Friday, March 29, 2013

More Somerville Brunching: Ball Square Cafe

This month, Boston Brunchers descended on the Ball Square neighborhood (yay! more Somerville!!) for brunch at Ball Square Cafe. The owner, Mike, made everyone feel incredibly welcome, plying us with shots of hot chocolate and plates of sweet delicious breakfast foods! (Remember how I have an eternal eggs vs sweet brunch debate, problem solved.)

I was pretty pleased with the self-serve coffee and drinks, which means that you'd never have to wait for someone to come by and refill your coffee cup while you look forlornly at your dregs.

We started off with a french toasts with caramelized bananas and a Belgian waffle with fresh fruits - and whipped cream. Mike also brought out two bowls of fresh fruit, which I was pretty delighted with: there was mango and kiwi and berries and bananas and pineapple and, yeah, probably some melon in there somewhere, but I hate melons and rarely order fresh fruit at restaurants because it's mostly cut melons and grapes and sad bananas. Womp. This was so not that!

Since my brunch decision was made for me, I ordered the Moroccan eggs, scrambled. When food started being served, there was a little panic about where to put things because we had so much food. My eggs were great, dressed with lots of spices (and lots of cumin) which made them smell fantastic, and with tomatoes, peppers and onions. They went very well with my side of grilled mashed potatoes. (Sidebar: grilled mashed potatoes? I could have more of this in my life.) Because we had more food than 10 bloggers could eat, the remaining 2/3 of my breakfast went home to my husband as his post-13 mile run lunch.

I'd also put Ball Square Cafe on my run-to-eat list. In DC, we did a lot of weekend morning group runs to brunch, and this is a little less fancy than my go-to Foundry, where I feel like maybe I should change out of running clothes, if not shower first.

Thanks to Mike at Ball Square Cafe, Boston Brunchers and Blog and Tweet Boston for getting everyone out to Somerville again. When you're in the neighborhood, check out Ball Square Fine Wines, Lyndell's and head down Willow to Q's Nuts.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cozy up to this: Snowstorm and Scones

Last month, Boston finally got the snow that never came last winter. We had an enormous snowstorm, complete with driving bans and houses washing out to sea and super duper elevated French Toast Alerts.

Thursday night I walked into the Porter Square Shaw's and then turned around and walked out and straight over to Pemberton Farms - which was deserted. Then we had a cozy Friday at home getting ready for the storm (instead of buying bread, I made it). Friday when it got dark, the snow finally started coming down, so we did what any normal person would do and left the house. We trekked over to Davis Square, stopped in at the Burren for a drink and wandered around until we found somewhere that was serving dinner, since most places were closed.
The storm picked up Friday night, and Saturday morning you could have sledded down our front steps if you wanted to. We walked and snowshoed down to Harvard Square then up to Olde Magoun's (they were actually the only place open) then headed back home for some more shoveling.

When it's cold and snowy and all you want to do is curl up and be warm, remember that it's also a fantastic idea to turn your oven on and bake! This recipe is straight from Joy the Baker and I implore you to make it at least once before spring starts it gets too warm, so July. It will rock your world.

I made these scones twice in the same week (they were gone in a day), and while they're a little ingredient intensive, they are worth it. (This was another time when the guys at Dave's Fresh Pasta hooked me up - I couldn't find chives ANYWHERE.)

Sour Cream and Chive Scones 
Seriously, what are you waiting for? Go. Hustle to the kitchen now!

Monday, March 4, 2013

The One Where I Fix My Ugly Dresser

Have you ever googled for Ikea Hacks? People do some pretty neat stuff! Like this and these.
I finally got fed up with my ugly choice of Ikea dresser (fun fact, the tall dresser on the left was a craigslist find in 2005, the one on the right I purchased for real and assembled 2 years ago) and started googling around for ways to update it.

I came across several hacks to this dresser, this one: and this one: give you the best idea of the before/after I was inspired by.
Please don't judge me on my poor choices, the original dressers were made like this:

I went to my favorite hardware store, Tags, in my least favorite parking lot, Porter Square, and got a lot of spray paint - primer for plastic and other weird surfaces, and then white to transform the "birch wood." Hint: if you buy this dresser in white, the project is WAY EASIER. I also ordered some contact paper online.
Here's a close up:
La Isla (Yellow)

I did this in the summertime, so I took the dressers apart, brought them into our backyard, dressed up real fancy (I used an old bandana as a mask) and did a lot of spray painting. Then I dragged all of the drawers to the basement to dry, and left the two dresser bodies in our kitchen. My room was a mess, since all of my clothes were now in piles on the floor....

Once the drawers were dry, I added contact paper and reassembled and had this!
Sure, minus the fact that my room was still very messy in this photo, not bad for a previously hideous dresser, right?  (And if only I had drawer pulls to put on it that were cute. Oops, guess this is still a work in progress!)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Cranberry Almond Coconut Granola plus a Greek Yogurt Review

Gosh, as a food blogger, I was seriously missing the Greek yogurt post, so never fear, I'm going to tell you about my favorite one... but first, granola!
After a Whole Foods purchase of cranberry-almond granola that was pretty darn crunchy, I asked a coworker who had brought granola to a potluck what she uses as a recipe. The response was basically "the internet, do what you want, it's easy". So to the internet I went! I cobbled together from a few recipes and came up with a fairly standard granola - cranberries, almond, coconut. I was inspired by Joy the Baker and a few other recipes for proportions.

This stuff was yummy! I used maple syrup as a sweetener, which along with the cranberries gives this a homey New England feel.  The coconut is almost like a secret umami flavor. AND I didn't burn it!

