Trying out recipes to pass on to you.

mac n cheese for….50?

Posted: September 10th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | 4 Comments »


I’m a recipe girl, so I hit up my favorite foodie web sites when I have a hankering for something new. I stumbled upon this Ina Garten adult looking mac n cheese recipe and decided to give it a try. It had PAGES of positive reviews and it was miles away from the blue box we so often use at our house.

The cheese is a bit pricey but so worth it! This is creamy perfection with a crunchy top. I left off the tomatoes which weren’t missed. This is the second “homemade” mac n cheese I’ve tried (the other was Martha’s famous recipe) but this one is the one I’ll go back to again. May try new cheeses or add bacon or pancetta, maybe sauteed onion or shallot to the batch (we sprinkled bacon on top of half the pan).

Warning! It makes a TON. The hubs and I ate on it for three days before giving up and only dented half the pan. Take this to a pot luck, introduce it at a family holiday or half it for a smaller group.


  • Kosher salt
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi
  • 1 quart milk
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 12 ounces Gruyere, grated (4 cups)
  • 8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 pound fresh tomatoes (4 small)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish. (I used a 13×9 cake pan)

Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

the bean remedy

Posted: September 7th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Thank you to Joh’s dad who sent two GREAT northern versions of baked beans and stove top beans. Also to my grandmother who emailed me a version of red beans and rice.

I ended up going with what I had in the fridge and combined a few recommendations.

1/2 lb dried pinto beans

I did the quick boil method rather than letting them sit overnight. Go through the beans for any rocks then rinse. Cover with 2-3 cups warm water and boil 2-3 minutes then let rest at least one hour in the hot water. Drain and cook as normal. (Joh’s dad suggested using the soak water)

I cut up two slices of bacon and cooked them in a pan. On top of the bacon and grease I added the beans, 3-4 cups of warm water and let cook 45 mins on medium heat.

Then I added half a large onion diced, 1/2 a bunch of green onion diced, 1/2 a large green pepper diced, 2 garlic cloves minced, 1/4 tsp red pepper, 1/4 tsp oregano, several good cranks of black pepper, a few dashes Tabasco sauce, 1 Tblsp Worcestershire sauce and a pinch of salt. I stirred and let that cook another 45 minutes checking periodically and adding 1/2 cup water heer and there to keep the beans covered.

The texture was great and the flavor had MUCH more depth than my normal dried herb routine. I crumbled cornbread on top, a few shakes of Tabasco and some of my mom’s homemade relish. Ahhh….heartwarming. Just what I wanted.

The hubs liked the flavor but didn’t try a bowl. He instead had his third helping of man n cheese for the weekend (recipe coming soon).

Next time I’ll try Joh’sdad’s suggestion and add maple and brown sugar for more of a baked bean / bbq  flavor. Or smoked sausage, tomatoes and serve it over rice like like grandma suggested.

Cooler weather is coming soon. Keep your eyes peeled for YOUR new favorite way to make a savory bowl of beans.

WANTED: stovetop bean recipes

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

Fall is on a lot of minds here. Not only has it been unseasonably cool for late August and now early September, but this week has been rainy to boot. Not to mention college football starts this weekend. All these factors call for a big pot of something warm.

I recently made the death row meal soup I love so. But thanks to Smitten Kitten’s cornbread salad post I want to make the recipe I have from my mom for cornbread salad which calls for a pan of jalapeno cornbread and a pan of regular cornbread tossed with red peppers, celery, green onion and plenty of mayo. It’s a great picnic or cook-out side dish but makes a lot. I’m thinking of halving it and using the rest of the cornbread to serve with a warm pot of beans this weekend. It’s lazy Sunday kind of food.

My husband hasn’t ever bought in to the beans and cornbread club. Honestly, I don’t have a recipe. I rinse and cook pinto or mixed dried beans all day and season sporadically with whatever. Bay leaf, salt and pepper, cumin, paprika, onion or garlic powder. But never the same twice. Can you help me convert him?

