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Archive for June, 2010

There’s been a lot of fun in my kitchen this week.

Of course, I will show you all the creations in the upcoming posts.

Among the things that I have made or plan to make this week there’s garlic bread, cauliflower casserole, orange-vanilla popsicles, strawberry cheesecake and also a special surprise that has something to do with Friday’s GIVEAWAY.

So stay tuned!

And now back to the ‘Garlic Cheese Bread’.

Have you ever tried making your own garlic cheese bread?

Well, you definitely need to give it a try.

It’s the best thing ever!

Because it’s easy.

And it has a magical ability to make your soul happy!

And because when you make it you’ll get rewarded by a wonderful crispy piece of fragrant and flavorful heaven.

Need I say anything more?

Please, have a look at how I made this finger-licking treat…
 
 

These are the ingredients I used.

The olives and oregano are optional but if you use them you’ll be glad you’ve done so.
 
 

First, you need two loaves of French bread.
 
 

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2. Split the loaves in half lengthwise.
 
 

3. Now peel and chop the garlic cloves finely.
 
 

4. Place the garlic into a bowl, add the olive oil…
 
 

5. … and mix.

I love garlic!

Have I told you that once I almost killed my brother-in-law with the amount of garlic I’d served him for dinner?
 
 

These are the olives I used.

You can use any kind of olives you like – I decided to go for the ones with sweet pepper inside.

Just because I liked the way they looked.
 
 

6. Slice the olives.
 
 

This is dried oregano trying to look its best for the picture.
 
 

7. Grate the cheese.

Again, use any kind you like.  Edam, Cheddar,  Monterey Jack, Parmesan.

Or use all of them.

See? I’m so liberal when it comes to cooking – no strict rules really. To me it’s all about having fun and about the current content of the fridge. Because that’s what’s really important, right? To empty the fridge.
 
 

8. Now that we have prepared everything we can start taking care of the bread loaves.

Line a larger baking sheet with parchment paper and place the loaves onto it – cut side up.
 

9. Spread 1/4 of the garlic/oil mixture over each bread.
 
 

10. Scatter the olives over the top.
 
 

11. And sprinkle generously with the cheese and the oregano.
 
 

12. Then pop the baking sheet into the oven for about 10 minutes.
 
 

13. Remove the loaves from the oven and cut them into smaller pieces…
 
 

… and enjoy…
 
 


… and enjoy!
 

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Me and photography – that is one romantic love story.

It all began about nine months ago when I started stealing my boyfriend’s ‘big’ camera. And let me tell you that he was all happy about it (where ‘happy’ stands for hurt, disturbed and angry). Anyhow, I kept stealing his big DSLR camera – no matter what – because that miraculous thing with a lens started to provide a great outlet for my self-expression and creativity. Oh, and my boyfriend, don’t you worry about him, he got used it (my left-hand punch is very famous; I can punch and run away very quickly… NOT!).

Of all the places that this wonderful planet offers I and my new camera decided to settle in the kitchen. And we’ve barely left that place ever since.

There’s just something truly special about the kitchen – to me it’s a place where magic happens. Whether it’s just the appearance of various kinds of food I admire or the experiments I make. Yeah, to me cooking and baking is one huge experiment. And I guess I am not the only one who feels the same way…

Taking pictures of it all even adds to that enormously enjoyable experience.

In the field of photography I’ve learned so much …and I am still learning.

For example, the shadow. I’ve learned that food, to be presented at its best, needs a sufficient amount of light. Soon I understood that it was very good to place the food that I was going to capture by the window.

But then there was this shadow.

When I studied some photos of other photographers I wondered how they got their meals so wonderfully and evenly lit from all sides. First I thought they must have used some kind of artificial light to achieve that. Stand light or something.

Okay, my boyfriend kept uttering something about reflectors and I, in return,  kept ignoring him (because I’m just the smartest and stubbornest person in the universe and have to learn my own way).

Anyway, there came the day when I stumbled upon a ‘light reflector’ discussion on the internet. And that was a big day for me.
 
