Author Archives: gina

Into the studio I went yesterday for a creative play date where I wore all the hats – photographer, set/prop stylist, and food stylist.
Holiday music turned way up, globe lights twinkling, hot chocolate, and early winter window light. I was in my happy place.

Red Velvet Cake with Crushed Candycane & Sugared Cranberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

hc4blI try my best to carve out regular time to work on my craft, push boundaries, or, to just create for myself. This was nothing short of a creative play date for one.
No elaborate anything this go round, just an opportunity to get into a creative zone with no agenda or need. A few hours to be free of constraints, should do’s, shot lists, or story boards.
Simply starting with cupcakes, a few foraged greens, a clean surface, then the slow but sure compositions forming from adding each element, playing with color, texture, light, shadow, and layers.
This, like quiet time for an introvert (me), is energizing. It’s necessary, and never a chore. Bonus when images I create turn into marketing pieces.

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I would love to tell you that I baked these babies up myself, as I have THE BEST cheesecake recipe ever, but instead, they came from my neighborhood Fresh Market’s bakery, with only the toppings coming from me.
Simple, festive, colorful and delectable.

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hc5Cheers and Merry Holiday Friends!

 

The Transfiguration Dish

t1I had another wonderful session with Chef Nathan Day in the studio a few weeks ago, this time exploring food, and life.

In his own words – ‘The basic idea behind this dish was to feature the 3 forms that all life in the universe will go through.
We have the freshly born, living, elements such as radish & alfalfa sprouts, ripe black plum & avocado; death comes in the form of coconut oil deep-fried agedashi tofu & Japanese pumpkin; and lastly, rebirth, via fermentation, by way of the miso dressing & 4 different types of pickles – cucumber, beet, lotus root & eggplant.
An interesting, tasty, and healthy, meditation on the transformations of life.’ ~Chef Nate

I’ll share images, with little nutritional nuggets, on my own blog; while Chef will speak more in depth on the health benefits, on his own blog, Personalchefcincinnati.com – here.
Below are his loose recipes, as this is more of an assembly style dish with only a few preparation steps/components.
This is also the kind of recipe that one could swap in, say, sweet potato instead of Japanese pumpkin, or use any sprout you may have on hand, likewise, use peach or apple, in place of plum.

Thank you, once again, to ceramist Bethany Rose Kramer for making the gorgeous, moody, textured dinner plate for our finished recipe.
You may remember this post or this post on her.

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Miso Citrus Dressing 

1 tablespoon Red miso paste
6 Tablespoons of fresh citrus juice.  We used half grapefruit and half orange.
Whisk into a small bowl and taste.
Adjust with a little more juice or miso if need be to fine tune for personal taste.
‘This simplistic dressing is oil free and will do your body good.  Miso is a fermented food with many health benefits and amazing nutritional value. It contains minerals such as zinc, manganese, copper, protein & omega 3 fatty acids, as well as, phytonutrient antioxidants that are produced during the fermentation process. These components are anti cancerous, and free radical scavengers.’ ~Chef Nate

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‘Fermented foods such as kimchi, pickles, yogurts, miso & more are beneficial as they produce friendly bacteria known as probiotics, which are good for aiding digestion and supporting an overall healthy gut. We live in a very anti-biotic (against life) world.  Yes, we should eliminate bad bacteria and sterilize things, but we should strive to simultaneously include good bacteria in order to function optimally.’ ~Chef Nate

Chef Nathaniel’s Pickling Method

Start with a large glass jar, or ceramic crock, at least 4 or 5 inches in length.
Pour boiling water in to sterilize your container.  Don’t use chlorinated water, or anti bacterial  soap, as this will kill many of the good bacteria that you want alive.
Rinse off your veggies (cucumbers, eggplant, lotus root, whatever you want to pickle) and place them in the jar, leaving some space on the top.
Add spices (I love using garlic cloves, peppercorns, dill, coriander, and/or fennel seeds.)
Pour brine over your pickles – made by combining 8 tablespoons of kosher salt to 8 cups of clean water – next, add a quarter cup of vinegar.
Do NOT cover with a lid. You may tie a cloth over it. Keep the pickles submerged in the brine, undisturbed and in a cool place for 25 days.
Put them in the refrigerator when finished to stop the fermentation process.

