Sunday, March 29, 2015

Paleo Fail

Sorry, I'm a slacker. I know it has been 4 days since my last post.

On the bright side, this means lots for me to talk about! I'm sure you are thrilled.

As I mentioned I am doing the Paleo Restart by Paleo Leap. Here are some things I've learned:


  • I'm terrible at going Paleo. I think my goal is more realistically 80/20
  • I do feel more satisfied/fuller. Eating more protein and veggies is making a difference
  • I am eating more red meat than usual so I'm not sure how I feel about that
  • I don't like people telling me what I can and cannot eat
  • This weekend was a bit of a bust so I am looking to get back onto the saddle for this coming week

Anyways, I am super excited because I ordered a five piece All-Clad cookware set from Sur La Table. I had always wanted a stainless steel pan set, I had only ever really owned non-stick and the set I currently have is starting to die. I have two new non-stick pans as a wedding gift and now an All-Clad saute pan, high-sided skillet, and saucepan (two with lids).


I saw that they arrived Thursday when I came home from work and immediately opened the box so I could use my pans for dinner. It's the little things in life, right? I made steak with a cauliflower and bacon hash. Doesn't the bacon look beautiful in the pan?


Friday I made myself spaghetti squash and meatballs for dinner with leftovers to freeze. 

My sister, Rachel, recently got engaged so Saturday's plan was to check out a couple of wedding venues in Rhode Island. Once we finished up, we were all hungry and a found a place in Warwick called The Ripe Tomato. It was an adorable, small place with homemade Italian food. The waitress was genuinely excited to see us and was so welcoming. Definitely a rarity! I ended up with a pizza that had hazelnut cream, chicken, peas, cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes.


It was really good but filling, I was only able to eat half of it. Really great place, I recommend it if you are in the Warwick, RI area. Also, my photographer sister, Emily, stole my phone to take her version of the picture of my pizza:


Saturday night, my husband and I were lame and decided to do some food shopping at Wegman's in Chestnut Hill. We also had the genius idea of doing a charcuterie and cheese plate for dinner. First we had some salads from Sweetgreen (to justify the meat and cheese?), then we had some meat, cheese, and wine. As you know, some of my faves.


We also had little mini toasts and crostini to eat with these nuggets of deliciousness. The cheese on the left is an Edel de Cleron from France and a type of Brie. On the right is a Brillo Pecorino DiVino which is an Italian sheep's milk cheese soaked in Chianti wine. There is also prosciutto and spicy chorizo in the middle. We also got an onion and fig jam (so good!) and tomato bruschetta. Amazing. 

I leave you with this because...it's true.









Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sips and Small Bites

Thanks everyone for the 1,000+ pageviews! I'm sure 999 are my husband and parents but hey, it's a start.

The semi-Paleo journey continues on. Last night I made burgers with avocado, tomato, and salsa with a side of sweet potato fries. I seasoned the fries with cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, cinnamon, garlic powder and paprika. I also coated them in coconut oil. They were sweet 'n spicy.  Good stuff.


Tonight my friends and I made another appearance at the Culinary Center at Whole Foods in Dedham for a Sips and Small Bites (and not Paleo) class. We tried a variety of wines and they were paired with small bites.


First up was endive with a goat/sheep's milk cheese from Australia sprinkled with pistachios. It wasn't as pungent as regular goat cheese and was creamier. This was paired with Greek Moscofilero (white wine). It was on the sweet and crisp side to go with the goat cheese.


Next was a chorizo stuffed clam. You can see a piece of chorizo sticking out. YUM. This was paired with a German Riesling that worked well with the spiciness of the chorizo.


After was a bit of salami and and an olive that was very salty and strong tasting. This was paired with the first red wine of the night.


After that was a stuffed mushroom paired with a Malbec. I think. 


The final bite was a chimichurri steak with a Bordeaux.


As always, it was a fun and informative experience. Martin, the wine buyer for this Whole Foods, is very down to earth and funny. Not at all a wine snob. We even got to help plan the upcoming Wine Wednesday in April. I think it was decided to be ros├ęs paired with springtime foods. Can't wait!











Monday, March 23, 2015

Do You Even Eat Paleo?

