Tuesday, September 21, 2010

From Our Table: A Sweet Taste of Fall

Fall is here and so are soul satisfying foods. Nothing says comfort food like a pumpkin dessert! Here is a delicious recipe for Pumpkin Whoopie pies. Even better, the cakes are held together with maple cream cheese frosting. Yummm!

Ingredients for Cake
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups CHILLED pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Make the cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and spices; set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the sugars and oil until creamy. Whisk in the chilled pumpkin until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Flavor with vanilla.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the batter, making sure everything is well combined. But do not overmix!

Drop heaping tablespoons of batter onto prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Transfer to oven and bake until cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of each cookie comes out clean, about 12 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.

Ingredients for maple cream cheese filling
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup room temperature unsalted butter
8 oz room temperature cream cheese
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla

Make the filling: Beat the butter until smooth.Add cream cheese and beat until well combined. Add powdered sugar and vanilla, beat just until smooth. (Filling can be made up to a day in advance. Cover and refrigerate; let stand at room temperature to soften before using.)

Assemble the whoopie pies: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Transfer filling to a disposable pastry bag and snip the end. When cookies have cooled completely, pipe a large dollop of filling on the flat side of half of the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies, pressing down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edge of the cookies. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate cookies at least 30 minutes before serving and up to 3 days.

This recipe makes about 16 whoopie pies. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Delicious Patriotism

Delicious any day of the year, these cupcakes are the perfect dessert to serve at your fourth of July cookout.

3 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 lemon peel, finely grated

Preheat oven to 350F.

Line two 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda into large bowl.

Whisk melted butter and oil in medium bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk, milk, vanilla extract, and peel; whisk to blend.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Whisk just to blend. Divide batter among liners.

Bake cupcakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to racks, cool before frosting.

Frosting is so simple! In a mixer, combine 16 ounces of mascarpone cheese with ½ cup powdered sugar. Blend until creamy.

To turn these everyday cupcakes into a patriotic treat, garnish with blueberries and strawberries.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Boston's Top Outdoor Eateries

I love cooking but every once in a while, on a steamy summer night, all I want is for someone else to work over the hot stove. During the summer months there are lots of restaurants that accommodate outdoor dining, which is my favorite way to feast. Here are Boston's top restaurants with water views, side walk patios, green gardens, and roof top terraces. Don’t forget to check which restaurants have heat lamps and fire pits for those chilly New England nights.

Roof Top Dining
Blu Restaurant
Perched on the fourth floor at the Ritz Carlton in Downtown Crossing, the modern, metropolitan roof top patio is great for enjoying urban outdoor dining.

Thanks to the high wooden fence, comfy patio furniture and plenty of greenery, the rooftop dining area at dbar has a cozy backyard feel.

Poe’s Kitchen
The roof deck, outdoor bar and full menu makes the Rattlesnake at Poe’s kitchen one of the most popular summer dining spots in Boston.

Ocean Views
606 Congress
Head down to the Renaissance Boston Hotel in the Seaport District to dine on contemporary American cuisine while cooling off with the crisp sea breeze.

Rowes Wharf Sea Grille
Situated in the Boston Harbor Hotel, Rowes Wharf Sea Grille is the perfect spot to enjoy seaside dining in the heart of the city. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The sophisticated but casual stone terrace at Sensing’s is the ideal setting to enjoy seasonal and lighter fare by the harbor.

Rain or Shine
Bistro 44
Located at the Doubletree Bedford Glen Hotel, Bistro 44 boasts a beautifully landscaped stone patio, with giant umbrellas to provide shelter from the afternoon sun and a fire pit for New England’s cooler nights.

The South End’s premiere outdoor eatery showcases a plant-lined, bricked patio. At brunch catch some sun or cool off in the shade under big umbrellas. During dinner hours, ask the waiter to fire up the heat lamps to chase away the chill.

The patio at Harvest is as close to an urban garden in the center of Harvard Square as you’ll get. Lush green trees and oversized umbrellas offer plenty of shade during lunch hours, and powerful heat lamps are on hand for the unexpected cool summer evening.

Green Gardens
For an authentic Provencal experience, the patio at Miel’s is surrounded by fragrant greens like basil, rosemary, thyme and lavender. Enjoy a meal overlooking the promenade, the Intercontinental gardens, and Fort Point Channel.

Aka Bistro
Secure one of the 28 seats in the outdoor dining area, at one of the wrought-iron, umbrella-topped tables, and enjoy your meal overlooking the manicured lawns along Lincoln Road.

Located in the heart of the Financial District, seats on the terrace overlook the Norman Leventhal Park. Seats are available Thursday through Saturday on a first come, first served basis, weather permitting.

People watch on the patio
Kingfish Hall
Faneuil Hall is full of tourists in the summer months, but locals know the best place to eat is at Kingfish Hall. Enjoy Todd English's praised menu on an umbrella covered, mosaic topped patio table.

Om Restaurant |Lounge
Located in the middle of Harvard Square, this tranquil outdoor dining area is adorned with
sandstone wall figures from Northern Thailand, and Nepali hand-carved woodwork.

