You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2010.

So, Brad and I took a trip to the Outer Banks to watch our friends get married.

Here they are on their big day:

Pretty, non?

Well, on the loooooooooooooong drive there and back (with two dogs in the back- I nearly lost my sanity) we listened to The Help.

The Help

Have you read it?

Probably.

Because by the time we got around to listening/reading this, seriously everyone I know had told me how I NEEDED to read this book.

This book is special.

The characters feel like friends, and the story is engaging and fascinating and scary and lovely all at once.

This is the authors FIRST NOVEL. What an introductory literary work. I’m impressed, and Kathryn Stockett is wicked talented.

The story centers around three women living in Mississippi in 1962. Skeeter is a 22 year old, white, new college graduate. Aibileen is a wise black maid that is raising her seventeenth white child. And Minny is a sassy and fun and sometimes trouble making maid that happens to be Aibileen’s best friend.

These three women’s lives intersect as they begin to work on a dangerous project together that has the potential to expose dark and dirty secrets that may just lead to long lasting positive change. Or it could ruin lives- including their own.

That is all I will say about the story. If you are one of the 3 people left on the planet who have not read this book, do it.

Do it now.

Oh, and you might as well borrow it from a friend or purchase it for yourself because every library I went to had over 30 people on the waiting list for this one.

Yes, it is THAT good.

Happy reading nerds!

Leah

I baked.

Don’t fall out of your chair.

For those of you that know me, you know that baking is not my forte.

Don’t get me wrong, I love baked goods. I just don’t love making them.

I know what I’m good at, and baking is not it.

The exact science of it all stresses me out.

However, there comes a time in every girl’s life when she decides she needs to make a delicious breakfast compliment for her weekly quiches.

And I have done just that. Meet my Strawberry, Blueberry, Banana Bread.

Yes, I said Strawberry, Blueberry, Banana Bread. Eat your heart out Marty Stewart.

This is based off of a very basic banana bread recipe that I found online. I have amped it up because really what fun is plain ole banana bread ?

So, here is what you will need:

Flour, brown sugar, 2 eggs, butter, baking soda, salt, vanilla, 3 overripe bananas, 1 cup of blueberries, and 1 cup of strawberries sliced.

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a bowl, combine 2 cups of flour, 1 t. baking soda, 1/4 t. salt, 1 t. cinnamon.

Now, set that aside for a moment.

Get out your mixer. Or roll up your sleeves and get out your mixin’ spoon.

In a separate bowl, cream 1/2 c. butter and 3/4 c. brown sugar.

Crack your eggs. I’m such a bad baker, that I crack my eggs into a separate bowl for fear of an eggshell bomb in my final product.

Yes, I have made cookies, cakes, and breads with some extra crunchy egg shells included for my guests’ dining pleasure.

So, if you enjoy an egg-shelly, crunchy texture, feel free to drop some in. But I don’t recommend it.

Peel your bananas and break them up a bit, and let them join the party.

Add 1 t. of vanilla- I like the good stuff. I buy it in Mexico. None of that weird artificial nonsense.

Now, MIX IT!

MIX IT reminds me of FIX IT. FIX IT reminds me of this SNL gem:

http://www.hulu.com/watch/38477/saturday-night-live-update-thursday-fix-it

FIX IT starts at 2:08. You are welcome.

Back to the bread.

Time to combine the wet and the dry.

Take your banana/butter/sugar mixture and dump it into the flour mixture.

MIX IT! together by hand.

Now for my favorite of all favorites part of the recipe.

Add in a cup of sliced strawberries and a cup of blueberries.

At this point, you can go ahead and start eating this with a spoon.

Or you can finish making your bread by carefully folding the berries into the batter so as not to smush and smash and smish the berries.

Oh boy, that batter.

That looks good.

I should become a baker.

Yes, I think I will.

Take the batter and pour it into a lightly greased loaf pan.

Now pop it in the oven for 60-65 minutes.

