Friday, April 29, 2011

Quinoa with Black Beans and Salsa

If you know me at all, you know I love quick, easy, satisfying dinners - especially during the work week. I also love having canned beans and grains or rice on-hand at all times - it's amazing how many different dinners you can prepare with such cheap ingredients!

With all of that being said, I was relieved to find, after a long day of work, that I had a can of organic black beans and half a box of quinoa in my kitchen. After incorporating some salsa and cheese (how can you go wrong with salsa and cheese?), I had one delicious, slightly spicy dinner in under 30 minutes.

Quinoa with Black Beans and Salsa
Yields: 4 servings

-1 cup uncooked quinoa + 2 cups water
-1 cup of canned black beans, drained and rinsed
-1 cup salsa
-1 tbsp. chili powder
-1/2 tsp. cumin
-Dried cilantro
-Lime juice
-Salt and black pepper
-1/2 cup grated Colby Jack cheese (or any cheese you prefer)
-Avocado slices

1.) Cook quinoa and water on stovetop according to directions on quinoa box.
2.) Once quinoa is cooked, add remaining ingredients and stir well.
3.) Stir in cheese until melted throughout; serve in a bowl with 3-4 slices avocado each.

Although this dish was delicious warm for dinner, it also made a great cold lunch the next day. And for four servings, the total cost of this meal was close to $2 - total. That's 5 cents per serving!

What affordable ingredients do you have on hand at all times?

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Thirsty Scholar Pub + Giveaway Winner!

Last Friday evening, my cousin, Carolan, and I went to The Thirsty Scholar in Somerville for dinner and drinks. If you've ever seen "The Social Network," then you might recognize The Thirsty Scholar from the background of one of the opening scenes...

With a few dishes named after the mega-popular movie, The Thirsty Scholar is a hometown pub that offers some traditional Irish pub-style dishes - all for a reasonable price.

On this particular Friday evening, the place was packed, so no photos were taken - but please trust my written word that the food (and, many...drinks) was familiar (in a positive way) and satisfying, with plenty of menu options for vegetarians and omnivores alike. The beer menu at The Thirsty Scholar is fairly diverse, but definitely not impressive (although many of the options are incredibly affordable). For dinner, I ordered the Garden Burger ($9), which is normally grilled with lettuce and tomato, and served on a Kaiser roll. For my burger, however, I asked for guacamole and salsa to use as extra toppings, which made the burger a little more expensive, but also a heck of a lot tastier. As a side, I went with the spicy fries (which cost $2 more). The fries weren't spicy by any means, but they were definitely well seasoned and perfectly crispy.

Menu items at The Thirsty Scholar range from Bangers and Mash ($10) - which is what Carolan ordered, and thoroughly enjoyed - all the way to Lobster Macaroni and Cheese ($16) and Pulled Pork Sandwiches ($9).

Thirsty Scholar on Urbanspoon

And without further ado, we have a Spring Wine Fest ticket giveaway winner! The winner is....


"I love wine! I would love to go to the Wine Fest! Especially since I learned about it independently of here and started to lust after it!"

Congratulations, Kathy! Please shoot me an email at, and I will send you the details. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Which is Better?

Last night, one of my friends proposed this question: What “foreign” food here in America is better than its authentic counterpart? 

My response: prosciutto.

Although I no longer eat meat, when we were in Italy, I had to have prosciutto – and was surprised to discover that prosciutto in Florence is like cold-cut ham here in the States. On the flip side, prosciutto in the States is saltier, a little darker in color, and all-around better tasting (in my opinion).

We also agreed, as a table, that Chinese food is much better here than it is in China (although I can’t attest to this from experience…I just know Chinese food is damn good here).

What food would you say is better here in the U.S. than it is in its country of origin?

