Using Jars to Elevate Dips & Sips

It’s clear that jars and small vessels are having a big moment in the food world. Desserts in jars, cocktails in jars, pickles of every imaginable variety in jars, sauces, salsa, spreads and salad dressing in jars. The best part is, this trend turned every day normal is a great way to recycle those small containers currently in your fridge and pantry. Just imagine the possibilities!

There are many ways that you can incorporate jars into your entertaining repertoire, but I’m sharing a few of my favorite styling tricks below.



  1. Cocktails: Putting a summer drink in a mason or jelly jar is something that people have been doing for years. It never gets old and is always a fun presentation. This idea is especially great for group gatherings like wedding and baby showers. Pre-make your beverages and add them to an ice bucket, so guests can self serve.
  2. Appetizers: Dips and spreads like tempanade are great in this recycled glass jar; it’s such a fun way to serve spreads. Plus, if there are any leftovers, you can easily close that jar and pop it right back into the fridge. Stylish presentation, and easy clean-up? Yes, please.
  3. Dessert: Almost any dessert, especially one that includes ice cream or pudding, can be served in a small jar. Layer different sweets together in a jar to make it as beautiful on the outside as it tastes on the inside.
  4. Almost anything else you can imagine! If you can think if up, give it a try. BBQ in a jar layered with slaw, beans, pork, pickles, and sauce? Yes. Salads for grabbing on the go or meandering throughout a party? Absolutely. You never know what happy styling accident you might stumble upon.


Photos: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Cocktails : Style Me Pretty



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Sunday Supper: Fireside Paella

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A few years ago, I hosted a paella party and photo shoot for Atlanta Magazine’s Home it was actually the first feature in the reintroduced version of the magazine.It was a fabulous evening where I pulled together my colorful and delicious fireside paella recipe. I prepared it over an open flame, and it was such a wonder to see it come together in front of the guests eyes.

Paella is a wonderful way to entertain guests while providing them with a delicious meal. Make this on a warm, spring Sunday afternoon and enjoy it with friends and family. Time to make the Paella.

Annette’s Fireside Paella

You will need:

– 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
– 1/3 cup olive oil
– 1 tablespoons paprika
– Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
– 1 cup crushed tomatoes
– 1 red bell pepper, cut into quarters, stemmed, seeded, and ribs removed
– 1 green bell pepper, cut into quarters, stemmed, seeded, and ribs removed
– 2 tablespoons saffron + 2 cups warm water
– 6 cups homemade or store-bought chicken stock
– 1 pounds chorizo cut into 3 inch pieces
– 2 cups pounds haricots verts trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
– ½ onion chopped
– 4 cloves finely chopped garlic
– 1 pound pounds calamari, cleaned and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch rings
– 16 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
– 1 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
– 1 dozen mussels, scrubbed
– 4 cups *Bomba rice
– 1/2 package frozen lima beans
– 2 cups fresh or frozen peas
– 2 freshly squeezed lemons

To prepare:
Place chicken in a large bowl and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle chicken with paprika and 1/2 teaspoon salt; turn chicken to coat. Cover chicken and let marinate, refrigerated, at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Cut peppers crosswise into 1/4-inch strips; set aside. Using a mortar and pestle, grind together saffron. Add saffron mixture to a medium bowl and add 2 cups water. Whisk until well combined; set aside.

If using a charcoal grill, make a fire in your grill. When the charcoals are completely covered in gray ash, hold your hand about 5 inches above the grill grid; count how many seconds you can comfortably leave it there. When you can hold it there for 1 to 2 seconds, you have high heat and are ready to cook. Alternatively, you can cook the paella on a stove over high heat.

Place a 20-inch paella pan with 3-inch sides over desired heat source. Coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil and heat, until pan is very hot, about 5 minutes. Add chicken thighs and cook, turning, until golden brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Add sausage and cook, turning, until browned, about 3 minutes then pull from the pan and set aside.

Put onions, garlic, into the pan sauté until transparent and caramelized. Add rice and saffron water to onion garlic mixture, stir to coat, cook about 1 minute. Add 3 cups of stock and bring to a boil.  Add tomatoes, and haricots verts. Cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Add chicken and sausages and add calamari, and shrimp, and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes more; add clams and mussels. Cook until rice is tender, about 15 minutes, adding more stock as necessary.

Add lima beans and peas and cook, until tender, about 3 minutes more. Season with salt and lemon juice; serve immediately.

* Bomba Rice is a specialty Spanish Rice

xx Annette

Photos by Nicole Letts 

Sara Dorio

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Florida Strawberries are HERE which means Crostata time!


If you live anywhere near Florida like we do in Atlanta, chances are you’ve already seen Florida strawberries make an appearance at your local markets. They’re plump, sweet, and perfect. In Italy, people often have things like cake or sweet breads and crostata for breakfast.

This recipe for strawberry crostata is a great way to put those plentiful strawberries to good use. I’ve also included a recipe for Balsamic Roasted Strawberries which is a lovely accompaniment. Serve both dishes with a side of ice cream. The ingredients are simple and the taste divine. Enjoy!


Strawberry Crostata
Serves 8

You will need:
– 1 1/2 cups pastry flour
– 1/4 cup sugar
– 1 1/2 cups cold butter cut into slices
– 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1 cup strawberry jam

To prepare: 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

In the bowl of a standing mixer, place flour and butter combine on low speed until crumbs form.

