Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Taste of Cambridge

This week I had the pleasure of attending Taste of Cambridge, an annual event put on by the Cambridge Licensee Advisory Board.  Over 50 restaurants (both food and drink purveyors) and an even bigger crowd gathered in the courtyard outside the Charles Hotel to get a taste of the diverse dining scene in Cambridge!  This years beneficiaries included the very worthy Salvation Army Cambridge/Somerville Corps "Restoring Lives Capital Campaign" and the Cambridge Program/Special Olympics Saturday Program.

To say there was a lot of food is an understatement!  I did my best to sample from the restaurants I've been wanting to try, or those that everyone was buzzing about :)  Here are some of my favorite bites of the evening...

I think this was my first taste of the night, but I can't pass up elote!!  Grilled corn on the cob with cotija cheese and lime-chile salt from Ole was good, although a little too saucy.

The huge egg fan that I am, I was also excited to try the deviled egg from Russel House Tavern.  Local farm eggs were topped with shrimp and micro greens, with a bit of melon.  I can't say I tasted the melon in there, but certainly enjoyed this bite!

The Moroccoo Taco from Casablanca was delicious.  The smoked lamb was so tender and paired well with the fried chickpeas, preserved lemon and charmoula that adorned the taco.  I was totally smitten with the filling :)

Tacos were a popular item, and another popular one was the Crispy Duck Taco from Upstairs on the Square.  I think the accoutrements really made the taco; with pickled jalapenos, lime sour cream,spicy cabbage and pickled shallots each bite packed some good flavors.

I totally fell for the homemade veggie burger from Christopher's Restaurant.  It was packed with lots of goodies (I can't remember anything but the roasted corn, sorry!) and topped with pesto and roasted red peppers...  fabulous.

Stone Hearth Pizza offered up a local, organic meatball slider that was absolutely delicious, and the ciabatta that it was served on- perfectly toasty.

Another restaurant that I can't wait to go to is Oleana, especially after tasting their toasted green wheat salad, topped with whipped feta and wild oregano.  Yum!!

For a sweet ending, I tasted a few desserts from Veggie Galaxy, a vegan bakery spin-off ofVeggie Planet that will be opening this summer.  I kind of wanted to try everything on the table, but settled for a bite of the vegan cheesecake, TAZO chocolate chip cookie, and coconut citrus cupcake.

I also couldn't resist the PB&J hob nob from Craigie on Main!  My hob nob was a little short of jam, but I never complain about something that tastes like peanut butter-y bliss :)

Feed me please!

Only a portion of what I consumed over the evening, I left stuffed and excited about all the restaurants I need to find my way back too :)  It was also great to see Elina and Adam, Meghan, Megan, Justin and Elizabeth!

Elina, Meghan and Megan

Do you locals have a favorite restaurant in Cambridge??

Disclosure:  My ticket to the event was complimentary, but the opinions are my own.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Waking up to 66degree temperatures on Sunday, I thought it would be perfect running weather.  Until I stepped outside and realized it was still quite warm and very humid.  Not quite perfect, but I've run in alot worse ;) Nonetheless my nerves woke me up before my alarm and before I knew it, it was go time!

Image source

Given the events of the past nine months, I was nervous.  It's been a long road to feeling good out there running again, and I didn't want to do anything stupid in the face of a race clock :)  Add in the fact that I hadn't solidified a nutrition plan and I was using this race to test the waters for my big goal of this season (an Olympic distance triathlon), and let's just say I had some butterflies.

The BAA 10K started and finished in Boston Common, taking us through Back Bay out towards BU and back.  The staggered start for the 3,000 runners seemed to work well, as I never felt like the course was too crowded.  There were 3 rolling hills over the course, nothing too steep or long.

Somewhere around mile 1

Long story short, I couldn't be happier with how I did, finishing in 49:48.  I managed to stay around a 7:30-8:30 pace the entire race, instead of going out too fast like I usually do.  I picked out a guy ahead of me in a Hartford Marathon shirt that I stayed with the first half of the race, thought about achieving my goal, focused on form, and then picked out someone else to keep pace with the second half of the race when I lost Hartford Marathon guy.  Mile 4 was the worst for me, I grabbed water at the stop and threw it over my head, but the finish line seemed more than two miles away.  Back around the Common I was finally able to kick it, and whaddya know, there's now a race picture with both feet off the ground!