Do you have a recipe for slow simmered beans you love to use? I’m dying for a bowl with crumbled corn bread, a few shakes of Tabasco and chow chow relish. Mmm…..

brussels sprouts: no, you aren’t in trouble

Posted: August 31st, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | 7 Comments »

The weekend was ridiculously mild for the end of August making Saturday’s farmers market visit particularly lovely. Not only did the hubs come with me (!!!) but fall-ish produce items are starting to pop up. Early apples, butternut squash, and this week I saw brussels sprouts. I bought some potatoes, bread from Farrell Family as well as some of their amazing black olive tapenade. And of course, some brussels sprouts!

 I know, I know…sounds like something you have to eat when mom is mad at you. But I love these little guys. Not only are they nutrient BOMBS (huge amounts of vitamin C, folate, fiber and very low in calories and fat) they are a nice change in my opinion to the spinach or broccoli side veggie rut we can sometimes get stuck in. I tend to roast mine with a dab of olive oil, salt and pepper in the oven. They get fork tender but still taste “green.” Some of the leaves will fall off and crisp up almost like little chips. Delish! If you want to try this version, Ina Garten has a good recipe HERE.

What about you? Do you cook brussels sprouts or are they just a punishment? I’ve heard of some versions sauteed with bacon or pancetta that sound amazing. Could they be added to pasta? This week I’ll be sneaking them in along side chicken fried steak and gravy in place of the typical mashed potatoes. I figure if the hubs doesn’t like them, he can dip them in the gravy!

What veggie sides are a hit at your house? How do you shake up the broccoli / salad routine?

impressive pasta soup OR death row meal: 2, of 3

Posted: August 27th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 7 Comments »

As mentioned in previous blogs, I have a few “death row meals”—or, if I had to pick one thing to eat for the rest of my life this is what it would be. Well, one of them.

This was a soup a woman used to bring to church pot lucks. It always seemed more sophisticated than the finger sandwiches or take out chicken other people brought. And yet when she passed the recipe around it looked so simple! I’m glad mom let me lift this one when I moved out on my own!

It makes a large pot, probably 6-8 large bowls, and fills the house with the most comforting aroma. People pace the kitchen waiting to dig in. It’s also one of those dishes where the flavors get even deeper and more delicious the second day. You can also make it start to finish—including simmering—in 30 minutes. One warning—the pasta will absorb a lot of the liquid overnight. I recommend reheating on the stove and adding an additional one to two cups of chicken stock.

 Pasta Fagiole Soup


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 package smoked sausage, slice ¼ thick pieces (like hillshire farms, I prefer turkey)

1 onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon dried oregano

1 can black beans, rinsed

1 can diced tomatoes

½ cup red wine (not cooking wine. Adds depth but chicken stock can be subbed)

3 cups chicken stock

2 cups bow tie pasta, uncooked


Boil pasta according to package directions. Cook al dente. Drain and set aside.

 In a large stock pot, cook diced carrot in olive oil. Allow to soften slightly. Add diced celery and onions. Sauté until transparent.

 Add slices of sausage. Stir and let brown. Add remaining ingredients and cooked pasta. Use salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 20 minutes.

 TRY not to eat two bowls.

 So I told you mine. What would YOU choose as YOUR last meal?

“just one more bite” chocolate sheet cake

Posted: August 23rd, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 3 Comments »

you can always tell a tasty cake, pie, or other pan of tasty treat is REALLY good when the “cut line” is all uneven. do you know what i mean? where someone hasn’t taken the time to cut a proper slice, piece or serving. They came by with a knife “just to straighten up the edge” as we used to say at my house. someone else comes by for “just one more bite.” at some point, even though no one has served themselves a proper plate of cake, only crumbs are left.

that is this cake. the pioneer woman’s chocolate sheet caketo be exact. if you like to bake cakes from scratch you’ll enjoy this. it isn’t light and fluffy like the box cake mixes. it’s a bit denser and you cook it thin in a jelly roll pan then slather it with earth shattering chocolate icing stirring in pecans for a crunch.

sometimes the pioneer woman has too many pictures (though lovely) and therefor steps for my liking. SO many people have made this cake and blogged about it, i was able to cruise around the internet and find consise directions, this lineup courtsey of yum sugar. here goes:

Pioneer Woman Chocolate Sheet Cake

For cake:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 beaten eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

For icing:
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1 3/4 sticks butter
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa
6 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 lb minus 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Combine in a mixing bowl:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a saucepan, melt:
2 sticks butter
Add 4 heaping tablespoons cocoa. Stir together.
Add 1 cup boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool.

