Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Break

Spending quality time with family and friends... chowing down on hometown favorites and holiday treats. Check back soon for pics and stories!

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

All Quiet on the Kitchen Front












All is quiet in the Diaczun kitchen today... except for garlic cloves roasting in the oven, pasta bubbling on the stove, and the smell of freshly chopped herbs lingering in the air. This humble culinary offering is what I hope to be a quick but satisfying dinner so I continue crafting away in the workshop. Too many gifts to be made, and too little time to make them. Holiday crunch time is in full effect... but a girl's got to eat!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Peppermint Crisps











Curiosity got the best of me today and the result was bubbly peppermint crisps. I originally purchased tiny candy canes as part of my holiday gift wrapping scheme, but I couldn't shake the inclination to throw them on a silpat and pop them in the oven. A few short minutes later, these lacy little beauties were born. While I haven't quite figured out the best use for the paper thin wafers, nestling them in a cloud of whipped cream seemed like a festive way to top off a warm fudge brownie. Delicate enough to melt in your mouth, these merry candy garnishes were sweet minty perfection.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cornucopia

Thanks to the Guerrilla Gourmet for putting together a wonderful collaboration of posts from bloggers all across the country. Yours truly is representing Michigan in their featured "Cornucopia Project".

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Final Act of Gluttony

Still nursing the side effects of my holiday food coma, I woke up this morning with a serious hankering for something savory. I stumbled to the fridge and found a ziplok full of leftover garlic mashed potatoes, half a red onion, a bag of spinach and the last swig of orange juice that didn't make it into the mimosas. Mmmmm... breakfast.
I scooped the mashed potatoes into a hot skillet with some butter and created a crispy potato cake (a Thanksgiving leftover trick I learned from my mom). I topped my crunchy little cake with wilted spinach and red onions that I sauteed in the o.j. With a quick sprinkle of salt, this breakfast was the perfect finale to a long weekend of gluttony. Goodbye, indulgent holiday... hello, daily workouts.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What Thanksgiving Tastes Like












Today's goal was to make a Thanksgiving inspired cupcake. I decided to make a list of the first five flavors I associate with the holiday. Here's how the list shook out: salty, sweet, sage, citrus, and maple. As a non-baker trying to make a cupcake, I started with a boxed yellow cake mix to which I added fresh sage and orange zest. Homemade maple buttercream was in order to counteract my previous shortcut. Perched on the fluffy icing was a small piece of bacon that delivered the final salty punch. All in all, not a bad little cupcake.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Week of the Carrot












It all started when my co-worker told me about his chilled carrot soup with coconut foam. My interest was instantly piqued and I quickly became obsessed with the idea of making my own carrot soup. During the course of that same week, two other co-workers came forth with their recipes and thus the week of the carrot was born. There was no question that my Sunday post was unfolding before my eyes. My adaptation was warm and involved pureed celery root, red curry paste, coconut milk, lime zest, and cilantro. The taste was delectably sweet and the texture... velvety smooth. Thick like bisque and full of flavorful heat, it was the perfect lunch on a chilly afternoon. Carrots - not just for rabbits anymore.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Take 2 and Call Me In The Morning












With the remnants of the first snow still lingering on the ground, it's hard to forget the impending winter. With the television devoted solely to sports, it's hard to forget that it's Sunday. Football and winter blahs are both in full tilt which makes today's creation just what the doctor ordered. Bite-sized pie crusts filled with spicy pesto chicken are a flavorful game time snack as well as a culinary panacea. Perched on a flaky crust and topped with mozzarella, this chicken mixture is irresistible. The intoxicating smell of roasted shallots, garlic, and peppers permeates your sinuses. Your stomach is warmed by the chili flakes, the savory herbs infuse your breath. Each bite makes you hungry for another. Winner, winner... chicken dinner.

