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The Forgotten One.

The one that is never chosen.

The one that sits all by itself while every other is lovingly picked out, scrubbed clean, and then carefully prepared.

What is this unfortunate of unfortunates?

Carrots, of course.

If you are like me… and for your sake, I hope you aren’t… carrots are the perfect vegetable to pack in a lunch on a day that you are desperate to sneak in something healthy at the last minute.

Then, by lunch time you begrudgingly pull out your carrots and choke them down.

All the while, you are wishing you would have stuffed that bag with Dortitos.

I have been. there.

A while back, the old carrot was forever redeemed.

You see, we had dinner at our friend Chef Michael’s house, and he sauteed up some carrots. And they were life-changingly good.

Prior to that meal, cooked carrots were not an option at this house.

They conjured up images of school cafeteria lunches. Soft vegetables. With an overabundance of mushy carrots and lima beans.

Um. No thanks.

But Chef Michael’s carrots. Ooh, these were different. And I knew my life, at least where carrots were concerned had been forever altered.

So, without further ado, I give you my interpretation (which is no doubt less delicious, but still pretty darn good) of Chef Michael’s sauteed carrots.

Start with a non stick pan over high heat.

The pan should have about 1/4 inch of water in it.
Bring the water to a boil.

And drop in your peeled and chopped carrots. The carrots should be a relatively uniform size so that they cook in the same amount of time. I used four carrots for two people which really didn’t end up looking like a whole lot.

Let those carrots cook in the water until they start to soften. I like mine still pretty crunchy so I let them cook for about 3 minutes. If you want them softer, cook them longer. Test them for your desired softness by poking them gently with a fork.

When they are as soft as you want them to be, drain off all of the water.

And drop a glob of butter in the pan.

I used less than one T. of butter for the four carrots I was cooking up.

Then, oh boy oh boy, drop in some brown sugar.

This adds a little sweetness and caramelization to the carrots.

I used about 1/2 T. of brown sugar.

Stir that all around.

Add a sprinkle of salt- about 1/4 t.

And a shot of pepper.

About 1/8 t.

And stir it all together.

See how the butter and brown sugar start to turn into a deliciously caramel consistency? Well, that coats your carrots and turns them into magical bites of delight.

I do declare, carrots shall never be forgotten again!

I will choose YOU carrots.

The perfect accompaniment for any meal.

Enjoy!

Hope you all had a weekend as lovely as mine.

XO,

Leah

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Yesterday was the long-awaited day.

Adele’s new album came out, and let me tell you… it does not disappoint. I’m listening to it as I write this, and I go from bopping in my seat to almost shedding a tear.

Her voice. Man.

It actually sounds eerily similar to my voice when I’m in the car by myself.

Or not.

In all seriousness, her voice is powerful and beautiful and emotion evoking. The girl has pipes, and she knows how to use them.

I heart her.

I highly, highly recommend that you spend a hard earned $10 and buy this album immediately.

You are welcome.

Next up on this Happy Hump Day… the Easter treat aisle in the grocery store:

Now, I know that the candy is not the point of Easter.

However, I would like to thank the fine folks at Kroger for putting out these pastel wonders earlier and earlier in the year.

I picked myself up a bag of the Dark m&ms. Help me now.

And I picked up my Mr. a bag of the Sweet Tart Jelly Beans. These are also good; however, I will warn you that the yellow jelly bean has a bit of a rosemary taste.

And it is not good.

Can we take a sidebar here to talk about Hershey’s Kisses? When on earth did they come up with the 75 varieties that are now available?

I’m not complaining.

At all.

Just wondering.

One year it was Kisses and Hugs.

The next year it was caramel and coconut and peppermint and every other flavor under the sun.

Finally on this wonderful Wednesday, I bring you some more roasty toasty vegetables.

I had some green beans (stem end trimmed), about 1/2 bunch of asparagus, some baby red potatoes, and a shallot thinly sliced.

Sweet Mother Mary.

Preheat your oven to 400.

Want to know something random? When I look at 400, I pronounce it in my head as four-hundy.

Not four hundred.

Four-hundy is just more fun.

Glad we can agree on that.

Can we also agree that roasting vegetables is the hands-down best way to prepare them? Especially in the winter?

We can.

Perfect.

Drizzle a bit of olive oil.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and pop it into the oven for 15-20 min.

You know, you are looking for browned, caramelized goodness.

I served up my roasty vegetables (topped with a bit of shredded parm reg, of course) with a chunk of crusty garlic bread and some SIMPLE spicy cioppino (seafood stew).

Stop back tomorrow for the cioppino recipe.

It is delish to the max times 5000.

And that, my friends, wraps up my Hump Day treasures for ya.

Make it a good one.

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

I was a picky eater growing up.

Can anyone relate?

I think I have shared this before, but my mom was a rockstar cook that made dinner every night of the week (usually taking a weekend night off to go on a date with my dad).

Dinner ALWAYS consisted of a green salad, a protein, a starch, and then a vegetable.

