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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

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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.

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

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

 

French food is not something that I know much about.

Let’s see… my French culinary repertoire includes:

1. French Onion Soup

2. French Fries

3. Brie all melty and gooey and spread on a cracker

4. Chicken Cordon Bleu

And I’m not sure how French any of those dishes really are.

I have never been to France, but I did take four years of French.

My French speaking skills are now limited to asking, “May I go to the bathroom, please?”

Yes, folks. Four years of French, and that is what I have to show for it. Pathetic, non? (Oh wait, “non” is French. I guess I have TWO phrases to show for my French education).

My biggest French accomplishment was finishing the novel Les Miserables… in French. I wouldn’t say that I “read” the book, as much as I sat with the book and my French/English dictionary and translated it.

Growing up, Chicken Cordon Bleu was a regular meal in our household. I did not know that it was French, nor did I care. For, it was delicious… and that is all that really matters.

Chicken Cordon Bleu is the PERFECT make ahead meal, and it is the perfect meal to gift someone with. Who doesn’t like white meat chicken stuffed with cheese and salty ham? I mean, c’mon!

So, last weekend I whipped up a quick batch of Chicken Cordon Bleu. This is most certainly not my recipe, but I also can’t give credit to anyone for this recipe. It is just a good old classic.

You don’t need much to make this dish… just the following:

-Chicken breasts

-Gruyere cheese (if you want classic french), but swiss works too and is cheaper

-Ham

-Eggs, all whisked up

-1 c. of breadcrumbs (I like panko) mixed with 1/2 t. salt and 1/2 t. pepper and 1/2 t. thyme

Let’s commence shall we?

Oui?

Oui.

Flour your counter or a cutting board, and give your chicken breasts a good coating of flour.

Now, pound your chicken meat.

Use lots of flour so that you don’t tear the flesh, and keep on pounding until the breast is nice and thin.

This is a great recipe to make when you need to work out some aggression. Seriously, pounding all of that chicken is very therapeutic.

Once all of the chicken is pounded, set it aside and lets get out our ham and cheese, and the cheese grater.

Grate your cheese, and pile it onto your cutting board.

Get out one slice of ham for each chicken breast.

And put about 1/4 c. (for 6-8 breasts) of your favorite mustard in a bowl.

I do declare that it is time to build our Cordon Bleus!

Lay out a flattened chicken breast.

And give it a good slather of that mustard.

I used a bourbon honey mustard. Um, yum.

Then, gently… ever so gently, top the chicken and mustard with a single slice of ham.

Now top that off with a generous handful of the cheese.

This dish is actually difficult for me to pull off in some ways. Because I end up with these raw-chicken hands. And then I’m touching grated cheese. And it is all that I can do to restrain myself from shoving some of that contaminated cheese into my mouth.

But I cry out for restraint, and somehow restraint finds me.

Ah-men.

Roll ‘er up.

And stick it on a plate. If some of the cheese come out of the bottom, don’t worry about it. It happens.

Keep going until you have all of your chicken rolled.

Time to coat those bad boys.

Crack two eggs into a bowl.

And give them a whisk.

In a separate bowl, combine your breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and thyme.

And mix that together.

Delicately take one chicken breast and lay it on the plate.

Whisper phrases like “bonjour” and “c’est tout” and “au bon pain” to it.

And slather on some of that whisked egg.

The whisked egg sticks to the flour. And the bread crumb mixture will stick to your egg.

Like magic.

Coat the entire roll with your breadcrumb topping.

And repeat until you are done.

Folks, it is as easy as that.

At this point, if you are planning on consuming the chicken immediately,  you can pop these guys into the oven for 30 min. at 350.

If you are storing these for another day, simply wrap each breast tightly in some plastic wrap.

Then store these guys in  your freezer for up to 3 months.

When you are ready to eat them, pop the breasts into your fridge for 24 hours to defrost the chicken.

Then simply toss them onto a sheet pan and into the oven. 350 for 30 minutes.