Also, today is the last day to enter my giveaway – you could win two tickets to the Spring Wine Fest in Boston!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Passover Eats: Vegetarian Chopped Liver and Eggplant Mina

Z and I's Saturday morning consisted of a lot of this:

We celebrated Passover with Z's family on Saturday (and Easter with mine on Sunday), and we wanted to create some meat-free dishes for Seder dinner. Z found a number of delicious-sounding recipes on the Jewish Woman website, and eggplant ended up becoming the name of the game Saturday morning. 

First up was the Vegetarian Chopped Liver, which was made with a ton of onions, mushrooms, hard boiled eggs and eggplant (of course).

The finished product!
The chopped liver was perfect spread atop Matzoh, and the pinch of cayenne we added spontaneously added a great kick to this otherwise mild dish. 

Since we were pressed for time, we made the Eggplant Mina at the same time as the chopped liver. The original recipe called for grilling the eggplant, but we ended up rubbing the eggplant with some olive oil and sticking it under the broiler in the oven on a cookie sheet for 20 minutes. Once the eggplant was cool, I peeled the skin off and followed the original recipe.

Matzoh crust waiting for the eggplant filling.

Finished product!
 For cheese, we used crumbled feta and shredded Muenster. I have to admit, I was a little skeptical as to how this would taste (eggplant, feta, Muenster and nutmeg?), but the end result was incredibly unique and packed with flavor. The cheeses also provided a comforting richness to this dish, making it hearty and satisfying.

Amongst a table full of mostly omnivores, our vegetarian dishes were a hit!

What good eats did you enjoy this year for Passover and/or Easter?

Side note: Don't forget to enter my giveaway for your chance to win two tickets to this Saturday's Spring Wine Fest in Boston!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Spring Wine Fest Ticket Giveaway!!

If you like wine, then you’re going to love this…

The generous folks at have offered to give one very lucky (and thirsty) EE reader two tickets to the Spring Wine Fest. The Spring Wine Fest takes place this Saturday at Cyclorama at Boston Center for the Arts on Tremont Street.

The event is geared toward young, wine-loving professionals, and each guest will receive a passport (map) allowing travel to each wine region. The passport will guide you around the room to visit different regions and try a variety of different wines. As a major bonus, all guests will even be entered to win great items valued at over $1,000.

There are three tastings throughout the day (from 12-3 p.m., 3-6 p.m. and 7-10 p.m.), and the tickets I am giving away today are for the first time slot.

To enter, all you have to do is comment on this post saying why you’d love to go to the Spring Wine Fest, and do one of the following below (or both, for extra entries):

Tweet: “Check out @bostoneventg’s Spring Wine Fest on 4/30 for a social wine tasting plus food and #wine seminars! #boston”  


Make this your Facebook status: “Check out @BostonEventGuide’s Spring Wine Fest on April 30th for a day full of wine tasting, food, and more!

I will pick the winner Thursday morning. Good luck!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Affordable Vino: Apothic Red

I love wine. Red, white, chilled, not chilled - it doesn't matter. Nothing winds down a long day better than a nice glass of the vino. 

As much as I love vino, however, I refuse to spend a fortune on it. There are plenty of reasonably priced bottles out there that taste fantastic - sometimes, even better than the pricey stuff. One of my newly-discovered favorite affordable wines is Apothic Red - which is normally just $11.99 at my local liquor store. 

I first tried Apothic Red when my aunt brought it over to a recent get-together I had at my apartment. I was surprised at how bold and full-bodied this wine was. Now, it's my go-to red wine for weekly glasses and celebrations.

The color of Apothic Red is a deep hue of purple and blood red, and the flavor is potent with dark fruit flavors (specifically cherries) with slight hints of cocoa. It packs the richness of traditional red wine without any lingering heaviness on the tongue. Despite it being 8 a.m. in the morning, I could easily have a glass of this right about that bad?

Are you a wine drinker? If so, what's your favorite affordable brand and/or varietal?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Veggie Sausage Subs

Perhaps it was all the excitement about Marathon Monday, or the Presidents' Day Red Sox game that had me more proud than ever to live near Boston earlier this week. Naturally, for me, this pride turned into cravings for food that's reminiscent of the city. Food like sausage served in an oversized roll with peppers and onions.

