Sunday, 30 December 2012

Host A French Style Festive Feast

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Welcome back lovely readers!  You have probably had one of the most amazing times of your life, feasting and celebrating with loved ones.  I love Christmas so much because I get to walk down the beautifully lit Champs Elysees and of course spend time with some of my favourite people.

Speaking of favourite people, I had so much fun baking with my two favourite girls over the Christmas holidays.  To ensure that there was something to delight the girls for dessert, my Christmas helpers Margot who is six and Pauline who is now three, helped me measure, mix and then finally bake these gorgeous chocolate cup cakes.

Cupcakes are incredibly popular and a fantastic treat food that also follow the rules of portion control.  You definitely cannot go wrong with these mini cup cakes.  They are a delight to make with the little ones too.  Just make sure that they keep their sticky fingers away from the bowl so that at least most of it does end up baked!

Part of hosting lovely Christmas lunches and dinners (like they do on the 24th of December in France) is the excitement in setting up the table.  I love the use of candles to create soft lighting but also these beautiful crystal glasses and ornaments to set the scene in such an elegant manner.

A glass of champagne (or two) is my favourite aperitif.  Served with appetizers such as these 'surprise' bites or amuse-bouche was a winning combination.  Each little pastry had either goats cheese, salmon, pesto, spinach or sundried tomato based fillings in them.  Truly delicious.

Seafood was featured on the 24th dinner but also for Christmas lunch.  These crevettes were incredibly delicious.  If you love seafood then your taste buds would have sung in joy over this gorgeous seafood bake made with prawns, scallops, mussels and white fish in a creamy béchamel sauce.  I simply must have this recipe!

What a surprise that lamb was chosen for both meals but duck has been a popular choice in previous years.  The first dish was a beautiful roast prepared using home grown rosemary.  Beautiful!  The second lamb meal that we ate for Christmas lunch was prepared with a pork, mushroom and fig stuffing.  It tasted incredible and was perfectly accompanied with rich and luxurious dauphinoise potatoes, quickly followed with a green salad for healthy measure.

I am horrified that we could eat more but of course we did.  A French meal is never complete without a cheese platter and plenty of wine.  The key to enjoying these calorie rich and yet gorgeously tasty meals is to stick to small portion sizes and resist extra helpings!

Dessert was ice cream laced in a vanilla and caramel flavour or wicked chocolate.  I wouldn't be surprised if it was the modern version of bûche de Noël.  

The homemade option was Cannelés de Bordeaux.  It is a little pastry like cake with a caramelised shell and a soft center.  It is prepared using flour, milk, butter and eggs and flavoured with rum and vanilla.

I must confess that I did have seconds and so am already looking forward to the weekly running club to work off any Christmas wobbles!  I had so much fun and am truly lucky to have experienced delicious and lovely French meals with some of my favourite people.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a lovely New Year!  Where did you spend Christmas lovely readers?

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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Should You Ditch The Diet This Christmas?

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If you are still counting calories during this festive season, then you might just miss the boat called life.  This is the season of parties, celebrations and special moments with loved ones whereby it really is possible to have fun and still stay in shape.

Sound too good to be true?  Throw out the million excuses that you can think of for why you cannot keep up your solid exercise routine and you will soon discover that you can continue to slip into your gorgeous party outfits night after night.

It's all about solving the calorie, booze and exercise balance.  Let's face it, who wants to count calories or even consider the fat content of that delicious dessert staring at you?  You have been working so hard all year that surely you can loosen up, be merry, eat, drink, indulge but then be motivated enough to burn it off the next day.

If it makes you nervous to let go, then calorie solve by simply slotting in an extra exercise session.  It doesn't have to be a monstrously long session on the treadmill either.  Perhaps a 30 minute work-out during your lunch break?  Or a short power run before work.  Not only will the burst of exercise invigorate you; the shorter work-outs will also motivate you to invest more energy into the activity you choose.  Taking this break from your usual routine will help you appreciate the change and enable you to enjoy your well deserved party night all the more.


