Tuesdays with… Shutterboo!

What should I tell you about BooBoo? I should tell you her name isn’t BooBoo or Shutterboo, but Brooke. She’s got mad photog skills. She’s funny. She’s silly. She thinks she knows all about the 80s, bless her Gen XY heart. Anyway, I really dig this chickadee and I know you will too.

Here’s what she had to say about life, love and the pursuit of happiness. Not really, this is way more interesting.

What is the elevator pitch for your blog?

My name is Brooke and I live in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky with the hubs (we call him Mike) and my two doggins (Chevy and Chase).  Chevy’s deaf.  It keeps things interesting.  Anywho, my day job is boring so I find refuge in the creative world be it crafting, photography or writing.  And I have my little blog: shutterboo

Why and when did you decide to become a blogger?

I decided to start blogging the summer of 2009 [so I’m only a year old myself].  I was already taking pictures of everything and sharing them five different ways.  And I was giving myself writing exercises at work to keep my environment more creative (I work with a lot of numbers).  So after some thought went into a name, shutterboo was born.  The best part of blogging are the people I’ve met along the way.

What’s next for your blog?

I really don’t know.  I guess just keep doing what I’m doing.  Oh, but I do plan to kick off a new Weekly Photo Challenge with the start of the New Year.  I’m hoping we can get loads of people to play along this year since folks are always looking for projects at the beginning of the year.

What’s your favorite infomercial?

The Cricut.  I get sucked in almost every time it’s on air.  Did you know they have one that cuts out fondant now?  Cool, huh?

If you had to be named after a country, which would it be?

Hmmm… if I could roll my Rs I’d say Morocco.  Because it’s exotic.  And I could roll my Rs.  But since I can’t, Christmas Island.  Because I love the holidays.  I really do.  A lot.  No joke.  For reals, yo.

What’s the most memorable thing you ever ate? It could be really good or really bad.

I had a bad episode with spiced gum drops when I was eight.  The smell of them send me into convulsions.  But  every time I eat my mom’s sweet potato bake, my heart beats a little faster.  It might also do that with bacon.

What kind of old person would you like to be?

The kind that can say whatever she wants and people don’t a) think she’s senile or b) give her the stink eye.  I pretty much say what’s on my mind now [with a few exceptions because inserting the foot is never fun] but yeah, to be open and loud and full of wit.  I want to be Ouiser from Steel Magnolias.

Didn’t I tell you she was uber cool? Do make sure you mosey on over to her blog and hang out, she’ll make you smile every time. Of course I had to put her to work, you don’t just get to be my friend and do nothing.

I asked BooBoo to share some photography tips with us. She got all excited and made it about food photog, which is appropriate for this blog and its perfect timing too. We have all the food madness coming fast, so sharpen your cameras and read on.

I love photography.  I really do.  But I’m here to tell you that I’m no expert.  Far from it.  I’m a hobbyist whose picked up a few pointers along the way and discovered what I liked.  So while you might read this and think “this gal is a total joke!” I can only agree with you – but I can only share what I know.  Now, let’s get started with what I know about photographing food.

I love my camera, whom I affectionately refer to as “the kahuna”, like I love food.  I love to eat.  And I’ve been known to take the stray photo of the plate in front of me.  Food photography has become so popular of late.  With the number of food blogs that grace the interweb and even special diets that require people to log their meals, everyone is snapping photos of their food.  I blame technology – the digital age has made is so much easier to take pointless photos.  But we can use this to our advantage to capture a great photo.

So while I’m neither a professional photographer nor a food blogger, I always have my camera in hand.  And I wanted to share some things I’ve learned while my photography has evolved.

Color is key. – Yes.  Yes, it is.  Your pot roast might be the best in the county but if your meat has a green hue to it, it will not look appetizing.  (Unfortunately, scratch-n-sniff photos aren’t available.)  Many of the foods we eat have bland colors that don’t match their flavors but paying attention to the color can make the biggest difference.  I find that browns and yellows are the most difficult to capture.  Which is why the next point is very valid:

Use natural light. – Flash photography is great and all but I still haven’t figured it out.  But what I’ve discovered with photographing food is that natural provides the best white balance for this particular still life.  Ambient or *gasp* fluorescent light just puts a funny spin on color.  Try shooting in an area that has a lot of natural light, a window that just brightens up the room.  Or do what some of the West coasters do: photograph your food outside al fresco style.

Try different angles and perspectives. – I have no idea what makes a good photograph; sometimes my “eye” is just a bit off and nothing is working.  So I try a difference angle.  Turn the plate, shoot from the front, shoot from above, get up close and personal – but don’t be afraid to step back.  Try cropping.  There are so many different things to make each dish look original.

