Monday, December 23, 2013

Rialto & Muir Glen Organic Giveaway Winner

Happy Monday!

Thank you to everyone who entered my Muir Glen Organic Tomatoes and Rialto giveaway last week. We officially have a winner! (The winner was chosen via Random.org).

The winner is...

Julie!

"I love to make goulash [with tomatoes]."

Congrats, Julie!

And for all those who celebrate, may you have a very Merry Christmas! We're headed to New Hampshire tomorrow to celebrate Christmas Eve and day with my immediate family. I can't wait!



Friday, December 20, 2013

Salted Christmas Stout Cookies

It's not officially Christmas until the holiday M&Ms hit store shelves. The red and green chocolate candies have been a part of my holiday traditions for as long as I can remember. So earlier this week, when I realized I'd done no baking with this nostalgic candy yet this year, I got to work in the kitchen.

And since we had Founders Breakfast Stout on tap at our house, I decided to throw some of that into the mix as well. Because...why not?

Salted Christmas Stout Cookies | The Economical Eater

Salted Christmas Stout Cookies | The Economical Eater

Salted Christmas Stout Cookies
Yields: About 1 dozen
Adapted from CraftBeer.com
-1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1 stick butter, softened
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-1/4 cup granulated sugar
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1 large egg
-3/4 cup stout (I used Founder's Breakfast Stout)
-1 cup holiday M&Ms
-Sea salt (I used fleur de sel)

Directions:
1.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.) In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. 
3.) In a larger bowl, beat the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and egg and beat well.
4.) Alternate the flour and the beer with the egg mixture until combined. Fold in M&Ms.
5.) Using an ice cream scoop, scoop the dough onto the prepared sheet (you can also chill the dough for 30 minutes before doing this step). Sprinkle a little bit of sea salt over each cookie. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until the top springs back lightly when touched. Cool completely.


Salted Christmas Stout Cookies | The Economical Eater

The end result was a soft-baked cookie chocked full of those festive M&Ms. The flavor of the stout is slightly apparent, while allowing the cocoa flavor to be the star. And the sea salt? Well, that just adds a lovely salty-and-sweet combination to each and every bite.

What's your favorite holiday candy?

P.S. In case you missed it, I'm giving away a bunch of goodies from Muir Glen Organic Tomatoes and Rialto restaurant. You have through Sunday (12/22) to enter!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Rialto and Muir Glen Tomatoes Giveaway

If you like tomatoes, Jody Adams, and Rialto, then this giveaway is for you.

Unfortunately, tomatoes are not fresh, juicy, and delicious year-round - that's where Muir Glen Organic Tomatoes comes in. These canned tomatoes are picked at the peak of ripeness once a year in California and canned within hours. This method locks in freshness and fantastic tomato flavor. Just last night, I used two cans of their Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes to make a simple pasta sauce, and the flavor was fantastic. It's clear fresh tomatoes are used in their products, and somehow, Muir Glen tomatoes avoid having that tin can aftertaste. 


Rialto Restaurant & Muir Glen Organic Tomatoes giveaway | The Economical Eater

In an effort to prove that we can still enjoy tomatoes year-round, Muir Glen asked me if I'd like to offer a giveaway to you all. The giveaway involves loads of their tomatoes, as well as several special items from Chef Jody Adams of Rialto (and TRADE), a James Beard Award-winning chef.

So, what's up for grabs? Here's the lengthy list:

-$50 gift card to Rialto
-Signed copy of Adams' book, In the Hands of a Chef: Cooking with Jody Adams of Rialto Restaurant
-Nine cans of Muir Glen Organic Tomatoes (including Diced Tomatoes, Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes, and Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes)
-Bamboo serving tongs
-Canvas tote bag
-Guy Fieri can opener


Rialto Restaurant & Muir Glen Organic Tomatoes giveaway | The Economical Eater

To enter, please leave a comment on this post with your favorite dish to make using tomatoes. For an extra entry, tweet: "I want to #win a gift package from @Rialto02138, @MuirGlenOrganic, and @MichellePC!" Please leave a second comment with your tweet. 

I will pick a winner on Monday, December 23rd. Good luck!

