Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Winner with a Side of Egg-Free Meatballs

Let's get to it! Marisa...Ohhhhhhh SNAP! YOU ARE THE WINNER, of the Foodie House "Name My Camera" Contest! Yay! I loved the name "Snaps". It's spunky and fun, just like my girl...well, Snaps! Marisa, email me and let me know when you would like to post your guest post. Can't wait to hear what it is! Check Marisa out at her blog, Cook's Book.

Thank you everyone for your ideas. Honestly, it was really hard picking the name. I liked so many of them! I had a lot of fun. I hope you had a good time too. I'll be having another contest soon...and it will have a tangible prize next time.


I love meatballs. I love them with all different types of meat or poultry. I loved them before they were trendy and before they had resturants dedicated to their meaty meatballness. They are a perfect platform, nay, a canvas for the culinary paintbrush! (I'm pretty sure Shakespeare loved meatballs.)

Well, I've mentioned before, my youngest son has an egg allergy, so that has forced me to take some of my favorite recipes and transform them into egg-free delights. So far it's been working out pretty well, thanks to a nifty little idea I found online: flax seed. I talked about this in the Blueberry Pancake post, where it worked out beautifully. It was my first run with it and I had very low expectations. I was happily surprised by the outcome! No one seemed to miss the eggs and my Tiny could eat all he wanted. So why not apply the same idea to meatballs?

Meatballs need egg, or some sort of binder. So I put the flax seed concoction into effect. I made my traditional meatballs and swapped the egg for the gooey flax seed. Let me tell you, they turned out fabulous!

There's cute lil' Bob again.

The Goo

Not only is the flax seed so healthy, it's a great binder. The sticky consistency of it made the meatballs hold together perfectly. If you are looking to find a lower fat/cholesterol meatball recipe, you could use this and substitute the beef and pork for turkey. And if your looking to pay for some singing lessons, these could also come in handy.

If you have a hankerin' for some meatballs and want to see me teach you how, you can watch my "Mama's Meatballs" video (click here) and use your imagination that I am putting in flax seed substitute instead of egg.

Egg-Free Mama's Meatballs

prep time:20 min
cook time:45 min

1 lb. ground pork

1 lb. gr. beef (85/15)

1 c. breadcrumbs

1/2 large onion, finely chopped

1 tbls. fresh basil, minced

1 tbls. fresh parsley, minced

2 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced

2 tbls. ground flax seed combined with 1/2 cup hot water

1/4 c. milk

1/2 c. Parmesan cheese

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

2 tbls. olive oil

3 24 oz. jars of your favorite marinara (I use Bertolli Organic Tomato Basil) and yes, I cheat.

Combine all ingredients using your hands. It's truly the best way to incorporate all the flavors.

Roll out the meatballs into golf ball-sized portions. It makes approx. 28. I freeze half if I am cooking just for my family. I count 3 meatballs as one serving. When I use only half of the meatballs, I use only 2 jars of sauce.

Pour your marinara sauce into a pot and start warming it over medium heat.

Get a heavy saute pan nice and hot over med-high heat. Add your olive oil and start searing your meatballs. Set them in, leave them alone! Don't touch! The goal is to get caramelization on the outside of the meatballs so they are flavorful and juicy. Also, do not over-crowd your pan. This will cause the meatballs to steam and become dry.

Sear on each side then take the meatballs directly from the saute pan to the marinara sauce. They meatballs do not need to be cooked through. We are only searing them then cooking the rest of the way in the marinara. This makes for a very moist meatball.

A totally optional step is to pour the grease from your meatball pan into the sauce. If you are concerned about the fat, by all means, skip this part. I do it for the flavor. It's fantastic!

Put a lid on it, slightly ajar and let them simmer for a good 30 minutes.

And just because it's so good to dip in the sauce, like any good Italian girl would...some garlic bread. Takes 10 minutes, is all fresh and so tasty.

Garlic Bread

6 slices Italian or French bread
2 tbls. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced and smashed into a paste with a pinch of salt
2 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced
salt and pepper

Get your broiler on. Mix up all the ingredients, except for the bread, of course. Brush it onto the bread, toast under the broiler and mangia!

Love ya, Food-sters!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Just For The Halibut: Alaska Seafood Post!

When I got the email from Foodbuzz that they had accepted my proposal for the Alaska Seafood challenge, I was so excited. It had been one of those really dumb days when I was crabby, the kids were crabby, constipated, teething and tantrum-y. That email just turned the day around...well, at least for me.

One night, before slipping into a restless night's sleep, I envisioned how I would prepare a slab of halibut. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever cooked halibut. I didn't want to use salmon, for the mere reason I wanted to use something different. Crab legs, although delicious, scared me. So halibut it was! I wrote out my special dinner, composing it of what I would like to see on a menu in a restaurant and pressed "send". I then laid awake for three hours obsessing over the fact that I forgot to save my proposal. I actually tried to write it down in the dark with a sharpie and on what I hoped wasn't-something-important-scrap-of-paper. Not surprising, I could barely read it the next morning. Thank God, they sent me a copy of it in the acceptance email. Phew.

The halibut arrived in a timely manner on my front doorstep. Three pounds of halibut, what a treat! The pieces were ginormous! Everything was perfectly frozen, thanks to the dry ice and well-thought out packing. There was tons of literature that I found very useful in preparing me for the commencement of the halibut cookery. (Cookery, now that's a great word. I'll add that to my list of new favorite words.) Here's the dish:

Herb Rubbed Halibut
Roasted Asparagus,
Surrounded by a Classic Beurre Blanc with Tiny Tomatoes and Fresh Basil
Topped with Crispy Fried Shallots

Aren't I fancy? It's ridiculous, really. Normally I find long-winded menu items pretentious, but since I was flowing with the creative juices, I just went for it and I guess it worked. With proposal accepted and the halibut resting peacefully in my freezer, I started to shake in my boots...a little. I've made all these things in some form or another, over the years, but never together and never with 3 small children around my legs. So I called in the troops...or troop, rather.

My neighbor Teri came over to watch the kids so I could prep and set up shop, as it were, for photography and cooking. Such a relief. I paid her with a halibut meal. To bad you can't pay bills that way.

I waited until last night to prepare this momentous meal and good thing too. The two previous nights were filled with robust thunderstorms and irritating power outages. Last night was perfectly lit and wondrously clear. Yay.

I started by making my herb rub for the fish. It's as follows:

Herb Rub

1 clove garlic, smashed and minced
zest of one lemon
1 tsp. fresh thyme, minced
2-3 tbls. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Mix and set aside.

Roasted Asparagus

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Trim 1 pound of fresh asparagus and placed it on a half-sheet pan. Drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper. Set aside. Roast the asparagus when you put the halibut into the oven.

The Halibut

Okay are you ready for this? DON'T DEFROST IT. You heard me. COOK IT FROZEN! It's a super cool way of cooking your fish to perfection without having to thaw it. And if you're a hair-brained mommy like me, then many days you find yourself standing in the middle of your kitchen, ready to make meatballs and alas, no defrosted meat, because you're hair-brained and you forgot. Now what? C.I.F, of course...the fish, not the meatballs.

