Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles [an easy holiday appetizer!]

Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles

I brush the crumbs off my son’s shirt, grab paper towels to wipe his hands, and clean him up as best I can before he’s off to the next thing – running laps around the house, building towers with Magna-Tiles, or racing cars across the kitchen floor. I do the same with his twin sister, although it usually takes a while to convince her to let me help after she says, “Izzy do it!” four or five times.

They ate a decent lunch, but I see a few pieces of peanut butter and jelly left on their plates. Isabel didn’t touch her grapes and Elijah only took one small bite of his cheese stick. I hear Josiah start to fuss from his bouncy seat just as it dawns on me that I haven’t eaten yet. My mouth begins to water, but it’s time for the baby to nurse.

I grab the leftover PB&J and grapes, and the half-eaten cheese stick and scarf them down while I walk over to the baby. I guess that’s lunch for today. Maybe at naptime I can actually sit down.

****

We wander through the giant refrigerator at Costco. Josiah lays in his car seat and I try to keep the twins content in the cart. If I let them loose in the store, they inevitably wander in opposite directions, taking my sanity with them. I forgot my grocery list at home, so we’re going by memory on this trip. It’s never a wise idea to wander Costco without being tethered to a written plan, especially when you have to find all the things and make a thousand tiny decisions before someone begins to melt down. It’s a race against the clock. How soon will the baby wake up? How long will food samples keep my twins entertained? Will the twins fall asleep in the car on the way home mess up naps for the rest of the day?

I grab the giant bag of baby carrots – way more than we’ll ever need, but whatever. It’ll save me a trip to a second store just to buy baby carrots. I toss that, a package of salad greens, and a giant container of strawberries (that will be gone by tomorrow) into the cart. And oh! They have chanterelles! Of course I need chanterelles, right? Because why wouldn’t I need a pound or two of fancy mushrooms? I add them to the pile starting to overtake the car seat and gently rearrange the produce around my infant.

****

Chanterelles sound interesting and different and grown up – even though these mushrooms are relatively common. But sometimes I need something different. I need to eat more than a few toddler-sized squares of PB&J they didn’t finish. I need to eat like an adult.

This recipe for Crostini with Garlic Sautéed Chanterelles requires only a few ingredients and a simple preparation. The mushrooms have a rich, earthy, and almost fruity flavor. Add the crunch of toasted bread, brightness of thyme, and warmth of sautéed garlic for a grown-up dish that’s perfect as a holiday appetizer – or lunch on an ordinary Thursday. 

Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles

Crostini with Garlic Sauteed Chanterelles
Yields about 20 appetizers

3-4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 sprigs of thyme, plus more for garnish
16 ounces chanterelle mushrooms, large ones cut in half lengthwise
1 baguette, cut into ¾ inch slices
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and and thyme and cook for about 30-60 seconds until the garlic is fragrant, being careful not to burn the garlic.

Add the mushrooms in a single layer and cook for about 3-4 minutes without stirring until the bottom side is golden and browned. Sprinkle with a few pinches of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Reduce the heat to medium. Turn the mushrooms over and cook for about 5-7 more minutes, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are tender to your liking. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

While the chanterelles are cooking, set your oven rack as close to your oven’s broiler flame as possible. Preheat the broiler (to high if you have a high/low setting). Lay the baguette slices out on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Broil the bread for 1-2 minutes until the edges are browned and slightly crisp. You may need to turn the pan once or twice to ensure even browning. Make sure to watch this very closely. It only take a few seconds for the bread to go from toasted to burned!

Remove the bread from the oven and transfer to a serving platter. Top each slice with the sautéed mushrooms, and garnish with fresh thyme leaves. Serve and enjoy!

Note: The olive oil left in the pan has so much flavor. Use it on leftover bread for an extra treat for the cook!


This recipe was originally featured at Lark + Linen.


