It's Labor Day weekend, I'm back from vacation (sniff, sniff), Caitlin is getting ready to start her new teaching job (exciting!!!) and it's time to say goodbye to summer.

So, my oven was acting up and I had to get inventive with the idea of making an end of summer tart.  Instead of baking a fruit tart, I opted to make a refreshing cream-cheese "no bake" tart.  It's basically a take on a cheesecake but the best thing about it is just how quick, easy and most importantly, how good it truly is!

The crust is comprised of crushed up graham crackers with a bit of butter to hold it together. The main layer is cream cheese, whipped topping, fresh lemon juice and a tad of sugar.  I opted to top it with some deliciously sweet fresh blueberries and lemon zest.  That's it!  All you have to do is chill it and a few hours later it is ready to be devoured.  Doesn't get much easier than that!!!  

P.S. It is the perfect sweet treat for any end of summer/Labor Day weekend barbecues.
It's the end of summer, why not indulge a bit with some Prosecco.

As I mentioned, I am just back from a fabulous vacation in the UK...here's some music inspired by that and this delicious treat:
1).  The Four Seasons:  Dawn (Go Away)
2).  Pink Martini:  Sunday Table
3).  The Beatles:  Mr. Moonlight
4).  Bon Iver:  Lump Sum
5).  Avicci:  Levels



Nothing says summer like a light, sweet shortcake. Here are our takes on this summertime classic!

Grilling isn't just for savory delights, it is perfect for all the wonderful stone fruits summer has to offer.  After grilling up some amazing portabella burgers I decided to slice up some peaches and throw them onto the grill. Grilling fruit, like peaches, enhances the flavor tremendously; and is an unexpected addition to a typical shortcake recipe.  

The base of my recipe was the buttermilk biscuit. I found a great recipe for a simple biscuit here (follow the ingredient list and omit the cinnamon butter, unless you want to make some for the leftover biscuits).
I simply filled the biscuit with homemade vanilla cream, grilled peaches, more cream, crushed pretzels (for the salty/sweet combo so many of us love), and finally the other half of the biscuit.  If you want to omit the pretzels, then sprinkle some coarse sea salt on the cream before topping it off with the biscuit.
If it is too late in the summer to find the perfect peach, any stone fruit would be delicious. the biscuits aren't too labor intensive, however, require more preparation and baking time. I recommend making them ahead of time, allowing them to cool while you prepare the other elements of the dish. This shortcake is the perfect way to enjoy the warm summer nights!
I enjoyed my shortcake with a strong, soy iced latte with a dash of cinnamon.

Perfect music for a warm August night:
1).  The Drifters: Under The Boardwalk
2).  Willie Nelson: Worry B Gone
3).  Bob Marley: Waiting in Vain
4). The Rolling Stones: Beast of Burden
5).  Bob Dylan: To Be Alone With You

Sweet and Salty Strawberry, Cream Cheese Whipped Cream and Pretzel Shortcake

One of my favorite desserts is something that Monica makes with strawberry sauce, cream cheese and pretzels. When we were mulling over the idea of a shortcake dessert, I wanted to try something different but really capture that sweet and salty combination that I love. So I topped the shortcake with strawberry sauce, whipped cream with added cream cheese and then I crumbled pretzels over it - it was delicious! A quick and easy summer night dessert that satisfied my sweet and salty craving.
Green tea iced tea

I had just watched the first episode of Treme (great show, by the way) and they played Louis Prima's Buona Sera in it's entirety. I hadn't heard that song in years and it sounded great! So this playlist is Treme/ Louis Prima inspired. 
1). Louis Prima: Buona Sera
2).  Dean Martin: Volare
3). Dr. John: Junko Partner
4). Louis Armstrong: Skokiaan (South African Song) 



This burger is amazing! It does take some minimal prep time (which can be done ahead and set aside), but it's well worth it. I served it with grilled red bell peppers. Perfect summer dish.
A bit messy, but well worth it.
Some summer bbq'ing fun music
1. Calvin Harris - "The Rain"
2. Mike Snow - "Animal"
3. The Knife - "Heartbeats"
4. Belle and Sebastian - "The Boy with the Arab Strap"
5. The Specials - "A Message to Rudy"

A light Mexican beer - Dos Equis, Tecate or Modelo

So Caitlin came up with this fab flavor combination for a summer burger.  With summer in full swing, what's better than a perfectly grilled burger?! We used many of the same flavors in our burger, however, I substituted grilled chicken and portabella mushrooms instead of the red meat patty. Now to keep this 100% veggie, omit the chicken, and use the grilled mushrooms.  The mushrooms are "meaty" and tasty enough to substitute for the meat (not to mention a slightly healthier option).

