Sunday, July 29, 2012

Photography Class with Sears Grilling {Pt. 4} #SoFabU #GrillingIsHappiness

We just ended our 4th week of the Photography Class with Sears Grilling and I can't believe how fast it is going by! This week was information overload - but certainly not in a bad way. Questions I had on the manual settings of my camera were answered, from aperture speed to ISO to f-stop - I now have a clear understanding of each element. Using auto-mode is easy and it works great, but to be able to have full control over each individual photo is a dream come true.

We also learned about taking pictures outdoor and what type of lighting is best. It is best to avoid taking pictures in the direct sunlight because it could cause shadows to be too dark and bright areas to be almost white. Since our BBQ is under a covered patio, I didn't necessarily have to worry about direct sunlight but more so that there would be enough light to take pictures. This is where having full control over my camera settings came in handy. Since I really hate using my flash when photographing food, I could instead alter the setting on my camera to allow more light to enter when taking a photograph. Pretty exciting. :)

We were to practice our lesson by taking pictures of food on the grill we recently purchased from Sears Grilling. The picture of Grilled Dessert Bananas above and the Stuffed Baked Potatoes below are two of my favorite pictures from this week using these new techniques. I am really starting to feel like my pictures are getting better!

We also learned about the different angles that can be used to give photographs a variety of looks and feels. The angles we covered this week were straight on, from above, tilt towards, above with perspective, diagonal and gentle tilt.

Although the picture above is not necessarily a bad picture, it could use a little help. Instead, I got closer to my subject and tilted the camera back a little to create a photo that is inviting. It makes me want to grab one of those grilled taters off the page! ;)

Sidenote: Everybody should own a slider basket - it ROCKS!!

Here is some more of practicing angles. Although it wasn't necessarily taught in the lesson, I have learned to take many, many pictures. When using a digital camera, it is so easy to delete all the pictures you don't end up using - it's worth taking extra shots because you never know when that gem of a shot is going to happen.

Which angle do you like more?

I must mention that we absolutely love our new bbq! Buying a bbq is a big purchase and it is awesome to be completely happy with our selection. My Papa always told me I could trust Kenmore. :) There isn't really a set date on when "grilling season" ends, right? ;)

I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Sears #CBias #GrillingIsHappiness. All photos and opinions are my own.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Photography Class with Sears Grilling {Pt. 3} #SoFabU #GrillingIsHappiness

This past week was very exciting for our photography class; we were all provided with gift cards to buy a grill and some grilling accessories from the grilling department at Sears!! The purpose behind us all getting a new grill was to learn this week's lesson of Product Photography. How lucky am I? :)

A few important factors while taking photographs of products; make sure the key subject is front and center, use props cautiously as to not take away from the main subject and try using optical zoom instead of digital zoom to give background a softer appearance.

Check out some of the Product Photography I did with our new Kenmore 4-Burner Stainless Steel Gas Grill!

The side burner that has an electric ignition.

Underneath storage for the propane tank. I LOVE this feature!

Knobs for each burner for control over the 588.8 square inch cooking surface.

Kenmore, a name we trust. I remember my Papa dragging me around the Sears when I was just a toddler. :)

I just had to have this Cuisinart Slider Basket! Can't wait to cook up some sliders using this bad boy.

A complete BBQ tool set, including a digital fork thermometer. 

Flexible grilling skewers. These will be great when trying to find a spot to put kabobs on a crowded grill.

 A flashlight that attaches to the BBQ lid handle.

Wait! A flashlight that attaches to the BBQ lid handle? Oh yes, and it rotates to make sure there are no dark spots on the grill. Love, love, love this!

And last but not least, a cover for our new grill. I plan on babying this BBQ, so there was no way she was going to sit outside in the cold, rainy weather. :)

The photography tips we learned were to use a bounce card, basically a piece of white paper, to fill any shadows with light and to play around with direct vs. indirect light. I have found the best time of day to take pictures outside is in the early morning or late evening, otherwise it is just too bright. Also, while playing around with the aperature setting on my camera, the background of pictures can become softer - which looks really good when photographing products.

I can't even put into words how thankful I am to be part of this wonderful oppertunity. Finding out I was going to be part of a photography class made me jump for joy, but being able to purcahse a new grill almost made me faint from shock. Thank you so much Social Fabric and Sears Grilling!! #SoFabU #GrillingIsHappiness

I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Sears #CBias #GrillingIsHappiness. All photos and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Quick Ricotta Cheese

This post is sponsored by got milk? in partnership with local California organizations that educate kids about the importance of proper nutrition and healthy lifestyle.

I am a HUGE cheese lover and have thought on numerous occasions how awesome it would be to make some on my own. When I started browsing the internet for instructions, I found that different cheeses have different levels of difficulty to make. Blue Cheese is one of my favorites, but since it is one of the more difficult cheeses, it's going to have to wait a bit. I decided to just get my feet wet with the first batch of cheese I made - something simple that had little margin for error.

It seems I found exactly what I was looking for in this Quick Ricotta Cheese! Just to clarify, when I say quick, it means roughly 3 hours... which is pretty quick when it comes to cheese. There are several different recipes online, all deeming great results, so I played around to create my own and was amazed at what was created. :) This recipe is very easy to make and very rewarding when finished... so without further ado, let me share it with you!

1. In a stockpot, heat 8 cups of Milk (I used whole milk) mixed with 1 cup of Heavy Cream to 170. Make sure to stir occasionally to avoid any burning.

2. Remove from heat and add 3 tablespoons Vinegar, stir for 30 seconds. Then add 1 teaspoon Salt, stir for an additional 30 seconds.

