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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

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I have a problem.

I love me some banana bread.

A lot.

Well, maybe it really isn’t a problem.

I guess I just wanted to get your attention.

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

I am like a banana bread life coach.

Er. Something.

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

But I was feeling creative this weekend.

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

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

I think I need to work on my recipe names.

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

Please remember.

I am not a baker.

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

But I can make a mean banana bread.

So, here is what you’ll need.

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

Preheat the oven to 350.

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

Cream it together.

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

I don’t know what I was thinking.

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

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

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

Set that aside and peel a very ripe banana.

I don’t know about you.

But this banana looks especially phallic to me.

Its not just me, right?

Plop 2-3 bananas into your mixture.

Add in 1 t. of vanilla.

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

Whoopsie Daisy.

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

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

Add in your coconut.

And some chopped up pineapple.

And some ripe mango.

Raise your hand if you die for mango.

Yep, me too.

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

And I found a pathetic little handful of frozen raspberries.

And I knew they would be the perfect fit.

So, I threw them in.

Gently mix all of those glorious fruits into your batter.

Pop that batter into a buttered and floured cake pan.

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

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

I allowed this to cool a bit on the counter.

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

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

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

It’s hump day people.

Woop! Woop!

XO,

Leah

 

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

Oh brother.

I fear I have developed a new obsession.

This happens with me (all too frequently) with food.

I taste something.

I die because it is so good.

And then I keep thinking about it until I fold and make it again.

Thus is the case with roasted pears.

You may recall that last week I roasted some up with carrots and parsnips.

And since then, I have been longing for the sweet roasty pear again.

I have issues.

I picked up these two beauties in the store.

And I cut them down the middle.

And I scooped out the center.

And then I peeled them.

And I cut a tiny bit off of the bottom so the pairs wouldn’t be all wobbly in the pan.

I preheated the oven to 350.

By the way, this recipe is 100% Ina Gartens. I do not want to take credit for something so delicious that I did not create!

Now, we have to mix up the stuffing.

I used equal parts cranberries, blue cheese, and chopped walnuts.

For the four pear halves, I used 1/4 c. of each of the above. And that was the perfect amount.

Stuff your pears.

Seriously, how good does that look?

Ooh, did I mention to buy firm pears? Because if they are fully ripe they will fall apart in the oven.

And we definitely don’t want that.

Squeeze some lemon over the whole kit and caboodle.

Caboodle.

Yeah, I had a personalized one of those bad boys when I was growing up.

Jealous?

In a bowl, mix 3 T. of red wine or port and 1/3 c. of brown sugar and 1/2 c. of apple cider.

Now, I didn’t have any apple cider.

But I did have some white grape juice.

Yep, that’s what I used.

And it was lovely.

Pour that over the pears and in to the baking dish.

Pop that into the oven for 30 minutes.

The pears should soften up and the cheese should melt, and it should smell delicious!

Pop some arugula on your plate.

I love the pre-washed stuff from the grocery store. It makes my life easier.

And I love ease.

Give a little squeeze of lemon.

And a little drizzle of olive oil.

Pull your pears out of the oven.

Take some of that syrupy winey, juicy, sugary cooking liquid and drizzle it over your salad.

Pop a pear on top.

Give the whole sha-bang a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Serve it up with some pot roast (recipe coming peeps!) and mashed taters.

Roasted pear craving.

Attacked.

And conquered.

So, so good.

Lots of love to ya,

Leah

I love food that is easy.

Just like I like my men.

Ahem.

Is this thing on?

Hello?

I love food that takes less than 10 minutes to prepare, yet is delightfully delicious.

And that is why I love this little granola recipe. The original recipe came from a magazine (Real Simple, I think) a few years ago. I have modified my little recipe card each time I have made this granola, and I now think that it is perfection.

If I do say so myself.

Preheat your oven to 350.

And grab these ingredients:

4 c. Oats (NOT the quick cooking kind)

1 c. Sliced Almonds (or any other nut if you prefer it more)

1/2 c. Unsweetened Coconut (find it in the baking aisle)

1/4 c. sunflower seeds (the original recipe called for pumpkin seeds, which you may just have on hand this time of year)

1/2 c. maple syrup- PLEASE use the REAL and GOOD stuff- no Mrs. Butterworths here, I beg you

2 T. oil

1/2 t. salt

1 c. dried fruit

Now, here comes the very challenging and precise part of this recipe.

