Blessed to be a Bostonian

boston1

+ View of the city this morning from North Point Park +

After an amazing morning enjoying the crisp, spring air at the Museum of Science and a newly discovered playground with the little man, I sat down to write this post with such excitement. I began by writing about my current obsession with any-and-all varieties of tomatoes. I hoped to share with you all my go-to work lunches these days: an amazing array seriously simple tomato-based salads. But in the middle of writing, I got the call from Ross to turn on the news and everything else went out the window. The next few hours and the stream of horrible videos and images will forever be ingrained in my memory. It’s hard to put into words how confused and saddened I am by the events that occurred today at the Boston Marathon. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the runners and spectators who were near Copley Square and witnessed or were affected by the horrendous events of today. Since moving to Boston, I am in awe every day by the sense of pride that everyone here has for this city they live in. Anyone that has ever been to a Boston sporting event can attest to the unending loyalty of Bostonians. I know during this terrible time the rest of the country will have a chance to see the strength and HEART of this amazing city too. I am so proud to live in a city that has come together so quickly and rallied around all those (Non-Bostonian and Bostonian alike) suffering tonight. I could not be more blessed than to be able to call Boston my home.

Thank you to all those people out there who are thinking of Boston tonight. 

In remembrance of Grandma Ann

grandmasgrad

+ My Grandma Ann, myself and my Grandma Donna at my high school graduation in 2008+

Wow. I’m sorry it’s been so long since my last post. For some reason time seems to go so much faster in Boston than it did back home in Ohio. In just a few months, it will have been 1 year since Ross and I made the 13 hour drive here and moved into our very first apartment together, yet it still feels like it all just happened yesterday. Since my last post family issues came up and no matter how many times I sat down with my laptop I couldn’t seem to focus enough to complete an entire post. Whenever I struggle with something my mind always seems to wonder. Thoughts seems to just pop up out of the blue and I find myself midsentence lost in a thought that has nothing to do with what I am writing. But as time goes on I can’t shake the feeling that it’s important that I get my thoughts out and begin to move forward. So this is my way of honoring the past.

A little less than a month ago my grandmother passed away unexpectedly and, as if that wasn’t enough, less than two weeks after her death Ross’s grandmother lost her battle with cancer. During this time, Boston has never seemed further from home. It can feel so isolating, but through it all Ross has been my rock. I don’t know what I would have done without him here. Together we were able to remind one another that although we hurt now, it is more important to honor the lives of these tremendous women and all the wonderful things we have because of them rather than focusing on how we’re feeling in this moment.

treats

+ Cannoli, cookies and pizzelles from Corbo’s Bakery in Cleveland’s little Italy (where my grandma used to live as a girl) set out for memorial service +

We already had a trip back to Ohio planned to attend the wedding of one of Ross’s best childhood friends, and (through God’s grace) it worked out that my grandmother’s memorial service was held on the same day. Before we left Ross got news that things were not looking good for his grandmother so he made arrangements to extend his stay and go home for a few days before returning to Boston. After flying into Cleveland, I spent most of the day with my extended family trading stories and celebrating my grandmother’s life (Ross had already committed to being a groomsmen in the wedding so he had wedding obligations throughout the day) and then that evening I joined Ross for reception. It was actually that night, following the reception, that Ross got the message that his grandmother had passed away. What a whirlwind!

I still struggle to put into words the overwhelming emotions of this past month. To say it felt like being hit by a 12-ton Mac Truck would be an understatement. Between the guilt of not being there for my parents and sister and the longing for just one last moment together with my grandmother, it feels like my mind has been on overdrive. I find myself going through my normal day to day stuff when memories of my grandmother suddenly flood my mind. Being so separated from everyone it feels like I’ve been living in a bubble. No matter how much I know that it isn’t true, it still feels like the next time I go home for some holiday celebration she will be there leaving her signature rosy red lipstick kisses on my cheek.

