Trying out recipes to pass on to you.

the easiest hard thing you’ll ever make

Posted: June 29th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 3 Comments »

we all have “those dishes” in our head that we say we’ll never make. too hard. too messy. too expensive. i decided just that the first time i had summer rolls at a vietnamese restaurant. the translucent wraps were far too delicate for my mitts to manage. and the layers of herbs and perfectly cooked chicken–all cool yet crunchy in the chewy rice wrap. but who has the time!?

in a moment of bravado a few months later i took a stab at it. and it went great! though there are traditionally many ingredients–rice wrap, rice noodles, various herbs and crisp veggies–you can pick and choose to your liking or availability. mint and basil are so cheap and fragrant at the farmers market lately that i got the hankering again and recreated them this weekend.

google spring or summer rolls. you want them to be uncooked, not fried like an egg roll. i used this one from

you need a bit of space and an assembly line for efficiency.  you can see my notes to myself. there were TEN ingredients! and even with the sticky notes i don’t think any two rolls were alike. (the 2 lychee martinis may not have helped).

take your time. the rice paper wraps are fragile but more forgiving than you’d think. i added hot peppers to half for me. more shrimp on the ones for the hubs (who LOVES these). makes 8. plenty for a meal for two or snacks for 4-6. this time i also made my own peanut sauce. there is a good one at the bottom of the recipe i don’t know what hoisin sauce is let alone own it. a quick google and i subbed 1 tablespoon maple syrup. I also added a few extra shakes of soy sauce. i subbed 1 teaspoon of tomato paste and a few shakes of tabasco for the chili-garlic paste. DELISH.

what difficult dish are you wanting to try to re-create next?

oh, and if you want a lychee martini for your own you need vodka and a can of lychees (asian fruit, like a sweet weird giant grape you can find in with the other canned fruit). equal parts vodka and lychee juice from the can. shake with ice and strain in to a martini class. the lychee isn’t cute but works as a garnish–and a snack after you down the deliciousness. cheers!

the barter is back

Posted: June 27th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments »

it seems like every other person i talk to has some form of garden this year. so do i—it consists of a thriving mint plant, a wispy chive plant, dead parsley and stunted rosemary. brown thumb=me.

now that oklahoma is getting a real surge of heat, the summer veggies are out of control and everyone is complaining (though secretly proud) about having too much produce. more squash than they can eat. tomatoes, though still green, fat and heavy on the vine. lettuce! radishes! onions! peppers!

insert– me. <<waves hand>> “can i help you with that problem of yours?”

someone took me up on my offer to trade baked goods for bounty. the lovely b. shep and her husband gave me all kinds of goodies and in return i made them the lemon cheesecake bars i’ve been eyeing in this month’s bon appetite. and you should, too! only minimal baking so the kitchen won’t get too warm. ingredients you likely have in your fridge right now. and if not, cheap to get. these will be a hit at your summer party. or for a midnight snack apparently as shown in the evidence i found in the fridge this morning. tsk tsk. glad there was extra and that the hubs enjoyed.

link to the recipe:

i doubled the recipe, baked in a 9×13 pan and topped with blueberries and mint from my own “garden.”

b. shep also made me this lovely gift with a “knives” theme–a shout out to our culinary gang! she makes tons of creative switch plates like this one and lovely jewelry to boot. check her blog here:
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keep it simple

Posted: June 27th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

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sometimes something as simple as a toasted croissant, perfect on it’s own, can be elevated by a few things in the fridge.

here, a fried egg, a few slices of bacon and melty colby jack cheese made the perfect–and quick— “i’m starving now!” brunch.

random can of pineapple and blueberries became an impromptu fruit salad. wish i had 4 more.

what’s your favorite quick fix breakfast?

the two hour sandwich

Posted: June 19th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

I had a few plans for today. They did not include inventing a sandwich.

But I did. It is fantastic. And it should retail for $7. $12 if you include the love, heart and soul that went in to it. And it all started with a yellow pepper.

Can’t remember the last time I bought a yellow pepper. But as I held it in my hand in the produce aisle my gaze next locked on a yellow tomato. I recalled yellow squash at home. The sandwich was born. It took two hours of cultivation…worth every second.