Experiment with your settings.  – And not just your camera settings.  Be aware of your background, the colors of your dishes, your napkins, plate your food with style in mind.  Some people have a knack for food styling – this gal doesn’t, so I’ll try a couple different things before I find something I like.  But be bold!  Who says all your photos have to be taken inside?  Take it outside, photograph on the deck, on the grass, on the sand – you don’t know how awesome it can be until you try.

And now… the list of don’ts.  What?  You knew this was coming, didn’t you?  You didn’t?  Well, it’s OK you’re late to the party.  We love ya anyway.

–          Don’t be afraid to try new things.  We live in a digital age which means you can take as many photos as your little memory card can hold.  And you can delete.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy. 

–          Don’t take pictures of people eating.  It’s unbecoming.  Even if it is George Clooney – I don’t need to see him chomping away on some Frito Lays… I think… the jury’s still out on this.

–          Be careful not to get too close to your food.  Hot foods will steam and fog up your lens and scraping cheese off the filter never makes for a fun afternoon.  Believe me, I know.

–          Don’t be afraid to share.  Flickr is a fun place to share your photographs and is filled with professionals and amateurs alike.  And everyone loves food.  Everyone.  Well, normal people do.

Here is Brooke’s super tasty Flickr stream. It’s really good food porn. Also, Brooke hosts a photo challenge, I participated for a while this year before life became nutty. But stay tuned, she promises to host a bigger and better one next year. Now go forth and BooBoo!
the bacon flavored blog

PS: Use lots of exclamation marks in your comments. She loves ’em. mmmmwwhhahaahahahaha.



Tuesdays with…, Plátanos, mangoes and me!

Are you as excited as I am about this? Here’s my first Guest Appearance post to commemorate my Blogiversary. I’ve been reading the guest posts as they come in and, wouldn’t you know it? I picked some awesome people, indeed! Not that I had any doubts whatsoever!

OK. Today’s guest is my dear Norma from Plátanos, Mangoes & Me. Of course I was gonna love her, she listed all my faves as part of her blog name! Brilliant! Then I started reading her posts, and I love her wit and her apartment. Yep, I want it. But then we get into her cooking and that’s all she wrote! She brings together Latin and Spanish flavors, she allows us to take a peek in her Personal Chef window and shares dishes learned from her mom and the ones she prepares with her granddaughter. It’s a family business for sure.

OK, enough of me jabbering. I asked my guests to answer a series of questions, except for the first 3, they all got different ones. Let me introduce you Norma.

As I have said in the past you get close to the people you meet through this venue and we end up caring for each other – our little family. You asked me to share one of my posts that speaks of my blog and that it may relate to yours. Puerto Rico and Panama are part of a grand melting pot. We have so many things that bond us through our food and culture. You gave me 7 questions to answer and I want you to know that some were not easy. I even lost some beauty sleep, but here goes:

What is the elevator pitch to your blog? My cooking rises to the top floor of your taste palate or my cooking elevates the spirit. I consider myself a “foodie”. The love of cooking, creating and still keeping with the old ways of Puerto Rican traditional cooking is my goal. Not only will I concentrate on Puerto Rican dishes, but I will also bring dishes from my childhood days in Venezuela, Spain and the Canary Islands. I have travelled to many wonderful places and we will also journey there. Along the way I’ll bring new and old recipes to the table.

Why and when did you decide to become a blogger? It started in February of 2010.  I have always wanted to write a cookbook for my family including all their favorite dishes and what a better way to start than by blogging.  After seeing what my friend, Joan of Foodalogue did with hers, I was inspired and with her help and the bloggers I have met, I am achieving my goal.

What is next for your blog? A change for the better.

What do you order when you go to a Chinese Restaurant? Dim SumDuck – Sticky Rice – Egg Drop Soup with lots of homemade crispy noodles.

Who would play you in a movie? Angelica Houston

What is your least favorite word?: CAN’T

Write a story with 6 words: Mi cocina canta canciones de amor – My kitchen sings songs of love

I am giving you a few posts to choose from.

I ended up picking this post because it ties into today’s assigned tips: setting the mood for a dinner party. This was to be Norma’s Foodbuzz Challenge entry for Hosting a Soiree! I think she was robbed!

I hope you’ll add Plátanos, Mangoes & Me to your blogroll, you’ll thank me for me it!

Coming attractions

On this my blogiversary month, I’ll host my own version of Oprah’s Favorite Things show. No, no. I won’t be giving away a car, not unless you’re interested in picking up the payments for my humpty. I just mean I plan on keeping it exciting, entertaining and fun. I bet you’re curious about the lineup, right?

Here are your November/December listings:

Tips galore: with the holidays right around the corner, I’ll be supplying you with cooking and planning tips to get you ready for the festivities. There’s a twist, though. These tips will be shared daily on Twitter and Facebook beginning today. Be sure to follow me @chefityourself (on Twitter) and Chef It Yourself (on FB). Because I like you so, I’ve made your life easy by providing you with buttons that’ll take you straight there. Now go forth and follow.

