Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Parmesan Thyme Shortbread + 20 Appetizer Recipes for New Years Eve

Happy, Happy New Year Everyone!  Thank you for following my beloved blog and enjoying my journey with me.  I truly appreciate each and every visit, comment, pin, share, tweet and Google +.  I look forward to a fantastic 2014 and hopefully some fun surprises to share with all of you.

Tonight Hubby and I are enjoying a quiet evening at home – which is simply perfect in my book.  Our two week vacation from our careers has been marvelous, relaxing and simply perfect.  We have spent time entertaining at home, eating well, shopping, catching up on movies and doing some nesting & cleaning around the house.

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Cranberry Cocktail Meatballs | Friday Night Bites

Are you looking for that perfect little bite for the holidays?  If so, I think I may have the perfect answer to your question – Cranberry Cocktail Meatballs.  I found this recipe on Dole’s website and decided to give it a go along with kicking it up a tad.  The result was a perfect little bite for a party.  In fact, I served it at our Annual Ornament Exchange last weekend along with enjoying it the night prior for our Friday Night Bites (just made a tad extra).

I have been a busy entertaining bee this holiday season which suits me just fine.  It simply brings joy to my life to entertain for my friends and family – most importantly seeing the reaction on their faces and the large smile that follows.  I always love having a dinner party on the books to plan and look forward to.  Creating the menus and décor let’s my inner Martha escape and my guests are often the recipients of the creativity that gets unleashed.  It simply makes me happy.

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Traditional Shortbread with White Chocolate, Cranberries and Pistachios

It is almost unimaginable how quick this year flew by and that the holidays have officially arrived.  Oh how I love this time of year.  As of Friday at 5:30pm my vacation has begun.  Did I say how much I love this time of year? Smile.  Hubby has also taken the same timeframe so we can truly enjoy the holidays and won’t need to return to work until January 6th.  Although we are never 100% on vacation, just need to simply check email and be ready for any urgent requests.  Typically a quiet time of year, but always want to be able to support my team and clients.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Smoked Brown Sugar Almonds | Friday Night Bites

A few years ago I made one of the most unique discoveries.  While shopping at the Napa Farmers Market held at Oxbow Public Market, I stumbled upon “The Smoked Olive”.  I soon learned that this award winning couple from Napa created a patent pending process for literally smoking olive oil which infused the earthy smoke flavor right into the oil – the result was spectacular.  Then to push things over the top, they had smoked brown sugar – I know – shut the front door – right?  I can literally eat a spoonful of the brown sugar and be in foodie heaven.  The combination of the rich sweet flavor and the hint of smoke is so over the top divine.  You can find all of their products on their website along with the brown sugar at Sur la Table and the olive oil at Williams Sonoma.  Both products are worth purchasing – trust me.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Butterscotch and Toffee Shortbread | Food Blogger Brunch & Cookie Swap

It is raining cookies during this time of year. Okay, maybe not literally but ovens around the country are firing on all cylinders.  I can only imagine if you flew low over towns across America, the air would be filled with the sweet scents of holiday cookies.  My house is no exception during this time of year. For the last several weeks, I have been filled with excitement in anticipation for my food blogger brunch and annual cookie exchange.  Granted it is only our 2nd year, I can confidently say it is an annual event now.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Olive Tapenade Crostini | Friday Night Bites

When it comes to appetizers, simplicity is sublime.  Often the limited number of ingredients combined together creates the most spectacular flavor profiles.  My Olive Tapenade Crostinis are a perfect example of this theory.  Between the salty, savory tapenade and the smoky flavor from the red pepper along with the sweetness from the reduced balsamic on top of a crunchy carbohydrate – this is heaven in a two bite delight.

Hubby and I attended a holiday party last weekend in San Francisco which was rather beige unfortunately, but one that we needed to attend. We had great guests at our table, so the event was several shades more enticing.  With any type of mass catering, sometimes the finesse of tasty food is lost in production and as hard as they tried, it was a lack luster attempt.  Perhaps because I have such an affinity for food, I am being a bit too critical and I am sure others were thrilled and I am hapy for them.  Be that as it may, there was one bright light shining at the event and it was on the appetizer portion of this party - thus my inspiration for this week’s Friday Night Bites.  I always try to find the positive in any situation.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Jeweled Ornament Sugar Cookies | 3rd Annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

Happy Holidays Everyone!  Honestly it is hard to fathom that it is already that time of the year.  For me baking cookies during this time of year is a natural activity and brings such joy to see the looks and reactions to folks faces when they receive them.  Speaking of cookies, it is time for the 3rd Annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.  I have been excited to be participate for since the inception and we are able to part of giving back by supporting a national non-profit called Cookies for Kid’s Cancer through simply being involved in the great cookie swap. I can’t think of a better event than one that involves delicious cookies and being able to help others.  To learn more about particpating in the event for 2014, simply click here.

