You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2010.

I’m baaaaaaaack!

Back home, sleeping in my own bed, happy to see the main man, and back to work and the routine.

My sister getaway was fun, refreshing, and just about perfect.

I love the time that I get to spend with my family. But sister time is something special. It filled me up to be able to sit and talk and laugh and just be totally us together.

I could easily get sentimental now, but I won’t.

Because you don’t want to hear it.

Right?

I didn’t think so.

So, what do you want to talk about today?

Food?

Ok!

I’m in.

Speaking of food, we ate some good stuff on vacation. Why are King Crab legs the best food ever invented?

I consider the crab legs dipped in clarified butter a guilt free food. Why? Because you get a workout while you are eating. I’m pretty sure you burn off the clarified butter calories as you crack your crab.

Yes.

You do.

Anyhow, I digress.

The last recipe I shared was a chicken recipe, and I happen to have another one for you today. I’m stretching myself to try and make chicken a fun and interesting ingredient once again.

One of my summer favorites is the Caprese Salad. Is it simple and delicious.

So, this recipe uses the base of the Caprese Salad and adds in the chicken.

Heres what you’ll need- chicken and some melty cheese (obviously mozzarella is the classic choice- I didn’t have any, so I used havarti and it was delicious) and then the following:

Everything pictured above will go into the caprese salad inspired portion of our meal: Three medium tomatoes, a white onion, some hot peppers (if you like it hot), a bunch of basil, a bunch of chives, olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper.

Lets make our caprese inspired salad.

I don’t groove on raw onion. If you do, feel free to skip this step. I just think it makes the whole dish better if you do things my way.

Well, life in general is happier if you follow my direction.

At least it is happier for me.

Chop your onion, put some oil in the pan over medium heat, and add your onion. Let it soften.

While that cooks, chop your tomato, peppers, basil, and chives.

Throw them in a bowl.

Side note: I squeezed some of the seeds out of the tomatoes. I don’t like a soggy topper to my chicken. If you are into sog, go ahead and keep the seeds in.

Your call, my friends.

Add in a little salt and pepper.

I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that I believe in Coarse Kosher salt. It is better than all other salts. Except for maybe coarse sea salt.

Invest in some.

It is cheap and it makes a difference.

You will thank me forever.

Or maybe you won’t.

Either way, upgrade from iodized salt. Please. It is the only request I will ever make.

That, and to use organic eggs only.

But that is a subject for a different day and time.

Add in a tablespoon or so of balsamic (this recipe really should be done to taste):

And a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (again, about a tablespoon):

Take your onions off of the stove.

Allow them to cool a bit.

Throw them into the tomato mixture:

Mmm. I could eat that with a spoon.

In fact, I did eat some of that with a spoon.

And then I mixed it with the same spoon.

Sinner.

Set that aside, and lets work on our chicken.

I’m using chicken tenders.

As I’ve mentioned before, I favor the tender over the breast.

Why does it feel like an innuendo every time I write the words tender and breast?

Because I am as mature as a twelve year old, I think.

You thought it too.

Don’t lie.

Sprinkle them with some seasoned salt, some freshly ground coarse black pepper, and a little bit of italian seasoning:

Put a little extra virgin olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the chicken for 4-5 minutes on each side.

Now, for the best part.

The cheesy part.

The cheesy part is always the best part.

Unless there is a bacon part.

Bacon trumps cheese.

I think.

Nestle two of your tenders together, and place a slice of cheese over the top. Let it get melty.

Once the cheese is sufficiently melty, transfer the chicken and cheese to a plate.

Top with a generous helping of your tomato mixture.

Serve it up with some Brussels sprouts and pasta and a little fruit salad.

Wowza.

Chicken.

Chicken that doesn’t taste like chicken.

My favorite kind.

It tastes like summer- tomatoes, basil, and cheese.

Have I mentioned I love summer?

I do.

I do.

I do.

