Trying out recipes to pass on to you.

suggestions for you, and for ME

Posted: July 28th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

hi gang! long time no…type. but not long time no cook. i’ve been in the kitchen but it’s been a roller coaster of healthy rabbit food, then junk food, and finally back to cooking as usual. and i’ve been taking picts! coming soon the best dessert i’ve EVER made (so good we had it for breakfast the next day!) and one of the fanciest things i make–but way easy and super cheap.

until then, i have a few suggestions for you to try out before summer is gone. these have been a real hit at my house this month. (sorry, not my own picts)

first, a side we had last night with a healthy-fied version of philly cheese steak. Jamie Oliver’s roast potatoes with sage and orange.

at first i worried it would be too exotic and not “fried” enough for the hubs. but we didn’t miss the greasy “french” cousins at all. you roast diced potatoes (i used red) with whole garlic cloves, orange peel and sage in olive oil (i cut it back to 2 T). they come out crunchy brown and the sage and orange sizzle up nice crunching in your mouth. and who doesn’t like roasted garlic!? Check out the full recipe HERE

next, chili-corn custard squares. made them first for the hubs (we cleaned the pan between us) and second time for friends as an appetizer before seafood tacos. also, none left. and EASY! i wish it had fresh corn (calls for creamed corn) but the overall product is delish–good warm or room temp. maybe take to a picnic or pot luck. full recipe HERE.

and finally, tired of mojitos and margaritas this summer? me neither. but here is a fresh twist on summer favorites. it is so easy that i remembered it after hearing it once on the radio. watermelon margaritas!

trust me, i’m not even a watermelon lover. but these go down easy. too easy?! limit yourself to 1 or 2.

5 cups watermelon chunks, frozen (about half a 5 pound watermelon. toss cubes in a gallon ziplock and freeze at least 4-5 hrs)

1 cup silver tequila

1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice

1/4 cup sugar

combine all ingredients and blend until slushy. add ice if you like a thicker drink. garnish with a thin slice of watermelon or a lime wheel.

and now, suggestions from YOU. what have you been dying to make. too scared? failed before? what recipe would you like me to try out for you. i’m taking requests. you may see your suggestion in an upcoming blog.

i look forward to hearing from you!

more nibbles

Posted: July 13th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 4 Comments »

the hubs and i did many home improvements this weekend which means we ate a lot of pizza and drank a lot of beer. i’ll be de-bloating this week in anticipation of an upcoming baby shower. you know, the kind where you are excited to see everyone but wish you looked like you did the last time they saw you ten years ago? so this week will be baked chicken and fruit. and tanning lotion if i feel ambitious. know any secrets on getting michelle obama arms in five days?

some nibbles until i see you next time

i took a cue from smitten kitchen’s blog and topped my frozen california pizza kitchen pizza with yellow squash and zucchini plus red and black pepper.

David Lebovitz’s Guinness–Milk Chocolate Ice Cream via this was the first show down between me and my $20 wal-mart ice cream maker. it won. or i lost? both? it didn’t freeze. i used table salt instead of rock salt. operator error? cheap contraption? oh well. i let it freeze in a bowl and scooped it up just fine. tasted like the best fudgsicle. but with raspberries!

what was left of my death row meal. one of them. i’m up to three. i hope i don’t have to make a choice one day. anyway, this recipe was given to me as a wedding present. only one other person has it (cough, bday, cough, joh) so i can’t share it here. let’s just say you mix mascarpone cheese, cream cheese, spinach and a few others and mound it on top of salmon (i also used a piece of basa here for the hubs). on top of THAT a breadcrumb butter parm mixture and bake. i subbed panko and it was crusty delish.

sigh….and now….suffrage

dave lieberman’s creamy parmesan polenta

Posted: July 12th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | 2 Comments »

by request of Bakezilla (check our her fab blog), i’m happy to share with you the 99%** no fail Creamy Parmesan Polenta.

for some people it’s mac and cheese. for others it’s risotto. for me polenta is about as comforting comfort food as you can get and this recipe from Dave Lieberman’s Young and Hungry cookbook was the first i tried and the one i go back to.

if you grew up with hot cereals like grits, malt-o-meal or cream of wheat you get the consistency you’re going for. cheese grits is a common breakfast menu item in the south (maybe other regions) and even though the basic idea is always the same everyone prides themselves on their version and accompaniments. i encourage you to do the same.

