Today’s Foodie Friend is Bella from the beautiful blog, Ful-filled! She and her husband run the blog, along with their electrical business in Northern California. She’s a real food advocate, creative cook, and talented photographer. When she’s not busy developing delicious recipes in her kitchen, you may find her at the park playing with her dogs or out foraging for unclaimed fruit in her neighborhood. Today, Bella’s sharing tips on photography, her favorite tools for editing, and some popular recipes from her blog. Let’s get to know more about her!
Tell us a little about yourself, Bella—
Hi everyone! I’m Bella! I live in Northern California with my hubby & our two dogs in the home that belonged to my hubby’s yiayia (grandmother). We have our own electrical business and we get to work together solving people’s electrical problems. When we aren’t doing electrical, we are typically spending time with our dogs or working on our blog Ful-filled.
How long have you had your blog and what made you begin blogging?
We started Ful-filled just over a year ago. The inspiration to start our blog came from several different things. My journey with food has been quite complicated. When I first started learning about the modern day food system I became extremely discouraged to realize just how far we had gotten from how things were intended to be. Food additives, factory farms, mono-crops, pesticides, etc. —the facts were overwhelming and I would say that as I started searching for ‘the perfect way of eating’ I was absolutely distracted and deceived along the way. Jumping into one ‘food box’ after the other left me totally lost and my hubby really frustrated. He has always been a much more steady grounded person than me. His opposition to me constantly re-calibrating our ‘food beliefs’ played a pivotal role in making me accept the fact that I didn’t know everything.
Long story short, together we reached a point that we were going to just eat real food. This meant getting out of my head and learning to trust my own body. Our bodies know what they need, we just need to quiet down so that we can respond to their needs. At this point in our journey, my hubby kept saying that we should write a cookbook so that we could share what we create in our kitchen with the world. Both of us love food and cooking and I had been a long time reader of food blogs. We had never considered having a food blog ourselves, but there came a day when I realized that the path to sharing our cooking with the world wouldn’t be though a cookbook, we were supposed to start a food blog! Coming up with a name for our food blog was not so easy because everything we thought of was already taken! One evening I was walking into our kitchen and I heard the word “ful-filled” (not audibly, but within my soul). I immediately looked up the definition and we knew that ‘ful-filled’ would be the name of our food blog and that domain name just happened to be available, so it was meant to be.
Anyone who scrolls through your blog or Instagram feed can quickly see that you are a gifted photographer. How did you learn photography?
I have always been artistic and expressing my creative side has manifested in many different ways throughout my life. As a child I loved to draw & color. As I grew older, I explored painting, architecture, interior design, and photography. I really got to advance my artistic ability when I was in high school, taking drawing, art & film photography. While I did well and even won some awards in art & photography shows, I never really understood what I was supposed to do with my creative talents. Fast forward to adulthood and while my career as an electrician has nothing to do with art, I have seen time and time again how my artistic talents have been an asset in my life. When we started the blog, we didn’t own a camera and it had actually been over 13 years since I had even picked up a camera. I had faith that through practice and dedication to continually study this new craft I was taking on, that it would all come together, and it has!
What kind of camera/equipment do you use? Do you have a special setup for your food photography?
For the blog, we use a Canon EOS Rebel T3i—after a lot of research we settled on this as the best DSLR camera for our budget. We decided when we started the Instagram for Ful-filled, that I would use my cell phone camera for all the images. The images you see on our Instagram were taken with my Samsung Galaxy S5 up until November 2015 and from then on the images have been shot with my Samsung Note 5. There is something about using a cell phone for Instagram that just sat well with us and most people cannot believe that our gallery was shot from a cell phone! My current photography set-up is beside a north facing window in our dining room. It has indirect light pretty much all day long and being adjacent to the kitchen makes it conveniently located as well (except for the fact that our dining room is basically always inundated with food photography props, etc.!)
Which part of blogging excites you most: the recipe development, the post writing, or the photography?
I have really come to enjoy every part of blogging. To be honest, I do struggle with each element at times though. Sometimes recipe development is a breeze, other times you have to make something several times before it turns out right and that can be really frustrating! But, when you have an idea for a recipe and it works, that is a very satisfying experience! Post writing is probably where I struggle the most. I have to be really inspired to create a dialogue or story that will be connected to whatever food I am sharing. There have been so many times that I sat down to write a post and I have had to walk away from the computer. I used to feel disappointed that I couldn’t easily churn something out, but I have come to appreciate that notion as a signal that I am not ready to produce quality content and I am okay with it.
When I wait for the inspiration to write, that is when I produce content that I feel good about because it came from my heart, not my head. Photography is probably the easiest part of blogging for me. There are times when I have to re-style things or change out backdrops, etc. to get the right look, but when I take photos it is like creating art. Whatever I have envisioned in my mind comes to life, gets captured and then I get to share it with the world. A recipe is represented by its imagery and I find deep pleasure in creating photos that express the essence of the food we love so much.
What are your favorite photo editing programs/apps?
Adobe Lightroom is my go to for photo editing the images we share on our blog. It has been really easy to learn and it has everything I need to accomplish our current needs. We are looking to start incorporating more video into our blogging, so we will be adding Premiere and Photoshop to our arsenal in the near future. Instagram photos taken from my phone are typically edited in the Instagram App.
Those who follow you on SnapChat know that you often go foraging through your neighborhood for fruits, herbs, etc. Can you share some tips on foraging etiquette and how to be sure that the foods you pick are safe to eat?
