Remembering Spain with a Pan of Paella!

I have been thinking a lot lately about the trip we took to France and Spain last October. We had never been to Spain before, but we absolutely feel in love with the places we saw! Barcelona was my favorite spot, but Valencia is where I had what I would consider to be authentic paella.

Now, I know there are probably as many versions of paella as Imelda Marcos has shoes. Paella can be prepared many ways and it depends on where you are as to what you are going to get! I saw paella cooked with rice and with pasta (think spaghetti). With pasta it is called fideua. That is traditionally served in Barcelona. Both versions (rice and pasta) can be prepared with pork, chicken and sausage as well as all types of fish and seafood. Some dishes combine a little of each.

I do have to say that they know to serve the stuff up right in Barcelona! We saw the beginnings of a major paella party cranking up outside the Cathedral Sagrada Familia when we were visiting. Here is a picture of what happens when they get to whipping up a big ole batch of the stuff!

Now that's some paella!

I personally prefer the chicken and shrimp version with rice (Valencian paella). I opt out of the whole other seafood thing because you are never really sure what you are going to get (especially when you do not understand much Spanish). I saw some really creepy looking fish in those markets in Spain and the last thing I wanted was some of that stuff in my paella. They call certain seafood “monsters” for a reason! 😉

I have a recipe for paella that I loved to cook before I went to Spain. It was as good as anything I had here in the states and frankly, it was pretty easy and quick. Well, of course, that trip ruined things for me, so now, I prefer the really long version and it is sooooo worth it! That recipe I was using just does not have the depth of flavors that this more authentic version has. This new recipe tastes about as close as I can get to what I had in Valencia. I have made it a few times and it always turn out perfect.

The paella I had in Valencia had chicken and shrimp and some chorizo. This recipe I have found has the same ingredients. My hubby would rather have more seafood than what I care for and since I will not allow “monsters” in my food or anything resembling them, I throw a few Cherrystone Clams in for his benefit!

Not only is this paella authentic…we ate at traditional Spanish dining hours Saturday night! I was languishing on our back deck, enjoying the warm temperatures and a glass of wine with my hubby when I suddenly realized I needed to marinate the chicken and shrimp. Yikes! Dinner at 10 pm. When you plan to make this dish, be sure to plan ahead!

This recipe is adapted from Things Cooks Love by Marie Simmons (the book is available at Sur La Table – my hangout in the ATL)

Chicken, Shrimp, and Chorizo Paella
Serves 6-8

8 bone-in chicken thighs, or 1 large chicken cut into 10 pieces (cut the breast in half, so everything cooks evenly)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
18 large shrimp, peeled, with shells reserved, and deveined (I used 1 lb.)
10 Cherrystone clams
6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, bruised, plus 2 tsp. minced
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary, plus sprigs for garnish (if you wish)
5-6 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I use Swanson’s Organic)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tsp. saffron threads
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
2 (3-oz.) chorizos, casings removed and cut into 1/4 dice (Spanish chorizo if possible, which is cured, not fresh)
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 (14 1/2 oz.) can diced tomatoes with the juices
1 1/2 cups Spanish rice (medium grain)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 lg. lemon, cut into 6-8 wedges, for garnish

1. Generously sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a large bowl or large resealable plastic bag. Add the shrimp, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the bruised garlic, and the chopped rosemary. Cover the bowl, or seal the bag, and refrigerate 2 hours or up to overnight.

2. In an 2 1/2 to 3 quart saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Decrease the heat to low and cover to keep hot.

3. in a 10-inch skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the shrimp shells and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until they turn dark red. Add 1 tsp. of the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and boil for 1 minute. Add the shrimp mixture to the chicken broth, bring to a simmer, re-cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Set a strainer over a clean saucepan and strain the broth. Discard the shells. Keep broth warm over low heat.

4. Crush the saffron in a mortar with a pestle, or place in a small cup and crush with the back of a spoon. Transfer to a small bowl and add a ladleful of the simmering broth. Cover and let stand until ready to use.

