Monday, December 29, 2008

Cheap Eats: Bad Dawgs

Hot dogs are a great food because they can easily be a snack OR a meal. At Bad Dawgs on Massachusetts Avenue near Symphony Hall, hot dogs come alone or in pairs and with a wide array of toppings to fill all of your hot dog needs.

The hot dogs themselves are very good, all-beef with a snappy casing and a good mix of spices. The toppings are almost extraneous, but it's easy to pick out a combination that works for you. Choose from the named dogs, such as the Bloodhound Dawg (barbeque sauce, bacon bits, and shredded cheddar) or the German Shepherd Dawg (sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard), or pick your own toppings to get it just right. If you're not a fan of beef hot dogs, choose from turkey or vegetarian dogs.

If you're not feeling the hot dogs, Bad Dawgs also offers chicken wings, soup, sandwiches, nachos, baked potatoes, and sliders. Or order a combo with fries and a soda for a full meal for well under $10.

Bawd Dawgs is located at 334 Massachusetts Avenue, at Huntington Avenue. They are open from 11am to midnight (or later on the weekends).

Originally posted on Bostonist.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

True Comfort Food Mac and Cheese

There's nothing better than something hot and cheesy when you're not feeling well. My friend Ann had surgery last week, and since her husband is proficient in the kitchen but not great, I've volunteered to help with the cooking when I can. As I was headed to her house the other night, I asked what she wanted for dinner. She immediately said mac and cheese.

I've told her about my Squash Mac and Cheese a few times, and she seemed interested in it, but when I brought it up while we were on the phone, she vetoed it for a more standard recipe. Which was a bit of a problem, as I had never successfully made a more typical mac and cheese before - something gooey and creamy. I've tried all kinds of recipes, including plenty of custardy ones, but those always just end up too eggy. When I'm feeling especially lazy, I just toss pasta with shredded cheddar and bake to brown a bit.

So naturally, when Ann asked for regular mac and cheese, I was a little worried. I knew I didn't want any eggs, and I knew that I wanted a roux to act as thickener. With a little research and recipe comparison online, I cobbled together a few ideas and prayed for the best. I'm very happy with how this turned out (and that I was able to find a recipe that replicated the "real" thing). But really, how can you go wrong with so much cheese?

Simple Mac and Cheese
16 oz small pasta in your favorite shape (I used mezza penne)
3 cups whole milk
6 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
6 cups shredded cheese, divided (I used 2 parts sharp cheddar, 1 part mild cheddar/jack mix)
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/2 stick butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°. Cook pasta according to package, drain well, and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine milk, flour, and garlic salt, and whisk until well combined. Add in the pasta and 4 cups of cheese and stir to combine. Pour mixture into a lightly greased baking dish (13x9 would be best). Sprinkle the rest of the cheese and the breadcrumbs over the top of the pasta, then drizzle with the melted butter. Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbly.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, and happy eating! I hope your gingerbread houses are more edible than this one!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Presents

This year, more than past years, I tried to make a lot of my gifts for friends and family. Somehow, though, the month passed by without my getting that much done, so I only ended up making a few things. Recipes will follow in the coming days, once all the family events are done.

Tourshi - Armenian pickled vegetables - for my parents and brothers (and myself, of course)

Quince jam for my mother

Buddhacello (from my Buddha's hand) for my parents, my brother, and a friend

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cheap Eats: Galleria Umberto

If the snow this weekend proved anything, it's that it's definitely the season for comfort food. And pizza and fried foods are on many people's comfort food lists. Galleria Umberto, a no-frills cafeteria-style restaurant in the North End, is one of the most perfect places in the city to find hot and filling treats to make your stomach happy.