Stephanie’s on Newbury
If you love to people watch, Stephanie’s in Boston’s Back Bay claims the best sidewalk seating on swanky Newbury Street. Exhausted shoppers can take in the high-energy scene while refueling with Stephanie’s tasty comfort food.

Find some quiet in the city
Henrietta’s Table
Overlooking the plaza at the Charles Hotel, this Harvard Square eatery is removed enough to be a relaxing, quiet spot to enjoy farm fresh eats.

Olean’s lush, flower-filled patio is one of Cambridge’s favorite outdoor dining spaces. Enjoy award-winning chef Ana Sortun’s al fresco fare while escaping from the bustle of the city.

Stanhope Grille
Located at the Back Bay Hotel, Stanhope Grille’s expansive, stone terrace is located just below street level, offering patrons a cool and removed spot to enjoy their dinner.

Special Occasions
La Voile
La Voile channels its homeland with its authentic menu and informally elegant outdoor dining area. Guests will think they are dining on the French Riveria and not on Newbury Street.

Located in the South End, Masa’s intimate sidewalk patio offers patrons southwestern-inspired fare among a handful of candlelit two tops.

City goers looking for after dinner entertainment should head to Pigalle’s outdoor patio, which is in walking distance of the bright lights of the Theater District.

Monday, June 7, 2010

From our Table: One Pot Wonder

I love seafood, especially in the summer. Last night for a gathering we made Cioppino and it was a definite crowd pleaser. It's a one pot meal and can feed a large crowd; so invite all your friends over and serve this for dinner tonight.

Cioppino is a fish stew originating in San Francisco and derived from the various regional fish soups and stews of Italian cuisine. Cioppino is traditionally made from the catch of the day, so there’s no right or wrong combination of fish to make this dish.

My one suggestion is to buy seafood that’s not overly delicate. Firm fish like haddock, red snapper, salmon and wild striped bass usually work well. Clams, mussels, shrimp, lobster, squid and scallops are fantastic additions to this recipe too.

Although not completely traditional (I add meat to mine!), here is my favorite version of Cioppino.

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 shallots, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups dry white wine
2 cups shrimp stock or vegetable stock
2 cups canned plum tomatoes, pureed
1 tablespoon honey
Few dashes hot sauce
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds haddock, cut into 2-inch squares
32 scallops
32 Mussels
32 littleneck clams
2 links of spicy Chorizo sausage, sliced
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves

Lightly oil the bottom of a Dutch oven and place over medium heat. Saute the haddock, scallops and chorizo until golden brown on each side. Do Not Cook All The Way Through. Remove from pan and set aside.

To the Dutch oven, add the shallots and garlic and cook until soft. Deglaze the pan with a splash of wine.

Once the pan is deglazed, add the remainder of the wine and cook until reduced by 3/4. Add the stock, tomatoes, honey, hot sauce, bay leaf and thyme and bring to a simmer. Add the clams and mussels, cover the pot, and continue cooking until the shellfish have opened, discarding any that have not opened.

Remove the shellfish with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. Bring the cooking liquid to a boil and cook until reduced by half. Whisk in the butter and parsley and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Place all the seafood back into the broth just to warm. Serve immediately.

Serves 8

The best way sop up the broth is with sourdough croutons. If you have a bread maker it's worth making your own bread for this, if not, a store-bought sourdough will do just fine.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 loaf sourdough, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat butter and oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the bread cubes and thyme, toss to coat, and then transfer to a baking sheet, spreading in an even layer. Bake until golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes, turning once.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

From Our Table: Curried Cauliflower Stew

In most parts of the country, families aren't gathering around the dinner table to enjoy a warm bowl of stew in May. But that's exactly what we're doing for dinner tonight as New England fluctuates between balmy and rainy.

Put the grill away for now and enjoy this delicious curry recipe, which is so full of flavor and spice that it is guaranteed to warm any stomach on a chilly night.

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Large onion, finely chopped
2 Large garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 Teaspoons curry powder
1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/8 Teaspoon Turmeric
1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne
1 Large Cauliflower, cut into medium sized florets
1 Potato, peeled and cubed
1 16-ounce bag spinach, washed and de-stemmed
2 15 ½-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 10-ounce cans diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk

Heat oil in large skillet over high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the curry powder, cinnamon, turmeric and cayenne; stir 30 seconds. Add the cauliflower and potato; stir 3 minutes. Add the chickpeas, diced tomatoes with chilies, and coconut milk; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer gently until cauliflower and potato are tender and liquid thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, about 18-20 minutes. At the last minute, add the spinach and cook until tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Nate likes to top his curry off with Sriracha, making it nice and spicy...though he would put Sriracha on just about anything!

Serves 6. Best served over Quick Indian Spiced Rice, see recipe below

1 ½ Cups Basmati Rice
3 ½ Cups vegetable stock or water
2 Tablespoons butter or oil
1 Small onion, chopped
2 Cloves garlic, chopped
1 Teaspoon Curry powder
½ Teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ Teaspoon Turmeric

Place the butter or oil in a medium saucepan and warm slowly. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon and turmeric. Cook, stirring very frequently, until the spices are fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the rice all at once, and stir until the rice is coated with the oil and spices.

