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Boy oh boy.

Do I ever have a treat for you.

It is the mother of all fall foods.

I am the mother of all fall foods.

Mother Lover, I love fall foods.

I’ve had too much coffee.

And I digress.

We had a wee stretch of cool weather here in Ohio, and I was ready to have a fall food or two or thrity-five.

I love this time of year with almost my whole heart.

I say almost because fall leads to winter. Winter=Worst.

If fall didn’t lead to winter, I would officially name it the best season ever.

I love the colors. I love crunchy leaves. I love long walks with the dogs where I don’t sweat like a horse or freeze my derrière off. I love the warm days and the cool nights. I love soup.

What I’m trying to say is that I love all of the things that are the essence of fall.

And just like the summer, I look forward to the fruits and vegetables of the season. For fall, I love apples and pears and squash and pumpkins and dark leafy greens. Mmmmm.

For this recipe, delicious fall apples and pears are the stars of the show.

If you have kids, please note that I think they will go ga-ga for this culinary delight.

Apple and Pear Sauce.

Oh my heavens, yes.

It is like applesauce… only with pears and a hint of citrus added.

Tell me that doesn’t sound amazing.

You can’t tell me that it doesn’t sound amazing.

Because it does sound amazing.

Know what makes it even more amazing?

Heated up Apple and Pear Sauce.

Fuh-get-about-it.

This recipe is based on one of my girl Ina’s recipes. In my  head, Ina and I are old friends. We sit together in the Hamptons with all of our florist and catering male friends, we sip a cocktail, and we discuss the night’s menu. That’s normal, right?

Of course it is.

Please disregard everything I have said up until this point.

And just preheat your oven to 375.

I got out my beloved French Oven. Sigh, I truly do love this beauty.
And I am fully aware that it is more than a little jank to love a kitchen accessory with your body, mind and spirit.

This is the first dish I made in the LeCreuset this fall.

She sure is pretty, isn’t she?

If you don’t have a dutch oven or a french oven, never fear!

This whole recipe can be done in a crock pot.

One might think that the first thing you will need to make Apple and Pear Sauce would be apples or pears.

However, one would be wrong.

One needs an orange and a lemon.

I used two oranges and one lemon; however, don’t be like me.

Just use one of each.

Zest your orange right into your pot.

And then zest your lemon.

Slice your orange in half and squeeze the juice from both sides into your pot.

And then do the same with your lemon.

My lemon was hard to juice.

I needed both hands to adequately squeeze that bad boy.

Survey your citrus carnage.

Now come the apples!

I used 7 apples.

I started with these 6 Gala apples.

Peel, core, slice and dice your apples.

Add them to your pot.

Now get out 6 pears.
I used 3 Bartlett pears (the yellowy-green pears) and 3 Bosc pears.

Bosc pears are brown when they are ripe. They are green when they are not yet ripe.

*Side Note: Bosc pears are delicious on their own. Try slicing up a bosc pear and eating it with a tiny bit of blue cheese on top. If you are feeling dangerous, put a dab of honey on the pear and cheese. It is so so good. Serve it up with a good red wine… a perfect simple romantic appetizer for two. Or a dessert. Or a lunch. You get the idea.

Peel, core, slice and dice your pears. And add them to the pot.

I mentioned that I used 7 apples in my recipe. However, I only processed 6 in the step above.

That is because I left the skin on one apple.
I kind of like the texture that a little bit of skin gives to applesauce.

If you don’t like it, then go ahead and peel all of your apples.

Doesn’t bother me any!

So, your pot should now be filled with:

-Zest of one orange

-Juice of one orange

-Zest of one lemon

-Juice of one lemon

-6 apples peeled, cored, sliced, diced

-1 apple unpeeled, cored sliced, diced

-6 pears peeled, cored, sliced, diced

Stir that up.

Add in some cinnamon.

I used about 1 1/2 teaspoons.

And then toss in 2 T. of butter.

And top all of that off with 1/3 cup of brown sugar.

Give it all another stir.

Then pop the lid on the pot or your slow cooker.

If you are doing this in an oven, cook the sauce for 40 minutes. Then, pull it out give it a stir and let it cook for another 40 min.

If you are cooking this in a slow cooker, put it on low for 6 hours stirring it occasionally if you are at home.

After the sauce has been fully cooked, pull the pot out of the oven.

And use a whisk to break down some of the chunks that are left. The whisk will help you get your sauce to your desired consistency.

At this point the apples and pears are so soft that it really doesn’t take much effort to get them broken down.

You are left with a giant vat of the most delicious apple and pear sauce ever.

Now, what to do with that sauce…

1. Eat it plain- either hot or cold. It is delicious either way.

2. Eat it on a crepe with cream cheese- yes, we did this. And yes, it was mind blowing.

3. Warm it up and pile it on some vanilla ice cream.

4. Use it cold to top some cottage cheese.

5. Slather it on a piece of toast or use it to make a Peanut Butter and Apple/Pear Sauce Sandwich.

There were only 2 of us eating our way through this mountain of goodness, and we did it in no time.

I think this ended up being my favorite way to eat the sauce- warmed and in a bowl.

Fall perfection.

XO,

Leah

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This is my friend, Annie.

I’m the one holding the wine glass, of course.

Now, Annie is about as dear a friend as a friend can be.

But truth be told, she has one MAJOR character flaw.

It is almost enough to keep me from being friends with her. Luckily, I am full of grace.

So, I can overlook this serious issue.

I decided today was the day to confront Annie with this issue.