5. When ready to cook the paella, remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and place them on a plate. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a 12-14 inch paella pan (set over 2 burners if necessary) or an extra-large skillet over medium heat until hot enough to sizzle the chicken. Add the chicken, skin side down, and cook the other side for 5 to 8 minutes, or until browned. Return the chicken to a plate. *A splatter screen comes in handy for this sauteing!

6. Add the bell pepper, onion, chorizos, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of garlic to the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula, for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are browned.

Add the paprika and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until the juices boil off and the tomato is dry. Add the rice and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring the chicken broth to a boil and pour 4 cups of it over the rice. Add the reserved broth (with saffron) and stir into the other ingredients. Arrange the chicken pieces around the outer edges of the pan.

7. Cook uncovered over medium heat, without stirring, for 15 minutes, or until most of the broth has been absorbed by the rice. Taste the rice and add more salt if needed.

8. Tuck the shrimp down into the partially cooked rice, concentrating them in the center area of the pan. Ladle 1 cup of the simmering broth over the rice and cook 5 minutes more. As the rice cooks, it will continue to absorb the broth. Add more broth as needed, tasting the rice each time. It should be tender, but firm. If you run our of broth before the rice is ready, use boiling water.

9. Sprinkle the peas on top. Tuck the clams into the rice and the broth. Lay a piece of extra-wide aluminum foil over the paella for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Remove from the heat and let the paella stand covered for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

When you serve your paella, you should have a browned bottom that looks like this. No, you have not burned your paella! This is called socarrat and this just means you have properly prepared your dish. You actually want the rice and all the yummy juices to do this!

The important things you get to bring home with you from vacations are your memories, your photos, and perhaps some souvenirs. I always enjoy coming home and trying to recreate some of the fabulous dishes I had while I was traveling!

Buen apetito!



Filed under Chicken, Entrees, Paella, Recipes, Rice, Shrimp, Spanish, Valencia

Simple and Delicious Sirloin Tip Roast and the Giveaway Winners!

This past week was incredibly hectic. I do not know how the days managed to get away from me, but they did! It was a very nice week, however, in that I received my first blogging award, The Sunshine Award. I also have “met” many wonderful food blogger friends on the new Food Blog Forum. It is such a great site with tons of incredible info. I just need to find the time to get into some of the forums and see what people are saying.

I also had my first giveaway which was fun. The recipe I created was featured on Tasty Kitchen on Thursday (that was 2 features on Tasty Kitchen in a week – yeah!) and it now will be on Country Bob’s website next week. To top things off, I received an email from Foodista last night telling me that my Meyer Lemon Sorbet is a finalist in their cookbook contest! You can still vote (if you would like to), by clicking on this link.

Since I was insanely busy all week with oodles of things to do, my hubby was incredibly sweet and stepped into the kitchen to make a mess cook dinner for me several evenings. I had doctor’s appointments, photography class, other commitments, blah, blah, blah and was just too exhausted to get cooking.

Thursday evening we picked up a little (2 lb.) sirloin tip roast and my hubby decided he would cook it up for us, since Bunky that usually cooks was totally wiped out! I must admit that he is an excellent cook (one of the reasons we would be together! 😉 ) and I thoroughly enjoy the evenings he takes over and tears up the kitchen makes dinner for us.

Here is very simple recipe for his version of roast boeuf!

Sirloin Tip Roast
Serves 4

1 Sirloin Tip Roast (2 lb.)
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 whole garlic cloves
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, partially melted
4-6 springs fresh thyme
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter (room temperature)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Bring roast to room temperature. Pierce the meat all over with a large fork to tenderize the roast. Slice any silver skin or side muscle on the roast. Cut 4 slits in roast and plug with garlic cloves. Rub roast all over with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Pour partially melted butter over top of roast. Place thyme sprigs on top. Place the remaining tablespoon of butter on top of the thyme.

