Under Construction

I apparently am not as creative or original as I had hoped.  Let me explain.  It’s been on my mind for quite some time now that I’m not the best food blogger.  I don’t take great photos- combination of iPhone and really bad kitchen lighting make for sad looking food sometimes.  I also am clearly bad at keeping up with you folks- I have a lot of things in the queue, but they’re not very interesting and I’ve had a lot of kitchen fails lately.  I read a lot of other fantastic food blogs and sometimes it makes mine feel a lil’ inadequate. I have food blog envy.

Besides that I feel like there’s more to share- lil’ experiences around Boston- general life musings, my ridiculously fat & awesome cat.  So I’m going to switch gears and mix things up a bit.  For awhile I’ve been thinking that I should swing this into the more general category of lifestyle blog or whatever they’re called these days.  Which brings us back to the original point- I am not as clever as I thought.  I had grand intentions of telling you all this and slapping a funny “under construction” sign up.  Well.  Apparently so did everyone else.  I googled “Under construction” and yes most of the images were actual construction/industrial but a lot were website under construction or some riff on that.

Thus came Pinterest.  I just joined.  I’m obsessed.  There’s SO much pretty out there.  And that is where the above image is from, pinned by another Pinterest member by way of juicy-bits.typepad.com .  And, sidenote- when & if I ever have kids- this party idea is adorbs.

A new name and design have yet to be decided on, but I wanted you give you loyal readers, all 5 of you, an update on my whereabouts and of things to come.  So stayed tuned.


A questionnaire

So.  This is old news, but.  Last week’s Super Bowl was less than super.  (Well, if you were a Patriots fan at least.) I was all ready, got the queso going, had on my Welker jersey and then watched the game slowly unwind against the Pats favor.  The other reason I haven’t yet posted about the big game was the emphasis every one puts on the the food- I mean- half the fun of the Super Bowl is the snacking!  I had a big menu planned, and boy oh boy, did it ever flop.  Ugh.  Not my best work, I won’t even bother sharing it with you.

In lieu of fun snacks- my dear friend C$, posted a fun idea… a lil’ blogger questionnaire.  (and PS Clare, you only posted 7 questions!!)

So here we go:

1. What are your feelings on walking as a form of transportation vs. form of exercise?
I love to walk when I have the time over public transportation or a cab.  As exercise- lately it’s about all I do, so yeah. It’s exercise.
2. Books that you wish you could read again for the first time?
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  I love it.  LOVE.  I used to re-read it in college when I was homesick or in later years if I was really sad about something.
3. Favorite smell(s)?
Walking into my Mom’s house while she’s baking bread.  AMAZING.
4. Favorite silly song from childhood?
Skinnamarinky-dinky-dink, skinnamarinki doo (Spelling??)
5. Most favorite beauty product and why?
Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion.  My Mom taught me that moisturizing is V. important.  And for 55 she has great skin.
6. What friends had the best snacks/toys growing up?
Dang, I don’t remember.  My cousin’s place was always a good time, we watched the best movies. Goonies all the way.
7. What made up holiday do you wish the world celebrated?
Rex Manning day.  

Loaded Fall (Winter) Tart

Tart & salad

I made my weekly trip to Whole Foods with my trusty post-it list and as soon as I got to the squash bin the list went out the window!  Finally!!!!!  I had to make this tart as soon as humanly possible.

This has been in my recipe queue for ages- but I couldn’t find the right squash for it to save my life.  NO ONE had delicata squash in stock for ages.  Now, I realize I could use another type of squash, but part of what I love about the recipe is how pretty the delicata squash is in the tart.  It’s lovely scalloped edges are just adorable.

It’s one of those recipes that upon hearing the ingredient list you think, “Hmm, I wouldn’t put those things together, but I bet it’s good.” And gosh darnit- it IS good.  Beyond good.

I cheated a bit- I didn’t make the pastry, I used prepared whole wheat pizza dough, so my version was a bit more pizza-y than the original.  I also swapped in hot italian sausage for a bit of an extra punch.

Cheese, apples, garlic, sausage

Once everything is prepared- veggies are roasted and sausage is browned, this comes together really quickly.



Oh yeah.