In measuring cup, pour 1/2 cup buttermilk.
2 beaten eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Pour into sheet cake or jelly roll pan (about 1/2 in deep, not a thick cake pan) and bake at 350-degrees for 20 minutes. (i forgot to set a timer but this sounds right)
While cake is baking, make icing:
Chop 1/2 cup pecans finely.
Melt 1 3/4 sticks butter in a saucepan.
Add 4 heaping tablespoons cocoa, stir to combine, then turn off heat.
6 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 lb minus 1/2 cup powdered sugar
Stir together.
Add pecans, stir together, and pour over warm cake. 

let the icing set up and harden slightly. it’s worth the wait, promise!

this makes A LOT and would be perfect to take to a family reunion, make for a super bowl party or cook out or for a non-traditional birthday cake for your favorite choco-holic!

special props to my sous-chef and bff, jennegui. here’s to many more cook-overs. :)

a lot of dough – pizza and pie in one night

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

 i start thinking about what i want to cook on saturday about wednesday. silly, i know, especially since i cook most nights. but week nights are like survival. i plan meals for monday through thursday on sunday, do the shopping, and alternate quick meals with slightly more difficult depending on my after work activities (gym, meetings, drinks with the girls). these weeknight meals are healthy, don’t get me wrong–and i hope tasty–but rarely what i would call inspired. that’s what saturdays are for.

i’ve been wanting to try grilled pizzas for a while. recipes start popping up in summer cooking magazines and sprinkled in online blog posts. won’t the dough fall through the grill grates!? do i top the pizza before or after i grill the dough!? can i even make dough–i’m not such a good measurer / baker. the answer to all these questions are: you can’t screw this up! don’t you love hearing that? unless you burn something and then…time to call the delivery guy.

i decided to use a martha stewart pizza dough recipe which you can find HERE. two packets active dry yeast, some warm water, all purpose flour, salt and olive oil and you’re in the pizza makin’ business. you do need an hour to let it rise, but this dough was GORGEOUS! and you blend it up in a food processor—how easy is that?

the dough makes enough for four good sized pizzas–really one person could be satisfied with one and maybe a salad so this could be fun when guests come over. i chose to top one of mine with chicken jalapeno sausage and roasted red peppers. the second with cherry tomatoes (above) and basil. the hubs asked for pepperoni and all pizzas had mozzarella cheese and jarred red pasta sauce. i made the dough, you want em to make the sauce, too!? hee!

set your grill to medium heat. roll out one of the balls of dough to the desired thickness and place on a baking sheet covered with some olive oil or cooking spray. with a metal tuner (maybe you have one for grilling) slid the dough oily side down on to the grill. it wont fall through!

let dough grill three to five minutes and check for desired doneness. then flip. here’s the tricky part. you need to assemble your ingredients and take them with you outside. top the now grilled side with sauce, cheese, and toppings. shut the lid and let cheese melt and toppings begin to bubble–another five minutes. alternatively you can grill both sides of your dough ahead of time. top and grill right before serving. i liked the stress of doing it all outside :) finished product:

the hubs LOVED these and he is usually a thick crust type. this crust is crispy but not too thin and lets the toppings shine through. i’ll be doing this, oh, every week until summer ends :)

but i couldn’t stop there. i wanted THIS peach pie from the august bon appetit. it called for a top crust where you would cut out shapes from the dough and layer them giving the pie a rustic look. this dough was easy and delish! i ate a good portion of it raw :) again, it comes together in the food processor. follow directions–easy peasy. needs to chill about an hour then you cut out the shapes layering them over the pie filling. i don’t own cookie cutters so a jelly lid was substituted.

rather than peel and slice two pounds of peaches i used two cans of peaches. blasphemous during summer…i know. but the way the kitchen will smell and the way the pie will taste won’t be effected one bit. i also have no clue what cardamom is and couldn’t find it in the spice aisle so i subbed apple pie spice–nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon. and voila!

i think i’ll have some for breakfast with coffee. happy weekend! and start planning now for the deliciousness you’ll whip up next weekend!

