Thursday, March 28, 2013

Tomato and 'Sausage' Risotto with Arugula

Risotto and I have a love-hate relationship. I don't make it often, but when I do, the texture is off, I don't cook it long enough (or, I cook it for too long), and it never looks like it does when Ina makes her's (yes, I realize I watch too much Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics).

So, last week, I decided to give risotto another try - and, for some reason, this time it worked (kind of). The rice was an ideal al dente, and everything just looked right (finally!). However, I ended up letting the risotto sit for too long, and the texture got way too thick. Not inedible by any means, but just a little too creamy for my liking. 

Learn from my mistakes: eat this risotto immediately after cooking it, and you won't be disappointed.

Tomato and 'Sausage' Risotto with Arugula
Yields: 4 servings
Adapted from Martha Stewart
-1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes, in juice + 3 cups water
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1/2 yellow onion, diced
-2 vegetarian sausages, chopped (I used Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage, but I recommend using an Italian sausage)
-Salt and black pepper, to taste
-Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
-1 cup Arborio rice
-1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
-1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for serving)
-2 tablespoons butter
-2 cups arugula, for serving

1.) In a small saucepan, combine tomatoes (with their juice) and 3 cups water. Bring just to a simmer; keep warm over low heat.
2.) In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add onion and sausage; season with salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook, breaking up sausage with a spoon, until onion has softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
3.) Add rice; cook, stirring until well coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Add vegetable broth; cook, stirring until absorbed, about 1 minute.
4.) Add about 2 cups hot tomato mixture to rice; simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes. Continue adding tomato mixture, 1 cup at a time, waiting for one cup to be absorbed before adding the next, stirring occasionally, until rice is creamy and just tender, about 25 minutes total (you may not have to use all the liquid).
5.) Remove pan from heat. Stir in Parmesan and butter; taste to see if it needs more salt and pepper. Serve immediately (risotto will thicken as it cools), stirring 1/2 cup of arugula into each dish. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan, if desired.

[Print this recipe]

Despite how thick my risotto got, Z and I loved this dish. The addition of the peppery arugula at the end gave the otherwise rich dish a necessary brightness, and the generous bites of sausage throughout made this a very satiating meal.

Have you ever made risotto successfully before? If yes, what are your tips?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Painted Burro in Davis Square

Ever since the Boston Brunchers held a brunch at The Painted Burro months ago, I've been dying to check this place out. One of the newer additions to Davis Square, this restaurant - whose menu showcases the diverse flavors of Latin America - has been buzzed about since it opened its doors.

Z and I tried on a previous occasion to get table here on a Friday night, and we were told there was a two-hour wait. This time, we planned ahead and made reservations on OpenTable

As soon as we were seated in the busy restaurant (they originally sat us right next to the kitchen doors, so we asked if we could relocate, which they accommodated), we were given complimentary chips and salsa. (Side note: Please excuse the heinous photos throughout this post. Got to love dim lighting!).

Z and I both adored the salsa. It was fresh, flavorful, and had just the right kick of spice.

I washed my chips and salsa down with a Night Shift Viva Habanera ($7).

The Painted Burro doesn't have a ton of vegetarian-friendly options, but they do have some - and I can wholeheartedly appreciate their devotion to seasonal and local ingredients. I ended up ordering the Squash Tacos (two for $12 - the menu only lists one for $6), and Z went with the El Campenchano Torta ($11).

My tacos were filled with roasted local squash and collard greens, an inventive and healthy combination I appreciated. Atop the vegetables were spiced pepitas and cotija, and on the side was a zesty coleslaw that was studded with minced jalapenos.

Z's torta was our favorite of the evening. Piled high with grilled portabello, red peppers, charred onions, black bean puree, Oaxaca cheese, and roasted garlic mayo, this was one flavorful and filling sandwich. I also loved how the crispy roll held all of those ingredients together well, so you weren't left with a mess on your lap after one bite.

Overall, we had a great meal at The Painted Burro, and I do plan to return to try one of their margaritas (the restaurant offers over 100 craft tequilas). I am also excited to check them out for brunch - I've been told their Iced Coffee Horchata ($6) is incredible.

Have you checked out any new (to you) restaurants lately?