Take your your lovely pieces of frozen halibut. (Remember to have your oven preheated to 400 degrees.) Cut open the pouches and rinse the ice glaze off the fish. Pat dry and liberally rub on olive oil to both sides. Sear on one side for 3-4 minutes in a very hot pan that is oven safe, flip, THEN brush on your herb rub. It's sorta backwards (to the traditional way of seasoning and searing), but according to C.I.F doing it this way gets the seasoning into the fish better. So that's what I did. It worked beautifully. I also made sure I seasoned with salt and pepper in addition to the herb rub, because this was a big, honking piece of fish. 

After I flipped it and added my rub, I popped it into the oven for 15-20 minutes. Check it after 15 min. Look to see that the flesh is opaque when you test it with a fork. When it's opaque its done.

Classic Beurre Blanc with Tiny Tomatoes and Fresh Basil

When I was thinking up the sauce, I thought summer ingredients. I mean, nothing says "summer" like tomatoes and basil. It also supports my culinary point of view, that being of the Italian persuasion. (Hmmm...sounds like something I would say if I were on Next Food Network Star, standing in front of Tuschman, Fogelson and Flay. How ridiculous! I would never waste my time thinking of such things. *Awkward cough.*) 

In reality, (not that reality) I really was thinking summer ingredients and also a way to cut the heaviness of the beurre blanc. As you will see, it's simply loaded with butter. It's so rich, it needed fresh elements to pop in your mouth and bring a bit of acidity. So the tomatoes and basil bring the freshness it needs.

2 shallots, finely minced
1/4 c. white wine (dry is best, I used a BV Chardonnay)
3 tbls. vinegar (I used plain white vinegar, but you can use white wine vinegar or red, but it will make the sauce a pinkish color)
scant 1/4c. water (or you can use cream, but you don't need it. It aids in emulsifying the sauce, but you can easily do this without it.)
1/2 lb of butter (2 sticks), cut into 1" cubes
2 good handfuls of tiny cherry or pear tomatoes
10-12 leaves of basil, cut into very thin strips but only right before serving. It turns brown.

Combine the wine, vinegar and shallots together in a heavy saucepan. Let them cook down until the liquid is nearly gone, like 90%. Turn down the heat to low. Then add your water or cream and start whisking in your butter, one cube at at time. You don't have to be scared of adding the butter too fast. This is not what "breaks" your sauce. What will break it, is if the heat gets too high. It will separate. If this happens whisk in some reduced cream. But you can save it only once. Pretty much, you can by-pass all of that if you just keep the heat on low. Whisk in all the butter then turn off the heat. I added the tiny tomatoes whole and just to warm them. Not to cook them. Keep it on the stove to stay warm or in a double boiler. It really isn't that hard. I just make it sound that way.

See that clumpy thing hanging down under the bowl, right there? Yeah, that's my clubby, shallot ring finger. You're not dredging right, unless your fingers look like mini clubs when your done.

Crispy Fried Shallots

Meanwhile get to work on your baby onion rings. Seriously, these are so cute.

In a small heavy saucepan, bring 2 cups of canola oil up to temperature, about 325-350 degrees. While it's heating, slice your shallots into 1/8" to 1/4" rings. Depending on size, I would say 2-3 large shallots.

For the dredge:

1 cup buttermilk, or 1 cup milk with 2 tbls. vinegar
1 cup rice flour seasoned with salt and pepper

So easy, a cave girl could do it. Dip the rings into the buttermilk then into the flour mixture and straight into the hot oil. These cook up so fast! I'm talking a minute. So keep your eye on them. Sweet delish little rings of onion joy. Salt right as they come out of the oil. Do this right before you plate.

Your fish has most likely finished cooking by now and it ready to be plated. If you want to be fancy, do it this way: asparagus down, slightly fanned out; nice chunk of halibut on top; spoon a generous amount of beurre blanc around  the asparagus, so it looks like it's taking a nice bath in the buttery sauce (make sure to get some of those tomatoes on there too); top with the crispy shallot rings and garnish with angel-hair thin strips of basil. Voila.

Or, you can eat it like I did: Wad of fish, some sauce and a handful of shallot rings that I crammed in my face, while holding my overly tired, screaming 13 month old baby boy. Classy.

I've gotta say, I ended up being pleased with this dish. Everything came together, regardless of my slightly frazzled state. I especially enjoyed the crunchy shallots with the meaty texture of the halibut. And of course, how can you go wrong with a buttery sauce and asparagus? The basil was the number one flavor that brought the whole dish together. It was bright, fresh and accented each layer of the dish. I suggest getting a bite with everything: crunchy, buttery, sweet, salty, soft, meaty and...okay, I need to stop. Wait for it. Top Chef is calling, yup, they need a new judge.

The halibut was fresh and the texture was great. As far as the C.I.F., it's a fabulous idea and best of all it works! Alaska Seafood supports sustainable fishing too! Click here to see their site. Thank you to Alaska Seafood marketing board and thank you Foodbuzz.com for choosing me to do this post and sending me such a wonderful product! I had a blast and everyone enjoyed the fish.

So there you have it my dears. I hope you've enjoyed this. It's a great meal for sharing with friends that rescue you (like Teri) and your family, who cheers you on. Nothing like hearing my kids say, "Yay, Mommy! You did it!" Like I had just gone to the potty for the first time. These are the people I love to cook for.

If you feel so inclined, please vote for me on foodbuzz.com. "Buzz" me where you see my post. I'd so appreciate it. I could win a trip to the Foodbuzz Festival in San Francisco in November! Lord knows, Mama needs a little break.

Cheers, Foodie Friends!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sequel: Here's Your Top Food Blogging Tips!

The advice is in. TONS of it! What a wonderful response you all had to the Top Ten post! Definitely a Foodie House record. Thank you to everyone who shared their ideas and hearts on the subject we all love: Food Blogging. I am so excited to present to you a new, beefier version of my somewhat anemic top ten. Way to go Foodie Friends!

*Just a note on the links: For whatever reason, Blogger is annoying and only sometimes highlights a linked word. So you know, everyone mentioned below is linked to their blog, regardless of whether it's highlighted or not.*

Why there is garlic next to the coffee filters? I will never know.

Suggestions for Best Lenses for Food Photography:

Ben said...
On Nikon, I would get the 50 mm f/1.8, because it's cheaper and slightly sharper than the f/1.4. Might not be the case with Canon, since people are recommending 1.4. However, it's important to note that the differences on both cameras is likely very subtle.

I also really love the Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 macro (which Nikon calls "micro"). I would definitely check out the Canon equivalent.
Chef Dennis said...
As for a lens I shoot with a normal lens, and I think the big difference will be using a macro lens, I do think that is a must, I am saving for a good macro lens now. Also stay with the same brand lens as camera you purchase, off brand lenses are ok, but I think for close ups with food you need a quality lens. Also research the lenses when you get close to purchase, some are made with plastic parts which aren't always bad but something to consider.

Lisa said...
The 1.4/50mm is a great lens, as we discussed. And I highly recommend it. Its great in low light. Thats the only lens I use (= Originally I bought it to take photos of my son bc it doesn't require flash (flash being bad for babies eyes).

