Behind the Scenes at Lingonberry Jam

I’ve been pondering a post like this for a while now, but a few days ago– when I found myself lying on my stomach on the kitchen island trying to get a good shot while there was still light– I realized it was about time I shared the shenanigans with you. In the name of keeping it real, here are some sneak peeks from taking food pictures in three different apartments.

I often get my serving dishes all set up first to test the light and composition before adding food, especially if I’m using something melty like ice cream. In this picture below, I placed my dishes on a window ledge in the bedroom, since our single kitchen window didn’t provide much light. Yes, that’s dirty laundry in the lower left-hand corner. Oh, and that purple napkin? Totally one of my dress shirts. Use what ya got!

Behind-the-Scenes | Lingonberry Jam

When we moved from our first Boston apartment to the next one, there wasn’t even one window in the kitchen. I prefer to shoot with natural light, so I had to move my setup to the living room. Nothing like apple pie in a window.

Behind-the-Scenes | Lingonberry Jam

In our Minneapolis apartment, we’re blessed with south- and west-facing windows. YES. It may be cold, but we’ve got sunshine! Additionally, we have a bright and open concept, which means I can take pictures in the living room or kitchen, giving me different lights and textures to work with. Of course, some creative cropping is always necessary. For the chicken wing picture below, I used an outdoor table and placed it in front of the pantry near the window. Then I cropped out the wall and countertops.

Behind-the-Scenes | Lingonberry Jam

In the past, in order to get a pretty white background, I would tape dishtowels to the window. (My neighbors probably thought I was crazy.) See that little corner of blue sky? With some slight adjustments to the exposure, this silly system worked pretty well.

Behind-the-Scenes | Lingonberry Jam

Lately I’ve had a new toy to play with! Gabe got me a little pop-up studio for Valentine’s Day. I’ve had a lot of fun putting it in different places and shooting from different angles to see what works best. That’s the moral of the story, really. Trial and error!

Behind-the-Scenes | Lingonberry Jam

With a little coaxing and creativity, and a willingness to play with various camera settings, even a point-and-shoot camera can take some pretty, pretty pictures. Peppercorns, anyone?

Behind-the-Scenes | Lingonberry Jam

Lemon Curd

Maybe it’s the bitterly cold days and my consequent longing for something sunshiny and bright, but I’m on a citrus kick right now. And it’s resulting in me trying many new things that I wouldn’t have touched even a year ago. I love tart and tangy citrus fruits, but for whatever reason the idea of turning them into pies or cookies or bars has always made me uneasy.

But it’s February and I’m dreaming of tropical islands. First, I made some frozen key lime pies inspired by my friend Chelsea, who unwittingly introduced me to the dessert by bringing it to a dinner party months ago. Not wanting to offend a lovely guest, I reluctantly took a bite. And fell in love.

Next came those citrusy sea salts, which I shipped off to a dear aunt who spends her winters in a place where you can actually pick lemons off trees. Magical, right?

And since I had only used the zest of the lemons and nothing else, I squeezed them tight and turned the juice into lemon curd. Yes, I was skeptical. Yes, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, my college roommate who adores lemon bars should be proud. No, I haven’t tried lemon bars yet.

Baby steps.

Lemon Curd | Lingonberry Jam

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Lemon Curd

  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

In a small saucepan, whisk together lemon juice, sugar, egg yolks, eggs, and salt. Place saucepan over low heat and add butter. Whisk constantly until butter is melted and mixture is smooth. Increase heat to medium-low and stir constantly until the curd thickens and becomes jelly-like. (I use a rubber spatula to make sure I get into all the nooks and crannies of the pan.) Check the thickness of the curd by lifting some up with the spatula and dropping it back in the saucepan; if it holds its shape rather than being reabsorbed right away, it’s thick enough.

Press the mixture through a wire mesh strainer over a small bowl. Let cool and refrigerate. Use within 2 weeks.

Makes 1 cup.

Source: David Lebovitz.

Nutrition facts (per 1 Tbs.): 80 calories, 5.5 g fat, 7.0 g carbs, 0.0 g fiber, 1.2 g protein.

Citrus Salts and Strawberry Sugar

These are really fun recipes because they’re not something you’ll serve for dinner one night and be done with. (At least I hope not.) Nope, here’s a way to make your own pantry staples. DIY time!

Citrus salts are great sprinkled on fish or fresh veggies, but the most obvious use is decorating the rim of a margarita glass. They can be easily adjusted to your own preferences; I’m thinking a lemon-lime combo would be awesome. Strawberry sugar… well I suppose it could add sparkle to a frosted cupcake, but it’s so perfectly paired to a daiquiri I don’t know why you’d ever want to separate the two. :)

Also, you could probably make your own pixy stix by filling paper straws with strawberry sugar. But that would be a very bad idea.

