Colourful Sweet Potato and Kale Frittata

Inspired by all the tortilla I had in Spain, when I came across this colourful sweet potato and kale frittata, I knew I had to give it a go.  Loaded with good nutrition (both kale and sweet potatoes are considered super foods…more on that later), the magazine photo had my mouth watering!

ready to cook

Ingredients

  • 1 medium sweet potato, cubed
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced (approx 1 cup)
  • 4 large curly kale leaves, ribs removed, torn into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goats cheese

food prep

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Steam sweet potato cubes until soft.
  2. Whisk eggs, mustard and vinegar together.  Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Coat large oven proof skillet with cooking spray (makes removing the frittata considerable easier).  Add oil and place over medium-high heat.  Saute onions (3 minutes).
  4. Add kale and saute for another 2 minutes, until wilted.
  5. Add sweet potato and toss to blend, arranging vegetables over bottom of skillet.
  6. Carefully pour eggs over vegetables without displacing.  Cook on stovetop for 3 minutes, until bottom is set.
  7. Transfer skillet to oven.  Bake for 10 minutes or until set in centre.
  8. (I added goat cheese here and put back in oven for another minute)
  9. Using a heat proof spatula, loosen frittata from skillet and slide onto platter.

Nutritional breakdown based on 4 servings:  298 calories, 18g protein, 16g total fat (6g sat fat), 21g carbohydrate, 379 mg cholesterol, 318 mg sodium, 3g fibre, 6g sugars

vegetarian frittata

So colourful and tasty – how could you go wrong?

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Food Photography 101

Lately, I have been taking a lot of photos of food while I travel.  San Sebastian’s Food Week in Spain was amazing and I couldn’t help but document it for my readers at Travel Destination Bucket List. (Restaurants and cooking school links: San Sebastian Food, La Muralla, Ni Neu, La Fabrica)

While I revelled in the foods and flavours, I quickly learned how hard it is to do food photography.  Low lights in restaurants and lack of tripod meant that a number of shots were not as I envisioned!  It got me thinking – surely a google search on food photography will yield some answers.  It certainly did – 479,000,000 hits.  I narrowed it down to food photography tips – a mere 119,000,000 hits!  Digital Photography School was the first to come up.  As a fan of their site, theirs was the first I clicked!

I realized quickly, for my purposes anyway, there are 2 schools of food photography that are of interest to me:

1.  Food photography in restaurants.  While I love food, cooking and eating, travel is my passion.  I hope to share many restaurant reviews from all around the world.  I need to improve my skills if I am to share my finds. (Travel Destination Bucket List has a food category for delectable dishes from around the world!)

2.  Food photography in a controlled setting.  When I am at home, in my kitchen, I love to cook.  I started NutritionallyYours to share some of my insights while studying nutrition, but have found it tends to focus more on food and recipes…hence the need for food photography.

So….here are the Food Photography 101 tips I have put together for Food Photography in a Controlled Setting.

Lighting

Like driving a car, if you are going to light up your food, the best placement is 10 and 2!  Keep the light soft where possible to avoid harsh shadows and distorted lines in your food.  Some say natural light from a window will cast the best light on your food.  Others recommend a light box to diffuse the light.  My home setup is pretty simple.  To date, I have been using a high ISO to compensate for the lack of light in my kitchen.  A simple desk lamp has also saved the day on a few occasions.

Composition Basics

Crop, crop, crop (music to my ears) where appropriate.  You want the food to be the focus, not the clutter on the counter top.  You also don’t want a huge expanse of nothing behind your dish.  A tight crop will bring focus to your food, simplifying the shot so that the food literally jumps off the photo.  Crop with the lens by getting in close.  Getting in close will also highlight the texture of the food.  Let’s get up and personal.

Foreground the food – make it front and centre in the shot.  Food photography is about making the food the subject.  Make it stand out by giving it the prime position in your viewfinder.

If cropping is not the answer as you want context…use Depth of Field to your benefit.  Perhaps you are setting up the shot for a picnic dish – why not photograph that dish on a picnic table so the context of the use of the food is evident in the photo.

While I have yet to master this technique…I love it when I come across photos of a serving of the food in question in focus in the front of the shot with the remained of the dish in the background, gently out of focus and basically, out of range.  Works brilliantly with pies, quiches, pizzas etc….  Anything that has been created as a dish with a piece taken from it!

Angle

Shoot from a lower angle – it will better highlight the food, giving depth and volume to the photo.  Fork view will keep it interesting.  Some say to shoot at a 45 degree angle.

