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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

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Our dear friends are expecting twins in only a few short weeks. Our babies will be born within weeks of each other, and it has been such a treat to be pregnant together. Because the twin’s mama is the tiniest tot on the planet, she has been placed on bed rest until the babies make their appearance.

So, on Thursday night, Brad and I brought some dinner to their house to hang out and catch up while chowing down on a sausage and goat cheese macaroni bake. Because of the bed rest, our friends weren’t able to use their Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra tickets. So, we were the lucky beneficiaries.

On Saturday night, the main man and I

headed to Cincinnati’s Historic Music Hall.

Music Hall is easily one of the city’s most beautiful landmarks. It was built in 1878, and it is such an experience to sit in the hall and think about all of the people who have sat in the seats and enjoyed the performing arts in one way or another over all of the 100+ years of this hall’s existence.

This is what you walk into as you come in the front doors:

(iPhone photo)

And here is the symphony warming up (our neighbor is in the back row- he is a percussionist):

And check out this chandelier. It is massive, and sparkly, and breathtaking. And it weighs a mere 2 tons!

The domed center of the hall is an oil painting that is original to the hall. It depicts the Allegory of the Arts.

The evening was delightful.

After the show, we stopped off at Senate, a gourmet street food restaurant in the Over the Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati.

Senate has the best appetizer in the city.

Poutine fries. Oh my.

Crispy french fries smothered in soft and salty cheese curd, braised short ribs, and a gravy sauce.

(Again, the iPhone photo- I promise it looked better in real life!)

Fuh-get-about-it. Poutine fries make my life.

I ordered a lemonade to drink, and our server brought over a raspberry infused lemonade in a martini glass for me. It was the prettiest pink mocktail I have ever seen. Delicious to boot!

So, last night I decided I would try to recreate the Berry Lemon Mocktail.

And guess what? I’m pretty sure I succeeded.

And so today, I shall share the recipe with ya. And I will encourage you to throw in some booze if you imbibe at all. Because while this mocktail is delightful… lets be honest, a cocktail is WAY Better.

I think this recipe will end up making about 4 drinks.

Start with 1 cup of berries. I happened to have both blackberries and raspberries, so I threw them both into the glass.

Now add 1/2 cup of sugar.

And you are done!!

Drink up!

OK, not really.

Get out your muddler. Do you have a muddler? Randomly, I do. And this may have been the first time I have ever used it. If you don’t have a muddler, use a spoon or fork and mash the berries and sugar together.

Keep mashing.

Until it looks like this.

Now, let those berries and the sugar sit together and hang out. Get to know one another. For about 10 minutes.

While the berries and sugar get acquainted, let’s squeeze some lemons.

I used 3 lemons to procure 1 cup of lemon juice.

Get out a pitcher and a strainer.

And pour your berry mixture in.

Seeds = bad.

Sweet seedless berry juice = good.

On

And 1 1/4 cup of water.

Mix it up.

Looking pretty and pink!

Now, get out a glass. Fill it about half way with your berry and lemon juice mixture.

I actually am a weirdo and enjoy having seeds in my drink, so I threw in a spoonful of the seeds from the strainer.

You can certainly skip this step.

Now fill your glass to the top with seltzer water. It adds a bubble and a sparkle.

Top off your drink with a whole berry or two along with a sprig of mint.

Yum-a-lum-a-ding-dong!!

I think this would taste pretty delicious with a generous splash of vodka or tequila or rum.

So have at it!

The drink of the spring!

Happy Monday Peeps!

XO,

Leah

Well, it has taken me much longer to get this recipe posted than I anticipated.

You see, I was in the land of Packers, cheese curd, and beer. Yes, fabulous Wisconsin.

Neenah, to be exact.

And, as you can imagine, it was as magical as one might imagine.

While Neenah leaves quite a bit to be desired in terms of dining and entertainment, it was great to see and spend time with all of my co-workers. I really work with some pretty fun and amazing people.

So, I find myself feeling rather grateful this blessedly warm Friday morning.

I thought we should discuss meat today.