IMG_0151IMG_0152

+ Time to get cooking. Shrimp and Sausage Cioppino, here we come +

I see so much of my grandmother in me, from my complete inability to disguise my emotions at any given time, my unbelievably childlike small wrists, my love of all things that sparkle, my inescapable need to please others, and my unending loyalty and love for family. So in honor of her and the tremendous legacy she left behind I wanted to share with you one of my absolute favorite dishes of all time, Cioppino. No matter when or were I’m dining if I spot Cioppino on a menu I stop reading immediately. I already know what I will be ordering. No two Cioppino recipes are the same so feel free to play around with this recipe and incorporate your favorite seafood, spices and flavors. The basic backbone to any Cioppino is fresh fish in a tomato/wine broth (and don’t forget lots of crusty bread to soak up every last drop). I generally prefer broth based soups to have a little kick to them. It adds so much depth to the soup and just warms you from the inside out. The ultimate comfort food. This recipe makes a huge pot of soup, but be careful because it is nearly impossible to stop eating. Stopping after a single bowl is completely unheard of (at least in my apartment)!

IMG_0155

Shrimp and Sausage Cioppino

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large fennel bulb, remove stalks and chop bulb into 1/2-inch pieces (make sure to cut out and discard the core of the bulb, save frons to use as a pretty garnish)

4 garlic cloves, smashed (just lay blade of a large kitchen knife flat over clove and apply moderate pressure, making sure to peel off and discard outer coating)

2 shallots, chopped (I used 2 small shallots but the recipe originally called for two large so feel free to use up to 4 small shallots if you prefer a stronger onion taste)

1 pound spicy Italian turkey sausage, casings removed

2 cups dry white wine (I used a semi-dry Riesling because that’s what I prefer to drink, just make sure to use something you would drink by the glass)

1/4 cup tomato paste

3 cups chicken broth (I always use low-sodium chicken stock)

1 dried bay leaf

1 pound peeled shrimp

1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup fresh basil, chopped (I didn’t have fresh basil on hand so I used about a tablespoon of dried basil)

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

Crusty bread (I used fresh ciabatta from a bakery down the street, phenomenal!)

  1. In a Dutch Oven or large soup pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add fennel, shallots, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until slightly softened, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add sausage, breaking into bite sized pieces using a wooden spoon. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add wine to deglaze pan, using wooden spoon to scrape off any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add tomato paste, chicken stock and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer then cover. Cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes.
  5. Uncover. Add shrimp, beans, basil and thyme. Simmer until shrimp are pink and cooked through, between 2 and 4 minutes depending on size of the shrimp.
  6. Discard bay leaf. Ladle into bowls and serve with lots of crusty bread. Sit back and enjoy.

*When reheating the soup the shrimp can easily become overcooked, so I remove shrimp until soup is hot and then add them back into the soup right before serving. The soup will heat them through and prevent overdone shrimp.

Recipe Source: Giada at Home Cookbook

Beat the Midmorning Drag

Boston

+ View of the Boston skyline while waiting for the ferry +

It’s finally starting to warm up in Boston, well at least for a few days, which has me craving the outdoors. I’ve taken every chance I can to get outside and around the city. Today the little guy and I ventured out and took the ferry downtown for the first time (my first time on the ferry not his, he’s a pro) and headed to the Children’s Museum. We went with friends who were kind enough to clue me in on what to do, since clearly I was confused and there are NO signs to help first time riders. We made it there easily enough and I basked in the sunshine as we made our way to the museum. Boston has so many amazing things for kids (and adults like me) to do around the city: the Children’s Museum, the Museum of Science, the Aquarium, music classes, art classes, playspaces, storytimes, libraries (the best place to the look for fun and free events for kids to do around the city – I cannot sing the praises of the Children’s Programs of Boston Public Libraries enough), the list goes on and on.  I like to take advantage of as many of these as possible. Nothing makes the day go by faster than having fun all morning outside of the house and getting back just in time to put the little guy down for his nap. By the time he is up, its almost time for his parents to get home from work. The days really do just fly by.

