Friday, December 31, 2010

New England Country Soup's Soup Challenge

A few weeks ago, I was asked by New England Country Soup to enter their Soup Challenge.

Inspired by many consumer comments comparing New England Country Soup to homemade soup, the Soup Challenge is a fun recipe and cooking competition that gives consumers the opportunity to challenge their homemade soup recipes in a head-to-head taste and nutrition test against any flavor of New England Country Soup.

The campaign is targeted to consumers in Boston, Hartford, Providence, Cleveland and Columbus, but open to residents in 14 states as well as Washington, D.C., and interested consumers have until January 9th to enter. The challenge: Pick a flavor of New England Country Soup's creations, and make it your own, keeping in mind the nutritional value of the soup. The soup I chose: Sweet Chicken Curry, normally made with apples, raisins, cinnamon, chicken and curry, to name a few ingredients. My soup ended up being a savory, vegetarian version, which I like to call Coconut Curry Chickpea & Potato Soup. I made this spicy, aromatic soup in the crock pot during the most recent Boston blizzard, and the bold flavors and hearty texture warmed me up in no time. Z was also a big fan of the heat (spice-wise) this soup packed, while still being flavorful and satisfying.

You can vote once per day for each soup entry - I'd love it if you wouldn't mind taken a second each day to vote for my soup! No sign up or funky stuff required - just click "Vote for this recipe," and you're done!

Five winners will be chosen in each market - three by vote and two by New England Country Soup - and the winners will compete in front of a panel of judges in their market's finals. One winner from each market will compete in the ultimate Soup Challenge, held in Boston on March 5th. The winner will get a chance to win a New England Weekend Getaway for two to Martha's Vineyard.

Thank you so much for taking the time to vote for my soup! If you also entered the challenge, please send me the link to your recipe!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Trying Something New at The Elephant Walk

I love The Elephant Walk in Cambridge. I always experience delicious food with exotic flavors and impressive presentations, and the service is usually efficient and welcoming. On Monday evening, Z and I's dinner there was no different than usual.

We tend to order the same dishes when we dine at The Elephant Walk, but Monday night, we changed up our habits. To start, we split the Salade de Timbale au Chevre ($9.95), which came with Vermont goat cheese, grapes, cherry tomatoes, diced Barlett pears and walnuts. The plating on this was spectacular - I wish I had a photo to share with you all - but the flavors were also spot on for this otherwise "simple" salad. The creamy, obviously fresh goat cheese paired beautifully with the sweet grapes and crunchy walnuts, too.

For dinner, I ordered the Vegan Organic Tofu Malika ($16.95), which was tofu sauteed with lemongrass, shallots and garlic, and served with cubanelle peppers, roasted tomatoes, jalapenos and Asian basil. Again, the presentation was gorgeous - a perfect ball of sticky white rice served alongside vibrant veggies and cubes of fried tofu. This dish was also perfectly spicy, without the fresh jalapenos overpowering the sweet tomatoes and delicate lemongrass flavor.

For the life of me, I can't remember what Z ordered - but his dish was also beautifully presented, and the flavors of his dish were spot-on. I ended up having a good amount of leftovers (from both dishes) for lunch the next day, too.

Although a meal and a few beers at The Elephant Walk can come with a heavier price tag than I'm used to spending (we had a Groupon to use on this particular evening for $40), the quality of the food and service is worth every penny.

What local restaurant(s) do you not mind splurging on?

Elephant Walk on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Week Without Photos

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas!!

I had a lovely holiday, and planned to share a photo recap with you all this morning. However, I unfortunately left my beloved camera at my parents' house, so the photo recap will have to wait until early next week. How will I live without my camera for a week? It will be difficult, but with a trusty BlackBerry that takes mediocre photos, I am ready for the challenge.

The photos I planned to share with you this morning cover the food, family, friends, decorations and gifts that my Christmas holiday consisted of. It really was a lovely celebration, and I felt so blessed to be surrounded by so many people that I love so dearly. It also didn't hurt that I ate like a queen for three days straight.

If you celebrate, how was your Christmas?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Blue Ribbon BBQ in Arlington

A few nights ago, I finally tried Blue Ribbon BBQ in Arlington - which is literally half a mile walk from my apartment. Why did I wait so long to go there?

Actually, right before dinner I realized I had been to the Blue Ribbon in West Newton years ago, but I'm still counting this as my first time eating there, since it's been so long.

Upon walking in to the small eatery (with only a few tables and a counter to sit at), the smells of barbecued meat, baking cornbread and tantalizing sauces filled the air. It didn't help that I was starving and the chalkboard menus were chocked full of authentic Southern dishes and homemade comfort food.

