Straight-Up Macaroni Salad & Something New!

This weekend McGyver is off hunting which means that the Baby boy and I get to have some quality time together.  For me, that means I get to cook and have my sous chef handy and for the Baby boy, that means that he gets to eat…his choice.  Friday after work, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up just a couple of things; on impulse I picked up a bag of ditalini.  I had a sudden impulse to have macaroni salad.  It happens that way sometimes.  I really wanted some but just didn’t have the energy by Friday night to make it. 

Truthfully, I was just in a mood.  Moody, moody, moody.  I was irritable and very emotional.  I was barely getting through the day when McGyver called and said “Hey, I’m getting off work early to go hunting, but I’d like to take you out to lunch first if you’d like”.  When couples work at different places and on different shifts, even though they are only two miles away from each other, they just don’t get to have lunch together.  Abso-F-ing-lutely, did I want to go to lunch with my hubby.  My day just suddenly got better.  See, that’s the thing when you are moody, it doesn’t take much to make your mood swing the other way. 

Only I ended up in meetings that lasted till 1:20 pm and we were supposed to have lunch at 12:00 pm.  So I ended up with a rain check, a telephone kiss good-bye and a promise that I’d see him in 4 days or so.  I cried.  Twice in our married lives we’ve been separated for a year (with a few conjugal visits of course), so 4 days is nothing.  But I was moody and it just didn’t sit well with me.  Instead of making macaroni salad, the Baby boy and I had leftover London broil turned into steak salad and ate it in front of the TV.  We watched a movie and than started watching the mini-series Shogun.  I hadn’t seen it since 1980 and he’s never seen it, course that was 14 years before he was born so whywould he have seen it?

Do you remember when they had mini series on TV?  Everyone would rearrange their lives so they wouldn’t miss one episode for like 6 to 8 weeks?  Who knew how long it would be before it came out on VHS?  Most people didn’t even own VHS or Beta Max then, you thought you might never get the chance to see it again!  Now I have it on DVD, and it’s paused while the Baby boy is at Scouts…it’s a different time.

But I digress.  Now that I have rambled on, and on, let’s get back to the Macaroni Salad.  The Baby boy went grocery shopping with me (which cost me an extra $100…), as we were in the store he says “I would love to have some macaroni salad”.  Deja Vu!  That cinched it, macaroni salad for dinner tonight!  There was just one caveat, it had to be Straight-Up Macaroni Salad.  In other words, mom, don’t get fancy.  It’s hard sometimes to rein that creative bone in, but it’s also nice to just stick to the basics.

I also got something new, yes I did.  For those of you who don’t live in the Northern areas of the world, you may not realize this; by winter it is dark by 4:30 pm.  No kidding.  Living in Montana is like living in Alaska except we don’t have polar bears and we get daylight for about 6 hours a day during the winter.  Big deal?  So it’s winter and it gets dark, it’s the natural order.  Only it doesn’t really work out for food photography.  But why TKW?  It turns out that the lights (usually tungsten) in the house give a yellow cast to food, even if you adjusted your white balance, very unappetizing.  So use flash, you say.  No, no, no, generally speaking, flash is too harsh for food, it makes it look so unnatural.  There are some flashes out there (read expensive) that can fool you, but nothing is as good as natural light. 

So what if you live in a tenee tiny little house, that is lined with giant trees that provide tons of shade and your house is dark by 4:30 pm because you live in the northern godforsaken dark winter region?  You grasp at straws, search the Internet and see what you can come up with.

The Baby boy loves to shop at a site called ThinkGeek.   Yes, the Baby boy is a geek, kind of nerdy but in a sweet way.  He bought be a teapot from there and I got a catalogue with it.  That’s where I spotted this:


Uh huh, it’s a mini photo studio.  Don’t pay attention to the Star Trek Enterpise model featured in the photo….remember this is geared towards geeks.  It was only $49.95 for the 16×16 pop up white cube, two lights and a tripod that doesn’t really work with my camera.   But I ordered it anyways, I told you I was grasping at straws.  I got it this week and decided to give it a trail run.  The baby boy, put his camera on the included tri-pod and I decided to snap some pictures.  I thought I’d get this nice obscure white back ground, instead all the wrinkles and seams just popped out at me.  However, I did notice that the lighting was great!  Even with my dining room lights on, I was able to take a photo without a flash and get a nice natural color.


 I really didn’t like the wrinkles or seams.  So I tried it with a plate and an onion at different distances to see if I would be happier.

Better, but no.

Much better…I need to work on light placement…see the shadow.

The closer I got, the better it was.  I suppose if I had photo shop or something, I could make it look even better.  But I don’t have  it…I do have a birthday coming up though…no hint intended…..

I’ve read before (although I can’t remember where), that a lot of food photographers use scrapbook paper as back ground.  It’s cheap and you can have quite a variety.  My little photo studio came with some clips that Velcro to the pop up box.  I went to Michael’s and bought scrap-booking paper (in pads that were 40% off…went a little over board still), I experimented.  The paper was wrinkle free (so far), so it may work?

 The first paper I used was too bright and cast weird reflections and my lights needed to be moved around.

I decided to try something more subtle.  Actually, this is paper that wasn’t in a book, I just loved it so I bought a couple of single sheets.  The bottom is the same paper only reversed.


The results.  What do you think?


Showing the bottom paper.

I am already discovering that having two pieces of paper creates a distinctive line, so it’ll have to be one or the other.

Now that it is dark so early I’ve decided to cut down on my photos of prep work, so you’ll be seeing less photos but I promise that you will be seeing great recipes still.

Once again, I’ve rambled on….

While I was making the macaroni salad, I was also setting up the “photo studio”.

I didn’t stir my pasta.

I went to drain my pasta and it was suctioned onto the bottom of the pan.

I thought it made a nice pattern.

I took a picture.

It reminded me of those plastic art beads that you put together in a pattern and than iron them so they make a colorful shape.

I have more than one Christmas ornament made out of them, the plastic ones, not the pasta.

I only have pasta necklaces that I keep.



Per the Baby boys request:



Straight-Up Macaroni Salad
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  1. 2 c. cooked small macaroni (I.e. ditalini, shells, elbow)
  2. 1/2 c mayonnaise
  3. 1 tbs yellow mustard
  4. 1/4 c. chopped celery
  5. splash of white vinegar
  6. pinch of sugar
  7. salt and pepper to taste
  1. Boil pasta according to package directions.  Drain and rinse, let cool.  In a medium bowl mix pasta, mayonnaise, mustard, celery, vinegar and sugar.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. That's it, Straight-Up Macaroni salad, nothing fancy, just good!
The Kitchen Witch
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One Response to Straight-Up Macaroni Salad & Something New!

  1. Leah @ L4L October 25, 2010 at 2:45 am #

    Very cool little light box. I don’t know how much I’d use it really. Like we talked about, I’m more of a food-journal type and I like to eat my food up right away after a quick and easy photo sess. Hope it works out well for your needs! xoxo