Needless to say with all this fun comes a lot of walking, pushing strollers, and carrying bags/toddlers and it can really take a toll on my energy level. Even after eating a substantial breakfast by midmorning my stomach is always growling and I can feel my energy level taking a nose dive. Snacks play a huge part in getting over that midmorning hump and making it to lunch still hungry but not ready to overindulge in anything I can get my hands on. Finding that balance has been really challenging for me. When I start eating I tend to want to keep eating and then by the time lunch time rolls around I’m no longer interested in eating anything else. Then I’m starving the second I get home from work and struggle to resist snacking until Ross makes it home and we have dinner (I really like to make an effort for Ross and I to eat dinner together, especially this time of year, when he is able to make it home at a reasonable time. It’s a great opportunity for us to reconnect and just enjoy being together).

camera 071

+Soaked & pitted dates, coconut, dried blueberries, almonds, lemon zest and chia seeds +

I had come across a few recommendations for Navita’s Natural products, mostly for smoothie enhancers, on a couple of the blogs that I read regularly, so when I saw the Cacao Goji Power Snacks at Whole Foods I decided to splurge and give them a try. They cost a pretty penny ($10 for snack bites, seriously?!?) but I found that eating two bites along with a few raw almonds, right when I started to feel that midmorning drag starting to set in, really did work to satisfy me until lunch. Of course, being me, I couldn’t just be satisfied leaving it at that though. Looking over the short ingredient list, the wheels in my head started spinning and I thought their has to be a way to make something like this at home. I had seen a lot of recipes for chewy granola bars popping up which gave me hope that there might be a similar recipe to the bites already out there (the bites have a similar texture to Larabars and some other energy/power bars on the market).  After just a few minutes on pinterest (of course, what is not on pinterest these days?) I came across a recipe for Raw Coconut Blueberry Lemon Bars. I love blueberries (like not being able to stop myself from eating the entire pint in one sitting kind of love) and with lemon, how could it get any better? When I clicked the pin and saw it was a recipe by Amanda of Pickles & Honey, I’ve been a subscriber for a few months now and love all of her posts, I knew this was the recipe I had been looking for.

Let me start by saying I do not have a quality food processor, or any food processer to be really honest, but Ross received a high-end blender from his mom a little while ago that assures it can handle anything (I think Montel sells them on infomercials, or something) so I was sure it would work just fine as a replacement. Boy was I wrong, At one point I think it even started smoking struggling to get through the thick paste created by the dates and blueberries while simultaneously refusing to even attempt to chomping the almonds. After a few deep breaths and a few more choice words, I got a game plan together and working in very, very small batches finally got to a consistency I was happy with I then mixed everything together with my hands before pressing it into an 8×8 pan. This was incredibly messy but really the best way to incorporate all the ingredients together. There were still a few larger pieces of almonds left, but in the end, Ross and I both liked the added crunch they added to the mixture. I think I turned a ten minute task into an hour long debacle, but in the end, it was totally worth it. The only change I made to the recipe, besides my lack of food processor, was throwing in some Chia Seeds. They have an abundance of health properties (including helping you to stay full longer and balance blood sugar, among many more) and I had them on hand for making overnight oats. Update: If you do not have them in your pantry, don’t sweat it they will not affect the flavor of the bites. Also, I used a smaller pan to create thicker pieces that I cut into bite-sized pieces, while Amanda used a longer pan to create thin pieces that she cut into “bar” sized pieces. Use whatever works for you.

camera 083

+ Coconut, Blueberry, Lemon Bites with almonds, the perfect energy snack +

These bites pack a huge energy punch but taste like an late-night treat. My only complaint is they may have been just a little too sweet, making me want to indulge a little more as if they were a dessert rather than the small midmorning snack that I needed. I’ve already started playing around in my head with ways of combatting that: like using dried cranberries or cherries, that have a tart flavor profile in order to cut some of that sweetness, or simply reducing the amount of dried blueberries. Yes, even after all that hassle and still no food processor, I want to make this recipe again. They really are just that good!

