Easily Entertained: Having Fun with Avocados and Cookie Cutters

avocados cut with cookie cutters

Keys to Good Health (get it? KEYS!)

Remember when we were told NOT to play with our food?  Ha! Just try to stop me!

This cookie cutter thing is waaay too much fun.  The great thing about Fuerte avocados is that when the skin is pulled away from the flesh,  the richest green color is right there on the outside of the fruit.   The richest nutrients are just underneath the skin, so there’s a healthy reason to peel your avocados rather than scoop them.    And since the skin peels so easily,   you can peel Continue reading

An Avocado Valentine from Mimi Avocado

BeMyValentineFuerteAvocado2013

What says “love” to you on Valentine’s Day?  A box of chocolates? A bouquet of roses?  Or creamy and delicious California avocados?  How about an Avocado Valentine!

I will admit that I love flowers and chocolate as much as the next girl…and a dinner out is fun too.

When you’re married to an Avocado Farmer,  the month of February is the time to eat Fuerte avocados.   The avocados themselves are beautiful…pear-shaped,  sensuous.

The skin of a Fuerte is easy to peel …when the fruit is perfectly ripe, it peels right off to reveal a naked avocado!

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This morning I decided to have a little fun with our breakfast…so I made The Farmer an avocado valentine!

avocado valentine

Instead of slicing the avocado into wedges,  I sliced an entire half  through the center.  The beautiful green and yellow colors were inspiring!

I used the smallest cookie cutters to create an Avocado Valentine!

avocados cut with cookie cutters

Carefully cut the avocado with cookie cutters and use a small spatula to move each piece to the toast. Double up the layers to take advantage of the beautiful color combinations!

Isn’t this fun?  Of course, The Farmer likes his with pepper and salt!

ValentineToastwithPepper

I wanted one too…so I used the rest of the avocado half for my own toast,  made with Ezekial flourless  sprouted-grain bread.

My Avocado Toast

Use the left-over pieces on more toast! This one was scrumptious!

Fuerte Avocados are in peak season during the month of February.  You may not find them in stores, because the thinner peel makes them harder to ship to stores  in bulk.   There is nothing like the flavor of a perfectly ripe Fuerte avocado…if you haven’t tried them, you simply must.   Look for Fuerte avocados in So. California Farmers Markets.  Or you can order a fresh picked gift box of Fuerte avocados from California Avocados Direct.

FuerteAvocadoBreakfast

Creamy and delicious Fuerte avocados make a special breakfast!

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you!  How are you celebrating today?

Mimi Avocado Goes to School to Learn Food Styling and Photography and Tastes Her First SushiBurger

sushi burger from 26 Beach in Venice, CAWhen I was a young child in school,  my greatest joy was discovering something new to learn.    Every day was exciting then,  with new skills,  new stories, and  new ways of seeing the world. I would go to sleep at night anticipating that  the lessons of the coming day would transform  me from the familiar to a brand-new-me whose horizons now stretched farther than before.

my first grade class

First Grade at South Barre School in Vermont

In this spirit I took a leap and signed up for a weekend class in food styling and photography at MDR Photography.   It was like going back to first grade!    I have been using a point and shoot camera for years,   and only recently purchased a DSLR.   To learn a little about the more serious side of photography,  I went to Lynda.com to watch some instructional videos about photography and exposure,  just to make sure I wouldn’t be completely lost in the class.

Allison (Sushi Day) and  her boyfriend Son live in the area, so they picked me up and took me out for dinner on Friday night after I arrived at the hotel.  They were excited to take me to 26 Beach, a restaurant that has been in business for 29 years in Venice, Ca.    The sushi burgers served at 26 Beach are legendary… Rachael of La Fuji Mama (and my Avocado Sister)  practically swoons  when she describes the wonderful offerings of this delightfully artistic eatery…and  thanks to Allison and Son,  I’ve been craving another of those scrumptious burgers ever since!

Allison and Son

Sushi Burgers!