After much desperate deliberation, I finally decided on the Pulled Pork Sandwich ($7.59), which came with two sides - I opted for the mashed potatoes and collard greens.

For a drink I went with half sweet iced tea and half lemonade at the fountain soda station.

When we sat down, I decided to try all of the sauces Blue Ribbon had on the counter, which were about eight in total, and ranged from spicy to sweet. All the sauces we tried were delicious with the exception of the habenero vinegar - the vinegar flavor was way too overpowering for my taste. 

The sandwich itself was delicious, with the exception of the soggy, lifeless bun. I've had many pulled pork sandwiches where the bread can hold its own, so I was slightly disappointed when I ended up eating my pork with a fork and discarding the bread altogether. However, the meat was cooked to perfection, and possessed a beautiful smoky flavor. The mashed potatoes were obviously made with a good amount of butter and cream - which is definitely not a complaint - and I loved how there were some chunks of potato throughout, providing a wonderful texture contrast. The collard greens were - well, collard greens. No complaints there, either. 

All in all, my dinner at Blue Ribbon was a successful one. Their authentic Southern and clearly homemade food would make Paula Deen proud. And since I live so close, it will be easy for me to go back again soon. 

Have you ever been to Blue Ribbon BBQ? What's your review? 

Blue Ribbon BBQ (Arlington) on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chicken, Broccoli & Lemon Orzo

After our cookie swap at work yesterday, I was in dire need of some vegetables and protein. I braved the snow/Massachusetts' drivers after work to do some Christmas shopping, and then came home and wanted a healthy, yet quick dinner. I had some orzo in the pantry, leftover chicken in the fridge, and frozen broccoli, so I was able to whip up a nutritious dinner in no time.

Chicken, Broccoli & Lemon Orzo
Yields: 2 servings

-1/3 cup orzo, uncooked
-1 pre-cooked chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
-1 cup frozen broccoli
-1 tsp. minced garlic
-Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper, to taste
-Several squirts lemon juice
-Grated Parmesan cheese

1.) Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil; pour in orzo.
2.) In a saucepan, heat up olive oil. Add broccoli, and let cook for 2-3 minutes, or until no longer completely frozen.
3.) Add chicken to the saucepan; stir. Season with spices; add garlic. Let cook for 1-2 minutes.
4.) Add lemon juice to the saucepan; cook off for 30 seconds, then bring heat down to a simmer.
5.) Once the orzo is done cooking, add it to the saucepan and stir. Sprinkle with a generous amount of Parmesan cheese. Scoop into bowls and enjoy!

After gorging on cookies all afternoon, this light, flavorful dish of pasta was oh-so satisfying. The combination of the simple chicken, broccoli, lemon and cheese was so refreshing and tasty. I'm looking forward to the leftovers for lunch later this week!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

'Tis the season....for baking cookies.

A few of my co-workers and I are having a cookie swap today, and I also needed to bring a dessert to my family Christmas party Saturday night - as well as my friend's Christmas party last night. To prepare, I spent my Friday night baking 36 of these babies:

Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies. They're like banana bread in a smaller, better form. For 36 cookies, I used 3 and 1/2 bananas that were only slightly ripe, so I mashed them in the food processor to get them extra soft, which worked our perfectly. 

The end result was a moist cookie with a subtle, yet obvious banana flavor. The texture was almost scone-like, but still held the characteristic of a cookie. My friends and family were really impressed with these, and they were really easy to make. 

What are you baking/cooking for the holidays this year?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Potato, Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry

Twitter is a wonderful tool to network with people with related interests, get the word out about your blog, and sometimes, even make new friends. Twitter is also a great tool to get new recipe ideas - it's thanks to Twitter that Z and I were able to cook and eat Patti's Potato, Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry the other night for dinner.

We really changed nothing to this dish, expect we used frozen cauliflower instead of fresh; we used dried cilantro and ginger; and we added some cayenne pepper for an extra kick. Otherwise, we followed the recipe to a T - and ended up with a lot of food for leftovers throughout the week. 

The end result was insanely flavorful, thanks to the coconut milk, curry and cilantro, and the textures were wonderful - the potatoes were still a little crunchy, but were a welcome change from the soft cauliflower and chickpeas. This dish was also really easy to make. Besides chopping the potatoes, it was really a matter of stirring and simmering everything in one pot on the stove.

Thanks again Patti for this wonderful recipe!

