On Broken Sinks, Fake Lighting, & Cheese Boards

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No cooking = Laundry Day = Tuggs gets to protect the porch

There is a travesty in our home right now…our sink is broken! Well, not broken, but it’s backing up the grossest of water I’ve ever seen from an overflowing catch basin…thanks to some pesky tree roots interfering with our pipes. So as a result, we are trying not to do super amounts of cooking until it’s fixed, which isn’t awful, but not the most convenient thing.

So, in the meantime, I will share a little tip I’ve picked up, because I think, for anyone like myself starting out in this whole food blogging business—and perhaps, on that note, I’m a little late to the game and a lot of you have already figured this one out—it’s hard to get the lighting you want in a kitchen that may not be able to provide the lighting you need naturally. Whether your lightbulbs are just not bright enough (like mine), or your kitchen doesn’t really get much direct sunlight (also like mine), then what are you to do that doesn’t mean a flash photo? Hence, may I present, my fairly silly, yet quite successful contraption!

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You can’t tell, but it’s about 2pm. No direct sunlight in this room…

A DESK LAMP! I mean, if we do a side by side of pre-lamp vs. post-lamp photos, it’s pretty obvious that the newly lit ones are just…better? And no, I haven’t invested in a fancy camera—yet—that I don’t know how to work—yet—so I’m still using my phone for snapping, but even so, there’s nothing wrong with that! So long as the lighting is working in my favor and the food looks good, then we’re in business! Is it silly? Oh absolutely, and Frankie is constantly shaking his head and giggling at me while I’m holding the lamp in one hand and balancing my phone in the other just right so I can take a photo. But does it work? For what I need it to, yes! And if you’re like me and you’re trying to make your food as Instagram ready as possible and you don’t have a lot of money for a fancy camera (or a fancy lamp for that matter), then you make do! If anything, I’d like to think of myself as being resourceful! Besides, this lamp was just sitting in our study, which happens to be the coldest room in the house, so no one goes in there for longer than need be, and now it’s getting some real use! In short, I’m calling this a win. #winning [Next trial is to put one of those eco friendly pure white bulbs in the lamp to see if it changes the lighting differently.]

And since I can’t really cook (or wash dishes in confidently clean water right now), this afternoon ended up beings a cheese and meat platter lunch kind of day! Today’s choice: a venison summer sausage with some Gouda & Pepperjack cheese (courtesy of a coworker’s efforts from last fall). Oddly enough, when I’m hosting or going for something simple, I really enjoy plating cheese boards the most. They can be beautifully complicated or they can be super simple and elegant, but there’s something just really lovely about plating a cheese board! The endless freedom of creativity. And maybe this has something to do with the fact that my mom would also assign the cheese platter duties to me whenever she hosted a party in Hong Kong, and now, it’s still my duty when I visit during Thanksgiving or Christmas.

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Not my brightest photo, but not my worst either.

You can have vegetables, you can have jams or mustards [or mostardas if you want to get really fancy], you can have fruit, you can add sprigs of rosemary or thyme to make it look really rustic and beautiful [and while any Chopped judge will tell you that is a giant no-no (if you can’t eat it, don’t put it on the plate), I think for cheese plates, you can break that rule just a little bit], you can use all sorts of different crackers, it’s an empty canvas, and you can paint it with endless shades of ingredients. I am more of a simple platter myself, but I’ve been known to step it up as well, but the vacuum sealed bag I received one morning contained about half a sausage and then a quarter portion of each cheese, and with all the fruit eaten and not enough time to go grocery shopping, we kept it nice and simple. I will say though, I did take Smitten Kitchen’s advice on photographing to heart and pulled out one of my favorite presentation pieces: a wooden plank, beautifully stained a Brazil nut shell brown. The last time I used it was for the annual Christmas party Frankie and I throw, and had plated a cranberry walnut goat cheese log, on top of a gelled cranberry sauce. So it only seemed fitting to use the plank to really showcase the choice in meat and cheese, not to mention that it definitely made us feel a little more elegant in the midst of our very normal and uneventful afternoon [#adulting].

img_2742Anyway, our sink should be fixed this morning, just in time for prep and cooking of my famous bacon wrapped jalapeño poppers for the Super Bowl Sunday party we are attending! So keep an eye out for the recipe in a couple days time!

And with that, keep cooking your hearts out and when in doubt, a good cheese platter can make any boring afternoon outstanding! Cooking Maggie out! [GO TEAM GO!]

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