Archive | July, 2011

Shrimp Pizza on the Grill

This week the temps are going to be in the 90’s.  And our A/C is on the fritz, so if I don’t have to turn on the oven I’m happy.  While on vacation last week, I poured over a bunch of recent cooking magazines.  A popular recipe for this time of year is pizza on the grill.  So I thought I’d give it a shot tonight.  This turned out better than I could have hoped, I actually ate three pieces and my hubby at the rest!  And while most of the recipes called for homemade dough that you cook on the grill, I cheated and used a thin crust Boboli crust.  Try this recipe this week, I promise you’ll love it!

Shrimp Pizza on the Grill:

frozen tail-off deveined shrimp (as much as you want on your pizza)

1/2 cup butter

extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves minced garlic

1/2 t. parsley flakes

1 t. italian seasoning

1 can of mushrooms

sliced sweet onions

quartered cherry tomatoes

1 cup feta cheese

1 Boboli thin crust

start with a thin crust Boboli

I used my extra virgin olive oil from Old World Olive Press in Rockford.  I also used their Italian seasoning.

Throw a dash of olive oil in a fry pan.

mmm…add butter, garlic, seasonings and shrimp.  scampi it up!

brush crust with olive oil

once shrimp is done, place on crust

keep the butter in the pan after you’ve removed the shrimp and add the onions and mushrooms.  saute till tender.

meanwhile, cover crust with feta and tomatoes

add onions and mushrooms.  i also drizzled just a LITTLE bit of the butter sauce because it was so darn good!

bring outside and throw on a grill heated to medium high.  cook for about 5 minutes until crust is crispy.

this was my first helping.  yummmm!

this was my hubby’s plate.  he loved this and ate the entire pizza other than my three pieces.  mmm…

Playing with No Flash

I love my camera.  It’s like another child to me.  I talk to it, sing to it, take it everywhere with me and spend a lot of money on it.  Just like a member of the family.  My current pro camera has no flash.  It has a hot shoe mount, but no flash that pops up.  And I love this.  It forces me to think before pressing the shutter button and taking the picture.  And believe me, it has taken me a long time to be able to do this almost second nature, without looking at the dials, to do it subconsciously, manually.  And let me just say that I am in no way a camera genius, I definitely have a ton to learn about manual shooting and flash.  I’m just hoping everything I write today makes sense, it’s early and I’m still drinking my first cup of coffee as I write.

Last week at the cottage, the boys were sitting on the couch so nicely all together.  And let me tell you, that very rarely happens.  When it does, I like to grab my camera and try to get a shot.  Usually I’ll grab my little point-n-shoot (which I have to tell you I hate) because it is close to hand at home and my big pro camera is usually out of reach.  But last week at the cottage I only brought my pro gear.  As I sat in the chair opposite them, I looked at the light.  Being inside, I automatically change my ISO setting up from 100.  If I’m outdoors, I normally always have my ISO at 100.  To put it in layman’s terms, ISO determines how much noise shows up in your pic.  The lower the ISO number, say 100, the less noise there will be in your shots.  Think back to film days, when I shot film there was a great film made that had a really high ISO.  Somewhere around 2400, I can’t remember the exact number now.  But it would give you a very grainy, almost antique look.  But the higher the number, the slower the shot happens, letting in more light.  You will also get more blur if you don’t have a tripod or if you are moving too much.  Because of this, I like to keep the ISO at 100 if at all possible.  But sometimes I need to change that.  Most receptions I photograph are indoors in a dark reception hall.  I can tell you I normally shoot my receptions at an ISO of 400 or 800.  I’ve even done a few at 1600.  Not all cameras have an ISO feature that goes that high, and you have to watch the graininess of your shots when shooting at high ISOs.  Anyway, sitting in the chair opposite the boys I dialed the ISO up to 400.