Staging or Food Styling

Real estate agents do it with houses all the time.  Professional photographers are no different – check out some high end food photos – everything has a purpose in that photo and is meant to create an image, sell a product or stimulate you to cook that recipe…  Remove the clutter from the background, use props where appropriate and add context where needed.  On my post from the food experience from La Muralla, one of the comments I got was in regards to the size of the hand made ravioli.  With no reference point, it was hard to tell how big the ravioli was.  Lesson learned – I will look at adding a fork in the future to give the context of size!

Oil – while I have yet to try this, a number of sites recommended a small amount of vegetable oil may be used to enhance the photo.  It’s like photo shop before the photo is even taken!  Just be careful – it is possible to over oil your food, giving it a greasy appearance.  That most likely won’t be too appetizing!

Clean up – they do it in the best of restaurants…and you should too!  Before shooting the food, take a cloth and wipe the plate, eliminating any crumbs, sauce smudges or marks on the plate that don’t belong on your photo.

Action

I never would have even thought of this, but it is true…action brings a dynamic element to a photograph, whether it is food photography or otherwise.  Use a tripod to get a slower shutter speed to capture the motion.  Take the shot just as the food comes out of the oven and you have the steam rising up – makes it more appetizing and places the viewer in the shot.  How about garlic sizzling in a hot pan of oil??  One of the shots I took while in the kitchen at San Sebastian Food’s cooking class was the classic flames with the gas stovetop – while it wasn’t a perfect shot – I still love it!

Colour

No one wants a dull and unappetizing dish…make sure the colours pop in your shot.  Crazy plates with colourful designs may distract from your food, but out of focus background colour should lend a warmer feel to the photograph.  Carefully chosen background colours can really make your food pop.  Have a little fun with it – try different props to add colour – a pretty napkin or place mat my be all you need.

Equipment

Any camera will do.  Point and shoots these days even have a food setting for taking photos of your dinner.  You see people pulling these out in restaurants all the time!  Phones aren’t just for talking anymore either….it is amazing how things have changed with the camera quality smart phones out there.  While some photography tips suggest a macro, I have found the 50 mm fixed to be great to work with.  It always for such a narrow depth of field, yet isn’t too powerful a lens.  I find my 100 mm macro to be a brilliant lens, but sometimes a little too much for my crop happy ways and limited kitchen space!  I have a tendency to use my favourite “all-in-one” travel lens – the 18 – 200 mm.  My kitchen isn’t that big and the range of focal lengths can’t be beat when I use that one!  If you are looking at light boxes and off camera flash photography, you are already well above my skill set!  Perhaps you would like to write a more technical post for me – but my skills and equipment are not there yet!

I do see the benefits of using a tripod and will most likely be giving that a go for some fun action shots.

I have a long way to go in my food photography skills – but these are some of the top Food Photography Tips links  I found on my internet search:

Digital Photography School Part 2

Michael Ray’s Food Portfolio

Mashable

Healthy Happy Life

Dreaming of Morocco: Moroccan Spiced Rack of Lamb

High on my bucket list of travel is Morocco – so exotic and inspiring, I hope to travel there one day for sure!  For now, I will have to be happy with bringing Morocco home through the kitchen!

dinner is served!

I was thrilled when I came across JaneSpice’s Moroccan Spiced Rack of Lamb for some Moroccan inspired dinner.  With a rack of lamb defrosting in the fridge, it was time to check out the flavour rack!  The recipe calls for a lot of spices, a couple of which I don’t have, but JaneSpice suggests this is not a deal breaker!

Spice List

  • 1 tbsp mild paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp tumeric
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground caraway seeds
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 10 saffron threads, finely broken
  • 1 tsp salt

Mix and rub into 1 rack of lamb (about 1.5 to 2 pounds)

preparing Moroccan lamb

Cook time: 20 – 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  Let rest, covered, for 10 minutes, before carving.  (I know everyone’s oven cooks somewhat differently, but I found 27 minutes to be the perfect time for a medium rare rack.)

The flavours were awesome!  You could easily vary the heat with more or less of the cayenne pepper.I served with roasted potato, beets and carrots drizzled in honey and left over spice rub with a fabulous Aussie shiraz….

Australian shiraz

صحّتين (باللهجة اللبنانية). (Bon appetit!)

Pizza Weekend

Who says pizza can’t be healthy??  This weekend is all about relaxation.  I have sipped wine by the fire reading a book, enjoyed a walk in the sunshine, and had some fun in the kitchen.  Homemade pizza – it’s the way to go!

I don’t know where the dough recipe first came from – I have been using it for years.  The only modification – I sub in about a 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour – I have yet to have much luck with adding more and keeping a perfect crust.

Pizza Dough

  • 3 cups flour (I usually do 1/2 cup whole wheat, 2 1/2 cups all purpose)
  • 1 pkg (2 1/4 tsp) dry active yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • Mix all dry ingredients together, then add
  • 1 cup warm water with 2 tbsp vegetable oil.

