Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Anniversary+Lentil Burgers with Caramelized Onion

Today marks three years, precisely, since the Halloween that Nick kissed me. That was the very first kiss and the very first time I knew he even liked me, although I had been quietly, secretly, madly in love with him for a while. And, it turned out, he had too. Been in love with me-- not with himself.
 It was only natural that such a momentous thing should happen on Halloween in Salem, since we both worked in Salem at the time, putting on shows for crowds of rowdy tourists. And because of that, (and roughly a million other reasons) Halloween and Salem will always have a special place in my heart.

I know that the wedding anniversary is supposed to be The Thing now, but I can't help it-- I'll always feel like today is our real anniversary, because the years before the wedding are what brought us to the wedding. Nick asked me out on a Anniversary DINNER date for tonight in Portsmouth. So after I get home from work today, I'll be sprucing up in some fancy duds and going out on the town with my handsome man. 

Its hard to believe that Thanksgiving is in less than a month. November is a lovely, but lonely month for me. My mother died in November when I was seventeen, just days before Thanksgiving, and she is often in my thoughts during the holiday season, because she loved, loved, loved the holidays. In fact, she is the entire reason that I myself am so overwhelmingly obsessed with Thanksgiving and CHRISTMAS, because she had a childlike glee when it came to these days. I just hope that I will ever be able to make Christmas Day as special for my children as she made it for us. 

Last night I made a dish my mother used to make when we were, for a time and as a family, vegetarians. It was my favorite non-meat dish then, and still ranks way up there for me today. Its just a lucky bonus that they are also exceptionally good for you. The Great Lentil Burger.

I love me a good meat burger, but these are an awesomely tasty alternative. Packed with nutrients and flavor, and you don't have to feel a minute of guilt. In fact, hold the bun and have a second one! I like mine Au natural, but Nick ate his between two pieces of dense, moist pumpernickel bread, smothered in cheese and topped with sweet caramelized onions. Delicious. And with a side of equally good-for-you baked sweet potato fries, you really can't go wrong.

I made an extra large batch of lentils the other day for the stew, and of course our refrigerator is always well stocked with cooked beans-- so these burgers were an extra-extra-read-all-about-it triple whammy of bean goodness- Lentils, farm-fresh (literally) kidney beans, and equally fresh Calypso Beans. Calypso's are my favorite heirloom variety-- they are so, so tasty, and they are gorgeous.

See?They look like little cow beans.And just on their own they have a fantastic flavor. I'm going to use these to make Boston Baked Beans for Nick's birthday dinner tomorrow-- a McBride Family Favorite. So. Onwards and upwards. I work afternoons and don't get home until usually 7:30 or 7:45, so I like to have everything pre-made since I prefer eating before 8 if at all possible...With this meal, I pre-baked the fries so all I had to do was warm them up, and I put together the bean mixture ahead of time. With those two time savers, I had dinner on the table last night in fifteen minutes.

Ingredients (burgers)*

1.5 cups cooked green lentils
1/2 cup cooked, mashed Calypso beans
1/2 cup cooked mashed kidney beans
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 large finely chopped garlic clove
1 egg
2 tbs(ish) cornmeal
salt and pepper 
*I didn't measure any of my ingredients. These are estimates. Good luck.

Combine all ingredients and mush it together with your hands. It needs a good amount of salt, because nothing goes better with lentils than salt. Also, if you are active, you really need the salt in your diet. I have spoken of this before. Don't get me started, don't even get me started. As for the cornmeal, if your mash is on the wet side, put some more in. You could also use bread crumbs but for whatever reason, I prefer the cornmeal. 
Not looking too appetizing yet, but give it time. Spray down a nonstick frying pan with olive oil spray, and then form patties out of the bean paste. Turn the heat to medium, and let them cook at least five minutes on each side. 
They are not so super sturdy so be careful when flipping them. When they are browned on each side, top with some mozzarella cheese, and cover  them so the cheese will melt.
Meanwhile, thinly slice 1/2 an onion and heat some olive oil for the caramelized onions. Put the onions into the oil (no more that 1/4 tbs) and throw in some salt (at least 1 tsp) and some brown sugar (1/2 tbs).

Cook them until they are nicely browned.

For the sweet potato fries, you will need 2.5 smallish unpeeled sweet potato's sliced into fry sized pieces, whatever that means to you. In a zip lock bag, combine 1.5 tbs of olive oil, a good palm full of kosher salt, pepper, oregano, and paprika-- a hearty dash of each. Shake the fries around in the bag until they are all coated, and then lay them out on a cookie sheet. 
 Bake them at 400 degrees in the oven for about fifteen minutes checking them frequently. Once they are soft and a little bit browned, broil them on high for 1-2 minutes.

