My absolute favorite Christmas tradition is the French toast casserole my mom makes year after year. As I’ve mentioned before, cooking isn’t her favorite thing to do, but this casserole is only two ingredients which I believe is why it’s her favorite. You simply cover Texas toast in egg nog, then bake it for about an hour & voila! You have the easiest breakfast around. My mom likes to step it up a notch & add this delicious nutty topping that takes the casserole to a whole other level, but I thought I’d keep things simple for y’all. You may be wondering where the Texas toast is in this recipe but I thought I’d take my moms recipe & update it slightly by switching out the Texas toast for croissants. It’s Christmas after all so let’s make things fancy! This casserole is the perfect Christmas morning brunch because it all can be assembled the night before, then baked fresh Christmas morning!
Croissant French Toast Casserole
Yield: 10-12 servings
8 large croissants, torn into medium sized pieces & dried out overnight*
1 half gallon egg nog
powdered sugar (for serving)
syrup (for serving)
Place dried croissants into a large baking dish.
Slowly pour the egg nog over the croissants until they are half way covered.
Using clean hands, press down on the croissants submerging them in the egg nog. If there are still croissant pieces that are dry, go ahead & slowly add more egg nog until the croissants are covered. I ended up using less than the whole container but it will depend on how dry your croissants are.
Press down one more time to ensure everything is packed into the dish.
Cover the casserole with plastic wrap & place a heavy item (similar in size to the casserole dish so everything is covered) on top of the casserole to compact it.
Let the casserole sit in the fridge for 6 hours, up to overnight.
When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees & bake the casserole for 1 hour, or until top is browned & center is cooked through. You can check the doneness of the casserole by inserting a small paring knife into the center, if the knife comes out clean, the casserole is finished! The middle of the casserole may still have some giggle to it, that’s okay it won’t fully harden because it’s a custard.
Serve casserole warm with powdered sugar & syrup. Enjoy!
*if you don’t have time or forget to leave the croissants out overnight they can be dried in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes
Waking up on Christmas morning is easily one of the most exciting feelings. The only thing to make that feeling even better is waking up to the smell of cheesy sausage & hash brown casserole baking away in the oven. This recipe is super simple & can easily be made ahead of time so you don’t have to wake up any earlier on Christmas morning to make breakfast! You can assemble the whole casserole a day or two in advance & just pop it in the oven in the morning!
Cheese Sausage & Hash Brown Casserole
Yield: 8-10 servings
2 20oz bags refrigerated hash browns
12 eggs, scrambled & seasoned with 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large onion, medium diced
1lb breakfast sausage
6oz shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees & prepare a baking dish by spraying it with nonstick spray, then set aside.
Cook the hash browns according to package & season with 1 teaspoon salt. As the hash browns begin to brown remove them to a large bowl. Once all the hash browns have browned & are moved to the bowl, begin cooking the onions.
Sauté the onions in 2 teaspoons of oil, over medium heat, in the same skillet where you cooked the hash browns. Season the onions with ½ teaspoon of salt & cook until translucent & soft, about 10 minutes.
Once the onions are finished cooking, place them in the bowl with the hash browns & stir to combine.
Return the pan to the heat & cook the sausage over medium heat until browned & cooked through. Make sure to break up the sausage with a wooden spoon as it cooks.
Once the sausage has cooked through it’s time to assemble the casserole.
Begin by laying down the hash brown & onion mixture. Then scoop on the sausage using a slotted spoon to leave off any excess oil.
Pour over the scrambled eggs & tilt the pan around to ensure the eggs are evenly distributed.
Finally, sprinkle the top with cheese* & bake, covered, for 40 minutes. Then bake, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
*This is the point where you can refrigerate or freeze the casserole if not serving right away. Wrap the dish, tightly, in plastic wrap & foil, then place in the fridge or freezer. Once you’re ready to bake the casserole, remove it from the fridge & let it come to room temperature on the counter for 30 minutes before baking. If frozen, thaw overnight in the fridge before baking.
December is all about easy comforting dinners that keep you out of the kitchen & spending time with friends & family. This dish is not only quick to assemble but it also only requires one pot! This recipe came to be out of necessity when I was in college. I was looking for something easy I could whip up for dinner that was comforting & reminded me of home, but was also simple enough that I could get back to studying partying as quick as possible. The ingredients in this dish were things I always had on hand so I knew all I needed was some chicken & I could have a delicious dinner on the table in less than an hour. This dish is easily my most common dinner dish & I hope you love it as much as I do!
Parmesan Chicken & Rice
Yield: 4-5 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup yellow onion, medium diced (about half a large onion)*
1 cup celery, medium diced (about 3-4 stalks)*
1 cup carrot, small diced or shredded (about 3-4 small carrots)*
salt & pepper, to taste
1.5 lbs chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
6 tablespoons, or 3oz, white wine (I prefer Pinot Grigio)
3 cloves garlic, peeled & smashed
1 cup jasmine or basmati rice
2.5 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup parsley, roughly chopped
Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the oil & butter.