 

It allowed me to move from this…
 
 

… to this.
 
 

With the help of my masterpiece – ‘a homemade light reflector’.

My pride and joy.

What this thing does, basically, is that it bounces back (or reflects) the light that comes from some light source (the window, in my case).

And yes, I made it myself (would you say that?). It only took some cardboard, some aluminum foil to cover the cardboard, something to tape these two things together and about 5 minutes of time.

Easy.

Please notice that I folded the aluminum-covered paper in the middle so that it stands upright.
 
 

Some grown-up people use fancy looking reflectors like this one.

Since I’m not a fully grown-up person yet I had to make my own reflector.
 
 

I placed the object between the window and the reflector…
 
 

… and got this result.

No shadow!

It works!

I’m so pleased.
 
 

This is another example.
 
 

A picture with the window light only.

 
 

And here is one with the window light and the reflector-bounced light too.

Doesn’t the strawberry smoothie look much more appetizing this way?
 
 

Here are the two pictures side by side for you to compare.

I hope this tip helps you in your ‘awesome-picture-making’ quest.

Now that I’ve won the fight with the shadow I can go and solve another 1200 questions I have about taking pictures.

I love that aspect of photography – there’s always something to learn and think about.

It never gets boring.

Amen.

See ya soon, dear friends.

Love,

Petra
 

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It’s so hot these days.

As a result, I need a nice cool drink all the time. Actually, I have a long straw and a huge jar positioned in the center of my place and I walk around sipping on something constantly.

Whatever I do.

Cooking, blogging, ironing… sleeping.

Really.

NOT!

But almost.

So yes, these days I’ve been attached to various iced drinks both physically and emotionally. Which made me contemplate the quality of these drinks. Because I want the first gulp to be of the same quality as the last one. I refuse to accept the situation when my drinks get all watered down from the ice cubes that I had added in.

That’s bad.

Really bad.

Like, I am able to accept many things, but not this one.

I guess it’s even against the basic human rights to have a drink like that.

It’s simply too much.

For this reason, I started to freeze all drinks that I like and transform them into ice cubes. That way, until there’s a freezer in my life, I will never ever have to drink a watered down beverage.

My sweet little victory.
 
 

This is frozen raspberry tea.

With a mint leaf inside.
 
 

The process of making these cubes is easy.

Just easy.

You prepare your favorite drink, add sugar (if you use it), let it cool a little, pour it into your ice cube tray and freeze it.

That’s it.

I use the cubes for my fruit tea …
 
 

… and for my mint tea too.

Yeah, those are mint tea ice cubes.
 
 

Yum!
 
 

And guess what these are.
 
 

Hint: They go to a Frappé Coffee.
 
 

Yes, they are coffee ice cubes.

Double yum!

I love these cubes and these drinks. They make summer so much more enjoyable.

Now I’m curious – what is your favorite summer drink, dear friends?

I would LOVE to know…
 

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These drumsticks are yummy and crunchy and flavorful.

And it takes just a couple of minutes to prepare them.

Like really.

To top it all, they are fun to make.

And that’s pretty much all I want from my food.

I think you’d love them too.

Come and have a look at how they are made.

It’s fun!

I promise!
 
 

This is what we need.

I guess many of you have these ingredients on hand right now.

Right?
 
 

1. First, wash and skin the drumsticks.
 
 

2. Then, in a separate bowl, mix the egg lightly.
 
 

3. Add one tablespoon ketchup and 1/4 teaspoon salt to the egg and mix again.
 
 

4. In a Ziploc or any plastic bag, mix the breadcrumbs along with the ground peanuts.
 

5. Add the remaining salt (1/4 teaspoon) and the grilling spice (the one I use is a gorgeous mixture of sweet paprika, black pepper, cumin, sage and salt).

And then close the bag and shake it.

Shake it, baby!

Shake it like there’s no tomorrow!

Sorry!

Got carried away.
 
 

6. Dip a drumstick in the egg …
 
 

7. … and then in the breadcrumbs mixture, turning it to coat.
 
 

Like this.

