Lemon Lentil Salad

If anyone can give me the secret to getting rid of sea legs, I will give you a high five. I’ve been back on land for over 24 hours, but I still can’t shake the inevitable feeling that I’m rocking back and forth on waves not suitable for vacationing on a cruise ship. Luckily I’ve tamed the acid reflux from too much food and even more Mai Tais with vodka floaters. Pro Tip: Don’t even bother getting drunk on a cruise ship. You’ll blow through your budget and your stash of smuggled booze faster than you can make your way from one end of the dinner buffet to the other. There just isn’t enough real estate in your stomach, and your liver is too busy processing the plate of bacon you had for breakfast and the plate of roast beef you had for lunch to even bother with that $8 pina colada you just bought.

Speaking of $8 pina coladas, let me recap a few things that happened to annoy the shit out of me on my long weekend!

1. If a drink is described in great detail on a menu, please serve it to me that way. I knew better than to get caught up in drinking cruise ship beverages. But when I bellied up to one of the bars with a stunning view of the ocean just as we had set sail, I took a gander at the bar menu and saw a lovely sounding beverage. Why not kick off the trip with a little something besides bootlegged vodka mixed with the lemonade from the soda machine? There was a Hendrick’s gin rickey of sorts that boasted fresh limes muddled together with fresh raspberries and simple syrup. The price seemed reasonable so I went for it. I was handed back a glass filled with Mr. Boston’s well gin and syrupy margarita and raspberry frozen drink mixes. Oh, and a lemon garnish. For $8.XX (because gratuity is already added).

bsi

I did remind the bartender that I ordered the ultimate gin rickey… You know, the one with Hendrick’s in it and the fresh ingredients. The boyfriend offered to drink the first one, and I watched the bartender make the ‘correct’ one. Sadly, the correct one still came to me made with the syrupy junk from the carton. With a lemon. And I still got charged $8.XX. Later that night I tried ordering another lime-based drink and was informed that the entire ship was out of limes. Good thing I had listened to NPR a few days ago when they ran a story about the international lime market and how global demand for the fruit has jacket up the street value and made them hard to find. I still wish someone would have told me when I placed my drink order that there were no limes.

On the third day of the cruise I treated myself to the festive Mai Tai. Again I ordered the fancy one off the bar menu, because why not. It had Disaronno and some Pyrat special rum that the boyfriend said was particularly good. I’m watching the bartender make the drink. In goes the Disaronno. Then he tops the whole glass off with fruity juice from a big jug and hands it to me. I politely say, “Oh, I’m sorry… Did you add the rum?” He chuckles back and says the rum is already mixed in the juice, and suggests I try it because I can taste it. Sure enough, I do taste it. But deep down I’m furious that I’m again being charged for top-shelf liquor and being served the opposite. I take my drink, enjoy half of it, and then try to justify the situation by pouring some of my smuggled vodka into it.

2. When a pool is designated as the grown ups’ pool, please keep your goddamned kids out of it. The adults need a place to chill out sans kids too. When you’ve finally dropped the babies off at the nursery for the afternoon, or you’ve snagged one of the last chaises by the pool and you’re about to crack open a good book, or you’re just a lone traveler trying to enjoy a little ‘you’ time, do you want to deal with five year olds doing cannonballs? Having the whirlpool tub overrun by unsupervised preschoolers? No! I want to read Chuck Palahniuk and listen to this symphony cover of Celine Dion and enjoy my third lox and bagel from the breakfast buffet.

Those unexpected days at sea are the worst. We were unable to tender in to the cruiseline’s private island (our second and last stop of the trip), so we were left to fend for ourselves on board. Needless to say the pool deck was packed. It was the only afternoon where there was sun, so there was not a chair in sight. Getting into the pool was not a possibility; the kids had abandoned the children’s pool and opted for the family pool and there was a swarm of about 20 kids bobbing around in snorkel gear or diving in on top of each other. The boy and I checked in the grown up’s pool. Not ideal since it’s a solarium-style and I wasn’t sure how much sun we’d end up getting, but beggars can’t be choosers. Sadly, everything was taken. There could have been more seating, but some families decided it would be great if they could just tote their kids along. Eventually the boy and I found 2 chairs that another couple had just abandoned on the public deck and were able to get sunburned and listed to the reggae band play covers in between asking the kids not to do handstands into the pool.

