Baked Fish Tacos with Chipotle Lime Sauce

Skip the calories of fried fish for the fresh flavors and healthy ingredients of these baked fish tacos. Another simple, healthy weeknight meal brought to you by yours truly!

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If you’re in the mood to have a beer out on the patio, then fire up your grill and throw the fish on there instead of baking it in the oven.

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But if you’ve got some tidying up to do, or a dishwasher that needs emptying, or dogs that need feeding, then pop the seasoned fillets in the oven and walk away!

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Whatever you do, just don’t skip the chipotle lime sauce–it’s so good you’ll probably be licking the bowl clean!

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Baked Fish Tacos with Chipotle Lime Cream Sauce

  • Servings: 8 tacos
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Ingredients

Tacos:

  • 2 lbs. white fish fillets (tilapia, halibut, cod, grouper, snapper, mahi mahi, etc.)
  • olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • pico de gallo for serving

Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons diced chiles in adobo
  • juice of 1 lime
  • splash of water
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

In a small bowl combine cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and a pinch of salt and pepper. Drizzle both sides of each fillet with about a teaspoon of oil. Divide spice mixture evenly between the fillets, gently rubbing it in. Place fillets on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 12-14 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

In a small bowl combine sauce ingredients, adding just enough water to loosen it up into a creamy sauce. Set aside until ready to serve.

When the fish is almost done, start warming those tortillas. Heat a saute pan or cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Heat tortillas one at a time for about 30-60 seconds. Once the first side has some golden brown spots and smells toasty, flip it over and cook the other side.

This is where it might be nice to have some extra hands in the kitchen to start an assembly line, building the tacos as the warm tortillas come off the skillet.

Flake fish into bite size pieces and divide evenly between tortillas. Top with a drizzle of chipotle lime cream sauce and pico de gallo and enjoy!

Lemon and Dill Goat Cheese Bites (4)

 

{Vegetarian} Brunch Tostadas

You guyyyyyys. I know, I’m always like, oh this is the best recipe ever and you just have to try it. But seriously, it is the best freakin’ recipe ever!!!!!!! I am obsessed with Mexican flavors in case you haven’t noticed by now. (Click on every word in the previous sentence to find my favorite Mexican inspired dishes!)

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I am always trying to come up with different ways to use my favorite ingredients in new recipes and this one is a blue ribbon winner dear friends!

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Also, it could NOT be any easier. Warm the tostada shells in the oven while you saute onion and garlic with your beans and some spices. Fry a couple eggs and garnish with cotija cheese and pico de gallo and you’re brunching like a rockstar!

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It’s easy enough that you could actually probably swing it on a weekday morning too. But it might be best enjoyed on a sunny, slow Saturday morning out on the deck with a big cold brew decaf caramel latte. Keep your eyes peeled for that latte recipe coming soon!

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It’s time to brunch bishes.

{Vegetarian} Brunch Tostadas

  • Servings: 6
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Ingredients

  • 6 tostada shells
  • 8 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 oz.) can red beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon diced chiles in adobo
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup crumbled cotija cheese
  • 1/2 cup pico de gallo
  • fresh chopped cilantro
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread tostada shells out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake them for about 2-3 minutes just to warm them through.

While the oven is preheating, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add black beans, red beans, cumin, chili powder, chiles in adobo and a large pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

Turn heat to low and use a potato masher to mash beans. Mash until about half are mashed and half are still whole. Turn heat off, but leave pan on the burner to stay warm while you prepare the other components of the dish.

Fry eggs in batches by heating olive oil a large saute pan over medium heat. Use 1 teaspoon of oil for each egg. Crack them into the oil, season with salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute, uncovered. Turn heat to low and cover pan with a tight fitting lid. Cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny. Cook remaining eggs in the same fashion.

To assemble tostadads, divide bean mixture between shells, spreading it in an even layer. Then add fried egg, a heaping tablespoon of cotija, a heaping tablespoon of pico and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro. Serve immediately!

Lemon and Dill Goat Cheese Bites (3)

{Vegan} Orange Ginger Asian Quinoa Salad

This is my favorite time of the year. Summer has arrived but it’s not quite in full swing yet so the air is warm, but not yet humid. The evenings and nights get nice and cool but you can still sleep with the windows open. If ever there was a perfect time to live in Wisconsin, it is now!

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This surge of warm weather and endless sunlight always gets me craving big bowls of fresh veggies for lunch. If you feel like you’re in a lunch rut or you’re sick of your usual salad routine, this quinoa salad is for you!

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You can make a big batch that will last all week, and like a fine wine it only get better with time. You could easily switch out the quinoa for pasta in this recipe too.

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Fresh squeezed orange juice sets this dressing apart from all others. Fresh ginger and garlic along with rice vinegar and soy sauce give it that classic Asian flavor that you’re looking for, but the orange zest is what really gives it a big burst of freshness.

{Vegan} Orange Ginger Asian Quinoa Salad

  • Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
  • 1 cup frozen shelled edamame, cooked and cooled
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • optional: sesame seeds for garnish

For the dressing:

  • zest of half an orange
  • juice of one orange
  • 1/2 inch cube ginger, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

In a small saucepan combine quinoa, water and sesame oil. Bring to a boil, cover and turn heat to low. Simmer on low for 12-15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Season with salt and pepper, fluff with a fork and place in fridge to cool.

