Post-baby we have been so lucky to have friends and family dropping by with sweet treats and delicious, hearty freezer meals. Though, after almost a month of eating homemade cookies and cheesy baked pastas like it was our job, the indulgent eating is starting to catch up to us and I’m realizing we need to get back onto a healthy kick. One of the best ways for us to get into a healthier routine is to plan out our meals ahead and have everything prepped in the fridge — otherwise I grab whatever snack is easy to pop-in my mouth with my free non-baby-holding hand! I decided to make some hearty winter-flavor inspired salads, with everything pre-portioned out for easy to grab lunches. read more

This weekend I was in major need of some comfort after a long string of holiday parties and maybe a few too many glasses of champagne (shh!).  My usual go-to comfort food is a bowl of pasta, but I decided to mix it up this time and try a savory chicken dish with a creamy sun-dried tomato sauce, lots of sautéed mushrooms and shallots, and a little crispy bacon and goat cheese just to amp up the richness. Full recipe below if you’re in need of comfort food too!
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Ingredients:

  • 3-4 large chicken breasts
  • 2 large Portobello mushroom caps
  • 2 small shallots
  • 2-3 slices of thick cut bacon
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil (reserve oil)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup of light cream
  • 1 tbsp of goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup of freshly grated parmesan, plus extra for garnishing
  • 2 sprigs of fresh tarragon
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions:

  • Heat a large cast iron skillet on high and drizzle with olive oil.
  • Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper and brown in the hot pan on both sides.
  • While the chicken is browning, roughly chop mushrooms, shallots, bacon and sun-dried tomatoes; mince garlic.
  • Remove chicken from pan when cooked through,  add 1/2 tbsp of the sun-dried tomato oils  and 1 tbsp of butter to the pan, then toss mushrooms, shallots, bacon, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes and sauté mixture. (Scrape the pan to loosen any browned bits from the pan).
  • Lower heat to medium and stir in 3/4 cup of light cream, 1 tbsp of goat cheese, and 1/4 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese; stir continously to break down the cheese and incorporate the tomatoes flavors with the cream.
  • Add the chicken back to the pan while the sauce cooks and thickens.
  • Remove from heat, garnish with fresh parmesan cheese and torn tarragon leaves.
  • Try serving over pasta or a bed of spinach.

I was brainstorming some new appetizer ideas that were easy to make in advance and came up with a simple formula for a snack that has some variety, without requiring tons of grocery shopping or dirty dishes. I purchased some frozen puff pastry dough, thawed, rolled and cut it into 2″ circles. Then I experimented with a few combinations of filling: herb goat cheese and rosemary sea salt, blue cheese crumbles and a drizzle of organic honey, and my favorite combination, slices of heirloom tomatoes sprinkled with fresh parmesan cheese. All three combinations got some fresh cracked black pepper on top as well before I rolled up the sides to resemble bite-sized -tarts.  After following the baking directions on the puff pasty box (375 degrees for 10-15 minutes), they came out of the oven golden brown. These lasted about 3 minutes from plate to table at a family party I brought them to, which I think means they were pretty good? I’d love to hear what combinations of fillings you might try!
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A few weeks ago when we were in Maine for a wedding, we hanging around the rental cottage for the ‘after-after party’ and a cousin of the groom started whipping up grilled cheeses with the local blueberry jams that had come in our welcome bags. I have since been dreaming about this late-night snack and realized all of the untapped potential of grilled cheese experiments. So I set to work this weekend to test some gourmet grilled cheese recipes that would be perfect for a grilled cheese bar at a casual party, or served bite-size as an appetizer.

Grilled Cheese Bar Ingredients

Are you ready for these pairings? First up, I recreated my late night inspiration with sharp English cheddar and wild blueberry jam (this one is still my favorite!). For a savory sandwich I combined goat cheese with cracked black pepper and fresh green chives (this won the husband vote). And for the most unique combination, I used a french brie, drizzled with honey, and topped with some sweet raisins.  My cast iron skillet was  pumping out these crusty, buttery little treats and we had quite the Saturday taste-testing all of my concoctions — I’m definitely using this idea for some simple entertaining with friends!

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Last night I had one of my girlfriends over for some dinner and drinks on our porch — I’m determined to soak up the warm(ish) weather as long as possible — and truthfully, I didn’t have a dinner planned until about an hour before her arrival. But leftover fig spread and some tasty goat cheese caught my eye in the fridge and I went with it. A quick spin through the grocery store and I had the makings of a fig, goat cheese, prosciutto pizza — I jazzed up with some fresh chives when it came out of the oven, and had rolled some special rosemary infused sea salt into the crust. Sometimes simple is just better, and this was certainly the case — my last-minute meal was a hit, and it paired perfectly with one of the iced tea infused honey wines I picked up from last weekend in Maine!

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Guys, I can’t even express to you in words how much I love this appetizer. If I could figure out how to put videos on my blog, then I would take one of me eating these, because only then would you really be able to tell how very much I love these little goat cheese crostini bits of deliciousness. This recipe was totally snagged from a spectacular little hole-in-the-wall wine bar on Cape Cod, where I went with some girlfriends a few years ago. And since then it’s been a staple with our group of friends, when we get together, there better be goat cheese crostini. Also, did I mention how easy it was to make? You just slice up a crusty baguette (I used Trader Joe’s ficelle), toast it under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, and then spread the warm bread with goat cheese. Then drizzle the crostinis with good honey — I used orange blossom honey, yum — and sprinkle with fresh thyme. The only other step is try not to eat them all before your guests arrive — I promise, it’s going to be difficult.

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We had a little “Sunday Funday” at our apartment this weekend — the arrival of our monthly cheese delivery from Murray’s (best wedding gift, ever) called for a celebration. So my buddy Taz came over to enjoy some cocktails and bites to close out the weekend. We made one of my favorite snacks — goat cheese crostini — and whipped up a fresh batch of blueberry mint simple syrup to top off some prosecco cocktails. And the talented Taz took lots of pictures, so come back tomorrow to check out the recipes!

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All Images by Bring to Light Photography