GLUTEN FREE STRAWBERRY TOAST RECIPE || EASY FOOD | FOOD PHOTOGRAPHER NICOLE LEE



Hello Friends,

This quick recipe for gluten free strawberry toast is all about getting in some nutrients while also making sure your meal is tasty. No one likes cardboard. Lately, I’m into easy food, yet I don’t want to just grab those fries each time. Food can be fuss free, taste good, and make you feel great. Give it a go; this toast will change your life.

Cheers and happy cooking

Nicole x





GF + DF STRAWBERRY TOAST RECIPE || NICOLE LEE

Ingredients:

-1 loaf of gluten free bread

-Raw honey (2 – tablespoons)

-Nut Butter (mixed, almond, peanut)

-Chia Seeds

-Fresh Strawberries (1-2 pints)

-Toaster

Directions:  Clean and roughly chop your strawberries, removing the stems. Set aside. Toast your bread to your hearts desire. Spread with a decent layer of nut butter, and honey. Place the strawberries on top. Finish with a sprinkle of chia seeds. Repeat for as many pieces of toast you’d like to make. Enjoy!



LEARNING TO LET GO || PERSONAL | ANXIETY | FACING FEARS, PHOTOGRAPHER NICOLE LEE




Hello Friends, 

Its been awhile. 

Over the past few months I hit a low. My Anxiety hit an all time high. I justified my anxiety because of the unpredictable events, house having mold, (or falling apart as Ryan would say) having to be flexible about the whole thing, being defeated by my children’s school, and the social behaviors they were dealing with, (Actually, still are dealing with) and then Work…

How did I juggle it? I dropped all the balls. There was no certainty in my little world, everything was swirling around me and I stood and watched while all the clouds came rolling in. I didn’t know which way was out, which way let the floods came in, or even how to be safe. Or keep everyone else safe.


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So I froze. And then froze some more. Instead of coming up with sensible solutions, I internalized everything, and outwardly put on a persona that was FINE by society standards. My goal was just to get through the day to day. To practice being easy going about the whole thing until I really believed it. But there were a few times I was like, when is the next crap thing going to happen? 

 When the clouds finally subsided, I thought I got this. I have been dealing with anxiety since age 6 and honestly I’ve been through much harder crap. Certainty is what I really longed for. In an uncertain situation I made matters worse, then I remembered my therapists saying, you will never have certainty. The world can’t give you that. REALLY?? At first I thought NO. HELL NO. My heart said, there has to be another way. The only way to get certainty is to make your own. Why not channel my inner survival mode instincts? Use them for good, not to fuel my anxiety. Maybe this is the best idea I’ve had in a long time…. Its time to get back on the horse stop looking left or right and plow straight ahead. 

Letting go “game plan”. The plan includes the things I am in control of; ME+ MY actions…

1.  Let go. - Life is unpredictable. Letting go isn’t easy, but when you do it feels so freeing.

2.  Truly be easy going. (No matter what) - As “cheesy” as it sounds, it’s an opportunity to learn when unexpected life events happen. Showing your kids you can stay calm when shit hits the fan is a true gift. Best part, they become easy going people too.                                                        

3.  Health (mental and physical) - Talking to therapist is always a good idea.  Exercising has done wonders for my mental health, subsides anxiety, and makes you feel SEXY!                                

4. Parenting - Committing to teaching my children to socially interact, defeat bullies, to make the world a better place, and WIN AT LIFE.                                                                                          

5. Home- Being Patient. Doing what we can in our time with our house AND BEING OKAY WITH THAT.                                                                                                                                          

6. Anxiety - FACE IT. DON’T RUN FROM IT. GET BACK ON THE HORSE. AND STAY ON, EVEN WHEN YOU HIT THE BUMPS.  ( AND, Damn those hurt!)

Thanks for listening folks; I’m excited to be back in the swing of things. And for this new uncertain chapter called LIFE. Leave a comment below, would love to hear from you!! 

Cheers,

Nicole



 

 

 

MOLD YOU WILL NOT BE THE DEATH OF ME || ARIZONA LIFESTYLE PHOTOGRAPHER NICOLE LEE || PERSONAL POST



Dear Friends, 

My apologies for my slight disappearance these last few months friends. I have found myself (and family) knee deep in black mold. First we found it in our bedroom bathroom, behind the toilet and inside the wall. So Ryan then removed it. Then we suspected it in the kitchen, so he demoed that too. Which he found more mold in the walls of the cabinets and sink. The island and storage next to the fridge is what is currently intact.

While this was being taken care of my very kind Aunt and Uncle let us stay with them. Since I am highly allergic, it’s not smart for me to be in the environment when removal is happening. In fact we ended up finding it because I had become a cesspool of sickness for months, and even though hidden behind walls I was still reacting from it. Finally once the mold was removed and air was clean again (about a week) we went back home.

A few days after returning home, we had some heavy rains here. I was doing some work on my computer and heard some noises. I investigated finding a leak in the dinning room ceiling. I noticed a water bubble in the wall and I just started nervously laughing, someone is “punking me”. Where is ASHTON? I know he will pop up here soon….

