Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Back to Acadia

Yep, that will be us again, except this time we'll be taking the new Subaru. We'll be staying in the same cabins up in Southwest Harbor (in Acadia National Park), Maine.

I've been thinking about luscious lobster rolls, honest-to-goodness New England clam chowder and clean fresh air for weeks. It's been a while since we've taken a vacation other than visiting John's lovely family in Utah (and enjoying the great skiing there). But we leave in two days, so there's a bit more packing to do for the road trip.

We take a cooler with us in the car, packed with cabin and road food. Although the rule is "No eating in the new car," so we'll be stopping a bit here and there to snack. I've packed up 10 days of high fiber hot cereal laced with protein powder, two boxes of Nectar bars. John has different requirements: microwavable soup, crackers, sandwich supplies and assorted items.

We're budgeting to eat one meal out per day and the others either from our backpacks while we're out hiking/biking/sightseeing or from our stash in the cabin. It's a pretty inexpensive vacation (other than the gas for the car). Since we're going in the "shoulder" season (between summer and leaf-peeping time), the weekly rate for our cushy cabin is very reasonable. There are laundry and Internet facilities, but we're going computer-free (and most likely cel-free, as there isn't much reception up there).

So, enjoy your week. I'm looking forward to sharing this year's photos and stories with you here.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Don't It Make Your Red Lentils Yellow

They're red now, but these lentils turn a distinguished dal yellow by the end of this recipe thanks to our friendly Indian spice, turmeric. Well, that and cooking a long time.

Lentils are a wonderful source of protein and fiber. They're also very tasty and easy to cook. You'll find them in quite a few vegetarian Indian dishes, especially vegan ones like the one below.

The original recipe is a bit different in that it uses more (and different) spices, but I promise you that this version is delicious as well. I've taken Meena Pathak's recipe for "Whole Green 'Tempered' Lentil Dal" and reworked it a bit so that I could use the red lentils I bought recently (because they're just so pretty!). I'm sure that if you used her original recipe just as written (and bought the great cookbook), she'd be pleased.

Instead, here's my geeky, non-Indian girl version.


1 cup whole red lentils, soaked in filtered water for 1 hour
2 1/2 cups of filtered water
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon minced ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 teaspoons minced garlic
1 red onion finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro


1. Drain the lentils gently.
2. Pour the water in a deep pan and add the lentils, turmeric, cayenne, ginger and salt. Bring to a boil.

3. Lower the heat a bit and simmer for 40 minutes, adding extra water when the lentils need it (I wound up adding about 1 1/2 cups more along the way, a 1/4 cup at a time).
4. Stir in the chopped tomato and continue to cook.

5. In a small frying pan, heat the oil and add the cumin. Cook for 1 minute. Add the garlic and onion, and saute until the onions begin to brown at the edges.

6. Add the onion mixture to the lentils and sprinkle with garam masala. Continue cooking for 5 more minutes.

7. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve immediately with hot, fluffy naan.

So tasty!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Two Kitchen Supply Stores and Two Trader Joe's Later...

On our drive home from a day-long hunt for hiking boots for our upcoming Acadia National Park odyssey, John and I inadvertently stumbled upon one of the largest cooking stores I've ever seen, Chef Central. This enormous store, with very effectively displayed small appliances and kitchen tools, is located on Rt. 17 North in Paramus, NJ.

Yes, I purchased a few items:
1. A much-needed digital refrigerator thermometer.
2. Unbleached parchment paper.
3. A small fondant rolling pin (not that I roll fondant, I just wanted a small rolling pin).
4. A 1/2 oz. melon baller (read: small cookie scoop).
5. An 8 in. mini whisk (so I could return Mom's to hers -- I've had it for years now).

I also have to admit that in our travels around the state yesterday, we also drove down to Marlton, NJ, home of L.L. Bean and a pretty sizable Sur La Table store. There I bought a new 13 in. splatter screen made with a fine mesh and a spice roaster.

John was taken completely off guard when I excitedly grabbed the roaster off the shelf, knowing precisely what it was. It looks like a tiny pan with a mesh screen that lifts off.

"What is that," he asked.
"It's a spice roaster!" I replied, nearly knocking all the other Asian cooking tools from their places on the shelf. "I'll use it to heat the spices for our Indian recipes."

When I saw that it was only $10, I was thrilled. Our hour-long trip south was not in vain after all. John had been trying on pair after pair of sun glasses with no success, while I struggled to find hiking shoes that fit just right.

Eventually, I found the right boots, but not after collecting several bags of new cooking gear and Trader Joe's groceries (there's one in Marlton and there's one on Rt. 17 N, just up the road from Chef Central and a few blocks south of Campmor, where I bought the boots). I'd prepared for Trader Joe's by bringing our smallest cooler packed with nine freezer packs. The groceries required all nine because it was 90 degrees outside, and we stopped for Mexican food along the say.

Once again, I wonder what I did to land such a wonderful guy. John not only encourages my experimental cooking efforts, but looks out for cooking supply stores for me. It was John who found Chef Central. He's the best!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The New York Times and Me

The universe seems to be telling me something: I'm in tune with the Times. Why? Well, last night, my friend Thom (the best hair stylist in the world, and I'm not biased) came by and cut off my long hair so that I could donate it to Locks of Love.

What should I read in the Times this morning? Girls have been deliberately growing their hair long in order to do the same thing! I'm glad folks are raising awareness this way. When kids go through cancer treatment and lose their hair, they have a lot more options than they used to have. And, the vast majority of hair that can't be used is sold to wigmakers for adult wigs.

In case you were wondering, here are the before and after photos, in that order.

Sorry the after photo is a bit blurry, but it was getting late. John might have been tired by then, and we used my camera, not his.

Prior to the big haircut event, I treated Thom and John to an Indian feast. I'll be posting about that at a later date. But, let me just say this, the dal was sooooo tasty!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Richard's in the News Again

Any time the New York Times talks about people powering their homes via their Priuses (or would that be Prii?), they cite my pal Richard Factor's famous PriUPS system. Well, they've just published another article that mentions Richard near the end. So, if you're into alternative power supplies and/or you own a Prius, check out both the Times' article and Richard's site. His blog is often a place where I learn something new and have a laugh about his unique take on life.

By the way, Richard's newest vehicle is a hybrid Toyota Highlander. John thought he should call it an UPSLander when it's all rigged up like the PriUPS. What do you think?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Mashed Cauliflower with Garlic and Goat Cheese

For the life of me, I can't remember where I found this recipe, so if you know where it originates, please let me know so I can credit the author.

It's very easy, takes only 30 minutes, and is very tasty.


1 head of cauliflower cut into small florets
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesean cheese
2 tablespoons goat cheese (I used the pepper blend version)
salt/pepper to taste (I used freshly ground green and white pepper)


1. Cook the life out of the cauliflower by just covering it with water and the garlic, and cooking it on medium high. This should take about 25 minutes.

2. When the cauliflower is very soft, drain it in a colander for at least five minutes.
3. Put it back into the pan and mash the cauliflower with the cheeses.

4. Heat gently on low, stirring consistently for 5-7 minutes.
5. Salt and pepper to taste, then enjoy.

Alternately, you could process all the ingredients together, then cook them, but this really didn't take much time at all. So tasty!