Egg Salad Sandwich, kicked up a notch


For Easter lunch, I made us a simple meal consisting of Egg Salad Sandwiches, Baby Carrots and some Spanish olives. Eggs, Carrots, Easter, get it? The Egg Salad sandwich I make is not what you'd normally find. I make it the way my mom does. I use big chunks of chopped hard-boiled egg, mix it with some mayo, pickled minced red onion, chopped Spanish olives and tuna. It's really the best! Carlos didn't want to have tuna mixed in with the egg and I'm sure most of you wouldn't either. It really makes it more substantial and flavorful but it's fine without. I added a bit of dijon mustard for an extra kick, and to reduce some of the mayo, and voila! Egg Salad Sandwich, kicked up a notch.

Ingredients:

7 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1-1/2 tsps of Dijon mustard
2 tbsps of Light Mayo
1/4 cup of minced red onion, pickled for 5 minutes in red wine vinegar and drained
1/4 cup of chopped Spanish olives (green olives, pitted and stuffed with pimentos)
6 whole wheat Thomas English Muffins, split & toasted

This makes 6 sandwiches.

Mix everything together in a bowl and portion out on English Muffins. That's it! Easy right? The hardest part is peeling those darn hard-boiled eggs. I put them in cool water and I peel them under the water. This helps me more so that if I peeled them dry. But do whatever works for you. 

You can pickle the red onion in the red wine vinegar for a little more time. Pickling removes some of that sharp raw taste that red onions have and makes them more palatable. Plus the vinegar gives them a nice kick.

Serve with a side of baby carrots and some extra olives.


Beacon Grille, the experience of a lifetime


Beacon Grille in Woburn opened last year. And ever since I have been begging Carlos to take me to this restaurant. It's expensive so we had to wait a while before it became affordable to us. I have been cooking meals for us pretty much every night. A meal big enough to be dinner and lunch the next day. That takes a lot of effort and by Friday I'm just too exhausted. I used to have Fridays off (we would go out to a restaurant instead) but since Carlos has school Friday mornings and works through the night, I've had to not only do grocery shopping and laundry on Friday evenings, I had to cook dinner too. So as a thank you for all my hard work, Carlos treated me to an evening at Beacon Grille.


We got all gussied up for the event. Here is Carlos looking mighty fine.


You can't miss Beacon Grille's signage when you drive down Rt 128/95.


Should I post on this side?


Or on this one?


After some picture taking, we finally entered the restaurant. We had a reservation made NOT by phone, NOT by email but by Twitter. No joke. The very friendly social media rep who handles the @BeaconGrille Twitter account was very gracious to take my reservation request by Direct Message. Hey! I like that. I've always thought Twitter was one of the most useful social media tools out there and here is another way it was beneficial.


Our reservation was for 7pm on that Friday and we were seated towards the back near the kitchen. I love spots like this. I get to see all the action going on in the kitchen and I like being tucked away in a cozy corner. We had a very fabulous server named Michael. That's Michael. M-i-c-h-a-e-l. Remember the name. If you go, ask for him. He is knowledgeable not only about the food and drinks at Beacon Grille he can give you lots of advice about cooking and food in general. He's very personable and helped made our experience there one we'll never forget.


Everything was super nice at Beacon Grille. Now this post may sound like I've never been to a fancy restaurant before. But I have. In fact, I was telling Carlos that evening about the strange French rustic restaurant I went to in New York City. The waiters choreographed their movements, we had multiple courses, we ate on a 400 year old oak table, we had our own sommelier and Al Franken was dining at the next table. That was memorable but I have to say that my Beacon Grille experience one upped that!


We were served a small basket of sesame & poppy seed crackers and hot rolls with a little tub of butter. 


Then came the complimentary amuse bouche. Hot damn! This was good. And it was all mine because Carlos doesn't eat seafood or seaweed. Two slices of seed encrusted Ahi Tuna, shrimp, a cucumber & seaweed salad, teriyaki sauce drizzle and a bit of pickled ginger to cleanse the palate. Wow. This got my taste buds roaring for more.


Carlos, being the restaurant diva he is, asked for a sommelier. He wanted a wine from Chile (that's where his Dad is from) but they only had other South American wines. He worked with the sommelier to find the best red wine (by the glass) for the meal he was going to order. Me? I had the Honey Tequila Smash.  I had seen a picture on Beacon Grille's Twitter and I knew I had to have one. So it's the first thing I looked for on the menu. Honey, Lime, Tequila, Mint, soda water and ice. Perhaps one of the best cocktails I've ever had a chance to imbibe.


Then came the Calamari. Of course Carlos had to ask for a separate plate of lemons! The calamari was perfectly cooked and they drizzled a sweet chili glaze with some balsamic. There was a red pepper aoili on the side for dipping. I thought this was delicious. However, I could have done without the glaze. It made the otherwise crispy coating a bit soggy. And it tasted a bit like sweet & sour sauce. Still very good.


