Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Good Nachos and Slow Service at Tommy Doyle's

I’ve been to Tommy Doyle’s in Kendall Square several times before – mainly just for drinks. I love the Irish pub vibe, proximity to the other bars and restaurants in Kendall, and the economical prices. However, I never had dinner (or a full meal, for that matter) at Tommy Doyle’s until Friday night – and I have to say, I was pretty disappointed.

Let me start off by saying I didn’t expect a mind-blowing meal at this place – but I did expect decent pub grub and service.

We started off our meal on a high note with the Nachos Grande ($8.99), which were actually very good.

The cheese and toppings were generous and well layered throughout, and the side of homemade guacamole ($2.50) was fresh and tasty. I washed my nachos down with a pint of Sam Adams Octoberfest, which was good, but tasted like the keg line might have been a little dirty.

I wasn’t super hungry, so for my meal, I ordered the Paddy the Greek salad ($9.99), which was a bit overpriced for what it was.

The olives, feta and cherry tomatoes were abundant throughout, but the salad was dripping with dressing. Next time, I’ll be asking for it on the side.

Overall, our meal wasn’t terrible, and we ended up staying for a few more beers and met up with some more friends who were in the area. Again, I like the vibe at Tommy Doyle’s. The real bummer, though, was the service – although it was friendly, it was painfuily slow, and we had about five waiters total throughout the evening. The place also wasn’t crowded, so there was no real excuse as to why the service was so slow and disorganized. I had to go up to the bar twice just to get someone to come to our table (quick side note: we weren’t sitting in the dining room – we were at a high top table in the bar area).

Tommy Doyle’s is definitely a fun place to grab a drink or two and enjoy a quick snack (I’d definitely go back for the nachos), but just be warned that you might be waiting a while to get anybody to come to your table.

Tommy Doyle's Irish Pub on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Feast Fit For Irene

The only destruction Hurricane Irene caused for me this weekend was stripping away my girls’ night out in Boston Saturday night and preventing my sister and niece from driving down from Maine on Sunday. Despite the change of plans, however, I ended up having a relaxing weekend that was pretty damn blissful.

Because my Saturday night plans were cancelled, Z and I decided to invite some friends over and make an Italian feast. To make our dinner in even more economical, we had each of our friends bring something for the meal. Two of our friends brought some great cheeses (goat, Manchego and Brie) with crackers and white wine, and another brought homemade crepes with fresh peaches, hot fudge and a bottle of red wine for dessert. Z and I took care of the main course: sliced bread with homemade dipping oil and whole wheat fusilli with homemade cilantro pesto and chopped grape tomatoes.

The end result was a simple, cozy, relaxing dinner shared amongst friends in the comfort of Z’s home. It was the perfect way to spend a hurricane-ridden Saturday night!

What did you eat/cook during the hurricane? 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Drinkin' Skinny

Tequila just makes thing better.

When tequila is mixed with an all-natural, good-tasting, good-for-you product – things get awesome.

Bethenny Frankel may have created the Skinnygirl Margarita (with tequila mixed in), but Drink Skinny LLC, based in Tilton, N.H., took their idea a step further. With non-alcoholic drink mixes in Original Margarita and Pineapple Mango flavors (and soon, a Pomegranate-Blueberry flavor), the husband and wife duo behind Drink Skinny knows what it takes to make a good cocktail.

The days of calorie-ridden sour mixes are long gone – thank goodness. Drink Skinny is made with Agave Nectar and natural Stevia (at only 20-30 calories a pop), and doesn’t include the high fructose corn syrup that most margarita mixes do.

Christy Cegelski, the “wife” behind Drink Skinny, even uses her mixes in cocktails like mojitos and tropical breezes. Because the mixes don’t already contain alcohol, they’re extremely versatile. And trust me when I tell you – they’re tasty. I tried the original mix with tequila (naturally), and it was almost dangerous – the mix was slightly sweet, yet ultra refreshing – and not a hint of sourness was detected. It went down easy. Too easy.

