Friday, August 29, 2014

Getting to know Melea Schneider - Food Photographer Extraordinaire!

Recently we decided that we needed some professional photos taken of our granola. I love taking photos! The iPhone does wonders for my amateur skill set and thanks to all of the amazing apps out there, I can make my photos looking pretty good - but not that good. We needed that WOW factor. We needed someone who knew what they were doing and could truly make our granola look amazing! It was by fate that we met Melea Schneider -- I'm sure of it! A beautiful soul with creativity and talent running through her blood, this lady is awesome!!

I am beyond happy with what she created and we could not have asked for a better person to work with. She exudes joy and positivity and is a breath of fresh air. Through working together, she has become a great friend! So I am tickled pink to let you get to know her a little more this morning. I am also thrilled to share with you some of the amazing photos she took - they're sprinkled all throughout, so enjoy!

You've worked in the school system for several years now. What made you decide to change careers and pursue food photography?

I have worked in the school system for Guilford County as a school social worker for the past 6 years.  I have been doing photography as a hobby for the last 6 years as well and I began to grow more and more passionate about photography.  I began with abstract photography, selling a few photos here and there at coffee shops and an art gallery when I first started.  I then proceeded (approximately 3 years ago) to get into photographing children, families, and couples.  However, my mind always pulls me back to more abstract work and I began photographing food in my kitchen one day, two years ago.  My interest in food photography grew from there and now... here I am... enrolled in Commercial Photography with my eye on the FOOD arena! :) 

You just started photography school last week, but you already take such amazing photos! How did you learn to photograph food so beautifully?

Thank you... I have simply spent many hours playing around with my camera in my own kitchen.  Light, color , and eye appeal (make it look yummy!) is everything when it comes to food photography. I enjoy spending time in my own home practicing with those 3 areas and I hope that photography school improves my skills dramatically! :)

You could photograph everything from weddings to babies, but you want to specialize in food. Where does your love of food come from? 

I believe my love for food comes from my mother.  Ever since I was a little girl, she has taught me that COLOR in food is everything.  Color usually equates to health and also beautiful to look at and enjoy while eating.  I have never liked to cook or bake very much, but I LOVE making food look pretty and appetizing.   

What's your favorite food to photograph?

My favorite food to photograph are cupcakes and cakes.  For some reason, they just make me happy and they are simply FUN to photograph!

Food photography is really hard work. Even with Instagram and dozens of photo-editing apps, my photos never seem to look "professional"! Any tips for us amateur food photographers with our camera phones on the ready? 

The only piece of advice I would offer is to remember your lighting (because apps are not always miracle workers), remember the color arrangement of the food being photographed, remember your background (What's behind, beside, or in front of my food that may not look very appealing?), and remember to make it look READY TO EAT! :)

Just for fun, what are the top 3 foods on your food bucket list (the 3 foods you want to try before you die!)? 

That is a great question! I have never thought about a food bucket list!  Even though I have tried some of these foods, I haven't tried them in these locations so here it goes...
1. I want to visit Italy someday and try some fresh baked bread with a bowl of pasta in a random, not-so-popular Italian village. 
2.  I want to try goat cheese in the countryside of France someday. 
3.  I want to try a scone with a hot cup of tea in England someday.  

Where can people go to find more of your work or to get in contact with you?

People can view samples of my work at Defy the Eye Photography or they can email me directly at :)  I also have a Facebook page listed as " Defytheeye Photography by Melea Schneider"  :) 

If you're in need of a professional photographer or are just looking for some beautiful inspiration, make sure to follow along with Melea: Website | Facebook

xoxo Lauren

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sign up for our Newsletter!!

We have a newsletter!! And we're so excited! We created it just for you! And we're getting ready to send out our first exclusive email newsletter tomorrow with an awesome Labor Day offer! So we want to make sure you have a chance to sign up.