Happy Eating,

Leah

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I carry your heart with me

(I carry it in my heart)

I am never without it

(anywhere I go you go,my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling)

I fear no fate

(for you are my fate,my sweet)

I want no world

(for beautiful you are my world,my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grow

higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

I carry your heart

(I carry it in my heart)

-ee cummings

Because I’m on vacation, and I can think of nothing more intriguing to write about than cocktails… I give you my favorite drink.

The Vodka Dirty Martini

It is a cocktail with an appetizer like quality- you know, because you nosh on some olives while you sip. Does life get better than that?

The dirty martini is my go-to pre-dinner drink. It is salty and delicious. I don’t really groove on the gin, so I make my martinis with vodka… specifically the Goose. It may be expensive, but I promise that it is worth it.

Warning: If you don’t like green olives, you aren’t going to like this drink.

In case you don’t know how… here is how you make the perfecto dirty martini:

Put 2 oz. vodka, 1/2 oz. vermouth, and a whole lotta ice into a shaker.

Shake it like a polaroid picture.

Pour into a martini glass.

Top off with a splash of olive juice.

Garnish with some olives. If you are feeling extra crazy, stuff some blue cheese into the center of the olives.

Mmmmmmmm. Mmmmmmmm. Mmmmmmmm.

I’m off to the beach again. The sun is shining and the weather is perfect.

Happy Tuesday!

Leah

Look where I am.

And look who I’m with.

These are my sisters.

We don’t have any fun when we are together.

We are soaking in the sun and the beach and the waves. We are chatting over coffee. We are laughing over wine. We are reading good books. We are eating delicious food. It is bliss.

The main man has been left at home to fend for himself. When Brad fends for himself, the meals usually revolve around buffalo chicken. It is his favorite. I like buffalo chicken, but not like Brad likes it. He has a special relationship with the fried spicy goodness.

So, in his honor I give you the somewhat healthier (and not fried) Buffalo Chicken Spinach Salad.

On a side note, chicken can feel like the bane of my existence. Can I get an amen?

I find myself wondering night after night if there could possibly be something new and tasty to do with the same old bland chicken.

This recipe rekindles my relationship with chicken. It is quick, easy, flavorful, a little naughty, but mostly healthy.

So, lets start with the chicken.

I like it spicy. So does Brad.

I also like my chicken spicy.

Sprinkle your chicken tender cutlets with a little salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. The cayenne can bring the heat, so don’t over do it.

Yet another side note: I prefer the tenders to the full breast. It is still all white meat, but it takes less time to cook. Because it isn’t a giant thick breast, there is less risk at over-cooking the chicken and ending up with a dried piece of meat.

Put a little extra virgin olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Throw in your chicken. If the pan is too hot, you will feel like you are inhaling pepper spray because that cayenne is so spicy. So, careful!

Unless you like inhaling pepper spray and inducing a runny nose and watery eyes… then have at it.

After 4-5 minutes, give the chicken a flip.

While your chicken is finishing, let’s make the sauce.

Making buffalo sauce is very complicated. You  may want to get a paper and pen now to write down the ingredients and methods that I’ll be explaining to you.

First, the ingredients.

Butter and red hot. Equal parts.

Unless you are feeling crazy, then you can add in a little extra hot sauce.

Put them in a bowl.

Now into the microwave to melt the butter.

Mmmm, and the sauce is done.

Now, turn the heat under the cooking chicken to low, and pour the sauce over the chicken.

Let that chicken get all cozy with the buffalo sauce while you throw your salad together.

For the actual salad, just use whatever you have on hand.

This is what I had:

Spinach, sliced avocado, drained canned black beans, tomato, and a little sliced hot pepper:

And how about a little hard boiled egg, some crumbled blue cheese, and a little bit of chopped bacon?

Yes, please!

Top it off with your chopped chicken:

There ya have it.

I like a little blue cheese dressing on top. And I like a bit of an extra drizzle of the sauce from the chicken pan. But you can use anything you like because I don’t want to hold you down.

It is so yummy.

I’m off to the beach now. Happy Monday and Happy Cooking!

