Sunday, June 19, 2011

My East Coast Tour: Third And Final Stop, Washington, D.C.

Nat'l Portrait Gallery
My third and last stop on my East Coast tour included my friends Shelby and Leslie. Shelby was back in D.C. working for Capitol Concerts (like last year when I visited) and Leslie wanted to join part of my tour so she got her job (with College of Charleston) to book a photo shoot with an alumnus for their alumni magazine.

I arrived on Thursday evening via Amtrak at D.C.'s Union Station. The train ride from NYC to D.C. was about four hours long and went smoothly, other than my constant and annoying cough (sorry to my fellow passengers).

My friend and Shelby's man Russ met me at the train station to walk the few blocks to Shelby's apartment. Russ was in between NBA playoff games and was in town for about 12 hours or so. Good to see him even if but for a few hours.

My first trip to D.C. last year (June 2010) was all about visiting landmarks and being a tourist. This time, it would be about hanging out. And of course I found a website that listed all the food trucks in D.C. [website].

Ethiopic: [website]
Dinner was almost too easy to decide. Last year we found this Ethiopian restaurant and I fell in love. Shelby's apartment this year was even closer to it. How convenient! After Shelby and I made a stop to Rite Aid for cold medicine for me and various sundries for her, we met Russ and her co-worker Michelle there.

I really love this place. The interior itself has some hard edges and brick walls which don't absorb sound well but the food is amazing. And they have plenty of vegetarian options. AND you get to eat with your hands. We ordered two samplers: one meat and one meat-free. Russ and I took to the meat-free mostly. What I liked about the sampler was that there was some spicy and some not so spicy dishes included.

This is a must for anyone willing to try something different. If you like ethnic food, go. If you like Ethiopian food, good. If you like eating with your hands, GO!

National Archives: [website]
One thing I did not see on my tour of D.C. last year was the National Archives. I did not make an appointment and didn't want to stand in line in the 90+ degree heat. Call me crazy. So this year I booked a tour, paid the $1.50 ticket fee online and got my ticket to go to the Archives to see the Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence on Friday afternoon before Leslie arrived.

Booking the tour online is the way to go. I showed up 15 minutes beforehand like the ticket told me to. I got in line and was in the door in minutes while the other line was stretched out the door and had to wait while I and other groups made our way in.

The security guard at the door checking my ticket said, "Only one?" "Yep!" I cheerily replied. I'm quite happy to be doing what I want when I want.

I'm really glad I took the hour to walk over to the Archives, go through security and wait the few minutes for my turn to see these documents. Man, now I feel like a real American. It was really inspiring to the real "John Hancock" and Benjamin Franklin's signature, etc. Really cool.

Teaism: A Tea House: [website]
Leslie arrived! And we were going to meet Shelby for dinner but we were both kind of hungry and needed a snack. Thanks to Yelp we found Teaism in Penn Quarter. I would definitely go back. It calls itself a tea house but it has good food, with vegetarian options.

I had the Tofu Noodle Salad, which had chilled noodles, tofu, scallions, peppers, mint, peanuts with soy lime dressing. Perfectly delicious, light and refreshing.

Zaytinya: [website]
Pretty view, bad service
We met Shelby and Michelle after they finished work. Neither had eaten dinner so we joined them at Zaytinya, a fancy small plates restaurant with Greek, Lebanese and Turkish style food. Both Michelle and Shelby had been here before and loved it. It was a rather long wait for a table inside but there was a settee and chairs available on the patio so we sat there. We decided it was probably a setting used more for guests to only have drinks and not so much food as the service went from OK to horrible as the night progressed.

After my tofu salad, I was not all too hungry. Leslie and I were more interested in trying a drink, appetizer and perhaps dessert as we hung out with Shelby and Michelle. The first server noted that both patio servers would be helping us -- that should have been our first clue. The first server took drink orders and the second server gave great recommendations for the table. Then we barely saw them the rest of the meal. The server's assistant was more helpful than our two servers; she brought us more bread, extra place settings, etc. We even had to wave down the first server to order desserts. When it came time for the check, he just set it down on the table and kept walking without a "thank you, hope it was all delicious." We were not impressed.