 

As for the food,  check out this California Roll Burger!  Snowcrab salad, avocado, picked ginger, nori & shoyu-wasabi-aioli with baby lettuce and tomato…all served on Angus beef  burger and butter-grilled home baked  bun!

sushiburger at 26 Beach

 

On Saturday morning I met a Camp Blogaway acquaintance,  Cynthia of What a Girl Eats,  as we were both trying to find Christina Peters’ Photography Studio in Marina Del Rey.   As we walked into the bright  studio we were met with warm hellos and breakfast treats.   Our food styling teacher, Denise Vivaldo  launched right into her presentations with hilarious side stories and tales  of her experiences in 30 years as a food stylist.  Her  Food Fanatics colleague, Tiffany Wu demonstrated how important it is to have an assistant who can anticipate the needs of the stylist and the desires of a client, providing “collateral food” for those just-in-case situations.

Food Styling and Photography instructors

Christina Peters, Denise Vivaldo,  and Tiffany Wu

We learned how to style pancakes,  a roasted chicken,   salad,  and sandwiches  that first day.  We began to appreciate  the practical and logistical aspects of food styling as well as the tricks and tips of making food look wonderful for the camera.  Denise shared insider business strategies  that only a seasoned veteran would know.   As a  complete newbie  I found  the whole day fascinating!

checking the pancakes

Are these perfect pancakes? If not, we make them look perfect!

 

Kitchen Bouquet for color

Not brown enough? Use Kitchen Bouquet!

 

syrup runs off pancakes

Freeze the syrup to make it drip off the pancakes just so!

 

building a salad

Building a salad for the camera

styled salad

Looks delicious, but styled food may not be edible!

styling a chicken

Never eat a styled chicken!

Our homework that night was to come up with a project for the next day… a fabulous food layout that we would  photograph.   Denise mentioned that she was looking for color,  so I decided to search for foods that would complement an avocado. (Big surprise, right?!)   I had to explain to the class that a beautifully peeled “naked” avocado is something special to behold!

peeled avocado

Perfect Naked Avocado (photo by Kristen Wogan Doyle of Dine and Dish)

 

That evening  I found the nearest Whole Foods store and searched  for colorful food  in the same way that I might coordinate accessories for a new outfit.   Gorgeous large plump shrimp, already cooked,   with plenty of pink color.   Golden  mango salsa with magenta red onion pieces and green cilantro.  And I found a few treats to buy as well!  (Ever tried Orange Ginger Almonds?  Yum!)

Sunday morning we all gathered back at the studio and listened with awe as  Christina  revealed  the mysteries of using DSLR cameras, and shared stories of  her life as a  commercial photographer.   Her explanations were  easy to follow and anticipated our questions…she even talked about using our IPhones for food photography!   Most of all,  it felt good to be learning something brand new…exploring something I don’t think about in my daily life, and becoming a “new me” who could consider food and  photography from a completely new perspective.

fake ice cream

We even learned to make fake ice cream …it doesn’t melt under hot lights and displays delicious toppings perfectly!

Each of us styled our own project,  trading ingredients and collaborating on the use of props from Christina’s immense collection.  All the while Denise and her partner Cindie Flannigan were circulating among the  class participants,  giving suggestions, helping to brainstorm and adding an extra level  of excitement to each of the projects.   Denise suggested that I separate the components of the mango salsa and then rebuild the salsa in front of the avocado using tweezers.

separating the salsa

Salsa is separated, avocado has been painted with vodka to keep it looking fresh

 

styled avocado ...first try

I thought this looked pretty good….

finished photo

Until Denise and Christina added their magic touches!

 

When the styling was finished,  Christina worked with each of us to photograph our masterpiece and demonstrated ways to enhance them using Lightbox and Photoshop.  We were able to take turns photographing each others’  layouts too!  It was a joy to work with a group who were so willing to share and collaborate.

photographing a food layout

Susan shoots her cocktail

Durey's Indian food

Durey’s Indian food and spices

Using Lightbox

Christina demonstrates digital enhancements

 

You can see all the finished photographs from our class projects here.    Christina’s photos of our class are here.

