Mini Ham Cheese and Spinach Breakfast Pies

Mini Ham Cheese and Spinach Breakfast Pies

There’s something to be said for a tasty, savory recipe that you can eat at any time of day. These mini ham-and-cheese pies are delicious, and there’s basically never a time when they’re not appropriate. I most commonly make them for brunch on a weekend; they’re not crazy complicated, but they do take a little bit of assembly time, more than I’m prepared to invest on a weekday. They’re one of my favorite brunch dishes; a nice change of pace from sweeter fare like waffles and muffins. But they’re also versatile; kind of a happy hybrid of breakfast pastry, sandwich, and pizza. They’re substantial enough to enjoy for lunch or dinner. And they freeze well, so you can grab one for a quick snack as well. I’m always excited to find recipes like this, which keep well for a long time and taste just about as good re-heated as they did right out of the oven.


I don’t really have modifications to suggest with this one. I couldn’t find shallots at the store, sadly, so I substituted half a red onion since that’s what I had on hand. I think it’s equally good either way. You could potentially use other hearty greens like kale or chard if you don’t have spinach, although spinach + ham + cheese is a solid combo in my opinion. Also, I definitely recommend that you include the pinch of nutmeg, even if it sounds weird. Growing up, my #1 favorite dinner was Swedish meatballs, so I’m used to the idea of what most people consider pie spices (nutmeg, cinnamon) being added to savory meat dishes. It adds a nice touch; worth a try, especially if you’ve never had it before.

The whole thing is pretty straightforward; mix up your cheese, sautée your onions and garlic and greens, and put it all together. Folding up the pastry shell in the galette style takes a little getting used to, but it’s very quick to get the hang of it. Here’s a short video demo if you want to see how it works:

You may want to set a reminder to take the pastry out of the freezer the night before. This is also very tasty with fresh pie crust from scratch, but that adds quite a bit to the prep time, so I typically just use pre-made pastry and it’s still great. Note: I thawed both of my puff pastry sheets, and found that I had plenty of filling to make eight pastries, four from each sheet.

What do you think? Are you suddenly craving breakfast for dinner? 😉 Give it a try and let me know how it goes.


Herbed Ricotta & Tomato Crostini

Herbed Ricotta & Tomato Crostini

As I mentioned earlier in the week, Good Life Eats was one of my first favorite food blogs; I spent a lot of time in my mid-20’s scouring this site, trying to teach myself how to make simple recipes actually taste good. This herbed ricotta & tomato crostini is the perfect example of a quick and easy meal that is actually enjoyable. It’s perfect for warm-weather evenings: a versatile snack or simple dinner that takes about ten minutes to throw together, no stove required. (Ok, I did use my stove to toast the bread since we don’t have a toaster, but if you *do* have a toaster, you’re golden.) (Just like your toast!) 😀

I will say that with this recipe, you don’t want to skimp on the parmesan. Ricotta is a nice base for the herb spread, but it’s a bland cheese, and unless you’re really delighted by bland cheese (some people are, no judgment!), you will want to get a more aggressive flavor in there. In fact, if you have leftover cream cheese from this week’s Irish grilled cheese sandwich, you could try adding some of that.

I really wish I’d had balsamic vinegar on hand for this recipe; I only had my store-brand bottle of red wine vinegar, which I thought would be sufficient. While it’s great in salad dressings (which is what I primarily use it for), a stronger balsamic would have helped here; with such simple preparation, each ingredient really needs to pull its weight. I usually make a point of spending a little extra to get the best oil and vinegar I can afford; I feel like a spoiled debutante every time I make one of these purchases, but A) it does seem (based on my limited research) like Kim Kardashian et. al. don’t spend a lot of time thinking about fancy vinegar, and B) it makes a huge difference in the final taste, especially in pared-down dishes like this. Saint John has a cute downtown shop that sells local oil and vinegar; I know this because we walked past it several times when we were staying downtown waiting to close on our house, but I don’t remember where it is or what it was called. Next time we’re in town, I’ll make a point to find it and resupply.


In any case, I used a heavy hand with the parmesan (after the photo was taken, of course – I seem to need to get two or three bites into a dish before I remember the last ingredient), and also added some extra salt and pepper, and this still turned out delicious. I’m definitely looking forward to making it again later in the summer when I have fresh cherry tomatoes from the garden.


Irish Pub Spinach and Artichoke Melt

Irish Pub Spinach and Artichoke Melt

Every time I set out to make this recipe, I’m intimidated by how much work it’s going to be, and every time I’m surprised by how quickly and easily it comes together. I think I get scared initially because it involves making a sauce from scratch, and I’m still a little mystified by sauce chemistry. What if I burn the flour? What if the sauce breaks? It feels like a lot of high-risk, split-second timing, and I’m still not totally clear on the whole emulsification process, and how or whether I can re-emulsify a sauce that has de-emulsified.

