Monthly Archives: March 2012

Our Culinary Adventures in Mystic Connecticut

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My hubby and I decided to get away for a weekend to celebrate our anniversary and both of our birthdays. I was able to find a great deal for three days in a quaint old B&B in Mystic, Connecticut, so off we went. We did all the usual tourist stuff, the seaport, the aquarium, downtown, and shopping galore…but since this blog is about food, guess what my focus is?? All the great food we ate over the course of the three days!!

So, the food portion of our trip started with a stop at Bagel Experience (Route 209 in Brodheadsville, Pennsylvania) for some breakfast to go. Pumpernickel with Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese and lox for me, Egg with cream cheese and lox for Jim. Absolutely delicious as always… this place has the best bagels I’ve had outside of New York!!Crunchy on the outside, nice and soft on the inside. The lox is not too shabby either. Well worth a trip for!

When we got to Mystic, we first visited the seaport. On the way, a little up the road, we spotted what appeared to be a great little roadside place. While Jim was in the men’s room, I got talking to the older gentleman at the visitor’s desk about where to eat. I mentioned a little roadside place we spotted on the way into town. He declared “That’s the Seaview. If you don’t want fancy and don’t mind standing outside or sitting on a bench to eat, they have the best lobster roll in New England.” So we strolled through the seaport and back down the road to the Seaview Snack Bar (145 Greenmanville Avenue, Mystic, Connecticut Website: http://seaviewsnackbar.com/index.htm) for lunch. Jim had the lobster roll, I had the whole clam roll. Excellent food, at a picnic table right on the water, I say this place is PERFECT! The rolls were outstanding!

Next we decided to walk around downtown. The hubby wanted to check out an ice cream shop someone at work told him about. So….after some shopping, we visited Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream (2-4 West Main Street, Mystic, Connecticut Website: http://mysticdrawbridgeicecream.com/default.aspx). Since I can’t eat ice cream, I had a Chocolate Mandarin Soy Latte. Absolutely delish!! What a fabulous flavor combination! I never knew that chocolate and orange could taste so well together! Jim had one scoop of Guinness and one scoop of Mystic Mud ice cream. He loved them both! They appeared to me to be the most creamy ice creams ever!

After spending most of the day outside, by the time we went to dinner, I was STARVING!! We decided to stroll next door to a Thai restaurant I found online when searching for restaurants to check out in the area. The woman at the front desk recommended it as well. Did I mention the name is Thai One On (56 Whitehall Avenue, Mystic, Connecticut Website www.letsthaioneon.com)???? How can you not love a place with that name? Warm, inviting atmosphere, welcoming and friendly staff, excellent food, and you have to love that name!! We started with drinks. We both ordered the Muay Thai. Who can resist a drink that has Thai tea in it? Not me! It includes Thai tea (my favorite), vanilla vodka, coconut rum and lemon juice. Very tasty, subtle drink.

Next, we both ordered soup. Tom Yum Ta-lay-tong for Jim and Tom Yum Goong for me. They were both absolutely delish!! They were both spicy, with lemongrass, tomato, onion, mushroom and kaffir lime leaf. The heat was perfectly balanced and not at all overpowering. Jim’s had mixed seafood, mine had shrimp. The flavors were amazing! We were looking forward to appetizers at this point!

For appetizers, we ordered fish cakes (hold the peanuts) and dumplings. I need to mention that they were extremely good about avoiding ingredients I am allergic too. Not all restaurants are accommodating but they went above and beyond which scores them extra points in my book! Both of these appetizers were outstanding!! The fish cakes were cooked perfectly, not even a little bit greasy. Before I even finished each bite of food, I was looking forward to the next bite. A fabulous sweet cucumber salad shared the plate. The dumplings were by far the best I have ever had. The filling was made up of ground chicken, shrimp, and water chestnuts. They were served with a sauce I couldn’t quite figure out. Similar to teriyaki, only better! My taste buds could not wait for my entree to arrive!