And what better place than to out her than here on my public blog.

You see, Annie doesn’t like Ina Garten.

I know.

I know.

I heard your gasps from where I’m sitting.

It seems impossible, but somehow it is true.

One of my goals in life is to change her mind.

I hope to be a successful missionary for Ina.

To win over Annie and the rest of the world to the light.

Today, I attempt to do just that by sharing the best chicken dish ever.

I’m not kidding when I tell you that I could eat this just about every day, and I don’t think I would tire of it.

It is SO. GOOD.

Surprisingly, I was introduced to Ina more than a decade ago by this guy:

That is my husband.

He is pretty cute, huh?

Hands off.

He’s taken.

Well, he bought me my first Ina cookbook for Christmas one year. And my life was forever changed.

And clearly, I liked it.

I recently treated myself to her newest publication:

And in that book, you’ll find this recipe for Chicken with Shallots:

And then you will make it.

And you’ll never look at boring old chicken the same ever again.

I swear.

Do yourself a favor and click on that link above.

I made this recipe for two people. Ina suggests chicken breasts with the skin still on. I didn’t have that in my fridge so I used boneless skinless breasts. You can use what ya got.

Start by preheating your oven to 425.

I don’t like a super thick chicken breast.

Call me crazy, but it tastes a little too chicken-y.

Yes, I’m aware how insane that sounds.

So, I use a meat tenderizer to flatten out my chicken. If you don’t have a meat tenderizer, you can use a heavy pan to smash your chicken down a bit.

Remember to coat your chicken in a little flour before pounding the dickens out of it- that way the chicken doesn’t get completely torn up.

Give the chicken a little sprinkle of salt and pepper.

And put some oil in an OVEN SAFE pan, and heat the pan over medium-high heat.

Once the pan and the oil are heated up a bit, place your chicken boobies (haha, see what I did there?) into the pan.

After about 3 minutes, give the breasts a flip.

And pop the whole pan into your preheated oven.

Please note that the pan is pretty screaming hot. You can see some of the oil spitting about above the pan.

Now it is time for the most amazing sauce ever.

I have adapted the recipe a bit for two peeps.

Get a sauce pan out and stick it over a burner on medium heat.

Add in 1/2 cup of dry white wine. I used a Sauvignon Blanc (that we then drank alongside this chicken).

Chop up a large shallot and drop that into your wine.

You want about 1/4 cup of the chopped shallot.

Then squeeze in the juice of one lemon.

Then, spend the next 5 minutes pulling the seeds out of your sauce.

Dang, that was a seedy lemon.

Let that mixture gently boil until it is reduced by about half.

Wine, lemon and onion smell absolutely divine cooking together. Seriously, drool inducing.

If you get sidetracked and your sauce reduces too much, simply add in a bit more wine or some water. Easy peasy.

Now for the healthy portion of this recipe.

Get out your heavy cream.

And stir in about 2 Tablespoons.

Then, make this dish even more healthy by plopping in 2 Tablespoons of butter.

Stir it up, and then turn down the heat under the sauce to low.

That chicken ought to be done about now. It should be in the oven for 12-15 minutes.

If you pounded your chicken, it will be closer to a 12 minute cook time.

If you have a big old fat breast, it will be closer to a 15 minute cook time.

Pop that chicken on your plate, and drizzle your shallot/wine/lemon sauce over the top.

Serve it up alongside some cous cous and sauteed greens.

DIVINE.

And if that doesn’t convince you Annie.

Then, you are a clown.

Have a great weekend friends!

XO,
Leah

Let’s see…

Here are the haps from the past few days in my life.

I’m running again. It feels as good as running can feel. I kind of loathe running. Some people love it.

I am not one of those people.

I do it.

And then I’m glad I did it.

But I pretty much hate every dang second.

However, I do enjoy listening to music cranked up loud while I torture myself.

Here’s what is motivating each stupid step lately:

The Gossip

I heart Beth Ditto. A beautiful voice, a great sound… a little punky. Loves.

Brit Brit

An old favorite. I love manufactured music. I am not ashamed.

Written by Kesha. Performed by Britney. Makes me hate myself for loving to move to this song so much.

Foster the People

Added them to the mix today. Brad knows the bassist- more on that in the next few days- and I feel like I kind of love this song.

I may become obsessed with it.

We’ll see.

Wednesday, all the Clarke gals got together for lunch and dinner and the spa in between.

It was glorious for all of the right reasons.

1. The spa- Duh.

2. The food- NorthStar Cafe with a Chicken and Avocado Sandwich for lunch and Piada (basically, an Italian Chipotle) for dinner. I left stuffed, but not feeling gross. And can I add we had Orange Leaf yogurt for dessert? Good Stuff People.

Oh gosh. In searching for the links to the restaurants, I just discovered that there is an Orange Leaf less than 5 miles from my house. I. Am. In. Trouble. 

3. The company.

Sisters are great.

These gals are my absolute dearest friends in the whole world.

Want to know what I love most?

Well, everything.

But I love how much fun we have together.

I love that there is no jealousy or competition in our sisterhood- only support, pride, love.  I think that says my parents did something right.

So, I feel incredibly grateful for Jessica, Stephanie and Emily.

Then, my brother went and married the greatest girl ever. So, our sisterhood now also includes my sister-in-law, Jana.

Oh, and my mom came too. She is the original Clarke gal. It was so fun to have her with us for our day out. Plus, she watched Henry allowing me a few glorious hours of focused “me” time. God Bless her.