Raw Coconut Blueberry Lemon Bites (or Bars)

Recipe very slightly adapted from: Pickles & Honey

15 Medjool Dates

2 1/2 c. Raw Almonds

3 tbs. Chia Seeds

1 c. Coconut Flakes (unsweetened)

1 8oz. pck Dried Blueberries

Zest of 3 lemons

Prepare Bars:

  1. Place Medjool dates in a large bowl or baking dish and cover with water. Allow dates to soak in water for 1 hour, then remove pits.
  2. Remove dates from water and add to food processor along with almonds, chia seeds, coconut, blueberries and lemon zest. (If you have a small food processor, I recommend mixing ingredients in a large bowl then working in smaller batches to blend. Then combine all batches together with hands – this is messy but yummy if you happen to sneak in a bite or two).
  3. Process all ingredients until no large chunks remain about 4-5 minutes. (I actually enjoyed the added texture of a few larger pieces mixed in, so feel free to mix to your liking.)
  4. Using hands press mixture in an 8×8 pan (if making bite-sized pieces) or a 9×13 pan (to make thinner bars).
  5. Refrigerate mixture for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Store pieces in the fridge or freeze to have on hand for another time.

Warming up on a Winter Day

027

Once again Boston is blanketed in a foot of freshly fallen snow, and it’s funny, but I feel like for the first time since I was a little kid I can finally enjoy it. Back home in Ohio I always dreaded even the thought of snow. I relied so much on my car, to get me to/from work and any where else I needed to go, and the addition of snow always made things more complicated. I’m far from a carefree driver as it is, but add snow, the possibility of sliding and the inability to see more than a few feet in front of my car and I’m suddenly a ball of nerves. I guess I’ve always been a city-girl at heart. With no need to drive and the workday cut short by one of my new favorite words, grandparents, I can sit back with a hot cup of coffee, toasty piece of homemade bread slathered with peanut butter and watch as snowflakes fall outside my window. Totally relaxing.

014

+ View from my window +

Yes, I said homemade bread. For the last week my apartment has been filled with the sweet aroma of bread baking in the oven (are there many scents more heart-warming?) and I can take none of the credit. Ross did it all! About a year ago while spending a weekend at a friend’s lake house, one of our friends mentioned he had started making his own 5-minute Sourdough in his apartment.  Within a few minutes, Ross was determined if our friend could do it he could too. So he went out and bought everything a good at home baker would need and got to work. And a year and many, many, tough, dense, and chewy loaves later, he has finally got it right. This bread is slightly crunchy on the outside and soft, airy and a little sweet on the inside, even days after baking. I’m blown away.

camera 055

+ Fresh out of the oven. Yum +

Ross credits all his success to one book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. It was so simple that even I am considering going into bread baking. There are so many possibilities: sourdough, ciabatta, brioche. The list goes on and on. Though for now, it’s nice to simply sit back enjoy the rewards of all of Ross’s hard work and effort.

camera 077

+ Enjoy +

Soft American-Style White Bread

(so much better than any processed, plastic-wrapped bread you can buy at the Supermarket)

3 cups Lukewarm Water

1 ½ pcks. Granulated yeast

1 ½ tbs. salt

2 tbs. sugar

½ c. melted butter (1 stick) plus, more from brushing on top of loaf

7 c. all-purpose unbleached flour

Softened butter (or neutral oil) for greasing loaf pan

Making and Storing Dough:

  1. Mix yeast, salt, sugar and melted butter with the  lukewarm water in a large bowl, or lidded container (making sure it is non-airtight).
  2. Mix in flour without kneading using a wooden spoon (and wet hands if needed) food processor, or stand mixer fitted with dough hook attachment, until all the flour is incorporated into the dough.
  3. Cover (again, make sure it is not airtight) and let rise until top flattens, about 2 hours.

You can then either prepare dough to bake right away, after allowing it to rest in the pan, or cover and refrigerate (making it easier to handle) to use over the next week.

