Tuesday, June 14, 2011

One door closes....

For obvious reasons I never get into too much detail of my personal life on the blog.  I love you guys but you never know who is reading this.

That being said, I think you guys should get to hear the good and bad of what is going on in my life.

The life of a blogger is not all food fests and baking experiments (could you imagine though if it was!!).  This past week has been a tough one for me (yes I know it is only Tuesday....). One door has closed in a corner of my life that I wasn't really prepared for.  I think it is called for to be a typical girl and be sad about it and have some weeknight pity parties self reflection over what it all means this week. That much I am sure about!

However, I am going to be 31 this year and think that I need to take this experience as a life lesson and with a grain of salt (and shot of tequila).  I can honestly say I  don't regret anything from the past 6 months and will have many happy memories to take with me, but now I need to accept what's done is done.....

I am not sure anyone is ever fully prepared for changes in their life(big or small). I need to remember that all things happen for a reason.  There was a reason for the past 6 months and I will keep those memories close to me always.  I have rekindled friendships that were once faded and opened my eyes to new hobbies, travel locations and life experiences. That I am grateful for and would never be sour about.

I have been the happiest I have been in a long time because of these experiences and even though this chapter is closing in my life I am grateful for what it has taught me.  I know more what I want in my life for the short and long term more now than I could say back in November.

Sorry to be so vague, but like I said some things are too personal to share but I wanted you all to know that even though life might shut one door in your face there is always another door behind you waiting for you to open and embrace the new experiences/obstacles!

I promise my next post will be much happier and filled with fun food experiments and outings!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A walk in the rain

What to do when it rains when you are supposed to be painting?  Go for a walk or cook? How about both? Sounds like a plan to me!

This morning I grabbed a coffee and went off for a windy lazy walk around East Chop and Town Beach in Oak Bluffs.  It was AMAZING!  Quiet, beautiful views and a good booty workout (huzzah for huge hills!)

 It started raining here so I knew I had to pick up the pace and get my toukas home!

After a second cup of coffee and the realization that no painting would get done in this rainy weather I decided to do some "spring cleaning" and make a huge pot of soup!

I had a bunch of fresh kale, garlic and onions from my CSA pick up and popped over to the local market (it is literally a 2 minute walk!) for vegetable broth, chicken sausage and beans to make soup.  I didn't want to spend a ton of $$ on spices so I was excited to pick up a box of the below spices for $1.29!  One little packet is a tiny power house of flavor!  It added a ton of depth to this quick soup!!!

 After sweating the onions, garlic and heating the sausage I added a can of drained white beans, my goya spice, 1/2 bottle of Sam Adams and 1 container of Veggie Stock.

I let the soup come to a simmer and added a HUUUGE bunch of chopped kale! (aprox 4 cups!!).
TADA!  In under 30 minutes I had a hot bowl of yummy flavorful and healthy soup.  This is the perfect meal for a cold rainy island day.

Ok time to get back to  watching HGTV cleaning the cottage.  Have a great weekend!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Escaping to my Happy Place

Everyone has that special place where you can go when you just need to unwind and unplug from the daily grind.  It may be a room in your house, a local cafe or even just a quiet corner with a good book.

For me, my happy place is Martha's Vineyard.  It is a magical place that has the power to instantly put me at ease when I step off that ferry.  In college, I was just 1/2hr from the ferry and I remember many a spring weekends when school was just too much that I would hop on the ferry and head over for a day or weekend solo just to recharge.

The sound of the ocean, smell of beach roses and connecting with a community that just runs a bit slower was the perfect remedy for an undergrad taking a full course load in a para-military college.

Fast forward almost ten years and life way more stressful than the my college days. I am now in my 30s with a demanding job, bills/mortgages, long distance relationship and commitments to friends and family.  Needless to say, the need to recharge and find that happy place seems more important than EVER!

So this weekend, I am here at my happy place flying solo.  The weekend will be filled with painting and yard work but it will also be filled with:

  • Long walks on the beach
  • Rocking on the porch with a cold drink
  • Early morning coffee runs
  • Watching the boats come in down on the jetty

I always return from the rock rested, renewed and overall a much happier girl.  The island may be a tourist trap to some but to me it will always have a special place in my heart with the power to calm even the most frazzled city girl!