For two hearty servings of parmesan polenta:

1/2 cup instant polenta (it’s ground cornmeal and cm can be subbed but i buy Roland brand usually near the italian foods like sauces, pasta, pine nuts, etc.)

1/3 cup grated parmesan

2 tablespoons butter

salt and pepper to taste

combine the polenta with 2 cups of water. bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. as the mixture starts to thicken, add the parmesan and butter. continue stirring until the polenta becomes fully cooked and thick, about 3-4 minutes. season with salt and pepper to taste.

serve immediately. once it cools it is chunky, not creamy. but you’ll want to eat it warm.

add more butter, more cheese, try another cheese, stir in herbs. would be good with shrimp. i often serve with steak in place of baked or mashed potatoes.


** the last time i made this polenta it tasted like soap. i used the same pan as always, same ingredients. added cheddar cheese. the consistency was perfect. i’ve come to think it might have been…..soap residue in the pan. bah!

pay more than $2 for steak, trust me

Posted: July 9th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments »

sometimes…recipes are silly. they look good on paper. but during the execution a step might make you stop and say “why?” like buying chives or parsley only to realize it’s just to sprinkle on the top….no real flavor purpose.

i wanted to add a beef to my ‘cheap week’ and all i had to buy here was the steak and a can of diced tomatoes. and doesn’t “Pan-Seared Steak with Pizzaiola” sound….fun? apparently the pizzaiola is a type of red “sauce” but i don’t get how it added to this dish at all. strike 1.

this recipe called for a rib-eye but i took a hint from Clean Eating Magazine and bought eye of round cuts. VERY lean and about 150 calories per 4 oz serving it said. problem is less fat means less flavor and less juicy. strike 2.

looks purdy like the mag pic, yeah? well tasted like a magazine page. in case of emergency i also made (normally no fail) cheesy polenta. kind of like cheesy grits. i made them the way i always do and….they tasted like soap!? i added salt. more pepper. another hunk of butter. grated some cheddar in the with parm already mixed in. soap. strike 3.

you wins some, you lose some. here is the LINKto the full recipe in case you think you can improve this somehow.

Hubs meter: he dutifully chewed. and CHEWED. he might still be chewing. let’s save the embarrassment of asking and give this a 1 star rating.

Price meter: this is mostly spices, garlic and olive oil. your cut of meat will make a difference. $4.29 got me 3 nice sized eye of round steaks. a can of name brand dice tomatoes was$1.35. divide that by 3= $1.88. of course you will need to add one heck of a side dish or dessert to make up for this mess.

Health meter: we’ll go with “good.” a lean cut of meat is going to give you vitamins and protein without all the fat and cholesterol. and we know tomatoes are a super food. the lack of taste here will send you to the cupboard for cookies later…so it’s a toss up.

So what did we learn this week:

A) it’s fun to try new things

B) planning a menu ahead of time saves money and frustration. we’re talking $19 for 2 people to eat 4 meals this week. and 1 trip to the store. keep your pantry and fridge stocked with some basics. an inspirational (or “duh!”) article HERE:

and C) go with the flow. sometimes you’ll have a hit. sometimes you’ll have a flop. and there’s always pizza delivery. that’s my recovery plan :)

$3.50 Creamy Lemon Pasta w/ Veggies

Posted: July 8th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

sometimes even Bon App gets it….not right. maybe cause i halved it? or maybe it just needed a little more jooj.

the Tagliatelle with Baby Vegetables and Lemon-Parmesan Sauce looked promising and was….just fine. i would have added chopped garlic and sauteed it with the veggies. but i like garlic in everything. maybe a hunk of butter? i squeezed more lemon juice on it.  it needed to be richer and have a bit more depth.

that being said…see if it looks good to you and what you might do different. full recipe HERE.