Happily sipping on my Honey Tequila Smash. Another please?


I quickly went to the bathroom before our main course arrived and took this snapshot of one of the dining areas.


By the time I got back, our amazing server Michael had refolded my napkin for me! Isn't that cool? I felt like a princess being pampered!


Apologies for the blurry shot. I ordered the stuffed shrimp. It comes with 6 jumbo shrimp, 3 stuffed with crab and 3 stuffed with lobster. It comes with a side of spaghetti squash and instead of mashed potatoes I got roasted fingerling potatoes. I loved this dish but I kick myself for not asking about the Baked Stuffed Lobster that Phantom Gourmet showcased on an episode a while back. It wasn't on the menu but I still could have asked for it. I did however get my lobster fix with this dish!


Carlos got one of the weekly specials: Flank Steak with avocado and some sort of potato/corn/bean cakes. The flank steak was really good. When I asked Carlos if this flank steak was better than mine, he couldn't quite look me in the eye. Auw. That's okay! I'm not professional. Michael did suggest cooking flank steak with a dry rub instead of a marinade. I might try that next time.


Our friendly sommelier offered to take a picture of us together. How nice of her!


For dessert, I got another Honey Tequila Smash and Carlos got a glass of Cognac. It comes in a warm glass and boy is it very fragrant. Before you even take a sip, the Cognac goes straight up your nose and tickles your brain. 


We had Warm Peach Upside Down Cake which was amazing of course. I wish they had added a small scoop of ice cream to go with it though. They serve ice cream from Christina's in Cambridge and they had vanilla bean available that night. Would have gone great with this. It was absolutely scrumptious on its own. And a nice big portion for Carlos and I to share.


Doesn't Carlos look tres cool with his glass of Cognac?


I just look goofy here. Not very Grace Kelly-like (remember she swirls a glass of Brandy in a scene in the movie Rear Window!)

I left Beacon Grille completely intoxicated. Drunk from the great dining experience, the good food and perhaps the two Honey Tequila Smashes I had. It was wonderful. I hope we can come back again soon. Even if it's only for the drinks.

I want to thank Beacon Grille, the sommelier, the Twitter rep and our server Michael for making this night wonderful. And a very special thank you to Carlos for treating me to this wonderful night. I love you Carlos!

Banana Waffles with Blueberry Sauce


I'm starting to develop some serious waffle making skills. I've got the basic recipe down to a science, thanks to Alton Brown of Food Network, and they've been coming out moist in the center and crispy on the outside just how I like them. I thought I'd alter the basic recipe by replacing one egg with banana. I take a ripe banana, cut it into chunks then blend it to baby food consistency with a hand held blender. The delicious goop gives cupcakes and in this case waffles a delicious mild banana flavor. But in this recipe, the blueberry sauce is the star of the show. And I don't drown blueberries in tons of sugar. It's just not necessary. One tablespoon is all you need. Let the fruit's natural flavor shine through! 

Carlos and I recently had these for Easter Sunday Brunch and they were divine. Add some fresh nonfat yogurt on top or perhaps a drizzle of 100% maple syrup and you've got the makings of a delicious breakfast. You don't even need bacon on the side.



Ingredients:

1 ripe banana
2 cups of whole wheat flour
1 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of baking soda
3 tbsps of sugar
2 eggs
2 cups of buttermilk
1/2 stick of butter, partially melted

cooking spray for greasing the waffle press

1 bag of frozen blueberries
1/4 cup of water
1 tbsp of sugar
1 tsp of cornstarch

Heat up your waffle press.

Cut up your banana into chunks and add to small bowl. With a handheld mixer, blend the banana chunks until they are baby food consistency. Set aside.

In a larger bowl, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and sugar. Note how I don't use salt? You don't need it. Just extra sodium you can take out of your diet.  Add the eggs, buttermilk, partially melted butter and banana goop. Stir until mixed well. Scoop portions of the batter into your waffle press (don't add too much so you don't have overflow). Remove the waffles once they are dark golden brown and crispy.

While you are cooking your waffles, add the water, frozen blueberries and sugar to a small pot and stir. Cook over medium heat with the lid on until it comes to a bubble. Remove the lid and cook on low for a few minutes. Turn off the hit and stir in the cornstarch. Set aside to cool.

Serve the waffles while hot and drizzle some of the blueberry sauce over the top. Add a spoonful or two of yogurt if desired. Enjoy!

