On Beauty Quests and Product Favs

You know those moments in life when you turn an embarrassing moment into a life lesson? Like making super embarrassing lemons into delicious lemonade? I do this regularly.  Last year,  I went to this super fancy hair salon in LA and they totally called me out on the horrible, awful, no good, very bad shampoo I was using. My first reaction was to hang my head of sub par hair in shame and walk out of the salon never to return.

But, then they introduced me to a new ca099370b043e75b58508fa6ba19fafdshampoo that literally changed my hair life. I  have the kind of hair that totally pulls a Monica when there is even an ounce of moisture in the air. The new shampoo totally checks my outer Ms. Frizzle. (Shout out to the geeks that  remember Magic School Bus).

The discovery of the magical (and stupidly expensive because that’s the way these things go) shampoo led me to think that there were probably loads of other things I could invest in that would pay major beauty dividends later. Like beauty stocks. Or something. (I don’t really understand stocks). The slightly annoying thing about beauty products is  there are so dang many of them! It’s really hard to say, yes, this is the ONE.  It’s like seeking the holy grail if the holy grail were to take the form of a really amazing BB cream. And the quest  involves less rabid bunny rabbits and more waiting in line at Sephora.

So, in an attempt to bring us all one step closer to our own beauty grail, I’ve decided to regularly share some of the new beauty products I’ve discovered that I’m currently crushing on hard. Have you discovered any amazing beauty products that changed your beauty life? Share them in the comments!! 

5 Beauty Products you should totally try, like, now: 

  1. 3819d10c0ad2fb1e428dd4b10ef33624Oribe Shampoo and Conditioner: This is the magical shampoo I referred to and it is seriously worth every penny. It’s so good I wash my hair way less (also I’m kinda lazy but the shampoo definitely helps). The slot machine capital of America shockingly doesn’t care about luxury hair products so I’ve had to resort to buying it online either on their website or on Amazon.
  2. Too-Faced-Better-Than-Sex-Mascara-Fall-2013Too Faced: Better than Sex mascara: I know, the name is a little ridiculous. But seriously, you guys, this mascara is amaaaazzzzing. Think thick, luscious lashes, all the live long day. I think if I was limited to only 1 beauty product it might be this mascara, it’s that good. You can find it at Sephora or Ulta.
  3. Neutrogena Deep Moisture Night Cream: 6802536_320x385I totally didn’t get why people use different lotion at night until I tried this stuff. I woke up the next morning feeling like my face was replaced by a soft little peach. (Not really, that would be creepy! But so soft!) Good news, it’s totally affordable and you can find it at your local drug store. Score!
  4. Pacifica CC cream: I’ve never been a big fanPacifica-Ultra-CC-Cream-Radiant-Foundation-Natural-Medium-687735301291 of foundation. It might be that I’ve just never found the right one but it always left me feeling a little bit like I just put pancake batter on my face. So, I fell in love when BB creams became a serious thing because they are so much lighter. This Pacifica cream is awesome, goes on smooth and looks flawless. You can find it at Ulta and also Target.
  5. Tarte Eyebrow Mousse: There is a thin line between shading in your eyebrows beautifully or looking like this lady featured on andownload actual website called Ghetto Redhot. That being said, I am absolutely in favor of eyebrow enhancing. This mousse is great, comes with a brush (woot) and will last you approximately a million years. A worthy investment. Like everything in this post, you can find it at Ulta and Seophora.

 

Super Easy Potato Leek Soup

Yesterday, I was jolted awake by thinking I heard the Texan say, “whoa, it’s super smelly outside”. I jumped up immediately, half believing that I had transported back in time to when I lived in a very smelly part of the East Village (thanks to the college kids who liked to think of our street as their personal vomitorium.) New York is great for a lot of reasons but smells are not one of them. The other day I saw a candle called “New York” at Bath and Body Works and I’ve never been more terrified to smell a candle in my life. There is only 1 day that I can recall actually liking the smell of New York and it was so remarkable that the New York Times ran an article titled “Good Smell Perplexes New Yorkers.”  (I still think it was syrup).

