Flex your mussels

I had something interesting in my fridge yesterday…

So I haven’t really cooked with Mussels before but after realizing that I hadn’t blogged something I cooked myself that wasn’t potato pancakes for 9 days I decided it was time to take drastic measures. I ambled into Whole Foods and asked for a pound of mussels. When asking how I should store them until today I realized that they were alive (uh, duh) and would need to be in water (double duh). Yep,  I am the awkward party. Anyways, that’s how I wound up with a container of mussels in my fridge.

Then I started thinking about how they were alive. Then I started to psych myself out. I almost named them. Almost.

Tonight I made a dish out of a self published French cookbook my Mom found at a book sale and sent me. Isn’t it cute?

All the recipes look tasty but mussels remind me of New England so I made Mussels Marinara.

The first thing I had to do was get rid of the sand, grit, and breads. I dissolved a tea spoon of salt in warm water. Then I mixed the warm salt water in a large bowl with cold water. I scrubbed the mussels and placed them in the water bowl. When they were all in the bowl I cut a lemon in half and squeezed it into the bowl. Once I was done squeezing the lemon I placed them in the water bowl.

Let sit for 20 mins. After 20 mins take the mussels out of the water and drain the water out. Then I got started on the sauce!

The recipe calls for a basic white wine based marinara sauce.

You will need:

Red pepper flakes, 2 minced cloves of garlic, half a lemon (ignore the S&P), half a stick of butter, half a container of cut tomatoes with no salt added, and a 1/4 cup of white wine.

I used this kind from South Africa (and obviously, Trader Joe’s).

Start the sauce by heating a tablespoon of EVO and sauteing the garlic and a dash of red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 min, it should be fragrant. Make sure not to burn the garlic!

Then add the butter. Make sure it doesn’t burn.

Once it melts down add the white wine. Let the white wine cook, stirring occasionally, until it reduces. About 4 mins.

Then squeeze half a lemon and add some thyme (however much you like!)

Then add the tomatoes and simmer for 4 mins.

Now, it is time to put on your brave face.

Please note that this is my nervous face. You will see it when I 1) cook mussels, 2) think about the bar exam or 3) hear a loud thump in the middle of the night

I felt like I was committing a small act of genocide. They were opening and for a fleeting moment I thought about keeping one in the fridge as a pet but then I remembered I already have a pet and I just womened up and did it.

I let the mussels simmer in the sauce for four mins and when I took the top off?

Yay everyone opened up!

This recipe makes two servings. Before I made the sauce I cooked two servings worth of brown spaghetti. Once the mussels opened up I combined the pasta and the sauce. Topped it off with parm.

I also played around with some camera effects.

This was a delicious dinner! It was pretty simple to make despite my nerves. I used only one pot so clean up was really simple. The mussels tasted like a summer day in Massachusetts. Using the white wine sauce as a based made the marinara extra special.  The only change I made from my version and the cookbook version was the brown spaghetti. Their recipe calls for angel hair pasta, but I just used what I had on hand. Mussels are a great treat and actually are pretty cheap when purchased by the pound. A nice little treat for the hard studying souls.

Bon Appetit!

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Roasted Pear and Cranberry Crostata

Yesterday my friend had a Fall theme potluck. I got in the spirit by making Roasted Pear and Cranberry Crostata from the Flour Cookbook. No recipe, buy the book!

Pate Brisee

Roasted pears.

Frangipane.

Cranberries…

So delicious. I have no words. Really, you can never go wrong with the Flour Cookbook. Not only was the dessert stunning to look at but the pear was so soft and lightly sweetened. Melt in your mouth delicious.

Overall, the party was excellent! Let’s just say when your friends with foodies you will never be disappointed at a potluck. There were squash tacos, sweet potato biscuits, pesto pasta, pasta bake, stuffed pepper, salmon dip, roasted broccoli, cauliflower soup, baked brie with jam in puff pastry (so good) and plenty of booze…

Clearly, we hated the food…

And then I rolled home.

Things to be Thankful For

Hey Blog World! Today was a good day. I have had such high energy this week and today I was reflecting on all the wonder things I have to be thankful for.

For example: I have great friends, I can run 10 miles and will soon be a half marathoner, I get to study race at a top institution with a one of the kind program, I can and do make choices to make myself happier everyday, I help those around me, and I get to blog for fun. How lucky am I and how is this my life? Things always turn out so much cooler than I could have ever imagined.

