real life test kitchen: french lentil soup

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I am always intrigued by recipes put up on Chowhound. I consider it the bastion of foodieism and therefore expect that there recipes be superb. This one is! I’ve been making lentil soup since I was old enough to see the top of the stove. I’ve made it Greek style with lemon, Middle Eastern style with lots of cumin and a version using blade steak cut into cubes which made it more like a lentil stew. I however have never made it in the french style, using what the french lentil refered to as Verte du Puy. There is even a very amusing french website that is devoted entirely to this bean!

After trying this french version of the lentil, I wouldn’t even consider making this recipe without tracking them down. They were wonderful and much more refined in taste and texture then the standard lentil. I also bought some hungarian paprika as the recipe called for and was suprised at how much more fragrant it was then the standard paprika which I always thought added more color than flavor. Lastly, I made one tiny alteration by adding two capfuls of cider vinegar. I always like a tiny bit of acidity with beans, it adds to the depth of the recipe. Enjoy!! (Click here for the recipe at Chowhound) — Holly D.

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post off: have you switched your bulbs?

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The NYTimes has an interesting story today called Any Other Bright Ideas? about people’s reluctance — besides the best intentions — to switch to energy-saving fluorescent bulbs. The story looks at advances in design — like more pleasant bulb shapes and shades, above — which aim to provide more warmth — and chronicles some readers’ choices on whether to switch or not. The choice is usually an aesthetic one — with complaints about the ‘dental office’ effect that the fluorescents give off. One complaint we have with them: they don’t work on dimmers. As a result, we admit that our homes are about 50/50 when it comes to green bulbs. What about you? Have you switched to these energy-efficient, cost-saving bulbs yet? If not, why? If yes, do you have a favorite bulb to recommend? Let us know!

Click here to see NYTimes story online.

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help! how do i keep the air in my house fresh?

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I need advice on how to keep the air in my house fresh smelling. I do a lot of cooking and in winter when windows aren’t open as much as I”d like the air is kind of stuffy and sometimes worse! In addition, candles aren’t practical with kids around and running in and out I am always paranoid about making sure they are extinguished. With that said if there is a fabulous candle I would consider it. Does anyone use anything great that is non toxic? I liked Caldrea‘s rose pomagranate but they don’t make it anymore. Any other suggestons? — Holly D.

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chair makeover completed! see our new sits

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A couple of months ago, I wrote in asking for suggestions on remaking two shabby looking chairs Chad and I picked up at a yard sale — on our wedding day. To refresh your memory, here’s the before picture.

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We stripped off the black paint, sanded, and recovered with a glossy white. Note the saggy, lumpy cushions. After peeling off five layers of fugly fabric, I discovered they weren’t just lumpy, but also moldy. Though many of you offered suggestions on making your own cushions (through sites like foam by mail), I decided to do these properly, and found an upholsterer nearby (Classic Interiors) to make them for us. Deciding on the fabric — that was the hardest part! Because the living room of our cottage is basically a clean palette (all creams and whites now), whatever color we went with on the chair would have a BIG impact on the room. After seriously considering a bunch from Hable Construction, Marimekko and the Q Collection, we settled on this lovely red damask by Rob Allen. I love the big, bold repeat pattern, and the striation that makes it look hand-printed. Not to mention, compared to everything else I was looking at, this was cheap — about $35/yard. In the end, making the cushions and having them covered turned our $20 chairs into an investment (they were about $400 each). But now we have two chairs that aren’t just comfortable, they’re the centerpiece of our room. — Angela M.

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design deja vous: adler-esque banks at pot barn kids

Flipping through the new Pottery Barn Kids catalog yesterday, we were struck by a small photo of these nursery piggy banks. They’re super cute, glazed ceramic banks in the form of an elephant or a giraffe.

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Immediately they reminded us of similar ones from Jonathan Adler’s menagerie.

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While Adler’s are handcrafted stoneware with a much more distinctive design, Pot Barn’s versions are charming with their rounded corners. And for only $19 instead of nearly $70, more of a whim than an investment. Which would you buy?

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