OK, so maybe my version isn't very traditional, since it was made with pan-grilled veggie Italian sausage, sauteed leftover frozen vegetables, and Trader Joe's Dijon mustard.

Regardless, this quick, satisfying meal hit the spot, and fulfilled my craving for Boston eats. I'll definitely go without TJ's Dijon next time, though - it was like eating wasabi. I was not expecting such a powerful punch from it.

For the local folks, what food(s) is most reminiscent of Boston for you?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Thai Yellow Curry Rice Noodles

On Saturday, Z and I spent the majority of our afternoon in grocery stores (we get crazy sometimes). We stopped in at Trader Joe's to do actual groceries, then went to Whole Foods to eat all of their free samples (and, as a result, O.D. on cheese). Then, our final stop was Shaw's to get a few items that Trader Joe's didn't have. It was pretty fun, for foodie dorks like us.

During our Trader Joe's trip, we picked up a few items to have for dinner. We didn't have a recipe in mind, but these two items helped us create the evening's menu.

Item #1:

Item #2 (the star of the dish, for me):

With these two ingredients, we ended up creating this: 

Our made-on-the-fly Thai Yellow Curry Rice Noodles is a very simple, yet tasty, recipe. Before we did any cooking, we drained and cubed the tofu and put it in a bowl with some of the yellow curry sauce to marinate for about 20 minutes. We then cooked the rice noodles according to the directions on the package, and sauteed the marinated tofu, mushrooms, diced onion and orange bell pepper in a separate pan with some olive oil. We seasoned the veggies and tofu with salt, black pepper and cayenne. Once the noodles were done and the veggies were tender (and tofu was slightly crisp on the outside), we threw everything together with a little more of the yellow curry sauce. And then, we ate it. 

Easy, flavorful, and spicy - just the way I like it. For the meat eaters, this recipe would also be very good with chicken. 

Are Z and I the only dorks that walk around Whole Foods strictly to eat the free samples? Be honest....

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I Love Free Yoga

If you asked me a year ago today if I'd ever do yoga, I probably would have laughed in your face. How can you get a good workout by "barely moving" and bending in ways that should be impossible?

Then, I discovered free exercise videos OnDemand. RCN is my cable provider, where any workout is available on "Exercise TV" - anyday, anytime - free of charge. Now, I've always been skeptical of exercise videos - how intense of a workout can you really get in your own living room? - but some of the yoga videos I discovered and decided to try blew my mind (and muscles). This was a few months ago, and, at the time, I was in dire need of a new, challenging workout...and yoga became it.

For new, skeptical, soon-to-be-yogis like I was, I found Jillian Michaels' Yoga Meltdown to be the perfect transition into yoga. Michaels' Yoga Meltdown combines some cardio with traditional yoga moves to accelerate your heart rate while providing the strength training and balance yoga is meant to create. Plus, Michaels scares me, which made me much more motivated to follow the challenging workout to a T - right in the comfort of my own apartment.

From there, I started to do more traditional yoga workouts - two I highly recommend that can be found OnDemand (at least, on RCN) are Bethenny Frankel's "Body by Bethenny" and "Yoga Fitness Plus" with Elise Gulan. Both are very intense, about an hour long, and have a great flow to them.

I have to admit, yoga yields results - and it is anything but easy. I've added regular yoga workouts to my weekly workout routine (I do yoga now about two to three times per week), and after trying just a few of the videos accessible to me, I don't have any desire to sign up for a pricey group class at a local gym. Free workouts are a beautiful thing!

Do you practice yoga, or at-home workouts in general? What's your opinion on either/both of them?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cakes Bakery and Buying a House

Yesterday, Z and I made an offer on a house. It was exciting, nerve-wracking and almost unbelievable...but we did it. We should find out today what the next steps are!

In addition to house hunting, we had a very low key weekend filled with friends, food and relaxation. My parents and little sister also paid me a visit early Saturday morning, which was complete with a trip to Cakes in Arlington for a light breakfast and some much-needed iced coffee.

