Friday, October 28, 2011


Green lentils salad
I am not a fan of left-overs (left-handers however, big fan). I try to master the art of cooking exact serving sizes so not to have to wrestle with re-heating and re-eating the same food a few nights later (with the exception of soups and stews... I'm okay with that). However, being the imperfect perfectionist I am, undoubtedly there is always a left-over to deal with. In this case: lentils.

You may remember my last battle with lentils, and having to hide them in MRN's lunches to try to get rid of all the left-overs. This time I cut down the serving size and changed up the recipe (basically-- guessed on amount and made something up). It ended up being a much bigger hit (though, considering it wasn't a hit at all the first time, the only way for it to go was up. But I'm nothing if not persistent. It may be because I added bacon... but hey-ho; anything to get some veggies on the plate).

Alas, even with the doctoring, we still had left-overs (that I knew I would have to eat; because while I won a battle with the beans, I knew not to push my luck by hiding it in MRN's food). So I decided to add cold lentils to a salad. I'm a big lunch-time salad fan. But I don't love making them at home. It's one of the (many) things I miss from the US-- all those lovely entree-sized salads. YUM. I have to admit, though-- this home salad was pretty good and hearty. I mean, it's not a Cheesecake Factory chopped salad (I love me a chopped salad), but it was a fair substitute. What I've found with home salads is it's all about the dressing-- and I'm not talking from the bottle; I'm talking the easiest home-made salad dressing in the world, adapted from my grandmother's soy-vinaigrette concoction that she's been making since I can remember. There's many varieties of this recipe (you can make it thicker and creamier by increasing the lemon to olive oil ratio to mustard; or add some minced garlic for a extra kick), but the real benefit is that you simply can't mess it up. It's a real, grab what you have in the fridge, whisk it up and voila yummy dressing.

For the lentils:
  • 1/2-c Green puy lentils
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3/4-c Chicken broth
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Diced, crispy bacon (optional)
Place lentils in bowl and cover with boiling water; Let stand for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

While lentils are soaking, heat olive oil in pan on medium-high, add onions and cook 5-7 minutes until start to get translucent. Add carrots, spices and cook about 10-minutes, until carrots are soft. Toss in garlic and cook for 2 minutes (until fragrant). Stir in lentils and chicken broth and reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. If you're using bacon, dice and fry, stir into finished lentils. Great with pork or salmon, or (as I've used it), on salads!

Easy homemade salad dressing:
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (or water if you don't have lemon)
  • Whisk together and toss with salad

If you want to get fancy:
Add a heaping teaspoon of dijon mustard (regular or whole-grain; whatever floats your boat), 1 clove garlic, minced, and some fresh ground pepper to the dressing. The mustard will make the dressing thicker, and oh so yummy.

Monday, October 24, 2011

MB had a little lamb

Yeah, I know. There's all kinds of wrong with that title. Alas, I'm feeling a bit uninspired (and who am I kidding? For a marketing person, I've always been completely useless at product names and titles). But having just watched the series premier (thanks Project Free TV) of "Once Upon a Time" starring Jennifer Morrison and Ginnifer Goodwin, I have fairy tales and nursery rhymes on the brain (verdict: promising. Definitely enough of a hook to keep me watching next week).

All that to say, I finally started cooking again. Between travel (play and work), colds (mine and MRN's) and general malaise, I haven't been up to experimenting in my kitchen (though I did make a big dinner at MRN's brother's a few weeks ago-- yes, I've taken my show on the road). I got back in the mood this weekend when looking for inspiration (on Pinterest-- where else?) for Christmas food gift ideas and came across this lovely looking baked potato. I am not usually a big fan of baked potatoes. Too much, well, potato I guess. Don't get me wrong-- I love them mashed, roasted and even boiled (well, new potatoes, anyway). The more butter, garlic and seasoning, the better. But give me a baked potato? I'll always pass. However, the aesthetics of this thinly sliced baked potato seemed too much to pass up. I mean, come on! How pretty is this thing? So to the market I went, and I decided to pair it with herb-crusted lamb chops (yes, yes, I've posted this recipe before, but when it's good, it's good). Plus, this post is really more about the potato (well, almost).