Citrus Salts and Strawberry Sugar | Lingonberry Jam Citrus Salts and Strawberry Sugar | Lingonberry Jam

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Lemon Salt

  • 1/3 cup kosher flake salt
  • 1 heaping Tbs. fresh lemon zest

Chipotle-Lime Salt

  • 1/3 cup kosher flake salt
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lime zest
  • 1/4 tsp. ground chipotle

Strawberry Sugar

  • 1 cup freeze-dried strawberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar

For citrus salts, combine ingredients in a small bowl. Bake on a foil-lined cookie sheet at 225° F for about 60 minutes, or until zest is dried out and crumbles when pinched between two fingers. Let cool.

For strawberry sugar, place strawberries in a ziploc bag and crush with a rolling pin. Add sugar to the bag and shake until well-combined.

Store at room-temperature in airtight containers.

Sources: Adapted from 101 Cookbooks, Rosemarried, and One Hungry Mama.

Super Bowl Recap

A couple weekends ago we had friends over to watch football, cheer on Beyonce, critique advertisements, and eat chicken wings. (The most American of gatherings.) I like to get guests involved by hosting potluck-style parties, but I always make sure to whip up several dishes of my own. Wouldn’t want to be caught without any food at all!

For some whimsical decor, I made a table runner by plunking down a roll of chalkboard Contact paper and drawing 10-yard lines on it with chalk. (Note: The paper needs to be prepped first by lightly coloring the whole thing with chalk and then wiping it off. Gives me the heeby-jeebies just thinking about all those squeaky chalk noises, but there’s nothing I won’t do for my guests.)

Super Bowl Party | Lingonberry Jam

Besides hanging out with awesome friends and giggling at that Oreo commercial, these cupcakes were my favorite part of the party. For the toppers, I made a half-batch of chocolate cut-out cookies and decorated them to look like footballs using royal icing. I don’t actually own a football-shaped cookie cutter, so I improvised. Pastry wheel to the rescue!

Super Bowl Party | Lingonberry Jam

Then I made chocolate cupcakes and decorated them with buttercream frosting dyed green, piping on the grass with a Wilton 233 tip. This was my first time piping grass, and I couldn’t get over the cuteness. (Picture me perched on a stool at the kitchen island just giggling.) Carefully pushing the football cookies into the center of the cupcakes completed the ensemble, and there were plenty of leftover cookies to boot.

Once the most important part of the menu was finalized, it was just a matter of cooking up some fun snack foods. Gabe made brats and hamburgers shortly after halftime, and even though we were all stuffed, we couldn’t pass them up. It was the Super Bowl!

Thanks to friends for bringing calico beans, peanut butter cookies, chips ‘n’ dip, and other goodies. And beer, of course. Here’s a recap of the recipes I used:

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Super Bowl Party Foods

Spinach, Pea, and Pesto Quiche

I love a good pair of jeans and I’ll always stop to try on a cute sundress, but when it comes to shopping, kitchen stores are my kryptonite. Walls lined with cooking accessories, shelves full of glassware, sigh… I’ll just stop and have a look.

A couple weeks ago I bought a 9-inch tart pan. I already (somewhat ridiculously) owned six mini tart pans but not a standard-size dish. When I got home, I really wanted to play with my new toy. So I whipped up a simple dinner with ingredients already on hand: spinach, pea, and pesto quiche. My new pan performed marvelously, but you won’t see it here. The beauty of a tart pan is found not in the fluted steel or drop-out bottom; it’s what the pan leaves behind. In this case, a savory, rich, feel-good meal.

Spinach, Pea, and Pesto Quiche | Lingonberry Jam

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Spinach, Pea, and Pesto Quiche

Crust

  • 1 1/4 cups flour, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 10 Tbs. (5 oz.) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into chunks
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2-3 Tbs. ice water

Filling

  • 4 oz. neufchatel or cream cheese
  • 2 Tbs. basil pesto
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh spinach
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 Tbs. minced dried onion
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk

Make pie crust: Preheat oven to 425° F. Stir together salt and flour. Using a food processor or pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture until coarse (pieces of butter should be about the size of small peas). Mix in egg yolk, and then slowly add water until dough holds together. If it gets too wet, add more flour. Chill dough in freezer for 10 minutes.

Roll out crust on a lightly floured surface and transfer to a 9-inch tart pan. Trim off excess dough with a knife. Poke the dough lightly with a fork to reduce bubbling. Chill again in freezer for 30 minutes. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the dough just starts to turn brown. Remove from oven and let cool on rack.

Make filling: Reduce oven temperature to 325° F. Whip cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Stir in pesto.

Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat and add spinach. Stir constantly for about 2-3 minutes until spinach is wilted. Stir in peas and onions and cook for another minute. Add spinach mixture to cream cheese. Stir in cheddar and parmesan and add salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in eggs and milk until smooth. Pour quiche mixture into cooled crust. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until set. (Center should just barely wiggle.) Cool for 10 minutes and serve.

Source: Adapted from Smitten Kitchen. Crust from Mark Bittman.

Nutrition facts (per 1/8 of quiche): 375 calories, 28.3 g fat, 20.0 g carbs, 1.6 g fiber, 10.6 g protein.