Salmon with Dill Sauce (and Kitchen Phobias)

I am normally pretty brave in the kitchen.  After all, if it doesn’t work, it’s not like I have to eat it.  I still might try to choke some of it down, but I always have the option of a good ol’ PB&J if it is just that bad (like the Blueberry Chicken Casserole that I made before I started this blog…uggghhh).

One food that I have remained afraid of is fish.  Part of the problem is that I don’t like many different types of fish (salmon and white fish are it pretty much).  Then, even if it is a Lauren-approved fish, if it is prepared with something that I don’t think should go with fish (cheese, tomatoes, olives, other fish stuffing), I won’t eat that either.  As you can see, I am fussy enough when someone else is making me the fish.

When I am trying to prepare it, I have the third hurdle as well.  Where do I buy it?  What cut do I get?  Will there be all of those little bones?  Is it fresh?  Will my apartment smell like fish for days?

I finally decided (after 3 years of cooking for myself and not making any fish) to face my fear and just go for it.  I saw Claire Robinson make her recipe for Crispy Skin Salmon on the Food Network and thought I would go with that concept.  How can you really mess up broiled salmon?

HINT: When broiling salmon, make sure it doesn’t stick to your oven rack.  It can be messy afterward 😦

I bought a wild salmon filet at the grocery store and went to town!  I made a few changes (as you can see in my recipe).  I replaced tarragon with dill because I couldn’t find tarragon anywhere.  My salmon is also not really “Crispy Skin” because mine had no skin on it when I bought it.  Just think of it as crispy instead!  The sauce is creamy and spicy, a perfect accompaniment to all sorts of dishes.  I bet it would be fabulous with chicken or pork too.  Best of all, because that had such a strong flavor, it drowned out any semblance of a fish smell!

Overall, I feel pretty wonderful that I found a way to make fish.  What are your favorite ways to prepare fish?  What are your biggest kitchen fears?  The world wants to know.

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And the Oscar Goes to….! Year 2

Last year, I decided to watch every movie nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award.

It was grueling.

Watching 10 movies in a month turned out to be much harder than I thought it would be. I finished, but just barely.

But… it was quite rewarding and I LOVED actually having an opinion when I was watching the Oscars.  You can check out my round-up post here.

This year, I am doing it again.  Heck, there are only 9 movies this year.  I’ve already even seen one already (can you guess which one?).  This is almost small time!

Not to mention, of course, that Billy Crystal is hosting the Academy Awards this year.  I love Billy Crystal.  This is destiny.

The movies nominated for Best Picture this year are as follows:

The Artist– Thomas Langmann
The Descendants – Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close– Scott Rudin
The Help– Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan
Hugo– Graham King and Martin Scorsese
The Descendants– Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum
Moneyball– Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt
The Tree Of Life– Sarah Green, Bill Pohlad, Dede Gardner and Grant Hill
War Horse– Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy

And, of course, I will make a food inspired by each movie so that you will know exactly what to make for your Oscar Party 🙂

February 26th, here we come!

Five Things You Should Bring to See Harry Potter in Theaters

Well, folks, I never thought that this weekend would come.  The Harry Potter franchise is releasing its last movie, hoping that it is all grown up and will be able to fly.

Wow.

Since this worldwide phenomenon has been going on for 14 years now, I thought I would offer a few words of wisdom on how to prepare for this final installment.

Here are five things that you should bring with you to that theater tonight…or tomorrow…or next week…or whenever you get around to seeing it.

1.  Knowledge of Harry Potter

Nothing is more annoying to me than someone in a movie theater who just won’t. stop. talking.   Worse is when that person is incessantly jabbering because they have no idea what is going on.  I understand that other people may not have read all seven books and seen the first seven movies multiple times, but for the love of all that is Harry, please know who the main characters are, who is dead already, and why Harry and Voldemort don’t get along.

If you go to the movies with the idea that you are going to be cute and ask a friend for clarification on every facet of the movie, be aware that you may not be so cute by the end…unless you somehow manage to pull off wearing popcorn.

Don't be that guy.

