Healthy and Sane

Entries Tagged as 'blogger meetups'

Farm school brunch and how I was inspired to sign up for a CSA (and you should too!!)

April 9th, 2012 · 18 Comments · blogger meetups, food ethics

Hi friends! Before I dive into a post about a super special brunch I attended a few weeks ago (as well as provide you with some info on why you should support your local farm by signing up for a CSA – just like I did!), I wanted to say a huge THANK YOU for all the incredible comments and best wishes on my new business venture. Through my private healthy cooking lessons I hope to make Boston a healthier place and I am really thankful for all of you that took the time to say something nice to me and even spread the word. So yeah, thanks!!!

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If you live in the Boston area, you definitely know about Boston Brunchers – a group established by Renee of Eat.Live.Blog that has grown to over 300 local food bloggers. Pretty amazing! And if you don’t live in the area, well you know what it’s all about now… and don’t worry – there  is still some good info for you here (and some drool-worthy food photos and even cute animal pics!) Smile I haven’t been out with Boston Brunchers since a fabulous brunch at The Cottage, but this Farm School brunch was extra special.

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[Pastries from Iggy’s]

What’s a Farm School? Well, I’m glad you asked my friends Winking smile  The Farm School is actually 2 farms located in Athol, MA (about 1.5hrs from Boston) – one providing 2.5-day programs to visiting schools, involving kids on whatever is need on the farm during those days. The kids get the real hands-on farm experience for just a few days and hopefully a new appreciation for fresh produce and humanely raised animals. Most of the food on this farm is grown to just to feed all the visitors (they get about 1,500 children every school year!). The second farm offers a one-year learn to farm program for adult students that want to live on a farm for a year and learn all the ins and outs of becoming a farmer. This farm grows organic produce, meat and eggs sold to CSA members and farmers market. Pretty amazing stuff!!

[Bloggers mingling before we sit down for brunch]

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[Farm fresh eggs]

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[Adorable animals from the farm. Omg I want to die – these are so cute!!]

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[Maple tree planks used as serving plates]

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Our hosts for the day:

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Brunch time!

Peach Bellini from peaches from the farm (I couldn’t say no to that!)

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Pork belly two ways

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Pork schnitzel, adirondack red pototoes, soft boiled eggs with dill holondaise and sauteed spinach which was so sweet (naturally) that it seemed like a completely different species. And can you see how bright yellow this egg yolk is?

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Boston Brunchers brunching Smile

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Last course: maple bread pudding made with Iggy’s brioche bread and Farm Schools eggs and maple syrup

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The food was seriously outstanding! Obviously the recipes were fabulous but I would largely contribute this to the high quality of ingredients. Every bite was incredible but I was especially surprised by the spinach and the potatoes. They seemed so simple but I honestly have never had spinach and potatoes this delicious. Farm School grows 30 kinds of vegetables and 100 varieties. This is one of my favorite benefits of eating locally – you get to experience artisanal produce, varieties of fruits and vegetables that have been mostly lost to mass production.

I left the brunch with a high (it was also an unseasonably warm day out so everyone was extra happy soaking up the sunshine). I’ve been thinking for a long time about signing up for a produce CSA but was too nervous about getting a box of onions or other produce I had no use for. Actually speaking to the farmers and learning about the programs this particular farm supports, as well as literally tasting the difference, made me reconsider. Here are the pros and cons of a produce CSA as I see them.


  • Expensive compared to supermarket produce + you pay upfront for the season (this covers seed money and pay for the farmers)
  • Quantities fluctuate depending on the weather and how bountiful the season is
  • Most CSA boxes are pre-packed so someone else decides what you’ll be eating that week.
  • You may get produce you do not enjoy or know what to do with, which may contribute to food waste.
  • Your money goes directly to the farmers, cutting out the middle man.
  • You are essentially a small shareholder of the farm for the season, so if the season is especially bountiful, you get to reap the benefits
  • You get to support your local economy and a farm you believe in, in a way that may not be available otherwise (outside of the CSAs, Farm School for example only sells produce at the Belmont farmers market which is not convenient for me).
  • Since the food is grown and distributed locally, it is picked at the peak of its freshness – which is extra delicious and nutritious (compared to imported produce that is picked when it’s still green and ripens in trucks and grocery stores. Green bananas and avocados are my biggest pet peeve ever.)
  • If you buy most of your produce at farmers markets, it should actually be cheaper.
  • You may try new types of produce or varieties of your favorites you’ve never even seen before!
  • Pre-packed boxes add a challenge. This could be a great way to be “forced” to experiment in the kitchen. I’m up for it! :)
I’ve been thinking of taking the plunge for a while, but what really sold me on Farm School was that they actually have the option of picking your own box for the week. I love that! They basically set up a farmers market type stall (specifically for CSA members), and you get to choose your own 10 different veggies for the week. No onions for me! 😀 I also love that all the produce is organic. I checked other organic farms in the area offering CSAs, and Atlas Farms is cheaper but does not have a pick up location in or near Boston. They do have a stall at the Copley farmers market so I’ll still be able to support them if I need to supplement my loot from Farm School (Sienna Farms is amazing but is in contrast a lot more expensive).
So there you have it. This brunch (which by the way was complementary… obviously, they don’t even offer brunch normally) was incredibly inspiring. I am so happy to have met the people behind my future summer produce and to have had the opportunity to share what they are doing with you!
Hope your week is off to a lovely start!! See you soon, I promise! :)

