Fall Cheese Board

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Cheese boards are one of my favorite things to break out when I’m entertaining.  Especially if your guests are arriving around dinner time and you still have some finishing touches to put on the meal.  Plus, they are super easy to put together and chances are that you already have most of this stuff in your kitchen!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

The tricky thing is trying to figure out just how much ‘stuff’ you need for your board.  This depends on how many people, how long they will be snacking, and if you have plates for them to load up or if they are just picking off the board itself.  For the cheese board I created for this post, it would easily serve 4 people for an hour or so.  But it could also easily serve my sister and I, on a girls night, when we are splitting a bottle of wine and not planning on eating a real meal.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

As a general rule, I like to stick to the rule of threes; three cheeses, three meats, three cracker-type things, and three extras.  You don’t have to to this by any means, but I think it helps to provide a good mix of options while not crowding the board.  For the cheeses, stick to crowd favorites and maybe have one wild card that people might have never had before.  For this board, I used sharp cheddar, fresh mozzarella marinated in pesto, and pecorino.  If you do choose a soft cheese, like goat cheese, you might want to add a preserve or jam to your board to complement it.  Semi-soft cheese do well when they are marinated, and hard cheeses I normally leave alone.  If you’re trying to locate good cheese in the GR area, try Martha’s Vineyard, they have a great selection of artisanal cheese (and meats! and wines!) and you can get just the amount that you need.  As far as for selecting the meats, I like to do one spicy (like a sharp pepperoni or spicy salami), one classic (I’m a sucker for prosciutto and I don’t think I’ve ever made a cheese board without it!), and one crowd favorite (for me this is usually a mild salami).  The crackers are where you can stay pretty basic or get really creative!  I found these breadsticks just at Meijer, and I think they add a nice height to the board that you normally don’t see.  I also used pita crackers, and regular ritz crackers.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

The extras are the fun part!  I love using dried fruits and nuts, but I also put fresh champagne grapes on here.  I normally don’t see these at the market, but I’m glad I picked them up!  They taste sweeter than regular grapes, and they are so tiny and adorable!  You can add all sorts of extras to you cheese board, like fresh berries, preserves, figs, olives, fresh fruit, dips, spread, and so much more! If you’re looking for a great cheese board and more inspiration, head over here to check out an amazing one!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

All that’s left now is to enjoy!  Also, if you’re looking for an easy way to stock up on wine before your get-together, check out Bright Cellars!  They’re doing a great deal right now where if you follow this link, you’ll get a $50 credit on your first order!

Autumn Sangria

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Photography by Allyson Regan

The temperatures have finally dropped and it finally feels like fall! I love fall! Until the first snow lands, of course.  Not that I need an excuse to make a pitcher of sangria, but this Autumn Sangria is the perfect thing to sip on during these colorful and brisk fall months.  Also, isn’t the word autumn fabulous? And you can describe autumn things by using an even better word, autumnal!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

This recipe came about, not from necessity, but from an idea to make our favorite sangria taste seasonal.  My sister, Ally, and I love to visit Rockwell Republic in downtown Grand Rapids not only for their fantastic sushi and happy hour deals, but also for their mixed sangria.  I’m not sure exactly what their recipe is, but this tastes similar, with a fall twist.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Autumn Sangria

1 cup Crown Royal Apple

1 cup pomegranate juice

1 cup red wine (use dry or sweet depending on your taste)

1 cup crisp, dry white wine (this helps the apple flavor pop)

1 cinnamon stick

1 each honey-crisp apple, nectarine, plum, pear

1/2 cup apple juice

1 bottle prosecco or champagne

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Photography by Allyson Regan

In a large pitcher, combine the crown, juices, and wines.  Heat the cinnamon stick over heat until fragrant and add in.  Feel free to cut the fruit however you like to munch on it, but I sliced them super thin on a mandolin which helped the fruit to absorb the flavors faster.  Add the fruit and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Fill with several ice cubes and top with a bottle of bubbly!  Serve with your favorite friends around a cozy bonfire.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Cheers!