If that’s all Greek to you, just don’t worry about it, because in this case you’re pretty much just throwing cheese in a pot and it’s delicious. Someday in the future, I’ll do a breakdown of the different types of sauces; supposedly if you can master the five “mother sauces,” you have the building blocks for a lot of different dishes. (It kind of sounds like something out of a kung fu movie.) But for this dish, you’re just making a simple cheese sauce, and I find that it’s pretty forgiving. You start by sautéing diced onions and garlic in butter, then add a little flour and stir for a minute before adding the milk and cheese. I had everything measured out and sitting ready before I started, and I also stood there watching the sauce the whole time, without trying to multi-task. In the course of my cooking adventures, I’ve definitely sacrificed way too many perfectly good sauces and veggies and baked goods because I was trying to do too many things at once. Parallelization is all well and good, but sometimes it pays to just stop and focus. This is one of those times; just pay attention to the sauce and it will come out amazing.

(That said, I think I did chop up the spinach and artichokes while the cheese and milk were cooking down. No big deal; I just set up the cutting board right next to the stove and kept an eye on it, stirring occasionally.)


This sandwich is basically a cheddary spinach artichoke dip in grilled cheese form, which is just as incredible as you’d expect. I didn’t have time to make the homemade potato chips like she suggests, but we just had some oven-baked fries alongside and it was great. Gooey, hearty, cheesy goodness – definitely a good choice for when you’re in the mood for pub fare but don’t actually feel like going out.


Grilled Lemon Herb Mediterranean Chicken Salad

Grilled Lemon Herb Mediterranean Chicken Salad

This recipe is one of my standbys when I need to round out a menu plan with something healthy. It’s super straightforward; just chop up a bunch of healthy things and throw them in a bowl. The dressing is a combination of staples I usually have on hand (olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, herbs), and I like that it doubles as a marinade. Although, this time I completely forgot about marinating the chicken until it was dinner time; I just cooked the chicken plain, and it still tasted fine.

This is a pretty versatile recipe; I like the selection of veggies as written, with kalamata olives and feta cheese for a Mediterranean-leaning flavor, but you could substitute any veggies you have on hand. Do note that this makes a *big* salad. Between the substantial chicken & avocado and the sheer volume of veggies, you will definitely feel full. Another recipe with a lot of ingredient overlap that is good to make in the same week is the Chopped Greek Salad from Dinner at the Zoo:

Basically a very similar preparation; just add bell peppers and chickpeas, and leave out the chicken and avocado. I’d venture to say that you could pick one dressing or the other and use it in both dishes, too. I have made both of these in the same week in the past, but since my fiancé isn’t crazy about salads, this leaves me with a ludicrous amount of salad to get through in a short time. Which is fine when I’m in the mood for it, but it generally has to be really hot outside and I have to be feeling really excited about vegetables. Later in the summer, when my garden gets going and I start having more tomatoes and cucumbers than I know what to do with, I’ll be revisiting both of these recipes for sure.


Note: to avoid getting two types of lettuce (or lettuce-like leafy stuff) in one week and having half of it go bad, I made this salad with spinach, rather than romaine as written. The rest of the spinach will be used in mini ham and cheese pies, as well as the Irish spinach & artichoke grilled cheese sandwich later this week.



Linguini with Lemon-Roasted Asparagus and Goat Cheese

Linguini with Lemon-Roasted Asparagus and Goat Cheese

This recipe from 2010 is still my favorite thing to make as soon as asparagus comes into season. It’s light, fresh, and pretty easy, and the first time I make it each year, I feel like spring has officially started.

I found this recipe on the CraftZine RSS feed (back in the days when Google Reader was a real thing… a wonderful time), and it introduced me to my first “favorite” food blogger, Katie Goodman at Good Life Eats. I was not an ambitious cook in those days. Actually, that’s not exactly true – but the dishes that were ambitious for me then seem pretty simple to me now. I used to visit my more-established friends who cooked a lot – who read Cooks’ Illustrated, and had stacks of Le Creuset pots, and lined their kitchen with custom-built display shelves of beautiful dry goods in Mason jars. I would gaze in wonder at their neat rows of colorful lentils, and be utterly flabbergasted that someone my age (mid-20’s) was responsible enough to live this way. At any given time they might be making pizza on their grill, or some kind of complicated French carrot soup requiring a million steps, and it was just casually assumed that this kind of effort could be easily built into their daily routine. Personally, at dinnertime I would march exhausted into my little kitchen, and stare down my three mismatched pots like we were squaring off for a fight.

