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I think that is what Tom Haverford from Parks and Rec would call this recipe.

Please tell me you are watching Parks and Rec.

Best sitcom on TV- hands down.

See?

The long name of this dinner is Buffalo Chicken Tacos. I found a folder on my desktop called BuffChicTac, and I realized with horror that I never posted this gem of a dinner.

If you love all things buffalo flavored, these bad boys will be right up your alley.

Before I start cooking the chicken, I like to get my toppings ready to go. A little shredded cheddar, some chopped tomatoes, some lettuce and yummy blue cheese dressing (or actual blue cheese would work too) is all ya need.

Now move all of your toppings out of your way. You need to set up a little assembly line to pan fry your chicken.

For your assembly line:

A bowl with one egg and 1 c. of milk whisked together

A shallow dish with 1 c. of flour, salt and pepper

Some chopped up chicken

Now heat up your oil in a skillet to medium heat.

Take each chunk o’ chicken and cover it in flour.

Baptize that chicken in your milk and egg mix.

Then send it back to the flour once again.

Take that perfectly coated chicken morsel- along with all of his chicken morsel friends- and drop them oh-so-carefully into the pan.

Brown them on all sides.

Then remove those chicken buddies from the pan onto a paper towel lined paper to drain some of the oil.

Wipe out your pan.

Then place your pan back on the burner (over low heat) and pour in 1/2 c. of Franks red hot. Mix in 3 T. of butter.

And it magically turns into a radioactive looking buffalo sauce.

Seriously, someone tell me how to take pictures of orange and red at night?

I’m totally clueless, obviously.

Once that sauce is heated through, give your chicken a quick toss in the heated spicy buttery good stuff.

All that is left to do is build your taco.

It only feels right to eat these in a soft taco shell- not a crisp one. But I suppose you can do whatever you want.

But just know that if you eat it in a crispy shell, you are making the wrong decision.

Roll it up.

Shove in mouth.

Repeat.

Enjoy those Buff Buff Chicky Tacs my friends!!

Have a good one, will ya?

And watch Parks and Rec tonight. I have a feeling you will love it!

XO,
Leah

P.S If you are interested, all episodes of Parks and Rec are available for free on Hulu. So you can get caught up from the first 3 seasons if you haven’t been watching. Seriously, do it.

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How on earth have I never made a deep dish pizza before this week?

What is wrong with me?

It is so super duper easy.

Start by preheating your oven to 475.

I’m sure that this isn’t an original idea, but I felt like a genius when I thought to use a spring form pan.

So, I used this recipe to make the pizza crust. After it was done rising, I used my fingers to spread it into a non-stick sprayed pan.

I popped that into the oven for about 8 minutes to just precook the crust a bit. I like a crispy, slightly browned crust. If you don’t care about a crispier crust, you can totally skip that step.

Once slightly cooked, I put a teeny bit of sauce on the bottom of the crust, and then layered on the cheese.

You know that cheese goes on the bottom of a deep dish pizza, right?

Spicy italian sausage- all cooked up

Then some pepperoni

And some slightly sauteed spinach (mostly to get some of the moisture out)

Some sauteed shallots and banana peppers

Sauteed crimini mushrooms

And green olives on my half only

Sauce on top

And a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, a dash of Italian seasoning and some garlic powder

Baked at 475 for about 25 minutes.

Bubbly and piping hot.

Let it cool for a few minutes.

Then, BLAM-O.

Remove your spring form pan for a perfect deep this pizza.

I’m so impressed with myself!

Slice out a hunk for you and one for someone special in your life.

Apologize profusely for the strange color of this pizza… I don’t know how to take pictures of red things at night.

Sorry.

Serve it up with a green salad.

Perfect.

And the best part… this recipe is totally customizable by you!!!

You can make it anyway you want. Add in or leave out any ingredient that doesn’t suit your fancy.

I kind of want to try a deep dish pizza that is filled with only cheese. Like 5 different kinds of melty cheese. Doesn’t that sound amazing?

Happy Hump Day!

XO,

Leah

Guess where we are headed this week?

Move over, Oprah.

Here we come Australia!

I’ll give you one guess what I originally wanted to make for the Australian meal.

Did you guess?

Did you guess Shrimp on the Barbie?

I mean, c’mon.

How could I not??

Then, I started researching Australian food- Shimp on the Barbie to be exact.

And guess what?

It isn’t all that authentic.