We put our money together and paid the bill (I can't remember total, maybe $150) but left ZERO tip. Instead we gave $20 to the server's assistant for her helpfulness and attentiveness. I might or might not have left a zero tip in the past, I can't remember, but this was the first time that Shelby or Michelle have stiffed a server. Michelle sent an email the next day to the manager to explain what happened. She never heard back to my knowledge.

Anyways, the food we had was good but the service left a bad aftertaste. It's a shame.

Ebenezer's Coffeehouse: [website]
I visited Ebenezer's last year on my visit but this time around we were only three blocks down the street. It became the neighborhood coffeehouse for us. And I made it my morning office on Monday morning while still in town.

The coffee is delicious and Leslie and I split an almond croissant, which was a most excellent choice.

Note: They do ask that you spend a minimum for credit/debit cards but will let you use your card for $2 or less if you don't have cash, as I discovered. Had I known that ahead of time, I most definitely would have been sure to have cash. Thanks for the grace, Ebenezer's.

National Portrait Gallery: [website]
I visited last year but it enjoyed so much more this time because I was with a portrait photographer, my friend Leslie. It was so much fun to look through exhibits like Americans Now with her. It was also fun to have my own photographer on hand for the day. She took some different shots all throughout the day and in the gallery.

Pitango Gelato: [website]
I first heard about Pitango Gelato via Twitter last year and took Shelby there for the first time. After our lunch (which was less than memorable so I'm skipping it) and Leslie's shopping spree through H&M, we stopped for an afternoon snack. I mixed the non-diary Chocolate Noir and Crema; twas delightful!

The National Mall:
We took some time in the shade, laying in the green grass of the National Mall, waiting for Shelby to get off work, and trying to decide where to meet Leslie's friend Abigail for dinner. Such prime people watching here! And I was wishing I had brought my running shoes to join all the runners going up and down the mall.

Commissary: [website]
With the help of Yelp and Urbanspoon, we hunted for places in the Logan Circle area for food. ChurchKey was recommended to us but as we roamed the streets waiting for Abigail to catch up, we found Commissary. And I must say it might have been my favorite find in D.C. this time.

Commissary is a "Super Green" establishment, using wind energy credits, recycled materials as furnishings, and use only recyclable or biodegradable materials throughout. They are in the process of certifying all their restaurants with the "Green Restaurants Association." And they are vegetarian friendly.

We waited at the bar for our table and our friend. They had a good selection of beer on hand. For dinner I had the Grilled Tofu, Quinoa, Grilled Asparagus and Brussel Sprouts. It was really good. Maybe a little more than I wanted to pay at $12.95 but it was delicious. And always good to see Bell's on the drink menu.

ChurchKey: [website]
Leslie is a giant
We had considered Birch & Barley, the restaurant below ChurchKey, for dinner but it was a bit pricey. And I was happy with our Commissary choice. But we went back to ChurchKey to peruse their drink list -- and made a few happy choices.

Both Leslie and Abigail had their cameras with them, as photographers sometimes do. And we were approached by some random guy who was with some other random guy who was supposed to be someone, and they were getting on a party bus, and he wanted to know if we wanted to join so that Leslie and Abigail could shoot photos. Like paparazzi. They declined. Instead, Abigail was our paparazzi.

Founding Farmers: [website]
OK, I take it back. Commissary and Founding Farmers might be in a tie.

After strolling past the White House on a Sunday morning, Leslie and I went to have brunch at Founding Farmers. It was more like lunchtime by the time we got a seat. Make a reservation when you go. We passed the time with some coffee from Starbucks across the street and figuring out which bus to take to Georgetown to meet Abigail at the Georgetown Flea Market.

Founding Farmers is GREEN! They are LEED certified and a certified Green Restaurant. Read more here. And they seek out the smallest carbon footprint by gathering food as close to home as possible but also buys carbon offsets when it finds something at a family farm in Chile that needs to be shared. Read more here.

Once seated, we ordered the French press coffee with Intelligentsia and decided to split the "Drag Through the Garden" Pan Scramble and New Orleans Style French Toast (all pictured at the right). That French toast was amazing, simply amazing.

Leslie couldn't stop shooting what she saw on our table. Food is one of her best subjects. And then she gets to eat it. It's a win-win.

Georgetown Flea Market: [website]
We made it up to Georgetown Flea Market. But as we started our browsing, it started raining and all the vendors scrambled to cover up their wares. Sad. We didn't get very far in the flea market. Better luck next time.

