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Boy oh boy.

Do I ever have a treat for you.

It is the mother of all fall foods.

I am the mother of all fall foods.

Mother Lover, I love fall foods.

I’ve had too much coffee.

And I digress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apple and Pear Sauce.

Oh my heavens, yes.

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

Tell me that doesn’t sound amazing.

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

Because it does sound amazing.

Know what makes it even more amazing?

Heated up Apple and Pear Sauce.

Fuh-get-about-it.

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

Of course it is.

Please disregard everything I have said up until this point.

And just preheat your oven to 375.

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

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

She sure is pretty, isn’t she?

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

This whole recipe can be done in a crock pot.

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

However, one would be wrong.

One needs an orange and a lemon.

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

Just use one of each.

Zest your orange right into your pot.

And then zest your lemon.

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

And then do the same with your lemon.

My lemon was hard to juice.

I needed both hands to adequately squeeze that bad boy.

Survey your citrus carnage.

Now come the apples!

I used 7 apples.

I started with these 6 Gala apples.

Peel, core, slice and dice your apples.

Add them to your pot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doesn’t bother me any!

So, your pot should now be filled with:

-Zest of one orange

-Juice of one orange

-Zest of one lemon

-Juice of one lemon

-6 apples peeled, cored, sliced, diced

-1 apple unpeeled, cored sliced, diced

-6 pears peeled, cored, sliced, diced

Stir that up.

Add in some cinnamon.

I used about 1 1/2 teaspoons.

And then toss in 2 T. of butter.

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

Give it all another stir.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, what to do with that sauce…

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

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

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

4. Use it cold to top some cottage cheese.

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

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

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

Fall perfection.

XO,

Leah

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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.

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

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

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

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

Nothing like a poo mention to transition to talking food.

Am I right?

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

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

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

First, let us discuss the perfect summer salad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or a raspberry vinaigrette, if you have it.

And there you have it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before you do anything…

Preheat your oven to 350.

Get out an 8″ x 8″ pan.

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

Here is what you will need:

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

1 pound of strawberries

1 1/2 pints of raspberries

1 orange

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

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

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

In a large bowl, zest your orange.

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

Bitter=nastiness.

We don’t want nastiness anywhere near this dessert.

Add in 1/4 c of sugar.

And 1/3 c. of brown sugar.

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

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

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

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

Carefully drop your peaches into the boiling water.

Let them hang out for 30-60 seconds.

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

Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

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

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

Drop your peaches in the icy bath.

Let them cool down for about 1 minute.

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

Easy Peasy.

Aren’t peaches beautiful?

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

Stir it up, little darlin.

Now add in your raspberries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did not.

Woopsie.

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

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

Turn your mixer on low, and combine your ingredients.

Dice up a stick of cold butter.

And add that to the party.

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

Pour that sweet Krispie topping all over your fruit.

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

Folks, are you ready for this?

Oh dear me.

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

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

And the smell?

Fuh-get-about-it.

The flavor is bright and summery.

And the perfect combination of sweet and tart.

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

Oh, summer.

It is so great that you have returned.

Please don’t ever leave again.

Thanks.

XO,
Leah

I have a problem.

I love me some banana bread.

A lot.

Well, maybe it really isn’t a problem.

I guess I just wanted to get your attention.

Anywho, I keep trying to reinvent Banana bread so that it can be the best version of itself.

I am like a banana bread life coach.

Er. Something.

A while back,  I posted the recipe for Strawberry, Blueberry, Banana Bread. I make this recipe often, and I still love it.

But I was feeling creative this weekend.

So without further ado, I give you the Pineapple, Mango, Coconut, Raspberry, Banana Bread.

You could also call this the “Use whatever fruit ya got in the fridge Banana Bread”.

I think I need to work on my recipe names.

My blogger friend, Geni, made these Pineapple Coconut Muffins that served as a bit of an inspiration for my baking attempt.

Please remember.

I am not a baker.

I do not excel at all things baking. At all.

But I can make a mean banana bread.

So, here is what you’ll need.

Flour, brown sugar, 2 eggs, butter, baking soda, salt, vanilla, 2-3 overripe bananas, 1/2 cup of shredded unsweetened coconut, 1/4 c. of chopped mango, 1/4 c. of chopped pineapple, and 1/4 c. of frozen or fresh strawberries.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Start by mixing one stick of butter with 3/4 c. of brown sugar.

