My Quick and Healthy Dinner, A Give Away with Girard’s Dressings and Ask Chef Dennis

Purple cauliflower , Orange Cauliflower and carrots

I had planned on getting so much done today after work, we had an early dismissal, which gave me an extra hour!  You know how things never seem to go as you had planned, well today was no exception!  I had to stop on the way home to do some grocery shopping, with the blogger meet up in Philly, my normal Saturday morning trip to Wegmans had to be reschedule and with my shortened work day it sounded like the perfect time.  Everything was going so well, I actually hired someone to do the lawn, my allergies have been so bad and my time so short I bit the bullet and had our landscaper do the job, and let me tell you he does great work!  So as I pulled up, and saw how great my lawn looked, my new front porch almost finished and my shopping done, I was feeling pretty good.

Then when I got inside I noticed a smell, not the normal smell mind you (we do have two very large dogs), but more of a garbage smell…..sigh,  I forgot to put out the garbage after dinner, my fault!  It was such a beautiful afternoon that I had the perfect excuse to open up the windows and let the afternoon breeze refresh the house.   You know how you keep saying I’ll do that later, well after taking the trash out later was today, the can needed a good scrubbing and the cabinet that holds it had to be  cleaned as well.   I do try to keep my kitchen very clean, so I just used the time to get everything back in order.

Okay, I feel pretty good, I’ve gotten quite a bit accomplished and still have plenty of time to whip up my planned post……   But when you get an email from a friend that says let’s talk what do you do?  You talk!  Has anyone tried the Google Hangout’s yet?   They are really pretty cool and much better than Skype!  So we discussed a business venture we had been working on, and before you know it another hour had passed…..and I hadn’t made my blog post…..sigh, I hadn’t even made dinner!  But that’s ok, I just went shopping and I had a half an hour!

A few months ago I had been contacted by Girard’s Dressings, we had worked together a few times last year and they wanted to send me some of their new dressings, they also invited me to become one of  Girard’s Epicurean Experts, how cool is that!   I know I’ve said this before, while I can make you just about any salad dressing you want, and even thought it’s not that time consuming, I don’t like making salad dressings!  Just another little quirk I guess……so when someone offers to give me salad dressings and there as good as Girard’s I jump at the chance!

They have four new dressings and each variety has less sodium than before, and the White Balsamic Vinaigrette and Greek Feta Vinaigrette varieties contain no high fructose corn syrup. They also included a Light version of there ever popular Girard’s Champagne Salad Dressing, the last flavor and one of my favorites is the Olde Venice Italian!

They have even offered to give away a box of the new flavors to one of my readers, all you have to do is let me know in your comment, which dressing sounds the best to  you and you will be entered in the give away!   If you would like to see what else you can do with Girards Dressings, follow this link to see my Peach Mimosa Muffins!

So let’s get back to my story, I had a half an hour and needed something a little over the top, Lisa has been sick and I thought a healthy pretty meal would help cheer her up, so I grabbed the bottle of Olde Venice Italian, and some chicken breasts and started a quick marination.  I had purchased a purple and an Orange Cauliflower at the market.   Did you know that orange cauliflower contains 25 times the vitamin A, than white cauliflower?  Purple color in cauliflower is caused by the presence of the antioxidant group anthocyanins, which can also be found in red cabbage and red wine, so it’s even that much better for you!  I quickly prepped my cauliflower, tossed it with olive oil, sea salt and pepper and placed it in a 375 degree oven with a few carrots  for a quick roasting.  I love roasted cauliflower!

artisan salad

While that was cooking, I threw together a salad using Artisan Lettuce I had found at Wegmans, petite varieties of Red and Green Tango, and Oak and Gem Artisan Lettuce, I added a few crumbles of buttermilk bleu cheese (not quite as pungent), walnuts, our own grape tomatoes ( the last of the season), and a few slices of apple…..it was not only healthy but gorgeous!

Now my chicken was ready for the grill, and everything just came together perfectly, I had started some white rice in my rice maker to round out the meal.    It was quick, it was healthy and it was delicious!    The Girard’s Dressings made a great marinade and a great salad even better!

