Strawberry Shortcake Cookies


Strawberry season is upon us and this is the perfect time for some really delicious strawberries. On Sunday, I went to Wilson Farms (Lexington, MA) where they were having their annual Strawberry Festival. I picked up a pint of strawberries which were grown right on the farm. In hindsight, I should have gotten more strawberries because they were ripe and red all the way through and mouth-dribbling delicious.

The pint I took home (minus a couple strawberries that I snuck out and ate), I chopped up and turned into Strawberry Shortcake Cookies. The recipe I got was from We Are Not Martha. I really wanted to make something with strawberries. I had already baked a Strawberry-Peach Cobbler the week before and wanted to try something else that was unique.




So what makes these cookies "strawberry shortcake". The liquid in the batter is heavy cream, which gives you that cream flavor you get from the whipped cream in a real shortcake. Plus the cookie dough contains cold butter which melts in the oven. The cookies get slightly crispy on the outside and are soft like cake on the inside. If anything screams STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE! it's these cookies.

Go check out the recipe: Strawberry Shortcake Cookies


I unfortunately burnt my first batch of cookies because I went for the full 19 minutes at 375 degrees. I recommend going 12-14 minutes at 350 degrees instead, or checking in on the cookies regularly so they don't burn.

Cookie Sandwiches with Dulce De Leche, Macadamia Nuts and Coconut

First it started with Alfajores. I had watched Ingrid Hoffman of Food Network's Simply Delicioso make Alfajor, a cookie sandwich with dulce de leche in the middle. I really wanted to make them for a triple birthday party (three friends with birthday all at once), but didn't want to make them from scratch. So I experimented with refrigerated cookie dough and canned dulce de leche. The first dough I purchased had far too much sugar in it and the cookies spread too thin while baking. I proactively searched for a cookie dough with less sugar in it, not necessarily a low-sugar dough, but I compared cookie doughs to each other and bought the one with the least. This time, the cookies were more solid and chunky and perfect for cookie sandwich making. I smeared dulce de leche onto to the backs of two cookies

Then I got the idea of adding coconut to the the dulce de leche. Why not? Give it a more tropical kick. I made the Coconut & Dulce De Leche Cookie Sandwiches along with Peppermint Chocolate Ganache Cookie Sandwiches to a Christmas party I attended last year. These cookie sandwiches were such a hit that the word "orgasmic" popped up several times in conversation.

Fast forward to this week, when I decided to add chopped Macadamia nuts to these cookies. I needed mouths to feed, so when Kevin allowed me to accompany him as his guest to a party, I thought I'd bring the sandwiches with me. They were a total success! People gobbled them up. Also, Kevin made Carrot Cake Sandwiches (see recipe here) and they were a hit too!

Ingredients:

Refrigerated sugar cookie dough
Can of Dulce de Leche
Finely chopped Macadamia nuts
Shredded Coconut

Warning: Nestle just recalled all their cookie dough because of E. coli bacteria so please make sure you are careful when purchasing refrigerated cookie dough!

Instructions:
Bake a whole mess of sugar cookies and let them cool. Make sure they are roughly the same size otherwise it'll be difficult to make the even shaped sandwiches.

Chop macadamia nuts to a fine chop leaving some chunks in the mix. If you can't find unsalted macadamia nuts, don't fret! Just add the nuts to a strainer and run them under cold water and pat them dry before chopping. It will get some of the excess salt off. Also, salt goes well with caramel anyway so you can't really lose in this scenario.

Prepare one bowl with chopped macadamia nuts and one bowl with shredded coconut.

Smear a generous amount of dulce de leche on the back of each cookie.

Dip one cookie into the macadamia nuts and the other cookie into the coconut and sandwich together. You can always sprinkle the nuts and coconut to the dulce de leche if you desire. Be careful how you pick up the sandwiches as you don't want to have smears of dulce de leche on the outside of the sandwiches (not pretty!).

Once you assemble you are ready to eat!



Had all sorts of camera FAIL and only this picture survived. Boo!

