Style It

 

Figs & Toast

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No Tricks Here Just Treats

Find the best seven minute meringue frosting recipe at Bon Appetite.com and color it a light orange pastel for a delicate Halloween triple brownie treat. The Apple crisps are perfect as individuals. Add leftover apple butter to enhance its richness.

Link Here:

https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/ganache-filled-chocolate-cupcakes-with-seven-minute-meringue-frosting

Nasturtium Capers

Inspired by my Ecology professor, I have been picking nasturtium seeds for weeks now! I am currently seed saving and germinating some other nasturtium seeds as well. Nasturtiums are amazing! Not only are they perennials meaning their rootstock grow back annually- making this better for the soil- but the entire plant is versatile. From the lily pad like leaves known as nose twists, to the yellow and orange flowers and its seeds, you can utilize this plant for so many things. My cousin Chelsea decorated the top of an ice cream cake with the edible flowers; who would think? The leaves have an antibacterial property, as well as vitamin C and iron which makes it common to add in a salad.

The Apple Trilogy

What could you possibly do with 12 pounds of apples. Apple picking, even for two doesn’t allow you to pick just a few apples and run along to the pumpkin patch. Apple  picking means buying in bulk the best crop of the year.

Apple infused Rekya vodka is the perfect way to use up those apple skins from making apple butter. Just add star anise,a cinnamon stick, nutmeg, and vanilla. As for the apple butter, use similar spices, with the addition of Crown maple syrup, and apple cider. Leave it to cook for many hours. We used 12 apples, and it took 4 hours to get thick, gooey, and caramelized. Leave it coarse or purée until smooth.

The Apple creme brulee was an experiment. Chris and I tag teamed this one. We cored, made custard, and filled the apples baking them in a water bath at 250 degrees. After sitting over night, we torched them with sugar. A very comforting, luscious fall treat.

Peaceful Eating

Boys and their food. I had hoped it came out the way Chris once made it for me, but food tastes different when different people make it, so it’s lovely to see all variations. So, he was happily eating it regardless. Spaghetti (grandma made that executive choice) ricotta, big smashed cloves of garlic, a cup or more of finely grated Parmesan, cracked black pepper, and baby basil leaves.

 Crumbles for Your Late Night Thoughts

After a 12 hour day of picking at, and munching on baked sweets, the best way to end the day is to continue eating sweets. Coming home to mamas apple crisp is the best fall Sunday night treat. Whipped cream,  vanilla bean frozen custard, or as is, have it your way!file-5 (2).jpeg

An Obsession Since My Pre- School Days

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I live for pasta. I know that a few of my past posts have digressed this fact, but I will continue to tell all. I remember when I was in elementary and middle school, I would always boil Swanson Chicken broth while cooking a pot of pasta to add to it. Tortellini was my favorite type of stuffed pasta to eat in soup. And because I did not know how to make them then, my mother would buy the frozen kind. Although you could barely taste the filling inside them, I continued to crave the al dente crevices. So for me, eating any type of pasta is about texture. I also loved, loved, loved, when my mother made tortellini with cream sauce and shrimp. We had this only once every few months because of the potential heart attacks one bowl of it could cause.

I am a huge fan of these babies. One of my recent posts about ravioli’s, features the recipe for the filling that I used to create these tortellini. I dare you to give it a try! I have copied a link below to help guide you through the shaping process of tortellini.
http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-homemade-tortellini-from-scratch-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-188288

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When hosting a party for thirty, a number not exactly large and not too small, a great way to seat guests is at one long table. There is something so special and intimate about gathering family and friends to sit amongst each other. It reminds me of how a European grandmother would gather her kids and grandchildren for a Sunday night dinner. Long tables are for long, drawn out laughs, making closer bonds with old friends and sharing childhood stories with cousins.

The best part of setting a table is creating a story for the guest. It’s quite easy to curate something classy yet rustic for a gathering of people be it large or small. I am a huge fan of using a charcuterie board as a centerpiece. The two boards used above are 8-foot untreated cedar wood. Various types of brie, swiss, and cheddar line the board alongside cured meats, roasted peppers, olives, and crostini. To add a bit of variation I baked off small casserole dishes of cherry tomatoes and garlic in olive oil and then topped them with goat cheese. Flower arrangements and fresh pears from the yard make a beautiful bouquet on the table. Tablescapes have endless possibilities, all it takes is a little bit of sun and passion.