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Chive & Parmesan Popcorn | Friday Night Bites

We are experiencing a bitter cold snap here in the Bay Area.  Our temperatures are on par with New York and Chicago at this time of the year.  We are expected to dip into the high 20’s tonight and for the next few nights – for us Bay Area folks - that is cold.  Our heater is running along with our fireplace and the blankets are abounding while we watch television.  It sort of cozy to have these low temperatures and just sets the stage for snuggling and enjoying comfort foods.  Not great for the waistline, but a few days won’t be that big of a deal.

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Chutney and Cheese Stuffed Dates | Friday Night Bites

Happy Thanksgiving Day Everyone!  What a special day in our country’s history.  It is a day where we gather together with our family and friends to reflect on what we are thankful for along with enjoying great food, laughs and restful moments.  Hubby and I head to my parents house for a day of food, fun, and laughs with my family.  As you can imagine there is an abundance of food. 

It is a day to see my sister, brother in law, brother, sister in law and my four adorable nephews and my lovely parents.  My parents just remodeled their kitchen and it should be fun to cook the turkey and sides in the newly updated kitchen. It just got finalized last week and I had a sneak peak last weekend. It is simply stunning and makes me want to remodel my own kitchen, yet it really doesn’t need it – perhaps in a few years. Smile. Believe it or not, I have never cooked a turkey.  I know – “shut the front door”!  It is probably time for me to take the plunge.  I look at the turkey roasting task as being simply a roasted chicken on steroids.  Smile.

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mushroom Pizzettas with Reduced Balsamic | Friday Night Bites

Over the last couple days we FINALLY had our first real rain storm of the season.  The Bay Area has been extremely starved for rain and now we hopefully have the start of a good rainy season to prevent a drought come summer.  It is a funny thing, once it rains people forgot all the things they have learned about driving.  It is like they have driving amnesia. There are more accidents along with more bad drivers – it just amazes me while I commute to work each day.  Perhaps after this first rain, folks will adjust.  Smile.

With rain, the air is crisp and fresh smelling along with the hills begin to blossom with green foliage versus the dry brown landscape – that is a welcomed sight.  It is time to pull out the various boots for winter and put away my beloved sandals, unless the weather becomes mild enough, which we do have even in the winter months.  The nights have been quite chilly as of late and our fire place, albeit gas, has been on every night.  I am beginning to settle into the fact that fall and soon winter is here.  Oh and not too mention the holidays are quickly approaching. Are you enjoying the fall season?

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Chocolate Chip, Pecan and Coconut Brittle Cookie | Secret Recipe Club

This is my last Secret Recipe Club post for 2013.  How did the year whirl by so quickly?  It is almost unfathomable, huh?  In any event, the group I am in will reconvene in January and I am excited to see who I will be assigned to.  This month I was matched with Denise from Creative Kitchen Adventures.  If you feel out of the loop and want to learn more about Secret Recipe Club and how to join in on the fun, simply click here to learn more.

In the meantime, I enjoyed browsing through Denise’s food blog and learning more about her.  She met her hubby while they were both in the Navy and is now a Mom to three wonderful daughters.  She lives in suburbia but enjoys the outdoors and the beauty of nature.  She enjoys cooking, baking, travel, bike riding, blogging and reading along with spending time with her family and friends. She began her food blog a few years ago after discovering the joy of browsing and commenting on the vast beautiful food blogs in the blogosphere.

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Spicy Goldfish Crackers | Friday Night Bites

Don’t you just love the “easy breezy” appetizers?  I certainly do.  Lately I have been snacking on those little golden nuggets that we have all grown to love – the iconic “gold fish” crackers.  They are portable, tasty and extremely satisfying.  On the way home from work one evening, I was contemplating my next Friday Night Bite and then it came to me.  I love those gold fish, so why not elevate them to the next level. 

I had the general concept in my head, just needed to put together the right combination of flavors.  Digging through my pantry, I stumbled upon a packet of Good Seasonings Zesty Italian Salad Dressing mix and that would become the base for this quick snack.  The result was a delicious and straightforward treat.  The recipe makes quite a generous amount, so I brought some to my office and saved the rest for hubby and me to snack on.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Roasted Red Pepper & Manchego Pinwheels | Friday Night Bites

It has been quite chilly in the Bay Area the last week.  Our fire place is running each night and the warm fuzzy blankets are out in full force when hubby and I watch our favorite shows.  I have eased into the fall season, now I would love to experience a stormy evening.  I am sure it is coming soon enough.