I love this way of coating drumsticks.

It eliminates the ‘mess factor’ to minimum.

And that is good.
 
 

8. Now pour the vegetable oil into a larger frying pan and place it over medium heat (set aside a little oil for oiling the baking pan).
 

9. Place the coated drumsticks into the pan and fry both sides shortly just until they become golden in color (about 2 minutes for each side should be enough).

Note: If you’d like your dish to be a tad healthier, than you can skip the whole frying part and bake the drumsticks straight away. Just like in Shake ‘n Bake.
 

10. Transfer the drumsticks onto an oiled baking pan and bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for about 30 minutes.
 

And that’s it.

Very easy, right?

Yet so delicious… and finger-licking good.

You can serve the drumsticks with yummy fries or baked potatoes and some scrumptious vegetable salad.

Enjoy, dear friends.
 
Update: I got asked about how I made the potatoes. They were peeled, quartered, sprinkled with some vegetable oil, some grilling spice (the same I used for the drumsticks), salt, a little paprika, rosemary and cumin – and that all was baked for about 30 minutes (along with the drumsticks, actually). Enjoy!
 
 

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Mint

I wonder why I love food so much.

I guess I must have been really hungry in one of my past lives.

Or what.

This strong attraction to food comprises mostly cooking and MUNCHING (!!!) on the stuff I’ve prepared.

I love cooking because people are happy when you serve them nice food.

I love eating because… hm… I LOVE eating.

And I love growing my own food because that brings one of the best feelings there are – the feeling of being self sufficient.

Okay, so far I’ve grown one edible plant only – and that’s MINT, to be precise… and I’ve been growing that for one week now but I think that would make a great start to my plant-growing experience and my collection of plants will grow bigger and bigger.

As you already might know, my brain would break if I didn’t share the stuff I’ve learned with you, so here are some very interesting facts about mint:
 
 

Once upon a time, there was one Mint Family and that had many, many children – Mentha being one of them.

Beautiful, luscious Mentha.

Mentha herself had 25 children (no wonder – she was really something) – Spearmint and Peppermint being some of them.

The End.

The moral of this story: ‘You think there’s just one and then you find out there are many.

Did you like the story?

I hope you did.
 
 

To make things easier, let’s just call everyone from the huge Mint Family simply ‘mint‘.

  • Mint is a fast growing plant – one plant, along with a little care, will provide more than enough mint for home use.
  • Mints are perennial which means they keep coming back every year.
  • Since mints do not come true from seed, propagate them by rhizome (roots) cuttings in early spring, by softwood cuttings in summer, or by dividing in the fall.
  • If you want your mint to thrive and enjoy its life to the fullest then you should keep it in semi-shaded position and keep the soil moist (though not waterlogged).
  • Also, mints are very invasive plants and spread like wildfire. So it is always wise to grow them within a container which can be buried in the earth.
  • The leaf, fresh or dried, is the culinary source of mint.
  • Harvesting of mint leaves can be done at any time. Fresh mint leaves should be used immediately or stored up to a couple of days in plastic bags within a refrigerator. Optionally, mint can be frozen. Dried mint leaves should be stored in an airtight container placed in a cool, dark, dry area.
  • There are various ways to use mint – most common uses being culinary, medicinal, cosmetic, as insecticides (to repel mosquitoes) or in aromatherapy.
  • In the kitchen, mint works perfectly with teas, beverages, jellies, syrups, candies, chocolate (After Eight – oh my!) and ice creams. Minted peas and minted new potatoes are firm favorites in England. 



 
 

I like garnishing my sweet desserts with mint leaves.

Also, I love drinking my iced tea with addition of fresh mint.

It’s beyond refreshing!

Oh, you want to know about the ice cubes?

Why they are so strange in color?

Well, that is another obsession of mine – I am currently experimenting with ice… I’ll write more about that in one of my next posts.
 
 

All in all, mint is gorgeous and very much appreciated all over the world.

As I was writing this post I’ve become definitely convinced that I am a huge mint fan.

Do you like mint too?

