Tuesday, February 28, 2012

11 Things

Last week, my pal and co-worker, Colleen, tagged me in her "11 Things" post. It seemed like a really fun idea, and something different to share on my blog, so I decided to play along.

Here's how it works:
1. Post these rules.
2. You must post 11 random things about yourself.
3. Answer the questions the person who tagged you set for you in their post.
4. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer.
5. Go to their blog and tell them you’ve tagged them.
6. No stuff in the tagging section about you are tagged if you are reading this. You legitimately have to tag 11 people.

So, without further ado, here are 11 random things about me:

1. I eat my food really, really fast. Like...it's scary.
2. When I was younger, I had my adenoids removed.
3. I met Mel Gibson at 75 Chestnut several years ago.
4. I'm Irish, English and Scottish.
5. When I was little, my dream was to become a singer/songwriter.
6. My first job was at Honey Dew Donuts (I was 15...and gained about 14 pounds).

Source: trulyweddingblog.com
7. My middle name is Patrice.
8. I've been to nine Hanson concerts (I was one cool teenager!).

Source: www.theykid.com

9. I've never seen "The Wizard of Oz."
10. I'm obsessed with Ina Garten.
11. The first time I went to Krispy Kreme, I ate seven doughnuts in one sitting.

And here are the questions Colleen asked me:

1. First thing that comes to mind when you read the word: work… Busy.
2. Fill in the blank: Today is going to be a long one.
3. Beer, wine, or a cocktail? All 3.
4. Favorite holiday? Christmas.
5. Guilty pleasure? The entire Real Housewives' series.

Source: www.dirjournal.com

6. Celebrity crush growing up? Taylor Hanson (don't judge).
7. Food or meal you couldn’t live without? Bagels.
8. Have you ever had a dream with a famous guest star? Who was it? I don't think I have...
9. What did you want to be when you grew up? Several things, including a teacher or singer (I also wanted to be a gas station attendant - my younger mind thought being surrounded by candy all day would be amazing).
10. Favorite song to belt out in the car? Gotye - "Somebody That I Used to Know"
11. First concert? Hanson.......

Now - tag, you're it!
Amanda from Pickles & Honey, Molly from Cheap Beets, Melissa from The Foodies at Work, Sydney from Crepes of Wrath, Katie from The Small Boston Kitchen, Bianca from Confessions of a Chocoholic, Lillian from Lillian's Test Kitchen, Theresa from Nurturing the Natural Mama, Amanda from Tales of a Kitchen Misfit, Pam from Cave Cibum, and Fiona from A Boston Food Diary.

Here are my 11 questions for you ladies:
1. Most embarrassing moment?
2. Favorite movie of all time?
3. If you could have dinner with any famous person, living or dead, who would it be?
4. Your favorite vice?
5. Milk, dark or white chocolate?
6. Pancakes or waffles?
7. Place you'd love to travel to?
8. If you could be eating anything right now, you'd be eating __________.
9. Favorite book and/or author?
10. Pinterest or Instagram? 
11. Favorite part about being a blogger?

Have fun!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Eat This: Buffalo Fried Brussels Sprouts at Highland Kitchen

Buffalo Fried Brussels Sprouts ($6.95) at Highland Kitchen. 

This innovative twist on buffalo chicken bites is incredibly addictive. I happen to love both Brussels sprouts and buffalo sauce, but even those who aren't fans of the bite-sized cabbages can enjoy this dish. The crispy, saucy exterior complements the soft, "meaty" interior surprisingly well. Dunked in creamy, blue cheese dressing, these spicy bites of heaven are worth the wait for a table at this consistently popular Somerville joint.

Highland Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Italian Tofu 'Meatballs'

On Monday, I had planned to make a big dinner. A warm, comforting, cold-killing dinner that would also invite Z back home from snowboarding with a wonderful aroma. But by the time I got home from work, I wanted nothing more than a box of tissues and some orange juice. My motivation for cooking had died.

