Bacon Brie and Fig Jam Grilled Cheese

I don’t know about you, but the best new thing I’ve found in my local grocery store in the past couple of years has been fig jam.  If you’re into jam-making, I’m sure it’s pretty easy to make but it seems that fig season flies by in an instant and I never seem to be ready for it.  So for now, I’ll stick with the stuff I can buy all year-round.  And what that means is that I can also make these bacon brie and fig jam grilled cheese sandwiches whenever the heck I want to as well.

There’s no need to complicate a grilled cheese sandwich so this one is easy: a thin layer of fig jam on one side of the bread, topped with crisp, smoky bacon and creamy brie, then grilled to perfection.  Cover the pan with a lid to trap the heat and help the cheese goo-ify itself – it’s a little trick of mine that works like a charm every time.  Served alongside a bowl of homemade tomato soup?  You may have trouble keeping enough fig jam stocked for these sandwiches!

Browned Butter Sweet Potatoes with Maple Sour Cream

browned butter sweet potatoes with maple sour cream

In spite of the serious lack of sweet potato recipes on this blog, I actually am a pretty huge fan of them.  I bake them up frequently in the fall and winter to take for lunch or to have as a healthier alternative to a regular white potato with dinner.  And when Thanksgiving rolls around, hold me back from the sweet potato casserole!  So this recipe, while pretty basic, is also right up my alley.

browned butter sweet potatoes with maple sour cream

There’s nothing complicated about it – you just bake a few sweet potatoes, overcook brown some butter, and mix a little maple syrup into sour cream.  With a little nuttiness from the browned butter alongside the sweet and tangy maple sour cream, you’ve got the makings of quite the perfect cool weather side dish.  Or lunch served with a little salad or bowl of soup, perhaps?

Browned Butter Sweet Potatoes with Maple Sour Cream

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 4 servings


  • 4 medium sweet potatoes, washed and dried
  • 3 tbsp salted butter
  • ½ cup sour cream (light works fine)
  • 1 tbsp pure maple syrup


  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Poke each sweet potato several times with a fork. Place the sweet potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until soft and cooked through, 50-60 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the oven to cool for a few minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together sour cream and maple syrup; set aside.
  3. Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until brown bits start to form on the bottom of the pan and the butter turns golden brown in color, about 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on the butter - it can burn quickly.
  4. Slice the sweet potatoes open lengthwise and lightly mash up the potato inside the skin with a fork. Divide the browned butter between the potatoes and dollop the top of each with some of the maple sour cream. Serve hot.


maple sour cream adapted from Everyday Food

Bacon Pesto Tomato Sandwiches

While it would be perfectly acceptable for me to swoon about how this bacon pesto tomato sandwich is the only way to highlight your gorgeous tomatoes, I really want to talk about bacon here.  It’s not an ingredient that I often highlight in my meals mostly because I feel, unlike most of the food blogging community, that it’s a complementary ingredient – not the star.  However, the thick-sliced applewood-smoked bacon that I used in this sandwich is the star and I built the sandwich around it solely based on the fact that I had a few slices in the fridge that needed to be used up.

And that’s how it goes with me.  I can never seem to use up a package of bacon before freezing it (and gah! sometimes forgetting about it until it’s freezer-burned) or it gets pushed to the back of the fridge and is again, forgotten about (which is even worse!).  So with full intentions and an empty stomach, I fried up the leftover fridge-bacon in my kitchen buddy (the cast iron frying pan), sliced some fresh mozzarella and tomato, and whirled a creamy [nut-free] pesto around in the blender.  And by the time Kyle ambled in the door, absolutely filthy from playing in the yard, I had a killer sandwich ready for him.  I hustled him and his sandwich back out the door (“your shoes!!!”) and joined him for lunch on the porch.

Now you’ve just had a glimpse upon our Sundays in the summer:  Me trying to use up the leftovers in the fridge before we start a new week of meals and lunches…and Kyle, the mudhog, showing up when it’s time to eat.  Typical, easy-going Sundays.