Add the liquid, all at once. Bring liquid to a boil. Turn heat down to low, cover and cook rice for 12-15 minutes. Rice should be tender and all the liquid should be absorbed. Serve warm.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

From Our Table: Time to Fiesta!

With Cinco De Mayo only days away, I thought I'd share with you our favorite Mexican inspired dishes. Mexican cuisine has become a staple in our diet after honeymooning in the Riveria Maya. Having tried to reconstruct our most memorable meals at home, we created these recipes. Although nothing can compare to the authentic meals we had on vacation, these recipes take us back to the mystical ruins and beautiful beaches of Mexico.

Here are two entrees that serve a group of 6, choose one to host your own Cinco De Mayo party. The dessert goes well with either entrée (or by itself!!!!!)

Plantain and Avocado Quesadillas
If you’ve never eaten a plantain you’re in for a treat. Most grocery stores carry Green (unripe), Yellow (medium ripe) and Black (fully ripe) plantains. For this recipe I prefer the green or yellow plantains. The difference lies in the level of sweetness. The more ripe the plantain, the sweeter it is.

The skin of a plantain is tougher than a regular banana. To unpeel a plantain, cut off both ends. Make a long slice in the skin from one end of the plantain to the other. Peel off the skin in one piece.

Plantains often need to be double fried to be cooked to perfection. The first fry cooks the plantain, while the second is used to acquire a nice golden brown exterior.

1 Cup vegetable oil
3 Plantains, peeled and cut on the bias into 1 inch thick slices
3 Ripe Hass avocados, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
1 (15.5 Ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (8 Ounce) bag shredded Mexican cheese blend
1 Package (8 inch/medium) flour tortillas
½ Teaspoon cumin
½ Teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ Teaspoon garlic powder
2 Tablespoons lime or lemon juice
Pinch sea salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 200F.

Heat the oil in a heavy medium saucepan until hot but not smoking. Carefully add the plantains, in batches as necessary, and cook until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Let cool.

In the meantime, prepare guacamole. In a mixing bowl, add the cumin, cayenne pepper, sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder and lime juice to the avocados. Mix until combined, leaving guacamole chunky.

Now that the plantains are cooled, flatten the rounds using a plantain press, or the back of a fork. Be careful not to rip the plantain. Return the flattened plantain sections to the hot oil, and cook until entire surface is golden brown, approximately another 2-3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate to drain and cool. Immediately season rounds with a pinch of salt and a sprinkle of lime juice.

Assemble the quesadillas by placing one tortilla in a pan over medium low heat. Warm both sides, approximately 1 minute per side.

Cover entire tortilla with cheese. On one half, cover with black beans. Leaving space between the two halves (so you can close the tortilla!), cover the remaining side with plantains, followed by guacamole.

After 2-3 minutes the cheese should be melted and the tortillas should be warm and light golden brown. Fold the tortilla in half. Place finished quesadillas onto a baking sheet and keep warm in a 200F oven, until entire batch is made and ready to serve.

Fish Tacos
You can't have a mexican fiesta without fresh fish, or taco's for that matter. Combine the two in this delicious recipe. Salmon, Halibut, Mahi Mahi and Tilapia are all viable options for this dish.

1 ½ Cups fresh corn kernels (use thawed, frozen corn if necessary)
2 Large vine ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
2 Hass avocados peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
6 Tablespoons finely chopped red onions
1 (8 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 Large garlic clove, finely minced
1/4 Teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 Teaspoon cumin
¼ Cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
Pinch sea salt and black pepper
4 (6-ounce) fish fillets, skin still on
½ Cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
Pinch sea salt and black pepper

1 Package (6 inch/small) tortillas, warmed

In a glass baking dish, add the olive oil and lime juice, whisk to combine. Add the fish to the baking dish, making sure to have seasoned both sides with salt and pepper. Let marinate 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the salsa. In a large mixing bowl, add the corn, tomatoes, avocados, onions, black beans, and cilantro.

To make the dressing, combine the olive oil, lime juice, garlic, pinch salt and pepper. Whisk to combine. Pour over salsa and set aside to let flavors marry.

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Add the fish to the grill, skin side down, and cook until the skin is crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn and cook until the fish is opaque about 4 minutes, depending upon the thickness of the fillets. Break fish into bite sized pieces.

To assemble, add fish and salsa to the warm tortilla's.

Mexican Brownies
Any chocolate treat can be turned into a Mexican delight by adding cayenne pepper and cinnamon to it. Here is our version of Mexican brownies. Feel free to kick up your chocolate cookies, cake, and hot cocoa using this recipe.

1 Box of your favorite dark chocolate brownie mix
¼ Teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 Teaspoon ground Mexican cinnamon

Prepare brownie mix as indicated on box. Add spices to batter. Bake as directed.

It’s that simple!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Table Talk: 22 Green Fixes For Your Kitchen

The eco-friendly kitchen begins with eating green, but it doesn’t end there. Incorporating energy-efficient food preparation and cleaning habits, using equipment made from sustainable materials, and dodging toxic chemicals are also important. Here are some tips I’ve found that anyone can utilize.

1. Use your dishwasher: Repeated studies show that modern dishwashers (those made since 1994) get dishes cleaner than hand-washing and use less water, but only if you run them when they're full. You get bonus eco-points when you skip rinsing your dishes in the sink, use a Phosphate and Chlorine free detergent and let your dishes air dry instead of opting for the heated drying cycle.