However, I did a good amount of recipe searching on Monday in preparation for the dinner, and had stumbled upon a recipe for tofu "meatballs." We had a package of tofu in our refrigerator, and all of the other ingredients that the recipe called for. So, when Z and I got back from work last night, we decided to make them (for full disclosure, Z did most of the work).

Italian Tofu Meatballs
Yields: 6 meatballs
Adapted slightly from Cooks.com
-1 lb. firm tofu
-1/4 onion, diced
-1/4 tsp. oregano
-Salt and black pepper, to taste
-Dash of garlic powder
-1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
-1 egg
-1 tbsp. dried parsley flakes
Marinara sauce (we used vodka sauce from Trader Joe's)
Grated Parmesan cheese

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice tofu and drain well. 
2.) In a large bowl, combine tofu, onion, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic powder, bread crumbs, egg and parsley. Mix well with a fork, mashing to blend ingredients. Shape mixture into balls, squeezing tightly.
3.) Place meatballs in a single layer in a shallow baking pan that has been lightly oiled.
4.) Spoon desired sauce over meatballs. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes.



Happiness, in a "meatball."

Serve with your choice of pasta (and more sauce...and more cheese).

I'm usually not a fan of tofu-turned-into-meat-things, but this is one recipe I will be keeping. The meatballs didn't taste fake to me at all - the seasonings in this recipe really helped the meatballs to taste like...well, meatballs. The texture is much softer and more fragile, but that's expected with tofu. 

If you're looking to eat healthier, eat less meat, or just try something new, I highly recommend making these meatballs.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cheap Cures for the Common Cold

Yesterday, I was supposed to go snowboarding. But instead, I stayed home and nursed a lingering cold/flu-thing. I can't afford to be sick for the week ahead, so a day at home in my pajamas was exactly what I needed.

The only promise I made to myself yesterday was to not leave the house...which only had to do with pure and utter laziness. With that being said, I had to be creative with the meals I ate as we were low on groceries - particularly nutritious groceries.

With my breakfast (a chocolate chip bagel + peanut butter), I whipped up a quick and healthy smoothie in my food processor. In the mix was 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries; 1 banana; 1/2 cup orange juice; and two spoonfuls of plain, non-fat yogurt.

The end result was a Vitamin C-packed smoothie that was bursting with blueberry flavor. It was a great way to start my day and help curb my cold right from the get-go. 

As dinner approached, my appetite was still only half there, but I was in the mood for something warm and comforting. Using what we had in the house, I threw together an improvisational soup that ended up being quite flavorful and satisfying.

Easy Chickpea, Corn, and Pearl Onion Soup
Yields: 3-4 servings
-2 tbsp. olive oil
-1 (heaping) tbsp. minced garlic
-2 cups frozen pearl onions
-1 cup frozen corn kernels
-Cayenne pepper
-Dried parsley
-Salt and black pepper
-1 16oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
-Splash of white cooking wine
-1 cup vegetable stock
-1 cup water
Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

1.) Heat olive oil in a large soup pan over medium heat; add garlic and stir. Let cook for about 20 minutes before adding pearl onions and corn. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
2.) Season vegetables and garlic with desired amounts of cayenne, cumin, turmeric, parsley, salt and pepper; stir. Add chickpeas and white wine; cook for 3-4 minutes.
3.) Add vegetable stock and water; stir, and reduce heat to medium-low. Allow soup to cook for at least 5 minutes more, before serving. Serve with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.

Sorry for the sideways photo. Blame Blogger.

The spicy seasonings mixed with the garlic and hearty vegetables was the perfect combination to help ease my cold symptoms. I'm looking forward to leftovers for lunch today!

How was your weekend?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Chocolate and Beer Tour

Speaking of beer and chocolate...guess what I did on Sunday?

I went on the Chocolate and Beer Tour of Beacon Hill & Back Bay with two of my good girl friends, which is hosted by our other good friend, Bill Hall.