Once butter has melted, add onion, celery & carrot. Season with salt & pepper. Stir to combine.
Cook the veggies over medium heat until they become soft & begin to brown, about 5-7 minutes.
At this point, you can remove the veggies before cooking the chicken but it’s not necessary. Cook the chicken over medium heat until mostly cooked, about 10 minutes. Make sure to season the chicken with salt & pepper.
Once the chicken has cooked, turn the heat to high & add the wine. Mix in the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any browned bits that have formed. Let the wine bubble & reduce by half, about 2 minutes.
Next add in the garlic & rice. Stir to combine.
If you removed the veggies earlier you can return them to the pot now. Pour in the broth & stir to combine everything.
Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to simmer & let it cook, covered, for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes the rice should have absorbed all the broth & be tender. If there is still broth & the rice is not fully cooked, continue cooking another 5 minutes.
Lastly, add the cheese, butter & parsley. Mix for a minute or two until everything is combine & the cheese has melted.
Serve up with crusty bread or a salad & enjoy!
* Most grocery stores sell onion, celery & carrots already diced up which makes this dish even quicker!
Growing up, my mom wasn’t the biggest fan of cooking. She didn’t hate it, but she didn’t love the clean up that followed. Enough so that she didn’t cook often. She had what we called the “rotation” of dishes she would choose from when she did cook. Chili was one of those dishes that was always a favorite in the house. It had such a distinct smell that we knew immediately what was for dinner the second we entered the door after getting home from school. This dish was also a favorite of my moms because it is fairly simple. It requires a little prep work in the way of chopping vegetables & opening cans, but after that, smooth sailing. She always said she found chopping vegetables “soothing” & as a child I thought she was a freak. Fast forward to adulthood & I’ve never related to a sentence more.
My siblings & I most likely enjoyed the chili toppings more than the actual chili, but that’s not here nor there. Mom would serve this up with tortillas, sour cream, Fritos, lettuce & cheese. Sometimes she’d shake things up & serve it with pasta. This dish is pretty versatile with it’s toppings so it’s great for feeding a family of picky eaters (which we all were as children, let’s face it). This is comfort food at its finest & with the weather finally cooing down (I’m in California where winter JUST started) this is something you’re going to want to have on the dinner table!
Yield: 8-10 servings
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 bell peppers, assorted colors, medium diced
1 onion, medium diced
salt & pepper, to taste
1.5 – 2lbs ground beef or ground turkey
2.5 – 3 tablespoons chili powder, depending on desired spice
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3/4 tablespoon dried basil
1 15oz can red kidney beans
1 15oz can white kidney beans
1 15oz can pinto beans
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 15oz can tomato sauce
3 tablespoons tomato paste
Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat. Toss in bell peppers & onion, then season with salt & pepper.
Sauté the veggies over medium heat until they become soft & translucent, about 10 minutes. Stirring occasionally.
Once the veggies have become soft, add the ground beef & season with salt & pepper once more. Cook the beef until it becomes brown & you can no longer see any pink, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as you go.
Add chili powder, dried oregano & basil. Stir to combine & cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Next add the beans & their liquid, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce & tomato paste. Stir to make sure everything is combined & tomato paste has disbursed into the mixture.
Bring the while mixture to a boil. Once the chili has reached a boil, lower the heat to simmer & cook, uncovered for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes to ensure everything cooks evenly.
After the hour is up you can serve the chili immediately, or it can continue cooking, covered, for another hour.
I’ll start off by saying, I am not a baker. I can follow a baking recipe and 8/10 times it will be successful. I can also manage any boxed or pre packaged baking mix pretty successfully. However, when it comes to developing baking recipes, I have always been terrified. The science behind baking has always been very confusing to me. Rather than shy away from a challenge, I decided to face it head on. Lots of researching & failed batches of cookies later, I have my very first cookie recipe!
There are a lot of things in this world that scare us. But growth comes from being in uncomfortable situations. You’ll never know if you’re good at something if you never attempt it! Now that I’m done being a motivational speaker, lets get to the cookies!
There are two key components to the success of these cookies:
Don’t over mix the cookie dough. Once it has just come together, it’s good to go.
Give these cookies time to chill in the fridge. Allowing them to chill helps them retain their shape so they don’t spread too much when baking. This is a technique you can use for most cookie recipes!
Now that we have the important stuff covered, lets get baking.
Brown Butter Espresso Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Yield: 32 cookies
1 cup browned butter, chilled to room temperature*
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 egg + 1 yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
2 cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups espresso chocolate chunks**
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, (or using a hand mixer) combine butter, brown sugar, and white sugar on medium speed until fully combined.