Elements of the Dish

Small handful of sprouts, we used radish & alfalfa.
5-6 slices of plum.
2 or 3 slices of avocado.
A few thinly slices rounds of shallot
Slice the tofu into blocks, and dry them thoroughly with towels.
Cut the pumpkin into cubes.
Coat each block of tofu and pumpkin with a very fine layer of potato starch, and brush off any excess starch.
Fill a wok with enough coconut oil to cover the tofu and pumpkin, and heat.
Drop the tofu and pumpkin pieces into the wok, turning until cooked through, but without over browning.
Assembly

On a plate, arrange the sprouts, plum, avocado towards the top, following with the browned tofu and pumpkin, followed with the fermented pickles.
Scatter shallots.
Season with maldon salt, to taste, and drizzle with the miso citrus dressing.

Serves 1
Vegetarian, Vegan

It still amazes me where some of the best collaborations can be found.
I came across Chef Nathaniel Day through the magical rabbit hole that is Instagram.
After a month or so of following, likes and comments, I finally met him through a workshop he offered combing the topics of food, herbs and oils, physical movements, and quiet meditation.
He’s passionate about sharing his personal journey and knowledge through cooking and teaching.
From there…a new conversation began.

Our first collaboration was spread over two days of cooking and shooting in my studio. In typical fashion, I plucked out ingredients that I found beautiful and borrowed them for a quick still life.
He creates, I help style for the camera, light and shoot…we are both happy campers. I am just crazy for these colors!
As we create together, I’ll share the imagery & loose recipes, here, and Chef Nate will elaborate much more of the nutritional information and benefits on his site, Plant Based Culture, here, like this:

‘Heirloom varieties of foods will provide your body with more nutritional coverage.  More color, and other subtle differences, rather than just eating the same old thing (always yellow corn, or always white sugar)  for instance, will mean that you are only getting the same ol’ nutrients, or lack-thereof! Color in food is a nutritional / bio – logical SIGNAL. Different pigments contain within them different phytonutrients which will protect your body from serious dis-ease, such as cancer and more. It is important to include all colors in your diet to do the best for your self. I have overcome many adverse health conditions, and I have found that color, is one of the keys. I am now known as a Chef with very colorful dishes.’

First up
Salata of Heirloom Tomato, Avocado, Citrus, Fig and Herbs with a Balsamic Reduction Dressing

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Salad Ingredients
(serves 2)
A selection of heirloom tomatoes, both full sized and cherry sized
One Haas Avocado
3 Black Mission Figs
1 Orange
1 Grapefruit
Pickled Shallots & Ginger
Herbs & Edible Flowers – Bronze Fennel, Purple Basil, Nasturtiums
1 Tsp Bee Pollen
Maldon Sea Salt to taste

Balsamic Dressing
250 ml of Aged Balsamic Vinegar
Juice of one freshly squeezed orange juice, or you may use up to 250 ml , or 8 oz , of fresh citrus juice for a more highly flavored citrus reduction .

Method
Place balsamic vinegar in a saucepan on the stovetop.
Add in orange juice.
Over medium high heat, allow the vinegar and citrus to come to a slow boil until reduced to half the original amount.
Remove from the heat and cool completely.

Plating
Thinly slice larger tomatoes and avocado, fan out (alternating each) into a circle, in the center of your platter
Slice cherry tomatoes in half, or quarters if larger, as well as the figs, leaving some of each whole, and toss around center spread.
Supreme both the orange and grapefruit and add.
Toss in thinly sliced pickled shallots & ginger, to taste.
Sprinkle on the bee pollen, Maldon Sea Salt, and generous amounts of herbs and flowers, all to your preference and taste.
Drizzle with the reduced balsamic dressing.

It’s officially STILL summer, so Lisa’s ‘Sweet Nothings’ cocktail is perfect for these hot late summer nights.
Stop by and watch her serve it up cold and pretty for you at Salazar, or make it up yourself from her recipe below.
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Sweet Nothings1 ounce Brandy
1 ounce Casoni 1814
.5 ounce lemon juice

Preperation

Shake and stain into snifter
Add ice and Prosecco
Garnish with an orange peel, and a pretty edible flower or herb, if you happen to have one, like we did for our photo shoot.

Thank you Lisa and Salazar Restaurant!

 

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When dining at Salazar, my go to seating is at the bar. Why? Because I love mixologist and barkeep Steven Clement’s beautiful smile, wonderful energy and fabulous personality.
It doesn’t hurt that I also get a front row seat to watching him mix up all kinds of gorgeous cocktails, like this one, The Pedro Piper.
This cocktail has it all, sweet, spice, and savory. It’s a bit of a twist on a margarita.
Taking a cue from the season, and for our photo shoot, we used elderberry blossoms as a garnish, above, but if it’s not available, use the twist of lime that Steven shares in his recipe below.
You can either pop over to see Steven at Salazar, or, make it at home for a perfectly refreshing treat.

