Hi, I’m Jaime and I’m addicted to parties. If you’re wondering what the hell that has to do with goat cheese and roasted grape crostini, I promise I’ll make the connection shortly.
Anyway—I love planning parties, and I don’t discriminate on the type. From themed dinner parties, to baby showers, to birthday soirees, they’re all fun in their own way. My friends and family know that, so I’m often their go-to gal when they need help with an event (and I love it that way!)
Even though 2019 has just started, it’s already shaping up to be a year full of celebrations. My best friend just got engaged, so I’m sure there will be some bridal showers and bachelorette parties in my future. Next month, I’m having a Galentine’s Day party for my book club and I’m also co-hosting a baby shower.
All of that to say, party food has been on my brain. But after all of the holiday events, I can’t look at another cream cheese-filled dip or store-bought veggie tray. This party appetizer is different, beautiful, easy to make, and, most importantly, tasty.
I work for Cooking Light, and one of our editors developed a recipe for a wheat berry bowl with roasted grapes and goat cheese. Inspired by the trio of tangy-creamy-sweet flavors, I wanted to replicate it in a more party-friendly way. If you’ve never had roasted grapes, don’t be intimidated. They’re less tangy than grapes straight from the bag, and they taste jammier (if that makes sense.) In short, they’re delicious and worth trying. I promise, this will be your new favorite app to serve at parties.
This Warm Goat Cheese and Roasted Grape Crostini is about to be your new favorite party appetizer.
4cupsred seedless grapes
4 oz.goat cheese
1/4cupwhipped cream cheese
2tbsp. olive oil, divided
cracked black pepper
fresh thyme leaves
1bottle balsamic glaze
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place goat cheese into a small, microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 20-30 seconds (until completely softened). Mix in cream cheese, and season generously with salt, pepper, and 5 sprigs of thyme leaves (removed from stems). Set aside.
Wash and dry grapes. In a bowl, combine grapes with 1 tbsp. olive oil, and season generously with salt and pepper.
Place grapes on baking tray and roast for 12-15 minutes, or until grapes begin to split open.
Turn oven broiler to high. Drizzle remaining olive oil on bread slices, and place on baking tray. Place in oven in rack below grapes for 1 minute (or until bread is lightly toasted.)
Begin assembly. Swipe bread with goat cheese mixture and layer on about 2-3 tbsp. of grapes per slice. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and sprinkle with additional thyme leaves, if desired.
I love ordering the Asian chicken salad when I go to Cheesecake Factory. My husband makes fun of me for ordering a salad when we go out to eat, but this one isn’t just a sad, cold pile of iceberg. It has such great texture and flavor, and it feels special.
I wanted to recreate an Asian chicken salad to prep for workweek lunches, and this one fit the bill beautifully. The chicken adds protein, the peanuts give great crunch, and the Mandarin oranges round out the mostly umami dish with welcome sweetness.
But…it took me a few tries to get the vinaigrette right. The Cheesecake Factory’s Asian chicken salad dressing is plum sauce-based, but I didn’t want that much sugar in mine. I prefer a dressing that’s a bit more on the savory side—especially if I’m eating it for lunch all week.
The dressing I made has just a bit of light brown sugar for sweetness, but relies largely on soy sauce, sesame seed oil, and apple cider vinegar to up the flavor ante. Feel free to adjust the dressing to your liking (I personally like a more acidic dressing, so add more olive or sesame oil if that’s your jam.)
To make this salad even speedier, use leftover rotisserie chicken. Make it vegetarian by opting for pan-fried tofu or shelled edamame.
Have y’all ever heard of Chicken Kitchen? It’s a fast-casual restaurant known for its chicken “chop chop salads”—bowls made with chicken, rice, black beans, and veggies. Chicken Kitchen has plenty of sauces to choose from, but my favorite was always their curry-mustard sauce. Pollo Tropical has a really similar version that’s also super delicious. Since I live in Alabama, there are no Chicken Kitchens or Pollo Tropicals near me.
I know, I know, it’s really sad. And I’ve had a massive curry-mustard sauce void in my life since I moved here from South Florida. But, alas, I’ve found the next best thing: making it myself at home.