2.  A Good Attitude

Now, I have never been one to dress up for a movie, nor have I ever seen the midnight showing, but that doesn’t mean I don’t let myself get sucked into the energy that these books/movies elicit.  I have on occasion (or for every movie) worn lightning bolt socks.  Subtle, but fun 🙂  You do not have to wear anything special, but don’t be one of those people who gets to the theater and cynically looks around for people to laugh it.  Maybe you are a grumpy-poo, but a lot of people have been waiting a long time for this moment.  If you are not into the magic and fun of the franchise, why did you just spend $15 on your IMAX 3D ticket.  Loosen up and have some fun.

PS.  And laugh when something funny happens.  My favorite line of the series is coming up in this movie.  It has to do with Mrs. Weasley and cursing (both with her wand and her language).  Watch for it.

3.  A friend

For many of us, this love of all things Harry Potter has been going for 14 years.  I started reading the books in late 1997 when I was ten, almost eleven, just like Harry was.  If you let me do the math, the Harry Potter series has been a part of my life for almost 2/3 of it.  Wow.

Anyway, what made this series great was that it inspired people to interact with each other about it.  My friends and I decided what house we would be in (Ravenclaw), who our favorite characters were (Hedwig and Hagrid), and who we would be if we went to Hogwarts (hopefully a less obnoxious Hermione).  Around the book release dates, the books and their plots were topics of conversation as we ran laps for soccer practice and studied for tests.  When the last books came out (I was in college at the point), my friends and I (all with our own copies) sat around reading and reacting to the book at the same time.

If at all possible, don’t go to this movie alone.  Find someone who has shared your experience with this book and go with him.  If these people are too far away or unable to come for whatever reason, at least bring them with you in spirit.  That is the best way to honor this series.

4.  Snacks

Personally, movie theater popcorn and soda are not going to be good enough for this last movie.  Considering that J.K. Rowling spend a lot of space in her books describing food, it only seems right to create and sneak in (I am a bad person) some Harry Potter food.  Earlier this year, I perfected my own version of butterbeer.  Good luck trying to bring that in.

For this most auspicious of occasions, I decided to create something that Harry tends to get on the train to Hogwarts and that has always intrigued me: Pumpkin Pasties.

Basically, they are little handheld pumpkin pies.  I made some for fun.  My taste-testers unanimously approved.

Pie dough:  I used Simply Recipe’s Pate Brisee.

Inside:  Mix together 1 cup of pumpkin puree, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1 tbsp each of cinnamon and nutmeg.

  • Preheat your oven to 400F
  • Roll out the  pie dough to 1/8″ thick and using a saucer, cut it into 6″ circles.
  • On each circle, place 2-3 tbsp of the pumpkin mixture.
  • Wet the ends of the dough (where you are going to seal it) and fold the dough over on itself to enclose the pumpkin.
  • Crimp with a fork to seal it.
  • Put a few slits in the top so that it doesn’t explode.
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until the crust is golden.

These travel really well, so once they cool, you can absolutely stash them in your purse/pocket and they will arrive safely at the movie.

5.  Tissues

Last, but certainly not least, I would recommend a box of tissues or, if you are trying to be environmentally-friendly, a hankie.  I know that I am going to bawl like a little baby simply because this last movie feels like it is marking an end to my childhood.  More than going away to college, living on my own, or getting my first “real” job, this last movie feels like a closure.

For those of you who do not have this personal connection, you may want to bawl because of what is going to happen in this movie.  I won’t sugarcoat it (as I thought of doing with the pumpkin pastie), people are going to die.  People you like are going to die.  You may not be happy with how this ends.

That is why you should be safe and bring something to wipe the tears away, just in case.

Living The Sweet Life in Paris

Croque Madame: Ham and cheese, more cheese, and an egg on top!

A few weeks ago, I spent some time in my favorite city in the world (so far): Paris.

I had been there twice before, once for a high school trip and the other for a more extended study-abroad program.  I adored it both times and dreamt of a time that I could return.

Last August, I decided that since I actually had my life planned far enough ahead of time to book plane tickets, I would schedule my Parisian adventures for my school’s April break.

While I have seen all of the “touristy”  parts of Paris, I wanted to tackle all of the hidden gems that the locals know about and keep secret from us foreigners.

Nutella Crepe for the Latin Quarter

I turned to David Lebovitz, American expatriot in Paris, who has authored several cookbooks as well as the man behind the popular blog davidlebovitz.com.

Like me, he has a keen interest in food and has explored Paris by following his nose to the best bakeries, pastry shops, and bistros.

When I am not in Paris, I live vicariously through him.  When I am there, I follow his recommendations.