Meatloaf, to be exact.

Mom, if you are reading this, please don’t be offended. But, growing up I hated meatloaf. My mom’s version included cooked green peppers. Bleck! I would try to drown the loaf in ketchup to choke it down.

It wasn’t until much, much later in life that I felt brave enough to try the loaf o’ meat again.

And there is one recipe that I find myself going back to again and again. This is based on a Rachael Ray recipe from a show year’s ago.

On a side note: Rachael Ray is pretty darn annoying. However, I owe her a lot of credit in sparking my adult interest to get excited by cooking. So, thanks Rach! EVOO! YUM-O!

So, this meatloaf is actually a recipe for individual meatloaves that are cooked in a skillet instead of baked in the oven.

Here is what you’ll need for the meatloaf:

1 lb. of ground beef (I use 85/15 or fattier- that ratio means, 85% lean meat/15% fat and you don’t want to go much more lean than that

1 egg

1 handful of bread crumbs (Italian or plain) or a piece of white bread cut up into small cubes

About 2 T. of Grill Seasoning

1/2 t. allspice

1/4 c. milk

1-2 T. of tomato paste

1/2 of a large onion, all chopped up

Start by putting your meat in a bowl. Easy enough, right?

Crack yo egg.

Into the bowl.

You should probably whisk it first.

Unless you are a rebel like me.

Toss in your bread or breadcrumbs.

And then add your grill seasoning.

I am sincerely sorry that I’m not great at providing exact measurements.

Pop in your allspice.

Contrary to popular belief, allspice is not some combo of spices all ground up and combined for you.

Nope, it is an Indian spice from a tree that produces allspice berries.

Fun fact of the day!

Now, your milk.

I use about 1/4 cup.

However, more milk may be needed. We’ll get to that in a bit.

Add in your dollop of tomato paste.

Then, throw in your chopped onion.

Now, take off your rings.

Roll up your sleeves.

Use your clean hands to gently mix this all together.

You want to mix until everything is just combined. If you go nuts mixing, you can do something called over-mixing. The result of over-mixing is some seriously tough meat.

This is the point where you want to check the consistency. You want the meat to be able to form a patty, but you want the meat to be somewhat loose.

So, if the mixture seems too dry and difficult to mix add in a little milk.

If the mixture is too wet- like you can’t get it to form a patty and stay that way- add more bread or breadcrumbs.

Now, set your mixture aside for a minute.

We’re going to make a couple of quick and easy side dishes that are super simple to time correctly so that you have a plateful of food hot and steaming and ready to eat at the same time.

So, take the other half of your onion. Chop part of it into a small dice.

Chop the other 1/4 of the onion into slices.

Set aside.

The diced onion will be for our sauce for the meatloaf.

I used the sliced onion for some easy-peasy sauteed spinach.

I decided that along with spinach and meatloaf, we definitely needed a starch.

So, roasted potatoes it shall be.

Since both the meatloaf and spinach have a softer texture, I wanted something with a little crunch.

Preheat the oven to 400.

Then, chop up red potatoes to bite-sized pieces.

Give them a generous sprinkle of olive oil, salt and pepper, and 2 finely diced cloves of garlic.

Mix em up, and pop them into the oven.

Now, back to that meatloaf.

Get out a non-stick skillet, and put it on a burner over medium-high heat.

Add in 1-2 T. of olive oil.

Form individual patties (similar size to hamburgers) of meatloaf and set them into your heated pan.

Once in the pan, give them a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Cover the pan loosely with foil.

This cooking process will give you a crusty outside to the meatloaf, and the foil will help to cook the meatloaf all the way through.

After about 4 minutes, pull the foil off, and give the loaves a flip.

Cover them back up.

Cook for another 4 minutes.

Put the meatloaf on a plate.

And use your foil to tightly cover the meat to keep it warm while we make a little special sauce for the meatloaf.

Look at this girl.

She got a big old chunk of raw beef because of my sloppy patty making skills.

And she promptly laid down and kept her eye on me, the meat, and the floor.

Sadly, she did not get a second helping.

