Category Archives: Recipes

Iron Chef Edition

Whenever my family gathers, there’s bound to be a battle.
A food battle.
An Iron Chef Battle to be exact!

Each summer we meet for a week for reminiscing, new memories, and of course eating deliciousness together. Picking a bushel of Maryland Blue Crabs is a given! Papa tells stories from flying planes in World War II and his adventures with the love of his life, Nana. Though she died eleven years ago, he keeps his wedding band on with pride. Guy time. Girl time. Family puzzles. And LOTS of good food!

IMG_0650.JPGOur Iron Chef tradition began with Battle Bacon: 3 teams, 3 courses each, 10 pounds of bacon (fat and all) consumed. Oh my word. Even our coffee tasted like bacon after that cooking fest! Scratch-made bourbon bacon ice cream with maple bacon sprinkles. Cinnamon pancetta carbonara. Spiced bacon-wrapped water chestnuts. And my personal favorite: Rice Krispy bacon treats with chocolate bacon drizzle.

Elastic waistbands for days.

This year, we opted for a lighter palette with Battle Lemon! Our amazing friends, the Lawrensons, came as our honored judges. What a blast! As the house filled with citrus-tastic aroma, the kitchen buzzed with preparations.

Lemon ricotta dip with garlic and chives. Lemon parm popcorn. Marscapone gnocchi with brown butter lemon sauce. Perfectly roasted chicken with lemon sage stuffed skins. Lemon, lemon, lemon.

Dessert round bore the winning dish:
Lemon Buttermilk Pie. This simple dish from Food Network Magazine amazed us all. Creamy texture. Perfectly balanced lemon flavor. Not too sweet. Not too tart. Just right. This pie is sure to become a new family favorite. Trust me – you want to try this pie!

So get your citrus on and whip up some lemon buttermilk goodness today!

You’re welcome, America.


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Filed under Family, Food, Recipes, Tasteful Tuesdays

What the Kale?

Crispy.  Savory.  O so healthy.  Kale chips!

If you’re craving some crunch without the carbs, give these a go.  I whipped up a batch last night…make that two batches.  Between Evan and I, they were gone!

Kale Chips

  • 1 head kale, washed and thoroughly dried
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.  Remove the ribs from the kale and cut leaves into 1 1/2-inch pieces.  Lay on a baking sheet and toss with a light drizzle of olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bake until crisp, turning the leaves halfway through, about 20 minutes.

So put any preconceived ideas about kale aside and whip up a batch.  They just might become your newest crispy craving.

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New Twist On A Classic

Chicken Salad.  Its about as classic as burgers and hot dogs.  Wherever there’s a cookout or leftovers, you’re likely to find chicken salad.

To be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of this traditional dish.  Cold chicken with grapes and celery?  No thanks.  It often tastes bland to me and given the choice between creamy calories in a savory entree or a sweet dessert, I’ll always err on the side of sweetness!  But I digress..

Recently, I had a surplus of roasted chicken in my fridge that needed a makeover.  An old recipe from my catering days in Annapolis popped into mind and I just had to give it a go.  Moroccan Chicken Salad.  Chicken.  Honey.  Almonds.  Cardamom!  YUM!  Seriously folks, you’ve got to try this stuff!  In light of today’s holiday and the likelihood of us all having leftover chicken in our fridge at some point, I just have to share this delicious goodness with you.

Combine mayo and honey in a bowl until you have a smooth, sweet mixture (roughly 2 parts mayo, 1 part honey).  The honey helps balance the mayo’s tang.  Add salt, pepper and (most importantly) Cardamom to taste.  TRUST ME!  You do not want to miss the cardamom step.  Its the magic touch that brings this all together.  Toss diced cold chicken, dried apricots, and chopped almonds in the mixture until its is fully incorporated.  I prefer the taste of pine nuts in the salad but almonds are much more budget friendly. 🙂  Serve on a toasted croissant or fresh bread.  Its sweet, savory, creamy and crunchy.  Delicious!

