Sausage & Apple Stuffed Squash

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This dish just screams fall to me! The squash, the apples, the herbs. Made me want to curl up on the couch with a blanket and a glass of wine, which is exactly what I did right after eating this 🙂 For the presentation that you get with a stuffed squash, the prep and hands-on time is relatively easy. This makes a great dish on it’s own for dinner, or as a side dish for a dinner party. You could even use a roasted acorn squash to serve your Thanksgiving stuffing, if you really want to get crazy! The other great thing about this recipe, you can easily change up the ingredients that you put inside to tailor it to your own diet or tastes. Add some grains, like cooked rice or quinoa, remove the dairy, change the meat to chicken sausage or add beans for protein instead. The possibilities are endless. So get creative and let me know if you try any substitutions. I’d love to hear about it!!

Sausage & Apple Stuffed Squash
3 Acorn squash
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
1 lb ground pork sausage
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled & diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 Tbsp rosemary, chopped
1 Tbsp thyme, chopped
1/2 cup + 3 Tbsp shredded sharp white cheddar cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare squash by cutting 1 1/2″ off top and use a spoon to scrape out seeds. (If you want to keep the squash tops for decorative purposes, set them aside until step 5, otherwise, discard them.) Once the inside is clean, cut approximately 1/2″ off the bottom to create a flat surface, trying not to puncture through the bottom of squash into center opening, if possible. (If you do puncture, it will still work, you’ll just need to use a non-slotted spatula when moving the squash from baking sheet to plate to avoid losing the filling.)
2. Use a brush to coat inside of squash in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Place squash on baking sheet and roast in oven for 1 hour.
3. While squash is roasting, prepare the filling. In a skillet or deep frying pan, brown the sausage over medium heat until no pink remains, approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once browned, remove sausage to a plate using a slotted spoon, leaving grease in frying pan.
4. Add onion and celery to frying pan and cook until they begin to soften, approximately 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add apple, cook an additional 3 minutes. Add cooked sausage, herbs, 1/2 cup cheese and salt & pepper to taste, stir to combine and remove from heat.
5. When squash is finished roasting, remove baking sheet from oven. Spoon the filling equally into the squash and sprinkle with remaining cheese. (If you are serving with squash tops, place tops on baking sheet at this point.) Place baking sheet back in oven and roast for an additional 15 minutes. When finished, remove from oven and serve.

Enjoy!

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Apple Chips

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It finally feels like fall! Like everyday fall, not just a day here and there. I’m going to revel in this for a while because I’m sure it won’t be long before I’m cursing all the rain. Not happy in, not happy out, ya know?

We spent the morning at a cute little pumpkin patch farm, complete with hay rides, pony rides, tractors, slides and fresh made pumpkin spice doughnuts! I mean, sign me up! Especially the donut part 🙂

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Landon is so intrigued by everything these days, this fall and holiday season is going to be so fun exploring with him.

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He seemed to like the cows the most and it was pretty cute to hear him say “mmmm” when I asked what sound does a cow make 🙂

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Ok, apple chips. So easy! They take a little time but the hands-on time is nothing and they make such a great fall snack. I literally can not stop eating them.

Apple Chips
1 apple
1 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 250°F. Slice apple very thin, approximately 1/8″ thick. I used a mandoline slicer and put it on the middle setting, not paper thin but 1 setting past that.
2. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper, lay apple slices on parchment paper in a single layer. Sprinkle apples with cinnamon on both sides.
3. Bake apples for 2 1/2 hours, turning once halfway through baking time.

See?!?! So easy! The more baking sheets have, the more you can bake at a time. I was able to fit 1 apple on each XL baking sheet.

Enjoy!