PS: rather than pie for breakfast, i was inspired by this david lebovitz blog post for herbed ricotta tart and decide to make quick mini quiche with the left over pie dough i saved. it was enough to make about six in a muffin tin. 2 eggs, a splash of half and half, a heaping tablespoon of ricotta cheese, two diced green onions, 2 diced slices crispy bacon, a few shakes of shredded parmesan and pepper. baked 12ish minutes. puffy and flaky and a delish brunch with a salad on the patio and my new giant issue of Elle magazine!

steak salad chicks or dudes will love

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

Craving a little red meat but don’t feel like serving up a big t-bone? Try this leaner cut and serve it on greens with a delish vinaigrette.

This recipe from Clean Eating magazine was a big hit with the hubs and at just 250-ish calories a serving I justified the fat (10ish, but low saturated fat) by all the vitamins and the delish flavor.

**NOT my pic. But you get the idea.


Lean steak salad with spinach, red onion, shredded carrots and edamame

serves 2

cooking spray
1 1/2 tsp red or white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt, divided
1/4 tsp pepper, divided
2 1/2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
6 oz boneless top sirloin steak
6 cups lightly packed baby spinach
1/2 small carrot, shredded
1/4 cup shelled edamame (thawed if frozen)
2 tsp red onion, thinly sliced

ONE: Preheat broiler, coat cooking sheet or pan with cooking spray and arrange pan about 4 inches from top of oven.

TWO: In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, garlic, mustard, 1/8 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. Slowly whisk in oil. Set dressing aside/

THREE: Sprinkle steak with remaining salt and pepper. Place steak on pan and cook 4 minutes per side for medium rare or 6 minutes per side for medium; set aside to rest 5 minutes.

FOUR: Meanwhile, toss spinach, carrot, edamame and onion with 1/2 dressing; divide salad to two plates.

FIVE: Slice steak across the grain into the slices; divide steak among two plates of salad. Drizzle remaining dressing and serve.

your new fancy snack

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

I wanted to see “Julie & Julia” on opening night—and honestly, alone. Most movies I don’t mind seeing with friends. Movies I know I might geek out at…not so much. I also knew I wanted to sneak in some sort of snack. So as a little tribute to Julia I planned to make gougeres  after work to take with me. Also known in my house as “cheesy poofs.”

It’s no boeuf bourguignon, but choux pastry is French. And you’ve had it before if you’ve had an éclair or a cream puff. But when you add something like cheese and make them bite sized–voila! A cheesy puff! Hee!

This recipe comes from my Williams-Sonoma “Bride & Groom Cookbook.”

You will need a medium saucepan, baking sheets, a box grater, parchment paper and a wooden spoon. So far so easy, right?


 For ingredients you’ll need:

½ cup water

3 Tbsp butter (I use unsalted)

¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp flour

1 1/3 cups grated Gruyere cheese (other hard cheeses like parm can be substituted but this one has a nice salty nuttiness too it and melts well. I subbed cheddar once and it was a failure. I can find Gruyere at my local grocery story in Oklahoma so I bet you can, too)

¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper (adds a nice mild curious kick)

½ tsp salt

Preheat the oven to bake and 375 degrees F and line baking sheets with parchment paper. I was out and used foil with no major problem.

Combine the butter and ½ cup water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the flour all at once, quickly stirring with a wooden spoon until batter is glossy and smooth and pulls away from the sides of the saucepan. The dough will form a ball around the spoon.

 Remove from the heat and add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition until thoroughly incorporated. I recommend the eggs be room temp or they start to chunk up like mine did. It isn’t the end of the world, but not preferable.

Stir in cheese, cayenne, and salt.

Use 2 spoons or a pastry bag without the tip to form 1-inch balls on the baking sheet.  

Bake until balls double in size and turn golden brown and knife inserted comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly or completely before serving. (fun story, I had my oven set to broil and miraculously they didn’t ruin. They were done in about 18 minutes though. Follow directions!)

These are delicious the next day, too! Just zap them for 12 seconds in the microwave or a few minutes in the toaster oven.

