What Is There to Do In Boston?

Quick answer: Lots! 

If you’re a history buff, Boston is a city for you. There is so much to see, it can get a little overwhelming. That’s why when Vore and I traveled there, we were ready with a plan of attack. Here were our 3 favorite things, which you can easily see in a weekend. (Even if you spend an inordinate amount of time EATING.)

The Freedom Trail. 

Head to the Massachusetts State House and follow the yellow brick road. Okay, so it’s not yellow, but there is a brick path inlayed in the streets of Boston. Follow it and you will find plaques filled with history. You can almost breath the past as you see important sites from the American Revolution. If I lived in Boston, this would be my running route. Love it.

If you get thirsty, whet your whistle at the Bell in Hand, the oldest tavern in our country. What to drink? Sam Adams, obvi!

While it’s on the trail, Bunker Hill monument is a hike and you might be tempted to skip it. Don’t! It’s a beautiful lawn with an equally spectacular view through the city. Look at all the fun Vore and I had up there:

Now on to the Guided Tour.

When it came time to tour sitting down, Vore and I chose Super Tours Boston Trolley for the adventure. For $40/person, we got a two day pass on a double decker bus. It stops throughout the city, letting you out to explore on foot. The commentary was helpful, and the air conditioning in between sites was much appreciated. We also loved the free Duck Boat Tour that was included in the price. Boston is beautiful from the water.

Kennedy Library and Museum, anyone?

This is a bit of a trek, but it’s totally worth it. Vore said he left with a new appreciation for JFK. I loved the history, the architecture and the view of the city across the water. Touring the museum took us about an hour. Time well spent.

If you’ve traveled to Boston, what was your favorite activity? I thought it was best explored on foot. Do you agree? 

Boston Top Food Picks: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Vore and I are not ones to fly by the seat of our proverbial pants. When it comes to travel, the two of us truly enjoy the research part of a trip. Where should we eat? What should we do? You better believe we’ve read blogs, Trip Advisor and guidebooks from the library. We always have a rough plan before we land at our destination. Last weekend in Boston was no exception.

We ate like a king and a queen in Beantown. Here are the places we’d hurry back to visit.

 Breakfast: The Thinking Cup (165 Tremont Street)

This was the wild card of the trip. Saturday morning, we scheduled what I like to call “planned spontaneity.” That’s where you work something unexpected into your otherwise meticulously planned trip. Clever!

We left our hotel, wandering for a quick breakfast and stumbled upon this park side gem. Inside, we found a cozy shop with delicious lattes and a breakfast burrito that made this Veggie very happy. Vore made short work of a bacon, egg and cheese bagel. And the coffee? So good, we went back the next morning for another. Planned spontaneity for the win.

Runner up: North Street Grill (229 North Street) for brunch.

This tiny North End restaurant is just up the hill from Paul Revere’s house. It’s a hole-in-the-wall, with nary a tourist in site. Everything that came out of the kitchen looked spectacular.

Our food was on the heavy side, but the chocolate chip cookie dough pancake we shared was nothing short of memorable.

Lunch: Clover Food Lab (7 Holyoke Street)

Each half of a couple must make concessions when traveling. Clover was Vore’s sacrifice. Or so he thought…

Knowing we had a steakhouse dinner planned, I requested a completely vegetarian meal. We rode the T out to Cambridge in search of Clover, a food-truck-turned- bricks and mortar restaurant that commands the veggie love on reviews.

Their website adds a bit of mystery. It’s a hard to navigate blog. Menus change daily, so there’s no use trying to figure out what your options are. I took a leap of faith.

Oh. My. Goodness.

Vore had the chickpea fritter sandwich with rosemary fries. I had the parsnip cheddar sandwich with carrot citrus salad. I ordered hibiscus tea for good measure.

People, this place was amazing. Vore declared it one of the best meals we’ve ever had, hands down. The vibe is mod, hipster and awesome. Go to Cambridge and go to Clover. Do it.

Dinner: Grill 23 (161 Berkeley Street)

Vore had a hard time deciding on his dinner pick. Smith and Wollensky or Grill 23? Both got amazing reviews. In the end, Grille 23 won because, even though we don’t have it at home, S & W is a chain. Our rule is that while traveling, chains are only acceptable if you are at the flagship location.

Turns out, the area right behind our hotel has been dubbed “Carnivore’s Corner,” because of all the steakhouses in area. Smith and Wollensky was on the way, so we had a drink there to satisfy curiosity.

<——–It’s in a castle after all.