3. Put some damn clothes on your kids. There have been a few times where I’ve stopped, cocked my head to the side and have wondered what in the hell some parents are thinking when they let their kids leave the house. But when a kid is under the age of 5, odds are pretty good that you dressed your kid yourself. This is not a matter of your 13 year old unzipping their hoodie to reveal a tube top. This is a 4 year old running around in micro-bikini and you put her in it. Seriously, I don’t even think that one of the triangles would have covered one of my nips. It was downright disturbing, and the thought that all one pervert had to do was snap a picture on their cell phone was too much.

I'm all like

I’m all like

dafoe

Creepers be all like

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aside from coordinating what time to hit the dinner buffet before our sit down dinner, the boyfriend and I talked about what we will and won’t allow our kids to wear for the better part of that afternoon. Glad to know he and I are on the same page.

4. Don’t make me pay three times what I’d pay on dry land and then give me a sales pitch. Another thing I knew better was not to spend money in the spa. I wound up spending over $100 on a ‘manager’s special’ treatment that was a scalp massage, foot massage, and a hot stone back massage. I could have gotten a Groupon! And if the price tag wasn’t unsettling enough, try relaxing when the spa is directly located under the weight room of the gym. All of the bro’s on the ship (and trust me, the boy and I counted at least 20 bro’s) were all working out at the same time, slamming their weights down on the thin floor above me. But the real cherry on top was the sales pitch. Talk about bursting what little bubble of relaxation I had. I had a feeling it was coming… I had sailed once on this cruise line a few years back and had the same thing happen to me. As soon as you’re handed your cup of water and still nekkid on the massage table, your therapist explains in her heavy accent about the types of oils she just rubbed you down with. Then she tells you how to use them at home. Then she says, “So which ones will you be purchasing today?” I’m sorry? I just overpaid you for the least relaxing massage I’ve ever had and you’re asking me to purchase these ‘exclusive’ beauty products?

no-effin-way

So that’s my rant.IMG_0579

At least now I’m home and slowly working good things into my body, like water. I’m already feeling some of the bloat going away, and last night when I finally found my appetite again all I wanted was something light but flavorful, and preferably with ingredients I already had in the fridge. There is a lemony lentil salad that I really like, and its great for lunch or as a side with dinner. It would also be good for taking on picnics because it doesn’t contain mayo and is great hot or cold.

 

Eat this and feel good!

1 ½ cups of green lentils
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice from ½ a lemon
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
3 Tbs quality extra virgin olive oil
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 scallions, sliced
1/4 cup diced red onion (optional)
1 clove of garlic minced or grated on a micro plane
Salt to taste

1. Boil your lentils in water for about 15 minutes, then drain.
2. In a mixing bowl, add all of the other ingredients except the salt.
3. Add in your lentils and toss together until everything is coated evenly.
4. Salt the salad to taste. Sometimes Dijon can add a little saltiness, so you always want to salt after.
5. Enjoy either warm or cold!

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Zucchini ‘Fries’

Zucchini is a great vegetable that is readily available and especially cheap when it’s in season in the summer. Oddly enough I get into a rut when it comes to using it. I love grilling it in long strips and throwing the leftovers in an antipasta salad the next day, cubing it for kabobs, or sautéing it with a little oil and garlic. But that’s where my mental block begins!

There is a place that I absolutely love here in Orlando called Graffiti Junktion. Aside from their amazing burgers, they make the best zucchini fries served up with a dish of spicy remoulade similar to the dressing you’d get with a blooming onion. I have eaten an entire bacon cheddar burger and split an order of zucchini fries a few occasions. It could possibly be the best hangover helper I’ve ever encountered. However, sometimes your body tells you that you need to forego the beef patty the size of your face and all of the deep-fried goodness. This recipe by no means replaces the Junktion’s zucchini fries, but it does make for a nice substitute you can make at home and feel good about.

