Monday, May 18, 2015

Monday Motivation! Are You Feeling Stuck?

If you are feeling stuck in a rut, maybe you just need a few words to change your perspective!
Check out this bit of Monday Motivation...


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Writer's Block

I hope your voices are telling you exciting (but not too exciting) things this weekend! ;-)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Gift Ideas for Your Favorite Book Geek

Note:  I am not compensated in any way for these suggestions.  These are simply a few products I love, and if you know a book lover, she will probably love them, too! 

 Novel Teas - $12.50

A book is even more comforting than a warm cup of tea.  But a book and a cup of tea?  That is bliss.

Personal Library Kit - $12.99 

Feel the joy again of a 7-year-old checking out a book from library!  
Also, for those who lend their books out and never receive them back, ensure that your friends never forget whose book they stole.

USB Typewriter - $899  

Sometimes, your instrument is your inspiration.

Jane Austen - Seven Novels - Leather Bound $20  

These leather bound books from Barnes & Noble feel luxurious and look great on a shelf.


Literary Quote Wall Art - $16-23 (depending on size)

Inspiring words made even more beautiful.


I Like Big Books  - $21

Book geeks love a good laugh, and a big comfy t-shirt to wear while reading.


A First Edition or Early Copy of a Classic Book - Price Varies 

Rare and precious, old books seem to include not only the wisdom of the words they contain, but also the wisdom of the years they have existed.  They inspire reverence.


Literary Scarf - $48  

A scarf of classic literature - it's like a magical force field against the vacuity of the world.


Vintage-Style Book Kindle Cover  -  $13.99

It brings a virtual book into the real world.

What do you like the best?  Anything I missed?  

Leave a comment!!  No sign-in required.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wednesday Wisdom - The Worst Thing You Can Do is Nothing

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Theodore Roosevelt was such a fascinating person.  He was one of the great Progressive leaders of our country, and won adulation and popularity on an enormous scale.  He also was deliciously quotable!  Below is one of my favorites.

We are all stricken by indecision at some point or another.  Especially folks like me, with a strong, stubborn, perfectionist streak, who are terrified of making the wrong decision.  If you are likewise afflicted today, may these words of wisdom strike home and allow you to get out of that rut of indecisiveness!  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

7 Life Lessons from Anne of Green Gables

L.M Montgomery is most well-known for the Anne of Green Gables series, and she is one of my all-time favorite authors.  Her books spoke to my soul as I was growing up, and still, every time I open them, they have more to tell.  Her humor, love of beauty and nature, and descriptions of the human experience have made her books classics.

Here are some of my favorite lessons:


1.  Get outdoors and appreciate nature - it can be a spiritual experience

“Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I'd do. I'd go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I'd look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I'd just feel a prayer.”


2. Find joy in the little things 

“After all," Anne had said to Marilla once, "I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string."


3.  Have some gumption.

“Anyone who has gumption knows what it is, and anyone who hasn’t can never know what it is. So there is no need of defining it.”


4.  When you’ve behaved badly, always apologize sincerely.  

"I apologized pretty well, didn't I?" she said proudly as they went down the lane. "I thought since I had to do it I might as well do it thoroughly."


5. Keep your soul open and alert for “kindred spirits”

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”


6.  If today was a bad day, at least there's always tomorrow

“Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it...well with no mistakes in it yet.”   


7.  Try to arrange your love life so that your hardest choice is between marrying a handsome and adoring millionaire or a handsome and adoring doctor.

Boy-Next-Door Doctor or Romantic Millionaire?   How's a girl to choose?



Monday, May 11, 2015

A Little Monday Motivation!

If this doesn't get you up and moving toward your goals today, I don't know what will!  Not many of us are content to be called mediocre - now go wrestle this day to the ground!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Wednesday Wisdom - Conquer All Things

Sometimes, the world seems like a cold, dark, lonely place.  But sometimes, even just a few words of wisdom can help you see the light on the other side of the curtain. 

Here are a few words from one of the greatest Americans - Benjamin Franklin.  No go out there and conquer this crazy world!