After two family parties and a lot of food (and alcohol) this weekend, it was time to settle down and eat some real food. I have decided to do the Paleo Restart by PaleoLeap. For 35 bucks, you get a whole meal plan with all kinds of recipes for 30 days including tips and support. I know I said in an earlier post that I do not tend to go by any specific diet rules but I wanted to experiment to see if I could do this. Luckily, it isn't drastically different than how I usually eat. I tend to cook most foods that I eat anyways even when they involve some prep and planning. For days 1-7, I didn't go by the exact order of the menu as it depends when my husband is working and if I have any events. I am going to do the best I can sticking to it but know I have parties, events, etc. over the next few weeks and let's face it, I can't be without cheese, bread, or wine all that long. But I am going to try. On Wednesday, my friends and I will be attending a Sips and Small Bites event at Whole Foods (pairing wine with small bites) so you can see the Paleo thing will be short-lived. But I am determined to keep on track around that night!

I started off with an omelet this morning with balsamic onions, spinach, and I added mushrooms for good measure. I'm such an amazing wife that I made an extra omelet for my sleeping husband that I put into the fridge for when he woke up. I served my omelet with a side of berries. Lunch was a salad with canned tuna (wild-caught) with other vegetables and homemade vinaigrette. For dinner, I had a Chicken Stir Fry with Broccoli (and the mushrooms. I bought some late last week and hadn't used them yet so I'm just throwing them into everything now apparently). 


My husband is not a huge fan of broccoli so I purposely planned this meal for when he was working. It was a very easy and tasty dish. I basically just sauteed the broccoli and mushrooms in coconut oil, fresh ginger, garlic, salt, and pepper until cooked. 


The chicken was marinading in soy sauce (ok so I cheated here on the Paleo-ness. Coconut aminos is used in place of soy sauce in the Paleo diet. But I had just bought a brand new bottle of Tamari which is gluten-free soy sauce. I was somewhere in the middle at least), ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, lime juice, and red onion. After stir frying the broccoli, I did the same with the chicken and marinade and cooked it all together.


Until next time...







Sunday, March 22, 2015

Breakfast o'Clock

That is what my husband calls the weekends when I make breakfast. If we are watching TV and I get up and start walking to the kitchen, he calls out "Is it that time? Breakfast o'clock?" I usually say something snarky like "If you're lucky."

So today, Sunday, was Breakfast o'Clock after a bit of a hiatus. I made bananas foster waffles with bacon. The waffle recipe was Alton Brown's and the bananas foster was something I threw together. It wasn't true bananas foster as I did not flambee the alcohol but it tasted legit.


I melted some butter, added brown sugar, cinnamon, amaretto and a pinch of salt. Then I added 2 sliced bananas and sauteed them in the sauce. I poured the warmed bananas onto the waffles. Heaven.

Yesterday I decided to do my grocery shopping at Wegman's in Chestnut Hill. Which was brave on my part as I do try to avoid food shopping at prime times like Saturdays at midday. But armed with my list, I flew through the madness like a pro. Once I completed my tasks, I went to Sweetgreen next door. I had never had Sweetgreen before and had always wanted to try it. I felt pretty basic being in line with all of the girls in their yoga pants but it was worth it.

Sweetgreen serves made-to-order soups and salads with fresh, local ingredients. Some menu items are seasonal, some are not. They have partnerships with different farms and food distributors that they trust around the US. 

I decided to go with the Harvest Bowl. They have set menu items but you are also free to make your own creation. I didn't feel like thinking so I went with a set menu item.


It was really good. The salad included shredded kale, apples, sweet potatoes, goat cheese, wild rice, almonds, and roasted chicken with a balsamic vinaigrette. 

Today I am off to my niece Hailey's 2nd birthday party! Then the weekend is over, sadly.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Homemade Sushi

As promised, my friends and I made sushi last night. Yup, completely homemade. We were so proud of ourselves.

The sushi starts off with the rice. You have to get sushi rice as it gets that "sticky" texture that you absolutely need. I followed the instructions on the back of the nori (the dried seaweed sheet that you roll the sushi with) and I think it turned out great. Unfortunately I discovered, through research, that you can't make the sushi rice the night before as it will get hard in the fridge. So I made sure to leave work right at 5pm to get a head start on the rice. I also worked on cutting up carrots, cucumbers, sushi grade yellowfin tuna, and avocado to put into the sushi.