2. Buy a fridge thermometer: A fridge thermometer lets you set the temperature just right and avoid using too much electricity. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the thermometer should read between 36˚F and 38˚F for the fridge and 0˚F and 5˚F for the freezer.

3. Stop buying bottled water:  Surprisingly, bottled water is subject to far fewer federal safety regulations than what comes out of your faucet. Not to mention, Americans throw away an estimated 24 billion empty water bottles into the trash each year. To reduce this waste, first switch to good old tap water. If you don’t like the taste, invest in an inexpensive carbon filtration system, such as those made by Brita or Pur. Secondly, buy a reusable water bottle. There are hundreds of models to pick from that are BPA-free, spill-proof, durable, stylish, and easy to clean.

4. Reuse your sponge: There are many ways you can reuse your kitchen sponge. The benefits are saving you money, and keeping fewer sponges out of landfills longer. 1. Toss it in a small pot of boiling water for five minutes, 2. Place the very wet sponge in the microwave for one minute on the highest setting, 3. Place the sponge on the top rack in your dishwasher. Run the dishwasher as usual for a complete washing, rinsing and drying cycle. *Warning, sponge will be hot! Use caution.

5. Replace your light bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL): The secret to switching to CLFs is to pick the right bulb for the job. Color for CFL bulbs is measured in Kelvins; the number is often on the package. The cool, white light in the 3500K–4100K range is bright enough to mince garlic by but not so glaring to make your feel like you're working in a hospital cafeteria. Look for "instant-on" bulbs, too, which reduce the annoying amount of time it can take for them to reach their full brightness. And whenever possible, use natural light to brighten up your kitchen and bring down your electrical bill.

6. Adopt Meatless Monday: Scads of health studies show that the less meat we eat, the lower our risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and certain cancers. What most consumers don't know is that the worldwide production of meat contributes to a host of environmental ills, from habitat destruction to global warming. Try incorporating a Meatless Monday into your household. Find recipes online at http://www.vegetariantimes.com/, http://www.epicurious.com/, and http://www.foodnetwork.com/.

7. Buy organic when possible: In a perfect world everything we ate would be sustainably grown and pesticide free. But practically speaking, few of us can afford to go all organic, all the time. If you've got to pick and choose, start with the Environmental Working Group's list of produce that typically are laden with the most pesticides and buy the organic versions of those fruits and veggies. Download the full guide at http://www.foodnews.org/.

8. A green kitchen is a clean kitchen: Generations of TV ads have convinced us that unless it smells like pine trees or lemons, it's not clean. But synthetic fragrances are just one of the dozens of chemical hazards found in commercial cleaners. For a greener alternative to your conventional all-purpose spray cleaner, try this instead: Mix 1/2 teaspoon washing soda (find it in the laundry aisle), 1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap and 2 cups hot water, and pour into a spray bottle. You can also clean your counters and hand-wash dishes with white vinegar and baking soda. If you’re not up for making your own concoction, invest in eco-friendly cleaners such as Seventh Generation, Begley's Best, and Ecover.

9. Don't bug out: Keeping a clean kitchen is, of course, the best way to avoid ever having to reach for a can of toxic bug killer, but even the most diligent of us have had the occasional encounter with the stray cockroach or ant. Before you go scurrying for the spray, check out Better Basics for the Home by Annie Berthold-Bond, which is chockfull of eco-friendly pest control alternatives. For example, sprinkling natural diatomaceous earth, available at many local garden-supply stores, in nooks and crannies can kill and repel roaches.

10. Recycle! I know you've heard this one before, but according to the EPA, Americans still send 75 % of trash that could be recycled into landfills. It's ridiculously easy to figure out just what you can put into your curbside recycling bin or what the other recycling options are in your area -- just go to http://www.earth911.com/ and enter your zip code.

11. B.Y.O.B: Bags that is....Don't contribute to the estimated 100 billion plastic grocery bags that end up in garbage dumps and oceans annually. Acquiring a reusable grocery bag is simple! Many grocery stores are now selling their own and you can find super chic styles on the internet.

12. Save the trees: Whole forests are mowed down in the name of super absorbency. Instead of using paper towels, tackle everyday spills with washable rags or sponges instead, and switch to cloth napkins on the table. Then keep a roll of 100-percent recycled paper towels on hand for emergencies. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, if every household kitchen in the U.S. replaced just one roll with a 100-percent recycled one, we'd save more than half a million trees. Find NRDC's list of forest-friendly towels at http://www.nrdc.org/land/forests/gtissue.asp.

13. Cook smart: No matter whether you're cooking on an old gas stove or a brand-new induction range, there are a few simple ways you can use less energy. Always cover pots when you're bringing water to boil and when you're cooking (unless the recipe specifically states otherwise), match the size of your pan to the size of the heating coil, and reheat leftovers on the stovetop or in the microwave (as opposed to in the oven).

14. Give your veggies a bath, not a shower: Instead of rinsing your produce under a running faucet (at two or more gallons of water down the drain per minute), just fill a bowl with a couple inches of water and use a vegetable brush.

