You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Summer’ tag.

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

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(Please read the title in the voice of the Soup Nazi– a la Seinfeld). Thank you.

As much as I dread cooler weather, it does have a benefit or two attached to it.

For one, the dogs can bear to be outside for more than 5 minutes. In fact, this ding dong kind of likes it:

Another benefit of the cooler weather is that soup once again enters my life.

I love soup.

Love. It.

And French Onion is one of my classic favorites.

Whenever I’m in a restaurant that offers the savory cheesy goodness that is Onion Soup, I tend to indulge.

But I like a homemade version better for a couple of reasons:

1. I can control the salt. For whatever reason, restaurants want to give their diners swollen ankles and restricted arteries through their version of French Onion Soup. It is always so stinking salty.

2. I can control the quality of the bread and cheese that is, in my humble opinion, the most important part of the soup.

Let me provide an example.

On vacation with my sisters, Nurse Stephanie ordered some French Onion Soup. I have no clue what kind of rock bread they used in their soup, but this is what Steph looked like trying to eat it:

Makes for a great picture and memory.

Doesn’t make for good soup.

For Leah’s French Onion Soup, here is what you’ll need for four servings.

Side Note: I almost always make at least four servings when cooking for two people. It gives the Main Man and I a lunch leftover for the busy work week.

3 T. Butter (mmmmmm!)

3 Large Yellow Onions, sliced

1 Clove of Garlic

1 Bay Leaf

1 t. Dried Thyme

2-3 Portobello Mushrooms, chopped (optional, but it makes the soup heartier and more delicious)

1/4 c. Sherry

1/2 c. Dry Red Wine (I used Chianti)- you could use white too if that is more your thing

3-4 c. Beef or Vegetable Stock

Some good white bread

Gruyere Cheese (please, please, please splurge on the Gruyere)

Let’s cook!

Get out a medium saucepan, and put your butter in there. Turn on your burner to medium heat:

Once that melts, throw in all of your sliced onions, your chopped clove of garlic, your bay leaf, and your thyme.

Your house will instantly smell UH.MAZE.ING.

I love the smell of onions and butter.

It lights my world on fire.

Stir that around effectively coating the onions with butter.

Have you seen the movie Julie & Julia?

I love the way that Meryl Streep playing Julia Child pronounces the word butter.

When I write the word butter in a recipe, I hear Meryl’s Julia voice in my head.

Let those onions cook for 3-4 minutes, and then add in your mushrooms if you so choose.

Mushrooms, onion, and thyme just make sense to me. I actually don’t understand why every French Onion Soup doesn’t include them. They add so much substance and depth of flavor.

I guess it may be because of people like my Dearly Beloved Friend Anne.

She has the most incredible gag reflex when it comes to mushrooms.

I have never seen my dad laugh as hard as he did when Anne and I were about 15 years old, and she came over for dinner. Something my mom served had mushrooms in it, and she encouraged Anne to “at least try it”.

Anne obliged.

She ended up with a red face.

Tears in her eyes.

A few dry heaves.

My dad was hysterical. I honestly don’t know how many times I have seen him laugh that hard. I guess he finds joy and hilarity in someone else’s dry heaves.

And that makes him and me not so dissimilar.

So Anne (or anyone in Anne’s camp), feel free to leave out the mushrooms.

The rest of you… throw ’em in the pot!

This is where the recipe becomes less than scientific.

You need to just let the onions and mushrooms spend some time together with the butter.

They need to get to know one another.

Cuddle up next to each other.

Love on each other.

Until the onions and mushrooms are buttery and delicious and softened.

Now it gets fun.

Throw in your sherry.

If you don’t have sherry, you can find it in your grocery store near the vinegars. It is relatively inexpensive, and a bottle of it lasts me a long time.

Now, open your red wine.

Pour yourself a glass.

You deserve it.

After all, you made it through the oppressive heat of summer.

And you made it through the day.

And you are cooking for yourself or your family or your friends.

So, yeah. You deserve it.

Add some of that wine to your soup pot.

Be careful if you are using a gas stove like me.

Alcohol plus live flame equals danger.

Let that simmer together over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

You have no idea how delicious this smells.

But you will soon.

When ya make it.

Now add in 3-4 cups of stock. The amount of stock will be determined by how hearty or liquidy (yes, I’m aware liquidy isn’t really a word) you would like your soup.

To keep this a vegetarian dish, use vegetable stock.

If you want a little more depth of flavor, use some beef stock.

Or use a mixture of the two.

Let that come to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.

Oh hey, look who finally showed up to help me in the kitchen:

Slacker.

So, at this point, the base of your soup is complete.

