FOODIE TO WATCH – LEIGH ANN CHATAGNIER
Leigh Ann Chatagnier discovered her passion for food when moving with her husband to Texas. Being without a job, living outside the city with nothing to do, she decided to focus on what she loved most – cooking.
My Diary Of Us is Leigh Ann’s food journal, which is packed with all sorts of delicious recipes – most of them created by Leigh Ann herself.
We have invited Leigh Ann to tell us her food blogging story and share her best 7 sizzling summer recipes.
I grew up in East Tennessee learning the ways of the kitchen from my mom. Some of my earliest memories of cooking begin with her. I can’t remember a time in my life that food was not an important part of who I am.
In college, my real love affair with food began. I was on my own and cooking healthy meals was something I enjoyed doing. I religiously watched the Food Network and started thinking outside of the normal cooking box. Over the years, my time in the kitchen increased, but it was never something I considered making a career out of.
I began my working career in the fashion industry and after moving to Louisiana, where I would marry my husband, I began working for Anthropologie as a visual manager. I worked for the company for five and half years until my husband’s job moved us to Texas almost four years ago.
Where we moved was pretty remote, leaving me jobless, restless, and trying to figure out where I could channel my creative energy. The thing that saved me that year was food. I began pouring all of my creative energy into the food I made. I was cooking more than ever, and had several friends who encouraged me to start a blog not only about food, but also about my life.
I worked up the nerve and launched My Diary of Us, October 2013. It was one of the gutsiest chances I’ve ever taken, putting my life and my food out there to the world, open to criticism by complete strangers. It was also one of the smartest decisions I have ever made, because I truly fell in love with sharing my life’s moments and favorite recipes with my readers. Each time someone makes a recipe, or tells me they connected to a story I shared, it has encouraged me to keep going.
My Diary of Us is a lifestyle blog, but with a heavy emphasis on food. For the most part I cook healthy food that you can feel good about feeding your loved ones. I am a huge fan of sourcing all of my ingredients locally if possible. I believe in cooking with fresh and seasonal ingredients, supporting farms, and buying local when available.
I also understand it is not always easy depending on where you live to find access to everything you need. I strive to create recipes that anyone can make. I love creating unique recipes, but they are always made with accessible ingredients that anyone can find at their local grocery or market. I don’t want my readers to be intimidated by my recipes; I want them to know they can conquer them! It’s all about building confidence in the kitchen.
Being healthy is a lifestyle and for me it’s not only about cooking healthy meals, but it’s also about staying active and keeping a good balance in my everyday life. I believe that the occasional ice cream cone and glass of wine is necessary, good for the soul, and should not be totally eliminated. Moderation is key to any well balanced diet.
My favorite season for food happens to be summer. I know it’s incredibly hot, but summertime is when all of my favorite foods are in season and everything is so fresh and beautiful. Fresh picked berries, watermelon slices, sweet corn, and tons of other produce are at their peak, making cooking super easy and effortlessly healthy. I love to create recipes in the summer that are simple, full of flavor, and allow the star ingredients to shine through.
Grilled meats, fresh veggies, gorgeous cocktails, homemade desserts, and lots of friends and family gathering together is what summer sizzling means to me. There is something about the heat of summer combined with good food and a backyard full of laughter and memories being made that I can’t get enough of.
Here are a few of my top summer sizzling recipe picks!
1. STRAWBERRY BALSAMIC GRILLED CHICKEN
3 – 4 Boneless Chicken Breasts
2 Cups of Strawberries, stemmed and sliced in half
1/4 Cup of Balsamic Vinegar
1 Shallot, diced
1 Tbsp. Sugar or Honey
Salt and Pepper
1 Tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus 1 Tbsp.
Fresh Mint or Basil for Garnish
* Sauté shallot in a small pan in 1 tsp. olive oil until it starts to soften. Add strawberries, vinegar, sugar, and pinch of salt to the shallot and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and reduce until sauce thickens and strawberries break down slightly.
* Preheat grill to medium low heat.
* Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper on both sides and drizzle with 1 tbsp. olive oil to prevent sticking on the grill.
* Grill chicken on each side for about 10 minutes per side or until cooked through.
* Puree strawberry balsamic glaze until smooth in a food processor or blender.
* The last couple of minutes of cooking the chicken, brush each side with the glaze and cook one minute on each side until glaze adheres to the chicken and caramelizes slightly.
* Remove from grill, let rest for a couple of minutes.
* To serve, top with additional strawberry balsamic glaze and fresh mint or basil.
2. 15-MINUTE CONFETTI CORN
6 Ears of Corn, Shucked and Washed
1 Red Bell Pepper
3 Green Onions
3 Cloves of Minced Garlic
1/2 Red Onion, Diced Small
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. Butter
Salt and Pepper
1/4 Cup of Fresh Basil for Topping
* Take shucked ears of corn and stand up in a large bowl, with the bigger end down. Carefully take a sharp knife and go around the ear of corn and remove kernels by slicing down on all sides.