The Painted Burro on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spicy Gin and Tonic

I know we're all supposed to be positive on Mondays, but I am already ready for this week to be over. I have a big deadline for one of my editors this week and, well, let's just say I like to procrastinate...and now I'm dealing with the consequences.

As much as I'd love to drink this cocktail right now tonight, I'm hoping to get some work done - but you guys should definitely enjoy one (or two). This beverage reminds me a lot of my Jalapeno-Cilantro Tequila and Tonic, but it's made with gin, and is a little bit easier to assemble. The cooling cilantro mixed with the spice from the jalapeno is one of my favorite combinations, and this libation just screams spring. And I don't know about you guys, but I am so ready for spring.

Spicy Gin & Tonic
Yields: 1 cocktail
-2 tablespoons fresh cilantro 
-2 slices jalapeno (I used jarred jalapenos)
-2 ounces gin
-Fresh lime juice
-Simple syrup
-3 ice cubes
-Tonic water
-Extra cilantro and 2 jalapeno slices for garnish (optional)

1.) In a cocktail shaker, muddle cilantro leaves and jalapeno slices with a wooden spoon for about 1 minute. Pour in gin and a generous splash each of the lime juice and simple syrup; shake vigorously.
2.) Place ice cubes in a whiskey glass (or one of similar size). Pour gin mixture over the ice, and fill the glass the rest of the way with tonic water. Stir, and garnish with extra cilantro and 2 jalapeno slices.

[Print this recipe]

Easy, delicious, and delightfully spicy. I can't wait to have another one of these on Friday evening!

What are you looking forward to this week?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Cooking Class with Sweet Thing Food

Only a few days after the Chad Sarno cooking class I attended, I was lucky enough to participate in another one - this time, with Holly from Sweet Thing Food. A while back, Z's family and I went to a pasta-making class taught by Holly at The Cambridge Center for Adult Education, and it was really fun and informative. We all liked Holly so much that Z's good family friend asked her to do a private cooking class for us at her beautiful home in Gloucester. 

Holly (left), and Z's brother, dad, and mom.

Since we had vegetarian and gluten-free people in our party, Holly designed a menu that catered to both of those dietary restrictions. She brought enough recipes and ingredients so that everyone could have a specific task. It really worked out well, as we all seemed to finish our own tasks around the same time. Dinner came together surprisingly smoothly, despite all of the different recipes we worked on.

My task (with the help of Z's dad) was to make the gluten-free pastry dough, which we used for a savory tarte tatin. The tarte tatin consisted of roasted bell peppers and sauteed onions with balsamic vinegar, raisins, and slivered almonds. Although I had never made gluten-free anything before, this dough was really simple to make and tasted just like the real thing. 

Some other dishes we made:

Quinoa with tomatoes, tofu, corn, and fresh parsley.

Corn fritters, which came with an addicting aioli dipping sauce.

Orzo with dried cranberries and Brussels sprouts (the only gluten-full dish we made).

Mesclun green salad with roasted butternut squash, goat cheese, and pistachios.

Not pictured: Moroccan stew, my tarte tatin, and rice pudding with mango chutney.

I might even be forgetting one or two dishes - that's how much food we made. After everything was done cooking, we all sat down and feasted. It was so wonderful to enjoy our efforts together, and everything was really delicious.

Holly is also a fantastic cooking instructor. She makes cooking and baking (and making gluten-free pastry dough) seem effortless, while also being able to explain things clearly. She's also hilarious and enthusiastic, which makes cooking with her that much more fun.

For more information on Holly and the services she offers, check out her website

Have you ever participated in a private cooking class like this before?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Breakfast Bread Pudding

I've been making and/or eating a lot of bread pudding (and strata) lately. After making this savory version a few weeks ago, eating Bruegger's Bagels' Smoked Salmon and Dill Strata, and developing my own strata recipe, I've been a wee bit obsessed with combining eggs and bread together to make something delicious.

I subscribe to Vegetarian Times magazine, and they recently printed a 2013 Best of Brunch Reader Recipe Contest. For the contest, readers were asked to submit a vegan or vegetarian brunch recipe that had only 8 ingredients or less (salt, water, etc. were "freebies"), and it had to include one Vegetarian Times' sponsored product (I used Silk Vanilla Almondmilk). The recipe I developed was inspired by this one, and I followed Bruegger's genius idea to use bagels instead of bread. The end result? A winning brunch dish (if I do say so myself).