Cream it together.

Don’t add your eggs in at this point, like I did.

I don’t know what I was thinking.

It made for a very strange consistency of batter; however, the bread turned out fine.

You should cream your butter and sugar, and THEN add two eggs.

In a bowl, combine 2 cups of flour, 1 t. baking soda, 1/4 t. salt, 1 t. cinnamon.

Set that aside and peel a very ripe banana.

I don’t know about you.

But this banana looks especially phallic to me.

Its not just me, right?

Plop 2-3 bananas into your mixture.

Add in 1 t. of vanilla.

Please continue to note the strange consistency of my batter due to the adding of the eggs prematurely.

Whoopsie Daisy.

Pull your mixing bowl away from the mixer, and hand mix in your dry ingredients.

Ah, the consistency is looking a bit more palatable now.

Add in your coconut.

And some chopped up pineapple.

And some ripe mango.

Raise your hand if you die for mango.

Yep, me too.

At this point, I was just rooting through my fridge and freezer to determine if any other fruit needed to be a part of this bread.

And I found a pathetic little handful of frozen raspberries.

And I knew they would be the perfect fit.

So, I threw them in.

Gently mix all of those glorious fruits into your batter.

Pop that batter into a buttered and floured cake pan.

Throw it into your oven for 55-65 minutes at 350.

I started checking for doneness with a toothpick at around 55 minutes. Then, I checked in 5 minute increments after that. At exactly 65 minutes, my bread was done to perfection.

I allowed this to cool a bit on the counter.

Then, I sliced off a big ole hunk, and I slathered it with butter. Mmmmm.

Then, I sliced the rest of the bread up and I popped it into baggies for easy grab n’ go breakfasts this week.

I have been enjoying a slice of this tropical goodness everyday this week.

It’s hump day people.

Woop! Woop!

XO,

Leah

 

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

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

I love entertaining.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A simple salad with goat cheese phyllo pockets:

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

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

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

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

Caprese salad:

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

Yep, that was easy.

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

Photo courtesy of thepioneerwoman.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. Self. Control.

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

Mmmmmmm.

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

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

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

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

Love it.

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

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

Love ya.

XO,

Leah

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

Hi Friends!

Guess what!?!

It’s snowing again!! YAY!!!

Yes, that was sarcasm.

I’ve seen enough of the white death, thank you very much.

Want to know something pathetic about me?

I was VERY disappointed (dare I say angry?) that my beloved Oprah was preempted by “Winter Storm Watch 2011”. What I really want to know is who sits around watching the 24 hour snow updates? It makes me batty.

Thank you for listening to me.

I feel better now.

I was trying to decide what we should chat about today.

And I decided I should round out the week with another vegetarian dish option… this time for breakfast or brunch. I threw in a side dish for all of you carnivores too. I’m posting this on Friday so you have a chance to gather up the ingredients prior to the official start of your weekend.

Brunch makes my life.

Holla if you hear me.

Today, I bring you crepes.

Don’t go away!! Don’t be scared!! They are easy!!

Here is what you’ll need:

A blender

1 cup of flour

2 eggs

3/4 cups milk

1/2 cup water

3 T. melted butter

Put it all into a blender.

And then pulse it. Pulse it. Pulse it. Pulse it.

That is 4 pulses at about 5 seconds a piece.

And this is what it looks like all blended.

Crepe batter is very similar to a pancake batter except much much runnier.

Because I was making a sweet breakfast crepe, I decided to add a t. of vanilla and 1/4 c. of sugar to the batter at this point.

Your crepes will still be delicious if you leave that out. If you were making savory crepes, you could add a little salt, pepper, and any herb you like.

Crepes are very versatile.

And they are also pretty bubbly immediately after blending.

So, to get the bubbles to subside and to make your crepe making easier, pop that whole blender into the fridge for an hour or so.

This step isn’t completely necessary, but it makes the batter a little easier to work with.

Truth be told, I don’t really do the refrigeration step.

But I feel I should tell you the way that crepes are SUPPOSED to be made so that someday if you have a French crepe master in your home, you’ll know every bit as much as he or she does.

Er. Something like that.

Here is the one thing that you will absolutely need for crepe making success… a nonstick skillet.

And a little bit o’ butter.

