VeganYumYum » editorial Yup, I'm back. Thu, 08 Nov 2012 23:25:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Food Photography for Bloggers Sat, 20 Sep 2008 23:52:44 +0000 Lolo Food Photography for Bloggers

Food bloggers wear a lot of hats. We have to be chefs, prep cooks, food stylists, photographers, photo editors, dish washers, and writers every time we post a something new.  I’ve been wanting to do a post on food photography for a while; everyone who has ever emailed me about my photos: this is for you.

Most food bloggers don’t have their own studios, or professional lighting equipment, or access to food stylists.  Here’s how you can make your own high-quality food photos at home no matter what equipment you have.

There is a lot that happens before and after I click the shutter that contributes to the final photo.  I’m not a professional photographer, and I’m figuring things out along the way with a lot of trial and error.  The only prior knowledge I have is some skills that I picked up in a high school photography class several years ago.  A lot of the tips online about food photography are for commercial shoots, and therefore don’t contain much specific information for the home food blogger.

Workflows and techniques are very personal, so I’m sure other food bloggers out there achieve fabulous results doing things differently than I do.  This is what works for me, and I hope you find it useful.

Part of my dish collection

Above is just one part of my dish collection, and it grows all the time.

Tuile Cones with Almond Pudding and StrawberriesThe right dish really sets the overall look for the photo. Everytime I’m in a store that sells dishes, I pick up one or two of something I find interesting. You don’t need a full set.  Some general tips:

1. White will always, always work.
2. Square dishes always look classy.
3. Smaller is better — small dishes are easier to fill up with food, which prevents your plate from looking bare.

Also look online for fun dishes.  I have a friend who works at Beau-Coup Favors, a neat favors business, and he sent me these great little miniature martini glasses I use in a lot of photos in this post. Just goes to show you how the right presentation can make even a boring vegetable salad look gorgeous.

Plan Ahead

Do as much as you possibly can ahead of time.  Food should be photographed as soon as possible after preparing, which means you’ll need a space for photographing ready to go, an uncluttered kitchen, etc.  Here’s what I do before I start cooking:

1.  Clean up, do all the dishes, clear countertops
2.  Pick out dishes
3.  Set camera up on tripod, pick out background
4.  Clear your photography space
5.  Think about the dish: do you need a garnish? Special utensils? Placemat?

Mise en Place


Prepping all your ingredients neatly will keep your kitchen more organized, cut down on cooking time, and allow you to focus on the task at hand.  And mise en place photographs make for killer filler photos, as well!

Starting Out

Happy Birthday DennisWhen I first started doing my blog, I had a sony point-and-shoot digital camera, no tripod, and I got on just fine.

The image to the left was taken with a point-and-shoot (PnS) at night, with only my kitchen light on. Even better is taking your photos during the day with natural light. The colors will be much more true to real life, like this photo, which was also taken with a simple consumer camera.

But if you’re looking to improve not only your photos but also your equipment, here are some tips for you.

Moving Up

If you are interested in investing a little money in your photography, I’d highly recommend getting a “prosumer” digital SLR (single-lens reflex) camera and a trusty lens or two. There are a lot of cameras on the market, but most people find themselves deciding between Canon and Nikon. It’s really difficult to say which is better, and the reality is that they’re both great. I happen to shoot Canon, so my recommendations will be for Canon products, since that’s what I know.

Digital SLR Bodies

Camera SetupI started out with a Canon Rebel XTi, aka the EOS 450D. This is the perfect camera to start out with if you want a dSLR, but don’t want to spend too too much, and don’t want a super clunky camera. Granted, the XTi is much larger than a pocket-sized camera, but compared to other SLRs on the market, it’s downright tiny. You’ll be able to use different lenses, change your aperture and shutter speed, set your white balance, shoot RAW–pretty much everything you’ll want to do to take your photography to the next level.

However, I started with the XTi, and quickly upgraded to the EOS 30D. A little too quickly. I should have spent a little more money up front and gone with the 30D to begin with. But it’s bigger, heavier, and more expensive. Think about what you want in a camera, and go to a store and hold different models before you decide what the right camera is for you.  The 40D is out now, and the 50D has been announced, so I bet you could get a pretty good deal on a 30D right now.