Oki Gnocchi

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I have been lusting at the thought of purple gnocchi for weeks! The secret of how they turned purple is my own, but I will say they taste like any generic potato gnocchi recipe regardless! Sweet Italian sausage is a great pair with any pasta dish, and happily,  I found a few links in the fridge. Green peas are a beautiful addition to color along with torn garden basil and nasturtium leaves. And although my mother got snippy when I cut her sunflowers off the plant, I continued to use them for a burst of color in the photo~ sorry mama, but I did feed you dinner.

 

Dig In! Forget the Plates…

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Cookie skillets are one way to satisfy a hankering for something sweet.

 

A Patriotic Sweet

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You don’t feel guilty when it’s red, white and blue.

 

Purple Drip Cake

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In honor of No Diet Day ( May 6thhere I present to you a fat free cake. I would be totally  lying if I didn’t admit to the truth about that. Of course it’s not fat free, that’s just ludicrous. This is a lemon drip cake filled with strawberries and cream, iced it with frosting sure to give you cavities in the first bite, and chocolate ganache poured over the top. The cake represents an ongoing trend known as “drip cake.” You build a cake that’s impossibly tall to cut and pour melted ganache around the rim to create the “dripping” effect. I absolutely loved building this cake and I encourage anyone who sees this to go and make one too. 

Components:

2- 7 inch lemon cake rounds cut in half

2 Cups strawberries sliced paper thin on mandolin  (macerated with sugar)

1 pint whipped cream

Vanilla Icing (Swiss or Italian Meringue)

White chocolate, colored purple

No “Yolking” Around

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One of the popular food trends currently is adding an egg on top of everything eaten in sight. I’ve seen burgers with sunny side up eggs placed right on top of the patty, just before the yolk breaks and runs everywhere, and I’ve seen creamy spaghetti with a sixty- two-degree egg nestled right on top. There is something so satisfying about puncturing an egg yolk onto your food.  As if hamburger meat and heavy cream didn’t have enough fat in them! And the silkiness of it too, it’s like the way chocolate melts in your mouth.

I was fantasizing about a meal with a fancy poached egg on top and started craving the idea of it too. I was shamefully disappointed when I didn’t find spaghetti in my cabinet (the pasta freak that I am) and soon came up with an alternative plan making polenta instead. So, then this turned into a brunch special at six o’clock in the evening, good ole corn meal and eggs. But, after composing it I really noticed how versatile this dish was. With the addition of seared zucchini and pearl onions, tempura fried artichoke, and parsley oil this meal is great for brunch, lunch, or dinner.

 Easter Flowers and Candy Showers

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“Zest” Kitchen

She asked me for a “big” favor since she was stuck without a car for a few hours. “I need flour” aunt Lois said, “I’m experimenting with my lemon cookies.” My great grandmother- nanny- file (13).jpeg was the pioneer of this family recipe. Aunt Lois was the one to grab hold of that recipe after her passing, so she could continue making them for what is now over thirty years. She told me she wanted to “experiment” in her “test kitchen” to see what the lemon cookies tasted like, by replacing the lemon with lime and orange zest. I was delighted to observe the making of these cookies, watching them transform into something slightly different than before.

I was happy to receive a small baggie of zesty confections later that day! The results of her attempt to change up the flavor profile of the recipe came out as lime being our favorite. So does that mean lime is her new signature cookie?

 

Juniper Sunset
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I would like to take a minute to appreciate the fact that we did experience some eighty degree weather this April. Although, I would rather be drenched in sweat than turning into a life form of an icicle, it was pretty darn hot the last few days! This Spring time, summer heatwave we may have experienced made me want to have a cocktail! Gin and tonic is a classic alcoholic combo, but mixed with Aperol things just get a little interesting.