Spiced Chai Bread with Cream Cheese Glaze

Spiced Chai Bread with Cream Cheese Glaze

Seven years ago on Christmas Day, my husband and I anxiously sat in a hospital waiting room. Carols played in the background, and strands of lights glimmered around the windows. Every once in awhile we heard a chime through the sound system, a tradition signaling the birth of a baby. The reminder of new life became a welcome interruption as we waited to hear from my mom’s surgeon.

Family and friends stopped by to check on us and ask about my mom. One couple dropped off sandwiches and salads for lunch. Later that night in a last minute attempt to salvage Christmas dinner, we heated up white chicken chili from my brother’s freezer.

Two years later, I answered emails and made phone calls while I “worked from home” at my mom’s bedside. The doorbell rang, a frequent occurrence in those last months as people visited and dropped off food and gifts for my family. It was my parents’ elderly neighbor. I anxiously twitched when I saw her, even though she was a perfectly pleasant woman. I couldn’t help but remember backing into car as a teenager and causing $800 worth of damage. But she wasn’t there to relive stories of my negligent driving.

Keep reading and get the recipe at Coffee + Crumbs!

Spiced Chai Bread with Cream Cheese Glaze
Spiced Chai Bread with Cream Cheese Glaze
Spiced Chai Bread with Cream Cheese Glaze

Full post and recipe instructions can be found at Coffee + Crumbs!


Behind the Scenes: Crostini with Caramelized Apples, Fontina + Rosemary [Part 2]

Crostini with Caramelized Apples, Fontina + Rosemary

A couple weeks ago, I shared behind the scenes photos taken by Anna Guziak (if you missed that post, click here). Today’s post includes my photos, tips, and tricks I use when doing a food photoshoot, as well as the recipe for the dish you see in the pictures. (Scroll all the way to the bottom of this post to skip right to the recipe.)

To be honest, I've been hesitant to share photography advice on my blog because I am far from an expert. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know. Offering advice in this area makes me want to crawl into a closet and hide from the imposter syndrome that lurks in every corner or my mind. 

That being said, I’ve had a handful of people ask me about my photography process. I’ve come to realize maybe hearing how I photograph without fancy lighting, a full photography studio, and a myriad of lenses could be helpful. So, I’m learning to push imposter syndrome to the side and talk about what I love, even if I still have a great deal to learn myself. 

(It’s worth noting that what I’ve shared below is simply what I do and the equipment I use - it’s not necessarily the way things need to be done or the equipment that has to be used. Do what works for you! This post also focuses mainly on my process of learning photography, so I haven’t included advice on styling, lighting, composition, how a camera works, etc. You can find much of that information by checking out the links I’ve included in the “Resources” section below.)

Crostini with Caramelized Apples, Fontina + Rosemary
Crostini with Caramelized Apples, Fontina + Rosemary

Camera + Lenses

I currently use a Canon EOS 60d. My very first lens was a 50mm lens. It's often called the "nifty fifty" and is useful for a variety of types of photography. Even now, I use my 50mm about 85% of the time. 

Before talking about more equipment, though, let me say this. When you first start learning about camera equipment, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel like you need to spend thousands of dollars to create a decent image. You don’t. You can make very clean, crisp images with whatever equipment you have. I have professional photographer friends with tons of great equipment, and that equipment can absolutely enhance what you’re able to do. However, if you are just starting out, I would recommend first learning to use what you have, then upgrade equipment as you become proficient with what you currently own. If all you have right now is a smartphone, practice creating really awesome images on your smartphone. There is so much you can learn about styling, composition, lighting, etc. before even making a camera or lens purchase. 

When you learn first with what you have, I personally think you become a better photographer in the long run because you don't use equipment as a crutch. I also have a habit of wanting to dive into a hobby head first, then abandoning that hobby a few months or a year later. So, for the first year I started learning photography, I borrowed a camera from my sister. I wanted to learn how to use it and make sure this was a hobby I’d actually stick with before making any large purchases. 