The Pineapple Mango flavor I mixed with vodka and seltzer, which was also a light and refreshing cocktail. The mix was so flavorful, I actually had a second glass with just seltzer – a combination I’ve literally been thinking about ever since.

Drink Skinny is available at several stores throughout New Hampshire and New England. Each bottle is priced at $14.00, and shipping is free if you purchase two or more. And since there’s no alcohol in the mix – you can easily have them shipped to you here in Boston.

If you could make any cocktail with these Drink Skinny mixers, what cocktail would you make and why?

Disclaimer: Drink Skinny LLC sent me samples of their mixers to try, free of charge. Despite their generosity, the opinions expressed in this post are honest and 100 percent my own. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Making the Most of It

Our new house currently looks like this: 

Hence why we’re still a few weeks away from moving in.

Z and I have been making the most of our “transition phase,” and our new social life consists of picking out paint colors, ripping down walls and deconstructing ceilings. It’s fun, exciting, and a little challenging at times – but the final outcome (i.e., our home!) will be worth all of our hard work in the end. 

Since there is so much going on with the house, we have rarely taken the time to partake in one of our favorite shared passions: cooking. But even with limited time to spare, we have managed to enjoy some simple yet homemade meals together. Last night, for instance, we made pizza.

I picked up some store bought whole wheat crust, and we topped the pizzas with sauce, fresh vegetables and mozzarella cheese. 

Z’s not a huge fan of zucchini on pizza, but with only a few weeks left of summer, I had a zucchini craving. We decided to make two pizzas – the first, topped with mushrooms and zucchini; the second, topped with veggie sausage and sliced grape tomatoes.

The end result was…well, pizza – you know how it tastes. But being able to cook a quick dinner and enjoy it together made a world of difference – the pizza tasted fresher and more satisfying – despite the fact that we were eating at 10 p.m. in front of the television.

Someday soon, we’ll have a table and chairs. And a house. :)

What has inspired or motivated you to get cooking in your kitchen lately?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Weekend Getaway in Old Saybrook, Connecticut

This weekend, Z and I visited a bunch of my college friends at my friends’ parents’ beach house in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. I spent a lot of time relaxing – and seeing nothing but this:

My friend, Bryan, also bought a raft meant for four to six people (and a couple hundred beers).

The weekend was chocked full of friends, drinks, sun, sand and fun – not to mention a whole lot of food. My friends Bryan and Lisa went over the top, and served the group homemade chili, pulled chicken, pasta salad, veggie burgers and more.

Our friend Tanya even brought fresh bagels from New Jersey as well as vegetables from her parents’ garden.

After all of our good times and eats at the beach house, Z and I slowly made our way back to Boston Sunday morning. We knew we needed a substantial breakfast, so we could start working on the house when we got back, so when we stumbled upon Turtle Café, we immediately parked and went in.

Turtle Café was a narrow, diner-style breakfast joint that was bustling on this Sunday morning. We decided to take our food to go, and Z ordered a frittata with goat cheese, caramelized onions, and spinach, while I went with the make-your-own-omelette, which comes with your choice of four fillings. I opted for the spinach, mushrooms, cheddar cheese and onions (my plate also came with home fries and wheat toast - toast not pictured).

Despite the fact that we ate these meals with plastic cutlery in the car, this was by far the best breakfast from a restaurant either of us have had in a long, long time. Both dishes were well seasoned and packed with flavor and fresh ingredients. We were both beyond impressed.

After a stressful few weeks, it was really wonderful to just relax on the beach, cocktail in hand, reminiscing with some of the best people in my life. It's weekends like these that bring me back down to earth and remind me what life is all about.

What did you do this weekend? 

The turtle cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 19, 2011

Summer Squash Burger

Making burgers at home is economical, simple and – well, an all-around great idea. Burgers, whether they are vegetarian or not, are extremely versatile – I love the endless possibilities of toppings, fillings, cheeses and condiments.

