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afotogirl | San Diego Photographer | Artist | Blogger

Updated: 2017-12-06T08:07:21.041-08:00


a creative kick in the behind: playing with the new Leica D-Lux 6


“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”Eric Roth, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"In search of a creative kick in the ass lead me to an impulse buy last month.But is it truly an impulse buy, I ask you, when you've obsessed with the idea of owning something for months on end? When every fiber of your being has spent countless hours keeping that desire bottled up and sealed tightly by the rationale that the money would be better spent elsewhere, is it so wrong then to let it go by giving in? Well, I gave in. But my justification for giving in was that I spent 2012 in a creative black hole as I dealt with heavy issues therefore making me in sore need of a kickstart. Kickstart meet my new Leica D-Lux 6. My first Leica. The gadget geek in me is jumping up and down with excitement.So, OK, it's a point and shoot and not the rangefinder of my dreams but it's a start. This baby has an f/1.4 lens, allows for shooting in Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual and Creative modes plus 1080HD video. You can record shots in JPEG or RAW (uh, yay!) and it allows for manual focus. I haven't explored all it's features yet. But I did take it out for a test drive two weeks ago when I spent the day in the park shooting with my friend Kimberly. (I also challenged myself to shoot my next recipe post with it using only natural light. Look for that post on Monday when I start my Meatless Mondays postings to help document my meal ideas during this Lenten season.) Admittedly, the day shooting in the park didn't produce the world's best images content-wise. But that wasn't the point. You see, I was less concerned with WHAT I was shooting as I was with the fact that I WAS shooting. Other than the countless documenting of my fur baby with my iPhone and one freelance food shoot last year, I haven't picked up a camera in ages and it's been even longer since I shot just to shoot.Denying the artist within a voice has taken it's toll. It's made me hesitant, self-conscious even. As I stated in my last post, I'm on a mission to get my creative journey back on track. More importantly, to learn to enjoy the process again. If I'm practicing my craft a little every day again, surely inspiration will find me.The act of opening myself up again to life in all it's forms is, I won't lie, scary as hell but I know it's the right thing to do if I want to breath life back into my soul. Shooting in the park just for the hell of it reminded me of the pre-teen who first picked up a camera all those years ago and got excited just photographing flowers in the garden and dressing up and posing her sisters for "fashion shoots" (remember those days, my dear sisters?).And shooting in the park two weeks ago also served to inspire me to cook a recipe for this blog again. That impulse buy may have put a slight crinkle in my plan to get bills paid down but getting that kick in the behind was worth it.I choose to invest in me. And that's a good thing.Your turn: How do you get your creative juices flowing after a dry spell?Until next time … I leave you with shots of my fur baby, Starbuck – the first shots taken with the new toy.Peace & happy exploring,AniThe very first shot with the new Leica. Of course it had to be of my fur baby. I love how the camera handled the buff on  buff tones. Shoot this on the monochrome setting.Same day as the BW above. Late afternoon. Minimal color correction to get rid of the bluish cast in the shade. Not too shabby for a point & shoot. So far, am loving this camera.NOTE: All im[...]

Don't bother me. I'm sleeping.


a breath: i will carry your heart in my heart always …


Auntie Sally's graduation photo.Today we said goodbye. My heart is heavy. It broke again last night at the viewing, first hearing my mother's sobs as she stood over her younger sister's coffin. It broke again when my 82 year old grandmother stood over it to say goodbye to her third born. And again and again as auntie, uncle, sisters stood over it sobbing their goodbyes. I feel broken. How and why am I still standing?…Back at my grandmother's, the family home is overflowing with bodies. My Auntie Sally I'm sure is smiling down from heaven pleased to see so many people gathered to honor her memory. For me, the house is too filled. I can't breathe so I retreat to the fresh air of my grandmother's garden. I hear people laughing. Talking. Commenting on the food. More food than we started with. I know I should be inside. Helping. Visiting. I can't seem to get myself to move off this bench. I am typing these words in Evernote on my iPhone. Keys blurring as I try to write through the tears. Write.Sally gave me my love of writing stories and reading. When I was young–grade school age–she would give me a list of 10 or 12 words and have me write a story using all of them. Sometimes she would give me the opening line, other times it was all up to me to choose the course of the story. Then I had to draw a picture to go with my story. And when I was done, she'd read it aloud and pile on the praise.Never without a book in hand, she also gave me my first 300 page book to read when I was in junior high and got me started on horror ("Interview with a Vampire") and period romances ("Shanna" by Kathleen E. Woodwiss).When my sisters and I were very young, mom had a hard time with fatigue so she would come over and cook and entertain us so my mother could rest. And I remember as each sister was born, she'd come and stay with us to take care of the older girls while mom and dad took care of our newest addition.Me and Auntie during my 40th birthday celebration.Several years back, I had a serious complication to elective surgery that very nearly took my life. I was in ICU for a few weeks and then moved to DOU (Definitive Observation Unit -- a step down from ICU) where I remained for a little more than a month. Mom would come stay with me as long as she could but with my youngest sister still at home and my father ill, her time was split. Auntie Sally was there every day, all day. She'd read to me, she'd let me sleep, she'd paint my toes, massage lotion on my legs, feet, arms, hand and make sure that I had a never-ending supply of ice chips and that the nurses where paying attention. When I went home, mom stayed with me for three weeks. Then Auntie Sally stayed with me for three weeks after that. She'd cook, help me on my walks, and introduced me to Buffy – now my favorite show right after X-Files (also a love we shared). Auntie never married. Never had children of her own. Myself and my four younger sisters, and later my nephew, where like her children. She certainly loved us like we were.And we loved her as if she was our second mommy. It still feels so surreal. I won't see her test messages anymore asking me how to unfreeze her laptop, or emails in my inbox praising my latest Confessions post and teasing me about when I'd make what I wrote about for her. No more sharing horror books are talking about our latest sci-fi obsession.60 years old. Her life seems so short. Her death, so sudden. This last year, I became so busy trying to juggle everything in my life: adjusting to life with a doggy, this blog, freelancing both photo and design work, still working on my jewelry making business, guest blogging and of course, my full-time design job at the newspaper. So busy that I didn't spend much time visiting with her. I am filled with so much guilt because of it. I have to remind myself that she loved me. That she spent a lot of time helping cultivate my creative spirit and encouraged me at every turn. I hope she knew how much I loved her. I hope she knew how much she meant to me.[...]