Add sugar, salt, and eggs. When combined about 3 minutes, place in plastic wrap and into the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Cut the dough in 1/2, roll 1/2 the dough out on a floured surface into a round disk. Place disk into the bottom of a fluted 11″ tart pan.  Roll the other half and with a pinked pie cutter cut 1″ strips.

Spread the strawberry jam on top of the crust, then lay the 1 ” strips in a lattice pattern on top of the jam.

Place in the oven for 30 minutes. Until golden brown. Cool and serve at room temperature.

Balsamic Roasted Strawberries

Balsamic Roasted Strawberries
Serves 8

You will need:
– 4 cups cleaned strawberries
– 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
– 1/4 cup sugar

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

In a bowl toss strawberries, vinegar and sugar. On a parchment lined lipped cookie sheet, place balsamic soaked strawberries. Roast for 30 minutes, then place in a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. This can be served warm with the crostata over ice cream.

Serve a slice of the crostata with a scoop of ice cream and warmed strawberries.

Enjoy xx

Top photo credit : Bill Addison

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Go Green for St. Patrick’s Day with Kiwi Pavlovas

It's fun to dream-up green foods for St. Patrick's Day. These kiwi pavlovas are a cute and simple way to celebrate.

Happy March! St. Patrick’s Day is this month, and while you know I’m an Italian girl, the truth is, I’m a party girl at heart. I love any excuse to celebrate! Plus, it’s fun to dream-up green foods for St. Patrick’s Day.

I’m not one for green beer, but give me some green fruits or veggies any day. These kiwi pavlovas are a cute and simple way to celebrate. Pavlovas can seem intimidating, but I promise this recipe is foolproof. Let me know if you give it a try!

Kiwi Pavlovas 
serves 8-10

For the Meringues:
makes 36 meringues

You will need: 
– ¼ cup cornstarch
– 1 tablespoon white vinegar
– 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
– 2 ½ cups sugar
– 8 egg whites room temperature

To prepare:
Preheat the oven to  225 degrees F

In the bowl of a standing mixer (with a whisk attachment), place sugar and egg whites on low speed until combined, raise speed to high, beat until soft peaks form. In a separate bowl mix cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla. Add the cornstarch mixture to the mixer and beat until glossy.

With a pastry bag fitted with a round tip, pipe meringue on to a parchment lined cookie sheet. Pipe 3 inch round swirls. Bake for 45 minutes on 225 degrees F. Let cool.

For the Kiwi Sauce:

You will need:
– 4 kiwis, peeled and cubed
– 1/2 cup of sugar
– 1/2 cup of water

To prepare:
Place all of the ingredients in a small sauce pan and cook on medium heat for 20 minutes. With a handheld blender combine sauce until smooth. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve in to a small bowl and press with a spoon. Place sauce into the the fridge for an hour until chilled.

For the Pavlova Garnish:

You will need:
– 4 kiwis cut into 1/2 inch cubes
– 16 small mint leaves for garnish
– 4 cups of whip cream

To assemble Kiwi Pavlovas:

Place 1/4 cup of whip cream on a plate, add 2 Meringues, top with 4 tablespoons of kiwi, drizzle with sauce, garnish with mint leaves. Serve immediately.


xx Annette

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Serving Stylish Pasta


Pasta is one of the easiest dishes to serve for a crowd. And, let’s be honest: everyone loves pasta! While it’s one of the easiest things to prepare, it’s easily one of the most difficult things to serve (or shoot!) stylishly.

I almost shudder when I think of having to style something like macaroni and cheese for a photo shoot. The cheese sets-up quickly, and it’s just hard to make it look appetizing. Pasta has great texture in photographs, but without the appropriate styling, it’s simply not pleasant to look at.

Even though you might not be styling for a photo shoot, there are a few tricks to serving stylish pasta at a dinner party. In fact, the number one thing you can do to improve a pasta course is the dish in which its served. The vessel you choose to serve pasta in is the most important element in making pasta look delicious.

Here are a few stylist tricks to use to serve stylish pasta is on your menu:

Ditch the glass casserole dish. In fact I don’t even own one. Instead, think about something earthy to present your pasta, like mac and cheese, in. An iron skillet is perfect! I own lots of iron skillets in all sizes. Not only are they great looking, great to bake in, but they make awesome presentation vessels. The photo above was a pretty cover shot for Southern Living that I styled a couple years ago. I still think it’s so yummy looking. It’s one of my favorites.

Use glasses in unexpected ways. Pesto pasta is pretty, so seeing all the bits of basil in the clear glass is great, plus it’s easy to serve. I love these brandy snifters. They are the perfect size for one serving. Think of all your tableware in different ways. Glasses can be used for more than just drinks!


Look for interesting shapes in your serving dishes. Here the scallop edged bowl really makes a difference. It’s a nod to the sea, and it looks a bit like a sea shell. You will never go wrong with a seafood presentation if you introduce the sea in some form. Even the serving spoon looks like something you would find along the beach.


I hope that this has helped you look at how you serve your pasta dishes. Like I said above, the key is to always think about the vessel options you have. Plus it gives you an excuse to pull out your very best, most fun props!

xx Annette

Photo credit: Jennifer Davick, Lauren Rubinstein, Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyen

Seafood Pasta Dish from my cookbook Picture Perfect Parties


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