*I received the same gift package in return for hosting this giveaway. All opinions are my own.

This giveaway is now closed. 


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Very Full Tart

Last week, Z and I went to Z's godfather's house to check out his brand new kitchen. While there, I spent more time swooning over the Jerusalem and Plenty cookbooks (by Yotam Ottolenghi) he had out on the counter. I've been hearing a lot of good things about these cookbooks...and now I can see why. The photos are gorgeous and the recipes are impressive yet approachable. So, when Z's godfather asked if I wanted to borrow one of them, I quickly said yes.

The book I ended up borrowing was Plenty, and I decided to make a variation of the Very Full Tart recipe when my cousins came over for dinner. Knowing everyone at the table loved all things eggs, vegetables, and cheese, I knew this would be a hit. And it was.

Very Full Tart | The Economical Eater

Very Full Tart
Yields: 2 tarts (8-10 servings)
Adapted from Plenty
-2 red bell peppers*
-2 yellow bell peppers*
-Olive oil
-2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
-Salt and pepper
-2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
-2 bay leaves
-8 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced
-2 frozen deep-dish pie crusts 
-Fresh thyme
-2/3 cup whole milk ricotta
-8 ounces feta 
-4 medium eggs
-2 cups heavy cream

Directions:
1.) Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Use a small serrated knife to cut around the stems of the peppers and lift it out along with the seeds. Shake the peppers to remove any remaining seeds. Place the peppers in an ovenproof dish, drizzle with a little of the olive oil, and put on the top shelf of the oven.
2.) After 12 minutes, place the cut sweet potatoes on a baking sheet in an even layer. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Place in the oven on the rack underneath the peppers. After about 12 more minutes, turn the peppers and toss the potatoes to ensure everything cooks evenly.
3.) After an additional 10-12 minutes, the peppers and potatoes should be cooked. Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Cover the peppers with foil and cool, then peel and slice into strips.
4.) Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. Saute the onions with the bay leaves and some salt for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they turn brown, soft, and sweet. Remove from the heat, discard bay leaves, and set aside.
5.) In a separate, smaller pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat. Add mushrooms, and cook until browned, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat.
6.) Scatter the cooked onion evenly over the bottom of both crusts and top with roasted vegetables and mushrooms. Scatter thyme leaves over. Next, dot the vegetables with small chunks of both cheeses.
7.) Whisk the eggs and cream in a bowl with some salt and pepper. Carefully pour this mixture into the tart. Place in the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the filling sets and turns golden. Remove and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.

*You may not need all of the peppers, as the tart gets too full; I had about 1/4 of a roasted pepper left (and used it in eggs the next morning!).


Very Full Tart | The Economical Eater

This tart is chocked full of flavor - and ingredients, as you can see. The sweet peppers, onions, and potato mixed with the meaty mushrooms and tangy feta - followed by the creamy ricotta and eggs - was an incredible combination of flavors and textures. Z and I aren't usually big leftover people, but we plowed through the leftovers of this.

I highly suggest serving this rich tart with a simple green salad. We served an arugula salad on the side, and it provided a great balance to all of the tart's richness.

Also, the directions for this recipe may seem long, but these tarts were surprisingly easy to whip up within an hour or so. You could also make them ahead of time and just heat them through before serving. 

Which cookbooks are you loving lately?


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

One Year In

Exactly one year ago today, I told you guys that I left my full-time cubicle job to further pursue a career in food writing and professional cooking. So, how did the first year go? Surprisingly swimmingly, with lots of learned lessons along the way.

I've broken down the best parts of working for myself this past year, and the not-so-great parts that have come along with it (although the good definitely outweighs the bad). If you're contemplating freelancing full-time/working for yourself, I hope these things I've learned over the last 12 months will be helpful to you!

The Pros and Cons of Freelancing | TheEconomicalEater.com
Yes, that is booze. Backbar has free wi-fi from 4-6 p.m. (except on Tuesdays)!

The Pros:
-Every day is different. I currently work with eight different companies and publications, plus manage this here blog and my own private catering business. With that being said, it's nearly impossible to have two days that are the same. I love that. It's definitely not for everyone, but I've learned a non-routine work schedule works for me.

