Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New Normal

Hello! I'm alive, I promise. Just trying to adjust to my "new normal."

Our trip to Iceland was magical. We spent a few days in Reykjavik, the capital, and then hiked for five days through rain, snow, and sunshine. The hike was actually pretty treacherous, but it was an once-in-a-lifetime experience nonetheless. It was also hard getting used to the sun only going down for a few hours very late at night/early in the morning, but we eventually found a way to fall asleep.

This was at 10:30 p.m.!

After we got back from Iceland - as in, the next day - I started my new full-time job as Chef Tony Maws' personal assistant + marketing "guru" for both his restaurants, Craigie on Main and Kirkland Tap & Trotter. So far, the job has been a lot of fun while also being challenging (in a good way). I've learned a lot in the one short week I've worked for him so far...and I've also eaten a lot.

I'm still doing some freelance work on the side (mostly food writing), but this new gig is my main priority. I think it will take a few weeks to see how much "side work" I can manage without going completely insane, but this blog will always remain.

I have a pancake recipe (made with beer!) coming soon, as well as some Iceland restaurant highlights. So stay tuned for those. ;)

What's new with you? How's your summer going?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Vegan-Friendly BBQ Eats

Today's guest post comes from Lisa from The Vegan Pact. Vegan cooking from scratch is Lisa’s passion, and creating organic, animal-free meals without processed food is what her life revolves around. Here on The EE, Lisa is sharing some of her favorite, vegan-friendly BBQ eats. Enjoy!

Artichoke Spinach Cauliflower Bean Burger

When you think of summer BBQs, healthy vegan meals probably aren’t the first type of dishes you think of. Your mind probably gravitates towards hot dogs, cheeseburgers, heavy pasta salads, and beer, of course.

But eating plant-based at all the cookouts you'll be attending this season is easier than you think. There are lots of delicious, satisfying dishes you can serve that will give any of their unhealthy counterparts a run for their money. All those nostalgic summer staples you grew up with - like potato salad, stacked burgers, and cheesecake - are surprisingly even better when made vegan! And yes, you can still have the beer. :) 

Check out these fabulous summer dishes that are completely animal-free. AND good for your bikini body!

What's your favorite dish to make for a BBQ?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Must-See Vegetarian Eateries in Texas

Hello, Economical Eater readers! My name is Lizz from Lizz Delicious and I was asked by Michelle to share with you some of my favorite places to eat in Texas - in case you're traveling there this summer, or have plans to travel there in the future. I’ve lived in Texas since 2009 and have traveled throughout the state enjoying the dishes I find at the vegetarian and veg-friendly restaurants located here.

To most people, Texas does not conjure up images of a vegetarian paradise. In reality, though, all of the state’s major cities feature vegetarian and vegan restaurants, cafes, and pop-ups that travelers shouldn’t miss!

The capital city is arguably the most vegan-friendly one in the state. In fact, PETA awarded it the status of most vegan-friendly in the nation during 2013. Whether you’re in the mood for a good burger, healthy plate of veg, dairy-free ice cream, or an indulgent dessert, you are bound to find what you’re craving in Austin.

Tofu Enchiladas from Mother's Café in Austin

Let’s start at Mother’s Cafe and Garden. A staple of the vegetarian community, Mother’s has been open for decades. Their extensive menu frequently leaves me overwhelmed! Everything tastes fresh and healthy, from their Portobello Sandwich to their Bueno Burger to their Tofu Enchiladas. Got a sweet tooth? Don’t miss out on a slice of their vegan chocolate cake or peanut butter pie. Mother’s also offers weekend brunch specials!

Then, there’s Counter Culture. Specializing in vegan comfort food, Counter Culture used to be a food truck. They established their brick and mortar in 2012 and haven’t looked back! What’s on the menu? How about some vegan Mac ‘N Cheese or a slice of Lentil Loaf? You can also get a Philly Seitan, Jackfruit BBQ, or a Tempeh Reuben Sandwich, if you’d prefer.

