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This is the week, the week where I lace up my running shoes again, the week where we don’t go out for drinks and apps after work every single night. It’s time to stop feeling icky and lethargic and spending tons of money just because it’s cold and dark all.the.time.

I packed my running backpack in NOVEMBER, and the outfit inside has gone unworn. My intention was to take a couple of weeks off after the New York City Marathon to rest but then to start up running again so that I could capitalize on all of the training I did for my best marathon time ever. What actually happened was I got a week-long stomach flu five days after the marathon. The “I can eat whatever I want because I just ran a marathon” attitude went out the window, because I could eat nothing. Once that was over, Thanksgiving and house buying and work weekend events and a nasty fall on the ice happened. And then it was Christmas and family visiting from Ireland. . .

Now it’s just me recognizing my bad habits and hoping I can turn them around. I crave energy and vibrancy, and I hope I can make some good, healthy changes back toward moderation.

 

Monday

Baked Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Vegetables

Baked Pasta with Chicken Sausage - I'd love to add some bell peppers and broccoli to this. It would be a perfect, healthy comfort dish.

(Source)

I want my meals to be healthy but also food that I actually want to eat. I’m so tired of things being healthified with powders and potions to the point where they are too gross to stand. I think a few veggies, like red peppers and carrots, added to this pasta would make it a great, healthy and filling meal.

 

Tuesday

Roast Chicken with Grapes

Roast Chicken with Grapes

(Source)

I have seen this recipe all over lately, and I think it would be delicious wit baked sweet potatoes on the side.

 

Wednesday

Cranberry Jalapeno Salmon Melts

salmon melt

A nice, melty sandwich is perfect for a cold night mid-week. I think these would go great with a spinach side salad.

 

Thursday

Dinner at Beat Hotel! I have been to Beat Hotel for a delicious dinner and again for their great wine list, and I am excited to bring a new friend and wine PR maven there to check it out.

 

Friday

Pizza! I really like Shaw’s Culinary Circle brand pizzas, and a thin crust Margherita with a glass of red and a fire is the perfect way to wind down the week!

 

In addition to the above, we’ll try to get five veggie/fruit smoothies in this week. We have been good about drinking maybe three and then slacking off as we near the weekend. I love the burst of energy I get from smoothies each morning, and heaven knows my body needs the nutrients. Chia pudding will also be thrown into the breakfast mix. Here’s to hoping a refreshed outlook on eating and exercise keep away sickness for the rest of the winter!

What does your meal plan look like for the week?

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Tags: comfort food, Food, healthy comfort food, healthy eating, meal plan, meal planning, menu, recipes

This is not your parents’ hotel restaurant. When I was younger and we traveled, we always avoided the hotel restaurant. It was pretty much a given that you didn’t eat in the hotel . Times have definitely changed, with hotel restaurants doing all sorts of creative, community-focused, delicious things for not just their guests, but for locals.

Last Thursday I had the great opportunity to join a few other bloggers and some of the team at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge for a tasting of the new ArtBar menu. I had been to ArtBar before for drinks with colleagues, a cocktail class, and late night bites, but since I had never eaten dinner there before, I was excited for the full experience.

We definitely received VIP treatment, starting with a private room just for our dinner with Director of Food and Beverage Troy Clarke already mixing up specialty cocktails when I arrived.

ArtBar

cocktails

Although it was a rainy day, the views across the river from ArtBar were lovely, one of my favorites of Boston. Of course, you can’t quite tell that from this photo. I just thought it was an artsy shot, and well, I was at ArtBar. . .

Royal Sonesta

Pimm’s Cups, either made with homemade bitter lemon or ginger beer, were our welcome drinks. Always a lover of ginger beer, I went with that option, and thoroughly enjoyed the spicy and refreshing drink as I  mingled with other dinner guests.

Pimm's Cup

Once we sat down, Troy shared information about ArtBar’s food and beverage with us. The restaurant sources as much as possible from local and sustainable sources including about 25 farms and other suppliers. They are continually striving to be more green and are working on 100% sustainability for their seafood. None of this is easy, especially for a restaurant in a hotel that serves several meals a day and has to appeal to a large and diverse audience, but you could see the obvious passion and excitement behind these initiatives as well as behind the creative and inventive cocktail and food menu.

We kicked dinner off with a spring pea soup with Marcona almonds which gave it both a smooth and crunchy texture and a nice richness to go with the sweet green peas.

pea soup

Next up, we tried some of the new appetizers on ArtBar’s menu. We were first brought out full servings of each, plated how they would be for diners in those portions, and then we each received our own tasting plate which was really fun. The dining portions were quite substantial!

bruschetta

From left to right we have the pork cheek tacos, grilled calamari bruschetta, and the holy amazing deep fried macaroni and cheese with truffle fondue. Of the three, the mac and cheese definitely wowed me the most. It was fried and crunchy but not greasy in the slightest. Dare I say it was kind of light? It would be the perfect dish for sharing. Dipped in warm, gooey truffle fondue, this was a comfort food I would crave again and again. I enjoyed the other appetizers as well. The bruschetta was an interesting combination plated on top of a Marcona almond puree that I could have licked off my plate. I don’t usually go for bruschetta, not being a huge bread person, but the calamari added another element that changed up the classic dish. The pork cheek tacos were tender and flavorful; I could see these being a nice small entrée.

sampler plate

Our next cocktail was a vodka punch, a French Standard, created by ArtBar’s bartender. ArtBar is delving into old fashioned punch service in a beautiful and fun way using these glass absinthe containers with spouts on either side. The French Standard is a dangerously delicious ix of Ciroc Vodka, Lillet, St. Germain, Lemon, and Grapefruit Bitters. The light citrus flavors went so well with our appetizers, and having the containers served to us definitely made for fun sharing of drinks.

punch

Our next course featured two entrees from the spring menu, game hen stuffed with spring vegetables with a potato cake and pan butter and artic char with beluga lentils and sautéed leeks. 

chicken

The chicken was good, moist and served with a delicious potato cake. It was a choice that would appeal to many people, including those with less adventurous palates but still done in a way that stands out a bit.