I also almost always shoot with a wide open aperture.  My go-to lens is my 85mm fixed focus lens that can be dialed down to an F 1.8 aperture.  I would love to upgrade to the 85mm 1.4, even the 50mm 1.2, but let’s stay in reality here.  The lower the aperture number, the more light being let in.  This took me a long time to understand, it always seemed backward to me.  But 1.8 lets in more light than 5.6.  It also narrows down the focus considerably.  You just have to hold steady and make sure that everything you want in focus is on the same focal plane.  The boys were all sitting next to each other on the same level and therefore, all stayed in focus.  So I kept the aperture at 1.8.  This will also give you a creamy, out-of-focus background.  Camera guru’s call this bokeh.  The lower your aperture setting, the more bokeh you will get.  Another rule of thumb for aperture that I use, if i have one child in the shot, I know I can keep the aperture at 1.8.  If I have a couple, I like to dial it up to 2.2.  If I have a family of five, I’ll move it up to 5.6.  I try to keep the number of people corresponding to the F-stop number.  Not an exact science, but it helps me.

Next, I looked through the view-finder and focused on the boys.  I use my in-camera light metering system.  For my camera, this is great.  I trust the results and they seem to be right on.  I almost always shoot hand-held, very rarely using a tripod.  When hand holding my camera, I never want to be under 1/60 for my shutter speed.  If I can stay around 1/125, I’m happy.  When I’m out in the sun, that number could be all the way up to 1/8000.  The light coming in the slider door to the left of the boys was beautiful and allowed me to set my shutter speed at 1/80.  This was fine, as I was sitting in a chair and could balance the camera on my knees.  (I should have taken a picture of me doing this, I looked like a total professional…yeah.)

Now, the reason I love these shots is because of the lighting here.  There was only one light source, the big slider doors to the left of me.  The light seems to skim across their faces and is very creamy in color.  The tan skin and the brown couch help with that too.  This style is a departure for me, as I normally like a lot of light and get nervous about shadows or dark areas.  I love the depth of these shots and even though they are just candids, I love them.  Wow, that was a long post.  These shots are all straight-out-of-camera with no editing.  All taken at F1.8, 1/80, ISO 400.  Hopefully you made it this far and will enjoy these shots as much as I do.

Hand Shredded Pork

I have to admit, I love pulled pork.  One of my husband’s favorite restaurants is Smokey Bones.  Every time we go, we both get the pulled pork platter.  I always say I’m going to try something else, but it never fails, I end up getting the same thing.  When I was looking through my cookbook last week finding meals to cook on our vacation, I came across a slow cooker pork recipe.   I pulled it out and then left it on the counter.  I did bring my crock pot and bought two boneless pork tenderloins.  I had to make due with what I could find in a kitchen not my own, but this recipe turned out awesome!  I would recommend this to anyone that likes pulled pork.  It was easy and made enough for at least 8 people.  I should have only made one of the tenderloins, but ended up making both and freezing what was left over.  Even my 9-year old loved it.  We ate it as the main dish, but you could also put this on fresh buns and eat as a sandwich.  Yummy!  Try this soon, I promise you will love it!

Hand Shredded Pork:

2 boneless pork tenderloins, trimmed of fat

1 cup water

1 full bottle of bbq sauce (whatever you like)

salt/pepper (just throw some in)

1 T. paprika

1 T. crushed red pepper flakes

1 t. garlic salt

1 t. garlic pepper

mix all but the tenderloin in the crock pot.  add the tenderloin, covering with the sauce mix.  cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours, or until pork is very tender.  remove tenderloin from the crock pot and place in a large bowl.  take 2 forks and shred pork.  pour about 3 cups of the remaining sauce over the shredded pork.  serve with additional bottle of bbq sauce.  enjoy!

Annual Photo Shoot

I am on vacation this week.  We are up at a cottage on Campbell Lake near Hesperia enjoying the sun, water and sand.  The cottage is great and we are having tons of fun!  Unfortunately, there is no internet or phone service.  I’m handling it pretty well, considering I live on my computer and can’t stand to be disconnected from the internet.  But I promise when I get back to civilization, my blog posts will continue daily.  Until then, here is a quick post while I sit at McDonald’s in Fremont using their free wi-fi about annual photo shoots.