3 medium-sized zucchini cut into sticks about the size of your finger
Salt
2 large eggs
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
½ cup Parmesan cheese (I like the shredded kind, personally)
1 Tbs dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano

1. Toss your zucchini sticks in a liberal amount of salt. Leave them in a colander over the sink for at least an hour. This will release excess water in the zucchini, so they come out more firm than mushy. Watch the magic happen!

2. After the zucchini have done their thing, rinse them well to remove the salt, then thoroughly pat them dry with paper towels.

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3. Preheat your oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

4. Beat your eggs in a bowl large enough to dip your zucchini sticks in to coat them.

5. Mix the bread crumbs, parmesan, and herbs in a separate dish large enough to dredge the battered zucchini in. My favorite method is to put this into a large Tupperware container (the kind I’d use for a salad), then add no more than 2 or 3 sticks at a time. Hold the container over the sink and gently knock the sides with your hand to coat.

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6. Place the sticks on your baking sheet with just enough room so that they don’t touch. Bake for 12-15 minutes before flipping and baking for another 12-15 minutes, or until they are golden all around.

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Serve them up with your favorite dipping sauce!

Sides: French Potato Salad

This is another stab of mine at an Ina Garten recipe. That woman really does no wrong in my book, and this recipe proves just that. I’m a big fan of Southern-style potato salad, but this one is so fresh and flavorful with the tangy vinaigrette and fresh herbs that it’s a nice detour from mayo-heavy potato salads that we’re used to.

I will be honest, I’m not crazy about recipes that call for a million ingredients. I’m also not a fan of ingredients that are highly-specialized or very expensive. However, I passed up my usual six pack of fancy beer and decided to pick up some fancy vinegar instead. Luckily my grocer had a clearance on a walnut champagne vinegar. Even on sale, this shit was like $7 for 6.75 oz. But once you add your vinaigrette to the warm potatoes and you get a nose full, you’ll understand. And when your friends are asking you what that flavor is in the back that they just can’t place and you casually say, “Oh. It’s just this champagne vinegar I picked up. Sounded like a good idea at the time…” Get ready for the eyebrows. Shit just got real.

Here we go:

2 lbs of small potatoes (I love the little red ones, but feel free to add the white and reds together for color)
3 Tbs champagne vinegar (I used a walnut champagne for extra flavor… and it was on sale)
½ tsp Dijon mustard
10 Tbs quality extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup minced scallions, white and green
2 Tbs minced fresh dill
2 Tbs minced parsley
2 Tbs chiffonade of basil

1. Get a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add some salt, the same way you would if you were cooking pasta. Add the potatoes and cook for 20-30 minutes. Once tender, drain them and then add them back to the pot and throw the lid on them. This will let them steam, which lets them develop this creamy texture. Sounds nuts, but just go with it.

2. While your potatoes are at the spa, add your vinegar, mustard, oil, salt and pepper to a glass jar*. Shake it furiously until all of the ingredients combine to make a smooth dressing-like vinaigrette.

3. Take your warm potatoes and chop them into thick cubes. This may mean you’re quartering them, or if you’re using larger potatoes you’ll need to cube them a little smaller. Do what feels right.

4. Toss the potatoes with the vinaigrette, then add your fresh herbs. The warm potatoes will absorb the vinaigrette like a sponge, unlike if they were cold. The end results will be tasty potatoes literally packed with flavor from the inside out. Serve this warm or at room temperature.

French Potato Salad

French Potato Salad

*Pro tip: I keep little glass jars around the house for all kinds of shit. Every time I’ve used up a jar of olives, mustard, or whatever, I throw it in the dishwasher and add it to the collection. They are fantastic for cleaning your skate bearings (when friends stop by for a bearing cleaning party, I can send them home with a little jar or dirty turpentine!) and they are great for when you make your own dressings and marinades. Just throw your ingredients all into the jar, seal the lid tight, and shake like crazy… Preferably over the sink, just in case that lid got loose on you! It’s much fast than that whole ‘drizzle the oil slowly and whisk till your arm falls off’ method, and when you’re done you can throw it in the fridge, the cooler, your lunchbox, wherever… And it’s less mess.

Makin' dressing...

