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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bleu Cheese Chips | Lifestyle Food Photographer

I've made these chips many times over the years, thanks to my friend Jenna who introduced them to me long ago at Cap City Fine Diner. They are so addictive, I've eaten an entire plate for dinner before.

If you're making them to take to a party, I'd suggest getting the ingredients together, than assembling and baking on-site-if there's an oven available, of course.

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My recipe is as follows:

Bleu Cheese Chips

1 large (approx $3.79) bag of Kettle Style Potato Chips
1/2 jar of store-bought Alfredo Sauce
1/4 lb. crumbled bleu cheese
2 green onions/scallions, chopped (optional)

Pour the chips into a rectangular oven-safe casserole dish (metal or glass). Top the chips with the alfredo sauce (in dollops, try to distribute evenly across the chips.) Sprinkle the bleu cheese (and optional green onions) over the chips. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the chips are slightly browned on the edges. Serve immediately.

Now, this is not a follow-the-rules kind of recipe. You can adjust and experiment with these 3 simple ingredients until you've found the right mix for you. I've tried homemade bechamel sauce in place of the alfredo sauce. (I felt it was bland and much more labor intensive.) You can buy a really nice bleu cheese and add more or less bleu cheese to suit your tastes.

Want more variations? What about Kettle Chips topped with Barbeque Sauce and Cheddar Cheese? Or Thousand Island Dressing and Swiss Cheese? Try out your own creation, and make sure to tell us how it turns out!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze | Midwest Food Photographer

You could call this a palette-cleansing cookie. That's Top Chef talk, right there. See, reality t.v. is educational. The reason I was drawn to this cookie is because of Northstar Cafe's Cloud 9 Pancakes. Baking with ricotta is not something I would've considered before trying their incredible pancakes. I can't do sweet without savory for breakfast. Adding cheese to pancakes seems to bridge the gap for me, so I thought, why not try it in a cookie? Besides, I love all things citrus. Lemon is so refreshing and light.

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Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze

* 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
* 2 cups sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
* 3 tablespoons lemon juice
* 1 lemon, zested

* 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
* 3 tablespoons lemon juice
* 1 lemon, zested

Directions Cookies:
In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the large bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

Directions Glaze:
Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours. Pack the cookies into a decorative container. Yields 2 dozen (or more)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Egg Nog Snickerdoodles | Commercial Food Photographer

Two perfect reasons to make these cookies:
1. You love Egg Nog.
2. You hate Egg Nog but someone left it at your house.

Either way, you'll like these cookies! If you don't, take them to work and make your coworkers eat them. They're really light and the flavors are subtle, a nice contrast to the majority of holiday treats.

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The paper trees in the background have been my favorite part of this holiday season. I've really enjoyed making them, thanks to fellow photographer and blogger Davina Fear, who happily shared the idea. Those of you who are parents, Davina has some of the cutest crafts and activities I have EVER seen.

Eggnog Snickerdoodle Cookies

1 ½ c flour
½ stick butter
½ cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup egg nog (I used soy Silk Egg Nog, and it worked perfectly.)
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 cup sugar + 1 tbsp cinnamon for rolling


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter and 1/2 cup sugar. (I used the paddle attachment like it says, but I used a regular beater for my next cookie recipe (also to combine butter and sugar) and it worked just fine.
4. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl.
5. Add egg and eggnog, and beat to combine.
6. Add dry ingredients, and beat to combine. Don't overmix.
7. You can chill the dough for an hour or more to make the dough easier to scoop, or go ahead and scoop them a little messier.
8. In a small bowl, combine 1/8 cup sugar and 1 tbsp ground cinnamon.
9. Use a small ice-cream scoop or a tablespoon to form balls of the dough, and roll in cinnamon sugar.
10. Place about two inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
11. Bake until the cookies are set in center and begin to crack, about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets after five minutes. The cookies will feel a little doughy when you touch them, but trust me, they're finished.
12. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack as soon as they are cool enough to not fall apart. Yields 18-20 cookies.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies | Midwest Food Photographers

Sugar cookies are the most versatile cookie for decorating. Perfect for any shape, icing, and sprinkle you can imagine. I can't say this is the best sugar cookie recipe in the world, but it might be your favorite. How do you know unless you try it?