-Flexibility. I make my own schedule - I mean, how bad that can be? I thankfully have an immense amount of self-discipline, so I'm up early and typically work through 6 p.m., but I could sleep in if I wanted to (and I have, some days). Doctors' appointments, haircuts, etc. are also worlds easier to schedule and get to now.

-Loving what I do. This one was probably obvious, right? None of this feels like work. I get to eat, cook, write, and do online marketing every single day. I am beyond lucky and grateful!

-Meeting new people. Everyone always asks me: "Do you miss talking to people?" But I seriously have met more people in this last year than I ever did working at a company. I've been to more lunch dates, meetings, interviews (for articles I'm writing), blog events, etc. than I ever had the time (or the motivation) to do before.

The Cons:
-Inconsistent pay. I knew this before going into freelancing full-time, but it definitely takes some getting used to. And my eight jobs could turn into five tomorrow - there's never any guarantee. Making a living as a freelancer is 100% possible, but it isn't easy, and you need to be prepared for really great income months...and really bad ones.

-Never leaving work. Since what I'm currently doing doesn't feel like work, I check my email anywhere and everywhere I go. I take business calls off-hours (meaning, outside of the 9-5 block). I have even done a little work on the weekends (not including cooking gigs). It can be hard to turn off my "work mode," but I am working on it!

-Lessons learned. Actually, I see learning lessons as a pro, but the mistakes I've made this year are sort of under the pro and con categories. I think making mistakes is a great thing (as long as you learn from them), but when you work for yourself, you're the only one to blame. Let's just say when some people discover you freelance full-time, they automatically assume you have all the time in the world to work for them...for very little pay. I've taken a few low-paying writing jobs and gigs since I started freelancing - basically just to help make ends meet - but I thankfully learned early on that no job is worth compromising my credibility for. I left my corporate job to pursue the career I wanted, not to just make a few bucks in my yoga pants at home. My patience eventually paid off.

The bottom line is this: I wake up everyday excited to get to work. That has never happened before. (Well, at least not since I worked at Honey Dew Donuts when I was a teenager. That job rocked!).

I realize my work life may not be as successful in 2014 as it was in 2013. I am hopeful that it will be (if not more so), but you just never know. All I know is that working hard has really, really paid off so far, so I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing. Oh, and hopefully I will do more cooking for this blog in 2014 - that's my #1 goal. ;)

Did you make any career changes in 2013?


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Moroccan-Spiced Lentil & Veggie Stew

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! Our's was super relaxing, and we followed up a four-day stint on the Cape with a short brewery crawl in Vermont (our first stop was documented here). It was a lot of fun, but I was happy to be home Sunday night.

And what better way to welcome ourselves back home than with a big pot of healthy soup? I was in the mood for something warm and nutritious - but also full of flavor - and that's how this soup was born. Full of warming spices, hearty lentils, and nutritious vegetables, I am beyond thankful that we have so much leftover. This soup will also freeze well, so our leftovers should last us all winter long.



Moroccan-Spiced Lentil & Veggie Stew
Yields: 8-10 servings
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1/2 large yellow onion, diced
-4 medium carrots, chopped
-1 clove garlic, minced
-Cinnamon (about 1 teaspoon)
-Turmeric (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
-Cumin (about 1 tablespoon)
-Ground coriander (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
-Pinch of cayenne pepper
-Salt and pepper
-1 box (32 ounces) low-sodium vegetable broth
-1 1/2 cups water*
-5 white button mushrooms, sliced
-1 3/4 cups lentils
-1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
-2 cups frozen spinach, thawed
-1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Directions:
1.) Heat oil in a large sauce pot over medium heat; add onions and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. 
2.) Stir in garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add spices, and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute.
3.) Add broth, water, mushrooms, lentils, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally for about 35-40 minutes. 
4.) Stir in spinach and peas and cook for an additional 10 minutes, or until spinach and peas are cooked and lentils are tender.

*You may need to add more water as the soup cooks/thickens, and especially when you reheat the soup the next day. Just add enough water to achieve your desired consistency.



