Behind the scenes of a recipe video shoot

A few years ago, in a creative writing workshop, my group was asked to write a paragraph about how to make guacamole.  We had five minutes or so, the first four of which I spent wondering why my brain had suddenly turned into a lumpy pile of pudding, and the fifth of which I utilized to quickly scrawl my go-to guacamole recipe (link here, if you’re curious).  The instructor then asked our neighbors to read our guacamole stories aloud.  ALOUD.  THE HORROR.  The guacamole stories began to flow.  Tales of quirky childhood loathing of all things green, grass included.  Words of wisdom, lessons learned, ideas on what the heck NOT to do.  A gal who sat close to me weaved together a perfect description of a grandmother hand-mashing avocado with her beautiful, wrinkled hands.  I could taste the guacamole.  I could see the grandma.  Heck, I felt like I KNEW the grandma.


And then it was time for my story.  My neighbor (who happened to be the wickedly talented Keia Mastrianni) read my story to the group.  It went a little something like this:  slice an avocado, mash it, add 1/3 cup diced red onion. . .  I was mortified.

It took me longer than I’d like to admit to recognize that I don’t perform well creatively when put on the spot.  I need time and a lot of it.  As much as I’d hoped both sides of my brain would mature equally, the Type A traits run this show.  Brainstorming sometimes leaves me creatively numb, a reaction that is amplified when I let any sort of self-doubt creep into the conversation.  You can’t write.  No one is going to read this.  Did you really just type that sentence?  Is “delicious” the only adjective you know?  Mary, even YOU are bored right now.  What are you doing?  YOU’RE AN ACCOUNTANT FOR GODS SAKE.

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Peanut Butter & Jelly Snack Bars {recipe video}

Remember that super fun video recipe project I’ve been telling  ya’ll about?  Well, one of the four videos we shot was for a recipe I specially developed for Tropical Foods.  To get my creative juices flowing, Tropical Foods hooked me up with a sack full of their bold nut mixes.  After trying them all, the PB&J mix stole my heart.  PB&J triggers feelings of nostalgia for most of us, but the funny thing is, I didn’t eat it much as a kid.  In fact, I went through a rebellious phase during which I vehemently swore I didn’t like the taste of PB&J.  Looking back, I’m pretty sure I was lying through my teeth in hopes of getting something toasty, like a hot grilled cheese or tuna melt, for lunch instead.  Sometime in college, I rediscovered the pure pleasure of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and I’ve been making up for lost time ever since.

Hope you enjoy my recipe for Peanut Butter and Jelly Snack bars!  I know my Guinea pig coworkers did!

Peanut Butter & Jelly Snack Bars Recipe PDF

Make sure you enter the Tropical Foods Bold giveaway below!  Three winners will receive one bag of each of the following How Bold Can You Go mixes:

Honey Roasted Buffalo Nuts
Ranch Buffalo Nuts
Blue Cheese Buffalo Nuts
Sweet Heat
Cajun Harvest
PB&J Mix
Mango Tango
Sienna Cream Crunch

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Behind the scenes of a recipe video shoot + Fall-n-Fire Wontons {recipe video}

When asked if I’d be interested in shooting some recipe videos for Tropical Foods, I said YES without really thinking about how much work goes into preparing, planning, and executing a video project.  I said yes before I had a chance to think about standing in front of a camera and how sweaty that might make me.  I said yes, because, well, for better or for worse I have a hard time saying no to opportunities, and honestly who could say no to the chance to work with a large, well-established Charlotte-based company like Tropical Foods?

WontonsTo prepare for the shoot, I did what any self-respecting accountant would do:  I input all the recipe ingredients into an Excel spreadsheet.  There were columns for the description, quantity, recipe to which it related, and the corresponding grocery store aisle.  Organization was key.  Each recipe was cooked and tested three times prior to the shoot, and each round began with a massive grocery shopping trip.  After I had my initial practice round with the recipes, I used the second and third go-arounds to verbally talk myself through the steps.  “Ok, now we’ll melt the butter.  Mmm buttterrrr.”  “Give it a good stir.”  “It’s ok if it looks like poo, it’ll still taste great!”  I also found myself asking questions.  I know Rachael Ray always de-stems her chard… but why?  What’s the stem taste like anyway?  What’s the difference between black and red grouper?  What if I can’t find wonton wrappers at the grocery store?  I jotted down questions as I went, and spent a lot of time researching ingredients and cooking processes.

The night before the shoot, I measured all of the ingredients into small containers and labeled what was what, then loaded each recipe’s ingredients onto a separate sheet pan.  Even with all this prep, it took us about five hours to shoot all four recipe videos!

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Mexicali Grouper plus a nutty giveaway {recipe video}

Last month, I teamed up with Tropical Foods to create videos for four AWESOME recipes, one of which was created by yours truly!  I posted the video for Buffalo Bleu Tailgate Bars last week, and today’s recipe video features Mexicali Grouper.  Take it from the girl who hates fish – this recipe makes for a delicious crusted fish with big bold flavors courtesy of the Mexicali Fire snack mix used coat the fillets.

Mexicali Grouper Recipe PDF

Speaking of BIG FLAVORS, Tropical Foods just rolled out their How Bold Can You Go site, which features all of their boldest nuts and mixes.  Check it out!  And don’t forget, if you see something you like, you can place orders online at The Nut House.


Now onto the fun part! Tropical Foods has generously offered to give three lucky readers gift baskets, chock full of the bold nuts and snack mixes used in the recipe videos!  There are several ways to enter–check out the rafflecopter below!  The giveaway ends at midnight on June 15, 2013.



a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Buffalo Bleu Tailgate Bars {recipe video}

Tropical Foods

Tropical Foods is a Charlotte-based food manufacturer and importer and distributor of bulk and packaged snacks and specialty foods.  Phew, that’s a lot of hats!  What this translates to is snack mixes, dried fruits, nuts and seeds, dipping chocolates, salad bar mix-ins, and garden chips, just to name a few of Tropical’s thousands of products.  The Charlotte production plant roasts nuts and seeds daily (in trans-fat-free oil), and goods are shipped from one of their six locations:  Charlotte, Atlanta, Dallas, Memphis, Orlando, and Washington DC.

Back in the Fall, Tropical Foods sponsored a recipe contest at Johnson & Wales University here in Charlotte, and I recently partnered with Tropical on a super fun project to create recipe videos for the top three recipes from the contest (plus, one video for a recipe that I specially developed for Tropical).  The whole video shooting process was new to me, and it was both fun and challenging!  I’ll post more about the videos in the coming weeks including a HUGE TROPICAL FOODS GIVEAWAY, but in the mean time here’s the first of four videos, my official YouTube debut.  Enjoy!

Buffalo Bleu Tailgate Bars

Buffalo Bleu Tailgate Bars Recipe PDF

Looking for Tropical Foods products?  You can buy nuts and snacks direct from their new retail site:  Tropical Foods products are also available in many grocery stores, including Harris Teeter and Healthy Home Market.

 Buffalo Bleu Tailgate Bars -- Tropical Foods Buffalo Nuts

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