Mother’s Day Menu :)

Hope you had a lovely Mother’s Day.  Yesterday I spent the day with the fam, cooking up a feast for Mom and  can honestly say I spent the entire day in the kitchen!  Of the menu listed below, I’d only made one of the dishes before and wanted to give myself enough time for mistakes, re-dos, etc (thanks to dessert, that time was necessary 😉 ).

It was a nice change cooking in my Mother’s kitchen – large counter tops provided ample room, random ingredients came to the rescue more than once and every cooking utensil known to man ensured I was properly armed to make each dish.

After dinner we all gave Mom her cards & gifts, including Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking – a fine addition to her cook book collection.  P.S. Mom – I have my heart set on trying your rendition of Julia’s Beef Bourguignon, so let me know when I should come home to taste test!

On to the menu……

Menu:

  • Blueberry Pecan Salad
  • Brussels Sprouts, Pancetta and Caramelized Onions
  • Rosemary Apricot Pork Tenderloin
  • Chocolate Cups Filled with Raspberry Mousse

I’ll post a separate entry this week for each of the above, beginning today with the Blueberry Pecan Salad.

I first saw this salad on Food Network’s Simply Delicioso with Ingrid Hoffman.  The original recipe is Chicory Salad with Blueberries, Hazelnuts and Aged Manchego.  Honestly I’ve never made the salad as it was actually intended, but have kept the main ingredients while changing up a few things.  For the greens I’ve used spring mix, romaine and Boston/butter lettuce; hazelnuts have been substituded with toasted walnuts and pecans;  and the Manchego cheese has been replaced at times with parmigiano reggiano.  The dressing, a raspberry vinaigrette of sorts, along with the inclusion of blueberries never changes – to me, they’re key to the flavor of the dish.

For yesterday’s salad I chose to use Boston/butter lettuce, toasted pecans and parmigiano reggiano – but feel free to change it up as you wish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 3/4 cup pecans
  • 1 head Boston/butter lettuce
  • Parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • S&P

Directions:

  1. Rinse the head of lettuce and dry.  You can do this by leaving the lettuce out on paper towels or using a salad spinner like mine from OXO.
  2. In a dry pan, toast pecans over low-med heat for 5 min.  This helps further develop flavor, but keep on eye out because these guys can burn fast! 
  3. In a medium salad bowl, layer lettuce, pecans and blueberries.
  4. For the dressing; in a shallow bowl add honey, mustard, vinegar and S&P then stream in olive oil mixing to combine.  Pour dressing over salad & mix.
  5. Shave parmigiano over salad & serve.

Enjoy!

What did you do this weekend?

-Christina

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Source: morguefile.com

 

Happy Mother’s Day everyone!  Hope you’re all enjoying this beautiful day.  

A special Happy Mother’s Day to my own Mom 🙂  I love you! 

-Christina

TGIF Watermelon Salad

Happy Friday!  What a gorgeous week its been – sunshine, warm temps, blue skies.  It’s supposed to cool down a bit in the Bean this weekend, but with 55 at the absolute low, I’ll take it :).

Last night I tried Allston’s newest Middle Eastern food hot spot, Garlic ‘N Lemons.  It’s officially described as ‘Mediterranean-inspired Lebanese food’ and being 1/2 Lebanese myself, I could not wait for this place to open.  The food is great, people are nice and with counter service only,everything comes out fast.  I’ll have to do a longer post soon with pics & recommendations.  In the meantime, check out the Harvard Ave. restaurant on Facebook and Twitter – they also have a Web site that’s currently under construction.

In other news…Sunday is Mother’s Day!  Have any plans?  I’ll be headed to my parents’ house to make Mom a special dinner (menu cannot be discussed at this time as Mom reads the blog :), but I’ll do a full recap for Monday).  If you’re in the Boston area and looking to eat out on Sunday,  check out Boston.com’s list of Mother’s Day Brunch options.

In warmer weather I usually crave lighter fare, which is exactly how I was feeling about my lunch for today – a Watermelon Salad with Mint & Feta.  I’d be surprised if you’ve never seen this dish somewhere in the summer, but it’s often made with tomatoes and red onion.  I love both of those veggies, but not with watermelon.  So I guess just choose for yourself – that’s what cooking & eating is all about :).

Putting the salad together is almost effortless and should be eaten the day of preparation.

Watermelon Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups watermelon, cubed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons mint, cut into ribbons
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons crumbled feta
  • Black pepper

Directions:

  • Mix together 🙂

Enjoy!