Warning: this soup is filling. We ate big bowls alongside some salad and rolls, and the soup alone would have been plenty. I highly recommend topping off your bowl with some hot sauce, too (if you're into that kind of thing).


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

10 Things I Am Thankful For

'Tis the season to reflect on what we are thankful for and, this year, I am feeling especially grateful. With that being said, I wanted to share just ten of the things I am thankful for this year with all of you. I could go far beyond ten, but I'd rather not bore you all to death.

10 Things I Am Thankful For:

1.) My health. This is probably an obvious one, but without our health, we seriously have nothing. I am grateful to wake up everyday feeling healthy mentally, physically, and emotionally (despite the random, normal illnesses and moods that creep up every year).

2.) My family and friends. This year, my family has officially extended to include Z's family, and I couldn't be happier. I seriously lucked out. His family has been nothing but welcoming and warm since the day I met them. My family also rocks, and it's so fantastic (and fun!) to be an auntie. Z and I are also so lucky to have a group of friends - near and far - who we can always count on and have a great time with.

My youngest niece gorging on a cupcake.

Me, my other niece, and my nephew jumping into a leaf pile.

3.) My job. Remember when I quit the corporate world a year ago? It was horrifying and incredibly exciting at the same time. Today, I am doing nothing but writing, eating, cooking, and marketing for food-centric companies for a living. I will provide a longer update soon, but I am so, so, so thankful to do what I love every single day.

4.) Bagels with cream cheese and tomato. My favorite breakfast treat of all time (Cafe Rustica turned me on to the tomato addition). There's seriously nothing like a crispy bagel slathered with cream cheese and topped with fresh, juicy tomato. I am only not thankful that I don't have one sitting in front of me right now.


5.) Our home. I refer to our house as our "little slice of heaven in Somerville." We put a lot of work into our place, and we truly appreciate it every single day. I'm especially grateful for our home, our security, and our warmth when I think of the many people who have recently lost their homes, like in Washington, Illinois, the Philippines, etc.

Our white picket fence, right after it was finished.

6.) Debt. Sallie Mae and I are not friends (let's just say I owe her a lot of money), but the debt I have was well worth it. This may sound really odd, but every month when I go to pay her, I am grateful for the experiences I had in college, and all of the friends I made. I am still so close with many of my college friends today, and I would have paid double what I did if I had to go back and do it all over again.

7.) Traveling. My job allows me the flexibility to make my own schedule, which makes taking vacation time dangerously easy (thankfully, my bank account makes it not so easy). But having the freedom and finances to travel several times throughout the year - whether it be a short drive from home or a plane ride - is something that I really cherish.

Me and Z on a bike ride in Chianti.

8.) Boston. We've had a rough year here in Boston, but - as expected - we came out on top. It's been amazing to see the city come together in times of tragedy and success (hey, Red Sox!), and I really have a new appreciation for this city. I'm also thankful for all of the heroes - police officers, doctors, civilians, etc. - that helped save so many lives the day of the Boston Marathon bombings. If it weren't for them, a lot of people would have been much worse off then they already were.

9.) Craft beer. This stuff just makes my life better, and I'm so glad Z (a self-proclaimed beer geek) got me into it. I would much rather drink a stronger, delicious stout vs. 10 light beers any day (apparently, I am not in college anymore). Having the financial freedom (and a healthy liver) to try a slew of delicious beers on a regular basis is pretty fantastic.

10.) Z. I know it's cheesy, but I saved the best for last. I mean, it's pretty darn awesome to get to spend every single day with your best friend. I am beyond grateful I found a guy who's not only wonderful himself, but is perfect for me.


Your turn! What are you thankful for?

Happy Thanksgiving!


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Foundry on Elm's Fall Menu Preview

Last week, I was invited to sample some dishes from Foundry on Elm's new fall menu. Foundry is one of our favorite spots in the 'Ville for good food and craft beer, so I was excited to check out Foundry's new Executive Chef, Jonathan Schick's, latest creations. Each of our courses were also paired with a libation, which...well, makes every meal that much better.

