Orange Fennel Salad with Mint Vinaigrette

Do you ever have one of those meals where your taste buds are just firing off like crazy and you can’t believe all the crazy flavors happening in your mouth and how have you never tasted something like this before and when can you get more?

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The Fontinalis pop up at Northbound Supply this past February was that meal for me. We ordered braised lamb with polenta, roasted carrot soup and a divine citrus fennel salad. I can’t even describe how delicious it was. Okay, well maybe I can. Let me at least try.

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The braised lamb was rich, fall apart tender, and oh so juicy. It was topped with tons of fresh chopped cilantro and the nestled into a bed of soft, thick, creamy polenta. The soup was deep with the slightly sweet roasted carrot flavor and a hint of ginger and topped with chopped pecans. And the citrus salad…WOW. Thinly sliced fennel, orange and grapefruit segments along with fresh mint, all tossed in a mint vinaigrette topped with toasted chopped peanuts. The citrus salad perfectly balanced the richness of the lamb and polenta and the creaminess of the carrot soup.

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It was one of those meals I will never forget. Like my mouth is literally watering right now just thinking about it and I can remember exactly how everything tasted.

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So this week I had some mint simple syrup taking up valuable real estate in the fridge. And a bag full of juicy oranges. And my daughter took a long nap. All of the stars aligned and it was time to make an orange fennel salad.

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Orange Fennel Salad with Mint Vinaigrette

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 3 oranges, peel removed, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 small bulb fennel, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup micro greens of your choice

For the dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons avocado or olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons mint simple syrup*
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint
  • 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Arrange oranges and fennel on a serving platter in a couple layers, overlapping here and there. Arrange micro greens across the platter as well.

In a small mason jar add all dressing ingredients and shake vigorously until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle dressing over the salad and serve!

*MINT SIMPLE SYRUP: To make the mint simple syrup, add equal parts water and sugar to a small saucepan along with a handful of mint. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Transfer to mason jar and store in the fridge. You can make as much or as little of this stuff as you want. And I’m telling you, this is the perfect addition to nearly any summer cocktail you can think of, so probably make a lot of it.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (18)

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)

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)