Tuesday, August 31, 2010

More Bridal Shower Highlights

I have a gazillion pictures from the shower, and most of them show me looking awkward and sweaty (gift-opening was harder work than I realized!) But here are a few favorites elements I wanted to share from the shower:

First, the opportunity to wear one of the flower hairpieces I ordered to wear during the reception - readers may recognize it from a May post. I'm only wearing one of them, but I loved how they turned out with the gray pearls in the middle. What i'm not digging completely is my hairstyle, it ended up being a little too big and messy for me so I think I'm going to aim for a more structured bun for the wedding:

The two things I asked for my bridal shower (leaving everything else in the hands of my sister and my lovely bridal party) were recipe submissions from the guests and a cookie buffet as the favor (using some of the glassware I've purchased for use at the wedding).  While I don't have a good picture of the beautiful recipe box Amy ordered from Etsy, I do have pictures of the cookie buffet. My bridesmaids pitched in and baked for it, and despite their protests, I did bake Magic Bars and Cranberry, Pistachio and White Chocolate cookies. My wonderful sister ordered the gingham favor bags and decorated them with custom labels that echoed the some of the design of our wedding invitations. Based on the crumbs that were left, these favors were a hit!

A shot of me and the bridesmaids hamming it up for the camera - I have to thank them again for all the time and effort they put into planning the shower:

A shot of all the BC girls in attendance (minus poor Amanda, since she was running around helping with the clean-up) - in fact, the first three on the left (Liz, Jen and Kelly) were my roommates for three out of four years in school:
Special thanks to Camie (a friend since high school in Japan) and my future SIL Amanda, who both traveled up from NY early to take part in the festivities:
And even bigger thanks to my sister and maid of honor for being the mastermind of the event, I love you enough to post a picture where you look fabulous and I look sweaty (although I'm still adoring my dress):

PS, as a sidenote, in case you were wondering where the bridal shower took place - a function room at Plimoth Plantation, appropriate considering Andrew's roots!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Feeling More Like A Bride...

Just a little snippet of an extremely busy and fun-packed weekend - my bridal shower!

It was a little mortifying to walk into a room and have everyone stare at you and burst into applause! But the best part was that Andrew got his own round of applause after dropping off my purse and trying to slink away unnoticed.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

August Workplace Potluck - Thai Meatballs

I kind of shot myself in the foot with this month's potluck. I'm in charge of scheduling them at work, and Tuesday, August 24 seemed like a good day way back in July.  That was before a one-day business trip got scheduled on the Monday before. As in, I was up at 4:30 am, spent 8 hours driving (round trip) and got back home at 11:30 pm. Ugh

I set my alarm a half hour early on Tuesday and ended up sleeping through my snooze alarm. Of course. Lucky for me, I had picked the easiest recipe in the world to make and still managed to have something made for my office potluck AND make it into work at my usual time.

I've rechristened these Thai meatballs, although the original recipe is called Slow Cooker Meatballs in Peanut Chile Sauce from A Year of Slowcooking. I hade made this recipe once before and it was very well received, so I didn't feel too guilty making it twice in the same year since it fit with our Asian theme for this month's potluck.

All I did was dump a lot of peanut butter (around 4 tablespoons), a can of coconut milk with cream, some fish sauce, some white sugar and sriracha sauce in a crockpot:

I topped it with a full bag of frozen turkey meatballs and lugged my slow cooker to work. After cooking for 2.5 hours on high, they smelt wonderful and were cooked to perfection:

Because I dumped extra amounts of the ingredients in (and apparently, didn't grab a big enough bag of meatballs), there was a lot of extra sauce. Which wasn't a bad thing, since it tasted almost like a curry and worked well spooned over the white rice I made (I also lugged my trusty rice cooker to work).  Five minutes of prep for one fantastic dish, I couldn't ask for more.

