Michigan Food Photographer // Tavern 109

Who would guess that a town with only one stop light could have the best salt and vinegar homemade chips I've ever tasted? Tavern 109 is located in Williamston, MI where small town does not mean small flavor! From their unique menu, I recommend the pig and fig pizza (I'm drooling just thinking about it). The creations of their head chef Kevin Kueppers were truly a pleasure to shoot! 

If you'd like new photographs for your restaurant go to my "contact me" page

to request an estimate! 

Menu Planning // Pork Week

I feel I should probably tell you: I hate pork. We never ate this particular meat growing up, so I must have never developed a taste for it.... until I moved out to Utah and ate Cafe Rio sweet pork barbacoa. Unfortunately, my budget doesn't allow me to eat there every night so I've created a week based around this delicious pork recipe

First, start with your base recipe (link found above) of the sweet pork. I always love making this because it 1) feeds us for the week 2) is super easy in the crockpot. As a note, pork loin was $15 off at the grocery store the other day, so I tried using that instead of pork butt (I traditionally use that) and it worked with great results! It's not as fatty of a cut, so it doesn't fall apart and shred quite as easily, but it definitely worked well enough for it to be worth the sale! 

The recipes this week are pretty straight forward and easy- you have all the makings of a delicious burrito (pork, beans, rice, cheese, avocado) and easy tacos (pork, lettuce, cheese). When it comes to the better than "whatever" nachos, place homemade corn tortilla chips in an 8x8 pan, top with pork and cheese - then broil on low till cheese is melted. Serve hot with guacamole or salsa. These dinners are all SUPER fast and perfect for a busy week. 

Mini Muffin Tin Pizzas

Although I looooove pizza crust, I also love free time, so this tortilla base mini deep dish pizzas are the best! I haven't tried subbing out the flour for corn (gluten free!) but feel free to try that out. These little guys are definitely a crowd pleaser for watching March madness! 

Caprese Paninis

Although caprese is traditionally made with fresh, soft mozzarella, I sub that out for shredded since I can use it for pizza as well. Use any bread you like, but I recommend something thick because you'll also be using it for croutons in the next recipe! 

Power Salad

For this power salad, I use the yellow pepper, cucumber, 1 avocado, black beans, chickpeas, romaine, and homemade croutons. Toss this all together with a little bit of balsamic vinegar and you'll be licking your plate! 

 

For your 7th recipe feel free to make quesadillas if there's any pork left to go inside them, or go treat yourself to a night out! Our favorite restaurant is re-opening this week, so we'll be scarfing down a burger on our off night :) 

Menu Planning // Frozen Basics

My freezer is literally always filled to the brim with "just in case" items. I thoroughly believe in hoarding what you can, and then buying fresh to fill in the gaps. As you follow these recipes and menus every week, hopefully you can build up your pantry to be stocked and ready for all kinds of dinners! The frozen basics we'll use this week are: peas and carrot mix, broccoli, and peas by themselves. I love all of these because they're 1) super useful 2) not gross when thawed 3) suuuuuuper affordable (like, $1 per bag). I will also add, I'll mention potstickers a few times this week... which is one of my Trader Joes frozen favorites, so feel free to add those to your grocery list if you like! 

FROZEN BASICS MENU

SHRIMP FRIED RICE

MONGOLIAN BEEF AND BROCCOLI

COCONUT SHRIMP OVER RICE

ALFREDO PASTA WITH PEAS 

CAULIFLOWER CHIPOTLE SOUP

"LEFTOVER" CASSEROLE

SHORTCUT CHICKEN POT PIE

 



As per usual, feel free to make these recipes in any order you like, keeping in mind that I've given you tips for which days or what order they may be better in :) Before anything else, make a TON of rice, because you'll need it all week. I made mine in the crockpot (which was awesome!) since we don't have a rice cooker. I'm attempting to be healthier so I made a ton of brown rice... and for someone who normally thinks it tastes like mushy dog food... it really wasn't bad. Find the awesome recipe here to make sure your brown rice turns out perfect. 

Shrimp Fried Rice 

I'm sorry if you're sick of my "side dishes can be main courses" obsession, but I just love appetizers and sides. The healthy (scary) brown rice was TOTALLY delicious (hidden) in this recipe! Hmmm maybe that's because I doused it with soy sauce....  Oh, and feel free to add some pot stickers (frozen aisle baby!) to this dish if you need more variety. 