French perfection.

Want to know who wants some french perfection?

This girl.

She knows a good thing when she smells it.

Au revoir mes amies,

Leah

I’m married to a sandwich lovin’ man.

I think Brad would take a sandwich over a filet any day. He makes for a cheap date.

And he is pretty easy to please at dinner time. Thanks be for that.

About a year ago, I stumbled on to a recipe for homemade wraps that were featured in some magazine- I’m guessing Real Simple, but I don’t really know.

And since then, these wraps have made it in to our regular dinnertime repertoire. The original sandwich was a Greek steak number that made me want to dance the Watusi.

But I’m pretty sure anything would knock my socks off when wrapped up in these warm, soft, comforting delights…

This week I made some grilled chicken, but a veggie wrap, cold cuts, a breakfast sandwich, etc would all be knock-you-off-your-feet good.

The downside of this recipe?

You have to use yeast.

Guh.

Yeast intimidates me.

But I am bigger and stronger and sometimes a wee bit smarter than yeast, so I took the challenge on head-on.

Get out your mixin’ bowl with a dough hook.

Into your mixing bowl, combine 1 t. of sugar and 1 package of yeast.

Then, add in 1 1/2 cups of warm water.

This part always makes me nervous. The water should be warm enough that it activates the yeast, but not so hot that it kills they yeast.

Yeast- you are my arch nemesis!

I figure a little warmer than how warm you would make a baby’s bottle works for me.

You’ll know you got the water temperature right after you stir it all together and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes or so.

After 5 minutes, you should have a little frothiness.

This means the yeast is “activated” i.e. it is ready to do work for ya.

Turn on your mixer, and slowly incorporate 3 1/2 cups of flour.

And 1 t. of salt.

Mixin’, mixin’, mixin’.

Until the dough hook causes the dough to pull away from the sides of the bowl in a ball.

Once you get to this point, turn off your mixer.

If you don’t have a mixer with a dough hook, you can use a spoon and a bowl to mix it all together.

Once it is all combined, turn out your dough onto a floured surface and start kneading.

Even if you used a mixer, dump your dough out onto a floured surface and start kneading.

This should be a very soft dough.

Knead the dough by hand for about 5 minutes. If it is sticky and you are having an issue with dough sticking to your hands, simply add a little more flour.

Place a teaspoon of olive oil into a bowl, and plop your dough in there.

Cover it with plastic wrap, and place the bowl in a warm spot.

Leave it alone for an hour.

After an hour, divide your dough (using a sharp knife or kitchen scissors) into 8 pieces.

Roll those suckers to about 1/4 in. thick.

I make mine a bit oblong so that two fit nicely on my round pizza stone.

If you are using a rectangle sheet pan, you can make your wraps more circular.

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. If you happen to have a pizza stone, pop it into the oven to preheat as well. If you don’t have a pizza stone, go buy one immediately.

Or just get out a large sheet pan.

Once the stone is preheated and your wraps are all rolled out, throw two of them onto your stone or pan, and close them into the oven for 3 minutes.

After 3 minutes, the tops will look like this- it shouldn’t look like much has happened.

Use tongs or an oven-mitted hand to flip these guys over.

This is what the bottom side should look like- not too different from the top side.

Perhaps there will be a slight browning, but that is ok.

The key is to keep these guys very pliable.

Because, well, a crunchy wrap is hard to actually wrap.

Put them back into the oven for another 3 minutes.

Remove the wraps and set them on a plate to cool a bit.

Repeat until you have all of your wraps cooked up, then top them with whatever goodness you have planned.

I used spice-rubbed grilled chicken, some colby jack cheese, banana peppers, spinach, tomato, and mayo.

Um. Yum.

Wrap it up, and serve it with some roasted or grilled veggies. I just threw my asparagus in the 500 degree oven coated in oil, salt, and pepper for about 7 minutes while I was finishing up with the wraps.

I also made a super simple fruit salad made of mango and kiwi.

