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Photography handover #2

Last time I started updating the photos on this website, using photos that I asked Grant to help me out with.  I am honestly happier with the photos that we are taking now, but would always welcome suggestions for the recipes and the photos.

Here’s the latest installment of the photos that we’ve taken, with the before (my photos) and after (Grant’s photos) shots.  As I mentioned last time, I’m updating the recipes as I go, so make sure you check back on a regular basis to see what’s been cooking at our place!

My photos

 

Grant’s photos

 
Oatmeal granola cookies  -> Oatmeal granola cookies (800x600) Oatmeal granola cookies
Almond blueberry granola   Almond blueberry granola bow (800x600) Almond blueberry granola
No-bake oats and raisin bar  -> No bake oat and raisin bar No bake oat and raisin bar
Chocolate peanut butter cheesecake  -> Chocolate pb tofu slice (800x600) Healthy chocolate peanut butter cheesecake
Oat balls  -> Oat balls (800x600) No bake oat balls

What do you think?  I’ve been getting some good comments on Instagram for my new and improved photos – but would always love to hear from you guys as well.

I kind of went a little overboard with baking and obsessing over taking photos of nearly everything over the past week, so please spare a thought for my poor family.  Yes, I’ve already got enough photos to share with you for a third installment … but you’ll have to wait for next week.  And I need to stop baking so much (and eating so much) to catch up with all the recipes.  Oh yeah, relaxing on the weekend outside of the kitchen …  What’s that again?

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Photography handover #1

My last blog post talked about how I wanted to get more involved in social media – Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, as well as Twitter.  Well, it’s been a steep learning curve in the short time since then.  I have realized that my photos just aren’t up there with what’s needed to get people’s attention.  So I did what any normal person would do – and complained about it to everyone nearest and dearest to me.  Grant bore the brunt of it, I’m afraid, but being the awesome husband he is, he gave me a lot of suggestions.

I started to take them on board, and then realized that I am really not that creative with visual graphics.  Creativity in the kitchen?  Yep, not a problem.  Creativity in looking through a camera lens?  I think you’ve got the wrong person!  So I asked Grant if I could coerce him into being my ‘official website photographer’.  And he said ‘yes’!  Yay!  

I looked through all the photos on this website and realized I didn’t like really any of them.  And I told Grant that I’d be working my way through ALL of the recipes and making them again, just so we could improve on the photos.  I also told the guys at work to expect a lot of cookies and cakes since I didn’t really want all that stuff at home – it’s bad enough the amount that I eat while making them!

Anyway, we went down to the local cheapie store and bought some new dishes and placemats for accessories and here’s a few comparison photos from the first few photoshoots.  I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions for making the photos better! (I’m also happy to re-make all these recipes again if you’ve got some really good suggestions!).

 

My photos

 

Grant’s photos

 
Taco soup  -> Taco Soup P Taco soup
Gluten-free cornbread  -> Cornbread muffins red paint Cornbread muffins
Coconut peanut butter balls  -> Coconut pb balls (800x600) Coconut peanut butter balls
No oats granola  -> No oats granola P No oats granola
2015-02-24 Tortilla chips  -> Tortilla chips (800x600) Tortilla chips and red pepper hummus

I just showed the draft of this post to Grant and he thought I was blaming him for the horrible photos.  Well, he was blaming it on our ‘point and shoot’ camera mainly.  I still think they are 1000x better than my attempts!  What do you think?  And this way he may actually get the expensive camera he’s always been wanting.  I’m glad that my hobby and his desire are colliding so well!

The side effect of this is that I made a really awesome pumpkin pie on the weekend – and was going to post the recipe on this website for you all to share with me.  But, the photos looked terrible, so you’ll just have to wait until I can make it again, and get the photos to look half-way decent!

Anyway, stay tuned.  When I re-make the recipes (for the photos … the enjoyment of eating them is just secondary!), I’ll also be updating the recipes so keep checking back to see what’s new on the website.

