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Boston blogger potluck dinner

June 27th, 2009 · 8 Comments · entertaining

Well well well, looks like I’m majorly behind on my blogging. Better late than never though, right? 😉 Last Sunday, I hosted a Boston blogger potluck dinner. I thought it would be the perfect way to see some of the bloggers I’ve met before and meet a few other bloggers I follow but have never met in person. Of course, given that we’re all foodies here, the food was to die-for! Everyone brought 1 or 2 dishes of their choice, and we had a fabulous spread. I’m so glad a few of my (non-blogger) girlfriends and my husband were able to attend the dinner as well. It’s nice to have the people I love get a little glimpse of my blogger life :)

So dinner attendees included the following: Lauren, Katie, Shannon, Tiffany, Katy, Coco and her boyfriend Joey, Kelly, me and my husband Adam.  Such a beautiful group!  I was kind of running all over the place at first, and totally forgot to get a group picture of everyone 😳 … too bad because everyone was looking gooood 😎

So let’s get to food then. I definitely remember to take pictures of food! Here is (most of) the spread:



Lauren has been featuring on her blog lots of amazing looking recipes from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan, and for the party she decided to try Dreena’s roasted red pepper & almond hummus. This hummus was a little different from other hummus I’ve had in the past. The almonds really lent a grainier texture and made this dip very nutty… I’d call it an almond spread with chickpeas :) Lauren mentioned there were dozens of other unique hummus recipes in ED&BV so be sure to check out the book when you get a chance!


Tiffany shared her usual dinner party staples: low fat homemade boursin cheese (nice and creamy!) with wheat thins…


… and her German potato salad (check out the recipe in the comments section here). Love all the garlic in this dish!


Katie brought one of her favorite salads she discovered at 101 cookbooks: lemon scented quinoa salad. She was kind enough to bring the red onions in a little side dish, so I was able to sample this creamy goodness.  Quinoa is such a great (whole wheat) grain (or is it a seed?)! It’s easy to cook, is very light and fluffy and so versatile. The lemon and tahini flavors worked so well together. I loved the salad and will definitely be making it myself again! :)


Coco made these professional looking tomato/mozzarella/basil skewers. I think Coco should go into catering. These little guys were so cute (and delicious of course – you can’t go wrong with this combo!). Sorry for the blurry photo, I was trying to be quick :)


I thought we needed a little more greens, and threw together this mixed greens/strawberry, dried figs, almonds and goat cheese salad. I’ll assume everyone enjoyed it since it was gone in minutes :)



Shannon got a hold of some rhubarb at the local farmers market, and brought 2 dishes starring rhubarb. She blogs about both here, so be sure to check out her blog for the recipes! This was my first time trying rhubarb (I’ve always been curious about it but never dared to actually purchase it and put it to good use) and I was really impressed with its flavor – kind of tangy. Now I’d like to make some pie with it… something like a rhubarb cherry pie. Come to think of it, maybe the reason I want to pair rhubarb with cherries is because Shannon did in this pork tenderloin with Indian spiced cherry-rhubarb chutney. I love pork tenderloin (always so tender and lean) and I’m a huge sucker for pretty much anything-cherry. This dish kind of rocked my world 😉


The other dish Shannon brought was tofu with hot and sour sauce, served over kale. Again, the rhubarb (I think it was the rhubarb?) added a nice tanginess to the dish. Another winner! Man, I’m going to be saying this a lot in this post 😆


Katy made some grilled chicken skewers and made an excellent peanut sauce for dipping (not pictured). She said she didn’t really use a recipe, just used some good ingredients and they all came together. One day I hope to be able to wing it like Katy and make such lovely dishes. 😀


Coco’s boyfriend, Joey, didn’t come empty handed either. I was very impressed with his culinary skills as well as with his courage to face so many food-obsessed girls in one room (he wanted to join us even before finding out my husband was able to make it to the party). Joey followed this recipe from Cooking Light for spaghetti and meatballs (omitting the spaghetti and using some arribiatta sauce from Whole Foods). The meatballs were very juicy and flavorful and I loved that he made his man-dish using a lighter recipe. Extra points for Joey! 😀



We had some wine for beverages and Kelly made this amazing sangria flora (I think she may have used this recipe):


The sangria was light and fruity – you can get in trouble drinking the stuff because it really does not taste alcoholic at all. I think the fruit soaked up all that alcohol, but after a few bites of it, it started going down really easy 😉 I added some wine into my sangria glass throughout the night and it kept it a little sweet. I think sangria is the perfect summer drink!


You know dessert is my favorite part of the meal so I was super excited to dig in :) We had a great little variety of desserts, starting with some white chocolate and raspberries blondies Lauren made, based on VeggieGirl‘s recipe (sorry I can’t find the exact link to it).


Closeup… mmm


The blondies were so moist, fluffy and buttery. The white chocolate added a nice creamy touch of sweetness without overpowering the fresh fruity flavor of the raspberries. Everyone loved these, and even both boys at the party requested that these are made again. In fact Coco made these nearly the next day after the party. You can find the recipe for the blondies on her blog here (she followed Lauren’s version of VeggieGirl’s recipe).

We also had the amazing black bean brownies I made. Yup, amazing! :)


And Katy made a fresh fruit salad with nearly every kind of fruit they had at the super market. She sweetened this with agave nectar and added some chopped mint for a fun little twist on a conventional fruit salad.



