Friday, May 30, 2014

Drink This: The Kimmie, The Yink and The Holy Gose

Yes, this title is for real. And yes, it is the name of the beer that I'm recommending to you all today. The name alone is reason enough to drink it, no?

The Kimmie, The Yink & The Holy Gose | The Economical Eater

If you're like me, beer in cans during the summer time is the way to go. (Especially since, at our house, the rule to playing any yard game is that you must have a beer in-hand...which proves difficult when holding a glass or a bottle). I've never been blown away with too many of the summer beers available in cans, but I do love this one: The Kimmie, The Yink & The Holy Gose by Anderson Valley Brewing Company out of California.

Clocking in at a low 4.2% ABV, this refreshingly light beer also has a hint of salt - which is typical for a gose. Goses possess a low hop bitterness and a bit of sharpness from salt, and this gose is no exception. The saltiness might sound counterintuitive, but it's just enough to make each sip interesting and thirst-quenching. A hint of fresh lemon helps round everything out, making this an ideal beer for sipping outside (preferably while playing Cornhole).

The Kimmie, The Yink & The Holy Gose is a limited release, so snag a few cans while you can!

What have you been sipping on lately?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Vegan Spring Chili

In the wintertime, Z and I make my Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili almost weekly. The hearty, protein-packed chili is so wonderfully comforting on a cold winter evening. 

Last week, when the temperatures were in the 70s (come back, please?), I was craving my chili. We didn't have all of the ingredients I needed on-hand, so I winged it...and came up with a spring-friendly version of our winter favorite.

Vegan Spring Chili | The Economical Eater

Vegan Spring Chili
Yields: 4-5 servings
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1/2 red onion, diced
-1 large clove garlic, minced
-3/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers
-1 tablespoon chili powder
-1 teaspoon ground cumin
-Generous pinch of cinnamon
-Pinch of cayenne
-Salt and black pepper, to taste
-3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
-1 15-ounce can low-sodium black beans (not drained)
-1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
-1 cup frozen sweet corn kernels
-1 tablespoon chopped pickled jalapenos
Fresh cilantro and lime wedges, for serving

1.) In a medium-large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until it begins to soften, about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add roasted red peppers, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, salt, and pepper, and cook for about 1 more minute.
2.) Pour in vegetable broth, black beans, chickpeas, corn, and jalapenos. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Then, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning. 
3.) Serve with fresh cilantro and lime wedges. (We also enjoyed some Goat Cheese & Scallion Scones on the side).

Vegan Spring Chili | The Economical Eater

This spring version of my favorite chili was satiating yet perfectly light for a warmer evening. I loved how the hint of cinnamon helped sweeten things up while the cayenne, jalapenos, and chili powder gave each spoonful a nice mellow kick of heat.

Several nights later, we spooned some of the leftovers on top of nachos, and I highly recommend you do that, too. ;)

What's your favorite soup or chili to have in the spring?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Farmer's Garden by Vlasic

I absolutely love pickles. I eat a pickle with my lunch almost everyday, and fried pickles are one of my favorite indulgences. And if you've never tried a pickle and peanut butter sandwich (made with bread & butter pickles, crunchy peanut butter, and potato bread), well, then you haven't lived. (I know it sounds gross, but trust me on this one!).

I also don't discriminate when it comes to pickles: I like all kinds. Although, I do have a few favorites - including the Farmer's Garden pickles made by Vlasic.

Farmer's Garden by Vlasic | The Economical Eater

The main difference I see and taste with Vlasic's Farmer's Garden pickles vs. "regular," store-bought pickles is the flavor. Each jar I sampled was packed with real ingredients like garlic, red peppers, carrots, and cucumbers (obviously). The Kosher Dill Spears and Zesty Garlic Chips were both intensely flavorful, and I loved the bite of garlic in each thick, Zesty Garlic Chip. Either - or both - of these pickles would make fantastic additions to your Memorial Day BBQ spread this weekend.

And I won't even tell you how quickly Z and I plowed through our first jar of the Kosher Dill Spears...

If you're interested in getting in on some of the Farmer's Garden action, Vlasic is currently running a sweepstakes (through July 31st) for the chance to win a summer entertaining package worth up to $1,500. To enter, simply fill out this form (and automatically receive a $1 off coupon for any Farmer's Garden product you wish).

Happy Memorial Day weekend!