Cook at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Then, cover roast with aluminum foil. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and cook for an additional 20-30 minutes (checking temp at 20 minutes). We like ours at 135 degrees (medium rare), so ours was done at this point. If you prefer your roast to be medium (150 degrees), you will need to cook it longer. It will depend on your oven, but probably it will take an additional 10-15 minutes.

If you are not pressed for time (like we were), you could also marinate the roast with a little red wine before cooking it to tenderize it further.

My hubby took a few pics of the dinner with a point and shoot. No fussy photography, but it was soooo good, we wanted to show you (even if the pics aren’t awesome)!

Now to the real meat of the post (ha ha) and what many of you may have come here for…the winners of the Country Bob’s All Purpose Sauce giveaway were:

#10 Rustic Garden Bistro

#20 Arlene Feix

There were a total of 24 eligible comments. Thank you everyone for participating! Check back soon because I will have another really awesome giveaway with a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT (big to me anyway!). 🙂

Have a great weekend!


Filed under Beef, Country Bob's, Entrees, Recipes, Roasting

Bailey’s Ice Cream with Chocolate Shavings – Happy St. Patty’s Day!

This post is a bit late in making it for St. Patty’s Day, but after all, this is dessert, so it should be getting to you at about the right hour (if you are on the West Coast). I had a little post I had to do earlier in the day for the Sunshine Award (thanks again, Denise), so I am behind in all things (as usual).

I have to admit something…after making this ice cream, I am not sure I will ever want to eat another bite of ice cream out of a supermarket pre-packaged container again. I do not care who makes it or how much it costs…there is just no comparison to homemade ice cream! Besides, they don’t have the big boozy flavor that this one has! 😉 How can you go wrong with Bailey’s Irish Cream and dark chocolate??? Besides, with a little green whipped cream, this one is soooo perfect to end your dinner of green beer (oh, yuck!) and Irish Stew for St. Patty’s Day!

As with most recipes for homemade ice cream, this one is simple. I always like to make the base for ice creams or sorbet a day ahead so it is well chilled. Other than that, piece of cake (no – ice cream!).

Anyway, I was going to just make the Bailey’s ice cream just straight up (ha ha), however, there was this bar of dark Valrhona chocolate just dying to get mixed up in that bucket of ice cream, so naturally, I had to comply!

Bailey’s Ice Cream with Chocolate Shavings
Makes about 3 cups

1 1/2 cups Bailey’s liqueur
1/2 cup sugar
3 lg. egg yolks, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk (why skimp now??)
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla (the really good stuff)
1/2 cup dark chocolate shavings (something semi-sweet) from a block of dark chocolate (I shaved the chocolate with a veggie peeler.)

Bring the Bailey’s to a simmer in a small, heavy saucepan and continue to simmer over medium heat. Cook until the liqueur is reduced to about 1/2 cup. Mine took about 15 minutes. The liqueur will be thicker and slightly syrupy. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the sugar into the egg yolks until thickened and pale yellow.

Bring the milk to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Slowly beat the hot milk into the eggs and the sugar. Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and place over low heat. Stir constantly with a whisk or a wooden spoon until the custard thickens slightly. (Be careful not to let it boil or you will have scrambled eggs on your hands (and not custard). I usually check to see if the mixture slightly coats the back of a spoon. If it does, you are done!).

Remove from the heat and pour the hot custard through a strainer into a large, clean bowl. Add the heavy cream, vanilla and reduced Bailey’ Irish Cream. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Stir the chilled mixture and then place in your ice cream freezer and freeze (according to your own machine’s directions). When the ice cream is semi-frozen, toss in the chocolate shavings and freeze until firm.

This stuff will not become totally frozen due to the amount of Bailey’s, so I put it in the freezer overnight to help firm it up a bit.

Wow…it it so rich and creamy and chocolaty! And if that wasn’t enough…I topped it with a little sweetened whipped cream with just a hint of green. Even though there is something scary about eating/drinking things that are not meant to be green…I just had to do it! 😉 You will not, however, be seeing that picture….

