June 2009


Last night, I met a friend at Blue Stove at Nordstrom in the Burlington Mall (Burlington, MA) for dinner. We had both heard of the (fairly new) tapas restaurant and were anxious to try it out. Blue Stove is a hidden gem, actually located on the second floor of Nordstrom between the women’s apparel and juniors departments. 

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As soon as we walked into the restaurant we forgot that we were in a department store. The restaurant is smaller, dark, and chic. We visited on a Monday night so there was no wait for a table and the server was attentive and friendly.

As we relaxed in a booth, we perused the one-page menu which consists of a couple dozen tapas, categorized by cold salads, main dishes and sides – again all small plates. We each chose two plates to share as well as a side dish. We also both had a glass of wine (from what I understand, Blue Stove only has a wine and beer menu).

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Here’s our order and my commentary:

Honey Glazed Chipotle Grilled Vegetables (pictured above, top right)

A member of the cold salad section of the menu, this was the largest portion we received of all our tapas. The grilled vegetables consisted of large pieces of onion, tomato, red pepper, zucchini and yellow squash. The flavor was light and sweet with a hint of spice. I didn’t enjoy the onion but the other vegetables were delicious and flavorful. I may have to try recreating these at home.  

Braised Short Ribs with Wilted Spinach and Red Wine Demi-Glace (not pictured, sorry!)

These short ribs dish were cut-with-a-fork fantastic! The portion size was fairly large for tapas and consisted of six or seven two-bite moist short ribs. The beef sat in a rich red wine sauce which complemented the dish very well. The spinach was good but basic.

Cilantro-Lime Chicken Tacos (pictured above, bottom right)

Two words: adorable and delicious! This dish consisted of four crunchy mini-tacos filled with ground chicken, lettuce, diced tomatoes and corn. We were impressed in the presentation and taste.

Seared Wild Mushrooms & Grilled Asparagus (pictured above, bottom left)

While I’m not normally a fan of mushrooms or asparagus, this dish was surprisingly good. The mushrooms and asparagus were both chopped into bite-size pieces and coated in a mix of olive oil and spices. It was my friend’s pick and she enjoyed this vegetable selection.

Sweet Potato Frites with Cilantro-Lime Aioli (pictured above, top left)

I just love sweet potato fries (or should I say frites?!) and these did not disappoint. These frites were served with a cilantro-lime aioli which was a refreshing change from ketchup. The flavor combo was unique but tasty.

While we also considered having dessert, nothing jumped out at us and surprisingly, we were pretty full. I never think tapas are going to be filling but we left Blue Stove satisfied.

Our meal at Blue Stove was excellent, the food was top notch and the service was also very good. Dining here was a nice change from typical restaurant selections at the mall and we enjoyed trying a variety of Blue Stove’s dishes.

Blue Stove’s tapas selections ranged in price from $4 to $11 each and the desserts were about $5 to $7.

Note, I tried to find the website so I could link to the menu but am having no luck. If I find it, I will update the post. I do know that Blue Stove exists in several Nordstrom stores around the country, including Thousand Oaks, California. Check it out!

Also, today’s my Dad’s Birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!! 🙂

Yesterday was one of my best friend’s bridal showers and I was asked to make cupcakes for the occasion (hence the cupcake post a few weeks ago). While I received some great recipes that I have to try (and sifted through a few of Martha Stewart’s ideas), I decided to go with classic cupcake flavors, chocolate and vanilla. They came out very well (phew!) and the guests enjoyed them.

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Here’s a recap:

Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

For the chocolate cupcakes, I used Chocylit’s recipe for Devils Food Cupcakes. They were easy to make and came out light and fluffy.

I topped these cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting from a recipe that my aunt recently gave me. It was quick to make and the flavor was light and not too sweet. The texture of the frosting was smooth and it went very well with the chocolate cupcakes.

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Here’s the recipe (thanks, Auntie Mary Ann!) –

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Frosts 48 cupcakes (that’s my guess as I had a lot leftover after frosting 24)

Ingredients:

1 c. butter
1 c. Crisco shortening
2 c. granulated sugar
2 c. whole milk
2 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. vanilla

Preparation:

1. Add flour to milk and bring to a boil. 

2. Remove from heat as soon as first bubbles appear and stir frequently so mixture doesn’t stick to pot. Set aside to cool.  

