Greek salad couscous.

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I know. I know. It’s been like, three weeks since I last posted. I was away for a week, then I was simultaneously busy and lazy for another week, and now… I’m getting back on track.

I believe I’ve mentioned before that at my old job, I was spoiled by our cafeteria. It was staffed by two very sweet women and one very nice dude, who just so happened to have been trained at the Culinary Institute of America (and shared some recipes with me, which was awesome). There were fresh soups and salads every day, with “deli” sandwich specials and hot meal specials, and everything was delicious, all the time.  This iteration of Greek salad was featured pretty often, sometimes with chickpeas and other times with Israeli couscous. I always made room on my plate for a little scoop of it. I finally got around to buying a canister of Israeli couscous a few weeks ago, and made my own version of it. You should make it too, especially if you have an olive thing. I…have an olive thing. I’m not proud of this, but I ate a whole can of pitted green olives this weekend. I keep buying them with recipe-related intentions, and then I just scarf them all down and wonder how I got here.

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Shrimp tacos with mango salsa.

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I know that complaining about the eight thousand million billion tons of snow makes for pretty dull reading material, but seriously, I’m over it. Everyone who’s wearing their pajamas inside out and dropping ice cubes into the toilet and performing intricate snow dances, or whatever it is you weird winter people do, PLEASESTOP.

But, let’s be honest, it’s winter and it’s going to be miserable for at least another month. Instead of letting The Surly take over your life for the foreseeable future, might I suggest cranking up your heat, cracking open a beer and eating some food that feels like summer?

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Broccoli salad.

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I don’t know about you, but I thoroughly enjoy salad bars. I like piling a random assortment of vegetables, fruits, dressings, nuts and seeds on my plate. It’s so much more fun than getting a regular salad assembled by someone else. I mean, maybe I don’t want just Caesar salad. Maybe I want some Caesar salad, and a spoonful of Waldorf salad to go with it. If I want to plop some baby corns or cherry tomatoes on my mixed greens, I can do that. And if my favorite salad bar staple, broccoli salad, is there, then awww yeah.

Sadly, broccoli is not one of the shining stars of the vegetable aisle. Admittedly, I didn’t like it when I was growing up – and I wasn’t one of those kids who eschewed her vegetables at every turn. I generally ate my peas and string beans without a fuss, and considered carrots and cucumbers to be pretty neat snacks, but unless broccoli was slathered in Velveeta, I wanted no part of it – and even then, I’d bite the florets off the stalks, leaving those behind…possibly concealing them under some mashed potatoes.

But now, I can get down with broccoli. Especially if it’s tossed together with some other veggies, bacon, cheese and a creamy dressing.

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Chicken scarpariello

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When I think of home, I think of a place that always smelled like vanilla or apple candles, with every window in the house thrown open to let crisp air and sunlight stream into every room. There was always at least one dog always underfoot, and classic rock records always played through the speakers of the stereo we my mom bought for my dad as either a birthday or Father’s Day gift. At night, Law and Order reruns were almost always on the TV (unless it was 7 o’clock, in which case, Jeopardy always, always won out, despite my dad’s increasing annoyance with Alex Trebek. Can Anderswoon Cooper just replace him already?), and on the weeknights where we weren’t treating ourselves to Chinese takeout, my mom was usually responsible for preparing something delicious, and she always delivered.

When I reached my 20s, I learned the secret to my mom’s delicious weeknight meals: The New York Times 60-Minute Gourmet. It was dog-eared and missing its cover, a well-worn weapon in my mom’s culinary arsenal. She lent it to me briefly before getting sick of my book-hogging tendencies and buying me my own copy, and I returned it with about two dozen Post its marking recipes I wanted to make.

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Grilled cheesiest.

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When I went to Tampa last spring, my coworker and I got lunch at this cute little cafe, L’Eden, while we were killing time before checking in to our hotel. I had a mozzarella, brie and goat cheese panini, and was instantly smitten. It was one of the best paninis I’d ever had…and then I made an amped-up version of it this week, thanks to having plenty of leftovers from Colin’s slightly cheesetastic birthday dinner.

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Just imagine it. Creamy. Smoky. Tangy. Salty. Crispy. Just a little sweet. Buttery. In your mouth. All at the same time.

