Locavore's Delight: Spinach and Strawberry Salad


Spinach and Strawberries came from Wilson Farm in Lexington, MA, which is my favorite place for produce. This salad only needed a drizzle of creamy balsamic dressing to be complete!

Thoughtful Eating is now on Twitter!


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In other Twitter news...

Nature's Pride really liked my Cilantro-Lime Black Bean Burger recipe that they tweeted it! They called the recipe "pretty amazing". YAY!

Cilantro-Lime Black Bean Burgers on Nature's Pride Whole Wheat Buns


I'm ready. I'm ready to strengthen my cooking muscles. I'm ready to enhance my kitchen abilities. I'm ready to take my culinary skills to the next level. How am I going to do that? Start inventing more of my own signature recipes.

When Foodbuzz and Nature's Pride sent me some of Nature's Pride 100% Whole Wheat Buns, I wanted to challenge myself and not only make something I've never made before but also try coming up with something new. Lo and behold: Cilantro-Lime Black Bean Burgers. These are so tasty, you don't even need any seasoning. The combination of onion, garlic, cilantro, lime and black beans is so flavorful that adding any salt or pepper would be criminal. These burgers are healthy. Black beans provide good protein. The Nature's Pride 100% Whole Wheat Buns are sturdy and hold up well. You can definitely stack a couple burgers easily in one bun. They taste delicious too.

These burgers are simple and unique. They'll knock your everyday beef burger out of the park! Try it out. What are you waiting for?

Ingredients

1 small onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1 29 oz. can of black beans, rinsed and drained
zest and juice of one lime
3 tablespoons (small bunch) of cilantro leaves
1 egg
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs (less to taste)
Sliced plum tomatoes
dollops of sour cream
Nature's Pride Whole Wheat Buns

Makes 6-8 burgers







In your food processor, add your onion and garlic. Pulse until minced. Then add black beans, lime zest, lime juice and cilantro. Pulse until smooth.

In a bowl, add the bean mixture, one egg and breadcrumbs. Mix until the egg and breadcrumbs are incorporated.

With wet hands, form the black bean burger mix into patties. You can get 6-8 out of this mixture, I happened to make 7.  Heat up your grill pan and add a drizzle of light olive oil. When the pan is hot, grill  each patty until its crispy on both sides. These are delicate burgers so be careful when flipping.




Toast your Nature's Pride 100% Whole Wheat Buns. Each package comes with 8, so if you make 8 burgers you can use the whole bag! Add your burger to the bun and top it off with a couple of slices of tomato, a dollop of sour cream and some cilantro. Enjoy!

Cilantro-Lime Black Bean Burgers on FoodistaCilantro-Lime Black Bean Burgers

Mango-Ginger Lassi



When I used to live with my parents, I had free access to their food processor and blender and would make Mango-Ginger Lassis on a regular basis. My tiny apartment kitchen has no space for a blender and can barely hold the new Cuisinart I just purchased. So needless to say, I really missed these Lassis since I couldn't make them at home. To break in my new Cuisinart, I decided that it was time to revisit this delicious drink. If you have a blender, please use that instead of your food processor but I'm using my Cuisinart because that's all I got.

Ingredients:

6-8 ice cubes
2 small containers of plain low-fat yogurt
1 mango
1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons of honey

Instructions:

Peel and grate your ginger.  Remove the meat from the mango. 

In your blender or food processor, add the ice cubes and pulse until they are somewhat crushed. Do this to get the drink started so that you don't end up with chunks of ice in your Lassi.

To your blender or food processor, add the grated ginger, mango, yogurt and honey and pulse until smooth. Serve immediately.


It's the perfect combination of sweet and spicy!

Sunday Thoughts ~ Cuisinart Love

After long last, my kitchen finally has a food processor. And not just any food processor. It's a Cuisinart Prep 9, 9-Cup Food Processor.

Lo and behold the beauty:


She's got one button labeled "Pulse" that does all the work. It came with a regular blade, a dough blade, a slicing disk, a shredding disk, a spatula, a DVD and a user's manual with recipes. A very nice package at a very nice price.

