Fig Bruschetta 

When I used to think of August only hot, sticky days with a longing for a Pumpkin Spice Latte would come to mind. Until I discovered a love of fresh figs. My co-worker had a fig tree and would bring them in for me at work. The first time she brought them I had no idea what to do with them. She suggested I make a version of this delicious bruschetta. I fell in love after that. It is sweet and salty, crunchy and creamy all at the same time. Truly just one of the most decadent but simple appetizers you can make.

Sadly, her tree did not make it through a harsh winter a few years ago and now every August I am left searching for decently priced figs.  Luckily, I have been able to find good deals at our farmer’s markets and Trader Joe’s. I am also patiently awaiting for my own little fig tree to grow from a cutting that same co-worker was able to grow from her old tree. (I work with some of the best people!)

If you have never had a fig before, give this bruschetta a try and see what you think!

  • 1 French baguette
  • One container of either blue, goat or feta cheese
  • Fresh figs
  • Honey
  • Coarse sea salt

Set oven to 350 degrees and slice baguette on a bias. Cover with cheese of your choice (my favorite is blue). Remove stems and halve your figs, slice them so they will fan out. Place bread in oven for about 5 minutes, just long enough for cheese to begin to melt.


Remove bread from the oven and switch oven to high broiler. Place one half of a fig on each slice of bread. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with sea salt. Place under broiler for 1-2 minutes, keeping your eye on them to prevent burning. Remove and try not to eat an entire baguette of bread. 

 

I hope you enjoy this delicious treat! What is your favorite way to eat figs??

-Holly (@hollyamethyst)

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A Night in New Orleans

I was pretty lucky this past weekend…I got to spend 2 whole nights in New Orleans! I was going for a concert, but I’ll take any opportunity there to eat, drink, and eat some more. (Thanks mom for the early birthday present!!) Unfortunately 2 days isn’t enough to go to all of my favorite places. I settled for a couple and the rest were more out of convenience, but it was still a great trip!

Our first mission was day drinking but avoiding Bourbon Street. So we went to Poydras and settled on Happy’s Irish Pub then Walk-Ons once we needed some food. Both have a decent beer selection and the cheese fries from Walk-Ons are pretty yummy. So I had a couple of Angry Orchards and a Blue Moon.

Next up was dinner. I’m a fan of any John Besh restaurant, so we headed to Lüke. The best time to go there is during the winter months when oysters are in season, but the food was still amazing as always. I wasn’t too hungry so I went with corn and crab bisque (delicious!) and the Salad Lüke. Both were great choices. Cocktail wise I started with a French 75 then ended with Prosecco.
After dinner we headed back to the hotel and stopped at the Sazerac Bar inside the beautiful Roosevelt Hotel. And of course we ordered Sazeracs!

Thanks to my alcohol consumption the previous day I wasn’t in the best shape Sunday morning. But I put my big girl pants on and kept going. I skipped breakfast and by lunch I was starving!! After walking around for a bit and not being able to decide where to go (go figure) we stumbled upon a small restaurant called Saint Lawrence on North Peters. I’ve probably passed this place tons of times while in NOLA and just never noticed it. But it’s worth the stop. I ordered the Smothered and Covered; house cut fries smothered in Tasso-chicken gravy with melted sharp cheddar! It was amazing and just what my stomach needed at that point. They also have a great craft beer selection and make a frozen Pimm’s Cup daiquiri. Not to mention their staff was really friendly which is always a plus.

Next was rest time! I needed the nap, but the concert was later on and we knew we’d need to eat an early dinner. The rain was starting so we decided to eat in the hotel. We were at the Hyatt Regency and they have quite a few restaurant options. We went with Vitascope Hall. It is basically a nicer version of a sports bar with a good variety of food. They have seafood, burgers, po-boys, and even a full sushi menu. I wanted something lighter and went with a spicy tuna roll and cucumber salad. I decided to lay off the alcohol so I could last through the concert.

