Blogging suspended

Posted By mattantonino / July, 6, 2011 / 0 comments

I thought I should put up one post to let everyone know – I’m suspending blogging on StartingtoCook.

Simply put, I love blogging here but don’t have time to run all of my businesses, get myself moved to Australia, blog here as well as I’d like and the feedback, commenting and ad return so far don’t justify the time I’m putting into the work.  So I’m closing the blog for now.  I don’t know if or when it will return.  It’s been fun food blogging but I need to focus on food shooting and getting moved, visa approved, and my new wedding & portrait business started in Melbourne.

Thanks for reading!


9 Great Recipe Sites

Posted By mattantonino / June, 26, 2011 / 0 comments

Inspiration comes from many places for me.  As a new cook I tend to stick to the basics (ingredients, techniques, etc.) and learn as I go.

For recipe tracking I use LivingCookbook because it’s *perfection* in recipe form.  I have about 52,000 recipes in my LivingCookbook from all sorts of places.  You can import (and export) Mealmaster format, a LivingCookbook format, plaintext and more.  I use the RecipeFox plugin for Firefox to grab and save recipes off the major sites.  It comes with a list of 100s of recipe sites.  These are some of my favorites, many of which use RecipeFox.

Usual Suspects

1) Food Network

Great for finding recipes from your favorite FN stars (such as the ever-hot Giada).  A dedicated Healthy Eating section, full episodes of your favorite shows and recipes that easily export to MealMaster, LivingCookbook or plain text format.  A large database of great recipes makes this a no-brainer at #1.

2) AllRecipes

A HUGE database of fantastic recipes along with the best ingredient search tool makes this my go-to site.  Easily export any recipe to MealMaster, LivingCookbook or plain text with RecipeFox.

3) Saveur

A little higher-end fare (read: fancy) makes Saveur a keeper.  While not being as culinarily challenging as Epicurious, many of Saveur’s recipes are accessible, tasty and excellent.  RecipeFox integration makes this my 3rd favorite recipe site.  RecipeFox friendly.

4) Epicurious

You will be more likely to find a Roasted Vegetable and Prosciutto Lasagna with Alfredo Sauce than a traditional chicken alfredo but that’s why I love Epicurious.  This site is advanced and typically not what the home cook makes.  (The first recipe under Christmas is a Prosecco-Raspberry Gelee)  If you have orange-flower water and Prosecco in your pantry, this is the site for you.  (If you have no idea what those are, this site may be overwhelming at first.)  RecipeFox friendly as well.

Under the Radar

5) DrinksMixer

Quite possibly the only mixed drink site you need.  I have never really had much trouble finding anything on here. Recipes for everything from A Berry Breakfast Drink to the Zipper.  Search by ingredient, drink name, etc.  Terminology, a glossary and drinking games.  RecipeFox friendly!

6) VisualRecipes

Step-by-step photographic how-to of each recipe.  This site is a MUST for new cooks.

7) Cooking Light

This is my favorite healthy-only site. With a healthy cooking 101 section and my favorite – recipe makeovers, and one of my favorite magazines, this was a must-include on my favorite recipe sites.

Personal Faves

8) Recipe Goldmine

Another *huge* recipe site with all sorts of great and simple foods. This is my go-to site when I just need something I can make tonight.

9) Jamie Oliver’s site

I’ll admit it – I’m a sucker for Jamie’s cooking. I am the only American I know who watches Oliver’s Twist. I don’t understand his temps or half the ingredients he says until I see them.  I don’t care.  I would watch Jamie cook all day (and sometimes do!)  My mini shell pea pasta and smoky bacon sauce is a Jamie food.  They are homecooked goodness and rich, high quality skill.  Does he cook 89-star food?  Not usually.  Is he amazing in a kitchen?  Absolutely.

Plan your blog posts (or your menu) for the week

Posted By mattantonino / June, 16, 2011 / 4 comments

One of my goals for a long time has been to complete the 31 Days to a Better Blog project from ProBlogger.  I didn’t start with 3 blogs with growing readership but apparently that is where I am now.  Pushing each further means more advertising revenue each month and more opportunities opening around me.  I like money and I like opportunity so … starting June 1 I began the 31 Days …

Day 7 was the most relevant day for me.

