Monday, 22 February 2016

Zoodle frittata

I love zoodles, or courgetti as they're sometimes known in the UK, and eat them all the time. I make my zoodles with roasted tomatoes recipe every week and spiralizers have become a go to present for anyone I know who likes cooking or healthy eating- I even got four people this one for Christmas!

They have so much going for them; they're healthy, cheap, and are even quicker to cook than pasta. Plus, if you grow your own veg like I do and are invariably left with a huge glut of courgettes come summer time, they are the perfect way to use them up. Another great thing about them is they're so easy to think up recipes for- you can basically use any Italian recipe book that has pasta, specifically spaghetti/tagliatelle recipes, and use those recipes just subbing in zoodles for the pasta.

Saying that, I do seem to always use them in the same way- ie as a pasta substitute, but this morning I had a bowl of them in the fridge and was planning on making a big frittata when I realised I only had 4 eggs (I'd usually use 6), so I thought I'd pop the zoodles in and see what happened...  Well this lovely fritatta happened and once we'd had a big slice each I hopped straight on my laptop to tell you about it!

This will make a really substantial frittata that would feed two hungry people with extras left over. You can also, as with any omelette, pop in any other stray veggies that need using up- go wild!

You will need:
  • A spiralizer- I use this one
  • One courgette/ zucchini 
  • 4 eggs 
  • 100g grated cheese
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes 
To make it:
  • Spiralize your courgettes- if you don't have a spiralizer you can also use a julienne peeler.
  • Pop your eggs in a bowl add some salt and pepper and half your cheese then whisk well, add the zoodles then stir well
  • Put some oil in a frying pan and heat up,  then add the mixture, then scatter the other half of the cheese on top
  • Fry for about 5 minutes until the bottom feel like it's set- you can check this by running a spatula around the bottom and seeing if it feels cohesive. (I added a few more cherry tomatoes to the top while it was cooking, followed by some basil, but this was more for aesthetic reasons- I wouldn't think it adds anything taste wise)
  • Pop under the grill on a medium heat for about 10 more minutes though check regularly to ensure it doesn't overcook. 
  • Enjoy!
This will last really well in the fridge so you can cut slices from it and eat later- it's ideal for packed lunches!


Sunday, 14 February 2016

Improving my blog photography with the Olympus Pen E PL7

I am currently in the process of creating a new recipe index page as the old one was hosted through another site, and I got an e-mail last week saying I was now getting too much traffic to use it any more. This was obviously good  news as it means my traffic is increasing, but bad news as it meant either paying an extortionate monthly fee to keep using it, or making a new one. I wasn't so keen to start paying, especially in case there was any more nasty surprises from them, so I've set about making a new one. In the process of doing this I've learnt just how far my blog photography has come along, and even though there is such a long long way to go, I thought I'd share how I've achieved this so far. This is definitely a starter post, by which I mean if you have a really good grasp of how to use a camera you will probably find this far too basic. However, I have had this camera for a really short time and I am so excited with the photos that I am already taking with it and can't wait to see what I'll be able to achieve with it once I've really mastered it.

The main thing has been switching from using my iPhone to using a camera. I've recently got the Olympus Pen E PL7 which is not a DSLR but is an interchangeable lens camera. Lots of bloggers who have lovely photography use the camera which is what made me take the plunge and get one. My Dad actually gave me the money to buy a camera before he died and I toyed with it for ages and kept wondering whether I should spend the money on something I would keep forever instead like jewellery. In the end I thought that it would be better to invest it in something I needed, and that it would be lovely if I could improve my photography as it would feel like he was a part of helping me and helping my blog to grow.

Enough background then, let's get to it. Like I said I am far from an accomplished photographer but I am definitely so much better than I was and this is reflecting in my traffic which is steadily increasing, but also in the fact that I have recently had some pictures accepted by the big food sharing sites like tasteology- which I had previously submitted lots of photos to, all of which got rejected!

So this is pretty cringe but to make this all make sense, I'm going to show you an early picture, what was I thinking...

I took this at night, and was obviously so pleased with how the pancake tasted that I thought it was a good idea to post, even though it really did look quite awful! Would you believe this pancake was made using the same recipe as this one...

Now obviously I've styled it differently as well, and made the pancake smaller and thicker, but the difference is so huge. I look at pictures like this and can't believe I took them! 

Ok so here's a little bit about the camera; like I said, it's not an SLR but it's still not as small as a compact. This is largely owing to the lens, I have two lenses the kit lens and the 40-150mm. I was convinced I was going to need the 45mm lens as this is the lens that creates the great depth of field/ bokeh effect that looks so nice. Once I started playing with the kit lens I was so pleased to find you can actually get this effect with that lens. You can do this two ways, firstly, just by positioning your subject well and then focusing on it using the front ring on the lens, but secondly there is also a 'blur background' function that creates the effect for you. 

If you're not particularly proficient at using editing suites the camera comes with an 'art effect' mode which you can use while you're taking photos to get lots of really unique effects such as partial colour where you can isolate one colour while the rest of the picture is in black and white, pale and light colour which kind of airbrushes your photo and makes everything appear lighter and more pastel, and soft focus which creates a very soft almost dreamy effect. 

The camera also boasts a few additional features including a touchscreen, which means you can swipe through your pics in the same way you do on your phone, wifi which means you can send them straight to your phone ready to instagram, tweet or upload to your blog. You can also remote shoot which means you can position the camera and then view everything on your phone screen, you can also control the shutter there as well, so you don;t actually have to be next to the camera to take the photos. I have found this so helpful as two of you can do it at the same time, with one person positioning the camera and getting the set up right which you view it all from your screen, shout instructions (the part I'm perhaps the best at), and then take the photos from your phone. It helps you be really objective and get some really good shots. 

