Friday, May 28, 2010

Top Chef: Boston

Don't let the title fool you - I did not try out for another cooking show.  Instead, on Wednesday I was lucky enough to attend a cooking demonstration in Government Center hosted by Bravo and Comcast.  My coworker and buddy Lauren headed over with me.  The chef-testants in attendance were Ashley Merriman and Hector Santiago.

It was a super-hot day in the bean, so Ashley made a very light and refreshing dish - homemade ricotta.  She served it on a crostini with peas, pea tendrils, shaved Parmesan, and a drizzle of truffle oil.  It was divine.  I had never had homemade ricotta before - though I have seen some other bloggers try it - and I gotta say - do it now!  This was unlike any other cheese I've had before.  It was light, creamy and delicate.  The curds were much smaller than grocery store ricotta.  And it was pretty simple.

Homemade Ricotta
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup butter milk
sprinkle of salt

Pour all the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a simmer, and wait until a little 'raft' forms in the pot.  Strain the curds overnight and voila, ricotta cheese.

The chefs even had suggestions for the whey leftover from the cheese, like using it as a marinade to tenderize pork.  Sounds yummy....I'm gonna have to give it a whirl!

If you're like me and are a Top-Chef fanatic, you should check out this post at How 2 Heroes where they have a couple interviews with the chefs.

And also, if you're anything like me you would have also been completely star struck to meet the chefs.  This is me and Lauren with Ashley and Hector.  I gave them my blog business cards and mumbled something about how I loved them on the show.  I'm such a food nerd.  

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Healthworks Blogger Bash

I feel pretty lucky that I get to go to such cool events with great bloggers, good food, and drinks.  All those events start to add up on my waistline though - so when Healthworks contacted me for their blogger bash that started with a spinning class?  Well, I just couldn't say no!

For a little background - Healthworks is a women-only gym in Boston.  It's a great concept - the gym is super clean and smells so nice.  There are also TONS of cardio machines as well as great classes.  I actually belonged to Healthworks when I first lived in Boston and LOVED it - but its pretty pricey and I found a gym (that doesn't smell nearly as nice or have as good classes) that is about 1/2 the cost through my job.  I miss you though HW - forgot how nice those locker rooms are!

Upon arriving we were treated to some healthy snacks... Pop Chips! I finally got to try the cheddar - and Chelsea suggested I grab the barbecue too....YUM.

And RIPE mocktails - I had the margarita.  It was good.  I'm pretty critical when it comes to mixers - usually they are WAY too sweet for me - these tasted a lot more natural - since they are made with real fruit.

I then proceeded to spill my drink in the spin classroom....classy!  Luckily neither of the ladies who saw me (Julie and Chelsea) posted a picture of my little mishap :).  We hung out in the back like rebels.

Neither Julie nor Chelsea had ever taken spin, and it had been a while since my last class so I wanted to stay out of view.  I forgot how challenging spin classes are!  But also how quickly the time flies by; it's a lot easier to get into the zone when someone is yelling instructions and you're listening to good music!

We then showered and got dolled up in the locker room for a night out on the town - look at all the pretty bloggers!
We then made our way to Alibi and The Liberty Hotel.  The Liberty Hotel was originally a prison, but has been converted into a hotel.  The bars in the hotel play on the history of the space - Alibi and Clink.  There are also prison bars on a lot of the windows.

This part of the night was sponsored by double cross vodka - and food was provided by Scampo.  We had flat breads, caprese salads, and tuna tartare.
Double Cross and Ripe teamed up to create three cocktails for the night, one raspberry flavored (which was a little too sweet for me), a Bloody Mary:

And my favorite drink of the evening: The Strawberry Collins

The pictures are totally blurry I know - but this deliciousness had strawberries and basil in it.  It was just a LITTLE sweet, but totally refreshing.  Tina from Carrots'n'Cake became even more of my hero by getting the recipe.

All in all a fabulous night was had by all.  I loved hanging out with two of my longtime favorites - and meeting/spending time with all of the other great Boston bloggers in attendance.

