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).

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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.

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I’m all like

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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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Coconut Buttermilk Pound Cake

Remember when I said I wasn’t good at baking?

Apparently I lied, or so proclaimed Tim after he took his first bite of this pound cake. He proceeded to scold me in between shoveling forkfuls of warm, coconutty goodness into his mouth. He mumbled a few more times while chewing. I’m pretty sure he was telling me how amazing I was.

I actually was pretty impressed with myself, to be honest. I’ve never been good at baking. For my first real crack at making something completely from scratch, I was sold. I quickly proclaimed that I would bake two new cakes a month as part of my New Year’s Resolutions. I proudly stated this along with vowing to write a new blog post at least once a week.

For all of you who are still reading this blog, I’m sure you’re all saying, “Bitch, you ain’t written shit! I’ve been waiting for your take on cauliflower crust pizza and all I see are pics of your new cat and all of the beer you’re drinking late Saturday nights at Cask & Larder on Instagram! Your cat does not need her own hashtag!”

I vehemently thank you all for sticking with me through my slacking, and my posts of #MaeWestKitty. And the only other cake I’ve baked since this pound cake was a beautiful triple berry bundt cake with a lemon glaze. Stay tuned, because I’m sure I’ll post it on here in the next three to seven months. Its worth the wait, I promise.

So to keep with the theme of slacking, here is a recipe for all of us who slack once in a while. I don’t think there is anything wrong with treating yourself every now and again, and rather than going and picking up cake from anywhere with who-knows-what ingredients, I like to justify this recipe on the simple fact that when you make something you have control of the ingredients that go into it. You can use cage-free eggs, organic butter, and turbanado sugar if you like and you can always pronounce all of the things that you’re about to eat. For my pals that are on stricter diets out there, feel free to try this recipe using your favorite alternative baking flours. I’m curious to see how it adapts!

Enjoy!

Cake
1 ½ cups of shredded, unsweetened coconut
2 cups of flour
1 tsp of baking powder
½ tsp of baking soda
½ tsp of salt
¾ cup of softened butter
1 cup of sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup of buttermilk

Glaze
1 cup of powdered sugar
2 Tbs of buttermilk

1. On a baking sheet, toast your coconut until it is brown in the oven. Get ready for your kitchen to smell amazing. When it’s done, let it cool. Reserve ½ of a cup of coconut for topping later.

2. Turn your oven on to 350 degrees.

3. Sift together your flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

4. Cream together the butter and sugar until the butter is light and fluffy. I like using my hand mixer for this.

5. Slowly add 1 egg at a time into your butter and mix. Add in your vanilla.

6. Add a small amount of flour followed by a small amount of buttermilk in alternating portions, mixing well in between. You should do this about 3 times.

7. Fold in your toasted coconut.

8. Pour your batter into a greased loaf pan and bake for 1 hour.

9. Cool your cake in the pan on a wire rack for 1 hour.

10. Remove your cake and place it on the wire rack. Pour your glaze on top of the cake and then top it with your reserved coconut.

Veggie Breakfast Frittata

I was in one of my Kitchen MacGuyver moods one Sunday morn. I had a 1/3 of a bag of wilting spinach, half a container of little cherry tomatoes that were staring to shrivel and my last 6 eggs in the fridge. If anything will make me feel like an Iron Chef, it’s one of those situations. I’ve become very fond of making frittatas because they are so versatile. They are a great vessel for those little bits of leftovers, cooked or uncooked, that you need to use up in the fridge. You can also save leftover slices and have a tasty breakfast ready to be warmed up throughout the week in a matter of seconds. If you’re feeling particularly swanky, pair a slice with a salad for what the fancy people like to call a light lunch. Or if you’re strapped for cash (like myself), you can call it not-tuna-salad-again-because-I-get-paid-in-two-more-days lunch.

One thing I have been sneaking into my cooking lately is this crazy blend of spices called Berbere. It’s a north African blend of spices that is really robust and give a complex and distinct flavor. It has lots of cayenne pepper, turmeric, ginger, garlic, and a few other things. I picked up some at Penzy’s, but any specialty market might have it. If you can’t find it, a good pinch of cayenne pepper and turmeric might do the trick.