So we called the insurance again, it took about a week for them to come out. The adjuster came and inspected the leak. He Chatted with Ryan about how there is nothing he or the insurance could do; unfortunately this was just normal home wear and tear. But he suggested, because of the leak you should pull out the drywall and make sure there is no mold growth under there. That evening, I took the kids to dinner and Ryan ripped out the wall.

Guess what? We found the source… a large I mean, large amount of black mold right there in the ceiling. That night we stayed in a hotel. Now we needed to sort out how to make sure it was gone for good! This owning a home is serious business folks.




Plan of action (to defeat MOLD!):  

-Make sure we get the mold out, Clean (spray down with mold control, the area, and check the rest of the house for hidden spots)

-Get it dry, Tarp it off, put dehumidifier in the space, Keep the air cool

-Figure out how to function in house without kitchen

-Sort out health, do more research, breathe, breathe again

-Make sure to listen to my therapist; she said looks like another opportunity to practice being “easy going” listen to this advice

-Stay Calm

-Call contractors

-Call roofing companies

-Call tree removal services

- Breathe again

-Plan a home remodel

-Be excited about new kitchen, bedroom bathroom, dinning room, painting the house, (cutting down a tree that is causing your house to fall apart)

-Don’t feel guilty about cutting down a tree that is making your house fall apart

-Embrace Change

- Act like you are camping

- Cook outside, Cook food on induction burners, use crockpot, and get creative

- Wash dishes in the bathroom (no judgments please!)

- Get kids to pitch in

- Use survival instincts

- Push through until its finished

- Be easy going with the timeline of projects (contractors are busy)

- Remember this can be fun!

-Embrace the uncertainty

In some odd way I am glad we found it. Even though my house is currently a construction zone, and it’s not nearly “perfect”. I can actually say I’m okay with it.

 Life didn’t give me lemons, but I’d say more like some blank canvas to start creating on. This is an opportunity instead of loss. It’s just a house, its just “stuff”.

Mold will not be the death of me. Challenge accepted.  

- Cheers Friends, Nicole

P.S. As we progress with the house I will slowly add updates, thanks for listening friends!

ARTIST PORTAITS MALORI MAEVA || FLORIST NOIR FLORAL || LIFESTYLE PHOTOGRAPHER NICOLE LEE || HEYDEAR



Hey you guys! Happy New Year! It's great to be back. May I introduce my dear friend and all time business gal Malorie.  

Malorie Maeva, is something special my friends. I was fortunate enough to have met her last year while assisting the AMAZING Kym Ventola with a wedding she was photographing. Instantly I thought wow this girl is the Brains behind Hoot and Holler / and Noir Floral? She is one talented lady, and been killing it in the floral industry for sometime now. I had been following her for some time on instagram and couldn’t help but instantly be inspired by her floral designs, esthetic and boldness that she was putting out into the universe!

I was honored when she let me photograph her doing her thing, designing and crafting floral arrangements. Here is a peek inside what she does and our time together, enjoy friends!

 

CHEERS,

Nicole






















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Arizona Florist : Malori Maeva http://www.noirfloral.com/

CHOCOLATE GRANOLA RECIPE || GLUTEN FREE+DAIRY FREE || FOOD PHOTOGRAPHER NICOLE LEE





Hello Friends, 

Chocolate seems to be at the top of my food list, it is only fitting that I would try to add it to almost everything. One of my fondest memories of chocolate was when we used to live in the PNW; we would walk and get a coffee from our favorite shop. I’d order a hot double short latte and on the top they would serve it with a piece of dark chocolate. The chocolate would warm from sitting on the cup. You would have to eat it quite quickly, the melted chocolate followed by sipping your espresso left the most heavenly taste it your mouth.

Lately, I am yearning to recreate moments of food heaven each day. It looks different now. Instead of walking to the coffee shop, I walk into the kitchen. Back then I cooked, but was still getting my bearings down. Lots of burning, lots of undercooked chicken, and lots of baking, I could do that. The baking was easy. Maybe its because the control of the ingredients lead as a guide of safety and comfort. “ Actual recipe development, seemed scary as you had to move with the food, no rules, just feelings. Food makes you feel. It’s instinctual. You are forced to do a dance, taste, smell, and engage with it. Or else you get a burned hot mess; this took me years to sort out. I just kept cooking, and trying. Lots of repetition, as I was learning I would cook the same dish every night until I nailed it! Ryan would ask “ what’s for dinner, I would say – roast chicken and veg! He replied without grumble, SPLENDID! Along with my encouraging husband, the other helper I had was “the naked chef” (AKA JAMIE OLIVER) he taught me how to: boil eggs, make curry, make soup, homemade pizza, what herbs were, and even nail a good granola. Once I sorted out how simple cooking could be, it all came together. Recipes became effortless. 

So, I want to share my take on good ole granola, it’s easy and the best part it takes 15 min to prep!