Back in March when I was in my front of house class at American Bounty my classmates and I had to pull a few different types of spirits and liquors out of a hat. We later used those options  to create a new cocktail concoction. I pulled Tanqueray Gin and Aperol and decided I wanted to make a spin off the classic Gin and Tonic. Tanqueray Gin was created by Charles Tanqueray after opening a distillery in London, England around the 1830s. Gin is made from juniper berries but Tanqueray Gin is also known for its “London dry” style with accents of coriander, angelica root, and licorice. Aperol was invented in 1919 and didn’t gain its spotlight until World War II. It’s currently processed by the Campari company and may deem similar characteristics to Campari as well. However, Aperol is lower in alcohol, less bitter, and lighter in color.

I created my drink to include gin and Aperol with rhubarb simple syrup, fresh squeezed blood orange, tonic, and rhubarb sugar on the rim. Aperol contains rhubarb so I wanted to accentuate those bitter sweet notes.

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Recipe for Juniper Sunset:

1.5 oz. Tanqueray Gin

½ oz. Aperol

2 fl oz Blood orange

4 fl oz  tonic water

¾ oz Rhubarb simple syrup

  • 1 stalk rhubarb
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water

Rhubarb sugar to coat rim

  • 1 stalk rhubarb from syrup
  • 1-2 T sugar

Method:

  1. Measure equal parts sugar and water and place into a pot.
  2. Peel the rhubarb and slice paper thin. Place both the skin and rhubarb into the pot. Let the mixture come to a boil until the sugar has dissolved; strain and cool syrup.
  3. After removing rhubarb from the pot let dry in a dehydrator or 200-degree oven. Grind in spice grinder with sugar.
  4. Dip the rocks glass into the rhubarb sugar so there is enough to coat the rim.
  5. Pour gin, aperol, simple syrup, and orange juice into Boston shaker with ice, and shake until emulsified. Pour mixture into rocks glass leaving ice behind.
  6. Add the tonic water and stir.

 

Lombardy Pasta Party

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If I could live in a world that revolved around pasta I would be the luckiest gal! I discovered this recipe while in the Italian restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America, Caterina D’ Medici. Pizzoccheri is its name, a pasta that originates in Lombardy, Italy, consisting of buckwheat tagliatelle folded with savoy cabbage, sprinkled with diced russet potato, layered with fontina cheese and drizzled with garlic and sage brown butter. The tender noodles, soft potato, earthy cabbage, crunchy sage, and pungent, creamy, stringy cheese create a melody in my mouth. The only thing different about my version of Pizzoccheri is the type of pasta I used. Although the recipe calls for buckwheat tagliatelle, I couldn’t stop myself from using my favorite white carb instead.

“Leeking” Purple

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I didn’t know how the purple potato would turn out in this dish with the idea I had in mind. In order to create the purple base of this plate in the manner I had previously imaged, I did a lot of tedious experimenting.  It took a mandolin, 1.5 inch round cutter, and lots of patience to re- create the shape I wanted the potato to become. Accompanying the purple starch is Sockeye Salmon, charred leeks, bacon leek puree, asparagus, and bacon broth. The salmon itself was pan seared and basted with bubbly brown butter. The branded leeks echo the flavor of the leek and bacon puree that glue the asparagus tip to the fish. And, to bring everthing “full circle” a table- side pour of piping hot bacon broth is added right before consumption.

 

 “Fungus among Us”

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I love dishes that consist mostly of vegetables. I think plates of vegetables that resemble small gardens are vibrant, textured, and earthy. As a culinary student I have been exposed to various unique ingredients. Many of them you will never find in a grocery store, but have to hunt down at a farmers market or order though a food purveyor. I was rather excited to find bamboo rice, maitake mushrooms, and beech mushrooms at the grocery store nearby! I was excited to purchase something besides the button mushroom and arborio rice I am used to finding at the market.The focal point of this dish lies among the three asymmetrical spheres of bamboo rice risotto. The small trail of fungi and vegetables that surround each stack, consists of fruity beech mushrooms, woody maitakes, white eggplant and purple striped eggplant, seared pearl and cipollini onions, red radish, yellow pepper curls, and chiffonade fried kale with a dusting of nori. The mushrooms are meaty, eggplant buttery, onions sweetly bitter from caramelizing, and the radish, they just sit there looking pretty!

