Mini Chocolate Bundt Cakes

Not all food photo shoots go as planned. If the food isn't right, the shoot isn't going to be right either. It's important to buy more food than you think you'll need, because sometimes you have to start again... and again... and again...

This shoot was not a success at first. It took four "do-overs" for me to get the bundt cakes out of the pan in one piece. On the fourth attempt, as I slowly turned the cooled pan upside down and felt the mini cakes detach in one piece, I literally did a happy dance in my kitchen. I knew that I had personally learned two big secrets for baking success: Patience and lots of butter.

I cook more often than I bake, so sometimes I try to break the rules with baking like I do in cooking. For example, sometimes I don't let things cool as long as the recipe says. Or, I don't use the exact amounts of the "good stuff" in an attempt to be more healthy. My advice is don't do that.

If you're baking, follow the recipe exactly because baking is not the same as cooking. If the recipe says to let it cool for 30 minutes, let it cool for 30 minutes (not 20 minutes because you're too excited to wait). If it says to coat the pan with butter, coat the pan with butter (don't use olive oil). There's a structured recipe for a reason and now I know why... because it works. And, it was so delicious!

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Photography Tip:

When you're shooting by yourself and want to play with some movement shots (like the falling powdered sugar), I recommend investing in a remote control shutter release or try using the self timer setting on your camera. This will allow you to step away from your camera and be a part of the scene.

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Enjoy and have a great weekend!
xo

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The Lobster Roll

One of my favorite memories with my Dad is when he'd take my Mom, brother and I out on our pontoon. We'd gather a cooler full of drinks and order cheese curds and shrimp cocktail from Fisherman's Inn to bring out on the boat with us. We'd pull up to the long dock and one of us would run up to grab our food. We'd spend the day on the water eating, reading, swimming or basking in the sun. Pontoon days were always good days.

Father's Day is a bitter sweet time for me. My Dad passed away from congestive heart failure several years ago and although I think about him daily, I'm especially reminded of him when everywhere I go there are "Father's Day Deals." My Dad didn't really believe in Father's Day... or his birthday for that matter. He didn't like to be in the spotlight even though he was constantly admired and looked up to by so many people. He was a radio sports broadcaster, a painter, a photographer, a worldly traveler, a seafood lover and one of the smartest and silliest guys I knew. And, even though he didn't want any gifts on Father's Day, my brother and I would buy a couple packs of gummy bears (his favorite) and leave them in his car for him to find later. He loved that. If he were around today, I would baffle his mind by making a fabulous seafood dinner for him. 

I was at the market recently and saw a deal on lobster tails. I was reminded of the first time I tried lobster tails as a kid. My Dad told me that it was just a much larger shrimp. He knew that if he made a connection with shrimp, I would be braver than usual and "try something new." I tried it and loved it and I'm pretty sure that's when my obsession with seafood began.

After bringing the lobster tails home for Mike and I to enjoy together, I decided I would make lobster rolls. I usually trust the experts on this one, but I was inspired to do it myself. I found the recipe on The Food Network and honestly, I was surprised at how fun it was to prepare. They were sooooo good too. 

One recommendation I learned from Lobstergram.com is to parboil the lobster tails before you put them on the grill. This will ensure some really delicious lobster meat. I also added a sprinkle of Old Bay on top of the lobster rolls just before eating it, because as my Dad used to say to me, "Where there's seafood, there's always Old Bay." 

So, cheers to my Dad and to all the Dad's out there who got their kids to try something new. Have a great weekend!

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Photography Tip:

Whenever I find myself in a creative rut with shooting a recipe, I simplify my shoot by shooting the raw ingredients on their own. It frees my mind from thinking about the recipe and the cooking and helps me focus on one thing; the photography. It allows me take the time to really look at the details that are going to bring the recipe to life. 

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Pesto Pasta Salad with Tomatoes and Mozzarella

I read a post called "Never Give Up: Questions to Ask When Everything Isn't Ok" over on the Wit & Delight blog recently and had to share it with you. It's a series of questions that may seem simple in the moment of reading them, but are honestly a great reminder that when things feel off, we need to stop for a moment and take care of ourselves. Are you hydrated? Drink a glass of water. Have you stretched your legs in the last day? If not, do so right now. I know it may sound silly simple, but it's easy to overlook these things that ultimately help us find balance again. When you're overwhelmed or your mood is off, it's not because you should give up or quit... it might be because you need to take a nap. 

Before I found the article, I was venting to my Mom about feeling overwhelmed with having to cook AND style AND photograph the recipes for my blog one week. Although these are all things I love to do, sometimes I don't feel like I have enough time to do it all. My favorite part of the process is the photography, and yet, I was feeling like I was spending way too much time in the kitchen. 

