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You know what I love?

Like, a lot?

Planning.

Nothing in life makes me happier than knowing exactly what I’m going to do and when I’m going to do it.

Know what my husband hates?

Like more than anything?

Planning.

Yep.

I think it is one of about a million reasons that we make a perfect pair. He pushes me to be more adaptable, and to try to find comfort in doing something spontaneous from time to time.

I push him to organize and plan, and at least commit to certain big events prior to them occurring.

So, when I heard about nesting- you know, the uncontrollable urge that hits pregnant women to make their home ready for baby- both Brad and I had a good laugh.

I have been nesting my whole life.

Every Saturday, I spend most of the day doing the traditional “nesting” rituals.

Then this past Sunday, it hit me like a ton of bricks.

When this baby comes, I may not have time to spend hours in my beloved kitchen cooking up good for us delicious food. At least not for a while.

Momentary panic.

I desperately needed a plan.

Only a plan would bring me joy, peace, happiness and harmony once again.

So, I landed on make-ahead meals. And I plan to have as many  made as possible before the baby arrives.

That way, we can continue to eat home cooked meals without the stress of having to find the time to prepare them.

Just having the plan made me feel instantly better.

I believe a good make ahead meal can work for anyone.

Busy work schedule?

Busy with kiddos at home?

Travel often?

Kids activities after school?

No time or energy to cook at the end of the day?

If any of the above are you, then the make ahead meal can make your life.

Easier. Better. More nutritious. More delicious.

Here are the meals that I made last Sunday. They are all stored in air-tight containers in the freezer waiting for me to crack them open this summer.

First, meatballs and sauce.

This recipe requires your stove to be on for a few hours; however, it doesn’t require a careful eye. Once you pop the meatballs in the sauce, you can just let it all simmer away while you move on to other activities.

I made enough meatballs and sauce for at least 2 frozen meals, and we had some of those delicious balls this past week for dinner.

Anything I stick in my freezer, I like to label.

Ah, organization.

Happiness.

I put the name of what I made, how many servings are included, and the date that I popped the food in the freezer.

Everything should be eaten within 6 months of freezing.

Then, of course, I just shared with you that delectable spicy pulled pork.

Again, an extra 2 meals worth of food were put into the freezer.

Pulled pork tacos or a pulled pork sandwich will be in my future!

Then, I made one of my favorite summer treats.

The bacon, onion, and blue cheese stuffed burger.

Four patties for two people equals two meals!

Double bagged for air-tight assurance!

Finally, I made a quick and easy chicken dish.

This one comes from my gal Ina.

Put a 1/4 cup of olive oil into a bowl.

Then grab a beautiful yellow lemon.

Zest that lemon.

By the way, if you don’t own a microplane (what I’m using in the pic below to zest the lemon), go to Target or Bed, Bath and Beyond over the weekend and get one!

Now, cut that lemon in half and squeeze all of the juice into the oil.

Remove any pesky seeds.

Take a sprig of fresh rosemary.

Or oregano.

Or dill.

Or whatever you have.

And chop it up finely (about 1 t).

And toss that into the bowl.

Now grate two cloves of garlic over your microplane and into your bowl.

A sprinkle of salt…

And  a touch of pepper, and your marinate is complete.

Now take out two beautiful boneless skinless chicken breasts.

And place each one in their own Ziploc bag (their own bag will allow for a faster defrost time when you pull these out of the freezer).

Whisk up your marinade.

And divide it equally between the two bags of chicken.

Toss those into a larger Ziploc bag, give it a label and throw it in your freezer.

Yes folks. It is that easy.

1 day.

About 2 hours of hands-on cooking (the pork sat in the oven for much longer and the sauce sat on the stove much longer, but I was free to go about my day while those cooked).

2 meals for eating this past week.

And 7 meals for freezing.

Not too shabby.

And for a planner like me…

Oh, for a planner. This brought about great peace of mind. I can’t wait to do it all over again this weekend.

I would love to hear of any of your favorite make ahead/freezer friendly meals.

Thanks all!

I hope your weekend is shaping up to be lovely.