Ask Chef Dennis

Photography

Saturday at the Philadelphia Bloggers Meet up, we were fortunate enough to have a professional photographer share his insights with us on what does make a good image.  His thoughts were that the most important factor was the camera, to buy the best camera you can afford, and then more importantly to read the manual and learn how to use it properly.

One of the biggest mistakes that everyone makes is not shooting in manual mode.  I know it’s a hard leap to make but if your camera has that capability, you need to start using it right away.  It give you control over your image and how you want it to look.  You control the shutter speed, and the aperture, you decide on your depth of field, and how you want you picture to look.   Once you try it, you’ll never go back!

The second biggest mistake is a two part one….first and foremost if your camera has the capability shoot in RAW, once again you get to decide how your image should look, not an engineer who wrote the program that turns it into a jpeg.  Believe me shooting in RAW  will improve your final image.    But that takes us to the second part of the problem…..you need to use some type of photo software…….you really do.   You don’t know how much it hurts me to see a really good image on one of my friends blogs, that would be so much better if it had only been color corrected.  Lighting can really screw up a good picture, and if you don’t correct for the type of light you shot in, your colors will be dull, flat or just unnatural.

If your looking for photo editing tools,  a good place to start is atAdobe.com  
I have tried CS4 and it just seems to be a bit much work for what I need, PS Elements is an easier editor to use, with a much lower price tag.  I have recently begun using Lightroom, and I do like the workflow aspect of it, it is a time saver.  If you go to Adobe’s website you can try any of the software for free for 30 days.  It’s a great way to see if you like it enough to buy it.  Paint shop Pro is another option, but you have to pay for it, and I feel if your going to buy a program stick with the industry standard, it’s Number One for a reason.  Go to Adobe an download the software for free, you have nothing to lose.  If you do decide to buy lightroom or the new CS5 find a student or teacher to buy it for you, its the same program and a reduced price.

If your looking for a totally free photo editor you might want to take a look at these:
Picnik
Photoscape
PhotoPlus
Gimp
Pixlr
Splashup
FotoFlexer

One of these programs may work fine for you, but remember you get what you pay for.  Your camera may have come with its own photo editing software, check with your manufacturer to see if one is available.

Lighting is the next big hurdle, and while there are many options available for indoor lighting (and as winter sets in we do need it), Natural light will always be the best.  Learn to use it properly, do you need to diffuse it if it’s too bright, or use a big white card or reflector to bounce it back in to cut down the shadows.   So much to learn, so little time….sigh

This is one of the reasons I suggest Helen Dujardin’s book Plate to Pixels, get a copy from Amazon, its only $17.48, it may even save you from buying a new camera by teaching you how to use the one you have.

And although the pro at our meet up said he never uses one, my last bit of advice for today is Use a Tripod!!  Trust me the difference will amaze you

Social Media

I had a bit of an epiphany today, and I felt really stupid afterwards for it taking so long to sink in.  Now I’m not telling you to feel stupid if you didn’t think of it, it really isn’t that apparent, or at least I think not.

How many of you have your posts automatically tweeted by Foodbuzz ?  I do, it was always one more thing for me not to think about, and how nice it was of them to do it for me.  But,  Guess where all those  hits go, when someone clicks on that tweet  to read your post?  Well of course it goes to your page, but it goes to your page with a foodbuzz header, and unless I’m wrong,  your blog does not register the hit.  Now granted this may only account for a small portion of your hits, but still they should be going to you.

Now if anyone knows for sure they don’t please let me know, this is one point I would like to be wrong about!

If any of you use facebook the same way, I’m guessing its the same thing.  I’m a little ticked at facebook anyway, I was trying to friend people who are attending the foodbuzz  festival and they suspended  my right to friend people for 4 days, because they thought I was spamming them.   They really are crazy, and the changes they made are not all good.   Hello Google+

Well my friends I did have more to say, but its getting late and I need to get what little sleep I can before the alarm goes off at 4 am, so that’s it for this post.  I do love hearing from you, things are finally winding down a bit so please send your questions to me, and I’ll do my best to answer them for you.

and remember…..

