Italian-Style Pigs in a Blanket | Holiday Recipes: Make Ahead

Holy November! You guys, this month went out with a serious attitude. We had Winter Storm Brian come through Sunday night and around 5am Monday morning the power went out. During this power outage, there is a small chance my laptop got fried but it’s oddly the only thing in the house effected and it was on a surge protector. So chances are it just decided to die on me for no reason. So when the power finally came back on in the late morning, which also happens to be the time I found out about my dead computer, I had to dive into new laptop research…

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Turkey Sliders with Blueberry Compote | Lighter Recipes For Summer

Who doesn’t love to entertain in the summertime? Each season has its own unique perks to inviting people over and hosting them for dinner or brunch. Winter is all about comforting, hearty dishes that are sometimes indulgent but always delightful. Fall has that wonderful crisp air, the smells are intoxicating (who can resist pumpkin and all those spiced baked goods), and the seasonal produce is arguably the best all year. Spring is a light in the dark after a long, cold winter. The days get longer and warmer, there’s sunshine, everything becomes green again and all the seasonal produce is fresh and light. Summer is bountiful with an overabundance of produce from summer squash to tomatoes to berries to greens. There’s an excess of everything and the sun is shining late into the evening. The one downside (and all seasons have one), is that summer can get hot which is not ideal for heating up a kitchen. That’s why I love these Turkey Sliders.

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Since we’re lazy and haven’t restocked the propane tank for our grill, I’ve been forced to do all the “grilling” inside. Normally, I like to use my grill pan as it’s become my favorite stovetop tool but for this recipe I used my cast iron skillet instead. Cast iron skillets are useful for many reasons. You can use them on the stove, in the oven and even on the grill, and they distribute heat the best out of any cooking tool. The trick is to heat them up before getting started. By preheating the skillet, it ensures an even cooking temperature for all your sliders so that they cook perfect every time. The grill is the ideal cooking method for summertime though. So if you’re taking these outside to cook up, use the same instructions but apply them to your grill instead! It’s so easy and you’ll have less clean up than I did.

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Now for the sliders, I actually filmed the cooking process on Instagram stories a few weeks back if you want to check it out! The videos are saved to my highlights in the “Cooking at Home” category. First, get the blueberry compote started. A compote is like a syrupy jam. Fruit cooks over a low heat with sugar until you get a gooey, syrupy consistency. It’s looser than jam but chunky so not a full-fledged syrup. It’s a great way to use up fruit that might be on its last life instead of throwing it out. Once the compote is finished, move on to the turkey burgers. Mix the meat and create golf ball-sized meatballs before squashing them into patties. Cook these over a medium-high heat. You want to cook turkey hot and fast so that it doesn’t get dried out. Because these are little baby burgers and not full-sized, they’ll cook through quick over the high heat. Once the burgers are done, I like to toast the buns. It adds an extra depth of flavor and shows your guests that you’re willing to go the extra mile. Plus, it tastes fantastic.

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These sliders are perfect for summer entertaining because you can prepare them fast, you can prepare them in advance, they’re light but still super flavorful, they can be cooked outside to avoid heating the house, and they cook up in numbers! Double or triple the batch if you need to feed a crowd and serve them as a heavy appetizers along other summery bites like watermelon, pasta salad, Mexican corn and more! Another perk...sliders are finger food so no forks required. Perfect for that upcoming late summer graduation party you’re hosting soon.

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Turkey Sliders with Blueberry Compote
For the Compote:
1 cup Blueberries
1 tbsp. Sugar
Juice of ½ Lemon

For the Burgers:
1 lb. Ground Turkey
2 Scallions, chopped
1 large Garlic Clove, minced
1 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
¼ cup Parsley, chopped
½ tsp. Lemon Zest
4 Slices Gouda Cheese (each cut into four squares)
4 tbsp. Butter
Slider Buns

Directions:
1 - Prepare the compote. In a small saucepan, mix together the berries, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a light simmer over medium-low heat and cook until it becomes a gooey, jam-like mixture, about 8-10 minutes. If necessary, use a potato masher to break down the berries a little more if it’s too chunky. Take off the heat and let cool.

