Sun dried tomato, bacon and garlic mushroom pasta

Posted By mattantonino / March, 27, 2010 / 13 comments

I originally found this recipe on Slimming Eats. I’ve made a few changes to suit my palette. Slightly more tomatoes, double the Canadian bacon, a bit less cheese…Basically I love this but wish it had a bit more sauce to it. It’s a light, summer pasta I will definitely have again and again.

Instead of just one shot of the food I’ve done a series this time. First is my mise en place shot for the mix. Second is my masterpiece. Third is a stock photo I will be selling with copyspace. Finally, I included another lighting setup shot. This lighting is much simpler than my last lighting setup shot. One strobe, one reflector, great light.

Trivia: A pound of garlic cloves can produce 7 to 10 pounds of mature cloves the following summer.

Bonus! This is the setup photo for my mise en place shot. I shot this to give you an idea what went into today’s shoot. Light from the strobe hit the left side of the food. Bounce from the reflector filled in the shadows. Reflector was closer (it loses some light on reflection so closer = more power gained back. It balances the two out to have the reflector about half the distance of the strobe.)

Recipe after the jump!


Food Blog Forum

Posted By mattantonino / March, 25, 2010 / 9 comments

I am lucky to have found a great resource for my food blogging at Food Blog Forum.? It’s a place for food bloggers to meet, share their work, discuss blog issues such as WordPress vs. Typepad and how to run a great food blog.? If you’re not on there already, come join the fun!? Right now things are changing on the site very often and always for the better.

Some examples of the great discussion and food blogging help currently going on:

Full vs. Partial RSS feeds

Editing Food Photos

FBF Blog List

Getting Into Tastespotting (and FoodGawker)

If you join the site you can add friends (I’m here) and @people like you can on Twitter.? The site is based on Buddypress so it is a WordPress installation and will get better and better.? The guy who runs it (Scott) seems really great, too.? I’ll leave you with a somewhat-food related photo – water drops!? This is the type of thing I shoot for fun.

Modern Healthy Beef Stew

Posted By mattantonino / March, 24, 2010 / 0 comments

I love homemade beef stew – but I’ve never made it. When I saw this I knew we had to shoot it.

This stew comes pretty much straight from The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook. I love to adapt recipes once I’ve made them and tweak things for my own tastes. This is one I’ve changed only a few details – it was close to perfect! They do recommend half the flour but I didn’t feel it coated well. I also doubled the garlic because hey, you can never get too much taste!

Trivia: Stew is one of the oldest meals in the world. In the Bible book of Genesis, Esau trades his father’s dowry with his brother Jacob, all for a dish of stew.

Click Read More to jump to the recipe!


Healthy Sesame Chicken

Posted By mattantonino / March, 23, 2010 / 0 comments

I chose to shoot sesame chicken because, well let’s be honest, it’s delicious! I eat too much of it, though, and wanted something healthier. One reason I love food photography is my introduction to healthy versions of classics. This recipe allows you to eat all that yummy Chinese food at home. Let’s compare how this one stacks up to a personal favorite, PF Changs.

The PF Chang Sesame Chicken contains 535 calories, 15g of fat, 76 carbs and 39g of protein per serving.

This Healthy Sesame Chicken contains 457 calories, 6.5g of fat, 38 carbs and 59g of protein per serving.

80 fewer calories, less than half the fat, half the carbs and almost twice the protein makes this recipe a DEFINITE keeper! This is another recipe I adapted from my Biggest Loser Family Cookbook. This won’t crisp up like deep fried sesame chicken but it won’t kill you either.

Trivia: Syncretic dishes are meals that symbolize a particular cuisine, like Sesame Chicken does Chinese.

Healthy Sesame Chicken

The Read More link jumps to the recipe.


Preparing Our Next Food Shoot

Posted By mattantonino / March, 22, 2010 / 1 comments

I wanted to document a bit of how we prepare for a new stock shoot. Unfortunately I’m not shooting hot models a la Chase Jarvis so I’m not going to be live demo’ing anytime soon!

Our thought process on a new photo shoot works something like this:

  1. Overall concept/theme/ingredient
  2. Specific recipe
  3. Lighting/angles/technicals
  4. Shop
  5. Shoot Day

1. Overall concept/theme/ingredient

We shoot two days a week – Friday and Sunday. If we shoot more that’s fantastic. If not, oh well. We plan those two days to have one breakfast or lunch type shoot (Friday) and one dinner/dessert (Sunday). It’s easier to spend a long time cooking/shooting on Sundays for us and dinner/dessert usually seems to take longer than breakfast/lunch.

I follow some really great foodies on Twitter/Facebook/blogs. One thing I always look for is a recipe that a) will taste great and b) will LOOK great. As a bonus I often look to see if I can find a healthy version so nobody gains 10 pounds per recipe I shoot.

2. Specific Recipe

So Friday we need to create a lunch. I bookmarked a delicious looking recipe two weeks ago and decided quickly I’d try that this week. The recipe will be 3 Cheese Chicken Cacciatore Manicotti. That was easy. We also need to figure out dinner for Sunday. I wanted to find something not as “fancy” as cacciatore manicotti so we looked at several recipe sites, some cookbooks and finally decided on something the Biggest Loser Cookbook called “Mom’s New Beef Stew.” That fits my requirements: tastes great, looks super yummy and bonus: it’s fairly healthy at 275 cals per serving.

Some weeks I will decide on a recipe by ingredient. Take Kahlua for instance. We have leftover Kahlua from the chocolate mousse we made a week ago. This Chocolate Truffle Pie also uses Kahlua. If we don’t make that Sunday for dessert I’m certain we’ll make it next week. Using ingredients you have on hand greatly reduces wastes and product going bad/old.