Every year on New Year’s Day, I set up a neutral backdrop right in my house and take new pics of the boys.  I normally take their shirts off and just have them in jeans, but I realize this will soon come to an end as my oldest is getting embarrassed by this.  I love the simple setup of a black backdrop in front of our big picture window at about 11am.  The lighting is great and most people can do this right at home.  A few years ago I used a dark brown blanket and loved that too.  Here are a few shots from our 2011 session.

Rhubarb Pie Deliciousness

A couple weeks ago I went out and picked the last of my rhubarb for the season.  I peeled this and chopped it, then put it in the freezer in 2 cup bags to use this winter.  I love fresh rhubarb pie.  Sadly, I’m the only one in my house that likes it, so I usually make a pie for my dad and my good friend Jason every year.  I also have a great recipe from my grandma for rhubarb bars, which are great!  Next spring I’ll post that recipe.  The following recipe is my mother’s and is the best rhubarb pie recipe I’ve had.  The following pics were taken earlier this spring when I picked my first batch of rhubarb.  Enjoy!

Rhubarb Pie:

Make 1 bottom pie crust


2 1/2 cups rhubarb, peeled, chopped

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 T. flour

3 T. melted butter

1 t. cinnamon

1/2 t. salt

stir the above well and spoon into the pie shell.

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

beat the above and pour over the rhubarb fruit mix already in the crust.  bake in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes.  then turn down the temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 30 minutes.  ovens vary, you may need to cook a little longer.  make sure the filling is not too juicy.  enjoy!

Wedding Details Photography

In celebration of the wedding I am photographing today, I thought it would be fun to talk about wedding detail photography.  When I got married (wow, 15 years ago this year) detail photography was not very popular.  You might have a shot of the cake, but not much else.  With wedding photography today, detail shots are very important to brides and grooms.  I set aside specific time at every wedding to shoot details.  These include the dress, shoes, veil, rings, bouquet/flowers, table settings, favors and anything else that catches my eye.  I actually love this part of the day as it allows me to be creative and I can relax while doing it.  You don’t have to worry about someone blinking while shooting the shoes.  Also, for anyone that wants to submit their wedding to any sort of publication to try to have it published, editors always want to see a lot of detail shots showcasing your wedding day style and theme.  Enjoy a few shots I’ve collected over the years!

Millennium Park Fun

Yesterday, my sister and I took our kids to Millennium Park in Grand Rapids.  For those of you that might not live here, there is a man-made lake, a beach area, a splash-pad and picnic areas.  There is no cost to get in, but there is a minimal cost to use the beach and splash-pad.  Adults cost $4 and kids over age 3 are $2.  Total cost for me and my 3 boys was only $10.  The weather was perfect.  Overcast, but warm enough to be in the water.  The lake water was perfect (at least for me, i do not swim unless the water is like my bathtub) and we started there.  The water is so clear and the bottom is pure sand.  The kids loved it!  Then we moved over to the splash-pad.  I stayed on the sidelines, as that water was too cold for me.  But my oldest loved it and my sister’s little girl, who is only 2, had a blast.  I would highly recommend spending a day here if you’ve never been.  It is much busier on weekends and when it is 90 degrees, so keep that in mind.  Have fun!

Outdoor Kids Photography

When I was thinking about starting this blog, I was trying to come up with one direction to move in.  Then I realized I wanted to move in A LOT of directions, just like my daily life.  So while I might blog about food one day, I might blog about my photography business or my favorite books the next.  Today I thought we could take a look at outdoor children’s photography.  Here are some tips and tricks for getting some good pics of your little ones.

1.  Take them outside.  As we all know, outdoor natural lighting is the best.  And if you can get an overcast day instead of a bright sunny one, you’ll be really happy with the nice, soft light.  My niece is 2 years old and not one to sit in front of a backdrop (at least not willingly).  I found this great outfit at the local farmer’s market, bought it, got home and dressed her in it.  I fluffed her hair and then said “Let’s go outside and play.”