Knead together until you have a nice consistency in your dough.  Makes enough for 2 pizzas.  I usually wrap half the dough in saran and throw in the fridge for the next day.

When ready, spread the dough on a large pizza pan, top as desired and bake at 375 F for 20 – 25 minutes.

The beauty of pizza – dress as you like.  Today, I ran out of red peppers (they all went on yesterdays pizza!!!), so I added broccoli to the mix.  Some thinly sliced sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms, sweet vidalia onions, sliced honey ham and crumbled goats cheese to round out the toppings and voila – a delish pizza on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Secret ingredients 

#1  Balsamic Vinegar – reduce to make a thicker sauce and drizzle – adds a little extra zing and loads of flavour

#2  Rocket/Arugula – so good for you in so many ways, also adding a fresh flavour and nutritious goodness!

Hope you are enjoying your weekend.  It’s pizza time!

Lightly Curried Carrot and Ginger Soup

Anne Lindsay’s cookbooks are fantastic – and the lightly curried carrot and ginger soup is no exception!  Comforting on a cold day or after a morning of skiing – the flavours of this soup always hit the spot.

So – what if dairy is not your friend?  Her recipe calls for 2 cups of milk (or a combo of milk, yogurt and coconut milk).  Decided to experiment a little – substituting 1 cup of almond milk for the dairy products.  The almond milk maintained that creamy texture and only added to the flavour of a soup already loaded with taste!

Lightly Curried Carrot and Ginger Soup

  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp minced gingerroot (I grated it with the micro planer)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 each: curry powder, salt and pepper
  • 4 cups thickly sliced peeled carrots (approx 1 1/2 lbs or 750 g)
  • 3 cups stock – vegetable or chicken
  • 2 cups milk (or 1/3 milk/yogurt/coconut milk)  substituted 1 cup almond milk (sugar free)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
  • Note: I also added 1/4 cup red lentils – thicken it up and for no other reason than, I could!

1.  In large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat; cook garlic, onion, ginger, coriander, cumin, curry powder, salt and pepper; stirring occasionally for about 5 mins or until onion is softened.

2.  Stir in carrots.  Pour in stock; bring to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered.  Approx 30 mins, or until carrots are soft.

3.  In batches, puree mixture in blender or food processor.  (I prefer my hand held blender – stick it right in the pot – works a charm!)  Whisk in milk (or substitutes); reheat just until hot.  Add salt and pepper to taste (optional).

4.  Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with cilantro and enjoy!

Makes approx 6 – 1 cup servings.

Anne Lindsay gives a nutritional breakdown based on her original recipe.  For those who are interested:

Per serving (1 cup):

calories:  108, protein 4 g, total fat 4 g (sat fat 1 g, cholesterol 6 mg), carbohydrate 15 g, dietary fiber 2 g, sodium 504 mg.

Even with the milk product, she suggests this soup can be frozen – although it is so tasty, and even better the next day…..good luck having enough to freeze!

Hope you enjoy the curried carrot and gineger soup!  Bon appetit!

You know your dish was a hit when…

Every January I do a post Christmas finger food party.  There are generally 40ish people who come and we always have a ball!  The craziness of Christmas behind us, it is a great time to catch up, have a few drinks and a laugh!  This year, it almost didn’t happen – too much going on at work with a business trip the days leading up to the weekend.

While I prefer all my food to be made the day of, and as fresh as possible, the one dish that has consistently been a hit, thankfully, is often made a few days in advance.  It is the simplest thing to make, freezes well and rarely do I ever get any leftovers!  What can this wonderful dish be???  The simple meatball!  Taken from an old Canadian Living magazine of all places!  Tried, tested and true….if you don’t believe me….check out the before and after:

Before:

Freezer Meatballs – Makes approx 150 little gems!

4 eggs
4 small onions, grated
1 cup dry breadcrumbs
4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
4 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp salt (I only used approx 1/4 salt – I never use enough!)
1 tsp pepper
4 lbs (2kg) lean ground beef
(recipe suggests you can also use chicken, lamb or pork – I have only used beef)

1. In bowl, beat eggs, mix in onions, crumbs, worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt and pepper.
2. Mix in beef.  Mix well.
3. Shape by level tbsp (I used a melon baller – and they were smaller than a tbsp)
4. Place on foil lined cookie sheet – bake at 450F for 10 minutes.

I used a delicious Honey Garlic BBQ sauce to serve.  They were a hit!

After:

Always a hit – and ever so easy!!!  I had 3 requests for my meatball recipe – and the crazy thing is, it is the simplest thing I served!!!