Cakes (with other locations in Milton and Watertown) recently opened on Mass Ave. in Arlington, but I only went there for the first time a few weeks ago. I only got an iced coffee on my first visit, but was intrigued by the cafe's freshly baked pastries, locally-made breads, and sandwich options listed on their chalkboard menus. So, when I took my family there for breakfast on Saturday, I was eager to try the food.

After much consideration, I opted for an egg and cheese sandwich on Harvest bread (Cakes had four options of bread for me to choose from). 

I was a little nervous that without some sort of vegetable and/or loads of black pepper (which is how I like my eggs) this sandwich would be pretty bland, but I was surprised at how flavorful it was despite its simplicity. The eggs were perfectly cooked, and the Harvest bread was out-of-this-world tasty, and obviously homemade. 

The only downside: I found a fairly large egg shell in my sandwich, and am pretty sure I ate a few more before I spotted this one. After a Google search, I found that egg shells are actually good for you (who knew?) but they're still not very pleasant to eat, at least unexpectedly. 

When it comes to prices, Cakes is very reasonably priced, especially for the homemade, quality food you're getting. The coffee alone is outstanding - just don't expect to pay Dunkin' Donuts' prices here. But, you're definitely paying for what you're getting (in both cases).

What are some highlights from your weekend?

Cakes Bakery and Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 15, 2011

Waxy O'Connor's in Lexington

Last night, my friend Paul - who lives in Connecticut - was in Burlington for work. Z and I planned to meet him somewhere close to where he was so we could catch up over a few drinks. After a little deliberation, we stumbled upon Waxy O'Connor's, one of the few bars in Lexington.

Z grew up in Lexington, so on the way to Waxy's, I got the tour of his childhood hometown. It was great to learn a little bit more about his old stomping grounds. However, neither of us expected to find Waxy's where we did - tucked away in an industrial park, Waxy's is a large, obviously-newly-renovated colonial home. Odd, but inviting - and the massive parking lot was packed at 9:30 p.m.

Z, Paul and I were seated at a booth in the crowded, yet spacious, bar. Waxy's beer menu was so-so, with draft and bottled varieties (they also have a red and white wine list). I decided on a Shipyard Export for my first (and second) drink.

I love Shipyard Export. It's a lighter beer with some great body, and a very smooth finish. 

Since Z and I had already eaten dinner, we split a (giant) cone of Waxy's Fries ($2.95).

The fries were tasty and perfectly salty (I like my fries to have obvious salt on them), but were a little too under crispy for my liking. Paul ordered the Corned Beef Reuben ($8.95) with sweet potato fries, which he really enjoyed.

Z and Paul were embarrassed with my picture-taking for the evening, but a blogger's got to do what a blogger's got to do, am I right?

I would love to go back to Waxy's to try more of their menu - the place was spotless (minus the bathroom...ahem), the service was decent, and the atmosphere is just laid back and fun. Plus, my Irish blood can never not enjoy a local pub!

On the subject of you have a favorite spring/summer-time beverage you love to sip on? I'm looking for a new drink this year! 

Waxy O'Connor's Irish Pub & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spicy Tempeh Stir-fry

The blogging/food writing side of my life has been pretty pathetic this week. I've been training a new hire at my day job - on top of having to perform my own duties - and with a friend's birthday celebration Tuesday evening, I've had next to no time to cook. So, when I had a free evening last night, I decided to cook something quick, easy and delicious.

On my way home from work, I picked up a bag of  this:

And used these two items in my pantry:

Toasted Sesame Ginger Seasoning & Thai Style Chili Sauce.

