Johnny’s Weekend Roundup!

Ciao friends! I am back with another weekend roundup, bringing you articles and other online reading material that I found informative and/or entertaining, and thought you might too! Enjoy it in your leisure over the weekend.

So here it goes – Johnny’s Weekend Roundup for the weekend of August 27, 2016!

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An Open Letter to Food Bloggers with Perfect Food Photography

Hi there fellow food blogger!

My name is Johnny La Pasta, perhaps you’ve heard of my blog? Perhaps not, building up a popular blog is no easy feat. (Say, when do the advertisers start giving me money to put banners on my site? Still waiting).

Me too Brit, me too.

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Anyway, I love your food blog. Your recipe for that slow cooker salmon is giving me life. I can’t wait to try!

Also, I just have to tell you, your food photos are soooo beautiful! Or perhaps a better compliment would be pinable”, that’s a much better word of affirmation in the digital age anyhow.

I mean, that pizza looks like Michelangelo made it….

perfect pizza

Perhaps another way of saying your photos look great is to tell that they look photoshopped. Wait what? They are? No wonder!

Like, those potatoes have to be airbrushed…

photoshopped

You see, I have to admit to you, I am jealous AF that your food looks like it was styled carefully by Martha Stewart herself while mine looks like it was styled by, well, me.

Martha approveth of you, disdaineth of me.

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You’re during an A+++ job with your food photography, and your blog gets higher views because of it. Bravo!

Do you pay the hand models? Or are your hands also as perfect as your food?

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However, wouldn’t you agree that perfectly photographed food is not always how REAL FOOD turns out looking?

Here is my real food. I mean, sure my dented fridge is in the background, but the pizza looks okay….

BBQ Chicken Pizza 17

Is it not true that food can come out looking messy and sloppy and not photographed in the right light or setting, but still be completely delicious and nutritious? I know it to be true, because that is the nature of real food.

My pasta is a little messy, but you can’t not know it’s delish, right?

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Sometimes, you just don’t have time to make it look pretty and magical, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.

Nice camera! Can you pay off my student loans, please?

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You see, you have that $3000 camera, and an advanced version of photoshop on your macbook pro, and you have all the gadgets for creating the illusion of perfect, soft, natural light, and you have a gloriously large and upscale kitchen to stage everything in, and you have different types of plates and tablescapes to stage against, and you sometimes even have an assistant pouring sauce into the picture to get that rad action shot. All of it maketh these gorgeous foodie photos.

But that’s kind of unattainable for the rest of us peasant level food bloggers.  Some of us have tiny, non-granite counter kitchens with very limited space and one set of plates. So, sorry if you see my overused toaster in the background of my dinner shot; I gots nowhere else to put it! And sorry if my photo turns out too bright or dim; I only have hideodeous flourscent lighting in my kitchen and dim orange lighting in my dining room and natural light in my abode is evasive, especially at prime cooking times.

Dream….

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Reality….

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Also, if my photos look like they were shot quickly and then rushed on from so that the photographed food could be eaten, that’s because they were. I know that this food blogging gig is your full time job, so you can dedicate hours to shooting the perfect food photo to pin and insta, you might even make food just for a photoshoot and not even an actual meal; but I am over here trying to food blog my real life actual dinner at my literal dinner time because I work 55 hours a week between 2 jobs. Taking time to create the perfect shot is a non-option for me most regrettably.

Like, this is my actual dinner, I have to take this photo and eat now or die.

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I wish I could document the process of putting every ingredient in my slow cooker in the morning light and then capture the final plating at sunset with stunning, “LIKE” inducing snaps, but I am already running late for work by the time I am dumping all the ingredients in my slow cooker at one time so….not happening.

How did you even get up there? Are these your real friends? Can I have one of the succulents?

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I love that you can accomplish this seemingly impossible feat and make art of your food through photos, but please judge me not for when mine comes out a bit more gritty and less photoshopped looking, because my food is still good. You’re foodie photos might be the equivalent of a highly edited Vogue cover, while mine are the quick, realistic pics of the paparazzi, but I can’t help that right now.

The thing is, real food isn’t always pretty. And a recipe post that has less than airbrushed looking photos doesn’t mean that following said recipe won’t produce real food. Real food can be pretty and it can be okay looking, but it all tastes the same.

Maybe this isn’t to your photography standards, but it still tastes good AF.

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So if anyone is sad their food doesn’t plate just like the world’s most successful blogger, do not let your heart be troubled! If you followed the directions, your food still tastes good, you are just seeing the realist incarnation of it. And if you read a blog like mine where the photos are just okay, please know it is still good, but here again, it is just real food that was just plated and is about to be demolished by me so that I can continue pushing through my hellish 55 hour work week.

