Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pictureless Birthday Celebration #2

This year I told Matt that I didn't want a gift, I just wanted us to go to a really nice restaurant to celebrate my birthday. After some research, and apparently some hinting on my part, he picked Barbara Lynch's newest restaurant, Menton.

From the moment you walk into the restaurant you are transformed into a culinary world like none other! I was actually trying to determine if it was too "cheap" of me to pull out my camera to take pictures in such a nice restaurant. Well, I decided I should so that I could share the culinary art with the world or rather my little blog world. Matt pulled out my camera to take a quick shot of the beautiful amuse bouche when he realized that he had taken the flash card out of my card the night before. We couldn't believe it! I sulked for a little while! Then took a sip of the parsnip soup with pumpkin seed oil and two of the tiniest little pickled mushrooms I have ever seen and I forgot all about being sad (Matt would probably tell you that I never really got over the loss of the flash drive but I like my version better).

The service at Menton is phenomenal! They wished me a happy birthday as soon as we were greeted and welcomed us back, knowing that we had dined at No. 9 Park before... I know all that information is in their computer system but it makes you feel special. There are a sea of help bringing out beautiful plates of food, synchronizing the placement of the plates, and then explaining in beautiful detail the dish that was set before you. We had some great conversations and learning sessions with our beautiful server about the food. During the course of the clearing and presenting of our dinner plates we met the General Manager, Alec, who we had a chance to talk to for a little bit. He invited us for a tour of the kitchen when we were done with our meal. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! I was in heaven! We proceeded to eat a couple of more courses, including a complimentary cheese course with an Austrian dessert wine pairing. After dinner we didn't want to search for Alec and demand to see the kitchen so we decided we would just take our leave from the beautiful restaurant and head home. Lucky for me, Alec saw us on our way out and made sure that we got the kitchen tour that I wanted! The kitchen is beautiful and spotless. The chefs and sous chefs were so in sync that they didn't even need to talk and beautiful food was created. It was like watching a beautifully choreographed ballet. Last but not least, Barbara Lynch had just shown up to oversee the rest of the dinner service. I got to see the master chef in action! You can't even imagine how giddy I was that night! During our kitchen tour we mentioned to Alec how I write a food blog and was unable to take photos which is when he informed us that he had two extra flash cards in his office. What bad timing for this conversation! Oh well. He was kind enough to email me our own personalized version of our prix fixed menu from our Thursday night dinner including the cheese we selected so I could at least share words with my readers.

Matt's Prix Fixed Menu

Late Winter Vegetable Salad
Banyuls Vinegar, Yogurt, Shallot
*The salad was all early spring vegetables cooked in their own juices and beautifully placed on top of a yogurt, shallot dressing with little cubes of vinegar jelly that was a burst of flavor in your mouth as you ate the salad*

Duet of Beef
Parsley Root, Pearl Onions, Sauce Perigueux
*If my memory is correct there was a piece of 24 hour slow cooked short rib and two slice of beef tenderloin on top of the parsnip puree. The meat was so tender and delicious!!*

Elysian Field Farm Lamb
Eggplant, Citrus, Black Garlic
*Neither Matt nor I are big lamb fans but they were kind enough to substitute this dish from their chef's tasting menu for him because he doesn't eat seafood. This dish made us both a fan of lamb! It was beautifully done! Fantastic flavors!*

Palet d'Or

Honey, Pine Nut, Milk Glace
*I don't know how Matt knew that this was chocolate but it was and boy was he happy! Lots of delicious chocolaty heaven!*

Lauren's Prix Fixed Menu

Terrine of Foie Gras de Canard
Muscat Grapes, Truffles, Walnuts
*Beautiful foie gras with the truffles delicately placed in slivers symmetrically throughout the canard of foie gras. Along with the grapes were little jelly squares of muscat as well. So delicious on top of the perfectly toasted piece of bread! I probably won't order foie gras again though because I can't eat a whole meal size (too rich for me to finish and be able to finish additional courses) but I think I probably insulted the chef, they came back to ask me if everything was okay with it and I felt awful. Our waitress understood though.*

Watercress Veloute
Morels, Mussels, Saffron
*Deliciously prepared watercress soup with delicate morels and mussels. I couldn't have imagined a better second course!*

Cavendish Vermont Quail Farci
Asparagus, Ramp, Pistachio
*Quail stuffed with foie gras on top of a ramp puree with asparagus. YUM!*