Flashes and Lighting
For photography in a dark kitchen, which many of us have problems with, here's a great post and product that Bridget at Bake at 350 shared not to long ago on her blog. http://bakeat350.blogspot.com/2010/08/taking-food-pictures-at-night-works-for.html. I thought this light was genius!
Amiee said...
Thanks for this great article. I just want to point out (because I see people writing it everywhere) that a flash can be a good thing, if you invest in a high quality one. I have a fairly dark kitchen, and would never use my on-camera flash for light, so I'd be left with these low-lit dim images of food, which really looked washed out and lacked vibrancy.

I followed some wonderful advice from Deb at smittenkitchen.com (great photos), and bought the flash she recommended, which makes everything look like it was taken in natural light. I'm still practicing with it, but let me tell you...my photos have improved a lot. My website is www.winekitchens.com.

Just wanted to share this piece of wisdom... Not all flashes are created equal.

Bec said...
Really great and helpful post. I've been getting the hang of food photography myself over the last year, and love the 1.4/50mm lens. It's great for portraits, too, for when you take the camera out of the kitchen! I know everyone feels differently about using a flash, but the Canon speedlight is awesome, if you're willing to make the investment (and you end up taking most of your photos at night). Thanks for the helpful tips!

Business Cards
I got a huge response to the business card idea. I told the hubs and he was quite pleased with himself...ugh. I hate it when he's right. Anyways, here's some really great suggestions, and cheap I might add too, on getting some business cards.
Lisa said...
With regards to the business cards...did you know that in the Foodbuzz resource center you can get free ones? Called Moo Cards. Not as cool as yours but you can get them. The Foodbuzz resource center has a ton of helpful tips. Take a look.

Debbie said...
I have been caught a few times handing out torn pieces of paper as well. I know you can get close to free ones on vistaprint.com which I think I will go do now!

Koci said...
I'm so glad that I subscribed to the comments on this post! I took Debbie's (and your) tip on business cards and put some together over on vistaprint.com. They're on their way and I'm thrilled. :D

Photography at 6 a.m. in a badly lit pantry is no fun for anyone...well, actually it kinda is.

Cameras: Point and Shoot or DSLR?
Baking Barrister said...
Also, if you can't invest in a really nice DSLR, learn to use your point and shoot! They all pretty much have a manual mode that allows you to play with aperture, lighting, white balance, etc. If you have lighting issues, build a light box. There are some very cheap options to improve photos.
Jacob said...
And unfortunately for our little world of food blogging, pictures are paramount. A DSLR will certainly hedge your bet toward producing fabulous photos, but they are certainly not a prerequisite. Some of my favorite bloggers, who have what I consider to be some of the greatest pictures use point and shoots just like me, and some who have professional cameras produce lack luster photography. It is still all about the time and energy you are willing to invest in learning how to use the camera that you do have, and finding a post editing software that you can use effectively. If there is a blog that you find especially inspiring, drop the author a line and ask them for advice. I have found that most all of the foodie bloggers out there are tremendously supportive and gracious to us newbies.

Postings: How Often?
Jacob said...
I used to feel a strong pressure to post every single day, and I did for several months. But I am realizing that it is ok to give myself a break now and then, when I am otherwise too busy with work to devote much attention to it. Post only your best stuff (which isn't to say that you can't/shouldn't post about your kitchen failures as much as your triumphs... we have all been there, and it makes us human. In fact, I find, like Julia Child's old cooking shows, making mistakes is often even more inspirational... it makes us feel like, hey even I can do that.)
Carolyn said...
I don't have time to post more than 2-3 times a week, and I just have to hope that the people who like my blog don't mind!

Pam said...
I love that for every rule there's the exception. My favorite blogs, Lottie + Doof and 101 Cookbooks, each post maybe once a week. Sometimes less.

Baking Barrister said...
I think that as time goes on, you can slow your posting down. First build up a small archive and then get into a regular posting schedule. I currently post every 3-4 days because not everything I make is particularly exciting and sometimes I just don't have any interesting stories or tidbits to share with my reader. I find stories about the food or the blogger really make me want to come back--it's that glimpse into someone's kitchen that makes it fun. So if I'm not amusing, I won't post.

Photographing: Time Crunch 

For moms, food blogging and photo sessions can be especially difficult. A couple of you voiced your frustration with being able to get some good shots while you've got the kids and hubs ready to eat. I know the feeling, this was my suggestion:
I would have to say on photographing in a time crunch with hungry kids, is to have your set up (mine being foam core board "studio" set up on a table by the window, as well as your camera and tripod) ready before you cook, so as soon as it is done and right before you serve it, you can just plop it down and shoot. Also, I'll reserve some food to give to the toddlers to keep them happy. Somedays, I feel as though I work at the city zoo at feeding time, rather than at home. And the hubs...well, he just has to wait. And he's never too happy about it either, but I remind him that I'm a blogging star in the making and that usually buys me a couple more shots.

Other Avenues For Getting Your Blog Out There/ Resources
Lisa said...
There are sites called pro-blogger and other sites that help with blogging tips. ( I have to visit myself to get some tips too).

I read a lot of mommy blogs and they have really, I mean really good advice. And there are plenty of resources that you can read up on. You just have to find the ones that you like. Merely asking people for advice does nothing. Research is key...check out Serious Eats, not just to put photos on Photograzing but for the resources.

Also "like" your favorite chefs, bloggers etc on your facebook page so you can get idea's and learn from them. Observation and reading is so important. If you look at my progression, wow you can definitely tell that I have learned throughout my blogging. From photos to even writing.
Baking Barrister said...
My #1 bit of advice is TWITTER. I resisted so hard but got one for the blog. It is a great way to interact with readers and other bloggers, find new blogs, get input, etc. It's really improved my readership. Just uh, keep in mind that it's for your blog, not your friends who understand that warped sense of humor...heh.
Kate said...
I thought of one more thing... learn to use Stumbleupon. Add their toolbar so you can stumble your own posts and others you like. Every once in a while I'll actually get a hit on my blog from a stumbler. Thanks to Kathy for starting me on the stumble path :-)

Sara said...
The one tip that I would add to the list would be to strive toward building a community. Inviting comments, starting a newsletter signup, Facebook group, events, etc. The blogs that last are the blogs that have a family :)
Well said
Pam said...
Content creators... That's the term I'm learning to adopt to loosely define bloggers. We get to say what content we publish!!! Yeah!! Well written, poorly written, gorgeous photos, crummy photos, controversial or sweet, it's all mine to say!!! Hurray!

Nobody likes being told "no".

Photo Rejection:
Koci said...
After that, I'd say just be yourself and don't take yourself too seriously. Some of my favorite photos have been mercilessly rejected from food sites, citing the dreaded "composition". Like I learned through years of AP English classes, judging a creative work is highly subjective. Just write about all the silly stuff that you don't think anybody cares about, because that's what people actually find incredibly interesting.

