Fancy Sprouts

I need to get something off of my chest. I’m not a huge brussel sprout fan. Yes, I have tried cooking them smothered in bacon. Yes, I have tried braising them in a yummy mustard and white wine sauce. It doesn’t matter what yummy concoction brussel sprouts are a part of for me because I can always taste that bitter brussel sprout flavor. So I decided to amp up my sprout game, mainly because I need easy, pretty, yummy side dishes to serve in the winter time. Brussel sprouts are green so they trick me into thinking it’s Summer. Well played, brussels, well played… (more…)

At first, I wanted to call this dish Christmas Sprouts because they remind me of the perfect side dish to go with that Christmas beef tenderloin or honey-glazed ham. They also have green and red hues going on, making me feel extra Christmasy inside. Alas, I decided to keep it neutral. Not everyone is as obsessed with Christmas as me and I need to accept it’s only 11 short months away. So let me tell you about these sprouts. They are crispy, tangy, salty (in a very good way), briney, with a little bit of sweet. So much flavor going on but the sprouts aren’t being hidden, they are being elevated. Even if you aren’t a fan like me, try these! They won’t last long on your table! Onward!

We start with simple, yet stunning ingredients! Red bell pepper, minced garlic, capers, brussel sprouts, salami, and crumbled gorgonzola cheese. I think we are ready to start the easiest yet most beautiful side dish ever. Don’t you think?

Our sprouts are tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper. We roast them to bring out their natural sweetness. A little sweetness never hurt nobody! I like to cut off the bottom stems altogether when I quarter them. Some leaves will fall but I like it that way!

As our brussels are cooking, we can move on to the other ingredients for a bit. We sauté the red pepper until soft then add our fragrant garlic and briney capers. You could totally pile this on a steak and call it a night but I promised you a side dish so a side dish you shall receive. Let’s keep moving!

Beautiful! These sprouts are ready to be spruced up another notch! You could collect the leaves and eat them as chips but I like the flavor and crunch they add to this dish! Rule number 1 of the kitchen: DO WHAT YOU WANT!

The salami strips are lightly fried in olive oil to make them crunchy! Also, pan frying them makes their flavor deepen past the saltiness we all know and love. These make a great snack, FYI! Set these aside to be used as the topping. Oh and don’t burn yourself!

And always serve your brussels on a pretty plate. Pretty plates make the world go round. You can quote me on that. Make these! Enjoy these! Happy sprouts making!

Thyme Chicken Pasta Bake with Mushrooms and Fennel

Pasta bake. I think it sounds a little bit more dignified than just a “casserole”. Not that there is anything wrong with a good casserole, they have just gotten a bad rap through the years. I don’t know if it’s because of the less than fresh contents inside of the casserole or just the thought of making it for one dinner and having leftovers for days. Growing up, my mom made a simple casserole we always looked forward to. It was mini pasta shells, canned tuna, a dash of cayenne pepper, and the liquid gold itself, velveeta cheese. I loved the spiciness and comfort of the dish. I also long for the days where the taste of velveeta overrides the guilt of eating something that isn’t actual cheese. Casseroles are great for the colder months but also great for families on the run. I’m all about the Make Once Get Two out of the deal meals where you make one for dinner and freeze the other. Just pop it in the oven whenever you get the hankering for a cozy but quick meal. Now, doesn’t that sound better? (more…)

Instead of opening a can of this, a container of that, and dumping it into a pan to be baked, I opted for a fresher take here. This pasta bake is inspired by one of our favorite dishes in Colonial Williamsburg. It consists of crepes stuffed with chicken and mushrooms and baked in a creamy sauce. It’s the perfect cure after a long and cold day of walking the cobblestone streets. Instead of making crepes, I substituted with pasta. I also added some licoricey (not a word, sorry!) fennel that sweetens as it cooks. Thyme makes everything a little bit better with it’s lemony yet slightly smokey flavor. It’s perfect for the cold months ahead and even more perfect with a glass of your favorite white wine!

The ingredient line up:

From Top Left to Right: Parmesan, garlic, shredded chicken (don’t get me started on my rotisserie chicken rant, it’s a life saver), milk, nutmeg, fresh thyme, breadcrumbs, onion, flour, fennel, cream, butter, and mushrooms. Somewhere in there is the pasta too. You just can’t see it. But it’s there. I didn’t forget it.

We make a rich, creamy sauce with our onions and fennel. Then, we just throw everything in. You won’t miss that canned stuff one bit!

Throw in our pasta. It doesn’t get easier. I love how the farfalle look here.