{a breath & a bite} Family IS everything & The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap recipe Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti


As I sit here writing this, I realize that I am so distracted it’s really difficult to think about cookies and holidays and all the material trappings of this time of year. It’s hard to remember the excitement I felt just three weeks ago while I was developing my recipe for my participation in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. Instead, I sit here, in the hospital, surrounded by family – some of whom have flown in from out of town – praying together for a miracle that will save my Auntie Sally.Walking into the her room in ICU is both frightening and saddening. The brightness of the hospital lights, the whirring of machines that are keeping her breathing, cleaning her blood and feeding her all bring a lump to my throat and threaten to loosen tears from my eyes. She is fighting for her life.She’s had a cough and cold for a while. Last weekend it was really bad. Finally, on Wednesday, my grandmother decided to call an ambulance to bring her to the Emergency Room. She was admitted and the calls went out informing the family. At first, we were told it was pneumonia and she would need to be in the hospital a few days.But by Thursday, it was clear there was something more going on and they ordered another round of tests ... That’s when the worry started to set in.Four days ago, I saw her in her room as she came in and out of consciousness, alert enough to know I was there, telling me to go home and be with my doggy and not to worry about coming back in the next day. She would be fine she insisted.Today, sedated, medically paralyzed as to minimize the “waste” of oxygen, she is not the same person that sat among us two and a half weeks ago at our Thanksgiving table.They’ve identified the secondary infection: Legionnaires. The doctor says she quite possibly could have had the bacteria for years in a dormant/semi dormant stage.I looked up the disease.The internet can be a scary source of information. 50% survival rate. 50%. That’s without other complications. Complications like pneumonia. Like impending kidney failure. Like diabetes.It’s Monday morning now. I started writing this post yesterday but had to put the laptop away for the day. It was too hard to organize my thoughts …I try to remain strong. I try to embrace my faith and know that ultimately I must accept God’s will. My Auntie is a woman of exceptionally strong faith. Wavering in mine at a time like this, my Auntie Syl reminded me last night, will only dishonor my Auntie Sally. Nonetheless, I had a meltdown last night for the first time since she was admitted.Heaving, can’t breathe, fetal position, sobbing. So hard and so loud that my fur child couldn’t stand it. She went from calmly laying next to me with her little head using my leg as a pillow to jumping back and forth from one side of me to the other, trying to hump my arm, my leg, my head as it rocked on the pillow, lick my tears, howling along with me. They say that cocker spaniels are extremely sensitive to their human’s emotions. It’s one of the reasons you aren’t supposed to raise your voice when reprimanding them. A slight change in intonation and they can sense something is up. So I try not to cry in front of her but this … this is simply too much to keep inside. Little gifts in the mail I had been so busy last weekend that I got my cookies out for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap a day late.I chose to make chocolate pistachio biscotti, making a trial run to take to work. After they passed the test there, the cookies were ready to be baked once more, packaged and sent out. My recipients were:Christine from Ruminations on FoodNick from MacheesmoNicole from Sweet Peony Wednesday evening I received my first box of cookies from the Swap. It was the first day of Auntie’s hospital stay. I’d planned on going to see her after work but re-injured my bad knee getting into the car. So I called her instead and spoke to her on the phone a few minutes. Then settled [...]

Ghirardelli's Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign & {Recipe} Making Mexican Mole with Intense Dark Chocolate


Did you know that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month? In honor of it and to help raise awareness and funding, Ghirardelli is donating $50,000. Plus they're donating an additional $1 (up to a total of $100,000) for every code input from specially marked packages of Intense Dark Chocolates to the National Breast Cancer Foundation from now until December 31, 2011.Look for the pink ribbon on Ghirardelli Intense Dark bars to participate in this awareness campaign.The special packaging for Evening Dream™ 60% Cacao, Twilight Delight™ 72% Cacao, Midnight Reverie™ 86% Cacao, and Toffee Interlude™features a pink ribbon on the outside and has a code printed on the inside of the wrapper. This code can then be input here and for every properly inputted code, Ghirardelli will make the donation. That's $100,000 to educate women about early detection and provide mammograms for women who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford them. As a woman with friends who have fought this disease–and too many other forms of cancer to count–this is definitely a movement I can get behind.So, how can you help spread the word? Buy some chocolate and input that code. Also, how about hosting a party? Buy a few extra bars, invite some friends over and have a pairing party. Try the chocolates alone, with wine, nuts, crackers, olives. Here's some ideas from wine expert and head Thirsty Girl, Leslie Sbrocco to get you started: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="" width="640">For more ideas plus a downloadable pairing party kit, log on to I did with some of my chocolateSince cooking is my passion, I wanted to take it one step farther and try cooking WITH the chocolates. Since my go-to cuisine is Mexican, it seemed only natural that I would try it with one of my favorite Mexican comfort foods: mole. Especially yummy this week because it got cold and rainy for a few days in our otherwise sunny San Diego.Homemade mole doesn't have to be intimidating. With a few ingredients and about 40 minutes, you could be enjoying this hearty traditional Mexican meal. What are you waiting for?Mole makes me think of home. Mom makes the best. I can't remember the last time I had hers. I usually cheat and make it semi-homemade using this. You can pick it up at most major grocery stores with a Mexican Foods section. It takes all the guess work out of making mole. Just open it up (a trick in itself! Use a bottle opener and inch your way around the cap with it. The container itself is a reusable juice glass. I have a collection of them.) and add it to a pot containing a quart of warmed chicken stock (ratio is four parts stock to one part mole paste). Stir to dissolve, taste and adjust salt to your liking. Add some chicken that you've pre-browned, cover and let simmer for 20-30 minutes until chicken is cooked. Easy-peasy.A few years ago, while hosting a tamalada, I texted messaged mom for her recipe so I could make her mole for the pork tamales. I text messaged mom instead of calling because mom is deaf and praise be the baby fifa for text messaging! It's our favorite form of instant communication. Anywho…Naturally, there were no measurements in that text just a list of the ingredients in the order added. I come from a family of intuitive cooks. There is no measuring. It's all done by feel and years of perfecting recipes. Doesn't make my job very easy in trying to replicate them and record them here for everyone to share. But I try. The night before the tamalada I made the mole and was surprised at how close I was able to replicate it. Not exactly. But close.There are many different kinds of mole. Every Mexican family has their own version. Some with chocolate. Some with peanuts. Some with tomatoes. Some made from re-hydrated chili. Some from fresh. And some, like my family's, made with our chili powd[...]

