The Inspired Plate | Fall Dishes | October Challenge

Fall with it's golden umber hues and blush burghandies create a perfectly dressed holiday table. 
Here on The Inspired Plate we're capturing the perfect collection of color and epicurean delights to get you ready for a season of cooking simple or fancy. 

This month's Food Photography challenge was to create and shoot our favorite Fall dish. 
Salads are all the rage in my household since the year 2013 began, and i'm planning on ending it too with my favorite produce and edible accouterments. 

Start your festivities by grilling up some acorn squash, asparagus and red pears and tossing them on a bed of arugula and romaine lettuce leaf. I added goat cheese drizzled with a fig dressing, a few pecans for crunch and some rosemary baguettes sliced and drizzled with olive oil and toasted in the oven till golden. For the dressing mix olive oil and a fig jam together till a smooth consistency is achieved. This salad was amazing!! 

Fresh sage from my garden was the herb of choice here..  I used it on the acorn squash when roasting. 

For the fig sauce, I buy Dalmatia Fig Spread from Fresh and Easy stores here in So. Ca.  I also brushed fig dressing on the pears before roasted them...

...and drizzled over the goat cheese before adding to the salad.

Please head on over to our TIP Photographers, Stacey Siegal | Sarasota-Bradenton FL  Food Photographer  and Tammy Bilodeau, Whitecourt, AB Photographer to see their interpretations of our photo challenge! I already to a peek and can assure you, you will LOVE what they have to share!

Buon Apetito!

The Inspired Plate | Fresh From the Market | August 2013

Welcome to August's issue of The Inspired Plate's food photography challenge. This month in the heat of the Summer we're tackling "Fresh from the Market". I chose one of the hottest days to drag my poor husband and daughter to Old Town Temecula. As fun as it was browsing the vendor stalls.. we were literally there to pick up our herbs and produce and get back to the cool of the truck.

This time around I had a recipe in mind.. an Argentinian Pesto called "Chimichurri" to go on our grilled salmon. The sauce is a tangy blend of parsley, oregano and basil blended with garlic, red wine vinegar, red peppers, shallots, olive oil and lemon.

We made a wonderful salad from a beautiful bunch of red leaf lettuce and baby spinach that I also picked up from the Temecula Farmers Market. Added grilled corn, avocados and a balsamic vinaigrette.. and topped it with the Chimichurri topped salmon. So Good!

Argentinian Chimichurri Sauce
(adapted) Recipe courtesy Bob Blumer Food

1 cup lightly packed chopped "Italian" parsley
3 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes

1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
1/8 cup fresh chopped basil leaves

2 tablespoons shallot or onion, minced

3/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Place all chimichurri sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until well chopped, but not pureed. Refrigerate till your ready to use.

Make sure to visit my dear friend Sabrina Wong, Perth Food Photographer. I know she'll have some wonderful photos to share! Also make your way around The Inspired Plate's circle. I love our gals!! Ciao!!

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

Yield: about 36 cookies
Bake 375°F  7-9 mins per batch

½ cup butter, softened
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar or 1/4 cup honey
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
1-¼ cups Gluten Free Baking mix with added Xanthan Gum 
(or GF Flour blend plus ¼ rounded tsp. of Xanthan gum.)

Granulated sugar for rolling dough balls

In a large mixing bowl beat butter and peanut butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, and baking powder. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. If necessary, cover and chill dough about 1 hour or until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 
Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in additional granulated sugar to coat. Place balls 2 inches apart on an un-greased cookie sheet. Using the tines of a fork, flatten balls by making crisscross marks on top. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until bottoms are light brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. 

Makes about 36 cookies.

Seasonal | The Inspired Plate | Strawberries and Cream

Seasonal was this months challenge for The Inspired Plate team, I wasn't going to participate this month, and actually am a day late, but my sweet girlfriends from TIP linked me in anyway! LOVE them!!! We had a seasonal lunch treat yesterday for my kids.. Strawberries fresh from the garden!