Combine all dressing ingredients in a mason jar and shake vigorously until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a large serving bowl combine cooled quinoa, carrots, cabbage, edamame, red pepper and dressing. Garnish with sesame seeds if desired and serve!

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Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese Salad

This is my faaaaaavvvoorrrrittteee summer salad.  I actually eat it all year round, but especially love it in the early summer for some reason. There is nothing better than crispy pecans and warm, creamy goat cheese paired with a simple white balsamic vinaigrette and roasted beets.

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Normally I roast my own beets, but this time as I was ordering our groceries, these Love Beets popped up as an option when I searched. And I was very intrigued. Normally I don’t go for many precooked convenience foods but when I saw that the only ingredients listed were organic beets, I thought they might be worth a try.

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And now, I may never roast another beet again. They are delicious! Perfectly roasted and very flavorful.

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I think it was $3-$4 for 4 medium sized roasted and peeled beets. You are paying for the convenience, but sometimes after a long day I like things to be a little convenient. Especially when they are so healthy and good for you.

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Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese Salad

  • Servings: 8
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Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 10.5 oz. log plain goat cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans (a food processor works well)
  • 16 oz. spring greens or your fave lettuce combo
  • 4 medium beets, roasted and peeled
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • olive or grapeseed oil for frying
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

For the dressing:

  • 2/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Slice goat cheese into 8 equal pieces. I like to cut the log in half, then cut each half in half, and so on until I have 8 slices. Place goat cheese in the freezer for 5 minutes which will make it easier to work with.

Beat egg in a shallow bowl. Place pecans in a shallow bowl. Use hands to form slices of goat cheese into uniformly round pucks. Dip each puck into the egg mixture, allowing the excess to drip off and then dip it into the pecan mixture, covering the entire surface with pecans. Use your palms to smash the pecans into the goat cheese, forming it into a flat round patty about half an inch thick.

Heat a 1/4-1/2 an inch of oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. You will know the oil is hot when you can dip the handle of a wooden spoon into it and the oil begins to bubble around the spoon handle. Working in batches depending on the size of your pan, fry goat cheese rounds for 30 seconds to 1 minute per side. If you find the rounds are cooking faster than that, turn the heat down. Transfer to paper towel lined plate to soak up excess grease.

In a mason jar combine all dressing ingredients and shake vigorously until emulsified. Assemble each salad with a bed of lettuce, a handful of roasted beets, a sprinkle of diced onion. Then pour dressing over the salad and place the goat cheese round right in the center.

Directions

I made these as a meal prep recipe for the week and reheated the goat cheese rounds just before eating in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds and they were delish! Not quite as good as freshly fried, but the flavor and texture was still very tasty.

Lemon and Dill Goat Cheese Bites

Proscuitto, Parmesan and Asparagus Bundles

You asked and I answered. In a recent Instagram poll, you guys told me you wanted to see more appetizer recipes, and I am delivering another super simple appetizer recipe that is perfect for your next party, baby shower or backyard BBQ.

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These little bundles take less than 30 minutes from start to finish and if you’re kids are itching for a project, this might be the perfect way for them to help out in the kitchen!

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You could totally serve these as a main course as well. They’d pair perfectly with my Orange Fennel Salad for a super fresh dinner combo.

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If you’re looking for some other puff pastry recipes to try, check out my Fig Jam, Pear and Gorgonzola Tartlets, Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Tart or Swiss Chard, Leek and Potato Tartlets. Puff pastry is definitely the way to go if you’re looking for a simple, yet elegant appetizer.

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Proscuitto, Parmesan and Asparagus Bundles

  • Servings: 18 bundles
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Ingredients

  • 2 sheets  puff pastry, thawed
  • 4 oz. proscuitto
  • 18 spears of asparagus, woody ends removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • a couple large pinches Kosher salt
  • large pinch fresh cracked pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 egg, beaten

Directions

Heat oven to 425 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Unfold both sheets of puff pastry and cut along seams to create three large rectangles. Cut each rectangle into 3 equal size rectangles. This will give you 18 rectangles total from the two sheets of puff pastry.

Divide proscuitto evenly, placing it in a single layer across each rectangle. I used a little less than half a slice per rectangle. Chop asparagus spears in half widthwise and transfer to a medium bowl. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place 2 pieces of asparagus in the center of each tart, along with about a tablespoon of grated Parmesan. Wrap corners of puff pastry around the fillings and press the outside corner into the bundle a bit to make sure it’s sealed.

Place bundles about an inch apart on the lined baking sheets. Brush each bundle with egg wash and bake for 12-15 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown and cooked through. Let cool for a few minutes and enjoy!

These tarts are delicious at room temperature as well, so feel free to make a few hours ahead of time. If you are going to transport, I would recommend not covering them at all if possible as the puff pastry will lose some of it’s crisp flakiness when sealed in an airtight container.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (4)

Fig Jam, Pear & Gorgonzola Tartlets

It’s that time of year again–picnic season! What’s your favorite picnic food? I’ve totally got a thing for tarts. Maybe it’s the flaky, buttery crust? Maybe it’s the way they puff up into little pillows? Maybe it’s the way they look super fancy and elegant but they’re actually the easiest thing ever? Most likely, it’s the latter.

