Thursday, August 26, 2010

bragging rights

sorry, no recipe this time, just a little bragging about my fiancé cooking dinner for me tonight!

prep work.

nice presentation:

The handsome chef himself!

I'm lucky, I know! Recipes to come, really. This wedding planning is time consuming. Here's a hint: what smells like thanksgiving but just bakes in a loaf pan?


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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

have your cake and eat it too.

at Harvest in Harvard Square:

On the Spirit of Boston Cruise:

now, back to the gym! ;)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, August 20, 2010

testing, testing 123

I tried out a new recipe tonight, and am posting with a new iPhone app!

This is an easy one: dice peppers, zucchini, onion, carrots, garlic. Put them all in a large sauce pan, and cook until softened.

Make sure you're stirring often so they don't burn. Add a 28 oz can of crushed or diced tomatoes, stir, bring to a boil, and then let the whole thing simmer for 20 mins.

Add spices: oregano, basil, salt and pepper, and continue to simmer, 15 minutes or so.

Serve over pasta:


One more quick note: J and I had a lunch date today at Sportello in Fort Point. FP is a fun area, very artsy so there are a few great galleries to check out while you're there! Sportello is one of Barbara Lynch's brilliant creations, and is a favorite spot among my co-workers. J and I opted for the lunchbox: just $10 for the sandwich of your choice, drink, housemade chips, and a cookie. Love it!

My lunchbox ( they actually pack you a lunch!)

and a peek inside:


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday Night Thai

Tonight we tried something new ... thai! This pre-packaged noodle and sauce package was fantastic. Generally I'm not a big fan of pre-packaged foods - they're usually full of additives and chemicals. This one, though, was sent to us from J's Mom (among other fabulous housewarming gifts!) and boasts "all natural, no preservatives" right on the front!

The package contains the noodles and the sauce. We added chicken, snow peas, and scrambled egg (what's pad thai without scrambled egg?!) and it was absolutely fantastic! Word to the wise though, this mild was SPICY ... and we loved it!

Tasty Thai is available at grocery stores, and even on ... and did I mention, it's gluten free!



Wednesday, August 11, 2010

picture perfect.

well, last night's marinade wasn't my favorite (olive oil, brown sugar, lime, garlic, and a splash of white wine) but the picture sure is pretty!

tonight J, our resident pizza pro, is putting together a classic margharita pizza - I can't wait!

Thursday, August 5, 2010


BBQ sauce is something that I didn't ever think about making myself. And then I found this recipe ... and well, would it be too drastic to say life changed?

Since this recipe makes more of a marinade than a sauce, I've made some adjustments:

- 3/4 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 TBSP pepper
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne, or to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a medium sized sauce pan, and let simmer for at least 20 minutes.

The real trick is to add the liquid ingredients very slowly, so you can make sure that you end up with the right consistentcy. This sauce is fantastic on chicken, steak, and pork.

(no pictures on this one due to dead phones ... but good news, the iphone comes tomorrow!)


Sunday, July 25, 2010

welcome home, J!

Jason is back home after two weeks in Korea - finally! :) I made a big welcome home dinner for him, and tried two new recipes, both of which I'm excited to share!

We started with one of my favorite appetizers, bread with dipping oil. I'm still (slowly) re-stocking the fridge after the 4th of July weekend disaster, and didn't realize until it was too late that I didn't have any balsamic. I ended up with an herb-infused oil instead, that we both loved. I mixed about a 1/4 c. EVOO with oregano, garlic powder, pepper, and a pinch of salt. Just add the spices a little bit at a time until you're happy with the taste - easy!

Dinner was simple and summery. I marinated two tilapia filets in lemon juice, lime juice, and fresh ground pepper for about 4 hours. Just bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes (depending on the thickness of the filet - just keep an eye on it). I topped the tilapia with fresh mango salsa from Whole Foods, with jasmine rice and fruit salad on the side.

The real show-stopper was dessert. I found this awesome no-bake, dairy-free strawberry pie here. A word to the wise: make sure you bake the pie crust first! (oops!) Once I recovered from that little speed bump, it was all smooth sailing. The recipe is simple (and delicious) and a perfect summer dessrt.

I also put together a make-ahead casserole for breaskfast. It was definitely a special treat since is loaded with dairy, but well worth it! We first had this french toast casserole while visiting our friends Steve and Tugce over the 4th of July weekend, and J loved it so much I had to find a way to re-create it! I found a good recipe by Paula Dean on the Food Network Website. The only trick here is that this is a recipe for a crowd, and I just wanted to make enough for the two of us. Here's how I modified the recipe:

6 slices (about 3/4 of an inch) french baguette
2 eggs
1/2 c. half and half
1/4 c. milk
1 TBSP sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Arrange the slices in two rows in a loaf pan. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, dairy, sugar, vanilla and spices until well blended. Pour the mixture evenly over the slices, cover the pan with tin foil, and refridgerate overnight.