2 - Mix the burger meat. In a large bowl, mix together the turkey, scallions, garlic, panko bread crumbs, parsley and lemon zest until well incorporated. Form into golf ball sized meatballs and smash flat to form a patty.

3 - Preheat a grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Place the patties on the grill (you might need to work in batches) and cook 3-4 minutes per side until cooked through. About halfway through the cook time on the second side, add two gouda slices so the cheese melts over the patty. Once the turkey burgers are all cooked, spread butter onto the inside of each slider bun and toast on the same grill pan or skillet over low heat for a minute or so.

4 - Build the sliders. Place the slider on top of the bottom half of the bun. Spoon a tablespoon or so of the compote on top of the of the slider and place the top half of the bun over it. Serve!

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Appetizers - Holiday Meal Planning

Meal planning during the holidays can be an absolute nightmare. Thanksgiving might have been yesterday but some families are still celebrating throughout the long weekend and there's still Friendsgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Years'. We've entered the month of entertaining and as much as the season is cheerful and full of memories to be made, it can also be stressful and exhausting. For the next few weeks, we will be sharing recipes from cocktails to dessert. Similar to many other recipes we share on Lattes, Life & Luggage, they'll be relatively simple and quick or at least have quick prep. Put a lot of work behind one dish, the main dish. Let the sides, appetizers and treats all be relatively simple. If you're not hosting and just bringing a dish, these recipes are for you as well. 

The cast-iron skillet is one of the best inventions ever made. Not only is it multi-purpose and durable, it retains heat making it great to set food out for a while. These Cast-Iron Skillet Pizza Bites are not only easy to make, they are a crowd-pleaser. Stick these out on the bar while everyone is arriving to give yourself a little extra time to finish any last-minute dishes and tasks. 

CAST-IRON SKILLET PIZZA BITES
Ingredients: 
12 medium store-bought rolls (or 24 small)
1.5 cups Marinara Sauce
1 cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1 tablespoon Dried Basil
1 tablespoon Dried Oregano
1/4 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

2. Pour about 3/4 cup of the marinara into the cast-iron skillet. Spread around so it's even. Place the rolls into the skillet so they are comfortably nestled together. 

3. Carefully pour 3/4 cup more marinara over the rolls. Use a pastry brush to spread it around evenly. Top with the shredded Mozzarella. Sprinkle basil, oregano and red pepper flakes and top with Parmesan cheese. 

4. Bake 25-30 minutes until the rolls are cooked and golden and the cheese is melted. Serve. 

Tartlettes have become a favorite appetizer of mine for any occasion. They can go sweet, savory or a combination of both. They're adaptable for any season and occasion and they're perfect finger food. Using store bought puff pastry or pie dough takes out most of the prep work. Simply cut it into squares or use a cup or cookie cutter to make circles. Use another baking sheet to keep puff pastry from puffing up too much and arrange the topping. The less ingredients and the less labor they require, the easier they are so try and go for recipes that have pretty simple toppings. 

MINIATURE TARTLETTES
Ingredients:
2 packages of Puff Pastry or Pie Dough
1/4 cup Olive Oil, divided

Topping #1:
2 Heirloom or Beef Steak Tomatoes, sliced 1/2" thick
18 Basil Leaves
2 Mozzarella Balls, sliced 1/4" thick

Topping #2:
1 Yellow Onion, halved and sliced
1 cup Gruyere Cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Honey

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Slice each sheet of Puff Pastry or Pie Dough into 9 squares, or use a cup or cookie cutter to carve out as many circles as possible.

2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and lay your dough squares down. If you're using Pie Dough, place into the oven and bake 15-20 minutes until golden. If you're using Puff Pastry, place another sheet of parchment onto the dough and cover with a baking sheet. This will keep the pastry from puffing too much. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove the baking sheet sitting on top and the extra sheet of parchment and return the pastry to the oven for another 3-5 minutes until golden brown. 

