Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Monster Trucks trump Chocolates

Fatima's - Worcester, MA
(In a clockwise order from the top) Beef stew, eggplant and cauliflower, beans, spinach/potato/peas,
goat stew,chicken stew, and (in the center) cabbage/carrots/potatoes

     Chocolates are nice. Flowers are nice. But monster trucks are even better! For Valentines Day, David and I drove out to Worcester in a blizzard to go to this monster truck rally. It was our first
rally. I could go in to detail about it, but just know that they're awesome and watching enormous trucks fly through the air is probably more exciting than the average person might think.
     Anyway, David and I were talking about Ethiopian food the day before, so I decided to find an Ethiopian restaurant around there for before the show. We stopped at Fatima's Cafe in Worcester, which was this tiny little restaurant that just looked like a converted pizza shop. No frills about it. No fancy tables, no signs. Just a couple ladies and a little kid running around feeding their only party of two. For $15, we got their Ethiopian bread with 5 different stews and some beans. If you've never had Ethiopian before, they basically serve you this really strange thin bread that's like one enormous flat pancakes filled with bubble holes. It's really spongy and, to me, there seems to be a slightly sour taste, but David didn't think so. I know there are a few friends of mine that have been a little less than enthused about the bread.
     So when they bring the bread out it's in a big bowl, or on a big plate and they throw on a bunch of scoops of whatever stew you want. You take the bread and use it (kind of like a pita) to scoop up or pinch some stew. Everything thing is supposed to be with your hands. At Fatima's we got a beef stew with red peppers; chicken with red peppers and onions; a vegetable stew with potatoes, carrots, and some cabbage; another vegetable stew with spinach, peas and potatoes; a third vegetable stew with eggplant and cauliflower; and finally a goat meat stew with carrots and onions and such. First of all, not a fan of goat. Maybe it was just the cut of meat or the way it was cooked, but it was really fatty and almost felt oily in your mouth. Plus it was really hard to chew. That gets frustrating for me because I just want to move on and eat more things but can't. I need food patience.
Son of a Digger at Monster Jam 
     The beef stew was probably my favorite, with the cabbage stew second. I love cabbage. Most of the stews had similar flavors, probably because of the spices they use, which generally consist of a bunch of curry, chili, garlic, cumin and some others. Towards the end, the bread got really soggy and was really difficult to use as a scoop, so we had to resort to forks. Oh well. Fatima's was worth the stop, all the ladies working there were really sweet, the price was great, and I was happy to support a local business like that.


The Local - Wellesley, MA

Classic wings and fried pickles.

     I finally tried skiing! Not downhill skiing, but cross country skiing. Alyse, Meagan, Eric and I were climbing big snow hills here in Allston, when Alyse said, "We should go skiing." So up we got and went (and met Kevin there). It was AWESOME! I ate it on all the hills, though. Gotta work on that. Anyway, afterwards we went into Wellesley to The Local to get some food. It was beautiful inside! Lots of dark woods and iron looking light fixtures, but it had a classy side. We felt almost a little under dressed, but our hunger helped us push through the potential social discomfort.
The Local burger
     As an appetizer we ordered fried pickles with spicy mayo, which were both done really well. Because pickles are so juicy, sometimes I think restaurants have difficultly frying them and keeping the breading crispy, but The Local did a great job keeping the breading thin and crisp. We also got buffalo wings which were great. It's hard to mess those up. I just prefer that they're clean and don't leave me feeling like a grease bucket, which these didn't.
     For the meal, I ordered their local burger, made with locally sourced "prime beef", It was cooked absolutely perfectly with a little bit of pink. It was also great because it was very lean and not greasy at all. Definitely quality, fresh beef. It came on a big, fluffy brioche bun with their hand cut fries. The fries were tossed with coarse salt and parsley, giving them a great herby flavor. They were done fabulously with a thin, crisp outside. All around, absolutely no complaints. And the speed at which they refilled our water glasses was incredible.


