Thursday, October 28, 2010

Jazzy Tuna Melts

I was not feeling too hot yesterday. I was supposed to meet some friends for dinner at Blue Ribbon BBQ, but my bed and pajamas were desperately calling my name.

By the time I got home from work, I was dying for some comfort food. All I had for a quick meal was leftover tuna and bread, so I knew I wanted to make a tuna melt - but also wanted to jazz it up a little. While I brainstormed ideas, I popped some oven-baked fries in the oven, and got to work on my tuna melt.

I only had enough leftovers for one sandwich, so I added chopped jalapenos (from the jar), chili powder, black pepper, a little salt, and a squirt of lemon juice to the remainder of my tuna. I generously spread it across some whole wheat bread, and placed a slice of cheddar cheese on top.

I wasn't in the mood for a greasier, pan-fried sandwich, so I simply wrapped this up in tin foil and popped it in the oven with the potatoes for about 10 minutes - right when the potatoes had about 10 more minutes to cook. 

The end result was a cheesy, slightly spicy, flavorful tuna melt that was perfectly toasted, without being greasy or overly filling. 

This Jazzy Tuna Melt ended up being a quick, delicious and very affordable meal - and was the perfect comfort food after a long day of not feeling well.

What's your favorite quick dinner to make during the work week?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Nutella and Peanut Butter Cookies

I fell in love with this when we were in Italy - and now my life mission is to incorporate it in every single meal for the rest of my life.

Well, maybe not every single meal - but I am eager to use Nutella in a number of different recipes over the next few months. I know it seems strange that, of all the things I could consume in Italy, Nutella is what I came back with - but it's silky, creamy texture and nutty, chocolate-y flavor just totally won me over. It was inevitable.

So, on Sunday, I wanted to take advantage of the overcast, colder weather - and the Nutella in my cabinet - and made Nutella and Peanut Butter Cookies. I used this recipe, calculated it to make 12 cookies versus 24, and instead of using 1/2 cup peanut butter, I used 1/4 cup of peanut butter and 1/4 cup of Nutella. I also used whole wheat flour since that's what I always have in my pantry.

The end result was a sweeter, silkier peanut butter cookie. The Nutella added a very subtle chocolate and nutty flavor to the mix, although next time I'll probably add more Nutella so more of its spectacular flavor comes through.

The peanuts from the chunky peanut butter also added a great, crunchy texture to these otherwise chewy, soft cookies.

What's your favorite recipe using Nutella?

Side note: For those of you who don't know, I am now also the Boston Budget Wine Examiner for Feel free to follow my wine-o posts there for affordable wine events in the area, as well as reviews of some of my favorite inexpensive wines. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Glenview Pub & Grill: A Hidden Gem in North Chelmsford

One of my favorite things about being a food writer is finding restaurants that are off the beaten path that end up being incredible dining establishments. Last week, I found one such restaurant: Glenview Pub & Grill in North Chelmsford.

I met my college friend, Paul, halfway between Boston and New Hampshire for dinner, and he had heard rave reviews about Glenview from one of his colleagues who grew up in Chelmsford. Upon pulling into the parking lot, I immediately realized that just about everyone had heard the same rave reviews, as the parking lot was packed and there was a line almost out the door.

We waited about an hour for a table, and decided to get a beer while we waited. I opted for a Sam Adams Octoberfest, which was ice cold and delicious after a long day of work.

Paul and I chatted while we sipped our beers, so our hour wait went by fairly quickly. Before we knew it, we were seated for dinner - hungry and eager to see if Glenview's reviews were accurate.

Our waitress brought us some complimentary warm rolls with butter while Paul and I perused the lengthy menu. There were a variety of options, all reasonably priced, including burgers, sandwiches, entrees (like Homemade Jumbo Shepherd's Pie), and Italian specialties, to name a few. I finally decided on The Glennie Burger, which came with my choice of French, Cajun, or country fries, onion rings or chips. I opted for the Cajun fries, and also got cheese and guacamole on my burger, in addition to the lettuce and tomato it came with. 

(Yes, I took a bite before the photo was taken. I did have to wait an hour for this burger, after all).

The burger, which I had cooked medium, was juicy, without being greasy, and absolutely ginormous. I barely ate 3/4 of it, but was impressed with the what tasted like homemade guacamole, and the crispy, also not overly greasy, fries. The Cajun fries weren't very spicy, but I will let that go as the rest of the meal was well worth the hour wait.

Glenview's service was organized, quick and friendly, and the food definitely lived up to its reviews. I'll definitely be back to Glenview for dinner - especially because they have so many menu options that I'd love to try.

What's your favorite "hidden gem" restaurant?