Dulce De Leche on Foodista

Cocktails and Dessert @ Casablanca



My friend Kevin and I went out to Casablanca in Harvard Square (Cambridge, MA) on Sunday evening for cocktails and dessert. This restaurant/bar is a great local haunt. It's in a great location, because it's situated right below my all-time favorite repertory theater the Brattle, which I talk about incessantly on my classic film blog (Out of the Past). It is very possible to watch the film Casablanca (1942) and then head downstairs to Casablanca to discuss the movie over drinks. I still dream of doing just that one of these days.



I'm new to cocktails, so I've been trying to experiment with different kinds to see what I like. I tried Casablanca's Raspberry Beret which was a very pretty cocktail of crushed raspberries, lemonade, prosecco and some other things I can't quite remember. It was refreshing but still had a punch to it!



Kevin had some profiteroles with ice cream and drizzles with chocolate and caramel sauces. It looked delicious!

This is the second time I've been out and had cocktails and dessert. It seems a fun way to spend an evening, chatting over drinks and sweets and is a little more sophisticated than drinking beer and watching sports!

Mabel's Lobster Claw Restaurant Kennebunkport, Maine

I was on vacation last week and I took my mom up to Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, Maine. What's the first thing we did in Maine? Ate lobster sandwiches and had clam chowder. That's what you do here in New England especially since there are so many great places with top-notch fresh seafood.

My mother and I stopped at Mabel's Lobster Claw Restaurant in Kennebunkport, Maine where we had, what the waitress called, the perfect lunch. A cup of clam chowder and a lobster roll meal.



The clam chowder was absolutely delicious. Very creamy with satisfyingly big chunks of potatoes and clams. The scallions gave it an extra kick and the oyster crackers topped it all off.

The lobster roll was quite perfect. It had pretty much no dressing which allowed the lobster to remain the star of the show. I was fascinated my their coleslaw (which I will attempt to make in a future post) and their fries were kind of bleh. Overall I was really impressed by the food.



My friend Jonas from Sweden asked me why us New Englanders have a tendency of eating lobster in a roll. Lobster in a roll is much cheaper than purchasing a meal with a whole lobster. Thee amount of meat given is probably a bit shy of a whole lobster. It's easy to prepare since the meat is all lumped up and doled out on buns. No need to cook a lobster to order. Also, eating a whole lobster is very messy and the meat is hard to get to. So eating lobster in a roll is much easier and you can get at the meat in a more satisfying way.

It is very easy to make a bad lobster roll (McDonalds and D'Angelos are two such places where you'll find lobster roll disasters). The secret of a good lobster roll is to let the lobster's natural sweet flavor shine through and not to drown it in mayonnaise. So if you get Lobstah and Clam Chowda in New England, make sure you go to a reputable place like Mabel's Lobster Claw Restaurant!

Free-style Wild Rice Pilaf & Mushroom Casserole

On a whim, I decided to throw together a Wild Rice & Mushroom Casserole. This is more a method than it is a recipe and in my opinion methods are much more valuable to a good cook because said cook can build various recipes from such methods.


Ingredients:
A can of condensed mushroom soup
A box of Wild Rice Pilaf with Seasoning
A handful of sliced mushrooms
A handful of green beans, trimmed and cut in half
Hand grated cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 Degrees F. Cook Wild Rice Pilaf to package instructions. Don't forget the seasoning packet. You won't be adding any other seasoning to this dish, so you'll need it.



Sautee mushrooms and green beans in olive oil until the vegetable's structure starts to give and the mushrooms are nice and glistening. Do not add any salt or the mushrooms will leak a lot of water.


Add mushrooms, green beans and the can of condensed mushroom soup to the wild rice pilaf and mix thoroughly.


Add to a baking dish greased with cooking spray. Cook for 20 minutes. Take out of the oven then add grated cheddar cheese on top and cook for a nother 3-5 minutes until cheese is melted.


Voila!

I usually add chopped and sauteed onions to this but couldn't sacrifice my onion for this recipe.

Possible additions:
chopped and sauteed onions
chopped rotisserie chicken


Mushrooms on Foodista

Tales of Tea Snobbery



On Falafel Friday, my friend Lisa and I went to Tealuxe on Newberry Street in Boston, MA. Lisa is a tea fanatic with a massive collection of loose teas of all sorts. Basically, I like to cheat on coffee once in a while with some really good tea. I decided to be unfaithful on this day and have some tea at what proved to be the mecca for tea snobs.