Breakfast Bread Pudding
Yields: 4 servings
-3 day-old cinnamon raisin bagels, sliced in half
-2 tablespoons butter, melted
-1/4 cup raisins
-3 eggs, beaten
-2 cups vanilla almond milk (or whole milk)
-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-Pinch of salt

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.) Slice bagels into bite-size pieces and place in an 8x8 baking dish. Drizzle melted butter over the bagel pieces, and sprinkle with raisins.
3.) In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, nutmeg, vanilla, and salt. Beat until well mixed. 
4.) Pour egg mixture over the bagels, ensuring everything gets well coated. Before placing in the oven, push bagel pieces down with a wooden spoon so all the bread is covered and soaking up the egg mixture.
5.) Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly touched. Serve with maple syrup, or on its own.

This seriously tasted like French toast, but better. If you don't like raisins, feel free to use another kind of bagel (plain or blueberry would work well), and swap out the raisins for blueberries (or whatever you prefer).

This bread pudding is delicious enough (and not too sweet) for breakfast, but it also made a killer mid-morning snack. Z even enjoyed a slice after dinner one evening!

What's your favorite breakfast or brunch dish?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

My Current Obsession: Smoothies

Kale, banana, blueberry, and OJ smoothies.

I've never been a fan of liquifying my meals. I like the act of chewing. I'll start drinking my meals when I'm 85, thank you very much.

Recently, however, I have discovered the beauty of smoothies...for a snack. See, smoothies have never filled me up when I've tried replacing a meal with one of them. I'm always hungry an hour or two later, wishing I had just masticated some solid food. Also, protein powder scares me, and, back in the day, I used to think that was the only satiating ingredient in a smoothie. But over the last few weeks, I have discovered the beauty of utilizing frozen fruits and vegetables to make simple, delicious smoothies that are packed with nutrients.

Strawberry, banana, cocoa powder, and almond milk smoothie.

I always thought making smoothies had to be expensive, but you really only need a few simple, affordable ingredients to make a tasty one. I've only whipped up a couple of smoothies so far, but my favorite combination to date is a handful of frozen strawberries, a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder, a tablespoon of peanut butter, and vanilla almond milk. I also love the texture bananas give to a smoothie - they make them ultra thick and almost creamy. 

I've also used kale, frozen spinach, and frozen blueberries in my smoothies, and all have been successful. I'm still getting used to drinking leafy green vegetables, but I like knowing my body's getting the nutrients it needs in a simple snack. I also just bought frozen peaches today, which I am quite excited to use in my next smoothie!

As a snack, my simple smoothies keep me satiated for longer than I'd expect them to. I still don't think I could ever replace a meal with one and be completely satisfied, but the snack smoothie works for me. 

Are you a smoothie fan? If yes, what's your favorite smoothie recipe?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Brunch at John Harvard's + A Giveaway Winner

Looking for a place to grab a wallet-friendly brunch this weekend? I have your answer: John Harvard's Brewery and Ale House in Harvard Square.

Z and I visited John Harvard's last weekend, as part of my involvement with the Boston Brunchers. The Brunchers typically go as a group to a local restaurant to sample their brunch options, but John Harvard's had their's set-up a little differently. Basically, any Bruncher could reserve a table at John Harvard's whenever was convenient for them (within a certain time frame) to try out the restaurant's brunch menu on their own time.

I had only been to John Harvard's once since they renovated the Cambridge location (they also have a location in Framingham, among others), but only visited for drinks on my last visit. This time around, it was nice to experience the spacious dining room, which is appropriately separated from the bar and sports lounge area.

Per usual, I started my meal with a House Bloody Mary ($8).

I adore Bloody Marys that are served with a generous amount of garnishes, and John Harvard's was no exception. Their house bloody mary mix was delightfully spicy and well-seasoned, too - and their bloody is even made with tomato vodka for extra tomato flavor. 

After we ordered our entrees, our waiter brought us some bread and oil to nibble on. 