Do you think Twitter is a useful tool? Why or why not?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chicken & Cornbread Stuffing Casserole

When it's cold outside, I crave warm, comforting, not-so-good-for-you chicken and stuffing, with extra cheese.

On Thanksgiving, my Mom sent me home with a vat of homemade cornbread stuffing, which I have had in my freezer ever since. I also had two chicken breasts and the leftover homemade chicken broth (also in my freezer), which I incorporated in this very economical meal. The nice folks at New England Country Soup had also sent me some of their soups to try, and I still had a packet of Chicken Corn Chowder in the pantry to provide the creamy base for my casserole.

Chicken & Cornbread Stuffing Casserole
Yields: 2 (generous) servings

-2 chicken breasts
-2-3 cups cornbread stuffing
-3/4 package New England Country Soup Chicken Corn Chowder
-1 cup chicken broth
-Salt and black pepper, to taste
-Parmesan cheese for topping

1.) Season chicken breasts with a little salt and pepper, and place in a casserole dish.
2.) Cover chicken with cornbread stuffing.
3.) Mix soup and chicken broth together; pour over chicken and stuffing.
4.) Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top of everything.
5.) Place in a 350 degree oven until hot and bubbly (about 35-45 minutes).

This meal was oh-so satisfying on a cold winter night, and wasn't too heavy. The chicken was perfectly moist and juicy, thanks to the soup and stock, and the combination with the cornbread stuffing was out of this world. I will definitely be making this recipe again.

What winter-friendly meals have you made recently? 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Think Tank in Kendall Square

After the Whole Foods' event last week, Z and I popped into Think Tank in Kendall Square for a light dinner and some brews. This was my first time at Think Tank, and I was pretty impressed with the diverse, yet short, menu, along with the local and organic food options.

To start, I ordered Woodstock Inn's Pig's Ear Brown Ale.

We both had eaten our fair share of appetizers at the Whole Foods event, so we decided to split two light meals. First, we ordered the Cold Peanut Noodles ($8).

For an appetizer, this was a heaping portion, and we didn't even finish the plate between the two of us. The flavors of this dish were incredible, too - the peanut flavor wasn't overdone, and the dish as a whole was slightly spicy. Although I wish the dish was made with smaller pieces of fresh mint (versus the large mint leaves that it came with), I was still pretty impressed with this plate.

Along with the peanut noodles, we also split the Fall Flatbread ($10), made with apple, butternut squash and tarragon chevre. 

It's hard for me not to like flatbread, but the ingredients in Think Tanks' fall version were obviously fresh and blended beautifully together. The sharp, tangy cheese also helped to cut the sweetness from the apples and the squash perfectly. I easily could have eaten this plate by myself. 

Although the menu at Think Tank seemed limited in quantity, the diversity and quality of their dishes reigned supreme. I'm excited to go back and try their Naan Flatbread ($8), made with crispy garlic and edamame hummus, as well as their Green Curry ($15), made with local vegetables and jasmine rice. 

What's your favorite restaurant in the area that utilizes local and/or organic ingredients?

Think Tank on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 10, 2010

Recap of the Whole Foods Affordable Entertaining Party

I love Whole Foods. I love the taste tests they give you around the store and the high quality, endless food options. What I don't love: Thinking I can't shop there on a weekly basis because of the price tags.

The other night, I was invited to Whole Foods' holiday event celebrating Affordable Entertaining. The event, held at the Whole Foods on River Street in Cambridge, allowed local food bloggers and foodies to sample an array of treats made by Whole Foods that are affordable and ideal for any holiday party.

While at the tasting, I sampled a variety of different cheeses.

I also tried some of the beer and wine samples, including a fairly good Merlot that cost under $3, as well as Cisco Brewers' holiday beer. 

Whole Foods had two other tables set-up, one with more hearty appetizers such as Stuffed Mushrooms and Prosciutto and Pea Arancini...

...and the other with a sampling of desserts.

Overall, Whole Foods had a wonderful event set-up for us bloggers, and even sent us home with goody bags! It was also really great to see how many affordable options Whole Foods has - prices I never would have expected to see in their store. 

Do you shop at Whole Foods? Why or why not?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Spicy Tofu Stir-fry & Giveaway Winner!

I love healthy, delicious meals that can easily and quickly be made for dinner during the busy work week. One such go-to meal that I adore: Stir-fry.

The other night, Z and I had a lot of ingredients that were stir-fry-worthy, including mushrooms, peppers, onions, garlic, tofu and a slew of spices. The only thing I had to pick up at the store were carrots to add some  needed crunch to the mix.

Spicy Tofu Stir-fry
Yields: 3-4 servings

-1 block extra firm tofu, drained and cubed
-Half green pepper (I used 1/4 of a green and yellow pepper each), chopped
-Half yellow onion, diced
-5-6 mushrooms, sliced
-2 carrots, chopped
-1 clove garlic, minced
-Powdered ginger
-Salt and pepper
-Olive oil

1.) Cook tofu in a saucepan on medium heat with some olive oil and spices (coriander, cumin, powdered ginger, cayenne and turmeric). 
2.) In a separate saucepan, sautee the veggies with some more olive oil and salt and pepper. I cooked the onions first until they were mostly translucent, then added the carrots, peppers, mushrooms and garlic.
3.) Once cooked, pour the tofu mixture in with the veggies and mix well. 

We enjoyed our stir-fry with a random side: Half a whole wheat tortilla each. It was an odd choice, but a successful one - I love my carbs!

Now, without further ado, here's the winner of The Real Food Diet cookbook giveaway: Bianca! This is what "real food" means to her:

"I'll go the Michael Pollan route and say that real food is something that our great-grandmothers will still recognize! It's whole, preservative-free foods that keep us fueled, and also taste clean and simple."

Congratulations, Bianca! Please email me at with your full name and mailing address so I can send you your cookbook!

For everyone else, thanks for entering my giveaway and sharing what real food means to you - I really enjoyed reading all of your responses. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dinner at Cambridge Brewing Company

By now, most of you know how much Z and I love Cambridge Common and Lord Hobo. But one local microbrew spot I fail to frequent is Cambridge Brewing Company. After my most recent dinner there, however, that will change.

Z and I met some friends at CBC for dinner and drinks a few weeks ago, and I immediately fell in love with the cozy, family-friendly atmosphere. For a restaurant that's known for it's homemade beer, I was pleasantly surprised at how focused it was on sit-down dining (versus just being a "beer bar"), and how the menu embodied pub grub with a fresh, unique twist.

To start the meal off right, I ordered CBC's Great Pumpkin Ale (4.2% ABV).

The flavor of this beer isn't like those pumpkin beers that can be almost sickly sweet and chocked full of nutmeg. This beer tasted like how it was made - with fresh, real pumpkins. The flavor was reminiscent of traditional pumpkin beers, but without the unnecessary sweetness.

For an appetizer, the four of us split the Hand Cut Fry Basket ($5), which was topped with Romano cheese and sage, and served with pumpkin ketchup. 

The fries were delicious, and were clearly made from fresh potatoes (versus frozen). The tangy, slightly salty cheese also added a wonderful, additional flavor to the mix. The pumpkin ketchup, on the other hand, sounded intriguing - but it was nothing more than cold pumpkin puree. Regular tomato ketchup would have been a much better accompaniment to the fries.

For a meal, Z and I both got the Autumn White Bean and Barley Burger ($11), which was meant to be topped with local squash, kale and cranberry herb mayo served on Biga Harvest Bread, with a house-brewed 1/2 sour pickle. For sides, we had our choices of French fries or mixed greens, and we both went for the greens.

The burger itself was a unique, well-seasoned twist on your average veggie burger, but was missing the kale and local squash. While I loved the addition of the locally-made bun, I missed the veggies that would have really made this burger something special.

Overall, our meal (and brews) at CBC were good, although when I pay $11 for a burger, I do expect it to come as it's described on the menu. The atmosphere, friendly service and local brews will keep me coming back for more, though.

What's your favorite spot in the Boston area to enjoy a glass of beer (or two)?

P.S. Don't forget to enter my giveaway for The Real Food Diet cookbook! You have until midnight tonight to enter.

Cambridge Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 6, 2010

'The Real Food Diet' Cookbook Giveaway

Courtesy of
Let's start the week with a giveaway, shall we?

Do you know what real food is? With all of the highly processed, dangerous foods on the grocery store shelves today, it's hard to know what's real and what's not real anymore. Dr. Josh Axe's cookbook, The Real Food Diet, strives to teach people how to eat healthy, real food with approachable recipes, including soups/stews, salads, main courses, side dishes, smoothies and desserts.

Dr. Josh Axe is a physician, speaker and radio show host - and was even named one of Nashville, Tenn.'s Most Beautiful People in 2010 (how could I not mention that?). His hardcover cookbook contains color photos of almost every recipe, plus over 50 pages on advanced nutrition, cooking, and even shopping tips. Most of the recipes also include icons to show if they're good for your immune system, a post-workout snack/meal, inflammation/arthritis pain, low energy and more.  