A few years back, he penned the book The Sweet Life in Paris.  In this book, he spins tales of Paris, its people, and (perhaps best of all) its food.  I love this book.

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Mother Nature, I Forgive You

Dear Mother Nature,

I know that we have had our ups and downs. 

Since I live in the Northeast, you are not often kind to me.  Instead of dividing the seasons up into four equal parts, you like to freeze us for months on end.  If it were straight cold, I think I could take it.  My problem is how you toy with me. 

When the rest of the world seems to be relishing in Springtime, you promise me snow, ice and bitter winds.  When it seems like I can’t take another day of icy temperatures, you reward me with a day (or even a couple of days) of above freezing weather.  After these interminable winters, 40 degrees Fahrenheit seems downright balmy! 

But then you pull the switch.  Away goes the balmy weather and sleet returns.  The monotonous grey clouds obscure the sun and any blue sky that was with it. 

You use manipulation and torture techniques that would be labelled as war crimes in a civilized society.  You give the prisoner hope and take it away.  Again and Again.  To prove your power over that victim, you break her spirit…just because you can. 

In the midst of the blizzards and biting cold, I feel anger.  Anger at you, anger at myself, anger at the world that still continues to turn in spite of this weather that threatens to lock it in place.

But, now… now with the sun shining through the window and the cute little birds hopping from tree to tree outside my window, I am feeling a bigger emotion- forgiveness. 

I forgive you, Mother Nature, for putting us through this past Winter because, without that misery, I would not find so much joy in my beautiful surroundings right now.  I understand that it must be fun, with the amount of power you have, to play with our emotions.  Would any of us, given that same opportunity, do otherwise?

Perhaps the biggest reason that I forgive you is that you may put us through hell, but you reward us with, well, this.

Thanks Mother Nature.  I may say some pretty mean things to you come November, but know that I can’t hold a grudge when you make it up to me in so splendid a way.

Love,

The Very Hungry Bookworm

Continue for recipe

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In Support of Buddy the Elf’s Syrup Policy- Maple Weekend

The film Elf teaches us that children have a wisdom that is superior to the intelligence of adults.  Will Ferrell, as Buddy the Elf, teaches his newfound, city slicker father that love is more important than a corporate job. 

Buddy’s policy on food is also brilliant.  Instead of getting all caught up on servings of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein, he divides his diet into 4 basic food groups:  candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup. 

Much simpler…

Now, while I do think that a select few other foods do need to make their way into his food policy (come on, where would pizza go?), I do strongly support syrup.

After all, as I learned yesterday, syrup comes from trees, meaning it must be good for you.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to spend time outside, basking in the blue skies and shining sun.  My oldest friend (as in, we have been friends since Kindergarten) and her dad showed us the nuts and bolts of how to make maple syrup. 

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Stay Green on This St. Patty’s Day

Every year around this time, the supermarkets are flooded with all things green.  Hats, necklaces, those poor dyed flowers, plates, napkins, teddy bears, stuffed leprechauns, beads, jewelry, etc. 

A few days ago, while walking through the store hunting down ingredients for the recipe below, I saw specialty green sunglasses. SUNGLASSES?  In March?  Really?  These aren’t just normal sunglasses either.  They are prescription sunglasses, meaning they cost a fair amount of money.  Who buys specialty glasses for St. Patrick’s Day? 

These are the great quandaries of my life. 

In retaliation, I have developed my own list of ways to go green in honor of this lovely Irish holiday that celebrates…drinking …and rioting.  Yeah. 

  1. Save some green and be crafty.  We are crazed buyers.  Every time we need something or we have to give a gift, we automatically head to the store.  I bet that you spend a lot of money every year on things that you could probably make yourself.  Instead of buying a scarf, knit one!  Paint a picture.  Take something you don’t use anymore and find a way to revitalize it or give it away.  Make a personalized frame to hold your favorite pictures.  Even cooler, make your own book.  
  2. Grow Some Green.  This is the time of year to start some seeds for those herbs and plants that you want to see growing in the summer.  Head to your local hardware store or garden center and grab some seeds and soil.  That, and a lot of love, is all you need to give life to those beautiful flowers and delicious herbs that you can grow outside.  If you don’t think you have the space, trust me, you do!  My herbs happily flourish on the balcony of my apartment and I never have to buy herbs during the summer! Continue reading