3-Ingredient Appetizer & Brunch Recipes (TODAY Show)

I closed out an amazing year with a fun segment on TODAY Show where I showed Carson Daly how to make six different 3-ingredient recipes--3 easy party appetizers and 3 easy brunch recipes.

Though the segment was New Year's-focused, these quick and easy dishes are great for anytime of year!

The potato chip omelet and whipped ricotta are my two faves (and on the show, Carson was a big fan of the chorizo pigs-in-a-blanket).

Watch the video here:


DIY Cocoa Spicy Sugar Scrub Hostess Gift Basket

Thanks to Coca-Cola for sponsoring this holiday post. All ideas and opinions are my own!

We know it shouldn't be this way, but for many of us, the holiday season can often be as crazy as it is joyful. From parties and travel to shopping, decorating, and even just dealing with unexpected weather, these weeks can often take a lot out of us.

This is why I'm so thankful for those amazing people in our lives who always seem to go above and beyond. They're the people you know you can always count on for help no matter how big or small, and the ones who go out of their way to make this season better, happier, and more magical for all of us.


Chewy Espresso Cookies

Thank you Domino® Sugar for sponsoring this holiday baking post. 

Did you grow up baking Christmas cookies in your family? I know it's a tradition for many, but you might be surprised to learn that it's actually not the case for me.

My mom is a great cook, but she absolutely does not bake. My grandmother used to make wonderful desserts, but very few of those involved baking. Our holiday treats and traditions consisted of Puerto Rican favorites like arroz con leche (rice pudding), tembleque (coconut pudding), and coquito (our Puerto Rican version of eggnog), the latter of which my mom would make in bulk every December for my dad to give to his coworkers.


$20 Dinner for 4 (TODAY Show)

I was back on TODAY Show yesterday, competing in a friendly food challenge against Food & Wine Magazine's Justin Chapple. We were both challenge to create a meal for a family of 4 that cost less than $20 using ingredients from a set shopping list.

Watch the video above, and click here for the recipe for my Roasted Root Veggie Tacos with Goat Cheese Cream.


Spiced Apple Quinoa Salad with Pecans

Quinoa salads are one of my favorite things to serve when entertaining large groups for a number of reasons. The Spiced Apple Quinoa Salad with Pecans can be prepared up to two days in advance which saves a lot of time on the day of the party (and it even tastes better after the dressing has had time to soak in!)


Cranberry Sauce Crostini with Garlic & Herbed Goat Cheese

Here's a super simple idea to serve at your next holiday party: Cranberry Sauce Crostini with Garlic & Herbed Goat Cheese!

I love easy appetizers like this that come together quickly, look gorgeous, and taste amazing. These are great to make in advance and serve guests as they arrive. They can enjoy with a glass of sparkling wine or a cocktail, while you finish things up in the kitchen.


Ritz Cracker Snack Ideas (TODAY Show)

I turned Ritz Crackers into three super easy and fun party appetizer recipes in this TODAY Show segment with Tamron, Dylan, and celebrity guest co-host Harry Connick Jr!

(He's so much fun, you guys! And gorgeous.)

Click below to watch the video:


Chipotle Maple Butternut Squash Soup

chipotle maple butternut squash soup
From the name, you can tell that this Chipotle Maple Butternut Squash Soup has it all.

(Well...you know...soup-wise.

A little bit spicy.

A little bit sweet.

Incredibly, ridiculously, lusciously creamy.

It's serious velvety Heaven in a bowl, and perfect for those frigid winter days that are quickly and unrelentingly barreling our way.


How to Throw the Ultimate All-Dessert Party

The name of my blog should be a pretty big clue that I never need special excuses or reasons to bring a little sweetness into my life. But upon learning that October is also known as National Dessert Month, I decided an All-Dessert Party for grown-ups definitely needed to happen.

If you’ve been looking for ideas to host your friends in a fun, low-key way, this is totally it!

Here are some ideas for making it happen:


5 Inspiring Reminders for Women Entrepreneurs

I wanted to go, but wasn't sure I could make it happen. Fall is the busiest time of year for those of us who work in food, and it's been one of those months where the hours in the day are just never enough. I was in Vermont cooking 12 hours a day while simultaneously juggling work projects back home, when the invitation came in via a longtime family friend.