Rhubarb Clafoutis
Orange Blossom Glace, Pistachio
*A white cake topped with pickled rhubarb, pistachio crumbles, and orange blossom ice cream. I felt like I was floating on a cloud! Served with "Happy Birthday" delicately inscribed on the plate in chocolate and one single candle. Beautiful!*

The cheese course that we shared included:
Leonora, a goat cheese from Spain
Cravero Parmigiano-Reggiano, a hard cow cheese, from Italy
Gorgonzola Dolce, a soft cow cheese from Italy

They paired the cheese with a glass of dessert wine, NV Kracher Trockenbeerenauslese from Austria. Words cannot explain the perfection of the cheese course!

With the help from our server we picked an Italian wine to accompany our entire prix fixed dinner, 2003 Albino Rocca, Barbaresco, Piedmont. They decanted the wine which made the wine open up beautifully! It was delicious! One of our new favorites!

If you live in the Boston area I definitely recommend this restaurant. It is an experience that you shouldn't miss!

Maybe in a couple of years we'll have a big group of friends join us for dinner at the chef's kitchen table where we could watch our meals be made!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Birthday Celebration #1 - Stephen Ross Wine Dinner at the Taj

About a month ago Matt was in our local liquor store, Charles Street Liquors, picking up his new favorite bottle of Zinfandel, Stephen Ross. While he was checking out the owner of the store told him about the Stephen Ross wine dinner that was scheduled at the Taj. Matt immediately contacted our two friends, Zach and Jen, and booked the dinner for the four of us for my birthday first birthday celebration.

It was a small event with a total of 15 people which included Stephen Ross, the owner of the liquor store (and his wife), and the wine distributor and his wife. So there were only about 3 other couples that we didn't know at the wine dinner... so much fun!

The event started with a tasting in the wine cellar with appetizers. We tasted a Chardonay, two different Pinot Noirs, and a Zinfandel. There were lots of yummy appetizers to compliment the wine we were tasting but I only got a picture of the salmon.

We then proceeded upstairs to the restaurant where we started our wine paired dinner. We started with a full glass of the Chardonnay with the lobster salad.

Then we had a light pinot noir to accompany the gnocchi with truffles.

For the main course we had a bigger pinot noir that was a perfect compliment to the steak that was served with asparagus and mashed potatoes.

Last but not least was a glass of Matt's favorite zinfandel which was paired with heavenly chocolate dessert.

It was such a great night and a fantastic event! We hope to visit the Stephen Ross wine cellar in San Luis Obispo sometime soon for another tasting!

After dinner Matt and I were stuffed so we decided to walk home. It was a beautiful night, perfect for a stroll through the Public Gardens and the Boston Common! Happy early birthday to me!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Vanilla Balsamic Chicken and Roasted Beet, Citrus Salad with Feta

Just looking at the title of this blog post I'm sure you've conjured up smells of deliciousness. Well I am sorry to say that I jinxed myself this week so the vanilla balsamic chicken was a huge disappointment. Monday, while my Chicken Paprikash was cooking, I thought about how lucky we've been, all of these delicious meals, all keepers, for about three weeks. Starting with the Chicken Paprikash I've had a run of bad luck.

Back to my Tuesday dinner... Vanilla Balsamic Chicken with a Roasted Beet, Citrus Salad with Feta. The chicken recipe was courtesy of Cooking Light, April 2006.

While I was making the chicken I had some left over minced shallots, tangelo juice, and zest so I decided to make a salad dressing and my salad was born. I had two beets and a head of romaine lettuce in the fridge from my Boston Organic's delivery. My chicken was in the oven at 450 for about 25 minutes. I cut my beets into tiny cubes and placed it into the oven with the chicken... stupid, stupid Lauren... beets are cooked at 400 for about 40 minutes, no need to cut them so small to "hurry up" the cooking process. Ugh. Needless to say when I pulled out my chicken my beets were burnt! The smell bothered Matt so much that I had to make him a completely different salad. He didn't want my "salvaged" beets (cutting off the burnt ends of beets that I thought I could save). The salad would have been fantastic if I hadn't burnt the beets. I'll try it again someday.

