black lentils with marinated beets + feta

black lentils with marinated beets + feta

Plans can be tricky. I really like to have them and I like to make them, but keeping them can be difficult. We’ve talked about menu plans which are notorious for needing flexibility. Things happen, people get tired, leftovers need to be consumed. I try to be open to change in our weekly menu and even build it in by having a free night or a night just for leftovers, however when we’ve got people coming to dinner, I really like to have a solid plan, which is to say, I need one to stay sane. Last weekend we had a flurry of visitors, all at the last minute which for me, is so much fun. I’m so happy that people feel like our house is a place where they can just drop in and crash for a night and they know they’ll be welcome. If you know me at all, you know that in these scenarios, I go a little overboard. I switch our toddlers room to a guest room (I set it up to function that way), I go into hyper clean mode and I always offer dinner. 

Deciding what to make for dinner guests can be a whole thing for me. I want to make something a little impressive, but not too difficult to execute and it needs to be something that won’t have me stuck in the kitchen all night (although, let’s be honest, with a toddler, those kinds of meals are basically a thing of the past). I usually give it a lot of thought, almost always falling back on some of the dishes I’ve made over and over like a roast chicken or lamb meatballs, but when it’s last minute, I’ve got to just make something. Sometimes, these end up being my favorite meals. Having to just use what I have and forcing myself to get creative sometimes pays off and occasionally it doesn’t. This time, I’m happy that it did. 


This lentil salad was my favorite dish from our meal this weekend. I had already roasted and marinated beets a few days prior so all I needed to do was cook some lentils. It ended up being beautiful and even better, delicious. The recipe will give you more beets than you need, but they’re so good you might just snack on them out of the container. Put them on salads, chop them fine and sprinkle them over toast slathered with ricotta or make the best veggie sandwich ever.

Note: The beets need to marinate overnight so you'll need to start this recipe a day ahead. 

black lentils with marinated beets + feta // serves 4

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup black lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 medium yellow beets
  • 3 medium purple beets
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • olive oil 
  • sherry vinegar 
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • scant 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 6 ounces sheep’s milk feta, cut into 1/2” cubes
  • 1/4 cup raw walnuts
  • dill for garnish

Preparation: 

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle. Remove the green tops from the beets and scrub clean under cool water. Place the yellow beets in the middle of a sheet of foil, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Wrap the foil up around the beets and secure at the top, making a packet. Repeat with the purple beets. Place the foil packets onto a sheet pan and roast for one hour. Remove the beets from the oven and let cool for about 5-10 minutes. Unwrap the packets and place each beet under cool water and rub off the skin. Set aside on a large cutting board, not letting the purple beets touch the yellow ones. You can use two separate cutting boards if you'd like. 
  2. In a small bowl, add a 1/2 cup olive oil and 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar. Add the shallots and season liberally with salt and freshly ground pepper. 
  3. Slice the beets into wedges and place in two separate air tight containers (otherwise the yellow beets will turn red). Divide the vinaigrette between the two containers and marinate overnight in the refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before using. 
  4. Add the water and lentils to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and bring to a low simmer. Cook until lentils are cooked but still have a bite to them, about 20 minutes. Drain the lentils if there is still water in the pot and season with a small glug of olive and a splash of vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  5. While the lentils are cooking, toast the walnuts in a dry medium skillet over medium high heat for about 3-4 minutes. Be careful to not turn your back on them, they’ll burn quickly. Let cool and then chop coarsely or just break them apart with your hands. 
  6. Divide the lentils among four bowls and top with both red and yellow beets. Add feta, red onion, sprinkle with walnuts and dill. Spoon over some of the vinaigrette left in the beet containers. 

banana bread with toasted millet

banana bread with toasted millet

My freezer needs some serious organizational help. It's full of half bags of frozen fruit, chocolate disks for melting or chopping and peas and corn for my little weirdo who likes to eat them frozen. I've got about 20 pounds of alternative whole grain flours to aid in my obsession for all things Kim Boyce and add to that mix ins and toppings like toasted millet, flax seeds and cocoa nibs and that equals one packed freezer. There's a lot of great stuff in there, but it's all such a mess, I can hardly tell what's in there at all. 