Tealuxe is serious about their tea. The place is a tea bar, tea restaurant and tea shop all rolled in one. I was quite intimidated by the place but managed to order a small personal pot of Decaf Himalayan Chai tea with milk, after looking at Tealuxe's massive menu.


The waiter (oh yes people, this place has waiters), brought me a whole service for my tea. I was a bit perplexed until my tea snob friend Lisa explained to me what the heck was going on in front of me. I fugured out on my own that the timer was to tell me when the tea would have sufficiently brewed. Once the sand fell to the bottom, it was time to take the little basket of tea leaves out of the pot and set it aside on the teapot-shaped plate provided. The tea leaves brewed in hot water and milk, which I found kind of strange but it worked beautifully so I didn't complain.

The chai was absolutely delicious and worth all of the confusion. It was the best drink for a cold and rainy Friday.

Now I'm not as perplexed with coffee as I am with the world of tea. Back in my retail days, I used to work the counter of a Barnes & Noble cafe whenever I was needed. I learned how to build numerous coffee drinks and I knew the delicate balance between coffee and milk. I even had tricks to prevent the chocolate of a caffe mocha from sinking to the bottom and could make a heart in the foam of your cappuccino. Caramel macchiato cross hatch of sauce over the foam? I was on it!

Tea however is a mystery to me.

Far out!

Tea on Foodista

Falafel Friday

During the summer months, folks at my company work a bit earlier in the mornings and take shorter lunch breaks in order to have the pleasure of leaving work at 1 pm each Friday. Summer Fridays are the best, not just becuase I have a longer-than-usual weekend, but because they are also known to me and my friend Lisa as "Falafel Friday".


At 1 pm, Lisa and I are out the door and headed straight for Falafel King in Downtown Crossing (Boston, MA). They have the best falafel known to man and were able to convert me, a falafel heathen into a devoted falafel follower. Don't let their location fool you, they are top-notch, respectable falafel experts. The lines are always long but move super quickly and if you happen to be pretty lady you may get a free falafel dipped in hummus to snack on while you are waiting in line.

Falafel King has no seating, so we take our falafels out to the Boston Common. Falafel is a take-it-and-go kind of food, especially in Middle Eastern countries where it's considered fast food or street food.



I always get the Falafel Roll-up which consists of lettuce, tomato, pickles, crushed falafel balls (usually 3) and tahini sauce wrapped up in lafa. The lafa is a bit dry but the wonderful contents inside truly make up for it.



My friend Lisa got a Falafel plate which had seasoned rice, falafel with tahini, lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, pickles, hummus and a pita. It's quite a generous portion of food!



The squirrels on the Boston Common do not appreciate being given lafa. They turn up their noses and wonder who they can bother for some hot McDonald's french fries. This duck, however, was very patiently waiting for any food that he could get and I doubt he would have been as picky as the squirrels. The duck even flirted with us a bit, showing off his beautiful feathers. I had already inhaled my falafel roll-up and Lisa wasn't feeling quite generous, so the duck had to look on in envy.


I hope to do more posts on Falafel Fridays and to try out a recipe myself.
Falafel on Foodista

Showing Local Business Some Love

I spent most of today basking in the glorious sunshine and supporting some local businesses. I cannot talk enough about how important it is to support your local, independent businesses. Big corporations and chains don't excel in quality, variety and service like they do. Local indies care about the communities they are part of and are always reaching out to them. I'm lucky to live in an area with so many great local indies and a community that really supports them.

My first stop today was Johnny D's in Davis Square (Cambridge, MA). On Saturday and Sunday mornings they have excellent Jazz Brunch, you get to hear live music and eat some amazing and unique brunch dishes. It's worth going there regularly just for their weekly specials. This morning, I had their Portabella Mushroom, Scallion and Swiss omelet. It was quite delicious and the scallions really gave the omelet a kick.

I had read on Boston.com about the Ritz-Carlton (Boston, MA) having Cupcake Tea. I really wanted to go but they had required 24 hour + advance reservation. The thought of eating delectable cupcakes lingered in my brain all morning and I decided to be adventurous, go elsewhere and have a cupcake lunch. My next stop was Sweet Cupcakes in Harvard Square (Cambridge, MA).

