New Year, New Me? Not Likely…

I’ve never been a person who has made resolutions. I don’t know if it’s never appealed to me or I thought I never needed them or perhaps it just never occurred to me. This year, inspired by a friend who made a list of (and accomplished all) “13 things to do in 2013,” I decided to make my own resolutions of a sort. I say of a sort because these aren’t the “go to the gym” every day kinds of wishes. Nope.

I realize that as it’s now already mid-January that the luster of making resolutions has passed for many. Some people who’ve made resolutions have almost certainly failed by now. It’s been thirteen days after all. Me? I’m not yet a failure because I haven’t started. Therefore, I’m a success by technicality! Yes!

The list is pretty short which hopefully means very do-able. But read on, as there’s one item I’d LOVE some help with!

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I Never Thought I’d Give Chicken First Aid

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We can add “Give a chicken first aid” to the list of “Things I Never Thought I’d Do” but really, when you think about it, I should have known better when I signed up for this chicken-keeping adventure. After years of looking after a friend’s flock—sometimes for days or weeks on end—I thought I knew all that there was to know about backyard chickens.

That’s like saying babysitting prepares you fully for parenthood. HA!

In the last eight months since we moved four hens of our very own into the backyard the following chicken escapades occurred:

  • Myrtle died trying to lay an egg
  • Maude was de-throned from being head hen to second-in-command
  • Mildred broke her toe (God only knows how)
  • Mae got frostbite on her comb

Mae is a Rhode Island Red, a classic chicken-looking chicken who lays an egg faithfully every day. (This is more than I can say for her two lazier coop companions.) Last month, during a crazy cold-snap of single digit and negative temps, the tips of her beautiful comb turned black with frostbite. Happily, slathering her head with Neosporin and Vaseline got us through the rest of the deep freeze without further incident and now,  a month later, her comb looks back to normal. Or at least it did…Which brings us to yesterday’s adventure.

This is what passes for entertainment at our house...

This is what passes for entertainment at our house…

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Guest Blog: How to Take the Best Pictures of Your Food While Traveling

Below are some tips from guest-blogger Courtney Gordner on how to take the best pictures of food while on vacation, gone for business meetings, or traveling just to travel.

For me, taking pictures of food is important because it allows me to remember what I ate while I was traveling. More importantly, I can look at the food and try to remake it the same exact way.

Everyone has their own reasons though for taking pictures of their food. Some do it for social networks while others just do it to remember the experience. No matter why taking pictures of food is vital for you, it is important to know how to take the best pictures.

  1. Choose the freshest looking ingredients.

    While you may not be cooking a majority of the food you are taking pictures of, you can still make the food look as appealing as possible by picking out or covering the parts of the food that do not look fresh. If you are cooking the meal, just know to pick out the freshest, juiciest, and most visually appealing food. The more appealing the food, the more appealing the picture will look.

  2. Angle the Lighting Perfectly.

    When light is placed above the meal, the food can look flat and dull. When I take pictures of my food I always ensure that I am angling the light and camera so the food looks vibrant. Practice the lighting to see what looks visually appealing.

    The lighting you choose will be determined by how the food looks. For foods that are darker, a more rustic lighting will be advisable. However, for lighter foods, choose a more vibrant lighting choice.

  3. Pick Your Props Carefully.

    When you are taking pictures of food in restaurants, you will not be working with many props. Many restaurants garnish the food and have plates setup that ideally fit the food. However, use the utensils you have in front of you to make the food as visually appealing as well. Sort the food in a specific manner, combine a few dishes to one dish – or separate a few dishes accordingly.

    Many people do not realize how food props can play a part in overall picture taking. Food needs to look appealing and props give the visualization needed to appeal to others. Also, make sure that the background of your image is appealing. Don’t take a picture with a mess behind it! Instead, put your plate on a table and take it from above, so the table is in the background.

  4. Keep the Plates and Dishes Clean.

    It is usually best to take snapshots prior to eating the food, but if you have taken a few bites beforehand, do not worry.

    Take a napkin and clean around the plates and ensure that all the food looks organized. If you have eaten a portion of the food, make sure it looks neat. Throw a garnish on top of the food to make it more visually appealing.

  5. Before and After.

    If you are cooking abroad and want to show all of your social network followers what you were able to cook – take a picture before you cooked and after you cooked.

    Neatly stack raw ingredients in a manner where they still look visually appealing. If you have fresh ingredients, do not chop them beforehand. If you have already purchased them chopped, place them in a creative and decorative bowl. The “after” photo will really give a visually appealing look, especially if ingredients or food items do not look as appealing beforehand.

Cooking can be a fun adventure and so can eating out. Sharing your pictures with followers or just with yourself for memory-sake is more appealing when you have pictures that make the food look great. Many people might be enjoy meals that look visually appealing, but not many are able to take pictures that make the food look as visually appealing as it does in real life.

Courtney Gordner is a passionate blogger who loves writing about (and eating) food. You can read more from her on her blog at

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Last of the Summer Soups

It has been a strange year so far. Work made me insane through the spring, then the BF and I took a trip to Japan to visit a childhood friend. As soon as we returned, my mother passed away. And since then, the summer has moved quickly and yet slowly. Now, the rains have come and Colorado is underwater. Overnight it started feeling like autumn has arrived. It has been a strange year indeed. But at the very least, the garden has been good to us.

