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recipe for sun dried tomato dip


sun-dried tomato dip via lensandladle.com


A few months ago  I came across a foodie service on the internet, knoshbox.com and with their tagline, “Discover the best new foods delivered right to your door,” they certainly had this foodie intrigued.

Food delivery services are nothing new. When my son was just a lil’ guy, I preferred to order my groceries online. Once a week, the van would pull up and as the driver would bring in the bins, my son would search through them looking for his favorites (peanut butter blah blah, crackers/cookies, and nanas). This approach to keeping the family fridge full was a lot easier for me to deal with than at the store, where my pint-size grocery monitor would toss food items out of the cart he didn’t like, and while in the checkout line I would discover boxes of animal crackers and other food stuffs that had mysteriously found their way in to the cart.

But knoshbox isn’t groceries… it’s grown-up goodness! A generous-sized box, filled with a variety of delicious treats that are handpicked each month… sometimes based upon a theme, and sometimes not. I signed up just in time to receive the February Romance box that included food items for a romantic date night.


knoshbox via lensandladle.com


I’ve never used sun dried tomatoes in a recipe before, and fortunately the good folks at knoshbox included a recipe for Sun Dried Tomato Dip. After I made the dip and it was in the refrigerator chilling, I sliced a baguette on the diagonal, placed the slices on a baking sheet and brushed them with extra virgin olive oil. Fleur de sel was lightly sprinkled on each slice and they were baked in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 7 minutes. After the slices had cooled for 5 minutes or so, I generously spread some of the dip on each one, and topped them off with a thin slice of the sun-dried tomatoes.  Oh my… california sunshine in every bite!


baguettes with sun dried tomato dip via lensandladle.com


recipe for sun dried tomato dip

perfect served as appetizers for summer entertaining and pair well with a chilled bottle of sauvignon blanc or pinot gris


  • 1/3 cup (3 oz) sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • low fat cream cheese (8 oz package), at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste


    for the dip
  1. In a food processor, blend all ingredients until smooth. Transfer mixture to a serving bowl and refrigerate for 2-3 hours (best if overnight). Serve chilled as a dip with crackers or spread the dip on toasts and top each with a thinly sliced piece of sun-dried tomato.
  2. toasted baguettes
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F Slice a baguette on the diagonal and place slices on a baking sheet. Brush lightly with extra virgin olive oil and add a few sprinkles of fleur de sel to each slice. Bake 5-7 minutes, or until lightly crisped. Transfer from baking rack to a serving tray and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  4. assembly
  5. Spread a generous amount of sun dried tomato dip on each toasted baguette slice and top with fresh basil and a slice of sun-dried tomato.


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tomatoes and bacon oh my…

california blt sandwich ingredients via lens and ladle.com


This morning I took advantage of the cool weather and headed off to the farmer’s market in search of my favorite summertime fruit. No, not for strawberries or the variety of stone fruits which are so abundant right now, nor for the figs which are beginning to make their appearance, but rather… heirloom tomatoes.  Having tasted my first one a few years ago and after what seems like a bazillion caprese salads later, I now eagerly anticipate the first crop of the season with as much enthusiasm as a child on Christmas morning.  As I wound my way through the market, I was pleasantly surprised to discover almost every veggie vendor had an abundance of them on display and available for my culinary pleasure.


heirloom tomatoes at farmer

If I were to ever have an addiction, it would be for the contents of these baskets of sun-ripened goodness.  As I pop them into my mouth one after the other, tasting the tangy, sweet juices as they burst through their taut skins, I can’t help myself. They are my guilty pleasure… garden crack so to speak, and I simply can’t get enough of ’em!


heirloom tomatoes via lensandladle.com

I selected four beauties with the intention of adding some basil from my garden along with a few slices of buffalo mozzarella and with little effort, a delicious lunch would soon be on the table.

