I Cooked: Lentil Stew with a Moroccan Twist

Lentils are both something I love to eat and something I’ve struggled to cook well with (my mujadara experiment has been by far the most successful outing I’ve had with lentils. I need to make that again, it was great). But hope springs eternal, and it’s been long enough since I had a crack at it that I was super exited to try again. This recipe had a flavor profile that looked interesting to me, so I decided it would be a perfect way to see if I can finally make a lentil soup dish that doesn’t disappoint me.


1 1/4 green lentils
1 big onion
1/4 cup red wine
1 can diced tomatoes
1 1/3 water
1tsp cardamom
1tsp cinnamon
2tsp cumin


1. Dice the onion
2. Add the diced onion and red wine to a saucepan, let it simmer over medium high heat for about 4 minutes
3. Add cardamom, cinnamon and cumin to the mixture
4. Poor in the diced tomatoes as well as the water water, you might need to add more if your stew ends up becoming too dry
5. Finally, add the lentils. Do not add salt, otherwise the lentils will take ages to soften
6.  Let the stew cook over low heat for about 30-40 minutes or until the lentils are soft and tender, then add salt to your liking


And we believe in candor here at Laughs Loudly and Often, so I’m going to be honest and say this didn’t do it for me. Now maybe it was the changes I made to the recipe (omitted the dried fruit because I don’t like a savory/sweet combo, eliminated the harissa because I went to two stores and couldn’t find any, used cardamom seeds instead of ground because cardamom is $$$$), but this just didn’t ring my bells. I am also very willing to cop to user error, because I’m not a gifted cook. But I think the spices were too overwhelming to me…if I’d halved them, it might have been something I enjoyed more? I can usually handle spice (but not heat), and this just felt like way too much. It was really easy to put together…once you get everything in there, you just let it sit for 30-40 minutes (if you’re using up older lentils, like I was, it might take closer to an hour like it did for me) and voila. It wasn’t bad or anything, it just didn’t tickle my taste buds.

I Saw: September 2015

Including my trips to and from Michigan on either end, I was traveling for almost two weeks last month. And the whole point of traveling with your family is to spend time with your family, as far as I can tell. So that’s the long way of getting around to the fact that I had another sad movie month. As I’ve shifted more back into reading, my movie watching has gotten much less robust than it once was. I am always meaning to get back into movies, though (to be honest, I think playing around on the internet eats up more of my movie time than books do), but it just didn’t happen this month.

EBERT final poster

Life, Itself: 6/10

So (obviously, because I’m writing this), I’m huge into movies. And one of the forces responsible for taking me from a girl who kind of passively sat and watched movies every so often to someone who really gets excited about all the geeky stuff like the score and set decoration was Roger Ebert. I would read his reviews of movies that I liked, and he had a way of boring into the crux of things, of distilling the signal from the noise in a way that opened my middle-American mind. He was witty and incisive. I got a Twitter account so I could follow his, and I genuinely felt a loss when he passed away. I have the autobiography that this documentary was based on in my to-read pile, and so I was interested in watching the film. Honestly, I…didn’t love it. Obviously Roger’s family was very involved in its making, and so it felt…glossed. Sanitized. A little too loving a portrait of its subject. Not something I’ll watch again or recommend for any besides the most die-hard fans.


The Eleanor Roosevelt Story: 4/10

I expected the sanitization of this one…an Oscar-winning documentary about a trailblazing first lady released in the 60s, only three years after her death? Not going to get into any material about either Eleanor or Franklin’s extramarital activities. Nope, this instead comes off like a well-done History Channel biography special. It’s a very straightforward and linear presentation of Eleanor’s life, which, to be fair, even without the salacious stuff, was interesting. To realize how far she came from her beginnings, being orphaned during her childhood, to her positions as the First Lady and Delegate to the UN, is incredible stuff. She was a tough lady…she’s worthy of a documentary that dares to think critically about her.

Obviously, I Said Yes


I actually don’t remember the first time Drew and I met. He does, though. It was early August in 2012, about a week or so after I’d moved to Nevada to work on the Obama campaign. I’d just left the law firm I’d been with for about a year and a half, the stresses from which had left me reeling. I’d been seeing someone in a very off-and-on way for several months, and I liked him and everything but it wasn’t really going anywhere. Also that summer, Crystal and I were on a quest to try out every bar in Ann Arbor, and let’s just say it was a good thing that we both lived walking distance from downtown because I stumbled back to my apartment a little tispy after those nights pretty regularly. I thought Reno would be a good diversion for a few months…give me some time to figure out what I wanted to do while still drawing some kind of paycheck, meet some new people and make some new friends, then come home, see where things were, and find a new law job.

