Goat Cheese + Sausage Stuffed Jalapeños

February 4, 2016

Since the Superbowl is upon us, I thought it'd be only fitting to have a post reflecting a perfect game-day eat: stuffed jalapeños. If we're being honest here, one of the main reasons I like attending Superbowl bashes is for the food (the other reasons? Halftime and commercials). I mean, a day where the norm is to nosh on a smorgasbord of (basically) bar-type foods? Count me in. These stuffed jalapeños are, in my opinion, the perfect game-day grub to snack on. Stuffed with sweet Italian sausage, goat cheese and parmesan, the creamy and hearty filling is a fantastic contrast to the crunch of the jalapeño and crispy Panko topping. I hope you guys enjoy these!

Sausage + Goat Cheese Stuffed Jalapeños 
Makes 16 stuffed jalapeños

3 Links Sweet Italian Sausage
6 Ounces Soft Goat Cheese
8 Jalapeños
1/3 Cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
3 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley, roughly chopped
1/2 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
Pinch of Salt, Pepper and Red Pepper Flakes

  1. Preheat oven to 450 Degrees F.
  2. Prep the jalapeños by cutting in half, lengthwise, and scooping seeds and interior out.
  3. Make the filling: Take the sausage out of the casing by using a pairing knife to cut down the middle. Crumble the sausage into a heated pan and brown. Once browned, remove with a slotted spoon and rest on a paper towel lined plate. Let cool. (*After the sausage is cooled, if the crumbles are still too big, use your hands to break apart. Crumbles should resemble size of beans or large peas.)
  4. In a bowl, combine goat cheese, cooled sausage crumbles, parmesan cheese, parsley, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
  5. Begin stuffing the jalapeños (I used a tablespoon measure, as larger jalapeños generally fit about 1 Tablespoon of filling).
  6. Prepare topping: In a bowl, combine 2 Tablespoons butter and melt. Add 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs to melted butter and mix. 
  7. Place jalapeños with bread crumb mixture and place in oven. Bake at 450 Degrees F for 10-14 minutes or until the interior is bubbly and bread crumb topping is golden brown.
Bon Appetit!

Ikea Hack: Besta TV Unit

January 8, 2016

If you've visited my Pinterest board, you might have figured out that I'm a slight Pinterest fanatic. Ever since K and I have moved into our new place, I've been pinning home decor like nobody's business. I purchased a few Ikea pieces when we moved in because they are great blank canvases for changing and giving makeovers (the "Ikea hack" phenomenon is real). Have you heard of O'verlays? I've had my eye on them for quite some time - 'Overlays are decorative fretwork panels for furniture. Simply apply the  panels to your furniture and watch your piece go from ho-hum to one-of-a-kind. They also make panels specifically for Ikea furniture, which makes it so easy to transform an inexpensive piece of furniture into a truly unique and expensive-looking piece. 

I chose to paint my Ikea Besta TV unit in a jewel-toned blue so it would pop against the neutral walls. I spray painted the overlays kit a gold metallic that comes off brassy (anyone who knows me well knows I have a mild gold/brass obsession) and added brass ring pulls to pull the look together. The outcome? A chic, Hollywood Regency-style TV stand that no one would have guessed came from Ikea!

1. Ikea Lappviken Doors for Ikea Besta TV Stand - Ikea
2. Ikea Besta TV Stand - Ikea
3. Ikea Stubbarp Legs - Ikea
4. Medium Grit Sandpaper - Home Depot
5. Behr Paint (choose any color to your liking, I used a dark blue) - Home Depot
6. Brass Ring Pulls - Amazon
7. Harper Thick O'verlays Kit - O'verlays
8. Rust-oleum Metallic Spray Paint in Gold - Home Depot
9. Gorilla Glue - Home Depot

I put my Ikea unit together prior to painting it - before putting it together I had spray painted the legs gold and put those on.  Once you are ready to paint your unit, be sure to unscrew and take the doors off and takes the shelving out.
1. After taking the doors off and shelves out, sand down the unit very well (front, sides, back, doors and shelves, too!). I found this step-by-step tutorial on sanding particularly helpful.
2. Paint! I used a semi-gloss paint with a primer already mixed in. I did about two coats. **Be patient and let the paint dry between each coat, otherwise you'll end up with a gloppy mess that will not dry properly.