As it turns out, my sleep addled brain wasn’t working properly. He said it was super snowy outside. Seriously? I probably would have preferred smelly (okay, maybe not.) For real though, it’s almost April! And also, since when do we live somewhere that is snowy? I’m still in denial that I don’t wake up at the beach everyday. And, I fully realize that is not a healthy place be.

Okay, I guess snow isn’t all bad.  It’s an excuse to cuddle up and watch a movie or read a book. It’s also an excuse to make soup which I am pretty much always down for. Isn’t there something incredibly reassuring about a nice bowl of soup? You can thank the snow for inspiring  me to share my recipe for Potato Leek Soup. This is a classic and super simple soup full of flavor that will be sure to please your whole family and warm you down to your toes.

Super Easy Potato Leek Soup

  • indexWhat you’ll need:
    • 4 russet potatoes
    • 2-3 leeks
    • 2 Tb butter
    • 1 Tb olive oil
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • 2 cups broth (I usually use chicken but any will do)
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 cup milk or  cream
    • bacon (optional but delicious)
  • How to make it:
    • Step 1: Make sure you wash your leeks thoroughly as dirt tends to get up under the leaves of those buggers. Then chop the white part and about half of the greens. Chop garlic. Melt butter in a medium size soup pot, add leeks, garlic and cook for a bit until leeks are soft. If you are adding bacon, this is a good time to cook the bacon with the leeks.
    • Step 2: While your leeks are cooking, peel potatoes and chop into similarly sized pieces, I usually quarter my potatoes.  If you are using bacon, remove from the leeks and set aside (if you leave it in, you get super watery bacon, no bueno)
    • Step 3: Add potatoes to leeks, broth and water until it just covers potatoes. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the potatoes are nice and soft. This usually takes about 20 minutes.
    • Step 4: Using a slotted spoon, remove some potatoes and lightly smash about half of them, I usually use a fork or spoon to do this. This is a good way to thicken the soup and make it extra potato good.
    • Step 5: Add cream to soup and salt and pepper to taste. If you are adding bacon, now is the time to add it, taking care to crumble it before adding to soup.

 

Happy Holiday Weekend!

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Hooray, you’ve made it to Friday! And, it’s a holiday weekend which means there is a good chance some of you have today off of work, huzzah! I hope it is filled with lots of joy and at least one relaxing bubble bath.

What are your plans for this Easter weekend? Hopefully, it involves some Easter egg fun followed by some delicious Easter meals and good family time. We are still debating if we are going to do a Easter brunch or dinner (or maybe both?)The Texan and I have recently discovered the sheer awesomeness that is The Great British Baking Show so there is also a good chance we will be baking some delicious treats this weekend. Seriously, if you haven’t watched that show yet, you should check it out. And, get prepared to crave baked goodies.

Whatever you are up to, I hope you have a grand old time. Here are some fun links I saw on the web this week.

Cheers! Happy Easter to all of you lovely readers!

On Defying Judgement and Compulsive Reads

You know how people say, “don’t judge a book by it’s cover? This totally sounds like a good idea but I’ve discovered it’s very difficult to do. For example, I totally judge books  that have been made into a movie and somehow the book companies think that means the actors deserve to be on the cover of a book.  I get that this probably sells more books (to people who usually never read books since an actor is making them buy it) but it’s awful.  I would rather never eat chocolate again (a fate worse than death) or even more terrible, only eat Hershey’s chocolate (which is basically soap) than buy a book with movie images on the front. Because seriously, the book came first! Don’t movies get enough attention?

When I’m searching for a new book a good cover can definitely draw me in. I’ve never really put much thought into this until I came across this article a few years back about a book cover designer. (Who, it turns out, is the husband of a former colleague of mine in New York, the world is weirdly small sometimes). And, I realized, oh my goodness this man is directly responsible for my purchasing Crime and Punishment (and my subsequent depression from reading it) and also The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo (and my subsequent bad dreams from the rape scenes in that book). All this time I thought I was willingly subjecting myself to depressing reads but it turns out, I just really liked the art.