It was a for daylong seminar sponsored by Prudential and cohosted by DiMe Media and popular podcasters, The Great Girlfriends, featuring a series of TED-style talks geared toward women entrepreneurs as a way to help us take control of our career and financial futures. 

I said yes, deciding to take the risk despite my concerns about additional time away from my desk and impending deadlines.

And when I took a seat a few days later and heard the first of several incredible speakers?

That's when I knew my hunch had been right, and that I was exactly where I needed to be.

I was completely captivated by the incredible women who spoke that day, and filled a notebook with notes, quotes, and ideas that jumped out at me during the talks. The following are just a handful of the noteworthy lessons I took home from the event; I hope that you find them as inspiring as I did!

Vegan Chocolate Banana Bread

This easy Vegan Chocolate Banana Bread recipe is a bit of a departure for me since, I'll be honest...vegan baking is usually not my everyday go-to. I love baking with butter. I love baking with eggs. I love baking with milk (or cream!). I use them liberally and think there is nothing wrong with that.


I can also really appreciate the value of some great vegan baked goods like this Vegan Double Chocolate Banana Bread.

I bake and serve them to the vegan yoga groups I cook for up in Vermont. And I love having the recipes in my back pocket when cooking for vegan friends or those with egg allergies or dairy allergies.

Because at the end of the day, I just want everyone to be able to enjoy delicious things.

I also really love vegan recipes on those days when I'm totally out of eggs or milk or butter, and need alternatives that will let me stick to the stuff in my pantry.

(Especially during the winter when I will do EVERYTHING in my power to not have to leave the house.)

This recipe is perfect for those days when you have ripe bananas, but no eggs.

Mashed bananas can often be used successfully as an egg-replacer, and they work especially well in quick breads like this one.

It's just one of those super forgiving recipes that will let you mix up, bake, and serve a sweet treat without much fuss and making use of stuff you already have on hand.

This extra-chocolatey vegan banana bread gets a double-dose of goodness from cocoa and dark chocolate chips. Note that if you want this to be truly vegan, you should make sure the chips have no dairy added (some brands do; some brands don't).

This produces a rich and moist cake that's not too sweet and perfect for breakfast or brunch or a late-afternoon snack.

(And hey...if you want to toast it up and spread it with a bit of butter or cream cheese...I'd be totally OK with that, too.)

Loved this recipe? Here are three other vegan recipes you might like:

And let's connect so you can find out the next time I post! Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates.

Thanks so much for reading

Vegan Chocolate Banana Bread Recipe
Makes 1 9x5” loaf

3 medium overripe bananas, mashed until smooth
1/3 cup oil (use vegetable, peanut or a light olive oil. coconut oil works, too, but keep in mind that it will add slight coconut flavor to the bread.)
3/4 cup brown sugar OR coconut palm sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup non-dairy milk (coconut, almond, cashew, etc.)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not dutch)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x5” nonstick loaf pan with baking spray or vegetable oil, and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together bananas, oil, sugar, vanilla, and milk until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth. Fold in chocolate chips, then pour into prepared pan.

Bake about 45 to 55 minutes, or until cake has risen and is slightly cracked, and a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool in pan 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges to loosen and remove from pan. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

*note that not all chocolate chips are vegan, so be sure to check out the ingredients

Tiramisu Cake and Peach Upside-Down Cake (TODAY Show)

I was super excited to participate in two cooking segments on my latest visit to the TODAY Show. We were talking about box mix hacks all day, starting with a box mix and turning it into total showstopper desserts like my Chocolate Tiramisu Cake (with rum and a homemade mascarpone frosting!) and an Upside-Down Cornbread Peach Cake.

I had so much fun with Al Roker and the whole team; this was probably my most favorite segment yet! Click below to watch the video!

Making Brookies! (TODAY Show)

I was back on the TODAY Show this week sharing a few box mix baking hacks--fun and easy ways to take a standard box mix from plain to fabulous. In my first segment, I showed Al Roker how to make "brookies" aka brownies with cookies baked on top.

Such a fun recipe that you can easily customize by adding espresso powder and using your favorite cookie dough. Click the video below to watch!

Coconut Mango Couscous Salad (+ Ideas for a Tropical Fall Party Menu!)