So, on to entrees. Jim ordered Shrimp love Scallops and I ordered seafood curry minus the crab (damn allergies). Jim’s had shrimp and scallops (obviously) with ginger, onion, scallion, pepper, baby corn and their specialty sauce. Absolutely divine!! My curry had scallops, shrimp, squid, peppers, peas, pineapple, basil and bamboo shoots in one of the best coconut curry sauces I have ever tasted. Spicy, but not too hot. I was definitely doing a happy dance, as were my taste buds.

For desert, Jim had fried bananas. Of course, I had to sample a bite. The pastry was perfectly flaky, the bananas sweet, but not overpoweringly so. Again, delicious.

I really can not say enough about how much we enjoyed this place. The food and the staff were nothing short of fabulous!! This was by far the best Thai food I have ever had, anywhere! They adjusted for my food allergies without blinking an eye as well. Love this place!! Would go back to Mystic just to eat here!

For lunch Sunday we decided to check out Ten Clams (1 Coogan Boulevard, Mystic, Connecticut) since we were in the same area doing some shopping. The concept is that everything on the menu costs less than ten clams (dollars). Can’t beat that! We started with clam fritters. We had decided to get in as much seafood as possible on this trip since it is a seaside town! These fritters were outstanding. Not greasy at all, and just the right clam to dough ratio.

For lunch Jim strayed from seafood and had a cheeseburger on a pretzel roll with fries and cole slaw. Didn’t try it, but by his account it was good. The pretzel roll was tasty and the burger was juicy and flavorful. I ordered the clam strip basket. Yes, clams again! The clams were very tasty and fried to perfection. Nice and crispy. Honestly, there was nothing special about the fries or the cole slaw. Waitress was super friendly and gave us some advice about things to do in the area.

Dinner Sunday led us to The Mystic Boathouse (8 Coogan Boulevard, Mystic, Connecticut Website: http://www.themysticboathouse.com/). We found out about this place talking to the woman at the front desk, who sounded like her taste in restaurants was just as discriminating as ours. There was a Saint Patrick’s Day party going on in the bar, with an irish band, so right off the bat we were happy. The waitress was super friendly and informative, so we really enjoyed talking to her.

We started with a half-dozen of the Blue Point Oysters on the half shell from the raw bar. These came from Noank, a town not far up the road from the restaurant. Can I just say I typically DO NOT EAT oysters? I think they are slimy, nasty and gross! These looked so good, I decided to try one (with lots of cocktail sauce just in case). Absolutely loved them! Jim loves oysters to begin with, but did comment that these were the best he’s ever had. We ordered a second half-dozen!!

Next came the Prince Edward Island Mussels served with chorizo, shallots and cilantro. Cooked to perfection, with delicious flavors. We really enjoyed them, and we order mussels on a regular basis. These were definitely among the best. My only disappointment was that they were not local, considering where they are, surrounded by fishing communities.

For dinner, we both ordered the broiled cod with bomster scallop stuffing. The bomster scallops came from right up the road in Stonington, forgot to ask where the cod was from. From the first bite to the last this dish was superb. The stuffing was absolutely succulent and the scallops melted in your mouth. The cod flaked apart perfectly. There was silence at the table as we ate, it was that good. Actually there was some sound, me making content little happy food sounds as I enjoyed this!

Desert was a shared piece of chocolate Guinness cake with a Bailey’s frosting. Again, I was too full to really eat it, but forced (not really) a bite down. That bite was outstanding and I’m not even a Guinness fan. Jim enjoyed it as well! This is another restaurant I just can not say enough positive things about.

Our last meal was breakfast Monday morning at the Equinox Diner (253 Greenmanville Avenue, Mystic, Connecticut Website: http://www.equinoxdiner.com/). A friend of Jim’s recommended this place, and I am glad they did! The server was friendly and took excellent care of us.

Jim ordered the California Benedict. This twist on eggs benedict was nothing short of fabulous! Muffin, avocado, bacon, perfectly poached eggs, with a hollandaise sauce over top, served with the best home fries I have ever had. The combination of the avocado, egg and hollandaise felt so smooth in your mouth…heaven in a bite.

