Recipe: Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Apricot Gelée

Panna Cotta, an Italian dessert of silky, sweetened cream set with gelatin, is all at once simple, classic and elegant.  It is, at its best, subtle, not overly sweet, and the perfect way to end a meal on a light and refreshing note.
Panna cotta comes together quickly and can be molded in any type of vessels you choose -- from ramekins to demitasse, martini glasses to mason jars.  I like to compliment my panna cotta with a thin layer of gelée -- a gelatin stabilized glaze made from fresh fruit.  Apricots are in season right now, and are bursting with summer sweetness, so I chose to do an apricot gelée.  You can use my recipe with any type of fruit you'd like.  
Here are some photos of panna cottas I've made in the past with a variety of gelées and vessels:
Vanilla Panna Cotta with a Honey Gelée and Bee Pollen
Lemon Panna Cotta, no gelée
Meyer-Lemon Panna Cotta, Strawberry-Rhubarb Gelee

I like to decorate my desserts with edible flowers, especially in summer and springtime. My theme fo…

Holiday Craft: Winter Bird Diorama Ornament

It was a rainy day in December, many years ago, when I rummaged through my crafting bric-a-brac to pull together an impromptu project to do with my girls.  I was inspired by a pair of paper mache ball ornaments and a handful of miniature decorative birds, which the girls and I ended up turning in to diminutive dioramas.  The ornaments never fail to tickle our fancy when they're lovingly unpacked every year.

A few weeks ago, the ornaments caught the eye of one of my daughter's friends. She fell in love with the cheery little cardinals inside their tiny winter worlds and convinced me to recreate the project for her next visit.  So that's just what we did last weekend.  The girls, ages 14, 12 and 9 all did a beautiful job with their ornaments, with very  minimal help.

Here's a step-by-step tutorial for how to make your own Winter Bird Diorama Ornament:

 Winter Bird Diorama Ornament

(makes 2)

  • 1 paper mache ball ornament (Mine came from Michael's and were $1.99 each)
  • A craft knife or serrated kitchen knife
  • 1 2-pk of mini birds (Mine came from the floral section at Beverly's)
  • Mod Podge, Satin formula and a paint brush
  • Scrapbook or vintage paper (I used vintage sheet music)
  • Two chenille stems (pipe cleaners)
  • Acrylic Paint and a paint brush
  • Clear Glitter
  • Silver Glitter (I used German Glass Glitter)
  • 2 cotton balls or cotton batting.
  • 2 small branching twigs
  • A hot glue gun

Step 1: Carefully cut the ball in half (follow the seam) with a craft knife or serrated kitchen knife.  This will give you two halves to work with.  If the paper mache slips off the plastic core after cutting, simply re-affix with a coat of Mod Podge.


Although we waited to paint our ornaments at the end, I recommend painting first.  With a paint brush, apply one coat of acrylic paint to the paper mache side of the ornament halves.  Set aside to dry.

Step 2:  When the paint is dry, tear scrapbook or vintage paper into small pieces and decoupage to the inside of the ornament.  Set aside to dry.

Step 3:  Fluff up a small piece of cotton batting or cotton ball to form a patch of snow.  Make a hole through the center with a pencil or skewer to create a space to insert the twig.  Then glue in place with Mod Podge.

Step 4:  Place a dab of hot glue in the hole you made in the center of the fluff.  Insert stick so that it touches the base.  This will help hold it securely.

Step 5:  Lightly brush some Mod Podge on the twig, and more heavily on the fluff.  Then, shake on some clear glitter. Shake off excess.

Set the cardinal in place with hot glue.

Step 6: Starting at the top center, hot glue the chenille stem around the frame of the ornament.  When you reach the top center again, form a loop, then glue the end in place.

Step 7:  Brush Mod Podge on the chenille stem, then coat with silver glitter.  Shake off excess.  Set aside to dry. 

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