Next, add the eggs one at a time making sure to mix on low until fully combined.
Add the vanilla extract and coffee granules, then mix to combine.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture, mixing on low speed until just combined. Make sure to not overmix the dough because this will result in your cookies spreading too much when baking.
Once the dough has come together, add the chocolate chunks and mix using a spatula until just combined.
Using a 1 ½ tablespoon cookie scoop (a tablespoon measure works just as well!) scoop the cookie dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet or plate then place in the fridge to chill for at least an hour, but up to overnight.
Once the cookies have chilled, transfer them to a baking sheet if they’re not already on one & bake in a 350 degree oven for 12-13 minutes.
Let the cookies rest for 15 minutes on a cooling rack, then enjoy!
*To make brown butter, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat until melted. Once the butter has melted swirl the pan over the heat until the butter turns a nutty brown color & begins to smell toasted. Remove from heat and set in the fridge for 30 minutes, or until it returns to a room temperature state again.
**If you can’t find espresso chocolate chunks (I found tollhouse espresso chocolate chunks at target), use regular chocolate chunks & add an extra teaspoon of coffee granules.
Want more cookies?
Come join in on the fun that is #VirtualCookieParty2019! Today bloggers all around the globe are sharing their favorite cookie recipes on their blogs & on Instagram! Cosette Posko ( https://cosetteskitchen.com ) is the one to thank for setting up this year’s Virtual Cookie Party so make sure to head to her blog to check out the recipe she’s sharing! So many amazing people are taking part in this exciting event so you’re in for a real treat this holiday season! You can see all the delicious recipes by checking out the hashtag #VirtualCookieParty2019 on instagram. Below is a short list of some of my favorite recipes from this year!
Thanksgiving can be a really difficult time for people who don’t eat meat. Most thanksgiving dishes appear to be vegetarian but in fact are not. Stuffing is a great example of that. Most stuffing recipes call for sausage or bacon, and almost every stuffing recipe calls for chicken broth. This Hearty Mushroom Stuffing replaces sausage with mushrooms and calls for vegetable broth instead of chicken. Stuffing is arguably the most delicious dish on the Thanksgiving table so I wanted to create a recipe that allows diners of every diet to enjoy! A vegan alternative to this recipe is coming soon as well! This stuffing is savory, filling, and even meaty! This is the perfect dish to bring to thanksgiving whether you’re dining with vegetarians or meat eaters!
There are a few key components to making a great stuffing. The first is the bread. You want to use a really delicious bread because this makes up a good portion of the dish. I like using French bread or ciabatta! The bread also needs to be fairly dried out so it absorbs the liquid. without getting mushy. Lastly, you need a very large bowl to mix all the stuffing ingredients well. Once you have all of these covered, you’re ready to make stuffing.
Hearty Mushroom Stuffing
Yield: 8-10 servings
1lb French bread, cut into small cubes
1lb Crimini mushrooms
½ stick unsalted butter (4 tablespoons)
1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 1 ½ cups)
6-8 celery stalks, diced (about 1 ½ cups)
½ cup white wine
1 tablespoon fresh sage, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, roughly chopped
2-2 ½c vegetable broth, divided
1/3 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9X13 baking dish.
Begin by drying out the bread. This can either be done by leaving the bread cubes uncovered overnight or they can be toasted in a 350-degree oven for a few minutes until they have dried out. Once the bread cubes have been dried out, set them aside in a large bowl.
Clean the mushrooms by wiping the caps down with a wet paper towel or dish rag until all the dirt is removed. Remove the stems and roughly chop the mushrooms.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and cook the mushrooms, dry (no fat in the pan) until they have released all of their moisture, about 10-15 minutes. Make sure to stir every few minutes so nothing sticks to the pan.
Remove the mushrooms once they have completely released all of their moisture and set aside in the bowl with the bread cubes.
Return the pan to medium heat and melt the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the onions and celery. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook the veggies on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they become soft and slightly browned.
Once the veggies have become soft, raise the heat to high and add the wine. It will sizzle and start to bubble. Use your spatula or wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan, removing and browned bits that have formed.
Let the wine reduce slightly for 2 minutes then add the herbs. Stir to combine then set aside in the pan to cool slightly.
In a medium sized bowl or measuring cup, scramble the eggs and add 1 ½ cups of broth. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Add the veggies to the bowl with bread and mushroom and stir to combine.
Slowly add the egg broth mixture to the bowl of bread and veggies, stirring gently to make sure everything is incorporating evenly. Keep adding the egg broth mixture until the bread has completely absorbed it. The amount of liquid you will need will depend on how dry your bread is and how much liquid it is absorbing. You want the bread to be completely moist to the touch without too much excess liquid in the bowl. Once all the egg mixture has been added, you can continue adding broth until the bread has reached the proper consistency. It will be anywhere from ½ cup to 1 cup of extra broth. I only used an extra ½ cup of broth once the egg mixture was added.