Sprinkles Cupcakes: [website]
I couldn't resist a stop at a cupcake shop. After all my sweets in NYC and all. The line at Georgetown Cupcakes (TLC's DC Cupcakes) was ridiculous; there was no way I was standing in line there. But there was no wait at Sprinkles and Sprinkles (Food Network's "Cupcake Wars") is just as "famous" as Georgetown. I broke with tradition and didn't get Red Velvet or Chocolate anything. I had the Salted Caramel and was not disappointed.

Raku: [website]
For dinner on Sunday we all had sushi on the brain. Again, through Urbanspoon and Yelp we found Raku in Dupont Circle. Our find turned out pretty well. Not my favorite sushi of all time (that honor goes to Bamboo in Portland, OR) but it was good. They did have a couple good veggie roll options, which always makes me happy. I had the Veggie Lover Roll and Crunchy Spicy Avo-Q Roll. Both were good and worth the price.

TaKorean: [website]
Hello, delicious taco!
From the Washington DC Food Truck round-up website I found TaKorean, a Korean BBQ food truck with vegan and vegetarian options. Once Leslie finished up at her photo shoot, we headed out to find the moving target for lunch. I had the Carmelized Tofu Taco, vegan style. I could have eaten three more easily but we thought we might catch the grilled cheese truck, too (we missed it). This easily goes in the Top 3 with Commissary and Founding Farmers. I will chase this truck down again next time I'm in town (New Year's this year).

Rita's: [website]
Now, I have a Rita's down the street in Hermitage but there was one nearby Shelby's place so we stopped to pick up dessert on our way home to make a pizza in the oven at home. I had the chocolate and vanilla swirl custard. And I'm glad that sometimes forget that I have a Rita's down the street. I love frozen custard.

***That wraps up the stops and sites of my East Coast tour's final stop in D.C. Now to plan a West Coast tour....L.A. to San Fran to Portland maybe? Who's in?!?!?!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bread From a Mix!

I have a couple bread recipes that I make from scratch but I found this bread mix at Big Lots for a little bit cheaper than Whole Foods would sell it for.

It's Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread Mix. (I love Bob's oatmeal and flaxseed meal.) Now, I don't need to be gluten or wheat free but the idea of a cinnamon raisin bread mix intrigued me so I bought it.

I was able to make this bread recipe vegan by substituting the eggs with Bob's Red Mill Flaxseed Meal (which I also bought at Big Lots). Mix one tablespoon flaxseed meal with three tablespoons water and let sit for a couple minutes. Since you need two eggs for this bag of bread mix, simply double it.

The bread turned out perfectly. It rose perfectly and baked perfectly. I was kind of unsure if the flaxseed meal substitution would work but it did...perfectly.

I liked that I could use a hand mixer for this mix and simply pour it into one 9x5 loaf pan to let it rise. Very uncomplicated and less messy than my own bread recipes. Thumbs up!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cherry Pizza! Refreshing!

I found this recipe in the most recent issue of Ready Made (June/July 2011). And it just so happens that I have a couple pounds of cherries in my freezer. I modified the original recipe (found here) and boy howdy, was it good!

Cherry Pizza

One pizza crust
5 oz. goat cheese
1 T. chopped chives
1 T. parsley
Salt and pepper, pinch of each
1 T. chopped sweet onion
1 C. pitted cherries
1 C. arugula
Handful fresh basil
1 T. honey

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. I had a pizza crust leftover from my Bob's Red Mill Gluten-free Pizza Crust mix that I bought on sale. Otherwise, I would have pre-made my own crust or maybe used one from the grocery.

Mix the goat cheese, chives, parsley, salt and pepper in a bowl (or used food processor). Spread on pizza crust. Top with onion and cherries. Bake for 10 minutes. Removed from oven and top with arugula, basil and honey. Done! And delicious!

***Ready Made suggested substituting the mascarpone in the original recipe with goat cheese; that's where I got the idea. Their recipe actually includes the pizza crust and it makes two pizzas. Mine makes one. I could find shallots at Publix (as the original recipe calls for) so I used a little bit of sweet onion instead.

Chocolate Hummus?

I like chocolate. I like hummus. But together? Chocolate hummus? I'm skeptical but always up for an adventure.

You can read more about chocolate hummus here: [Fit To The Finish website]

Of course, when I get to this recipe idea, I'll post my results here.

