I don’t know about you guys, but New York has been under a dull gray sky for what seems like forever.  The weather, coupled with being holed up in my apartment for days had left me feeling pretty… meh.  Does that ever happen to you?

Even though is was raining and cold out last night, I forced myself out of my apartment and went to meet one of oldest friends (I realized yesterday, we’ve been friends for 18 years!) for dinner. Once we sat down, had some delicious appetizers and started chatting, it was like everything dull washed away and my mood totally brightened.

Just getting out and seeing a friend made all the difference, which I’ve decided is the best antidote for fighting the winter blues. What’s your method? We’ve got a few more weeks of winter left, so I need all the tips I can get!

Photo Credit

Yesterday I was feeling a bit under the weather, so the idea of cooking something that required little more than putting two pieces of bread together and spreading peanut butter and jelly in the middle seemed impossible. Still craving something comforting to enjoy with my hot cup of tea, I decided that instead of the traditional PB&J, it needed a little twist.  Out came the butter and sea salt and I got to work prepping my grilled PB&J sandwich. I probably don’t need to tell you that when you bring buttery crispy bread into the mix with melty sweet peanut butter, it is beyond delicious.  This sandwich is perfect for those lazy day eats, but would also make for a playful breakfast, lunch, or even dessert if you swapped out the jelly for.. oh say, Nutella?  Yum!

Grilled Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Makes 1 sandwich

I probably don’t need to give you exact instructions to prep you PB&J sandwich, so do that to your liking!  Then, take a one tablespoon of softened butter and spread it on each outside part of the sandwich. Sprinkle a little sea salt on each side. Set a small frying pan to medium heat, let warm for a few minutes.  Then place the sandwich in the pan and grill for five minutes on the first side, and 3-4 minutes on the second side until golden brown.  Watch closely so it doesn’t burn.  Cut in half and enjoy immediately!

First off- thank you all so much for your support on my new venture, it means so much to me!  After such a super long post though, I think we need to get right back into the food.

Mexican food rarely happens on purpose in our household for some reason. We always have avocados and black beans, which we use for various other dishes, but rarely for the purpose of making say… quesadillas.  After purchasing ingredients to make nachos last week in honor of the Superbowl (yes, we ate Superbowl food even though we didn’t actually watch it), we were left with many of the typical ingredients needed for Mexican food. These quesadillas were simply the outcome of those leftovers, but they were so delicious, I intentionally bought the same ingredients to make them again this week. This batch features a combo of black beans and chicken, but the ones I made last week included avocado, not chicken. I have to admit, I liked the avocado batch better! Nonetheless, this version is quite tasty, too.

Have you ever noticed how avocado is always a topping for Mexican dishes but never featured inside the dish?Why is that? I find it so, so good! Enjoy!

Smashed Black Bean & Spicy Chicken Quesadillas

Makes 4 entrée portion servings

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8 whole wheat tortillas
  • 2 cups grated Monterey Jack (or whatever you have on hand)
  • 1 cup diced cherry tomatoes
  • pickled jalapeños and hot sauce (optional)
  • salsa and sour cream for serving

Prep your ingredients: Set a medium size frying pan to medium high(ish) heat.  Place a bit of vegetable oil in the bottom of the pan and let the pan warm up for 5 minutes. While the pan is heating, mix together all spices and liberally coat each side of both chicken breasts.  Once pan has heated, put the chicken in the pan and cook for 5-7 minutes on each side depending on how thick your meat is. Once cooked, shred chicken into bite size pieces.

Place your black beans in a large bowl and mash them roughly with the back of a fork (they don’t need to be completely smooth).

Assemble the quesadillas:  Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Place a large baking sheet inside the oven.

Place one tortilla in a large frying pan.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup of cheese, a quarter of the chicken, and a quarter of the diced tomatoes. Top with hot sauce and pickled jalapeños if desired. Take another tortilla, and press the smashed beans into a single layer.  Place that tortilla on top of the one in the pan. Place a dinner plate on top of the tortilla, along with something heavy like other canned goods, to press down the quesadilla. Bring the heat to medium and let cook for 7 minutes. Flip and let cook for 5 minutes on the other side.  Place quesadilla in oven to keep warm while preparing remaining quesadillas. Cut and serve once all are cooked.

Last Thursday night, I set out to do some research and round up my favorite Ina recipes for a belated birthday celebration in her honor. Just a few minutes into my work I got somewhat sidetracked, and began watching Ina’s Google talk. I’m terrible at keeping up on stuff like this, and certainly should have watched this talk sooner than I did.  I say this not just because I’m such a fan of her cooking, but because apparently, there’s a lot I can learn from her that doesn’t involve food.