This weekend, I invited a few of my favorite people over for a cozy and relaxed Fall lunch party at home. After a busy summer, it felt really great to finally relax and catch-up with friends over delicious food and drinks.

My party menu was inspired by a new product I've been working with this season called Dole Fruit n' Spice, which is a line of spiced frozen fruit that combines fruit like mangos, pineapple, and apples with spices like chili and cinnamon. It's a new product and I hadn't heard about it until I started working with them, but I'm genuinely obsessed with how good they are, and with all the ways you can use them to make both sweet and savory recipes.


3 #Squadgoal Parties to Host this Fall

Saying good-bye to summer has never been easy for me, but I'm slowly starting to get into the spirit. From comfort food and apple cider donuts to cute new outfits and being able to maintain a blow-out in the crisp, humidity-free air, I reluctantly admit that Autumn does have its charms.

And one of my favorites is that I can start entertaining again!

I'm not sure how it is in your circle, but in mine, summer is always such a blur of travel, weddings, and beach weekends. Nobody ever seems to be in town at the same time, and finding days when everyone can get together is always a challenge. But Fall brings with it a welcome return to routine--and the perfect opportunity to bring your faves together for some much-needed girl time.

This month, I paired up with the cool folks at Barefoot Wine & Bubbly to share with you three of my favorite low-key ways to catch-up with friends and entertain during these cozy autumn months:

Top 10 Flavor Trends on Pinterest (+ delicious ways to eat them!)

I'm endlessly fascinated by the way food trends and flavors change from year to year, and even from month to month. As someone who is constantly cooking and experimenting, I love seeing how quickly new flavors and ingredients can go from super niche to practically ubiquitous.

I recently attended an event hosted by Pinterest at the Museum of Food and Drink here in New York where they announced their 2016 Pinsights Flavor Report--a round-up of trending flavors, ingredients, and pairings that are rocking everyone's worlds (and mouths!) right now.

Read on for those top ten flavor trends (plus some recipes to get you inspired to give each one a try!)

Black Pepper Espresso Tapioca Pudding

Tapioca pudding for grown-ups!

I've always loved black pepper in sweets. It's spicy and smoky and the flavor is almost stronger when paired with the sweetness than it is in savory recipes.


Guacamole Chickpea Salad with Cilantro-Avocado Dressing

The awesome folks at Pinterest just released their 2016 Pinsights Flavor Report featuring the top 10 trending flavors, ingredients, and food pairings people are currently loving.

I was super inspired by all these ideas, that I decided to create this chickpea salad recipe highlighting one of my personal faves: cilantro!

Fair warning: If you're one of those people who thinks that cilantro tastes like soap, you're probably going to want to skip this one.

But for this rest of you? Step right up!


DIY Fall Decor Ideas (TODAY Show)

I had so much fun sharing these easy DIY Fall decor ideas on TODAY Show recently. Click above to watch the video and scroll down for links to the tutorials.


DIY Hanging Sunflower Pendants (Sunflower Kissing Balls)

These colorful hanging flower balls (also known as "kissing balls") are a simple and fun decoration to hang over a buffet at a party, during a Fall-themed wedding, or to just hang on a doorway or front porch as seasonal decor.

I shared a sunflower version of this idea on the TODAY Show this morning, since we were celebrating the (unofficial) start of Fall, but feel free to swap different flowers depending on the time of year.


Chocolate Chip Fig Cake with Saffron

This Chocolate Chip Fig Cake is the autumnal version of my Simple Summer Cake. (So I guess that makes this a Simple Fall Cake?) A moist and not-too-sweet yogurt cake with hints of almond and saffron studded with ripe fresh figs and tons of chocolate chips.

Puerto Rican Style Roast Chicken

I grew up with a Puerto Rican mom who firmly believed that all meat should be marinated before cooking. At least for a few hours, preferably overnight, and sometimes even longer. It produced dishes that were always richly flavorful with juicy, well-seasoned meat. This went for everything from simple chicken breasts to more elaborate large cuts like pork shoulder. Even delicate cuts of fish or shrimp spent a few minutes soaking in something delicious.


Spicy Fish Tacos with Chili Lime Mayo

The first time I tried fish tacos was on my honeymoon in Vieques, Puerto Rico. Vieques is a small, mostly virgin and unsettled island located about a 2-hour ferry ride (or 15-minute flight) away from the main island.  We spent two weeks of our honeymoon there, eating picnics on the stunning empty beaches and enjoying dinner at a few of the small casual restaurants located in the tiny main part of town.

