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Smokey Croque Monsieur

September 15, 2021

Last week I took out the last of our cheese bread from Riley’s Market that I bought on our last trip to Pemaquid. This bread is legendary. It is the perfect combination of fluffy white bread that is almost like challah or brioche, and it gets craggy (is that a word?) when you cut into it, and when the little craggy bits sticking out get toasted they yield the perfect crunchy bite with the softness of the doughy bread. On top of that, there is sharp cheddar cheese swirled throughout the bread. The little spots melt a bit when they are toasted, and well you all know how good melted cheese is. I might just have to work on a recipe for this bread. In the mean time, I thought about what I could do with this beauty.

One of my favorite things to do with challah is to make french toast (especially with egg nog at the holidays – my husbands favorite breakfast!) so I thought about making a savory french toast which led to croque monsieurs.

I wanted to put a twist on it, and when I saw smoked gruyere at the store, I knew it would match so well with smokey ham.

Guess what?

It really did. These were delicious – I know all croque monsieurs are, with their wonderful mix of textures and creaminess and toasted bread and you can’t go wrong with the original. But these had their own character and made me think this would also be delicious with smoked gouda or any smoked cheese, and those might even be easier to find, so don’t hesitate if you go that route.

These sandwiches are very easy to make, with a basic béchamel sauce the only ‘cooking’ necessary. It comes together so easily, and the melted cheese in it just adds to the smokey creaminess.

It is just basic assembly after that, and it is one of those dishes that is very simple but the combination makes something magical. The hit from the Dijon mustard is also the best kick and makes these mouthwatering.

Don’t worry if you can’t find cheese bread – these ingredients will be delicious with any white bread. And there will be plenty of cheese either way.

This hot and gooey sandwich came out of the oven and my family was hovering around it, waiting to dive in. It is easy enough for a weeknight dinner but fancy enough for a special meal too. They are great for parties with tiny bread or cut into fourths.

I hope you try these and love them! Or put your own spin on it – use smoked turkey, or add your favorite veg like spinach or kimchi so that it feels like a reuben. Or just stick with the classic which is classic for a reason.

Happy Eating! xoxo Katie

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Smokey Croque Monsieur


2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups hot milk

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pinch nutmeg

12 ounces Smoked Gruyere or Smoked Gouda, grated (5 cups)

(Note: the original calls for ½ cup parmesan but I omitted to keep it smoked)

16 slices white sandwich bread

Dijon mustard

8 ounces baked or black forest ham, sliced but not paper thin


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter/flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated smoked Gruyere. (Note: if making the original add the ½ cup parmesan).
  3. To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.
  4. Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.



Gazpacho with Crab + Avocado

August 28, 2021

imageIs there anything more refreshing on a hot day then Gazpacho? It is one of my all time favorite summer dishes. It is like drinking your salad – so filling and delicious, and I love it with the tang of vinegar and kick from jalapeño. I was reading about this easy version this morning from Cup of Jo and I know I’ll be making it soon, but I love this recipe.

When we visited Paris a few years ago, it was a 100 degrees, and we ate lunch at a bistro where I saw it on a chalk board menu served with vegetable tartar on top. It was so refreshing – ice cold, and the tartar made of just cucumbers, onions and zucchini was so different (and so precisely chopped! The woman who waited on us came up and asked how I liked it and I am guessing she made it herself).

Her dish made me think about adding something on top, and I wanted to add a protein to make it a meal. I adore the combination of crab and avocado, and I was craving them tossed in lemon. So I made a mixture tossed in a quick vinaigrette out of lemon, olive oil, and mustard. The result was…amazing! Perfect for lunch or as an appetizer. (You could even put them in little glasses for a party).

To make the gazpacho: imageChop all the veggies and put them in a food processor. Then tear up the bread and add it along with all the liquids (water, vinegar, extra virgin olive oil). That is it!

imageimagePulse it to the desired consistency (fine, but not liquified). So easy. And it makes a huge batch, great for a party or for luxurious lunches the whole week.

For the crab and avocado (which would be good on anything, right?):

imageimageCube two avocados, and squeeze half of a lemon over it. Then add half of the 1 lb. can of lump crab – I really love Heron Point’s brand, and you can freeze the other half, though we ate ours as an appetizer with easy remoulade the next night. But you could also use shrimp as well, chopped if they are large. In a bowl, mix together 3 T. olive oil, 1 teaspoon dijon, and the other half of a lemon, a dash of tabasco sauce along with salt and pepper. Then pour that over the lump crab-avacado mixture, and stir. Add 2-3 T. scallions.