These pickles were complimentary, but all opinions are my own.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Straight Talk: Eating with Braces

When I was in fourth grade, my dentist told me I needed braces. At such a young age, I couldn't have cared less about what I might look like with braces. Heck, I was one of those kids (or the only kid?) who color-coded their braces to match the current season and/or holiday. True story.

Even having to wear those pesky and painful elastics in my mouth didn’t phase me much. I guess you could say I was a rare pre-teen who didn’t really care what people thought of the way I looked. Or, perhaps I felt that my braces were an easy enough “blemish” to hide, considering all I had to do was awkwardly close my mouth in an effort to conceal them.

(Don't ask me why I decided to put these photos on the internet. But here are two examples of me with braces. The photo on the left, with the pumpkins, also shows that weird putty stuff my orthodontist put in my mouth one time. What was that stuff for??).

For me, the absolute worst thing about having to wear braces was how I would have to eat – and what I couldn’t eat – for two whole years. For me, the focus was on the food – and the outlook wasn’t looking appetizing.

I basically had to eat like a child. Pieces of pizza had to be cut into bite-size pieces; corn on the cob had to be shredded versus bit into; and bagels with cream cheese had to be ripped off into bite-size chunks. (For years after getting my braces off, I still ate bagels this way). Gum and chewy candy? Those became a memory to me.

Even after being able to eat a meal somewhat normally, I can’t even imagine how attractive I must have looked…with my holiday-themed braces, all covered in food. (Sorry for the visual).

To this day, I wish Invisalign Teen existed when I was younger.

Straight Talk with Invisalign | The Economical Eater

I learned all about Invisalign Teen at a recent blogger workshop I attended called Straight Talk. In addition to learning some tips and tricks for our blogs and social media, we also learned a lot about this modern alternative to braces.

Although originally only FDA-approved for adults, Invisalign is now available for teens and pre-teens. Invisalign Teen’s clear aligners straighten teeth without traditional wires and brackets – and can be removed when eating (no food restrictions or having to eat everything bite-sized!).

Straight Talk with Invisalign | The Economical Eater

Invisalign for teens also requires fewer visits to the orthodontist, since several aligner sets are provided in advance (so as your teeth shift, you can adjust which aligner you’re using as necessary). Here’s a little more information on how Invisalign works.

One common misconception about Invisalign Teen (that I also believed) is that it can only treat minor or cosmetic issues. This is not the case: Invisalign actually treats a wide variety of orthodontic issues, including severe bite issues, underbite, crossbite, deepbite, overbite, overly crowded, and widely spaced teeth, to name a few. (If you're a parent, here's a great infographic on the process you should take to get your teen or pre-teen Invisalign treatment).

I was also surprised to discover that Invisalign costs the same as braces. In all honesty, I threw away my retainer after my braces came off (don’t tell my parents!), and my teeth are slowly starting to shift again. I would definitely consider getting Invisalign in the future, as it seems like a really convenient way to straighten your teeth – no weird eating habits required.

Looking to straighten out your teeth as well? Enter the Straight Talk Sweepstakes below for a chance to win FREE Invisalign treatment!

Did you ever have braces? Have you or someone you know ever used Invisalign?

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Invisalign. All opinions are 100% my own.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Radish and Fava Bean Salad

I'm always looking for new salad ideas. During the colder months, we usually stick to baby arugula or baby kale salads (typically as a side dish at dinner), but as soon as the weather warms up - and all of this fresh produce is available - I crave something more. Something more creative.

Next week, I'm catering a dinner party and the host asked if I could make a salad from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook (we're both big fans). I happily obliged, and offered to make this Radish and Fava Bean Salad (with a few tiny modifications). To make sure the salad was what I wanted, I made a batch yesterday...and let me tell you, this is spring in a bowl.

Radish and Fava Bean Salad | The Economical Eater

Almost like a salsa, this hearty and chunky salad is chock-full of protein-packed fava beans, crunchy radishes, spicy red onions, and a ton of fresh parsley and cilantro. It's a great, cool salad for warmer days, and made a lovely accompaniment to veggie burgers we cooked on the grill (old habits die hard, I guess!).

