comfort food

Traditions: Pie in the Morning on Thanksgiving

This year we spent Thanksgiving in PA with Dane’s family. It was great to see everyone, and Dane & I were in charge of the Thanksgiving meal with his relatives and family friends.

Before we got started on dinner, we attending a Thanksgiving tradition at the home of Dane’s friends from college. Every year the family hosts a get-together on Thanksgiving morning. It’s the perfect chance to see everyone and catch up before things really get busy with family dinners. The centerpiece of this gathering is pie. Any kind will do.

We gather, we chat, we eat pie. It’s been an on-going tradition with the family for years. It was great to go and see friends who we probably wouldn’t have spent time with otherwise, because of how busy the holiday can be with family. I contributed some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Not pie, but everyone seemed totally OK with it.

Although we only planned to stay about an hour, we all know how timing goes when you start talking with friends you haven’t seen in awhile. We just enjoy their company too much to leave.

As if it could get any better with friends, family, and pie, it started to snow that morning. It was a light dusting, but just enough to really make it feel like the holidays had begun.

I just love this tradition. Family is incredibly important to both Dane and I, but our friends are just like extended family. We were so happy to spend some time together at the start of this holiday season!

What are some of your Thanksgiving traditions?

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Union Street, Newton Center

I was first introduced to Union Street by my co-workers. The first time we went, I thought they were taking me down a back alley. Turns out they kind of were. The restaurant is in sort of a strange location, and if I hadn’t had people with me who knew where they were going, I feel like I never would have made it there! Glad that I did though. The food is yummy, atmosphere is comfortable, and there’s outdoor seating (!) when it’s nice outside.

It had been a while since I’d been to Union Street, and my co-worker and I decided to bring two students with us because of the great job they were doing (they obviously rock). We sat downstairs in the dining room which has great comfy seats, complete with throw pillows. Doesn’t get much more homey than throw pillows, in my opinion.

We started with one of my favorite appetizers, fried pickles. Absolutely amazing. I don’t know that I’ve ever met a fried pickle that I haven’t liked, but these were pickle spears fried and served with some delicious dipping sauce.

Because we’re total party animals, we each ordered a Shirley Temple. You can be jealous, it’s completely understandable. It’s been a long time since I had a Shirley Temple, and we had fun with them.

For dinner, I tried the Macaroni and Cheese. It sounded yummy, and my love of pasta and cheese is no secret. It was a very good choice. The creamy and cheesy sauce had an amazing flavor of garlic.. All around perfect. Other choices were the Chicken and Fruit Salad, the BLT, and the Buffalo Chicken Tenders.

We went around 5pm on a weekday, so it was quiet in the dining room. Our waiter was extremely friendly and knowledgeable, and humored us as we drank our Shirley Temples.

In fact, we had such a lovely time that we went back about two weeks later. This time just Jenny and I went. It was the perfect time to unwind a bit from the week. Union Street showed another side for us. We chose to eat near the bar, where it was lively, and much more crowded on a Thursday night around 7pm. I branched out and tried the Blackened Chicken Alfredo, and Jenny stuck with her usual (she doesn’t take many risks when it comes to food, but lets me take pictures of what she eats, so it evens out). The pasta was done perfectly, and the chicken was seasoned to give it a nice spicy kick. The alfredo sauce was a great compliment to the spicy chicken.

I rounded out that meal with some of Sam Adams’ newest beer, the Noble Pils. Just add that to my list of Sam beers that I love. All around, if you can find Union Street, you’ll enjoy yourself. Give it a try!

Union Street Restaurant on Urbanspoon

The Met Bar, Chestnut Hill

For a date night on a Friday, Dane took me out to The Met Bar in Chestnut Hill. The Met Bar is part of the larger Metropolitan Club,  an upscale restaurant. I pass this place every day on my way to and from work, and it looked like a great lounge and restaurant. After a particularly long week, we headed over for cocktails and dinner. I did my research on the menu before going, and I was definitely excited to try some of their offerings.

We got to The Met Bar around 7pm, and the bar area was busy. Luckily there was one open table which we quickly grabbed and started looking over our options for cocktails. I went with the Design-Your-Own-Cocktail option, choosing the type of drink (martini, margarita, caipirhina, etc.), the flavor (mango, passion fruit, guava, peach, pomegranate), the style for serving (straight up, on the rocks, frozen), and if you want the glass rimmed (sugar, salt, coconut, or nothing). My choice was a passion fruit martini and it was delicious. Dane went with Glenlevit whiskey on the rocks.