Baking the Dough:

  1. Grease a non-stick (9x4x3) loaf pan and lightly flour the dough. Cut off a 1 ½ pound chunk (Ross got a little over 2 loaves worth of dough out of this recipe) and lightly flour the entire surface. Wrap into ball by pulling the four corners and tucking underneath. Elongate the shape into oval shape place it inside the greased pan (The dough should fill a little over half of the pan).
  2. Dust the top of the dough lightly with flour and cut slits across the top using a sharp knife, then brush with melted butter (Ross used olive oil). Allow dough to rest in pan for 40 minutes, if using directly, or 1 hour 40 minutes, if dough has been refrigerated.
  3. Preheat oven to 350° about twenty minutes before baking dough if using a baking stone (though it is unnecessary when using a loaf pan) or simply preheat oven normally if not using a stone. Bake dough in center of the oven for 45 minutes, or until golden brown.
  4. Allow loaf to cool before slicing. When cool enough to handle transfer to a cooling rack to avoid moisture pooling at the bottom of the loaf.

Adventures in Brookline

camera 085

I am now the proud owner of a Canon PowerShot S100, and I can’t even begin to explain how excited I am. (I’ve been walking around for days with an embarrassing perma-grin on my face.)

My weekend consisted of experimenting in the kitchen and playing with my new camera. By the end of the weekend I had made a hearty, potato frittata with scallions, bacon and feta courtesy of the Deb Perlemen’s Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and Raw Coconut, Blueberry and Lemon bites(which ended up delicious but way more work than I had anticipated) adapted from a recipe I came across on Pickles & Honey. (Keep an eye out for posts with my experience and recipes for each of these dishes) The rest of my time was spent positioning countless arrangements of apples, a recommendation from Plate to Pixel(my latest Kindle download), on different surfaces throughout my apartment familiarizing myself with as many of my camera’s settings as I could. I’ve been in the market for a new camera for a while, but have gone back and forth about going with a point-and-shoot or a DSLR. Ross has his eye on a DSLR in the future, but in the end I decided portability was just too important to me. I really wanted something that would allow me capture a decent picture in a snap yet still have the ability to control and play around with lighting exposure, depth of field and focus when I have a little more time on my hands. The PowerShot S100 has the perfect balance.

After doing my research online and losing out in a few down to the wire eBay auctions (unbelievably frustrating), I knew what I would be comfortable paying. When I saw a great deal on craigslist for a brand new S100 in Brookline (just a 30 minute commute on the T!!)  I emailed the poster right away. When I heard back later that day that I had been the first to reply to the ad, I was on cloud 9. We quickly coordinated a meeting in Brookline for the next night, making sure it was a time when Ross could go with me. I would never agree to meet someone on my own. You can never be too safe. After the exchange and with camera in tow, Ross and I decided to make the most of our trip to Brookline and explore the area a bit before heading back home. A friend in Ross’s office recommended a place called The Publick House for dinner and drinks, so we decided to walk in that direction and see what we could see.

camera 009

camera 002

+ The Abbey – 1657 Beacon Street, Washington Square, Brookline, MA. We started our meal with a small plate of fried halloumi cheese served with sesame, dill yogurt +

As we were walking up to the door, we quickly saw we were not the only ones that had heard the praises of The Publick House. After confirming there would be quite a long wait for a table, we decided to head outside and talk about our options before making a decision (I guess this is why people make plans ahead of time, oh well). When we walked out the door, I quickly spotted a small place, The Abbey, across the street that looked interesting so we decided to walk over and check it out. A specials board outside the door advertised a striped bass dish that had our mouths watering and we were sold. We made our way inside, and up to a big beautiful bar. I ordered a glass of Riesling while we waited for a short amount of time before, to my absolute delight, being sat at the chef’s counter, which looks directly onto the kitchen. So amazing. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was warm and intimate (a little too intimate at times, thanks to a couple who decided to take over the end of the counter as they waited for their table). We both left feeling completely satisfied and delighted with our first outing in Brookline. With so much more to see, we will definitely be back to Brookline again soon.