The Pedro Piper

2 oz cilantro infused Tequila
1 oz yellow bell pepper juice
.75 oz lime juice
.5 oz triple sec
2 shakes on pimenton (smoked paprika)

Preparation

To infuse the tequila just add fresh cilantro to the bottle, shake vigorously and place on a dark shelf for at least 24 hours.  Then make the pepper juice using either a juicer, or a food processor and a mesh strainer.  Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin with ice and shake for ten seconds.  Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a lime twist.

Thank you Steven and Salazar Restaurant!

A wedding post is a little out of the ordinary, for this blog, but because I shared this post, from last year, here, it only made sense to share this one here, as well.
***Before you ask, no, I am not now photographing weddings. This was a very special exception/occasion.
However, if I ever got into it, this is the kind of wedding celebration that I would be ever so happy to capture.
Nora and Chuck hosted a celebration of their love with simplicity, family, close friends, and authenticity.
It was in the air, in the minimal but thoughtful details, the food, the music, the laughter, the colour, the mood, the ease, the setting, the people.
I have known Nora for I think almost 30 years, making ours one of my longest friendships after moving to Cincinnati, about that long ago.
We have seen each other go through life’s ups and downs, and grow through it all. To have seen her and Chuck find each other, take time to know each other, and now, come full circle to create this new life together as one new, big family, makes my heart swell.

Here are a ‘few’ (I never know how to do just a few) moments from their beautiful day of celebration.

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The Venue Karen & Linford Detweiler of Nowhere Farm & Nowhere Else
Catering Todd Hudson of Wildflower Cafe
Dessert Joe/Patrizia Casagrande of Cucina Della Patrizia
Florals Justin Pirnie of Zinzinnati 
Music Monte Lykins
Barista Justin Dunn of Redtree Art Gallery & Coffee Shop
Officiant Jill Gibboney
Hair Terri Smith of True Colors Salon
Make Up of Linda Coe
Coordinators Rebecca Haas/Amy Wilfert/Gary Warden/Sally Arthur

 

You have probably seen designer & lettering artist Danielle Evans’ work via clients such as Target, Disney, Bath & Body Works, Kellogg, and The Washington Post (to name a few) and have thought, ‘wow, that’s pretty cool’ – as have I.
So what a treat when I got the email asking if I’d like to photograph her for the Summer 2016 issue of Where Women Cook magazine.
I have to admit, however, that I was a little confused that her story would be for Where Women Cook issue, and not the Where Women Create issue…but once inside Danielle’s home, it was evident that this designer loved to cook as well.

Thank you, as always, Stampington and Where Women Cook, for the many opportunities to contribute to your trio of magazines; and to Danielle, for being such a wonderful hostess, for feeding me, and, for letting me completely rearrange your kitchen!

wwc_evans_1If you are not familiar with Danielle’s work, below is a little idea at what she does – she plays with food, until she has created designs, words, etc. with them, creating ‘food typography.’
You can visit her website to see more of what she does.

wwc_evans_2For our photo shoot, and her story, Danielle first whipped up a batch of Mexican Hot Chocolate for us, where she added warm, earthy notes of cinnamon, chili powder and a pinch of cayenne.

wwc_evans_3 wwc_evans_4 img_9457It was a cold and rainy February day, so when I learned that the next dish was a hot, hearty batch of Shakshuka, I was a pretty happy camper.

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Recipes:

Mexican Hot Chocolate
Serves 2

6 oz. high quality chocolate, preferably 70% cacao or higher
2 TB water
2 cups whole milk
1/8 tsp. chili powder
Pinch of cayenne
1/2 tsp freshly ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup heavy whipping creme

Stir chocolate and water continuously over low heat in a small saucepan until chocolate is melted, and smooth.

Add in 1/2 milk and continue to stir until incorporated. Add chili, cayenne, cinnamon and salt.

Once consistent and smooth, add remaining milk and heavy whipping creme. Do not bring to a boil.

Shakshuka
(Danielle’s recipe was sadly not included in the article, but it was so wonderful, I made it at once back home from my notes with her, and am adding a recipe here.)

Serves 4

2 TB cup olive oil
1 pound sausage (your favorite flavors)
1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed then sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
Kosher salt, to taste
3 eggs
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage, break up and cook until browned. Add chile and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and paprika, and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes.

Put tomatoes and their liquid into a medium bowl and crush with your hands. Add crushed tomatoes and the liquid to skillet, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes.
If the consistency is too thick, gradually add a bit of water.
Season sauce with salt.