When you are presented with a multitude of yummy dishes to try, why not share them with your neighbour at the dinner table?  This is not just about saving calories either.  This is one smart idea where yes, you do reduce your intake of high calorie foods but you also get to try a lovely range of dishes minus the guilt.  Portion control will never let you down!

Don't forget your veggies.  It may be party season but this is no time to forgo your valuable source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre.  Pile your plate high with vegetables and salads.  It will get you full quicker, reducing the temptation for more.

Once you are full, it's time to have fun, so put your dancing shoes on and hit the dance floor.  

Yes that's right, dancing your dinner off will be great for your figure and will keep you away from that dinner table.  It's so much fun too, so how can you possibly say no?

Try to go easy on the booze or cocktails but if you really have over done it, try not to panic.  Just slot in a short but vigorous exercise date the next day.  It's achievable and your figure will thank you for it!

Enjoy your week lovely readers!   It's the most magical time of the year, so have a blast.

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Sunday, 25 November 2012

How To Host A Japanese Dinner Party With The Wow Factor

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This is an indulgent dinner party that ticks all the right boxes for health.  What it demonstrates is that you can have fun, pig out and still feel satisfied knowing that your dinner party wins between the wow factor, delicious food and treats that incorporate healthy foods.

With only a few years of cooking experience under my belt, it's no wonder that I often get green with envy at the expertise that my girlfriends display when they host their dinner parties.  In this post, you will feast your eyes at a wonderful choice of delicious Japanese foods that will tease and tantalize your taste buds.

To begin with, we had gorgeous crunchy vegetables (see pictured above).  They were coated in a potato and wheat flour batter that was mixed into a paste using water, then fried.  Yes fried. For the heart healthy version, what you could do is pan fry or spray lightly in oil then bake in the oven until crispy.

Next to be served were Takoyaki balls, which are essentially balls made from a wheat flour based batter then cooked in a special takoyaki pan. These were filled with octopus and topped with thin shavings of dried fish.  They are served with takoyaki sauce and Japanese mayonnaise. Gorgeous.

A Japanese dinner party should draw on its heritage, the lovely sushi.  Absolutely ideal for the health foodie amongst your guests.  The lovely couple who prepared these hand rolled sushi rolls had recently attended a sushi culinary course and were thrilled to be able to show off their newly acquired skills.  They did a beautiful job too.  Each roll was lovingly filled with avocado, salmon, pickled ginger, omelette, crab or cucumber.  Packed full of flavour, each bite definitely did not fail to please.

Remember that when preparing sushi at home, you will need to purchase sushi grade salmon and go fresh to retain flavour and colour.  The rice for sushi also needs to be prepped with vinegar, sugar and salt or mirin.  

One of the reasons why I love Japanese cuisine is also because of the amazing china and serving dishes that you get to use.  The little soup bowls or side bowls for sauces are often intricately painted with lovely floral designs that you will need very little to decorate your table.  The food and serving plates will do the advertising for you.

This course was swiftly followed by the main.  The vegetarian option was Agedashi tofu. If you are wondering what that means, don't worry, so did I!  All I can tell you is that it was a beautiful silky tofu dish in a savoury sauce.  It is apparently a dashi sauce.  Although the tofu is traditionally deep fried, in this instance, it was not.  The delicate salty flavours of the sauce was perfect for the tofu.  Yummy.

The leading dish was chicken katsudon served on a bed of egg fried rice.  I would recommend trying this dish as it really was just so tasty!  You will enjoy the combination of dashi stock, soy sauce, mirin, sugar and eggs in this recipe.

Once you are almost full stop eating immediately as you will definitely want to indulge over dessert after a short break.  Dessert is a course not to be missed, especially when it is presented in a watermelon glistening with sugared watermelon sorbet and peeping green tea ice cream.