Frosé (Frozen Rosé)

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Happy Friday friends! What better way to celebrate the weekend than with summer’s hottest (or coolest ;)) drink trend, Frosé! Let me be clear from the start though, this Frosé recipe is a tad different than the rest. Let’s call it skinny Frosé 🙂 As I was checking out multiple recipes for this post, I noticed every single one had simple syrup or sugar in it. Sorry…not for this girl. I can barely handle alcohol these days, let alone sugary alcohol, so there was no way I was adding sugar to my Rosé. Besides, isn’t Rosé plenty sweet as it is? And, personally, I don’t want to mask the taste of my Rosé with a bunch of sugar. To sweeten this drink I used agave nectar and if it’s not sweet enough for you, you can easily add a bit more agave to it.

Keep in mind that the ingredients listed below will make 6 glasses, however, if you just want 1 or 2 glasses, you can easily use 1 tray of cubes, 1 cup strawberries, 1 cup ice and 2 Tbsp agave and save the rest of the cubes for later.

Frosé
Makes 6 servings
1 bottle (250 mL) Rosé
3 ice cube trays
3 cups sliced strawberries, divided, plus more for garnish if desired
3 cups ice, divided
6 Tbsp agave nectar, divided

1. Pour all of Rosé into the ice cube trays, distributing evenly. Should fill 3 to 3 1/2 trays. Freeze for at least 6 hours to overnight. Because of the alcohol, the cubes won’t freeze completely but should be solid enough to crack the trays and remove the cubes when ready as you would with regular ice cubes.
2. In a blender, place 12 cubes frozen Rosé (1 tray worth), 1 cup sliced strawberries, 1 cup ice & 2 Tbsp agave and blend until you have a slushy consistency. Mine was pretty thick but I also have a pretty old blender. Honey, if you are reading this…a Vitamix would be a phenomenal gift at some point 😉 If you want to thin it out, you can add 1 Tbsp of water at a time until you reach the desired consistency. However, I spooned mine out of the blender and it melted to a great consistency within a couple minutes.
3. Divide between 2 wine glasses, garnish with a whole strawberry and serve. Repeat twice with remaining ingredients if desired.

Enjoy!

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Kale Summer Salad

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I have a confession…I love having friends and family over, hosting dinner parties & BBQs and cooking for lots of people. Problem…I’m not actually very good at it! I mean, the food is great and I’d like to think we create a fun environment but every single time, I spend a lot of the time in the kitchen preparing food and not mingling and hanging with our loved ones. It actually makes me really anxious too, something about people watching me cook, having a messy kitchen and not being able to just enjoy myself. The worst part is that I KNOW the steps to having a successful dinner party and I DON’T FOLLOW them!! Typically I go to the grocery store the day of and do no prep ahead of time. I also don’t pay too much attention to the steps that go into making a dish (i.e. cook time and or something with a lot of hands on time).

So, I’m turning over a new leaf 🙂 I really want to enjoy our dinner parties more so I am determined to plan ahead. Here you go, steps to a successful dinner party that the cook can enjoy as well…
1. Make recipes you are familiar with. Your best bet is to stick to recipes you have made before. This way you are familiar with the ingredients and the steps, plus, you know how it is going to taste. No wondering if your guests are secretly spitting their food into their napkins 😉
2.Choose recipes with as little hands-on time as possible or can be mostly prepped ahead of time. Whether it is meat you can marinate the day before and can just throw on the grill, a dish that can be prepped and tossed in the oven to cook or fruits and veggies cut up the day before. Anything you can do to lessen your time in the kitchen, the better. Ideally, during the party, you should shoot to only be tossing something in the oven, on the grill or on a dish.
3. Stick to your timeline. Grocery shopping 2 days before, recipe prep 1 day before, on the morning of pull together any cold dishes, dishes that will go in the oven later. Get your serving table ready and decide what dishes and utensils you will be using for each dish.
4. Accept offers of help! I am terrible at this. People ALWAYS ask, can I do anything to help? And I ALWAYS tell them NO! Why do I do this?!?! Probably because I want to seem all cool, calm and collected 🙂 Haha! Let them help! Not only will they feel good about helping you, if you are stuck in the kitchen for a bit it will give you a chance to still chat while getting things ready.