To make chicken mixture for mini pies:
1 cooked chicken breast (chopped)
1 roasted yellow onion
1 roasted shallot
1/2 roasted yellow pepper
4 cloves roasted garlic
basil
rosemary
arugula
salt
pepper
red pepper flakes
handful of blanched almonds
drizzle of olive oil

Put everything in the food processor and pulse until incorporated. Dollop into pie crusts and bake in a 400 degree oven.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

All Hallows Eve













"But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping, and so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door..."

Nothing disturbs a quiet Sunday evening like the incessant knocking of trick or treaters. Thankfully, I had a lovely bottle of red on hand. Once the chaos of candy and costumes subsided, I decided to pair my large glass of wine with a slice of warm apple tart. The tangy green apples were dressed in brown sugar, freckled with golden raisins, and layered with finely shredded Gruyere. It was a treat, indeed.... so good it was scary. Will there be anything better than this sweet and salty score? Tell me, tell me - I implore! Quoth the raven, "Nevermore".

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Expecting Flavor

Well, there is a new baby on the way in my family and I couldn't be happier to once again be an aunt. The first time I became an aunt, I was away at school and the only thing I knew how to cook was ramen noodles. Now, immersed in a world of all things culinary, I am excited for an opportunity to focus my attention on homemade baby food. I started with the classic applesauce but moved quickly to something a little more unexpected... mango puree. After all, babies need flavor variety too. Packed full of vitamins and naturally soft, mango makes a great puree to introduce to a new eater and just might be the ace in the hole that gets a picky diner to fold. Congrats to the Lauers and thanks for giving me a new source of inspiration in the kitchen. I can't wait to see what unfolds.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Drinking Makes Me Hungry











Today was a quintessential autumn day. The air was chilly, the sun was shining, and the trees were dappled in copper and gold. This was a day for wine tasting, so I called a friend and we headed out to the vineyard. Beautiful scenery and free wine... not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon. As we bellied up to the bar, we were greeted with a selection sheet and told to choose seven varieties to sample. Sweet, dry and fruity were all in attendance. The dark horse of the day was the black currant dessert wine which had a perfect balance of sweet and tart. As it was floating across my tongue, all I could think about was chocolate - deep, dark chocolate - and what a perfect match it would be to this wine. I knew right then that a dense, decadent, flourless chocolate cake was on the horizon. Yep, today was pretty much a perfect day.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Indulging Inspiration











There are some days when I forgo the oatmeal with bananas and order the corned beef hash and eggs. Today was one of those days. I think I may have even giggled a little as the plate arrived in front of me... in all it's greasy, glowing splendor. Gluttonous as my breakfast was, it put my taste buds on high alert and inspired me to create a hash of my own. I started by sauteing potatoes, onions, and garlic in olive oil. Once that mixture was softened and roughly mashed, I added chopped chard. Everything was coated and simmered in a dressing made of stone ground mustard, brown sugar, and a splash of cider vinegar. Sweet, tangy and topped with crumbles of queso fresco, this hash was far from ordinary. Who knew that a little indulgence would lead to a day of inspiration?



Sunday, October 3, 2010

Autumn and an Acorn Squash












Three days deep in October and I have already started thinking about Thanksgiving. Granted, it's over a month away but there is something about chilly autumn air and the sight of falling leaves that transports me immediately to turkey time. Ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove have all been given a front row seat in the spice rack. The bold flavors of the season infiltrate my mind as I create, test and hone my holiday recipes. First up in the testing queue: acorn squash with cinnamon grits. Sweet and nutty on it's own, I decided to keep the squash relatively simple. Halved and deseeded, it received a healthy coating of butter and brown sugar. Twenty minutes in a 400° oven and the gorgeous edible shell was ready to be filled with grits. Brown sugar, cinnamon, fresh ginger, and cream cheese transformed the classic southern side dish into a sweet, spicy delight that paired perfectly with the roasted squash. Finished with salty fried onion strings, each bite was a slice of autumnal perfection. Test number one: approved and filed. Now, what to do with those squash seeds?...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Shout Out to Ecuador