My Mom said, "Go take a quick nap. Then, research easier recipes for a while, so you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time behind the camera." Sounds so simple, right? Why didn't I think of that? 

After a 20 minute cat nap, I started researching simpler recipes and found this Pesto Pasta Salad by Cooking Light. I felt better. I felt motivated and energized again. The only cooking time is waiting for the water to boil and the rest can be prepared in a matter of a few minutes. And, before I knew it, I was back in my happy place again... taking pictures.

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Photography tip:

Camera shake is a common problem. We've all been there. You think you have a great image and then you open it up on your computer and... it's blurry. It can be discouraging. Here's how I avoid camera shake. 

I don't let my shutter speed go lower than 1/100 of a second when I'm holding my camera. If I need to go lower, I use a tripod. 

Speaking of which, Mike got me this Oben Tripod for Christmas and it's amazing. Not only is it incredibly solid and stable, it packs up like a small lunch box, so it's great for travel. 

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How do you remind yourself to slow down for a minute and take care of yourself? Check out the article on Wit & Delight and keep the list nearby... we can all benefit from these little reminders when things start to feel off. 

Thanks for the inspiration, Wit & Delight! 

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Tomatillo Gazpacho

I wasn't much of a gardener until I met Mike. When we were renting apartments in the city, although our space was limited, he always made a point to plant herbs and veggies where he could find the space. I was always so impressed with how well he knew his way around a kitchen and how much he knew about planting and growing our own food. Needless to say, my life has changed quite a bit since meeting him. My personal and professional life is now centered around food and Mike is a big part of that.

This year we decided to add tomatillos to our garden list. I'm very excited about this because Mike makes an incredible tomatillo salsa and I recently discovered this super easy Tomatillo Gazpacho recipe. I grabbed a bunch of tomatillos from the market since our garden is still in the early stages of growth and I was excited about how quickly this recipe comes together. Gazpacho is such a great summer soup because it's served chilled and tastes like a fresh garden.

Last year, I made Spicy Gazpacho with Shrimp and Avocado. I love the flavors of this one, but it can be a bit more time consuming to prepare. The Tomatillo Gazpacho recipe comes together in about 15 minutes. It's nice to have a couple of go-to recipes depending on how much time I have. Both are delicious.

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Photography tip:

For the ever-so-popular overhead shots in photography, I usually use a smaller (larger f-stop) aperture. This helps keep everything on the table sharp and in focus so those delicious details are nice and crisp. I tend to use f9 or higher for overhead shots when I want everything in focus.

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I cannot wait to see how we do with the tomatillos this year. There is something so rewarding about needing ingredients for a recipe and being able to walk out in to the garden to get them. It makes the effort of starting and maintaining a garden totally worth it. And, being able to share this with my hubberino makes it one of my favorite things about summer.

Do you have a garden? What are some of your favorite things to grow?

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All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Greek Yogurt with Blueberry and Blackberry Sauce

Our blender broke. It just wouldn't start one morning. It was a wedding gift, which was over five years ago now, but I have no idea what happened. I had all of my smoothie goodies piled in and all the flavors were ready to get mixed together into my delicious morning drink and... nothing. Secretly, I was thrilled and I'll tell you why in a bit. 

Thanks to Cooking Light, I found this awesome recipe for Greek Yogurt with Blueberry and Blackberry Sauce. Honestly, I'm not much of a yogurt person because dairy can be trickier for me at times, but... sometimes you need to step outside your comfort zone when your kitchen hands you a broken blender.

In the midst of shopping for the ingredients, I happened to discover So Delicious Dairy Free Yogurt. I didn't even know this existed! So, I picked up a couple of containers of their plain, dairy-free yogurt along with the other few ingredients that I needed and headed home to make this easy, tasty and really pretty recipe! The colors and swirls made me want to shoot this immediately.

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Photography tip:

When you're composing a shot, think about what you want people to see first.

To enhance your focal point and achieve that "dreamy background" (also known as shallow depth of field), use a wider aperture. Aperture is the size of the opening of the lens and it's measured in f-stops. Depending on your lens, it can range from f1.4 to f22.

The "backwards" thing about aperture is the smaller the number, the wider the hole in the lens. So, f1.4 is actually the widest aperture and f22 is the smallest. If you're not comfortable in Manual Mode, play around with Aperture Mode to get the hang of it. Your camera will adjust the shutter speed for you and you can adjust the aperture to see the different effects that it will give your images. 

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So, why was I thrilled that my blender broke? Well, Mike has been eyeing a Vitamix at Costco for a while. Every time we go, he will make a point to say, "we should just get one." But, since we already had a perfectly good blender, I couldn't justify making the purchase... until now. I know I'm a little late to the party on this one, but better late than never, right?

Do you own a Vitamix? Which kind should I get? 

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All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.