We are seeing a whole bunch of old friends tomorrow, and that makes me infinitely happy.

XO,

Leah

I love entertaining.

I especially love it when it includes dear friends, and the time spent together is easy and effortless.

I love to cook for these events, but I am big on being a guest at my own party. I DO NOT want to be in the kitchen cooking or cleaning while all of my friends are enjoying drinks, company, and food. No thank ya.

I follow the most fabulous Ina Garten’s advice for throwing a party. Make everything ahead of time, and don’t be afraid to purchase things to serve. Not every item served has to be a fancy to-do.

One of my favorite party treats is a cheese tray. It is super simple to throw together, and it goes like hotcakes. Rather, it goes like really good cheese.

So, a while back we had friends over for a casual meal and time spent together.

Here is what was served. Everything was made ahead of time.

A simple salad with goat cheese phyllo pockets:

To make the pockets, simply cut phyllo dough into 4″x4″ squares (approx. 3 squares for each pocket). Place the first square on a hard, flat surface. Slather it with butter. Then top it with a second sheet of phyllo. Slather that with butter. Then top it with a third sheet of phyllo dough. In the center of the layered squares, place a 1 oz round of goat cheese (plain or flavored).

Gather up the edges of the phyllo and give them a twist at the top to create a pocket.

Pop them into the oven at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Keep an eye on them. You want them to be golden and brown.

I just threw a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper over the salad. Top the greens with the phyllo goat cheese pockets.

Caprese salad:

Slice tomatoes, slice fresh mozzarella, and layer it up. Give it a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and some extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle the whole thing with basil, salt and pepper.

Yep, that was easy.

For the main dish, I made The Pioneer Woman’s Spicy Pulled Pork.

Photo courtesy of thepioneerwoman.com

The Pulled Pork cooks slow and low for hours, so I timed it to pull it out of the oven about 20 minutes before guests arrived. I shredded it with 2 forks, then kept it warm on the stove.

To top the Pulled Pork, I made a super simple cabbage slaw.

It is just thinly sliced cabbage, a little oil, lime juice, a good amount of salt, and a healthy sprinkle of pepper. Mix it up!

Then, I decided that the only thing better than Spicy Pulled Pork sandwiches would be Spicy Pulled Pork tacos.

So, I busted out the tortillas, and I loaded up bowls with a plethora of delicious toppings.

Truth be told, I was not too hungry by dinner time because I had snacked on taco toppings all dang day.

No. Self. Control.

Let’s see: chopped tomatoes, cilantro, crumbled Mexican cheese, shredded cheddar, sour cream, salsa, and lime juice.

Mmmmmmm.

For a sweet treat, I threw together a simple fruit salad.

Here is what I think make a solid fruit salad- citrus and berries flanked by other fruit favorites.

Here is what I think makes a nasty fruit salad- bananas. They get mushy and brown and their flavor penetrates every other fruit. Bleck. Leave them out.

There ya have it. Easy entertaining. We had a couple of bottles of wine, and friends brought dessert and cocktails to share.

Love it.

Don’t be afraid to have people over for dinner. Serve easy comfortable food. Everyone appreciates a night off from cooking, and I’m sure that they would love an invite to a dinner at your house.

I think I need to throw a party soon. Yep, I think so.

Love ya.

XO,

Leah

Spending time with old friends, the ones that really know you and where you came from, is like slipping on your most favorite pair of old slippers.

It is comfortable and warm. And it just fits. Really, really fits. And it feels like home.

For the past four years, a group of four of my dearest high school friends and I have slipped away from real life to a weekend of eating, drinking, talking, connecting, and laughing until my sides hurt.

I could easily get sentimental, but I’ll spare you my gushing about how much I appreciate these friendships, and how much I treasure these women.

Rather, I’ll just tell ya a bit about how to have the best girls’ weekend ever.

First, FOOD. Bring a lot, make a lot, eat a lot, then eat some more, then travel to a place that sells good food, buy food, and eat some more.

Please note that ALL of us forgot cameras-oops. All pics are from my iPhone… not great, but not terrible.

