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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.

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

Sunday brought sun and warmth to Cincinnati.

I actually wasn’t sure it was ever going to show up.

If you are an Ohioan, please make me feel less crazy and confirm that this was officially the longest winter ever.

I’m pretty sure it was.

So, Sunday dawned gloriously warm- over 80 degrees.

80 degrees+sun=blissfully happy Leah.

Our poor yard needed some serious tending to so that was the deal for the day.

We went to the nursery, and we loaded up on a tree, a bush, and all of my herbs for the summer season.

And by the time we got home we needed some lunch for fuel before toiling in the fields.

Want to know what I made?

The most summery dish I could think of.

Was it nutritious?

Nope.

Was it locally grown?

Nope.

Was it at least organic?

Um. Absolutely. Nope.

Was it definitively summer and delicious?

Yep.

So, who cares about the rest?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the hot dog.

On a grill.

Because truth be told, even someone like me… who prides herself on home-cookin’, heathy eatin’, and responsible food choices… needs a dirty dog every now and then.

I sauteed up some onion and banana peppers to top off the dogs.

Served up with potato salad and fruit salad.

It is the perfect lunch to kick off the spring/summer.

Oh, and did I mention that I drank some Fresca with this fabulous meal?

There is not a drink much better than Fresca.

That is a fact.

Look it up in the encyclopedia… under the letter “F”.

Those dirty dogs fueled a full afternoon of digging and planting and soaking up the rays. We got all of the planting finished, then had dinner over at Brad’s aunt and uncles house. Glorious.

Today, the skies opened up and watered our plants in their brand new home.

Fantabulous.

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

Before the weather turns warm- yes, it is STILL cold in Ohio- I wanted to turn on the oven slow and low to use my beautiful LeCreuset.

I just can’t imagine having my stove on for 6 hours in the summer. So, I’m trying to use this bad boy as much as possible now.

Pork was the dinner choice of the day.

Pork shoulder to be exact.

Pork Story #1:

Pork and I have a bit of a love hate relationship.

When I was growing up, people thought that you had to cook every ounce of holy moisture out of any cut of pork to insure that you and yours did not end up with trichinosis. I don’t even know the origin of the trichinosis scare, but it sure seemed that for the first 20 years of my life people were nervous that pigs had a high likelihood of contracting this parasitic disease and then passing it on to us.

I remember pork chops as a VERY tough and VERY chewy and VERY not delicious cut of meat.

Hated it.

However, there was bacon. If you know me at all, you know that I would leave Brad for bacon if that were legally possible.

I’m kidding, Brad!

Who would marry bacon?

That would be absurd.

Only a weirdo would marry bacon.

But it would be a delicious union.

Love bacon.

Ham for sandwiches landed somewhere in the middle of my pork chop disdain and bacon love.

The end.

Pork Story #2:

In 9th grade, every day at lunch, my friend Todd wrote and then read his very own David Letterman style “Top Ten List”.

I remember being doubled over in laughter with the random things that made their way onto that list.

One particular list that has stuck with me is “Top Ten Words that Sound Funny when Anne says Them”.

This is Anne:

All of the boys loved Anne in middle and high school, and you can see why. She is beautiful.

And she was and is fun.

And Anne has a signature dance move. You should ask her to show it to you if you know her.

However, according to Todd, there are 10 words apparently that sound funny when Anne says them.

And topping the list was the word “Pork”.

To this day, I cannot buy or make pork without momentarily being transported to my 9th grade lunch table.

The end.

Pork Story #3:

That brings us to today and to a recipe for pork shoulder.

Pork shoulder really only tastes good if you cook it slowly, over a long period of time.

Then it is delicious.

I bought a 4 lb. bone-in pork shoulder.

I am in meal-freezing mode to prepare for our little guy or gal’s arrival, so I’m making double recipes of almost everything to freeze and eat later.

So, for 2 people I would not recommend a 4 lb. pork shoulder. However, if you can only find a large cut of this meat then you must throw a dinner party.

It is surely a sign!

Start by preheating your oven to 300 degrees.

Then, on your stove top, heat up 2 tablespoons of oil in your dutch oven over medium-high heat.

If you don’t have a dutch oven, you can most certainly use a normal pot or even a large skillet on your stove. Then, when our pot goes into the oven, your meat is simply transferred to a slow cooker/crock pot.

Unwrap your meat.

Pretty, non?

Take a knife and make 8 slits into the top of the meat.

Deep and wide enough for a clove of garlic to be slipped in.

Then, slip in the garlic.

See if you can find all 8 garlic cloves.

This is like a really weird and lame version of “Where’s Waldo?”.

Give the meat a good sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Then rub the meat with 1 1/2 T. of chili powder, and 2 t. of cumin.

Now take that garlic stuffed, and spice rubbed pork and place it face down in your hot oil.

This should sizzle and pop, and smell pretty darn good!