The TIP gals cooked and baked up some delicious treats for your eye pleasure.. please make your way over to check out their gorgeous photos! My friend Kat Clark ALWAYS has something delicious cooking up.. her family is totally blessed!! :)

Strawberries and Cream

Fresh Strawberries
Whole Cream
1/2 tsp. Sugar (as needed) I use NuStevia 

Clean and slice strawberries.
Add cream.. start with a 1/4 cup. Add more if you like it saucy! :)
Add sugar if needed. The cream has a naturally sweet taste so you don't need much at all. 

Laurie xo

Tropical Frozen Julius

This yummy Summer treat is a cross between an Orange Julius and a Frozen Tropical Fruit and Banana Icy. Both are delicious, and both are something I make regularly during the heat of the summer for my family. One is fat free, and the other has a tad bit of fat by way of the addition of milk. Either way, you can't lose with bags of frozen fruit on hand and a food processor!

DMC Ingredients
1 Bag Frozen Pineapple
1 Bag Frozen Mango's
4 Tbsp. Frozen Orange Juice Concentrate
2 Bananas, frozen or not
1 Cup Low Fat Milk (or Kefir which I use)
*If needed, 1 packet NuStevia or honey to taste
*Frosted Mugs

In a food processor blend all ingredients adding the milk a little at a time to get a consistency like ice cream. When ready, dollop in ice cream glasses or frosty mugs.. and enjoy!!

This should provide 4 servings :)

Gluten Free Almond Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bar

These almond oatmeal bars are amazing and a must try! :)  Hope you all have a Happy 4th of July!!

Gluten Free Almond Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars

3/4 cup oil
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum 
2 cups Almond Flour or Meal
1 cup Quick Oats (GF)
1 cup Gluten Free Baking Mix (Arrowhead Mills)
2 cups chocolate chips (semi-sweet or milk)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and spray a 9X13 cake pan with cooking spray.  Combine oil, sugars, egg, milk and vanilla in a mixing bowl and mix on medium for 1 minute.  Add the dry ingredients except for the chocolate chips and mix until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips and spoon dough into the prepared pan spreading to the edges.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  Cool slightly before cutting into bars.

The Inspired Plate | Frozen Dessert | June 2013

Welcome to The Inspired Plate's, June edition of our food photography challenge!  This month.. and just in time for the heat of summer, we celebrate with Frozen DessertsI think I can safely say this was a favorite! Everything came together without stress and time constraints, and, I even had my mom's drawer of beautiful serviettes to chose the perfect color napkin to go with the berry colored palette. Thanks Mom!! :)

This is the most simple of desserts! A gluten free tart, strawberry ice cream and fresh berries with a frosty dash of powdered sugar. Pretty and tasty! The gluten free crust is an almond shortbread crust recipe that I have used many times and absolutely LOVE! It makes for a great afternoon tea cookie too. :)

Gluten Free Tart with Strawberry Ice Cream and Fresh Berries

Gluten Free Almond Shortbread Crust
1.5 Quarts Strawberry Ice Cream
2 Pints 2 varieties of Fresh Berries (cleaned and dried)
Powdered Sugar for dusting top
Tart Pan

Gluten Free Almond Shortbread Crust
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup fine almond flour (meal)
1/3 cup “gluten free” *all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt

For Shortbread Crust

Pre-Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Pulse almond flour with sugar in a food processor, add cornstarch, gluten free flour and salt. Pulse till well combined. Add butter and vanilla, mix just enough for the dough to start gathering together. Lightly butter the bottom of a tart pan or a cheesecake pan and up the sides a quarter of an inch. Press the shortbread mixture on the bottom. Pierce with a fork. Bake the crust in the pre-heated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. (till golden)

Have ice cream ready at a soft stage but not melted. When tart shell is cool, fill with ice cream, blending with swirls. Put back in freezer for 20 minutes. When ice cream is firm, take out of freezer and top with fresh fruit and dust with powdered sugar. It's ready and yummy to enjoy at this point! 