I love being around girls who can cook AND eat.

Because they make things like pumpkin cream muffins.

And a giant baked apple pancake.

And the most delicious goat cheese and zucchini frittata.

And loaded brownie cake topped off with whipped marshmallow.

I think I shall no longer have any dessert that isn’t topped off with whipped marshmallow- it would be wrong.

And crab dip.

And bruschetta.

And spinach and artichoke dip.

And buffalo chicken pizza.

And white pizza.

And the list goes on and on and on.

Next, you’ll need an EXCURSION. I use the term excursion loosely because you don’t want to get all crazy with things that make you leave kitchen for hours on end, because that will interrupt the food portion of “how to have a good girls’ weekend”.

Visit the Amish.

They have good prices on toys.

And they are the friendliest of folk.

According to my friend Jenni (the blonde), the Amish make the best cheese.

She was devastated that the deli line was a mile long.

But let me give ya a little tip. Jenni is a liar and a cheater (we’ll get to the cheating later). Last year she bought this “amazing” cheese, and it was vomitous.

Yes, I know.

Vomitous is not a word.

But is the only word that does the cheese it’s due justice.

Want to know what the Amish get right?

Absolutely, positively, hands-down, no-argument-here right?

Baked goods.

Sweet Mary Martha Magdeline St. Paul.

The Amish bakery that we visited makes a make-your-knees weak hot pretzel.

I would give my pinkie toe for one right now.

I would.

Third, ACTIVITIES.

Do something fun.

Make something.

Have a cocktail.

Enlist your friends to peel 5000 apples for a large batch of applesauce and apple butter.

Make them work until they achieve the perfect peel technique.

Impressive, non?

After apples, move on to something different.

Like decoupaging frames.

When I told the main man about our activities, he just shook his head and laughed.

Do men not decoupage on guys’ weekends?

Please look at my mouth.

I CAN. NOT. use scissors with precision without pursing my lips.

I tried.

I just can’t do it.

Is this normal?

Anne is a craft master.

So, is Molly.

She prefers to go by the name “Mo”, so if you see her out and about- make sure to say Hello Mo.

Cute, right?

I’d like to take this time to issue a warning.

During the activities section of your girls’ weekend, you will likely hit a snag.

Not every craft is going to be a hit.

It is just a fact of life.

For us, this year… the illusive Felt Balls were an unclimbable Mt. Everest of crafts.

I would like to state that old Marty Stewart is a liar. Her directions said these felt balls would be “the perfect craft for kids” because it is “so simple”.

That is BS, Marty.

And you know it.

When you look at those bright colored packages of wool, it looks harmless enough.

And look, it is soft and green and lovely.

But in reality, this stuff is dangerous. And difficult.

And it causes you to gray prematurely.

See?

I won’t take you through the whole long and painful and soapy (?!?!?!) process, but believe me… felt balls are no fun.

We finished up our activities with gray wool flower pins.

And these super fun bowls made out of old records.

By the way, Alison brought the felt ball project. We were about to un-invite her to future weekends, but then she totally redeemed (read like Harry from Dumb and Dumber) herself with the record bowls.

She is back to being invited.

Seriously, that was a lot of activity and crafting.

Finally, you need a GAME.

Every group of friends has that one card game or board game that they like to play whenever they are together.

For us, it is Mexican Train Dominoes.

It is fabulous.

…Unless you have a cheater in your midst.

Jenni Teaters.

Teats Cheats.

Fact.

Just look at her wily face.

Did I mention that you must laugh a lot?

Sometimes so much you fear you may not be able to stop.

That is the laughter that I believe adds years to your life.

There ya have it.

My easy four step process to having the perfect weekend getaway.

Happy Monday, my friends.

It is a short week- and that makes this a very, very happy Monday!

XO,

Leah

My big brother got married this weekend, and it was the happiest weekend.

So many dearly beloved friends and most of our family gathered to celebrate the bride and groom.

I brought my camera and took a total of ZERO pictures.

Oopsie.

All Photos courtesy of Jane Mowery Photography

The Groom with his sisters.