The bread was delightfully warm and had an addictive cheesy crust. The oil was, unfortunately, a little thin for our liking, although it was seasoned nicely.

For our entrees, I went with the Harvard's Omelet ($9.99) and Z went with the Thick Cut French Toast Stack ($11.99). (Quick note: John Harvard's also offers their regular menu at brunch).

Let's start with the omelet first: At John Harvard's, you can create-your-own omelet from a variety of ingredients, without them charging you per ingredient. Much more economical than the usual create-your-own-omelet set-up - that is, unless you only like one or two ingredients in your omelet (weirdo...just kidding!). I added spinach, tomatoes, onions, and cheddar to my omelet. It was cooked to fluffy perfection, although it was a tad under-seasoned (I ended up adding salt and pepper to mine). The home fries on the side, however, were almost perfect - crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and wonderfully salty.

Z's French toast was quite the contrast from my entree. It consisted of brioche dipped in crème anglaise, and was layered with Nutella and brûléed banana. Talk about decadent! I tried a few bites of his French toast - which was also served with homemade whipped cream - and it was delicious. If you have a sweet tooth, this dish is for you.

Overall, we had a lovely brunch at John Harvard's. My only gripe: The large dining room was only half full, but the host sat each party right next to each other, instead of spacing us out. That's always a pet peeve of mine, but especially first thing in the morning.

*As part of the Boston Brunchers, our brunch was complimentary, but the opinions expressed in this post are 100 percent my own. 

John Harvard's Brew House on Urbanspoon

Oh, and remember my Easter candy giveaway with Lake Champlain Chocolates? We have a winner! (I picked a winner using's True Random Number Generator). 

The winner is: Shaylan Rodman!

"My favorite Easter candy has always been chocolate covered malt eggs."

Congrats, Shaylan! Please email me within 48 hours to claim your prize (after 48 hours, I will pick a new winner).

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Plant-Based Cooking Class with Chad Sarno

Last week, I was invited by my friend Katie to a cooking class with Chad Sarno at Whole Foods in Wellesley. The class was called Entertaining with a Healthy Twist, and everything Chad cooked and served that evening was vegan.

Smoked Portobello Satay with Almond Chile Sauce.

Jackfruit Carnita Tacos.

If you're not yet familiar with Chad, he is a chef, consultant, speaker, and plant activist. He is currently the Lead Culinary Educator at Whole Foods, and his latest project - which is what he was promoting on this particular evening - is Crazy Sexy Kitchen: 150 Plant-Empowered Recipes to Ignite a Mouthwatering Revolution. Chad teamed up with New York Times Best Selling Author Kris Carr for this cookbook.

Chad did more cooking than promoting, however, during his class. He even took the time to walk around and meet attendees before starting his demonstration. The class itself was really informative, and Chad clearly has a lot of fun in the kitchen. His passion was infectious.

Some noteworthy things I learned during this class:
  • You don't need oil to caramelize onions. If you place chopped onions in a non-oiled pan and stir them constantly, their own juices will be released and will caramelize the onions on their own.
  • Jackfruit is perfect for vegan tacos, as it takes on the texture of pulled pork once it's cooked.
  • Cashew sour cream is extremely easy to make. It's basically soaked cashews, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, and water blended together in a blender. (Or am I the only one who thought it would be more time-consuming than that?)
Oh, and apparently I should put a smoker on our wedding registry. 

Chad showed us how he smoked the portobello mushrooms for his satay, and it was awesome. 

Everyone who attended the class was lucky enough to leave with a Whole Foods goodie bag as well as a copy of Crazy Sexy Kitchen. After flipping through the book, there are a slew of recipes I want to try. Here are some on my list:
  • Squash Pasta with Sage Pesto
  • Black Bean and Roasted Sweet Potato Burger
  • Sage Polenta with Nana's Marinara
  • 24 Karrot Cake
  • Basic Nut/Seed Milk 

Crazy Sexy Kitchen is chocked full of healthy, plant-based recipes, and also has some delicious-looking juice and smoothie recipes - as well as a whole section devoted to vegan-friendly sauces and condiments. The text throughout the book is also delightfully witty, flirty, and sarcastic.