With the thermometer hovering at a nippy 56° today, piping hot comfort food sounded pretty delightful, so I decided to make soup. Inspired by my parents' recent departure to Ecuador, I tried my hand at locro de papas, a traditional potato stew from the Andean region. The last time I investigated traditional Ecuadorian recipes, I discovered my love for llapingachos, so locro had a high standard to live up to. It did not disappoint. The broth was a creamy blend of potatoes, milk and cheese and the layers of flavor included annatto seed, cumin and onion. Topped with fresh avocado and a sprinkle of queso fresco, every bite was a pleasant change of pace for my American palate. As I enjoyed each warm spoonful, I realized my admiration for my parents and their inspiring decision to immerse themselves in a culture unknown to them. Faintly green with envy, I lifted my glass in their honor... Cheers, Mom and Dad! Safe travels.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Crunch Therapy











Project Food Blog has begun and the first challenge is to define ourselves as bloggers and state why we should advance to the next round. As the tag line goes, Diaczun Style is a collection of snippets from the life of a photo stylist. I am not a chef. I am not a cook. I am, however, immersed in a world of food. Whether it's tackling a new ingredient, testing recipes for work, or just playing with my camera, my intent with this blog is to provide anecdotes from my clumsy culinary journey and prove that if I can do it, anyone can do it. Hopefully, it will inspire you to play with your food. Vote how you will, and stop by anytime for equal parts of sweet and sarcastic.

No matter how hard I try, I can't stop football from taking over my living room every Sunday. The way I cope with this torture is to focus my energy on creating the game time snacks. Cooking distracts me from the incessant chattering of the announcers, the Arby's commercials, and the Brett Favre speculations. As the soothing overture of sizzling, mixing, and stirring begins, I slip into a state of mental bliss... forgetting all about touchdowns and timeouts. Today's culinary nirvana resulted in a trio of chips, bursting with flavor. Each one baked in a 350 degree oven until crisp. Red potatoes were coated in olive oil and herbs, apple slices were dusted with cinnamon sugar, and the wild card of the day was baby kale leaves that were soaked in cider vinegar and finished with a healthy dose of salt. (Can you feel your mouth puckering?) It's amazing how little you can hear when you are munching on a handful of crackly, crunchy chips. Coincidence?... I think not.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ginger Apple Spread













Labor Day is here and that can only mean one thing - summer is officially over. Ugh. In the spirit of all things autumn, I decided to fill my house with the nostalgic aroma of cinnamon, ginger, and apples. My intention was to make apple butter but what resulted was more of a rustic apple spread... that's what happens when you wing it and don't really follow a recipe. As long as the end product is delicious, no harm done. I started by simmering 2 honey crisp apples (peeled and diced) in a mixture of water,white wine, and clementine juice. Once softened, I drained the apples and gave them a spin in the food processor with some cinnamon and ginger. The apple mixture went back into the saucepan with a heaping 1/4 C of sugar and simmered down (with frequent stirring) for about an hour until thick and luscious. I coated a hearty slice of beer bread in the warm apple goodness and indulged quietly on my back stoop. Every now and then, you just have to spoil yourself.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Eat Your Heart Out, Peter Piper


This is my second year of growing my own produce and with each season comes new lessons. The first year, I learned where to plant, when to plant and how much to plant. This year, I tackled 6 varieties of tomatoes and have vowed to try my hand at canning and preserving in order to save delicious little reminders of what summer is all about. Hopefully, these tiny jars of sunshine will get me through the subzero temperatures and the sideways snow. Being a rookie when it comes to canning, I started with a pickling recipe that's as simple as filling the jars and putting them in the fridge. I found the recipe here: Pickle It, Jam It, Cure It. If all goes well, I should have spunky purple string beans and peppers in three days. After that, the real canning begins. JalapeƱo pesto, salsa, and yellow tomato sauce are on the docket. I wonder what next year's lessons will be?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Chef in the Making