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Frozen puff pastry makes these tarts easy enough for even a novice home cook, so don’t be intimidated if you haven’t worked with it before. I like to thaw mine in the fridge overnight before baking. In this recipe I use the natural seams of the dough to create the shapes of these tarts so there’s no complex dough rolling or measuring involved. Skill level required: none!

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You may remember these Leek & Potato Tartlets from last year or this Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Tart? These Pear & Gorgonzola Tartlets are just as tasty as their blog brothers. They are picnic perfect and a sure fire brunch brightener. Am I writing a blog post or a poem here? Either way, they are a welcomed addition to whatever spread you’ve got.

IMG_5935-03And they pair well with a chilled white wine or rosé. So grab a bottle of your favorite vino and head for the park with a picnic basket full of these tasty tartlets.

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Fig Jam, Pear & Gorgonzola Tarts

  • Servings: 9 tarts
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Ingredients

  • 1 sheet puff pastry (thawed)
  • heaping 1/2 cup fig jam
  • 1 slightly under ripe pear, thinly sliced
  • 4 oz. crumbled Gorgonzola
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • optional: a drizzle of honey on each tart

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Unfold puff pastry and cut along the seams, creating three long rectangles. Cut each rectangle into 3 equal size rectangles. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange tarts about an inch apart. Score a crust about a half inch from the edge of each tart. Spread a tablespoon of fig jam across the center of each tart, keeping it within the scored lines. Place 4-5 slices of pear in the center of the tart, overlapping them. Divide Gorgonzola between the tarts, sprinkling it on top of the pear slices. Use pastry brush to paint the beaten egg across the crust of each tart. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until edges are a dark golden brown. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then drizzle with honey and serve!

Lemon and Dill Goat Cheese Bites (1)

Lemon & Dill Goat Cheese Bites

Seriously how much do you love nap time? I mean, don’t get me wrong I love spending time with my girl–belting out every song from Moana, drawing with chalk, blowing bubbles, her sitting on the counter watching me make dinner and tasting everything along the way. But, man do I love nap time! It’s quite possibly the fastest hour and a half of the day.

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If I’m lucky, nap time comes after I get home from work. Not always, but sometimes it does. And if I’m really lucky I’ve planned ahead and can whip something up in the kitchen, style it just right and snap some quick pictures of it too.

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Today, nap time did not come until after dinner. Luckily, this appetizer is SO easy that I was able to make it, style it and photograph it even with a toddler in tow.

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But now, as I write this post, nap time has arrived. Time to put my feet up, edit some photos and sip on a glass of wine. Cheers to a long holiday weekend. And nap time! Big cheers to nap time.

Lemon and Dill Goat Cheese Bites

  • Servings: 14 bites
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Ingredients

  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk or heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup freshly chopped dill
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • large pinch of Kosher salt
  • crackers for serving

Directions

In a small bowl combine goat cheese and milk/cream. Use a teaspoon cookie scoop to scoop balls of goat cheese onto a parchment lined baking sheet or tray. Place them in the freezer for 5 minutes. This will make them easier to handle.

Chop dill and lemon zest until they are minced and place in a shallow bowl. Roll scoops of goat cheese in the lemon and dill mixture and then use your palms to roll them into balls.

That’s it! Serve with your favorite crackers and enjoy.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (5)

Pan Fried Pork Dumplings

I am way too guilty of trying to capture every moment (and meal) in the perfect photo. Rarely do we take a trip to the park or go out to eat that I don’t have my phone in my hand ready to snap the latest and greatest photo of our beautiful daughter or a “gram worthy” picture of whatever drinks and appetizers we’re enjoying.

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Obviously since I’m trying to launch my food blog, the best way to gain traction is to give my followers frequent, high quality content which means Instastories of all the food truck meals, wine glass cheers with friends and whatever local things we’re doing that day. And of course, and probably most importantly, new recipe posts as often as possible.

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But since summer has arrived (with a vengeance I might add, record highs in the 90s this weekend?! WTF??) I’ve started to really evaluate the amount of time that I’m spending on social media and perfecting this lovely blog.

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I decided it was time for Midwest Foodie to get an upgrade. Work smarter, not harder right? I purchased my first tripod and tripod arm and finally started editing my photos with actual photo editing software. Well, okay, maybe it’s just a free app on my phone… But still! I know, I know…it’s about time, right? So the good news is that I’m starting to find what works and what doesn’t.

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Which means I’m spending more time setting up my shots, but less time actually taking photos because instead of hating them and taking 700, I am loving them and only take 20. And then I’m able to make them even better with some very light editing. It’s quite an elating feeling to spend only 20-30 minutes shooting my dishes when I’m used to spending 2 hours or more. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying my photos are the best thing you’ll ever see, but they are leaps and bounds ahead of where I was last year at this time. And I’m pretty dang proud of that! It’s about progress, not perfection!