And on top of that I sorted out my situation for next summer and took a job offer. Wahoo! This demands a celebration so I went to Susie Cakes (obviously).

Seasonal Pumpkin Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting:

Soft and moist, with light seasoning. The cream cheese wasn’t heavy at all. Simply delicious. The best celebration treat ever!

I might have gotten a cookie for lunch tomorrow to. So shoot me.

Its just too cute.

So you’ve had a cupcake treat, what are you going to make for dinner? Answer: a creation from the brand new, yet to be released Skinny Bitch Ultimate Everyday Cookbook. This book is completely vegan and emphasizes local, pure food. What do I mean by pure? No preservatives. While I am not vegan I do eat mostly local (all local produce) and eliminated almost all preservatives from my diet in order to lose weight and fuel my runner’s body.

I used the pasta that I had, cut down the recipe, and substituted some major ingredients but I kept it vegan and let me tell you: best white wine sauce ever! In the past when I made white wine sauce I’ve use butter. Let me tell you, this is better. Did I just say better than butter? Why yes I did.

I don’t want to post the recipe because this book literally just came out. Buy it here! I will say that the sauce had grape seed oil, salt, pepper, onion, garlic, spinach (swapped with arugula), white wine, and vegetable stock. I wouldn’t have thought about the veggie stock but it was a great addition and gave the sauce a lot of flavor.

So the deal with the pasta: I didn’t have spaghetti. It ended up being a mash up of whatever I had left over but I think it looked pretty good.

As I mentioned above, this white wine sauce was better than the sauce I made in the past with butter. I am still in disbelief and will most definitely be making more from this book. If you are a vegan or just want to eat delicious wholesome food you should get this cookbook. There is tons of basic information about healthy eating and living a more healthy lifestyle. Left Coast Approved!

Project Food Blog Round 3: Champagne Luxury on a PBR Budget

Yesterday night I hosted a luxury dinner party for challenge 3 of Project Food Blog. Let’s just say that the theme of the night wound up being, “four guests, crazy honey”.

When I read the prompt for challenge 3 I was initially worried. “Throw a luxury dinner party?” I thought, “how can I do that when most of my friends don’t even have dining room tables?” I have maintained on this blog that just because you are a student and short on cash, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a fabulous party! Personally, I think there are two keys to this: 1) use ingredients you already have and 2) use a few, really special ingredients in simple dishes. I did both last night and I think I accomplished my mission.

I decided to throw the party at my friends Catie and Emily’s house because I have a midterm on Monday and it looks like a Wills and Trusts bomb went off in my apartment. Unless dozens of pages of tiny family trees with dollar amounts next to them is your idea of luxury I knew it just wouldn’t work. Plus, Catie and Emily have a big, open concept kitchen which allows for plenty of chef to guest interaction. The kitchen is the heart of every home and I love cooking surrounded by friends. Catie’s long time friend Jackie also attended.

My favorite part of dinner parties is cooking with everyone, sharing stories and laughing. We had to start with wine of course!

Once the vino is poured the party really starts rocken’.

One of my pieces of advice if your on a budget but want to host a luxe dinner party is to use what you already have plenty of. I happen to have a ton of honey leftover from making baklava last week so I incorporated it into every course. Honey was used liberally in the creation of this meal.

Explaining the importance of using what you got

As you might have gleaned from the title of my blog I am a bit of a Barefoot Contessa fan. I love Ina because everything in her world is always fabulous and even challenging dishes are so easy and simple to make. All I want to do is move to the Hamptons and eat leftovers with Jeffrey.

I always take study breaks when Barefoot is on and yesterday was no exception. While watching I decided I had to make a cheese appetizer she was featuring: Baked Brie with Honey and Pecans. I served it with farmers market fresh honey crisp apple slices. I made this first so my guests could enjoy it with wine while I prepped the rest of the meal.

Another Barefoot classic was the entree: Tagliarelle with Truffle Butter.

This dish is amazing because it has very few ingredients and you might actually have some of them lying around the house. One thing that won’t be lying around your house if you are a twenty something graduate student is truffle butter. Lucky for me, it was on sale at Whole Food this week! Even I can afford $7 for “the finest truffle butter in the world”.

Can you believe my friends had never tried truffle butter?

This dish cooks in a matter of a few minutes.

While the pasta was being prepared I honey roasted some fall vegetables. This is a simple recipe that utilizes honey, because I have an excess of it, and some great farmers market finds including the first butternut squash of the season, carrots, parsnips, and walnuts.