CHOCOLATE GLUTEN FREE GRANOLA RECIPE// (Makes about 1.5 gallon bag)

You will need: 2 baking sheets, unbleached parchment paper, mixing bowl, spatula, small saucepan

*INGREDIENTS: *

  • 1 cup nut butter (almond, cashew, peanut or no nutz)
  • 6 cups gluten free rolled oats
  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • 5 ounces high quality dark chocolate (chopped)
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons high quality coco powder
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup chopped almonds and cashews
  • 1/3-cup chia seeds
  • 1/3 unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (or kosher salt)

Directions:

Pre- Heat your oven to 300 degrees. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Measure out ingredients, and in a bowl place: gluten free rolled oats, cinnamon, ground ginger, chia seeds, coconut flakes, brown sugar, nutmeg, chopped nuts, and salt mix a little with a spatula. Set aside. Chop your chocolate, set aside.

Take your small saucepan and put on medium –low heat. Add your coconut oil, nut butter, raw honey, and 5 tablespoons of coco powder. Mix constantly, until melted and blended together. Take off heat, add in the vanilla paste and mix in. Pour mixture over the rolled oats mixture and thoroughly combine until the oats are completely coated. Add chopped chocolate, mix.

Finally spread evenly over the parchment paper lined baking sheets. Place both trays in the oven, Bake for 15 min. Let cool completely for about an hour. Store in gallon bags, or mason jars. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks!

To serve, you can enjoy with nut(or raw) milk, fresh berries like raspberries, strawberries, or blackberries. This granola, also tastes great over ice cream or just by it’s self!


CHEERS, 

NICOLE 








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CLOTH AND FLAME DESERT DINNER || SONORAN DESERT, ARIZONA || FOOD+LIFESTYLE PHOTOGRAPHER NICOLE LEE

















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AVOCADO TOAST, WITH FIGS, AND CILANTRO || GLUTEN FREE+VEGAN RECIPE || FOOD + LIFESTYLE PHOTOGRAPHER NICOLE LEE



Hello Friends, 

Cooking with children can be a daunting task to some, but I find once you give them a chance it doesn’t take long for them to fall in love with helping out and be part of the process.  It feels only natural to invite them into what we are doing, whether it be flipping eggs, baking some cookies, or just making a simple toast. I tend to give them jobs like; letting them sprinkle on the salt or herbs, or crack the eggs, stir the pot. They love it, give it a try!  - Cheers, Nicole





Avocado Toast; with figs lime and cilantro recipe :

Ingredients:

-A loaf of gluten free (or none GF) bread

- 1 bunch of ripe avocados

- fig fruit (for the top or side)

-1 lime

- chopped cilantro

- salt, pepper, olive oil

- knife, fork, and bowls for mashing

Method: Cut and pit your avocados, in a bowl mash up avocados leaving them pretty chunky. Slice your limes in half, and squeeze over the avocado.  Chop cilantro, set aside.

Toast your bread to your liking, and drizzle high quality olive oil over the top of them. With a fork take your avocado and smash the rest over the toasted bread. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cilantro. Then enjoy!







I would love to hear from you! Just fill out the form below! 


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QUICK AND EASY VEGAN SNACK RECIPE // BLUEBERRIES + ALMOND MILK // FOOD PHOTOGRAPHER NICOLE LEE


Dear Friends, 

For today's recipe I bring you "easy peasy" as my 7 year old would say. Simple frozen blueberries and almond milk. This is made for one, but you may double, or triple or even add in extra's to make it your own. Then simply enjoy! 

What you will need :

1 bag of frozen organic blueberries

1 bowl, spoon and hungry belly

1/2 cup (or more to your liking) Fresh Almond Milk 

Note : if you aren't vegan I would sub for 2% with a splash of raw cream, or even RAW MILK 

Then pour blueberries in a bowl, pour milk over blueberries and watch the magic happen. The milk freezes over the blueberries and now you "almost" have ice cream.

Cheers and enjoy!

 -Nicole 






 

 

REAL TALK // RAMBLING STORIES OF MOTHERHOOD // LIFESTYLE PHOTOGRAPHER NICOLE LEE





Dear Friends,

How are you this fine Monday?

I have decided to share a story from my weekend. Some of you may approve, and others may roll their eyes. I am going to take a chance and share anyway.

On Friday evening my husband and I attended our children’s school fall festival. Now the idea in my head of what this fall festival was going to be was quite exciting, I thought pumpkins, and hay rides, and horses and hot apple cider, parents dressed up or kids dressed up in costumes. You know the small town festival that you grow up with? Much to my surprise when we walked in it was NOTHING like that!

Where were the pumpkins? And the hay rides? I don’t smell the hot apple cider!! Instead what we found was loud music that should be at a club, parents walking around with cups filled with alcohol, dressed like they were out on the town and children roaming freely from bounce house to bounce house. Kids pulling kids, kids being aggressive towards kids, and kids running around like out of control crazy’s! (That part didn’t bother me, the children roaming, well maybe. I think it was the adult Sippy cups that through me over the edge….)

