New Year's Plans and Holiday Meal Photos

What are your plans for New Year's Eve? Carlos and I will be going to Sea Dog Brewing Co. (see my review of the pub here) for dinner and some New Year's festivities. They'll be open late but we'll be heading home for New Year's eve drinks. I'll be making my Peach-Raspberry Sparkling Sangria and we have an extra small bottle of champagne for popping at the stroke of midnight. We also plan to watch Ocean's 11 (1960) and Dick Clark's countdown show.

I neglected to post pictures from our Christmas day meal so here they are! I hope you all have a wonderful New Years!

My dad's famous Octopus salad. It served with onions and a vinegar-oil dressing. Very simple and oh so good.

My mom dressed this huge plate of her special recipe rice with kalamata olives!

My mom makes the most amazing pot of red beans. She makes it from scratch and she adds carrots, onion and bacon to add flavor and variety to the pot. It's so wonderful with her rice.

This is my mom's special pressure cooked beef. I don't know how she makes it so it comes out as tender and flavorful as it does. It looks very festive with the Green and Red peppers!

Another of my mom's signature recipes. Her vinegar cole slaw. So wonderful that even Carlos devoured it and he hates cabbage!

My mom (Sarah) calls this "Sarah Salad". It's much better than that awful Raquel salad I had a while back. Thin strips of cucumber, green pepper, onion, carrots and tomatoes dressed in oil and vinegar and seasoned with salt and pepper. So simple but so divine.

Happy New Year!

Four Simple Drinks for Ringing in the New Year

Check out my latest article with four recipes for alcoholic drinks that are simple to make and perfect for ringing in the New Year. Don't you hate it when a cocktail recipe has a laundry list of fancy and expensive liqueurs that you don't have and don't really want to get? Well, these four drinks are simple, easy to make and you probably already have the booze necessary for them. Hot Toddy with Rum, Peppermint Schnapps Hot Chocolate, Peach-Raspberry Sparkling Sangria and Cranberry Mimosa.

Merry Christmas!

Here is my little Christmas tree from Wilson Farm in Lexington, MA. It's a Dwarf Alberta Spruce and it has my favorite Snowman ornament. 

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas! 

Christmas Plans

Wow. 2010 seemed to fly by. Christmas is tomorrow, New Year's Eve is next week and in the time it takes to sneeze we'll be face-to-face with 2011!

Today, Christmas Eve, I'll be working hard in the kitchen. Carlos and I are hosting and his Dad is coming over for Christmas Eve dinner. Here is what I have planned:

Appetizers - Hummus with a drizzle of olive oil served with baby carrots, celery sticks and pita chips. I'll also serve a small bowl of green olives stuffed with garlic.

Pastel de Choclo (see my recipe) - This is a traditional Chilean casserole. Carlos' dad is from Chile and Carlos grew up eating this casserole so it'll be my pleasure to make it for them. I hope they both like it, especially since it's been a while since I've made it. This is a strange dish: ground beef with onions, shredded chicken, olives, raisins, hard-boiled eggs and topped off with a corn mush/milk/basil sugar mixture. Wow! It's a lot of work to make and I pre-prepped by grating the corn in advance and shredding some rotisserie chicken. 

Mixed Salad - I'm making a salad on the side mostly for me as I'm not crazy about the Pastel de Choclo and will need something to round out the meal.

Chilean Wine - Casillero del Diablo - Carmenere 2009. I bought a bottle for dinner. I was rushing to get home and when faced with a wall of bottles of red wine and very little time, I went through bottle by bottle until I saw the first Chilean one and grabbed it. I hope it's good ::fingers crossed::

Flan (see my recipe) - I hope this will come out better than last time. Even though I burnt the caramel this year and had to start all over, I think I got it right the second time and the coloring will be much better. However, I think I may have curdled the eggs a bit so the final product might not come out as smooth. I'm not very good at delicate desserts! But Carlos' dad likes flan so flan we shall have. I pre-prepped this by making this the night before and chilling it over night.

Extra - If I have some time, I might make an easier version of Raquel's Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Coffee Cake.

On Christmas day, Carlos and I will be heading to my parents house for a Portuguese/Dominican feast. My dad is making his famous Octopus salad, an annual Christmas tradition. My mom is making a smorgasbord of Dominican delights including her famous red beans and pressure cooked beef. Mmm... 

What will you be doing on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? Any cooking/eating plans?