While spaaaaa-ing it up, I was coerced by two of my sisters into trying the shellac manicure. The shellac manicure gives your painted nails a little more stability, but it doesn’t ruin your nails like acrylic or gel nails do. And the shellac manicure lasts up to three weeks.

I think I love it. My nails look awesome (if I do say so myself). You leave the salon with totally dry nails that you don’t have to worry about smudging or chipping or messing up in any way. I have done dishes, changed diapers, and cleaned the bathroom… and have not had the tiniest of flaws appear in my manicure.

Miracle.

The shellac nails get my stamp of approval. My shellac manicure cost $30. Totally worth it, if ya ask me.

Polished nails, polished lady.

Wow. That picture makes my pinky finger look rather crooked.

I choose to love my crooky little pinky anyhow.

Finally, I have a new favorite salad.

It is as simple as can be. Summery and bright.

This salad comes from Ina Garten. That Ina. She knows how to make good food.

I was eating by myself (sniff, sniff), so this recipe is for uno.

Here is what you need:

Spicy Rocket aka Arugula

Some chopped up Watermelon

Parmesan Cheese

1/2 lemon

(Also a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper)

Pop the arugula, watermelon and parm in a bowl.

Give that salad a squeeze of lemon.

And a drizzle of olive oil.

Give it a sprinkle of salt with your fancy pants shellac nails.

Smile at how pretty they are.

Finish off the salad with black pepper.

I still haven’t figured out how to take a picture of me grinding pepper.

But I’m sure you can imagine it.

So, I won’t worry about it.

Much.

And that’s all I’ve got for ya today.

I’ll leave you with a pic of the Clarke gals after facials, massages and pampering… that is why we all look like shiny grease balls.

Have a great Friday!

XO,

Leah

OK, peeps.

Hang with me here.

I’m about to blow your mind with this pizza.

Even if you are a non-adventurous meat-eatin’ man (I’m talkin’ to you Uncle Doug), I  guarantee you will like this pizza.

And if you don’t, then I’ll tell you that you’re crazy.

I drool over the gorgeous food pictures on FoodGawker nearly every day.

You’ll never see my food on there because I have no clue what I’m doing with a camera. Food and flavor are my focus. Not so much the pics.

But the FoodGawker food is absolutely irresistible, and I seriously want to try a handful of recipes every dang day.

So yesterday, I saw a picture of this pizza and I knew I had to try it.

It was fate because I had all of the ingredients on hand.

This recipe is courtesy of Chris over at The Café Sucré Farine.

It made my eyes pop wide open when I took the first bite.

Drool worthy.

So, this is a pizza that is topped with bacon, chicken, cheese, a balsamic/strawberry glaze, fresh strawberries and cilantro.

Sounds crazy, I know.

But. You. Will. Not. Regret. Making. This.

It has been a while since we have talked about my love affair with bacon. Do not fear.

My love has not waned.

I still love it more than ever.

However, I did try a new brand of Applewood Smoked Bacon from Whole Foods. This bacon is made from non-industrial farmed pigs. So, before these pigs gave their life for us (I know it’s morbid, but c’mon- it’s meat) they lived a happy life on a farm with room to roam. Then, they were killed humanely.

Again, I know that not everyone cares about the things I care about. And that is fine by me.

I’m just sharing my choices and experience.

So, don’t get all high on the hog (ha- get it? hog? bacon? har!) and whateverish with me.

Back to cooking.

Fry your bacon.

Then, drain off some of that fat on paper towels.

Then, eat approximately 4 pieces to make sure the flavor it acceptable.

Yes, it takes at least 4 slices before you can know for sure.

Now, lets make our glaze.

Get out some balsamic vinegar.

And add a quarter cup to a small sauce pan.

Boil that vinegar, then reduce the heat and simmer until the vinegar has reduced by half.

Reducing the vinegar causes some of the liquid to evaporate, and the liquid left in the pan gets a little thicker and syrupy. Yum.

Bust out some strawberry jam or preserves.

Or jelly.

I’m sure jelly would work fine.

Plop a 1/2 c. of the strawberry goodness into your balsamic reduction.

And now, a surprise ingredient.

Some Sriracha!

A little spicy spiciness.

If you don’t have Sriracha, I’m sure any hot sauce would suffice.

Add 1 teaspoon of the hotness to your sauce.

Stir it up until it is all combined.

Set that sauce aside until you need it again.

Now, lets cook some chicken.

If you are a good multi-tasker in the kitchen, you can cook the above sauce and your chicken at the same time.

To cook normal sized chicken breasts, place your pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the breasts fairly generously with salt and pepper.

Cook on each side for approximately 4 minutes.

So, back to my new commitment to responsible eating. If you have a Whole Foods near you, they have a mega pack of chicken breasts that are organic/free range/cold washed. If you buy the bulk package, the price is not that much more than the conventional chicken at other grocery stores.

Ok, lets get our pizza dough ready.

Preheat your oven to 450.

I made my own dough from the recipe on the back of the new Fleischmann’s Pizza Dough yeast packet.

Kroger used to carry these super thin pizza crusts, but they didn’t have them. Boo Kroger!

Trader Joes also carries an uncooked pizza dough for $1.29 that I really like. However, I wasn’t going to run out for one measly pizza dough.

So, I love this next idea. Again, I’m totally stealing this from Chris’s recipe.

She recommends using parchment paper to roll out your pizza dough.

Put down a little cornmeal.

And roll out your pizza dough.

The parchment makes the transfer to the pizza stone so dang easy. I can’t believe I have never done this before.