The curry-mustard sauce combo sounds a little weird, but if you think about it, curry and mustard pair beautifully together. Mustard and curry powder are often used together in Indian cooking, and they’re absolutely delicious over meat, in stews, or in curry.
This curry-mustard sauce is no exception. I like to spoon it over DIY chicken chop chop salads or roasted veggies (carrots and sweet potatoes are divine). If you’re on the fence about trying this sauce, it only requires three ingredients and about 30 seconds of your time (so, um, not much investment). But I promise, it’s so easy and delicious, you’ll want to make it again and again.
Much like politics and religion at the dinner table, cranberry sauce can be divisive among families on Thanksgiving. I find that you’re either team “love it” or “hate it”, and there’s really no in-between. Unfortunately, I kind of fall in the latter camp. But I still make it every year for my dad from scratch. I say “from scratch”, but this easy cranberry sauce takes all of 10 minutes—and like four ingredients—to make. And since this sauce is more zesty than tart, if you’re on the fence like I am, you may be able to switch to the cran-loving dark side.
Even though I’m not a *huge* fan of cranberry sauce, I absolutely love making it. It’s so fun to watch the little berries pop and release their gorgeous juices. If you have kids, this is something they can definitely help you make on Thanksgiving. And, oh my God, it makes your kitchen smell divine. You’ll never want to buy a can of that jellied mush again after making this easy cranberry sauce.
I tried shishito peppers for the first time about a year ago, and all I have to say is “OMG why did I wait so long?!” They’re so tasty, and very mild. Only about one in 10 peppers is has a kick to it. Plus, shishito peppers require few ingredients to really shine—so they’re easy to make at home with what you already have in your pantry.
My recipe is really simple: You just heat a little olive oil (about a tablespoon) in a cast-iron skillet and get it hot. Then, when the oil begins to glimmer, add peppers to your pan and cook them over medium-high heat, tossing occasionally until they’re blistered and slightly charred. It should take about 5-10 minutes. After they’re nicely charred, toss them with flaky sea salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and a teaspoon of minced garlic (I cheated and used a cube of Dorot crushed garlic, which you can find in the freezer section of Trader Joe’s.)
Shishito peppers are a perfect one-bite appetizer to serve with cocktails, and you can adapt the peppers to suit your taste. Craving Latin flavor? Add some cumin, a squeeze of lime juice, and crumbled cotija cheese. Want to lean more Asian-inspired? Sub the olive oil for sesame oil, and sprinkle with sesame seeds and drizzle with soy sauce. The world is your oyster. The good news? No matter how you make blistered shishito peppers, they’re pretty much always delicious.
I stumbled on a recipe for crab-corn chowder in the November issue of Weight Watchers Magazine (it’s similar to this one). Needless to say, I was intrigued. Chowder is one of my favorite dishes, but it can be super heavy. All of that butter and heavy cream is really delicious, but not exactly diet-friendly!
Cold fall nights require something hearty and filling, so I was excited to try the Weight Watchers version. But, honestly, I thought it fell a little flat. It needed some extra pizzaz, so I adjusted the recipe slightly.
I’m sharing my version of crab-corn chowder here. I think you’ll really dig it. The addition of Old Bay seasoning and crab claw meat, plus the smattering of fresh chives really punches up the flavor and takes it to the next level.
3celery stalks, leaves and fibrous ends removed, chopped into small pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
3.5cups2% reduced-fat milk
1/2cuphalf and half, plus more for drizzling
2(10-oz.) bagsfrozen corn kernels
8oz. crab claw meat
2tsp.Old Bay seasoning
1tbsp.fresh thyme leaves
1tbsp.fresh chives, snipped
Heat olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer (about 1-2 minutes). Add diced onion and celery, and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and thyme, and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Do not let garlic brown.
Add flour, and slowly add milk and half and half, scraping the little brown bits from the bottom of the pot.
Add corn and simmer for 8-10 minutes until soft.
Add soup mixture to blender and pulse a few times until chunky (be careful with hot soup, and open blender vent and cover with towel, if possible).
Add soup mixture back to pot. Let simmer for additional 5-6 minutes. Add crab meat, and stir until combined. Serve immediately. Garnish with chives and drizzle with half and half.