{ Portrait } Phil & Mary Ellen


Photography was my first love and photographing people was the first aspect of it that I gravitated towards when I first started taking pictures way back at the age of 10. So it is a real treat for me when I can take a break from cooking and styling, graphic design and writing to reconnect with my first love.

Phil hired me at the word mill more than 20 years ago now. He took a chance on a gal who was a custom black and white printer with NO color printing experience to print color ON DEADLINE (yes, the old fashioned way in wet darkrooms, not digital ones), who had a stronger art background than journalistic and came from a commercial lab instead of another newspaper. Under his guidance in those early years, I flourished – truly – for the first time. He retired back in '99 and I occasionally see him in the building for visits and I thank Facebook for making it even easier to stay abreast of what's going on in each other's lives.

In fact, it was through Facebook that Phil contacted me recently asking if I would have time or interest in photographing he and his wife who are celebrating 50 years of marriage. Seeing as he is still in contact with so many current and ex staff photographers, I was honored that he asked me to document this special time in their lives. He wanted informal photos in Balboa Park and said he liked my style of shooting. So I grabbed my camera, asked my nephew to come and assist me and off we headed one Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago. It was the least I could for the first person in my professional life who truly wanted me to succeed and went out of his way to make sure I did.

Happy 50th Anniversary Phil and Mary Ellen.






Happy Monday everyone! Until next time…


{Portrait} Playing Cowboy


From the archives...

{Life with a Dog} sporting a new skirt


Been a while since I have posted a Life w/a dog shot. My fur child has a new 'do and I just had to share. And yes, ok, more than half of my feed photos on Instagram are of my fur child but c'mon! She's cute! And I simply can't help it!

Wordless Wednesday: Seattle, Washington {iPhoneography}


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Cooking and Baking with Olive Oil (Part 1): Pesto, Tortillas & Mexican Empanadas. Yes! Three recipes.


Mexican style empanadas filled with ground beef and potatoes.I jumped on the olive oil bandwagon before there was a bandwagon to jump onto.Growing up with primarily American and Mexican cuisine meant that lard, corn oil, bacon fat and butter showed up to the cooking party most often. All tasty for sure, but none the most heart-healthy of ingredients. Olive oil did make an appearance on occasion. And when it did, it meant that an Italian meal was on the horizon: dad's famous lasagna or his fabulous meatballs with marinara the two most likely suspects. Both are legendary dishes in the Arambula household.Recently I was given the opportunity to try a product relatively new to the Crisco brand: olive oil. And not just one, but three: Extra Virgin, Pure and Light Tasting. Having used olive oil as my primary cooking fat for more than 20 years now and not being particularly brand loyal to any up to this point, I was up for the taste test.Quick & Easy "Bruschetta"I used the Pure Olive Oil to make use of some of the basil growing in pots on my patio for a pesto pasta dinner one night. It was a tasty success!The Extra Virgin Olive Oil I used for a late afternoon snack of quick bruschetta. It's super easy and not really a recipe per se. I learned this from an Italian friend years ago and every time I make it, I think of him. It really is the perfect vehicle to highlight the oil.Start by toasting up a couple of slices of sourdough. Take a clove of garlic, slice it in half and rub the cut side on one side of each piece of toast. Take half of a tomato (or whole depending on it's size) per toast and place them on the each piece of toast.Carefully slice, then chop the tomato while it's on the bread so that it soaks up all the juicy goodness. Spread the tomato evenly over the toast.Chop some fresh basil and sprinkle over the tops of each toast.Sprinkle some dried Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste over each slice.Finish by drizzling Crisco Extra Virgin Olive Oil over your creation.Crisco Light Tasting Olive Oil takes the prizeMy favorite by far was the Light Tasting. Not because I don't like the taste of olive oil. Quite the contrary in fact. But what I found so surprising was just how light it was and therefore all the more versatile. My test to see just how mild tasting this oil could be?There could only be one true test in my latina culinary bag of tricks: flour tortillas. Then, to really push the envelope, I opted to make those into empanadas - the kind I grew up with - which meant pan frying the tasty creations.I used a quarter of the masa (dough) for the empanadas and rolled the rest out for my week's worth of tortillas. I have to say, I not only didn't miss the taste of butter (my fat of choice when making tortillas) but rather enjoyed the consistency produced by substituting it for the olive oil. The dough itself had great elasticity (think pizza dough) and rolled out beautifully. The finished tortilla had just the right amount of chewiness that a good homemade flour tortilla should have.Once the meat and masa is made, next comes the fun part: assembling the empanadas! Start by rolling out the masa to about 4" in diameter. Next, place about 2 tablespoons of meat on one half of the tortilla, staying away from the edges.Fold the tortilla and using your index fingers and thumbs, start at one of and roll the edges up making your way around the half-moon shape pinching to seal as you go. You can use your thumbnail to pinch down afterwards or take a fork and use it to press the seal together ensuring it's tight.Coming up next timeIn Part 2, I share with you a recipe for Apple Upside Down Olive Oil Cake that really shines. Until then, enjoy my recipes for flour tor[...]

