butternut squash & blue cheese spread

Call me basic, but this girl loves some squash.

butternut squash goat cheese dip I howsweeteats.com

In my humble opinion, squash should be celebrated year round – not just autumn, when it’s in season and oh-so-plentiful. Typically, I try to shop seasonally {helps with keeping my food local, costs down, etc.} but squash somehow always finds a way into my cart, shopping trip after shopping trip. It’s a versatile vegetable; salads, main dishes, soup and chili {yes, even in the spring and summer!}…I never find myself tiring of it. Good thing the hubs doesn’t either, otherwise we might have a bit of a problem.

But back to the recipe, lest I get further swept up in preaching my love for squash…

This is definitely a new, and fun, twist on a squash dish. As I mentioned above, none of us are strangers to using said vegetable in all sorts of dishes. But when racking my brain for an autumnal dish to bring on a trip, I thought “why not do something squash-based?” and sure enough, the internet didn’t let me down.  This dip is seriously delicious, and seriously addicting.

Roasted butternut squash meets up with its herbacious friends in a warm, creamy spread. It is bursting with tangy blue cheese, but not so heavy that it leaves you feeling like you need a nap after just a few bites. In fact, the lot of us polished this entire dish off in one sitting, and trust me – not a single one of us felt bad about it. You can scale back on the cheese if you’d like, but I highly suggest leaving it all in. I served it with toasted whole wheat naan bread, rather than chips; they were a bit sturdier, and the nutty flavor of the naan complemented the dip so nicely.

I could easily see this as a spread on sandwiches, flatbread pizzas, dolloped onto a vegetable-based soup or stew…the possibilities are endless! And it can be prepared ahead of time, too; just assemble the dish until the step before you bake it {seal tightly and store in the refrigerator until ready to heat through}. You’ll be the star of the party with this one. Truth.

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Butternut Squash & Blue Cheese Spread {recipe adapted, slightly, from How Sweet It Is}

Squash lovers, meet your new dip addiction. Blended until creamy and smooth, lusciously rich…perfect for any get-together, and sure to please even the pickiest of palettes! The flavor combinations are out of this world. 

Ingredients:

2-1/2 cups cubed butternut squash

3 Tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

pinch grated nutmeg

10 ounces crumbled blue cheese {I used a reduced-fat version, but full-fat would be fine as well}

1 Tbsp. EACH of these dried herbs: oregano, basil, parsley, sage

salt and pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and coat with nonstick cooking spray.

Toss the squash cubes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread out on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Toss and bake for 15 minutes more, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.

Add the squash {and any olive oil drippings} into the bowl of a food processor along with the nutmeg, dried herbs, and half of the blue cheese crumbles. Blend until completely smooth, and transfer to an oven-proof dish.**

Cover with remaining blue cheese crumbles, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until warmed through. Stir to incorporate melted cheese on top.

Drizzle with additional olive oil, if desired, and fresh cracked pepper. Serve immediately with your dipper of choice.

butternut squash goat cheese dip I howsweeteats.com

*images courtesy of How Sweet It Is*

healthy ranch dressing

When preparing a salad, it deserves nothing but the best. Fresh, wholesome ingredients that a full of flavor. Toppings that complement the salad itself, but don’t weigh it down. And of course, there’s the dressing – for many, a necessary component. And more often than not, it’s what takes a salad from fresh, healthy and fabulous to a total calorie bomb. Why waste all that wonderful nutrition and flavor, just to be topped with something that essentially eradicates all the goodness you’ve prepared?

That’s where this salad dressing comes to play. In college, I did my fair share of overdressing my “healthy” salads with many a preportioned dressing – seemingly so innocent in its neat little package, but erasing all the healthfulness of my dinner with each satisfying squeeze of said packet. I do wish that I could go back and tell my previous self “NO!!” but alas, it’s a lesson learned. These days, I look for flavor in other ways – tangy mustard, olive oil and {lots!!} of fresh lemon juice, and today’s recipe…ranch dressing.

image c/o hcuforu.com

image c/o hcuforu.com

Yes! It’s true! Ranch dressing can be healthy, and delicious all at the same time! After stumbling upon this recipe, I tentatively tried it {you see, I was not a big fan of cottage cheese for some time, but that’s another store for another day} and both the hubs and I immediately fell head over heels for it. The texture is perfect, it’s bursting with flavor from the fresh ingredients and herbs, perfectly tangy from the buttermilk. A total win. And the bonus? – you get a pretty hefty dose of protein from the cottage cheese itself! Your salad won’t be complete without this on top from now on, trust me on this.