Defying my track record of judging a book by it’s cover, I recently read indexMy Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante.  I mean, seriously, that cover? It is the worst. It looks like a really boring 90’s wedding that I would have probably (definitely) fallen asleep at.

But, seriously, saying I read this book is a gross understatement. I totally inhaled this book. It was given to me by a friend on Thursday and I had finished it by Sunday. (Granted, there was a lot of sports watching in my house that weekend I was happy to ignore). But, this is a compulsively readable book . I probably would have read equally as fast even if there wasn’t soccer or rugby or college basketball on for an entire weekend.

And days later, I still can’t completely explain what made me read this book so fast. It is not a mystery or a suspenseful book, the kind I usually tear through because I am desperate to find out the ending. There isn’t a lot of sex in it (the kind of book I tear through for an entirely different reason). It’s a simple story, set in Italy in the 1950’s  about two girls who grow up together. I am not personally invested in Italy beyond spending most of my life believing (wrongly, according to DNA tests) that I am Italian when in fact I’m Portuguese (but mostly German, explaining my lifelong love for beer gardens. Prost forever!) With apologies to members of my family who are reading this and didn’t know we are not Italian. I’m sorry you had to find out this way.

And yet, I was totally drawn into this little neighborhood in Naples and all of the personalities therein. It’s a translation (obviously) and I think that also makes the writing a lot more direct which I enjoy immensely. Give me clear, honest writing any day. This explains my strong preference for Hemingway and my extreme hatred for anything written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. (The Scarlet Letter should totally be re-named, the most overly descriptive slut shaming book ever written).

I’m planning on reading the next book in the series and am hoping it holds the same hook that the first one did. Isn’t there something totally satisfying about reading a book that you just can’t put down? Have you read any major page turners lately? Throw some down in the comments, I would LOVE to read them (and March Madness doesn’t end for awhile yet so please, give me something good!)

Homemade Coffee Body Scrub

I don’t know about you all but the changing of seasons can be rough on my skin. I hate that without fail as soon as it starts to get warmer out my body decides its time to shed like I’m a snake.  This year, I decided I would not be embracing my inner Slytherin and came up with a strategy of my own constant vigilance that I like to call constant exfoliation. I get in the shower and think to myself, what would Mad Eye say? Constant. Exfoliation.

via Bustle.com

I don’t really do many DIY beauty products as I tend to trust the maintenance of my skin to the professionals. Plus, I’m lazy and who honestly wants to make their own lotion? Weird. However, I made an exception for this body scrub which involves 3 of my favorite things: coffee, sugar and coconut oil. And yes, I can feel your eyes rolling as I’m writing this because the internets have been blowing up over coconut oil and I’m with you that it’s pretty dang annoying.  People seem to think there isn’t a single thing that coconut oil can’t fix (and maybe they are right?) but for now, I’m loving that it’s making my skin super soft.  The coffee in this scrub also has benefits beyond smelling delicious as apparently caffeine can also tighten your skin (or something? I am like 40% certain that’s true.)

A few things about this body scrub. In addition to the obvious, (that it will make your skin super soft and delicious) it will also completely wreck your shower. Like, you’ll try to rinse it off only to look around and think your coffee maker exploded in your shower. Lovely. But, do not fret. This is normal. And the result will be totally worth the extra effort to rinse off your shower, I promise.  Make this body scrub and your body will thank you.