Share Your Knowledge-Together We Are Stronger

Comments

  1. What a great post, it’s packed with knowledge and information. Your recipe looks delicious, I love roasted cauliflower. Thanks for sharing!

    • mary jane s. says:

      I love your blog, the recipes sound and look fantastic…I would love to try the Old Venice Italian dressing..would use one of your recipes, the cauliflower looks so yummy roasting makes it taste fabulous..thank your for sharing your recipe..can’t wait to try the cauliflower recipe..sincerely mary jane sampson! oh happy halloween to..cold here, anything roasting in our oven in our kitchen would make the house smell great all night long.brrr…first 3 days of this week it is freezing cold..brrr..thanks for the reipes and blog and giveaway..mjs!

  2. Some really interesting points, Dennis… I had no idea about the FBZ clicks thing. Really, that doesn’t register as a hit on your blog? :-/

    • I’m not really sure if it does or not, but when it loads, it’s got there heading in the title bar, followed by our post. while I’m just speculating, me thinks not. I would think the same would hold true for any helpful repost from other sites. Unless it starts with address, I don’t think you get the hits.
      I would love to be wrong on this one.

  3. Great photography tips.I take donations to get a better camera :-) yes manual is A-MAZING

  4. Great information. I’ve been steadily fiddling with my camera and lighting…it’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun! Food is SO pretty and fun to photograph! Thanks, Chef Dennis and the meal looks amazing!

  5. Some great points. Food looks good.

  6. Those purple and orange cauliflowers look so delicious and obviously healthy. I will have to remember to get some next time I go to the market. Also, thanks for the great photo tips. They are always helpful!

  7. For me it would be the Greek Feta Vinaigrette — I love all things feta and want to skip the corn syrup. Your salad looks beautiful and tasty.

  8. I love that you can whip something like this up so fast. You truly are an inspiration. Add to that the tips and you cross over to our guru. I love that you do this stuff. It is so helpful to the rest of us. I shall take a big leap and say thank you from the foodie community at large. The amount of information you share and your kindness to us all is truly amazing. Congrats on pairing up with such a great company. Love it!

  9. Chef Dennis…

    Wow…Congrats to you for the invitation to be one of Girard’s Epicurean Experts ..that is so cool :) yea that was a healthy dinner you have prepared for yourselves. I love roasted cauliflower but hard to find the orange and purple ones :( That salad you made with apple slices looks good.. too bad I cant find that Girard dressing over here ! I have to make my own balsamic vinaigrette then :)

    Thanks for the info on posts tweeted by Foodbuzz…no wonder I don’t get much hits :p I used photoshop CS3 and I am used to it now. Thanks for the photo tips too :)

    Have a nice blogger meet up this Saturday and looking forward to your sharing on the event ! Have fun !

    Regards,
    Elin

  10. champagne salad dressing!

  11. Thanks for the photography tips and book suggestion.

  12. Ha-sounds like time is running away from you here! Amazing that you can pull this all together in such a time crunch. I appreciate all the helpful info here also.
    Enjoy the upcoming blogger event!

  13. Thanks for all the tips. I have Helene’s book and do agree with you. My photos have a marked improvement.

    Your salad looks amazing. I never think to add fruit to mine. I guess I was brought up in the ice burg lettuce and cherry tomato era. The first time I noticed fruit in salads was actually in Europe. All the salads seemed to be full of strawberries and pears and were so much more interesting.

  14. I really want to take a photography class. So much to learn!

  15. All the dishes look delicious! Love the vibrant cauliflower picture.

    As for the new dressings, I have to say I’d love to try the Greek feta vinaigrette. I adore feta/Greek salads to death and would love to experiment with a vinaigrette in that context.

  16. First that dinner looks wonderful. I think you’ve displayed that eating healthy doesn’t have to be a chore, but when you make vibrant and flavorful meals like this one, it is rather easy. I think the white balsamic sounds really good!
    And thank you again for another helpful “Ask Dennis” session. I agree, Plate to Pixels was a great book for improving photography. Ever since you mentioned using a tripod many posts ago, I always try to make sure I set it up if I have the time. Thanks for sharing another interesting post!