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Easy Halloween Treat - Chocolate-Dipped Marshmallow Pops

 It's no secret that I love Halloween!  As a holiday, it has so many wonderful elements:  crisp autumn weather, pumpkins, mystery, silliness, candy and fun!  And it's a great excuse to throw a party!

These adorable little snacks are perfect for a get-together.  They are a super-easy crowd-pleaser!   Kids love them, and something about a marshmallow-on-a-stick makes adults feel like kids again.

The best part?  You only need 4 ingredients that you probably already have at home.

Chocolate-Dipped Marshmallow Pops

1 bag regular-size marshmallows (or if you are super ambitious, make your own with this recipe)
1/2 bag (6 oz) chocolate chips (regular or mini) OR 6 oz of your favorite chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp vegetable or coconut oil
Your favorite holiday sprinkles

mini cupcake liners
paper straws or cake pop sticks


1.  Prep your assembly area:  Put the sprinkles in a small bowl, and place cupcake liners on a serving plate.

2.  Gently press straws/sticks into center of marshmallows, being careful not to flatten the marshmallow.

3.  Melt your chocolate:  Place the chocolate and oil in a microwave-safe dish.  Microwave on 50% power for 1 minute.  Stir well.  Place back in the microwave for 30-second intervals on 50% power, stirring after every interval, until chocolate is melted.  DO NOT OVERHEAT - this will cause the chocolate to become unworkable.  Check out this link for more great tips on working with chocolate.

4.  Get to dipping!  Dip each marshmallow 2/3 in chocolate, let excess drip, then gently press into sprinkles, one side at a time.  Place in the cupcake liner and allow to cool.

You're done!  Enjoy these sweet cuties!

Dairy-Free (depending on the chocolate used)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

If You Know What Changes a Heart...

I heard this quote today from Marianne Williamson today, and it touched and inspired me, so I'm sharing it with you!

Happy Thursday!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Few of My Favorite (Halloween) Things

by Jaelyn 

1.  This Halloween Table Decor Tutorial - Some great advice on how to decorate a spooky Halloween table with items you already have at home!

2.  If this slideshow doesn't make you feel Halloween-y, nothing will!  It is filled with the most amazing, haunting images of abandoned buildings in the UK.

 3.  Cheese and Pretzel Brooms - ADORABLE.

4.  The Great Pumpkin Pie-tini - This is the perfect, pumpkin-y cocktail for your Halloween bash! 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Red, White and Blue Sparkle Spritzer!

by Jaelyn

Independence Day is almost here, and I know you are desperately wondering:  which tasty beverage best reflects the patriotic spirit?

Wonder no more, fellow Americans.  This drink combines the best of all things:  patriotic colors, the bounty of summer fruits (watermelon and blueberry), and the fireworks-like sparkle of a bubbly wine!

Photo courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Red, White and Blue Sparkle Spritzer!

Here are the ingredients you will need for this bit of tasty Liberty-in-a-Glass:
  • Watermelon simple syrup (see recipe below)
  • Dry sparkling wine
  • Fresh or frozen whole blueberries

For the stripes:  put a small amount of watermelon simple syrup in a spoon.  With the spoon, touch the inside of the champagne flute and allow the syrup to drip down the interior wall of the glass.  Continue at evenly spaced spots in your glass until you have consistent stripes.    Fill the glass with sparkling wine, add 2-4 blueberries, and serve!  Drinkable patriotism!  *wink*

If you like this recipe, let me know in the comments below!  I also love to hear your tweaks and creative additions.  Happy Independence Day!

Watermelon Simple Syrup
1 lb. cubed watermelon
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. lime juice

Puree the watermelon in a blender or food processor.  Add to a med. saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer (not a full rolling boil).  Lower the heat to med-low and allow to simmer until reduced 25-30%.  Remove from heat, carefully strain through a sieve into a bowl to remove the pulp before returning to the saucepan.  Add lime juice and sugar, stir to dissolve.  Return to a simmer and reduce again by 25%.  Pour the syrup into a clean bowl and let cool. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Independence Day Inspiration!

Getting Ready for the 4th of July!