After arriving home I had some time to kill before lunch, and as I was reading through all the restaurant postings I follow on Facebook, I came across a status update by Sacramento Bacon Fest and learned that it is BLT week in Sacramento.  From July 15th through the 21st, the iconic sandwich is featured in restaurants all around the city. The area chefs use locally sourced ingredients when constructing their signature sandwiches and while one restaurant speciality has braised pork belly, cherry tomato mostarda, sunflower sprouts,  smoked bacon aioli on grilled pugliese, another is comprised of layers of applewood smoked bacon, heirloom tomatoes, fried onions, basil, mache, alfalfa, and chive mayo, and yet another tempts my taste buds with thick slices of braised applewood bacon, fried pickled green tomatoes, mixed greens and a spicy bleu cheese aioli!

Bacon… how I luv the stuff although now being somewhat health and diet conscious, I only eat it once in a while and prefer to buy bacon that is uncured and nitrate free. But I digress which shouldn’t be done when discussing bacon.  So I’m back to thinking about all things bacon and I recall a scene from the movie “grumpier old men” which my daughter and I would imitate and laugh till we had tears in our eyes, as we cooked up our own “bacon… a whole damn plate!” for many a breakfast.



So with all these thoughts of bacon and inspired by BLT week, I set out to create my favorite of all sandwiches. Fortunately I had all the ingredients on hand and as I sliced the tomatoes and avocado, the heady aroma of bacon roasting in the oven began to spread throughout the kitchen.  breathe in, breathe out, breath in, breathe out.


bibb lettuce via lensandladle.com

While other varieties of lettuce offer up the delightful crunch in salads, the tender bibb lettuce leaves are the perfect accompaniment to the texture of the heirloom tomatoes and avocado, and offset the chewy pull of the bacon and slight crisp of the lightly toasted bread.


haas avocadoes via lensandladle.com
and a california blt just isn’t the same without slices of ripe avocado…


california blt sandwich via lensandladle.com

lightly toasted whole grain bread, layered with light mayo, two generous slices of heirloom tomato, oven-roasted applewood smoked (uncured!) bacon… and on the flip side, another slice of lightly toasted whole grain bread, layered with light mayo, a few leaves of bibb lettuce, a generous layer of alfalfa sprouts, and a trio of ripe avocado slices.


california blt sandwich via lensandladle.comnom, nom, nom!!!


california blt

serving size: servings: 2 sandwiches

california blt


  • 6-8 thick-cut slices smoked bacon
  • 4 slices wheat or white bread
  • 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 4 to 8 tender green lettuce leaves (recommend bibb)
  • 1 ripe Hass avocado
  • 1/2 cup of alfalfa sprouts (optional)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1-2 ripe tomates, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. To roast the bacon:
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. Place a wire rack on a sheet pan and arrange the bacon on the rack in a single layer. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until the bacon is browned and crisp. Remove tray from oven and place bacon on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Set aside.
  4. Remove the lettuce leaves from the core, rinse and pat dry.
  5. Half the avocado and remove pit. In each half, cut 1/2-inch slices and remove each slice from peel. Discard peels. Place slices in a bowl and gently toss with the lemon juice.
  6. Toast the bread in a toaster and when done, place on a cutting board. Spread each slice of toast with 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise.
  7. Assemble the sandwiches:
  8. To one slice of toast, add a layer of 2 to 3 lettuce leaves overlapping each leaf and place 2 tomato slices side by side atop the lettuce. Spread 1/4 cup of the sprouts over the tomatoes and place 3 to 4 avocado slices side by side. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place 3-4 slices of bacon on top of the avocado layer. Place slice of toast with mayonnaise side down on the sandwich. Cut in half and serve.

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Shannon - July 18, 2013 - 8:22 am

Hi Aunt Stephanie! The BLTs looked REALLY good! Luv you!

Stephanie - July 18, 2013 - 9:40 am

Hello Shannon. Thank you for your sweet comment — you made my day! I luv you too and am sending big huuuuuuugs your way!

