Mushroom Goat Cheese Twice-Baked Potatoes

mushroom and goat cheese twice baked potatoes | sunsets on the side

mushroom and goat cheese twice baked potatoes | sunsets on the side

Have you guys been watching as much Olympics coverage as I have?  Man, I just love the Olympics.  The competition!  The drama!  The outfits!  The network reporters making top athletes cry after medal-winning performances!

Well, not so much on the last thing.

But, the coverage has been a staple in our house for the past week and a half.  I mean, we’re DVR-ing hockey games for pete’s sake.  U-S-A!

The only thing that feels confusing is all the eating I’m doing while watching Olympics.  Is this even right?  Oh, hi…you’re cross-country skiing UP A HILL right now.  And, I’m…eating pizza.


Oh well.  As it turns out, I’m not above eating twice-baked potatoes while parked on the couch in front of the men’s super-G.  I look at it as sympathy carbing for my country.


mushroom and goat cheese twice baked potatoes | sunsets on the side

Mushroom & Goat Cheese Twice-Baked Potatoes
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Makes: 8 servings
  • 4 russet potatoes
  • 2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onion
  • 8 oz. button mushrooms, chopped
  • 4 oz. goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 T. butter, melted
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • ½ tsp. salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • ¼ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
  • 4 oz. fontina, grated
  • 1 T. minced fresh dill
  • ¼ cup shredded parmesan
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Pierce potatoes with a fork multiple times. Place directly on an oven rack and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until they’re cooked through and the inside is soft. Let cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Stir to coat with the olive oil and let cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are brown and most of their liquid has evaporated, about 7-8 minutes.
  3. When potatoes are cool enough to touch, slice each in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh, leaving enough of a border that the potato halves hold their shape, into a large mixing bowl. Set the potato skins on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  4. Add the goat cheese, butter, milk, salt, and pepper to the potatoes. Mix with a hand mixer until completely smooth. Fold in the mushrooms, fontina, and dill. Scoop even portions of the potato mixture into the empty potato halves.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, sprinkle the tops of the potatoes evenly with parmesan cheese, and then bake an additional 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted and potatoes are heated through.

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis.

Penne with Creamy Ground Turkey Tomato Sauce

penne with creamy ground turkey tomato sauce | sunsets on the side

penne with creamy ground turkey tomato sauce | sunsets on the side

I tend to write about a lot of rich food in this little corner of the web.  Those types of dishes are my favorite things to eat and, truthfully, cook.  But, I don’t cook like that every day. Otherwise, I’d need to invest in a new wardrobe.

My weeknights are typically all about being good so that I don’t feel badly about eating what I want on the weekends.  Monday through Thursday (or, on a really good week, Friday), I’m always looking for meals to make that are tasty but light.  This dish falls into that category.  It’s simple and fast to put together, and you’ll still feel good about yourself when you’re done eating.

penne with a creamy ground turkey tomato sauce | sunsets on the side

Goat cheese is my secret weapon when I’m making pasta dishes that are lower in fat.  When you stir it into a sauce, it looks and tastes a lot like a cream sauce, but there is, comparatively, fairly little fat in a serving of goat cheese.  (Bonus: my grocery store has a store brand goat cheese that’s delicious and almost half the price of regular goat cheese.  Be on the lookout; maybe yours does, too).

So, if you’re searching for more ideas for your light weeknight meals, don’t automatically rule out the pasta dishes.  They don’t always have to be heavy.  With some turkey, veges, and goat cheese, you can still have a hearty pasta dinner without needing a nap afterwards.

But, if you want the nap anyway, that’s what winter is for.  You just go ahead and take it.

penne & creamy ground turkey tomato sauce | sunsets on the side

Penne with Creamy Ground Turkey Tomato Sauce
Makes: 4 servings
  • 12 oz. penne (or any short pasta)
  • 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 medium cubanelle peppers, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh sage
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 (14.5-oz) can petite diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 (8-oz) can tomato sauce
  • 3 oz goat cheese
  • ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  1. Bring a large pot of water with a handful of kosher salt to a boil, and cook the pasta according to the package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large (12”) nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and peppers and cook for about 5 minutes until they start to soften.
  3. Add the garlic, ground turkey, rosemary, sage, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir together, break up the ground turkey, and cook for 4-5 minutes until the turkey is no longer pink. Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan, and cook for 2 minutes to reduce the wine slightly.
  4. Stir in the tomatoes and the tomato sauce, bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer – partially covered – for 15 minutes. Add the goat cheese, and stir until it’s blended into the sauce.
  5. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet, stir to combine it with the sauce, and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Turn off the heat, sprinkle in the parmesan cheese, and serve hot with extra parmesan, if desired.