I ordered the Malibu Omelette with a few changes. The menu version had avocado, artichoke, tomato and jack cheese. Since I am not allowed dairy, I substituted goat’s cheese (so far this doesn’t bother me). I also added some spinach. It was served with the same home fries and some whole grain toast. One word….fantastic! I finished everything on my plate, which is rare for breakfast time. Don’t let the diner in the name scare you off, this food is gourmet for sure!

All in all, I can not say enough about how pleased I am in regards to this culinary adventure. My biggest word of advice?? Talk to the locals, they know what’s good! My next word of advice…enjoy all the great food this town has to offer if you get the opportunity!

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Arroz Con Pollo (Chicken & Rice)

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This dish strays from the traditional some, hopefully I do not offend any of my latino friends with my take on it. Sorry guys! This is my best effort, and while it may not be traditional, it was tasty!

To start, in the morning, I took two pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs (I’m straying already, most traditional recipes call for bone-in chicken) and placed them in a gallon size ziploc bag. They got very generously rubbed with adobo to hang out for the day.

That evening, I heated a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat in the dutch oven. Once hot, the chicken went in to brown well. This takes about twelve minutes or so. Once the chicken is nicely browned, it gets removed to a plate.

While the chicken was browning, I diced two small onions and five cloves of garlic. Once the chicken is removed from the dutch oven, the onions and garlic go in to saute in the drippings. Salt well to help the onions sweat and soften up. Scrape up all the yummy brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Saute about three minutes until the onion are just tender.

Next add in two cups of long grain rice. I used basmati, but any long grain will work here. Cook, stirring constantly, about two minutes. Add one and a quarter cups of dryish white wine. I had a bottle of Niagara in the fridge, so that is what I used. I will only cook with wine I will drink…. I don’t believe in “cooking wine”, if I won’t drink it why would I want to flavor my dish with it? Bring to a  boil over medium heat and boil for about five minutes to give the rice a good start.

It’s now time to add one can of diced tomatoes, two cups of broth (I used chicken, but vegetable would work well too), a generous pinch of saffron (expensive but so well worth it), two packets of sazon, and three to four bay leaves. Nestle the chicken back in among all the other goodies.

Cover and cook over medium-low heat until the rice is tender and the liquid is mostly absorbed. This took about twenty-five to thirty minutes.

Remove from the heat, stir in one cup of peas (frozen work) and once cup of green olives rough chopped. I used plain green olives because it is what I had on hand. I think the green olives stuffed with pimento would have worked fabulously in this dish. At this point, I also seasoned with a small amount of salt, black and white pepper.

Cover and let stand about ten minutes until the liquid is completely absorbed.  Make sure to remove all the bay leaves. Inevitably, I miss at least one and someone gets it.

Do a little happy food dance and enjoy!


What to do with the leftover corned beef???

In my last post, “Crock Pot Corned Beef and Cabbage”, I mentioned the need for leftovers. Today’s subject? How to transform those leftovers into other yummy corned beef meals. I enjoy these leftovers more than the original meal, hands down!

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The first leftover meal was corned beef and cabbage soup. This started as a thought in the back of my mind, that I wasn’t even sure was going to work. I was very pleasantly surprised at how well it turned out.

In my trusty four quart stock pot, I sauteed three diced cloves of garlic and one chopped yellow onion. I salted the garlic and onions well to help them sweat.

Once they were softened, I added roughly half a pound of the leftover corned beef chopped, four or so of the potatoes chopped, six of the carrots chopped and a nice amount of the cabbage chopped as well. About four or five cups of the cooking broth also went into the pot.

I added a very small amount of sea salt and some cracked ground pepper. Then I let everything simmer over low heat for about thirty minutes so the flavors could marry. For a soup made primarily of leftovers, this dish was really quite tasty!

The next leftover masterpiece was a dairy free reuben sandwich. To start, four slices of pumpernickel rye marble bread. My two favorite breads combined into one!! Gotta love that!

On one side, two tofutti american cheese slices go down. Our house is dairy free, but feel free to use any cheese you like or have in the refrigerator. If you want to go traditional, use swiss cheese.

Next, on the other side, three slices of the leftover corned beef. I sliced some of the corned beef extra thin for just this purpose.