A tip - absolutely shop the bulk section of Whole Foods. These oats were 99 cents/lb for instance. Also, it shouldn't surprise anyone that I used the leftover coconut in a loaf of banana bread. I'm thinking I should do a series of posts on banana bread.... For instance, I recently made Ina Garten's old fashioned banana cake for a Chinese New Year party.

And finally, I waver on Greek yogurt. Some brands I feel are very chalky, others I don't like the vanilla flavoring and their plain is so sour that I end up flavoring with honey. I'm a little yogurt picky. However, I've stumbled across Cabot Vanilla Greek Yogurt and it's by far my favorite. It's not quite as dense as some other Greek yogurts, but it's not terrifically sweet and has an honest vanilla flavor.

I think that earns me a certified food blogger stamp of approval. What's your stereotypical food blog post? What's your favorite Greek yogurt?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Christmas Cookies and Cats

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is taking excessive amounts of photos of cats cooking with my mom. We make a very traditional Polish Christmas Eve dinner of borscht and pierogi. The pierogi requires A LOT of work – make the dough, make the filling, roll the dough, stuff with filling, freeze…. Wait patiently… Cook and cover with butter.
We also make cookies. This year, for whatever reason, I had a hell of a time with my lemon cookies. We tried and failed a few times to no success whatsoever (although my improv team enjoyed them, they tasted fine) and finally I went home and made them myself.

The photo above is what happened when I showed up at my parent’s house with dozens of unfrosted cookies in tow. My brother and I frosted, sprinkled, and decorated (while a cat ate the ribbon of one of the packages under the tree). If you zoom in you can see the negative snowman and a few other fun things. Kids these days, so emo.

A few other fun things:

The restaurant at the Ace Hotel in NYC - the livestock were decorated for the season

My favorite Christmas ornament, purchased in Poland in 2010

A coffee shop in Albany

A mammoth!
(We are now members of the Museum of Science.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Apple Rosemary Pies

Sometime around a few months ago, we had some holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas... About a year and a half ago, I actually wrote this post and I only just found as a saved draft. The recipe was good, so I made the pies again this year. Also, you'll see another post soon talking about how awesome the team at Dave's Fresh Pasta are for hooking me up with spare herbs. I thought this recipe came from the New York Times although I can only find it in my email. So, it's below. I'm a mess, seriously!

You know I love pie, and I love baking pie, so when we had a thanksgiving work potluck, I decided to make a pie. The story of pie #1 is as follows.... Wednesday night I couldn't find rosemary at the grocery store, so I stopped in to Dave's Fresh Pasta and asked nicely at the counter. I was rewarded with several sprigs of rosemary at minimal cost, so I went home to start the pie.

Then it turned out I didn't have enough regular flour, so I had to make a partially whole wheat crust. And then I went for a run.

My pie strategy is as follows: make crust, refrigerate, go for a run. So I did, but I discovered I needed flour for the filling and I had to go out to the store to buy more anyway. Sigh....

But the pie still came out delicious!

Anyway, it was just a practice for Thanksgiving, when I had to make two apple rosemary pies! My parents were nice enough to come over and help peel 18 apples and roll dough ( pre- made the night before thankfully) but still it was a struggle to get the pies in the oven in time to go to Thanksgiving One at my husband's house. After we went to Thanksgiving Two with my family, where I proceeded to screw up the popovers by doubling every ingredient except the eggs. Oops.

Rosemary Apple Pie

Prep: 1 hour
Bake: 55 min.
Stand: 30 min.

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
2 large sprigs fresh rosemary plus 1 tsp. finely snipped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
6 cups cored, peeled and sliced Granny Smith apples
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
3 Tbsp. whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup butter
1 Recipe Rosemary Pastry, see recipe
1 egg white, beaten
2 tsp. granulated sugar

1. For rosemary syrup, in small microwave-safe bowl combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar, the water, and 2 sprigs rosemary. Microcook, uncovered, on 100% power (high) for 2 minutes. Let stand 30 minutes; remove rosemary sprigs and discard.

2. In small bowl combine brown sugar, flour, salt and 1 teaspoon finely snipped rosemary; set aside. In very large bowl toss apples with lemon juice. Add brown sugar mixture; toss to coat. Add whipping cream, vanilla, and rosemary syrup.

3. In large skillet melt butter over medium heat; add apple mixture. Cook over medium heat for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.

4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. On lightly floured surface, slightly flatten one Rosemary Pastry ball. Roll it from center to edges into a circle 12 inches in diameter. Wrap pastry circle around the rolling pin. Unroll pastry into a 9-inch pie pan or plate. Trim pastry even with rim of pie pan; spoon in apple mixture.

5. Roll remaining ball of pastry into a circle 12 inches in diameter. Cut large slits in pastry. Place pastry circle on apple filling; trim to 1/2 inch beyond edge of pan. Fold top pastry under bottom pastry. Crimp edge as desired. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons sugar. To prevent overbrowning, cover edge of pie with foil. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake 35 minutes. Remove foil. Bake 20 to 25 minutes more or until fruit is tender and filling is bubbly. Cool on wire rack; serve slightly warm. Makes 10 servings.

Rosemary Pastry:Food processor method In a food processor combine 3 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon finely snipped fresh rosemary leaves. Add 1 cup chilled shortening. Pulse until mixture resembles cornmeal. In a small bowl combine 1/3 cup ice water, 1 beaten egg yolk, and 1 tablespoon vinegar. Add liquid mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, to flour mixture and pulse until a soft dough forms. Divide in half; form into balls. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill 30 minutes.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Coming Out of Hibernation

Well, blog, it looks like I've been in hibernation throughout the winter. I'm putting together several posts to help us all get through the next few weeks of winter. With any luck they will make you feel warmer and cozier and generally of a good disposition.

In pictures, things you can look forward to: