Clam Chowder with Crab and Shrimp

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Up Close & Tasty is in the midst of a redesign and I couldn't be more excited about it. At first, this change felt more daunting than exciting because I knew how much work it would be. One main thought kept holding me back: I don't have the time. But, another thought got me to finally tackle this project: I need to ask for help. 

Asking for help, unfortunately, is a hard thing for a lot of people to do. It's like we're afraid of burdening someone else when, in fact, we would be offering them an opportunity to do something they want to do and specialize in doing. People, in my experience, genuinely want to help when they can. If they can't or are unavailable, then they will tell you. There's no rational reason to not ask for help when you need it.

I asked my lovely friend and fellow coworker, Raine Dalusong, to handle the web development of the new layout for me. She has been a breath of fresh air to work with. She's responsive, thoughtful, detailed and has fixed some issues that I didn't know how to solve. I am a photographer, not a web developer, and that is ok! I don't have to do this all by myself and I honestly wouldn't have been able to do it without her. Asking for help has been nothing less than refreshing and motivating for me. 

While I continue to organize my posts and images from the last three years, I'm finding that I am spending a lot more time with my computer than I would like. Mike has been a huge help in the kitchen for me during this redesign as well. He recently made this Clam Chowder with Shrimp and Crab for me because he knows how much joy seafood brings to my life. I figured this would be a good recipe to share with you because it is incredibly comforting during this busy time of year. The smells alone will inspire you to step away from the computer and take a nice delicious and well-deserved break. 

Do you ask for help when you need it or try to push through on your own?

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Balsamic Onion Mini Tarts with Goat Cheese and Thyme

How was your Thanksgiving? I ate way too much as usual, but it was worth it. My mom decided to stray from her tradition and ordered her very first Thanksgiving "turducken" from Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe in Rochester, Minnesota. If duck is involved, it's pretty hard to disappoint me. It was really, really good and although I usually love turkey, I found myself avoiding the turkey pieces for duck. 

My mom had a smaller gathering for her feast this year. My sister, Dianne and her hubby, Paul spent the day with her dad's family and my younger brother, Lee spent the day in Minneapolis. That left my mom, Mike and me to enjoy all the delicious food.

Since she had a much smaller gathering for the dinner this year, we were able to bring a bunch of leftovers home with us, including extra stuffing and gravy made by Catering By Design. Everything was absolutely delicious and if you're visiting or living in Rochester, the butcher shop and catering by design are right next door to each other, so be sure to stop in to say hi to them.

Although we love visiting with my family, it's really nice to be back home. One of Mike's and my traditions is to decorate our house for Christmas after Thanksgiving. We turn on Christmas music, enjoy extra mugs of coffee & tea and start hauling out boxes of decorations that our cat, Ollie can't wait to get into.

We also like to enjoy a new recipe, separate from leftovers, because we're ready to nibble on something different. This year, we made Balsamic Onion Mini Tarts with Goat Cheese and Thyme by Love & Olive Oil

As you cook the onions with the salt, pepper and thyme, try not to rush the caramelization phase. The slower the process, the better the flavors and consistency will be. After adding the balsamic and sugar, the flavors become comforting and sweet and the aromas that fill the kitchen are nothing less than magical. 

I have really enjoyed baking with my mini tart pans this year. Although a full sized tart pan would work just fine for this recipe, I like the smaller portion size after a week of overeating. You can even cut the six-inch tarts into quarters which make them small enough to be served like little hors d'oeuvres if you're having a dinner party.

I imagine this "tradition" of ours to cook and decorate after Thanksgiving is common for a lot of people, but for me, it's especially nice to have that time together, just Mike and me, after all of the family activity. 

Since Mike and I started "sharing the holidays" and alternating between our two families, I can't help but think about traditions. Contrary to popular belief, traditions don't have to be old, something that never changes or something we always grew up doing. This inspires me.

Traditions can be new, something that changes and they can be something meaningful for you, separate from what you did as a kid. After a few years of doing a lot of the same things, although we love the familiarity of home, Mike and I can't help but want to explore some of our own "traditions" together in the years to come. Maybe it's hosting a Thanksgiving of our own, eating seafood instead of turkey, or planning a trip someplace new...

If you could do whatever you wanted over the holiday, what would you do?