Our meal began with a Yellow Solstice cocktail, made with golden beets that had been muddled with honey, rose water, fennel bitters, gin, lavender liqueur, lemon, and cava. It was complex, yet really well done - sweet, tangy, and not too strong on the alcohol.

Foundry on Elm in Somerville | The Economical Eater

Our cocktail was paired with the Roasted Beet Salad, complete with a Vermont goat cheese fritter, baby greens, beet jam, and citrus. I loved the creamy goat cheese fritter paired with the sweet beet jam, and the salad was well-dressed without being soaked. 

Foundry on Elm in Somerville | The Economical Eater

Our next course was just a quick taste of a whipped potato, mushroom, and cheese croquette, which was basically flavorful mashed potatoes fried into a ball. Let's just say it was delicious. 

Foundry on Elm in Somerville | The Economical Eater

Following the croquette was the Winter Squash Risotto, made with sugar pumpkin butter, bitter greens, and parmesan cheese. This dish was paired with a Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar. I'm a sucker for risotto when it's done correctly, and this was cooked almost perfectly. I also loved the bites of sugar pumpkin throughout, and the beer paired well with this comforting dish.

Foundry on Elm in Somerville | The Economical Eater

After the risotto, we enjoyed Pan-Seared Cod served with soubise, parsley paint, lardons (mine was sans lardons), leeks, and red bliss potatoes. This dish was paired with a 2011 Melville Chardonnay. The fish was perfectly flaky and well-seasoned, while the parsley "paint" below - mixed with the soubise - provided a delightful sauce that rounded out the whole dish.

Foundry on Elm in Somerville | The Economical Eater

My omnivore dining companions enjoyed a meat dish for their last course, but Foundry was kind enough to make me a vegetarian-friendly dish: Parisian Gnocchi. (Foundry was extremely accommodating to my pescatarian ways the entire evening, and the staff was clearly informed beforehand which diner had which dietary restriction. It was very well-organized, and much appreciated). 

Anyway, about the gnocchi: it was served with a cauliflower puree and Brussels sprouts (a winter favorite of mine). It was also paired with a 2011 Produttori del Barberesco, Nebbiolo del Alba It. The gnocchi was really done well, and I loved the crispy exterior paired with the pillowy interior. The silky cauliflower puree also went nicely with the gnocchi and Brussels sprouts.

Foundry on Elm in Somerville | The Economical Eater

Our eating marathon ended with a Warm Gingerbread Spice Cake, paired with a Lustau PX Jerez. The cake was delicious, although I couldn't tell if the extra crispy exterior was from reheating or over-baking. Regardless, the flavors were still spot-on and, being a big gingerbread fan, I'm happy to see its seasonal return. 

Foundry on Elm in Somerville | The Economical Eater

We really enjoyed a fantastic meal at Foundry on Elm, and I'm excited to try the rest of their fall menu. 

Which do you prefer: pumpkin or gingerbread?

This meal was complimentary, but all opinions are my own.



Foundry on Elm on Urbanspoon


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Carrot and Mushroom Hand Pies

Um, am I the only one who had no idea Thanksgiving is next week?? I found out yesterday. I honestly cannot believe we're already almost through November.

This year, we're celebrating Thanksgiving with Z's family. His parents rented a house in Cape Cod, and we'll spend a few glorious days relaxing, binge eating, and imbibing. I cannot wait!

These hand pies would make a fantastic addition to any Thanksgiving festivities. They're filling enough to be a vegetarian entree (with some sides), but they'd also make a great appetizer. They're also surprisingly simple to whip up, which makes them ideal for when you're already spending a full day cooking and prepping in the kitchen.

Carrot & Mushroom Hand Pies | The Economical Eater

Carrot & Mushroom Hand Pies
Yields: 8 servings
For the filling:
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1/2 yellow onion, diced
-4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
-5 white button mushrooms, chopped
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1/8 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
-1 teaspoon ground cumin
-1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme
-Salt and pepper, to taste

For the dough:
-4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-2 teaspoons salt
-1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces
-1 cup cold water
-1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Directions:
Filling:
1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.) Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, and cook until it begins to soften, about 4-5 minutes. Add carrots and mushrooms, and cook until carrots begin to soften and mushrooms are browned, about 5-6 minutes.
3.) Add garlic, and cook for about 30 seconds. Then, add nutmeg, cumin, thyme, salt, and pepper; stir, taste for seasonings, and adjust as necessary. Remove pan from heat.