3. Blend butter and Crisco for 4 minutes with hand mixer.

4. Add sugar blend for 4 minutes.

5. Add vanilla and milk mixture to the above mixture and blend for a final 4 minutes.

6. Frost cupcakes and enjoy!

Cupcake prep photos:

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Frosting prep photos (I used my heart shaped tablespoon for the occassion):

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Vanilla Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream

The recipe for these vanilla cupcakes came from Jennifer at the Creative Confectionery Blog. These cupcakes were a bit denser than the chocolate ones but came out great and tasted similar to the flavor of sugar cookies (that’s a good thing in my book).

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I topped the vanilla cupcakes with a Raspberry Buttercream frosting from Sammyw, seen here. This frosting was super easy (only three ingredients – butter, raspberry jam, powdered sugar) and was perfectly sweet and sugary. As the recipe states, add powdered sugar to your preference for consistency and taste. I only used three cups, rather than the four to six and it came out awesome. This amount of frosting easily covered 24 cupcakes.

Cupcake prep photos:

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Frosting prep photos:

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These cupcakes were fun to make (and decorate) and were a great addition to my friend’s special day!

Happy Friday! I decided to cook breakfast this morning instead of having my usual. I normally don’t cook in the morning as I don’t have the time but it was a nice change today. I decided to get creative and make Peanut Butter-Stuffed French Toast with Bananas (a Dishin’ original).

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I am running a 4 mile race next weekend in York, Maine and ran 3.7 miles this morning. What’s a better way to “refuel” than having a big, healthy breakfast? Well, it’s a good excuse anyway. 😉

This little creation only took about 10 minutes to make, start to finish. The flavor combination was great and very tasty.

Here’s my recipe…

PB-Stuffed French Toast with Bananas

Servings: 1

Ingredients:

2 slices whole wheat bread (I used Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat  Tuscan Style – it’s excellent!)

1 Tbsp. natural peanut butter (or regular, if you prefer)

1 egg white

Dash of cinnamon

½ banana, sliced

2 Tbsp. maple syrup

Dash of powdered sugar

Preparation:

  1. Spread peanut butter on one slice of bread.
  2. Top with another slice of bread and cut in half, as if you were making a sandwich.
  3. Add egg white to a bowl, add dash of cinnamon and whisk lightly.
  4. Generously dip half the peanut butter “sandwich” in the egg mixture to fully coat. Repeat with the other half.
  5. Add the bread to a pan sprayed with cooking oil, over medium heat.
  6. Cook for 3-5 minutes per side.
  7. Remove from heat, top stuffed French toast with sliced bananas, maple syrup and a dash of powdered sugar.
  8. Enjoy with a glass of non-fat milk (optional).

Estimated calories: 375 (plus milk)

Step-by-step photos…

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Have a great weekend! Hopefully we’ll see our share of sun here in Boston (it’s about time)!

If you’ve been watching the Food Network’s “The Next Food Network Star” on Sunday nights, you may have seen that last week’s challenge was to cook a meal of ingredients normally found in one’s pantry. Interesting concept, right?

Well, this morning I read an article about doing just that, called “5 Ingredient Pantry Recipes” from Cooking Light. Quick and easy meals are not only time-savers but cost-savers too, using ingredients you have on hand.

I plan to try a few of these recipes, including the Sauteed Tilapia with Lemon-Peppercorn Pan Sauce, Chicken with Cider and Bacon Sauce, and maybe even some Garlic Fries! Simple, delicious and cheap!

Speaking on pantries, while I don’t have a dedicated one (it’s more like a few drawers for food storage), it’s a great idea to go through the food you have on hand and conduct a clean-out every so often. Here are some tips:

  • Check food for expiration dates and toss any old items.
  • If you have non-perishables that you’re not planning to use, donate those items to a food bank. People are in need of food donations more than ever. You can find your closest food bank here.
  • Use the clean-out as a reminder of what you have on hand. It may save you a trip to the grocery store!

What’s your favorite “pantry” meal?