The next morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and mix up this quick topping:

1/4 brown sugar
1 Tbsp Canola oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 Tbsp honey

Lightly mix unil ingredients are combined (don't over mix). Sprinkle the topping over the casserole, and bake for 35 minutes, until the bread is golden and puffy. YUM!


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Davis Square (with all the fixin's)

The Davis Square restaurant tour continues tonight with a trip to Red Bones! This hole in the wall restaurant is loud, packed ... and amazing. The savory BBQ is tender and full of flavor, the portions are huge, and the prices are low. The bar offers 24 beers on tap, and I guarantee you won't have heard of most of them, which is a great chance to try something other than your go-to! The servers are knowledgeable, too. I almost always ask for a recommendation, and I've never been disappointed.

I had the pulled pork sandwhich (my usual!) which comes with a side of beans and potato salad. There's easily enough food for two people to share, but at only $8.50 a plate, you won't feel too guilty if you want it all to yourself!

The real highlight though, was the appetizer: FRIED PICKLES! If you're never had one, you're going to need to arrange a trip to Red Bones asap.

A word to the wise, though. The restaurant is fun to check out, but there's usually a wait, and even though the food is awesome the place isn't much for ambiance. If you live in the area, I'd recommend placing an order for pick-up (they sell pulled pork by the pint, need I say more?) and enjoying fantastic BBQ on the comfort of your own couch. That's what J and I usually do, and it works out great!

I'm leaving you with a few belated pictures from last night at Flatbread Co. yummm :)

(photo credits to Tugce and Maura tonight - iphone, where are you??)


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Welcome to Davis Square, Flatbread Company!

Late dinner with the girls so just a short post tonight about the amazing-ness of Flatbread Co. They have several US locations, but a brand new one just opened up in Davis Square. It is, to say the least, incredible. Flatbread is a sustainable, responsible company that promotes natural, organic, and local whenever they can - everything from the ingredients for their pizzas to the beers on tap! Every night they offer different vegetarian and carne specials in addition to the fabulous creations on the menu. We were too full to indulge tonight, but when you go check it out the one thing you have to order is the brownie - and make sure get the pumpkin ice cream! The brownie is gluten-free... but you'd never know it. (Flatbread offers GF pizza, too!) And if you haven't had pumpkin ice cream yet, then ... well, it's just a must.

As if local and organic weren't enough to get you in the door, you can't beat the price. I had a small (nitrate free!) pepperoni and mushroom flatbread with a house-made lemonade, and the tab was right around $13. That's wallet-friendly enough for an a5c budget any night of the week!

I just took one pic with my enV (iphone, PLEASE get here soon!) but check out Maura's blog for some pics with her sleek new blackberry!


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

cooking for one and hidden recipes

The heat and humidity in Boston this last week threw a wrench in my bread plans, but I have have some success with the groceries! In full disclosure, the grocery bill was so slow mostly because my restaurant bills were so high ... but you'll get some good restaurant reviews out of it! (sneak preview: Tomorrow is Flatbread Co: - it's fantastic!)

I do have a recipe for you, and I found it somewhere you may have not thought to check yet. Your pantry! We all have canned vegetables hanging around, but if your pantry is anything like mine, they're probably collecting dust in a corner. Not sure what I was in the mood for tonight, I picked up a can of blackbeans and found this recipe. My version has a few modifications - you can see the original on a can of Westbrae Natural Organic Black Beans! I split the recipe in half, but more on that in a minute.

First, get the water boiling for the rice. While it's heating up, dice 1/2 an onion, and 2 cloves garlic. Saute in a TBSP or so of olive oil (careful, you have to watch the onions - they burn quickly!) add a dash of the following spices: cumin, chile powder, oregano, salt, paper. If you have others, feel free to substitute - this should be what tastes good to you! Once the onions are soft, add 1 cup on black beans, and two whole tomatoes, diced. Bring the whole thing to a gentle boil, and then turn down and simmer for 10 minutes or so. Serve over the rice. Top with a little salsa, and sliced avacado if you have it - I was wishing I did! Black beans and rice isn't anything too innovative, but I did like this version a lot.