Then I asked myself are you just being a helicopter parent? Maybe this is what we were supposed to be doing? To some this is fine. To some this is “kids just being kids” but I beg to differ. Maybe you don’t mind being half present and you need to be loaded in order to handle this whole parent thing. Not for me folks, not for me…so I stood there frozen, I felt like I had entered a high school kickback. And just as awkward as it was then, as I was then, I asked myself how did I end up here? With the “cool” kids once again? I don’t want to be with the cool kids, watching there faces, It wasn’t fun, maybe if I was drinking it would have been fun, but I don’t think so. I really don’t think so…. I wanted to scream, I wanted to shake these people. I wanted to get the hell out of there!!!! But we just paid WAY too much money and my children would be devastated if we left so we stayed. We made the most of it.

As Parents came up to Ryan and I while we stood outside of a bounce house, they started chatting, the things these people would say where mind blowing. Standing there like a deer in headlights, I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. Frozen, I stood and listened. Speechless. Parents shared stories of how great this was, hanging out while kids roam and we get to drink, or bragging about the night before they got so WASTED that an ambulance had to come and bring them to the ER. As I listened, this pain sank into my heart, which expanded into my gut.  My heart hurt. (Something about this doesn’t feel right) It hurt for the parents, for the children, for my children. I asked myself why can’t there be more, more kindness, more love, more happiness?

Maybe you may think I was judging them maybe you think, How could she say these things? But friends, I am tired of sitting on the sidelines folks, what is happening to our culture, our country, and the world around us? And I have had my own fair share of hiccups, and I am NOT claiming I am a perfect parent, or person. I also don’t think JESUS needs to save you in order to be a good parent but what happened to having some standards, or showing up? There is nothing wrong with drinking, but what are the intentions behind all the charade? Is it this the only way we can be parents, are you trying to escape, or enjoy the moments with your loved ones?

What is happening to the hope of us becoming more empathetic and loving towards each other? Towards our children, and teaching our children to do the same?

I still have that hope, do you??

Thanks for listening friends.

Leave a comment below, we'd love to hear your thoughts.  



 

 

 

 

LAURA + MATT | DESERT ENGAGEMENT SESSION || WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER NICOLE LEE


Learning to be brave. How do we learn to be brave? We learn to be brave by doing something that we are scared to do. This saying keeps flying back at me time and time again. The universe keeps saying, “ be brave” here is your moment, here is this hard thing that I want you to gracefully step into, now go. One of those things are relationships.

(Does this happen to you as well?  The universe / god whomever it may be challenging you on things?)

Lately, I have been on this quest to find out how to really build lasting relationships, to understand what true love really is, and you know I may not have all or any of the answers on the subject. What I do know the scary thing to do is to step into them. The brave thing to do is take a chance on the person in front of you. Sometimes we mess up, sometimes we don’t have all the tools, but what I do know is this:

“Before your ready – before your good at it that’s when you start something. That’s how you get ready, that’s how you get good at it” – ELIZABETH GILBERT

Sit for a moment – let that quote sink in a bit……

This is how we learn to be brave. This is how we step into things we want to make, or do, or who we want to become, or how to lean into relationships, partnerships.  

With that I give you Laura and Matt, and their engagement story.

 

– Cheers friends


 





































SCOTTSDALE PORTRAIT SESSION // SMOCA CURATOR CLAIRE CARTER// ARIZONA LIFESTYLE PHOTOGRAPHER NICOLE LEE


portrait claire - curator

SMOCA is by far one of my favorite places in Arizona. What is SMOCA you say? Well it is a little haven in the melting pot of Arizona, also known as the Scottsdale museum of contemporary art. You see, it’s more than just a museum, but a community, learning hub, and from time to time they have some pretty fun events they put on throughout the year. 

In addition to having Amazing Art instillations, SMOCA has some very down to earth Curators running the show. I was honored when Claire asked me to spend the afternoon with her and photographing her for a portrait session.

This woman is strong, intelligent, and did I mention has excellent taste?! To top it off she was the first woman curator at SMOCA and plans to keep on doing her thing for years to come. Most recently, Claire curated : southwestNET Sama ALshaibi: Silsia. A short description : (Sama Alshaibi's (b.1973, Basra, Iraq) epic series of photographs and videos is named for the Arabic word silsia, or "link"-a simple noun describing a point of connection. As a verb, "link" also describes the act of joining two discrete units. Silsia represents the joining of individuals to one another, humans with the natural world, and the self to the dive.) To read more head over to the SMOCA page

Lets just say Claire rocks my socks off! She is a powerhouse. 

Here are my favorite images from the portrait session we collaborated on together. 

Cheers, 

Nicole 












 

 


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DAIRY+GLUTEN FREE ICE CREAM RECIPE || ARIZONA FOOD PHOTOGRAPHER NICOLE LEE


Hello Friends, it has been wayyy to long since I have posted. With that I deeply apologize for the radio silence. I feel that I have neglected my little blog that honestly I have missed so much.

Over the last few months I have been busy, I had some more health issues come up and really just hit the wall of exhaustion. I could blame a lot of things but I would say mostly I chose to stop prioritizing, and made a huge mess of my personal life. If I am honest with you, I just kept saying yes to all the jobs offered, to the grind, to the over working, to the sacrificing and putting all that in front of myself, and my family even. Which as stubborn as I am, hates to admit I was doing too much.