On top of the corned beef goes a generous serving of sauerkraut. This is one of the few times I really enjoy sauerkraut. Otherwise, I can take it or leave it to be honest, but on a reuben…I love it!

Next, some light thousand island dressing. If I had been feeling more energetic, I would have made my own, but this particular Monday I came home with little to no energy. So some store-bought it was. Any thousand island or russian dressing you have on hand will work.

Very carefully, flip the cheese side over onto the corned beef side. Then it got pressed on my George Forman grill for about three minutes until the cheese is nice and melted and everything is warm. This can be done on any indoor grill, panini press or even in a skillet over medium heat on the stove top. The nice thing about the indoor grill is no butter or oil is needed so you save a few calories.

The last of my leftover creations is corned beef hash and eggs. Yes, breakfast for dinner! It is fun to eat breakfast for dinner sometimes, try it!

To begin, I heated about a tablespoon of olive oil in a nine-inch skillet over medium heat on the stove top. Two small diced onions join the olive oil to saute until tender.

While the onion is sauteing, I chopped equal parts of leftover corned beef and potatoes.

Once the onions are tender, the corned beef and potatoes join them in the skillet with some cracked black pepper. Mix well, and brown nicely on all sides.

While the corned beef hash is browning, heat a second nine-inch skillet over medium heat. Spray with some cooking spray, and crack four eggs into the skillet (one for me, three for my hubby). We like ours sunny side up, but cook them however your family prefers.

Scoop some of the corned beef hash onto your plate, top with egg (or eggs) and enjoy! This was by far my favorite leftover meal! Definitely NOT the corned beef hash out of a can you may have been served elsewhere!


Crock Pot Corned Beef and Cabbage

Being St. Patrick’s Day (which also happens to be my fabulous husband’s birthday) weekend, how could I not blog about corned beef and cabbage? Corned beef can be very tough, so I prefer to do mine in the crock pot and let it simmer low and slow all day long.

Be warned….this is A LOT OF FOOD! However, leftovers are not only wanted, but necessary for other weeknight dinners. Feel free to divide the recipe in half if you disagree. Recipes will follow for these corned beef goodies I crave whenever thinking about corned beef. Think homemade corned beef hash, and reuben sandwiches to start.  There could be a soup in here too. Still working on ideas for that one, please leave me a comment if you have a soup recipe that works with these leftovers.

So, to start, bright and early in the morning (talking six o’clock here), rough chop one large head of cabbage, ten medium red potatoes, and twelve medium to large carrots. These get divided and line the bottom of two crock pots. I don’t know about you, but I do not have a crock pot large enough to contain this recipe.

Next, the corned beef briskets get rinsed well. If you like to brine, feel free to do so the night before, but I never found it necessary. Place on top of the veggies fat side up, one in each crock pot. The fat side goes up so that as it melts, it keeps the meat nice and tender.

Pour six cups of vegetable broth (you could use chicken or beef if that’s what you have on hand but I prefer the flavor of the vegetable) over top of everything. The vegetables should just be covered. You don’t need to worry about covering the meat. Two or three times during the cooking process I spoon some of the juices over top of it, plus the fat will be melting down over it.

The only spice I find necessary is a very generous shake or two of pickling spice, yes, pickling spice. When you think you’ve used enough, give it just a little more. Of course, change this to suit your family’s pallets. Salt, pepper, whatever you prefer.

The crock pot gets set to eight hours on low. As a rule, you don’t want to remove the lid once you start cooking in a crock pot, but rules are made to be broken right?  Once or twice through out the day I like to spoon some of the juice over the brisket to keep it nice and tender. All that is left to wait, and you have a fabulous meal with leftovers for future fabulous meals. It is well worth the wait, the corned beef will fall apart in your mouth!!


Hopping John

 

This dish is traditional to the south, but this northern girl absolutely loves it!  Hopping John…AKA Black Eyed Peas. No, not the music, although I do enjoy them too! There are some variations on it, and of course it can be changed to match your taste, but this is a pretty traditional version of it I think. Of course, being a northern girl, don’t take my word for it.