camera 004

camera 006

+ Ross delved into that night’s Special: Striped Bass while I went with the Grass-fed Hanger Steak Frites, Watercress Salad and Madeira Sauce +

“The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house. All that cold, cold, wet day.”

phone 077

+Brown Butter Gnocchi in Tomato Broth

Last week brought a few dreary, rainy days and with them an intense desire in me for something piping hot in my belly. As I sat at work watching the rain fall outside I could already picture myself curled up in a blanket on the couch listening to the sound of raindrops hitting the windowsill with a steaming bowl (of anything) in my lap. What could be better? A blazing hot dish is always comforting and when I think of my favorite comfort dishes I always think of two things: a nice spicy bowl of hearty chili or a silky bowl of broth-based soup (something about a hot broth just warms the body from the inside out). Since we haven’t been to the grocery store in quite some time and with no access to a supermarket in the North End, chili just wasn’t going to happen (I did just see a recipe for a Black Bean Salsa Chili with Avocado Cream today that I have to try in the near future). So while I was perusing cookbooks during naptime, which has become my go-to naptime routine these days, one recipe jumped out at me right away.

phone 064

+Sauté Veggies.

This one: Gnocchi in Tomato Broth in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman, which she later shared on her blog. Smitten Kitchen, the blog, was originally recommended to me by my employer. Before I officially started working, Ross and I were invited over for dinner and she served one of Deb’s recipes as an accompaniment to the beautifully smoked chicken prepared by her husband. It was a great chance for us all to get to know each other a little better, and the food was beyond fantastic.  As the night when on, I had to ask for the recipe and that is when she pointed me in the direction of smitten kitchen. I’ve been an avid reader ever since. When I came across this recipe in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook I instantly remembered it. At the time this recipe was originally posted I still had gnocchi on my mind, following a great night out in the North End and an incredibly fantastic gnocchi dish. Coming across it again, I knew right away this was exactly the recipe I had been looking for.

phone 066

+Reduce wine. Add tomatoes, while crushing add basil and chicken stock. Simmer.

The best part? There are very few ingredients in this recipe. I was easily able to find everything I needed (just a carrot, can of tomatoes and chicken stock) at a small market on Salem Street. I did cheat a bit and bought fresh gnocchi at a local pasta shop instead of making my own as Deb suggested. I was just not in the mood to take on making my own gnocchi and knowing I could get a quality product right down the street, I just couldn’t resist. The broth, which took minimal prep and was ready in just under an hour, was exceptionally flavorful and paired perfectly with the light and fluffy gnocchi making this such a beautifully delicate dish packed with flavor. The perfect rainy night dish. Delightfully light but still heartwarming.

phone 068

+Time to enjoy

Ross and I both took the leftovers to work the next day for lunch. It was a big hit with the little guy I care for and when I asked Ross what he thought, his response was simply, “I want MORE.” While I decided to simply reheat the broth back to a simmer and cook the gnocchi in boiling water until tender for both of the guys in my life, for my own lunch I decided I wanted to play around with the flavors just a little. I was inspired by a dish from my days working as a server in a vegan restaurant in Columbus, OH. The chef is incredibly talented (James Beard nominated, a huge feat for a chef based in Columbus, OH) and I learned so much. One of my favorite dishes before I left was his version of Gnocchi in a Bolognese Sauce. For the broth, I simply added a touch of red pepper flakes to add a bit of heat reminiscent of the heat of the Bolognese sauce of my past. I also followed the chef’s preparation for the gnocchi and sautéed the pre-boiled gnocchi in brown-butter with herbs for just a few minutes before serving with the tomato broth. This added a slight crunch to the outside of the gnocchi and a nice nutty accent to the dish. I finished the dish, as Deb suggested, with a few shavings of parmesan cheese. Divine. With its easy preparation and layers of bold flavor, this will certainly become a staple dish in my kitchen for years to come.