  17. Don’t you hate how time flies–especially when you thought you had all the time in the world? Thank goodness that good meals can come together in no time! Especially with The Old Venice Italian dressing as a marinade. It looks amazing!

  18. This meal is great and the dressing sounds delicious! Thanks for the tips on the free photo editing software. Being a grad student means I have gone cheap and need the free editor!! :)

  19. Every one of them sounds fabulous – but I am leaning strongly towards the Greek Feta Vinaigrette. Would love to try them all!

  20. I much prefer Google+ to facebook, but I have many friends on facebook who don’t want to change. If you like posting photos, they are so much more spectacular on Google+!

    Thanks for the great post, Dennis! Years ago we used Girard’s Dressing (the original) all the time, but switched to homemade because of the high sodium in Girard’s. I’ll have to check out their lower sodium products.

  21. Great tips! Nice meeting you at R2L on Saturday. I learned a lot. Believe it or not, I’m not even on Foodbuzz, so perhaps I should try it out!

    I currently use Picnik to edit my images, but I’m planning to try Lightroom when I purchase my new computer next year.

  22. Thank you for another fun and informative post! Like you, I’m not 100% sure about the hits being tracked, but I do know that my stats tracker on my blog lists “referring URL” and FoodBuzz is my biggest referral. When I have a higher buzz post my tracked blog hits also rises so I *think* the hits are going to me. At least, I sure hope so! But then, I always post to twitter and facebook directly from my blog.

    I’ve requested Plate to Pixel from the library – definitely something I love about living in a major city with an extensive library system – from the comfort of my home I can request a book and have it sent to my local neighborhood branch. Given what great reviews the book gets from bloggers I will probably end up buying it, but like the software options you listed above I love that I can “try before I buy” through the library.

    Improved photography and site layout are at the top of my list – SO much to learn!

    Have a great day!

    • I know what you mean about the hits coming from foodbuzz, so hopefully I’m wrong about this, I would gladly print a retraction. I have stayed with foodbuzz because so many of my hits do come from them, but its seems much has changed since the new management took over last year.
      Lets hope I’m wrong!

  23. Chef Dennis: I would love to try their old venice or their chinese.

    I don’t know though if I am eligible as I am in Canada.

  24. I like any recipe with rice ! This one is just what I would make for my family! Can’t wait to try this one. The photos are gorgeous !!! Thanks for the photography tips, Chef Dennis ! I always learn something each time I visit your blog!

  25. I’d love to try the Greek feta vinaigrette

  26. When you tweet or share from foodbuzz, it does send from a URL from withing foodbuzz.com (check it the next time you open someones post). So once I buzz a post, I immediately click the close button (X) and give the person a click within their real site too. I hate that they do this – its almost like the drive to get more buzz is hurting your actual page counts. Very very sneaky of them.

  27. Great dressing, but I got much more from your Social Media section.

    I have been doing this for quite a while now, and I saw right away that Foodbuzz was getting all the traffic out of that. In fact, I would purposely copy the blogger’s part of the URL and go to their site to leave comments or whatever.

    Facebook did the same to me when looking for friends. Why show me all the suggestions if you are only going to let me invite a few of them. I got suspended too!

    If you aren’t using StumbleUpon efficiently, you’re missing out on a ton of traffic. It gives me even more than Google does, and I get a ton from Google because of the way I word my post titles!

  28. Greek feta vinagriette sounds great!

  29. I love their Champagne Vinaigrette so to try the light version would be awesome. I’ve often wondered about the Foodbuzz impact on blog stats. They do show up as a top referral site so I was hoping they counted.
    I am so unhappy with the new Facebook but like someone else said, so many people are entrenched there. Either my Networked Blog posts don’t show up or they show up twice…

    I’m on Google +; haven’t fully utilized it but I am trying!

    Look forward to seeing you in SF next week.

  30. I’ve heard great things about Plate to Pixels. That will be my next book purchase. That cauliflower dish looks divine, and I love that the different colors provide different vitamins and minerals. Great post!