 It is getting hot outside, and I'm itching to do some summer celebrating!  Fortunately, the most summerish of all holidays is coming up - the 4th of July!  Or Independence Day, if being formal and/or correct is your thing.  :-)

It's all about the Red, White, hot and Blue this time of year - celebrating our freedom in the most American ways we know - with yummy food, drinks, parades, outdoor fun and of course, fireworks!  I scoured the interwebs (inside joke - hopefully this got a chuckle out of my husband) to find the best ideas to share with you.  Here they are!   Source sites are below the picture.  Please, share your inspirations with us as well!  Just leave a comment at the end of the post - we'd love to hear from you!

Love, Jaelyn
Happy 4th of July!  Independence Day Inspiration Source Sites and attributions at

 Inspired by (and photos attributed to) these sites:

  1. Midwest Living's Strawberry Buckets
  2. Martha Stewart's Firecracker Favors
  3. Tiny Pies' Waving Flag Pie
  4. Martha Stewart's Independence Day Parade
  5. Baker's Royale Fruit Pops
  6. Hostess with the Mostess' Red, White and Blue Water (and super cute nail polish)
  7. Martha Stewart's Patriotic Fans

Friday, June 7, 2013

Happy Friday!

Happy Friday!  I was feeling the need to be inspired, so I thought I would share with you all as well!
Here are a couple of great quotes to get you through the weekend.  First, from the amazing Conan O'Brien.  Second, from an unknown source.  I hope these help to start your weekend off right!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tribute to Grilled Cheese #3: Prosciutto, Fig and Brie, Oh My!

The first thing you need to know about this flavor combination:  there are no words to describe how incredible it tastes.  Which makes writing a story about it very difficult.  But I'll try!

MMmmmmm mmm mmmmMMMm mmmm, mmmm mm MMMMMmmmmm....
That's pretty much all I can say about that.

Grilled Cheese Tip #3:  Use a complimentary flavor when "greasing" your bread. 
For example, if your sandwich is Mediterranean or Italian-flavor inspired, use extra virgin olive oil.  If your sandwich is buttery and rich like this recipe, use butter.

Proscuitto, Fig and Brie Open-Faced Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Ingredients (per sandwich): 

The bread:  Something moist and chewy.  I used a hearty, dense multigrain bread from a local bakery.  I also like a good rustic Italian-style whole grain bread. 
Good quality Butter for spreading, room temperature
1 slice Prosciutto, very thinly sliced (aka the "standard" prosciutto cut)
2 oz. Good Brie (at least double cream. Triple-cream brie is even better)
1 1/2 Tbsp. Fig Spread/Jam


First, be sure to set out your brie and butter a few hours ahead of time to allow them to come to room temperature.  While it is still cold, slice your brie in 1/4-in slices and place on wax paper, then set aside to ripen.   
2.  Place all the prosciutto you will need for as many servings as you are making in a single layer on a broiler pan and bake at 350 until crispy, approx. 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.
3.  Spread butter thinly on both sides of a slice of bread.  Place bread in skillet over medium heat and toast one side.
4.  Be sure to have all of your ingredients handy at this point.  Once you turn the bread, you'll want to work fast!
5.  Once one side of the bread is golden brown, turn and begin topping the toasted side with your ingredients.
6.  Spoon fig spread onto bread and spread as evenly as  possible.   Add slices of brie to the top of the bread to cover the slice, leaving 1/4-in around the edge to allow for some melting.  Add a crumbled slice of prosciutto to the top, cover and allow the cheese to begin melting.  After 1-2 minutes, remove cover and  continue heating until cheese has melted to your preference.  Bottom of bread should be golden brown.
7.  Remove from heat and enjoy!  Goes well with a crisp bubbly!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Happy Summer! Strawberry, Avocado and Goat Cheese Salad

by Jaelyn

Regardless of what the calendar says, summer doesn't begin on June 21.  Summer either begins:  1. For kids, when school is out; or 2. For big kids, on Memorial Day weekend.

So, now that it's "officially" my summertime, I am in the mood for fresh, colorful, light and tasty foods!  This super-easy salad combines a few of my favorite things into one delicious experience.   You are going to absolutely love it! 