Dough:
1.) In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Using your fingers, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Add just enough cold water so dough comes together.
2.) Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, and divide in half. Knead each half 2 or 3 times to form smooth balls.
3.) Cut each ball into four equal pieces. Cover with plastic; let stand until slightly risen, 20 minutes. Shape into balls.

Hand Pies:
1.) On a floured surface, roll out each piece of dough into an 8-inch round. Divide filling evenly among rounds, spreading it over half of each and leaving a 1/2-inch border.
2.) Brush border of bottom halves with water; fold top halves over filling to close completely. Press edges to seal with your fingertips, then crimp firmly with a fork.
3.) Place hand pies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush tops with egg wash, avoiding crimped edges. Bake until golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.


Carrot & Mushroom Hand Pies | The Economical Eater

I loved these buttery, flaky pies filled with sweet carrots and "meaty" mushrooms. The hint of fresh nutmeg also gave these an almost autumn-like flavor, too. I clearly over-kneaded my dough, which is why my pies look a little extra rustic, but just follow the directions above and you should be good to go.

What are you doing for Thanksgiving this year?


Friday, November 15, 2013

Wagamama Gift Card Winner

Happy Friday! I am just checking in real quick to announce the winner of the $25 wagamama gift card giveaway. The winner was chosen via Random.org.

And the winner is...Kelly!

"The blood orange sorbet sounds amazing."

Congratulations, Kelly! Please email me within 48 hours to claim your prize.

Thanks to all who entered, and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wagamama in Lynnfield + a Giveaway!

A few weeks ago, I was invited to preview wagamama's 4th U.S. location - and first suburban location - in Lynnfield. Wagamama, which originated in the UK, is a Japanese-inspired restaurant that serves up healthier food at a great value.

wagamama in Lynnfield, Mass. | The Economical Eater

Because this was a blogger dinner, we were given the opportunity to sample almost everything on the menu (seriously). The food just kept coming, but thankfully, we were given the opportunity to take photos of all of the dishes before the dinner began.

wagamama in Lynnfield, Mass. | The Economical Eater

When we sat down for dinner, I ordered a Super Green juice ($4.40 regular; $5.40 large), made with apple, mint, celery, and lime juice. 

Super Green juice from wagamama | The Economical Eater

The juice was clearly fresh and packed with great sweet and tangy flavors. (I'll definitely be making a combination like this in our juicer soon!).

Our meal also began with some pickled daikon radish, pickled cucumbers marinated in eggplant, and housemade "regular" pickles.

Pickled vegetables from wagamama | The Economical Eater

Since we tried so many dishes over the course of the evening, I won't go into detail about each one - but below are a few of my favorites:

The Chili Squid ($7.95), served with a sweet chili, garlic, and cilantro dipping sauce.

Chili Squid from wagamama | The Economical Eater

Ebi Katsu ($7.95), which consisted of crispy shrimp in Panko breadcrumbs, served with a sweet chili and garlic sauce.

Ebi Katsu from wagamama | The Economical Eater

Mandarin Sesame Salad with salmon ($13.95). Marinated salmon sat on top of a bed of mixed greens with mandarin, cilantro, red and spring onions, snow peas, and cashews. Everything was topped with a sesame, mandarin, basil, and mint dressing, and sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Mandarin Sesame Salad from wagamama | The Economical Eater

Somehow I never snapped a photo of this dish, but I also loved the wagamama Pad Thai with tofu ($10.95). It tasted nothing like the greasy pad thais I'm used to. Instead, it consisted of teppan-fried rice noodles in a sweet amai sauce with lightly fried tofu, egg, beansprouts, leek, and red onions. It was also garnished with peanuts and lime.

Most of the vegetarian and seafood dishes I tried were decent, although some dishes were a tad under-seasoned and the tofu a bit overdone. However, for the value you're getting mixed with the casual atmosphere of this chain restaurant (not to mention this location hadn't even opened for business yet) I think the food was, overall, a success. I also loved how you had the option of having meat, seafood, and/or tofu in most dishes - there are plenty of options!

