A Taste of Ghent

Sooooo… this post has been a LONG time coming.  Between travel, weddings, holidays, and all around no free-time I have just not had the time to write this post.  I’m sitting in front of a large fireplace in Denver at this very moment and thinking about how blessed I am!  My sister is interviewing for different residency programs all over the US and I’m so, so, proud of her (and my brother too) and when she asked me come down to Denver during one of her interviews I jumped at the opportunity. It also helps that it coincides with both of our birthdays, so after interview’s we’re going to hit the town and celebrate (and we’re always open to great places to visit, eat, or enjoy here).

It’s crazy how quickly life happens.  4 years ago, we were celebrating our birthday’s again, this time in New Orleans, as she interviewed for medical school and now here we are.  On graduation’s door and here I am again, being able to enjoy this exciting moment in my sibling’s life and I couldn’t be more proud. I’m glad all of my siblings share my travel bug.  None of us stayed close to home while studying, much to my mother’s dismay, though we visit regularly.  We’re all always learning, traveling, and growing in our professions.  This leads me to my wonderful learning and travel experience to Ghent, NY with the lovely team of the Made in Ghent farm, and our teacher’s  Michael Piazza and Kevin Masse.

From the moment you pull up to the lovely Made in Ghent farm, you’re greeted by farm dog, Bumble, and the farm owner’s, Richard and Mimi. Warmth and homeyness emits from this place like you wouldn’t believe.  It’s like a little slice of paradise complete with wildflower fields, chickens, and Mimi’s fresh made sour dough bread (that I’m still dreaming about).  They have a wonderful set up kitchen/store that is the first building you pull up to.  Here, Mimi and team make TONS of farm fresh food, from jams and ice cream to pork rillettes and breads.  It’s also the perfect setting for classes, with cooking books lining the walls, kitchen props, tables, and chairs.  A breeze blows through the open space with a pond in the back to gaze at as you sip coffee and snack on homemade yogurt and granola. I was in foodie, photographer, traveler heaven.

Through corporate photography day job, I had signed up for the “How to Create Magazine Quality Food Photographs’ 2-day course.  We learned photography and styling from Michael Piazza and social media and networking expert Kevin Masse.  In between lectures, Mimi and team cooked us up spectacular meals (that still make my mouth water thinking about them) and we were also free to wander the farm and take photos of all the livestock, wildlife, and meal prep.  Our group was small and filled with everything from food stylists, to lawyers, to bloggers.  It was such a great plethora of people passionate about food and photography.  These are my people!  You know the ones?! The people who get you…. when you start talking in depth about how beautiful pastries look when lighted correctly and who get excited about shooting food tablescapes.  Those people.  My people.

We started the day off with tons of delicious breakfast, meeting and greeting everyone and literally breaking bread (sourdough, yes!).  Michael led us up to the main house, i.e. natural light photographer’s dream.  Seen in photos above, I swear half of it was windows, with a stunning open kitchen (with a blue-tiled back splash I was obsessed with), HUGE farm table, beautiful prep and sitting area, and a garage loaded with food props for us. We started with basics, natural lighting, and learned Michael’s favorite food photography techniques.

Isn’t that backsplash dreamy?

Experimenting with different light setups.

Another bomb-diggity meal done by Mimi and crew.

Wandering the farm post-lecture.

After a day of lecturing.  We took a break.  We wandered the farm, conversed with each other and waited for the feast that Mimi and her team were making.  Everything was sourced from less then 10 miles away from the farm.  How awesome and local is that?!  Here we got to shoot tablescapes, from prep to sit down.  The best part?  We got to eat it after we photographed it all.  Probably my favorite photographic part of the whole workshop.  I mean, this was the food spread and location of dreams.

Mimi cutting all the yummy chicken straight from their backyard!

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Dreamy right?  And ohhh sooo delicious! We all left full of inspiration and satisfied bellies!  Day two was just as exciting!  If you wanted, you could come early and get photos of some of the farm-hands helping out on the farm as well as take a walk with Richard into the produce and wildflower fields (which then are sold as bouquets in the shop)!  Of course I was there bright and early!  It was such a perfect day for it too!  With tons of photo ops!

Jen, our ‘chicken whisper’ and catcher for photos (thanks Jen!)

Richard, leading the tour and posing for us in the long grass.

Bumble in all her glory, exploring with us!

The group experimenting with reflectors in the woods.

Robyn, Michael’s trusty assistant who helped with EVERYTHING throughout the day.

Cornish Meg, who regularly helped with all the food prep, arranging the flowers picked from our walk.

After the walk and breakfast, we headed back up to the house.  Michael focused more on helping with styling and telling a story for this lesson.  We photographed galettes from start to finish while learning how to show the story of food being made.

Following Michael’s lesson, Kevin Masse arrived to give us his lecture on social media.  How to use it successfully, what you can do to improve yours photos, and how to get more followers.  All very interesting and I learned a TON!  Especially with Instagram, I was a bit clueless when it came to all things hashtag and @.  Kevin helps tons of brands with their social media presences and it was so great learning from someone with some much experience in this.  It’s what I seriously lack in.