Radish and Fava Bean Salad with Green Tahini Sauce
Yields: 4 servings
Adapted slightly from Ottolenghi
-1 pound fresh shelled fava beans
-1 1/2 cups small radishes
-1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced
-2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
-1/8 teaspoon lemon zest
-Juice of 2 lemons
-2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
-3 tablespoons olive oil
-1 teaspoon ground cumin
-Salt and black pepper, to taste
-Scant 1 cup Green Tahini Sauce (recipe follows)

Yields: About 1 1/2 cups
-2/3 cup tahini paste
-2/3 cup water
-5 tablespoons lemon juice
-2 cloves garlic, crushed
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves

1.) Place the fava beans in a pot of boiling water and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes, depending on size. Drain through a large colander and rinse under cold water to refresh them. Remove the beans from their skins by gently squeezing each one with your fingertips.
2.) Cut the radishes into 4 wedges each and mix with the fava beans, onion, cilantro, lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, olive oil, and cumin. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3.) To serve, mix with the Green Tahini Sauce, being careful not to overdress the salad (you may not need the entire 1 cup). Ottolenghi suggests serving the two separately, but I enjoyed it tossed together.

1.) In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine everything except for the parsley until smooth. Add more water if needed (you want a creamy and smooth consistency, almost like honey). Add the parsley and turn the machine on again for a second or two. 

Radish and Fava Bean Salad | The Economical Eater

I loved all of the fresh lemon juice and herbs in this salad. I also loved how the surprisingly light, nutty tahini sauce paired with the rest of the bright, fresh flavors. This salad is definitely one I can see us making several times this summer (especially for our vegan peeps!).

What's your favorite spring/summer salad?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Spicy Spaghetti Squash Fritters with Red Pepper Chutney

We grill every chance we get this time of year, but we have definitely fallen into a pattern of grilling the same few things - like veggie burgers, veggie sausages, onions, peppers, and asparagus. As much as I love all of those things cooked on the grill, I know we should be expanding our grilling horizons.

So, when Z came back from the store a few weeks ago with a spaghetti squash to grill, I was instantly intrigued. To be honest, I had never even worked with a spaghetti squash before, let alone grilled one. Thanks to a downpour, we never got to grill the squash, but I was able to roast it. 

As creatures of habit, we ended up not even eating the squash that night because we had so much other food (like veggie burgers and onions). And since I hate wasting food, I decided to turn the leftover squash into these Spicy Spaghetti Squash Fritters.

Spicy Spaghetti Squash Fritters with Red Pepper Chutney | The Economical Eater

Spicy Spaghetti Squash Fritters with Red Pepper Chutney
Yields: 4 fritters
-1 medium spaghetti squash
-1 teaspoon maple syrup
-1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
-Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
-Salt and black pepper
-1/2 teaspoon curry powder
-1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
-Pinch of cayenne
-Salt and black pepper, to taste
-Squirt of lemon juice
-1 large egg
-3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
-Canola oil
-Fleur de sel or sea salt for serving

Red Pepper Chutney:
-1 teaspoon olive oil
-Pinch each of yellow mustard seeds, smoked paprika, cumin, garam masala
-1 cup chopped roasted red peppers (from a jar)

-Salt and black pepper, to taste

1.) Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Brush the flesh with the maple syrup and olive oil and season with crushed pepper, salt, and black pepper. Place the squash halves cut-side up on a baking sheet and roast until fork tender, about 50 minutes.
2.) Remove the squash from the oven and let sit at room temperature until cool enough to handle, about 30 minutes. Scrape the flesh with a fork to make long strands; set aside. (At this point, you can put the squash in the refrigerator and make the fritters the next day/in a few days, if desired).
3.) In a medium bowl, combine the squash with the curry powder, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Add the egg and flour and stir to combine.
4.) Add the canola oil to a large, shallow pan (about 1/4-inch). Place the pan over medium-high heat. (You want the oil at 360-370 degrees for frying). Form fritters by hand and place in the pan. Cook on each side for 4-6 minutes, or until golden brown. Drain fritters on a paper towel, and sprinkle with fleur de sel or sea salt before serving.

Red Pepper Chutney:
1.) In a small saucepan, heat olive oil to medium heat. Add spices (everything except salt and pepper) and heat until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add peppers and cook until heated through. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

Spicy Spaghetti Squash Fritters | The Economical Eater

One of my favorite things to order when we go out for Indian food is the vegetarian platter (as an appetizer). I love having something fried and full of great flavor - dipped in all of the delicious sauces and chutneys - before diving into my meal. These crispy, intensely flavorful fritters dipped into the sweet red pepper chutney definitely fulfilled that same craving. (We followed up these fritters with a lentil curry for dinner, too).