Makin’ dressing…

Sides: Clean Eating Waldorf Salad

This week I’ve been focusing on eating my veggies, especially ones that I don’t eat much of. Celery is one of those things. I tend to only use it in soups, but its one of those great veggies that is full of vitamins and fiber. Much to my surprise, it’s pretty damn good mixed with fruit.

Waldorf Salad is one of those recipes that freak me out also because of the mayo that’s used. Mayo + fruit + celery just doesn’t seem right. Luckily this recipe swaps out the mayo for Greek yogurt, and it’s a great snack to have later in the morning around 11a when your stomach starts craving lunch a little early.

Let’s get started!

1 cup celery, diced (about 3-4 stalks)
2 Granny Smith apples, diced
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup grapes, halved
1 single-serve container of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
¼ of a lemon

Throw the celery, apples, walnuts and grapes into a large tupperware. Squeeze the lemon into the container of yogurt and stir it well. Add the yogurt to the other ingredients, snap on the lid, and shake furiously to mix everything together. Keep chilled until you’re ready to serve.

Waldorf Salad

Waldorf Salad

Pro tip: Keep the walnuts in a bag and when you’re chopping them, take the back of your knife and smash them with your palm instead. This will keep them in one place, and when you’re ready to add them, just pour them from the bag. Less mess!

Smashing walnuts!

Smashing walnuts!

Sides: Beets with Orange Vinaigrette

I’ve always been a little obsessed with beets. As a kid (and holding a piece of lettuce near me would send me into a fit) I would feast on piles of cottage cheese, sunflower seeds, bacon bits, croutons, and pickled beets on trips to the salad bar. Not mixed together, of course.

Though I still love the beets that come out of jars and cans, I’ve become fond of the fresh beets that you can pick up in the produce section at the grocery store these days. I used to roast them, but then I tried this recipe and really liked how it blended fresh, light ingredients with that vinegar flavor I love with beets so much. This is an adapted Ina Garten recipe from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. Sorry Ina, I love you and all, but I can’t be spending $10 on raspberry vinegar. I used balsamic instead.

I won’t lie to you either… If you eat fresh beets, you will poop purple. No joke. Get ready.

You’ll need:

2 lb fresh beets, trimmed
1 Tbs Balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs orange juice
2 Tbs olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
¼ cup diced red onion
2 large oranges, zested and segmented. Navels are great, and I used some blood oranges

1. Trim the tops off of the beets and boil uncovered in salted water for about an hour, until they are soft.

2. Once the beets are cool enough to handle but still warm, peel and dice into small cubes. Everything will be purple!

Blood Oranges and Beets

Blood Oranges and Beets

3. Mix the beets with the onion, orange segments, olive oil, orange juice, and balsamic vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Serve at room temperature or cold.

Beets with Orange Vinaigrette

Beets with Orange Vinaigrette

Sides: Roasted Potatoes

I just got home from work, and I’m beat. I’ve been looking at Excel spreadsheets all day, coding surveys and thinking of how to analyze them. I will not be going to the gym as planned. I will be looking for leftovers to heat up so I don’t have to think. Thankfully there is no derby practice tonight. I just want to put on my pajama-jams and zone out while watching a History Channel documentary of The Dark Ages on Netflix.

But first, the stressed-out hormones in me are calling for tasty carbohydrate comfort on this soon-to-be-44-degree night. Since the gym is a no-go, so are French fries. Luckily there are a few things that are go-to dishes for me that feel much more decadent than they are to make. Roasted veggies are one of those things. I’ll roast anything, especially veggies if it means that I’ll eat them! I happen to have those cute little multicolored potatoes that cost far too much for me to buy any other time aside from BOGO.

Colorful baby potatoes!

Colorful baby potatoes!

To make me feel a little healthier still, I happen to have some carrots that haven’t made their way into a soup. Roasted carrots are my favorite way to eat them. Their natural sugars caramelize and leave a totally different flavor profile from raw or steamed, both of which I’m not a big fan of.

Oh, look. See how much healthier that just got?

Oh, look. See how much healthier that just got?