Leah

In honor of the beach, which I am off to early Saturday morning, I give you my version of a book review.

The beach is my favorite place to read. Last time I was soaking up the rays with my feet in the sand, I started and finished this gem.

This book was weird.

But good.

And captivating.

But definitely weird.

The story is about a girl named Rose who one day discovers that she can taste the emotions of the person that prepared her food. She discovers this “gift” when her mom makes her a birthday cake, and all that Rose can taste is hollowness and loneliness and emptiness and pain.

The fact that Rose is cursed or gifted with the ability to taste emotion influences every aspect of her life as she comes of age. The story also follows Rose’s strange loner brother Joseph. His life and pursuits are a mystery throughout the book.

So, there is some mystery and intrigue tied into the story.

I liked it.

Until it got a little sci-fi. Then, I liked it a little less.

However, it is rare to come across a story that is so perfectly unique. I have never in my life read anything like this book, so major bonus points to the author Aimee Bender for developing and sharing such a unique heroine and distinctive story.

In a world where everyone is doing and re-doing the same ideas (for example, me here on this blog), Aimee Bender stretched her brain to a place of complete and utter exclusivity with her story.

And for that reason, I recommend you dive into The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.

Happy Reading Nerds!

Leah

BIG Exhale……..

Yesterday was a day.

Long.

But Productive.

It was a good day, but man… I’m still beat.

I worked all day, and washed the car when I got home.

You see, when I was at work a giant bird thought my car was his personal toilet.

That bird must have been the size of an ostrich. Putting off washing the car was not an option.

Then, I worked out.

A girl has to get her heart rate up on a regular basis to love food as much as me.

And still fit into her pants.

Then, the dogs got their walk. After being cooped up all day it is only fair.

And then I did some household chores.

Before I knew it, it was 8:30. This happens to me a lot. Hours post-work fly past too fast.

I’m sure that everyone experiences what I do in one way or another. House commitments, kid commitments, church commitments, community commitments, etc. Some days dinner is just not the priority.

So, at 8:30 I was ready to either hop in the car to get some junk food or I would have to get a little creative.

Here is my Throw-It-Together-With-What-Ya-Got dinner. And you know what? It was good. This rescipe is not fancy. It is not gourmet. It is not difficult.

Come to think of it, nothing I make is.

I give you my 8 minute quesadilla.

Here is what you need.

Chicken- I had my go-to pre-cooked rotisserie chicken in the fridge. But leftover chicken would work too. Or leftover beef. Or even a can of drained black beans if you are desperate.

Tortillas, Cheese, Green Onion, Hot Pepper, and then my toppings.

Please take special notice the greek yogurt with blueberry sauce thrown in there.

There is nothing I love more than a little blueberry sauce on my Mexican food.

Have you tried it?

Ok, Ok, neither have I.

I didn’t have sour cream, and greek yogurt is the perfect substitute.

Fortunately, this yogurt had a separate compartment for the blueberry goodness.

So, when I say I threw this together with what I had, I mean it:

Shred your chicken, shred your cheese, chop your onion, and chop your pepper:

Touch your eyes.

Realize that is not a mild pepper that you picked up from the farmer’s market.

Wash your hands.

Wipe your eyes with a cool damp cloth.

Put a little oil in a nonstick pan:

Put in a tortilla:

And then put a little cheese on there:

And some chicken:

And add the onions and peppers:

And a little bit more of cheese.

It was a long day.

You deserve it.

Put a tortilla lid on it.

Let it cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.

Flip it and reverse it. (Name that tune).

Pull it off of the heat. Take a peak at the ooey-gooey deliciousness.

Realize that you forgot to add the spinach you were planning on including.

It has been that kind of a day.

Put it in anyway.

Put the lid back on again.

Cut it into fourths. Top it with salsa and sour cream or greek yogurt.

Serve the rest of your yogurt with the blueberry sauce on the side.

Pour yourself a large glass of wine.

Plop on the couch.

Give thanks that you made it through the day.