Whatever camera you get, I suggest you skip over any camera package that includes what they call a “kit” lens.  The lenses the cameras are packaged with are usually semi-poor quality “all purpose” lenses that do a bit of everything, but don’t do anything well.  By getting the camera body only, and purchasing the lenses you want separately, you’ll not only save money, but also be getting exactly what you want.  But that’s another decision you need to make: what lenses are you going to buy?

There are a lot of lenses you can get that will work for food photography. Here are my recommendations, but keep in mind these are definitely not the only options. The lenses here are ones that I 1) own and use myself and 2) make great photos for things other an food photography.  If I’m going to spend a few hundred dollars on a lens, I want to use it for more than just food photography!

Canon 50mm 1.8  $80-90ish
If you’re on a budget and can only buy one lens, I’d recommend this one. It’s cheap compared to other lenses, and is a very “fast” lens. A fast lens is one that has a very wide aperture that creates nice depth of field and can be used in low-light situations (more on all that later). The downsides: slow, loud auto-focus, a cheaply built plastic body, and cannot focus very close to your subject. I owned it and it was great for three months. Then it broke. Still, very highly recommended.  It is also a great general lens that you’ll love to shoot portraits with as well.

Example Image from 50mm 1.8:
I had to taste them!

Canon 50mm 1.4  $325
This is the big brother to the 50mm 1.8. It has all the benefits the of the 1.8, but an even faster aperture, a much sturdier body, closer focusing range, quieter and faster auto-focus and a nicer “bokeh.” (More on bokeh later.) It’s much more expensive but will last you longer, and compared to Canon’s other lenses, this is still on the “affordable” side, believe it or not. I use this lens all sorts of photos. (You can spend even more and get the 50mm 1.2 L series lens, but that’s even more expensive than this one.)

Example Image from 50mm 1.4:
Tall Stack

Canon 60mm 2.8 Macro, EF-S  $400
You might not think there would be a large difference between a 50mm and a 60mm, so why own both? I’ll tell you why–this lens is a macro lens. A macro lens allows you to really get in there and focus closely on your food (or whatever) and get details you’d be hard pressed to get with another lens.  It’s also  fast lens and doubles nicely as a portrait lens.  I’ve shot the majority of my food photos with this lens, and I’d say if you only were to buy one lens for food photography, this lens or another similar macro lens might be your best investment.  However, if you ever plan to upgrade your camera to something nicer than a 30/40/50D, be aware that this lens won’t mount onto the more professional Canon cameras like the 5D and 1D.  (But if you’re in the market for a 5D or a 1D, you definitely don’t need my advice!)

Example Image from 60mm 2.8, food is “actual size”:
Miniature Napoleons with Eggplant Creme

As I said earlier, there are lots of lenses that can and do work great for food photography. If you’re a food photographer and have a different lens that you use and love, please leave it in the comments!

Simple Setups, Natural Light

You don’t need to invest in lots of studio equipment to get great images. The very best lighting you can get is free, and it’s coming through your windows every day. Here’s a shot of my “studio”:

Camera Setup

A table, next to a window. Done! Well, almost. Since I shoot with natural light only, a lot of times it’s slightly too dark to hand-hold my camera and get a clear image. Use a tripod and you’ll be amazed at how much better your photos get, especially with PnS cameras. Even balancing your camera on a can of tomatoes or a pile of books can save a shot. Tripods very drastically in price, but I have a cheap $30 that has done the trick for well over a year now.

Make your own backgrounds

Make Your Own BackgroundsThere are lots of ways you can make backgrounds for your food shots. My favorite backgrounds are just simple 20×30″ foam-core boards that I spray painted on my porch, a different color on each side.

I love these because they’re cheap, easy to make and customize, easy to store, and fairly durable. I once bought this kit that comes with colored paper, but soon realized the paper gets destroyed after a few uses: it tears, it gets ugly creases in it, and if you spill anything on it at all it’s ruined. The big foam-core boards, on the other hand, wipe clean and don’t bend, and if you do ruin them they’re easy to replace.