If you pick up the Westbrae brand of black beans, you'll see this recipe is meant to serve at least 4. Cooking for 1 with most recipes can be daunting, so make it easy on yourself and just half the recipe! When you're done eating, pack the leftovers in tupperware and tomorrow's lunch is already made.

The meal you don't have any excuse for when cooking for one is breakfast! Check out Maura's yogurt parfait - it looks so good!


Saturday, July 10, 2010

new projects and a chocolate gateaux

After a lovely 4th of July weekend in Rhode Island and beautiful fireworks here in the city, J and I came back to an after5chef's worst nightmare (that is, aside from pesticide soaked produce...) a warm refridgerator FULL of groceries. Needless to say, just about everything had to be tossed.

In the meantime, we were also without internet. Though I do work for a publishing company, I didn't think they'd appreciate blog posts on the clock. The good news? I now have a working fridge, and ... you guessed it - internet! This week I'm focusing on two projects, and one is sort of a sub-project to the other. Project #1 - Find ways to stretch the grocery budget just a little further, without compromising the quality of the food I buy. After losing all of our wonderful whole foods groceries, I am determined not to waste food or money this week! The sub project, or 1a, if you will, is bread! I've always wanted to be able to whip up a loaf of bread on a whim but it's a lot harder than in sounds. In the spirit of spending less and eating well, I thought bread could be a good project. I'll be doing some research this week, and taking a shot at it next weekend!

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a picture of my dessert last night from our date. We went to dante in the Royal Sonesta hotel in Cambridge. Dinner was okay, but the dessert was absolutely fabulous: a chocolate gateaux, with chocolate cherries and salted caramel. In the background you can see J's dessert - lemon cream puffs with fresh berries. Both were absolutely divine.


Monday, June 28, 2010

No time? Make a lasagna!

Lasagna is always a crowd pleaser. So much so, that I often forget that it's easily made for just two or four. You can either freeze the lefovers if it's too much, or like we did tonight - just use less ingredients and a smaller dish! Even with our little 8x8 casserole dish, we'll have enough for two big portions tonight and leftovers to re-heat tomorrow.

With only 6 simple ingredients, most of which you might have hanging around already, you can have an italian feast in no time. The best part about this lasagna is that there's no need to pre-cook the noodles. Go ahead and layer them right in still uncooked (and, don't bother to by special "no cook" noodles - the regular ones work just as well!). In the 8x8 dish there's just enough room for three noodles side by side, you'll just need to break off the ends so they fit. Make sure the don't overlap - they won't cook all the way through.

Here's what you need:

Lasagna noodles
Ricotta cheese (about 16 oz)
mozzerella cheese (a few handfuls)
parmesean cheese (about a quarter cup, plus some to top)
red sauce (if you're feeling ambitious you could make your own, but it's just as good with store bought - organic, of course)

Mix together the cheeses. In an 8x8 glass dish, spread a quarter cup of sauce. Then layer noodles, cheese mixture, and sauce continually until all of your ingredients are gone. Bake at 375 for 60 minutes,covered. Top with mozzerella cheese and bake a few more minutes until melted.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Whole Foods to the rescue!

Generally, a pre-made, pre-packaged marinated meat is something I would steer you far, far away from. Pre-made marinades are enticing in terms of ease (and usually price) but that's because they're usually full of high-fructose corn syrup, red dye #7, and a whole list of other things you're better off not putting in your body.

This week though, J and I made a discovery at our local Whole Foods that shatters what would have previously been a pretty rigid a5c rule. Whole Foods offers pre-marinated, packaged, perfectly proportioned meat in the butcher section. The ingredient list was no more than 5 or 6 items long, and they were all reconigizable foods that you mostly likely have hanging around your kitchen! With this new discovery though, we saved the mess and the hassel of mixing up a marinade as well as the time it takes to really make a difference in the taste of your meat. Dinner was on the table in a matter of minutes, and while we both loved the ease, the taste was great too! We chose the orange chicken tenders, but there were plenty of other options in flavors and meats. We added salad topped with organic strawberries, apple, and croutons (and I found potato salad at Whole Foods - also free of any unrecognizable/unpronouncable ingredients - heaven!) but the combinations are endless.Truh be told, the Whole Foods version is going to run you more than the high-fructose, red dye #7 version, but it will be well worth it. Make up for the difference by digging through the back of your freezer and using up some frozen vegetables you've had hanging around for awhile. Or, put together a simple salad on the side. Be creative!

Perfect for busy (hot) summer nights, this no-fuss dinner in an ideal a5c solution when you're short on time - and, let's be honest, when do we have bunches of extra time on our hands?