Red Pepper Chutney | The Economical Eater

What's your favorite thing to cook on the grill?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Carrot-Harissa Hummus

Did you guys know that today is National Hummus Day (and my big sister's birthday...which is unrelated?). There seems to be a holiday for just about every food (and drink), but a holiday devoted to hummus is one I can get behind.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, it's probably clear by now that I love hummus (a list of other hummus recipes I've made is included at the bottom of this post). I slather hummus on my sandwiches at lunch time, and I love eating crackers/pita/veggies dipped in hummus as a snack. I also don't discriminate: I think edamame, lentils, white beans, black beans, etc. can replace chickpeas in hummus [almost] any day.

Today, I'm sharing a new recipe with you guys for a hummus I've made several times over the last few months, and it's always a hit. The sweet carrots combined with the nutty tahini and the spicy harissa oil makes for a unique and borderline addictive flavor combination.

Dig in.

Carrot-Harissa Hummus | The Economical Eater

Carrot-Harissa Hummus
Yields: 3 1/2 cups
Adapted from Food & Wine
-2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth or water*
-2 cups chopped carrots
-3 medium garlic cloves, peeled
-15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
-1 tablespoon tahini
-1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-1/2 tablespoon harissa-infused olive oil (I got mine from Gustare Oils & Vinegars in Wellesley)
-1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
-1 teaspoon honey
-Salt, to taste

1.) In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a boil. Add the carrots and garlic and simmer over medium heat until the carrots are tender, about 12 minutes. 
2.) Using a slotted spoon, transfer the carrots to a food processor, fitted with a steel blade. Add the chickpeas and half of the carrot cooking liquid to the food processor and puree until smooth. Add the tahini, olive oil, harissa oil, lemon juice, and honey and pulse until incorporated. Taste hummus and season with salt as needed (then pulse again to incorporate salt). 
3.) Scrape hummus into a bowl and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours. Serve with crackers and/or crudités.

*I forgot to defrost the vegetable broth I have in the freezer, so I added a bay leaf while my carrots were cooking to infuse the liquid with a little more flavor.

Carrot-Harissa Hummus | The Economical Eater

I almost didn't add the honey to this (it sounded like an odd addition), but the slight sweetness from the honey complements the spice from the harissa wonderfully. This is one of those dishes where everyone - after each bite - asks, What is IN this?? And then they want the recipe.

Carrot-Harissa Hummus | The Economical Eater

In honor of National Hummus Day, here are a few more hummus recipes (plus Z and I's favorite brand of hummus):

Are you celebrating National Hummus Day today? ;)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mushroom Pâté

I'm not one who usually likes vegetarian versions of traditional meat dishes. For example, you will probably never see me eat or cook something like tofu bourguignon or seitan marsala. But sometimes, I think vegetables make great substitutes for when meat is typically present - vegetables like the almighty, "meaty" mushroom.

This recipe for mushroom pâté actually comes from my mother-in-law, and I'm not sure where she originally found it (or if she made it up herself). All I know is that this pâté is damn good, and it's always a hit when she brings it to family parties. I'm actually helping out at a dinner at Lord Hobo this Sunday (be there at 3 p.m.!), and I will most likely be making this pâté for one of the I've been making batches at home to ensure the recipe is perfect. And, really, it was perfect when Z's mom handed it to me.

Creamy and rich just like traditional pâté (yes, I've had it before...I haven't always been vegetarian), this mushroom-filled version is chock-full of earthy mushroom flavor, complemented by some local cream cheese.

Mushroom Pâté | The Economical Eater

Mushroom Pâté
Yields: About 3 cups
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1 tablespoon unsalted butter
-4-6 cloves garlic, minced
-2 pounds of assorted fresh mushrooms, sliced*
-1 package (about 1-ounce) of dried mushrooms (porcini are ideal)
-1/2 bar of cream cheese (I used Cabot)
-Salt and black pepper, to taste
-Dash of hot sauce or pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

1.) Prepare the dried mushrooms by soaking them in room temperature water for about 20-30 minutes, or until softened. Then, rinse the mushrooms to remove any residual grit. Set aside. (The broth from the soaked mushrooms can be saved in the fridge or freezer for later use).
2.) Heat olive oil and butter over medium-low heat. Add garlic and sauté for about 1-2 minutes (until garlic begins to cook but doesn't brown). Increase heat to medium, add all of the raw mushrooms, and sauté until all the water from the mushrooms is gone (about 30 minutes). 
3.) In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add the reconstituted dried mushrooms and the cooked fresh mushrooms and blend. Add salt and pepper, cream cheese, and a dash of hot sauce. Blend until smooth. 
4.) Chill for an hour or more before serving with crackers.

