Lights! Camera! Action!

It was a hot summer day as Sharon and I drove up together to McDill and Associates in the hills of Soquel for the Pacific Cookie Company photo shoot with Lisa Keenan (photographer), Lynn Piquet (our designer and stylist), and team. This year has been dubbed “ReImagine 2012” as we have been working to freshen up our style piece by piece. You can see some of the results of this at our retail bakery downtown, where we have undergone some renovations: new paint, gluten-free cookies, a stainless steel bar and an IPAD to conduct transactions to name a few. But more about that another time!

As we passed multiple horse properties and fenced-in green acreage with roaming animals, I knew that the location would be simply breathtaking. Missy McDill of McDill and Associates was kind enough to let us conduct the photo shoot on her property.

Upon arriving, my eyes immediately locked on a classic red barn at the bottom of the property. The character exuding from every red wooden board on that barn as it stood there amidst the surrounding water fountain, grape vines, and peaceful gazebo was stunningly picturesque in every way.

Stepping from Sharon’s electric blue VW Bug in my green Toms, wedding dress in hand, the wind picked up forcing the sun to peek from behind the clouds – the perfect day for a photo shoot. In search of a bathroom in which to change into my wedding dress for our first shot (I know what you’re thinking – wedding dress?!), I had the opportunity to explore the barn. Amongst the well-organized prop collection neatly stacked to the attic’s ceiling, I was surprised to see a conference room/dining room and a full working kitchen (with my dream refrigerator, needless to say – industrial sized and taller than me with full length sliding glass doors so you can actually SEE  inside without having to open the fridge!). But I digress.

The idea behind this photo shoot and our “ReImagine 2012” concept was to introduce our cookies along with a few new packaging ideas in a way that fits more of a lifestyle mentality – ideally YOUR lifestyle. We wanted to show you how to incorporate our cookies into your life, rather than just into your tummy!

This wedding shot I speak of was meant to introduce our cookies as wedding/party favors as this has become quite a popular special request over the past year or two (many couples call in requesting their favorite cookies for each guest’s place setting). These stacks of six one-ounce cookies tied off with a simple yet elegant wired ribbon were arranged on a classic white cake platter amongst a table setting of fancy silverware, beautiful bouquets of white hydrangeas, and quaint Venetian-style champagne flutes. Oh, and the mysterious man in the red pumas? He was my stand-in “father of the bride” (who requested to remain anonymous). 😉

I learned quite a thing or two that day regarding the food photography industry – that those beautiful shots you see in Gourmet, or Bon Appetit or Saveur magazines are not just an easy point and shoot. The multiple shots, minute changes, and additions and subtractions of “props” are just a few ways in which to achieve the perfect shot. Not to mention the MANY cookies we baked and brought with us to ensure the perfect selection of cookie for each shot

Cookies Waiting for their Shining Moment

Small paintbrushes were used to brush away unwanted crumbs.

One technique that I thought especially clever was painting olive oil onto the chocolate chips in each cookie with a fine tip brush to achieve a “melting” look. That’s just one in a million ideas to make your food look more appetizing in photos – here are a few other ideas I came across online.

It was really something to see these ladies at work. Shifting the cookies around to the left or right, arranging the crumbs in a particular way to really capture that taste bud tantalizing effect…their level of patience with such an eye to minute details was stunning.

All in all, after a hard day’s work, we came away with a beautiful selection of photos showing our delectable cookies in all of their sumptuousness. Keep checking back to our website to see the final images of our photoshoot…

 

Okay, okay…here’s a sneak peek!

 

 

Mama’s Night Out 2012 – Recap

 

If you are not already familiar, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization based out of New York whose mission it is to bring awareness of and raise money for pediatric cancer. Gretchen Holt and Larry Witt founded this organization on the realization that there was very little money designated to pediatric cancer research. Their son Liam, who from the age of 2 to 6 ½ battled stage 4 cancer, was the inspiration behind all the hard work they have poured into this organization; and although he has passed, his spirit lives on in the continued enthusiasm that people nationwide have for the momentous changes this cause is striving to achieve.

With this same will to make a difference came the original idea behind the brain child that Cara Pearson and Michelle Riddle termed “Mama’s Night Out” (you can read about the 1st annual event by clicking HERE). This year, there were expectations – reasonable expectations, but added pressure nonetheless – to host the 2nd annual Mama’s Night Out event and really show the people of Santa Cruz and the surrounding areas how to be a Good Cookie and what Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is all about. The beauty of events like this is that they mean so many things to so many different people; and whether you are directly or indirectly affected by cancer, or perhaps not at all, it still gives women the chance to get together and celebrate their lives and the lives of those they love.

During the months and weeks leading up to the event, it was hard not to overhear the constant flow of ideas between Cara, Michelle, and all the other wonderful women involved in the creation of this event. Simply put, it was inspiring. Their unrestrained passion for this project for the second year in a row was evident to me in their dedication to each and every detail and the way in which they strived with every meeting to come up with the “bigger and better” concept that a 2nd annual event enacts.