To serve, pour chilled gazpacho into bowl. Spoon crab mixture on top and enjoy.

imageThis is just the most luxurious dish, the crab goes so well with the tomatoes and spicy jalapeño.  Simple flavors, simple ingredients. So stock up at your next farmer’s market or with your garden bounty and whip this up – I promise you will thank me!

Gazpacho with Crab and Avocado (printer version here)

For Gazpacho:

4-5 very ripe beefsteak tomatoes

2 large English cucumbers, halved and seeded

2 red bell peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped

2 jalapenos, seeded and stemmed

1 small (or ½ of one large) red onion

2 slices day old white bread

3 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 cup ice plus ½ cup water

4 T. red wine vinegar

½ cup extra virgin olive oil plus more to drizzle



Core and seed tomatoes. Peel and seed cucumbers. Stem and seed the peppers. Tear two slices of bread into pieces. Combine vegetables, bread and liquids in food processor and process until almost smooth; season with salt and pepper.

Pour soup into pitcher, cover and refrigerate until very cold. (You can serve with croutons if making without the crab mixture.)


For the Crab and Avocado Topping:

2 ripe avocados

½ lb. lump crab

1 lemon

3 T. olive oil

dash of tabasco

salt and pepper

2 T. scallions, sliced


Cube avocados and spoon out. Sprinkle with half the lemon juice. Add crabmeat and toss lightly so ingredients stay chunky. Make vinaigrette out of next 5 ingredients, and gently toss to combine. Add one large spoonful on top of each bowl of soup.






Lemon Garlic Shrimp Salad with Radishes and Arugula

August 12, 2021

imageI know I already wrote about my summer salad love in my last post. But it is still going strong. We’ve been growing fresh romaine and red leaf lettuce in our back yard, and I’ve been making big batches of this homemade Panara Greek Dressing.

But this salad is AH-mazing. Get ready for a flavor blast of lemon, garlic, and feta along with a texture explosion of crunchy radishes and nuts, creamy avocado, and meaty shrimp. You can make this for a party, or you can make it for yourself and halve the recipe. Either way, you’re going to wanna make it. Because it’s change-your-life good.

I think I was laying by a pool while my kids swam when I dreamed it up. Most likely it was the lingering effects of Tamara Adler and her urge that a salad have something crunchy, creamy, acidic, and oily. Plus I totally crave shrimp in the summer for some reason – it cooks so fast so the kitchen doesn’t get hot and the lighter protein is my jam.  If your people don’t love shrimp you can totally substitute two cubed chicken breasts. 

I was having lunch with my mom and sister the next day, and had a bottle of my favorite Sancerre and wanted to bring something to go with it.

The garlick-y lemony dressing, and the crunch, not to mention how pretty it is, made us so happy.


I used some of the flavors from the dressing to marinate the shrimp. (A garlic spicy kick on shrimp makes me swoon). I made a marinade from the juice from 1 lemon, 1/2 olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes and salt and pepper. I put the raw shrimp in a zip lock bag with this and let it sit for a half hour. (You can do longer).

I started the dressing right after since it is very similar, and the longer the garlic hangs out with the lemon the more flavorful it will be so you want to give it some time to mingle. Combine lemon juice, Dijon mustard, minced shallot, 1 small grated (or minced) garlic clove. Let it hang. Go listen to some music. 


When you are ready to start the salad, put some sliced almonds (or whole almonds or another favorite nut) in a pan and toast them. For some reason, I feel compelled to toast nuts in my cast iron skillet. It heats them so evenly.

Here is where you can choose your own adventure: I kept feeling like couscous would be a great texture to this salad. But when I assembled it, it looked too pretty to add it! So I served it in a bowl with a bed of couscous underneath and it was amazing. So experiment! Maybe put it under the arugula in a big bowl if you were taking it to a party. Or leave it out. The couscous does such a great job of soaking up the yummy dressing so it is a thumbs up, but the salad is great on its own too.

While everything is marinating and toasting and couscous is (optionally) fluffing up, start slicing your radishes. I can’t get enough radishes these days, so in they went. And I wanted a creamy element, so in went avocados too.

This dish comes together fast, because although there are a lot of steps you can do them at the same time. The only thing that this salad requires one you get past cooking the shrimp is assembly. Yay for some easiness.

Whether you are headed to a big Labor Day bash, or some relaxed get togethers with friends and family, delight everyone and make this. (But even if you eat it at home with Netflix, it’s still pretty great.)


You will thank me when you make this! I promise.

