Monday, July 3, 2017

The Prodigal Food Blogger -- How the food blog world has changed for me


For the last few weeks, I have struggled with logging on to my food blog and Facebook Page. I just couldn't find the right words, and I'd second-guess if I should even write a post that doesn't have a recipe and photo. This morning, I'm on week #2 of my annual 4 week summer break from my job. I've decided to come clean about my personal feelings about being a Food Blogger...so here I go!

Here's the thing-- I started this food blog in 2008 because I love to cook and bake. I never sought fame and fortune when I created "A Feast for the Eyes".  I was inspired to start my own food blog by several food blogs that I was visiting on a regular basis.  My original goal was to store the recipes I've made, and then I discovered that I really enjoyed learning how to photograph food. (Some of my earliest posts are in dire need of a makeover!)

Even though I was raised in the restaurant business, I wasn't exactly the best cook. My recipe creativity and skills needed some serious help.  About 15 years ago, I began to crack open the culinary world when I honed in on Rachel Rays' 30 Minute Meals, on Food Network.  That's when I began to realize that I didn't need to buy canned soups or processed foods in order to feed my growing son. From there, I discovered Ina Garten, Tyler Florence, Ann Burrell and many other Food Network Stars.  By watching their videos, I started to improve my knife skills and was thrilled to discover that my cooking was improving!  I also found inspiration from food blogs and I'd spend hours reading blog post and slowly gathering my personal faves.  So, I picked up my inexpensive point-and-shoot camera and started posting. I found this to be so much fun!

Posting on my food blog become my obsession creative hobby and I slowly began to build a following. Slowly, but surely, I began to enjoy some perks of being a food blogger. I got "freebies" (food or kitchen tools) to test, went to food blog conventions and I became completely immersed in Food Blog World.  Today, small food bloggers (like me) don't get those perks any longer and any additional income that my food blog once earned no longer exists. The reason for this is that food blogs are expected to have very high traffic in order to make money.. I find that when I land on some food blogs, I am assaulted with pop-up ads and videos and so much advertising-- and I don't care for that.  I get it, though.  It's a way of making a living. Food Blogging was changing and I wasn't so sure this is the direction I wanted to head.

Today, Food Blogging has become a very profitable business and it has become a full-time job. I know Food Bloggers who make six figures a year (I'm serious), and who reap the benefits of their popularity (and their talents) with free cruises, free kitchen remodels and the perks of free cookware and gadgets. Kudos to them-- but I know I'm just not in that range of success and popularity. I would have to switch my blog over to a different platform and a re-design would cost me thousands of dollars!  I just couldn't justify that high of a financial investment since this is my creative outlet.


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Monday, May 29, 2017

Mixed Berry Scones



So many of my fellow Americans love biscuits, but I much prefer what I perceive is a "cousin" to this Southern specialty.  I'm talking about scones.  I think I prefer scones because they are mildly sweet, and so versatile with all the ingredients that you can add to them.  I've made several versions of scones, and shared them on this blog here

This recipe was featured on Cook's Country, and I decided to bake them especially for my husband. My husband is a berry lover, so I was pretty confident he'd like these.  If you are familiar with Cook's Country Magazine (and the TV show) they are part of the America's Test Kitchen family.  I like that there's usually a "twist" in the recipe to make it even better.  Here's what the publisher had to say,
To keep the (frozen) berries from bleeding into the dough, we tossed the berries in confectioners’ sugar. To get light and flaky scones, we discovered that treating the butter in two different ways was key. First, we processed half the butter until fully incorporated into the dough. Then, we added the remaining cold butter and processed it until small clumps remained, creating pockets of steam as the scones baked. A simple glaze of butter and honey adds a nice finish to the scones.
 

I have a pastry cutter, but I find that my food processor gets the job done very quickly.  Butter is incorporated in two batches.


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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Taco-Mex Homemade Hamburger Helper (One Pot Wonder)

When I made the recipe for Homemade Cheeseburger Hamburger Helper, it was a big hit with my family. I was reminiscing how my my mother used to buy a Mexican-themed one. It's been a very long time, but I remember a taco-style flavor to the beef.

I thought I'd tinker with the recipe and see if I could adapt this with a Mexican/Southwestern theme and see if I could create my own version of my childhood memory.

I discovered Avocado Oil at Trader Joe's and like using it in lieu of olive oil, because it has a higher smoke point. If you ever spot it, buy some! It's great.  Once I browned the ground beef, I added a chopped onion and red bell pepper.

I love black olives, so a drained canned of those was added to the mix.  Some taco seasoning (I make my own but packaged is fine), tomato paste would give some color and flavor the sauce.

I always keep a can of mild diced green chiles in my pantry. They are very mild, since I'm sensitive to really hot peppers.  Okay, then, we mix this right up...

 So, now we build the "sauce" by adding some flour...


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Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Ultimate Sugar Cookie - and my best cookie baking tips

A few months ago, one of my students brought a plate of sugar cookies to share with my office. For me, it was love at fist bite and I had to fight the urge to not share the cookies. However, in good conscience, I passed them around and everybody raved about them. I asked her if she'd get the recipe from her dad-- and after constant a few reminders, she brought me a recipe card. Score!

The recipe card was hand written with the name "Aunt Esther's Sugar Cookies". I asked who she was, and my student said she had no idea, and her dad couldn't remember how he got the recipe.  Well, Aunt Esther, whoever you are-- thank you so much!  The recipe only had ingredients and no detailed instructions. The few instructions said to squeeze the dough into one ball and pinch some dough and shape them into balls and roll in sugar. However, I was able to find a way to make the batter so that the dough turns out soft enough to scoop...



...and then gently press down with the palm of my hand.

 
I have baked many sugar (or vanilla) cookies in my lifetime and they are all good. But this cookie recipe ranks #1 favorite with my family now.  Every time I bake a batch (and I've made these a few times) my intention was to  photograph them, like most food bloggers do-- with a pretty mat or napkin, the classic milk jar with a colorful straw...but these cookies disappear way too fast! I give up. I just need to share the recipe with these quick photos,  because you'll thank me.

Whenever I post photos of cookies I've just baked, I am asked how I get my cookies to look just like a professional bakery.  Here are some "tricks of the trade" I've picked up over the years that have improved the results of my cookies:


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