The concert was AMAZING! Deftones and Incubus and neither disappointed. It was super hot and it rained and I had to stand in a giant crowd for 6 hours…but worth it!!

I had planned to drive straight home the next morning, but when you’re in NOLA you HAVE to stop at Sucré. Trust me! You will not be disappointed. Their chocolates are to die for. Any of their desserts are amazing. But you must get their macarons. They have their original flavors like chocolate, pistachio, strawberry, hazelnut, and few more; but they also have seasonal flavors! My favorite are the king cake ones, but since it’s not Mardi Gras I settled for their summer ones. This summer it’s apple pie, watermelon, blackberry lemon, and peaches & cream. Apple pie was definitely my favorite. And after spending more money on macarons than I did for any one meal in two days, I needed to get out of there!!

Overall it was a great trip. Next time I go I’ll be sure to plan my meals a bit better and try some new places…but I’ll survive! I have my big box of macarons to hold me over.

First beer of the trip at Happy’s

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Lüke- corn and crab bisque, French 75, Prosecco

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Sazerac Bar

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Smothered and Covered from Saint Lawrence

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Vitascope Hall’s spicy tuna roll and cucumber salad

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Way too many macarons from Sucre

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Smothered Pork Chops

So we’re still on vacation! And it’s been nice; no cooking, lots of food, relaxing! But I started to miss my Cajun comfort food! I’m a sucker for rice and gravy. Seriously…I think I could eat some form of rice and gravy everyday and be a happy happy person!!! 
Now most of you know that rice and gravy can take some time to prepare. When I use beef it can take around 4 hours of constant stirring and “deglazing”. It’s something I’m willing to do to enjoy one of my favorite meals. But sometimes there’s no time for all that. Or I’m lazy. Or pork was on sale! So here is my recipe for smothered pork chops with rice and gravy. 
Ingredients:

-pork chops (I usually buy what’s on sale, nothing too thick or they take longer to cook, you can get bone in or out its up to you. But I usually buy a pack with 6)

-vegetable oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pan; I used olive oil here because it’s what I had)

-salt, pepper, and Cajun seasoning to taste

-one large onion chopped 

-one stalk celery chopped

-half green bell pepper chopped (equally to amount of celery)

TIP: if you live in south Louisiana and you’re lazy you can pick up a tub of Guidry’s; it saves time!!!!

-clove of garlic minced

-one pack of Lipton Onion Soup mix

-one box of chicken stock (or broth) 

-2 cups of rice (yields 4 cups of cooked rice)
Directions:

1. Start by using a cast iron type of pot. I have a coated one that I like to used; just make sure it has a lid. But make sure whatever you use isn’t that non-stick stuff…you want some stuff to stick! Add in your oil and heat on medium high.  
2. While the oil is heating, season your pork with salt, pepper, and Cajun seasoning. 
  

3. Once the oil is hot, add the chops to the pot and brown both sides. Don’t worry about cooking them all the way…just give them a good crust. 
  
4. Once you’re done browning, transfer the pork to a plate and save for later. Your pot should have everything stuck to the bottom. Bows the time to deglaze your pot by adding a little bit of chicken stock and scraping the bottom. Use a wooden spoon for this! 
  
(Before deglaze)
  

(During deglaze)
5. Next it’s time to add in the veggies. Once I chop mine I put them all in a bowl and mix them up. 
  

(Veggies!)
6. Here’s when the gravy starts to take shape. The veggies will cook down and when they start to stick to the pot add in a little bit of stock. Keep doing this until everything looks mushy. 
  

( veggie progression) 
7. Once everything looks like mush you add in the Lipton Onion Soup Mix then the rest of the stock. Make sure you stir everything really good!! Then let it come to a boil. 
  

(Soup mix added) 

  
  

(Everything mixed) 
8. Once the pot is at a boil, lower the temp to low, then add the chops back in. Make sure you pour in the extra juice that’s on the plate!! Some times the liquid doesn’t cover the pork all the way. Just make sure to rotate the meat every 15 min or so. 
  