I have been contemplating buying a food processor for many months now but have always found excuses to put it off. The biggest one was money. I just couldn't shell out $100-$200 for a food processor without something else having to give. And surprise bills popped up almost every single month taking whatever excess cash I had to put aside for the purchase. However, since the company I work for has been doing well, share-owners got a nice dividend payment. I pretended like I didn't have the money and put everything down, with the addition of a few extra dollars for this Cuisinart. Thank you dividend payment! If it wasn't for that, I'd still be procrastinating.

Why did I chose a Cuisinart? I asked a few people on Twitter which food processor they thought I should get. One tweep replied that he loved his Cuisinart so much that he wishes he could make love with it. WOW. That's one helluva recommendation. Others, not so quite enthusiastically, recommended Cuisinart so that's what I got.

Having a food processor means a lot of things. Less space and more cleaning. This Cuisinart is large and bulky. I don't have any space for it right now so it will sit on top of my microwave and I'll clear my countertop to use it. I'm moving at the end of August and the kitchen there will be much bigger, with a lot more counterspace so my darling Cuisinart will have room to breathe.

Having my food processor also opens up the possibilities of making a lot more dishes that I couldn't do in the past. I broke in my Cuisinart with a Mango-Ginger Lassi (recipe to come) and how divine it was. That machine can sure crush some ice. Now, instead of looking away from recipes that require a food processor, I can embrace them with open arms. And I hope that means lots of variety, lots of experimentation and lots of recipe posts on this blog.

Excuse me while I go kiss my Cuisinart. <3

Summer Friday Adventure ~ Za's

It's another glorious Summer Friday. The sun is shining, the weekend is here and it's time for a new culinary adventure. With growling stomachs, Lisa and I ventured out to Za in Arlington, MA. Although I've lived in Arlington for 4 years and Za has been here for 6, I still haven't stopped by for some pizza, even when they started serving lunch. What a shame because we were in for a pleasant surprise. Za is a pizza and salad joint, just as the sign suggests, but it's pizza and salad taken to the next level. It's upscale pizza and salad at a pretty reasonable price. Za is pretty well-known for their unusual pizza toppings. They have an ever-changing chalkboard specials menu plus a unique regular menu. They focus on using local ingredients and serving local beers. They also have a small network of local farms that they partner with including Verrill Farm in Concord, MA. So why haven't I been here before? Maybe it's my reluctance to try strange pizzas. Maybe it's the close proximity of the restaurant and how easy to take it for granted. Whatever it is, I'm glad I had lunch at Za's.





First we started off with some iced teas. Lisa guessed that it was lightly brewed Early Grey.



Organic Georgia Strawberries with Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onions, Toasted Walnuts, Basil and EVOO

I was super-brave and ordered a pretty unusual pizza off the chalkboard specials. Usually, I scoff at all the combinations on a pizza menu. There is always one or two toppings that make me cringe. I then end up ordering a boring and safe make-your-own pizza. This time, I wasn't going to chicken out. I got this number and I was pleasantly surprised. The strawberries, goat cheese and walnuts worked well together and the basil and onion made it savory. Win-win.




Grilled Chicken, Broccoli, Caramelized Onions, Fresh Garlic, Diced Tomatoes, EVOO, and Four Cheeses 

Lisa and I skipped salads and opted for pizzas with fresh and light toppings and to make room for dessert. We traded some slices and Lisa's pizza was delicious. Big chunks of garlic and a great combination of cheese took this pretty basic pizza to the next level. The crust was crispy and sturdy enough to hold up the weight of the ingredients on top. That's pretty unusual to find.



Verrill Farm Rhubarb Panna Cotta with Sliced Strawberries

Now on to dessert. I really wanted the lemon tart with strawberries, but unfortunately they were out. But the Panna Cotta sounded amazing and came recommended by the waiter. The Panna Cotta was sweet and tart and the rhubarb and cream were in perfect balance. The local strawberries were super fresh and the whipped cream was to die for. Perfect!