Here's a shot of our loaded potluck table - we had sushi (ordered from a takeout place), an Asian slaw (with a lovely vinegary tang), an Asian noodle salad (sweeter with lots of almonds for crunch) and a coworker's version of spicy beef with peppers. Delicious!

Since I have one of our team's August birthdays, a coworker asked me what I wanted for dessert, which is a chance since I'm the one usually making the desserts.  I told her simply "nothing chocolate" and "something fruit-based" and she produced a homemade blueberry pie that was to die-for.  As I say every time we have one of these things, I was just so incredibly proud of my coworkers for producing such a great spread.


Following up on one of my previous posts, I decided to stop by Hingham to check out a newly opened store as a reward after a weekend full of driving and errands  - Pinkberry!

They were fully staffed (almost too many people since space was obviously tight behind the counter):
I got two orders of froyo to go (as a surprise to bring home to Andrew) and was surprised when the girl who was serving me asked if I wanted an "ice bag". Of all the frozen yogurts places, I've never had anyone offer us anything other than a paper bag.  This is what I got:
I have to admit, I had visions of some space-agey looking bag, perhaps in silver. What I got was ice in a bag. Literally. 
I guess I shouldn't complain, the froyo seemed to stay pretty cold and more importantly, tasted great. That could also be due to the fact that the first Pinkberry store is dangerously close to our house (approximately 13 miles according to GPS or 15 minutes without traffic).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Birthday Dinner at Burtons

Happy Birthday to a dear friend - it feels like only yesterday that we were celebrating our 20th birthdays in school and now, let's just say we're celebrating all the milestones together.

Birthday girl Jen mugs with her brother Bryan at her birthday dinner at Burtons (talk about alliteration):

I also have to give out to the birthday girl's shoes - the flash obscures all the fun details (it looked like news print with a pin-up girl - Jen, I'm counting on you to fill in the details):
This just shows that nothing changes in a decade, since Jen was the fashionista in our group of friends way back when.

Happy Birthday to a "classy broad"!

*Since this is a birthday post, I chose to focus on the friend rather than the food. But the food (and desserts) were pretty good!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Blueberry Beer Pancakes

We've all had those weekends when you look in your fridge and realize that you're out of milk, which removes all sorts of breakfast possibilities such as cereal, french toast and pancakes.  This happened to us last weekend but luckily for Andrew (who had requested panackes for breakfast) a recipe for beer pancakes had caught my eye while browsing through all recipes.

That's right, I said beer.  And for the beer I used, I went with a Sam Adams Blackberry witbier since I thought the fruity flavor would compliment the blueberries in the pancake batter:

Pouring the beer in, it immediately reacted with the baking powder and starting foaming up nicely:

The true test was on the stove, and yes, the pancakes bubbled up well while they were cooking. I also added more fresh blueberries on top of the pancake after this picture was taken, but wanted to give you the full effect of the bubbles.  The best part was the smell of the pancakes as they were cooking - they gave off a wonderful yeasty smell that reminded me of baking bread:

The end result? Delightfully light pancakes. There was just a hint of beer flavor but it worked well with the overall taste of the blueberry pancakes. So good that I would make these again even if I had milk available in the fridge!

However, I'm not sure if this same concept would work quite so well with French Toast, so no fiddling with that recipe for the time being!

Beer Pancakes (from Allrecipes)

1 cup sifted all-purpose flour

1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup beer (I recommend a fruity beer like the Sam Adams Blackberry Witbier I used)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
In addition, I always add 1 teaspoon of vanilla and a couple of shakes of cinnamon to pancakes because I figure it can't hurt!

1.In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pour in the egg, beer and melted butter; stir with a whisk just until blended - a few lumps are okay.
2.Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat. Coat with vegetable oil or cooking spray. Spoon about 1/4 cup of batter onto the hot surface for each pancake. When bubbles appear on top of the pancakes, flip, and cook until browned on the other side.
Serve with butter and tons of maple syrup!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Invites Are Out The Door...