Bingo. Done. We topped our burgers with a farm fresh tomato and some pickles and ketchup--delightful. And  the best part? At the end of this burger and fries meal, you won't have a greasy stomach ache. You'll just be full, and happy, which is what I like to be at the end of the day. 
 Also, these fries are so good! 
Anyway. Have a wonderful and safe Halloween. Also I added a side link called What I'm Reading to keep me going with my library card and my reading habit. I'd love to hear suggestions from you all on what you're reading, so I get some ideas.

Thank you, everyone, for commenting and following this little blog. I'm having fun.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane day+Sausage Lentil Stew

I am sure, for some people, Sandy was not kind. And I'm guessing for the 300,000 in Massachusetts without power, it hasn't been exactly fun and games. But for me? I'm thankful for Sandy...for a forced restful day, for a quiet afternoon and night with my husband.

I was by myself until 2:00 when Nick got home...Lupe and I built two forts. Once for her, and one for me, to pass the time. Mostly I did the building and Lupe watched in a mopey way from her dog bed. She pretty much just drags around the house when Nick isn't home. Which hurts my feelings, but its good training for daughters I guess.

My fort
Lupe's Fort
When Nick got home, we donned our rain boots and trudged to the grocery store for 'emergency supplies'. Which consisted of SO MUCH marked down specialty beer (on Nicks part) and chocolate chips and popcorn on my part. The walk was fun-- not scary like my foolhardy run had been-- because a. my rain boots added a solid four pounds to my body to root me to the ground and b. things like wind blowing super hard against you and creaking the trees around and above you are a lot of fun when you're with someone you like a whole lot. 
When we got home, I put together some homemade hot chocolate and popped a big bowl of salted popcorn. Then we curled up in our fort at watched Shakespeare in Love. 
Lupe stayed in her own fort for a while because she's not so into sappy love stories, but eventually joined us when she felt lonesome.

After dark, our friend Jon joined us for a hurricane dinner, which consisted of the thick, hearty lentil stew that had been crock-potting it all day long. Thankfully we didn't lose power. It was the perfect dinner. Warm, cozy, and vaguely nostalgic for an older time. Filled with farm grown lentils, farm fed sausage (well. It was farm fed before it was a sausage...back when it was a pig.) and seasonable root vegetables in a flavorful beef broth, it called up visions of a wood fire and a log cabin. To me. And I'll be imagination can get carried away. Which is probably why I think Alice the Cat actually goes to bars on Saturday nights with his Cat friends. 

Sausage Lentil Stew

about 2.5 cups uncooked lentils
1/2 white onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 stalk celery, chopped
two carrots, chopped

1 sweet potato, chopped
1 russet potato, chopped
1/2 lb sausage meat, broken up
48 oz container of beef broth
salt and pepper
1/2 tbs each: marjoram, sage, oregano, thyme, herbs de provence
a dash of crushed red pepper

Put the lentils in a lot of water and bring them to a boil, then simmer them until soft. Meanwhile, saute the onion, garlic, celery, and carrot in a nonstick pan with a little dash of olive oil. Throw some salt in to bring out the flavors. Once the stock-starter is translucent, put it into the crock pot (if you're crocking. Otherwise put it in a normal pot). Add the sweet potato and regular potato to the pot, and put the broken up sausage into the frying pan and cook it until it is slightly browned. Add this into the pot with some salt and pepper and all the spices. Pour the beef broth over it, and then drain the softened lentils and put about half into the soup. Reserve the other half so you can make lentil burgers like I am going to do tonight.
Then, turn your crock pot to high, or your regular pot to low, and cook it for an hour (in a pot) or 6+ (in a crock pot). 
Garnish it with a little Parmesan cheese, and dig in to this rich, tasty soup.
I am completely slightly obsessed with soup. It is, to me, the perfect cool/cold weather meal. Filling, healthy, and low in calories to boot. So, get ready for roughly two million soup recipes through the coming months. On  the menu for tonight though: My mom's delicious Lentil Burgers with sweet potato fries. And now? Off for a (dry) run. Happy Hallows Eve.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Warmup

Yesterday was the warm-up, I guess. A day of drizzle and dark skies...what seems to be my typical laundry day. Pink hunter boots on, and arms filled to the brim with dirty clothing.

