Trying out recipes to pass on to you.

easy does it

Posted: November 4th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

i wrote to a friend today (hi shey!) about my sunday ritual. over coffee, i spread out cookbooks and old copies of bon appetit and plan dinners for monday through thursday. friday, i figure, is for comforting junk food. usually pizza at our house. but monday through thursday i try to put something on the table. okay—on the plate which sits on our laps while we watch tv. ah, family!

but sometimes i don’t have to pour over books and mags. sometimes i glance around the fridge and cabinets and a few meals come together naturally. eggs, pasta, parmesan cheese–carbonara it is! and sometimes a dinner idea comes from a conversation with the hubs. for some reason this weekend we both honed in on….taco salad…mmmmmm…so easy! and tasty!

whatever toppings you want…and you can each have different toppings! i’m RE-adding this to my “go-to, quick and easy meals.” and cheap, too. i think this would make for a fun party meal for a large group—maybe a birthday dinner with a big group of friends?

start off with about a quarter pound of ground hamburger per person. season with taco seasoning or whatever you have on hand. i used chili pepper, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. you also need taco chips and some shredded lettuce. the rest is up to you!

 i like MANY toppings. salsa, beans, avocado, onion. shredded cheese is a must!

pile them on and enjoy!

what is on YOUR list of quick, easy meals?

Hey mambo! Italiano without garlic?

Posted: October 25th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

Long time no cook! I just wrapped a huge project at work which has meant many long nights and many frozen pizzas. In the last few weeks of processed food, fast food, and quick fix meals the hubs has seen a pattern…onions and garlic make him have terrible heartburn.

 I’ve tried to deny his discomfort because frankly, other than salt, garlic and onions add the best flavor to a variety of dishes. Just look at the back of a package of, oh, anything. Garlic powder. Onion Powder. Flip through your favorite recipes. Two cloves garlic. One onion chopped. EVERYTHING. But I’m doing research and looking for ways to meet in the middle. Naturally he is a bit nervous to, say, try red onion instead of white. How about green onion? Shallot? Baby steps. Until then, a lot of Prilosec.

 So when this gorgeous and EASY lasagna recipe showed up on the homepage of I cringed. Garlic! Onion! I was sure of it. But with only slight tweaking and research the finished product was delectable. And the hubs feels fine!

Start by printing off this easy to follow recipe (with cute illustrations, might I add). It makes a large batch. I’ll give you my half recipe which could easily feed 4-5 people. I prepared it in a smaller baking dish with no problem. You’ll need:

  • Something smaller than a 13-by-9-inch baking dish (9×9?)
  • one minced garlic cloves (I left this out)
  • 8 oz of ricotta cheese
  • one box of frozen spinach, thawed with the liquid squeezed out
  • 2-3 handfuls of grated Parmesan cheese—about a cup
  • one egg
  • one jars of tomato sauce (or a batch of the sauce I made, below. HIGHLY recommended)
  • a box of no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 8 oz of mozzarella cheese, sliced.
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix together the garlic, ricotta, spinach, half of the Parmesan, and the egg in the bowl until smooth.
  3. Spread a fifth of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the baking dish.
  4. Overlap a quarter of the noodles in a layer on top of the sauce. It’s OK if they don’t completely cover the surface area.
  5. Spread a fifth of the tomato sauce on top of the noodles.
  6. Dollop a third of the ricotta mixture in a few spots over the noodles and flatten the dollops (the ricotta mixture will spread out when it heats up). Lay a quarter of the mozzarella on top.
  7. Repeat the process by laying a quarter of the noodles in the opposite direction than you did before, top with a fifth of the tomato sauce, a third of the ricotta mixture, and a quarter of the mozzarella. Repeat once more: a quarter of the noodles in the opposite direction, a fifth of the tomato sauce, the last third of the ricotta, and a quarter of the mozzarella.
  8. Cover with the last quarter of the noodles, top with the last fifth of the tomato sauce and last quarter of the mozzarella, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.
  9. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake until the lasagna is bubbly around the edges, about 35 minutes.
  10. Remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes, until the top is bubbly and light golden brown. Let the lasagna rest 10 to 15 minutes before slicing, or it will be too runny.