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Healthy Ranch Dressing {recipe adapted from Eating Well}

By making a sneaky {and healthy!} swap into one of the most beloved salad dressings, the classic Ranch gets a face lift! Cottage cheese, when pureed into a silky texture, makes the ideal replacement and base for a healthy salad dressing. The addition of fresh ingredients and plenty of herbs result in a salad topper sure to please anyone! 

…and why stop there!? Use this condiment for dipping baked French fries, drizzled into sandwiches and wraps – the possibilities are endless!

Ingredients:

1 small shallot, peeled

3/4 cup nonfat cottage cheese

1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise {I like to use the olive oil/mayonnaise combination, available at most stores}

2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

1/4 cup buttermilk*

1 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped

salt and pepper, to taste

*the amount may vary, depending on how thin or thick you prefer your dressing; simply adjust as desired

To Prepare:

With the food processor running, add shallot through the feed tube and process until finely chopped. Add in the cottage cheese, mayonnaise and vinegar. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary, about 3 minutes. Pour in the buttermilk while the processor is running. Scrape down the sides again; add in the dill, salt and pepper. Process until combined.

make ahead tip: cover and refrigerate for up to one week. 

thirsty thursday: rosemary & gin goddess

No matter the season, the time of year…I always find myself coming back to it. I do hereby profess my love for all cocktails that are gin-based. And this drink, y’all, is no different.

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In fact, this could almost be my new go-to in the summer. There’s something about gin that just screams “summertime” to me – it’s crisp and refreshing, doesn’t need much to transform it, but can pair so beautifully with many other ingredients. It’s simple to elevate a classic ‘gin and tonic’ with just a few slices of cucumber, or perhaps another apertif {but we’ll save that for another day}…but for today, I give you gin. Gin, paired with rosemary and lemon.

I’ll let that sink in for just a minute.

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This cocktail is so dangerously good that it should be illegal. Seriously. The hubs and I made a batch of these not long ago, and I had to restrain myself from slurping it down too fast. It’s just.that.darn.good. Preparing the rosemary simple syrup the night before you’re planning on cocktails, this drink comes together in a matter of minutes.

I recommend having enough ingredients on hand, because you’ll find yourself heading back inside to make another round. Mostly because this is an ideal porch-sipping drink on a lazy summer evening, but even more so because you’ll find yourself impossible to resist just one.

Cheers!

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Rosemary & Gin Goddess {recipe from Food52}

Appropriately named because this cocktail is seriously that amazing – nothing but the best ingredients, and suited for royalty. This is one for the books, y’all – one taste and you’ll fall in love.

Rosemary Syrup:

1/4 cup rosemary leaves, with the stems on

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup sugar

To Prepare the Syrup:

Bring the water to a boil in a small sauce pan. Add in the rosemary leaves and sugar, allowing the sugar to melt completely into the boiling liquid. Remove from heat, and cool completely. Store {with the rosemary leaves still inside} in a tightly sealing jar in the refrigerator.

Ingredients {cocktail}:

1-1/2 ounces good gin {we used Hendricks, but whatever your favorite is will be just fine}

3/4 ounces rosemary syrup

3/4 ounces fresh lime juice

club soda, for topping off

fresh rosemary sprig, for garnish

To Prepare {cocktail}:

Fill a tall glass with ice. Add in the gin, lime  juice, rosemary syrup and stir to combine.

Top with a splash of club soda, stir briefly, and garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary.

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Enjoy!

summer seafood soup

Summer is a celebration of all things fresh and lovely; bursting forth with vibrant colors, herbacious notes and strong flavors. And, obviously, it’s a time to eat things that are lighter – not only because we’re no longer bundled up in layers upon layers of sweaters {I miss this part of you, winter!}, but because…let’s face it…who wants to be standing in a hot kitchen for any longer than they need to be?

Enter this soup.

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I mean, who wouldn’t want to dive in, spoon first?