As you can see in the photo to the left, they’re easy to swap in and out during a shoot. You can try all different colors before picking the right one for the dish you’re photographing.

One tip: buy matte finish spray paint – glossy paint will cause unsightly glares in your photos.

Natural Lighting

Natural Light

I’ve already mentioned this, but I can’t stress it enough. It’s nearly impossible to reproduce the wonders of natural sunlight artificially. As far as I know, even big-wig professionals have trouble duplicating it. Yes, it means you’ll need to do your food photography during the day, but I promise you the results are worth it. Nothing looks as nice as sunlit food, and fortunately the sun is pretty easy to use (even if it’s unpredictable). Besides, learning how to shoot with natural, varying light will improve your photography across the board.

Using natural light is probably the number one thing you can do to improve your photos.  Turning off the flash, since you’re using lovely natural light, is the second best thing.

I find side-lighting to be the most dependable and easist to expose for. Back-lighting can be very nice, but is harder to manage the correct exposure. Full on front-lighting can work well, too, so experiment with everything.

When using natural lighting, don’t place your food in a sunbeam. You want ambient, diffuse light. Things shot directly in the sun usually look too harsh, but again, it can sometimes work depending on the shot. In my opinion, the “safest” set up is diffuse side-lighting coming from nearby window.

For those of you who are interested in artificial lighting, I’m not the best person to turn to for advice, but I can suggest you look into Lowel Ego lights. I bought a set and have used them on one post only, but I managed to get a good result. This shot was lit with Ego lights at night:

Coconut Blood Orange Bundt Cakes

For more information on Lowel Ego lights for food photography, check out Jaden of Steamy Kitchen’s fabulous and detailed review of them.

Take a LOT of Photos

One Entire Shoot

I did a photoshoot for this entry to help illustrate the points I wanted to make. What you see above is every single photo from the shoot, all 93 of them. I think I average around 100 photos taken per recipe, and I whittle them down drastically to just a handful for each post.  Buy a large memory card for your camera to make sure you have enough space for all those photos!

I always find it funny how one shot can be “meh”, while another shot take from a slightly different angle, or with a slightly different focus, can suddenly become “WOW!” The best way to ensure you get “the shot” is to take lots and lots of them. Taking lots of photos allows you to be very, very picky when you’re editing, ensuring you never have to post a photo you dislike.

Anatomy of a Shoot


I start out photographing the process of the recipe–chopping, special techniques, assembly, etc.  Once the dish is done and plated, I’ll take some “basic” shots which help me establish the lighting, background, what props/garnishes are needed, positioning of the food, etc.

I gradually work my way towards a photograph that feels complete to me, making sure to get all different angles.  I try overhead, straight on, close up, environment shots, and many different angles.  My photographs start out boring and move towards interesting as I shoot.  It’s hard to explain how I plate or frame, but it involves a lot of photos and looking at each photo and saying, “Hmm, the image looks too bare” or “I need to figure out how to emphasize this particular quality of the dish.”  As I said before, the more photos you take, the better chance you have of getting that perfect shot.

Camera Settings

Tripods/Stabilization RequiredNo matter what kind of camera you have, one thing always applies: turn OFF the flash. A flash will at best make your food look flat and at worst wash out all the details and create unappealing shadows.

If you have a PnS camera, look for a setting that is marked with a little flower. This is your macro setting, and it will help your lens use the best of its close-focusing and detail capabilities.

If you have a larger dSLR with more settings to choose from, here’s what I recommend:

ISO: Set to the lowest possible, probably 100. The lower the ISO, the “cleaner” your image will be. Photos shot at higher ISOs have a lot of digital “noise” in them that looks like colorful static. Higher ISOs are used to increase your camera’s sensitivity to light, allowing you to shoot in darker conditions and still maintain a shutter speed that is fast enough to prevent blurry images. But since you’re using a tripod (right?!), and your food isn’t moving (right?!), it’s best to keep this setting as low as possible for the best looking images.

Flash: Keep it off. Always.

RAW or JPG: If you have a choice, shoot RAW.   RAW files record lots and lots information about each photo, which allows you to bring the most out of the image in post-processing (editing color, contrast, white balance, etc.). Be aware that you may need special software to process RAW images, however, and there’s more on that below.  If RAW isn’t an option, make sure your camera is set to the highest resolution JPG option available.