Eventually, I bought a new and upgraded lens (my 50mm lens) to fit the borrowed camera, but I made sure what I purchased would also fit the camera I planned to eventually buy. As I got better and also felt confident this was a hobby that would stick around, I purchased a Canon EOS 60d (and made that purchase when newer Canon products were released, which meant the price of the 60d went down pretty significantly). 

About a year after purchasing my camera, I got the 24mm wide angle lens, and another year or so after that, purchased a 100mm macro lens. Since my photography is almost entirely focused on food, these lenses work for me, but if I was doing weddings, portraits, landscapes, etc., I'd change up or add to what I have.

Crostini with Caramelized Apples, Fontina + Rosemary

Lighting

Ninety-five percent of the time, I use natural lighting. I’ve taken photos in a number of locations around my house, and have concluded that most of the time the window in my dining room works best. I typically push the dining room table right up against the window and take my pictures there. You can see a few pictures of my setup in the previous “Behind the Scenes” post. 

Taking food photography pictures with 2-year-old toddlers running around brings its own set of challenges. They still take a decent nap, so most of the time I work on photo shoots while they’re asleep. If they don’t take a good nap that day or the weather doesn’t cooperate for me to get the right light I need, I hold off and shoot another day. I’m a planner, but in this area (and in many others) my kids have taught me to be more flexible. 

With baby number 3 on the way, the chances of all three kids sleeping at the same time during the day are slim, so I’m branching out into the world of artificial lighting. I bought the Lowel Ego Tabletop Light and love it so far. Shooting during the day in natural lighting is still my preference, but the tabletop light gives me the flexibility to schedule photo shoots at night when needed. 

Props

Most of the props I own are actual items we use as a family in regular life - utensils, dishes, linens, or the ingredients used to create the dish I’m photographing. At garage sales or on clearance racks, I’ve also collected a handful of items we don’t necessarily use regularly but help add a little more variety to the images. 

I love photographing on all white dishware because I think it makes the food really pop. I also have an assortment of glasses, since I love creating drink recipes (especially cocktails). I’ve learned, though, that if I do want to buy new glassware for a photoshoot, I don’t need a set of four. Usually, just one or two glasses are sufficient. (Also, we had soooo many glasses at one point that it was getting ridiculous, so I’ve pared down my stash a little.) 

I use a marble pastry board that I use as a backdrop for many of my shoots, as well as an olive wood cutting board, slate cheese board, flour sack towels (my favorite linen to use), and a handful of other odds and ends. I also made a wood backdrop out of a few pieces of plywood, screws, and a bit of paint. (Someday, I'd love to get my hands on a few of these backdrops from Erickson Wood Works.)

My philosophy is the same with props as it is with any other equipment. Use what you have first before making any big purchases. A white foam board and a kitchen towel can help you create a beautiful picture. As you dive into food photography more, keep an eye out for fun props at garage sales, second-hand stores, or the clearance section at stores such as Target or World Market. IKEA also has really inexpensive items that can work great for photo shoots. And when there’s a prop you really want to use in a photoshoot but don’t want to purchase, you can always ask around to see if someone near you is willing to lend you an item (I’ve done this several times before!). 

Crostini with Caramelized Apples, Fontina + Rosemary
Crostini with Caramelized Apples, Fontina + Rosemary

Editing

For editing, I currently use Lightroom, which does all that I need. Maybe someday I'll learn to use Photoshop, but Lightroom is a fantastic product. That being said, for a couple years, I just used iPhoto (gasp!) on my computer and didn't purchase Lightroom until I had grown out of what iPhoto could do. Again, this has forced me to learn how to better take a photo initially, rather than relying too heavily on post-production to fix all my mistakes. Editing software can be incredibly powerful, but your end result will be much better if you use editing software as a tool to enhance an already good photo rather than a band-aid to fix a poorly shot photo. 

When it came to learning Lightroom, I read blog posts, watched YouTube tutorials, and Googled “how to do _______________ in Lightroom” more times than I care to admit. Not exactly glamorous, but it’s a process that’s worked for me. There are also affordable online classes and workshops that teach how to use Lightroom or Photoshop (check out Skillshare for starters).