When your grandfather is a cooking fanatic, your father is a chili cook-off champion, and your aunt is a food stylist, you have a pretty good chance of becoming a "foodie". This is the story of my 12 year old nephew, Cole. As with most families, culinary traditions run deep in our house. Dad has his famous spaghetti and meatballs, my brother is creating a dynasty at the local chili cook-off, my mom makes a mean crab dip and now Cole has created his signature scrambled eggs. I have seen this kid artfully plate his food, create his own spice concoctions, and study the culinary trends of Native Americans. He recently emailed me his very own scrambled egg recipe and asked if I could incorporate it into my blog. Today is his birthday, so this one is for Cole. Being the stylist that I am, I had to come up with a unique way to present his scrumptious recipe so I carved out one of my garden tomatoes and stuffed it with the eggs. Topped with freshly grated parmesan and a sprig of basil, this was one delicious dinner. Who knows what he will come up with next... you have to give credit to a kid who works on recipes at the age of 12!

Happy Birthday, Cole.
Love, Aunt Mimi.

Cole's Favorite Eggs (yields one serving)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of milk
2 tablespoons of your favorite shredded cheese (I chose parmesan)
pinch of salt and pepper
splash of hot sauce


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Ecuador... Part 1












To quote the great Bob Dylan... "Times, they are a changing". As of yesterday, my parents are officially retired and gearing up to embark on an extended Ecuadorian adventure. As an homage to their amazing journey, I figured I would try my hand at llapingachos, a typical side dish of Ecuador. What is a llapingacho, you ask? At it's simplest, it's a potato cake. Add the cheese and onion stuffing and top it with an intriguing cayenne peanut sauce and it's a taste revelation. The twist of fate that led me to this recipe has also left me wondering what else I might be missing out there...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Zucchini Boats

This morning started out like most mornings. I woke up early, walked the puppy, and drank my first cup of coffee outside in the garden. To my surprise, after months of anticipation, I finally had tomatoes to harvest! As I strolled around the garden beds, I also found a beautiful zucchini basking in the sunlight. That's when the idea hit me. Today's culinary creation would be... (drum roll, please...) zucchini boats. I grabbed the sun soaked zuke and all the cherry tomatoes I could carry. To create the boat, I sliced the zucchini lengthwise and scooped out the center with a melon baller. Each vessel got a sprinkle of pink salt before being filled. Chopped cherry tomatoes and minced garlic were coated in balsamic vinegar and loaded into each boat. Topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil, my veggie skiffs anchored in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes. A sprinkle of fresh basil finished off the dish and the taste was delightfully classic, clean, and simple. Hop aboard and see where your imagination takes you.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Summer Sliders

Summertime is burger time. Grills everywhere are fired up and cranking out delicious burger creations with endless possibilities. Turkey burgers, seafood burgers, beef burgers, you name it and someone has probably tried to make a burger out of it. My burger muse of the day was white bean sliders. (For those of you who don't know, sliders are just tiny burgers) I started by sauteing carrots, onions and garlic in olive oil. Once they were softened, I deglazed the pan with a splash of Yuengling Black and Tan, a favorite hometown brew. Honestly, this smelled so good that I could have quit there and ate onions for dinner but, alas, I pressed on. I pulsed the onion mixture in the food processor with cannellini beans, fresh rosemary, and red pepper flakes until thoroughly combined. Breadcrumbs and an egg were added to achieve the correct consistency. Hot off the grill, these burgers were rich in flavor with a wonderful herb aroma. I topped mine with pepper jack cheese, arugula and stone ground mustard. Burgers, beer, and a warm summer evening... life is good.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sweet Summer Salad