Feeling fabulous? Cut these in half and add a bit of a filling—maybe a dollop of veggie cream cheese and a slice of ham? Crab or chicken salad? Stick a cute toothpick through and you have a nice out of the box offering at your next party (though they are DELISH alone and with everything from beer to sparkling wine to orange juice.)

THE squash blossom post

Posted: August 2nd, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments »

I don’t know if I read about it in a magazine or why squash blossoms suddenly got stuck in my head. I’ve only had them once, fried—at an Asian restaurant. Timely—as long as squash is in season the blossoms are around.  A sweet friend has been getting up early to pick a few each day for me in her garden. The blooms open in the morning and stay that way when picked making them easier to stuff.


Since I needed several in case of a major screw up I had to buy more at the farmers market. Unfortunately, most were closed. Still pretty right? I’m going to slice them up and stir them in to a carbonara Monday night.


From what I’ve read, squash blossoms show up in Mexican, French and Italian dishes and have just a mild flavor of—garden. You know…like a good tomato tastes like garden. Earthy. It’s really just a delivery devise for the yum you stuff them with. Think “lettuce wrap.” This recipe has a southwest twist courtesy of Bobby Flay.

Crispy Squash Blossoms Filled with Pulled Pork and Ricotta


  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese

Braised Pork, recipe follows (full recipe HERE)

Salt and pepper

15-20 squash blossoms

Canola oil or peanut oil, for frying

Rice Batter, recipe follows

Black Pepper Vinaigrette, recipe follows


Clean squash blossoms by carefully opening up the petals and removing the stamen, then removing the sharp leaves attached to the petals. Swish them gently in a bowl of water to remove any pollen, dirt or critters inside.

Place the ricotta in a strainer lined with cheesecloth over a bowl and let drain in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Discard liquid. (not sure about this step. Mine didn’t give off any liquid)

Combine the strained ricotta and shredded pork in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. I made shredded pork tacos to serve with these so instead I stirred in some left over ground beef chorizo—maybe 1/3 cup. I pan fried it and drained the grease. I figured it would still have a similar effect. I think I needed more. I ended up adding a few dashes each of cumin, onion powder and chili powder.

Fill each squash blossom with the cheese mixture and twist the top of the blossom to secure the filling while frying.

Fill a large, heavy saucepan halfway with oil and heat on the stove until the temperature reaches 360 degrees F.

Dredge each filled squash blossom in the rice batter to coat completely.


Fry the squash blossoms in batches until lightly golden brown, turning once. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

Drizzle some of the black pepper vinaigrette in the center of a serving plate and place 2 squash blossoms on top for each serving. Serve hot.

Let’s be straight—these were TIME CONSUMING. I think my guests who got to try them were hesitant at first but brave sports. We ended up eating all but four or five. I thought the taste overall was good—a nice fried snack. And the vinaigrette was tasty. Looking forward to topping salads with it this week.  For something that isn’t a main meal I can’t see taking the time to make the braised pork. More chorizo or experimenting with other flavors like seasoned rice, salsa or other cheeses mixed with the ricotta might be good. If this sounds even slightly appetizing to you and you have access to some blossoms look up other recipes until you find the right one for you. I may try this once more before the squash season is over—next time with Italian flavors.

 My sous-chef says, “Buy local. Take naps.”



Braised Pork:

1 (2-pound) pork butt, cut into 2-inch cubes

2 cups your favorite BBQ sauce

2 cups rice vinegar

1 large red onion, coarsely chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Place pork cubes in a medium roasting pan. Stir together the BBQ sauce, vinegar, and onion and then pour mixture over the pork and season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan with foil and cook in the oven for 3 1/2 to 4 hours or until the meat is fork tender. Let cool in the braising liquid, then drain the liquid from the meat and shred the meat into bite-sized pieces.

Rice Batter:

2 cups cold water

2 cups rice flour


Whisk together water and flour until smooth and season with salt. Let sit 10 minutes before using.

Black Pepper Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup rice vinegar

1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

2 teaspoons honey

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Combine vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and honey in a blender. With the machine running, slowly add the oil until emulsified.