**TIP: Sanding down the TV unit was the most lengthy part of this project (aside from actually assembling the TV unit itself). If I were to do this project again, I would use a chalk paint over a standard paint. The great thing about chalk paint is that it doesn't require any sanding AT ALL. With chalk paint you get more of a rustic, chalky finish. If you decide to use a chalk paint, I highly recommend Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.

Steps for O'verlays:
'Overlays come with detailed instructions on how to apply the fretwork panels (I'll summarize below):
1. Lay the O'verlays down and wipe with a cloth to make sure they are clean  (you don't want any dust, or in my case, dog hair!)
2. Spray the overlays with the Rustoleum spray paint and let dry.  (You can use a standard paint if you want - I used Rustoleum spray paint because I love the metallic finish it gives off.)
3. Once the overlays have dried, prep the backside with Gorilla Glue.
4. Align and place the glue-exposed side down onto the TV unit doors.

Final Step:
Drill a hole in the center of each door for the ring pulls. Insert the ring pulls and screw the doors back on - you're done!

I hope you like the outcome as much as I do! Please comment below for any questions about the DIY. I hope you all have a fantastic weekend!

{Copycat} Nordstrom Cafe's Tomato Bisque + Garlic-Parmasean Crostini

January 6, 2016

Happy New Year, everyone! I'm back after a seriously long hiatus. No excuses, but the last year was so busy: lots of traveling for work, a long trip to Europe and some wedding planning (K & I are engaged!). I neglected this little passion project of mine - but I am back and ready to share some delicious recipes!

So now on to this soup...is anyone else obsessed with Nordstrom Cafe's Tomato Bisque?! Not only is Nordstrom my favorite department store, but their cafe is on my list of favorite comfort-food lunch spots. No matter what my lunch order is, I always have a cup of their Tomato Bisque. I hunted down their recipe and had to share it with you guys! Okay, okay, so there are carrots involved in this recipe (CARROTS in a TOMATO soup?!), but don’t flip out…the carrots add another layer of sweetness to simmered tomatoes, which make for an extremely flavorful soup. And what is Nordstrom’s tomato bisque without a garlicky, cheesy crostini (for dipping purposes, duh!). 

Nordstrom’s Cafe Tomato Bisque with Garlic-Parmasean Crostini

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 28 ounce can whole Italian-style tomatoes in purée (I like to use Cento)
15 ounces low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (if you want to skim the calories down, you can used 1/4 cup instead)
Salt & Pepper
1 bunch basil leaves, "chiffonade" or cut into fine ribbons (mixing half into the soup and saving the rest for garnish)

1. In large dutch oven or saucepan, warm the oil over medium heat
2. Add the carrots, onions and sauté until softened for about 12 minutes
3. Add the tomatoes and the chicken broth. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low to simmer.
4. Simmer for 40-45 minutes
5. Remove from the heat. Purée the soup by using an emulsion blender. Or, purée
the soup in a blender, in batches (I used my Vitamix)
6. Add the cream after you have returned the puréed soup to the saucepan. Stir on medium heat to warm until heated through. Add 1/2 of the chiffonade basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. When ready to serve, garnish soup with 1 tablespoon of the chiffonade basil.

Nordstrom’s Parmesan-Garlic Crostini
(Makes about 1 dozen)

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (4 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (using a microplane to grate the parmesan I find works best)
4 cloves fresh garlic, grated on a microplane or chopped fine
3-4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt & Pepper
1 small baguette, cut on a sharp diagonal into 3/8-inch-thick slices (ciabatta bread that’s sliced thin also works really well —that’s what I used)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. Mash the butter, 1/2  of the cheese, salt, pepper, garlic and parsely together in a medium bowl with a rubber spatula until combined
3. Spread each slice of bread with a generous 2 teaspoons of the butter mixture in an even layer
4.Arrange the crostini on a baking sheet. Sprinkle leftover 1/2 cup Parmesan evenly over each slice (don’t be afraid to add some more Parm if you love cheese!)
4. Bake, uncovered, until golden brown, 12-14 minutes. Serve warm with soup and enjoy!

Bon Appetit!

Tropical Green Smoothie

January 25, 2015

A couple of weeks ago I hit a serious breakfast slump. The idea of scarfing down breakfast before I rushed out the door for work seemed very unappealing. I wanted something in the morning that would give me a great jolt of energy but would also subside my hunger. Enter: the tropical green smoothie. Not only do I make this green beauty every morning for breakfast, I save some to sip on as a healthy mid-afternoon snack as well. Apprehensive about the green? Don't fear: the flavor of spinach takes a back seat when combined with tropical fruits, such as pineapple and mango. All in all, this smoothie isn't just full of nutrients to help get you going in the morning, but is also deliciously refreshing.