At the rehearsal with the bride

The big day!

The Clarke girls with our mama

Loved the bridesmaid dresses!!

To J&J,

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon the fields.

May the light of friendship guide your paths together.
May the laughter of children grace the halls of your home.
May the joy of living for one another trip a smile from your lips,
a twinkle from your eye.

And when eternity beckons,
at the end of a life heaped high with love,
May the good Lord embrace you
with the arms that have nurtured you
the whole length of your joy-filled days.

May the gracious God hold you both in the palm of His hands.
And today, may the Spirit of Love find a dwelling place in your hearts.

I’m beat!

Back tomorrow with a new recipe…

XO,

Leah

Last weekend, the main man and I indulged.

Big time.

Permit me to explain.

In March of this year, Brad and I traveled to NYC for our friend’s wedding. My man married our dear friends.

Did you know that the main man can marry and bury people?

In fact, he is marrying my brother and my future sister-in-law this weekend.

But that is a different story for a different day.

Well, our newlywed friends sent us a very generous thank you that funded a fancy pants night out at the best restaurant in our great city.

BOCA.

Be still my heart.

This place gives me a quiver and a palpitation and a bit of sweaty palms.

It is so good.

So, Friday we got all fancified and headed out.

Upon arrival, I ordered a dirty.

With blue cheese stuffed olives.

Oh, Boca.

You, my friend, are starting off of the right foot.

At Boca, you choose either 2 courses or 3 courses plus dessert for a prix fixe price.

I love meals like this.

It encourages appetizers and pasta dishes where an a la carte menu might convince you to stay away.

When it is all bundled together, it is like a super special adult happy meal.

But first, the bread.

That darn grilled bread.

Smoky, garlicky, and a little salty.

Holy moly.

I could have stuffed myself on that alone, but I was committed to pacing myself.

I’m disciplined like that.

From our seat, we could see the excitement that was happening in the kitchen.

I love an open kitchen.

Our first course came.

My husband has had the opportunity to interview Chef David Falk (Boca’s founder and head chef), and David said that Boca was the house that the brussel sprout built.

I know, I know.

Brussel sprouts. Yuck.

But not these.

They are caramelized and served with a day boat scallop with brown butter truffle vinaigrette.

They taste like a savory candy, and they remind me that I am a seriously amateur cook.

Brad started with the grilled bread topped with Goat Cheese and Onion Argo Dolce.

I don’t even know what that means.

I assume it means drool-on-your-chin-delicious.

‘Cause that it is what it was.

Sorry about the blurry pic. I was trying to be a little inconspicuous with my iPhone photos!

Next, came Brad’s pasta dish.

Spicy linguini.

Again.

The drool.

Oh hey there wine.

Nice to see ya.

You are delicious too.

Now, I only ordered two courses while Brad ordered three.

I wanted to make sure I had room to eat every delectable bite of food that I did order.

But because Boca is fabulous, they brought me a complimentary pasta dish so Brad didn’t have to eat alone.

I had one perfect sweet corn ravioli with brown butter and black summer truffle.

Have you ever had a meal that included truffle?

I have, and I’m hooked.

I must order any item that includes them.

And I may or may not have bought a small $12 bottle of white truffle oil at the grocery.

OH. MY. DOG.

Truffles are seriously worth the hype.

Earthy. Savory. Aromatic. Perfect Perfectness.

Whew.

Time for the main course.

I went for the filet.

With swiss chard, rosemary potatoes, king crab (like a big ole’ hunk of the good stuff), bearnaise and bourdelaise sauce.

There is a quite famous steak restaurant here in Cincinnati that is also higher-end and delicious.

This Boca filet blew the other steak out of the water.

Brad had the seared chicken with sausage, artichoke, and vermouth risotto.

If I could make chicken like this, I would eat it three meals a day.

And for dessert.

Dessert was sorbet for Brad:

And a trio of cheesecake, chocolate cake, and creme brulee for me:

I could have died happy after that meal.

Here are my conclusions after dining at Boca.

One, I wish I had the money to eat here everynight.

I don’t.