This walking tour takes you to several well-known spots in Boston. Basically, you get to eat chocolate, sip beer, and visit some of the coolest spots in the Beacon Hill and Back Bay areas for only $35 per person (price of beer is not included due to Massachusetts law). 

The tour starts out at Beacon Hill Chocolates, where we tried a dark chocolate ganache truffle and an almond truffle (neither are pictured below). Since this was the meeting spot for the tour group, we had plenty of time before the tour officially started to browse this impressive local shop.

Our second stop was at Charles Street Liquors, where we sampled several brews, including Geary's Hampshire Special, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, and Sixpoint Deisel. 

After spending some time perusing and tasting Charles Street Liquors' beers, we walked on over to The Sevens for a pint.

There, we had their Sevens' tap, which was Harpoon Munich Dark.

Once we got several beers in our stomachs, Bill took us through the Public Gardens (with some history lessons along the way) and to The Rattlesnake for another pint. There, Bill suggested ordering an appetizer. He sold the food at The Rattlesnake so well that we decide to order a plate of nachos to share among the table. 

These were by far the best nachos I've ever had. The chips were clearly homemade, as was the cheese sauce, and the toppings were fresh and plentiful.

One beer Bill recommended buying back at Charles Street Liquors was the Dogfish Head Noble Rot. Brewed with grapes used in making white wine (i.e. viognier and pinot gris), this was one refreshing and flavorful beer - and, thankfully, it was on tap at The Rattlesnake. If you're a white wine lover like me, then you will love this beer. 

Our second to last stop on the tour was Max Brenner, the ultimate chocolate destination in this part of Boston. There, we sampled some luxurious warm capsules of white, dark, and milk chocolate, along with some ice cold, creamy chocolate martinis. 

The girls!
We also had plenty of time to peruse the Max Brenner gift shop, which was really impressive. We even got a chocolate sample while we browsed!

Our final stop on the tour was at Buhowski Tavern, where I enjoyed an Otter Creek Stovepipe Porter

Overall, the Chocolate and Beer Tour was informative, fun, and oh-so-tasty. I mean, can an afternoon filled with chocolate and beer really be that bad? It was also a great way to experience stores I'd probably never walk into otherwise. Now, I already plan to go back to Beacon Hill Chocolates for Easter candy!

What's your favorite way to spend a Sunday afternoon?

Disclaimer: Although I was fortunate enough to go on this tour free of charge (I paid for my own beer), the opinions expressed in this post are honest and 100 percent my own. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Drink This: Boulevard Chocolate Ale

Last night, Z and I enjoyed an after-dinner drink at Russell House Tavern in Harvard Square. We both ordered one of their three rotating taps: the Boulevard Chocolate Ale.

If you're a chocolate lover - and a beer fan - then this beer just might change your life forever. Bursting with bright notes of high quality, rich chocolate, this surprisingly light ale was packed with flavor. Hints of vanilla and caramel complemented the silky chocolate beautifully, while the ale ended with a crisp, refreshing finish. At 9.1% abv., we both only enjoyed one glass - but we will be buying a bottle (or two) soon to enjoy at home whenever we wish.

Are you a beer fan? What's currently your favorite brew to sip on?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Special Valentine's Dinner

This Valentine's Day, Z and I decided to stay in, be comfy, and make a delicious homemade meal. 

We started with a simple spread of sliced baguette with chocolate cheddar cheese (from Trader Joe's...you must try this), dipping oil, and large greek olives.

Then, we had heaping bowls of Fresh Asparagus Soup.

For our entree, we had Tofu au Vin - a dish I've been eager to make for quite some time now (and am so glad I finally did!).

For dessert, I whipped up a semi-homemade chocolate cream pie - complete with Devil's Food chocolate pudding, a pre-made frozen pie crust, and homemade Bailey's-infused whipped cream. To make the whipped cream, I simply poured some whipping cream into a bowl with a dash each of confectioner's sugar, vanilla extract and Bailey's.