Can I just tell you how much I love the fact that we can get delicious ripe mango in our Ohio grocery stores right now?

They taste like vacation.

I store the left over wraps in plastic wrap in the fridge.

Perfection.

Yesterday, I woke up to a basement with water leaking in due to a massive thunderstorm. Then, I drove to a meeting downtown and my check engine light came on. Then, I drove back to the office from the downtown meeting and was stuck in completely stopped traffic for 2+ hours (having just drank a large water bottle and being pregnant- this was a very uncomfortable 2 hours).

Last night, the tornado sirens went off at 1:45 am, and I woke up the pups and my husband to hunker down in the basement for safety. Before we made it to the basement, the sirens turned off and the worst of the storm was over.

So. I say all that to say this. Today has got to be a better day!

Hope you all are doing well, staying dry, and loving on those around you.

Happy Hump Day.

XO,

Leah

Boring.

Bland.

Yawn.

Bleck.

This is how I feel about chicken from time to time.

I know you all must feel the same way.

You open up your fridge or freezer, and have a package of uncooked chicken and a tear forms in your eye because chicken is so dang boring.

I’m always looking for new and better ways to prepare chicken to break out of my loathing disdain for the bland meat.

I usually only purchase chicken breasts or chicken tenders because 1) it is a healthier, leaner cut of meat and 2) there are not weird veins and tendons and skin and grossness that cause me to throw up in my mouth as I’m preparing dinner.

And today, I shall share with you an old standby favorite chicken recipe.

This chicken.

Is good.

And I promise that even your KIDS will like it.

And your spouse.

And your mom and dad.

And everyone everywhere.

I’m not even exaggerating… not even a little.

Today, we make some panko crusted chicken tenders with a dipping sauce.

I hear kids like anything dip-able. True?

So, here is what you’ll need:

One small plate with 2 cups of white flour on it.

2 eggs all whisked up on a separate plate.

Then a third plate piled high with a cup and a half of panko breadcrumbs.

Panko breadcrumbs are Japanese breadcrumbs, and they can be found in the Asian foods section of your grocery store. They are much crunchier than regular old boring breadcrumbs. I highly recommend you invest in the Panko.

Add 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan to the panko.

Then add 1/2 t. of crushed red pepper flake, 1/2 t. of garlic powder (or a chopped up clove of garlic), 1/4 t. of thyme, 1/4 t. rosemary.

And mix it all up.

Now, let’s set up our chicken station.

Chicken.

Then, flour, egg, and panko mixture all lined all up in a row.

Give your chicken a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Now, take your first chicken tender and give it a dip in the flour pool.

Coat the entire tender.

The flour sticks nicely to the raw chicken tender.

Now, dip that floured chicken into your whisked eggs.

The eggs stick to the flour.

Now take the flour and egg dipped chicken, and coat it in the panko mixture.

The panko mixture sticks to the egg.

Repeat until all of your chicken is coated to perfection.

Now, get yourself a non-stick pan.

Put it on a burner over medium-high heat.

Give the bottom of the pan a good coating of olive oil.

Put your chicken tenders in the pan in a single layer.

Let them cook for 4 minutes.

Give those bad boys a flip, and let them cook on the other side for 4 minutes.

Pull the chicken off the skillet, and place it on a pan that is going to be stuffed in the oven.

350 for 5 minutes.

This will result in crispy, crunchy, perfectly cooked chicken.

They key to chicken tasting good is cooking it thoroughly without cooking the moisture out of it.

Now, prepare your dipping sauce. I took some honey mustard and combined it with some hot sauce. Classy.

Honey would be delish.

Or BBQ sauce.

Or Plain honey mustard.

Or buffalo sauce.

Or whatever else floats your boat!

Serve the chicken up on a plate with a big green salad and some sauteed carrots (I’ll be sharing that recipe with ya next week).

Chicken that is easy and delicious.

Oh, and did I mention… that after you have cooked up the chicken, you could easily pop it into air-tight containers and store them in the freezer for an easy and healthy weeknight dinner ? Or make extra to top a big salad for lunch during the week? The possibilities are endless, of course.