My wedding invitations finally arrived last Thursday. As testament to Blush Design Studio's detail to attention, they arrived beautifully wrapped, ready for me to tear into like a kid at Christmas!

After two straight nights of assembling these babies with Andrew (luckily, Andrew's mom kindly took on the addressing duties), more than 100 envelopes are now ready to be mailed in the morning:

Even after staring at these things for hours on end, I still love them to pieces and don't regret the many hours spent designing them.  To preserve the element of surprise for those of you who will be receiving one in the mail, I'm going to wait a little bit before doing the grand reveal. My wonderful letterpress designer is also going to blog about them, so I'll be sure to share that link as well. Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mystery Meet #2 Revealed

Anyone that follows my baking posts knows I'm a huge fan of Beantown Baker and end up getting most of my recipes from her blog.  I was disappointed that I had missed the opportunity to meet Jen in person at last month's Myers + Chang event (since I didn't even realize she was there) and was glad when she passed along news of this month's Mystery Meet.
For those who haven't heard of Mystery Meet, it's the brainchild of social media entrepreneur Seth Resler.
Sidenote: I actually had my first (online) encounter with Seth when he commented on a post of mine earlier in the year. I remember clicking on his profile and seeing a very early version of his Mystery Meet site, but didn't realize what it actually was until Jen emailed me that it had launched.

Anyway, back to Mystery Meet. The basic concept is that twenty people meet at a different restaurant each month to enjoy a special prix fixe menu.  The twist is that you don't know where you're eating until 24 hours before the dinner. Slots for the dinner open up exactly one week before, and are sold out within hours. You're given a few clues about the restaurant at that point but don't know the final destination until Seth emails you the night before. Based on the fact that the first dinner had taken place at Ten Tables in Cambridge, I was pretty sure that the calibre of restaurants would be perfectly suited for foodies, and bloggers that simply enjoy eating like myself. :)

The three clues that I saw on the day of sign-up mentioned that the restaurant was south of the Charles River, that the chef ran every Boston marathon from 1991 to 2006 and that the owners, both Harvard grads, met while working at Rialto. After reading these hints, I had a strong suspicion that the restaurant was going to be... you guessed it, Myers + Chang! Rather than being disappointed that I was going to be eating at the same restaurant twice within a month, I was thrilled at the opportunity to try more of the restaurant's delicious dishes and as Andrew put it, avoiding frozen entrees (see my previous Myers + Chang post for an explanation on this).

Come Monday night, Seth's email confirmed the location and informed us that we'd be enjoying an eight-dish family-style meal with dessert for $36 (not including drinks, tax or tip).

I arrived minutes before 7:30 p.m. and was relieved to see that Jen had saved me a seat at the table. Approximately twenty of us were crammed into one long table along the windows, which worked well in terms of passing dishes but poorly in the sense that you only got a chance to talk to the people in the section closest to you. However, I had some fabulous people seated around me so the conversation flowed pretty smoothly for most of the night since most of us shared a passion for food and for blogging!

This is a quick shot of the right side of the table with Seth all the way at the end with the blue shirt on (seated in the middle, I had a good shot of both sides of the table). I apologize in advance for some of the embarassingly blurry pictures, I was snapping some rather quickly and  my poor little green camera was not up to the challenge!

Here is a shot of the special menu that was developed for the Mystery Meet group - I was pleased to see that a lot of Myers + Chang's most popular items were available for us to try:

One of my favorite dishes of the night was hands down the thai ginger chicken salad. I always seem to gravitate towards savory noodle dishes in Asian cuisine.  Note that all the dishes were really served family style (random bowls across the table), which was almost confusing at times since we were all scrambling to get a taste of each dish. I have to give due credit, everyone at the table was extremely polite with sharing and conscientious about passing around the dishes so everyone got their fair share:

The lemony shrimp potstickers on the top left (which was the only dish I didn't really like, but everyone else seemed to love it) and the tasty spring rolls that we had tried last month. I don't think everyone liked the dipping sauce but it happened to be right up my alley since I love vinegar-y things:

I think the table favorite was the tea-smoked pork ribs. These were falling-off-the-bone tender and the perfect accompaniment to the bowls of white and brown rice we were served:

Andrew's favorite, the wok-roasted mussels, were as good as I remembered (funny sidenote: no one near me touched the garlic bread, I think we were all nervous about getting our fingers on it and trying to share):

I thought the Tiger's Tears (basically a cold steak salad) was good, spicier than one would think but it didn't stand out as much as the other dishes to me:

Same goes for the chicken and rapini dish, surprisingly spicy with a lot of flavor from the rapini but again, not one of my favorites. I think at this point, I was getting pretty full so that may have also influenced my perception of the dish:

The final dish was the a tofu and broccoli chow fun. Not bad, but the tofu didn't soak up enough of the spicy sauce's flavor for me. This I admit is due to the fact that my mom makes killer tofu dishes (especially soups) so everything pales in comparison to her tofu:

There was a long lag in dinner as we wondered whether or not we'd be getting dessert. Dessert was mentioned in the initial Mystery Meet emails but it wasn't on our printed menu. Hopes were high, since we are talking about desserts made by the Joanne Change of Flour fame. To my relief and extreme pleasure, we got served a HUGE variety of desserts.  My only complaint that was that dessert-wise, you literally only got a single taste of each dish. I also got the short end of the stick since none of the desserts seemed to be set down near me, so I missed getting even a single bite of my absolute favorite, the coconut cream pie dessert that I had devoured last month.

What I did get to try (and I was lucky for it) was a:
  • lemon-ginger mousse coupe, homemade fortune cookie (not very exciting for me)
  • "ancient chinese secret" chocolate mousse, homemade 5-spice marshmallows (delicious flavor and texture)
  • banana creme caramel, black and white sesame brittle (tasted like flan but was good with the banana slices on the side):

  • frozen vanilla bean parfait, fresh orange granita (tasted like the best creamsicle I've ever had)

And I skipped the chocolate and cocoa nib terrine with vietnamese coffee sauce since I had tried it last month and felt like it should be enjoyed by my fellow diners who actually appreciate chocolate desserts.

Overall, it was a blast attending my first real blogger/foodie event and meeting some interesting people, including the owner of Boston Chocolate Tours (who knew such a thing existed?).

For a more comprehensive list of participants or to get another perspective of the night, I urge you to check out Jen's post on the event.

Finally, a shout out to Seth for thinking of such an interesting/cool/fun concept!

PS. Meeting all these "serious" bloggers and seeing their wonderful blogs has made me even more determined to revamp my blog/design after the wedding craziness has ended. Consider that another official to-do before the end of the year.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Birthday Dinner at Spazio

Thanks to this guy (aka my uncle and our wedding officiant), Andrew and I got to try a new restaurant that's pretty much in our backyard - Spazio in Qunicy:

If you look at the picture above, you'll note one of Spazio's key features - the hummus and olive oil that comes served with their generous bread basket featuring breadsticks, raisin bread and some sort of ciabatta type bread. We kept joking that we needed to keep the basket away from my cousin Andrew (male teen = hungry boy), but I think I ended up eating more bread than he did! In fact, our table of seven went through two baskets and my grandmother didn't eat any of it.

Rich is actually a vegetarian and he was hoping that Spazio's current menu would include an eggplant parm dish that he had enjoyed in the past. Alas, we were told it wasn't currently available so as a consolation, we ordered the Neopolitan of Fried Eggplant, Zucchini, Spinach and Fresh Mozzarella appetizer.  It looked fairly impressive but in terms of taste and flavor, it tasted mostly like the marinara sauce.