2.  Key word here: PLAY.  Take them out and let them run around.  The trick is to follow them around with your camera in hand.  Some of my best shots from this photo shoot were the spontaneous ones.

3.  Interact with them.  Right now, my twins are 4 and are also not as into getting their photo taken as I am of taking them.  Being 4, they are starting to think certain words are quite funny.  Just say the word “fart” and they crack up. (What can I say, I have 3 boys).   Another big trick we are using right now is saying “Now don’t smile, no giggling allowed…no, no, I said no laughing.”  My 4 year olds fall for this every time.

4.  Sometimes the “grumpy” shots are the cutest ones.  No photo shoot is complete for me without a few crabby faces or grumpy eyes.  And don’t be afraid to get right in their face, sometimes filling the whole frame with just face is fun.  (But let me warn you, great grandma will not like this one, it won’t be traditional enough for her.  Mine always complains, “But his head is cut off, I just don’t like these so close up.)

5.  Have fun!  Because we all know they grow up fast and we’ll look back at these photo shoots and wonder where the time went.  At least that’s what everyone says to me, I say a prayer every day thanking God that my twins are another day older and we’re one day closer to school.  But I still have fun taking pics of my boys.

Pinterest Addict

A good friend of mine recently told me about a new website called Pinterest.  When she tried to explain the concept, I was a little confused.  But after I got home from our dinner out, I went right to the computer and looked this site up.  What I found has been so much fun!  However, if you already spend too much time on the computer and don’t need another site to consume your time, I would recommend staying away from this one 🙂  If you are into photography, design, interior design, staging, etc…you know what story boards or design boards are.  This site basically houses your own digital story boards.  You “pin” things to your “boards.”  You can also follow other’s boards and repin things you see on the site.  You can also pin almost anything you see on the internet.  I have a board for wedding fun, tattoo awesomeness, my style, yummy food, for the home, etc…Check it out!  You have to “request an invite” in order to join.  You give them your info and they email you about 5-7 days later “inviting” you to join.  It’s fun and inspirational.  Lots of great ideas.  Have fun.  And husbands, I apologize in advance, this site is totally addicting.

Hot Pepper Jam

I love hot, spicy food!  The hotter the better.  My mom used to make this green pepper jam when I was younger, but I am not a huge fan of green peppers.  But I love hot peppers.  I finally asked her to find the recipe and decided to make a batch of freezer jam.  My sister gave me a bag of frozen hot red peppers and hot green peppers.  These were from her garden last fall.  Lucky for me, she did the dirty work last year and prechopped the peppers.  Unlucky for me, she did not remove the seeds before freezing.  And in my experience, the seeds are what give the peppers their heat.  The peppers I used were hotter than jalapeno peppers, but you could use jalapeno peppers or even plain green bell peppers.  I made two batches of jam, one with the hot red peppers and red bell peppers.  The other batch with the hot green peppers and green bell peppers.  I also made jelly and jam in each batch, jelly without the fruit and jam with the fruit.  To serve this, I drop an 8 oz slab of cream cheese on a plate and spoon about 1/2 cup to 1 cup of the jam on top of the cream cheese.  Serve with crackers.  This is a great last minute gift that can be stored in the freezer until needed.  It’s great at Christmas time, because of the red and green colors.  And if you are in a fix for a quick snack to pass, just grab and go!  Enjoy!

Hot Pepper Jam

2 1/2 c. finely chopped peppers (bell, hot, jalapeno, etc)

1 1/2 c. white vinegar

2 drops green food coloring (or red if doing red peppers)

7 1/2 c. sugar

1 envelope pkg Certo (6 oz)

mix peppers, sugar, vinegar and food coloring in large pan and boil for 6 minutes.  add certo and boil another 3 minutes.  remove from heat and stir for another 4 minutes.  fill freezer containers and cover.  let sit on counter for 24 hours.  move to freezer and enjoy!

recipe from mom

boiling the mix

hot pepper jam preparation

removing fruit for jelly

poured into containers and ready for the freezer