Am I allowed to say, YUM to my own food?? The potato really turned out to be a combination roasted and baked, with the outside nice and crispy and inside mushy. You cut the potato almost all the way through (trick is to lay a spoon lengthwise along the outside of the potato so when you slice it, it stops your knife from cutting all the way through) and then "fan" the slices to better soak up the melted butter and olive oil mixture that you pour on top, and to capture the minced garlic, salt and pepper I decided to add. See, while I saw the pic on Pinterest, I actually forgot to "pin" it-- so I had to improvise with the recipe. And I was out of regular dijon mustard (for the lamb), so used wholegrain dijon, and I think it turned out even better... I'll be substituting that in the future. I also still have herbs in the garden so was able to add fresh mint, rosemary, flat leaf parsley and regular thyme to by store-bought fresh lemon thyme. The addition of mint was delightful. But really, you can use any combination of fresh  herbs you have on hand-- I usually end up with parsley and thyme because that's what's most prevalent in my fridge.

I'll definitely be trying this potato again... perhaps with more seasoning and, well, butter. Because as Julia Child always said, you can never have enough butter...

Herb-Crusted Lamb Chops with Garlic Baked Potatoes
(adapted from Williams-Sonoma's "Wine and Food" cookbook)
To get the food on the table together and hot, I put potatoes in first for about 30 minutes and then popped in the lamb for the last 15 minutes. In addition to perfectly a perfectly timed entree, your oven is also piping hot for a perfectly roasted lamb chop.
  • Preheat oven to 450 F
For the potatoes:
  • 2 med potatoes, rinsed and scrubbed (you can peel them, but I love that crispy skin)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped, for serving
  • Melt butter and olive oil in a sauce pan
  • Thinly slice potatoes almost all the way through (see spoon trick above), gently "fanning" out the slices
  • Place potatoes in a baking dish
  • Pour olive oil and butter mixture over potatoes, making sure to coat all the slices
  • Sprinkle garlic in between the slices
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Place in oven for 45 minutes (checking at about 30 to make sure that they're not burning)
  • Remove from oven and cover until serving
  • Sprinkle parsley over potatoes 
  • Optional: sprinkle cheese on the potatoes 5 minutes before removing them from the oven; bacon would be good too! Serve with sour cream, chives and all the trimmings, if you so desire!
For the lamb*:
  • Approx 3 lamb chops per person (depending on the size, but I usually go with that)
  • 1/2 c minced fresh herbs (such as flat leaf parsley, thyme, mint, rosemary, marjoram)
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain dijon mustard (or regular if more readily available)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped 
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
*This recipe is supposed to be enough for 12 chops-- but I usually use the entire mixture on just 6; So if you have more chops, you may want to double the recipe so you can get a good amount of the herb mixture on both sides of the chops.

  • Season both sides of the lamb chops with salt and pepper
  • Stir together herbs, mustard, olive oil and garlic
  • Spread mixture on both sides of the chops
  • Place an oiled flat rack in a large roasting pan lined with aluminum foil (not essential but makes clean up that much easier)
  • Arrange the chops on the rack and roast until an meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a chop (away from the bone) registers 135 F for medium (about 15-17 minutes; In my fan assisted oven, 15 minutes is the perfect amount of time)
  • Remove from oven, lightly tent chops with aluminum foil and let rest for 5 minutes
  • Serve immediately

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Teenage angst at its best

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Who's Who?