15. Buy local: The food you bring in to your kitchen is just as important as the gadgets and appliances you have there, so buy local whenever you can. Food miles have risen near the top of eco-friendly food considerations, and the fewer miles from farm to table the better. Whenever possible, join a community supported agriculture (CSA) co-op, or purchase your produce directly from farmers themselves.

16. Bulk up: Buy in bulk and cook in bulk; just make sure you can consume what you purchase and produce! (See Waste Not, Want Not below for more details on that). Purchasing from the bulk bins mean less packaging and fewer trips to the store. Bulk cooking is a more efficient use of appliance energy and your time, and in many circumstances it saves you money!

17. Curb the waste: On average, the kitchen generates the most waste of any room in your house, but fear not, it’s not as hard as it may seem to cut back on waste. Step one: refuse excessive packaging by taking your own bags (see above), buying fresh, unwrapped produce, and thinking carefully about how the purchases you're making are wrapped up. Step two: avoid over-sized portions; if you are regularly throwing food away then you are buying and cooking too much. Step three: reuse what you can, like old glass jars or bottles, grocery bags, and packaging you can't avoid. Step four: compost any uncooked organic waste (including cardboard and paper). Don't worry if you dont have a garden, there are many options to compost indoors.

18. Grow your own herbs: Popular herbs such as parsley, basil and rosemary are pretty easy to grow. All you need are a few pots and some potting soil. Starting with plants instead of seeds makes it even easier, and you can often pick up starter plants at your local nursery for less than what the same fresh herbs would cost at the grocery store. No yard or window box? There are many indoor garden kits available.

Bonus eco-points for growing your own fruits and vegetables too!

19. Think small: Small appliances use less energy for specialized cooking jobs than big electric appliances. Rice cookers, toaster ovens, electric slow cookers, and pressure cookers all consume less energy than your stove or oven.

20. Get creative: There's no need to waste gas on an entire trip to the store just to pick up that one ingredient you forgot. Find a list of emergency ingredient substitutions at Joy of Baking.com

21. Make It Last: Choose cookware and utensils that stand the test of time and won’t have to be thrown away with your leftover casserole. That means you gotta ditch the Teflon. While the debate about the health hazards of non-stick surfaces continues, there is no doubt that it has a limited useful life. Go for stainless steel, cast iron, or GreenPans instead. GreenPans are PFOA- and PTFE-free, and release 50% less greenhouse gases during production.

Likewise, choose sturdy utensils rather than cheap ones; low-quality wooden spoons, for example, can rot, and plastic will melt if you leave it on the stove too long. Buy high-quality knives that you can sharpen by hand, and use long-lasting cloth towels instead of paper.

22. Love Your Appliances: Even the greenest folks need to upgrade or replace. If you are in the market for a new kitchen, first try to salvage antiques, such as kitchen fittings, floors, paneling, and cabinets. Also try and repair some of your appliances before throwing them away. If you’re trading things out, be sure to offer them on Freecycle or Craigslist before kicking them to the curb.

If reclaimed materials won't do the job for you, there are plenty of green options for new materials too. Green countertops made of recycled paper, to bamboo and cork flooring -- be sure to do your homework about the options available and their environmental impact since energy-efficiency upgrades are coming fast and furious to many new appliances. Do your research at EnergyStar to find a sturdy model that will last the test of time.

Have a low budget for that new kitchen? The best appliances you can buy are ultimately ones you plan on living with for at least a decade or more, which will save on materials and resources from a manufacturing standpoint.

Monday, April 19, 2010

From Our Table: S'Mores Cake

Everyone loves S'mores. Whether traditionally cooked over a camp fire, or transformed into a more complex dessert, it's always a crowd favorite. Here is our unique interpretation of the gooey classic....S'Mores Cake! The first layer is made up of a buttery graham cracker crust, the middle is an incredibly moist chocolate cake, and toasted marshmallows top the whole thing off. Enjoy!

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
20 Crushed graham crackers
3 Tablespoons sugar
Pinch fine salt

2 Cups plus 2 T sugar
1 3/4 Cups all purpose flour
3/4 Cups plus 1 T cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
1 1/2 Teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 Teaspoons baking soda
1 Teaspoon salt
2 Large eggs
1 Cup whole milk
1/2 Cup vegetable oil
2 Teaspoons vanilla extract
1 Cup boiling water

Large marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350F

Sift the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix until well combined.

In another bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Add to flour mixture and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape and continue mixing for another 2 minutes. Add boiling water and stir to combine. Let batter sit

Place graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter in a large bowl, stir until well combined.

Place crumb mixture into bottom of 9 1/2 inch spring form pan. Bake for 5 minutes. Once nice and golden brown, fill 3/4 full with batter. Return to oven to bake, rotating pan halfway. Approximately 45 minutes total.

Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes (so the marshmallows don't melt on the cake!)

Once cool, carefully position a rack about 6 inches from the broiler and preheat on low. Layer marshmallows across the top and toast under the broiler until golden, (keep an eye on it, it can go quick), about 1-2 minutes.