To wash all of this food down, we cracked open a bottle of Noel Baladin, which is from a brewery we visited while we were in Rome. The bottle, which we randomly found at a liquor store in New Jersey, was from 2005. Let's just say that this beer ages very well. 

Our romantic dinner in was the perfect way to celebrate our fourth Valentine's Day together. 

How did you celebrate Valentine's Day?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Baked Chocolate-Orange Doughnuts

My first thought on Wednesday morning when I woke up was: Doughnuts. Must. Make. Doughnuts.

I was working from home that day, and I had an intense urge to take full advantage of the doughnut pan I got as a gift for Christmas...in 2010. I'd been eager to use my doughnut pan all this time, but just never found the right occasion for making doughnuts. For some reason, this past Wednesday, doughnuts just had to happen. And so they did. 

Baked Chocolate-Orange Doughnuts
Yields: 6 doughnuts
-1 cup whole wheat flour
-1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/2 cup vanilla soy milk
-1/2 cup packed brown sugar
-1 egg
-4 teaspoons butter, melted
-1 teaspoon orange extract

Frosting (optional):
-1 oz. bittersweet baking chocolate, melted

1.) Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Coat doughnut pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray.
2.) In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, combine milk, sugar, egg, butter and orange extract until smooth. Add milk mixture to flour mixture; mix until blended and smooth. 
3.) Fill each doughnut cup approximately 3/4 full. Bake at 325 degrees for 13 minutes or until doughnuts spring back when touched. Allow to cool slightly before removing from pan; let cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Have you ever had one of those chocolate oranges? You know...the one that breaks open into slices, like a real orange? Well, the flavor of these doughnuts is insanely similar to those tasty chocolate oranges. Just sayin'.

Since these puppies are made with whole wheat flour and are baked (versus fried), they are also fairly healthy. Can I get an amen?

Have you ever made homemade doughnuts? Please share your recipes!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Indian and Nepali Cuisine in Teele Square

The night after the Super Bowl, Z and I were in no mood to cook. We had recently gone on a daily-deal-buying-rampage, so we decided to use one of our coupons that was close to expiration. The coupon we decided to use (from Groupon) was for a three-course meal at Masala in Somerville.

The deal got us one appetizer, two entrees and two desserts - for only $21! Per Massachusetts' law, alcohol was not included.

Our meal started with some complimentary papadum and the typical accompanying sauces and chutney.

To drink, I had a glass of pinot noir ($7). Heads up: Masala has $4 drink specials (wine and cocktails)!

For our appetizer, we split the Vegetarian Platter ($7.95), which came with samosas, pakoras, aloo tikka and more papadam. 

Z and I tend to overstuff ourselves at every Indian restaurant we go to, so we tried to play it safe with our entrees. I went for the Malai Kofta ($11.95), and ate half of it (I had the other half for lunch the next day). Malai Kofta are vegetable balls cooked in a creamy nut sauce with fresh herbs and spices. I ordered mine "spicy," and it was wonderfully seasoned without being overly hot. 

Both of our entrees came with Basmati rice, and we also ordered some Plain Paratha ($2.95), which is whole wheat bread cooked in a Tawa. My entree was intensely flavorful and soul-warming - I could easily have drank the sauce the vegetable balls were cooked in. The rice and Paratha also helped to calm the spiciness from the sauce, which was a welcome addition to the meal. 

For my dessert, I went with the pistachio ice cream (I didn't jot down the price, but I believe it was $2.95). Please note that it took use quite some time to find our waiter when it came time to get a dessert menu. This surprised us, since he was attentive the entire night up to that point, but it was frustrating. By the time we finally saw a dessert menu, Z got his to go and we just shared the ice cream at the table. 

Overall, our experience at Masala was a good one. The food was very well seasoned, and their menu was chocked full of authentic Indian and Nepali dishes. The location also can't be beat: Located in Teele Square (right outside of Davis Square), street parking is easy to find - and it's also pretty accessible from the Davis Square T stop.