This salad is my attempt at better dinner parties. We are planning to have people over for 4th of July so I am trying out some new recipes ahead of time so I can plan the menu. This salad is ABSOLUTELY making the cut! Seriously delicious, a bunch of kale, gorgeous summer fruits, nuts and a tangy dressing to top it off.

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Kale Summer Salad
1 bunch of Kale
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1 cup blackberries
1 peach, pitted and diced
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup diced mango
3 Tbsp dried cranberries
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup walnuts
For the dressing:
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

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1. In a small bowl, whisk together apple cider vinegar, mustard, honey, salt and pepper until combined. Slowly stream in olive oil while whisking until emulsified.
2. In a large bowl, combine the kale and dressing. Massage the dressing into the kale until coated and place in the fridge to marinate for a few minutes. (Don’t do this too far ahead of time or the kale will get soggy, no more than 30 minutes before serving)
3. Before serving, add the diced fruit, dried cranberries and nuts to the kale and toss until evenly combined.

*Original recipe from The Balanced Berry

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Lemon Pepper Flank Steak Tacos w/ Mango Cabbage Slaw

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Both my boys are sleeping at the same time so I finally have some time to post! And by both my boys, I mean my son and my husband. Hubby has been home the last few days; you would think it would be easier for me to get things done when he is home because there is someone else to help take care of the baby. Nope. Somehow, I get way less done. When the baby finally naps we end up watching a movie or making breakfast, just doing things that I wouldn’t normally do during my free time (a.k.a. naptime) when he is at work. I promise I’m not complaining though! Having him home means he gets more time with the baby and seeing and hearing him play with Landon is the sweetest, heart melting thing ever!

I made these tacos a while back and the flavor combo of the lemon pepper steak with the sweet & spicy mango cabbage slaw was perfection! And they were pretty easy to throw together too, great for an easy weeknight meal.

Lemon Pepper Flank Steak w/ Mango Cabbage Slaw
For the steak tacos:
1 1/4 lb flank steak
2 tsp grated lemon rind
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
cooking spray
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp salt
12 tortillas
1 ounce queso fresco, crumbled (about 1/4 cup)
For the mango cabbage slaw:
3 cups thinly sliced Savoy cabbage
1 cup ripe, peeled, julienne-cut mango
1/2 cup vertically sliced red onion
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 serrano chili, seeded and minced

1. Sprinkle steak with lemon rind and pepper, pressing to adhere.
2. While steak stands, combine all ingredients for mango cabbage slaw in a medium bowl, toss to coat. Set aside.
3. Heat grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add steak to pan; grill 6 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Place steak on cutting board, let stand 5 minutes.
4. Combine juice, oil, soy sauce and garlic in a small bowl. Cut steak diagonally across grain into thin slices. Drizzle steak with soy sauce mixture; sprinkle with salt.
5. Heat tortillas on grill pan coated with cooking spray 20 seconds on each side or until lightly charred. Divide steak among tortillas. Top each taco with about 1/3 cup mango cabbage slaw and 1 tsp queso fresco.

Original recipe from Cooking Light

Blueberry Coconut Popsicles

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Roller coaster really is the best way to describe this pregnancy. I envy the woman who have had pregnancies with little to no issues because this has been one of the most challenging times in my life thus far. Also, is it normal to feel like you are ALWAYS complaining about being pregnant? I guess this is just my place to vent and get things off my chest…

Just when I get past one seemingly “annoying” pregnancy symptom and am able to have a couple of good days, or dare I say, good weeks, something else tends to pop up in its place and I have struggled to live my normal day-to-day life, let alone get prepared for the arrival of this little peanut.