I've missed my TIP girls these past few months! I had been so busy that I really haven't been able to participate in the challenges. I'm so glad to be sharing this month and I can't wait to see all the frozen dessert photos! With fourth of July coming up.. I'm sure I'll have plenty ideas for an extravaganza sweet!

Please now visit my friend 
Sabrina Wong, Perth Food Photography! This girl is my favorite gal down under and talented!!!!! Oh my! She is also a med student and still finds time to travel the world and shoot beautiful photography! After visiting her.. make your way through the circle to see the rest of The Inspired Plate!

Gluten Free Banana Applesauce Cake

I still consider myself a "newby" to gluten free baking, but I have come to know my baking style seems to be nutty. Ha!! Meaning.. I love utilizing nut flours more so than rice blends when possible. Have you ever made a pistachio gateau.. I rest my case! :)

I was so pleased with this recipe though. I altered it a bit with the almond flour, addition of 1/4 tsp. of xantham gum and olive oil.. but other than that, it really was a wonderfully moist cake just as is. 

My husband and I just celebrated 26 years of marriage. He took me to our favorite Italian restaurant, Gourmet Italia. The owner, Alessandro Prestifilippo, has a home vineyard where he grows much of the vegetables, fruits, herbs and chickens for his restaurant recipes. And olives for his Olive Oil label! The olive oil was a MUST purchase.. It's a mild aromatic oil using the Arbequina olive from Spain, it's smooth flavored aroma makes for a wonderful addition in salads, soups and this cake. 

Definitely try this recipe!! 

Ciao and Buon Appetito!


Gluten Free Banana Applesauce Cake
adapted from Taste of Home's GF Banana Bread

1- ½ cups gluten-free all-purpose baking flour
½ cup Almond Flour
¼ tsp. Xanthum Gum (**add this even if your flour already has it)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
2 cups mashed ripe bananas (4-5 medium)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup olive oil (preferably NOT extra virgin)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

In a large bowl, combine the flour, almond flour, xantham gum, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, mashed bananas, sugar, applesauce, olive oil and vanilla.
Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.
Transfer to two 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pans coated with cooking spray.
Sprinkle with walnuts. Bake at 350° for 45-55 minutes or until a
toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10
minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. 

Yield: 2 loaves (12 slices each).

An Open Face Sandwich DMC Style

My favorite way to eat a snack.. :)

French bread drizzled with Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
Sliced Roma Tomatoes
Buffalo Mozzarella
Dried Oregano
Fresh Cracked Pepper
Sea Salt (to taste)
Fresh Basil chiffonaud
Extra basil to top after broiled

I first toast the bread on one side in the broiler at 500 degrees.. for just around 30 seconds to get crisp and golden. ** Watch CAREFULLY!!

Top the un-toasted side with the above ingredients in the order listed. Place back in broiler keeping a CLOSE watch on it. (I keep the oven door ajar) Broil just for around 1-2 minutes or till the cheese is melted and golden. Buffalo Mozzarella is so soft it melts quickly.

Enjoy from my kitchen to yours!

The Inspired Plate | February | Eggs

Welcome to The Inspired Plate’s February edition of our monthly food photography challenge. Today we are celebrating the “Egg”.  This was a last minute photo shoot for me and I needed to make something quick! With the cold weather we have been experiencing ‘Egg Flower Soup’ sounded like the perfect choice! Although.. I really wasn’t pleased with the lack of “egg lustre”. Eggs really are the prettiest subject matter and I had to at least offer a photo in it’s traditional form. So, a Sunday afternoon brunch dish of ‘Eggs with Andouille Sausage and Fried Potatoes’ made a quick appearance on my photo table too. 