As you can see, this is a simple dish. You can add things like mushrooms, hamburger or sausage if you’d like. Season as you wish. Use low fat ricotta and mozzarella. Whatever! But I think what made this dish REALLY special was the sauce I used.

While doing research of an onion and garlic free red sauce I came across a great blog and a gloriously simply and tasty five minute tomato saucerecipe. It has lemon zest which sounds strange but was magical with the tomato. The hubs even mentioned how good it was. Had I had this at a restaurant I’d still be thinking about it. It would be great with MANY other dishes. Enjoy!

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
3 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped (I subbed one large shallot, cut in quarters. After sautéing I removed them)
1 28-ounce can crushed red tomatoes
zest of one lemon

Combine the olive oil, red pepper flakes, sea salt, and garlic in a cold saucepan. Stir while you heat the saucepan over medium-high heat, sauté just 45 seconds or so until everything is fragrant – you don’t want the garlic to brown. Stir in the tomatoes and heat to a gentle simmer just a few minutes. Remove from heat and carefully take a taste if it needs more salt. Stir in the lemon zest.

everybody’s talking ’bout—pumpkin!

Posted: October 14th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

pumpkin lattes. pumpkin creamer. pumpkin flavored pastries. everywhere you turn it’s pumpkin-palooza, right? and you LOVE it, non?! now in a week or two, you’ll have moved on to peppermint mochas and the like, but for now maybe you’re wondering how to save the $8 you just spent at the coffee shop on that latte and pumpkin bread…okay, I AM. (i keep telling myself ONCE A WEEK TREAT…and it ends up being three)

i horded several cans of pumpkin and wanted to know EASY things I could do with it besides pie. and preferably that i had the ingredients for. enter where there are, no lie, HUNDREDS of recipes using brands like Nestle and Libby’s pumpkin. i cruised around until i found some “no shopping required” recipes and loved these results.

First, pumpkin spice quick bread.

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Directions

    PREHEAT oven to 350° F. Grease 9×5-inch loaf pan.

    COMBINE flour, pumpkin, brown sugar, butter, eggs, spice, baking soda, salt and baking powder in large mixer bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often for 1 to 2 minutes until well mixed. Spoon batter into prepared pan.

    BAKE for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely.

    *Substitute 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/4 teaspoon each ground nutmeg and ground cloves for pumpkin pie spice.

    i added about a cup of chocolate chips, added some extra spices (suggested by reviewers on the site) and it was DIVINE. easy peasy!




    what to do with the rest of that pumpkin? how about a pumpkin latte?




    • 1 cup strong coffee
    • 2/3 cup (5 fl.-oz. can) NESTLÉ® CARNATION® Evaporated Fat Free Milk (I’m sure you could use regular milk)
    • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
    • 1 to 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
    • 1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or ground cinnamon

    COMBINE coffee, evaporated milk, pumpkin, sugar and pumpkin pie spice in 2-cup microwave-safe glass measure or small saucepan. Heat until very hot (if using stove, use medium-low heat and stir occasionally). Carefully pour into mugs. makes 2 servings.

    i followed the online tip and transferred the hot mixture into a blender to get that foamy top. be careful and cover the lid with a towel! hot things + blender = messy!

    my only complaint was it wans’t very sweet.  i added a teaspoon of honey for sweetness.


    and YOU? any pumpkin cooking these days?

    what are the fall favorite treats around your house?


    lobster? in these parts?

    Posted: October 8th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

    when you’re from a landlocked state like me, you’re first exposure to seafood is either in the fish stick form or another fried variety. you’re local (though impressive) aquarium has a “state fish” display with the likes of crappie, catfish and gar. not exactly culinary treats (unless fried of course). and lobster? those are the sad looking creatures kept in tanks at the grocery store your mom stops at to distract you long enough to pry that box of cookie crisp out of your grubby paws. no one buys one. no one cooks one. perhaps you are allowed a bite or two from an adult’s plate at a restaurant. like red lobster.

    but then you get older. you get braver and try things on your own. order the sea bass or trout special. you try a local fish delicacy on a vacation. you find places in town who fly in fish fresh daily and you buy a gorgeous side of salmon or some mussels to cook up. maybe look up a new recipe to try yourself in an old Gourmet magazine you’ve saved (RIP GOURMET) or something online. now we’re talking. and now you’ve advanced to taking live things (mussels) and, well, killing the sad saps for your dinner. what’s next….lobster?

