Quality Ingredients Make a Quality Lunch

Since I rarely order lunch it always seems like a big occasion when I buy it. Lately I’ve just been working non-stop and the week prior to my event I didn’t have the energy to grocery shop, pack lunch, or make anything.
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When my office moved I knew I’d miss my favorite Thai and favorite Indian restaurants but that’s about all that prior location had going for it. Now, there’s a plethora of options!As an avid watcher of Phantom Gourmet I’d seen Al’s State Street Cafe featured on there. They feature a $6.25 special for small sub, chips, and a soda.
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I got the State Street Cafe Special with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and prosciutto with balsamic vinegar on warm fresh bread.

These quality and fresh ingredients made this sandwich delectable. The bread was warm and soft. The experience is half of the fascination. They work the line and keep. it. moving.
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Stop by, but don’t linger at the menu board or it’ll be a no-sandwich-for-you situation.

I’m off to Florida for a long weekend, wedding, and hopefully some Chick-fil-A. Stay tuned!

A1 Gets an A+

A1 Diner
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Mr. J and I LOVE diners and it was always surprising to me that we hadn’t been to the famous A1 Diner in his hometown in Maine! Their website calls themselves “Maine’s Most Unique Restaurant”. I recently went to “Boston’s Friendliest Pub” so this amused me greatly.

During a quick visit a few weeks ago we stopped in right at the cusp of breakfast and lunch. We decided on breakfast and I loved every minute of it.
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I got an Orange Poppyseed Waffle. It was amazing. I never see orange and poppy seed as a combo but it was great! I liked the fluffyness of the waffle and the citrus flavor. It was a good deviation from my usual bfast choices since I tend to go savory rather than sweet.
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Mr. J got an egg, bacon, toast, combo which is his standard. Use your imagination since I deemed it not quite picture worthy, much to his dismay.

Mrs. C got an Orange Pecan or Orange Walnut waffle and real maple syrup. I forget which nut but how cool to put nuts in there?!
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They had some interesting dinner meals/specials that make me want to go back. I’m sure the grilled sandwiches and burgers are only as diners can make them.
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Their website has some recipes so maybe I’ll have to whip one of those up sometime. I’d like the Hungarian Mushroom Soup, but I don’t have tons of mushroom eaters in my life. Or crabcakes, or pistachio lime salad, or lemon sauce for dessert.

Just as The Terminator would say: I’ll be back.

Picnic (Sans Ants)

Sis and I LOVE a good theme party. We were trying to think of something special for Mother’s Day this year. We thought for a half second about a picnic in the Arnold Aboretum for Lilac Sunday. This is apparently the only time a year you can picnic there. Sitting on the ground to eat there just because we can’t normally didn’t quite fit. Also, with the rain on Saturday, we weren’t convinced Mother Nature would play nice.

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That seems like a baby-stroller activity and nobody in our fam is quite there yet. It also kind of seems like something to take a mom to do if her children aren’t around.

We had a picnic at our parents’ house! The picnic theme was super fun and delicious.

We took inspiration from Bobby Flay since in his throwdowns he always tries to make the everyday a bit better or more special.

We served:
BLTs with pesto mayo and thick cut bacon
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Roast Beef Sandwiches with horseraddish dijon spread
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Tabouli since Mum doesn’t love macaroni salad as much as the average person.
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And pickles, fruit, and Cape Cod chips. I got some delectable treats from Lyndell’s Bakery since I didn’t acquire all the baking skill my mum has (and since I worked about 9 hours on Saturday).

I made a drink too:
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Ingredients:

4 cups lemonade (I used crystal light yellow)
4 cups zero calorie lime seltzer
1 lime sliced

Directions:

Prepare the lemonade as instructed. (I planned to use raspberry lemonade but was short on pitcher space since yellow was already made)
Mix chilled soda
Serve with lime slices (freezing lime bits into the ice would be very cute too)

Just add some cheap-o red baskets & napkins and you’ve got yourself an indoor picnic!

