Jan 23, 2012

PhotoMuse workshop and Green Gate Farms

PhotoMusers. Photo by Q.

Santa came a little early for me this holiday season. I had the incredible gift to get to spend a week in November completely immersing myself in photography. I attended the Photographic Muse: Austin workshop put on by three incredible folks: documentary photographers Lynn Johnson and Penny De Los Santos, and fine art photographer and consultant Scott Martin.

As an art director in my day job, I've spent some time working with and hiring photographers for assignments. But this workshop put me behind the camera and on the receiving end of the critiques. Very intimidating. Even more so, because my fellow workshop attendees were so talented. I definitely felt like the least experienced, but I knew that also meant that I would grow, grow, grow. And I did. (And I got some well-deserved ribbing for being the "art director" in the group and got busted for unconsciously shooting photos that were composed like magazine covers.)

This is what happens when photographers try to take photos of photographers. Photo by Q.

Our days went something like this: we'd meet up in the mornings for some strategizing, then head off in our separate directions to spend the day shooting. We'd reconvene in the late afternoon, in a fabulous space in Hyde Park, for dinner, lectures, critiques and sharing our images. The next day, we'd do it all again. It was intense, overwhelming, energizing and exhilarating.

What I didn't realize was that this would be a double-layered experience. I spent a week practicing seeing, shooting, getting valuable feedback and most of all, improving my photography skills. But I also got to spend a week (and more, since I continued working on my project after the workshop wrapped), experiencing the world of Green Gate Farms, my subject. My eyes, my mind and my heart were cracked wide open. I was truly nourished by the PhotoMuse community that developed, Lynn, Penny and Scott's guidance, and the time spent on the farm.

In that week, and three more sessions afterwards, I shot almost 5,000 images! (As I get more experienced, I hope to get a lot more selective about what I shoot.) In the workshop, Scott did a convincing job of selling the attributes of LightRoom and now I'm hooked.

Below are some of the images. Green Gate farmers Skip Connett and Erin Flynn were incredibly generous to let me wander around the farm, while they and their volunteers worked and harvested. I could have spent months photographing all the little spaces, vignettes and textures in their barn alone, but the true heart of the farm is the people who keep it going. I could see that in my photos and feel it myself after the first day there. Skip and Erin have built a real community around their farm and I feel honored to have spent some time witnessing it.

Local farmers have faced not only the worst drought on record in Texas this past year, but have also had to persevere through the usual crazy Texas temperatures that can range from 14 degrees to 114. It is an extraordinary task and one that humbled me to get a glimpse of. Nourish yourself and your local community by supporting local farmers!

I must give a giant shout out and thank you to Skip, Erin, and Mary, and all the volunteers at Green Gate. And thank you, thank you, thank you to Scott, Lynn, Penny and all of the PhotoMusers. It's a treasure to be a part of this photographic community. I can't wait until we can do it again. (Links below to other PhotoMusers and the group slideshow.)

Green Gate Farms...

Little Helping Hands volunteers...

Architecture for Humanity earthbag prototype shed being constructed at Green Gate.

Slow Food feast at Green Gate — where I planned to take photos of the fancy dinner, but found that the best images were of Skip and Erin's son, Ethan, up in the hayloft overlooking the festivities...

Photographers, if you get a chance to learn from Lynn, Penny or Scott, don't miss it. It looks like PhotoMuse 2012 is being planned for New York City.

PhotoMuse: Austin

Scott Martin, OnSight

Penny De Los Santos

Lynn Johnson

Sign up for a Spring produce CSA or a hog CSA at Green Gate Farms

Danielle, Beyond the Plate

Denise, ChezUs

Crystal, Serendipity in the Kitchen

Pauline, The Kitchen Press


Ed, Edzstudios

Dor Rae



Jay and Janet — don't have a web sites, but you can see their work, along with everyone else's in this group slideshow that Scott put together.

Stay tuned. Next up, Penny De Los Santos was kind enough to share with me her recipe for the black bean chili with chocolate and cinnamon that she made for us for dinner one night.

Dec 27, 2011

Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Ginger Cookies

Here's my favorite new cookie recipe to wish you belated happy holidays. I can't seem to stop making these. They are the perfect winter cookie spiced with warming ginger and cinnamon. They are tender, soft and cakey on the inside with the slightest snap of a crust on the outside.