We All Agree, Keep It Light and Relax!
Lisa said...
I'm a mom first, blogging for me is a creative outlet. To fill in the time when I'm not spending it with my son. Food blogging....everything has already been done in my opinion. Its the visuals first then the content. Unless you're some super chef coming up with new recipes that no one has ever tried, then you must do something to make yourself stand out.
Pam said...
Very few of us ever really make money at this gig. If I get a free case of wine, some bottles of juice (hasn't everyone by now??) some good books, comped invitations to nice events or dinner at a winery because of this, that's terrific by me. Some bloggers are seriously looking for income, and I'm glad that I love my day job and can avoid that pressure.
Janis said...
I think that it is great to have a blog but it also kind of annoys me when people do act like it is a business. I lose interest once it becomes too slick. I rather be more like a voyeur looking into some ones life rather than reading too thought out prose. Also, I like the pictures to feel less slick than many of the ones I see. I want to see what it really looks like and not just some photoshop version of the food. I also hate artsy takes on food. It is food for gods sake, not a da Vinci.

This is why I blog...to keep both our mugs smiling. Well, Tiny just looks confused.

Content, Keepin' It Real:
Jacob said...
I, too, am very new to the business of blogging, and definitely had that moment of "is this just for fun? to attract more local business? or to share my passion for food with other foodies out there in the world?" I'm not sure if I ever really consciously answered those questions for myself. What I can say is that, as is the case with most everything else in life, do what you love to do. Follow your own passion with reckless abandon, and people will be drawn in by the energy of it.

Pam said...
Oh... one more thought. I'm coming to believe that the best posts come from authors who actually get out from behind their computers and live a little. Coming back to the keyboard with something cool to say, in terms of observations, research findings and experiences, means more to me as a reader than to read something thin and lifeless every single day. I just don't have time for those posts, and quickly learn to avoid those blogs. Again, just my preference.

Just Food Snobs said...
The best advice I can give is stay true to yourself and write from the heart. Share personal stories because we all have a story we can relate to. Don't overthink what you are going to write just let it flow naturally. Anyone can post a photo and a recipe only, but without the human connection all is lost. It seems like you have learned alot and offer great tips, good luck and look forward to following your future posts!

Thank you again to everyone! I hope you find these tips as helpful as I did. I love learning new things and other people's views on the subject. Feel free to continue adding advice and ideas. We can never have too much.

Cheers, my dears!

Oh, and keep a look out on Friday for my post with Wild Alaskan Seafood! My proposal got chosen and I'm making the meal tonight. I've got the jitters, only because we've had thunderstorms every night this week and it makes for terrible pictures! So, whether it turns out good or not I'm postin' it, baby! (but I really hope it does.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Contest: She Needs A Name! Who? My DSLR (Yup!)

I want to shout it through the rooftops! I have found her, the one I love! My very own Canon Xsi and a 1.8/50mm lens.

I was not expecting to get her yesterday. I call her, "her" because she is a girl. I think it runs along the same lines a calling a car a girl too. It was a surprise, early birthday present! (And most likely, Christmas present too.) Anyways, so I got her from Houston Camera Exchange. If you live in or around the surrounding Houston area, it's totally worth driving in to check this place out. I had a wonderful guy help me, Will, and the prices were great.

Originally I was going to get it from Amazon. But my sister in law Heather at Home:Made Simple, told me about how you can get used and refurbished cameras over at HCE. So, I called up there yesterday and low and behold, they had a used Canon Xsi, just the one I wanted for a great price. The lens I got was new. I jumped back and forth between the 1.4/50mm and the 1.8/50mm, the difference being $250 between the two. After much chatting with others, I decided to go with the 1.8/50mm ($100 instead of $250). I'm extremely happy with it.

Speaking of extremely happy...I was a total dork yesterday, and most likely will continue to be for the next week. The hubs has now dubbed me "Picture Page" for my relentless photography of everyone and anything. The minute I stepped in the door, I ripped the camera out slapped on the lens and have been driving everyone in the house nuts, even more than usual. What can I say? I've turned into a mommy (and slightly cuter) version of a camera-crazed Gollum.

What makes this even more appropriate, is that last night the electricity went out, from around 6:45 to 8:00 p.m. from a nasty thunderstorm. It was a bit light outside so I could still see my camera and take pictures of my feet, a book on a coffee table or really anything in my line of sight. Then the electricity came back on. There was shouts of glee all over the land! It was on for about a half hour and then it went off again. UGH!

Frustration grunts arose from the pitch black. No internet, no t.v., no lights. Nothing. It was a risky situation, drinking hot, scalding tea in the dark, but I found the quiet to be quite refreshing regardless. The hubs, however, was bored. As I was caressing my used, but new-to-me camera, the hubs went to find his Mag-lite flashlight. Possibly so he wouldn't feel left out on this electronics love fest? Or maybe so could see. It''s possible. At one point, he was laying on the floor shining the light up onto the ceiling and fireplace and singing "Reunited". Was there anything lame about this picture? Yes.

All I needed was the bulbous, glowing green eyes of Gollum to make me just as obsessed as he was with his precious. I couldn't even see and I was still trying to look at my camera. I tucked her in next to me, in the recliner, like I would one of my kids. Shoot, I might as well have read a bed time story to her, but I couldn't see.

My very first pictures with my camera:

My sweet baby boy.

My baby girl. She's breath-taking.

My handsome little man. (who refused to be nothing BUT a giant, hence the tough-guy look.)

I adore this picture. As most you parents know, you cannot take the slightest "nap" without at least one child trying to wake you up! They all just piled on top of Daddy. So sweet.

My very first food picture with my new camera.

I wanted to say a big thank you to all of you who helped me through the camera shopping experience! I big thank you to Lisa at Korean American Mommy and Ben at You Fed A Baby Chili. You both were really helpful. I appreciate it. Many more of you gave out your suggestions and I truly thank you!

Just for poops and giggles (doesn't have the same finesse when you switch out the cuss word for a kid-friendly word), I want your suggestions on what to name "her". What's the best name you can think of for my new friend? Here are some adjectives to get you rolling: She's fast, medium weight, super cute, has lots of buttons, user-friendly menu and mine.

Let's see what you've got. Be creative, fun and outside the box, please. The winner will receive a guest post here at Foodie House! The contest ends Aug. 31st, so you've got one week friends, get your thinking caps on! I will be choosing the winner based solely on the name you submit. She's a darling camera. She has a good home, now she needs a good name.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Green Food: No, Not That Kind Of Green!

I'm slightly annoyed that now, whenever you hear the word "green" visions of Al Gore, plastic recycling numbers, those fabric grocery bags you have to pay for, whales in fishing nets and Avatar come to mind, instead of the COLOR green. I have no problems with eco-friendliness. I think its great. But what happened to my favorite color's name? It's in the process of getting it's identity back after an eco-friendly identity theft.

None of my green persuasion was on purpose. It was more like an episode of Chopped. (If you haven't seen, this is how I would pose on Chopped. They have yet to respond to my plea to let me be on the show, even though I am not a professional. Hmmm, strange.) Anyways, I was left staring at my pantry and frig, like usual, trying to figure out a way to make a decent dinner. Time was a tickin'. I had frozen peas, left over from the jaunt with Giada. Okay, that can be soup. I also saw a loaf of ciabatta, cool, bread and soup always good. Leftover pesto, from the Pesto Presto post (sheesh, try to say that 1 times fast), perfect to pep up that bread. We needed more, especially now that the hubs has officially walked through the door announcing, "Hear ye, hear ye! I am as hungry as an ogre today!" (Ogres are cool now because of Shrek and green! *squeal of glee realizing how perfectly this is all working out!*). So I hear "ogre" (not really) and I think meat. I had 4 lonely brats (bratwurst not naughty children, although that would be perfect for an ogre, right? It's so dumb that I'm laughing right now) sitting in the meat drawer. Fine, it's meat, whatever. And of course a salad, for the veggie component. The salad was so lame I'm not even going to show you.