Mother - July 18, 2013 - 11:35 am

Wow, what a testimonial to make anyone’s mouth water! My daughter, me thinks you should have written books…you have such a gift!

i sold my stuff… lots and lots of stuff

A few weeks ago, my son and I moved to a new home and began a new chapter in our lives. Within two weeks, of moving, everything was in its place, all the pictures were hung and we celebrated our new beginning with family and friends.

Much to my chagrin however, was our 2-car garage packed to the rafters with stuff… boxes and boxes stacked from floor to ceiling that included every stitch of clothing my son had worn over the past 8 years, school artwork, progress reports, family photographs — framed and unframed, toys my children played with when they were babies, clothes my children wore when they were babies, clothes i wore when i was a baby, holiday decorations, in-line skates my son had skated round miles and miles of a skate park but now no longer fit him, a tennis racket that hasn’t hit a ball since the 90’s, snow skis that haven’t skimmed along powder since ’05, two mountain bikes with airless tires but the promise of adventure, two beach cruisers whose beach luvin’ riders are currently land-locked, and on and on. I looked around at the boxes and things that made up so many memories, turned off the light and quietly closed the door.

The next day a miracle came in the form of a notice taped to my front door announcing a neighborhood garage sale that would be taking place this coming weekend. Oh my gosh. An opportunity to get rid of all this stuff and have a place for my car to call home. I was on a mission and over the next week I unpacked so many boxes that I lost count.

I went through the 10 boxes I’d stashed away over the years containing my son’s clothing… everything from his little league baseball jerseys, school p.e. clothes (thank goodness they were laundered!), lil boy boxer shorts (really?), and the tiniest of ski gloves he wore when he was first learning to ski. I put the “keepers” in a single box and set them aside and the contents of the other 9 boxes were to be sold.

I went through boxes of children’s books and toys keeping the “lil people” farm and town that had spurned hours of imagination, the thomas the tank engine my son clickety clacked, clickety clacked around and around the track, chew toys that helped ease the pain of budding new teeth and books that by simply glancing at the title, brought back wondrous memories of rock-a-bye sleepy times and “mommy, I can read this one all by myself now!”  There were boxes of games and puzzles, some worn from endless play and replay and others with the store packaging still embracing the contents. A box discovered of long forgotten small kitchen appliances that hadn’t blended a smoothie or grilled a hot dog in ages, cameras bought on vacation and never shot again, all set aside for hopeful new homes.

The day of the garage sale, it was a lovely morning, cool and breezy with the sun shining bright. We watched as car after car drove up to our home, some more eager than others choosing to park right in the middle of the street (seriously!), and we sat watching in amazement as they meandered through the maze of boxes spilling over with clothing, toys, stuffed animals, books, cd’s, dvds, games, puzzles, and even a box containing vhs tapes marked as “$5 and the whole box is yours!”

I decided to have a lil’ fun and started offering things for free. I had a holiday decoration I’d received from a friend long ago and was never quite sure what it was for. I stuck a post-it note on it that said “free”  and placed it on a table where it was more visible. Within 5 minutes, a woman picked it up and asked, “is this for a candle?”  Since I had no idea, I replied, “sure!” and she gave me a big smile, said “and it’s free?”  me, “yep!” and off she went with her new found treasure.

After a few hours, I decided to put out the first dslr camera I had purchased and used when I was a youth sports photographer. It was a 2nd year Canon Rebel and I loved that camera. After buying my next “big girl” camera, my son would accompany me on shoots and the rebel became his to use. Several people looked at the camera but were turned away by the price I was asking. I had most likely subconsciously priced it a bit high because I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to sell it, but I left it on the table to see if it would get any more bites. Shortly, an elderly couple came and the woman was looking around for things to buy for her grandchildren and the gentleman spied the camera. He picked it up, and just by the way he held it, I could tell he wanted it. He asked me how much and I told him the price, and he said, “oh no too much.” He then went to seek out his wife and I saw him chatting with her and then he found his way back to the camera. I showed him the two lenses I was offering with it, and walked him through how the camera worked, even taking a shot of him. Once he saw the picture, he was very excited and said it would be the best camera he’d ever had. I negotiated with him a bit, we settled on a fair price and he went to talk it over with his wife. As I was tucking the camera back into the case, I was flooded with emotion that I didn’t expect. The memories of some of the shots I’d taken over the years, including the many of my son as he played soccer and little league, but the most vivid was of him with the rebel around his neck shooting the kids as they ran by him on the soccer field and exclaiming to me, “did you see me get the shot mom?”  The man handed me the money for the camera, and when I saw the excitement in his eyes, I knew I’d made a good choice. He proudly put the camera bag on his shoulder, said “thank you very, very, much”  and off he went along with my memories and to capture some of his own.