Hope you had a Happy St. Patty’s Day!


Filed under Bailey's Irish Cream, Chocolate, Desserts, Holidays, Ice Cream, Irish, Recipes, St. Patrick's Day

Thank you for my first award!

I was very excited yesterday to receive this Sunshine Award from Denise at Quickies on the Dinner Table. Denise is fun and fresh and has a great sense of humor. Her dishes are quick and easy and look delicious! I have enjoyed getting to “meet” her through our blogs. Besides that, how can you miss with a name like Quickies on the Dinner Table? 😉 No wonder she got the Sunshine Award!

Now that I am a recipient of this award, the deal is that I have to pass it on to 12 other delightful bloggers that have caught my eye. I am going to give this to some newer bloggers, so that they can get some recognition. I know how hard it is to create a niche for yourself when you start blogging, so here’s to them! (I am a “newbie”, so I can speak from experience!).

1. I met Cecille of A Dose of Frosting at the Stir It 28 event in Atlanta. I was impressed by her generosity. She must have donated hundreds of cupcakes to the event! They were so good we even took a few home! 😉 She has a real passion for food and for blogging.

2. You’ve gotta love someone who cooks for the their pooches, especially when they are baking up a batch of Cheesy Chicken Rounds (I know my dog would love them!). With that said, I also would like to pass the award on to the Pet Foodie at Doggie Dessert Chef.

3. To the girls (Judy and Phyllis) at Baker Babes Bakery. They started baking when they were kids and haven’t stopped since then! They turned their love of baking into a business. So, you know where to get your goodies if you are in Cleveland, Ohio!

4. I love Julia’s Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body blog. The pictures are beautiful and she mixes some healthy dishes in with decadent delights. Besides, don’t we all feel like the name of her blog most days???

5. Laurel at Orange and Salt is fun, creative and has already hosted a cooking class (I am impressed!). Her pictures are beautiful and hey, she had me at her Orangettes (candied orange peels dipped in dark chocolate…oh, my goodness!).

6. I have to give one award to someone in my hometown of Philly. So, the next one goes to Lisa of Cocktails and Small Bites. I love that she concentrates on tapas, appetizers and small plates. Some evenings, that is all many of us want for dinner!

7. Scott of Fight The Fat Foodie has an awesome blog with all your favorite recipes slimmed down in fat and calories. He proves that you do not have to give up on flavor when you give up some of the less healthy ingredients. Keep those great dishes coming!

8. Devaki of Weave a Thousand Flavors has a beautiful blog with delightful dishes and really detailed pictures and instructions on how to create them at home. I love that she makes foods from all over the world. Some days you want French food and other days you want Asian! She is my kind of gal!

9. I sooo wish I lived where Pam of Sticks Forks Fingers lives! Pam writes about her awesome life in the countryside in Eugene, Oregon where she can purchase everything fresh and local (even the wine she drinks!). Her pictures are lovely too.

10. Just for Licks is a fun new blog. Every recipe starts with a rhyme. Now, personally, I would run out of things to rhyme with, but you go Sue! I think it’s great! Blueberry Brie Risotto…who woulda thunk it??

11. Chef Dennis of More Than A Mount Full deserves an award just for getting up in the morning! This guy feeds 560 girls at a high school in Pennsylvania. The best part is that he has also started a culinary program at the school and is teaching the girls how to cook. Now we are talking…bringing back Home Ec to our schools! You go Chef Dennis! 🙂

Okay, so I named 11 bloggers. I like odd numbers! Just kidding!

12. Mae from Peas Love Carrots has such a fun blog. I especially liked her LAMBington cakes! You can always count on something wonderful and unusual when you visit her blog. I know she has just been through a difficult time, so here’s to sending some sunshine your way!

Now, to the award winners, you too need to pass this on to your favorite bloggers! Here are the Rules:

1. Put the logo on your blog or within your post.
2. Pass the award on to 12 bloggers!
3. Link the nominees within your post.
4. Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.