Wish me luck! By the time you see this I’ll be UBER close to the end of the production week and the start of my event. Watch out world, I become a whole new person after I rejoin society!

Easy 3 Ingredient Dip

I made an ap for Easter and wanted something lighter and healthier than I’d usually head towards. This is a white bean based dip with homemade pita chips. This ended up being a good one to bring somewhere since it is served cold and the pita chips could be made ahead of time or purchased.

Ingredients

1 can white beans, drained
1 jar roasted red peppers (with liquid)
½ cup fresh parsley
1 tbs garlic
2 wheat pita pockets

Directions

Rinse and drain white beans
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Add beans, red peppers with liquid, parsley, and garlic to a food processer.
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Blend, stirring partway, and leaving some chunks.
Refrigerate 2 hours before serving.
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I toasted some of my own pita chips. Tearing the pitas all the way apart made for a thinner chip with fewer calories. The dip was good, fresh, and super easy. It would be great on bread, stirred into pasta or soup, or anything!

I think you definitely have to like these ingredients to enjoy this but this handy dip includes a simple list of ingredients to have on hand.

Mother’s Day

For some reason at this point of my life, Mother’s Day brings me to tears. I am so lucky to have the best mother ever. I realize more and more how much my mother means to me. Mother’s Day makes me misty eyed because she’s happy when her daughters are happy. One of her favorite sayings when times are tough is, “a mother is only as happy as her saddest child.” We have all been very lately and I’m glad to celebrate her since she so often celebrates us.

I work at an organization whose event participants celebrate the women in their lives and I just wish I could celebrate my amazing mother everyday. I’m very lucky, and I cherish my mother.

Plus, does your mom make Chocolate Ring of Coconut Fudge Cake?

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Love you Mum!

‘Zone or Pie

I grabbed a few ingredients to make pizza but when I got home, I realized it could easily be a rolled out pizza, or a deep dish pizza, or a calzone! Love love love how versatile Italian dishes can be!
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Ingredients

pizza dough
1 head broccoli
2 chicken breasts
½ cup breadcrumbs
¼ cup Parmesan
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1 cup alfredo sauce
2 tbs cornmeal or wheat germ

Directions

Cut chicken breasts into thirds and roll in breadcrumbs and Parmesan before pan frying in olive oil.
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When chicken is cooked, rough chop it into bite size pieces.
Rough chop yellow onion and caramelize onions in the same pan the chicken cooked in.
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Steam broccoli florets.
Spread out dough onto a sheet pan sprayed with non-stick spray and sprinkled with wheatgerm. Leave half of dough hanging off the edge to become the top.
Layer cheese, chicken, broccoli, sauce and repeat. Pile it high!
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Close the calzone by wrapping the hanging edge over the filled half. Press tightly to close.
Make a few air-vent slits across the top and brush with olive oil or egg wash.
Bake 35 minutes at 400.
Let stand 5 minutes before slicing.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The key to the best calzones is filling with much more filling than seems appropriate. It settles and should be dense.

I liked this combo and thought it would be easy options from the freezer if you have them on hand. Mr. J didn’t think the broccoli was necessary, but it was OK. I always think a veggie and some color are necessary. Leftovers are also one of my favorite aspects to a calzone!

Enjoy cinco de mayo tomorrow! Have a margarita for me! I’ll be working super late but I’ll celebrate my favorite mexican later in May…

Easter Recap: Better Late Than Never

We’re now closer to Cinco de Mayo than Easter, but I’m just now catching up.Some things have to be absolutely the same. My Easter basket is one of those traditions I need. During Easter my first year of college I unexpectedly received a replacement basket for Easter at my parents house! GASP! I don’t dramatically overreact too often, but that was one of them. Dad ended up on a chair or a ladder pulling baskets down until we had the right one. Phew. It was iffy.
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Another tradition inside that basket is a dark chocolate egg. I get coconut creme and Mr. J gets fudge, with our names written on top.