Coffee Body Scrub

  • What you’ll need: index
    • 1/4 cup Coffee grounds
    • 4 Tb Coconut oil
    • 3 Tb Turbinado Sugar
    • 1 t Vanilla
    • Canning Jar (sold at most grocery stores and Target too)
  • How to make it:
    • Step 1: Melt the coconut oil in the microwave. I think it took me like 30 seconds but it just depends on how solid it was when it started.
    • Step 2: Mix coconut oil with coffee grounds, sugar and vanilla. You want it to be a little moist but not so much that it won’t give you some proper exfoliating so add more coffee or more coconut oil depending on consistency.
    • Step 3: Once you have desired consistency, scoop into a jam jar and use liberally in the shower. I recommend rubbing it and letting it sit for like a minute before rinsing off.  Enjoy!

 

 

Happy Weekend!

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Hooray, you’ve made it to the weekend! Though if you are anything like me, then your weekend may have already started last night celebrating St. Patty’s. We celebrated in true grown up, married people fashion by enjoying a pint at a pub and then going over to a friends house for corned beef and cabbage, making it home and in bed by 10:30. I made Nigella Lawson’s Guinness Cake and it was amazing.  I highly recommend it. I cut out the dairy for a lactose allergic friend (substituted with coconut milk) and it was still so delicious I’m considering eating it for breakfast.

I hope you have some grand plans this weekend that include sleeping in long enough to make Lorelai proud and enjoying the spring that seems to have sprung all around us. Here’s some fun links from around the web.

Happiest of weekends to all of you lovely readers!

Weeknight Dinner: Chicken Piccata with Roasted Brussels Sprouts

6357370366521545252146295249_55922652Like any aspiring home chef, I tend to watch a bit of the Food Network. As previously mentioned, my loyalty forever will lie with Ina Garten who is a food goddess. She is the best and maybe if I blog about her enough I will get invited to dinner at her house and then I can die a happy woman. However, some of the other hosts, (okay, most of the other hosts) are quite possibly some of the most annoying people on the planet. But, being annoying doesn’t mean they are incapable of cooking good food as is evidenced by the meal I am about to share with you all.

I made this dinner last night and it received hearty praise from the Texan. I consider every meal that he likes that isn’t steak and potato a significant victory. He’s a man of stereotypical tastes. The chicken is light and delicious and I pretty much haven’t met a Brussels sprouts I didn’t like. (I learned from writing this that “Brussels sprouts” are always plural, it looks weird but is apparently correct ). Paired with bacon and potato? Oh so good.

The recipe for Chicken Picatta comes from Giada de Laurentiis. I think my extreme dislike for her can be boiled down to 2 very immature (but none the less real) reasons: one, she always cooks tons of pastas and cakes and she still manages to be a size 0.  There is no way she actually eats what she makes. I’m convinced she may have either a serious eating disorder or a tape worm. And two, her head is freakishly large, probably due in part to her tiny body and it’s distracting.   Along with the chicken I made roasted Brussels sprouts from Bobby Flay, who just seems like a jerk. (There is even a book that verifies this so it must be true).

A few notes about these recipes. First, I used way less butter than Miss-I’m-super-skinny-but-cook-with-6-tablespoons-of-butter Giada.  Like half. Replaced it with olive oil and it tasted fine. I also pounded out the chicken so it was a little flatter because I think it fries up nicer. Also, I didn’t have any lemons so I used bottled lemon juice and it worked great. For the Brussels sprouts, I halfed this recipe for the two of us. I also didn’t have any pancetta (which seems like fancy bacon to me) so I used bacon and it worked. I also roasted the bacon with the veggies because I wanted it to be more bacon-y and it was. Annoyingly (like that jerk Bobby has to be), the recipe doesn’t say how long to roast it for and so I did it for 30 minutes and it was perfect.

This is a great, easy weeknight meal. Go forth and cook!