Now would be a good time to take a peek at your potatoes.

You may want to give them a turn in the pan to make sure they get beautifully browned on all sides.

Lets make our meatloaf sauce.

Here is what you’ll need:

Flour

Butter

Your reserved chopped 1/4 onion

Chicken or Beef Stock

Ketchup

Mustard

Steak or Barbecue Sauce

And if you are feeling crazy, some buffalo or hot sauce

Use your meatloaf skillet to make your sauce.

Plop in 2 T. of butter, and let it melt.

Then, toss in 1/4 of your chopped onions and start to let them brown up.

Mmmmmmmm….

Now, add in 2 T. of flour.

Whisk that together.

If you are using a non-stick pan, I highly recommend using a silicone whisk so that you don’t damage your pan.

Now add in a cup of stock.

Beef stock is recommended, but chicken stock is what I had.

Start whisking.

After no time at all, this little sauce will start to thicken up.

That picture above was starting to get a little too thick for me, so I added another 1/2 cup of stock of so.

I like my gravy a little runnier.

Now, put in 1 T of Ketchup, 1 T of Mustard (I used a dijon), and 1 T. of BBQ or steak sauce.

And whisk it together.

Give it a taste. It may need a little salt or pepper. Or perhaps you’ll fancy a stronger mustard or BBQ flavor so you can add a bit more of either of those. I decided I wanted a little heat, so I added about 2 T. of Buffalo Sauce.

Once, you have the taste perfected grab your meatloaves and let them soak up some of that delicious sauce.

Turn the heat to low, and those babies are ready for you when you are ready for them.

Now, if you wanted to make some spinach… I would start and finish that at this point in the meal. The potatoes are cozy in the oven, the meat and sauce is cozy on the stove, so you will have 5 focused minutes to give to the spinach prep.

Here is the recipe.

When you are done with the spinach, pull your taters out of the oven.

Now heap some of those onto your plate with some spinach and meatloaf.

Comfort food in 30 minutes or less… that is Rachael’s promise after all.

This meatloaf is the opposite of my childhood cooked green pepper yuck memories.

It is flavorful and delicious.

Enjoy my friends!!

Have the happiest of weekends.

XO,

Leah

It is a baby boom.

At work.

With friends.

On Facebook.

As a kid, I remember whenever one of my mom’s friends had a baby she would whip up a meal or two to bring over to help make the life of the new mama a little easier.

More than that, however, I remember when my baby sister was born. I was 9, and I was over the moon. I remember sitting with my hand and head on my mom’s belly and feeling her kick and squirm. I fancied her my own responsibility from the moment she came home from the hospital. That little baby is 22 now. Yikes.

When Emily, the youngest of my siblings joined her four siblings our house was flooded with meals every day for at least two weeks. The women at our church had planned out meal after meal so that my mom could care for Miss Emily and the rest of us without having to worry about what to feed us.

I cannot imagine the relief those meals must have brought for my mom. On top of food, she was given a few moments of sanity when the women stopped by. It was a chance to connect with other moms, to talk, to catch up, and to enjoy the company that womenfolk bring.

Beyond babies, food is the perfect gift. Period.

I love going to someone’s house for dinner, or being taken to dinner, or being given a gift card for food. You get the idea, right?

I have to believe that everyone loves a night off from cooking (or having to think about cooking) from time to time.

How great would it be if you returned from a week long vacation, and a dear friend brought you a warm home cooked meal to welcome you home?

Or if, heaven forbid, you or someone you cared for had to spend time in the hospital. Food is a welcome relief when you do get home.

Or do you know someone that is just at the busiest stage of their life right now? Work is crazy or kids are crazy or something is causing stress in their life? Offer to bring that person food. I think the gesture and the gift of time-saved goes a long way.

Now, I want you to know that (contrary to popular belief) I am not perfect.

In fact, I need all of the advice that I just gave above.

So, in an effort to turn over a new leaf, Brad and I took dinner to my friend and her husband yesterday.  They just had the sweetest baby three weeks ago.