3. While the dough is baking, heat 1 tbsp. of the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently until caramelized. Set aside. 

4. When the dough is finished baking, drizzle olive oil over each of the tartlette bases. On half, layer with a slice of mozzarella cheese followed by a tomato slice and basil leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

5. On the other half of the pastry squares, spoon the caramelized onion and sprinkle with Gruyere cheese. Place back in the oven for about 5 minutes until cheese melts. Remove from the oven and drizzle with honey. Serve.

Yields about 36 tartlettes.

Both of these recipes can be prepared most of the way in advance and popped in the oven right before serving. The pizza bites can be assembled and baked later. The Tomato and Mozzarella Tartlettes can be completely prepared in advance and the Onion and Gruyere Tartlettes can be assembled in advance then baked right as guests are coming in the door. They're all crowd pleasers and the tartlettes can be easily modified to preference. Enjoy!

French Cooking Friday: Onion Tart, A Roast & Canelés

This meal is the magic number that officially converted my Noni. I successfully turned her "I hate French food" into, "this is pretty good." It won't be the last time I have her loving French food either. Tarts are some of my favorite appetizers to make because they're simple and always a hit. They are easily customizable, crowd pleasers, and not too filling so that you spoil the main course. A roast is an easy way to cook a comforting meal without putting in much work. Slow cooking on low temperatures ensures a tender meat that falls apart easily and melts in your mouth. Adding extra flavor is optional but highly recommended. In case this is your first French Cooking Friday post, I'm making my way through Mimi Thorisson's A Kitchen In FranceCatch the intro to the series here.

STARTER: Onion Tart
This tart was bursting with flavor. I've come to learn that people are either strongly pro-onion or anti-onion. I believe that if you are a true foodie, you must be pro-onion because they are such a basic ingredient to adding flavor in your dishes. You don't have to like them raw but to deny them at all in cooking makes no sense. Mimi mentioned in her book that she always has a bowl of onions on the counter, much like having a bowl of fruit. I'm the same way. I always have a ton of onions stored. This recipe calls for one pound of onions. That would seem like a lot and a bit unnecessary but it's not. When onions cook down and caramelize, they take on a sweetness that is irresistible. They also cook down meaning that cooked onions are less in volume than non-cooked onions. This recipe also calls for lardons (bacon chunks) for saltiness and baslamic vinegar for a little tartness. The combination is outstanding. I would have eaten the whole tart if I could.

MAIN COURSE: Roasted "Lamb" Shoulder with Garlic Cream Sauce
I put lamb in quotations because I used a pork shoulder instead. I personally love lamb but it is super expensive. It's popular in Europe so I'm wondering if it's cheaper there, kind of like how pork or beef is for us. More importantly, not everyone in my family likes lamb. If I'm going to splurge on a chunk of meat, everyone is going to love it without question. 

This was the dish that changed my Noni's opinion about French food. She didn't like how the garlic looked roasted, it made her sick, but when it came to the garlic cream sauce spooned over the pork shoulder, she was sold. The sauce is creamy and rich, like stereotypical French food, but a little went a long way and it was so decadent. This is a great Sunday night dinner. It's also simple to prepare. It roasts in the oven for most of the day. All you need to do is whip up the sauce when it's through cooking. It takes but a few minutes.

DESSERT: Canelés de Bordeaux
My success with French desserts has not been stellar. I was looking forward to the canelés because they seemed simple enough. As soon as I put them in the oven, I went back to the book and read the last line of the introduction: "Canelés should have a caramelized crust and a soft inside, so you and your oven might have to make several attempts before they turn out absolutely perfect." My heart sunk. My oven and I don't have a good relationship so I convinced myself that they were going to turn out terrible. Well, the universe must have wanted to give me one because they were perfection the first time. I'm talking, perfect caramelized crust, soft and moist interior. It was the confidence boost that I really needed in the baking department. The one thing I could have done differently is fill the molds a little more. I was worried they'd spill over so some of them are a bit short.

