Tomato and goat cheese tarts

I invited some friends over for a dinner party for the first time in a long time. This was a couple of their first time over to our place and I wanted to impress them with an easy menu but looked like I had spent all day in the kitchen. Of course I turned to my favorite chef, Ina Garten, for this!

This tart turned out so delicious and it was a easy to make. Anything with puff pasty looks impressive. I assembled the tarts in advanced and refrigerate until my guests arrived. Then I popped them in the oven and voila!

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts
recipe by Ina Garten

Ingredients
1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted
EVOO
2 large yellow onions, sliced
3 large garlic cloves, cut into slivers
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons dry white wine
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, plus 2 ounces
4 ounces herb goat cheese
2 large tomato, cut into 8 slices
3 tablespoons julienned basil leaves

Instructions
Unfold 2 sheet of puff pastry on 2 sheet pans lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium to low heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture remaining in the skillet. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the wine, and thyme and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Remove from the heat.

Using a sharp paring knife, score a 1/4-inch-wide border around each pastry. Prick the pastry inside the score lines with the tines of a fork and sprinkle a tablespoon of grated Parmesan on each sheet, staying inside the scored border.

Place 1/2 of the onion mixture on each sheet, again staying within the scored edge. Crumble goat cheese on top of the onions. Place 4 slices of tomato in each tart. Brush the tomato lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper. Finally, sprinkle Parmesan on each tart.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. The bottom sheet pan may need an extra few minutes in the oven. Serve hot or warm.

New Orleans 

I’ve been wanting to go to New Orleans for so long now. Something about the mix of cultures and rich history with bold flavors in food and music drew me to this city. A local told me during the trip: “It’s the Big Easy because it’s easy to fall in love with Nawlins!” I totally get why now.

NOLA was filled with friendly people, delicious food, and ornate, colorful buildings and homes. The music clubs playing live jazz music every night on Frenchmen Street brought the night alive for us! It was fun sitting in any of the clubs and watch the musicians perform their piece. It was lively and everyone had so much talent!

New Orleans was filled with delicious, delicious food. Some notable places that made the cut to my list includes:

  • Willie Mae’s – fried chicken
  • Parkway Bakery – oyster po’boys
  • Frankie & Johnny’s – oyster po’boys
  • Acme – chargrilled oysters
  • Royal House – crab claws appetizer
  • Cafe du Monde – beignets
  • Rum House – curry gulf shrimp
  • District Donuts – blackberry blackpeppercorn donut & fried chicken slider

I had a wonderful time in the Big Easy! The people were the friendliest of any town I’ve visited and that made the trip. Until next time, NOLA!

Summer Stylin’

Ah, I’m finally on my “summer” break! I get almost 2 weeks off from nursing school to enjoy what’s left of summer. It feels good to be done with 3rd semester. That was quite the journey but I know I’m going to be a better nurse for it. Saying it was tough is the understatement of the year. But I survived!

I’m heading to New Orleans this Saturday and staying for 6 days. NOLA has been on my travel bucket list for quite some time and it’s exciting to see what the city has to offer. It’s going to be HOT but it’s now or wait another 4 months before I could go. I’ve decided to take on the city (and heat) head on and make the most of my short break.

Here are some summer outfits that I’m loving right now. You can work it with the current pieces you already have. Looking cute while saving some bucks is always in-style!

Pan-seared tuna with couscous and pesto 

My mom’s friend recently gave me a chunk of fresh tuna from a deep sea fishing trip. I’ll be the first to admit, fish makes me nervous. I’ve grown a taste for it but this is over years of starting small and taking baby steps. I have to constantly tell myself, “fish is good for you so eat it!” in order for me to attempt to order it at restaurants or cook it at home. God forbid, if it’s raw – that’s a whole another ballgame that I haven’t learned to play.

But I got this “sushi quality tuna” for free and it’s fresh so what better time to try something new? This recipe is lightly inspired by Bobby Flay and it’s the quick weeknight version. Bobby loves to grill and in the perfect world, I do too. But after getting off a 12-hour shift, it’s just not going to happen.