After deciding TO make dinner… the hardest part is figuring out WHAT TO make.

So, here is your assignment.

If you dare to accept it.

Find someone who could use a little extra love and care and attention from ya.

And make them food.

Need an idea of what to make?

I’m here to help!

I had a brainstorm on Friday, with my friend and co-worker, and a fellow foodie- Brittany.

We decided the following:

1. Lasagna or Stuffed Shells would be the hands-down favorite choice of the gift meal. However, it is the first thing that most people think of. So, if you are one of a few folks making food for one particular recipient, I would avoid this one.

2. The second most popular choice of meal gift is a weird turkey/chicken with noodles and gravy type of casserole. Bleck! I recommend avoiding this one, because I think it is gross. Ha. However, if you know the person loves a good casserole… have at it.

We must move beyond the most common foods.

Right?

We must move to at least the level of the pretty darn common but not most common foods.

I’m not sure what I’m saying, but stick with me.

Why don’t you whip up a batch of Chili and Cheese Bread.

It is easy to make a meal for yourself and a meal for another family at the same time.

I love a double duty meal like that.

Most people enjoy chili, and it can easily be altered to meet a vegetarian’s dietary requirements.

I make my chili in a crock pot, so I tossed in the ingredients, turned on the crockpot, and I went about my day.

Easy.

The key to being a good food gifter is in making the gift super simple for the recipient.

Bring the food in disposable dishes.

That way, the recipient can dump the dishes when they are done with them. They don’t have to worry about doing dishes, keeping the dishes straight, and remembering to return them to you.

I personally like the foil pans that are available in the baking aisle of most grocery stores.

They come with handy dandy clear plastic lids.

And here is the cheesy bread. The bread gets baked in foil, so I just wrapped it in that.

I wrote the cooking instructions directly on the foil so they would be easy to find.

The second container held a big green salad.

NOTE: I later learned that some nursing babies don’t like it when their mamas eat strawberries. So, perhaps this particular salad is not the best choice for a new mom. But it is pretty darn delicious, and it looks fancy.

Spinach, sliced english cucumber, sliced strawberries, and shreds of romano make up this pretty gal.

I made some white french dressing to go with it:

1/4 c. mayo

1/4 c. light sour cream

2 T. sweet wine or champagne or even fruit juice

1/2 t. salt

1/4 t. sugar

1/2 t. white pepper

Mix it together.

Easy peasy White French.

Side note: Have you ever had White French? I hadn’t until I started traveling to Akron, OH for work. Every single restaurant in the city serves that dressing. I think it might be regional, but I’m not really sure. Maybe I just lived a deprived life??

I also made individual vegetable pot pies (courtesy of the fabulous Ina Garten).

The mama I was cooking for enjoys vegetarian dishes, as do I so it was a win/win for both of us.

Again, I made enough for their family and mine.

I did not bake them. Rather, I popped the plastic lid on these tins and I wrote the cooking instructions on top.

Seriously.

I made two complete meals for my friends and for us, and it took MAYBE an hour on a Sunday from start to finish.

I threw some break off Toll House cookies into the mix for dessert.

So, look around you. I know that you know someone who would be blown away by the gift of a meal delivered to them after being made with love.

I challenge you to accept.

And I’m challenging myself here too.

The new mom is an easy target for a hot delivered meal, but I’ll be on the lookout for others to love on.

And that is all I have to say about that.

Hope that you all had a great weekend.

If you live in the Midwest, I hope you survived the crazy thunderstorms last night!

Happy Monday, and thanks for stopping by.

XO,

Leah

Well, another weekend has come and gone.

Yes!

I love Mondays.

I’m so glad this Monday is finally here after that pesky break in the work week on Saturday and Sunday.

And yes, that is sarcasm.

We played hotel last night for my in-laws and their two pups. They are making their way to Florida to escape the snow and cold for the next month.

I think they are the smartest people on the planet.

Their destination has a forecast of 78 degrees.

Our forecast has another snow storm coming. Boo!

So, this morning as I gear up for the week ahead, I give you a short and sweet recipe.

