Panettone Bread Pudding


During the holidays, I get really ambitious and have visions of making instead of  buying all my Christmas presents.  This almost never happens because I am told I have really good taste in gift cards.


One year, our friends participated in a gift exchange where the only rule was that every present had to be homemade. This was our bounty of homemade jams, freshly baked rolls, breads, Meyer lemon curds, bread puddings.  We did this exactly one year.

From time to time though I still get inspired  to make my gifts and I channel said inspiration from my grandmother’s metal mixing bowl.  My mom tells me this bowl is almost as old as her which means it’s hovering around 70, or as my mother reports, 64.  She and this bowl have been 64 for the past 7 years.  My Christmas presents this year were Panettone Bread Pudding.  Panettone is a rich, eggy, spongy Italian bread dotted with candied fruit, nuts and raisins.  And because I’m using Lola’s bowl and bread puddings are super easy to make, it’s really hard to mess up.


1 pound loaf Panettone, cubed/torn in 2-inch pieces
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups milk
8 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract


  • Spread Panettone bread pieces in a greased 9x13x2 baking pan. Leave uncovered in the pan overnight to dry out and make it stale. The dryer the bread the better as it helps soak up the custard.
  • Whisk all the wet ingredients together and pour the custard mixture over the panettone bread pieces. Press down gently to make sure all pieces are submerged.
  • Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour or until the center is set and no longer jiggles.*
  • Drizzle some melted vanilla ice cream over the panettone bread pudding for a decadent vanilla cream sauce and sprinkle some turbinado sugar to make it extra comforting.

*Water baths or bain marie are allegedly essential for bread puddings because custard likes to be heated slowly to prevent curdling.  The water bath keeps it from cooking too quickly.  I’ve never done this and my bread puddings have come out fine.

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December to Remember


One can only say so much about food without sounding as if one has issues with food (I may, in fact, have food issues in that I love pork belly a little too much but that’s for another blog post) so I will focus instead on what I did and learned during my Christmas vacation.

A couple of years ago, I made a pact with myself to do no shopping for a 2-month period. It was spurred by a purging episode, an episode which yielded about about 12 very full trash bags of clothes-I’m ashamed to admit, some still with tags on them-shoes, unread books.  It was difficult at first but eventually I became cutthroat in my approach and tossed/donated things I hadn’t touched or worn in the last 90 days.  Because I do a lot of online shopping, I received and resisted the temptation to open countless emails everyday beckoning me to a sale or special discount.  But I would not falter.  I survived 60 days of not buying anything but it was a very purposeful (read: difficult) effort.

So this past Christmas, we decided that instead of buying each other more stuff, we would share experiences.  We began December with a lecture at Nourse Theater in San Francisco by one of my favorite coaches of all time, Steve Kerr.  He’s a true leader with a strength, humility and intellect that have earned him commitment from  his team.  He also admitted that winning helped.


Tiny guy on the left with a big message about teamwork, joy, mindfulness

We continued our experience-sharing with a family activity at Roy’s in San Francisco, a restaurant specializing in Hawaiian fusion and occasionally opens during midday for activities such as sushi making, cooking demos and in December, decorating gingerbread houses.  Lunch was included in the package and we were given supplies, one gingerbread house which came from a kit, which by the way, boo Roy’s–last year, their gingerbread houses were baked and created in house.  As a result, our finished product looked like a condemned property, but it was fun nonetheless.



Gingerbread house in foreclosure



It wasn’t all bad though; check out those smiles

My favorite was family date night at the San Francisco Symphony followed by dinner at the House of Prime Rib.  Each year, the SF Symphony puts on a holiday concert series geared towards families and children.  We treated ourselves to the Charlie Brown Christmas concert at the beautiful Davies Symphony Hall and even though we skipped the long lines for hot chocolate (remember it’s not about buying stuff; yes, hot chocolate counts as stuff), this is a memory we won’t soon forget. I mean, how can you outdo playing Schroeder’s piano alongside that humble, albeit sad, Christmas tree.



We ended the evening with dinner at JJs favorite restaurant House of Prime Rib, which he declared as the best restaurant ever–even better than In ‘n Out.


When asked what he liked most about the prime rib, he simply replied, “The texture.”  I’m not sure he knows what that means.

Best Christmas presents ever–and I didn’t even have to wrap anything.

The Christmas Table


You’ll notice that I haven’t blogged in awhile and I am the one most  stymied by this.  How could I have not blogged when I’ve cooked so much in the last 4-6 weeks and had 1 week of vacation during the week of Thanksgiving and then another during Christmas week? Then I realized that it was because we hosted Thanksgiving, had houseguests and hosted two Christmas parties.

I am no longer stymied.

I’ll skip the details on Thanksgiving, except to say that this happened.



