Tag Archives: seafood

Salmon Lasagna

We had a great time with Dave’s parents during their four-day visit. Having them over for dinner after I got back from work on Friday made me wish we could love in the same town and have family dinners and game nights on a regular basis. We’d love to one day move back to Dave’s home town, Portland, OR, but academic careers don’t often allow people to freely choose where they live. Fortunately, we love Central PA as well and enjoyed showing off our favorite spots.

After boating at Bald Eagle State Park and fire works at the foot of Mount Nittany on the 4th, they came out to Woolrich to see where I work on the 5th. They got a mill tour and we had lunch at Leo’s in Lock Haven, a small and delicious, authentic Italian deli place my co-workers and I love.


I had a mozzarella sandwich, which is my favorite. Their bread is so fresh and amazing.

When I got home, I started making one of my specialties – salmon lasagna. I learned how to make this when I worked at a restaurant during college in Germany.

Salmon Lasagna:


– 12 cooked lasagna sheets (boiled in oiled and salted water for 10 minutes)
– 18 ounces cooked salmon (I used Trader Joe’s wild Pacific salmon)
– 2 16 oz. bags of frozen spinach, thawed (I used Trader Joe’s organic)
– 1.5 cups of Hollandaise Sauce (can buy ready-to-eat at TJ’s)
– medium bag of shredded cheese (I used a three-cheese blend)
– Garlic salt and pepper


After boiling the lasagna sheets, I put the pot in the sink and run cold water into it until I can touch the pasta sheets. I separate them and put them on a plate, alternating a horizontal one and then a vertical one. I end up using only 9 sheets for the lasagna, but cook 12 because there is always potential of some breaking. It helps to stir the sheets up while they’re cooking in oiled water a few times.


While the sheets are cooking, cook the spinach and press it in a colander; then spice it thoroughly with garlic salt and pepper.


Now, line up all the ingredients to assemble the lasagna.


The Hollandaise cups from Trader Joe’s are a pricey alternative to packets, but buying them ready-to-eat saved me some time.


I used one and a half of these packets and saved the rest in a zip lock bag.

For assembly, begin with a layer of Hollandaise sauce, then add three sheets of lasagna next to each other lengthwise in a casserole dish. Add another layer of Hollandaise sauce, then spinach, then salmon. Add a new layer of pasta sheets and repeat, then another. Add Hollandaise sauce at the top of each layer as well as the bottom to hold them sheets together better. Finally, sprinkle with cheese and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 40ish minutes. Check the oven to see how the cheese is doing. You can decide how brown you want it to get.


I served this with some fresh, white baguette, which we also had with brie, olive oil, and wine for appetizers. Dave’s parents loved the lasagna and Dave and I enjoyed the left-overs two days later for lunch.

For desert, I went the easy route and bought Trader Joe’s Creme Brulee.


As you can see, pretty much the entire meal was courtesy of Trader Joe’s. I was working and had limited prep-time, so going the ready-to-eat route with a lot of the ingredients was ideal for me.

Dave and his dad did the dishes, we all went for a walk around the neighborhood, and then we taught his parents how to play “Settlers of Catan,” during which we enjoyed more chocolate and wine.




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Boating at Bald Eagle State Park

Dave’s parents are in town for the 4th of July weekend. We met up with them this morning for breakfast at the Waffle Shop, and then headed to Bald Eagle State Park. We rented a Pontoon boat for four hours and enjoyed some pleasant times out on the water.


Dave and his parents also had some good times in the water.


After they were done swimming, we ate our packed lunch.


We had bagels, cream cheese, smoked salmon, crackers, brie, white wine, cherries, and sparkling water.

Successful 4th of July activity! Somehow, it feels more festive spending this holiday in one of the founding states. It’s also my first 4th of July as a permanent resident!

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Road Trip, Day 4: Bonus Day in Wilmington


Saturday was all about the beach.

Tropical storm Andrea was moving up the coast, so we didn’t want to follow her and delayed our trip to Virginia by a day.

Finally, we got to swim in the ocean. The waves were really high, and the water was pretty warm. We walked along the shore, swam, and relaxed in the sun.

Then we decided to go find some lunch before coming back for a second serving of beach time.


The Oceanic was exactly what we had in mind – ocean front, seafood lunch specials, and free parking for customers.

Here, we had our first serving of hushpuppies ever.


