Monday, November 22, 2010

That's What You Get, Folks, for Makin' Whoopee

Thanksgiving is a truly Mad Tasty holiday! This year, we were lucky to celebrate a little early with a Pre-Thanks celebration at Dave and Bobby's new pad. I brought my mother-in-law's famous mac & cheese and pumpkin whoopee pies with cream cheese filling. Everything was delicious...


...Especially Bobby's turkey!


Pumpkin Whoopee Pies (from Rachel Ray)
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, 2 sticks melted, 1 stick softened
  • 2 cup packed light brown sugar 
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten 
  • 2 cup canned pure pumpkin puree 
  • 3 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon plus 4 pinches salt 
  • 3 1/3 cups flour 
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, chilled
  • 2 cup confectioners' sugar
Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and brown sugar until smooth.


Whisk in the eggs, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, 1 teaspoon vanilla, the baking powder, the baking soda and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour.


Using an ice cream scoop or tablespoon, drop 12 generous mounds of batter, spaced evenly, onto each baking sheet.


Bake until springy to the touch, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, cream the softened butter with the cream cheese. Add the confectioners' sugar and the remaining 2 pinches salt and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; mix on low speed until blended, then beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Spread the flat side of 12 cakes with the cream cheese frosting. Top each with another cake.


And enjoy...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Diva of Ocean Drive

Last spring, I had to travel to Miami for work. While I was there, we had dinner at The Tides, a swanky hotel on Collins Avenue. It was one of those dinners that I went in completely unsure if I was going to like what I ordered. I had no idea what grilled chicken paillard was, and no clue what spätzle could be. The only thing I did know was that I liked cherry tomatoes, baby spinach, and that buerre nosiette had to be a good thing.

The meal ended up being one of my favorites of all time. So, I decided to try to recreate it. This is officially a new go-to fancy dinner. Though the spätzle took a little practice, it came out doughy and delicious. The chicken was tender and juicy. The spinach and tomatoes added just the right amount of fresh flavor. Though The Tides definitely one-upped me on presentation, I think my dish came out just as good!
 
Grilled Chicken Paillard with Spätzle (inspired by The Tides)

Grilled Chicken Palliard (inspired by Rachel Ray)
  • 2 small chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme, stripped and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 lemon zested and juiced
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cups chicken stock

Spätzle (inspired by Tyler Florence)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 large eggs
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Additional ingredients
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
Directions

Place each chicken breast in a small ziplock bag with a tiny bit of warm water. Squeeze the air from the bag and seal. With a mallet or rolling pin, pound chicken until it is about half an inch thick and tenderized.


Arrange chicken on a plate. Drizzle meat with extra-virgin olive oil to just coat the chicken. Combine chopped herbs and lemon zest and sprinkle over the chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Using your hands, rub the chicken and coat evenly with the herbs and seasonings. Set chicken aside and prepare spätzle.


In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg-milk mixture. Gradually draw in the flour from the sides and combine well; the dough should be smooth and thick.


Let the dough rest for 10 to 15 minutes. While it is resting, bring 1 1/2 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot, then reduce to a simmer and preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.

Using tongs, transfer chicken in a single layer to hot skillet and cook chicken cutlets 3 or 4 minutes on each side.


While chicken is cooking begin making your spätzle. To form the spätzle, hold a large holed colander or slotted spoon over the simmering water and push the dough through the holes with a spatula or spoon. Do this in batches so you don't overcrowd the pot. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the spätzle floats to the surface, stirring gently to prevent sticking. Dump the spätzle into a colander and give it a quick rinse with cool water.


Once chicken has been cooked for 3 or 4 minutes on each side, add butter to the pan. When the butter melts, add flour cook, stirring to make a light roux. Stir in chicken broth and cook for 5 minutes.


While your chicken is cooking a little more, preheat another skillet on medium. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter and allow to melt. When just melted, turn the heat to low and cook until the butter browns, be careful not to burn. Add your spätzle and toss to coat. Cook the spätzle for 1 to 2 minutes to give the noodles some color.


Add spinach and cherry tomatoes to your chicken and sauce. When your spinach has wilted remove from heat and assemble your plate.


Drizzle a layer of light sauce on your plate, add your chicken, and sprinkle on tomato, spinach, and spätzle. Then, enjoy!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Baby Baby, The Stars Are Shining For You

This week has been heavy on photos and light on recipes. I promise something good tomorrow. But, in the mean time, Alex and I have super exciting news! We have a new baby nephew, Nathan Patrick. Born November 16 at 12:09pm. He is so adorable, weighing in at 9lbs, 3ozs and measuring 20.5 inches long. Here are few photos of Nate's first day in the world.