Today is a little bit more angry. I almost never cancel work, because a. I like working b. I get lonely being home alone and c. I don't get paid for time off. But, the weather reports sufficiently scared me. Even though I will be a little bit annoyed if it ends up being the usual New England hyperbole of a storm (Stock up! Snow storm of  the century! We'll be locked in for days!) I am also hoping very much that it is just that. Because otherwise we're in for some trouble. And I didn't even buy out of grocery stores supply of canned goods!
     I am, however, crossing my fingers that Nicks classes tonight get cancelled so I don't turn into a Crazy Dog Lady (which I am apt to do if left alone for more than 6 hours....and yesterday filled that quota) and so that we can spend an evening cuddled up watching old movies on netflix on our laptops since we don't have a t.v. In anticipation of this possibility, I am in the process of making a warm, filling, satisfying lentil-sausage stew. I'll have that up tomorrow.

Last night was Sunday Dinner at the McBride  Hanlon household. Growing up, dinner was the thing. Every single night, my mother cooked a truly delectable meal and when she whistled the dinner whistle (I almost cried just now because I can't, for my life, remember that whistle tune) we would all come down to the table. She was an excellent cook- good cooking is a Clarke family trait (my mothers maiden name) and my grandmother, aunt, and mother take/took great pride in putting a good meal on the table. No boxed or frozen meals, if you please

Here I am with Grandma Clarke,  the matriarch, who still does yoga and wears high heels on the daily.
 My friends loved coming over to my house for dinner when I was a teenager,  not only for the food, but also for the conversation. We would sometimes sit for hours at the table, having alternately funny or serious talks with my parents and sibling, while eating whatever wonderful creation my mother had made. My sister and I both love being in the kitchen (baby sister took it to a whole new level with culinary art school) and we both started cooking early on.
Baby Chef Sister and me

I remember being a very little girl, maybe eight or nine, in the kitchen with my mother, learning as much as I could take in. My mother was an inventor and an adapter, and so am I. She showed her family her love through what she prepared for them, and now, so do I.

Today, my family is all over the place. My little sister lives with my dad in Thailand, where we grew up.
My preternaturally young looking father and me
My brother and his sweet, lovely wife live in Syracuse with their overwhelmingly adorable baby boy whom I miss every single day.
Yes this is my brother, and yes we are blood related.
Please note his sailor suit. Complete with a tiny tie.

Sometimes I am filled with the loneliness, missing them. But two days ago my brother called me and said they would be hopefully coming to stay with us through Christmas. And that thrilled me. To be able to cook meals for them, decorate a tree, give gifts, and most of all, snuggle my little nephew is maybe the most exciting thing. The holiday season is upon us. Hurrah!

 Anyway. That was a longwinded beginning to the Hanlon Sunday Dinner. Last night, Nick and I enjoyed a quiet, happy night in together. I made a grown up version of a kid classic: Ravioli and Meatball Soup. Light, satisfying, and delicious. With a special Dulce de Leche cake to follow. Which made it a special meal, which made it a Sunday meal.

Our Sunday Spread

The Ravioli and Meatball soup combined meatballs made the way my mother made them (except with Turkey) and a light, savory tomato beef broth filled with carrots, onions, spinach, brussel sprouts, and mini cheese ravioli's.Oh and a cheese rind. See? Grown up.


1/2 tbs olive oil
1/4 finely chopped onion
3 large cloves finely chopped garlic
1 chopped carrot
 1/2 cup chopped spinach
3 chopped brussel sprouts
1 Parmesan cheese rind
1 tbs each oregano, parsley, sage, herbs de provence
salt and pepper to taste
crushed red pepper (optional)
1/2 cup small, dried ravioli
48 oz container of beef broth
4 tbs tomato sauce (any kind)

Thank goodness for a well stocked spice rack.


1/4 cup chopped fine onion
1/2 tbs parsley
1/2 tbs oregano
1 egg white
1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbs (or so) cornmeal
1/2 lb ground turkey meat
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot (I used my lovely red cast iron pot, thank you Annika!) heat the olive oil and saute the garlic, onion, and carrot with a little bit of salt and pepper. Once they are translucent, pour in the broth, and add all of the spices, the tomato sauce, and the cheese rind. Cover the pot, and let it simmer.

Combine all of the ingredients for the meatballs, and get your hands good and dirty mashing them up. Once the broth is boiling, drop the meatballs in one by one. As you can see in the picture up there, I made them pretty small so they would cook fast.