It made the whole process easier and cleaner.

Yay for parchment paper!

I like to season the dough a bit and cook it a bit before piling on the toppings.

I spread a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

Place it on your pizza pan or stone and cook the crust for 4-5 minutes.

While that dough is par-cooking, chop either one large or 2 small chicken breasts.

Chop up 6 slices of bacon.

Chop up 1/4 of a large yellow onion.

Top your chicken with a tablespoon or 2 of the balsamic strawberry glaze.

And use your hands to mix the sauce into the chicken.

Pop a piece into your mouth.

Savor the goodness.

Practice restraint by not downing the chicken before it ever makes it onto the pizza.

Pull your dough out of the oven.

Spread the remaining glaze around the crust.

Spread a cup of shredded Italian cheese across the pizza.

I normally don’t like or use the pre-shredded stuff but I was aiming for ease!

Pile on your chicken, bacon, and onions.

Finish it off with another cup of the shredded cheese. Throw that bad boy into the oven until the cheese is all ooey-gooey-melty.

About 7-8 minutes.

It comes out looking like this.

I could have eaten it just like this.

It smelled so heavenly.

But I wanted the full delightful experience.

So, I sliced up some strawberries and threw them on top. DO NOT skip this step. I promise. It is so so freaking good.

Then, I chopped some green onion and tossed that on top.

The actual recipe calls for cilantro (not green onion), and I was quite sad to discover that I had no cilantro. It would have been perfection.

But the green onion was a perfectly delicious substitute.

I served the pizza with Ina Garten’s Lemon Fusilli with Arugula. So good!

For Ina’s recipe, I used half of the amount of cream and lemon and pasta. And I used double the amount of vegetables.

I’m not big on a super pasta-y pasta salad. Does that make any sense whatsoever?

Anyhow, it was a perfect meal on a perfect Ohio evening enjoyed on the patio.

We ate while Henry soaked in the fresh air in his bouncy seat.

The two ding dongs ran around arguing over the same stick.

A pretty perfect meal, and a pretty perfect evening.

Life is good,

Leah

P.S. Want to see the coolest, most darling gift I received yesterday? My friend, Jess, oozes creativity. And she made this for Henry’s room. I died. It is perfection, and it will be so perfect for his nursery. Thanks Jess!

Sorry, it is an iPhone pic- I’ll share a better pic when it makes it onto the wall.

So, I know I’m like years behind.

But I just watched Food, Inc. for the first time. After seeing it, I am now committed to watching it at least once a year, so that I don’t forget the movie’s message.

Several years ago my friend Liz introduced me to author Michael Pollan.

Michael Pollan (who is featured in Food, Inc.) is one of the leading voices on eating wisely, ethically, and healthily. I devoured (har, har) his books “Food Rules”, “In Defense of Food”, and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”. I have written about them here before, and I’ll probably mention them again at some point. After reading what Pollan had to say about the way we fat, unhealthy (yes, I’m generalizing) Americans eat, I committed to making changes in my diet.

And after time, the passion behind those decisions faded away. I look at the organic chicken at almost $9 to feed two people versus the regular chicken for $3 to feed two people, and my conviction starts to wane. I compare the price and longevity of organic spinach versus the regular old pesticide ridden spinach, and I grab the cheaper.

I go to the supermarket and load up on their weird tomatoes that were picked halfway around the world and shipped while they were still green rather than make an extra trip to the farmer’s market buy tomatoes. Those farmer’s market tomatoes are grown locally, pesticide free, and they taste exponentially better.

Guh.

Pollan states that we have a choice- to spend money now on better food for us, or we can spend money later on increased health care costs.

So now, I have watched Food, Inc. and my conviction in eating responsibly has been reignited.

Here in America, we have the opportunity to vote on how food is produced three times a day. It is one of the rare opportunities to voice our opinion on what matters to us every time we shop and eat. I know that I will be more conscious with every vote I make. And while your opinion on food may differ from mine, you have the opportunity to vote with every purchase you make at the grocery store.

If you haven’t seen Food, Inc. I implore you to check it out. There were scenes from industrial farms and slaughterhouses (nothing too graphic, I promise) that made me overwhelmingly sad and thoroughly disgusted. And then I realized… I’m voting for this treatment of animals and for this type of a manufactured farm system every time that I buy certain products in the grocery store.

And that doesn’t sit well with me.

At all.

So, change is a-comin’ for us.

If you watched this movie when it first came out, watch it again. It is worth your time.

Also, Pollan’s “In Defense of Food” is one of the best food books I have ever read- you should check it out.

Now, I shall step off of my soap box.

I love food. I love eating animals (I know it sounds cruel, but I do like meat). I love eating vegetables.

I want to be able to say that I love doing all of the above responsibly and consciously.

Today, I’m making a public commitment to take steps toward a more local, organic, healthy, and responsible diet.

Amen.

And amen.

XO,

Leah

I am a girl that loves a sandwich.

I am a girl that loves a spicy dish.

I am a girl that tries to eat somewhat healthy.

I am a girl that gets weak in the knees for buffalo sauce.

And I am a girl that stole this marvelous (and somewhat healthy)  recipe for the best Buffalo Chicken Burgers I’ve ever had.

My friend and former boss, Tracy, posted this recipe on Facebook a while back. I promptly made it because she promised that these burgers would be a healthy alternative to the terrible fried goodness of a chicken wing (or a boneless tender, that I prefer).

These burgers seriously deliver. They are so dang good. They are moist and delicious and flavorful and spicy and savory and the list goes on and on.