 

Breakfast or Dessert?

My intention was to create something sweet for breakfast, but it was so sweet it turned into dessert instead. Although, I don’t think most people would mind dessert for breakfast, lunch, or dinner for that matter! I had angle food cake lying around the kitchen and wanted to put  it to use before it went stale. I decided to make angle food cake french toast with a mixed berry cream cheese filling; it was sort of like an inside out stuffed french toast. The berry syrup underneath the french toast was supposed to act as the sauce, but I wouldn’t dare not to finish this without maple syrup, and of course it was the last addition to the dish! Hot tea and delicate strawberries complete the breakfast… or dessert?

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A Teenie Weenie Pink Polka Dot Party

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Polka dots, pearls, and pot de creme is one way to keep a woman in her fifties feeling glamorous on her birthday! After a long weekend trip away for business, my mother returned home in time for a small “happy birthday” sing along before she went off to bed. Earlier in the week I asked if she either wanted her famous sour cream fudge cake or pot de creme to enjoy when she arrived home. And if I don’t know my mother, she’s always down for anything decadent with chocolate, but since I got no answer on either choice, I went with pot de creme in which I decided to top with whipped cream and rhubarb sugar. I admire the individual cupcake cups because they create consistent portion sizes and make way for easy cleanup. And when I clean up that just means my mom has to “clean up” after me, so I made it a bit easier on both our parts (haha)!

Considering the love, ambition, dedication, and care you put into your life, I hope the next year is fabulous like you. Happy Birthday to my queen!

 “The Weather Outside is Frightful, but Lasagna is Delightful!”

lasagnaToday I reminisced of a food memory  I had of a best friend a few years ago. At the time I was having her over for dinner and wanted to make something appropriate for a vegetarian that she was at the time. I ended up making a white lasagna, which has a contrasting flavor profile from the  classic one with tomato sauce and ricotta. I remember how sweet and garlicky the filling tasted. Everyone enjoyed it including my brother who probably licked the pan clean.

So, while cooped up in the house today I had the idea of recreating my white lasagna in which I included spinach, a bechamel of Parmesan cheese, and mozzarella cheese sliced between the layers. I took it out of the oven, let it set, and decided it needed some camera attention. My mouth watered as I cut into the tender, stringy layers and placed it on the plate. It took me far longer to take this picture than it did to eat the thing!

 Ravioli Ravioli, give me the Formuoli!

This is a throwback to an item on the spring menu where I work! Since we are now into the summer season, the restaurant where I work has decided to change the menu. I want to reflect on a past FullSizeRender (32)dish of that menu, which was always a popular hit on the hot apps station, and one of my favorites to plate. The Ravioli is filled with buratta cheese, which is a gooey creamier form of fresh mozzarella. The house made burrata raviolone oozes out the burrata once cut into and melds with all other flavors on the dish. Bright yellow egg yolk dots add color contrast next to green leeks, grilled ramps, and chives. The dots consist of a gel made from whisking egg yolk and olive oil together, thereafter being cooked in a hot water bath at 152 degrees for over an hour. Ramps are wild onions that grow in a short season during the year, and are featured with the Raviolone to make use of their wild character. We pickled the ramp bulb, and grilled the green leaf. The nude sauce around the plate is a frothy garlic bread emulsion, foamed inside a nitrogen charged bottle called an ISI. And for some crunch factor, roasted Marcona almonds are garnished on top .

 

La Langosta del Dia

Poached lobster, Seared scallops, Agnolotti, Fine Dining Carrots, Sugar Snap Peas, Dragon Beans.