Pour the whole bread and veggie mixture into your prepared baking dish, cover it with foil and bake it in the oven for 30-35 minutes.
After the first 30-35 minutes, raise the heat to 425 degrees and remove the foil. Bake the stuffing for another 20-25 minutes until the top is crispy and browned.
I’m hitting you guys with one last grilling recipe before Fall officially hits! Living in California, the transition from Fall to Summer is always an interesting one because it’s usually still hot & sunny well into October. Since the rest of the world has actual seasons, I promise Fall recipes are on their way! But in the meantime, let’s grill up some Lamb Dogs while we still can!
This recipe can be altered to use beef or regular store bought hotdogs if lamb isn’t something you enjoy or are able to get your hands on. Whatever meat you decide to use, its about a pound for 4 dogs. The hardest part about this recipe is forming the dogs, so once that part is done this dish comes together very quickly!
These dogs are a really nice balance between savory, hot, meat (LOL) & a cool, crunchy slaw topping. To prep the slaw, small dice the cucumber & tomatoes (seeds removed). Top with olive oil, Vinegar, salt & pepper. Stir to combine & leave in the fridge until serving time! The longer the slaw sits, the more the flavors will develop so definitely prep the slaw before anything else!
Next, prep the dogs. If you can find lamb sausages that would be a fantastic substitute but I couldn’t find any at my local grocery stores so I used ground lamb & formed my own. Divide the ground lamb into 4 equal portions & form into long round sausage shapes. They will shrink on the grill so make sure to form them a little larger than you want the finished dogs to be. Season generously with salt & pepper & let them sit at room temperature while the grill heats up.
Preheat your grill to medium high heat with one side of the grill set to a lower heat. These can also be cooked in a skillet indoors if you don’t have access to a grill or grilling weather. When the grill is ready, spray it with nonstick spray & lay down the dogs on the hotter side. Cook on each side for about 5-7 minutes, until a nice crust forms on the surface. Once the dogs are seared on both sides, transfer to the cooler side & cook with the grill closed until they reach an internal temp of 160 degrees. About 10 more minutes.
Once the dogs are cooked through, remove them from the grill & set aside to rest for 5-10 minutes while you prep the buns. Grill the buns for a few minutes until they are nice & toasted. Spread each bun with 1 tablespoon of red pepper spread & top with a dog.
Next, pile on the tomato & cucumber slaw & finish with feta cheese. Voila! Dogs are ready!
Lamb Dogs with Tomato Cucumber Slaw
Makes: 4 dogs
Half a large hot house cucumber, small diced
2 Roma tomatoes, deseeded & small diced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste
1lb ground lamb
4 bakery style hot dog buns (I used brioche buns found at Whole Foods)
Summer is in full swing which means I’m outside grilling as many meals as possible! Burgers are a super easy lunch or dinner to throw together while everyone’s hanging out by the pool, drinking & working on their tans! Us millennials don’t always want to spend all day in the kitchen but we want good food & we want it fast! I know when my friends are over & we’re hanging by the pool, I don’t like being in the kitchen for too long trying to whip up a yummy lunch or dinner. That’s why I rely on pre-formed burger patties. They’re super simple to just throw on the grill when you’re hungry & they can be found at just about any grocery store, in just about any quantity!
Starting with a good quality patty & soft burger bun, the possibilities are endless. Your friends & family can customize their burgers with whatever toppings they like & everyone’s happy! Sounds like a recipe for a great afternoon if you ask me!
I bought my ingredients for these burgers from Trader Joes but everything in this recipe can be found at any local grocery store. This recipe is also a great starting point & can be altered to fit your needs & desired flavor profile!
These burgers have just three simple toppings & one delicious spread, all of which can be prepped ahead of time & kept in the fridge so when the hunger hits, you & your guests can be eating in no time!
You are more than welcome to roast your own red peppers, they’re delicious when made at home, but in my opinion they are just as delicious when pulled out of a jar. Summertime meals are all about convienience in my house (especially on pool days) so I used jarred roasted red peppers for this recipe. To prep the peppers, drain them of excess liquid & slice into thin ribbons. Next are the cucumbers, which are sliced very thinly on a mandolin but can easily be done using a sharp knife. Lastly the cheese, which is clearly the most important ingredient on any burger. This recipe calls for feta which is a very dry, salty cheese that’s generally sold in a big block & for this recipe, I just crumbled it. If you’re not a feta fan, goat cheese or even Monterey Jack cheese would be delicious.