Put your skillet and butter over medium heat.

I like to use a 9″ in diameter non-stick pan because the crepes come out the perfect serving size.

For a 9″ skillet, I use approximately 1/4 c. of crepe batter for each crepe.

The recipe above made about a dozen crepes.

They are supposed to be a very thin treat.

So, pour in your first 1/4 c. (doesn’t have to be precise) of batter.

Quickly, lift the pan up to coax the batter to thinly coat the entire bottom of the pan.

Allow the crepe to cook only about 30 seconds.

Then, give the crepe a flip.

After another 30 seconds, remove the crepe onto a dry flat surface to cool down to room temperature.

Continue on with this process until all of your batter is gone.

I want to warn you… the first crepe you pour into the pan almost always is disastrous. I have no clue why this happens, but I have made several batches of crepes, and the first pour always ends up not spreading evenly and being weird. So, DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED. It is normal to have your first try go awry.

And, if you happen to have success with your first pour, please don’t tell me.

I’ll probably develop a complex.

Why doesn’t my first crepe come out perfectly?

What is wrong with me?

I guess I’m just not good enough to make the perfect crepe.

Anywho, after allowing all of your crepes to cool, stack them up or pack them up.

Cooked crepes can last in the fridge for 2 weeks when stored in an airtight bag or container.

You can freeze them for up to 6 months. When you want to use them, simply pull them out of the freezer and set them on your counter until they thaw. Then have at them!!

Here is what I topped my Sunday Brunch Crepes with…

1/2 c. of strawberry jam

1/2 c. fresh strawberries, shopped

1 kiwi, chopped

1/2 c. fresh blueberries

I popped all of that into a small saucepan, and turned the heat to medium.

I stirred it up.

And watched it cook.

Do you have any idea how good this smells?

Like candy.

I let it bubble a bit around the edges, and then I turned the heat as low as it would go to keep the sauce warm until I was ready for it.

I also chopped up another round of fresh berries, kiwi, and blueberries.

To make my crepe, I put one glorious crepe onto my plate.

And I topped it with the chopped fresh fruit.

Then I added a drizzle of my fruity syrup that has been warming on the stove.

Then I folded it up.

And then I looked at that big ol’ plate, and thought my crepe looked a little lonely.

I thought and thought about what would complete my brunch while staying within the French breakfast theme.

And this came to mind:

Croissants

1 T. of Dijon mustard per croissant

Black Forest Ham

Gruyere Cheese (the best melting cheese on the planet)

I cut my gloriously buttery croissants in half to start to build my French breakfast sandwich.

I slathered the bottom half of the croissant with the dijon mustard.

Then, I drooled a little as I piled on some of that ham.

And then I drooled a little more as I shredded the gruyere.

I seriously, seriously have a cheese problem.

I think I need an intervention.

Now, you have a couple of options. Pop those bad boys into the oven at 350 for 5-7 minutes (until the cheese gets melty) or you can pop them into a toaster oven like I did.

I wrapped up the tray that I had them on in foil so that I had one less kitchen item to clean.

Oh sweet sassy.

My dear Gussie.

Look at these mamas when they came out of the oven.

Help me.

Now, pop the lid on your sandwich.

Drizzle a little more of that fruity syrup on  your crepe.

Oh, hey there whipped cream.

You’d like to go on the crepe too?

You got it!

Top off the crepe with the slightest dusting of powdered sugar.

That is joy on a plate if you ask me.

Sure joy is full of lots and lots of calories. But, it’s brunch! And it’s the weekend!

And this meal made my morning so gloriously lovely.

And I know it will do the same for you.

Brad has been having crepes for dessert this week with the leftovers I have stored in the fridge. He pops out a crepe, puts it on a plate, spreads a thin layer of cream cheese down the center, and then tops that with some strawberry jam. He puts the whole kit and caboodle into the microwave for about 10 seconds.

I tasted his treat last night, and it is GOOD!

I just feel like before we go, we should look at that food again.

Ah.

Lovely!

And delicious!

And I think I have thoroughly forgotten about the 6 inches of snow on the ground.

Finally, I will leave you with this… my dogs have the smelliest gas on the face of the planet.

They have accosted me the entire time I have written this post.

You are welcome for that little piece of information.

It’s Friday, people!

Have a great weekend.

XO,

Leah

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