By Bree Hester / 03.30.15
My family’s recipes are just as valuable to me as family photos. They are rich in tradition and history and I treasure them more than anything. The problem is that a lot of the recipes that my mom, grandmother, and sister use are not written down. Or they have steps or ingredients missing. Not always helpful. And the end result? Well, not always how I remember them.
For Mother’s Day, I thought it would be nice to make a recipe box of family recipes that I can keep to pass on to my children. I collected recipes that we use often at holidays, birthday meals, or remind me of members of our family. I was careful to write down how I made it, and hopefully, they will turn out for years to come. I will make a few more recipe boxes to give to my brother and sister, and cousins. We are going to keep our family recipes alive for generations to come.
My mom’s favorite dessert is almond biscotti, freshly whipped cream, and fresh berries. I make these biscotti for her whenever she comes to visit and send them to her on her birthday. These are a crisp, twice baked, almond cookie. Perfect for dunking into an afternoon coffee or tea.
This dough will seem dry when you are mixing it, but it does come together. You can add a tablespoon of water if you like.
¾ cup blanched whole almonds
4 Tablespoons cold butter
½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla or vanilla bean paste 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 325°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Roast the almonds on a baking sheet until the begin to color, about 3 minutes. Finely chop ¼ cup of the almonds. Coarsely chop the remaining almonds. Set aside.
Add the butter and sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix until completely combined. Add egg, almond extract, and vanilla.
Add cooled almonds, flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Mix until combined. The dough will be dry. If it does not come together, add a tablespoon of water.
Divide the dough in half. Roll into logs. (Add a little flour to the counter if starts to stick.)
Place onto the prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart, because they will spread. Pat down slightly. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until slightly brown and firm on the surface. Take out of the oven, cool for 10 minutes, and slice on an angle with a serrated knife. Put slices back in the oven, and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown.
Let them cool completely on a wire rack. Serve with whipped cream and fresh berries.
By Kim Vargo / 03.26.15
When I last left off, I shared 3 tricks for snapping better interior photos right now, a question that I’m often asked by friends and family. There were no fancy tools other than a tripod, and every tip could be implemented with a simple brain shift. That first question is typically followed up with, well, okay, but what kind of camera do you use?
Here’s the truth: I’ve been using the same DSLR camera (which stands for digital single-lens reflex) for almost 10 years! That’s most certainly a relic in the digital world, but I say this to assure you that my camera bag holds a handful of some pretty basic photography gear. I’m a simple person when it comes to my equipment, as evidenced by my three go-to lenses. So, what’s in my bag? Below, from left to right: Sunpak tripod, Nikon D200 camera with a Tokina 12-24mm wide angle lens (strap by Couch), 50mm f/1.8 lens, 20mm f/2.8 lens, lens cleaner and an extra battery.
In a nutshell, my 50mm lens (commonly nicknamed the Nifty Fifty) is one of my favorites, as it’s great for portraiture and capturing everyday details. The 20mm lens is perfect for wide shots without too much distortion, and I use this most frequently for shooting interiors. Also for interiors, the wide angle 12-24mm lens is one step shy of a fisheye, and while it can easily capture a room in its entirety, it does distort your photo. At the same time, it can be pretty fun for capturing landscapes, parties and giving your pets the “bobble head” effect!
To show you how a lens can drastically change the look and feel of a photograph, I took a snapshot of my living room using each of them. Starting with the 50mm, you’ll see that the focus is almost entirely on the stack of coffee table books. I used a low aperture to create the widely loved bokeh effect:
From the same place, here’s a wider view of the room using the 20mm. You’ll notice that there are actually two chairs in the room, and I left it in the foreground for a dose of interest:
Without moving, I swapped in the wide angle 12-24mm, and when zoomed out at 12mm, you’ll see both frames above the couch, two full chairs, our ceiling fan and even the edge of our media center on the opposite wall!
While the photo above isn’t the most flattering photo of our room – you can notice now how the wide angle lens distorts the size of our furniture – it’s still a lens that I use almost daily. By shifting my camera position and shooting horizontally, the living room now feels more inviting:
By the third setup, the books were no longer the focus, but it goes to show how choosing your equipment carefully will change the view from behind your lens, quite literally. When travelling, I pack as much from my camera bag as possible, always remembering not only an extra battery, but the battery charger as well (I learned that the hard way)! And while my gear has been with me for the better part of a decade, it doesn’t mean I don’t have my eyes set on this guy. A girl can dream, can’t she?
By Bree Hester / 03.01.15
Every once in awhile this mom needs a night off.
As much as I love to cook, getting dinner on the table each night takes nothing short of a miracle. We have busy lives, and I spend a lot of time shuffling kids around from after school activity to activity. And that is not taking into account work events, PTO meetings, and other things that I have going on.
Sometimes I need a little help. I don’t want my kid’s to have dinner in the car from the drive-thru or have a pizza delivered.
I had a few tried and true recipes printed onto magnets that live on the fridge. They are made with mostly fridge and pantry staples and can be made with minimal effort. When I need some help, I point to the fridge and let dad or the kids pick a recipe leave it to them to make all on their own. Everyone wins. I get a night off from dinner duty, dad and the kids have fun cooking, and everyone eats a great dinner.
This recipe for Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos is really simple. You simply add everything to a slow cooker and turn it on. 3 to 4 hours later, you have a flavorful base for tacos, burritos, nachos, or taco salad. You can make this ahead of time and reheat it, or even freeze it. There will be a lot of liquid leftover from cooking, I like to reserve some if I do reheat it to keep it moist.
Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 cups salsa (salsa verde is my favorite, but any kind you like will work) 1 bottle beer
3 cloves minced garlic
½ teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons honey 2 Tablespoons lime juice
For serving – corn tortillas, cheese, tomatoes, cilantro, sour cream, chopped onion, sour cream, pickled jalapenos.
Add chicken, salsa, beer, garlic, oregano, cumin, salt, and honey to the insert of a slow cooker. Cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours or HIGH for 3 hours.
Using a fork, shred chicken. Add lime juice. Add to warm tortillas and top with cheese and other toppings.
(Post and photos by Jamie W., a graphic designer, photographer and blogger) Presents for the family are going to be easy this year because we have so many great wedding photos to give as gifts. I was thinking of ways to combine all our favorite photos as beautiful prints and I can’t think of a better way than with a wedding photo book. I ordered the Panoramic Photo Book which is great because you can put an entire horizontal photo across two pages and not worry about anything getting cut off in the middle. Thanks to Pinhole Press, Christmas gifts are going to be a breeze!
Pinhole Press has teamed up with FOX and The Book of Life to bring you a special limited edition collection of your favorite photo gifts with characters from The Book of Life movie. The Book of Life is a breathtaking animated comedy that celebrates life, love and family. We’ve created custom photo gifts to take part in this celebration of family and storytelling.
Enter to win a DVD of the movie here by February 14, 2015.
Have fun teaching your child the most important people, places and things in their life with the Mini Storybook of Names & Faces and new customized Memory Games. Tell your family story with new limited edition photo gifts from Pinhole Press and The Book of Life.
THE BOOK OF LIFE© 2014 Fox & Reel FX.