WOW them with dessert:: make pumpkin bread pudding!

This pumpkin bread pudding is so easy to make and is a great alternative to pumpkin pie. Prepare it ahead of time to wow your guests at the end of the meal.

This pumpkin bread pudding is so easy to make and is a great alternative to pumpkin pie. Since it makes a large batch, you can easily make as much as you need to fit your crowd. Plus, you can alleviate some stress by making the raisin bread ahead of time. Or, simply use a good-quality store bought bread. Your guests will never know the difference, and you’ll be a stress-free hostess.

Assemble this dessert first thing Thanksgiving morning, cover it with foil, and place it in the fridge until you’re ready to bake it. You can pull it fresh from the oven and serve it warm. You can also bake it in personal ramekins, so everyone has their own dish. It’s a cute and memorable presentation.

Don’t forget a dollop of fresh whipped cream (or even ice cream), too. Look for this and more recipes plus great entertaining tips in my book Picture Perfect Parties. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Makes 8 servings

You will need:
– 1 cup heavy cream, *milk can be a substitute for cream
– ¾ cup canned solid-pack organic pumpkin
– ½ cup sugar
– 6 large eggs
– ½ teaspoon salt
– ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
– ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
– 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
– 6 cups cubed (1-inch) day-old raisin bread
– ¼ cup chopped toasted walnuts
– 1 stick unsalted butter, melted

To prepare:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Whisk together cream, pumpkin, sugar, eggs, salt, and spices in a bowl.
Toss bread cubes with butter in another bowl, then add pumpkin mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to an ungreased 8-inch square baking dish and bake until custard is set, 25 to 30 minutes.
Serve with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

Photo Credit: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

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Elegant Elf Fundraising and Shopping Event 2019

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I was so touched to be asked to be the Honorary Chair Person for this year’s annual Elegant Elf Shopping for a Cause Event in Sandy Springs. I was lucky enough to sign books at the event last year as Cocktail Italiano had just been published, and I was excited to share it with the crowd. And a big crowd it was! This year I will be signing books on Saturday, November 9th, from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm. I will be signing both Picture Perfect Parties (Rizzoli NY) and Cocktail Italiano (Skyhorse Publications).

We can also chat about my new book, a memoir called, Italy is my Boyfriend (Post Hill Press) which is scheduled to publish spring 2020.

Please stop by and say hi. It’s really a great shopping experience, and if you can get organized, you can knock out your holiday shopping and support a great community all at one time.

Finally, shoppers at The Elegant Elf Marketplace will be among the first to learn about 2020 workshops and retreats at La Fortezza, the 12th Century Italian fortress where I host retreats, workshops, and events. The details are below:

Shop For a Cause at The Elegant Elf Marketplace in Sandy Springs Nov. 9-10

Mark your calendars for one of the largest holiday markets in Atlanta! The Sandy Springs Society will host their 9th annual “shopping for a cause” fundraiser The Elegant Elf Marketplace Nov. 9-10, 2019 at City Springs and The Performing Arts Center in Sandy Springs, Ga.

This popular and highly anticipated two-day upscale gift market features more than 90 carefully selected local and regional artisans, gourmet food purveyors, and unique gift vendors of jewelry, handcrafted fashions, fine crafts, items for home and garden, handbags and toys.

For more information, visit Facebook @TheElegantElfMarketplace

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Preserving Italy Workshop:: the slow food experience

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We just wrapped up the Slow Food Experience workshop, and I must say it was a wonderful experience not only for our attendees but for me too. We visited food artisans in the area and sampled local food like panigacci and chestnut fritters, and with the help of my foodie friends, I think we represented the region of the Lunigiana proudly.

There are so many interesting and different local foods here. It’s so different, in fcct, that I am writing my next cookbook about it (keep your eyes peeled for the La Fortezza Cookbook, due out in 2021). It is a region rich in history and food history with many kitchens born out of need and lack of funds; the “poor kitchen,” or as they call it, “cucina povere” was creative and inspired.