The recipe for the Egg Flower Soup is as simple as a few cups of chicken broth and stirred up eggs. It goes as follows;


4 Cups Chicken Broth
1 Tsp. White peppercorns finely milled
1 Tsp. Freshly grated ginger, or ground dried ginger
2 Tbs. Corn starch plus water to make a thin slurry
2 eggs well beaten with 2 teaspoons of water
2-3 green onions sliced
(Sea Salt if needed)
Chow-Mein Noodles

Heat 4 cups of chicken broth. Meanwhile, clean and slice green onions and set aside.
Make the cornstarch slurry by adding a few teaspoons of water the cornstarch. Set aside. Add pepper and ginger. Stir till simmering. Add the cornstarch slurry and stir till it thickens a bit. Let come to a gentle simmer and then turn the heat off.
Give the eggs and water another quick whip.. Take soup pot off of the heat. While stirring the soup around, slowly add the egg mixture in a thin stream. The egg will cook in thin shreds. Mix in your green onions and top with chow-mien noodles. Enjoy!! :)

I hope you enjoy our challenge round this month. I am so excited to see what the rest of the gals are sharing today. I'm also excited to share with you, my friend Jayme Franklin | Family Portrait and Film Photographer, has come to join our team. I first met Jayme a few years ago when we shared in a few other personal photo projects. I am SO glad that she has finally taken the foodie plunge!!! Welcome Jayme! xoxo

Now make sure you head on over to my Southern California comadre (girl-friend), Kim Kelly | San Diego Photographer and Writer!! If I haven't told you before, I LOVE this gal and she is an amazing cook, travel and food writer as well as photographer! Please leave her a sweet note, and then make your way through the Inspired Plate Circle!

And here is our Cajun style Sunday Brunch with spicy Andouille Sausage, Fried White Rose Potatoes and Eggs Sunny Side Up! 

Laurie V.

Through the Bible in Food Photography | January | Southern California Food Photographer

Through the Bible in Food Photography

The idea for this project came to me last year while reading through the gospel of Luke in the Bible. "Jesus our Savior, after being raised from the dead came to His disciples, flesh and blood, and ate". The meal served Him was a fish and a honeycomb

In my mind I couldn't help but think what a beautiful portrayal this was.. what a beautiful photograph this would be! It was then that I knew I wanted my food photography to take on a more personal message. That message is the Word of God in my life on a daily basis. One of the ways I commit to that is through a reading program where I read with the intention of completing the bible in a whole year. Yep.. it can be done! I started doing this 15 years ago. I wish I could say that I have repeated it every year.. but when I have, it has been SO worth it and I gain new perspective, and a closer relationship with the Lord. There are times when I will have read a verse and think, "wow.. I never saw that before", or didn't quite know how to apply it to my life at the time. It's no coincidence the power that scripture has over our lives and our minds... "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

So this is my new personal photography journey, to style and shoot a monthly image of food or a meal, portrayed in scripture as I read through the bible in a year. "Sound fun"? I am SO excited and really looking forward to this challenge each month!!

January.. a new start and such fun stories in the book of Genesis to read. Really!! Who needs TV or Soap Operas! This Red Lentil Stew photo comes from a story where there's brotherly rivalry, a mom who prefers one child over the other, and the dad likewise prefers the other! Huge, HUGE wealth and property, an inheritance to divide, and a plan to devise. Phew!! And then.. for a bowl of lentils one brother gives it all away just to satisfy his flesh in the moment! Ok.. so maybe he DID think he was going to die from hunger. HAH! You can read about it here on the One Year Bible web site.

The Inspired Plate Monthly Challenge | January | Healthy

Welcome to The Inspired Plate January challenge. This month our theme is "Healthy". Whew!! I have total baking and heavy food fare burnout. It has been so refreshing cooking on the lighter side with a New Years resolution I am trying to commit to.

