A Side Trip – Medfield State Hospital

September 4th, 2011

One of my favorite factoids that I like to share about my junior high and high school experience is that our campus was walking distance away from a mental health facility.  I’m not talking just any sort of psychiatric program, I am referring to Medfield State Hospital, a location that housed up to 2,000 patients during its peak.  Self sufficient and covering about 900 acres of land, Medfield State also had the unfortunate reputation of housing patients who were so ill that they had to be in a lock-down facility. In other words, they weren’t safe to have mixing among the rest of the population.

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The reason I am writing about all this today is because after its closing in 2003, the grounds of Medfield State Hospital are open to the public daily from 6am-6pm.  Why this is the case, I am not sure, but it sure does make for an interesting side trip.  Recently, scenes from Shutter Island were filmed there and rumor has it that there are still some set pieces left behind in the hospital’s chapel.  Sadly, all the buildings have been condemned, so you really just get to walk around outside.  Also, with hurricane/tropical storm Irene, there seems to be a bit more damage than can be seen in some earlier pics posted by some of those “urban adventurer” sites out there.  If you ask me, it’s still a pretty creepy place and there are a lot worse ways to spend an afternoon.  I highly suggest stopping by, taking some pics, maybe peeking into a few windows.  With renewal plans being discussed by the town of Medfield, who knows how much longer you’ll get a chance to see something like this.

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Pea Tendrils: Regular Peas’ Sexy Mom

August 27th, 2011

There are a lot of bloggers out there waxing poetic about their local farmers markets. And you know what? They are right. Your local farmers market is magic and supports your local growers and smaller businesses. Yes, yes, local is good and important. But rather than wasting time on an issue that countless others have written about far better than I could, let’s take a different spin and focus on the yummy.

There are several farmers markets in my area, but the one I frequent the most is right on the campus of my workplace. They have a rotating list of vendors, but when Flats Mentor Farm is there, I always make it a priority to stop by their stall. Not only do they have a wonderful mission (you can read about them at their website) but they have a really wonderful variety of produce. Yes, they have the regular seasonal stuff, but they also grow and sell things that other stands don’t. I’m talking about things like squash flowers, pumpkin vines, and the ultimate in yummy-osity: pea tendrils.

Oh baby… Seriously, check out how sexy these little babies are:

pea sprigs

And yes, they are exactly what you think they are, tendrils and newer growth from the pea plant. Usually they are only available in the early spring, but Flats Mentor Farm has them quite regulatory throughout the market’s season. My guess is that they grow them in a green house. Regardless, I am so very glad they have them because they are now one of my favorite veggies.

Pea tendrils are very easy to cook and require very little to really bring out their sweetness. Imagine if you will a tender green that tastes like a pea only with a slight bitterness you can sometimes find in leafy greens. I know this is a terrible way to describe it, but they taste very green and fresh.

Pea tendrils can be eaten raw (like in a salad or sandwich) but I prefer to saute them with a bunch of chopped garlic. In fact, this is how you can sometimes find them at Chinese restaurants. But seriously, keep an eye out for these. You’ll thank me. And if not, well…there’s always tater-tots. Everyone likes tater-tots, right?

Summer Bento

July 31st, 2011

My summer bentos have a way of leaning towards the boring side. Since spending quality time in my AC-deprived kitchen is pretty low on my list of Summer-Must-Do’s, I’m much more likely to throw a bunch of stuff in a container with some lettuce and call it a salad.

On a rather cool afternoon the other day, I was able to whip up a little something that would be pretty yummy for my lunch the next day. Little fun fact about this bento, this is the second bento I made that afternoon. The first one decided that it didn’t want to go out on the porch to have its picture taken. So rather than cooperating, it decided to jump out of my hands. Emphasis on the word jump, because anyone who knows me also knows that I am a graceful swan of a lady who would never trip over her own feet and spill the contents of an entire lunch on the kitchen floor. Nope, never. Not me. *wink wink

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Bento contents:
-Soba noodles (with dipping sauce in another container)
-Shitake mushrooms simmered in dashi and soy sauce
-cucumber salad with lemon and mint

Super Fast Bento

June 6th, 2011

Yes, another terrible picture from my phone, but I wanted to show off this super quick bento.  While I am not always a fan of paying for pre-made ingredients, I did let myself off the hook a bit with this one.  The secret to making this bento was buying pre-made and cooked chicken cutlets.  I can’t remember their exact name, but they were some sort of Perdue baked option.  To make them a bit more special, I made my own tomato sauce and used a light babybel cheese on the top. It was super fast and made the boy a very happy guy.