I was a monkey in my other life: {recipe} Banana Bread with Mexican Chocolate


I am bananas for bananas. Yes. I did just say that.I have loved them since I was a child. But I'm one of those weird folk that prefers my bananas JUST BEFORE they are ripe: nice, firm and just starting to develop their sweetness. Yes, I'll eat them fully ripened but my preference has always been the former. Sliced into bite-sized pieces and floating around my cereal, sliced and snuggled between two slices of bread smathered (yes, I did just make up a word, go with it, please) with peanut butter, a peanut butter and banana quesadilla - sans the queso of course cuz I'm not that odd - are just a few of my favorite ways to indulge.Last week, I bought bananas hoping to haul my buttocks out of bed a half hour earlier than usual so I could enjoy a bowl of cereal with them before running off to work. Good intentions, surely, but the lure of a little more sleep kept me snuggled up with my fur child who also had no desire to get up earlier than I'd trained her to. So come the weekend, my nice firm bananas were nice and brown and gave way too much for my liking when I touched them. Now what? Wasted money?  Lightbulb moment. Banana Bread.And not just any banana bread, but chocolate, no MEXICAN CHOCOLATE banana bread. Yes! That will do quite nicely, thank you very much.The recipe I had on hand called for 7 bananas. Hmm. I had a mere three.  Google and my favorite bloggers to the rescue. I found this one over at Simply Recipes and thought, yes! This one I can adapt. I brought it into work today. It was gone in no time.Which only means, I'll have to make it again.Soon.Banana Bread with Mexican Chocolatemakes one standard loaf(adapted from Simply Recipes)Ingredients: 3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed with a fork1/3 cup unsweetened butter, melted1 cup granulated sugar 1 large egg, lightly beaten 1 teaspoon vanilla  1 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon sea salt 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour half a disk Ibarra Mexican chocolate, finely grated (see note) Directions:Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Prepare a loaf pan by greasing the bottom and sides with butter. Cut out a sheet of baking parchment to fit the long width of the pan and have it oversized enough to come up at least 2 inches on both sides of the pan. These will be your "handles" allowing you to easily lift the cooled bread out of the loaf pan (see photos above). Grease the parchment.With a wooden spoon, stir butter and bananas together in a large bowl until well incorporated. Mix in the sugar, egg and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda over the entire mixture and stir well. Add salt. Stir well. Add flour and chocolate. Mix to combine. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack for 20 minutes. Use parchment to lift bread out of pan and place on a serving dish. Slice and serve. •NOTE: if you follow the link to the Ibarra chocolate, you'll notice another popular brand, Abuelita. You could use it but I have to say, there seems to be camps on the matter. Yes, camps. Liken it to those who prefer Coke to those who prefer Pepsi. Clearly Coke is better but there are still those poor folk who keep hanging onto Pepsi. In this scenario, Ibarra is Coke and Abuelita is Pepsi. And I'm sure by now you can tell that I'm a Coke person, not Pepsi. Seriously, to someone who has grown up drinking Mexican hot chocolate during cold winter evenings, my palate can tell the difference and it clearly prefers, as does my entire family, Ibarra. But if you can only find Abuelita in your local ethnic market, by all means, go ahead and use it. Just don't tell me. :) Until next time,Ani[...]

Wordless Wednesday: Lake Crescent



Caring for Cast Iron + { Recipe } Skillet Cornbread


Just one post last week. Seriously?Where have I been, you ask?I wish I could blame it on my day job.Or freelance overload.Or out-of-town guests.Or tell you that I was abducted by aliens.Or that it's because my kitchen was swallowed up by a black hole and I've been living on takeout.But, alas, it’s none of these. Truth be told, the excuse is a bit frivolous, really.The real reason Confessions of a Foodie had only one post last week is …Drumroll puh-leezzz …Netflix.  More specifically, my (late) discovery of the NBC drama, “Friday Night Lights.”The beautiful Tami Taylor who plays a guidance counselor and West Dillon High and her compassionate husband, Coach Eric Taylor. NBC only has the last five episodes online and they're only available until September 18, 2011. I think I see a DVD purchase come Black Friday.  (Screen capture of's FNL site.)“FNL?” you ask.Yuppers.I never in a million years would have thought that I’d ever get so caught up in a series that on the surface was about nothing more than a bunch of high school jocks. It held zero interest for me during it’s run on network television.But in the same week it became recommended viewing on Netflix, I also saw a tweet about it in my Twitter feed and I decided it was a sign. Plus, after just having finished viewing the last season of “The Tudors,” I was eager to find another engrossing drama.I just hadn’t counted on finding one that would wind up being quite THIS time-sucking, can’t seem to turn it off engrossing. And I gotta say, the first episode didn’t grab me. I had to watch it twice. But half-way through episode two, I was hooked.So last week disappeared on me faster than I could say “I’ll have a quad shot extra hot nonfat latte, please.” Because, seriously,  a quad shot is what I needed in the morning after watching the show back to back all last weekend and almost every night this past week into the wee hours of the morning.This show created a monster.Such a monster that I was quite upset to find that Netflix only had seasons 1-4 and that there was a fifth season and that NBC only had the last five episodes of season five available on their site so I watched it there and grew exasperated with the commercials (I swear they up the volume for those dangnamit things!) but I HAD to know how it all ended so I watched them even though I missed most of the season prior to those last five episodes.Phew! That was quite the run-on sentence but that’s how passionate I became watching this show that made me root (I hate football, but I rooted anyway) and cry and think and wish I had a relationship like Coach Taylor and his wife Tami.But I made it through and have come out the other side.Hello. My name is Ani and I’m a Netflix addict.Welcome, Ani. { And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming. … So to speak. Hehehe. }I've had this cast iron pan for more than twenty years. It has survived many a roommate unfamiliar with caring for cast iron. This pan is so resilient! And it just keeps getting better.Cast Iron Dreaming One of my favorite, and most often used, tools in the kitchen has to be my cast iron skillet. I absolutely love it! It makes the best fried eggs and omelets. It provides quick and excellent searing on steaks that can then be put directly into the oven to finish pan roasting. It’s  also excellent for dry toasting seeds, nuts and herbs.The beauty of cast iron is two-fold: it conducts heat evenly and with proper care and use, develops it’s own nonstick (or, a-hem, “low” stick) cooking surface.Seasoning a new cast iron pan My Lodge cast iron skillet and griddle I bought brand new before Lodge released their pre-seasoned lin[...]

Kodak Gallery: Making my own personal photo-filled cookbook { plus, a 40% discount for my readers!}


My 20 page collection of recipes sampled from this blog made possible with Kodak Gallery's Photo Books software came in the mail today and I was so excited to see the printed results. I was not disappointed in the quality one bit!I close my eyes and see myself walking through a bookstore, perusing the cookbook section and stopping when I find this: Confessions of a Foodie: A Latina in the Kitchen. The book is slickly designed and filled with gorgeous photos of dishes inspired from my childhood styled and shot in my vibrant palate with short stories paraphrased from this very blog introducing each recipe.Then I wake up and realize it's only a dream … well, a dream for now anyway.Until then, I'll have fun sharing my trial run "cookbook" that I had the pleasure to produce last week courtesy of FoodBuzz's Tastemakers Program and Kodak Gallery's Photo Books software.The photo book comes with a slipcover, making it feel all the more special.I've made photo books before and this Kodak interface is just as easy to use as what I've used previously. Easier, in fact, because while I was laying out the book, I realized I needed a vertical instead of a horizontal for this page or that page and it was a cinch to add more photos from within the page layout window even after I started the design process. They automatically loaded into the photo tray at the bottom of the design interface. The software also alerted me when a photo I was using was too small for proper reproduction. Since I keep all of my full-size photos on a separate backup drive, it wasn't a big deal to go back and switch out the lower resolution file for a better quality one. If all your files are optimized for web, you might want to go back and locate your original files before uploading the photos you want to use.Here's a peak at what the interface looks like:Considering that this is Kodak, I really shouldn't have been surprised at the quality of the book itself. It's quite lovely. I picked a high-gloss black cover and the pages themselves feature a thick satin finish paper. Color is spot on (I uploaded files with an sRGB color space) with only a little gain in the darks. This is the opening spread. While designing, you can change easily between a photo page, a text page or a combination of both. Also, the page templates allow for multi-photo options though aligning multiple photos is a bit of a crap shoot. You can see from this shot that the right-hand photo of the upside down margarita glass doesn't line up with the larger photo on the left. I finally gave up trying to get them right.My only complaint – and it should be noted that the average user will most likely not be bothered by this – is the inability to manipulate character styles. What I mean by this is that I did not have the ability to italicize or bold individual words or change headline size. Any changes I made to the text affected the entire text block. Considering that I am a professional graphic designer, not being able to off-set my recipes from their introductions was a real frustration. But like I noted earlier, the average user familiar with basic word processing will not note this as a problem. And it defnitely won't be one if your book is primarily photos with captions or short introductions.Discount Offer from KodakI would definitely recommend this service if you're looking to put together a collection of recipes, document a family vacation or special occasion. It makes a lovely gift, too. And what's really awesome is that Kodak is offering all of my readers 40% off on a medium or large hardback photo book creation of their very o[...]

Tea for Two is Sweeter with Earl Grey Scented Shotbread Cookies {recipe}


I love having girlfriends over to chat it up over a little something to nosh. And sometimes, when that little something is a little sweet, all the better! These earl grey shortbread cookies are light and crumbly with just a hint of the earl grey flavor and are ever-so-slightly sweet.Shortbread is one of my favorites. It’s a super basic, easy dough that is great all by itself but also serves as an awesome base for add-ins such as these earl grey tea leaves but also lavender buds, mini chocolate chips, crushed nuts or half dipped in chocolate (aka, Royal Shortbread). This particular recipe is lighter and more delicate than the classic 1-2-3 version (one part sugar-two parts butter-three parts flour) due to the addition of the cornstarch.I wrote about my attempts at perfecting my shortbread over at for a post I did on lavender shortbread. Now with my basic dough figured out, I can experiment with various add-ins to my hearts content.Ready? Let's bake!Cream powdered sugar and room temperature butter. Add vanilla.Is a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch and a dash of salt.Add a third of the flour to the butter mixture.Carefully fold to combine. Repeat with the second third of flour.Earl grey is hands down my favorite tea. I've been out of loose leaf for a while and due to finances, found this alternative bagged tea from Fresh & Easy. Considering the difference in price from what I used to use, I was pleasantly surprised the first time I made it at how tasty it is. For my shortbread, I cut a bag of it open and it gave me just shy of 2 teaspoons.Add the last third of the flour to the dough bowl and the earl grey tea leaves. Carefully fold until all is combined.Turn out the dough onto a piece of plastic cling wrap. Form it into a ball then pat it down to about a 1/2" thick disk. Completely wrap the dough with the cling wrap. Pre-flattening the dough saves you from spending too much time rolling out the chilled dough. This ensures the dough has less time to come up to room temperature before baking. Place the disk into the fridge and allow it to chill for 30 minutes.Pre-heat oven to 300˚F.Working with a quarter or half of the dough at a time, roll it out on a lightly floured board using just enough flour to keep it from sticking. Too much flour will toughen the dough so be a bit stingy here. I use a 3 inch scalloped edge biscuit cutter to cut out my dough after rolling it out to about 1/4" thick. Combine the scraps from each roll/cut stage, flatten it out, wrap it in the cling wrap and place it back in the fridge while this first batch is baking.Place the cut out cookies 1/4"or so apart onto a sheet pan lined either with parchment paper or a silicone cookie pad. Bake for 18-20 minutes just until the cookie is set and just starting to get lightly golden around the edges, but not browned. It's such a tragedy to over-bake shortbread so keep an eye on it and start checking at about 16 minutes. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before serving.Some tips for success:Use the best unsweetened butter you can afford. The butter, is after all, the main flavor in shortbread.Don’t add too much extra flour when forming ball or rolling. Use minimum needed to keep dough from sticking. Adding too much flour at this stage can result in a tough dough.Work quickly to keep butter from warming up to room temperature.To ensure that cookie won’t “spread” while baking, after cutting out cookies and placing on cookie sheet, put cookie sheet into refrigerator for 5 minutes to add back some chill.Unless your cookie sheets can fit on one rack, bake only one sheet at a time to ensure cookies bake eve[...]

