5 Filters to Help You Snap the Perfect Food Pic on Instagram

Last month we hosted a two-day, all out photo shoot to showcase some of the great recipes Epicurean Group will be releasing this fall. We were very fortunate to be able to work with an extremely talented freelance photographer, Laurie Smith for the third year in a row!  Lauries’ specialties are food and travel and she’s absolutely incredible. Visit her website if you can! (lauriesmithphoto.com)

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Often when you see a great photo, you stop and admire the beauty but fail to consider the amount of work that went into creating the shot. I am here to tell you firsthand, it’s A LOT of work! From planning the recipes, to preparing the food and selecting the props, there’s much work to be done. Luckily we had our Inspiration & Celebrity Chef, Jenna Johansen available to guide the way.

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Jenna had a clear vision in mind which was extremely helpful considering we were pressed for time. I’m sure you’ve heard of the clever tricks companies use to market their food such as using glue instead of real milk which can have a blueish hue to it. If you’ve ever eaten a Lean Cuisine before, you know that the photo on the outside of the box doesn’t even begin to resemble what’s actually inside. For our shoot, we didn’t use any of those tricks. We used actual, real food and because of that, timing was everything. Capturing the frothy foam on an espresso is an art form and must be done within a certain time frame before it melts away. Same goes for freshly cracked eggs.

Once we got the final pictures back from Laurie, we were ecstatic! While it might have been a grueling process, the final product was well worth the effort!

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For all of you amature food photographers such as myself that love to post #foodporn on Instagram, here are five filters you can use to make your food pictures more appetizing:

1. Amaro

This setting will brighten a dark photo, which could be helpful if you’re taking a pic in a dimly lit restaurant or bar. But if you’re documenting your kitchen adventures, this could make your meal look like it was cooked under florescent lighting–or worse–in a cafeteria.

2. Rise

Rise adds a soft glow to any image. It is forgiving when documenting anything with a blemish. For example, the fruit salad you made with the banana you forgot to pack in your lunch last week, but are too cheap to toss out. However, if you are indulging in a vibrantly colored dish, why mute its colors?

3. X-Pro 11, Lo-Fi, and Hefe

Have a photo that’s in need of some drama? All of these filter could work. If used on images of crispy cheese or baked goods, you’ll have your viewers drooling. These filters, though, may be a bit much with photos that are already full of depth and color. We don’t want your food looking like it came out of a Little Tikes play kit.

4. Earlybird

Want to give your food pic a vintage feel? This is the filter for you. Afraid of making your dish look like it should have been thrown out weeks ago? Maybe avoid this….

5. Brannan

Perfect when in need of some sharpening and contrast. Brannan will define the photo you blurred while trying to balance your spatula, frying pan, small child, and camera. However, this does add a metallic and muted tint; if you are working with vibrant colors, it could dull down your image.

Peters, Jolie (2013, November 20). Best and Worst Instagram Filters for Food Porn (Martha, Please Take Note) [Blog post]. Retrieved from: http://www.epicurious.com/archive/blogs/editor/2013/11/instagram-filter-blog.html

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Champagne Bar: Two of the Loveliest Words in the English Language

Come warm yourself by our champagne fireplace.

Ain’t that the truth?

Earlier this month we shared some ideas for a Hot Chocolate Bar; after doing extensive research on DIY stations, including ignoring my children and eating an entire bag of butterscotch chips, I couldn’t resist creating a mini-series on this idea of DIY stations for guests.

Today’s Treat: Champagne

Service with a smile.

Service with a smile at Union Station.

Just writing it makes me happy.

Nothing says ‘celebrate’ quite like champagne. My friends, family, and that one know-it-all guy at Corridor 44 who thought I should eat something before having another glass of the nectar of the gods can attest that champagne is, by far, my own personal favorite drink. But you can’t drink it all the time. Because those other mothers at preschool would be jealous concerned.

I don’t need to add anything to my champagne – like dinner – but this is not about me. It’s about you AND me – and anyone else who appreciates a glass of bubbly. Like all of us at Epicurean Group. Parties are our game. And our job. Put those in whatever order you wish.

Let's pray some of my co-workers were drinking prior to the second photo.

Let’s pray some of my co-workers were drinking prior to the second photo.

The holidays are a perfect time to create a self-serve station for your guests. It allows for more socializing and less stressing. Always a good thing.

Labels are helpful. Especially, um, later...

Labels are helpful. Especially, um, later…

Today is New Year’s Eve so if you are hosting a soiree or simply want to do something special on New Year’s Day, may we introduce you to the MmmmMimosa Station? Simple elegance, with an emphasis on simple.

Yum.

Yum.

Why bother with glasses? Tie a straw to mini bottles of bubbly!

