food styling

Overnight Crockpot Apple Butter

Overnight Crockpot Apple Butter

5 large apples, peeled, chopped

1 C dark brown sugar

juice from half a lemon

2 Tbsp water

1.5 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp sea salt

0.5 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla

- in a large bowl toss chopped apples with brown sugar, lemon juice and water to coat - place in crockpot and cook on low overnight

- the next morning, stir in pumpkin pie spice, sea salt, cinnamon and vanilla - cook 2 hours more with lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape - jar and eat*

* I love apple butter dolloped on homemade granola, on pancakes or French toast, on ice cream, on cake, on toast or by itself with a spoon.

Foodstyling : chocolate + mint green + peach + I'm sorry Mum

I don't know about you but I LOVE the colour combo of mint green and peach. Maybe I've been looking at too many pins on Pinterest, but really, it goes much deeper than that.

When I was 12, my parents decided to sell the house I grew up in and build a new one. I was crushed - so much so that the night before we moved, I can remember crying in the top bunk of the bunk bed I shared with my sister - 'I don't want to go', I kept moaning through my tears.

But you see, it didn't matter what I wanted. That's a pretty hard lesson to learn but it's a good one.

Sometimes it just doesn't matter what you want.

The next day, the trucks came and our life was packed into trucks, to be driven across town, to a beautiful, brand new house that was EASILY twice the size of our old one. We had a huge backyard, a gorgeous brand new bright and airy kitchen and I GOT MY OWN ROOM. 

That last part was heavenly for me. My very own room to decorate any way I liked. And I did. I plastered my walls with headshots of New Kids On The Block, Brutus the Barber Beefcake (weird, I know) and baby animals. I rocked out at night, with the door shut, dancing along to the Top 9 at 9 on 680 CHNS. My parents pretty much left me to it because they had their own stuff on the go. My dad was constantly doing stuff around the house and my mum had discovered interior decorating

That's where the mint green and peach come in.

My Mum fell in LOVE with this colour combo. For our new house she chose carpet that was peach-toned, had custom peach curtains made, and bought lamps, table covers, furniture and cushions in various shades of peach/mint green/aqua.

I thought it was disgusting.

'Ugh, Mum, THAT IS SO UGLY!'.

Looking back, I see that my Mum was actually a pretty stylish lady with really good taste. And who was I to judge with my Joey McIntyre wallpaper?!?

So when James (www.jivephotographic.com) and I talked about doing a stylized stills shoot, I came up with the concept of 'the winning cake at a county fair' in my Mum's (still) favourite colours. I used my beautiful green jadeite cake stand as a starting point. I scouted for pretty peach fabrics, made the little flag banner in the background out of mint green cardstock (hung on clear fishing line), and chose peach carnations to accompany the cake (I love carnations! They're so ruffly and pretty, plus, they're relatively inexpensive and they last forever as long as you change the water).

I doubled the classic Hershey's Chocolate Cake recipe, which is my absolute go to. It's easy to make, is super chocolatey and stays moist for days. I used three layers for the cake and gave the fourth layer to friends topped with some extra frosting. For the frosting, I made Nanny Burke's Buttercream and added 1/4C cocoa powder. I swirled the frosting on the top of the cake into a spiral by resting my frosting spreader lightly in the middle top and spinning my revolving cake stand in one direction until the frosting spreader reached the outside perimeter. Then I used my spreader to expose the layers around the sides of the cake. I love how when I actually cut the cake, the light and dark layers of the cake alongside the slice look like a negative. James shot the cake with one continuous light, a diffuser and some white reflectors and then captured it on his digital Hasselblad. I honestly think with his skill and that Hasselblad, James could make a pile of cow turd look good.

We do a lot of work for clients but sometimes, you just need to shoot for fun, for yourself, to be creative, and to say, 'Mum, I'm sorry I made fun of you. You were right all along'.

photography : James Ingram  ---  food / prop styling : Kelly Neil

Sage and Pancetta Wrapped Shrimp

Sean and our very good friend JC met years ago when they both worked in the kitchen of il Mercato on Spring Garden Road (the old location). At the time, JC was the youngest chef to run a Bertossi kitchen - just 22 years old. 

Years later, after Sean and I were engaged, we knew, without a doubt, who we wanted to ask to be Sean's best man at our wedding. 

Sean and JC WEB.jpg

Sean and JC at our wedding - photo credit : Mike Tompkins

The first time I met JC, I felt as if we'd already been friends for years. He has a personality that feels like a warm hug, plus, he's super smart and knows a lot of stuff about stuff. He and I bonded over our passion for being creative in the kitchen and I often receive random texts like:

'$2 8oz side order of Canadian back bacon at the market, produced by a local farmer and fried up fresh this morning. Singing to me. And I don't mean that round ham lookin' shit either. Long, leggy, crisp and chewy, glorious back bacon. Maybe it'll actually make it past the line up next week.'