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What does this all mean for you? Well it means that less stress for me will hopefully translate into more high quality photos and recipe posts for you guys to gobble up! So keep replying to my Instastories, hitting that like button and giving me feedback on recipes. Midwest Foodie is going to do big things and I want you to be a part of it!!

Pan Fried Pork Dumplings

  • Servings: 30 dumplings
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Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 cup shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/2 cup diced mushroom
  • 1/2 inch cube ginger, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk green onion, thinly sliced + more for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 30 dumpling/potsticker wrappers
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • soy sauce for serving

Directions

Add pork, cabbage, carrot, mushroom, ginger, garlic, green onion, hoisin, sesame oil and a large pinch of salt and pepper to a large bowl. Mix until well combined. It’s easiest to mix using your hands. Fill a small dish with water which you will use to seal the dumplings. Use a teaspoon cookie scoop to scoop a heaping teaspoon of filling into the center of one wrapper. Wet around the edge of half the dumpling wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half to and press the edges together to seal the dumpling into a half moon shape. Repeat the above steps with remaining dumplings.

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Working in batches of about 6-8 (depending on the size of your pan) add two teaspoons oil to the pan. Add dumplings and cook each side for about 2-3 minutes or until each side is dark golden brown. Pour 1/3 cup of water into the pan and cover immediately. Cook, covered for a few minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Remove lid and cook for another 30 seconds or so, until the both sides are crisp again. Repeat with remaining dumplings.

Serve with soy sauce and garnish with sliced green onion.

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The Best Southwest Dressing Ever

I am so guilty of buying those bagged salads in the produce section at the super market. I LOVE THEM. Whenever I am feeling unmotivated to meal prep for the week, my go-to is any kind of southwest or chipotle cheddar salad. But at $4-$5 a pop those bagged salads are not a very economical solution to my mid-day meal hunt. So this week, feeling quite motivated and also a little strapped for cash, I decided to create my own southwest style dressing.

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To be honest, I’ve tried repeatedly just to buy a southwest dressing and I cannot find one to save my life. I’ve seen a couple southwest ranch dressings out there but they’re not even close to the same. Too much ranch (is there such a thing?!) and not enough southwest.

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I’ve had the southwest salad a Mickey D’s a few times (see, I told you, I really am a southwest salad connoisseur) and it comes with the most glorious Newman’s Own Southwest dressing. After a little research I discovered that Newman’s Own makes it exclusively for McDonald’s and you cannot find it anywhere else. So Mickey D’s has the monopoly on the only delicious southwest dressing ever.

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Until now! I would venture to say that this dressing might even be better than Newman’s Own. But I’ll let you be the judge!

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The Best Southwest Dressing Ever

  • Servings: 8-10
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Ingredients

For the dressing:

  • 16 oz. light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 2-3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Add all dressing ingredients to a large mason jar and shake vigorously until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper and enjoy!

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (1)

 

 

Charcuterie Board Making 101

If you don’t feel confident in the kitchen, the charcuterie board might become your best friend. No cooking skills required whatsoever and even the least creative person can put together an artful masterpiece of meat and cheese. You can make them large enough to feed an army or small enough for a date night with your other half.

Charcuterie boards are hands down the easiest and most elegant appetizer for any group. But they are often overlooked as many think they are too difficult or complicated to make, or that there are certain rules you have to follow. In my humble opinion, the only rule for making a charcturie board is that there are no rules. It’s typically comprised of a few kinds of cheeses, a few kinds of meats, a nice crusty sliced baguette and some crispy crackers along with a few other accompaniments–think pickles, potato salad, roasted nuts, fresh or dried fruit, jams, spreads, etc. Actually, I do always follow one rule when making my boards–variety and randomness are paramount. I like to cut all the cheeses in different shapes and arrange my meats in different shapes also. I put some in neat rows, others in piles, some are fanned around dishes and others are rolled into little cones. I never plan where I’m going to put anything; I just let it happen organically.

But if you’re into following rules you can use a simple blueprint of different cheese textures that takes the guesswork out of what to include. Try one creamy cheese (like Brie), one firm cheese (like manchego), one crumbly or blue cheese (like goat cheese or gorgonzola) and one aged cheese (like aged cheddar). Also try to include a variety of textures with the meats–soppressata or hard salami, proscuitto,  and sliced deli meats work well. But don’t get hung up following these blueprints exactly. I usually think about the tastes of my guests and try to include things that I know they will like, and also things that they maybe haven’t tried before.

The best part is it’s a great way to use up those odds and ends you have in your fridge or cupboard. You know, the ten green olives at the bottom of the jar, the last of the Dijon mustard, the handful of roasted pecans you didn’t end up using in your favorite cookie recipe. The wider the variety, the more beautiful the cheese plate.

 

 

Charcuterie Board Making 101

  • Servings: unlimited
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Ingredients

  • soft cheese
  • firm cheese
  • aged cheese
  • crumbly/blue cheese
  • salami
  • proscuitto
  • deli sliced ham
  • crackers
  • sliced French baguette
  • pickles
  • sliced apples
  • Dijon mustard
  • roasted pecans
  • pitted olives
  • literally whatever you want

Directions

Find a large cutting board or serving platter. Place your accompaniments (pickles, fruit, nuts) in small serving dishes. Start by arranging those on your platter. Slice cheese and meats into bite size pieces and arrange them randomly on your platter. Add sliced bread and crackers to the platter. Pour yourself and your guests a glass of wine and head for the patio to enjoy this delicious appetizer!