In the meantime, chocolate hummus recipe here: [Recipe]

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Found: New delicious vegan recipe...

I made goodies for my friends Kristin and Chad Clark's big adoption yard sale, which included a bake sale. I didn't have anything to donate to the yard sale but was more than happy to provide some happy vegan baked goods to the bake sale.

Along with my usual vegan red velvet cupcakes, carrot cupcakes (both with vegan "cream cheese" frosting) and peanut butter cookies, I tried a new recipe for Sweet Potato Muffins, also vegan. And boy, are these delicious. Lucky for me, the larger muffins were a bit brown (what happened in that oven?) while the mini versions I made were perfect so they were packaged for the bake sale.

I'm trying to remember where I found this recipe. It's only printed out from an email and I know Gmail didn't come up with it....

Sweet Potato Muffins:

1 C. + 2 T. sweet potato puree
3/4 C. coconut milk
2/3 C. brown sugar
1/3 C. water
¼ C. oil
2 T. maple syrup
1 T. lemon juice
2 C. flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground ginger
1/8 t. ground nutmeg
1 C. fresh or dried cranberries, optional

Preheat oven to 400°F and lightly oil a muffin tin. In a large bowl, mix together sweet potato puree, coconut milk, brown sugar, water, oil, maple syrup, and lemon juice. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and spices. Combine wet and dry mixtures until just mixed.

Spoon batter evenly into prepared pan. Bake for 25-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let muffins rest a moment in the pan, then cool slightly on a wire rack before serving.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My East Coast Tour: Second Stop, New York City

My main goal while in NYC this time was to visit as many bookstores and to eat as many cupcakes (and other sweets) as possible in three days.

Kristin (my friend in Boston) gave me a list of bookstores in Manhattan so I plugged them into my iPad along with the list of sweet places I collected. Off I went!

Three Lives & Co.: [website]
This was one of my favorite bookshops on my list, in Greenwich Village. It was a smaller shop but with a good selection of books. I'll be stopping by again when in the neighborhood.

Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks: [website]
Right down the street from Three Lives was this cookbook shop. I love a good cookbook and I was told they had quite a collection of used ones. This place was quirky. And I've never seen so many used cookbooks in one place. I was almost overwhelmed. And since most of my cookbook selections recently center on vegetarian or vegan cooking, I didn't find much. I probably won't find the need to stop by this shop again.

Milk & Cookies Bakery: [website]
After the cookbook strangeness, I needed something sweet. A couple blocks away was this bakery that I read about...oh, somewhere. Who wouldn't want to try a cookie from a bakery named Milk & Cookies? Since I skipped lunch, I figured a cookie would be OK. I tried the chocolate & peanut butter. It was a little crunchier than I thought it would be but it still tasted good.

Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books: [website] 
 I wasn't sure I'd find anything here based on the name. While I'd consider myself as someone who seeks to be "unoppressive" and "non-imperialist," I'm probably not the exact person they have in mind for their books. It was still an interesting stop on my bookstore tour. And cheap books if you find one you're looking for.

Crumbs: [website]
Cupcakes! Tons of cupcakes! I stopped here in honor of my friend Betsega's birthday the week prior. She had heard about the cupcake chain (I saw one at Union Station in D.C. later that week) but did not have the chance to stop by. So I did it for her. Gladly.

I got a Red Velvet cupcake (because I am addicted to Red Velvet right now). One thing I noticed, on the name tags of the cupcakes, they list the number of calories in the cupcake. While I'm actually kind of grateful to know that, at the same time I don't want to know that. I didn't eat the whole cupcake in one setting (because I saw the calories and I had a cookie earlier) but it was delicious and worth it.

Alabaster Bookshop: [website]
This was also a great used bookshop. It is around the corner from the massive Strand Book Store. I found a few potential buys but held out to see what else I might find (only so much space in my carry-on bags). I will definitely want to stop by here again.

Strand Book Store: [website]
The massive new/used/rare bookstore near Union Square. I saved this until last for the day because I had been here before and thought if I ran out of time, I'd already experienced Strand. But I had time so I went. It's always fun to rifle through the $1 stacks out on the curb and through the preview/review books down in the basement.