So I’d been in Reno about a week and change, living with another organizer because I had no car yet and the place I was supposed to be living was way far outside of town. She and some of the people that had been there a while were arranging a get-together, and I got invited along because I was staying with her. I do remember, vaguely, that at some point in the night a couple of the guys working for the State Dems showed up, but I was chattering away to a coworker because we’d discovered a mutual love for The Weeknd. I found out later I’d made the girl who the guy I was talking to was seeing at the time really nervous because she thought I was trying to put a move on her man, but we were genuinely just bonding over music. I don’t actually remember seeing Drew at all (so romantic, I know).

We met met during the voter registration push. With my outgoing personality and young-for-my-age appearance, I did really well getting college students to register to vote. The State Dems would put out a table on campus as well, and when I walked by, I noticed Drew. I thought he was cute. I would stop to talk to him if I walked by. I thought he was funny. The more I saw of him, the more I liked him. I wanted him to ask me to do something outside of work, so I started laying on the flirting really heavy. He finally picked up what I was putting down and asked for my number. We started texting each other right away and kept it up. One night, a bunch of people were getting together to drink at the Lincoln Lounge after work, so I texted him and asked him to join us. We sat next to each other and talked and talked, until everyone else had gone home. He walked me out to my car and kissed me goodnight and I felt butterflies. It was September 28, 2012. We’ve been together ever since.

This is real life and not a movie, so I’m not saying it’s been sunshine and rainbows the whole time. Our relationship moved quickly…really quickly. Within a few weeks I was already staying with him all day every day, with my clothes and shower stuff and everything. We were busy on our campaigns, so we didn’t get to see that much of each other anyways. I went back to Michigan for about a month, and then headed back out to Reno to visit over Christmas. I had a one-way ticket because it was cheaper that way, on Southwest, and I didn’t know how long I’d want to stay for. I just never left, so we ended up living together in a way that wasn’t exactly planned, before we really knew each other very well. My first session was rough on our relationship, with the busy schedule and stresses of the legislature, and I wasn’t really sure if we were strong enough yet to withstand it. Turns out we were. Our relationship has just kept getting better since, and I know that he’s the man I want to wake up to every day for the rest of my life, the one I want to go to sleep next to, the one I want to be the father of my child[ren] (eventually).

We’d talked about marriage, of course. When you’re in your late twenties and have been living together for more than two years, it has a way of coming up. We’d decided that getting married was what we both wanted. And very recently, we made it official: he gave me a ring and asked me to be his wife. Obviously, I said yes. So now we have a big project coming up: our wedding! We’re shooting for next summer, so we need to get the ball rolling! Words can’t describe how happy and excited I am to be getting ready to stand up in front of our families and friends and promise to love Drew for the rest of my life…and then have a fun little party to celebrate! So for the next several months, you’ll be getting a monthly update on our wedding planning process. I’m not trying to turn this into all-wedding-all-the-time, but this is my personal blog, so I definitely want to talk about what’s going to be a big part of my life from now on…so please tell me if it’s getting to be too much!

I Cooked: Roasted Garlic Pasta

So in the past two weeks, over the course of my vacation (post upcoming!) I was on ten different airplanes crossing back and forth across nine time zones. That means jet lag, and jet lag means a lazy weekend, and a lazy weekend means a lazy cook around these parts. I’ve been a longtime fan of the Budget Bytes blog, with her thrifty and delicious-looking recipes, so this roasted garlic pasta looked like it would be both good to eat and easy to make, which was exactly what I was looking for! Seriously, go over to her blog and check out her food. She’s easily my favorite food blog on the internet (as opposed to the other places blogs are, I guess?)


1 head garlic
½ Tbsp olive oil
1 lb. pasta shells
15 oz. part-skim ricotta cheese
¼ cup grated parmesan
to taste salt & pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3 cups baby spinach


Using a sharp knife, cut approximately ½ inch off the top of the head of garlic. Place the garlic bulb in a small bowl or dish and drizzle ½ tablespoon of olive oil over the exposed cloves. Cover the bowl with an inverted plate. Microwave on high, in one minute increments, until the garlic is soft and fragrant (about 2 minutes). Use caution when touching the dishes, they will be very hot. Allow the garlic to cool.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add the pasta, and cook for 7-10 minutes or until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the starchy pasta cooking water.