Gorgeous evening at the dog park


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Feeding Unexpected Company is Easy with a Well-Stocked Pantry: Baked Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta with Chicken {recipe}


Weekends or mid-week, a good friend drops by and you get to talking and talking and talking and the next thing you know, it’s dinner time. Uh-oh! You haven’t been grocery shopping yet. What to do? Don’t upset the rhythm of your lovely leisurely visit by leaving the comfort of your home and heading to a restaurant (especially if that talking included sipping on wine or cocktails). Instead, if you have a well-stocked pantry with essential easy to throw together ingredients, simple, yet satisfying dinners are a snap such as this Baked Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta with Chicken & Ricotta.I’ve written about pantry staples before but part of the fun of having this site is the joy in sharing ideas on what to include in a well-stocked pantry and then what to do with those ingredients.My previous list of must-haves included:long grain white ricepinto beanscanned stewed tomatoespeanut buttereggswhite flour for tortillasmasa harina for corn tortillasfrozen chicken breastsbuttermilkcanned albacoreolive oilonionsseasoning including Knorr's chicken bouillon, dried oregano, dried basil, ground cumin, California chili powder, Spanish paprika, kosher salt, black pepperI had a “Duh!” moment when I went back and read this list from last year. I realize it was meant as a sampling of the staples I try to keep in my pantry and not a complete list. Some of the items that I left out – most of which are in today’s recipe – include:Trader Joe’s jarred sauces including basil pesto, sun-dried tomato pesto, masala and kormaassorted Italian pasta shapes with an emphasis on penne and thick spaghetticheese including parmesan, ricotta, mozzarella (usually fresh such as ovoline or buffalo), shredded mild or sharp cheddar, jack cheese and cotija (a Mexican hard, aged cheese)pine nutschickenvinegars including balsamic, red wine, apple, rice and whiteNow, let’s get cooking!Boil pasta in salted water to al dente. Drain, rinse under cold water and add to a large bowl. Tip: To prevent the salt from staining your pans with that hard to remove white ring, don't add salt to water until it's already reached a boil.Add leftover cooked chicken, jarred pesto and pan toasted pine nuts. Stir to combine. Personalize it: Any leftover cooked meat will work. I've made this with both chopped steak and even chopped leftover pork chops. Or leave the meat out altogether and use canned beans – or not. The point is, don't be afraid to customize to your taste. As for the pesto, I've also used basil pesto and it's just as tasty.Turn oven on and preheat to 400 degrees F. Coat the inside of your casserole dish with olive oil. Place a layer of the pasta to just cover the bottom. Sprinkle with parmesan.Use a spoon to add dollops of ricotta.This is olovine. It's a fresh mozzarello made from cows milk and comes packed in a brine. It's soft and has a creamy, milder taste taste than it's semi-hard counterpart that most people are familiar with. And even considering that it sits in a salt solution, it's actually less salty than it's counterpart as well.Hand shred some olovine over the ricotta.Add another layer of pasta and repeat the parmesan, ricotta, olovine steps.Add the last layer of pasta, sprinkle with more parmesan and add the last of the olovine.Bake in a 400˚ F. oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese has melted and the top has a golden crust.Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.Enjoy![...]

{ Sharing the Kitchen With } Glo shows me her doggy tested recipes for homemade dog food


I am the proud mommy of a fur child.So proud, in fact, that 75% of the photos on my iPhone are of her and I probably have about 10 gigs of photos on my backup drive that I shot with my 5D. It didn’t take long for me to become one of those people who post photos of their dogs on Instagram, Facebook, Flickr and Twitter, have photos of them all over work stations  and screensavers and wallpaper on computers. Starbuck even has her own blog (though it’s been a bit neglected of late) and I post a lot of photos of her on my other blog. Yes, this blondie has become my center and I’ll admit that sometimes, even being on as tight of a budget as I am some months, I will go cheap on my own groceries so I am not skimping on the quality of her dog food (and, ahem! treats). I occasionally will buy her wet food but most of the time, she’ll sniff it, taste it and walk away. So when my friend Gloria told me about her two super simple homemade dog food recipes she makes for her fur child, I jumped at her offer to share them with me.Happy Anniversary, StarbuckStarbuck on the day I brought her home from the Humane Society one year ago.Today is the one year anniversary of the day I rescued my little Starbuck from the Humane Society. I’d been looking for a dog for more than a year. Once a week, I’d pour myself a glass of wine, fire up the laptop and peruse the pages of our local Humane Society, Animal Shelter and dog rescues.Over the course of a year or so, I’d met several dogs but had yet to make a connection with any of them. I was beginning to think that because I’d always been a cat person, I would never find a dog that I could commit to. I’d given myself one more month to look. If I came up empty, then I figured I’d change course and bring home a kitty instead.One Wednesday evening, I came across a photo of a white and brown spotted cocker spaniel on the Humane Society website. The next day, I left work during my lunch break to see the dog in person. When I reached his “apartment,” I couldn’t believe how cute he was. But he already had 7 holds on him. Disheartened, I moved on to the next apartment where a very vocal jack russell was at the window trying to get my attention. So I stopped to give him some when I noticed he had a roommate. A smallish blonde puppy was lying on the floor playing with a chew toy completely ignoring the terrier. I looked at the info posted on the window. Lettie was her shelter name and she was a 10 month old cocker spaniel. You’d never know it by looking at her. She had this crazy Nina Blackwood head of hair and the fur covering her body was short and choppy all over.By Halloween, there was no mistaking that Starbuck was a full-blown cocker spaniel.I asked to see her immediately and found out that she had just been released from observation that morning and didn’t even have a profile online yet. She came up to me, tail wagging, butt wiggling, licked my hand and then sat on the floor watching me as I wrestled with her roommate who was determined to keep my attention all to himself.And that was it. The fact that she acknowledged me but wasn’t so aggressive as to fight the terrier for my attention made me fall in love with her and her sweet temperament. I knew I’d met “the one.”Spanish Landing is one of Starbuck's favorite spots: she watches the sailboats go by, chasing the seagulls and enjoys all the loving she gets from folks out exercising who stop to pet her.Two days later, I got to bring her home. Little did I know then, or in the frustrating early two months of training, exactly [...]