Glenview Pub & Grill on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 22, 2010

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip 'Scones'

After we got back from Italy, I had the itch to get in the kitchen to cook and bake. I also wanted to make use of items I already had in my pantry to create new, delicious dishes and liven up my meals for the week ahead. On the same day I made my Homemade Black Bean Burgers, I also made some homemade scones. I got the recipe from a cookbook my mom gave me a few months ago, called Easy Chocolate

This is a fantastic cookbook to have on hand for when you're looking for a quick, yet "special" dessert recipe (there's way more than just chocolate cake in this book). The original recipe called for self-rising flour, but since I just had whole wheat flour, I used this method to make it self-rising. I also only had soy milk on hand, so I used that in place of regular milk. As a result, my scones did come out a little dense, slightly chewy, and thinner than I expected. For me, this was still an OK texture, but you may want to follow Easy Chocolate's recipe exactly if you prefer fluffy, airy scones. 

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip 'Scones'
Yields: 9

-2 cups self-rising whole wheat flour, plus extra for dusting
-5 tbsp. unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
-1 tbsp. superfine sugar (I just used regular granulated sugar)
-1/3 cup chocolate chips
-About 2/3 cup soy milk, plus extra for brushing

1.) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
2.) Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
3.) Stir in the sugar and chocolate chips, then mix in enough of the milk to form a soft dough.
4.) On a lightly floured counter, roll out the dough to form a 4 x 6-inch/10 x 5-cm rectangle, about 1 inch/2.5 cm thick. Cut the dough into 9 squares.
5.) Place the scones on the prepared baking sheet, spaced well apart. Brush the tops with a little milk and bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until risen and golden.

With a smear of chunky peanut butter on top, these scones are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee in the morning, or even dessert after dinner. As an added bonus, these scones are also slightly healthy, thanks to the whole wheat flour and the soy milk.

Have you ever made your own scones? What's your favorite recipe?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Homemade Black Bean Burgers

Making burgers is usually pretty easy, but making your own black bean burgers is almost even easier - not to mention healthier. And when you're significant other is a vegetarian - or even a carnivore - knowing how to make homemade black bean burgers is a great skill to have, as it provides you with an easy, go-to dinner any night of the week.

The other night, I had a can of black beans and an onion on-hand, so I researched some black bean burger recipes. I was surprised at how simple all the recipes were, and used this one as a starting point for my own black bean burger creation. I ended up using only ingredients that I had in my kitchen, so making these burgers technically cost me $0.

Homemade Black Bean Burgers 
Yields: 4 burgers

-1 16 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
-1/2 yellow onion, minced
-1 tbsp. minced jalapenos (seeded, if fresh)
-3 tbsp. minced garlic
-1/2 tsp. cayenne
-1 tbsp. cumin
-1 egg
-1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
-Squirt lime juice
-Salt and black pepper, to taste

1.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and lightly oil a baking sheet. In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork until thick and pasty. Stir in minced onion, jalapenos and garlic.
2.) In a small bowl, stir together egg, cayenne and cumin.
3.) Stir the egg mixture into the mashed beans. Mix in bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Divide mixture into four patties.
4.) Place patties on baking sheet, and bake about 10 minutes on each side.

These nutritious burgers came out slightly spicy, full of flavor, and surprisingly hearty. I topped mine with slices of fresh avocado, Muenster cheese and Dijon mustard - a highly recommended combination of toppings. I also used some leftover, toasted Nature's Pride whole wheat bread to complete the sandwich. I froze the leftover loaf while Z and I were in Italy.

Have you ever made black bean burgers at home? Please share your recipe!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Final Photo Recap: Chianti and Rome

In addition to all the sights Z and I saw in Florence, we also took a day trip to Chianti and spent a few days in Rome. In Chianti, we took a bike tour through the scenic hills and vineyards, made a pit stop for lunch, and had a wine tasting at the Conte Ferdinando Guicciardini winery, which is set in a castle. Here are some photos from that day:

We also flew in and out of Rome, so during our last day in Italy, we made sure to see the Colosseum as well as several other gorgeous sights. 

We also thoroughly enjoyed our last night in Italy, despite an early flight the next day - especially after stumbling upon Open Baladin.

When in Rome, right? ;)

Well folks, that is it for the Italy recaps - later this week, I'll be sure to share some tips on how we were able to save a little bit of money on this trip, without having to constantly count our euros. Until then, I've got some great recipes to share with you! Enjoy the start to the week!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Sights of Florence

As you know, Z and I ate well in Italy. Thankfully, we also did plenty of walking around, sightseeing and bicycling to work off all the pizza, pasta and gelato we ate. In an effort to prevent all of you from suffering from severe boredom, I figured another photo recap would be the best way to sum up our non food-related adventures. Since I took hundreds of photos, this recap will be spread across two blog posts. To start, here are just some of the sights we saw and things we did in Florence.

Pitti Palace:


We also saw some breathtaking sights in Chianti and Rome; and had a little too much fun our last evening in Rome. Photos to come tomorrow!