Summer is in full swing and my garden is pumping out arugula like a factory. As a result, I am constantly trying to work it into recipes. Today's concoction is a mixture of strawberries, arugula, and jicama. The sweetness of the berries snuggles right up to the spicy arugula and the jicama adds a much needed crunch. The salad is finished with a simple squeeze of lemon which ties everything together in one delicious package. Boldly flavorful yet surprisingly light, this salad is a little slice of summer that stands up well on it's own or acts as a perfect counterpart to a heavier main dish. It's only four ingredients, people, give it a shot! Your taste buds will thank you.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Kiss My Grits

Granted, I currently live in the Midwest but my soul definitely resides in the Carolinas. I love sweet tea, grits, biscuits, and all other southern delicacies. The recipes are steeped in tradition and once you get a taste of that deep rooted soul food, you never forget it. My recent vacation back to the Carolinas left me with a hankering for grits that just wouldn't leave me alone. Yes, they are delicious as a side note to eggs and bacon but I wanted to do something different with them.... a little south of the border meets south of the Mason Dixon line, if you will. I started with beautiful Anaheim peppers. Slit up the middle and cleaned of their seeds, they served as the perfect vessel to hold grits on the grill. I prepared the grits with salt and pepper and a healthy dose of queso fresco, a traditional Mexican cheese. Each pepper was stuffed with grits and tied closed with a bit of kitchen twine. I slow roasted the peppers over charcoal which softened the flesh and allowed the natural juices to infuse into the grits. Smokey, peppery, cheesy grits bulged from the slit in each pepper. Once there was a nice char on the bottom, I removed them from the fire and cut off the kitchen twine. I rounded out the deep, rich flavor of the Anaheims by serving them with a fresh peach salsa on the side. Now where did I put my glass of sweet tea?....

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Garlic Stuffed Turkey Meatballs













I try to avoid fried foods, but these turkey meatballs were just what my taste buds were calling for today. (If that means a few extra minutes on the exercise bike, then so be it.) They started off relatively simple... ground turkey, breadcrumbs, egg, salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary, but then quickly elevated to superstar status with the addition of roasted garlic cloves in the center of each meatball. After sizzling in a skillet with a few tablespoons of canola oil, the meatballs had a delightfully crunchy crust surrounding a mouthwatering center. The deeply savory taste was balanced by a squeeze of fresh lemon and a simple salad of tomato and arugula. Bright and fresh mixed with hearty and satisfying... what more could you ask for?



Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Peas, glorious peas....












Ok, I'll admit that most of my garden peas don't make it to the kitchen. Usually, I enjoy them straight from the vine. The lucky few that manage to make it out of the garden, up the stairs and into the house get a quick steam and a kiss of salt and pepper. While this is a completely acceptable way to enjoy the tender little morsels, I am in search of a fresh new recipe. Growing up, I never liked these little veggies and I blame that on canned peas. They ruined my sense of what a good pea should taste like. Now that I know how sugary and delectable fresh ones can be, I am hungry for new ways to prepare them. Whether it's raw, cooked, mashed, or pureed I want to hear all about the tastiest ways to enjoy this early summer treat. Calling all foodies...

Monday, June 14, 2010

UPDATE

Broken camera = unhappy blogger. Hoping it gets fixed this week.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Pesto Pizza












Sometimes, being a food stylist means you come home from work covered in goo and smelling like a restaurant kitchen. Other times, you reap the rewards of delicious leftovers and yesterday was one of those days. The majority of my work week was consumed by a shoot illustrating the many uses of a high powered blender. This left me with large containers of soup, sauces, and smoothies. My favorite was the pesto. Made with spinach, basil, garlic, olive oil, tomatoes and blanched almonds it was so scrumptious that I could have eaten it by the spoonful. Instead, I made a pizza. First, I whipped up a quick and easy pizza dough*. Once the crust was formed on the baking sheet, I slathered on the pesto and topped the pie with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, and parmesan. Baked at 450 degrees for about 12 minutes, it was absolute pizza perfection. The bold flavor of the pesto was enhanced by the simple toppings and the crust had just the right crunch. All those delightful flavors melting in my mouth made me forget all about my 13 hour work days... ahhh, the perks of being a food stylist.