 

The interior was historic and gorgeous. At the urging of the bartender, we took a self-guided trip to the private dining rooms. Worth it. The place is gorgeous.

Then we were on to Grille 23. It’s such a pretty place—masculine and dark, but welcoming. We employed our steakhouse trick. Vore ordered the New York Strip, roasted mushrooms, broccoli gratin, tots and Romano beans. I ordered an empty plate.

We shared the sides and savored every single bite. Each had a familiar flavor with a unique twist. None was overpowering. They worked together. Purely awesome.

And then there was the bread pudding we split for dessert. We pretty much rolled ourselves the two blocks back to the hotel.

Runner up: I chose Sonsie (327 Newbury Street) because Tina of Carrots ‘N Cake suggested it for the vibe. She nailed it! This was our Saturday night destination and it was divine for people watching.

When you travel, do you go with a plan? What’s your favorite Boston restaurant?

Weekday Protein Pancakes

There’s something magical about pancakes. They feel indulgent–like weekend food.

But who are we kidding? Pancakes aren’t fancy. When it comes down to it, prep time doesn’t differ too much from the oatmeal I usually make myself, or toasted breakfast sandwiches I send Vore out the door with. So why save all the goodness for Sunday morning? I say no longer! Here’s a recipe to get your day-that-ends-in-y started right:

Weekday Protein Pancakes

1/3 cup rolled oats

4 oz container cottage cheese

1/4 cup egg whites

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Stevia to taste

*Place the rolled oats a food processor or blender. Grind them down to a fine flour.

*Add in the cottage cheese, egg whites, baking powder and stevia. Blend until smooth. (Lumpy cottage cheese is nasty.)

*Spoon the batter into a pre-heated skillet and cook over medium high. When you see bubbles forming on the cakes, they are ready to flip.

*Serve with fruit, syrup or whipped cream if desired.

These pancakes are equal parts simple and delicious. A serving has more than 20 grams protein (score!) and tastes a lot like cheesecake. Pancakes for the weekday win!

Father’s Day Recap + Easy Berry Infused Liqueur

I have the most awesome Dad. He raised me right. He can fix things. He still calls me “Princess” in a mostly sarcastic way. The older I get, the cooler I think Dad is.

Getting ready to walk me down the aisle.

His fatal flaw? Buying gifts for the man is near impossible. If he wants anything, he drives out and aquires it. In his effort to be low maintenance, he becomes quite the opposite.

And so, with relatively certainty, I bake for Father’s Day. This year was no exception.

Wonky (yet delicious!) coconut cake.

Friday night, Vore and I went to Chez Fon Fon and treated ourselves to dessert. The coconut cake was divine! Since that happens to be Dad’s favorite dessert, inspiration struck. When we got home, I pulled out my Frank Stitt cookbook. Low and behold, there was Frank’s recipe for the coconut cake we had at Fon Fon earlier! Done.

As for the gift, that had been brewing in the fridge for a week.

Not long ago, the parents went on a trip.

Dad had a blackberry martini, which he can’t stop raving about. They went out in search of blackberry liqueur, and didn’t find it at the package store. I decided to infuse my own.

Here’s how to do it…

How beautiful is the color? It all came out of the berries.

Pull out a jar and add 1 cup berries.

Pour 2 cups vodka on top and place the jar in the back of the fridge, out of your way.

Ignore it for a week.

Put a funnel in a clean jar, then dump the contents of your vodka potion.

Save the berries.

Ta-da! Flavored vodka.

If you’d like to tone it down a bit, add 1/2 cup simple syrup to your filtered vodka.

I saved a couple of kombucha bottles for packaging purposes. (It’s WAY expensive, so might as well get extra use out of the container!)

Feeling super green and resourceful, I ventured out on the porch and picked some mint/basil to include in the final basket. I also packaged the vodka soaked berries, so they could be frozen and used as lovely, boozy ice cubes.

Here’s the final package. In the spirit of recycling, the white basket is from the Farmer’s Market. The blackberries came in it…

The contents were well-received! My mom made you a drink. Enjoy!

How would you use infused spirits? And more importantly, what did you do to honor your Dad on Father’s Day?

What Do Foodies Do on Saturday?

Go to food festivals, natch. 

Right around lunch time, Vore and I headed to downtown Birmingham for the Fresh Works Festival benefiting Jones Valley Teaching Farm. JV is beyond amazing. The farm is  a reclaimed lot right in the middle of downtown that passionate people transformed into an organic farm. Kids visit to learn where food comes from, and we all love their produce.