After a little oven time, the top gets brown and crunchy. Sprinkle with parsley to add a little color. I didn’t have any parsley… This is warm, comforting, and so simple to throw together. Perfect for the rainy, cold weather we will be having this weekend! Happy pasta making!

Mustard Maple Chicken Stuffed Delicata Squash

When Chris and I lived in LA, we swore there was Fall. Yes, we may have been swimming in sweat and yes, we may have been abusing our window unit air conditioner but we pretended. We visited a pumpkin patch off of Sunset Blvd that had huge (fake) pumpkins you could stand in. I remember eating a midnight snack at Fred 62, who festively placed a pumpkin sign on top of the restaurant. Eating fish tacos and an ice cold margarita only days before Halloween isn’t exactly the way to celebrate the season for a Marylander. So the Fallish recipes began in our very small kitchen. Roasted pumpkin with rosemary and slow cooked short ribs braised in a deep, red wine sauce were only a few I became mildly obsessed with. I do remember a pumpkin ice cream pie in there somewhere, too. Can I just say something? As much as California rocks, I never want to miss a Maryland Fall ever…ever. (more…)

This! This is Fall all rolled up into a cute squash package. Mustard maple chicken stuffed squash. Need I say more? I was first introduced to delicata squash last year. I heard you don’t have to peel its skin and actually, after it has been cooked, you can eat it! Sounds like an easy dinner to me! This delightful squash is stuffed with a chicken, mushroom (sorry if you hate ’em!), and leek mixture that is doused with a mustard maple sauce. Serving everything in a squash shell makes a great presentation. I am totally tempted to make just the filling and eat it as is, but the squash really makes it feel like a meal and extra Fall-like.

Let’s meet our ingredient line up!

From Top Left to Right: Delicata squash (nice to meet you!), walnuts, chicken, maple syrup (this is not Aunt Jemima’s time to shine), leeks, a mustard combo of ground mustard and Dijon, breadcrumbs, fresh thyme, red wine vinegar, and mushrooms (sorry I’m not sorry).

The leeks and mushrooms are sauteed before added to the mixture. Almost everything is thrown into a bowl. I made my mustard sauce first then added it in. I like to taste for seasoning and make sure I don’t need more mustard or maple syrup.

Our precious squash is cooked first then filled with the stuffing. It’s mustardy, sweet, crunchy, herby, yummy? I got carried away with the y’s. Look at those colors. Don’t you just wanna?
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Just top those pretty thangs with parmesan and breadcrumbs. Use a couple of thyme stems for garnish if you like. I need this…again. It’s so simple and stunning to throw together, this could even grace your Thanksgiving table. Maybe just take out the chicken and add more veggies (chicken on turkey action? no thanks!). Happy squash making! ‘Tis the season!

Late Summer Salad

I like to think that at the end of a season, a better one awaits. There shouldn’t be mourning from one season to another, for we don’t know what the new season might bring. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way but transitions can be tough. Along with a new season, uncertainty, insecurity, and fear are close behind. Luckily, for me, the only major transitions right now are the seasons changing and the company I work for is moving to a new location. Both transitions are very much welcomed but I know that’s a gift. Here’s to making the best of transitions. (more…)

Ok, enough with my philosophical rant. I guess that’s what happens when I blog right before bedtime. But seriously, I love the Autumn and all that it brings. Lately, it feels like Summer doesn’t want to let go and Autumn isn’t telling her she should. With that stubborn attitude comes confusion in the kitchen. Do I roast a chicken or make a fresh salad? Do I grill or throw together that pumpkin pasta I couldn’t resist just leaving alone on the shelf? I’m very confused but one thing I know is that it’s definitely not the time for chili just yet. This salad is for those of you, like me, who love the vibrant flavors of the Summer but long for the coziness of Fall. The fennel and apple make this salad super fresh and help balance the acidity of the vinaigrette. Plus, did I mention honeyed goat cheese? No? Honeyed goat cheese.

Here is our late harvest ingredient line up:

From Top Left to Right: Extra virgin olive oil, red onion, apple, (I used Honeycrisp for a sweeter flavor but if tart is more your thing, Granny Smith will do just fine), fennel, lemon juice, arugula, dried cherries, shaved brussels sprouts, rosemary, Dijon, honeyed goat cheese, and apple cider vinegar.

I call this piece Controlled Chaos. We throw all of our ingredients that are not being used for the vinaigrette into a bowl. Save the goat cheese for last because it will dissolve if added in too soon. We admire this beauty and then move onto our vinaigrette.

Our vinaigrette is all sass. It’s tangy and with the rosemary, it has that subtle lemony herb flavor. We pour it over our greens and toss. Don’t add the goat cheese yet!

