Recipe: End of Summer Tomatoes and Whipped Feta

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Yep, this was as delicious as it looks.  I have a healthy obsession with anything that could be deemed bruschetta or crostini.  I call this a delectable form of bruschetta.  You have to try it…you really must.  It is a quick and easy appetizer or side.  But who am I kidding, I ate this for dinner.  A few pieces and even swiped my finger across the plate to get up the leftovers!

Ingredients

For The Whipped Feta:

8 ounces good feta, crumbled and at room temperature
3 ounces whipped cream cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup good olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For The Roasted Tomatoes:

A container or two of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half o
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of sugar

Recipe:

For the whipped feta, place the feta and cream cheese in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse until the cheeses are mixed. Add the olive oil, the lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and process until smooth.

For the tomatoes, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (helps clean up faster).  Place the halved tomatoes on the sheet.  Sprinkle them with olive oil, kosher salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar.  Roast in at 250 degrees for around a hour.

To assemble the bruschetta, spread each slice of bread with a generous amount of whipped feta. With a spoon, place the tomatoes on top (I include the juice). Sprinkle with basil and serve.

If you make this at home, send me a message and a pic!  It is delicious!

 

Recipe: Crock Pot Honey Garlic Chicken

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It is that time of year again….time to break out the Crock Pot.  I’m bound and determined to use it more since I am finding it harder and harder to find time to make dinner. This was beyond easy and super tasty.  Five minutes of prep time.  Cook time: 6-7 hours on low, or 4-5 on high.  I didn’t take pics because I just wasn’t thinking about it as I was making it but look at the ingredient list.  7 ingredients is all it takes, folks!  Try it!

Ingredients

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4 garlic cloves, minced
⅓ cup honey
½ cup ketchup (you can also use low-sodium ketchup, if available)
½ cup low sodium soy sauce
½ teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
½ tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Instructions

Arrange chicken thighs on the bottom of your slow cooker; set aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine garlic, honey, ketchup, soy sauce, oregano and parsley; whisk until thoroughly combined.
Pour the sauce over the chicken thighs.
Close with a lid and cook for 6 to 7 hours on LOW, or 4 to 5 hours on HIGH.*
Remove lid and transfer chicken to a serving plate.
Spoon the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Notes
*165 degrees Fahrenheit is the safe internal temperature for both the white meat of the chicken and dark meat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planning A Minecraft Party

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Minecraft has fully invaded our house.  I’m pretty sure I know how it started.  Our dear nanny Maria has 5 boys of her own and occasionally (especially during the summer), one or two of them will come with her to watch our kids.  Yes, she is Super Woman and Mary Poppins rolled up into one dynamic person but I digress.  Her older sons showed Colton the never-ending world of Minecraft.  I have to be honest, John and I had to buy a Minecraft for Dummies books so we could figure out what he was doing and play with him.  I actually love the creative aspect of this game so I am 100% on board with a little gaming time with Minecraft.

Colton turned 7 on Saturday and he asked for a Minecraft Party.  You would think this would be easy since it is so popular but strangely enough, there isn’t a whole lot of Minecraft party supplies out and about.  I used my faithful party planning pal, Pinterest, and started a board.  Pinterest is the answer to a busy mom’s need to have a few cute decorations and awesome party ideas without having to spend an exuberant amount of time on research and implementation.  Check out my Minecraft Party board here.

Colton’s second request was a sleepover.  Yikes!  All I can think of is the mound of bodies that we will have in our 1900 square foot 100 year old Capitol Hill row home.  Yep, I said yes but we limited the number to just a few close friends and of course his little brother. I tried to keep the decorating and party prep to a minimum which for me is quite a bit of work.  I’m just not good at simple, no decoration parties.  Yes, I know that my kids don’t really need all the bells and whistles but I enjoy doing it.  Feel sorry for my husband who has to deal with the crazy.

I started with the invites which I got here.  I downloaded two Minecraft fonts here.  If you have never added fonts to your computer, it really is super simple.  I have a Mac and all I needed to do the following:

For Mac OS X 10.3 or higher:

  • Double click the font file and fontbook will open a preview of the font.
  • Click “install font” at the bottom of the preview.

Quick and easy.  The finished product was adorable and we filled the box with some candy that looks like Minecraft diamonds and emeralds.  Pocket Full of Sweets on Etsy provided the candy.il_570xN.660078437_nxpc il_570xN.548245003_jemg

Here is the invite finished.