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Social media expansion

I am one of the most inept social media people out there.  I signed up for Twitter a few years ago and had a bit of success while I was doing my US National Food Day Quest (which lasted for nearly a year until I realized I wasn’t having fun any more).  Since then I’ve just been posting here and there with new recipes and getting more ideas for me to try out in the kitchen.

Until now.  After my recent experimentation with developing recipes for Veggie Fries and having success with them publishing recipes from little ol’ me, I thought I may have some further potential with developing more contacts in the industry and learning new tricks and recipes.  I had a chat with one of my friends who has a food blog which has just skyrocketed off (thanks Laura – check out her website at Joy.Food.Sunshine) and she recommended going on Instagram and Pinterest, as well as connecting with some local food bloggers on Facebook.  

So me, being the ever-interested-in-learning person that I am, took her advice and I now have accounts for each of those social media sites.  And you can follow me on them!  Here’s the details (do you see a trend in the usernames??):

Twitter: sarahcookathome

Facebook: www.facebook.com/cookathome.info

Instagram: cookathome.info

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/sarahcookathome

Or, if you don’t want to search, you can just click on the buttons on the toolbar!  To be honest, that’s what I would do …!

Anyway, any tips or tricks you can give me to continue to share all these awesome recipes would be greatly appreciated!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Veggie Fries!

I’m so excited!  I’m so excited!  Why?  Well, I have just had some of my recipes chosen to be published by an honest-to-goodness food company!  

Veggie Fries are Frozen French Fries made from a blend of all natural farm grown vegetables, legumes and potatoes, chopped and blended together with herbs, spices and just a pinch of sea salt.  They are vegan, non-GMO certified and free of the top 8 allergens including gluten, soy, dairy and wheat (see eatveggiefries.com).  

veggie-fries-NEW-980x360

They sent out a request for volunteers a few weeks ago and my internal experimental cook jumped up and down and told me to do it.  So I have been trying lots of different things, and some of my recipes (see the recipe section of their website) were published on the Veggie Fries website this week.  And I am still jumping up and down with excitement!

I should point out that I was given coupons to obtain their products for my experimentation and I was sent a gift pack with some Veggie Fries swag after these were published … Grant and I had a lot of fun doing a ‘photo shoot’ to show off the swag!

But I am loving the challenge!  I’ve got some more ideas for using Veggie Fries … including in desserts.  Anyone for a peanut butter dessert using Veggie Fries?  Or chocolate and Veggie Fries?

All I know is that I’m having fun.  And helping out another company.  And that’s good enough for me!

Please feel free to check out the Veggie Fries website (repeat eatveggiefries.com) and products (if you live in the US).  And my recipes as well!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

 

Strange cookie ingredients

I had a bizarre idea a few weeks ago – what can I put in cookies that people wouldn’t necessarily think of putting in cookies.  And my brain started whirring.  Then I spent a very enjoyable day in the kitchen baking a number of different types of cookies, basically using up a whole pile of ingredients I had lying around.  And here’s the result:

2016-06 Strange ingredient cookies

Some of these I’ve just posted recipes for (i.e. the ones that worked) and some I just had to throw in the trash (those I’m not going to give you the recipe for!).  So going from the ‘Sarah’s kitchen kettle’ clockwise:

  • Pineapple cookies – recipe posted here
  • Sour cream sugar cookies – basically tasteless
  • Pistachio choc chip cookies – using instant pudding mix, recipe posted here
  • Chocolate cream cheese cookies – ok, but not dazzling

And then I remembered when I first started working in my new job, I would hold ‘guess the mystery ingredient’ competitions.  You know how it is, you want to make a good impression, meet new people etc.  And I remembered the cookies I used (funny how all of them are peanut butter based!):

  • Chickpea chocolate chip peanut butter cookies (recipe here)
  • Quinoa peanut butter cookies (recipes here for the no-refined sugar version and here for the ‘normal’ sugar version)
  • Peanut butter mystery cookies – using ketchup (recipe here)

It took a while for my colleagues to guess the ketchup and the chickpea cookies but the quinoa ones they guess within about 30 mins of the competition starting.

