Archive | December, 2010

2010 in Review

31 Dec

I wasn’t going to post a 2010 recap because I thought I didn’t really have much to recap! But then as I thought about it I realized, wait a minute! A ton of stuff happened in 2010! So here I go.

The first couple of months of 2010 went by in a blue because I was consumed with wedding planning!! I married my best friend and the love of my life on April 3, 2010. I was surrounded by the most important people in my life and it literally was the best day of my life!

The wedding was followed by an amazing honeymoon to Germany, with stops in Bamberg, Nuremberg, Munich and Augsburg. I got Strep Throat while we were in Bamberg, and we got stranded by the Eyjafjallajokull volcano (still don’t know how to pronounce that!) and while I was not happy about it at the time, looking back on it it was definitely an adventure! We had some amazing food, drank A LOT of beer, and had an amazing time. So amazing that I want to go back!


In June I started this blog! I had always been interested in cooking and I wasn’t very good at baking, so I decided to start a blog in order to enhance my skills. Looking back on where I started I think I’ve come a long way! Check out my first post here: Baked Falafel.

Also in June I went back to my favorite place in the world, Camp Sunshine! This year proved to be an extra special year because a few months later an amazing little boy named Nicholas passed away and Camp will never be the same without him.

R.I.P. Sweet Nicholas

In September Joe and I visited Portland, ME. Check out the recap here and here. We had such a great time and will definitely be visiting again!

In October I ran my first half marathon!! I ran it in just about 2 hours and 10 minutes. I couldn’t walk for the rest of the day but I was so proud of myself. I can’t wait to do it again!

I also met some fabulous Boston area bloggers and attended some great events and I can’t wait to attend even more in 2011.

What I’m looking forward to in 2011.

2011 promises to be an even more fantastic year. Hubby and I are going to visit his cousin and wife in San Francisco as well as a weekend at Lake Tahoe. This means I need to learn how to snowboard ASAP! We’re also thinking of heading back to London for a weekend and then to Belgium for another week. The prospect of this makes me literally jump around!! A very good friend of mine is also getting married in Bermuda next year so hopefully we’ll be able to make a long weekend out of that!

In terms of this blog, I’m hoping to get a new design up in time for my one year blogiversary, attend more food blogger events, and increase my repertoire when it comes to cooking and baking. I’m really hoping I cane bake a cake that is more than an inch thick, so perhaps that will be one of my New Year’s Resolutions? And I’m hoping that I’ll be able to buy a new camera, finish my lightbox, and take my picture taking abilities to the next level.

In terms of my life in general, well, I’ll be celebrating my first wedding anniversary with my husband. I also need to lose all the weight I gained after the honeymoon! And hopefully train and run a few more half marathons, and who knows, maybe try my hand at a FULL marathon.

So there you have it, 2010 in a nutshell! Have a great and safe New Year, and we’ll see you next year!

 

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Restaurant Review: Charlie’s Diner

30 Dec

Every single time I come home for more than a day, I always go to Charlie’s Diner. Charlie’s Diner was open in 1947 and was originally located on Plantation St. in Worcester. In 2005, the developers that owned the land Charlie’s was situated on told them to ship out and they moved to my hometown of Spencer, MA. And I couldn’t be happier about it.

Steve and Guy Fieri, from Diners Drive-Ins, and Dives

Thanks to that guy, Charlie’s has become even more famous than before. Checkout Charlie’s Diner, which was featured on Triple D here. Thankfully, the fame hasn’t gone to Steve or Charlie’s heads. They are friendlier than ever, and always remember your name. Every time I’ve ever been there, Steve’s always there, and he always greets everyone with a smile and a good conversation. You’ll even catch a glimpse of Charlie greeting the regulars at the counter top.

In keeping with a traditional Worcester dining car, it’s retrofitted with built in cooling units and a working grill top. Since Charlie’s has since expanded, they do most of their cooking in the new bigger kitchen, but I’ve still seen them fire the grill top out front on occasion.

