Thursday, March 24, 2011

Balsamic Chicken Sausage with Green Lentils

*picture stolen from Google images...the recipe below comes out even prettier - but we ate all of it before I thought of taking a photo!

I picked up the Food&Wine 2007 annual cookbook at the used bookstore the other day and decided to try 5 new meals this week. Tonight's pick was "Lentils with Chicken Sausage". I was pretty sure Robert and I would like it (which we did), but I had no idea it would be such a hit with the kiddos! I don't think I've ever seen Grace open her mouth so wide, and Audrey was picking up her bowl and slurping it down! Oliver seemed to like it too (duh - it's food), but I thought it was funny that he picked the spinach out of each bite:) Here's the recipe - with a few minor adjustments/tips. Oh, and as you can see, I've given it a slightly more colorful and descriptive name...the other one sounded so tasteless and boring!

Balsamic Chicken Sausage with Green Lentils:

1 C dried green lentils
4 C chicken broth (you could even use 3C - ours was pretty "soupy")
1 carrot, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 celery rib, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, cut into pieces
2 T olive oil
4 thyme sprigs
1 C baby spinach leaves (stems removed), coarsely chopped
salt and pepper
*4 precooked chicken sausages, thickly sliced
1.5 T balsamic vinegar

*I used Trader Joe's Sweet Apple Chicken Sausage (comes in a pack of 5). You can also use Aidells Chicken&Apple sausage - just make sure the chicken sausage you choose is somewhat sweet. Lentils can be pretty "plain" - and the sweetness really adds to the dish and gives it some extra flavor!

1. In a large soup pot, combine the lentils and chicken broth. Cover and bring to boil.

2. With either a food processor or onion chopper, pulse carrot, celery, onion, and garlic until all are very finely chopped. In a large skillet, heat 1T olive oil. Add the finely chopped vegetables and thyme sprigs and cook over medium-high heat until veggies are soft (about 3 minutes) stirring frequently so they don't burn. Add cooked veggies to lentils/broth. Cover and cook over medium heat until lentils are tender (about 20 min). Stir the baby spinach into the lentils; season with salt and pepper.

3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1T olive oil in the skillet. Add the sliced chicken sausages and cook over medium heat, turning sausages occasionally until browned on all sides (about 8 minutes). Add the balsamic vinegar to skillet and toss and cook for 1 minute more.

4. Spoon lentils into bowls discarding thyme sprigs as you find them. Top with chicken sausages and serve immediately!

I'll be making this one again soon...let me know how you like it!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Not Yet Spring

I am physically cold today.

It is that internal cold that makes one's fingers slow to move,
one's nail beds a faint bluish purple.

I saw a robin hopping around my backyard today
and noticed that several tulip bulbs have pushed their waxy leaves through the semi-frozen dirt
but even with these early signs of Spring
the air is cold and there is an occasional snow flurry

The sun shines brightly just outside my window
as the warmth of the sun's rays
(not yet strong enough to warm the crisp winter air)
deceivingly radiate a patch of illuminated carpet below.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

To Teach or Not to Teach...

Because I have been away from my position at the college for two years now, and because the college has a new VP, I had to go through the grueling and detailed process (again) of filling out the tediously extraneous online application, updating my CV/Cover Letter, scanning and submitting electronically my graduate and undergraduate academic transcripts, as well as locating, scanning, and submitting a 7 year old letter of recommendation. And all the work of just applying to work got me thinking: do i really want to teach again???

Yes, I miss standing at the front of the classroom turning complicated Spanish grammar into something comprehensible and dare I say it - enjoyable. And I miss explaining slight variances of pronunciation due to geographical location and the way different Spanish-speaking countries have entirely different vocabularies based on their blending with various indigenous languages. And I really miss watching my students faces when I explain to them that the foreign language they've come to know as "Spanish" doesn't even exist but that the official language of Spain (and what is spoken all over Central and South America) is actually called "Castellano" - and is one of 4 regionally official languages in Spain.

I also really miss my students. Sure I've had a handful of pain-in-the-rear lame students who like to show off, skip class, or my favorite - yell at me in the hallway with the whole class listening because I didn't give him the time slot he wanted for the final exam. But after teaching hundreds of students and only having 3 or 4 "bad seeds" that I can think of, I think I've had an extremely good run of it. As of this past weekend, I've now attended the weddings of two former students, I've become sushi-date friends with another (female:)) student, and yet another has just accepted the post of "nanny" - helping me with the triplets twice a week so I have an extra pair of hands to take them to storytime at the library, go grocery shopping, or whatever else I need to do - and she is awesome! So not only have my students been great in the classroom - some of them have become long-term friends!

I also really miss walking around campus, sharing a cup of tea with my colleague (and director of the Spanish Department), Robin Martinez, and sitting in my office grading papers, working on lesson plans, and waiting for students to come by for extra help. I miss wearing tights and skirts and carrying around my super-cool brown leather satchel that my husband bought for me in Canada on our honeymoon. Oh, and I really miss fighting with overhead projectors with 30 expectant faces watching my every move, joking around with my students (in English) before class starts and then switching abruptly to Spanish (er, Castellano) when the big hand hits the appropriate black tick mark on the back wall, and sending half the class into a state of confusion and disappointment ("is she really going to keep this Spanish-immersion thing up?" Yes.), walking into a class full of students and piling all of my books and paperwork and transparencies on the absurdly tiny little desk at the front of the room and then tripping regularly over cables, trash cans, and desks, and the fantastic intoxicating smell of whiteboard markers.

What I can't seem to get so excited about, however, is the thought of having to put on those tights and skirts, pack that little leather satchel, and drive across town and up the hill to the college to teach a two hour class AFTER chasing around 3 nearly two year olds all day!!! I mean staying home with 3 toddlers is a full time job in and of itself... heck, it's THREE FULL TIME JOBS! And by 5:00 each night, I am one tired (and usually irritated, and grumpy, and ready for t.v. and a glass of wine) MAMA! Really? Teach a class???

Well, ultimately, that decision isn't up to me. I've updated my information, submitted the required paperwork, have a file full of glowing evaluations from past students (which I re-read from time to time - they are quite the ego boost!), and a brain bubbling over with exciting, revolutionary new ways of presenting the Spanish language to a new crop of students who are ravenous for knowledge and eager to glean - okay, now I'm just fantasizing:)

So in the meantime, I'll wait to hear back from the college, I'll enjoy my free evenings of sleeping babies, t.v., and wine, and I'll try to sneak in as many naps as possible to build up my energy stores. And as much as I try to talk myself out of taking that possible class or two in the fall, I just know that if they actually make the offer official - I'll take it. How could I resist?