After about three minutes, add the brussell sprouts and spinach. Let this simmer for another five minutes. Then turn the heat up and bring the soup to a boil. Add in the ravioli and cook until they are just soft, about seven minutes.

Serve it up, top with cheese and dig in. 

After you warm yourself up with the soup, start in on dessert! Now, this Dulce de Leche cake was inspired by an outrageously delicious treat I had at Pepperland Cafe in our downtown. It was a yellow cake soaked in condensed milk and topped with fresh whipping cream. My version was not quite as light and fluffy because, and I am writing this mostly to bring a quiet joy to my sisters heart (because she would NEVER do this) I add...baking powder.

But you won't forget. And since it was tasty sans baking powder, just think how much better it will be with it!

Yellow Cake

1 1/8 cups flour
just under 3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup baking powder (woops) 
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup 1% milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg

Combine dry ingredients and add shortening, milk, and vanilla. Mix and then add the egg. Beat batter for a little under a minute and then pour into an 8 inch cake pan and bake at 350 for around thirty minutes.
Take it out, and poke it all over with a fork. Then, pour maybe 1/4 cup or so of (unsweetened) condensed milk over it, soaking it into the holes. (Side note: My apartment just shook due to an enormous gust of Hurricane wind.) 

Next, make some fresh whipping cream. I used about 1/2 cup of whipping cream, a tbs of brown sugar, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract to make mine. beat it up till it rises in little peaks. 

Then, slice the cake, top it off with the whipping cream, and enjoy a decadent treat. 

The end. Hopefully you, like me, are very bored today and stuck inside and thus read this entire, ridiculously long entry. And since you have nothing to do (right?), you can go ahead and cook up one of  these (or both of these) dishes for tonight. Nothing beats hurricanes like hot soup. I'm pretty sure that's in the bible. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Sick Day and a Crafty Carbonara

Sometimes I feel my body fighting. When it is fighting, I feel drained and frail and bone tired. Half this week my body has been fighting and yesterday was the Last Battle. Thankfully, I had a lighter work day that usual, and Nick took me for Indian food, and we watched Billy Elliot. And a little piece of me thought sadly of Halloween Parties, and the Rest of the World which seems (thanks to facebook) to be doing all sorts of wonderful things all of the time while I feel Left Out and Lonely.

Here we are. Last year in our sweet Salem as Cowboy and Brigitte Bardot which, or course, don't go together, but we never can decide on anything jointly. Anyway, I let out a small, sad complaint about our lack of Halloween party status, and my sore, fighting throat. Nick looked over at me and said, "I'd rather be right here with you than at any party anywhere." And I know he was  telling the truth. And I know that I should learn from his state of quiet contentedness.

I slept, completely dead to the world, for a solid ten hours last night. And I woke and discovered that my body had won and I wasn't sick or fighting anymore. Its nice to have someone working hard for you, which I'm pretty sure it does constantly since I spend every single day with a multitude of adorable, germ laden children. Whom I love despite their open mouthed coughing, hand to nose snot wiping habits. Because who wouldn't?

Before the Last Battle yesterday, and on Friday night, I made a special dish. As a child, I loved (too much. You should see the pictures of me) Spaghetti Carbonara. The creamy sauce, the bacon, the was my favorite dish to get at any Italian restaurant. Never mind the fact that it made my stomach hurt because if its heaviness. It was delicious.
   As a grown up, and someone that tries hard to eat well, I haven't had Carbonara in years. Sometimes I think of it, but I never eat it. Until Friday night, when thanks to some inspirational blog readings, I came across a recipe for a squash pasta dish, and my mind began working. Thus was born Crafty Carbonara.

Al dente spaghetti tossed in a creamy butternut squash puree flavored with thick cut bacon, sharp Parmesan, and farm grown shallots. It was amazing. It had neither heavy cream, nor eggs in it, but when Nick (who is a sharp judge of healthy versions of unhealthy things) tasted it, he first closed his eyes and sighed a deep and happy sigh, and then insisted that there were both cream and eggs in it-- there had to be. Negative. There isn't. So. Get ready. A guilt free comfort food that is easy as pie (which isn't easy at all so this is a silly statement) to make. 