I, like many kids (and well, some adults I know too), would eat my favorite item on the plate first.

Then, I would move on to the second favorite.

Ultimately, I would be stuck with some inevitably lukewarm protein left on my plate.

I have always loved anything green, but meat and I did not become friends until later in life.

Even now, meat can still sometimes gross me out.

You know, I cook a meal that I’m completely excited about only to go to take bite of the meat and be a little less than excited.

Chicken is usually the worst offender.

Dr. Freud, what does that say about me?

The problem for me in my house growing up was that there was no dessert for any kid that didn’t finish their dinner.

So, usually my sister Jessica and I would be stuck still sitting at the table long after the rest of the family had finished.

She had a pile of vegetables on her plate.

And I had a pile of meat on mine.

Eventually, we hatched our ingenious plan…

Wait until Mom was long gone, then quickly switch plates, scarf down what was left of each other’s cast offs, and happily move on to a “dessert” that usually meant a “sweet cereal” (you know, like Honey Nut Cheerios). Did I mention we grew up in a pretty health-centered family?

My love for vegetables continues to this day.

Seriously.

I know this may be weird, but I love broccoli or asparagus or zucchini or carrots or whatever. And I like them in large quantities.

I also know that this is not normal, and that for a lot of people vegetables are gross and scary.

And that is why I’m brining you this post.

I want to win over every last person that doesn’t groove on the vegetables.

You see,  I have a fool proof method to making any vegetable absolutely delicious.

Roasting.

Roasty, toasty, caramely, delicious veg.

And they are easy.

And they are the perfect side dish.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Start by chopping up your vegetables. They should be larger, but still bite sized.

Lay them out on a sheet pan with sides.

Give them a drizzle of olive oil.

When I say a drizzle, I mean approximately 1 T. per every cup of chopped vegetables.

Then sprinkle on some salt and pepper.

I have been known to also add cayenne pepper or red pepper flake if you like it a little spicy. You can add cumin if you like it a little smoky. A little bit of thyme on mushrooms is delicious and woodsy. Experiment to discover what YOU really love.

But if you want to play it safe, start with salt and pepper.

I would say about 1/2 t. of salt and 1/4. t. of pepper for every cup of vegetable on your pan.

Now, use your hands and give the vegetable an oil, salt, and pepper Swedish massage. Try to coat all of he vegetables.

Then pop them into the oven. Set your timer for 15 minutes, and leave them alone.

After 15 minutes (less if you are cooking only a small quantity, and keep them in longer if you are cooking a large quantity), pull them out of the oven.

They should look like this…

Still very much a bright color with perhaps a bit of caramelization, and they may be slightly wilted.

Perfect.

I like to top off my veg with the lightest sprinkling of parmigiano reggiano.

Pop that onto a plate with a side of crusty parm and garlic bread, and you have a super simple side dish.

Or even a super simple healthy afternoon snack.

I promise.

Your vegetables will never taste better.

Happy Wednesday!

XO,

Leah

First, I want to start off by stating that I’m blogging while watching the show “My Strange Addiction” on TLC. Where the heck does this channel find these people?

The first lady is obsessed with eating chalk. I cannot imagine anything worse to put in my mouth- the texture alone makes me cringe. Every bite she takes makes even my toes tingle thinking about that texture. Oy.

The second guy is addicted to running. He runs 20 miles every single day. Sadly, I suffer from the same addiction (those of you that know me should be laughing hysterically right now).

The third lady is addicted to shopping. She is $85,000 in debt and spends approximately $1500 a week on clothes, shoes, and bags. Wowza.

The fourth girl is addicted to tanning. She belongs to six tanning salons and spends approximately $1000 a month on tanning alone. I don’t even know how that is possible.

Anyhow, I say all this for no real reason at all.

It has nothing to do with anything.

People are fascinating.

Know what else are fascinating?

Sweet potatoes.

Right? Fascinating.

Or not.

At the least, they are pretty darn tasty.

I dig the sweet potato and all of its lovely health benefits. But I do take issue with sweet potato recipes because they seem to usually include some sort of sugary and sweet topping. And some days I’m just not in the mood.

This recipe (if you can even call it that) is my hands-down all-time favorite way to eat sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potato Fries.

Yum-Diddy-Yum-Yum

Start with some sweet potatoes.

These two large taters fed Brad and I, and it allowed for some leftovers.

Set your oven to 400 degrees.

Don’t bother scrubbing them.

Because we’re going to peel them.

Next, is the hardest part of the recipe. Slice the potatoes into fry shape.

They don’t have to be perfect, but you want them to be approximately the same size so they cook evenly.

But, rustic is good.

Put them on a non-stick sheet pan (with sides… you know, so the oil doesn’t drip all over your oven).

Give them a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Then sprinkle on some kosher salt and pepper.

Pop them taters in the oven for about 10 minutes.

Pull them out and give them a flip.

Then, pop them back into the oven for another 10-15 minutes.

I keep mine in there for a little longer because I like it when they get all brown and caramel-y.