Ingredients (full makes 4, i made half)

  • enough for 2 servings egg fettuccine, $3.45 plus leftovers
  • tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil$free, gotsit
  • 1/2 medium white onion, halved, thinly sliced $.40
  • oz baby zucchini, trimmed, halved lengthwise(i used 1/2 a regular sliced thinish) $free from mom garden. maybe $.75?
  • oz frozen tiny green beans (1/2 to 1cup), thawed (hubs hates gb, i used green peas) $.99
  • teaspoons finely grated lemon peel $.59
  • 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese plus more for passing $free, had it! keep it around! but about $4.00)
  • 5 tablespoons cup heavy whipping cream $1.50
  • 1 1/4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice $(see peel)


  • Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender. Drain, reserving 2 cups cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot.
  • Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and zucchini; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until zucchini is almost tender, about 8 minutes. Add beans and lemon peel. Toss 1 minute.
  • Scrape contents of skillet over pasta in pot. Add 1 1/4 cups Parmesan cheese, cream, lemon juice, and 1 cup reserved cooking liquid. Place over medium-high heat and toss until heated through and sauce coats pasta, adding more reserved pasta liquid by 1/4 cupfuls to moisten as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve, passing additional cheese separately.

Hubs meter: he says 4 stars but he was starving. i wasn’t a fan. so we’ll give it 3. pasta scarfed. peas left in the bottom of the bowl.

Price meter:  about $3.50 per serving. maybe a bit more if you need to buy the parm. pasta = cheap good eats.

Health meter: cream and cheese and pasta? not great. but not terrible. high on fat. and needed even more to be stellar. Bon App says one serving contains the following: Calories 563. %Calories from Fat 43.7m, Fat (g) 27.4, Saturated Fat (g) 11.4. Cholesterol (mg) 104.8, Carbohydrates (g) 53.9, Dietary Fiber (g) 4.9, Total Sugars (g) 5.1, Net Carbs (g) 49.1, Protein (g) 26.6

and mine:

$2 Oven-Roasted Chicken w/Carrots and Yukon Gold Potatoes

Posted: July 7th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

I must say—this is more of a fall or cool weather dish than a summer dish. first, there is the substantial amount of oven time warming up your kitchen. there’s the root veggies. thyme and nutmeg. regardless, this is comfort food for shiz. it made the kitchen smell amazing. though i might lessen the amount of salt the other seasonings were spot on. the chicken thighs, something i don’t cook with ever, were juicy and the skin (thought i pulled mine off) was crispy. and the CARROTS! like candy when roasted.

the thighs are where you are saving your money here. a less popular cut of chicken than say, a boneless skinless breast or a leg.

follow the direction exactly. you can’t screw this up. i omitted chives. they were just for decoration. the full recipe for six is HERE. i halved it and there was plenty for two with leftovers for lunch. or later tonight…..

Oven-Roasted Chicken Thighs with Carrots and Yukon Gold Potatoes


1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, $free, gots it

3-4 large chicken thighs with skin and bones, $3.76 for pack of 4 thighs

1/2 tablespoon coarse kosher salt, $free

teaspoons dried thyme, $free (or cheap if you need to buy)

1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, $free

dash or two of ground nutmeg, $free (or cheap to buy)

pound unpeeled medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, cut into 2-inch-long, 1/2-inch-thick spears, $.99

1 pounds medium carrots, peeled, cut into 2-inch-long, 1/2-inch-thick spears, $1.19


  • Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat large rimmed baking sheet with 1 tablespoon oil. Place chicken on baking sheet. Turn to coat with oil and set skin side up. Mix salt, thyme, 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper, and nutmeg in small bowl. Sprinkle half of mixture over chicken. Roast until chicken starts to brown and some fat has rendered, about 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, combine potatoes, carrots, 2 tablespoons oil, and remaining salt-thyme mixture in large bowl. Transfer thighs to medium bowl; set aside. Transfer potato-carrot mixture to same baking sheet; turn to coat with drippings. Roast until vegetables soften, 30 minutes. Place thighs on vegetables; pour accumulated juices from chicken over. Return sheet to oven. Roast until chicken is cooked and vegetables brown, 15 minutes longer.