Ingredients (serves 4-5)


1 butternut squash cut into cubes. (I got it precut from Natures Way, our local grocery store which specializes in local produce, including my husbands beans.)
1 rasher of thick cut bacon (I get the bacon ends from Trader Joe's which are super cheap, and a little goes a long way)
3 (large) cloves garlic, chopped
1 shallot, chopped very fine
1 tablespoon Sage
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
salt and pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


1/2 shallot chopped fine
1/2 a rasher of thick bacon, chopped small

About 3/4 of a box of spaghetti

Boil the squash in salted water until it is tender. Cook the bacon, garlic, and shallots in a large pan. Puree the squash with a little salt and lots of pepper and the ricotta cheese. After the bacon, garlic and shallots are well cooked, add  the squash and mix it up and let it simmer for a little while.Add in the Parmesan and mix again.

While the sauce simmers start boiling some more salted water for the spaghetti and chop up the 1/2 shallot and the other bit of bacon. In a tiny bit of olive oil, cook the bacon and shallot until they are both crispy.

Set these aside in a bowl. And try with all your might not to nibble the bacon. 

Once the spaghetti is cooked al dente, drain it and throw it into the pot of sauce. Or wok, if you, like me, use a wok for everything. 
Mix it all together, using tongs so that the sauce coats the pasta completely. 

Once this is taken care of, serve it up with a sprinkling of bacon and shallots on top and maybe a little bit of cheese. 

We ate ours with a slice of Lemon Rosemary bread from When Pigs Fly Bakery in Kittery which quite possibly may be my favorite place IN THE WORLD. So.Without further ado, make this delicious dish. Tell me if you like it as much as we did...I have a feeling this will be a repeat pasta throughout the winter in our little house.

And please do enjoy your Sunday, day of rest.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Gentleness of the Years

There are three things I am grateful for.
1. That the high point of my life wasn't highschool (THANK GOD or else my life would be incredibly depressing)
2. That the high point of my life wasn't college
3. That the high point of my life was not the immediate wild year(s) following graduation

I always thinks its sad when the years a person considers to be the best ones are those ones. Because what about the remainder of our (hopefully) long and responsibility laden lives?

Wednesday night I spent the first night since marriage (almost two whole months of it!) away from Nick. My dear, dear friend Heather and I went to see Kimbra in Boston which was amazing-- her voice, her costumes, her dancing! All incredible. We felt young but also grown up, because we are young but also grown up. And in light of these combined feelings, we went home at looked through pictures of ourselves from the beginning of  our friendship away back in 2006. All I can say is, thank goodness for the kindness of the years.
Heather and Sarah (both of whom were maids of honor at my wedding) are two of my oldest friends, and I laughed loud and long at the pictures of myself with them along the way. And so, to show that time is only a friend and never an enemy (until I start getting wrinkles and then I'll change my tune) I'm providing a timeline.
We've done so many things over the years. Trips to Thailand and Italy (with Sarah) Scotland, and England (with Heather). Cross country road adventures (with Heather and company) and more embarrassing and ridiculous experiences in our boring Christian dorm rooms than I care to remember. And I'm glad for it. It built lots of character...

Get ready.

In the Beginning. 2006. Sarah and I come back from Thailand. Heather and I go to Winter Ball-- an alcohol free school dance...

We feel like celebrities.

And so do we. Adorable.

2007. We begin to feel like Real Adults. 

   Nothing short of precious, I know.

2008. We begin to Experience The World (outside of Asia). I study in Italy, and Sarah visits me. I come home, Worldly and Wise.

Much of our time in Italy is spent trying on Italian clothing and drinking amaretto sours. 
Italian clothes most likely after amaretto sours. 
 Worldly Wise.

We celebrate our First Halloween in Salem

 Unfortunately, somewhere along the road this happens. 

2009. I enter my senior year of college with all kinds of artistic expressions of depression. I celebrate the New Year in Thailand. 
 Sawadee Kha.

As a graduate, Heather, myself, and two other friends live in a Real Apartment. To celebrate our adulthood, we go to a Harry Potter Midnight Showing.

2010. Somehow, Nick falls in love with me. Sarah gets married. 

Sarah looks gorgeous per usual. I look subpar at best. 

Oh, and also this happens. 

2011. Things finally begin to look up. I get a ring towards the end, and somehow I don't see Sarah. 

We also celebrate our third Halloween in Salem. We pull it together. 

And finally, the Today. A bachelorette party, a wedding. And life piled upon life. 

So. The moral of the story is: always looks ahead and assume that things can only get better.

However, for Alice the Cat, He couldn't improve upon his distracting adorable-ness as a kitten. But at least now he gets to hunt for wildlife.