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.