A few weeks ago, with the help of my much more fashionable friends, I created a capsule wardrobe (find out more here). The basic explanation is you whittle down your wardrobe to only 37 pieces for a particular season (just 3 months), including pants, tops, outerwear and shoes and you don't buy anything in that time. It sounds really restrictive, which is why I waited so long to do one, but as it turns out, it's incredibly freeing. Admittedly, fashion is something I'm interested in, but it's not the highest priority in my life. My closet is full of basics, most of which can be worn while chasing a toddler or cooking up a big batch of bolognese. It did get me thinking though about what I really need and how much of my house is full of just space fillers, particularly my kitchen (ahem... my freezer). I think the concept of the capsule wardrobe could apply to many parts of our lives. The bulk of the hoarding in my life is centered in the kitchen. Fancy vinegar, five different types of lentils, a spice cabinet that now has to be double stacked. I like the idea of having a few quality ingredients that I use often, with the infrequent exception of something fancy and less utilitarian. 

banana bread with toasted millet
banana bread with toasted millet and butter or nutella

So, in an effort to start the process of narrowing down what I actually need, I decided I needed to start using what was actually in there. I had three ziplock bags full of perfectly black bananas, so I figured I'd just bake a whole bunch of stuff. I made a batch of banana cereal muffins (from Kim Boyce's book of course) and then a pair of banana breads with the addition of toasted millet, which I absolutely loved. It was nice to have a little more room in the freezer, although, the next day I made peach + yogurt popsicles which pretty much filled the vacant space. 

banana bread with toasted millet

This recipe is from The Grand Central Baking Book. I can't say enough good things about this book. It's great for someone who is a proficient baker and it's great for someone just starting out. This recipe for banana bread is pretty straight forward and it produces exactly what you want in a banana bread. It's moist, tastes like banana and it has some crunch to it with the addition of the millet and course sugar. I do realize this is the second banana bread recipe I've shared with you, but I feel like I'm always looking for the best one. I'm pretty sure this one is it. 

banana bread with toasted millet // makes 2 loaves // adapted from this book

Ingredients: 

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (14 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup (5 fluid ounces) canola oil
  • 2 1/2 cups (1 pound 4 ounces) banana puree (about 4 small bananas)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) buttermilk
  • 2 heaping tablespoons toasted millet
  • course sugar

Preparation: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour two 9x5 inch loaf pans. 
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. 
  3. Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the sugar, oil and banana puree on medium-high speed until the mixture is lighter in color, about 3 minutes. 
  4. Crack the eggs into a liquid measuring cup, add the vanilla and whisk together. With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour in the eggs. Continue to mix until the eggs are fully incorporated. 
  5. Add one-third of the dry ingredients and mix briefly on low speed, then add half of the buttermilk. Mix well and repeat, using half of the remaining dry ingredients and the rest of the buttermilk. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix just until combined. 
  6. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and fold in the toasted millet, then divide the batter between the two pans. Top with a sprinkle of coarse sugar. 
  7. Bake for 30 minutes, then rotate the pans and bake for 30 minutes more. Lower the temperature to 325, rotate again and bake for 30 minutes more. The loaves should be golden brown with cracked tops, and a skewer inserted in the center should come out clean. 

peach + yogurt popsicles

peach + yogurt popsicles

Keeping cool in California in the summer can be a little tricky sometimes. We've had several days of over 100 degree heat and no one functions well in those circumstances. I swore off wearing shorts years ago, but in the last three days, I've been wearing them nonstop because that's the closest I can get to running around naked. This week though, the heat confronted more than just my body issues, it questioned our parenting. 

