Monday, November 12, 2012

Markets Are A Fit Food Lover's Best Friend

***Out of Towners***

Mon Jin Lau - Troy, MI

Best Crab Rangoons Ever
     While home in August, one of the highlights was definitely spending some time in Royal Oak with some of the best people in the world. No joke. Add a little gormet Chinese food, and I'm in heaven. Meagan, Marc, Megan, Diane and I headed to the most beautiful Chinese restaurant I've ever seen. Deep reds and blacks floor to ceiling. However, we sat outside amongst the swaying bamboo. The crab rangoons were unlike any I've ever had. The outer breading was thin but still crisp. The inside cream cheese crab mix was so creamy and actually tasted like real crab. It was phenomenal. I ordered Moo Shoo pork for the first time and it was unbelievable. It had Tiger Lilies, Wood Ears, Scallions, Egg, Cabbage, Peppers, Mandarin Pancakes, Hoisen Sauce. Wood ears? What in the world are wood ears? I have no idea, but the combination of all these flavors and the Jesus sauce it came with, all wrapped up in warm tortillas was just fabulous. Definitely visit if you're in the area and in the mood for some Chinese. Madonna did. 
Moo Shu Pork

Pizza Pie-er - Cambridge, MA

     So naturally, after attending a catered dinner, Antonia and I were still hungry. Hanging with Olympians and olympic coaches works up quite the appetite. After "An Olympic Evening" put on at Cambridge Boat Club, we headed to Pizza Pie-er for gooey goodness. We were so confused by what was going on inside this place. The furniture was really modern and kind of awkward. Every color of the rainbow was on the wall, on the floor, or on the furniture in some way. I wasn't sure if I should be relaxing in a chill modern atmosphere or having a seizure from the color over stimulation  We ordered a medium pizza with the veggie crust (that means it's healthy right?). This crust had whole wheat flour blended with celery, onions, green peppers, carrots, red peppers, parsley, and sundried tomatoes. Pretty inventive, however, we both agreed that we couldn't really taste a difference. Oh well. Worth a try. As toppings, we ordered mushrooms, green peppers, onions, and black olives. I must say, this was one of my first introductions to an all veggie pizza and it was good! I really liked that the green peppers were cut in full rings. The sauce was a little different. I don't I was such a fan of it. It seemed a little bit more sour. Not sour in a rotten way, but not as sweet as normal pizza sauce. But the pizza and big and thick and nice and cheesy. Totally hit the spot.

Petsi Pies - Somerville, MA

Chocolate Bourbon Pie
     I have this bad habit of going to bakeries to get cakes for coworkers' birthdays ... and picking up something for myself as well. I say to myself, "When am I going to be back here next? Never? I might as well get something." So this time I went to Petsi Pies to get a chocolate bourbon pie for Griff's birthday. This was the cutest little ma and pa bakery in Somerville (there is a location in Cambridgeport too).  I knew he liked booze and wasn't a big sweets person, so I figured I'd give this a try. The pie was phenomenal. It had the subtle taste of bourbon, and the chocolate was so rich. Just like I like it. The inside was more the consistency of, say a pecan pie. On top, they sprinkled a ton of pecans and drizzled chocolate sauce. I must say, I wish the pecans had more of a toasted taste. That would've been amazing.

Mud Bomb
     The treat I got for myself was called a Mud Bomb. It was brownie dough, mixed with chocolate ganache and walnuts and rolled into a ball. Then I think they rolled it in Oreo cookie crumbs and dusted it with powdered sugar. Oh. My. Gosh. I was blown away. I'm so glad no one walked by my car as I was inside eating it. I was in shock. It was so dense and chocolatey. I mean, this thing would satisfy anyone's chocolate craving. Anyone's. I was seriously speechless. Haha, I walked into work and my coworker Caitlin asked me how I was doing. I said I was really great. Needless to say, my reasoning wasn't what she expected.

High Rise Bread Company - Cambridge, MA

Pumpkin Muffin
     So this was kind of cheating. I didn't actually go to High Rise. They have a booth at the farmers market that I went to for a few weeks right here near my house. One week I got a multigrain roll, but I let it get hard before eating it ... shoot. The next week I got THE BEST PUMPKIN MUFFIN EVER. It was so moist and dense. The pumpkin flavor was spot on, it wasn't too sweet, and the thing was huge. I had a little moment with my magic muffin while working the Riverside booth at Cambridgport History Day. Next step: Actually go to High Rise.

