Archive for the ‘Tip’ category

The best hidden secret in Watertown’s Arsenal Mall…

September 5, 2011

…is definitely Coffee Traders, a family-owned coffee and wrap/sandwich/salad business. Every time I go to the mall or am in the vicinity of the mall, I stop there for a mozzarella and basil wrap.

The mozzarella and basil are always super-fresh, and so are the tomatoes that are also included in the soft pita. I like how the pita is nice and thin, so you don’t feel too full after eating it. You can have them add whatever sauce you’d like (including ranch and blue cheese), but I always go for their staple sauce: olive oil, salt and pepper. Perfecto. Today I introduced my sister to this hidden gem.

I got my usual mozzarella and basil wrap:

And she got a buffalo chicken salad:

She got her salad with ranch dressing (and buffalo sauce of course), and loved it. According to her, it was nice having grilled chicken instead of the usual fried chicken. She felt nice and healthy, which is a big reason why I love this little joint. It’s definitely much healthier than the other eateries in this food court (including Regina Pizzeria, a Mexican place and Burger King). She also liked how the buffalo sauce was less spicy than what she’s accustomed to.

If you can, try to support this business! It’s nice knowing the money goes to a family versus a big corporation. And they have ice cream and a wide variety of coffee drinks.

No, Arm & Hammer is not paying me

June 5, 2011

I’ve never really liked my hair. It frizzes so easily. But lately, I’ve disliked it more than usual. I think it all started when I got a perm in January. I started using a special leave-in conditioner to keep my hair moisturized. The problem is I think it led to product buildup on my scalp (I probably should have just used it on the ends of my hair).

I stopped using the leave-in conditioner, yet the buildup wouldn’t go away. It was so annoying– I always felt like my hair was so dirty (even right after showering). I would just put it up in a ponytail so I didn’t have to deal with it. Finally, I decided to research how to fix the problem. I simply looked online, and came across tons of sites advocating baking soda.

So, this morning I put a small amount of shampoo in my hand, and added a quarter-size amount of baking soda. I mixed the two together, and lathered them into my hair. I was sure to rub the mixture across every inch of my scalp, as well as rub as much hair as possible. I also made sure to thoroughly wash the mixture out of my hair.

I blow dried my hair and voila, the buildup was entirely gone (I could actually feel it was gone when my hair was still damp). I feel so great today, and am thinking of wearing my hair down (this is a big deal for me!). Yeah, I’m so happy to have discovered baking soda as a hair product. My only question is: How often should I used it? Also, should I supplement it with a clarifying shampoo (another piece of advice on the Internet)?

Peach Riesling sangria

April 17, 2011

Me drinking peach Riesling sangria

A few weeks ago I made sangria for the first time. I hadn’t heard back from a sangria-making friend of mine about how she makes it, so I researched recipes online. I wanted to find one that didn’t involve adding sugar, fancy alcohols, or carbonated beverages. I came across a recipe that fit all of these requirements; it also included Dole peach/mango/orange juice, one of my favorite 100-percent juices. An added benefit was it called for Riesling, a wine type I highly enjoy.

The recipe is from an Illinois wine and cheese shop’s website (it’s the third recipe on the page). The first ingredient is two bottles of Riesling (it calls for a specific Riesling, but I just picked one that was very affordable). I actually bought two 1.5-liter bottles of Riesling, as I was making the recipe for a fair amount of people. You mix the wine with frozen raspberries, orange pieces, peach pieces, lemon pieces, and some of the juice (check the recipe for quantities). You cover the drink, refrigerate it, and serve it cold.

My grocery store didn’t have peaches, so I replaced them with mangoes (but I can still call my concoction “peach Riesling sangria” because it contained peach juice). I was very happy with the outcome and would highly recommend the recipe to anyone.

Going to Charleston, South Carolina? Then stay at The Anchorage Inn

March 25, 2011

I already mentioned that my fiance surprised me by booking a room at The Anchorage Inn in Charleston, South Carolina instead of the Days Inn. Well, I find it necessary to expand upon the awesomeness that is The Anchorage Inn. Until last week I’d never stayed at quite a place. Let me list some of the bed and breakfast’s notable characteristics.

  • The inn is on Vendue Range in the heart of Charleston’s historic district. Not to mention it’s just steps from a fountain, park, pier, and Charleston Bay.
  • The Anchorage Inn is affordable. According to my fiance, it’s just $20 per night more expensive than the Days Inn. It’s funny because the other hotels on Vendue Range are much pricier. Sure, they might have doorkeepers and valets, but if you can do without those frills The Anchorage Inn will save you major moolah.
  • The inn takes you back in time. Originally built as a cotton warehouse around 1840, the building is furnished with handcrafted reproductions of seventeenth century English decor (the area was settled by the English in 1670).

This picture shows some of the sitting room's decor.

A lamp in our room

  • Staff are friendly. There’s always someone sitting at the front desk, ready to answer any questions you may have. Our first day in Charleston a young man helped us figure out which beach to visit. In fact, he firmly suggested we check out Folly Beach and the nearby Morris Island Lighthouse. We appreciated his assurance, especially because the outing proved wonderful.
  • Daily breakfasts are included in the price. Breakfast is served between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.; meal items include orange juice, grapefruit juice, coffee, cereal, fruit, yogurt, bagels, biscuits and gravy, danishes, and muffins.

Biscuit with gravy

  • Daily wine and cheeses are included in the price. This was one of my favorite parts of the vacation. Each day, starting at 4 p.m., the inn served complimentary wine (red and white), cheese (including cheddar, jalapeno cheddar, and Swiss cheese), and crackers. As we enjoyed our food and drink in the sitting room, we conversed with Anchorage Inn guests from all over the country and even world (e.g. we met a couple from England and a woman from Malaysia). We made so many new friends.