And if so, then what’s your favorite way to enjoy it?

I’d really like to know…
 
 

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Macro Trip

I spent the previous weekend in various acrobatic positions.

Ahem! No… not that!

Even though…

But no, there’s something else I want to share.

The activity had something to do with my new macro lens that has arrived recently.

And let me tell you that the lens received more than warm welcome.

As a true photographer, as soon as I got it (and stopped jumping up and down with joy… which lasted a good couple of minutes) I ran outside and no one saw me for another two days.
 
 

A macro lens lets you get very close to various tiny subjects.

And that is exactly what I was trying to do during those days.

You wouldn’t find me farther than 4 inches away from different kinds of flowers, bugs, insects and grasses.

All that time I was basically wallowing in sweet amazement by how wonderful the small world that we barely see with our own eyes really is.

Everything too tiny – which my previous lens had trouble to focus on – I could now have a proper look at.
 
 

Just enjoy this thistle.

Isn’t it just beautiful?
 
 


And these leaves.

I love them.
 
 

Another thistle… and a little bonus – an ant!

Words can hardly express how happy my heart was when I could focus on that ant.

Such tiny a thing – and my camera said: ‘Yes, I’ll do the job for you’.

Amazing!
 
 

Another thing that I love about this macro lens is the background in the pictures.

The lens is able to make the background look rather blurry and focus on only very tiny parts of the subjects.

Which, in fact, allows for creating an impressive, artistic-like look.
 
 

I’ve also taken a picture of this daisy for you.

And now, if you will please excuse me, I’ve just noticed a bug near here.

And I really have to… you know what.

See ya later!

And have a wonderful week.

Love,

Petra
 

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Do you like crepes?

To some of you  – who have been raised on typical American pancakes –  these might sound and look quite exotic.

Right?

Yeah, they are those delicate things that those weird, delicate Europeans eat.

… With their delicate fingers.

On the other hand, those of you who come from Europe, might perceive crepes as something very similar to oxygen you breathe. I guess they are this much common and usual all over the old continent.

And you, dear Europeans, look at the American chubby pancakes with kinda perplexed look in your eyes.

Don’t you?

Well, now that we are clear about the difference between Europe and America (which definitely lies in the preferred thickness of pancakes) we can have a look at the origin of the word ‘crêpe’.

That, in fact, comes from Latin ‘crispa’, meaning ‘curled’.

How lovely!

I guess the one who has invented this dish must have had an excellent sense for cuteness – because these beauties, with their adorable shape and their scrumptious taste, represent pure, heart-touching cuteness to me.

But hey!

What about the rest of the world?

Do you eat pancakes or crepes?

I’d really like to know…
 
 

This is what you are going to need in order to prepare you own delicious crepes.

The ingredients are very simple and easy to find in everyone’s pantry.
 
 

1. The first step is awesome, I think.

You just place the flour, eggs, milk, water, sugar and salt into a larger bowl and whisk it till it’s smooth.

You don’t even have to pay attention to what comes first.

Initially, the batter will look rather lumpy – which means some more mixing is needed.

Sooner or later there comes the point when the batter becomes perfectly smooth.
 
 

2. Pour one tablespoon of the vegetable oil into a medium sized frying pan (I used 7-inch – 18 cm pan).

3. Heat the pan over medium heat – we definitely don’t need too strong heat here.

4. Pour or scoop the batter onto the pan, using approximately 1/4 cup (60 ml) for each crepe.
 
 

5. Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly.
 
 

6. Cook the crepe for about 30 – 40 seconds, until the bottom is light brown.

7. Loosen the edges with a spatula, …
 
 

8. … turn and cook the other side.
 
 

9. Place the crepes on a separate plate and let cool a little – just until they can be handled with your hands.
 
 

10. Then spread about 2 tablespoon jam over the surface of each crepe …
 
 

11. … and roll it up.
 
 

12. Serve warm.

Sweet crepes can be garnished with fresh fruit and whipped cream.

Enjoy, dear friends.

(This recipe makes 7 crepes.)

 

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