Let cake rest 5-10 minutes, then serve with a nice tall glass of cold milk.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

From Our Table: Impress Your Guests

I know I said it's possible to eat well on a budget but we all need to splurge once in a while. Date nights, birthdays and anniversaries are just the time to do so. Here is a recipe that will always excite your guests: Indulgent Surf and Turf, served on a bed of roasted garlic mashed potatoes and topped with a lemon infused arugula salad.

The Surf
4 Lobster tails, already cooked and out of the shell
1 Stick of salted butter
1 Teaspoon of freshly chopped thyme leaves
Pinch Salt and Pepper

Season the lobster meat with salt, to taste, and set aside.

In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine the butter and fresh thyme leaves. Once the butter is melted, add the lobster meat. Sauté for 3 minutes or until warmed through.

The Turf
4 (8 ounce) Filets mignons
1 Large shallot, minced
1 Cup red wine
1 Teaspoon rosemary
3 Tablespoons butter
Pinch Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 425 F.

In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over high heat. Season the filets mignons with salt and pepper and add to the hot pan. Sear on both sides until browned nicely, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Finish cooking filets mignons in the oven. Four minutes for medium rare. Remove from oven and let rest.

To make the red wine shallot sauce, add the shallot to the drippings and cook over medium heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and rosemary and scrape up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half and slightly syrupy, about 7 minutes; remove from the heat. Whisk in the butter, one piece at a time, to make a glossy sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon sauce over filet mignons.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
4 Large Potatoes of your choice (I like to keep mine whole so they don't lose their nutrients during the cooking process)
1 Tablespoon salted butter
3/4 Cup heavy cream
1 Head Roasted Garlic, pulp removed
Pinch Salt and Pepper

Combine the potatoes and 1 teaspoon of salt in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cover the potatoes with water and cook until fork tender, about 30 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, warm the heavy cream in a small saucepan over low heat.

Once fork tender, return the potatoes to the pan and stir them with a fork or wire whisk for about 2 minutes to dehydrate them. Add the warm cream and garlic pulp. Stir to incorporate well. Season with salt and pepper.

Arugula salad
2 ½ Ounces fresh arugula
¼ Cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon of lemon juice
Pinch of salt, pepper and parmesan cheese

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Drizzle the dressing on top of the arugula. Toss until well mixed. Add parmesan cheese to taste.

To serve, form ¼ of the potatoes into a circle, in the center of each plate. Place one lobster tail and one filet, along with its accompanying sauce, on top of the potatoes. Mound the arugula on top of the lobster and filet. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Serves 4

Monday, April 12, 2010

Table Talk: Move Over Vanilla, There Are New Flavor's In Town

With the sun finally deciding to come out of hibernation, I’m starting to look forward to my favorite warm-weather treat: Ice cream. If you’re like me and you're tired of vanilla and chocolate, read below to find new and unusual ice cream flavors that are popping up nationwide. Here you will find nearby shops located specifically on the East Coast, though the West Coast has their fair share of charisma, with prosciutto ice cream becoming increasingly popular.

Christina's Homemade Ice Creams, Cambridge MA
Although the majority of Christina’s nearly 100 flavors are a bit unique, the most unusual item you’ll find on their menu is the Adzuki Bean ice cream. A popular legume in Japan, adzuki bean isn't widely used over here in the states, but it seems to be a big hit in frozen form, even surpassing ginger and green tea in popularity among Massachusetts residents.

Other great flavors to try include Fresh Rose, Mascarpone, Fig, Lychee Nut and Honey Lavender

Ben & Bill's Chocolate Emporium, Bar Harbor ME
People in Maine love their lobster. So much so they even added it their ice cream. Real bits of lobster are mixed into creamy vanilla ice cream to provide a salty and sweet summer treat.

If you’re not much of a seafood fan, there are plenty of other flavors that will appeal to you, including several versions of chocolate, Macadamia Coconut and Peppermint Stick.

Max & Mina's, Flushing NY
One of the first ice cream shops to muster up the courage to try new and unusual flavors is Max & Mina’s. Safe to say they had a part in reigniting NY’s passion for ice cream and providing other shops the confidence to look outside their vanilla colored boxes.

If you love condiments, you’ll want to order their sour cream, ketchup or horseradish ice creams. Perhaps you loved the flavors of Maine, and would like to give Lox, Herring or Gefilte fish a chance. Other unusual but oddly delicious flavors include Garlic, Merlot, Pizza and Corn on the Cob.

Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, somewhere in NY
Although the BGICT serves delicious ice cream such as Dulce de Leche and Nilla Wafer, it’s the unusual toppings that are the real treat. Who wouldn’t want to add bacon, sea salt & olive oil, cayenne pepper or wasabi pea dust to kick up their frozen treat? The only downside is trying to pin down the elusive ice cream truck. The best way to find them is via Twitter .

Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, New York, NY
The flavor that is causing the most buzz in Chinatown is Durian. Never heard of Durian? That's because most Americans do not possess the acquired taste necessary to ingest the notoriously stinky fruit. The unusual fruit has even made Bizarre Foods' Andrew Zimmern and Chefs vs. City hosts Aaron Sanchez and Chris Cosentino wretch a little.

If you’re daring enough to give it a try in frozen form, Chinatown Ice Cream Factory is the place for you. If that doesn’t satisfy your adventurous palette, you could always order Black sesame, Wasabi or Zen butter. If you want to try something a little safer, give the Avocado a try.