But the best part about this book? The author, Kris Carr (who's also the author of Crazy Sexy Diet, among others), supports a plant-based diet because it helped save her life. She was diagnosed with a rare and incurable stage IV sarcoma in 2003, and after turning to a diet rich in raw, whole foods, she's not only surviving...but she is thriving

P.S. Whole Foods Wellesley has free cooking classes every week. Contact the store for more details.

Don't forget: Today's the last day to enter my Easter giveaway with Lake Champlain Chocolates! I'm picking a winner tomorrow morning. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Rod Dee Thai Cuisine in Porter Square

This meal cost me a little over $10...and I still had leftovers for lunch the next day. 

Do I even need to go on?

Rod Dee in Porter Square is a Thai restaurant that seems to be a neighborhood favorite that I just discovered last week. Although this was my first trip to this cash-only, order-at-the-counter establishment, I believe first impressions are everything. And Rod Dee impressed me immediately.

Our table started with an order of the Tofu Triangles ($4.75), which were served with a sweet sauce garnished with crushed peanuts.

The triangles were beautifully crispy on the outside with a soft, yet firm interior. Although flavorless on their own, the sweet sauce saves this dish.

Rod Dee doesn't serve any alcohol, but they do have free water AND hot tea.

For my entree, I went with the Hot Basil and Chili plate with tofu ($6.90).

I was served a heaping bowl (Rod Dee's portions are huge) of brown rice (you have your choice of white or brown) piled high with carrots, mushrooms, peppers, onions, basil, and crispy tofu. This dish is marked as spicy on the menu, and spicy it was - without being unbearably hot. Given the large portion, I was able to take half of my dish home for lunch the next day. Reheated and topped with a runny egg and some Sriracha, the leftovers were almost even better than the original.

Rod Dee is the perfect spot to go to for a casual, yet impressive Thai meal - and you really can't beat the prices or portion sizes (thankfully, Thai food reheats very well the next day). 

Don't live in the Porter Square area? Rod Dee also has locations in Coolidge Corner, Fenway, and Washington Square.

What are your favorite kind of restaurant leftovers: Thai food? Pizza? Something else? 

Rod Dee on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Easter Candy Giveaway from Lake Champlain Chocolates

Oooooh, do I have something fun for you guys today!

Although I was just talking about St. Patrick's Day yesterday, Easter is not too far in the future. Easter rarely occurs in March, but this year, it is. I love when Easter rolls around, mainly because my all-time favorite candy is Easter candy. I'm not really sure why - perhaps it's the pretty colors, the cute bunny shapes, the cream-filled eggs? Regardless, it's good. And locally made Easter candy is better than anything I can buy at CVS, in my opinion. Knowing you guys appreciate local businesses (and candy) too, I reached out to Lake Champlain Chocolates (LCC) a few weeks ago to see if they were interested in doing a giveaway on The EE. LCC has been making specialty chocolates in Burlington, Vermont for 25 years...and their chocolates are really, really good.

Truffle from LCC's Spring Chocolate Assortment.

Lucky for us, LCC happily obliged to doing a giveaway. They're giving one lucky EE reader their Milk Chocolate Easter Basket ($49.50 value) - just in time for the holiday!

Inside the basket: 6.5" Classic Milk Chocolate Easter Bunny; 6.5 oz. Milk Chocolate Caramel Eggs Gift Bag; 2 oz. Milk Chocolate Carrot; 4 oz. All-Natural Jelly Beans (available only in gift basket); 1 Organic Milk Chocolate Bar (available only in gift basket).

LCC sent me a sample of the Easter basket to try for myself (as well as a box of their Spring Chocolate Assortment - something you all must buy), and trust me when I say this is not your ordinary Easter basket. Every item is clearly made with only high quality ingredients, and those caramel eggs? Incredibly good.

To enter to win this Easter basket, simply comment on this post saying what your favorite Easter candy is. For an extra entry, tweet: "I entered to #win #Easter candy from @MichellePC and @LCChocolates!" Please leave a second comment with your tweet.

I'll pick a winner Friday (3/15) morning. Good luck! 

This giveaway is now closed. 

I received the Milk Chocolate Easter Basket and Spring Chocolate Assortment in return for doing this giveaway. As always, the opinions expressed in this post are honest and 100 percent my own.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Boozy Irish Whoopie Pies

The best way to spend a cold, snowy day (in my opinion) is baking in your kitchen...with booze, of course. And last week, when it was snowing like crazy outside, that's exactly what I did.