Now on to the actual recipe that I was trying. I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts rather than boneless thighs and I used a substituted amount of vanilla extract instead of a scrapped out a bean (did you know that a vanilla bean can cost $12 for ONE?!). I don't think these changes had anything to do with the lack of flavor. The chicken was pretty dry, flavorless, and the sauce burned on the pan which made it a pain to clean! I ended up putting the chicken on top of my salad because the salad dressing tasted better than the chicken.

While I was eating my salad I thought to myself "I wish I had something else to eat, like a carb". Oh wait! I do! SHOOT! I had put a prepared piece of Whole Food's garlic naan in the oven to get golden brown! By the time I got to the oven it was brown and reminded me of a hockey puck. Like I said it was a bad kitchen night! I quickly fixed the problem by putting another piece in the oven and setting the timer so I couldn't forget. Ugh!

Oh, and I forgot. Poor Bailey's tummy is upset so we had to make his own special dinner (after fasting him for 24 hours). I hope he feels better soon! The Bud Light Lime was mine, not Bailey's.

Lauren's review: Disappointing.
Matt's review: I can't remember what he said... probably something like "don't be upset, a bad dinner isn't a reflection of your cooking abilities" *Thanks hun! I love you and your faith in my cooking skills!*
Final decision: Trash it and try to forget the horrible dinner!

Vanilla Balsamic Chicken


1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon grated orange rind
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 (2-inch) piece vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
16 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
Cooking spray
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Orange rind strips (optional)

Preheat oven to 450°.

Combine first 6 ingredients in a small saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean; stir seeds into broth mixture, reserving the bean for another use. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 20 minutes). Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Arrange chicken in a single layer in the bottom of a roasting pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle chicken evenly with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes.

Brush half of broth mixture over chicken; bake 5 minutes. Brush remaining broth mixture over chicken; bake 15 minutes or until a thermometer registers 180°. Garnish with orange rind, if desired.

Serves 8

Roasted Beet, Citrus Salad with Feta


1/4 c fresh tangelo juice
1 t tangelo zest
1 T olive oil
2 t minced shallots
1 t dijon mustard
romaine lettuce
1 beet
feta cheese
salt & pepper

*I used a Minneola Tangelo that I had from my last Boston Organics delivery for my zest and juice. I think it was more sweet and flavorful than an orange.*

Preheat oven at 400. Cut beets into large chunks. Place the beets on a cooking sheet that has been prepared with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for about 30 minutes. Toss the beets about 15 minutes into cooking so they don't burn on one side. *Keep an eye on them so they don't burn like mine did* Test their doneness with a fork and cook for longer if desired.

While the beets are cooking fill two bowls with torn romaine lettuce. Then mix together the
juice, zest, shallots, dijon mustard, salt & pepper. While stirring add in the olive oil. Taste test. Add some ingredients as you see fit, maybe a pinch of sugar, a little lemon juice, or a little balsamic vinegar.

When the beets are done cooking top the lettuce with the beets. Add a handful of crumbled feta and then pour the dressing over the top.

Serves 2

Slow Cooker Chicken Paprikash

Monday was Marathon Monday/Patriot's Day so we had the day off! I slept in a little then when I got up I made dinner before breakfast. The recipe for the day was a slow cooker recipe and I figured it was a great day to try it! Slow Cooker Chicken Paprikash courtesy of Cooking Light, March 2006. By the end of the day the meal looked and smelled a little burnt so I wasn't really looking forward to trying it. It ended up tasting much better than I thought it would, definitely not burnt! The recipe is definitely a fall or a winter recipe not really a good spring meal. A hearty, slow cook stew like meal served over egg noodles. I should have known better but I couldn't resist trying it!

Lauren's review: It was okay but not nearly as flavorful as I would have liked. Even with more salt and pepper it was still lacking something.
Matt's review: It was good.
Final decision: I initially thought that I would keep it and tweak it the next time I made it (in the winter or the fall!) but after having leftovers for lunch on Tuesday I decided it's not worthy. I'm sure I can find a better option.

Slow Cooker Chicken Paprikash


3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch strips
2 cups chopped onion (about 1 large)
1 1/4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup shredded carrot
2 tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (8-ounce) package presliced mushrooms
1 1/4 cups reduced-fat sour cream

Combine flour and chicken in a medium bowl; toss well. Add chicken mixture, chopped onion, and the next 8 ingredients (through mushrooms) to an electric slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Stir in sour cream.