I happen to love Teele Square. Have you ever been? What's your favorite restaurant/place to go there? I'm always looking for more reasons to go back!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Polenta With Asparagus, Tomatoes and Parmesan

I had planned to share with you what we ate and drank while watching the Super Bowl, but...I'm still too bitter about the Patriots losing to talk about it. So instead, let's chat about a winning dish, shall we?

Last week, Z and I were both in the mood to stay in and have a nice dinner after work. I had found this recipe online earlier that day, which ended up being our inspiration for that night's meal. 

I mixed our polenta with some white wine, salt, pepper and dried herbs (and only cooked it on the stove top, versus grilling it after), but the rest of the recipe we basically kept the same.

The end result was a surprisingly easy, healthy dinner that was also incredibly delicious. I mean, how can you go wrong with white wine, Balsamic vinegar and Parmesan cheese?

Are you a polenta fan? Do you have any polenta recipes you'd like to share? I'm always looking for new ways to prepare it!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Simply Delicious Local Food

I first discovered Simply Delish when I was a freelance writer for The Nashua Telegraph a few years ago. I interviewed the founder and owner, Teresa Stauber, for a feature article about her business - which is based in Manchester, N.H. The article focused on Stauber's dedication to local, fresh ingredients and her passion for selling a quality, delicious product.

The article brought Stauber so much success - in the form of new, hungry customers - that she recently decided to reach back out to me and give me an update on her growing business. Knowing the success was well-deserved, I asked Stauber if I could share her products with all of you. Thankfully, she obliged.

One of the local businesses that carries Simply Delish's products is The Meat House in Brookline. Stauber was kind enough to leave me a few samples of her fresh salads there last week - and the tasting party began soon thereafter.

The first salad I tried was the Israeli Couscous Salad. The plump pearls of couscous were mixed with flavorful ingredients such as scallions, turmeric, chickpeas, cranberries, parsley and orange juice. This was by far my favorite salad of the bunch - full of varying textures and spices, while being a light and versatile side dish. 


Next up was the Spicy Asian Salad. Made with soy sauce, sesame oil, cayenne pepper, and scallions - to name a few - this salad was packed with spicy Asian flavors. Due to the several different kinds of oils in it, however, leftovers a few days later were a little too drenched for my liking, but the flavors managed to hold on strong.

Simply Delish's Three Potato Salad simply blew my mind. While it was rich and creamy, like a good potato salad should be, it also avoided being overly heavy. It was also made with three different kinds of potatoes, including sweet potato (as well as red and white). 

The last salad I sampled was the simple yet tasty Feta Orzo Salad. This salad reminded me that I definitely do not get enough orzo in my diet. The salad was chocked full of crumbled feta and dried parsley, with few-and-far-between bits of sundried tomatoes and kalamata olives. Being an olive lover, I would have killed for larger bites of the salty olives, but this was still a successful side dish thanks to the plentiful, salty feta cheese.

Simply Delish products can be found at several markets, butcher shops and gourmet food stores throughout New Hampshire and Massachusetts. For a full list of locations, go here.

Have you tried any new local products lately? Or do you have a favorite local food product/business? I happen to love Samira's Homemade!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Super Bowl Snack Ideas

This is the first year I’ve ever been excited for the Super Bowl. Normally, the only things I’m remotely looking forward to come Super Bowl Sunday are the snacks and the company. The football game? I couldn’t care less.

But this year…this year is different. I have a lot of good friends in New York who will be rooting for the Giants, and a lot of good friends here in Boston who will be rooting for the Patriots. It will be a fun, competitive game with plenty of beer and plenty of good eats.

If you’re having people over for the game (like we are), or are heading to a Super Bowl party elsewhere, here are some of my favorite recipes that would be even more delicious consumed while watching such an exciting game.


Are you excited for the Super Bowl this year? If so, which team are you rooting for?