Yesterday I spent some time in the kitchen preparing a spaghetti and meatball dinner for friends. Over the weekend, I was given my grandmother’s recipe for her “famous” meatballs and spaghetti sauce so I put them to the test. On last night’s menu:

  • Spaghetti
  • Sauce
  • Meatballs
  • Garlic bread

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It goes without saying that this was a traditional Italian meal (aka delicious but heavier than my normal weeknight dinners). There are plenty of ways to lighten up this meal but I chose to cook it the REAL way. I’ve got to say, it tasted pretty darn good! 😉

Here is the breakdown:

Spaghetti

I’ve only made my own pasta once, which was in a class at the Cambridge Culinary Institute. During the class, I kneaded the pasta by hand then fed it through an attachment on a Kitchen Aid mixer. It was pretty easy and fun and tasted great!

That said, I chose to buy fresh pasta yesterday. In Somerville, MA, there are several places that sell homemade, fresh pasta. One of those places is Dave’s Fresh Pasta in Davis Square. It’s a specialty shop focused on fresh pasta, wine, cheese and gourmet foods. They also make unique sandwiches and salads so it was busy when I visited at lunchtime.

This was my first experience buying fresh pasta (and by fresh, I mean they cut it while you wait). Of the many flavors, I ordered a pound of whole wheat and a pound of sweet red pepper (which was the special yesterday). Once I ordered, the woman behind the counter then asked, “How do you want that cut?” I must have looked confused as she then pointed up and hanging above the counter were a variety of sample pasta shapes including angel hair, spaghetti, and linguini. How cool! On a whim, I chose the spaghetti for both flavors.

Sauce

As I mentioned before, my grandmother (my Dad’s mother) made excellent spaghetti sauce (and meatballs) for many years. She was Irish but when she married my grandfather (who was Italian) she quickly learned to cook Italian dishes for the family. While I’m not going to post the family recipe, I’ll give you an idea of what her sauce is all about. It starts with onions sautéed in olive oil and, as you can imagine, the sauce includes a lot of tomatoes, tomato paste and seasoning. However, the trick is to include several types of meat for flavor as well as allowing the sauce to simmer for hours. Here are a few photos of the process. (You can email me if you have specific questions.)

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Meatballs

Again, this is my grandmother’s recipe. While I’ve made meatballs before, I never made my grandmother’s meatballs and I was nervous they wouldn’t turn out as moist as hers always were. The process is pretty simple and the ingredients include ground meat (beef or a variety of beef, pork and veal), Italian bread, grated cheese, egg, and spices. Again, I don’t want to give away our family recipe but if you have questions, email me!

Once I blended the mixture, I rolled it into balls and placed them on an oiled baking pan. I baked the meatballs for 10-15 minutes then added them to the sauce to simmer for several hours. Photos…

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Garlic Bread

I didn’t have a specific recipe for garlic bread but I found a fairly simple recipe on allrecipes.com for Roasted Garlic Bread. This was my first time roasting garlic. Have you ever done it before? It’s so easy! I cut the tops off of three garlic bulbs, placed them on a baking sheet and drizzled them with olive oil. I baked the garlic bulbs for 30 minutes then let them cool a bit. Once the garlic is cooked, each clove pops right out of the bulb with a little squeeze.

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From there I mashed the garlic cloves and added the other ingredients (including butter, parmesan cheese and parsley). I broiled the plain pieces of fresh Italian bread for 3-5 minutes then turned them over, spread the garlic mixture on each piece and broiled them for another 3-5 minutes. I may smell like garlic for days but it’s worth it!

Results

I think the meal turned out really well, especially for my first attempt at my grandmother’s meatballs and sauce. The fresh pasta was stickier than I would have liked so I kept adding olive oil to it. It was tasty but just a little sticky once cooked. My friends really liked the meatballs and actually mentioned how moist they were. Woohoo! I thought the sauce also turned out well. My friends noticed the sauce was a bit sweet, exactly how I remember it. It was full of flavor, due to the long cooking time (I’m guessing). The garlic bread turned out well except I noticed the center of the bread was a little mushy while the edges were crispy. It could have been my crazy super oven but next time I would try to get the centers a bit crispier. My friends said they didn’t mind the centers being too soft as it was covered in butter/garlic. It was definitely flavorful.

All in all, this was a filling and delicious meal. Phew! It’s been raining in Boston for (what feels like) three years now, so a nice dinner of comfort food was well received.

Now it’s time for leftovers. Meatball subs, anyone?

Time for a question…What is your favorite family recipe?