Wine and cheese table

  • Nightly sherries are included in the price. Every evening, from 8 to 11 p.m., the hotel provides sherry for its guests. Either before or after dinner you can stop by the sitting room, enjoy a glass (or two) of the cordial, and chat with anyone else who happens to stop by. Although these weren’t as popular as the wine and cheeses, we highly enjoyed them.

Enjoying my sherry

In short, be sure to stay at The Anchorage Inn if you’re ever traveling to Charleston!!!

Some random gastronomical musings

March 6, 2011
  • The Flour Bakery + Cafe’s cookbook rocks. I’ve never actually made anything from the book (nor do I own it), but I’ve sampled two desserts from it. One was a chocolate cupcake with white butter frosting, and the other was a lemon square. A friend of ours brought over some of the lemon squares the other night, and I can’t stop thinking about how good they are.

The remaining lemon squares

  • Wegmans rocks. You’ve all heard of this amazing grocery store right? Each year, the Rochester, NY-based supermarket makes Fortune magazine’s list of best places to work. Not to mention the store has an excellent selection of produce, baked goods, meat, and much more. Well this past week, when I was in Syracuse for some wedding planning, my mom made veal and spaghetti with Wegmans’ vodka sauce.

The sauce is unbelievably tasty. Its ingredients include diced tomatoes, tomato puree, diced onions, cream, olive oil, vodka, Romano cheese, roasted garlic, and basil. She mixed the sauce with cooked mushrooms, put the mixture atop spaghetti, and served it with Wegmans-brand veal.

My mom bought some of the Wegmans-brand veal for me to bring back to Boston.

I love how the veal is nice and skinny. My mom basically dipped the veal pieces into an egg and flour mixture; then covered them with breadcrumbs. She cooked the veal in some olive oil for a couple of minutes, put mozzarella on top of the veal pieces, and microwaved them for a minute. So the cheese was nice and melted atop the crispy veal. Oh my gosh I was in heaven eating this meal. It was of restaurant quality (a good restaurant, that is)!

I stopped by the local wine store, looking for a decent boxed wine. As I was reading the back of this one, a lady giving out samples of another wine told me a couple of customers had just recommended this one. So I went with it. It was pretty reasonably priced ($15 for 1.5 liters, which is two bottles-worth), and it is organic/contains no sulfites. I’m no oenophile; I just like a smooth, decent-tasting wine. Well, this one fits the bill. I mean, it’s a little spicier than the wines I’m used to, but by no means is that a negative thing. I would surely purchase this brand of wine again.

Looking to save some money? One solution is making your own iced coffee.

January 31, 2011

My fiance drinks iced coffee pretty much every day, and he used to only buy it from Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, or another coffee shop. But now he’s primarily making his own. It’s easy to make, it tastes comparably good, and it’s clearly saving us money.

We put hot coffee in this thermos (after making the coffee in our trusty Mr. Coffee machine), place the thermos in the fridge, and after an hour and a half the coffee is ready. Just add ice and voila, you're set.

Let’s see about how much we’re saving. I would say that an iced coffee, on average, costs $1.80 at a coffee shop. Let’s hold that thought for a minute. Now, yesterday I bought a 33.9-ounce container of Chock full o’ Nuts coffee for $7. According to Kmart’s website, 33.9 ounces of coffee can make up to 270 cups of coffee. Well, since we like our coffee fairly strong, we’ll say the canister makes 200 cups of coffee.

Seven dollars divided by 200 is 3.5 cents. So making our own iced coffee costs us 3.5 cents per cup, compared with $1.80 at a coffee shop. That’s a savings of about $1.76 per cup, and a savings of about $642 over the course of a whole year (provided you drink one iced coffee a day). That’s fairly significant, I’d say. While making your own iced coffee requires you to think ahead, you also save gas money (by not having to drive to a coffee shop), and help out the environment (by not using and throwing away a plastic coffee container).

Lemon flounder with capers

January 26, 2011

Lemon flounder with capers and white rice

Craving a yummy fish meal but don’t have a l0t of time? If this is your situation, consider making the lemon flounder with capers recipe I tried out last night. The fish was very well perfumed with the various seasonings (garlic, dill, lemon zest, pepper, olive oil, and capers), and the whole recipe took about 10 minutes.

I based the recipe off one in my new cookbook, “The Everything Mediterranean Cookbook.” I changed three things. The recipe called for sole, but I used flounder instead. Shaw’s had run out of sole, and the fish guy said flounder is quite similar. The second change was instead of using one and a half pounds of fish, I used one pound. I was just cooking for my fiance and I, not for six people (which the recipe is based on). The last modification was using a teaspoon of capers instead of a half-teaspoon. You can never have enough capers, right (but really, a half-teaspoon is practically nothing)?

Here’s the adjusted recipe (for two):

3 cloves garlic

3 sprigs fresh dill, leaves only

1 pound flounder

Black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon fresh-grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon capers

1. Preheat oven broiler. Mince the garlic and chop the dill.

2. Place the flounder on a pan; sprinkle with garlic, pepper, lemon zest, and drizzle with the oil.

3. Place under broiler for three minutes.

4. Turn the fish carefully.

5. Broil for one minute longer.

6. Remove from broiler and top with dill and capers.

This dish surely goes well with white wine, but I had it with some Samuel Smith oatmeal stout. It was the perfect combination, though I’m convinced this beer would go well with most anything.

And on a side note, does anyone know what’s up with fresh green beans? They are never in Shaw’s anymore, and Stop & Shop didn’t have them the other day either. I’m also looking for a place that sells rhubarb (fresh or frozen).


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