Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Princess Posse

Port 305 - Quincy, MA

    For Meagan's birthday dinner, she wanted to go some place on the water. The beach is her favorite place, so I set out to try to find somewhere with a beach nearby and a pretty view of the water from the dining area. I searched all throughout Boston, north of the city, and south of the city along the coast and finally decided on Port 305 in Quincy. I had never heard of this place, but it had outdoor seating and a nice view of Marina Bay. Once we got there, we all joked that this place couldn't really figure out who they were. Their menu had different sections for things like stir-fry, nachos, seafood, burgers, pasta, pizza and chicken wings. Although it was kind of odd, I figured it would probably have something for everyone. Plus, being just outside the city, I figured the wait would be less and the prices more affordable. The finally selling point was their page long list of martinis. I knew Meagan and Karl would be all about those.
The view from Port 305 (photo credits to Meagan)
     The restaurant sat along a really nice boardwalk that wound up and down around the marina and was lined with a bunch of different and lively looking restaurants. After strolling through a nearby park during sunset with pink "Princess" part hats on, Meagan, Karl, Jimmy, Dave, Alyse, John and I headed inside for food. Their outdoor seating was really nice, but we opted to sit inside because it was getting dark and a little chilly.
     For drinks, everyone passed around quite a number of different martinis, but the best (in my opinion) was Karl's espresso martini... which was surprising because I don't like coffee. It had a rich sweetness rather than a sugary sweetness and was smoother than some of the other martinis that had a little more kick. I was grateful that they all let me sample each martini because I clearly wasn't getting one of my own.
      For the appetizers (which I neglected to take photos of), we ordered a plate of the fried calamari to share and their bread with hummus. The fried calamari was pretty standard. It was served with lemon, plum tomato sauce and those delicious yellow peppers. It had a light breading on it and wasn't overly salty, which I was happy about. You really just can't go wrong with the calamari, lemon and pepper combo. Still nice and hot, the calamari had a great crunchy shell and tender insides. Their homemade hummus dip seemed more like just ground chickpeas minus the tahini. I'd say that without tahini, you shouldn't call it hummus... but that's just me. Regardless, it was tasty but was missing the little bit of sharpness that tahini provides. It was served with olives and their lemon and roasted garlic toasted banquette. The bread itself had a great garlicy flavor but was a tad too oily and hard for my liking.
Sesame Chicken Mandarin
     For dinner, I was set on a salad and ordered the Sesame Chicken Mandarin salad with mixed greens, those strange crunchy Asian noodly things and an Asian citrus dressing. If I had noticed that the chicken on the salad was deep-fried from the get-go, I probably wouldn't have ordered that salad. But oh buddy was that chicken amazing. I had been craving some sort of fried chicken for months, but was assuming that it was going to have to wait until after some upcoming spring racing. So this was quite the accidental treat that I really couldn't refuse once it was put in front of me (I know, I know... I sound pathetic because I just referred to a piece of fried chicken on a salad as a treat). The chicken was so tender and juicy and the breading maintained its crispness throughout the meal. The breading also wasn't your standard breading. It was darker and full of different spices that added another completely unique flavor to the salad itself. I could've done without the Asian noodle sticks (they seem flavorless and useless to me), but the citrus soy dressing was stellar. I think it had some ginger in it too which complimented the herb-y flavors of the chicken. That chicken though.... woah.


Sweet Breakfast Rolls - My Kitchen, Cambridge, MA

Our assortment of breakfast rolls :]
     On the morning of Meagan's birthday, I decided to make her these chocolate breakfast rolls that we had discussed a few months back. I found them on a blog called Hummingbird High quite some time ago and was waiting for the perfect opportunity to make them. I had some leftover puff pastry in the freezer, so I figured this was it. The instructions were simple. Cut your puff pastry into 6 rectangles, line each with whatever ingredients you desire, roll it up and bake it for 15-20 minutes. I brought out all my jars of fixings, and we went to town. It was like food art. It was great. We had chocolate chunks, raisins, marshmallows, my Grandma's raspberry jam, strawberry preserves, peanut butter, homemade nutella (courtesy of Nonna), banana and apples. Some of the best combinations (I thought) were the peanut butter, banana and chocolate (duh); raspberry jam, chocolate and peanut butter; and the apple, chocolate and nutella. However, I'm 100% sure you couldn't make a bad combination with any of those ingredients. It was such a quick, fun and easy little morning treat.