To start, soak a sixteen ounce bag of dried (they are so worth the effort) peas in enough cold water to cover overnight. In the morning, drain, rinse and check for debris (yes debris, sometimes there are rocks mixed in).  Into a stock pot (four quart or so) go the peas and one sixteen ounce box of unsalted vegetable broth.

For this batch I opted to use a half-pound of thick slab peppered bacon that I had in the freezer. However, you can use ham hocks, pork butt, or regular bacon. If you want, you can leave out the pork all together and make this vegan very easily. I cut the bacon into two-inch slices or so and into a skillet they go to brown and render the fat.  Once the bacon is browned nicely, transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Once drained well, add it to the stock pot with the peas.

While the bacon was browning, two onions, four chili peppers (I leave the seeds and ribs, but get rid of them for a milder taste), and five cloves of garlic got rough chopped. All but a tablespoon or so of the bacon fat gets drained from the skillet and the chopped vegetables join it. If you decided to go the vegan route, just use some olive oil or vegetable oil to saute the vegetables. Saute until the vegetables just start to soften, then transfer them into the stock pot as well.

I season very simply with salt and pepper (more pepper because I love it) and a few dashes of tabasco. In my eyes, that is all this dish needs,  but season to your own family’s taste. I think some smoked paprika would be a nice addition here, or maybe some cumin. I serve them up with some dirty rice and collard greens, but they stand well on their own or as a side dish as well. This dish truly is comfort food for the soul…you can’t eat it and not feel good!


Tofu and Veggie Penne

One day I was trying to decide what to do with a package of carribean tofu (you could use any tofu) I had in the fridge…and this great lunch is what became of it. To start, I filled my four-quart pot with well salted water and put in on the stove top to boil. Once the water came to a boil, I added in a box of whole wheat penne pasta.

In the meantime, I drained the carribean tofu. With the flavored tofu, there is nowhere near as much liquid to drain, so no tofu press needed. Just take it out of the package and squeeze gently over the sink. I cut it into squares and it went into the skillet on medium-high heat to brown (just a couple of minutes). Once the tofu was nicely browned and crispy, I removed it to a plate on the side.

While the tofu was browning, I sliced two shallots, five cloves of garlic, one red pepper and one orange pepper. These now joined some olive oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Saute the veggies until they begin to soften (ten minutes or so).

Once the veggies began to soften I added one cup of unsalted vegetable broth and a bunch of broccolini rough chopped. Isn’t this broccolini gorgeous??

Continue cooking the veggies until they are all starting to soften nicely (not long…five minutes maybe). Be sure to stir often to combine all the fabulous flavors.

By the time the veggies were all nicely cooked the pasta was ready to strain. You want to cook the pasta a couple of minutes less than the package calls for so it can finish cooking with the tofu and veggies. Before straining, reserve a half-cup or so of the pasta water. Drain the pasta, add it, the tofu and the pasta water into the skillet and stir well to combine. Let simmer a minute or two until the pasta is cooked to your liking.

I didn’t feel the need to add any extra seasoning to this dish…between the carribean tofu and the well salted pasta water it was seasoned just right for me. Season to your taste as necessary and within twenty minutes or so, you have a healthy, yummy meal! Actually, you have several healthy, yummy meals because it made quite a bit!

All that is left is to enjoy!!


Super Easy French Bread Pizza

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Easy,quick and fun!! I posted a picture on my Facebook and got a lot of requests for this one!! Who doesn’t love french bread pizza? Of course, these are not your average french bread pizzas.

First off, to make me feel like I’m eating a little healthier, I use organic whole wheat french bread. Cut the loaf in half, then in half again lengthwise to create the “crust”. Brown under the broiler for just a minute or so.

Top off with some pizza sauce, nutritional yeast (it’s a great substitute for parmesan), and some soy mozzarella (we love Daiya brand). Of course, feel free to use regular mozzarella as well if you prefer. This is where the fun comes in!! Everyone gets to top their own!

For this batch…Bradley chose basil, garlic, and oregano. Buried under my cheese are some mushrooms and turkey pepperoni.

Place on aluminum foil (for easy clean up) or a baking sheet. They go into a preheated 350* oven for about ten to fifteen minutes until the soy cheese is melted and the edges are brown. Yes, it is that easy!!


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