After the last car pulled away, my son and I decided to call it a day and as we packed up the few items left unsold, he suggested we donate them to our church where they will be distributed to homeless families.


Stephanie Salo photography

This photograph of my children taken 10 years ago, is one of the first shots I took with the rebel and after seeing this image, I knew I wanted to be a professional photographer.


On this Mother’s Day, my 27th year of being a mother, I’ve come to the realization that it’s not about all the stuff accumulated over the years  — holding on to it for the fear of losing the memories that are intertwined with each item of clothing, book, toy or souvenir from far away bango bango.  I’ll always have the memories to cherish. And now as I look upon our newly organized garage, my car gleaming in its new home, I turn off the light, quietly close the door, feeling a sense of freedom I’ve not felt in a long, long time and know that it’s okay to move on…

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sarah - May 12, 2013 - 8:25 pm

A perfect story for mother’s day. Thank you for sharing!

new work for earth & vine provisions

Earth & Vine Provisions recently re-designed their packaging and I was thrilled when their taste creator extraordinaire Tressa Cooper contacted me to photograph their new line of mustard and cocktail mixer provisions. I met Tressa at the 2011 Winter Fancy Food show and after tasting her award-winning mustards, jams and sauces, I’ve been a fan ever since.


earth & vine provisions, mediterranean martini via lensandladle.com

mediterranean martini garnished with fresh basil and meyer lemon slice


Earth & Vine Provisions, beer, pretzels and mustard via lensandladle.com

beer, pretzels and tasty mustards…


The aroma of opened jars of mustards in the studio was simply too much for this mustard fan, and after a few finger dips in between shots, I quickly determined my favorite to be the lemon dill.  I add a teaspoon to lemon/caper sauce and drizzle it over sauteed chicken breasts, slather a generous portion on one side of a blat (bacon lettuce avocado tomato) sandwich as a delicious and healthy alternative to mayo,  and I can’t wait to whisk some in to my next vinaigrette.


Earth & Vine Provisons, ciabatta sandwiches via lensandladle.com

open-faced sandwiches for a quick and tasty lunch or snack option… cut ciabatta bread in 1/2 inch slices, lightly brush both sides with extra virgin olive oil and grill each side until lightly toasted. Spread with your favorite mustard and top with thinly sliced prosciutto, havarti or fontina cheese, arugula, sliced pickled peppers, fresh dill or any combination of goodies. But don’t forget the mustard — it’s what makes it sooooo YUM!!!


and now for my favorite part… the cocktails!!!

Earth & Vine Provisions, mediterranean martini via lensandladle.com

mediterranean martini garnished with meyer lemon and fresh basil


Over the next few weeks, I’ll be featuring a different recipe for the cocktail mixers, there are 6 of them!  More recipes for the mustards and other provisions can be found on the Earth & Vine Provisions website.


mediterranean martini

recipe by tressa cooper, taste creator at Earth & Vine Provisions


  • 2 ounces Earth & Vine California Meyer Lemon Mandarin Cocktail Mixer
  • 1.5 ounces vodka
  • 4-5 fresh basil leaves
  • crushed ice


  1. Add cocktail mixer and basil leaves to a cocktail shaker. With a wooden spoon or fruit muddler, gently "crush" basil leaves. Add vodka and crushed ice to shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and a meyer lemon slice. Cheers!

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