Chocolate Raspberry Pancakes - Cambridge, MA

Chocolate Raspberry Pancakes
     Sometimes people ask me where I come up with some of the things I cook. Truthfully... it's safe to assume that I'm thinking about food anytime I'm either not at work or not rowing. So post Saturday 6 hour practice, Claire and I decided to bike to Haymarket for our first times. Little did we know, the bike ride home would literally be the most painful of our lives with 70 pounds of produce on our backs and handlebars. BUT.... it was worth it. I was starved when I got home, so I used my $1 package of raspberries and made chocolate raspberry pancakes. Genius. I know. These were off the charts. The combination of chocolate and raspberries is always a winning combination in my book. I also added some carob chips to some. Those were my favorite. I wish I had someone to share them with.... then again... maybe not. As far as a recipe, I just used a standard pancakes recipe from scratch and added about a quarter cup of cocoa powder. I may have added a little more milk to balance out the consistency. Then I added in a few handfuls of broken up raspberries. It's super easy. Part of the reason these were probably so good was that I used butter to grease the pan. It's been a while since I've used a decent amount of butter like that. It was fabulous :] Seriously try these out.

Breakfast Cookies - Cambridge, MA

Breakfast Cookies
The word cookie means "treat" to me. I wanted a treat, but didn't want to feel bad about it. So I searched for a breakfast cookie recipe. I found a recipe that I tweaked quite a bit, but they still turned out pretty good! Perfect Sunday morning treat complete with protein and sweetness. Try 'em out!

Banana Peanut Butter Oat & Carob Chip Breakfast Cookies

  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed until smooth & creamy
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter ~ creamy or chunky 
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups quick oatmeal  ~ uncooked  (or use old fashioned oats for more oatmeal texture)
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts (peanut, walnut, or your favorite)
  • 1/4 cup carob or chocolate chips

1) Preheat heat oven to 350 degrees.
2) In a large bowl, mix mashed banana and peanut butter until completely combined then add in the applesauce and the extract. Mix again until all are completely combined. 

3) Add in the oatmeal, carob or chocolate chips and nuts to the banana mixture and combine. 

4) Let dough rest for 10 minutes.

5) Drop cookie dough, by spoonfuls, onto a  cookie sheet and flatten cookies into circles. If you just want the carob / chocolate chips on the top of the cookies, add now. 

6) Bake cookies approx. 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and done.  Remove from oven and let rest on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then move to cooling rack.

Broccoli, Asparagus, Green Onion & Cabbage Soup - Cambridge, MA

Broccoli, Asparagus, Green onion and cabbage soup
     Inspiration for this soup came from the simple fact that I had an entire fridge of vegetables from Haymarket to use up before they started to go bad. This soup was so good and so green. I literally threw in half a head of cabbage, an entire head of broccoli, a bunch of green onions and a huge bunch of asparagus. Done. If you're looking for a low calorie soup that's filling and great with a little parmesan cheese sprinkled on top, give this a try. 

Broccoli, Asparagus, Green Onion & Cabbgage Soup

  • 1 bunch asparagus, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds broccoli, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 bunches green onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth 
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • For garnish: parmesan cheese, croutons
1) Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a hot soup pot. Sautee green onions and garlic for 1-2 minutes. 
2) Add broccoli and asparagus and cook about 10 minutes.
3) Add broth and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and partially cover, cooking until veggies are very tender, about 20 minutes.
4) Puree veggies in batches in a food processor or blender. (I used a hand immersion blender and it worked perfectly). Return to original pot and bring back up to a simmer. 
5) Season again to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with toasted croutons and parmesan cheese. 

Roasted Carrots and Beets - Cambridge, MA
Roasted Carrots and Beets
     Ok... This may seem like a silly thing to blog about, but I recently discovered how amazing roasted vegetables are. Namely, carrots. I got an enormous bag of carrots at Haymarket, cut them up into slivers, tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and sprinkled on some "Herbs of Province" spices that my mom gave me. Herbs of Province is basically a mix of rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil and lavendar. I think it's the lavendar that is the key flavor. Maybe it's just this spice mix that makes these vegetables amazing, but either way, roasted vegetables are totally under appreciated. 

Banana & Plantain Chips - Cambridge, MA
Banana and Plantain Chip Failure
     Big fail. Super bummed. I really wanted to make banana chips because the ones in the store are so full of oil, but I couldn't get it right (they do look pretty in the picture though). All I did was slice up some bananas and plantains and toss them in a little sesame oil (it was the only oil other than olive oil that I had.... hmm... maybe that was the problem). I put them all in a single layer on a cookie sheet and baked them for the recommended time I saw on most recipes, but they just weren't crisping up, so I baked them longer... and longer... and ended up burning some. At one point I pulled some out and realized that as they cooled, they hardened up and were actually ok. However, since I didn't want to eat them all at that very moment, I stored some in an airtight container. But the next time I went to have some, they had completely softened up again! I tried re-baking some to crisp them back up, but they just burnt again. I'm so confused. I need help. Any recommendations?

