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Bella Sun Luci Sun dried tomatoes Review & Giveaway

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 5.57.42 PMFounded in 1987, Mooney Farms is a third generation, family-owned company rooted in quality, integrity and family values. Located in Newman, CA, Mooney Farms tomatoes are sun dried in California’s most advanced dry yard.

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Mooney Farms uses premium ingredients to create their line of healthy Mediterranean inspired products. From sun dried tomatoes to olive oil, pasta sauce, and risotto, the Bella Sun Luci line has a variety of products to offer its consumers.

Money Farms was kind enough to send me their line of Sun Dried Tomato products to try, including:

  • Sun Dried Tomato Halves with Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Italian Herbs
  • Julienne Cut Sun Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil with Italian Herbs
  • Sun Dried Tomato Pesto with Whole Pine Nuts
  • Bruschetta with Italian Basil Sun Dried Tomato and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sweet and Spicy BBQ Snacks
  • Slow Roasted Smokey Flavor Snacks
  • Sun Dried Tomatoes: Halves (Resealable Pouch)
  • Sun Dried Tomatoes Julienne-Cut with Zesty Peppers (Resealable Pouch)
  • Sun Dried Tomatoes with Greek Oregano, Basil & Garlic (Resealable Pouch)
  • Sun Dried Tomatoes Julienne-Cut (Resealable Pouch)
  • Sun Dried Tomatoes with Italian Basil Julienne-Cut (Resealable Pouch)

IMG_6826Mooney Farms’ products are all certified gluten free and kosher.

The bagged tomatoes were lighter and fresher. I like to toss them in my salads or add to pasta dishes.IMG_6814

The snacks were also light and although I was skeptical at first about the BBQ flavor, it was subtle and I really enjoyed them as a snack.

Salmon with Sun Dried Tomato, Artichokes, and Olives over Pasta Recipe:

1 cup White wine
Juice of ½ lemon
1 Tablespoon margarine or butter
½ cup Sun Dried Tomatoes
2 Tablespoons Bruschetta with Italian Basil Sun Dried Tomato & Olive Oil
½ cup Kalamata olives, halved
1 cup artichoke hearts, halved
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
Salt and pepper
Olive Oil
2 Salmon filets
Gluten Free Spaghetti
Preheat oven to 350F.
Boil water for pasta.

Boil water for pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Season salmon pieces with salt and pepper. Place salmon in skillet skin side down. Cook until skin is and crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer salmon to an aluminum-foil covered baking sheet, and roast until desired doneness. Time will depend on thickness of fish and desired doneness.

In the same skillet, add wine, lemon juice, butter, sun dried tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, and garlic. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until salmon is done.IMG_6821

Plate the spaghetti and top with salmon and sauce.IMG_6825

Hummus is so simple to make, even up to a few days before serving, and is always a crowd-pleaser.

Sun Dried Tomato Hummus Recipe

1 can chickpeas, drained
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil*
½ cup sundried tomatoes in olive oil, separated from oil**
1 garlic clove minced
½ – ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt

*I used 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the oil from the jar of sundried tomatoes.
** Use ½ a jar of sun dried tomatoes for a stronger sun dried tomato flavor.

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until the hummus has reached the creaminess you desire.

Pour into a serving bowl and top with more sun dried tomatoes.

Keep in an airtight container for up to one week in the refrigerator.IMG_6845

If you do not use the entire jar of sun dried tomatoes in your recipe, don’t worry! They will last for approximately 6 months in the refrigerator.

Besides their great taste and distinct flavors, Mooney Farms’ products also have many health benefits. Did you know sun dried tomatoes pack more nutrition per ounce than fresh tomatoes? Bella Sun Luci Sun Dried Tomatoes naturally have 12 times more lycopene than fresh tomatoes. Lycopene helps improve immune function, reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, cataracts, and asthma. Sun dried tomatoes are also a good source of antioxidants.

Now for the giveaway! One lucky reader will win a Bella Sun Luci prize pack, courtesy of Mooney Farms! All you need to do is enter on the Rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Open to U.S. residence only. Giveaway ends on 3/25/14. Open to U.S. Residents Only.

Disclaimer: I received this product free to sample and review for my blog. I was not paid for my review and all opinions are my own.