The calamari appetizer, on the hand, was much better. It was nice and light and most importantly, not greasy with a great lemon aioli on the side:

I have to point out as a side note, it was around this point that I was served my drink of diet Coke, which tasted off to me. I thought it was because the restaurant's syrup machine was running out, so I notified our server, and ten minutes later, I received a fresh glass of soda. Which tasted exactly the same. At that point, I just gave up on expecting what I was used to and just drank it. I'm not sure what was causing this problem, but it kind of reminded me of similar situations at past restaurants where I was told that they didn't carry the "Coke" brand but instead it was a locally brewed soda. Which you think would taste better but give me some artificial sugar any time of the day. Also, it kind of bothered me that the server left my old soda on the table the entire time I was waiting for a replacement. I know that sounds fussy, but on a crowded table, extra space was needed and I kept automatically reaching for my drink and recoiling once I remember that I didn't like its flavor. Ok, back to the food.

I love this shot of my grandma. She ordered the pork chop special and this little lady easily had the biggest dish on the table. Lucky for my cousin Andrew, he was able to take her leftovers (which realistically was most of the chop):

I had the Linguine alla Putanesca with Anchovie, Olives, Capers, Chili Pepper and Tomato - I appreciated the homemade pasta which was perfectly al dente, but found the olives to be a little too salty and I was disconcerted by a big chunk of anchovie I bit into. I know the description includes anchovie but I was expecting more of the flavor of anchovie rather actual chunk of it. To be honest, I brought most of this home, and almost a week later, it's still sitting untouched in our fridge (waiting to be thrown out tomorrow on trash day):

What I should've gotten was the Chicken Marsalla (yes, that's the way the restaurant spells it) dish with garlic mashed potatoes and acorn squash. Both of my cousins ordered it and cleaned their plates. While I didn't snag a piece of the chicken, I did try the acorn squash (which came sprinkled with cinnamon) and it was delicious:

Finally, dessert time which is obviously my favorite. The birthday boy split his dessert (and the calories) with my cousin Andrea. I'm sorry the picture is miserable, but picture some sort of protiferole dish filled with a thick chocolate mousse and topped with whipped cream. Although I'm not a chocolate dessert person, I have to admit the forkful I tried was pretty nice:

My cousin Andrew was excited for the vanilla bean custard (I can't remember the exact name) which was really a flan. I've never been the biggest fan of flan or flan-like desserts and this to me tasted pretty simple - not really indulgent enough for me to order in a restaurant but Andrew scraped his plate clean:

I went with the lemon pudding cake with summer fruit and whipped cream. I loved this dessert, it was totally up my alley. It was moist with a strong lemon flavor and didn't leave me feeling heavy afterwards:

Overall, I think the food was pretty decent but slightly overpriced considering the inconsistencies in the food, meaning that I had such highs and lows with portions of the meal. I would still give it another shot for a meal, but would skip the diet soda, load up on bread yet again, and stick with the chicken marsalla as my main entree. More importantly, the birthday guest of honor seemed to enjoy his meal (which actually ended up bruchetta, which looked more impressive than you would think) and it was fun a family meal all around. I think Andrew was happy that he was seated at the far end of the table from me since that took him out of a picture range for once!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Zukes 'n Cukes

Ok, I know that's a cutesy name for a post, but it was oh-so appropriate for this ode to our flourishing garden.

Our grape tomatoes have been slowly been ripening throughout the month, in twos and threes, so they've been more suited for a quick treat.

Our humble zucchini and cucumber plants have been working overtime - we only have one of each (and thank goodness, since they've both grown so much that they've taken over our meager plot of land.)

This is my first look at zucchini fresh on the plant - I stuck my hand in for scale but I can't even describe how big these suckers are and how quickly they grow. It's literally overnight that a zucchini goes from barely being noticed to a behemoth:

Not to be overloooked, the cucumbers are also coming in nicely:

This is what we harvested over the weekend:

For perspective, our biggest zucchini next to a cucumber and some adorable grape tomatoes to boot:

So what to do with all these vegetables? For dinner last night, I went to my go-to zucchini recipe, which I learned from a college roommate. All it involves is:
  1. Peeling and slicing a zucchini into rounds
  2. Dredging it in a beaten egg solution
  3. Dredging it in Italian bread crumbs
  4. One more dip in the egg solution
  5. Sprinkling lemon and pepper seasoning (without salt) and then dredging through the bread crumbs one more time
  6. Placing it on a Pam-sprayed sheet (or a Silpat)
  7. Baking for 25 minutes in a 400 degree oven, flipping them over at the halfway point.