My Learning Process

As far as actually learning how to photograph, you can find a ton of information available for free or at a very low cost to help you get started. Sometimes, though, the benefit of having someone personally answer questions or walk you through how your camera works can make the learning process much less overwhelming. The very first year I started, I took a photography class through my local park district and video chatted a couple professional photographer friends who were willing to teach me what they know. Those video chats were invaluable. I also watched YouTube videos, took a Skillshare class, purchased a food photography book and an ebook, and read a lot of blog posts. 

Over the course of four and a half years, I’ve spent about $75 on learning photography. Again, you don’t have to drain your savings account in order to improve. That being said, if you’re able to participate in workshops or classes and invest in other resources right away, go for it! Those opportunities provide a learning experience that self-teaching simply can’t replicate. Hopefully, at some point in the near future, I’ll take more in-person classes and participate in workshops or retreats. But for my family and me right now, despite my impatience and desire to race ahead to learn everything I possibly can as soon as I can, I’ve realized that taking things slowly has been a better, more realistic pace. 

Oh, and most importantly? Take photos. Lots of photos. Reading and research will only get you so far. You’ve got to keep shooting. 

Crostini with Caramelized Apples, Fontina + Rosemary

Resources

There is no shortage of information available about photography. This is an extremely abbreviated list, and I could spend hour after hour adding to it. I've included a handful of links and resources to help you get started. 

Blog Posts

"Food Photography Tips for Food Bloggers" from Cookie + Kate
"How I Instagram" from The Fauxmartha
"Fauxtography 101" from The Fauxmartha
"One Pot Butternut Squash Soup shot with an iPhone" from The Fauxmartha
Photography tips and tutorials from White on Rice Couple
"Artificial Lighting Tips for Food Photography" from Pinch of Yum
Additional photography tips and tutorials from Pinch of Yum

Books/eBooks

Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots by Nicole S. Young
Tasty Food Photography by Pinch of Yum (This is one of the first food photography resources I ever used, and it's extremely helpful for beginners.)

YouTube

"Food Photography Tips with Andrew Scrivani"
"Food Photography: Lighting and Compositional Basics" from Andrew Scrivani (Pretty much anything from Andrew Scrivani will be extremely helpful.)
"Tips for Stunning Food Photography with Top With Cinnamon"

Online Classes

Check out Skillshare or Craftsy.com for a variety of affordable online classes.

Crostini with Caramelized Apples, Fontina + Rosemary

Crostini with Caramelized Apples, Fontina + Rosemary
Yields about 20-25 appetizers

2 medium apples
4-5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 whole sprig of rosemary, plus 1-2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 baguette*
8 ounces Fontina cheese**

Prepare the apples by cutting each apple in half, removing the core and seeds, and then slicing each apple into ¼-inch thick slices.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 1 whole sprig of rosemary to the skillet. Heat for a couple minutes until the butter is melted and starts bubbling.

Reduce heat to medium, and add the apple slices to the skillet. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, turning and stirring occasionally. The apples are done when they are browned and tender.

While the apples are cooking, move an oven rack to the position closest to your oven’s broiler flame.

Preheat your oven to broil (to high if you have a high/low setting). Slice the baguette into ½-inch thick pieces (you’ll need about 20-25 slices total), and lay them out on a baking sheet. Lightly butter all the slices using the remaining 1-2 tablespoons of butter.

Thinly slice the Fontina, and top each piece of buttered bread with 1-2 pieces of cheese. Place the cheese-topped bread in the oven under the broiler flame, and broil for 2-3 minutes until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted. (Keep a very close eye on the baking sheet so you don’t burn the bread and cheese! You may also want to rotate the baking sheet halfway through to ensure even cooking.)

Remove the bread from the oven. When the apples are done cooking, top each piece of bread with 1-2 apple slices, and sprinkle with fresh rosemary. Serve and enjoy!