Mongolian Beef and Broccoli

Okay, I'm not gonna lie to you guys... I wasn't feeling well the night we made this, so I left Chase in charge of the Mongolian sauce (and everything) and the sauce sort of.... overcooked...and uh.. turned to tar. Like, it ruined my whisk and he had to go to Anthropologie to buy me a new one. I mean, not to rat him out or anything, but I genuinely don't know if it was user error or recipe error - so watch your sauce! I ended up running to Target to get store bought sauce... oh well, it was still delicious. Follow the recipe, green onions are optional, and add the frozen broccoli! 

Coconut Shrimp over Rice

This recipe was a new one for me, and it was super easy to make, especially since I just used leftover rice! Feel free to make this on a night where time is of the essence! 

Homemade {cauliflower} Alfredo Pasta with Peas

Use this recipe on a night you want to wow a crowd! I got the Alfredo recipe from the Smitten Kitchen, but any homemade recipe will do fine. I also steamed my extra cauliflower (since I halved the soup recipe below), blended it, and added it to my sauce to thicken it up. Also, I'm lazy and I used dried parsley instead of fresh - totally acceptable. 

Cauliflower Chipotle Soup

Follow the recipe, but add a little less chipotle if your family hates spicy - it was pretty strong! Also, I threw mine in the crockpot on a busy day and it turned out great! 

"Leftover" Casserole

Again, no lies here... this casserole grosses me out just a littttttle bit to make (who likes looking or smelling mayo?!) but it's really yummy once it's all cooked! Use your leftover rice and cheddar from the soup. I use panko bread crumbs instead of corn flakes, because again, I find an ick factor there. Cereal belongs with milk. 

Shortcut Chicken Pot Pie

3-4 chicken breasts

3 T. butter

1 yellow onion, diced

salt and pepper to taste 

small box of mushrooms, chopped

1/3 c. flour

2 c. chicken (or veggie) broth

1 c. heavy cream

1 c. frozen peas and carrots

Heat oven to 450. Poach chicken, and cool and cut up into chunks. Melt butter in large pan, add in onions and mushrooms. Once soft, add flour, stirring until bubbly. Gradually add broth and cream. Bring to a boil, stirring and cooking for 1 minute. Add peas and carrots, then cut up chicken. Place mixture in 9x13 casserole dish. Top with scoops of biscuit dough, and cook for 20 minutes (recipe for biscuits below). 

BISCUIT DOUGH: Combine 1.5 cups flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 3/4 tsp. salt, and 2 tbsp dried parsley flakes. Cut in 1/3 c. butter or shortening, and then add 3/4 cup milk. Stir until combined. 



Menu Planning // Potato Week

See recipe below!

See recipe below!

See recipe below!

See recipe below!


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I am a potato feind. This means I am addicted to those brown starchy ovals of heaven. For the sake of argument, let's say you just have a normal liking towards potatoes and don't want to eat them every single day, then don't you worry! Although it's "potato week" I won't have you eating them for every single meal (just, like, most of them..). This week, order isn't very crucial. These recipes can be made on any day and in any order that suits your schedule!  Just click on the names of the meals [above] and it will take you right to the source. After trying out all of the recipes myself this week, here are my notes, thoughts, and tips:

Potato and Swiss Chard Chowder

First off, this recipe is GLUTEN AND DAIRY FREEEEEEE! Huzzah, my friends. This is hard to do while still being delicious. Plus, you get your vegetable intake for the week... I mean day...

As for the recipe, it makes a TON of soup! So go share with your neighbor or freeze half for later in the month, or you know, half the recipe. My one recommendation is to double the amount of chick peas in the recipe. Also, put less water than you think you need to, mine turned out way too brothy :(

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Asian style cuisine calls for a lot of ingredients. Sometimes I cheat and leave out the things I know I can live without (like fresh ginger, or siracha if I'm out). I also never use ground chicken because who has that lying around?? I just chop the chicken really tiny :) 

Once a Week Chicken Dish

After a few weeks of reading my blog you will probably start to notice I mention my mother a lot - and yes, I'm a momma's girl. I was so grateful that she cooked [almost] every night growing up so that I could pick up all her tricks! She named this recipe, and not only has the name stuck, but it's incredibly true in the winter time. I make this comfort dish all the time, and after this week you'll totally understand why. Here's the recipe:

Time: 1 hour (or less)

Serves: 2 overly hungry people who want leftovers (or 4 people)

Ingredients:

-2 chicken breasts

-1 can cream of chicken

-small package of white mushrooms

-1-2 yellow onions (preference of how much you like them)

-8 oz sour cream

-2 tbsp paprika

-salt and pepper to taste

Serve over mashed potatoes

The how to:

Poach your chicken in a pot of boiling water. Chop up onions and mushrooms (washed) and sauté in a pan. Peel and chop up potatoes, then boil. Once the mushrooms and onions are soft, add the cream of chicken soup and paprika. Add chicken once it's done cooking. Stir occasionally, and cook for 10-15 minutes on low. Add sour cream and let cook for 5-10 minutes. Strain your potatoes and mash them, along with butter and milk. Serve the chicken and "gravy" over the potatoes and enjoy!

