Prop Talk – Packing Paper

Hi there! It’s time for another installment of Prop Talk! To see all past Prop Talk posts just click the link in the menu at the top.

Today’s post is about a great-looking and very cheap alternative to plates: packing paper. I love to use brown or white packing paper in my photos, I find it lends a great rustic and casual feel to the shot. You can cut or tear the paper into the perfect size, you can crumple it up to make it look used, and you can put grease stains on it to give the shot extra appetite appeal. You can even partially wrap food in it and tie it up with a string. It’s very versatile and often works much better than a rigid plate.

Below are a few examples of how I’ve used packing paper in food photos on this blog.

Raspberry Habanero Jam Glazed Chicken Burger
From post Raspberry Habanero Jam-Glazed Chicken Burger

Turkey Cranberry Panini
From post Turkey Cranberry Grilled Sandwich with Orange Tarragon Mustard.

Pumpkin Spice Hazelnut Cookies
From post Pumpkin Spice Hazelnut Cookies

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Cranberry Thyme Dip

Creamy Cranberry Thyme Dip AppetizerBuy 418

It’s cranberry season! I love cranberries, I think they taste great and have a beautiful color. (Apparently they are also very healthy, which is nice, although that is not something I’m usually very concerned with as you probably have noticed). I’ve got a number of cranberry recipes in the making and to warm up I’ll start with the dried version of the fruit in this dip. It’s deliciously sweet, sour, salty and herby all at the  same time.

Cranberry Thyme Dip
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 2
Ingredients:
  • ¼ cup whipped cream cheese
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • ¾ teaspoon dried thyme or 1½ teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon dehydrated toasted onion
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped dried cranberries
Instructions:
  1. Grind all dry spices in a mortar with a pestle until you have a fine powder.
  2. Whisk cream cheese, mayo, sour cream, garlic, thyme, salt and onion together until creamy.
  3. Fold in the cranberries.
  4. Serve with baguette or crackers.

Food Photography and Styling: This dip gave me the chance to use for the first time this little purple dish from Sur La Table that I’ve had in my prop closets for more than a year. I tried to use it several times but its color just never really worked with anything. As soon as I thought of adding cranberries to this dip I knew the bowl would be perfect! Just another good reminder to never throw out any props, no matter how useless they may seem. :)

The trickiest bit about this photo was the styling of the uniformly white dip. I sprinkled some chopped cranberries and some thyme leaves over it to break up the white surface, to add some color and to create a focal point. I placed the bowl and the crackers on one piece of brown packaging paper to visually group these items together and to ground them to the surface. Without the paper the dip and crackers looked disconnected and lost on the table. I liked the background mostly empty and only placed one small antique salt shaker (which was very similar in color to the surface) in it.

Lens: I took this photo with my 105mm f2.8 NIKKOR macro lens. You can find the current version of this lens through the following link (I use an older version that is no longer being sold): AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED Lens.

Camera: I used my Nikon D600 to take this photo. You can find the current version of this camera through the following link: Nikon D610 DSLR Camera.

 

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Roasted Vegetables with Tarragon Vinaigrette

Roasted Vegetables Tarragon VinaigretteBuy 412

Roasted vegetables are delicious but I’m sometimes at a loss as to what to serve them with so I’ve come up with a series of intensely flavorful dipping sauces that perfectly complement the subdued taste of roasted veggies. Today’s sauce is a mustard/tarragon vinaigrette that has a bit of sour, a bit of licorice, a bit of heat and a bit of creaminess to it. It’s a nice contrast to the winter varieties that I picked here, some butternut squash, some shallots, potatoes, Brussels sprouts and carrots. Enjoy!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Roasted Vegetables with Tarragon Vinaigrette
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 2
Ingredients:
For the vegetables:
  • 10 baby potatoes, quartered
  • 2 shallots, quartered
  • 10 Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 2 carrots, quartered and cut into pieces
  • 1 cup 1- to 2-inch cubes butternut squash
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon homemade seasoning salt (get the recipe here)
For the vinaigrette:
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
Instructions:
For the vegetables:
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Whisk canola oil and seasoning salt together in a bowl.
  3. Add the vegetables and toss to coat.
  4. Spread the vegetables on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.
  5. Roast the vegetables until tender (35 to 40 minutes).
For the vinaigrette:
  1. Whisk all ingredients together.
  2. Either drizzle the vinaigrette over the vegetables or dip the vegetables in the vinaigrette.

 

Food Photography and Styling: I was in the mood for something other than wood and chose my zinc-coated metal tray for this shot. The blue/gray color of this surface went well with the orange carrots and squash and the texture in the metal made the photo look interesting without the need for many additional props. I sprinkled some tarragon leaves in the composition and shot from overhead to show off the different shapes of all the vegetables.

 

Lens: I took this photo with my 105mm f2.8 NIKKOR macro lens. You can find the current version of this lens through the following link (I use an older version that is no longer being sold): AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED Lens.

Camera: I used my Nikon D600 to take this photo. You can find the current version of this camera through the following link: Nikon D610 DSLR Camera.

 

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Graham Crackers

Homemade Graham CrackersBuy 304

Rather than sharing one of my own recipes I’ll direct you to these awesome graham crackers by Martha Stewart today. I had never made graham crackers myself until I baked these and I will never buy them from the store again. This recipe is great and very easy.

I cut a little star out of cardboard and used it as a template to cut out the center of these guys with a knife but if you have an actual cookie cutter in that shape that would probably be a lot easier. I baked the crackers a few minutes longer than the recipe states because I like them a little on the dark side. If you feel the urge you can substitute – you guessed it – pumpkin spice for the cinnamon, both version are excellent!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Graham Crackers
 
Author:
Recipe type: Desserts
Ingredients:
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • ½ cup wheat germ
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cups light-brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
Instructions:
  1. Head on over to Martha Stewart for instructions.

Food Photography and Styling:  I wanted this photo to feel cozy and warm and at the same time somewhat outdoorsy and fall-like. To do that, I charred the marshmallows to give them a campfire-burned look and stuck them on twigs to make the connection to the outdoors. I put the paper underneath them to break up the surface visually and also to protect the wood from marshmallow goo. I thought plain graham cracker squares would look a little boring so I cut out the stars in the middle.

 

Lens: I took this photo with my 105mm f2.8 NIKKOR macro lens. You can find the current version of this lens through the following link (I use an older version that is no longer being sold): AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED Lens.

Camera: I used my Nikon D600 to take this photo. You can find the current version of this camera through the following link: Nikon D610 DSLR Camera.

 

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