For something special, don’t miss Capital City Bakery, whose legendary vegan cheesecake is the best I’ve ever had. They have a rotating cupcake menu and also make other sweets and savories like Texas kolaches, ice cream sandwiches (made with local vegan ice cream), and shortbread-style frosted sugar cookies.

Home of the Texas State Veggie Fair which takes place every October, Dallas is another great city for vegetarians! There is also a lot to do there. For starters, you can visit one of many museums like the Dallas Museum of Art or the Frontiers of Flight Museum. If you're more of an outdoors person, the Cedar Ridge Preserve or the Trinity River Audubon Center may be right up your alley.

When you've had enough fun that it's finally time to eat, make sure you get over to the Spiral Diner. The vegan eatery specializes in diner fare like coffee and all-day breakfast as well as substantial salads, big honkin' sandwiches, and BEER! Get a Philly Cheesteak, you know you want to. They literally have the biggest vegan menu I've ever seen.

For something a bit more exotic, try the Cosmic Cafe. Their vegetarian restaurant is full of Indian flavors and flair. Vegan items are labeled and most regular items can be made vegan upon request. They have wonderful outdoor seating, shaded on a cozy covered porch. The food, atmosphere, and staff are welcoming.

San Antonio:
Living in Austin enables me to visit San Antonio quite a bit. It’s approximately an hour and thirty minutes from Austin and, despite its proximity, is incredibly different than Texas’s capital city. It is much more catered to tourism with attractions like the Alamo and the River Walk, a man-made canal system lined with shops and restaurants. It is also home to some of Texas’s best vegetarian restaurants!

Portobello Steak from Green Vegetarian Cuisine in San Antonio

Green Vegetarian Cuisine has been my favorite vegetarian sit-down restaurant since moving to Texas in 2009. They have since grown to having three locations, one in Houston, and an off-shoot restaurant called Earth Burger, a fast-food joint that’s 100% veg. The menu at Green is diverse. You can find Italian, Mexican, traditional American, and Asian items. All of their desserts are vegan, including their soft serve which has rotating flavors. It’s the best vegan ice cream I’ve had! If you can’t decide on something, try the Italian Enchiladas or the Chopped BBQ Sandwich. Those are my favorites.

Gluten-free folks and vegans alike will want to visit Vegeria, too. They are San Antonio’s only 100% gluten-free, vegan restaurant specializing in Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes. The flavors are wonderful, portions are huge, and the price is right. If you can’t make up your mind, just go with the daily Rosalie Special. Make sure you get something from the bakery case, too.

If you’re looking for places to eat closer to the River Walk, Juice Central and Senor Veggie are excellent options. The first is a juice bar with vegan ingredients like non-dairy milks and protein powders. Salads are available to-go, too. Meanwhile, Senor Veggie is a vegan restaurant with a diverse menu, but all with a Mexican flair. For instance, they have Lentil Texican Chili and Rustic Italian Polenta! Both are in walking distance of the River Walk. Depending on where you are, your walk may be 15-20 minutes.

The largest city in Texas just so happens to have the most vegetarian restaurants, too. The vast majority of eateries are Chinese, Vietnamese, and Indian. They are located throughout the city as well, so you are bound to find something nearby.

The Pepper Tree is a Chinese vegan restaurant that has menu items and a buffet. They also offer a gluten-free menu.

If you’d like something a little more light-hearted, try Monster PBJ, a vegetarian food truck specializing in crazy peanut butter sandwiches.

For traditional American fare, stop by the Garden Kitchen, owned and operated by Dr. Baxter Montgomery, a physician who advocates eating a plant-based diet for health.

Houston has some amazing tourist attractions, too. If you’re looking for budget-friendly adventures, the Houston Arboretum and Discovery Center is free to the public. And dogs are welcome! With a reservation you can also enjoy a 90-minute guided boat tour of Port Houston at no charge. Who wouldn’t want to photograph the Houston skyline from the water??