ALSO – Just won an AWESOME giveaway!  First blog giveaway win ever 🙂 and it totally made my day.  The official news hasn’t been released to the public quite yet, so I’ll have to update you all on my winnings next week.

Until then….have a GREAT weekend!

– Christina

Mediterranean Haddock in Parchment

Clams, mussels, fish, ‘lobstah’…it’s all good to me!  Even as a kid I’d jump at the chance to have seafood for dinner (thanks to Mom for fostering a well-developed palate 😉 ).  I’ve made fish & shell fish a handful of times at home, but with so many health benefits I’ve vowed to make it more often.

I first saw fish in parchment about a year ago on Food Network (one of three channels I ever really watch).  It looked so impressive when the chef opened the steaming packet to reveal perfectly cooked fish, that I ran out immediately and bought some myself.  That parchment has been sitting in my pantry untouched since then…

Until last night!  I bit the bullet and turned out some pretty awesome Mediterranean-style haddock.  The whole process was super easy and the finished dish was light and flavorful.

I decided on Mediterranean ingredients (I love me some kalamata olives, capers and garlic) but this recipe would be great with a multitude of flavor combos.  Are you a veggie freak?  Summer squash, green beans, zucchini and lemon juice would fit the bill.  Looking for more of an Asian-style?  Incorporate shiitake mushrooms, ginger and soy-sauce.  You get the picture.  You just need to make sure there’s some type of liquid in the packet, which helps steam the fish.

I made this for a party of one (me, myself and I, with some serious taste testing from the roommie 🙂 ) but feel free to double, triple, quadruple, whatever the recipe depending on the amount of people coming to dinner.  I recommend placing the baked, folded packets on each plate so guest can open together – it’s pretty impressive when the steam and aroma escape.

Mediterranean Haddock in Parchment

Ingredients:

  • 1 small-medium haddock fillet
  • 1/2 medium plum tomato, chopped
  • 8 1/2 inch slices of a small-medium zucchini
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped white onion
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon capers
  • 6-8 pitted kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Dash of crushed red pepper flake
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • S&P (go light on the salt, capers are pretty salty)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place piece of parchment paper on baking sheet.
  2. Layer zucchini in two rows, slightly overlapping each other and place haddock fillet on top.
  3. Layer on tomatoes, onion, capers and kalamata olives.
  4. In a small bowl, mix lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano, crushed red pepper and S&P.  Pour mixture over haddock.

5.   Fold parchment paper around the fish like a tightly wrapped package.  Bake for 17-21 minutes, based on the size of the fish.

6.   Open packet to eat :).

Enjoy!

When was the last time you made fish?

-Christina

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

Saying that I love pumpkin is probably an understatement – I really love pumpkin :).  Pumpkin pancakes with raisinetts from The Friendly Toast in Kendall Sq., Shipyard‘s Pumpkinhead Ale, New England Coffee’s pumpkin spice, pumpkin pie, pumpkin scones…anything pumpkin.  Unfortunately those tasty treats are usually only available September – November, and quite frankly that just isn’t enough time for me :).  SO, when I saw Pumpkin Chocolate Chip bread from Barbara Bakes in April, I knew it was a sign to go ahead and make some!

This recipe makes two loaves – perfect for sharing.  I brought one down to my grandmother (aww, so sweet 😉 ) and saved one for myself.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

Original recipe from Barbara Bakes

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 16 oz can of pure pumpkin (I like Libby’s)
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and spray two medium loaf pans with Pam or other non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, spices, salt, baking soda, and
baking powder and set aside.
3. In a separate larger bowl, cream the butter and sugar with a hand mixer until
fluffy, about two minutes.  This is MUCH easier if you’ve let the butter soften.  Mixing can also be done in a stand mixer.

4.  Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each addition.  Add the pumpkin and combine well.
5. Add the dry ingredients stirring until just combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.
6. Spoon batter into prepared pans; don’t fill more than 2/3 full.  Bake side-by-side for about 50 min – one hour or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Enjoy!

We’re still dealing with a watermain that broke this weekend here in Boston :(.  Latest I’ve heard the main is fixed, however until sufficient testing is done residents should not drink the water.

“Love that dirty water…Boston you’re my home” – too soon? 😉

-Christina

Carrot & Black Bean Salad with Mint & Feta

Spring has most certainly sprung in Boston!  How fantastic is this warm weather?!?  I love being in the city during the spring, summer and fall….its the brutal winter that gets me every year – but that, my friends, has passed :).  With sunshine comes bountiful produce and fresh herbs – one of my favorite ingredients for warm weather cooking!