Take a taste of it. With all of the stock in there, it is highly unlikely that you will need to add much salt, if any at all. But taste it to make sure. Add some pepper if you’d like.

If you are making this soup ahead of time for a party or guests or just dinner for another night, allow it to cool a bit and then transfer it to an airtight container and put it in the fridge.

To warm it up, just put it back in a pot on the stove over medium-low heat until it gets to temperature.

If you are eating it right away, here is how to finish it up.

We need some bread. Preferably white, crusty, and delicious:

Drizzle them with extra virgin olive oil:

Put them under the broiler (on high) in your oven for 1-3 minutes on each side. Keep an eye on them, because in my oven toasting bread goes from perfect to well-done very quickly.

When all toasty and delicious, pull the bread out of the oven and give it a gentle rub with a halved garlic clove.

Voila! Garlic bread.

Cut that into cubes, and lets grate our cheese.

Gruyere makes a world of difference in this soup. I have made this soup with pre-shredded mozzarella or shredded swiss, and it is OK.

With Gruyere it is perfect and amazing and life changing and life giving and magical.

I’m not even exaggerating.

Not even a tiny little bit.

I’m not.

Grate the gruyere.

Now, we will build our soup.

In an oven-safe bowl.

Oven safe bowls are very important for the French Onion Soup.

If you don’t have oven safe bowls or aren’t sure if you do, we’ll have to alter the final step of the recipe for you.

But never fear, you too can still enjoy the French Onion goodness.

Ladle a bunch of soup into your oven safe bowl or crock, and top that with your cubed garlic bread.

Then add a generous portion of the grated cheese:

Then pop that into the oven under the broiler for 3-5 minutes.

If you don’t have an oven safe bowl, pop it in the microwave for 1-2 minutes or until the cheese gets all melty.

Be careful removing it from the oven. The top of the bowl is extremely hot.

And if you accidentally pick it up with bare hands, you will get blisters.

I may or may not know that from personal experience.

Serve it up with a spinach salad topped with some strawberries and chopped smoked turkey.

Give thanks for the cooler weather.

For it has brought you renewed sanity because your dogs are back out in the yard.

And it has brought you soup once again.

And truth be told, soup- especially one with ooey gooey melty salty cheese on top- makes everything better.

Yours in white bread and cheesy goodness,
Leah

I’m baaaaaaaack!

Back home, sleeping in my own bed, happy to see the main man, and back to work and the routine.

My sister getaway was fun, refreshing, and just about perfect.

I love the time that I get to spend with my family. But sister time is something special. It filled me up to be able to sit and talk and laugh and just be totally us together.

I could easily get sentimental now, but I won’t.

Because you don’t want to hear it.

Right?

I didn’t think so.

So, what do you want to talk about today?

Food?

Ok!

I’m in.

Speaking of food, we ate some good stuff on vacation. Why are King Crab legs the best food ever invented?

I consider the crab legs dipped in clarified butter a guilt free food. Why? Because you get a workout while you are eating. I’m pretty sure you burn off the clarified butter calories as you crack your crab.

Yes.

You do.

Anyhow, I digress.

The last recipe I shared was a chicken recipe, and I happen to have another one for you today. I’m stretching myself to try and make chicken a fun and interesting ingredient once again.

One of my summer favorites is the Caprese Salad. Is it simple and delicious.

So, this recipe uses the base of the Caprese Salad and adds in the chicken.

Heres what you’ll need- chicken and some melty cheese (obviously mozzarella is the classic choice- I didn’t have any, so I used havarti and it was delicious) and then the following:

Everything pictured above will go into the caprese salad inspired portion of our meal: Three medium tomatoes, a white onion, some hot peppers (if you like it hot), a bunch of basil, a bunch of chives, olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper.

Lets make our caprese inspired salad.

I don’t groove on raw onion. If you do, feel free to skip this step. I just think it makes the whole dish better if you do things my way.

Well, life in general is happier if you follow my direction.

At least it is happier for me.

Chop your onion, put some oil in the pan over medium heat, and add your onion. Let it soften.

While that cooks, chop your tomato, peppers, basil, and chives.

Throw them in a bowl.

Side note: I squeezed some of the seeds out of the tomatoes. I don’t like a soggy topper to my chicken. If you are into sog, go ahead and keep the seeds in.

Your call, my friends.

Add in a little salt and pepper.

I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that I believe in Coarse Kosher salt. It is better than all other salts. Except for maybe coarse sea salt.

Invest in some.

It is cheap and it makes a difference.

You will thank me forever.

Or maybe you won’t.

Either way, upgrade from iodized salt. Please. It is the only request I will ever make.

