DIY Blanket Ladder

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Can we talk about the LIFE-CHANGING discovery I made a couple weeks ago. It was an average night, we had just eaten dinner and were sitting on the couch when the inevitable conversation came up…”Did you get anything for dessert?” my husband asks…
I hadn’t…fail.
Me: “No, but there is still vanilla ice cream in the freezer from Thanksgiving pie”
Husband: “Do we have anything to put on it?”
In case you can’t tell, I’m not good at keeping my fridge/pantry/cupboards stocked with the basics. I’m the type who goes to the store and buys just what I need for that nights dinner.
Me: “There are some leftover chocolate chips in the cupboard…”
Husband: “Can you melt them?”
We have really interesting conversations 🙂
I proceed to melt the leftover chocolate chips, dish up some ice cream and then drizzle the chocolate on top. Basic, right?
Umm…it hardened pretty quickly just like magic shell, but I hadn’t added anything to it! Is this normal?!?! Mic drop! I was so excited!! That’s the easiest dessert ever!
I’m not sure why I was so excited, apparently it doesn’t take much these days. Anyway, I was pretty stoked about this discovery, and please don’t burst my bubble if I’m like 10 years late to the party and you all knew this fact long ago.

You may recognize this blanket ladder from a couple years ago if you’ve been following me from the start…wow, that’s crazy, that I’ve been at this blogging thing for a couple years now! Since my time is a bit preoccupied these days and I haven’t had time to complete any new projects recently, I thought I’d repost one of my faves and one of the easiest, who knows, maybe you know someone that this would make a great holiday gift for. Or maybe you just want one for yourself. Either way, this whole project took me less than hour from constructing to stained.

Supplies
2 2×4 @ 8ft
1 2×6 @ 8ft
2″ wood screws
skill saw
kreg jig
drill

1. Use your skill saw to make the following cuts
2 2×4 cut to 5ft each
4 2×6 cut to 17in each

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2. Use your kreg jig to drill 4 pocket holes (2 on each end) into the 4 2×6 pieces for 2″ wood screws

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3. Lay one of the 2x4s on flat, level ground. The left side of the 2×4 will be the front of your ladder. Measure and mark every 12″ along the front of the ladder where your rungs will sit. Take one of the 2x6s and set it on the 2×4, turned slightly diagonal, so that the bottom of the 2×6 is even with the front of your ladder and the top of the 2×6 is even with the back of the ladder. Attach with 2″ wood screws.

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4. Continue with the other 3 2x6s at each of the 12″ marks.

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5. Once you’ve attached all 2x6s, measure and mark every 12″ on the other 2×4, lay it on flat, level ground and turn the ladder over onto the 2×4 so that the rungs meet up with the opposite side and attach with 2″ wood screws.

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Easy peasy! Now paint or stain to your desired color, let dry and add blankets!

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4th of July Menu

Happy 4th of July weekend!! With a 3 day weekend this year, I’m sure a lot of you are celebrating with friends and family and indulging in food and fun filled BBQs so I thought I’d compile a few of my favorite past recipes that we continue to go back to again and again, especially on the grill or when we have friends over! Have a safe and happy weekend and I hope I helped you find something to add to your holiday menu!!

Mini Caprese Salads
(Makes 25 salad appetizers)


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8 ozs Mozzarella pearls packed in water
25 basil leaves
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
25 toothpicks
2 cups balsamic vinegar

1. In a saucepan, over medium heat, simmer 2 cups of balsamic vinegar until it is reduced by half and begins to thicken, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool before step 3.
2. Slide on a toothpick, 1 Mozzarella pearl, a basil leaf (cut smaller or folded), and cherry tomato cut crosswise.
3. Plate the “salads”, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with vinegar and serve.

Bacon-Wrapped Dates
(Makes 24 dates)

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24 large pitted dates
12 slices of bacon, halved crosswise
1/2 cup blue cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Place 24 toothpicks in a small bowl of water and let soak for 15 minutes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and fit with a wire rack, set aside.
2. Slice dates lengthwise, be careful not to cut all the way through, to make a small pocket for the cheese. Place a small amount of cheese in the center of each date. Wrap a piece of bacon around each date. Secure bacon with a toothpick.
3. Place dates on prepared baking sheet. Bake until bacon is cooked through, about 20-25 minutes.