Serves 6

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Grilled Rosemary Steak

Sunday was a fantastic day! It started with breakfast! I made scrambled eggs, blueberry waffles and coffee! Then I was off to the grocery store to pick up groceries for the week and for the dinner we were bringing to our friends, Matt C. and Kaleen's, house for a cook out. After grocery shopping it was time to assemble. My contribution to dinner was Grilled Rosemary Steak courtesy of Cooking Light, September 2006 and a salad. The steak recipe called for the rub to be set on the steak for an hour in the fridge. So I made the rub first, put the steaks in the fridge, then made a salad. I wish I planned better. I could have also made a dessert to bring.... there's always next time... and it ended up working in my favor!

On our way to our car Matt got inspired to take this photo. The lighting was perfect, the trees looked so green! Isn't it pretty?! We love Beacon Hill! Our car is down the hill on the right somewhere...

We finally got to Matt and Kaleen's house around 5:30. After catching up over a beer the boys started grilling our steaks and the girls got the brown basmati rice and salad together. Our combined efforts got a delicious dinner on the dinner table in no time!

The dinner table set with a glass of red wine

Kaleen's dinner plate all set up for a photo

Time to eat! In the middle of the meal I made a comment about how I should have brought a dessert. Matt C. suggested we go to Dairy Queen for Blizzards. I love nothing more than a DQ Blizzard so we were all in! DQ closed within an hour of our mid-meal point. It was the fastest clean up I have ever seen! My Blizzard of choice Sunday night was Cappuccino Heath. Did I mention I love Blizzards?! I may have even finished Matt's and then proceeded to have a stomach ache the rest of the night... which is when Matt reminded me I can't eat ice cream after 8PM because of my lactose intolerance. Oops! I'll deal with the pain any day for a Blizzard!

Lauren's review: I loved this steak! The steak was so tender and delicious. I think I found my new favorite cut of beef! Check out the nutrition info, it's low in calories too! Even better! Of course it costs an arm and a leg for beef tenderloin... I have good taste! In addition to the steak, the rub was fantastic! Perfect for spring or summer! Rustic, simple, fantastic! I love fresh herbs!
Matt's review: What she said!
Final decision: It earns a special place in the recipe box!

Grilled Rosemary Steak


1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 (4-ounce) beef tenderloin steaks, trimmed (1 inch thick)
Cooking spray

Combine rosemary, lemon rind, pepper, olive oil, salt, and garlic in a small bowl. Rub rosemary mixture evenly over steaks; cover. Refrigerate 1 hour. *Our steaks ended up "marinating" with the rub for almost 3 hours*

Prepare grill.

Place steaks on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 5 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Baby Celebration at Upstairs on the Square

Thursday night I was too tired to make anything for dinner after going for a run (and icing my stupid knees) that I just heated up a couple of Boca veggie burgers and a salad for Matt and me.

Friday after work we picked up Zen take out with our friends Sean and McCaela for a nice relaxing night at their home. I got Alaskan Maki (salmon, avocado, cucumber, and scallions) and Spicy Crispy Tuna Maki (roe, spicy mayo, cucumber and tempura crumb inside with tuna on top). Matt got his life staple, Chicken Katsu (as Sean liked to call it "fried chicken"). After dinner McCaela made us delicious oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. It was a great night!

Saturday morning I made scrambled eggs, toast and coffee for us to start our day. I love lazy mornings! However, shortly after breakfast Matt took off for a beer summit with friends while I got ready for a baby shower at Upstairs on the Square. The baby shower was beautiful! A lovely little high tea which was a perfect way to celebrate the upcoming arrival of a new baby girl!

The first photo of all the beautiful, delicious finger sandwiches and desserts.

A photo of my cup and pot of green tea

A photo of the beautiful, glowing mom-to-be with her friend and her mom

Another photo of the food, just so we didn't forget!

After the baby shower I was stuffed from trying almost one of everything on the trays so we decided to do a relatively light dinner. Before we could make dinner we had to take a walk down to Whole Foods to get some weekend meal supplies, ingredients for our pizza dinner, ice cream, and frozen blueberry waffles for Sunday's breakfast. Shortly after we got home my belly startled to grumble. Time to make the pizza! It turned out great! Matt picked a new pizza shell for us to try, Top This! I would definitely recommend it and get it again. It is made of whole wheat so the fiber count is higher than most pizza shells. The thin crust was delicious and crispy! Yum! We topped the pizza shell with pasta sauce, mozzarella & romano cheese, hot cherry peppers, red peppers, and pepperoni. We also got a bottle of zinfandel that complimented the pizza perfectly!

