Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Refried Bean Vegetarian Slow Cooker Chili

This chili is a mystery to me, although I use all mild ingredients it still turns out pretty spicy. I love spicy, but adding some heat on top of this stuff almost makes it too hot. Maybe you can figure out what happens, as I don’t have a clue. By the next day this stuff loses its spice, and I end up dousing it in hot sauce. I thought things were supposed to get hotter the next day! Go figure.

I love to dump this healthy chili on top of greasy french fries and then top it all off with diced onions and a mound of shredded cheese. I'm a pro at turning something healthy into a pile of tasty junk. I suppose this could be served with a side salad instead, but that never captures my interest. I'd rather eat the fries and cheese.


1 medium sized onion

1 (15 ounce) can dark red kidney beans

1 (15 ounce) can black beans

2 (15 ounce) cans chili beans in chili sauce

1 (16 ounce) can vegetarian refried beans

1 (7 ounce) can fire roasted mild diced green chilies

1 (16 ounce) jar chunky salsa, mild

1 (4 ounce) jar diced pimentos

1 cup beer, amber or darker

1/3 cup brewed coffee

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ Tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon onion powder

Olive oil for brushing slow cooker

At the end of cooking time add:

1 teaspoon white vinegar or a few diced up Mezzetta tamed jalapeno slices.

Salt & freshly cracked pepper to taste


  1. Brush a large slow cooker crock with olive oil. Dice the onion and place it in the crock.
  2. Place the kidney beans and black beans in a strainer over the sink. Rinse the beans in cold water until foam is gone. Do not strain the chili beans. Add all the beans to the crock.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, placing the refried beans on top and stir together. Cook on low for 5 to 7 hours stirring every couple hours so the refried beans do not stick to the bottom of the pot.
  4. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar or diced tamed jalapenos and salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve with desired toppings.

Serves 6

Recipe by Laura Flowers

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mom’s Chocolate Waffle Cookies

I had a dream about a month ago. Clear as day I had a vision of my mother in a hospital after surgery and I was taking care of her. I woke Jesse to tell him about my dream. Unlike normal dreams, this is one I refer to as a preparation dream. During the dream I felt strong and calm. As if I understood this is supposed to be, or planned rather.

A week later my mother called telling me about a mouse-sized growth in her throat, and that she was making an appointment to get it checked out. The biopsy was benign, and a five-hour surgery took place yesterday. Everything turned out well, but she has some recovery ahead of her.

As I sit in the hospital keeping vigil, these cookies remind me of her and of my own childhood. Every Christmas she would pull out the waffle iron as far back as I can remember, and make these magical cookies. Magical to me at least. To a little foodie, cookies in a waffle iron were something special, and much different than the Toll House Chocolate Chip ones she would make on other occasions.

These cookies provide me with visual reminders of our kitchen in our split-level orange home in College Place, Washington. There was a chocolate brown refrigerator that I often yanked open to peer inside for snacks when I was bored or hungry. Attached to the kitchen was the main dining area where Mom kept a bookcase stuffed full of her many cookbooks. I would pull them down, rummaging through 1960s and 1970s Better Homes and Gardens looking at the pictures even before I could read. Maybe this is where my passion for food and photography began now that I think about it.

In college I realized that I wanted to someday be good enough to copy historical images. I needed to understand the concepts of art as well as master the technical side of photography before I could even think of trying. I also realized that I would have to work differently with light, composition, and Photoshop to come close to producing the same qualities that certain films created. I wasn’t sure I could do this, but I did try.

Somehow, the top shot has the qualities of a dying Andy Warholesque time; ridged, uncomfortable, structured. Too shiny, and not screaming out that this is food. More art than not, it needs a macramé plant holder to accompany it. Or maybe a few random figurines! The bottom shot is a more modern look; warm, casual, unstructured, and much like you wouldn’t disrupt the scene if you snatched a cookie for yourself.

I remember my mother always used canned frosting. She loves canned frosting. I myself am not so fond of the stuff, unless it’s on these cookies, as the canned version somehow magically stays soft, probably from all the chemicals in it. Although, I have been known to make my own chocolate frosting to smear over the top.