Moscow Mules
(Makes 1 drink)

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Ice
1/4 cup chilled vodka
1 Tbsp lime juice
6 ozs ginger beer
1/4 of a lime, cut into a wedge
1 sprig of mint leaves

Fill copper mug with ice. Pour vodka, lime juice and ginger beer over ice, stir. Squeeze lime wedge into drink, drop squeezed wedge in, stir and garnish with mint leaves.

Slow Cooked BBQ Ribs
(Makes 12-13 ribs, depending on size of rack)

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1 rack pork spare ribs
1/2 cup pork rub
1 cup BBQ sauce

1. Rub entire rack of ribs with pork rub, front and back. Double wrap in foil and refrigerate for 5 hours to allow the flavors to blend.
2. Prep a grill and set heat to low. Place foil covered ribs on grill and allow them to slow-cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, turning once at the 40 minute mark.
3. Open foil, slather ribs with 2/3 cup BBQ sauce, close foil and continue to cook for an additional 15 minutes.
4. Remove ribs from the grill, place on a large cutting board and cut ribs apart between the bones.
5. Drizzle with remaining BBQ sauce and serve immediately.

Rib-Eye with Mustard Butter
(Makes 2 rib-eyes)

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Rib-eye
2 rib-eye steaks
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 tsp finely chopped cilantro
Mustard Butter
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp dry mustard or mustard powder
1 heaping tsp Dijon mustard

1. Pat the steaks dry and rub them with the salt, chili powder, and cilantro. Refrigerate the steaks, uncovered for at least 1 hour, or up to 8 hours. (I think I did for 5 hours)
2. To make the mustard butter, in a small bowl, mash together the butter with the dry mustard and the Dijon. Form it into two mounds and chill on a plastic wrap-lined plate.
3. Heat a grill to medium heat and grill to desired temperature. For medium cooked steaks, mine were about 1″ thick and I cooked them for 8 minutes per side.
4. Remove the steaks from the grill and put on plates. Top each steak with half the mustard butter, allow it to melt a bit, and serve with a big pile of herb fries (recipe below).

Mexican Corn-on-the-cob
(Makes 4 ears of corn)

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1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 clove garlic minced (approx 1 tsp)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
4 ears of corn, shucked
1 lime, cut into wedges

1. Light a grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes, clean and oil grate before grilling corn
2. While grill preheats, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, cheese, chili powder, garlic and cilantro in a large bowl.
3. When grill is hot, place corn directly over heat to cook, turning occasionally, until cooked through and charred in spots on all side, about 10 minutes.
4. Once corn is cooked, transfer to a plate, coat each ear of corn evenly on all sides with cheese mixture. Sprinkle each ear with extra cheese and chili powder, drizzle with lime juice and serve.

Sweet Potato Fries w/Lime Mayo
(Makes 4 servings)

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2 large sweet potatoes cut into 1/2″ strips
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 tsp finely grated lime zest
2 tsp fresh lime juice
chopped fresh cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss sweet potatoes and oil on a foil-lined large baking sheet; season with salt and pepper.
2. Roast, turning once, until golden brown and crisp, 25-30 minutes
3. While potatoes cook, whisk mayonnaise, lime zest and juice in a small bowl. Refrigerate until fries are ready to serve.
4. Season fries with salt, top with cilantro, and serve with lime mayo for dipping.

Red, White & Blueberry Popsicles
(Makes 6 popsicles)

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1 cup blueberries
1 1/2 cup raspberries
1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt

1. Use a food processor to puree the blueberries. If they come out a bit more purple than blue (like mine did) just add a spoonful or two of the Greek Yogurt and a few drops of blue food coloring until you get the desired shade of blue. When you achieve the right color, you want to make sure the fruit is pourable, if it is too thick, try adding a tablespoon of water. You can also puree your raspberries ahead of time, adding 1-2 tablespoons of water. Place pureed raspberries in a separate bowl and keep refrigerated until use.
2. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the  blueberry mixture into the bottom of each popsicle mold. After each pour you’ll need to do a little clean up, you don’t want too much extra on the sides of the mold as this will cause your stripes to look a little mangled. Don’t get too fussy because you want it to look a little rustic.
3. Put the mold in the freezer and freeze for 1 hour.
4. Remove molds from freezer and add a small stipe (about 1 tablespoon) of vanilla yogurt to each mold. After you’ve added the first layer of yogurt, insert your popsicle sticks, trying to push them into the layer of blueberry a bit. Hold the sticks in place by placing a piece of tin foil over each mold. Place back in the freezer for another hour.
5. Remove molds from freezer, remove foil and add a small stripe (about 1 tablespoon) of raspberry puree. The sticks should stand on their own at this point so you won’t need the foil any longer.
6. Continue alternating white and red stripes, freezing for 1 hour after each, until you have filled the mold (I had 1 large layer of blueberries, 2 layers of raspberries & 3 layers of yogurt).
7. When you are ready to serve, hold the mold under hot running water to loosen (be careful not to let water splash near the opening), after about 30 seconds you should be able to easily remove the popsicle from the mold.

Spring Frittata w/ Asparagus, Leeks and Dill

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I was actually about to blog something different but saw photos of this frittata and realized I never shared it! Crisis averted 🙂 I made this as part of Easter dinner and it was delicious. Makes a great side dish or appetizer for a spring dinner party.

On another note, my friend, J Soltman Photography, and I went downtown Portland to the Pearl District and she shot our first session of bump shots. I am so incredibly lucky to have such a talented photographer friend who lives so close to me who is just as excited about documenting my pregnancy as I am!

Here are a few of my favorite shots but stay tuned for more posts later this week when I’ll share some outfit details…

Spring Frittata w/ Asparagus, Leeks & Dill
5 tsp olive oil
2 large leeks (white and light green parts, well rinsed) thinly sliced
1 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 lb asparagus, tough ends cut off, cut on the bias into 2 1/2″ pieces
10 large eggs
freshly ground black pepper to taste
pinch of smoked paprika
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
2 ozs chevre, crumbled

1. Place an oven rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. In a 9- or 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 Tbsp (3 tsp) of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, 1 Tbsp water, and 1 tsp of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are wilted and tender, about 3 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute. Remove the vegetables to a plate. Wipe out the pan and let it cool until tepid.
3. Break the eggs into a bowl and whisk them together with salt and pepper to taste, the paprika, dill, chives, and leeks and asparagus mixture.
4. Heat the remaining 2 tsp oil in the pan over medium heat. Pour in the egg mixture and add the chevre. Cook until the eggs begin to set on the bottom. Using a heat-resistant spatula, lift the edges of the cooked egg and let liquid eggs run under to the pan below. Cook for another minute and repeat. When the bottom half of the eggs are cooked, place the pan in the oven and cook for 5 minutes, until the eggs are no longer wobbly at the center. Turn on the broiler and broil the frittata until lightly browned on the top, about 30 seconds.
5. Remove the frittata from the oven and let set at least 5 minutes in the pan, then slice and serve.

Original recipe from The Food Lover’s Cleanse

Party Perfect Appetizers

This last weekend we celebrated my mother-in-law’s birthday by throwing her a surprise party. It was so much fun to get all the family together for an evening of food, drinks and fun! I’ve never managed to actually pull off a surprise, to keep it a secret and all, but I’d say this was successful. People came in from Washington and California to help celebrate this beautiful, caring mother/daughter/sister/aunt/friend who always tries to take care of everyone else.

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We hosted about 20 people and I decided to go with appetizer sized foods rather than serving dinner when not everyone would be able to sit down to eat. I also have to admit, I didn’t make any of this from scratch…ain’t nobody got time for that when you’re having 20 people over!

Butternut Squash soup shooters with Rosemary garnish
The shooter glasses are 2 ounce shot glasses that I got at Bed, Bath & Beyond. These are great for so many cocktail party treats, I used them in another way at this party…scroll down to see 🙂
I bought pre-made Butternut Squash soup (I used Pacific brand organic soup), heat it up in a saucepan and top with a single sprig of rosemary.

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Crostini with Camembert and Fig Sauce
This one will look familiar, I posted this on the blog a few months ago and it was a big hit.
Slice a French Baguette into approximately 25 slices, top with a small slice of Camembert or Brie cheese. Put in the oven at 400° for about 8 minutes, until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and top each slice with a tablespoon of your favorite fig jam or spread.