We also received ahhmazing gift bags from Siggi's yogurt filled with all sorts of goodies, like Mad Hectic Oatmeal, Pop Chips, City Sports T-shirts, a gift card for a massage at Healthworks, a haircut at Rock Paper Scissors salon.......and so much more!
In addition to all their generosity, Healthworks has a special deal for readers of The Clean Plate Club.  They are offering a 3 day membership for you guys! er, gals....since it is a ladies only gym :) Check it out!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Accidentally Vegan Dinner

So, if you are a friend of mine you probably know that one of my pleasures is reading other people's blogs...If you are a close friend you know that one of my secret pleasures is reading vegetarian blogs.  *GASP*

Really, I'm not kidding.  Me, the girl who puts butter or bacon in anything I possibly can, the girl who LOVES rare cheeseburgers, and even some of the less politically correct meats, also likes to read vegetarian blogs....and I even cook vegetarian meals sometimes.  I do it mostly to counteract all the butter and animal fat I consume when I dine in restaurants and cook rich meals.  But also, I just really like my veggies.

At my office we're currently doing a 'Biggest Loser' style weight loss challenge.  I have a few events coming up, including a friends' wedding - and the beginning of bathing suit season that I would like to drop some winter weight for- so I thought this would be good motivation to lighten up my usual meals.  Rafe wants to stop eating meat quite as often as he does - so he's been totally on board.

On Saturday we made a delicious vegetarian dinner that actually turned out to be vegan!  That means it didn't contain any animal products at all!  (I do realize that I need to check the label on the tortillas, since those may have had lard - but its a really big deal that there was no cheese or sour cream on those tacos!)

 It all started with the beans....canned black beans to be precise.  I really do prefer to soak dried beans and cook them from scratch, but this dinner was the result of a very sudden inspiration that Rafe and I had while hiking....So we went with canned.  I cooked the beans with garlic, onions, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper.....and a little bit of red wine vinegar.

Rafe whipped up a really quick pico de gallo with red onion, tomato and well as some guacamole.

And I sauteed some onions and red pepper in a cast iron skillet.....

Here's a close-up of the assembled beans, peppers and onions, pico and guacamole all on a corn tortilla...YUM.
We rounded out the meal with brown Spanish rice and a salad....We were totally stuffed too - Rafe was pretty surprised since he is a pretty big fan of traditional 'meat' protein with his meals - but I think we found a creative way to cook dinner that doesn't include meat.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mother's Day Brunch

Usually on Mother's day my father and I take my mother and grandmother out to brunch at the local country club.  The club has a big breakfast/brunch buffet, and we have a great time.  This year, due to a scheduling conflict, there would be no brunch at the club.  Also, since we had just gone out the dinner the previous weekend for my mom's birthday, she requested that we have brunch at home instead.

She wanted to cook it herself, because she is nuts.  But I took charge.  In fact, I already had an idea of what I would like to make.....This past New Year's I made a list of dishes that I wanted to make in 2010.  Things like, roast duck, raviolis, and arepas....Inspired by We are Not Martha's post, cinnamon rolls made the list as well.  I decided mother's day was a perfect occasion, so I made the bon apetit cinnamon rolls with cream cheese glaze by Molly Wizenberg, courtesy of Epicurious.

The cinnamon rolls were a lot of work, but they were incredible.  I had to resist the urge to gobble them up right when they came out of the oven....They needed a few minutes to cool before being frosted.  I took this time to set up the table with the rest of the meal.  These were for my grandmother - she has developed quite a sweet tooth.
My mom prefers savory breakfast fare (though I think she was smitten with those cinnamon rolls)!  For her I made the asparagus, prosciutto, and goat cheese fritatta.  I was really disappointed in the asparagus selection at the market!  They were big and thick and stalky.  I trimmed the stems and cut them in quarters and they were much better.

My father is allergic to eggs, but I wanted to make sure he got plenty to eat (and didn't gorge himself on the cinnamon rolls) so I made him an open face sandwich using the components from the fritatta on a piece of toast, and baked it for a few minutes until the cheese became melty.


In addition to the cinnamon rolls and fritatta we also had crispy bacon, and some delicious sweet and fresh strawberries.  

There had to be something healthy on the plate!


It was really fun to cook for two of the women who cooked for me so much of my life....My mother was definitely nervous at first about the cinnamon rolls (YEAST in my kitchen??!!)- she was never a big fan of baking, though her carrot cake is OUT OF THIS WORLD.  My mom also has a gorgeous kitchen, and I can't help but think that she was worried that I would make a HUGE mess....but I tidied up after myself.

It was a gorgeous day and a great meal!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Egglands Best & Happy Mother's Day

On Thursday I was invited to a blogger dinner at Stella hosted by Eggland's Best, and Kitchenbelle blogger Mary-Kate Paris.