Chicken Piccata via Food Network 
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  • What you’ll need: 
    • 2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half
    • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • All-purpose flour, for dredging
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
    • 1/2 cup chicken stock
    • 1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
    • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • How to make it: 
    • Step 1: Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.
    • Step 2 : In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate. Melt 2 more tablespoons butter and add another 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the other 2 pieces of chicken and brown both sides in same manner. Remove pan from heat and add chicken to the plate.
    • Step 3: Into the pan add the lemon juice, stock and capers. Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Check for seasoning. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to platter. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts via Food Network

  • What you’ll need: 
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1/2 pound sliced pancetta, diced
    • 4 shallots, thinly sliced
    • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
    • 8 baby Yukon gold potatoes, quartered
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1 lemon, juice
  • How to make it: 
    • Step 1: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
    • Step 2: Heat oil over medium heat in a roasting pan or large skillet. Add the pancetta and cook until golden brown and crisp. Remove the pancetta to a plate lined with paper towels. Add the shallots to the pan and cook until soft. Add the Brussels sprouts and potatoes and toss to combine.
    • Step 3: Season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven until the vegetables are cooked through and golden brown. Remove the vegetables from the oven and stir in the butter and lemon juice. Transfer to a platter and top with the reserved pancetta.

Vintage Suitcase Nightstand

I love vintage shopping. And thrift store shopping. And garage sale-ing. Pretty thriftshopmememuch anything where you can find a gem in a place you wouldn’t expect (for a bargain). I like the discovery of it all, that you don’t know if you’re going to find something amazing or come back empty handed.

I am solidly against the kind of vintage or thrift stores  that all the hip kids are going to these days. These are places where they expect you to pay $100 for a dress from 1965, a dress so polyester that you would probably burst into flame if standing too close to a lamp. Because no. Just. No. Thrift stores should be places where you  find amazing things for cheap, leading to the satisfaction of proudly telling someone you only paid $2 for the shirt they just complimented you on. I mean, how cool is it to say, hey I totally bought this shirt (made over 50 years ago) for triple the price of a new one. Score!  I realize this might make me seem cheap in the eyes of some. To me, it means that I’m a genius because I spent little monies and still got compliments. I was raised with the strong belief that getting a good deal is the best bragging right one can have.

I am all for the thrift stores that  charge $1 a pound (seriously, what happened to those?)the kind of places that you have to dig a little before you find the good stuff.  Unfortunately, these places are harder to come by than one would think. This is because somehow (and I blame Macklemore for this) it became cool to go “thrifting” and  capitalists manage to ruin everything, eventually.

For one to find an amazing thrift store that few know about this usually requires driving somewhere off the beaten path. Which is how I discovered the best consignment store ever in a town called Norco, California. It’s a cowboy town somewhere between the Inland Empire and Palm Springs, also known as “no hipsters land”.  I found my favorite cameo necklace there, a huge Morton salt tin (complete with the yellow rain coated girl) and slightly worn cowlady boots–all for less than $8. I also found amazing vintage suitcases there, something that in LA would have been at least $30, I got for less than $10. And, thanks to the magic of Pinterest, I knew exactly what I was going to do with it.

I promised to share a little bit of crafting here and this vintage suitcase night stand is one of the easiest crafts ever. Plus, if you’re like me and you hoard books the way other people hoard chocolate (okay, maybe I do both of those things) then you can store stuff inside the suitcase. And finally, if you need further convincing, its a craft that has an actual household purpose. Woo hoo!

Vintage Suitcase Nightstand 

  • 2fd6b9d2-f6e4-4055-a52c-23bc29a030b2Materials needed:
    • 1 Vintage suitcase (as lightly worn as you can get for something 70 years old)
    • A drill
    • 4 table leg brackets (like these, found at home depot)
    • 4 table legs (also at home depot)
    • Stain (optional)
  • How to make it: 
    • Step 1: After finding your awesome vintage suitcase make sure you clean it up a bit. It’s old. I wiped mine down 584e2c38-0b60-47e0-ba81-0a81e4bad751on the outside and made a little sachet of potpourri for the inside because I like vintage things but not necessarily vintage smells.
    • Step 2: If you are staining your table legs, brush stain on now and let set as long as the instructions say, I think overnight?
    • Step 3: Flip over suitcase and using a drill, secure the table leg brackets on all 4 corners of the suit case.
    • 2c6892fd-d225-49ef-a8cb-50a7b87a0e10Step 4: Once table legs are dry, screw each one tightly into table bracket. And you are done! You have an awesome night stand! That you made (kind of!)