Hubs meter: 4 stars! he didn’t clear his plate but he had also just come inside from mowing. the score is bumped higher because of all the “this is really good, baby” and “mmmmm” i heard.

Price meter: $5.94 for about 3 servings so…less than $2 per serving! add maybe $1 or $2 if you need to buy dried spices.

Health meter: Bon Ap didn’t include the nutrition info so i’m estimating a bit. chicken thighs have a bad wrap for being higher in fat and calories. looking online fat and cals are all over the place. we’ll estimate about 180 cals per thigh and 10 grams fat. take off the skin for lower cholesterol and calories. the olive oil adds some good fat and cals. carrots and taters low! i’ll estimate 580+ a serving. worth it!


$4 Asian Noodle Salad with Shrimp

Posted: July 6th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments »

To recap, I was looking to skim a few bucks off the grocery bill this week but didn’t want to skim on delectability.

I went through my 2009 Bon Appetit stash and chose four meals that were affordable, healthy but also looked delicious. I also haven’t made any of them before. Here goes!

The full recipe serves four but I was only cooking for two. For the full recipe click HERE.

Asian Noodle Salad with Shrimp


1/2 of a package rice stick noodles (you could easily sub white or brown rice or even spaghetti) $free, i used leftover noodles

2 1/4 tablespoons fresh lime juice (1 small lime or 1/2 a medium) $ .25

1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce*(didn’t have it, subbed soy sauce and one minced anchovy fillet. you can leave out the fishy!) $free, subbed

teaspoons chili-garlic sauce**(didn’t have. subbed 1 minced garlic clove and a few shakes of tobasco) $free, subbed

teaspoons sugar $free, had

1/2 pound peeled deveined cooked medium shrimp $4.94 for 16 med shrimp

1/2 cup thinly sliced Japanese cucumbers or Persian cucumbers***(i used one from my mom’s garden. a cheap plain one is fine) $free, had

1/2 8-ounce package sugar snap peas $1.75 from the freezer section

1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced  $.69

1/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh mint leaves $free, had

1/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh cilantro leaves $.40


  • Cook noodles in large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain. Rinse with cold water; drain well. Using scissors, cut noodles into thirds.
  • Whisk lime juice, fish chili-garlic and sugar in small bowl until dissolves. Place shrimp in medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons dressing; toss to coat.
  • Divide noodles among bowls. Top with cucumber slices and all remaining ingredients. Spoon with dressing over, and drizzle with remaining dressing.

This was really tasty but I can envision 20 ways to change it up. Improvise on the sauce. Sub marinated tofu for the shrimp. Different veggies. Use what you have! I mentioned subbing rice for the noodles but why not go crazy and throw it all in a tortilla if that’s what you have around for east meets southwest!

Hubs meter: 4 stars being scraped the bowl and 1 star being mostly left to dump in the trash—this scored a 3 star rating. Only a few bites left in the bowl.

Price meter: Just over $4 per person (plus a bit of creativity) for a fresh and seasonal meal. May cost you another buck or two for the cucumber and mint. Keep things like soy sauce and brown rice around for all sorts of occasions like this.

Health meter: See for yourself. The fine folks at BA provided the rundown. One serving contains the following: Calories (kcal) 310.0, %Calories from Fat 3.1, Fat (g) 1.1, Saturated Fat (g) 0.3, Cholesterol (mg) 168.1, Carbohydrates (g) 49.9, Dietary Fiber (g) 4.5, Total Sugars (g) 5.4, Net Carbs (g) 45.5
Protein (g) 23.6

And my end result:

budget week

Posted: July 5th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | 1 Comment »

leftovers are my friend. they mean free lunch to take to work the next day. and while lunch at my desk means money in my pocket, it can lead to monotony and lack of social interaction be it a lunch out with co-workers or business done over a meal.

this week i made myself a pact–make lunch plans at LEAST twice this week. and i did! but the trade off was to be a bit more frugal in the grocery budget. i’m so happy with the results i plan to share it with you.

some guidelines i followed:

1- planed 4 meals (mon-thurs) for 2 people. fridays are for splurges.