Two, I wish I had the money to eat here once a month.

I don’t.

Three, I shall start a Boca savings account now.

Four, I love to eat. And I love to cook.

It fills me up.

But man, when it comes to cooking, I really don’t know a whole heck of a lot. I left Boca with such a respect for David Falk, who has trained under master chefs around the world. He has studied, honed, and dare I say perfected his craft.

I love experiencing or seeing someone that is a true master at his or her craft.

It is inspiring.

So, while I know that I’m never going to achieve his types of food (well, at least not without formal training, apprenticeships with chefs around the world, and WAY more hours of practice), I do know that I will continue to work hard at getting better at the things I love.

Work hard.

Love what I work on.

Save pennies for next trip.

It must be sooner rather than later.

Have a great three day weekend.

If you can, take your special someone to somewhere special!

XO,

Leah

(Please read the title in the voice of the Soup Nazi– a la Seinfeld). Thank you.

As much as I dread cooler weather, it does have a benefit or two attached to it.

For one, the dogs can bear to be outside for more than 5 minutes. In fact, this ding dong kind of likes it:

Another benefit of the cooler weather is that soup once again enters my life.

I love soup.

Love. It.

And French Onion is one of my classic favorites.

Whenever I’m in a restaurant that offers the savory cheesy goodness that is Onion Soup, I tend to indulge.

But I like a homemade version better for a couple of reasons:

1. I can control the salt. For whatever reason, restaurants want to give their diners swollen ankles and restricted arteries through their version of French Onion Soup. It is always so stinking salty.

2. I can control the quality of the bread and cheese that is, in my humble opinion, the most important part of the soup.

Let me provide an example.

On vacation with my sisters, Nurse Stephanie ordered some French Onion Soup. I have no clue what kind of rock bread they used in their soup, but this is what Steph looked like trying to eat it:

Makes for a great picture and memory.

Doesn’t make for good soup.

For Leah’s French Onion Soup, here is what you’ll need for four servings.

Side Note: I almost always make at least four servings when cooking for two people. It gives the Main Man and I a lunch leftover for the busy work week.

3 T. Butter (mmmmmm!)

3 Large Yellow Onions, sliced

1 Clove of Garlic

1 Bay Leaf

1 t. Dried Thyme

2-3 Portobello Mushrooms, chopped (optional, but it makes the soup heartier and more delicious)

1/4 c. Sherry

1/2 c. Dry Red Wine (I used Chianti)- you could use white too if that is more your thing

3-4 c. Beef or Vegetable Stock

Some good white bread

Gruyere Cheese (please, please, please splurge on the Gruyere)

Let’s cook!

Get out a medium saucepan, and put your butter in there. Turn on your burner to medium heat:

Once that melts, throw in all of your sliced onions, your chopped clove of garlic, your bay leaf, and your thyme.

Your house will instantly smell UH.MAZE.ING.

I love the smell of onions and butter.

It lights my world on fire.

Stir that around effectively coating the onions with butter.

Have you seen the movie Julie & Julia?

I love the way that Meryl Streep playing Julia Child pronounces the word butter.

When I write the word butter in a recipe, I hear Meryl’s Julia voice in my head.

Let those onions cook for 3-4 minutes, and then add in your mushrooms if you so choose.

Mushrooms, onion, and thyme just make sense to me. I actually don’t understand why every French Onion Soup doesn’t include them. They add so much substance and depth of flavor.

I guess it may be because of people like my Dearly Beloved Friend Anne.

She has the most incredible gag reflex when it comes to mushrooms.

I have never seen my dad laugh as hard as he did when Anne and I were about 15 years old, and she came over for dinner. Something my mom served had mushrooms in it, and she encouraged Anne to “at least try it”.

Anne obliged.

She ended up with a red face.

Tears in her eyes.

A few dry heaves.

My dad was hysterical. I honestly don’t know how many times I have seen him laugh that hard. I guess he finds joy and hilarity in someone else’s dry heaves.

And that makes him and me not so dissimilar.

So Anne (or anyone in Anne’s camp), feel free to leave out the mushrooms.