I know this recipe sounds a little bit like a cop-out, but the key to taking plain ol’ potatoes and carrots to something really delicious are the spices. Season liberally with salt and pepper, and rosemary just brings out the earthiness. I like to make a little extra and save some for in the morning, when I’ll top them with eggs over medium and some cheese. My favorite meat to serve them alongside hands down is my roast chicken. I’ll be sure to post that recipe eventually…

You’ll need:

A sheet pan lined with tin foil (less clean up, yo!)

About 2-3 cups of your favorite potato and/or root veggies

A heavy drizzle of good olive oil

Rosemary, fresh or dried

Salt & pepper

1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

2. Cut up your veggies into uniform chunks, about ½ inch by ½ inch. This will make sure everything cooks at about the same time.

3. Pile your veggies into the center of your lined sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. If you’re using fresh rosemary, mince it up and add them. If you’re using dried be sure to go a little lighter (dried herbs have more concentrated flavor) and be sure to pinch as you sprinkle to release the flavor. Roll everything around so it gets nicely coated, and spread your veggies out into an even layer.

4. Bake for 25 minutes until everything is fork-tender and crispy on the outside! If it needs a little longer (some ovens do) then give it another 5-10 minutes until it’s done to your liking.

Chicken stuffed with mushrooms from the store, steamed broccoli and roasted potatoes and carrots!

Chicken stuffed with mushrooms from the store, steamed broccoli and roasted potatoes and carrots!

Sides: BBQ Deviled Eggs

I happen to work for a barbeque restaurant. I prompted everyone to find a creative way to use one of our products, a Carolina-style mustard-based BBQ sauce, in a recipe. Tomorrow is judgment day, and we’ll all be competing for a cash prize and bragging rights in the office. I’ve postponed this competition once, and it was only until today at 4:30p that I actually started thinking about what I’d be making.

I feel like there is some pressure here! Not only am I talking a big game in front of my coworkers about how much I cook, but I have you fine readers to impress as well! It’s like the first time I skated in front of non-derby friends…

So I’ve settled on a barbeque classic: deviled eggs. In my family, it’s not a get-together without them. This barbeque sauce lends itself to the recipe because it’s replacing main ingredients vinegar, mustard, and salt. Some people add sugar, and BBQ sauce would cover that as well.

There are some other changes that will make this egg unique to me. My mom has always put pickle relish in her deviled eggs. I’m going for a slice of dill pickle nestled in the filling on top, like a garnish that actually serves a purpose. I also always see paprika, and while there’s nothing wrong with it paprika doesn’t do much for flavor. The egg whites are bland, and when you take a bite of a deviled egg you want to see color and texture and get some flavors going. A good BBQ rub will have sweet, smoky, spicy and salty covered and it will look great against the blank canvas.

Try these out at your next family get-together, or at a pot luck with friends. Though humble and seen as out-dated, there are definitely ways you can modernize this Southern classic.

My handsome little egg!

My handsome little egg!

You’ll need:

1 dozen hard boiled eggs, shells removed

½ cup of quality mayonnaise

½ cup of Carolina-style mustard BBQ sauce

1 mini dill pickle

Your favorite BBQ spice blend

    1. Slice each egg lengthwise. Gently squeeze the sides until the yolk loosens, or take a small spoon and finagle it out. Reserve all yolks in a mixing bowl. Set your empty whites on your serving tray (if you are so fancy).

    Squeeze the whites gently to loosen up the yolk.

    Squeeze the whites gently to loosen up the yolk.

2. Take a fork and break up all of the yolks until they resemble corn meal. Try to get as many lumps out as possible.

Crumbled yolks

Crumbled yolks

3. Add the mayo and BBQ sauce, and thoroughly mix it. Keep trying to work out any lumps you may have.

4. Taste test! Does your mixture need salt, or did your BBQ sauce have enough? Mine didn’t, so I added about a teaspoon of salt. Don’t forget that you’re dolloping this onto bland egg whites, so if you prefer a spicier mixture feel free to add some of your favorite hot sauce.

5. Spoon or pipe your mixture into the egg whites. For a makeshift piping bag, scoop your filling into a plastic baggie, seal, and snip off one of the corners. Instant piping bag! (with no cleanup after, of course)

6. Take your dill pickle and slice thin slices, enough for each egg to get a little garnish.

7. Sprinkle all of the eggs with your BBQ spice rub.