By the end of Saturday it had been a great weekend already and we still had two days left! Yippee!

Marthon Fundraising Event - YES!

Wednesday after work a group of my colleagues headed over to Penguin Pizza for a fundraising event. The event was raising money for my big boss' son who is running the Boston Marathon tomorrow for YES, Youth Enrichment Services in Boston. It was a great event! We all started with pizza and beer while we waited for additional food for the event to be prepared. Penguin has some of the best pizza and the best beer selection in the city! The table ordered an Aegean (four cheese blend, sliced tomatoes, kalamata olives, and feta cheese), a Bolognese (four cheese blend, portablla mushrooms and a homemade Bolognese meat sauce), and a Caribbean Jerk Shrimp (white pizza with jerk shrimp topped with fresh mango and pineapple salsa). I personally tried the Bolognese and the Aegean. They were both fantastic! I also had a couple of Grey Ladies which was a whitbier from Cisco Brewers that my boss recommended. One of my favorite dinners, beer and pizza!

My slice of Bolognese and a Grey Lady

My slice of Aegean

My colleagues

Me and my friend/colleague

The non-pizza food (mussels over spaghetti in a delicious beer and shallot sauce, pork tenderloin in a braised in beer, and a salad with fennel & citrus).

It was a delicious, fun night! I'm hoping it was also very successful financial event for YES!

Chicken Piccata with Summer Vegetable Pasta

On my way home from work on Tuesday I made Matt stop at Whole Foods so I could pick up a bunch of basil for our dinner. The entree for the evening, Chicken Piccata with Summer Vegetable Pasta courtesy of Cooking Light, April 2006. It was a very similar recipe to Sunday night's dinner so it was a hit in our household!

Lauren's review: Delicious and nutritious! Look at all the pretty colors!
Matt's review: I love it!
Final decision: A keeper!

Chicken Piccata with Summer Vegetable Pasta


Olive oil-flavored cooking spray
1 cup (1/4-inch) strips red bell pepper (about 1 medium)
3/4 cup thinly sliced onion (about 1/2 large onion)
1 1/2 cups matchstick-cut zucchini (about 1 medium)
1 1/4 cups matchstick-cut yellow squash (about 1 medium)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces uncooked whole wheat blend spaghetti
3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, trimmed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons capers
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1 tablespoon butter

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add bell pepper and onion; sauté 8 minutes or until tender and beginning to brown. Place onion mixture in a large bowl; keep warm. Return pan to medium-high heat. Recoat pan with cooking spray. Add zucchini and yellow squash; sauté 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add tomatoes and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add squash mixture to reserved onion mixture. Keep warm.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain pasta in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Add pasta and reserved cooking liquid to vegetable mixture, stirring to combine. Add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and basil; toss to combine. Keep warm.

Sprinkle both sides of chicken with salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Place the flour in a shallow bowl. Dredge chicken in flour, turning to coat; shake off excess flour.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat the pan with cooking spray. Add olive oil to pan, swirling to coat. Add chicken, and cook 4 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from pan; keep warm.

Add broth, juice, and capers to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil; cook 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add green onions, butter, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper; stir until butter melts.

Arrange about 1 cup pasta mixture on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1 chicken breast half, 1/4 cup sauce, and 1 tablespoon remaining cheese. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Chicken Kiev and Roasted Asparagus with Dijon-Lemon Sauce

Monday night I needed an easy recipe with minimal ingredients after a long day at work. I decided on my mother-in-law's recipe for Chicken Kiev which used to be and may still be one of Matt's favorite meals. I had some leftover asparagus from Sunday's dinner so I decided to make another recipe, Roasted Asparagus with Dijon-Lemon Sauce courtesy of Cooking Light, September 2007. In addition to the two recipes I decided to mash up some sweet potatoes that I received in my last Boston Organics box. My chicken dish wasn't the healthiest (lots and lots of butter) but with all my veggies I think it was the perfect meal! Who doesn't like a healthy dose of butter every now and then?!