I again saw the Press Here book that I saw at the Harvard Coop in Boston. I bought it for my niece's birthday present. I couldn't resist. Ssshhhh, don't tell her. I also found Just Kids by Patti Smith and The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (which is going to become a pass-along book once I'm finished).

My friend Tom met me here and off we went for dinner....

Pop Pub: [website]
I had heard of Pop Burger up in Meatpacking. Well, Pop Burger has brought Pop Pub down to University Place (NYU). I read about it on Thrillist (see link). It was a couple blocks from Strand. You order at the counter when you arrive, get your number and find a seat. If you want a drink, they have servers. And the service (counter and table) was great.

Both Tom and I tried the Invisible Burger (clever name for a non-meat burger; it was portobello mushroom). I had to have the tater tots (tater tots join Red Velvet anything in the addiction department). All of the food was delicious.

I would highly recommend this place. Good prices, good service, good atmosphere, good food and drink selections. Tom and I had a lovely time chatting and catching up.

Shake Shack: [website]
Unscheduled stop. Everywhere I stopped in the city thus far had been researched. And while I had heard about the Shake Shack before, I'd never been. 

But as Tom and I were just walking through the city, chatting it up, we passed Madison Square Park where the original Shake Shack is. Even though we just stuffed ourselves on food and drink at Pop Pub, we decided we needed a shake. The shake was made with frozen custard (yes please!). I had a Peanut Butter one; and I drank it so fast, I should have gotten a frozen headache. It was delicious but the line was kind of crazy. I could be OK not going there again.

Prince St. Cafe: [website]
Somewhere I found one of those group buying outfits called Buy With Me (like Groupon and Living Social). There was one for Prince St. Cafe for $7 so I bought it. Why not get a deal while in town? So I started my day with brunch. Yes, by myself.

For my brunch I had the frittata, which had potatoes, sweet onions, peppers, goat cheese and herbs, with whole wheat toast and herbal tea with honey for my laryngitis (turned cold). I made a good choice; the frittata with goat cheese was scrumptious. I got a tea to go....

Housing Works Bookstore: [website]
Another good bookstore a couple blocks from Prince St. Cafe. This might have been my favorite bookstore of the tour. The entrepreneurial businesses of Housing Works serve their mission to end the crises of homelessness and AIDS. Purchases support the greater Housing Works community. The bookstore also had another great selection of used books. Really enjoyed my time there. And there's a cafe in the back.

Cafe Grumpy: [website]
After some roaming about, I planned to meet my friend Justin at Cafe Grumpy. The one I chose was tucked away in Chelsea. And the coffee is oh so good. I had an Americano. It was just one of those really good pure Americanos. We chatted for a while there until I told him that the Sweetery sweets truck was giving away cupcakes that afternoon.... Off we went to find the truck.

Sweetery NYC: [website]
Sweetery was giving away free mini cupcakes for 2 or 3 hours that the pouring rain. It was a special prize-winning chocolate cupcake with a secret ingredient: beer. I actually won a $20 Sweetery gift certificate while I was in town because I guessed the secret ingredient via Twitter. Go me! So Justin and I waited in line, under my tiny umbrella because he left the house without his, and got our free cupcakes. It might have been the best chocolately cupcake I've ever had.

Cowgirl's Baking: [website]
Skip ahead to dinner. Well, actually dessert before dinner. I found Cowgirl's Baking (a vegan bakery on the Lower East Side) via Twitter and I was determined to try one of their treats. I had made plans with Tom and my other friend Dawn for pizza at Artichoke (which didn't work out) in the same neighborhood. Cowgirl's closed at 8 p.m. though (and it was already 7:30) so I met Tom there first before meeting Dawn and her roommate Jordan for dinner. We're adults; we can have dessert first!

I tried the Midnight Cupcake (more chocolate!) and Tom had the French Toast (he's not a chocolate fan). All vegan and all delicious. The icing was thick and plentiful and sugary good; the cupcake also tasted good and did not lack flavor.

Plum Pizzeria & Bar: [website]
I did want to try Artichoke but it did not have seating. Something I missed in my research. Luckily, since we now all had pizza on the brain, there was Plum just down the street from the bakery. And we got seated right away. Even better.

The table split a vegetarian pizza (such good friends!). Dawn designed our own pizza with sun dried tomatoes, bell peppers and garlic. The basic pizza already came with plum tomato sauce and basil and mozzarella so in the end, we won big time with Dawn's creation.