I’ve sampled every single thing. Everything was spectacular, so you can multiply these plates by 2… because yes, I went back for seconds. :)



A special thank you to my husband for doing all the dishes after the party! He’s a keeper 😉

Thank you, ladies, Joey and Adam, for coming. I had a great time! And I hope the rest of you enjoyed this little recap. 😀 What would you bring to a potluck dinner?

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Eating chocolate during the CLC – amazing black bean brownies

June 25th, 2009 · 16 Comments · baking, Cleaner Life

One of the things I was most nervous about after deciding to do my own version of Heather’s Cleaner Life Challenge, was going almost 30 days without chocolate and other sugary sweets. I am a self-proclaimed chocoholic and anyone who knows me (in both real and blog life) knows that even that is kind of an understatement. The challenge so far is going well. I’ve had some kind of chocolate tasting thing nearly every day, but that’s a huge improvement over what I was doing before. Better yet, these chocolate tasting treats were sugar free, and I’m not talking artificial sweeteners… I’m talking natural, unrefined sweeteners. Yeah, baby :)

So yeah, given my love for chocolate and an upcoming blogger potluck dinner, I went searching my favorite blogs and magazines for some inspiration. Most sugarless desserts sounded boring for this chocoholic… until I stumbled upon a recipe for amazing black bean brownies I’ve saved a long time ago. The recipe is originally from Baking with Agave Nectar by Ania Catalano, and after tasting these guys, I need to get my hands on this cookbook. Yes, need. The copy from my library mysteriously disappeared (I’m not even kidding, the records say “missing”) and honestly I can’t blame whomever took it.  Actually I can blame them (sneaky thieves!) but you know what I mean… :)

Aside from being white sugar and white flour free (yay for staying on top of the CLC), these were fantastic! The brownies have some instant coffee in the batter, and the coffee really intensified the chocolate flavor. The texture was fudge-like, like a creamy flourless chocolate cake. My mouth is watering just thinking about these brownies (alas, they’re all gone). I halved the recipe, and the only substitution I made was using almond slivers instead of walnuts (one of my party attending friends, Katy, is allergic to walnuts). I think walnuts would have been excellent in these. Next time. Oh and no, you can’t taste the black beans 😀

Progress pics galore…

All the ingredients:


Melt butter + unsweetened chocolate in the microwave



Do not taste this! Yup, I did… unsweetened choc + butter = gross


Pulse some almonds, black beans + a little bit of the choc mixture. If the batter is too dry, add a little more chocolate.



Combine choc mixture, remaining almonds (or walnuts) + ground coffee


Beat eggs


Add agave nectar



Combine the chocolate/coffee mixture with the black bean/almond mixture



Add eggs/agave mixture, saving a little (as per recipe), and mix well



Pour into the pan


Add some fluffy eggs on top (looks funny but it turned out great!)



Bake + cool (I refrigerated mine overnight)


Cut into squares or triangles. I cut mine into 12 triangles (that’s for the half recipe) but these are quite rich so I’d probably cut into smaller squares next time.




Closeups… mmm


My first brownie. I may have had one for breakfast 😳


The whole recipe is 5,012 calories (makes 24-45 brownies, depending on size).

Enjoy! This recipe is a winner!! :mrgreen:

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CLC – making healthier choices by default

June 24th, 2009 · 13 Comments · Cleaner Life

It’s been 8 days since my last CLC update and I’m happy to report that I’m doing great! Really really great!! This challenge is exactly what the doctor prescribed because I’ve been 100% binge free and 500% happy. I have not felt deprived one bit. Yes there were/are (daily) moments when I crave/want something that’s “not allowed” but I instantly dismiss it and move on to a healthier alternative. In these past 8 days, I’ve also eaten out more than on any consecutive 8 days in recent history (holidays excluded) and the challenge has helped me make healthier choices by default. It’s made dessert not even an option, and unnecessary free bread an easy pass. This naturally saved me hundreds of calories and allowed me to have more dates out with my husband (that we both fully enjoy) without worrying about how it will affect my waistline.  What’s been even more remarkable is how much more aware I’ve become of the reasons I eat and crave certain foods. It (as suspected) most often was driven by emotion: stress, boredom, happiness. Not reaching for things out of habit has made me really think about what I’m doing. I have grabbed an orange, some baby carrots, or an AK MAK cracker on a few occasions to fill the void – sometimes you just need to eat something to calm the nerves. But I stayed away from the usual suspects (read: chocolate + cookies) or even other fattier “allowed” foods like nuts, because I knew the eating was not due to hunger, but rather for the action of eating. In that case, a lower calorie nutritius food was a better choice all the way. So yes, if you’re still reading… I just wanted to give you this little update. Today marks the end of day 9 of the challenge and I’m looking forward to the next 9! 😀

Oh you wanted pictures too? Here is a lot of the food I’ve eaten over these past 8 days. As mentioned there were also a few meals out I’d like to dedicate separate posts to (more restaurant reviews coming up) and a special blogger potluck dinner I hosted, which was a great success and will also become an entry of it’s own. I’ve labeled all the pictures. Let me know if you have any questions/comments about any of them. See you tomorrow with a sweet post :)

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