My mom will get better, and I realize there are moments where she will need me, as I needed her when I was younger and will likely need her again. It’s all part of this pretty darn wonderful life, and I feel strong, protective, and brave enough to face forward.

Mom’s Chocolate Waffle Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 ½ cups sugar

½ teaspoon salt

4 eggs

¾ cup cocoa powder

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour

1 to 2 containers of canned chocolate frosting

1. Preheat Belgian waffle maker.

2. In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream together butter, sugar and salt. Then beat in eggs until well incorporated. Mix in cocoa powder and vanilla extract. Then add the flour and mix until just combined.

3. With a standard (size 50) cookie scoop, scoop the dough and drop onto the hot waffle iron onto the sections. Cook 90 seconds per waffle. Carefully remove the hot waffle from the iron with a spatula to a cooling rack.

4. Once cooled, frost with chocolate frosting as desired. Or as I do, eat them sans frosting.

Recipe from Linda Komberec. Pictures by Laura Flowers.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rolled Gingerbread Cookies, A Very Old Recipe.

My poor husband has had enough, again. Our library looks like a book vomitorium, and I’m the guilty party. Books are everywhere, floor to ceiling, as my cookbook collecting habit strangles the room. There are books old and new all over the floor, seeping out into the hallway. Jesse spent much of the weekend trying to organize the chaos, but with little luck.

I cannot help this though. Each book is a time stamp, holding history still while I absorb information, much of which has been lost to today’s cooks and bakers. Jesse will hopefully forgive me, as my collection grows into other rooms.

I purchased a 1948 copy of Brer Rabbit’s New Orleans Molasses Recipes this past weekend at an antique store, but instead of baking from it, I found a more appealing recipe online and used that instead! Yeah, I am in so much trouble.

Looking at the ingredients, I realized this recipe has very old roots. A good amount of vinegar is used to tenderize the dough, so that it can be rerolled quite a few times if needed. It may have been made with lard originally, because it needed an extra egg to get to gingerbread consistency with shortening. These cookies are real gingerbread, well ginger cookies really, leaving me to wonder why and when “bread” was eventually added.

The cookie stamp comes in a kit from Williams Sonoma. We had a lot of fun making up sayings and putting in the letters. Of course not all of our words where um, holiday appropriate, but they made me burst into evil giggles. We ate all these though, and only the happy cheerful ones remain in my freezer.

Rolled Gingerbread Cookies

1 cup shortening

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 cup molasses, warm in microwave if difficult to pour

2 Tablespoons white vinegar, (Don't worry there will be no taste of vinegar.)

1/2 teaspoons salt

2 to 3 teaspoons ground ginger, to taste

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

5 cups all purpose flour

In a stand mixer, cream shortening and sugar. Beat in eggs, molasses, and vinegar. Add the salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves and mix to combine. Add the baking soda and mix in. Add the flour about 1/3 at a time and mix until combined.

Spoon the dough about equally onto three pieces of wax paper. Wrap up, press into a 1 inch disk, and store in a gallon size bag. Chill dough for several hours or overnight.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and sit on the counter for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile preheat them oven to 375 degrees and cover cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Place a disk between two sheets of new wax paper. Roll 1/8 to ¼ inch thick. *If dough sticks to wax paper, flour lightly until it stops sticking* Cut out shapes and place on parchment 2 inches apart. Bake for 6 to 9 minutes depending on the size thickness of your cookies, or until no longer wet looking.

Cool on cookie sheets for a few minutes, then move to wire cooling racks. Once cooled, decorate as desired.

Royal Icing

Want to fancy up your gingerbread? This is a fantastic royal icing recipe. If you have a kitchen scale, use it. You’ll get much more accurate results.

2 3/8 cups (315 grams) powdered sugar

¼ cup (60 ML) All Whites 100% Liquid Egg Whites (The pasteurized stuff in a carton)

2 ¼ teaspoons cream of tartar

A very small dash of lemon, vanilla, almond, or other extract or oil of your choice.

In a stand mixer fluff up the powdered sugar to break up any clumps. Add the egg white, cream of tarter, and extract. Beat on low spend until mixed, then on high speed for 5 minutes.

Cover the extra icing with a damp towel while using, or store in an airtight container right away as the icing will harden immediately.