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Restaurant Review: Cask ‘n Flagon Ups Culinary Game with New Menu and Gluten Free Options

Cask ‘n Flagon Ups Culinary Game
Executive Chef Donely Liburd dishes out a revamped menu at Fenway landmark restaurant.image001-11

Executive Chef Donley Liburd is stepping up the culinary game at Fenway landmark, Cask ‘n Flagon, by debuting a revamped menu. Chef Liburd’s new menu items exhibit his culinary flair and BBQ expertise and will complement signature Cask favorites – such as wings, burgers, sandwiches and pizzas. What’s more? Cask ‘n Flagon boasts a 100% nut-free kitchen and most menu items are available gluten-free.IMG_6222

I had the chance to sit down with Chef Liburd and talk with him about his new menu, the gluten free options, the gluten free procedures in place at Cask ‘n Flagon, and sample some of the delicious gluten free options.

For starters, Chef Liburd will dish out appetizers such as: Black Bean Hummus (pico de gallo, guacamole, gluten free pita chips – $10) and, P.E.I. Mussels (pan roasted with Andouille sausage, fresh corn, diced onion and tomato finished with a fresh herb-butter sauce – $12.25). There are also new salads including the Roasted Beet Salad (red & golden beets, Vermont goat cheese, red wine vinaigrette, mixed greens – $10). IMG_6204From the grill, Chef Liburd will serve up newcomers like: Filet Mignon (7oz filet served on an herb cheese crostini, drizzled with red wine demi sauce and topped with herb butter and fried onion strings, served with potato croquettes and vegetable of the day – $24); Braised Short Rib (15oz short rib slow cooked for four hours served with mashed potatoes and beer battered onion rings – $24); Grilled Porterhouse Pork Chop (12oz grilled porterhouse pork chop topped with an apple and bacon chutney glaze served with sweet potato au gratin – $18.50); and, Chicken Jambalaya (Andouille sausage, blackened chicken, fresh corn, peppers and rice in a spicy tomato stew with fresh herbs – $13.75). All are gluten free.

For those looking to get their BBQ on, Cask ‘n Flagon offers the “Big D’s BBQ” menu, which is 100% gluten free. Options include: BBQ Beef Brisket (slow-smoked for eight hours – $15.75) and Baby Back Ribs (full rack of tender, falling-off the bone BBQ pork ribs – $19).

Chef Liburd also is giving diners a taste of Italy right in Fenway with his fresh pasta lineup. Also available with gluten-free penne, new pasta selections are: Chicken Piccata (pan seared chicken breast with a white wine, lemon, caper butter sauce served over gluten free penne – $15.50); Spicy Shrimp & Sausage (sautéed shrimp and Andouille sausage tossed in a spicy cream sauce served over cheese grits – $16.50); and an old favorite Pasta Primavera (roasted vegetable hash with squash, zucchini, red pepper, green pepper, crimini mushroom, garlic and red onion, roasted and finished with fresh herbs and crushed red pepper, tossed with penne pasta – $14). IMG_6215

Gluten free pizza and burgers are also available on Udi’s pizza crust and buns.IMG_6212

The Fenway Burger (Half pound Certified Angus Beef burger topped with Applewood smoked bacon and Vermont cheddar cheese – $11.75) was super flavorful and delicious – and I don’t usually like burgers! IMG_6217

Burgers are available with your choice of a side; the sweet potato fries and French fries can be roasted or pan fried, rather than fried in oil, to avoid cross contamination.  The sweet potato fries are delicious, as are the homemade pickles that were served with my burger.IMG_6214

Cask ‘n Flagon is a scratch kitchen. All sauces and marinades are made in house, and each dish is made to order. This is the primary reason Chef Liburd does not offer a specific “Gluten Free Menu.” He didn’t want to limit customers with gluten allergies to only a few options. Since all items are made to order, anything that isn’t already gluten fee can be modified and customized to meet your dietary needs. (With a few exceptions including the onion rings, vegetable burger, crab cakes, Fish and Chips, Asian Stir Fry and a few other appetizers).

Although Chef Liburd knows every ingredient that goes into every single dish, he makes sure he and his kitchen staff cross reference all products every time, even the ketchup. “You can never be too sure,” he says.

Very few items cooked on the grill contain gluten, but the chefs clean it before each gluten free meal is cooked. The kitchen staff and floor staff are all trained. Chef Liburd has spent a lot of time on training and server education. Our waitress Holly, was incredibly knowledgeable about the menu and the gluten free options, I was very impressed.

Chef Liburd didn’t want to Cask ‘N Flagon to only be known for a few dishes; he wanted everything to be good. And he certainly has upped the food game. We were blown away with the quality of the food; everything was fresh and flavorful, and the portions were large.