Happy Eating, xoxo Katie

Lemon Garlic Shrimp Salad with Radishes and Arugula (Printer Version Here):

For the Marinaded Shrimp:

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon minced shallot

1 small garlic clove, finely grated

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

½ cup olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

½ lb. raw shrimp, peeled

For the Salad:

2 cups arugula, thinly sliced

1 avocado, sliced lengthwise

1 cup radishes, sliced

½ cup toasted almonds

½ cup crumbled feta (I used low fat)

For the Dressing:

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon minced shallot

1 small garlic clove, finely grated

2 teaspoons chopped parsely

½ teaspoon salt, pinch of black ground pepper

½ cup extra virgin olive oil


If shrimp is frozen, soak in warm water until it is thawed (about 5-10 minutes.) Peel and removed tails. Mix marinade ingredients together, then pour over peeled raw shrimp in a ziplock bag. Let sit in fridge for 30 minutes-4 hours.

Start the dressing by mixing all the ingredients except the olive oil. Let sit to allow flavors to blend.

If serving with couscous, prepare according to package directions.

Toast almonds by pouring into skillet or pan, shaking to evenly distribute in one even layer in pan so they toast evenly. Checking for doneness every few minutes (set a timer if needed) shaking pan to toss and redistribute nuts. Repeat as necessary until toasted. (Note: you can tell when they are done by noticing when there is a toasted nut smell, but the timer is more reliable, which is helpful since they burn easily). Remove from heat when done and let rest until use.

When shrimp is done marinating, heat large pan on medium-high heat. Pour shrimp in pan, give one small sprinkle of salt and pepper, turning after cooking 1-2 minutes or when pink. Let cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side, then transfer to a plate to cool.

Meanwhile, place arugula in large bowl. Slice radishes and scatter around the top. Slice avocado, squeezing with lemon juice to prevent browning, then lay on top of salad. Scatter evenly the feta, nuts, and shrimp around top.

When read to eat, pour dressing evenly over top. Serve immediately.

Rustic Marinated Greek Salad (aka My Everyday Salad)

July 29, 2021

It seems like every summer I find one salad that I make over and over. They tend to be simple, made with the season’s best ingredients, and delicious. Last year it was a simple tomato, avocado, balsamic salad similar to this one. A few years ago it was David Lebovitz’s Corn, Tomato, Avocado and Basil salad. 

But this summer I have had a huge container of this Rustic Marinated Greek Salad in my fridge. I made it a few days ago when I made my Sheet Pan Lemon Greek Chicken for a family get together (also something I have made a lot this summer at the lake because my kids love couscous).

The beautiful thing about this salad is it gets better the next day or two as the veggies marinate in the dressing.

It makes me so happy to have a big container in the fridge. I just took some of the leftovers to a picnic with my kids at a park, three days after I made it, and it was so good. It’s easy (just some chopping!), refreshing, and I feel great after I have it. And it is so fast to make. 


Rustic Marinated Greek Salad


2 large tomatoes

1 English cucumber

1 pepper

1/4-1/2 cup kalamata olives (I love them so I use a lot) oz. feta cheese, cubed (use the kind sold in brine if you can)

For the dressing:

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon dried oregano, more for sprinkling

¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper



Combine all ingredients for the dressing well, then set aside.

Cut cucumber in half lengthwise, then in big diagonal chunks. Cut the tomatoes and peppers in big chunks also.

Toss dressing well through veggies, then gently stir in the feta and olives. Add seasoning to taste. Refrigerate up to 4 days,  taking care to drain off any excess water.

Sheet Pan Greek Lemon Chicken Bowls

June 25, 2021

We are sliding into summer with trips to the pool and popsicles, and are busy getting kids ready for sleep away camp. It still feels a little busy and we are looking for all the short cuts in the kitchen.

Enter this great sheet pan dinner which transforms into totally customizable bowls that our kids loved (thanks to the couscous and the tzatziki).

First you start with a lemon & Greek seasoning marinade, and toss the chicken into the fridge before you leave for the pool or fun outing.

When you get back, dinner is ready in a half hour. Preheat the oven, and roast the chicken with potatoes and lemon slices at 425 for 25-30 min. or until the potatoes blister a little bit.

While this is roasting, prepare the couscous which is also known as ‘boiling water’ because that is all you have to do, then stir in the couscous and seasonings and cover for 5 min. My little kids love couscous and I love that it only takes 5 min. to make.

This dinner is so great for entertaining! You could easily grill the chicken instead of roasting it, and lay out all the toppings for people.

And those potatoes? They could be their own appetizer or side dish:

Dipping these into the tzatziki sauce with their lemony goodness is so good. And for sure squeeze those roasted lemons onto these and the bowls for a flavor bomb. Ridiculously good.

You can buy your tzatziki (I did!) but it is really easy to make too. Here is a great recipe for tzatziki sauce.

