Saturday, December 3, 2011

Going Dutch


I love to travel.  I've mentioned before how my 2 best friends and I try to go on vacation together every year, both to spend time together and to visit a new city or country.  A few weeks few months ago (wow I'm so late posting this... *embarrassed*), Boyfriend and I spent 10 days in The Netherlands.  

Boyfriend and I have never gone on vacation together alone.  Never.  Seriously.
I KNOW!!  Crazy right?

I loved it there.  The people?  Wonderful.  The windmills?  Charming.  The bikes?  Inspiring.  The art culture?  Refreshing.  The food?  Meh.

Yeah, I hate to say it, and I hated admitting it to myself, but there isn't much of a "food culture" in The Netherlands.  Now, don't get me wrong, we ate some good stuff... but just not "dutch" stuff.  The bars are where you find the most "dutchy" foods, which was fine with me because to be honest that's where we spent most of our time.  What is this "dutchy" food you ask?  Well...  "-wursts," fried balls full of a hot gravy-like substance called "Bitterballen," and fried tubes of cheese called "Kassenballen" or something like that.  Lots of fried things that are like molten lava when exposed to the roof of your mouth, only to be quenched with a huge gulp of beer.... those tricky Dutch!  Making us drink more beer!!  For shame!!
Note the amount of fried foods and sausage on my "dutch sampler platter"
So, about that beer... The great news is that what they lack in food, they more than make up for in booze... HEINEKEN to be precise.  And I know what many of you are thinking, but honestly, the Heineken is SOOOOO much better there.  Honest!

We spent the first part of the week in Leiden, which is about 45 minutes southwest of Amsterdam. The city's logo is a set of keys and hence, it is called "the key city."  It is a major university city and is home to Leiden University and Medical Center, which resulted in a small change to the town's motto, now called "the key to discovery".  For me, this was the non-vacation part of the trip since I was there to attend a conference.  I'm not complaining though, the conference was amazing and I couldn't have asked for a better city to travel to for work.

Fun Fact: Leiden is where the Pilgrims first settled before eventually departing for the New World and landing here in Massachusetts.  At least the lack of timeliness of this post allows it to coincide with Thanksgiving and I can, at least in my mind, pretend it was on purpose.

We spent the rest of our trip in Amsterdam (obviously), which defied ALL of my expectations.  It was amazing.  I would live there in a heartbeat.  I expected it to be like a European version of Las Vegas, with the "coffeeshops" and red-light district.  NOPE.  I can't stress that NOPE enough.  Amsterdam was: Clean.  Friendly.  Safe.  Beautiful.
This is the "red-light district".... pretty nice, huh?
We did some of the classic touristy things like visiting the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House.  I recommend them both, but the Ann Frank House was incredible and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Amsterdam.  It was a sad reminder of how inhumane people can be, how far we still need to go and how far we've come toward equality for all.

The other thing I recommend?  Remember those two friends I mentioned that I always travel with?  And remember how I said that Boyfriend and I had never gone on vacation alone before?  Well.... I'm a big fan of compromise so Boyfriend and I took the first half of the week to ourselves, but couldn't possibly see a new city without throwing a Best Friend in the mix.

Yep.  I recommend having your best friend fly over from London to meet you in Amsterdam and spend the rest of the vacation Three's Company-style.  This was the icing on the vacation-cake.

So, in a nutshell, that was our trip to The Netherlands.  Anyone want to go back with me?  I'm thinking I could open a restaurant there and live a pretty happy life.... hell, they could use some better dining options, I think I'm a pretty decent cook and Boyfriend has his MBA.  Dream team!

With that, I leave you with two random yet adorable pictures from Amsterdam:




Thursday, September 8, 2011

Chilled Cucumber Avocado Soup

Soooo, you know those days where you are either A) too hot to cook, or B) too lazy to cook?  I have those days.  All the time.  And sometimes, you just want to throw a bunch of s#!t in a blender and call it dinner.

So I did.

And it was amazing.  And easy.  No heat required.

Ingredients (serves 2 larger portions): 
2 cucumbers (from my CSA), peeled and seeded
2 avocados, peeled
1 C lite cocount milk
1 tbsp thai green curry paste
2 scallions, diced for garnish

I know.  Its so easy.  You're welcome.

First, prep all the ingredients.  

The cucumber:

Then the avocados:

I love avocados.... hello gorgeous....  yeah, you know who you are.... stop playing coy....
 Mmmmmm....

Moving on.

Throw these beauties in a food processor and whiz around until pureed.

Move the puree to a bowl, add the coconut milk and green curry paste and mix.  Top with scallions and serve.
 Try it.  It was fresh, light, healthy, refreshing, surprisingly filling, AND EASY.  So, so easy.  Seriously, if this takes you longer than 10 minutes, I think we need to have a talk.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I Got a New Camera!!

Holy Crap!

I'm so excited... after over a year of wishing, saving, ogling and researching, I finally bought myself a new camera.  What did I get?

A Canon EOS Rebel T3 DSLR:
I'm really looking forward to learning more about this beauty.  And I really hope you can tell the difference in my photos, too!!  Wow.  Seriously.  Wouldn't THAT be embarrassing?!?

Maybe I'll even try to take some pictures of the same meal with the old camera and the new one and see if anyone can tell which is which.  >please be obvious, please be obvious<

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Boyfriend made me sushi

I am continually amazed by Boyfriend.  As I'm sure you could have guessed, I am usually the cook in our house.  However, a few months ago we took a sushi-making class together.  I assumed that I would rock the class, and end up adding sushi-making to my culinary repertoire.  

It feels good to be wrong.  It tastes good to be wrong.

