Thursday, October 20, 2011

Quinoa Patties

Earlier in the week, I cooked a batch of quinoa to go with some chicken. While rice is my first love when it comes to grain side dishes, quinoa is rapidly becoming a close second. It has a nice nutty flavor, and it cooks faster than rice. And I like to see how the little curly strand comes out in the quinoa. (I know, I am easily amused).

Anyway, I had about two cups of leftover quinoa that I didn't know what to do with. After surfing the 'net for ideas, I was intrigued by the idea of making these quinoa patties. But I didn't have most of the ingredients, so used the recipe as a base and took some liberties with the spices. What I ended up with something of a cross between a biscuit and an Italian meatball with the basil, garlic, and parmesan cheese. It made for an unique snack when dipped with tomato-basil sauce. If I were to make these again, I would probably follow the recipe more closely and add feta cheese. What I am curious to see, though, is if theses patties would work as sort of vegetarian "meatballs" if tossed with pasta and tomato sauce.

Quinoa Patties
Loosely adapted from 101 Cookbooks

2 cups cooked quinoa
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1/2 yellow onion, grated
3 garlic cloves, grated
3/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
5 eggs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Pre-heat oven at 400 degrees. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Oil a baking sheet (I used cooking spray). Form batter into roughly two-inch patties. Bake for 15-20 minutes, (until nicely golden brown on the bottom side). Flip and bake for another 5-7 minutes. Makes about a dozen patties. Best served dipped in tomato sauce.
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The Quest for the Best Lobster Roll

About two years ago, I went to Maine for the first time. And it completely changed how I eat lobster. Maine lobster is really like no other. It's sweeter, firmer, and juicier than any other lobster I've ever had. And lobster rolls, well, lobster is by far the best thing to ever be put in a hot dog bun. The last time I went to Maine, we were in New Harbor for a wedding of a good friend of Boyfriend's. I had my first lobster roll at a casual dinner the night before the wedding (I still don't know where it came from), and I have been dreaming about it since.

So when Boyfriend told me that another friend of his was having a wedding in New England, I immediately suggested if we could make a vacation of it and drive up to Maine. And so we made the trip to Portland, Maine, so I could enjoy the fall foliage find the best lobster roll. And I was determined to find it, cholesterol and high blood pressure, be damned.

But little did I realize how much variation there was in lobster rolls. Mixed with mayo, mixed with butter, bun toasted, with lettuce, you name it. The perfect lobster roll from my memory had the lobster mixed with just a little mayo, nestled in a bun grilled in butter. Lettuce optional.

Here is the first lobster roll we had on our first night in Maine at the Portland Lobster Company, which boasts that it has the best lobster roll in Portland. Now don't get me wrong, the lobster meat was tasty, sweet, and juicy and the bun was nice and toasty. But this lobster had mixed with drawn butter, which left something to be desired.

After a morning of hiking at Bradbury Mountain State Park, we tried our second lobster roll at the Lobster Cooker in Freeport, Maine. (And yes, we stop at the L.L. Bean flagship store while we were in Freeport). As you can see from the picture, this roll did not contain butter or mayo. Just lobster and lettuce. Once again, while very good lobster, it did not quite recreate the memory I had.

Here is the third lobster roll we had at the Thirsty Pig in Portland. This time we specifically asked the waitress for mayo. Unfortunately, the mayo came slathered on the bun, rather than mixed with lobster meat. Just not the same. (Though they did make a pretty mean sausage at this place).

So after my third lobster roll on this trip, none of them quite bringing the joy that I had of my very first lobster roll, I was beginning to feel disillusioned. Had I built up the memory of the lobster roll so much, that no lobster roll of the present could meet up to it? Would I have to end this trip, with my dream unrealized?

Just when I began to lose all hope, we drove to Gardiner, a small town about one hour away from Portland, in search of fall foliage. (All the rain from this summer meant that peak fall foliage was about two weeks late this year). At a service area, a nice woman at the information booth suggested that we go to Dennis's Pizza. They made lobster rolls with mayo, without mayo, any way you want it, she assured.

Dennis's Pizza turned out to be a hole in the wall pizza place that also served lobster rolls and deli sandwiches. Now, I had gone to college in Philadelphia, where I had some of the best cheesesteaks in hole-in-the-wall pizzarias, so I was not discouraged.

Turns out hole-in-the wall was the way to go. This was the best lobster roll of the trip, exactly how I wanted it - lobster mixed with mayo and the bun perfectly toasted with butter. And it didn't need any sides like french fries or coleslaw to complicate its simplicity.

So now that I am back home, I will be dreaming of this lobster roll. That is, until I make my next trip to Maine.

Note: I was not compensated by any of these establishments. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Homemade Vanilla Pudding and a trip to the dentist

Two nights ago, I came home with half my face numb. I was not a happy camper. It was a prescheduled trip to the dentist. I knew what I was getting myself into. I even made a crockpot full of crab and corn soup to eat when I got home. (Which by the way, I forgot that corn, even when slow-cooked for eight hours, still involves chewing!) So after I slurped as much as I could with the functional side of my mouth, I was still hungry. My sister, with whom I was chatting with online since I couldn't really talk, suggested yogurt or pudding. I wasn't in the mood for yogurt, but pudding sounded amazing. Unfortunately, I didn't plan for a pudding craving, so I didn't have any pudding packs in the fridge, or instant pudding mixes in the pantry. So I did a little searching on the internet, and it turned out that I had the makings of homemade yogurt right in my cabinet. I picked this recipe from Allrecipes, because it seemed the least complicated to make. After doing a little more digging in Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, I learned that this recipe, which does not contain eggs, is more like a blancmange. Whatever you call it, it was tasty.

So the next time you find yourself craving pudding (or half your face is numb), you may have the makings of a nice homemade pudding right in your kitchen cabinets.
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Monday, October 3, 2011

Wine Tasting and Tour of Hopewell Valley Vineyards

My latest obsession has been finding awesome deals at LivingSocial, Groupon, Google Offers, and the like, which has brought me some neat stuff like $10 off at Whole Foods, 50% of at certain restaurants and museums, and even $4 admission at the Bronx Zoo! My rule is to only buy deals at places that I would normally go to or have been thinking about going to anyway. But every once in a while, I jump at a good deal, even if it is a 50 mile trek to South Jersey. This would be one of those splurges.

It started out innocently enough, I got the email from LivingSocial for $15 for a wine tasting and winery tour at Hopewell Valley Vineyards (a $30 value! and it comes with two souvenir glasses! How could I resist?) Of course, I realized it was a bit of a drive to Pennington, New Jersey, but since a couple of friends who lived nearby were having a party soon, I thought I could swing by for the wine tasting and head over to the party, thus killing two birds with one stone.

Unfortunately, the timing did not work out so well, and we ended up making a special trip for it yesterday. And I must admit, the trip was well worth it. The vineyard is family-owned and modest in size, but our tour guide (one of the owners, who actually used to be a lawyer) was very knowledgable and had a delightful sense of humor. Plus, we got to taste varieties of wines that I had never tasted before and learned about the wine-making process.

The oak barrels where the red wines are stored and aged

Here were my two favorite wines of the tasting portion of the tour:

On the left is the Spuma Rossa, a sparking red wine. I can't wait to try it with some fruit salad, or maybe a fruit pie. And on the right is Barbera, which actually is made from grapes grown right on the property, and has an earthy taste, unlike anything I've ever tasted. I'm excited to pair it with beef and other red meats.

So all and all, it was a fun trip, and at a good price too.

Note: This review is my personal views and opinions. I was not compensated by Hopewell Valley Vineyards or Livingsocial to make this review.

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