I liked trying new recipes; I just wasn’t very good at it. (Yet.) It was very common for me to burn a lot of time and energy on a new recipe I’d found, only to be totally underwhelmed by the results. Good Life Eats was a great find for me, because it introduced me to lots of fairly simple recipes that were actually worth the effort. It helped me to analyze recipes more effectively, figuring out where the flavor was coming from and whether it would be strong enough to be satisfying. I followed her blog religiously for at least a year, before ultimately branching out and discovering other sources that I liked and trusted. I’ll definitely do a full week feature on Good Life Eats someday soon.

Anyway, this springtime pasta has stood the test of time; I look forward to it every year, and it was great this time around as usual. The only disappointment was that my local grocery store didn’t have shallots in stock. Kind of a heartbreaker, as the mild shallots (which I find underwhelming in most other recipes) actually get a chance to shine in this simple dish. But I just substituted half a red onion, and it was still delicious.


It always seems alarming to me to roast the asparagus/onion mixture for only six minutes; surely that won’t be enough? And in fact, this time I did broil everything on low for an additional two minutes after my six-minute timer went off. I don’t think it’s strictly necessary, but I like to see at least a little bit of browning on any vegetables I roast, and especially with onions, I think it brought out a tiny hint of extra sweetness. I was also starting with pretty substantial, thick asparagus stalks; more tender ones certainly wouldn’t have needed any extra time. Some years I completely forget that the veggies are supposed to be roasted at all, and cook them all on the stove in a frying pan, and it turns out fine that way too. It’s really one of those dishes that will be fine no matter what you do to it. And it’s fairly healthy too – just lemon, garlic, mustard, salt, pepper, and a little bit of olive oil are all that’s needed to highlight the vegetables. A fresh & simple combination of flavors that is wonderful to enjoy on a spring day.


Grocery List – Week 1

Hi, and welcome to the inaugural shopping list! In case you haven’t stopped by the FAQ yet, here’s what’s happening: Each week, I try to come up with a menu that has 3-5 interesting entrees with enough shared ingredients that you can use everything up by the end of the week. (Or pretty close anyway.) On Sunday, I’ll post the menu as well as the shopping list for the week. If the recipes look good to you, you’ll know what to shop for. Sometimes I make substitutions in the recipes in order to use ingredients more efficiently; if so, there will be a note in the recipe review (posted later in the week). Get the idea? Sound good? Ok, let’s go!

Ok folks, this is a cheese-intensive week.  It’s going to seem like a lot of cheese. As you’re adding cheeses to the cart, you’re going to start thinking to yourself, “Hang on, another cheese?” It seems a little crazy, but it really will get used… with the exception of the cream cheese. I went and got a whole brick of cream cheese without a backup plan, because I think it adds a lot to this week’s Irish Pub Spinach & Artichoke Melt. Only one ounce is called for. But it is totally optional; the sandwich will still be cheesy and delicious either way. You can try to get the smallest container you can find, or use it on something else (like bagels), or just leave it out.


Linguini with Lemon-Roasted Asparagus and Goat Cheese from Makezine

Grilled Lemon Herb Mediterranean Chicken Salad from Cafe Deliets

Irish Pub Spinach and Artichoke Melt from Half Baked Harvest

Herbed Ricotta and Tomato Crostini from Good Life Eats

Mini Ham Cheese and Spinach Breakfast Pies from Running to the Kitchen

Shopping List:


Asparagus – 1 bunch
Avocado (1)
Cucumber (1)
Lemons (2)
Red onion (1)
Fresh baby spinach (6 cups, about 1 large tub or 2 bags)
Shallots (3-4) – If you can’t find these, just get an extra red onion.
Cherry or grape tomatoes – 1 container (half for crostini, half for salad)
Fresh Basil
Fresh Parsley


1 loaf Whole Grain or sourdough bread, sliced (for crostini and grilled cheese sandwiches)
Marinated artichokes
Kalamata olives
Dijon mustard
Dried oregano
Linguini (or pasta of choice; I used penne)

Refrigerated / Frozen

Frozen puff pastry sheets
Ham slices
1 egg
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thigh filets or chicken breasts
Fresh Parmesan Cheese, grated
Ricotta cheese (1 tub)
Mozzarella (1 brick, or 1 bag shredded)
Irish cheddar cheese (1 brick or 2 cups shredded; regular cheddar is also fine)
Goat cheese (2 oz)
Cream cheese (see note above)

Pantry Staples

(Items you might have on hand, which don’t go bad quickly once opened)

Garlic *
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Red wine vinegar
Crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper


* Note: I have a gigantic jar of minced garlic in my fridge at all times. Because I use copious amounts in pretty much everything, I like having it prepped and ready without having to deal with peeling & crushing it myself. If you can’t find a large jar, or don’t mind mincing it yourself, just be sure to have a head or two of garlic on hand.