BBQ Pulled Pork Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

These bbq pulled pork grilled cheese sandwiches are a phenomenal way to use up leftover pulled pork!

I love lazy weekends where anything is possible.  Breakfast at the diner? OK.  Fussing in the garden?  I’ll take it.  A whirl around the gym?  Only because I have to.  Making grilled cheese for lunch?  You betcha!  (Hence the time at the gym.)  These bbq pulled pork grilled cheese sandwiches were a creation I had been dreaming of since the pork shoulder went in the oven a few weeks ago.  I had also planned on making taquitos with the leftovers but sadly, the leftovers never made it that far.  Anyway, perfectly buttered and toasted white bread hold together this magnificent sandwich combination.  The Monterey Jack melts into the pulled pork just as it should, leaving you with sandwiches that you’ll wish there were more of (though one certainly was plenty for lunch for us).  I decided to toast all of the bread slices independently and to cover the pan to allow the cheese to melt before combining the halves because all too often, when grilled cheese sandwiches have a lot going on inside, the cheese doesn’t melt completely.  Problem solved.  And?  The perfect weekend lunch.

BBQ Pulled Pork Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 2 sandwiches

As with most grilled cheese sandwiches, the bread you use makes all the difference. Because these sandwiches have the tendency to be on the messy side, choose a hearty white bread that can stand up to the awesomeness within; thick-sliced country white or homemade white bread are excellent choices. I didn’t think of this when making these sandwiches, but if you love red onion like we do, thinly sliced onions would be an excellent addition to this sandwich, as would sliced pickled jalapenos if you’re looking for a little extra bite.


  • 4 slices white bread (see header)
  • Salted butter, softened to almost melted
  • 1 ½ cups bbq pulled pork, warmed
  • 4 oz Monterey Jack or sharp cheddar cheese, shredded


  1. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Butter one side of all of the bread and place the butter side down in the skillet. Divide the cheese between all of the slices and top the cheese on just of the two slices with the pulled pork.
  2. Cover the pan with a lid or sheet of aluminum foil for about 3 minutes; this will ensure heat melts the cheese and heats the pork through. Remove the lid (or foil) and check the undersides of the bread with a spatula. If all of the slices are lightly browned, flip the slices with the cheese onto the pulled pork so the cheese and pork can meld together. After 30 seconds to 1 minute, flip the sandwiches to finish off the other sides. When both sides of the sandwiches are perfectly browned (you know what that looks like) and the cheese is fully melted, remove them from the pan, cut, and serve hot and gooey.


source: Smells Like Home original

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Tomatoes, Broccoli, and Feta

This quinoa salad with roasted tomatoes, broccoli, and feta is light and healthy meal that can be served either warm or cold and would make a great addition to any party menu.

There are only a few nights during the year that I have the house to myself.  Very rarely Kyle will work an overnight shift or he’ll have some side work to do but I can always count on his continuing ed classes each year to give me the house to myself.  I don’t know what it is about having the house to myself in the evening especially since I spend almost every Saturday alone while he works but there’s something I love about having the freedom to cook what I want, when I want, without having to think about anyone else but myself.

And that’s how this quinoa salad happened.  I wasn’t 100% sure what Kyle would think of quinoa, never having eaten it before, so I made it for myself with plenty of leftovers in case he was hungry and adventurous when he got home that night last week.  As it turns out, I should have more faith in that man because he loved it as much as I did.  I let the oven do most of the work, roasting the tomatoes and broccoli as the quinoa simmered away, and threw in some feta and lemon juice as it all came together.  I really need to make it a point to roast tomatoes more often because they’re just plain awesome, especially when paired with feta.  This salad is light and healthy and it can be served either warm or cold (I prefer it warm).  I can see us making this quite a bit this summer and perhaps toting it along with us to various bbqs as an alternative to the heavier traditional salads usually served.