A successful race to cap of the end of my first three decades ;)  Now I just need to figure out how to keep this pace off a 26mile bike ride!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

CSA Week 2

Days are flying by here, but here's what Week 2 of my Marshall's Fenway CSA brought me...

After all of the things I made with Week 1's goodies, the one thing that plagued me was the lettuce.  Really?  I don't know why, but it sat in my fridge as I came up with other fun ways to use the rest of my goods.  That was until my partner in crime suggested a avocado BLT, and I was sold.

the BALT:  Bacon Avocado Lettuce and Tomato

A layer of creamy avocado, topped with crispy bacon, and local tomato and red leaf lettuce made for one fantastic sandwich!!

With my leftover Six Grain & Pumpkin Seed bread I decided to run with the sandwich idea and whipped up a recipe that I've been meaning to try for some time now-- Chickpea Salad!  While pegged as a mock tuna salad, I don't think it needs to be associated with tuna at all, so I'm going with its own name :)  Garbanzo's are my favorite kind of bean, so I was quite smitten with this and will make it part of my regular rotation!  My only change to the recipe was to use picked green tomatoes instead of straight up pickles as that's all I had on hand.

Anyone else have any more creative uses for fresh, local lettuce?

Hope everyone has a good weekend!!   I've got my last race in the 25-29AG coming up...  wish me luck :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sauteed Greens

Things have been crazy over here, but I just got back from my last wedding of the summer so hopefully I'll be able to find some time to read all of my favorite blogs again!  Please bear with me as I try to catch up :)

Caramelized onions...  yum.

Wanting to bring you more than another massaged kale salad, I did something a bit different with the last of the dark leafy greens from my CSA!  Inspired by the salad Elina bought to the Seder dinner hosted by Cara, I sauteed my greens and topped them with a host of goodies to create this awesome dish.

Sauteed Greens w/Caramelized Onions, Prunes & Goat Cheese
Serves 2-3

Alternatively, you could use this salad idea for your favorite green, say, spinach or massaged kale?

1-2T extra virgin olive oil
1 lg red onion, halved and very thinly sliced
8c chopped/roughly torn dark leafy greens (I used a mix of kale and beet greens)
1-2 small roasted beets, chopped (optional)
1/3c chopped prunes
1/4c chopped toasted walnuts
2oz goat cheese, crumbled

In a heavy skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion, stir to coat the onions and cook a few minutes.  Reduce to low and continue to cook until nice and caramelized.  Add in greens and 1-2T water, stir and let cook until greens have softened.  Stir in beets and prunes, then transfer to a plate and top with goat cheese and toasted walnuts.

Now that it's officially summer, what are you most looking forward to??

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Avocado Pesto Pasta

My basil plant was a little out of control last week, so I took it as a sign to make some pesto!  Some basil and spinach, along with the usual suspects made for a bright and vibrant pesto.

Basil Spinach Pesto

~1c (packed) basil leaves
~1c (packed) baby spinach leaves
1 large garlic clove, pressed
1-2T pine nuts, lightly toasted
extra virgin olive oil

Add basil, spinach, garlic and pine nuts to the bowl of a food processor.  Whirl together while streaming in olive oil until well incorporated and a little saucy (you know, pesto consistency!).  Can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container (I added a bit of plastic wrap over the surface to help keep it fresh).

And then, thanks to Maris, I remembered Angela's post about an Avocado Pasta and I started daydreaming about my pesto's fate--  Avocado Pesto sauce!

Avocado Pesto Sauce

1 recipe Basil Spinach Pesto (or ~1/3c prepared pesto)
1 avocado

Combine pesto and the flesh of the avocado in the bowl of a food processor and blend until well combined.  Toss with cooked pasta or use it to sauce some roasted veggies, dip for fresh veggies, salad dressing...  the possibilities are endless.