What you get at the end is slightly browned, chewy piece of zucchini with a bread coating that puffs up while it bakes. We eat this simply with a side of white rice (always present in our house) and a protein. I have to note that we ran out of the lemon pepper seasoning (without salt) in the middle so we had to substitute lemon pepper seasoning (with salt), and I actually liked using both flavors. Let's face it, zucchini is pretty flavorless, so piling on as much lemon pepper seasoning only makes it taste better.

PS, this picture is before the rounds went into the oven. We ate them too quicly afterwards for a "baked" picture:

The two cucumbers we harvested got eaten for dinner tonight. I combined two recipes, one from the Food Network and one from Allrecipes to make a simple cucumber salad.

First came slicing the cucumbers in half, scoops the seeds out, and slicing them into fairly thin slices:

I salted the cucumbers and half a sliced yellow onion (what I had on hand) with around two teaspoons of salt in a colander. While letting that soak and drain, I whisked together a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, a teaspoon of white vinegar, one tablespoon of white sugar and two teaspoons of freshly snipped parsely from our windowsill herb garden.  A quick rinse of the cucumbers and onions in cold water and a toss in the vinegar mixture yielded this picture perfect salad (with the last minute addition of sliced grape tomatoes from our garden):

As Andrew and I grinned at each other over our dinner, we were smug with the satisfaction that nothing tastes as good something you've grown yourself. And in case you were wondering, this was a side dish to accompany our chicken burgers and spicy sweet potato fries.

Two Months To Go

Somehow I blinked and we only have 61 days to go until the wedding. Two months. At this point, I'm getting really good at list making but somehow, the lists remain long even though I try to get a few things crossed off each week.  I takes turns being uber calm about how everything is proceeding to have minor freakouts. Thankfully, Andrew has remained calm through it all and I keep trying to remind myself that I am lucky to have these things to worry about.  Or as my boss says, it's the marriage that's more important than the wedding. I agree, but flippantly respond that you have to get through the wedding first to reach the marriage.

So what's freaking me out this month? It's still my wedding invitations.  At this point, they've been printed and should arrive on my doorstep tomorrow. I'm actually in Boston for day of training and staying late in the city for a Mystery Meet dinner, so it's killing me that I won't get to see them until I'm bleary-eyed tomorrow night. That's not the stressful part. It's getting them addressed and mailed that's killing me. Each time I hear about a "date twin" who's already sent out their invites, I get a little more stressed. So my goal is to get the invites in the mail by the beginning of next week, with getting help addressing the envelopes since my handwriting isn't exactly neat in cursive.

The high points? I was practically high fiving the poor male coworker who's stuck sitting next to me (which means he gets to hear all about my wedding planning, whether he wants to or not) when I found a key piece of the groomsmen's outfits online, on sale and found a $15 off $30 purchase coupon to boot! My stylist is miraculously going to squeeze my hair and makeup trial in between the two weddings she's doing at the end of the month, just so I can have the trial on the same day as my shower (no sense in getting gussied up for an ordinary day). And I received a call today letting me know that my bridesmaids' dresses are finally in.  So things are rolling, slowly but surely.

And since Andrew just handed me a bowl of ice cream (not good for a bride trying to stay fit but oh-so good for the nerves), this night is going to end just fine.  Take that, wedding planning.

Friday, August 6, 2010


At the Derby Street Shoppes in Hingham - the first Pinkberry to "swirl" its way into Massachusetts:

According to word on the street, it opens on Friday, August 20. I forsee even more frozen yogurt in my future, just in time for my birthday!