parents’ trees. I love every single bit of it. If this doesn’t get you in the holiday spirit, you probably need a good smacking. ;)

First up, my great-grandmother, Baba’s bells. I have about 30 of these little white bells; they used to be on Baba’s tree. I treasure anything that was once on Baba’s tree!!

This is my little kitchen tree. All the ornaments are food-related (yes, that’s a taco ornament you see in the background). ;)

Yikes. I made this in elementary school. And no, those are not giant striped turkey legs roasting on the fire….they’re stockings. Obviously.

An homage to my quirky side- our Christmas tree wouldn’t be complete without all my Nightmare Before Christmas ornaments!

I think these are my favorites. Joel and I each made these in Sunday school (at different times) as kids…before we even knew each other. They hung on our parents’ trees for years and years; and now they hang our own tree side by side every year.

From our first married Christmas…

Just one of many, many cupcake ornaments!

Baba gave this to me as a wedding gift. It’s significant because she and Pop were married in car (it’s a great story, I just don’t have time to go into right now!). My sister has one too and we both cherish them.

Joel’s mother bought this for me

This is the most special one of all. When we were in high school (long before we had even started dating), Joel brought this to me as a Christmas present. There’s a little button on the bottom that plays jingle bells when you push it; I sat in the floor pushing the button over and over again wishing Joel were my boyfriend! I knew right then I wanted to marry him! I can never hang this on our tree without crying…

So there you have it! Some of my favorite, most precious ornaments and keepsakes. And those don’t even scratch the surface- I have SO much more! I hope everyone is enjoying the Christmas season so far…baking, decorating, singing carols, and being with friends and family! Thanks for letting me share my memories with you!

Happy Baking!

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Meeting Dorie At Last!!!

The one and only Dorie Greenspan (my idol!) came to Dallas this past weekend to do a cooking demo and you KNOW I wasn’t about to miss out! After three years of worshiping her, I FINALLY got to meet her in real life and she was every bit as sweet and as wonderful as I thought she would be! I confess, I may have “geeked out” on her a couple of times….the first time she walked past us while we were in line, I waved at her so frantically you would have thought she was Santa Claus at the Christmas parade and I was a dorky 8 year old kid. But in a way, it was pretty much like getting to meet Santa as a kid- the most exciting day of your year. And it truly, truly was. She immediately walked over to Jessica and me and when we told her who we were, she got a big smile on her face and gave us both giant bear-hugs. Pure and utter joy.

The food was amazing! She made for us (all from her new book Around My French Table):

Salmon Rillettes- a delicious spread made with fresh and smoked salmon, spring onions and lemon juice. SO delicious!

Fresh Tuna, Mozzarella and Basil Pizza – so simple and light! And the puff pastry added just the right amount of richness!

Cauliflower-Bacon Gratin- OMG, so goooood!! Creamy, rich and flavorful! This dish is definitely making it to my Thanksgiving table this year!

Lamb and Dried Apricot Tagine- I think this one was my favorite. The lamb was so tender you didn’t need a knife and the spices were perfect! I loved it!

And lastly, a Sablé Breton Galette with Berries – lemon curd, strawberries and Dorie’s perfect tart crust. What’s not to love?!

Cheers, Dorie! And happy birthday to you!!!

See?? Geeking out. It happened numerous times.

OMG…Dorie hugged me!! :)

LOVE her!!!

Me, Dorie and Jessica- SO fun!

So obviously, my afternoon spent with Dorie absolutely DID NOT disappoint. I got to meet my idol, taste some fantastic food and lastly, I got an extra copy of Around My French Table to give away….to YOU!! Wheeeeeee!!!

Looky here!! That’s for YOU!! :)

So all you have to do to enter for a chance to win the fabulous Ms. Greenspan’s newest (and totally awesome!) book is:

Leave me a comment in the comments section below answering this question: “If you could meet Dorie today, what would you ask her?”

And for extra entry opportunities, feel free to do the following:

#1. ‘Like’ me on Facebook

#2. Follow me on Twitter (Sing4YourSupper)

#3. Tweet this post

You can do just one or all four if you want to- it’s up to you! Just leave a comment for each one (and if you already ‘like’ or follow me, leave a comment telling me so!). You have until Halloween (that’s Sunday) at midnight (Central Time) to enter. I’ll pick ONE very lucky winner randomly on Monday, November 1st!

Good luck!! :)

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Happy National S’mores Day!

Yep, that’s right. Today is National S’mores Day (there’s practically a “day” for every kind of food these days…). So, in honor of the occasion, I’ve put together a list of all my S’mores recipes. They’re all fool-proof and they’re all GOOD! I’m a girl who LOVES her S’mores!

1.) S’mores Cookies- these were a huge hit with the rest of the opera chorus this season. They were gobbled up in no time!

2.) S’mores Truffles- I made these (along with 3 other flavors- scroll down a ways to get to the S’mores ones) around Christmas this past year and sent them to work with Hubby. They were everyone’s favorite! Who can say no to a dark chocolate graham cracker-coated truffle with a marshmallow in the center??? Certainly not me….

3.) S’mores Bars- I made these a looooong time ago! But boy are they good!! I like these a lot because the chocolate-to-graham cracker ratio is in perfect balance- not too much chocolate like so many S’mores recipes out there! YUM!

And lastly, 4.) Ooey Gooey S’more Stuffed Brownies (my personal favorite)- these were right on the money! Amazingly rich, gooey and chock-full of S’mores goodness! How could anybody resist these babies?? That’s right- they can’t! Try these- you won’t be sorry!

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Welcome to My Kitchen!