While I’ve bought from these guys at the Farmer’s Market many times, I had no idea how huge the farm is. It is gorgeous! There are neat rows of pretty produce and flowers, chickens and even a goat, who was being milked while we were there today.

It was so cool to walk around the facilities, looking on the tall buildings as a backdrop. The festivities around the farm were equally impressive. Hello, food truck bonanza!

The good folks at Jones Valley called in food trucks from all around the Southeast, and boy was the eating good. I had a Vietnamese tofu taco from locals Fresh Off the Bun. Vore got into a chicken biscuit and gravy from Nashville’s Biscuit Love and a crab/grilled peach salad from The Mobile Marlay, a Decatur favorite. We both inhaled ah-mazing gelato from Atlanta’s Honeysuckle. Then we ventured toward the teaching stage to find a surprise…

Hey there Martie Duncan from the Next Food Network Star! Guess who watches every week? Me! I was thrilled to see her demonstration in action and then introduce myself afterwards. How cute is she? Martie was a treat.

If you’re local, I can’t preach enough about the good Jones Valley is doing for our city and our kids. Please support them where you can. If you’re not-so-local, how about I petition you to vote for the charming Ms. Martie? She’d be so fun to watch on Food Network.

Cabbage Leaf Wraps–Quinoa Burrito Style.

Question: What costs $2 and will feed you for daaaaaaaaaays?

Answer: CABBAGE!

Last Saturday, we had the most fun girls’ day. A group of us met bright and early at Pepper Place farmers’ market, shopped, then hit delicious Over Easy for brunch.

While wondering the the tents, the mammoth you see above caught my eye. The farmer saw my wheels turning and said, “it’s not that big, really.”

Lies! That thing felt like a bowling ball in my market bag and we’ve been eating cabbage for days! First, I made Cabbage Au Gratin. There were EIGHT plentiful servings, which we polished off.

<—But then there were these big, pretty leaves that I just couldn’t toss.

They waited patiently in the fridge for a few days, until I had a bright idea.

What if I used them as a wrap?

Cabbage Leaf Burritos were born.

 

1. Prep Cabbage Leaf Wrappers: Fill your biggest pot with water, salt it heavily and bring to a boil. Add 8-10 cabbage leaves (hard stems removed) and boil for 7-10 minutes, until tender. Drain and set aside.

2. Make Quinoa Burrito Filling. (adapted from Mama Pea’s Spanish Quinoa)

All the fixings, ready to roll

1 cup onion, sliced

1/2 tablespoon minced garlic

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

1/2 tablespoon chili powder

1 8 oz container tomato sauce

1 1/2 cups water

5.25 grams vegetable bullion (1/2 cube)

*Spray the bottom of a large sauce pan with olive oil. Add the onion and garlic, sauté until translucent.

*Add the quinoa and toast it lightly, then stir in the chili powder, distributing evenly.

*Pour in the water and bullion. Bring to a boil.

*Reduce heat to medium. Cover partially and cook 20 minutes, or until all the liquid evaporates. Fluff with a fork.

3. Ready to Roll. What else is going in your burrito? We used finely cubed tofu (for veggies!) or lean ground beef (for vores!) and cheddar shreds.

Place a heaping 1/4 cup of quinoa in the center of each leaf, add your protein and cheese, then roll like a burrito. Place on to a cookie sheet, seam side down, then top with extra cheese and a sprinkle of smoked paprika if you have it. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes and you get this…

So tasty! We polished these off in a hurry.

I’ll leave you with a handy little trick: I alway stab Vore’s man food with a toothpick, so I won’t get a meaty surprise. Enjoy!

Cheater’s Eggplant Parmesan

Most times we go the slow food route. Sometimes we use the microwave. Not to worry, you’re in a judgement free zone. And THIS was made in the microwave.

Fake it till you make it, right?

Year’s ago, while sifting through my Gran’s recipe file, I found a newspaper clipping for Microwave Eggplant Parmesan. I think I first made this in college? I’d love to give credit for the original recipe I started from, but this was before The Birmingham News had an online version. (Dating myself!)

Nonetheless, this easy peasy recipe has been a favorite. It’s got all the flavor you’d expect from restaurant eggplant parm, minus the grease that comes from frying. Try it…I dare you. We won’t tell anyone dinner came together in only 30 minutes. Our little secret.

Cheater’s Eggplant Parmesan (make 4 enormous servings)

4 smallish-medium eggplants, sliced to 1/2 inch thickness

1/4 cup egg whites

1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon cornmeal

2 cups pasta sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

*Combine breadcrumbs and cornmeal on a sheet of parchment paper. Pour egg whites into a small bowl.