Mama’s Night Out 2012 began with thoughts of orange (Liam’s favorite color) and a complimentary deep and gorgeous turquoise blue. So you can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when, after waiting in line with my two girlfriends amongst the large and growing crowd of other excited women, the details began to emerge: I was presented with an orange leather flower cuff.

This was simply one of many details, I’m sure, that the majority of women strutting through the beautifully draped ivory satin curtains at the event entrance did not notice that evening. But they were details that I had the pleasure of seeing get pulled together in the end as the event was finalized. Everything from the hand-crafted and hand-painted bake sale stand to the turquoise blue paint stir-sticks made raffle signs for each raffle item (yes, those were paint stir-sticks!)

Although Gretchen wasn’t able to make it to the event this year, her words of thanks and inspiration were passed along via a short video message meant to encourage women in the room to take action. As I looked around the room, I could see how her words captivated these women, many of them also mothers with beautiful children by whom they would do anything to save. The importance of the event became clear to me again this year as I glanced at these women around me; and in that moment I felt so honored to have been a part of the event process for the second year in a row…to be a part of something with such strength to invoke change for the better.

The Pacific Cookie Staff

How Do You Like Your Oatmeal Cookies?

This blog entry was inspired by an article I came across on OneForTheTable.com written by Marilyn Naron.  Naron’s comment and main point was that “there are as many oatmeal secrets in America as there are splattered recipe cards.” And this got me wondering: what sort of  incredibly tasty oatmeal cookie secrets do my family and friends have? I have always enjoyed my oatmeal cookie with raisins and lots of cinnamon and nutmeg, but I have decided to take a personal poll (the results of which are still pending) to see what flavor combinations I might be missing out on!

Pacific Cookie Company’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

In the meantime, here are Naron’s 25 ways to make a better oatmeal cookie.

  1. Add extra cinnamon and chocolate chunks
  2. Add dried cherries, crystallized ginger and a dash of powdered ginger
  3. Add chopped dried pineapple and toasted coconut
  4. Add finely chopped granny smith apple
  5. Add dried currants plumped in orange juice, and the zest of one orange
  6. Add chopped toffee bits and toasted almond slices
  7. Add dried wild blueberries and nutmeg
  8. Add chocolate chips and pecan halves
  9. Add white chocolate chips and toasted walnuts
  10. Add a few handfuls of any Trader Joe’s trail mix
  11. Add a tablespoon of powdered espresso and cocoa nibs
  12. Add chopped dried pears and white chocolate chunks
  13. Add chopped candied orange peel
  14. Add dried cranberries and pumpkin pie spice
  15. Add chocolate chunks and salted peanuts
  16. Add grated raw carrot and toasted walnuts
  17. Add chopped dates and toasted coconut
  18. Add chocolate chips, chopped walnuts & mini-marshmallows
  19. Add about a cup of Rice Krispies cereal
  20. Chocolate-Dipped: Bake jumbo cookies and allow to cool. Cut cookies into quarters and dip each pointed end in melted semi-sweet chocolate. Allow chocolate to set, and serve.
  21. Oatmeal Black and Whites: bake large oatmeal cookies and cool. Make chocolate and white icings (try these icing recipes). Frost one half of each cookie with dark icing, and the other half with white.
  22. Oatmeal Faux Macarons: make small, puffy oatmeal cookies and sandwich two with chocolate ganache. Allow ganache to set, and serve.
  23. Orange-Glazed Oatmeal Cookies: make a light glaze by mixing 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice, and pinch of grated orange zest. Drizzle over cookies and allow to dry.
  24. Oatmeal Cookie Dip: Bake mini oatmeal cookies, and make chocolate yogurt dip: whisk one cup vanilla yogurt with one tablespoon of cocoa powder and one tablespoon brown sugar. Chill for an hour, then serve with cookies and fresh strawberries.
  25. Brandied Cherry Oatmeal Ice Cream Sandwiches: soak dried cherries in brandy and drain. Add to oatmeal dough; bake jumbo cookies and cool. Sandwich with good-quality cherry ice cream and freeze.

Happy Baking!

Support Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks

 

I have always loved the outdoors. And since my husband and I have moved to Santa Cruz (a little more than a year now), I am proud to say we have been to a few different state parks in the area:  Año Nuevo on a wonderful docent led tour, camping among the redwoods of Big Basin and Henry Cowell, and tidepooling at Natural Bridges just to name a few. In fact, some of our fondest memories of Santa Cruz have been made at these parks and beaches. So it makes me happy to say that Pacific Cookie Company has partnered with Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks to feature our newest item, “That’s My Park Pack,” in which we will be donating 20% of your gift box purchases to Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks to help keep our state parks and beaches open!

 

Need another reason to support Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks? Just ask my dog, Oliver, and he’ll tell you how much fun he has when we go out!