While the first side is searing, give the exposed bottom side the salt, pepper, chili powder, and cumin treatment.

Now, we shall make a sauce.

Perhaps the easiest sauce in all of the land.

The sauce will be added to the pork shortly.

Take one small can of chipotle in adobo peppers, and pop them into a bowl or small mixing container.

Chipotle in Adobo peppers are simply smoked jalapenos. You can find them in the Hispanic foods section or aisle at your grocery store.

Then grab a can of diced tomatoes. Any style will do, but I thought that the fire-roasted version that I found in my pantry would compliment the smokiness of both the cumin and the chipotles.

Add that can to your chipotles.

Blend them up.

Back to the pork.

Give it a flip to allow the underside to brown up.

Looks good already, doesn’t it?

Chop up 1/2 of a red onion.

Or a white one.

Or a yellow one.

Or a couple shallots.

You get the idea.

Toss those in around your pork.

Take your chipotle in adobo and fire roasted tomato sauce and pour that into the pork party.

Now add about 1 1/2 cups of water.

And for the heck of it, I threw in a chopped up jalapeno.

I actually was just rooting around in the fridge trying to decide if anything would be right for this recipe, and this lonely jalapeno called out to me.

I could not deny the call.

And 2 of the tiniest bay leaves ever.

If they were larger, I would have only used one.

Pop a lid on it.

And into the oven it goes.

Or into the crock pot it goes (on low).

For 6 hours.

I peeked in at the pork after about 4 hours of cooking, and I poked at it with some kitchen tongs.

This is a highly technically advanced culinary move.

It was still not falling apart which meant it wasn’t done cooking.

The meat will FALL APART when done. Without trying.

No knife needed. Not even a butter knife.

After 6 hours, this is what it looked like:

The meat had completely separated itself from the bone which is a great sign that the pork is ready for you!

I went to grab a large hunk of the pork with my tongs, and it fell apart.

Perfect!

It was the perfect consistency for shredding.

Remove the bone from the mix, and toss it.

Then pull out all of the pork.

Use a couple of forks to shred this pork to pieces.

I have a massive aversion to fatty gristle, so I take a little longer than most to make sure that I won’t be biting into any fatty chewy nastiness.

I put about half of our pork into an air-tight freezer container to be thawed and reheated some day after baby arrives.

For freezer meals, I always include a label with the contents, the date that I made the food (don’t really want to eat anything older than months), and then the number of servings.

For dinner, we decided that spicy pulled pork tacos were the only way to go.

One of our favorite restaurants in the city, Nada, does a killer carnitas taco.

And they crisp up their shredded pork before you get it on your plate, so I did the same.

You can totally skip this step if you don’t care about crispy pork.

Put a t. of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.

Throw in some pork.

Toss a flour tortilla over your flame to warm it and char it ever so slightly.

Then add your special sauce.

I made this sauce by taking all of the juice that was left in my Le Creuset after removing the pork bone and meat. I used my immersion blender to blend the saucy mixture of red onion, jalapeno, chipotles and tomatoes.

Then I threw a healthy tablespoon of the sauce on the pork while it cooked.

Transfer the pork to your tortillas with some cheese, sour cream and guacamole.

Give it a squeeze of fresh lime (another Nada trick) to brighten up all of the flavors.

And there you have it.

It is not the tidiest plate, so don’t judge me.

However, I was drooling at this point. It was all I could do to just snap a picture before diving in!

Or if you are like me, and you prefer the smaller (and decidedly more delicious) corn tortillas, you can make your tacos in those.

Either way, you can’t go wrong.

Pork Shoulder. Try it.

You’ll love it.

Promise.

Hump day is here. Woop!

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

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

It is snowing here in Cincinnati.

Again.

I’m starting to think this whole Global Warming thing is a hoax. Because this winter has been so. so. cold.

I have a few standby defenses against cold weather.

1. A fire in the fireplace

2. A hot beverage- coffee, tea, hot toddy, hot chocolate… I’m not picky, just as long as it’s hot!

3. A big blanket. I have at least one throw blanket in every room of my house (except the kitchen), and I am constantly burrowing myself under them.

4. Slippers or shoes. I never go barefoot as a rule. I grew up in a house with my dad, a podiatrist. After hearing the horror stories of various items getting lodged in the bottom of peoples’ feet (and sometimes even getting to see a slide show of such incidents- lucky me), I learned to protect my piggies. Even in the summer, I prefer shoes. And in the winter… shoes keep my toes nice and insulated and warm. And, of course protected- thanks Dad.

5. Soup. I’m obsessed with soup in the winter. I particularly like a spicy soup for it warms me doubly. So, with the snow falling, I whipped up a batch of Spicy Sausage, Potato, and Kale soup.

I first had a soup similar to this at my friend Heidi’s house a few years ago. A group of girls got together regularly for book club. At some point, those pesky books were getting in the way of our imbibing and socializing. So, we became a wine club. Pretty smart, huh?

