We spend A LOT of obsessive time doing research for various products we’d like to buy or to add to our wish list, recipes we’d like to try, photos we’d like to take, software we’d like to use etc. So, after hours and hours of research, we thought it would be helpful to create a resource page that you can come to for all your cooking, (food) blogging, photography and small business needs. We’ll add to it as we inevitably learn more and more, so stay tuned for updates.
FYI, we are an affiliate of some of the below links. However, all these suggestions are based on our experience and extensive research. Basically, when I buy products, these are what I buy (or put on my wish list).
The Cream Of The Crop
Bluehost: We have used quite a few hosts over the years and we wish we had started with Bluehost. It has easy WordPress installation, good customer service, it’s affordable and a good starting point. If you are looking to host your small site or start one from scratch, this is a good way to go. They also offer free domain registration with year long hosting terms. We currently use bluehost for everything that isn’t on WPEngine.
WPEngine: We have used WPEngine in the past and highly recommend them. The cost can be a little prohibitive, but the support is great and they are experts in WordPress. This is a really good hands-off approach (i.e. no messing around with cpanel, etc.).
Thesis Theme: We used to customize our own stuff and always had trouble getting the site exactly like we wanted. After a lot of research and recommendations, we finely gave Thesis a try. Once you get the hang of it, man it’s awesome. Makes things way easier. This was one of those items were I couldn’t believe we didn’t buy it earlier because it saved us so much time.
Aweber: We have used Aweber and MailChimp. We like both of them. Aweber is a little cheaper for us hence why we are switching to Aweber. We have used the autoresponder functionality quite a bit in the past. More on this topic in the How To Start A Food Blog category.
Market Samurai: We have used Market Samurai for a few years its great for finding ideas for posts, titles of posts and the level of SEO competition of certain keywords. Keep your eye our for future tips on SEO and Market Samurai tutorials.
How To Start A Food Blog: This is the series we have been working on for How To Start A Food Blog. More to come.
Carbonite: Dustin has been using Carbonite for years now to back everything up. We have it on all the computers we use regularly. It makes having to recover any images or files super easy.
Cooking Can Be Easy: An easy-to-use cookbook that can help you make wonderful food from scratch or take your existing cooking to the next level. We included over a hundred Sweet Pea Chef recipes, tons of photos, useful tips and tricks and so much more!
Photography Fundamentals: If you’re looking to improve your skills or to learn the basics of photography, we recommend checking this ebook out. This ebook contains easy-to-follow and understand photography definitions with sample images to help you become comfortable with the fundamentals.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5: Lightroom is an essential photo editing tool for any photographer at any skill level. It’s used by professionals and amateurs alike and is one amazingly powerful tool. You can do all the basic editing functions like cropping, changing from color to black and white, enhancing colors, etc. PLUS you can add watermarks, change your white balance, hues and saturation levels, fix blemishes, organize your photos and so, so much more. It is definitely worth the money.
Nikon D610: This is the new Camera that Lacey just got. She started with the Nikon D60 and moved up to this one. She loves the feel of it and it has improved her photos tremendously. If you’re looking to up your photographic capabilities and are no longer a beginner, this is a great camera.
Nikon 50mm Lens: Lacey has always struggled with lighting and focus in her shots. This fixed lens fixed so many of her issues that she doesn’t even have to worry about it anymore. This is one great camera lens for shooting food photography and portraits alike. Highly recommend!
Nikon D60: This is the camera Lacey used to start photographing food, little ones and our life way back before she started the blog. It is a great DSLR. We happen to be partial to Nikons, but Canons are really good DSLRs as well. The Nikon D60 is a user- friendly, starter DSLR and is easy to get the hang of. Dustin now uses this camera since Lacey has the D610. :).
Nikon 55-200mm Nikkor Lens: No, this is not a crazy expensive, phenomenal lens Lacey bought especially for food photography. Rather, this is the lens that came with her Nikon D60. For coming with the camera and for being a relatively inexpensive telephoto zoom lens, this lens is pretty darn good. This is the lens she used to use for her food shots but has been replaced by the fixed 50mm lens (mentioned above).
Nikon 18-55mm Nikkor Lens: This is the lens we can use to get a nice close, but not too close, shot of food. This is another good deal of a lens, as it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to own.
32 GB Memory Card: Having a good memory card is a must for any photographer. In the Nikon D610, you can actually store two memory cards. We usually keep a few of memory cards handy as back ups just in case we fill up. When choosing one of these, you want one with a good read/write speed as well for faster shot to shot performance.
Replacement Battery: It’s always handy to have an extra battery when on a photo shoot. The last thing you want is to run out of battery.
Le Creuset 5 1/2 Quart Round Dutch Oven:Le Creuset makes good quality, last-you-forever, beautifully- constructed pieces of kitchen equipment. The Dutch oven, in particular, is my favorite. Dutch ovens are great for making soups and stews, braising meats, making roasts, etc. You really get what you pay for with Le Creuset. Plus they are oh-so-pretty.
Wüsthof Classic 8-Inch Cook’s Knife: Having a good chef knife in your kitchen is like having milk in your cereal. You just need it. I’m speaking from experience here. I used what I thought were “decent” knives for years before I took a knife handling class and discovered the beauty that is a good, sharp chef’s knife. This is the one I use and I love it. And I may get super possessive and protective of it in my kitchen when others are around. Just saying.
Wüsthof Classic 3.5 Inch Paring Knife: I believe all you really need in the kitchen for knives is a good chef’s knife and a good paring knife. This is the paring knife I use and it is great. The rule is to use a paring knife on anything smaller than a tomato and a chef’s knife for anything larger than a tomato. Done.
Calphalon Simply Nonstick Cookware: I am a big fan of Calphalon cookware. Great quality AND a lifetime warranty? I have actually sent a few pots and pans back after several years of use and they have been replaced without any questions. The durability and quality of Calphalon is hard to beat.
Cuisinart SmartStick Stainless Steel Hand Blender: This little tool is pretty awesome. Gone are the days of scooping out soup, ladle by ladle, into the food processor in order to blend it together. Instead, just blend your soup in the pot you cooked it in. Amazing, right? I have also used this to make whipped cream, lattes, fantastic salad dressings, honey butter and hollandaise sauce. It will revolutionize how you blend, whip and mix foods. Plus, it has a very reasonable price tag.
WordPress: This is the #1 Blog publishing platform. WordPress is free (which is awesome) and is easily customizable. I have also been told they have wonderful support, but I have yet to need any. My blog uses WordPress.
Google Analytics: Google provides a FREE website tracking and analytical tool. This program is wonderful and extremely useful for anyone with a website. Google Analytics allows you to track and monitor traffic to your site, bounce rate, length of time visitors stay on your site, and much more. It’s pretty awesome. Though, if you’re anything like me, you will obsessively check your data.