Now, first I must confess. I didn’t have any ground chicken.

So I used ground turkey instead. I lurrrrrve flexible recipes. You too, non?

This recipe makes 5 burgers.

I started with a 1.2 lb package of ground turkey and a large bowl.

Dump that turkey into the bowl.

Get out some grill seasoning. You’ll need 1 Tablespoon.

I happened to have a Chipotle Rub, and it was spectacular. However, any grill seasoning will do.

Now, Tracy recommends low fat blue cheese to keep the calorie count down in her burgers. If you are watching the waistline, I would encourage you to do the same.

If however, you are wanting a more delicious burger- go for the regular old blue cheese crumbles.

I have a personal aversion to low-fat cheese. It generally tastes bad, and it often strikes me as having a weird consistency.

I also hate low-fat salad dressing, but that is neither here nor there. Just thought you might want to know.

Anywho, add in 1/4 c. of blue cheese crumbles.

And 1/4 c. of Frank’s Red Hot. Or you could use Frank’s Buffalo Sauce.

Seriously, both my husband and I really love Frank’s Red Hot. We should buy stock in the stuff.

I think it makes just about any savory dish better. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. But the stuff does make me quite happy.

Now, grab some Panko breadcrumbs. Do not attempt to substitute regular breadcrumbs in this recipe. You need the extra crunch provided by Panko.

These guys are found in the baking aisle of your grocery store right near the bread crumbs.

Add 3/4 c. of  the Panko to your bowl.

Chop up 1/3 c. of celery and toss it into the bowl.

And now add 1/4 of green onion.

If you don’t have green onions, use some chives like I did.

Bing bong for chives in the garden.

They have saved several dishes for me this summer when I need just a bit of green.

Gently mix all of the above together.

You want to mix the ingredients until they are combined. But don’t over mix the meat because it will get tough.

Five perfect burgers.

Set those burgers aside, and lets make a little blue cheese sauce to top our burgers with when they are cooked.

You’ll need two simple ingredients for the sauce.

First, 1/2 cup of low fat sour cream. Low-fat sour cream is one low-fat option that I can manage to eat. It doesn’t taste all that different from the full fat version to me.

Add 1/4 c. of those blue cheese crumbles to the sour cream and mix it up.

OK!

Let’s cook our burgers.

Before we do, I think we should follow Tracy’s suggestion to coat the outside in Panko to increase the crunchiness factor.

Those Panko breadcrumbs really do give the burgers that same crispy sensation that a fried tender or wing has.

Put a non-stick skillet over a medium flame to preheat.

I wanted to grill these burgers, but we only have a charcoal grill (I personally could never go gas- I love the charcoal flavor).

The downside of charcoal; however, is that if you are making a late dinner grilling sometimes is not an option.

Because, you know, it takes for-e-ver to heat up.

Enough about my woes.

Put a little olive oil in the pan.

And put your burgers into the pan.

After about 4-5 minutes, give them a flip.

Let them cook on the second side for another 4-5 minutes.

If you want to kick up the heat factor, baste those burgers with a little more red hot sauce.

Pull those burgers off of the pan, and start building your sandwich.

I put our burgers on a whole wheat crusty piece of bread.

And then I topped them with the blue cheese sauce, some tomato, and some sliced cucumbers.

Served up with a simple cucumber salad (can you tell that we were out of lettuce?) and a little fruit salad.

It will knock your socks off.

Want to see what my worthless sous chefs were up to?

Well, this one was at least in the kitchen… but she was just hoping for scraps:

Lola couldn’t bother to come inside. She was either sunbathing or keeping guard of the tomato plant:

And finally… this guy.

So far, Henry has been a real disappointment in the kitchen. He doesn’t help me out at all. Good thing he makes up for it with his extreme cuteness:

My guy’s hair makes my life.

Happy Tuesday!

XO,
Leah

I have been busy during my maternity leave. I have developed 101 Super Simple Summer Salads.

Wouldn’t you absolutely hate me if that were true?

No, I haven’t created a thing (other than a baby) in the time I have been off.

But I did find this link for 101 Simple Summer Salads.

I am buying the goods to make numbers 2, 5, 24, 29, 60, and the list goes on and on.

The recipes are organized by vegan, vegetarian, seafood, meat, noodle salads, and grain salads. There is truly something for everyone.

Photo by Francesco Tonelli for the NYTimes

So, there ya have it on this Wonderful (and HOT) Wednesday- 101 new and fun salad ideas. Visit your local Farmer’s Market or grocery store to pick up the goods to make one of all of these today.

Let me know if you try one of these that knocks your socks off!

XO,

Leah

Please tell me that you have had Bonefish Grill’s Bang Bang Shrimp.

Brad and I try to support local restaurants, chefs, cooks, establishments as often as possible. In our fine city, we love visiting everything from dive bar/sticky seat joints to high end restaurants that intimidate you with their wine lists, amuse bouches and fancy pants ingredients. I find that, in general, local/non-chain restaurants have better quality food and better service.

However, from time to time, a chain restaurant will reel me in with one of their signature tempting dishes. And Bang Bang Shrimp may be my favorite chain restaurant appetizer of all time.

*Side note: If you live in Cincinnati, my all-time favorite non-chain appetizers are as follows:

-Casual Joint: Habits for the Potato Rags (Crispy hashbrowns topped with bacon, cheese, tomato, onions and ranch)

-Middle of the Road: Senate for the Poutine Fries (French Fries topped with melted cheese curd and braised short ribs)

-Fancy Pants: Boca for the boat scallop served with caramelized brussel sprouts (seriously the best brussel sprout I have ever in my life even dared to imagine)

*End of Side Note- Back to the BANG! BANG!