Annabelle's Natural Ice Cream, Portsmouth NH
Although the majority of flavors listed on Annabelle’s menu are standard, the pride they take in providing all natural, kosher products is admirable. The one flavor that stands out and illustrates their New England pride is the New Hampshire Pure Maple Walnut ice cream. It’s not a far out flavor but finding pure, locally produced maple syrup ice cream is something to talk about!

The Bent Spoon, Princeton NJ
The Bent Spoon is always scooping something new, exciting, and absurdly creative into the mouths of New Jersey residents. What patrons love most of all is their ability to incorporate seasonal ingredients into their menu. Most popular are the apple sorbet during the harvest, sweet potato ice cream by Thanksgiving, and Stout ice cream around St. Patrick's Day.

House favorites include Cardamom Ginger, Sour cream, Earl Grey and Vanilla Bourbon.

{Want to make your own frozen treat at home? Try this honey lavender ice cream from epicurious.com}

Friday, April 9, 2010

Table Talk: Fenway Park Adds New-Age And Vegetarian Options To Concessions

As Fenway Park, the historic home of the Boston Red Sox, gears up for it’s 100th Anniversary in 2012 there have been huge make-overs to every aspect of the park.

Seats were added to the Green Monster. Walkways were made more accessible. Bathrooms were updated and increased. But one of the things that has people talking are the new additions of vegetarian-friendly foods that will be sold during Sox games this season.

“We feel it is our obligation to make the ballpark as fan friendly as possible,” says Larry Luchino, Red Sox president and chief executive officer, in an interview with a local Boston mag.

Amarak, Fenway’s food provider, has added a veggie burger, a veggie dog, and a spinach and mozzarella Stromboli to the parks menus. Also, a renovated concession stand will feature new menu items, priced from $5- $7, such as fresh baked pizza from a brick oven, chicken parmesan, and meatball sandwiches.

“Fans are getting more diverse,” said David Freireic a spokesman for Amarak, in that same story. “In an effort to appeal to those various tastes and diets, we recognize the importance of expanding our menu to appeal to everyone.”

Thursday, April 8, 2010

From Our Table: Take 3

After creating "2 Great Meals for Under 20$" we ended up with some extra goat cheese and arugula in our refrigerator (the recipes serve four and we're only two after all).  For dinner tonight we decided to come up with a third recipe, giving you even more bang for your buck.

And the best part? It's very easy and similar to the first recipe, but the small change creates big flavor.

Just substitute the tomato in the original recipe for caramelized onions.  We used three medium onions, and cooked them in butter and brown sugar to create a sweetness that compliments the tangy goat cheese and peppery arugula perfectly.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

From Our Table: 2 Great Meals for Under $20

With the hardships the economy has brought upon us, it's crucial to save money where you can. However, it's also important to eat well and in the company of good friends and family. Here are two meals that meet all of the above requirements. Both recipes are delicious and can serve a group of four for under 20$.

Shopping List
1 lb box pasta of your choice 1.00$
11 oz log of goat cheese 4.99$
5 oz container of pre-washed arugula 2.99$
4 medium vine ripe tomatoes 2.50$ (or 2 tomatoes+1 pint cherry tomatoes, whatevers cheapest!)
8 oz bag of pizza cheese 1.69$
1 pre-made pizza dough 1.19$
Tomato sauce, canned or homemade 2.99$

Meal #1: Green, Red & White Pasta
In this dish, the Italian flag is represented in a trinity of cooking ingredients: The green color is provided by the arugula, which provides a nice peppery bite. The tomatoes, a staple in Italian cooking, are red and juicy, while the tangy white goat cheese sauce pulls the whole dish together.

1 lb pasta
2.5 oz arugula
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 Teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 Large clove of garlic
1/3 Cup goat cheese
1/3 Cup mayonnaise
1/2 Tablespoon whole milk or cream
1/2 Tablespoon lemon juice
Pinch salt, pepper, Italian seasoning

Place the garlic, goat cheese, mayonnaise, milk and lemon juice in a small food processor and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside until the pasta is ready.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, about 7-8 minutes (yes, the pasta is under-cooked at this point, but you’ll see why in a minute!)

Just before the pasta is ready, in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. When the oil is warm, add the tomatoes and cook until they begin to soften and release their juices. Season the tomatoes with red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning.

Ok here is the secret: Pasta is very absorbent. Cooking pasta in water is okay, but finishing the pasta in sauce is the best way to pack the most flavors into your dish. So drain your pasta and immerse it into the loose tomato sauce. Keeping the pan on medium heat, stir in the arugula and goat cheese sauce. Cook another minute or two, until the pasta is al dente. Serve warm.

Once the economy gets better and you have these ingredients on hand, finish the pasta with 1/3 cup parmesan cheese and 1 Tablespoon lemon oil.

Meal #2: Tomato, Goat cheese and Arugula Pizza
This recipe helps stretch your dollar by reusing ingredients from the shopping list. Getting double use from your ingredients is a plus, especially when it involves goat cheese.