You all know by now that I have a huge spot in my culinary heart for all things soup – it doesn’t matter what time of year it is, how hot or cold it is…I will never, ever turn down a bowl. But sometimes, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do…and sometimes that means making a soup that is “summer friendly.” So when this idea popped into my mind not long ago, I knew I had to make it happen. It’s as simple as utilizing a quality bag of your favorite seafood medley {where I live, fresh seafood is not always choice/easy to come by} and jazzing it up with LOADS of freshness – we’re talking crisp white wine, simple chicken stock, and a plethora of fresh herbs and vegetables. It comes together in one pot, and is the perfect summer weeknight meal – especially when eaten al fresco : )

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Summer Seafood Soup {original recipe}

A fun twist on a classic seafood stew, this dish utilizes many pantry staples and can easily be manipulated to suit your particular tastes. Make a double batch and have dinner ready for the next day – serve atop pasta or rice with a smathering of fresh herbs, and you’re all set!

Ingredients:

1 lb. seafood medley {our local Kroger has a great blend you can get, right in the freezer department}

1 large white onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minces

1 cup low-sodium chicken stock

1/2 – 1 cup white wine

olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

crushed red pepper, to taste

fresh basil leaves, for garnishing {should equate to 1/4 – 1/3 cup once julienned}

**optional: if a thicker broth is desired, you can combine 1/2 T. cornstarch with 1/4 cup water. Slowly whisk into the soup until thickened to your liking**

To Prepare:

In a large nonstick sautese pan, generously drizzle in olive oil until the bottom is nicely coated. Once heated through, add in the diced onion. Cook over medium heat, 6-10 minutes, or until the onions are soft and translucent.

Add in the minced garlic and saute 3-5 minutes more, until the garlic has softened {the onions may be starting to turn slightly golden – that’s ok!}. Season the vegetable mixture with salt and pepper, as well as the crushed red pepper, to taste.

Add in the liquid ingredients {stock and wine} and bring to a slow simmer.

Add in the seafood medley, and cook according to the package directions {mine took about 12 minutes}.

Now would be the time to add in the thickening mixture, if desired. Once drizzled in, stir to combine and simmer for 5 minutes or so, until you can see the difference in texture.

Dish into large soup bowls, and top with the julienned basil leaves. I also like to add a bit of extra crushed red pepper flakes, too, for a bit of extra heat.

Serve with toasted bread for dipping. Enjoy!

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sweet pea hummus

Like many, I tend to eat with my eyes first; taking in the different colors of the dish, its presentation on the plate, and what kinds of textures I can pick out with my naked eye.

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So when I finished plating this delightful dip, I could not wait to dive in. Just take one look at that photo, y’all – beautifully bright green with fresh basil and succulent sweet peas. We know we’re going to get a pop of bright citrus from the lemon garnish. And you can tell it’s going to have a beautiful mouth-feel because of how velvety and luscious it looks in the bowl.

I may need another moment, and another look.

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This dish practically screams “summer” to me. We’re utilizing so many fresh ingredients today, many of which you should be able to get from your local farmer’s market or co-op. Aside from the weather, I can safely say that preparing dishes with so many fresh and local flavors is one of the best parts of my summer. I look forward to it every year; seeing what I can create with what I can either grow in my backyard, or what my friends grow. It’s a fun challenge, but oh-so-rewarding; you can taste the freshness bursting forth! This hummus is no exception.

I prepared it for a graduation party, served alongside hearty dippables {crusty bread, chips, pretzels}. But I can just as easily see myself stirring it into pasta salads, smearing onto a sandwich, or heck…the base for a pizza! Let your imagination run wild – that’s how some of the best dishes come about.

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Sweet Pea Hummus {adapted, minimally, from Food52}

Ingredients:

1 can of white northern beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed

1-1/2 cups green peas {I used a frozen bag, and simply cooked and cooled slightly before assembling the dip}

2-3 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

salt and pepper, to taste

4 T. fresh herbs {I used basil}

To Prepare:

Place the beans, peas, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, and fresh herbs into the base of a food processor and pulse to combine. Next, blend at a continuous speed until thoroughly emulsified {if the mixture is too thick for your liking, drizzle in a bit of olive oil or water}.

Taste the hummus, and add salt and pepper according to your preference.

Serve alongside crunchy vegetables, chips, or toasted baguettes.

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Enjoy!

