Sunday, December 18, 2011

Browned Butter Sage Cashews

Cashews........ Mmmmmmmmm........

There is something about these nuts that stand out from the rest.  They are not as hard as other nuts and feel luxurious to me.  Cover them in butter and I'm in heaven. 

So do yourself and favor and make these!  Browned butter gives the cashews a complimentary nutty flavor that is enhanced with sage, sea salt and little bit of honey.  These would make an excellent gift, and are sure to be popular next time you are entertaining! 

recipe adapted from The Kitchn

1/2 pound roasted, unsalted cashews
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 350° degrees. Spread the cashews on a cookie sheet and warm in the oven.

In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Continue cooking for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring, until the butter begins to turn golden brown. Add the sage and cook, stirring, for another 1 to 2 minutes, until the butter is dark golden and the sage is frizzled but not burnt. Remove from heat and add the honey.

Toss the cashews with the butter mixture and add salt to taste.  Enjoy!  These also go extremely well with a Cabernet Sauvignon... just saying! :)

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Lemon Chia Seed Dressing

I kinda have really been into chia seeds lately.  Have you tried using them yet? If not, give them a shot.  They are PACKED full of good for you stuff and don't have a strong flavor.   Chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber, antioxidants, calcium, protein and omega 3 fatty acids. 

Actually.... when I came home from the store my husband thought I was crazy.  Like I lost my marbles (which I swear, he must lovingly think once a day).  Our conversation went sorta like this:

Me: Look babe, I picked up chia seeds for us!  They are really good for you.
Chris:  Huh??  Chia seeds.. like the chia pet?  (starts to sing the chia pet commercial song)
Me: Yes, but now you eat them instead of growing things with them.
Chris: You've lost your mind.

So I started out adding them into our smoothie's in place of flax seeds.  We have a bag of whole flax seeds that your body can't break down unless you have put them through a coffee grinder - which we don't have.  So instead of grinding them by hand, I welcomed the idea of trying out these so-called chia seeds.  Worked pretty good!  Then I started sneaking them into all sorts of dishes... oatmeal, cookies, salmon seasoning, even vegetable sautes.   I also realized they sorta look like poppy seeds, and could be used in their place.

This dressing is one of my favorite ways to use chia seeds, it's simple and light.  And it can be used on a ton of different salads!  I served this with my Apple and Pomegranate Salad.  In an effort to be healthy, you can replace typically used granulated sugar with stevia, agave, etc.   But feel free to use whatever natural sugar substitute you prefer.


1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of one lemon
1/2 tsp chia seeds
1 tbsp agave syrup (or stevia/your choice of natural sweetener)


Whisk together all of the ingredients and enjoy right away.  Chi chi chi chia...........!!

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pomegranate and Apple Salad

Things are going OK in our house in terms of eating healthy through this holiday season.  We do really well throughout the week... and then the weekend comes.  Our weekend was full of lazy days and evening holiday parties.  And pizza ordered from the couch.  Does this ever happen to you??  So in attempt to turn things around, we made this salad and it was exactly what we needed.  The pomegranate seeds add a juicy and crunchy addition to the tart granny smith apples.  (Be sure to buy organic apples, I just read in multiple places it is the numero uno fruit to buy organic as the skin of regular apples contains the most pesticide.  You can also learn how to de-seed a pomegranate here).  I added walnuts give the salad a wonderful nutty layer.  For one of the holiday parties I went to on Monday, I did a pomegranate, goat cheese (of course) and walnut combination.  Very delicious, but I really think this one using apples is the best.  Did you also notice how this salad is not only seasonal, but also in holiday colors?  I just love it!!

Serves 4

2 organic granny smith apples, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 package of spinach
1 pomegranate, de-seeded
1/2 cup walnut pieces


Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss with your favorite dressing.  Be healthy and enjoy!