The Hemingway Diaquiri: My new favorite cocktail {link love}


Last Monday I tweeted that I was up early shooting a cocktail in my home studio for a cover story for the newspaper and how said cocktail will be THE drink of my summer. The story published today and this is the completed page. Staffer Robert York wrote a sweet story on Hemingway and how this recipe became the author's favorite. You can read the entire story here.  How did I get here? I will admit it right here to all of you (in case being a casual reader of my blog hasn't already clued you in): I am a control freak. Yes, yes I am. But they say, the first step to recovery is acknowledging there is a problem. But I ask, is it a problem? Seriously? Because those times I am in complete control of my creative process – from deciding on the most visual recipe to reproduce, recreating that recipe in my own kitchen, shopping for props and then art directing the page design in my head while I am shooting the image makes for a real sense of freedom and creative satisfaction. And let's face it, with the economy pushing companies these days to consolidate in a quest to cut down costs, where individual talent is often thwarted under the guise of efficiency, having a day when you are satisfied with the outcome of your efforts is priceless. Well, almost priceless, anyway. If it fails, I fail alone. If it sings, however, everyone is happy and I have the satisfaction of a job well done. I started prop shopping two weeks before my planned shoot weekend. This included buying new wood for a fresh off-white background, deciding on the right "shade" of white (which took three trips because I was being indecisive), painting it and then finding the right tray and V-shape cocktail glass (the shape of my martini glasses were really shallow and I wanted glasses with a nicer profile that would allow me to show off some of the color). I tracked down the liqueur needed, bought the fruit and shot the recipe the day before I needed the final shot. And as is my usual control freak way, I stopped shooting when I realized I wasn't getting the shot. I slept on it. Woke up super early the next day – which was of course the Monday I was to start design on the page – and re-shot it.  I find sleeping on it always helps. I discovered that in art school where I pushed my deadline all the time because I wanted time for ideas to "gel" in my head before attempting them and then gel some more after my initial efforts. I'm just weird that way. Here are some outtakes: Until next time, Ani[...]

Sunday cooking: Two Color Pepper Steak with Potatoes for the week {recipe}


On Sundays, I like to carve out time to cook some dishes that will reheat well (and pack well for lunch) during the work week. It isn't always easy finding this time but when I can do this, it saves me from eating poorly during the week. You know what it's like, right? Come home late from a long day at work and no matter how much you love to cook, after walking the fur child, there just isn't enough energy left in you to make an elaborate meal. So you either stop on the way home and pick up overpriced fast food that lacks anything resembling nutrition. Or if you're like me, you have just enough energy to scramble an egg, wrap it in a tortilla, pour yourself a glass of wine and call it dinner.  Hence the Sunday cooking marathons whenever I can. One of my favorite dishes to make is pepper steak. It's also one of those dishes that reminds me of home. My mom makes the best. It's been a very long time since I've seen her make it and can't quite remember how she does it. So I came up with my own version from what I remember Mom's tasting like and although I am not too proud to admit that there's something about mom's that I can't quite replicate, my version is nonetheless quite yummy. Maybe some day, I'll have Mom make it for me while I take notes. And then I'll post an update. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Hear that Mama? Until that day, I'll share my version.  Let's get the party started: Since the potatoes will take the longest, I get them going first. Peel and cube one large russet potato. Add two tablespoons of olive oil to a large frying pan. Heat to medium hot; oil should be rippling and shimmering when ready. Test the pan by placing one cube of potato in the pan. If it sizzles and bubbles, add the remaining potatoes. If it doesn't even so much as burp, wait a little longer for the oil to reach the right temp. Cook the potatoes covered, keeping a watchful eye so that they don't burn. You don't want them to crust up or even brown but you do want them almost fork tender. While they cook, move on to prepping the other components.  Prep the veggies: What's pepper steak without the bell peppers? You'll need to matchstick two. They can be whatever color you have on hand. Since we all know that we eat with our eyes first, I like to make it colorful by using one green and one red. You'll also need to slice a small onion - white or yellow - whichever you have on hand.  Prep the meat: I like to use a thin steak because it cooks fast but you can use whatever kind of steak you like. I usually buy the least expensive cut they happen to have on shopping day. You'll need to cut it into bite-sized pieces. Put flour, salt and freshly ground black pepper into a large ziplock bag. Add the cut meat and shake. Shake. Shake. Shake. (Did K.C. & the Sunshine Band just pop into your head or am I, like, totally dating myself?) Shake until all the little bits of steak goodness are well coated. Shake off excess: I like to use a strainer over a paper plate to shake off the excess flour.  Cook the veggies: Once the potatoes are almost fork tender, remove from the pan, set aside and wipe out the pan. Add another tablespoon or two of olive oil and sauté the onions until translucent (about 5 minutes).  Add the peppers and cook another 8 minutes. Remove the veggies from the pan and set aside.  Meat browning time: Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and once the oil is hot, carefully add the floured meat. Saut&e[...]

Farewell to a great gig and as my parting gift? This awesome Spanish Sangria recipe {link love}



Just when I was in dire need of a kick in the behind to dedicate more time to writing, cooking, shooting for my blog, along came and it's initiative to expand their sphere of influence by starting up a Food & Dining Channel. The Channel Leader, the awesomely talented Darlene, approached me about becoming a Featured Contributing Writer for the new site and I was so excited and honored to have been a part of this great bunch of passionate folks. will no longer be devoting energy to this initiative but the site remains up and the recipes still available to inspire you to cook, get healthy and make life a little bit tastier. 


My final story on making this luscious fruity spanish sangria published today. Head on over for the recipe and enjoy it this summer at your next BBQ. 