Butter poached lobster, and seared scallops basted in brown butter; a beautiful seafood entrée, complemented by lobster agnolotti, brown butter crumbs, and glazed veggie. Newport Rhode Island, the perfect spot to have a lobster dinner, right beside the ocean. Me? am I getting to eat this, no. But, I am getting to help create it which makes me excited for the sophisticated diner who gets to devour it! The preparation to this elusive dish is extensive and extraordinary. I find that searing fish or meat, and finishing it with a basting of foamed butter, is one of the most satisfying ways to prepare food. Who wouldn’t get excited over something that has been doused in warm, foamy butter? For this entree the lobster itself is actually boiled and then poached in buerre monte which is quite a lengthy process, due to the fact that the lobsters must all be broken down, skewered, and gently poached to order. A brown butter crumb made from melted butter and milk solids lines the side of the plate. The lobster agnolotti, sit four per dish, and contain mascarpone cheese and lobster bits inside their petite pillow like shape. Although they take much effort to make, it is quite satisfying to see those cute packages gleam on the white plate, up in the service window. Glazed Fine dining carrots- yellow and orange- fill in the gaps between the Agnos and dragon bean and sugar snap pea medley. Fine dining carrots are adorable; their micro size reminds me of food Barbie would serve in her doll house. The garnish are micro pea shoots that fall along the top of the fish, and a sherry gastrique which presents as a glossy, sweet, and acidic streak next to the langosta!

 Where the Wild things Grow

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Honey Glazed, roasted duck breast, herb de provance, garlic scape puree, turmeric turnip, seared spring onion, and duck jus.

Looks like a whip, tastes like garlic, and grows where the wild things live. Garlic scapes are a member of the allium family along with shallots, chives, rakkyo, and onions. Its more common to see the scape during the summer season. Fine dining restaurants love to play around with this ingredient, making it a seasonal guest on their sophisticated summer menus. I myself have had some experience cooking and plating it, as seen in the photograph above. At my current place of work, we use the garlic scape in two ways on our duck entree.First, I blanch the scapes and blend with salt and chicken stock to make the vibrant green puree, which we dot around the plate. The other way we use the scape is by grilling it and placing it whole on the plate, which acts as the final garnish.

WINE AND DINE

           I was really feeling a pasta night, although I feel that most nights.  I decided to make linguine and bolengaise which is most likely my favorite pasta dish! It is a meat sauce taken up 10 notches, with the addition of mirepoix, extra garlic, and a “splash”red wine to make it that much more flavorful. I also had this idea, to create a zabaglione, which is egg yolk and water whisked over a double boiler, until the egg yolk becomes “cake batter consistency”. This is usually the process in creating a hollandaise sauce, but… this is not what I was making. Instead I took the zabaglione and folded it into ricotta cheese. There have been times in the past, when I have eaten Bolognese with ricotta, and I think it changes the whole profile of the dish. I don’t mix in the cheese, I usually just place a dollop on top. I thought the egg yolk would make the cheese that much more creamy as well as add a little color to the dish. I seasoned with a little nutmeg and salt, making it a creamy and dreamy experience!

Plating:

I used  a plating spoon, which is a smaller version of a serving spoon, to place down a little bit of the zabiglione and ricotta mixture at one end of the plate pulling it toward me, creating a “swoosh” effect. Thereafter I placed down the pasta. I follow Chef Steps on Instagram where I see posts of a particular way in plating long pastas like fettuccine or spaghetti. I wanted to try and mimic that chic style in my dish! In order to do this I had to use a carving fork to twirl the linguine in which I then placed it toward the end of the zabiglione “swoosh”!  A background of red decor highlighted the tomato in the sauce.  And the wine setup set a romantic theme.

 

A DINNER DATE, STARRING HYDRANGEAS


               First off, I have to explain the story behind the hydrangeas. Aren’t they so beautiful and lush? Hydraingas are one of my absolute favorite types of flowers! My neighbor has a hydrangea bush that’s at least 7 feet tall, running down the side of their house. Every year when it blooms, I want to run to their front yard, pick a bunch, and run back before anyone can catch a glimpse of me. But, unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to act foolishly.  Anyways, these dazzling puffy mounds in the pic above did not come from my neighbors house. They actually came from my grandmother. My stubborn Italian Gma, who insisted she bring the flowers over, because she  had one too many in her yard. I couldn’t possibly turn down the offer of her to come by; so all these flowers have been casually lying around my house (everywhere ) and I thought they would be the perfect back drop to this dish.