Last Wednesday, the weather was mildly warm, not nearly as hot as it has been this week. Our house has air conditioning, thankfully, but even then, it's hard to keep our third floor condo cool even in temperate weather. We usually turn off the A/C at night and sleep just under sheets and little clothing. That night, Ollie was wearing more clothes than we would have normally dressed him in, but since the weather hadn't been too hot, we didn't think much about it. Around 2am he woke up crying, which is not totally unusual, but he seemed pretty upset. We went into his room and he was extremely hot. We stripped him to his diaper and brought him in bed with us. We took his temp and it was slightly higher than normal and with our 2am brains, decided to just try to get him back to sleep in bed with us. He seemed like he was calm but sleepy so we all dozed off. An hour later, I woke up to him seizing next to me. He was unresponsive, pale with blue lips and I thought he was dying. We called 911 and rushed out of the house with our lifeless toddler, hoping that intervention would save him. As we waited for the ambulance, he started to come out of his comatose state, crying periodically but still totally out of it. The ambulance deemed it unnecessary for them to transport him now that he was not seizing so we took him to the emergency room ourselves. The doctors told us he had a febrile seizure from a high temperature. His little brain couldn't regulate his body temperature, thus thrusting him into convulsions. It was by far the scariest moment as a parent to date and I hope that we don't have to experience that ever again. 

Thankfully, Ollie seems to be no worse from the wear, although we are completely traumatized. He's basically sleeping naked for the rest of his life and I will be forever obsessive about him staying cool. Three days of over 100 degree weather has not helped my cause much this week, so we are doing what we can to keep us cool (read: setting the A/C to 65 and not leaving the house). I'm hoping after this heat wave we'll be seeing fall approaching, but you never know in the sunshine state. We could be in the 80's well into Thanksgiving. Let's all hope for the quick arrival of sweater weather. 


I don't know a much better way to beat the heat than with popsicles. Peaches are perfect right now, so they seemed like an obvious choice, but you can use any ripe fruit you have on hand. Apricots, pluots, plums or nectarines would be an excellent choice. 

peach + yogurt popsicles // makes 10 // adapted from this recipe by gourmet

Ingredients: 

  • 3 ripe peaches, about 1 pound, chopped
  • 3/4 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (you could conceivably cut this down if your peaches are really ripe and sweet)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation: 

Puree all ingredients with an 1/8 teaspoon salt in a blender until smooth. Pour into molds and freeze 30 minutes. Insert sticks, then freeze until firm, about 2 hours. 







asian bbq sandwiches

asian bbq sandwiches

Happy Friday! Not only is it Friday, it's the start to a long weekend! Those are the best Friday's. You've got three whole days of freedom. One last summer hurrah to eat all the grilled foods, wear flip flops and swim in the rivers. Pretty soon, it's going to be all pumpkin all the time so shove those tomatoes in your mouth, wear shorts and lay on the beach. There will be plenty of time to wear ugg's and sip pumpkin spiced lattes in the coming months.

I'll keep this post short because I know you've got lots of partying to do. I just wanted to make sure I shared these sandwiches with you before you fired up that grill, because they're pretty good and you might want to make 'em. We'll be keeping close to home this weekend, spending some time at the beach with my mom and sister, with these sandwiches in tow. Oliver is going to have to endure a lot of kisses and hugs this weekend. I sure hope he survives. 


Here's a quick recipe for asian bbq sandwiches for your last minute Labor Day weekend plans. To make these super simple, I use meat that is pre-marinated. My personal favorite is the bulgogi from Trader Joe's. 

asian bbq sandwiches // makes 4

Ingredients: 

  • 4 soft rolls, sliced horizontally, almost all the way through
  • 1 pound marinated Korean beef bulgogi (see note above)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 carrots, cut into fine matchsticks
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise mixed with 1/2- 1 teaspoon of Sriracha (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • 1/4 of a small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • handful of cilantro leaves

Preparation: 

  1. Heat a gas grill on high heat for 15 minutes. 
  2. Meanwhile, stir together the sugar, vinegar and salt until fully dissolved. Add the carrots and let them sit until you're ready to use them. Drain before use. 
  3. Mix together the mayonnaise and the Sriracha. Set aside. 
  4. Cook the meat on the grill until nicely caramelized and cooked through, about 3 minutes on the first side and only a couple on the second or until done. 
  5. To assemble the sandwiches, divide the mayonnaise mixture between the rolls and top with the meat (cutting into smaller pieces if needed to make it fit on the bread). Top with the carrots, onion and cilantro.