Have you ever heard of the work smarter not harder mentality? Well I switched those around, and for sure worked harder not smarter. And when I fell flat on my face, instead of calling it quits I thought I would take a break until I knew where I was going.. When that didn’t happen, I realized I needed to take a harder look at myself, I needed to see how I could stop falling short, and start being the person I was preaching I was and “trying” to be. Which is ultimately my BEST SELF always.

Someone very wise recently told me this quote from Wayne Dyer:

----“When you squeeze an orange, you'll always get orange juice to come out. What comes out is what's inside. The same logic applies to you: When someone squeezes you, puts pressure on you, or says something unflattering or critical, and out of you comes anger, hatred, bitterness, tension, depression, or anxiety, that is what's inside. If love and joy are what you want to give and receive, change your life by changing what's inside."----

Light bulbs went off, Shooting Stars in the sky! This quote changed my prospective immediately. Who was I on the inside? Does this quote mean I need to be perfect no, does this mean that I am a failure no. This simply means, what do you want the insides to look like? Is it possible to be your best self always?

All I know is I want to be the kind loving person always, in work, in home life, same inside and out.

So who do you want to be?

Thanks for listening friends, thanks for following my journey.

Until next time.

-Yours

Nicole 




Mint Chocolate Coconut Ice cream Recipe :

You will need :

4 cans coconut milk (full fat)

4 eggs

1/2 cup raw sugar or honey

1-tablespoon vanilla paste

2 – 4 oz. of good quality chocolate (I love Theo chocolate) they have minimal ingredients and some are vegan!

1-2 tablespoons peppermint flavor

1 pot, a whisk and an ice cream maker

Prep: place your cans of coconut in the refrigerator upside down overnight.

-Open the cans of coconut milk and separate the fat and liquid. You can save the liquid for another project, such as coconut water. Put your pot on the stovetop and set to medium. Then add in the coconut milk, sugar or honey, vanilla and peppermint to the pot. Whisk together until you see little bubbles and the chunks of coconut dissolve.

-Taste to see if it needs more sugar, then set to the side. In another bowl whisk together the eggs until light and fluffy. Add into the coconut mixture. Then place the bowl in the freezer for about an hour.

-After the mixture is cooled pop into the ice cream maker and follow your machines directions. ! About mid way through of churning add in your chocolate chips, or fresh chopped chocolate pieces. Also, If you don’t have an ice cream maker to churn you can simply pour into Popsicle molds!

Enjoy!




HOME LIFE || ARIZONA PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHER NICOLE LEE |


A few years ago I started a personal project called home life. I was taking an advanced photo class at Coastal Carolina University and we had to pick a project for the semester. The subject had to be the same subject for the whole semester, with the narrative story in mind, one image connecting to the next. I remember resisting choosing something, I remember finding it difficult to choose a project for fear I would “mess up”.

My professor suggested that I photograph what was in front of me. Hinting at the idea of photographing my children. I hesitated, in efforts maybe to avoid the discomfort of sharing my personal life. I think I was trying to photograph landscape, old buildings or something. (You know the safe subjects) The work I was producing was mediocre. I knew if I wanted to grow I would have to start ripping of some Band-Aids and stop compartmentalizing my work life and personal life. I knew that if I just surrendered to blending them together I could get to where I wanted to go, and produce the art I was destined to produce.

So I just started, one foot in front of the other kind of thing. My first Images weren’t horrible, but they looked and felt like everyone’s candid images of their children. My work felt so literal, boring even, I knew I had to find my inner Sally Mann, but how on earth was I going to get there?

Did it just happen? No. Was there a secret sauce, formula or light bulb? No. I just took a lot of images, and let me tell you I burned threw loads of film, and digital files. Mostly film.

 Each week we had to bring our images to our professor and have a one on one critique. Let me tell you there were moments he would look at my work, and I would look at him and hope to Jesus he wouldn’t rip it apart. It was when he was silent it scared me the most. I would anxiously wait, while he looked over the images up and down, the he would say: “You have something here”, or “dig deeper”. He wanted me to come up with the answer, to figure those next steps out. Not just hand them to me, which that I am thankful for.

What I learned from the critique is to keep going, to make it better, and that it doesn’t just ‘happen’ to you have to choose the direction you want to go into. That I am going to fail a lot, and that is OKAY!

So here I am 3 years later, more images, more life and this personal project took on a whole new meaning. 

Enjoy friends, until next time

 

-Nicole 














TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SALLY MANN VISIT - https://www.artsy.net/artist/sally-mann

CHARLESTON, SC DESTINATION WEDDING LEGARE WARING HOUSE// SCOTT+CHERYL // CHARLESTON WEDDING PHTOGRAPHER NICOLE LEE


Scott and Cheryl had an amazing magical day. The sun was shining, the air was crisp and they could not stop smiling the entire time! 

Both from Atlanta Georgia, they decided to escape the city and whisk off to Charleston for their destination wedding. 