Today we are here to have a baby

Cutie Pa-tootie baby footprints

Nathan Patrick after a slightly tearful first bath

Momma and Nate

Daddy

Uncle Alex holding Nate for the first time

Auntie Erin getting her turn, which lasted, oh, 2 hours.

My little peanut up close

Gram arrives and gets her turn

Cam and Nate meet for the first time. First words, "Cool. My baby brother is cool."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Great Blogger Weekend - Part 2

A few months ago, Alex and I had dinner at East Coast Grill and totally loved it. Everything we tried was fantastic. When Emily of A Cambridge Story invited me to be her plus one at the November Blogger Brunch, I was excited. When she told me it was being held at East Coast Grill, I was thrilled! I couldn't wait to finally meet some of the bloggers I've been following on Twitter and Google Reader forever, and I had heard that East Coast Grill's brunch doesn't disappoint. Win win.

I must say that it was awesome to meet Renee of Eat Live Blog. Every month Renee organizes a brunch for a group of first come, first served Boston Bloggers. The brunch was awesome, and it was totally all her (well and Arthur, Robin, and the team at East Coast Grill). It was also so great to meet Michelle from Fun and Fearless in Beantown, Justin from Justin Can Cook, Bianca from Confessions of a Chocoholic, Seth and Jordan from Mystery Meet, Dan from The Food In My Beard, and Athena from Finance Foodie. They all have great blogs, and if you are reading this, you should check them out.

Now on to the food, and of course, the mouthwatering photos...

First, delicious Fried Sweet Plantains with Queso Fresco and Banana Guava-Ketchup. This was truly the star of the entire meal, and I was lucky enough to sit down right in front of a big plate. I swear, I did share them with the other bloggers!

Then came the absolutely giant Sweet Potato Fries served with a side of Inner Beauty Hot Sauce (that I sure as heck did not try). 

Next up was the Banana Rellena, a smoked pork stuffed banana, that was labeled Muy Caliente, but thankfully Arthur brought Athena and I our own hot sauce free version because I loved pulled pork and I had to try this! It was so tasty.

Our last appetizer was the Monteray Jack Grits with Molasses Glazed Grilled Banana, Pina, Jalapenos, Toasted Pecans and Crispy Smoked Bacon. I'm not a huge fan of grits, but the grilled banana and pineapple were so sweet and delicious with the savory cheesy grits, toasted pecans, and bacon, that these were totally great.

 For entrées we had a choice of a Smoked Pork Tostada, a garlic-lime smoked pork shoulder with tomato-chipoltle salsa, smashed avocado, black beans and a runny egg...

A Breakfast Platter "In the Style of the Yucatan," with cheesy scrambled eggs, black beans and rice, mango-avocado-hearts of palm salad, more sweet fried plantains, salsa roja, and a warm flour tortilla...

Or Cornbread Crusted French Toast with orange marmalade, tropical fruit, and real Vermont maple syrup.

Because I don't really do eggs, I went for the Cornbread Crusted French Toast. It was super filling and sweet, spiced to perfection with cinnamon and had just the right amount of eggy-ness for this non-egg eater. Yum.

All and all it was a great brunch, and I will definitely be dragging Alex back in the future for East Coast Grill's famous Make Your Own Bloody Marys. Thanks again to Renee, Arthur, Robin, and the staff at East Coast Grill!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Great Blogger Weekend - Part 1

A Nesting Experience is a blog about nesting, moving in together for the first time, and making a new place home sweet home. I've tried over the last year and a half to only post things that both Alex and I have tried together. Whether it is recipes, crafts, or restaurant reviews, the blog is really about both of us, and our nesting experience.

This weekend, I had the chance to hang with some other bloggers from the Boston area at two really fun events, Fall Wine Fest 2010 and November Boston Bloggers Brunch. I spent most of the weekend with Emily of A Cambridge Story, which was, of course, super awesome! Even though Alex was not at either event, they do have to do with the blog, so here's a little photographic recap of Part 1 of the weekend, Fall Wine Fest 2010.

Fall Wine Fest 2010 was environmentally friendly! 

Emily, of A Cambridge Story, taking some notes on the Magners Pear Cider

About to try some locally brewed Blue Hills Dunkelweizen Winter Wheat. So tasty! 

Yep! I was totally all about the Greek wines. No Nychteri though. 

My favorite of the Greek wines. Nemea Reserve, a semi-dry red wine. 

Next in line to meet Cathy from Red White Boston

Meat and cheese pies from KO Catering and Pies

Sharing a snack! 

Post Wine Fest glow on Tremont Street in the South end

Friday, November 12, 2010

Metropolis Cafe to the rescue


So this is, unfortunately, a two in one restaurant review. Last night, Alex and I decided to finally check out The Beehive, a wildly popular bohemian eatery in Boston's South End. Everyone we know has been there and loved it. We were so excited to go as we had been given a gift certificate to The Beehive for our wedding. We had an 8pm reservation, figuring we'd get to have a little jazz over drinks and then a relaxing, romantic dinner and dessert.

