Tag Archives: Behind the Scenes

Beautiful Briny Sea Salt meets Stuffed Leg of Lamb

Unicorn Salt

Full disclosure, I am a big lover of salt. As most chef’s will tell you, a dish that is not seasoned perfectly, that’s salt and pepper, is kind of not worth serving. A few weeks back I received an unexpected surprise: a box chock-full of salty and sweet treats from local Atlanta artisan food purveyor Beautiful Briny Sea, along with sugars that I will be using for baking, but most importantly be using for cocktails (watch out for these new recipes on the blog soon).

I decided to try these flavor salts, thoughtfully infused with herbs and spices on a few of my favorite recipes. Last weekend for Sunday supper I made one of our family favorites from Picture Perfect Parties: stuffed leg of lamb, generously stuffed with Meyer lemons, green olives, rosemary and garlic. I liberally used my favorite salt, Magic Unicorn (it is indeed magically delicious) on the outside of the lamb. It was spectacular. Here’s the recipe below, I used about 1 tablespoon (plus a little more:-) and massaged the salt into the lamb before stuffing and tying it up.

Unicorn Salt

Roast Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Lemon and Herbs
Serves 6-8

For the lamb, you will need:
– 1- 4 Pound boneless leg of lamb +kitchen string. Note: Some stores sell this already rolled and secured in a netting. You need to remove this if so.

To prepare the lamb before stuffing:
Liberally sprinkle then rub the outside of the lamb with Magic Unicorn salt, about 1 tablespoon, plus a little extra. Set aside and prepare the stuffing.

Lemon and Herb Stuffing

You will need:
– 3 tablespoons olive oil
– 3 tablespoons butter
– 4 cloves chopped garlic
– 1 cup panko bread crumbs
– ½ cup green olives chopped
– ½ cup raisins *optional
– 2 small lemons cut into small wedges, toss the lemon wedges in ½ teaspoon sea salt *note Meyer lemons , should be used if available
– 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
– 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
– ½ cup chicken stock
– 1 teaspoon pepper to finish stuffed lamb

To prepare stuffing:

Heat oil and butter add garlic sauté until lightly browned medium heat 3 to 4 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and sauté for 5 minutes until combined. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F

Place the leg of lamb on a cutting board lined with butcher or parchment paper lie the lamb flat top side down.

Place the stuffing into the middle of the roast mounding it into the middle.

Wrap the sides of the lamb around the stuffing tuck in the ends and tie the lamb with kitchen string, sealing the stuffing.

Place the stuffed lamb on a rack in a roasting pan fattest side up.  Roast at 425 for 15 min. Reduce heat to 325 and roast 30 to 45 minutes or until desired degree of doneness., for medium rare it should read 130 degrees to 135 degree F. Once it’s reached this temperature, remove it from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes.

Carve into slices and serve.

salts sugars





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Workshops: Summer 2018 Updates

I cannot believe that we’re just a few months away from embarking on our second summer of workshops at La Fortezza. If you follow along on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed that we’re in the thick of renovating our guest quarters. They will hopefully be done soon, just in time for our guests.

If you’re considering coming to Italy this summer, we’d love to have you. There isn’t anything like summer in Italy. While I might be partial, I can assure you that you’ll agree with me. Our location is just a short drive from just about anything you could possibly want: beaches, historic towns, mountains, quaint spots – it’s all at your fingertips.

We have just a few spots left in several of our workshops. While some of our events have already sold out, we do have a few spaces left (and a few surprises, too!) in the following workshops:

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My June 6 – 11, 2018 Strictly Styling Workshop will be the traditional styling workshop we’ve offered over the years and will feature two AWESOME guest instructors and stylists that you are going to love: Joanna Hawley & Eliza Honey.

Joanna Hawley is a Seattle-based blogger, stylist, and digital influencer. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon with a degree in Industrial Design, she worked as a product designer and trend scout for Nordstrom and Anthropologie before turning her keen eye to the online space. Her talent for curation has earned her a Pinterest following that totals 3.8 million, and her frank, funny, and fashion-forward approach to content creation has made her site jojotastic.com a go-to resource for modern yet casual lifestyle inspiration. When she’s not documenting her renovation misadventures, she’s mostly likely sailing the Puget Sound with her wiener dog companions.

An ex-editor at goop (yes, that goop!) and at Elle Decoration UK, Eliza Honey has made the fulfilling switch to floristry at the legendary Harper & Tom’s in London.  Her focus is on arrangements and installations with a wild, naturalistic and joyful feel.

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We also have a few spots left in our Figurative Photography workshop with renowned photographer, Harriet Leibowitz. We will provide the experience, the models, the location, the instruction and the motivation to make memorable and magnificent images.  With our experienced male and female figurative models, you will have the opportunity to create beautiful and unique work involving the human body.

We’ve been working to create the most amazing experiences imaginable. Our location at La Fortezza in Tuscany offers breathtaking vistas and intimate interiors. Every detail has been created with photo shoots in mind. There will be technical instruction to maximize our creative vision. We will dine on chef created organic food from the garden, drink wine from the vineyards and indulge in all that Italy offers.

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Finally, join me along with premiere Southern wedding and event professionals, Master Florist/Event Designer, Kim Cheney, and Luxury Fine Art Wedding Photographer, Donna Von Bruening at our Tuscan Wedding Workshop. Our exclusive instructors to share their knowledge and insight on storytelling, creating and documenting the perfect celebration or wedding.