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Tomatoes, Broccoli, and Feta

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme, stems removed
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 small head broccoli (about 1 ½ cups), flowers only cut small
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 375° F. On a foil-lined baking sheet, toss the tomatoes with the thyme, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the honey. Roast for 40 minutes then add the broccoli to the baking sheet and drizzle the remaining olive oil, tossing to combine with the tomatoes. Roast for an additional 20 minutes.
  2. In a 2-quart saucepan, bring the quinoa, vegetable broth, ½ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper to a boil; reduce to a simmer, stir once, and cook, covered, for 15 minutes until the water has absorbed. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and cool until the vegetables have finished roasting.
  3. Stir the vegetables, feta, and lemon juice into the quinoa. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm, cool, or at room temperature.


source: adapted from Dinner: A Love Story

Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese


It snowed for the first time this winter over the weekend.  And actually, the puny 6 inches that fell to the ground didn’t amount to much, considering the 15 inches we got socked with in October.  Needless to say snow makes me crave grilled cheese.  This probably goes back to my childhood where grilled cheese and tomato soup were standard fare on snowy days but on Saturday, I didn’t feel much like tomato soup.  I was feeling spicy.  Spicy grilled cheese.  Jalapeño popper grilled cheese.  It was a creative sandwich I had seen on Foodgawker months ago and I filed it deep in the recesses of my brain; this was before my Pinterest boards were built, of course.

I already had a opened can of pickled jalapeños in the fridge which needed to be used up and this sandwich was the optimal way to do so.  And let me tell you, I freaking loved this sandwich.  I’m not a crazy hot and spicy lover but the pickled peppers mute the heat and I was sure to remove all of the seeds and ribs from the pepper before adding it to the sandwich.  I surprisingly only had good ol’ deli-sliced yellow American cheese in the fridge, so that’s what I used…and it’s usually my cheese of choice for grilled cheese anyway so I wasn’t making a sacrifice here.  With a mellow level of spice and lots of cheesiness, this sandwich was just like a really good jalapeño popper should be – leaving you craving more.

Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese
source: adapted from BS’ in the Kitchen


  • 4 slices sandwich bread
  • Butter, softened
  • 2 tbsp cream cheese, softened
  • 4 to 6 pickled jalapeños, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds and ribs removed, and patted dry
  • Sliced American cheese (or whatever cheese you choose), 2-3 slices per sandwich depending on the thickness of the cheese


  1. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium-low heat.
  2. Lightly butter one side of all the bread slices
  3. Divide the cream cheese between two of the slices, spreading it out evenly on the un-buttered side of the bread.  Lay the jalapeños halves over the cream cheese.  Lay the American cheese over the jalapeños and add the second piece of bread, butter side up.
  4. Place the sandwiches in the pan and cover the pan with a lid or piece of aluminum foil; this will help to retain the heat in the pan and melt the cheese.  Heat each side of the sandwich until desired darkness and until the cheese inside is melted.  Slice and serve warm.

Yields: 2 sandwiches

Baked Fontina

This baked fontina (aka garlic cheese dip) is the best holiday-friendly cheese dip out there! For 60+ other Thanksgiving recipes, check out the Recipe Index.
Baked FontinaBrace yourselves for possibly the easiest appetizer you’ll ever come across.  I’d say this recipe is even easier than putting together a cheese platter because there is no agonizing over what cheeses to buy – wait…am I the only on who agonizes over things like this?  Anyway, for this baked fontina, you’ll cube some Italian fontina, chop some garlic and herbs, put everything in a cast iron pan, and pop it under the broiler for 6 minutes.  That’s it!  The result is a baked fondue of cheesy goodness that you can scoop up with hunks of bread, toasted sliced bread, or even crackers or Wheat Thins.  The garlic and herbs permeate throughout the cheese when it bakes and every bite has a blast of herby flavor.  It’s heaven…melted cheese heaven.