The desserts were definitely a home run, and I'm not typically a dessert person. We tried the following three desserts, and I enjoyed them all. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be the Coconut Reika ($4.95) - three scoops of creamy coconut ice cream topped with a sweet mango sauce and sprinkled with toasted coconut. It was unique in flavor and oh-so satisfying (even after 10 plates of food).

Coconut Reika from wagamama | The Economical Eater

The other desserts we tried were the rich wagamama Chocolate Cake ($6.75) and the Vanilla Cheesecake ($6.50), made with a biscuit base and topped with a blueberry-ginger sauce.

Chocolate cake from wagamama | The Economical Eater

Vanilla cheesecake from wagamama | The Economical Eater

Overall, I had a great experience at wagamama Lynnfield (my first wagamama experience to date). It's also located in the new MarketStreet shopping center, so I plan to go back, do some holiday shopping, and snag a bowl of noodles for lunch. ;)

Want to do the same? Wagamama has graciously offered to giveaway a $25 gift card to one lucky EE reader! This gift certificate will be valid at any wagamama location in the U.S. To enter, simply leave a comment on this post about a dish you'd love to try at wagamama, or one you love to order when you go there. I will pick a winner Friday morning. Good luck!

*This giveaway is now closed.

My meal was complimentary and I also received a $25 wagamama gift card for attending this dinner. As always, all opinions are my own.


Friday, November 8, 2013

My Current Obsessions

I am beyond excited that today is Friday. Has this been the longest week ever for anybody else??

To help kick off this long-awaited Friday, I wanted to share the following three things with you - three things I am currently obsesssed with.

1.) Our juicer. 

Source.

We received this little guy as a wedding gift, and we've seriously been obsessed with it ever since. To be honest, making our own fresh juice gets expensive if we make a batch everyday, so we've been making juice 3-4 days out of the week to save some money. But having fresh, healthy juice even a few days out of the week is such a delightful treat. One combination we're loving: apples, cucumbers, baby kale, ginger, and celery.

2.) Sarma.


Sister restaurant to Oleana and Sofra, Sarma is one fantastic edition to the family - and it's right here in Somerville! Z and I had dinner there last week with two of our friends, and we all fell in love with the food, libations, and decor. The Seven Layer Hummus (pictured above - $11), which is served with falafel crackers, was especially delicious (trust me). This is one restaurant worth the financial splurge.


Fall Surf n' Turf, minus the "turf."

Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries.

OK, so Stonewall Kitchen is more of an ongoing obsession of mine. But I recently was invited to attend this cooking class at their Cooking School in York, Maine, as part of the media (the class was complimentary), so now my obsession is at an all-time high. If you've never been to their facilities in York, I highly suggest making the short 1+ hour trip there. The place is gorgeous, the store has samples galore, and there's even a cafe (which I have never been to...another reason to go back soon!). Oh, and the cooking class itself (like the last one I went to) was informative, interactive, and the end result was delicious. (Pictured above are some of the courses we observed being made, then got to eat).

What are you currently obsessed with?



Sarma on Urbanspoon


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

It's Not Too Late to be Local: Fresh Ingredients for Your Thanksgiving Feast

Hey guys! Today, we have a Thanksgiving-friendly guest post from Trisha JeffordTrisha is a local food enthusiast, caterer, and mother. When not testing new recipes on her daughters, Trisha occasionally writes for the site EZ Cater



The panic sets in as quickly as the first frost: you forgot to harvest enough beans to blanch and freeze for your homemade green bean casserole. You know that when the pilgrims ate local on Thanksgiving, they probably didn’t have fried onions. It may be difficult for your mother to imagine, but the “traditional” Thanksgiving menu has shifted with the times. It may be too late for beans from your garden, but fall’s bounty provides a wealth of locally sourced holiday options.

A Word on Planning
Is your cousin's boyfriend a vegetarian?  Can your aunt not digest gluten? These are things that you should know as soon as possible in order to pick recipes that align with your guests' dietary needs. I like to know these things at least a month in advance, but if you're hiring a local caterer or joining a Thanksgiving CSA, you may want to know if you should go for the turkey or the veggie loaf a little sooner than Halloween.

