It was an arbitrary decision a couple of months ago to liven up Dessert By Candy with a post everyday. This blog has been around since 2005 and reflects the ebbs and flows of my life for the last few years. There were accounts of my travels with plenty of details on seeking out good eats. At times I love to share good fashion finds. I went through periods of over-sharing as I dealt with turmoil in my personal life (oh those are not fun to read at all). There’s been long stretches of silence as my focus shifted from food to athletics. It’s taken me a long time but I’m glad that I’ve finally found what I really want to write about. Home cooking and baking have given me so much joy every day. Cooking for those I care about and sharing my experience with you satisfy me in a way that critiquing other people’s food simply cannot compare. This reminds me…I have yet to write a proper About Me page after all these years!
Blogging has changed so much since I first started. Food blogs, in particular, are heavily driven by photography. In fact, I shied away from blogging for some time because I felt that I lack the necessary photography skills. All the photos on Dessert By Candy are taken by me unless otherwise stated. I work with natural light and an old point-and-shoot camera…in pink, no less. That’s a lot of technical limitations to the way I shoot. The flip side is that it forces me to work on food styling and composition. My mantra is practice, practice, and practice some more! I have photos that I’m really proud of: a whimsical idea or two, a moment when the light hit just right, or the food is so camera friendly that I can do no wrong. That being said, there are times when creativity takes a day off and uninspired doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings when I stare down at another bowl of brown food. I had a eureka moment yesterday and realized bento is my food styling crutch.
Take a look at the bento above. The Waldorf-inspired quinoa salad is wholesome and packed with apple, celery, aged gouda cheese, balsamic red onion, toasted walnuts, dried cranberries, and peppery arugula. Abate delicious, it lacks textural and visual contrast in a photo. All I see are small pieces of the same colour palette in a jumble. The raspberries and roasted red pepper sauce add nice pops of colour to an otherwise monotone salad. If I were to plate the salad by itself, it makes no sense to add such garnishes because this salad is meant to be enjoyed on its own. However, as soon as I present it in a bento, I’ve provided a context to the photo. The vibrant roasted red pepper sauce is served with two turkey & sweetcorn meatballs to round out this lunch-on-the-go with more protein. The jewel-tone raspberries contrast with the creamy white Greek yogurt is dessert. Styling the quinoa salad as a bento gives me a reason to include more visually interesting food to the photo without compromising the integrity of the setting. The aesthetic of bento with everything fitting snugly together is almost a sure-fire way to deliver something pleasing to the eyes.
But enough of my amateur tips. There are plenty of resources out there on food photography for every skill level.
This Waldorf Quinoa Salad is adapted from Fine Cooking. The ingredients are pretty close to the original but I streamlined many of the steps to the way I would put this salad together. I like to make it without the arugula and keep a container in the fridge to be enjoyed over a few days. Just before serving, I would toss in a handful of arugula so that the greens do not wilt. It is filling as a main course especially with proteins and fats from quinoa, walnuts, and cheese. I love the tang of a good vinegary dressing so you may notice that the ratio of olive oil to vinegar seems rather unbalanced. I recommend that you adjust to your own preference.
Waldorf Quinoa Salad
adapted from Fine Cooking
- 1/2 medium red onion, diced
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 3/4 cup red quinoa
- fine sea salt
- 3-4 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 large crisp tart apple such as Fuji
- 2oz aged Gouda, diced
- 4 large celery stalks, thinly sliced on a bias
- 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups baby arugula
- In a large mixing bowl, toss together red onion and balsamic vinegar with a pinch of salt. Set aside.
- Rinse quinoa under cold water for a minute using a fine mesh strainer. Do not skip this step otherwise there would be a bitter taste to the grains.
- In a small pot, add drained quinoa, 2 cups of water, and a pinch of salt. Bring to boil and turn out the heat to a simmer with the lid on. Cook for 10-15 minutes until tender but still a bit of pop. Drain and rinse under cold water using fine mesh strainer to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.
- Add red wine vinegar to the mixing bowl containing red onion. Dice the apple and toss in the vinegar mixture to prevent discolouration.
- Add in the rest of the ingredients except for arugula. Mix in the drained quinoa as well. Adjust seasoning with salt, black pepper, vinegar, and olive oil. Can be made ahead up to this point and store in the fridge for 2 days.
- Just before serving, toss with arugula. Serve immediately.