Shutter Speed and Aperture: In my opinion, shutter speed doesn’t matter so much in food photography; it’s your aperture, or f-stop, that’s most important. So important, it gets its very own section.

When shutter speed would matter is for “freezing” action, or purposeful motion blur. For example, in the photo of the pancakes, I needed a fairly fast shutter speed to “freeze” the pouring syrup. And lets say you wanted a shot that showed the motion of you tossing greens or sauteing vegetables; a slow shutter speed would be required for that. But on the whole, you’ll be more interested in apertures than shutter speeds.

Know your F-Stops

Know Your F-Stops

If you’ve ever wondered how photographers get that nice, blurry background with only one thing in focus, now you know. F-stops! The aperture of the camera is the opening that lets the light in, and you can set it to very large (the photo on the left) or very small (the photo on the right).

BokehThink of the aperture on your camera the same way as the pupil in your eye. When it’s dark out, your pupils expand to gather more light. If someone shines a light in your eye, they constrict and get very small to let less light in. Your camera’s aperture is the same. One of the side-effects is what’s called “depth of field.” When the aperture is very wide open, only a small amount of the image will be in focus, just like the photo on the left. If the aperture is very small, much more of the photo will be in focus.

Your eyes are actually the same. Ever squint to read a street sign in the distance? The smaller your pupils get, the more focus you get, so squinting to see a sign more clearly is just like “stopping down” to a smaller aperture to get more things in focus. If you’ve ever wanted to pick out a specific part of an image to draw the viewers eye, a small depth of field is one way to say, “Hey, look at THIS!”

Shallow Depth of Field

There’s no right or wrong when it comes to apertures, it’s just a matter of taste. I prefer many images that have very large apertures because I really like the dramatic focus. If you’re looking for this in your photos, too, make sure to purchase lenses that have a an aperture of 2.8 or wider (like 1.4). All the lenses I recommended above can provide this effect.

By the way, the technical term for the pretty, smooth and silky blurry parts of an image like this is called “bokeh.”

Learn Manual

Of course, none of this is much help if you don’t know how to set your f-stop, or how to get the proper exposure once you do.  The best thing do to is learn how to use your camera on the manual setting.  It takes a bit of time to get used to it, but once you do you’ll have complete control over your images.  This post is already long enough as it is so I won’t go into it here, but I’m sure there are some great resources online for learning how to use your camera on its manual setting.

One possible way around learning to shoot manually is “Aperture Priority” — a setting that is available on my camera and many dSLRs.  On a Canon camera, simply set the dial to Av and use the scroll wheel at the top to set your aperture, big or small.  The camera will figure out the corresponding shutter speed to give you the proper exposure.  Well, that’s the short of it, anyway.  If you need more help with that, feel free to email me.


Framing and Rule of ThirdsWhatever subject you’re shooting, you’ll hear people talk endlessly about the Rule of Thirds, and for good reason.  It just works.  If you’ve never heard about it, definitely check out that link.  Like all rules of thumb, you can break it and still get a great photo, but it’s a reliable way to dramatically improve the images you make without much fuss.

For food photography, a lot of times people stand above the dish, take a photo, and call it a day. Overhead shots can work, but try taking photos from lower angles, even level with the food itself.

Also, get in close, but not too close! It’s always important to leave some frame of reference for the viewer so they know what they’re looking at, even if it’s just the edge of the plate, or a fork, or the rim of a glass. You tell me, which close-up photo is more appealing?

But Not Too Close!

Get Close!



I use, and highly recommend, a piece of software called Lightroom to edit and organize my photos. It’s not free, but it is fabulous. Since I shoot in RAW, the images that come directly out of the camera are usually pretty “flat” looking. RAW images require some sort of processing, and most people turn them into high-res JPG files, making edits to color, contrast, sharpening, exposure, and white balance along the way. I tend to boost contrast and color saturation, as well as add vignetting (darkened edges), but it really depends on what I’m trying to bring out in the photo. Here’s an example of two images before and after editing in Lightroom:

Editing Raw Files

It’s hard to make such dramatic changes to a photo if it’s not a RAW file.  The information a RAW file keeps allows you to make many non-destructive enhancements.  RAW files give you lots of control over how your final image looks.