First I roasted the yellow pepper and tomatoes. I roast red peppers often and snack on them. You should, too.  Set the oven to broil and 400 degrees. Stab it a few times with a knife, rub some olive oil on it and pop it in the oven. Tomatoes roasted are a real treat. I usually do it to get rid of cherry tomatoes. Slice, sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Traditionally I would do these at a lower temp, about 300-350 and for 2 hours or so. But there was a sandwich to make. So high heat, about 45 minutes.








Meanwhile, I sliced up the yellow squash and a white onion. I thought the onion crunch would be a good addition to all that yellow. Salt, pepper and olive on both then grilled. Squash gets sweet and almost buttery when grilled—a great way to try it if you think you don’t like it. The onions soften up just a bit and get a nice char and caramelized flavor.

 My kitchen helper:

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I had chosen a white sandwich roll at the store and in hindsight wish I had grabbed a sub roll because I’ve named the sandwich…drumroll…the Yellow Submarine. I know. I’m clever.

I knew this sandwich would have mayo but it needed a bump. I thought about basil or rosemary but I wasn’t feeling herbs. I remembered a chili in adobo sauce I had frozen (I don’t throw away anything!) mixed about 1 tablespoon with 2 tablespoons mayo and smeared on bread. Look at the lovely red! Zingy, not spicy.







I had made bacon for the hubs and added two slices for crunch and saltiness. On top, I piled the roasted yellow pepper and yellow tomato slices.







Next, the grilled onions and yellow squash







And for good measure (and more yellow) melted marbled Colby and Monterey jack cheese.









And the finished product.







It was genius! In every bite I could taste every delicious ingredient. The cool mayo with smoky and spicy chilies, the charred but sweet yellow pepper and squash, the caramelized flavor of the grilled onions and roasted yellow tomatoes, crunchy, salty bacon—and I could have taken or left the cheese. Just the kind of sandwich I’d pay big bucks for at a restaurant—and I came up with it! <pats back, wipes face>

you lose some….you lose some

Posted: June 18th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments »

oh, friends….you picked a bad week for me to start blogging. rather, i picked a suck menu to stick with and start blogging.

another night, another Clean Eating magazine menu. lentil brown rice cakes & southwestern salad.

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oh no! that isn’t mine. mine went something like this

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yes, when in doubt smother it in dressing! (lesson 2?)

first problem- EVERYTHING called for cilantro…mine went limp and gooey about two days after purchasing it fresh at the farmers market. and the thing about cilantro is….there’s not really a good substitute. the “cilantro cream” to top the cakes were saved by my little chive plant. low-fat greek yogurt, chives, lime juice salt and pepper. it tasted like…yogurt. a dash of cumin helped out.

the goop on the salad? “creamy avocado dressing.” 1/2 an avocado low-fat yogurt, lime zest, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, honey and dijon mustard. it tasted like….yogurt. my avocado was over rip and the zest was overbearing. badness everywhere.

did i mention i was halfing the recipe….another possible fail theme. i KNEW hubs wouldn’t go for this beast. in 10 minutes i made him a pan fried chicken breast and wheat spaghetti dressed with butter, salt, garlic powder and olive oil. no veggies. i shivered a bit and felt like a failed wife. but only for about 17 seconds. after all i was jacking up bean cakes.

FORTY-FIVE minutes later after the lentils and rice had cooked and cooled they were mixed together with minced garlic, oregano, chopped onion, egg whites (come ON!) s&p and a bit of wheat flour. this, said the mag, would combine together to form pattys. LIE. a bit of cooking spray in the pan would “cook them until slightly brown.” LIE. I sprinkeld more flour over them, added olive oil to the pan and let the suckers fry. the result:

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first bite- not bad. second bite- no, this is  bad. third bite- get in my belly, it’s been over an hour of battling you lentils!

oh! and the salad….exactly. forgetable. the dressing was terrible over greans, red pepper, tomatoes and green onion.

i don’t want you to think Clean Living mag is bad…it’s this “cheap” menu. i see other dishes that look much tastier that i will try…later. dinner out thursday and with friends friday. a business banquet saturday. so i’m done. piles of dirty dishes to prove it.

