You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2010.

Did you know that last week I was able to behold the Leaning Tower of Pisa?

See?

Here I am.

With my coworkers.

Doing an obligatory pose.

Look!

The ground is solid and flat, yet the building doesn’t rise out of it at 90 degrees.

Isn’t that amazing?

Here is the truth.

I didn’t go to Pisa, Italy.

I went to Chicago, IL.

And this building is a water tower.

Strange?

Yes.

Most certainly.

But it did make for a fun break in an otherwise fairly regular work day.

By the way, I work with some really fun peeps.

You should be jealous.

That’s all I have to say about that.

XO,

Leah

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Ooh, Nelly.

You heard me right.

Steel cut oats.

In a crock pot.

With other yummy things.

Just waiting for you to eat first thing in the morning.

Now, you must learn to pronounce the title of this post correctly.

Whaat?

Spoken like Aunt Linda.

Check her out:

I have two friends. Lets call them Annie and Debbie. You know, to protect the innocent.

Whenever you tell them anything remotely interesting, they respond with a “WHAAT?” spoken just like Aunt Linda.

And for that reason alone, I try my darndest to come up with something to tell them.

The “WHAAT?” is like a drug. I need to hear it.

Anywho, I digress.

This oatmeal is dee-lish.

And it is perfect for anyone with a busy morning routine.

Because this breakfast is waiting for you when you awake.

Not bad, eh?

So, you need steel cut oats to start.

It is absolutely imperative that you use steel cut oats. Do not use instant oats or old fashioned oats. They cook far too fast, and you will be left with a mush of a breakfast.

Steel cut oats can be found anywhere. I bought mine in bulk from a specialty store, but the chain stores have these bad boys too.

They will either be in the cereal aisle or in the fancy-pants-I’m-way-better-and-smarter-than-you-normal-peons-organics aisle.

And you’ll need to pull out your old buddy, Mr. Crock Pot.

Why, hello.

VERY IMPORTANT: Spray your crock pot with non-stick spray for this recipe. You risk having some seriously crusted edges if you do not heed this warning.

My friend Liz suggests those liners you can buy in the plastic bag aisle at the grocery store. I have never purchased them, but after cleaning the crock pot after this recipe… I think I’m persuaded to give them a try.

2 cups of the steel oats go into the crock.

I added two tablespoons of brown sugar.

And a tablespoon of cinnamon.

And because I am trying to learn to accept and love nutmeg, I thought I would give it another chance.

Albeit, a small chance.

This is about 1/4 t- 1/2 t of nutmeg.

If you like the flavor, you could do a whole teaspoon.

I wouldn’t do much more than that because nutmeg is pretty potent.

Now, for real vanilla.

Anytime someone I know vacations to Mexico, I ask them to buy me some of this stuff.

It is delish and cheap.

And real vanilla is the only way to vanilla happiness.

Can I get an amen?

I put in just shy of a tablespoon.

I had this lovely Jonathan apple. I thought apple in my oatmeal would be pretty darn good.

So, I peeled it and chopped it and I dropped it in.

I wanted to add raisins too at this point, but Bradley said no.

Bradley told me raisins would ruin this dish, and that he would never speak to me again if I added them.

And well, I like talking to Brad.

So, I decided I could add my raisins to my individual bowl in the morning.

To make this marriage work, I make sacrifices.

Here is what makes the recipe special.

Extra Autumny Special.

Apple Cider.

I lurve the apple cider.

Add in 4 cups of apple cider.

Then, 4 cups of water.

I only added in 3.

And I definitely should have added in 4.

So, 4 it is.

Stir it up.

Put a lid on it, and turn on low for 8 hours.

Make sure you time it right so it is ready for you in time for breakfast.

If you have a super sonic Crockpot like me that seems to cook everything a little aggressively, you may need to cut it back to 7 hours.

Go to bed.

Then, wake up to the smells of cinnamon and apples and warm hearty deliciousness.

Please note my hot pink robe sleeve.

This picture really was taken early in the morning.

My oatmeal still got a little crusty around the edges.

I blame my overachieving crock pot.

I just scooped from the center though, and it was perfection.

I added in those raisins I wanted.

And because it was Monday.

And because I was feeling naughty.

And because I was mad at my crock pot for overachieving and causing crusty edges.

I added a splash of half and half.

Hey, at least it wasn’t full on cream. That is what I really wanted.

Stir it up and serve with a large coffee.

Making mornings more bearable everywhere… Crock Pot Oatmeal.

Enjoy!

XO,
Leah

I hate hugging.

Hugging makes me feel as awkward.