In the meantime, we need to take the patio furniture cushions to the garage for storage during the winter, especially since I believe rain may be on its way soon.  It is just too chilly to sit outside – not too mention it is dark at 5:30pm.  I just have to remind myself that as quickly as the fall season arrived, that spring and summer will be here before you know it. How quickly time passes us by.

One of the small joys in life for me is entertaining.  The planning, the preparation and the actual dinner party just make me smile from ear to ear.  Luckily for me, I have a dinner party on the calendar for this Saturday.  My menu is set – yeah.  Everything is else will be done on Friday and Saturday.  If you follow me on Instagram, I’ll be sure to post some pics to share with all of you. 

In the meantime, it is time for Friday Night Bites.  I have a roll of these Roasted Red Pepper and Manchego Pinwheels in the freezer all ready to heat up this Friday.  I previewed a few with hubby on Sunday and he LOVED them.  Projecting to Friday, we will open a nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and devour these little delights.  I can’t wait ….. big smile!

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cinnamon Coconut Bread

Okay if you are like me, you love bread.  Say it – I LOVE BREAD!  Did you actually say it – if you did, I am giving you a virtual high five. How many bread lovers are out there?  Probably millions, right?  If you love bread, stand up and be counted.  Hands down, give me bread over a cookie any day and I am so happy.

I have to admit that I am not one of those artisan bread bakers.  In fact, it is on my bucket list to make that perfect loaf of bread that one might think I purchased from the bakery versus me actually making it.  Perhaps even mastering the art of bread making to where a master baker would have a hard time identifying in a “bread line up” behind a that one way mirror.  I can dream at this point, but will accomplish this goal of mastering the art of bread making.

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cheddar and Green Onion Crostini | Friday Night Bites

I am going back in time this week for Friday Night Bites. One of my college friends use to make this appetizer and I loved it each time she would make it.  It is not healthy but tasty.  It is simple not difficult.  It is perfect to enjoy in front of a fire on a chilly evening. The last few evenings in the Bay Area have dipped into the 40 degree range which is quite chilly for us.  I can only imagine other parts of the country hit even lower temps than we do.

We used our gas fireplace recently which works well to heat up the family room where we spend the majority of our time.  Hubby loves these cheddar and onion Crostini and quite frankly can’t stop eating them.  Although I am not a true fan of mayonnaise on a typical basis, sometimes a recipe just can’t be made without it.  This is one such recipe.

Your favorite Cabernet or Chardonnay would be perfect with this appetizer.  Even a chilled beer would pair perfectly. Since it is Halloween, this would be perfect to nibble on in between those little ghosts and gobblins. Happy Halloween! Enjoy!

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bacon Parmesan Chickpeas | Friday Night Bites

Do you crave crunchy salty snacks?  If the answer is yes, then I have the perfect treat for you.  I know that salt is not that good for you but on the other hand we do need some in our daily diets.  Give me a bag of Lays potato chips versus a chocolate chip cookie any day – the crunch, salt and starch completely make me happy.  With that unhealthy craving, I thought I would make my snack a bit on the healthy side by using chickpeas. This little treat has been in my head for while, just needed to execute.

Okay the next ingredient is not healthy one iota BUT it is completely tasty and an all American favorite food – BACON!  Please don’t be mad at me, but instead of vegetable oil, I used the bacon drippings as my fat to cook the chickpeas.  Perhaps I balanced the bad and good?  I know, I am probably not fooling anyone, but these kinds of snacks are the type to enjoy in moderation.

After opening the can of chickpeas (a.k.a. – garbanzo beans) and rinsing, I realized that there was a “skin” on each one that needed to be removed.  This task took much longer than anticipated.  I soon surmised that if you rinse, lie on a paper towel and pat dry, then air dry, the skins are easily removed.  You simply take another paper towel and ever so gently rub and the skins will come off.  Then you are ready to rock and roll onto cooking these little treats.

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Monte Cristo Bites with Raspberry Bourbon Jam | Secret Recipe Club

Time seems to be spinning faster and faster.  Do you feel that way too?  It is hard to believe we are entrenched in the fall season with the leaves changing to those beautiful autumnal shades of brown, orange and yellow.  Living in Northern California, we experience the changing of the seasons however it is subtle as opposed to other regions around America.  I am still sporting my flip flops on the weekends and perfect painted toes, but this shall become a distant memory in the next month or so.  We are currently enjoying what we deem – Indian summer.  It is a time where we have mildly warm weather, shorter daytime light and little to no rain.  It is an exquisite time of year in Northern California.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pear and Honey Crostini with Spicy Candied Pistachios | Friday Night Bites

The weekend is almost here.  That means one thing – it is time for Friday Night Bites.  It has been super busy at work lately, which is a good thing.  I savor my Friday nights and weekends even more, since it is my time to relax along with planning our social activities.  For me, I absolutely love having activities to look forward to – whether it is going out to dinner, entertaining at home, heading to a friends house for dinner or going away for the weekend.  We happen to have many social activities planned now through the end of the year which makes me very happy.