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Mini Caprese Salads
Slide on a toothpick, 1 Mozzarella pearl, a basil leaf (cut smaller or folded), and cherry tomato cut crosswise. Once you have made all of your “salads”, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
In a saucepan, over medium heat, simmer 2 cups of balsamic vinegar until it is reduced by half and begins to thicken, about 15 minutes.
Allow balsamic vinegar to cool, plate the “salads”, drizzle with vinegar and serve.

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Meatball Sliders
Super easy! I bought frozen Italian style meatballs, pasta sauce, provolone cheese and brioche slider buns.
In a sauce pan, over medium-high heat, heat the meatballs and pasta sauce. To construct, place bottom of slider bun, half a slice of provolone, tablespoon of pasta sauce, 1 meatball cut in half, half a slice of provolone, top of slider bun.

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French Fries with Ketchup
Cook French fries to package directions, put 1 tablespoon of ketchup in the bottom of a 2 ounce, tall shot glass. Add 5-7 fries, plunged in the ketchup.

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Baked Brie w/ Maple & Pecans

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It has been almost a month since my last post and I have missed you all SO MUCH!!!!

Why is it when you get off track with your normal routine, it seems like such an undertaking to get everything back on track?

The last 2 months have been…insane (does that sound too dramatic?). Yes, insane. To the point that my home, diet and exercise routines have completely taken a backseat. I’ve spent the last few days trying to get back on track but it makes me exhausted just thinking about it. One thing at a time I guess…1 workout, 1 blog post and a clean house this morning…better than nothing!

This baked brie is one of my all-time favorite appetizers. So savory! It is a hit at every dinner party and it would be great for your holiday parties too!

Baked Brie w/ Maple & Pecans
1 small wheel of Brie
1/2 cup pecans
3 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp maple syrup
crackers or sliced baguette, for serving

1. Preheat oven for 350° F. Place cheese on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until softened, 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate; cool about 20 minutes.
2. While cheese cools, place nuts on a clean baking sheet; bake until toasted and fragrant, 7-10 minutes. Sprinkle nuts over cheese.
3. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and maple syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat; simmer until foamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Drizzle warm sauce over slightly cooled cheese and nuts; serve with crackers or baguette.

*Original recipe from Martha Stewart

Shrimp Ceviche

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Lately, I have been dreaming about getting away on vacation. Work is so crazy right now that its not going to happen anytime soon, but a girl can dream. Some of our favorite vacations were in Mexico and my absolute favorite thing to eat down there is fresh shrimp ceviche. After our last trip to Cancun, I was craving it everyday, so…I decided to find a ceviche recipe I liked. This one is killer!! Just the right amount of spice and sweetness from the Serrano chilies and fresh squeezed citrus juices.

Play around with the ingredients to get it just right for your taste, you could leave out the shrimp, or like I do, leave out the avocado for my husband’s allergy. You could also add mango for a tropical twist.

Shrimp Ceviche
Poaching Liquid
2 quarts water
1/4 cup kosher salt
Ceviche
1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
juice of 2 lemons
juice of 2 limes
juice of 2 oranges
1 cup diced cucumber
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
2 Serrano chilies, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup diced seeded tomato
1 avocado, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
1 Tbsp roughly chopped cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt

1. Combine water and 1/4 cup salt in a large saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Add shrimp and immediately turn off the heat. Let the shrimp sit until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.
2. Chop the shrimp into 1/2″ pieces and place in a medium non-reactive bowl (nothing aluminum or cast iron as it can react with the food and acidic citric juices and impart an off color or flavor to the food). Add lemon, lime and orange juice. Stir in cucumber, onion and chilies. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
3. Stir tomato, avocado, chopped cilantro, oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt into the shrimp mixture. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with cilantro leaves, if desired. Serve with tortilla chips.

Original recipe from Eating Well.

Bacon-Wrapped Dates

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I’m sitting here planning my calendar for the month of November…yes…November.

#1 – I can’t believe it is that close to Starbucks breaking out the red cups and holiday music playing in stores.

#2 – I have some REALLY GREAT stuff planned for the month of November!!! I almost can’t wait to share it with you! But I will wait, mostly because right now it’s just a plan on my calendar, and the way my schedule has been going lately…well, I’m gonna try really hard to do everything I have planned. I  promise, it’s gonna be good!