    i’ve wanted to try many a recipe with lobster. i’ve had a killer lobster corn chowder locally i’ve wanted to recreate. i’ve read many a summer culinary love story about lobster rolls. and come on, who DOESNT love dunking hunks of lobster in warm melted butter. at red lobster.

    enter the knowledgeable, the stunning tasha of the beloved tasha does tulsa blog giving the heads up on a fundraiser where (GULP) live lobster, freshly shipped in can be mine! Or (I DIE) they cook it FOR YOU to go home and do what with you may. is the price right? i don’t know! is it for a good cause? it is! how rewarding! so tulsa peeps, want to know how to get in on this treasure? more from tasha’s blog:

    St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church and Preschooloffers as much fresh-caught lobster as you can eat – we’re talking lobsters that were basking in the ocean just the day before you chow down. Simply pre-order and get to 5635 E. 71st Street on Saturday, Oct. 24. It’s $20 for a live Maine lobster, or for $20 for 1 1/4 pound of the cooked stuff.The deadline to order or sign up for the potluck is Oct. 19.  Simply call dear, sweet Angela at 918.492.7140, or e-mail her.”

    go here to read more info and for some adorable pics!

    so friends, what shall i DO with my lobster? first, i’ll be celebrating the completion of a HUGE work project. it’ll be fitting to cook something so special. and second, there are likely many people like me reading this or tasha’s blog who are  scared to kill their own lobster (enter images of the annie hall lobster scene) but want the deliciousness. so share with me what recipes you love to make with lobster. or ones you’d like to try.

    starbucks’ via–instant gratification?

    Posted: October 4th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

    one hectic day this week i made a mad dash in to one of the city’s many starbucks locations to “reward” myself with a grande-non-fat-yum-yum-something-or-other but was held up by a large crowd huddling around the cash registers. new starbucks via samples. everyone wanted a taste. and everyone (including me) wanted the handful of goodies that went along with it.

    at this starbucks location you were offered a sample taste of the instant columbian or italian roast. of course, these tiny packs are meant for one 8 oz cup and the store had prepared a large canister full. i found my taste bitter and dirty. no thanks. didn’t event want a take home sample. and then—they offered me recipes. hooked!

    in addition to a sample of each flavor pack i got a recipe for Via Meringue Kisses, Via Grand Marnier Truffles, and Colombian Pecan Brownies. and after investigating the product on its (very informative and boastful “how Starbucks Via can change your life!”) web site i found a link to seemingly hundreds of other recipe ideas posted by Via “fans”—and probably more than a few by the marketing geniuses at starbucks. read more HERE. i saw everything from coffee flavored icings to steak rubs.

    of the recipe stash i was given, the easiest and most versatile was the Via Cappuccino Muffins. these would be great for breakfast, brunch or a snack to take to work. maybe a gift for a coffee loving friend? the recipe card says they freeze well, too.

    Prep time:- 15 mins

    Cook time:- 15 minutes

    Yields:- 12 muffins or 48 mini muffins

    Ingredients: 2C. flour; 1C. sugar; 2-1/2t. baking powder; 2 pkg.Via Instant Coffee; 1/2t. salt; 1t. cinnamon; 1/2t. nutmeg; 1-1/4C. milk; 1/2C. butter, melted; 1 egg; 1t. vanilla; 1C. semi-sweet chocolate mini chips

    Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin pan with papers or grease liberally. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, Instant via Coffee, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside. In a medium bowl, mix milk, melted butter, egg and vanilla until combined. Stir milk mixture into flour mixture only until combined. Do not over mix. Fold in chocolate chips. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake 15-20 minutes for standard muffins, 10-12 for mini-muffins.

    after trying a sample pack at home stirred into an 8 oz. cup of hot water i can vouch that the flavor was much better than the large thermos full they used for in store samples. plus the taste test goodies also included a $1 off coupon for a 3-pack of Via. i may buy some to try this recipe. as for buying it for actual coffee? no thanks. i pay big money for starbucks so i don’t have to make my own drink and to order things i wouldn’t make at home. 

    have you tried the new starbucks Via instant coffee? what did you think? would you cook with it?