Pork makes everything better: Simple Carnitas Tacos with Salsa Cruda {recipe}


Most of my fondest memories growing up involve food. I have little pictures in my mind of barely being able to reach the counter and "helping" mom roll out tortillas. I see our family sitting around the kitchen table assembling tamales. There's the picnics at the beach with grilled burgers, grilled corn and homemade treats; my best girlfriend and I combing over my childhood cookbook trying to decide what to make next –that is, of course, after we graduated from using our Easy Bake ovens. There's also mom getting up at an insane hour to make bean and Mexican rice burritos for our 2 hour annual road trip to Disneyland; Dad coming home in the middle of the night from his carpet laying job, waking us up with the smell of banana pancakes to entice us into the kitchen to eat with him. There's the birthday cakes of all shapes and sizes that mom made for us: from Mickey Mouse to Cinderella, and because we got to choose our birthday dinner, from lasagna to beef stew, the food was always special. There's also the days of preparation for holidays, family get-togethers, and just because. And in this latter group - the "just because" - lies a picture in my head of my dad, chair pulled up to the stove, two giant - no, ginormous - thick bottomed pots with the sounds of crackling and bubbling escaping from them and, there's dad, holding a huge wooden spoon - no, paddle is a better word - with a handle at least two feet long that he hand made for this special application: the ritual known as homemade carnitas. Carnitas are super easy to make. Some folks like to add spice but traditionally, it's just pork butt, salt and water. I believe Dad brines his meat in milk sometimes and his ALWAYS come out the best. I think the secret to his success is his watchful eye and his intent: everything is made with so much love, how could it not be anything other than delicious? Simple Traditional Carnita Tacos with Salsa Crudaserves 6-82 - 3 lbs of pork butt2 teaspoons kosher saltwater2 dozen corn tortillas, for the tacosTo make the meat:Cut the pork butt into approximately 2" cubes. You don't want them too small or they'll disintegrate during the rendering process. Place them into a heavy bottomed pot in as close to a single layer as possible (my dutch oven is big enough for "mostly" one layer). Sprinkle the salt over the meat and add water to just cover the meat. Bring pot to a rapid boil then drop the heat down to medium-low and slowly simmer the meat until the water has evaporated, about hour to hour and a half depending on the size pot, amount of meat, etc. While it's simmering, stir the meat to turn it every 15-20 minutes. Once the water has evaporated, the fat on the meat will begin to render out. Continue cooking and stirring every 20 minutes or so on medium-low, about an additional hour to hour and a half. Once the most of the fat is rendered out, remove the meat onto paper towel lined baking sheet. Set aside.For the Salsa:1 medium tomato, rough chopped1/2 small to medium Spanish onion, finely chopped (approx. 1/3 cup)1/3 cup chopped cilantro, leaves onlyjuice of one limesalt and pepper to tasteoptional: 1 small jalepeño, seeded and finely choppedToss all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.To assemble:Chop the meat into bite-sized pieces. Use a griddle or large skillet to warm the tortillas. Place some meat on the tortilla and top with the salsa cruda. Serve immediately.Some tips for success:When it comes to carnitas, fat is your[...]

Tequila Lime Grilled Shrimp: For a gal learning to like seafood, this shrimp ain't too shabby! { recipe }


This Tequila-Lime Grilled Shrimp is easy to make and, considering I was not a shrimp eater the first time I had it and now love it this way, I'd have to say, it could quite possibly convert any non-seafood eating person into a shrimp eating person. There used to be a time where my very first reaction to anything from the sea – other than canned tuna – was "YUCK!"  Growing up with a dad who's father/daughter time included early morning pier fishing, you'd think I'd have acquired a taste for seafood as a youngster. But I didn't. No, what I loved was the father/daughter time: Dad would take turns taking one of us three girls out (sisters 4 and 5 came later). He'd pack breakfast for us and I remember feeling so grown up because I got my very own thermos of hot chocolate. Then we'd head out before the sun came up while the rest of the house was still asleep. Other times it was a family affair and the whole lot of us would pile into the station wagon, each of us girls with our own fishing poles and we'd head to Mission Bay to fish and picnic.  But even if we caught anything, us girls would never eat it. Any caught fish was for mom and dad. Especially after we'd catch a glimpse of dad cleaning the fish. The thought of eating it after seeing its life-force all over the chopping block dad used was just not something I'd easily forget. Nope. Us girls would have hamburgers or hot dogs on fish night.  Fast forward to college where by the time I made it to the cafeteria for lunch, all that was usually left was tuna salad. Luckily, this was something I was familiar with. It came in a can. I never saw it whole. And best yet, it had a texture like chicken salad and not that opaque look of "real" fish. So tuna became a college staple. Then in my early 30s, my best friend and I discovered The Marine Room in La Jolla. It was much too out of our price range for causal dining but for quite some time, it did became our to-go-to place for birthdays. The first time we went, Dan ordered surf and turf. I ordered just the "turf." He coaxed me into taking a bite of his lobster tail. Prepared to be completely grossed out, I held my breath and went for it.  It was like nothing I'd ever had before. What was this? Why hadn't I had it before? The next birthday there, I ordered surf and turf too.  Next came my introduction to fish tacos. For a community known for them, it's a shame I waited until my mid-30s to try them. Again, it was because of Dan. He took me to happy hour at The Brigantine, a local seafood restaurant chain. They had $1.99 fish tacos on the bar menu. Crispy beer battered, they were over filled with cabbage, salsas, some kind of dressing reminiscent of thousand island dressing that the fish was all but camouflaged. And I loved them. A few months later, I started up on fish tacos from Rubio's which highlight the fish much more than the toppings and now enjoy them every lenten season. Shrimp came only recently. About five years ago or so, a friend of mine made grilled shrimp during an impromptu weekend gathering and they were so delicious. I'd tried shrimp before and had not become a fan of it all. But Lisa's tequila-lime grilled shrimp was so flavorful my tummy forgot that my head said 'we don't like shrimp.' To be honest, there are still ways I won't eat shrimp. I will not eat it in pasta sauce. I do not like it cold with cocktail sauce. I do not like it scampi.[...]

Seen on our walk today { life with a dog }


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First we saw a cool old Chevy. Then a sweet red truck. As we were nearing the end of our walk, this kitty, maybe six months old, jumped of her porch and came right up to Starbuck to nuzzle her nose. Starbuck, always curious about kitties, went into complete happy wiggle butt mode. Kitty let her smell her butt and rubbed up against my legs to say hello then returned her attention to Star. You could totally tell kitty is being raised around pooches cuz when Star got really excited, kitty turned over and exposed her belly. My fur child was in heaven. Kitty didn't have a collar. I almost brought kitty home with us.