Here's the triple threat of green goodness of last night's dinner. In no particular order:

Green Herbaceous Buttermilk Dressing

Vibrant Green Pea Soup

The fancy way...which ended up being a giant amuse bouche for moi and Tiny. (thanks Top Chef)

But this is how Mama really eats her food. Pink bowl, wad of bread.

Crusty Pesto Ciabatta Fingers (for dipping, of course)

Mmmm...Quizno's this is how you toast it.

 This dinner took no time, and without the ogre meat issue, it would be a nice vegetarian meal. So here's the nitty on the gritty:

*Recipe for Herbaceous Buttermilk Dressing AND video on how to make it click here. I believe I knock over the entire thing of dressing or something in the bloopers reel.

Recipe for Vibrant Green Pea Soup:

Makes enough for 2 very large bowls or 4 little ones
Prep/cook time: 15 min.

1 shallot
1 tsp. olive oil
1 10oz. bag organic frozen peas
1/4 c. half and half
1 1/2 c. chicken or vegetable broth (or more if it looks too thick)
Salt and pepper

Saute the shallot in olive oil until just golden in color. Add peas and broth. Let cook for 5-7 min. just so it's warmed through. Turn off heat. Add half and half. In a blender or with handheld mixer, whiz it until smooth. To make a smoother soup, pass it through a fine mesh sieve. (I didn't do that)

Crusty Ciabatta Pesto Fingers

Serves 4
Prep/cook time: 10 minutes

1 loaf of ciabatta bread, thawed (if yours was frozen like mine)
3 tbls. basil pesto (click here for the recipe)
Olive oil

Preheat oven on Hi broiler. Cut bread in half, lengthwise and use just one half. Smear bread generously with pesto, drizzle with olive oil and put on the bottom rack of oven. I always have my pizza stones in there, so I set it on that. Keep a super close eye on it. Burns so fast!  When crusty and brown, remove and slice while hot, then cuss while you do it. I personally like it dipped in my soup...an edible spoon of sorts.

P.S. Foodie Friends, you guys rocked it out with the responses to yesterday's post! My word! I was giddy with excitement. I will be reconfiguring our list and posting it in a few days. Thanks again!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My Top Ten Food Blogging Tips

Certainly food is a big part of food blogging. The recipes and photos we post are what draw people in. There's more to it. That's what I'm learning. I consider myself a newbie. My blog is about 2 1/2 months old. I'm hitting the point of where the newness is wearing off. It's gone from "this blog is merely therapy for me" to "this blog is feeling more like a business".

Both are fun, one is more helpful to my emotional status and the other feeds my entrepreneurial spirit. How can I make this better? What's my ultimate goal in doing this blog? Who do I write this for? Is this crossing over from a fun, therapeutic food-sharing session into gotta-get-more-followers-and-get-accepted-on-photo-sites-pronto! kinda of session?

I'm finding the latter to be true. I could lie to you and say, "oh, the numbers don't matter. I write for myself and if no one reads it, who cares." LIE. I probably started out saying  that, but once your in and you are spending hours on photos, recipes and just ideas in general, you want some one to read it. And not just your parents and some good friends. You want to reach others. You want others to see your hard work, appreciate it and tell someone else. Like anything else you love, you want to see it grow and get better.

SO! What's a girl to do? I searched the Internet for ideas. I was looking for blog building tips for just food bloggers. It was hard to find. More for blogs that were news oriented, not along the creative lines of a food blog. I believe we are a different species. Food bloggers are intense passionate bloggers. We love our food, love our recipes and love our photos and cameras.

Since I didn't find much out there on food blogs specifically, I did find other info that was good across the board for any blog. I've compiled a few things that I currently do and I find helpful. If your a newbie this is for you. If you are not, I appreciate any wisdom you can bring to the table.

1. One of the first things I did was get into online blog communities. Foodbuzz.com being one of the first. I joined a few others, but the issue here is to be selective. I found that I'd rather be apart of a few that I can dedicate some time to, rather than joining a bunch (and having copious amounts of badges for communities I never commune with on my blog). The blog communities don't really work unless you can invest time.

2. I got myself some business cards. Totally old school and originally I thought the idea was dumb. My husband mentioned it after he saw me writing down my blog on a scraps of paper and handing them out to people I talk to. Hmmm, what's dumber of the two? Scraps of paper or business cards? Much easier to carry a business card than scramble for a shred of my grocery list and a sharpie. Also, a business card gives the impression that you've got it together and you "must be doing pretty well" if you've got a card, right? I've made my share of business cards over the years and I always come back to www.printsmadeeasy.com./

3. Talk to people! I happen to be a "people person". I will talk to anyone. I like finding things in common with others and it happens most at the grocery store. I mean, we all love food, we are all at the grocery for the same reason, what a perfect time to invite them to my blog! I've gotten a really good response.

see the smudges on the screen? Yes, little monkey fingerprints.

4. Leave good comments on other's blogs. We all know visiting other's blogs and leaving a comment opens up your name to others, BUT if you leave a comment like, "this looks amazing. yum." your probably not going to get too much interest in your comment from the author or anyone else. Be sincere. I like to comment on something personal they put into the post, because I know how much I enjoy those comments. It says to me "wow, they actually read the whole post!"

5. Be real in your postings. I find the blogs I am most drawn to are ones with which I can relate. I like mommy blogs, foodie blogs and any kind of arty blog, but if the author seems stiff or seemingly has too many walls up, I don't usually continue visiting the blog. Why? Because humans are curious. I want to feel the warmth of your creation, not the cold perfection. Tell me about you, why YOU love this or that. How something makes you feel, what's funny about the situation you were just in or how much you hate your pasta machine. Tell me. That keeps me coming back and that's how I try to write.

6. Create a brand. You are the brand. If you want to sell your blog you've got to sell yourself. I like to see the author's face. Put your name out there. Not just some covert operational name, like "captin'crunchkaos". I try to use either my blog name or my real name. Something people can connect the two. If you have 20 different user names, no one is going to recognize you right off the bat.

7. Photos. Okay, we all know food bloggers love their photos. We've all been rejected by submission sites and some, ehmmm...are still waiting to get accepted. Regardless, photos make a huge difference. I know for me, when the photos aren't good, the food doesn't look appetizing. When the food doesn't look appetizing, I don't want to stay. The rules of food photography are (as I have most recently learned) 1. use natural light, 2. never use a flash, 3. you probably won't (with some exceptions) get on food photo submission sites if you don't use a DSLR.

8. Keep writing. Try to post everyday or 5 days a week is good. The only exception here is not to blog just for the sake of blogging. If I really don't have it that day, I mean really don't (as in yesterday), I won't blog. I want to give my best. If I know the post will come out sounding more like Debbie Downer than Rowdy Ramona over a vegetable lasagna, I won't do it. Some days, like today, I need a break from writing out a recipe and write about something more left-brained.

