Archive | July, 2011

Pink for Bravery Day – Supporting Fanconi Anemia

30 Jul

Today I’m going to take a break today from food and delicious recipes to talk about something that many of you know is near and dear to my heart. Many of you think August 1st is the beginning of the end of summer, but it doesn’t have to be!

August 1st has been renamed Pink for Bravery Day for a wonderful family that comes to Camp Sunshine every year.

Aren't they the cutest family?

They lost their beautiful daughter Jess to Fanconi Anemia a few years ago. Because pink was Jess’ favorite color, the family is always wearing something pink, everyday, to keep Jess’ memory alive. On August 1st they are asking EVERYONE to wear pink for Jess and for all the FA Angels out there. It would meet SO MUCH to me if I could get my readers of TFAKM to wear something pink on Monday. Take a picture, email it to me, tweet it, facebook it, WHATEVER. Just send over a picture of you rockin your pinkness and I will make sure it gets to the McDowell’s as they will be making an album of everyone who wear’s pink on that day.

Besides wearing pink, you can also make a donation to FARF (Fanconi Anemia Research Fund) in memory of Jess. Just head on over to the website to make a donation. Hopefully someday we will be able to find a cure for this awful disease!

Ever since getting involved with Camp Sunshine and FARF I’ve seen too many children and adults lose their battle with this disease. IT NEEDS TO STOP! And the one way to do this is to raise awareness. Tell your friends, families, coworkers, WHOEVER and tell them to wear PINK on August 1st!


Getting in Touch with my Portuguese side at Atasca

28 Jul

Atasca is probably one of my favorite restaurants ever. Considering that I live in Brighton, and Atasca is located in Kendall Sq, it’s not the most convenient for me. So the fact that I’ve been there about 10 times or so shows how much I love this place.

My Mama was born on the island of Terceira in the Azores, a group of islands about 1500km off the coast of Portugal. The last time I went I was probably 3 or 4 years old, but I still have memories of spending time with my grandparents at their huge stone mansion (in my eyes) and sitting on a huge ledge watching the parades go by. And eating amazing food. I hope to one day go back (very very soon).

Eating at Atasca brings me back to those times. I’ve brought my mother here many times in the past as well and she loves it. The inside is decorated with colorful plates, paintings, even a little guitar which my mom remarked to me one time that she used to own one just like that.

This particular time that we went, we finally were able to snag a seat outside. My profuse apologies for not taking a picture but it is beautiful. Shaded by grape vines, and decorated with tomato, thyme and rosemary plants, it’s difficult to think you are steps away from huge corporate buildings.

Whenever I come to Atasca I always need to have a glass (or carafe) of Sangria. With a refreshing fruity taste, I could drink this all night. They also include a nice offering of fruit with your Sangria.

Each table starts out with some delicious olives that are served with bread and olive oil (pictured below). I LOVE olives. I pretend they are like popcorn I eat them so much. Atasca always managed to have a slightly different assortment every time we come, and they are always equally delicious.

The bread is moist and tender, with a good crust, and the olive oil with garlic is out of this world. I could come here for just the bread alone and I would be happy.

For our appetizer this time around we went with Grilled Sardines with roasted peppers (Sardinhas Grelhadas). These aren’t your sardines that come in a can, no they aren’t. My Mama used to go to a Portuguese market in Hudson and would buy a dozen sardines exactly like these and bake them up nice and pretty. My favorite part is the tail, it’s nice and crispy and packs quite the crunch. These were cooked perfectly, and the cool peppers contrasted nicely with the grilled fish.

For my husband’s main meal, he went with Sauteed pork loin with clams, paprika, garlic and cilantro with cubed fried potatoes (Carne de porco a alentejana). I snuck a bite from him and it was amazing. The paprika was really pronounced (in a good way) and the clams were cooked perfectly. I’m slightly (read, very) obsessed with their potatoes. They are usually sliced thinly and fried to perfection. I don’t know what kind of seasoning they use, but it’s amazing.

For my meal, I went with the Cataplana, which is clams, mussels and shrimp, steamed in a copper steamer (the cataplana), with onions, red peppers, procuitto and linguica served with jasmine rice. The broth soaked up the rice beautifully, and the shellfish was in abundance. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. This ranks as one of the top dished I’ve had at Atasca.

I think over our many visits to to Atasca, we’ve managed to eat almost every dessert. From the sweet rice pudding (Arroz Doce) to the creamy custard tart (Pasteis de Nata) you really can’t go wrong with their desserts. This time around we went with the indulgent Chocolate mousse. This mousse was dense and intensely chocolatey, but not in a way that settled heavily in your stomach. It was the perfect ending to a great meal.