New Planet beer is available for gluten free beer lovers. But I recommend trying the house Cask Sangria (Cruzan Citrus Rum, Cruzan Raspberry Rum, Peach Schnapps, fresh lemon juice with house made simple syrup and Cabernet – $7) or Harvest Sangria (Apple Jack, Domain De Canton – a French ginger liquor – Sauvignon Blanc, juices, and cinnamon cordial – $8). Both were light and refreshing, not too sweet, and the perfect for summer or fall, respectively. IMG_6201

And make sure you save room for dessert! Gluten Free dessert options include the Flourless Chocolate Torte and the Butterscotch Crème Brulee, and neither will leave you disappointed. IMG_6220 IMG_6209

Disclaimer: I received this meal free of charge, with the exception of gratuity, which we happily paid for the great service. I was not paid for my review and all opinions are my own.


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Kitchensurfing: Bringing Personal Chefs into Your Kitchen & Fine Dining In to your Home {and $100 promo code}

My girlfriends and I are always looking for any reason or excuse to get together to eat, drink, and have a good time. Rather than go out I decided to invite a few friends over for Girls Night, and hired a chef through Kitchsensurfing, to make us appetizers and dessert. Screen shot 2014-01-31 at 2.09.05 PM

I love Kitchensurfing, I’ve been using the service for a few months now for private dinners (Valentine’s Day is coming up!) and a cooking lesson (click on the links to read about my other KS experiences). My friends, on the other hand, were newbies, and they were just as excited to try something different, as I was to introduce them to Kitchensurfing.

So what is Kitchensurfing?

Kitchensurfing is a marketplace for chefs of all kinds. It’s a service that allows you to bring chefs into your home to cook you a personal and customized meal. From hobby chefs to Michelin star chefs, you can browse the chefs on the site, view their sample menus, read their reviews, and book any of them. From private cooking lessons in your home, to meal deliveries, to a private dinner party for two or fifty-two, KS allows you to ‘shop’ around based on your own needs, wants, budget, and diet.

How it works:

  • Browse the list of chefs, read their reviews and sample menus, and pick one you’d like to have cook for you. Send them an e-mail and voilà, you’ve got yourself a private chef.

OR

  • Submit a “Match Request”. Fill out a form stating what you’re looking for (party size, budget, date, time, etc.), any dietary restrictions or allergies, preferred cuisines, and anything else you want or don’t want. Your request will be sent to all the chefs matching your criteria. Chefs will then contact you to customize a menu. Once you’ve found a chef and a menu that you are satisfied with you can book your chef!

The booking process is incredibly east and it is ok to say no if you don’t like an idea or menu item. So be specific about your likes and dislikes along with any dietary restrictions.  All the chefs I’ve worked with were great with communicating with me prior to the booking, and customizing the menu to my likes and needs. And remember, the chefs want you to enjoy every last bite, so be upfront and honest!

Keep reading for your $100 code….

Our Girls Night was such a blast! The menu looked amazing, and the food turned out even better than we could have imagined. My friends loved every moment of it and could not stop talking about trying KS on their own.

Chef Stephen Coe created a menu of tapas and dessert. Each course was delicious and beautifully crafted. The freshness and flavors of each dish were impressive; we cannot say one bad thing about any of this food.

Red and yellow beet salad with shaved sheep cheese, candied pistachios, and a blood orange aged balsamic over local greens.IMG_6251

Sashimi Tuna served over seaweed salad with pickled ginger, sesame seeds, and siracha sour cream and rice crackers.IMG_6255 IMG_6252

Grilled Oysters with pancetta, fennel, bee pollen, chives, and grated sheep cheese. IMG_6262

Scallops with artichoke hearts, romaine, olives, basil, tomatoes, and capers.IMG_6263

Warm chocolate soufflé with strawberry tarragon and white balsamic purée.IMG_6261 IMG_6260

The awesome folks over at Kitchensurfing have provided me with a $100 discount code for YOU, my readers! Click here to claim your $100 voucher and discover what Kitchensurfing is all about. The code is valid Monday, February 3, 2014 through Sunday, February 16, 2014. Your meal needs to be booked prior to the 16th, but the date of the actual meal could be after this date.

And you don’t have to live in Boston; some chefs are willing to travel all over the state, even to Maine!

Disclaimer: I was not paid for my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Pictures from my previous Kitchensurfing Experiences

Romantic Meal for Two by Chris Hallahan

– Late Season corn soup served hot with a ragout of lobster, bacon, and corn
– Kale salad with a warm bacon vinaigrette
– Blue Fish pan seared with crispy skin, over maple glazed carrots and fall vegetables
– Pumpkin & carrot cake (dairy, gluten free)IMG_4988

Cooking Lesson with Michelle Lahey:

-Middle Eastern Chickpea Burgers with Vegan Tzatziki
-Quinoa with Dried Cranberries and Roasted Butternut Squash
-Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
-Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

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Drop of Plated Meal prepared by Mark Hardin