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bundled Chicken with Goat Cheese and Fresh Thyme

This recipe was sent to me by one of my readers and closest friends, Adelina.  Adelina is the type of friend who seems like she was born in the kitchen and has long been the culinary go-to in our group of friends.  When we were in college, Adelina would be whipping up scrumptious eggplant parmesean while the rest of us would pat ourselves on the back for making a box of mac and cheese.  I once had the privilege of eating Thanksgiving dinner with her Italian family - it was an incredible foodie experience. She and her family simply know how to cook.  So when she sent me a message saying you gotta try this recipe, I knew immediately it would be good!  And, in her own words, it is absolutely AMAZING!

This is an excellent meal to serve to guests or when you really want to wow someone.  Little bundles of chicken are tied up with kitchen twine and stuffed with a fresh herb and savory goat cheese mixture.   The combination of shallots and vidalia onions add a hint of sweetness while a reduced white wine sauce finishes the dish.  As Adelina has taught me, fresh herbs are a must.  No dried substitutions, you won't get the same result.  Tip:  There is a trick to getting thyme leaves easily off the stem.  Hold the top of the stems and run your fingers down the stem to the base.  The leaves will come off easily in your fingers!

Serves 4

1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/3 cups thinly sliced shallots and vidalia onions (About 4 large shallots and 1/2 vidalia onion)
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces crumbled goat cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon fat-free milk
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (Cut them in half lengthwise and pound them out to make 4 pieces)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cooking spray
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth


Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to pan; cook 12 minutes, stirring frequently. Cover, reduce heat, and cook another 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook 5 minutes or until golden. Cool slightly. Combine onion mixture, 1/4 teaspoon salt, cheese, parsley, milk, and thyme in a small bowl, stirring with a fork.

Cut chicken breasts in half lengthwise, and pound out until thin.  Place a spoonful of goat cheese mixture in the middle of each chicken piece.  Roll up and secure with kitchen twine.  (I use twine a lot in the kitchen, but it definitely takes some practice!!!) Sprinkle chicken bundles evenly with salt and pepper.

Return pan to medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan and sauté for 5 minutes. Turn chicken and cover.  Reduce heat, and cook 10 minutes or until chicken is done.

Remove chicken from pan and let stand 10 minutes.  Add wine to pan; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook until reduced by half (about 2 minutes). Add broth, and cook until reduced to 1/4 cup (about 9 minutes). Serve with chicken.  Enjoy!

Do you have a favorite recipe you want to share?  Let me know!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash, Ricotta and Fried Sage Crostinis

This is such a great appetizer for entertaining in the Fall. I recently bought a few butternut squashs and wanted to do something fun with them.  At first your standard soup came into my mind but then I had the idea of an autumn themed bruschetta.  Bingo! To be honest, I have weakness for bite size food... I can't help it. I just love small pieces that pack a lot of flavor in just one bite.  The additional benefit of having a fondness for bite sized food is that when entertaining you never freak out over what to serve with cocktails or as an appetizer!  Bite size food/crostinis are simply a win-win.

These butternut squash crostinis are served with a ricotta and lemon zest spread.  The ricotta compliments the squash and gives it a soft fluffy cheesy bed to rest on.  Sage was an obvious choice as it goes hand-in-hand with butternut squash.  But I upped this classic pairing by lightly frying fresh sage in olive oil for a minute.   It's a definite must-do and worth the few extra calories :)  These crostini's can easily be prepped ahead of time and assembled as company arrives. 


1 2 lb butternut squash
5 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided plus more for drizzling
1 tbsp brown sugar
freshly ground sea salt & pepper
24 fresh sage leaves
1 cup part skim ricotta
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 whole wheat baguette, sliced
1 garlic clove
fresh lemon juice


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Clean, peel and dice squash into small pieces.  Toss squash with 2 tablespoons oil and sugar on a rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer. Roast, tossing occasionally until squash is golden & tender, 23-30 minutes. Let cool on sheet.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add sage; cook until edges begin to curl and turn dark green, 1-2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer fried leaves to a paper towel to drain. Mix ricotta and lemon zest in a small bowl. Season with salt & pepper.

Slice baguette into 1 cm pieces and place on a baking sheet.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake for 6-7 minutes or until lightly toasted.  Remove from oven.