To grill the burgers, preheat your grill to medium high heat & spray with cooking spray to ensure nothing sticks. You want your grill to be hot enough to create a good sear on the burger, but not too hot that it chars the burger completely before cooking it through. Before the burgers go on the grill, season with salt & pepper on both sides. Everyone likes their burgers cooked to different doneness so this part will depend on whether you like your burgers on the rare side or the more well done side. I prefer my burgers to be medium (a little pink in the middle) so I cooked them for about 4-5 minutes on each side. This part will also depend on the thickness of your burger, but if you’re unsure, an instant read thermometer is a great tool!
When the burgers have just a few minutes left, it’s a great time to throw the buns on the grill to toast so everything finishes around the same time.
Assembly time! Once the buns are off the grill, spread on your red pepper spread (or other spread). Top with the burger patty & immediately top with cheese so it begins to soften from the heat of the patty. Next, dress up your burger with red peppers & cucumbers. Top with the other bun & voila! Burgers are ready! Can you believe how easy this was?? Perfect summer dish if you ask me!
Thanksgiving (& Christmas) are right around the corner so I wanted to share with you my ultimate Cheese Board Guide so you can rock the holidays with a cheese board of your very own!
This guide is strictly a Trader Joe’s shopping guide but in the future I’ll be sharing guides that can be used at other grocery stores. However, this guide is also designed to allow you to take these principles & apply them to any other grocery store!
The purpose of this guide is to give you an idea of what you can buy from Trader Joe’s, in order to make your very own cheese boards. It will help with planning, shopping & most importantly, budgeting. Cheesed boards can get expensive but having this guide as a resource can help you understand how to manage the cost, depending on what you’re wanting on your board. My intention is for you to use this guide as a “build your own cheese board” tool to help you navigate a possibly confusing arena. Ideally you’ll want to choose between 2-5 items from each category, but this is dependent on number of people, size & budget!
While I didn’t catalog every single item at Trader Joe’s that could possibly make its way onto a cheese board, there is a good variety of items ranging in price.
*I have not personally tried every single item on this list, but I wanted to show you what is available to you & I will add notes to the items I have tried! I have also highlighted my personal favorites that I use frequently on my boards for inspiration! At the end of the guide you can find pictures of some of the boards I have made in the past!
I hope this is helpful to your cheese loving soul!
Unexpected Cheddar – $3.99 / 7oz
Double Cream Brie – $5.99 / lb*
Cherve Goat Cheese – $2.99 / 5oz
Goat Milk Brie – $2.99 / 4.4oz
Goat’s Milk Creamy Cheese – $3.29 /4.5oz
Boursin – $3.79 /5.2oz
Double Cream Gouda – $7.99/ lb*
Cracker Cut Cheddar Cheese – $4.49 / 10oz
Dorothy’s Comeback Cow – $6.99 / 7oz
Cave Aged Blue Cheese – $6.99 / 7oz
Manchego – $9.99 / lb*
Chevoo (Marinated Goat Cheese) – $4.99 / 4oz
Le Gruyére – $14.99 / lb*
*Cheeses sold using ‘per pound’ prices are usually sold in portions ranging from 5-10oz so pricing will vary depending on location & availability.
My Favorites – Unexpected Cheddar: it’s my favorite cheese sold at Trader Joe’s & it’s great for cheese boards because its familiar enough being a cheddar, but it’s a little elevated in look & flavor! This cheese always makes it onto my boards! Double Cream Brie: it’s simple. People. Love. Brie. & this one is fabulous, great flavor & creamy texture. Cherve Goat Cheese: this goat cheese is mild in flavor but just tangy enough to add interest to your boards! You can also dress it up nicely with garnish since it’s basically a blank canvas. Boursin: it’s a very familiar cheese which makes it great for a crowd that’s new to fancy cheese! It also spreads wonderfully. Cracker Cut Cheddar: when you want something familiar & simple, this is the way to go. Bonus, it’s already cut for you! Cave Aged Blue Cheese: this is a mild blue cheese, it’s similar to gorgonzola which a lot of people love & has amazing flavor & creaminess!
Prosciutto – $4.99 / 5.29oz
Peppered Salame $5.99 / 10oz
Chianti Salami – $4.99 / 8oz
Turkey Summer Sausage – $3.99 / 8oz
Sopressata Salame – $4.99 / 8oz
Calabrese Salame – $2.99 / 5oz
Italian Dry Salame (Sliced) – $4.49 / 8oz
Italian Dry Salame – $4.49/ 8oz
Pepperoni – $2.99 / 5oz
Salame de Parma – $4.99 / 4oz
Salame Secchi – $7.49 / 9oz
My Favorites – Prosciutto: it tears nicely into small pieces great for cheesed board snacking & it’s not too highly flavored so it goes well with stronger cheeses. Chianti Salami: this is a red wine salami with a really deep flavor & good chewy texture. Calabrese Salame: this salame you’ll notice has a more red color because its heavily spiced which is really nice when you want to add a spicy kick to your boards! Italian Dry Salame: it’s a classic! Everyone knows it & loves it. Always a safe choice. Salame de Parma: this salame is thinner & longer in shape which I love using to add interest to the boards. It’s always nice to add ingredients of different sizes & shapes! Salame Secchi: this salame comes with a white casing (totally edible) which gives it a great contrast to the colorful red interior. It slices into nice rounds & has a wonderful meaty flavor with a harder texture.
