Tips

This, my friends, is liquid gold. Pure liquid gold.

Fresh squeezed lime juice

One post-preschool-drop-off morning last week, I spent the better part of two hours driving around west Houston scouting the price of limes. Grocery stores roll their weekly prices on Wednesdays and with our annual Tequila & Taquitos Bash approaching, I needed to find the most affordable source for limes.

My first stop?

The price of limes

NOPE. I’ve never paid more than .20/lime. Ever. And in recent months, I’ve actually been completely spoiled with .10 limes.

Although I did watch in complete wonder (horror? envy?) as a woman loaded 10 limes into a bag without so much as batting a (totally fake) eyelash and moved on. As in, $6.90. For 10 limes.

Fresh squeezed lime juice

I needed 230 limes. As in ~$160. In just limes. So not gonna happen.

The rest of my stops were met with only slightly less budget-breaking prices: .44-.45. And then I rolled into my last stop, found .25 limes, and began the tedious process of digging through the bins looking for The Perfect Lime.

The Perfect Lime
Not only are limes expensive these days thanks to the basic economic principle of supply, demand, and entprenurial drug-cartel hijacking, they also aren’t very good quality. More than 75% of that bin was full of hard, under-ripe limes.

Hard under-ripe limes do not a good margarita make. Or a good anything else.

Fresh squeezed lime juice

I look for smooth limes that give quite a bit when you squeeze them – because those softer, squishier limes? They’re ripe. Full of easy-to-extract lime juice. Full of easy-to-extract future margarita. Totally worth the [gulp] .25 each.

I also prefer the rounder limes – my juicer sometimes balks at the more football-shaped limes. And when I’m going to juice 230 limes over the course of 4 days, I prefer fewer problems and interruptions.

So you’ve hoarded limes for LimeMageddon. Now you are ready to juice and freeze.

The Perfect Lime Juicer
It’s any appliance that plugs into a wall and makes juicing 230 limes go as quick and as painless as possible. We have a 5-year-old Breville Citrus Press. (Sigh. I really do miss the DINK days.) It’s insanely heavy duty and has seen literally thousands of citrus halves over the years, from tiny key limes to the gigantigrapefruit from the RGV… and even pomegranates! Pull lever, count to 3, discard peel. Repeat. 229 more times.

And when the very sad day comes and the Breville isn’t repairable for less than $25, we’ll buy the Applica Citrus Juicer.

The Perfect Lime Margarita
Just say no to the neon green mix from a the bottle. Just say no to pre-bottled, pasteurized lime juice. Just say no – and give major side eye – to cutting your perfect lime margarita with lemon juice. (No, it’s not the same.) (Yes, everyone will be able to tell.)

If you want to drink the perfect margarita, you have to go fresh. Lime juice, water, sugar/sweetener, tequila, orange liqueur and maybe a rim of salt. That’s it. No preservatives, no food coloring, no fakesies anything.

Homemade Margarita Mix Recipe

Make your own homemade margarita mix.

Homemade Margarita Mix Recipe

Ditch the sugar in favor of a “I can’t believe this is only 118 calories” Skinny Margarita.

Blue Margarita Recipe

Two words: Margarita Popsicles.

Blue Margarita Recipe

Or tackle any one of the 24 other margarita recipes we’ve whipped up.

The Perfect Lime Juice Storage
Any freezer food-storage option will do, but if you’re going to be measuring your liquid gold lime juice stash in quarts (or gallons!), I cannot recommend these 32 oz storage containers enough. Food safe, secure seal, and they hold 3.5 cups of lime juice (with headroom for freezing). I have 6 of them in my freezer right now – that’s 21 cups – with 75 limes left to juice.

To use the lime juice, I put the frozen container in a sink of water deep enough to come up 3/4 the side of the container and let it thaw. I use what I need and if I won’t be using 3.5 cups of lime juice in the next few days (it happens… sometimes), I simply refreeze the juice.