Galleria Umberto specializes in Sicilian-style fast food at amazingly cheap prices. Square slices of pizza ($1.35) are better than anything you ate at school as a kid, with a springy and yeasty dough, sweet tomato sauce, and cheese that is just this side of the golden/burnt divide (despite the poor lighting in the picture above). The arancini ($2.50), fried rice balls stuffed with ground meat, cheese, and peas, are the size of a fist and have a crispy exterior and a creamy interior. The panzarotti ($1.25) are giant potato croquettes, studded with flavorful parsley and with a little bit of cheese at the center. Galleria Umberto also offers a variety of personal-sized calzones, with both meat and vegetarian filling options. Beer and wine are available, which always make lunchtime a little more fun.

Galleria Umberto is located at 289 Hanover Street in the North End. They are open Monday through Saturday, 11am until food runs out (usually sometime after 1pm). And don't forget to bring some patience - it can take a little while to get to the head of the line.

Originally posted on Bostonist.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Gingerbread Always Makes It Feel Like Christmas

As the other half of my Operation Baking GALS package, I opted for gingerbread men. I love how the mixture of molasses and spices can evoke the holiday season at any time of the year. I didn't decorate these like I did last year (I didn't think they would stand up as well to the shipping), but I still think they turned out well.

I especially enjoy this recipe because the cookies don't end up very hard (well, at least if you don't overbake them). They puff up in the oven, rounding out any mistakes you might have made (although, that means you don't want to use any cookie cutters with highly intricate details, as they tend to get a little lost during baking).

Easy Gingerbread Cookies

1/2 cup (8 Tbsp) butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp black pepper

Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in molasses, water and vanilla. Gradually add the dry ingredients and mix until smooth and well-combined. Divide dough into three pieces, wrap in plastic wrap, and flatten into disks. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutters of choice and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 9-12 minutes, and move to a wire rack to cool.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Peppermint Sugar Cookies for Operation Baking GALS

The great Lily Von Schtoop from Calamity Shazaam in the Kitchen told me about Operation Baking GALS a few months ago, and I instantly thought it would be a great way for me to use my skills (baking!) to do a little something. Each round, bakers send care packages to members of the armed forces (full details can be found here). I joined Team Calamity Shazaam for this round, and finally managed to get my package out yesterday. I included these peppermint sugar cookies, as well as lots of gingerbread men and a little bit of candy. Hopefully these will help make the holidays feel a little more like home for our soldier and his friends, stationed in Afghanistan.

Peppermint Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 3/4 sticks (14 Tbsp) butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups flour
10-12 candy canes

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and eggs and mix until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mixing at low speed, add in baking powder, salt, and flour, until well combined.

In a small food processor or in a heavy plastic bag, pulverize the candy canes until no large chunks remain. Pour the candy into a shallow bowl.

Working with wet hands, roll dough into walnut-size balls. Roll balls in powdered candy, then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Wet the bottom of a drinking glass and use to flatten each ball into 1/2-inch thick disks. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are just beginning to brown; do not over-bake, or the candy will get too hard to eat easily. Move cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cheap Eats: Gaslight

Is it just us, or is this time of year exhausting? With all the shopping and parties, you need the right kind of fuel to get you through the day. Luckily, Gaslight, a French brasserie in the South End, is offering a filling and cheap brunch every Saturday and Sunday throughout this month.

For only $10, Gaslight's Prix Fixe brunch includes a glass of fresh-squeezed juice (orange or grapefruit), coffee or tea, a delicious pastry, and your choice of french toast, omelette, or soft baked eggs. Bostonist tried the omelette Lyonnaise - fluffy eggs surrounding sweet caramelized onions, savory cheese, and perfectly cooked potatoes. Served with crispy fries, the omelette was delicious and filling and definitely good shopping fuel. The pastry, Julia Child's spiced shortbread with raspberry jam, was a great ending to the meal - a buttery crust topped with gooey jam. You really can't beat this much well-crafted food for so little money.

Gaslight is offering this deal Saturdays (10am-3pm) and Sundays (10-11am) for the rest of December. If you have to deal with the malls or family, make sure to feed yourself well beforehand.

Originally posted on Bostonist.