Sprinkle the goat cheese over individual servings or better yet, crumble the goat cheese and let your guests add it to their salad. It adds a wonderful sweetness that brings it all together. Side note: If you can’t find honeyed goat cheese, just add honey to your non-honeyed goat cheese. This isn’t a “good bye Summer” salad; it’s more of a “it’s been real Summer, now I’m going to hang with your friend Fall” kind of salad. Happy salad making!

Cheddar Crab Sliders with Old Bay

Summers on the East Coast and more specifically in Maryland, are quite a special thing. There are more traditions than just the usual cookouts with burgers and hot dogs. Let me paint a picture for you. Imagine a long, rectangle table with newspaper rustically draped to keep it covered. The table is studded with paper towel rolls, non strategically placed and are accompanied by little wooden hammers. Ice cold beer bottles, little bowls of melted butter, and a spice in a red and yellow can are the finishing touches. There aren’t any plates or utensils laid out. Just crabs, paper, and two hands are all you need. Oh and good conversation because you might be sitting there for a long time. (more…)

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Since it’s National Burger Day, I figured I should have another burger on here other than this gem. Also, my husband is allergic to shellfish (a crime, I know), so I don’t cook with it much. But to keep my “I’m from Maryland” badge, I wanted to put up a recipe that involved crab in some way. These sliders are topped with a fresh crab salad then drizzled with a cheddar, Old Bay sauce. The burger is seasoned perfectly, the sweet crab salad adds a bite of freshness, and the cheddar sauce is sharp with a little bit of spice. They are the perfect balance of surf and turf but they will make you miss Summer a little bit more than you already do. And just in crab eating fashion, all you need are your two hands, and if you have any common decency, a paper towel to enjoy.

Our Surf ‘n Turf ingredient line up:

From Top Left to Right: Ground beef, cheddar, milk, garlic, Dijon mustard, red onion, red bell pepper, dried oregano, Worchestire sauce, rolls, flour, lump crab meat, and that purdy little can is Old Bay. I totally forgot the butter in this pic. Sorry! Also, if you don’t have access to Old Bay in your supermarket (it’s our God given right!), Amazon sells it.

That may look like a lot of ingredients but the good news is most of them are thrown into a bowl with the beef and most of them are probably in your pantry. They make for a very tasty burger! We make little patties that match the size of our buns! Aren’t they cute?

The crab, red onion, and red bell pepper are tossed in a bowl together. They get a healthy sprinkling of Old Bay. Perfect! Make sure you taste for seasoning here. I don’t know how much Old Bay you like to get down with.

Now, what should be here is a picture of the cheddar Old Bay sauce. But it’s not and I’m sorry I forgot to take a pic by itself. Just a quick encouragement about mornay sauce aka the cheese sauce. Stir that milk until it’s thick. About 3 minutes in, you might start doubting yourself. Stick with it and keep stirring. It WILL thicken.
Our delicious sliders are assembled. Bottom bun, patty, crab, cheese drizzle, top bun. These sliders are incredibly flavorful but make you hardly work for it. EAT THESE TONIGHT! If you don’t, you know you will be thinking about them until you do. Happy sliders making!

Slow Cooked Brats with Onion and Apple Sauerkraut

Did anyone else enjoy their first football weekend of the season? In our house, we are divided. Some of us root for the Ravens (go B-more!), and some of us root for the Steelers (I won’t name names). Rivalries are fun; especially when fun bets are placed like a new cutting board or a criterion DVD. There’s something in the air that makes football Sundays extra delightful. Carbs are always available. Naps should always be taken. Everything should be finger food. No one wants to watch a game having to fork and knife something on their laps. Too stressful. Too. Much. Work. I don’t know if you have noticed but I’ve been trying really hard (like really, really hard) to come up with football friendly recipes. As a kid, my mom would always lay out a beach blanket in front of the football game and bring us picnic food. It was brilliant. Let’s keep that tradition going. Nothing too complicated, just simple, eat with your hands, kind of food. You get it. (more…)

Now, these brats were delish. BUT, these brats were also hard to photograph. I need grace here. Thank you. Back to the brats! There was so much flavor going on and the best part is: they hang out in a slow cooker all day until they are ready for some football munchin’, beer drinkin’, love. They are so tender, you wouldn’t need to give them the fork and knife treatment if you didn’t want to eat them with buns. But, buns make these finger food friendly so I highly recommend eating these on buns. Oh! Don’t forget the yellow mustard! Or spicy brown if that’s more your flow!

Our ingredient line up:

From Top Left to Right: Bratwursts, sauerkraut, fresh thyme, onion, maple syrup, brown sugar (mine started to melt and I have no idea why), apple, and buns.