9. Cover and cook on low for about 45-60 min. You’ll know it’s ready when the pork is almost falling apart. If the gravy isn’t as thick as you’d like when the pork is done cooking, take the meat out and turn the heat up to reduce the liquid with the lid off. Cook your rice 30 min before serving and ENJOY!!!
  

Grandpa Stu’s Sauce

I am extremely fortunate that I was born in one country and grew up in another. Even if it was just our neighbors to the north (Canada), the culture is completely different from south Louisiana. Now having two kids of my own I try to make it back whenever I can, which for now has been every other year and we stay for an ENTIRE summer. And like most people do on any vacation I like, no LOVE, to eat!!!

Of course south Louisiana is known for the food. And I am grateful for my gumbo, rice and gravy, and crawfish. But I grew up in two very Italian families. And we eat. ALL. OF. THE. TIME. Certain foods just taste better to me when I’m in Canada. Sure you can buy Italian meats and cheeses almost anywhere. But trust me, getting it from the Italian markets that my grandparents and great-grandparents shopped at make the food that much better.

I have 4 must have foods when I’m “home”. Bakery pizza, Italian bakery bread, lunch meat, and Grandpa Stu’s sauce. Bakery pizza is just that, pizza that comes from a bakery. You can buy it by the slice or tray. And if you’re laying off the gluten or carbs just run away now. The crust is the best part. It’s super thick and doughy but in the best way, with not too much sauce and the perfect amount of cheese and pepperoni. It’s even better cold. I HATE cold pizza, but there’s nothing better than cold bakery pizza. And if you happen to be in Niagara Falls make sure you stop by Portage Bakery to grab a slice. Also while you’re there you MUST buy the bread. It’s a crusty Italian loaf with a soft, airy center. Now, depending on which side of the family you talk to you either go to Portage Bakery or Metro. Either way, you’re getting good bread.

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Since you have your bread the next stop is Roman Cheese for your lunch meats and cheese. Basically buy all of the cold cuts. Mortadella, salami, and prosciutto (and if there’s a spicy option always go for that) then get some provolone and you have the perfect sandwich.

All of those are store bought. But my last must have is something that you will never find in a store. Just stop by my grandparents house on any Sunday and you’ll get your fill, plus more, of my Grandpa Stu’s sauce and meatballs. And be prepared to get bombarded with tons of family. Seriously. Our immediate family is no less than 30! But that’s what makes everything so special!

(Our family is so big we have to eat in shifts…this is the first shift)

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So now I will try to recreate his recipe for you! Disclaimer: it will not taste like his. It never does! I have tried and tried, and my sauce is good, but it isn’t perfect. And same for the meatballs. Part of the reason is he doesn’t measure. ANYTHING! So I will try my best to estimate the measurements….
First we start with the sauce. We usually start it in the morning and cook it on low all day.
1 large onion chopped
1 clove garlic chopped
(Sauté lightly then add to sauce pot)
Pork ribs
(Lightly brown then add to pot)
8 cans tomato purée
1 carton chicken stock
Fresh basil to taste
(Cook low and slow all day)

1lb ground pork
1lb ground veal
4-6 eggs
1 1/2-2 cups Romano cheese
Bread crumbs by texture. Usually about 2 cups but it has to sticks together but not stick to your hand.
Clove of garlic minced
Half bundle of parsley chopped fine
Mix all together and roll (don’t make them tiny, but not huge either)
Then we pan fry. Heat up some vegetable oil in a pan and put a few meatballs in at a time and turn them over every few minutes.
This recipes makes A LOT. So we usually completely cook half of the meatballs then brown the outside of the rest. The ones that aren’t fully cooked go in your sauce and finish cooking. The rest are for the vultures hanging in the kitchen that are hungry.

(My kiddos enjoying their dinner!)

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When it’s almost time to eat boil some water and cook your favorite pasta. I prefer Penne, but to each his own.

And last but not least ENJOY!

