Baked spinach.

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My family was sitting around the dinner table one night in the mid ’90s. I was about eight or nine, still young enough to play with my dollhouse, but old enough to start stressing out about things like our house getting burglarized or burning to the ground. (I was a weird kid.) My sister must have been about six, probably missing a couple of her front teeth and generally being adorable.

Our mom had made zucchini for dinner, and neither of us really enjoyed it. I could handle it, but Katie – ever the typical showman youngest child – could. not. even. We were not rude, spoiled monsters, so we obviously did our best to eat stuff we didn’t like, but at that point in time, neither of us had much success conjuring up any enthusiasm. (Currently, we both dig it. THIS IS GROWING UP, KIDDOS.)

My mom asked us – probably in a sarcastic way that was meant to convey one or both of us was being ridiculous about something – what we thought the worst thing god could ever make us do was. I said something probably apropos of my weird, macabre, overly anxious childhood self, like, “Make you kill the people you love.”

Katie, however, was more…well, Katie about it.

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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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Mushroom-brussels sprout hash.

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I have a new breakfast-related goal. Okay, two breakfast-related goals, which are actually in diametric opposition to one another. One is to stop eating so much bacon (ugh), and the other is to develop seasonally-appropriate hashes (which, let’s be honest, will probably all feature bacon). I’m a little late on this one, given that it’s technically spring (even though it was 28 degrees this morning and we’re supposed to get snow tomorrow, despaaaaaiiiiiir), but I’ve been loving brussels sprouts lately, and the mushrooms in my fridge were on the verge of going bad, and letting mushrooms go to waste is a sin.

Brussels sprouts have been a much-maligned veggie in popular culture, for some reason I can’t seem to fathom. I never had to eat them as a kid – and perhaps I’d understand if I had been forced to eat them for dinner all the time – but I worked them into my repertoire last year, and Colin and I are both pretty big fans. I mean, when you combine roasted vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper, it’s hard to go wrong. And they’re adorable! They’re like baby cabbages!

That’s right, I’m a grown woman gushing over cruciferous vegetables. Come. at. me.

Really, the only bad experiences I’ve had with brussels sprouts are when they’re eaten raw. This winter, I made two different kinds of brussels sprout salad, and both times they filled me with nothing but abject sadness. Fool me once, Pinterest, shame on you. Fool me twice…

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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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Pasta with vegetables in a creamy yogurt sauce

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I’m not really one for making new year’s resolutions. Sure, I probably made some when I was younger, because I thought it was the “thing” to do, but it seems to me that more often than not, new year’s resolutions are about eating better, getting in shape, losing weight or something along those lines. Anyone who has ever frequented the gym knows that trying to get a workout in during January is all but impossible – really, it’s better to just wait ’til February, when the herd thins out – and I think that kicking off the longest, coldest, worst month ever (come at me, January fans) with a pledge to purge your diet of all things sweet/salty/carby/boozy is just a form of masochism, and I want no part of it.

In light of my resolution hangups, and as a tip of the hat to all of you who don’t share this mindset, I think I’ve found something that qualifies as both comfort food and a (quasi) healthy alternative. Also, it’s vegetarian-friendly, so, yay for that.

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Eating (sort of un)seasonably.

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So it’s looking like we skipped over spring entirely (well, temperature-wise…the whole horrendous-allergy aspect of spring is in full swing) and jumped right to my favorite time of the year … summer! Yesterday it reached about 90 degrees in my neck of the woods, and, as usual, I did seasonally inappropriate things.

First, let’s talk about what I did right.

Listened to some surfy-sounding O.A.R.!

Drank some seasonably-appropriate beverages!

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Wore flip flops!

…and that’s about it. Because despite the temperature in my apartment lingering around 88 degrees (because I’m not ready to start sobbing/become catatonic over my electric bill just yet), I made a very late fall/winter appropriate dinner last night: beer & cheese soup, and roasted vegetables.

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I know. I willingly turned my oven to 375F. For an hour. And ate some hefty, hearty soup. But hear me out! I had good reasons for doing both of these things

First off, for Memorial Day, Colin and I had an impromptu barbecue. Seriously impromptu. Like, went out and bought a grill around 4:30 p.m. that day because we wanted grilled meat, dagnabit. We also bought entirely too much food, and even though the four other people we fed in addition to ourselves put a good dent in our supplies, we still had a ton of stuff left over. The meat was no problem; we could just freeze that. The veggies, however… we needed to do something about those. Especially before going away for what’s sure to be a crazy-fun family reunion this weekend. (No, no sarcasm. Colin’s family is truly awesome, and thus their annual reunions are always a good time.)

I know what you’re thinking: Jeez, Lauren, why didn’t you just throw them on that grill you impulse-bought three days ago? And you’re right; I could have. But Colin had just finished washing, disassembling and storing it. I feel like taking it and dirtying it all up again probably would have been kind of trollish.

