Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easy Easter

We celebrated Easter a few days early this year with a casual and easy brunch with my brother and his family. Easter is one of my favorite holiday meals to cook for a few reasons. The main one being that I love scrambled eggs and ham. The fact that I get that for breakfast all week after this meal is reason enough to love it.

I also like all the options you have. There isn't as much of a "set" meal as there is with a dinner like Thanksgiving. We made spiral ham, and then used that to make a ham and Gruyere quiche. We also made lamb lollipops, where we coated the chops in breadcrumbs and cheese and pan fried them until golden brown.

We also made asparagus and cheese tarts, along with chocolate covered strawberries to try and utilize the fresh spring produce that is creeping into supermarkets.

And one of the things that we are starting to make at almost any meal where we have company... popovers. This time we made some blueberry butter to serve along with them. To make the butter, we just combined a few tablespoons with some blueberry Trappist Reserve. It was delicious!

And of course we served mimosas and coffee. What would brunch be without those staples? It was a fun, simple meal to put together, and a great way to celebrate Easter. Alleluia!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Full Irish Breakfast

Last year for St. Patrick's Day we made a traditional New England boiled dinner. The next morning we used the leftover corned beef to make hash, and then added a poached egg and some Hollandaise sauce to create a festive Benedict. (I just wanted to quickly recap that because IT WAS DELICIOUS.)

This year, we wanted to try a traditional Irish breakfast instead of the Americanized version. After a bit of research (and some reminiscing over Jon's trip to Ireland a few years ago) we came up with a game plan. On the menu was bangers, boxties, beans, rashers and eggs. Easy, right?

Actually, it was pretty easy. We found a ton of recipes for boxies, and ended up using this one as a general guide. Bangers are pork sausages which are named because of the bursting open or "banging" when they are cooked. Rashers are pretty much in-between American and Canadian bacon; thin slices of pork loin with some belly fat left on it.

Coffee with Baileys was our morning pick me up. followed by some Guinness. Eggs and beans are self explanatory, we just used traditional baked beans in a tomato sauce and cooked an over easy egg. We also made some soda bread to top it all off.

It was really fun to re-create this Irish classic, but I have to say... I like the New England version better :) Hope you celebrated St. Patrick's Day with some delicious food of your own!

Monday, February 2, 2015

A Surprise Retirement Party

My mom recently retired from her job as a gate agent for US Airways. As soon as she told us the news, we called my brother and sister-in-law and started to plan a party for her. I can't believe I'm saying this, but we actually got her out of the house and were able to surprise her! This is no easy feat, and the only reason we were able to pull it off is because we used my adorable niece to lure her out (no one can say no to spending time with that munchkin.)

Since she was working for US Airways we decided to throw an airline themed get together. We got a bunch of balloons and had those floating around the kitchen. These made a big impact when everyone walked in.

The bar was set up like an in-flight beverage cart: full of mini soda's, nips, and champagne splits.

We found paper lunch trays from Shop Sweet Lulu and cooked a first class meal. Everyone enjoyed shrimp cocktail, shaved brussels sprout salad, lemon spatchcocked chicken, and garlic red potatoes. I may be biased, but I'm pretty sure it was the best airline food they have ever had :) We even printed out the US Airways logo and wrapped the utensils with it to make it that much more personalized.

Overall it was a really cute get together and very fun to plan. We are so happy for my Mom and hope she enjoys her retirement!

Friday, November 7, 2014

You're Going Where?: Part II

Back to our Azores trip! The fourth day we were on Sao Miguel we drove to the west side of the island and headed towards Lagoa das Sete Cidades. To keep up with our coastal drive, we took a longer way instead of cutting through the mountains. As we were driving we saw a miradouro sign (which at this point had become very familiar to us - we had stopped at a countless number of them in the previous days) and decided to follow it to see what this view had in store.

It started as a regular road then quickly turned into a narrow dirt road heading uphill. We reached a telephone antenna and the road continued to narrow and keep going. It ended up that we were on the top ridge of the crater driving to the lookout point. To one side of us there was a cliff down to the lake, on the other side was a cliff down to the ocean. It was such a thrill and something we will never forget. We kept asking each other "are you sure we should be on this road or..." and then quickly reassured ourselves that they wouldn't have a sign if it wasn't safe or we weren't supposed to be there. When we got to the end we found out we could have made it to the same viewpoint from a main road - not the death cliff drive we took. But! We are glad we went that way. It was a fun detour once we knew we'd survived.

After that drive, we visited the towns at the lake we were overlooking, then decided to head back to the hotel. We met our bartender for a nice nightcap (very much needed after that cliff drive) and then were surprised when we got back to the room and found that he had sent up a bottle of champagne for us to enjoy.

Day 5 of our trip we drove to Ribeira Quente, which was almost directly south of our hotel. We walked through the adorable town, and went to the black sand beach and put our feet in the ocean.

Our main goal for this day was to find a good place for lunch and enjoy the warm weather. After a lot of wrong turns, we found Bar Caloura, a restaurant we really wanted to try and had great reviews. Let me tell you... it did not disappoint. The restaurant was set in a cove which offered incredible views. The menu was a list of fish that were caught that day. I got swordfish, and Jon tried barracuda. The swordfish was amazing, but Jon's barracuda was exceptional. We spent about 3 hours there, just sitting and enjoying a bottle of wine and our meals.