Have a great weekend!

XO,

Leah

Hi peeps!

It is Friday.

And tomorrow is Bradley’s birthday.

And those two facts make me quite happy.

I’ve been on the road a bit this week. Thus, I have been a very bad blogger.

But, I’m baaaaaaaaack!

And today, I’m talking barbecue. And calzones.

Yep.

You heard me right.

Lets get started, shall we?

Preheat your oven to 375.

Get some chicken.

Two large chicken breasts make two large calzones.

Get out a non-stick pan, and put some oil into the pan over medium-high heat.

Do you have chipotle chile powder?

It is chile powder made from smoked chiles.

If you don’t have the chipotle chile powder, don’t fret!

You can use plain ole chili powder.

I won’t judge you.

Much.

Give your chicken breasts a healthy coating of chili powder, a sprinkle of salt, and a dusting of pepper.

Now drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil onto the chicken breasts, and give your oil and spices a good rub.

Pop those bad boys face-down into your heated pan.

Warning: You may experience some coughing or a runny nose from the heat hitting the chili powder.

Sorry bout that.

If the weather is nice, I would recommend doing the cooking portion on the grill. However, I made these on a rainy day.

While the first side is cooking (for about 5 min), give the other side the chili, salt, and pepper treatment.

After the first side has cooked for about 5 minutes, give the breasts a flip.

Now, cover them with foil. This helps the chicken cook through a little faster.

Leave it alone to cook for 5 minutes.

Meat cooks best when you don’t mess with it.

Don’t press on it.

Don’t move it around.

Don’t poke it.

Just leave it be.

Take an onion and remove the peel.

Cut the onion in half, and then slice it into half moons.

Take your chicken breasts out of the pan.

Give it a quick wipe down, then add some fresh oil (still over med-high heat).

Throw your onions into the pan.

I did not take a pic.

I’m a failure.

Push the onions around a bit, and allow them to brown up.

Now to our chicken. When you pull it out of the pan, let it sit on your cutting board for a few minutes before messing with it.

Cutting into the chicken too early will let all of the juices drip out.

And we want the juice IN the chicken.

Slice it.

Grab your favorite BBQ sauce.

I chose Montgomery Inn BBQ Sauce- a Cincinnati favorite.

Give your chicken a drizzle while it is still pretty darn hot.

Then, massage the sauce into the meat.

Chop it up even more finely.

Little bite-sized morsels.

Yum.

Onions should be about done now.

I put a little sprinkle of salt and pepper on the onions.

Because I’m naughty.

Pile up all of your desired calzone fillings.

I have sauteed onions, my bbq chicken, some cooked up bacon, shredded pepper jack cheese, and some chopped cilantro.

Now take out some pizza dough.

I had some homemade dough, but there are lots of great options in the grocery store,

Trader Joes makes a great fresh pizza dough for $.99. That is my store brand favorite.

I cut my dough in half.

Then rolled out the first calzone.

I try to get the dough into a an oval shape.

Pile up some chicken on one half of the calzone.

Top the chicken with some onions.

How about some bacon?

Yes, please!

Oooh-eee.. chopped cilantro is next.

Now, some crazy people don’t like cilantro. If that is you, I’m sorry.

I guess if you don’t like cilantro, you could use some green onion or chives instead.

Lots of cheese, please!

Now, use a little olive oil as your glue to secure the two sides of the calzone together.

Use a fork to seal it up.

And then trim any extra dough off of the edge.

Give the top of the calzone several pokes with a fork to allow steam to escape while they are baking.

Put your calzones on the a non-stick pan.

Give them a brush of olive oil, and give it a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Pop it into the oven for about 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, the calzones come out browned and beautiful.

And smelling good.

A half of a calzone was the perfect serving size.

The perfect pairing? A big green salad.

Not too shabby, right?

Have a great weekend pals.

XO,

Leah

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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