The rest of you… throw ’em in the pot!

This is where the recipe becomes less than scientific.

You need to just let the onions and mushrooms spend some time together with the butter.

They need to get to know one another.

Cuddle up next to each other.

Love on each other.

Until the onions and mushrooms are buttery and delicious and softened.

Now it gets fun.

Throw in your sherry.

If you don’t have sherry, you can find it in your grocery store near the vinegars. It is relatively inexpensive, and a bottle of it lasts me a long time.

Now, open your red wine.

Pour yourself a glass.

You deserve it.

After all, you made it through the oppressive heat of summer.

And you made it through the day.

And you are cooking for yourself or your family or your friends.

So, yeah. You deserve it.

Add some of that wine to your soup pot.

Be careful if you are using a gas stove like me.

Alcohol plus live flame equals danger.

Let that simmer together over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

You have no idea how delicious this smells.

But you will soon.

When ya make it.

Now add in 3-4 cups of stock. The amount of stock will be determined by how hearty or liquidy (yes, I’m aware liquidy isn’t really a word) you would like your soup.

To keep this a vegetarian dish, use vegetable stock.

If you want a little more depth of flavor, use some beef stock.

Or use a mixture of the two.

Let that come to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.

Oh hey, look who finally showed up to help me in the kitchen:

Slacker.

So, at this point, the base of your soup is complete.

Take a taste of it. With all of the stock in there, it is highly unlikely that you will need to add much salt, if any at all. But taste it to make sure. Add some pepper if you’d like.

If you are making this soup ahead of time for a party or guests or just dinner for another night, allow it to cool a bit and then transfer it to an airtight container and put it in the fridge.

To warm it up, just put it back in a pot on the stove over medium-low heat until it gets to temperature.

If you are eating it right away, here is how to finish it up.

We need some bread. Preferably white, crusty, and delicious:

Drizzle them with extra virgin olive oil:

Put them under the broiler (on high) in your oven for 1-3 minutes on each side. Keep an eye on them, because in my oven toasting bread goes from perfect to well-done very quickly.

When all toasty and delicious, pull the bread out of the oven and give it a gentle rub with a halved garlic clove.

Voila! Garlic bread.

Cut that into cubes, and lets grate our cheese.

Gruyere makes a world of difference in this soup. I have made this soup with pre-shredded mozzarella or shredded swiss, and it is OK.

With Gruyere it is perfect and amazing and life changing and life giving and magical.

I’m not even exaggerating.

Not even a tiny little bit.

I’m not.

Grate the gruyere.

Now, we will build our soup.

In an oven-safe bowl.

Oven safe bowls are very important for the French Onion Soup.

If you don’t have oven safe bowls or aren’t sure if you do, we’ll have to alter the final step of the recipe for you.

But never fear, you too can still enjoy the French Onion goodness.

Ladle a bunch of soup into your oven safe bowl or crock, and top that with your cubed garlic bread.

Then add a generous portion of the grated cheese:

Then pop that into the oven under the broiler for 3-5 minutes.

If you don’t have an oven safe bowl, pop it in the microwave for 1-2 minutes or until the cheese gets all melty.

Be careful removing it from the oven. The top of the bowl is extremely hot.

And if you accidentally pick it up with bare hands, you will get blisters.

I may or may not know that from personal experience.

Serve it up with a spinach salad topped with some strawberries and chopped smoked turkey.

Give thanks for the cooler weather.

For it has brought you renewed sanity because your dogs are back out in the yard.

And it has brought you soup once again.

And truth be told, soup- especially one with ooey gooey melty salty cheese on top- makes everything better.

Yours in white bread and cheesy goodness,
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

Sometimes life goes your way, and someone special enters your life.

Meet Chef Michael.

Michael is a dearly beloved friend of the main man and me. We met him a couple of years ago, and since then have had some of our most amazing Cincinnati meal experiences with Michael.

Beyond making good food, he makes for great company.

So, earlier this week we got the call from Michael that we always answer in the affirmative.

“Dinner?”

Um, yes.

Forever yes.