There are so many incredible people out there blogging and I could name so many more of them. I hope you all continue to do what you do best which is cook, write, take your pictures and blog about it. We all enjoy reading your posts and getting to know you better!


Filed under Food Blogging, Sunshine Award

Sweet and Spicy Shrimp and My First Giveaway!

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a small company by the name of Country Bob’s. They wanted to know if I would be willing to give their All Purpose Sauces a try and let them know what I thought. Well, of course, we all like to get food goodies delivered to our door, so I said bring it on! Country Bob’s All Purpose Sauces arrived, as promised, in both the regular and spicy version.

This is a link to Country Bob’s website. Their products are sold in over 3000 stores in the United States, but honestly, I had never heard of them, so I was excited to give this stuff a try! I do know that they try to get the word out about their sauces by getting some bloggers to do posts. It is a great way to get noticed.

This is the information about their business and the All Purpose Sauce from their website:

In 1968 Country Bob perfected the sauce of his dreams. After years of giving the sauce to friends and family he began to sell it in 1977. The reaction was overwhelming just as it is today. Almost everyone who tries Country Bob’s All Purpose Sauce becomes a lifelong user. And why not, it is the perfect complement to practically any meal set on your table.

It was actually October of 1982 when Country Bob, Inc. became the company, which remains today. Bob Edson,Terry Edson, Al Malekovic and Reed Malekovic formed a corporation with equal ownership. Since that time Country Bob’s distribution has magnified regionally in all directions from our corporate office located in Centralia, Illinois. Even with the tremendous growth we have not forgotten where we came from, continuing in our relentless pursuit of product excellence.

Along with our All Purpose Sauce we have expanded our product line to include BBQ Sauce, Seasoning Salt and Spicy All Purpose Sauce.With our fully automated bottling line we also have the capability of producing Private Label products for stores or restaurants.

Well, of course, you know which sauce I tried first (the spicy one!) 😉 It was hot and spicy with a bit of sweetness, so my mind started racing, thinking…I decided that we could do better than just a little review. We could whip up a few pounds of shrimp with that sauce! We don’t mess around when it comes to food in this house! (I told you I started thinking…and we all know that can be dangerous!)

I wanted to create a shrimp dish with a little barbecue flavor…maybe served on rice…kind of creole style…I can tell you one thing, don’t ever let your man hear the word barbecue because after that, I had more hands than I could count in my kitchen tossing in everything but the actual physical bottle of Country Bob’s sauce! Before I knew it, after tasting the final marinade, I was in Thailand and not in Louisiana! So, we altered the plating and enjoyed a little Thai shrimp!

I have to say, this is one awesome shrimp dish! It is spicy hot with a bit of sweet and tangy twist to it! I couldn’t get enough of the sauce with the rice. It was also great as a sopping sauce with crusty french bread! It’s messy, but that’s half the fun of eating shrimp!

This would also be a fabulous appetizer. Serve the shrimp skewered (as we did in the photo at the top of the post) and your guests will love it! I like the fact that this is a versatile recipe. It just depends how many shrimp you want to eat….! We wanted to eat lots (because it was soooo good), therefore, appetizer portions were not on our menu! 😉

Sweet and Spicy Shrimp
Serves 8-10 as an appetizer
Serves 3-4 as an entree

2 pounds unpeeled, extra-large, fresh shrimp (We tried to find the ones with the heads on because they look so cool, but they were not available. If you do use them, you will need about 3 lbs. of shrimp.)

For marinade:
1/3 cup olive oil
1 lemon, sliced
1/2 cup Country Bob’s Spicy All Purpose Sauce
1/4 cup Thai Chili Sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon Creole seasoning
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon red pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

Mix all ingredients. Add shrimp and toss thoroughly with the marinade. Place in a non-reactive, covered dish and allow to marinate for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator. Periodically turn the shrimp over to marinate evenly.

To a large skillet add:
1 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup Country Bob’s Spicy All Purpose Sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon Creole seasoning

Garnish for finished dish – lemon slices and chopped parsley (*or cilantro)

Melt butter over medium low heat and add remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer. Add marinated shrimp and raise heat to medium high. Stir to fully cover shrimp. (The higher heat is required to compensate for the cold shrimp when placed in the skillet.) Cook 2-3 minutes then turn shrimp to cook other side and cook another 2-3 minutes. Turn heat down to medium low. Shrimp should be fully cooked in a total time of 5-6 minutes (depending on the size of your shrimp). Check often so as not to over cook.

* Since I was originally thinking Louisiana barbecued shrimp, I had lemon and parsley to serve with the dish. With the Thai flavors, I think a little squeeze of fresh lime juice would be nice at the end along with some cilantro to garnish the dish.

We also had a taste test with the regular All Purpose Sauce and tried it on grilled steaks. I would prefer to use a little of the sauce in ground meat and then cook it. I am sure mixing the meat with the sauce would give burgers (beef or turkey) an awesome flavor! These sauces have so much character, I like the idea of using them in dishes, rather than on top of them.

So, now that you have some idea what to do with this sauce, how would you like to have 2 bottles of Country Bob’s show up at your door in a little food goodie box??? Thanks to Al at Country Bob’s, we are giving away 2 sets of 2 bottles each of their All Purpose Sauce (one regular and one spicy).

The question is – How can I enter to win the sauces???

This is how you do it:

Leave a comment on this post telling me what you might cook with Country Bob’s All Purpose Sauce. Be sure to have your name/blog somewhere on the comment that I can contact you if you are a winner.

Extra Entries:

Here are four additional ways that you can enter.

1. Follow @bunkycooks on Twitter. Leave a comment here indicating that you are now a follower. If you are already a follower, you can leave a comment saying you are.

2. Tweet about this giveaway. Leave a comment here with a link to your tweet.

3. Become a fan of Bunkycooks on Facebook. Leave a comment here indicating you are now a fan. If you are already a fan, you can leave a comment saying you are.

4. Subscribe to Bunkycooks by RSS feed or email. Leave a comment saying you are now a subscriber. If you are already a subscriber, you can leave a comment saying you are.

You have to play to win (and you can play one time or five times!) The more times you leave a comment, the more chances you have to win! I will be using (or my dog) to pick a winner (just kidding about the dog)! 😉 The contest is only open to those of you in the US or Canada (I know, I know…bummer!)

This giveaway ends at 5 pm EST on Friday, March 19th.

Country Bob’s will be mailing the sauces direct to the winners, so I will need to hear back from the winners within 48 hours after notification to get your shipping info, otherwise, will choose another winner.


Sweet and Spicy Thai Shrimp on Foodista


Filed under Country Bob's, Entrees, Recipes, Rice, Shrimp, Thai

The Last Update for Ten in 2010

This is my weekly update for Ten in 2010. This is a challenge with other food bloggers to get healthy in the first ten weeks of the New Year.

This is the last time that I will be writing about Ten in 2010 because ten weeks have come and gone. I have to say that I have not had a very successful time with this. It is not a good thing when you are on a “diet” and the little number on the scale goes in the wrong direction some weeks!

I know the cold and miserable weather and all my cooking and baking have not helped in this effort to eat better and exercise more. I also seem to have some excuse almost nightly for drinking wine and eating foods that are not particularly healthy.

I have promised myself to make changes and I want to be able to do that for myself as well as for my hubby’s health. We both need to alter our eating habits and get moving. I do think that by having to write about it every week I have at least been more aware of what I was doing. I just haven’t made all the changes necessary.

I am hoping that Springtime is in our future. I also am counting on the arrival of Daylight Savings Time tomorrow to inspire me to lighten up our meals as the evenings are lighter longer and we start to move more of the cooking outdoors.

I hope that anyone that has been on this ten week rocky road with me has had more success than I have. To everyone else that struggles with weight issues and exercise – good luck to you as you go forward.