They seem to be deep-fried cornbread? You may have noticed that this is not a health-food trip, despite my good intentions. But we have been getting a good idea of Southern Cuisine!

Dave and I both ordered Oceanic Cranberry Seltzers, which we enjoyed in the shade on their outdoor patio, overlooking the ocean.



I ordered the lobster salad wrap from the specials menu. It was very good.


With full bellies, we returned to the beach, walked up and down the shore enjoying the salty breeze, sat at the edge of the water for a while, and then ended up going back into the water for more wave action.

The waves were really intense. First, we just kind of stood there and jumped up when a wave was particularly high. But, with time, we got more daring. We swam out and met the waves before they were actually breaking. Eventually, Dave showed me how to stand directly where the wave will break without getting swept away. I was not very good at it, so I was swept off my feet several times. Then, he actually jumped into a wave and let it carry him ashore. I thought that looked really fun and decided to give it a try. Not a good idea. All I remember is that the wave somehow grabbed me and spun me around under water before violently smacking me onto the ground. My lower back felt sand-burned immediately, and I emerged out of the water proclaiming that I was done.

As we walked back to our towel, Dave realized that my back was bleeding badly, and I got pretty worried. We took our stuff, went to wash it out at the showers, and returned to the hotel. It stopped bleeding after the shower, but still hurt pretty badly. At the hotel, I could see that it was fortunately not as bad as I had imagined – at least, the injured area was a lot smaller than I had feared. Dave went to the store to get some antibiotic ointment and some huge band-aids, which he then helped me apply. I was pretty shaken up, especially imagining how much worse it could have been, so I took a nap and watched some Netflix before we had to leave to meet our friends at the last conference event.

The event was at Dirty Martini, which was conveniently located right by our hotel. We walked over there and found yet another elaborate buffet and drink offering.


I had spinach salad, lobster pasta (soooo good), crab dip with crackers, and some cheese cubes with grapes. For my two free drinks, I got an Old Fashioned both times.


Oh! We also had shrimp & grits cocktails. How could I forget?


Another fantastic Wilmington location. There was a little pond along a mall of small restaurants and boutiques. It was a humid night and the mosquitoes were out, but at least their bites don’t itch as badly as Wisconsin mosquitoes’ somehow.


I enjoyed my last night with these two ladies. Living away from good friends is not fun…


… especially when they’re not all in the same place somewhere else, but scattered across the globe, so opportunities to get several of them together at once are extremely rare.


Good thing I have this guy to keep me from getting lonely.

Anyway, we had so much fun again, First, we danced outside to an amazing live band, who played classic rock. Then, we continued dancing inside to current club music.


Two nights of dancing in a row = happy Suzan. At midnight, it was my friend Ally’s birthday, so we stayed until a little past then.

These three days in North Carolina have been the best. We got the perfect mix of warmth, historic sightseeing, great food, friend time, intellectual stimulation via the conference events, dancing, beach time (minus the wave incident and sunburn), and cultural immersion (the Carolina accents are awesome, along with their people’s extreme friendliness).

I hope to be back here in the not too distant future!

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Road Trip, Day 3: Wilmington

Friday started with a 9 a.m. panel presentation at UNC Wilmington with my two grad school friends. We drove to the campus, which is really beautiful, and met up with them in the conference building.


The panel was on our experiences pursuing our Masters’ degrees in communication, and how we’ve benefited from them since we’ve graduated. It was really fun to reflect on our Marquette experience together and to answer questions from the audience.

Dave and I headed out after the panel, while our friends stayed at the conference. Our desire for vacationing and sightseeing trumped our academic inclinations. Instead, we headed to downtown Wilmington, where the Cape Fear River provides yet another gorgeous waterfront.


I recognized multiple places from Dawson’s Creek, although many have apparently been torn down since the show was filmed 10-15 years ago. This river walk is definitely featured often.

Tropical storm Andrea was causing extremely strong winds, so sitting outside for lunch wasn’t an option. But we found a waterfront place, The Pilot House, that had a covered porch.


Dave ordered shrimp & grits. I tried some and it was amazing. I could get used to Southern cuisine.


I got a crab cake melt with home-made chips. Really, really good.

When we got back outside, the winds had only worsened, and rain was coming down with strong gusts.


I got out my rain coat and Dave opted for his new umbrella, which he carried with the pride of a Southern gentleman.


We decided that our next activity should probably be indoors, so we headed across the river to tour the USS North Carolina Battleship.