Strawberry, Avocado and Goat Cheese Salad

Ingredients (per salad)
1 c. spring mix greens
1/4 c. sliced ripe strawberries
2-3 heaping Tbsp crumbled goat cheese (I like a lot on mine, but it just depends on how much you love goat cheese!)
1/2 large avocado, sliced
2 Tbsp. toasted sliced almonds*
1-2 Tbsp. Balsamic vinaigrette -OR- this yummy vinaigrette, Brianna's Blush Wine  ----> 
1 tsp. chia seeds (optional)

Combine all ingredients, pour yourself a glass of white wine, and enjoy!  :-)

*to toast almonds, put 1/2 c. sliced almonds in a skillet over med-low heat.  Toss/flip the almonds every minute for the first 3 minutes, then every 30 seconds until golden brown.   Watch carefully and turn more often if necessary - once nuts begin to cook, they can burn quickly.  Cover and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tribute to Grilled Cheese #2: Cranberry & Pecan Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwich, and a visit to Antonelli's Cheese Shop

by Jaelyn

#2 in Our Tribute to Grilled Cheese!

I had the most inspiring trip yesterday to Antonelli's Cheese Shop in Austin.  Cheesemonger Kara was kind enough to walk me through some of the intricacies of grilled cheese, including which cheeses melt the best, which cheese to avoid, and which cheeses rarely leave the store because they are so good you have to eat them there.  OK, OK, I made that last one up.  But seriously, some of the cheeses I sampled were so good, they made me not ever want to use my mouth for talking again.  My mouth now has better things to do - or rather, better cheeses to eat!  I'll share Kara's tips along with her own Grilled Cheese recipe later this series- so don't forget to come back and check it out!  Sign up for our email list (on the right side of the screen) if you want to be sure and get all the latest info directly in your inbox!

Today's recipe was inspired by one of my favorite salad combinations - greens with dried cranberries, feta/goat cheese, toasted pecans and balsamic vinaigrette.  It's just the right combination of creamy, sweet and tart - the strong flavors of each ingredient complimenting each other perfectly!

With Kara the Cheesemonger's help, I selected two artisan cheeses for use in this sandwich:  a goat's milk feta from Pure Luck Farm and Dairy and a Majorero (a firmer goat's cheese from Spain).  I know not everyone will have access to these specific cheeses, so in the recipe below I have included two types of cheeses that should be widely available.  Flavors vary fairly widely even within individual styles of cheese, so if possible, sample before you buy.  However, you should be pretty safe with the types of cheeses here - no matter what, I'm sure it will be delicious!   Happy cheesing!

Grilled Cheese Tip #2:  Bring your cheese to room temperature before adding to the sandwich.  - I mentioned this within the last recipe, but as I left the cheese shop yesterday, the cheesemongers reminded me again - so now we know for sure not to skip this important step!

Ingredients (per sandwich)
  • Bread:  Good quality Ciabatta OR other chewy bread
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 c. shredded or crumbled Chevre (goat cheese), room temperature (I used Majorero which can be shredded.  If the goat cheese you use is softer/crumblier, it might not melt. But that doesn't mean it won't be yummy!)
  • 1/4 c. whole pecans
  • 1/8 c.  Mild-flavored goat Feta, room temperature (can substitute mild cow's feta.  If your feta is very strongly flavored, just use a little less)
       Balsamic Cranberries (enough for 2 sandwiches)
  • 1/2 c. Dried cranberries
  • 1 c. Balsamic vinegar
  • pinch each of white pepper, fine ground sea salt, and ground sage

1.  Spread pecans on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350F oven until toasted - appr. 5 minutes.  Watch closely, as nuts can scorch quickly.  Remove from oven and set aside.
2.  Prepare the Balsamic Cranberries.  Add the cramberries, balsamic vinegar and seasonings to a small saucepan on med-high.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low, simmer.  Cranberries will soak up some of the liquid while at the same time the vinegar is reducing.  Turn off heat when liquid is reduced by half.
2.  Cut ciabatta loaf into 4-inch sections.  Slice section in half crosswise to form sandwich top and bottom.  Try to slice it so the pieces are equal thickness.  Brush both sides of each slice with olive oil.
3.  Heat skillet over med-high heat.  Place top and bottom slices of bread, face-side down, in skillet.  Cook until toasted golden.
4.  Flip pieces of bread over in the skillet and immediately add the feta to the bottom slice and the goat cheese to the top slice.  Cover with a lid to help melt/warm the cheese.
6.  When cheese is starting to melt, add 2 spoonfuls of cranberries to top of bottom slice (reserve the balsamic liquid), then add a layer of pecans.  Add the top slice of bread, press sandwich down with a spatula, and let layers of cheese melt together for 1-2 minutes.
7.  Remove from skillet, serve with greens.  Drizzle greens and sandwich with reduced balsamic liquid.
Enjoy the crispy, creamy, tart, sweet, chewy goodness!  I love this sandwich!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tribute to Grilled Cheese #1: Ital-Yum Grilled Cheese!