Loaded potato skins

All I can say is, this dish gets a bad rep for being just an appetizer. That's like saying Harry Potter is just a book! Make this recipe on a day when you have some time to devote, it's definitely not done in 15 minutes, but it's soooo worth the time. 

Potato latkes and bacon

Mmmm breakfast for dinner. I'm a fan, but if you find yourself needing a day off of cooking I recommend removing this meal or potato gratins (don't buy the heavy cream!) and giving yourself a break! Plus, you probably still have soup leftovers. 

Sweet and sour chicken

This recipe came from a babysitter I used to have, and I would always beg that she make this dish. Once I was old enough to be trusted around the stove, I added my own spin to it. You can make the chicken deep fried or grilled (therefore, no cornstarch or eggs). I'm sure you can guess which one is better because fried is alllllways better in my opinion. If you're not licking the bowl after you make this, I'm a monkey's uncle. Or.. aunt. 

Time: 1.5 hours

Servings: 2

Ingredients: 

-3-4 chicken breasts

-cornstarch (or flour)

-2-3 eggs

For the sauce...

-1/2 cup ketchup

-1/2 cup white vinegar

-1/2 cup chicken broth

-1 and a half cups sugar

-2 tbsp soy sauce

The how to:

Get a pan hot with vegetable oil for frying. Cut up the chicken into cubes, and toss in a ziploc with cornstarch until coated. Dip chicken into eggs (one at a time) and place in oil. Fry until cooked through and golden brown. Set aside in a large serving bowl with a paper towel laid down inside. In a medium pot, combine sauce ingredients and cook on high for 10-15 minutes. The sauce will bubble and turn orange/red. It's ready when it's thick enough that it sticks to pan, but don't let it get to the syrup stage. Toss the chicken in sauce and serve over white or brown rice! 

Potato gratin and grilled chicken

This is the easiest potato gratin I've ever eaten in my life. I only used 2 small potatoes and it filled up the entire muffin tin! It was so delicious I made it again the next day. If you don't have a food processor or kitchen aid attachment that slices really thin, you may want to skip this one and dedicate your time elsewhere. 

 



5 Tricks to Present Your Food So It Looks More Appetizing

Paper plates and eating from take-out boxes was almost nonexistent in my home growing up because my mother always emphasized, presentation matters. It's become my mantra when it comes to food. Presentation can play tricks on your mind; making a mediocre dish taste delicious (and totally worth the $30 you paid for it). These are my five tricks to help you make sure you have the best presentation for your food:

1. Divert the eye!

Let's face facts, not all food is pretty. One of my absolute favorite meals has never been extremely appetizing to the eye, but because I've already had it I know how amazing it is. I get too nervous to serve it at dinner parties because I know it doesn't look as great as it tastes. So how do you make sure people don't think you're serving them dog food? Divert their eye! Change up the way you would logically think to plate your dish, and make something else the centerpiece. 

Using an ice cream scoop to form the potatoes makes them look more smooth and appealing. Plus, with colorful garnish you can turn a dish that has no 'pop' into something restaurant worthy. 

Using an ice cream scoop to form the potatoes makes them look more smooth and appealing. Plus, with colorful garnish you can turn a dish that has no 'pop' into something restaurant worthy. 

2. Deconstruct it!

Sometimes food looks way prettier before it's put together. Obviously, you can't deconstruct enchiladas or soup, but separating your ingredients can make the dish more versatile by letting the consumer control how much of each item goes in. Make sure it's not too much work for them, though! Otherwise they'll feel like they could've made their own dinner at home for the same amount of effort. 

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3. Garnish is your [best] friend

Pick a contrasting garnish (in color) to add to your dish. It's like adding accessories to an outfit; it completes the look. One to two garnishes can quickly elevate any dish, but don't go past two or it may start to look like a hash. 

4. Let them see what's inside

If your dish has beautiful ingredients that get hidden once it's put together, make sure you serve your food open face so your audience can see what's inside! Smashed avocado may not look as appetizing as evenly laid out slices. Onion rings can keep their form if you place the top of the bun to the side. Show off all the yummy ingredients!

5. Drizzle the sauce on the plate

Whether you drizzle or do the "shooting star" trick, adding sauce to a plate in a creative way makes the dish look more expensive. Even though this may be more for aesthetics than function, it creates interesting negative space that draws the eye in.