The avocado pesto sauced some homemade pasta and then I turned to the rest of my CSA goodies to finish off the meal.

Sauteed Squash

1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1 medium summer squash, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1-2T extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a medium or large skillet over medium heat.  Add zucchini, summer squash and onion and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper, and saute until squash has cooked through and starts to become translucent.  Remove from heat, adjust seasoning and serve.

Avocado Pesto Pasta w/Summer Vegetables
Serves 2-3

1 recipe homemade pasta
1 batch avocado pesto sauce
1 batch sauteed squash
1 large ripe tomato, chopped

Cook pasta al dente, then drain and return to the pot.  Add avocado pesto sauce and toss with noodles.  Distribute pasta to serving dishes, top with sauteed squash and chopped tomato, then serve!

This was definitely a perfect summer pasta dish!  Tell me, do you have a favorite pasta sauce?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

CSA Week 1

Week one of Marshall's Fenway Farm CSA brought quite a bounty.  Two heads of kale, red leaf lettuce, beets, broccoli, carrots, asparagus, greenhouse tomatoes, zucchini and summer squash-- oh my!

Some things were enjoyed simply, a gorgeous tomato sprinkled with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, for instance.  Roasted asparagus and carrots straight off the pan (consumed so ravenously I did not get a picture).

There was a Paleo-friendly broccoli salad...

Broccoli Salad w/Bacon & Raisins
Recipe by Shannon

3/4lb broccoli florets, blanched
1/3c slivered almonds
1/4c golden raisins
4 slices bacon, baked until crispy and crumbled
dressing:  1.5oz extra virgin olive oil, 1.5oz apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper to taste

Add salad ingredients to a medium bowl, toss with dressing and serve.

For the first reader-inspired dish I made Annie's Vegetable Enchiladas. (Thanks Lauren!!)  I always find enchiladas hard to photograph, but hopefully you'll trust me that these were delicious.

My adaptations were to use red kidney  beans (instead of black beans), 12oz zucchini and summer squash (instead of 8oz zucchini), feta in the filling and gruyere on top (I didn't have any cheddar on hand).  With these changes I ended up with 16 enchiladas and used all of my sauce, but they made for some fantastic lunches this week :)

Another shoutout to Erin, who turned me onto an NPR article which linked to Frog Bottom Farms, I threw together another massaged kale salad.  This one was simply dressed with ~1T good olive oil, coarse sea salt and 2T meyer lemon juice, then topped with shaved carrots and raw sunflower seeds.  Perfect easy salad to throw together before work!

What's the best meal you've had this week?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Project Wedding Cake II

Oh, you wanted to know what flavor cupcakes we made??   I wanted to build some suspense ;)   We opted for a Ginger Mango version (drizzled with sweetened mango puree) as well as an Almond Raspberry (topped with a fresh raspberry).

Ginger Mango Cupcakes
Ginger Chiffon Cupcakes - Sky High, p.133
Mango Mousse - Sky High, p. 76
Almond Cream Cheese Frosting - Sky High, p. 159

Eat me!

The ginger chiffon cake was so light and delicious, especially since we punched up the amount of fresh ginger (used 1.5X).  Beware that this cake rises nicely when baking and then deflate as it cools--disappointing, but no less delicious.  Mango mousse really needs no description, but with a bit of rum, it added something special to the cupcakes.  Trader Joe's made this incredibly easy with their packs of frozen mango puree (which also happen make excellent popsicles or smoothie additions).  We topped these cupcakes off with everyone's favorite, the almond cream cheese frosting.  Downright addicting!

Almond Raspberry Cupcakes
Almond Cupcakes - Baked, p. 76
Raspberry Cream - Sky High, p. 81
White Chocolate Buttercream - Sky High, p. 83

A bit more like a traditional cupcake, the almond cupcake was rich and buttery with a nice crumb.  The raspberry cream was amazing, a bit of tart from the berries and hints of rosewater.  Made with Callebaut, the white chocolate buttercream was silky and rich, definitely worth a little extra effort! 