+Title Source: Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat

“Leave the gun, Take the Canolli”

Phone Pics 1677

+Traditional Ricotta Cannoli care of Modern Pastry+

To continue in the spirit of throwing caution to the wind, I have one word for you, CANNOLI. What they lack in any kind of nutritional value, cannolis completely make up for in absolute indulgence. Coming from a strong Italian household that cherishes red sauce, gangster movies and above all else family, there are not many things in this world I hold in such high regard as the coveted cannoli.

A great cannoli always starts with a great shell. It should be super crispy with a slight hint of Marsala wine and perfectly rolled into that quintessential cannoli-shape. Most Italian (I forget sometimes any other variety may exist) bakeries will then give you the option of a blended ricotta filling (the tradition Sicilian choice), vanilla/chocolate custard or whip cream, with a variety of toppings ranging from the simple chocolate chips or pistachios to flavors inspired by other popular desserts: amaretto, peanut butter, mint chocolate, limoncello, the list goes on and on. There is, however, really only one choice when it come to a cannoli, a traditional Ricotta Cannoli (at least in my book). After a generous sprinkle of powdered sugar, it’s finally time for that first mouthwatering bite. The ricotta is luxuriously creamy with just the right amount of sweetness to really get your taste buds going, and you can’t forget that great crunch from the crispy pastry shell. Sometimes it’s the simplest things in life that are the most satisfying. You would be hard pressed to convince me there is anything in this universe more delectable. If you’re the kind of person that needs a little bit of chocolate to really feel like your indulging, I recommend going for the mini chocolate chips. The mini chips add the right amount of chocolatey-goodness without overpowering the traditional flavors that make a cannoli so spectacular in the first place, and have the added bonus of an extra little crunch in each and every bite. (I don’t know about all of you out there, but all this talk has my stomach growling.)

One of the many perks of living in the North End of Boston (besides theexceptionally close proximity to downtown) is a colossal supply of traditional Italian bakeries literally just steps from my front door. With so many wonderful places in sight, the big question is where to start. While I would love to explore all my options in one whirlwind weekend of crunch and cream, I don’t know if my heart or waistline could survive it. So I guess I will have to take my time while I slowly make my way around the North End and try them all, savoring each and every bite (Oh, and I will try them all!). Absence does makes the heart grow fonder, right?

Phone Pics 1672

+MIKE’S PASTRY – 300 Hanover Street, Boston, MA 02113+

In the meantime, I hit the streets and it didn’t take long before two names popped up time and time again: Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry. (If you’ve ever been to Boston I can guarantee you have walked past someone, tourists and locals alike, carrying the tell-tale goodie box from one of these two places.) The best part? In the North End, there is a long running rivalry between the two on who crafts the best cannoli. I have to admit being an Ohio girl I have a sweet spot (not only for cannoli) for rivalries. After hearing persuasive arguments for both sides, I knew I had to find out for myself.

Phone Pics 1668Phone Pics 1669

+MODERN PASTRY – 257 Hanover Street, Boston, MA 02113+

Mike’s has the size, both in storefront and actual cannoli, and a gigantic variety of pre-prepared outrageously decadent flavors. But for me, there is no question that Modern is the clear winner. A simple, extra crispy shell that is fill-to-order with that sweet, rich ricotta cream. Heaven on earth. Though it should be noted that Ross, who gladly chose to serve as my assistant taste-tester and sounding board on all things canolli, disagrees entirely. (Typical man, bigger is always better.) Despite the fact that this will surely continue to be a growing contention in our apartment, in the great world of cannoli, there really are no losers.

Phone Pics 1673

+Classic take-home “goodie” box. Yummy+

Want to take the Mike’s/Modern challenge yourself? Come with cash in hand, they do not accept credit, and be prepared to wait in line. Don’t worry, no matter where you start, both are definitely worth the wait. Mike’s and Modern Pastry also offer a wide range of other delectable treats. I bought a pound of Italian cookies to take with me when I went home for the holidays this Christmas. They were a big hit!