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

appetizers on a dime

There are "entertaining on a dime" websites, blogs, and cookbooks all over the place, and most of them are full of great ideas. This recipe isn't one that I've seen yet, though, and it's probably because it's so simple it can barely even be called a recipe:

Warm bread and oil to dip it in is a staple at restaurants like Bertuccis and Macaroni Grill. Not suprisingly, it's inexpensive to make (why did you think it was free at the restaurant?). The most basic of all versions is to simply pour oil in a bowl, and drip some balsamic vinegar across the top (or douse with balsamic vinegar ... that's what we do!). I like to mix in some garlic power and pepper before adding the balsamic vinegar. With my new windowsill herb garden (more to come on that later!) I got a little fancy tonight with some fresh rosemary sprinkled over the top. All you have to do is slice a fresh french baguette, and serve! An appetizer for just a few dollars? That's on the a5c menu any night of the week!

For those of you who wanted to try the gf cookies, my apologies - I never posted the recipe. And, while we're at it, you'll have to excuse the bread and gluten-free cookies in the same post ...

1 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix all the ingredient together, until smooth. Drop by spoonfuls on an ungreased baking sheet, and bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 350 degrees.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

who knew gluten-free could be so good?

More often than not, you'd assume that "gluten-free" and "cookie" are two words that don't belong in the same sentence. Well, this simple (and delicious) recipe from the May issue of Everyday Food (have you subscribed yet? This magazine is an a5c must-have!) is here to show you exactly the opposite. I made these cookies with chocolate chips, and then turned them into ice cream sandwhiches, but it's easily adaptable to be dairy-free as well - just use carob chips (or another dairy free option) and rice-cream or soy dream ... and, voila! A treat that everyone is sure to love - and they'll never know know they're gluten (or dairy) free. Out little secret!

1 c. creamy peanut butter
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg, beaten

combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl until well blended and smooth. Drop by rounded tablespoon full onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or so (until puffy and edges are browned). Let cool on the cookie sheet.


Friday, June 11, 2010

a love/hate relationship (with fruit salad)

Fruit salad is one of those things that I love to eat, but hate to make. It takes an eternity (yes, really) to cut up all the fruit, and by the time you're done you're too tired to eat it anyway.

While I'd love a huge salad of mixed fruit any day of the week, lately I've been choosing one or two fruits, and making single serving portions salad with whatever we have around the apartment - one for each of us. This morning in the fridge we had bananas, 8 strawberries, and two peaches. In no time at all not only did we have banana pancakes and simple fruit salad, but I'd squeezed three servings of fruit into our day before 10 am!

As always, a simple fruit salad is considerably more budget friendly. The container of strawberries at Whole Foods was $2.99, and the two peaches were under a dollar. $4? That is after5chef budget friendly for sure.

Tonight we have a reservation at the Ivy Restaurant for dinner. While this is NOT typically in the a5c budget, J bought one of last weeks groupons. Haven't seen yet? It's a great way to stretch the budget a bit. This particular deal is $15 for $30 worth of food. Haven't seen yet? You've got to check it out:

I'll be back with a picture or two of dinner. In the meantime .... start putting together that fruit salad, it's almost time for lunch!


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

here's to new beginnings (and eating your vegetables)

In the last six months I've ... gotten engaged, planned a wedding, started a (fabulous) new job and moved into a new apartment. It's been a busy spring! Now that we're finally settled in our new apartment and wedding plans are well underway, I'm back at the after5chef blog. It's been awhile, and I've got a stockpile of recipes and ideas to send your way.

This new kitchen of ours comes with learning curve. The stove is not only gas, but it's the light-it-yourself kind ... and it's tiny! We've only been here a week, so I haven't done all that much cooking (we've been eating out a lot, as much as this after5chef is ashameed to admit) but I do have one quick tip for the night:

Asparagus is one of the ugly step children of the vegetable family. It's not that great raw (unless it's drowned in ranch dressing maybe) and more often than not it's found swimming in cheese sauce, which for this lactose intolerant a5c is less than ideal. The good news? You CAN eat asparagus! Try this beyond basic recipe:

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Spread the asparagus (washed, of course) on the baking sheet and brush very lightly with oil. Sprinkle with salt (garlic, pepper ... whatever you'd like!) and roast for 10 to 12 minutes.

I threw a few sliced red peppers on my baking sheet last night too, and what I didn't eat for dinner I put on the salad I packed for work this morning (along with lettuce, sprouts, and sliced turkey!)

A quick easy way to squeeze in one more vegetable, this recipe is worth giving a try. You could, believe it or not, actually LIKE asparagus. J can attest, he was a non-believer... and now he actually suggests it as a side dish!