What is your "happy place"? If not a place, how do you unwind and recharge your battery?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What to cook when it's too hot to cook....

So if you live in New England or basically anywhere in the U.S. you have had to endure a week of unseasonably warm weather.  It was 85* yesterday in Boston and today we are expected to be in the upper 90*s with occasional thunder storms for kicks.

Up until yesterday my 3rd floor walk up apartment was sans A/C units. Which if you have ever been in a 3rd floor apartment in a heat wave then you know that is similar to a sauna or hot yoga studio!  With that kind of heat you don't even dare turn on the toaster oven never mind the full size oven!

What's a foodie to make for dinner then when the thought of cooking makes you sweat?!  Below is a quick run down of hot weather dishes that the roomie and I turn to when turning on the oven is not an option:

Side note, now that the apt is cool I can get back to my attempt at creating my own crackers... Hoping to post results soon!

Head to your favorite local market and pick up some good meat, cheese and veggies. A fresh sandwich is filling and ready in under 5 minutes!

A grain and veggie salad is perhaps my favorite summer "cool" meal.  The variations are endless and again requires no appliances to prepare.  Pick your favorite bean, veggie & grain combo; add a bit of cheese and a quick vinaigrette of lemon juice, olive oil and spices.  In 15 minutes you have a dish that you can have all week long!

Take your left over brown rice from Sunday night's take out (don't lie I know its in the fridge!) and make a quick fried rice with frozen veggies, soy sauce and eggs.  Ready in 10 minutes and you only need one stove top burner.

 Spinach salad with black lentils, chickpeas and "salad veggies" another variation on the above salad.

Plug in your griddler (or grill if you are so lucky) and grill up a bunch of chicken breasts for the week! Put them in salads, sandwiches and one pot concoctions all week long with very little appliance use.

 English muffin with nutella and banana for the nights where you are too hot to be hungry.....

 Toaster oven sweet potato fries!  Fast, crunchy and no need for a giant oven!

 Black bean veggie burgers on your griddler.  These are also great cold over a salad!

Ok, so there are the nights when even the thought of using the toaster oven is too much.. I understand, for those nights get your butt to KO Pies in Southie and let them do the dirty work for you.

It is perfectly acceptable to have apps for dinner.  Cheese and olives make a perfect dinner in my mind!
When all else fails head to Whole Foods and create a hot bar mess of goodness!

Other quick dinners I love lately are:

  • Egg & cheese sandwich
  • Vegan French Toast from Oh She Glows
  • Milkshake (yeah I went there!)
What is your favorite hot weather meal?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

On a mission to Martha's Vineyard

This past weekend this foodie traded in her kitchen aid and travel size chunk of Parmesan cheese (what nobody else keeps cheese with them at all time... I keed I keed... but it does sound like a great idea!) for rakes, 4 40lb bags of stone and enough mulch to last a city girl a lifetime!

Our "yard" on MV has been used as a parking spot for the past several years and I hate to say that because of it we have been really lax about sprucing up the gardens.

This spring after "clarification" with property lines (long story for off the blog discussion) the fam and I decided that this was the year to bring our tiny yard back to its former glory!

Note the patchy grass and random walkway with overgrown plants...

Doesn't really scream vacation or serenity does it?

So with the challenge in place, this girl decided that if Holmes on Homes on HGTV can do it than so can't she!   I set off to Home Depot with a list, a sketch (thanks to my architect bro-in-law) and an attitude of no fear! (foolish girl!!!)

I loaded up a cart with WAY more stone, mulch and soil than I could handle (someone really should have been filming this!).  I ended up foregoing plants at this stop because I refused to be that girl trying to finagle two carts and asking for help (I never said I was normal....)

I loaded up my tiny Subaru with WAY more landscaping products than I am sure is recommended by Subaru.  My car became a low rider for several hours!!  From there I braved Boston and Cape traffic to meet the schvester (big sis) in Falmouth for the night!  We were squatting at her in-laws place for the night and taking an early boat in the a.m. over to the island.