Why bother with glasses? Tie a straw to mini bottles of bubbly!

MmmmMimosa Station

Ingredients and Accouterments:

  • Ice buckets or other large bin filled with with ice
  • Four containers for fruit (try IKEA or the dollar store if you don’t have any on hand – or use the coffee cups from your wedding china set because, let’s face it, you’re not drinking coffee when champagne is available)
  • Four glass bottles for juice
  • Labels (for labeling juice and for guests to tag their glasses – I use paint sample cards – free! And any color you want. And did I mention free! )
  • Glasses (one per guest)
  • DIY labels
  • Sharpie Pen
  • Champagne or prosecco
  • Sparkling cider
  • Orange juice
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Raspberry lemonade concentrate
  • Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, pineapple (feel free to improvise)
  • Sugar cubes
How sweet are these sugar cubes?

How sweet are these sugar cubes?

Paint samples make great labels.

Paint samples make great labels.

Directions:

  • Chill champagne, prosseco, juice and cider overnight or in an ice bath
  • Pour juice in glass containers, write or print out labels and tie to the bottle
  • Place champagne in an ice bucket on the table
  • Place glasses, fruit, napkins, juice, labels, sugar cubes, and marker on the table

Pour yourself a glass and say hello to 2015 (and maybe a tiny-but-worth-it-headache)!

 

 

submitted by Stephanie Blackford

Easy, Now. (Or Later? Why Soup is Good For the Busy Soul)

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You can find recipes for the perfect turkey everywhere. And anyone can build a great day-after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich (hint: it’s all about the mayo), but when you are staring back at that gigantic leftover … uh…carcass, you might be tempted to toss it out and just cut yourself an oversized slice of apple pie.

Don’t. I mean don’t throw out the turkey. Go ahead with the pie. But that leftover turkey makes some of the best soup of the year; and even if you are turkeyed-out, you can pop this easy soup into the freezer for a weeknight dinner that’s both hearty and healthy. Plus, this recipe can easily be modified for the gluten free crowd out there – simply swap out the pasta for rice, and the white flour for almond flour.

Epicurean’s Now Or Later Turkey Soup

Prep time: 25 minutes | Cook time: approximately 1.5 hours | Servings: 10-12

Ingredients:

  • Large turkey carcass (it’s such an unappetizing word but…)
  • 5 quarts cold water
  • 1 cup celery cleaned and chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6-7 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 4 cups fine egg noodles
  • 1/4 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1/4 cup flour

Directions:

  • Place turkey carcass, water, celery, onion, bouillon cubes, salt and pepper in a large stock pot
  • Heat to boiling; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour
  • Remove the turkey, place on a platter and let cool
  • Add the parsley, peas, carrots and pasta
  • Heat to boiling; reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes
  • Meanwhile, pull meat from bones and return meat to soup pot
  • Add liquid if needed (either water or chicken stock, taste to check seasoning)
  • Heat to boiling; cook uncovered for 10 minutes
  • Melt butter in a small frying pan; stir in flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the flour browns
  • Slowly stir the flour mixture into the boiling soup
  • When the soup returns to a boil reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes

I keep a couple of boxes of cornbread mix in my pantry at all times so that if I am desperate and the cupboards are bare, I have an entire meal at the ready – soup in the freezer and cornbread from a box makes me almost as happy as apple pie.

 

 

 

 

 

submitted by Stephanie Blackford

Mirror Mirror On the Wall – Who’s the Cheapest of Them All?

Madonna_Money_by_Madonna1250 (this might be all you get from the Material Girl)

I know the story about President Obama’s choice for Attorney General is way, way more important than  “Hollywood’s Best and Worst Tippers” on the MSN homepage, but….

I couldn’t help myself. There’s something so addictive about finding out just how generous (or not) the rich and famous can be. I won’t ruin it for you, but if Rachel Ray or Madonna or Bill Cosby walk into your section, don’t start planning that fancy beach vacay.

Parker Presley, our favorite pooch-about-town, wrote a blog on this very subject a few years ago. I dug it up to share with you because the weekend is here – go forth and eat and drink!  Happy Friday!

submitted by Stephanie Blackford

How to Justify A Pan of Chocolate Chip Bars (totally doable!)

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I am (supposed) to be following an anti-inflammatory eating plan that (in theory) does not include things like flour, sugar, alcohol and M&Ms. This is what Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory food pyramid looks like:

Anti-InflammatoryDiet

Hmmm. Pass.

There is a great site called Tasty Yummies that I’ve been perusing on and off hoping to generate some more ideas for the anti-inflammatory lifestyle. While I am not in love with the name of the site, considering it sounds like something a mother who dresses herself and her child in identical homemade outfits would use, the recipes are great. Today’s highlighted recipe was this fabulous Roasted Curry Cauliflower with Feta and Cilantro dish.