9. Keep and idea journal. I love journals. I mean, I'm a journal nut-job. My favorite brand is Moleskine. I carry one with me everywhere I go. EVERYWHERE. I could be sitting at Chick-fil-a while my children are emptying their energy levels in the play area and get the best idea for a post! What do I do now? Tell myself to remember? Ha! No. That's like telling a tired mommy to remember to paint her toenails...it's not going to happen. It's also great to have ideas stored up for those days when you've drawn a blank. Your journal will be there for you will lots of great ideas.

10. Relax. I tell myself this quite often. As much as I want my blog to grow, I don't want to grow into an obsessed blogging fool either. Balance is key with all things in life. I try to give myself some grace if maybe a post I thought was fantastic didn't get more than 3 comments, or if I just didn't have it in me to post that day or if my pictures turned out to be crap, whatever the reason, remember to relax. It's okay. Oh, and to remember that my family is far more important than any of this blogging stuff, but it sure makes for a happier mommy when I do it!

Let's turn this list of 10 into a list of 20 Top Food Blogging Tips! I will update this post as the ideas roll in. Don't leave me hangin' my long-time food blogger foodie-rific (too much Barney, sorry) friends! Please send me your suggestions to help out us newbies or any bloggers, really, with your experience. I want to hear your favorite tips, techniques with writing, submitting stuff, photos, favorite cameras, etc. Share, share, share!

A personal question (not that kind of personal question): I want to know, for my DSLR (that I have yet to purchase) what is the best lens to use for food photography? I'm looking at a 1.4/50mm lens. I don't know squat about lenses but I've been told this is a good one. Any other suggestions or am I on the right track?

Cheers, my lovely dears! I appreciate all your help and support.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Giada and Me: Salmon in Lemon Brodetto with Pea Puree

I got some cook books from the library the other day to get ideas for photographing food. Trying to teach myself "composition". I hastily grabbed a couple of Giada De Laurentiis' books and dashed out the door. I thumbed through them the other night and found this recipe for salmon. It looked so appealing I just had to add it to the menu for the week.

I'm not a big recipe kind of girl. I prefer the food talk to me and my imagination create the dish. Other than baking, I rarely use a recipe. Having this blog has been good for me. It makes me write down recipes I've come up with, so when I'm 80 years old and my kids are asking, "hey mom, how did you make your meatballs?" I can give them the recipe instead of pointing to my grey-haired noggin and telling them it's all "up here". Because we all know that won't be very reliable.

Initially, I was like, "What the heck is a Brodetto?" figuring it must be some Italian version of broth, I actually thought of tossing it out. Broth just doesn't sound very important. Boy was I wrong! And I also remembered my husband's deep love affair with broth, sauces or anything that adds moisture to a dish and I went ahead and made it. I am so glad I did.

How many of you love Top Chef? If you do, you will know when I talk about the "Pea Puree" debacle. That was my other reason for making this dish. What is the big deal with pea puree? Up in arms over pea puree! Pea puree, pea puree! They just kept talking about it. Did Alex really steal it? Is anyone going to address this? I couldn't figure out what was going on , so I had to make some myself. I guess the mystery will be revealed when they do one of their "Reunion Shows", which are always terribly juicy and usually involve some one's catch-phrase on a t-shirt. I would have to guess, it will be Kenny's "The Beast" pasted in big bold letters on a snuggly fit tee.

Anyways, that's how I got to this recipe and let me tell you, it was so amazingly delicious! We paid a lot for salmon this week. Don't quite know what got into us. We got up to that counter and just ordered a butt-load of salmon at 14.99lb. Eeek! No worries, we inhaled it...everyone, even my little Tiny. Thirteen months old today and eating salmon like it was going out of style. So cute. Just had to share, but this is him in his very first pair of walking shoes. He just started taking his first steps last thurs. I can't tell you what this does to a mommy's heart. Oh Lord!

he's so proud.

Back to the salmon. So here's the recipe. Now, I am giving it to you just as she wrote it, but I did not follow it exactly. It's against my nature, I guess.

*Left out the Parmesan in the pea puree, because for me, it just didn't sound good with the salmon.
*Cut the olive oil in half to 1/4 cup and the other 1/4 cup I used chicken broth. Just a big lighter.
*Used shallot instead of garlic in the pea puree.
*For seasoning the salmon, I always use a pinch on sugar with the salt and pepper.

Salmon in Lemon Brodetto with Pea Puree
by Giada DeLaurentiis

Serves 4

Lemon Brodetto:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, diced
2 lemons, juiced
1 lemon, zested
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves

Pea Puree:

2 cups frozen peas, thawed (about 10 ounces)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan


1/4 cup olive oil
4 (4 to 6-ounce) pieces salmon
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper


To make the Lemon Brodetto, warm the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until tender, about 7 minutes. Add the lemon juice, zest, and broth. Bring to a simmer, and keep warm, covered, over low heat.

To make the Pea Puree, combine the peas, mint, garlic, salt, and pepper in a food processor and puree. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a steady drizzle. Transfer the pea puree to a small bowl and stir in the Parmesan. Set aside.

To make the Salmon, warm the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Season the salmon pieces with salt and pepper. Sear the salmon until a golden crust forms, about 4 to 5 minutes on the first side. Flip the fish and continue cooking until medium-rare, about 2 minutes more depending on the thickness of the fish.

To assemble the dish, add the tablespoon chopped mint to the Lemon Brodetto and divide between 4 shallow dishes. Place a large spoonful of Pea Puree into the center of each bowl. Place a salmon piece atop each mound of Pea Puree. Serve immediately.

If you are looking for something different to do with your salmon this is the recipe for you. What I loved so much about it was the explosion of flavors. You have the buttery richness of the salmon, contrasted with the sweetness of the peas and the acidic broth cutting through it all to leave a lemony, minty lingering taste on your tongue. Truly wonderful.

Cheers, my dears!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tastespotting Follow-Up: A Response To All Your Responses

Well, I've gotta say, you all have really helped me to feel sane again. I wanted to respond to you all in a post because I felt what you all had to say was really important for others to see. What a relief to know that I am not the only one! I appreciate your kind words, encouragement and great ideas! I was so excited by what you all had to say, I thought I would respond to your comments in a new post, instead of the comment box.

A Thought for Food said...

Hi beautiful! I just want to give you a big hug right now... because I know exactly how you feel. I should say that I've had enough accepted (5 out of 21 submissions), that I keep submitting. But it's frustrating that they take FOREVER to respond. Maybe they need to hire a few more folks. I don't know... but know that there are others out there who feel the same way.

Me: Okay, first, thanks for the compliement...made my day, dahling! (Even with my hideous picture, but I like just being real.) I'll take that hug and I second that they need to hire some more people! Wow, 5 outta 21, not bad. Thanks again!

Carla said...

it can be really difficult for some of the sites - and they seem to just give out strange reasons why. I don't submit my pictures as much as I should but I have done ok recently when I have done great on photograzing and ok on foodgawker (never tried tastespotting)

I usually don't have luck when I am rushing to get dinner on the table - I find that spending some time after dinner playing with it - trying different plates and accessories works best (and that portion ends up becoming my lunch!)

also I think that unless you have a DSLR and a lot of flashes/ lenses its hard to compete with the other photographers... but not sure if you want to invest $10-20,000 and as much time as you do cooking to learn how to use them just to get on some site

Me: Thanks Carla! What a great idea to do that after dinner. I guess, I always feel I must shoot the food as it's hot, but I guess it doesn't really matter. I'm going to try that. As far as the camera goes, I want to spend under a $1000 for a camera and lens. I've got my eye on the Canon XSi and the 1.4/50mm lens. That's what I want, so we'll see.