Last week I got to take a work trip to Santa Monica, so much fun and so nice to get out of the grey drizzle that has taken over Portland. Then I came home and got to go wedding dress shopping with my baby sister. It’s so exciting and yet, the whole time it didn’t seem real, like she was just playing dress up or something. Her wedding venue is a DIY-ers dream and we are going to have so much fun planning everything for the big day.

Last week, in all the chaos, I made an old go-to, easy recipe for dinner. A pancetta-wrapped chicken with date sauce. And since I had some dates left over, I also made one of my husbands favorite things, bacon-wrapped dates. A few years back, we went to a restaurant in downtown Seattle, Sazerac, for happy hour with some friends. On the menu, were these bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with cheese. We were engaged at the time, and he loved the dates so much, he asked our caterer if they could be incorporated into our wedding menu. (That, and his own personal lobster tail. No one else at the wedding got lobster tail. Just him. Not picky. AT ALL!)

Anyway, it’s one of his favorite things so I make them from time to time because they are so simple and tasty. An easy appetizer to prepare ahead of time for your next get together or just for a random Wednesday night.

Bacon-Wrapped Dates
24 large pitted dates
12 slices of bacon, halved crosswise
1/2 cup blue cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Place 24 toothpicks in a small bowl of water and let soak for 15 minutes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and fit with a wire rack, set aside.
2. Slice dates lengthwise, be careful not to cut all the way through, to make a small pocket for the cheese. Place a small amount of cheese in the center of each date. Wrap a piece of bacon around each date. Secure bacon with a toothpick.
3. Place dates on prepared baking sheet. Bake until bacon is cooked through, about 20-25 minutes.

Ginger-Soy-Lime Shrimp

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I got a text from my friend Nancy one day saying I had to try these shrimp. Nancy loves herself some shrimp, she is always trying different marinades and recipes on them when we go over for dinner. So when she told me I HAD to try this Bobby Flay recipe, I knew it must be the best yet. And boy was it! These make a great appetizer or side dish for your next BBQ, just throw the ingredients in a food processor or blender, marinate the shrimp for a couple of hours and grill them up. The original recipe calls for peanut oil, I didn’t have any so I used sesame oil instead. It also called for the shrimp to be unpeeled, but the shrimp absorb more of the marinade if they are peeled and you don’t want to make you guest peel shrimp before eating them…so messy!

Ginger-Soy-Lime Shrimp
2 large shallots, peeled and chopped
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 sesame oil
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tails on

1. Place shallots, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, lime juice and sugar in food processor (or blender) and pulse until smooth. Add green onion and oil and pulse until combined. Season with black pepper to taste.
2. Place shrimp in a large bowl, pour marinade over and let them marinade, covered and refrigerated for 3-5 hours.
3. Preheat a grill to high, remove shrimp from marinade and skewer them, then grill for 2-3 minutes per side.

*Original recipe from Bobby Flay for Food Network

Fig & Camembert Crostini

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I spent most of the first day of summer cooking up a DELICIOUS 4 course meal yesterday and I have to say, I loved every single course! The appetizer was these little crostini with Camembert cheese and a fig spread. They were so flavorful but yet so quick and easy to prepare, a perfect appetizer for the next time you are hosting dinner guests. Part of what made them so easy is that I didn’t take the time to make the fig spread, but rather just bought a jar at the store. You can find fig spread with the jam & jellies at your grocery store but I also found a brand that makes different flavors of fig spread in a cute little display near the specialty cheese where I shop. The brand I used was Three Little Figs, a local Portland company who makes a great variety of flavored jams. I chose the Balsamic Fresh Fig.

1 baguette loaf
8 ozs Camembert cheese
9 ozs fig spread
olive oil for drizzling
(makes 24 crostini)

1. Preheat oven to 400°F
2. Slice the baguette to approximately 1/2″ pieces and arrange on a cookie sheet
3. Slice the cheese like it is a pie, making enough pieces to have 1 slice of cheese for each slice of baguette. Do not remove the rind as Camembert is meant to be eaten with the rind intact.
3. Drizzle sliced baguettes with olive oil and top with one piece of cheese each, followed by a spoonful of fig spread.
4. Bake in the oven for 4 minutes or until cheese is melted.
5. Serve hot and watch your guests “mmm” and “ahhh” with mouthfuls of deliciousness

🙂