Here is there story.. Enjoy. 

xx Nicole 













bride dress portrait





Strawberry-Basil and Coconut Popsicle Recipe// Arizona food Photographer Nicole Lee



Hi! Lets start there. I wanted to take a moment and reintroduce myself. I’m Nicole. I am a photographer, home cook, Mother, jack  Jill of all trades kind of girl. Last year, I started pursuing photography full time, I had no idea “what” "where" or "how" I was going to get there. Becoming a Photographer that is. Looking back I was quite the hot mess, sometimes I still feel that way ha. But Over the last 6 months I have found some clarity in it all.

When you first start you have a hundred people chiming in your ear, which I am thankful for. They say words like branding, Marketing, Direction, Specialize, Who are you? What are you, how are you going to be successful? What do you charge? Can you do a headstand, then 100 jumping jacks, and snap a shot of me doing one to?

Then you have doe eyed me, blank faced and speechless…queue the crickets please…

I had no idea how to answer any of those questions. I just thought, well I have a camera, I like to take photographs, I like food, and I like people. It is that simple. (But it wasn’t) So many other creatives make it look so simple, truth is I wasted too much time focusing on how to ‘make it' I missed all the key steps to getting there. I just got in the way of myself! I’m sure you have been there.

Then Last April, I ended up taking the most amazing trip out to Seattle and attended the Survival Guide Workshop, by John Keatly. It saved me. I am not kidding around here folks.

He taught us how to market, do business, charge people properly, become a real sustaining brand, and he taught me how to take a risk, to start putting my feet on those stepping-stones. We also had killer food, and pop quizzes. It’s not your average workshop. Plus, I walked away connecting to some supportive friends, some game changers who being the new girl, and they didn’t stomp all over me, they embraced the underdog.

For the last year, I have been able to put myself out there, gain some confidence, say I’m the girl for you, (or not). I’m getting clear on who I am which; in fact you do need to know if you are a creative. What am I willing to say no and yes to, as well as be humble enough to do the odd jobs while I get my feet off the ground.

So where am I going with all this? Well I am saying, If you are struggling creative, don’t give up, figure out what you need to get better at and find someone, anyone, or you tube how to get from here to there. Second, I’m just so freaking excited that all the little steps are coming together.

Now go make some popsicles!!



Strawberry Coconut Popsicle Recipe

 

Makes 12 Popsicle molds

Ingredients:

4 cans full fat coconut milk (chilled in refrigerator)

2 lbs strawberries (fresh or frozen)

3 eggs

1-tablespoon vanilla paste

1 bunch fresh basil

2- 3 cups raw sugar

1 tsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 trays of Popsicle Molds

 

Directions:

 

Clean and Cut the ends of the strawberries, set aside. Measure out the sugar, the vanilla. Open the cans of coconut milk and separate the fat. Measure the fat out to 2 cups. Set aside the coconut water from the cans. Prep the basil, cut off stems and gently chop up.

Put a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat on the stove, place a small tsp. of olive oil, and cook the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice together. You will want to stir frequently, until all the water comes out of the strawberries. (About 5-10 min) Add in the basil and vanilla paste. Cook for another 5 min.

You know it will be finished when the strawberries aren’t as tart, with a strainer take out the strawberry mixture from the pot, place in a blender and blend until smooth.

Set aside the left over liquid from the mixture.

Put the coconut milk into the pot, add in the strawberries, cook until everything is smooth and no lumps are shown.

Take the strawberry coconut mixture off the heat, stir in the 3 eggs, taste to see if needs more sugar, or strawberry, or even more coconut. You want a smooth creamy strawberry flavor to come through.

Once finished, add your mixture to your molds. Freeze for 6-12 hours depending on your freezer, and enjoy!!

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

easy granola and vegan whipped cream recipe



Lets chat about business. I want to be real for a min as well; it’s not as easy as everyone says it is. Its one big game, even if you are prepared for the test.  Business is a bitch.

Sometimes I find myself having a clear direction and path, along with creative ideas energy, then I get in the way of myself.

I get insecure, I want approval, and I have a hard time jumping into my ideas because of the things that happened in the past. (Which I am working on not doing.) Do you know what I mean? By getting in the way of yourself? 



For the last 2 weeks I have been on what I like to call a creative high. Upward spirals, downward spirals, and so many “great” ideas my head may burst into a thousand tiny pieces. I want to get them all done, right now, at this moment, I cant seem to get the pen to paper fast enough, I’m brilliant. And then not….

So I say farewell to insecurity, and would like to say I’m diving off the board, into the deep end. Sink or swim, Join me on this ride?

 


Vegan Whipped Cream

Ingredients:

2 Cans full fat organic coconut (chilled in refrigerator the night before)

About ½ cup of organic confectioners sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

An electric mixer, or kitchen aid with a whisk attachment and metal bowl

Directions:

Fill your metal bowl with ice, dump out after about a minute. Open your coconut milk, the fat and liquid should be separated, at this point dump the liquid in a jar and save for later. (you could make coconut water or use for a sauce) Take the coconut fat and place in the bowl, then add in the vanilla paste,  and the powdered sugar. Turn your machine on low for about 1 min then speed it up for about 2-3 min. You want to get a lot of air in there to get it nice and fluffy.