Guest appearances: I’ll call this Tuesdays with…, and yes, you guessed it, every Tuesday through December 13th I will have a guest post by one of my blogging buddies. Personally, I’m uber excited about this one.

Holiday recipe makeovers: Starting with the side dish you choose on the poll, I will attempt to improve side dishes, at the very least, get them out of the proverbial rut. This being the Latina-Caribbean blog, the recipes will have some sabor.

Q&A: I want to open up the lines and answer questions you may have about cooking, entertaining, meal planning, Panama, my puppy, whatever! You ask, I’ll answer. Each week I’ll open up a post for you to ask away. As a bonus, a question will be randomly selected and that person will receive a little gift from me.

New digs: Yep, Chef It Yourself will be moving to it’s own piece of Internet real estate. I don’t have set date for this, I’m OCD’ing on layout and the like.

That’s it. I think. That’s it for now. I hope you’re looking forward to all of it.

Impatiently yours,

A year in posts

I can’t believe it’s November already. began thinking about starting a blog back in September 09, decided it was something I wanted to pursue and in October began to write posts. It wasn’t until November 15th that I went live. So now I don’t know when to celebrate my blogiverssary!

Originally, my plan was to celebrate from October to November, but that was thwarted by life and work. This year has been certainly been event-packed for me. Lots of good things, a number of bad ones, but definitely a year lived. How about a trip down memory lane?

Here are some of the things that took place in the last 12 months.

I nervously hit the publish button for the first time.

I fell in love with pit bulls. The second time for keeps.

I took The Hubbz to my beautiful Panamá.

I discovered the joy that comes from reading a comment from a complete stranger.

I received the most awards and honorable mentions since my school days. Thanks fellow bloggers!

I let my competitive side run wild and had fun doing so.

I reconnected with my sister, even if it wasn’t under the best circumstances.

I made and continue to make new friends all over the world.

Yes, a lot has happened in the last 12 months, and a lot more is coming. I hope you will continue to visit my little blog, it’s going to be exciting. In the coming weeks you will see interviews, polls, holiday tips and more. OH MY! I’ll reveal the surprises one post at a time. Stay tuned.

Thanks for making this year such a memorable one!

Cookingly yours,

A year later

I still find it to be:

A learning experience.
Worth waking up in the morning.
Challenging in all the right ways.

Last week made a year since The Hubbz and I said *I do* and it’s been a year filled with living, loving and learning. Who would’ve known  that two people who had given up on love, who never believed in fairy tales, who faced all the challenges life sent their way would feel like love-struck teenagers ever again.

We got to know each other before we ever met and when we did, we knew almost instantly we would see each other every day for the rest of our lives. On our first official date we decided to cook together, it seemed only appropriate we did the same for our first anniversary.

Want to know what was on the menu?

Tomato & Avocado Salad
Pan Seared Scallops with Red Pepper Confit

I can’t really explain how incredibly good these were, and so easy to put together. The salad was a no-hassle toss together kinda deal, and the parsley made it so fresh and crisp. Then the red pepper confit was out-of-this-world good. I swear I could take a tub of that and eat it on its own!

For the salad:
Cube 4 slices of ciabatta (or other bread you like) into 1-inch cubes and toast them in a nonstick skillet with some butter and olive oil. Set aside and allow to cool.

In a bowl, combine chopped
Tomatoes (I used 3 small ones)
1/2 avocado
1/2 cp fresh mozzarella
about 1 cp fresh Italian parsley (tear the leaves from the stems)
Add the cooled bread and toss with 2-3 tbsp of your favorite vinaigrette. Serve immediately.

For the Red Pepper Confit:
2 large red peppers
about 1/3 cp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic crushed
1/2 red onion (or yellow)

Add all the ingredients to a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook until the peppers have softened completely (about 30 minutes). Allow it to cool for about 15 minutes before pureeing it–use a blender or a small food processor.

Return it to the saucepan and add a bit of broth or water to thin the puree. Keep warm while you cook the scallops.

For the scallops:
10-12 scallops (these were medium-sized)
rosemary stems (remove the springs and save for future use)
salt & pepper

I used the rosemary stems and skewered 2 scallops on each one. You can skip this step if you want.  Heat a nonstick skillet on high and add about 1 tbsp of oil. Make sure the scallops are dry and sprinkle with a bit of salt & pepper and sear them on the skillet. About 2 minutes per side, should be enough for medium-large scallops. Set aside and keep warm.

To plate: I wanted to preserve the crust on the scallops, so I blanched a few asparagus spears to put between the sauce and the scallops. Spread about 2 tbsp of the pureed confit, lay a few asparagus, then top with the scallops.

Happy Anniversary, Papucho!

Cookingly yours,