Lauren's review: Everything was fantastic! The only thing I need to remember is that if I'm using a small, averaged size chicken breast just to pound it down very thin, it doesn't need to be cut in half (as the recipe suggests) unless it's an usually large chicken breast.
Matt's review: I love, love, loved this dinner! It reminds me of what my mom(my) used to make. *I guess switching from mommy to mom was hard transition for Matt to make?!*
Final decision: If you couldn't tell, both recipes were keepers and apparently I'm supposed to continue making mashed sweet potatoes just like this!

Chicken Kiev


4 large chicken breasts cut in half
1 T chopped green onion
1 T snipped parsley
1/4 lb stick butter chilled
1/4 c. flour
1 beaten egg
1/2 c fine dry non flavored bread crumbs *I used whole wheat bread crumbs*
1/4 c butter *all of this butter reminds me, fondly, of Paula Deen*

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the chicken into halves, lengthwise, and pound out until the chicken is 1/8 inches thick. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, onion, and parsley. Cut 8 rectangles out of stick of butter, a half of a stick long. Roll the chicken around the butter rectangles, tucking in the ends to form a tight seal. Coat with flour, dip in egg and then roll in bread crumbs. Chill in the fridge while you melt the 1/4 c. butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Brown the chicken in the pan for about 2-3 minutes a side. Place the browned chicken in a baking dish and bake for 15-20 minutes.

Serves 4

Mashed Sweet Potatoes


3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 T butter
sea salt

Boil sweet potatoes in water until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain the water and return the sweet potatoes back to the pot. Add butter, salt, and cinnamon and mash. Voila!

Roasted Asparagus with Dijon-Lemon Sauce


2 pounds asparagus spears, trimmed
4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 425°.

Combine asparagus, 2 teaspoons olive oil, salt, and garlic in a large bowl, tossing well to coat. Arrange asparagus mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 12 minutes or until crisp-tender.

Combine remaining 2 teaspoons oil, rind, juice, mustard, and pepper in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Arrange asparagus on a platter; drizzle juice mixture over asparagus. Sprinkle with parsley.

Serves 6

Friday, April 16, 2010

Rotini with Chicken, Asparagus, & Tomatoes and Parsnips & Leek Soup

Sunday night for dinner I made a delicious dinner! Rotini with Chicken, Asparagus, and Tomatoes courtesy of Cooking Light, November 2007. I think that for the first time my meal looks almost identical to the professional photo on the Cooking Light site! Hooray! The original recipe calls for goat cheese but Matt is not a fan of goat cheese so he replaced his with feta. We both loved our dinners, mine with goat cheese and his with feta!

My review: I love the flavor combinations!
Matt's review: I love rustic meals like this. (I'm not quite sure what this really means)
Final decision: This entree definitely earned a spot in my recipe box!

While I was putting together dinner I also threw together a parsnip and leek soup for my work lunches. I had 4 parsnips and a large leek in the fridge from my last Boston Organics delivery and needed to use them for something before they went bad. I think I did a pretty good job for my first vegetable soup creation. My Monday lunch ended up being delicious!

A bowl of parsnip and leek soup.

My red pepper bean dip, spinach, and goat cheese on a slice of whole wheat bread. Doesn't it look beautiful?!

Now on to the recipes....

Rotini with Chicken, Asparagus, and Tomatoes


8 ounces uncooked rotini (corkscrew pasta) *I used whole wheat ziti instead of rotini*
Cooking spray
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (1-inch) slices asparagus
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled goat cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken and asparagus to pan; saute 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and garlic to pan; saute 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in pasta, basil, vinegar, and oil. Arrange 2 cups pasta mixture on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1 tablespoon cheese.

Serves 4

Parsnips & Leek Soup


olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 stem of rosemary, leaves removed from stem
1 stem of thyme
1 cup of reduced sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup fat free milk
salt and pepper

Saute chopped onions in olive oil for 4 minutes over medium high heat. Add chopped leeks and garlic saute until soft, about 4 minutes. Add chicken broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes - 1 hour. Then stir in milk and half & half. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. Add to blender and puree in batches.

Makes about 6 cups

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Italian-Style Grilled Steak and Roasted Red Pepper & Cannellini Bean Dip

Matt and I live in a big old condo building that doesn't allow grills so we have to bum off of our friends for a good grill. Last Saturday our friend's, Jen and Zach, allowed us to invite ourselves over so I could try one of my many grilling recipes. We brought the Italian-Style Grilled Steak, Roasted Red Pepper & Cannellini Bean Dip, whole wheat spaghetti, and a salad. Our hosts were kind enough to supply two types of cheese to go with my dip as an appetizer, and delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies and gelato for dessert! Oh yea, and lots of yummy wine!