Crack eggs over surface. Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 5 minutes.
You can also put the skillet (if oven proof) into a 350 degree preheated oven for about 10 minutes until the eggs are set.
Sprinkle Shakshuka with cilantro, and serve with pitas, for dipping.
A sprinkling of feta would be a great add, as well.

I wholeheartedly believe that the Universe conspires on our behalf, and having the opportunity to photograph this beautiful, gentle, humble, talented soul, is yet another piece of proof, as she has been on my wish list for some time now.

Rebecca Weller is an artist by way of painting, collecting, and visually styling. These days her subjects are birds in nature, but if you’ve known her for any length of time, you’d know that she also has a soft spot for cakes and cupcakes of both the real and the acrylic kind. Her layered canvas works are colorful, fanciful, beautiful, and happy. (We have had more than a few conversations about making being drawn to creating pieces that makes our hearts happy.)
Thank you Rebecca, for being authentic, sharing your journey, your process, your heart, your delightful family, home & studio , and your gorgeous art with all of us in real life, and, within the pages of the current issue of Where Women Create Magazine.

A few of my other favorites that did not make it in Rebecca’s TEN PAGE article, with the very first image of her and her littles (twins), in a moment of ‘real’, which is my very favorite.

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Spreads from inside the Magazine, on shelves now.

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Rebecca Weller’s Website
Rebecca Weller on Instagram

I am embarrassingly behind in sharing much of this, and last year’s, works, commissions, and projects. As this year winds down, I’m making an attempt to update those happenings.
Without rhyme or reason to the sequence, let’s just start with a story I photographed this past spring of the lovely and multi-talented make up artist/prop stylist/foodie, Bridget Henry, for the always wonderful Edible Community slightly north of us, Edible Columbus, called The Heart of the Home, penned by writer Claire Hoppens.

Bonus, there is a recipe included – Bridget’s Peruvian mother in law, Edga’s, mouthwatering Empanadas.

edible_henry_1aHere are a handful of additional images from our photo shoot, that include Bridget, her sweet and handsome husband, Helder, and their beautiful daughter, Bianca Mirabelle – as well as, the issue spread, and recipe, below.
Thank you to Edible Columbus, and Colleen Leonardi, for another great opportunity to contribute to your informative, and always gorgeous, magazine; and to Bridget, for letting me hang out (and eat) with your delightful family for the afternoon.

edible_henry_2 edible_henry_3 edible_henry_4 edible_henry_5 edible_henry_6 edible_henry_7 edible_henry_8 edible_henry_9Summer 2016 Edible Columbus

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I recently had a conversation with another artist friend, a conversation that comes up quite frequently, in fact, about how the desire/need/drive to create art is deeply rooted in our DNA, our souls. It’s almost ‘serial’ like. Personally, I can only go for so long without it, before I NEED to create ‘something.’ A strong, deep, driving, primal desire to create. It is real, and without it, life is not as productive, balanced, or happy, for me – or, for anyone else around me.

It seems that approaching my personal shooting projects in the form of color studies has been my method of choice, these days. This, together with my natural inclinations towards maintaining a very tight color palette, simple props, simple lighting, strong compositions, and I’m a happy photographer girl.

Most days, I start out with a story, a story board, maybe a few sketches, most certainly a shot list – all aimed in helping me to pre-visualize the outcome, to create enough imagery for an interesting and versatile layout, and, of course, ultimate control.
Other days, I just want to let go. I start out with one item, a color, a texture, or a mood, and create from the hip.
This was one of those ‘other’ days.

DownyFlowers-4084A small bouquet of inherently gorgeous crimson ranunculus, a cupful of thawed, frozen cherries – not the prettiest, but for a frozen cherry smoothie (recipe at end of post) – and a found broken, stained (perfect) surface that was headed for the garbage. From there, my goal was simply to see where it would go.
Cue…shut the studio door, pull the drapes open, crank the music way, way up. Go.

rc2 rc3 rc7 rc4 DownyFlowers-4137 rc6Tart Sour Cherry Smoothie
(via Kyras Kitchen Blog)
Makes 2 small portions

Ingredients

100 grams frozen (sour) cherries
100 grams banana, no peel
Juice from ½ orange
½ tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp anise seeds
50 ml hot water
Fresh basil, to taste, roughly chopped

Instructions

Soak the anise seeds in boiling hot water for 3 minutes or so. Strain and keep the fluid. Place cherries, banana, orange juice, anise seed water and cinnamon in blender and blitz until creamy. Pour and sprinkle with some roughly chopped basil. Enjoy asap or store airtight in the fridge.

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