I found out I was pregnant at 4 weeks and was so excited when I had nearly no symptoms in the first trimester. I got to the 2nd trimester and thought…this is going to be a breeze! Mistake #1.
By week 14 I had developed intense daily headaches. I have always struggled with migraines triggered by hormones and my cycle and the pregnancy hormones magnified that 10X. These headaches were around when I woke up, would lessen just a bit when I ate breakfast but by the end of the day would ramp up and I’d be lucky to just get home from work and make it into a hot shower or bath than off to bed. I did my best to stay super hydrated, I took Tylenol a few times but that usually didn’t do much to lessen the pain. Looking back, had I done a better job of snacking consistently throughout the day, that may have made a difference in keeping my blood sugar consistent. Eventually, the headaches subsided and by week 19 I was feeling pretty good.
Almost immediately after, around week 21, I started to have bad Sciatic nerve pain as well as general pain in my hip joints. Well, this sure is magical. The Sciatic pain was tough to deal with and not much would alleviate it. I did a lot of stretching and yoga poses that lessened the hip joint pain and rolling on a tennis ball did help with some of the nerve pain but I couldn’t get it to go away completely, and there were a couple of days I could barely even walk. Being that I’m on my feet and moving around all day at work, this was a bit of an issue. Eventually the stretching began to have an effect and doing the stretches every night before bed was the key. If I missed 1 day, I could tell a difference the next. The pain finally subsided by week 26.
Enter my last blog post, at week 28, sitting in the waiting room of the hospital lab, having my glucose test done. First of all…gross! I HATE orange soda and the glucose drink is like chugging the most sugary version of orange soda in a matter of minutes. Wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep that down. Right after my glucose test, I had my 28 week check-up and because I have everything done at one hospital, my doctor was able to see my results right away. My glucose test was a 2-hr test, blood draw before the drink, then a blood draw 1 hour and then 2 hours after the drink to see how your body is processing the sugar. Apparently, mine was not. As the doctor is looking at her computer screen she says “Oh, we have some of your glucose results already. It looks like you DID NOT pass the fasting or 1 hour blood draw.” (She didn’t say ‘DID NOT’ in a way that warrants my putting it in all caps, that’s just how it sounds in my mind when I replay the scene).
I’m sorry…what? How did I not pass? What does that mean? Can I take another test? Am I diabetic? I had SO many things racing through my mind in that moment. The doctor seemed a bit shocked as well and mentioned we’d wait for the third blood draw result to come back and then talk again that afternoon. She left the room and I lost it. How could this be? I eat relatively healthy? Stay away from bad carbs for the most part. Sure I have dessert now and then but who doesn’t? This can’t be right. I felt like I had failed my first test of motherhood. And my poor husband, I don’t think he even know what to do with me, sitting on the exam table, wanting to let the tears flow but trying to hold it in because the nurse still had to come in to give me my Pertussis vaccine.
For the next couple of days, I just walked around in shock. I went from upset to embarrassed (how could I have let this happen? I grew up around diabetes, I know the affects it can have. I eat well. I haven’t changed my diet since being pregnant or if anything it’s gotten better! Have I been diabetic this whole time and just not known?) to angry (again, I eat well! no fast food, no soda, little to no starchy carbs). I just really didn’t understand. My doctor said she felt confident that I could control my gestational diabetes with diet but wanted me to go talk to a diabetes nutritionist…I reluctantly said ok (again, I was in the angry phase and didn’t think a nutritionist was going to tell me anything I didn’t already know).
Talking to the nutritionist was actually a great thing and I learned quite a bit, not only about gestational diabetes but about my diet in particular.
First of all, they had me write down what I eat on a daily basis. Because of this, the nutritionist said my gestational diabetes has little to do with what I’m eating and more to do with how the pregnancy hormones have affected my body and how it processes sugar. The hormones have caused my body to slow down in how it processes and on top of that, my metabolism has changed because I went from being highly active before pregnancy to little to no working out during pregnancy due to all the different sicknesses and pains I’ve experienced.
Next, she talked about the actual foods I was eating. My breakfast generally consisted of fruit, granola and yogurt. That’s healthy, right? Well, I was using yogurt with honey…sugar. And, for someone whose body doesn’t process sugar well, dairy and fruit are not the best options for your first meal when your metabolism hasn’t gotten it’s kick start for the day. Her suggestion was to eat eggs and veggies first thing in the morning and have my fruit/yogurt/granola as my morning snack. She also told me to make sure I had a veggie, a protein and a carb (good carb) in every meal or snack. Umm…you want me to have a carb with EVERY meal or snack? The carb is what is going to keep you full for more than an hour, just have to make a good carb choice and keep the portion limited to the correct size. Finally, she addressed my love of Jamba Juice…I work at a mall and am always busy. When I eat out, I try to make good food choices. Smoothies and energy bowls are good choices! Aren’t they? She asked what I usually ordered and looked them both up on the Jamba Juice menu 😦 Turns out, my daily smoothie and energy bowl of choice each had over 90 carbs!!!!! You’re kidding me?!?! The smoothie listed its ingredients as Kale, Lemon, Peaches and Pumpkin Seeds. Seems ok to me. Actually…they use lemonade and peach juice with sugar, not frozen lemons and peaches. (insert annoyed look here).
The last thing we talked about was portion control. She went through a chart with good carbs, and what portion size of each was acceptable. Above all, she said one of the biggest things that would help me would be eating 6 small snacks and meals throughout the day to keep my blood sugar consistent as opposed to eating 3 large meals which would create spikes and drops in my blood sugar.  This means making food at home and taking it to work with me, but if it means keeping me and baby healthy, I’m in. And, I don’t have to “stay away” from desserts, I just have to be smart about them and the sugar content. If it’s a traditional dessert with a lot of sugar, portion size needs to be about half of the usual portion.
By the end of the appointment, I felt much better about my diagnosis, what it meant for my pregnancy and my baby and how I was going to control it for the next 12 weeks.