Baked Fontina

I made this for a Christmas Day appetizer last year, have made it a couple times since (a halved recipe in an 8″ cast iron pan), and I’ll be making it again for a Thanksgiving appetizer this year; it’s always a huge hit wherever I bring it.  Whether you’re hosting turkey day and want to work this into your menu or you plan to bring this to someone’s house, cube the cheese and chop the garlic and herbs in advance and keep them in airtight containers until you’re ready to bake.  Bring your cast iron pan with you (doesn’t everyone travel with kitchen equipment?) just in case your host doesn’t have one for you to use.  Since the recipe only needs 6 minutes under the broiler, you can even take the turkey out of the oven for a few minutes (cover it tightly with foil) and slip the pan in to bake.  Hot appetizers really don’t get any easier than this one and I can already anticipate how quickly this baked fontina will go on the appetizer table this year.

60+ more Thanksgiving recipes on Smells Like Home are right here!

Baked Fontina

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 6 minutes

Total Time: 11 minutes

Yield: 10-12 appetizer servings

Be sure you use Italian fontina in this recipe. Danish fontina will not melt properly. If you absolutely can't find Italian fontina, brie (with the rind removed) will also work great here.


  • 1 1/2 lbs Italian fontina, rind removed and cubed into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper


  1. Adjust top rack of the oven so that it sits about 5 inches under the broiler unit. Preheat broiler.
  2. Spread cheese out in the bottom of a 12-inch cast iron pan. Drizzle olive oil over the cheese. Mix together the garlic and herbs in a small bowl and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the cheese. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the top of the cheese.
  3. Bake for 6 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and melted through. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and set it on a heatproof surface - the pan will be hot! Serve immediately.


source: adapted from How Easy is That? by Ina Garten

Watermelon Feta Mixed Greens Salad


For the past 2 or 3 summers, all I’ve heard about is how divine the watermelon and feta combination is.  And yet every rave has swept passed my radar.  It essentially wasn’t until this year that my love for feta has fully consumed me so when I stumbled across Alice’s post yesterday, I dropped what I was doing and did a mental check of the contents in my fridge – being at work all day isn’t easy when it comes to important things like this, you know.  Thankfully, a trip across the scorching grocery store parking lot on a 95 degree day wouldn’t be in my cards as all of the ingredients for this watermelon feta mixed greens salad were safely tucked away at home.  Really though, the ingredients are so basic that I’d bet in the middle of the summer you’ve probably got most, if not all, of them in your fridge too.

If you haven’t tried watermelon with feta yet and love the two foods independently like I do,  A quick citrus squeeze of a lemon over the top of this salad will bring the bold flavors of the red onion and salty feta together with the sweet juicy watermelon in a way you could not imagine.  It’s a truly incredible combination of flavors.  Now, while I haven’t salted my watermelon yet, I can understand why Shawnda has been raving about salted watermelon recently – the feta and watermelon together are simple and perfect, especially with a burst of citrus mixed in.  I served the salad for dinner alongside grilled chicken breast but I know this salad would make a great light lunch (as I intend to have today) or a brilliant side salad to throw together for a summer bbq.

Apple Pecan Chicken Salad


Some days I think I’ve lost my mind.  Saturday was one of them when I found myself making chicken salad for lunch.  There were a few things wrong with the scene.  1.) I was toasting pecans, 2.) I was adding fresh celery to a salad, and 3.) I was making chicken salad.  I don’t “do” any of those things and since I firmly decided as a child that salads with mayonnaise (aside from egg and tuna and only if my mom or I make them) weren’t touching these lips, I’ve avoided them at all costs.  Yet, I had this bubbling curiosity to make this salad when it came up for Project Pastry Queen this week.


