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Sweet and Spicy Baked Brie with Cherries

Sweet and Spicy Baked Brie with Cherries

Raise your hand if you get a little excited when one of your favorite fruits goes on sale. And by a little excited, I mean you buy pounds and pounds of it without quite knowing what you’re going to do with all of it. Yeah, that’s me. The good thing is, fruit is a staple in our house and will get eaten even if we don’t use it in ice cream or some intended-but-never-made baked good.

With my fridge full of cherries the past couple weeks, I’ve been trying a ton of new cherry recipes. I actually intended to make this particular recipe with blueberries, even texting my friend Josie to see if she thought that sounded good, but given Clara’s proclivity to eat them all before I can ever cook anything with them, that didn’t happen. The past week or so, she wakes up every morning saying “bluebees!” on repeat until we come downstairs for breakfast. Waking up thinking about food? I don’t know where she gets that, ha! Given that I’d already purchased the cheese and given the overload of cherries in my refrigerator, it seemed a cherry version was fortuitous.

Let’s talk about this cheese for a minute. It’s like your usual baked brie times a thousand. The cherries are mixed with pepper jelly, Dijon mustard and red pepper flakes, giving them a spicy kick. After the brie bakes for a few minutes, the cherry mixture gets mounded on top and baked a bit longer. The whole thing comes out melted and delicious and oozing with the sweet and spicy flavors of the cherries. The juices from the cherries get mixed in with the brie, and the whole thing is pretty stellar. Served with a crusty baguette, I can’t think of a more perfect appetizer for summer entertaining.

Sweet and Spicy Baked Brie with Cherries

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Grilled Sausages with Tomatoes

Grilled Sausages and Tomatoes

There’s a local sausage maker that Eric and I are kind of obsessed with. Well, we are obsessed with their sausages. Is that weird to say? (Side note: if you’re a Richmond local and you haven’t tried anything from Sausage Craft/Salt Pork, do it. You won’t regret it.) We’ve been picking up a pack of sausage whenever we hit the farmers market, which means we’ve been eating sausage at least once a week.

In the “it’s summer, let’s grill everything!” mood I’ve been in lately, I of course wanted nothing else but to grill the sausage. You know what, though? Grilling sausage is not all it’s cracked up to be. Without being poached first, there’s almost no way to get a good sear on the meat without overcooking the inside. I know because we’ve tried. It seemed pointless to cook the sausages inside first and then build a fire only to sear them for a couple minutes. I mean, water certainly doesn’t add any flavor, so I just figured we could skip that step and end up with smoky, flavorful sausages that were only cooked on the grill. Man, I was so wrong. Without being poached first, sausages have a tendency to dry up when grilled. And really, no one wants a dried up sausage, do they?

After eating tasty-but-not-cooked-as-well-as-we-would’ve-liked sausages, Eric and I apparently had the same idea, because we both stumbled across the same Serious Eats article about grilling sausages. We decided to try again, this time with a new method: grill poaching. This yielded the most fantastically juicy and flavorful sausages, and we had a built in side dish. Double win. The sausage cooks in liquid on the grill, soaking up not only the flavor of the cooking liquid but also the smokiness of the grill. When cooked through, all they need is a quick trip to the grill grate to get wonderfully seared.

This method is one that can be used countless ways. We used red wine and a variety of tomatoes this time, and we’ve already discussed making a beer version next. I love grilled tomatoes, so using them was a no-brainer. Because I wanted tomato juices for poaching, I used some larger tomatoes, which I quartered, in addition to grape tomatoes. Garlic, red wine and fresh thyme all added flavor to the tomatoes. We used Cerdito sausages from Sausage Craft, but you can really use just about anything here. We all loved this meal, with Eric and I commenting repeatedly how good it was and how we couldn’t wait to make it again. You know something is really good when you get up from the table before dinner is over so that you can throw bread on the still hot grill and then use it to soak up the juices on your plate. The sausages were perfectly cooked, with that smoky flavor one expects from a charcoal grill. Bonus: the leftover tomatoes, blended with my immersion blender, made an awesome pasta sauce for the next night’s dinner.

Now, since I know we’re going to be making a variation of this meal every week for the foreseeable future, can anyone recommend a grill safe baking pan?

Grilled Sausages and Tomatoes

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Chocolate-Dipped Espresso Shortbread Cookies

Chocolate Dipped Espresso Shortbread Cookies

Two of our dear friends are getting married next month, and I hosted a shower for the bride recently. She is an English teacher and a book lover, so naturally I had to incorporate books, specifically Pride and Prejudice, into the shower. I made a table runner out of book pages, and I used book pages and card stock in the wedding colors to make labels for the food. I also made book page banner (I picked out some of the best scenes, obviously) and hung it with twine. And though I know carnations and baby’s breath are no peonies or hydrangeas, I kind of loved them for this shower.

bridal shower flowers

This was my first time hosting a bridal shower, but I treated it the same as any other party – make as much food as possible in advance, have foods that are easy for people to eat while standing and chatting, and provide edible favors for the guests. These cookies were one of two kinds I included in glassine bags, and I loved the way they turned out. Instead of cutting the cookies into squares, I decided to make them heart shaped. And then I went a step further and dipped them in chocolate. Because, really, who doesn’t love a cookie that’s been dipped in chocolate? You guys know I am coffee obsessed, so any dessert that has espresso, especially when combined with chocolate, is always a winner to me. The espresso flavor in these is strong, and they have just the right amount of sweetness to balance it.

bridal shower decorations

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Shaved Asparagus Pizza

Shaved Asparagus Pizza

Pizza is on the menu pretty regularly in our house. Clara loves helping me prep the pizza dough, and she loves helping us top it even more. One of my very favorite things is having her help in the kitchen, even if it does mean shredding extra cheese for pizza making (because a few handfuls always end up in her mouth while we’re sprinkling it on top).

Sauceless pizzas have always been hit or miss for me. Some I love; others I feel pretty meh about. This pizza obviously falls into the first category. The dough is brushed with olive oil and topped with parmesan and mozzarella. Shaved asparagus is punched up with garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper before being scattered on top of the cheese, and then the whole thing is topped with green onions and lemon juice as soon as it comes out of the oven. It’s the lightest feeling pizza we’ve made, making it perfect for warm weather.

Shaved Asparagus Pizza

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Key Lime Pie with Macadamia Nut Crust

Key Lime Pie with Macadamia Crust

There’s something about a good pie that makes me so happy. I guess because I don’t make them very often, they hold special occasion status for me. As much as I’d like to have a pie in my fridge all the time, I only make them when I know I’ll be serving a group of people. It’s totally because I don’t have enough willpower to stop myself from eating one straight out of the plate.

This key lime pie isn’t traditional, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome. The filling is no-bake, which means minimal oven time while the crust bakes. I don’t know about you, but I love that in the summertime. The filling is reminiscent of one of my favorite cupcakes from the shop where I worked before Clara was born, and I find this pie every bit addictive as that cupcake. My favorite part, though, is the macadamia nut and shortbread crust. Graham crackers are just fine, but this crust is one you’ll want to eat before there’s even any filling inside of it. The texture of the crushed macadamias is a perfect contrast to the creamy, sweet-tart filling. As we gear up for more cookouts, I know I’ll be turning to this dessert over and over again.

If a whole pie isn’t your thing, these key lime pie bars are pretty high on my list of favorite summer desserts, too.

Key Lime Pie with Macadamia Crust

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