I am beginning to plan for a few holiday parties that I am hosting at our house and this weeks Friday Night Bites is high on the list of making an appearance.  It was simple, in season and extremely flavorful along with being visually stunning.  Hubby agreed by devouring the plate when I set it in front of him.  This is a winner he exclaimed.  I love having an “in-house” taste tester.  How great it that?

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Halloween Sugar Cookies

Where does the time go?  I am not quite sure.  I do know that Halloween is just about two weeks away.  The houses in our neighborhood have begun having the spooky spirit appear in their front yards.  Rather fun to drive around at night and see the scary displays and take in the festive holiday spirit.

Since the Halloween bug has caught up with me, I thought I would whip up some festive cookies and share them at work with my colleagues along with some for my darling hubby.  While pursuing through Pinterest a few weeks ago, I came across this recipe and it was titled “The Best Cookie Known to Man”.  Okay you captured my attention, especially since a great sugar cookie in my opinion is hard to come by.  I prefer the crunchy but soft and full of flavor varietals.  These certainly peaked my interest. Let me just say, they exceeded my expectations.

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cheddar & Sun Dried Tomato Crackers | Friday Night Bites

Yesterday was Hubby’s birthday.  He is a little kid who is trapped in an adult’s body.  The art of stretching out the celebration for an entire week is his preferred method of celebration.  I love him dearly, so let the celebrations begin.  Oh and by the way, did you know that October 9th is the official start of the holiday season?  Hubby deemed it so.  Smile.

With the week long celebrations, even his colleagues at work got into to the spirit.  Power point presentations had birthday wishes baked in.  His beloved vice of apple fritters made quite a few appearances throughout the week long festivities at his workplace.  Yesterday especially had many folks showering him with sweet treats, cards and other special goodies.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Asian Chicken Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

Let me just exclaim to the world – I love a great salad.  Boy that felt good.  With so many choices and variations of salad, it is sometimes a bit overwhelming to choose. Today is your lucky day.  The amazing folks at Dole Salads have now made our busy lives just a touch easier with the introduction of their Chopped Salad Kits and Salad Blends. These salad kits come with a theme and you simply add your favorite ingredients to make your own unique customized salad. The possibilities are boundless and only limited by your imagination and creativity.  I can only imagine the amount of creativity out there. Smile.

Back in May I was honored with an invitation to attend Dole’sSalad Summit and quickly learned how Dole differentiates itself from other brands in the market place.  After reflecting on the summit, the way Dole distinguishes itself from their competitors was quite clear.  First, they partner with local farmers around the county to bring the freshest produce to their production facilities so you have the best of the best that the market can offer.  In fact, within fours hours of picking lettuce, it is in the sealed salad bag. Second, they have produced an innovative package and process that keeps the salad fresher longer without adding harmful preservatives.  Lastly, each employee of Dole has such a high regard for quality along with ensuring they are consistently exceeding their consumers expectations along with building brand loyalty.

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Parmesan Onion Canapés | Friday Night Bites

What’s old is new again.  The classics have timeless appeal.  They are forever favorites, often simple in preparation but loaded with flavor. When I was a kid, my mom would make these parmesan onion toasts that I could never get enough of.  Although I was never a huge fan of mayonnaise, I did not seem to mind it in these little appetizers.  She would make the parmesan onion mixture and slather on a those little rye breads and bake in the oven until bubbly. Other times it would be on white bread, but always bubbly.  They were one of those treats that came around every once in a while and when they did, good time were had by all.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fig Tarts with Honey Pistachio Brittle

It is a sad time.  Knowing that the fig season is winding down, it brings a figurative tear to my eye. If you have been a long time reader, you know that I am just a bit obsessed with figs, especially with  the fresh varietals.  As promised from a prior post, I am sharing a supreme fig dessert with all of you.

I stumbled upon a treasure at my local farmers market in the last month.  Ever since finding this fortune, I have been back week after week.  It was with one of the smaller vendors, but they grew the most amazing figs on earth.  After chatting with the producer, she let me know that they created their own fig varietal called “Hatfield”.  She went on to say, like the Hatfield’s and McCoy's, but that there was no fighting going on in her farm.  She does have a keen sense of humor. 

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pumpkin Bruschetta | Friday Night Bites

With the fall season officially here, I have embraced the change.  You all know that I absolutely adore figs but a close second is pumpkin.  I do have one more fig delight that I will be sharing with all of you on Tuesday of next week.  In the meantime, I am excited to share this Pumpkin Bruschetta with all of you.