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Hmm. Pass.

So instead, I did a little more digging for you, dear readers, and found this delish surprise. And then I made it. And then I ate it. For you. You are so welcome.

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Grain-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars – Gluten-Free + Dairy-Free (courtesy of Tasty Yummies)

Prep time: 25 minutes | Bake time: approximately 25 minutes | Total time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour (I use Honeyville)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 
1/3 cup honey
  • 2 extra-large local farm fresh brown eggs
  • 
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted, plus extra to grease the pan
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 
1 tablespoon unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • 3/4 cup dairy-free gluten-free semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350º F and lightly grease the bottom and sides of an 8″ square baking pan with coconut oil.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients.
  • In a smaller bowl, add all of the wet ingredients.
  • Mix well with a hand mixer or a whisk.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix very well with a hand mixer.
  • Fold in the chocolate chips you didn’t eat along the way with a spatula.
  • Pour all of the batter into the greased pan and spread evenly with a spatula or your hands and gently press.
  • Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until the top is nice and golden brown and the center is no longer doughy.
  • Allow to cool 10-15 minutes before cutting into bars (or they could fall apart.

*These keep best in an air-tight container in the fridge. They can be warmed in the microwave for a few seconds when serving to take the chill off.

 

 

submitted by Stephanie Blackford

Feel The Beet

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According to historians, beets have been around since 800 BC (who decides to research this stuff is beyond us, but who are we to judge?). Turns out these interesting vegetables were found in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon which, by the way, are one of the Seven Wonders of the World. So does that make beets extra special? Are they a hanger-on to The Hanging Gardens’ claim to fame?

Who knows, but beets are enjoying their plate popularity these days; and finding their way into all kinds of recipes from salads to soups to smoothies.

Beets do boast loads of nutritional hutzpah, including lowering blood pressure, boosting stamina, and fighting cancer. And they add a great texture and bold color to any dish. They are pretty AND smart.

Epicurean recently served a version of this delicious beet salad at a fundraiser and the live auction went gangbusters! See – that boosting stamina thing is real.

Epicurean’s Feel the Beets Salad

Serves: 4| Prep: 10 mins| Cook: 30 mins

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium beets cleaned and halved
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 (10 ounce) package baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 avocadoes, chopped

Directions:

  • Place beets into a saucepan, and fill with enough water to cover
  • Bring to a boil and cook until tender (approx. 30 minutes)
  • Drain and cool, then cut into cubes
  • While the beets are cooking, place the walnuts in a skillet over medium-low heat
  • Heat until warm and starting to toast, then stir in the maple syrup.
  • Cook and stir until evenly coated
  • Remove from the heat and set aside to cool
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice concentrate, balsamic vinegar and olive oil
  • Place a small amount of dressing on each plate (this is a good trick, adds flavor at the bottom and keeps greens from sliding off the plate!)
  • Place a large helping of spinach onto each of four salad plates,
  • Divide the candied walnuts equally and sprinkle over the greens.
  • Place equal amounts of beets over the greens, and top with dabs of goat cheese and avocado
  • Drizzle each plate with some dressing
  • Enjoy

 submitted by Stephanie Blackford 

No Bake Fourth of July Desserts – Let Freedom (From the Kitchen) Ring!

As you may know, I am a fan of desserts. Like, if I were a teenager, I would have posters of cakes on my wall. It’s that bad.

But I am also a fan of feeding my crew healthy, non-food dyed, non-creepy-chemical eats. And that core belief is part of the Epicurean Group Bill of Rights created by our forefather. Real food for real people. God Bless America.

There are several holiday desserts that fit the – um – bill. Or at least almost fit the bill, with a  little modification. And these treats are simple enough to do quickly, don’t require an oven, and won’t cause that post-dessert guilt. I spend my life feeling guilty about the desserts. But those who can not do, teach. Here we go:

Love this portable dessert!

Directions:

  • Puree strawberries in a  blender with a little bit of agave
  • Place strawberries, organic vanilla or lemon yogurt, and blueberries in a mason jar or drinking glass
  • Chill
  • Serve

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If you want to steer clear of the fake stuff, use 100% real chocolate, organic pretzel rods, and  an all-natural food dye to create red, white, and blue pretzel sticks – and skip the sprinkles (they are a mess anyway).Warm chocolate on the stove, dip pretzel rods, and place rods on wax paper in the refrigerator for an hour.

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Alternate bananas, strawberries and blueberries to create this edible flag! This is a great project for little tykes – keeps them busy for a good 8 minutes!

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These are made with Rice Krispie treats, but you can swap out pineapple for the stars – making this a great breakfast, snack or dessert.

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