food styling

Chicken Soup for the Teenager Soul

My first child’s high school years were screeching to an end in the proverbial ‘blink of an eye’ that all the more seasoned parents always warn us about.

Really, how did he grow from this——————————————-—to this overnight?

curated by dena kids in the kitchen.jpg

In a panic I realized that Home Economics is not something that is offered in his high school curriculum among all the triple crazy trig-something-something and the AP Physics sciency-thing classes and since I wasn’t invited to go along to college with him it was time to take things into my own hands. I may not be able to teach him how to change a tire or fix a plumbing leak or repair his car, but I can teach him how to feed himself. Off to the market we went and this is the story of Chicken Soup for the Teenager Soul.

Santa Barbara food photographer Dena Robles
California based food and restaurant storyteller
Downtown Market Grand Rapids, food narratives by Dena Robles
Teaching our teens to shop for food and cook
Curated by Dena, farmer’s market shopping trip
Learning to cook with kids
Veggie Portraits by Dena Robles
Roast vegetable and chicken soup prep
curated by dena soup story g.jpg
Roast Vegetable and Chicken Soup, curated by dena
curatedbydena soup story j.jpg
Roast Vegetable and Chicken soup, food styling and photography, CA
Food Styling and Photography by Dena Robles, California
Getting Teens in the kitchen

I’m less of a recipe-developer and more of a styler, photographer and storyteller. I’ll include the recipe here to complete the narrative, but here is the link also where I found the recipe a few years ago and continue to find inspiration. AND the recipe for our favorite cornbread (we sub in gluten-free flour) yummm.


Food for Fall

I believe that the autumn season is synonymous with certain comfort foods and possibly that this is the season most strongly tied to dishes. I know we have holidays which contribute to that and the ridiculous marketing of pumpkin-spiced-everything and the colder weather turning us indoors to wrap ourselves in our favorite foods. But what happens when you suddenly live in a country without those holidays? Or a place without pumpkin patches or pumpkin-spiced-everything-imaginable-under-the-sun, or gasp! no changing leaves, no smell of wood smoke, not woolen hats and it is still 80 degrees outside? Well, perhaps we are creatures of habit, or perhaps there is something truly intrinsic, ancient and innate about our bodies wanting these autumn dishes, because here I am, in green California wearing tank tops and flip flops and craving rich soups, apples, winter squash and pumpkin pie. Now if only I could bear to turn the oven on…

Don’t be fooled by these beautiful changing leaves, this is a collection of photographs I created LAST autumn, in crisp chilly Michigan. My Food Story of Autumn.

Food Stories by Dena Robles, food stylist and photographer, Santa Barbara California

That Michigan Moment in June

It's that Michigan Moment in June when the two day rainstorm has finally subsided and the air is as hot and heavy as a wet wool sweater and the sun is trying to break through the sky. The only sounds are the guitar strums from the upstairs window and the laughter of the girls in the pool two doors down. The tastes you are craving are the fresh cold berries from the market and the abundance of mint growing in your garden all dripping in fresh lime juice and a splash of rum as you sit on the still wet porch to peruse an old favorite book about summer, all while waiting for dusk. Because with this heat, and this humidity, tonight could be the night that the fireflies make their first appearance of the season.

That Michigan Moment in June by Dena Robles

Rice Pudding with Caramel Pecan Topping

And you thought winter was over?  Psych!   My days of hot, rich, and sweet comfort foods have not yet ended.  Enter Rice pudding with Caramel Pecan Sauce. It is perfect as a breakfast or a dessert. 

cold michigan winters and sugar and cream
snowy landscape and jasmine rice
white on white in the kitchen and rice pudding ingredients
sweet rice pudding, perfect as dessert or breakfast

If you can't be warm on the outside, at least you can be warmed on the inside!  Recipe to follow.  I started with a googled recipe from The Pioneer Woman and veered away to wing it on my own. Like always  :) 

Holy Guacamole

I solemnly swear that knowing how to make a good fresh guacamole is the secret to a long happy life.  My kids will go off to college with at least this skill in their back pockets.  Those ingredients down there?  Chop them and mix them and mash them and taste them until they are perfect.  Bonus points for extra salt and lime juice.

Making fresh guacamole, Kitchen Table series by Dena Robles

Michigan Moment in February

That Michigan Moment in February when the relentless cold has you boxed in like a sleepy bear in a cave.  You remain lazy and unproductive, buried under a heated blanket in front of a fireplace waiting out the storm.  The snow is icy and crunchy and brown, not worthy of a snowman or a sled.  You long for the smell of the earth again, a break in the clouds, a tiny sprout of green to poke through the snow pack.  You press your face against the window searching for a sign of life only to pull back quickly from the frostbitten glass.  It doesn't matter what the groundhog sees because living in Michigan, you know you are enduring winter for the long haul.  It's time to warm yourself from the inside out.  

On a quiet Sunday morning the smells from the kitchen are of vanilla, cinnamon, cream, eggs, maple syrup and french bread sizzling in a pan of real butter, melding all the aromas into a comforting and satisfying plate of thick french toast.  You wrap yourself tighter in your blanket, curl up your feet enrobed in warm wool socks, pour hot fresh coffee from the french press and then spoon homemade blueberry syrup from last August's blueberry harvest over the sweet french toast and tuck in to one of the amazing delights of being snowed in. Everything is right with this moment...and winter will pass soon.  Maybe next week is when the first early crocus will sprout through the snow, upholding the promise of the groundhog.

Pure Michigan winter photos, editorial photographer dena robles
Food styling and photography by Michigan photographer Dena Robles
Winter in Michigan, French toast by food photographer Dena Robles
Editorial and commercial food photographer Dena Robles and The Kitchen Table
Michigan blueberries on french toast by food photographer Dena Robles
Food photography and styling by  Dena Robles Grand Rapids Michigan
Food narratives, Michigan Moment in February by Dena Robles