Recipes that I am dying to make in this book: Lori's Famous Banana Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies, Greek Style Lamb & Quinoa, and Pumpkin Blueberry Pancakes.

Want to a win a copy of Dr. Josh Axe's The Real Food Diet cookbook? Leave a comment here on what "real food" means to you. I will pick a winner Thursday morning!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Tomato, Arugula and Garlic & Herb Pizza

Earlier this week, I had a very long, tiring day at work. By the time I got home, I was actually in the mood to cook, but wanted to make something simple and comforting. I stopped in at Trader Joe's and immediately spotted Garlic & Herb Pizza Dough for 99 cents - and dinner was founded.

Let's be honest: I can't roll out fresh pizza dough to save my life (does anyone else have this problem?). However, I love the taste and texture of fresh dough, and the price tag isn't that bad either. 

To go with the dough, I picked up some plump grape tomatoes and arugula. The end result: Tomato, Arugula and Garlic & Herb Pizza.

This "recipe" was so simple, there's really no point in listing it out in proper recipe format. So, here's what I did: 

1.)I put a good few handfuls of grape tomatoes in the food processor with a little bit of olive oil, salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper. I pulsed the tomatoes until they had the consistency of a chunky salsa. 
2.) Then, I rolled out the dough on a floured cutting board and spread the tomato mixture over the dough. 
3.) I topped the tomatoes with shredded cheddar cheese, sprinkled some pizza seasoning and Italian seasoning on top, and then placed a generous handful of arugula on everything. 
4.) I placed the pizza in the oven on a lightly greased sheet at 425* for about 10 to 12 minutes (because my dough was thicker - I'd cook it for 6 to 8 minutes for thinner dough). 

That's it! Dinner was served.

The end result was comforting, familiar-tasting pizza with a fresh, slightly spicy twist. The garlic and herb crust also added an additional flavor that was earthy and consistently flavorful.

What's your favorite meal to have after a long day of work?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Recap of the Signpost Launch Party

On Tuesday evening, Signpost held their launch party at The Green Briar in Brighton, Mass. The event served complimentary Magner's cider, Mix Bakery cupcakes and a variety of hot appetizers.

Fried chicken bites and cheesy meatballs.

Potatoes, chicken and pigs-in-a-blanket.

Mix Bakery's addicting cupcakes.

Signpost is a new local deal site that is "community-powered." The site aims to share all of the great deals that already exist around Boston including lunch deals, happy hour specials, free events and tastings. The goal of the site is to compile local folks' favorite deals in Boston in one central place so that people can easily search and browse them. The content is user generated, and people vote on deals that they like so that the most popular deals are easy to find.

The event Tuesday night included a gathering of local bloggers and those simply interested in learning more about Signpost. To be honest, there didn't seem to be much interaction between Signpost and the attendees, but it was a great event with some delicious food, and I love Signpost's mission to let people share their favorite local deals with those in their own community.

At the event, I was also fortunate enough to see some of my favorite local bloggers, including FionaKatieDaisy, and Melissa. I also got to meet some other local favorites such as TaniaMichelle and Jacki.

Would you use a site like Signpost to peruse local deals in Boston? Why or why not?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Anna's Taqueria's Year-Long Customer Appreciation Event

Courtesy of Anna's marketing.
I always love when a restaurant shows how much they appreciate their customers.

In honor of their 15th anniversary, Anna's Taqueria is giving back to their customers - but not just for one day. No, these appreciative folks are celebrating for the entire year.

“We are truly grateful for our customers’ enthusiasm for and devotion to Anna’s, and wanted to use this major milestone to celebrate them,” said Mike Kamio, founder of Anna’s. “They are always surprising us with their stories, inventing events like the Anna’s Half Marathon and even getting married after meeting in our stores. (yes, we catered the engagement party!). We wouldn’t be celebrating our 15th without our loyal customers, so we’re celebrating with them.”

From now through July 2011, all of Anna’s six locations will offer free food on the 15th day of each month. Complimentary treats may include Jarritos Mexican juice, chips and salsa, tacos, a specialty Horchata Mexican fountain drink, authentic Mexican coffee, and more.

In addition to the free eats, Anna's will also be holding a year-long story contest asking guests to submit their favorite memories of the Mexican eatery. In July 2011, Anna's judges will select the top 15 finalists and post their stories on Anna's website. The public will then vote for their favorite and one winning story will be selected. The prize: An at-home burrito party for 50, equipped with Anna's T-shirts and hats for the winner. To submit an entry visit\15.

Will you enter Anna's story contest, or at least take advantage of the free food over the next few months?