Cranberry Praline Pecan Spinach Salad

Cranberry Praline Pecan Spinach Salad
inspired by friend, Megan

baby spinach
grape tomatoes
dried cranberries
praline pecans
log of goat cheese

In a salad bowl, place spinach.
Top with grape tomatoes, dried cranberries and pecans
Run a fork over the log of goat cheese to crumbe the cheese & top the salad.
Serve with your choice of dressing. (I recommend lemon poppyseed & raspberry pomegranate vinaigrette!)

Goat Cheese Baked in Tomato Sauce

The following recipe was made and shared at my Tapas party. You can read about the event and view links to the other recipes shared HERE.

Goat Cheese Baked in Tomato Sauce
shared at the event by John
recipe from here

2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
baguette of bread, sliced
8 ounces goat cheese
1 to 1 1/2 cups marinara or pasta sauce
basil leaves (optional garnish)

Preheat conventional oven or toaster oven to 350°F.
Mix together the garlic and olive oil and spread over bread slices and place on a baking sheet.
Pat the goat cheese into a 1/2-inch pancake and place in shallow baking dish.
Ladle tomato sauce into dish to come up to top edge of cheese (do not cover the cheese with sauce).
Bake, uncovered, until sauce begins to bubble at edges and cheese is hot, about 25 minutes.
During last 10 minutes of baking, toast bread until golden brown.
Garnish cheese with basil if using.

Say Cheese…Eat Cheese

Cheese is one thing I must have every week. In fact, one of the most satisfying snacks I have each week consists of cheese, bread or crackers, a few slices of salame or sopressata and some fresh fruit. It hits the spot every time. I was thrilled when I found out about the Say Cheese blogging event hosted by Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once. For this blogging event, we’re to post about and photograph our favorite cheese. My favorite? Cypress Grove’s Humboldt Fog goat cheese.It has a distinctive appearance with a line of vegetable ash through the middle. This cheese is creamy, smooth and perfect spread on bread or water crackers. It doesn’t come cheap (I purchase this at Whole Foods where it goes for $22/lb) but its one simple pleasure I’m willing to indulge in at any cost. Yes, I love it that much! If anything, do give it a try even if its just a sample at your local cheese shop!

Who Moved My Cheese?

Thank goodness I’m not lactose intolerant. And thank goodness cheese is one of my favorite food groups! Today I hosted 2 tasting sessions focused on soft French cheeses. It was a great way to try a slew of various cheeses without having to buy them all.

In hosting a cheese tasting session, friends came over with a cheese to share… specifically soft French cheeses. As the hostess, I provided a nice variety of accompaniments such as wine, crackers, artisnal bread, cured meats, & fruit for the tasting. To encourage learning about the cheeses and how to taste cheeses, I also provided everyone with a “Cheese Passport” – a small journal of sorts where folks can write notes of each cheese they tried at the event. It even included a lot of basic cheese information about purchasing, storing and serving cheese… even wine pairings!

I started my cheese tastings with a short talk on cheeses and how they are made. In many ways, cheese making is similar to wine making. Just as grapes make wine, it’s milk that makes cheese… and similar factors like the terroir, source, aging and storing all provide cheese very unique characteristics. But rather than bore my friends (and you) about cheese science, I had everyone break into small groups to try the various cheeses each person brought. Here are some pictures of the tastings:

My accompaniments for the tasting included:
strawberries, apples, Bosc pears, red & green grapes, honey, kalamata olives, walnuts, dried apricots, dried bing cherries, french baguette slices, 4 types of crackers (whole wheat, vegetable, cracked pepper and water crackers), sopressata salame and a black pepper salame. For wines, we had a variety of whites – Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chadonnay, Pinot Grigio and Viognier…

And here are the various cheeses that came to the party,
although there are still others I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of:…

Latin Love for Eggplant

After flipping through a new cookbook I received from last night’s Cookbook Swap, I was inspired to give our dinner a Latin twist today. Another task I had at hand was to reintroduce eggplant to my husband. He doesn’t like eggplant but I’ve asked him to give it another try. Apparently he last had eggplant as a child… so tonight I needed to be creative and successful in my attempts.

