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Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Cinammon/Sugar Doused Cookies

This recipe is the creation of my wildly talented friend Nastassia over at the 5 Foot Kitchen. She introduced me to these super simple and delicious cookies that have become my go-to sweet treat during the holiday season.

Baking is most certainly not my forté and I have no shame in the “boxed mix” base that makes this such a unique concoction. Rolling each little ball of dough in perfectly complimentary cinnamon-sugar adds a special touch.

**Nastassia’s Tip: For those pumpkin-pansies who stay as far as possible from the orange stuff, have no fear- the cookie’s pumpkin flavor is light and not at all overpowering or “squashy.”

Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Cinammon/Sugar Doused Cookies

Ingredients
1 (14-oz.) pkg. Pillsbury Pumpkin Quick Bread & Muffin Mix (found in the baking section of your supermarket)
1/2 cup chocolate chunks (or raisins, nuts, berries)
1/4 cup chopped ginger (optional)
1/2 cup melted butter
1 large egg
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, combine quick bread mix, chocolate chunks and ginger; mix well.

Add butter and egg; stir until dry particles are moistened.

In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon; mix well. Shape dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and roll each in the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 350°F. for 12 to 15 minutes and let cool on a wire rack. Get a good book, light the fire, and dunk into a glass of cold milk!
Posted in Desserts | Leave a comment

Goat Cheese Onion Tart

There are many factors that determine the dish I create to bring to dinner parties or gatherings. What is the host making? Is there a theme? What is in season that month? How many guests will there be and do any guests have dietary restrictions?

Living in Brooklyn means that I have to transport my creation: down three flights of stairs, approximately .8 miles (or in and out of a town car should I be running late) to the L train entrance. Then, down the L train stairs, through the turn styles, down another flight of stairs, wrestling my way onto the always-crowded train, often repeating this step should I have to transfer. Next, I trek up several flights of stairs only to hit the streets again, take another (hopefully short) walk to the destination. Finally, pick up a bottle of wine on the way and climb at least three flights of stairs. If you can imagine, that was the condensed version of the truth.

My point is, that I will never prepare a steaming pot of soup or a delicate sweet to only be destroyed during the commute. This onion tart is ideal because it is simple, rustic, and can be served warm, room temperature, or even chilled. Some puff pasty and a few ingredients will make you the star of the show!
Goat Cheese Onion Tart
(Makes 2 tarts)
Ingredients
4 tablespoons butter
3 vidalia onions, thinly sliced
3 red onions, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
6 ounces goat cheese
1 teaspoon thyme, minced plus sprigs for garnish
2 sheets puff pastry dough, thawed
Directions
In your largest skillet, melt the butter and sauté the onions until just softened. Add the salt, pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of thyme. Fold in half of the goat cheese. Set aside.
Preheat your oven to 350° F. Fit the pastry sheets onto large, parchment lined cookie sheets. Using a fork, poke holes on the bottom of the pastry.
Place a layer of parchment paper over the pastry dough and fill the center with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for about 20 minutes or until just golden.
Let the pastry cool for a few minutes, then spread the remaining goat cheese lightly across the tart. Season with salt and pepper and fill with the onion mixture leaving a crust.
Sprinkle the rest of the thyme across the top and bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is golden.
Posted in appetizers, Entertaining | Leave a comment

Fresh Basil Pesto

I love having fresh pesto in the refrigerator for its versatility, sweet aroma, and complex flavors. Like many of my recipes, I make this a little differently every time depending on what I have available. The basic recipe is always the same, so feel free to edit to your own taste!

Fresh Basil Pesto
(Makes about 1 cup)

Ingredients
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 small handful walnuts
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Directions
In a food processor, or using a sharp knife or mezzaluna, chop the basil, add the garlic and nuts. Drizzle in the olive oil little by little until you have a thin paste. Season to taste. The pesto will keep in an airtight container for about 1 week.

Posted in Dressing and Dips, Sauces | Leave a comment

Vegetable Neapolitan

I made this dish a couple weekends ago for a Saturday business luncheon. The night before, I roasted all the vegetables, sliced the mozzarella, prepared the ricotta spread, and pesto sauce. I transported everything in Tupperware to the Upper East Side and began assembly around 11:30 a.m.. It only took about 15 minutes to put together this deliciously light and elegant lunch. We enjoyed the Napoleons with savory soup and crusty bread.