The weekend was lots of fun and I can honestly say that I truly was transformed.  I will never look at  another food photograph in the same way… and I’ll work much harder on my own shots  from now on!     If you’d like to explore Denise’s vast knowledge  of food styling,   find her book on Amazon.com!

The most important lesson of the weekend?   Don’t be afraid to try something new and outside of your comfort zone !One of the best parts of the weekend was meeting my classmates and learning about their lives and goals.   In the words of the famous song,  “Would you like to swing on a star?  Carry moonbeams home in a jar?  And be better off than you are?…”   YOU could be swinging on a star!  Go for it!

 

 

Using a Camera as Workout Equipment: Discovering a Way to Find Joy in Exercising

name written in c oncrete

My name written in concrete in 1995

I know I am not alone when it comes to the lack of exercise.    Once we have a job and children to raise, our time and energy are limited.   We are constantly bombarded with messages about the need to get up and move.     There are plenty of activities that look like fun, but let’s face it:  if we’re not physically fit in the first place,  we’re not going to be physically able to take part is most of them.

California poppy before it's open

The poppy can't bloom until the barriers are moved!

 

So that leaves some of us in a dilemma:  do we spend our precious, limited time off  working out in a gym (that we dislike),  or walking a prescribed number of steps on a treadmill?  Do we find a walking partner and get up at the bust of dawn to fulfill our obligation to move?  Or do we pour ourselves another cup of coffee and turn on the Cooking Channel?   How about a glass of wine and a few minutes of Facebook or  Pinterest?   I can see you nodding your heads.

Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise flower near the avocado trees

I have tried committing to exercise programs that I dislike, knowing that they are good for me and knowing that I won’t keep them up.   We already  do so much in our lives  out of necessity or obligation, even if they do not bring us joy.   In the few spare hours that we have left,  JOY is the thing we need.   Creating joy (for me) involves discovering something new,  feeling good about myself and what I’m accomplishing,  feeling energized and stimulated,  and having something worthwhile to show for the time I have spent.   The challenge is to find activities for physical exercise  that combine those prerequisites with movement.

view of hillsides in avocado grove

Hiking to find this view is worth the effort!

I think I have finally found something that is better than a trainer,  better than a class and better than a treadmill.   A Camera!  I recently purchased a DSLR with a hefty cross-body strap.  I have had  point-and-shoot cameras that work just fine,  but they never motivated me to get out and hike.    With the encouragement of  Fuji MamaAllergen-Free Baker and my son Daniel,   as well as  the help  of Nancy at  Nelson Photo Supplies in San Diego,    I finally invested in a Canon T3i as an entry-level DSLR.    I had no idea that the investment in the camera would also pay me dividends in the form of exercise and motivation!

hummingbird

A hummingbird takes a breather!

I actually look forward to changing into tee shirt and walking pants (gym clothes?), lacing up my walking shoes,  strapping on my trusty camera, and striking out for parts unknown.  The long hikes around the ranch that used to seem like a penance when done just for exercise have become exciting treasure hunts now that I have my camera and way to  share the new discoveries!  Sometimes I post the photos on Facebook, and sometimes I plan stories to go with the photos to post here on MimiAvocado.com

snail

After a rain, the snails come out ...and so do I!

After an invigorating hike up and down hills to get the perfect photo of wildflowers,  snail trails,  squirrel holes,  songbirds,  puffy clouds with trees and mountains… I deserve the time to write  at my desk!  I actually look forward to going out again,  and scheme to carve out more time for “exercise” in my day.    I’m eager to get out and  see how the trees are changing from day to day,  keep track of the seasonal wildflowers  and notice  evidence of wildlife too.

animal track

What animal do you think made this? A possum?

Now that I have the new camera,  the prospect of spending a day hiking, walking a beach or exploring a park are much more attractive than they once were.   I don’t want to sit in the house when there are so many exciting things to photograph!   Who knew that the best piece of exercise equipment could be a camera?  I’m glad I found out!  And I don’t even mind getting up at dawn … sometimes!

long shadow early in the morning

Did you know you can look very tall and skinny when the sun first is coming up?

 

 

 

 

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