I do know that getting the cute jeans to fit is always important, but wearing a bathing suit is a whole other issue! That thought is soooo scary, maybe that is all I need to turn it all around! 😉

Leave a comment

Filed under Ten in 2010

On the Road to Better Photos – What’s happened to my house???

I feel like I am at the Food Network studios!

I thought I would write a post on something a little different today. I was working on a few dishes when I got a bit sidetracked preparing for The Great American Baking Contest, which takes place this evening. My Oh My Ganache! cupcakes are a finalist, so I needed to pay attention to them. I decided I better bake a test batch of my cupcakes last evening since the weather is so rainy and nasty. It is still rainy and nasty, so a test run was a good thing. I did not want any surprises when baking for the event (like molten cupcakes), so what the heck, bake and eat more chocolate cupcakes! Just what we need! 😉

Anyway, since my cupcakes took priority, I decided to do a post about my new life living with camera equipment all over my house rather than a cooking post! I must say that I had no idea what I was getting into as far as food photography when I decided to start a food blog! I thought I would do what I love to do (which is cook), take a few pics, write about it and create a blog post. Well, I soon learned that a rather large part of food blogging has to do with the pretty pictures and not always to do with what’s cooking in your kitchen!

We all love to look at the beautiful photography, and in reality, many people may never cook or bake what most food bloggers are blogging about! The photos are what catch your eye first. Once I realized that, I knew that I needed to put more effort into the pictures of my food. You want someone to love the dish they found on your blog, maybe even prepare the recipe and then come back time and time again. Unfortunately, if your food is not appetizing in appearance, you may never have someone try that recipe or pop in to check out your blog again. It is all about first impressions.

Lucky, for me, my sweet and beyond patient husband (yes, I am sucking up!) owns a nice DSLR camera (Canon 40D) and knows how to use it. However, he shoots mostly landscapes and portrait work, so this food thing was a challenge, even for him! He had some camera and photography accessories (tripod, extra flashes, light meter, spyderlite), but we had to add reflectors and some smaller lights to use in small spaces and in the kitchen. Unfortunately, I started this blog in the Winter (when it couldn’t be any darker and impossible to photograph food)!) and, of course, I generally take pics during cooking and right before dinner. Our lighting situation was miserable, so we added some lights to brighten things up a bit! We now have several different types of light sources for different places where we might want to take pictures. (My hubby had the spyderlite for portrait work in the basement, now it’s in my kitchen!). Yikes! This stuff is taking over my house!

I started out using a Sony point and shoot, while my husband used the Canon. I am now learning how to operate the DSLR. It did not seem to matter what camera we used, before we added the lighting component, we still had awful pictures! There is no comparison in the photos, as shown below (before and after additional lighting).

This was so bad, I did not even do the post!

Isn't this more appealing than the dish above?

As we have quickly discovered (and as some food photo sites will let you know 😉 ) it is mostly about getting the white balance correct. It is amazing what the difference is when you get the white balance where it needs to be! For us, part of that was in correcting the lighting situation.

Not a contender!

This picture was on Tastespotting, Foodgawker and Foodbuzz Top 9!

As you will see in the photos, my home is overrun with studio like equipment now! It gets frustrating some days, but when you get a shot like this below, it is worth all the mess! I just have to keep reminding my husband of this! 😉

This was fun!

By the way, the photos of the lighting and camera set-ups were taken with a Sony point and shoot (and they were not too bad).

Kitchen under seige!

We use this gold reflector to add some warmer tones to pictures.

Preparing food with reflectors in my face!

The best lighting is obviously daylight when you can put your food by a window or go outside, but when you cook mostly in the evenings, it is necessary to have a little help. Maybe not this much, but at least our photos should be getting better going forward (if we can survive the invasion!).

Note – in response to a few comments (below), you can purchase the lights we have on the counter in the kitchen complete with photo bulbs for $130 and a complete set of reflectors (5 disc colors) for $35 on Amazon.


Filed under Food Blogging, Photography