The menus were simple, but the food was always wonderful, and my favorite thing were the fish tacos. Fried pieces of local fish served with a cumin-spiked mayonnaise, diced cabbage and a big shower of lime. Just a few ingredients, but it was the spices and quality of fish that made it all so incredibly good. After the fourth or fifth time ordering them, my husband asked if perhaps wanted to try something else.


Hotels I've Loved: The Garland, Los Angeles

I was back in LA this month to speak at a conference and meet with a few clients. Since most of my work was downtown, I opted to rent an AirBnB in that neighborhood for most of the trip. But for the last day, I switched over to a cute hotel in North Hollywood called The Garland.


The Chorizo Negroni

Well, I finally figured out a way to drink chorizo!

A few months ago I was checking out restaurant menus while making weekend plans, when I noticed a bacon-infused cocktail featuring "housemade" bacon vodka on one of them. It's not the first time I'd seen bacon cocktails, but it was the first time I started to think about the technique involved in making booze taste like meat.


Spicy Chorizo Shakshuka

Ahh shakshuka! An amazing Middle Eastern breakfast dish that is as fun to say as it is delicious to eat.

At its most basic, shakshuka is a dish of eggs baked in a savory tomato and pepper sauce spiced with paprika and cumin. But honestly, that's just the beginning. Add in sauteed veggies, cheese, or meat (or all the above) or have a little fun with the spices. It's a simple and cozy dish that works well for both breakfast and easy dinners. It's wonderful if you're feeding a crowd because the sauce can be made well in advance with just the eggs and final baking done right before serving.


Simple Summer Cake

Everyone needs a simple summer cake recipe in their baking repertoire. This lovely cake is mine. (And maybe it'll become yours, too?)


Grilled Peach Caprese with Pickled Onions

I felt like painting today. Not with paint, but with peaches. (And fresh mozzarella. And basil. And pretty pink pickled onions.)

Unpacking the groceries

The doorbell buzzed just after 7AM on Saturday morning. It was Fresh Direct with the groceries I'd ordered the night before. I always choose the 6-8AM delivery time slot because it forces me out of bed early. "I'll do more!" I think. I don't always follow through, but at least I give myself a good head start.

I buzzed up the delivery guy, put on a bra, and stood by the door waiting for him to get up the elevator. At the last second, I glanced at my reflection in the living room mirror and was horrified to notice the large chalky pink smear of zit cream on my forehead. I spit in my hand and wiped it off just as the man knocked on the door. (Gross. I know.)

Hudson woke up when he realized I'd gotten out of bed, and whined until I went back and helped him jump to the floor (he gets scared so I have to put my hand on his back while he jumps). Eugene was still asleep despite the doorbell and the delivery guy and the boxes and the crying dog. He can sleep through anything. He sleeps through police sirens and illegal fireworks and loud thunderstorms and that time our upstairs neighbor had a 6-person jazz band playing in his living room until three in the morning.  He once slept through an FBI raid of the apartment next door. I sometimes worry this ability will prove problematic in the event of a home invasion or (more likely), when I finally agree to have a baby.

My current baby, happy to be down on the ground, ran back and forth behind me as I gathered dishes from the night before and put the groceries away. His whines started up again, so I gave him half a cucumber, which is (oddly) his favorite thing, and he wandered off to eat it.

The refrigerator was kind of a mess from the past week so I emptied it, throwing away old condiments and wilted herbs. I felt bad as I dumped a jar of chicken broth I made months ago and never used, but didn't feel like it was safe anymore. A jar of leftover passion fruit curd from last summer definitely had to go. As did a cup of moldy lentil soup and two limes that had shriveled and hardened into little black lumps.

Once empty, I wiped it down and then piled in the new food.

I love the way the fridge looks in the summer--full of vegetables and berries and colors. I tuck herbs in little vases with water and transfer cherries and little potatoes to bowls. Meat on the bottom, veggies piled loose. I style it just the way I would a bookshelf; utility can also be beautiful.

"This looks so organized!" Eugene said when he finally woke up three hours later, looking for food.

I took a picture of it, then made myself coffee (my homemade Bustelo cold brew concentrate over ice with a generous amount of organic local pastured heavy cream).