I’m roasting again.

Because as I have said before, life does not get much better than roasted veggies.

Today, on the menu is roasted carrots, parsnips, and pears.

I started with Ina Garten’s recipe for roasted carrots and parsnips, and then I remembered another dish that my friend Emily makes- Pork, Potatoes, Parsnips, and Pears.

I decided to merge the two recipes, and that is what I’m sharing today.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Here is what you’ll need:

Serves 4 people:

3 carrots

3 parsnips

2 firm pears (if they are extra ripe, you will have a very hard time working with them)- I like the Bosc (brown) pears, but any variety will work

Olive Oil

salt and pepper

Peel and chop your carrots. Then, do the same to your parsnips. And, slice your pears (removing the core as you chop them).

There is no rule on how you cut them. The only thing I recommend is to get them all to be similar sized.

That way, they’ll need to cook about the same amount of time.
Lay them all out on a non-stick sheet pan.

Give them a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

2 Tablespoons should be plenty. You just need enough to lightly coat all of the vegetables.

Now, a sprinkle of salt.

Salt makes my life.

Holla if you hear me.

Add some pepper.

I will take this moment to remind you that I strongly recommend freshly ground black pepper.

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

I think I need a third hand.

Then, use your hands to rub the olive oil, salt, and pepper all over the veg.

Pop them into the oven for 15-20 minutes. I almost always let my vegetables go the full 20 minutes because I like when they get dark brown and caramelized.

That is when the roasting has helped your food reach it’s true potential, in my humble opinion.

Don’t those look delish?!?

The pears are sweet, the parsnips have a unique spiciness (not hot at all, just a more pronounced flavor), and the carrots are sweet and savory at the same time.

I served up our roasted vegetables with The Pioneer Woman’s, Cube Steak Sandwich.

Never in my life have I cooked with cube steak. I was very nervous that it would taste as unappetizing as it looks. However, I was blown away. Cube steak is delicious. You heard me… delicious. I highly recommend you try this recipe.. especially if you have a carnivorous husband. Or if you are a carnivore.

Oh, and as an extra bonus, cube steak is really affordable.

This whole recipe is pretty gosh darn cheap to cook and get on the table.

I think that is reason #341 you should try it.

Some day, I will list out the other 340 reasons.

There is one thing missing from my plate. I got shutter happy with the camera. I think I served this up with some sliced pineapple. But slices of tomato or cucumber would be deelish too with just a sprinkle of oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Thanks, as always, for stopping by.

XO,

Leah

What is it about delicious food?

Food, for me, is not only a source of nutrition and energy, it is a major source of joy. I love to cook, entertain, and (of course) eat.

So, on this cold evening in January I went back through the archives to show you the recipes that I think you have to make. Today. Right now.

OK, if not today… Please make them this week. Or this weekend.

These are chosen for different reasons, but mainly because they are easy, delicious, and filling.

Easy Peasy Spinach

I make this recipe about once a week. It truly is as easy as can be. It is nutritious, and most of all- it is a delightful way to enjoy spinach. I promise that you will like this if you try it. You. Will.

Change Your Life Burger

I must admit, I don’t think of making burgers very often in the winter. However, I plan on making an exception this week. I’ll be either popping these guys into a skillet or onto my stove top griddle. I dare you to stuff a burger with bacon, cheese, and onion and not fall in love. It cannot be done.

And I mean it when I say that this burger will change your life. And it will change it for the better.

Strawberry, Blueberry, Banana Bread

Ooooh, another good one. It also happens to remind me of summer. I only ever think of making banana bread when I look at our bananas and realized they have gotten all soft and brown and otherwise inedible. That happened to me this week, and I was happy to have strawberries and blueberries on hand to make this loaf of yummy goodness.

Oooo-eeeee. It is good!

Greek-ish Spanikopita

This is my all time, hands-down favorite vegetarian meal. I could eat an unbelievable amount of this stuff if given the opportunity. I love it fresh out of the oven. I love it cold for breakfast. I love it toasted up as leftovers. Oh. My. I think I am going to have to make this myself this week. I’m currently crossing my fingers that I have all of the ingredients on hand.