So keep doing what you are doing, keep making food look good, but don’t look down on us that don’t have the right tools, settings, and resources to do so. And the rest of you, be proud of anything you manage to plate at the end of a busy day no matter if it’s traditionally pinable or not!

Cheers and Namaste!

Johnny La Pasta

Fig, Goat Cheese, Prosciutto, and Arugula Pizza

One of my absolute favorite foods to make is artisanal pizzas; I love rolling the pizza dough into rustic, oblong shapes that are perfectly imperfect and then topping them with gourmet flavor combinations of quality ingredients. I don’t know exactly what it is that makes me enjoy cooking these types of pizzas so much, but I love the process of cooking them and am really proud of the original recipes I’ve developed!

A couple of my other artisan pizzas!

Most recently, I published my recipes for my Butternut, Brussels, and Bacon Pizza and my Bleu BBQ Chicken Pizza. Today, I giveth onto you the recipe for one of my favorites; my Fig, Goat Cheese, Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza – I know, it’s a mouth full literally and figuratively!

Can you say, “BELLISIMA!”???

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This pizza is born of summer and is reminiscent of Tuscany in the warmer months. Imagine this; the sweetness of fresh figs, caramelized onions, and balsamic, contrasted with the saltiness of prosciutto and the tang of creamy goat cheese, and finished with the fresh and peppery bite of arugula. I am telling you, this is one incredible gourmet pizza!

Pour yourself a glass of wine and turn on the old world Italiano music, because with this pizza, you are about to feel like you’re enjoying a beautiful summer meal in the Tuscan countryside! Buon Appettito!

Fig, Goat Cheese, Prosciutto, and Arugula Pizza

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients:

Cook’s Note: Vegetarians can certainly omit the prosciutto here to make this a veg friendly option! 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a thin, oblong shape and place on an oiled baking sheet. (Pro-tip: sprinkle course cornmeal on the baking sheet to help prevent the pizza dough from sticking).

Drizzle the surface of the dough with the olive oil and balsamic. Use the back of a spoon to smear evenly over the dough. Arrange the caramelized onions in an even layer over the sauce. Sprinkle evenly with the mozzarella, goat cheese, and half of the basil. Arrange the fig slices all over the pizza. Arrange the prosciutto pieces over the figs throughout the pizza, evenly spacing the slices.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the dough is golden brown, the cheese is melted and bubbly and the prosciutto is crisped. Sprinkle with remaining basil, then the arugula in an even layer.

Cut into rustic squares, sprinkle with parmesan, serve, and enjoy!

Johnny’s Weekend Roundup!

Ciao friends! I am starting a new series on this blog called “Johnny’s Weekend Roundup!” which I will be publishing every other week or so. The intention behind my roundup is share links to other online material for your weekend browsing that I found interesting, informational, and otherwise inspiring that hopefully you will as well since we are all like-minded people here!

So here it goes – Johnny’s Weekend Roundup for the weekend of August 12, 2016!

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Café Gratitude Review

If you follow me on this blog or on social media, then you will be aware that while I am not myself a vegetarian, I truly and deeply love trying vegetarian and specifically vegan dishes in both my own home cooking and when dining out; I am always on the lookout for fun veggie centric recipes and cool new veg-friendly restaurants. As far as restaurants go, I have found staples in the fast casual chains Veggie Grill and Native Foods and the hidden gem/slightly hole-in-the-wallish Mitasie 3. Recently, however, I had the pleasure to dine in the thoughtful sit down plant-based restaurant, Café Gratitude.

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Slow Cooker Lemon Artichoke Chicken

In the past year, I have fallen truly and deeply in love with my Slow Cooker, whom I affectionately call Carlotta. The relationship that I have with this piece of home-cook culinary equipment is nothing short of magical. In my busy 50+ hour work week, Carlotta often makes sure that I am fed healthful and delish meals with unimaginable ease. I adore her for it. This new recipe for Slow Cooker Lemon Artichoke Chicken that Carlotta and I created together is just one of my favorite meals to make for the whole week, especially in the warmer months.

OH CARLOTTA!