When selecting your meats and cheeses, plan on about 3-5 ounces of meat/cheese per person, depending on whether this is an appetizer or main course.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (4)

 

 

 

The Best Ever Crispy Baked Fries

Spoiler Alert: If you just want the recipe keep scrolling because Olivia’s about to get real. I can’t say for sure what it is, but there’s a certain quiet loneliness about the late winter months that I just can’t seem to shake. The warmth of the holidays has worn off, the sun is out for like 3 hours and I’m not much of a cold weather person so I don’t really get anytime quality time with mother nature. Did anyone else feel the seasonal anxiety and depression that comes along with winters in Wisconsin this year? I honestly have never realized it before. But looking back, the last few years I’ve been buried pretty deep in those mid-winter blues. As the sun starts shining, the temps warm up and I come out on the other side now, I noticed that I have quite a distinctive pattern around the same time every year. Usually it’s late January or early February, but sometimes it even rolls into March. I start to feel really out of it and melancholy and start contemplating life and how crazy it all is. Which prompts me to schedule a visit with a doctor, who of course tells me everything is fine and then spring comes and I forget all about it. One year it was a few trips to the ER, a few EKGs and finally an echo-cardiogram because I was having palpitations and chest pains (which I later realized were actually panic attacks). A couple years in a row it’s just triggered me to schedule my annual exam and have some labs drawn; I can’t tell you the number of times they’ve tested my thyroid levels. This year it was some delightful rectal bleeding and lower abdominal CT, followed by a colonoscopy. Oh, and there’s usually a drastic hair cut or color thrown in there somewhere. How have I never noticed this about myself before? But with this realization comes the ability to do something about it!

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Move to a warmer climate, right?! JUST KIDDING. I do love Wisconsin; mostly because it’s where my family lives, but I also appreciate the seasons. Even if I go a little crazy for half the year. Every season has it’s pros and cons, but I like living somewhere where you get to experience each season so distinctly. Plus I hate big spiders, snakes and scorpions. So climates where it’s warm all year are out of the question for me. I need that deep freeze to make sure the spiders only get pretty big and not gigantic.

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This past winter my anxiety actually got so bad and constant that I considered adding some sort of prescription pharmaceutical to my daily routine. Which if you know me at all, is quite a surprising thing to hear (see my latest post regarding a sedation free colonoscopy) because I am someone who hates to even take Excedrin when I have a raging migraine with aura. But, almost like clockwork, the seasons have begun to change and I am feeling good again. Certainly not anxiety free, but leaps and bounds better than I had been feeling even just a month ago.

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*Just to clarify: I am in no way putting down those who take prescriptions for anything. I realize it is very necessary for many and might even be for me some day. I just really hate to put any medication of any kind into my body so when I started to consider it, it was a sign that my anxiety was really starting to take a toll on me. It’s so important to listen to your body and take it’s queues.

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The Best Crispy Baked Fries

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. russet potatoes
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice each potato into 1/2 inch slices, then cut each slice into 1/2 inch wide sticks. So basically, cut the potatoes into french fries. Then add potatoes, oil, garlic powder, thyme and paprika to a large bowl. Add a couple generous pinches of salt and large pinch of pepper. Stir until seasoning is well distributed and fries are well coated.

Spread fries in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip the fries so all sides get nice and crispy. Bake for another 15 minutes.

Then crank the heat to 500 and bake for 15 minutes. Flip fries and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until desired crispiness is reached. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce. I’m not going to pretend like mine isn’t Heinz ketchup, because it is.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (8)

Slow Cooker Peach Whiskey BBQ Meatballs

Looking for an easy holiday appetizer? Here you go! This is one of my family’s favorites and I have friends who still text me asking for the recipe to this day. It’s sure to be a crowd pleaser, and seriously think about doubling the batch depending on how many people you are serving, because there will not be leftovers and chances are good you will run out.

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You could make your own meatballs if you’re cool like that. But honestly my scarf making season is in full swing right now so I’m taking every shortcut I can when it comes to meal prep because that means more time to crochet. Winter in Wisconsin brings out my inner old lady–my faaavorite thing to do when the temperatures start to dip is watch some cheesy Christmas movies on Netflix, put my slippers on and crochet to my heart’s content!

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Of course, my toddler has other ideas. Her favorite thing to do all the time is have me read every single book that we own. And seriously children’s books these days…who comes up with this sh*t?! I could write a better story about the orange and chamomile tea that I had for breakfast today than some of these so called authors. Okay, maybe not really. Maybe it’s just when you are made to read the same story 700 times in one day it starts to suck. This year for Christmas, new books! Good books!