Anyway, I’m always looking for other interesting ingredients to make into cookies and I’d love your feedback.  Please write in the comments section below if you have any ideas for me to try, or any recipes you may have with ‘strange’ cookie ingredients.

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

I bake … therefore I run

I realize I haven’t posted many new recipes recently.  Don’t worry, my dear friends.  I’ve got stacks of yummy new things for you to try out.  Things that range from spicy Thai cucumber salad to flourless tahini cookies just to name a few.  I just need to download the photos and get my butt into gear and put the recipes together.  I have been baking and cooking up a storm recently – and had a stack of fun doing it too!  And, as always, you are aware of my tendency to sample a lot of the batter while baking, so I’ve been trying to look after the eating/exercise balance again.  

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on which way you look at this, I was coerced into joining a team from work to run a Ragnar relay.  For those of you who don’t know what this is, check out this link … Ragnar.  Basically it’s 12 people, running almost 200 miles overall in a relay race.  Each person runs 3 times, for varying distances and at varying difficulties.  It all takes place over about a day and a half, with very little sleep or downtime.  I’ve been training a lot, running 5-6 times a week to get my legs trained for this.  And the race was this weekend.

I did 16 miles in total – two in the heat of the day and one at night time.  And got very little sleep overnight.  But I had an awesome group of people in the van with me, and they put up with me.  

I had a great time training, and with all the running (and baking), my weight actually stayed relatively stable over the past month or so.  I now know how much exercise I need to do if I want to keep up that level of baking … maybe I should cut down on both sides!

I came home this afternoon and baked.  As I do.  And I made these awesome peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.  And I’ll put up the recipe for them shortly.  But trust me, it was worth the many hours I had to think about recipes …

Anyway, just wanted to check in and let you know that I’m still around, still baking and cooking, still planning on giving you lots of options for having fun in the kitchen.  Stay tuned for the recipes!  And feel free to comment on anything you read here!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home,

Sarah

Nut allergies …

As most of you know, I love nuts.  Specifically peanuts.  My typical go-to meal for when we have guests is a peanut satay chicken stir-fry (using this sauce), followed by a chocolate pudding (recipe here).  We recently had some dinner guests where one of the kids was/is allergic to nuts.  All nuts.  My alternative go-to main course recipe is the broccoli and bacon fettucine (recipe here), but I was told that the father of the family couldn’t stand broccoli.  Add this to us trying to eat healthier, and limit sweets with sugar to just once a week (and we had already committed to a dessert later that weekend).  Now this shouldn’t have caused me to panic, but I did …

So, Abby and I looked through my recipe folder and came up with a healthy dessert, which didn’t contain any nuts.  I took my chocolate banana pie (recipe here) and adapted it.  Abby helped me, as she wants to learn how to cook ALL the recipes in my folder.  And by all, I mean ALL.  She has in her mind that we’ll knock off a few recipes each week, she’ll help me and take notes on what I change (’cause I do change, even my own recipes!).  Anyway, more on that later.

Our adaptations were:

  • Instead of walnuts in the crust, we used flaxseed meal
  • Instead of peanut butter in the filling, we used sunflower seed butter

Nothing to out of the ordinary, but gee, it was yummy!

2016-03-17 Chocolate banana pie

The funny thing was, when Abby and I were making this pie, I was encouraging her to try all the ingredients so she got a sense of what each thing tasted like.  As most of you are aware, Abby hates dried fruit.  Really hates it.  To the point that every time I give her something I’ve made I have to tell her whether it has any dried fruit in it or not.  So, making the crust with dates, flaxseed meal and cocoa, she wouldn’t eat the dates by themselves.  When they had all been processed together, she tried some.  She’s a funny girl, that one, but I love her heaps and wouldn’t want her any other way.