Monday, January 25, 2010

Italia in Central Square

okay, so it's probably not all that authentic, but we love chicken parm! I'm still on a little bit of a comfort food kick (I swear, we'll get back to the gym soon....) but it poured all day in Boston, and I couldn't stop thinking about coming home and putting together this simple comfort food dish! We rounded out the indulgent meal with some garlic bread and a simple salad.

Chicken Parm

1 large chicken breast, pounded out very thin
1 egg, beaten
1/4 c floup
1/4 c bread crumbs
3 tbsps veg. oil
pasta of your choice (J prefers penne!)
sauce (I cheated this time and used the store-bought kind)
parmesean cheese

Put the egg, flour, and bread crumbs in separate dishes. Dip the chicken in the egg, flour, and then bread crumbs (covering evenly each time). Add the oil to a frying pan, and heat until it just barely begins to smoke. Turn the heat down just a little, and place the chicken in the skillet. Cook 5-8 minutes on each side, though this will depend on the thickness of the chicken breast.

Serve with the pasta, smothered in sauce and cheese.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

probably not a first date food ...

All I can say is, it's a good thing we both love garlic!

This week's Sunday Night Dinner is simple, satisfying comfort food. Garlic Roasted Chicken, Stuffing, and Cranberry. Okay, okay, so we haven't been on a health kick lately, but it's been cold here in Boston, and nothing beats a big, hot meal on a chilly Sunday night!

Garlic Roasted Chicken

3 cloves garlic
2 tbsps garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp oregano

mince the garlic as finely as you can. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, and set aside. Cut a 2" slit in each chicken breast, and spread about a half of teaspoon inside. Coat the rest of the chicken with the remaining mixture. Bake at 400 for about half an hour.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

warm up with soup and a panini

WARNING: Not for those with a 2010 diet resolution!

I'm trying to do a better job this year of planning menus around what's in the cupboard, rather than what I've seen on the food network during the week. Tonight was my first adventure with the "everything but the kitchen sink" method. That is, throwing what I have into a sauce pan, and calling it dinner. The result? Well...dinner! Here's what we had:

Saturday Night: Baked Potato Soup and Turkey, Vermont Cheddar, Bacon, and Apple Panini

Baked Potato Soup:

4 oz cream cheese
1 stick butter
2 cans condensed potato soup
1 cup milk
2 tsps Worcestershire Sauce
1 tstp all-season salt
pepper, to taste
bay leaf
sour cream and crumbled bacon, to garnish.

In a sauce pan, combine sour cream and butter until liquid. Add cream of potato soup, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Add milk, Worcestershire, salt, pepper, and mix in. Place the bay leaf on top, cover, and simmer at least 30 minutes (if you have time, a little longer to give the flavors time to combine). Remove bay leaf, and ladle into bowls. Top with a dollop of sour cream and crumbled bacon.

Turkey, Vermont Cheddar, Bacon, and Apple Panini

Sourdough Bread
Sliced Turkey
Brown Mustard
Apple, sliced very thinly
Vermont Cheddar

Layer all your sandwhich ingredients, and grill lightly in a panini press (we used a George Foreman Grill!)



Sunday, January 17, 2010

helllooooo 2010!

The holiday rush is over, and we're finally starting to settle into 2010. My first piece of advice for the new decade? Run (don't walk) to your nearest magazine stand, and pick up a copy of the Januaray issue of Everyday Food by Martha Stewart. I always love the ideas in this magazine, but this month's issue is particularly packed with fabulous recipes and clever tips. We've tried a few so far, but one of my favorites was the honey ginger stir-fry on page 88. I'm posting it here so you can try it, but you've got to read this magazine cover to cover!

stir-fried honey-ginger chicken with peppers
(from Everyday Food, January/February 2010)

1/4 c. honey
2 tbsps rice vinegar
2 tbsps soy sauce
2 tbsps veg. oil
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, in 1/4 in. strips
3/4 c. minced peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 orange pepper (all peppers thinly sliced)
cooked rice (for serving)

In a small bowl, mix the honey, vinegar and soy sauce, and set aside. Heat a large skillet, and add 1 tbsp oil. Cook the chicken until it's almost done (about 3 minutes). Transfer to a plate. Add 1 tbsp oil, ginger, and garlic to the skillet and stir until fragrant (30 seconds or so). Add peppers, and cook about 2 minutes. Now, add the soy mixture and bring to a boil. Return the chicken to the skillet and toss until sauce thickens and chicken is cooked through. Serve over rice.