The Wynn, Las Vegas

I love a good challenge, and a few weeks ago when my friends over at Vegas.com contacted me with just that opportunity, I knew I had to take them up on it!

More recently, the Wynn resort has paired up with renowned vegan chef Tal Ronnen to create dishes catered towards those who have chosen to adopt a vegan-or-vegetarian-based lifestyle. So what does this have to do with little ol’ me, you might ask? I got to pick a dish, any dish on their menu {the vegan/vegetarian menu is available all throughout the Wynn} and put my own twist on it. How fun is that, y’all!?

After hungrily perusing their menu and website, I knew I was going to stick with the one that jumped out at me right off the bat – the ‘Mushroom Risotto’, an offering at the Lake Side restaurant. Rustic and simple, but full of rich and earthy flavors, I knew that it was something I would want to recreate.

Now, all of you already know that risotto, while insanely delicious and enjoyable, is not exactly a “weeknight” friendly dish. While therapeutic and comforting to prepare, it requires a good amount of time and careful watching during the preparation; you can go from perfectly done to overcooked in the blink of an eye. So as I was thinking about how I wanted to change this up, my mind wandered over to the concept of…dumplings! Brilliant!

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By keeping the structure of the sauce {caramelized onions and fresh herbs, lots AND lots of mushrooms} the dish stays true to its roots, but is made a bit simpler for weeknight enjoyment. It takes only a few minutes to assemble, and only requires one dish for cooking! For my dishwashing hubby, that is the ultimate dream.

I also developed a bit more flavor in the base of the stew by caramelizing the onions with a splash of white wine – the bright notes {I used a chardonnay} make the dish lean a bit more towards spring flavors; it also helps you scrape up those wonderful bits of goodness on the bottom of the pan. The dumplings get an herbal punch with fresh thyme and sage, and nutritional yeast pumps it up with a subtle cheesy flavor and a bit of added protein.

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Be sure to check out @Vegas to see what other bloggers have come up with! Enjoy, and happy cooking!

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Mushroom Stew & Herb Dumplings 

You can’t mess with a classic like this dish. Perfectly wonderful served piping hot, right off the stove top. I’ve noted where options can go from vegetarian to vegan; feel free to adapt as you like! 

Ingredients:

5 to 6 cups vegetable stock {amount will vary on how thick the stew becomes when cooking the dumplings}

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried thyme

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup white wine

4 cups assorted seasonal mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and diced

Herb Dumpling Ingredients:

2 cups flour {I used gluten-free}

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter {for a vegan option, a buttery spread can be substituted}

1-1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk {for a vegan option, a nut milk of choice can be used}

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon fresh sage

pepper, to taste

Stew Directions:

In a large sauce pot over medium heat, add in the olive oil. Once hot, add in the onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Saute until golden brown in color, about 10 minutes. Add in the wine, scraping the bottom to loosen up any bits. Stir in the mushrooms, garlic, oregano and thyme. Cook until the mushrooms have softened and darkened in color, about 10 minutes. Pour in the stock; raise the heat and bring to a boil.

Prepare the dumplings while waiting for the stock mixture to boil – in a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, nutritional yeast, baking soda, fresh thyme, fresh sage, and salt. Whisk to combine and then add in the butter, buttermilk and pepper.

Once the stock mixture is boiling, drop the dumpling dough in using two large spoons {like making drop cookies}. Boil until the dumplings are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Ladle into large soup bowls and enjoy!

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garlic parmesan wings

I’ve been so, so excited to share this recipe with y’all.

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One look and you’re in love, am I right? At least, that was how the hubs and I felt after devouring this meal for dinner.

These are a fun twist on my wings I made awhile back – they’re certainly a staple in our household; a quick and easy dinner to throw together during the week, full of flavor, and significantly healthier that traditional wings that are deep fried {so gloriously wonderful, but so naughty at the same time}. But for this particular recipe, we’re combining the Italian staples of Parmesan cheese and garlic but jazzing it up with loads of dried herbs, and two types of tangy mustard {!}. Is your mouth watering yet?

This batch of wings pack a flavor punch like no other. I am such a huge fan of explosive flavors, and these do not disappoint. As mentioned, we get that distinctive garlicky flavor from {almost} too much garlic, nutty undertones from Parmesan cheese, and more herbal notes than your taste buds will know what to do with. Both mustard types that I used – a classic, spicy Dijon and a sweet Honey Champagne – pair perfectly together, but you can easily sub in whatever your preference is. Baked until crispy and falling of the bone, the only thing that can take these one more notch above perfection is some dipping sauce on the side.