Of course, there are ingredients you can prepare months in advance, such as zucchini bread and green beans. Shredded zucchini keeps in the freezer, and canned tomatoes can add flavor to any grain-driven side dish. For a real treat, consider renting a cider press: apples are in season well into the fall. For more information on what else is in season in your neighborhood, this site will lead you to your state's seasonal produce guide.

Heritage Turkey, Heirloom Vegetarians 


Most omnivores know that the ubiquitous white, broad-breasted turkey is often dry and flavorless, but many don't know that these birds travel further to your feast than your average guest. Luckily, multiple breeds of heritage turkeys are being bred across the country, and while smaller on average, they are also moister and boast a richer flavor. Often local food co-ops can connect you with a breeder. The bird will cost more per pound, but the decreased carbon footprint makes the bird worth the price. 

If you're going turkey-free, there are a number of vegetarian main course options that can be made local by substituting whatever beans or grains are grown in your region. Co-ops often have this information, or Local Harvest can help lead you in the right direction. 

Squash and Local Sweeteners 
Besides greens like kale and arugula that are available through autumn, squash and root veggies are also available for your local Thanksgiving feast. Squash and roots are slow to spoil, so you can buy them early without the worry that your organic carrots hail from California.


Pumpkin pie may be the most traditional dessert, but any squash can be made into pie filling with the right local sweetener. Honey is available wherever folks raise bees, and those in the northeast are blessed by proximity to maple syrup. If you're worried about local crust, simple flours can be made with local grains and a Vitamix. With the use of tools like this, putting multiple varieties of squash on the table may be the easiest way to succeed at hosting a local and delicious Thanksgiving. 

What's on your Thanksgiving menu this year?

Please note: all photos used in this post are stock photos.




Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Spicy Chickpea and Vegetable Soup

Once the weather gets chilly, all I crave are comforting bowls of soup. I have a few favorites that I make on a regular basis, but I also love coming up with new recipes that will hopefully become a new fall and winter favorite. And while I love smelling a pot of stew cooking on a cozy weekend day, I also enjoy making quicker, just-as-comforting soups during the week. So when the folks at Pacific Foods asked if I wanted to try their Soup Starters, I was instantly intrigued.

Pacific Foods sent me their Tortilla Soup Base and Vegetarian Pho Soup Base (both organic and non-GMO), and both made weeknight soups easy to throw together, while still being packed with flavor. This soup, in particular, was ready in 30 minutes. Seriously.

Just a quick tip: I added the spices to the oil so they would really open up and infuse the soup with flavor. It definitely makes a noticeable difference!

Spicy Chickpea & Vegetable Soup | The Economical Eater

Spicy Chickpea & Vegetable Soup
Yields: 3-4 servings
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-Chili powder
-Ground cumin
-Pinch of cinnamon
-1 yellow onion, diced
-8 ounce package white button mushrooms, sliced
-1 large clove garlic, minced
-1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
-Salt and black pepper
-1 cup frozen corn
-1 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
-1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
-2 cups Pacific Tortilla Soup Starter
Recommended garnishes: cilantro, shredded cheese, and hot sauce

Directions:
1.) Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once warm, add chili powder, cumin, and cinnamon; cook until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add onion, and cook until mostly softened, about 6-7 minutes.
2.) Add mushrooms and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until they begin to brown. Add garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, and corn; cook for about 2-3 minutes more.
3.) Add chickpeas and jalapeno; stir, and taste for seasoning (adjust as necessary). Add Soup Starter, and turn heat up to high. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 15-30 minutes, or until you're ready to serve.

[Print this recipe]

I love chunky, satisfying soups and stews, and this was one soup full of great texture and "meatiness." The spices were also a great complement to the chickpeas and vegetables. I also loved how the Soup Starter was flavorful but not weighed down with sodium - I could easily control the salt content.

What's your favorite soup to make in the fall/winter?

The Pacific Foods Soup Starters I received were complimentary, but all opinions are my own.