– Arugula, Carrot & fennel salad with a creamsicle vinaigrette, sunflower seeds & orange slices
– Braised Lamb Shank slowly cooked in tomatoes and garlic. Served with a gravy made from its own juices. Accompanied by Roasted root vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes
– Mini Flourless Chocolate Mousse Cake Garnished with powdered sugar and a fresh raspberriesIMG_5950 IMG_5947

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Restaurant Review Gluten Free Options at Jerry Remy’s Sports Bar in Fenway

Sports bars are one of the hardest places to find gluten free options. Has this ever happened to you?  You meet your friends at a sports bar, ready to cheer on your favorite team, and there’s nothing you can eat. Well, you can usually find a bed of iceberg lettuce and a glass of water, but what’s the fun in that? You’re hungry too and you wish you could eat what everyone else was eating…Screen shot 2014-01-09 at 10.17.42 AM

Well imagine my excitement when I learned that Jerry Remy’s Sports Bar & Grill recently unveiled a gluten free menu (in addition to a vegetarian and vegan menu). The menu isn’t just salad and bun-less sandwiches. The gluten free menu includes appetizers, sandwiches, burgers (with buns!), pastas, and much more.
Update (April 10, 2014): Jerry Remy’s replaced the Gluten Free Menu with an Athlete Menu which still features a number of gluten free options. In addition, many of the items on the menu are or can be done gluten free.

While I was at Jerry Remy’s I had the chance to speak with the manager Noah about their gluten free server education. I also spoke with the chef in great detail about the menu and how they safeguard their kitchen for gluten free diners. The chef informed me that they use separate cutting boards, knives, and gloves for any allergen that crosses their kitchen.

Most menu items that are not already gluten free can be modified and prepared gluten free. If anything needs to be removed from the dish in order to make it gluten free, (i.e. croutons on salads), they will happily do it for you.

All of the sandwiches and burgers on the vegan/vegetarian menu and on the regular menu are available on an Udi’s gluten free roll or bread. All burgers are gluten free; they do not use any fillers (think bread crumbs) in making the patties. Since we all know what Udi’s bread tastes like, I decided not get a burger or a sandwich. I wanted to try some of the other items on the menu.

The grill is 100% gluten free. This came as a shock to me. Every piece of meat, chicken, fish, etc. that is put on the grill is gluten free. How is that possible you ask? The marinades used for the steak tips, BBQ ribs, and short ribs are all gluten free…on purpose! When was the last time you were able to order marinated steak tips off a menu? So naturally, this is what I ordered.image

The steak tips were tender and flavorful, and melted in my mouth. I highly recommend trying them. I wasn’t a fan of the mashed potatoes, which were extremely buttery. But then again, I don’t ever really like mashed potatoes. But the steak tips were the best that I’ve had in a long long time.

Jerry Remy’s only has one fryer, so the fries are not considered gluten free. However, my favorite food group, tortilla chips (for nachos), are 100% gluten free, thank god!

There are a few pasta dishes on the menu that can all be substituted with gluten free penne. The chicken saltimbocca can be made without the breading, and the scampi, one of the most popular dishes on the menu, and quite delicious, can also be enjoyed with penne pasta.IMG_5975

With seven large shrimp, we were very impressed with the serving size. The sauce was surprisingly light and incredibly fresh. Everything about this dish was delicious and fresh.

Jerry Remy’s menu also offers a variety of creative and tasty salads. From the Pan Seared Ahi Tuna and Asian Noodle salad, made with gluten free glass noodles, to the Harvest Salad, with grilled zucchini, yellow squash, red peppers, onions, pumpkin seeds and a citrus vinaigrette, there is something for every palate.IMG_5971

I was very impressed with the portion sizes and overall value of the meals. I was also impressed with the quality of the food; it greatly exceeded my expectations of ‘’sports bar food’’.  Finally! I have somewhere I can go with my friends to watch the game and I don’t have to worry about going hungry! And on that note, LET’S GO PATRIOTS!!!


