Tuesday, December 25, 2007

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I hope everyone is having a magical holiday with lots of presents and great food, and most importantly, the love of family and friends! Yesterday was the big day for us. We watched "The Grinch That Stole Christmas," of course, while we made a huge, fabulous, ultra-garlicky roast beast, along with oven-roasted potatoes and asparagus. And I made yet another attempt at creating my own version of Baker's Square/Village Inn's Caramel Pecan Silk Supreme pie for dessert (I'm inching toward perfection on that project, but I'm not quite there yet--recipe follows). After our marvelous dinner, we headed into town for a lovely "midnight mass" service at the Episcopalian church. Then when we got home, since it was technically Christmas, we were naughty and opened all of our presents. I got the best stuff, including a nifty raclette grill from my dear friend, Kurt...won't that be fun to try?

But I was absolutely overwhelmed and overjoyed to receive the best gift EVER: a brand-new Canon Powershot S5 IS! WHOOOO-HOOOOOO! (A million thanks to Cyd, who was amazingly generous, though I feel very unworthy of it.) As Christmas is a time of giving, I will share my blessing with all of you. Between the light box that my friends gave me for my birthday (see below) and my new camera, the photography on this little blog will surely see a vast improvement, and that, dear readers, is my gift to you! (Cyd says that she got it just so I would shut up about my "crappy little point-and-shoot." Done.)

Merry, Merry Christmas, Everyone! :-)

Caramel Pecan Silk Supreme Pie (Version #2)

Start by pre-baking your favorite pie crust (15-20 minutes at 400 F?). While that bakes, get on with the caramel-pecan layer.

Caramel-Pecan Layer:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 cup cream
1 cup chopped pecans
pinch of salt
splash of vanilla

In a small saucepan, stir together the brown sugar, butter, and cream. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until caramelized. This will take about 20 minutes, give or take. About halfway through the cooking, add the nuts and salt. When the caramel is finished, remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Cool, and then spoon into baked pie crust. Chill at least 30 minutes.

Cream Cheese Layer:
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup heavy cream (whipped to stiff peaks), divided

Once the caramel-pecan layer has firmed up, you can make the cream cheese layer. With a mixer, beat the softened cream cheese with the powdered sugar and about 1/2 cup of whipped cream (reserve the rest for the topping). Spread on top of the caramel-pecan layer and return to the fridge while you make the French Silk layer.

French Silk Layer:
1 1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, cut into pieces
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened (do not use margarine!)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs (pasteurized if you're nervous) or 1/2 cup egg substitute

Melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler, then cool. Beat butter on medium speed until fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in cooled chocolate and vanilla until well blended.

Add eggs one at a time, beating on high speed 3 minutes after each addition; beat until mixture is smooth and fluffy. Spread on top of the cream cheese layer. Into the remaining whipped cream, gently fold in a tablespoon or two of powdered sugar (to taste), and spread the topping on the pie. Return to the fridge for at least two hours--preferably four--or overnight. Garnish with chocolate shavings if you want to gild the lily.

Serves 8 to 12 (It's VERY rich!)

<---Check me out! I'm a food stylist now! (Tee hee.) But in all seriousness, compare the picture of the pie above to the one I took of my last attempt using my old camera. Amazing difference, eh? YIPPEE! Thanks again, Santa Cyd!

4 comments:

steven said...

That light box is very cool. I'd probably do more food pics if I had one. *goes off to internet shop*

Happy Holidaze!

JoyBugaloo said...

I know it's a luxury, because you could make a simple one yourself (cheaper!) with a white box and some lights from Lowe's or Home Depot or whatever. But it's sooooooooo cute! It opens up and folds back down lickety-split into a convenient canvas carrying case with a handle on top and big pockets on the front to stow the lights and tripod. It's just the handiest thing--I love it!

The one I have is by a company called Quantaray, and it's a "portable photo studio." Those should be the proper google-able search terms for ya! ;-)

--Gina

Randi said...

Very cool, we've contemplated that camera. Actually, that or the DSLR by Canon. I'm just not sure which way to go. How do you like it so far?

JoyBugaloo said...

Well, to be honest, the Canon Digital Rebel XTi is my dream camera, but I just don't think I'm ready for it yet. Not only do I not have $700-800 just for the basic set-up, I'm not sure that I want to lug all that equipment around everywhere I go, and be paranoid about it being lost or stolen the whole time. And frankly, it might be just too much camera for me at this time.

That's why I wanted the SLR-"like" camera. It was reviewed very highly across the board and among all the experts that we talked to. Major selling points for me were macro and super-macro modes, and also image stabilization (great for photographing food). It has many more features--more than I will probably ever use--and you can upgrade it with additional lenses and external flashes and such. It doesn't fit in your pocket like a point-and-shoot, but it's still highly portable, and even doubles as a video camera with stereo mics and up to 30 minutes of shooting time. (Gotta YouTube cute videos of my dogs, ya know!) I also liked that it runs on AA batteries, not the more expensive proprietary ones.

So all in all, I thought that this was the best of all worlds and perfectly fits my needs right now. I think it will make an excellent transitional camera for a few years until I'm ready to bump up to (and save up for!) the full-on SLR. And already, the quality of my pics is SO much better, and I don't even know what the thing can do yet!

I'll keep you posted (literally), but I'm sure you'll be able to see what it can do in the coming months on my blog.

--Gina