We had an early St. Patrick's Day party to go to Saturday night, so on Friday, I decided to whip up these boozy little treats. I was initially inspired by this recipe, but, since we didn't have any Bailey's on hand, I improvised. I also added green food coloring to the cream for extra St. Patrick's Day flair (the food coloring was Z's idea).

Boozy Irish Whoopie Pies
Yields: 10 servings
Adapted from Burn Me Not
-1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
-3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
-1 large egg
-1 cup Guinness (or stout)
-1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
-12 tablespoons (1 and 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
-1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
-3-4 drops of green food coloring
-4 tablespoons whiskey (I used Jack Daniel's)

1.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease baking sheet (or line with parchment paper); set aside.
2.) In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
3.) In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, combine butter and both sugars. Using the paddle attachment, mix on medium/high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add egg and mix until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Adjust speed to low and gradually mix in half the flour mixture, then the Guinness and vanilla, and finish with the remaining flour mixture.
4.) Drop tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet (I used an ice cream scoop), spacing 2 inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes or until cookies spring back when lightly touched. Place baking sheet on wire rack and let cool 5-10 minutes. Remove cookies from baking sheet and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
5.) For the filling, combine butter and sugar in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add food coloring and whiskey and beat until combined. (Feel free to add a bit more confectioners' sugar to thicken filling, if needed). Transfer buttercream to a prepared pastry bag fitted with a large tip.
6.) To assemble, pipe filling on the flat sides of half the cookies then sandwich with remaining cookies.

[Print this recipe]

These whoopie pies tasted like grown-up Devil Dogs. The sweet, whipped filling had just the right kick of whiskey - and paired with the rich chocolate cookies? Pure alcoholic bliss.

As a major bonus, these whoopies pies didn't take that long to make or assemble, either. I feared that it would take me all afternoon to make them, but they really didn't take that much time from start to finish. That's my kind of recipe!

Are you making any St. Patrick's Day recipes this year? If yes, what are you making? I plan on attempting Irish Soda Bread this week!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Geronimo in New Haven, Connecticut

Over the weekend, I drove down to Connecticut to see some of my closest girlfriends from college. The five us stayed at our other friend, Tara's, new house Saturday night. It was so lovely catching up with them (I hadn't seen one of them in 3-4 years), drinking tequila, and just relaxing.

Upon our arrival at Tara's house, she greeted us with a variety of goodies, including a killer cheese plate and several tarts.

Later on in the afternoon, we went to visit Quinnipiac University, where we all went to school. Since we graduated, our school has built two more campuses, and has made a slew of other changes on its main campus (yes, I realize where my student loan money's going). Then, we stopped at Side Street - our old stomping grounds - for some drinks and appetizers before going back to Tara's to pretty ourselves for dinner.

In college, we always went out into New Haven to go dancing on bars, get wasted, and hope to not vomit on the shuttle ride back to campus (T.M.I.?). But, last weekend, we realized times have changed. Tara made us reservations at a restaurant called Geronimo in New Haven, and we actually went into the city to eat dinner.

Geronimo - which is named after the infamous Apache rebel whose current resting place is rumored to be somewhere on the Yale University campus - is a tequila bar and Southwest grill with a fun, lively atmosphere (they also have outdoor seating at the front of the restaurant, which would be even better during the spring/summer). It was a little chilly when we visited, so we opted to sit inside.

We kicked off our meal with two pitchers of margaritas to share amongst the table (pitchers cost $36; a single margarita costs $9. We basically got two margaritas for free by ordering the pitcher!). We ordered the Geronimo Margarita and the Passion Fruit Margarita (this might have a different name on their restaurant menu, F.Y.I.). (Also, please excuse the photos - I took all pictures with my iPhone).

Both margaritas were excellent, but I especially loved the Geronimo Margarita. It was basically a "regular" margarita, but it was made with obviously good quality tequila and fresh lime juice (no overly sugary sour mix here!).

While we sipped our margaritas, we enjoyed some complimentary bread and Tableside Guacamole ($15).