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Baked Garlic Parmesan Wings {adapted from Steamy Kitchen}

Ingredients:

2-1/2 lbs. chicken wings {I like to use the large ones}

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried rosemary

2 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. onion powder

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for baking

1/4 cup mustard {I used a combination of Dijon and Champagne mustard}

salt & pepper, to taste

non-stick cooking spray

serving accompaniments: hot sauce, homemade blue cheese dressing, celery, carrots – whatever you like! 

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray liberally with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine the herbs and grated cheese. Mix in the mustard, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss the wings in the sauce, making sure to ensure a generous coating. Line up the wings on the prepared baking sheet, and drizzle any remaining sauce on top. Sprinkle with additional grated cheese.

Bake 45-60 minutes, or until juices run clear and internal temperature has reached 165 degrees. Serve with your favorite dipping sauces.

light & fresh crab dip

When you don’t live ocean side, sometimes you just need to bring the beach to you…no?

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I love to create dishes that remind me of previous trips; food is such a powerful way to evoke wonderful memories that might not often be remembered just through a photo. After all, an image doesn’t create a sensory experience other than just looking at it. While there is nothing wrong with that {in fact, I find myself looking at old photos quite often!} I have so much more fun when I can wrap multiple senses around a memory.

That is where this crab dip comes into play. While I have no particular dish to draw on for inspiration, crab dip is something that we enjoyed on beach vacations as children; later on in life, the hubs and I would have several trips with his family where we picked crabs for dinner all night long. This dish is my homage to those nights – times spent sharing stories and creating memories with those that I love.

This dish is simple to prepare; many of the ingredients you probably have on hand already. A few fresh green onions, dried herbs, and bread crumbs…in addition to the cream cheese and Greek yogurt, these are considered staples for many people {I’ll admit, I had to run out for green onions this time around, though!}.

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The only thing that I request is that you please, please use high-quality crab meat…no room for imitation here! This is a lightened up twist on traditional crab dip; that is, we’re relying very little on creamy ingredients, so it’s vital to the recipe that you not skimp here. The crab is the star, and the other ingredients are merely there to accent it. One bite, and I promise you’ll understand.

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Light & Fresh Crab Dip

Hands-down a favorite in our household, this dip is perfect for any occasion – we love to enjoy it on date nights with a good bottle of wine, or spread between toasted bread for sandwiches. Easily enough to double or triple, too! 

Ingredients:

1 {8 ounce} container of good crab meat…claw, back fin, jumbo lump all work well

1 heaping tbsp. Old Bay seasoning

2 tbsp. dried parsley

2 green onions, finely chopped

2 ounces cream cheese {I opted to use my favorite Greek yogurt and cream cheese blend}, room temperature

3 ounces plain, non-fat Greek yogurt

1/4 cup plain bread crumbs

non-stick cooking spray

salt & pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray an oven-proof glass serving dish with non-stick cooking spray, and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine the cream cheese, yogurt, green onion, and herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Gently fold in the crab meat, making sure to keep the pieces as intact as possible.

Carefully spoon into the prepared baking dish, then top with bread crumbs. Spritz with non-stick cooking spray {this will help ensure a crisp exterior}.

Bake, uncovered, about 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the edges are bubbling. Serve with assorted crackers, toast points, and vegetables for dipping.

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greek-inspired roast chicken

Oh, the whole roasting chicken. Super simple and basic, but bursting with possibilities.

Not to mention flavor – I was feeling inspired, and also craving one, several weeks back. It was particularly gloomy Sunday, and I keep reminiscing how my mom used to make the best whole roasted chickens when we were growing up. Deciding to act on those memories, I began drawing up ideas for how to make it my own. The hubs LOVES oregano, so I thought was would be a way to incorporate that? I settled on the notion of “going Greek!”

Hands down, this is the best roast chicken that I have yet to make. It requires minimal prep work and comes together in just a few minutes. We’re filling it with briny capers, fresh vegetables, and of course – lots of oregano! A generous pour of good white wine in the bottom of the roasting pan creates a culinary perfume that envelopes the bird while it cooks, resulting in a bright, fresh flavor. Served alongside my smashed cauliflower, it was the perfect meal.

