Month: December 2013

Panettone French Toast Recipe

French toast, panettone, breakfast, brunch, Christmas
I made our Christmas morning breakfast French toast with panettone, an Italian fruit cake. It’s only slightly sweet with a bread like texture and its’s loaded with raisins and candies fruit rinds.  It has a more delicate flavor than the fruit cake your aunt brought last week. You’ll usually see panettone in stores in the U.S. around Christmas time

If someone brought a panettone to your Christmas party, here’s the BEST thing you can do with it.

French toast, panettone, breakfast, brunch, Christmas
Cut some of the slices in half to make it a more manageable size.  Cook the French toast in butter on a griddle or in a pan for 2-3 minutes per side. Put cooked French toast on a pan with a rack while the rest are cooking.
French toast, syrup, butter, panettone, breakfast, brunch, Christmas
Drizzle a little syrup on the finished French toast and you’re good to go

French Toast Recipe serves 8 people

1 Panettone cake about 26 ounces or 16 slices of bread

2 cups half and half

6 large eggs

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

zest of one orange about 1 Tablespoon

4 ounces of butter

Equipment: Griddle or wide shallow pan, 2 sheet pans, 2 wire racks, 1 pie plate

Slice the pannetone serving sizes about a 1/2 inch thick

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Beat half and half, eggs, sugar, vanilla and orange zest in a bowl.  Pour batter into a pie plate.

Dip panettone slices (or bread) into the batter for about 15 seconds per side. Cook the French toast in about one tablespoon of butter on griddle set to medium heat (325 degrees on an electric griddle). Cook for 2-3 minutes per side, until golden brown.  Remove cooked French toast to a wire rack placed over a pan.  When all of the French toast is finished on the griddle, place the French toast (still on the pan on the wire rack) into the oven and bake for 5 minutes.

Serve with butter and syrup.

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Callaway Gardens Dining-The Gardens Restaurant

gardening, plants, Callaway Gardens
Here’s part two of my Callaway Gardens post. I needed to do a whole other post about our dinner at The Garden Restaurant at Callaway Gardens. This flower will be the only non food thing in this post…enjoy.

During our stay at Callaway Gardens we dined at The Gardens Restaurant, the most upscale of the many dining options at Callaway. So upscale in fact that my husband made sure to teach our kids to eat like sophisticated people, both pinkies out please.

Let’s start with the appetizers:

Callaway Garden, The Garden Restaurant at Callaway gardens, crab cake, appetizer
The kids split a crab cake appetizer with lemon butter sauce and micro greens. They both loved the crab cake but my daughter raved about the sauce.
garden salad, The Gardens Restautant, Callaway Gardens
My husband had a fresh, crisp  garden salad for his appetizer. 
New England Clam Chowder, The Gardens Restaurant, Callaway Gardens
My appetizer was a deliciously creamy New England Clam Chowder. With tender clams it was perfect on a cool day.

On to the entrees

Lamb chops, The Gardens Restaurant, Callaway Gardens
My son ordered the Balsamic Marinated Grilled Colorado Lamb Chops
With toasted walnut pesto, Brussels sprouts with pancetta and cheddar grit cake
scallops, the Gardens Restaurant, Callaway Gardens
The scallop entree. Prosciutto-Wrapped Scallops, sweet potato puree, maple butter and spaghetti squash. Scallops were perfectly cooked to an almost creamy consistency.
Braised pork shank, The Gardens Restaurant, Callaway Gardens
I ordered Braised Pork Shank
with wild mushroom demi-glace, cheddar grits and sautéed spaghetti squash. DELICIOUS! I love a rich demi glace served with grits to catch it. The texture was perfect, the really know how to cook protein.  They got it right every time. 
Flat Iron steak, The Gardens Restaurant, Callaway Gardens
My daughter had the Marinated Grilled Flat Iron Steak
With wild mushroom demi glace, oven roasted red and gold beets and herb mashed potatoes

Drinks and Dessert

Hot Buttered Rum, Pyrat rum, The Gardens Restaurant, Callaway Gardens
Hot buttered rum with Pyrat rum. Pyrat is the Man’s favorite drank. He was not too sure about the “butter” but once he tasted it he was happy
apple tart, The Gardens Restaurant, Callaway Gardens
And he can’t resist any apple dessert. Warm Apple Galette
With housemade cinnamon ice cream
Pumpkin creme brulee, The Gardens Restaurant, Callaway Gardens
My dessert, pumpkin creme brulee, super creamy and not too sweet
Chocolate lava cake, The Gardens Restaurant, Callaway Gardens
Chocolate Lava Cake
The kids shared this Chocolate ganache center with housemade blood orange ice cream for dessert. They absolutely DESTROYED IT!