Speaking of awkward, Sarah and old John are looking pretty darn uncomfortable hugging above.

I should perhaps explain my feelings a little more.

I like to hug the main man, my parents, siblings, and my most dearly beloved friends.

I loathe hugging co-workers.

Or casual friends.

Or acquaintances.

Or someone I just met.

Some people actually do that.

Meet someone and then end up hugging them goodbye.

I don’t get it.

And I don’t like it.

It’s nothing personal.

I just don’t like pressing up against another person. I find it weird.

Which may make me weird.

And I’m ok with that.

The end.

XO,

Leah

P.S. Just realized that maybe I don’t really mean it when I sign each post “XO”. Please don’t “X” or “O” me next time we see each other. It makes me have sweaty palms just thinking of it.

P.P.S. I’m self-aware. I have issues. And I’m cool with them.

Do you eat kale?

This is an ingredient that I discovered way too late in life.

I know now that kale makes my life.

Happier.

Greener.

Healthier.

Delicious-er.

If you like cooked spinach, I’ll bet my bottom dollar that you’ll like kale.

It is a little heartier, and I think it actually has a little more flavor.

This recipe is delicious, hearty, and perfect for a simple lunch, a healthy snack, or a great side dish for dinner.

Here is what you’ll need:

A bunch of Kale- this kind is called Lacinato Kale, but any type of kale will do

6 mini portobellos or 3 large portobellos

A handful of cherry or grape tomatoes

4 garlic cloves

1 box of couscous

Vegetable or chicken stock

Put a little of the extra virgin goodness in the pan.

It is essential that you put the oil in the pan in a very fancy pattern like a spiral.

The dish just won’t taste right if you don’t create a super special olive oil design in your pan.

It is a proven fact.

Now, chop 4 cloves of garlic to add into that pan (should be over medium-low heat).

If you don’t want to chop, you can use your handy-dandy garlic press.

This one is from Pampered Chef, and it really is quite delightful.

It saves my hands from smelling like a hoagie.

Get your bellos ready.

Use a damp cloth to wipe them off.

Pull off the stem.

Then, give ’em a rough chop.

Portobellos like it rough.

Or so I hear.

Kale.

We must remove the woody stalk.

Grab the stalk.

And pull the leaves off.

Easy Peasy.

If you don’t get the whole stalk, don’t sweat it.

Take off all of the stalks and make a big old pile of kale.

Give it a rough chop.

Did you know kale is anti-inflammatory?

Kale contains sulforaphane which (especially when chopped) is a chemical believed to have anti-cancer properties.

Or at least thats what Wikipedia tells me.

Add the chopped kale to the pan o’ mushrooms and garlic.

Add in a little stock.

Probably about a half cup.

Mix it around.

Fairly quickly, the kale will start to wilt down.

Add in a handful of cherry or grape tomatoes.

Isn’t that so pretty?

How about a sprinkle of salt and pepper?

Yes, please!

Now, we shall prepare our couscous.

These are the directions from the box.

Put 1 1/4 cups of water in a small pot.

Add in 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

And dump in the included spice packet.

I used the Wild Mushroom and Herb variety, but you can use whatever suits your fancy.

Once that mixture comes to a boil, add in your couscous.

Stir it up, put a lid on the pot, and turn off the burner.

After 5 minutes, take the lid off and fluff it up with a fork.

That is what the directions say to do.

And quite frankly, I’m not so sure that I know what that means.

I almost always start by “fluffing” with a fork.

That quickly turns to stirring with a spoon.

Toss the couscous into the vegetables.

And combine it.

I also decided about halfway through the recipe that some pine nuts would be delicious all toasted up.

So, I did that.

Put a big ole’ heaping pile on your plate.

I put some pine nuts on top.

I was feeling kinda crazy, so I threw on a few raisins and some goat cheese.

What?

Yes, raisins and goat cheese.

I like the contrast of the hearty, savory, salty couscous with the sweetness of the raisins and the sharpness of the goat cheese.

Try it.

It tastes like fall.

And for goodness sake, if you’ve never had kale… what the heck are you waiting for?

Happy Monday my dearly beloved friends.

XO,

Leah

See this man?

I love him.

A lot.

He makes my life happier and easier and more fulfilled on a daily basis.

And he is about to embark on a huge journey.

One that, for him, is a dream come true.

Starting on Monday, Brad officially becomes a director.

Of a movie.

Like, for real.

It is a low-budget film, and Brad wrote the script.

The script is incredible, and I believe that it could spark very real conversations in our city, our state, and our nation.

I may be biased…

Ok, I probably am biased.