Savory Thins – $1.69 / 3.4oz
Pita Bite Crackers – $2.49 / 6oz
Water Crackers – $1.39 / 4.4oz
Bite Size Everything Crackers – $2.49 / 10oz
Brioche Toasts – $1.99 / 5.26oz
Golden Rounds – $1.99 / 12oz
Organic Salty Squares – $1.99 / 5.5oz
Roasted Gorgonzola Crackers – $2.29 / 10oz
Fig & Olive Crisps – $3.99 / 5.3oz
My Favorites – Savory Thins: these crackers have a mild sesame flavor that pairs really nicely with Brie & Goat cheeses! The crunch is also amazing! These are usually my go-to for boards. Pita Bite Crackers: these crackers are great because they have a nice pita like flavor & they have layers giving them a good crunch. These pair nicely with Cheddar & Gouda! Fig & Olive Crisps: these crackers always make an appearance on my boards because they’re so different than regular crackers. They have a deep dark brown color with specks of fig & olive which are two things that go amazingly with cheese! These crackers pair nicely with strong cheeses like Goat or Blue!
Fig Butter – $2.49 / 16oz
Multi-Floral & Clover Honey – $3.49 / 12oz
Mostly Mesquite Honey – $6.49 / 24oz
Pink Grapefruit Marmalade – $3.99 / 13oz
Honey with Honeycomb – $6.49 / 16oz
Pepper Jelly $2.49 / 11oz
My Favorites – Fig Butter: this stuff is amazing I could just eat it with a spoon, but it’s even better on cheese! This fig butter almost always makes it onto my boards! I bought a jar & it lasted through 4-5 cheese boards! Honey: honey pairs incredibly well with cheese so I always recommend adding any kind of honey to a cheese board!
Pistachios – $6.99 / 16oz
WalnutHalves – $5.99 / 16oz
Pecan Halves – $4.99 / 8oz
Almonds, Roasted & Salted – $5.99 /16oz
Mixed Nuts, Dry Roasted & Salted – $7.99 /12oz
Truffle Marcona Almonds – $5.99 / 6oz
My Favorites – Pistachios: they’re so salty & so crunchy, they add a nice contrast to the really creamy cheeses! Walnuts: they’re my favorite nut so they’re usually on my boards & they pair well with Brie! Truffle Marcona Almonds: they have a great truffle flavor that goes well with the stinkier cheeses & they really elevate any board.
Dried Persimmons – $3.49 / 5oz
Dried Apricots – $3.99 / 16oz
Black Mission Figs – $4.99 / 12oz
My Favorites – Dried Apricots: they’re pretty familiar to people so they’ll naturally gravitate towards them & they always add a really pretty colorful contrast to boards! Plus, they’re delicious!
Rosemary – $1.79 / .75oz
Mint – $1.79 / .75oz
Basil (Potted) – $1.99
Arugula – $1.99 / 7oz
Blackberries – $3.99 / 12oz
Raspberries – $2.99 / 6oz
PomegranateSeeds – $4.49 /5.3oz
Blueberries – $2.99 / 11oz
GrannySmithApples – $0.69 / each
Green Grapes – $2.99 / 16oz
Red Grapes – $2.99 / 16oz
My Favorites – Rosemary: it’s pretty much my go to garnish because its so beautiful & fragrant. It’s not consumed so I pretty much only use it for the look & smell, plus its always available! Blackberries: they look really great as a garnish on top of Brie because the color contrast really makes them both stand out, plus they’re delicious & go pretty well with most cheeses! Pomegranate Seeds: these look really beautiful scattered across a finished board to add a pop of color & they’re especially great on a fall or winter board! Granny Smith Apples: apples are usually my go to because they’re pretty much always in season & always taste great. Its another familiar item you can use on your boards & you can’t beat Brie on an apple slice drizzled with honey!