To make this: 

Spicy Tempeh Stir-fry
Yields: 2-3 servings
-2 tbsp. olive oil
-3/4 bag frozen Oriental Stir Fry
-1 8 oz. package tempeh, cubed
-1/2 tbsp. Toasted Sesame Ginger Seasoning
-1 tbsp. Thai Style Chili Sauce
-1 tsp. minced garlic
-Dash of cayenne pepper
-Salt and black pepper, to taste

1.) Heat olive oil on medium heat in a large sauce pan; add frozen vegetables and cook until warmed through.
2.) Add cubed tempeh to the pan and stir; season with salt, pepper, cayenne and Toasted Sesame Ginger Seasoning. 
3.) Add chili sauce and stir; add garlic and let cook on low heat for another 3-4 minutes, stirring once or twice.
4.) Taste for seasoning; serve in a large bowl with rice or with French bread on the side. 

The end result was fairly spicy, and packed with great Asian flavors. The ginger seasoning and chili sauce added a lot of great flavor to this dish. If you can't find the Toasted Sesame Ginger Seasoning, some simple sesame seeds and ground ginger should work just fine. 

Easy, flavorful and spicy - the perfect weeknight dinner, if you ask me!

How is your week going?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Everything-But-The Chickpeas and Curry

Last week, I had a smorgasbord of random food in my kitchen that needed to be used up...stat. The end result:

Everything-But-The Chickpeas and Curry
Yields: 2-3 servings
-2 tbsp. olive oil
-1/4 cup chopped onions
-2 cups chopped, frozen spinach, thawed
-1 cup frozen peas, thawed
-1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
-1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
-Shake of cayenne pepper
-1/2 tsp. cumin
-Salt and pepper, to taste
-Squirt lemon juice

1.) Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a saute pan; add onions, and cook until almost translucent.
2.) Add spinach and peas, and cook until warm. Add chickpeas, and season with curry powder, cayenne, cumin salt and pepper. Add lemon juice; turn heat down to low and cook for about 5-7 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
3.) Serve with warmed, whole wheat naan bread.

I call it "Everything-But-The" Chickpeas and Curry because I feel like I literally threw everything but the kitchen sink into this dish. I even had a little bit of a green bell pepper left that I threw in there (but it didn't really add anything to the bowl). Despite the randomness of this meal, it ended up being really flavorful, slightly spicy, and full of varying textures - which I love.

What random meals have you made lately?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Birthdays and Tapas at Dali

On Friday night, I ended a busy work week with tapas and wine at Dali in Somerville for my cousin, Carolan's, birthday. Despite how close Z lives to Dali, I have never dined there - but have always been intrigued by it's purple exterior. Upon walking inside, I was immediately impressed with the kitschy decor and upbeat, friendly waitstaff.

Dali does not let you sit down until your entire party is there, so Carolan, myself, my other cousin Catherine, and Carolan's friend Amanda all waited at the bar for our fifth guest to arrive. As Dali got a little busier, the host offered to sit us before our fifth member arrived to clear up some space at the bar. 

Upon being seated, I ordered a glass of Vega Sindoa Blanco ($6.50), which is a light, crisp and refreshing Chardonnay blend (highly recommended).

Our fifth guest unfortunately went to Diva in Davis Square instead of Dali, so while we waited for him, we ordered a round of tapas. In the first round was Queso de Cabra Montanes (baked goat cheese with tomato and basil), $7.50.

Patatas Ali-Oli (potatoes in a garlic and caper aioli sauce), $5.

Complimentary hummus, for the complimentary bread.

Dali had me at baked goat cheese. The queso was insanely comforting, and perfect when dolloped on a piece of bread. The potatoes were also delicious - basically a garlic-y, revamped version of potato salad - and the hummus, albeit simple, was very flavorful and wonderfully smooth.

Once Carolan's other friend finally arrived, we ordered another round of tapas (and drinks). In the second round was one of Dali's specials for the evening, Cintas Con Esparragos (pasta with lemon, asparagus and cheese), $7.50.

All I can say about this dish is wow. While it sounds simple, the flavors were poignant and fresh. Although tapas are for sharing, I could have easily eaten this dish by myself.

We also shared a plate of the Alcachofas Rellenas (mushroom-filled artichokes), $7.50, which were tasty, but not mind-blowing.