*Pizza Dough:
1 package of dry yeast
3/4 C warm water
2 C flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt

Dissolve yeast in water and let stand for about 5 minutes. Stir in the dry ingredients and mix until blended. Knead 2-3 minutes. Let dough sit for 15 minutes before forming in to shape.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Strawberry Ginger Galettes













Summer is in full swing and that means it's time for picnics and back yard barbecues. Fresh fruit abounds, the smell of charcoal grilling wafts through the air, and gorgeous weather beckons us to emerge from our snugly homes and celebrate the season. By now, your calendar is filling up with family get-togethers and summer soirees so here is an easy way to spice up the average picnic table. Strawberry ginger galettes are easy to put together and hard to resist. The unique flavor makes these delectable little desserts something to remember. Start by slicing strawberries into a bowl and tossing them with a spoonful of sugar. Add a pinch of cinnamon, a dash of vanilla extract and freshly grated ginger to taste. Sorry, I am not one for actual measurements. Let this mixture marinate in the fridge for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, roll out a pie crust and cut several large circles close to 4 inches in diameter. (Shortcut... use store bought pie crust to save time and energy!) Place a dollop of the strawberry mixture in the center of each circle and top with chopped almonds. Roughly fold the edges up around the strawberries and brush with egg wash. Sprinkle raw sugar on the dough and bake in a 425 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. The result is a wonderfully spicy and mildly sweet treat surrounded by flaky goodness. With sugar and spice, they are everything nice.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

The LOST Supper











Farewell, survivors of Oceanic Flight 815. In your honor, I have created a dish inspired by the unusual surroundings that have confounded you throughout the seasons.

Start with a mango... they are everywhere. Then, raid Sun's garden to collect the following:
Fresh arugula
Yellow peppers
Red onion
Cilantro

Proceed to the beach camp and check the pantry for:
1 can Dharma Initiative black beans.

Finally, visit John Locke to gather a fresh chicken breast... he can get you anything!

Grill the chicken over the campfire, and slice it on to the salad you scored from Sun. The addition of the black beans will pack this dinner full of protein power that will provide you the energy needed to get to the heart of the island.

So long, fictional friends. "I hope you find what you are looking for."

(please excuse my nerdiness, I have been a junkie for this show from day 1!)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hometown Favorites



Yawn......stretch...
I'm back from vacation!
My spring break was spent soaking up some quality time with my family and indulging in all the local fare back east. It was truly a hometown foodie adventure. I spent time perusing Central Market, savoring the first of the hard shell crab bounty, and enjoying my very first corned beef sandwich. Thanks for the plane ticket, Dad!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Second Chance Soup












In food styling, the ingredients are the models. They are carefully selected and their every detail is scrutinized. The stem color, skin color, and shape are all taken into consideration. Once an item has the slightest wrinkle or blemish, it is cast aside. It is still totally edible, mind you, it is just not photo friendly. Needless to say, I am constantly faced with piles of produce "seconds". This includes tomatoes, several random halves of red onion, wrinkled peppers, loose cloves of garlic, and plenty of herbs that are starting to fade. This week, I decided to give these outcasts another day in the spotlight. Romas, heirlooms, and cherry tomatoes were tossed in a large stew pot along with sauteed onions, bell peppers, and garlic. After adding chopped basil and parsley with a pinch of red pepper flake, I covered the mixture with vegetable broth and let the whole thing simmer on low for about 35 minutes. A spoonful of brown sugar and a quick pass with the immersion blender and this rustic soup was perfect. Thick and hearty, it was a far cry from the canned Campbell's we all grew up on. No produce was wasted and several crew members became believers in "second chance" soup.