    dinner for someone special

    Posted: September 29th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

    thank you bon appetit magazine! after about two or three issues of lackluster food offerings, the october issue was back with many tasty vittles. maybe i was just ready for fall. maybe i was looking for something unfussy and uncomplicated. this panko-crusted chicken with mustard maple pan sauce may SOUND complicated—but other than buying the chicken breasts and panko i had all the other ingredients around. it came together very quick. and in my opinion, there is nothing more comforting than some pan gravy slathered on whatever you’re enjoying.

    this recipe says it makes four servings but the hubs and i demolished it all. i think this would be the perfect entree to serve someone special and i’m glad the hubs got to try it first. he gave rave reviews. maybe you should serve it next time your in-laws are over, a friend is in from out of town, or for a birthday dinner. (i know it wasn’t the happiest, but i’m thinking about you on your birthday today, jesse. hugs!)


    • 2 8-ounce skinless boneless chicken breast halves, cut crosswise in half
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh Italian parsley (i used dried)
    • 2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
    • 1 cup panko (japanese breadcrumbs found in the asian food section of your store. you could sub bread crumbs, but it wouldn’t be as crunchy)
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 cup low-salt chicken broth
    • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup (i used normal pancake syrup)
    • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon coarse-grained mustard (i used spicy brown mustard)
    • 1 tablespoon chilled unsalted butter


    • Using meat mallet or rolling pin, pound chicken in resealable plastic bag to 1/3- to 1/2-inch thickness. Whisk egg, parsley, and 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard in large bowl. Place chicken in egg mixture; turn to coat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Dip each chicken piece in panko; turn to coat.
    • Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook until brown and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side.
    • Meanwhile, whisk broth, syrup, coarse-grained mustard, and remaining 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard in glass measuring cup.
    • Transfer chicken to plates. Add broth mixture to skillet; boil until reduced to 3/4 cup, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add butter; whisk until melted. Spoon sauce alongside chicken.

    the pan sauce it KILLER. be sure to let it reduce down for maximum flavors. it will compliment many sides, too. i served the chicken with sauteed spinach and pears sauteed with butter, agave and cinnamon. it would also be great with a baked or mashed sweet potato or homemade bread to sop up the sauce. i hope you make this for yourself or someone special very soon!

    the longest wait: from oven to plate

    Posted: September 23rd, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

    long lines. traffic. waiting to talk to a real person on the line. we do a lot of waiting. for me, the longest wait is for dinner to get ready while my husband (who arrives home an hour before me) patiently keeps busy waiting to eat.

    while i chop, dice and stir time flies by. but once something hits the stove or oven—it’s like waiting for paint to dry. tonight it was for meatloaf which called for a 90 minute cook time. ah!

    i rarely make the same version twice. this recipe from the october bon appetite magazine had two things going for it. 1) ground turkey. i LOVE to cook with it. 2) ingredients i’d never think to use in a meatloaf–namely mushrooms and chicken stock. it was DIVINE! even without the traditional ketchup glaze on top i love so. go HERE to get the recipe for this turkey meatloaf with mushrooms and herbs. so good i keep getting a forkful each time i walk past the stove and my husband cleaned his plate. he didn’t come from a “make a happy plate!” house, so this rarely happens. :)

    the magazine suggested serving it with mashed potatoes and glazed root vegetables. i had carrots so used their recipe of simmering water, a bit of butter, a pinch of salt and honey with the carrots for a sweet, tender side dish. and a great way to use up the mini carrots that came on a recent party veggie tray :)

    and of course THE MYSTERY SQUASH. i cut it open tonight and

    JUST like the inside of a spaghetti squash. i cut open my ACTUAL spaghetti squash to verify. still not sure why it got that hard green skin instead of the traditional pale yellow.

    too scared to try the green guy, i cooked up the spaghetti squash. have you tried one? read this article and TRY not to run out to buy one and give it a try.

    i took half the squash and put it in a microwaveable dish. put it in cut side up and fill about 1/3 with water. cover with plastic wrap and microwave about 12 minutes. the skin should have give to it (use a pot holder to poke it) and the skin should pierce easily. let it cool a bit a drag a fork through the skin. it makes perfect “noodles”

    and look, with NO topping it looks like buttery pasta. basically a blank canvas to season and spice any way you would noodles for a low cal, no fat side.