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Spicy Cheddar Parmesan Cheese Straws | Secret Recipe Club

Fall has officially arrived.  Not sure why I always have a hard time saying goodbye to summer but each year it is challenging for me.  On Saturday in the Bay Area we had our first good down pour of rain.  With the rain, it made the entrance of fall just a bit easier to adjust too.  I love the recipes that are predominately fall inspired by pumpkin, squash, Brussels sprouts to name a few, along with enjoying homemade soups, braised dishes and the smell of baked goods permeating the house.

Speaking of baked goods, I made the most incredible cheese straws over the weekend.  The recipe comes from Feast on the Cheap and happens to be my match this month for the Secret Recipe Club.  If you are not familiar with this secret club, let me share a quick snapshot.  Essentially there are about 200 food bloggers who are in the club and each month are paired with another blogger and it is a secret, until reveal day.  Once reveal day hits, you can see who had you and what recipe they chose from your blog.  It is my favorite time of the month when group C has their reveal.  Wonder what recipe will be picked this month?  Hum.

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Chili & Lime Pumpkin Seeds | Friday Night Bites

Do you ever just want a little something to nibble on? If you love food like I do, then I am sure your resounding answer is YES. Have I got a simple treat for this week’s installment of Friday Night Bites.

With the scent of fall in the air, the shorter days and longer nights upon us, it means that pumpkin season is almost here. Like figs, I am a bit obsessed with this round orange sphere of goodness. I have been conquering up recipes in my head and some wonderful ones to share with in the coming weeks. I picked up pre-packaged raw pumpkin seeds from Trader Joe’s last night. Why work so hard to get those little seeds, when they are simply a quick snip with the scissors and the package is open and ready to use.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Redd Wood in Yountville, Napa Valley

Yountville is an idyllic town nestled in the heart Napa Valley.  It is full of boutique hotels, world class restaurants and fantastic shopping.  Luckily for me, it is only about an hours drive from my house.  Two long term friends and I have a restaurant club that we shaped several years ago.  Our aspiration was to have a reason to try out new restaurants around the Bay Area every 5 or 6 weeks along with staying in touch and catching up. We set up the premise to rotate with the “pick and pay” concept with the caveat being it had to be a place none of us have been to prior. A simple concept that just gets better and better with each place we visit.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Fig, Peach and Smoked Mozzarella Bruschetta | Friday Night Bites

This week at the Farmer’s Market I found the most marvelous figs. When I cut them in half, the bright vivid ruby color just came alive.  It was not the pale color that I often see, these were special figs.  They were simply perfect.  The fragrance was just like a fig candle that you buy from Jo Malone.  I knew I needed to give these beauties the special treatment.  I created this bruschetta recipe and the result was pure heaven – trust me.  Even hubby was raving about these.  Just a quick note, I have upcoming recipe that is a sweet treat highlighting these spectacular figs – stay tuned.

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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Southern Fried Chicken Sliders with Jalapeno Peach Compote | Friday Night Bites

Okay, I have a confession.  I am a bit fascinated with anything southern.  I have yet to visit the states on my bucket list, but I know that will get there someday soon.  With a long holiday weekend behind us, I took a couple days vacation before the long weekend to unwind, catch up on household chores and do some cooking.  This week’s Friday Night Bites has been on my list for quite a long while and so happy to finally be able to check it off the list.

I love fried chicken but seldom partake since it is not the healthiest food.  So when I do indulge, it is surely a treat.  Despite there being quite a few steps to making these beauties, it was well worth every minute. I would suggest as a time saver to make the compote a day prior along with bathing the chicken in the buttermilk – it just gets better with time.

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Wild Mushroom Tart

The long holiday weekend has come to an end.  I guess you can call it the end of summer and beginning of fall in a figurative way, although here in the Bay Area, our summer seems to stretch way into October.  It is synonymous with what we call Indian summer; where the summer heat continues.  I particularly enjoy summer extending further into the year and holding off the entrance of fall. Although I enjoy fall, and for that, I can appreciate all seasons, however, there is just something special about summer.

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Double Pesto Grilled Cheese Bites | Friday Night Bites

Today begins my five day mini vacation.  I guess you can call it a stay-cation.  Just needed a few extra days tagged onto the long holiday weekend to relax, take care of things around the house and do fun things around town. If you live in the Bay Area like I do, you know that living outside of San Francisco for the next five days will make it challenging to head over the bay bridge, since it is officially closed for preparations to opening the brand new bridge.  Years in the making, it is an exciting time for bay area residents.  Luckily, our plans do not include heading into the city for the long weekend.