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i promise to shake up the menu soon. back to the things i love the most (BUTTER! STEAK! DESSERTS!) mixed with some healthy stuff.

hunger makes it go down easier

Posted: June 16th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

oy! tonight was the second in a series of ‘clean’ dinners this week. i’m actually eating clean the majority of the day. by clean i mean avoiding preservatives, fake sugars, and “stuff in my stuff.” i can see each ingredient i eat when i plan better and it’s pretty rewarding. i feel better.

but i’m not the only one eating at my house….the poor hubs gets to join my little food journeys. this week i’m trying “Five Family Dinners for $10 a day” from the July/Aug Clean Eating Magazine. as you will learn, i’m not so much the improviser. i like a good recipe and a good chance to screw it up or make it happen. tonight…was fine. not my fault. the recipe was, er, clean, and tasted it.

dinner was turkey meatloaf with turnip-cauliflower mash. full disclosure: i’ve never eaten a turnip. i’ve also never mashed cauliflower. and anything “mashed” here in the south should involve lots of butter and cream…clean we are not by tradition.

the results? yeah, looks pretty healthy. ha!

the meatloaf was lean ground turkey, diced onion, oatmeal, grated carrots, egg whites, dried italian seasoning and cayenne. i’m not even posting the amount because i won’t remake this. very moist (surprising!) but no flavor save the onion and random nibble of italian spice. i would have added some worcestershire, salt and pepper and maybe at least one whole egg. turkey simply can not replace beef. but it is healthier.

the mashed turnip-cauliflower: double oy. not the worst ever and i’d like to try to refine it. packed with vitamins and fiber, these are a worthy side dish. steam 1 head chopped cauliflower and 2 medium diced turnips until soft. (alternatively boil turnips while cauliflower is steaming). mash together with 2 tsp olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. this recipe called for minced fresh basil but i found it odd when i was trying to imagine buttery mashed potatoes. it just wasn’t coming together. i added a splash of low fat milk and a pad of butter then blended with a hand mixture. the texture improved but still not ideal–chunks of cauliflower remained. added a pad of butter. a splash of cream. a tablespoon of greek yogurt. MIX. smoother still but no mashed potato impersonator. so now i have an almost unhealthy side…tasting better…a true foodie might have put the goop in a blender or through a food mill. but this gal was hungry!

lucky so was hubs! he ate it all up!

secret of the day…starve your dinner guests. they’ll eat whatever you slop in front of them.

clean out your fridge

Posted: June 16th, 2009 | Author: leah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

i love to cook. surprised? i love looking at beauty shots of food in magazines and cookbooks hoping i can recreate some semblance of what i see. but other than taking a stab at secret family recipes my favorite culinary challenge is making a meal out of crap left in my fridge. or tonight–the freezer. it’s like “found art” but tastier. allow me to go duchamp on your asses.

i’ve been saving the woody stems of asparagus (the part you normally snap off) in the freezer for months. ideally to make an asparagus soup. i wanted a veg for dinner and this seemed like an option–puree it. i sauteed green onion (lonely in the fridge) and garlic in a tab of butter. added about 16 asparagus stems and cooked until soft. added veggie stock. heated through then pureed in the blender until smooth. it was fine….needed a little something. a bit of salt and pepper…and then UMAMI enlightenment! i recalled a small container of anchovies left from some recipe. i added two fillets and blended it with the asparagus. it added just the umph it needed. and watching hubs scrape the last drop from the bowl–priceless!

i had 1 and 1/2 pork cutlets left over from a taco recipe. add one stray vegan burger and we had our protein. seasoned with a smidgen of salt, pepper, dried thyme and rosemary from the patio pot. pan fried with a bit of olive oil until browned through. remove from the pan and to the left over bits add one clove chopped garlic and one tablespoon flour. wisk together and add a bit of the veggie stock until you have a pan gravy. drizzle on top.

fun. yum. dinner.