Sippity Sup said...

I love this post. We all feel for you. But here is the plain truth: The FoodBullies and TasteHaters have very limited about photography. I would bet neither one of them have any art background. This leads them to have a very particular styles. A style that is in my opinion a bit outdated. As you noted they do like the limited depth of field trick pony quite a lot. But if you look at the best food magazines right now (like Cucina Italiana) you will see that style has gone out of fashion for the most part.

All that said, believe it or not (from their pov) having a limited scope of photographic styles is a very good thing. They are building a "brand" just as we are. So they are looking for photos that support that brand in some way. Their brand will morph and change, but slowly. Why should they mess with success? I wouldn't!

I have had about 300 accepted photos(which is about 75%). But I had to sell out a bit to achieve that ratio, because they prefer pictures that don't really say anything, or have an editorial story to tell. They strictly want "photos of food". They don't like texture or color in the lighting. They prefer computerized perfection to artistic voice.

I like the traffic these sites bring so I play along with their tastes and besides I want to play in this game. It's fun! After all it's just a blog, right. I can save my more artistic shots for my own enjoyment.

Lastly, it's true FoodGawker especially rewards expensive cameras, but it's not mandatory. I use a 100 dollar point and shoot camera. You just have to learn to shoot within its capabilities. GREG

Me: Greg, thank you so much for your input! I like your point of view and suggestions. I like that you are keeping it light, not getting too serious about it or overwhelmed. That's my goal. Like you said, it's a game. I think so too. If you want to get the attention, give into their way of doing stuff and do what you like with other things. I personally prefer heavy shadows and rich contrast. I like the moody feeling it gives a picture. I've been brightening everything up, trying to get accepted. That then brings up the question, do I change what I like to be accepted or do I do what I want, love or hate it? I''ve gotta take a look at Cucina Italiana, it's been years since I've looked at it. thanks again!

Janis said...

Oh screw em. I stopped submitting long ago. There is another site that posts all rejected pictures from TasteSpotting. It is called Taste Stopping. I think they are hysterical with their captions of the rejected photo and much more fun than the "Precious" Taste Spotting.
You go girl! We love you anyhow.

Me: Janis! I love it. Thanks for the kudos, girl. I've never heard of taste stopping. I've gotta check this out. Way to be true and keepin' it real!

The Foodie Princess said...

Hi Lauren,

Love your site and you do incredible work with your point and shoot. I'm a contributing editor for a site that gets thousands of hits a day and we used to get shot down all the time. I think my editor just stopped submitting. As for the SLR, it is a beautiful thing and if your hubby doesn't want to shell out the big bucks for something brand spanking new. Check out B&H photo they sell refurbished ones from the manufacturer that go for half price. That's how I got mine.

Me: Princess, thank you! I'm going to check out that site for sure. I've been a little leery of refurbished cameras. Have you had any problems with it?

Healthy Mamma said...

LOL, great post! I like everyone's comments! I agree with Greg, and don't change your style just to get on an over rated photo site. I got caught up in it too but after putting in so much love and time only to be rejected, or worse, not hear anything I decided it wasn't worth the hassle. I never made it on tastespotting and only about 1/2 of my pics are on Foodgawker, which btw is exactly as Greg says. I noticed also that all of the photos on that site look EXACTLY the same! I have a message I'm trying to get out through my photos, as I'm sure you are too. So I shoot only for me and my readers.

Oh, a fun picture editing site that I adore ( I use it for most of my food pics) is Picnik.com

You can do a lot with the free membership. I pay the $29 a year for a unlimited membership and it makes me happy with my final shots. Unless your going to get paid for your pics, spending thousands on a camera prob isn't worth it. Mine is a nicer point & shoot ( Canon PowerShot G10 ) and I'm happy with it. Again, lighting is my biggest struggle with food photography which is why I use Picnik.

Good Luck!!
One last thing!!! ;-)

I love your blog and your photography which is why I follow you and check in often! The sites with the "professional' looking photography are fun to look at sometimes, but I enjoy reading and referring to real people I can relate to.

Me: Gwen, thank you, girl! You've made my day! I agree with you. I want to create photos I like. I know I have a good eye and being an artist helps, but the things I like they usually don't. I really like what Greg had to say. Basically, he doesn't take it too seriously and does it for the enjoyment, realizing the game that it is. And I'm with you too. I love sites that I can relate too. When something is so hoity-toity, it feels cold. I want to have a blog that anyone can read and enjoy. Big Hugs, Healthy Mama!

~Lisa~ said...

I wish I can be more of a help but not sure what to say here except keep trying and don't give up. Sorry this is frustrating you.

Me: Lisa, my girl! You have been SUCH a huge help. You don't need to say anything. You've been such a great support to me and I love sharing in our blogging/mommy adventures together. HUGS!

spacegroupie said...

Hi there. I have a decent hit rate at TS and PG, a little worse @ FG. From what I can tell, they tend to like clean, bright, extremely sharp pictures with small aperture (bokeh not such a big deal). It has to look appetizing as a thumbnail. They seem to like overhead shots. There are obviously exceptions, but if I were to give advice for a "safe" photo for them, that's what I'd say.

I do know people who have gotten pictures accepted with P&S cameras, but it's significantly more challenging, in my opinion. Do yourself a favor and get an SLR. Good optics are not expensive (< $100 for a 50mm/f1.8) and they will make your pictures, on average, immeasurably better. The total acceptance rate, as of a couple years ago (which I know is forever), is about 50%. I have to believe you will get something in eventually.

Shoot in daylight/window light. I avoid shooting at night because glare from overhead light (even when indirect) kills me. Don't use flash unless you are a pro.

Tastespotting and Foodgawker are pretty serious drivers of traffic, so there are reasons beyond mere curiosity for you to do it.
Hope this helps, and hang in there!

Me: Ben, thank you! I appreciate your input, tremendously! Yes, I've noticed, taking photos at night suck. I try always to take with natural light and never use a flash. I'm just salivating at the thought of an SLR. I've always been big into photography. My hubby has indulged my photography fascination by buying me great cameras. But this would be a biggie, but totally worth it.

See that's a big drive, getting on the site for the traffic it would bring. We all want that. So I flounder between "staying true to myself" and tweaking it to get on there. That brings me back to Greg's point. Such a good point. Huge help, Ben. Thank you!

jacobskitchen said...