Christmas Crostini

christmas crostini | sunsets on the side

christmas crostini | sunsets on the side

Boy, we’re sure getting down to the wire here.  Christmas is just five days away.  How did that happen?

I need to get myself packed and ready for temperatures about, you know, 50 degrees colder than I’m used to.  Oh, and I have yet to wrap a single gift.  So, there’s that.

No time to waste!  Who needs an easy appetizer idea?

sun dried tomato and caper crostini | sunsets on the side

These crostini are so simple and delicious.  You could be eating them inside of 15 minutes.  Plus, I made them Christmas-colored for you!  Go make them for your friends.  Or, better yet, go make them, pour yourself a glass of wine, put your feet up, forget about your to-do list, and enjoy your beautiful holiday decorations.

You’ll be happy you did.

Christmas Crostini
Makes: 16-18 pieces
  • Baguette, sliced ½” thick
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 4 oz. goat cheese, at room temperature
  • ⅓ cup ricotta cheese
  • 3 T. chopped sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
  • 1 T. sun-dried tomato oil
  • 2 T. chopped capers
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • ¼ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 T. chopped fresh basil
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush the tops evenly with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 5-6 minutes, until lightly golden brown.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix the goat cheese and ricotta with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes, 1 T. of the oil from the jar of sun-dried tomatoes, capers, salt, pepper, and chopped basil.
  4. Spread toasted baguette slices with the cheese mixture, and garnish with additional basil, if desired.

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis.

Light & Creamy Roasted Squash Soup



Yesterday was a rare dark and dreary day here because we had a “cold front” (in Gulf Coast speak, this translates to temperatures being in the mid-80s instead of the high 80s for the next few days, which…whatever.  I’ll take it!) moving through.  I tend to get a little jazzed up when we have weather like that.  It’s so infrequent that it always makes me want to bust out some sort of soup or stew or chili.


As we head into fall and winter, I love the idea of buzzing up roasted vegetables to make soup.  Roasting makes everything taste great, even veges that are out of season.  And, it just doesn’t take as much babysitting when you can throw vegetables into a hot oven and let it do its thing.

This roasted squash soup is great for weeknight meals because it’s so light.  More often than not, I try to do healthier options for Monday through Thursday cooking.  Not always, but I try.

This would also be great if you’re pressed for time for weeknight meals.  You could make a batch of this pretty quickly on a weekend, refrigerate it in the pot that you used to cook it, and just throw it on the stove to reheat when you’re ready.  Ten minute dinner.

Light & Creamy Roasted Squash Soup
Makes: 4 servings
  • 1 ½ lbs. zucchini, cut into ½” pieces
  • 1 lb. yellow squash, cut into ½” pieces
  • ½ medium red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 small poblano pepper, cut into 1” pieces
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 3 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
  • ½ tsp. hot sauce
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt (I use Fage 2%)
  • 8-10 basil leaves, roughly chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Spray two baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Place chopped zucchini, yellow squash, onion, and poblano onto the two baking sheets. Drizzle each sheet with 1 T. olive oil, sprinkle with ¼ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper. Toss to coat each piece and spread them out evenly. Roast for 20 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  3. Working in batches, process roasted vegetables in a food processor with ½ cup chicken stock. Pour pureed vegetables into a soup pot set over medium heat.
  4. Add milk, the remaining 1 ½ cups chicken stock, the remaining ¼ tsp. of salt, goat cheese, and hot sauce. Stir to combine.
  5. Cook for 15-20 minutes until soup is heated through and goat cheese is melted.
  6. Off the heat, add yogurt and chopped basil. Serve with additional goat cheese and hot sauce, if desired.

Inspired by Ina’s roasted vegetable soup.

Goat Cheese, Leek & Fresh Tomato Pizza



The thought of pizza makes me hungry.

The thought of homemade pizza makes me happy and nostalgic.

And hungry.

I was a lucky kid for many reasons.  (I could list those reasons for you, but that’s not why we’re here.  We’re here for the pizza).  One reason was that my mom made pizza with homemade dough ALL. THE. TIME.  Seriously.  It was awesome.  Of course, when I was a kid, I didn’t really see the novelty of this, so I didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have at the time.  But, that’s neither here nor there.  I totally appreciate it now!