Though I would love to talk more about flowers, I must elaborate on the dish I present before them. I did some different things in order to bring this dish together. The chicken thighs were placed in a quick brine of water, salt, sugar, garlic, and orange. I seasoned and roasted them off in a 400 degree oven until golden brown and crispy. The key here was to place the chicken on a metal rack over a sheet tray so that it’s not sitting in its own grease when cooking. Chicken thigh is great to work with because you are almost always guaranteed it will be moist at service time. It’s on a bone which keeps in moisture!!! It’s a wonderful thing! Compared to chicken breast which is great too, don’t get me wrong; because it defiantly has its benefits, but it dries out more easily and doesn’t always deliver the same tender, succulence that thigh meat provides.

As for the other components of my dish, I made polenta as the base, along with  sautéed curly zucchini as the veg, and then created a finishing sauce, that I poured over the top. Any ways, Polenta is a fabulous carb. It’s the best when it’s loaded with cream, butter, and cheese; the recipe for a heart attack. But, that’s ok it’s all worth it in the end. I have to admit though, my polenta isn’t quite that, instead all I added to it was butter and a pickled red pepper and corn relish.  It took on  interesting flavor profile which was sweet and acidic from the relish ingredients. As for the zucchini, I used a nifty tool my mother bought. Its a gadget that twirls food, turning it into a long spiral shape.  I sauteed the zucchini in butter and herb de Provence. And finally the sauce, which I made by reducing down white wine, and combining it with pear simple syrup. It was a unique component to my chicken dish, and took on a fruitful flavor.

Plating:

I couldn’t help myself in doing a floral theme again, as I pretty much did last time. But, flowers are the natural beauty on Earth. There are numerous kinds to choose from and they can all be used in certain instances.

The actual dish I created, portrayed some lively colors from the polenta and zucchini,  so I wanted to accent them in a vibrant orange bowl. I layered the ingredients to show contrast in color, and to keep everything looking neat and sharp.  The garnish on top is babies breath. Yes, I know its kinda weird considering it’s not edible. I thought it added something subtle and  delicate to offset the bright colors around.

CHILI, A CROWD PLEASER

               I was rummaging through the food pictures on my phone, and came across this colorful dish. It was during the month of August that this bowl of comfort was produced, when my aunts came over for dinner. I was off from school for a short summer break, bored, feeling the need to get creative at the stove. I decided to invite my aunts and their families over for dinner as a thank you to them for all that they do. I had recently graduated from high school and they helped my mother throw my graduation party. I felt the best gift of thanks to them was in the form of food. SO… I set out to the grocery store to gather my ingredients.

The dinner that night was chili. I wanted to get creative, and decided to toss my recipe books aside, to come up with my own version of chili. This chili was made with stew beef, creating a “pulled beef” consistency. I made fresh tomato sauce and instead of basil I used cilantro which gave it a vibrant Latin flavor. I added it to the chili with red wine, roasted green peppers, cannelloni beans and caramelized red onions. And yes, I added chili powder because no chili is complete without those essential spices (chili, red pepper, cumin, garlic, and onion). The method to making chili is known as the stewing method; this means that anything being stewed must be completely covered with liquid… Just like a classic beef stew! Usually chili made with ground meat is made in minutes because it only takes a short while to cook ground meat. My chili cooked for hours until the meat was fork tender. YUMMO!

Plating:

Plating, garnishing, and displaying dishes for photo shoots are my absolute favorite part of cooking. I love finding the right bowls and plates, food molds to create concrete shapes of food, color schemes, objects, backdrops, lighting, and counter spaces where I can snap shots of my final product. I served my chili with white rice and because rice is starchy it tends to be sticky allowing me to use a PVC pipe (culinary trick) to mold the rice in a green ceramic bowl. I then created a small hole in the middle where I gently poured in the chili. I garnished with a fresh piece of cilantro and placed the completed bowl next to a gridded picture window in my kitchen; which has a flower bed on the opposite side. Sometimes nature makes the best displays especially for a simple dish like this!