There was a menu with entrees and more of a bar menu, which is what we chose to order from. The bar menu had upscale versions of familiar comfort foods. We are both huge popcorn lovers, so when we saw popcorn with truffle oil and sea salt, we immediately ordered it. And then we devoured it. That popcorn was one of the most delicious things I have every tasted. The truffle oil was amazing with the sea salt, and the popcorn was perfect. The night could have ended with with my cocktail and popcorn and I would have been the happiest.

But there was more. Dane got the Met Burger and I decided on the Kobe Beef Hot Dog. Perfect bar food, with a gourmet additions. The burger had aged cheddar cheese, and the hot dog was made with Kobe beef and featured homemade relish. Not to mention the hot dog was the size of my head.

Cocktails were around $9, not unexpected for this loungy atmosphere. I thought the bar menu was incredibly reasonable. The popcorn was only $6, and our dinners were under $15 each. All in all, we will definitely go back to The Met Bar, if nothing else, but for that popcorn.

Metropolitan Club on Urbanspoon

Lansdowne Pub, Boston (a quickie)

A few weeks ago we visited the Lansdowne Pub in the Fenway area. I, unfortunately didn’t get there until after Dane and his co-workers had already eaten dinner because I had to stay at work late. That didn’t stop me from getting some great food and an amazingly fun drink.

One of Dane’s co-workers told us about a mythical drink awhile back. The Guinness float (!!!!). How awesome is that? Two of my favorite things, ice cream and Guinness, in one big beer glass. Turns out, the place that serves the Guinness float, that they couldn’t remember at the time, was the Lansdowne Pub.

I settled in and immediately ordered my drink and some Irish chili. Sort of an oxymoron in my opinion, but it was made with beef, lamb, and of course, Guinness. So much Guinness everywhere.

Granted I wasn’t there for very long (just long enough to suck down my Guinness float and shovel down the chili), I really liked the Lansdowne Pub. I’m a sucker for a great Irish pub, though this was slightly more modern than your traditional pub. I’m definitely hoping to go back to try some new things soon!

Kristen

Lansdowne Pub on Urbanspoon

Homemade Apple Pie

I love food requests. I have this thing where if someone asks me to make something, even if I’ve never made it before, I immediately have to make it for them. Works out great for my friends and family. I just have this need to make sure everyone is well fed and happy.

Last weekend one of our good friends jokingly said he wanted apple pie. I obviously went out and got what I needed to make apple pie. Not doing anything the easy way, I decided I’d also make the pie crust. Surprisingly, I’ve never made apple pie before so this was a new adventure.

First was the challenge of finding a recipe I liked. The results you get when you search for apple pie recipes is overwhelming and I sorted through a ton before I decided I got the gist of it and would just wing it myself for the filling. Once that was sorted out, I remembered we have a food processor that we’ve never used and that I could finally use it for the making the pie crust. I knew that pie crust could be fickle, but I found a great recipe that worked really well. Here’s how I did it.

Homemade Apple Pie

Ingredients for the crust

  • 2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) of cold butter
  • 4-6 tablespoons of cold water

Ingredients for the filling

  • 4-5 large Granny Smith apples
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Juice of a one lemon
  • Lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup of flour

Get started with the pie crust first. In a food processor add the flour, salt, and baking soda. Pulse a few times to mix it together. Now add the cold butter. I read a few places that the colder the butter, the flakier and better the crust will be. I actually saw some suggestions that said to stick the butter in the freezer for about 15 minutes before using it, so that’s what I did. When you take it out, cut each stick of butter into about 8 pieces and add it to the food processor. Pulse the mixture until it is fine and powdery. This took about 20 pulses for me. Next add the water. Start with 4 tablespoons and pulse until it’s mixed in. Check the mixture to see if it sticks when you press it together. If it doesn’t hold, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time and pulse until it does.

Once it’s ready, flour your surface and pour the mixture out so you can make it into 2 discs. Press the dough together and divide into two equal pieces in a circular shape.

Once you have your two disc shaped pieces, wrap them in plastic wrap and put them in the fridge. They need to chill for at least one hour.

Now you’re ready to move on to the filling. Peel your apples and slice into at least 8ths depending on the size of your apple. I had to slice mine into 12ths because the apples were so big. Add to a bowl. Put in the sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice, and some lemon zest. Mix it up so that the apple pieces are evenly covered. Next, add the flour and mix it in. This will help the mixture to thicken while it bakes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. After at least an hour in the fridge you’ll be ready to roll out the dough. Flour your surface again, and use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a circular shape that will fit in the bottom of your pie pan, with about 1 inch of dough hanging over the sides. Add your apple mixture to the pie plate.