In perusing the blogosphere this week, I saw some great posts on growing your own herb garden.  Store bought herbs can be a little pricey and often go bad within the week, so growing your own is a great option.  Never fear city/apartment dwellers – it is easy peasy to grow your own small garden at home in a windowsill or on a patio/fire escape – check out ‘how-to’s’ from Organic City Girl and Our Best Bites to learn how.  I think this just may be the spring I plant my own :).

This carrot and black bean salad is one of my favorites; great flavors, light but filling and the perfect accompaniment to any spring/summer menu.  The mint really shines, giving the dish a wonderful freshness and the whole thing comes together in less than 10 min – you can’t beat it.

Could be perfect for a picnic date in Boston Common……just sayin’ 😉

Carrot & Black Bean Salad with Mint & Feta

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1 ¼ cups canned black beans, rinsed
  • 2 med plum tomatoes, chopped (sliced cherry tomatoes work well too)
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Leaves from 5 short stalks of mint (15-20 min leaves), sliced into ribbons
  • Juice of ½ fresh lemon
  • 1 ½ tablespoons good extra-virgin olive oil
  • S&P

Directions:

  1. Mix all of the ingredients – yep, it’s that easy :).

* Feel free to make this in advance and leave in the fridge for an hour or so to let the flavors further develop.

Enjoy!

-Christina

Any plans to enjoy the nice weather this weekend???

The Greater Boston Food Bank

Source: gbfb.org

There’s so much in life that I’m thankful for – I have a wonderful family, boyfriend and friends to support me, a job that challenges me, good food to eat, clean water to drink, the freedom to make my own choices and the health that allows me to live the life I want.

There are too many people in this world that go without any or all of the above everyday.  While unfortunately we can’t change the world tomorrow, there are ways to help out.

Last Thursday, my company scheduled a volunteer opportunity at The Greater Boston Food Bank, and I went with a few colleagues to help sort food for families in need.  If you live in Boston I’m sure you’ve seen the building…large modern exterior, red sign on top…you can see it from 93…well, I’d seen it too, but this was the first time I’d gone inside.

To be quite honest, the inside warehouse looks a little like Costco – large crates of packaged food & household goods, lifts and aisles & aisles of shelving.  Upon arriving, we were taken into a small room to meet the volunteer coordinator to learn more about our task for the day and why hunger is such an issue in the US.

Source: boston.com

Did you know that in 2005, more than 25 million Americans sought food assistance from The Nation’s Food Bank Network?  In that year more than 320,000 people sought assistance in eastern MA alone.  That could be your neighbor, the clerk at the grocery store, your child’s friend, a co-worker or the elderly couple down the street.  The signs of hunger can be quite hard to detect, and 52 percent of people at risk in eastern MA live in suburban or rural communities. (Stats source)

The GBFB distributes more than 31 million pounds of food and grocery products annually to approximately 600 member hunger-relief agencies.  All of the food is donated to the GBFB and arrives through various ways – food industry product donations, corporate and group food drives, individual food donations and financial contributions.  The majority of the food comes from large grocery stores such as Stop & Shop, Roche Bros., Whole Foods and Shaw’s.

Source: volunteer-boston.blogspot.com

Approximately 85 percent of the food donated to The GBFB comes directly from warehouses and is good to be distributed to hunger-relief agencies; the other 15 or so percent must be sorted as it comes from more random donations (ex: bins at supermarkets asking for donations from customers, etc).  And this was our task – to separate the good from the bad, helping manage the food for distribution.

We were each assigned a food or goods category and placed next to a conveyor belt.  When the donated items came down the belt, we’d check items from our category for damage, molding, open packaging or anything else that would make the product unfit to be distributed.  If the product looked good, we’d place it in a box until filled.  Canned veggies, fruit juice, deodorant, meal replacement bars and much more came down that belt and about 1 in every four products had to be discarded for the reasons above – really makes you think twice about the condition of the products you’re donating.

We spent a little more than 2 hours at the GBFB and created over 3,000 meals for those in need.  It was really powerful to hear that number and know that even a little bit of time can be such a big help.

A big thanks to my company and the co-workers that organized this opportunity – it was great to take a little time away from work and put life into perspective.

The GBFB is very “volunteer-friendly” and would be a great place for a group of friends, employees or anyone who wants a chance to hep out.

For more information regarding The Greater Boston Food Bank and how you can help, please visit http://www.gbfb.org/.