Chili Honey Glazed Shrimp

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Sometimes you just need a simple recipe to help spice up your weekday dinner meals.  This recipe is just that!  And it uses ingredients that you probably have in your pantry and freezer!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

I like to keep shrimp in my freezer for those days when I just don’t have time to run to the store or when I want to spend less time cooking and more time with my handsome husband.  For this post, I featured the shrimp in two forms, a tostada and tacos.  Both are super simple and are a great way to get some practice at cooking shrimp.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Chili Honey Glazed Shrimp

1 pound of shrimp, deveined

2 Tbsp butter, unsalted

1/2 cup honey

1 1/2 Tbsp red pepper flakes

1/4 cup soy sauce

salt and pepper

Begin with thawed shrimp.  Heat the butter over medium high heat.  Add the shrimp and saute until they turn pink.  Remove from the pan, keeping the heat on.  Add the soy sauce first to deglaze, then add in the remaining ingredients.  Cook this mixture down until it becomes thick and saucy.  Add in the shrimp and toss to coat.  Taste the sauce before serving, especially with the shrimp and adjust the seasoning or spice to your taste.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

For these tostadas, begin by toasting a flour tortilla in the oven until crisp.  I just used an asian sesame salad mix as my base.  Then I added shaved red cabbage and a sauce made from greek yogurt and sriracha.  I love this shrimp paired with the creaminess of fresh avocado, cilantro, and lime.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

The tacos are pretty similar to the tostadas, except I didn’t use the salad kit, just red cabbage, sriracha sauce, avocado, cilantro, lime and shrimp!  This shrimp would also be great on pasta or in a rice bowl.  Let me know how you enjoyed it in the comments below!

 

Breakfast Cookies

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Photography by Allyson Regan

I don’t know who invented breakfast cookies, but I’m so glad they did.  I mean, you just can’t get much better than eating cookies for breakfast!  Especially when they are jam packed with delicious and healthy ingredients like these ones.  Just because they are called breakfast cookies, doesn’t mean that you can’t eat these anytime during the day.  They make a great healthy dessert when packed in a lunch, or a great snack for a road trip because they are quite filling.  Like most of my recipes, feel free to add or remove some of the add-in ingredients, like the nuts or chocolate chips.

Breakfast Cookies

1 cup butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 Tbsp vanilla

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup rolled oats, old fashioned

1/2 Tbsp baking soda

1 Tbsp ground flax seed

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup dates, chopped

1/4 cup applesauce

1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

1/4 Tbsp salt

1/2 Tbsp cinnamon

 

Cream together the butter and sugar.  Add in the egg and applesauce and mix well.  Add in the remaining ingredients and mix to combine.  Scoop the dough into small balls, and chill before baking.  Bake at 325 degrees for about 12 minutes, rotating the tray after 6 minutes.  I like these cookies a little darker because they get a little more toasty flavor, so I normally cook them for about 14 minutes total.  Cool on a cooling rack, and package in a tupperware container.  These cookies tend to get quite soft after a couple days so you can either bake them throughout the week, or throw a piece of bread into the container to soak up the excess moisture.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

This recipe is sure to become a favorite in your house.  If you meal plan on Sundays, this recipe takes no time at all and can easily be added into your routine.  Like always, I’d love to hear from you!  Comment below if you try this or any other recipe on my blog.  Also, please share the love on social media using the buttons below!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Boneless Chicken Wings

 

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Photography by Allyson Regan

It’s almost the weekend and we all know what that means.  There’s so many sports games on and we can’t just watch them empty-handed!  I don’t know about you, but I love watching football with my husband.  And I love making game-day food.  A Michigan win would be good too.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

This recipe for boneless chicken wings is so incredibly easy, and it’s one of the most requested meals in our home.  Seriously, if you are entertaining for the game this weekend, you have to try this recipe.  What I love about this dish is that it uses boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, but you can easily switch it up and use chicken thighs, or just chunk up a whole chicken.  Even though bags of frozen chicken wings can be delicious and easy, I like to be able to have chicken wings made from good, antibiotic-free, hormone-free, delicious chicken that I normally buy.  Also, in those frozen convenience chicken products, they don’t use the best chicken.

 

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Boneless Chicken Wings

1 2.5 pound package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3 eggs

4 cups of panko breadcrumbs

3 cups all purpose flour

salt and pepper

1 quart vegetable oil

Begin by pouring vegetable oil into a small saucepan.  You want to have 3-4 inches of oil, but you also need 2-3 inches of space from the top of the pan.  Heat to medium, maybe medium high depending on your stove.  Heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the chicken into 1 inch cubes.  Gather three bowls and place flour in one, the eggs in another, and the panko breadcrumbs in the final bowl.  Season the flour.  Whisk the eggs well.  Dunk the chicken cube into the flour, then the egg, and then the panko.  Make sure to fully cover the previous layer at each step.