If you camera doesn’t have the option to shoot in RAW, set it to the highest resolution JPG setting available.  And if you’re using a mac, you can start with some basic editing in iPhoto.  I feel like Lightroom is a nice middle step between the ease of use of iPhoto and the powerful tools of Photoshop. I know a lot of people also like Aperture, but I’ve never used it myself.  If you’re on a PC, I have no idea what programs to recommend, but I’m sure other people do!

Whatever software you use to edit your images, check out the settings and make sure your photos are being edited in the sRGB colorspace (which is good for putting photos on the web) and use a calibrated monitor when editing. Both of these things will help ensure your photos look as good as they can on many different monitors.

Final Thoughts

The very best advice I can give you about food photography is simply do a lot of it. Like anything, the more you do it the better you’ll get. I’ve only been doing food photography for two years or so and I can see a huge difference in the quality of my shots. The more I learn about photography the more I realize how much more there is for me to learn.

I hope this was helpful for you. Happy shooting, and be thankful that no matter how your photos turn out, you can always eat your work after wards! But if you’re going to get really into food photography, be ready to eat a lot of your meals cold.

Gnocchi with Thyme Vinaigrette and Lemon Cashew Cream

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Minestrone Wed, 12 Dec 2007 21:32:54 +0000 Lolo Minestrone

I’ve been thinking about flavor. More specifically, how to get the most flavor out of each ingredient used in a recipe. This is especially important when you want to make a meal and only have a few things on hand. If you can make each ingredient really count, it doesn’t matter if your only throwing a handful of them together.

(Can you tell I need to make a trip to the grocery store really, really badly?)

The recipe I’m going to use as an example of making your ingredients count is a simple minestrone. Before I made the soup I asked myself, “So what technically makes a minestrone?” The answer turned out to be “Almost whatever you want”–which makes it the perfect soup to make when you find your fridge a little more bare than you’d prefer. Minestrone started as the classic “garbage soup.” I prefer to call it these kinds of soups “clean out the fridge soups” myself. The idea is that you do not go grocery shopping to make minestrone. You use whatever you have on hand, be it extra vegetables, canned goods, frozen things, or leftovers.

So how did I get the most out of the ingredients I had?

Caramelized Onions
The extra time put into caramelized onions really pays off. The longer you cook them, the more complex their flavor becomes. I saute my onions for at least 10 minutes in olive oil, until they are a lovely reddish-brown and very soft. It is SO worth the extra few minutes of cooking before you proceed with your meal. Spend the 10 minutes prepping your other veggies to make the rest of the meal go smoothly and quickly.

Canned Tomatoes
Keep a stock of canned tomatoes, if you don’t already. If you buy stewed or fire roasted tomatoes, you already have a leg up. These tomatoes are already partially cooked and have a lot of flavor in a convenient package. Unless it’s mid-summer and I have gorgeous vine-ripened tomatoes, I always go for the canned stuff. It’s easy, cheap, consistent, and tasty. At the risk of sounding like Rachel Ray, it really does help you get “all day flavor” in just a few minutes.

Herbs and Spices
Lemon Zest, Rosemary, PeppercornsI rarely have fresh herbs available (they’re expensive and I’ve failed at growing my own), but when I do, I try to get the most out of them. Don’t add fresh herbs until the very end of cooking. The delicate flavors will be most enjoyable if you toss your freshly chopped herbs in at the end of whatever you’re making. The residual heat from the dish is enough to carry the flavors through. This applies to pepper, too. Try out fresh cracked pepper, from whole peppercorns, added at the end over your dish. You’ll be astounded at the difference in flavor compared to pre-ground pepper.

How many dishes do you make that start with a bit of oil heated in the pan? If you’re using dried herbs or other spices, try throwing them in at the very beginning, in the oil. Tossing dried herbs and spices into oil and sauteing for a minute or so (longer with whole spices) flavors the oil itself and brings a whole new dimension to your cooking. The majority of Indian dishes start this way, and for good reason.