Pull them out of the oven. Serve them up immediately with some apple butter if you crave the sweetness.

Or you can always serve them with ketchup if you prefer the savory. That works too.

I had mine with a BLT and some pineapple.

There you have it. Easy and delicious. And pretty healthy too.

And now, because it is my blog and I can do what I want… I’m throwing in a random photo.

This is the first photo that we took of Lola.

I was sitting on a bench outside of a strip mall at a dog rescue event, and I was falling in love with this sweet little pup.

And then I took her home.

And realized that she is stubborn. And she likes to dig holes. And she is a ding-dong.

But gosh darn it. She was (and still is) cute.

Doesn’t that face just say to you, “please ma’am… take me home… I’ll be the perfect little addition… and I’ll never do anything bad… I just want to be loved”?

Maybe I need to work on my dog face interpretation.

Happy Thursday Friends!!

XO,

Leah

I love me a good pickled vegetable.

I love pickles and olives and sauerkraut and hot pepper relish.

And I love me some of my Grandma’s Giardiniera.

Giardiniera is typically used as a condiment on Italian sandwiches. But I prefer to eat it as a side dish.

Or on a sandwich.

Or as a snack.

Or for breakfast.

I just love the flavor of it, and I like the fact that it is an easy way to get a serving of vegetables into my day.

Know what else I love?

That it is stinking easy to make.

And truth be told, because it includes cauliflower… it is kind of stinky too.

Side note: I prefer cauliflower to be pronounced Call-i (short I sound)-flower. Lots o’ people call it Call-ee-flower. What is the deal with that?

If you call it Call-ee-flower, please explain to me why you do this. Thank you.

Anyhow, here are the veggies you will need to make your easy marinated vegetables:

One head of caul-i-flower, 2 carrots, 2-3 stalks of celery, one green bell pepper, 1/2 of an onion, and black and green olives.

Please note that I did not look into the jar of my green olives until I was about to add them to my dish.

That was when I realized they were moldy. How exactly does a pickled vegetable like olives get moldy? I thought pickling preserved these veggies.

So, I did not end up adding the moldy green olives. I suggest you do add green olives.

Unless of course, they don’t do it for ya (in which case, I think you are crazy).

Cut up your celery, and drop it in a Tupperware bowl that has an airtight lid.

Add in your peeled and chopped carrots.

Now, chop up your green pepper and add it in to the party.

Slice up your onion very thinly and add it in.

Please note I didn’t end up using the red onion pictured above.

That ended up being bad too… what the heck? I had just purchased it at the grocery that day. Wasn’t meant to be, I suppose.

Now your olives.

I like mine sliced in half.

You know, because I’m high maintenance like that.

And finally the cauliflower.

There ya have it.

There is only one thing missing.

The dressing, and it too is easy.

Gosh, I love ease!

Take 3/4 c. of oil (veg, canola, or olive would work) and mix it with 1/2 c. of white vinegar. Add in 5 T. of sugar, 1 t. oregeno, and 1 t. of salt.

Whisk it up.

And pour it in the mix.

Now, pop a lid on your container.

Shake it like a polaroid picture.

Put it in your fridge to let it marinate- at least overnight.

This is the kind of dish that gets better and better the longer it sits there.

Here is what the final product looks like.

I know plenty of people that could sit down and eat this entire bowl, myself included.

To be fair and balanced, however, Brad doesn’t groove on the Giardiniera. But he doesn’t really enjoy black olives or cauliflower, so that makes sense.

You can take this up a notch by adding in a hot pepper. That makes it a spicy Giardiniera that is especially delicious on a sandwich.

Or you can sub out some of the vegetables for others that you would enjoy more. I won’t be watching, so do what you like.

Have a good one my friends.

And thanks for stoppin’ by.

XO,

Leah

Easiest, best appetizer or side dish ever.

Stuffed mushrooms.

Fungi is delicious.

Fun guy.

Fun jee.

Fun gus.

Shrooms.

Call them what you will, I love ’em.

And I especially love these mini portabella caps that my grocery store started carrying.

They come six in a pack, and for two people that is the perfect amount for a lovely side dish.

I took out the stem, and I gave these a brush off with a damp paper towel.

Now, stuff it.

Whoa, whoa… getting ahead of myself.

First we have to make the stuffing.

I just like saying “stuff it”.

I have issues.

Chop up a roasted red pepper.

Add in a chopped tomato.

Now, do you know what thyme it is?

It’s thyme time.

Hardy, Har, Har.

Take a sprig o’ thyme, and hold it by the stem. Use your fingers to strip off the leaves.

It is really a two-handed process. However, if I used two hands to do it, there would be no picture.

Throw about a teaspoon into your bowl.

A sprinkle of salt and a grind of pepper.

And then 1/4 cup of shredded sharp cheddar.

Mix it all up.

Stuff it.

STUFF. IT.

And by it, I mean the mushrooms of course.

Now, pop them in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

This is what they look like when they come out:

Fungilicious.

Have the happiest of days today!

XO,
Leah

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