* Chop onion, garlic, and red pepper.
* Preheat cast iron skillet to medium heat.
* Add oil, onion, and garlic to the pan. Sauté until onion becomes translucent.
* Add butter and then corn kernels.
* Season with salt and pepper.
* Add red pepper and saute veggies for about 5 minutes until corn kernels are just tender.
* Garnish with fresh basil. Serve immediately.
3. GRILLED FLANK STEAK AND CHERRY SALAD
1 Flank Steak
1 Cup of Cherries, pitted and halved
2 Ears of Fresh Corn
4 Cups of Mixed Greens
2 Oz. Goat Cheese
2 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 Cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus 1 Tbsp.
1 Shallot, Sliced
2 Cloves of Garlic
1 Tsp. Dijon Mustard
Salt and Pepper
* Season flank steak with 1 tbsp. of olive oil and salt and pepper. Make sure to season both sides of the steak well with salt and pepper to ensure good flavor, don’t be shy! Bring to room temperature while you make the vinaigrette.
* Combine balsamic vinegar, sliced shallot, 2 smashed garlic cloves, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl and mix well. Slowly pour in extra virgin olive oil and whisk at the same time to combine thoroughly. Let sit while the salad is prepared.
* Preheat grill to high heat. Grill steak on each side for about 4 – 7 minutes until done according to your liking (4 minutes is medium rare to give you an idea).
* While your steak cooks, add corn and grill a couple of minutes on each sides until slightly charred. Remove steak and corn from heat and let the steak rest for five to ten minutes, tenting with aluminum foil to let juices redistribute.
* Take the kernels off of the cob by running a sharp knife down each side.
* To assemble salad, layer mixed greens, corn, goat cheese, and cherries onto a plate. Top with flank steak and drizzle vinaigrette over top, making sure to grab some of the marinated shallots onto the salad as well.
* Serve immediately!
4. WATERMELON, CUCUMBER, AND MINT SALAD
2 Cups of Cubed Watermelon
1 Seedless Cucumber, Peeled and Sliced
1/4 Cup of Fresh Mint Leaves
Juice and Zest From One Lemon
1 Tsp. Honey
Pinch of Salt
* Combine watermelon, cucumber, and mint leaves in a large bowl.
* In a small bowl whisk together lemon juice, zest, and honey together.
* Drizzle lemon and honey mixture over the watermelon, cucumber, and mint and add salt right before serving.
5. PEACH CAPRESE SALAD
3 Peaches, Sliced
5 Campari Tomatoes, Quartered (or whatever tomatoes look great at the market)
Handful of Fresh Basil Leaves
4 Oz. of Fresh Mozzarella
1 Tbsp. Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. Balsamic Glaze (Reduce balsamic vinegar in a pot over medium heat until it thickens and gets nice and sweet. Alternatively, if you have a Trader Joes near you, they make an amazing balsamic glaze ready to go).
1 Tsp. Kosher Salt
1 Tsp. Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
* Arrange peaches and tomatoes on a serving dish.
* Sprinkle basil leaves evenly about.
* Tear mozzarella cheese into small bites and sprinkle over the tomatoes, peaches, and basil.
* Drizzle with balsamic glaze and olive oil.
* Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
* Serve immediately.
6. PLUM AND THYME PROSECCO SMASH
6 Thyme Sprigs
Juice from one Lemon
4 Tbsp. Thyme Simple Syrup (1/2 Cup of Sugar, 1/2 Cup of Water, bring to a boil, remove from heat, add thyme sprigs, stir, and let cool. Chill until ready to use).
1 Bottle of Prosecco or your favorite bubbly
* Peel and chop 2 plums.
* Muddle the plums with the thyme simple syrup and lemon juice until all of the plum juices have been released (you can also muddle right in the glass if you prefer to have bits of fruit in your cocktail!).
* Shake with ice in a cocktail shaker.
* Pour over crushed ice evenly between two glasses.
* Top off with prosecco and garnish with extra plum slices and thyme sprigs.
* Serve immediately.
7. MANGO, COCONUT, AND LIME POPS
2 Ripe Mangoes, peeled and chopped
1 Can of Coconut Milk (light or regular)
Juice from 2 Limes
4 Tbsp. Honey (you might need more if your mangoes aren’t super sweet, just taste and adjust before freezing).
You can add a little rum in there too if you want a boozy version!
* Blend all ingredients together in a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy.
* Pour into popsicle molds. The mixture should be thick enough that when you insert your popsicle sticks they will stand up. If they don’t, simply freeze for 30 -1 hr. and then insert the sticks.
* Freeze overnight.