Salt and Vinegar
I admit that I’m a bit of a salt whore. I love it. But it really is amazing stuff. It doesn’t just make things salty, it actually enhances other flavors. I can taste all the other flavors in my dish much better when it is sufficiently salty. Even pasta cooked in salted water tastes better to me.

I also use vinegar in conjunction with salt. I use the term vinegar loosely to mean nearly anything that’s sour. I keep balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, rice vinegar and apple cider vinegar on hand at all times, but lemon juice works great on it’s own in many occasions. Vinegar can be a lifesaver if you over-salt something by accident, but I like to use salt and vinegar together to really punch up a dish’s flavor. They’re a great team. If your dish needs a little “something” and you don’t know what that is, try salt and/or vinegar and see where that gets you. I think it’s easiest to balance the flavors if you add the salt before the vinegar.

Minestrone Soup
Serves 4

Olive Oil
1 Sweet Yellow Onion, diced
1-4 Clove(s) Garlic, minced
1 Can Stewed or Fire Roasted Tomatoes (15 oz), blended
1 Large Carrot, diced
6 Cups of Hot Water or Veg Stock
1 Tbs Tomato Paste
1 Bay Leaf
1/4-1/2 tsp Celery Salt
2/3 Cup Elbow Macaroni
2 Cups Kale, packed
Salt to Taste (I used 1 1/2 tsp)
1/2 Cup Frozen peas
2 Tbs Fresh Herbs (I used marjoram and rosemary, 1 Tbs total after chopping)
Lemon Zest
Black Pepper

Add a few tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a soup pot that has a lid. Heat oil and add onions. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. In the last minute of cooking, add the garlic.

Tip for mincing garlic: After removing the skin (smash it lightly with the flat side of your knife to do that), chop the garlic with a pinch of salt. The salt acts as a tenderizer and the friction of the granules break down the clove to help you achieve a fine mince.

Add the tomatos to the onions and garlic and simmer for another 4-5 minutes. Add the carrot and the water/broth and bring to a boil. Add the tomato paste, bay leaf, and celery salt cook until the carrots begin to soften. Then add macaroni and stir often, making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Add kale.

Add salt to taste. I used water, and therefore added 1 1/2 tsp of salt. If you used vegetable broth or bullion, you may not need this much salt. Simmer, covered, until the pasta is cooked. Add the peas at the end, they’ll defrost in a matter of seconds. Turn off heat, add fresh herbs.

Ladle soup into bowls and grate some lemon zest over the top of each serving. Sprinkle pepper over the top.

Lemon Zest

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Mac and Cheese. Cheeze? Yeast? Wed, 17 Oct 2007 23:53:47 +0000 Lolo Mac and Cheeze and Broccoli

There are innumerable recipes for vegan mac and cheese on the internet. I’ve tried a lot of them. Some of them simply call for “slices of soy cheese” and some vegetable stock to be mixed over pasta. The majority, however, require nutritional yeast, and they usually also require making a roux. The recipe below is from my upcoming cookbook, and it’s one of my favorites. However, if you’ll indulge me for a moment, there are some things about vegan mac and cheeze I want to talk about.

Now, I’m the first to admit “Mac and Yeast” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. That’s why I tend to call it “Mac and Cheeze”. But I’m also the first to admit that these recipes, even the best of them, don’t really taste all that much like mac and cheese. Some get much closer than others, and a lot are downright tasty. But it’s not cheese. Your omnivore or veggie friend/spouse/child may love it as much as or even more than the real stuff (if you’re lucky), but they probably love it on its own merits, not because they really can’t tell the difference.

But you know what? It doesn’t have to taste exactly the same for me to love it.

A lot of people, myself included, are really interested in making vegan food that’s indistinguishable from the “real” thing. It’s a fun challenge, and oftentimes, a challenge where you can really and truly be successful. But there are many instances where you don’t create something identical, but what you do create is actually good. Different, but yummy. While vegan mac and cheese doesn’t taste exactly like non-vegan mac and cheese, it satisfies the same craving. It’s rich and creamy and salty and vaguely cheese-like. It’s a yummy, thick creamy sauce to top noodles with.