Shanes's Lavender and Honey Creme Brulee

Lisa had this little beauty. You can taste the lavendar but it wasn't overwhelming. Also perfect.


I wish I could have tried one of Za's salads but alas our budget and our stomachs wouldn't have been able to take, pizza and dessert after one of their salads, even though they were small. It would have been nice if they had inexpensive side salads on the menu for those of us who didn't necessarily want to splurge on calories and money.

The moral of the story: If you live in Arlington, go to Za's. Go now! Don't wait like I did.

Summer Friday Adventure for 2010

It's that time of year. Summer hours have officially started at work which means the office gets out at 1 pm on Fridays. Those few hours make such a difference and an extended weekend, every week makes Summer that much more enjoyable.

If you recall last year, I wrote a bit about Summer Fridays. My coworker and close friend Lisa and I celebrate these Fridays by going out to eat. Since we live in the Boston area, we have plenty of places to chose from.

We kicked off Summer Fridays for this year much like we did last year, with a trip to Falafel King in Boston. What a treat it was. Even the cloudy skies couldn't put a damper on our adventure. As soon as I bit into a hot, crispy and savory falafel, I was in heaven.


There is always a line at Falafel King around lunch time but it moves quickly because they serve their customers super fast. And if you are lucky, you get to eat a falafel dipped in hummus while you are waiting. Chances are you are still eating that falafel when it comes time to pay.



I always get the Falafel sandwhich, which is really a wrap. A few falafels, lettuce, tomato, pickles and sauce wrapped in a pita. It's simply divine.

Stay tuned to this space for more Summer Friday adventures.

Carlos' Salad


Carlos is arguably the girl in our relationship. He has more clothes and shoes than I do, he goes all gooey over sentimental moments he sees on TV or in a movie, and he eats a crazy amount of salad. Some months ago, we went to a Legal Seafood restaurant. I ordered fish and chips and he ordered a Greek salad. The server (not our waitress) served me the salad and Carlos the fish and chips and was quite amused to find out that it was the guy who had ordered the salad. Recently, Carlos described to me his ideal salad. It would have a base of lettuce and contain a healthy amount of celery and cucumbers (his favorite vegetables) and some carrots. No tomatoes! Newman's Own Olive Oil and Vinegar Dressing would be a must. He always has at least two bottles on hand for salad emergencies.

So I decided to make a big bowl of this salad for him and I very much enjoyed watching his devour it. I wish I had snapped a picture. A big man, with an oversized bowl between his legs as he shovels salad in his mouth: a priceless moment. ::swoon::

What would your ideal salad be? I'd love to hear your salad combinations!


Ingredients:

Head of Romaine chopped
2 Carrots thinly sliced
3 celery stalks sliced
2 cucumbers sliced

Newman's Olive Oil and Vinegar Dressing

Toss all the vegetables together and add dressing to taste.

Restaurant Review - Salute

On day #3 of my NYC business trip for Book Expo, I was physically exhausted. My burned hand hurt from over use and poor healing, I had two very inconvenient blisters on my thighs and my feet felt like they were going to fall right off my legs. I couldn't catch a cab from the Javits to my hotel so I basically limped across Manhattan. By the time I collapsed on to my hotel bed, I didn't want to leave. However, this was my one opportunity to meet with my good friend Amit.

Amit and I have been friends since 1995! We met online at the AOL Nice People Only chat room and have chatted ever since. We met for the first time in NYC back in 2004 and this was a good time to see him again. I went back and forth between whether I should push my broken body out the door and go to dinner or sleep the night away.

I decided finally to meet Amit (he had traveled all the way from NJ to see me!) and he helped me out by talking to the concierge at the hotel and finding a nice restaurant nearby. In hindsight, I should have just suggested Smorgasbord Cafe which was right next door. I still kick myself for not going there!

The concierge at the Kitano Hotel assumes that everyone who is staying at the hotel wants to eat an expensive restaurant. And she chose a doozy for us.