Girls Football Night

There’s a lot of times where I find recipes on food blogs and I think “That would be great for a party!” But I don’t host as much as I would like and though I would love to think so, appetizers cannot count as a meal.  If they did I would survive solely on Trader Joe’s frozen appetizers.  Seriously.

The most recent OMG I have to make this! incident came when I was directed to this site by my cube-mate.  My cube-mate who started cooking classes at night- for realsies.  I am so J. We have a daily discussion of “Oh, hey, did you read Pioneer Woman today?” Or “You need to check out Smitten’s new post.”  This is what we do to try and distract ourselves from the excel spreadsheets that define our 9-5 existence.

Annnnywho, getting back to the food- this site is amazeballs.  I love these girls- I love their food, their photos, these are the things I wish I could do all day.  I knew this recipe needed to be a part of my life asap.  I was also trying to plan a lil’ girls night with my ladies from grad school- the cutest girls to ever grace a finance program.  I suggested a night in- that way we could relax, save some $$, and actually have a conversation rather than yell over Top 40 hits and drunk Fund Accountants.

Happy Hour on Friday got pushed to Saturday and then it turned into an impromptu football party. (Yay Patriots in the Superbowl!!!)  I also decided that it was a good chance to explain American football to Irish Kate.  (I know a lot of Kates, and she really is Irish. Like from Ireland, not Southie Irish.) The menu-planning wheels got to turning, and I decided on the tart, sausage stuffed mushrooms, and spinach & artichoke dip.  All things I’ve never made before.  I was a tad nervous not using a solid tried & true recipe, but, really, how much can you mess up apps? I was also excited to spend the day cooking, but, I didn’t need to.  These were super simple, and after a quick prep session in the morning, things were ready to pop in the oven once my friends arrived.

I followed the recipe for the tart, and this recipe for the dip, for proportions and cooking time, as for the mushrooms- I used Ina’s guidance, but sort of winged it.

I started with button mushrooms, took off the stems and made sure there was room to stuff in each one.  I reserved the stems and chopped them to put in the stuffing.

Rather than sweet italian sausage I wanted to try the amazing apple-gouda sausage I recently discovered at whole foods.  Two birds, one stone.  Sausage & cheese, no need to buy more cheese.  However, as these are already fully cooked they are really hard to get out of the casing, so I needed a bit of help.

Thank you Cuisinart mini-prep.

To a skillet I added olive oil, garlic, the sausage, and the chopped mushrooms.  I think that’s it- I of course didn’t write anything down and it’s been a few days so I’ve forgotten the step-by-step.

Once that was heated through I transferred the mix to a bowl and added breadcrumbs, and a wee bit of parmesan cheese.

I then stuffed the mushroom caps- which had been mixed with a bit of olive oil and Marsala wine, since the recipe called for it, and I have a bottle on hand that’s not going anywhere fast.  I assembled these and put them in the fridge, and got to work on the spinach dip.

This is really too easy- spinach, artichokes, cheese, BAM!

Both are ready to go!

Once the girls arrived I got started on the tart- easy as pie.

Hello friend.  I like you.

Hot dip ready to go!!

Now, again, my skills as a food blogger are still novice, the tart was tasty and the mushrooms went fast I nearly forgot to take more pictures of it once it was served!

The night was a success all around- Pats won and we explained to Kate what a safety was.

A Day with Joanne Chang.

Not literally.  But that would be awesome!

Bri-guy & I have been doing our little tour of South End eateries and I was shocked to hear that he had not been (hadn’t even heard of!) Flour.  Oh Flour.  Such a fantastic bakery.  Thank you to Joanne Chang for following her heart (and gut) and switching careers. She runs a mean bakery! Great spot for a breakfast treat (sticky bun for a real indulgence) and a coffee or cocoa.  It’s also a great spot for lunch- a nice break during a stroll around the South End.

I have thing for the sticky bun.  I never thought I was into that kind of thing until I tried one- I forget when/where, but it was the best thing I had ever tasted.  They are notoriously popular as well, routinely selling out, so it always seems like a stroke of luck when there is a plateful in the case, and that of course you MUST order one because you don’t know when you’ll have another chance! I  had to show Bri-guy the light and introduce him to Flour. We got a sticky bun (duh) and a lemon-ginger scone.