This was probably one of the most awesome historical sites I’ve ever toured. The lower decks were just like a city, with dining rooms, sleeping quarters, a barber shop, a whole sick wing, convenience stores, a post office, etc. The info boards all had a crew memories section, and the excerpts from interviews always were relevant to the very place you were standing.

We took about three hours to walk around the elaborate decks. I got a vivid idea of what it was like to be an enlisted sailor in the South Pacific on this Navy battleship. The sense of camaraderie and positivity surprised and impressed me given that sailors were faced with the threats of World War II and lived without privacy in extreme heat, away from their loved ones.


We ended the tour with a visit to the pilothouse, where I rested my feet on the captain’s chair.

After the tour, we headed back to the hotel to change, and then drove right back downtown, to 128 South, for the conference dinner and keynote, with subsequent outdoor dancing.


Dinner was buffet style. I chose fried catfish, a veggie blend, a salad, and some bread. And for my drink, a Merlot.


It was one of the most fun nights I’ve had all year. Living in Pennsylvania, I am away from my college and grad school friends, so I rarely get the chance to go dancing with the right people at the right places. But I love dancing. So I savored every moment of this event.


There were also a lot of line dances (Electric Slide, Cotton Eyed Joe, Cupid Shuffle, etc.). I loved everything about that.


Dave was talking to one of the conference attendants from Germany, trying to get a sense for what teaching at an English-speaking campus there would be like. It’s so cool to meet people from across the world at events like this.


The view from this balcony/porch was amazing. We could see the river and the battleship, as well as many downtown buildings.

We were initially supposed to say goodbye to our friends after this event, so we could head up to Virginia on Saturday morning. However, tropical storm Andrea has now moved North, and we have no desire to follow her. Instead, we’re going to hang around Wilmington for another day and finally get a chance to go to the beach and swim in the ocean. That’s why I didn’t want to plan ahead for this trip, but just kind of see where life takes us. I could get used to this.

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Road Trip Day 2, Part 2: Arrival in Wilmington

After a 3.5-hour drive in the rain, which has been announcing tropical storm Andrea for two days now, we arrived in the “Port City” in the later afternoon. We checked into our Hampton by Wrightsville Beach, freshened up, and drove over to Dockside, where we were meeting our friends.

The conference they are attending, and in which I am presenting with them, had its welcome event here. Dockside is a Wilmington water-front restaurant and apparently a true staple of the city. To my delight, it is situated just a little ways down from where Dawson’s Creek was filmed. I am pretty sure the marina here is where Dawson crashes his dad’s boat in season three, and the dock in the background is the dock of Dawson’s house. This is all very exciting since Dawson’s Creek was my absolute favorite show in high school and college and also taught me most of my colloquial English.


It was absolutely beautiful and the air smelled rich like saltwater and vacation.

First, we had some of the free dinner and drinks at the event while catching up with our friends.


Some pita slices, crab dip, shrimp, and veggies. I also had a Merlot and a cocktail.

Then we headed outside for some reunion photots.


Grad school love.




Also grad school love.

The evening went by way too fast, like good times always do.

We headed back to the hotel early enough to get a solid night’s sleep before Friday’s morning presentation and more Southern adventures.

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Road Trip Day 1: Drive to Charleston, SC

Our five-day vacation is finally here, and it started with an 11.5 hour drive to Charleston, South Carolina. Since we’re meeting friends in Wilmington, NC, we knew we wanted to go to SC first, so I can cross that state off my list as well. As of today, I’ve added Virginia, NC, and SC, which bumps me to 42. West Virginia will be added on our way back. Anyway, we were thinking about where to go, and Charleston seemed like the coolest option, especially since rain was predicted and Myrtle Beach wouldn’t have been all too fun in monsoon-like conditions.

We hit the road at about 8:30 a.m. On our way out of town, we got soy vanilla lattes at Starbucks and enjoyed them with our breakfast scone and mini-croissants from Wegman’s (we picked up food for the road last night).


We managed to assemble quite the feast. Wegman’s is awesome. This was my first time trying their bakery, and I concluded they have the most European-like baked goods I’ve ever tasted in the U.S. This is a dangerous realization, but who doesn’t splurge on a vacation?


My lunch was a seven-grains salad and a roll with baked cheese around it.