Coffee with cream is my breakfast most days. I drink it cold in the summer; hot in the winter. It fills me up and gives me energy; the fat and calories from the cream being enough to get me through the morning.

My doctor once told me that Americans need to become comfortable with the feeling of hunger. He said we eat on a schedule or out of habit, but rarely because we're hungry. "You should wait until you feel hungry, even if it's an hour or two later than you usually eat. And even then, just drink some water and wait some more. Don't eat until you feel very very hungry, and then stop before you feel full." At the time I thought he was kind of insane, but earlier this year I found myself doing it by accident and found that he was right. I like to wait for the hunger now. I stretch it out and then relish the meals when I do eat, stopping when I'm satisfied. I don't follow a schedule, I just listen to my body.

We threw on some clothes and took Hudson for a walk followed by a stop at the farmer's market that's located less than a block from my apartment. I've been living in this apartment on the cusp of Harlem and Washington Heights for nearly ten years, and am in love with the changes lately. A new coffee shop that's become a gathering place for the freelancers and the artists in our neighborhood. A gym within walking distance. A local CSA. And now this farmer's market. It's small, but the few things they have are wonderful.

I buy scallions and garlic and zucchini and tiny new potatoes. Some fresh mint for cocktails. Blueberries and tiny delicate raspberries. A half-gallon of apple cider for Eugene, little cucumbers for Hudson, and a couple yellow peaches for me.

One of the women at the market always likes to offer cooking tips when you buy her vegetables. I get a little annoyed because the tips are very basic and usually things I already know. ("You can eat every part of the broccoli. Use the garlic stems for stock.") I know this is just my ego and that I'm kind of a jerk and should just shut up and listen, but I don't. Instead I fake smile and nod and then rush off to the next stand as quickly as possible.

I'm like this about a lot of things in life, but at least I recognize it. That's a start, right?


Salted Sweet Corn Ice Cream

A quick note: I originally shared this post and recipe for Salted Sweet Corn Ice Cream back in 2011 on Real Simple magazine's website, but after a redesign a few years ago, the article and recipe were deleted. With summer sweet corn season around the corner, I've decided to share it again here. I know the flavors might seem a little unusual, but I promise--they're amazing!

My husband and I have a favorite restaurant that we return to again and again on those evenings when we’re craving a night out, but don’t want to risk the chance of a bad meal at an untried spot.

We love this place for their big strong drinks, savory seafood dishes, and salty chips. The only problem? Their desserts are terrible! Seriously, seriously bad stuff. From chalky flourless cakes to stale churros, we’ve worked our way through the entire dessert menu in vain, each time with the hope that perhaps this dish will be good.

Malbec Wine-Poached Cherries

Cherries and red wine makes sense together. Both red, lush, equal parts sexy and intoxicating. Together, they're magic and an easy dessert on its own or served atop slices of cake, scoops of ice cream, your morning yogurt, a stack of pancakes--really anything you can imagine!

These Malbec-poached cherries are simple to make. A few ingredients in a pot, a bit of a simmer, and then your work is done.

You can enjoy them right away if you must, but I recommend dropping them into a jar and popping in the fridge for at least a few days. The longer they sit, the lovelier they'll taste.

I served these on top of a flan, but the options are endless.

(Sealed into a pretty jar with a label, these would make a beautiful homemade hostess gift, too!)

If you're looking for pairings, I suggest serving these with a simple cake like my favorite Olive Oil Cake or over a few scoops of Homemade Honey Ice Cream!

What would you love to serve these with?

Malbec Wine-Poached Cherries Recipe
These simple poached cherries can be served on their own or as an accompaniment to other desserts.

2 cups malbec wine
1 cup granulated white sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 pounds red cherries, pits and stems removed
1 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

In a medium saucepan, combine wine, sugar, cinnamon. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise with a knife and scrape out the seeds. Drop the scrapped bean, the seeds and salt into the wine. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add the cherries and lower heat to a gentle simmer. Let simmer 20 minutes or until cherries are tender. Remove from heat, stir in almond extract, and let cool to room temperature. Serve immediately, or transfer to a glass jar and store in refrigerator. Can be served cold or slightly rewarmed, as desired. 