I think that sometimes it’s enough to satisfy your cravings with something similar, if you can’t find something identical. After three years of being vegan, I don’t even crave mac and cheese anymore; I crave mac and yeast.

I think expectation is important with food. If it looks like a grape, you expect it to taste like a grape. If I hand you a glass of sparkling wine and tell you it’s gingerale, you might be put off when you take a sip. You might even like wine, but you expected it to be, well, not wine. If I say, “here, try this mac and cheese” and give you mac and yeast, you might be disappointed when you tasted it. If you’ve never tried a mac and yeast recipe before, and you want to try this one, keep in mind that it doesn’t taste like cheese.

It just tastes like yummy. Well, it does to me and the vegans that tested the recipe for me!

Mac and Cheeze
Serves 2-3

1/3 Cup Earth Balance Margarine
1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
2 1/2 Tbs Low Sodium Tamari or Soy Sauce
1 Tbs Lemon Juice, fresh
1 Tbs Sweet/White/Mellow Miso
1 Tbs Tahini
1 Tbs Tomato Paste (not sauce!)
1 1/4 Cup Soy Milk
1/3 Cup Nutritional Yeast
1 Pinch Salt
Black Pepper, to taste

Begin by heating a sauce pan and adding the earth balance. Once melted, add flour and whisk vigorously until a smooth paste forms, called a roux. Be careful not to add flour to a pan that is very hot, or your roux will be lumpy and you’ll need to start over. If you mix in the flour as soon as the margarine is melted and you should avoid any problems.

To this paste, add tamari, lemon, miso, tahini, and tomato paste and whisk until well incorporated. The mixture should still be paste-like. Then slowly pour in the soymilk, whisking constantly, until it is completely incorporated. Add the yeast and mix well. Cook the mixture until it thickens, whisking often. This should take approximately 5 minutes, but it’s flexible. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Mac and Cheeze

I like this the most baked. Cook 3 cups of dry, small pasta (like elbows or shells or rotini) and toss with the finished cheezy sauce. Add steamed broccoli (pictured) for a real treat. Top with fresh breadcrumbs and bake at 400º for 25 minutes, or until browned and bubbly.

I’ve spilled so much ink so far (well, pixels) telling you that vegan cheese doesn’t taste like cheese, so I figured I’d close the entry with this: vegan cheese that, to me, tastes like mother forkin’ cheese! It deserves an entire entry devoted to it, so I’ll just leave you with this until part two of my vegan cheese post:

Medium Cheddar Sheese

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Pea Tendril and Daikon Noodle Salad Thu, 31 May 2007 16:06:20 +0000 Lolo Pea Tendril and Daikon Noodle Salad with Sesame Soy Dressing

I just can’t wait for my CSA shares to start coming in, so yesterday I went to a farmers market in downtown Boston. My hopes were high, and I spent the entire train ride imagining all the fun greens and maybe even baby spring vegetables I’d bring home. When I arrived, the first tent was full of flowers. The next, herbs. Then there was a bread and pastry tent, some more herbs and flowers, and… that was it.

Where are my vegetables!

City Plaza Farmer's Market, Boston

I milled around the short string of tents, walking up and down the line, desperately trying to find something other than impatiens and coffee cake. Then I started asking myself, “well, do I need a $25 two year old rosemary plant?” I wanted the answer to be yes, but I kept moving. Finally, tucked between chocolate mint and calla lilies was a huge basket of… leaves? Vines? I wasn’t sure what it was, but it looked like I could eat it. The sign said, “Organic Sweet Pea Tendrils – $3/box.”

I marched up and said, “I’ll take a box, please” as the man behind the table was trying to offer me a sample. “oh,” he said, “you’ll just buy some then?” He probably had spent most of the morning explaining what pea tendrils are and handing out samples to convince people that they really are tasty and you really should eat them. But not me! I’m used to buying mysterious vegetables.

I have a bit of an addiction to trying new and interesting greens. I had no idea, of course, that you could eat pea tendrils. I had no clue as to what they tasted like, but I didn’t care! I wanted a box of that leafy mass he was standing behind; I’d figure out the details later. Of course, as soon as I got home I spent an hour googling them, all the while wishing I had asked a few questions when I bought them.