If you find yourself in Kendall Sq, make sure to pay a visit to Atasca.

Atasca on Urbanspoon

Behind the Scenes with America’s Test Kitchen

25 Jul

Last week, one of my dreams came true.

I got to attend an intimate tour of America’s Test Kitchen. In case you didn’t know, ATK is filmed right in Boston’s backyard in Brookline in a small, unassuming building right off the D Line. It’s an area that I frequent quite a lot, and the fact that one of my favorite TV shows/magazine/cookbook series/people  were located just a short walk away, well, let’s just say I get a bit giddy thinking about it.

The ATK studios is SMALL, made up of2 floors and they jam pack it. During our tours there were test cooks and staff and editors politely saying “Excuse me” to us as they try to develop a new tasty recipe. One of the most impressive parts of the ATK studios is their library collection. Steph (pictured below) who is the social media extraordinaire for ATK told us that ATK’s cookbook collection is one of the largest collections in the world. And I believe it. Not only were we surrounded by books on this floor, but there were books upstairs as well!

You may be wondering, why do many books? Well, Steph told us that most test cooks like to find 5 different versions of a single recipe when they are researching to come up with the “perfect” recipe. While there is certainly a wealth of information on the internet, most test cooks rely on cookbook as well as food literature in general, when coming up with a recipe. And it shows in the final product (the picture above is all ATK cookbooks) when the test cooks that not only write the recipes but the accompanying articles and tell you the story and the process they took to find that perfect recipe.

We also stumbled upon the end of a photo shoot. ATK uses all real food in their photographs, they even had some extra cakes over on the side (it took a lot to not ask for a piece!). They don’t use fake food, they said, unless it’s food like ice cream, which melts very easily.

Obviously as food bloggers, we were very interested in the process that goes into those mouthwatering photos.

We also got to take a look at their prop closet. They have two; with this one filled with towels and place mats and cutting boards.

Their other closet is filled with silverware, plateware, glassware, every kind of ware you could think of. During their filming (which lasts about 3 weeks) they empty this particular room and that is where the director and producers hang out during filming. I was VERY jealous of their prop rooms, they were the size of my apartment!

Steph informed us that they have 2 full time employees who job is to do the grocery shopping for ATK. They buy anywhere from 25-300 items in one shopping trip. They obviously do A LOT of baking considering they have 2huge barrels filled with flour and sugar. And I thought I had a lot of flour and sugar.

ATK technically has 2 test kitchens, the main one and this smaller one. They also pride themselves on using appliances that are available to the home cook. Which includes like, 20 stand mixers.

They also have a ton of ovens (I think they said around 16?). Let’s just say I was planning on hiding in a corner and never leaving.

I wish I had taken a larger picture, but in the corridor leading to the main test kitchen is every kind of kitchen utensil, pot and pan in existence. They have pots and pans that are only used for photos, and pots and pans that can be used whenever. As you may or may not know, ATK does extensive kitchen product reviews, and even after they have picked a winner, they are continually evaluating them and putting them into use in the kitchen so if something were to go wrong, they can let their readers know about it.

Right here, ladies and gentlemen, is where the magic happens. When you see Chris Kimball and Julia Davidson or Bridget Lancaster discussing and sampling a dish, they are doing it here. I also had the urge to go over to it and hug it. Or chain myself to it.

The time of our tour coincided with the end of the day of filming. Check out those loaves of bread?!? Aren’t they amazing. Again, I had the insatiable urge to tear off a piece of that bread.

They even had some baking in the oven! Why does my bread never rise that high? ::le sigh::

The tour ended with us visiting the editors lounge upstairs. I caught a glimpse of  Chris Kimball in his trademark suspenders and bow tie. I was sending him some subliminal messages to get off the phone and come say hi to us, but apparently he wasn’t listening to me. I apologize to Steph as I didn’t really listen much to what she was saying at this point because I was trying to figure out how I could get into his office without being thrown out in the process.

I had such a fabulous time learning more about what goes on behind the scenes at ATK. While the studios are small, what they produce is epic.

Make sure to check out their new website: America’s Test Kitchen Feed  which is a wonderful addition to their lineup of websites where you can get free recipes and food stories from the crew at ATK. It’s a must check out!

Currant Chicken Salad

20 Jul

This recipe was a lot of firsts for me. We recently got some red currants in our weekly CSA and I honestly had no idea what to do with them. I don’t even know if I had eaten anything with currants in it up to this point in my life. Is that sad? I hope not.

