Sunday, April 14, 2013

Will You _____ My Fish Taco?

Homemade Larabars - My Kitchen, Cambridge, MA 

    Sometimes I go through these phases were I realize how much money I'm spending on things out of convenience, and it bothers me. So I do something about it. Bars are easy calories and taste delicious, but they're so crazy expensive. After realizing at 1-2 bars a day, I'm spending 35-50 dollars a month on bars, I decided to start experimenting. I'm really into the idea of simple foods. Simple raw foods to be specific. I stumbled upon this blog called Rawified that has recipes for every single kind of Larabar. If you're unfamiliar, Larabars are made of very simple ingredients. Generally they contain dates, maybe another kind of dried fruit, and raw nuts. End of story. With easily absorbed sugars and healthy fats, I figured these would be great for before a workout. While J-money was here a few weeks ago, we decided to give the Blueberry Muffin Larabar a try. The most important lesson we learned from this process? Don't just throw all the ingredients together and expect your food processor to blend it evenly. Most recipes recommend just throwing it into a food processor and ... boom... done. Now I'm not sure if my processor is just not up to speed (ha... pun) or if I did something wrong, but throwing all the sticky fruits and nuts together was just too much for it to handle.
     Regardless of the non-uniform texture of all of our ingredients, our Blueberry muffin "bars" were delicious! They tasted just like the Larabars! The only difference was that I had to add a little water in order to get the ingredients to mix, thus resulting in the inability to form them into bars. They then became Blueberry Muffin balls. I forgot to take a picture and we destroyed them before I finally remembered.
     Per Jake's recommendation, I decided to give the Key Lime Pie Larabars a try and process each ingredient separately. This worked like a charm! I got a much more uniform consistency for the entire mix, not to mention they were phenomenal! Once again, tasted just like the Larabars themselves. A simple blend of raw nuts, sweet coconut and dates and the bite of the lime juice.
     It cost me around $4.87 to make the whole batch of 14 bars, at 140 calories a piece (70% of the calories of a normal Larabar). From a dollar per calorie perspective, that's 60 cents per 200 calorie homemade bar versus the $1.30 Larabar you buy in the store. Yes... I really did figure all that out. Don't ask how. You'll think I'm crazy. On second thought, it's probably all ready to late for that. Let's just say it involves heavy research and excel skills.

Blueberry Muffin Larabar

Key Lime Pie Larabars
1 cup pitted dates
1 cup almonds
2 tbs shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1/2 tbs pumpkin pie spice (I just mixed cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice)

Key Lime Pie Larabar

1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup almonds
1 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup shredded coconut
splash of lime juice 

Curry Coconut Lime Soup - My Kitchen, Cambridge, MA

Curry Coconut Lime Soup
     Another interesting soup experiment of mine turned into a great success. I had some leftover coconut milk from a curry dish I made and decided to somehow get it into a soup. I had about three recipes that sounded great, but couldn't decide which to use, so I just combined parts of each, took out others and came up with some crazy Thai-like soup. I say it's Thai-like because it has that typical coconut curry flavor to it. One recipe called for a Thai chili paste, so I attempted to create this with a bunch of random ingredients like garlic, ginger, ketchup and a variety of spices. This is a really light tasting soup, but it's totally satisfying... not to mention you'll feel kind of fancy eating it. Like you're some kind  of culturally experienced chef. Now, I added a little shredded chicken to this for some protein, but it's totally not necessary if you wanted to make this vegetarian. Not to mention, the chicken breast I put in this recipe was about the size of a deck of cards. I'd maybe get a hunk or two per serving. Almost pointless. Here's me attempting to recreate this masterpiece.

Curry Coconut Lime Soup

1 1/4 cup coconut milk
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup chopped fresh pea pods
1 chopped orange pepper
2 large carrots, sliced
1 chicken breast
2 oz. angle hair pasta
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup lime juice
1 cup fresh spinach
1 tbs minced fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow hot pepper, chopped (or one chili pepper)
1 tbs ketchup
1/2 tsp white pepper
A few shakes of red pepper flakes
1 tbs curry
1 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cinnamon

1) In a small bowl, prepare your Thai-chili paste by combining the ginger, garlic, minced hot pepper, ketchup , white pepper, red pepper flakes, and cumin. Mix until thoroughly combined.