Now you’re ready to hit the market and sort through the windfall of Lime Suckage to get the most margarita for your buck. So ladies and gentleman, start your hoarding!

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Storing leftover chipotles in adobo

I adore canned chipotles in adobo sauce. Adore them. They’re smokey and spicy and are one of those pantry staples that can make any dish better, from taquitos (ahem, flautas) to Eggs Benedict.

Chipotle Mayo

Most recipes usually call for 1-2 peppers, maybe a little sauce and then… what do you do with the extras? Wrap it in plastic wrap, stick it in the door of the fridge, and forget about it until things get all gross?

Guilty.

Avocado Eggs Benedict with Chipotle Hollandaise

A super handy tip shared by reader Bianca last year helped solve the can-of-leftover-chipotles dilemma. I empty the can of chipotles into the mini-chopper, give it a whirl until mostly uniform, and then freeze the mixture in 2 Tbsp portions. The chipotle cubes store easily in a ziptop bag and I pull one out when ever a recipe calls for 1-2 peppers.

Need 3 peppers with sauce? That’s 2 cubes.

It’s really that easy!

Shrimp Tacos with Margarita Slaw and Chipotle Mayo

Looking for ideas to use up those frozen chipotle ice cubes? Check out some of these recipes:
Shrimp Tacos with Margarita Slaw & Chipotle Mayo
Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
Avocado Eggs Benedict with Chipotle Hollandaise Sauce
Chipotle Burger Buns
Baked Chipotle Ranch Chicken Taquitos
Pulled Pork Empanadas with Peach-Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
Grilled Broccoli with Chipotle Lime Butter
Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Chipotle Ranch Dressing

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Friday Finds: Shredding Chicken With a Mixer

by Shawnda on October 5, 2012

in Tips

Shredding Chicken With a Mixer

Most things on the internet seem to fall into two categories:

1) Whoa! How about a NSFW warning next time?!
2) HOW DID I LIVE WITHOUT THIS?!!!!?!

Shredding chicken with a stand mixer. And after poking around on Pinterest, I see that someone has even used a regular hand mixer. 4 years ago. And if someone doesn’t tell me that this is new to them, you can mark me down as officially the last person to know.

Maybe there’s no benefit in getting the mixer bowl dirty when you’re looking at shredding 1-2 chicken breasts. But when the mixer bowl is already out because you made a quadruple batch of pizza dough for the freezer? You can throw the the breasts and tenders from 6 split breasts into the mixer and in ~25 seconds on low speed, you have perfectly shredded chicken. So you can spend a rainy afternoon rolling 5 million 4 million flautas for the freezer.

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Homemade Sriracha

I’m going to walk you through how I setup, style, and take a standard shot, start-to-finish. What you’ll see below is an accurate representation of how I shoot a recipe photo – especially the missing prop – with maybe 5-7 minutes extra to account for the extra stop-and-start points. Oh – the recipe for the subject, a homemade sriracha, will be posted next week.

But you probably want to move along and find out why I did what I did. And why I didn’t do what I didn’t… so let’s get started!

9:31am I push the coffee table over to the window and grab the following items from our-coat-closet-turned-my-prop-closet:

  • 2 boards – One will be the tabletop for my shot, the other simply a surface that I can prop up against a box and clamp on a poster board background. These tabletop/boards are super easy and affordable to make, you can find instructions here.
  • Black poster board
  • 2 clamps – Purchased at your friendly neighborhood home improvement store for ~$3 each
  • Reflector – Read more about using the “bounce and fill” technique here.

Homemade Sriracha

I already have a picture in my head of what I want the shot to look like. Now it’s time to get that image out of my head.

I also already know the color palette of the food that I’m working with and I use that to decide which color linens (if using) and tabletop to use. Because the sriracha is such a beautiful red-orange, I wanted to shoot “dark” so that the richness of the vibrant color really came through. I also went neutral/white – basic – on the rest of the objects in the image so as not to distract from the hot sauce.