7) Plan your next week’s posting schedule

I did the project dutifully and mapped out 7 days of blog entries.  (This was not one of them, by the way.)  I felt good having accomplished a week of blogging topics on all 3 blogs.  I didn’t know I could feel so far “ahead” on work for the blogs. My style has always been to blog impulsively which is why sometimes I blog frequently and sometimes blog infrequently.  I often treated blogging as the red-headed step child of my businesses.  Shooting, networking, marketing, advertisements, social media, gawker submissions, editing, uploading, keywording … if there was time left over maybe even talk to my woman, hit the gym and cook some food.

Since leaving Syracuse and going out on my own last year I felt it was time to get more organized about how I do things, more controlled as far as my blogging habits and get back some of the momentum on this blog. I knew I wasn’t doing what I wanted when an opportunity presented itself to make serious money blogging and …

I didn’t qualify.  I  hadn’t posted frequently enough at the time.  On ANY of my blogs.

I’m definitely back now – I have posted 4 times since May 28th on here, another 6 on my microstock photography blog and another 5 or 6 on my SEO for wedding photographers blog.

So where are we today?

Prep, course … these are food words.  Today, they are blogging words.  I need to prep posts ahead of time and plan my course.  Maybe blogging is my fourth course of the day.  I think of planning my blogs like I plan my food shoot ideas. It doesn’t take long one day a week to get FAR ahead on it but it takes you a very long time to do everything on the fly.  Last night I was inspired to create blog ideas and actually came up with topics for all 3 blogs FOUR weeks in advance. (Click on image to enlarge it.)

I always decide at the beginning of the week what foods I will make that week (this week I’m making scallop linguine, chicken alfredo, blueberry smoothies, caramel flan and maybe a peanut butter dessert.)  Planning foods to shoot keeps me from either forgetting to shoot, being too lazy to shoot or simply coming up with last minute plans.  The same seems to be holding true for my blogging.

It’s been 9 days since I planned my first week and with only a few minor changes in plan, I’m sticking to it.  Good news for my blog readers!  I should have brand new content up 2-4 times per week, every week.

Do you plan your food shoots? Do you shoot everything you eat?  What is the plan on your blog?

Our veggie and herb garden

Posted By mattantonino / June, 13, 2011 / 0 comments

At my parents’ house in Maine we have four acres of land.  When I lived in Syracuse I mainly lived in apartments until the last few years.  I always longed for the countryside.  The acres of grass and openness called my name and always will.  When I moved home I saw an opportunity to be outdoors more and have definitely taken advantage.

Last year I moved back too late to do anything serious with food outdoors. This year?  I knew I had to plant a garden.  Mom and I laid out a plan for a raised bed vegetable garden and we went to work.  We built three 4×8′ boxes and filled them with veggies and herbs.  We planted spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, broccoli, green beans, peas, zucchini, tomatoes, strawberries, garlic, thyme, oregano, basil, sage, rosemary … it makes me tired just thinking about it!

Over the last 17 years I’ve been out of the state for the entire time.  Growing up as the oldest of 5 I often helped mom around the house, cooked, cleaned and worked closely with her. Being home, I’m excited to share that sort of time with her again for as long as it lasts.

I took some early photos to show what we’re doing and will take more throughout the summer.  As a food photographer I thought it was only appropriate that I grow some of my own food. I cannot wait until some produce gets indoors to shoot.

raised garden beds beefsteak tomato plant in our raised bed raised bed garden closeup of rows green beans popping up in the garden new seedlings in our garden peas popping up in the garden open green beans seedling in our vegetable garden

I’m excited for our garden, our time together and all of the great food we’re going to get from this project.   Don’t forget to subscribe and follow the journey!

Are you following along?

Posted By mattantonino / June, 1, 2011 / 0 comments

I only seem to post these type of posts once a year but now is as good a time as any.  If you’d like to follow along with StartingtoCook without opening your browser to my page every single time:

Subscribe to StartingtoCook here.  Or add to your feedreader.  (We currently have almost 200 subscribers – THANK YOU!)