Chef de Cuisine Peter Stiles did a fantastic job. Service was smooth, warm and friendly all in all we had a great evening


Callaway Gardens- A Fantasy in Lights and Food..and Birds and Plants

Christmas lights, Callaway Gardens, lights holiday
Callaway Gardens has one of the best Christmas lights displays on EARTH! Yes, it’s that good. It took just under an hour to get through the tour but the time flies by.

I love the weeks leading up to Christmas, I love driving around and seeing the neighborhood light displays.  This weekend we saw one of the 10 best  Christmas light shows on the planet (according to National Geographic). The Christmas light Show to beat ALL Christmas light shows the Festival of Lights at Callaway Gardens (Pine Mountain, GA).  Pictures don’t do it justice, parts of the tour have animated light themes … it’s just great….but wait, there’s more.  After you finish the Festival of Lights you have the Christmas Village.

Christmas, Callaway Gardens, funnel cake, fried apples,kettle corn, nuts
a TON of vendors outside of the Christmas village. Deep fried everything and some great kettle corn. Even maple/bacon funnel cake
Christmas,Christmas Village, Callaway Gardens, wine bottle stopper, cork screw
Inside the Christmas Village at Callaway Gardens there were handmade gifts and a giant gingerbread man

Thankfully we had a cabin waiting for us

cabin, Callaway Gardens,
We had a two bedroom cabin at Callaway Gardens, that’s the kids room pictured above. They made themselves right at home. Our room was similar and each bedroom had it’s own bathroom. It’s not fancy, it’s like staying with a relative…a relative who leaves you alone.  Full kitchen and cozy living room with everything you need to snuggle up by the fire. It was a little cool for the screened in porch

Still more stuff to show you…and remember this is in the late fall, almost Winter.  I’d love to go back when it warms up in the Spring and the azalea’s are blooming.

We woke up pretty late the next day and were in no hurry to get moving so we had breakfast in the cabin.  I brought cheese, crackers, grapes, cereal, milk and juice with us so we had plenty to eat.  We finally got it together and headed out to the Birds of Prey (Raptor) show.  All of the birds in the show were rescued in some way or another.  Several were human imprints (some well meaning folks tried to raise the birds but now they can’t survive on their own ) and one that was hit by a truck and is blind in one eye. Now in the care of the center we can get a good look at them up close

Raptors, Callaway Gardens, birds, birds of prey, hawks, owl
Rescued birds of prey at Callaway Gardens. The Show was moved indoors due to rain and they added another show to accommodate the guests. Broad-Winged Hawk, Red Shouldered Hawk, Barn Owl and Red Tailed Hawk

Then the horticultural center, I could have stayed in there all day.

Christmas, Callaway Gardens, horticultural, Poinsettias, chenille plant, topiary,
Inside the horticultural center Callaway gardens. I can only remember the name of the first one, it’s a chenille plant and the poinsettias below it.

Yes, there’s still more

Bikes, tandem bikes, Callaway Gardens
Bikes for rent at Callaway Gardens

I still haven’t covered it all. There are bikes to rent and trails to hike and golf and a tree top obstacle course and ziplines. The kids were tempted to try the Tree Top Adventure but there was a bit of rain.   They’ve been wanting to zipline for a while now, they thought long and hard about it. Some guests were up in the trees on the obstacle course in the rain but my kids decided against it.

Then there was dinner at The Gardens Restaurant inside Callaway Gardens.  Dinner deserves it’s own post so stay tuned!


Christmas Cookies Easy and Delicious Recipes

Christmas cookies recipe America's best food blog
A trio of cookies: one no bake, one bar cookie and one fully decorated rolled out sugar cookie
A trio of cookies: one no bake, one bar cookie and one fully decorated rolled out sugar cookie

Three cookies recipes: One no bake, one bar cookie and one traditional rolled out and fully decorated cookie.