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Crab Cakes and Remoulade Sauce Gluten Free & Dairy Free

These gluten free crab cakes are easy to make and have all the flavor of traditional crab cakes. IMG_5992

Crab Cakes

16 oz jumbo lump crab
¼ cup green onion
1 red pepper, finely diced
½ onion, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1-2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup mayo
2-3 Dashes Tabasco sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tablespoon Chili Sauce
1 box Glutino Gluten Free Vegetable Crackers
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Heat 1 Tablespoon Oil. Sauté vegetables until translucent.
  2. Let vegetable mixture cool completely.
  3. Finely grind the crackers in a food processor.
  4. Once cooled, mix the vegetable mixture with the crab, green onions, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, Tabasco, chili sauce, Old Bay, salt and pepper.
  5. Form crab mixture into approximately 12-14 patties.
  6. In a skillet or griddle, brown crab cakes on both sides for 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown.
  7. Bake crab cakes at 375F for 12-15 minutes, until hot all the way through.
  8. Serve warm with slice of lemon and remoulade sauce (recipe below). IMG_5989

Remoulade Sauce

1 celery stalk, diced
½ cup mayo
1 Tablespoon Dijon
I Tablespoon chili sauce
1/8 cup chopped olives
1 teaspoon minced garlic
juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup green onion
3-4 dashes of Tabasco sauce
salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Serve Chilled with crab cakes. Enjoy!

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Restaurant Review: Seasons 52 Gluten Free Menu

IMG_5753Seasons 52 is a national chain which has just opened its first two New England locations, the first in Burlington, MA and the second in Chestnut Hill. Season’s 52 is a fresh grill and wine bar that invites guests to discover the sensational flavors of a seasonally-inspired menu and award-winning international wine list in a casually-sophisticated and welcoming ambiance.

The menu incorporates fresh local products wherever possible in order to keep their menu seasonal, and true to the areas they inhabit. Every dish on the menu has less than 475 calories, making this a great choice for an evening out without over indulging. The portion sizes were just right in our minds, but smaller than what I think the average American expects to eat these days.

Seasons 52 has many different menus to accommodate a wide range of dietary needs and restrictions, including; No Gluten, Lactose/Dairy Free, Low Sodium, Garlic Free, Vegetarian, and Vegan. (The photo of the GF menu was to blurry, sorry everyone!)IMG_5725 IMG_5723 IMG_5721

Gluten free dishes are cooked in a separate area of the grill that is cleaned before and after every meal is made. The chefs are made aware of anyone at the table who has a gluten allergy, and takes special precautions to avoid cross contamination as much as possible. But, there is not a separate area where gluten free items are prepared, so cross contamination is still possible. This applies to other allergens as well.

Seasons 52’s wine menu features over 100 wines—26 varieties from 14 countries— 64 of which are available by the glass. I loved that the wine list was broken in an easy to understand way. Of course I chose a Spanish Rioja, which our waitress said would pair nicely with both fish and red meat. The wine is poured at your table, by your server, every time. IMG_5735

For starters we ordered the Chilled Lobster Shrimp Spring Roll, which was served with a trio of sauces for dipping: a cool salsa verde, aromatic lemongrass, and a sweet hot chili. We loved the salsa verde; made with fresh cilantro and lime. The spring rolls themselves were refreshing and filled with chunks of fresh seafood.IMG_5728

We also shared the Lemongrass Salmon Salad, with organic field lettuce, pineapple, mango, jicama, and toasted sesame vinaigrette. The dressing had great flavor, as did the salmon that was cooked with a piece of lemongrass in it. I especially enjoyed the flavors the salmon picked up from the herbs it was prepared with. I highly recommend both of these dishes!IMG_5732

For my entrée I ordered the Wood-Roasted Pork Tenderloin served over soft corn polenta, broccoli, onions, and roasted potatoes. The pork was prepared absolutely flawlessly. It was incredibly tender and just melted in my mouth. I never order pork when I dine out—I think this was my first time—but I was remarkably pleased with both the presentation and flavors of the dish. IMG_5747

Katie ordered the Rocky Mountain Buffalo Burger, without a bun. Eating a burger with no bun takes out most of the enjoyment of eating a burger, but we were intrigued, and very curious, to try buffalo so we ordered it anyways.  I personally thought it was just so-so. I don’t eat burgers normally and to me it tasted like a regular burger. Katie, on the other hand, really enjoyed the burger and thought it had great flavor and was cooked perfectly.IMG_5739

The gluten free dessert menu has two options; Fresh Fruit or Raspberry Chocolate Chip Canoli without the shell. The desserts here are referred to as “Mini Indulgences”. The whole concept of the mini indulgence is just that- indulgence in a smaller portion size. We tried the Canoli filling that was served in a shot-size glass and was pure decadence. Now this wasn’t just any canoli. This canoli filling was made with real vanilla bean and had a rich creamy, texture.IMG_5751

I appreciate a dessert this size that allows us all the pleasure of eating dessert with none of the guilt of eating too much!

Every dish was artfully crafted with care, and abundantly full of flavor. Seasons 52 far surpassed my expectations; it is a chain restaurant after all! I thoroughly enjoyed our evening and I look forward to visiting again. Seaons 52 is a wonderful place to dine out, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys fresh flavorful means and eating with the seasons.