To assemble crostini, top each piece with the ricotta mixture and then layer with a spoonful of squash. Drizzle crostini with lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Top crostini with a fried sage leave and enjoy!

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ginger Lime Shrimp Quinoa with Red Pepper and Yellow Corn

Hope "ya'll" had a great Thanksgiving!  We spent the holiday in Paula Deen's hometown, Savannah GA and also visited what I consider to be the South's best kept secret- Beaufort, SC.  Both cities provided a ton of beauty, history and exceptional food.  If you indulged like we did, then this week is all about Thanksgiving damage control!

Actually, Chris and I have decided to make a commitment between now and Christmas to fill our body with healthy and nutritional things. Our Fall weekend get-a-ways have been fun and we have eaten at some amazing restaurants, but with a looming trip to the Caribbean with my husband's family between Christmas and New Years, things have to change!  The next few weeks of recipes are going to be about using fresh, unprocessed food and seasonal ingredients.  Though there might be a couple with some butter or sugar in one or two, because well, we're not perfect ;)

This recipe is one I threw together and loved the resulted flavor combination.  Healthy quinoa is topped with a ginger lime shrimp and accented with crunchy yellow corn and bright red pepper.  The flavors are bold yet taste fresh and simple.  I didn't write down how much of the red bell pepper and carrots I used (oops), so just eye-ball it to your preference.  Give this recipe a try if you're looking for something different!


1 cup quinoa
1 tbsp lime zest
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro
Red bell pepper chopped
Carrots chopped
1/2 cup yellow corn
1/4 lb shrimp
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
peanut oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
Sea Salt to taste


Prepare quinoa as directed to on box and set aside.  In a medium skillet heat oil and add garlic and ginger.  Saute for 2 minutes.  Add shrimp and cook for 3 minutes on each side until they are no longer opaque.  Add lemon juice, corn, carrots and red pepper and saute until soft.

To make the dressing, whisk together lime juice, lime zest, peanut oil, cumin, salt and cayenne pepper.  Combine dressing with shrimp and quinoa.  Serve either warm or cold!

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits

Growing up my family always served biscuits with Sunday dinner and definitely at all of our family get-togethers.  As a kid, I was an extremely picky eater and refused to eat anything except the main meat and the biscuits.  No veggies for me, not even mashed potatoes!!  I probably ate 2 or 3 biscuits with every meal.  I remember one time my Mother told me I wasn't allowed to leave the table unless I finished my green beans.   So when I thought she wasn't looking, I brilliantly managed to hallow out my biscuit and stuff it to the gills with the veggies on my plate.   I thought I was so sly. 

Looking back,  I realize she probably knew all along.  I also can't believe how limited my taste buds were.  Ahhhh, I am glad to say my taste buds have developed.  But when I crave comfort food, I always seek out biscuits.  These are great for an occasional treat.  They are buttery, fluffy and delightfully cheesy.  You will want to have 2 or 3 even if you don't have any vegetables to hide! 

recipe source: Ina Garten

2 cups all purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup cold buttermilk, shaken
1 cold extra-large egg
1 cup grated extra-sharp Cheddar
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp milk


Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  In a large bowl, add flour, baking powder and salt and mix together.  Slowly add the butter and mix until the batter is in small clumps, the size of peas as Ina says. 

In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk and egg.  Whisk lightly.  Quickly add this mixture to the flour mixture with the mixer on low.  In another small bowl, mix the cheddar and a handful of flour.  With the mixer still on low, add the cheese to the dough.  Mix until it is all roughly combined.

Place the dough on a well-floured board and knead lightly about 6 times.  Roll out the dough until it is about 2 inches thick.  Use a biscuit cutter to cut biscuits, re-rolling scrapes to keep making biscuits. 

Place biscuits pieces on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush the top of each biscuit with the egg wash.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until the tops are browned and biscuits thoroughly cooked.  Serve hot with a little bit of garlic butter or alone as a snack!  Enjoy!