Paris Creperie - Brookline, MA

Helen & Paris crepe from Paris Creperie

     I was on this job the other day with Christian and James, and my packed lunch became history once they started raving about this place called the Paris Creperie. It wasn't until I got there that I realized this was the same place that had the crepe truck I've seen around. I don't think I had ever had a crepe before (other than the ones Andrew and I made at home), but I was pumped. Paris Creperie was a tiny little shop in Brookline that served both sweet and savory crepes, providing some seriously tough choices. 
     If you've never really had a real crepe before, it's basically a very thin pancake that they fold over a few times to encase a bunch of goodies, which, in the sweet category, can include things like fruits, nutella, peanut butter, butter, etc. In the savory sector, you see herbs, vegetables, and sometimes meats. I decided to go with the savory option and chose the Helen & Paris. It was a mint infused crepe with chickpeas, feta cheese, kale, roma tomatos, kalamata olives and a cucumber mint relish. First of all, I was so delightfully surprised how big it was! It was stuffed and the crepe itself (when unfolded) must've been 50% bigger than a standard (American) dinner plate.
     I loved the chickpeas in it because it gave it some substance and was filling. But the best part was the feta cheese, kale, olives and tomatoes. Wait and the cucumber mint relish. Well... that's the whole rest of the crepe. There was the perfect amount of feta in it too, because too much warm feta would've made it too creamy inside and would've taken away from some of the freshness of the whole crepe. The kale was perfectly steamed and wasn't the stiff kale I seem to always end up with when I shop for it myself. The warm tomatoes and the salty olives (I'm working really hard on liking olives and it's working!) were so tasty. I think the olives may have actually been my favorite addition to the dish! I feel like it would've been completely different without them. The little burst of salt was so good. While some of the crepes were a little more expensive than I'd want to spend on a lunch, I still would love to try them all. Especially some of the sweet ones now. 


Pumpkin Spice Bagels - My Kitchen, Allston, MA

Pumpkin Spice Bagels

     So I figured I'd try my hand at these Pumpkin Spice bagels that I've been looking at for over a year on Ambitious Kitchen. She made them with a whipped honey butter, but I opted not to simply because I'm lazy and figured buttering the bagels and drizzling some honey on them would be basically the same thing. For the bagels, I used that homemade pumpkin puree I made a month ago or whenever that was. I figured they'd be nice and pumpkin-y, but honestly, they're more just like flour with spices. Granted, I nailed the texture, which I'm pretty proud of. I was most nervous about that because bread never really seems to work out when I try it. I always screw up the whole rising process. Oh and the kneading. So much kneading. I think my bagels just needed a little more pumpkin flavor, which could be due to my puree being less fresh and from not so flavorful pumpkins? I don't know. I also wanted a little more sweetness. Meagan tasted the pumpkin and likes them though. I'm probably just being too critical. Boo. Maybe I'll try again some day.

Pumpkin Spice Bagels
1 cup of warm water (110° to 115°)
2 teaspoons yeast
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
3 1/2 cups of bread flour + more if necessary
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
Olive oil
1 egg, slightly beaten

1. Place warm water in a large bowl and add yeast and brown sugar. Stir and let sit for about 3-5 minutes. Add in pumpkin, spices, salt, and 2 cups of bread flour and begin to stir together to form a soft, sticky dough.

2. Transfer the sticky dough to a lightly floured surface and add in another cup of flour. Begin to knead dough by hand until all of the flour is absorbed. Add in another 1/2 cup of flour and knead again until all of the dough is absorbed. Knead dough for about 8 minutes. The dough should not be sticky, but smooth and elastic.

3. Place dough in a bowl coated with oil, and cover the top allowing it to rise in a warm place until dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.

4. After an hour, punch down the dough and shape into 12 balls. Roll each dough ball into a rope, about 8 inches long. Push your thumb through the center to form a 2 inch hole and stretch the dough to form an even ring. Place the bagels on a baking sheet (greased or lined with parchment paper), cover again with plastic wrap and let rise for 15-20 minutes more.

5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray.

6. Fill a large pot with a couple inches of water and bring to a boil. Drop bagels, two at a time, into boiling water. Cook for about 45 seconds on each side. Remove with a slotted spoon; drain well on paper towels. 

7. Place on baking sheets, brush with egg wash, and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and cool on wire racks.

Apple Cinnamon Granola - My Kitchen, Allston, MA

     My sad pumpkin spice bagels made me sad (and I had sunflower seeds that I discovered on my shelf), so I decided to make Stef's apple cinnamon granola from her blog Energy Neutral. I saw it a long time ago, but psyching myself up to make homemade granola is hard. It's tough to make and I get nervous I'm going to ruin it again. I liked Stef's recipe because it used applesauce instead of oil. Most have a ton of oil and a ton of sugar, lending to it's crisp and crunchiness, but I don't need that or want all the extra cals. Not that it really matters anymore, but I'm still conscious of it. Anyway I was actually pretty impressed with how crunchy this actually got considering I didn't add any oil. I didn't add the protein powder she suggests in her recipe though (which honestly may have greatly altered the flavor)m and I just used all rolled oats as opposed to some rolled oats and some quick cook oats. It's really tasty and light and I don't feel like I'm eating handfuls of sugar, which is good. I love how cinnamon-y it is.

Apple Cinnamon Granola

2 1/2c rolled oats
1/4c sunflower seeds
1/4c chopped almonds (this can be done in the food processor)
1/2c apple sauce
2tbs cinnamon
1/4c maple syrup

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. In a large bowl, combine apple sauce, cinnamon, and maple syrup to make a slurry. Add oats and stir to coat. 

3. Press granola mixture into a greased pan and bake for 30 minutes, stirring at 20 minutes.

5. Remove from oven, let cool and enjoy.

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