Organic Pea Tendrils

So here’s what I found out: they are usually lightly stir fried in Chinese cooking, but I think that pertains to pea tendrils that are a bit older and sturdier than the ones I bought. The tendrils I came home with were very delicate, almost the same texture as the clover you have growing in your lawn but with crisper stems. I had no desire to cook them at all, so I whipped up this salad. I did keep the asian flavors, though, by using daikon radish and a sesame soy dressing.

I hope I find them again before spring is over. They are deliciously crisp and sweet, and they taste like peas! Their texture is nice balance between the soft leaves and the thin crispy stems. They don’t keep well, so if you find them at a farmers market or elsewhere, be prepared to eat them that day. I hear you can even grow them yourself quite easily, even indoors.

In short, I’m in love with pea tendrils. You should be, too.

Pea Tendril and Daikon Noodle Salad with Sesame Soy Dressing

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The Beet Challenge Tue, 30 Jan 2007 14:37:39 +0000 Lolo After my admission that I just don’t like beets, a few of you mentioned how I should give them another try. I’m willing to, but not without your help!

Do you have a favorite beet recipe? One that, if only beet haters would try, they’d see the error of their beet-hating ways? Email me your recipe, and I’ll make it, eat it, try my best to like it, and show you my results. If for some reason I receive more than three beet recipes (god help me), I’ll pick my three favorite and post them here.

So, what say ye? Are you going to help conquer my fear of beets?

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Organic Winter Vegetables Thu, 11 Jan 2007 18:48:00 +0000 Lolo
Organic Winter Vegetables

I get sad when winter rolls around, as nearly all of my favorite organic vegetables disappear from the market. I realized today that I am partially to blame for my seasonal produce depression. I make the vegetables that I am comfortable with and carelessly waltz past those that are unfamiliar.

I decided to buy whatever organic vegetables I saw that made me even slightly uncomfortable. Anytime I saw a something tuberous, I grabbed it. If it was bumpy, ugly, or scarred, I placed it in my basket. It was sort of fun, but I did allow myself a few favorites. I must confess, however, that I was unable to completely follow my own rules when I shamefully ignored not one but two different varieties of beets.

I’m just not ready for beets. I don’t want to talk about it.

While I’m confessing, I should also admit that I had no idea what one one of the vegetables I purchased even was. I searched in vain for a sign, but finally decided to just buy it and watch the computer screen for information when the cashier rang it up. I was very pleased with this plan, and thought about what it could be as the cashier begin to sort through my small, lumpy mountain.

She scanned the purple fingerlings, the celery roots, the giant rutabaga. The turnips rang up without issue, boldly declaring themselves “purpletop” on the giant screen in front of me, and I smiled at the information. The kale, of course, wasn’t an problem, and neither were the russets. At last she came to my mystery vegetable and held it up, with a pained look on her face. Crap.

“What exactly is this?” she asked me.

“I don’t know?”

“Can you go look up the price per pound?”

“There wasn’t a sign,” I said, defeated.

Other customers waiting behind me began to inspect my basket full of winter’s bounty as help was called in over the PA system. They didn’t seem frustrated about the wait, in fact, they seemed to enjoy playing Guess the Vegetable.

“Is it an artichoke?” the man behind me asked, and I was slightly pained that he could confuse artichokes with whatever this was, but then realized that I was the one buying a common vegetable that I didn’t recognize. Someone else suggested it was perhaps a Jerusalem artichoke, but I knew that wasn’t the right answer either. The head of the produce section finally arrived, and looked equally vexed as she palmed the mystery lump. We all studied the cheat-sheet of vegetable codes, hoping to divine the answer. It was getting embarrassing.

Finally, a mother toting two children stepped up and said, “Kohlrabi.” She even spelled it. Correctly.

I sheepishly placed it in my bag, paid, and left. Now the real challenge begins. You all need to keep me honest. I’m going to try my best to use all of these, all of these, and to resist the urge the blend everything up into a soup and pretend this never happened.

I have some research to do. Thank goodness for the internet.


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