If you’d like more restaurant recommendations for vegetarian and veg-friendly restaurants, feel free to visit the Lizz Delicious blog. Thanks, Michelle, for letting me share some of my favorite eateries with your readers!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Watermelon Jalapeño Mojito

Watermelon Jalapeno Mojito.jpg

Hi, Everyone! My name is Sues and I blog over at We are not Martha, another Boston-area food blog. I’ve been reading Michelle’s blog for I honestly can’t even remember how long… But it’s definitely been many, many years! She’s always been very high up on my favorites list for lots of reasons, but for a couple very specific ones: a) She whips up so many awesome cocktails and b) She loves adding spice to dishes and especially to her cocktails. Basically, we have lots in common.

So, when Michelle asked me to guest post on Economical Eater while she’s on a glorious vacation in Iceland, I didn’t have to think twice to know that I’d say yes and to know precisely what I’d be posting about: a cocktail with a kick.

On my blog, I generally give step-by-step photos of my recipes so that you can easily follow along (unless I’m feeling super lazy or the light in my kitchen just isn’t working out!), so I figured I’d do the same here. This is a pretty simple recipe, but it packs a glorious summer punch.

Watermelon Jalapeño Mojito (makes 2 drinks):
-3 oz. jalapeno simple syrup (see recipe below)
-About 30 mint leaves
-2 T lime juice
-1 C watermelon puree
-3 oz. light rum
-Soda water

Jalapeno Simple Syrup:
-1/2 C sugar
-3/4 C water
-1 jalapeño, sliced

Watermelon Jalapeno Mojito Ingredients.jpg

Start by making the simple syrup. In a medium size saucepan, bring water, sugar, and sliced jalapeños to a boil. Then, lower heat and let mixture simmer for about 5 minutes, until sugar is dissolved and mixture has thickened a bit.

Jalapeno Simple Syrup Simmer.jpg

Remove from heat and strain the mixture into a heat-proof bowl or glass.

Jalapeno Simple Syrup Strain.jpg

Put in the fridge until syrup is completely cooled.

Jalapeno Simple Syrup.jpg

You can make the simple syrup well in advance if you want; just keep it in the fridge! I always have at least a couple different flavors of simple syrup in my fridge. It’s kind of an addiction.

Once cooled, you can build your cocktail. Divide the mint leaves and lime juice into two glasses and muddle together.

Mint in Glass.jpg

To make your watermelon purée, simply put your watermelon in a blender and blend until smooth.

Watermelon Blended.jpg

Put ice in the glasses and then pour 1/2 cup watermelon puree into each glass, along with the simple syrup and rum. Top off with soda water.

I highly recommend garnishing your glasses with watermelon, lime, and some more mint.

Watermelon Jalapeno Mojito 3.jpg

When I said this was a cocktail with a kick I was absolutely not kidding. That jalapeño syrup is serious stuff and I guess I should recommend removing the seeds from the jalapeño slices you use in the syrup if you’re not totally into that sort of thing.

But, I hope if you’re reading Michelle’s blog, that that means you are. At least a little bit.

Watermelon Jalapeno Mojito 7.jpg

Mojitos are pretty much everywhere these days, but you don’t see too many takes on them. I guess that’s because they’re pretty awesome as is. But why wouldn’t you want to add watermelon and jalapeño to a mojito? You do; trust me, you do.

Watermelon Jalapeno Mojito 6.jpg

This is one of my new favorites for summer because it’s perfectly refreshing and super smooth, but with one big kick.

Watermelon Jalapeno Mojito 8.jpg

My recipe only makes two cocktails, but I think you’d be smart to triple or quadruple the recipe and make a whole big pitcher. You could even make a pitcher and then prepare the mint in glasses separately for maximum freshness.

Watermelon Jalapeno Mojito 9.jpg

Pool party, anyone? I mean, even if it’s summer storming outside, I’m perfectly OK sipping on this inside on the couch.