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Once the invites were done, I decided to figure out the goody bags.  I know all parents despise these bags.  Once home, the little plastic items are strewn all over your house and you secretly try to throw them away a little at a time.  So with that in mind, I decided to make creeper backpacks.  I found these on Amazon.  61k74U0-3rL._SX522_

My dear friend Karen had iron on material in black and she cut out the shapes for me.

ry=400-22Next…what to put in them….back to Pinterest.  I printed out a few games on freeminecraftprintables.com.

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I added in a few small minecraft toys and wrapped up some twizzlers to look like TNT. The TNT label is a free printable from here.

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The decorations were pretty simple although time consuming when you have 3 kiddos in the house but I have a great husband who just gets the job done.  Here is what we came up with….a few Minecraft spiders, creeper and TNT balloons and a pretty cool Minecraft tables scape.
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The spiders are black balloons, black crepe paper and red construction paper for the eyes.  The TNT balloons are red balloons with a TNT label I made in Word.  The creeper balloons are lime green and I used black duct tape for the faces.  All in all, pretty easy just takes some time.  The banner below is another free printable here.

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The food table was my favorite to do.  Nothing better than a whole lot of sugar for little kiddos…..I used everyday items as Minecraft items.  There are a million free food tent printables on Pinterest so just grab one from there.  Not to mention plenty of free paper crafts you can use (see the blocks in the pics beside the white bowls) as decorations.  I picked up a brown tablecloth and a grass tablecloth to use on the table (looks like a grass block).

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Then it was on to find ways to entertain kids that have way too much energy to burn.  I decided on Minecraft bingo with little figurines as prizes.  Never in a million years, did I think it would be such a hit.  The free printable is here.

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The one other big decoration I constructed was a large creeper face in the basement.  I used Colton as free child labor.  He thought it was super cool to put a puzzle together on the wall.

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The kiddos had a blast and I enjoyed putting it all together.  It was great to have help from my hubby, my sis, my brother-in-law, our dear friend Katie, and Karen (my DIYer).  Colton loved it and I was happy to give him an awesome Minecraft party for his 7th Bday.
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Happy Birthday to my first born!

 

Have you watched The Affair yet?

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The first season of The Affair premiered on Showtime in October 2014.  As usual, I was a bit late to the game but thanks to my good friend Jere, I decided to watch this one while on maternity leave.  Over the ten episodes of its first season, The Affair chronicles the story of a handsome novelist, Noah as he falls for a beautiful waitress Alison.  Who among us has not experienced some form of complicated love.  This is the appeal of the show.  And we have to mention that the story is told from dual POVs.  I am loving this trend which we have seen take flight in the book world in the New Adult genre.

Dominic West (Noah) and Ruth Wilson (Alison), both Brits who make American bed-hopping worthy of watching, knock their performances out of the park the whole season.  Their are moments when you sympathize with both and moments when you want to slap them across the face.  Can we forget the scene where Alison drains Helen (Noah’s wife) expensive shampoo down the drain just because she can or where Noah is sleeping with anything that breaths in his space in the season finale.images

For much of the season, Noah is in agony as he tries to write a bestselling novel but that’s only half the story. Mid-way through each episode, the show flips to Alison’s P.O.V., in which we saw many of the same plot details through her interpretation. I absolutely loved this part.  The same scenes would play out from each POV and it shows just how differently two people can remember the exact same event and details of the event.  The best part is in the background, you hear a 3rd party and clearly they are trying to piece together the story because someone has died.  The speculation was never ending during the first few episodes.  By the last episode, you receive a few answers but your mind is spinning as to where this show will take you in season 2.  What will happen in the second season of The Affair…catch up and stay tuned in!

Outlander…my new guilty pleasure!

images-4If you haven’t read the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon then you are missing out. These books are monsters…usually 800 or 900 pages but once you start, you can’t stop. In August, when there is absolutely nothing to watch on TV, STARZ released the TV series based on the series Outlander. I’m hooked…addicted…can’t get enough of it. I could watch the episodes again and again.

The Starz Channel has not had many shows that I thought had a high production value. I was worried that they wouldn’t get the background scenes and actors right for this much loved book series. Much to my surprise, the writing is superb, the actors are excellent and the production sets are unbelievable. You can literally feel the coldness and harshness of the Scottish highlands through the television.

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This book series has a bit of science fiction, a ton of Scottish history (and the Gaelic which is hard to follow in the book and on TV), and lots of romance. The show is brilliantly paced to the point that it is driving me insane. I can’t get enough of Jamie and Claire but if you read the books, the show is right on par.