While the pasta is cooking, squeeze the garlic cloves from the head and mince well. Add the minced garlic to a medium bowl along with the ricotta cheese, a healthy dose of freshly cracked pepper, and about ½ tsp of salt. Add the ½ cup of hot, starchy pasta cooking water. Stir until it forms a smooth sauce.

Drain the pasta. Return the drained pasta to the warm pot (the burner should be turned off). Add the fresh baby spinach and pour the ricotta sauce over top. Slice the cherry tomatoes and add them to the pot as well. Stir until everything is well mixed. Add in the parmesan cheese and stir again. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy!


So I was right: this was both easy to make and good to eat! A lot of the comments on her original blog entry suggested that this was a little bland, and I’m honestly inclined to agree…I meant to add some Italian seasoning to it for a little flair and totally forgot, so I ended up adding it to individual bowls as I ate them and it definitely gave it a little more taste. As is, though, it’s comfort food to the max: richly cheesy with nice little acidic bites from the tomatoes. Ate leftovers several days in a row and it was always good reheated, so there’s that as well. This will definitely be a weeknight staple going forward, and I can’t wait to try my next Budget Bytes recipe

I Drank: St. James Infirmary

Somewhere around here, I have a film strip from my first few weeks of Reno during the campaign. I’d come out with my friends Casey and Christina, and Casey’s friend Scott had met us at the bar, and we’d crammed into a photo booth and the only thing you can really see from that photo? My chin, front and center. It was a really fun night…it was the first time I’d met Scott (who is now a friend of mine that I see fairly often), and I decided I liked him when we discovered a shared love of Ryan Adams at the jukebox and then punched him (twice!) when I found out he’s an Ohio State fan. The bar we were at? St. James Infirmary!


It turns out that St. James isn’t all that far from the office, either. Which makes it a great place to stop for happy hour! They’ve got quite an extensive menu: craft cocktails like any good hipster bar, and plenty of beer in lots of different varieties (some local, some from as far away as Europe) on tap and in bottles. Service can be a little lackluster depending on time of day/who’s behind the bar…some are friendlier and chattier than others, but no one I’ve seen is the type to notice your empty glass and zoom in to see if you need anything else at the drop of a hat. Which is honestly kind of nice…I don’t feel like I’m being “sold” constantly. They have old movies running behind the bar on black-and-white TVs with the sound off, they have a trivia night, and there’s definitely music and dancing on the weekends.


St. James Infirmary is located at 445 California Ave, Reno, NV in the Midtown Reno area. Parking is street only, but there’s pretty much always a place you can find on a side street within a few blocks. Prices are a smidge high, but the happy hour specials are great. This is one of my favorite Reno bars, so definitely recommended for a stop!

20 Things I Learned In My 20s: I Don’t Actually Know Anything At All


This is it: the final post in my 20 Things I’ve learned in my 20s series…and just in time, since I turn 30 in a little less than two weeks! This series hasn’t gotten much in the way of commentary, which is pretty normal around these parts, but it’s been an enjoyable experience anyways. Reflecting on the 20 year old girl that I was and what I’ve been through and experienced and learned in the last ten years has honestly been a bit of a roller coaster, but it’s made me appreciate my life experiences (even the awful ones) for the impact they’ve had and how they’ve helped turn that girl into the woman I am today: more mature, more in control of my emotions, more able to cope with the bumps in my road, more thoughtful, more kind.

So the final piece of wisdom I have to impart to anyone that happens to be reading this that I’ve learned in my 20s is that I don’t actually know anything. The more of life I see and experience, the more I understand that my preconceived notions about virtually everything were and are wrong. I knew I would love and do well in law school. I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. I knew I’d be able to get a job as a prosecutor. I knew I’d never lose touch with my old friends. I knew that if I just tried really hard, I could make the people I loved be the people I wanted them to be. I knew I’d have forever to spend time with my family. I knew nothing (if you can read that without adding “Jon Snow” at the end, you’re probably less nerdy than I am or nerdy about different things, but that’s okay, because love what you love).

If I could give some advice to someone still going through the tumult and searching of your 20s, it would be this: be open. Say yes. Try something new. Try something you haven’t tried for a while again. There’s a whole big giant world out there just waiting to be explored. Go. Do. And have fun.

Five For Friday: My Favorite Things About The University Of Michigan!