Watermelon Jalapeno Mojito 10.jpg

Happy summer, everyone! Thank you SO much to Michelle for letting me guest post here on The Economical Eater. I hope she’s having an absolute blast on vacation and I can’t wait to see what she sipped on in Iceland when she comes home!

Do you like a little bit of spice in your summer cocktails?

[Sues of We are not Martha]

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Painted Burro in Somerville

Davis Square is probably one of my favorite neighborhoods in Somerville, and we're lucky to live right outside of it. Davis is full of great craft beer, delicious food, and even has a movie theatre where you can drink beer while watching a film. Yeah, Davis is pretty much the coolest.

One of Z and I's favorite restaurants in Davis is The Painted Burro (brought to you by the same folks behind Posto and the soon-to-be Rosebud American Kitchen & Bar). The Painted Burro consistently has delicious, innovative Mexican food and fantastic margaritas, which both pair well with the fun atmosphere and the friendly waitstaff. (Remember when I helped judge their Guac Off?).

I returned to The Painted Burro on a recent humid night for drinks and dinner, and the Pineapple Habanero margarita was an ideal way to kick off the evening. (I didn't mark down the price, but it's probably around $10-$11).

Pineapple Habanero margarita from The Painted Burro | The Economical Eater

This refreshing margarita on the rocks was slightly sweet with a kick of subtle spice. It really hit the spot on such a hot evening. 

A meal at The Painted Burro always begins with complimentary chips and salsa, but I highly recommend ordering some Mango Guacamole ($10) to help use up your chips with. 

Mango Guacamole from The Painted Burro | The Economical Eater

This fun take on traditional guacamole adds juicy mango and serrano chile to the mix for a sweet-and-spicy flavor. The guac was obviously fresh, and borderline addicting (as most guacs are).

Another appetizer worth getting here is the "Cholo" Corn Cob ($6).

"Cholo" Corn Cob from The Painted Burro | The Economical Eater

Perfectly split between three people, the grilled corn is smothered in garlic mojo mayonnaise, cotija cheese, and cayenne. I loved the flavors in this corn, and the cayenne was present without being overwhelmingly fiery. The corn's definitely messy to eat, but isn't that the fun of eating corn on the cob anyway?

For our entrees, everyone at the table ordered tacos, and I went with the one vegetarian taco option (that's on the summer menu): Grilled Summer Squash ($7).

Grilled Summer Squash taco from The Painted Burro | The Economical Eater

The summer squash tacos were piled high with fire-roasted tomato salsa, basil puree, and cotija cheese. I originally thought a summer squash taco sounded kind of boring, but the abundant, flavorful toppings really made this taco delicious and surprisingly filling. 

The Painted Burro also has a few fish tacos on their menu right now, which always remind me of summer. One of my dining companions ordered the Mahi Mahi a la Plancha taco ($7.50), served with avocado, jicama, pineapple and serrano salsa, and frisee, and she highly recommended it.

Mahi mahi taco from The Painted Burro | The Economical Eater

Overall, I had another great meal at The Painted Burro, and I love how they tweak their menus with the seasons (especially considering how often I go there). If you haven't been yet, I definitely recommend checking them out for the consistently good food, strong drinks, and inviting atmosphere. (They also apparently have a great brunch, which I need to check out soon).

What's one of your go-to restaurants? 

The Painted Burro on Urbanspoon

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

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Blue Lobster Brewing and The Community Oven | Hampton, NH

If you're heading up to the Hampton Beach area this weekend, I have two great places to recommend for pizza and beer - and they're right next door to each other.

Z and I wanted to check out Blue Lobster Brewing Company two weekends ago (after a round of mini golf, of course), but we knew we had to eat something before going in. Thankfully, right in the same plaza is The Community Oven, which serves up great brick oven pizza - as well as a few on-draft Blue Lobster beers (among others).

