Family Grilling Party with Sears Grilling #GrillingisHappiness #SoFabU

Cucumber Salad 1

For the past six weeks I’ve been working through my SoFabU/Sears Grilling food photography course.

Sometimes it’s been difficult to make the assignments look the way I want them to.  Sometimes I wasn’t at all happy with the pictures I took.

And then, there were times where I was blown away by the progress I’d made.

The latter happened more often than not.  I feel my photography skills have grown by leaps and bounds, and can’t even begin to tell you how thankful I am to Sears and SoFabU for putting this together.

It was a phenomenal course and I am definitely a better blogger for having taken it.

Family Grilling Party

This week’s assignment involved putting all of the knowledge we’ve gained from the past few weeks to the test by hosting a home grilling party of some sort.

We happened to have family coming into town anyway, so this week was perfect for this.

Below are some of the pictures that made the cut this week.

My famous deviled eggs.  They’ll convert people.

The most delicious cucumber salad you’ll ever eat.  My father-in-law made it:  cucumbers, red peppers, tomatoes, green onions, a few slices of serrano peppers, white vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil.

Peel the cucumbers and then scrape the sides long ways with the tines of a fork.  Slice the cucumbers and chop the tomatoes, red bell pepper, and green onion and add it to a bowl.

For a small bit of heat, add a few slices of serrano pepper.

Mix in soy sauce, white vinegar, and sesame oil to taste.

One of the best pictures I’ve ever taken.  Ever.

Yummy steaks!

Meat cooking away!

Babydoll even hopped in to take a picture.

The final product: steak, deviled eggs, red rice, and cucumber salad.  We finished it off with some peach cobbler and a family movie night!

True Confessions:  I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Sears #CBias #GrillingIsHappiness. All photos and opinions are my own.

Campaign Photography with Sears Grilling: Food on the Grill! #GrillingisHappiness #SoFabU

Hot Dogs 4R

This week’s course work focused on photographing food cooking on the grill.

lot of technical knowledge was discussed {ISO, aperture, shutter speed} and a lot of different angles were discussed {tilt, diagonal, from above}.

This was probably the hardest week yet, for several reasons.  Generally speaking, when you’re cooking, you’re not thinking about taking pictures.

With the help of my wonderful husband, though, I was able to snap a few {or 140+} pictures.

One thing I’d like to note before moving forward:  infrared grills cook fast.  Like, super-fast.  They get to 700 degrees…

This means there is a lot of smoke.  This means that it can be difficult to get good pictures, at least for those of us who are inexperienced.

Despite the lack of good pictures for our burgers, they were the juiciest burgers ever.  Ever.

Loving our new grill!

Hot dogs were first.  I love a good hot dog.  And, we tried spiral cutting some of the dogs.

See?  Really, really hot!

Love this picture!  A few weeks ago I wouldn’t have been able to get a shot this close and have it be so crisp!

Yummy, burgers!

This isn’t a technically “sound” picture, but I just had to show you the smoke.  And this wasn’t even the worst of it!

Finally, we had Asian BBQ chicken.  Yummy!

I have to point out that my lovely husband de-boned these after I accidentally bought bone-in chicken.

In addition to the excitement of using our new grill, I had a great week spending more time with Vince.  We’re both learning together:  I’m learning how to grill and he’s learning how to use the new grill.

Totally awesome.

True Confessions:  I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Sears #CBias #GrillingIsHappiness. All photos and opinions are my own.

Campaign Photography with Sears Grilling: Product Photography #GrillingisHappiness #SoFabU

107rp

Can I just say, I’m so very sad that our class is about half over.

I have learned so, so much over the past few weeks; it’s amazing.  I’m actually enjoying taking pictures.

I’m learning to look at things from different angles, pay attention to lighting, zoom, manually operate my camera {gasp!}, and edit better than I’ve ever been able to.

Product Photography

This week’s unit was on product photography.

Unit 1 focused on editing skills in Pixlr and Unit 2 was about path-to-purchase photography.

Last week, I went out to our local Sears and took tons and tons of pictures of the grills in the store.

I feel completely horrible, too, because I forgot to mention how great Mr. Clark was.  He was helpful, didn’t mind me taking pictures at all, and really did some work to let me know when my grill would still be on sale, when he could do the Friends and Family discount, and more.  Two thumbs up for him!

Sears was absolutely fabulous and gave each of us a gift card to purchase the grill of our choice!  With the gift card and the sale going on, we got a $700 grill for $38.  Score!