This past weekend included a lot of dining out. Mmmm. I was in Central MA visiting my family and during that time, my mom and I spent a day in Western MA. It was fun to visiting the areas I don’t get to very often and trying some new restaurants at the same time. Boston, being New England’s biggest city, gets a lot of the culinary focus but I think there are a lot of other excellent restaurants that fly under the radar.

In Worcester, the Shrewsbury Street area is popular for dining out and has a variety of unique restaurants. My parents and I went to Mezcal Cantina on Shrewsbury Street for dinner the other night. Mezcal has been around for a few years and is a popular Mexican place. The atmosphere is chic but comfortable. I’ve visited a few times and we always order some of Mexcal’s guacamole to start, which is made to order. This time we had the original, which was excellent, but they also offer a crunchy version of guacamole with almonds, jicama and corn nuts and a tropical flavor with mango, papaya and cashews.

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For dinner, my mom and I shared the lobster and corn fritters and the blue corn encrusted tilapia. The fritters were piping hot and doughy. I would have hoped for more lobster but there was enough mixed in, I guess. The tilapia dish was a little different but delicious, served with various sides including some very tasty bbq beans with bacon. It also came with an average spicy coleslaw and an onion/spinach mix. I would order both dishes again.

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My dad ordered three tacos which came with soft corn shells. The waitress was very helpful, especially when my dad asked for gluten-free suggestions. My dad and I enjoyed our meal with some sangria (my mom had a peach pom margarita).

The next morning and I headed out to Western MA for the day and stopped at a roadside place for breakfast. It was my first time at the Roadhouse Cafe in Belchertown, MA. The restaurant is very casual and rustic with both a breakfast bar and booth seating.

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While it’s menu is fairly typical for breakfast, it focuses on organic and local ingredients. They make nearly a dozen types of bread in house as well as fresh muffins such as the peaches ‘n’ cream flavor that was offered the other morning. My mom chose to have a kid’s order of pancakes with walnuts and real maple syrup. She offered me a bite and the pancake was fluffy and sweet. I had a breakfast sandwich with homemade wheat bread, eggs, American cheese and turkey sausage. Expecting to get a large and messy sandwich, I was pleased to see my sandwich filling as an omelette – the egg, cheese and sausage were mixed together. The sandwich was very tasty – you can’t go wrong with homemade bread!  

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It was supposed to rain all day on Friday but most of the day ended up being clear, just a little humid. We stopped in Northampton to do a little shopping and wandering around before heading to a candy store in Deerfield and then went to Amherst. While I haven’t spend a lot of time in Amherst, it’s easy to see it’s a young town with many college students (hence UMass-Amherst) and a lot of young families. The town was having the Taste of Amherst this past weekend so we thought about stopping by but it wasn’t quite open when we were there. Luckily, my mom knew about another popular place in town, Judie’s, so we ate there instead.

I had the hardest time deciding what to have. My mom mentioned that the popovers were supposed to be excellent so I wanted to make sure to include that in my selection. I was thinking salad but ended up with The Souper – a cup of soup, garden salad and a popover. I chose to have the baked onion soup and almonds on my garden salad with a light honey peppercorn dressing. My meal was excellent and so filling! The soup was very flavorful and I enjoyed the gooey cheese. The salad was basic but the dressing was sweet and tasty (the almonds were a nice, crunchy addition). The popover was delicious but HUGE. It was like a light and fluffy crater, served with apple butter. I wasn’t crazy about the apple butter so just used a little regular butter instead. Yum! Seriously, how do you even bake popovers so large? (Not that I’m complaining) 😉

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Now the weekend is about over and I’m totally full from my eating adventures. Hope you had a great weekend and nice Father’s Day! Happy Father’s Day, Dad! 🙂 🙂

DON’T FORGET TO SUBMIT CUPCAKE & FROSTING RECIPES BY TUESDAY!!!

Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 21st. Do you have plans?

If you’re in the Boston area and still looking for a creative way to spend the day with dad, check out Boston Magazine’s Father’s Day Guide. I scrolled through the slide show this morning and was pretty impressed by the 21 ideas presented. The guide includes information on specials at area restaurants (everything from brunch to BBQ to steak dinners), museums with free admission, concerts, and car shows…all taking place on Sunday.

For anyone still looking to plan something special, this guide is sure to give you plenty to pick from!

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