This intimate workshop is for creative minds seeking inspiration, world travelers looking for a new experience abroad and wedding and event professionals looking to broaden their palette and build their portfolio. You will enjoy hands-on experience mixed with lively lectures and one-on-one instruction throughout the week. Expand your visual language and hone your artistic voice to tell stories that arouse emotion whether you are setting a table for your own special guests or seeking to enhance your professional portfolio.  For inspiration and fun, you will scour super-secret Italian flea markets for special props, enjoy Italian dinners al fresco while mingling with creative and industry professionals. It’s truly a creative retreat – a picturesque place to recharge and refresh.

We truly have a workshop for everyone this summer. Come along and experience Italy in a creative, life-changing way. We’d love to have you!

xx Annette

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A word from my personal trainer about building a relationship with food

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Hi everyone!  When my friend and client, Annette, asked me to write something for her blog, something about healthy eating, I thought: YAAY! I get to be famous! And on top of that, I get the great opportunity to list a few things I’ve learned in my 20 years of experience in the health and fitness world, working with people who have tried it ALL, including myself.

I’m sure that you have (like I have) heard or tried one of these: Juicing, Paleo, Atkins, Vegan, Raw, Mediterranean, Intermittent Fasting, South Beach, the list of diets seems to be only ever increasing, and you may always be asking: but which one…? And the answer to that is a big ol’: Depends.  

They all have something in common: they all pay important attention to the overall caloric intake (which works!), and all of them are equally effective and ineffective. I know! Even more confusing, right?  Our nutrition, a close to a perfect one, is or should be highly personalized simply because different approaches work for different people. It really depends on the individual, our needs, our lifestyle, and our commitment to our overall goal to stick to a plan that would help us.   

Here are some things I like to have in mind when working on a nutrition plan to keep a healthy relationship with food:

Keep it fresh. I avoid highly processed foods, or keep them to a minimum because they are not friendly, just drama!
Keep it clean. Some sauces, toppings and batters are messy friends; keep them away!
White rice, potatoes and yams are friends. They say they are all wild, but I’ve learned to like them as friends.
Quantity and quality.  They are really good to me; they moderate all my wild food-buddies.
Education is key. The more you know about your sweethearts, the better you are with them.
Watch the alcohol. She’s sneaky.
Learn to read. Reading and understanding labels helps us choose good food-friendships.
My health is important. I want to keep it! So I hang out with foods that add value to my life.
My lifestyle is also important. I’m very active, so I eat good things that I know give me good vibes and energy, and when I am not that active, I eat things that keep me on the chill mode.

As we move forward into the new year, with all our new eating resolutions in place, let’s all agree that the most fabulous secret to a great diet is being happy and enjoying all that we eat. It will help us stay committed to those resolutions, and good results will follow. Our diet should not be boring, time specific, a tiring effort, nor should it be a pain. I see a diet as a friendship; it should be nurturing, long lasting, fun and enjoyable, most importantly, a healthy one.

I guarantee you that if you are physically active, and actively caring for what you eat, you will be happy with the way you look.  My word!

Gabriel A. Ceballos -Strength and Conditioning Personal Trainer, ACSM Certified

photo by: Alexandra Sofis

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Veggie burger with a twist: no bread, buono!


Introducing recipe numero uno: a veggie burger with a twist.

I love these burgers. They’re so easy and so delicious, and they’re great for lunch or dinner. They’re also completely vegan, people!

While making cashew cheese sounds complicated, it’s actually easy, especially if you have a great juicer. A lot of folks as me what type of juicer I use, and I love my Nutribullet.

It’s the simplest juicer out there to use because it’s incredibly easy to clean, and after all, that is the key to using it consistently.

Cashew cheese is yummy anytime of year, but these veggie burgers are especially amazing in the winter.

Marinated Portobello Cashew Cheese Burgers

You will need:

For the marinated mushrooms:
– 4 portobello mushrooms
– 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
– 1 tablespoon liquid aminos (or soy sauce)

For the cashew cheese:
– 1 3/4 cups cashews
– 1/2 cup water
– 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
– Juice from 1 lemon
– 2 peeled garlic cloves
– 2 tablespoons miso
– Salt and herbes de provence, to taste

For the toppings:
– Sliced tomatoes
– Fresh chopped chives, spinach and parsley
– Anything else your heart desires

To prepare:

To marinate the mushrooms: rub them down with the olive oil and liquid aminos then place in your dehydrator or oven at its lowest temperature for about 3 hours, or until they have softened and darkened , and it smells amazing.

While mushrooms are marinating, make the cashew cheese: blend all the ingredients until smooth and thick. Taste and adjust accordingly. Scoop into a bowl lined with cheesecloth and let it sit somewhere for at least 2 hours (or, if you’ve got time, let it age for a few days).

When everything is ready, spread your cheese onto your mushrooms and layer with herbs and tomatoes. You can double-shroom it (that is now a term) if you want, and/or use fresh mushrooms instead of marinated. Note: you’re gonna have lots of left over cashew cheese. Let it sit in a quiet spot overnight then put in the fridge and eat within a week.

Let me know if you make them and hashtag them #healthystart18, so we can share our successes!

photo and recipe from This Rawsome Vegan Life.
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Hello Breakfast Smoothie


Most of the time I opt for a breakfast smoothie. It’s always something simple, not too sweet and filling – just perfect for early in the morning (I am an early riser if you haven’t noticed).

Here is my go to breakfast smoothie of late, the Hello Breakfast Smoothie. You can vary the fruit choices, but I always like a nice nutty butter and coconut almond milk.

Hello Breakfast Smoothie

You will need:

– 1 frozen banana ( I always have them in the freezer)
– 1 cup coconut almond milk
– 1 tablespoon unsweetened natural peanut butter ( I grind my own)
– 1 dash of cinnamon

To prepare:

In a Nutribullet (or other blender of choice), combine all the ingredients and pulse for 30 seconds, until will combined.

Sometimes I toss in a few blueberries, raspberries, strawberries or kiwi slices.

and enjoy…



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