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Pinch of Yum workshop recap

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So if you guys follow me on Instagram, then you know I got to take part in a Pinch of Yum photography workshop about two weeks ago. The workshop came at a perfect time for me. I’d been feeling down about the move to Minnesota, I wasn’t feeling inspired by baking or the blog, and I couldn’t figure out how to update my workflow to work with my new life (the move, two babies, working full time, etc). I had some vague ideas, but what Lindsay gave me were real tools to make that happen. Here are my top three takeaways from the weekend –

1. Natural light is everything – This is the go to rule on nearly every food photography tutorial / article / post / etc. But I had forgotten how magical natural light really is. And not just the light itself, but how you position your food in respect to the light, the shadows, working the colors. I finally got to play with artificial lighting and realized that it’s really not for me.

2. VSCO isn’t just for Instagram – One of my biggest problems lately has been finding time to edit photos. Lindsay showed us her workflow of using Lightroom, and a custom VSCO filter she created for her photos. Couple that with the natural light, and I have a feeling editing won’t be such a trial going forward.

3. My FEEL – If you’ve visited Pinch of Yum’s site you notice that the photos are bright, a bit blown out, and go a different direction than what I want for myself. I was a bit concerned, but what was great is that Lindsay helped me find my own style and gave me some legit pointers on how to stay true to it. Why did I like certain photos? What were the physical representations of feelings like “moody” or “soft” and how do I capture that in my own photos? What sort of editing gets me closer to that feeling?

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Now I just have to make use all of this and stick with it. Until then, I’ll leave you with some random shots I took on my iPhone with basic editing on VSCO. If you want to check out more shots, check the official post on Pinch of Yum.

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Cinnamon Rolls [Yeasted]

Years and years and years ago, I had my first Cinnabon. We had just moved to Arlington TX (a suburb in the Dallas Fort Worth area) and I had just transferred to a brand new high school near the end of my Sophomore year. Within of a few months of us settling in, my dad actually got transferred to another state to work on a project there. It was a hard time for me – I missed my friends, I missed my dad, and the feeling of not belonging in this blonde-blue-eyed-football-loving-expensive-bag-toting-every-kid-gets-a-car-when-they-are-16 sort of world was painfully real. I know I made life difficult for my Mom, who was essentially bringing up me and my sisters by herself while my dad was away. We would fight about curfews, getting a car, grades, getting in trouble in school, and everything else under the sun. Looking back now, I see how much stress she was under and how she was trying her best. But explaining that to a teen angst filled 15 year old would have been impossible.

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I also see now how she tried her best to give us all the things she could, in her own way. She would cut back on some non-essential groceries so we could get season passes for Six Flags (an amusement park close by), or a new jacket that was a pretty good knockoff of what all the other girls in my high school were wearing, or taking us all to a matinee movie . And then there was the time she were at the mall and we got Cinnabons. In that moment I was “normal”. I was doing what all the other kids were doing, and it felt nice.

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Maheen’s Vanilla Birthday Cake + Giftcard Giveaway

The giveaway is now closed.

February is usually a big month in the Shaikh-Zaman household, especially this year, and especially this week. First off, the Giants won the Superbowl. Maheen had set the alarm for 4:45am India time so we could wake up to watch the game. Needless to say, after a long day of running errands and only 3 hours of sleep later, I wasn’t the one waking up on time. There are only a few things in this world that Maheen is loyal to and loves beyond reason. The Giants are definitely in the top 10. Through the ups and downs, Eli’s “aw shucks” interviews, and a number of throw away mistakes, Maheen has diligently watched nearly every game and read nearly every piece of commentary available to man. And this year, they won the Superbowl for his birthday.

This one’s for you Maheen 😉

That brings us to the second reason why February is a big deal. This year was Maheen’s big 3-0! He waved goodbye to the 20s and is now an old fogie like the rest of us. Hah, this is especially sweet because I’ve been hearing 20s vs 30s jokes since last April when I turned 30. Now Maheen’s not really into birthdays; just another day like the rest of them in his book. On the flip side, I love birthdays. Heck I love any reason to celebrate – birthdays, anniversaries, anything that can be made into a momentous occasion where I can bake a cake. And I love buying presents. Thinking about what a person likes, what they would never really buy for themselves but secretly want, and then wrapping the present – absolutely love it.

Years ago when Maheen and I first met, started courting, and got married, I would go through a whole slew of possible birthday presents. The full collection of Tin Tin graphic novels and accompanying “extras” to remind him of his childhood. An mp3 player preloaded with some albums from his favorite artists like Tom Petty, the Cranberries, and Cure. You know.. thoughtful presents. But through all of that, the thing that Maheen loves the most, are Amazon giftcards. Shaking head. A giftcard. What am I going to do with this guy? 🙂 Lucky for the rest of you, to help celebrate Maheen’s big 3-0 birthday, I’m giving away a $30 giftcard from Amazon.com (details below).

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Simplest Coconut Macaroons

I love giving presents. I love seeing a person light up when you give them a pretty package bound together with a gorgeous ribbon, and find something special inside. Lately, I’ve found that people get even more excited when that ‘something special’ is food or baked goods. Usually I’m a fan of cookies or brownie bites since they have a longer shelf life, can fit into a tin so well, and are pretty easy to bake up… but this time I thought I’d give coconut macaroons a try. Good decision.

I used to swear by the Cook’s Illustrated / America’s Test Kitchen. That is until I tried these simple coconut macaroons by Culinary Institute of America (CIA). No condensed milk or sweetened shredded coconut or cream of coconut (yes that’s a real product). Just a few simple ingredients – egg whites, sugar, a bit of flour, vanilla extract, and the true star, unsweetened shredded coconut.

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