 What you can expect: We promise not to spam you! We do promise to send you exclusive deals, discounts, and more and we'll make sure you don't miss any of our monthly recipes. You will also be the first to find out about cool behind-the-scenes info and exciting NBN news (like new flavors).

What you have to do: Sign up. It's super easy! All we need is your name and your email. Click the link below.

So what are you waiting for?

Sign up today and you'll receive a special Labor Day offer email TOMORROW!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Easy Nutella + Peanut Butter Granola Cookies

One of our sweet, sweet customers sent us an amazing recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Cookies which is what inspired this recipe! I changed the recipe slightly and used a combination of Nutella + Peanut Butter along with our Goin' Nuts granola to create this bad boy -- They remind me of the no-bake cookies I had as a kid. I think I'll add those to the list for another Tuesday recipe post!

So five ingredients - that's all you'll need! These are super easy and you can make them in 5 minutes plus time for baking. Simple. Easy. Delicious. All requirements for a great recipe. Enjoy y'all!

Easy Nutella and Peanut Butter Granola Cookies
(makes 9 2-3" cookies)

2 cups Goin' Nuts granola
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup Nutella
1 egg
pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
3. Using a food processor, pulse 1 cup of the granola until finely ground (should look like a flour).
4. Transfer to a bowl and add peanut butter, Nutella, egg, and salt. Mix until smooth.
5. Add the remaining 1 cup of granola and stir until combined.
6. Wet your hands (this keeps them from getting super sticky!) and form the cookie dough into 9 1-2" balls. Place on the baking sheet and flatten.
7. Bake for 12-15mins.

If you love sweet indulgences like me, you'll also want to check out our Carrot Pineapple Granola Bread!

For more: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

xoxo Lauren

Monday, August 18, 2014

Banana Nut Chocolate Oatmeal with Granola

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It sets the foundation for everything you do the rest of the morning, afternoon, and evening. Our bodies need energy to sustain us throughout the day and breakfast gets your body up and running. Don't skip this oh so important meal, y'all. Take the little time to fix yourself a wholesome, good-for-you breakfast. And on the weekends when you have some extra time, indulge in a beautiful creation like our Banana Nut Chocolate Oatmeal with Granola. Oh. My. Heaven.

I love little indulgences. I also love filling my body with natural, wholesome foods. So you can feel great about indulging in this breakfast dish! We're using cocoa nibs for a healthy dose of antioxidants. Bananas are a great source of energy and potassium. And a killer source of carbohydrates, oats make any breakfast great because they give you the energy you need to kick start your day and keep going. No crazy sugar-induced crash from a big bowl of cereal here!!

So without further ado ladies and gentleman, I give you the soon-to-be-famous...

Banana Nut Chocolate Oatmeal with Granola

You'll need:
1 cup organic rolled oats
1/2 tsp organic ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
large pinch of salt
1 overripe banana
2/3 cup almond milk (or your milk of choice)
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp organic vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tbsp cocoa nibs
Goin' Nuts granola, for topping

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine oats, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.

3. In a separate bowl, mash the banana and combine with milk, honey, and vanilla extract.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until fully combined. Add walnuts and cocoa nibs and mix just until combined.

5. Grease 3 ramekins and spoon oatmeal into each. Top with granola. 

6. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

7. Eat up y'all!!

Looking for easy and healthy breakfast recipes like this? Try our Strawberry Banana Granola Smoothie!

For more: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

xoxo Lauren

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Strawberry Banana Granola Smoothie

I think you'll love this one! It's the perfect smoothie for a warm summer day. I indulged after a nice, hot run outside and boy, oh boy it was scrumptious! I love the slight crunchy, nuttiness that the granola adds to the smoothie. You can even add a handful of spinach for a delicious breakfast smoothie and a daily dose of greens!

Strawberry Banana Granola Smoothie

1/2 banana
3 strawberries
1 handful blueberries
3/4 cup almond milk (or your milk of choice)
1/4 cup vanilla greek yogurt
1/4 cup Goin' Nuts granola
1 tbsp chia seeds 
handful of ice
*I use organic fruit whenever possible!!