In addition to the stellar food and service, Dali also knows how to celebrate a birthday. There were several patrons celebrating on Friday evening, and each acknowledgement was complete with singing, bubbles and candles. 

Carolan and her friend Amanda.

I will definitely be going back to Dali again. While it's not the most economical dining experience, the food, atmosphere and attentive service are worth every extra penny.

Have you ever been to Dali? What's your review?

DalĂ­ on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 8, 2011

Vegetarian Ventures: White Bean Burgers

You may or may not know this about me yet, but...I love burgers. And even though I no longer eat meat, burgers are still one of my all-time favorite foods.

Since becoming a full-blown vegetarian, I've been experimenting with different veg-friendly burgers, including Homemade Black Bean. So, when I discovered a can of cannellini beans in my pantry the other night, I  decided to whip up a batch of white bean burgers - which I basically just made up as I went along.

White Bean Burgers
Yields: 4 burgers
-1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
-1/2 tbsp. dried parsley
-1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
-1 egg
-1/2 tbsp. minced garlic
-1 tsp. chili powder
-Salt and black pepper, to taste
-Lemon juice, to taste
-1 tbsp. olive oil
-4 whole wheat hamburger buns
-4 slices of cheddar cheese

1.) Place beans in a food processor, and pulse until smooth.
2.) Pour the pureed beans into a large bowl and mix with the remaining ingredients (except for the egg). Add more salt, pepper and lemon juice as needed; then, add the egg and mix well.
3.) Form bean mixture into 4 patties. Place the patties on a plate, and let sit in the fridge for 20 minutes.
4.) Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Once hot, add the burgers and cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side, or until brown and crispy.
5.) Serve on whole wheat rolls with Dijon, sliced tomato and cheddar cheese. (I also served mine with Kettle Chips Spicy Thai potato chips - they are the best).

Although the texture of these burgers were surprisingly "meaty," I probably won't pulse the beans next time - I'll just mash them with a fork. Pulsing them made the mixture a little too smooth, which is why I placed them in the fridge for a few minutes - just so they were somewhat pliable. 

The chili powder, garlic and hint of parsley also worked very well together in this burger. 

Even when I still ate meat, I usually ordered a veggie burger when I went out to eat. If you're a meat eater, what's your take on vegetarian-friendly burgers?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My First Ethiopian Meal

For months now, I have been dying to try Ethiopian food. I'm not entirely sure where the urge came from, but it's one of the few cuisines I haven't tasted - and I was really ready to change that.

So, when Z purchased the Groupon for Addis Red Sea, we were both eager to use it sooner than later. And this past Tuesday evening, I had my first taste of Ethiopian food at Addis' Porter Square location.

Upon walking into the Addis Red Sea, I immediately loved the slightly Americanized decor with touches of Ethiopian culture, and even some good old-fashioned wit mixed in.

I was also really impressed with Addis' beer and wine menu. After much deliberating, Z and I both decided on Ommegang Abbey Ales ($4.25). 

For our meal, we split the Vegetable Combination for two ($22.95), which came with our choice of four vegetarian dishes. Z did the ordering, since he's had Ethiopian food before and I trusted his choices, so - conveniently - I couldn't tell you exactly what dishes were on this plate. But I can tell you everything was delicious, and incredibly flavorful.

Our Vegetable Combination also came with injera, a light, spongy bread (and handy dandy eating utensil). 

I was surprised at how mild our food was (I expected it to be really spicy, almost like Indian food), but was amazed at how all of the seasonings used in Addis' cooking played so well on my palate. The food was also surprisingly light, and any meal that requires bread as an eating utensil is wonderful in my book. 

I have a HomeRun coupon to Fasika, so that will be my next Ethiopian adventure. After the meal we had at Addis Red Sea, I'm eager to try more Ethiopian dishes and restaurants. 

Have you ever tried Ethiopian food? What's your review?

Addis Red Sea on Urbanspoon