If you read my blog you know I’m a sucker for roasted veggies. This is a sweet twist on your typical roasted veggie.

And then, dinner was ready.

Tagliarelle with Truffle Butter

and Honey Roasted Fall Vegetables


Dinner is served!

Who says you can’t have a luxurious meal and sit on the floor? I think we proved them wrong last night!

And then it was time for dessert… Vanilla Ice Cream with Drizzled Honey and Raspberries.

Simply delicious.

I am so glad I have made it this far in Project Food Blog and was able to serve this fantastic dinner party to these fabulous ladies! I was able to combine simple and special ingredients with the ingredients I already had to craft a tasty dinner for everyone. The best part of any dinner party is getting together with old and new friends, swapping stories and laughing. We had a wonderful, food coma inducing time. Thanks for being a part of it!

Smoked Salmon Pizza at Cheebo

Last night after my first class there were only three things I wanted…

1. Dinner out with a friend. Thus, Jill and I met at Cheebo‘s. I went there once before with Jill and Carolyn and I remember really liking it. They have awesome pizzas and wine. The decor is really cool. The walls are orange and there are all kinds of cool window and mirror frames hanging on the walls. The ceilings are high. Its a great funky little place.

2. I wanted wine. First day of school always should require a glass of wine. Obviously I opted for Pinot Noir.

3. Pizza! There are so many great options at Cheebo. I really wanted to try something different and delicious sounding. Smoked Salmon pizza with capers! Obviously it was delicious. I really like the crust at Cheebo. Its soft but you can tell the ingredients are of higher quality than Domino’s (don’t even get me started on THAT)

Very delicious! Like a bagel and lox but with pizza! I loved this pizza and would recommend it. Sure, its not Chicago deep dish but its pretty good for pizza outside of the Chi.  I also like Cheebo because I always have leftovers which I enjoyed today at lunch.

So that’s what you need to survive a first day back at law school: dinner with a friend, wine, and pizza!   Tonight I’m trying a little something different, stripper lessons complete with pole (sorry mom and dad). I hope to improve my upper body strength.

Triple the Happy Hour

Lucky for me, Carolyn in a believer in multiple happy hours. First we enjoyed “two buck chuck” pinot grigio while watching this women:

Love barefoot!

After we took our party to Gredel’s Den in Harvard Square. I love Grendel’s because they have awesome happy hour food specials and wonderful drinks, which aren’t that expensive.

As mentioned above, Grendel’s has a superior drink list at low prices. I had a French 75, which I’ve had there before. It consists of gin, lemon, simple syrup and a champagne float! I love an added champagne float!

So light and refreshing! I also was eying a cocktail with lillet but I was glad I opted for the “75”. Its an all time favorite. Carolyn and I decided to split two options on the menu. First we wanted the panini because it contained prosciutto. This was clearly a no brainer because we love our prosciutto. The we split the Santa Fe salad and we added shrimp. Grendel’s has such awesome specials, it was only $1 to add shrimp!!

This was my portion. The panini also had sausage and the salad had cheese and a great dressing (which we obviously got on the side). It was a great deal and the food was only $8 total!!!

Once we completed our drinks we moved on from second happy hour…

And later went to Shay’s in Harvard Square for third happy hour! Shays is a great wine and beer bar. The patio was packed but there wasn’t anyone inside. We sat down and ordered the Hob Nob pinot noir. It was very good. Later I had a glass of the Stump Jump Shiraz. Both were good and the bar was perfect. No frills but good service and not too crowded and not too deserted. A great place to stop in for a glass of wine.

The Hob Nob.

three cheers for happy hour!

Then we headed back to Allston on the bus to Carolyn’s house. I love a Carolyn happy hour and I love it more when it involves three pit stops!

2010 Food and Wine Classic Give Away

Hey readers! There is a chance for you to win two tickets to the 2010 Food and Wine Classic in Aspen, plus a $500 gift card. The event is taking place is Aspen, Colorado from June 18th – June 20th and will feature cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, and wine tastings. This event looks amazing! The cooking demonstrations feature caviar (a favorite leftcoastcontessa luxury) and Giada De Laurentiis. Also, wine tastings! Who doesn’t like a wine tasting!

In order to enter go to Plastics Make it PossibleSM and comment on the page by answering the question: How do you use plastics to create your favorite foods or memorable parties?

If you can also answer the question on Left Coast Contessa. I’m interested to see people’s answers. Make sure to be creative, it would be awesome if people included videos and pictures.