by Jaelyn

Grilled Cheese.  My mouth waters just typing the words.  You know the best thing about "Grilled Cheese?"  It can mean so many different things.  I mean, there are literally hundreds of different kinds of cheeses.  There are also hundreds of types of breads.  And a seemingly limitless amount of toppings and condiments.  That means there are more possibilities for Grilled Cheese combinations than I can count.   Another best thing about Grilled Cheese is that almost everyone has the ingredients for some kind of Grilled Cheese sandwich already in their pantry and fridge.  Go ahead, go check.  I'll bet you a slice of cheese I'm right.  The last best thing about Grilled Cheese?  That's easy.  It's EASY!  Few ingredients, minimal cook time, maximum Yum.  Maxiyum?  :-)

Grilled Cheese Tip #1:  Good Bread (the RIGHT Bread) = Sandwich Magic

Most of us have only ever used one type of bread (regular ol' sandwich bread) for our one type of grilled cheese sandwich.  And it works.  Butter, sandwich bread, American cheese (or Velveeta for the indulgent - you know who you are).  That's a classic.  Comfort on a plate.

BUT (and this is a big but), we are not making your regular ol' Grilled Cheese for this series.  That means regular ol' bread won't cut it.  I will warn you now - you CAN use your grocery store bag o' bread, and it might be good, but it won't be magic.

That being said, I know not everyone lives around the corner from a Whole Foods or a gourmet grocer or a French bakery.  I also know that most of us simply don't have the time or patience to make our own artisan bread at home.  So I will give you my ideal bread recommendation, and then I give you an option that (I think) should be available to everyone.  Sound fair?  I might even throw in a third option if I am feeling really hungry inspired.

Explanation's over.  Let's get Cheesy!

Ital-Yum Grilled Cheese!

Recommended Breads:
1.  Good Olive Bread, or
2.  "Seeduction" Bread (Pictured - from Whole Foods Market), or
3.  Grocery Store Italian or French Bread

Other Ingredients (per sandwich):
  • 1 Tbsp. Pesto - Fresh is best! (recipe here), but also can use store-bought
  • Fresh mozzarella medallions, room temperature (appr. 3 medallions per sandwich).  If medallions are not available, purchase a log of fresh mozzarella and cut 3/8-inch-thick slices.
  • 2 Tbsp. Pasta sauce, hot (I used Giada's Creamy Tomato sauce, available at Target - but any flavorful, good quality sauce will do.  If you love it by itself, you will love it on this sandwich.)
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (optional)

Put it Together
1.  Heat your pasta sauce in small saucepan on the stove.  Place a skillet on the stove over medium low heat.
2.  If not already sliced, cut your bread in 1/2-inch slices.
3.  Note:  I don't use butter or oil on my bread for this sandwich, as I prefer a "toasted" flavor.  If you prefer to use oil (recommended if your bread is not particularly moist), brush each piece of bread, on  the side that will touch the skillet only, with olive oil prior at this point.
4.   Spread pasta sauce on one piece of bread and place in the skillet, sauce side up.  Put the room-temperature mozzarella slices atop the sauce, with some space between slices.  Lightly salt the cheese, cover with lid for 2 minutes to warm the cheese.
5.  Spread pesto on one side of a second piece of bread.  Remove lid and place piece, pesto side down, on top of the sandwich.  Immediately flip the sandwich so the new piece of bread is being cooked on the skillet.
 6.  Cook until bottom slice is golden brown, then flip again to continue cooking other side.  Remove when both sides are golden brown and cheese is warm and beginning to melt.  