Disclaimer: I received this meal of charge, with the exception of gratuity, which we happily paid for the great service. I was not paid for my review and all opinions are my own.

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Barre to Bar with Exhale Spa, Aragosta, and Blog and Tweet Boston

Last Saturday I joined Blog and Tweet Boston for a Core Fusion Barre class at the Exhale Spa Boston Battery Warf location. This is Exhale’s signature full body workout, and I can honestly say I’ve never sweat so much in my life! I work out regularly but this class was a real workout.IMG_5285 Core Fusion Barre is designed to give you chiseled abs, toned legs, cut arms, and a high, lifted butt. This ballet inspired, core-centric class focuses on isolated exercises, alignment, flexibility, and posture as you work through targeted mindful muscle movements. It is suitable for all fitness levels. There were [many] moments my muscles were burning and shaking. It was an intense, hard, and non-stop 60 minutes of exercising and stretching.IMG_5331

Our instructor Meg was great. She was cheerful, motivating, and inspiring. Meg led us through a full body workout including leg lifts, planks, push ups, abs, bar work, and stretching. Meg was easy to follow and took time to help each one of us personally on different moves and positions.

After the class, the group headed over to Aragosta Bar and Bistro for the bar portion of “Barre to Bar”. Here we were treated to delicious appetizers and drinks.IMG_5319

Aragosta, also located in Battery Warf at the Fairmont Hotel, offers a warm, social atmosphere in a vibrant setting, featuring an open kitchen with an interactive Chef’s Counter. With influences from Marseille to Genoa, the contemporary Italian cuisine gives signature flair to hand-made pastas, prime meats, and New England seafood, using quality, local farm-raised ingredients.

We started with the “Deep Cleanse”, Exhale’s signature cocktail made with aloe juice, muddled mint, and gin. The drink was delicious and refreshing, just what I needed after such an intense workout.blogger-image--1852210936

Unbeknownst to me, Aragosta carries gluten free bread, and I was able to enjoy the same dishes as everyone else in the group. As we sipped our drinks we feasted on bruschetta, a charuterie plate, and lobster salad crostini.

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Charcuterie Plate

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Lobster Salad Crostini

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I enjoyed all three dishes, everything was incredible flavorful and delicious, and I plan on going back for dinner very soon.

I had such a fun afternoon trying Core Fusion for the first time, sampling tasty bites, and mingling with other bloggers!I am so glad I was introduced to this class, although some of the moves were challenging, I really enjoyed the workout and hope to take more barre classes in the future.IMG_5317

For more information about Barre to Bar (offered Monday through Friday) contact Exhale at 617-603-3100 or sign-up online at exhalespa.com/batterywharf. Thanks again to Sam and Meg from Exhale for your wonderful hospitality, and Jen and Kerrie for organizing this great event!


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Our Evening with KitchenSurfing

It’s rather obvious that I really enjoy going out to eat and trying new restaurants and dinner options in the city. However, there are times I don’t want to deal with crowds, long waits, bad service, etc. And that is where Kitchensurfing comes in.

KitchenSurfing is a company that allows people to bring professional chefs into their own home kitchens. It’s an online marketplace that connects chefs with people who love to eat. You can find some of Boston’s top chefs on the site, along with other amazing culinary professionals. (click here to get a 25% off code)Screen shot 2013-10-08 at 1.55.06 PM

So how does it work? There are two ways to book:

  • Browse the list of chefs, read their reviews and sample menus, and pick one you’d like to have cook for you. Send them an e-mail and voilà.

OR

  • Submit a “Match Request”. Fill out a form stating what you’re looking for (party size, budget, date, time, etc.), any dietary restrictions or allergies, preferred cuisines, and anything else you want or don’t want. Your request will be sent to all the chefs matching your criteria. Chefs will then contact you to customize a menu. Once you’ve found a chef and a menu that you are satisfied with you can book your chef!

We had a great experience with Chef Chris Hallahan. From the moment we began corresponding through the site, he worked with us to create the perfect menu that incorporated foods we love and that accommodated my food intolerances. He was very knowledgeable about food allergies, and even shared some stories and tips with us at dinner.

We were blown away, not only by his culinary talents, but by his passion for food and locally sourced ingredients. He takes great pride in what he does and it really shows. Chris was incredibly friendly and engaging. He knew exactly when to be interactive and when to hang back, which wasn’t very often because we asked so many questions! We learned so much from him, and the whole experience was great.

Every dish was flavorful and fresh.

corn soup with a ragout of lobster, corn, bacon, & thyme
Late Season corn soup served hot with a ragout of lobster, bacon, & corn

Kale salad with a warm bacon vinagrette
Kale salad with a warm bacon vinaigrette with a bottle of wine delivered by Drizly.