The original (gluten) recipe comes from Chez Panisse. But I spotted Shauna's gluten-free version on her site, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef and was inspired, as I am by so many of her posts and recipes, to try them. I love that they don't contain any xanthan or guar gums, commonly found in most gluten-free recipes, each of which have adverse effects on me.

I started with Shauna's version and then began experimenting. First, I traded the butter for coconut oil, and used mostly maple syrup with a little brown sugar instead of the white sugar. And I also tried it with brown rice flour and chia instead of the white rice flour.

These cookies are addictive and the perfect accompaniment for a cup of hot tea, eggnog or horchata. They also make a great whoopie pie, sandwich cookie or ice cream sandwich. I made a whoopie pie for the photo with an eggnog filling (1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons eggnog. If you're going dairy-free, try a nondairy eggnog or rice milk-based horchata). But I most like to eat them on their own. Straight, simple, comforting. And I must mention, if you have an unhappy tummy, the ginger in these will make you feel much better. Rx: cookie!

I've been making double batches of these and keeping the dough in the freezer. I bake up a cookie sheet full at a time for fresh hot cookies on demand. (I have to confess to eating the occasional dough ball straight from the freezer and in the heat of summer, I find them particularly refreshing that way.)

Plan ahead, these need to go into the freezer for several hours or overnight. But you can make them like I do and keep the dough in the freezer for cookies anytime. I use a #40 ice cream scoop from the restaurant supply shop to make even, perfectly round cookies. These scoops are inexpensive and seem to be more sturdy than most others that I've used.

Happy baking to all and to all a good night! And a big thank you to Shauna for turning me on to these incredible cookies!

Ginger Cookies

1 1/2 cups sorghum flour
1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
2 tablespoons ground chia seeds
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 teaspoons ground ginger

1 cup coconut oil, room temperature
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup molasses

Measure out the flours and combine them in a medium-sized bowl. Add the chia, soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon. Whisk together to combine well. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the coconut oil, maple syrup and brown sugar. With a mixer, (I used a hand mixer), cream together. Add the eggs, vanilla and molasses, and mix again until evenly incorporated.

Add the flour mixture, half at a time and mix until completely incorporated.

Transfer the dough to a covered container and put into the freezer overnight or for several hours.

Before baking, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the dough from the freezer and using a #40 ice cream scoop, make as many dough balls as you want to bake. Place the dough balls on a silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheet and return the sheet to the freezer, while the oven warms up. When the oven is ready, move the cookie sheet from the freezer straight into the oven. Bake for 12 minutes. The cookies will look just slightly underdone when you remove them from the oven, but they will continue cooking on the sheet until they cool. Let cool completely on the sheet to firm up (or they'll stick and fall apart).

I think these have the best texture when eaten the same day or the next day after baking.

Note: once the dough has frozen, you can also scoop out your dough balls and freeze them in a covered container or ziptop bag for faster baking later on. Just remember to bake them straight from the freezer to hold their round shape.


Adapted from Chez Panisse and Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef.

Nov 19, 2011

Thanksgiving Side Dish Ideas

I've been away too long. Will be back soon with more on our trip to Bend, Oregon and the recipe for the granola bars we made to take with us. They make great road snacks.

But this week, all anyone is thinking about is Thanksgiving. Here are a few side dishes and my favorite pecan pie from the archives to give you some ideas. A few of these are recipes I posted before going gluten-free. Easy substitutions are listed to adapt them to be gluten free.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Cinnamon Chipotle Butter

Google Grain (or Rice) Salad
(You can make this one gluten-free by substituting a wild rice blend for the mix of grains and cooking the rice for 50 minutes.) This dish was a big hit at the PhotoMuse photo workshop pot luck recently.

Squash stuffed with pistachios, feta, and herbs

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips with Sage

Beecher's Macaroni & Cheese
(You can make this one gluten-free by substituting sorghum or brown rice flour for the flour in the cheese sauce and using gluten-free pasta.)

Green Beans with Parsley, Almonds, Sesame Seeds and Goat Cheese

Pecan Pie from the Park Cafe near Glacier National Park, Montana
(Make this one gluten-free with a gluten-free pie crust.)

Happy Thanksgiving!