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Without trying to state the obvious, you’ll most likely end up with leftovers, as this recipe will easily feed a small army. Once the chicken is broken down, it freezes beautifully and can be used in a plethora of dishes. Chicken and Dumplings, Chicken Noodle Casserole, and Chicken Pot Pie come to mind – but don’t be surprised if you see me making chicken salad of out it and stuffing it into a pita.

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Greek-Inspired Roast Chicken {recipe adapted from Lemon & Olives}

The perfect Sunday dinner for a chilly winter evening, this flavorful roast will leave you feeling supremely satisfied. Plus – it comes together in no time! 

Ingredients:

whole roasting chicken {mine was just over 6 lbs.}

1 lemon, cut into large wedges

2 onions, cut into wedges

1.5 cups baby carrots, left whole

3 large garlic cloves, peeled and left whole

1 heaping tbsp. capers, drained

1 tbsp. dried oregano {plus more for seasoning the chicken}

3/4 cup good white wine {I used a Pinot Grigo}

1 cup low-sodium chicken stock

olive oil, for drizzling

salt and pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Remove the chicken from its wrapping and rinse well, making sure to get the inner cavity. Dry thoroughly, and rub with olive oil. Liberally season the inside and outside with salt, pepper, and oregano. To the inner cavity add in half the amount of onions, half the baby carrots, half the lemon, one garlic clove, and the capers. Set aside.

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Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In the bottom of a large roasting pan, add  in the white white and chicken stock, mixing to incorporate. Place the remaining vegetables plus the 1 tbsp. oregano into the liquid mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you have a V-shaped roasting rack, set the chicken atop it {if not, do what I did – lay a cooling rack atop the roasting pan and carefully place the chicken on top of it}. Roast the chicken according to the package directions. Baste occassionally, using the drippings from the bottom of the pan.

Once cooked through, remove from the oven and set aside. Cover with foil and let it sit 15 minutes, so the juices can redistribute. Carve the chicken and serve with pan drippings and vegetables. Enjoy!

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holiday baked brie

Have I intrigued you with the title of today’s recipe, y’all? Are your taste buds absolutely tantalized?

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Well, then. All jokes and silly word play aside, I have a confession to make. I did not like Brie until about a year ago. I know, I know! Crazy to think that I, a lover of all cheeses {especially the stinkier ones} could not bring myself to embrace the creamy goodness that is Brie. Perhaps I just didn’t allow myself enough opportunities to like it, I couldn’t tell you. But last year, for a Friends-giving gathering, I decided to give it a shot. Why not wrap it up in pastry? Surely I could add in and incorporate flavors that I knew I enjoyed, and transform it that way.

Y’all, one bite was all it took for me. Not to mention the friends that we had gathered with that evening. It was INHALED by all those in attendance, perhaps the most by me. I was so thankful I had given it another shot! We’re using a combination of dried fruits, herbs and honey to dress the Brie, but you can easily swap out for whatever you have on hand. That is the beauty of this dish. It’s easily customizable to whatever you have, or whatever flavor profile you’re craving.

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Ever since that first appearance, this is one I bring to almost every gathering we attend. You’ll be lucky if you leave with leftovers. I wouldn’t hold your breath on that!

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Holiday Baked Brie 

This festive appetizer comes together in a matter of minutes, and utilizes ingredients most of us have on hand! To make it even more holiday-esque, serve it on a plate surrounded by larges branches of rosemary; it will appear to be floating on a wreath!

Ingredients:

1 sheet of puff pastry, set out and thawed accordingly

1 wheel Brie cheese {I like a double-cream version}, room temperature

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup honey

3-4 tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves

salt and pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

On a rimmed baking sheet, spray liberally with nonstick cooking spray. Unfold the puff pastry and lay in the center of the baking sheet.

Unwrap the Brie cheese and place on the puff pastry so that it is perfectly centered. Top with the dried cranberries and rosemary. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then drizzle with the honey. Fold in the border of puff pastry so that the cheese is fully enclosed. Spray top with nonstick cooking spray so that it will get extra crisp while baking.

Bake in the upper portion of the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling out slightly. Serve with toasted baguettes, crackers, assorted vegetables and hard salami.

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