Pan-seared tuna with couscous and pesto
Inspired by Bobby Flay

1 cup Israeli couscous
1 1/4 cups stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 zucchini, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
Minced garlic
Red pepper flakes
EVOO, for vegetables and tuna
Handful of grape tomatoes
2 tuna steaks, each about 1 inch thick
Store-bought pesto

Directions

Toast the couscous with EVOO in a saucepan over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Pour in stock, cover with lid, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 12 minutes then fluff with fork when done.

Saute the garlic in EVOO in a pan for a few minutes. Add in the diced vegetables, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook until done and set aside.

Brush 1 inch tuna steaks with EVOO and season with salt and pepper. In a dry, hot pan, pan-sear the tuna steaks 2 1/2 minutes on each side. Remove from heat once done and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Then cut into medium-size cubes.

Slice the tomatoes in halves and put into bowl. Put in couscous, sauteed vegetables, cubed pan-seared tuna, and pesto. Mix together until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Temecula 

  

It’s nice to get a break from school, even for just 3 days. My nursing program goes through the summer and unfortunately, my summer semester just so happens to be my hardest semester. I finished the first half of summer semester and now I’m starting my second half of classes. In between, my husband treated me to Temecula Valley for some wining and dining. I can’t imagine a better way to spend the weekend!

  

Temecula is a short, 2-hour drive from our place and it’s cute and lovely. Old Town Temecula reminds me of a Western town, complete with wooden exteriors and Harleys diving through Main Street. The vineyards are roughly 5 miles from there, all lined up perfectly on one long street. What’s so great about wine tasting in Temecula is the wineries are all close to each other. It’s literally a one-minute drive from one winery to the next.

  

A couple of my favorites vineyards from the weekend include South Coast Wintery and Ponte Winery. I like the wines at Ponte better but the service from South Coast was top-notch! Now that I’ve done wine tasting in Temecula, I think I’m going to make this a thing haha.

Lemon poppyseed bundt 

It’s lemon season again! My apartment is filled with lemons, given in abundance from family who grows it organically and locally in their backyard. I was never really into citrus desserts, but over the years, it has grown on me. I wouldn’t necessarily pick a lemon dessert over a chocolate one but there’s something lovely and fresh about lemon flavored sweets.

Since I have more lemons than I know what to do with, I’ve been making lemon desserts like crazy. First, it was a lemon blueberry bread (which was given away before any photos were taken; hence, no blog post) and now, this…

Lemon Poppyseed Bundt
recipe modified from Sprinkle Some Sugar

Ingredients
Lemon Cake
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 lemons
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 stick of melted, unsalted butter
1 tablespoon poppyseed

Lemon Glaze
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Juice of 2 lemons

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a bundt pan. Set aside.

Lightly whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and vanilla on medium until they are thickened and very pale yellow in color.

Melt butter in microwave then pour into batter and mix until smooth. Alternate flour mixture and milk into batter and mix until smooth. Add poppyseed and incorporate into batter. Pour into prepared baking pan and bake for 40-45 minutes. Allow cake to finish cooling until warm to the touch.

For the glaze, whisk powdered sugar and lemon juice, using more or less lemon juice as needed to get desired consistency. Once cake is cooled down slightly, drizzle glaze over warm cake.

Half way done

I’m officially half way done with nursing school! I seriously cannot believe it – where did the months go? I started at the end of August and now it’s already May 1st. The past 8 months have been a huge learning curve. I had to relearn how to study with concepts and theory in a whole different language – medical language. The classes were a challenge, every single day. But the biggest reward, isn’t the grade or the achievements, but the patients’ appreciation for my presence.

During clinicals in the hospital when I’m actually doing patient care and interacting with the patients is where I get why I’m putting myself through so much to be a nurse. Being part of a stranger’s healing process puts every struggle back into perspective. I have complete trust in God’s plan for me and I’m blessed to be able to do His good work for others through the care I provide.

Now…back to my mini break of 3 days before starting a new semester!