Now, sit in your kitchen and smell the baking bread for the next hour.

The smells that accompany baking help me understand why people get into it. Honestly. It is homey and comforting and feels like a party all at once.

After an hour, this is what you get:

Wowsa. Me Likey. Doesn’t that look so good?

Everyone in your life will thank you if you make this and share it with them.

Happy Baking,

Leah

On our wall in the family room, we have a group of pictures of all of our grandparents when they were close to our age.

I love my main man’s grandma in her swimsuit.

I love my Grama in her nurse’s uniform just starting out in her career.

I love the pictures of each couple in love, young, not knowing what life would bring them.

Our parents weren’t yet a twinkle in their eye.

They are standing in front of first houses, they are on pre-children vacations, and they are sitting in favorite spots.

And now… now, they are all parents and grandparents and great-grandparents. These young faces have lived full lifetimes.

Some have left us.

And thankfully, some are still with us.

It serves as a reminder that life is short.

Life is unpredictable.

Life is joy and sorrow and growth and change.

Life is leaving a legacy to be proud of.

Sigh, I love these people.

And I love the reminder that the pictures provide.

Feeling nostalgic,

Leah

Sometimes, I feel uninspired in the kitchen.

In those moments, I turn to some of my friends for their help.

Ina always comes through. TPW is a new friend, but she hasn’t let me down yet. And Rachael, as annoying as she may be, can deliver a good meal.

Without further ado, my top five go-to recipes that are not my own:

1. Pico de Gallo and Guacamole by The Pioneer Woman

Photo from thepioneerwoman.com

I have mentioned this goodness before, and I’m confident I will mention it again.

I know it isn’t technically a meal, but this can MAKE a meal. It turns a plain chicken breast into something wonderful and it can take a grilled fish to the next level.

I’m not lying when I say that I have taken a ham and cheese sandwich and thrown on a scoop of this, and it is to. die. for.

Oh, and you can just dip plain ole chips in it. Really, the possibilities are endless.

Make some. You will love it.

Side note: In the recipe, TPW says that it doesn’t keep well in the fridge. I do admit that it breaks down some, but I find it completely edible for several days.

2. Frozen Key Lime Pie by Ina Garten

Photo from foodnetwork.com

Perfect Summer Dessert.

Cold, creamy, tart, sweet, and delicious.

‘Nuff said.

3. Why-the-Chicken-Crossed-the-Road Santa Re-Tastic Tortilla Soup by Rachael Ray

Photo from foodnetwork.com

The name alone illustrates what irritates me about Rachael Ray. However, this soup is amazing.

I know summer doesn’t really make anyone long for a good hearty bowl of soup, but these flavors are really delicious in the summer. So, on the next cool day promise me you’ll try this out.

So good.

Side story: My sister made this for a dinner party. The recipe calls for 1-2 chipotle in adobo peppers (smoked jalapeno peppers), and she put in 1 CAN of peppers. Ha. Her guests needed lots of water, but they still liked the soup.

4. Tequila Lime Chicken by Ina Garten

Photo courtesy of foodnetwork.com

Second recipe from Ina, and both feature some lime. Hmm.

Ooh, I just had an inspired idea. Pair this WITH the Pico. And then the Key Lime for dessert.

Then, call me and invite me to dinner.

I’ll be there. Promise.

This chicken is good cooked on a skillet inside or out on the grill.

5. Ham and Cheese in Puff Pastry

Photo from foodnetwork.com

Ok, this another gem from Ina. That woman can cook. I have NEVER made anything less than delicious from Ina’s repertoire.

I have made this several times as an appetizer. I’ve made it for friends coming over, baby showers, and bridal showers, and a holiday party or two. It is simple, simple, simple! But it looks and tastes decadent and fancy.

Puff pastry is a gift from the gods.

I have to go. I need to go wipe the drool off of my chin.

And then I need to make one (or maybe all) of these.

XO,
Leah

I don’t know why I only discovered fish tacos in the past couple of years.