Take everything that I mentioned above and dump it into a Tupperware bowl- preferably one that has an air tight lid.

I’ll stop for a moment and state that you can use any dried fruit that you prefer. I have made this with raisins, cranberries, and apples. This time around I used 1/2 cup dried pineapple and 1/2 cup dried cherry flavored cranberries.

That dried fruits section at the grocery store (usually either by the canned fruits or by the salad toppings- think croutons and nuts) has more choices than one would think possible. So, have at it!

Ok, I interrupt your viewing of the granola building once again. I’m stepping on my soap box.

Please, please, please, forever please use REAL maple syrup. Yes, I know it is expensive. But there is a reason for that. Real maple syrup is harvested from a maple tree. Fake syrup is harvested from high fructose corn syrup.

The difference in flavor is overwhelmingly better.

Just ask my daddy-o.

He is a syrup snob.

Once you’ve topped your mix off with the salt and oil (use canola or vegetable), mix it all up and pour it out onto a sheet pan. Pop it into the oven for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, wipe out your Tupperware container. When the granola is finished, this will be your storage container.

After 15 minutes, pull out your granola and toss it up. Make sure you get everything that was on the bottom rotated up to the top.

Then, stick it back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes.

At 10 mintues, start checking on it. You want it to be a golden brown, but not a dark brown!

It should look just about this color when it is ready.

Put your finished and slightly cooled granola into your storage container.

Now, you can eat this a million different ways.

I often will pack a small bag of it to nibble on while I’m at work.

I’ll also toss some on cottage cheese, ice cream or yogurt (as seen below).

Brad will pour some into a bowl, and top it off with milk to eat the granola in place of a bowl of cereal.

You are only limited by your imagination.

That sounds like a line from an after-school special.

Of course, thank you to my loyal Sous Chef. She faithfully caught ever little oat that flew off of my pan and onto the floor while mixing.

Have a happy Tuesday.

It is fall, and it is crisp outside yet sunny. Doesn’t get better than that.

XO,
Leah

When I was growing up, I had it good.

Really good.

I would come home from school, practice, or a friend’s house and my mom would have a well-rounded dinner prepared.

Every night.

The meals would always contain a salad, protein, carbohydrate, and a vegetable.

And we always, ALWAYS sat around the table together (yes, all seven of us- many times with extra friends there as well) to eat and talk and spend at least 30 minutes together as a family every day.

And look how well we all turned out!

You know, even in my teenage years when I could be a little less than pleasant (shocking, I know!) dinner around the table was just what we did. There was no complaining… it was a routine, an expectation, and in retrospect it was one small thing that kept us all informed and engaged in one another’s life.

As a side note, Brad and I keep the same tradition now. I think it is far too easy- especially when it is just two of us- to plop in front of the TV with a plate of food on our laps. But I like the sit down, no distractions, focus on each other, focus on the food dinnertime plan.

And look how happy we are!

I grew up in a healthy food environment.

I’m forever grateful for it- I know it has helped shape me into an independent healthy eater that loves to try new things.

Additionally, my  mom made sure that her kids all had basic kitchen skills before we left the house to be on our own.

Let me say it again- I know that I was crazy fortunate to have a home cooked meal every night and about a billion other blessings as a kid growing up.

There is one area, however, that leaves me feeling slightly gypped.

We never, ever, EVER had breakfast for dinner.

I did not even know this was a thing until later in life.

And when I encountered breakfast for dinner for the first time, I knew my life was forever changed.

I think there is something calming and homey about a hearty breakfast after a long day of work.

And thankfully, breakfast for dinner is about as easy as it comes in the preparation and execution department.

The other nice thing is that I almost always have enough of the breakfast ingredients on hand that I can whip something up without having to stop at the store for anything to complete the meal.

And after a long, frustrating, or particularly tiring day, there is nothing better than breakfast comfort food for dinner.

Believe that.

So, with the craziness in our lives lately, I have not been super inspired to get creative in the kitchen.

Here is the quick and super simple dinner (but you can make it for breakfast or brunch) that I whipped up.

I didn’t have a whole lot in my fridge, but I did have some eggs and some potatoes.

For my carb, I decided on some hashbrowns.

Take your potatoes and use a cheese grater to shred them. I had a mixture of red, yellow, and purple potatoes which made for a pretty little mixture.

