Hi! I’m Melissa.
I am currently blessed to be a stay-at-home mom to a curious, energetic preschooler and a beautiful, giggly toddler. We spend our days making art, cookies, Lego towers, and loud music! It’s a fun life.
Because I am at home all day, I am often able to prepare somewhat complicated dishes, the kinds of things that are normally reserved for weekends. What can I say? I like to try new things and eat good food.
But I have to tell you, my food style is a bit quirky. I am a proudly picky eater (why not own it?): I love veggies and fish and whole grains, dislike fried things, don’t eat land critters, and despise fruit. Yes, you read that last part correctly. And let’s be clear, my love for baking is exceeded only by my love for eating delicious desserts (of course, as long as they are not fruity).
I enjoy crafts and reading, I love to sing, I am annoyed by typos and whining, I hate the morning, and I am apathetic toward social media. My absolute favorite thing is to share delicious food with friends and family.
About the Blog
I started this blog in 2011 out of a love for baking and cooking—and a naïve overconfidence in my kitchen prowess. My husband, I’m sure, was grateful that I found another avenue to share all my thoughts on different types of cocoa powder and how potatoes don’t really count as a vegetable. The recipes here aren’t necessarily daring, but they aren’t ordinary, either. I hope there is something for everyone, whether you enjoy baking or just want to make a meatless meal.
So what will you find here? You will certainly find great desserts, although not as many as you might expect given the name Smells Like Brownies. The truth is, my nutritional philosophy is a moving target; I love chocolate intensely, but I want eat and write about dishes that do the body good, too, dishes that feature colorful, seasonal veggies, whole grains, and healthy proteins. Although I occasionally cook meat for family and friends, I am committed to blogging only about vegetarian and fish dishes here. I do not believe that butter is the enemy, and I do believe that eating very little refined sugar is ideal (but, erm…not always desirable).
When I first started writing this blog, my goal was to find the single, most perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe in the whole wide world, at which point I figured I could retire successfully. Since then, I have realized that there are dozens of amazing, different ways to make a chocolate chip cookie—or any type of food you please—and that variety is the spice of life! I have veered away from finding a “signature” dish to fit every mental category and instead am always looking to find new delicious things to love.
About the Photography
My approach in the early days of Smells Like Brownies could be summed up as “yummy but ugly.” I was cheered by the many brilliant bloggers who commented on the sorry state of their own early photos, and I decided to view this project as a sort of time capsule rather than waiting to post until I had developed actual photography skills.
Not that I have those, still.
But in the five years since I snapped my first shot, what I have learned is that it does matter whether you have a fancy camera. I am not talking top-of-the-line, thousands of dollars here; but if you want to take pretty photographs of food, you can’t be working with a dinky little rectangle you bought your junior year of college for $150 (that was oddly specific…). You need to have a DSLR camera, or at minimum, a camera that allows you to adjust the focus manually.
I have been using a low-end Cannon t3 Rebel since the end of 2012; my photos are in much better focus, and I find that I work harder to arrange the food in a pleasing way now that I have a “serious” camera. Styling is half the battle.
I have also learned a hard lesson: food is prettiest if you take your photos in natural light. For me, that means turning off all the ugly, yellow overhead lights and (usually) taking pictures of the final product on the coffee table in the living room or the island in the kitchen, the two spaces in our house that let in light from multiple windows. The natural light thing is probably the most frustrating aspect of writing a food blog, because it means that in the winter, I have to cook at lunchtime if I want to take a well lit photo. Blogging in the middle of the day when my kids want to play is not always practical or fun, and eating rewarmed dinner is not always ideal. So I sometimes must resort to using a flash, but always pointed toward the ceiling, away from the food. If you point your flash right at the food, the result will be discolored and reflective.
Finally, I have learned that the best way to improve your photography skills at home is to try to emulate photos you think are beautiful. I often do a quick Google search for foods I am preparing and see how other photographers have laid out the plate and composed the shot, and I go from there. This is still a skill-in-progress for me! The best thing I can recommend is to keep it simple and avoid shooting against a yellow-wood background.
If it comes down to it, I still believe that ugly is better than inedible, but I have learned that people eat first with their eyes—especially on a food blog. Food can be beautiful as well as tasty! I’ve come such a long way from the first blog entries—just take a stroll through the photographic Index and see!
As always, blogging is a journey. I am continually working to develop my skills as a food stylist, photographer, writer, and chef.
Here’s to making your house smell like brownies, too!