First our appetizers!

While the girls were finishing the final touches on dinner the boys set up our table. They did such a good job!

A close up of the salad which my awesome husband actually made! He saved me with this assist! I was running late before we left for Zach & Jen's and still had to take a shower and make the salad. Matt offered to take over and he did such a great job! (How's that for props honey?!) The lettuce had spinach, romaine, tomatoes, mushrooms, blue cheese, olives, hot peppers and was dressed lightly with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Perfect! I have a sous chef!

A close up of the steak over whole wheat spaghetti and drizzled with olive oil

The girls taking a break from eating to get a couple of awful photo shots.

Jen's delicious cookies!

Dessert assembled, cookies, gelato, and wine!

After too many bottles of wine and a delicious meal we were officially stuffed to the gills and ready for bed! Matt and I decided to walk home to try to walk off some of our full bellies! On our way home we walked past the Wang Theatre where Chelsea Handler had just finished her last show! I LOVE CHELSEA! So Matt was kind enough to walk down the street, out of our way, to see if we could catch a glimpse of her. We waited 5 minutes by a crowd surrounding a Cadillac Escalade and sure enough out came Chelsea and her friend Heather MacDonald!!! I made Matt take pictures!

Saturday was a great night!!!

By the way, we all decided that both recipes were keepers.

Roasted Red Pepper & Cannellini Bean Dip, courtesy of Cooking Light, January 2007


1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 (16-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 (7-ounce) bottle roasted red bell peppers, rinsed and drained
1 large garlic clove
2 tablespoons extravirgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place first 5 ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth. With processor on, slowly add oil through food chute. Stir in salt and black pepper.

Makes 2 cups which is probably enough for a party of 8-10, too much for 4!

Italian-Style Grilled Steak, courtesy of Cooking Light, June 2007


1 (1-pound) beef rib-eye steak, trimmed
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray
4 cups hot cooked spaghetti (about 4 ounces uncooked pasta)
4 teaspoons extravirgin olive oil

Cut beef across grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Combine beef, rosemary, thyme, lemon juice, and garlic in a large zip-top plastic bag; seal. Marinate beef in refrigerator 1 hour, turning occasionally.

Prepare grill.

Remove beef from bag, discarding marinade. Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. Place beef on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 1 minute on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Serve with pasta. Drizzle oil over beef and pasta.

Serves 4 *1 pound may not sound like a lot of meat for 4 people. I asked the butcher if it was enough and he suggested 2 pounds for 4. I think 1 - 1.5 pounds is enough. I ended up buying 1.75 pounds which fed us all but it was a lot of meat when it was cut into thin strips! I think the only reason we ate it all was because it was there and we could.*

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

On the road again...

Last Tuesday I flew down to New Jersey for work. On most of my business trips to NJ I try to visit as much of my family as I can! I used to live in NJ for all of elementary school and most of my extended family still lives down there. So while I hate to travel there for work I love it at the same time! Once I arrived in Newark (very late, thanks to a delay) I picked up my rental car and drove out west towards the Delaware Water Gap. I was getting together with my grandmother (I call her Graya), my grandfather (aka Poppy), my Aunt Lenore, cousin/god-daughter Courtney, my Great Aunt Barb, and my Great Uncle Tom for dinner at a restaurant called The Forge. Phew... that's a lot of family!

Here's a cute picture of my god-daughter. She wanted to take a photo of me while I took one of her. She's so adorable!

I started with a salad with balsamic.

Then we all shared some calamari

For dinner my aunt and I shared two entrees that we couldn't decide between. Sometimes you can't just pick one!

The first entree was risotto with lobster and asparagus

The second was spaghetti with crab, shrimp, and spinach in a garlic, olive oil sauce

They were both very good but HUGE! My aunt ended up bringing home more than half of each entree! I'm sure they made delicious leftovers!

That night I stayed at my Graya's house along with my Aunt Barb and Uncle Tom who were visiting from Maine. Graya had made lemon bars for Easter. I don't get to indulge in my grandmother's delicious goodies all too often so I HAD to have one!