The BF loves gazpacho, the traditional chilled soup enjoyed by Spaniards and those the world around. Lucky for him, the garden delivered booty in the form of tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers, exactly the recipe for this refreshing vegetarian meal. Adding a late season watermelon to the mix allowed for soup that let us pretend that summer would last just a little bit longer… once the rain lets up.
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When Life Gets in the Way

Oh. Hi. It’s been awhile since you last heard from me. I wanted to pop in briefly to let all the dedicated fans of B&OBH know that I have not abandoned writing this blog, but have been otherwise occupied. Where did I go?

On May 4, 2013, my mother ended an epic battle (almost 14-years) with cancer #7. Yes. Seven. She was 56 years, 5 months, 28 days old when she finally passed away. Here was the spread from the party we had for birthday number 53. Because we were both afraid people would starve, obviously…

While both of my parents are food-folk, by mom was really the driving force behind my interest in learning to become a better cook. In the months leading up to her passing I was cooking and writing notes but I never seemed to be able to make the time to sit down and put together blog posts. In the weeks since Mama died, I haven’t felt much like cooking or writing. But I’m working on that and I hope you’ll be patient and stay with me as readers, fellow cooks, and fellow eaters.

I have a renewed vision for Bacon & Other Bad Habits – one that I think would make Mama proud. I’m excited to expand this site beyond recipes of what I’m cooking to also include more about my adventures in urban farming (or urban homesteading or whatever you want to call my crazy experiments with chickens and gardening). As I’m able to focus more attention back to writing, I’ll add travelogues and tips on where to eat and what to do across the U.S. and abroad. I visited 14 states in 2012 and have already made four trips both domestic and abroad so far in 2013 (with two more already booked) so I’m eating on the road a lot. As the unofficial ambassador of Denver, I also want to encourage you to come visit my city with some Colorado-specific content.

Most importantly, Mama and I want to continue to encourage you to eat more cake while wearing fancy outfits:

Leah Charney
Queen Bee of Bacon & Other Bad Habits

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Tastes Like California

Let me tell you about a magical land called California. Where lemons actually grow on trees. Magic! The Meyer is unlike other lemons. The rind is thinner, the fruit is sweeter, and lucky for us, their peak season is still happening now. Personally, on any given day I’d like nothing more than to be poolside in Palm Springs, but I suppose the next best thing is to cook like I’m there? When I vacationed in the Coachella valley, I plucked lemons off the tree in the backyard of the house we were staying in and they quickly disappeared. And so, in the spirit of the desert and her date palm trees, I give you Meyer Lemon Chicken.
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Guest Post: On Corned Beef

This is a guest post from writer, father, and home cook Herb Durgin.

Corned beef is to St. Patrick’s Day what turkey is to Thanksgiving, or at least what a pillowcase full of candy is to Halloween. Few things speak more to traditional holiday cuisine than that quintessential brisket, boiled—well, simmered—with cabbage and potatoes, carrots and parsnips, and served with a handsome dollop of stone-ground mustard and a pint or four of beer.

Now, to begin with a clear conscience, I feel the need to address a certain elephant in the room: corned beef is not actually an Irish dish; it’s American. The corned-beef-and-cabbage I describe is the Yankee boiled dinner. That it has become symbolic of St. Paddy’s is testament to America’s freedom and prosperity. No, seriously. The nearest the Irish have to the corned beef dinner is bacon-and-cabbage, and while I abide the philosophy that everything’s better with bacon, this dish came about because the beef that the Irish farmers raised, slaughtered, and salted was priced at a luxury affordable only to the British gentry. When the Irish began arriving in America in the 1600s, beef was affordable, so they converted their recipe from a slab of salted pig to a slab of salted cow. And now you know. Read More »

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Triple Threat: Smoky Spicy Salmon

The BF doesn’t eat the seafoods. It’s not because he shares the adage of one of my Texas cousins (a man who refuses to “eat anything that might swim in its own poop). The BF just never got the taste of it. Seafood of any kind is a rather foreign sort of food for him. He’ll try it, but he just can’t seem to like it. And that’s fine. But, what it means is that I don’t eat fish, shellfish, or mollusks as much as I once did because I just don’t cook them as much as I once did. But I can never give up the fruits de la mer.

This recipe has a spicy and smoky almost barbeque like quality. The recipe is lightly modified from one originally created by Cooking Light magazine for scallops. And it’s tasty as hell. Enjoy!
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Say I Love You With Pork on Pork

photo_6The way to the heart of many a valentine can be found in pork products. The “other” white meat can be healthy or sinful, pork chop or pork belly. The pig is a noble beast and we pay homage in this recipe, which features twice the pork and therefore twice the love. So please, say “I love you” this Valentine’s Day by making this bacon-wrapped pork roast. (For you, yourself, family, strangers, I don’t care. Spread the love.)

Yeah yeah, I know, we just covered pork roasts not that long ago. This is me not caring. This is you grinning from ear to ear after your first bite. Trust.
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Musician’s Meatless Mediterranean Meal

Picture the scene: In a post-holiday food coma world, three guys descend on my house. All musicians, all recording songs in my living room. Yes, songs. A new Beck album of sorts, Song Reader, recently dropped in December 2012. The package features 20 songs — never before recorded or released — as sheet music only. My houseful of music junkies, under the musical direction of the nefarious-sounding but really quite nice Frankie Big Face, decided to record ten songs from this collection…in just two days time!

Enter me, the one gal who can make their dinner dreams come true. We needed a meal that was filling, extremely satisfying, and could power future music making. But after a season full of rich, sometimes large, and often heavy meals, it can be nice to dial it back in the dinner department. Lightening up a meal doesn’t mean having to give up on flavor. If the popularity of Meatless Monday is any indication, neither does ditching the meat.

Check out some of the music this meal helped feed!
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