+Title Source: The Godfather

Enjoying the Fall

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around moving. Even now looking back, the months leading up to leaving still feel like a daze. As I packed away everything I owned and said my final goodbyes to all the people I loved I couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that this was all somehow just a dream. I heard the words that were coming from my mouth, felt the hugs, saw the tears, but somehow I couldn’t convince myself they were all real. I still felt like I was going to wake up back in Ohio and nothing would really be any different than the days before. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or what I was in for, but I just kept going through the motions and somehow, 800 miles later, there I was in Boston.

oldfampic

+Moving always makes me nostalgic. An old family picture +

Thinking back on moving day all I can do is laugh. What a complete disaster! Any plans or organization I had deluded myself into thinking would help ease the process completely flew out the window the second the car stopped in front of our new apartment building. (Look for a later post, on our only ever trip to Boston before our move. A whirlwind weekend of apartment hunting that I was sure would be the death of me). Absolute chaos. These are the memories that stick with me most: The apartment wasn’t ready. There were paint cans and cleaning supplies everywhere. Ross (the love of my life) and his dad, Jim, yelling back and forth to try and maneuver our oversized furniture up the narrow staircase that posed both an awkward turn and inconvenient railing before finally reaching the apartment door. Standing on the sidewalk with my best friend, Mauna, guarding the cars and trying to decide how we could help without just simply being in the way. One section of the enormous sectional we bought simply refusing to fit up the stairs (not that Ross and his dad did not try vehemently).  And finally when it was all said and done every inch of the apartment, including the bathroom, filled from the floor to the ceiling with, for lack of a better word, stuff.

jimandmauna

+Jim and Mauna after a long day of moving+

It was in that moment, of seeing box, on top of box, on top of box for what seemed like as far as the eye could see, that the giant wall of denial I had built up oh so very carefully in my mind finally came crashing down knocking me straight onto my butt. Then something strange happened. I didn’t freak out or begin to overanalyze everything we still needed to do. No. I pulled myself up and I decided to throw caution to the wind (an unheard of feat for someone who has spent her entire life overthinking everything). My mind was still racing: Did we really think this through? There is no way all of this stuff is going to fit. We have no money. (We moved a month before we started work and let’s just say things were tight financially). What are we doing? How are we going to make this work? But we were here. It was happening. And for once I was just going to let myself enjoy the moment. We were finally in Boston, and I could take a deep breath. First thing we did? We got out the heck out of the apartment and sat down for a much deserved drink (or two, or three) and a good meal. What could be better than losing yourself in a great plate of food with a frosty beverage in hand? Not too much in my book. Followed up by a hot and sticky (we still didn’t have AC and of course it was well into the 90’s that day) nap for everyone. Then slowly but surely we started to get things settled in.

hello

+Mauna and I finally enjoying Boston +

Six months later? I am 100% undoubtedly sure that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Sure, there are times when I long to be back at my parents house curled up on the sofa under a blanket, as my mom picks at her latest quilting project with the sounds of my dad’s, who has inevitably dozed off again, snoring increasingly grows louder and louder blocking any chance of hearing whatever is playing on the TV at the time; or dishing gossip with my best friend in her car while clutching the seat and praying to God that we don’t die in a fiery car crash due to her inability to stay focused on the road and ending with me swearing I would never get into the car again with her. But most of the time … I am just happy. Unbelievably, unadulterated happy. I even appreciate the time I do get with the people I love so much more.

aptkitchen2

+our kitchen. time warp anyone?+

Its hard to pinpoint why exactly I’m so happy in Boston, but a large part of it has to be due to the fact that I am finally free from the overwhelmingly gargantuan rut I had fallen into at home. Being in a new city has forced me to finally step out of all of my comfort zones and discover all of the things I was way too scared to even think to try back at home. I’m finally challenging myself in life and in the kitchen. Its incredibly terrifying yet exhilarating at the same time. (A lot like writing this blog.) Certainly it doesn’t hurt that I am not alone in all this either. I have the unyielding support of the love of my life by my side.

bostonskyline

+Ross and I (slight height difference) at Lewis Warf+

I’ve taken the (proverbial) leap, and while its still way too early to tell where I will land, for now, I am really enjoying the fall..