It’s the middle of summer, it’s hot out, and more often than not, my only craving is dessert. Which is why I decided to make these 3 ingredient popsicles! These are easy and healthy and I have no fear of eating them every night…if I wanted to 🙂

Blueberry Coconut Popsicles
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup vanilla coconut milk

1. Put blueberries in a blender and blend until smooth, leave some chunks so they are not completely liquid
2. Mix yogurt and coconut milk in a bowl, stir well
3. Fold blueberries into the yogurt mixture
4. Pour mixture into popsicle molds
5. Freeze popsicles for 30 minutes, insert popsicle sticks, continue to freeze for 4 hours

Enjoy!

Lamb chops w/ fresh fig pan sauce

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I’m a little crazy for figs right now. Also, I found myself searching for fall décor on Pinterest the other day. It’s not even the end of August! Normally I would be avoiding the idea of fall as much as possible, but this year I’m really excited for it to get here…fall t.v. shows, cozy sweaters and boots, football, fires in the fireplace…I’m really not sure when my “favorite” season changed from summer to fall! Must have been a slow transition when I realized that summer doesn’t necessarily mean being lazy and doing nothing but laying by the pool all day.

Lamb chops w/ fresh fig pan sauce
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
8 ozs fresh figs, stemmed and cut into pieces
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup shiraz or other spicy red wine
1/4 cup unsalted chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 tsp honey
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
12 (3 oz) lamb rib chops, trimmed

1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add 2 Tbsp olive oil; swirl to coat. Add shallots; cook for 7 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add figs; mash with a potato masher to break them up. Cook for 3 minutes or until figs start to break down, stirring frequently. Stir in 1/4 tsp black pepper.
3. Increase heat to medium-high. Add wine; boil for 1 minute. Stir in stock and bay leaf. Reduce the heat to medium-low; simmer 10 minutes or until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally. Add honey and vinegar; simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat; discard  bay leaf. Stir in rosemary; cover and keep sauce warm.
4. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Brush lamb with remaining 1 tsp oil; sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Add lamb to skillet; sear 2 minutes on each side. Place pan in oven; bake at 400° for 4 minutes (for medium-rare) or until desired degree of doneness. Remove pan from oven; remove lamb from pan. Let lamb stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with sauce.