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Seriously. Look at that. Look. at. that. It is the cheesiest of grilled cheeses that I have ever made. And friends, I am a grilled cheese enthusiast. I make grilled cheeses a lot. I think I’ll make one for lunch, now that I’m thinking about it. Oh well. It’s not like it’s even really summer anymore. Cue the violins and sad trombones.

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Summer saute

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Ok guys. So it’s clear that I really, really love food. Not only do I (semi-regularly) write a food blog, but I’ve also been known to take it into some weird territory by writing love letters to pot pies and what not. I’ll be the first one to push any dish that features gobs of cheese or crispy bacon, but this – this healthy, vegetarian, cheese-free (ok, I caved and added cheese last night) meal – might be my new favorite dinner. I’ve made it the past two nights, and I don’t really see myself wanting anything else in the near future. I get like this with music, too – when I really, really like a song, I listen to it about five dozen times in a row. I’m not (too) ashamed to admit that, currently, all I really want to listen to “Blurred Lines.” I’ve been in this place for about a month and a half. You’d think I’d be ready to stop, but … no.

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Cap’n Chicken Crunch. Crunchy Chicken Captain. Whatever.

Things I learned this week:
  • If you compare the subject of a personality profile to Willy Wonka, your chances of receiving about a metric ton of chocolate from said subject increase substantially.

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  • If there is a dog within a 50-yard radius of me, I will find a way to become best friends with it.

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And if this guy is anywhere in the vicinity, he will get monstrously jealous.
  • Air travel is still a tremendous pain in the ass. (Sorry, Slate.)
  • Upon hearing you hail from New Jersey, people who aren’t from the tri-state area will always be astounded when you don’t sound like you’re from Staten Island or the Bronx.
  • I only half-watched the last 30 or so minutes of it, but the movie “Something Borrowed” should be renamed “Everyone In This Movie Except John Krasinski Should Be Hit In The Face With A Shovel.”
  • Although there are horrible, cruel people in this world, the good will always outnumber them. By a lot.
  • Chicken tastes amazing when breaded in Cap’n Crunch and dunked in honey mustard.
OK, OK, so a few of those things I could have guessed (that Something Borrowed would be infuriatingly insipid, Patton Oswalt is better at saying things than I am), and some of those things I already knew (air travel is a major crapfest and Cap’n Crunch chicken is not, namely).

The one with all the clams.

Originally posted March 2012.

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So, I have a funny story for you guys. And not funny like, “ha ha, Lauren, you’re such a comedian.” More like, “ha ha, that would happen to you!”

I decided I wanted to make some steamed clams for dinner tonight. Because, y’know, they’re delicious and good warm-weather food. So I bought two dozen clams from ShopRite on my way home, because ShopRite has never done me wrong with fish. Or anything, really, but this story is specifically about mollusks.

So I get home, clean them off, and throw a bunch of ‘em in the pot with the wine and the butter and all that good stuff, and wait 10 minutes and….!

Nothing. Well, one cracked open a teensy bit. The rest were…well, clammed up.

I think, okay. I throw another six or so in the pot, wait a bit, and…!

Nope. These guys aren’t opening up, either. So I think, awesome, I just bought two dozen bad clams. HOORAY. So whatever, no matter. There’s a seafood place down the block from my apartment! So I traipse down there, buy two dozen littlenecks. I get home, open the lid of the pot…

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The cutest little snack. Or lunch.

Originally posted November 2010.

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As I settled into the kitchen to begin baking/mashing/blending/etc. for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving dinner, I realized I hadn’t eaten anything today. This would not do, as — despite my shameful eating habits — I couldn’t live with having brownie batter be my first meal of the day. Delicious as it may be, I have some standards.

I needed something filling. And I wanted to make something from scratch (which I don’t understand, since I was already undertaking the task of making cheesecake marbled brownies from scratch — no big deal.) So the usual suspects — potato chips, pasta sides and chicken fingers — were out of the question.

I looked in my pantry and was overwhelmed with cuteness: sitting at the edge of one shelf were a bag of cipolline onions and box of baby red potatoes. They were like tiny little puppies, beckoning me, all teensy and red and adorable. Gush.

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