Gaslight on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I know, I know, I've been a bad blogger lately. Two posts in two weeks makes Pam something something ("Go crazy?" "Don't mind if I do!"). But luckily, school is now done for the semester, and I'll have plenty of time to play around in my kitchen.

Earlier in the week, I saw this tortilla soup recipe, and I've been craving it ever since. Of course, did I manage to check out the recipe before I headed to the store to pick up ingredients? Of course not! So, as I stood in the produce section, trying to figure out what should go in the soup, I cobbled together my own make-shift version of the recipe. It turned out better than I expected it to, and because it was so easy to throw together, I'll definitely be making it again soon.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
2 chicken breasts
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
28 oz canned crushed tomatoes
10 oz Ro-tel tomatoes with green chilies
5 cups chicken broth
1 bunch cilanto, 5 sprigs reserved, the rest chopped
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
kosher salt
1 lime, juice and zest
1 cup frozen corn
1 avocado, cut into bite-size pieces
4 radishes, cut into thin slices
8 oz cheddar cheese, crumbled
tortilla chips, crumbled

In a large pot, boil chicken breasts until cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from water and let cool; shred with two forks and set aside.

In a large soup pot, heat oil, then add onions and saute until translucent. Add crushed tomatoes, Ro-tel tomatoes, chicken broth, 5 cilantro sprigs, sugar, cayenne pepper, and salt to taste. Simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered. Remove cilantro sprigs, and add in chopped cilantro, lime juice, lime zest, and corn, and stir to combine.

To serve, add soup to bowl and top with avocado, radish slices, cheese, and tortilla chips. Or set all the toppings out on the table and let everyone serve themselves.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

French Toast Muffins

Ah, the first snow of the season. The French Toast Alert System over at Universal Hub is only at Guarded, but I wanted to inaugurate the season with something French toast-like. Sadly, I have no bread in the house (I clearly didn't pay any attention to the FTAS), so I opted for French toast muffins instead. A little maple, a little cinnamon and nutmeg, a sprinkle of sugar - almost better than the real thing.

French Toast Muffins
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup butter (5 1/3 Tbsp), melted

1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 375°.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and mix to combine. Add milk, egg, maple syrup, vanilla, and butter and whisk together until well combined. Pour into a greased muffin tin, filling each cup until 3/4 full. In a small bowl, mix together the cinnamon and sugar for the topping. Evenly sprinkle the topping over each muffin. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cheap Eats: Boloco

Sure, there are plenty of places in this town to get a burrito, but their options are often fairly limited. Enter Boloco, which features a menu of "inspired burritos" that stray from the classic bean-and-rice. With 11 (soon to be 13) stores in Massachusetts (plus branches in New Hampshire and Vermont), Boloco is a great option for cheap, fast, filling, and nutritous meal.

For a fast food restaurant, the options at Boloco are vast. You can go traditional with the Classic (cheese, pinto beans, salsa, cilantro, and rice) or the brand-new and very tasty Yucatan (lime rice, black beans, pickled onions, habanero salsa, and sour cream), or you try something a little un-burrito-like, such as the Mediterranean (black bean hummus, salsa, olives, feta, cucumber, balsamic vinaigrette, and rice) or this Bostonist's favorite, the Bangkok (peanut sauce, slaw, cucumbers, and brown rice). Each wrap or bowl comes with your choice of chicken, steak, carnitas, tofu, or peppers and onions. Regulars are under $6, and larges are under $7.

When you go, make sure to ask for a Boloco card. Part gift card, part rewards system, the card can be loaded with cash and used to rack up points for free meals (including a free burrito just for registering). During the holiday season, you get a free burrito for each $25 you put on a card. Or you can always just get an empty card and use it for the rewards!

With so many locations in Boston, there's bound to be a Boloco near you. The newest of the bunch will be opening right next to the Common, at the corner of Boylston and Charles, in about two weeks. Hours vary by location, but many are open as late as 11pm, and some even offer online ordering.

Originally posted on Bostonist.

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