We arrived on island to a sunny beautiful morning ready to go all HGTV/DIY on the yard.  Steph would be joining us mid-day but first up these two girls would become the son's their father never had!

Yes, you are looking at my pretty little car filled with more junk than a dumpster on the show Hoarders!  We arrived to the cottage and realized that the old lumber from the porch/yard was not taken away during the week.

In under 2 hours, the 2 of us managed to:

  • Unload car of landscaping material
  • Refill with a large amount of junk wood/yard waste etc...
  • Find the town dump
  • Finagle 2 dump runs (Huzzah for a house free of old cottage crap!)
  • Annnnd make it out to the nursery and back for plants !!!
We even called TQ to toot our own horns!  (he was impressed but I am pretty sure mocking us at the same time!)  Whatever we ROCK !!

Back at the cottage we devised our game plan.  Sis went off to get more yard waste bags and I started shoveling!

No its not a shallow grave!  Its for transplanting flowers!!!

After many hours of digging, weeding, transplanting and redoing (yard design is yard!) and picking up reinforcements (THANK YOU STEPH!)  We had the below picture to show for our 1st day of work!

After a much needed shower we walked over to Offshore Ale House for pitchers of fresh beer, oysters, steak tips and burgers!  Hours of manual labor call for beer and red meat!  I am sure it is a law somewhere.....

Day 2 started with much needed coffee, a realization that yard work is an AMAZING full body workout and that the next few hours would be spent leveling flag stone and attempting to plant grass (my next thought was ... "Is it too early for beer?")

We used our caffeine jolt and within 2 1/2 hours (yeah I wrote that!!) managed to have completed the impossible.....

In under 2 days 3 ladies managed to turn a sandy parking lot into a secret island garden get-a-way!  I wish you could see it from the porch... It really is such an amazing feeling to accomplish such hard work and get instant gratification!

After such a productive morning we rewarded ourselves with lunch down on the harbor.  Sunshine, warm breeze, people watching, beer and beef!
Perfect fries with an avocado & spicy salsa burger! 

I couldn't have asked for better weather or better ladies to help me turn that yard from an eyesore to a day dream!  Thank you ladies soooo much!
View from the ferry leaving on Sunday... bittersweet but I will be back!
I will be back there this weekend.  This time, I will be tackling 50 years of paint and trying to freshen up the exterior of the house!

What major weekend DIY project did you tackle this weekend or have planned for the upcoming weekend?!

Friday, June 3, 2011

A cracker obsession

Each Friday my co-workers and I head up to a local farm to pick up my weekly CSA goodies and have lunch among the flowers (it is hands down my favorite time of the week).  While there we always peruse the small selection of dry & perishable goods they have on hand.  One discovery has quickly become a very expensive snack obsession for several of us!
Skinny Crips crackers are low carb, gluten free, dairy free (most varieties) and soy free.  Now I know what you are thinking... they must be taste free as well.  But no!!  You should know by now I would not eat never mind blog about something if I didn't actually day dream about it on a regular basis!

I started my obsession quite innocently... Alaina would bring a handful to lunch and foolishly share with me.  Suddenly without my knowledge my hand and mouth were working together to pilfer the crunchy, onion-ey morsels into my gullet with no regards to Alaina's lunch...

Then today I bought a bag of "Say Cheese" variety because they were out of the onion (oh the horror I thought!!!).  However, these turned out to taste like the most amazing Cheez-It EVER!!

Back at work in a cracker induced happy haze I grabbed for the bag again, this time looking at the price tag... $7.19 for one 5oz bag!  EEEK!!!

I can easily take down a bag in one day... there is no way my wallet will allow such a snack habit!  Over the years my war of food vs wallet has taught me to make the at home version of many items such as:

  • Chai Latte
  • Fruit Smoothies
  • Kombucha Tea (best money saver skill to date!)
  • Veggie burgers
  • the list goes on and on.....
So has I continue to inhale these crunchy morsels I am searching for a way to make my own version of these crackers at home for pennies.  After some googling and blog stalking I think I came up with a game plan....

