Marinated Goat Cheese – At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen


Marinated goat cheese from Amy Chaplin's "At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen"




Marinated Goat Cheese – At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen

In a glass jar, layer pulls of soft goat cheese with olive oil, fresh thyme, peppercorns, smashed garlic cloves and bay leaves over and over until you reach the top of the jar. Be sure cheese is completely covered by oil at all times. Let marinate for a few days before using and don’t even think about getting rid of the oil once you’ve used up all the cheese. That is what warm bread is for.


Herbed Black bean and goat cheese tacos


After returning home from a long trip and finally being able to stock our fridge with fresh veggies, I clapped my hands in glee, like the unashamed food dork that I am. Nothing like a fridge overflowing in multicolored produce to delight this girl.

Now, what to make for dinner with such a plethora of ingredients? I have a weakness for tacos and pizza, because they both lend themselves to experiments with funky combinations to create some magical flavors.

With these tacos I decided to with a rich, fresh herb starting point to make sure I used my pretty herbs at their peak. I needed a protein so I used black beans, which I usually tend to cook with mexican-ey spices so this was a chance to try and transform them. For color and added luxe, I used radicchio and broccolini as my side.

To try these rich and savory tacos see my process below:

Herbed Black Bean and Goat Cheese Tacos 

Dice up about half a red onion, a large shallot and a couple of garlic cloves  and saute them up with a pour of olive oil. Stir once in a while and let them get dark and sweet. After a few minutes , once the nice juicy fond has developed on the bottom of the pan, pour in about a tablespoon of water to deglaze and reintegrate them.

Drain and rinse a can of black beans. Add the beans to the now mouthwateringly aromatic and sweet onion, garlic and shallot mixture. Stir to mix, add salt, black pepper and a dash of red chili pepper flakes if you desire some spice. Add a bit more oil if it needs it, so the beans don’t get too dry.

Rinse, then rip up the radicchio into smaller pieces. Mix with just a tiny pour of olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread on a pan and put into an oven to roast. Check on it after 3 minutes, stir up and leave in for about 2 minutes more. Be careful and take it from my experience, this stuff burns quickly. You want to get it to get a bit charred on the edges but not, you know, to resemble charcoal.

I originally made some broccolini to act as a side, but discovered it actually worked heavenly inside the taco. Add a light layer of olive oil to a cast iron  or regular pan and add the broccolini , salt, pepper and cover. I didn’t stir it for a couple minutes so it could get a nice sear. Then I flipped them to get some more sear. After a few minutes I added a tablespoon of water and covered again to let it steam and soften just a bit.

After those beans have cooked for about 5-7 minutes, add your handful of fresh, roughly chopped herbs. I had parsley, basil, thyme and sage but use whatever you happen to have on hand. Stir and keep on low while you prep your tacos. Keep a bit aside.

Smear some soft goat cheese on a few corn tortillas and sprinkle some herbs de provence on top. Put in the oven till the tortilla softens and the cheese just begins to melt, about 3-4 minutes.

By now , the aroma in your kitchen is overwhelming which means it is finally time to prepare your tacos! Pour a heaping spoonful of the herbed black bean mixture into a soft, warm tortilla which should be oozing with goat cheese. Top with some of your lightly charred radicchio, a dusting of fresh herbs and add a broccolini if you wish.

Voila! Sweet and savory, herbed and cheesy tacos.

Roast that Cauliflower!

This cauliflower turned out way better then the picture did… thanks iPhone focus.

Fall foods are in full swing here at The Happy Food Dance! I took a solo tour around Pike Place Market the other day and arranged all my treasures neatly so I could remember how they started out. And Instagram it of course.  #notashamed

That Elephant Garlic is a beast!

Pike Place goods

I remembered a gorgeous photo Food52 had recently posted of an entire head of cauliflower roasted so I decided to try my hand at it. I followed this recipe posted by an editor at Food52 that was created by Chef Alon Shaya and it turned out pretty darn amazing, if I do say so myself.

Crunchy on the outside while soft and flavorful inside. The bottom pieces that were in contact with the pan were uber crunchy, and hence were my favorite part.

Roasted Cauliflower

  • 1 head cauliflower, whole, stem trimmed and leaves removed
  • 2 1/2cups dry white wine
  • 1/3cup olive oil plus more for serving
  • 1/4cup kosher salt
  • 3tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1tablespoon sugar
  • 1bay leaf
  • Coarse sea salt (for serving)
  1. Heat oven to 475° F. Bring wine, oil, salt, lemon juice, butter, red pepper flakes, sugar, bay leaf, and 8 cups water to a boil in a large pot.
  2. Carefully lower in cauliflower, reduce heat, and simmer, turning occasionally, until a knife easily inserts into center, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Using 2 slotted spoons or a mesh strainer or spider, transfer cauliflower to a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan, draining well.
  4. Roast, rotating pan halfway through, until brown all over, 30 to 40 minutes.
  5. Transfer cauliflower to a plate. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with sea salt. Serve with whipped goat cheese (recipe below).