For the first Christmas party our friends had this brilliant idea of making each other gifts instead of buying ones.  I was down with that–very Amish, very Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I mean, after making 6 jars of apple butter, 4 jars of pumpkin butter, 2 jars of dulce de leche, 2 pans each of croissant and panettone bread puddings I was all set to raise a barn right alongside the Lapps of Lancaster.  I warned Pru that if I started to talk about making cheese (found a recipe for it, not that hard!) and churning butter that it was time for an intervention.  It was loads of fun and work but truth be told, for next year I’m strongly considering hitting Banana Republic for a couple of scarves for these aforementioned friends.


imageOur bounty for the first Christmas party consisted of homemade biscuits, pumpkin butters, sausage, blueberry french toast casserole, breakfast strata and other carbs enough to feed a small African country.

The second Christmas party was for my family and as it is every year, was held at our house.  This year, I got smart and decided to put everyone to work.  Under Pru’s expert tutelage, my cousin Oliver carved the prime rib, other cousins plated the food and another was the mixologist for the evening.  Everyone liked helping out and feeling useful and Pru and I definitely felt less stressed at trying to coordinate everything by ourselves.

imageWe set up earlier in the day.  Tried to keep it simple with white linen and plates, red runner

imageI like to use these little ball ornaments to label the food being served.  As if it would stop people from eating food they didn’t recognize. 

imagePru came up with this great idea to display our Christmas cards.  He didn’t even consult Pinterest

imageThis is my favorite tree topper of all time.  My Dad and I bought it at Walgreens for like $5.  I’ve had it for about 30 years. 

I did not take pictures of the food because despite all the help, I was still running around.  But these two are arguably my favorite of the night as they embody what Christmas is all about for me…


10603583_10152504438336401_4459921577187632794_nCigars and stogies by the fire pit.

Have a great 2015!

Pumpkin Spice Latte


Fall is quite possibly my favorite season of all.  I’d like to be able to say it’s the crisp autumn air, the sun setting earlier in the evening, and amber colored leaves that line the streets on a windblown day. But it’s really all about the food.

Well, maybe it’s not all about the food…


Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival, 2010

The boys and I usually make an annual pilgrimage to one of our favorite fall destinations:


Apple Hill, Sacramento


Ardenwood Farms, Fremont

Fall food really is the best though.  Apple crisps, pumpkin pies, guinness braised shortribs in the crockpot to ward off chilly nights are what draw me to this season. But because California is in the midst of a drought this year and summer is really just beginning, the only way I realized that fall is now upon us was the first Facebook post on the arrival of the much anticipated Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks. I know, I know that sounds a little sad…FB telling me it’s fall.  But FB also told me that there was no pumpkin, and nary a pumpkin pie spice in Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte.  Starbucks listed their ingredients as ‘fall flavors’ among which are cinnamon, caramel ‘food color’ and high fructose corn syrup.  It also costs about as much as a school lunch with way more sugar and roughly the same amount of calories.   With the aid of Pinterest, I decided to make my own with some modifications.


Pumpkin Pie Spice Syrup
1//2 c  canned pumpkin puree
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2-4 T maple syrup
2-4 T agave nectar

1/2 c milk


To make the syrup, combine pumpkin puree, pumpkn pie spice, maple syrup and agave nectar in a medium saucepan over low heat.  Add water to thin the mixture.  The amount of maple syrup and agave nectar can be adjusted to your preference–2T of each for me was not sweet enough so I added more.  Set aside.

Froth milk by shaking it in a tightly sealed mason jar or tupperware for 2 minutes then microwave for 20-30 seconds or until heated through.

Spoon 2 tsp of the pumpkin pie spice syrup nto your coffee and mix until dissolved.  Pour frothy milk on top and sprinkle pumpkin pie spice over the foam top.



The God ‘Waffle’ Truth


It’s only July and I’m already thinking about Thanksgiving.  It’s my favorite holiday because it packs everything I love into one long week-end of family, food and shopping at ungodly hours.

And then last year, this happened:

rumbowlWe made up this game of shooting these really light balls that looked like wiffle balls into a small receptacle and then taking swigs of rum, chanting “Let’s get ready to rum-bowl!” everytime someone missed.

I rocked this game.  In my head.  In actuality I sucked really bad at it.

So the morning after, I needed some good hangover food and I came up with the waffle sandwich.  Truth be told, inventing the waffle sandwich is a little like Columbus finding America; I mean this isn’t really an invention as it is surfing Pinterest for ‘waffle iron uses’.

If this were art, and it is, I would call it ‘Leftovers Elevated.’

Mix one beaten egg with 2 cups of leftover stuffing.

Take the stuffing mixture and spread it in your waffle iron, making sure to fill in all the nooks and crannies to prevent holes in your waffle sandwich.  Don’t worry about overfilling the iron as this is not a liquid batter that will spill and overflow.


Every waffle iron has a signal to let you know when the waffle is done. As a general rule, a waffle is done when steam no longer escapes and you don’t feel resistance when trying to lift the top grid plate of the waffle iron.

Fold over cooked waffle and make a waffle sandwich of leftover slices of turkey or ham or both.  Serve with cranberry sauce and gravy on the side.