So whip out that leftover chicken and discover the wonders a little cardamom and honey can do to an old classic.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Carrot Cupcakes

Ever since my first visit to Georgetown Cupcake in January, I have been craving gourmet cupcakes: moist, decadent and down-right soul-satisfying!  Much to my mouth’s chagrin and my waistline’s delight, D.C. is a five-hour drive away, reducing me to merely dream about their yummy goodness.  So until my next venture to our nation’s capital, I have been in search of recipes that can placate my palate.  *sigh*

Last week, my Mom came across the most amazing recipe in Country Living that has done just the trick!  Carrot Cupcakes.  To say these tasty morsels are delicious would be a stark understatement.  I’ve enjoyed many a fine carrot cake in my life, but none have ever come close to comparing with the flavor and texture of this recipe: carrot cupcake with golden raisins and chopped nuts (we used pecans instead of walnuts…simply out of preference) covered by a dollop of carrot-infused cream cheese frosting and finished with strips of candied carrot on top.  Oh. My. WORD!  The only phrase that comes close to capturing this decadent morsel is “Dangerously Delicious!”

So the next time you’re in the mood for a satisfying treat, skip the local bakery and whip up a batch of these carrot cupcakes for yourself.  It will certainly be worth it!

(click on the recipe for the full size to print)


Filed under Cooking, D.C., Food, Recipes

Toasted Coconut Marshmallows

The weather seems perplexed lately, caught between winter’s chill and the warmth of spring.  With the wavering temperatures, what is one to do for food cravings?  Do you choose comfort foods that taste like a warm blanket on a frigid day or reach for spring’s fresh flavors?

Answer: toasted coconut marshmallows!  Creamy and indulgently satisfying while light and airy with a hint of tropical goodness.  My how I enjoy this recipe!  Thanks to Ina Garten, these delectable goodies are easy to make and completely worth your while.    I’ve also used her basic recipe to make cinnamon marshmallows before, grinding red hots into a powder and substituting them for sugar.  Any time I’ve made this recipe with kids, they have always been fascinated how such a small amount of liquid whips up into a massive, fluffy cloud.

So go whip up your own batch of Ina’s Toasted Coconut Marshmallows today!  Perhaps they will help make sense of this weather madness. 🙂

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Meringue Addiction

Confession: I have an addiction.  Meringues!  These light, fluffy, gooey, delectable treats always leave me craving another bite.  The fact that they are primarily egg whites and contain no flour often has me rationalizing just one…or twenty…more.  I now limit myself to making a batch only for the purpose of taking them to someone because let’s be honest – they will all be gone by morning.  It’s for the baby…really!

In honor of this deliciousness, here’s a recipe for chocolate chip meringues for your enjoyment.  You can use any size chip but I prefer mini morsels or Andes mint chips.  (The original recipe bakes the meringues at 300°F but I’ve found 310° works better for our oven.)  Eliana loves to watch the clear egg whites whip up in a frenzy into thick, glossy goodness.

So grab your bakers’ hat, your favorite apron, your sweet tooth and bake away!

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.  Grease baking sheets or line them with parchment paper.
  2. Whip egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar, vinegar and vanilla while whipping to stiff peaks. Mixture should be glossy.  Fold in chocolate chips. Drop by spoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets.
  3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until cookies are dry.  Yeilds 4 dozen cookies.

Here’s wishing you all a delightfully delicious weekend!


Filed under Cooking, Fun, Recipes

Pineapple Pie

This weekend found me in a baking mood.  (Be aware – I do not proclaim to be the most proficient baker at all!  I’d much rather cook than bake, but preggo hormones had me craving something sweet.)  Part of my morning routine is to visit The Pioneer Woman’s website and see if any of her kitchen concoctions spark my curiosity.  Well Friday was no exception.  The delectable image of pineapple pie covered in a meringue topping caught my eye and as the weekend went on, I could not get it out of my mind.

By Saturday night, I had a baking itch that I simply could not scratch.  So with the necessary ingredients assembled, I grabbed my favorite apron and got to work.  20 minutes later, this lovely pie emerged from the oven:

Creamy pineapple filling topped with fluffy meringue.  Mmm.  My first attempt at pie – a success!  Simple and scrumptious.  There’s a very strong chance I’ll be baking this one again.