They have a paper menu, but they also list their menu up top. I pretty much know what I want for breakfast when I get there, so a menu isn’t necessary for me. Pretty much everything on the menu is under $7.00, with the exception of Charlie’s Ultimate, which is $12.95, which includes, a 6oz steak, pancakes, eggs, home fries, choice of sausage, bacon, or kielbasa, toast, and probably something else I’m forgetting. And did I mention that is only $12.95????

Whenever you come to Charlie’s you have to have their coffee. It’s excellent. It’s not burnt. It’s not bland. It’s flavorful and unlimited. And it’s $2.00. You can’t get better than that.

This particular time I went with my Dad and he usually gets the Meat Lover’s Omelet, which includes basically all of their meats with eggs, a side of toast and home fries for $6.95. He likes to slather it in hot sauce. It’s delicious.

I went with the 2+2+2 which is two pancakes, two eggs any style, and 2 pieces of bacon. I think they lace their pancakes with crack because they are AMAZING. Get your eggs over easy, pop them open on top of the pancakes, a little bit of syrup and butter, and you are all set. They are fluffy and delicious. They made me happy. And it comes in at under $5.00.

Miraculously enough, I have never been to Charlie’s for anything other than breakfast. I don’t know why this is, but I vow the next time I come home to have dinner. But I know their dinners are fabulous. Sandwiches, wraps, good ol’ fashioned comfort foods. Charlie’s delivers on this in spades. Since they have expanded, the other side of the restaurant has a full bar. I went to Charlie’s twice this past weekend (This is how much I love Charlie’s) and sat in the actual restaurant and it was like I was in a different place!! Still wonderful, but different.

The Addition to the Diner

If you find yourself in Spencer, for whatever reason, Charlie’s is a MUST stop. The best diner in all of Massachusetts in my opinion!

 

Charlies Diner on Urbanspoon

Daring Baker’s: Stollen

27 Dec

When I found out that this month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge was Stollen, well, my heart just seized with joy. I’m pretty sure my husband was more excited though. Hubby and I love all things German (We went to Germany for our honeymoon!) and I was really excited to try my hand at some traditional German Christmas bread.

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book………and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

I made this Stollen for Christmas at my parent’s house. We were all so excited to try it as it made the kitchen smell AMAZING. There were so many different recipes to chose from, I felt slightly overwhelmed at trying to find the perfect recipe. I ended up combining two different recipes, one from Life’s A Feast and the other from Sugar Crafter. I was really happy with how the Stollen came out and will definitely be making this one again!

Stollen: German Christmas Bread

Recipe adapted from here and here.

  • 1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 cups mixed dried fruit of your choosing (I used candied orange peel, golden raisins and dried cherries)
  • 2/3 cup rum
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup water

To make the sponge, warm the milk to about 100 degrees and whisk in the flour (1/4 cup) and yeast. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour, or until it looks really spongy.

Combine the fruit and the rum into a bowl and stick it in the fridge until you are ready to put everything else together. I suggest doing this first before even making the sponge.

For the dough, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon.  Stir in the egg, butter, sponge, and enough water to form a soft but not sticky ball (this should take about 2 minutes). Once the dough comes together, cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

Drain some of the rum from the dried fruit and then add the fruit/rum to the dough mixture. Transfer dough to a floured surface and kneed for approx. 6 minutes until the sough feels soft and is no longer sticky.

Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough ball in the bowl. Roll it around so that the entire ball is covered. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night. The next day, remove the dough from the fridge and leave out at room temperature for 2 hours.