After they are shredded, use an old (yet clean) kitchen towel to wring out the extra liquid.

Heat a pan over a burner on medium.

Drop in about a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil along with 1/2 tablespoon of butter.

Put your potatoes in one flat layer that is no more than a 1/2 inch thick.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Now, leave them alone.

After a few minutes you may want to peak at the bottom.

The goal is for them to brown slowly and evenly.

You’ll know your pan is too hot if it gets extremely brown quickly. If that happens, simply turn your burner down a bit.

If they aren’t browning at all, turn up your heat.

Simple stuff, people!

Once they are a good brown color, flip your potatoes over like a giant pancake.

If you are like me, your hashbrown will break in half and it will no longer be picture perfect.

But that is perfectly ok, because it will still taste delicious.

Salt and pepper the other side.

Take your spatula and divide the hashbrowns into servings.

Shred a little cheese on top, if ya like.

Keep those in the hot pan until you are ready to serve.

Next up, my protein… the incredible, edible egg.

I love a fried egg especially. So, I put a good pat of butter in the pan, and crack in an egg. After it cooks a bit, I give it a careful flip. I like all of the whites cooked, but I love a runny yolk.

But eggs are a great ingredient because you can fix them anyway you like… fried, scrambled, poached, sunny side up… the list goes on and on.

I piled my hashbrown on my plate, and I topped it with my egg.

And then for good measure, I added a little more cheese on top.

I served them with these roasted tomatoes and a simple berry salad.

Oh, breakfast for dinner. I’m so glad to have you in my life.

Have a good one my friends!

XO,

Leah

I baked.

Don’t fall out of your chair.

For those of you that know me, you know that baking is not my forte.

Don’t get me wrong, I love baked goods. I just don’t love making them.

I know what I’m good at, and baking is not it.

The exact science of it all stresses me out.

However, there comes a time in every girl’s life when she decides she needs to make a delicious breakfast compliment for her weekly quiches.

And I have done just that. Meet my Strawberry, Blueberry, Banana Bread.

Yes, I said Strawberry, Blueberry, Banana Bread. Eat your heart out Marty Stewart.

This is based off of a very basic banana bread recipe that I found online. I have amped it up because really what fun is plain ole banana bread ?

So, here is what you will need:

Flour, brown sugar, 2 eggs, butter, baking soda, salt, vanilla, 3 overripe bananas, 1 cup of blueberries, and 1 cup of strawberries sliced.

Preheat the oven to 350.

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

Now, set that aside for a moment.

Get out your mixer. Or roll up your sleeves and get out your mixin’ spoon.

In a separate bowl, cream 1/2 c. butter and 3/4 c. brown sugar.

Crack your eggs. I’m such a bad baker, that I crack my eggs into a separate bowl for fear of an eggshell bomb in my final product.

Yes, I have made cookies, cakes, and breads with some extra crunchy egg shells included for my guests’ dining pleasure.

So, if you enjoy an egg-shelly, crunchy texture, feel free to drop some in. But I don’t recommend it.

Peel your bananas and break them up a bit, and let them join the party.

Add 1 t. of vanilla- I like the good stuff. I buy it in Mexico. None of that weird artificial nonsense.

Now, MIX IT!

MIX IT reminds me of FIX IT. FIX IT reminds me of this SNL gem:

http://www.hulu.com/watch/38477/saturday-night-live-update-thursday-fix-it

FIX IT starts at 2:08. You are welcome.

Back to the bread.

Time to combine the wet and the dry.

Take your banana/butter/sugar mixture and dump it into the flour mixture.

MIX IT! together by hand.

Now for my favorite of all favorites part of the recipe.

Add in a cup of sliced strawberries and a cup of blueberries.

At this point, you can go ahead and start eating this with a spoon.

Or you can finish making your bread by carefully folding the berries into the batter so as not to smush and smash and smish the berries.

Oh boy, that batter.

That looks good.

I should become a baker.

Yes, I think I will.

Take the batter and pour it into a lightly greased loaf pan.

Now pop it in the oven for 60-65 minutes.

Now, sit in your kitchen and smell the baking bread for the next hour.

The smells that accompany baking help me understand why people get into it. Honestly. It is homey and comforting and feels like a party all at once.

After an hour, this is what you get:

Wowsa. Me Likey. Doesn’t that look so good?

Everyone in your life will thank you if you make this and share it with them.

Happy Baking,

Leah

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