Misc.


Did you have a good weekend? I did. It was busy but fun! It was a treat to “party” on Sunday night to watch the Super Bowl. While I was rooting for the Saints, I was also there to watch the commercials and of course, eat!

I love those E*TRADE commercials (“Milka..what?”) and the Careerbuilder.com one about casual Fridays was pretty funny, too. Did you notice how many Budweiser and Doritos commercials there were?

The game was a good one and it was accompanied by some delicious food – both savory and sweet! Pizza dip. Pigs in a Blanket. Veggies and dip. Cookies!

I brought Buffalo Chicken Dip to the party. It’s totally addicting. I even made it a bit healthier by using low-fat cheeses.

Lighter Buffalo Chicken Dip (serves 8 people)

Ingredients:

8 oz. reduced fat cream cheese, softened

¼ c. reduced fat blue cheese crumbles

¼ c. reduced fat blue cheese dressing

¼ c. hot sauce

1 can of chicken in water, drained

½ c. reduced fat mozzarella (2%)

Preparation:

  1. Layer the bottom of a 9 inch pie plate with the cream cheese.
  2. Top cream cheese with blue cheese crumbles.
  3. Top crumbles with chicken and top with hot sauce.
  4. Pour blue cheese dressing over hot sauce.
  5. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top of the dip.
  6. Bake dip for 25 minutes at 350 degrees, or until mozzarella is melted.
  7. Enjoy with crackers or veggies.

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about dessert. I have been drooling over eyeing the recipe for Peanut Butter Blondies with Milk Chocolate Frosting from Joy the Baker. These treats were sweet and delicious! You can’t go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate – two of my favorite ingredients! I especially loved the fluffy frosting. Thanks, Joy!

I really enjoyed the Super Bowl this year and like the Saints, our food was also a winner!

What was your favorite Super Bowl treat? What was your favorite commercial?

Last weekend, my friend Megan and I ventured North to Burlington, VT for the weekend. It was a bit of a random trip and just happened to fall on the coldest weekend of the winter so far. The cold didn’t bother us too much since we were to busy eating, drinking, shopping and visiting a spa. Oh yeah, and meeting firefighters too. Not a bad weekend. 😉

Burlington is known for a few famous things: Ben and Jerry’s, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, Magic Hat beer and the University of Vermont. It’s a laid back, clean, fun college town right on Lake Champlain.

The foodie in me was sure to take as many photos of my meals as possible – and I only got a few funny looks!

When we arriving late Friday night, we checked into our hotel (which happened to have a view of the lake!) before leaving again to get a bite to eat. Right up the street was the Vermont Pub & Brewery. I’d read some good reviews online so I was excited to check it out. The place was less exciting than I pictured but you can’t judge a book by its cover, right? Well maybe you can.

The food was just average but the beer was decent. I had read that the sweet potato fries were amazing but they just didn’t do it for me – especially since they were served only lukewarm (ick!). Unfortunately, my sandwich wasn’t anything to write home about either. Being the oldest craft brewery in Vermont, I expected the beer to be good and it was, albeit unique. I tend to like fruity beers so I ordered the Forbidden Fruit. It was pretty tasty but not very beer-like. While I liked the flavor, it reminded me more of raspberry iced tea than beer.

The service was just average as well. Our waitress was not very friendly and made us feel rushed. We were hungry and tired so I guess being rushed wasn’t completely a bad thing. Overall, the Vermont Pub & Brewery was just an okay experience for us. Luckily, that was our last average meal of the weekend.  

On Saturday, it was 8 degrees (gasp!) when we stepped outside. While I was born and raised in New England, I’m not really a fan of winter or cold weather (what the heck was I doing in Vermont in January?). My parents warned me but Megan and I made the best of it. Surprisingly, the cold really didn’t bother us much.

After a light breakfast and a little shopping, we headed to the Magic Hat Brewery (more beer!) in South Burlington. I love love love Magic Hat #9 but hadn’t liked the other Magic Hat beers I’d tried in the past. My time at the brewery changed that. We met up with my friend Amanda and her boyfriend who live in the area to go on the brewery tour. It wasn’t much of a tour but our tour guide was energetic and we learned a little about the history of the brewery and craft beer in general. Magic Hat is currently available in 36 states and its #9 beer results in 50-60% of its revenue. See, I was listening. I knew I liked #9 for a reason!