Serve with a side of greens, then sit back, eat, and enjoy all the gratitude from your satisfied family! :-)

Don't forget, over the next couple of months, I'll be doing a whole SERIES of grilled cheese - along with other recipes - so come back soon! 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Happy Grilled Cheese Day!

By Jaelyn

Yes, you read that right - today is National Grilled Cheese Day!   April is National Grilled Cheese Month, and get ready for Real.Beautiful.Good.'s series of Grilled Cheese starting next Monday!

It's easy, it's versatile, and amazingly satisfying.  Grilled Cheese is an American comfort food staple.  But have you ever taken a chance and move outside the realm of yellow cheese and buttered bread?  Next week, take a walk on the gooey side and become a Grilled Cheese Gourmet! I will show you several different fun and delicious combinations that all add up to one thing:  Yum!

Sign up for our e-mail list and get these recipes sent right to your inbox!  Just enter your address in the box to the right, just under the top menu.

Here's a little teaser...

Monday, April 8, 2013

Chicken Puff Pastry Caprese

by Jaelyn Penner

Puff Pastry is one of my absolute favorite foods.  The buttery flakiness is addicting... and versatile!  You can make it into a sweet breakfast pastry, fill it with sandwich fixins' for lunch, wrap around a wheel of brie for an amazing appetizer or create multiple puff-pastry-based dishes for a decadent dinner.  Or, as I've done here, you can fix up a simple, delicious and easy dish that your entire family will love!

I've used some simple ingredients in this dish, several of which are a staple in my home.  Fresh basil is easy to grow and great to have on hand.  Pesto is easy to make and freezes well, and is a great way to use all that basil that you grew and didn't have time to eat!  Balsamic vinegar is a wonderful pantry staple - it's perfect to use with olive oil as a fast homemade salad dressing, or to reduce as in this recipe for a sweeter and more complex flavor.

This recipe is based on the traditional Insalata Caprese in Italian cuisine - which literally means "Salad of Capri" or "Salad in the style of Capri."  It revolves around three simple ingredients - fresh mozzarella, basil and tomato.  I've taken that side dish and made it the star of the meal.  I hope you love this as much as my family and I do!

Chicken Puff Pastry Caprese

  • 2 sheets puff pastry (store bought - found in the freezer section, generally near the pie crusts)
  • 3-4 Tbsp fresh pecan pesto (see recipe below - or in a pinch, you can purchase pre-made)
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and pulled apart with a fork
  • 9 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut in 1/4" slices
  • 3 med. Roma tomatoes
  • 1-2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • Balsamic reduction (see recipe below)

1.  Thaw puff pastry according to directions on package.  Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

2.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut tomatoes in 1/4" slices.  Salt each side and set aside.  This will draw out extra moisture for better baking.  Pat mozzarella slices with a clean towel to remove extra moisture, lightly salt and set aside.

3.  Remove pastry sheets from the fridge.  Using a rolling pin, roll each sheet to appr. 12x16-inches.  

4.  To assemble:  Place one sheet of puff pastry on parchment-lined flat sheet pan.  Spread 3-4 Tbsp. pesto on the pastry sheet, leaving a 1-inch border.  Stagger mozzarella slices, leaving at least 1/2-inch between slices (see pic).  Add chicken evenly across the top of the cheese and pesto.  Carefully place the 2nd sheet of puff pastry on top.  Score the top sheet appr. 1-inch from border, then press the edges of the two sheets together with a fork.  This will create a nice fluffy perimeter crust.  Poke several vent holes in the top of the pastry with a sharp knife to allow steam to escape while cooking.

Pat dry your tomato slices.  Using the scoring as your new border, stagger the slices on top of the pastry, covering the entire region within the scoring.  Dust with grated parmesan and freshly ground pepper.  Place in oven for 30-40 minutes, or until top of pastry and crusts are golden brown and tomatoes are nicely roasted.

While baking, prepare the Balsamic reduction according to the recipe below.

Cut into 9 pieces and drizzle 1 tsp. of Balsamic reduction over top of each.  Serve with a side of fresh greens. Enjoy!