Sweetery (again):
We had to go pick up my gift certificate before I jumped on the train for D.C. Tom was very good to me to take me down to where the truck was, bags and all, to get my $20. Once we got the gift certificate, of course we had to have a treat. I got a brownie for my train ride and Tom took a sugar cookie. My brownie turned out to be a very good choice. I can't wait for my next trip to NYC to use more of my gift certificate!

That was this trip to NYC.... I still want to try Artichoke pizza and find the Coolhaus ice cream truck.

Off to Washington, D.C....

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Look what I just made....

I just made my own batch of cherry jam from the cherries I picked from my cherry tree in the front yard!

I made a really small batch (about 1/3 cup) because I wanted to make sure I could do it before I used all my hard-picked fruit.

This was so easy! You should try it - whether you picked the fruit yourself or not.

No-Recipe Cherry Jam

1. Buy as many cherries as you feel like pitting. Figure one pound of cherries will make one good-sized jar of jam. Plump, dark Bing cherries work really well, although Burlats are good, and if you can find sour cherries, your jam will rock.

2. Rinse the cherries and remove the stems. Using a cherry pitter, pit the cherries. Make sure to remove all the pits. Chop about ¾ of them into smaller pieces, but not too small. Leave some cherries whole so people can see later on how hard you worked pitting real cherries.

3. Cook the cherries in a large non-reactive stockpot. Add the zest and juice of one or two fresh lemons. Lemon juice adds pectin as well as acidity and will help the jam gel later on.

4. Cook the cherries, stirring once in a while with a heatproof spatula, until they’re wilted and completely soft, which may take about 20 minutes, depending on how much heat you give them.

5. Once they’re cooked, measure out how many cherries you have (including the juice.) Use 3/4 of the amount of sugar (if you have 4 cups of cooked cherry matter, add 3 cups of sugar).

6. Stir the sugar and the cherries in the pot and cook over moderate-to-high heat. The best jam is cooked quickly. While it’s cooking, put a small white plate in the freezer. Remain vigilant and stir the fruit often with a heatproof utensil.

7. Once the bubbles subside and the jam appears a bit thick and looks like it is beginning to gel, (it will coat the spatula in a clear, thick, jelly-like layer, but not too thick) turn off the heat and put a small amount of jam on the frozen plate and return to the freezer. After a few minutes, when you nudge it if it wrinkles, it’s done. If not, cook some more and test again.

8. Once it’s done and gelled, add a bit of cherry extract, which will highlight the flavor. Or add a few drops of almond extract. Ladle the warm jam into clean jars and cover. Cool at room temperature, then put in the refrigerator where it will keep for several months.

***I found the recipe here with its full narrative and pictures. Thanks, David Lebovitz!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Tomato Walnut Basil Pasta

My friends Kristin and Eric made this sauce while I was visiting them in Boston recently.

This recipe comes from the "Oh She Glows" blog, the home of many delicious vegan recipes.

This is so easy to make that I could go without buying another jar of tomato pasta sauce.

My version

Tomato Walnut Basil Pasta
Yield: 3.5 cups sauce 

One 28oz can crushed tomatoes
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced (1 C. diced)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 t. dried oregano
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 C. packed fresh basil leaves (one package of basil, like Jacob's Farm Organic)
1 t. kosher salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 C. nutritional yeast
2 large handfuls spinach, roughly chopped
1/2-3/4 C. walnuts, roughly chopped
Pasta of your choice

Chop onion and garlic. In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Add the onion and cook over low-medium heat for about five minutes. Add minced garlic and cook on low for another 4-5 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper. Stir well. Cook on low for a few minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, chopped basil and nutritional yeast. Stir. Bring to a low boil and then simmer on low for about five minutes. Start the pasta. Stir in chopped walnuts and spinach. Cook for about 10 minutes on med-low. Serve over pasta and garnish with basil leaves and additional walnuts.

Makes about 3.5 cups sauce (equivalent to one jar of pasta sauce plus a serving).

My East Coast Tour: First Stop, Boston

I just had the joy of taking 12 days to travel down the East Coast, Boston to NYC to Washington, D.C. When people asked why I was going, I answered, "Because I can." I wanted to visit my friends and bookstores and cupcake shops and food trucks in these cities. So I did and here's what I found.