We made pasta with Chef Philip using jarred tomato sauce, (passata) from our kitchen garden tomatoes. We made grape jam with my friend and slow food ambassador, Giovanna, and sampled bread from the local bread maker Fabio

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We enjoyed chestnut fritters with chestnut honey and dined on all the products from around the area breakfast lunch and dinner, and of course many aperitivos…

This workshop will be available next year. All workshops for 2020 will post in November. We would love for you to join us and sample all the local food products and meet all the lovely people that work so hard to preserve the traditions of this beautiful region.

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Thanks to all the attended and we really loved meeting your eating with all of you. See you next year.x

Some imagery is from our team photographer Kate Blohm

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Easy Appetizer:: Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini

Esporao & Annette Joseph
If you’ve meandered through your local farmer’s market or grocery store recently, you might have noticed that we are officially in the thick of fig season. After you’ve made a fig tart and enjoyed fig jam, pick a few extra figs to make these crostinis.

This is a quick and easy appetizer for fig and goat cheese crostini that is a crowd-pleaser. I also love the idea of serving this as a light, unexpected dessert at the end of a meal. It’s a tried and true recipe perfect for any occasion.

Fig Goat Cheese Crostini
Serves 10

You will need:
– 20 small figs cut in half, lengthwise
– 1 loaf of French bread sliced into 1/2 in slices (makes about 20 slices)
– 1/2 cup olive oil
– 8 oz. soft artisan goat cheese, at room temperature
– 1/4 cup lemon honey
– 40 Marcona Almonds
– 1 teaspoon cracked pepper

To prepare:

Preheat the oven to 350 F

Crostini: Lay the bread slices on to a cookie sheet with a brush coat the top of the slices with olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the slices are golden brown. Cool the crostini.  Spread 2 tablespoons of goat cheese on the crostini, top with 2 half figs, and add 2 almonds on either side of the figs. Place on a platter and repeat with the rest of the crostinis.

Once all the crostinis are on the platter, drizzle with honey, and sprinkle with cracked pepper and serve.

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Summer Supper:: Sausage, Peppers and Polenta, Oh My!

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We are officially in the thick of what’s known as the dog days of summer. This time of year, for better or for worse, are the peak of those hot, humid days that leave us wondering if fall will ever take pity on us and arrive early. Rarely do we have such luck.

As a result, quick simple suppers are the way to go. Think one pot/one pan meals, or those that require the shortest amount of prep and cooking time. After all, the sooner you get out of the kitchen, the cooler you will be.

A few weeks ago, I made a twist on my sausage and peppers dish from my book, Picture Perfect Parties. I chopped them up placed them over a quick polenta. If you’ve never baked polenta, you should. It’s fantastic for a crowd because it saves time at the stove, and makes cooking for a crowd a breeze. The result was delicious and of course, easy! Give it a try.

Sausage, Peppers and Polenta
Serves 8
You will need:

– 6 Italian sausages
– 2 red peppers sliced
– 2 hot banana peppers sliced
– 1 jalapeno pepper minced
– 2 green peppers sliced
– 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
– 4 cloves of garlic minced
– ¼ cup olive oil
– 1 teaspoon salt

To prepare:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Slice the peppers and the sausage into bite size pieces. In a large bowl toss all the ingredients and mix well. Place mixture into a ceramic baking dish. Bake for 1 ½ hours and serve warm. Garnish with assorted herbs like rosemary, parsley, oregano, or chives.

Baked Polenta

You will need:
– 1 ½ cups polenta
– 4 + ( 2 cups in reserve to add as needed) cups chicken stock
– 2 cloves garlic fine dice or shaved on a micro planner
– ¼ cup olive oil
– salt to taste

To prepare:
In a large clay-roasting pan, place polenta. Add stock and garlic. Salt and drizzle the ¼ cup olive on top. Place into oven for 45 minutes @350.

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