Filtering by Category: cooking

"Next Door Chef" Thanksgiving Pop-up Dinner

Ahh it's that time of year again.  The leaves are changing, the weather is getting crisp, and the food is getting quite comforting.  Thanksgiving is just around the corner and experiencing a unique spin on typical Turkey Day fare can really elevate the holiday.  I was so excited to be invited by Morton Salt to the "Next Door Chef" Pop-up dinner to indulge in Thanksgiving favorites...with a twist.  

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Bootler...Let's Simplify Our Food Delivery, Shall We?

Ahh the challenges of the 21st century.  So many conveniences, everything can be delivered right to your door.  We literally don't even have to go to the drugstore anymore if we don't want to (and why would we?!).  But with all of these modern technological advances comes a problem.  Not there are SO many competing companies who are just dying to help you stay glued to your couch.... which do we choose??  Why are our lives so hard?!?!

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Home Chef: Be Your Own Chef... at Home

Ahhh cooking.  Depending on who you are, it can be a blessing or a curse.  What if, no matter what your level of culinary expertise, you could enjoy and master cooking from home?!  I have the answer, folks.  It's Home Chef.  I absolutely LOVE to cook.  Whether it's for my friends, family, or date night... there's no greater satisfaction that creating a meal that your loved ones will love.  Even though my culinary ability is a bit above average, there are still some negatives to cooking at home.  The biggest being waste.  When I go grocery shopping for the week, my eyes are always bigger than my stomach.  I buy SO much, most of it never used, or it goes bad before I have a chance to use it.  Then I have to deal with the shame of throwing out hundreds of dollars of perfectly good produce.  So sad (tear).  

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My Lobster-Mania Trip!! All About Maine "New-Shell" Lobsters

Lobsters have long been considered a delicacy.  The ultimate and proverbial "last and final meal" most people would choose before meeting our maker.  Since lobsters have seemed so lofty and unattainable (especially in daily life) the general public knows very little about this fascinating arthropod.  I was fortunate enough to be sent to Portland, ME last week to delve into all that encompasses the Maine Lobster.  This trip could NOT have been more perfect for me, as I have NEVER had the privilege of visiting the beautiful state of Maine, and I have also become  more appreciative of lobsters recently as I try to no longer eat red meat (or mammals).  

Freshly caught Maine Lobster

Freshly caught Maine Lobster

In Maine, lobsters are a way of life.  They are a massive part of the economy and also a way of employing thousands of lobstermen and sustaining their families.  Seeing this dynamic and the importance of lobsters to this region was truly special.  Thanks to the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative, I was able to get an inside look on the entire process; from trap to table.  Most importantly, we were to learn all about Maine "New-Shell" Lobsters.  These are lobsters that have recently shed their hard outer shell toward the end of the summer.  The shell is much softer, you're even able to poke a hole in a claw with your finger...unheard of for old or hard-shell lobsters.  These "new-shell" lobsters are supposed to be the sweetest and tastiest lobster in the world, and I'm here to taste them myself!

Freshly picked Maine New-Shell Lobster

Freshly picked Maine New-Shell Lobster

The first stop on our lobster tour was the Cape Seafood processing plant.  The vast majority of the lobster that is processed at Cape is shipped out to all the Luke's Lobster restaurants around the country.  We really got up close and personal with all the lobbies here...all while wearing the finest in rubber boots, hairnets, gloves, and cloaks in order to keep everything as sterile as possible.  We saw how the lobster is cleaned, cooked,  cooled... and ultimately, picked.  They had a room full of about 50 pickers who were as quick as lightening and can pick all the meat from a knuckle and claw in about 2 seconds flat.  It was incredible to watch, not to mention the respect you garner for the pickers' talent, dexterity, and diligence.  

Next, we got to actually TASTE the incredible "new-shell" Maine Lobsters at one of the most famous lobster roll restaurants in the country.  The Clam Shack, in Kennebunk, ME, has won award after award and continuously has been voted "best lobster roll".  They put in on a round brioche bun instead of the typical hot dog bun or split roll.  They also use a mixture of mayo AND butter to give you the best of both worlds.  It was a simple, sweet, and outstanding sandwich.  

Lobster Roll at the Clam Shack

Lobster Roll at the Clam Shack

 

Later, we all were aboard The Lucky Catch, a real lobster boat.  The weather was perfect, even out at sea.  The skies were pure blue as was the water, and the shoreline of Portland was breathtaking.  Few things are more beautiful than the historic shores and harbors of New England, and to see it from an actual lobster boat was surreal.  Our lobsterman captain was going to show us the ropes (pun somewhat intended) of how to set the traps and haul in the goods.  

A big ole bag of herring bait

A big ole bag of herring bait

First off,  we put bait in bags.  Several pounds of large herring went into each orange mesh bag.  Those would then be placed inside the large and genius-ly configured lobster traps.  Once we caught some lobsters we got to measure them and band them.  

Me learning how to band a lobster

Me learning how to band a lobster

Measuring them is of utmost importance.  The Maine Lobster rules and regulations are incredibly strict in order to conserve and sustain the lobster population.  A legal lobster in the State of Maine has a carapace or body shell length that measures between 3 ¼ inches and 5 inches.  If they are too big or too small they MUST be immediately thrown back.  Small lobsters haven't yet been given the chance to breed and larger lobsters have shown that they are good breeders and are to be kept in the population.  Check out this video I shot to see how it works!