I posted the more greek version with onions and feta for this recipe, but truth be told I like the cheddar cheese version myself.

The Perfect Breakfast

This make ahead crock pot steel cut oatmeal can coax you out of bed even when a cup of Joe can’t. Imagine waking up to the smell of warm apples and cinnamon. I’m telling you… you will be jumping out of bed to greet this goodness for breakfast.

If you read this blog regularly, you know I LOVE a make ahead breakfast. So, to have a warm bowl of cereal awaiting you is perfection.

And the Perfect Pairing for the Perfect Breakfast

I also love a little savory for breakfast. So, make this quiche in the evening. Allow it to cool for a bit after you pull it out of the oven. Then, slice it and cover it and pop it in your fridge.

In the morning, grab your oatmeal and a slice of the quiche. Microwave your quiche for about a minute and enjoy!!

Because I’m usually not hungry at 7:30 in the morning, I love to wrap up a piece of quiche and pop some oatmeal into a small Tupperware container and bring it to work to heat up there. You shall make all of your coworkers jealous while they smell your deliciousness cooking.

Game Day Treats

I hear there is a big football game coming up. Save yourself some time, energy, and money, and make these little guys for your game day celebration. Even if you aren’t into football (like me), I am into football food!! That works out nicely for both me and my man.

Crock Pot Chili AKA Go-To “I’m working all day and I don’t want to come home and cook” Dinner

I completely underutilize my crock pot. I’m the first to admit it. However, my crock pot has lovingly cooked and warmed this delicious and SUPER DUPER EASY chili time and time again. And, the cheese bread? Fuh-get-about-it.

Frozen Key Lime Pie

Brownie Pudding

These recipes are not my own. I do not excel at desserts at all. My idea of a good dessert are those break and bake cookies you can buy at the grocery. I also love peanut butter chocolate chip United Dairy Farms ice cream. And from time to time, I’ll make some sort of dessert  using someone else’s recipe! That is the case with these guys… Ina Garten is my idol. She can cook and bake and entertain. And she has the most amazing kitchen in the Hamptons I have ever seen. I want to be her friend.

And when we’re friends, she’ll make me these desserts herself. And then I will eat them. We’ll walk through her herb gardens talking about our latest trip to Paris while we nosh on lobster. It will be magical. For now, I’ll just enjoy my replications of her masterpiece recipes.

Picture of Frozen Key Lime Pie Recipe

Picture of Brownie Pudding Recipe

Hope you are all having a fabulous week so far.

XO,

Leah

I’m in love.

I’m obsessed.

I have issues.

I blame Brad.

Because he bought me this beauty for Christmas:

I have long been lusting over the Le Creuset cookware. It is so pretty, and it is so functional.

But it is also so expensive.

I wanted to be sure I would use this regularly before investing in a piece (or two… or three).

For those of you that don’t know, Le Creuset is the gold standard of cookware. They are the choice of lots of my friends on the Food Network, and many of my favorite blogs cook up lovely slow cooked meals in their Le Creuset.

For my first piece, I decided I wanted the French Oven (same thing as a Dutch oven, but because Le Creuset is a French company they don’t give their cookware a conflicting name). These French Ovens are created with their own sand mold. This ensures that the lid perfectly fits your pot, and it also means that you have a one-of-a-kind piece because each sand mold is destroyed after doing its oven-making duty.

The biggest selling point is that these ovens heat evenly consistently because they are cast iron. However, they have an enamel coating that allows for easy clean up.

Anyhow, I’ll stop my gush fest now.

I have always known what the inaugural meal would be should I ever own one of these beauties.

Braised Short Ribs.

Both Brad and I love them in an unhealthy manner.

In a restaurant, if short ribs are on the menu I have a hard time not ordering them.

Or if I do resist, I encourage Brad to go for the ribs so that I can partake.

I’m so unselfish.

So, I used a hybrid of two recipes from two of my favorite cooks, Ina Garten and The Pioneer Woman.