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Green Beans with Goat Cheese, Tomatoes & Almonds

This recipe is from Southern Living.  I have never read Southern Living, but since I started cooking and now live in the South, I periodically sneak a few peaks while in line at the grocery store.  I am terribly guilty of such behavior.  In fact, I saw this recipe and went straight home looked it up on their website.  Sorry for not buying you Southern Living!  This recipe has got some good stuff though -  I felt like it called my name.  Well, almost anything with goat cheese calls my name :)

The crisp green beans pair well with the soft and creamy goat cheese.  The shallots and tomatoes bring color and brightness, while the almonds add a satisfactory crunch.  The only thing I changed was substituting white wine vinegar for sherry vinegar and I halved the recipe because it was only Chris and I.  We served it with a turkey Chris smoked last weekend and they tasted delicious together.  Definitely a great idea if you want to jazz up your thanksgiving sides. This even tasted good cold the next day with left overs for lunch!

Serves 6-8

1/2 cup crushed almonds 
2 pounds haricots verts (tiny green beans), trimmed 
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar 
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice  
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper  
1/3 cup olive oil  
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved  
2 shallots, thinly sliced 
2 garlic cloves, minced


Preheat oven to 350°. Bake almonds in a single layer in a shallow pan 6 to 8 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.  *Be careful, I forgot to time this step ended up burning the almonds during 3 different attempts

Cook green beans in boiling salted water to cover 6 to 8 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Plunge beans into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain.

Whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a large bowl.   Add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until blended and smooth.  Add cherry tomatoes, shallots, garlic, and green beans.  Toss to coat.

Top green bean mixture with crumbled goat cheese and toasted almonds.  Enjoy!!

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hot Apple Cider with Rum

As I mentioned in this post, two weeks ago my husband and I made a weekend trip to NYC to take in the sites, visit some friends and have a little fun.  We have a tradition that while visiting any big city, we try to take in the sights with a cocktail on the top of a the highest building we can find.  We first did this in Bangkok 3 years ago and it was such a memorable drink/view.  In New York, we weren't disappointed.
Chris and I had cocktails at at two different spots over the course of 5 days.  First we went to the top of the Gansevoort Hotel which provided a beautiful view and an interesting crowd.  But our favorite rooftop spot was at 230 Fifth.  This place was awesome.  It was huge, had no cover or exclusive VIP lists, great music and expansive views of midtown and the Empire State Building.  When you got off the elevator, you were handed a red fleece snuggie-like hooded blanket to help keep you warm in addition to their rooftop heaters.  When you looked around it was kind of like you were at some secret meeting of the red-robed cult.  But as someone who is always cold, I loved it!!!  What kept us really warm was the hot apple cider drinks with rum.  Since apple cider is prevelant in the markets now, I had to re-create this yummy and warming cocktail at home.

This would be a great drink to serve over Thanksgiving, because who doesn't need a little rum over the holiday?? :)


1 part dark rum (we used Sailor Jerry)
2 parts apple cider
1 orange, peeled and sliced
3-5 cinnamon sticks
1 handful of cloves


In a medium sauce pan combine all of the ingredients and heat over low heat until warm.  Serve in a glass mug and garnish with additional orange slices and cinnamon!  (You also easily could substitute this cocktail with Bourbon or other dark liquor that you have on hand).

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Grana Padano and Fig Appetizer

Last weekend Chris and I made an impromptu decision to fly up to New York for a weekend of fun at the very last minute.  It was crazy - I literally woke up Thursday morning with an early yoga class in mind, and after a phone call from my husband, four hours later, I had purchased a plane ticket and was waiting to board an airplane.  It was probably the most spontaneous thing we have ever done.  In the past 5 years Chris and I having traveled all over the world together but we had never been to the Big Apple together.  One of the places we visited was Murray's Cheese Shop in Greenwich village.  This place is AMAZING.  I was like a deer caught in head lights trying to take in all the beautiful displays and varieties of cheese.  Cheese Heaven!!!