DULCE DE LECHE COCONUT PECAN KRISPIE BALLS (I’m gonna have to come up with a shorter name)

Scoop out the dulce de leche cookie dough and drop it into the ground pecan and coconut
Scoop out the dulce de leche cookie dough and drop it into the ground pecan and coconut
I use this 1/4 ounce scoop for little small cookies
I use this 1/4 ounce scoop to portion small cookies
no bake cookies, dulce de leche, coconut, pecans, chocolate
Sweet and delicious Dulce de leche balls are full of coconut, pecans and puffed rice for a bit of crispy texture

Dulce de Leche coconut balls recipe (makes 45 balls)

1 ½ cups shredded sweetened coconut

1 ½ cups pecans

½ cup dark chocolate chips

14 oz dulce de leche (in your grocery store near the condensed milk)

1 cup rice krispies

Finely chop coconut and pecans in a food processor

Mix with chocolate chips, dulce de leche and rice krispies. Scoop into small balls, I used a 025 ounce scoop.


2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

½ cup pecans

Roll the balls the topping mixture


Rich browned butter blondies are moist and delicious.
Rich browned butter blondies are moist and delicious.

Browned Butter Blondies (makes 16 blondies)

1 stick butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup Cane Syrup

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

spray and 8*8 inch pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Brown the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan for about 4 minutes.  When it’s ready the butter should smell nutty and be golden brown.  Let the butter cool.

Beat butter sugar, cane syrup eggs, vanilla and salt in the bowl of a mixer.  Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Add flour and mix until just combined, about 1 minute.

Pour into prepared pan and bake at 325 degrees for about 35-40 minutes.

let cool completely and cut into 16 squares


rolling pin rings, sugar cookie dough
Use rolling pin rings to help you roll your cookie dough tho the perfect thickness
cookies, rolling pin rings
Rolling pin rings help you roll your cookies (or pie crust) to the perfect thickness. No more guessing
Sugar cookies, royal icing
Crisp sweet sugar cookies are fun for the family to decorate in your favorite holiday colors

Sugar cookie recipe for rolling (makes about 30-40 cookies depending on the size of your cookie cutters)

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

1 stick soft butter

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups All-purpose  flour

1/4 teaspoon your favorite spice like cinnamon, or garam masala (optional)

2 tablespoons colored sugar (optional)

I use a stand mixer, but this sugar cookie dough is easy to make by hand with a wooden spoon.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper

In a bowl mix butter,  powdered sugar , egg , salt and vanilla thoroughly in a bowl until combined (about 2 minutes on medium in a stand mixer)

Stir in the flour and optional spices and mix until well combined but not over mixed.

Divide dough in half, form each half into a disk and wrap each disk in plastic.  Chill the dough in the refrigerator for about a half hour.

Spread a thin layer of flour on your counter and put one disk of cookie dough on it ( leave the other disk in the fridge until you are ready to use it)  Roll out your dough with a floured rolling pin to about  1/8  inch thick. I use rolling pin bands to help me roll the dough evenly; no more guessing about what 1/8 of an inch is or struggling to keep the dough at an even thickness.

Pre heat your oven to 350 drgrees

Dip your cookie cutter in flour and cut out your shapes.  Use a thin metal spatula ( dusted with flour) to lift the cookies off the counter and place them onto the parchment lined cookie sheet.  If you are not decorating your cookies with frosting you can sprinkle them with white or colored sugar before you bake them

Bake the cookies for 10-12 (depending on the size of your cookies) until they are just very slightly brown around the edges.  Let them cool to room temperature before you frost them.

You can re-roll the scraps of the cookie dough that are left over after cutting out your cookies.  Just gather the scraps, form them into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for a half hour before rolling)

Royal Icing

1 cup powdered sugar

2 ½ tablespoons pasteurized egg whites

Food coloring

You can find pasteurized egg whites in the dairy section of your grocery store

Mix Powdered sugar and egg whites together. Add more egg white to make a runnier consistency, add powdered sugar to make a thicker consistency. Add food coloring one drop at a time until you reach the desired color.


Using a disposable pastry bag  (cut a tiny bit off of the tip to make a small hole) pipe an outline with royal icing.  Thin the icing slightly  with a drop or two of egg white.  Use this to fill in the outlined area.