With all that being said, you can imagine how excited I was when the folks at Dalyn Miller Public Relations contacted me about reviewing The Best Vegetarian Burgers on the Planet cookbook. Why did they even bother asking?

I’ve had this book in my possession for a few months now, so I was ecstatic when I found myself with some time last night to finally try one of the innovative recipes from the book. Priced at $19.99, The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet is chocked full of creative burger (and sauce/condiment) recipes, including a Jalapeno Cornbread Burger, Fire-Roasted Red Pepper Burger, and Deli-Style No-Tuna Melts. In the spirit of the season, I decided to make their Summer Squash Burger, which sounded light and satisfying. I only changed a few things from the original recipe, and my revisions are marked below.

Summer Squash Burger
Yields: 4 burgers
-1 cup shredded yellow zucchini
-1 cup shredded green zucchini
-2 cups all-purpose flour
-6 ounces plain soy or other non-dairy yogurt (I used 5.3 ounces of Oikos Greek Yogurt)
-1/4 cup canola oil, plus more for frying (I used olive oil)
-1/4 cup soy or other non-dairy milk (I used Lactaid)
-1/4 tsp. paprika (I used chili powder, and also added cumin)
-Salt and pepper
-Oil, for frying

1.) In a mixing bowl, combine the zucchinis, flour, yogurt, 1/4 cup oil, milk chili powder, cumin, and salt and pepper, mashing it together with your hands until you get a nice uniform mixture.
2.) Form into 4 patties. Line a plate with paper towels.
3.) Preheat 1/4 inch oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. The oil is ready when a piece of dough dropped into it sizzles immediately. Carefully add the patties, and fry for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until golden and crispy. 

4.) Transfer to the plate to absorb the excess oil.

The end result was a moist, fresh-tasting burger that – when served with a simple side salad - was perfectly light (yet filling) after my post-work workout. Next time, though, I will definitely add some more spices, as the flavor fell a little flat. The greek yogurt was a welcome change from the original recipe, however, as it added an extra punch of flavor that otherwise would have been lacking.

Are you a burger person? What are your favorite burger toppings/condiments? 

Disclaimer: I received this cookbook for free from Dalyn Miller Public Relations. Despite their generosity, the opinions expressed in this post are honest and 100 percent my own. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Vegetarian Ventures: LUNA vs. LARA

After becoming a vegetarian, my protein intake quickly became a top priority. I’ve heard horror stories of new vegetarians getting drastically sick from lack of nutrients and protein, and I knew I did not want to go down that path. I also knew that I didn’t want to get my daily dose of protein in weird, highly-processed ways.

Soon after I made the crossover to no-meat-land, I discovered LUNA Bars.

Source: www.lunabar.com.

Luna Bars have about 8-10 grams of protein in each bar, and are made for women. The flavors range from Chocolate Chunk to White Chocolate Macadamia to Lemon Zest, and all are tasty and satisfying. I ate one everyday for a long time – until I read the ingredient list.

Well, to be honest, I couldn’t even read half of the ingredient list. Despite its unnecessary length, most of the ingredients are illegible and foreign (to me). As soon as I noticed that, LUNA Bars started to taste as artificial as they are, and I could barely stomach most of the flavors.

But then, I discovered LARABARS.

Source: www.pickyeaterblog.com.

LARABARS also offer women a decent amount of protein (about 4-5 grams per bar, on average), and the ingredient list is shockingly short and 100 percent legible. The flavors I’ve tried to date are Chocolate Chip Brownie and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, and both were insanely delicious (and 10 for $10 at the Shaw's in Porter Square). The ingredients for the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip flavor, for instance, are as follows:

Dates, peanuts, chocolate chips (unsweetened chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla), salt.

That’s it.