I popped a currant into my mouth and immediately tasted the tartness with a slight sweet undertone. I decided I would make something savory with these red currants, but what?

Why, the answer was simple! (Sort of) Chicken salad! I love love love chicken salad. There is a lunch spot near my office (Al’s South Street Deli in case you are wondering) that served a MASSIVE chicken salad sandwich. I could down one of those in a heartbeat. And then I would have to check that my heart was actually still beating.

You see, they use A LOT of mayo. I’m actually not a huge fan of mayo unless it’s in a chicken salad sandwich. Even then, I try to put more mustard than mayo in my salad concoction.

This time I decided to forgo mayo entirely and substitute it with it’s healthier cousin, Greek Yogurt. I have to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Greek Yogurt on its own, but when it’s paired in a dish such as this? Amazing. You will not miss the mayo in this salad people. And you don’t have to be guilty about eating seconds, because this salad is actually HEALTHY for you!

Stick some on a bed of lettuce or even with your favorite bread, and you are golden.

Currant Chicken Salad

  • 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded (I roasted mine beforehand)
  • 1 cup fat free Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup chopped spring onions (use the greens too!)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup whole currants, packed tightly
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • Optional: 1/2 cup chopped roasted walnuts

In a small sauce pan, add the currants and sugar and stir to combine. Cook on medium heat until boiling and then reduce the heat and simmer to your desired thickness. I like to mash up some of the currants as well. Take off the heat and set aside to cool.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the greek yogurt, garlic powder, paprika, dijon mustard and red wine vinegar and mix to combine. Once the currants are cool, add the mixture to the yogurt mix. Add the chicken and spring onions and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add walnuts if you want an extra crunch.

Can be served slightly warmed, or if you want the flavors to meld a little more, cover with plastic wrap and let sit in the fridge for an hour. Serve over lettuce or in your favorite sandwich bread!

Wagamama @ the Pru

13 Jul

A few weeks ago, I was invited by Rachel over at Boston Food Blogs to sample some new menu items that Wagamama was unveiling. Now, if you read this blog at all, you know that I’ve shared my experience about Wagamama, but who am I to turn down free food and a chance to mingle with some wonderful food bloggers?

This was my first time visiting the Prudential center location and I have to say, they did a good job! They have a few tables outside in the arcade which makes for some good people watching and they have bench style tables throughout plus a nice view of the open kitchen.

We started out with the chicken dumplings. I love me some chicken dumplings, and this was a great start to the meal. Lightly fried with good flavors.

Next came some chili calamari. I really liked Wagamama’s version of fried calamari and that they used long strands of calamari instead of rings. The batter was light and airy, not heavy and greasy like other fried calamari. It was served with a sweet chili, garlic and cilantro sauce that was just the right amount of spicy.

What else do I say about edamame other than I can eat an entire truck load of these in one sitting. I heart edamame.

We also got to sample some delicious drinks. I’m not really a cocktail gal (beer girl all the way) but I really enjoyed this mango sekkai which was made with freshly muddled mango, basil and lime and blended with rum. It was sweet and definitely did not taste like alcohol, which is a dangerous thing.

Glazed ribs. Fall off the bone tender. I love ordering these and I was not shy about getting seconds.

The Suribachi chicken wings were finger licking good and they packed some nice heat. Yum yum.

Before I was even half way through my first drink I was presented with this ringo martini, which is sour apple and honey boubon liqueurs with fresh squeezed apple and lime. A little too strong for my liking, but still good.

Now it was onto the main courses! First, lemongrass shrimp soba. The soba was stir fried with minced cilantro, garlic, chiles, and fresh beansprouts. The shrimps were huge! And very good.

We were told that the Chicken katsu curry is their best selling item WORLDWIDE and there’s a reason for that: it’s AMAZING. Thick curry gravy is poured over perfectly pan fried chicken cutlets. Slap on some sticky rice and you are done. Next time I come to Wagamama I know what I’m ordering.

I really liked their marinated yasai noodle salad. Chock full of yummy eggplant, mushroom and sliced zucchini, this is definitely not your run of the mill salad. The addition of crispy noodles to the top was a nice touch.

This was probably my other favorite dish, the beef cha han. The beef is marinated in shichimi (what is that? I don’t know, but it’s delicious). The stir fried rice was flavorful and filled with veggies. Approved.

I’m always a little disappointed with Wagamama’s soups, and this was no exception. The salmon was overcooked and too flaky and didn’t have any flavor at all. The broth was nice, and the noodles were passable, but it was a very forgetful dish.

