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Announcing A 3 Day Food Styling & Photography Workshop February 2nd – 6th 2016

FoodStyling & Photo Workshop Feb 2-6th 2016

I am thrilled to announce a brand new 3 day workshop for February 2016 with two of my favorite people, food stylist Tami Hardeman and chef John Ondo!

During the 3 day workshop, we will guide you on several photo assignments where we’ll share all our tips and techniques. Whether you have a blog, write for a local or national magazine, work with brands and need to supply food photography, want to establish a career in the world of food styling and/or food photography, etc… this workshop is for you.

We’ll share the tools and philosophy we use in our daily workflow: defining a mood and feel, working with mood boards and sketches, sourcing ingredients and styling, choosing the best props to showcase the food, composition through lighting, best camera angles and tools for the task at hand, editing and post processing.,etc…

Cooking sessions with Chef Ondo will punctuate the mornings and afternoons where he will share his love of Mediterranean cuisine cooking with locally sourced ingredients.

All this right by the ocean.

The workshop will start by a casual meet & greet at the beach home, followed by dinner prepared by Chef Ondo. Three days of photography and cooking follow. Attendees will have a morning free to wander about and visit Charleston, get some personal work done or just chill.


The workshop includes:

3 days of photography, composition, food styling and cooking sessions

4 nights accommodations on the beach at Aerie House (more info here)

Breakfasts, lunches and dinners

Refreshments and snacks

Fee is $1875 (does not include travel fares to and from workshop) 

Registration open January 2nd. More details HERE.

Pear and Frangipane Tart

Pear Frangipane Tart

I have to admit that I haven’t done any Christmas baking this yet. And it probably won’t happen until Christmas. Wait, that’s not true. There will be my mom’s Swedish cinnamon buns on Christmas Day and snickerdoodles over the weekend. Usually I am the poster child for Santa’s bakery, if there ever was one. I’ll be cooking Christmas dinner (well late lunch for us) and will be making a sticky toffee pudding cake (F&W Dec 15 issue). Probably because I like saying sticky toffee pudding with the voice of Kermit The Frog or Gollum.

 

Tart Prep

I did bake a few things despite my lack of holiday baking. Mostly cakes and pies that were devoured as fast as they were coming out of the oven. Almost. During our last workshop a couple of weeks ago, it seemed that I could not turn galettes fast enough for dessert for the attendees! I’ve had a hard time resisting fall and winter fruits at the market. Apples, seckel and forelle pears, kumquats, cranberries. They all ended in my basket at some point.

Tart Prep

It’s no secret that I do love making (and eating) tarts. I grew up watching my grandmother making loads of them on a regular basis and even more around Christmas time. Her tart fillings were simple and straightforward, always letting the fruit take center stage. Sometimes, there was a supporting actor such as a custard base, lemon curd or frangipane. If I had to choose which one I favor the most, I honestly could not. I love the pillowy softness of a vanilla custard, the acidulous tickle of a lemon curd and the tantalizing taste of an almond filling.

 

Pear Frangipane Tart


Pears and frangipane
go hand in hand like good company and a good meal. They never outplay each other. A classic combination that everyone in my family enjoys. A bit of vanilla bean added to the frangipane never hurts either.

 

Pears

I hope the holidays treat you well and are a source of comforting meals with friends and family.

It’s never easy to find balance this time of year but a slice of pear frangipane tart and a glass of wine might just do that!

 

Pear Frangipane Tart

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Curry Carrot Soup With Toasted Quinoa Topping

Carrots-2

Being away from Charleston the last three years, I had almost forgotten how much longer the temperatures stay above normal this time of year. I should know better though given that we are in a sub tropical climate… Nevertheless, I was getting antsy to get a bit of a hint that December was upon us. And just like that, a good rain and the temperatures dropped. The air became crisper, the sun shining with a different luminosity, the sky finally wearing that winter blue I love and missed.

All prompted me to head to the kitchen to make a few batches of soups.

My latest love is for a velvety curry carrot soup I made the other day. Vadouvan, turmeric, sumac were my spices of choices, giving depth to the soup. The humble carrot took another dimension and we all went back for seconds. I wanted a crunchy bit in there somewhere so I topped it off with a blend of toasted quinoa, parsley, toasted almond and lemon zest. 

Curry Carrot Soup

With my studio adjacent to the house, it’s really easy to put a pot of soup on, get to work, and come back in around noon to have lunch with my mother-in-law when the husband is teaching. I’ve come rather fond of our lunch breaks together. Sometimes, we sit quietly at the table and listen to the news. Sometimes, I prompt her to tell for the gazillion time how she met my father-in-law, the story of how they were wed in New Orleans during the war. I love listening to her. We talk about my family, when my parents will come visit next or what we are going to cook for Christmas. Sometimes, we are both deep in our thoughts and appreciate the silence.