I'm pleased with how this meal turned out. I could have taken the meat from the oven a little earlier. It was a bit dry but still tasty. The onion tart was a hit as were the canelés. Maybe canelés are not the first thing you want to brave when entering French baking but for me, the first time was the charm. I can't wait to share next week's meal with you. It's perfect for spring or summer and I baked my first savory soufflé. Until then, bon week-end!

French Cooking Friday: Artichoke Tartlets & Pan-Seared Chicken

Of all six menus compiled for French Cooking Friday, today's feels most like spring. Light, delicate but bursting with flavor, this is a quick meal that's also decadent and tasty. One thing cooking French has taught me thus far is simplicity is key. You don't need much to create bold flavors. It doesn't take fifty ingredients to make a dish shine. It's all about the small combinations of two or three ingredients to make something as simple as chicken breasts stand out. 

STARTER: Artichoke Tartlets
Europeans love artichokes but artichokes intimidate me. They are so difficult to work with. They're trimmed not enough or too much. You either under cook them or over cook them. They're by far my least favorite vegetable to work with. These tartlets are fairly simple to prepare (if you are a pro at artichokes). The tart is made of puff pastry dough and the "sauce" is sauteed shallots that were cooked with the artichokes. The flavors are incredible. This would have been a huge hit had I cooked the artichokes properly. 

MAIN COURSE: Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts with Spring Onions
This is my favorite main course in the spring portion. The sauce drizzled over the chicken and onions is nothing short of spectacular. I have never tasted anything so incredible in my life. I used a meat thermometer diligently to cook the chicken to the perfect temperature. I'm tired of dry chicken breasts and refused to let that ruin this dish. The spring onions were light enough in flavor to enjoy but not too light so that they did nothing. The sauce calls for Jura Wine or Sherry but having neither on hand, I used Brandy instead. I know substitutions in French sauces can be considered sacrilegious but this worked out beautifully. It prepared in about 20 minutes. It's perfect for a weeknight or a weekend when you want to spend more time with loved ones and less time in the kitchen.

Normally I try to link to the recipes on Manger when they are available but neither of these are on Mimi's blog. I guess that just means you'll have to check out A Kitchen In FranceI'm telling you, this cookbook so far has been an incredible experience to cook through. It's expanded my mind on what French cooking really is and I've even made my Noni a convert. That was not an easy task. I haven't shared the two dishes that have made her go from "I hate French food" to "this is pretty good" yet but they're coming soon and you'll definitely find yourself converting if you haven't already.

Pineapple Salsa

Memorial Day is the unofficial kick-off for summer cookouts. Maybe it's the promise of consistent warm weather for the next three months. Maybe it's the celebration of a winter long gone. Whatever the reason, neighborhoods fill with the scent of grilling and good food. It feels wrong not to participate in the American tradition so I've decided to help you plan a bit. This Pineapple Salsa is great for entertaining for a few reasons. It's make ahead so you don't have to worry about prep that morning. It's a different take on a classic for an easy twist. It's refreshing. The pineapple is a great touch that's juicy and fruity, the perfect combo for a warm day. 

Summer is a great time to introduce fruit to dishes you wouldn't think to mix them with. Salsa is getting a better rep when it comes to fruit. You see mango and pineapple in the stores often during summertime and I've even seen a few berry twists. I love pineapple because the sweet tartness blends really well with tomato and spicy jalapeno. I would recommend using fresh pineapple if you have that option available. It just renders much more flavor but canned pineapple can be used in a pinch. If you want to take this recipe a step further, grill the pineapple before dicing it. It will add a smokey, charred flavor to the salsa and who doesn't love that?