As for this week’s Friday Night Bites, I was inspired by the sun dried tomato pesto that I made last weekend for the sandwich I entered into the Mezzetta Make That Sandwich contest.  Hubby couldn’t get enough of the pesto and said it was the secret weapon to a winning sandwich.  My fingers are crossed. In addition to that pesto, I made another wonderful pesto a couple weeks ago, that was equally as delicious.  I thought; why not combine them together to create a suburb little bite.  I love anything mini when it comes to an appetizer – oh heck – I love appetizers.  Oh and I adore a great grilled cheese sandwich, so why not make mini grilled cheese sandwich bites with the sun dried tomato and walnut arugula pesto.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Mezzetta Italian-Etta Sandwich

I absolutely adore a wonderful sandwich that is jam packed with flavor.  It can have a few ingredients or a million, as long as it tastes delicious.  I often gravitate towards a grilled or toasted sandwich over the soft bread type sandwiches – although those have a place in my repertoire too.  Probably my favorite staple sandwich is the classic grilled cheese.  Growing up it was the one with those slices of American cheese that came in the wrappers – you know what I talking about. Smile. The cheese melted really well and oozed out as you ate the sandwich.  As a grown up, my palate has refined a bit and my grilled cheese now is with jarlsburg, light rye and a bit of pepper jam inside. Still might sneak a childhood version now and then.

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Gin & Tonic Sorbet | Friday Night Bites

At our last book club get together, we had the most amazing dessert.  We alternate between the 10 ladies in the club as to who will be the hostess (with the mostess). A couple weeks ago, Cindy opened up her lovely home to all of us to discuss our book selection – Transatlantic by Colum McCann.  The overall majority enjoyed the book and we had some lively discussion, which is a good thing. Sometimes the book doesn’t resonate with everyone and that is okay; just means the discussion is shorter.

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Brown Butter & Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Cookies | Secret Recipe Club

The third week of the month means it is Secret Recipe Club time.  It is a time when I get to experience the great reveal and who clandestinely had my blog for a month.  Did they look through every post or simply go to their favorite category to make their decision?  Sometimes I am astonished how far back the viewing goes; sometimes a post from several years ago makes the great reveal.  What post will it be this month? If you want to get in on the action, simply click on the Secret Recipe Club and learn how to join in the fun. 

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Fig Crostini Trifecta | Friday Night Bites

My adoration with figs continues.  A new fig season begins and many recipes to be made with these purple little gems.  One day soon I will be setting aside time to make 60 plus jars of Balsamic Fig Jam to have for gifts and of course for personal enjoyment.  Thinking about it now, I will probably lean on the side of making more than sixty.  It is actually quite simple to make – I just need to secure the time.

When I spied figs at Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago, I knew the window had opened but before I know it, that window will close.  The time is now – carpe diem.  Don’t be shocked if you see several upcoming posts featuring figs.  The most common figs on the market are the Brown Turkey and Mission figs.  You may see both green and purple figs, which both taste similar but visually quite dissimilar. 

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Fig, Beet and Watermelon Salad with Caramelized Shallot Dressing

A trip this weekend to the farmers market proved to be fruitful once again.  If you remember, I made a Farmer’sMarket Salad with Honey Lime Dressing about a week ago.  It was simply divine and this week I have another delightful summer salad to share.  Okay, if you know me or have been follow Authentic Suburban Gourmet for sometime, you know I have a slight obsession with figs.  I never really had them as a kid, except for the good ole fig Newton.  My affinity with these perfect little gems spans from my making my Balsamic Fig Jam to strategically placing on a Proscuitto and Fig Pizza.  The vivid colors of this salad scream fresh and tasty. 

A great salad can be a masterpiece, perhaps even your own Mona Lisa of sorts.  The possibilities are endless.  Often when I head to the farmers market I will browse the vendors to observe the seasonal offerings.  The simple clue is when 2 or 3 vendors are carrying the same items, and then you wrap back around and choose the vendor with the freshest produce.  Summer time is particularly bountiful with heirloom tomatoes, berries of all sorts, stone fruit galore, colorful peppers and sweet corn.

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Harry's Bar Famous "Grilled Ham & Cheese Sandwich" | Friday Night Bites

Who doesn’t want to be transported to Venice Italy for an evening?  I can’t imagine someone turning down such a special invitation – certainly not me.  If you have ever traveled to Venice, then you probably have stepped into the famous Harry’s Bar.  This is the home of the world famous Bellini cocktail which derived its name from the unique pink color, which reminded the owner of the color of the toga of a saint in the painting by 15th century Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini.  It is simply pureed white peaches and Prosecco.