My friends from work, Danielle and Kristen, arrived with extra goodies. Danielle brought edamame, dumplings, and sake (EXTREMELY important) and Kristen brought ingredients for a salad and crunchy sweet potatoes to put into the sushi (trust me, it was amazing. Except when we reheated the fries we slightly burned them. But only sightly. Kristen had taken a sushi-making class in the past so she was our guide/dojo for the night (along with a sushi-making kit). 


Obviously wine is necessary. I'm pretty each picture will be a Where's Waldo of wine glasses. 



Danielle had the honors of making the first roll which was vegetarian. Truthfully I can't remember what was in it but our overall ingredients were tuna, sweet potatoes, avocado, spicy mayo, carrots, and cucumbers.


We are pros. For real. Who knew sushi was this easy?? The hard part is the prep and getting everything ready to go for rolling.


Kristen (above) was our master. We made about 4 rolls total which was more than enough sushi for us. We also had the edamame and salad. 


Kristen learned at her sushi-making class that that the best thing to do is cover the rice mat with plastic wrap so you don't have to worry about washing it. Genius!


We really enjoyed our sushi with the variations of the ingredients that we had. We accompanied the sushi with soy sauce and pickled ginger. I grabbed the sushi ingredients from Whole Foods because a whole section for sushi-making.



I have these adorable beer appetizer plates from Crate & Barrel that worked well for holding each type of sushi. But in reality made no sense whatsoever. 


All in all, it was a very successful night of sushi-making, wine, and sake. Also my husband's friends were over and one of his friends tried sushi for the first time ever. Hopefully he had a good experience.




Yours until the sushi rolls,
Alyssa








Tuesday, March 17, 2015

New Logo!

I have a new logo!!

I am so excited about it especially since it has been a few weeks in the making. There may be some tweaking but how do you like it?

I will have a more interesting post tomorrow as a couple of my friends and I will be making sushi for dinner. That's right, MAKING sushi. We were inspired after our Sushi and Sake night at Whole Foods and decided to do it on our own.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Bahn You? Bahn Mi!

On Saturday, my husband and I decided to venture to N&H Saigon Subs in Randolph. Pretty much the best decision ever.

One of my favorite Instagram accounts to follow is Hidden Boston and they also have a website too. Basically they go to all kinds of restaurants in the Boston area that may be less known. One place they went recently was the Vietnamese N&H Saigon Subs.

It was a very small but cozy, clean and colorful (I heart alliterations) "sub shop." It is definitely not a typical Boston-area sub shop as their specialty is Vietnamese comfort food with soups, spring rolls, bahn mi sandwiches, and bubble tea. The menu is small but the food was so fresh and flavorful. 

Since Vietnam was occupied by the French for many years, there are some Vietnam dishes with a French influence. One is the Bahn Mi sandwich which is on a French baguette. We had a great conversation with the owner who said the Vietnamese have made this bread lighter and more airy than its French counterpart. The outside is flaky but the inside is really soft. The Vietnamese have filled with sandwich with meat (such as pork), pickled carrots, cucumbers, cilantro, jalapenos, and pate. 


We also tried the crispy chicken spring rolls which were awesome


The owner also told us that Vietnam is one of the very few Asian countries that don't widely drink tea. Instead, because of the French influence, they prefer coffee. But since dairy isn't prevalent in Asia for the coffee, they use condensed milk. We each had a bubble tea, the husband had a coffee one (always iced in Vietnam) and I had a Thai Tea.


It was such a cool experience and the owner was so passionate about his restaurant. The prices were insanely cheap (less than $5 for the sub!) We will definitely be back. 

Kind of hilarious but also sad: the owner told us that many wonder into his shop and try to order things like a steak and cheese sub. Once he explains his subs, they still ask for cheese on the bahn mi sandwiches. Sigh.





Sunday, March 15, 2015

Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel Bites

Sorry for lack of posting, guys. It has been a bit on the quiet front in terms of food. A.K.A. boring. I've also been working on a logo for myself. I'm too cheap to buy the Adobe suite at this moment so I downloaded Inkscape for the Mac which is a vector drawing application (and free!). I have zero experience in this realm but have always been fascinated by graphic design. So I am trying to teach myself how to use this program and make a logo for this blog

Friday night, my friend Ashley cooked an awesome meal with a recipe from her mother. It was fish with potatoes, peppers, onions, and amazingness. She said there is no real recipe so I will have to get her notes on it. As a side note, I really am terrible at food blogging, I forgot to take pictures of the delicious fish! 