I absolutely love it when food bloggers post pictures of their kitchens on their blogs- I love to see other people’s kitchens and get an inside look at where it all happens! It’s so much fun to see personalities come to life through that person’s kitchen style; the way they decorate, what colors they love, what kind of gadgets they like to use, what cookbooks they display, etc. So I decided that after 2 years of food blogging, it was about time you all got to see where it all happens! So……welcome to my kitchen!

Looking in from the entrance to the dining room. The kitchen is right off of the dining room and a lot of the time I end up using the tables as extra counter space or a cookie/cake cooling station.

I love this shelf! This is where I keep all my Fiestaware plates and bowls- and lots of other colorful odds and ends!

This is the dining room. We don’t have a breakfast area, really; just one big area with two small sections (sort of). This is the table I take all my pictures on, and it’s my great-grandmother’s furniture- it’s been in the family a long time!

Close-up of the dining room table. I just painted it- it used to be black and white striped (which you’ve probably noticed in all of my old pictures- there were always stripes in the background!)

The “breakfast area”- sort of. Basically just the other half of the dining room. The kitchen is just off to the left there.

And here we are, finally- the kitchen!

My favorite picture in the house!

The American Woman’s cookbook (the green one) is the first cookbook my great-grandmother bought as a 19 year-old bride over 80 years ago. And in the background is my new apron (the pink one) that hubby gave me for my birthday last week!

The smallest pantry known to man…*sigh*

Looking into the living room from the dining room

And of course, my kitchen wouldn’t be nearly as happy and full of love if these two characters weren’t in it!

So there you have it- my cozy little kitchen (…and dining room)! This is where it all happens- the good, the bad and (definitely), the ugly! I really hope you’ve enjoyed the “tour”!

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Great [Cookie] News!

You remember how I won that cookie contest back in November? And as my prize, my cookies were sold at a well-known bakery for a couple of weeks and the profits went to a local charity? Remember all that?? Well, turns out, the cookies were so successful the bakery couldn’t keep them on the shelves- they were selling out every single day! Wahooooo! And, they brought in over $1,200 for the charity! How awesome is that??!

So here’s the great news: the bakery owner (Catherine Ruehl, who was recently on the Food Network Cake Challenge) loved my cookies so much, they’re going to continue selling them the rest of the year and give the proceeds to charity! I’m beyond flattered… The best part is, they offer nation-wide shipping, so if you want to taste my cookies and decide for yourself if they really are “award-winning” or not ;-) you can have them delivered to your house! NEAT!! Or for those of you who live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, just waltz in and pick some up! Here’s the bakery info:

Sublime Bakery
Country Day Plaza
5512 Bellaire Dr. South
Fort Worth, Texas 76109
817-570-9630
www.sublimebakery.com

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Anyway, I just wanted to share this cool piece of news with you all- I’m pretty excited! If any of you actually do get to try some of these, please let me know what you think – I’d love to hear from you (unless it’s negative…in which case, just feed them to your cat and keep it to yourself) ;-)

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Winning Feels Good…(really good!!)

I’ve been holding onto a little piece of news for a couple of weeks now – about a month ago, I entered a cookie contest for a newspaper in the DFW area. A week went by and I got an email saying my cookies (Toasted Oatmeal with Golden Raisins, Pecans and Coconut) made it onto the Semi-Finals! Woo-Hoo! Honestly, I never expected them to even get that far. The next step was for me to take a plate of my cookies to the newspaper office for more judging. Shortly thereafter, I got another email – onto the Final round! Oh YEAH! This time, professional pastry chefs and bakery owners would make my cookies following the recipe I provided (um, talk about nerve-wracking!). Then, I got a call from super-sweet Stephanie saying I WON! Holy cow, this was a total and utter shock! What an awesome surprise…my humble little oatmeal cookie won a contest; now that will brighten anyone’s day!

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This is an awesome opportunity because my cookies are going to be sold at a bakery in Fort Worth for 2 weeks this month! How cool is that?! They can even be shipped nation-wide; and all the proceeds go to charity – really cool! I got to have my picture in the paper and everything (that’s a big deal for ‘lil ‘ol me!) – the photo shoot was so much fun…the photographer had me make all kinds of fun poses/faces! I’m just glad they chose a semi-normal looking picture for the article!

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Just for fun, here is the article, which includes the recipe (sorry, it’s no longer online!). Thanks again, Stephanie, all the other Fort Worth Star Telegram employees and pastry chefs who chose my cookie and gave me a really fun treat this holiday season!!

Toasted Oatmeal Cookies with Golden Raisins, Coconut and Pecans

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (one stick) plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp.
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 – 1 cup (however much you want, really) shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine oats, coconut and pecans and spread on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until the coconut becomes fragrant, stirring frequently. Let cool. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice in a bowl. Set aside. In a separate bowl, cream both sugars and butter until light, fluffy and smooth. Add egg, half and half and vanilla and blend until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture, the toasted oat mixture, then the raisins. Drop dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper in rounded spoonfuls (or you can use a cookie scoop) about 2 inches apart. Bake for about 12 -15 minutes or until edges of cookies are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack for cooling.

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The Winner!

Ok, I know I said I was going to post the winner on Monday, but honestly, I couldn’t wait anymore!

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giveaway

Um, wow…..I was really shocked at the number of people who commented this week! I had no idea you were all out there! Hi!! :-)

I really wish everybody could’ve won….I hate having to just pick one person. Especially since everyone’s answers were so good – there’s definitely going to be some FUN Christmas baking going on in all your kitchens this year! That being said, I did indeed have to pick just one winner….and here she is:

winner

Aria! You’re the winner!! Yaaaaaay! Good luck trying your mom’s Pizzelles this year – I bet they’ll turn out beautifully! And now you have a cookie decorating book and a Linzer cut-out set! Enjoy it!!

Thanks everybody, for making my very first giveaway a total success! Hopefully there will be many more to come! Happy baking!

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