Pecan Pesto

  • 3 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 3/4 cup whole pecans, toasted
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • Good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
In a food processor, add basil, pecans and garlic.  As the ingredients chop, slowly drizzle olive oil through the feed tube just until a smooth paste is created.  Add the parmesan and blend for 20-30 seconds more, until well combined.  Refrigerate unused pesto, and use or freeze within 5 days.

Balsamic Reduction

  • 2 c Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • pinch of freshly ground pepper (I prefer white pepper, but you can use whichever type is your favorite)
In small saucepan, heat the vinegar on med heat.  When warm but not boiling, add honey and stir to incorporate.  Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer on med-low until reduced in volume by half.   Add pepper and stir, allow to reduce an additional 10%.  Remove from heat and allow to cool for 2-3 minutes before serving.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Easy Easter Treats - Lemon Cheesecake Easter Eggs

by Jaelyn Penner

The bluebonnets are blooming, the sun is shining and Easter is on its way!
I absolutely love this time of year because of the very things that Easter symbolizes - rebirth, renewal and lots of chocolate (right?).

OK, ok... technically, we could have Easter without chocolate, but that sure would be less delicious.   To show my gratitude for this tasty treat and this special day,  I am sharing with you one of the easiest, yummiest, cutest Easter desserts you can possibly make.  It's perfectly themed and just the right size serving size for your guests.  You can make it from scratch, or you can buy all the ingredients pre-made (or at least nearly made) and put together in a snap!

If you are new to the "Lemon Curd Experience" as I like to call it, be prepared for a party in your mouth!  In curd, the tartness of lemon is combined with decadent butter and eggs for a silky, absolutely heavenly concoction.  Combine it with the creamy cheesecake, chocolate-y shell, and sweet crunch of the graham cracker in this dessert...  just yum.

Lemon Curd from  Williams-Sonoma

Lemon Cheesecake Easter Eggs

makes one dozen eggs with nests

Graham Cracker Nest:

  •     2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  •     One stick, plus 3 T butter, melted
  •     1/3 cup sugar (you can substitute turbinado sugar for white)
  •     Pinch of salt

  1. Cover a cookie sheet with wax paper.  
  2. Mix all ingredients together until well-combined.  
  3. Using your hands, shape appr. 2T into round nest with middle indent just large enough for the egg to sit in.  Try to form it so that the egg will remain stable when sitting on the nest.  
  4. Place on the cookie sheet. Continue until you have 12, then place nests in the fridge to chill and set.

Cheesecake Eggs:

  •     1 Jar of Lemon Curd (you can usually find jars of this in the jelly or baking aisle, or use this recipe from Ina Garten)
  •     1 No-Bake Cheesecake (you can buy a Jello brand mix at the store, or use this recipe from Martha Stewart - no need to prepare her crust, only do Step #4.  Don't chill the mixture until you've filled the eggs - see steps below.)
  •     Hollow Chocolate Eggs (store purchased)

  1. Remove all wrapping from 12 hollow chocolate eggs.  With a warm knife, carefully cut away the top 1/4-1/3 of the egg, leaving the lower portion intact.  This doesn't have to be perfect!  It just has to look like a broken egg and be able to hold enough cheesecake to satisfy your guests. 
  2. Mix the cheesecake filling according to directions.  Instead of chilling, fill a pastry bag with the fresh mixture.  Using a large tip, pipe some of the cheesecake filling into each egg, just below the top of the egg.  Leave a small depression for the lemon curd.
  3. Place the eggs broken side up in an empty egg carton or back in their own containers and place in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes.

 To Assemble and Serve:  

  1. Remove the nests and the eggs from the fridge.  Place nest(s) on your serving dish.  
  2. Fill a small pastry bag with 1 c. of the lemon curd.  Using a small tip, slowly pipe the lemon curd into the indented spot in the cheesecake, until the curd resembles an egg yolk.  Fill bottom-to-top, do not use a swirling motion.
  3. Place the egg on its "nest" and repeat for all eggs.  You can pipe a very small spot of curd onto the nest to help hold the egg in place if desired.
  4. Enjoy!

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