As we entered the room we were greeted with name tags, and a table was decorated with Egglands best paraphernalia.  The theme of the dinner was 'breakfast for dinner' and the bar was serving mimosa's and bloody Mary's.  Though I'm usually a bloody Mary girl, my friends know I can't resist starting a dinner with champagne...!  As I sipped my mimosa and chatted with the other guest, waiters strolled through the crowd with deviled eggs to sample.

After we mingled for a little while, we took our seats and were given a quick intro by our hosts, Mary Beth, and some representatives from Eggland's best.  Then we all dug into the buffet!
Since the theme of the dinner was 'breakfast for dinner' each course incorporated eggs in some way.  We started with fruit salad (which thankfully had no eggs), and a delicious chopped salad with bacon, eggs, red onions, and blue cheese.
For our entrees we had a few dishes -
linguine carbonara -- this was so delicious and creamy!

A duck confit omelet with goat cheese, mushrooms and spinach - sooo rich and delicious:

Amazingly thick and rich French toast.

There was also steak and eggs, but I was totally full and knew I wanted to eat the chocolate torte and gelato!!  I was told however, that the steak and eggs were delicious!!

In addition to the great spread, we learned a lot about EB's product.  They've been the gold medal winner for taste for years when compared to other eggs.  As you know, I eat a lot of eggs, and I could definitely taste a difference in the flavor.  The difference was most discernible in the yolk.....It was delicious and super rich!  The company owes the rich yellow color and deep flavor to the marigolds in the chicken's feed. 
On our way out we were given swag bags filled with lots of Eggland's best, hard boiled eggs, and my personal favorite:
And an additional treat of baked good's from Mary Kate herself....Kitchen sink cookies and better-than-brownie-cookie-peanut-butter-sandwiches

This cookie was amazing.  It didn't last very long around me either - I did the ultimate indulgence...I had it for breakfast Saturday morning....after an EB hard boiled egg of course...chocolate and coffee?  Yum...

Thanks Egglands Best and Mary Kate!  It was a great meal, and I always enjoy the opportunity to hang out with all of my favorite bloggers!!

Also, Happy Mother's Day!!  I'll be back very soon with a post about the brunch I cooked for these special ladies.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Birthday Rafe: Goat cheese fritters

Poor Rafe!  His birthday was on Friday, and Thursday was his last day of classes - which normally would be something to celebrate, but instead of attending class, his attention turned to studying for his law school finals.  Boo.

He spent his whole day studying.  Then studied in the evening too.  But I was determined to brighten up his birthday with a delicious dinner.  I still had half of a raw, frozen beef tenderloin roast from our New Year's eve feast, and he requested this for his entree - the rest of his request was pretty vague...potato, veggie, some salad....

When Rafe lived in Boston, we used to frequent Solas on Boylston St, inside the Lenox hotel.  They serve simple, delicious pub food like shepherds pie, burgers, and a really delicious french onion soup.  And they have great beer.  No matter what we order for our entree, Rafe and I would always split the Oak Leaf Salad....its a bed of red and green leaf lettuce, toasted pecans, red grapes, and the most delicious round of goat cheese that has been covered in breadcrumbs and fried.
I made these by slicing a small log of goat cheese into 6 rounds - (I used a knife, but find that dental floss is actually the easiest way to cleanly slice through the soft cheese).  I put the discs on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and put them in the freezer.  I let the harden up a bit in the freezer, then set up a standard breading station....flour, egg wash, and panko breadcrumbs seasoned with salt, and a little cayenne.

After the cheese had been breaded, I then fried them up for a few minutes in a cast iron skillet coated with a little butter.  The outside breading got golden-brown and crispy, and the heat from the pan defrosted the goat cheese so it was once again soft and creamy on the inside with none of the gooey goodness melting into the pan!

Instead of leaf lettuce and grapes, the goat cheese fritters were served on some mixed greens with toasted pecans and strawberries - and I made a simple vinaigrette with white balsamic and olive oil.

The tenderloin came out great again.  Instead of the brandy cream sauce, I made a red wine reduction....I'm not sharing the recipe, because the brandy cream sauce is the way to go...seriously, make it.
Ugh, blogger, why won't you flip this?  This is a picture of my plate...some of the meat, roasted potatoes and asparagus.....and the goat cheese fritters.  I think they managed to cheer Rafe up for a little bit....If they didn't do the trick, I'm guessing all the leftovers in his fridge will sustain him through the rest of finals!  Happy Birthday Rafe!