As anyone who has ever met me in real life can attest, I am an extremely proud alumna of the University of Michigan. So this post was hard to write in a way, because narrowing it down to just five was practically impossible. But here, in the midst of football season (and fresh off an extremely short visit back to my beloved Ann Arbor), are my five favorite things about my time at the University of Michigan:

  1. Ann Arbor. I mean, this was inevitable, right? Also, I know lots of people love their college towns and look back on them fondly. But Ann Arbor is really special. It’s a very walkable city, with easy access to everything from campus sports bars/hookup finding spots like Skeeps and Rick’s (or more wholesomely, the Jug or Charley’s) to downtown fine dining like Shalimar or Gratzi. Don’t forget about treasures like the too-expensive-unless-parents-are-in-town-but-totally-delicious Zingerman’s Deli or my personal favorite (and very reasonably priced) Jerusalem Garden. And that’s just some of the food and drink, not the mention all the other things there are to do and see, like my sister’s favorite hammock spot: Nichols Arboretum. It’s really an incredible city for college students and humans alike.
  2. FOOTBALL. Yes, all caps were necessary. When I went there, before they put on the luxury boxes, it was fun to take someone to see the stadium because it looks unimpressive from the outside…it’s only once you get in and see the bowl spread before you that you really get an appreciation for the scope of it. Even with the luxury boxes, you still have to go inside and see it to get the impact. And then there’s the experience of being in the stadium itself…being in a group of over 100,000 people watching and experiencing the same event at the same time is an intense experience, and when you’re a student at Michigan, it’s just a Saturday in the fall.
  3. The options. One of the benefits of going to a large public research university is the scope of options in front of you. I chose to learn Italian for my foreign language requirement. I could have picked virtually any other language spoken in the world: Urdu, Tagalog, Ojibwe. My favorite class I’ve ever taken remains to this day my course on Dante’s Divine Comedy (we just read the three books, in-depth, over the course of the semester), which is just one of so so many interesting, challenging, thought-provoking classes offered at Michigan (like The Bible as Literature, Zen Masters, Dharma Bums, and Drag Queens: Buddhism in America, and Language in the Mass Media: Linguistics and Language Variation in the Public Sphere among so many others)
  4. The opportunities. I had professors that were at the top of the line in their fields, who literally wrote the book (beware of these professors, they require that you get the most recent edition because even academics like making money). I have a signed copy of my favorite book (The Virgin Suicides) because the Jeffrey Eugenides came to give a short lecture about his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Middlesex. President Bill Clinton was the speaker at my graduation ceremony. Chances to hear and learn from the very best and brightest don’t come along very often, and Michigan offers an embarrassment of riches in this regard.
  5. The diversity. This was actually one that I was surprised to discover, and it wasn’t until I went to law school that I discovered how much I missed it. I grew up in a small town composed almost entirely of middle-class white people. I was an oddball for having a single parent. And then I went to Michigan, and my dorm-mates and friends were Indian and Persian and Chinese and Jewish and from big cities on the east coast and small beach towns and big suburbs where their graduating classes were double the number of mine. I learned so much about people different from myself and how limited my own experience of the world was. Once I went back to a place where people’s lives were much more homogenous, I figured out how much the diversity had helped me grow and see the world through different eyes, and I missed it. There are so many people with so many backgrounds at Michigan, and being around people unlike the ones you’ve always known gives you so much more understanding about the range of experiences that are possible.

I Ate: La Posada Real

I’ve written before about the wonderful lady lobbyist group that I’ve been fortunate to be a part of, and this trip to La Posada Real was another one of our lunch get-togethers!



I’ve never been much into Mexican food, but since I’m living out West and there’s a lot of it out here, I’m getting more accustomed to it. I know I’m kind of alone on the “Mexican food isn’t much my jam” train, but I feel almost a kind of pressure to be more excited about going out to Mexican food when I’m really just not. And that was kind of an unplanned tangent, but it’s relevant-ish to the discussion at hand, which is a Mexican resturant. Anyways, it was a pretty slow day a lunch the day we were there (and we were in the group dining area, so kind of away from other customers), and the service was great. I felt sorry for them trying to keep track of several different checks and people coming in and out at irregular intervals, but they were super friendly and accommodating, which was great of them.



There were plenty of baskets of chips and containers of salsa on the table, and they kept them coming as fast as we could eat them, which was fast because they’re actually really good chips. I had my standard-issue meal when it comes to Mexican food: a cheese enchilada with rice and beans and it was really good. Like, really good. Like, writing this is kind of making me want to go back there and get another one sometime soon. I also appreciated that it was an option to get the beans rather than the refried beans; I prefer them that way and it’s not usually an option.