 

Carrots

Lunch is often time a cup of soup and a tartine or a big salad and a croque monsieur. Mama Ruth had never had those before but now I feel like I have creating a monster! When I head to the kitchen and says "lunch in 20 minutes!", she often replies from wherever she is "are we having those nice cheese and ham sandwiches you made the other day? You know, those French sandwiches with all that good melty cheese?" Well yes, I guess we are…!

 

Curry Carrot Soup

Bailey the older of the two pups usually stays in the house by her side and keeps her company (read sleeps soundly while Turner Classic Movies is on). Tiggy, the younger pup comes with me to the studio and finds a warm spot in the sunlight streaming in. She loves to be there with me, keeping watch over the food on set, getting petted by clients or just watching the squirrels passing by. We have all started to find our comfort zone, our rhythm. It’s nice. It’s really nice.

Sure we have our moments. We don’t always all agree on politics or family stuff but heck, which family doesn’t?! Nothing that a good pipping hot cup of soup and a croque monsieur can’t fix!

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Twisted Cinnamon Brioche Rolls

Brioche Rolls

Trust your instinct. That is definitely the moral of this recipe/story. I had a hunkering for soft and buttery brioche rolls and with an afternoon completely to myself I figured why not dive i and put my pastry chef apron back on? Except, instead of digging my true and tried brioche recipe from my days at the restaurant, I went on pinterest, instagram, google, and just about every where else and finally chose a recipe. Method seemed right, measurements seemed off, but I have been surprised more than once shaking my head at a recipe only to be happily surprised by the end result. So why not, maybe they knew something I did not.

 

Brioche Rolls

While I manage to make the rolls turn out ok, there were a few chosen words and ninja moves to get there. But while the finished product was not uniform, they looked fine and tasted awesome. I inhaled one a few minutes after they came out of the oven, so really…what’s the more important? My belly is happy. The family is happy. And of course now I want to do them over again using my restaurant days recipe. The one in that flour dusted binder I keep close by. That same binder filled with killer savory recipes from my mom and comforting sweet ones from my grandmother. I like to revisit it from time to time. Except I keep the family free of a sugar spun kitchen and chocolate towers. Oh well, the holidays are near. Maybe I’ll spun or pull some sugar for the heck of muscle memory. Probably not…

 

Brioche Rolls

While I could lead you to the recipe that worked so-so, I am giving you the brioche recipe I have tried before and rely on when I need to make small batches (instead of brioche for 100 as I have it in my binder!) It is from Bouchon Bakery and never fails. You can make loaves, rolls or get twisted like I did this time.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone! I am smoking a turkey and making French-American sides for a little Friensdgiving Wednesday and Thursday will be at my sister in law with the more traditional turkey and accoutrements. While not my holidays, I have happily adopted the tradition…

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Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

Taiwanese Beef Soup

Been a frantic few weeks here since we moved and while it’s been a half excuse not to sit down and blog, it has not been an excuse to stop me from eating well while getting the new studio space ready to roll.

 First shoot in the new space started with the lovely and awesome Gina Homolka from Skinnytaste for her second cookbook. Had to pinch myself when I was first approached by her agent to do the photography for this NY Times best seller author but had to pinch myself even harder when I was able to create my own dream team to work on it with me. Prop stylist Kim Phillips and food stylist Tami Hardeman, along with Tami’s assistant Abby, joined me on this dream of a week. We have a bit more to shoot in March and April and I can’t wait!

What’s that got to do with eating well amidst busy days? Gina’s recipes were all delicious for one, so we did eat very well on our shoot. I have a ton of leftovers from that week in my freezer for two. And third, I’ve been on a high soup making kick with all the leftover produce in the fridge.
And when I was pretty through with those, I turned to a recipe I’ve been wanting to make for a long time. Taiwanese Beef Soup. The thoughts of soy sauce, chilies, star anise, ginger and beef simmering on the stove for hours was perfect the cold I was starting to develop.

 After perusing several recipes online, I turned to a friend on Facebook who directed me to one my favorite authors, Andrea Nguyen and her recipe, itself adapted from another one. I followed his advice and used beef shanks with bone marrow and oxtails. I had to adjust the spiciness for my mother in law a little and added in some sliced red chilies separately into our bowls. Everybody was happy and everybody had seconds!

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Announcing A Winter Styling & Photography Retreat in Charleston, SC December 8th – 12th

dip4b

Super excited about the focus of this workshop I am putting together with Chef John Ondo. We are teaming up for a winter styling and photography retreat in Charleston SC, in a beautiful beach home located on the Isle of Palms December 8th -12th. The 3 day workshop will be geared toward food, prop styling and photography in low light situations such as winter, rainy and cloudy days. 