I didn’t have a bay leaf so I used a few sprigs of fresh rosemary in the broth instead. The recipe called for a funky cheese sauce to pair with the cauliflower, but their suggestion sounded a bit too rich for my taste.  I just mixed up some goat cheese and ricotta I had on hand with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and black pepper.

It was a creamily perfect pairing for the hearty, crunchy cauliflower. Slice off a hunk and spread a healthy helping of the cheese sauce on top to enjoy at its fullest.


I’m planning on trying these other cauliflower recipes from Food52 soon: Cauliflower Steaks  and Roasted Cauliflower with Bread Crumbs.

The Vegetarian and the Goat


Girl and the Goat is one of the top restaurants in Chicago which means it is very hard for riffraff like me to get a table.

BUT! I may  have discovered the key to getting in . Arrive just as they open (4:30 pm) on a weekday and they’ll most likely be able to squeeze you in before a real reservation. Or at least sit you at the bar or lounge.  We got there around 4:40 and they said we can grab a table in the dining room as long as we were done before 6.

Mega score!

Mama Foodie was in town and was eager to try Stephanie Izard’s restaurant. Last time she visited Chicago she tried to steal one of their paper menus. I thwarted her, of course. The audacity. It’s not like I have  Barrelhouse Flat menu on my bookshelf right now…


As you just saw, I didn’t need to be worried that my vegetarian stomach would have to subsist on garnishes alone. The menu is broken up into V (vegetables), F (fish), M (meat), Breads, Oysters, Goats, Desserts and Drinks. We looked through the whole thing and all 3 of us decided that we would feel perfectly happy sampling a few vegetarian dishes and, of course, a bread and spread.


D.B. Cooper cocktail and Zucchini bread with olive butter and hummus

A pretty boozy and slightly expensive cocktail, but I tell you, I’d pay much more for that bread. It was decadent, yet light and fluffy. WAY too little to share with 2 other people.


sweet corn goat cheese wontons
sungold tomatoes . apricot . ratatouille

Look! Popcorn on top! Miraculously it stayed crunchy while we ate. This dish was pretty sweet with the candy-like corn, juicy heirloom tomatoes and creamy goat cheese. The wonton element was just a tad doughy but the ratatouille definitely made up for it. Who doesn’t adore the right combination of savory and sweet?


roasted beets
green beans . white anchovy . avocado creme fraiche . bread crumb

I was lured by that “avocado creme fraiche” when it came time to select our dishes. But I don’t think I actually got that much as it was scooped up by my two fellow diners… thank you mother and spouse.

However I did enjoy the combination of roasted beets and breadcrumbs with the spicy frisee. I’ll have to try to make something like this sometime.


wood grilled broccoli
rogue smokey bleu . spiced crispies

Ok people. You have not had broccoli until you have this broccoli. It is out of control.

They had just the right crunch and a smoky woodsy essence that was just sigh inducing. THEN a crisp bleu cheese sauce type thing underneath it all and the whole dish was topped with spiced crispies. We were debating what we all thought these crispies would turn out to be. They turned out to be flavorful, toasted Rice Krispies basically. Added a great taste and texture element. Go eat this broccoli please.

Girl and the Goat was just the first stop on our mini West Loop tour as we had a gift card to RM Champagne and were saving room. Which I completely regret doing. I wish I would have tried that cauliflower and falafel at G&G.


Pretty candelit fireplace in RM Champagne

Honestly, RM Champagne was a bust. It is beautifully decorated and I’m sure it would be fun to sit outside on a cool summer night and enjoy a glass of good champagne under the twinkle lights. However, I know nothing about champagne and ordered a cocktail which was nothing special. The dishes we ordered were on the lower end of mediocre , especially following Girl and the Goat.  Their desserts looked pretty and tasted fine. However, A doughy bland leek tart and cold flatbread does not a happy food dance make. Sorry RM,  but in such a foodie town you really need to step up your meals.

Who, besides Marie Antoinette, can survive on champagne and cake alone?,

Bake some goat cheese


May I suggest the following 6 steps to pure happiness:

1. Pour marinara sauce in a cast iron pan

2. Crumble goat cheese alllll around

3. Sprinkle freshly chopped basil on top

4. Drizzle olive oil all over , then top with salt and cracked black pepper

5. Bake for about 20 minutes or so, until it starts to bubble and the cheese browns just a bit

6. Break off a chunk of a warm, crusty baguette and dip it straight in that pan of goodness.

Quick before it cools down!

Savory French Toast


Excuse the iphone photo. I was too hungry to get out the real camera

I know, this is the 2nd french toast post in as many weeks. We don’t even make it that often. It’s just, I had to share this game changer of an idea*.

Savory. French. Toast.

Why has french toast been locked into this “sweet” category with its toppings reduced to fruit, syrup, butter and whipped cream?

This eye opening concept of making french toast savory is absolutely genius.

It sounds like I’m being hyperbolic, but I’m not. At all.

So the above version is pretty simple. To make:

Use the bread you’d normally use for french toast and make up your egg mixture.

Add some salt, pepper, dried herbs and some cumin to the eggs mixture. Make your french toast. I like mine on the toastier side.