Although I still love a few flavors of the LUNA Bars (Blueberry Bliss, for instance, tastes like a Pop-Tart), I think I’ve found my new, natural source of protein.

Whether you're a vegetarian or not, what is your opinion of protein bars, or protein-fueled foods/powders? 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Moving Made Cheap (and Easy)

Moving is fun. For no one.

On Sunday, I was fortunate enough to have five friends plus Z help me move into Z’s current house for my two-week temporary stay there. Their help made the move smooth, quick and much less stressful, and I couldn’t be more appreciative of their time and assistance. My Dad and brother also came down on Saturday to carry away a few of my bigger pieces of furniture that we won't need in the new house. To them, I am also grateful.

Although friends and family helped to make my move less stressful, I took the liberty of making my move less expensive. Since it is a very popular time of the year for moving, I thought you all might like these three tips that made my move as cheap as possible:

1.) Sell your stuff – The initial thought of trying to sell my unwanted things online seemed overwhelming to me. The thought of a stranger coming to my home to pick up a large piece of furniture just didn’t sit right with me, and it just seemed easier to put all my junk out on the curb and hope other people take it. But after I gained some motivation, I am so glad I put a few of my items on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace – specifically, my queen-sized mattress and box spring. I got a few hits within the first day, and ended up selling the two pieces to a really nice girl from Somerville (and her boyfriend Zach – weird!) for just under $500 in cash. That money can now go towards things for the new house!

2.) Feed your movers – I almost always thank people in food. But when you have eight lovely people who helped you move, feeding them all can get pricey. To make it cheaper, for instance, I bought lunch from the grocery store for my omnivorous father and brother on Saturday. I purchased some sliced ham, cheese, rolls, and pickles, and we all ate together on paper plates in my kitchen (I had a grilled cheese). I also had some potato chips and plenty of condiments, so they were happy and left satisfied. On Sunday, my friends and I decided to get dinner at Red Bones, so instead of buying them food, I bought everybody some beers and sodas to not only celebrate Z and I’s new “chapter,” but to also thank them for their hard work.

3.) Don’t hire movers – This might seem obvious, and I know hiring movers can make every penny worth the stress-free move, but having so many helpers (each with cars) made my move just as easy and stress-free – and, besides feeding them food and beer, it was basically free.

How have you made moving less stressful and/or less expensive? I'd love to hear your tips, since I'll be moving again in a few weeks!

Monday, August 15, 2011

At-home Beer Dinner for Half the Price

Last week, Z and I couldn't make it to the Cambridge Common Berkshire Brewing Co. beer dinner - I was selling my mattress, and we would have ended up being much too late to fully enjoy the experience. However, we didn't want to totally miss out on the fun, so we decided to have our own beer dinner - which ended up being more economical, and just as delicious.

Cambridge Common's beer dinners include a pre-dinner beer and three or four courses paired with delicious brews. We created our menu and beer choices around the menu Cambridge Common had put together for their guests (except for our pre-dinner beer, a Shipyard Pumpkin - 'tis the season!). 

We sipped our Shipyard Pumpkins while we prepared our appetizer - homemade, fresh gazpacho.

We used Ina Garten's recipe, but tweaked it a bit. For instance, I added some jarred jalapenos to give the soup a little kick, and I also halved the recipe. We also served our gazpacho with avocado slices, to help cut some of the spiciness. 

We paired our gazpacho with Berkshire Brewing Co.'s Traditional Pale Ale. Like the avocado, the Pale Ale helped to cut some of the heat from the jalapenos, and, as a whole, really complemented the fresh flavors of the gazpacho well.

For our salad course, we made an arugula and strawberry salad. We used this recipe, and I also added some crumbled goat cheese.

We paired the salad with BBC's Hefeweizen Ale.

This would have been a great pairing if it weren't for the overpowering goat cheese. Lesson learned. 