*For fresh mushrooms, a combination of white button, shiitake, and portabella works great, but you can really use almost any combination of mushrooms in this recipe.

[Print this recipe]

Mushroom Pâté | The Economical Eater

This is definitely one meat-dish-made-vegetarian that I can get behind.

If you want to add some color to this dish, feel free to garnish the pâté with some fresh chives. No matter how you serve it, though, just be sure not to skip the step to let this chill for an hour or more. The colder this pâté is, the better it is!

Are you a fan of mushrooms? If so, what's your favorite mushroom dish? One of my other favorite mushroom dishes is this Mushroom & Gruyere Quiche.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Kitchen on Common in Belmont, Mass.

Thanks to my [almost] 10 years of professional food writing and my love for all things food, I've eaten a lot of good meals in my day (which I am so very thankful for). But, only a handful of those meals have been great. And when I say "great," I mean flawless from start to finish. Maybe one dish is a tad bit oversalted (or underseasoned), another not cooked quite right, etc. It's very rare (and very hard) to make a meal completely perfect. But somehow, places like Kitchen on Common in Belmont can pull it off.

Z and I went to Kitchen on Common about four years ago, and the meal has stuck in my mind ever since. I remember their focus being on mostly local, 100% quality ingredients, with a small yet impressive menu. So, when Leah asked if I wanted to join her and a few other bloggers there for dinner earlier this week, I quickly said hell yes.

Kitchen on Common is small - the intimate space only has about 10-12 tables - but the decor is charming. From the wooden, swinging storm door to the local artists' creations on the wall (which rotate every so often), the atmosphere is instantly inviting and ideally casual. 

Kitchen on Common in Belmont, Mass. | The Economical Eater

Chef/owner Joh Kokubo is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York City, and has worked as an Executive Chef at the Wellesley College Club, Sous Chef for Crimson Catering at Harvard University, and in numerous restaurants and hotels in both Boston and New York. Kokubo originally opened Kitchen on Common six years ago as a take-out and prepared meal place, but once he found that most patrons preferred to sit and eat right there, he decided to make it a sit-down restaurant.

Kokubo was kind enough to let us a try a little bit of everything from his menu, starting with his Caesar Salad ($6) and his Roasted Beet & Spinach Salad ($7).

Caesar salad at Kitchen on Common in Belmont, Mass. | The Economical Eater

Roasted Beet & Spinach Salad at Kitchen on Common in Belmont, Mass. | The Economical Eater

I know what you're thinking: You really ordered a Caesar salad at this place? But trust me: This salad came highly recommended by Leah, and it was no ordinary Caesar salad. The crisp, obviously fresh lettuce was lightly coated in a classic Caesar dressing, and everything was topped with buttery garlic-herb croutons. If all Caesar salads tasted like this, I would eat them a lot more often (meaning, I'd actually eat them).

The beet salad was equally as impressive. The sweet beets complemented the thinly sliced radishes and creamy Great Hill Blue cheese wonderfully. Topped with candied pecans and sliced red onion, this dish was packed with fresh, well-balanced flavors and textures. 

Kitchen on Common also offers several soups, including a Lentil Soup ($6). Lentils are not pretty to photograph, but this soup was packed with protein-rich lentils and topped with a spicy chili oil, which provided a necessary depth of flavor to each spoonful. Kokubo makes his own stock in-house, and the flavors were apparent in this surprisingly well-rounded dish. 

Before we move on, one other thing to note is that Kokubo is totally down to make dishes on a whim in order to accommodate anyone's dietary restrictions or mood. (For example, if you have picky kids? He'll make them something they enjoy). Case in point: Even though there were several vegetarian entrees on the menu, Kokubo offered to make me and the other vegetarian at the table a little something special. A similar farfalle dish was already on the menu, but Kokubo recommended having it with his homemade gnocchi (not all of the pasta is made in-house, but the gnocchi - and the occasional pasta specials - are). The gnocchi was tossed in a garlic cream sauce with shiitake, crimini, and oyster mushrooms, as well as spinach and leeks ($15).

