Trying out recipes to pass on to you.

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.

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!

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?

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!

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!