I’m having fun these days trying to recreate some restaurant favorites at home. Why? I dunno. Because I want to. And because I can.

That’s why.

I figured I would start with the Bang Bang Shrimp. If you haven’t had this wonder, it is a small dish of fried shrimp that is coated in a creamy and spicy “bang bang” sauce. The shrimp is served over a bed of crisp iceberg lettuce and shredded cabbage. The whole kit n’ caboodle is topped with some green onion. It is the perfect naughty start to a meal.

I would like to preface this recipe by saying that I decided that for two people, it is much easier to just order some of the Bang Bang Shrimp to go. However, I will make this recipe again (FOR SURE) when having folks over for dinner or when entertaining a larger crowd.

Lets start by making the Bang Bang sauce.

You’ll need some Thai Sweet Chili Sauce. I found this at Whole Foods.

Drop 1/4 c. into a bowl.

Then add 1/2 c of mayo. Not Miracle Whip, people. Mayo.

Now get out your Sriracha hot sauce (this is found in the Asian foods aisle at the grocery store).

I started with a few drops of the hot sauce.

Then, I added a few more.

Then, some more.

I ended up adding about 1 1/2 t., but we like things spicy at our house.
I recommend adding a wee bit at a time, and giving the sauce a taste as you go.

Stir is up, and set your sauce aside.

Easy, right?

Now, because I think I hate simplicity from time to time, I decided I would make two different kinds of fried shrimp.

I like options, and I couldn’t decide between coconut shrimp or regular fried shrimp. Bonefish Grill makes regular fried shrimp, but I super duper love coconut shrimp.

And since I was cooking, it was decided that there should be a coconut shrimp version of the Bang Bang.

So, to make the batter for the Coconut Shrimp, put equal parts (I used 1/3 c. of each) of flour,

Cornstarch,

And shredded coconut (I prefer the unsweetened variety) into a bowl.

Add in one egg.

And then an equal part (1/3 c. for me!) of ice cold water.

Give that a little stir and set it aside.

Now, we will prepare batter number two.

Well actually, we will be preparing a little soak and then a dry dip for this batch of shrimp.

Mix together equal parts milk.

And regular old hot sauce.

I used Tobasco because I had it on hand. I think next time I’ll try Frank’s Red Hot because it is my fave.

And then in a separate bowl, toss in 1 cup of flour.

With 1/4 c. of cornmeal and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

There ya have it.

Now, we shall dunk the shrimp.

I used medium sized shrimp (Bonefish uses the super small guys), and I bought mine peeled and deveined.

I kept the tails on. However, when I make this again, I’ll take the tails off. It will make for easier eating.

I took about half of my shrimp and dumped them into the coconut batter.

Then, I took the other half and allowed them to soak up some hot milky goodness.

Hang with me.

I know that this doesn’t look all that appetizing at this point.

We’re getting there though. I promise.

Get out some peanut oil.

Or vegetable oil.

The key is to use a lighter oil because the lighter oil handles higher temperatures better.

An olive oil can burn, and you don’t want that.

Trust me.

Put about 1/2 cup of oil into a large skillet. You want to use enough to fully coat the entire bottom of the pan. In fact, the oil should be about 1/8 of an inch deep.

Here is my fool proof test to know when the oil is ready. I’m not good at using fancy gadgets like thermometers.

So, I put the tip of my batter coated fork into the oil….

And when it creates a perfect frying sound and perfect frying ripples, I know that the oil is ready.

Gently place a single layer of shrimp (I started with the coconut) around the pan. They should not touch each other.

And you should not mess with them once they are in the pan.

Side Note: Wear an apron, and use long tongs. This pan will spit a little hot oil at you so you want to be covered!

After 1 1/2 minutes, give the shrimp a flip.

They should be beautifully golden.

While the second side is cooking, pull your hot sauce and milk soaked shrimp out of the liquid.

Add them to your flour/corn meal mixture. Give them a toss.

Remove your coconut shrimp from the oil to a paper-towel lined plate. Immediately give them a sprinkle with salt.

What I SHOULD have done at this point was add these very hot shrimp to a bowl of the Bang Bang Sauce to coat.

I did not do this.

Don’t be like me.

Toss your shrimp with the sauce while the shrimp are piping hot.

Cook your second batch of shrimp- single layer in the oil for 1 1/2 minutes per side.

And when they look like this, pull them out of the pan.

Drop them onto a paper towel to drain some oil.

Give them a sprinkle of salt.

Then, immediately toss the shrimp with the sauce.

Serve the shrimp over a bed of lettuce, and top the whole thing with some chives or green onion.

Again, toss your shrimp. It will look prettier than my globs of sauce do.

I served up the shrimp with a couscous and vegetable stuffed portobello and a big fruit salad.

The verdict on the shrimp?

Well, both types of shrimp were delicious.

I think a hybrid of the two would actually be perfect. Next time, I think I will follow the coconut shrimp recipe, but I will add in 1/4 c. of  cornmeal (to make a crispier fried shrimp) and I will add in 1 T. of hot sauce (to increase the spice factor).

So, what is next?

Well, I have a Kung Pao Chicken/Shrimp/Scallops recipe that I’m excited to share.

It was GOOD- think PF Changs, but not so bad for ya.

