Archive for the ‘Side dishes’ category

If you don’t mind feeling like a hippy, check out the delicious Life Alive cafe in Cambridge

January 14, 2011

It’s a new restaurant based off the one in Lowell. The menu calls the joint an “urban oasis and organic cafe.” You walk inside and one of the first things you notice is stacks of fresh produce (e.g. ginger, celery, carrots) behind the counter. You see this and know you’ll be eating healthy. Then you notice the list of smoothies. They are pretty expensive ($5.99 apiece), so I was a little hesitant to get one. I ended up caving and getting the “Love Alive” smoothie (blueberry, strawberry, banana, date, and almond milk). It was quite good, though I’m not so sure it’s worth the price.

Half of my smoothie (my friend had the other half)

I arrived there around 1 p.m. yesterday, and the line to order was very long. Basically you order at the counter, take a number, and are brought your food (just like the delicious Cafe Mangal in Wellesley!). As I waited, I scanned the decor and trinkets around me. A string of white lights framed a large and inviting window in the middle of the room. I also observed lots of green plants, a row of books you can read as you dine (if you get into a book you can put down a $5 deposit and borrow it), and an arrangement of teas. The teas are in little containers; you’re free to open the containers and smell the tea before ordering.

I ordered “The Seeker,” a salad with lemon garlic hummus, chopped cashews, granny applies, cucumbers, shredded carrots, spring greens, and ginger nama shoyu sauce. The dish comes in three forms: a bowl for $7.97, a wrap for $8.50, and a demi for $5.75). I got the bowl.

My friend Katie got “The Sufi Poet,” which is a salad with red-lentil hummus, cranberries, cashews, cucumber, granny apples, shredded carrots, spring greens, and balsamic vinaigrette. She just got the demi because her appetite was smaller. I must confess I initially thought the idea of hummus in salad is strange, but it went so well with the more subtle-tasting ingredients (e.g. the spring greens and cucumber). The lemon garlic hummus added just the right amount of “ooomph.” I also loved the texture of the chopped cashews.

Everything was fresh and oh-so-healthy-tasting, and it was the perfect amount of food. I will surely go back. We sat on the bottom level of the two-floor restaurant. It really doesn’t feel like a restaurant, but rather a cozy and colorful family room belonging to young artists. There are lots of nooks and crannies for sitting with your friends, as well as a play area for the youngins. Check out this little cove we snagged:

I look forward to trying some of their other menu items. They sell grilled tortilla wraps (like “The Seductress,” which boasts hard-boiled egg, broccoli, dark greens, shredded carrots and beets, garlic, yeast, and a whole wheat tortilla); “simple snacks” (like “The Crunchy Hippy,” which contains maple almond granola, dried fruit, almond milk, and maple syrup); and rice-based dishes (like “The Goddess,” which features ginger nama shoyu sauce, carrots, beets, broccoli, dark greens, tofu, and short-grain brown rice). You can also get sides for 50 cents to $3 apiece, like sesame stix, sun-dried tomato, and quinoa, as well as “jubilant juices,” like “Hive Alive” (a mixture of lemon, apple, honey, and pure water).

Another neat touch I must mention is they have a water dispenser with glasses both upstairs and downstairs (this is important to me because I normally drink tap water). Though they serve tea, I don’t think they serve coffee.

Spinach and mushroom pinwheels, pork tenderloin with herbed breadcrumb crust, baked butternut squash, and strawberry blueberry pie

December 31, 2010

Leftover pork

Leftover pie

The dishes listed in this post’s title are just a few of the recipes I’ve recently tried out; they’ve all served me very well! I was invited to a friend’s going away party several weeks ago, and wanted to make a creative appetizer containing some veggies. I stumbled upon this spinach and mushroom pinwheel recipe from allrecipes.com (I really love this site!).

The recipe itself is very easy, though you need to start making the pinwheels several hours before your event. That’s because you need to chill the dough for 3o to 60 minutes, and then chill it for another hour once it’s been covered with the spinach/onion/mushroom/flour/oregano/salt/lemon juice/garlic powder/Parmesan cheese paste, and rolled up.

I made the pork tenderloin, squash and pie for a Christmas dinner. The pork was AMAZING. I was all worried about making a meat dish, since meat can end up too dry or just plain bland. Well, I found this wonderful recipe on epicurious.com.

Basically you buy three pounds-worth of pork tenderloin (typically two tenderloins), trim the exterior fat, and then prepare a breadcrumb mixture. Then, you roll the pork in egg followed by the breadcrumb mixture, brown the outside of the pork in a pan for five minutes, and bake the pork until it reaches 155 degrees Fahrenheit (for me this took about 55 minutes, but I had 3.4 pounds of pork).

The breadcrumb mixture contains crumbs from fresh French bread (I used a blender to make the crumbs), fresh chopped parsley, fresh chopped rosemary, and crumbled bay leaves. Deliciousness! The meat was so tender and tasty.

And the baked butternut squash (from cooks.com) just melted in our mouths (and kind of tasted like candy…in a good way). I chopped up the squash into little squares and covered it with cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, butter, and lemon juice. Then I baked it for about an hour (15 more minutes than the recipe recommends).