Harry’s Bar is steeped in history with its roots beginning in 1931 by the bartender Guiseppe Cipriani.  History dictates that Harry Pickering, a wealthy young man from Boston frequented the Hotel Europe where Cipriani was bartending.  Harry exclaimed one day that his family cut off his funds due to his excessive drinking, Cipriani loaned him 10,000 lire (about $5,000 dollars).  Approximately two years later, Harry returned and gave Cipriani 50,000 lire in return.  Cipriani was very thankful and appreciative.  Harry said – “Here’s the money.  And to show you my appreciation, here’s 40,000 more, enough to open a bar.  We will call it Harry’s Bar.”

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Farmer’s Market Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette

Strolling through my local farmer’s market early on a Saturday morning is incredibly relaxing.  I try to enter without preconceived ideas of what to purchase or planned recipes.  I have every intention of letting my mind be open to what bounty is available while exploring each vendor’s booth.  I must admit, I have a few favorites.  With the seasons consistently changing, the selection is embryonic and thus my repertoire evolves.

With my global friendly bag in hand, my mission begins.  A few baskets of small orange sweet tomatoes and ripe red tomatoes make their way into my basket from one of my favorite vendors, which happen to have prime real estate at the entrance of the market.  I guess that could be looked at two ways – people pick up right away or choose to stroll the rest of the market and then have a full bag.  I am the first scenario.

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Manchego and Sausage Bites with Apricot Jalapeno Dipping Sauce | Friday Night Bites

Although I have never actually stepped foot in the country of Spain, I am utterly obsessed with Tapas. Spain is definitely on my bucket list. Tapas are small appetizers or snacks in the Spanish cuisine.  They are served cold and hot.  The most common ingredients, types and flavors include olives, peppers, and seafood including anchovies, ham, meatballs, garlic, salted cod, chorizo, garlic, empanadas, roasted pork, mushrooms, manchego cheese and frittata. Quite honestly, the combinations are simply endless.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Lemon Sponge Cake with Triple Sec Strawberries

Do you ever have those days where you just want to nest?  I mean nest and clean.  Yesterday was that day for me. My office was just in shambles.  For anyone who knows me personally, you know that I am a complete neat freak.  My definition of shambles may be a bit off from others, but for me, it was driving me crazy.  After several hours of purging and reorganizing, my office is back up to my standards.  I just feel calmer when my surroundings are in order and aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

Next weekend, if the nesting mood is still prevalent, then I will tackle the closet.  I know I have numerous items that I can donate.  There is a particular charity I have in mind to donate some work related items.  The organization is called Wardrobe for Opportunity and they support community members in their effort to find and sustain employment.  They partner with volunteers in the community to give back through being a professional image coach, boutique volunteer, mentor and other various programs.  I have been searching for an organization to give some of my time to and I believe I have found it.

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tomato Jam + Cheese Plate | Friday Night Bites

It’s almost Friday Night – my favorite day of the week.  It is time to say goodbye to the work week and kick off the weekend along with enjoying our weekly tradition of Friday Night Bites.  One of our favorite appetizers is the effortless cheese plate.

About every other week on the way home from visiting one of my four offices, I will zoom into the Whole Foods parking lot.  I guess I should call it “whole paycheck”, since I don’t often get out for less than one hundred dollars and that is just the hand basket.  I tend to hit the produce section then jet across the store to the cheese section.  After the cheeses, it is onto the prepared food section, the olive bar, the specialty crackers and a few other aisles that catch my attention.  About 15 minutes later, the cashier reveals the total and it is 9 times out of 10 over one hundred dollars.

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Nutella Filled Sugar Cookies | Secret Recipe Club

I feel like I say this each month – how time flies.  It is time again for The Secret Recipe Club and for group C to do the great reveal. If you want to join in the secret fun, you love cooking and you have a food blog, then check out how to get in on this fun group of bloggers, who by the way make some pretty darn tasty treats.

This month I received Amy’s blog – The Savvy Kitchen.  Her cooking niche is low-carb, low calorie and gluten-free.  Amy comes from a relatively large Italian family who loves to cook, especially her mother.  She has a small army who are her official taste testers and I am pretty sure these folks are very happy from the vast array of tasty recipes on her blog. I would encourage you to check out her blog and I bet you will find at least a half a dozen recipes that you want to make right away.

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Corn Fritters with Spicy Tomato Salsa | Friday Night Bites

Summer is a special time in the San Francisco Bay Area.  You are probably thinking why?  Well let me tell you why.  A small town about 35 to 45 minutes away from me produces some of the best corn.  The small town is Brentwood, California.  Not the Brentwood in Southern California where the infamous OJ is from.  It is the delightful town of Brentwood in Northern California.  You can go to restaurants around the Bay Area and notice that dishes highlighting this spectacular corn are on the menu.