    i used the ’simple cheesy spaghetti squash’ recipe with parmesean cheese, butter, olive oil, salt and pepper. INSANE YUM. a bit less than healthy, but we gobbled it up. it was a great side with the sweet carrots and savory turkey meatloaf.

    what quick, easy meal was a success at your house this week? any worth the wait, long cook meals?

    the case of the mystery squash

    Posted: September 20th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 7 Comments »

    like a culinary nancy drew i’m trying to identify what squash / gourd i have here on the far left. any ideas?

    my sweet mommy brings me lots of veggies from her garden each time she visits and recently brought me a spaghetti squash (pale yellow, right) this green guy and some cute little watermelons. She also wasn’t sure what kind of squash it might be. she has an assortment but it didn’t look like any she planted.

    from my limited hard squash cooking / eating experience, i know it isn’t butternut, spaghetti or acorn squash. since squash are on display for eating and fall decorating now, i even dug through piles at the store to see if i could i.d. this one. nope. flipped through a veggie book. nope. looked online. nope. it’s shaped most like a spaghetti squash—sort of like a fat long football. but the skin isn’t smooth. it has a bit of a ridge to it. but not as deep as an acorn squash and certainly not squat like they are. the color isn’t like anything i looked up.

    could it be a really freaking fat zucchini?!?!

    so here’s the plan. i’m going to roast some root veggies later this week and try to figure out what this is by cutting it in half and roasting it along with them. thanks to the research i have a new found texture / taste education  on gourds. of course jack-o-lantern types are stringy and spaghetti squash has that cool noddle texture when scooped out but it seems most have a meaty, not stringy texture like a cross between a sweet potato and butternut squash. i can vouch for the acorn squash having this texture, too.

    in the meantime, if you have any ideas leave them for me here. i’ll be sure to report back.

    sass up canned soup

    Posted: September 16th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    thanks again to everyone who answered my call for help to jazz up an everyday can of soup and grilled cheese. i had a few things in the fridge but didn’t know where to start. your ideas were a big help!

    i too love mayo, briana, so for the sandwich, i took jennegui’s suggestion and used fresh basil to made a basil mayo and combined mozzarella and cheddar cheese. buttered the bread and pan fried. alas, no bacon. THIS time.

    for the soup, i started with a regular can of campbells tomato and made it with 1 percent milk. while it heated i sauteed about 2 tablespoons of white onion, one clove of garlic diced in a dab of butter. many of you said go for the tomatoes so in the microwave i heated the cup of roasted cherry tomatoes i had stashed in the fridge. in to the blender went the heated tomatoes, sauteed onion and garlic and about a tablespoon of olive oil. i added about one cup (half) of the heated soup to the blender. then i stirred that mixture in to the rest of the soup. DELISH! the flavors were much more sophisticated than the normal can. you could definitely make out the roasted cherry tomatoes and the onion/garlic added another nice layer. It also thickened up which i enjoyed a lot.

    in my head i wanted to give it like a french onion treatment so i added a toast crouton, sprinkled it with parmesan cheese and put it under the broiler. fearing the integrity of my target mug, i didn’t leave it long enough to brown. but the crispy parm stirred in to the soup (shout out alyssa!) and made for surprising cheesy bites.

    chubbins was still hungry after that feast so i made half a grilled cheddar cheese taking death_by_sharpie’s suggestion and put parm on the outside of the bread. i kind of mashed it in to the butter then pan fried and yes, it did have a great nutty flavor! this one would be great with rachel’s tomato addition.

    more kitchen dilemma soon, i’m sure :)

    grilled cheese add ons- good idea / bad idea?

    Posted: September 15th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

    the lazy chef (me) is making grilled cheese and canned soup tonight. why?

    1) i didn’t feel like going to the store this week.

    2) i LOVE grilled cheese.

    3) the hubs loves a can of chicken noodle. and to be honest, campbell’s tomato soup made with milk is pretty tasty in my book.

    i do like to add ingredients to my grilled cheese now and then. and there’s no crime in adding a bit of this or that to the canned soup either.

    i have about a cup of cherry tomatoes i roasted this weekend i’d like to use. maybe puree and stir in the soup? or melt in with the cheese? good idea / bad idea?

    how do YOU like to add pizzazz to your grilled cheese? ever stir veggies, cream or toppings in to canned soup? help a sister out!