This week our task was to photograph the grill we ended up purchasing.

We were given a few tips to help us make the most of our product photography session:

  • Make sure the product is the focus of the shot; front and center!
  • Use optical zoom {when the camera does the zooming, not using editing software to zoom} to fill the frame with the product.
  • Experiment with a bounce card {something white like posterboard or a tri-fold board} to provide fill light {fill the shadows}.
  • Experiment with different aperture and shutter speed.  The smaller the aperture {an f/stop number}, the more light is let in.

Look at what a difference changing a little number makes!

  • Experiment.  Then, experiment some more.  Finish by experimenting.  Just to be sure you’ve done everything correctly, experiment.

Our Grill

Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to introduce you to Phil, our Char-Broil TRU Infrared Grill.

His name really isn’t Phil; he doesn’t have a name.  But, I just felt like, for the purpose of this blog post, he should have a name…

This baby is the Char-Broil Quantum Infrared 4 Burner Gas Grill with Auto-Clean™.

It is big and pretty and awesome.

It has a large cooking area and can be rigged to use natural gas or propane.  It has an auto-clean feature to make clean-up a breeze.

I love it!

I took my photos during an overcast morning.  I’m glad I did; it was hard enough getting pictures without sunlight glare on that metal without the sun…

Here are a few of the 140+ that made the cut.

I’d like to once again say thank you to Sears for making this possible.  I haven’t enjoyed something on my blog so much in a while.

Our old grill broke a few months ago and we accepted the fact that we’d go the summer without one.

I was excited to learn about photography in this course.  We had no idea we’d be getting a grill for practically nothing.  Thank you.

I’d also like to thank Social Fabric for making this possible.  The instruction we’ve received has been phenomenal.  Again, thank you.

True Confessions:  I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Sears #CBias #GrillingIsHappiness. All photos and opinions are my own.

Grilled Lasagna!

Part of a Fun in the Summer Sun series I did last year!

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Welcome to the next Fun in the Summer Sun event!

Thanks so much for all the great link-ups so far!

Each Monday until September 7th, Mama to 4 Blessings along with Adventures of Mommydom, Sweet Diva, Harvest Moon By Hand, and Sweet Phenomena will be hosting Fun in the Summer Sun link-up events.

Here’s the line up:

  • The 1st Monday of each month: link up your “Kid friendly summer activities”
  • The 2nd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid friendly summer crafts”
  • The 3rd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid friendly summer recipes”
  • The 4th Monday of each month: link up your “How to stay cool in the summer heat”

Here’s our “kid friendly summer recipe!”

Grilled Lasagna!

 

We’ve slowly been chipping away at our summer bucket list, and one of the things we had yet to do was use the fire starters Babydoll made at camp.  She also wanted to make hobo dinners, so I figured we could kill two birds with one stone and make hobo dinners using her fire starters.

I didn’t really want to make a beef, onion, pepper hobo dinner, so I decided we’d look for something else.  I happened to get the new Food Network magazine and inside were a few recipes for grilled items.  We saw the grilled lasagna and thought, “How freaking cool!”

I’m not going to post the recipe here only because we didn’t really use it…  We pretty much did our own thing…

Sauce

We made our sauce.

Layering

We began to layer our lasagna.

More layering

More layering…

And more layering

And more layering…

Finished

Finally finished layering!

And then we wrapped the little lasagnas tightly, cooking ten minutes on each side.  Let ‘em sit for a few minutes, and they’re ready to eat.

Be sure to use no-boil lasagna noodles; other than that, have fun with it!

Have any great recipes you’d like to share?

 

Fun Food Stuff

Another fun one!  We love to cook and bake around here!

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When you stumble into homeschooling {as opposed to it being something you’ve always planned for your children}, you have to work with what you’ve got.  When we started homeschooling, I had cooking and baking.  No awesome artistic abilities, no creative capabilities, no curriculum-building talent.  So, cooking and baking have been used as an oh crap filler, an addition to a lesson, a kick-off-the-school-year activity, or a just-for-fun-we-really-want-to-eat-this activity.  Following are a few of our favorite fun food projects and recipes.

1.  Bake something and decorate it

Whether it’s a cake you bake from scratch, a dozen cupcakes made from a box mix, or sugar cookies baked from a roll of store bought dough, kids love to decorate them.  You can use store bought frosting, buttercream frosting, or royal icing {this one hardens, but many kids still like to eat it…}.  If you don’t have any pastry bags and tips on hand, just put the frosting into a sandwich baggy and cut of a corner, creating an instantaneous piping bag.  This is a great opportunity to teach things like colors, kitchen safety, and math.