Gently place the breaded chicken into the heated oil, making sure to only add enough chicken so that they can float around.  Don’t crowd the oil, this will promote even browning.  You don’t have to worry about taking the temperature of the chicken at this point, because you will be frying the chicken in shifts and you will bake them after done frying.  I like to cook them this way so that they don’t get cold, and so that I make enough, these never last long!  When you remove the chicken from the oil, transfer to a sheet tray that has a cookie rack on top.  If you place the chicken right onto the pan, the bottom will get soggy.  Once you’re done frying all the chicken, bake for 15-20 minutes until hot and the internal temperature reaches at least 165 degrees.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Don’t these just make your mouth water??  And they are super easy, they just make a lot of dishes.  My husband loves these with buffalo sauce, barbecue and ranch, with plenty of celery and carrots!  If you’ve never made buffalo sauce before, it’s super simple.  Just equal parts hot sauce and butter.  The less butter you add, the spicier it will be.  Heat both ingredients over low heat until melted and combined.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Even if your team doesn’t win, your tummy will!! Be sure to make more than you think you’ll need.  You can also save the fried nuggets by freezing them in a single layer on a tray and then placing in a freezer bag.  Bake at 400 degrees to reheat for 25-30 minutes.

Go Blue!

 

 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Photography by Allyson Regan

You guys.  These cookies are amazing.  But really.  Seriously.  For real.  No joke.  Okay I think you get it now.  But I’ve been making these cookies for almost a year and I’ve made them so much that I’ve truly perfected the recipe.  While they have peanut butter in them, they really just taste like a jacked up chocolate chip cookie.  The peanut butter helps keep the texture soft and chewy.  I simply adore these cookies because the edges are slightly crisp while the center is just baked and chewy, making them perfect for dunking in ice cold milk.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

These are also a crowd favorite!  This has been the most requested cookie from my husband recently.  I made them over the summer for a camping trip and they made delicious smore’s!  I would recommend storing them in tupperware instead of in a bag though, they tend to get crumbly easily in bags.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Just look at that crumb!  I usually use Ghirardelli bittersweet dark chocolate chips, which are disk shaped and help to form these delightful chocolate layers.  So good!  I almost always have this recipe frozen into small balls so that when I have last minute company, or a bad day, I can whip these cookies up in 12 minutes or less!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup light brown sugar

1 large egg

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup peanut butter, creamy

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Cream butter and sugar until just combined.  Add in the egg and combine well.  Add in the peanut butter and mix.  Add in the rest of the dry ingredients mixing just until combined. These work best when the dough is chilled slightly before baking.  Scoop into dough balls, I use a scoop that is about a 1/4 cup. Bake for 12 minutes, turning half way through to ensure even baking.  Let cool for a minute or two on the tray and flatten slightly with the back of a spatula.  Remove from the tray and cool on a wire rack.  If the chocolate solidifies, reheat in the microwave for 30 seconds.  This recipe works just as well when you bake them from frozen, you might just need to keep an eye on them and maybe add a couple extra minutes.  I’ve tested this recipe twice doubling the batch and they still work out great!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Be right back, I’m going to find a giant mug of milk and dunk this whole stack in it.  Don’t judge me until you try this recipe. And if you try this recipe, share your pictures on social media and tag me!

Enjoy!

September 2018 Recap

September felt like it flew by!  The weather was so unpredictable that it truly didn’t feel like summer was over until last week.  At least not in Michigan!  So let’s take a minute to look back on the awesome things we featured on the blog.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

This guacamole was one of my favorite ways to use my grill unconventionally.  And it was so good! It’s such an interesting combination and when we posted it, you could find both corn and poblanos at the farmers markets.  When Ally and I shoot, we like to have others around to help us eat the delicious food, but we were content to take a guac-break this time and devour this whole bowl!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Next up is my Kale and Avocado Caesar Salad, which is so simple and so yummy!  I think I ate this for a week straight before we finally posted it on the blog.  Ally loves this salad because it’s filling and easy to prep for work lunches.  You can also be so creative with this recipe, so it’s great to add it in to your meal rotation.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

I couldn’t wait to post this Eggs Benedict Recipe because its just a classic breakfast staple that I think any foodie/home cook should try!  Plus, it’s a huge crowd pleaser and it has that wow factor.  Don’t forget, always make more hollandaise than you think!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Chipotle and Butternut Squash Risotto was the perfect segue into fall cooking and baking.  Risotto is one of my favorite dishes/meals to make and this version is definitely going to be repeated many times this fall. Can’t squash my fall spirit!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

One of the most unique posts we did this month was a wine subscription review of Bright Cellars.  This was so cool because I love this service and it was fun to share with you all!  It was a little different than the regular posts that I do, but I want to start doing some more fun posts like this!  If you have any products or services that you love that you think I should check out or review, let me know in the comments!