Once the dough has rested, scrape it out onto a floured work surface, punch it down and roll out into a large rectangle of about 16 x 24 inches (mine was a tad smaller). Sprinkle the dough generously with cinnamon-sugar-nutmeg all the way to the edges. Starting with a long side, roll the dough up tightly, forming a long, thin cylinder. Transfer the cylinder to the sheet pan. Pull the two ends around together, forming the dough cylinder into a ring and join the ends together, and pinch with your fingers to make it stick. Using clean kitchen scissors, make cuts along outside of circle, in 2-inch intervals, cutting 2/3 of the way through the dough. Once sliced, gently pull the sections out from each other so they will stay separated once risen and baked. Either spray the wreath lightly with spray oil or tap gently with a vegetable oil soaked paper towel. Cover lightly yet completely with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise at room temperature for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350. Bake the Stollen for 20 minutes, then rotate 180 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Brush the top with melted butter and then sprinkle generously with powdered sugar. Let stand for 1 minute, then sprinkle with a second layer. Let cool for at least 1 hour before serving.

I’m happy to say that this was a big hit with my family! Everyone really enjoyed it and I really can’t wait to make it again!

Restaurant Review: South End Buttery

23 Dec

Anything with the word buttery in it has got to be good right? My husband and I have been wanting to try this place for a long time now. So one day we decided to do some Christmas shopping in the South End and decided to pop over for brunch at the South End Buttery.

There are two sections to the buttery, the cafe and the dining room. Each area has a different menu. Things were poppin’ on a Saturday afternoon but we managed to grab a seat downstairs. I had no idea there was a downstairs!! And there’s a partial view of the outside in the back. As you can see in the cafe area they prominently display their delicious treats.

The brunch menu is pretty standard fare, with a couple of egg dishes, pancakes, waffles, and some other surprises. Husband went with the traditional coffee but I had stolen a quick glance at the cafe drink specials black board upstairs and ordered myself an eggnog latte ($3.95).

Our waiter thought for a minute that I had ordered the alcoholic eggnog drink, and while I wouldn’t complain about having a little rum in my latte, he did verify the correct order after a minute or so. The latte was creamy, but not sickly sweet like eggnog is. It was delicious.

For an appetizer of sorts we ordered the homemade scone, with clotted cream and homemade raspberry jam ($5.00). The scone was out of this world. Slathered with clotted cream and jam, it was heavenly. There were little chunks of what looked like browned butter, and it melted in your mouth. The clotted cream was a little too buttery tasting for me (heh, get it, buttery? Ok, I’ll stop), and really didn’t taste like the airy clotted cream that I had in England. The homemade raspberry jam was also delicious, with a slight bite to it.

Hubby ordered the Buttery Breakfast ($10) which was 2 pancakes with 2 eggs any style with bacon or sausage links and Vermont maple syrup. The pancakes were light and fluffy, some of the best I’ve had in quite some time. I don’t know if the sausage is homemade, but it tasted really good.

I ordered the Smoked Salmon Platter ($12) which was a multi seed bagel with cream cheese, red onion, capers, tomato and salmon. I also ordered a side of poached eggs ($2.95, not pictured) because I was craving eggs. The eggs were overcooked sadly, the yoke barely oozed out of the egg. I was happy that my bagel was chock full of salmon, they most certainly don’t skimp out on that, which I was happy about. I also really enjoyed the fruit salad. I normally hate all fruit salads because there’s too much cantaloupe and melon for my taste. While there was still some melons present, there was also blueberries, kiwi, watermelon, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and even banana. I saved it for last, and it was awesome!

We will definitely be back for brunch and I would love to come back to try dinner. Definitely great for brunch or a date night!

South End Buttery on Urbanspoon

P.S. In case you haven’t caught on yet Thursday’s have turned into Restaurant Review Thursdays! I’m really excited to share with you my favorite (and not so favorite) restaurants in the Boston (and beyond!) area. Since I’m home for Christmas for a few days, I can’t wait to share some of my favorite places with you!

Stove Top Mac And Cheese

20 Dec

The first actual snowfall is happening right now in Boston and I’m wishing I made this stove top mac and cheese for dinner. Not that my dinner wasn’t delicious (it was) but there’s nothing like good old fashioned comfort food when it’s snowing outside and you want to hunker down on your couch and watch a hot serial killer for the rest of the night (Dexter anyone? ::Swoon::)

Enough about hot serial killers, let’s talk epic battle between baked and stove top mac and cheese. Each are so delicious, yet so different. I find myself preferring baked when I go out to restaurants, but at home, stove top all the way. There’s just an extra gooey factor that you can’t get as much with baked as you can with stove top.