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Pumpkin Deliciousness

All this frigid weather lately has left me with two conclusions: 1 – If its going to be that cold, it ought to be snowing!  Otherwise its just stupid.  2 – I crave chocolate and carbs way more when I’m cooped up inside on blustery days.  Thankfully I’m pregnant.  “The chocolate is for the baby…really!”  In light of this non-girth-friendly realization, I’m sharing a recipe with you all that has brought both warmth and smiles during these weeks of arctic temperatures.  Pumpkin chocolate chip bread.  Mmm…  I can’t take any credit for this recipe.  My dear friend, Abby Lutz, passed it on to me a few months back.  But I can say that it is crazy simple to make and extremely addicting.  So get your baker’s hat on, people!  You won’t be disappointed.

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Mac & Cheese Soup

If you’ve spent any time with me, one thing you’re quick to learn is I’ve a deep love for food.  Looooove it!  From cooking to eating, watching shows to reading articles, I’m a foodie at heart.  Whenever my mom, sister & I get together, most of our time revolves around either cooking or devouring delicious cuisine.  For my birthday this year, my sweet mom gave me an awesome gift: a year’s subscription to Food Network Magazine.  What a fabulous publication!  Each month is chock-full of delicious recipes, creative kitchen ideas & fascinating food facts.  Now the first week of every month finds me giddy and eagerly checking the mail for its arrival.  One of my favorite features is the photo recipe index at the front of each issue.  It shows pictures of all the recipes featured that month.  After all, you eat with your eyes first.  Brilliant!

January’s issue does not disappoint!  I tried my first January recipe last night: mac & cheese soup.  The name intrigued from the get-go.  Our family devours mac & cheese, but the butter and excessive flour always leaves me feeling guilty afterwards and hesitant to make it again.  But each time, the call to cheesy goodness prevails.  As I read the words, “cut the calories in half”, I knew I had to give this recipe a try.

Oh my word.  This soup is SCRUMPTIOUS!  It completely satisfies in the cheesy department with full-bodied flavor coming from the aromatics and chicken broth.  Did I mention there’s a full serving of carrots & celery in every pot?  My hesitant husband (“it won’t taste like watered-down mac & cheese, will it?”) devoured three bowls!  The soup itself has no – I repeat NO – salt in it.  This soup is comforting, filling, jam-packed with flavor and whips up in only 20 minutes!  We Leinos will certainly be enjoying this recipe again and again.

So for all the cheese lovers out there, you’ve got to try this!

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Sisters & Empanadas

My sister, Corinne, is one of the most amazing and truly beautiful women I have ever known…in every way.  Compassionate, wise, loyal, truth-speaking, gourmet-food-loving, hilarious, full of integrity, witty, fashionable, humble, following after God’s heart, sings like an angel, gorgeous.  This only scratches the surface of all Corinne McGowan is.

She arrived on Sunday for a few days of girl time before the full-fledged family Thanksgiving activities begin.  Can I just say I LOVE spending time with my sister?!  We spent the whole day together Monday – talking, laughing, playing with Eliana, enjoying delicious food and cooking.  It was perfect!  For weeks, she had been telling me of these veggie empanadas her friend, Julie Berger, had made.  So adorned in aprons and with cooking gear in hand, we set to make our own batch of these tasty fried treats.  In the end, the kitchen was destroyed, our aprons covered in flour and our cheeks sore from laughing for hours.

But MY, were these empanadas delicious!  Savory vegetable filling wrapped in the lightest, crispy crust.  It certainly won’t be the last time we slave away in the kitchen to make these.  Served with spicy quacamole and sour cream, they were simply sublime.

So get your finest cooking attire on, head to your local grocery and get busy making your own batch of these scrumptious bundles of goodness!  You won’t be disappointed.

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Green Belts & Cookies

I’m in Chapel Hill for most of this week for Six Sigma Green Belt training.  Full days of learning statistical analysis and other such lovely things, I’m training with my 6 teammates from UNC’s PICU in a project for improving daily communication between families and PICU clinicians.  Its a LOT of work but work that we hope will have a big payoff.

To be honest, this busyness has taken most of my creative energies at the moment.  So I leave you with this – a recipe that I can take absolutely no credit for but one that want to eat RIGHT NOW!  (Call it a preggo craving, but these cookies look friggin’ delicious!)  So pull out your mixers, crank up your ovens, whip out your best apron!

Courtesy of the amazing Tasty Kitchen website, I give you Oreo Cheesecake Cookies.  Let the drooling begin….


Filed under Chapel Hill, Food, Fun, Random, Recipes