During the tour, we were given one beer sample and after the tour, we visited the bar on site where visitors can have as many (2 ounce) samples as they want. For free! The tour was completely free too. We tasted a few beers over the next hour and chatted about Burlington and where we should eat that night. I’m always thinking about my next meal!

Magic Hat’s bar is in their company store, which was fittingly dark and designed with funky décor and florescent lights. I kind of felt like I was hanging out in Spencer Gifts for a minute! In addition to #9, I tasted (and liked!) Magic Hat’s Vinyl, Spring Odd Notion, and Single Chair brews. Magic Hat also offers these cool half gallon growlers of freshly brewed beer so I was sure to bring one home with me!

After leaving Magic Hat, we said goodbye to Amanda and Andrew and  went back to Burlington. We decided to grab an afternoon snack at Luenig’s Bistro. It’s a French restaurant is located on the corner of College and Church Street in downtown Burlington. We hadn’t had lunch so we shared a cheese and fruit plate to hold us over until dinner. We enjoyed aged cheddar cheese from Grafton Village, a local cheese company and it was delicious! One of the best cheeses I’ve ever had.

After a little more shopping and a trip to a spa, we went to dinner at the American Flatbread Company. The restaurant was packed with people but we were lucky to get a seat at the bar where we were able to enjoy artisan flatbread and hand-crafted beer. The menu is simple, offering one salad and a variety of flatbread pizzas. I was lacking veggies for the day so I had a salad first then Meg and I split a pizza. We ordered one flatbread – half cheese and herb, half new Vermont sausage (nitrate-free maple and fennel sausage with sundried tomatoes, caramelized onions, mushrooms, cheeses and herbs). The pizza was fresh and full of flavor!

During dinner, I enjoyed one of their specialty beers, Farmhouse Ale – which was Belgian style and organic. Sitting at the bar was highly entertaining. The bartender was friendly and the people around us were fun as well. We talked to a couple who lived in the area, a girl from Boston who just graduated college and was looking to move out West and some local firefighters, too. They all had suggestions of where we should eat and what we should do while in town. With all the attention, I started to wonder if we looked out of place!?

Our day of food and beer didn’t stop us from enjoying a big breakfast before our departure on Sunday. I’d read about Magnolia Bistro online and our new friends mentioned it too. It was right up the street from our hotel so we stopped on our way out of town. Luckily, we were seated right away – that never happens on a Sunday morning in Boston!

Magnolia Bistro is a unique eatery that fits well into the Burlington culture. While it offers fairly traditional breakfast items, each offering has a little twist. Magnolia uses local and organic ingredients whenever possible and is a certified green restaurant. Very Burlington.

Meg and I were eyeing the fresh banana bread on the menu (I love when restaurants list appetizers for breakfast!) so we ordered that to start. The banana bread was warm and moist, served with cranberry cream cheese. Delish! For my meal, I ordered oatmeal pancakes with apples and bananas which were full of texture and also very tasty (somewhat healthy too!). Other unique offerings include lemon ricotta pancakes, banana bread French toast, and a North Carolina omelet (with bbq pulled pork and Vermont cheddar).

With our bellies full, we left Burlington on our three hour drive back home. I’m looking forward to going back in the summer time when we’re able to spend more time outside and explore a bit more. Burlington is definitely a great getaway for foodies!

I have a few food posts coming later this week but I forgot my camera cord at work and I’ve been working from home. Food posts to come, I promise. For now though, I want to talk about running.

Last week, I posted my thoughts on interval workouts to fight boredom on the treadmill. I really like interval workouts because I’m able to push myself in small bursts. However, I don’t always do interval workouts. Today, for example, I ran 3 miles at 6.0 mph – which is a 10 minute mile. I wanted to pace myself and see how far I could go. By mile 3, I was sweaty…but bored. I finished my workout with 10 minutes of walking uphill. It was a decent workout, yes, but I really need learn to push myself and actually like running.

I recently read an article in Runner’s World about Apolo Ohno, the Olympic speed skater. As part of his training when he was younger, he would jog with his teammates (and often skip part of the workout to eat pizza with a friend then join his teammates again at the end of the run). He hated running. That was until he was alone for a week in the wilderness, contemplating his future as an athlete. He ran a lot during that time and, even in the harsh conditions, learned to love it. Today, he runs nearly every day and even envisions himself skating while he’s running.