The contest runs until 11:59 p.m. MT on June 3. The winner will be announced on June 4 at www.plasticsmakeitpossible.com/2010/05/aspen-challenge. Please see the contest rules and restrictions here for more details.

Also, you can find more information about Plastics Make it Possible on Twitter and Facebook!

Good luck everyone!!

Creamy Fettuccine with Leeks, Corn and Arugula

Now that classes and finals are over I’ve really been able to get into my cooking! Tonight I tried a recipe from my new Real Simple. I love Real Simple, I know that might questionably age me about 10 years, but there are so many great tips and they always have good recipes that aren’t too complicated or too time consuming. It’s a great resource. So tonight I made Creamy Fettuccine with Leeks, Corn and Arugula.

First, I boiled the pasta. I used some flat leftover pasta that I happened to have. I suppose this calls for fettuccine but whatevs.

Tip: when I cook pasta I always boil the water and then prep the ingredients when the pasta is cooking. Then, after I finished cooking the pasta I drain it and use the same pot of the sauce. Thus, I only have one pot to clean when I’m done and I am more in control cutting my ingredients and don’t feel rushed about adding them.

While I cooked the pasta I chopped leeks.

Chopped garlic and measured out corn. I also measured out the liquids for the sauce. The recipe calls for a combo of white wine and heavy cream.

Generally, I like to keep a red and a white wine on hand. I also don’t buy “cooking” wines. I like to keep the wine selection simple and fairly inexpensive (hi Trader Joe’s!) I like red wine so I generally use what ever I have around the house, but I am not as fond of white wine for drinking purposes. I just have a dry wine on hand for situations like today where I’m making a sauce.

As you can see, the recipe doesn’t call for much. It calls for slightly less heavy cream.

At this point I drained the pasta and started the sauce. I put in a dollop of EVO in the pan and put in the leeks and garlic. After the leeks and garlic are tender (like 3 mins) I added the wine and the corn.

Yum! Mix it in and let the wine reduce! Then add heavy cream, cheese, salt, and pepper.

The thing about cheese: I think Ralph’s over charges for cheese. I’m sorry, I don’t have $10.00 to pay for perorino I’m only going to use once. I cannot wait til I can afford it normally. And also, why do they have to charge so much when Trader’s charges less? There must be a reasonable explanation for it, like quality. I don’t care though, I just want a single serving of expensive cheese. How hard does that have to be? Instead I used this which only cost me $2.38. It was a more than adequate replacement.

And then I folded in a handful of arugula. It looked like this when I was done:

Delish! It was so nice to put on the apron and chill with some dinner. Another cool thing about Real Simple? They publish calorie counts. This meal had 596 calories, which is right around where I like to be for dinner. See, you can have fettuccine with not too many calories, its all about portion control.

Tomorrow my little brother, David, is coming to LA so there will be some fun updates.

Layer Cake

Per Carolyn’s excellent recommendation my mother and I tried Layer Cake Malbec. It was flavorful and rich. A very nice wine, slightly more expensive than my student budget will regularly allow, but delicious none the less. We accompanied it with crackers and an aged smokey cheese:

This cheese was really smokey and flavorful. It only took a little bit of cheese to get the flavor. It was really good on these nutritious crackers. With my mom were always pretty healthy. She is one of my healthy lifestyle role models after all!

Question of the Day: What is your favorite wine?

Artichoke Ravioli with a White Wine Sauce

The other night I was lazy and decided to make ravioli. Ravioli is a great lazy meal because the pasta takes almost no time to cook. I prefer artichoke ravioli from Trader Joe’s over cheese ravioli. There’s something about packaged ravioli and cheese that is just gross to me. Maybe the grainy way the cheese always looks?

I cook the pasta in salted water until it rises. While this is happening I start making the sauce.

I like to make all my own sauces and one of my favorites is a white wine sauce. Its really simple and quick.

I cook shallots and garlic with a bit of olive oil until they are cooked through.

Then I add 1/4 cup of white wine to the shallots and garlic and let the wine reduce. It will get cloudier. During this time I add chopped spinach to the sauce.

Once the spinach is cooked through and the wine has reduced, I take the sauce off the heat and add a 1/2 tablespoon of butter which I mix until it’s combined.

Delicious.

I’m very tired tonight but I am going to meet up with a good friend of mine from high school, Steve. We haven’t seen each other in a while so I am meeting him at his hotel with a bottle of one of my favorite types of wine, Bordeaux. It should be a pretty good night. Cheers!