Chris and I recently attended a couples retreat as the official retreat chefs. (Sooo fun!) We spent the weekend with four other couples at a lake house in Heber Springs, Arkansas. (If you’ve never seen Heber Springs, it’s a little slice of Heaven’s beauty on Earth.) I totally LOVED having the opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of my daily routine to cook some fancy food and pamper the other retreatants so that they could rest and focus on receiving refreshment from the Lord. And I certainly can’t complain about the view I got to enjoy out the kitchen window (and the lack of screaming babies in the background!)
I was especially grateful for the relaxed pace of our time around the table with our new friends. Every meal is a gift and a blessing, but I think it’s too easy to forget that simple truth amidst our culture’s typical practice of cramming food into our faces as we race from one appointment to the next. Today is Sunday, our God-given day of rest. Can we just agree today to sit and savor each bite? Can we give mealtime the space it deserves, instead of cramming it into the margins? Can we take a few lingering moments to look into the faces surrounding our tables? (Or to bask in the solitude, if you are eating alone today?) Can we, just this once, say “no” to fast food in the car… “no” to the granola bar eaten at your desk, “no” to Ramen noodles and Campell’s ”Soup at Hand?” And YES to homemade pizza with fragrant pesto, real mozzarella, and a second glass of wine? Yes to kisses in between bites and storytelling as we wind down for the evening? YES to getting a sore bum from extended time parked in the dining chair? Please comment below and let me know if you sat in your dining chair long enough to get a sore bum today! That’s a goooood sign.
Much of our resting and communing with the couples at our Cedar Rock retreat was spent around the table, of course. What’s a weekend getaway without killer food? Chris and I had free reign over the menu… so of course we pulled out all the stops! Here are some of the dishes we served up (cuz I know you were curious!)…
>> Wood-Grilled Chicken & Yams (with Salted Caramel Shortbread for dessert!)
>> Blueberry White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Espresso Butter Glaze
>> Ham & Cheese Pastry Squares (recipe below) with this amazing salad alongside!
>> Mustard Glazed Salmon (blackened on the griddle) with purple potatoes
>> Spinach Artichoke Feta Quiche and Yogurt/Berry Parfaits
Every bite was a hit! But my favorite bit of feedback came from Rick, who took his first bite of my wood-grilled chicken and yams and told me, “I could curl up and take a nap in this sauce.” #Score!
The recipe below was another crowd favorite… our Saturday lunch of Savory Pastry Squares, made with ham, creamy Jarlsberg cheese, thyme, and a few assorted spices. It’s an easy lunch or brunch to throw together and yet still very impressive and fancy-looking! (And extremely impressive and fancy-TASTING.) Give it a try soon!
- 1 box frozen puff pastry
- 1 tub Kroger Jarlsberg Dip (*You can substitute ⅔ C. shredded Jarlsberg cheese, ¼ C. mayonnaise, ½ tsp. garlic powder, ¼ tsp. salt, and ⅛ tsp. pepper if you don't have access to the pre-made dip)
- 4 oz cream cheese (softened)
- 1 package ham cubes (drained)
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- 1 egg
- 1 Tbsp. water or milk
- Set puff pastry out to thaw about 45 minutes prior to prep time.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the Jarlsberg dip, the softened cream cheese, the ham cubes, and the thyme from 2 of the thyme sprigs. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg and the water or milk, to make an egg wash.
- Taste mixture and add salt and pepper if desired.
- Remove puff pastry from box (it will contain two large squares.)
- Lightly flour a flat surface, lay one square of pastry down, sprinkle the top with flour, and go over it once or twice with a rolling pin, just to flatten.
- Cut large pastry crosswise into four smaller squares.
- Use a drinking glass to make a circular cut-out from two of the four squares.
- Spoon about ⅓ C. of filling onto the middle of the two complete squares, flattening the mound slightly. These will be the base of your pastry squares.
- Use a pastry brush to lightly coat the edges of the base squares with egg wash. Then transfer the cut-out squares to the top of the base squares, using a fork to press and seal the edges together.
- Transfer these first two pastry squares to a large baking sheet (leaving at least an inch between them) and repeat the above steps with the second sheet of pastry from the box.
- Once all four finished pastry squares are on the baking sheet, brush the tops with egg wash and sprinkle tops with remaining thyme, and pepper to taste.
- Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes, until the pastries are a rich golden color and the cheese filling is bubble.
- Serve alongside a fresh green salad.
- (Note: You can save the cut-out circles of puff pastry in the freezer for another use.)