Well I'm glad someone has finally come out and said it. lol. Amen sista! I am new to this whole photography/food blogging thing... but it is SO frustrating. For me foodgawker is much harder to please than tastespotting, which isn't to say that they are in any way easy to please. And the two of them never agree. One will say composition/not sharp/color balance/terrible picture/just kill yourself now/you are not a worthwhile human being (you know whatever, lol), and the other will immediately accept it, or vice versa. There is no rhyme or reason. And while I have about twenty pics on tastespotting and only five on foodgawker you can trust that in order to get that many I have drowned in many a rejection email. For me it is all about the resizing to fit their 250x250 requirement. The magic is sometimes lost in the cropping. (Though realistically I know nothing about photography or computers so in reality I am most probably just doing everything wrong.) When it comes down to it, one would think/hope/imagine that there would be intrinsically amazing photos. But there are not. (Nearly every photo I have that has made the foodbuzz top 9, for example, has been rejected by both TS and FG) It is one hundred percent subjective. But you can't let it get you down, or have it send you on a murderous rampage. For me it is just about acceptance. With my point and shoot on its macro setting close ups are really all I know how to do well. Which is fine. I am happy with how my pictures typically come out. But they do not like close up shots on TS or FG. Period. They do not like shots cropped tight in on any food object. They want space/distance/background. Luckily photograzing will accept anything. I have never had a rejection from them. But you're right. It's just not the same. Thanks for being the whistle blower on this unavoidable foodie predicament. Let us know when they finally DO come to their senses and accept one of your great pics =)
PS: Thanks Janis! Taste stopping is genius! I will have to dig out my crate full of rejections.

Me: Jacob, I LOVE what you said. I was cracking up! I really got so depressed when as I was continually, and continue to be rejected. OMG! Then I would tell myself, "Lauren! Snap out of it! this is ridiculous!" I mean really, I just cannot let them crush me. I will totally let you all know when I get on SOMETHING! Sheesh. Big hugs, Jacob. OH, and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your pictures. I think they are so beautiful. You do a great job. And like you, I love the up-close shots. I love the texture and detail of a macro shot.

Rachel said...

I guess I don't really have an opinion, since I've never submitted to any of those sites, since I already know I'd be rejected, so why bother? Besides, I know most of my photos are crap, although they've somewhat improved now that I got myself a slightly better P&S camera (Nikon Coolpix D3000). And decent photo-editing software. Even still, I'm working on the goal of someday just getting one of my pics on the Foodbuzz Top 9! And even that's slow-going.

Me: Thanks Rachel. I know, it's up to you. I could not mess with those site at all, but I feel I've been bitten and now I must conquer. It such a good feeling to get your photos noticed, I ain't gonna lie!

Debbie said...

WOW, once again all you and all the commenters make me feel normal again! I had been getting more and more aggravated at the TS and PG. I have gotten 3-4 photos out of 10 submitted with stupid feedback like "not in focus" and "composition", what does that mean!? Well, you are not alone to say the least!

Me: Debbie, I know! That's what I said. I was left feeling perplexed. Hang in there and I will too. Thanks for the props!

I've enjoyed you all so much. I appreciate your love, encouragement, great ideas and points of view. I seriously feel so much better about the whole thing. I'm definitely not giving up. I've got a lot to think about, but the main thing is this: Why did I start this blog to begin with? To have fun and that's what I plan on doing. Hugs, to you my Foodie Friends!

P.s. there is a link to each of your names, even if they are all not yellow. I don't know why,  but much of the time, Blogger will not make all the links yellow, even though I tell it too. So sorry about that. Ben, I left yours because your site is below your comment. Okay, cheers, my dears!

Tastespotting: Dishing on the Rejection

Me, not at my finest.

Hi friends. I've had something brewing for a while. A frustration that is driving me dangerously close to insanity. It's called "Tastespotting Rejection".

Thousands of Foodies struggle every year with this complication. It's due to hard work and pride over your photography being rejected over and over again by the review board over at Tastespotting.com.

Some of you maybe asking, what is Tastespotting? Its a site where you can submit your photographs (or other's, but who wants to do that?) of all your luscious food photography, that you feel is your best. You send it in and wait. Wait for days...until you get an email that tells you nothing (maybe mine never says anything because I haven't made it yet) and you click the link to go to your profile. Under your profile you can see how many posts you have up. My obviously still says "0" and I'm starting to feel a twinge of bitterness. I don't even know what to tell what happens if you do get in.

I've sent in 16 photos. Fourteen have been rejected. Two are still waiting to be reviewed. Now, just you wait, I will post this and then get in. That wasn't my plan, but it just might work. (mechanical laughter, wringing of hands)

I feel like what I've sent is had been really good. I mean, I will say, my photos don't have the "bokeh" (cool fuzzy focus in the background), but I feel that they are as good as a lot of the photos that get on there. They will shoot down one of my photos, saying that they don't usually use photos of just ingredients, then I look at the page and see 2 or 3 on there of just ingredients. Or they don't like hands in the pictures and there is a photo up right now with someone holding a sandwich in their hand. wah,wah. These are the particular photos I am referring to. That was the only complaint on these photos, so I'm assuming the lighting and sharpness were good. So frustrating!

I know, we all think we have the best pictures. Ours rock and should be in a gallery. There is always room for improvement, but I feel like this Tastespotting is feeding my issues with perfectionism...the very thing my therapist urges me not to give into. It does however, make you rethink your stuff, find ways to make it better or be more creative, but without trying too hard. That's tricky.

One of my most difficult obstacles is time. For me, the food I photograph is the food we eat for dinner. It's going to the table of hungry, crabby kids and hubby in 2.5 seconds. So much of the time, I'm rushing. Rushing to get that perfect shot. It can look good on the LCD but much of the time when I view it on my computer I see it was out of focus or just plain bad. So for every 20 shots, I may get 3 I really like. Since the time issue probably won't change a new SLR would help considerably.

this wasn't sharp or bright enough.

So, this rejection has lit a photo fire under me. The hubs is looking to put it out (not really), because now I'm begging him for a SLR. Oh boy. He quietly nods his head as I ramble on and on about features, photos I could take and all the pros and none of the cons of owning a SLR (preferably Canon and I mean, are there really any cons?) Hint dropping seems to be falling on plugged ears. That's okay, I'm not giving up. On Tastespotting or the camera.

This was rejected for "composition". Can someone help me with that? I'm assuming it's how you put a picture together. How else do you compose chocolate cake and ganache?

My point and shoot is great for what it is. It takes great photos...for a P&S (Canon Powershot). I mean, if you put it on Macro setting and use natural light, it does a pretty darn good job. The problem for me, is that I'm stuck with that. I can't do much more. I don't have the ability to manually fiddle with the lens. So I dream up ideas, then I can't make them happen because I am handicapped by this very reliable, but not very creative camera.

Is it stupid for me to want to get on Tastespotting so bad? I mean, I feel like it's the Mercedes of food photos and I want to be on there! I know I've got what it takes. I think my photos are good. I do see though, on some of the photos their reasons for not choosing me (I mean, at least they tell you WHY, so that's good). I said some. Others I don't get it. But on some where it was lighting, or not sharp enough, I agree and I've set out to work very hard on those things to make better photos. I want to excel in this, not stay stagnant. I want to grow.

not sharp.

If you made it to this paragraph, I commend you. True Foodie Friend. Who else should I whine to other than my trusty Foodie Friends. Certainly you have endured the agony of Tastespotting. If not, why not try? Doesn't it sound so fun?

This is what I want to know. If you've submitted, have you been shot down? If not, what's your secret to getting on? Wait, that sounded dumb. It's called having good pictures. But anyways, if you have tips, ideas, camera you love etc. Please do share. Let me know I am not alone in this quest for Tastespotting acceptance.
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