We also got several mini-pastries. This one had a pomegranate filling and was so fantastic that I savored every bite for as long as I possibly could. What better entertainment could I bring on a road trip?

Afternoon snacks included carrots, apples, sweet potato chips, dried fruit with nuts and chocolate, and of course Kombucha.Image.


We arrived in Charleston around 8:30 p.m. during an epic down pour. Looks like our three days down in the Carolinas will be accompanied by rain, but we’ll have plenty of things we’ll want to see that don’t involve the beach (although I’m dying to swim the ocean as well).

We checked into the Hampton Inn in the historic district, put on our rain coats, and walked around. The hotel location is ideal – there are tons of little bars, shops, restaurants, and boutiques around here. We noticed there are tons of young people, everyone is extremely well-dressed, and it seems like you need a lot of money to live here. Of course, I love the palm trees lining the streets and the warm tropical air. I actually didn’t mind the rain (I’m a huge fan of summer rain, and lobbied for a restaurant with outdoor seating).

We finally settled on 39 Rue de Jean, which is a French restaurant with a nice, laid-back feel right by our hotel. We were able to sit outside in a covered area and enjoy the rain and relative quiet.

The food was fantastic. Dave was happy he gave in and let me push for this place.


He had the snapper special with baked mashed potatoes, potato slices, and seared vegetables. He was in heaven.


I had the Grilled Portabella and Ratatoille, topped with some baked goat cheese. It was delicious all around, but the goat cheese was especially amazing. It paired really well with my French Pinot Noir!

Now we’re beat, of course, and excited for some daytime exploring around Charleston tomorrow, before we head up to Wilmington.

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Three-Course Turkish Dinner

After running 6 miles on Sunday morning (first time doing a longer run since my Half Marathon on April 13), I spent most of my day in the kitchen preparing an elaborate Turkish dinner.


Aren’t my head-band and flowery apron something? Dave was handling the food photography because he got excited to use the tripod and a nicer camera than my iPhone (which I usually use). Anyway, I didn’t know he would put me into 80% of the pictures or I would have chosen to look less ridiculous.

Now to the task at hand: Cook a three-course Turkish dinner for four people in three hours. All three recipes were new to me, but the cookbook Sultan’s Kitchen has been phenomenal so far, so I wasn’t too worried about it.

1. The Appetizer – Grape Leaves Stuffed with Pine Nuts, Currants, and Rice


Just looking at this has me wanting to make another batch of these beyond-delicious things. It was my first time making vegetarian grape leaves. In the past, I’ve stuffed them with rice and ground beef or lamb. But no longer. The combination of pine nuts and currants with cinnamon, dill, and parsley is out of this world. Sprinkled with lemon-juice, they’re a fresh, tangy summer treat. They could be their own meal and I definitely devoured the left-overs for lunch on Monday. Triple yum!

We served them with some fresh baguette and Raki – an anise flavored liquor that no Turkish meal should be without.

2. The Main Course – Flounder Fillets Stuffed with Pine Nuts, Spinach, and Scallions

Holy moly. Flounder fillets are expensive. The recipe called for 3 lbs., but that would have meant $45, so I decided to get four and divide all the other ingredients in half too. That was a good choice, since we had so much other food, too.


First, you cook the pine nuts in olive oil until they’re golden brown, then you add garlic, spinach, and scallions and saute the mixture until it has wilted. After letting it cool, you place the desired amount in the center of the fillet and then fold it over, holding it together with a tooth pick.


Number one and two.

Then, you steam the fillets in a mix of dry white wine, chopped tomato, lemon juice, spices, and dill for eight minutes. When it’s done, you sprinkle it with parsley.


We served this course with bread and a choice of red and white wine. Don’t you want to take that piece of baguette and make it soak up the delicious sauce? The dish was the perfect mixture of herbs, fish, and a tangy mix of wine, tomato, and a kick of spiciness due to paprika and red cayenne pepper. So good. So so good.

3. The Desert – Rose Water Pudding


This was a basic pudding made with whole milk, heavy cream, sugar, and cornstarch, but the rose water gave it a very unique flavor. We actually sprinkled these servings with cinnamon before putting them on the table, but were too absorbed into conversation by that time to remember taking pictures.

It was so much fun to try three new recipes and introduce our friends to Turkish cuisine. They seemed to really enjoy everything. Dave and I definitely loved all three dishes, so we’ll definitely make them again. The leftover grape leaves definitely were a special Monday lunch treat.


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