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We are almost through Season 1 and we learned that Season 2 is a green light. Please tell me we don’t have to wait for too long! I am a believer in this show and recommend it to all Gabalon fans but also tell people who haven’t read the book, check out the series and then go get the book!

Taylor’s Milk and Cookies Baby Shower

We traveled home to NC over Memorial Day and I was one of many hostesses for my cousin Taylor’s baby shower.  We decided on a milk and cookies theme because if you know anything about Tay, she loves milk and sweets!  It was an absolute perfect day for an outdoor shower and we were lucky enough to host it at Shuford House DSC_1950in downtown Hickory.  It DSC_1949was such a lovely location that a wedding party showed up for photos.

We decided on a rustic theme with light coral and light aqua as our color selection.  Those colors are some of Tay’s favorites.  My super crafty cousin and sister to the mom-to-be, Mackenzie Queen, made most of the decorations with a little help from the rest of the hostesses.  She has her own store and makes the cutest home decor.  Check it out at D&M Designs.

 

Here are some of her creations used at the shower.

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If you noticed the bows and mustaches in the pic, my dear friend Kristen Lail made these and man, were they super nice.  She brought them with her all the way from Cali!  Here is the tutorial.  The Take A Guess chalkboard was courtesy of Homegoods and will go in Baby Pugh’s nursery!  Tay took it home and we will see soon, who was the closest!  We also used If You Give A Mouse A Cookie for a guest book and we also sent the guests home with a big cookie!

Another important aspect to this baby shower was the food.  All the food you see is gluten free because Taylor has celiac disease.  Although you would think it would be tough to come up with cookies, baked goods and desserts that are gluten free, it wasn’t at all!  Everything we made fit the bill!

On the menu, we had milk shake shooters that were as simple as making vanilla and chocolate milkshakes and pouring it into shot glasses.  Another fantastic treat were the gluten free chocolate chip cookies by Immaculate Baking Co!  These are the best gluten free cookies I have ever had and they are take and bake straight from Harris Teeter.  Other stores carry them as well.  We also served rice krispy treats, cupcakes from My Local Bakery, fruit skewers, and strawberry lemonade push pops (recipe courtesy of Push-up Pops by Courtney Dial Whitmore).

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Get these shot glasses off of Amazon or any kitchen supply website!

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Best Gluten free cookies ever! The jar should say Baby Pugh! My brain is mush!

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The cupcake stand was courtesy of Mac! The adorable pendants were bought on easy at angieheartsjared.

 

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These are beyond easy and great for kids and adults! The wood blocks were made by John! Drill some holes and paint!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cutting up the fruit and threading on the skewer takes some time but the presentation makes it worth it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The buffet came together beautifully thanks to a fantastic group of ladies!

For beverages, we provided a milk bar, tea, and flavored water with small milk bottles for cups.

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These bottles were adorable and reusable!

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Love the mason jar drink dispensers!

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Got to have all 3: Strawberry, Chocolate and Just Plain-o Milk!

Here is a few shots of the shower!

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Mom-to-Be Tay, Aunt-to-Be Mac and Grandma-to-Be Patty

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Tay and the Hostesses!

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This is our Grandmother Marge and her granddaughters. She turned 88! We sang Happy Birthday to her!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tay, we hope you enjoyed your self and we can’t wait to meet Baby Pugh!

Penny Dreadful…Showtime has a hit on their hands

First, let me say, I don’t do horror.  At all.  I just find no need for it.  I don’t enjoy being scared.  Matter of fact, I just hate it.  But what I do love is all things Victorian England and paranormal stories.  I know…very strange combo and considering a good deal of paranormal stories have been turned into bloody horror films/tv shows.  But I can admit, I love Vampire Diaries and the Originals.  Sue me.  Well, I am eating my words a bit with this series….I love Penny Dreadful even though it is horror. It is full of all the things I love and hate in a tv series.  Should be interesting to see if I last to the end!

This is Showtime’s description of the show: Some of literature’s most terrifying characters, including Dr. Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, and iconic figures from the novel Dracula are lurking in the darkest corners of Victorian London. PENNY DREADFUL is a frightening psychological thriller that weaves together these classic horror origin stories into a new adult drama.

Without really even looking at the show page, I decided to watch it based off a preview.  That isn’t like me at all.  I usually research things to death before I commit.  Well, I didn’t this time and I am glad I just went for it.  I was hooked after the first episode.  It pulled me right in.