Homemade gnocchi at Kitchen on Common in Belmont, Mass. | The Economical Eater

I'm not embarrassed to say I ate every last bite of this dish. The gnocchi was incredibly delicate and light, and the sharp Parmesan cheese grated over every bite was the ideal way to round out this dish. The meaty, well-cooked mushrooms and the surprisingly light cream sauce just added to this plate's perfection. If no one else was around, I would have licked my plate clean. Seriously.

Another dish that came highly recommended to me was the Vegetable Tasting Plate ($17, smaller portion pictured).

Vegetable Tasting Plate at Kitchen on Common in Belmont, Mass. | The Economical Eater

The Vegetable Tasting plate was a warm, cohesive dish comprised of radishes, herb roasted fingerling potatoes, shredded kale, lightly dressed arugula, asparagus, and creamy lentils. Most of the time, "veggie tasting plates" are deconstructed, raw cop outs (in my experience) for vegetarian entrees. But at Kitchen on Common, this vegetarian dish was well thought-out, incredibly well-seasoned and flavorful, and chock-full of varying textures and flavors that complemented one another beautifully. 

For dessert, Chef Kokubo brought us out some Flourless Chocolate Cake and Lemon Mousse with Luxardo cherries. 

Flourless Chocolate Cake at Kitchen on Common in Belmont, Mass. | The Economical Eater

Lemon Mousse at Kitchen on Common in Belmont, Mass. | The Economical Eater

The chocolate cake was more like a fudge, swimming in a pool of creme anglaise. The vanilla from the creme anglaise helped to cut the richness of the decadent chocolate cake beautifully. Since I don't have a big sweet tooth, the Lemon Mousse was my favorite of the two desserts, packed with bright and fresh lemon flavor and tang. The plump Luxardo cherries and the smooth whipped cream that accompanied it were great additions to this flavorful dessert.

Kitchen on Common is B.Y.O.B., but there is a wine and beer shop a few doors down for your convenience.

So...can you tell I had a good meal here? Every dish was 100% spot-on in terms of flavor, presentation, execution, and even price. I have already told Z we need to return ASAP, especially as the menu tends to change with the seasons (Chef Kokubo does source most of his ingredients locally, after all). 

Have you ever been to Kitchen on Common before? If so, what's your review?

This meal was complimentary, but all opinions are 100% my own.

Kitchen on Common on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Goat Cheese and Scallion Scones

When I'm in the mood to bake, scones are the last thing to cross my mind (besides when I made these Jalapeno Pepper Jack Scones). Like many "bread"-type recipes, they're just intimidating to me. Plus, I live dangerously close to a Petsi Pies, so if I'm ever craving a scone, I can just walk a few feet and have one - without having to bake it myself.

But last week, we had a decent amount of goat cheese leftover, and I almost always have chopped scallions in the freezer. Wanting to make sure the goat cheese didn't go to waste - and feeling extra confident in my scone-baking abilities - I decided to whip up some savory scones to accompany a salad I had planned for dinner that evening. 

Goat Cheese and Scallion Scones | The Economical Eater

Goat Cheese & Scallion Scones
Yields: 8 scones
Adapted from
-2 cups all-purpose flour
-2 tablespoons baking powder 
-1 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon black pepper
-Pinched of crushed red pepper flakes
-4 ounces goat cheese 
-1/4 cup chopped scallions (white and green parts)
-1 egg
-3/4 cup half-and-half (or whole milk)

1.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.) In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes; whisk together.
3.) Crumble the goat cheese into the same bowl and toss lightly with a fork to coat cheese crumbles with the flour mixture. Add scallions and toss gently.
4.) In a separate small bowl or dish, beat together the egg and half-and-half (or milk). Add this to the flour mixture, forming it into a loose dough with your hands (be careful not to overmix!).
5.) Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Form into a disk about 8 inches around and 2 inches thick. Cut disk into eight wedges and refrigerate for 10 minutes before baking. 
6.) Place on baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Goat Cheese and Scallion Scones | The Economical Eater

Despite not adding butter to these, these scones are surprisingly buttery - which I think we have the goat cheese to thank. The creamy goat cheese also complemented the spicy scallions beautifully, as it tends to do. These scones were great alongside the asparagus and arugula salad we had for dinner, but they also made a great addition to our Saturday brunch spread. (These would also be a great addition to a Mother's Day brunch spread!).