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Budapest-ing it up

Gresham Palace from the Funicular
Back from a fantastic trip with the Daves to the beautiful city of Budapest. It was really more of the Dempster and Mikie show since Gullino was otherwise occupied-- while we missed him, I did love my quality time with Dempster which consisted much more of wining and dining and heart-to-hearts late into the night than sight-seeing (though we did see lots of sights). My kind of vacation! We had an almost mishap in the beginning due to the Daves' plane being delayed from the outset-- they almost missed the connection (and meeting up with me!) in Amsterdam! I was told by the gate agent that they'd already been taken off the flight-- there was only 20 minutes between connections and they had to get from terminal F to terminal D, plus through customs. If you've ever been to Schipol Airport, you'll know that that is an impossible feat. I had waited in the boarding area until they all but shoved me onto the jetway-- and then hung back, hoping upon hope that they would make it. I kept glancing back and was the only one on the jetway when, TA-DA!!! Dave Gullino comes running around the corner, closely followed by Dempster! I was SO EXCITED I yelped and jumped up and down with my arms in the air. Leave it to the Daves! They all-out SPRINTED and made it to the gate and begged the agents to let them on the plane. WHOO-HOOO! Sweating bullets and completely out of breath, but they made it-- which made for an especially exciting start to our trip. (And my being ever prepared, was able to ply them with water, face towelettes, verbena hand wipes and caramel waffles-- an Amsterdam specialty that I picked up for them at one of the great food shops in Schipol, where you can also buy huge wedges of cheese and wooden shoes. I may not have been a Girl Scout, but always wanted to be!)

We were absolutely thrilled with the GORGEOUS summer weather-- low 80s, cloudless and bright-blue skies. So much sun that it actually hurt my eyes (yes-- pathetic; but so goes the woes of northern English-living). We stayed in an apartment which was terrifically inexpensive but clean, modern and best of all, had a balcony. It was a great way to settle into the city, do some cooking (well, more of putting together pre-dinner appetizers) and hang out but still have our own space.

We ate our way around the lovely city, searching for the best goulash and dumplings (which is really more like spaetzl). The BEST was found at the Budapest Central Market at the end of the Vaci Uta (the shopping street). The market is a sight to see-- with food stalls on the ground floor and lots of tourist kitsch on the second. But there are great food stands upstairs where you can sample more authentic local fare (my recommendation: avoid the restaurants up by Buda Castle. Expensive and not very good).

The BEST meal however, was in fact at an Italian restaurant along the pedestrian walk leading up to St. Stephens called... I have absolutely no idea. It was something really simple like "The Italian Restaurant." Really. But despite not remembering the name, the food was unforgettable. Being so close to Italy certainly doesn't hurt, and this modern Italian restaurant with amazing decor, great service (which is few and far between in Budapest) and delicious food (not to mention an expansive cocktail list) makes this a must-go place (especially if you're a foodie). Okay, I may have been tainted by all that heavy goulash, but I did enjoy it. Reservations are recommended (especially if you want a table outside), though we were able to walk in (though it was on the late-side). To find it, walk down the pedestrian street from the front steps of St Stephens a few blocks, and it's on the corner on the left hand side.

Another Hungarian treat is Plinka, which is a fruit-infused liquor that is a Hungarian specialty. Plum is the traditional drink though they also have sour cherry (it tastes like cough medicine) and pear. It is a little like drinking brake fluid (or what I can imagine drinking break fluid would be like). But it's worth a try just for the experience (and they serve it in little shot glasses that should be sipped so it's not like you're drinking a pint-full).

Loved, loved, loved seeing two of my favorite people and continuing our adventures around Europe. Next year we're talking Spain. Ole!

We made it!!

Home Sweet Home

Budapest Central Market

PAPRIKA! (and fresh produce- yum!)

Goulash and dumplings

Goulash, brats, cabbage and beer

St. Stephens Cathedral

St. Stephen

Interior dome of St. Stephens
FUNicular FUN (to Buda Castle)

Gresham Palace from the funicular

Parliament from Castle Hill

Matthias Church at Buda Castle

Buda Castle

Fishermen's Bastion at Castle Hill

Vivaldi at St. Michael's on Vaci Uta

Bye-bye Budapest!

See you at Christmas!