Now roll out the second piece. You have some options here. I always liked the way a pie looks with the lattice top, but you don’t have to do it that way. If you prefer just roll out the second piece, and place it over the top. Crimp the sides and cut 4 slits in the top of the crust.

I decided to go with the lattice pattern. I rolled out the dough into a circular shape and cut it into 1 inch strips. Cut about 8 strips. Place them on top of the pie,weaving them to make a lattice pattern. When the pieces are on, crimp around the edge of the pie.

Break one egg and scramble. Brush the egg (or just the egg white if you prefer) on the edge and top of the pie. Sprinkle with some granulated sugar and you’re ready for the oven. Bake on 400 degrees for about 45 minutes. When it’s done, cool for about 20 minutes before serving.

When it’s ready to be cut, serve with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for optimal yumminess. You can’t go wrong with some homemade apple pie!

I was really proud of myself when this was all done. It was definitely a labor intensive recipe, but there’s nothing like some homemade apple pie. It’s a classic everyone will love. Give it a shot!

Kristen

The Knotty Pine, Newton

The Knotty Pine is a tiny, hole in the wall, kind of place about a 2 minute drive from my office. I had heard students and other staff members talk about it, but never went myself. Finally one day last year, my co-worker decided we had to go. Now, we make it a point to get there at least once a month.

The Knotty Pine has been around for what feels like forever and feeds locals and businessmen alike every day. There is nothing special about this place, and that’s what makes it great. No nonsense burgers, sandwiches, fries, and homemade pies make lunch quick and cheap.  Everything on the menu is under $7 (except one item, the Cheeseburger Club which is $7.25). The staff is awesome, always joking with customers and going the extra step to make people happy. Booths are reserved for parties of 2 or more, which is great during the busy lunch hour.

We went to celebrate the birthday of my co-worker (same one who first got us to go to the Knotty Pine) and she got what she always gets, a cheeseburger and fries. For about $6, you can’t beat it.

And possibly the best part of this meal was that I asked for pickles on my burger, and this is what I got.

Those awesome Knotty Piners. Always making my day so happy. If you’re in the Newton area around breakfast or lunch time, stop by the Knotty Pine. The meals are far from gourmet, but will hit the spot when you’re looking for some simple and delicious. We love you Knotty Pine!

Kristen

Knotty Pine Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Apple Cinnamon Topping

I got a little creative this weekend when I had leftover apples from the sangria I made. We decided that we wanted waffles in the morning, and although syrup is always a good bet for a topping, the beauty of waffles is that you can put so many different kinds of toppings on them. I couldn’t just go for the syrup. It was too expected.

So, I had 4 small pink lady apples. And I got an idea. We love the way this variety of apple tastes, and pink lady apples have a great texture that would work well in an apple tart or pie. Why not make my own apple cinnamon topping? I’m all about making people happy.

Here’s what I did.

Apple Cinnamon Topping

Ingredients

  • 4 small apples (I used pink lady apples, but choose whatever variety you like best)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon flour

Peel the apples and core. I don’t have an apple corer, so I cut the apple into quarters and cut out the seeds myself. Cut the apple into small chunks. The smaller you cut it the faster it will cook, but don’t cut it so small that it’s practically apple sauce. I cut mine into about 1/4 inch cubes.

Preheat a nonstick frying pan to low-medium heat. Add the apples once the pan is heated. Add the brown and white sugar and cinnamon. Give it a stir to distribute the sugar and coat the apples. Add the water and stir again. Cover the pan and let the apple mixture simmer until the apples are tender, stirring occasionally. This took about 25 minutes for me.

Once the apples are tender, add the teaspoon of flour. This will thicken the mixture and make it the consistency of a pie filling. If you want it more syrupy, you can let it cool without adding the flour before using.

Now top your waffles and enjoy!

I didn’t actually have a recipe for this topping. Using the basics that I know from watching hours upon hours of the Food Network, I just decided to wing it. I’m glad it turned out well! This would be amazing served warm on top of some vanilla ice cream too. Definitely going to try that soon. You know, for the sake of the blog. Because I’m selfless like that.

What’s your favorite waffle topping?

Time to weigh in: Pancakes vs. Waffles

There have been many great topics brought forth for debate in the world. Topics such as how to handle the war in Iraq, whether the drinking age should be lowered, or the best way to increase sustainability always come forward as topics of great contention. But, the question we pose today has great implications for breakfast food everywhere. Pancakes or waffles?

As Dane and I spent an evening trying to figure out what to have for dinner, we tossed around the idea of having breakfast for dinner. This is always a great idea as far as we’re concerned. But then this topic came up. Which did we want? Would it be pancakes or waffles?