Their selection of full-sized and miniature cupcakes on display was enough to make any customer drool. After some considerable ogling, I decided on two cupcakes and made my way to another local business for some coffee.


Just down the street is Crema Cafe (Cambridge, MA), a little coffee shop that was a welcome change from the Au Bon Pain that was there before. They have great coffee and an eclectic selection of sandwiches, salads, pastries and quiches. They even have soda in glass bottles! I picked up a small half-decaf, half-caf coffee and headed outside.


I love the simplicity of both the cupcake box and the coffee to-go cup. There is something about minimalism that is truly decadent.


I sat outside in the gorgeous weather and had my coffee and cupcakes. I got a Boston Cream Cupcake which was chiffon cake, with a pastry cream center and chocolate ganache with a tiny dot of cherry-flavored frosting to top it all off. It was light and delicious and not overpoweringly sweet. The Lemon-Raspberry Cupcake was a lot denser, with delicious sweet and tart lemon cake, a raspberry jam center, a generous heaping of frosting and a raspberry on top. It was so decadent that I couldn't finish the whole thing. Lucky for me, there were some sparrows hanging around that were willing to help me out.


After my cupcake lunch, I headed to the See New England Festival held in City Hall Plaza (Boston, MA). Local organizations set up booths to encourage folks to shop, travel and eat in New England. A local website called it the "Staycation Festival".

My top favorite local business, Wilson Farms (Lexington, MA), was one of the sponsors of the event and had a nice booth set-up. They were promoting their upcoming Strawberry festival with fresh and chocolate-dipped strawberries. They also had some of their produce and baked goods for sale.


And while this isn't food related, I thought I'd mention that the festival had live music including the URO (Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra). I've seen them perform before and am always impressed by the show they put on. It's a full rock orchestra doing electric covers of songs by the Beatles, Queen, David Bowie and Led Zepplin. They are a local group of musicians who are super-talented and put on a great show.





Now I'm left with the good feeling that I helped support some great local business!

Herbed Vegetable and Artichoke Pasta

With the warmer months of Spring and Summer, I try to take full advantage of nature's bounty and cook with a variety of vegetables. The more vegetables I can cram into a dish the better. While I was visiting my eye doctor, I flipped through the June 2009 issue of Ladies' Home Journal. It's not usually a magazine I read but the pickings were slim so I chose that. In their Food section, they had some superb recipes in an article called "Perfect Summer Pasta". Pasta paired with a variety of vegetables and I went out and bought a copy of the magazine before it was taken off the newsstands (because I'm a good doobie and would not steal from the doctor's waiting room).

I recently made the Herbed Vegetable and Artichoke Pasta recipe with several modifications. Here is my version. Enjoy!

Ingredients

2 cups of Rotelle pasta
handful of chopped fresh green beans
fresh or canned baby corn halved
grape tomatoes halved
1/4 of a yellow bell pepper sliced and chopped
small can of marinated artichokes
1 small can of olive-oil packed tuna
chopped parsley

drizzles of olive oil to taste
splashes of vinegar to taste
salt and pepper to taste

This makes 3-4 servings.

Boil water and cook pasta for the recommended amount of time.


Prepare all the vegetables and mix them in a bowl with the artichokes, tuna and parsley. Set aside.


Once pasta is cooked, add to a strainer and run it under some cold water to cool off the pasta and stop the cooking process.

Mix the pasta in with the other ingredients. Season with salt and pepper and add equal parts olive oil and vinger (red wine works well here).



Serve with grated parmesan cheese over the top.
Possible variations:

Replace tuna with grilled chicken
Replace artichokes with marinated mushrooms
Go Vegan by using vegan friendly pasta and replacing tuna for baked tofu
Par-boil the green beans and cool prior to prep
Add your favorite vinagerette instead of just oil and vinegar
Replace vinegar with lime or lemon juice
Replace parmesan cheese with fresh mozarella chunks

Replace Rotelle with Farfalle (bow-tie) pasta

Artichoke on Foodista
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