Our onions and apples are cooked. The sauerkraut is added. Then here comes the hard part: throw it into the slow cooker.

Then, we sear our brats for color. I’m sorry if this photo is too provocative for you. Brats also go into the slow cooker and, are, you guess it, slow cooked.

These brats are great for game day. Start ’em early and keep them warm in your slow cooker until ready to eat. They are sweet and savory with that wonderful fermented sauerkraut flavor. Happy brats making!

Mini Niçoise Tuna Melts

These are your childhood meets elegant. I love taking a classic and making it new. Not totally new where you can’t recognize it anymore. Just new enough that you taste the classic flavors but in a new way. That’s what gets me going. Tuna melts have my heart. They’re part of that special group of meals that you forget about until you eat them and then furiously wonder why it’s taken you so long to get here. Why don’t I make these more often?! That’s what goes through my head when I eat a tuna melt. And I bet I’m not the only one…or am I? Queue in the X-Files theme song. (more…)

Have you ever had a niçoise salad? It’s a salad composed of tomatoes, eggs, olives, and anchovies and dressed with a vinaigrette. Usually, fresh tuna is also added to make it a complete meal. In these melts, I make some changes from the usual: sun dried tomatoes instead of fresh, no anchovies (not because I don’t like them but because I didn’t want to get my blender dirty), and the biggest change of all: no mayonnaise. Yup. I’m sorry. But that is what takes these to the next level. Instead of a mayo based dressing, we make a vinaigrette that would normally be paired with the niçoise salad. BUT the creaminess of the gruyere and eggs make up for the lack of creaminess from the lack of mayo. Not confusing at all.

Our French ingredient line up:

From Top Left to Right: Baguette, sun dried tomatoes, parsley, gruyere cheese, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, olives, tuna, hard boiled eggs (look at those yellows), and shallots.
*Just a little tip when buying canned tuna. Make sure the can says dolphin safe or pole caught. It’s a better way to fish for tuna that won’t hurt dolphins in the process. Fishing can be a tricky thing!

We first make our vinaigrette. Can you guess how many times I had to google vinaigrette for spelling? Don’t. Just Don’t.

Then, we begin our niçoise madness. If I had a dollar for every can of tuna I have opened in my life, well, I’d have a lot of dollars. Does that saying ever go anywhere? Am I missing something or just not witty enough? I dunno. Our vinaigrette meets our tuna niçoise ingredients.

Time to top our cute little bread slices with some niçoise love. Oooo lala.

The gruyere is sprinkled on top. These are tuna melts afterall.

All we do is place them under the broiler for a couple of minutes. Easiest appetizer ever. This would also be a great tuna salad if you don’t do the cheese thing.

I love these. I really do. These would be great to kick start any football season. Oh and if you don’t like olives, I would encourage you to still add them. I don’t like them at all but loved them in this. The amount I have added makes then barely noticeable but essential! Happy melts making!

Goat Cheese and Bacon Tartine with Peach Onion Jam

Now, before you get offended at such a fancy word as tartine, let me explain. Tartine is the french word for open face sandwich. See, you can relax a little bit. So at your next party, you can tell your guests they aren’t eating toast, they aren’t eating bread with cheese smeared on it, they are definitely not eating crostini. You can tell them they are eating a tartine. And just like that, you will look like an Iron Chef in front of them. I’m only looking out for your best interests. It’s what keeps me up at night. I also loosely use the word jam here. It’s more like a chunky jam and less like a spreadable jam. Dump and go with this jam. How appetizing does that sound? Chunky jam? Aren’t you glad you stopped by? Just don’t tell people they are eating chunky jam. Your Iron Chef title will be immediately stripped. (more…)

This tartine is the perfect mix of sweet and salty, savory and tangy. Serve it up as an appetizer or just a light lunch. You can even leave the bacon out and make it vegetarian. Moral of the story: this is a tasty way to use up those peaches that are giving you sad, puppy eyes for not enjoying them in their prime. Let’s show these peaches some respect…by eating them.

Our ingredient line up is as follows:

From Top Left to Right: Goat cheese, balsamic vinegar (or is that worchestire sauce?), peaches, onions, crusty bread, bacon, and worchestire sauce (or is that the balsamic? I didn’t think this through!). Speaking of not thinking things through, I forgot to add the fresh thyme and white wine. It’s called cooking on the fly and boy is it exhilarating!

We caramelize our onions. Low and slow is key here. Once they are golden, we add our peaches and thyme so there’s a little peach on skillet action.

Our wine is added into the peaches and onions. Save a little for yourself at the end. A glass of white wine plus this tartine sounds like an acceptable dinner to me. Our jam is finished with the worchestire sauce and balsamic. Taste for seasoning as per usual.