Oh yeah, for the main course we had ribs and veggies.  Grant cooked the ribs and is becoming quite the expert in the art.  They were VERY yummy!

Anyway, hope you’ve enjoyed reading my adventures.  Stay tuned for more cooking with kids stuff as Abby and I go through the recipes …

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Competition entry

My wonderful readers, I need your help!  I have entered the Earth Balance Cupcake Challenge with some yummy blueberry crumble cupcakes.  The winner is determined by which photo/recipe obtains the most votes, so follow the link here (Earth Balance Cupcake Challenge and choose the tab with ‘Gallery’) and where you see the following photo, click on the link to either ‘like’ or ‘tweet’ about it.  The more votes, the more chances I have of winning.

Earth Balance Blueberry crumble cupcakes

So let me tell you about these cupcakes.  They are a mixture of the original blueberry muffin recipe on this website (here), mixed with some crumble from my apple crumble recipe (here) and then glazed with a topping I kind of made up as I went along.  They are gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, mostly refined sugar-free (apart from the powdered sugar in the topping) and mostly nut-free (apart from some almond milk).  And they are light and fluffy, with a taste and texture that really surprised me.  I think you can get the recipe from the competition website, but once the competition is over, I’ll be posting it on this website too.

And there’s a story behind why I made these cupcakes – apart from just wanting to bake and enter into the competition.  I originally wanted to make the strawberry basil cupcakes (recipe here) and I had them in the oven, when I realized that they included eggs.  Now the challenge was for a ‘vegan’ cupcake, so eggs were out.  Then I thought I could use my donut recipe (see here) but halfway through realized that i wasn’t going to use any of the Earth Balance products, so I used some of their peanut butter to make a peanut butter banana cupcake.  Unfortunately, they turned out pretty heavy and dense.  So I didn’t want to share that with the rest of the internet world!

And I was going to try using my all-time favorite gluten-free brownie recipe (see here) and substitute ground oats for the egg (just to try it) but was worried they would be very crumbly and fudgey, not really like a cupcake.  Actually I still might try that recipe some time and see how it turns out.  Stay tuned.  

Anyway, as I was flicking through my recipe folder, I came upon the blueberry muffin recipe, which didn’t need eggs and used vegetable oil – which I easily switched to the Earth Balance product.  And to make it look a little more fancy, I included a crumble on top, with a drizzle of a slight hint of lemon in the topping.  Mmmm, they were yummy!

So, I would love it if you would vote for this photo and see if I can win something … Oh, and try the recipe (or any of the other ones that I’ve linked to in this post!) and let me know what you think.

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Everything’s better with bacon

We’ve been in the US for just over 18 months now and have realized the truth of the statement ‘everything is better with bacon’.  When Grant and I get to go out for a work dinner (at someone else’s expense) there’s usually the question of whether any of the appetizers are wrapped in bacon!

I didn’t grow up having bacon and eggs for breakfast, or much pork at all, come to think of it.  It’s only been later in my life that I found that I actually liked toasted ham and cheese sandwiches, I still struggle with ham steaks and some of the other pork products … I remember one time my mum cooked some pork schnitzels for dinner and wouldn’t tell me what the meat was – I KNEW it wasn’t chicken!  Maybe that’s where Abby gets her food fussiness from – think beans, any dried fruit … but I digress.

A weekend or so ago I realized that somehow Grant and I had managed to buy too much bacon and we had to eat a lot of it before it went off.  The rest we kept in the freezer, for the next time we feel like bacon and eggs and realize we’ve got to defrost the whole packet!  This weekend Abby had suggested that we make stuffed pork chops for one of the meals (thanks to us watching Worst Cooks in America).  Unfortunately on the episode that had the stuffed pork chop inspiration, the chefs had cooked it and given it to the contestants without any instructions and the contestants had to recreate it.  So, I did some research of my own and came up with a recipe that was gluten and dairy free – a bacon and apple stuffing (see here for the recipe).  And I have to say, it was worth the effort.  I slightly overcooked the pork, but the stuffing was delicious.