The scone was amazing- light, and just the right crumb to it- scones can often be dry & dull.  The lemon was bright & vibrant and so refreshing.  The sticky bun was my personal heaven.  It really shouldn’t count as breakfast, it makes for a lazy morning/afternoon.

When the sugar high subsided and real hunger crept in later in the day, we were contemplating a late lunch somewhere…Picco- of course is an awesome choice, but I wasn’t quite in the pizza mood.  Since trying to lighten-up on the gluten & processed foods, I figured baked breakfast goods was enough for one day. I also know that Bri-guy had been wanting to try this Chinese place in the South End, and though it’s not normally my fave cuisine I was trying to be a good sport and suggested dim sum at Myers & Chang. (And yes, that is the same Chang- hence the title of the post-Joanne and her husband opened the restaurant together.) Bri-guy has been itching to go and I figured why not?  Especially when I saw they had specifically designated gluten-free dishes.  This was also my first shot at dim sum.  And gosh darnit, I loved it! We tried all sorts and there wasn’t a thing on the table I didn’t like! Who knew.

Starting late lunch off right with scorpion bowl for 2

Spicy papaya slaw

Pork dumplings

Sweet potato fritter

Rice noodles & chicken

Hot chicken wings

Now ain’t that just the healthiest title ever!! Since discovering that I like quinoa I’ve been playing with it a bit, and wanted to make it the star of a recipe.  I’ve seen a handful of popular ones lately on blogs I love- most recently by Heidi of 101 Cookbooks.  I wasn’t sure which way I wanted to go with them and I wanted to try to keep them gluten-free.  I also used a bit of inspiration from Kate and this recipe. I ended up with a ridiculously healthy and easy recipe.  Sweet potato- black beans-and cooked quinoa.  That’s it. (Of course with seasonings).

I actually forgot- I started with a bit of sauteed onion as well-

A little fuzzy- but cooked quinoa (about 2 cups) and the onion went into a large bowl.  I then added a sweet potato that had been boiled and mashed (about 1 cup mashed) and a cup of black beans.

I mashed everything together, added cumin, chili powder and salt, and formed into patties

Using a non-stick pan and a bit of canola oil spray I cooked the patties until brown & crispy.  I topped them with a wacky dressing of light mayo and salsa.  Don’t ask me how that sounded like a good idea… but it worked.

I think this is hands down the healthiest thing I’ve ever cooked.  It was insanely easy and includes some super foods.

Potato Leek Soup

Ahh, the gorgeous leek.  Why did I fear you for so long? Maybe fear isn’t the right word- but it definitely wasn’t something I saw in the grocery store and said, “oh, yes, I need leeks this week.” Anyway, when I finally tried potato leek soup I was no longer afraid. It’s been on my cooking bucket list for awhile and since soup has been my go-to lunch these days, I decided it was time.

I searched for a simple recipe- no cream, nothing too heavy, and David Lebovitz’s recipe was perfect! I said to one of my co-workers this week about it: “Well, if things are ever really bad and I only have $5, I can make soup.”  Potatoes, Leeks, water. That’s it.  (Of course there is seasoning involved, but I tell ya, this is easy and hearty.)  I supposed you could use chicken broth, but I honestly did not notice a difference without it.  I love this soup.  I want to snuggle with this soup.  Though that might get messy, I’ll leave the snuggling to the fat cat.

Soften the leeks…

Get your potatoes ready

Potatoes & leeks meet each other in the big pot

Seasonings, water, bay leaves

Puree with immersion blender (or regular) and enjoy!

Fancy Dinner Fail

Epic Fail.

This is a sad story.  It’s like I’ve just learned that Santa isn’t real.  I wish I was exagerrating, but I’m not.  I nearly cried at the restaurant out of disappointment and shear embarrassment.

I happened to have a gift certificate for a restaurant group in Boston and Bri-guy had an Open Table check, so we had $100 to fancy ourselves up.  Where to?  Mistral!  I’d been once or twice with my Dad ages ago and had great meals. I was so excited to go again and was tempted by the Dover Sole on the menu.