I used this recipe from PW, and this one from Ina.

I’ll spare you my step by step recipe, since PW does such a lovely (and way better) job on her site.

But I will show you that this is what my food looked like before going into the oven for the 2 1/2 hour slow cook.

And here is what it looked like afterward.

Can I just tell you that the bones fell to the bottom of the pan while it was cooking. The meat was so tender. Sweet sassy.

I also whipped up The Pioneer Woman’s goat cheese polenta.

And loaded up my plate.

And then I took a bite.

And I died.

And I went to heaven.

And it was magical.

But I decided to come back to earth so that I could continue eating this food.

God Bless the good folks at Le Creuset. They make an excellent product.

And a big fat thank you to my fabulous man for my new favorite thing.

If I were Oprah, I’d be giving these bad boys away this year.

Oh, and here’s a little tip. There is a Le Creuset outlet between Cincinnati and Dayton, Oh. Sometimes they have products for as much as 50% off. Yep. Not bad at all.

Lots of love to you, my friends.

Leah

Well, who knew?

Turns out I love Ethiopian food.

There is a new-ish joint up the street from our house. It is within walking distance, and yet Brad and I haven’t been until this week.

I have wanted to go, but I was nervous.

I have checked out the menu online, but it was way different sounding than foods I normally enjoy and that made me even more nervous.

But then… I got a first-hand recommendation from my friend Erin. She said that I HAD to go. And that is all it took to get us in the door of Emanu.

All of the dishes at Emanu are served on Injera which is a bread that falls somewhere between a crepe, naan, and a pancake.

This is what Injera looks like:

Our food came just like the picture above. Except that on the giant Injera, all of your main dish is plated.

We ordered some meat and some vegetables.

They have several beef, lamb, and chicken preparations. We chose beef that was spicy and delicious, and the flavors were new yet familiar. It was on the left side of the injera.

On the right side, we ordered a sampling of the vegetables. It included cabbage, greens, yellow lentils, red lentils, and roasted peppers and carrots. I know that does not sound overly exciting.

HOWEVER, each of these vegetables were perfectly cooked and perfectly flavored. Bland does not have a place at Emanu.

In my opinion, the best part of the food is that it is intended to be eaten by hand.

You tear off some of the Injera and pile on the toppings. I did have to use my fork to help me out from time to time.

Emanu is BYOB, so it is a completely affordable meal out. Brad and I left stuffed to the gills for less than $30. The food was so so so good. If you live in the Cincinnati area, I suggest you check this joint out.

Oh, and to top it off, the people that work at Emanu are the loveliest.

If you don’t live in Cincinnati… well, too bad for you.

This is what I was reminded of after finally checking out this restaurant- that new foods are my favorite kinds of foods. I regret that it took me as long as it did to build up the gumption to try something that I hadn’t experienced before. If my fear of the unknown had kept me out of the doors, I would have missed out on my new favorite restaurant.

You are welcome for that little life lesson on this Monday morning.

In other news, Brad and I exchanged Christmas gifts yesterday morning.

Yes, I realize we are early.

However, with our work schedules and impending travel, we wanted to make sure we had a nice leisurely Christmas morning together.

I’ll have more on that later this week, but for now I’ll just say that I am now the proud owner of one of these bad boys:

The Le Creuset 7 quart French Oven.

Sweet Sassy.

I’m attempting slow roasted short ribs tonight. Wish me luck!!

Happy Monday!

And more importantly, Happy Short Work Week to all of you that are working outside of the home!!

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 made chili.

And while making chili, for some reason I found myself thinking about the movie The Favor.

Remember that classic hit starring Brad Pitt?

It is a fine piece of cinema.

When I was in 9th grade, I watched this movie basically on a loop with my friend Jill.

Jill loved the movie because she loved Brad Pitt.

Let’s be honest.

Who didn’t?

In the early nineties when he splashed onto the scene, he stole hearts of women everywhere.

Including mine.

He is a beautiful man.

Jill loved The Favor because there is a line in it where Brad says “Just Chill”.

