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

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.

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

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. 


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

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.