2) In a large soup pot on medium heat, bring the coconut milk, vegetables, chili paste and all of the other spices to a simmer. Let these simmer for a good 20 minutes. The whole mix will start to thicken. That's ok. 

3) Add in your shredded chicken, stock, lime juice and angel hair pasta that has been broken up into small pieces. Stir to mix evenly and let simmer another 20 minutes. Add in the spinach (optional) 10 minutes before serving. 

Border Cafe - Cambridge, MA

     Well, let me just go right out and say I've found my new favorite Mexican place in Boston. Border Cafe
Mesquite Grilled Salmon Salad
in Harvard Square was the destination of choice for Meagan's short visit to Boston. As soon as I walked in to meet Meagan, Karl, Jimmy and Dave, I was overwhelmed with the congestion, but it was the good kind of congestion. The place was packed and the wait staff was scurrying around like crazy. Every wall was decorated and music that made me want to break out my not-so-great salsa skills poured out the speakers. They took the Mexican feel to a whole new level.
    The only downside? I'm in serious weight loss mode, so I had to stick to a salad and, at first, I was bummed about it. More on that later. The first thing to our table was a piping hot basket of chips and salsa. I don't just mean warm. I meant HOT. As in, you were bound to burn your fingers on the first chip you reached for. These chips were absolutely incredible. They are EXACTLY what I've been looking to find in Boston. Not kidding. They were thin, crispy, homemade and hot. In total, we had three baskets (maybe four) delivered to the table and each basket was hotter than the previous one. Worry not, I was good and only had a few from each basket. You know... had to try some from each basket... make sure they were safe.
      So this salad I ordered sounded good, but I was not expecting it to be as delicious as it was. It was their Mesquite Grilled Salmon salad. I figured it was a good pre-pieces option, full of greens, protein and healthy fats. This was by far the best salmon I have ever had. There was this delicious sweetness on the outside because it had  been slightly crisped up from the lime-soy glaze. What really took it to the next level was how the filet was marbled and the grilled taste. Normally I can't tell the difference when something has been grilled a certain way, but the wood fired flavor in this fish was so present. It arrived at the absolute perfect temperature and just melted in my mouth. The salmon sat on a corn and bean salsa with a bed of greens that had been tossed in a citrus vinagrette that I would pay large sums of money to get the recipe. It was incredible. It was lightly sweet with a little bite and went perfectly with the flavors in the salmon.
     Naturally, I had a few bites of Meldrim's swordfish tacos, which were stuffed with really unique vegetables and mangos. Their menu was so unique and full of really interesting flavor combinations. I've got to go back a) when I can destroy 4 baskets of those heavenly chips myself and b) to experience another one of their awesome creations. Everyone was super satisfied, cleaned their plates (Jimmy and I helped Meldrim), and once again, the waiter was impressed.

Saloon - Cambridge, MA

     Ok so I'm going to make this quick, because I intend to return to Saloon to fully experience it at some point, and I'd love to write more about it. Long story short, Bluetrain finally closed our round of funding, and I met up with a bunch of coworkers at Saloon in Davis Square. The place is absolutely gorgeous! It's underground, and there is no real sign outside. It's like walking through a trap door into a beautiful parlour. The bar and all the furnishings were made of dark wood and brassy metals. The lights were dim, and the place gave off a real classy/swanky/seductive vibe. This place was topping the charts for unique design. I felt like I was stepping into an underground bar from the roaring twenties.
     Back to the food. I ran there, and didn't intend to eat while there, but I should've known there would be appetizers. My coworkers ordered some of the best fries I've had in Boston, Beer Battered Pickled Feta Cheese Stuffed Peppers, and a platter of thinly sliced meats, pâté, pickled veggies, stone ground mustard and a small loaf of bread. Oh and Devils on Horseback. They were these incredible feta cheese stuffed and bacon wrapped figs. The sugars from the figs and the fats from the bacon perfectly caramelized on the outside and it was just delectable. The presentation was five star, and so was the taste. Going back asap.

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