Orange and Smoked Paprika-Marinated Pork Loin Roast

Most of my favorite recipes start in the blender. I throw things in, puree until smooth, and then cook. It's the best way of getting maximum flavor with minimum effort.

That's how this easy roast pork loin recipe works. You start off by making a super simple puree of smoked paprika, garlic (tons of it), orange, and salt. Then you rub it all over a pork loin, cover and let it sit in the fridge overnight, all those badass flavors getting to know each other and making magic.

When you're ready to cook (the next day or the day after that if you prefer), you wipe off the excess rub and pop it in the oven for about an hour and change.

And that's it. Tender, juicy, full of flavor. You present it whole (oooh. ahhh.) then slice it up and serve with your favorite sides. Leftovers make for amazing sandwiches or chop and toss into eggs, quiche, pasta, soup, whatever. It's perfect for a party or just to keep you and your family fed for a couple days.

Loved this recipe? Here are three other easy dinner recipes you might like:

And let's connect so you can find out the next time I post! Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates.

Thanks so much for reading!

Orange and Smoked Paprika-Marinated Pork Loin Roast
Serves 6-8. Adapted from a recipe in The Basque Book by Alexandra Raij and Eder Montero

Note: Must marinate for at least 8 hours before cooking

1 navel orange, cut into quarters (yes...the whole orange!)
1/2 cup orange juice
14 garlic cloves
1/2 cup smoked Spanish paprika (not the spicy kind)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup kosher salt
1 5-7 pound bone-in center cut pork loin roast with fat intact

In a blender, puree orange quarters, juice, garlic, paprika, olive oil, and salt until smooth. Rub paste all over the pork loin and place in a baking pan. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 48.

When ready to cook. Remove from refrigerator and wipe to remove excess paste. Leave on counter for one hour so that it comes up to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place loin in oven (uncovered) for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 300 and cook for an additional 45 minutes to one hour, until a thermometer inserted in center of loin reads 145 degrees.

Let rest at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving. 


Watermelon Frosé Cocktail (Frozen Rosé)

Last summer I went to a party where they served frozen rosé wine slushies by the pool. I remember that I really loved the concept, but was left less-than-impressed with the execution; they tasted more like ice than anything else.

As I usually do in these cases, I got home and promptly tried out my own version of the frozen drink with raspberries and a touch of honey.

The result--these Raspberry Rosé Wine Slushies--was a hit and became one of my favorite recipes that year.

Then a couple months ago, I suddenly started seeing everyone talking about something called "Frosé."


Grilled Nectarines with Honey, Almonds & Orange Blossom Ricotta

Our fruit bowl lives on the counter right at the entrance to the kitchen, just underneath the knives and the light switch. Each time that I walk in, the sweet scent of ripening summer fruit hits me and makes me weak in the knees. Right now there are peaches, nectarines, plums, and avocados all nestled together getting sweeter and softer in the warmth of late-June afternoons.

I usually don't eat the fruit. The sugar, natural though it is, hits me hard and makes me sleepy within the hour. I love it, but since I have to be picky about it, I admit that I prefer my sugar as cake or bread or ice cream. The fruit I leave for Eugene who would eat it all day long if he could.

But yesterday the scent was too strong. I want this, I thought, but it has to be worth it.

So I made it worth it.

I split the nectarine--a ripe, white one--and grilled it on a coconut oil-brushed grill pan, letting the heat char and caramelize the outside of the fruit while the inside softened into something hot and jammy.

While the fruit cooked, I whipped up some good ricotta (a homemade goat version, though any "fancy" kind will work) with a bit of heavy cream and a splash of orange blossom water. This went in the bowl first topped with the grilled nectarine, some mint and almonds and dried pomegranate. A drizzle of honey. A sprinkle of salt and black pepper.

The flavors came together for a dessert that tasted ambrosial, almost Middle Eastern.

It was worth it.

Grilled Nectarines with Honey, Almonds & Orange Blossom Ricotta
Serves 2, multiply as needed

2 ripe nectarines, cut into quarters, pits removed.
Coconut oil
1 cup homemade-style ricotta (the thick dryer kind you buy in a deli or cheese counter, not from the containers in the dairy case)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon honey, plus more for drizzling

Garnishes: 1/4 cup toasted almonds, fresh mint leaves, dried pomegranate seeds, flaky sea salt, black pepper, fresh lemon zest

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and brush with coconut oil. Arrange nectarine quarters on pan and let grill 1-3 minutes per side until slightly charred and heated through.