Stuffed pork chop

We were invited to a neighbor’s house for Superbowl and I (obviously) offered to bring some snacks.  Trying to reduce the amount of sugar I’m eating, I thought of bacon-wrapped dates.  The recipe is very easy – cut bacon rashers in half or thirds.  Pit Medjool or other variety of date and roll in bacon.  Bake in oven at 350F for 15 mins and allow to cool slightly before eating.  So simple.  So yummy, I surprised myself that I really REALLY liked these!

Bacon wrapped dates

The next day we were having guests over for dinner and I’d been wanting to try my bacon and broccoli pasta recipe (see here) with turkey bacon and coconut cream.  So, while unfortunately our guests cancelled on us, we still had a really yummy dinner.   To make it dairy-free I used nutritional yeast instead of parmesan cheese and coconut cream instead of the normal cream.  Also added a few shakes of salt and pepper and the end result was awesome.  So awesome I forgot to take a photo of the actual dish, so you’ll have to put up with an old photo of this dish!

2015-05-10 Bacon & broccoli pasta

And to top off the whole ‘Bacon’ extravaganza, it was recently Shrove, or Pancake Tuesday.  I wanted a pancake with the bacon, eggs and maple syrup that I’d seen Grant enjoy many times since we’ve been here.  I’ve never been brave enough to try it, but for some reason I wanted to see if my non-dislike of bacon extended this far.  Grant and I actually got invited to a work dinner for that night, which I was upset about since I wouldn’t get my pancakes, but Grant (being the awesome husband that he is) offered to get up early and make me pancakes for breakfast.  And he did.  And it was yummy.  And I just might do this again … maybe for my birthday?

Pancake, bacon & eggs

Thanks for reading through this longer than normal post, but it was fun just dribbling on about bacon (coz that’s what bacon makes you do!).  Hope you’ve enjoyed the adventures with bacon – if you have a favorite bacon recipe that you would like to share with me, let me know in the comments below!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home.

Sarah

Christmas baking for neighbors

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas (sung in a nice Bing Crosby-style voice … not really!).  And this year, due to all the other baking and cooking and entertaining we have been doing recently, I wasn’t going to bake cookies for the neighbors.  But then, they kept bringing us Christmas gifts, so I thought the only decent thing to do, would be to bake.  And give the majority of baked goods away.  But I still ate a bit too much cookie dough in the process … I’m working on that problem of mine!

So, here is what I madefor the neighbors:

  • Gingerbread donuts – using this gingerbread recipe here;
  • Carrot cake – all-time favorite recipe here;
  • Sugar cookies – using a recipe I have had handwritten in my folder for years, but haven’t been able to make it because it calls for custard powder – something that is quite rare in the US.  But we were given 4 boxes of gluten and dairy-free custard powder earlier this year which I’ve been saving for just an occasion.  Oh, and making custard with it too!  Anyway, I still wasn’t totally happy with the product, so I’ll need to tinker around with it a little more before putting it on this website.
  • Chocolate orange cupcakes – this was Abby’s cupcakes of the week – you can read more about them here.

2015 Christmas baking for neighbors

Who would want to be our neighbors?

So Abby and I dressed up in our Santa hats and delivered them, one-by-one to the neighbors.  And learnt the hard way, that ice can be difficult to see on concrete at night time.  I still have the bruise on my leg as evidence … fortunately we only lost one of the cupcakes and one slice of carrot cake … which I just had to eat to make sure they all still tasted good.  I think the neighbors enjoyed them, although I’ve never seen them eat any of my baking … I wonder …!

Anyway, I also wanted to take this opportunity to wish all of you an awesome holiday time and to take care of yourselves.  And if you’re doing stuff in the kitchen, enjoy it!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

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