That, and to use organic eggs only.

But that is a subject for a different day and time.

Add in a tablespoon or so of balsamic (this recipe really should be done to taste):

And a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (again, about a tablespoon):

Take your onions off of the stove.

Allow them to cool a bit.

Throw them into the tomato mixture:

Mmm. I could eat that with a spoon.

In fact, I did eat some of that with a spoon.

And then I mixed it with the same spoon.

Sinner.

Set that aside, and lets work on our chicken.

I’m using chicken tenders.

As I’ve mentioned before, I favor the tender over the breast.

Why does it feel like an innuendo every time I write the words tender and breast?

Because I am as mature as a twelve year old, I think.

You thought it too.

Don’t lie.

Sprinkle them with some seasoned salt, some freshly ground coarse black pepper, and a little bit of italian seasoning:

Put a little extra virgin olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the chicken for 4-5 minutes on each side.

Now, for the best part.

The cheesy part.

The cheesy part is always the best part.

Unless there is a bacon part.

Bacon trumps cheese.

I think.

Nestle two of your tenders together, and place a slice of cheese over the top. Let it get melty.

Once the cheese is sufficiently melty, transfer the chicken and cheese to a plate.

Top with a generous helping of your tomato mixture.

Serve it up with some Brussels sprouts and pasta and a little fruit salad.

Wowza.

Chicken.

Chicken that doesn’t taste like chicken.

My favorite kind.

It tastes like summer- tomatoes, basil, and cheese.

Have I mentioned I love summer?

I do.

I do.

I do.

Happy Eating,

Leah

“Summer, summer, summertime

Time to sit back and unwind”

-The Great Lyricist Fresh Prince

Sometimes I like to start out a post with a thought provoking inspired quote. Like the one above.

You are welcome.

I love, love, love Summer. I don’t even mind the raging heat and unbelievable humidity.

I love the warmth, I love the long days, I love the way I feel a little more alive.

I also love summer produce.

Like peaches.

Mmmmm, peaches.

Is there much better than the perfectly ripe, juice running down your chin, summer peach?

I think not.

So, in honor of summer and the peach, I give you a healthy summer lunch.

This Grilled Peach Summer salad takes about 20 minutes start to finish… even less if you have a gas grill.

Here is what you’ll need for two adults.

Salad: Spinach, 2 peaches, 2 green onions, 1 piece of cooked bacon (if you happen to have it on hand, which I usually do!), 1 tomato, some cheese (I used aged goat cheese- but parmesan would work. But not parmesan that comes crumbled in a can- help me now if that is your parm of choice).

Dressing: 2 T. Dijon, 2 T. vinegar, 6 T. extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper

Croutons: Some bread, oil, salt, pepper

Go light your grill so that we can throw our peaches and bread on there in a bit.

Mmm. Have you ever had a grilled peach? They are goo-ood.

I think we should start with the dressing.

I have this handy-dandy salad dressing container with dressing instructions on it. My mama stuffed it in my stocking one year for Christmas, and I love it. I think it is from Crate and Barrel if you are interested.

Anywho, take 2 T of dijon mustard:

Add in 2 T vinegar (I used raspberry blush vinegar, and it was perfect):

Now, 6 T of olive oil:

Top off with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and shake it.

Shake it like you mean it.

Dressing done!

I like it when the salad is ready to go before grilling peaches so they stay nice and warm, so lets do that. Shall we?

Each salad is a couple of cups of spinach topped with a 1/2 of a chopped tomato, a chopped green onion, 1/2 piece of bacon, and some shreds of cheese.

Now we shall prepare the peaches.

Pick a firm peach rather than an super ripe one. You don’t want it smushing on the grill. No one likes a smushed peach.

Smush is a highly technical culinary term.

Cut the peaches into quarters. You should also remove the pit at this point. I would assume that you already knew that, but better safe than sorry.

Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.

I was really tempted to eat one at this point.

But I practiced patience and restraint.

And instead I ate an extra peach that happened to be sitting on the counter.

I said I practiced restraint. I did not say I perfected it.

While we are prepping for the foods that are going to be grilled, lets get our bread ready. Two thick slices.

Schmear and schlather the olive oil on the bread.

If you go to culinary school, you learn terms like schmear and schlather, I think.

Sprinkle that with a little salt and pepper.

Lets head to the grill.

Put your peaches and bread on the hot grill.

I think peaches are the prettiest fruit. Well, peaches and strawberries.

Just don’t tell grapes I said that. Or bananas.

I really don’t know what I’m talking about.

Maybe it is the caffeine from an iced coffee surging through my system.