For our entree, we made a Thai curry tofu stir fry. While we enjoyed our first few courses, we let the tofu marinate in Trader Joe's Thai curry sauce, and then pan fried the tofu.

In a separate pan, we sauteed some chopped veggies: mushrooms, red peppers, baby corn, and onions. After both the tofu and veggies were cooked through, we added the veggies to the tofu pan, stirred, and let simmer for a few minutes before serving. We also flavored the stir fry with some cayenne, cumin and salt and pepper.

This spicy, flavorful stir fry was served with BBC's Private Stock "Shabadoo" - an amazingly delicious brew.

Despite it's dark, heavy appearance, this black and tan brew was fairly light on the tongue, with a mix of unique and tantalizing flavors. With the tofu, it wasn't a particularly exceptional pairing, but both were so delicious on their own that it really didn't offend my tastebuds too much. 

For dessert, CC had tiramisu on the menu, paired with Coffeehouse Porter (a favorite in our house). Z and I aren't big dessert people, and since we always have Coffeehouse Porter, we changed the dessert to liquid form only. We both enjoyed a glass of BBC's Russian Imperial Stout.

BBC doesn't mess around with their stouts (or porters, for that matter). With hints of chocolate, coffee, fruit and licorice, this creamy, well-balanced stout was the perfect way to end our homemade beer dinner.

CC's Berkshire Brewing Co. beer dinner cost $49 per person, not including gratuity. Z and I spent about that much total, without having to tip anyone. Although we love CC and their beer dinners, it was nice to cook together and enjoy the dinner on our own, while cutting the price tag in half. 

How have you saved some money in the kitchen lately?

Friday, August 12, 2011


These past few weeks, my life has looked a lot like this: 

Chaos. (Source: marysirmonarts.com).

Between traveling to San Diego for a week for work, preparing for moving into our new house, and adjusting to all of the new responsibilities given to me at my day job, I’ve been losing sight of what’s important to me in life. I’ve been doing a lot less of this:

Source: rankinwriting.wordpress.com

And this.

Source: theweboutside.com

I have not spent nearly enough time with family or friends, and have been terrible at calling/emailing/Facebooking any of them.

My niece and nephew.

My older sister and I. 

Z and our friends at his birthday party last year. 

Some of my best guy friends from college.

My college girlfriends and I ate the "Rachael Ray Show."

And even though I have been spending time with Z, my mind has been so crazed that I’m sure I haven’t been that much fun to be around.

The purpose of this post is to put things in perspective, especially before the weekend begins (as does a new chapter in my life). I’m moving in with Z this weekend, and while it’s a little scary (aren’t all new ventures?), it’s also extremely exciting and heartwarming. I am a lucky lady, and even though I’ve let life’s stresses bring out the worst in me lately, I know what matters most to me (and in life). And I plan to start focusing on those things moving forward.

Are there things/people in your life that you'd like to start focusing more on? If so, what/who are they and why?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Scenes From San Diego

Last week, I traveled to San Diego for BlogHer to help man the booth for Eversave. I met a lot of fabulous writers and bloggers, and ate a good amount of delicious food (and way too many Starbucks croissants and iced coffees, which will go undocumented in this post. Blech).

Since most of my time was spent in the expo, I wasn’t let free too often – but here’s a taste of the places I dined at and some of the food that I enjoyed.

Guacamole from Fiesta de Reyes in Old Town.

Happy Hour specials at the Yard House in the Gaslamp District.

Spinach & Artichoke Dip at the Yard House.

Free samples of the Best. Yogurt. Ever.

Dinner with a bunch of Eversave's blogger affiliates at La Fiesta.

It was a long trip, but we definitely made the most of our time there! Now I'm finally home, and slowly packing up my apartment - I'm moving in with Z on Sunday, and then we FINALLY move into our home at the end of the month. Expect some photos of the new digs in the near future!

Have you ever attended BlogHer? If so, what's your opinion of it? I heard a lot of mixed reviews from other bloggers when I was there...