To help me answer this, please take a close look at the photo at the top, then the one at left. I'm guessing you'd rather try the dish above in the blue bowl, yes? Presumably it just looks tastier and something you'd more likely enjoy making and serving, right? But please do confirm your preference in the comments section--I've guessed wrong before!
In case you didn't notice, the two photos actually spotlight the same dish--the quick and easy chicken skillet featured below. No
The past year I've been working hard on taking better food photos. For practice, I've been looking at older blog posts and redoing images that now strike me as ho-hum or unappetizing. (If you're interested in the specific steps I took check out my very popular how-to post, "Getting to Yes on Foodgawker and Tastespotting.")
The asparagus stir-fry image above right is one of my "after" shots. The one below left was taken "before" I started upgrading my skills.
As you can see, the images are similar in many ways, yet the effects are very different. The before photo was rejected by both Foodgawker and Tastespotting, while the more recent chopsticks shot was published by both. In fact, the chopsticks pic was a Foodgawker fave the week it ran.
Here's another set of my before and after photos. One blueberry muffin shot was promptly published by both Foodgawker and Tastespotting. They nixed the other, though I edited and resubmitted it several times in response to criticisms. (The muffin recipe is here.)
I'm betting you can tell which is which--the images should speak for themselves. But if you're not sure, feel free to guess! I'll tell you if you were right.
At the moment, I'm happy to see some progress, and hopefully, you can see it from the comparison shots, too. But the learning process is still just beginning, so tune in again soon to check out the latest pics.
Chicken Skillet Pronto
The dish not only goes together quickly, but total cooking time is short. Carrot and celery sticks or a simple salad and perhaps a fruit dish or bread can round out the meal.
Tip: For even quicker preparation, substitute a time-saver package of cubed chicken breast meat for the breast halves. And to boost fiber, use instant brown rice; it's a very convenient "healthy" whole grain product.
1 tablespoon olive oil or canola oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 cup mild or medium-hot bottled picante sauce or salsa
3/4 cup (uncooked) "instant" (or "5 minute") brown or white rice
2/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth or water
1 can (14-15 ounces) black beans, well rinsed and drained
2/3 cup frozen (thawed) corn, rinsed and drained, optional
Black pepper to taste, optional
Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley leaves, optional
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat, combine the oil, chicken and thyme leaves. Cook, stirring, 3 or 4 minutes, until chicken pieces begin to brown. Stir in the picante sauce or salsa, adjusting heat so mixture simmers gently; cook 3 minutes longer. Add rice, broth (or water), beans, and the corn, if using. Let return to a simmer. Continue simmering gently, covered, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the chicken and rice are just cooked through. (Brown rice will take a little longer than white.)
Fluff with a fork before serving. Season with pepper, if desired. Garnish with a little more salsa and chopped cilantro or parsley leaves, if desired. You can serve extra salsa at the table, but probably shouldn't if you're trying to lower your family's sodium intake. Makes 4 servings.
For another dinner-in-a-hurry idea, check out my chicken curry, here.