I also have a delicious lasagna recipe too.

I am still stocking up the fridge with frozen meals, so I’m cooking away. I’m just  behind on sharing with you.

Don’t hate me.

Thanks.

1 1/2 weeks until the big due date. But I’m ready now. So, bring on the baby!

Hope you are all having a great week.

XO,

Leah

Grill baby, Grill.

I love grilling when it is a billion degrees outside, and the thought of turning on the oven or stove is laughable.

I am a firm believer in the charcoal grill. I think it conjures up way more flavor than gas.

The downside of the charcoal grill is obvious… you must plan ahead a bit since it takes so long for the coals to get ready.

But it is worth it my friends, it is worth it.

I am also a firm believer that just about anything can be grilled.

Meat.

Veggies (some of my faves include asparagus, zucchini, onions, potatoes, etc).

Fruit (any stone fruit- peaches, plums, etc. or pineapple).

Breads.

This week, we grilled a pizza. A barbecue chicken pizza to be exact.

And not to toot my own horn, but it was freaking awesome. Toot! Toot!

This recipe was inspired by a gift from the in-laws. They brought us back a dry rub and a bottle of barbecue sauce from a favorite place in Florida.

We have been patiently waiting through snow and rain to bust out these grilling goodies.

I know it is highly unlikely that you will have these particular ingredients, but any grill seasoning and barbecue sauce will do.

We start this recipe by frying up bacon. Nothing wrong with that.

Bacon is one of those ingredients that is better done in a pan than on the grill.

Yes, I have attempted to grill bacon. However, with live flames and grease dripping from bacon- bacon tends to get scorched.

So, I stick with the frying pan.

And by the way, I love a cast iron skillet. Don’t you?

Do you have one?

You need one.

Here is the thing about a cast iron skillet, you don’t really wash it out aggressively with soap and water because it is a very porous pan. So you wipe it down, and the flavor gets trapped in the pan.

Then, whenever you cook something, it has this extra delicious flavor element in the food. It is pretty magical.

Pull out the bacon. And let it set out on paper towels to drain.

Drop in some chopped onion or shallots.

Yep, just drop them into the bacon grease.

Fried onions in bacon grease.

Hello. Lover.

Bacon grease makes everything heart healthy.

OK, that was a lie.

Bacon grease does make everything more delicious. And that counts for something, right?

Chicken tenders.

Cheaper.

Thaws faster (if you are like me, and you store on-sale chicken in your freezer until you need it).

Cooks faster.

Has less weird tendons and whatnot.

Winner, winner, Chicken Tender Dinner.

Give both sides of your chicken a deep tissue massage with your grill seasoning/rub.

 

Set that chicken aside while you get your pizza dough ready.

Now I had a few servings of dough already frozen in my freezer. So, your options for dough- make a big old batch and freeze some.

Or buy a Boboli crust from your grocery store.

Or buy the uncooked pizza dough (I believe is it $1.29) from Trader Joes. It can be found near the cheese and deli meat. This would be my choice if I didn’t have homemade dough.

Give your dough a drizzle of olive oil once it is rolled out.

I also gave mine a little sprinkle of salt and crushed red pepper flake.

To the Grill!!

 

Give your chicken a head start.

With a hot grill, using chicken tenders, I needed about 3 1/2-4 min. per side.

Then, I gave them a flip.

 

Once flipped, I slathered them with the barbecue sauce.

 

And then I threw the raw rolled out dough right on the grill.

Your grill MUST be pretty hot still for this to work. If it is only providing a low heat, you run the risk of your dough oozing through the grill grates. I, personally, have never had this happen.

But it could.

 

Keep slatherin’ that chicken.

 

Don’t feed the bears.

This is our beer opener positioned on the fence right next to the grill.

I’ll give you one guess as to which member of our household purchased this bad boy.

 

After 1-2 minutes, give your dough a flip.

Mmm.

Crusty.

 

Pull all of that off the grill, and head back in to the sanctity of your air conditioned kitchen.

Take stock of everything that you shall pile on your pizza.

From left to right, I have monteray jack and cheddar cheese. I only had a teeny amount of cheddar left, hence the pathetic amount. Pepper jack, colby jack, mozzarella or provolone would all be delicious on this pizza.

Next, I have an avocado to slice up, the grilled onions, chopped bacon, a chopped tomato, some crushed red pepper flake, chopped cilantro, chopped green onion and a little more barbecue sauce.

 

Take the barbecue sauce, and use the sauce as your pizza sauce. Slather it all over.

Chop up your chicken and pile it on your crust with the chopped bacon.

 

Then, pile on all the cheese.

March that pizza back out to your grill for only a minute more to melt the cheese.

 

When it looks like this, pull it off of the grill, bring it inside and finish topping it.

 

Add on the rest of your ingredients.

Wowzer, right?

RIGHT?

 

I recommend using kitchen scissors to cut the pizza. It is slightly easier to manage. Pair the pizza with your pickled cucumber salad and a ripe summer peach.

Grilling makes my life.

It is Friday.

I hope you all have a fabulous weekend!

It is a big weekend in our family… my baby sister graduates from college. We are all so proud of her, and I for one cannot wait to see what is next for her.

Our niece also turns one on Sunday. There will be a party and presents and a cake- and a little girl surrounded by love.

Fun stuff all around.

XO,
Leah

 

It feels like we have been waiting for non-rainy warmer temperatures in Ohio for 100 years. This past winter and spring was a little rough. Too much precipitation, in my humble opinion.

However, I am really appreciating the warmth and the sun these days.