Some assembly required: toast, goat cheese, peach onion jam, crumbled bacon. Done and done! You can get all fancy like and cut these tartines into thirds. It will make this appetizer go a long way.

This was me. I did this. I didn’t have patience to cut into thirds. I smell bacon and become like a cave woman. MUST EAT BACON. WITH HANDS. You get the drift. Happy tartine makin’!

Greek Egg Scramble with Oregano Mayonnaise

You know how there are those recipes that your mom makes or your grandmom and you ask them for the recipe and they tell you it’s not really a recipe, they just add what they like? You know, a little bit of this, a little bit of that? Wow, what confidence! Most of cooking is this way though; you’re given an outline and you can fill in the blanks according to your tastes. Isn’t that a relief? If you don’t love red pepper flake, don’t add it (or maybe just as much as the recipe calls for). You love basil? Then add a little bit more than the recipe calls for. That’s how I want you to read my recipes. Of course, recipes are there to guide you and give you a good outcome, but never forget why you’re in the kitchen. If you aren’t excited about what you’re making or maybe a specific ingredient, change it to what gets you going! Really! Ok, end of rant… (more…)

I hardly call this egg scramble a recipe; it’s more like an inspiration. We eat our fair share of eggs so I’m always looking for new add in’s. Mushroom and cheddar omelettes, smokey bacon and paprika scramble, or fried egg sandwich with grape jelly (my husband’s fave). Eggs are a blank slate. With all of that being said, my recipe is just an outline, measurements to what I like. Add more or less of what you like. See how gratifying cooking can be?

Our ingredient line up:

From Top Right to Left: Eggs, feta cheese, dried oregano, bread of choice (if you wish), baby spinach, sun dried tomatoes, and mayonnaise. I always recommend farm fresh eggs! Good for you and your local farmers! Seriously, once you go fresh, you never go back? That saying works, right?

For our mayo: just mix the oregano with the mayo. I was thinking of adding anchovies but didn’t want to get my food processor dirty. I’ll let you know if I ever decide to add them.

We beat our eggs and cook them in some butter (always). Once the eggs start to come together, we add our sun dried tomatoes and spinach. Add the feta at the end. Voila!

Take your toast and spread the mayo. Plate your eggs. I made an egg sandwich that was just too messy to capture its gloriousness on film. This is perfect for the weekend brunch situation. So flavorful! Happy scramble making!

Canadian Cheddar Poutine with a Red Wine Reduction

I know you. You probably don’t think so but I do and I know why you’re here. You saw the word “poutine” in the title of this recipe and you were curious. I’ll just cut to the chase: poutine is a Canadian dish usually involving fries, gravy, and cheese curds. Now, I have never actually been to Canada so I can’t vouch for authentic poutine from the natives. Does a trip to Disney World’s Epcot count? When Chris and I went there for our anniversary last year, we ate at Le Cellier, the Canadian steakhouse in Epcot. They had different poutine combos like lobster and butter poutine, a BBQ pork poutine, and this gloriousness of canadian cheddar, truffles, and a thick red wine reduction. We ordered two poutines BEFORE our steaks came out! We know how to party. (more…)

You probably are aware football season is upon us and before you jump up and down for chili cheese fries (you might see them here, you might not), hear me out. I think your friends would be thrilled to eat these fries on any given day. Plus, these require much less work than chili cheese fries so there’s that!

Our fancy ingredient line up:

From Left to Right: Frozen fries (I used shoe string but choose what you like!), Truffle cheddar, red wine, shallots, Canadian cheddar, and rosemary.

We start with our red wine reduction, as our fries are baking in the oven (healthy choices here!). You can obviously make your own fries from scratch if you aren’t lazy like me. Look at that rosemary making googly eyes at you. Let it simmer until it’s thick and drizzle worthy.

Once the fries are cooked, sprinkle on your cheeses. You could also use an English cheddar or even an Irish cheddar if you can’t find Canadian cheddar. Heck, you could use white cheddar really. Cheese on fries equals bliss. That’s an old adage.

Broil the cheese fries until cheese has melted then drizzle the red wine reduction. Serve these hot, right in the sheet pan! If you are feeling fancy, eat ’em with a fork. Otherwise, take those clean paws of yours and dig in! My sister-in-law, Lauren, and I went to town so we could expertly report to you how these turned out. See the kind of sacrifices I’m willing to make for you?

These were cheesy with a herb sweetness from the reduction. The truffle and Canadian cheddar were key and really made this savory and hearty. Give ’em a try! Happy poutine making!

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