If that's not quite enough cuddle up with a loved one or a friend as you may want to share a green tea flavoured pannacotta.  It's perfect, creamy, delicious and light.  So beautifully presented in individual tea cups - this is a dessert not to be missed.

I was delighted when my girlfriend shared her recipe for these little green beauties with me.  Her recipe was inspired by this lovely blog that created Fusion Green Tea Panna Cotta.  You will need Japanese green tea powder or Matcha, cream, sugar, gelatine powder, milk and vanilla extract.  A wonderful idea for a Japanese themed dinner party.

What do you recommend preparing for a Japanese themed dinner party?  Do comment below lovely readers, I do love hearing from you!

Recommended Reading

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Sunday, 18 November 2012

How To Star Style Your Food Photographs - by Melissa Bakth

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It is with enormous pleasure that I introduce to you Melissa.  She captures some of the most beautiful food photographs that I have ever laid eyes on.  You can almost reach out and grab the delicious delights that she has photographed.  I bet they taste amazing too.  You may be familiar with her food journalism pieces in Desi-Info and do look out for her food article coming out in Living South Magazine next month for Christmas hot spots.  Most importantly she has also been involved in an art direction shoot with David Loftus; Oh My God - yes!  If she's good enough for Jamie Oliver, then she's definitely good enough for A Light Perspective.  Enjoy this guest post my lovely readers!

Food and design are my two greatest loves. Food photography is for me, the perfect combination of them both. There is nothing worse than a beautifully prepared meal that is terribly photographed- case and point, many of those horrible 90’s cook books. You all know the ones I mean- sterile, flat and unappetising.

Before I began cooking, painting was my thing, and I have found that a lot of the great food stylists out there apply the same rules of the canvas to the lens. Here’s my hit list of 5 easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy tips to styling your food shots.

1. Texture

Texture plays a huge part in food; both in it’s preparation and it’s photography. Often when we cook a meal, we are advised to add ingredients that will form layers of texture, and this is something I would also greatly advise when you photograph your food.  Dishes that have dynamic exteriors, or those that have great contrast in their surfaces make for great subjects. Even something as simple and un-extraordinary as a humble strawberry can be a pleasure to photograph with it’s pitted skin and green foliage.

2. Props/ authenticity

A fantastic way of transforming your shots, is to use accessorize your plate. The lists of possibilities are endless, crockery, cutlery, ribbon, chopping boards and so on. The trick is to find to things that will match your dish and give your photos an extra lift. Cooking a curry, then why not photograph in an authentic tiffin carrier? Homemade bread looks great in an organic basket and chopsticks make for a simple stamp of the East. You get my point. If you can’t find what you want in your own kitchen, then raid your mum’s house- trust me, I’ve picked up some absolute gems from mine; and if you’re after something a little different, then head to your local charity shop. There’ll be a veritable treasure chest of goodies there. Last visit, I picked up a set of beautiful hand glazed 1920’s tea-cups for 80p. Who say’s you can’t put a price on happiness?

3. Garnishing

Another prop that people often forget is garnishing- and I’m not just talking about a sad sprinkling of parsley- I mean, enough already, there are other herbs out there! No, by garnishing, I mean, taking any part of your dish and using it to really tell the story of it. Jamie Oliver is an absolute master of this. After you have prepared your meal, always leave a handful of ingredients so that you can topple it on the surface and finish your dish. Items like seeds and herbs are great as they will give great texture and vivid colour and will always look fresh. 

4. Difference in heights

Now this seems like an odd one, but photographing food that is stacked looks amazing. There is no particular science to it, but as with the element of texture, stacking techniques create shadows and the more inventive the food arrangement, the more interesting the shot. 

5. Creativity

At the end of the day, food is meant to be fun, so have fun with photographing it. There are no rules, so always try to push what you can do with it. More inventive and adventurous presentation will engage your viewers and make your food come alive, so give it a go!