  31. I’d love to try the Greek dressing.

  32. I’m having food envy over here about those beautiful colored cauliflower!

  33. Thank you…again and again…for sharing your thoughts!

  34. I swear it’s always something, isn’t it? [sigh] It sounds like everything pulled together for you though. I am drooling looking at the grilled chicken alone, let alone the entire meal put together!

    Even with all the help, the tips and the advice I still am very lacking when it comes to photography. Badly. I can bust a move in the kitchen but I can’t really prove it by taking good photos! I am so guilty of the color thing, only I correct in the wrong direction at times when I look at an image too much I can’t really “see” how discolored it is. Eek.

    That really upsets me about Foodbuzz if that is the case.

  35. Dennis, you really are the most valuable food blogger…always offering such great info. I need to figure out how to shoot in RAW…someday…sigh. Now on to your delicious food…3 beautiful dishes and I’d love to have them ALL on my table. Thanks for making it always worthwhile to visit you…I’ve said it before, but you are truly a gem!

  36. Sounds like a great meal, thanks for showing how even on a busy day something healthy can be whipped up without too much fuss. The dressings sound heavenly – if I had to choose, I think I’d pick the Greek Feta Vinaigrette.

  37. I noticed the same thing about Foodbuzz and Twitter. That is very frustrating!

  38. I’ve been in love with Greek salads lately, so the Greek feta vinaigrette sounds wonderful!

    I love the beautiful colored cauliflower! I hope your wife is feeling better. Thanks for the great post, as always…

  39. The White Balsamic Vinaigrette sounds delicious. I’m opposite you for salad dressing though, I love making my own! Your entire meal sounds delicious. I love the tips you include on your posts, btw. I picked up Plate to Pixel a while back and I love it!

  40. Great tips, Chef Dennis. It takes a while to get to know your camera, and I find using it more often helps you remember better. I’m fortunate that my vocation and job allows me the entire CS4 compliment, I use photoshop all the time to tweak the shots and clean up the odd crumb or messy spot on the plate.

  41. Congrats to you for the invitation to be one of Girard’s Epicurean Experts. You are so kind to take time from your busy schedule to share your knowledge with us. Thank you. I shoot my photos using manual but in jpeg. I did not buy any photo editing software yet because they are rather expensive. I use Piknik and I am quite happy with the outcome. I try to take my photos with natural sunlight, sometimes the morning sun and sometimes evening sun. You are absolutely right about the automatic tweet by FB. I do my own tweet. FB does not really bring much traffic to my blog.

    • They are expensive! I did get PS elements for $69 on Amazon, that wasn’t too bad.
      I use to just shoot in jpeg’s too but found I had a lot more control over the image shooting raw, and making adjustments before they become jpegs. I used picnic a few times to try it out, it is nice software, and free!

  42. Karen Albro says:

    I love their Champagne dressing so the light version sounds great! But the Old Venice Italian sounds intreging. Thanks for the story.

  43. WOW i had no idea about the foodbuzz thing. That is sad ! And yeah Helen’s book is awsm .. i have it and still reading it .. sometimes the same paragraph twice or thrice. She is amazing :)

  44. I love your cauliflower pic! I’ve never seen orange cauliflower before! And thanks for recommending the book “Plate to Pixels” – I’m going to buy it on Amazon now, I was always wondering how do some people take those gorgeous food photos, and could never find a book on that (real paper book, not the same old online tips).

  45. Renee Honey says:

    Chef D –
    I am new to your blog and I just love it! Thanks so much for all that you share.
    The Olde Venice Italian dressing sounds very interesting to me.
    Take care

  46. I am new to your blog…but am a fan of it .Its a blog of knowledge :-) thanks for sharing.

  47. This post led me to check out Girard’s website. Their Peach Mimosa Vinaigrette looks very interesting. I would love to try it. I too live in Canada though so hopefully they will ship here!

  48. Your cauliflower creation has me craving it now and I just love the colors! Girard’s …love their dressings! and my favorite is the Olde Venice Italian. Enjoyed your post!

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