I walked in to his house to this:

And this:

And her:

Can you say man after my own heart?

So, I have some recipes for ya. These are Chef Michael’s recipes- did I mention that this man was trained at the Culinary Institute of America in NYC?  Or that he has served dinner to four presidents, Frank Sinatra, Mick Jagger, ME (wait, how’d I get on this list?), and the list goes on and on?

Side note: if you ever have the pleasure of meeting Michael, ask him his Nancy Reagan story.

But first a tour of his outdoor oasis. Because when you eat at Michaels, you are eating with some special friends in a special place.

Like Homer:

And Angel Jerry Garcia:

There are candles hanging from trees:

And pretty trellises:

And the biggest basil plant I have ever seen:

And this custom built, angel-guarded charcoal grill:

Thank you, that concludes our very short tour.

Lets cook!

First, if you want one of those cocktails that I’m sipping on, here’s what you’ll need:

Champagne, Peach Schnapps, Berries (sliced strawberries, blackberries, raspberries)

Put some berries in a glass, pour in a little of the Peach Schnapps, and top with Champagne.

Could that be any more simple?

It is as delicious as it is simple. It’s Friday- try some!

For the burger recipe… pay attention. Cause this burger was yum-a-lum-a-ding-dong.

I chopped (yes, I earn my meal- Michael makes me say things like “yes, Chef!”, “whatever you say Chef!”, “I don’t know what happened to that bacon chef!”) a bunch of parsley and one bunch of green onions. Then, I grated an 8 oz block of cheddar. I finished by finely chopping up about 6 pieces of that fried bacon.

Then, I ate another two pieces.

Don’t tell Michael.

I sliced tomato and washed lettuce for toppers.

Then, I sliced up a white onion (1/4 in thick) so Michael could get them ready for grilling with a drizzle of oil:

And some seasoned salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of parsley:

Throw those bad boys on the grill:

Oh, hey there corn. Nice to see ya.

After about 6 minutes on a very hot grill, flip over the onions.

Truth be told, I flipped those onions.

I never said I was an expert at flipping onions. Or grilling.

So, while those onions are grilling lets make some burger patties.

Ground beef (80/20- I’m guessing 1 1/2 lbs), the chopped green onion, the chopped parsley, the chopped bacon, the majority of that shredded cheddar.

Michael added a sprinkle of salt and pepper and a dash of worcestershire (thank you dictionary.com- that word is hard to spell) sauce.

He folded all of the ingredients together and then made patties. You should see this man make a burger patty. He could whip out 6 perfectly formed patties to my one patty. Master.

He gives each one a slap before putting it on the plate. I think it must be necessary to achieve his level of deliciousness, so I say go for it!

Now, to the screaming hot grill. Just about 3 minutes on each side.

Oh hey there fellas. You are doing a great job in all of that smoke.

I’ll just be over here snapping pictures.

You know, away from the smoke.

Go inside and build your burger.

Man, oh man.

The sign on Michael’s back door speaks the truth:

The weather this weekend in Ohio is looking pretty darn perfect.

I say pour a glass of berry champagne and fire up the grill!

Happy Friday,

Leah

Last fall, the main man and I went to New York, New York.

You see, our dearly beloved friends were getting married.

Actually, the main man was the official officiant officially responsible for the marrying of these friends.

Lovely.

Everything about the weekend was delightful- except for the monsoon like weather.

Some of our dearest friends were there, the ceremony and reception was personal and perfect, but most importantly the food was UH-MAZE-ING.

Specifically, the burgers we had at the rehearsal dinner altered the state of my universe.

More specifically the buns for the burgers we had at the rehearsal dinner caused my heart to pitter-patter.

You know those buns had to be delicious for them to the best part of a burger. I honestly did not think that was possible.

These small baked wonders were so good that I had our server write down the name of the place from which they order these magical buns- called Portuguese Muffins- from.

Then, I rushed home to order 957 cases.

To my dismay, they do not sell to consumers- only restaurants and shops.

What in the heck?

What was I to do?

I don’t bake.

But I could not go on living without these in my life.