That feels wrong in so many ways.

Because they are so delicious.

I understand that some people don’t really groove on fish. But, you should try this anyway. And if I can’t talk you into eating creatures from the sea, you could substitute chicken.

But I wouldn’t.

Because the fish is delish. Har. Har. See what I did there?

Here is what you need:

So, I’m just using tilapia from the freezer section in the grocery store. It is cheap, convenient, and perfect for an after-work dinner because they don’t take long to defrost.

However, any flaky white fish will do.

For the main man and I, I used three filets (each about 1/4 in thick).

For the marinade, you’ll need a lime, some cilantro, a jalapeno, extra virgin olive oil, and a little salt and pepper.

Put some of that oil (1/4 c.) in your marinade bowl.

Now, zest your lime. Just the green part. The white part is the opposite of delicious.

Now, lets use the rest of the lime. Juice that bad boy.

Chop your jalapeno. Don’t touch your eyeballs.

Chop up 1/4 c. of cilantro. I love cilantro. So, does the man in my life.

I think that is why our  marriage works. That, and that alone.

Throw the jalapeno and cilantro into the bowl.

Here’s what you should be looking at. It is a little thicker marinade.

Pretty, non?

Now, we shall marinate. If you are using thin fish fillets like a good soldier, cover with the marinade and stick in the fridge for 30 minutes.

The lime will start to cook the fish if you marinate much longer.

If you are a rebel, and you are using chicken, you may marinate the meat longer.

Now is also a good time to get your grill goin’.

While the grill is heating up and the flava is soaking in to the meat, we shall prepare toppings.

I like some pico (I told you I use this stuff ALL the time), an avocado sliced up, sour cream, a squeeze of fresh lime, and a super simple cabbage slaw.

Here’s how I make the slaw.

You only need a bit of slaw. I would say a 1/2 cup for 2 people.

Chop up the cabbage. Put it in a small bowl. Squeeze in half of that lime.

Now a drizzle of the olive oil- a teaspoon.

And a sprinkle of coarse Kosher deliciousness and pepper.

And mix it up. And done.

Now lets grill some corn on the cob AND our fish. The fish, because it is so thin, cooks quickly. Like 2 minutes on each side.

Finish grilling, and lets make a TACO. Yes! Yes! Yes!

I toasted my tortilla just for a second. I like it warmed up a bit. Then I use my fork and flake all of the fish a part.

Then, I pile on the slaw, avocado, sour cream, pico, and a little extra fresh cilantro.

Top it off with a squirt of fresh lime.

Fold ‘er up.

And stick it on your plate with some corn and fruit salad.

Can you see those blackberries in the fruit salad. They are huge!

Want to see?

HUGE, I tell ya. And yummy.

So, the tacos are and forever will be a hit.

Look.

This one really wanted to be a proper dinner guest.

She tried extra hard to get a morsel.

Those etiquette classes are paying off.

And this one too. She doesn’t care that she’s not invited to the table to sit. She’s quite happy catching anything that flies off of the table.

Please make these tacos. Your life will be unfulfilled if you don’t.

It really will.

Lots of love,
Leah

Want to know what makes me really, truly happy?

My sister’s Justin Bieber impression:

Seeing the man I love the most laugh his hardest:

These two:

Watching my sister’s reaction to certain Bachelorette weekend conversations with my brother’s future bride:

One of these guys on a Friday night:

The fact that when I did a Googe image search for a dirty martini, this is what came up first:

That “What? I didn’t know. I promise. I was just exploring” look that dogs give ya after traipsing through mud then running through every room of your house.

Ok, maybe thats not joy. But this picture is:

A lifelong commitment to one person through thick and thin, good and bad, happiness and sorrow, children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren:

Curling up with a good book- just finished this one, and it was Oh, So Good.

Cheese:

An ill-fated attempt at a self-portrait. Seriously, I am the worst at these, but I still love the picture. It makes me smile.