I know that we posted a lot of delicious recipes in September, but look for a couple more unique posts in October!

Eggs Benedict-Brunch Style

It’s finally the weekend!!! Let’s celebrate what could possibly be one of the last summer-y Saturdays this year!  Well, I guess today is officially the beginning of Fall, but it still feels like summer.  Also, brunch.  Need I say more?

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Eggs Benedict is one of my husbands favorite things to eat during the weekends.  It is a bit of a labor of love, but I do love the end product!  Weekends are made for cooking because you have so much more time than during the weekdays.  And nothing pairs better with brunch food than bloody mary’s.  So if your hosting brunch this weekend or just want to enjoy your time away from the office, check out Mimosas: Otherwise It Would Just Be Juice or Bloody Mary Bar DIY to step up your weekend goals.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

The classic eggs benedict includes several key components.  You’ll need an english muffin, preferably with nooks and crannies, Canadian bacon (or some kind of protein), hollandaise, and a couple of perfectly poached egg.  You might need some practice with a couple of these components before you’ve mastered this breakfast classic.  There are some shortcuts, like using a fried egg instead of the finicky poached egg, using a hollandaise mix instead of homemade, or just going out to breakfast instead of making it yourself.  Now, I’ve eaten quite a bit of eggs benedict in my 24 years and once you make your own hollandaise, you can totally tell when a restaurant uses the pre-made mix.

Eggs Benedict

4 whole eggs

8 slices of ham, or Canadian bacon, or veggie sausage

2 english muffins

4 egg yolks

1 1/2 sticks of butter

1 lemon

Frank’s Hot sauce, or another hot sauce

salt and pepper

white vinegar

paprika (optional)

Begin by melting the butter over low heat taking care not to boil it.  Split your english muffins with a fork (this helps to preserve those nooks and the crannies).  Place your 4 egg yolks in a medium glass bowl.  You are going to place this bowl over a medium pot of simmering water so make sure that it’s a good fit.  Get your water for this on the stove and simmer over medium heat.  Place the ham slices in a skillet to warm and brown a bit.  You’ll also need a medium pot full of boiling water with a splash of white vinegar.  The vinegar helps to coagulate the egg white faster and not to get too technical (even though the science behind this is really cool!) it will help you to produce a perfect egg.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

You’ll want to start the hollandaise before poaching the egg.  Begin by whisking the egg yolks with a metal spoon.  Whisk until they start to lighten in color.  Place over the simmering water, whisking constantly.  Slowly add in the melted butter while continuing to whisk well.  Remove from heat anytime you feel like the eggs might be getting chunky but continue to whisk.  I normally go back and forth between the heat several times.  You’ll know it’s done when it becomes thick and pale yellow.  Remove from the heat and add in a squeeze of fresh lemon, several shakes of hot sauce, and salt and pepper.  When you taste it, it should be slightly lemony, very buttery, and you shouldn’t necessarily taste the hot sauce, it just helps to round out the flavor.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Toast your english muffins and begin to poach your eggs. To poach, crack your eggs one at a time into a small bowl.  Once you drop the egg into the water, swirl the water with a spoon to create a mini whirlpool.  This will help the whites to coagulate together, instead of spreading out in the pot.  You don’t have to poach eggs easy, the longer you simmer them, the longer the yolk will cook.

To assemble, place the toasted english muffins on your plate.  Place the warmed ham slices on them and then top with the poached egg.  Drizzle a healthy portion of hollandaise on top and sprinkle with paprika.  Because this is such a prep-heavy breakfast, I like to make sure the side is easy.  I normally go for oven baked home-fries or even hash-browns.  That way your kitchen won’t be so crowded.  Enjoy with a nice bloody mary!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

 

 

 

My New Wine Obsession

You guys.  I’m definitely a wine-o, and sometimes going to the same store to get wine just gets old.  I also have this weird thing where I love the subscription box idea.  I’ve done other wine boxes, a snack box, workout clothing box, grocery box, and even a coffee box and I just love the simplicity of a monthly delivery of my favorite things!  I always want to be as transparent as possible on my little corner of the internet, so I want to be clear that I’m not being compensated by anyone to write this blog post.  I just really like this product and want to share the products I love!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