Thanks to FatFreeVegan.Com I have a base dough that I think will work well and it just so happens I already have all the ingredients in the apt.  To that I am going to cover the flattened dough in onion shavings and bake!

My hope is that the final result will be a tray of crunchy crackers that taste like the best part of an onion bagel!!

Anyone else make their own crackers?  Any suggestions or recipes you live by that I should try?

I am off to MV tonight for some major HGTV/DIY action on our yard.  Stay tuned for some hilarious action shots of me battling flag stone and rose bushes!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Greatest Beef Burger I Have E-V-E-R Made!

Ok, so I have written at length on this blog about my love for turkey burgers and veggie burgers.  I have shared with you the many combinations to reinvent the classic burger....

Note the usual "burger" you see here:
A turkey burger with long grain wild rice...

Black Bean Burger....

Falafel Burger from Brgr in PGH 
However, as long as I can remember I have been in love with the satisfying meaty goodness that is a cheeseburger. It is the muse that inspires all other burger creations in my kitchen.  And really what's not to love?!?!?!

It's juicy and slightly zesty, the cheese melts and stretches as you bite, the crunch from a cold crisp pickle awakes your taste-buds. The saltiness from a crispy piece of bacon and the mix of mustard, ketchup and BBQ sauce runs down your hands as you slowly savor the wonder that you hold before you!  (yeah, I said I am a bit obsessed!)

Sadly thanks to some awful heartburn that I acquire when usually looking at most any food and my ever expanding toukas. I have gone from a hot and heavy relationship with my beloved cheeseburger to more of a casual relationship with occasional lapses into pure cheeseburger ecstasy! 

Recently I had one of those moments.  Unless you live under a rock, you know that the Boston Bruins are in the playoffs (Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals is on NOW as I type). 
Pre-season game from this past September at the Garden
It just seems so unnatural to have a veggie burger for dinner while 12 men battle it out on the ice for Lord Stanley himself!!!

I must give credit to this burger craving to my co-worker who spent the day telling me about an amazing burger he had made the night before.  I must also admit that after showing him said pictures of my burger he correctly called me out for not toasting my bun....  Oh the humanity but yes, in the excitement of my delicious burger I neglected to toast my onion bun!  A mistake I will not make in the future, I promise you this!

Ok, enough typing lets get to the good stuff.....

This amazing burger involves:
  • a perfectly seasoned beef burger
  • Sharp cheddar cheese
  • Onion Roll
  • Carmelized onions and yellow peppers
  • Sauetted mushrooms with a touch of sherry vinegar (adds a bit of bite next to the sweetness of the onions)
  • Dill Pckle
  • Fresh Tomato
  • Spicy whole grain mustard
I also made a delicious batch of crispy toaster oven "fried" sweet potato fries!
I grabbed these patties from Hannaford's market.  Their butchers are awesome!
CSA potatoes (sweet and yukon)

Chop, spray with PAM and season with your favorite spices (salt, pepper, steak seasoning...)

Bake at 450 until edges are crispy!  Crunch with 0 frying time!
While those cook (I had to do 2 batches as my toaster oven is tiny). Start cooking your veggies.  I cooked my mushrooms separately because my roomie does not like mushrooms.  Otherwise feel free to cook them down all together.

In a pan heat a mix of butter and olive oil.  Add your veggies and with a med/low heat sweat your veggies until soft and golden (can take about 20 mins but is soooo worth it).  You can also do this a day ahead of time and reheat the next day

The onions almost melt away...

Fresh tomato!!!

 While your fries and veggies are doing their thang... heat your trusty griddler and place your patties on.  I grill mine for about 6 minutes total (griddler cooks both sides at once!)

even catches the fat dripping from your burger!
Once your veggies are cooked and fries super crispy its time to build your burger!  Go crazy, use your imagination!!!

I truly don't think this post does this burger justice.  It is juicy, cheesy and crispy all in one bite.  The salty crunchy fries add the perfect contrast and the onion roll is fluffy and soaks up the juices perfectly!

Add to this a cold beer and some KILLER Hockey and you have the recipe for a perfect dinner!!!