To thin the icing, add a half teaspoon of water at a time until desired constancy.

Ginger Cookie recipe adapted from COOKS.COM. Royal icing recipe adapted from “Gingerbread House Book” by Ella Harris. Book is in her Bake and Build Gingerbread House Book & Kit.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Black Bean Spinach Enchiladas in Green Chile Cream Sauce

It seems like everything requires so much of my attention lately that I haven’t had time to sit back and smell the Christmas tree. I figure you’re likely going through much of the same, and I hope to throw a few easy to prepare meals on here over the next couple weeks.

The prep work on these enchiladas is simple and can be thrown together in just a few minutes. They’re healthy and tasty, and even better the next day.

10 to 12 small flour or corn tortillas
10 oz package chopped spinach, thawed (I do this in the microwave)
15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with green chiles and spices, drained
¾ cup scallions, chopped
19 oz can green chile enchilada sauce
8 oz sour cream
3 cups shredded Pepper Jack cheese
Garlic powder and onion powder
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and get out a 9x13 inch Pyrex baking dish.

2. In a colander, squeeze out as much water from the spinach as you can by pressing the spinach with the back of a spoon. Place the spinach in a large bowl. Add the rinsed beans, drained tomatoes, most of the scallions, and dash of garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

3. Mix together the sour cream and green chile enchilada sauce. Spread about 1/3 of the sauce mixture into the 9x13 inch dish.

4. On a plate, place a tortilla and top with some of the spinach mixture and a small amount of pepper jack cheese. Roll into cigar shape and place into the baking dish seam side down. Repeat until the dish is full.

5. Spread the rest of the sauce on top of the enchiladas and top with the remaining cheese and scallions. Bake for about 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Wait a few minutes and serve.

Recipe by Laura Flowers

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rolled Sugar Cookies

Breathe. Are you ready for this? It’s time to prepare for Hanuxmasnyearkwanzavtines Day again. And no matter what you celebrate you need an irresistible rolled sugar cookie dough, and this is it!

At first this dough scared me. I thought it was too soft of a mess to ever work, but something magical happened upon refrigerating. It turned into the most wonderful to work with sugar cookie dough ever.

The best part about this dough is that you can roll it as thick or as thin as you want and it will bake beautifully, just keep and eye on them and adjust the time a bit. I enjoy these cookies plain and often choose not to frost them at all like this Scotty dog. My mother-in-law Diane gifted me with two antique Scotty dog cookie cutters a few years back and they’ve been my favorite ever since.

The Scotty dog’s leash is made with inexpensive craft cord. I cut the cords about nine inches long, tied a small loop around one end, and then tied the other end around the cookie to look like a collar. Then I trimmed off the extra ends, and melted them together with a lighter so they wouldn’t fray.

It was using this recipe I found that I could melt buttercream frosting in the microwave and it would turn into great cookie icing. If you have any lying around, try it out. Then of course there is always real cookie icing. Or none at all, as I enjoy biting the heads off my Scotty dogs just plain.


1 1/2 cups butter, very softened and nearly melted
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
5 cups all-purpose flour
Powdered sugar for rolling
Wax paper
Parchment paper

1. In a mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, and salt. Add the eggs, vanilla extract, and almond extract and beat to combine. Add the baking powder and mix to incorporate. Then add the flour and mix just until the flour is mixed in. Be careful not to over mix the flour.

The dough will be very sticky, but spoon into about evenly onto three sections of wax paper the best you can. Wrap the wax paper around the dough sections and pat them to about an inch thick. Store all three of them in a gallon sized bag in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

3. After chilling, take the dough out of the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

4. Dust a clean surface and the top of the dough with a good amount of powdered sugar. Roll to desired thickness, anywhere from 1/8 inch to almost ½ inch. Cut out with cutters, and reroll scraps. Try to cut close together to prevent too much rerolling.

5. Place cookies on the cookie sheets about an inch apart and bake for anywhere from 6 to 10 minutes depending on size and thickness. Cookies will be done with the edges just begin to turn golden.

6. Let the cookies rest on the sheets until they harden enough to transfer to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

By Laura Flowers

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Food Photography Interview

As my work gains momentum sometimes it’s interesting enough to get an interview. So far all have been with bigger outlets; a work of mine was on the Martha Stewart Show last year, this year the Houston Chronicle picked up one of my creations, and then there is local media on rare occasions and other such showing of my works that I am grateful for.

