June 28, 2015

A week in Portugal - photography, food, friendship

The idea to spend a few days with people I don't know, in places I've never been, it's quite a challenge. I am actually shy, and being in a group of talented and experienced people in a field I'm just crawling can be intimidate. But I'm ready, I'm ready to challenge myself, to be pushed out of my comfort zone and follow my heart.

I was lucky to finally snag one of the tickets for a workshop organized by Ritchie Ace Camps. I had tried it before, twice to tell you the truth, or I was late, the tickets are sold out fast, or some requirements I did not have, well, this may be a subject for another post...

It helped my confidence that I had already attended a food styling and photography workshop held by Béa Peltre in Ingland last year, which was such an unforgettable experience. This time I went to Portugal to spend time learning from the talented photographer, food stylist and cook Aran Goyoaga of Aran Goyoaga from Cannelle et Vanille. I've been inspired by Aran's talent to tell a story through food and beautiful photography for quite a while.

Aran talked to us about her process for styling, photographing and editing her photos. We spent time photographing food made and stylished by her, then we styled food ourselves and spent more time photographing them. 

Everybody was so motivated and full of energy. I felt lucky to be in this worshop with Aran, Angela and such talented people

The workshop was held in Melides, in the region of Grândola. Melides is a typical small Alentejo village, where the houses keep the traditional white and blue look, which reminded me of the historic towns in Minas Gerais.

Early morning walks in the summer are such a bliss, and that was my routine in Melides. Some days I would walk toward the small village, some days toward the beach.

In a hot and bright afternoon, we headed to the beach to style and photograph a picnic. To me it was a challenge to photograph in those extreme light conditions. Such an amazing learning experience.

On our last night , we all dined out in a restaurant by the Praia do Pêgo, where we were blessed by this amazing sunset. 

The next day, I left the Portuguese countryside heading to Lisbon, where I stay for a couple of days with a special friend, a friend I had just met the day I arrived in Portugal.

You might ask "how can you call a person you've just met a friend?" Well, Rosa, from the blog Le Paquet, and I were online friends for some time, and when I was certain I was going to Portugal I wrote her an email. 

I hesitate  when she invited me to stay at her home, but I'm glad I accepted. When I arrived at the airport she was there waiting for me. I felt I already knew her for a long time, and thank to her my two days in Lisbon were intense and special.

A few participants of the workshop joined Rosa and I to wander the streets of this culturally rich and charming city, a city of colors, tiles, and stone streets. It was lovely to have their company.

I returned home feeling inspired,  met wonderful people, made new friends.

Goodbye Portugal, thanks for the experience and memories!

June 19, 2015

Pineapple & Mint Juice / Slush

I could not resist making a special post for this refreshingly delicious Pineapple & Mint Juice featured in Claire's free online magazine. It is so easy and simple to make, and besides these two ingredients are loaded with vitamins, nutrients and antioxidant properties.

If you are anything like me and like fresh homemade drinks during the summer, this is going to be your new favorite drink. It's refreshing, naturally sweet and bright from the pineapple and also delightfully aromatic from the mint. It's definitely a keeper.

Pineapple & Mint Juice
Makes 1

♥ 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh, or frozen pineapple
♥ Springs of mint, to taste
♥ Handful of ice

♥ I always use fresh or frozen pineapple, but canned pineapple will work as long as it comes in natural juice
♥ Frozen pineapple gives this juice a slushie-like consistency.

In a blender, juice the chopped pineapple (when using frozen fruit, add a little bit of water to help juice it), add the mint leaves and ice blending it all together until it reaches your desired consistency.

Fresh homemade juices are best if sipped right away, so pour it into a glass and drink it up!

June 14, 2015

For the love of handmade & homemade

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind. Long and warm days make me feel like enjoying the outdoors. Photographing nature, gardening, long walks in beautiful paths, gathering with friends, cold beer, sunbathing...

Meanwhile, I flew to Portugal for a food styling and photography workshop. It was my first time in that county, where I stayed for a week. I'll make a post able this memorable trip, but not now. First things first, and by this I mean share with you a very cool project by dear Claire from Heart Hankmade UK, a free Summer Craft online magazine, in which I have the pleasure to be one of the contributors.