You didn’t think we would leave without dessert, did you??! The coconut reika was my favorite of the 3 desserts I decided to share with Kathy, Megan & Daisy. Three scoops of coconut ice cream with a smooth mango sauce and toasted coconut, I felt like I should be on a deserted island laying in a hammock swaying in the breeze. Light and fresh.

Creme brulee cheesecake. HELLO!?!? Um, love it. Although I think they could have gotten away with torching the top a bit more. Smooth and creamy.

Chocolate cake. I mean, what is there really to say? How do you go wrong with a chocolate cake? YOU DON’T. If you do somehow make a bad chocolate cake, you should probably be thrown in prison. Fudgy and dense.

Thanks so much to Rachel and Director of Marketing Nancy Barrett for letting us sample some amazing new dishes at Wagamama. It definitely came me a new appreciation of Wagamama!

Wagamama on Urbanspoon

Portuguese Style Clam Chowder

10 Jul

As you may recall, Joe and I went clamming while we were down at the Cape for 4th of July weekend. So, with over 5 dozen clams, one wonders, what to do with all of those CLAMS?!?!

Clams are obviously delicious when they are steamed. Here are a few suggestions on steaming clams.

1. Before steaming your clams, make sure you wash them thoroughly to dislodge any muck or dirt or sand. You may have to change the water a few times. Use a sponge or a brush to get the caked on stuff off.

2. If you are planning on cooking the clams the same day you buy them or collect them, keeping them in fresh water is ok. If you aren’t planning on using them the same day, then make sure you use a salt water solution so they keep fresh.

3. Discard any open clams. Gross.

4. You can steam clams 2 different ways; in the water and above the water. For this particular time we had a gigantic lobster pot with a steamer on top, so we went with above the water.

5. Fill the bottom pot with water and then place the steamer on top. You can place the clams up so you can see when they open, or you can just throw them in there and let them do their thing.

6. Let the water come to a boil before adding the clams. The first time around I let the clams sit above the water before it came to a boil. Nothing wrong with that, but it just took longer.

6. Once the water is boiling, the clams take about 10 minutes or so to open. Make sure they are open fairly wide before taking them out. We had a couple really big clams that only opened partially and we chucked them just to be on the safe side.

7. Once the clams are open, immediately take them out of the steamer. You don’t want to overcook them! Keep adding new clams to the steamer and check them periodically. It was slow goings for a while for me, but after the first batch was done, it went by really fast.

8. Let the clams cool a bit before attempting to shell them. I ended up tearing out most of them with my hands, but you can use a knife as well.

9. DON’T THROW AWAY THE JUICE THAT’S LEFT BEHIND!!!! It’s delicious, and can be used when you make your clam chowder 🙂

I seriously wished I had taken a picture of all the shelled clams, but I was basically a machine at that point, hah.

I love creamy clam chowder. I refuse to count Manhattan Clam Chowder as chowder. It’s soup, and it doesn’t hold a candle next to New England style Clam Chowder. I infused some of my Portuguese roots by adding paprika and some linguica to the pot. Everyone gulped it up, included Joe’s grandfather who ate THREE BOWLS. If that’s not a resounding seal of approval then I don’t know what is.

I little side note: I like to add A LOT of clams to my chowder. It is CLAM chowder after all. There are a lot of places that make their clam chowder and there is hardly any clams, just a lot of potatoes. Bah. So please, do load up on the clams, like I’ve done here. ENJOY!

Portuguese Style Clam Chowder

Adapted from Cooking for Engineers

  • 2-3 cups chopped steamed clams, shells removed (or more, if you are a clam fiend)
  • 2lbs russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 slices fatty hickory smoked bacon
  • 10-15oz clam juice
  • 1.25 cups whole milk
  • 1.25 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 3 tbsp paprika
  • 4 links of cooked linguica, chopped
Heat a pot on medium high and add the bacon. Cook the bacon until crispy and remove the bacon but keep the grease. Add the chopped onions and stir until coated and then cook until translucent, about 5-8 minutes. Add the potatoes and stir until the potatoes are covered with the fat then add the flour and mix.
Add the clam juice and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are softened.
Add the clams, milk and cream and stir to combine. Add the paprika and linguica and add salt and pepper to taste. Heat through, about an additional 5 minutes.
Serve immediately.

4th of July at Cape Cod

6 Jul

Most people marry for love.

Some people marry for money.


