Family Food Photography in Oakland

By on Nov 22, 2013 in East Bay, Family, Food photography, Leena Eats, Leena Lives Life, Oakland, Pho, Pizza, The Gastronomical Leena | 0 comments

Food photography and family portraits don’t typically go together, and they sure as hell aren’t the most searched terms on Google. But if food is your life and you have a family, eating together is probably the one time that your family is the most themselves, the most comfortable. Capturing those moments on film are a no brainer for this food writer, and I have been incredibly lucky to stumble across an incredibly talented food and family photographer in Oakland. Guys, meet Mark Estes of Mark Estes Photography. We’ve been working with Mark for two years now, and he has been amazing. He is creative, fun, and always willing to tackle unique shooting locations. The shot above was done at a local pizza joint called Slicer, which just so happened to be empty on the day/time we went, and had perfect lighting. The pizza shop is the first venture for chef Colin Etezadi, who...

Gastro Fridays: Gotta Teach Them Young!

By on Oct 18, 2013 in Gastro Fridays, Leena Cooks, The Gastronomical Leena, With kids | 0 comments


Gastro Fridays: The great pb & j debate

By on Oct 11, 2013 in Essays, Gastro Fridays, The Gastronomical Leena | 0 comments

I love the tv show Parenthood. So funny, so true, so perfectly awkward at times and heart-wrenching at others. I was watching the season premiere a few weeks back, and a scene between Crosby and Jasmine (who had just had their second child) was so interesting it ACTUALLY grabbed my attention away from online clothes shopping. Spoiler alert: it has to do with food! So there they were, parents of a newborn, exhausted, cranky and ready to bite each other’s heads off, when Crosby started making Jasmine a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Because he burned the toasted bread, Jasmine’s faith in Crobsy’s pb&j skills was clearly shaken (gotta love those post birth hormones!). She gave Crosby strict instructions on how she preferred her peanut butter to be smoothly spread on the bread, not lumpy. Of course, this caused a fight, because which severely sleep-deprived person...

Leena Cooks: Pizza with her toddler!

By on Aug 12, 2013 in Leena Cooks, Pizza, Recipes | 0 comments

So forever and a day ago, back in 2009 to be exact, I took my childless ass up to Wisconsin to hang out with a college friend and teach her kids (then 2 & 3) to make pizza from scratch. The post was mainly photos, but it gave me first hand experience trying to “cook” with toddlers. Fast forward to today, where it was time to get my own two year old in the kitchen cooking (mainly to keep her busy while making dinner. And because watching another episode of Caillou or Dora the Explorer would make me puke). This time, I’m including my favorite pizza dough recipe so you can try it for yourself. Photos and the recipe after the jump! But just for you? A sneak preview of the cuteness you are in for: So “cooking” with toddlers really means you cook and prep all the ingredients you need BEFORE the toddler gets involved. Otherwise you’ll be cleaning flour...

Leena Cooks: Dudhi Hulva

By on Aug 8, 2013 in Indian Food, Leena Cooks, Recipes, Spices, Sweet treats, The Gastronomical Leena, Vegetables | 0 comments

It’s no secret that even though I am half Indian, it took me a hot minute to actually enjoy eating Indian food (SO thankful I am out of that stage!). But like any sugar-addicted kid, Indian sweets were another story. They were my jam as a kid, pretty much the only thing I would eat regardless of their contents. And let me tell you, my Lila Khaki and Rajni Khaki (aunts for you non-dots) can cook up a STORM of Indian sweets. The colors are so fun–white and pink color block, pastel green, sometimes edible foil, a super-fun looking treat for kids. Funny story–both of my Khakis came to visit me for one of my birthdays, somewhere around age 10 or 11. My dad told them I really liked the Indian dessert gulab jamun (deep fried dumplings soaked in rose water syrup), which I did. He neglected to tell them that since they are basically donuts soaked in syrup, I could barely put...

Leena Eats: Swanton Berry Farm for Strawberry Picking!

By on Jul 10, 2013 in California, Leena Eats | 0 comments

In May 2012, I happened to be reading a copy of Saveur magazine, and I came across the tiniest article about supposedly the best strawberries in the country, which were located on an organic farm by the ocean around two hours south of where I lived. This article waxed poetic about how fragrant the berries were, how plump, and how beautifully red inside these berries were, pretty much the strawberry you dream about every year but never seem to get anymore. Food porn is my kryptonite, so I decided to plan a Father’s Day trip with my husband and my newly walking 1 year old daughter. That first year, the berries were big and plump, but it was MUCH windier than we anticipated being next to the ocean, and it was pretty much in the middle of nowhere, so no food places nearby. The smart berry pickers packed a picnic or bbq lunch to eat after picking, and we vowed to come back again and...

Leena Cooks and Bakes: Ella’s 2nd Birthday Party!

By on May 28, 2013 in Cookies, Cupcakes, Desserts, Fruit, Leena Bakes, Leena Cooks, Meat, Pickles, Recipes | 0 comments

I can hardly believe that my baby, my first kid, my Ella has finally turned two. Except when she pitches the LOUDEST FIT EVER because I won’t let her do something obviously fun, like drive the car home from the grocery store or poke the cat with a stick like a pinata. Then I am pretty certain she is two. As much as I didn’t want Ella to become obsessed with licensed characters at an early age, somehow, probably during a road trip or a morning when I was sick on the couch, she discovered Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and of course, the infamous Minnie. The obsession came fast and fierce, and when I stumbled across a dress that looked exactly like a Minnie Mouse knock-off at Old Navy (aka–affordable!), I knew I had found her birthday party theme. In December. 5 months BEFORE her party. Some of my fellow mom friends thought I was being quite ambitious, starting party planning...

Leena Cans: Giardiniera for Ella’s Birthday!

By on May 15, 2013 in Canning, Leena Cooks, Pickles, Recipes, vegetable | 0 comments

Life has been a blur, friends. I have hardly had time to document, let alone blog about my culinary adventures! I have been canning up pickles galore for my daughter’s second birthday party picnic (garlic dill asparagus and pickled carrots to name a few). And having a two year old is trying wonderful and impossible a joy to can around. “What you doin, Mommy?” is both adorable and just an innocent question…the first two times it is asked. The next 37 time sort of make me want to stuff her adorableness into a mason jar, water bath can her and not open until her 18th birthday. So. Her birthday has a picnic theme because I’d rather cook my ass off BEFORE the party, not the day of, nor do I want to deal with utensils. The adults are getting a muffaletta sandwich, which is a popular New Orleans sandwich that basically consists of Italian cold cuts (I’m...