Once you see the consistence change into airy and light , you have your vegan whipped cream. (Taste it to see if it needs more sugar. )

Gluten free Granola:

Ingredients :

¾ cup avocado oil

6 cups old fashioned gluten free rolled oats

1/3 cup honey or coconut sugar

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 cup chopped roasted almonds

1 pinch of salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a large baking dish or cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together; oil, honey, brown sugar, vanilla paste and salt. Once this has mixed add in the oats, nuts, and cinnamon, stir all together until combined.

Then place evenly spread the mixture onto your lined baking sheet. Bake for 25-35 min or until golden brown. When finished, cool for about an hour, then break apart into chunks.  This can be stored up to 2 weeks (if it lasts that long!)

Cheers Friends - Nicole 

 

 

 

 



GLUTEN FREE OLIVE OIL CAKE - RECIPE


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Sometimes I wish I could start a blog post with romantic words of my childhood, about how my grandmother was the one who taught me to bake. Or I was in the kitchen most of my childhood, or we grew up on a farm and I frolicked with the horses. Then I know I wouldn’t be me and that living on a farm would just be boring. I look back and wonder how did we (my sister and I make it out alive?) Just barley hanging on, but we did.

Instead I had what you would call an unconventional childhood. Ups downs, Parents spending too much time arguing, not on a farm but in the neighborhoods in the worst parts of town. We moved a lot, I mean a lot. By the time I was 16 I had a least moved into 16 different houses. Its not like we were in foster care or something, my father didn’t know the concept of what pushing through meant. I think he did it because he thought that would fix things, what he didn’t realize is that his problems followed him wherever he went.

Then there were the things that stuck, they told me you should do sports, so I did, I “failed” I had anxiety. (Did you know children actually could develop this at the ripe age of 6 or 7?) My father said you aren’t a natural athlete, tear me down sometimes, but I kept going, and failed with integrity, I knew I gave it my all.  With no guidance my father would just say, “go out there and go do it, on your own”. Old fashioned?  I see the value you in what he said, but as a parent now, there is a fine line for telling your child to figure out life and help them learn something like baseball. Which are both valuable in my opinion.

I mush have been about 9, or 10. It’s all blurring together. I decided I wanted to succeed; I focused on what I could succeed in. I organized a food drive at school, I went above and beyond at my studies, and I even was a band geek and practiced my clarinet so much my lips were numb. I was lucky enough to have attended some pretty awesome schools in NY, we had all sorts of programs, I found art, I fell in love with it; life was looking up. My goal was to catch up, catch up to the rest of my peers so I could fit in. You know what I am talking about?

Have you ever Read the book Matilda? When I read it in 3rd grade it changed my world. I had someone to relate to, this girl she gets me. Our worlds were the same. Her parents where off in “la la land”, while she did it all; taught her self things, took care of the house, so on. That’s kind of like me. I just learned how to take care of myself, while they checked out.

 Once I found out I really enjoyed baking things really changed. See baking is for the controlling person. You have to be meticulous on measurements, ingredients, and the oven temperature. Really pay attention to every detail, follow the recipe, if not, it fails. I think I liked it because of exactly those reasons. I would be lying if I said otherwise. See since my world was out of control, I used cooking/ baking to control something in front of me. Sure, there were times I burnt things, and when it didn’t come out right the first time I would be upset. But I didn’t give up. See, I am a determined person, someone who dreams big, but in a practical way. Why would I throw in the towel so quick? That would be too easy..

Now, I have a few things I am still in the process of learning; Gluten free baking is like a science experiment, you have a million failures, then the day comes you crack the code. That it’s a choice to “check in”, instead of “check out” when it comes to parenting. Parenting in its self is a beautiful dance that it doesn’t have to be as complicated as we make it out to be. Lastly, that you can have your cake and eat it too.

 


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GLUTEN FREE OLIVE OIL CAKE

RECIPE:

Ingredients: 

Vegan Butter, for the baking dish

6 large eggs

5 cups raw sugar

3 cups extra virgin olive oil

5 cups gluten free, 1 to 1 flour mix

plus extra for the dish

Parchment paper

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

Juice of ½ lemon

Grated zest of one lemon

1 can of full fat coconut milk chilled

2 medium apples

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter and flour the pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl or electric kitchin-aid mixer whisk, together the eggs and sugar. Stir in the olive oil, coconut milk and lemon zest.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry, stirring until just blended. DO NOT OVER MIX. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.

Place the lemon juice in a large bowl. Peel the apples, and slice very thin. (If you have a mandolin that would work to) Drop the apples into the lemon juice to prevent browning, and arrange the apple slices on top of the came batter.

Bake the cake for 1 hour and 15 min, until golden, or until a toothpick is in the center and comes out clean. (the baking time may very. If it needs more time put a tent with foil around the cake and continue baking) Cool in the pan before un-molding.

(This recipe was modified from Sunday Suppers, if you don’t have food allergies you can find the classic recipe in the cookbook!)

Cheers friends, happy baking.