Anyhow, during weather similar to what we are having now Heidi whipped up this spicy delight and I have been hooked ever since.

I should mention Heidi moved to Rochester, NY. And that is far too far away.

Here is what you’ll need for the soup (if you want to serve 6-8):

1 lb. of sausage- I bought the links because I wanted hot sausage, and they didn’t have that in the bulk packages. If you aren’t into the spicy foods, go for some mild Italian sausage. If you aren’t into pork sausage, go for a turkey or chicken sausage. Right in the regular grocery store there are a plethora of sausage options.

4-5 pieces of bacon, all chopped up

1 onion- I used yellow, but a white or red onion will do

3 cloves of garlic

6 cups of chicken stock

1 1/2 cups of water (oh, I hope you can find this ingredient- it can be a toughie)

4 small potatoes- NEW DEVELOPMENT: I recently read an article that told me that non-organic potatoes are one of the top 10 worst foods to ingest. So, guess what? I switched exclusively to organic, and in my Kroger store they are the SAME price as non-organic potatoes. You really have no reason not to switch.

1 cup of heavy cream

1 bunch of kale

Salt and pepper and possibly some red pepper flake if you are feeling crazy

Start off by browning your sausage. I like a good non-stick pan for this job. It leads to easy clean up, and easy draining of excess fat.

If you are using chicken or turkey sausage, you may need a tablespoon of olive oil to help brown off the meat.

While that is browning in a skillet, pull out your soup pot and put the heat on to medium-high. Drop in your chopped bacon to get that on its way to crispy deliciousness.

Back to the sausage.

Drain off the excess fat. I drain mine into an empty can (usually found right in my recycle bin).

Put your cooked sausage on a plate lined with paper towels. This should grab even more of the excess fat.

Now, back to the bacon.

It should be looking pretty good and browned. Drain off the excess fat… why do I feel like a broken record?

Again, drain the fat into a container and not your drain. You will thank me when you don’t have to call a plumber to come unclog your sink.

Side note: To avoid calling a plumber, you should also never attempt to shove an entire burned lasagna down your garbage disposal. It will most certainly clog your sink. Only an idiot would do something like that.

Chop your onion.

And drop it into the pan. Stir it up.

Then, add your chopped cloves of garlic.

I seriously love my Pampered Chef garlic press.

Stir it again, and let it soften for 5ish minutes. I turned down the heat a bit at this point to medium. I wanted the onion and garlic to soften, but I didn’t necessarily want them to caramelize.

Once softened, add your chicken stock (or broth).

I prefer stock because it has a bit more depth of flavor than broth.

I also added about 1 1/2 cups of water. If you use broth, give the soup a taste. If it doesn’t taste overly salty, go ahead and skip the water step.

Now, crank up the heat to get all of that liquid boiling.

And dice your potatoes.

Now, just imagine that I remembered to take a picture of the potatoes.

And then toss those taters into the boiling stock.

Toss them carefully!

I diced my potatoes pretty small, so they were done in about 10 minutes. The larger the chunks of potato you have, the longer they will take to cook.

I think the best method of testing doneness is actually scooping out a potato and tasting it.

Now, we shall prepare the kale.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I have a mad love affair with kale.

It is so so good for you, and it is hearty and delicious.

Kale comes in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, and any of them would work in this recipe.

Kale is extremely high in fiber (good for keepin’ ya regular-I’m just saying!), high in Vitamin A, and high in calcium. Love it.

Rinse it off.

Then pull most of the leafy part off of the stem.

Grab the stem with one hand, and then pull off the leafy part with the other.

The key is to get the bottom, more woody part of the stem off of the veggie.

Once de-stemmed, give it a rough chop.

Right before adding all of that glorious green kale into your soup pot, turn your heat down to medium.

And add in your sausage.

And then, add in your cream.

I ended up using about 3/4 of a cup (because that is all I had left), and it was just lovely.

Doesn’t that just look purty?

Time to toss in the greens.

Mix it all together to incorporate the greens to the pot.

Soup is done!! I turned the heat down to very low while I prepared a little crusty side dish.

I had a ciabatta roll, some salt (again the red clay kind), pepper, a garlic clove, butter and parmesan.

Split your roll.

Slather it in butter. The more the better.

Cut your garlic clove in half.

And rub the cut side of the garlic all over your bread.

Give them a light sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Add some shreds of parmesan.

Put it on some foil, and pop it into the oven on 400 degrees until the cheese gets melty.

You’ll have to imagine the melty delicious bread because I was pretty drool-y by the time it was done. I was ready to eat!

This soup will warm you right up on a snowy winter day. It is comfort food at its best.

And may I humbly suggest ending the meal with a Light-ish piece of Chocolate Cheesecake accompanied by some raspberry sorbet?

You should make this.

I found the recipe on Bake at 350.

It is making my life these days.

Happy eating friends.

XO,

Leah

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