Tropical Green Smoothie
Makes two 12 ounce smoothies (24 ounces)

1 cup pineapple, frozen
1 cup mango
1 medium banana, sliced and frozen
1 heaping handful spinach
1 medium cucumber, chopped
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup coconut water

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into serving cups and sip happy! *Freezing the pineapple and banana are not necessary, but I do recommend it if you have the time (pop them in the freezer the night before!) Freezing some of the fruit adds nice, cool texture without having to add ice.

Happy sipping!

Momofuku Milk Bar's Banana Cream Pie

November 8, 2014

I know it's November, and I really should be showcasing pumpkin-spiced, fall-inspired desserts. BUT, my mind has been on Banana Cream Pie. Why? After I watched Momofuku Milk Bar's Pastry Chef Christina Tosi whip up this Banana Cream Pie in the first season of Mind of a Chef, my mind would always circle back to this pie when thinking of desserts. I was intrigued when Tosi mentioned the importance of using "ripe" bananasand she means as-dark-as-you-can-get bananas. With the bananas being so ripe, it seriously intensifies the banana flavor and gives the custard amazing depth. Now, let me forewarn you: this recipe is very lengthy and requires some patience. That being said, when you taste the fruits of your labor, the work will be justified with one bite of this rich, creamy and heavenly pie.

Momofuku Milk Bar's Banana Cream Pie
(Adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook)
Makes one 10-inch Pie


For the Chocolate Crumbs:
(makes about 2 1/2 cups)
2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Chocolate Crust:
(makes one 10-inch pie crust)
1 3/4 cups chocolate crumbs
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Banana Cream Filling:
(makes about 3 cups, enough for one 10-inch pie)
3 very ripe bananas (the darker, the better)
1/3 cup plus 3/4 cup heavy cream, separated
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin powder
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon yellow food coloring
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar

For the Chocolate Crumbs:
1. Preheat the oven to 300 (F).
2. Combine 2/3 cup flour, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 2/3 cup cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until fully combined.
3. Add 6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter and mix on low speed until the mixture starts to come together in small clusters.
4. Spread the clusters on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, breaking the clusters up at the 10 minute mark. Once the crumbs have finished baking for 20 minutes, let cool. Allow to cool completely before using in a recipe.

For the Chocolate Crust:
    1. Pulse 3/4 cup chocolate crumbs in a food processor until they are sandy and no sizeable clusters remain. (Save 1/4 cup chocolate crumbs to be used as a topping when the pie is finished.)
    2. Transfer the sand to a medium bowl and, with your hands, toss with 2 teaspoons sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Add 2 tablespoons melted butter and knead into the sand until it is moist enough to knead into a ball.
    3. Transfer the mixture to a 10-inch pie dish. With your fingers and the palms of your hands, press the chocolate crust firmly into the tin, making sure the bottom and sides of the pie tin are evenly covered. Wrapped in plastic wrap, the crust can be stored at room temperature for up to 5 days, or in the fridge for 2 weeks.

    For the Banana Cream Filling:
    1. Combine 2 ripe bananas (saving the third non-ripe one for later), 1/3 cup heavy cream, and 1/4 cup milk in a blender and puree until totally smooth.
    2. Once the mixture is completely smooth, add 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 3 egg yolks and continue to blend until homogenous. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan, and clean the blender canister (or medium bowl).
    3. Bloom 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin by sprinkling it evenly across the surface of a small bowl filled with 2 tablespoons of cold water. The gelatin is bloomed when it is soft, about 2 minutes. 
    4. Whisk the contents of the pan (from the 2nd step) and heat over medium-low heat, whisking constantly. As the banana mixture heats up, it will thicken. Bring to a boil and, once it's at boiling point, continue to whisk vigorously for about 2 minutes to fully cook out the starch. The mixture will resemble thick glue, bordering on cement, with a color to match.
    5. Transfer the contents of the pan back into your blender (or medium bowl, if using an immersion blender). Add the bloomed gelatin (from the 3rd step) and 3 tablespoons butter and blend until the mixture is smooth and even. Add 1/2 teaspoon yellow food coloring until it is a bright, artificial banana yellow.
    6. Transfer the banana mixture to a heatproof container, and let cool in the fridge for as long as it takes to cool completely, about 30 to 60 minutes.
    7. When the banana mixture has cooled, make whipped cream by combining 3/4 cup heavy cream with 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar in a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk until the cream and sugar combine to create medium-soft peaks (don't over-mix!).
    8. Add the cold banana mixture (from the 6th step) to the whipped cream and slowly whisk until evenly colored and homogenous — the mixture should turn into a pale yellow. 
    9. Once the banana cream is ready, pour half the mixture into the chocolate pie shell. Cover it with a layer of sliced bananas (from your remaining banana), then cover the bananas with the remaining banana cream. Sprinkle the top with remaining chocolate crumbs. The pie should be stored in the fridge and eaten within a day.