Side note: Remember to use a pot holder when removing your pan out of the oven and after. Maybe you all are smarter than me, but I can’t stop burning myself because I keep forgetting that the pan came out of a 375 degree oven and I just grab it as if I were making an omelet or something.

Veggie Breakfast Frittata

Veggie Breakfast Frittata

1 cup spinach
½ cup cheery tomatoes, halved
3 whole eggs
3 egg whites
1 tsp Berbere spice blend
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 Tbs olive oil

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

2. Heat your garlic and oil in an oven-safe pan over medium-high heat.

3. Just as the garlic starts to get a bit of brown, add your tomatoes and spinach. Sprinkle in the Berbere spice and toss to wilt the spinach and cook the tomatoes.

4. Whisk together your eggs and egg whites. Add them to the pan.

5. Gently stir the bottom of the pan with a spatula to move the veggies around in a uniform layer.

6. After the eggs cook for about 4 minutes on the stovetop, place the ovenproof pan in the oven to cook the eggs longer. Bake for 10 minutes, until the eggs have set.

7. Remove the pan from the oven and slide out the frittata on to a cutting board for cutting.

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Cups

I’m trying to work those ‘good’ grains back into my diet these day. I know I need to watch the carbs, but you can’t deny the goodness of putting whole grains into your body. In addition to all of the fiber you’ll get to keep you full, they are little nuggets of goodness to get you through a derby practice. Nothing is worse than running out of steam and you still have to keep skating another hour.

I like this recipe because it allows me to use all of those overripe bananas that I throw in the back of my freezer. Store in an airtight container for a few days in the fridge or pop them in the freezer for much later. These are awesome on-the-go when you overslept before your morning practice or only have a few minutes to get to derby after work.

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Makes 12 cups
2 cups of rolled oats
1 Tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup of unsweetened almond milk (you can sub any unsweetened milk of choice, I just like almond)
1 egg
2 medium bananas
1 large apple (preferably Granny Smith) cored and cut into small chunks

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

2. Spray your muffin tin with nonstick spray, or use tin foil liners. The paper ones may be harder to get off (they were for me).

3. Mash your bananas and add your egg and milk. Mix together thoroughly.

4. Add your dry ingredients to the wet mixture. Once blended together, fold in the apple.

5. Fill your muffin tins to about the top. Bake for 25 minutes.

Vanilla Chia Smoothie

I’m trying to clean up my eating again. Like everyone else, I fall off the bandwagon during the holidays. I work in an industry full of food vendors. They are sending us droves of goodie baskets, as if the continual supply of food for testing throughout the year wasn’t havoc enough on my hips. Usually I wouldn’t mind, since I don’t beat myself up if I slip a cookie here and there because I know I’ve got at least 4 hours on my skates every week. However, my derby league is on holiday break like everyone else. Hopefully when I do start skating again back in January, the chocolate-covered pretzels, French truffles, Christmas cookies, and caramel popcorn won’t slow me down too much.

For me, getting back on the bandwagon is all about shortcuts. Just something to make the act of saying, “No, you don’t need to pull into T-Flats for Taco Tuesday because you have something equally delicious at home,” a little easier; like ripping off a Band Aid. My big problem this past month has been not eating a balanced breakfast. Lunch is easy for me if I don’t have time to pack it. I walk over to Panera for a fresh salad, or drive to one of many sushi places around and grab a fairly healthy meal. I’ve come to love Jimmy John’s not only for their freaky fast delivery to my office, but their Un-Wich as well. But when it comes to breakfast, I’m screwed if I don’t plan ahead. A bagel is out of the question, and though I like the hidden menu steak and egg bowl at Panera I don’t like paying more than $6 for it.

Enter chia smoothie goodness. I can whip this up in less than 5 minutes while I’m making dinner. Really no mess (especially if you heat the milk in the jar in the microwave) and after it sits in the fridge overnight, all you have to do is grab and go. I drink mine right out of the jar once I get to work and have been pairing it with eggs cups (recipe here) for a protein-packed breakfast that will help keep me going all morning.