“Shrimp on the Barbie” was spoken into being by Crocodile Dundee when he was hired to do Australian tourism commercials in the U.S in 1990. He closed out the ad by saying “I’ll slip an extra shrimp on the barbie for you.”

Turns out that Australians do indeed refer to a barbecue as a barbie.

And it turns out that Australians do indeed cook shrimp on the barbecue.

However, they refer to shrimp as prawns.

So, I declare false advertising. Kinda.

I wouldn’t dare make something that wasn’t 100% authentic.

Therefore, no shrimp on the barbie.

Ok, in an exercise of full disclosure, here is the real reason I didn’t make shrimp on the barbie:

Snow, wind, cold= really, really bad barbecue weather.

However, I wanted this to be the week I cooked some Australian food to celebrate Australia Day. Australia Day just happens to be this Thursday, January 26.

And Australians are in the middle of their summer.

So, they likely are barbecuing it up.

But I just couldn’t bring myself to fire up a grill in 20 degree weather. I had to change my plans.

Before we get to dinner, I’ll give 2 bonus points to those of you who know what Australia Day commemorates.

Anyone? Bueller?

Australia Day commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet- 11 ships that sailed from GB- into Sydney Cove in 1788.  Aussie Day is also a celebration of the proclamation at that time of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of New Holland.

Knowing all of that, I decided that there was only one way to go for this meal.

Australia’s national comfort food- akin to America’s burger- the meat pie.

Simple. Hearty. Warm on a snowy day. And totally Australian.

Of course, I cheated by using a frozen pie crust.

You knew I would cheat, didn’t you?

A little onion, beef, seasoning and, of course… ketchup.

Covered in puff pastry with egg wash and salt and pepper.

Then, baked off to absolute perfection.

And for dessert?

Lamingtons.

According to my super scientific research (read: Internet), Lamingtons are the “quintessential part of every Australian’s childhood”. Seemed like a good baked yum to try.

Cake.

That I somehow managed not to totally ruin.

Cut it into squares.

Make a janky double boiler to make your cake coating.

Chocolate goodness.

Oh heavens.

Yes.

Forever yes.

What is that you say?

Quick.

Dip it in coconut.

Um.

Yep.

Look at those beauties.

I decided that I’d better eat my dinner before diving face first into those Lamingtons.

Confession: I Love (please note I used a capital “L”, so I must really, really mean it) canned green beans.

Although calling them green seems to be a bit of a misnomer.

So good.

I loved the meat pie.

It is very similar to a sloppy joe, but the puff pastry sent me over the edge. Traditionally, it is served with either a side of ketchup or a smattering of ketchup over the top of the pie.

Perfect kid food.

And, both Brad and I agreed that the meat pie tasted even better in our lunch the following days.

Finally, get in my belly lamington.

Did. Not. Disappoint.

I may or may not have eaten nearly all of those lamingtons.

Don’t judge.

Happy Monday Mates.

Make it a good one!

XO,

Leah

P.S Click here for the recipes!

Hola!

¿Cómo estás?

This formally concludes the Spanish speaking portion of this text.

For those two sentences are all of the Spanish that I know.

If you are wondering, I would not consider myself fluent.

Week 2 brings us to Spain.

Now class, who knows where Spain is?

Spain is in Europe, of course.

And it just happens to be north of our first stop, Morocco.

Before I started doing my research into the cuisine of Spain, I knew that they had olives, manchego cheese, Spanish red wine (of course) and tapas.

It turns out that Spanish food has much more to offer, and it varies greatly region by region. Until recent years, the mountains that criss cross Spain made travel between regions difficult, so people cooked the foods with what could be caught and/or grown in their area. The two ingredients that you will find throughout the whole of Spain- olive oil and garlic.

Ah yes, Spain and I shall get along nicely.

Seafood is quite common in Spain because the nearly whole country is surrounded by water. Ham and cheese (not necessarily served together, of course) are also staples of the typical Spanish diet. Spain also serves up quite a bit of chicken and vegetables. Citrus is also indigenous to Spain.

And darn it. Reading all of that made me want to try a little bit of everything.

Enter tapas!

It was decided. To experience as much of the Spanish deliciousness as possible!

I started super simple.

This is actually how I start most meals when we are entertaining. A couple of blocks of cheese with crackers and olives.

Ah cheese-manchego cheese- hello, lover. Manchego is a sheeps’ milk cheese made in the La Mancha region of Spain. It is firm and buttery and salty.

