It’s a wrap! Salami, havarti, arugula, and tomato wrap

I am overdue for posting a blog entry so I thought I would post a photo of today’s lunch.

On a Flatout flatbread (pictured here) or tortilla: 1 slice havarti cheese, 3 slices grilled genoa salami, a handful of greens (eg. arugula, kale, lettuce) tossed in a splash of white vinegar and olive oil, and 3 sliced cherry tomatoes.

My hubby and I have been enjoying these wraps for lunch the last few days. It’s so tasty, easy and fast…and a great way to keep using those greens and juicy, sweet tomatoes in your garden! Enjoy!!

Photography exercise 2: aperture mode and position of focus

It’s been awhile since I posted results from one of my photography exercises using Bryan Peterson’s “Understanding Exposure” book. I had two goals in mind when employing two of Bryan Peterson’s suggestions:

1) To get a correct exposure and some bokeh, I used the Aperture Priority (AP) mode with an F/5.6 aperture. In this mode, I let the camera choose the exposure, or shutter speed.
2) To get multiple faces in focus, with a good amount of bokeh, I practiced placing my position of focus (aka focal point) “one-third into the photo.”

Here are some shots using my Nikon D5000 with 50mm lens putting these techniques to work:

1) Aperture Priority (AP) mode, F/5.6, Exposure: 1/1000, ISO: 200

* We wrapped up Erika’s photo shoot and as I was leaving she asked for a photo with her childhood pet, Ellie, whom she would be leaving behind as she ventures off into the big world, freshly graduated from college. Getting Ellie to sit still and look at the camera was a challenge (she kept trying to sniff my lens) so I was pleased to get this sweet photo of these best pals together.

* I positioned my point of focus on Erika’s cheek closest to Ellie which gave me the focus I wanted on both faces. But, I would have liked more bokeh in the background.

* When I took this photo, the bright sun came out making the photo a bit overexposed. But, converted to black and white the photo is a bit more balanced.

* Shooting in AP mode made for a relaxing experience, letting the camera work for me. However, I still prefer the control I have working in manual mode.

2) Manual Mode, Aperture: F/4, Exposure: 1/200, ISO: 400

* After my experience using aperture F/5.6 I tried an F/4 aperture setting to get more bokeh. I wasn’t sure it would also give me the focus I wanted on both of the girls’ faces but, it did!

* I positioned my point of focus at a spot one-third into the photo, which in this case was the skin on Isabella’s arm just above Nora’s head. I chose this spot for focus but, also to get a correct exposure for both Isabella’s darker and Nora’s lighter complexions.

* After several unsuccessful attempts (eg. only one face in focus, or exposure too dark/too light) I finally got both faces focused and adjusting to ISO 400 gave me the exposure I wanted.

Additional notes about both photos:

* Learning where to position my point of focus one-third into the photo was key. When focusing on one person, I simply focus on the eyes. Getting the hang of finding that “one-third into the photo” spot is still a work in progress for me but, executed properly, it works like a charm!

* I did not use a tripod because I was just plain lazy. For sure, a tripod can help achieve sharp, focused photos. I threw caution to the wind and trusted the VR (vibration-reduction) setting on my 50mm lens and my steady hold.

It used to be scary using my camera in manual mode but, now it’s more rewarding and less frustrating. I’m not a professional but, I just like to share what I’ve learned and encourage others to get out there, experiment and enjoy your camera! And, any of you seasoned photographers stumbling upon this blog post, please share your tips, comments, or website links!

Happy Shooting! 😉

p.s. I found this link on How to Take Group Shots which provides additional tips you might find helpful

Recipe: Rosemary Garlic Foccacia Bread (Rebar cookbook)

Rosemary Garlic Foccacia Bread (From the Rebar cookbook)

==>Here’s Norita helping me make a batch of foccacia dough She loves to help me cook! 🙂

1 3/4 cups warm water
1 tb traditional baking yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt (I prefer just 1 tsp salt)
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups unbleached flour

6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tb olive oil
2 tsp coarse salt
1 tb chopped rosemary

Pour the warm water into the bowl of your stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast and sugar over top. Let stand 10 minutes until the yeast is foamy. Place the bowl on the mixer and attach the dough hook. Pour in the salt and olive oil and mix briefly. Add one cup of flour at a time and stir with a spoon. When the flour is mixed in, add the second cup, and continue until all the flour has been added. When you can’t stir anymore, pour dough on a floured surface and knead in until dough is smooth and elastic.

Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl, turning the dough to coat in the oil. Place a damp towel over the bowl and let sit in a warm, draft-free location for for 1 hour. Punch down the dough, turn, re-cover, and let stand another hour.

Preheat the oven to 350′. Lightly oil a 12×16 (or similar size) pan and gently press the dough out with your hands to fill the pan.

Pour the 2 tb of oil on the dough and rub over the surface. Sprinkle the dough evenly with the salt, garlic and rosemary. Dimple the dough with your fingers.

Cook for 20 minutes and rotate the pan halfway through. Watch carefully so that the garlic doesn’t burn.

VARIATION:  Recently my hubby and I went to a restaurant where they served GRILLED focaccia bread with hummus.  It was fabulous!  So, we tried it when we were having a BBQ.  I removed the “sheet” of focaccia bread, cut it into two pieces, put it on the grill with the top open, and left it there just a few minutes, long enough to give it some grill marks.  Just grill the bottom side of the bread (eg. the side WITHOUT the salt, garlic & rosemary.)  Cut the bread diagonally to create triangles instead of squares/rectangles.  That shape makes it a bit more fun for some reason.  It was great!

Week 41 – I Heart Beef Photo Challenge & Smoky Beef Stew Recipe

I heart beef!

I heart faces extended this week’s photo challenge, I Heart Beef, so since I was making the beef stew recipe from the October 2010 issue of Sunset Magazine (page 90G), I thought this would be a good opportunity to try some foodie shots. Little did I realize, making BROWN beef look appetizing in a photo is HARD!

I started with taking a photo of the stew in the pot, trying to replicate the Sunset Magazine photo. That didn’t work for me. Then, I decided to plate it with a few slices of bread, which turned out “okay.” Then, I sprinkled some chives on it and it was definitely an improvement. I still think the dish tasted better than I was able to make it look. This beef stew recipe was YUMMY!! 🙂

It was a great photo challenge and i heart faces once again pushed me to practice my photog skills. To see other great beef entries, or to enter this weekly contest yourself (it’s not too late…you have until THURSDAY) click on this logo:

Since I was asked, here is the recipe which I found online here:


Bacon, smoked paprika, and chipotle chile powder (from dried smoked jalapeños) give this stew layers of smoky flavor. Prep and Cook Time: 4 hours.
Notes: You can make this a day ahead through step 3 and chill it. Add 15 minutes to the cooking time for the potatoes, since the liquid will take longer to boil. Find smoked paprika (often labeled pimentón de La Vera) at gourmet grocery stores.

Total: 4 hours
Yield: Makes 8 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)


About 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 pounds beef chuck, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 1/2-in. pieces
4 strips hardwood-smoked bacon, chopped
2 large onions, peeled and cut into 1/2-in. wedges
About 1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon smoked paprika (see Notes)
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
2 bottles (750 ml. each) dry red wine
2 pounds russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4- by 2-in. sticks
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup minced chives


1. Heat a heavy, large casserole or Dutch oven (not nonstick) over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp. oil. When hot, add 1/5 to 1/4 of the beef. The first piece should sizzle when it hits the pot; if it doesn’t, remove it and wait for the oil to get hotter. The pieces should not touch—you want plenty of room so the juices will evaporate quickly and the meat can brown. Cook until well browned and a bit crusted, about 5 minutes each side, adjusting heat so meat sizzles but does not burn. They’re ready to turn when they release from the pot easily. Transfer meat to a bowl and repeat with remaining meat and oil, for a total of 4 or 5 batches. This takes about an hour when done properly.

2. Preheat oven to 350°. Add bacon to pot and cook until fat renders and bacon starts to brown. Transfer bacon to bowl with beef. Add onions to pot and stir in 1 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring, until onions begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Transfer onions to bowl with beef. Add flour to pot and cook, stirring, until it starts to turn golden and smells faintly of piecrust, about 2 minutes. Add smoked paprika and chipotle powder and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds.

3. Add wine and increase heat to high. Scrape up any browned bits from bottom of pot. Add reserved beef, bacon, and onions. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover and bake until meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours.

4. Return pot to stove. Add potatoes and bring to a boil. Add carrots and bring back to a boil. Adjust heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, uncovered, until vegetables are tender, 30 minutes. Stir in butter and add salt to taste. Serve hot, garnished with blue cheese, pepper, and chives.

Note: Nutrition analysis is per 1 1/2-cup serving.

Nutritional Information
Calories:795 (40% from fat)
Fat:35g (sat 13)