Have you ever made scones before? If so, do you have a recipe you care to share?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Blog Tour: My Writing Process

Happy Monday!

I'm kicking the week off with a post that's a little out of the norm when it comes to this blog. Meaning, this post isn't about food. This post is all about writing, which is the number one reason why I started this little blog in the first place.

My Writing Process - Blog Tour | The Economical Eater

Bianca from Confessions of a Chocoholic invited me to join the “My Writing Process” Blog Tour. Throughout this tour, bloggers share how and what they write, then invite several other bloggers to do the same. (It's almost like a chain letter...remember those?). I've met Bianca at several blogger events over the years, and she is just so sweet, enthusiastic, and hilarious - and she knows how to bake some delicious chocolate-filled treats!

Participants in the blog tour answer the same four questions below. Fellow writers/bloggers: feel free to play along in the comments section!

What am I working on?
As of right now, I am working on a new restaurant review for The Boston Globe as well as an article for Parenting New Hampshire magazine. No, I am not a parent, but I wrote for this magazine in my home state several times after I graduated college, and I recently rekindled my connection there. The article I am working on for them is all about dairy-free treats in New Hampshire - just in time for summer!

I also freelance for The Culinary Guild of New England, and I've been working on some larger-scale projects for them recently, along with managing their email marketing campaigns. This job is so much fun for me, basically because everything revolves around food, but also because I get to continue writing marketing copy. I did a lot of this at Eversave (my former "day job"), and I loved it - so being able to continue doing that on top of food writing has been great.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I think one notable difference is that I am vegetarian, and a lot of my blogger peeps are omnivores (or vegans). I'm also big on eating and cooking delicious food that doesn't cost a fortune, which I hope is something that my readers find useful and valuable. My background also may be slightly different as I started out writing for newspapers, and my first newspaper job got me into blogging. (After I graduated from Quinnipiac University with a degree in journalism, I landed a food writing job with my hometown newspaper, The Nashua Telegraph. They eventually created a food blog for me, called Live Free or Dine). That's really how I got into blogging, and eventually - when I moved to Massachusetts - I decided to start my own blog.

Why do I write what I do?
I'm not sure if many of you know this, but I originally went to college to become a music critic (I minored in music theory). I had big dreams of becoming a writer for Rolling Stone. But about two years into college, I realized food just came so much more naturally to me - I've always been a big eater! So, I started doing some freelance food writing in college to get a feel for it, and I loved it.

How does your writing process work?
When I'm writing an article for, say, the Globe, it can take me days. I usually do a "dry-run" for a rough draft, then the next day I'll edit it, then I send it to Z for final edits, and then I clean-up the final draft. It's quite the process, but I can never write an article once and be happy with it right away. It takes me lots of proofreading, revising, and coffee. ;)

When it comes to the blog, I'm a little less hard on myself. One reason why I really enjoy blogging is because I can write however I wish, with no word count, etc. required. This is my place to write about whatever I want, whenever I want, and it's really nice to have that flexibility.

Next Monday, May 12th, two of my blogger friends will be participating in this “My Writing Process” Blog Tour. Here's a little more information about them:

Kerrie from Urban Foodie Finds - I've met Kerrie at quite a few blogger events over the years, and I am always so delighted to see her. We recently had dinner together at Orta, and I also spent the night chatting with her at Beat Hotel a few months ago. In addition to her food blog that focuses mainly on restaurant reviews, Kerrie is also one of the co-founders of Blog and Tweet Boston. Blog and Tweet Boston puts on great (and fun!) networking events for bloggers on a monthly basis. Definitely check them out if you're a local blogger.

Lisa from The Vegan Pact - I met Lisa at a cooking class she taught last year, and I instantly was drawn to her passion for cooking. Since then, we have talked quite a bit on and offline about catering, vegan food, blogging...we have a good amount in common! Lisa's blog focuses a lot on healthy, delicious vegan food made with real ingredients - you won't see much tofu on her blog, or anything with hard-to-pronounce ingredients.

What's your writing process?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Orta in Pembroke, Mass.

Before last year, I had never been to the South Shore. But, for some reason, several of my jobs have taken me to the South Shore a handful of times in just the last few weeks.