Ethiopian food at Addis Red Sea


The day that Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson died, June 25th, 2009, was also the day I first visited Addis Red Sea. I remember the day very clearly. A group of girlfriends and I planned monthly outings in which one of us would pick a restaurant and would be responsible for organizing the dinner. That month someone had chosen Addis Red Sea, an Ethiopian restaurant in Cambridge, between Porter Square and Harvard Square. I remember eating at the restaurant and getting a call from my mom who told me that Michael Jackson had died. June 25th also happened to be the day before I met Carlos for the very first time. But those things did not overshadow the wonderful dining experience I had at Addis Red Sea. I told Carlos about it numerous times. How I loved the spongy bread, not using utensils and the delicious and fragrant servings they piled on your bread. I was looking forward to going back and Carlos was curious to try something new.


The seating at Addis Red Sea looks like this! There are a couple of seats around a Mesob, a small lidded basket table that is traditional in Ethiopia. They remove the lid and inside is a red liner. The entree is served on the bread. You have a small side table for your drinks and your napkins. There are no utensils. I mean it. NO UTENSILS!



See the red lining? Here Carlos is contemplating which African beer he wants to drink.


We were in the lower level dining area. The upper level has a lot more sunlight and I think is much nicer. But the lower level, especially with its mood lighting and the artwork on the walls had its own charm.


It is clear in this photograph that I am terrified that Carlos will beat me to a pulp later if he doesn't end up liking the food. Just kidding! Or am I? No really. I'm kidding! ::tremble::


Carlos decided to get a bottle of Tusker, a Kenyan lager. Addis Red Sea didn't have any Ethiopian beers which was a disappointment. I wanted to order some mango juice, which was on the menu but the waitress informed me that none of the juices on the menu, except cranberry juice, were available. Big disappointment! I settled for water.


Carlos and I ordered the #36 Addis Red Sea Special Combo for two people. It consisted of Doro Wot (chicken in a lemon & red pepper sauce), Doro Alcha (chicken in butter, onions and ginger), Lega Tibs (lamb chunks), Zegne (beef stew), Gomen Wot (collard greens) and House Salad (chopped tomatoes in a light dressing). 

They put a plate on the liner and then top it with one big piece of the spongy bread. All of the dishes were in individual serving trays and the waitress delicately dumped the contents of each tray onto different parts of the spongy bread. More bread was available on the side. You take a piece of the bread and pick up the food with it. You eat the meat/vegetable, bread and all. It's quite delicious. Carlos loved the fillings and hated the bread. I loved it all. He was a little too greedy with his chunks of bread so I had to hoard some so we wouldn't run out. Overall, another great experience for me! Carlos was glad to have at least tried Ethiopian food.

Last-Minute Easter Cupcakes


Aren't they darling? My Last-Minute Easter Cupcake recipe that I came up with at the last minute! Banana-Strawberry cupcakes with chocolate frosting (mud), green coconut (grass) and Easter Peanut M&Ms (eggs). Lovely! And they taste delicious too. My recipe was originally posted on my Thoughtful Eats column at the Woburn Patch. But I thought I'd share the recipe here too.


Ingredients

1-1/4 cup of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/3 cup of sugar
1 ripe banana, chopped
1 egg
1/4 cup of milk
1/4 cup of light oil (canola or extra light olive oil)
seedless strawberry jelly
chocolate frosting
shredded coconut
green food coloring
candy coated chocolates that look like Easter eggs (such as Easter peanut M&Ms)
pastel colored cupcake liners


This recipe makes 9 cupcakes.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, add the flour, baking powder and sugar. Stir to mix. In a small bowl, add your chopped banana and take a handheld mixer and blend the banana chunks until smooth. Don't worry if there are a few little chunks in there.

To the banana mixture, add your egg, milk and oil. Stir until combined. Add the wet ingredients and stir into the dry until well incorporated.

In a muffin tin, add 9 cupcake liners. Spoon some batter into the bottom of each cupcake liners. You'll want the bottom to be covered. Make sure you use equal amounts in each cupcake liner. Take another spoon and scoop a small amount of strawberry jelly and add to the center of each cupcake liner on top of the batter. Take the rest of the batter and spoon equal amounts of it over the top of the jelly making sure it's covered.

Put the muffin tin in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into one cupcake comes out clean. Let cool. (Do not attempt to frost these cupcakes while they are hot).

While the cupcakes are cooling, scoop about a cup of shredded coconut and dump into a bowl. Add 3 drops of green food coloring and stir very well with a spoon until all the coconut is green. Don't use more than 3 drops!

Now it's time for the fun part! It's time to decorate. Take a butter knife and spread some mud (chocolate frosting) over the top of each cupcake. Then take 2 or 3 eggs (candy-coated chocolate) and place them on top of the frosting. Then sprinkle some grass (green colored coconut flakes) over the top. It's important to put the candy on before the coconut so it can stick to the frosting and hold. Otherwise they will fall off.

Have a Happy Easter!