I was not sure how I could contribute to this awesome magazine, but quite frankly, I was excited to be part of this project along with so many talented and inspiring ladies, including my dearest blogger friends, Ayda, from Cafe noHut, and Sibel, from Turuncu oda.

There are a huge range of projects in the magazine, like sewing, crochet, papercrafts, scrapbook, rubber stamping and recipes.

I contributed with two recipes - a yummy and healthy Coconut Milk, Chia and Raspberry Pudding, and a refreshingly delicious Pineapple & Mint Juice. I cooked, stylished, and photographed this Summer Feast.

So if you want a relaxing and creative me time, just download your free magazine here and get inspired!

May 15, 2015

Cooling off in a summer day in the middle of May with a Watermelon, Raspberry, Lime Juice

Nothing is more refreshing in the summer than a fresh and cold fruit drink. Oh wait, it's not summer yet! Well, but that's how it felt  from last Sunday through Tuesday, gorgeous and warm hot summer days.

We'd been working hard in our yard. I woke up with the birds, so I started early in the morning and by midday I was ready to relax in the deck and watch Brady still working under that hot sun.
I could see he was happy doing a lot of outdoor work, but he looked exhausted, covered in sweat, and he was starting getting red!

"Perhaps I should give him something cold to drink", I thought. I went inside looking for something and saw some fruits I had bought the day before, they were perfect for a refreshing and healthy juice to cool him off - watermelon, raspberry and lime.

I believe a juice can hardly be called a recipe, just mix and match some ingredients to taste and most of the time we will find ourselves having a delicious drink, but if you need a guideline, here is how I made it.

It's best to use seedless watermelon so you don't have to de-seeding it. The watermelon I used had seeds and I couldn't get rid of all of them, but I didn't mind, I like fruit juices with texture, with body, not to miss any of their flavors and nutrients, so I didin't strain the puree to remove any pulp. Also, I never sweeten my fruit juices, but again, this is a personal preference.

Watermelon, Raspberry & Lime Juice

2 cups diced watermelon
1 handful of raspberries
♥ juice of 2 small limes - freshly squeezed
♥ sugar, syrup, or honey to taste

Simply combine the watermelon cubes, lemon juice, raspberries and ice in a blender and give it a whirl to create a slushy puree.

"What is that?" Brady asked me when I offered the juice to him. "It's a refreshing and nutritious juice, try it", I told him. "Yum, this is good!", he murmured after the first sip. "Can I have some more? This is what I needed!"

April 29, 2015

I see beauty around me

Hello friends! Apologies for my prolonged silence, I have been busy these past couple of weeks. Spring is here, and with it lots of work preparing my home to finally breath some fresh air again, raking up the leaves, and soon get back to enjoy my backyard.

I always have flowers at home, even when it's cold outside. Sometimes I buy from a local flower shop, sometimes from a grocery store. To me flowers are special, they bring joy to my life, and I am thankful for that, so I take good care of them, and try to keep them around as much as possible.

These flowers were a gift from my husband. He gave them to me on my birthday, April 18th, when I took this picture.

Cut flowers can be expensive, and without proper care, they will wilt or die quickly, throwing all of your money away. Here is what I do to keep them around as long as possible.

Before placing them in a vase I remove all the leaves that would be touching the water. Depending on the flowers, some are more thirsty than others, I change the water every other day.  Once I remove them from the water, I trim the stems in an angle before placing them back in cool water.

In this process of cutting back the stems, removing leaves and flowers that have died, the bouquet starts to change, and so does the way I display the flowers.

This second picture was taken today, eleven days after I got my birthday bouquet. Some of the flowers and foliage were not looking good anymore, but some were still majestic, so using bottles and jars as vases I created a simpler, yet as beautiful, flower display.

I like to experimenting when arranging flowers, mixing small and big ones, along with some foliage for added texture and beauty. Sometimes I will use cups, mugs and bowls as vases. I believe everything that can hold water can also hold flowers. There are no set in stone rules when it comes to flower arranging, just go with your instinct and enjoy the moment.