A blogger dinner at Orta in Pembroke was one such occasion that brought me to this side of Massachusetts. Two-year-old Orta is named after the 8-mile long Lake Orta in northern Italy. Chef/Co-owner of Orta, Brett Williams, discovered Lake Orta while working and traveling throughout Italy 10 years ago.

Over the course of our dinner at Orta, we sampled several appetizers as a table, ordered our own entrees, and shared two desserts. One of the first appetizers we tried was the Prince Edward Island Mussels ($10).

P.E.I. Mussels at Orta | The Economical Eater

The P.E.I. Mussels were swimming in leeks, smoked bacon (I ate around this), and roasted garlic thyme butter. Grilled focaccia was served alongside for dipping, which I was glad for, as I couldn't get enough of the addictive wine and butter sauce. Several shells were missing their mussels, but we thankfully found most of them swimming in the sauce.

The second appetizer we tried was the Yellowfin Tuna Tartare ($12), dressed with a soy-ginger reduction, wasabi aioli, and served with crispy chive crackers.

Yellowfin Tuna Tartare at Orta | The Economical Eater

I loved the presentation of this tartare, and the tuna was fresh and seasoned well. The chive crackers also added a necessary saltiness and crunch to this dish.

The third appetizer we sampled was my personal favorite of the night, the Orta Arancini ($8)

Arancini at Orta | The Economical Eater

These large, plump arancini were stuffed with fresh mozzarella and served in a slightly spicy tomato sauce. They were delightfully crispy (without being greasy) on the outside, and full of gooey cheese and risotto on the inside. Dipped in the well-seasoned tomato sauce (which had a kick to it thanks to Tabasco and crushed red pepper flakes), these were wonderfully comforting. 

Between our appetizers and entrees, Orta also had us try some of their signature brick oven pizzas. Like the rest of the kitchen, their brick oven is in full view for patrons in the main dining and bar areas to see. 

I tried a slice of the Margherita ($14), which was topped with San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil.

Margherita Pizza at Orta | The Economical Eater

I'm kind of a snob when it comes to pizza (I eat way too much of it), but Orta's Margherita was fantastic. The brick oven did wonders for the crispy, airy crust, and the cheese to sauce ratio (which is very important to me) was spot-on.

For my entree, I went with the Fresh Linguine ($19), which was topped with black truffle cream, roasted wild mushrooms, and fresh chives.

Linguine with black truffle cream and mushrooms at Orta | The Economical Eater

Unfortunately, Orta does not make their own pasta in-house, although they do have their pasta specially made for the restaurant. The linguine did taste surprisingly fresh and homemade, and the black truffle cream wasn't overly heavy and possessed a nice, subtle truffle flavor. There were also plenty of mushrooms, allowing each bite to have at least one. As you can see, though, the portion size was tremendous (as were all of the entrees at our table). I took half of this bowl home and Z and I ate the leftovers over several days. 

Somehow, we all saved a little room for dessert. We tried the Mini Black Bottom Cheesecakes and the Warm Pecan Pie (all desserts at Orta are $8).

Mini Black Bottom Cheesecakes at Orta | The Economical Eater

Warm Pecan Pie at Orta | The Economical Eater

The black bottom cheesecakes were unfortunately nothing too special, although I did love the mini chocolate chips baked inside the cakes. The pecan pie, however, was a great way to end our meal. Made with a shortbread crust and topped off with caramel and vanilla gelato, the warm, sticky-sweet pie was so delightful on such a cold "spring" evening. 

Our server poured us several wine pairings that evening (Orta has a variety of wines to choose from, glasses and bottles), but they also offer cocktails (all $11) and a few bottled beers. 

The atmosphere at Orta is casual yet sophisticated and comforting. I loved how they have several booths tucked away in the wall, if you're looking for a more private dining experience. 

My only gripe would be that I found some of the dishes to be a little too expensive, and the portion sizes (for the entrees, at least) to be way too large. I think the entrees could be more affordable and more appropriately portioned. 

All in all, though, I enjoyed my meal at Orta, and if/when I find myself on the South Shore again, I'd definitely go back - especially for some more of that arancini (and to try a cocktail or two).

My meal was complimentary. All opinions are my own.

Also: We have a winner for my $25 gift card to b.good + four-pack of Sir Kensington's condiments giveaway! The winner is (chosen via


"What a great giveaway! I hope I win, I'd love to use these condiments on picnics and cookouts this spring/summer - on sandwiches, salads, and burgers of course!"

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

Orta Restaurant on Urbanspoon