*Note that this recipe may not use an entire loaf. That just means more bread to snack on while you cook!

**Fontina is an Italian cow’s milk cheese that melts really well. I’ve been able to find it at both Trader Joe’s, Aldi, and most other grocery stores. You can, however, substitute another cheese such as Gruyere or Gouda.


If you missed Part 1 of my "Behind the Scenes" posts, make sure to click here! You'll get to see photos (taken by Anna Guziak) of me making this recipe and setting up to photograph it.


Loaded Whole Wheat + Oat Zucchini Bread

Loaded Whole Wheat + Oat Zucchini Bread

I get frustrated when things don't work out on my first attempt. When I'm experimenting or learning something new, I expect to skip the whole "learning" phase and jump right to the "I'm an expert" phase. Obviously, it doesn't work out that way and I'm usually left swallowing my fair share of humble pie.

Loaded Whole Wheat + Oat Zucchini Bread

That humble pie has most recently come in the form of not-so-successful baked goods. I've been baking more and more over the last year, and I'm starting to branch out with creating my own recipes. Rather than simply changing up a recipe's spices or dried fruits, I've started tweaking the flours, liquids and overall composition of a recipe

Loaded Whole Wheat + Oat Zucchini Bread

Right now, I have version one of this zucchini bread in my fridge. It needs to be thrown in the trash, but I absolutely hate throwing away food. Not only do I want to avoid wastefulness, but I also feel like if I throw it away, it's admitting failure. It requires me to concede that the time and resources spent left me with nothing to show for it. I probably sound ridiculous having a personal crisis over a failed loaf of bread, but it's brought my impatience, perfectionism and pride to the surface. 

Loaded Whole Wheat + Oat Zucchini Bread

Don't worry - the recipe below has been drastically updated from the inedible version. In researching how to correct this recipe, I've learned more about how certain ingredients work in baking than I ever set out to know, including this trick for baking with whole wheat flour and how acids neutralize the metallic flavor of baking soda

I'm learning to be OK with learning, which is a humbling process that involves mistakes, changes and even "failures." That failed loaf probably taught me more than ten successful loaves would have.

Loaded Whole Wheat + Oat Zucchini Bread

Through all the errors, I finally ended up with exactly what I was going for - a hearty, flavorful, breakfast-appropriate bread. Most zucchini breads I've tasted fall more on the dessert end of the spectrum - delicious, but not something I should make a regular part of my breakfast rotation. This version is lightly sweetened with honey and uses whole wheat flour. (If you're not a fan of the whole wheat texture, you can sub in some white flour.) As the title says, it's a loaded bread, chock-full of oats, dried fruit, nuts and of course, zucchini, so you can feel better about eating it first thing in the morning (while slathering it with butter).

“If you only do what you know and do it very, very well, chances are that you won’t fail. You’ll just stagnate, and your work will get less and less interesting, and that’s failure by erosion.”
–Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit

Have you had any cooking or baking failures? Did you learn anything in the process? I'd love to hear your story in the comments!


Loaded Whole Wheat + Oat Zucchini Bread (or muffins)
Yields 1 loaf or 12 regular-sized muffins

1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
½ cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup buttermilk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
½ cup melted butter, cooled
½ cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup shredded zucchini
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup dried, chopped apricots

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9x5 loaf pan (or a muffin tin) and set aside. 

In a large bowl, mix the flour, oats, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, butter, honey and vanilla.*

Add the wet ingredient mixture to the flour mixture. Stir just until incorporated, being careful not to overmix.

In another bowl, toss together the zucchini, walnuts and apricots. Gently fold this mixture into the rest of the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan (or muffin tin) and let it rest for about ten minutes. Do not skip this step! (Click here to learn why.)

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Bake muffins for about 12 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. 

*Quick Tip: Measure out the honey in the same dish that contained the melted butter. Then when you add the honey to the batter, it’ll slide right out of the butter-coated dish.