The strawberry blueberry pie was sort of my own creation. I based it largely upon this allrecipes.com three berry pie recipe. Because I didn’t have raspberries I added one cup more strawberries and one cup more blueberries. That worked out fabulously. The recipe was sooooo easy. Obviously the blueberries didn’t need to be chopped, and the strawberries only needed to be halved. I mixed them up with some sugar and cornstarch and voila!, the filling was made. I didn’t bother making my own crust so that part was super-easy as well (though I’d love to find a good pie crust recipe one of these days).

I baked the pie for about an hour (with foil over the crust for the first half), and the thing was done.

Squash with cream, Parmesan cheese and rosemary

November 17, 2010

I know this looks kind of gross, but it was delish! I had a butternut squash to cook, and no idea how to cook it. I found a recipe online, and modified it based on what I had. Instead of adding sage I added rosemary. And I actually added the cheese to the squash, cream, salt, pepper and rosemary in the beginning, instead of waiting until the mixture had baked for 30 minutes. I had the dish in the oven for about an hour. I think I probably could have taken it out 10 minutes earlier, as the squash ended up being slightly too soft (but good!).

Pretty good experience at Met Back Bay

November 16, 2010

Met Back Bay is located on Newbury Street in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood

Last week my boyfriend and I dined at Met Back Bay for our two-and-a-quarter-year anniversary. We didn’t realize the restaurant had only been open for a couple of weeks. Our waiter was EXTREMELY knowledgeable about the wine list and food options.

We didn’t want to spend a ton on wine so we settled for a 2008 Napa Valley Chappellet red (specifically the Mountain Cuvee). It was a mixture of several grapes, and oh so smooth. Our waiter was a sommelier, and very apt at helping us choose the appropriate bottle. Within a minute of sitting down at the table we were served complimentary bread sticks with cheese. The cheese, which sort of tasted like a fancy version of cheese whiz, was served in a cute see-through jar. This was a nice touch.

The waiter also helped us decide on our main courses. I ordered the Long Island brick duck with foie gras and spiced crusted sugar pumpkin, and my boyfriend ordered the Lobster Fra Diavolo (lobster with hollow spaghetti). Our food was very good, especially my duck and his lobster. The duck was moist but not greasy (I find that duck meat is often greasy). I think the waiter said the duck was cooked with some sort of citrus juice.

I was surprised to discover that the foie gras was actually very sweet. It tasted like it had been mixed with maple syrup or something similar. This actually worked out really well, however, as it effectively complemented the savory duck and neutral-tasting pumpkin. All in all I was pleased! And so was my boyfriend. He asked the table next to us how their lobster New England pot pie was. They gave us the thumbs up, though they said it was too much to finish in one sitting. We certainly didn’t have that problem!

One negative thing was our cheesy flaky crescent rolls didn’t arrive until we were done with dinner. They were supposed to be the appetizer! The manager came out to apologize, and our waiter apologized numerous times. He clearly felt bad about the situation. They said there had been some sort of miscommunication and they are still working out the restaurant’s kinks. The rolls were really tasty, albeit a tad greasy.

For dessert we had coffee and apple cider donuts with vanilla ice cream. Once again, I wasn’t doing my body any favors, but the dessert was certainly yummy!

Overall we liked the restaurant’s decor, which included cushy red chairs, red padded walls, and a lovely bay window overlooking Newbury Street. We were lucky to score a booth right up against the bay window. We also liked the dark wood beams above us. According to my boyfriend, they “sort of gives it (the room) a traditional New England appeal.”

Being my journalistic self, I asked him to give another quote about the decor. He said: “They sure could use some art on these walls.” I personally liked the art-free walls, thinking they contributed to the room’s modern and clean-cut feel. But he thought a couple of small works of art would have done some good.

Here’s the dinner menu in case you’re interested in checking out this restaurant. I didn’t take any photos because my camera is broken:-(.

Yummy roasted carrots

August 31, 2010

It’s a simple recipe that is worth trying. I made them on Sunday when my sister came over for lunch. Here’s what you do:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Peel as many carrots as you’d like.

3. Chop them up (I advise cutting them lengthwise, then into two-inch-long pieces).

4.  Put them into a Pyrex dish (or whatever oven-friendly dish you have).

5. Drizzle them with olive oil.

6. Add salt and pepper.

7. Roll over the carrots so they’re fully coated with oil and seasoning.

8. Put the dish in the oven.

9. Cook the carrots for 45 minutes.

10. Put the carrots in between two paper towel sheets so excess olive oil can be absorbed.

11. Serve the carrots hot.

A recipe I found online said to cook the carrots for 20-30 minutes, but I found that wasn’t enough time. I like when they are soft and have had sufficient time to absorb the olive oil, salt and pepper.

Dedham chefs share Thanksgiving side dish ideas

November 25, 2009

Check out an article I just wrote for the Dedham Transcript. The chefs’ Thanksgiving side dish ideas include cranberries with Scotch, Brussels sprouts with bacon, and chestnut sage stuffing.

Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/smohundro/4092090480/

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