But it is good.

I promise.

So, because it is a low budget film, there are a lot of people helping in a lot of ways by volunteering their time and talents to this film.

It has been completely overwhelming to see the response of volunteers and professionals alike to this project.

There is one specific need left.

We need food… specifically meals.

Specifically a commitment to deliver either a lunch or a dinner to the set that serves at least 20 people.

If you are interested at all in helping out, we’d love to have ya.

Send an email to anniejune1@yahoo.com.

Thanks, as always for stopping by.

And I promise to not solicit favors from you often.

But this one means so much to me.

XO,

Leah

Sometimes, I worry about myself.

I will get a wild hair, and it ends up causing trouble.

For example, take a look at one wall in our office at home.

The wall of closets.

This is a very white wall.

With three very white closets.

And a very strange white textured wall.

This little set up bothered me.

Especially, the two closets on the right with sliding doors.

They never really slid.

And they were only ever filled with treasures.

So, I asked my feng shui expert what to do.

She really listens to me.

You know, really makes me feel heard.

And together we decided 2 of the 3 closets had to go.

So, they went.

All of a sudden, this ding-a-ling wasn’t so sure about our fool proof plan.

I don’t have a picture, but the strange textured wall is gone too.

And so, I’m working on repairing the walls.

And then, I’ll repair the crown molding.

And then, I’ll repaint the room.

And then, I’ll think about how those two closets really weren’t so terrible.

Oy.

Wish me luck, my friends.

What have I done?

XO,
Leah

Easiest, best appetizer or side dish ever.

Stuffed mushrooms.

Fungi is delicious.

Fun guy.

Fun jee.

Fun gus.

Shrooms.

Call them what you will, I love ’em.

And I especially love these mini portabella caps that my grocery store started carrying.

They come six in a pack, and for two people that is the perfect amount for a lovely side dish.

I took out the stem, and I gave these a brush off with a damp paper towel.

Now, stuff it.

Whoa, whoa… getting ahead of myself.

First we have to make the stuffing.

I just like saying “stuff it”.

I have issues.

Chop up a roasted red pepper.

Add in a chopped tomato.

Now, do you know what thyme it is?

It’s thyme time.

Hardy, Har, Har.

Take a sprig o’ thyme, and hold it by the stem. Use your fingers to strip off the leaves.

It is really a two-handed process. However, if I used two hands to do it, there would be no picture.

Throw about a teaspoon into your bowl.

A sprinkle of salt and a grind of pepper.

And then 1/4 cup of shredded sharp cheddar.

Mix it all up.

Stuff it.

STUFF. IT.

And by it, I mean the mushrooms of course.

Now, pop them in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

This is what they look like when they come out:

Fungilicious.

Have the happiest of days today!

XO,
Leah

Well, not literally.

That would be gross.

Today’s recipe is a special one.

It is my greatest comfort food.

It is what tastes like home.

It brings me joy to make it, serve it, and eat it.

When I was growing up, my parents packed up the conversion van with my 4 siblings and me about once a month. We took off to visit our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

The weekend would always follow the same general plan… Friday and Saturday nights were spent with my dad’s side of the family, and then Sunday was spent with my mom’s side.

We always, always, always wrapped up the trip with a big family meal at my Grandma and Grandpa’s house where she served us pasta with her sauce and meatballs.

My siblings and cousins and I would vie for seats next to each other around the cramped kitchen table. If everyone showed up, we’d have to move to the basement to accommodate all those faces around the table.

On occasion, we’d sit out back at a picnic table.

Even on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, we would have pasta.

That’s the way it was.

And while the trips are less frequent now, that’s the way it still is.

And we all loved it.

And still do.

Grandma isn’t the only sauce maker.

My mama makes a mean pasta sauce.

And so does my brother.

And my aunts.

But lets be honest, no one can replicate Grandma’s sauce.

I suspect some day we’ll find the secret recipe card with the actual recipe on it.

It is a true statement that her version is impossible to make.

So, I’m not even going to attempt to.

The recipe I’m sharing today is a compilation of four different sauce and meatball making methods: Grandma, mom, brother, and my own.

Sauce first.

The ingredients are simple.

And I’m making a double batch. I like to make double because it is a long process, and because I like to make enough to freeze so that I have easy-peasy homemade meals ready to go on nights that involve working late or busy schedules.

So, here is what you’ll need for a DOUBLE recipe:

28 oz. of tomato puree- this can be kind of hard to find, but it is perfect for sauce because there are no seeds

28 oz. of whole San Marzano tomatoes- San Marzano tomatoes have a sweeter and less acidic taste. They are more expensive, but are worth the investment. You may have to look in the international foods aisle to find these guys.