And when I say this lunch was a treat, I really mean it.  Crisp apples, meaty yet almost sweet pecans, shredded chicken, and squeeze of fresh lemon juice all sandwiched within a toasty croissant – that’s what I’m calling a great lunch!  I passed on the homemade mayo since Kyle has sensitivity to uncooked eggs and I didn’t want a ton leftover but I’ve been reading today that the mayo was something else.  I also went really light on the mayo – maybe 1/3 cup as opposed to the 1/2 to 3/4 cup the recipe calls for.  Shawnda hosted this week’s Project Pastry Queen and you’ll see that she also served the salad on croissants for The Foodie Baby’s 1st birthday party.  I think it would also be great served on the mini croissants I saw in the grocery store yesterday for a cocktail party or bridal shower.  I’m thrilled with my picky self for making this salad and am even more thrilled that I’ve got leftovers for lunch this week!

Apple Pecan Chicken Salad

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 sandwiches


  • 1 cup roughly chopped pecan halves
  • 2 whole boneless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored, peeled, and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup red onion, minced
  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/3 - ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ lemon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. In a large bowl, mix the pecans, chicken, apples, celery, green onion, red onion, and parsley together. Stir in the mayonnaise, starting with 1/3 cup and adding more to your preference. Give the lemon a squirt or two over the salad and stir to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Herbed Ricotta Bruschettas

When I decided to post a weekly recipe from Ina Garten’s upcoming new book, How Easy Is That?, I didn’t think it would be so difficult to choose recipes.  They all look so great…and that seems to be the problem.  I always have this problem choosing what to make first when it comes to new cookbooks.  These Herbed Ricotta Bruschettas just popped out of the book at me last weekend when I was making my weekly menu and it’s most likely happened this way because I wasn’t looking for any particular kind of recipe.  And sometimes, these kinds of recipes just work out the best!

The recipe itself couldn’t be any easier to put together.  Stir ricotta cheese with some herbs, grill or toast some bread and well, you’ve got your bruschettas.  It’s really that simple to turn just a few basic ingredients into such an elegant appetizer or a quick summer lunch.  This is essentially the premise of How Easy Is That? We all know how fabulous Ina Garten recipes are, and my nearly 100 posts of her recipes show that, but this book focuses on using really basic ingredients that you most likely already have in your pantry or fridge to create the wonderful recipes that you can only expect from Ina.  Before receiving this book, I had already made Greek Panzanella, Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms, and Scalloped Tomatoes with Croutons, three of the best recipes I’ve ever made.  Coming up in the next week, you’ll see Roasted Shrimp Salad and Ultimate Grilled Cheese – two very innocent-sounding recipes but I can assure you, they are not innocent or regular.  Other recipes in the book I’m dying to try as the weather starts to cool down include ones like Jeffrey’s Roast Chicken, Tuscan White Beans, and Steakhouse Steaks with Roquefort Chive Sauce. Can you see why it’s so difficult for me to choose?

Herbed Ricotta Bruschettas

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 2 minutes

Total Time: 12 minutes

Yield: 8-10 light lunch/dinner servings or 18+ appetizer servings

This bruschetta makes a great appetizer or light lunch/dinner served with a salad or grilled vegetables on the side.


  • 16 oz ricotta cheese (fresh, whole milk or part-skim only)
  • 3 tbsp minced scallions, white and green parts (2 scallions)
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh dill
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh chives
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 loaf French, ciabatta, or sourdough bread, sliced into ½-inch pieces
  • Good olive oil
  • 1 whole garlic clove, cut in half


  1. Prepare a charcoal grill with hot coals or turn a gas grill to medium-high heat.
  2. Combine the ricotta, scallions, dill, chives, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper and set aside. Cut the bread in half and cut each half into 6 thick slices to make 12 slices total.
  3. When the grill is hot, brush the bread with olive oil and grill on each side for 1 ½ to 2 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the grill and rub each slice of bread with the cut side of the garlic clove. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and spread the herbed ricotta. Serve 2 warm slices per person with a green salad on the side.


source: How Easy Is That? by Ina Garten