Helene will focus on her photo and styling processes, from basics natural light manipulations to more advanced ones. Cooking sessions with Chef Ondo will punctuate the mornings and afternoons where he will share his love of Mediterranean cuisine and creativity cooking with locally sourced ingredients.

Together, Helene and John will guide you to create an edible narrative with your photos, and share current food styling and propping trends, etc…
Nothing is off limits with questions, from how to pick ingredients and how to cook them, how to manage your cooking/photo time efficiently, knowing about photography for blogging or professional work, cooking for photography, photo as a hobby or how to get started in the business. 


All this right by the ocean.

The workshop will start by a casual meet & greet at the beach home, followed by dinner prepared by Chef Ondo. Three days of photography and cooking follow. Attendees will have a morning free to wander about Charleston with a private tour guide, get some personal work done or just chill.

 

Workshop Charleston

The workshop includes: 

3 days of photography, composition, food styling and cooking sessions 

4 nights accommodations on the beach at Aerie House 

One on one photo sessions with Helene

Cooking demos with Chef Ondo

Breakfasts, lunches and dinners
Refreshments and snacks 

Most rooms are shared – there is opportunity for single rooms on a first sign up basis

To register, please go HERE.

Workshop is limited to 8 people. 

Fee is $1850 (does not include travel fares to and from workshop) 

There will be no refunds for this workshop – please know you can attend before registering.
Full payment due at time of registration, no deposit required.

Brussels Sprout Salad with Hot Smoked Salmon & Cherries.

Brussel Sprouts Salad

Thank you everyone on your kind words on my last post. You are the best virtual peeps a girl can have. I always know I can come to this space and share without holding back. What you see is what you get… We are not settled in yet, living out of boxes still. Mainly because we are trying to cram three lives into a house and while my mother in law has been nothing but gracious about making this space our own, we are taking small steps towards big transitions.

We came with what we needed, putting the rest in storage, two dogs and a bunch of photography equipment for the new studio. I am so grateful that the office/studio is adjacent to the house so we can  help her out and work at the same time.

I am just giddy at the new space I will have to get back to freelancing. My original studio as a freelancer had amazing light but was a bit small. This new space is currently getting new floors, a fresh coat of paint and the dark room is being turned into a prop room. First big book shoot since getting back to being my own boss is happening in less than a month and I can’t wait to have the space done and ready!

Brussel Sprouts Salad

I have been teaching workshops ever since we left Birmingham and I am finally enjoying a few days of reprieve. That means admin emails and phone calls, trying to figure out where things are and getting reacquainted with my town and its creative pulse. Things I have learned in the three days I have officially moved back in: while my mother in law doesn’t cook anymore, her knives are crazy sharp. When she says "I’ll do it" that means "I have a system and only I can do it right." Oh and "more wine please!" Now that’s me speaking. And you know what? It all works out in the end...

I am in charge of cooking and I love that she is open to everything. Spices, ingredients, cuisines. It’s all different for her and she loves good food so we are a good pair. I love being able to share with someone all the bounties surrounding us and having open minded palates, even in her 90s is wonderful. I made this Brussels Sprouts Salad with Hot Smoked Salmon And Cherries last month before I left but I am excited to try it out again with her. While cherries may not be in season anymore, you can easily substitute red grapes or pomegranate seeds for them this Fall.

I am sure we will have more adventures in cooking in the weeks to come but so far so good…Even evenings of cheese plates and nibbles are fine by me! The photo below is one of my new favorite shots that I did with my bestie Tami at the Mixed Conference we taught at this past weekend.

We are all embracing this move and what it means to us. Living, sharing, giving back, holding on, creating new and exciting work.

Cheese & Nibbles

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Pork Belly Tacos With Cilantro Avocado Cream & An Announcement!

Pork Belly Tacos With Cilantro Avocado Cream

Three years ago, exactly to the date, I was letting you in on a pretty big move in my life. Both in my immediate geography and career. When I was asked by the creative director of Time Inc Books in Birmingham, Al to come work for them as Senior Photographer three years ago, the timing was perfect. I was ready for a little more time in one place with the possibility to work with dedicated and talented food and prop stylists everyday.

I put my whole heart into it, I learned so much more than I could ever think of. Meant some wonderful people in the world of publishing. Editors, graphic designers, recipe developers and test kitchen professionals who have fed my soul and belly with beautiful pages and great food.

I am so happy that I answered yes to the offer three years ago but now, it is time. We are moving back to Charleston, SC. I resigned from my position and I am going back to being a freelance photographer!

Weeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Pork Belly Tacos With Cilantro Avocado Cream

After my father in law passed away, we made a promise to my mother in law to be present to take care of her. Be present. Be in the present. That has always been the pushing force for us. Charleston, back home, is where we need to be. After two years not being able to find work, my husband got his position back at the College and is a happy fish again. I am excited about the world unfolding before me and already have my head going wild with ideas about collaborations, work, projects. Life is always on the other side of fear.