9:43am I’ve just wasted 10 minutes searching for a beat-up, little shallow tin dish that belonged to my great-grandmother. Can’t find it anywhere. But I’ve gathered everything else I want for the shot from the prop closet and kitchen:

  • Homemade sriracha in a reclaimed Central Market jelly jar
  • A few “consolation prize” white dishes to replace the missing tin dish (at this point, I haven’t decided which to use)
  • Tea spoon
  • Neutral linen found in the remnant bin at the fabric store
  • Coarse twine
  • Scissors
  • Tepin chiles from the plant in our backyard (because I used them in the hot sauce)

Homemade Sriracha

Originally, I was going to cut a small square of fabric to use as a “coaster” for the jar. After I got started, I changed my mind and put the fabric away.

9:51am I’ve now washed my hands 4, maybe 5 times. You can ask my 2-year-old – these chiles are NOTHING to play around with. I’ve cut chiles, composed the shot about halfway or so, and then stop to take a top-down picture to check exposure and to look at the shot on my camera.

Homemade Sriracha

Thanks to some of the fabulous instruction I’ve gotten from some of the greatest food photographers anywhere, this is also where I stop to ask myself:

  • Am I heading in the right direction to get that super fab “this should really be in a magazine” (ha!) image that I had in my head?
  • Does the shot and styling make sense? Am I showing you homemade chicken noodle soup that I’ve poured into a carafe that I usually use for margaritas? Or am I presenting it to you in a way that you would actually recognize and serve the soup yourself. Or did I actually just put a knife and fork next to that stack of chocolate chip cookies.
  • Is my eye drawn to the food or is it distracted by all 15 of my props?

Then I move on to the finer details. I do spot a few things in the photo above that I don’t like: the spoon placement is awkward and the leaves of the pepper between the jar and round dish are facing the wrong direction and not catching any light.

9:53am Composition is mostly done, problems spotted 2 minutes ago are now fixed… but the spoon is still a problem and I find the twine shooting out of the top of the screen a little odd.

Homemade Sriracha

9:54am But first, I walk to the kitchen and take another pullback shot.

Homemade Sriracha

9:55am I like the exposure, the tweaks to the composition, but that spoon is still bugging the crap out of me…

Homemade Sriracha

9:56am AND THIS IS WHY. Scale. My tea spoon is far too big for the jar and the shot. By shooting overhead, it wasn’t so clear that I have as much spoon sticking out of the top of the jar as I do jar. (Sidebar: don’t be afraid to cut those pretty little paper straws down a couple inches so you don’t have 5 inches of straw sticking out of a tiny glass of milk.)

Homemade Sriracha

9:57am I run over to my little utensil box to grab a new spoon. And just like that, I’m a happy blogger. I take the final shot and the picture is in the books.

Homemade Sriracha

9:58am I reach into my camera bag for my USB cable and I find an open tube of blue Toy Story toothpaste in its place. Typical.

10:12am I am my worst critic. I’m staring at the photos in Lightroom, seeing a couple of teeny tiny things that I wished I had noticed before. But because I made the rookie mistake of cleaning up already and the details really are minor, I click my “The Usual” preset and export the photos. For more information on how I edit, check this out.

The stats:

  • 26 minutes – That’s a little elevated, due to the extra stopping and trying to figure out what I needed to shoot after I got started. I’d say that I usually spend 15-20 minutes photographing each recipe post.
  • 21 photos – That’s nearly double what I’d take for a standard recipe post, my goal is no more than 12. I’ve wasted far more time than I like to think about in the early days of this blog… taking 40 shots of a recipe, only to waste even more time sorting through the nearly-identical pictures.
  • 1 recovered USB cable – found it in my daughter’s toy box.
  • 1 missing prop – still haven’t found it, but it’s definitely not where it belongs nor is it in my daughter’s toy box.

You can check out my Photography page for a collection of tips, tutorials, and FAQs to get a little more information about the photography that you see on this site.

So for those of you that has asked to see my setup and want more information on how I style a shot… did that kinda sorta help at least make things a little clearer? Even just a little?

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