We ended up buying an incredible cheese that we sampled called Grana Padano.  This cheese is less nutty and salty, a much more delicate cheese compared to your regular Parmesan.  Think of Grana Padana as Parmigiano Reggiano's high-maintenance cousin.   We learned that it is made throughout the Po River Vally in northeastern Italy, and the cheese requires the raw cow milk of two milkings, which is then partially skimmed, cooked twice and bathed in brine before aging.  Serious stuff.  Grana means "grain" noting the cheese's fine, flaky, granular quality and sweet, nutty bite.  Murray's insists upon a 20 month age, and such high standards call for a worthy wine.*

So if you are in need a new appetizer for thanksgiving, or entertaining this holiday season?  I highly recommend you serve these simple and rustic cheese hors d'oeuvres.  Any type of Parmesan goes wonderfully with a high quality fig spread or preserve.  The fig spread is rich and sweet and pairs well with the nutty cheese.  I used Dalmatia's Fig Spread which I found in the gourmet section of my local grocery store.


1 whole wheat batard
1 jar of fig spread or fig preserves
1 block of good quality parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Line a small baking sheet with foil.  Cut batard into 1cm thick pieces and evenly spread out on baking sheet.  With a pastry brush or an olive oil mister, add a little bit of EVOO on each piece of bread.  Season with salt and pepper and toast in a toaster oven or on in the broil until golden brown.  Remove from oven.  Top with a a little bit of fig spread and cheese.  Enjoy!

*source: Murray's Cheese Shop

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Glazed Acorn Squash

I have never bought an acorn squash before though I always notice them in the grocery store.  Actually I used to think they were puuuurely for decorating and not eating.  But now that I enjoy cooking, frequent the farmer's market, and read recipes for fun, I understand that they can be delicious!  One of the things I enjoy most about writing Cheese Please is not only documenting my growing cooking skills, but also pushing myself to experiment with new things.  It is sooo easy to get stuck preparing the same familiar 2-3 vegetables.

I am extremely happy with this elegant and delicious fall veggie.  I just adore the scalloped edges of an acorn squash when sliced.  This recipe is also very simple to make, I have a feeling I will make this over and over again.  Roasting the acorn squash slices in brown sugar gives them a pretty glaze and enhances a delicious sweetness to the dish that is just enough.  It is also a tad bit healthier than using gobs of butter.  Though I wanted something simple, this recipe could be easily expanded by adding additional spices such as a pinch of cayenne, cinnamon, nutmeg or rosemary.  Or how I may roast them next time, with parmesan, similar to my zucchini crisps

Serves 2

1 acorn squash, halved, seeded and cut into 1/2" crescent slices
Vegetable oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2-3 tablespoons of dark brown sugar


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and evenly brush with vegetable oil.  Spread squash pieces on the baking sheet and top with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle each piece with about 1 tablespoon of brown sugar.  Bake for 5 minutes and then flip.  Salt, pepper and sprinkle the remaining brown sugar on the squash pieces.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes until roasted.  Enjoy!

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Apple Walnut Muffins with Maple Cream Cheese Icing

Are these muffins?  Cupcakes?  Not sure... but once you taste one you won't care.  I made these last weekend to have on hand while my parents were in town visiting.  I have found that having muffins on hand while you have guests works out really well.  Sometimes your guests will arrive starving, or wake up earlier than you and it's nice to have something available so they can help themselves.  These delicious, moist and fluffy muffins will make you happy, whether you have guests or not!

The apple walnut combination makes this a perfect recipe for fall when apples are readily available at the markets.  Almost any variety of apple can be used.  The maple cream cheese icing is flavored with a pinch of cinnamon and is such a treat.

Recipe from A Cup of Sugar... A Pinch of Salt

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 cups apples, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

For the frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces (or 1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon maple extract
1/2 cup confectioners sugar


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In a small bowl, mix eggs, buttermilk, and oil. Stir into flour mixture just until moistened. Add diced apples and walnuts.

Fill paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until center of muffin springs back when lightly touched. Cool muffins on a wire rack.

For the frosting, with a mixer combine the cream cheese, butter, cinnamon and maple extract.  Add the sugar and beat until smooth.  Top the muffins liberally and garnish with a few extra walnuts and confectioners sugar!    If you want to get a little crazy, make a few mini muffins like I did :)

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