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Slow Cooker Peach Whiskey BBQ Meatballs

  • Servings: about 52 (1/2 ounce) meatballs
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Ingredients

  • 26 oz. bag Italian or traditional style frozen meatballs (feel free to make your own if you have the time and energy, this year I am all about making scarves so I have no time or energy)
  • 1/2 cup Peach Whiskey (2 of those cute little bottles)
  • 1/4 cup (regular) Whiskey (1 of those cute little bottles)
  • 3/4 cup chili sauce
  • 1/2 cup peach preserves
  • 1/4 cup BBQ sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Start by combining all sauce ingredients in a large slow cooker. Stir until everything is well mixed. Add meatballs, cover and cook on low for 4 hours (or high for 2 hours) or until meatballs are heated through. Serve with toothpicks, because who doesn’t want to eat meatballs with toothpicks?!

If you’d like to make these ahead of time, combine the sauce, add the frozen meatballs and then refrigerate the whole crock pot insert overnight. This will thaw the meatballs and cut down on the cooking time too. If they are thawed you could get away with about an hour on high before serving, but double check that they are warmed through.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (5)

Caramelized Onion, Blue Cheese and Fig Jam Tart

Mmmmmmm. Is there anything better than caramelized onions? Well, yes, actually. Caramelized onions with tangy blue cheese and sweet fig jam atop a flaky, puff pastry crust. This lip-smacking appetizer made an appearance this year at Thanksgiving and it was promptly devoured.

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We are lucky enough to have most of our family in town, which means the holidays are extra busy for us! We used to hustle and bustle from one side of the family to the next, house to house, all day long stuffing our faces. But several years ago we started celebrating with my in-laws the Saturday after the actual holiday and what a game-changer that has been. No longer are we rushed and full all day. We enjoy a quiet morning at home, a leisurely dinner at my grandparents and then a rousing game of catchphrase or farkle. Then the following Saturday the fun continues at my in-laws.

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Each holiday for my in-laws celebration we pick a different theme–Mexican, Italian, appetizers, pizza, etc.– and everyone brings something, potluck style. This year’s Thanksgiving celebration theme was appetizers which happens to be my personal favorite. I could eat appetizers for every single meal. A wide variety of small plates is my jam.

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Speaking of jam, the real winner here is the fig jam. It’s deliciously sweet without being too sweet and it really marries the caramely onions and the bite of the blue cheese. Yes it takes 60 minutes to caramelize those babies, but they are worth every second. If you’re into making things ahead of time, you could easily assemble the tart, then freeze, allow to thaw in the fridge overnight, bake and top with the fig jam.

Caramelized Onion, Blue Cheese & Fig Jam Tart

  • Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients

  • 1 package puff pastry (thawed in the fridge overnight)
  • 4 large yellow onions, halved, then thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoon butter
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 5 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup fig jam
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Heat butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onions and and stir to coat in oil. Grab a glass of wine and a magazine and plop yourself in front of the stove because you are going to be here for a while. You will cook the onions for 60 minutes total, stirring every 4-5 minutes or so. After they’ve cooked for 10 minutes add a pinch of salt. After they’ve cooked for 40 minutes add a teaspoon of sugar. After they’ve finished cooking for 60 minutes and are a gorgeous dark brown color, add salt and pepper to taste, then set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Unwrap the puff pastry and cutting each of the sheets into 3 pieces lengthwise, cutting along the folds of the puff pastry. Lightly flour your work surface and roll each piece into a  4″ x 10″ rectangle. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, then place 3 tart crusts on each baking sheet about an inch apart. Score the edge of each rectangle about a half inch from the edge, creating the crust.

Spread caramelized onion in an even layer across the puff pastry staying inside the scored edge. Divide the onions evenly between the six tarts. Bake tarts for 15 minutes, then divide crumbled goat cheese between the tarts and baking for 8-10 more minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown as well as the edges.

While the tarts are baking, heat fig jam in a small saucepan over medium high heat. You just want to loosen it up enough that you can spoon it over the tart. Remove tarts from the oven and spoon fig jam in a zigzag pattern across each tart. Serve warm or at room temperature (I actually prefer them at room temp myself).

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (6)

Swiss Chard, Leek and Potato Tartlets

If you’ve been following me for a while you may, or may not have noticed that I took quite a long break from blogging and then did a little re-branding and created this new blog. My food blogging journey started years ago as a way for me to keep track of my favorite recipes and then it turned into a way for me to share my recipes with friends and family. Then it took on a life of it’s own and it became less of a hobby and more of a stressor and almost an addiction. I was constantly checking Instagram to see how many likes my pictures were getting. And legit feeling bad if I didn’t get X amount of likes in the first few hours. Some of you might read this and think I’m crazy, but I guarantee there’s a lot of other people out there who read this and can relate, or read this and thinks it’s normal! I found that my mood was being dictated by the response my posts were getting on social media and I was constantly stressing about posting more frequently and producing the best quality writing and photos.

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I was putting unnecessary stress on myself trying to create and blog a new recipe every day or at least 4-5 times a week. I was spending hours on recipe development and photo sessions and writing and critiquing. And I was starting to feel really drained. Things needed to change. So I took a step back and I took a break from social media. And man, did it feel good! I have been spending more time with our child, my husband, our family and friends. I’ve been trying to spend more time being present.