…I married for cottages on the Cape and this:

That right there is low tide at the members only beach where my husband’s grandparents live in Eastham. Back in the late 1960s, Joe’s Grandma and Grandpa (Or Bapshi and Jaji as they are known to the kids) bought 4 cottages on a small dirt road minutes away from the beach. They bought these cottages because one day they wanted their kids and their grandkids to be able to have a place to come to during the summer.

Every time I come here I feel like I’ve won the lottery.

Ok, so I REALLY didn’t marry my hubby because of the cottages….I mean, just look at him, isn’t he so cute? But the private beach certainly doesn’t hurt…

We decided a few months ago that we wanted to make the trip down to the Cape for the 4th of July. We weren’t daunted by the traffic, or the thousands of people, or the fireworks. I just wanted a weekend of fun, sun, and most of all, BEACH.

And you know what? We must have had luck on our side because there was no traffic going down or coming back home from the Cape! How’s that for awesome?

While a majority of the weekend was spent reading, swimming, napping, and generally lounging around on the beach, we did manage to do some other things. Like go to the farmer’s market!

Orleans is pretty much considered to be Eatham’s older sister. Orleans holds their farmer’s market Saturday’s from 8AM until Noon and they seriously have quite a selection of items. From honey wax candles….

To a guy strummin his guitar…

Delicious jams, jellies, and mustard (we grabbed some Pluot jam!)….

Even some organic catnip! (Yes, my cat went crazy for it!)

We didn’t buy much especially since most vendors were running low by the time we got there (and it was only 10AM!) but we managed to grab some tasty items.

After the farmer’s market we spent most of the day at the beach. It was gorgeous out!

Later on in the day, after dinner, we went over to Nauset Light Beach, which is located on the ocean side. The beach where Joe’s grandparents live is on the bay side.

I got to dip my feet into the water. It was a lot colder than the Bay side! But still felt good!

We went for a nice walk on the beach. It’s pretty quiet and romantic, especially because there is only one set of stairs leading to the beach so not many people walk that far out.

We went to bed early that night because we were going clamming in the morning! We headed out to Salt Pond with Joe’s aunt and uncle and went clamming for Quahog’s.

It was actually a LOT of fun! At first we were the only one’s there but as 8AM came more people started to come! I was worried we wouldn’t get a lot of clams, but I was wrong! We actually got too many and we had to return some! The Pond was REALLY squishy, and my flip flops kept getting stuck in the mud, but the 4 of us managed to get a huge pail of clams. FOR FREE!!!!!!!!!!! I mean, how much more awesome is that?!

I know it doesn’t look like much, but that’s actual 10 quarts of clams! Joe and I spent the afternoon cleaning, steaming, and shucking clams. We ended up making a big batch of clam chowder (post coming soon!) and Joe’s grandfather liked it so much, he had three bowls! I had big plans to fry some clams, but I came down with a cold later on in the weekend and just didn’t want to have to deal with it! We ended up with a few dozen clams. Not bad for a half hour’s work.

After we went clamming, we still needed to get breakfast! So we headed to the place that sells the BEST donuts ever, Hole in One Donuts. There is ALWAYS a line going out the door, they are seriously the best donuts in the world.

This picture is the only glimpse of the donuts that you are going to get. I may have ate the donuts too fast to actually take a picture. We got 2 honey glaze yeast donuts, 2 sour cream cake donuts, a cream filled powdered donut, & a coconut chocolate cake donut. And they were amazing. So amazing I may have eaten 3 donuts in one sitting Down it with a large iced coffee, and I’m in heaven.

More beach time was had at this point. But then we decided to head over to the Wellfleet Flea Market

Seriously, this place sells EVERYTHING. You can get tshirts, discounted designer clothing, housewares, kitchenwares. Everything.

I bought an organic cotton t-shirt for only $8!

They also sell more traditional items when you think of flea markets. Spoon wind chimes anyone????

I was incredibly tempted to buy this tortilla press. Joe talked me out of it though. Sad face.

I wish I had a bigger house so I could fill it with knick knacks. le sigh

Along with these documented adventures, we went out for ice cream (twice, it was delicious) and took Joe’s younger cousins out mini golfing at the scariest mini golf course ever. I wish I had taken pictures. Giant mutant farm animals. Just use your imagination on that one. While we didn’t get to see any official fireworks, we did get quite the show from some amateurs.

All in all it was a fabulous weekend. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to have a place to come to whenever I want (within reason, heh) during the summer. I can’t wait to be able to bring our kids here someday and be able to expose them to the beautifulness that is the Cape! Hope everyone had just as great of a weekend as we did!

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