3. Cover with clean towel and let sit for 2 hours.

4. After said 2 hours, remove towel and admire those curds.

5. Using cheesecloth in a colander, strain curds from whey.

6. Let drain as much as possible, squeezing periodically to help the process along. I took about 20 minutes for this step.

7. Transfer cheese to clean bowl and either start using it right then, or use an airtight cover and refrigerate for a couple hours to chill.

Here is a printable recipe for Quick Ricotta Cheese

I ended up letting mine chill for a couple hours and then mixing it with fresh herbs and blue cheese for a lasagna I was making that night. It turned out wonderful!

One step closer to making "from scratch" lasagna!!

I must have a glass of milk with lasagna - it really is the perfect pairing...
Check out one of the cups that is being offered right now as part of Got Milk?'s campaign, 'Science of Imitation Milk', which is aimed at educating California consumers on the differences between imitation and natural milk.

Cute huh? I love the retro look!!

They come in a set of two for $15 and 100% of the purchases will go towards THINK Together, the Bay Area Community Resources and the Central Valley Afterschool Foundation. 100%!! All 3 organizations are community-based organizations in Calfiornia that promote educating families on making wholesome food choices for a healthy lifestyle.

Check out the limited edition glasses here:
They will be available for purchase through August 15, 2012

As part of the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher Program, I received a stipend and got milk? glassware in exchange for my participation in this program.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Photography Class with Sears Grilling {Pt. 2} #SoFabU #GrillingIsHappiness

Although I haven't been in the kitchen much lately (reasons to be disclosed soon), I have still been enrolled and participating in the photo class at Social Fabric University. This weeks lesson was about successfully executing a photo Path to Purchase. Path to Purchase, in a nutshell, is how one decides which products to purchase while shopping. One of the most effective ways to document this is through photos, so I grabbed my camera and headed to Sears!

There are a few key photographs that are needed to complete a Path to Purchase; the exterior of the store, special signage, variety of brands, product placement and my favorite - the final purchase. By knowing how consumers view all of the above, companies are able to make shopping easier for the customer, create packaging that grabs attention, see who their biggest competitors are and make decisions on how to market their product(s).

A few questions to think about while documenting a Path to Purchase could be; 

What do you first notice upon entering the specific department purchases are being made from?

Are you happy with the selection being offered?

Which signage grabs your attention?

Are there any sales or special deals being offered?

The other key factors we learned this week were about making sure there is no clutter in the background of photos, when to zoom, which lighting to use, incorporating signs and brands and last, but not least, how to have a little fun with different angles. 

This was such a fun lesson to learn and to take pictures for - even if people looked at me a little crazy at the store! I am really looking forward to next week's lesson, can't wait to share if with you. :)

Thank you Social Fabric University and Sears Grilling!! #SoFabU #GrillingIsHappiness

I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Sears #CBias #GrillingIsHappiness. All photos and opinions are my own.

Monday, July 2, 2012

ID Iced Mocha & Mint Cheesecake #IcedDelight

We love having iced coffee drinks in the summer-time, there is nothing better than waking up before the heat sets in and enjoying a cool beverage. My husband's favorite drink from our local coffee shop is a blended drink with mocha, mint and delicious chocolate chunks. It is so good - the flavors work together wonderfully! I started thinking of a dessert I could make using mocha & mint together and came up with this cheesecake - the flavors were for my husband, the cheesecake part was for me. ;)This is certainly a new summer favorite around our house!

It starts with mint sandwich cookies being crushed and made into a crust.

Then a cream cheese mixture, using International Delight's Iced Mocha instead of heavy cream, is made with love. (See the little heart the Iced Mocha made in the cream cheese as it was being mixed in? ♥)

And last topped with a mint-chocolate ganache, made using International Delight's Iced Mocha, and sprinkled with creme de menthe baking chips. *Drool

This is a light and fluffy cheesecake, not thick and creamy like the ones that I usually make. However, it was not lacking in cheesecake flavor - nor did it lack any fans when served for dessert. :) I had such a fun time coming up with this recipe, just about as much fun as I did enjoying it!

ID Iced Mocha & Mint Cheesecake (printable version)
20-22 mint sandwich cookies, crushed
4 tablespoons butter
24 ounces cream cheese, softened
¾ cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup International Delight Iced Coffee - mocha flavor
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons flour
12 oz creme de menthe baking chips, 2 oz reserved
3 tablespoons International Delight Iced Coffee - mocha flavor
1 tablespoon butter
1. Heat oven to 325
2. Combine crushed cookies and butter until crumbly. Press into a greased, 9” springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes or until crust is set.
3. With an electric mixer, on medium speed, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar and continue mixing until fully combined. Add eggs one at a time until just combined. Lower speed to mixer to low and add International Delight Iced Coffee, vanilla and flour.
4. Pour mixture into crust, place back in oven and bake for an hour or until the edges are set and the middle only jiggles a little when moved.
5. Let cool completely.
6. Over low heat, combine baking chips, International Delight Iced Coffee and butter - constantly stir until mixture is smooth. Pour over the top of cheesecake, sprinkle remaining baking chips on top.
7. Place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours to completely set.
8. Enjoy!

International Delight has three different Iced Coffee flavors; Vanilla, Mocha & Original - just think of all the fun cheesecake combinations that are out there!! For more information check them out online...

Also, through July 4th, International Delight will be giving away 1,000 free cartons of their Iced Coffee everyday! Very cool, and if you win, I just ask that you have me over for a cup of coffee. ;) Check out their Sweepstakes Page on Facebook for more details. Good luck!

I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and International Delight #IcedDelight #CBias #SocialFabric