As some of you may already know, before Ina became the Food Network star and best selling cookbook author that she is, she owned a specialty food store in South Hampton.  That food store was the Barefoot Contessa.  She ran the store for over 20 years, growing it to over 100 employees. After running the store for such a long time, she was ready for something new. For years she mulled over what she should do next in her career. During this period, a friend of her’s shared a very interesting piece of advice. Her friend stated that type A people think they can figure out what they’re going to do next while they’re doing something else, and they can’t. They have to stop and do nothing.  I heard that phrase and literally stopped dead in my tracks. Suddenly the last six months of my life made COMPLETE sense.

Before I explain why this phrase had such an impact on me, a little more on Ina. After getting this feedback, she decided to sell her shop, and quite literally do nothing.  In her talk she reveals she actually did nothing but think about what she wanted to do for a full year, at which point she finally decided to start writing cookbooks, which then lead to her show on the Food Network and where she is today.

Six months ago I wrote a post and shared I was taking time off. I needed the time to think, slow down, and figure out what I really wanted in my career. At the time it was so hard to accept (and admit) that I was actively not pursuing a job. Unlike Ina, I wasn’t as clear on the notion that not working was the exact thing I needed to understand what I truly wanted. Figuring out what I wanted my next career move to be definitely didn’t happen overnight, but it most certainly was fueled by my decision to take a break.

I had worked as a corporate event planner for the last few years, but never seriously considered doing it on my own- having my own business. Then, early this fall while I was in break mode (and thanks to some amazing former colleagues), I was hired as an independent event planner. That work somehow translated into even more work and clients. Once I got a taste of what it was like to work for myself in this space, I was completely hooked and the direction of my career became much clearer.  It didn’t take too long to realize that having my own event planning business was exactly what I wanted.

So with that, I’m thrilled to announce the launch of clara persis events! In comparison to what I wrote back in September, I can’t believe where I am just six short months later. I’m blown away by the opportunities that have come my way by putting myself out there just a little bit, and how amazing it feels to be so happy and proud in relation to what I do. Entrepreneurship definitely doesn’t come without its challenges and risks, but I’ve never been more excited to take on such hard work.

There’s so much more I want to share about my new path, but for today, I think I owe Ina a little shout out (or Ina’s wise friend!). Despite now having a strong sense of direction in my career, it’s still quite daunting. It’s hard to know if I’m going about things the right way, and to rely largely on my own instinct. Ina and I are far from the same, but knowing how she made such a major transition in her career makes type A people like me breathe a little easier. It brings great comfort to know the decision I made six months ago was the right one for me, and that now, even if I’m not sure where things are going 100 percent of the time, I just need to keep going.

If you’ve made it this far- thank you! There was really no other way to get this story out. I hope you’ll pop over to my new site and see what my business is all about. I’m looking forward to sharing all there is to come with you all! xoxo

Happy Saturday! My apologies for not getting this to you all yesterday. The day was far busier than I expected. Busy in a good way though, as there are some amazing things to come (!), but for now, let’s talk macaroons.

A few weeks back I traveled to Toronto for work and stayed at the Fairmont Royal York. Within my two day stay I managed to consume six of their signature macaroons, and ever since them I’ve been dreaming about the pairing of chocolate and coconut.  I know coconut is not for everyone, but I find if you do like it, then you really really like it.  So for those of you who really like it- these are for you. And for those of you who are not fans of coconut, I say just forget the cookies and purchase some strawberries. All that’s left are the chocolate and sprinkles!

I have a big announcement on Monday that I’m so excited to share with you all. Until then, enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Chocolate Dipped V-Day Macaroons
Makes roughly 18 macaroons

  • 3 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 bag milk chocolate chips
  • heart sprinkle (optional)

Make the macaroons: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spray well with non-stick spray.

Mix together the coconut, flour, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla.  It will be very sticky, but stir well to combine.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until they form stiff peaks.  Gently fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.  Drop the mixture in heaping tablespoon mounds on the parchment paper, leaving an inch and a half of space in between each. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes until lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes on the pan and then move to a cooling rack.  A word of caution, these little guys can really stick to the pan.  Don’t worry if you end up have to peel the parchment paper off- I certainly did!

Dipping an Sprinkles:  Place the chocolate chips in a medium size bowl.  Place them in the microwave for 30 second increments, stirring well after each increment until the chocolate is completely melted.  Dip the cooled macaroons in chocolate, top with sprinkle if desired, and place on parchment paper to set. Macaroons can be stored in an air tight container up to 5 days.