For the garlicky kale,  chop up a bunch of garlic, saute it with olive oil until it just begins to get brown and toast. It will smell amazing.

Add chopped up kale and some salt and pepper and saute till its crispyish, about 7 minutes. Don’t add too much oil or it will be soggy.

Make quick caramelized red onions by chopping them in nice big chunks and cooking them in a bit of olive oil on high until they begin to brown. Then add a dash of sugar, lower the heat a bit and cook some more. Add about a tablespoon of water to let all the caramely sweet stuff on the bottom of the pan meld back into the onions where it belongs.

Finally make a nice, over easy fried egg. Please keep the yolk runny! It will act as the “sauce” for your breakfast.

Plate your french toast, toss on the crispy kale, caramelized onions, spread on a couple dollops of goat cheese and top with your egg.

I challenge you to make a more exquisitely satisfying breakfast.


*Credit goes to the spouse who had a hand in the invention when told we needed to make breakfast with what we had in the house.

Wine and cheese spread


I threw a little wine and cheese party for the spouse’s birthday a few weeks ago.

Really I was just looking for an excuse to use some of our fun wedding gifts. Platters, trays, cheese knives and slate boards!  Oh My!


Looking back at these pictures, I see I may have made the spread a bit too overwhelming. But I just wanted ample options for creating tantalizing combinations! There were about 5 different cheeses and a variety of crackers and bread, along with pizzelles.


For toppings I laid out avocados, oil and vinegar, lavender honey, a few savory and sweet jams and spreads, arugula and basil. Also smashed up roasted garlic with oil and herbs.


I found some  tiny “champagne grapes” at Trader Joes. They were very sweet and looked quite elegant in my pretty white basket.


Oh! I also used my small cast iron pot to make my new favorite obsession.

Pour marinara sauce and top with a generous dollop of goat cheese. Circle the cheese with a drizzle of olive oil and top with salt and black pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes.

Sharing is absolutely optional. In fact, I discourage it.


We had a red wine from Greece, a few from Trader Joes and asked our friends to bring some as well. It was fun to mix and match elements to find the best combination of wine, cheese, spread and toppings.


I take any excuse to get out my funky cocktail glass collection. No two are the same and none of them cost more than $1 each if I’m not mistaken.

Secret: Goodwill and thrift stores. Completely cool glasses that are super fun to mix and match.


The whole affair was simply elegant, just what I wanted.

Until the group decided to counteract the posh by watching Jackass: The Movie.

European Eats

After not setting foot in Budapest for about 5 years, my family and I were lucky enough to travel there for Christmas last year.*  We spent some time in Budapest, Vienna, Slovenia, Venice and the fiance and I stopped in Dublin for New Years Eve on the way back to Chi-town. IMG_0494 Kakaos Csiga (chocolate snail) is definitely my most missed Hungarian food. We’d buy them while waiting for the school bus. They’d be warm and flaky, getting oozing chocolate all over our fingers and powdered sugar on our lips. IMG_0482 Our favorite “Gyro guy” remembered us all these years later! As a family we’d go there almost every Friday night during the summer. I’d get the falafel sandwich but steal the caramelized onions from my Dad’s shish kebab and add tons of tahini and tzatziki. It was every bit as delicious as I remembered it. IMG_0418 Just gaze upon that monster meringue! I found it in little Venice bakery and carried it around carefully all day until we finally sat down for coffee. This pretty espresso was in an Italian gas station. If you have never had the distinct pleasure of being in an Italian gas station, let me tell you it is a magical place. Part grocery store, part cafe, part mini mall and part wifi hotspot. Their espresso drinks are pulled perfectly with many variations. Just don’t attempt to purchase a bottle of limoncello after 10:00 pm. They will refuse and laugh as you try to persuade them to please sell it to you so you can bring it home to America. IMG_0515 Excuse the horrible Iphone photo. We visited Greystones, Ireland to let my fiance show me around where he spent a semester of college. Very quaint and pretty. Before embarking on a 3 hour hike that about bruised my feet black and blue, we stopped for fish and chips and the above fried goat cheese salad at a local pub. IMG_0496 Absolutely outstanding coffee at 3rd Floor Espresso.  We tasted the same coffee in 3 variations,  an espresso shot, espresso with steamed milk and filtered. IMG_0498 After suffering a bit of upset stomach after a gross airport sandwich, we were in desperate need of something hearty but also light. The barista at 3fE sent us to a french cafe/bakery where we lunched on french onion soup which warmed our cold, tired bones. Soup is so soul enriching isn’t it? IMG_0499 Oh gosh this meal. This meal made me literally shed tears of gratefulness. It was a hippie, vegetarian place and after eating out for over a week my body was in desperate need of nutrients. At Cornucopia in Dublin, we ordered a mixed plate where we picked from an array of funky salads and sides. I also had a marvelous parsnip ginger soup into which I dipped a savory cheesy biscuit.

I still think about that soup sometimes…

Before we flew out, we had coffee at 3fE one last time. IMG_0538

*This post is quite overdue since my European trip was last Christmas, but whatever. It allows me to reminisce over a magical trip.