We weren't able to celebrate my other friend Cait's birthday on her actual birthday last week so we surprised her with cupcakes and candles because we knew how much she'd hate/love it.


Isn't she so cute?! After some Moscow Mules and wine, we called it a night as we would be seeing each other the next night.

Yesterday was a rainy Saturday which was perfect for cooking projects. I fueled myself with coffee from my french press


It is a lot of work as I take whole coffee beans, grind them, heat up the water, then press them for coffee. This is not a weekday thing for me so I do it on weekends (weekdays mean Keurig). I then frothed some milk and made my own latte


Also, this is what you do with a french press. Haha.

timmelideo on Etsy

For a party I am attended last night, I made Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel Bites with Nutella Dipping Sauce. I have made pretzel bites in the past. They come out pretty close to the real thing but not quite browned enough. But they tasted good. 


As we know, flour and I are not a good mix. 

Anyways I knew I messed up a bit on the pretzels because I didn't have quite enough yeast and I don't think I kneaded the dough long enough. I also had to add extra flour because the dough was really sticky. 


But they did manage to come out ok (and taste really good). Here's a shot prior to being tossed in butter, cinnamon, and sugar:


Anything rolled in butter, sugar, and cinnamon automatically means deliciousness.


Also, I made a Nutella Cream Cheese dip to go with the pretzel bites. 


Seriously, what more could you want in life?












Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Sawta Tawta - The Weekend in Food

Yes, that is how I measure my weekend. In food.

Saturday night, the husband and I stayed in. After our wine and food binge on Friday night, we figured it was for the best. I did decide to make something "nicer" and opted for shrimp from Whole Foods.

Now, I don't normally shop at Whole Foods. Definitely not on a regular basis. But I have found that if I do it right, it isn't much more than I normally spend and I get the high quality ingredients. I also really pay attention to specials, Whole Foods coupons, and manufacturers' coupons. Did you know you can stack manufacturers' coupons with the Whole Food coupons? It's pretty great.

The shrimp was on sale, already peeled and deveined. Now, many of you know me and know that I'm not a seafood person. But I've slowly gotten better and have been forcing myself to enjoy seafood. Saturday night was a prime example. So how do I get over it? I just douse the shrimp in a bourbon glaze:


It came out really good considering I rarely ever cook or eat shrimp. I cut the original recipe in half. I had 1 serving. My husband had 3. In fairness, I made him eat the rest of it. I served the shrimp with polenta (latest obsession) and an arugula salad with orange and fennel. 

We spent the remainder of the night playing Mario Kart and drinking mutant Moscow Mules.


As you can see in my copper mug, those are not limes. I had started to make Moscow Mules and realized I had no lime. Really sad. I tried a lemon, a orange, and added pomegranate liquor just because. It was an OK substitute but not the same.

Good thing we did this Sunday morning:

'

Because we had plans to go to Chomp in Warren, RI with my parents Sunday night. Chomp is this amazing bar that serves burgers and sandwiches. It is really small and even though we arrived at 4:40 (when it opened at 4:30) we still had nearly an hour wait. Have no fear, we found a couple of seats at the bar and enjoyed their awesome cocktails and frickles (fried pickles)



My drink was called a Burley Template, basically a Shirley Temple with bourbon. They also have a good selection of craft beers and with dinner I had an Old Rasputin Imperial Stout. I'm proud of my dad, he actually had Downeast Cider. But switched to Bud Light and got Bud Light-shamed big time

Once we sat down, we ordered these ooey, gooey maplely, pecany chicken wings. Sticky but amazing.


I have failed as a food blogger once again as I did not take a picture of my burger. At a burger joint. I know, ugh. I ordered the French Onion burger with French Onion aioli, onion chips, and cheddar cheese. They also make their own homemade ketchup for the fries that tastes like star anise. My dad ordered the "Sorta Torta" but with his Boston accent, it came out like "Sawta Tawta." Haha. Sorry dad, I don't mean to pick on you. 

Last night (Monday night) wasn't anything blog worthy for dinner. But tonight I made stuffed peppers with my own made up recipe. I decided to do a meat-free version with quinoa, jalapeno, grape tomatoes, and pinto beans inside of the red peppers. I also made a homemade enchilada sauce to mix all of the ingredients in. I topped with cheddar cheese and avocado. As you can see, one of my peppers would not stand up.