Roasted Vegetable Napoleons
(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients
1 large white potato, cut into 1/3 inch slices
1 large sweet potato, cut into 1/3 inch slices
1 eggplant, cut into 1/3 inch slices
1 red onion, cut into 1/3 inch slices
4 large portobello mushroom caps, cut in half
1 large tomato, cut into 1/3 inch slices
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon thyme
3/4 pound mozzarella or 6- 1/2inch slices

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.

Place the potatoes in a single layer on a greased baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper on both sides.

Do this with the rest of the vegetables and roast for 5-10 minutes, making sure not to overcook. The vegetables should be just tender and golden.

If you are making this ahead of time, allow the vegetables to cool down for about 20 minutes, then transfer to Tupperware and refrigerate overnight.

While the vegetables are roasting, mix the ricotta, thyme, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Assemble the one slice of each vegetable in this order:
White potato, eggplant spread with ricotta mixture, onion, sweet potato, mozzarella, tomato, mushroom.

If you have extra vegetables, you can repeat this process or add more of your favorites.

Skewer the vegetables down the center with a toothpick and bake at 350˚ for about 20 minutes or cheese is melted and vegetables are warmed through.

Drizzle with pesto and serve!

Posted in appetizers, Entertaining, Vegetables | Leave a comment

Chicken and Rice Casserole

Coming home from a taxing day of fifth grade with mounds of homework and a challenging book report due the next day, this dish was an instant consoler. The sign of rice on the stove and chicken in the skillet meant dinner was going to be great. As I marched up the stairs to my room, strapped with my black monogrammed L.L. Bean backpack, I knew that in only a few hours I would be settling down to a steaming plate of pure southern comfort.

Many, many years later, I am faced with frigid and frustrating commutes, cascading bills, incredible highs and guttural lows. I now know that Ms. Palmer’s algebra worksheets, a daunting report on “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory” and seven hour days were simply childs play. No matter the age or day, this dish will make it all just disapear for just a bite…or a plate. Enjoy!

Chicken and Rice Casserole
(Serves 6-8)
Ingredients
6 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
6 cups of your favorite rice, cooked
1/4 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
1/2 pound sliced portobello mushrooms
1/2 pounds sliced porcini mushrooms
1 cup frozen pearl onions
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
1 cup chicken stock

Directions
Prepare the rice according to package instructions. Take off the heat three minutes early.

In a large skillet, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil on medium heat. Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper and sear until browned. Remove to a plate.

In the same skillet, add another tablespoon of butter and sauté the onions and celery until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté until golden, about 3 minutes. Add the pearl onions and thyme.

Dice the chicken into 2-inch pieces. In a large bowl, combine the vegetables and chicken. Mix in the Cream of Chicken and Mushroom soups, rice, and stock. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper.

Pour the mixture into a large, greased casserole dish and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes covered with foil and uncovered for 15 minutes or until the top is golden. Garnish with thyme.

Posted in Casseroles, Chicken, Southern | Leave a comment

Plan Your Dinner

Plan Your Dinner is Forks. & Figs. newest web series where I take my friends with very little kitchen experience and help them create a simple, delicious, and impressive dinner party. The first episode features one of my closest friends Jillian, who is absolutely hilarious in the kitchen! Check it out and follow along with the recipes below as we create a perfect Valentines Day meal!

Red Wine Risotto
Ingredients
5 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium shallot, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 cup red wine
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound thinly sliced Shitake mushrooms
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Directions
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and saute the shallot translucent. Add the rice and mix well. Add 1 1/2 cups of the stock and allow the rice to absorb the liquid stirring constantly. Repeat this two times. In a small skillet, melt the butter and saute the mushrooms until just golden. Season with salt and pepper and fold into the risotto. Just before serving, season with salt and pepper to taste and add the Parmesan.
Pear and Gorgonzola Salad
Top your favorite greens with one diced pear and 1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese.
To make your own vinagrette, simply mix 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon honey, and 1/2 cup olive oil. Season to taste.
Surf and Turf