Easter dinner was hosted at my sis’ house. We have a fantastic meal and she’s becoming quite the chef! Check out her tablescape! She’s all about the seasonal decor. (She also loves making trifle and I’m impressed with her creativity to use the trifle dish!)
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I made a dip- more about that later.

Our first course was a Baked Potato Soup from Cooking Light. The traditional loaded potato items were on the side for a garnish which made the soup itself a bit lighter since it didn’t include cups of cheese.
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The main course was a Tuscan pork roast, zucchini and corn saute, and a sausage and sourdough stuffing.
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The pork roast had rosemary, garlic, and it was delicious. Sis didn’t like the zucchini and corn side dish, but I did so I took the leftovers. It had some vinegar and I thought it was fresh and tangy.

What to Munch for Lunch

I was lacking on groceries (as well as energy, time, and creativity) but I really wanted to relax and whip up something for lunch for a few days. I found a zucchini that was nearing the end of it’s life in the fridge. I let that be my muse since I also wanted to put my new mandolin to use!
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Ingredients

1 sheet puff pastry
4 tbs pesto
1 cup grated gruyere
1 zucchini, sliced thin

Directions

Lay puff pastry out on a cookie sheet.
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Spread pesto to cover entire pastry sheet
Sprinkle cheese to cover entire pastry sheet
Carefully lay zucchini slices, overlapping slightly
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Bake 15-20 minutes at 350

This was just what I wanted. It was easy, had some great flavors, and packed well for lunch! I was meticulous about the rows of zucchini but I should have pushed the rows closer together. Budget for the puff factor.

I cooked it for about 15 minutes, knowing that I would put it in the toaster oven at work so I aired on the under-cooked side.

Although I haven’t made interesting just-for-lunch recipes lately this reminded me how just a few high quality ingredients make for a tasty dish. Any cheese would have worked well. Even other prepared sauces would work too.

What else should be some quick lunch fixes?

Southern Sweet Treat

In case the Easter Bunny didn’t leave you enough treats, I wanted to share this little bite with you. While I was in Houston working an event, I got a special little treat from Starbucks.

Have you seen the Starbucks Petites? They are so darn cute. There are bite (or 3 bite) sized treats. We had the pops. They are cake and icing rolled into pops on a stick.
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Rocky Road Cake Pops had chocolate cake, chocolate icing, almonds and mini marshmallows. Tiramisu Cake Pops was vanilla cake, Starbucks coffee, and vanilla icing and a chocolate covered coffee bean.
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Realistically, there’s nothing about this that warrents the pop stick. It’s definitely for the cuteness factor but that’s ok. That’s the basis of the appeal. 

Photos courtesy of of one Mrs. C and treats courtesy of another Mrs. C!

My Anthem

Anthem Kitchen and BarAfter work I had plans to meet up with my friend Miss L for a drink and a bite at Anthem. I tried SO hard to get there ontime (seeing how I work practically next door). I was about 5 minutes late.
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We sat at the bar and soaked in the ambiance while sipping our beers. I loved finding and trying out this new spot.

I had my eye on a few different appetizers. I ended up settling on a flatbread with prosciutto, poached figs, tomato slices, and arugula. I loved it. The figs made it feel really special and I love arugula on pizza so I was sold. The prosciutto was dropped on after it was grilled, keeping it soft and salty!
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Miss L went with the award winning chowder. Anthem won chowderfest 2010! She also got a roasted beet salad with goat cheese.
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I was throughly impressed with the menu. “Twist on American cuisine” is something I see and hear all the time but there were fish tacos, cuban sliders, mac and cheese, and roasted chicken. It sounds eclectic but it works! Everything goes!

I think the prices were right on target. My flatbread was $13 and that seemed appropriate.

I should have peeked upstairs since we sat at the bar but I loved it and I know I’ll go back again.

Hope everyone has an enjoyable Easter! I’ll be coming up with an appetizer and reporting back!