I added a little zing to this mac and cheese by adding some chopped chorizo, and I think it really pulled everything together. Is it snowing where you are? Then make this mac and cheese. You’ll thank me later.

Stove Top Mac and Cheese

  • 1 cup chopped chorizo
  • 1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1.5 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup half and half, warmed
  • 1 cup milk (I used skim), warmed
  • 1 package pasta of your choice (I used Rotelle)

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and put pasta back in pot.

In a small sauce pan bring together the butter and flour until thickened about 3-4 minutes. Slowly add the warmed milk and half and half, stirring constantly. Stir constantly until incorporated and heated thru, an additional 3-4 minutes. Turn the pot of pasta on medium heat. Add the milk mixture to the pasta and stir.

Add cheese. Stir until cheese has melted completely and has been incorporated with the pasta. Add the chorizo and stir occasionally  until everything is heated thru, about 5 more minutes. Serve immediately.

Your Turn! Which do you prefer, stove top or baked mac and cheese?

Restaurant Review: Mumbai Chopstix

16 Dec

This past Tuesday I had the opportunity to participate in my first Mystery Meet Boston event.

Photo Courtesy of Mystery Meet's Website

On the second Tuesday of every month, local foodies and food bloggers come together to sample a prix fixe menu at a local restaurant. The restaurant in question is kept a secret until 24 hours in advance. Clues are given so people have the opportunity to figure out the location. Mystery Meet was founded by Seth Resler.

I was able to figure out the clues and was correct in guessing the location of this month’s Mystery Meet, which was Mumbai Chopstix. I have to admit, I was hesitant to participate since I hadn’t heard great things about the restaurant and fusion really isn’t my thing.

The restaurant is on two levels, with a very tiny bar downstairs and additional seating upstairs. The ambiance is pleasant and the decoration very tasteful. When looking over the prix fixe menu I wasn’t overly impressed but was willing to go for it.

I started out with the Mango Sangria ($9), which had elements of mango and lychee in it. It was very tasty, and very sweet. I’m not sure about the amount of wine in the drink, but it didn’t taste like much. I do like when my sangria tastes a little like wine, but for the most part I enjoyed my drink.

For our appetizer we started out with what was suppose to be reminiscence of Indian street food. It contained a yogurt sauce, chickpeas, potatoes and some crispy noodles. It took a couple of us to figure out that there were actually potatoes in the dish since they didn’t taste quite potato like. The dish was very good, but could have used more yogurt sauce.

The second course was a little confusing. We were given the option of a sweet and sour soup or the Chicken 65 – which is stir fried chicken with chillies and dry curry leaf. We ended up getting both which I was fine with. The soup was slightly spicy and there were minimal amounts of veggies in the soup. I wish there was more. Otherwise, the broth was very flavorful.

The chicken on the other hand, was anything BUT flavorful. At the time I had wished I didn’t finish my soup as I would have dunked the chicken in the soup. There was absolutely no flavor to the chicken, if there was any chillies or curry leaf in it, they either forgot to put it in, or didn’t put enough. There was a nice crunch to it, but it really tasted like nothing!

For our main course we had the choice of either American Chop Suey or Curried Tilapia. I was surprised, along with a couple of my other dinning mates, that Chop Suey was even on the menu, and it wasn’t even American Chop Suey! From what I could see from another person who ordered the dish, it was more along the lines of Lo Mein noodles with Veggies and Chicken. Very misleading. They should really consider renaming that dish!

I was pleasantly surprised with the Tilapia. It was a bit spicy, and the veggies served with it were very good and crispy. There was even some sauteed spinach hiding underneath. It was served with white rice (basmati? Couldn’t tell) and I enjoyed soaking the rice in the sauce. At this point of the meal I was really craving some Naan, which later I couldn’t even find on their menu. How can a restaurant claim to be Indian without Naan is beyond me!