We decided the only fair way to settle this battle of the breakfast greats was with a list of the positive attributes of each contender. You can make your own decision, but this is what we came up with.

Pancakes

  • Pancakes potentially have more varieties (chocolate chip, banana, strawberry, blueberry). These can be done with waffles, but not always as easily.
  • You don’t need special equipment (i.e. a waffle maker) to cook up pancakes, just a pan and a spatula.
  • Pancakes can easily be made into fun shapes (like Mickey Mouse or letters).
  • Depending on the size of the griddle you can make a bunch of pancakes at a time.
  • Pancakes tend to cook faster.
  • You can roll a pancake up with toppings and eat it burrito style.
  • If needed, a pancake could totally be used as a frisbee.

Waffles

  • Waffles have perfect holes for gathering syrup or other toppings.
  • Waffles are known for making a great pair with whipped cream.
  • They have complimentary crispy and fluffy qualities.
  • With the right waffle maker, you can get perfect and consistent waffles every time.
  • If you put ice cream in the middle, two waffles make an awesome ice cream sandwich.
  • You can go crazy and make them savory by pairing them with chicken.

In the end, we ended up going with pancakes, for the only reason that we got a new griddle for our wedding and had yet to use it.

A little flip action. It’s all in the wrist.

What would your pick be?

Top 5: Comfort Foods

Because we’re always talking about food, the other day on the car ride back to Boston from Philly we were talking about our top 5 foods. Specifically comfort foods because it was about 12 degrees outside with wind gusts around 50 mph and that really makes you want something yummy to eat while curled up on the couch with a movie. It didn’t take long for us to name our top 5 comfort foods. So, in no particular order…

Kristen’s Top 5

1. Macaroni and Cheese

I don’t think you can possibly go wrong with macaroni and cheese any day of the year, but something about it always has been comforting to me. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m in love with cheese and pasta, and the combination of the two can only mean good things to me. Good old Kraft mac and cheese can be a good standby, but I much prefer homemade baked mac and cheese with a combination of cheeses. Depending on the cheese you use, you can get all different flavors, but it’s always hearty and delicious.

2. Chicken Chilli (made by Dane!)

I ask Dane to make this all the time, but it’s especially great when it’s cold outside. He uses chicken instead of beef, which makes us feel slightly more healthy, peppers, onion, and tomato. I’m sure there’s more but I honestly never asked him because it’s just so good that I don’t care what goes in. Give me some Tostitos (bite sized rounds, my favorite) and I’m a happy girl.

3. Lasagna

Again, this probably goes back to the whole pasta and cheese thing, but add some tomato sauce in there and it’s heaven. Having a piece of lasagna with mozzarella, ricotta, homemade sauce can make my day. I learned how to make it from my mom, and have tried adding different things like spinach, sausage, and meat. Every variation is as good as the next.

4. Cream of Wheat

This one goes back to when I was only a few years old. My grandparents used to live around the corner from us, and my grandfather was retired. After school and when we were sick, we always went to grandma and grandpa’s house. Grandpa was always the cook in the house and any time I wasn’t feeling well he’d make Cream of Wheat for me. It’s the simplest thing, only takes about 3 minutes, but it always made me feel better. Plus, it’s high in iron, so it’s good for you too.

5. Apple Pie

Have to throw a dessert in here, and there is no clearer choice than apple pie. Think about the smell of an apple pie baking and it just feels like home. I have yet to try making a pie from scratch. I usually just stick to Mrs. Smith, but maybe this will be the year. I usually make apple crisp instead, which is also up there for me.

Dane’s Top 5

1. Mashed Potatoes and Corn

Anyone that knows me, knows I really like mashed potatoes. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and I have to have mashed potatoes with corn at dinner.

2. Pasta

Pasta and meatballs, specifically. I’m Italian and it’s a meal that’s always good.

3. Steak

A good sirloin cooked medium well is perfect for me. Don’t forget the steak sauce, A1.

4. Beef Stew

Beef stew is always great in the winter. When Kristen and I went to Ireland for our honeymoon we had some real Irish beef stew and it was delicious. It’s always served with brown bread in Ireland, which makes it even better. My favorite pub in Boston, O’Leary’s also has some great beef stew.

5. Cheesesteak

I’m from Philly, so I’ve tried cheesesteaks from all over the place. My favorite comes from Dellasandro’s in Roxborough. I also love a good cheesesteak hoagie, which is cheesesteak, provolone, lettuce, tomato, and provolone cheese.

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