Belated Birthday at Flatbread/Sacco's Bowl Haven

My good friend Lisa treated me to some bowling at Flatbread Company & Sacco's Bowl Haven (read my review about the restaurant here). We had lots of fun bowling and eating. Here are some pictures from the experience.

I had a Pomegranate Ginger Mojito. Boy was that a lot of booze. I left drunk after that just having that one drink. Lucky for me, I'm already a bad bowler so being tipsy wasn't going to make me any worse.

Here is Lisa bowling. She kicked my butt big time!

Keeping score was a little tricky but I got the hang of it.

Nom-alicious pizza! Lisa got the Co-evolution flatbread pizza without Kalamata olives (goat cheese, roasted red pepper and red onion) and I got the Kalua Pork flatbread pizza (barbecue sauce, goat cheese, black beans, red onion, pulled pork). Both were delicious and we shared which is the best way to do it!

It was a fun night with drinks, pizza and bowling. Thanks Lisa!

A List to Build a Dream On

I know, I know, it is way too late to create a guide to Christmas presents for foodies. It's even too late to do a Last-Minute one. So instead, I thought I'd just share with you my wish list for my kitchen. These are items I lust for. Some items I hope to get soon and others are merely pipe dreams for now. It's been tough financially in 2010 but when I moved in with Carlos I was given access to a larger kitchen and was able to save up enough money to pay off all the credit card debt I accumulated during my years at grad school. His old refrigerator, which had been empty for years, couldn't quite take the strain of having to keep food cold and went kaputz. We had to invest in a brand new refrigerator and luckily for us it came at a moment when we could afford it. I purchased a new waffle maker, earlier in the year I invested in a food processor (finally!), I got a specialty knife sharpener for my Wusthof and I got a replacement grill pan when I discovered that the exposed aluminum in my old grill pan was dangerous. I hope in 2011, I'll be able to afford some new things that will help enhance my cooking (the lack of certain things holds me back) as well as improve this blog.

Grill/Griddle Domed Splatter Shield from Williams-Sonoma - $29.95

I still have a scar from the second degree burn I got back in May (When Bad Things Happen to Good Cooks). Hot oil splashed on my wrist when I threw some chicken into a too-hot pan. This splatter shield could have saved me! I didn't even know this even existed until I saw one at a Williams-Sonoma store. I did a double-take, gasped, smiled, hugged it and put it back. Maybe next time I'll get one. I grill a lot indoors and this will be infinitely useful to prevent burns as well as grease splatter.

Kuhn Rikon Paring Knife Nonstick Green - $11.50

I saw this on Megan's blog Delicious Dishings and I instantly fell in love with it. I definitely need a new paring knife and one in lime green with a protective sheath? Awesome!


The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and  In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan

My doctor prescribed both of these books to me when I saw him during my last physical. I have some form of IBS with light forms of lactose and carbohydrate intolerance. My doctor thinks that reading these will be good for me so I'm more informed about the food I eat and what it does to my body. I already purchased What To Eat by Marion Nestle upon his recommendation.

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer in Empire Red - $350.00

It's more than just a mixer. It's a status symbol. If you are serious about cooking, this has got to be in your kitchen. But it comes with a hefty price tag. My beau Carlos bargain hunted for a cheaper model to get me for my birthday but even the cheapest price was far too expensive for his budget. I commend him for trying. I keep reading about how much people love theirs or how they got one for their birthday. I get so envious of them. I know if I got one, I'd show it off too but in the meantime I will curse at everyone who owns one.

Like the Kitchen Aid mixer, I've been reading about how other people have gotten fancy mandonlines and I have cursed to the heavens about the unfairness of it all. I don't want a dinky mandoline, I want a nice one! One that means business. And this one takes no prisoners.

All-Clad Stainless Steel Roaster with Rack (and thermometer!) - $245.00
Worth the investment in my opinion. Especially if it means I can start roasting chickens that won't stick to the bottom of my baking dish (because that's what I use!). This one is a pipe dream for sure. It's cheaper and more convenient for me to buy rotisserie chickens at the grocery store. For some reason, a cooked whole chicken is less expensive than a raw one. That boggles my mind! Also, realistically a Lasagna/Roaster with removable rack is a more economical and practical investment for me to make.

A Good Quality SLR Camera - Prices vary

I need a better camera. I used to be really into photography and even considered it as a career. I had an amazing SLR and I took a class at the New England School of Photography (NESOP). This was just before digital cameras became big. When all the new technology hit, my beautiful SLR became obsolete. I invested in a digital SLR that was crap, and two point-and-shoots which were better than my expensive digital SLR but still crap. I really envy those food bloggers who have nice cameras and gorgeous food shots on their blogs. It's really difficult taking pictures in a dark, windowless kitchen with bad lighting and a crappy point-and-shoot.