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For those who know me (probably my husband knows best of all) when I’m passionate about something I throw everything I have into it. I am one of those people who gets an idea and runs with it. Like runs a marathon with it. Not literally, but you get what I mean. When we started the adoption process, I had a one-track mind for 2 years. Find. Our. Baby. When I wanted a new job, I spent hours perfecting my resume and applying for jobs until I got my ideal job offer and accepted. When I was passionate about making jewelry, I made 2,000 pairs of earrings and went to every craft show within 50 miles of my hometown for two summers. However, for me, cooking has always been a constant. It has always been a creative outlet for me and I have always enjoyed it. So to hell with the posts and the likes and the followers! I’m getting back to the basics. Just enjoy cooking.

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Why am I telling you this? Who knows! This blog is kind of like therapy for me and sometimes it just feels good to vent. Does this have anything to do with these adorable tartlets? Nope. Not a thing. But my favorite food blogs are the ones where the bloggers open up about who they are and what makes them tick. Also, like I said, writing is cathartic for me. Just like cooking is. So there’s a piece of my heart and here’s the damn recipe!

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Just kidding, one more thing. Where did all of my old posts go?? Yeah, good question. I’m sure they are out there somewhere in the interwebs but I sure as hell can’t find ’em. After some well intentioned blog migrations, I somehow lost all of my old posts. How did this happen?! Um, pretty much because I cannot wrap my brain around the inner workings of technology and I have no idea what I’m doing. So I’m in the process of trying to recreate some of my old recipes. Give me a shout if there’s one you’re itching for and I’ll see what I can do. I’ve already had multiple requests for my Whiskey Bourbon Meatball recipe — I’m working on it as we speak.

Swiss Chard, Leek and Potato Tartlets

  • Servings: 36 tartlets
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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 small leeks, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups chopped Swiss chard leaves
  • 2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
  • 10 oz. fingerling potatoes, sliced into 1/8″ thick pieces
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 oz. herb and garlic goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 egg

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add leeks and Swiss chard. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, then set aside.

Cut each sheet of puff pastry along the seams creating 6 long rectangles. Working on a lightly floured surface, roll each rectangle out slightly larger until it’s about 3 x 12 inches. You’re mostly just making the rectangles longer, not much wider. Cut each rectangle into 4 equal size pieces. Score each tartlet about a half inch from the edge creating the crust. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and transfer pastry squares to the baking sheet, spacing them apart about an inch.

In a medium bowl combine potatoes, olive oil, garlic powder, fresh thyme and large pinch of salt and pepper. In another medium bowl combine goat cheese and heavy cream. Divide goat cheese mixture evenly between the puff pastry squares, spreading it within the scored crust. Then layer potatoes on top of the goat cheese, dividing them evenly between the tarts. I used about 6 slices of potato per tart. Whisk the egg in a small bowl. Brush the crust of each tartlet with the egg wash, then bake for 12 minutes.

Remove tartlets from the oven, divide the leek and Swiss chard evenly between the tarts, placing it on top of the potatoes, and then bake for another 8 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender.

Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh thyme and serve warm!

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (11)

 

 

Simple Summer Salsa

This might seem like a no-brainer to a lot of folks, but I come across people all the time who ask me for the simplest of recipes. Some people are more comfortable making something that is tried and true (by someone else) before jumping in themselves.  Personally, I love to improvise in the kitchen! Growing up my mom had her signature dishes–beef stroganoff, chili, bacon wrapped chicken–and never followed a recipe. She knew the ingredients from memory and adjusted them based on what was available. It always amazed me how she’d whip things up with what she had in the kitchen, and while she always had an end result in mind, the journey of making the meal was a little different each time. I’ve grown so comfortable with improvising in fact that when I first started blogging, it took me a while to get in the groove of actually measuring ingredients and then writing them down. Now I’ve got my trusty little notebook that lives on my kitchen counter, ready at a moment’s notice to record whatever creation I come up with.

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I like to cheat when I make salsa and put most of the ingredients in the food processor. Obviously the tomatoes do not do well in a food processor, so those will need to be diced by hand, but literally everything else can just have a whiz in the processor for a few seconds and you’ll save TONS of time. Unless you’re into chopping, then by all means, chop away! With a very active 1 year old, I am into whatever takes me the least amount of time these days.

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This salsa was made entirely with veggies from our CSA from Square Roots Farm. You’ve heard me talk about them before; they’re great and you should check ’em out. They have a Fall CSA share also, which I am seriously considering…they’re veggies are just so dang good!

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So let’s bid farewell to those delicious summer veggies by using them to create a delicious, healthy, simple salsa!

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Simple Summer Salsa

  • Servings: 8
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Ingredients

  • 4 large ripe tomatoes (about 1 pound or 2 cups), cored and diced
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 cayenne pepper, ribs and seeds removed
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • large pinch of Kosher salt
  • pinch of fresh cracked pepper
  • pinch of cumin
  • squeeze of lime juice (optional)
  • tortilla chips for serving

Directions

Add onion, cayenne, garlic, cilantro, salt, pepper, cumin and lime juice to a food processer. Pulse until minced, scraping down the sides as need. Add minced veggies to diced tomatoes and stir to combine. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips and enjoy!

