Homemade gourmet macaroni and cheese

Posted By mattantonino / April, 23, 2010 / 7 comments

Ah, good ole mac and cheese. My girlfriend’s daughter came to us a few nights ago after some Kraft with “this tasted nassssty.” I’m glad she is growing up. Now we get to test better recipes for family classics. This one had to be the first. While it came out “slightly dry” (don’t overboil or overbake it, hey) I think we’ll enjoy it next time. I always have tweaks after the first and second cook.

This recipe was an amalgamation of all the ones I was able to find for fancy mac & cheese. Call it an “original” – maybe my first.

As you can see from the lighting diagram in photo #2, the setup is very simple again. Softbox on left, reflector(s) on the right. We shot this a little after dark so the background was simple enough to control. Photo #3 was taken in the oven. I thought I’d sell more if I got some cooking shots and oven baked photos. The light was a simple stove light with the kitchen light. I had to shoot these with a really slow shutter though, so I was on a tripod the whole time. #5 should definitely sell the best. Graphic designers love that copyspace and I try and give it to them with all the food photo setups I shoot.

I’m going to try submitting #4 to Tastespotting just to see how it does. (Edit: This is my 2nd most popular post thanks to TasteSpotting, FoodGawker and StumbleUpon! Thanks!!)

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baking gourmet mac and cheese


Shrimp Pasta, 2 of 2

Posted By mattantonino / April, 20, 2010 / 1 comments

This is a 2-for-1 post and this is the second part of my two-part post. Last week I thought about making shrimp pasta. I really wanted to photograph shrimp pasta. It sounded tasty. Then I somehow didn’t bring the recipe ingredients to the grocery store. I crossed shrimp pasta off my recipe list and grabbed everything for beef stroganoff.

The recipe I wanted to make is this (from MyRecipes.com): Shrimp Pesto Pasta

I ended up picking up a box of frozen and made that (Part 1 post here). It was decent but definitely nothing I’d call “great.” I knew when I was eating it that yes, the photos would be ok, but no I wasn’t done. I had to eat this the right way. So Thursday (grocery day here) came again but this time I had my ingredients list with me. We read the recipe and couldn’t believe how fast this was to cook! Basically you cook the pasta, toss everything together, mix, heat the shrimp through, and serve. It was done in under 20 minutes including boiling the water.

Photographically I’m done with shrimp for awhile. It is pretty tough to light. I always feel like I’m *slightly* blowing out the highlights. I don’t like dark food but I can’t find an exposure I like for these. For the stock photography of it, I knew I wanted some closeups as shrimp is a “main food” – something people can search for and may want to see pretty much nothing but shrimp. It’s also a food mainstream America is familiar with so I knew I was good getting close and personal. My designers would want some copyspace so I gave them that and my restaurants, foodies and such would want the whole dish so I shot that too. I have other angles and props but I wanted to show you a little of each set we did. Mise en place, ingredient closeup (frozen shrimp), shrimp pasta closeup, copyspace version and finally restaurant/foodie version.

This recipe is an exact make of the MyRecipes one so again, no recipe here. I’m going to be posting more recipes – I am just not a good enough cook yet (there’s that “Starting” thing again!) and I don’t want to mess up people’s great food so I stick to the plan, make it, shoot it and link you to it.

Shrimp Pasta, 1 of 2.

Posted By mattantonino / April, 11, 2010 / 4 comments

This is a 2-for-1 post and this is the first part of a two-part post. This week I thought about making shrimp pasta. I really wanted to photograph shrimp pasta. It sounded tasty. Then I somehow didn’t bring the recipe ingredients to the grocery store. I crossed shrimp pasta off my recipe list and grabbed everything for beef stroganoff.

The recipe I’m going to make is this:

Shrimp Pasta

So why am I telling you about a recipe I haven’t made Well as I was walking through the frozen food section I happened to notice a very similar meal – in a small, “microwave me” bowl. Nahhhh – I couldn’t! I’m trying to learn to cook – frozen is cheating, right

Well, one thing I love is to photograph food. ANY food. I am learning to cook in order to shoot the food so I thought a little practice round would be perfectly acceptable. Now let’s be honest – this food pales in comparison to that recipe – but it was definitely good practice. I know that I want a lot more shrimp in the dish than the puny (and discolored) pieces in the frozen food. I want a bit more color as well. I will also likely toss some parmesan cheese over the top of this dish to finish it. The photography of this frozen meal actually worked. I’ll sell these photos – but yes, I’m making this again, the right way!

Let’s just say this could taste fresher. I am excited for part 2, for sure.

S’mores Truffles

Posted By mattantonino / April, 6, 2010 / 11 comments

I know what you’re thinking right now – shut up and give me the recipe, Matt. HA! No, I’m going to make you read about it! I want to make sure this puts to rest those nasty rumors that I only shoot healthy food.