What are you hoping to get for your kitchen for Christmas or for the New Year?

Restaurant Review ~ Sea Dog Pub in Woburn

I was really excited for Sea Dog Brew Pub to come to Woburn. It replaces Nickel's Grille which was a so-so restaurant but wasn't unique enough to draw out the Woburnites to visit enough to keep it open. Sea Dog Brew Pub has what it takes. It's a got a good reputation, a solid following and a whole lot of beer. Carlos and I went on opening weekend. I went ahead of Carlos and when I got there all I saw were drunk people. I made the unfortunate decision of sitting in the waiting area where there were 3 drunk people, getting more drunk and 2 random drunk guys joined in. Oy vey. Plus there were several ladies dressed in the skank couture scoping out the male population that gathered in a large cluster around the bar. I just wanted to eat because I was very hungry.

So hungry that I almost ate the menu!

Let me preface this by saying that Carlos is a major drama queen when it comes to ordering at a restaurant. He was hell bent on getting an Allagash Beer even though it's a beer from another company and Sea Dog Brew Pub is a Microbrewery and serves their own beer. The sassy bartender came over with 3 Allagash-y samples for Mr. Drama Queen to try out. He picked out one which of course he doesn't even remember the name of. So next time we go to Sea Dog Brew Pub we'll have to go through all of this Allagash-y ordering stuff all over again. Another Oy Vey! I got their Sea Dog Raz which was delicious but very potent. I was as drunk as the people at the bar by the time I finished it. (I have low tolerance!)

 We ordered a plate of fried calamari as an appetizer. Mr. Drama Queen hates all type of seafood but for some reason he loves calamari so this is pretty standard for us to get whenever we go out to eat. This calamari was absolute delicious. And I can't tell if it's because I was ravenous or because it was really good. The calamari was perfectly cooked, the breading was delicious and it was topped with a cherry pepper aoili, arugula and jalapenos.

Mr. Drama Queen demands a plate of lemon wedges. Per usual. He always orders Tabasco too but I think he skipped it this time because of the jalapenos. On one of our early dates, we ordered calamari and he covered the calamari with lemon juice even though I didn't want it on there. He's learned his lesson and now we split the calamari and top it the way we want.

Because Mr. Drama Queen doesn't like seafood, I often get it as a meal when I go out to eat. I grew up with seafood so it's part of my diet that I don't ever want to give up. Shrimp, lobster, mussels, clams, fish,  scallops, you name it I love it (except Salmon which is pure evil). So I ordered the above seafood wrap, which was supposed to come with fried shrimp, haddock and scallops but they forgot the shrimp. Boo! It  also had very little tartar sauce plus some dry pickle relish I didn't care for. Overall it was so-so. The ginormous onion rings though were absolutely divine! Super thick onion ring covered in a deliciously seasoned coating. They only give you 4 or 5 but they are big enough that it doesn't matter!

Mr. Drama Queen got a Meatloaf sandwich which was topped off with Swiss Cheese and red onion and came with a side of tater tots. The tots were like fried blobs of mashed potatoes. I guess I prefer my tots to have chunks of potatoes in it. Carlos gave me a bite of the sandwich which was good but not to my taste. If you love meatloaf sandwiches though, you'll like it!

I'm looking forward to visiting Sea Dog Brew Pub soon and I hope they stick around for a long time!

Trip to Finale in Harvard Square

After our trip to Mr. Bartley's in Harvard Square, Carlos and I headed over to Finale for some dessert and coffee/tea. We still had some time before watching It's a Wonderful Life (1946) on the big screen at the Brattle theater and we wanted something sweet to round out our burger meal as well as some caffeine to perk us up. I ordered a Latte that came in a glass mug. I love drinking hot coffee out of a glass container. I think it takes me back to my childhood when I would drink galao (Portuguese drink made of coffee, milk and sugar) out of a tall glass. Finale had those European-style sugar packets which always make me really happy!

Carlos had a British Breakfast tea. The thing about Finale is that the place is really fancy yet affordable. You get the full dining experience. Finale mostly serves desserts, wine and other drinks but they also have a savory menu. We mostly go here just for desserts and drinks.

Here Carlos is taking a picture of me taking a picture. We are such an iCouple!