Original recipe from Cooking Light Magazine

Fresh Fig Galette

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Man! Finally getting this beauty on the blog!! Every time I have a work trip, no matter how short or long, I get so behind on everything. I pack so much into my free time that being away for just a day or two throws me off completely.

So this was the first time I made a galette, it looks beautiful and fancy, but it was actually really easy to make. The best part about a galette is how rustic they are meant to look, so the dough and filling shouldn’t look perfect, you can mess up and it’ll still come out great.

Fresh Fig Galette
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
4 1/2 Tbsp almond meal
2 Tbsp sugar, divided
3/8 tsp salt
7 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cubed
3 Tbsp canola oil
3 Tbsp ice water
1 lb fresh figs, stemmed and quartered lengthwise
2 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp sliced almonds

1. Place flour, almond meal, 1 Tbsp sugar, and salt in a food processor fitted with a dough blade; pulse to combine. Scatter butter into processor; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Drizzle in oil; pulse to combine. Add ice water; pulse just until combined. Turn mixture out onto a sheet of plastic wrap; pat into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 400°F.
3. Place figs in a large bowl. Sprinkle with remaining 1 Tbsp sugar and lemon juice; toss gently to combine.
4. Unwrap dough. Roll dough on plastic wrap into a 12-inch circle. Arrange dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spoon figs onto dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold edges of dough over filling to partially cover. Bake at 400°F for 35 minutes or until fruit juices bubble and crust is browned. Remove from oven, sprinkle with almonds. Cut into 8 wedges.

*Original recipe from Cooking Light

Red White & Blueberry Popsicles

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I made these popsicles last summer for the first time and it is one of my favorite posts. Not only are they delicious, but they are healthy and so cute, all at the same time.

Be warned, when making striped popsicles, it does take a little time because you have to freeze each layer before adding the next but it was so much fun for me to make these over the course of the day. Might be a fun project for little ones to help with on a warm summer day and keep them looking forward to the next step all day long before finally getting to devour these delicious treats.

Everyone have a fun and safe 4th of July, take time to enjoy the family, friends, food and fireworks!

Red White & Blueberry Yogurt Popsicles
Makes 6 popsicles
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.

Plum Tarts

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I had such a great weekend! Some of my best girlfriends came down from Seattle with their hubbies for some wine tasting in the Columbia Gorge. The weather could not have been more perfect, the wineries were stunning, the wine was fabulous (correction…is fabulous, as I’m drinking some right now) and the company, amazing. I have the best group of friends a girl could ask for and being that I don’t see them very often, it was so nice to relax and get caught up.

We did our wine tour through Wine Dirt, which is owned and operated by my friend’s mom, Mary. If you love wine and prefer some knowledge and education with your wine tasting, be sure to check her out. Not only did we taste some great wines at wineries we probably wouldn’t have come across on our own, but Mary has so much knowledge and experience in the wine industry that you leave each winery with a true appreciation for what they do.

I think my favorite winery had to be Syncline Wine Cellars. Their tasting area is situated amongst vineyards and oak trees, complete with Adirondack chairs, picnic tables and hammocks, so you can fully relax while you sip away.

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And now, a yummy Sunday night dinner at home with my hubs followed by an even yummier dessert, these plum tarts with honey & pepper. I know, I know…pepper? On dessert? Yes! The sweetness of the plums and the honey really balance it out, trust me! And, they are so quick and easy to prepare.

Plum Tarts w/ Honey & Pepper
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
1 pound red plums, cut into 1/2″ wedges
1/4 cup sugar
freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp honey
flakey sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Cut pastry into six 4″ squares, place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and prick all over with a fork. Top each square with plums, leaving a 1/2″ border. Sprinkle each square with sugar and a few grinds of pepper.
3. Bake tarts until edges of pastry are puffed and golden brown, 25-30 minutes.
4. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with salt just before serving.

Original recipe from Bon Appétit.