Garlic- 3-4 cloves chopped up

2 cans of tomato paste

salt/pepper

Basil

2 bay leaves

Water

And that is it!

Put your cans of tomatoes into the pot.

Add in your chopped garlic, and then add 3 1/2 cans (the 28 oz size) of water.

Now, we get to use one of my favorite kitchen tools. I highly recommend this bad boy.

This is an immersion blender.

Stick it in your pot, and turn it on. It blends your sauce while completely chopping and blending in your whole tomatoes.

This tool is fantabulous.

It comes with a whisk and mini chopper attachment too. I found mine for $50, and it has been the handiest of handy affordable tools.

Throw in your bay leaves and a little salt.

Now, bring the sauce to a boil.

Whoa, Nelly!

Don’t let it boil over.

Sheesh, keep your eye on the pot for goodness sake.

Turn it down to simmer for an hour.

While that is simmering away, we shall make some meatballs.

Here’s what you’ll need for these balls of deliciousness.

2 1/2 lbs. of meat- my Grandma is a beef purist, my brother likes veal, pork, and beef… I like 1 1/2 lbs. of ground beef and 1 lb. of ground pork. You can do whatever you like.

3 eggs

3/4 c. bread crumbs- I like the Italian seasoned version

1/2 c. water

1/4 c. italian parsley, chopped

3 large cloves of garlic, chopped

2 shallots

1/2 c. parmigiano reggiano, grated

salt and pepper

Put your meat in a bowl.

Crack in your eggs and dump in the bread crumbs.

Pour in your water.

Add in a sprinkle of salt. Probably about a 1/2 teaspoon.

Chop your parsley and add it to the party.

Garlic? Yes, Please!

Now, for the two small shallots.

I use a microplaner (also a great kitchen investment), and grate the shallots into the bowl.

I have made meatballs a thousand different ways, and I am convinced that grating the onion is game changer for achieving the ultimate consistency.

Find yourself some parmigiano reggiano. It won’t be hard for they carry this right in the regular grocery store.

You’ll know you have the right stuff because the name of it is printed right on the rind.

You can’t grate the grind, but save it for sure.

It is the perfect flavoring in lots of soup stocks.

For now, use that microplane again to shred the cheese into your bowl.

Here in the recipe I make a major departure from the family matriarch.

I don kitchen gloves (also available in the regular grocery store, and they are super handy for handling garlic/onion/hot peppers/raw meat or even mixing a salad with dressing).

The women in my life smell like meatballs for a day or two after making them because of the garlic on their skin.

And truth be told, I don’t always wear the gloves so I may smell like a hoagie from time to time.

However, when I know I’m going to be around others immediately after handling garlicky foods, I use the gloves.

Mix the meat.

But do not over mix it… that makes the meatballs tough.

You want to mix it just enough to combine the ingredients.

That’s it.

Now make your balls.

Of meat.

We’re searing the meatballs next.

I recommend a little olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat.

Just brown all sides of the meatballs.

When browned transfer them to the sauce.

At this point, the sauce has already been simmering for one hour.

Once all of the meatballs are in, leave it to simmer for another full hour.

This is not a quick meal.

But sometimes slow and steady pays off.

That’s what she said.

Har. har.

Now, at this point you can just let everything simmer together. You would end up with a lovely batch of sauce and meatballs.

But I like to amp it up just a bit.

Chop up the holy trio- one carrot, one stalk of celery, and an equal amount of onion.

The French and fancy chefs call this trio a Mirepoix (meer-pwah).

But I call it the holy trio.

Throw that into the oil that you used to cook your meatballs.

Then brown up one bone-in pork chop and one spicy Italian sauasge.

My grandma has been known to throw in chicken wings. My brother has been known to throw in other pork cuts.

The meat on the bone does help to add serious depth of flavor to your sauce.

So have at it.

Now, I’m not sure this could be any better.

Oh wait.

Yep, wine.

There ya go.

After it is browned, move all of the meat to the sauce pot.

It does not have to be cooked through because it is going to finish cooking in the sauce.

Um, I think I need a bigger pot.

After an hour, pull the meatballs out.

Also pull out the chop and sausage.

Put them in your storage containers or on your pasta.

Add in your chopped basil.

I like to shred the chop and add it to the sauce.

Yum.

Pour your sauce on top of the meatballs.

Here I have four future meals and one meal for tonight.

Not too shabby.

All of the tupperware gets a layer of plastic wrap and then a lid.

