Party tricks

Hi blog friends. Just stopping by to say hi. I’m still around, just very busy with work. I’m not good with pre-scheduled posts. I like to write when inspiration strikes. It’s the only way I know how. Anyways, I’ll be back very soon, with recipes like these… (mmm, that was good).

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Oh and I’m hosting a get-together for my co-workers today and making buffalo chicken dip, EDBV olive and sundried tomato hummus, chocolate chip dough balls, as well as serving a bunch of other store bought goodies (like nuts, goat cheese with crackers, etc).

What are your hosting tricks for a casual get together for a crowd when you’re short on time?

Perfecting pie making (baking advise needed!)

I love cooking and eating and sharing it with friends and family. I love telling YOU about the most delicious meals that recently came out of my kitchen (so that maybe you can make it, eat it, and share it with your loved ones… if they’re lucky!). That’s how this food blogging thing works, right?

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Sometimes the meals are incredible but the pictures just don’t do it justice. I’m sure every food blogger in the world can empathize with that. You want so badly for the picture to make the reader drool. To make you wish you still had some leftovers to devour. Pictures really are worth 1,000 words. They are powerful.

Sometimes the stars align and your favorite meals accomplish just that (that chocolate chip cookie picture even got accepted by Tastespotting!!) Other times the lighting is perfect but the dish is just okay.

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Adam and I went peach picking a few weeks ago and I could not be more excited to make all sorts of peach goodies with our 10lbs of local peaches. Making a pie is one of those things I have yet to master (last time I attempting this was back in 2009 for Thanksgiving <—whoa, I look different. Also, the perfect example of unfortunate picture quality of delicious food) so I decided to that a peach pie was the perfect little project!

I used Joanne’s recipe for a peach dream pie but used a crust recipe I got from a pie making class I took at the Brooklyn Kitchen this past summer. The crust came out flaky and delicious but the filling was pretty soggy. Here is the deal: I have no idea what went wrong since I’m not really a pie-making expert. I need your help!!

Do fresh peaches have too much moisture? Should I have made a lattice top to let some of the moisture escape? Was the yogurt based filling (mixed with the peaches) too wet to begin with? Should I have cooked it somehow prior so that it baked better? Should I have cooked the pie longer? I was scared the crust would burn on the bottom. Any other suggestions? I’m totally clueless about this stuff!

I sliced this pie the day after making it and was disappointed with the texture but the taste was fantastic. The yogurt mixture baked into something resembling a light cheesecake (mmm). It was even more delicious with a scoop or 2 of vanilla gelato! Smile

How are your pie-making skills? Help me figure out what went wrong!

In other random “news” – look what I just scored at Trader Joe’s for $4.99.

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What should I make?!

The Cottage Chestnut Hill–brunch review

If you’ve been reading Healthy and Sane for a while, or have had a chance to check out my restaurant review page, you know I eat out a lot. I love to cook – yes, but eating out at quality restaurants is absolutely one of my favorite pass times (Quality is key. Since I cook and eat out a lot, I have high standards). I love the anticipation before the actual event, then the excitement for the meal after reading the menu and making a selection and of course being pampered by waiters and chef. But my favorite part of all is the ability to disconnect from all the other obligations and really be in the moment – with the people you’re with, enjoying a (hopefully) wonderful meal.

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Luckily, Boston has a lot of foodies with the same love for eating out… and brunching. We even have a Boston Brunchers group, which meets monthly for… you guessed it, brunch. Since it’s inception less than a year ago it grew to over 300 bloggers. And this is why it’s the very first time I got to finally join them. Clearly, the seats at these brunches go fast!

This past Sunday, The Cottage in Chestnut Hill hosted 16 of us bloggers to an amazing brunch. If you’re familiar with Chestnut Hill, the Cottage is located right in the strip mall by the newly renovated Shaw’s, the movie theater and Macy’s (which used to be a Bloomingdales… also known as my mom’s second home Winking smile ).

The restaurant space is absolutely gorgeous. It has gigantic windows which just shower the rooms with natural light. Everything is so clean, fresh and inviting. It definitely had a very modern cottage feel (the original location in La Jolla was in fact a cottage, that’s how the name came about).

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I just loved the little details like flowers on each table and little knickknacks throughout (see the shelving units in the next picture).

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Bloggers chatting it up… we never run out of food related topics! Smile [I also spy my Bloody Mary there. It was solid.]

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Chef Todd (below) and the owner John came out for a bit to say hello and welcome us to brunch. They talked about their other locations in La Jolla, CA and (surprisingly close to the Chestnut Hill location) Wellesley, MA. All are in affluent cities with demand for high quality restaurants.

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Chef Todd shared a story about the executive team’s semi-yearly trips to California where they stuff themselves silly doing “research” for future menu planning. He admitted it actually gets painful towards the end, but it’s absolutely the biggest inspiration for the restaurant’s ever-changing menu (hey guys, I wasn’t joking when I said I’m willing to endure the pain. Call me!). The focus is always on freshest ingredients, and as often as possible – local (you can see from the menu it’s definitely seasonally appropriate!). I was also happy to hear that they work with local and sustainable meat suppliers (I noticed in their dinner menu duck from Crescent Farms and Brandt Farms beef – both committed to humaine treatment of their animals).

Since the restaurant hosted us bloggers for brunch and everything was taken care of (except for tax and tip), obviously I can’t review “normal” service. We were all treated like queens! I can, however, tell you about the food. I’m sure you’d get the same quality even without camera in tow.

Truffled tater tots

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Need I say more? They were mentioned as a side to bbq tenderloin tips and caught our attention right away. Luckily, the server was happy to bring us a few plates to share sans the beef (and was even kind enough to swap the fries for tots for a few ladies). Under a wonderfully crispy layer, were creamy truffled mashed potatoes. I admit that truffle oil can feel like cheating but man oh man, that’s my kind of cheating. These were incredible and got 2 thumbs up (or something less geeky Winking smile) from everyone at the table!

For my entrée, I was *thisclose* to ordering stuffed French Toast with strawberry compote + marscapone cheese (Liz did – smart girl!). Doesn’t it look and sound incredible?!!

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I sort of OD’ed on sweets the day before so I went with a savory option instead.

Maine Lobster Cobbmixed greens, applewood bacon, egg, spring beans, tomato, great hill blue cheese, hass avocado, tarragon vinaigrette

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[sans the blue cheese]

This salad was fantastic. Every ingredient on its own was super fresh and I just loved the citrusy tarragon dressing covering the greens. And what is better than fresh Maine lobster on a beautiful summer day? Nothing! If (correction: when) I come back to The Cottage, I will make sure someone at my table orders this salad so I can steal a few bites (there is no way I’m not ordering the stuffed french toast twice in a row – let’s get real!).

Some other gorgeous eats a few other ladies ordered…

Quiche of the day with broccoli and caramelized onions

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Maine Lobster BLT+A with hass avocado, applewood bacon, lemon aioli, butter lettuce, tomato, toasted brioche bread

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Um, I think I need this Lobster BLTA  in my life right now!

Every single plate was licked clean when we were done. It’s safe to say this brunch was a great success (say it like Borat!).

It was really fun to catch up with a few of my blog friends and meet some new ones! Smile Thanks again to Renee for organizing this event and to The Cottage for hosting us! I am certain I’ll be back again. Open-mouthed smile

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