I now knew a new way of living, and that way of living was centered around Portuguese Muffins being forever present.

I couldn’t go back to my old way of life.

I just couldn’t.

I had to sacrifice.

Some things worth having in life require sacrifice.

Sorry for the deep thought there.

So, it was decided.

I must (deep sigh) bake.

With yeast.

Oh Lawdy.

I did NOT develop this recipe. I’m not anywhere near smart enough to do so. So, this recipe comes from allrecipes.com where some dear soul decided to share the deliciousness that is the Portuguese Muffin with the world.

Without further ado, I give you the Bolo Levedo or if you speak English like me- the Portuguese Muffin.

What you’ll need:

Some Free Time AND

1 (.25 ounce) envelope active dry yeast, 1/4 c. warm water

6 c. all-purpose flour, 1 c. white sugar, 3 eggs, 1/4 c. melted butter, cooled, 1/2 t. salt, 1 1/4 c. milk

Put the yeast and a pinch of sugar in a bowl.

Why does yeast make me nervous? Probably because half of the time I try to use it, it doesn’t work/react properly. I have a complex that yeast hates me.

Now, add in the warm water.

Now, pray that the yeast reacts. Set that aside for 10 minutes.

After your 10 minutes of waitin, lets use the mixer! Get a big bowl. Dump in thee eggs and  sugar.

Add in the salt and flour.

Top off with the milk with the yeast/water mixture.

Doesn’t that look delicious?

Just another reason to not like yeast. It even looks gross.

Mix to combine.

Now, pour in your cooled melted butter.

Ah, butter. Everything is right in the world.

Mix again to incorporate the butter.

Then, plop the ball o’ dough onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.

10 minutes is a long time.

I now have giant forearms from kneading.

Now, we get to practice patience.

Put the ball of dough into a bowl and cover. Let it rise for 45 minutes. It SHOULD double in size if the yeast doesn’t hate you.

Uncover, and pull off equal sized chunks of dough and form them into flat round cakes about 1/2 inch thick.

Cover again. Let it rise again. Practice Patience again. For 1 1/2 hours.

Now to cook these bad boys.

You are supposed to slow cook these in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat in small batches. I highly recommend this method because the muffins stay moist, are  perfectly browned on both sides, and you can feel self righteous for your tedious muffin making accomplishment.

However, I did not plan this recipe out very well. I finished letting these guys rise on a weeknight, and it was nearing 11 pm. I could not foresee standing in front of the stove for another hour slowly cooking these little morsels.

So, I cheated.

I stuck ’em on a sheet pan, and I put another sheet pan on top (you know, to brown the top too), and I cooked them in the oven at 400 degrees for 18 minutes.

Here they are:

Not too shabby. They are a little lighter and fluffier when pan fried, so that is what I recommend.

Unless it is 11 pm and you have to get up at 6:30 am the next day.

Then, I recommend the oven.

NOW. You have the muffin.

Here comes the magic.

This muffin is a three meal muffin meaning it can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Or dessert.

So, four meal muffin really.

Some of my favorites…

A breakfast sandwich. Mmmm. I think breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.

A little cheese, eggs, sausage, a slice of tomato, and a splash of hot sauce on a toasted muffin.

Yes.

Or how about lunch? I think lunch is my favorite meal of the day.

A roast beef and havarti sandwich with some horseradish sauce, tomato and lettuce.

In a pinch, that could work for dinner too. Put a salad on side.

Or for dinner, put some chicken salad on top. Or a chicken breast. Or whatever you have in your fridge that day.

Deeee-lish.

Perhaps dessert is more your thing?

You know, I think dessert is my favorite meal.

Yes, it definitely is.

Here is the muffin topped with vanilla ice cream, a blackberry sauce, and fresh blackberries.

BING BONG BOLO LEVEDO.

Side note: I have no clue why that sauce looks so electric red colored, but oh well. My ice cream was melting, and I needed to eat. So, it was one lousy picture.

In summary, I love you Portuguese Muffin.

Thank you for coming into my life and changing it.

I am forever grateful.
Yours,
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

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