For dessert at first we were given the option of Chocolate Mousse cake or Date Pancake. I was very excited for the Date Pancake but instead we were served the mousse cake with 2 slices of date pancake and some lychee. The mouse cake was very good, not sweet and even had a little bit of crunch. The small slices of date pancake were a tease, and I later wished I said I was lactose intolerant as the one person at our table who was was served the date pancakes.

All in all I didn’t really get the whole Indian/Chinese aspect. I looked on their menu later on that night and was disappointed that we weren’t served some of the more fusion like dishes, such as the peking duck samosas or the tandoori spring rolls. However I am glad I came, since hubby doesn’t really like fusion and I don’t think I would have come here any other time. I think this place has a lot of potential but if their other dishes are disappointing like some of the dishes we were given, then they might not have a chance on a very selective Newbury St.

Cheers to Seth for organizing, and I look forward to the next Mystery Meet!

Mumbai Chopstix on Urbanspoon

Daring Cook’s: Poached Eggs

14 Dec

One of my favorite ways of eating eggs is poaching. It’s kind of magical. If done correctly, you have a perfect white coccoon, and nestled in the center is a beautiful butterfly that is waiting to burst out into yolky goodness.

River of gold

I’m also a fan of the sunny side up egg. My mom used to make me sunny side up eggs with a side of toast, and I loved to break open the egg yolk and dunk my bread in the yolk. I still do it to this day. My cat also likes sunny side up eggs, because she licks up the leftover yolk on the plate.

 
For this month’s Daring Cook’s we were challenged to make poached eggs. Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.
 
I decided to forgo the Eggs Benedict (Even though I do love them to pieces!) and went with a poached egg salad. Everything was going absolutely SPLENDID until I got to the poached egg. First, I forgot to add the vinegar and salt. Then my clear beautiful water turned into an eggy mess. I ended up getting one pretty poached egg, one ugly poached egg and one trashed poached egg. All in all it was quite the experience.
 

Poached Egg Salad

Part 1: Croutons

  • 3 slices of day old bread (I used 12 grain from Whole Foods)
  • 1 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp thyme

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss the bread in with the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil and spread the bread evenly. Bake for 20 minutes, turning once, until browned. Set aside.

Part 2: Bacon & Roasted Garlic

  • 6 slices of bacon
  • 1 garlic bulb
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Turn the oven up to 400 degrees. Line another baking pan (or use the same one for the croutons! The less dishes the better!) with aluminum foil and lay out the bacon. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and olive oil.

Remove excess from garlic bulb. Cut garlic bulb at the top to expose the garlic. Place in a heat proof ramekin and sprinkle with salt, pepper and olive oil.

Bake bacon and garlic together for 15-18 minutes, turning the bacon once, until your level of crispiness. Take the bacon out and bake the garlic for an additional 15 minutes. Put both aside.

Part 3: Dressing

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and set aside.

Part 4: Poached Eggs

Bring a pot of water to a simmer, just before the boiling point (Between 160-180 degrees) Add 2 tbsp vinegar and salt liberally (This I forgot to do, D’oh!) Crack first egg into a small cup and then gently (Gently I say!) place into the water. Using a slotted spoon gather the egg whites towards the yolk. Shut off the heat and cover, cooking for 3-4 minutes, depending on how runny you like your yolk. Repeat as necessary.

Part 5: Assemble your salad

  • 1 bunch red leaf lettuce
  • 4 grape tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/4 raw onion, chopped

Combine your salad greens with the tomatoes and onions. Crumble up the bacon, add the croutons, coat lightly with dressing and add your poached egg to the top.

That’s the not so pretty egg, in case you’re wondering

This was definitely no easy task! I now have a greater appreciation for a good poached egg at a restaurant. The people that can make poached eggs like nothing, well, I bow down to you. Hopefully, with a little practice, I’ll be able to whip them up in no time.

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