'Molasses cookies, root beer fudge, fresh honey comb, garlic jelly, fresh cheese, artisan sausage, zucchini relish, ammolite necklaces... It's market day in Lethbridge!'

'Friend of ours is flying in for the night tomorrow on her way through town (she's a relaxed vegetarian). To my inquiry "Dinner plans yet? Spag garlic? Shrimp? Lemon, capers, arugula?" I get back "No! OMG YES! ALL OF IT!" Lol, had to share the love. Hope you guys had a great week!'

You can see why I absolutely adore him. In fact, there simply isn't enough space on this blog to tell you how awesome he is.

A few years ago, JC moved to Edmonton (insert sad face here), and when he comes home to visit, he always stays with us. The last time he was home he said, 'Hey guys, I've been making this super easy little appetizer for friends out West and they go nuts for it. Wanna try it?'. We've been making JC's Sage and Pancetta Wrapped Shrimp for every cocktail / dinner party we've hosted ever since.

JC's Sage and Pancetta Wrapped Shrimp

24 shrimp, thawed, patted dry with paper towel

24 leaves fresh sage

24 pieces thinly sliced pancetta

- lay one sage leaf on each shrimp  - wrap each shrimp with one piece of pancetta - grill until pancetta is crispy

Pancetta and Sage Wrapped Grilled Shrimp-1 825 WEB.jpg
Pancetta and Sage Wrapped Grilled Shrimp-2 WEB.jpg
Pancetta and Sage Wrapped Grilled Shrimp-3 WEB.jpg

If you watch the video posted at the top, you'll see that Sean likes to gently stretch out each shrimp before wrapping. Also, between the sage and the pancetta, the shrimp have a ton of flavour so we never serve them with dip - they're always one of the first things to go!

Enjoy :)

Food Film #2 : Nanny Jean Coleman's Banana Bread

Nanny Jean Coleman's Banana Bread - food photography : food styling from Kelly Neil on Vimeo.

My friend Patrick gave my his Nanny's recipe for Banana Bread a couple of years ago and it's still the best I've ever had, so I thought it would be the perfect choice for my second food film. I'm teaching myself how to make these films, and I see things in this one that I would do differently next time, but that's what learning is right? I can live with it. A huge thank you to Padde for permission to share!

Nanny Jean Coleman's Banana Bread (aka The Best Banana Bread Ever Recipe!!!)

1/2 C butter, room temperature + 1/4 C for greasing pan

1/2 C white sugar

1/2 C brown sugar, packed

2 eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 C flour, sifted

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

3 very ripe bananas, mashed

1/2 cup sour cream (I use Greek yogurt if I don't have sour cream on hand)

1 Tbsp vanilla

1/2 C dark chocolate chips, tossed lightly in flour (optional)

- Preheat oven to 350°F

- Butter loaf pan w/ 1/4 c butter, lightly flour (I like to use a piece of crumpled up Reynold's Wax Paper to butter my loaf and cake pans - it's what my Mum taught me to do many years ago!)

- In stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes on medium speed

- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well until combined

- Sift the dry ingredients together and combine with butter mixture - blend well

- Add the bananas, sour cream, and vanilla - mix well

- Add floured chocolate chips, if desired

- Bake 50-60 minutes - I test with a toothpick at 50 minutes and then continue to check every 3 minutes  until toothpick comes out clean - mine takes about 60 minutes

Enjoy!

My first food video : David Lebovitz's Black Olive Tapenade

David Lebovitz's Black Olive Tapenade - HD from Kelly Neil on Vimeo.

 

Last month, Random House Canada sent me a copy of David Lebovitz's new book My Paris Kitchen for review. I normally shoot still-photos for cookbook reviews, however, filming my own video is something I've wanted to do for a REALLY long time (I've had my Vimeo account for 3 YEARS). After reading through My Paris Kitchen, I thought David's recipe for Black Olive Tapenade would be a simple way to ease into making my own film, so today, after figuring out how to actually use the video function on my Canon 5D Mark II, I shot and edited 'Black Olive Tapenade' (my very first food video!!!) in about two and a half hours.

Other than the fact that I am becoming totally smitten with filming motion, My Paris Kitchen is an amazing book filled with wonderful recipes, jaw-droppingly gorgeous photographs, and hilarious anecdotes that make you feel like you are hanging out with your best friend - you should totally buy it.