I am super passionate about urban foraging. We live in an older neighborhood that was established over 100 years ago, so many of the immigrants that settled here in Roseville, CA planted fruit trees in their yards. We literally never pay for lemons, oranges, plums, pomegranates, figs, quince, persimmons, grapes, and more! The number one thing to remember when urban foraging is to always ask before picking off of someone’s property. I have learned that while most of my neighbors do not harvest the fruit themselves, that they are happy to allow me to harvest it when I ask them. Imagine how you would feel if someone just walked into your front yard and started picking off your tree or vine…totally not cool, right? So, when you ask you are respecting your neighbors. And the worst that could happen is they could say no (and if that happens you just move on to a different neighbor!) As far as if the food you are picking is safe to eat, from my experience, urban fruit trees and vines that are unkept with their fruit going to waste have not been sprayed or treated and can basically be considered organic. You can always ask the owner if they apply sprays around the fruit trees or vines if you are really concerned.
You and a few other foodies host an event called The Farmstead Supper, where you invite people to gather around a beautiful meal and celebrate home grown food. Can you share a little more about what this is about and how it’s benefiting your local community? Will you be hosting another soon?
The Farmstead Supper was created out of our deep passion to inspire people to get re‐connected with their food. Our goal is to gather people from our community together to celebrate our local farmers and producers with a fine dining experience that gives back to our community. The attendees themselves leave inspired to perhaps start a garden, start shopping locally, or even commit to eating seasonally, but every event also benefits a local organization that is teaching future generations how to get back in touch with their food, so it is really a full circle experience. We are hoping to have another supper this year and if everything works out, it would take place in September.
For someone like me who does not have a green thumb but would like to grow my own garden, are there any plants that are easier to take care of that you would recommend for beginner gardeners?
I think herbs are a great place to start. They are easy to care for and when you grow them yourself you can pick however much you need whenever you need it—this way there is a lot less waste as well (most times I am cooking, I do not need an entire bunch of parsley for example) Anyone can have a green thumb, gardening is just like anything else in life, if you set your mind to being successful you will be! I spent a lot of time studying gardening, learning from books & the internet to get to where I am today. In our modern times, so many people have been disconnected from growing your own food, so while it may take some time to turn your black thumb into a green one, it is totally possible and so worth it!
If you could eat any meal from anywhere in the world what would it be?
Oh my goodness this is such a difficult question to answer! I love so many different foods, but if I had to have one meal it would be authentic Greek yogurt topped off with perfectly ripe figs. I know it doesn’t sound super exciting but figs are my absolute favorite food on earth! (I even have an entire board dedicated to them on Pinterest!)
You mention on your blog that you married into a Greek family. How has the Greek culture influenced the way you cook or the recipes you make?
Not being Greek and marrying into a very Greek family was pretty much exactly as it is expressed in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I was a total disappointment to my hubby’s parents. But because food plays such a huge role in the Greek culture, I took to learning how to cook like a Greek and my passion to become a part of my hubby’s culture was really pivotal in getting my in-laws to finally embrace me. I literally cooked my way into their hearts.The biggest influence Greek culture has had on my cooking is their use of fresh, in season ingredients.
Most Greek recipes are very simple, but the quality of the ingredients that they use makes the food taste spectacular. When my hubby took me to Greece for the first time it was a total culture shock to go to the market and only find produce that was currently in season. The choices were limited in comparison to what I was used to finding in American grocery stores, but the simplicity was refreshing and having less choices made me really take a deep look at our food system back at home in America. I feel like experiencing the Greek way of life really shaped who I am as a person and made me the kind of cook that I am today.
You share a lot of Asian‐inspired dishes on your Instagram as well. Do you also have a connection to or a passion for Asian cuisine?
Well, I fell in love with matcha & sushi while I was in high school and then I got to spend the summer after I graduated on the island of Oahu. While in Hawaii, I was immersed in the amazing Asian fusion food culture. Getting exposed to so many different types of Asian food was an incredibly eye opening experience that left a permanent influence on my palate.
What is one of your favorite recipes on Ful‐filled? Which is the most popular?
One of my favorite recipes on Ful-filled would have to be our recipe for Tzatziki, a Greek yogurt & cucumber sauce. Tzatziki is the first authentic Greek recipe that I learned to make and it was my father in law who taught me. This is a very emotional recipe for me, because it was while learning how to make this that I felt for the first time that I was accepted by my father-in-law. This recipe was the gateway into becoming a part of my hubby’s culture & his family, so this tzatziki will forever be incredibly special to me.
The most popular recipe on Ful-filled, by far, is our Matcha Milk Bread Turtles with Chocolate Dutch Crunch.They are probably the most adorable thing I have ever created and they are really tasty too! The inspiration came from a request by a Food52 editor for a matcha/dutch crunch creation in an article all about dutch crunch bread. I got to working on the challenge and ended up with these turtle rolls just in time for World Turtle Day! The timing was crazy perfect and it has been overwhelming to see how excited they have made people all over the world!
Thank you so much for sharing with us, Bella! For more information and to access her delicious recipes, visit her blog Ful-filled. You can also find her on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter. Get to know Bella behind the scenes and watch her forage for delicious fruits and veggies on SnapChat, username—ful-filled.
Previous Foodie Friends:
June 17, 2015—Monica from The Movement Menu!
June 10, 2015—Q&A with Me!
June 3, 2015—Allyson from Reclaiming Yesterday!
May 27, 2015—Aleyda from The Dish On Healthy!
May 20, 2016—Christine from Yommme!
May 13, 2016—Minna from Living Minnaly!