I’ve added some pictures of completed boards I’ve made in the past to show you how all of these ingredients come together! I hope all of this inspires you to make your very own cheese boards! Feel free to tag me (on instagram) so I can see all of your hard work! @millennial_kitchen_
This past weekend I was lucky enough to attend Bottlerock Music Festival, which is held every May in Napa Valley. The festival features a plethora of amazing musical artists, a bounty of incredible wines (it is Napa after all!) and most importantly, an abundance of overwhelmingly delicious food, served up by some of Napa’s most talented. There were over 80 restaurants, food trucks, & vendors in attendance, serving up delicious festival eats, elevated to match the Napa Valley crowd. With so many options you were really able to acquire whatever you were craving whether that be a classic burger, some delicious tacos, or even Paella. There was something to please every palate.
I started the weekend like any good foodie & did my research. I looked into the food that was to be at the festival & mapped out all the spots I wanted to hit over the course of the weekend. Some of the places I was most excited for: Bling Bling Dumpling (my go to at any festival is Bling Bling), Gerard’s Paella, Ad Hoc (I can’t pass up a chance to eat Thomas Keller’s famous fried chicken), Johnny Doughnuts, Izzy’s Cheesesteaks & Itani Ramen.
Turns out I wasn’t able to eat ALL the food at the festival so I had to make some tough decisions over the course of three days. Luckily I did pretty well & ate some incredible food. Here are my favorites of the weekend!
This corn dog was unlike any other corn dog I’ve ever had. It was a classic corn dog with the volume turned way up with the use of Kobe Beef in the hot dog. The beef had such a deep, rich, meaty flavor. The breading had just the right amount of sweetness with the perfect crunch. Paired with crispy, salty French fries, Celadon produced the perfect festival meal!
This tuna melt was my first meal of the festival & it really set the standard for the level of quality I was going to expect. It was the perfect tuna melt. The tuna was so moist but not soggy & had great flavor & crunch from red onion & celery. The bread was a really great locally made sourdough that was toasted perfectly which resulted in a great crunch when biting into it, & it also had great stability for such a hefty sandwich. The Farmer’s Wife really knows how to make a solid sandwich!
This burrito kept it simple. Rice, beans, cheese & perfectly tender steak. It was served with fresh made chips, a bright tomato salsa & everyone’s favorite, guac. This burrito may have been simple but it was done just right, made with great ingredients & it was just what I needed to munch on while watching my idol, Iron Chef Morimoto, at the Williams Sonoma Culinary Stage!
I’m a total sucker for shawarma & gyros. Whenever I see them on a menu I can’t help myself so I was really excited to hear a place called ‘Shawarma Point’ was making an appearance at the festival. I ordered the beef & lamb gyro which came loaded on pita bread & topped with lettuce & tomato. Off to the side were a few DIY sauces you could add to your gyro. I opted for the classic white sauce of course. After my first bite, I knew I made the right choice stopping by Shawarma Point. The pita was warm & fluffy with the perfect amount of chew. The meat was seasoned perfectly & was so juicy. The veggies were crisp & fresh which was the perfect balance to offset all the warm, meaty goodness inside the pita. And the white sauce was refreshing & creamy, the perfect topping for such a great gyro. This was one of the meals I had this weekend that I couldn’t stop thinking about!
The smell of these doughnuts alone was enough to drive customers into the line. These doughnuts were being served out of an adorable & updated van, alone side some fresh, made to order coffee! I tried the vanilla old fashion & the maple old fashion. These doughnuts were huge! Almost the size of two regular doughnuts, but you won’t see me complaining about that. These doughnuts were unbelievably fresh, they had such great flavor & the glaze was to die for. Doughnuts can be so simple but when they’re made well, with good quality ingredients, by people who love what they do, you get something really special.
This taco was just what I needed to end my day on a great note. It was two small corn tortillas overflowing with tender beef birria, that was so juicy I needed several napkins, topped with pickled red onion, arugula & queso fresco. The meat was so tender & flavorful it tasted like it had been cooking for DAYS. The pickled onion & arugula gave the taco a great fresh bite to cut through all the richness of the meat & the queso gave the taco the perfect salty bite. It was a simple taco executed perfectly! What else could you want out of a taco?
All weekend I was seeing people walking around with big plates of some kind of sandwich accompanied by a mound of garlic fries. I knew I had to get to the bottom of this. I finally figured out these plates were coming from Ristorante Allegria & the sandwich was a chicken parm. My fiancé is a sucker for chicken parm sandwiches so naturally we had to get ourselves one & see what the hype was about. It was delicious! The bread was soft, the chicken was juicy & there was just the right amount of marinara & pesto to flavor the sandwich, without drowning it & making a mess on the plate. It was executed very well for a grab & go meal. The fries though, the fries were the real kicker. It was a mound of perfectly crispy French fries loaded with fresh garlic, parsley & parmesan. Do I even need to go on?
