Tag Archives: picture perfect parties

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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Festive Halloween Charcuterie

SpookyCharcuterie4 I chose pickled okra instead of gherkins because they reminded me of a witches' fingers.

Hi Everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s web-manager and friend, and I am taking over the blog today to bring you a spooky charcuterie spread for Halloween. Annette and I both love Halloween, and we’re always looking for ways to celebrate. I pulled together this easy, cheesy, festive Halloween charcuterie a few years ago, and it’s still one of my favorite posts.

Over the years, Annette has done some pretty phenomenal charcuterie spreads, and she even has a step-by-step guide to creating one yourself. I used her post as a starting point for my grocery shopping. It was so nice to be able to make a shopping list directly from her post.

SpookyCharcuterie1 The "cauldrons" are actually tiny copper food prep bowls, and the "witches broom" breadsticks are held in a skeleton drinking glass.

One pro tip is to make sure that you get food-safe containers for your own spooky charcuterie spread. The “cauldrons” are actually tiny copper food prep bowls, and the “witches broom” breadsticks are held in a skeleton drinking glass.

SpookyCharcuterie3 The end result is a spooky charcuterie spread that is sure to be a hit at your next party!

As I shopped for remaining accouterments, I kept the Halloween theme in mind. I chose pickled okra instead of gherkins because they reminded me of a witches’ fingers. I added dried apricots (a tip from Annette’s post) because they are a lovely shade of orange. I decided on prosciutto because it’s so fatty and veiny.

The end result is a spooky charcuterie spread that is sure to be a hit at your next party! If you really want to carry the theme throughout, add some festive bottles of red wine. The Prisoner is one of my favorites and quite on-theme, too!

Thanks for having me, Annette, and Happy (almost) Halloween, everyone!

xo, Nicole

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Labor Day Cocktail:: Beer Americano

Italian Cocktails and food

With this weekend’s Labor Day holiday in the states, I thought everyone back home could use an easy, Italian-inspired beverage: the beer americano. This cocktail is perfect for the last blistering days of summer because it’s refreshing and fun.

It pairs perfectly with the salty goodness of potato chips and other cookout fare. Look for this and other amazing summer cocktails in my book Cocktail Italiano!

Beer Americano
Serves 1

You will need:
– 1 ½ ounces Campari
– 1 ½ ounces sweet vermouth
– 3 ounces lager beer
– lemon zest, for garnish

To prepare:

Combine Campari, vermouth and ices cubes in a tall tumbler, stir to combine. Pour the beer into another glass, stir to create a stiff foam, reserve the foam with a spoon top the cocktiail with the beer foam, about 3 ounces.

**Note: For a lighter Americano feel free to pour 2 ounces of the beer in to the cocktail as well. However, this should be done before you top the cocktail with the foam.

xx Annette

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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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Summer Delicacy:: Fried Squash Blossoms

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This time of year squash blossoms are everywhere in our La Fortezza veggie garden. For the past few weeks, we’ve been picking these delicate flowers and whipping up batches of fried squash blossoms.

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The recipe for fried squash blossoms is from my book,  Picture Perfect Parties (Rizzoli). It’s one of my favorite summer staples. You will adore this recipe. The exquisite flavors and crisp texture will make you swoon. You will be planting squash in your garden every year just to yield this cheese-filled treat. Trust me.

Ricotta Stuffed Fried Squash Blossoms
Serves 6-8

You will need:

– 12 to 16 large zucchini squash blossoms
– About 4 cups vegetable oil for frying
– 1 cup whole-milk ricotta (preferably fresh)
– 1 large egg yolk
– 1/4 cup finely chopped basil
– 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
– 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
– 1 egg
– 3/4 cup chilled seltzer or club soda
– 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
– Salt and pepper to taste

For the filling:

– 1 cup whole-milk ricotta (preferably fresh)
– 1 large egg yolk
– 1/4 cup finely chopped basil
– 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
– ½ teaspoon salt

For the batter:

Note* you can make the batter a couple hours before and set aside.

– 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
– 1 egg
– 3/4 cup chilled seltzer or club soda
– 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 teaspoon pepper

To prepare:

Filling the blossoms:

Dry the squash blossoms with a paper towel, do not wash them under the tap, wash them in a bowl of water.

Carefully make a small opening in the top of each blossom. Using a piping bag or plastic bag with a hole cut into the bottom, pipe the filling into the opening filling about half way up the flower. Close end and gently twist flower closed.

Store the stuffed blossoms in the fridge until you are ready to fry.

Frying the squash blossoms:

Heat oil. Test heat by dropping a few drops of the batter, if it crisps up you are ready to go. Dip stuffed blossoms into the batter with a small tongs then drop them carefully into the oil.

Fry the blossoms until crisp and place on a paper towel to drain.  Serve immediately.

 

Photo Credit: Deborah Whitlaw Llewelleyn & moi

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