1 store bought pizza dough
1 cup tomato sauce
4 oz pizza cheese
1/2 Cup crumbled goat cheese
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tomatoes, sliced
1 Teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 Large clove of garlic, minced
2.5 oz arugula
Pinch salt, pepper, Italian seasoning

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. When the oil is warm, add the sliced tomatoes and cook until they begin to soften. While the tomatoes cook, sprinkle on the garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 450°F. Roll out dough and place onto a pizza pan. Spoon tomato sauce over the dough, leaving ½-inch border. Sprinkle on the pizza cheese. Layer the sliced tomatoes, and crumbled goat cheese on top. Bake until the crust starts to brown and the cheese begins to melt, about 10-15 minutes.

At the last minute, scatter the arugula on top and bake 1-2 more minutes. (The arugula should not be cooked through, just slightly warmed). Cut and serve immediately.
And like the above recipe, best served with fresh parmesan cheese and a touch of lemon oil.

Monday, April 5, 2010

From Our Table: Spicy Vegetarian Stir-Fry

My wife is an amazing home cook and has agreed to let me post the recipes of our favorites meals on my blog.  I have done my best to recreate her recipes using common measurements, as she never uses anything but her natural talent and discerning senses to create our meals.  I hope I have done her justice and that you enjoy this recipe and the rest that are to follow.

1 Large Eggplant
1 Medium head of broccoli
2 Red bell peppers
½ lb Mushrooms
3 Tablespoons cooking oil
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
Pinch Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes
Fresh ginger, 1-inch piece peeled and minced
3 Large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 Cup low-sodium vegetable broth
6 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
¼ Teaspoon Sriracha Chili Sauce (feel free to use less or more depending on how spicy you like it!)
2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and then slice crosswise into wedges, no more than 1-inch wide. Cut the broccoli into medium sized florets and slice the red bell peppers and mushrooms into bite size pieces.

Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high flame and add the oils. When you see a slight smoke, add a layer of eggplant, stir-fry until seared and sticky, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the eggplant to a side platter and cook the remaining eggplant in the same manner, adding more oil, if needed.

After all the eggplant is out of the pan, add the broccoli. Cook broccoli halfway through before adding the peppers and mushrooms to the wok, stir-fry until seared.

Once all the vegetables are cooked, add the ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir fry for a minute until fragrant, do not brown. Add the broth and cook for another minute.

In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, cornstarch, and sriracha until the sugar and cornstarch are dissolved. Pour the soy sauce mixture into the wok and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 1-2 minutes. Put the vegetables back in the pan, tossing quickly, until the sauce is absorbed. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.

Serves 4

Best served warm over a big bowl of sticky rice (basic sticky rice recipe below).

2 Cups Short-grain rice
4 Cups water
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Teaspoon Salt

Wash rice until water runs clear; drain in a colander. Transfer rice to a pot or electric rice cooker and add water. Bring water to a boil. Simmer over low heat, allowing rice to steam for 15 minutes with the cover on at all times. Remove from heat and keep covered, allowing to steam for another 15 minutes.

Mix the rice vinegar, sugar and salt over low heat in a saucepan. Heat until sugar dissolves. With a wooden spoon, delicately fold vinegar mixture into rice. Serve warm.

Makes approximately 4 cups of sticky rice.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Table Talk: The New, Dangerous Science of Food

In a recent article by Andrew Schneider, AOL News Senior Public Health Correspondent, a potentially dangerous trend of food science is explained and discussed.

Nano-particles are apparently being widely used by many food manufacturers and shippers to “extend shelf-life” as well as “protect the color and flavor” of all kinds of food.

These nano-particles may be protecting the foods, but “hundreds of peer-reviewed studies have shown that nano-particles pose potential risks to human health -- and, more specifically, that when ingested can cause DNA damage that can prefigure cancer and heart and brain disease.”

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Table Talk: Join the Revolution!

The Food Revolution has begun here in the U.S. and it is being sparked by the same world renowned chef that inspired change in his home country England.

Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution chronicles the title chef’s endeavors as he attempts to bring healthy eating and living to Huntington, West Virginia. Oliver chose Huntington as the focus for this revolution because the city has recently been called the ‘unhealthiest city in America.’ The show debuted with a sneak peek, that aired on March 21, and continues with a 2-hour season premier on Friday, March 26 at 8 p.m. EST.

The idea for Food Revolution is a combination of Oliver’s U.K. series, Jaime’s Ministry of Food and Jaime’s School Dinners; Dinners saw Oliver’s grass-roots efforts to improve school lunches in communities in England and the impact from these shows resulted in a total overhaul of the school dinner program in the U.K. Food Revolution hopes to bring this great change to the U.S.

In 2002, Oliver created the Fifteen Foundation which annually chooses 15 young adults who have a disadvantaged background, criminal record, or history of drug abuse and trains them in the restaurant business. Fifteen restaurants have opened in London, Newquay, Amsterdam, and Melbourne.

Oliver hopes that Food Revolution will help bring a necessary change to the United States as a whole, even though his work starts at the school level.

“There’s an incredible community in Huntington, and I want this experience to be a celebration of what we can achieve when people come together,” says Oliver on ABC.com. “Wonderful stories will unfold in Huntington, and hopefully this will inspire the rest of the States.”

To pledge your support of Jaime's Food Revolution, follow this link to sign the petition.