I find that some days, running is easier than others. Sometimes my workout is over before I know it and other times, my legs feel like lead and I really need to push myself to finish. Sometimes, I’m just plain bored. I don’t have a running mantra but maybe I should. Normally, when I want to stop, I ask myself how I feel from 1 to 10. Usually, when I’m just bored, I’m not that tired or in pain so I’m at a 5. That keeps me going. Temporarily. But, I want to really enjoy my runs.

My questions to you:

How do you push yourself to finish your workouts? 

Do you have a mantra?

What keeps you going?

Looking to do a good deed this Thanksgiving? Donate just $12 to the Great Boston Food Bank’s Turkey Drive and they will give a family in need a 12-14 lb. turkey for their feast. Over 2,800 turkeys have already been donated but they have a long way to go! Donate today.

Off my soap box, and onto today’s post.

Some of my friends are part of a cooking club – they get together monthly and have a pot luck-type dinner with a theme. I joined them on Wednesday for November’s dinner, which had a fitting theme, Thanksgiving. Everyone did a great job contributing to our delicious and filling meal. I thought it would be fun to give a little recap to get everyone in the Thanksgiving spirit.

We started the meal with appetizers and wine.

Moist chicken meatballs and a brie and praline dip (wine not pictured)…

With the table set nicely, we were ready to eat. (I’d never be able to fit this table in my apartment, how sad!)

The feast included: creamy, smooth butternut squash soup…

Moist and flavorful turkey…

and a bunch of side dishes. Here’s my plate:

(descriptions clockwise: green beans, sweet potato tempura, baked stuffed shrimp, turkey and gravy, stuffing (with sausage, nuts, and cranberries), homemade cranberry sauce, and chipolte mac and cheese)

Of course, we can’t forget dessert. We ended the meal with a vanilla layer cake with peanut butter filling and chocolate ganache frosting (delicious!) and…

Apple crumble pie (made by me; recipe to be posted this weekend) and cookies too…

Phew! I’m full just thinking about the meal but it was really tasty and a nice weeknight treat.

Now, Friday Favs. With Thanksgiving coming up next week, I thought I would do a desserts theme this week, since that’s what I’ll be making. If you don’t have your menu complete or are in need of something to bring for Thanksgiving, these should do the trick. How about…

Happy weekend!

    I read a lot of food blogs every week, a lot. I always see many recipes I want to make and restaurants I want to try. But, as you can imagine, I’m only one person and don’t have the time to cook, bake and eat out all the time (that would be my dream although my pants may not fit anymore!).

    Instead of just bookmarking some of my favorite posts every week and keeping them to myself, I thought I would share these posts with you. Generous of me, right?  I’ll call them my Friday Favs. Here are my Favs for the week of October 11th (there’s a dessert theme this week, hope you like sweets!)…

    • Oooey Gooey Fudge Brownies at How Sweet It Is – These brownies look amazing, I mean, to die for. Fudgy, fudgy, fudgy. Jessica at How Sweet It Is describes the method of adding marshmallows which melt away as the brownies bake making them gooey. How delicious does that sound? I need to make these and so do you! Check out Jessica’s blog, her writing style is witty and very amusing.
    • Pumpkin Spice Magic Bar Mini’s at Picky Palate – You know my thing with fall-themed desserts lately. I love seven layer bars so this recipe caught my eye. With the combination of flavors and drizzle of caramel, I know I couldn’t eat just one. Check out Jenny’s recipe and her amazing food photography – drool worthy for sure!
    • Magic In The Middle Cookies at What Megan’s Making – These cookies are a must bake for any peanut butter and chocolate lovers out there. These are going on my Christmas cookie list for sure. Who wouldn’t want to bite into a chocolate cookie to find peanut butter in the middle? My brother is one of the biggest peanut butter lovers I know, maybe I should make this treat for him! (The nice sister that I am…)

    Happy Friday Everyone and Happy Baking!

    This past weekend was a busy one! On Saturday, friends and I went to the Phantom Gourmet Food Festival in Boston. The Phantom Gourmet is a local TV and radio show that chronicles restaurants and other food “experiences” in New England. They always show so much food on every episode that I get hungry just watching it. In addition to the weekly show, the Phantom Gourmet hosts several food events each year. This is actually the first one that I’ve been to.

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    The festival was located on Lansdowne and Ipswich Streets in Boston, right next to Fenway Park. The Red Sox were in NY this weekend so the area was open to festival-goers only. I’ve been to food festivals before but this one was one of the best. There were 80 vendors, music, beer tents and all the food you can imagine. The only downside of the festival was that I filled up so fast I didn’t get to try everything I would have liked.