Now on to the dessert! We ordered Finale's Seasonal Cornucopia to split between the two of us. The menu listed the following description for the dessert: "Mixed berry cobbler with Tahitian vanilla gelato accompanied by apple spice cake with stewed apples salted caramel sauce and cinnamon mascarpone cream served with a slice of chocolate bourbon pecan tart". Wow what a mouthful! And a mouthful indeed it was. My favorite was the pecan tart. I wish there was more of it to devour! The Apple spice cake was a bit dry but the stewed apples, sauce and cream made up for it. The berry cobbler topping had way too much sugar but the mixed berry filling (blueberries, raspberries and cranberries) was perfect especially mixed with the vanilla gelato. Overall this dish was spectacular!

If you are ever in the Boston area, make sure you hit up one of the three Finale Desserterie & Bakery locations we have here. You won't regret it.

Restaurant Review ~ Mr. Bartley's in Harvard Square

On Monday night, Carlos and I visited a Cambridge, MA institution. Not Harvard University or MIT. No, it was Mr. Bartley's Gourmet Burgers. Even though both Carlos and I have been to Harvard Square countless times we have never been to Mr. Bartley's which is an utter shame considering many famous people have frequented this legendary 50 year-old burger joint.

Their menu is enormous. Lots of burgers, wraps and sandwiches to chose from. If you look at their wrap menu, each wrap is named after a famous person who has visited Mr. Bartley's. Names include Jackie O. , Al Pacino, Dennis Leary, Adam Sandler, Owen Wilson, John Malkovich, Bob Dylan and more. They have a standard burger menu as well as one in which each burger has a clever name. The burgers have themes or are named after famous people and they always come with a funny tag line. For example, The Tom Brady burger comes with cheddar, guacamole, lettuce, tomato and red onions and the menu proclaims that ladies will want to make a pass at this! Ha! This makes looking through the menu a lot of fun but you'll be there a while before you'll be able to make a decision. It's quite overwhelming. 

Carlos is having a difficult time deciding himself!

Mr. Bartley's interior is covered in kitschy art. My favorite piece was this cartoon of Hardy (of Laurel and Hardy fame) holding up a newspaper which has a headline that reads "Depression Declared". I just had to snap a photo.

The service is pretty good and we didn't have to wait long for our meals. Here Carlos is devouring The Obama burger which comes with feta cheese, red onion, lettuce and tomato and a side of fries.

Here I am about to devour a Guy Fieri burger. Guy Fieri visited Mr. Bartley's a couple of years ago and since then they have devoted a burger to his honor. It comes with russian dressing, muenster cheese, lettuce, tomato and red onion. And I have to say it was absolutely divine. I know the picture above with the dripping muenster isn't terribly attractive but I didn't care. I happily devoured the entire burger (with one or two bites shared). Next time I go, I'll ask for well-done instead of medium-well. Medium-well came out medium and I don't care for medium cooked meat. Blech. But with all the delicious toppings, this didn't really matter.

So if you are in Harvard Square and you are wracking your brain for an idea of where to eat (this happens often, Harvard Square doesn't have the best selection of restaurants), try Mr. Bartleys for a good old-fashioned burger with a unique twist.

Festive Holiday Brownies

Check out my latest article which includes a recipe for Festive Holiday Brownies. That's dark chocolate-peppermint brownies, drizzled with white chocolate and topped off with crushed peppermint candy. Mmmm....

How to Section a Grapefruit

First acquire a good grapefruit. Pink grapefruits are ideal. They should be round in shape, with a bright red flush and should have no indents or sores. You want a nice firm, round specimen.

With a good sharp knife, cut off the bottom of your grapefruit. This will give the grapefruit stability on your cutting board. Remember that the grapefruit is round and round things like to roll away.

Stand your grapefruit on the cutting board, cut-side down. Then run your knife down the sides, taking the peel as you go.

Why shouldn't you just remove the peel by hand you say? Well, cutting off the peel this way will also remove the fibrous tissue from the grapefruit sections. The whole point of this exercise is to get at the delicate fruit within without all that excess.

Once you finish going all the way around, cut off the remaining pieces of peel on the bottom of the grapefruit and any pieces you missed.

Now take a paring knife and cut into each section along the fibrous tissue wall that separates the sections. Run the knife along the inside of one side and the other and scoop out the flesh. This is tricky and will take lots of practice but it is well worth it.

Once you have gone all the way around, throw out the fibrous middle section. Now you have delicate and delicious sections of grapefruit. These work well in a nice fruit salad. I like to eat the sections as they are with a little sprinkle of Splenda or sugar. You can also use this same method for oranges. Enjoy!
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