Sweet Breakfast Rolls

1 (14 oz.) package frozen all-butter puff pastry, defrosted overnight in the fridge
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
a sprinkle of sea salt

Any toppings you desire (for example: chocolate, fruits, nut butters, jams, etc.)

1) Preheat the oven to 400 (F).
2) Cut your thawed puff pastry into 6 x 3 inch rectangles.
3) Add all of your fixings in the center of your pastry rectangle and roll up the puff pastry so that all the insides are covered. Flip the roll so that the seam is on the bottom facing the pan. If you leave the seam up, the puff pastry will burst open and it'll be more like a breakfast pizza.
4) In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of water. Use a pastry brush to brush the beaten egg and water mixture on top of the rolls. Sprinkle with a dash of sea salt.
5) Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until puffed and golden. Keep a close eye on them because they may start to burn quickly.  Cool for 5-10 minutes and serve immediately. 


Chocolate Cauliflower Cake - My Kitchen, Cambridge, MA

Chocolate Cauliflower Cake with Reeses Pieces Frosting
     The day after Meagan's birthday was Mary's birthday. I wanted to make her a treat, but wanted it to be healthy and unique. We like trying new things, and we both like a blog called Chocolate Covered Katie, so I decided to try out her Chocolate Cauliflower Cake. The cauliflower in this case is used as a replacement for a majority of the flour I believe. If you rice it up in a food processor it actually turns into a pretty fine "powder." A lot of the other ingredients in the cake were pretty standard though (I didn't use her sugar replacements though), so it looked just like any normal chocolate cake. For the frosting, I used Chocolate Covered Katie's recipe for a reeses pieces frosting. My frosting was a little bit more runny that it should've been (probably because I used Trader Joes peanut butter which is pretty liquidy to begin with), so I ended up adding a little powdered sugar and corn starch to thicken it up. It was quite an experiment, but I think it turned out great.
     I ended up making one larger cake for Mary and one two-bite cake for myself and a couple others to taste test (I had to try it). I liked the way that Mary described it. "It's one of those things that tastes better than it smells." It had quite a strong smell of cauliflower, but didn't taste overwhelmingly like cauliflower. Not like cauliflower has a strong taste anyway, but the cake only had a very slight veggie taste to it. If you didn't know that there was cauliflower in it, you probably would be able to tell something was different but might not have been able to guess what it was. I was pretty impressed with the frosting too. It was basically a sweet peanut butter and chocolate frosting without the feeling of eating straight sugar or sticks of butter. Mary said she loved the whole cake, so I'd consider it a success!

Chocolate Cauliflower Cake

3/4 cup all-purpose or pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 2 tbsp ground flax
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 to 1 cup chocolate chips or chunks
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 loosely-packed cups uncooked cauliflower
1/2 cup milk of choice
3 tbsp oil (or 3 tbs applesauce)

1) Preheat oven to 350F, and grease an 8x8 square  or medium sized round baking dish. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl, and mix well. 
2) Combine all liquid ingredients and the cauliflower in a food processor and blend until super-smooth, so there are no lumps. 
3) Pour wet ingredients into dry, and mix until just combined. Then pour into prepared pan and bake 30 minutes. Or, according to Chocolate Covered katie, you can bake only 14 minutes and then leave uncovered in the fridge overnight, and it’ll firm up and turn out like fudge! Let cool completely. 

Reeses Pieces Frosting

(Yields almost 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup peanut butter (or other nut butter)
4-8 tsp pure maple syrup
2 tbsp cocoa powder
4 tsp milk of choice
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

Blend everything in a small food processor. As I mentioned before, I added a little confectioners sugar at first, and then cornstarch to thicken it up a tad because my peanut butter was runny. Store leftovers in the fridge... or eat them. 


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