Blend everything until smooth. Top with a little extra granola and a strawberry for a beautiful touch! Easy shmeasy! 

The fun part about recipes is that you can change them up to suit your likes and dislikes! If you don't fancy blueberries, leave 'em out. Maybe you have some raspberries or blackberries laying around. Toss 'em in! Get creative. And enjoy!

Like this fruity recipe? You'll love our Grilled Peach Cobbler!

For more: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

xoxo Lauren


Friday, August 1, 2014

Getting to Know Black Mountain Chocolate

Oh, y'all know I love chocolate! So I was beyond excited to interview Black Mountain Chocolate. Crafted right here in North Carolina, their sweet treats are complemented by even sweeter owners! We first met at a local farmer's market in Reynolda Village, Winston-Salem, where the Black Mountain Chocolate shop is located. Later this year, they'll be moving their chocolate factory to Winston-Salem, NC too, and we can't wait!! So if you've ever wondered how those delectable bars of chocolate are made, or if dark chocolate truly has great health benefits, read on! Dawn, one of the chief chocolatiers is giving us the sweet inside scoop!

Tell us a little about you and how Black Mountain Chocolate came to be.

My husband was passionate about his hobby of bean-to-bar chocolate making that he began in our home kitchen. Our youngest daughter was about to graduate from Wake Forest University. We realized that we now had the perfect opportunity to make a big career change (no more college tuition:). We were ready to begin our own company making chocolate from the bean and began asking other artisan chocolate makers for advice. In that process, we met somebody who was ready to sell his existing company with his excellent equipment. So on Sept 2, 2013, we became the new owners of Black Mountain Chocolate Co and our lives became full of all things chocolate :).

I am a self-proclaimed chocolate addict!! I love everything chocolate! So I must know, just how do you make it?

If you want a much more technical answer than this, you will need to ask "production" which is my husband, Brent and oldest daughter, Megan.  The process begins with fair-trade, organic cocoa beans from the Dominican Republic. They arrive at our workshop in 150 lb bags. We hand sort the beans to remove any foreign debris. The beans are then roasted to perfection and allowed to cool.  They are then put through an interesting machine (winnower) that cracks the roasted beans into small pieces called "cocoa nibs" while it is vacuuming away the hulls of the beans.  We add organic cane sugar and organic cocoa butter to the nibs and put them in a machine that liquifies it into chocolate. This process takes about 24 hours. The liquid chocolate goes into a holding tank. From the holding tank, it goes to a machine that further tempers it and dispense the correct amount for each bar we mold. The chocolate stays in the molds until it is cooled. Then it is time for each bar to be hand wrapped. Additional details are available on our website.

What makes your chocolate unique?

We use only certified organic and fair trade beans. We use premium cacao that only comprises about 5% of all cacao grown. Then we work with it to coax out the nuances of the beans to create the highest-quality chocolate. 

I love indulging in a delicious piece of chocolate with a glass of wine. What are some other great ways to pair chocolate?

Chocolate also pairs well with  heavier beers, like stout and porter.  And then there is a savory side of chocolate that pairs well with spicy dishes, like a Mexican mole sauce.

You’ve added a new section to your store called The Local Store. Tell us about it!

We believe in NC small batch producers because we are one! I wanted to provide a retail space in Reynolda Village that celebrated all of us and our hard work. I wanted to truly keep it LOCAL.  

We hear all the time that dark chocolate has great health benefits. Is it true? 

Interestingly, our doctor's office sells our dark chocolate bars in the little health food store associated with his practice.  Cacao has more antioxidants by weight than red wine. 

Just for fun, what’s the most interesting chocolate-covered food you’ve ever eaten?
I've actually not been very adventuresome on this front. Probably a spicy-hot pepper is the most unusual chocolate-covered food I've ever consumed. 

Find out more at Black Mountain Chocolate's Website | Facebook | Twitter

Photo Credit: Black Mountain Chocolate