Kiddos in the Kitchen

24 HOURS in a DAY, 168 HOURS in a WEEK… 8,760 HOURS in A YEAR…..TIME, TIME , TIME! Life is centered around deadlines, time frames and schedules! Tons must be done  in the 24 hours we are given from the guy upstairs!

My typical day looks like this as a WAHM (work at home mom)…

Alarm goes off at 5:30AM—– Snooze. Snooze…..Snoooooooooooze….. 6:45AM RUSH to get ready for the day— drive 45 minutes to school—- head to the office to fill orders, order product, work on blog posts, coordinate collaborations, organize local events (if it’s Monday or Wednesday) —-OR back home, work on tax returns, do a little bookkeepoing, research, consult…whatever my client’s needs are.  All BEFORE 2:30… oh wait, I forgot lunch is squished in at some point—-okay… NOW we can head across town, pick up the munchkin (he’ll hate me for this one day), an hour of homework, soccer practice/baseball practice, karate, swimming lessons…you get the picture! Get home 7PM and NOW it’s time for DINNER…. wheewww I have not once in my day thought about dinner time and here we are ready to eat an entire horse and there is NOTHING prepared…… 

If I make it through the day and look semi-decent, I am lucky! Often, this is what you will find….

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——-so here’s where my quick-prep, kid friendly meals find their place:

As a single mom, I often found myself in a situation where dinner needed to be prepped, but I also had a whiney toddler that wanted attention and laundry that needed to be done. So oneday I decided to let this whiney toddler help prepare dinner…..ahhhhhhaaaaaaa BRILLIANT!

We started with him pulling ingredients from cabinets,  then we added the responsibility of mixing ingredients…. no matter how messy he got, I was always grateful for those two (very tiny) hands helping in the kitchen.

I relate to those mommas who have 8 things going on at once and have become creative out of necessity…. so here’s my insight on getting a child in the kitchen to help prepare a meal:

1.) FUN—- must be fun and entertaining–attention spans are short— let them grate the cheese and shake it up a bit— a mess you say? sure, but now you have cheese for tacos, fajitas, eggs— anything your heart desires!

2.)MESSY-thing will get messy-let it go! The above grated cheese, once was ALL OVER the kitchen cabinets, floors and stove. We laughed, cleaned up the mess and continued on with dinner.  The best part of it all is we have an awesome story to share with others!

3.)EASY-meals do not have to be elaborate every night, make it quick and easy! 3 ingredients and GO!

4.)PLAN-you must know what your child is capable of doing safely. Make sure to have prepared the meal (or the like) once so that you are aware of what he can or cannot assist you with. Prep work is always fun for littles—prep veggies ahead of time and freeze–my son loves to help with this–our weekly dates are often spent in the kitchen prepping for the upcoming week’s meals, YES—I am SERIOUS!

5.)ENJOY-ENJOY with your family! Jon and I enjoy grocery shopping for new ingredients to try…the latest…. BUFFALO, GOAT CHEESE and PROSCIUTTO…. and it was FANTABULOUS…!

Here’s one of our FAVORITE recipes to prep together

1/2 Cup Ketchup

1/5 Cup Brown Sugar

Soy Sauce (low sodium) to taste

Mix the three above and you have yourself a TERIYAKI sauce! Is it restaurant quality? Nope! BUT my son loves it, it tastes great on chicken and it literally takes 5 minutes to prep. As far as the chicken, just put a few pieces in the oven and bake until cooked. This can be prepped ahead of time and the sauce added to the chicken (and those prep-ahead veggies— add that to the mix and now it’s a GOURMET meal)….genius, I know! 

We have consistently been in the kitchen together and Jon now says he wants to be a chef. He’s proud to say that he has upgraded from BUTTER KNIVES to SHARP KNIVES, as seen in the picture below:

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And just last weekend, he cooked scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast for the two of us #hubbyinthemaking!

Unfortunately, I have not figured out the laundry situation just quite, but when I do, I’ll make sure to let you in on the little secret!

Bon Appetit,

Brandi & Jon