Oh well, they tasted good! And I have leftovers for lunch for work. 



Saturday, March 7, 2015

Boston Wine School

My mother gave me the best birthday present everrr (and I guess my husband benefitted from it too). 

Last night we went to the Boston Wine School in Allston. The "school" was started by Jonathan Alsop to teach people about the art of drinking wine in a far less snobby way. The classes originated in his cellar but have moved to an actual location next to a liquor store (convenient). The classes have 15 people max and sell out quickly. They have a calendar with multiple classes each week at different prices. My mother got me a gift certificate for any class that included a dinner (some do, some don't) for the two of us. We decided to go with Wine, Cheese, and the Pursuit of Happiness. I mean, how perfect is that? 

It took 45 minutes to get there thanks to Friday traffic but we were happy to see that despite all the snow, there was actually parking. I know that is hard to come by in Allston. 

The "classroom" is in this cool room with exposed brick and a chalkboard that ran along the brick wall. The chalkboard had all kinds of interesting information about wine. There were tables set up into a U shape facing the chalkboard.


It was an intimate setting but didn't feel pretentious at all. The instructor was very inviting. Upon arrival, they were serving Spanish Cava (a sparkling wine much like Prosecco and Champagne made with different grapes and a different process. Ok so maybe it isn't too much alike compared to those two except that it is bubbly). We also had an appetizer with two types of bruschetta and fresh ricotta cheese. One had a rose jam and the other had a balsamic glaze with thyme. There was also soppressata which is basically an Italian salami. But much better than American salami. 


Once we had that, we dove into the wine and cheese world. The instructor paired the wines to go with the cheeses. We would try the wines without the cheese and then with the cheese. It was amazing to see the taste of the wine change. If you don't know what cheese to pick to go with your wine, go for a cheese that is made in the same general area as the wine. For example, choose a French wine to pair with a brie.


We tried a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand with a Chevre (goat cheese) from France. The Sauvignon Blanc was more on the tart side but with the strong cheese pairing, the wine became almost sweet. Next was a Beaujolais from eastern France with a Brie. Beaujolais (which I don't think I've had before) is made with Gamay grapes. Did you know that Europeans tend to name their wines after the region and Americans tend to name their wines after the grape varietal? That's why it can be confusing walking into a wine shop. A kind of Beaujolais, the Beaujolais Nouveau, has been heavily marketed in the US as a Thanksgiving wine even though the French don't celebrate Thanksgiving. Interesting, right?

We then went to Italy with a Tuscan Blend with Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Italy and most of Europe has really strict rules on the names of wines and how they are made. For example, a Chianti must be made a very specific way with specific grapes. Any wines that don't go by the "Chianti rules" but are made in Tuscany are often called Super Tuscan wines. This wine was an example. We paired this with a Robiola Due Latti cheese which was made with both sheep's and cow's milks. 


Our next pairing was Spanish with a Tempranillo wine and a Manchego cheese. I love Manchego and also loved this wine. This was our favorite wine of the night and it only sells for $11!!  Spanish wines are gaining popularity but weren't as well known as Italian or French wines because the Spanish tended to not export their wines. They would just drink them. Smart move. The last set was a French wine made from the Muscat grape so it was definitely sweet. It was paired with a Fourme d'Ambert which is a French blue cheese. This wine was made sweeter due to the stopping of fermentation with brandy when it was made.

While drinking wine and eating cheese, we learned the 7 "S's" of wine tasting which are See, Sniff, Swirl, Smell, Sip, Swish, and Spit. It was interesting to go through the process and talk about what we smelled in the wine and if we tasted anything in particular. I did not spit. I drank. Obviously.

After that, it was onto our dinner. I know, dinner after all of that wine and cheese? We were ready! The dinner was a "Night in Italy" as you can see on the menu. It was paired white and red Italian wines


The dinner was really good and not huge which was welcomed. Dessert is cut off at the bottom but it was a Strawberry Gateau. 


Overall we learned a lot and it was a welcoming environment. We were told to make it interactive which it was and we also got to know the couple sitting next to us. I definitely recommend it for a new kind of night out (or a grown-up night out). It is on the pricier side at $115 per person but you are getting a lot of wine and food. It would probably cost the same as going out to dinner at a nice restaurant then going out for drinks after. It was fun!