Curry Carrot Soup - Cambridge, MA
     It was pre-Head of the Charles and the weight really wasn't coming off. So the week before I made a low calorie soup without any sodium to last me all week for dinner. Fortunately, this soup just so happened to be delicious anyway (even though I felt like I was eating baby food)! With a plethora of carrots once again from Haymarket, I searched for carrot soup recipes and stumbled upon this one (I modified it for my lightweight diet, but I'm including Rachel Ray's full recipe, because it sounds more fun and little bit more delicious). 

  • Carrot Curry Soup

    • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 1 1/2 pounds packaged baby carrots, from produce section
    • 6 cups chicken stock, available on soup aisle
    • 1 tablespoon mild curry paste or 1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
    • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
    • Coarse salt
    • 1 cup sour cream
    • Plastic condiment bottle or medium plastic food storage bag
    • 6 blades fresh chives, cut into 1-inch pieces

1) Preheat medium pot over medium high heat. Add olive oil, butter, onions and carrots and saute 5 minutes.
2) Add 4 cups chicken stock, curry and cayenne, and about 1 teaspoon salt to the pot. Bring to a boil, cover and cook until carrots are very tender, about 15 minutes.
3) Place pot on a trivet next to food processor. Process soup in 2 or 3 small batches until soup is smooth and carrots are fully pureed. Transfer processed soup into a large bowl as you work to make room for more soup in the food processor. Return completed soup to the soup pot and place back over low heat. If the soup is too thick, add remaining stock, up to 2 cups, to achieve desired consistency. Adjust seasonings. 
4) Place sour cream in a plastic condiment squeeze bottle or into a medium food storage bag. Cut a very small hole in the corner of the bag with scissors. Ladle soup into bowls and squirt a swirl of sour cream around the bowl from the center out to the rim. Drag a toothpick from the center of the bowls out to the edges, forming a spider web design on soup. Pile a few pieces of cut chives at the center of each bowl to resemble green spiders in their webs!

All Star Pizza Bar - Cambridge, MA

Free pizza? Yes please. 
    Meagan and Megan were here for the Head of the Charles, I had made weight, the race was over, and pizza and beer was on the menu. Before heading to the Post Head of the Charles Party, we headed to All Star Pizza Bar in Inman Square. They just so happened to be closing at the moment we walked in and had a few slices of pizza left over. Yea... that's right. We got 4 huge slices of pizza FOR FREE and they let us sit there and drink a pitcher and eat pizza as they cleaned up. We got two slices of cheese pizza with their house blend of cheeses. It may have been the best cheese pizza I've ever had. Seriously. The cheese was just so good. The other two slices were they're special of the day. I believe it had their sweet italian fennel sausage, red peppers (maybe) and fresh arugala? Truthfully, it's been a while and I forget. But OH HEAVENS... it was so good. That sausage was so different than any other sausage you'd get on pizza. It wasn't greasy at all. The combo of the sausage fresh arugala and the cheese was so refreshing. The crust was thin, the cheese was real. By real, I mean that it wasn't super greasy and wasn't overly gooey. I don't know, I feel like you can just tell when pizza places use quality cheese, and these guys do. I've had one slice from them before and it was a pizza with brussel sprouts and a million other vegetables. It blew my mind, but I'll have to go back to further investigate. Plus, the staff at this place was so friendly. Who gives away free pizza?!