So let’s talk about how it works!  Click on this link, Bright Cellars, which will direct you to the companies website.  From there, you take a flavor profile quiz which is super easy and takes less than 5 minutes.  Your personal wine concierge then creates your box which contains 4 wines.  If you’ve tried other wine boxes like this one, please comment below and let me know if I should try them!  One of the reasons I love this box is that the customer service is really great and quick with their responses.  My wine concierge emails me minutes after I review my wines and uses that information to create a better box for me the following month.  Pictured above is the first box I received, and I loved 2 out of the four wines!  The other two wines were still good, and while it was really fun to try these new wines, I learned that I wouldn’t want to buy them again.

One of the wines in particular stood out to me and I will definitely be ordering another bottle.  It is the 2017 Zweigelt from Herz & Heim Vineyards.  This grape varietal is from Austria, and this particular vintage has notes of warm baking spices, dark berry flavors, and medium bodied.  I enjoyed this wine with a really great grilled steak and late summer vegetables, which paired really nicely.  It’s currently sold out, but I hope it comes back soon!

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So if you’d like to give this a try, click the link here, and you’ll receive two free bottles on your first box! This is a $30 credit, which is like getting 4 bottles of wine for $30.  The only thing that is a bit of a hassle with this box, is that you need to have someone with a valid ID over 21 to sign for the box upon delivery.  If I know that I won’t be home to receive the box, I usually just call FedEx after it has shipped and ask them to hold it at my nearest Walgreens which I can then pick up at anytime!

Once I open up the bottles from my second box I just received, I’ll post again about my favorites!  Feel free to leave a comment about your experiences with wine boxes like this or any other great subscription box.

Cheers!

Chipotle & Butternut Squash Risotto

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Photography by Allyson Regan

It seems as though fall can’t quite make up it’s mind quite yet here in Michigan.  We had a delightfully chilly week last week, and this week is like the muggiest heat all summer!  But nevertheless, butternut squash persists, and has hit the grocery stores.  This is one of my all time favorite new recipes!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

If you know me well, you know that second only to pasta, risotto is one of my very favorite meals to make.  I fall in love with the process every single time.  The attention to detail, taking the time to toast the rice, the constant stirring, the careful eye watching for the perfect moment to serve, it’s glorious!  When I was about to turn 21, I was the most excited to be able to finally buy wine to make a proper risotto.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Chipotle & Butternut Squash Risotto

1 large butternut squash

1 small can of chipotle peppers, in adobo

olive oil

1 cup arborio rice

3 cups of stock, I prefer chicken

2 tbsp butter

1 small yellow onion, small diced

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/2 cup good white wine

Goat cheese, optional

salt and pepper

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.  Peel and cut the squash into a small dice.  Puree the chipotle peppers with the sauce in the can until smooth.  Toss the squash with 2 tbsp (less if you don’t like a lot of spice) and a drizzle of olive oil.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until soft.  Once cooled, puree 2/3 of the squash.

To start the risotto, begin by melting the butter in a heavy bottomed pot.  Slowly caramelize the onion and garlic, over medium low heat.  Raise the heat to medium, and add the rice, tossing it to cover well with the butter.  Cook until the rice begins to take on color and smell toasted.  Deglaze the pan with the white wine, taking care to scrap the delicious brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  This kicks off the stirring marathon.  Stir evenly, and once the wine has been absorbed, add in 1/3 cup of warmed stock.  Continue to repeat stirring and adding the stock.  The ratio of 1 cup of arborio rice to 3 cups of stock is tried and true in my kitchen, however, if you end up stirring unevenly or cooking on too high of a temperature, you may need more stock.  When you are about to add the last bit of stock, add in the squash puree from earlier.  Once the stock has been absorbed, add in the goat cheese.  If you are holding this warm for a bit, add in another 2 tbsp of butter which will help the risotto to keep from globbing together.  Yes, in addition to making risotto, we are also making up words.  Finally, taste and season to your liking.  Top each bowl with the roasted squash and more cheese.  Enjoy!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Just a note, you probably won’t use that whole can of chipotle peppers, but save them in your fridge.  I love to add this puree to my chili to deepen the flavor, or you can toss mushrooms with this puree, oil, and brown sugar and roast to create a very umami-esque taste.