Impromptu Lunch Date at Greek Corner


Carlos was on his way to Boston, dressed to the nines, and picked me up for an impromptu lunch at one of our favorite dining spots: Greek Corner in Cambridge. I was however dressed pretty casually so we clashed. It was nice to ogle Carlos in a nice suit while eating some delicious Avgolemono soup. I hope there are more impromptu lunch dates in the future!







Carlos' Birthday at The Helmand Restaurant





Carlos, his Dad and I went out to The Helmand Restaurant in Cambridge to celebrate Carlos' birthday.  The Helmand is a prestigious restaurant in Kenmore Square that serves cuisine from Afghanistan. I took Carlos with me to a social outing once a couple of years ago with a big group of friends and we all dined at The Helmand. Carlos loved it so much that he asked his Dad to take us there for his previous birthday. This year was no different. There was no question that we would have his celebratory birthday dinner at The Helmand. Even though Carlos worked at the Cambridgeside Galleria, right across from The Helmand, for some time he had never had dinner at The Helmand. Now he's making up for lost time!



Here is the happy birthday boy.




At the center of The Helmand is a wood burning oven, where they bake their amazing flatbread. The flatbread is thick, dimpled by hand and it's served fresh and hot right out of the oven. They serve the bread with butter and three dips: a cilantro dip, a spicy pepper dip and a yogurt dip. My favorite? The butter! I guess it's just the Portuguese in me.


For an appetizer, we all shared some Bowlawni, pastry shells filled with leeks and scallions or potatoes. You get one of each on your plate along with a dollop of fresh yogurt sauce.


For dinner, I go the Dwoplaza which is chunks of lamb served on top of a piece of flatbread and covered in a yellow pea gravy. It's served with pallow rice (a rice with extra seasonings) and marinated mushroom salad. Oh my. This was delicious. I took some home with me and it was even better the next day as leftovers.


Carlos had the Koufta Challow, spicy meatballs in a red sauce with vegetables and served with challow rice (a rice with fewer spices than pallow). And those meatballs were indeed VERY spicy. One bit and your mouth will be on fire. The very friendly waiter told us that was one of the spiciest things on the menu.

Carlos loved going back to The Helmand and I did too. I get a bit sleepy after eating there (the food is very rich and bit salty) but oh it was worth it. If you are in the Cambridge area, make sure you stop by Helmand's for a traditional Afghani meal!

Grapefruit Yogurt Bread with Grapefruit Yogurt Sauce


I'm not kidding when I say those Wilson Farm guys sure know how to sell me produce. I'm still over-doing it on the citrus purchasing (remember this post?). And I'm also not kidding you when I say I eat 5 grapefruits a week. I bring one to work with me every single week day and I have it with my lunch. After having grapefruit juice every morning with breakfast, I decided to switch it up and eat a whole grapefruit. Less sugar, more fiber and more nutrients for sure than just juice. I love cutting the grapefruit in half and running my knife along the sections. I sprinkle some sugar over the top, scoop out the sections and the juice with a spoon and I'm in heaven.

In the blogosphere, there have been a lot of dessert recipes involving grapefruits. Grapefruit cakes and breads especially. I decided to take a traditional lemon yogurt loaf and use grapefruit zest and juice instead. It's especially wonderful with the yogurt sauce on top which is simply and delicious. If you don't like grapefruit, I pity you. Because you are truly missing out.

Ingredients

Loaf:
1-1/2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
3/4 cup of sugar

3 eggs beaten
1 cup of nonfat plain yogurt
1 teaspoon or so of grapefruit zest
1/4 cup of grapefruit juice
1/2 cup of extra light olive oil (or canola oil)

Yogurt Sauce:

1/4 cup of light agave nectar (or honey)
2 tablespoons of grapefruit juice
1 cup of nonfat plain yogurt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and sugar until well combined. I think we have way too much sodium in our diets as it is so I've stopped putting salt in my desserts altogether. If you want to put 1/4 teaspoon of unnecessary salt into this dish, by all means go ahead. It's your health that is at risk.

In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, yogurt, zest, juice and oil until somewhat smooth. What you'll get is a big bowl of ugly looking gloop. But don't worry it will look glorious in a bit. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until smooth.



See? What did I tell you. Glorious huh?



Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and add the batter. Tap on a table to get settle any air bubbles. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out smooth AND it looks nice and golden brown on top.

While the loaf is baking, make the yogurt sauce. In a small bowl, add the grapefruit juice and agave nectar. The acid from the juice should break down the nectar a bit. Stir then add the yogurt. Mix until smooth. Dip your finger in and taste. Repeat several times but make sure you don't eat the whole thing. This really is the best part of the whole process.

Once your loaf is done, let cool. Then drizzle the yogurt sauce over the top. Slice and enjoy! You may want to have some extra sauce on the side for more drizzling purposes.

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