A Spring Story

It’s That Michigan Moment in June…when the two-day rainstorm has finally subsided

Michigan Moment in June

…and the air feels as hot and heavy as a wet woolen sweater as the sun tries to break through the dark sky. The only sounds are the guitar strums coming from the upstairs window and the laughter of the girls in the pool two doors down.

editorial film photography by dena robles

The tastes you are craving are the fresh cold berries from the market, a sweet juicy watermelon and the abundance of mint growing in your early garden…all dripping in fresh lime juice and a splash of rum.

food styling and photography by dena robles
Produce portraiture

You sit on the still-set porch to peruse an old favorite book about beautiful summers, all while waiting for dusk.

food narratives on film

Because with this heat, and this humidity, tonight could just be the night the fireflies make their first appearance of the season. And THIS is a Michigan Moment in June.

Mojito Fruit Bowl

Mojito Fruit Bowl

sweet watermelon, cubed

fresh berries in season

chopped mint sprigs

juice of 1/2 lime

splash of white rum

serve in a parfait glass

and savor in the warm sun

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Jose Babushka's

In the middle of the U.S.A, nestled between two Great Lakes is the little city of Grand Rapids Michigan. In the corner of Grand Rapids is Gas Light Village in the heart of the city of East Grand Rapids. In the middle of it all is the comeback queen Jose Babushka’s. Long time Grand Rapids history is brought back to life in a fusion of rustic tradition and trendy modernity. With stone work and reclaimed wood, mixed with glass and steel, a warm and inviting community atmosphere away from the bitter cold winter weather. A Mexican menu with a Polish twist. This is a combination that makes perfect sense in Michigan, especially in Grand Rapids where the vibrant city is stretching its legs and going through its own renaissance to make a mark on the foodie world.

Jose Babushka’s Mexican restaurant in Gas Light Village
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Jose Babushka’s East Grand Rapids Michigan Restaurants
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Restaurant food styling and photography by Dena Robles
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Tacos at Jose Babushka’s Grand Rapids Michigan Mexican restaurant
Social media management for restaurants and chefs

A Winter Story

It’s That Michigan Moment in February when the relentless cold has you boxed in like a sleepy bear in a cave. The icy air bites your skin and the only sign of life is the call of birds hoping for a refill of seed. You remain lazy and unproductive under a heated blanket in front of a fireplace waiting out the storm.

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The snow is icy and crunchy brown, not worthy of a snowman or a sled. You long for the smell of the earth again, a break in the grey sky, 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 when living in Michigan you know you are enduring winter for the long haul. It’s time to warm yourself from the inside out. Winter is why we have comfort food.

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On a ‘snow day’ from work and school the smells from the kitchen are of vanilla, cream and caramelized sugar coupled with the sound and aroma of pecans toasting on the stove. The warmth and goodness of rice pudding are about to fill your senses and comfort your soul.

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You wrap yourself tighter in your blanket, curl up your feet in warm wool socks, pour hot fresh coffee from the french press and then spoon homemade vanilla rice pudding into your bowls. Drizzle with a bit of caramel and sprinkle with pecans and tuck in to one of the amazing delights of being snowed in.

vanilla rice pudding with caramelized pecan topping
Storytelling foods photography by dena robles

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 and an early spring.

This dish is based off the recipe of Old Fashioned Rice Pudding with Salted Caramel and Pecans.

Chicken Soup for the Teenage 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 warn us about.

I mean really, how did he grow from this ————————————————— to this overnight?

santa barbara editorial photographer dena robles

In a panic I realized that Home Economics was not something offered in his high school curriculum among all the triple crazy trig-something and the AP Physics sciency-thing classes and since I wasn’t invited to 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 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 My Teenager’s Soul.

food styling and photography by dena robles
Santa Barbara based editorial photography
Teaching kids to cook, stories by dena robles
Food stories, california based photographer dena robles
Fresh food photography
photos of food and recipe prep
Portraits of Vegetables, Farmers Market photographs
Photographing soup preparation
Food styling and photography, roasted vegetables
Roast Chicken and Vegetable Soup
Grandmother’s Cornbread and Chicken Vegetable Soup
Soup Plated, food photography
Beautiful action and movement shots in food photography
Top Down photo of soup and styling

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, and also here is the link where I found the recipe a few years ago. Against All Grain This is the recipe for our favorite cornbread (we sub in gluten free flour) yummmm.


The good news is the teenager is now in his 2nd year of college and seems to be surviving and thriving quite well in the market aisles AND in his kitchen!