Combining both latin flavors and eggplant was the mission and here’s what I decided on for dinner – roasted eggplant, tomato & goat cheese quesadillas, accompanied by a tex-mex chopped salad with spicy oven roasted chicken. The verdict? He loved the quesadillas!Here’s my recipe for roasted eggplant, tomato & goat cheese quesadillas:
1 medium eggplant
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 ripe tomato
olive oil
3 oz goat cheese
1/2 cup chopped italian parsley
3-5 large flour tortillas (10″ size)

Seasonings: 1 teaspoon of each
black pepper
chili powder
onion powder
garlic powder
sazon seasoning w/cilantro

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine all seasonings in a small bowl and mix.
Cut eggplant in 1/2 inch circles.
Brush slices with olive oil & sprinkle seasoning mix on both sides.
In a saute pan, pan roast eggplant until brown.
Transfer slices to a baking sheet.
After eggplant slices have been browned, add onions and garlic in pan with some olive oil.
Cook until onions are translucent.
Add chopped tomatoes and remaining seasoning left.
Saute until warmed through and place onion tomato mixture over eggplant slices.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Place cooled eggplant/tomato mixture into a bowl.
Cut goat cheese in chunks and place in bowl.
Combine gently with chopped parsley.
Fill tortillas with this filling and begin making the quesadillas.
To make the quesadillas, fill half the tortilla with the filling.
Fold over the tortilla to create a half circle.
You can either grill or pan fry quesadillas until tortilla is warmed through.
Tonight I baked them in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.
Serve with sour cream and your favorite quesadilla condiments.

For the Love of Leftovers!

It has been a hot & humid Chicago summer night… so in hopes to cool off, I made a light dish using leftovers in my fridge. In fact, I love using leftovers in my fridge. Its almost like a challenge to find creative ways to use bits and pieces together to make something incredible. Well, I’m not sure if it was incredible, but dinner tonight was impressive according to my husband.

Here’s what I used up in concocting my Lemon Thyme Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken:

goat cheese I previously infused with fresh thyme & lemon juice
2 chicken breasts, split for stuffing
cooked angel hair pasta
fresh asparagus
1 ripe plum tomato
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil for sauteing

Season the chicken breasts with S&P.
Cut a small slit in the thickest part of the chicken horizontally.
Stuff goat cheese inside the slit of chicken.
Drizzle olive oil over chicken.
Bake at 350 for 25-30 or until juices run clear.

In a grill pan, add olive oil.
Slice asparagus on a bias and add to hot pan.
Grill until softened.
Add cooked angel hair pasta to heat up.
Dice tomato and add to pan.
Serve cooked chicken over pasta.

Simple Supper

It was another night of something simple using a hodge podge of leftover ingredients that were yearning to be consumed. With some goat cheese, basil, pesto, marinara, I whipped up a pasta dish paired with chicken.

Here is my recipe for Pesto Marinara Pasta & Chicken:

2 chicken breasts, pounded
garlic powder, salt & black pepper
olive oil

– Heat oil in pan
– Pound chicken breasts flat, to 1/2 inch thick
– Season chicken with spices
– Dredge chicken with flour
– Pan fry until golden brown; set aside.

1/2 cup pesto
1 3/4 cup marinara sauce
1 cup fresh artichoke hearts, quartered & steamed
1 tablespoon minced garlic
olive oil
1-2 oz goat cheese crumbled
3 fresh basil leaved, chopped
2 oz angel hair pasta, cooked

– Combine pesto & marinara sauce
– In pan, heat oil and garlic.
– Add pesto/marinara sauce.
– Add steamed artichokes.
– Add cooked pasta.
– Toss and heat thoroughly.
– Plate pasta and top with goat cheese & basil.
– Slice cooked chicken and serve with pasta.

Chateau du Chevre

Today I initially planned on stuffed chicken breasts but the beautiful weather caused me to be a little lazy. As a result, I opted to make a simple pasta dish where I threw together shrimp, asparagus, farfalle & chevre or goat cheese.

Chèvre cheese is cheese made from goat’s milke (chèvre is French for goat). In regions where domesticated goats are kept, many kinds of goat’s milk cheeses are produced. France produces a great number of goat’s milk cheeses, especially in the Loire Valley & Poitou. There are several varieties, including Montrachet and cabecou, which is soaked in brandy. Chevre is usually vacuum-packed, though many connoisseurs seek out the more perishable but tastier paper-wrapped cheeses at specialty shops. Chevre also goes very well with white wine.
Here’s my recipe for Farfalle with Shrimp, Asparagus & Chevre:

2 oz dry farfalle, cooked
2 oz goat cheese
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups of asparagus, steamed & chopped in 1″ sections
1 lb shrimp, cooked
chopped parsley (optional)

Toss cooked asparagus with butter in pan over medium heat.
Add cooked farfalle & shrimp.
Add goat cheese and heat until melted.
To serve, top pasta with crumbled goat cheese.
Garnish with chopped parsley.