Salute is a super expensive, high-class Italian restaurant on Madison Avenue. It cost me $10 just to get some sparkling water! Dang. I was terribly hungry when we got there so I decided to pick something on the menu that had some bulk for it's money. Everything was outrageously priced. I completely ignored the page of $40/$50 dishes. While my meal was expensed, I had a $25 limit and I ended up paying $20 more on top of that! Yikes.


Amit got the Ravioli Di Manzo: ravioli stuffed with braised beef and topped with wild mushrooms and cream. It sounded delicious but it looked more like an appetizer than a full meal. Amit seemed to enjoy it.



I got the Aragosta Con Linguine: lobster, clams and mussels served with lemon flavored linguine in a tomato and white wine sauce. It was delicious. I wouldn't say it was worth it's price but it was satisfying and hit the spot.

If you have cash to burn, try Salute. If you are visiting NYC on a dime, skip it!

I hope you enjoyed my NYC restaurant reviews. 

Restaurant Review - Pax Wholesome Foods



I fell in love with Pax Wholesome Foods several years ago when I was staying at the New York Helmsley Hotel on 42nd Street in New York City. My mom and I were in the city and we were on a tight budget so we decided to stay at this affordable branch of the luxury chain of New York hotels. Ordering an expensive breakfast through room service was out of the question but lucky for us there was a Pax Wholesome Foods close by. Every morning, we would venture down to Pax, order an inexpensive hot breakfast, bring it up to our room and enjoy a relaxing meal before we headed out for a day of sightseeing. We kept coming back to the Helmsley because it was a nice hotel AND because of Pax.

What I didn't know was that Pax is a New York City chain with 14 locations. During my recent visit to NY for Book Expo, I walked from my hotel to the Javits Convention Center every morning.
My hotel was at 38th Street & Park Avenue and I would stop at the Pax at 35th Street and 6th Avenue for breakfast and then walk the rest of the way to 35th Street and 11th Avenue. It turned out to be a perfect situation!

Pax has an incredible array of breakfast options for reasonable prices. You can get pancakes, french toast, bagels and lox, eggs, bacon, homefries, fruit, oatmeal (with toppings), hot coffee, etc. You can take it to go, they can bring it out to your car or you can simply sit in their dining area and have your meal there.








The food is delicious, cheap, quick and worth several trips. I would go so far as to say that if you visit NYC, you should book a hotel that is in walking distance of a Pax! I know next time I visit NYC, that's what I'll be doing.

Restaurant Review - Duke's on Murray Hill






Duke's New York (Murray Hill) is nothing to write home about. It's your average, run-of-the-mill American restaurant. After sipping on my weak iced tea, I ordered a Shrimp Po Boy Sandwich. The shrimp was delicious but the bread was kind of stale. In fact, there was so much bread that it competed with the filling so I abandoned it altogether and ate the shrimp by itself. The fries were okay. Pretty thin and crispy, which I like but lacking in flavor. The coleslaw was okay. I don't have much else to say other than this place was meh. If you are in NYC, pass on this local chain and try something else instead.

Restaurant Review - HanGawi

f you've been following my Tumblr, you would have known that last week I was in New York City for Book Expo America. While the Javits Convention Center had terrible food, I still had a few opportunities to try some of the varied cuisine that a big and eclectic city like the Big Apple has to offer.

On my first night during my 4-day trip, three coworkers and I ventured out to Korea Town. My friend Amit tells me that Korea town is more like Korean Block. Ha! Nevertheless, the area is filled with various Korean shops and restaurants. We stopped at HanGawi, a Korean Vegetarian place that was recommended by the concierge of our hotel.

When you enter the restaurant, you are instructed to take off your shoes which are stored in cubby holes by the traditionally-dressed hostess. You are then escorted to your table which is sunken into the floor. It wasn't terribly comfortable and it was difficult to get in and out of, but it was novel enough to add to the ambiance of the restaurant and to the experience as a whole.