I spoke above about getting the blurred background effect and this is a look which is really popular in blog photography. Like I said with this camera there is a blur background function but assuming you don't use that function, or you're taking with a different camera you will need to master using the 'aperture' setting. This is represented by the 'a' on the dial on top of the camera. This means you can manually change the aperture which roughly means how much of the photo will be in focus. Obviously for this type of image you want very little to be in focus. The kit lens has an aperture range from 3.5-5.6. This might not mean much to you but basically you want that range to have the lowest possible numbers. Then, when taking this type of picture, set it to the lowest number you can. Once you've done this, fiddle with other settings to make sure the colour is right, mostly you will need to change the ISO, which I usually keep quite low- around 400, the shutter speed- the slower the shutter opens and closes the more light you'll have and the brighter the image will be, however if you're holding the camera with your hand you can't have it too slow as your hand will shake and the image won't be focused. If you're using a tripod however, you can make it open and close much slower. You might also change the exposure, though I usually keep this pretty much at it's default setting. 

Once you've got the settings all perfect you need to focus the image. You can choose to auto focus (AF), or manually focus (MF). Manual focus, to me is far better and means you then use the two rings on the front of the camera to focus until the subject is really sharp. The camera will actually zoom in on the subject to help you do this so choose one part of the image and then keep turning the front ring until it is perfect. Once you've done this you're ready to take your photo. 

A few other general tips that I've found have really helped me with my photos are firstly to take your photos in natural light wherever possible. Obviously if you're taking photos in a restaurant or on a night out this won;t be possible and the camera is really good in low light. But, generally speaking, the best pictures come from natural light. Secondly, even if you're planning to blur out most of the photo apart from the subject, still think about how you frame the photo and use corresponding colours and props. For  example I love the really bright white images that you see on lots of blogs and was always playing with my settings trying to achieve them, but actually I realised that as long as you put the object next to a white wall and on a white surface and then don't place anything around it that is a different colour, it's really easy to get this effect. If you don't have a white table or white walls, get white A3 card or even cover a big piece of wood with some white or marbled effect sticky backed plastic. Lastly play about with the food a bit to make sure it looks nice in 'real life'- something I obviously didn't do before taking the pancake picture above! Sometimes this will mean putting it onto a new, clean plate, Garnishing with some bight, contrasting colours, creating some texture, for example, on the second pancake picture I added syrup, which made it look so much more inviting. Then put the subject next a window where you have a good light source, or maybe even go outside but don't stand in direct sunlight.

Lastly, don't be afraid of editing suites, even the basic editing functions on the iPhone are good to get started on, I often use that. To use it:

-Click on edit
-Choose the bottom right icon
-Click on Light
-Click on Brightness then move the dial until the photo starts looking brighter. Play around with it as if you go too far some of the image will start to disappear!
-Next click on Colour
-Click on Saturation, then move the dial until the main colours start to appear more vivid but again play around as if you go too far you can end up with the colours looking too harsh
-Click Done when finished

Once you are more experienced you might decide to start using a more advanced editing suite like photoshop but at the start anything is better than nothing!

I really hope some of you may find this helpful, it will probably be far more useful to people who are far more at the start of their blogging/ photography journey as I am not an accomplished photographer and still have so much to learn, but wanted to write a bit about how easy it is to improve your photography once you change to a proper camera, start learning to use the settings, and think more about how you style your photos. I'd love to hear your tips on how you've improved your photography!


Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Low carb pancakes- eggfast friendly

I literally cannot believe it's pancake day again and that it's a year since I posted this lemon and rose pancake cake. This year I didn't have quite as much time on my hands and therefore opted for something a little more understated but equally delicious! 

These pancakes are super super low carb, they only have two ingredients which makes them eggfast friendly (if you're careful with what you serve them with). Here because the pancakes are so low carb, I had lots of carbs left for some fruit and nuts, and a dollop of Greek Yoghurt. The syrup is a no sugar one so it has no carbs, and I got it when I was last in America, they seem to have it everywhere there but I've never seen it in the UK. 

I won't post the recipe again as you can see it on the low carb pancake cake post. This time though, instead of making larger crepe style pancakes, I wasnted thicker, American styles ones so I kept the recipe the same but poured some mixture in the centre of a pan then used a spatula to push the edges in and keep it in a circle, then fried for a few minutes before flipping.

If you are egg fasting, as I know a lot of people who come here are, you could serve this with sugar free syrup, or sprinkle with cinnamon and sweetener. You will forget you're not eating normal style pancakes.

Have a lovely pancake day!


Thursday, 4 February 2016

Low carb breakfast bars


I often eat my breakfast in the car. In fact in the week I always eat it there. This quite regularly involves eating things which aren't terribly safe to eat while doing 70 on a motorway (though I'm in fact more likely to be found sitting at standstill). I set about then, finding something a little more portable. These nut butter breakfast bars might just be the ticket. They take hardly any time to throw together and last all week.

You will need:
  • 1 cup of nut butter- I used almond butter, but any would do
  • 1/2 cup of ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup of sugar free chocolate chips (optional)
  • 2 egg whites 
  • 2 cups of mixed nuts and seeds. I used a selection of peanuts, cashews, pistachios, linseed and chia seeds. 
To make them:
  • Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix well until combined 
  • Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper
  • Put the mixture in the tray and push down well with the back of a spoon
  • Bake at 350 degreed for 15 minutes 
  • Remove and leave to cool for at least half an hour 
  • Cut into thin bar shaped rectangles, pop in a sealed container to store. 
  • Enjoy!
© The Vegetarian Atkins Diary

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