The Community Oven in Hampton, NH | The Economical Eater

We decided to order the Balsamic Veggie pizza ($13.25 for a small; $17.75 for a large), which was topped with artichokes, red onions, red peppers, broccoli, and organic diced garlic tomatoes. The pie's then finished with a balsamic reduction, a blend of cheeses, and The Oven’s seasonings.

Balsamic Veggie pizza from The Community Oven in Hampton, NH | The Economical Eater

Balsamic Veggie pizza from The Community Oven in Hampton, NH | The Economical Eater

The pizza was fantastic, and we both loved the thicker, airy crust that still had a little crunch to it. The balsamic reduction was also a wonderful addition to this pizza, and gave each bite a hint of sweetness.

After we had our fair share of pizza, we walked next door to Blue Lobster Brewing. 

Blue Lobster Brewing in Hampton, NH | The Economical Eater

Blue Lobster Brewing is a nano-brewery with a spacious, comfortable tasting room. Their freshly brewed beers are available for sampling and for sale at their brewery, and I highly recommend sampling one of each of their beers - as we did.

Blue Lobster Brewing in Hampton, NH | The Economical Eater

Besides all of Blue Lobster's beers being quite delicious, Ian - one of the head brewers, along with another guy named Ian (true story) - also made our experience that much more fun. Ian is clearly passionate about his beer, and is excited to tell anyone who walks into his doors about it. Ian even showed us (and the other patrons) the back room, where they brew all of their beer. It was interesting to see how their beer is made, and it made his beer taste that much better, knowing the love and work that goes into every keg.

So, if you find yourself in the Hampton, New Hampshire area this weekend (or anytime this summer, for that matter), definitely give Blue Lobster Brewing and The Community Oven a try. I mean, what's a weekend without beer and pizza anyway? 

Have a safe and happy 4th of July! What are you doing for the holiday weekend?

The community oven on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Belmont Station and APEX | Portland, Oregon

This is the final recap from our four-day Portland trip. So I guess that just means we'll have to visit again, so I can post more recaps...right?

One of our favorite spots on the trip was Belmont Station, a beer store and biercafe featuring 1,201 beers (and 17 uncommon drafts).

Belmont Station in Portland, OR | The Economical Eater

Belmont Station in Portland, OR | The Economical Eater

We spent most of our time sitting and sipping in the biercafe's seating area in the back (where it's much brighter and open to outside). The biercafe offers over 20 rotating draft beers, which always features a cider and dedicated gluten-free beer tap, as well as a naturally carbonated cask-conditioned beer. On the day we visited, Firestone Walker was in town, and we got to try a vertical of Parabolas (I believe the years were 2010-2013). Parabola is one of my current favorite beers (but watch out: it's strong!), so I loved being able to compare each year side-by-side.

Belmont Station in Portland, OR | The Economical Eater

Belmont Station sells a few snacks to munch on, but the real treat is The Italian Market food truck that's usually parked outside. Menus are available in Belmont Station to peruse, but all you have to do is walk outside to order. Z and I split a pretzel with Cheez Whiz for dipping (naturally). It was OK, but nothing like the pretzel at Deschutes Brewery

If you're looking for beers to-go, Belmont Station has an impressive bottle shop adjacent to their biercafe. 

Another spot worth checking out in Portland for good beer is APEX

APEX Bar in Portland, OR | The Economical Eater

Located right across the street from Portobello, APEX was a great place to stop for a beer before dinner. We enjoyed our brews outside on their monstrous patio, which was scattered with large picnic tables.

APEX Bar in Portland, OR | The Economical Eater

APEX Bar in Portland, OR | The Economical Eater

Oh, and if/when you find yourself in downtown Portland, definitely check out Bailey's Taproom. It's a really fun spot with great beer, and there may or may not be a secret upstairs bar with even better beer options. (But you have to ask the right people to find the entrance).

In case you missed any of my other recaps from Portland, here they are:

Do you have any travel plans this summer? We're actually off to Iceland the week of July 14th, then going to a wedding in Mexico in August!

Belmont Station BierCafe on Urbanspoon Apex Bar on Urbanspoon