Vanilla Chia Smoothie
1 cup of unsweetened almond milk (or soy, coconut or cow’s milk)
3 Tbs chia seeds
1 Tbs honey
1 Tsp vanilla extract

1. Heat your milk of choice either in the microwave or on the stovetop. Be careful not to scald it; stand by the stove and wait for it to warm. You want it warm so when you add your honey it will dissolve.

2. Add the honey and stir through, making sure it has dissolved into the milk.

3. Add your sweetened milk to a container with a lid (I prefer a mason jar or something from my collection of reused pasta sauce, pickles, mustard, and olive jars).

4. Add the vanilla extract and chia seeds.

5. Seal the lid and shake vigorously (over the sink!) until everything is incorporated. Let this is in the fridge for about half an hour and give it another good shake. Put it back in the fridge for at least 3 hours before shaking up and enjoying!

Paleo Brownies

It’s the holidays! There is one thing I splurge on… EGGNOG. I happen to have 2 half-gallons in my fridge at this very moment, right next to the eggnog coffee creamer. Aside from the eggnog splurge, there’s always the other treats with the holidays. Now that I’m not living with Mom and Dad anymore, the threat of the bounty of Christmas cookies is long gone. That doesn’t mean I don’t still want to eat something sweet and decadent. I like making these brownies because they are not only rich and chocolaty, but they are a cinch to make in your food processor.

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
15 large medjool dates, pits removed
1 medium ripe banana
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1 Tbs honey
¼ cup dried cranberries

1. Except for the dried cranberries, combine all ingredients in your food processor until mixed thoroughly.
2. Stir in your cranberries.
3. Press into a greased baking dish and pop in the freezer until set (about 1 hour). Cut into squares and enjoy!

Paleo Zucchini Bread

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I suck at baking. Like really, really suck at baking. I never can seem to get things right. I blame it on the fact that baking is all about being precise. It’s a chemical reaction, and I think I got a C+ at best in chemistry. The best part of being a business major in college was that I could get away with geology as my required science class. The only thing I took away from my professor was his love of ‘A Land Remembered’ by Patrick D. Smith, which is now one of my favorite books. What can I say, I’m a sucker for Florida history.

Luckily paleo baking seems to be something I’m far better at. It’s still not the ‘pinch of this, dash of that’ freedom that cooking gives me, but it seems less hard for me to totally screw things up. I also enjoy paleo baking because it means I can eat baked goods without all of the extra sugar and processed carbs. I’m one of those people who needs to watch my carbs and processed junk I put into my body because it seems to enjoy settling on my stomach. I by no means am trying to ‘eat like a caveman’, and I do still put some lower-fat cream cheese on my paleo zucchini bread because that’s the way God (and my mom) intended zucchini bread to be eaten. As far as my lower-carb-higher-protein lifestyle goes, this just seems to fit right in.

In the two times I’ve made this recipe, I’ve found that using thawed zucchini that you’ve nearly crushed with your bare hands works the best. This is particularly helpful when it’s near the end of summer, and your fridge is overflowing with all of the zucchini that you bought on sale because it was in season and you got tired of grilling, sautéing, and making baked zucchini fries (recipe here). Just run it through the food processor’s grater (or shred by hand with a box grater), bag it up in portions, and toss it in the freezer (next to your stockpile of bananas that you also bought in bulk) till you’re ready to make a bounty of zucchini bread, which to me is a fall treat with summer’s leftovers. Let it thaw, then squeeze as much liquid as you can out to make sure your bread doesn’t come out too wet.

1 ½ c almond flour
1 cup zucchini, shredded and drained of excess water
3 eggs
1 banana, mashed
1 ½ tsp baking soda
3 Tbs honey
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 Tbs coconut oil, melted

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine the almond flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together in a bowl.

3. In another bowl, add your eggs, honey, banana, and coconut oil and whisk together thoroughly.

4. Add your squeezed zucchini to the wet mixture. Seriously… Squeeze the shit out of it.

5. Fold in the dry ingredients until everything is smooth.

6. Grease a loaf pan and pour the batter in. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

7. Allow the bread to cool before removing from the pan. Enjoy!