I bought one block that had been aged 6 months and another block that had been aged 12 months- they were similar in taste, with the 12 month cheese being slightly bolder in flavor.

And bolder in my book=delicious!

I picked up some Spanish olives at my grocery store. Salty perfection.

Pour yourself a glass of good Spanish red!

Next up, a bright citrus salad.

My heavens. This was my favorite dish of the evening.

Bright juicy oranges paired with sharp red onions along side sweet raisins and salty olives.

(When I use fresh onions- you know, not cooked- I like to give them about a 10 minute soak in ice water before draining them and adding them to the dish. It really mellows out the flavor so that you don’t have onion breath for the  next 4 days).

It tasted fresh and summery.

It made me momentarily forget that I was eating this meal in Ohio in the middle of winter!

The dressing was a super simple vinaigrette that amped up the flavors.

Ceviche was the next must have item.

Ceviche is raw fish marinated in lime juice, a little oil and chili peppers.

Side note science lesson: The citrus used to marinate your raw fish in does not actually cook your seafood. Cooking requires heat (duh!). Citric acid mixed with seafood causes a chemical process called denaturation to happen. Denaturation changes the proteins in the fish turning the flesh firm and opaque (to look just like it would when it is fully cooked).

However, citric acid will not kill any bacteria (like heat would), so if you are going to make ceviche you should use fresh fish from a trusted source.

Science lesson concluded.

Scallops and halibut. Mmmmm.

I marinated our seafood for about 1 hour.

I knew I had to incorporate ham in some way or another, since the Spanish seem to dig the pig.

Truth be told- this is just regular old bacon.

To make this truly Spanish, I would recommend using serrano ham- a cured salty cut of pork.

I did not have any serrano ham on hand- so bacon to the rescue.

Bum! Bum! BUM! BUMMMM!

Bacon wrapped shrimp. Don’t mind if I do!

Finally, I knew I needed empanadas.

Simply stated, empanadas are stuffed bread or pastry.

I stuffed my pastry with chicken, cheese, cilantro and onion amongst other things.

I used frozen pie crusts for my pastry- don’t judge me.

I can’t bake.

And I value my time.

Frozen Kroger pie crusts are about as authentically Spanish as you can get.

I promise.

I’m not even lying.

I also cheated a bit more by using meat from a rotisserie chicken. Moist, tender, flavorful, and most importantly- time saving- chicken.

Some of my empanadas turned out much prettier than others.

But trust me, they all tasted fab.

There ya have it.

My Spanish spread:

I would have loved to have the time and kitchen space to try to make a paella or gazpacho or a dish with chorizo as well. Alas, I can’t do it all!

Week 2 is in the books.

The food was great.

I think the citrus salad was my personal winning dish of the week. I would definitely make it again- it was super simpe with accessible ingredients.

Second place goes to the empanadas. Savory and hot- perfect for a cold day. And I had extra filling- so I whipped up some quesadillas for lunches that week. Truth be told, I think I actually preferred the quesadillas over the empanadas.

The very very best part of Week 2 was the company of our fellow diners- our friends, John and Sara.

And little William too…

The adults had a ball, and I’m pretty sure our boys did too.

Make one or all of these to transport yourself to España this week!

Adios mis amigos,

Leah

PS. For detailed recipes, click here.

So, I know I’m like years behind.

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

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

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

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

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

Guh.

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

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

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

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

And that doesn’t sit well with me.

At all.

So, change is a-comin’ for us.

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

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

Now, I shall step off of my soap box.

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

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

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

Amen.

And amen.

XO,

Leah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s why.

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

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

Lets start by making the Bang Bang sauce.

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

Drop 1/4 c. into a bowl.

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

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

I started with a few drops of the hot sauce.

Then, I added a few more.

Then, some more.

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

Stir is up, and set your sauce aside.

Easy, right?

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

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

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

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

Cornstarch,

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

Add in one egg.

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

Give that a little stir and set it aside.

Now, we will prepare batter number two.

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

Mix together equal parts milk.

And regular old hot sauce.

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

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

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

There ya have it.

Now, we shall dunk the shrimp.

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

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

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

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

Hang with me.

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

We’re getting there though. I promise.

Get out some peanut oil.

Or vegetable oil.

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

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

Trust me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They should be beautifully golden.

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

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

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

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

I did not do this.

Don’t be like me.

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

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

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

Drop them onto a paper towel to drain some oil.

Give them a sprinkle of salt.

Then, immediately toss the shrimp with the sauce.