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The cast is fantastic and includes a number of movie actors: Eva Green (I think she is absolutely stunning and loved her in Casino Royale) as the mysterious and alluring medium Vanessa Ives, Timothy Dalton as the brave explorer Sir Malcolm Murray, and Josh Hartnett playing a role that fits him well, a befuddled American named Ethan Chandler who doesn’t understand what’s going on, but is willing to come on the ride along.  We are also introduced in the first episode to Harry Treadaway as Victor Frankenstein.  This group comes together to help Sir Malcolm on his quest to rescue his daughter (the future Mina Murray who is more than likely based on Mina Harker from Bram Stoker’s Dracula) from what Vanessa refers to as “the demi-monde” .  Vanessa explains it to “A half world between what we know and what we fear,” Vanessa explains. “A place in the shadows, rarely seen but deeply felt.” A place where “unfortunate souls are cursed to live always.”

There have only been two episodes this season so far and I believe only 8 are slotted for the season.  Episode Two didn’t disappoint.  Enter Dorian Gray.  I love him in literature and I sure do think I am going to love him on this show. Wow.

Watch it.  Be intrigued with me.

 

A few of my favorite things…April

I figured I would start sharing some of my favorite things each month. I love it when people open my eyes to new places to eat, new gadgets, new fashion trends (not that I am very good at following them),  and just generally things I love this month.

So….here we go!

Pork Dumplings from Toki Underground. I went to an event at Union Market in April called Thread and it was full of fantastic fashion, home decor and of course food. Toki Underground was a pop up that was only staying for a few weeks in the market and it has been there for months now. These dumplings are unbelievable. My friend Katie, my sis and I were laughing as people actually ran after the trays just to snag one of these.

Chromecast…..35 dollars and endless possibilities. John and I are constantly behind the curve on the latest technology but at least we try to catch up.  This is my new favorite toy. I am catching up on Scandal, Game of Thrones, and House of Cards. Not to mention, there are so many cartoons and movies for the boys to watch. Strangely, my boys have become obsessed with Super Mario Bros. Super Show. In case you don’t remember, this show came out when I was young. It starred WWE Hall of Famer Lou Albano as Mario.  I wouldn’t say it was an award winner but then again, my boys love it.  t think it has to do with Colton’s obsession with Super Mario World on the Wii.

My Tieks!  Seriously, the best flats I have ever owned.  If you don’t have a pair, pay the price.  They are worth it.  They have a good sole, my feet never hurt even after wearing them all day, and they come in cool packaging.  I mean seriously, everyone loves to get a pretty package!

Klorane Extra Dry Shampoo is making my life easy.  Most of you know how thick my hair is and I really don’t need to wash it but every few days.  This stuff makes it last another day.  Lots of people don’t like dry shampoo but this one has a good smell.  Major downer…small in size.  I also use Dove Dry Shampoo.  It is way cheaper and just as good!

Moving onto my favorite things: BOOKS!  The list goes on and on!  This month has been a book winner…here goes:

The King by J.R. Ward. Seriously one of the best paranormal series I have ever read and this book in the series brings us full circle back to Wrath and Beth.

Bad for You by Abbi Glines. This lady’s Seabreeze series is fantastic. Love the characters and all the interplay. Krit, the lead singer of Jackdown, is to die for. I have been waiting for his story for too long.  I can’t wait to meet her this weekend at the DC Author event.

Sweet Reckoning by Wendy Higgins.  DC local and author of this amazon Young Adult trilogy knocks my socks off.  This is the last of Kaidan and Anna and I loved every minute of it.  Excited to meet her too this weekend!

Nash by Jay Crownover.  One of her Marked Men series.  These guys are a great group and Nash proves no different.  This is the first one where I actually cried.  I was surprised I loved Nash so much but he may end up being my favorite.

Out of Mind by Jen McLaughlin.  Another trilogy coming to an end.  Finn and Carrie are a favorite couple.  Read them all!

Reasonable Doubt by Whitney Gracia Williams.  This is a serial and a hot, steamy one.  I am patiently waiting for part 2.

The Proposition 4 by H.M. Ward.  She is the queen of serials and the Ferro brothers.  I just wrote a review on this one.  Bryan may be my new have Ferrro but I am not sure how long he will be around!

As far as TV goes: you all know I love The Following.  Kevin Bacon is the best!  I can’t believe the season finale and I am hating we have to wait half a year for another season.