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The Cottage Chestnut Hill–brunch review

September 13th, 2011 · 27 Comments · blogger meetups, Boston, Eating out, restaurant reviews

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.


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).


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


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


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.


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


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?!!


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


[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


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


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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Making crepes at Dore Creperie (and at home!)

September 6th, 2011 · 32 Comments · blogger meetups, Boston, vegetarian meal

I can’t believe it’s Tuesday already. TUESDAY!! [Sorry for shouting.] Looks like I took the whole “long weekend” thing very seriously, which included time away from the blog. What can I say, when I take time away, I am really away. I think it’s healthy and sane (yes, I went there!) – don’t you?

Prior to my long weekend break (during which, in case you’re wondering… Adam and I hosted a bbq gathering for all of our friends, and then spent a full day lounging around the house – watching tv and eating leftovers, not bad… not bad at all), I did do something blog related and very fun. I took a crepe making class at the local pop-up creperie in Boston.


Dore Creperie was founded by Greg just a few months ago and will be at its current location downtown for the next 5 months… until they move and pop up at another spot. I don’t frequent Boston’s downtown often but I have heard buzz about Dore and was very excited to be invited to a crepe making class there, especially since I just learned how to make Russian crepes. Wanna see what making crepes entales? Come, come!!


Elizabeth organized the whole thing and Megan and Lindsey also attended the class with me. We started the class with a quick history of crepes, while tasting historically inspired combos like honey and figs



… and fried egg and tomatoes


We also tried the very early crepe batter from buckwheat flour and water. I actually thought it was interesting in its own way (earthy for sure!) but the more modern buckwheat crepe (which has eggs and butter) I am sure is a lot tastier and less “crunchy granola.”


We fast-fowarded to the current classic dessert crepe with nutella and strawberrries.





Oh yeah, while listening to Greg talk, we sipped on banana and nutella milk shakes. So indulgent. So incredible.


Let’s just say I wasn’t hating this. At all. 😉

Time to get our hands dirty!


Megan felt way too comfortable with a gigantic bag of flour. Lindsey was a little more apprehensive…

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Oh, Megan also taught me how to crack eggs with one hand. Very exciting. I put those skillzzzzzzz to use already and feel like a pro every time (I’m going to get to 3 at once at some point, Megan, just give me time!)

Here is how you make a basic crepe batter:

 1. Whisk eggs, then slowly add milk


This was 10 eggs + 10 cups of milk… in summary: a lot!


2. Add the egg/flour mixture to all-purpose flour (1 cup of flour to each egg and a cup of milk)


3. Whisk it all together, then add melted butter (2 T/egg)


Let rest for 30 minutes.

Basically the proportions are 1 egg to 1 cup of milk, 1 cup of flour, 2 tablespoons of melted butter. This would make a few crepes. Definitely make at least 2 or 3 times that!

Ok, time to use the fancy crepe pans… pour some dough in the middle of the pan, then spread around the pan.


I failed at life at this step miserably. Look at attempt #1:


Attempt #2 (you can actually patch up the whole with a few more drops of batter – much needed in my case)


… there are a few more undocumented ones. Luckily I had help (and making them at home is waaaaay easier – see my picture tutorial here).


Much better! [That means I didn’t make it, ha!]


Filling them with every imaginable combo was definitely the best part! :)

Brie, fig spread and prosciutto


Egg, feta and sundried tomato


Chocolate, graham crackers and stawberries…


We made dozens of combos – these are just a few!



I could really get used to this job 😉


Before going home, we got some of our batter to-go. I had dozens of crepe filling combos in my brain but decided to finally try the mushroom crepe cake Shannon blogged about a few months ago (I made 1/2 a cake as you can see).

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Cheesy mushrooms between layers of herbed crepes… buttery, rich. Delicious!


I had such a fun time learning about the evolution of crepes and trying my hand at using those crazy crepe pans. What should I use my sweet batter for? I’m thinking of sauteed peaches and salted caramel. How does that sound??

How did you spend your long weekend? Did you have a chance to unplug?

PS – Just noticed that LivingSocial has discounted crepe classes at Dore. Funny coincidence – if you’re local, I’d recommend it!

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