Don't forget the Sriracha!

Music for a perfect summer evening:
1.  Los Fabulosos Cadillacs - "Te tiraré del altar"
2.  Jimmy Cliff - "Wonderful World, Beautiful People"
3.  Madeleine Peyroux - "I'm All Right"
4.  Paul Simon - "Dazzling Blue"
5.  The Rolling Stones - "Miss You"

Sierra Nevada "Summerfest" Beer...a good seasonal beer!



Berries, brownies, shortbread, vanilla bean ice cream...need we say more!

Brownie Parfait with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Mixed Berry Sauce with Brandy
So, I was browsing around on Pinterest the other day looking for cute crafty things that I'll probably never start or finish, and there were tons of dessert pins - things like baked s'mores cookies, chewy chocolatey cookies and the mother of all sweet combinations: peanut butter and chocolate (my absolute favorite!). So needless to say, I was craving something sickly sweet. I decided to make brownies from a recipe I've been using for years. I found it in the cookbook, The New California Cook; recipes that use seasonal fruits and vegetables native to Southern California. I found it in the discount bin at Borders years ago for 4.95 and have been modifying recipes and ideas from it ever since. Anyway, there's a great brownie recipe that I've taken and tweaked here and there to perfection. So I threw it in a glass with some vanilla bean ice cream and mixed berry sauce with brandy. Mission accomplished - sweet tooth fulfilled and here we are with a new blog post. It's an easy weeknight dessert that you can make ahead and throw together at the last minute.  And it tastes awesome!

Mixed Berry Sauce with Brandy

So, I should preface this playlist by saying that I had just watched Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris (which I absolutely loved!!) so the following playlist is inspired by music from the movie.
1)  You're the Top - Cole Porter
2)  La Mer - Chantal Chamberland
3)  I Got Rhythm - Ella Fitzgerald
4)  La Conga Blicoti - Josephine Baker
5)  I'm in the Mood for Love - Louis Armstrong

With spring's arrival comes warm afternoons and delicious fruit based desserts. This dessert parfait is no exception. It is refreshing, delicious, and just the right size. Caitlin opted for a brownie based parfait (which is incredible) and I decided to do a take on the traditional strawberry-shortcake dessert which is popular this time of the year.

The only thing I had to bake was the shortbread. This was my first time baking shortbread and I was pleasantly surprised by the simplicity of this particular recipe adapted from Food & WineYes, I used butter, and it was worth it! (Everything in moderation, right??!!) What I loved most about the final product is how much it reminded me of those Walkers shortbread cookies - soooo good!

The strawberry - cinnamon sauce was also quite delicious. You can choose to use yogurt here instead, however, I had a craving for vanilla bean ice cream and so I decided to go all out. If you have any sauce leftover, it is a delicious addition to a bowl of Greek yogurt in the morning. 

{melting, but still delicious!}
Baking and assembling music:
1) Bluebird of Happiness - Mojave 3
2) He's a Rebel - The Crystals
3) Gone Daddy Gone - Violent Femmes
4) Sheila Is a Punk Rocker - Ramones
5) Easy - Anoushka Shankar



With a new year, comes the resolve to make healthy lifestyle changes. For some of us, it's not too much of a stretch from our regular routine, but for others it's a change that needs some getting used to. This recipe is quick, easy and you can make it as healthy or as decadent as you wish. We made Parmesan/parsley breadcrumbs and used it as the crust for boneless chicken and eggplant served over healthy greens with 2 versions of a vinaigrette. Try one or try both - they won't pack on the calories but they don't skimp on flavor either.
Caitlin's version: Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breast over Spinach with Honey-Lime Vinaigrette

This is a great recipe while you're trying to eat healthier but don't want to skimp on flavor either. For the breadcrumbs you can use any kind of bread you have on hand - I've tried just about everything from a baguette to sourdough and Pumpernickle to plain old whole wheat - they all work. As some of you know, my husband and I have been going to CrossFit four times a week for the past month (to try and work off our holiday decadence). We feel great! And let me just tell you that doing 200 squats and 900 (yes, 900) jump ropes is no joke - but we did it! This is a great meal on those kinds of nights - it's super easy and you don't feel like you've wasted your time on squats only to pack it all back on with a rich butter sauce - I save that for the weekend :)

Parmesan Breadcrumbs:

Toast your bread, throw it in the blender with a bit of parsley, some Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Blend and voila!

