Feb 28, 2011

Where Food Stylist's Work

Tiff's ready with her frying pan. All she needs is a cowgirl hat and a triangle to call us in for supper.

The "Outdoor Kitchen" in Solvang where Tiff and Cindie worked a 16 hour day last week.

This was for a food company's interstitial for the Hallmark Channel movie "Uncorked."

When people tell me they want to  be a food stylist, I always ask them if they like camping.

Yep, our lives our glamorous!

Feb 27, 2011

New Partnership with DIY Weddings Magazine

We are very excited to announce that beginning in March, we will be sharing tips on how to have a fabulous wedding while being kind to your bank account, and keep your sanity, all at the same time!

Click here to view the announcement.  We will, of course, let you know when our tips are published. Any weddings coming up for you or your loved ones?  We'd love to hear all about it!

Feb 25, 2011

Whet Your Appetite for The Oscars

Photo Source
Once upon a time...I catered The Oscars.  I recently dished about my Academy Award experience for the Huffington PostRead all about it!

Are you excited for Sunday?  I love to watch, even if I've seen very few the films nominated.  It's really just about the dresses, yes?  And what you're eating while critiquing said dresses.

Here is a fabulous way to get your Oscar party of to a delicious start...

Crab and Blue Cheese Bundles
Special equipment:  Candy/deep-fry thermometer
12 oz         cooked lump crabmeat
1/4 cup      crumbled blue cheese
2 Tbsp       finely chopped chives
2 Tbsp       mayonnaise
2 Tbsp       cream cheese, softened
                  salt and pepper, to taste
18              wonton wrappers
                  vegetable or canola oil

In a bowl, combine crab, blue cheese, chives, mayonnaise and cream cheese.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place a generous teaspoon of crab mixture in the center of each wrapper, then lightly moisten the inside edges with water.  Gather edges together to make little sacks and pinch to seal.

In a deep, heavy saucepan, heat 3 inches of oil over medium heat until it registers 350 degrees on thermometer.  Working in batches, fry crab bundles until golden, about 4 minutes.  Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove bundles to a plate lined with paper towels to drain before serving.

Variation:  You could easily sub the crab for lobster or bay shrimp.

Recipe courtesy of The Entertaining Encyclopedia
Robert Rose Publishing

Denise Shares Tips on Casual Entertaining for HGTV!

 Pros like Vivaldo know that, when entertaining casually, less is definitely more. When a meal is served family-style, she points out, "Each table of guests receives its own beautifully plated serving platter of food, which makes for a wonderful — and edible — centerpiece." A table graced with thoughtfully cooked and presented dishes needs little else to enhance it. This classic chicken cassoulet is the center of attention at a French-countryside-themed party. 

Click here for more fabulous casual entertaining advice.

Feb 21, 2011

A Recipe Worth Sharing

On a cloudy, rainy, windy day, soup was on Mandy's mind.  Luckily, Denise had just given her a copy of More Recipes Worth Sharing, which is a comforting and homey compilation of recipes from junior league organizations nationwide, edited by Sheila Thomas.

This book brought her back to her childhood when her mom was involved with a community of women in Ann Arbor, Michigan called Coterie.  She met some life long friends there and, of course, picked up and shared many family recipes.  Mandy's favorites included dill bread baked in a coffee can, and a strawberry Jello dessert with a pretzel crust!

Mama Mandy strapped on her Ergo baby carrier and she and Ian got busy making this delicious and easy asparagus soup.  She and her husband enjoyed the soup all week, adding sausage and chunks of fresh bread to make it a complete meal.

Homemade soup on a cold day. Yes, please.

Creamy Asparagus Soup

1 1/2 pounds asparagus
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
 1/4 cup dry white wine
 1 to 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
 4 cups chicken broth
 1 to 2 teaspoons salt
 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups heavy whipping cream

Snap off thick woody end of asparagus spears and discard.  Chop asparagus.  Reserve half of the tips for garnish.  Blanch the reserved asparagus tips in boiling water in a saucepan; drain.