Reflect on all of the great big things of goodness that fill your life.

Like a bird-poo free car.

And a job.

And a home to care for.

And a belly full of quesadilla.

Lots of love,

Leah

*According to the always reliable and 100% accurate Internet

If you have spent more than 5 minutes on this blog, you have likely used your powers of deductive reasoning to determine that I am CAH-RAZY about bacon.

I truly believe in my heart that it is the best singular ingredient on the planet.

I also truly believe that bacon is the main reason I could never be a vegetarian.

Well, bacon and burgers.

And steak.

And scallops.

Ooh, and tuna.

Anywho.

1. The average American consumes 18 lbs. of bacon a year. I do believe I may be raising that average.

2. BLT sandwiches (mmm, doesn’t that sound good right about now?) became popular after World War 2 when grocery stores expanded and lettuce and tomatoes were available all year.

3. There are varieties of Bourbon, Beer, and Vodka that are bacon flavored.

I think I need a drink.

4. Maple Leaf foods conducted a survey and determined that of the folks they surveyed “43% would rather have bacon than sex”.

OK, lets not get carried away here folks. Even I have my limits on bacon love.

5. Oscar Mayer patented the first pre-sliced packaged bacon in 1924. I always thought that was a good year, and I know now for certain that Oscar was an upstanding citizen.

6. A single serving of bacon is 3 medium slices. WAIT. WHAT?!? While I do love bacon, I usually only have one slice. Two if I’m feeling bad.

News Flash: I am upping my intake!

7. Saint Anthony the Abbot is the patron saint of pigs, swine herders, and butchers. He is known as “The Patron Saint of Bacon”.

God Bless Him.

8. According to an episode of Oprah, Dr. Oz says that regular pork bacon (specifically low sodium) is better for you than turkey bacon! All of the nutritional elements are the same except that turkey bacon has way more sodium.

And tastes nasty.

And has a weird texture.

And where the heck does bacon come from on a turkey?

Dr. Oz you have made my bacon eating life guilt free.

Not that I had guilt.

Because life can be tough, and bacon makes it easier and better.

Maybe that should be fact #9.

9. Bacon makes life easier and better.

10. And this is a fact. I swear it. I’m not making it up. Any dish can be improved upon by simply adding bacon.

That’s all I have to say about that.

If you are now in the mood for some bacon dishes, click here or here or here.

Leah

“Summer, summer, summertime

Time to sit back and unwind”

-The Great Lyricist Fresh Prince

Sometimes I like to start out a post with a thought provoking inspired quote. Like the one above.

You are welcome.

I love, love, love Summer. I don’t even mind the raging heat and unbelievable humidity.

I love the warmth, I love the long days, I love the way I feel a little more alive.

I also love summer produce.

Like peaches.

Mmmmm, peaches.

Is there much better than the perfectly ripe, juice running down your chin, summer peach?

I think not.

So, in honor of summer and the peach, I give you a healthy summer lunch.

This Grilled Peach Summer salad takes about 20 minutes start to finish… even less if you have a gas grill.

Here is what you’ll need for two adults.

Salad: Spinach, 2 peaches, 2 green onions, 1 piece of cooked bacon (if you happen to have it on hand, which I usually do!), 1 tomato, some cheese (I used aged goat cheese- but parmesan would work. But not parmesan that comes crumbled in a can- help me now if that is your parm of choice).

Dressing: 2 T. Dijon, 2 T. vinegar, 6 T. extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper

Croutons: Some bread, oil, salt, pepper

Go light your grill so that we can throw our peaches and bread on there in a bit.

Mmm. Have you ever had a grilled peach? They are goo-ood.

I think we should start with the dressing.

I have this handy-dandy salad dressing container with dressing instructions on it. My mama stuffed it in my stocking one year for Christmas, and I love it. I think it is from Crate and Barrel if you are interested.

Anywho, take 2 T of dijon mustard:

Add in 2 T vinegar (I used raspberry blush vinegar, and it was perfect):

Now, 6 T of olive oil:

Top off with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and shake it.