*Dip each eggplant slice in egg, then coat in the breadcrumb mixture. Arrange in a 7 x 11 microwave proof dish, forming two layers.

*Cover the dish with a paper towel, and microwave on high for 12 minutes.

*Spoon sauce over the eggplant, then layer with cheeses.

*Cook for another 5 minutes in the microwave OR 3 minutes + 2 minutes under the broiler.

Then you get to eat this…

It should be noted that I went back for seconds. Do you have an elegant microwave recipe? 

Homemade Seasoned Bread Crumbs

What do you call this thing?

Until last year, I never knew it had a name. I always referred to it as “the end piece.” Apparently it’s called a bread heel. Who knew?

No matter what you call it, most of us don’t eat it. It’s a little too much crust. That said, I don’t like throwing food away. I’ve been amassing quite a collection in my freezer. Yesterday, I decided to put the heels to good use, making bread crumbs. Three cheers for a less processed version of the stuff you buy in the box!

Homemade Seasoned Bread Crumbs

Crumbs, pre-bake

Ingredients: Bread Heels (I had 6 of varying sizes); olive oil in a spray bottle; garlic salt, Italian seasoning, sage

*Place your bread heels in a food processor, and grind to a fine crumb.

*Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper; spray with olive oil. (If you don’t have a Misto, you so need one. You’ll never use that nasty Pam stuff again.)

*Spread crumbs in a single layer on the cookie sheet. Sprinkle with seasonings.

*Toss to coat, then give your crumbs another light olive oil spray.

*Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, until crunchy and lightly browned.

Here were my ratios: 3 1/2 cups bread crumbs, 1 teaspoon each of garlic salt and Italian seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon sage. These will of course vary by the amount of bread crumbs you have on hand and your personal palate. The possibilities are infinite!

I used the finished product to make eggplant parmesan last night (recipe coming) and stored the remainder in one of my beloved jars. What’s your favorite way to use leftover bread? 

Fresh Corn, The Tidy Way

Corn on the cob: It’s just not ladylike. You are forced to eat with your fingers, gnaw at your food, and then inevitably, you end up with remnants stuck between your teeth. That, friends, is why I prefer my corn OFF the cob.

This is a task easier said than done. You’ll find that if you prop your corn on the cutting board prior to shearing, the kernels go all over the place. So what’s a girl to do?

Get out your bundt pan! [I won’t take credit for inventing this trick, but I’ve been using it so long I don’t pretend to remember its source.] Balance your corn in the center of the pan, shear off the kernels and let them collect in the bundt pan. Mess: eliminated.

“Uno de Juno” Farmer’s Market Salsa

We’ve chatted before about my nutty family get-togethers.

My people favor a theme. Off the top of my head: Appe-teaser (bite sized!), Kabob-e-que (everything on a stick!) Souper Salad (first courses!)

We get really into these. Weeks before, heated discussion takes place, including a proper theme and who will bring what. The day of the event, mounds of food fill my grandmother’s kitchen. No one leaves hungry. Ever.

The theme this time was “Uno de Juno,” which is what happens when you want to have a Mexican theme party, but can’t make Cinquo de Mayo happen.

So what did I bring? Two things: Aaron Sanchez’s Mexican Brownies (not remotely heathly, yet quite tasty) and salsa, made from my Freggie Fundraiser basket!

Farmer’s Market Salsa

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 Tablespoon minced garlic

1 Tablespoon minced jalapeño (more if you like it hot!)

1 Cup yellow onion, finely chopped

1 Cup corn, removed from the cob

1 Cup black beans

3 Cups finely diced tomatoes

1/2 Chopped fresh cilantro

1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

The juice of one lime.

This recipe presents a Choose Your Own Adventure theme. You can simply combine all the ingredients listed above, chill for a while so the flavors marry and then enjoy with chips. OR you can lightly sauté the oil, garlic, jalapeño, onion and corn. Allow these to cool, then mix in with the other ingredients. Cooking these ingredients leads to a milder salsa. Totally up to you! I cooked mine, as raw garlic and onions are a little much for this Veggie.

Other highlights included:

1) My cousin Ryan finding a ginormous snake skin 2) Veggie’s delish plate 3) Aunt Jan’s crafty use of fig leaves on a fruit plate and 4) Sending my baby cousin Laurie off to Ireland for a year. The latter wasn’t really a highlight. It was kind of sad.

As for the salsa, it was a hit, but there’s still a little left in our fridge. I sandwiched a few tablespoons between my eggs this morning and loved every bite. What’s your favorite use for leftover salsa?