    Bon Appetit!

    Evil Eye Dark & Stormy

    October 28, 2014

    Lately, I've been all about the Moscow Mule. And because I'm not thew biggest vodka fan (but LOVE the ginger-beer and lime combo) I've been trying out various alcohols in place of it, like gin. But, when I found out a Dark & Stormy was basically a Moscow Mule with rum, I was immediately on board. This year for Halloween, I'm opting to forgo any crazy festivities and curl up to a scary movie with a downright delicious cocktail instead—and what cocktail more fitting than this "Evil Eye" Dark & Stormy?

    Dark. spiced rum
    Freshly-squeezed lime juice
    Ginger Beer (make sure to use ginger beer, not ale!)
    Lychee Berries (lychees canned in syrup can be found in the international section of the grocery store)
    Brandied cherries

    (Makes one drink)
    2 ounces dark, spiced rum
    3 ounces ginger beer
    1/2 ounce lime juice

    In a tall glass full of ice, combine the rum, ginger beer, and lime juice with ice and stir well. Add a couple lychee-cherry "evil eyes" to each drink.

    Lychee-Cherry "Evil Eyes": Take a brandied cherry and place it into the lychee berry cavity. Tah-dah! That's all that's needed for adding a dose of Halloween into your boozy refreshment.

    Have a deliciously spooky Halloween!

    Mushroom + Herb Farro Risotto

    September 20, 2014

    I've been on this new kick lately of trying new grains. This is where farro came in...Farro is an Italian grain that's packed with fiber, magnesium and low in calories and fat. Not to mention it's delicious and can be used in salads, soups and is very versatile. I'm drawn to its nutty flavor and because of this I thought it was a perfect fit for a fall-inspired risotto. Because the farro is a pretty tough grain, it has to be par-cooked before you jump into making the risotto, but the beauty of it is that it'll yield a more firm, al dente texture that you don't necessarily get with Arborio rice. When the nuttiness of the farro is brought together with pungent sage, woody mushrooms and chives, it becomes an essence of fall.

    Mushroom + Herb Farro Risotto
    Serves 4-6

    1 1/3 cup farro
    24 ounces chicken stock
    1/2 cup dry white wine
    8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced thin
    1 sm-med yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup chopped)
    2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
    2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage
    2 Tablespoons chopped chives
    1/2 cup Parmesan, finely grated (+ a piece of the rind)
    1/2 cup Ricotta Cheese, divided
    1 Tablespoon unsalted butter


    1. Par cook the farro: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add farro and lower the heat to medium. Cook for  15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

    2. Warm the chicken stock in a pot on medium-low heat. 

    3. In a medium-large pot, sweat the onions in a few Tablespoons of olive oil , salt and pepper, on medium heat until translucent (about 5-10 minutes).

    4. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the farro and cook for an additional 2 minutes (to pearl).

    5. Add wine and cook until reduced almost completely. 

    6. Start to add the stock, ladle by ladle. Add one ladle, then wait until the liquid reduces almost completely, then add another ladle, and so on until the stock is gone. (**Be patient! The risotto process from here on out will take about 30 minutes!) During this process, be sure to keep and eye on the farro and stir with a wooden spoon after every time stock is added.

    7. After 30 minutes, the farro should be tender but not mushy. Pull from the heat and add the butter, 1 Tablespoon of the ricotta, Parmesan, chives and sage. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

    Ricotta Topping
    While the lovely risotto cooks and works it's magic, you can whip up this ricotta mixture (a dollop will go on top of each plate to finish).Combine ricotta cheese (all 1/2 cup besides 1 Tablespoon), 1 Tablespoon of chives and 1/4 tsp salt. Mix together and pop it in the fridge to chill.

    Spoon risotto into bowls or onto plates. Garnish with a spoonful of the ricotta mixture and a sprinkle of chives. 

    Ta-Dah! I hope you like this risotto variation of mine!

    Bon Appetit everyone!