Shake it like you mean it.

Dressing done!

I like it when the salad is ready to go before grilling peaches so they stay nice and warm, so lets do that. Shall we?

Each salad is a couple of cups of spinach topped with a 1/2 of a chopped tomato, a chopped green onion, 1/2 piece of bacon, and some shreds of cheese.

Now we shall prepare the peaches.

Pick a firm peach rather than an super ripe one. You don’t want it smushing on the grill. No one likes a smushed peach.

Smush is a highly technical culinary term.

Cut the peaches into quarters. You should also remove the pit at this point. I would assume that you already knew that, but better safe than sorry.

Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.

I was really tempted to eat one at this point.

But I practiced patience and restraint.

And instead I ate an extra peach that happened to be sitting on the counter.

I said I practiced restraint. I did not say I perfected it.

While we are prepping for the foods that are going to be grilled, lets get our bread ready. Two thick slices.

Schmear and schlather the olive oil on the bread.

If you go to culinary school, you learn terms like schmear and schlather, I think.

Sprinkle that with a little salt and pepper.

Lets head to the grill.

Put your peaches and bread on the hot grill.

I think peaches are the prettiest fruit. Well, peaches and strawberries.

Just don’t tell grapes I said that. Or bananas.

I really don’t know what I’m talking about.

Maybe it is the caffeine from an iced coffee surging through my system.

Back to the peaches, let them get some grill marks on the grill for about 3 minutes.

Give them a turn. And the bread too.

3 more minutes on that side. Then one more flip.

2-3 more minutes and then pull the peaches off of the grill.

Bread too.

Slice your peaches and arrange them on your salad.

Cube your bread thus creating croutons.

Toss those on top.

Drizzle with a bit of the dressing.

Oooooh-eeeeeee

That looks good.

It was good.

Want to know the only way to make it even more of a summertime dish?

Serve it on the patio. With a glass of crisp, refreshing, cold Sauvignon Blanc.

And this ding dong on the side:

Happy eating friends,

LW

Lust is bad.

And dangerous.

It can be detrimental to relationships.

It can forever alter the future.

It can enter your heart and sit there waiting to be unleashed.

I’d like to take this moment to make a confession.

I’m lusting.

Big time.

The over the knee boot. It is the fall must have shoe according to all of my sources.

And when I say all of my sources, I mean the Internet.

I’m in love with the one above.

The only problem is that they are about $500 over my normal budget for one pair of shoes.

The clog bottom is shoe trend number 2 for fall.

Chanel started it, and apparently every other designer is going to finish it.

I’m trying to get on board with the clogs.

I like the boot above.

However, my seventh grade band teacher wore clogs every day of her life, and therefore it is difficult to wrap my brain around the fact that they are now fashionable.

In case you were wondering, those are out of my price range too.

And then. THEN, there is the godfather of shoes.

Christian Louboutin.

This man can design a shoe.

He cannot seem to design one in my price range, but a girl can dream.

There are these:

Oh Mama. I likey.

And these:

Love, Love, Love.

And help me now, these:

Oh. My. Godfather.

Papa, Can you hear me?

If so, send these my way.

I would like to take this moment to admit that I am powerless over shoes.

I do believe that admitting I have a problem is a step in the right direction.

Perhaps I will be cured.

Or perhaps I will just go shopping.

And I will give in to the lust.

Weighing my options,
Leah

Dare I say that I had the perfect weekend?

Friday night, the main man ran off to my brother’s bachelor party. So, I headed about an hour north to have dinner, do a little shopping, and then indulge in some ice cream with my dearly beloved friend Maria. I love the time I spend with her.

Then, on Saturday one of my dearly beloved lifelong friends, Jenni, came over. She was in town for a wedding, and we spent our time together walking my two ding-dong dogs and laughing and chatting and catching up. I love the time I spend with her too.

So far, so good!

Saturday night rolled around and the main man and I went to church.