She was convinced he was saying “Just Jill”.

I think we wore out that section of the VHS tape.

And lucky for you, I found this clip to share.

I told ya.

Cinematic masterpiece.

Believe it or not, it gets better when the lumberjack Tom enters the scene.

So, today in honor of Brad Pitt, I give you Just Chill Chili.

It is also in honor of the start of football season.

And the start of sleeping with the windows open season.

And the start of slippers in the morning season.

This is the easiest chili.

It is done in a crock pot.

The crock pot is God’s gift to the busy home cook, non?

I made this on a Sunday, but other times I have prepped everything and loaded up the crock pot the night before a work day. I stick it in the fridge, and then before leaving for work- pop it on the counter and turn it on.

Here is what you’ll need for 4 people (or 2 very hungry people):

1 lb ground sirloin (go for the lower fat stuff here, you can get away with it)

1 14 oz can chili beans

1 14 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes

1 onion

1 large green pepper (or 2 small)

1-2 jalapenos (depending on how hot ya like it)

2-3 cloves of garlic

chili powder

cayenne pepper powder

cumin

salt and pepper

Brown your beef.

And chop up your onion, green pepper, jalapeno/hot pepper, and garlic.

Dump that into your crock pot.

Now, for our chili beans.

Beans, Beans… the magical fruit.

The more you eat…

Well, you know the rest.

Add in your crushed and diced tomatoes.

Lets spice it up!

2-3 Tablespoons (my handful below is about a tablespoon).

Cumin. Mmmm. Smoky. Savory.

Lets do 1 1/2 teaspoons.

Ready for some heat?

How about some cayenne red pepper?

Yes, please!

About a teaspoon. It adds a little heat, but it is not overwhelming.

Finally, salt and pepper.

About 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and one teaspoon of pepper.

Stir it up, little darling.

Put a lid on it.

Put it on low for 8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.

If you have a super sonic crock pot like me, you may need to add in extra liquid.

I think my crock pot gets hotter than the average crock pot, so if I were making this on a week day I would add in a beer or 12 oz or water. That way, some of the liquid can cook down throughout the day.

There ya have it.

Just Chill Chili.

I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you what the main man and I always eat with our chili.

I first experienced this treasured treat when my mother-in-law made it for us.

Cheesy bread.

Oh, cheesy bread.

Cheesy bread unlike any cheesy bread you  have ever had.

And like everything else I make, this one is pretty simple too!

Here is what you’ll need:

A loaf of french bread

A stick of softened butter- did I mention this bread is extremely healthy?

One jar of Old English cheese- this is usually found near the processed, non-cheese cheese (think Velveeta) section

Put your butter and the cheese in a bowl.

Look at that cheese.

Doesn’t it just look like it is good for you?

It tastes good.

Promise.

Use a fork and start mashing the butter and cheese together.

Keep mashing and mixing until it is combined.

Now for the bread.

Slice it in half like this:

Slather it with your sauce.

Mmm hmm.

That’s right.

Just like that.

And put it back together again.

Now cut it in half again like this:

And now slather that with the cheese sauce.

Oh yes, you heard me right.

And put it back together again.

You may think that it can’t get any better than this.

But you are wrong.

Cause here we go.

Lets slice the bread:

You know what I think this bread needs?

Yep, you guessed it.

More cheese.

Pick up the first slice.

Yes.

Yes.

Yes.

Slather away.

Both sides, if you please.

Keep on going through all of the slices.

And then put the loaf all back together again.

Carefully transfer it to some foil.

Wrap it up, and put it in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.

While that is cooking, serve up your chili.

I like mine topped with some cheddar, sour cream, green onion, and avacado.

Pull that bread out of the oven.

Take a moment to marvel at your masterpiece.

Ooey, gooey, cheesy goodness.

Throw some of that bread on your chili, near your chili, in your mouth, on a plate… wherever!

Yum-Yum-Dang-Diggity.

Just Chill.

And eat chili.

And maybe think a little bit about B. Pitt.

Yep, he’s still got it.

Happy Monday!

XO,

Leah

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