I’m a little embarrassed to actually call this a “recipe”, because I basically just dressed up a box of Kodiak cake mix. But I wanted to share it with y’all because these buttermilk-oat muffins only take 20 minutes to make. Plus, they actually turned out pretty dang good.
I was inspired to make these little muffins after eating a buttermilk-oat muffin at a local coffee shop near me. The muffin wasn’t overly sweet, and it was hearty without being too “healthy” tasting. It was the Goldilocks of muffins—it was juuussst right.
I was craving carbs (and thinking about those muffins) one morning. Since I didn’t feel like driving across town to that coffee shop, I decided to make some pancakes from a box. It was fate. I looked on the back of my Kodiak cake mix and saw there was a muffin recipe. I tinkered with it a bit, and came up with these guys.
If you’re looking for a super-sweet muffin (like chocolate chip or blueberry), these probably won’t be your jam. You could always add more sugar, but I think they’re quite delicious as-is. The bananas and whole grains add fiber (which keeps you full), while light brown sugar rounds out the tangy buttermilk flavor. And the crumbly oat topping adds great texture.
These buttermilk-oat muffins would be delicious with a cup of coffee, served at brunch, or made in advance for your weekday breakfast.
If you’re a fan of bananas, you’ve probably eaten—or at least heard of—bananas foster. It’s a traditional New Orleans dessert that originated at Brennan’s (side note: go there if you’re ever in Nola, we went for brunch during my bachelorette party and it was to die for!) Anyway, bananas foster is traditionally made by sautéing bananas in sugar and brown butter, then dousing it in rum and lighting it on fire until it’s caramelized and ooey-gooey. It’s pretty spectacular to watch—but not as easy to replicate at home without burning off your eyebrows. I wanted to bring the flavors of New Orleans back home, so I developed this recipe for bananas foster oatmeal. It has just three ingredients, and it’ll make your mornings so much better. Best part? No flambéing is required. Worst part? There’s no rum in it (sorry).
I usually don’t like to put up recipes where you have to buy one *specific* ingredient—especially if you can’t find it at every grocery store—but B. Nutty’s salted caramel peanut butter is a requirement for this recipe (here are locations where you can buy it, or you can buy it on Amazon for like $8). I know, it’s pricey and slightly inconvenient to buy PB online, but it really makes a difference in the recipe. Sure, you can use plain PB or almond butter, but you’re not going to get that rich, caramel taste like you will with this brand.
If you’re still with me, here’s how to make this bougie bananas foster oatmeal (I promise it’s worth it):
We got a Le Cruset 5.5-quart Dutch oven for our wedding. It was one of my most-coveted items on our registry, so I really wanted to make something special the first time we used it. (Real food people will understand my weirdness about this). I took a chance developing a recipe for the first time in my Dutch oven. I’d never made this type of dish before, but these Spanish-style braised chicken drumsticks turned out great.
This dish is super savory and perfect for crisp nights—the fall-off-the-bone meat and stewed vegetables really warm you from the inside out. Bonus points if you sop up the extra sauce with rice or a side of patatas bravas.
Since there are just a few ingredients in this recipe, you want to make sure they shine. At the risk of sounding like Ina Garten, make sure you’re using high-quality chicken, real garlic cloves, and good olive oil. Trust me, good ingredients make a big difference.
I first tried patatas bravas while in Spain. Though there are plenty of restaurants in America that serve them, I couldn’t seem to find that smoky and slightly spicy aioli that rivaled the kind I had in Spain. So, I tried making it myself. Full disclosure: it took me several tries to get it right, but I think I finally found the (no pun intended) secret sauce.
I cut corners (and calories) by microwaving baby potatoes first, instead of cooking them the entire time in oil. Par-cooking the potatoes ensures fork-tenderness and a fluffy interior, but you’ll still get that golden-brown crust by finishing cooked potatoes in a skillet with olive oil.
These patatas bravas are good, but the pièce de résistance is truly the aioli (pronounced aye-oly…or, if you’re in Spain, allie-oly). I hate to brag, but this stuff is the bomb.com. Even my mayo-hating husband happily dunked his potatoes in this luscious red sauce. It’s more smoky than spicy, but you’ll still get a little kick at the end. Feel free to add more spice if that’s your style (you’re a rebel, and I like you already).