La Posada Real actually has two locations (Reno and Carson City), but this is the Reno one and the address is 5270 Longley Lane. I’d consider this to be the north end of South Reno, it’s just a little south of the airport. It’s in a strip mall, so there’s plenty of parking. It’s very reasonably priced ($8 for that giant plate of food), and I’d have to say it’s probably my favorite Mexican food I’ve had in Reno, so definitely recommended!

20 Things I Learned In My 20s: Other People Live Lives Completely Different Than Yours. That’s Okay.


I’m not going to pretend I’m not judgmental. I am. I’ve always enjoyed the Alice Roosevelt quote along the lines of “If you don’t have anything nice to say…come sit next to me!”. But there’s a line, and we all know it. I try (mostly but not always successfully) to stay on the fun gossip side of that line, away from the hurtful and mean. But this isn’t about the kind of judging where you wonder where someone’s friends were when they let them out of the house in that outfit (if you love me, please tell me that’s not my best look before you let me go mingle among the public) or if those shoes can possibly be comfortable, or if he knows his hair looks like that. That’s catty and petty, sure, but usually not meant with ill intent.

When I was in my twenties, I got stuck in the trap of feeling like I had to defend myself if someone made choices differently than I did. I felt like their decisions were somehow meant to be or functioned as a challenge to my own. Someone else decided to get a job after college instead of going to law school, and my concern about my choice to go ahead and go to law school got turned into feeling like them living that life, making that choice, making money and getting started in their career was a walking, talking, repudiation of my own choice. It’s easy to project hate back onto other people’s lives to make you feel better about your own…as I’m writing this, I keep thinking about the episode of Sex And The City where Charlotte decides to quit her job when she gets married and feels like Miranda is judging her, and so she calls her and goes on a diatribe about how feminism means she can decide what to do with her life, ending with just screaming “I choose my choice!” over and over. Of course, since SATC is a sitcom, it’s overblown and the two ultimately reconcile, but it’s not that different than things that can happen in real life.

My sister got married at 23. My friend Crystal didn’t go to a four-year university. My friend Kailey doesn’t ever want to have kids. These are big, significant life choices. And all of them make me question myself, honestly. Did I sabotage the relationships I had when I was younger? If I’d been different or somehow better, would they have worked out? Or should I have seen the problem areas early and quit so I could have dated someone who it might have worked out with and I could have been married sooner too? Crystal makes more money than I do…should I have done it her way? Were college and law school big expensive mistakes I’m going to be paying off for the rest of my life? Should I have kids? Do I really want to be a mom or is it just socialization that makes me feel like I should? And those are questions it doesn’t hurt to ask myself…thinking about relationships, and work, and family, and applying a critical eye to the decisions I’ve made helps me make better decisions going forward. They are living their own lives, and those decisions are the ones they’ve made for themselves. Those choices have nothing to do with my life. My life and my decisions are my own to make. And so are everyone else’s.

I Cooked: Bulghar Pilaf with Bell Peppers

Bulghar is a grain that I’d never tried before, and in the tasty and familiar confines of a pilaf is exactly the kind of place I like to try new things. Plus, this recipe originally came from Yotam Ottolenghi, whose cookbooks I’ve heard fantastic things about, so I knew it was a must-make!


About 6 tbsp olive oil
4 small white onions, thinly sliced
3 bell peppers, cut into thin strips
2 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp coriander
1 cup medium bulghar wheat
1 3/4 cups water or broth
Salt and black pepper
Handful of chopped green onions


Heat up the olive oil in a large pot and sauté the onions and peppers together over medium-high heat for 12 to 15 minutes, or until they soften up completely.

Next, add the tomato paste, sugar, and coriander and stir as you cook for about 2 minutes. Add the bulgur, water/broth, and some salt and pepper. Stir to mix, then bring to the boil. As soon as the water boils, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid, turn heat down as low as it will go, and leave to sit for at least 20 minutes.

Finally, fluff up the bulgur with a fork and stir in the chives. If the pilaf seems dry, add a little more olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve and enjoy!


So the success of this recipe definitely means I’m looking to acquire the Plenty cookbook, because this was delicious! I made some substitutions/omissions (I couldn’t find pink peppercorns, I used 2 tsp ground coriander instead of 2 tbsp coriander seeds because I already had ground coriander, I hate raisins in my food so I left them out), and it was still super tasty. It was also pretty straightforward to make, with relatively minimal prep and 20 minutes where it just cooks up. This will definitely be a recipe that gets remade!