Archive | November, 2011

Wordless Wednesday- Fall!

Before heading out to the Denver airport on the way back home last weekend, my girls couldn’t help but take advantage of a big leaf pile.

Wordless Wednesday FALL

Yeah Fall!

Get Ready








getting leaves picked out of hair


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Sparkling-Spiced Cranberry Punch with Cranberry Ice Ring

Thanksgiving Recipes

What’s nice about my Thanksgiving cranberry punch recipe is that it can be made well in advance and stored for Thanksgiving Day as part of my Toni’s 12 Days of Thanksgiving.

thanksgiving cranberry punch


Sparkling-Spiced Cranberry Punch Recipe

Sparkling-Spiced Cranberry Punch with Cranberry Ice Ring

Sparkling-Spiced Cranberry Punch with Cranberry Ice Ring


  • cinnamon sticks, whole- 2
  • whole cloves, 1 tbspn
  • ground ginger, 1 tbspn
  • cranberry juice- 1 quart, chilled
  • lemon-lime soda- 1 liter, chilled


  1. Bring one quart of water to boil with cinnamon sticks, cloves and ginger (you can also put cloves in a tea steeper, or directly in water).
  2. Once boiling, reduce heat and let steep for an hour.
  3. Strain cinnamon sticks and cloves from the tea.
  4. Transfer tea to a container to chill in the refrigerator.
  5. Before serving, combine tea with juice and soda.
  6. Wait until just before guests arrive to place Cranberry Ice Ring.



Cranberry Ice Ring Recipe

You will want to make and freeze your Cranberry Ice Ring for your Sparkling-Spiced Cranberry Punch ahead of time and today is the perfect day to do it.

To make the ring, I use a plastic chip-and-dip server because it has the hole in the middle, like a bundt-cake pan.

Cranberry Ice Ring

Cranberry Ice Ring


  • frozen cranberry juice cocktail- 1 canister, thawed (you can also use bottled cranberry juice)
  • cranberries, fresh- 16 oz.
  • water- 2 cups


  1. Pour thawed juice into mold.
  2. Add water to about two inches below rim.
  3. Mix well.
  4. Add cranberries to float on top.
  5. Freeze.
  6. Wait until just before guests arrive to place in punch bowl.


Punch Bowls

You must have a punch bowl large enough to fit the ice ring in.  Here is a great suggestion at a great price:

Punch Bowl

Anchor Hocking Presence 18-Piece Punch Bowl Set with Ladle $35.74 (regular price $44.99)


 12 Days of Thanksgiving

For more Thanksgiving Holiday inspiration, visit Toni’s 12 Days of Thanksgiving:

Thanksgiving Decor

Toni’s 12 Days of Thanksgiving



Sparkling-Spiced Cranberry Punch with Cranberry Ice Ring






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Toni Spilsbury on ABC Denver 7: Thanksgiving Dinner Planning

Thank you Dayle Cedars at ABC’s Denver 7 for a fun discussion about planning the perfect Thanksgiving dinner.

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Recipe For A Great Food Photo

Food Photography

It’s been exactly a year since I began doing my own food photography.  So one year and one thousand food photos later I’ve discovered- through trial and error… and error- what works for me.

I’ll start first by saying that before November 2010 I was never interested in photography- neither as a hobby or professionally.  To be honest I never really gave it much thought.  I just grabbed my “point and shoot” and let it do all the work for me.

Now I’ve discovered that photography really is an art form.  And what I mean by this is that you really can see an individuals intimate style and inspiration through their photographs.  Now, I understand that many of you may be thinking “well, of course you can”.  However, I didn’t discover this until only recently.  I always only thought of photography from a technical aspect.

The Perfect Food Photo

I may not be able to speak too much about aperture, shutter speed or which mm lens to use for which photo, but I can tell you what has worked for me, especially when it comes to food preparation.  So here are my tips to creating The Perfect Food Photo:

  Tip 1:  Lighting

Lighting is obviously crucial for any photograph, but has the most impact on food’s taste appeal.  I’ve invested in a professional light box and umbrella photography lighting, and nothing- I mean nothing- compares to that diffused natural lighting you get at dusk and dawn.