A great pair of heels- the putting them on and wearing them out…

and then the feeling of taking them off and sinking my feet into slippers after a night out.

I think I need these.

No really, Need.

Yes, I think so.

Spontaneous dance routines and performances:

Lifelong girlfriends.

The kind of friends that knew you when you had a bad perm and wore biker shorts.

Outside.

To School.

They were in style.

I swear.

Mine had a hot pink stripe down one side and a hot green stripe down the other.

I may or may not have worn them with some mis-matched slouch socks.

Planning an upcoming vacation:

And this song:

Seriously, I love this song. And NOW. The video. Oh man.

Now, it really brings me joy.

Life is full.

My cup runneth over.

Leah

A Quiche Story:

My friend’s brother-in-law went off to college. He walked into the cafeteria, and he checked out the menu board.

He said to the man behind the counter:

“Um, I’ll try some of that Qwee-Chee”

The man behind the counter responded:

“Qwee-Chee? QWEE-CHEE? That’s QUICHE FOOL!”

And that is what I think of every time I make my weekly quiche.

This week’s quiche is GOOD. My main man and I agree it is in the top five of all time. Or at least the top five of the past five weeks.

Oven at 400 degrees.

Let’s fry some bacon, shall we? I hope you are beginning to believe me when I say that bacon and cheese are life necessities for me.

Hello, Lover.

Now, the basics for any quiche. Eggs (used 8 this week), half and half or cream (I used the less fattening this week- feeling very disciplined), and some cheese.

Some sharp cheddar goodness.

Then, I opened my fridge and saw this bowl of goodness:

This is The Pioneer Woman’s Pico de Gallo. I was not surprised to see it in my fridge. Since I discovered this recipe, we have had a steady stream of Pico in our house.

I put it on everything. I use it as a salad dressing, put it on a sandwich, eat it on a chip, take a bath in it.

Make some right now. You’ll never survive in life without it.

Crack your eggs, add about a 1/4 cup of cream or the half and half, and put a little bit of salt and pepper on top.

Oh, hey there random half of a green pepper looking so lonely on my fridge shelf. Do you want to join the party?

You do?

Ok, you’re in.

Several heaping spoons of pico- I dunno, maybe a cup and half?

I told you I loved the stuff.

Chop up your bacon- 6 pieces or so. And add in 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar.

Now, whip it. Whip it good.

Throw it into a 9 inch circular pan that has been non-stick sprayed.

Now, into the oven. I set the timer for 20 minutes, and it was not at all set in the middle, so I left it in for another 10 minutes.

It turned out perfect.

Mmmm… I love the little bit of crispiness around the edges of the crust.

Making your morning better, the quiche.

Or Qwee-Chee. Call it what you like.

Yum-a-Lum-a-Ding-Dong,

Leah

Have you heard of a company called Apple?

I guess they make things like computers, iPods, iPhones, and some other technological items.

I guess they are a big deal.

I KNOW that they make amazing ads.

This one is my favorite.

Change the world,

Leah

Sigh. I’m in love.

With these…

These cards are individually printed from a hand-carved block by a young gal that I was introduced to by Ms. Natalie.

She studied printmaking in India with a master printer.

I love the red and tan.

But, I also love the pink.

Yes, I think I must have the pink.

She also has pillows, journals, and help me now… tote bags.

I love, love the cards. And I may need to re-paint a room so that the pillow above has somewhere in my house to belong.

Check her out. You’ll be supporting a woman-owned small business, and you’ll have treasures unlike anyone else’s.

Enjoy!

Leah

Can I just tell you?

I love pizza. I love the greasy, cheesy, salty deliciousness. However, when I make pizza at home I do try to lower the calorie count, and I like to add in a serving of vegetables or two. It makes me feel better about myself.

However, I will not sacrifice flavor.

And with this recipe I believe I have obtained the keys to flavor town.

And it all starts here:

Garlic.

Oh, garlic. How I love thee.