The char was amazing. It was quickly cooked at high heat to crisp the skin to perfection. Soft lentils  provided a nice contrast, and the leeks melted in my mouth.

fish

Dinner was served with a Smoked Cherry Fizz: Lepanto Brandy, Amere Nouvelle, Smoked Cherry Phosphate. Troy burnt cherry bark in front of us with a little torch, showing again his creativity and use of all sorts of different ingredients in the restaurant’s cocktails. If you ever get the chance to take one of his classes, definitely do; he is fun to watch!

smoked cherry fizz

ArtBar’s Executive Chef Brian Dandro came in to meet with us, despite it being his day off, and he had Chef de Cuisine, Stephen Hamilton and the team in the kitchen serve us up a little extra, scallops they had gotten from the boat the day before. This was one of the most perfect scallops I have ever had. It was seared and caramelized on top and so buttery and tender all the way through, with that sweet fresh scallop flavor. Amazing.

scallop

The night ended with a dessert course accompanied by an alcohol-free cocktail, Pressure. ArtBar has a whole menu of non-alcoholic drinks for people who can’t or don’t want to drink alcohol but would like a little something special. The Pressure contained Ginger, Grapefruit Shrub, Agave, Lime, Honeycomb, and CO2. Honeycomb reminds me of my nana, who often had a jar at home. I loved ending the meal with a refreshing drink and not having to worry about a headache the next day.

non-alcoholic cocktail

Two different desserts provided plenty to satisfy our sweet cravings; almond streusel cake with caramel poached pears and “Turtle” panna cotta. I ate every bite of the almond cake which was light and lovely. I found the panna cotta to be a little too sweet for me, but I think it would be a true chocolate-lover’s dream.

almond cake

panna cotta

ArtBar did a really nice job on their new menu. It really reflects their desire to create an experience that is comforting and sophisticated, and it’s clear that a lot of thought and staff input goes into it. ArtBar’s location makes it perfect for warm weather and evenings with lots of light, and its cocktails, wine, and food make it a great place for all sorts of palates.

As we were guests of ArtBar our dinner was complimentary, but I was truly excited to write about the experience, and I am equally excited to return. Trying ALL of the cocktails on their menu is a challenge I could live up to.

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Tags: blogger events, cambridge, chicken, cocktails, dessert, events, Food, menu, pairings, scallops, tasting events

Dinner Party

Planning a Superbowl dinner and need some last minute help? Look no further than the festive and fabulous spread my sister in law Clare put on in Galway this past week for my brother in law Patrick’s birthday. From drinks to dessert, this meal incorporated lots of different flavors and offered a great balance of vegetables, meat, and cheese to please any crowd.

Mexican themed dinner party

Clare and Patrick’s beautiful apartment overlooks Galway Bay, and in daylight, especially at sunset, the views are breathtaking. Ever the creative hostess, Clare had set the table with hollowed out peppers as candle holders which created fun patterns of light and a cozy atmosphere for a family dinner.

Mexican themed dinner party

Casper posed for plenty of photos.

image

And we got down to celebrating. I started with a Sol beer with a lime, a refreshing change from the Guinness consumed during the rest of the week.

Sol Mexican beer

While we chatted and caught up, we devoured this avocado dip, made with traditional guacamole ingredients like avocado and limes, but mixed in with ricotta cheese for a creamy spread for hot pita triangles. I ate about a million of these and could have kept going if the enticing smells from the kitchen didn’t stop me!

avocado dip

We continued with the Mexican fiesta theme with a pitcher of homemade margaritas.

margaritas

margaritas

When we got to the table, we were met with a feast. First up was chicken tortilla soup. With a rich tomato broth and tender shredded chicken, the soup was a constant delight of flavor, only enhanced by the avocado and cilantro on the top.

chicken tortilla soup

A three bean Mexican salad provided a delicious vegetarian side dish that accompanied the remaining avocado dip and some chunky homemade salsa for the main course.

three bean salad

Enchiladas stuffed with chicken and topped with sauce and cheese were the star of the show. After all of the other things I had eaten, I opted to have rice, bean salad, salsa, and avocado dip, the perfect combination of foods that was both satisfying and felt healthy. A bite of the hubby’s enchiladas was enough to let me know they were fantastic.

chicken enchiladas

We all felt as though we might roll away from the table, completely stuffed and happy with such an incredible meal. But there was more!

flan

The dinner party was capped off with a sweet, custardy flan, one of my favorite desserts for its caramel flavors and smooth texture. Even after a big meal, the flan felt light and not at all overwhelming. It was the perfect dessert for me!

Clare put together a menu even better than most restaurants. Though I do love to cook and entertain, putting together complete menus is something that I need more practice in. If you need a Superbowl menu or even a fun menu for an at-home Valentine’s Day dinner, this menu would be a great choice!

It’s just over a week away; do you have Valentine’s Day dinner plans yet?

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Tags: appetizers, avocado dip, chicken, dessert, dinner, dinner party, enchiladas, family, flan, Food, meal planning, menu, Mexican food, Superbowl snacks, tortilla soup, Valentine's Day menu

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