Normally I would use one whole jalapeno but the one I picked up from the store was rather potent. I could smell the spice before I even cut into it. Once I did, oh man was it a tear jerker. With that said, for this recipe I only used a half of a jalapeno but a whole one works too. Use your own heat meter as judgement. I like using red onions in salsas. They are stronger than a white or yellow onion though so if that's something to keep in mind. I'd recommend using half the suggested measurement for onion or switching to a white or yellow variety. Note that it will have a different flavor.

Pineapple Salsa
Ingredients:
2 cups Pineapple, diced
1/2 Red Onion, diced small
2 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
1/2 Jalapeno Pepper, finely chopped
Juice of one lime
2 medium Tomatoes, diced
salt and pepper

Directions:
Chop the pineapples, red onion and garlic and place in a medium-sized bowl. Remove the seeds and ribs from the jalapeno (or leave them in for lots of heat) and add it to the bowl. Squeeze the juice from one lime and add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Cover the bowl tight with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge to marinate overnight or for at least 3 hours. Serve with tortilla chips.

What are your Memorial Day plans? Do you have any favorite cookout recipes?

Holiday Dinner Series Recipe & Round-Up: Appetizers

Putting together a menu is never an easy task. It takes thought, math and grocery shopping which is exhausting in itself. Now that we're in full on holiday season mode, we're all thinking about what to bring to parties we're attending or what to serve at parties we're throwing. One of my favorite things to munch on at parties is baked brie. Having a large one that is a free for all dip fest kind of grosses me out though so I created a recipe for individual baked brie. I love these because they're not messy and they are easy to eat which is perfect for the appetizer mingling hour. This particular recipe is a sweet and savory take using onions, mushrooms and honey but feel free to add whichever ingredients float your boat.

Make sure you have a full proof way of securing the dough. Baking them with the fold up will turn into a mess but securing it with toothpicks or placing them fold side down will save you a hassle. Or you can use a muffin tin instead. Simply place a square of puff pastry in each, fill as usual and fold the edges in.

I love this savory version with a hint of sweetness but brie is excellent baked with fruits as well. Try it with a simple jam or some cranberries to keep it festive. 

Mini Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms and Honey
Ingredients
1 round of Brie, cut into 2 inch squares
1 sheet Puff Pastry Dough, cut into 9 squares
1/4 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 oz. mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 tablespoons honey
1 egg, beaten

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with tin foil or prepare a muffin tin.

2. In a small saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until softened followed by the mushrooms. As soon as the mushrooms have softened completely, add in the dried herbs rubbing them between your fingers as you sprinkle them in to reignite their flavor. Cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.

3. Place the cut puff pastry dough on the tin foil and add a square of brie to each. If you're using a muffin tin, place a square of puff pastry in each making sure the edges overlap the sides, fold edges in once filled. Top with the onion and mushroom mixture followed by a drizzle of honey. Bring each corner of the dough to the top center, press the edges together firmly to seal and place the fold facing down. Brush a little egg wash on each mini brie pocket and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Serve Immediately.

Here are some other great recipes to try for the holiday season:
5-Ingredient Caprese Phyllo Cups - Gimme Some Oven
Bacon Wrapped Goat Cheese Stuffed Bites - Betsylife
Caramelized Butternut Squash and Gorgonzola Crostini - Wisconsin Cheese Talk
Havarti, Pear and Walnut Puff Pastry Bites - Shared Appetite
Kickin' Chicken Bites - Julie's Eats and Treats
Mashed Potato Puffs - The Cooking Jar
Mini Cheese Ball Bites - Tastes Better From Scratch
Mini Grilled Cheese Sandwiches - Inspired By Charm
Mini Lasagna Rolls - Home Made Interest
Olive Cheese Straws - Kitchen Confidante
Roasted Grape Crostini with Goat Cheese and Walnuts - Healthy Seasonal Recipes
Sausage Cheese Balls - Wishes and Dishes
Sun Dried Tomato Polenta Bites - Recipe Girl
Sweet Potato Rounds With Herbed Ricotta and Walnuts - The Roasted Root
Sweet Vidalia Onion Dip - The View From Great Island