Cheers!

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All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

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I'm going to let you in on a weird fact about me. I don't like baked potatoes. You'll never see me eating one. It's very strange, but I simply prefer and absolutely love mashed potatoes.

When Mike was helping me cook different side recipes to share leading up to Thanksgiving, mashed potatoes was immediately on the list. When we tested this Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes recipe by Martha Stewart, I knew I would have to share it with you. 

I've never made mashed potatoes using buttermilk before, but it's an easy switch from milk and tastes extra creamy and delicious. I recommend doubling the recipe if you're making this side for more than four people and definitely add the chives as garnish at the end. They give off a subtle oniony flavor with a tiny hint of garlic. Perfection! 

What's your favorite way to eat potatoes? 

For other Thanksgiving side recipes, you should also check out Easy Cranberry Sauce and Glazed Pearl Onions.

I'm also sharing an early Black Friday deal from Sur la Table below - up to 75% off! Happy Early Shopping! 

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All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Pre-Black Friday Deals from Sur la Table

Pre-Black Friday Specials! Save up to 75% on Select Items only at SurLaTable.com! Hurry, limited time offer.

Posted on November 21, 2016 and filed under Recipes, Sides, Savory.

Glazed Pearl Onions

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Mike and I usually spend Thanksgiving with our families. We alternate between staying in Illinois with his family or heading up to Minnesota to see mine. This year, we're heading to Minnesota and we're really looking forward to the scenic drive, catching up with my family and, of course, all of the food that I can't seem to stop thinking about... 

One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving are the sides that come with the main feast. Mike has been helping me cook and test different side recipes that are not only really delicious and easy to make, they are perfect for the holiday feast or any time throughout the year. 

I'll be sharing a couple of our favorite sides with you as we lead up to the holiday, so if you're looking for something easy to share at Thanksgiving this year or just want some extra inspiration in the kitchen, be sure to stick around, follow me or subscribe with your email so you don't miss a recipe. 

The first one that I'm sharing are these Glazed Pearl Onions by Martha Stewart. Anytime we cook with onions, I am drawn to how good the kitchen smells. I recommend buying frozen pearl onions for this recipe because of the convenience of them coming peeled and ready to cook. Fresh pearl onions will require trimming, blanching and peeling, which will add more time and effort. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but if you're going to be sharing the kitchen like me, sometimes it's better to just get in and get out. 

This recipe comes together in about twenty minutes and will compliment everything on the table. I love how versatile the flavor of onions can be. 

What are some of your favorite side dishes? I'd love to hear about them. 

You should also check out these easy sides: Honey Roasted Carrots and Roasted Broccoli with Lemon and Garlic.

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All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Posted on November 18, 2016 and filed under Recipes, Savory, Sides.

Spicy Sriracha Ramen with a Fried Egg

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Well, it has been a very weird week. It has felt like I'm in a fog and it's not just because I'm recovering from a cold. I'm not going to dwell on how many times I've had to stop, take a deep breath and readjust my perspective. I've felt more confusion and fear than I have in a long time and it's just not a place that I am able to stay for very long. My dad always used to tell me, "It's ok to be upset, but living well is the best revenge." So, I'm putting one foot in front of the other, allowing myself to be upset (because I'm only human) and also allowing myself to move forward. I am bringing the focus back to my husband, my family, my friends and my photography. 

With that, I not only have this delicious, comforting and nose-clearing Spicy Ramen recipe to share with you, but I also have some really good news about Up Close & Tasty. I'm excited to say that my blog is going to be getting a new look and feel with a more advanced level of organization to help you find what you're looking for more easily, whether you're here for the recipes, the photography or both.

When I was first starting out, I wasn't intending to be a "blogger." As silly as that may sound, I just wanted my own blank canvas to post my photography every week. I saw it as an opportunity to grow as a photographer and it's definitely done that. But, as my photography has grown, my blog has naturally grown too.

I'm really looking forward to this change and, although there may be some slight delays between posts, I promise to let you know how it's all going and when the official launch will be. I'm working with a developer to help me with the backend stuff so I can continue focus my time and energy on creating delicious content to share with you. This has been a long time coming and I hope you'll stay tuned for what's to come.  

xo

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All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Posted on November 11, 2016 and filed under Recipes, Savory.