-Nicole 










Gluten Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwiches




How to make an ice cream sandwich Part 2

Recipe:

Gluten / Dairy Free Chocolate Peanut Butter cookies

Ingredients:

2 Vegan Baking butter sticks

2 Cups brown sugar

2 Room temp. Eggs

1 ¾ cups Gluten Free Flour

2/3-cup Raw Cocoa Powder

2 teaspoons Baking Soda

5 Ounces Finely Chopped Good quality Dark Chocolate bars

1 cup Peanut Butter

1 teaspoon of vanilla

Directions:

In a large bowl, or kitchen aid mixer, cream the butter, brown sugar, vanilla and eggs. You will know when it is done because the mixture will be fluffy and airy.

Next add in baking soda, gluten free flour, and cocoa powder until combine. Add in your peanut butter and chopped chocolate.

Cover the dough with airtight seal, such as plastic wrap or a container. Let sit in fridge for 1 hour or up to the next day.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with Parchment paper. Place about one tablespoon of dough onto the baking sheet.

Bake for 10-12 min, turning your cookie sheet halfway through bake time.

 

To make the Ice Cream Sandwich:

½ pint or pint of vanilla bean ice cream(make your own, or choose your favorite store bought)

6-12 gluten free chocolate peanut butter cookies

Spoons

Ice cream scoop

Take your cooled cookies facing down, spread ice cream layer on each side. Then smash together. Cover with plastic wrap and store in freezer. Repeat until all the cookies are gone!

 




Hipster Affogato Recipe : Coffee with Ice Cream, Nicole Lee



Some may say my obsession with Coffee is only because I am a millennial. Or I’m a hipster. All we do is sit in coffee shops and waste away our days. Now I think people have our generation all wrong, we appreciate things, where they came from, how they are made, how they taste so on. We want to slow down and take in life and not let it pass us by. 

I would also politely disagree that my obsession with coffee began when I was a young girl. My Italian Heritage didn’t spare me that, growing up around the kitchen table coffee was served morning noon and night. Fresh espresso, served straight up, with desserts to follow. Usually my mother would give my sister and I a cup filled with milk and a splash of coffee in it. I was probably 7. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. As I got older my passion for coffee grew stronger, I feel deeply in love with coffee, the way the beans were roasted, the process of making a French press, how some blends tasted different than others. I learned how Folgers coffee is in fact different than fresh roasted beans! If you cant tell I am sorry for your palate.  Naturally I spent most of my teens, into adulthood working at coffee shops.  (I am pure dork for sure).

As of late I have been on the hunt for a new local coffee spot here in Arizona, Starbucks has me thoroughly disappointed because although I understand what Howard Shultz is doing for his business I feel that’s it is becoming more like McDonalds. He is killing me.

Recently I found, Cartel Coffee Lab, which is of course filled with hipsters and even I feel out of place when I first stepped in. It wasn’t until I got some guts and asked the girl taking my order how to make my shots of espresso not taste so acid? She told me how to order my drink, gave me some knowledge, (which was great, my drink was perfect. I was hooked! Now, I spend my days contemplating driving a half hour each way to get my fix? Worth, it? Yes. I promise. Anyway I am really off on a tangent, you have probably skipped over to the photos by now. (I don’t blame you; I’m joking if you can’t tell.)

When I am not out enjoying a coffee, I have been making a lot of coffee at home. French press of course, (note to self: I need to invest in a pour over).  Occasionally I will add in some of my vanilla bean ice cream to change things up, it’s so good.

Some refer to this as an Affogato (“Drowned”) the Italian term.

You take a scoop of vanilla ice cream or gelato and place it in the cup, and pour a shot of hot espresso over it (espresso not expresso!).  If you don’t have espresso you can just use a French press. I thought I would share a simple recipe and some images I took to inspire you to make your own Affogto at home! It will change your world.



To make a simple Affogato:

Ingredients:

-French Press coffee maker; pour over coffee maker, or Stovetop Espresso maker works great. If you are privileged enough and have a fancy set up that works well too.

-Fresh ground coffee beans, Espresso blend, or your favorite brew. (The stronger the better in my opinion)

- Vanilla ice Cream (dairy free, or regular works either or)

- Boiled water

-Espresso cups (these are smaller than regular coffee cups because of the portions) you wont be making a huge cup of coffee here, think portion control at its finest)

Directions:

-French Press: You would take 2 tablespoons of ground coffee beans and place in the bottom of your press, once the water is boiled pour on top of the grounds fill with water to the fill line. Set the lid on top without pressing it down. Set timer for 4 min, once it goes off, push down your press and its done.

-Stovetop Espresso Maker – this is a two-part contraption depending on your model. Take it apart; fill the bottom half with water. Then there should be a little basket fill that with ground espresso beans, leave a little room because you will be screwing it back together. Then place on the stovetop and put the maker on high heat, once it starts boiling and whistling the coffee is done.

(Also see your user manual it will give you proper instructions)

Then get your ice cream fill the espresso cup with a scoop of ice cream, pour over the hot espresso and serve immediately!

Enjoy!   

-Cheers, - N

 






Works sited :

An Affogato (Italian, "drowned") is a coffee-based dessert. It usually takes the form of a scoop of vanilla gelato or ice cream topped with a shot of hot espresso

Starbucks : 

Folgers

Cartel Coffee

Espresso maker 

Pour Over

French press