 I am looking forward to more time for workshops, travels, work, work and more work. Because I love what I do and hope to be doing this for a long long time.

Thank you all for wishing us well on our new adventures three years ago. Hope you will be excited as I am to follow my new adventures along. 

Once again, bear with me as I pack boxes and more boxes and settle into our new life (and new studio space!).

In the meantime, it’s Friday. That means tacos and drinks in this house! Pork Belly Tacos With Cilantro Avocado Cream to be precise.

 

Pork Belly Tacos With Cilantro Avocado Cream

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Coconut Yogurt & Passion Fruit Tartlets

Coconut Passion Fruit Tarts

I got to say, with my husband in Charleston and me here in Alabama, dinners have been reduced to a strict minimum. Not that I was keen on keen on big productions after a whole day staring at food but still. I almost always have dinner in a bowl. A big salad and some protein, lots of fresh herbs and seasonal vegetables. Roasted, grilled, fresh. It depends on how my feet feel that evening.

 

Coconut Passion Fruit Tarts

You can imagine baking has gone way down too! Heat and solitude combined, it sure feels unnecessary to bake tarts, cakes and cookies. Only if shared with friends though. But there is always that tugging at my heart to bake something, if only to share it later. The scent of lemon and sugar being rubbed together to make pastry dough. Freshly baked cookies coming out of the oven. Vanilla and milk steeping together on the stove for creme brulee. These moments ground me and comfort me. 

 

Coconut Passion Fruit Tarts

The urge to make something light and refreshing got the best of me the other day. Small tartlets filled with creamy coconut yogurt and passion fruit, lightly topped with sugar and quickly browned with a blow torch. Mine ran out of gas before I could achieve a deeper color but that allowed for the yogurt not to curdle too much and the yogurt to stay smooth.

 

Coconut Passion Fruit Tarts

I don’t recommend browning the tops under the broiler as it will cook the yogurt thus loosing that creamy oozing quality you want when cutting into them. I tried, that’s how I know…Still as good, just a different thing. You could try different combination such as lemon yogurt and raspberry mashed up on the bottom, lemon and rhubarb compote, pumpkin filling and vanilla yogurt for the Fall. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination!

 

Coconut Passion Fruit Tarts

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Comfort In A Bowl Of Wild Mushroom Pasta With Garlic and Parsley.

Wild Mushrooms

Comfort food is not only for cold winter nights or rainy autumn days. There is comfort in summer bright tomatoes, juicy ripe peaches and cooking to warm up your heart or ground you in that okay place. I’ve meaning to update this blog in the last few weeks but didn’t have the heart to. We, my husband, his family and mine were battling a fight we could not win. My father in law, my father number 2 and my husband’s best friend and band mate of 30+ years passed away from complications of cancer. He fought with dignity up until the very last moments. When I tell people he was 93 years old, the response is "wow, he had a great life!". Yes, he did. He was lucky to meet his life partner 73 years ago and be married for 71 years. Yes, he did so many wonderful things with and for his family. Yes. No, it doesn’t diminish the void we all feel. While we rejoiced we were lucky to have him this long, we wished for more. As we, humans, usually do.

 

Wild Mushroom Pasta

I went back to Charleston to be there for my family. I cooked meals, listened to stories. I have been in this dreadful place before and I could anticipate reactions and emotions and offer a listening heart and a warm hand. I got back to Birmingham while my husband stayed in Charleston for a little while longer. It’s me and one of the dogs. My days are busy at work with long days of really fun shoots (working on the new Ball canning book right now is pure joy) but evenings can feel a little long at times. Especially toward the end of the week when all the week’s pressure and work start to take a toll on my mind and body. Thursdays have started to become my comfort food days.

 

Garlic

Slow baked salmon on top of pasta with lots of pesto and tomatoes, roasted veggies to go on top of a farro salad, bright vibrant greens with grilled shrimp, lots of lemon and pepper. And garlic. Always a ton of garlic. That’s true comfort to me.

Before I left for Charleston, I had purchased at the farmers market a load of wild mushrooms that I sauteed with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Shitakes, chanterelles, lion’s mane, golden and grey oyster mushrooms. Unsure of timing with the family, I froze my concoction for a later meal. I already had it it my head to preserve the integrity of the mushrooms by adding them, as they were now, to a simple dish of pasta with more garlic and lots of parsley. Something that always reminds me of home, simple days, shared meals and comforting food.

 

Wild Mushrooms Pasta

Here it is, one of my favorite meals, to eat alone or share (always better) when things don’t seem all that great. It will make you sit down and reminisce, bringing a flow of memories you did not expect but will most certainly welcome and indulge. I know I will tonight.

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