2- had to be tasty! something i would make even not on a budget. we’re not talking corn bread and beans here (though i do love that combo). all four recipes i chose are from Bon Appetite 2009 issues. and by accident chicken, shrimp, beef and a non-meat item made the list. something for everyone!

3-had to be healthy. this may not be traditional “clean eating” but i’d say all the items are balenced with good veggie representation and lean proteins. for fun we’ll count the fat grams and calories.

4-i’m working with some basic pantry items that i didn’t have to buy and that i encourage you to keep.  olive oil, dried spices, and garlic come in to play often.

a sneak peak—thanks to some planning my grocery bill tonight for the week was $60! this never happens and i even got some more expensive items like almonds to snack on at work. for these meals you’re going to come WAY under that total.

check back for the tasty deals.

you can’t screw this up

Posted: July 3rd, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

“you can’t screw this up.” comforting, non? but often a lie. like co-workers who make fab three ingredient artichoke dip. yours taste like paste when you try it.  and bridal shower “family recipes” where they tell you what’s in this delicious dish but not how much.

listen. blackberries are amazing. and delicious. i was going to nibble these plain. cover with cream and a sprinkle of sugar. or sprinkle on top of a scoop of vanilla ice cream. end. no blog needed.

but SERIOUSLY. you can’t screw this up. in fact. i halved it.

i stumbled upon Ree at ‘the pioneer woman’ ’s blog and realized—MILK, SUGAR, FLOUR, BUTTER….yes please!

 preheat oven to 350F. butter a baking dish. whisk 1C self rising flour** and 1C sugar. whisk in 1C milk. melt 1 stick (1/2C) butter. add to batter. again i halved all this this turned out great. pour mixture into buttered baking dish. sprinkle 2C blackberries (i had one pint) on top of batter. try to sprinkle evenly. top with another sprinkle of sugar..a few tabespoons. bake for 1 hr. if halving check sooner.

i agree with her, everyone (especially in the south here) has their version of what a “cobbler” is. this IS NOT the cobbler i grew up with. more like a yum cake with fruit plopped in. but it is a perfect dessert to make when guests come over this summer. the in-laws. for a pot luck. DELISH!

Switch it up. Try fresh or canned peaches. blueberries. nectarines. heck, any canned fruit. i bet you could toss in some chocolate chips instead of fruit. gummy bears!? go crazy.  combine fruits. i’m thinking peach and blackberry for my next foray.


look at the purple gooshtasticness! do this soon!

**self-rising flour has some baking powder (?) or some other rising agent in it. you can’t sub plain flour or it won’t rise. so maybe you can screw it up :) i keep a small container of self-rising flour for such recipes.


Posted: July 2nd, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

busy this week but lot’s of yum was still had. here are some nibbles to get you through the holiday weekend. happy 4th of july!

refrigerator pickles, one of my lifelong summer faves. thick sliced cucumbers and onions in about a 2-1 vinegar and water solution. add some salt and let it chill out in the fridge. crunch!

best sunday snack! wheat crackers topped with creamy brie cheese and roasted red peppers. some grapes. an iced coffee. shaken, not stirred.

kudos to Clean Eating Magazine for inspiring my fruit “salsa” obsession. i’ve been topping everything from salads to meats with some version of this: chopped mango (here, could use ANY summery fruit), red peppers, green onion, corn, black beans, jalapeno, cilantro and a dash of olive oil. here on bibb lettuce with grilled fish and steamed edamame.

july 044
bored, hungry and cleaning out the fridge. stuffed left over jalapeno and red pepper with brie and pesto then broiled. wanted to grill but ran out of propane.

wanted to make calamari. couldn’t find any at the store. had pickles and panko. fried pickles cured my grease craving.

accidental BOSS potato salad. red potatoes diced and boiled. cool then add a spash of white wine vinegar, a squeeze of spicy mustard, dash each of salt, pepper, dried dill, celery seeds, chopped green onion, pickle and scoop of light mayo. didn’t measure. will NEVER be able to recreate!

my kitten-boo kickin it. eating so good is hard work.