April 15, 2015

A colorful salad brightens my day

I got home thinking of salad! And what's so special about this salad? It is colorful, with a crisp texture, and deliciously flavorful, the perfect balance of flavors and textures.

I wasn't a regular salad eater, but since Brady built a small garden a few years ago, and we started having fresh and homegrown vegetables, everything has changed. The taste, the texture of homegrown produce are incomparable. I've learned to enjoy eating salad, and I am always inspired by new ways to make it.

Sweet, refreshing and crunching, a one-in-all raw salad.

This simple, easy and totally delish salad is a variation of one my mother makes regularly. She dices the tomatoes and shred the carrots, I prefer to slice both. It feels good to taste the juice, the texture of tomatoes and the sweetness and crunchiness of carrots combined with fresh ingredients. 

Rainbow Carrot & Tomato Raw Salad

I'm listing the ingredients, the amounts are to taste.

 Rainbow carrots, thinly sliced
♥ Tomatoes, sliced
♥ Onion
♥ Scallion, or spring garlic
♥ Olive oil
♥ Sea salt
♥ Freshly ground peppercorn
♥ Juice of 1/2 lemon
♥ Sesame seeds

Slice the tomatoes and carrots. I use a mandolin to slice the carrots, it makes it much easier, and uniform.
Whisk all the other ingredients together, minus the sesame seeds. Taste and adjust any seasoning accordingly.
Drizzle in the dressing little by little and toss to coat.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and enjoy.

April 5, 2015

I have a recipe with no name...

Firstly, if you celebrate this holiday, I want to wish you a Happy Easter, with people you love, friends or family. Feliz Páscoa!

Secondly, I need your help. I have a dilemma, and hopefully you can help me with it.

The Brazilian name for this recipe is Torta de Banana com Creme e Suspiro, if I translate it a word-to word, it would be Banana, Custard and Meringue Pie, but what we call pie in America has a crust, but not this recipe, so what should I call it? If not a pie what should be the name for it? So, can you help me?!?!?!

This is the kind of dessert you like to have handy when you are short of time. Extremely simple to pull together, yet delicious and light.

I love them all, banana, vanilla custard, and meringue, and have all three together to me is pure delight.

Banana, Custard & Meringue
Makes about 4

1st layer - Banana Compote
 4 bananas
♥ 1 tbsp sugar for each banana (I used demerara)
♥ 3/4 cup water
♥ lime juice of half lime

Place the sugar in a saucepan over low heat stirring constantly until it's crumbly.
Pour a cup of boiling water in to the pan and stir until the sugar dissolves. ♥ Always be careful not to spill boiling water on yourself when you pour it over the crumbly sugar.
Add the bananas, sliced, and then the lime juice.
Place the smooth mixture in an oven safe dish.

2nd layer - Custard
♥ 2 1/2 cups milk
♥ 2 tbsp cornstarch
♥ 1 tbsp sugar
♥ 2 egg yolks
♥ 1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
♥ 2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix the cornstarch, one spoon at a time, with 1/2 cup of milk. Stir it slowly until the cornstarch is completely dissolved, and keep on the side.
Place the remaining milk in a saucepan over medium heat, stir the egg yolks to dissolve them and add them to the saucepan. Add the vanilla. Stir this mixture slowly.
Gradually pour the dissolved cornstarch into the saucepan. Add sugar and butter. Continue stirring unit it becomes a thick and creamy texture. Do not let it boil.
Pour this mixture on top of the banana compote.

3rd layer - Meringue
♥ 2 egg whites
♥ 4 tbsp sugar

Beat the egg white with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.
Add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, gradually, while beating on high speed. Adding the sugar too quickly will knock air out of the egg whites and make them difficult to mix thoroughly.
The texture should be thick and shiny.

Gently spread the meringue over the custard.

Bake just a couple of minutes until the meringue turns light brown. you can also broil it until browned.

Chill for about 2 hours, or less, if you can't wait to enjoy it.

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