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

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

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

The verdict on the shrimp?

Well, both types of shrimp were delicious.

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

So, what is next?

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

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

I also have a delicious lasagna recipe too.

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

Don’t hate me.

Thanks.

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

Hope you are all having a great week.

XO,

Leah

Grill baby, Grill.

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

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

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

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

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

Meat.

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

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

Breads.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, I stick with the frying pan.

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

Do you have one?

You need one.

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

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

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

Drop in some chopped onion or shallots.

Yep, just drop them into the bacon grease.

Fried onions in bacon grease.

Hello. Lover.

Bacon grease makes everything heart healthy.

OK, that was a lie.

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

Chicken tenders.

Cheaper.

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

Cooks faster.

Has less weird tendons and whatnot.

Winner, winner, Chicken Tender Dinner.

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

 

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

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

Or buy a Boboli crust from your grocery store.

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

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

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

To the Grill!!

 

Give your chicken a head start.

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

Then, I gave them a flip.

 

Once flipped, I slathered them with the barbecue sauce.

 

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

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

But it could.

 

Keep slatherin’ that chicken.

 

Don’t feed the bears.

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

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

 

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

Mmm.

Crusty.

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Then, pile on all the cheese.

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

 

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

 

Add on the rest of your ingredients.

Wowzer, right?

RIGHT?

 

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

Grilling makes my life.

It is Friday.

I hope you all have a fabulous weekend!

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

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

Fun stuff all around.

XO,
Leah

 

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

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

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

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

Nothing like a poo mention to transition to talking food.

Am I right?

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

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

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

First, let us discuss the perfect summer salad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or a raspberry vinaigrette, if you have it.

And there you have it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before you do anything…

Preheat your oven to 350.

Get out an 8″ x 8″ pan.

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

Here is what you will need:

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

1 pound of strawberries

1 1/2 pints of raspberries

1 orange

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

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

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

In a large bowl, zest your orange.

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

Bitter=nastiness.

We don’t want nastiness anywhere near this dessert.

Add in 1/4 c of sugar.

And 1/3 c. of brown sugar.

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

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

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

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

Carefully drop your peaches into the boiling water.

Let them hang out for 30-60 seconds.

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

Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

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

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

Drop your peaches in the icy bath.

Let them cool down for about 1 minute.

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

Easy Peasy.

Aren’t peaches beautiful?

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

Stir it up, little darlin.

Now add in your raspberries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did not.

Woopsie.

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

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

Turn your mixer on low, and combine your ingredients.

Dice up a stick of cold butter.

And add that to the party.

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

Pour that sweet Krispie topping all over your fruit.

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

Folks, are you ready for this?

Oh dear me.

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

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

And the smell?

Fuh-get-about-it.

The flavor is bright and summery.

And the perfect combination of sweet and tart.

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

Oh, summer.

It is so great that you have returned.

Please don’t ever leave again.

Thanks.

XO,
Leah

Have you read this book?

I hadn’t either until this past week.

My cousin’s bride-to-be, who is a food, wine, and literature lover (yes, she will fit right in with this family) recommended this fun and fascinating read.

Garlic and Sapphires is a memoir written by Ruth Reichl who chronicles her tenure as the Restaurant Critic for the New York Times.

It is a light and easy read that pulled me into the world of the best restaurants of NYC. The author took me on a culinary adventure through the city’s best and worst restaurants with her delectable detail of every morsel of food she consumed.

What makes this book even more interesting is the fact that Ruth was so uber recognizable in the city that she had to develop disguises and characters to go unnoticed as a critic in the restaurants. It was fascinating to see how the critic acted and was treated when she was in character.

The book is peppered with Ruth’s favorite recipes, and it is a must read for any food lover.

This summer, if you are headed to the beach, this is the perfect light-hearted read.

Happy Monday Friends!

XO,
Leah

Ever had a week that makes you feel like this?

Yeah, that has been my week. It has felt long and busy, but productive and good. So, by today I’m feeling just a little loopy.

And I’m extremely grateful for the weekend arriving just in time.

So, on this Friday, I declare that we need to carb up for the weekend.

And we need to carb up to celebrate the royal wedding.

So, without further ado I give you Spicy Vodka Cream Gnocchi Cheesy Bake. I think I need to work on my recipe names.

This stuff is good.

Eating gnocchi is like consuming little magical pasta pillows. Er… something.

Let’s get started. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Start with a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.