If you’re feeling crazy, add mango or pineapple to your salsa too! It’ll had a hint of unexpected sweetness.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (3)

Pork and Poblano Taquitos

Remember last week when I shared that yummy Pork Carnitas recipe? Well somehow I ended up with leftovers (I have no idea how!?!?!?) and some extra poblano peppers. So naturally my mind went straight to my meal prep for Sunday. These taquitos are loaded with flavor and pack a bite so crisp you’d swear they were fried, but they’re not! They’re baked!

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To achieve the same crispiness as our fried friends (with wayyyy less fat) you just wrap your filling in a corn tortilla and then brush it with oil. Bake in a hot oven for about 20 minutes and voila!

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Crispy, crunchy, melty, healthier taquitos. These would be the perfect appetizer for your next party!

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You could make them ahead and refrigerate, and then just before your guests arrive brush with olive oil and bake. Of course I serve them with my signature dipping sauce – equal parts full fat Greek yogurt and Taco Bell hot sauce, combined.

Pork and Poblano Taquitos

  • Servings: 18 taquitos
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Ingredients

  • 18 yellow corn tortillas
  • 2 cups Beer Braised Pork Carnitas (or your favorite Mexican pulled pork)
  • 2 cups shredded Chihuahua cheese (or any shredded cheese)
  • 1/2 cup diced poblano pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup diced jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Taco Bell hot sauce (for the dipping sauce)
  • Whole milk plain Greek yogurt (for the dipping sauce)

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with tin foil. Place a cooling rack on top of the baking sheet. In a small bowl combine pork, cheese, poblano, onion, jalapeno, chili powder and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Heat tortillas in the microwave in batches of 4, heating each batch for 30 seconds. This will make them warm and pliable. Work quickly, as the cooler the tortillas get the more likely they are to rip.

Place about 2-3 tablespoons of filling in a line down the center of each tortilla and roll the tortilla tightly away from you forming a fat little cigar shaped taquito.  Place rolled taquitos, seam side down, onto the cooling rack on the baking sheet about an inch apart.

Brush the entire top surface of the taquito with olive oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edges start to get brown and the taquito is crisp. Serve with my favorite dipping sauce/dressing combo–equal parts Greek yogurt and Taco Bell hot sauce combined.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (7)

Summer Tomato Tart

I’m going to share some intimate details about myself in this post. I’ve never really liked raw tomatoes. I will eat almost anything, but when it comes to tomatoes they just aren’t my jam unless they are cooked. If they’re pureed and simmered in a creamy tomato soup or cooked up in a tangy marinara sauce, I’m game. If you’re putting a big ol’ slice of raw tomato on my cold turkey sandwich you can guarantee I’ll be picking that baby off and throwing it away. I have been known to enjoy a tomato now and then on a grinder from Mancino’s, but only because it’s a hot sandwich and the tomatoes are basically overpowered by all the horseradish and jalapenos and Cajun seasoning I like on my Flavor Train.

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However, this summer I have been eating BLTs with reckless abandon–with raw tomatoes! I think my taste buds are turning over a new leaf. What’s changed? Pretty sure it’s because the only tomatoes I’ve been eating are from our Square Roots Farm CSA and they’re so ripe and juicy and tasty. I have come to realize how delicious a tomato really can be when it’s grown with great care and picked at the peak of ripeness.

So when we were invited out to dinner at the farm I felt like I had to bring something showcasing the delicious variety of tomatoes we’ve been getting from them all summer. And since I had no clue what I wanted to make, I was pleasantly surprised to find all the ingredients for this tart right in my kitchen!

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So this should actually be called the “clean out your fridge” tart. However, I feel like when you call something that it sounds less appetizing to others. Nonetheless, that is exactly what I did and it was delicious!

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I had some cute little green cherry tomatoes, some of those little orange baby tomatoes and giant slicing tomatoes that we got in our CSA this week. Those tomatoes would have been perfect for another batch of Roasted Tomato Gazpacho but they were destined for other things.

Summer Tomato Tart

  • Servings: 6
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Ingredients

  • 1 large slicing tomato
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (assorted colors will make for a prettier tart)
  • 1  store bought refrigerated pie crust
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Chihuahua cheese (or any other melty cheese)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill

Directions

Core the large tomato and slice into 1/4 inch thick slices. Slice your cherry tomatoes in half of in thirds depending on how large they are. Place them in a single layer on a paper towel lined plate. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and spray your tart pan with non-stick cooking spray. Unroll pie crust, lightly flour your work surface and roll the crust to match the size of your tart pan. Be sure the crust not only covers the bottom, but also the sides of the pan. Press dough firmly into the bottom and along the sides of the pan.

Use a fork to prick the dough all over so that no large air bubbles form. Bake the crust by itself for 5 minutes then remove from oven. Sprinkle Chihuahua cheese in an even layer across the bottom of the tart. Pat tomatoes dry with a paper towel. Place tomatoes in an even layer across the bottom of the pan creating almost a mosaic of tomatoes. Then sprinkle on feta, onion, Parmesan, thyme, a couple pinches of red pepper flakes, a large pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper.

Bake tart for 15-18 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Let cool for about 10 minutes, then garnish with fresh dill and serve. This tart is also delicious at room temperature as well.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (10)