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For a little while when we were younger, my brother and I spent a LOT of time icing cookies. His was done at Cheryl's Cookies and mine was at a deli that had a large variety of pastries and sweets. We both got really good at it, and I still find it comforting to take out a tray of cookies and smear the icing on. Maybe he and I will do a How-to video someday.

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies


* 1 cup white sugar
* 1 cup butter, softened
* 1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 egg yolk
* 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour


1. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, butter, cream cheese, salt, almond and vanilla extracts, and egg yolk. Beat until smooth. Stir in flour until well blended. Chill the dough for 8 hours, or overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough 1/3 at a time to 1/8 inch thickness, refrigerating remaining dough until ready to use. Cut into desired shapes with lightly floured cookie cutters. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Leave cookies plain for frosting, or brush with slightly beaten egg white and sprinkle with candy sprinkles or colored sugar.
4. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until light and golden brown. Cool cookies completely before frosting.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thumbprint Cookies | Food Photography Columbus Ohio

Thumbprint Cookies are maybe the easiest cookies in the world to make. I don't eat many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but I often find an open jar of jam in the fridge that needs to be used up. This is my preferred way to get rid of unwanted jam.

OR, if I feel like splurging, I use Sweet Thing Gourmet's jam. This jam is so good, I can't see myself ever wasting it on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I often eat it on a banana or with cream cheese and crackers, or of course, in these cookies, so I can truly enjoy how fantastic it is without covering it up with other flavors. My favorite (shown here) is the Brandied Apricot Jam. I swear, I don't love it just because it's orange.

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Thumbprint Cookies
from Betty Crocker
¼ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup shortening
¼ cup butter or margarine, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 egg, separated
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup finely chopped nuts (optional)
Jelly of your choice

Heat oven to 350ºF. Mix brown sugar, shortening, butter, vanilla and egg yolk in medium bowl. Stir in flour and salt until dough holds together. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Beat egg white slightly. Dip each ball into egg white. Optional: roll in nuts. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Press thumb deeply in center of each.
Bake about 10 minutes or until light brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Fill thumbprints with jelly.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookie | Professional Food Photographer

My first experience with sweet treats made spicy was actually in Mexico, in 2002. We were at a resort that served Mexican Coffee after dinner, and it had cinnamon and something some type of pepper in it. It was wonderful. It took a few years before I saw anything similar back home, and that was of course Jeni's Queen City Cayenne ice cream. I always try the most unusual flavor on any menu, and when I saw chocolate and cayenne together, I had to have it. Sometimes I love unusual things just because of their uniqueness factor, but later the novelty will wear off. Many years later, Queen City Cayenne is still my favorite of Jeni's signature flavors.

When I saw Martha's take on a spicy sweet treat, I jumped on it. The only downside to these cookies was the need for a warning label, so kids wouldn't assume they were just chocolate cookies. Oh well, it makes for cuter packaging with the little warning label attached.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookie
from Martha Stewart

    * 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    * 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    * 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
    * 1 teaspoon baking soda
    * 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
    * 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
    * 1 3/4 cups sugar
    * 2 large eggs
    * 2 teaspoons cinnamon
    * 1/2 teaspoon chile powder (I used ground cayenne)


   1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down side of bowl. Add eggs and beat to combine. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture and beat until combined.
   2. In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon, and chile powder (if using). Using heaping tablespoons, form balls of dough and roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place, about 3 inches apart, on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies are set in center and begin to crack, about 10 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cookies cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to racks to cool completely. Makes 32. Store in an airtight container, up to 1 week.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Galaxy Cookies | Food Photography and Styling

These Galaxy Cookies may look humble, but believe me, they're out of this world. (Ha! That was a pun I stole from my sister.) Really, these are one of my all-time favorite cookies. I loved making them as a kid. The best part is you can decorate and fill them with anything you love. Hands down, my favorite is Maraschino Cherry.