By Melissa Bakth.

What do you think lovely readers?  Do comment below with your thoughts or questions for Melissa.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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Perfect Eggless Banana & Chocolate Cake

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Chocolate; she is your best mate when you are feeling down, or so you think.  You decide to indulge in a chocolate feast by baking a cake, but to your very dismay you realise that you have run out of dark chocolate.  You are also expecting guests tonight and your plans for producing the perfect indulgent dessert is suddenly tainted and there is absolutely no time to rush out to the shops for dark chocolate...  Where on earth are you going to find a milk, egg, wheat and soy free chocolate cake recipe now I wonder?

Relax, this is an excellent choice requiring only a few ingredients.  This is quite a dense cake and is very rich in flavour.  You will only need to serve a thin slice.  It could be really delicious when accompanied with a dairy free fruity sorbet.  Heaven.

250ml water
200g soft brown sugar
75g dark brown muscovado sugar
125g dairy free margarine
35g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon wheat & gluten free baking powder
225g gluten free self raising flour
3 tablespoons ground almonds 
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon egg replacer + 1 tablespoon nut milk

45g dairy free margarine
50g caster sugar
40ml water
80g icing sugar
18g cocoa powder

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 ºC.  Grease a round baking tray and set aside.
  2. In a saucepan add the water, sugars, cocoa powder and baking powder.  Allow to simmer over a low heat.  This should take only 5 minutes.  Set aside and allow to cool until warm.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the mashed bananas with the gluten free flour.  Next add the egg replacer mixed with a tablespoon of nut milk.
  4. When the chocolate solution is warm to touch, pour into the flour mixture and beat to create a smooth runny texture.
  5. Pour into your greased baking tray and bake in the oven for 40 - 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
  6. To prepare the ganache, in a separate saucepan place the margarine, caster sugar and water and allow to simmer.  
  7. Sift the cocoa powder and icing sugar then add to the saucepan.  Mix well.
  8. Allow to cool, cover and place in the refrigerator for up to 20 minutes.  
  9. When the glace is firm enough, beat it with a wooden spoon to soften a bit then coat the cake generously.
Serves - 8 - 10 slices

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Saturday, 10 November 2012

Food Lovers' Essential Photography Tips by Krishanthi Williams

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I am very excited to introduce to you a very special person today.  Krishanthi is one of my favourite photographers.  Although her specialty lies in wedding photography, she also works in commercial photography.  She has worked with Daniel Galvin, Quill London and even Koj from Masterchef.  How amazing is she?  I know that you will love her essential tips in food photography, so grab a cuppa and enjoy the read my lovely readers!

We've all been guilty of it: that amazing melting chocolate fondant arrives on a plate, and you just have to take a photo of it.  This practise has become even more popular since the birth of iPhones, Facebook and Twitter: but I'm going to share a few simple tips with you on how to easily enhance your food photography, whether using a smartphone, compact digital camera or DSLR.

1) Lighting
Where you photograph your food will have the single biggest impact on the outcome of your photo.  Placing your subject as close to natural light as you can will render a pleasantly lit image - close to a window in daylight is a good starting point.  If it's a really sunny day (funnily enough I don't worry about this too much in London!) you might want to drape some white muslin or even a sheet in front of the window to diffuse the rays of light, and avoid harsh shadows.  This is how I photograph most of my food. 

2) Composition
How you arrange items in food photography can play a big role in the impact of the final image.  It may sound obvious, but pay attention to where you are placing components within your photo.  Our eyes naturally follow lines along an image, which gives rise to the ‘rule of thirds’.  The image below would appear slightly less dramatic if the marshmallow was right in the middle: 

Don’t forget that rules are there to be broken (in some instances, anyway!); placing your subject dead centre can also make for a high impact image and can be forgiving when you don't want people to look too closely around the bull's eye point of focus.  This photo was taken in a restaurant (the classic foody-nerd-with-a-camera scenario).  When the plate arrived looking like it did, I knew how I wanted to get this photo and had approximately 20 seconds to execute it before I would invite stares from surrounding diners.  The 20 seconds included dragging my fellow diner from his chair out of the way, as I wanted the glow of the restaurant's lights in the background rather than his shirt - whatever you have to do to get the shot!