Put a good amount (2 T) of olive oil in the pan.

While that heats up, chop up an onion. I used  medium white onion, but you can use whatever kind of onion you happen to have on hand.

Drop that onion into your skillet.

And let it soften for 3-4 minutes. We don’t want it to get too browned, so it if it is starting to brown that means your heat is too high. Just turn it down a bit and let that onion go.

Add in 2-3 cloves of chopped garlic. And mix it all up to make sure everything is coated in the olive oil.

There is nothing that smells as delicious to me as a little onion and garlic in a hot pan. MMMMMM.

Now, we shall crank up the heat.

I love spicy food.

So, I used a generous teaspoon of crushed red pepper flake. If you don’t like the heat, you can use as little as 1/4 t. of crushed red pepper. Just enough to add a bit of background flavor without adding any of the burn that I crave.

Now add in 1 t. of oregano.

And stir that all together.

And now we get to the good stuff.

Vodka.

Hello lover.

Pour 1 cup of vodka into a measuring cup.

Then add that vodka carefully to your skillet. If you cook over an open flame like I do on my gas range, please be extra careful. I don’t want to be the cause of singed eyebrows from the vodka flaring up.

I’m sure you know this, but heating alcohol to 173 degrees or hotter (basically when it starts boiling) will cook all of the alcohol out of the recipe, so you don’t have to worry about eating this and getting all boozed up eating this food.

Allow the vodka to reduce, until the sauce starts to look more translucent and thicker.

Get out a 28 oz. can of tomatoes. I prefer the whole tomatoes, but you can used diced if you like. I wouldn’t used crushed tomatoes for this recipe, because the texture of the tomato adds to the overall dish.

I personally love San Marzano tomatoes- these can usually be found in the Italian Foods section of the grocery store. They are not next to the hundreds of canned tomato options in the canned goods aisle at my store.

They are about double the price of regular tomatoes, but they are sweeter and less acidic and decidedly more delicious.

If you choose to use canned whole tomatoes like me, you get to participate in a fun step in this recipe.

The ceremonial crushing of the tomatoes. This allows you the perfect opportunity to work out some stresses from the week. Grab a tomato and crush it to smithereens in your hand. Continue until all of your tomatoes are crushed up and in the pan.

Give that a stir.

And then a generous sprinkling of salt (1/2 t.) and pepper (1/4 t.).

Stir that up.

Now, for the cream.

1/2 c. of the full fat goodness. Please don’t skimp here. 1/2 cup of cream will be spread out between 8 servings, so don’t worry about the fat or calories.

Think only of the glorious flavor.

Your sauce is done, so after giving it a stir turn the heat to low. And lets cook our gnocchi.

My grocery store carries fresh gnocchi from time-to-time. If they have it, I usually find it in the Italian Foods section with other fresh pasta and tortellinis.

If they don’t have a fresh option, do not fear!

March on over to the frozen aisles.

Head down the aisle that has garlic bread and frozen lasagnas. There you should find a bag of frozen gnocchi.

Pick it up. Give thanks. Plop it in your cart.

You’ll never look back.

At home, drop your gnocchi into boiling water for approximately 3 minutes. This is enough time to cook the gnocchi through without having it turn to mush.

Drain the water off, and add your gnocchi to your sauce.

Stir that up and transfer all of it to a baking dish.

This one is a 6″ x 9″- I know that is an odd size, but a larger dish would work. Or a smaller square dish should work too.

Now, we need cheese.

Because let’s be honest. What pasta dish isn’t better with cheese?

I used a mixture of sliced fresh mozzarella and crumbled goat cheese.

Fresh mozzarella melts infinitely better than that weird shredded stuff that comes in a bag. Go for the fresh! It is found either with your cheeses in the dairy section or in the specialty cheese section found near the deli.

I love the addition of goat cheese to for a little extra bite.

If you don’t groove on the goat, try a sprinkle of parmesan instead. It has a more intense, fruity, and salty flavor than the mozz and it will be a perfect compliment.

Pop that bad boy in your 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.

The goal is to get the cheese to be ooey and gooey and melty.

I used a little fresh basil from my garden on top.

Perfection.

Both Brad and The Pioneer Woman know the guy who writes the This is Reverb blog, and I found the recipe for his  Dutch Oven Bread. It was super simple to make, and it was a perfectly delicious compliment to this carb-o-rific meal.

Serve it up with a big green salad.

Your life shall never be the same.

Have the best weekend.

XO,
Leah

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