It's a simple colored dough wrapped around a candy or nut and topped with sprinkles. You can also cover them in icing. What should you put in them? How about...

Galaxy Cookies
from Betty Crocker

1/2 cup butter or 1/2 cup margarine, softened
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
food coloring
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
anything you want to put in the middle


1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons light cream or 1 1/2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla


Mix thoroughly butter, sugar, vanilla, and, if desired, a few drops of food coloring. (Or you can wait to add the food coloring when the dough is finished in order to split it into batches and make multiple colors instead of just one.)
Work in salt and flour until dough holds together. If dough is dry, mix in 1 to 2 Tbsp light cream.
Mold dough by tablespoonfuls around date, nut, candy, cherry, or a few chocolate pieces. Roll into balls. Here, you can choose to decorate with sprinkles, or wait until they're baked and top with icing.
Preheat over to 350°F. Place cookies about 1-inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes until set but not brown.
Prepare icing by mixing confectioners sugar with light cream or milk and vanilla until smooth. If desired, stir in a few drops of food coloring. For a tasty chocolate icing, increase light cream to 3 tbsp and stir in 1 oz melted unsweetened chocolate.
Let cookies cool, then dip tops of cookies into icing several times to get a good layer. If desired, immediately decorate with coconut, nuts, colored sugar, candies, chocolate pieces or chocolate shot.
Makes 20 to 25 cookies.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Homemade Orange Rolls | Columbus Ohio Food Photographer and Stylist

Pillsbury Orange Rolls have always been an all-time favorite of mine. I'd eat the entire can in a sitting if no one was watching. So, when I had leftover orange icing (recipe included below), what better to make than Homemade Orange Rolls? They would beat the store bought kind, right? Yup, they did. And I had just as hard a time  sharing them with others.

Warning: This is one of those recipes you have to let "rest." Which means work, then wait. Work some more, then wait. There's a wait time of an hour and fifteen minutes, then another wait time of 25 minutes, so don't expect to do this in a hurry.

Here's a picture to entice you.

Making the dough was easier than I thought it would be. Historically, I don't have much luck with homemade dough. This one came together just as the recipe said it would.

This recipe has you roll each of the rolls (I couldn't see how to avoid saying that!) individually. Since I'd never made rolls from scratch before, I followed the instructions, but I recently watched someone else make cinnamon rolls, and they laid the dough out in a rectangular sheet then poured the filling over it, and rolled the whole sheet up and cut it into pieces. This seems much faster. The knife might smoosh the rolls as they're being cut and the butter might squish out the ends, but I will try it that way next time anyway.

I might cook them just a little less next time. I like them a little gooey-er and less brown on top, but once I put the icing on and it all melded together, there was little that could be done to make them more perfect. The dough TASTED homemade, in the best way, and the icing was amazing. The rolls grew HUGE, so each roll was equivalent to 2-3 of the store bought kind.

A special recipe to share around the holidays, but consider making them on a normal weekend. Whomever you choose to share them with will be indebted to you. 

Homemade Orange Rolls (from


* 1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
* 1/2 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
* 2 tablespoons butter, softened
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 large egg, lightly beaten
* 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
* Cooking spray

   "Filling" For Dough
* 1 stick butter, melted
* 3 tablespoons grated orange rind
* 3 tblsp cinnamon
* 1/2 cup sugar

   Icing (from
* 1 stick butter, softened
* 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
* 4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (about 2 lbs.)
* 1 tablespoons milk
* 1 tablespoon orange juice
* 1 tablespoon orange zest

* You can prepare icing ahead of time and refrigerate, covered. (Icing directions are listed at the end.)

* To prepare dough, dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup sour cream, 2 tablespoons softened butter, salt, and egg, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 2 cups flour to yeast mixture; beat until smooth. Add 1 cup flour to yeast mixture, stirring until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel sticky).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour and 15 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.)