Couldn't be more inviting!

This adventure was certainly a success.  There was a report that someone ate seven.  The bartender said she had never seen wedding cake go so fast.  A few people made sure to grab a cupcake to-go.  Best cake someone ever had?!  Hearing all of this was the highest of praise, and humbled us both.  We ended the evening as happy bakers and smiled as our heads hit the pillow for a much needed rest!

Which cupcake would you have gone for??  One of each?   I'm not going to lie, the ginger mango cupcake kinda stole my heart.  Luckily I am not a one cupcake kinda gal ;)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Project Wedding Cake I

When a good friend asked Rebecca and I if we would like to bake the cake for their wedding reception, I didn't hesitate to say yes!  Luckily Rebecca indulged my craziness and accepted the challenge.

Many hours later, our hard work paid off and every last morsel was consumed!  Better yet, Rebecca might even bake with me again!!

Rebecca's baking suit :)

The couple gave us free reign when it came to what we wanted to do for their baked goods...  cake or cupcakes, flavors, decoration, it was all up to us.   Knowing how quickly I make decisions, we're lucky they got their cake :)

After pouring over some cookbooks, a three baking sessions to test out some cakes and flavor combinations, we had a plan.  One cake for cutting purposes and a lot of cupcakes.  Wedding cake novices, we didn't quite have the equipment for baking a cake large enough for 70 people, nor did we feel comfortable decorating one!

My estimations for numbers (~100, 48 of each flavor) seemed spot-on, as both the cupcakes were polished off before we all left Fosters Clam Bake.  However, my fear of not having enough filling and frosting did cause me to overestimate the amount of those to make, oops!  Things went pretty smoothly, minus one failed attempt at finding the soft ball stage :)

Here's how it went down...

Plan of Attack:
Thursday PM- make frostings (~4hrs)
Friday- bake cake and cupcakes (~5hrs)
Saturday AM- prepare fillings (~2hrs)
Saturday noon- assembly!  (~2hrs)

Thanks to a consult with Jen, transporting 100+ cupcakes was made easy through the use of under-the-bed boxes  (awesome tip)!  Seated in the boxes lined with grip-it shelf liner, all of our babies arrived safe in Maine safe and sound.  The cake layers were simply wrapped in saran, fillings kept on ice, and frostings left out so they would come to room temperature during the car ride north.

a perfect bite (cupcake core, dab of filling and frosting)

When it came to go-time, we went with a divide-and-conquer approach, Rebecca and Mike cored and filled cupcakes while I prepared the cake.

After that was done I frosted the cupcakes while Rebecca provided the finishing touches!

Somehow we managed to finish decorating the cupcakes and get our mess out of the way just as the first guests started arriving.  A quick trip to the hotel to change, it was then time to relax and enjoy the party :) 

Congrats Meghan and Leo!!!

Come back on Monday to find out what flavors we baked up!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bits & Pieces

I'm in the midst of writing about the latest project, but in case you were wondering...

A wedding cake (and many cupcakes) were made last weekend!!

Luckily I've eaten more than just sugar the past week ;)  In search of a mushroom-filled dinner that wouldn't require me to turn on the oven (anyone want to gift me an air conditioner for my kitchen?), Rebecca pointed me to Deb's Mushroom Crepe Cake.  One look and I knew I'd be making it the next night!

A first for making crepes, it didn't seem so bad (next time will probably not go as easy ;)).  There were definitely extra crepes, which made me wish I had more mushroom filling, but it was delicious!!  I don't think I made enough changes to Deb's recipe to post it here, but I did cut back on the butter in filling (used 1T butter +1T olive oil), used cave-aged gruyere and almond milk in the filling, added ~1t chopped fresh thyme and didn't measure my cheese (so was probably short).  The only change to the crepe batter was to use white whole wheat flour and omit the butter needed for the pan as my pan didn't require any.  Highly recommended, whether it be for a brunch or dinner spread!

I also got the first share from Marshall's Farmstand CSA and I couldn't be more excited for the summer :)  Check out the goods...

What should I make from my share??
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