3. Lighting/angles/technicals

After printing the recipe and making a shopping list we write on the back of the recipe some ideas for the shoot. Mostly this is just note-form. Here are some examples from our banana split shoot:

  • Yellow/orange
  • high key
  • OJ – don’t think milk will work
  • Balance the color
  • Angles: will be propped up
  • Spoonful

Generally meaningless until you get in the shoot. We did end up using a yellow napkin and orange juice – it balanced the color very well. We did some shots near the end of the shoot with a spoonful of split in front of the dish. We tried but didn’t use milk because it did, in fact, look bad. We ended up propping the bowl with a small bottle cap for a few shots.

4. Shop

Shopping day is Thursday. That dictates our Friday shoot – if we need something super-fresh we may have to pick that up Friday morning before the shoot. Sunday’s shopping is done except fresh on Thursday as well. WE have a local Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings year-round so we do our fresh shopping for Sunday then.

With our recipe and our ideas already in place shopping day is generally pretty straightforward. Pick the best items you can find.

5. Shoot Day

Well, shoots are shoots. The only thing we try and do specifically at each shoot is pre-organize our ideas so we don’t cut up the food before we’re done with it. The further into a shoot we get the more we “mess” the dish and the more we feel free to cut, chop, move, adjust, add to, take from, etc. We want to get those setup shots first, the meat of the shoot, then start playing with the outer edge of the shoot – closeups, eating, some unusual stuff just to see how it works, etc. Get the bulk of work done when the food is as fresh and perfect as possible. Once you get that THEN experiment.

Wrap Up

So that’s the way a typical shoot has been going for us. We are pro photographers but very amateur food photographers. The combination is sometimes an interesting one. I can figure out how to light something I’ve never shot before but I may not know how to drizzle syrup “correctly” yet. We continue to read foodie sites, blogs, watch food stylist tutorials on Youtube and read food photo books. Many many ways to learn in 2010!

Hope you enjoyed the post! It’s great to be back and thank you for all the comments and well-wishes recently.

Healthy Yogurt Banana Split

Posted By mattantonino / March, 21, 2010 / 0 comments

This morning our kids woke up to a banana split with hot fudge for breakfast. Needless to say, they are THRILLED we are doing food photography now. It was chocolatey, fruity and very tasty.

You’ll find that most of what we are doing now is healthy so even though these look like 500 calorie treats they are just 195! This recipe is taken pretty much straight from the Biggest Loser Family Cookbook – which I highly recommend!

Trivia: A cluster of bananas is called a hand and consists of 10 to 20 bananas, which are known as fingers.

Read more to view the recipe after the jump!


Walnut Banana Bread

Posted By mattantonino / March, 21, 2010 / 5 comments

Banana bread is one of my all-time favorite foods. I’ve never made banana bread from scratch before but I’ve made the boxed stuff since I was a kid. Learning how all of these ingredients work together is great! While researching banana bread for the recipe I learned that the baking soda/baking powder had to be in there to make this particular bread rise. I know you pro chefs are thinking “no duh!” but hey, that’s why I’m starting to cook.

Inspired by Food Wishes and tweaked with help from

* Now that you’ve made it to the blog, why not bookmark or subscribe so you can find your way back?

This is the setup photo for my shoot. I shot this to give you an idea what went into today’s shoot.

Read more to view the recipe!


Starting from scratch

Posted By mattantonino / March, 19, 2010 / 4 comments

Welcome to Starting to Cook!

Why “Starting to Cook”

My food adventure probably started with weddings. About a year ago I realized I really love food photography but I really don’t know what changed. No one food photo flipped a switch but if one did, it was this cake photo I shot at a wedding a few years ago.

My food blog is called Starting to Cook because that is where I stand today. One year ago I couldn’t tell you braising from a brisket. My food life could easily be described as “college guy food.” Frozen food, mac & cheese, Ramen, frozen burgers on the Foreman and the most extensive meal I made would have been stir fry. Starting to Cook Yes, yes I am!

In the last year I’ve cooked a lot better but also I’m learning first. I did my homework, started to read food books, blogs and watch food shows. My meals are not *all* culinary wonders but I’ve eaten more good food in the last 3 months than my whole adult life combined. So yes, I’ve now made sauteed chicken and broccoli over penne, chicken tetrazinni and homemade bread. I’ve made my own bacon wrapped scallops and even thrown a simple dinner party from appetizers to dessert.

Who is behind Starting to Cook

My name is Matt Antonino – I’m your host, photographer and writer of Starting to Cook. Let me tell you a little bit about me. I’m a full time pro photographer. In the past I’ve focused almost exclusively on people photography – weddings, portraits, models for commercial & stock photography, etc. I’ve shot families, babies, newborn, maternity, high school seniors and many models of all ages. I have owned my own business for 7 years and have 6 total photographers working in Syracuse.

Before photography I graduated law school from Syracuse University in 2002 and spent a year in Seoul, South Korea after that. I’ve traveled to China, Japan, Spain, Mexico, Canada and of course, Korea.

Trivia: I type about 140 wpm so I type a lot and I read just as quickly – about 2 pages per minute of a typical novel.

What is the plan for the site

Starting to Cook is going to be a documentary of a brand new foodie almost from the moment of awareness through … well who knows I am making a change – from shooting people to shooting exclusively food. Change like that takes time but while I make the crossover I am going to grow as a food lover, food stylist and photographer. If you’re interested in watching that growth I’d love to have you along for the ride!

Shall we?