Unfortunately, relaxing and romantic are not exactly how things ended up. The restaurant is beautiful and the atmosphere is eclectic and interesting. The hostess was helpful and we were seated right away. Then the jazz began. We were not seated all that close to the stage, but the music was so loud, that it's no wonder our food did not come out as ordered. We started with a Caesar salad, which I came as a head of Romaine drenched in dressing. Artsy I suppose, but extremely difficult to cut up and eat when your table is a shaky, two-foot square with four glasses and four plates on it. Next, we got our burgers, which were drenched in mayo and topped with onions that were annoyingly melted into the cheddar top. Onions and mayo are two things neither Alex nor I can/will eat. We tried our best to remove the unwanted condiments, but the waitress nicely offered to have the burgers remade. However, when the burgers came back out again smothered in mayo, we decided to call it a night. We asked for our check, threw down some cash for a tip, and dashed as quickly as we could. The manager was sweet and offered us a gift certificate to return, but I think we have had our fill.


Still starving from only sharing a Caesar Salad appetizer, Alex and I headed across the street and up the block to Metropolis Cafe. After our unsuccessful dinner at The Beehive, we weren't sure we were up for another adventure, but were talked into it by one of the chefs while looking at the menu. Relaxing and romantic are exactly the words I would use to describe this restaurant and bar. It is cozy and quiet, with low lighting and friendly staff. I had a delicious risotto with slow braised beef and brown butter, and Alex had a filling rigatoni carbonara with sausage. We were too stuffed to try dessert, but definitely plan to go back in the future because the dessert wines alone looked amazing.

All and all we still had a good time, filled with quite a few laughs, and I suppose The Beehive gets credit for helping Alex and I find a delicious meal at Metropolis Cafe. Maybe we'll go back someday for brunch or just drinks, but unfortunately, we did not have the incredible culinary experience we were expecting from all of the raves.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Au Gratin, My Gratin

In my family, Potato Au Gratin is a holiday tradition. I peel the potatoes and my mom throws together this cheesy, creamy, delicious side. Everyone loves it so much, that she usually makes two, one for dinner and one for leftovers.

In the last few weeks, I'd seen a couple of recipes for Root Vegetable Au Gratin and thought, I wonder how my mom's recipe would fair with turnips and rutabagas instead of potatoes. Let me tell you, nothing compares to the original, but this is a close second. If you try this at home, make sure you layer a few sweet potatoes near the top. With the cheese and the bread crumbs, they are simply heaven.

Root Vegetable Au Gratin (inspired by Joy of Cooking Creamed Potato Casserole)
Serves 4-6
  • 1 large potato
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large parsnip
  • 1 medium turnip
  • 1 medium rutabaga
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 4 1/2 Tablespoons butter
  • 4 1/2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons panko bread crumbs

Directions

Peel vegetables and trim the ends off of the carrot and parsnip.


Place vegetables in the boiling water and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove vegetables from heat and drain. Place vegetables in the fridge for 5 minutes to cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. While the vegetables are cooling, melt butter in a small pot over low heat. Add flour and stir until thick and creamy. Add milk and continue stirring until the roux starts to thicken.

Remove vegetables from fridge and slice into small pieces. Layer half of the vegetables alternatively in a 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Pour half of the sauce over the vegetables and top with 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese. Repeat layering until dish is full. Top with bread crumbs.


Cover and place in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove cover and bake for another 20 minutes or until vegetables are fork tender and cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.


Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes and serve!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Pumpkin Who Couldn't Smile

I have to admit, I am not a fan of pumpkin. There, I said it. Everyone is so in love with pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin pasta, and I am not. I like pumpkins to look at or to carve, but eating them, no thanks.

This season, however, I am starting to come around, a little. Last week, I whipped up some delightful Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes. Then last night, I decided to use the leftover pumpkin puree to make Pumpkin Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookies, and they also turned out pretty darn delightful. Maybe pumpkin flavored things are not so bad after all. I draw the line at cupcakes and cookies though. Sorry, but I'll never like pumpkin beer or pumpkin pie. Gross.

Me and my little nephew pumpkin at Keene Pumpkin Festival circa 2009

Pumpkin Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 25-30 cookies
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup cinnamon chips
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick Pam with Flour or line with Parchment Paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Set aside. Using a mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Cream together the butter and white and brown sugars until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg and then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree. Slowly beat the flour mixture into the batter.


With a spatula or wooden spoon, stir in the chocolate and cinnamon chips.


Scoop the cookie dough by dropping heaping tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets.


Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the cookies are browned around the edges. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes. Take the cookies off with a spatula and cool them on a wire rack or a flattened brown paper bag.