Ingredients
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
2 filet mignon (or your cut of choice)
6 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper
Red pepper flakes
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Directions
Season the shrimp and filets with salt and pepper.
Heat two medium skillets with two tablespoons of butter on medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and the filet to each.
Cook the shrimp for two minutes on each side or until just pink. Add another tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoons of red pepper flakes and stir. Transfer to a warm plate.
Cook the beef for four minutes on each side. Transfer to the warm plate.
For the reduction, in the beef skillet, add the balsamic vinegar and reduce over medium heat until reduced by half. Turn off the heat and stir in two tablespoons of butter and salt and pepper to taste. Serve on the side or overtop the steak.
Putting It All Together
Your risotto can remain off the heat for about 10 minutes, so you should start the meal about 2 hours ahead of time. Save the beef and shrimp for last and serve immediately. Prepare as much of the ingredients and table scape ahead of time so you can focus on the meal.
Posted in Meats, Sauces, Seafood, Vlogs | Leave a comment

Goat Cheese and Leek Dip


The month of November means not only frigid temperatures, but also plenty of holiday fêtes to attend. It is always appropriate to ask the host if they would like you to bring something and usually an appetizer is easiest for both of you. I made this dip when I was craving traditional french onion dip, but I put a chic spin on the classic recipe. Adding goat cheese, sautéed leeks, and aromatic chives result in an undeniably divine addition to any affair.


Goat Cheese and Leek Dip
(Serves 6-8)

Ingredients
2 tablespoons butter
2 leeks, thinly sliced (cut off both ends so you use only the firm stalk)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
12 ounces goat cheese (room temperature)
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup chives, finely chopped

Directions
In a medium skillet on medium heat melt the butter and saute the leeks with salt and pepper until tender, about 5-8 minutes. Let cool.

In a large bowl, mix goat cheese and cream cheese until combined. Fold in the leeks and chives. Season to taste.

15 minutes before serving, bake at 400° F. Serve with toasted sliced baguette or crackers.

Posted in appetizers, Cheese, Dressing and Dips | Leave a comment

Coq au Vin


I have been wanting to try this traditional French dish made of braised chicken, lardons, mushrooms, and wine (either red or white). As so many classic French dishes are, this Coq au Vin, requires a few steps and some work. The results are undeniably rewarding as layers and layers of flavor coat your tongue. A combination of several recipes, including Julia Child, Bon Appetit, and Ina Garten, this Coq au Vin is perfect for a Sunday night dinner or a small gathering.


Coq au Vin
(Serves 4)

Ingredients
4 tablespoons butter, divided
6 slices bacon, cut into thin 1″ strips
Salt and pepper
4-5 chicken breasts, on the bone
1/2 pound carrots, cut 1″ diagonally
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 bottle good dry red wine
2 cups chicken stock
5 sprigs time
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups frozen pearl onions
Directions
In your largest dutch oven on medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter and fry the bacon until just browned. Remove the bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown lightly on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Remove to the plate with the bacon.

Add the carrots, onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper, to the pot with all the drippings from the bacon and chicken. Cook until the onions are just browned. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
Return the bacon, chicken and any drippings to the pot. Add the wine, chicken stock, thyme and stir on low heat for a few minutes.

Cover tightly with the lid and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a small skillet and sauté the mushrooms with a pinch of salt and pepper until just golden.

Mash the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter with the flour until a thick paste is formed.

Pull the pot from the oven and uncover. Add the paste and stir carefully until combined. Add the pearl onions and mushrooms and simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes until sauce has thickened. Season to taste, if necessary.

Serve hot with potatoes, rice, or pasta or make a day ahead and cover the top with plastic wrap to prevent a film. To reheat, dot with 1 tablespoon of butter and simmer on low for 30 minutes or until warmed through.

Posted in Casseroles, Chicken | 2 Comments

Buttermilk Bleu Cheese Dressing


I have always been crazy for bleu cheese dressing. Specifically, bleu cheese dressing atop a wedge of iceberg lettuce. Accompanied by thick cut fried bacon, chives, and plump cherry tomatoes— you have a tasty bite! This dressing is so great, we jofully dipped out Vidalia onion rings in it! With only a few ingredients, you are headed for a thick and flavorful dressing you will make often.

Buttermilk Bleu Cheese Dressing
(Makes about 1 1/2 cups)

Ingredients
1/2 cup buttermilk*
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cups bleu cheese
Salt and pepper, to your taste
Chives for garnish
*If you find yourself in need of buttermilk, check out this easy fix!
Directions
Mix all all ingredients well and enjoy! Serve with salads, crudités
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