StartingtoCook does use @StartingtoCook on Twitter to update you on posts.  My own personal Twitter (much more used but less about microstock) is @MattAntonino

The StartingtoCook Facebook fan page is up but slightly bare currently.  However, if you want to follow along and get all the updates as I post, join me at the StC fan page.

To contact me for business (sponsorships, shoots, advertising on this site, etc.) please use or add me on Skype (mattantonino) or AIM/iChat (therandian1)

To license my images, I prefer you use GraphicLeftovers.

Food blogs and Maine

Posted By mattantonino / February, 3, 2011 / 1 comments

While this winter storm may be kicking New England in the head right now, we did get good news here at StartingtoCook.

Portland, Maine was named the 4th best food city by CNBC last week.

The article even mentioned Rabelais, our all-food bookstore.

If that wasn’t enough local flavah for you, our very own blog here at StartingtoCook was named to Wild Blueberry Association’s Top Ten Maine Food Blogs.

The best thing about being named on that list?  All the new blogs to stalk!  I didn’t know about a few of the blogs on their list!  Here’s the list, although you should check out the article for way more info on each of these!

1. Appetite Portland

2. Baked in Maine

3. The Blueberry Files

4. Food for Thought

5. Food Madam

6. From Away

7. Plating Up

8. Portland Town

9. Starting to Cook (YAY!)

10. Sweeter Salt

Thanks to Wild Blueberries for the mention! This calls for a new post. I think I’ll blog a hearty recipe this weekend for beating the cold weather.  I have an idea…*off to cook*

Wrapping up 2010, planning 2011!

Posted By mattantonino / December, 31, 2010 / 0 comments

At this point in the year (with only a few hours remaining) it seems appropriate to do a wrap-up and plan-ahead post for 2010 and 2011.

First, I want to thank everyone who has helped me on my food blog journey so far.  Thanks to those who have posted recipes I’ve used and copied, thanks to my commenters, and a special thanks to the food blogger I felt I grew to know the most this year, Grace from La Mia Vita Dolce.

I know this year was up and down with my posting schedule.  I started this blog in March with big plans.  I decided to leave Syracuse, a 7 year relationship, my business and my LIFE and start over again at home in Maine.  That move created a TON of turmoil, work, and mostly a lack of time I never recovered from in 2010.

But 2011?  I’m going to be back with a vengeance!  I’ve already made and photographed several meals. I have posts just ready to go and images ready to see the light of day!  I am going to be more consistent in both blogging and shooting.  I am still “starting to cook” or more properly “learning to cook” so expect the unexpected.  I can easily move from red velvet cake to roasted tomatoes and full on meals in a heartbeat.  You never know what I’m shooting next week!  (You know I’ll do a lot of dessert!)

What’s on the menu?  Chocolate frogs, candied apples, garlic knots, pies, a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and more!  Panna cotta? Check!  Cookies made of leftovers?  Check!  What else would you like to see here in 2011?

Thanks for sticking with StartingtoCook!  This year promises to be full of fun and food.  I hope you’ll join me!

Blog Break – Charleston wedding

Posted By mattantonino / May, 12, 2010 / 2 comments

Sorry for the blog break. Two weeks ago I spent 8 days in Maine for family stuff. I actually shot for 4 or 5 hours and then… *gasp* LOST the card. :( So all that work was lost. I’m very disappointed. I shot bourbon chicken that was TO DIE FOR. I also photographed red velvet cheesecake and Reeces Cup brownies. SAD. So I need to redo a lot of that.

Then the last 5 days were spent in Charleston photographing a wedding and playing with dolphins. One of the most fun things you can do is cruise on the water when it’s 90 out, sun in your face, birds overhead, dolphins in the ocean.

(See, I wasn’t even kidding! That pod was probably 9 dolphins total…)

So I’ll be back to food shooting this week – forgive my absence. Gotta work to put the food on the table to shoot in the first place, I suppose.

In other news I’m considering a huge move to Denver, Colorado. Do you know anything about the area I’ll take whatever you have??!

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 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!*

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.