I love thee so much that some days I walk around smelling like a giant meatball from cooking with garlic the night before. Gross, I know. But so worth it.

Raw garlic is potent and very strong in flavor.

BUT. ROASTED GARLIC. Roasted garlic will change your life. I’m not even kidding.

You need it for this pizza (only 3-4 cloves), but I strongly suggest you do a couple of heads because you can put it on AN-Y-THING (think crusty bread, vegetables, on a sandwich).

Preheat your oven to 350. I just used my toaster oven because it is still too hot to have the whole giant oven on for 45 minutes.

Chop the top off of the whole head of garlic.

Put each head on their own little foil pan. Edges folded up so garlic juice doesn’t drip and burn all over the bottom of your oven thus stinking up your entire house.

Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle on a little salt.

Now, into the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

The garlic should be lightly browned and softened.

Oh. My. Garlic.

Yes.

Yes.

Forever Yes.

Ok, set that aside and lets start our pizza. Oven at 400 degrees.

Throw some cornmeal on the counter.

Roll out your pizza dough. I’m not insane, so I buy my pizza dough. Trader Joes has a good version for $.99. That seems WAY easier than making my own.

I like lots ‘o cornmeal on both sides. However, if you don’t groove on the cornmeal, you do need some at least on the side that goes on the pan. Well, I guess you only need it if you desire to get your cooked pizza off of the pan.

I use the Pampered Chef pizza stone because it keeps the pizza hot forever after it comes out of the oven.

Put your crust on the stone or on your pan (or if you are feeling crazy, on the grill!). Drizzle on some olive oil and spread it around.

This step is critical for delicious crust. I highly encourage you to generously cover the whole crust.

Sprinkle on salt (go lighter here), pepper, red pepper flake, and some parmesan cheese.

I find a crispy crust a necessity for a good pizza. So, I throw this in the oven for 10 minutes or so. After a minute or two it starts to smell really good, and I start to get a little drooley.

Now, for our veggie topping. I would like to state that for this pizza I opened the fridge and just pulled out what looked good to me that night (and what needed to be used before it went bad).

In a skillet, toss in a little extra virgin olive oil. I cooked up one half of a HUGE zucchini and one portobello mushroom.

After they were browned up a bit (and some of their moisture released), I threw in a few handfuls of chopped fresh spinach.

Let it cook down a bit. Put a little salt on the veggies. And turn off the heat.

So, about now, we should pull out the crust.

I would like to note that my main man never eats the pizza crust. However, he told me after this pizza that the crust made his life.

Ok, he didn’t use that exact phrase, but you get the idea.

Now, guess what time it is?

Lets take a few cloves of this roasted garlic deliciousness and spread them right on the crust.

I could eat the crust plain. Just like this. Forever and ever.

For the sake of the recipe, however, I will not.

Now pile on your cooked veggies.

I will warn you that the zucchini is pretty earthy. If you don’t like zucchini, I wouldn’t put it on the pizza. I happen to rather love it, so for me it works.

Obviously, put whatever YOU love on the pizza. This is simply what I love. This recipe can be whatever you want it to be. Don’t let the recipe be The Man, and don’t let The Man hold you down.

So, on top of the cooked veggies I added chopped green olives (LOVE), 1/2 chopped green pepper, 2 very small chopped white onions, and a ripe chopped (and de-seeded) summer tomato.

Ok, so roasted garlic was Key to Delicious Pizza tip #1.

Here is Key to Delicious Pizza tip #2: Fontina Cheese.

You know I love cheese. And fontina is perfect on a veggie pizza. I used a mild one from Trader Joes. Fontina can be a stinkier cheese, but I highly recommend you seek out a milder version. It may just change your life. If you can’t find it, you can use mozzarella. I guess.

Now, into the oven for 20 minutes or until the cheese is ooey gooey.

Ok, I have to go.

I must eat this. Now.

Sweet Mother of Pearl.

Happy eating,

Leah

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