So yes, I made s’mores truffles. To say these tasted good would be to say the sun “may be a bit warm today.” Family reaction was exactly the same – make…MORE.

I actually found the first recipe I wanted to use on one particular site but the author was so INCREDIBLY snooty that I went out and found another one to use just to hopefully support someone ELSE with my link! That search actually led me to a blog I really love: Visions of Sugar Plum. The truffle recipe is actually here. I made no changes except to double the mini-marsmallows (therefore 48 of them) instead of 24 mini-marshmallows. I’m not posting the recipe under Read More since it’s virtually exact.

I will, however, give you some photos to drool over before you leave to go make these.

Photographically these were actually REALLY easy to shoot. I used a setup like my bacon & sundried tomato pasta (http://startingtocook.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/foodshoot3260059.jpg) The plate I used reflected almost nothing so I didn’t have to worry much about that – I removed a few specks from the plate in post processing due to dropping them off the s’mores balls. The graham cracker crust didn’t stick quite enough to move them around a lot and not have crumbs.

So far the first image is online at my stock sites. I wouldn’t say it’s making money hand over fist but I’ll probably have both batches of ingredients paid off by the end of the day today or tomorrow and then every image that ever sells from this shoot moving forward is profit from it. I anticipate editing about 15-20 s’mores truffles photos, uploading them and making $50-150 over the life of this project. Plus I got to eat (with my family) chocolate s’mores truffles. YUM!


Finding my voice

Posted By mattantonino / April, 3, 2010 / 0 comments

Rewriting, the process

First of all, I want to thank everyone who’s visited, read StC and left comments. Sorry it’s been a few days since my last update but I’m battling a wicked head cold. Of course, I’m the guy who gets a cold the day it’s 86 degrees out. Yep. I know my site is brand new and not that much to see right now so I appreciate those who’ve given me a bit of help in getting it off the ground. I try to reply to each comment and when I can check out your own blogs and comment I do and will continue doing so.

A little housekeeping: I’ve edited some posts. The content didn’t change but they now fall in line more with how I’m going to continue blogging, which I’ll talk about in a second. I also disabled the ‘nofollow’ tag in WordPress and so if you leave a comment it benefits YOUR search engine results – it’s a little bit of a reward for commenting here. If you want to disable nofollow on your own blog please check out my FBF topic on it. Finally, I’ve added front page commenting. I want it to be EASY to comment here at Starting to Cook so now it’s about as easy as I can make it – and comes with that bonus linklove.

Finding my voice

Ok, now onto how I am ‘finding my voice’ in this blog. A week ago I posted a topic on FBF called “Feeling Overwhelmed” because there’s SO MANY great food blogs, great chefs, foods to cook, ways to do a blog, plugins, widgets, domain names oh my! I can’t keep straight who’s influential (Steamy Kitchen, TasteSpotting) from who isn’t. So I was very overwhelmed. I ended up getting a lot of great advice but the one that struck me the *most* was “Your blog name starting to cook makes me feel like it will be more foodcentric than it would be with the photography bent. Maybe you could talk more about how your photography is making you into a cook Your strength seems to be your ability to want to teach. Maybe that is what you should focus on” (Thanks Mimi!)

These few sentences will shape the blog – not for the actual content (ie. being more foodcentric) but for the idea – my blog name and my desire to teach. When I bought the domain StartingtoCook.com I bought it specifically for the double entendre. Starting to cook can easily mean “look at my photos of the first food I’m ever making.” Other than easy microwave meals, burgers on the Foreman Grill and some Shake & Bake, I’ve NEVER cooked. I’m literally *starting* to find food and find my way through it. That’s one. On the other side, “starting to cook” is a cliche, like “now we’re cooking with fire” or “now we’re starting to cook” = the heat has been applied and away we go.

This blog will be *primarily* about me food photography and my exploration of new-to-me foods. It will *not* be primarily about recipes, health food, allergies, etc.

So as far as expectations – you should expect each post to tell you where I got a recipe from. I eat these foods so I’m going to tell you how I liked it and how my family reacted to it. I’m going to talk about (and show) the photography of it, challenges, lighting, etc. Especially in relation to what I’m highlighting, why, how I want to re-do it and sometimes how a particular photo is making me money in my business.

At the end of each post I will have a “Read More” button. If you click this, you can get the full recipe at the bottom of each post. The recipe will not be the focus of the entry but it will be included so you can, of course, remake anything I’ve shown off here. I will be keeping front-page comments enabled though so if you want to comment on something you don’t even have to go to the recipe Read More. I also (as you noticed) have a tendency to highlight what I want readers to see. I know a lot of people skim so I’m making it easy.

So recap

Photography of food and teaching (inc. lighting setups, tutorials, etc)

Exploration of new-to-me food (esp. learning foods from you)

Business of photography

That is where my voice will be. I hope you’ll be on the train with us!

*Last exit for recipe-focused readers! ALL ABOARD!*