And as for the soup… well, Colin had a tooth yanked out of his head on Tuesday (fun!), so soft foods have been on the agenda all week. And I’ve been dying to make beer and cheddar soup for years, ever since randomly receiving a “Cooking with Beer” cookbook from a friend in college. So since I knew I had a surplus of beer (again, thanks, MDW), and a considerable amount of cheese (because I always have a considerable amount of cheese on hand), I decided to try my hand at this recipe from Food and Wine.

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A quinoa salad and a giveaway! Don’t worry. It’s not quinoa.

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I’m not really “ashamed” to admit a lot of things. Like, I’m not ashamed to admit that I have Smashmouth’s Astro Lounge in my car. Or that I am currently sitting in my kitchen by myself, bouncing around, listening to this on repeat. Or that I’ve been rabidly obsessed with the Jodi Arias trial, and have texted my best friend about it practically every single day for the past four months. Or that I am so terrible (or awesome; the jury’s still out) at being an adult that I do things like eat hot cheese for dinner. I unabashedly communicate with my dog in my puppy voice (“come heeeere my little schnuggly wiggle butt,” etc.) in front of friends, acquaintances and strangers alike.

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Because seriously, look at him. He’s the cutest widdle bug.

People who try to embarrass me in public (especially my boyfriend, who likes to just randomly yell jibberish in public places) will either find me totally unfazed or willing to up the ante somehow.

I, however, am mildly ashamed to admit that I’ve eaten ramen for lunch every day this week. Out of a mug. In my defense, I’ve been fighting off what appears to be Captain Trips for the better part of a week, and therefore the wherewithal to prepare food by going further than sticking a mug in the microwave for a few minutes has eluded me. But tomorrow, I’ll be ending the work week with a bang, and bringing some tasty leftovers to work.

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Cheesy baked polenta.

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A few weeks ago, I posted a link for something or other that I’d cooked up on my Facebook, and a friend from middle school, Jillian, said, innocently enough, “I’d be curious to see what you could do with polenta.”

In the 26 years I’ve been stumbling around this planet and devouring things, I had eaten polenta exactly one time. My reaction upon eating it was basically “WHY HAS NO ONE EVER TOLD ME ABOUT HOW GLORIOUS CORN MEAL CAN BE?!” It was kind of like the first time I had Nutella. OK, maybe it wasn’t quite as dramatic as my first experience with Nutella, but STILL. The polenta had goat cheese in it, so, you know…it was pretty magical in its own right.

So, I said:

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and got to work concocting a polenta recipe.

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Chicken pot pie makes me do strange things.

Originally posted February 2013.

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Dear chicken pot pie,

Hi, I’m Lauren. How are you? I’m OK. I’d be better if I hadn’t poked a hole in my own eardrum the other day, but hey, what can you do, other than pop some ibuprofen and fervently pray to all the powers that may or may not be that it doesn’t turn into a horrifying, excruciating infection like the one that rendered me a weeping, painkiller-addled mess in 2006. But this isn’t about me, and my unfortunate eardrum problems. This is about you.

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First off, I am a huge fan. Always been. Growing up, my mom made some pretty delicious dishes, and her version of you was no exception. I usually got so excited about the prospect of putting a spoonful of you in my mouth that I accidentally seared my taste buds and dealt with that weird, stripped-tongue feeling for a few days. It was OK, though. It was a reminder of your utter deliciousness.

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Breaking through writer’s block with an ungodly amount of garlic.

Originally posted July 2012.

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It always bothers me when I post a recipe I found from some other chef/food blogger’s website (though clearly, not enough to refrain from doing so) because I feel so…un-innovative. I feel like really, all I’m doing is successfully duplicating something that’s already been done. I usually try to tweak things, or take a component from one recipe I’ve found and incorporate it into something else. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself, because really, I’m not trying to cash in on anyone else’s successes or claim them as my own. I maintain this website because it’s my own little way of dealing with writer’s block. It’s cathartic, in a way, to be able to come home after a frustrating day and chill out (or swelter, these days) in the kitchen, listen to some good music, take some mediocre pictures and put it all into words.

For years now, I’ve been dealing with seemingly insurmountable writer’s block…or rather, not dealing with it, unless you count staring at a blank notebook saying “well, that idea sucked” then rolling over and going to sleep as dealing with it. I’ve more or less been a writing machine since I decided to pursue a lit degree (and probable cardboard box dwelling) in 2005, but there is a colossal difference between writing for work/school and writing because youlove it and not doing it simply is not an option. I can churn out news and feature articles like it’s my job (because, well, it sort of is), but when it comes to writing for myself? It just doesn’t happen anymore. At least, not like it used to. I can’t necessarily lock myself in my room for days like I did when I was a teenager, emerging with some poem or short story or chapter of a yet-to-be-completed novel, but I can sit at my kitchen table and write about my adventures in the kitchen. That’s really what I’m here for.

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