Melt butter in a saute pan and add onion and celery.  Saute until the onion is almost translucent.  Add the remaining asparagus and garlic.  Saute until asparagus is tender.  Stir in the wine and cook until most of the wine has evaporated.  Add enough flour to make a roux and mix well.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Gradually whisk in the broth, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper.  Bring to a boil; reduce the heat.

Simmer for about 20 minutes and stir in cream.  Return to a boil; immediately reduce the heat.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor.  Strain through a sieve into the saucepan, discarding the solids.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Ladle into cups or soup bowls and garnish with reserved blanched asparagus tips.

Ian helping mama blog.

Feb 13, 2011

Handmade Angel Food Cake

Made with Love

The hardest part of making this cake is separating the eggs. Save the yolks for scrambled eggs or freeze them in an air-tight container for another baking project.  Use a stand mixer and it only takes minutes to make this heavenly cake.  

1 cup sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups egg whites (about 12 eggs from 1968, about 7 large eggs today)
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar (or sub equal amount lemon juice or white vinegar)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla (or almond extract)

Sift flour and 3/4 cup sugar together.

Beat egg whites until foamy; add cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla, beat until mixture begins to hold its shape. Gradually add remaining 3/4 cup sugar and beat until mixture is very stiff and glossy. Sift dry ingredients onto egg whites, a little at a time, and carefully fold in until well blended.

Spoon into ungreased 10-inch tube pan and run knife through mixture to break up any large air holes. Bake in preheated slow oven (325 degrees F) for about 55 minutes to 1 hour.

Invert pan on cake rack until completely cooled. Remove from pan, gently loosening edges with a thin knife if necessary.

Serve as it is or with fresh whipped cream and strawberries.

Adapted from “Cherry Angel-Food Cake” Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery Vol. 2 - 1967

Feb 12, 2011

Redeeming the Angel Food Cake

The last time I blogged for the Huffington Post, I made a confession. I didn't expect anyone to notice, except the usual suspects -- I mean, readers. I had no idea that angel food cake was such a hot topic. I got hundreds, maybe even a thousand private emails. Now, to be honest, that's the most interesting part of the story and the emails now reside in my safe deposit box to be opened upon my death. That's the best I can do at the moment.

Friends, strangers, chefs, magazine editors, television producers, other stylists, recipe testers, and even reporters wanted to share their stories with me about angel food cake.  All but two people thanked me, or sent forgiveness, or my personal favorite, told me that it was the funniest piece they had ever read. I never get tired of hearing that.

I was stunned, overwhelmed and truly grateful for all of the personal stories people wrote me.  I am not alone in my guilt.  The blog post was removed (not my idea), but my decision.  It also lives in my safe deposit box. Lawsuits are for the very rich, or the very pissed off, and I am neither (but I think my nieces might be able to sell tickets to my funeral if they promise private readings).
I'm writing this post for redemption, because if the truth be known, angel food cake should be revered, not hated. Don't be confused.   I'm not talking about that fake, sticky sweet, pre-made, looks like it's been injected with too much botox cake that comes from a cheap bakery on the wrong side of town, I mean an honest to goodness, made-from-scratch angel food cake. This cake done right is divine.

Does it take a little time to bake or cook from scratch?  You bet. But like most of the important things in life (a good marriage, a successful career, making fine wine, or raising children), there really are no "shortcuts" that don't end up cheating yourself and everyone else.    

Serving handmade food to people you love is a gift, yourself included. Not only can handmade food be healthier for you and your family, real food is also better for the planet. 

If anyone reading this would like a recipe or instructions to bake a handmade angel food cake, just contact me.  I know you know how.

I can't end this post without apologizing to the second person that did not appreciate my previous post. A gentleman informed me that most people that work and travel with the circus should be called "show people." And they have excellent taste in life and food. Of course, I should have known that because I have often heard that, "There's no people like show people they smile when they are low."

My sincere apologies to you, Mr. Houdini. 

As I've said before, I can't make this shit up...that was his email!

Denise Vivaldo is making the best husband she has ever had (and her brilliant attorney) a handmade angel food cake for Valentine's Day.   

Feb 3, 2011

How To Improve Your Food Photography

Denise tells the fabulous Dianne Jacob of Will Write For Food the naked truth about food styling for the camera. No holds barred (would you expect anything else?). Enjoy, and learn something new!