I’ve been curious about Dover Sole Meuniere for ages.  Its one of those classic french dishes that is the epitomy of good eating and luxury.  Ever since I read My Life in France by Julia Child I’ve been even more curious and excited to try it.  She shares a story in the book about her first meal (sole meuniere) in France as she  & Paul first arrive, and it is the best meal she has ever had.  I wanted that.  I wanted to be wowed.  For the first time I had the opportunity to try it.

The caveat- the “market” price.  And the grand total for this evening’s sole?  $60.  I kid you not.  Flown in daily from England. So I’m thinking, “We have $100, when am I ever going to have this chance, I’m going for it.”  I asked the waiter, is this really the best thing on the menu, I explained I’ve never tried it so I don’t know what to expect etc etc.  He said yes, it’s the most popular and he’s only had it sent back once or twice, and if I don’t like it, he’ll take it right back.

It looks pretty...

Well dear waiter,  I just made your story three times.  Ugh.  I never, EVER, send anything back.  I felt like such a brat, it was terribly embarrassing, but, though lovely, (I died over the copper roasting pan it was served in), I just didn’t like it. And for that much money it needed to be the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my 28 years on the face of this planet.  It just wasn’t.  So, back it went.  It was just off, maybe my piece had a bad case of jet-lag or something.

I didn’t want to have to wait for another entree so I just ordered a caesar salad.  And of course ate off of Bri-guy’s plate too.  His duck was delicious, not amazing, but it was good.  Luckily, I still had a good experience.  We had a fun night, the appetizers were great- tuna tartare (I tried my “no thank you” bite) and crab ravioli (so good!) and honestly, that caesar salad was the best I’ve ever had.  Ha.

What have we learned?  There are some things in life I just don’t like.  I don’t care how pricey it is or “how good!” everyone says it is, I just don’t like it.  I’ve been a picky eater most of my life, but have expanded my palate by leaps and bounds by cooking for myself and trying to new things with friends in the past few years.  Yet there are still things I can’t seem to ease into- most of it has to do with texture (sushi, tuna tartare, most anything that is squishy or odd & chewy).

And there are flavors, even in the best preparation I don’t like- olives, capers- you get the point.  Bri-guy & I had a conversation on the walk home after dinner about what makes a fancy restaurant- you know, what’s in a name, reputation, food quality.  It’s clear that people go to Mistral to be seen.  It is a scene- the people watching was amazing.  But they’re not necessarily a discerning clientele, they go to spend money because they can and they aren’t really concerned with how good the food actually is.  Don’t get me wrong, Mistral has an amazing product, but for the price, to me it should be better.  This is where the Boston restaurant scene fails.  Some of the best food is in lesser known spots, and not even in Boston- but across the river in Cambridge.  I suggested to Bri-guy that we expand our horizon and hop across the river for some amazing food, so hopefully more of that to come!  For now, I’ll be happy that I got to try something I had been wanting for a long time, and I got it for free. (Yes, that lovely waiter left it off the check, we left him a nice tip.)

Granola Bars

I totes cheated on this one.  I had a nearly full container of Whole Foods Nut N’Honey Granola, but I was tired of it on its own, and granola bars were the next best idea…

Granola, cinnamon chips, canola spray and the pan ready to go!

However, the honey I had to use to hold it all together was a bit, err, crystallized.  I boiled a pot of water and poured it into a bowl with the honey container and left it to melt.

When everything was mixed, I turned it out onto the pan and formed a sort of square, using a well oiled spatula.

Into the oven (350 for 20 minutes) and occasionally took it out and smooshed it with a spatula to make sure everything was sticking together.

And here we have granola “bars.”  Hmmm… we’ll see how they taste!

Sunny-side up

My New Year’s dinner left me with quite a few left-over roasted potatoes… I wanted to do something interesting with them.  I also had a few pieces of bacon left in the fridge- so tried my hand at hash & eggs.

SO GOOD.  I really think my cooking strength lies in the realm of diner food.

I diced up the left-over roasted potatoes and set them aside.  I then diced the raw bacon and threw it in the cast-iron skillet

Once the bacon was beginning to brown-up I added the potatoes

While that was coming together I threw on two eggs

I put some hash on a plate, added just a tad of shredded mozzarella,

On went the eggs, and a bit of ketchup on the side… such a tasty breakfast for dinner treat!