The free boost of my photographs and recipes being passed around is nice, but something struck my heart cords in an interview I just had with a young woman for her college class. It swept me back in time to being a 19-year-old college student myself, working for my university newspaper. I was young, lost, and had no idea where my first camera and I were headed together. It would take another 10 years of grasping before I realized it was food photography which was closest to my heart, and that I wanted to share my work with as many new friends as I could. So, I answered her questions honestly, but in a way that I hope helps her as she comes across some of these bridges.

Here are my answers to her questions. If you are on the same path, I would love to know what your’s would be.


1. How long did it take you to accomplish becoming a food photographer? (I mean in the terms of time and energy and time spent including school time to become one)

It took me 4 years of college and about 8 years after that figuring out that I really wanted to focus on food instead of people. Then it took another year of learning how to shoot food well by practicing almost daily, attending food photography conferences, studying food photography books, and learning from the work of pros.

2. What exactly inspired you to become a food photographer? (What was the idea that made you realize that you were meant to become a food photographer?

I wanted to first capture human emotion. A split second of time where a burst of energy was recorded through my subjective view, I worked for newspapers early on and started to shoot food there. When the newspaper work didn't pay the bills, I worked in kitchens and after a few years I realized I wanted to shoot my own food and share it with others.

3. What techniques harbor the most success for the majority of your target audiences?

Don't follow trends. Make trends. For me, if napkins are all the rage, and everything has to be shot on them, I will refuse. Instead I might focus on something different, like textured placemats, natural light, or low-key shots.

4. What do look for when taking a picture?

Food is difficult. I am constantly aware of composition, light, texture, what the food itself looks like, food design and styling, keeping it as real as possible, and then there is the magic quality. Magic is when everything comes together to make a beautiful shot, and more often than not cannot be forced. I will sometimes have to give up a shot and try it again in different light or with a new design. If it's not working close to right away, don't waste too much time forcing magic.

5. Where did you study photography?

At the University of Idaho. My degree is a B.S. in Visual Communication.

6. How much more did you improve your career after attending the school?

Without school, I would not have any of this skill base. School was just the start, but a very important one.

7. Do you alter any of the photos with Photoshop?

All my photos are edited with Photoshop. Much of my schooling was in digital editing as well, and those minor enhancements are very important. A good photo editor can tweak a good shot into one that is simply amazing.

8. How do you make the food look so delicious (mouthwatering) to your audience, making them want more?

I produce what I love, maybe that heart is what makes my images work. Then again, I've had years of practice. So maybe its practice and passion together.

9. Do you enjoy your work? Why?

Yes. I love my work. I still get excited over almost every shot just like I did 14 years ago when I started shooting (Ok truthfully, I hate photographing big round flat pizzas, but that's pretty much it). Maybe I even get more excited now because I know how to transfer the images and ideas in my brain into my photography exactly as I imagine them.

10. What determines the need to add gloss to a fruit or a plate of food?

I'm really careful about glossing food. I try to keep my food as real as possible, even with my Photoshop edits. I will only gloss when something has lost its luster from cooling down too much. I brush a small amount of olive oil onto items like vegetables or meats when they start to lose their luster from me taking too long.

11. If there are any pointers that you could give an aspiring food photographer what would they be?

Follow your heart, not trends. Go to the International Food Photography Convention in Boston that happens every two years. Practice, practice, practice, and shoot one meal a day if possible either at home or while eating out. Don't give up, I'm still learning like crazy and that's normal. Read food photography and food styling books. Shadow other food photographers and food stylists if possible. Read food blogs and food styling blogs. Start a food blog of your own and watch what makes people get excited, then go with it. Be real, never ever let ego get the best of you. Ego is the enemy to listening and learning. Cook yourself and get to know your subject inside and out. Treat everyone with kindness; it goes a long way in this field. Don't forget to thank everyone who has helped you, this has paid me back over and over.

12. Any additional information that you would like people to know please feel free to add below:

Most importantly, work to find your drive and passion. When you obtain that, most days will be creative and interesting because they are part of who you are.

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