 

We also had the rare chance to see a "berried" female, or a female who is covered in eggs.  These females must be immediately thrown back and notched on their tail to tell future lobsterman that they are capable of breeding.  It was one of the coolest things I have witnessed in nature.  

A "berried" female lobster

A "berried" female lobster

 

When I heard we were going to the Maine State Aquarium, I wasn't all that excited at first, as I thought it would be "just for kids".  However, when I saw all of the insanely rare specimen of lobster they had in their possession... I was blown away.   Check these out!!  The 1st is a 1 in 100,000,000 rare albino lobster, and the second is a 1 in 2,000,000 cobalt blue lobster.  It was one of the most stunning  sights my eyes have ever laid upon.  

A rare albino lobster

A rare albino lobster

A rare blue lobster... NO FILTER!

A rare blue lobster... NO FILTER!

We closed out this lobster immersion trip by, well, eating more lobster!  Attending the Claw Down event in Boothbay Harbor was a fantastic way to bring this experience full circle.  20 local chefs were competing for the "best bite" of lobster.  It was a blast and was so cool to see all of the different and unique ways in which new-shell lobster could be prepared.  There was pasta, sandwiches, stews, sautés, etc.  Here is a lobster salad served with crispy chicken skin on a soft roll.  Delicious!  

A lobster dish at the Claw Down Event

A lobster dish at the Claw Down Event

 

I've always been a huge fan of lobster.  However, now that I know everything that goes into the fishing, sustainability, dealing, processing, preparation, and of course...eating...I have an entirely new respect for this delicious animal.  I've also now become a fan of the succulent and sweet "new-shell" Maine lobster.  Make sure that when you order your next lobster, if it's in the late summer, early fall, ask if it's new-shell.  If it is...watch your tastebuds explode and then please tell me all about it!! 

To learn more, visit: http://www.lobsterfrommaine.com

 

 

Decadent Favorites with a Healthy Twist!

Everyone loves comfort foods.  Sometimes you want all the decadence of your favorite foods but the guilt that comes with it can be crippling.  What if you could have it all.  Your favorite satisfying foods, but with a healthy twist?!  Here you go!

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese with Arugula

Mac and Cheese is a comfort food staple. But it's usually loaded with so much heavy cream and cheese that it could take a month just to work off two bites!  While I was perusing Instagram recently I came across a pic of my friend Lauren Nolan, aka The Lakeshore Lady's, Cauliflower Mac and Cheese with Arugula.  The heavy cream is replaced with roasted cauliflower puree and it's outstanding.  You do NOT feel like you're eating a healthy substitution.  Get the whole recipe here! 

Who doesn't like to end a satiating dinner with something sweet?!  But as we know, most of our favorite dessert indulgences are "a moment on the lips...a lifetime on the hips"  But what if you could actually be eating your favorite desserts but also have it be healthy?! Mind blown, right?!

Muller Dessert Inspired Yogurts * are the best of both worlds. It comes in a dual sided container (we're all familiar with these).  One side has the little crumbles and crunchies we love, and the side has the fruity goodness or creamy part of the dessert incorporated into it.  I swear it's as if you are eating the actual desserts, and the fact that you get all the flavor for under 220 calories is outstanding.

Now I am VERY picky about yogurts. I used to be naive and think that any yogurt was automatically healthy for you.  Then I realized that most of the yogurts we eat have artificial flavorings or sweeteners (which are incredibly harmful).  Muller Dessert Inspired Yogurts have NO artificial flavorings, sweeteners, or high fructose corn syrup.  They’re a good source of calcium and protein and best yet, they’re made from cows not treated with hormones.  So now it’s ok to indulge in your favorite desserts and say adios to all the guilt that comes with it.  Also, you've gotta check out this hilarious video that The Girls With Glasses made to show you how Muller Dessert Inspired yogurts are a delicious lifesaver.  Click HERE to watch.  Here’s to our sweet-tooths! #yogurtwithbenefits






*The second half of this blog (yogurt portion) was sponsored by Muller Dessert Inspired Yogurts. 

A New & Healthy Way To Get Your Morning Caffeine Fix

Want a new way to down your morning cup o' Joe?!  Or better yet, want to summer-ize your traditional coffee and add some great health benefits?!  This recipe uses my obsession, Trader Joe's Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate, it's like rocket fuel and a little goes a LONG way.  I made this in my Vitamix, as that is the ideal hardware for this recipe, but a regular blender should suffice.  Enjoy, caffeine lovers!!

 

Banana-Nut Butter Coffee Smoothie

1/2 cup Coconut milk

1/4 Trader Joe's Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate

1 frozen banana

1 tablespoon cashew or almond butter

Directions:  Pour coconut milk in Vitamix... enough to cover blades.  Add coffee, frozen banana, and nut butter.  Blend on high for 30 secs or until smooth.  Add a bit more coconut milk if you'd like it to be a bit more liquid-y.  Enjoy the buzz!!