Boyfriend was a natural.  I was terrible.  I blame my tiny hands.  I have miserably tiny hands.  Like a 4 year old's hands.  I wish I was kidding.
I call him, "Big Hands"

 I'm telling you what, I'm really looking forward to years of sushi.  Actually, I think that what I'm really looking forward to is the occasional night off from cooking!
Philadelphia Roll - Smoked salmon, cream cheese & cucumber
We had quite the meal.  He was on a roll... get it?  On A Roll!  Get it?  
Seven rolls in total
Smoked salmon (right) and a jumbo roll (left)
Spicy salmon with carrot and cucumber
Another shot of the Philly roll
As you can imagine, we could not possibly eat seven rolls between the two of us.  Boyfriend had sushi for lunch the next day.  Happy problem.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Martha's Vineyard Vacation

 Boyfriend and I just got back from a week on Martha's Vineyard.  It was a wonderful (and much needed) vacation with lots of food, family, and rose'.

oh.

and one other thing.

LOBSTER
Amazing buttery hot lobster roll
Fresh, delicious lobster.

We drove out to Menemsha one afternoon and hit up the fish market for some lobster rolls.  They had two options - hot and cold.  We got both.

Obviously.

And lobster bisque.

What?  Don't judge.

They were both delicious, but I tend to favor the hot lobster rolls.  Nothing but lobster and butter on a top-split hot dog bun.  The cold lobster roll is the more traditional version, very little mayo or celery or other unnecessary fillers.  Also delicious.  See for yourself.
Traditional cold lobster roll

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pistachio Pesto Potato Salad


Ahhh, the ever-present summer picnic and BBQ staple - Potato Salad.

I gotta be honest, I feel like I've been blog-free for so long that I've forgotten how to type!  I was so excited to be able to actually participate in this month's Daring Cook's Challenge despite all the craziness.

Boyfriend and I were invited to a BBQ last weekend and it hit me, "OMG, I'M MAKING POTATO SALAD!"  Boyfriend was confused at my excitement, especially since the invite also read, "you bring the booze, we'll provide the food."

I didn't care what the invite said, I was bringing potato salad dammit!

And I knew just what little twist I'd put on it to make it "mine": Pistachio Pesto.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been doing a ton of "pantry cooking" in preparation for what will soon be known as "the move that never happened."  One night, I wanted to make something quick and simple, yet fresh reminiscent of spring, so I threw the only nuts I had (pistachios), some garlic, Parmesan, lemon juice, olive oil and basil into the food processor and gave it a good whiz.  I tossed the resulting pesto it with capellini, white beans and sauteed swiss chard.  It was AWESOME.

So here goes, my rendition of a healthy potato salad - PISTACHIO PESTO POTATO SALAD (ha! say that 5 times fast!)
Blog-checking lines:Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!
The first thing to do was to make the pesto.  I've made pesto from just about any herb-nut-cheese combination and I gotta admit, they were all pretty amazing.  My love of pistachios might have taken this version to the top o' the pile for me though.


Pistachio Pesto:
2 cloves garlic
1/2 C toasted pistachios
1/4 C grated Parmesan
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 large package of fresh basil
1/2-3/4 C extra virgin olive oil, depending on your tastes
salt and pepper, to taste

1) Add the garlic, pistachios and Parmesan to the food processor and whiz it around to finely chop everything.
2) Add the basil, lemon juice and some of the olive oil, then whiz it around again for a few seconds.
3) With the motor running, slowly pour the remaining olive oil into the processor in a nice stream until the pesto comes together.  Some people like their pesto with lots of olive oil, I prefer mine more "dry"... add and taste until it fits your personal preferences.
4) Add salt and pepper if it needs it and give it one more spin to mix thoroughly.
** Make ahead: You can easily prepare this up to 3 days ahead of time and keep it in the fridge, or store it in the freezer for longer.


Potato Salad:
2lbs small potatoes (I used Yukon Golds), chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/4 C rice wine vinegar (any acid will do, this is what I had on hand)
Pistachio Pesto
2 sweet Italian red peppers
1 C white beans, cooked (or you can used 1 can of drained, rinsed beans)
1 1/4 C nonfat plain Greek yogurt (feel free to add more depending on how "creamy" you like your potato salad)
1/4 C mozzarella cheese, shredded

1) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the potatoes.
2) Roast the red peppers, peel off the charred skins then dice into 1/4" pieces
3) Once the potatoes have cooked to al dente (beware the mushy potato!), drain into a colander and sprinkle with the vinegar.  The potatoes will soak it in, giving them a little flavor and adding some depth to the final dish.  Let the potatoes cool to room temperature before adding the other ingredients.
4) Once the potatoes have cooled, add the remaining ingredients and mix using a spatula, trying not to break up the potatoes too much.
5) Allow the potato salad to rest for a few hours so that the flavors can come together.  If you have time, let it go overnight... it is wayyy better the next day!
With a little chiffonade of basil on top for garnish
We never actually made it to the BBQ (it rained all day... sad), but we grilled up some hamburgers anyway and had a nice indoor picnic while we watched the Bruins pummel the Canucks in an exciting Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Sports.  Burgers.  Potato Salad.  #WINNING

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Apologies

Dear Everyone,
I need to apologize for being absent for nearly 2 months now.  Life has been weighing heavily on Boyfriend and me these days and although I've been cooking and creating some great meals for us, finding additional time to take pictures and write up blog posts seems almost irresponsible with everything else that has been going on.

Every night when I go to bed I hope that things will go back to normal, whatever that is!  Haha!  Please be patient and hang in there, I promise I've got some great, easy summer meals to share with you soon. 

Bonus: my summer fruit and vegetable CSA is starting in a couple weeks so be prepared for some yummy seasonal recipes.

Thank you for your support!
Laura
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