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The recipe is unfathomably simple, quite inexpensive, and greatly healthy! Chicken, onions, garlic, pre-prepared artichoke hearts, capers, lemon, herbs, and a splash of wine make this dish zesty and bright with the chicken so tender it can be shredded with a fork. Essentially, you dump all of these ingredients into the Slow Cooker (I’ll let you name your own) and turn it on: that’s it! If you invest in a quality Slow Cooker complete with a timer that switches to the “Warm” setting after it is finished cooking and stays there – like Carlotta here – you can make this on your way out the door in the morning and when you get home in the evening, the Slow Cooker will have kept it warm and ready for you all day long. Once you experience this for yourself, you will find it hard to break away from your Slow Cooker for more than a week.

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It looks messy because it is all so tender, but boy does it taste great!

I like to serve this Slow Cooker Lemon Artichoke Chicken with seasonal vegetables and some sort of carb to soak up the sauce like quinoa, rice, couscous, or my personal carb-fake-out cauliflower rice. This is the ultimate late-Spring and all-Summer week night meal that you are going to love!

Slow Cooker Lemon Artichoke Chicken

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours
  • Difficulty: Absurdly Easy
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Ingredients:

  • 4-6 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs (your choice)
  • 1 yellow onion, large diced
  • 2 tablespoons crushed garlic
  • 1 package frozen artichoke hearts or 2 cans artichoke hearts
  • ¼ cup capers, drained
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 lemon, halved then sliced
  • ¼ cup basil leaves, torn
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Place the chicken at the bottom of the Slow Cooker. Cover with the onions, garlic, artichoke hearts, capers and dried oregano. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the lemon slices and half of the basil over all. Pour in the white wine.

Cook on the low setting for 4 ½ hours or on the high setting for 2 ½ hours.

To serve, plate the chicken with desired sides. Spoon over some of the sauce and top with additional torn basil leaves. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Lemon Artichoke Chicken

  • chicken breasts
  • 1 yellow onion
  • frozen artichoke hearts
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 tablespoons garlic
  • 1/4 cup basil
  • 2 lemons
  • white wines
  • salt
  • pepper

Takes 1 hour,
serves four people.

  1. Start by mixing all the ingredients together.

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Nice Cream

If you are part of the healthy foodie world, then you may have noticed the recent craze around “Nice Creams”. Let me tell you, the craze is with good reason. If aren’t sure what a “Nice Cream” is, it is a nice cream dessert made from a base of frozen banana and flavored with other whole food ingredients like strawberries, vanilla bean, cocoa, and coconut oil. The frozen bananas once churned in a food processor and then refrozen mimic the texture of ice cream while also providing natural sweetness, and the other ingredients mixed with in it provide the true flavorings and sense of indulgence. The result is an ice cream dessert that is as nutritious as it is delicious!

I’d seen a few Buzzfeed Tasty and Food Network videos on these “Nice Creams” and had to give them a shot. After my first try, I was hooked! I couldn’t believe how well these “Nice Creams” totally satisfy the desire for a bowl of sweet and creamy ice cream, while packing on the nutrition and reducing the intake of added sugar and fat. My mind was blown.

 

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How can that just be banana? Vegan magic!

Now, Disclaimer: You do really, really have to like bananas to enjoy “Nice Cream”. Bananas are the base and so unsurprisingly, these desserts have very distinct banana notes. If you are a fan of these sweet yellow tropical fruits, however, then you are set!

After trying the recipes I’d seen in videos, I decided I would come up with my own. Keeping in mind that “Nice Cream” does taste strongly of banana, I thought the perfect flavorings would be chocolate and peanut butter! And thus, my Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Nice Cream was born!

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Incredibly, all you need is three ingredients: frozen bananas, cocoa powder, and creamy peanut butter! It’s that simple! Well, it is and it isn’t. As easy as the videos make “Nice Creams” look, the frozen bananas do resist being churned in the food processor. It can be a bit of tedious process and you have to exercise some patience. It’s not traditionally hard though. Once you get going, it is so easy and you get a naturally sweet, fiber, vitamin, and protein rich dessert that anyone could love.

Vegan Nice Cream is perfect for summer time when you are looking for a cool dessert while also keeping it light! Enjoy!

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Nice Cream

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Time: 6 hours
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 3 large bananas, cut into small slices and frozen for several hours
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • Optional: dark chocolate and banana slices for serving

Directions:

Working in thirds, add the frozen banana slices to a food processor. Turn until starting to resemble crumbled butter. You may have to scrape the sides of the processor and smash down pieces of the banana several times as you go. Be patient, this could take up to ten minutes.

Once all the banana slices have been incorporated and they resemble more of a dough, mix in the peanut butter and cocoa powder. Churn until all mixed.

Remove into a freezer safe glass bowl.

Place in the freezer additional 2 hours or until ready to serve. Spoon into bowls, garnish with dark chocolate and banana slices if desired, and enjoy!

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