3) Visualisation
It definitely helps to visualise the final image; knowing what you want the food to look like in the photo before you even pick up your camera can save you precious time, especially when you are in a public place such as a dinner party or restaurant as above.  That doesn't mean that you can't experiment as you go along, far from it: just that if you can imagine the end result, or a version of it at least, you can prepare your props accordingly.  When I say props, this can be anything from plates, glasses and cutlery to vintage sets, distressed wood and materials.

Trying to photograph an item of food that is not stationary is a classic example of when previsualisation becomes invaluable.  If, like me, you cannot settle for anything other than a runny yolk, then timing is imperative.  When photographing food in a cooking or moving state (e.g. egg yolk, pouring sauce, sizzling meat) then you have to time it carefully, and often you only get one or two shots before you will need to start from scratch.  However, if you’ve thought about the end result that you want, you’ll have a more streamlined (and hopefully less  painful!) journey to get there. 

4) Depth of field
Depth of field refers to how much of your photograph will be in focus; in simple terms this is the factor that will separate an all-over crisp image to one with a focused subject and blurred background.  This element of photography is much more difficult - but not impossible - to control when using an iPhone or compact digital camera; often these cameras will have a ‘food’ setting which is automated to give you that lovely blurriness in food images.  

If you are using a DSLR, depth of field is primarily controlled by varying the aperture setting on your camera.  My personal preferences in food photography migrate towards using a wide aperture (anywhere from f/1.8 to f/4) and taking action shots, just because I feel the image carries a bit more life that way.  Both of these photos were taken at f/2.8, and you can see the image start to blur behind the main focus of the shot: 

Bear in mind that choosing a wide aperture does not automatically mean that you will have all the surrounding detail fall out of focus, and vice versa.  For example, both of the images below were taken at f/4; yet it appears that more of the fig salad on the right is in focus, because there are more elements of the food resting on the focal plane at f/4, whereas in the ice cream picture, the nearest thing behind the ice cream was a shop about 8 feet behind.  So, distance also affects the blurriness of the background, but the aperture setting is a good place to start.  

I hope you’ve found this information on food photography useful; I by no means consider myself an expert in this area but it is always a pleasure to share what I have learnt with those who share my passion for food and photography!  If you share any questions for me please do leave a comment or get in touch with me through my website: or via email on

Krishanthi also has a beautiful fanpage.  Please feel free to join her on or her twitter handle is @KrishanthiPhoto.  

I look forward to your comments lovely readers.  Do you have any food photography tips that you would like to share with us today?  If so, then please do comment below as I love hearing from you.  And don't forget, Krishanthi may just be the person that you've been looking for to photograph your very special day.

Please feel free to SHARE this article with a TWEET on twitter or a LIKE on facebook.  Thank you so much!

Friday, 9 November 2012

An Edible Mosaic's Virtual Book Launch Party

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I have a very special post for you today. My friend Faith Gorsky from An Edible Mosaic just had her first cookbook released: An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair. I’m excited to be participating in her virtual book launch party and sharing a recipe from the book!