While the nectarines grill, whisk together ricotta, cream, orange blossom water almond, and 1 teaspoon honey until smooth. Spread in the bottom of a bowl or serving platter and top with grilled nectarines.

Drizzle with more honey and sprinkle with garnishes. Serve immediately.


Spicy Herbed Salmon Salad with Kale, Bacon, and Avocado

Well this is basically all I want to eat during the summer. OK, maybe not THIS specifically, but things LIKE this.


A Weekend in Michigan (The Fresh Coast Retreat)

There is a lot about blogger life that is totally delicious. Setting your own hours and schedule. Working from home (especially on those nasty weather days!). Tasting and trying and traveling and creating. It's a whole lot of magic, and I am so thankful that I am able to make my living this way.

(With the exception of a couple instagram photos, all images in this post are by Alejandro Photography. )

That said, working in a little solo bubble can sometimes get frustrating. I find myself craving colleagues to bounce ideas off of, learn from, or even just to vent with on the days when things don't go quite right. We have Facebook groups and often chat via social media, but nothing beats in-person interaction.

Fortunately last month, I had a chance to get away and experience a few exhilarating days surrounded by some of the most talented and inspiring bloggers, photographers, and entrepreneurs I ever met.

And I'd love to share a bit about it with you! Scroll down to see and learn more about my experience:

Hotels I've Loved: The Charlie Hotel in West Hollywood, Los Angeles

Work has been bringing me to Los Angeles more and more lately, and I've been using each trip as an opportunity to explore different neighborhoods and hotels.

Pickled Ramps Escabeche (Puerto Rican Style Picked Ramps)

I was 20 minutes late to meet a friend for lunch last week. We've been friends since college, so he knew well enough to order a cocktail to sip until I arrived.

"Oooh, what's that?" I asked as I finally arrived, tossing off bags and sunglasses and waving the waitress over to put in my own drink order.

It was a martini. Served cold and garnished with pickled ramps instead of the usual olives.

"I've been all about the pickled ramps lately!" I exclaimed.

I know ramps are an annoying sort of thing to write about. They only grow in some parts of the country and even then only for about 5 minutes (give or take). But when you try them? You get it.  The look and texture of a scallion or spring onion, they're garlicky and grassy and majorly flavorful. I like them whipped into salad dressings or chopped in with the greens. I saute them and add to omelets and pastas and all sorts of other simple dishes.

This year was the first time I pickled them, and I chose an easy recipe by Puerto Rican chef José Enrique, who prepares them escabeche style.

Escabeche is a simple olive oil and vinegar pickling sauce that's served a lot in Puerto Rico (and much of the Caribbean). It's common with fish, plantains, and now...ramps!

Make a big batch to keep in a jar in the fridge. You can add them to your salads, as a garnish on top of grilled meat or, yes, in an ice-cold martini!

Like this recipe? Try my Easy Soy Sauce Vegetable Pickles or these Quick Pickled Red Onions!

Puerto Rican Style Pickled Ramps
Adapted from a recipe by Jose Enrique, Saveur

1 pound ramps, rinsed and patted dry, root ends trimmed
1/2 cup olive oil + more for drizzling
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup honey
3 whole bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat (cast-iron works perfectly). Drizzle with olive oil and arrange the ramps on the skillet, cooking a few minutes on each side until charred. Sprinkle with kosher salt, then transfer to a glass jar or bowl.

In a small saucepan, combine the olive oil, vinegar, honey, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour the hot vinegar sauce over the ramps. Cover and let cool completely before serving or refrigerating. 


Fresh Ginger Margaritas

I require that my margaritas be very strong and very sour.

I actually prefer all my cocktails this way. I want practically no liqueur or sweetener or anything--just the good top shelf booze, tons of citrus, and a fun addition like ginger or cucumbers or jalapeños. I like my drinks fresh and herbaceous and bursting with bold flavor.

If you ever go out to drinks with me, you'll probably hear me quizzing the servers about the sweetness level of their drinks. I'll often skip the house menu and just flat-out order a mojito with no sugar or a margarita with no triple sec or just plain old good tequila with soda and lots of limes.
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