Cranberry & Brie Crostini

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I get the chance to spend time with the people who matter most in my life and I also get to do what I do best, cook. This year was particularly exciting for my family, because it was my nephew Brenton’s first Thanksgiving. He spent the holiday as my taste tester (hence the cranberry chutney on his bib in the picture below), and he loved just about everything! 

Beside the obviously extravagant main course and sides, I love making a few delicious little bites for before dinner. One of my absolute favorites is my Cranberry & Brie Crostini. I start by making my cranberry chutney (which is also served with dinner). It’s tart, sour and sweet. Combine that with some creamy brie and crunchy baguette and it’s the ideal combination of flavor and texture.

Cranberry & Brie Crostini
Yields: 8-10 Servings

12 oz cranberries
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 green apple, peeled and chopped
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 orange, zest and juice
1 baguette, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper
1/3 lb mild brie
1/2 cup pecans

Begin by putting a small pot over medium heat. Add the cranberries, water and sugar and let it simmer for five minutes. Add the chopped apple, lemon zest and juice, as well as the orange zest and juice. Stir all of the ingredients together and turn down the heat to low. Allow this mixture to simmer for about twenty minutes or until you can see the mixture “jelly”. Put the chutney into the refrigerator and allow it to sit overnight.
Preheat your oven to 350-degrees and place the sliced baguette on a sheet pan. Toss the baguette with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Put the baguette in the oven for 5-7 minutes or until it is lightly toasted.
Finally, spread the brie onto each piece of baguette, drizzle a little bit of cranberry chutney and one pecan. 


Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

In my soon-to-be 23 years on the planet, I've been hesitant to eat vegetables that are sweet. In particular, anything orange. Carrots, sweet potatoes and butternut squash have been on my to-cook list for quite some time. So you can imagine my surprise when I thoroughly enjoyed my venture with butternut squash.

I started by roasting a giant 5 pound squash (go big or go home). This yielded a surprising number of delicious dishes: butternut squash salad, squash & pear soup and butternut squash risotto. I actually enjoyed it so much that I was eating the roasted squash by itself. The sweet caramelized exterior with the soft hearty interior, yum! The moral of the story here, don't judge a vegetable by its color.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
Yields: 4 Servings

1/2 lb butternut squash, diced
3 tablespoons of olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper
1 cup arugula leaves
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cup pecans

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Put the diced squash onto a baking sheet, drizzle it with one tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle it with kosher salt and black pepper. Place it into the oven for 45 minutes, turning it once after 25 minutes. The squash should be perfectly caramelized and golden.
Once the squash has cooled slightly, plate it with the arugula leaves, cranberries, goat cheese and pecans. Finish it off by drizzling it with the remaining olive oil.


Florette & Honey

I try to visit my cheese monger at least once a month to see what kinds of new and exciting cheeses are available. This past weekend, I was introduced to a couple that I will never try again and one that I simply can't get enough of. Word to the wise, if a cheese looks as if it's about to run off of the tasting spoon because it is so thin in consistency, it's probably a bit more pungent than your mouth is ready for.  

After getting past the hurdle of trying Stinking Bishop, I tried a beautiful cheese called Florette. It's a goat's milk brie from France. First, I have this strange obsession with mild brie. Its texture is heavenly and it has just the right amount of kick. Florette has a delicate flavor but it also has the funky finish of goat's milk which makes it the perfect combination.

Next, came the divine chore of choosing complements for the cheese. As I was already at my favorite specialty foods store, Di Bruno Bros., this was an easy task. To match the subtle earthy note and the sweetness, a beautiful truffle honey worked perfectly. Second, to add a little hearty and nuttiness, a few walnuts. Finally, a few toasted slices of airy, delicious ciabatta.

Florette & Honey
Yields: 8 Servings

1/3 pound Florette
1 loaf ciabatta
1/4 cup walnuts
1 tablespoon white truffle honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Slice the ciabatta thinly with a bread knife. Next, on a baking sheet, drizzle the sliced pieces with olive oil and a few pinches of kosher salt and toss them lightly. Place them into the oven for ten minutes or until they're lightly toasted.
Next, place your Florette onto a cheese board. Drizzle it with the honey, and sprinkle the walnuts alongside it. Finally, place the toasted ciabatta next to it.


Sunday Morning Pancakes

Sunday mornings are the bane of my sanity throughout a busy week. Luckily, this weekend I didn’t have to be up at the crack of dawn for my FE preparation course and Alex didn’t have to travel to Connecticut for NBC. So this morning I woke up without an alarm, this in itself was a sure sign of a great day. I started the coffee pot and decided that I was going to surprise Alex with his favorite breakfast. 
Now, I am not a huge fan of sweets or heavy carbohydrates in the morning, but sometimes we have to make sacrifices for the ones we love. Admittedly, these pancakes are by no means a chore to make or to indulge in. They’re sweet, fluffy and scrumptious.

Sunday Morning Pancakes
Yields: 3-4 Servings

1 cup flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup 2% milk
1 egg
1 tablespoon butter
maple syrup

Start by combining the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a small bowl. Whisk them together until they are well combined. In a separate medium size bowl, combine the melted butter, vanilla, milk, and the egg. Whisk these together immediately (or the cold milk will harden the warm butter). Slowly combine the dry ingredients into the wet while whisking them gently.
Preheat a large skillet or griddle over medium-high heat and rub a little bit of butter onto it. Using a 1/3 measuring cup, fill the cup about 2/3 of the way full with batter and slowly add it to the pan. The pancake will cook for about two minutes per side. This recipe should yield about 8 perfect pancakes.