After visiting my local farmers market over the weekend, I had to pick up some corn from Brentwood.  It was $2.00 for three ears of this sweet, tasty corn.  Quite frankly, I can eat it raw sliced right off the cob, it is that good.  Corn Fritters have long been on my “recipes to make” bucket list.  I began researching the internet for different ways to make a corn fritter.  Some will fry in oil, which is tasty but not good for the waistline.  Others will pan fry with a touch of oil, so I decided to pursue that route for this recipe.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Bouchon Bakery Bacon Cheddar Scones

Each time I visit Yountville I must wait in the long line at Bouchon Bakery.  At first, you may think that it will be eternity until you get inside to preview all of the delightful goodies that await you, but it does goes rather quick, especially if you have a friend with you to pass the time.  If you are by yourself, then listening and watching all of the people will surly pass the time for you.  People come from around the country and the globe to have one of those light green boxes filled with the spectacular treats that Thomas Keller is so well known for.

Last time I went to Yountville, I purchased the Bacon Cheddar Scones and devoured it in the car on the way home.  I could not believe how absolutely delicious this scone was.  As I was driving home, I kept trying to determine what made these so tasty.  Was it the butter, bacon and white cheddar cheese?  I think those were definitely part of the tasty equation.  There was something else that was added that I could not quite put my finger on.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Apricot and Gorgonzola Endive Bites | Friday Night Bites

A couple weeks ago hubby brought home a dozen assorted colored eggs and a jar of honey.  My eyes instantly lit up.  I was quite curious why my husband who does not cook or frequents a grocery store would have such items with him.  The mystery was solved quite quickly when he revealed that a woman he works with sent this home for us to enjoy.  She and her husband live on a large parcel of land that houses chickens and bees.  Okay – how cool is that to make your own honey and have farm fresh eggs on a daily basis?  I say – very cool!

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Cherry and Coconut Scones

On Saturday hubby sent me a text that a Boeing 777 crashed at SFO.  At first, I could not believe it.  Knowing that he was flying himself that day, I asked him like I do every weekend when he flies – text me when you land.  Hubby has been flying as a private pilot for over 25 years and I trust him more than some of the commercial pilots.  Unfortunately on Saturday two young girls lost their lives and numerous others sustained a vast variety of injuries.  We will not know for a while what the actual reason was for the crash but based on what I know from flying with my hubby for a long time and the thoughts he shared with me - we have our theory as to the reason for the crash.  My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families and that they soon have some sort of peace and comfort to cope with this tragedy.

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Grilled Cauliflower with Arugula Chimichurri | Friday Night Bites

Happy 4th of July Everyone!  Today is the day our wonderful country celebrates Independence Day where we declared independence from Great Britain back in 1776.  Typically it is associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, picnics, parties, baseball games and family gatherings.  We live in a great nation and I am thankful everyday for all that we have.  However you decide to celebrate, I wish that you enjoy every minute.

Hubby and I ventured to the farmer’s market last weekend.  There is a bounty of wonderful fruits and vegetables during this time of year.  It was hard to contain myself from wanting to buy way too much. The multiple colored cauliflower is such an eye catching veggie and can be prepared in so many ways.  I had a vision when I purchased a head of purple, yellow and green cauliflower.

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cheese Platter with Fig & Raisin Mostarda | Friday Night Bites

I simply love a great cheese platter.  It can simply have one cheese, a savory jam and some toasted bread or it can be elaborate with multiple cheeses, fruits and nuts. 

I mentioned in my last post that I was quite inspired in many ways by my recent trip to Chicago.  We actually enjoyed two very tasty cheese plates on our restaurant adventures.  The first one was at RPM Italian and it was served on a simple white marble small platter with toasted bread, aged pecorino cheese and a savory tomato jam.  It was actually our dessert and it was a perfect.

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Avocado Vinaigrette + Weekly Inspirations

We just spent a marvelous week in the windy city.  I believe I am now at 28 states with 22 more to go to complete my bucket list of visiting all 50.  Chicago is an amazing city filled with great restaurants, a drop dead gorgeous skyline, friendly people, history and culture.  It was an inspirational vacation on many levels and will share some of the highlights for my weekly inspirations.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Bites | Friday Night Bites

I look forward to Friday Nights.  It is the end of the week and time to wind down with appetizers and wine with my hubby, sometimes with the addition of great friends.  Lately we have been enjoying sitting outside in our backyard with the fountain running in the background and feeling like we are in an oasis.  It is the perfect way to kick off the weekend.

I am a bit obsessed with Brussels sprouts.  Whether they are roasted, shaved or pan fried, they have to be my absolute favorite vegetable.  I must admit there is only one veggie that I simply can’t eat.  It is the one that I found most people on this planet love.  When I share with folks that it is not on my list of veggies to eat, they are a bit shocked.  I think it is because, I love food and thus people think you love everything.

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