We weren't quite sure what to order so we decided to share 3 appetizers and 3 main courses between us so that we could all taste the various types of dishes and no one would get stuck with something they didn't like. This was a superb idea because I got to try many more things than I normally would during a first visit at a new restaurant. This is what we had:

Leek Cakes
Stuffed Shiitake Mushrooms
Herbed Salad


Crispy Mushrooms in a Sweet and Sour Sauce
Kabocha Pumpkin Stone Bowl with Rice
ssam bab



Citron Juice

First thing, I started off with a glass of citron juice which was simply divine. Citron is a citrus fruit that's a bit of a cross between a lemon and an orange. The juice was fresh and not too sweet. There were pieces of citron on the bottom of the glass which you could fish out with your spoon. It was delicious to eat, rind and all. It tasted like candied lemon! 

First off where the Stuffed Shiitake Mushrooms. Now these didn't blow me away, but they were good enough. There was a delicious sauce drizzled over the top which made them taste better than if they were plain. Then came the leek cakes. Oh my. Those were divine. They came with a soy sauce for dipping. Mmm... Once everyone else was done, I devoured the rest. The last appetizer, Herbed Salad, was a cold noodle salad with lettuce and carrots. It was a bit spicy and simply delicious.

If the appetizers were that good, I was excited to dive in to the main courses! With the courses came cool cabbage and kimchi cabbage. I wasn't crazy about the kimchi cabbage but I gave it a try anyways. The ssam bab (one of my suggestions for a pick) was simply divine! It was a lay out of lettuce leaves with various fillings. You had your choice of three rices: white rice, brown rice and a black bean rice. Then you filled your wrap with various vegetables including carrots, cucumber, diakon, radish and mushrooms. To top it off was this amazing bean paste which I would love to eat just as a dip. The crispy mushrooms were divine and the sauce was perfect. The stone bowl with roasted pumpkin slices on top was a hit. The bowl was super hot and kept cooking the rice as we ate. The rice was filled with delicious pieces of mango and vegetables. I didn't think I would like it but I was scraping the bowl.

In the end, this restaurant was a hit. It's always a good sign if I'm devouring everything on my plate. I kept telling everyone who would listen that the cuisine was so wonderful I wanted to bury my face in every dish.






If you are ever in New York City, make sure that you stop by HanGawi for some excellent Korean Vegetarian cuisine!



Grilling Without a Grill ~ Hoisin Chicken with Cucumber Salad and Rice



It's almost summertime and grilling recipes are flooding food websites across the internet. A great variety of different recipes grilled appetizers, meals and desserts are making me salivate. So what's a girl without an outdoor grill to do?

I saw Bobby Flay's recipe for Hoisin Chicken and Cucumber Salad on the Food Network website and I knew that it would be the perfect dinner for Carlos and I to have on a Saturday night. I could have just shooed the idea away but I decided instead to figure out a way to make it with my limited resources. I modified the recipe by using my broiler instead of an outdoor grill and using skinless chicken thighs and drumsticks. I still don't have a food processor (::gripe::) so I had grate the garlic and ginger instead of pureeing them with the other ingredients. With some modifications the end result still turned out to be perfection. This was an amazing meal which I'll definitely make again. 


Ingredients:

Skinless Chicken Thighs and Drumsticks (about 5 of each)
salt to taste

3/4 cup of Hoisin Sauce
5 garlic cloves grated
1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
Zest and Juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons of rice vinegar

chopped scallions


2 cucumbers sliced thinly
1/4 of a red onion sliced thinly
a splash of rice vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

----------------

Cook your rice Raquelle style. Set aside.

Preheat your broiler and season the thighs and drumsticks with salt. In a bowl, combine Hoisin sauce, grated garlic and ginger, lime zest, lime juice and rice vinegar. Mix thoroughly and add the chicken pieces. Coat the chicken with the sauce and let sit.

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and add the coated chicken. Cook under the broiler for about 10 minutes on each side. When you flip, baste the chicken pieces with leftover sauce.

While the chicken is cooking, slice your cucumbers and red onion. Toss with a splash of rice vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. If you don't like the taste of rice vinegar (it's oddly sweet), substitute it with lime juice and add a drizzle of light olive oil.

Turn off the broiler and let the chicken rest. Serve the chicken in a dish and sprinkle chopped scallions over the top. Enjoy!





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