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    Here’s a list of my favorite vendors and their specialty (what they gave out as samples on Saturday):

    Wholly Cannoli – Dynamite Bites (smooth cannoli filling dipped in caramel then chocolate)

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    Black Cow– Creamy coffee oreo ice cream

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    Sandbar Grille– Conch fritters (with a spicy aioli) – fresh and flavorful though the sauce was a little too spicy for me

    Upper Crust – Thin crust pizza with the perfect amount of cheese and sauce

    Spike’s Junkyard Dogs – Texas Ranger Dog (100% all natural beef hot dog with barbeque sauce, cheddar cheese and bacon on a freshly baked roll)

    My friend Holly and I enjoying Spike's!

    My friend Holly and I enjoying a perfect portion of Spike's!

    Wicked Whoopie’s– Moist chocolate whoopie pies with sugary filling  

    Next time, I would make it a point to try items I haven’t had before. For example, I’ve had Spike’s hot dogs and Upper Crust pizza before so I would not try those again (knowing I already like them) and save room for something new instead. I wish I had come up with that plan originally.

    There was food for everyone at the festival, though limited options for vegetarians and those with food allergies. If you like Italian sausage, The Sausage Guy (yes, that’s the company’s name) was giving out full-size sausages. I’m glad I passed on that one – talk about filling!

    Now back to normal eating patterns…but first…

    Attention cookie lovers: Check out another Boston-area blog, Healthy & Sane run by Elina, for a chance to win a free cookie mix. They look really good!

    For months now, I’ve seen Bakerella create all kinds of cake pops (cake on a stick, coated in chocolate) on her blog. She is very talented and creative. Then I started seeing other bloggers try their hand at cake pops and finally, this past weekend, I made my own. I have to say these things are tougher to create than you’d think and a bit time consuming too. It was my first time making cake pops so I’m sure the process gets easier with practice. And, yes, I will be making them again because they are DELICIOUS.

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    This past weekend, my family and I participated in the Alzheimer’s Association’s Memory Walk. My grandfather passed away last December after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s a terrible disease that not only takes a toll on the person suffering from Alzheimer’s but their caregiver, family and friends too. It’s very hard to see someone you know so well become incapable of caring for and expressing themself. On Sunday, I participated in the walk for the third time and the crowd of people walking seemed larger than ever. Our team alone had 45 people walking in memory of my grandfather as well as in honor and in memory of three other Alzheimer’s sufferers that my family came to know during my grandfather’s time in a nursing home.

    My aunt is the leader of our team and does a lot to coordinate our walking team’s participation in the event including recruiting walkers and raising money. On top of that, she hosts a BBQ at her house after the walk. This year I made cake pops as dessert/favors. I followed Bakerella’s lead and they turned out great. I chose to purple candy melts to coat the pops because that’s the Alzheimer’s Association color. 

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    The process is fairly simple but does take time. Believe me, the results are worth it! Check out Bakerella’s step-by-step instructions here. These are the directions I followed. I just used a different color of candy melts and used white sprinkles to decorate the pops – instead of an edible ink pen.

    Here is the process in photos/captions…enjoy!

    Ingredients/supplies needed: cake mix (may require oil and eggs), can of frosting, candy melts (1 pound bag), lolly pop sticks, styrofoam block. (Optional ingredients/supplies: sprinkles, cellophane bags, and ribbon)

    1. Bake a cake using a mix. (I used a Devil’s Food flavor)

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      2. Let the cake cool completely before crumbling it into pieces. Once crumbled, add about 3/4 can of cake frosting (I used chocolate) to the cake and mix well.

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    3. With the cake/frosting mix, create about 35-45 balls of cake and place them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.

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    4. Melt a small amount of candy in the microwave (for 30 seconds then stir and melt for additional time if needed).  Coat each lolly pop stick with a half inch of melted chocolate and place in cake ball.

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    5. Place pops in freezer for 20-30 minutes, allowing them to set. Melt additional candy to coat the cake balls. Once you coat each cake ball, twirl and tap lightly to shake off additional chocolate. Top with sprinkles and set in styrofoam to harden.

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    6. If you’re using the cake pops as favors, insert each one into a clear plastic bag and tie a ribbon to close it. Beautiful!

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