The toppings here are my creation.  But, the dough?  The dough is my mom’s recipe.  It really is so simple and inexpensive to make your own pizza dough.  And, there’s something therapeutic about all that kneading.  If you haven’t tried it yet, you must.

This pizza, considering the cream sauce, is surprisingly light.  I love the flavor of leeks, and when you combine a leek sauce with fresh tomatoes and crumbly goat cheese, you get a pretty bright result.  You can adjust the type of pan and baking times to your liking.  I like a sturdy, almost crunchy crust, so that’s what the times in this recipe will give you.  I also used a round pizza pan that has holes in the bottom (like this one), so that choice added to the extra firm crust as well.

Ok, let’s get to it!

Goat Cheese, Leek & Fresh Tomato Pizza
  • ~~~Pizza dough~~~
  • 1 ( ¼ oz. ) envelope rapid rise dry yeast
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 cup warm water, divided
  • 3 cups flour
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ~~~Pizza topping~~~
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 2 leeks (white and light green parts), thoroughly cleaned and roughly chopped
  • 2 T. flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • ¾ cups shredded parmesan cheese
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • 3 medium ripe tomatoes, seeded and sliced
  • ½ - 1 cup grated mozzarella or fontina cheese
  • 8 large basil leaves, roughly chopped
  1. For the dough: Mix the yeast, sugar, and ¼ cup of the warm water together, and let sit for 3 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, mix the flour, olive oil, salt and remaining ¾ cup warm water together in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture. Stir well and then turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 7-10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.
  3. Drizzle some olive oil in a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it over so it is all coated in the oil. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and let the dough rise until double in size (mine took a little more than an hour).
  4. For the topping: Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook for 7-8 minutes until they’ve softened and started to brown. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
  5. Whisk in the milk and cook, stirring constantly, until thick. Off the heat, add salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. Stir until cheese is melted.
  6. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  7. Shape the dough onto a baking pan (16” round or 12x18” cookie sheet). Leaving a 1” border, poke the middle of the crust multiple times with a fork so it doesn’t rise too much during the first baking. Bake for 10 minutes.
  8. Top with leek sauce, again leaving a 1” border around the outside. Top with sliced tomatoes, and crumble the goat cheese evenly over top. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Place shredded cheese on at the last minute and melt. Garnish with chopped basil.


Roasted Nectarine & Ricotta Crostini



A favorite summer fruit is a funny thing.  How do you pick just one?  Mine usually morphs from one to another, all summer long, depending on what’s currently at its peak or what’s on special when I’m produce shopping.  Strawberries are my favorite!  Or, no, it’s watermelon!  Wait, now I think it definitely might be fresh cherries…  Come on, they’re all winners.

Nectarines are right up there at the top for me, though.  I’ve loved them since I was a kid.  And, this time of year, you can’t walk by a display of fresh nectarines without being stopped dead in your tracks by the incredible smell.  The running-down-your-arm juiciness of a ripe, fresh nectarine just can’t be beaten.

The only thing that could possibly top it is…yeah, roasting said nectarine and giving it an appetizer makeover, pairing it with some ricotta cheese and crispy prosciutto!


Roasted Nectarine & Ricotta Crostini
Makes: 12-14 crostini
  • 2 large nectarines, roughly chopped
  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • 2 T. honey
  • 4 slices prosciutto
  • Baguette, sliced ½” thick
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 3 oz. goat cheese, at room temperature
  • ½ cup ricotta, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1 T. finely chopped basil, plus more for garnish
  • Salt & pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Spray one baking sheet and one 8” x 8” baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Place prosciutto slices onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes until crispy. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
  3. Place baguette slices onto a separate baking sheet. Brush the slices with 2 T. olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 6 minutes, until lightly golden brown.
  4. Place chopped nectarines into the prepared baking dish. Combine butter and honey in a small, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 10-20 seconds, until the butter is completely melted. Pour butter and honey mixture over the nectarines and stir to coat the fruit pieces. Roast for 12-15 minutes, until nectarines are very soft. Let cool slightly.
  5. While nectarines are roasting, in a small bowl, stir together the goat cheese, ricotta, lemon zest, lemon juice, the remaining 1 T. olive oil, and chopped basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Spread toasted baguette slices with the ricotta mixture. Spoon roasted nectarines on top of the ricotta, and crumble crisped prosciutto over the top. Place on a platter and garnish with additional basil, if desired.

Adapted from Claire Robinson and Giada De Laurentiis.