The Friendly Toast - Cambridge, MA     

     I had heard this place was good, and it's been on Man vs. Food, so for third breakfast after the HOCR party, Meagan, Megan and Jimmy and I headed to the Friendly Toast for what ended up being quite the experience. This place IS AWESOME!! With a 50's theme, you are never at a loss for what to look at while at the Friendly Toast. Every piece of furniture and art is unique. This place sis full of  posters from decades ago and statues of the most random things. Everything is retro, except for the portion sizes. Those are very modern. And by that I mean, they give you more food than you could fit in three of your stomachs. Their menu was unlike anything I've ever seen. Everything was very unique. For example, they have things like coconut pancakes with cashews, gingerbread waffles and more kind of egg dishes than you could even imagine. I ordered a dish called Ole Miss. It was their homemade cayenne cheddar toast topped with a real slab of sausage, mashed chipotle sweet potatoes, two scrambled eggs and mango sour cream. Yea... you heard right. The most random mix of flavors but it was out of this world. The cayenne in the toast and the chipotle from the sweet potatoes provided some spice. The sausage was savory. The sweet potatoes and mango flavors added some sweetness. I couldn't believe it. The toast was huge. I'm talking nearly two inches thick and a 7 inch x 7 inch square. Absolutely crazy. AND this was served with their homefries, which were basically sliced potatoes that were cooked to perfection with some onions and spices. They were phenomenal. Hello carbohydrates. 
Ole Miss
     I blame Jimmy for just pushing us to the absolute limit of food consumption. He wanted to try the french toast... well I did too. So we got three pieces: Cinnamon Raisin, Oatmeal and Anadama (a New England classic made with cornmeal and molasses). That doesn't seem like much, but again, their slices of bread are gargantuan. Slathered with a little butter and syrup, the Cinnamon Raisin was my favorite. Each slice of bread  was different. The oatmeal was a little more dense, the cinnamon raisin was sweet and the anadama was a little bit more plain. There wasn't as much of a molasses flavor as I was anticipating, but it was still fun to sample. 
     This trip was unbelievable. I left in shock. The Friendly Toast is definitely one of my top finds in Boston since I've lived here. A return visit is definitely on the menu. 

Toscanini's - Cambridge, MA

Browned Butter Pumpkin Sage Ice Cream
     I know I've blogged about Toscanini's before, but I just have to again. After breakfast at the Friendly Toast, Meagan, Megan, Jimmy and I headed there. I had to share the experience with them. I got two scoops. One of the same triple chocolate concoction. I don't remember what it was called, but I got it last time. It's their darkest chocolate ice cream and rich beyond all comprehension. BUT... the other I got was a browned butter pumpkin sage. I know I know... who comes up with this stuff?? It was delicious. The mix of pumpkin and sage was unlike anything I would've expected to be good. And you could really really taste the browned butter. Too bad it's a seasonal flavor. I'd go everyday for another scoop of that. I ate half of my ice cream before remembering to take a picture. 

Lamb Tagine - Cambridge, MA

Lamb Tagine with Brown Rice
     In an effort to use up some lamb in the fridge pre-hurricane Sandy, I searched for some simple, lightweight friendly recipes. I stumbled on this one and was so pleased. It was basically lamb, apricots (just for a little sweetness), honey, tomato sauce, and roasted peppers. Ok, I added the roasted peppers on my own and it was a genius idea. The softened apricots were so good and surprisingly tasty with the tomato base. Apparently Lamb Tagine is a Morrocan style lamb stew. It used all the same spices my Lebanese great grandma uses when she prepares lamb, so I was a big fan. Here was the general recipe I used to make it. I just used a little more tomato sauce instead of broth to cut the sodium, and it turned out just fine. I poured this mix on a bed of brown rice and it was just fabulous. A must-try. 

Lamb Tagine
  • (1-pound) boneless lamb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, quartered
  • 1 roasted pepper (red or orange) 

1) Heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat. 

2) Sprinkle lamb evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add lamb to pan; sauté 4 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove from pan. 

3) Add onion; sauté for 4 minutes, stirring frequently. 

4) Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, cumin, and next 3 ingredients (through garlic); sauté for 1 minute, stirring constantly. 

5) Stir in honey and tomato paste; cook 30 seconds, stirring frequently. 

6) Return lamb to pan. Add apricots and broth; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour or until lamb is tender, stirring occasionally.

Pumpkin Leek Soup - Cambridge, MA

Pumpkin Leek Soup
     Thanks to Lauren, I've discovered the magic of making soup on the weekends to last me all week. Of course, since it's fall, I wanted to make something with pumpkin and I had a nice leek from Haymarket. So... Pumpkin Leek Soup! I cut the amount of salt and instead of stock, I used some water from blanching spinach the night before. This was fabulous. It seems like something like pumpkins and leeks wouldn't go great together, but they definitely do. You have to try it to understand. Throw a few handfuls of fiber O's on top like croutons, and you've got a delicious fiber filled low calorie meal!

Pumpkin Leek Soup
  • 1 leek
  • 1 large onions or 2 small onions
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 cans mashed pumpkin
  • 1 liter chicken stock (4 cups) or 1 liter vegetable stock (4 cups) 
  • 2 cups water
  • cracked black pepper 
  • 1 pinch ground chili powder 
1) Halve leeks lengthways and wash them under cold water to remove any dirt or sand. Thinly slice them. Use the white and light green portion for addition to the soup.
2)Peel and slice onions.

3) Using a large soup/ stock pot add the olive oil the leeks, onions and salt.Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook another 1 minute.

4) Add all remaining ingredients (except the herbs for garnish) and boil for approx 25 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender.

5) Use a stick blender or food processor to puree the soup.

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