Direct sunlight is too harsh and causes reflections on cookware and utensils, but that soft natural indirect light brings out all the taste appeal in your food photo.  Here is an example of dish I photographed in a professional light box and underneath that is a photo using natural indirect sunlight.

photo taken in a professional light box


photo taken with natural indirect sunlight


photo taken in direct sunlight

On days that I’m cooking and photographing I end up running around during that special hour at dusk to get all of my shots.  After a while you find certain areas that seem to get that perfect light, like the spot near my kitchen window that I know at exactly 6:23 is going to bring the most amazing lighting for my food, or the table outside in my meditation garden that at 6:43 will be even better.

And it’s truly amazing how trained your eye becomes after awhile and you can’t help but notice how certain lighting that makes even the most mundane thing look like a work of art to you.  One day I was cracking eggs to make a breakfast frittata and I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful they looked in the early morning light.  I officially became one of those people who has to stop what I’m doing to take a photograph (which can get frustrating at times for my family- “ooh, don’t eat that waffle yet, I want to photograph it first!”), but they’re used to it.

Cloudy days are a gift for me living here in the desert.  Whenever I hear a forecast of “mostly cloudy” I head off to the market to prepare for a day of cooking a photographing.  No more running around to get my shot in before the sun sets; cloudy days give me an entire day of beautiful diffused sunlight.

Tip 2:  Composition

Composition is really a matter of personal style.  Tight up-close shots require very little composition- maybe just a napkin or utensil if that.  While shots that have a lot of composition are typically time consuming and a lot of work.  But again, it’s really a matter of the style of photo you’re looking for.

a lot of composition went into this shot


no composition- just me and the food


In the beginning I thought I needed a lot of composition and spent too much money of props.  Now it’s really dependent on the style of photo I’m going for.  Look at the difference between the next two photos; does the one that shows all the adorable tableware have more or less “taste appeal” than the up-close shot?

more of the composition is included in this photo

tighter shots may have more taste appeal

Tip 3: Do Not Overcook

Food, especially vegetables, that are slightly undercooked will photograph far better that something that is fully or overcooked.  Here is an example of a photo from my  where the taste appeal of the slightly undercooked version came out far better than if it were fully cooked.

Tip 4: Refresh

If food, especially bread or meat, is looking a little dull and needs a “pick me up”, simply give it a quick misting of oil.  This is a tricky secret I learned early on.  If you have a “Misto” (olive oil sprayer), keep it nearby.

Okay, Let’s Get Technical

The camera that I use and love… and have nothing to compare it too is the Canon Rebel T2i that was chosen for me because of its video capabilities as well.

I did invest in a macro lens which was an awesome decision for food photography.

Canon macro lens

Canon macro lens 50mm or 60mm










Learning how to use and adjust your aperture is probably the first thing you want to learn before worrying about ISO or anything else.  Being able to focus on your subject and control your viewers eye can be done through aperture.

Look at where the viewers eye is being controlled in the next two photos:

food photography

controlling viewers eye to salad

food photography aperture

controlling viewers eye to Rigatoni using aperture


I shoot on the manual setting only, and only because this is what has worked best for me so far.  I am still an amateur when it comes to most of the technical capabilities of my camera.


Tip 5: Trust Your Style

Everyone has their own style… including you.  Find it and trust it.

Before I let you go I have to share one more shot that is a perfect example of artificial versus natural lighting.

artificial light

natural diffused sunlight

Share Your Food Photo With Us On Facebook and Twitter!

I would love for you to share your food photography with us on Facebookand join us tonight on twitter for more sharing of #mealplanning ideas!

5 winners will receive a YEAR LONG subscription to Weekly Meal Plan System from The Organized Cook™. RSVP below to win!



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