Our bread basket came with another kind of bread, too, but I didn't sample any until there was only cornbread left. I only tried a few bites of it, but it was wonderfully sweet with a hint of spice from the jalapenos studded throughout. The guacamole was also fantastic - incredibly fresh and packed with flavor, and the accompanying chips were sturdy and salty. Not sure if this was worth $15, was a special occasion, after all.

For my entree, I went with the Portobello and Poblano Tacos ($10).

I seriously could have just eaten the portobello and poblanos by themselves with a fork (and I did, after all three of my soft tortillas were gone). I loved the combination of the meaty portobellos with the poblanos, and everything was very well-seasoned. My plate also came with radishes and pico de gallo for garnishes, which were welcome flavors and textures.

Overall, we had a fantastic meal at Geronimo. The lively atmosphere was perfect for us now-older folk on a Saturday night, while still not being too loud for us to enjoy each other's conversation. The food was also very well done (as were the margaritas). I would definitely go back to Geronimo the next time I'm in the area...especially once it's warmer, so I can enjoy their outdoor seating.

When was the last time you visited your "old stomping grounds"?

Geronimo on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Rigatoni with Goat Cheese, Mushrooms, and Asparagus

My life has been more economical than ever these last few weeks. Getting used to not getting a regular paycheck every two weeks is...well, not easy getting used to. Thankfully, I've been extra aware of sales at the grocery store, and have been hoarding coupons - it's amazing how much money you can save just doing these two things.

One sale the grocery store had last week was pasta for $1 a box. It wasn't whole wheat pasta, which is what I normally buy, was $1. I purchased a box of rigatoni and a box of mini pasta shells, two types of pasta we rarely eat in our house. Buying them was like a treat!

We already had goat cheese in our refrigerator, and had picked up mushrooms (also $1) and asparagus at the grocery store, so this meal was a no-brainer. I made enough for two people, but feel free to double the recipe to feed four (or, to give you leftovers). 

Rigatoni with Goat Cheese, Mushrooms, and Asparagus
Yields: 2 servings
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1/2 bunch asparagus, trimmed and chopped
-Salt and black pepper, to taste
-Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
-1 teaspoon minced garlic
-4 ounces of small white button mushrooms, roughly chopped
-Splash of dry white wine (I used Chardonnay)
-2 cups cooked rigatoni
-2 ounces garlic and herb goat cheese

1.) Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add asparagus, and season with salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook for 3 minutes.
2.) Add garlic, and let cook for about 30 seconds. Then, add mushrooms and let everything cook for 2 minutes. (Feel free to add more olive oil, if needed). 
3.) Add wine, and let cook off for 3-4 minutes.
4.) Add pasta to the pan. Crumble goat cheese over the pasta and stir until cheese is melted, ensuring each noodle is coated with cheese.

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It's always reassuring to know that, even on a budget, a meal like this can be prepared for barely any money. The creamy, tangy goat cheese melted beautifully over the pasta, and the snappy asparagus and tender mushrooms provided wonderful texture throughout. Let's just say, I was bummed there weren't leftovers.

Bonus recipe: I used up the rest of our asparagus, mushrooms, and goat cheese in a pizza later in the week (I used my no-yeast pizza dough recipe for the crust). A fried egg on top of the pizza made for a filling meal.

What's your favorite budget-friendly meal to make at home?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Our Engagement Photos

Happy Monday! Hope everybody had a great weekend. I spent mine in Connecticut with some college girlfriends of mine. Z is currently at Lake Tahoe for his bachelor party (a five-day ski trip).

Speaking of bachelor party...I realized it's been a while since I've provided you guys with a wedding update. Remember those engagement photos I mentioned last time? Well, here are some of our favorite shots from that photo shoot:

Our good friend Joey took all of our engagement photos (it was his wedding present to us). We took them all at deCordova Sculpture Park in Lincoln, Mass.

Although Joey also offered to photograph our wedding for us, we decided to hire Eric McCallister Photography for the big day. We want Joey to enjoy himself at our wedding, and Eric McCallister came highly recommended from another photographer in New Hampshire. Eric even sent us a bottle of wine as a "thank you" for hiring him. I like him already.

Next up on the wedding to-do list: order flowers, finish our registries, and go to our tasting!