We followed Kevin’s lesson up with a photo session for ourselves to use what we had learned an implement it.  Shooting galettes in different lightings and environments.  Also, the spread that Mimi had left out for us.

With sadness, we all had to say goodbye to each other.  But we left with lifelong friends, great experiences, and tons of food photography knowledge!  I couldn’t have asked for a more creative retreat!  I can’t wait to visit Ghent again and stop by Richard and Mimi’s shop, of course to get some of that sour dough and I would highly recommend anyone in the area do the same!

**Special thanks to the wonderful team that put this together and made the experience so great!  To find out more info about the teachers or Made in Ghent Farm I’ve listed their links below!

Made in Ghent

Michael Piazza

Kevin Masse

Photography and writing by:

Alysha Yoder Photography

(b) www.alyshayoderphotoblog.com (w) www.alyshayoderphoto.com

(e) alyshayoderphoto@yahoo.com (p) 610.762.7810

(i) www.instagram.com/ayoderphoto/

 

Berries and Custard

This is certainly a VERY old school (80+ years) family favorite that I’m about to share with you this chilly Sunday.  It’s so old that the recipe is in both grams and great grams cookbook as well as a recipe card. I guess gram’s REALLY didn’t want us to forget this one lol.  She certainly had it memorized.

Now if you know anything about the large Pizor-Yoder (and now Bailey clan), our family… aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings all get together every Christmas (and really as often as we can) and pretty much cook, play cards, laugh, and have an all around good time.  You’ll certainly see some fun blog posts around that time (definitely including some mojito recipes… yummm).  Our family ALWAYS make this custard recipe whenever we’re together.  It’s actually my great-grams ‘cornstarch recipe’ and is known by just about everyone.  Anyone who ever tries it wants a copy of the recipe. I even remember making this for my sister’s host family in Scotland, so it’s been shared in multiple countries too!   It’s a truly amazing dessert and is comprised of fresh, simple ingredients.

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In the summer, we’d go pick fresh berries off our neighbor’s bushes or get peaches at the farmer’s market and serve them over this custard.  When the custard’s still hot everything kind of melds together in a truly magical way. We always had the ongoing tapioca vs. no tapioca argument in my family, as we were always 50/50 split on the matter. Grams and mom also used this as a pie base or custard base, which is fairly easy to do.  Here’s some tricks of the Pizor-Yoder custard trade:

  • Add 1 T of good cocoa to make chocolate custard
  • Add 1/2-1 cup of shredded coconut to make coconut custard
    • Do both of the above with a tsp of almond extract to make Almond Joy
  • Add zest and juice of one lemon to custard, pour in baked pie crust.  Add whipped eggs whites (meringue) to the top and bake for lemon meringue pie.
  • Add a cup of quick tapioca (or a cup of large pearl that have been soaked overnight) for tapioca custard.
  • We substituted coconut milk for regular milk before to make lactose free custard (also makes it a little more primal/paleo if you use coconut sugar instead of white sugar)
  • My grandpa’s favorite was always to put pitted cherries on the bottom of a baked pie crust, cover them with tapioca custard and have custard cherry pie.

It’s seriously one of the best base recipes that can also beautifully stand on it’s own or be whipped up into any manner of desserts.  I have so many memories of gram’s stirring this on the stovetop for all the grandkids.  This has always been a staple in our households, and hopefully it can become one in yours now too!

**Also, as a side note, the hubs and I are taking a little hiatus the next two weekends.  I’ll be doing a little post on New Orleans next weekend but then we’ll be out of the country so a fun island post to follow soon! However, gram’s recipes will be postponed for our little break!  Check back soon!

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Old Fashioned Cornstarch Custard:

Now, we always double this recipe (cause the family can never get enough of this) but this will make roughly 3 cups of custard by itself so plan accordingly!

  • 2 rounded T cornstarch
  • 1 pint milk (2 cups)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar (can add more or less to taste)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1.5 – 2 T of butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Mix together cornstarch and sugar until combined well.  Slowly add milk and mix well to ensure no clumping (with cornstarch). Separate eggs, add yolks and salt.  Stir everything until combined well and place on stove at medium high heat. Continuously stir mixture to avoid scorching until mixture thickens.  Once it thickens, add butter and vanilla.  Remove from heat and still until well combined. My family can never wait for this to cool and pretty much eat it as soon as it doesn’t burn our mouths but feel free to cool and serve cold as well or make a pie!  Enjoy!

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Funny moment is always when Gizmo comes in and looks at us making food sitting on the floor.  I’m pretty sure he thinks we’re nuts.  Captured a little moment of that today.