I’ll start by saying I will try to not get carried away here. I grew up eating paella & I’ve had some really amazing paella in my life both locally, and when I was fortunate enough to visit Spain a few years back. I know, I’m very blessed to have eaten this much Paella. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Paella is a traditional Spanish rice dish filled with seafood, chicken, meat & veggies. It is a pretty complex dish that even calling it a ‘rice dish’ seems unfair. It’s truly an art, making Paella. Traditionally, it’s made using a very specific process of cooking & arranging the ingredients & it’s made in a large Paella Pan (accurately named) that’s similar to a very large cast iron. The Paella pan is designed to give the food great color & flavor, but its size is because Paella is usually served as quite a show because of the way its arranged. This version, which was served in a take away container, was not short on authenticity or flavor. I’ll admit this now, I had this Paella twice over the course of three days because it was so unbelievable. Behind the pickup window of Gerard’s was a sea of large Paella pans cooking away this delicious chow. That was the first moment I knew this was going to be good. I also had seen people walking around the entire first day of the festival holding these containers overflowing with beautifully colored rice, chicken, seafood & veggies. When my Paella was handed to me it was still steaming from being served fresh off the Paella pan, but that didn’t stop me from digging in immediately. At first glance I noticed the color of the rice. It was a beautifully deep orange color, most likely a result of saffron (classic Paella spice). I also noticed several large pieces of chicken & shrimp. I was excited about this one. I took my first bite & was overwhelmed. The flavor was so deep & so intense. This really was festival food, elevated. This was some of the best Paella I had ever eaten. The rice was cooked perfectly, there were parts of the rice with really crispy browned bits from where the rice sat on the pan, the shrimp was tender & the chicken was juicy. The second I finished the bowl I wanted more. It was so good I passed up trying something new the following day just so I could have this Paella one more time.
On the third day it was raining for a majority of the morning so when I arrived at the festival, dressed in my windbreaker & boots, a hot bowl of ramen sounded incredible. The noodles were so chewy & the broth had so much depth of flavor it was borderline creamy. I don’t know how they make their broth but they’re doing something RIGHT over there! It was such a great bowl of ramen I forgot for a second that I was at a music festival in the pouring rain.
I normally wouldn’t order two items from the same restaurant because my goal is to try as many spots as possible. But, when there is a spicy chicken Katsu sandwich on the menu, I literally cannot say no. I’m glad I broke my rule because this sandwich was WORTH IT! I don’t even know where to begin. The bread was so tender & soft, making it very easy to bite into. Some sandwiches come on rolls or buns that are too hard you feel like you’re destroying the roof of your mouth (you allllll know what I’m talking about). This bread was perfectly soft but held up well to all the amazingness inside. The slaw was super crunchy which paired well with the creamy, spicy sauce & soft bread. The best part? The chicken obviously. The chicken was so tender on the inside but perfectly crispy on the outside, it had great balance. There were parts of the chicken that were extra crispy & other parts that were meatier. It was truly a perfect sandwich. One of the best things I ate the entire weekend, I contemplated going back.
You really can’t beat fresh watermelon juice served to you inside of a watermelon. This juice was the best refreshment & palate cleanser after a day full of eating. It was really enjoyable to have something so light & refreshing to cut through all the fatty foods I had been eating all weekend!
I am a sucker for cheesesteaks. They’re probably my favorite food & I haven’t even been to Philly yet to have a REAL one. Meat & cheese inside of bread is just the pinnacle of deliciousness & a well-made cheesesteak is one of the best meals out there. When doing my research, I found there were going to be two cheesesteak spots at the festival so I wanted to make my choice wisely. The first day I decided to try a different cheesesteak because their description said they used Amoroso Rolls which is a classic cheesesteak roll. I couldn’t pass up authenticity, right? What I failed to notice was that they were making their cheesesteaks with shaved roast beef rather than a more classic ribeye steak. The sandwich was definitely lacking in flavor. The meat didn’t taste like it had been seasoned well & the cheese sauce was a little flat. There weren’t any veggies to give a nice crunch to the sandwich either. The bread was okay, it wasn’t warmed enough so when I went to eat it, it started to crumble & fall apart. Overall I felt disappointed & knew I chose the wrong cheesesteak spot. The next day I knew I had to fill my cheesesteak craving so I headed to Izzy’s after doing a deep dive into their Instagram & seeing how delicious their sandwiches looked. Let me tell you, this was a good cheesesteak. Izzy’s really knows what they’re doing! The bread was so soft & help up beautifully to all the yummy meaty cheesiness inside. The meat was so flavorful, so tender with just the right amount of crispy bits from direct contact with the flattop. The cheese was sooooo gooey & melty it became one with the sandwich. This baby was also loaded with delicious onions as well as sweet & spicy peppers that gave it a nice kick and bite of acidity to cut through the fattiness of the meat & cheese. Basically, this cheesesteak was the bomb.
Here are some other non-food pictures to really show you why this festival should be your new favorite summer party