2.  Participate in a fair baking contest

This has become a yearly tradition for Babydoll and me.  We enjoy perusing the county fair exhibition books, looking for the various categories we’d like to enter something in. Generally, the children’s categories are judges on appearance and/or taste, and are divided into appropriate age groups.  Even if your child doesn’t win, they usually still get an participation ribbon.  Many fairs even give free admittance to exhibitors. This is our special time together, and involves learning how to budget your time, create or follow a recipe, write legibly, and speak publicly.

3.  Make homemade donuts

Donuts are surprisingly easy to make {don’t worry, you don’t need a deep fryer}, and they’re wicked delicious.  We make donuts to kick off the school year, attempting to make some shaped like the grade Babydoll is entering.  This is a great photo op to document the beginning of each school year. Our favorite recipe is this one by Paula Deen.

4.  Create your own rock candy

We did this during a science unit on rocks.  It’s super easy and Babydoll loved checking her crystals each day.  Babydoll has always been fascinated with rocks anyway, so seeing how they were formed was a treat.  Eating the candy afterward isn’t half bad either.  Here’s a great lesson plan designed around this experiment.

5.  Make your own pizza

Lots of families do this, but you can easily take this a step further.  Use this as an opportunity to teach your child about diameter, meal planning {let them make the list, find the items in the store, and comparison shop}, dough making, how yeast works, there are so many possibilities.  I give Babydoll her own dough, pan, and toppings and let her go to town.  There’s something about making their own food that makes kids feel special.

6.  Read a cookbook together

Sure, some cookbooks are simply filled with recipes and nothing more.  Some of the best cookbooks are filled with stories and personal anecdotes to go along with the recipe.  This makes the cookbook much more interesting, and worth sitting down to read.  In addition to practicing their reading skills, kids can also decide which recipes they’d like to make and what ingredients need to be purchased to make them. Babydoll’s current favorite is Cooking Rocks! Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals for Kids.

7.  Plan special meals

Babydoll loves it when we do theme meals.  Whether it’s for a family celebration or just for fun, creating a meal based on a specific theme lends itself to all sorts of learning.  Kids can come up with a theme, research recipes and decor, choose an appropriate date and time for the meal, help shop for necessary items, and help make decorations and prepare the food. Our personal favorite is spring brunch, complete with awesome folded cloth napkins, printed menu, and Winnie the Pooh spring china.

8.  Make ice cream

This is a fun summertime treat to make.  Whether you have an old fashioned ice cream machine, a frozen yogurt and topping dispenser, or an inexpensive model from a craft store, making ice cream can be so fun!  Help your children research and try different recipes, learning how the ingredients work together to create the frozen treat.

9.  Visit the farmers’ market

Farmers’ markets are wondrous places!  If you’re fortunate enough to live in a place that has a year-round market, you’re set.  You can teach your children about seasonal cooking, using the produce that is in season to create delicious and fresh meals.  If you’ve only got access to a summer farmers’ market, you can still fill your warm months by visiting the market each week and teaching your children about seasonal produce, growing seasons, the process of seed to plate, how to pick ripe produce, and engage in the fun activity of creating a meal from market purchases.  Some markets even have fish, poultry, meat, fresh baked goods, and homemade snack foods.  Search for CSAs, farmers’ markets, farms, and other food establishments in your area on this site.

10. Cook something from another country

When Babydoll attended a Montessori school in WA, one of her end-of-year assignments was to partner with someone and create a presentation on a certain country.  Babydoll and her partner were assigned Nigeria, and they had to research all sorts of things, one of them being food.  They didn’t have to prepare a dish from that country, but were encouraged to do so.  We had so much fun learning about the local ingredients, what people in that country traditionally ate, and what foods were viewed as snacks, special foods, market food, etc. We ended up making a dish called chin chin that is so delicious!  It was a great experience.

Food is a part of every culture, and is a common way for people to connect.  While cooking doesn’t have to occupy every homeschool day, it truly is worthwhile to work it in at regular intervals. Children will greatly benefit from the experiences, and it will likely draw the family together and create lasting memories and family traditions.

What about you?  Do you have any fun food activities you do with your kids?

Photo Credits – Fair, Brunch, Ice Cream, Farmers’ Market