Happy Birthday!!

My husband *finally* turned 30 this weekend! I entered this decade four months ago, so he’s been teasing me about being married to “an older woman” ever since. Now we’re finally even!

To celebrate his big day, I made a nice dinner for our family. Since I gave birth to our son Mack four weeks ago I haven’t had much time to prepare the nice meals we are used to. In addition to meals dropped off by friends and family, we’ve been eating simple dinners I can put together in a few minutes. So, it was really nice for me to get back in the kitchen tonight!! I missed it!

This Salmon With Lentils recipe is from Ina Garten. It is very healthy and full flavored. The salmon I used was wild caught from Alaska. The farm raised stuff found in most grocery stores has artificial coloring (yuck) and likely came from disease and parasite ridden open net pens (double yuck). I believe the taste and health benefits of wild caught salmon are well worth the extra expense.

Also, here’s a good tip when cooking fish: let it come to room temperature before you put it in the pan. This seems to cook it more evenly.

1⁄2 pound French green lentils (lentilles du Puy)
1⁄4 cup good olive oil, plus extra for salmon
2 cups chopped yellow onions
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1 1⁄2 cups chopped celery (4 stalks)
1 1⁄2 cups chopped carrots (3 carrots)
1 1⁄2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
4 (8-ounce) center-cut salmon fillets, skin removed

Place the lentils in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for 15 minutes, then drain.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saute pan, add the onions, leeks, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the drained lentils, celery, carrots, chicken stock, and tomato paste. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Add the vinegar and season, to taste.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

For the salmon, heat a dry oven-proof saute pan over high heat for 4 minutes. Meanwhile, rub both sides of the salmon fillets with olive oil and season the tops very liberally with salt and pepper. When the pan is very hot, place the salmon fillets seasoning-sides down in the pan and cook over medium heat without moving them for 2 minutes, until very browned. Turn the fillets and place the pan in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until the salmon is cooked rare. Spoon a mound of lentils on each plate and place a salmon fillet on top. Serve hot.

Chris’ favorite birthday dessert is carrot cake, but with baby Mack and toddler Evelyn and the nice salmon dinner I just did not have the time to make a homemade treat. But, I still wanted to make something special for my husband. Time to improvise with a little help from Betty Crocker! I had a basic cake mix and a box of instant pudding in the pantry, and after a Google search for “cake mix pudding mix” I found a few recipes combining the two. I gussied the following recipe up by adding chopped bananas to the batter and chocolate chips sprinkled on top. It turned out great and I didn’t feel too bad for not making something completely from scratch!

1 box instant pudding
2 cups milk
1 box cake mix
2 eggs

Combine pudding and milk. Add in cake mix and eggs. Stir well.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

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