After, we headed out for a night on the town to celebrate six years of marital bliss.

The obligatory timer photo of ourselves. Why do we both look like we are in pain?

I assure you that I was not in pain.

We had dinner at a fancy pants Italian joint called Nicolas in downtown Cincinnati. To say it was delicious is an understatement.

And, our waiter… he was a delightful man from Tuscany.

He kept saying things like “Grazie!”, “Prego!”, “Delizioso!”, and “Bellissima!”

He was great.

And so was the wine:

iPhone photo in the dark= not the best picture ever

The food was incredible. We shared a scallop appetizer, and then I had the goat cheese salad and the four cheese gnocchi for dinner.

Ooh la la.

Did I mention that I then had a nice slice of mascarpone cheesecake for dessert?

Talk about cheese overload.

Again, with the iPhone.

It was a perfect night. The main man and I sat and enjoyed each other’s company for over three hours. We shut the place down.

After our perfect Saturday night, I didn’t want the fun to end. So, Sunday morning I decided to make a special breakfast, since breakfast is the main man’s favorite meal.

I ran off to my garden/bakery (AKA the farmer’s market) to pick up some goods.

Now, I MUST introduce you to the Blue Oven Bakery. This place is the jam.

Let me give you a tip… when you walk into a farmer’s market and see a line like the one below, get in said line.

Whatever they are selling is worth buying.

The guy in the hot green/yellow shirt is finally at the counter.

You must wait your turn and practice patience to receive the gift of the deliciousness.

This is what I got…

Tortano- a rustic farm loaf:

Apricot Walnut Cranberry Bread:

And the best bread I’ve ever had in my life, the Frocaccia (it has caramelized onions and cheese baked into the top).

And yes, it really is Frocaccia not Focaccia.

Side note: When checking out with the guy working the counter, I practically shouted at him “This Frocaccia has changed my life! I cannot go through the rest of my life without it.” He smiled sympathetically back at me and took my money and gave me my bread.

I have been accused of exaggerating from time to time, but I really meant what I said about this bread.

All of their breads are cooked in a wood fired oven.

So, If you live in the Cincinnati area, I highly recommend you check them out.

Unless you are on a low-carb diet.

Then, I pity you. For a lot of reasons.

But namely because you can’t ever eat this bread. Or carbs in general.

And that is living life unfulfilled.

While at the market, I also picked up some organic eggs, fresh fruit, and veggies. Man, I love the farmers market.

I got home (Brad was still sleeping), and threw some bacon in a pan… I know my main man, and bacon is one thing that gets him out of bed.

In that moment  I decided that I could not have been married to someone that did not love bacon with their whole heart and soul and mind.

I gave thanks that I chose my partner wisely.

While that was frying up, I said good morning to my love.

Then, I sliced two thick pieces of the tortano bread. If you don’t have access to the Blue Oven Bakery bread, I recommend a white bread with a crunchy crust and a chewy inside like a sourdough.

I got out my shot glass.

Because it was time to party.

And by party I mean make a hole in the center of the bread. At this point, this recipe should be looking familiar!

Drain your bacon, but leave a little of the grease in the pan.

Why?

Because I’m feeling naughty.

That’s why.

Throw your bread into the hot greasy pan.

Then crack an egg into the center of the hole.

Wait until the egg sets a bit, then give ’em all a flip.

Oh man.

Looking good.

Finish them off with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Now, onto the plate! With bacon!

And maybe some of those delicious fruits from the market:

Talk about a good start to a Sunday morning.

The main man and I rounded out our Sunday with some errands and lounging. Then, we topped off the weekend with a trip to Chef Michael’s house for dinner.

At Mike’s, we dined with old friends and new. Our new friends were six folks from Switzerland in Cincinnati for a visit.

I thanked them for their contribution of their Swiss cheese and for Swiss Miss of course.

I told you.

The weekend was perfection.

By the time you read this, the magical weekend will be over and it will be the dreaded Monday morning.

But my mind will be lingering on all of the above.

Happy Monday!

LW

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