Christmas Cookies Easy and Delicious Recipes


Healthy Appetizers and Food Styling Tips with Nancy Waldeck at Cooks Warehouse Merchants Walk

appetizers, stuffed peppers, vegan appetizers, quinoa, vegan
Sweet peppers stuffed with Quinoa presented in a deviled egg plate=brilliant

I’m usually on the other side of the chef’s jacket, but not this night.  This time instead of teaching a cooking class I got to take one from fantastic chef and food stylist Nancy Waldeck ( )  at COOKS WAREHOUSE Merchants Walk  Nancy had great ideas about using unusual items to present your food. She told us a story about how once she and her assistant bought tons on mushrooms from the grocery store just for the cute boxes they were in ( I’m sure she did something wonderful with all those mushrooms).  Her recipes were lovely, light and healthy appetizers great for any party.

The assistants at Cooks Warehouse had the mise en place prepped and ready to go
The assistants at Cooks Warehouse had the mise en place prepped and ready to go
pork sliders, appetizers, sliders
Adorable presentation for pork sliders with red pepper jelly
mini stuffed potato, Cajun crab salad, appetizer
This was the dish my “lab partner” and I chose to make. Teeny potatoes filled with Cajun crab salad. Also pictured, delicious Spanish paprika chicken bites with Romesco sauce.


potato cake, appetizer, kale, broccoli, bacon, Chinese soup spoons
 I created this little app out of the potato scraps from the stuffed mini potato recipe and some stuff I found when I raided the fridge at Cooks Warehouse. Waste not want not…and eat well. This is a kale, broccoli and potato cake with bacon.

Mini Potato Cakes with Kale, Broccoli and Bacon ( makes about 15 potato cakes)

1 and  1/4 cups diced Yukon gold potatoes boiled and mashed

1/4 cup finely chopped kale

1/4 cup finely chopped broccoli

1/4 cup diced cooked bacon ( save a few pieces of bacon for garnish if you like)

2 garlic cloves grated

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup mayonnaise (or light mayonnaise)

2 tablespoons butter or canola oil

2 tablespoons sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

Mix mashed potato, kale, broccoli, bacon, garlic mayonnaise and salt together in a bowl.  Scoop about a tablespoon of the mixture and form into a small scallop shaped disk.

Heat a skillet on medium with butter or canola oil.  Brown the potato cakes on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Serve on spoons (Chinese soup spoons or regular tablespoons)

Garnish with a dollop or sour cream or Greek yogurt and top with a piece of bacon

Chinese soup spoon, appetizers
Inexpensive Stainless Steel Chinese Soup Spoons are a great way to serve appetizers


chocolate dipped strawberries
Strawberries dipped in chocolate, peanuts and Dukkah (an African spice blend) DELICIOUS
shrimp, tomato soup, appetizers, cocktail
I love this presentation of tomato soup and shrimp skewers in shot glasses on top of a pedestal and gorgeous detailed wooden mat
Sweet Savant
The fabulous Nancy Waldeck and me at Cooks Warehouse Merchants Walk

From Thrift Shop to Table Top-Great Tableware finds from Goodwill

Cute thrifted tableware.  Just a dollar or two per item. Fun for a party or for everyday.
Cute thrifted tableware. Just a dollar or two per item. Fun for a party or for everyday.

It’s time to restock my prop closet, so I headed to Goodwill on Monday to pick up some inexpensive items.  Everything on the table (except for the tablecloth and the food) is from Goodwill.  These items will be great for styling my blog and great for parties.

Sake, tea, tea party,
Cute little tea or sake cups are perfect for serving snacks and dessert.  The three of them cost $2.71
Some cute items purchased from Goodwill, cute and inexpensive
Some cute items purchased from Goodwill, cute and inexpensive
double handled soup bowl.
This thrifted 10 Strawberry Street double handled bowl may be my favorite purchase. It’s perfect for putting snacks or fruit out on the table.  Only cost me 99 cents
Some cute items purchased from Goodwill, cute and inexpensive.  I have no idea what that thing is in the upper left you?
Some cute items purchased from Goodwill, cute and inexpensive. I have no idea what that thing is in the upper left corner…do you?
Here's a better look.  At first I thought it was a cake plate but if it was it wouldn't have holes in the top.  I'm going to put a tea light candle in the center and use it as a tea pot warmer.  Any way, it was only 99 cents
Here’s a better look. At first I thought it was a cake plate but if it was it wouldn’t have holes in the top. I’m going to put a tea light candle in the center and use it as a tea pot warmer. Any way, it was only 99 cents


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