Back to the peaches, let them get some grill marks on the grill for about 3 minutes.

Give them a turn. And the bread too.

3 more minutes on that side. Then one more flip.

2-3 more minutes and then pull the peaches off of the grill.

Bread too.

Slice your peaches and arrange them on your salad.

Cube your bread thus creating croutons.

Toss those on top.

Drizzle with a bit of the dressing.

Oooooh-eeeeeee

That looks good.

It was good.

Want to know the only way to make it even more of a summertime dish?

Serve it on the patio. With a glass of crisp, refreshing, cold Sauvignon Blanc.

And this ding dong on the side:

Happy eating friends,

LW

Most of you have had this man’s drink.

That’s Arnold Palmer, if you were wondering.

But have you had this version of it?

Dr. Jessica introduced me to this sweet nectar.

Yes, folks. That is sweet tea vodka.

Pair the above with a little of this…

Or if you are feeling crazy, a little of this…

You have got yourself a taste of summertime.

So good. So, so, summery.

Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh,

Leah

It’s hot. It’s Ohio hot. Until you have lived in the Midwest or South, I don’t think you can fully understand summertime humid hot.

So, in light of the hotness and the fact that the mere thought of turning on a stove or oven makes me start to sweat, I give you no-cook chicken salad- three ways.

Let me start by saying that the cooked rotisserie chickens that are sold at grocery stores save my life on a regular basis. They are extremely affordable (usually $4.99-$5.99) for a whole chicken, and they are delicious and versatile. They also allow you to keep your oven off in the summer. Go get yourself one right now.

Oh, hello there Mr. Fully Cooked Delicious Savory Chicken

Now, I shall shred you.

And divide you up.

Now, I shall make you into delicious chicken salads.

Please note: The following recipes are for 1/3 of a small rotisserie chicken. Adjust accordingly.

Chicken Salad #1: The Traditional

What you’ll need:

Chop up one stalk of celery, one green onion (green and white part), and about 1/4 cups of grapes.

Throw it in with the chicken, and add 1/4 cup of mayo.

Mix it up. Add in a 1/2 t. of dried dill and a smidge of salt and pepper.

Dunzo. That was easy.

Stay tuned for the final picture.

Chicken Salad #2: The Summer

What you’ll need:

That’s strawberries and blueberries, basil and green onion, and some sliced almonds. Of course, ¬†salt and pepper and mayo too.

These are just suggestions- you could use any berry, even dried cranberries, or a crisp apple would work. Also, any nuts would be tasty.

Chop up 1/4 cup of strawberries, dump out 1/4 cup of blueberries, chop one green onion and 3-4 basil leaves. Finally, dump out 1/4 cup or so of your nuts.

Pretty!

Throw it all together, add 1/4 cup of mayo and a little salt and pepper.

Easy Peasy.

Stay tuned for the final picture.

Chicken Salad #3: The Asian

What you’ll need:

Yes, I know.

That is a lot of stuff.

But it is worth it. Trust me. You’ve never had chicken salad like this. Or maybe you have. And if so, then you know I’m right when you say it’s worth it.

So, green onion, 1/4 of a cucumber, pepper, garlic powder, ginger, red pepper flake, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar  (red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar would work too), sesame oil, all natural peanut butter, canola oil, and honey.

I mean, its not THAT much stuff.

OK, it is.

But, I promise its worth it.

Chop up your cucumber and green onion.

Throw it in with your chicken.

Let’s start making the sauce.

First, one tablespoon of peanut butter. Yum.

Next, one tablespoon of canola oil. This is really to loosen up the peanut butter. And yes, there really is some in my measuring spoon.

One teaspoon of sesame oil. This stuff is so amazing. If you like Asian food, you need this in your pantry.

Now, about 3 1/2 teaspoons of vinegar. The rice wine vinegar makes for a sweeter sauce while apple cider makes the sauce a little tangier, so just experiment and see what you like!

One teaspoon of honey.

1/2 t. ginger, 1/2 t. garlic powder, 1/2 t. (more or less depending on how well you can handle the heat) of crushed red pepper flakes.

Stir it up. The sauce is done except for one ingredient, and I usually do the rest of the sauce to taste. Its time to add in the soy sauce. I used almost 2 tablespoons, but depending on how salty you want your sauce use more or less tasting as you go.

Stir it up, little darling. Dump it on your chicken with cukes and green onions.

NOW, for the grand finale. Ladieeeeeeeeeees and Gentlemen, I give you chicken salad three ways.

Sweet Sassy Molassey.

And I didn’t even break a sweat.

Happy Hot Days of Summer,

Leah

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