Note about measurements: I don't do them, I usually just use ratios. Equal parts bread to cheese was too much for me, so I used much more bread to cheese.

Chicken Prep:
Hammer that sucker out flat! I usually pound it out to about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thick. It'll cook faster and it tastes better over the greens when it's thin. Dip it in egg/water wash and coat with breadcrumbs. Heat oil (I use grapeseed because it has a higher burn temperature than olive and it also has less cholesterol). Cook for about 2-3 minutes per side until done and sprinkle with a little sea salt. *If you're using a lot of cheese in the breadcrumbs, use more oil because it'll stick to the pan as it cooks.

Throw it all Together With a Vinaigrette:
For the Vinaigrette: whisk together equal parts honey and lime juice. Slowly whisk in olive or grapeseed oil to make an emulsion (use about double from your honey/lime mixture). Add a little salt and taste to adjust any of the ingredients.
Put your greens on the plate - I usually use spinach and some sliced red bell peppers - throw your chicken on top with some shaved Parmesan and drizzle the vinaigrette on top of everything. 
Eat and Enjoy!

If you're looking for a glass of wine, Viognier would be great. If not, sparkling water with a lime.

1)  You've Got to be Kidding Me - A.C. Newman
2)  So He Won't Break - The Black Keys
3)  So Here We Are - Bloc Party
4)  Dirty Life - Ima Robot
5)  Sometimes Always - The Jesus & Mary Chain

Monica's version: Eggplant Parmesan w/Spring Mix Salad
I love eggplant parmesan, even though I rarely make it.  The reason being is that I don't like that most recipes call for frying it to crispy perfection.   

I don't like to fry things unless absolutely necessary. I even oven bake my homemade fries.  So here is my take on a baked eggplant parmesan.  Is it just as yummy as the fried version? Why, yes, yes it is!

Prep the eggplant:

Cut the eggplant in rounds and salt it for about 20 - 30 minutes to remove the bitterness.  This is optional, however, I always prefer to do this in case the eggplant is too bitter.

After that, beat one egg, set aside in a bowl. Prep the bread portion of the breadcrumbs just as Caitlin mentioned. I combined my breadcrumbs with oregano, parmesan cheese, and a pinch of salt.  Dip each eggplant slice in the egg then the breadcrumb mixture.  Lay on baking sheet & top with olive oil drizzle.
Bake at 425 for about 30 minutes or until golden brown & soft in the middle.

Prep the Salad & Vinaigrette:
I decided to make one of my favorite salads to eat alongside my eggplant.  Making it healthier, means no pasta, and substituting those empty calories with a healthy, seasonal salad.  I used a spring mix salad mix with dried cranberries, walnuts, and juicy California Navel Oranges cut into smaller pieces. 

I made a delicious Champagne Vinaigrette to dress the salad inspired by Martha Stewart's recipe: 2 tsp Dijon, 1/4  cup champagne vinegar, 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, pinch of pepper. Whisk it all together, except slowly drizzle in olive oil and season with salt & pepper.

You can opt to eat the eggplant as is, or you can top some slices with mozzarella about 10 minutes before it is done and put it back into the oven to melt.  

I also decided to make an easy marinara sauce, again this is optional.  All I did was mince 4 cloves of garlic and saute in 3 tablespoons of olive oil; then I added a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes with a cup of organic tomato sauce and a few pinches of salt and oregano. I let it come to a boil and simmered it for about an hour on the stove.  It was easy and delicious.

Although there was a bit of prep work involved in making this dish, it was well worth it!  It was the perfect meal for lunch or dinner.  

I made a Mango Spritzer: fill your glas 1/3 full of your favorite mango nectar (I like an all-natural nectar without all the added sugar) and top it off with sparkling water. It's refreshingly perfect!

1)  Listen To My Heart - The Ramones
2)  Peace Officer - Jimmy Cliff
3)  Sweet Talkin' Woman - E.L.O.
4)  Glory Box - Portishead
5)  Cherub Rock - Smashing Pumpkins