Suits:  John and I love this show.The cliffy with Mike leaving is so not cool but back on in June!  Answers soon! Woohoo!

Scandal, seriously where have I been. I can’t get enough of this show and thank you to my Chromecast, I am all caught up! Well, I have another season to go….I mean the angst between Olivia and the President. The First Lady, man, she takes scorned to a whole new level. Olivia’s staff…love them all.

Don’t let me forget my new favorite anthem….Ain’t it Fun by Paramore.  I listen to this on repeat!  Hayley William’s voice is one of the best out there!

Easter and Spring.  My kids love Easter eggs.  I love them too just hate putting them back together.  I love going to church with my family and seeing everyone in my hometown of Bethlehem.

I love fresh flowers.  They make me happy so I am trying to keep them around the house!

Coop’s Bday.  He has a good birthday month.  He was so excited this year about everything birthday!  We celebrated at Mamaw and Papaw’s and had a Minion themed birthday party!  We all enjoyed it!

That’s it for April!

 

Most of the links are to Amazon and they are not sponsoring this post.  I just happen to use Amazon…a lot.

The Following…I can’t get enough of Kevin Bacon or all the crazies!

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Well, if you haven’t watched The Following, you are missing out!  I usually don’t do shows, books, movies, really anything that involves crazy psychos and is liable to get my heart racing.  Well, I caved and started watching The Following last  year.  Mostly, if I am honest, because I love Kevin Bacon.  Yes, the Kevin Bacon from Footloose and Flatliners.  For me, he is scruffy hot and let’s be honest, he rocked the 80s tux in Footloose.  Love the guy.  And he is center stage in The Following.  He plays former FBI agent Ryan Hardy.  I don’t really want to give too much away but let’s say, his past has caught up to him big time in the form of an absolute narcissistic, psychopath Joe Carroll.  The psychopath and his “followers” are just “wow”.  There are not words.  They truly believe in Joe and his teachings.  Ryan Hardy is enemy #1 for them and Joe although in prison is plotting and scheming.  Clearly, Joe doesn’t stay in prison for long and his cult following quickly leaves a mark on civilized society.  Funny enough, I thought the first season couldn’t be outdone with season 2 but the writers have coughed up even more crazies.  John and I can’t get enough of this show.  It makes my Mondays tolerable!  Drinking is advised while watching this show (click on the pic above).  It gives me anxiety (in a good way of course)!

Tomato& Goat Cheese Tarts…

For those of you who know me, you know I love to cook.  For those of you who don’t know me, that doesn’t mean I am a chef.  I am very competent at following a recipe and absolutely love the whole process of making a meal.  Caveat:  I do not bake.  I cook.  This recipe is exceptional and is found in one of my favorite cookbooks of all times….Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics.  I have dog eared so many recipes in this one book.  I say if you don’t have it, buy it.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts has a few steps and I am not going to lie, it takes a bit of time; however, the results are so worth it.  It is a great option for a vegetarian dinner as well and I have a few vegetarians in my friend group. So let’s begin….I even have pics!

IMG_3842First thing, preheat oven to 425.  If you are unfamiliar with puff pastry, acquaint yourself with it.  It is a fantastic ingredient.  For this recipe, just unfold a puff pastry sheet on a floured surface (don’t forget to flour your roller) and roll it lightly into an 11×11 square.  Now, that is the instructions from Ina Garten. I just rolled it out.  I’m not really a measurer.  I use one of my cup saucers and cut out two circles from each sheet. Then I take a knife out and score around each circle leaving an 1/4 inch border.  Take a fork and prick the center and sprinkle on some parmesan.

IMG_3843Then you are going to cut 2 large onions into slices and sauté them for about 20 minutes or so.  Throw in 3 slivered cloves of garlic.  When there is hardly any moisture, add the wine, thyme, salt and pepper.  Cook another 10 minutes and remove remove from heat.

Place 1/4 of the onion mixture on each circle, again staying within the scored edge. Crumble 1 ounce of goat cheese on top of the onions. Place a slice of tomato in the center of each tart. Brush the tomato lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper. Finally, scatter 4 or 5 shards of Parmesan on each tart.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. The bottom sheet pan may need an extra few minutes in the oven. Serve hot or warm.

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Here is a good set of pics to show you the final steps!  This is really tasty and especially if it is still warm.  I am thinking about making this for a bridal shower but in mini appetizer size!  I will post pics if I do!

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