It has been so great to eat dinner on the patio while the ding dongs dig around the yard.

Yesterday, Lola thought that one of Miss Jackson’s (our lab) poos would be a fun toy. Have I mentioned that Lola has issues?

Nothing like a poo mention to transition to talking food.

Am I right?

While the summer has about a billion things that I love, one of my favorite parts of summer is the availability of perfect summer fruits and vegetables.

Oh, and the fact that it is grilling season. Woop! Woop!

I took a trip to the grocery the other night and loaded up on the fresh juicy produce. And I highly advise you to do the same.

First, let us discuss the perfect summer salad.

I, for one, am crazy for a salad that has fruit in it. It is the essence of the perfect summer salad. I really don’t think there is much in all of the land that tastes better- except maybe bacon. Or ice cream.

So, I thought I would whip a dinner side dish to die for.

For one person, I got out a peach, 2 large strawberries, and a handful of red raspberries. Oh, and some spinach.

Arugula (the spicier lettuce) would have been my first choice. Alas, I didn’t have any.

Plop some spinach on your plate and then pile it high with your sliced peach, strawberry, and raspberry.

As you can see, this is a very complicated cooking technique.

Dust on some parmigiano reggiano for a hint of savory and salt.

And add some black pepper. Rumor has it that black pepper increases your metabolism. I have no clue if that is true or not.

But, in case it does happen to be true, I like to pile on the pepper.

It doesn’t hurt that I love me some fresh-a pepp-a.

Then, finish the salad off with a little balsamic vinaigrette.

Or a raspberry vinaigrette, if you have it.

And there you have it.

On a sweltering summer day when standing in front of an oven, stove or grill seems unbearable, this should be your go to meal.

Now those same fruits I mentioned above have a sinister side.

For they love to be combined with  naughty sugar to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Ina Garten makes a lovely peach and raspberry crisp that served as my inspiration for this dessert.

While Ina is pretty much my food idol, I wanted a little more from this crisp. So, this is my version.

My friends, I give you the Peach, Raspberry, and Strawberry Crisp.

Before you do anything…

Preheat your oven to 350.

Get out an 8″ x 8″ pan.

And get out a pot large enough to hold 5 medium sized peaches. Fill the pot with water, and get that water a-boiling.

Here is what you will need:

5 glorious peaches- ripe, but still firm (don’t want a mushy peach)

1 pound of strawberries

1 1/2 pints of raspberries

1 orange

You will also need some sugar, brown sugar, flour, salt, a stick of butter, and some oats.

Remember your 8″ x 8″ pan you got out?

Slather that bad boy in butter and set it aside while you assemble the rest of your ingredients.

In a large bowl, zest your orange.

You only want the orange part of the fruit- if you go crazy zesting and get to the white part of the orange rind, it becomes bitter.

Bitter=nastiness.

We don’t want nastiness anywhere near this dessert.

Add in 1/4 c of sugar.

And 1/3 c. of brown sugar.

And then, add in just shy of 1 c. of flour.

Now, slice up your strawberries and add them to the party.

At this point, I hope that your water in your pot looks like this.

We’re going to give our peaches a 30 second dip in this very hot tub to help us coax the skins off of the peaches.

Carefully drop your peaches into the boiling water.

Let them hang out for 30-60 seconds.

While they are in the hot tub, prepare a shockingly cold bath for them.

Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

After 1 minute in the boiling water, pull the peaches out one by one.

Turn off the heat under the pot because you are now done with your boiling water.

Drop your peaches in the icy bath.

Let them cool down for about 1 minute.

When you pull them out of the ice water, the skins slip right off.

Easy Peasy.

Aren’t peaches beautiful?

Give your peaches a chop and toss them in your bowl.

Stir it up, little darlin.

Now add in your raspberries.

And stir it again. Gently. Don’t crush your berries.

If you have super juicy fruit you may have some juice pooling up in the bottom of your bowl.

If that is the case, I would add in 2 T. more flour. It will help your crisp stay crisp.

Other wise you may end up with Peach, Raspberry and Strawberry Slop.

But let’s be honest… it would still taste great!

Now transfer all of that to your waiting buttered 8″ x 8″ pan.

Head on over to your mixer (with the paddle attachment) to throw together your topping.

Combine 1 c. flour, 1/2 c. sugar, 1/4 c. brown sugar, a teeny-tiny pinch of salt and 1 c. oatmeal.

I, like Ms. Supreme Idiot, that I tend to be from time to time forgot to check and see if I had any oatmeal.

I did not.

Woopsie.

I searched high and low for a worthy substitute, and I decided on Rice Krispies.

And I’m telling you right now… for a summer crisp, this may be my new go to ingredient!

Turn your mixer on low, and combine your ingredients.

Dice up a stick of cold butter.

And add that to the party.

The butter should be about the size of peas when you transfer your topping from the mixer to your waiting fruit.

Pour that sweet Krispie topping all over your fruit.

Then pop the whole kit and caboodle into the oven for 1 excruciatingly long hour.

Folks, are you ready for this?

Oh dear me.

This is what it looks like when it comes out of the oven.

Ooey, gooey, fruity, bubbly, warm and crisp.

And the smell?

Fuh-get-about-it.

The flavor is bright and summery.

And the perfect combination of sweet and tart.

Pile some of this (still warm is perfection, in my opinion) into a bowl and top with some vanilla ice cream

Oh, summer.

It is so great that you have returned.

Please don’t ever leave again.

Thanks.

XO,
Leah

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