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 Alysha Yoder Photography (b) www.alyshayoderphotoblog.com

(w) www.alyshayoderphoto.com (e) alyshayoderphoto@yahoo.com (p) 610.762.7810

 

 

White Peaks and Zest

Man… I have had a craving for something like this recipe for a long time.  Plus, I picked up these AWESOME bowls at Costco this weekend and I couldn’t wait to get them home to photograph.  It looks like I had someone make them for me.  But between you and I, this will be our little secret as to where they were purchased from.  I’m thinking an ice cream recipe will have to be in the making for next week.  And yes, solely because of these dishes.  Don’t judge.  I’ve photographed things before based around an entire found object.  I have this lovely old used “made in Vermont stamped” cutting board I found at Roots Farmer’s Market.  It has all these wonderful knife marks and wear and tear.  Props are a very important part of the business and finding little beauties like these just make my day 🙂

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As many of you know, gram’s was literally involved in EVERYTHING.  From volunteer work, to bakeoffs, to fundraisers, she was there.  Even from a young age, this was true.  A few of the books that I inherited from her were various cookbooks that she had worked with, her mother worked with, they were in, or they’d helped to get published.  This was one from her mother’s young days growing up in Vandergrift, PA. Her church put together this fantastic cookbook.  It’s from 1923 and the front has a little handwritten “Barclay” in it (my gram’s maiden name). Now the recipe I’m doing today isn’t gram’s or my great gram’s (it comes from Mrs. W. W. Poorman, thank you!), howwwever, it was from a book that the family helped get published to raise money for her church, so I think it counts.  Plus, this book is a treasure trove of old school recipes.  There is one in it for squirrel.  Seriously.  I’m not lying.  Freaking squirrel.  And no, I’m never going to go out and butcher a squirrel for this blog, but that was a surprise.

Anyone who knows me, knows I have a soft spot for what I consider “PA Dutch Recipes,” if the last name Yoder didn’t give you a clue lol.  I’m pretty sure the love for PA Dutch food runs through my veins.  You wait till New Year’s, and there will definitely be pork, kielbasa, and sauerkraut recipes up on here.

There is a farmer’s stand about 3 miles from my house where Mennonite ladies lay out their fares of assorted homemade pies, breads, and jams.  Lemon sponge pie is always among their wares. It’s where I was first introduced to this sweet treat and man, I LOVE lemon sponge pie.  With the whipped peaks of egg whites and lemon zest, it’s like springy freshness all in one delicious pastry.  Whenever I go pick up some veggies from our farmer’s stand, I always save a little room for one of those sponge pies.  When I came across not one, BUT TWO lemon sponge pie recipes, I was ecstatic! Now these recipes do take a bit to figure out, as there aren’t a ton of instructions AND there is a lot of old terminology that I have to google just to know how to prepare them exactly.  Here’s a little old school baking knowledge I’m about to throw down.

This recipe calls for ‘sweet milk.’  Any guesses?  This is what used to be the common name for ‘whole milk’ or ‘regular milk’ to distinguish it from buttermilk.   For baking, all it says is to ‘bake in a slow oven.’  This references the cooking temperature.  Cooking in a ‘slow oven’ is anything in the range of 150–160°C (300–325°F).  Who knew?  Now alas, this didn’t actually have a cooking time, so it took a lot of toothpicks to figure out just exactly how long to bake this bad boy.

Also, props to my husband who is starting to get into this.  He’s learning how to cook and getting baked goods and pies out of it lol. Talk about a win freaking win. Today’s lesson was whipping egg whites to stiff peaks.  His hand modeling is getting better too!  Now he’s learning how to bake and in the process, getting more comfortable in the kitchen.  It always makes me happy when I can help someone enjoy baking.  Without further ado, I give you this weeks recipe.  One of my favorites, Lemon Sponge Pie.

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Lemon Sponge Pie

  • 1 unbaked deep dish pie crust (feel free to make your own, I just happen to be lazy about pastry crusts and buy the pre-made ones)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 rounded T flour
  • 2 eggs (separated into yolks and whites)
  • 1.5 cups milk (use something with fat, don’t use skim)
  • 1 T melted butter
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon (I added the zest because all my favorite lemon sponge pies use the zest)

Preheat oven to 325°F.  In a large bowl, mix together the sugar and butter.  Add in flour, milk and yolks.  Mix well.  Zest and juice lemon, add to mixture.  Beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks.  Slowly fold egg whites into mixture.  Once smooth, pour carefully into pie crust.  Place in oven for a 1/2 hour at 325°F.  After 1/2 hour turn oven down to 300°F and cook for 1.5-2 hours (or until top has browned and toothpick comes out cleanly).  Now this is important, there shouldn’t be a lot of ‘jiggle’ left with the pie.  A little is okay but the first time I attempted to take this pie out of the oven the top almost rolled right off.  Be careful and don’t take it out before it’s ready. This is definitely a slow cooker and oven times may vary based on pie dish used and how well oven cooks. Let cool completely. Cut and serve. Best kept in fridge. Enjoy!  Until next week.  – Alysha

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 Alysha Yoder Photography (b) www.alyshayoderphotoblog.com

(w) www.alyshayoderphoto.com (e) alyshayoderphoto@yahoo.com (p) 610.762.7810

 

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