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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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.

Paleo-ish Cookie Dough Bars

I’ve never been a person to shy away from a problem. I enjoy a little fire under my ass. As a matter of fact, I don’t enjoy using the word, “problem”; “challenge” or even “opportunity” is far more enjoyable.

I may just be saying that after having enough previous bosses tell me that.

Either way, I’m stressing. Like, the kind of stress that makes you reach for a Hershey’s bar, some preservative-rich frozen macaroni and cheese and a box of wine. Anything that will leave you in a sugary, carb-induced coma on the couch and slurring your thoughts so badly that even if there was a zombie walking through your living room you couldn’t put two and two together. That, my friends, would be a “problem”.

After all, I’m a red-blooded American woman, and nothing says that better than reaching for the sweets and the booze. But since I’m on this kick of eating well, I’ll bypass the creamy cheesy carbs and opt for something a little more wholesome. Something filled with ingredients that my body will actually know what to do with. Don’t worry; wine is still in the mix.

This recipe is actually inspired by one found on damyhealth.com, and I’ve been meaning to make it for several weeks now. OK, weeks really means months. But I’ve been pushed to my stress’ limit to where I have no other option but to make this. And since I love baked goods but can’t bake to save my life, this is totally up my alley. All you need is a food processor and something to heat the ganache with.

MAKE THIS!

Paleo-ish Cookie Dough Bars
Makes 12 squares

Crust:
1 c peanuts
1 c cashews
½ c pitted dates
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbs honey

Ganache:
1 c coconut oil
½ cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup honey

1. Place the crust ingredients into your food processor. Pulse together for a few minutes until everything comes together in a ball. Add a tablespoon or two of water f it needs a little help. This is my kind of baking!

IMG_0038[1]

IMG_0039[1]

2. Grease a glass baking dish (I used an 8 x 12) and press the crust in an even layer.

3. Put your ganache ingredients into a small pot on the stove top and gently warm it through, until you can see that the honey has incorporated and all of the coconut oil has melted (aka there are no little white balls floating around).

4. Pour the ganache on top of the crust layer in the pan.

5. Cover with plastic wrap and stick it in the freezer for a few hours. Cut it into your 12 squares and enjoy!

*To store, seal in a container and keep in your freezer!

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!

Lunch: Rosemary and White Bean Soup

This is based off of one of Ina Garten’s recipes out of The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. I’m a big fan of her recipes because many times they are timeless classics with just a few ingredients. Like all soups, this one tastes even better as leftovers. It makes a big batch, which you can divide into single servings and freeze for an easy dinner or lunch later in the week.

You’ll need:

1 lb Great Northern beans, soaked overnight in water

3 onions, sliced

¼ cup of olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 branch of rosemary (fresh should be used, but if you can’t find even a little plant at your grocery store use about 1 Tbs dried)

2 quarts chicken stock (or vegetable stock for a vegan option)

1 bay leaf

Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Sautee your onions in the olive oil until they are translucent.
  2. Add your minced garlic and continue cooking for another 3 minutes.

    The ingredients to a rosemary and white bean soup.

    The ingredients to a rosemary and white bean soup.

  3. Add the drained beans, stock, rosemary, and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and let it cook for about 40-45 minutes. The beans will be very soft when done.
  4. Remove the rosemary branch (if fresh was used) and the bay leaf. Ladle into a food processor or blender, but reserve a cup or two if you like your soup with some texture. Pulse until roughly pureed.
  5. Pour soup back into the pot, season with salt and pepper to your liking, and serve hot with crusty bread and a salad.

    Rosemary and White Bean soup with french bread and Mettwurst

    Rosemary and White Bean soup with french bread and Mettwurst