Line-caught blue fish over cider glazed carrots and fall vegetables (with beet juice for coloring)
Line-caught blue fish over cider glazed carrots and fall vegetables (with beet juice for coloring)

Pumpkin and Carrot Trifle
Pumpkin and Carrot Trifle

Not only was everything delicious, it was well-timed and beautifully presented. He far exceeded our expectations, and we really appreciated how he embraced the challenge of working with my allergies and still turning out 4 restaurant-caliber dishes.

Have a food allergy or dietary restrictions? No problem! Chefs with food allergy experience indicate so in their profiles in the “comforts” section. The search criteria include gluten free and allergy friendly selections.

Chris had no problem working around my gluten free, dairy free, and yeast free diet. Chris actually took a whole weekend to try out different dessert recipes before settling on a pumpkin carrot cake that was to die for!

Chris also showed up with all the cooking supplies he needed to prepare our 4-course meal; ingredients, pots, pans, knives, utensils, etc.

The booking process is incredibly easy and it is ok to say no if you don’t like an idea or menu item. The chefs want you to enjoy every minute of your experience, so make sure you are up front about your likes and dislikes, what you want and what you don’t want.

This is a great way for food lovers to get closer to chefs and chefs to gain an intimate audience, try out some experimental stuff that might not fly at their place of employment, and make some extra cash.

And no, you don’t have to do the dishes! At the end of the meal the chef will clean up for you and if you are lucky enough as we were, your kitchen will be cleaner than it was before they arrived!IMG_4979

This month Kitchensurfing has teamed up with Drizly, a local alcohol delivery service app, to offer a great promotion. With this promotion, if you book a Kitchensurfing chef from now until October 31, 2013, you will receive $50 off the beer, wine, or liquor for your event from Drizly. The meal does not have to be before the 31st, but the chef has to be booked by that date.

To take advantage of this promotion, simply download Drizly’s iPhone app and enter the code you are given when you make your booking. Drizly will then deliver your order in 60 minutes or less. We ordered wine for our meal and had a great experience with Drizly, which you can about read here.

Ready to book a chef? Click here for a 25% off code. This code is valid through Dec. 31 (you don’t have to have your meal prior to the 31, it just has to be booked by that date). This code can be used on any KS service.

Next Up: A gluten free cooking lesson!

Disclaimer: I received this service free of charge to review for my blog. I was not paid for my review and all opinions are my own.

IMG_4849

Gluten Free Tortilla Española (Spanish Omelete)

The Tortilla Española or Spanish Omelet, is the most commonly served dish in Spain. While there are hundreds of variations even in any one specific region, the traditional tortilla is made with eggs, potatoes and onions. Some of the many additions you will often see in tortilla española include green peppers (pimientos verdes), chorizo, mushrooms (chamiñones), and ham (jamón).IMG_4856

Tortilla Española is naturally gluten free. It may be eaten hot or cold; it is commonly served as a tapa or picnic dish throughout Spain. As a tapa, it may be cut into bite-size pieces and served on cocktail sticks, or cut into pie style portions (pincho de tortilla). It can also be eaten in a sandwich (bocadillo).IMG_4858

You do not need to be a gourmet chef to make this dish yourself.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced ¼ inch
  • 10 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a non-stick frying pan and cook the onion and potatoes for about 10 minutes until the potato is soft. You may need to turn the heat down slightly so the potatoes do not burn.IMG_4850
  2. While the onion and potatoes are cooking, beat the eggs together in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Once the potatoes are soft, pour the mixture into the eggs. Try to drain as much oil as possible, the less oil in the eggs the better. Mix together with a large spoon.
  4. Pour 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil into the non-stick frying pan (approximately 8-11 inches) and reduce heat to medium. Pour the tortilla mixture back into the pan and spread out evenly. Allow the eggs to cook around the edges.IMG_4853
  5. Once the egg mixture is nearly set, and the bottom is slightly browned, you are ready to turn it over. Place a large plate upside down over the frying pan. Quickly, flip the frying pan and plate so the omelet falls onto the plate. Place the frying pan back on the stove and add just enough olive oil to coat the pan.  Slide the omelet back into the frying pan and let cook for another 3-4 minutes.IMG_4854
  6. Turn the heat off and let the tortilla sit in the pan for 2-3 minutes.IMG_4855
  7. Slide the omelet onto a plate to serve. Cut into 6-8 pieces like a pie, or if you are serving it as an appetizer, cut into 1-½ inch squares. Place a toothpick in each square and serve. You can also place each square onto a ½ thick piece of gluten free baguette.IMG_4857
cumin