 

Woo Hoo it’s Friday!!

Aw yeah, it’s Friday! Even though I don’t have an office to run away from anymore, I hope those of you that do are channeling your inner Liz Lemon when you leave  today. And then, maybe working on your night cheese later because you know  I will be.

What are you up to this weekend? Well, rugby is back again (something the Texan has been anticipating all week) and so I will probably spend a lot of the weekend pretending to understand what a scrum is and cooking delicious things in the kitchen. I hope you are going to have a grand old time no matter what you’re doing.  Here’s some cool stuff I saw around the web this week:

Happy weekend! Go forth and be jolly, all ye readers.

Weeknight Dinner: Bacon wrapped Pork Tenderloin

Most of you probably know I beaf410ad442e991b230c9406925c461used to be a vegetarian.  But, then two things happened; one, I married a Texan who would just as soon wear a tube top as become a vegetarian and two, bacon. Because seriously, is there anything more delicious and worth possibly shortening your life over? No one has ever said that about tofu, I guarantee that.

One of the things I’d like for this blog to be is a place to share ideas for weeknight meals. Because seriously, I know this is probably the most boring, domesticated thought ever but coming up with ideas for dinner is hard, man. I feel like I’m constantly scouring cook books, blogs and my brain and I still stand in front of an open fridge some nights and think, cheese totally counts as dinner, right? When I was a single lady, it absolutely would have. But, being married makes me feel like I need to provide proper nutrition for us both and actually attempt to be an adult.

So, because I am a very generous blog-tress, I will share with you all one of my favorite week night meals that will seriously make your family the happiest ever. Because it involves pork wrapped in bacon, need I say more?

A few tips  on this recipe. One, don’t skip the chutney. I know it isn’t something most Americans consume regularly but it is the best and you should totally have it in your pantry at all times. I’ve made this recipe with Major Grey’s as the author recommends which is great and last night I tried Mrs. H Balls (the Texan bought this one because he thought the name was funny. I married a very mature man) and it was delicious. Your local grocery store should have it and if not then World Market most certainly will.   I love that store for so many reasons including imported sauces. My second tip, place the toothpicks carefully or you will end up with floppy bacon and no one wants that. And third, seriously sear that loin before putting in the oven or you’ll live to regret it like I did last night.

Bacon-Brown Sugar Wrapped Pork Tenderloin via The Kitchn 

ba93f37f-d2a2-4185-ac78-bd2b2dfa718eWhat you’ll need: 

  • 1 pork tenderloin (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (regular can be substituted)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 to 6 slices good-quality bacon
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil (or other neutral high-heat oil)
  • 1/4 cup Major Grey’s Chutney
  • 2 tablespoons whole grain or Dijon mustard
  • How to make it: 
    • Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare the tenderloin by removing the silverskin (the silvery-white connective tissue running along the top) with a sharp knife. Pat it dry with paper towels and set aside.
    • Step 2: Combine the brown sugar, salt, paprika, and cayenne in a small bowl. Rub all of the mixture into the pork tenderloin. Wrap the tenderloin with the strips of bacon, securing along the sides with toothpicks.
    • Step 3: Heat the canola oil in a large cast iron skillet, or other oven-proof skillet, over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add the bacon-wrapped tenderloin and sear — do not disturb it while it’s searing — until deep caramel brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Flip the tenderloin and continue searing until the other side is browned.
    • Step 4: Mix the chutney and mustard in a small bowl and brush generously over the top of the tenderloin. Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook the tenderloin until a probe thermometer reads 140°F, approximately 10 to 14 minutes.
    • Step 5: Remove from the oven and loosely tent with foil. Rest for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the tenderloin to finish cooking and for the juices to redistribute into the meat. Remove toothpicks and slice into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces for serving. Serve with any leftover chutney on the side.