Then for a little night cap my grandmother opened a bottle of Cherry Heering, a cherry brandy, that was at least 30 years old. I had to take a picture, or two, of the old bottle.

The next morning I woke up to Graya already cooking bacon. She is great in the kitchen! My love of food started with the family traditions that she and my great-grandmother (aka Babci [pronounced Bopchee], Polish for grandmother) used to make. I had a fabulous breakfast! Two eggs over easy, two slices of bacon, and two slices of my favorite rye toast that you can only get in NJ! I've talked about this delicious rye toast before, here! Of course I forgot to take a picture! I was busy eating before I had to run out of the house to make it to work by 9AM.

At lunch I ran out to a local bagel deli, Kettleman's Bagels, for a turkey sandwich on an everything bagel with chive spread (or as my Jersey mother calls it chive SHMEAR)! This is my favorite sandwich of all time! Again, it's only a sandwich that I would get in NJ or NY because it's the only time I can get a really good bagel! Anyway, Wednesday was beautiful so I sat outside in the sun while I ate lunch!

After work I stopped at Smoothie King for a Skinny Peach Slice Plus smoothie (peaches, papaya, strawberries, soy protein, carbohydrate mix, nonfat milk, and honey). A "skinny" meant that they left out the turbinado which is a sweetener which saved me 100 calories! The smoothie was really good! I wish there was a Smoothie King in Boston! There were so many options I wanted to try them all.

Once I had my smoothie I steered my rented Toyota Corolla to the Jersey Shore. I don't mean the TV show but if you've seen the MTV show you know that it took place in Seaside Heights. Growing up I used to spend every weekend in the summer at my grandparent's house in Seaside Park which is a couple blocks away from the Seaside Heights boardwalk. It really is beautiful and I swear my experiences are SO different than the show! Going over the bridge from Toms River to Seaside I always roll down the window and inhale the salty air. This trip was no exception! I went over the bridge, memories flooding, and picked up my grandmother to take her to dinner! We headed back over the bridge to Toms River to go to Rivoli's. The place needs a remodel but other than that it was great! We started with a salad for the table that was lightly dressed with olive oil and vinegar.

Along with the salad we got a delicious, warm crusty bread. I love warm crusty bread!!!

For my entree I got the pistachio encrusted tilapia in a garlic sauce over mashed sweet potatoes and veggies. I also didn't realize that the garlic sauce was going to be a cream sauce. I was slightly disappointed about the cream but it was still delicious just HUGE! Again, my grandmother had more than half of both of our entrees to bring home for leftovers.

When we got back to her home the sun was setting over the bay. Seaside is on a peninsula. My grandmother lives on the bay side which is literally a 2 block walk west of the beach on the ocean side. It's such a great place to visit. The best part about my grandmother being on the bay side is that the sun sets over the water. Wednesday the sunset was beautiful!

While we watched the sunset my grandmother and I had little sundaes, another little tradition! We both had vanilla ice cream with a little caramel sauce on top! Yum!

After dessert it was time to head back to my hotel. I had another early morning of work. I said my good byes and rolled down the windows for my final trip across the bridge.

After a good nights sleep it was time for the hotel's breakfast buffet. I had a little of everything I love for breakfast foods.

Fruit, yogurt, and granola

Oatmeal with a little brown sugar and raisins

One scrambled egg and one slice of bacon

Now that I was fully fueled for my morning I headed to work. Before I had to leave for my flight I grabbed a quick catered lunch at the office. This is the spread that I got to pick from. I ended up getting a turkey and pepper jack cheese sandwich with a bottle of water. I passed on cookies and chips because I was still a little full from breakfast!

When I got home Thursday night Matt and I went to Scollay Square for a quick dinner. I had a grilled pear salad and then we split the buffalo chicken mac and cheese with a Blue Moon to wash it all down. Matt tried to take a photo on his iPhone but it was too dark in the restaurant.

Then Friday night, after a full day of work and a mini side "work" trip to the Natick Collection and The Met Bar & Grill, we went to our company's beer hour for a beer. After my one beer we headed to Shabu-Zen for a Japanese hot pot dinner with our friends. Of course I forgot to take pictures. However you can see some photos from the last time we were all there, here! For dessert my friend and I grabbed ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery before going in to the theatre to see "Hot Tub Time Machine"! It's a great movie, I definitely recommend it!

Last week was a great week! I hope you all had as much fun as I did!