After that, we took the long way back to our hotel and stopped at a small town next to where we were staying to see their saint festival. We learned that every town has a festival where they parade their patron saint from the small church in town to the big one, and back again. The town we saw decorated the streets with brightly dyed mulch and flowers, and decorated the church with a bunch of lights. It was so fun to see the parade and watch them carry the saint through the decorated streets.

On our last day we explored the Terra Nostra Garden. We already enjoyed the natural spring pool a few times, but we wanted to walk around the rest of the beautiful grounds. After that, we checked out of the hotel and headed toward Ponta Delgada to explore the city.

There was a lot of things in Ponta Delgada we wish we had more time to see (the main thing being the Forte de S. Bras) but since it was our last day we decided to take our time and enjoy it. We had lunch in the main square and then slowly walked the streets and shopped. That night we stayed at the sister hotel of Terra Nostra, Hotel Marina Atlantico, which is located in the center of Ponta Delgada. We checked in then headed out to a delicious dinner close to the hotel. When we got back there was a bottle of champagne (3 for the win!) and roses everywhere. We enjoyed the bottle on the balcony and packed everything up to head back home the next day.

I can't recommend the Azores enough if you are looking for someplace different to vacation. The laid back attitude and beautiful landscape made it perfect for our honeymoon. We can't wait to go back and explore the other beautiful islands the chain has to offer. Maybe for our anniversary? :)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

You're Going Where?: Part I

In September 2014, Jon and I got married. Not to sound cliche, but it was perfect and the best day of our lives (so far.) But before that perfect day, we had another important decision to make: where to honeymoon.

This was one of the top questions people asked us about the wedding, right after "did you pick a date yet?" We definitely wanted to take a honeymoon and bask in the newly-wed glow. We thought picking a destination would be easy, but it ended up taking us awhile. We debated between wine country and Hawaii. Then Greece and France. Then Italy. But for whatever reason, neither of us could get excited about any of those. Don't get me wrong, those are all destinations we have on our bucket list and are dying to go to. However between the money, the time away, the fact that we wanted to relax and not feel pressured to SEE EVERYTHING... we just couldn't commit.

Then one day we were scrolling back from Europe to the US on Google maps and saw a tiny island in the middle of the ocean. In came the Azores. We didn't know anything about the islands, other than they were owned by Portugal and the pictures looked really pretty. We learned that it is a very popular destination for many Europeans, not just the Portuguese. We also learned that its a 4.5 hour flight direct from Boston and many Bostonian's have roots in the Azores. All these things combined with the reasonable cost and excitement of going somewhere not many people have been... we had made our decision. Flights were booked, and off to Sao Miguel we went.

We stayed at the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel for the majority of our trip. Since it was our honeymoon, we wanted someplace relaxing and a little secluded and this hotel was perfect for that. It had recently been renovated so everything was clean and new. You have free access to the natural hot springs pool in the botanical gardens (a must-do while on Sao Miguel.) The breakfast every morning was delicious, and the bar downstairs had some beautiful and fun cocktails which we truly enjoyed. The only thing I would say is there are not a ton of restaurants around Furnas, so a night out was sometimes difficult. Luckily it was our honeymoon so dinner in the room was no inconvenience ;)

Our flight arrived around 7am, so we picked up our rental car and headed to our hotel to see if we could check in early. The first thing we noticed were the roads-- they were narrow and SUPER curvy (perfect for Jon.) When we finally reached Furnas, the streets were still quiet except for a man driving around with fruits, vegetables, and fish in the back of his truck, honking his horn so people could buy the fresh produce right from their front door.

After we checked in and got settled we walked around town and ended up at Tony's for lunch. We got the traditional cozido de furnas, which was pretty much a Portuguese boiled dinner that is cooked in the hot volcanic ground. Its a local delicacy, and it was definitely worth the try.

Our plan was to drive along the entire coast of the island while we were there, so the next morning we took of and started towards Nordeste. The landscape of Sao Miguel was unbelievable, which made this one the most scenic drives we have ever been on. There were farms to one side of you, cliffs and ocean for miles on the other. The next turn of the road would lead you into the mountains, and you'd have rain forest-like vegetation all around with waterfalls. It was truly amazing.

The coast was full of miradouros (look out points) which had picnic tables, well manicured gardens, and stunning views of the ocean. We parked and took a long, very steep downhill walk to a lighthouse. Then took the long, very steep uphill walk back. We explored the town a little more, then went back to the hotel and our bartender, Alex, made us some amazing cocktails with the fresh herbs from the Terra Nostra garden outside. He became "our" bartender because we ended up seeing him every night of our honeymoon and by the end he was making us drinks he thought we'd like before we even looked at the menu (aka, he was awesome.)

The third day we continued our coastal drive and went from Nordeste to Ribeira Grande. The driving was much of the same: narrow roads, tight turns, holding onto the door for your life, etc. This was the only day where it steadily rained, so we ended up spending most of it indoors at two different tea plantations: Cha Porto Formoso and Cha Gorreana. We LOVED Cha Porto Formoso. When we went it was quiet so we got a private tour of the tea making process. After the tour you get a free cup of tea and can explore the grounds as you wish. There is a covered outlook where we stayed for awhile and enjoyed the gorgeous views. Cha Gorreana was very lovely as well, but more busy. After that we stopped at a few more miradouros, then headed back to the hotel where Alex made us more fancy cocktails (are you seeing a pattern?)