Frankly, I don’t like shopping for groceries (really, who does?). For a chef – especially a home chef – that can be a problem. So, while I’m not always successful, I try to live my culinary life according to the old motto “Always be prepared.” That’s why I’m diligent about freezing or dehydrating so much of the harvest we get each year from our garden. But even without your own garden, you can do the same with the farm-fresh produce you get at your local farm (or farmers’) markets.

I make it a point to process and freeze the bounty from our garden as it becomes ready for harvest, knowing that it will be available later for all manner of recipes. But I also try to make a lot of sauces and condiments at the same time. While that may sound daunting, it makes my work throughout the year even easier. Since I’m processing the produce anyway, I figure why not immediately make some of it into those sauces and condiments. Sauces like Savory Pumpkin Sauce; condiments like Roasted Tomato Jam. I then take a few minutes to freeze, can, or simply refrigerate the items to have on hand when I might need them.

Take last night, for example. I was having a crowd for dinner and had spent much of my day preparing Artichoke Chicken. I was thrilled with the sauce I had created, and knew the dish was going to be a hit. So, I was tempted to sit back and wait for my guests to arrive. But then it dawned on me that I hadn’t prepared an appetizer. I don’t know about you, but most of my guests hope to be served a Farmhouse Fusion appetizer to start off the meal, no matter how cheesy or creamy or hearty the main dish is going to be.

Fortunately, I had a jar of Roasted Balsamic Tomato Jam on hand. And I had a beautiful multi-grain French baguette that I had thinly sliced and frozen for quick use on days like this.

I also happened to have a block of Cablanca Goat Cheese in my cheese drawer. Just like the sauces and condiments, I always try to have a selection of great cheeses on hand to use when I’m in a pinch. So yesterday, I was prepared. I didn’t need to run to the store; I didn’t need to panic over not having a beautiful appetizer to serve my guests. I simply placed brushed some extra virgin olive oil on each piece of bread, and topped it with a slice of the goat cheese. I roasted them at 325 degrees for 12 minutes, then spread a little of the tomato jam on top, garnished it with some parsley, and served it – all to the delight of my guests! Next time I might just toast the bread separately and serve it on a tray with slices of goat cheese and a dish of the tomato jam alongside for my guests to serve themselves. Either way, it makes a great – and easy – appetizer!

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