With our cool weather I have still been craving dishes on the warmer side, so using Pinterest as a design tool, I pinned salad ideas, fruits and hearty vegetables that looked pretty and would handle my grill pan. (one of my favorite cast iron beauties) And this is what we created! One of my favorite DMC recipes is the toast and crouton embellishments. It is a fantastical way to add "bling" to a simple salad. Your guests won't be able to figure out why your simple looking salad tastes like a gourmet epicurean delight! Check out my "Olive and Anchovy" Crouton on this salad here!

I'm going to tell you a secret that I follow for these TIP challenges. I first choose my props and colors. I set the stage a few times before I actually cook any of the food, and then I photograph my prop table with empty dishes and plates using all sorts of different angles. For this shoot I changed dishes, bowls and napkins.. even my prop boards three times before I was happy with my decision. Then I decide on my recipe. I create my recipe around my shoot for these challenges. That won't be the case if you are shooting commercially or an editorial piece. Usually the food and recipe articles are pre-planned a year in advance by the publication or the vendor who hired you. Stay tuned throughout the year, one of our challenges will be a food vendor shoot. :)

My DMC recipe.. I couldn't have enjoyed a salad better than this one! It was so delicious and healthy! Hope you try it.. you'll LOVE it! And make sure you top some of the toast with the pear, chevre cheese and walnuts. It is SOOO good!

The DMC "Grilled Sweet & Savory Salad"

Small head of Green Leaf lettuce cleaned and dried
Small head of Radicchio cleaned and dried
2 medium firm Bosc Pears cut into quarters brushed lightly with olive oil
1 Baguette sliced
4 Tbs. Red Current Port Jam
Olive Oil
2 cups Baby Brussel Sprouts cleaned and outer leaves removed and cut in 1/2
1/2 cup Walnuts
Chevre Goat Cheese; log or crumbles
Italian Parsley cleaned and dried
Balsamic Glaze

Preheat oven to 450˚.
Mix 4 Tbs. of Red Current Port Jam with 5 Tbs. of olive oil together in a bowl. Brush baguette slices with oil and jam dressing on both sides. *Reserve remainder of dressing. Place bread slices on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes, till golden. Oven temperatures vary. Keep an eye on them so they don't over bake.

In a cast iron pan heat up 2 tsp. olive oil. Add the brussel sprout halves and a few dashes of salt. Add 1 tsp. of butter and saute turning often till sprouts are browned and begin to get tender. Add walnuts and continue tossing so the walnuts don't burn. After a minute or two, take the brussel sprouts and walnuts off the heat and set a side.

On a preheated grill pan.. or any skillet if you don't have a grill, place pears cut side down pressing firmly for a few seconds to get grill lines. Let cook for two minutes and turn to the other sliced side of pear. Repeat until pear is tender but still has a nice bite. (not too soft) Set a side.

Time to arrange your salad!

With the remainder Red Current Port Jam and Olive oil, add a few tsp. of Balsamic glaze and stir to mix.

In any fashion, tear apart your lettuce and radicchio in a salad bowl. Arrange the toasts, pears, brussel sprouts, walnuts, parsley and chevre cheese. Drizzle a small amount of the dressing over the salad. Enjoy!

I served my healthy salad with a healthy glass of apple juice. Healthy you ask, isn't all apple juice healthy?? :)  Simple 1/2 water and 1/2 apple juice makes for a much less sugary drink. We have been serving apple juice to our 4 kids like this FOREVER!

Apple Juice and Water.. 1/2 and 1/2

I am so glad you visit us here at The Inspired Plate month to month.
We have a great line up of gals and I can't wait to see what "Healthy" delicacies they have in store for us! Next up is my sweet and amazing friend Kim Kelly | Food Photographer and Writer. I'll tell you what.. Kim is the health guru.. umm, except for those killer brownies, :) and I am sure you won't be disappointed with her amazing recipes! After you visit her blog make sure you check out her Pinterest page too!

Please stop by The Inspired Plate's Facebook page, we look forward to being friends!