The book has over 100 Middle Eastern recipes, with a focus mainly on dishes from the Levant, but also a few recipes from other areas of the Middle East. Faith has a pretty unique story…after getting married Faith spent six months living in the Middle East, where she fell in love with the culture and cuisine. Subsequently, she returned four more times for visits, each time delving deeper into the cuisine and deepening her passion for and appreciation of the region. Recipes in her book are authentic Middle Eastern (taught to Faith mostly by her mother-in-law, Sahar), but streamlined just a bit for the way we cook today, with unique ingredients demystified and cooking techniques anyone can follow. If you didn’t grow up eating Middle Eastern food, it can be a difficult art to master; Faith understands that, and explains complicated dishes in an approachable, easy-to-follow way. The book is available to order on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

After you check out the recipe below, please head over to Faith’s blog to check out her virtual book launch party to see the other bloggers who are participating. Also, as part of her virtual book launch, Faith is hosting a giveaway of a fabulous set of prizes. Be sure to head over and enter!

The recipe from the book that I’m sharing with you today is for Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts, along with a variation for Mixed White and Yellow Rice. The recipe is actually vegan so you won’t have any trouble incorporating it into a vegan or vegetarian meal, but it is just as delicious served with chicken, beef, lamb, or seafood, and it would be really fantastic with just about any curry dish. (In the cookbook, Faith recommends pairing Shrimp in Aromatic Tomato Sauce with this rice dish.) 

Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts, Pictured with Shrimp in Aromatic Tomato Sauce, another recipe from An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair.

Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts

Recipe courtesy of An Edible Mosaic:  Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky (Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012); reprinted with permission.

Serves 4 to 6
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes, plus 15 minutes to let the rice sit after cooking

1½ cups (325 g) basmati rice, rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 onion, finely diced
4 tablespoons sultanas (golden raisins)
1¾ cups (425 ml) boiling water
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon saffron threads (or ½ teaspoon turmeric)

  1. Soak the rice in tepid water for 10 minutes; drain. While the rice is soaking, put half a kettle of water on to boil.
  2. Add the oil to a medium, thick-bottomed lidded saucepan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer the pine nuts to a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Add the onion to the saucepan you cooked the pine nuts in, and cook until softened and just starting to brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the sultanas, boiling water, salt, and saffron (or turmeric), turn the heat up to high, and bring it to a rolling boil.
  4. Give the rice a stir, then cover the saucepan, turn the heat down to very low, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes (do not open the lid during this time). Turn the heat off and let the rice sit (covered) 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
  5. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle the toasted pine nuts on top; serve.

OPTIONAL Add two pods of cardamom, two whole cloves, and one 2-inch (5 cm) piece of cinnamon stick at the same time that you add the rice.

Mixed White and Yellow Rice

Mixed White and Yellow Rice

Serves 4 to 6
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes, plus 15 minutes to let the rice sit after cooking

1½ cups (325 g) uncooked basmati rice, rinsed
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
2 whole cloves
2 pods cardamom, cracked open
2 whole peppercorns
¾ teaspoon salt
1¾ cups (425 ml) boiling water
1-2 pinches saffron threads or ½ teaspoon turmeric dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water

  1. Soak the rice in tepid water for 10 minutes; drain. While the rice is soaking, put half a kettle of water on to boil.
  2. Add the oil to a medium, thick-bottomed lidded saucepan, cover and place over moderately high heat. Once hot, add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the rice, bay leaf, cloves, cardamom pods, peppercorns, and salt, and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the boiling water to the rice, turn heat up to high, and bring it to a rolling boil. Give it a stir, cover the pot, turn heat down to very low, and cook 10 minutes (don’t open the lid during this time).
  4. After the rice is cooked, let the pot sit with the lid on for 15 minutes, then fluff the rice with a fork. Transfer 1/3 of the rice to a separate bowl.
  5. Stir the saffron or turmeric-colored water into 1/3 of the rice (the rice will turn yellow). Mix together the yellow rice and white rice; serve.

Enjoy these lovely recipes that have been put together by Faith.  A huge congratulations to her!  I hope that you will support her by purchasing her cookbooks available on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Enjoy your weekend my lovely readers.  I also have a special post for you on food photography titled Food Lovers' Essential Photography Tips from one of my favourite photographers, so do check back in on Sunday as I know that you will love her tips and advice!