Bob’s Red Mill Review & GIVEAWAY

I am a big fan of Bob’s Red Mill. Bob’s makes a whole line of gluten free flours; including rice flours, bean flours, teff flour, tapioca flour, coconut flour, oat flour and many more. I regularly use Bob’s Red Mill baking mixes and flours, and I love their gluten free oats.Screen Shot 2013-08-01 at 10.54.16 AM

For over 30 years, Bob’s has been committed to providing the very best in Gluten Free flours, cereals, baking mixes, and grains. Every product is tested upon delivery, during production and after packaging. To insure the integrity of their gluten free products, Bob’s Red Mill adheres to a standard of no more than 19 parts per million of gluten. Separate machinery and packaging division are used to insure the purity of their products.

Bob’s was kind enough to send me three gluten free products: black bean flour, gluten free cornbread mix, and gluten free oats.IMG_3784

The first thing I made was the cornbread. It wasn’t sweet like Jiffy Mix, but it was certainly was not bitter. It cooked up moist and delicious. The texture was a bit denser and drier than I remember cornbread being, but it still tasted great. I think the recipe (on the back of the bag) just needs a little bit more liquid and the cornbread would be perfect. I made a loaf and a few muffins, which rose quite a bit; I was so surprised! IMG_3933Black Bean Flour is high in protein (8g), dietary fiber (5g) and a good source of iron (10%), magnesium (16%), and phosphorous (16%).

Before today, I had never cooked or baked with black bean flour. I was excited to try something new, but I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with it. Luckily, Bob’s Red Mill provides recipe suggestions on the back of the package, and I made the black bean dip. IMG_3785Black Bean Dip

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup Bob’s Red Mill Black Bean Flour
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 ½ cups hot water
  • ½ cup salsa

Recipe:

Whisk black bean flour with cumin, chili powder and salt into the hot water. Stir 1 minute while cooking over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium low; cover and cook for 4 minutes. Add ½ cup of your favorite salsa or picante sauce. The mixture thickens as it cools. Make sure to stir once every few minutes. Let cool 15 minutes if serving as a dip. Makes 3 cups.

The dip tasted exactly like black beans! Yes, I know it is made with black bean flour, but I wasn’t expecting the flavor to be so strong and tasty. You can also use black bean flour as part of your baking mixes for chocolate cakes and brownies. Try substituting up to 25% in your flour mix to add protein, fiber, and iron.

The organic quinoa Bob’s makes is small-grained quinoa and is pre-rinsed.  This is important because quinoa grows covered with a layer of a bitter substance, that you always need to rinse this off before cooking. But beware! Even though it says it is pre-washed, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wash it again. I always rinse my quinoa before cooking, whether it was done already or not.

For those of you unfamiliar with quinoa, it is a nutrient rich grain that was a staple food of the ancient Incas’ diet. Quinoa is a good source of iron, protein, and essential amino acids. Quinoa is actually a seed but is cooked and used like a whole grain. It makes a great substitute for couscous or barley in tabouli. Bob’s Red Mill quinoa is delicious on it’s own and has an earthy flavor.

My favorite quinoa recipe is Quinoa with sautéed apples and Almonds.quinoa apple

Ingredients:
– 1 cup quinoa
– 2 teaspoons olive oil
– 3/4 cup chopped onion
– 3/4 cup finely diced carrots
– 1 garlic clove, minced
– 1 cup chicken broth (vegetarian version: vegetable broth)
– 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
– 2 cups diced unpeeled apples
– 1/4 cup slivered almonds
– 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

                                                                            Recipe:
Rinse the quinoa thoroughly in warm water.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a saucepan over med-high heat. Add onion, carrot and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes or until the onion is tender and carrots begin to brown.
Stir in broth, water, quinoa and cinnamon. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.
While the quinoa is simmering, in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat, heat 1 teaspoon oil. Add the apples, almonds and pepper to quinoa and toss to combine. Serve warm.

This is also great cold over spinach salads!

You can check out my other quinoa recipes here:

Spinach Quinoa Salad with Cherries and Almondsquinoacherries

 

Quinoa and Rice Summer Saladquinoasummer

 

Cumin scented Black Rice and Quinoacumin

Now for the Giveaway! One lucky reader will win the same 3 products I received; Cornbread Mix, Black Bean Flour, and Organic Quinoa.

Enter below using the Rafflecopter for a chance to win these delicious Bob’s Red Mill products!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This Giveaway ends on August 7, 2013 at 12:00am  EST. Open to U.S. residents only.

Disclaimer: I received these products for free to sample and review for my blog.  I was not paid for my review and all opinions are my own.