When you assemble the bowl, layer the couscous on the bottom, add the super flavorful chicken, and then pile all of your favorite add ons. Then add these potatoes and tzatziki.

Easy, healthy, pretty and delicious.

Summer,  we’re coming for you.

Happy Eating! xoxo Katie

Sheet Pan Greek Lemon Chicken Bowls


  • 4 T. of Greek seasoning (or Souvlaki seasoning)
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 2 lb. chicken
  • 4 potatoes, halved and sliced
  • 1 lemon cut into slices
  • olive oil

Bowl Options: 

  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 English cucumber
  • 2 packages couscous, cooked according to package
  • Tzatzkiki
  • 2 packages Naan Bread
  • Feta
  • Olives
  • Humus
  • Baba ganoush

Directions: Mix olive oil, lemon and Greek seasoning together to make the marinade. Put chicken (I used breast & drumstick) in a ziplock bag and pour marinade over it. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

Preheat oven to 425.

Arrange chicken and potatoes on sheet pan. Cook for 30 min. or until potatoes are brown.

Cook couscous, cut up veggies and Naan bread, and arrange bowl components on a platter. Serve into bowls, squeezing lemon slices on top.

Easy Savory Summer Tarts

June 15, 2021

The world feels like it’s coming to life again, and lots of people have been hosting get togethers. Sitting around sipping Rose and chatting with friends might be my favorite thing to do, and it is next level when we have delicious snacks. I didn’t even know how much I missed making party food until I started again. But I was reminded how much I appreciate it when it is as easy as it is delicious.

Enter these summer tarts:

They are such a great way to showcase fresh produce and herbs of the season, and let your creativity go. I made these two –

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto with Goat Cheese


and Balsalmic Blue Cheese and Apple with Sage

Both of them require just a handful of ingredients and some kind of dough. I used pizza dough because I always keep some on hand, but puff pastry works beautifully too and is also easy to keep on hand in the freezer.

Next, each of these uses a big flavor vehicle. For the balsamic tart, I used a jam meant for cheese boards with shallots and garlic like this one or this one, but you could use fig jam or other savory/sweet spread.

For the tomato tart I used sun-dried tomato pesto like this one but basil or other pestos would work, or you could just blend sun-dried tomatoes with olive oil to make a paste to spread.

Then you add cheese, fruit and herbs. And that’s it. It is a pretty basic template:

dough + flavor spread + cheese + produce + herbs

Other variations that sound delicious to me include:

1. Dijon + Gruyere + Prosciutto + Thyme 

2. Honey + Burrata + Peaches + Basil, Mint or Thyme 

3. Basil Pesto + Mozzarella + Tomatos + Basil 

4. Balsalmic Jam + Goat Cheese + Summer Squash + Herbes De Provence

5. Balsalmic Jam + Smoked Gouda + Zucchini + Bacon 

6. Balsalmic Jam + Brie + Pear + Sage 

There are so many options, so little time, but I promise with all these flavor combos, whatever you choose will be a hit at your next summer outing.

There is something very European about these, and I felt like I was sitting outside at a cafe as I nibbled on these with a glass of wine. (The kids running through the yard did not deter my daydream). They are the perfect equation for summer nibbles: quick, easy, and full of flavor.

Let me know if you make one of these soon! I hope you love them.

Happy Eating! xoxo Katie

Sun-Dried Tomato Tart with Goat Cheese and Basil


1 pizza dough or box of puff pastry (2 sheets)

1/2 cup sun-dried tomato pesto

1 cup cherry tomatos, halved

4 oz. goat cheese

5-8 big leaves of basil (it’s easiest if you chiffonade them but torn is fine)

2-3 sliced of onion, separated

olive oil, salt and pepper


Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Lay out dough and prick with a fork so it doesn’t bubble up. Spread with a tablespoon of olive oil. Then spread pesto. Then add crumbled goat cheese, sliced tomatoes and onion. Season with salt and pepper and bake 10-12 minutes or until dough is golden brown. Sprinkle with fresh basil.


Balsalmic Blue Cheese & Apple Tart 


1 pizza dough or box of puff pastry (2 sheets)

1/3 cup balsamic jam

1 green apple, thinly sliced

2-4 oz. blue cheese

3 big leaves of sage (it’s easiest if you chiffonade them but torn is fine)

2-3 sliced of onion, separated

olive oil, salt and pepper


Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Lay out dough and prick with a fork so it doesn’t bubble up. Spread with a drizzle of olive oil. Then spread jam. Then add crumbled blue cheese, sliced apples and onion. Season with salt and pepper and bake 10-12 minutes or until dough is golden brown. Sprinkle with sage and slice.