Into the freezer until the day comes that I am burnt out and feeling uninspired- after a long day at work, I’ll be able to pull these out. I microwave it only to get it loosened from the side of the tupperware.

Then I put it in a covered pot and warm it over low heat.

Now, the main man and I enjoy the sauce and meatballs in decidedly different ways.

Brad loves a meatball sandwich.

White bread, four meatballs, some large shreds of the parm, some chopped basil, and some hot banana peppers.

I had a bite of this… To. Die. For.

I’m a purist.

Penne pasta (homemade when I’m feeling inspired- but not today) covered in sauce, parm, and basil with two perfect meatballs on the side.

This food is good for my soul.

Happy Monday my friends.

As always, I’m grateful you stopped by.

Lots of love,

Leah

I just want to state for the record that Ms. Oprah Winfrey and I are of one mind.

You see, she announced yesterday her book club selection.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.

I purchased this book about two weeks ago. I like to think that Mama O had a feeling that somewhere in Ohio her soul sister had a book that she should read.

I’m sure that’s what happened, right?

She nor I picked up this book because of the critical success of Franzen’s first book, The Corrections.

That couldn’t be it.

Nor did we choose it because of a Time Magazine story all about Mr. Franzen.

Nope.

That’s not it either.

And certainly it wasn’t because of the massive amount of coverage this book has received.

Like this story from my personal favorite news source.

No.

The Mighty Opes and I must have brainwaves that are inexplicably linked.

I have always felt that to be true.

And this proves it.

Right?

Right?

Hello?

Is anyone there?

This post is ridiculous.

The end.

Happy Weekend,

Leah

P.S. I’m cookin’ up a storm this weekend, and I’ll have lots of new recipes for ya next week.

Note: Click on the recipes tab above this post for the full catalog of Seven Hills Recipes.

Our household is entering in to an insanely busy time.

There are lots of exciting happenings for us right now, but it does mean more dinners for one.

Tear.

Sniffle.

Sniffle.

Cry.

Sob.

Wait?

What’s that you say?

Mama O is back on with her final season?

Well, then.

That is a different story entirely.

I’ll happily take my meal for one and spend my evening watching the Mighty Opes.

And that is exactly what I did just the other night.

This dinner was for one. But I made extra to pack for lunch the next day. This recipe could easily be turned into dinner for 2 or 4 or 12.

A couple of weekends ago, at my brothers wedding, my mother-in-law brought us a present from a recent trip.

Wine flavored barbecue sauce.

Hello, lover.

I didn’t want to wait to use this treat!

So, when the man was working late, I decided to put the gift to good use.

Raw chicken in a bowl.

Nothing says delicious and yet disgusting quite like raw chicken.

Bleck.

I put just enough barbecue sauce in to coat the chicken. I put the airtight lid on the container and I stuck it in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

You, of course, can use any barbecue sauce.

Pick one that floats your boat.

In the meantime, I threw together my salad.

I actually really love salads.

Especially the hearty kind with lots of toppings and flavors.

Spinach on a plate:

Chop up a ‘mater:

And some cuke:

Drain some black beans:

And sprinkle some on top:

Hmmm… at this point, I’m looking in the fridge trying to figure out what else would be delish.

What do I like?

What do I want?

This is the true beauty of cooking for one.

No one else’s tastes or opinions matter.

And sometimes being selfish is fun.

So, guess what I found??

Yep, Bacon!!

So, you know some of that is getting crumbled on top.

Random hard boiled egg.

Sure.

Why not?

Avocado.

Mmmmm. Hmmmm.

Let’s throw that on.

Some crumbled blue cheese on top.

Yummers.

Just two things missing at this point,

Chicken and some dressing.

For the chicken… pull it out of the fridge.

I desperately was hoping to grill these up.

But, it rained.

And the ground and my poor thirsty plants desperately wanted the rain.

So, I settled for a non-stick pan.

And I put down a little extra virgin olive oil over medium heat.

And I threw my bbq covered tenders in about 5 minutes on each side.

Right before they were done, I wanted a little more of that winey barbecuey saucey.

So, I slathered some on.

Chop it up, and on to the salad it goes.

For dressing, nothing I had in the fridge was feeling quite right.

So, I took a little ranch:

Added in a bit of the barbecue sauce:

And I think a splash of hot sauce.

Oh yes.

Mix it all together.

And drizzle on your salad to top it off.

Grab a glass of this:

And maybe some of these (for you know how Mama O rolls):

Sit down in front of this:

And snuggle in for some special one-on-one time with your BFF:

Happy eating friends.

XO,
Leah

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