Pomodoro: [website]
Upon arriving in Boston, my friend Kristin and I (sans her husband Eric who was studying) had dinner before hitting the "Leave It To Bieber" at the Improv Asylum. I chose a pasta dish with Tuscan white beans, arugula, tomatoes, etc. It was delicious and worth the price.

In A Pickle: [website]
I needed a lunch spot on Friday and Eric recommended this local place in Waltham. I made Kristin jealous by going there; she hadn't been there yet (which has since been remedied). Being on a grilled cheese kick lately, I got the Wasabi Grilled Cheese without the bacon. I took it across the street to the common. It was like having a picnic in Stars Hollow (Gilmore Girls, anyone?).

Peace o' Pie: [website]
Kristin had a Groupon for this vegan pizza place but she forgot to use it. It's a good thing that we loved the pizza; she and Eric can go back and have more pizza. We had two pizzas and I think one of them was the White Pizza. (Harveys, do you remember which we had?) Either way, they were delicious!

The Friendly Toast: [website]
This might have been my highlight of this Boston trip. Because the toast is amazing. Seriously, best toast I've ever had. I ordered the Egg-In-A-Hole, eggs in toast. I couldn't eat all the toast, though I really, really wanted to. I would have even wrapped it up and taken it with me. Why didn't I?

This restaurant is fun and kitchsy. And there's a wait on weekends. And the toast is too friendly.

Harvard MIT Coop: [website]
The first bookstore in my bookstore tour. I found my nieces' next book in the Good Night series, Good Night Boston.

Meadhall: [website]
Saint Of Circumstance IPA, enough said. One-of-a-kind brew, never to be duplicated.

Harvard Coop: [website]
Off to Harvard Square we went and to bookstore #2, Harvard Coop. No books purchased but I did find Press Here, a book I purchased later on my trip for my soon-to-be 5-year-old niece.

Pinkberry: [website]
Kristin's inaugural visit, which was hard to comprehend. I had the Original with kiwi and strawberries because sometimes it's hard to pass up what I know. (Though now they have the Salted Caramel flavor, and I might need to try that ASAP.)

Raven Used Book: [website]
One last bookstore for the day, in Cambridge also. It was small but had a good selection. And it was nice to hear the shopkeeper (is that word too dated?) talking books with the folks who came in.

Brookline Booksmith: [website]
We continued the bookstore down in Coolidge Corner. Loved this shop too with good bargain books in the basement. We spent a good deal of time poking around here.

Finale: [website]
Before dinner we stopped for dessert. Mmmmmm. Finale has a good selection of delicious looking pastries. I had the coconut cream tart. It was good but I think Kristin extra chocolatey goodness won the dessert war.

Green Dragon Tavern: [website]
For dinner we trekked downtown to the Green Dragon Tavern. On its sign out front, The Green Dragon says that it's the Headquarters of the Revolution. We ended up doing some Google searches via the smartphones (iPhone & Android) to get more information. We discovered this wasn't the original location of The Green Dragon were the headquarters were located; that pub was demolished. But we could still imagine the revolutionaries meeting in the basement of this tavern that's off the main street.

I had the Martha Washington Burger, substituted with a veggie burger. It was delicious.

Eric, Kristin and I continued our tradition of taking a window seat to watch the people go by. And to play our game of stare-people-down-and-see-if-they-look-back. Always fun. We believe that our presence in the window seat, eating delicious looking food and having a good time laughing, drew the crowd in because when we got there, it was quite empty. But when we left there was quite a crowd.

Also, there was a wooden Minuteman out front. And it was quite funny to watch the people walk by and take pictures of the tavern and take pictures of themselves with the Minuteman. I did too!

Thinking Cup: [website]
A new favorite! This coffee shop is across the street from Boston Common. Good coffee and good atmosphere. My cafe au lait was delicious.

This concluded the Boston portion of my East Coast tour. Monday morning I jumped the train to New York City. Thank you, Amtrak, for a quick (4-hour) and easy ride to Penn Station.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Good Night Boston

I bought my nieces Good Night Boston while I was visiting friends in Boston a couple weeks back. I mailed it over the weekend. Today my sister-in-law emailed me and said, "Yay, we got a 'Gooddock' book in the mail, Ava's favorites."

I love that to my almost 2-year-old niece "Gooddock" is "Good Night." It's close. And sweet and cute.