Here is the pic:

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Contents:

Chicken Cutlets with Sauce and cheese
Whole Wheat elbows with butter and Romano cheese
Steamed green beans

When things go right.

May 26th, 2011

There are some nights when I putter around the house trying to come up with something…anything to do in order to avoid making lunches.  There are other nights when things fall surprisingly into place and I can get things done in half an hour, cooking and prep included.  These nights are few and far between because it is much more common to find me lying on the floor in my living room trying to convince my little dog that giving her a bath or a quick brushing will not, I repeat WILL NOT, bring about the end of days.

But like I said, every once and again I get lucky and a tasty lunch comes together by just cooking some veggies and redressing some leftovers. Example below:

Foodz

Contents:

Black Bean Salad (made with pantry staples and leftover cilantro and chopped tomato)
Mexican Rice
Asparagus (steamed for bento)
Pork Tenderloin (leftover from dinner)

Super Easy Soup

April 9th, 2011

I cook a lot on the weekends. It helps me prepare the for the upcoming week so that I won’t default to take-out when I find myself short on time (which is more often than I’d like to admit). Another thing I tend to do, is buy in bulk. I can get really weak on my trips to Costco and it isn’t uncommon that I find myself with a 5lb bag of spinach and a great need for some creativity.

One solution that I came up with recently was a very simple spinach soup. I really wanted to keep things low fat and still preserve the color of the spinach. Here’s what I came up with:

Spinach Soup

Spinach Soup

1 bag of baby or regular spinach (or half of one of those Costco bags)
1 onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbs olive oil
2-3 cups good broth, either chicken or veggie

Saute onion in olive oil until just starts to brown, add garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add spinach to pan and let wilt. Add broth and cook down until spinach is soft but still green. Blend in blender or with immersion blender until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with grated cheese.

Chicken Salad Again

March 15th, 2011

Just because it’s the weekend, it doesn’t mean that I don’t think about packed lunches. You see, The Boy holds a steady weekend job that leaves me home alone most weekend mornings and I need to think of things to occupy my time so I don’t end up doing things like, well….this:

hat

Didn’t know I could knit, did ya?

Unlike the last chicken salad bento I posted, I was able to use mayo this time. The Boy has fewer dietary restrictions than I do, and I like to spice things up with a little something added to the mayo from time to time. Curry chicken salad has become more common now-a-days, but I’ve been known to add Singapore spice, creole spice, well pretty much anything you might find as a fancy-pants aioli or special mayo (think herbs, mustard, hot sauce, etc). Chicken goes so well with other things that it is hard to go wrong with this one. If you are worried, well…that’s what the internet is for. It can do the thinking for you.

The other weekend, I sent The Boy off to work with this:

chicken salad 2011

Contents:

chicken salad (with lots of freshly ground pepper)
salad with cucumber
mini babybel cheese
dried apricots
yaki onigiri (grilled rice ball, but more on that later)

Walnut Tea Loaf

March 9th, 2011

From time to time I am taking over by a baking madness. I will dig through all my cookbooks, search the web like a maniac, and totally trash the kitchen just because I want my kitchen to be all warm and toasty and smell like butter and flour.

When this madness comes over me, I will often just make something easy like a beer bread because I already have most of those ingredients in my house. But what happens on a Sunday after a rather festive Saturday and poor me has come to the horrifying realization that there is NO BEER IN THE HOUSE?! A very rare occasion in my household, but it has been known to happen. I blame The Boy.

Thankfully, I was able to find this recipe for Walnut Tea Loaf.

Walnut Bread

The recipe itself is in metrics, but it is easy enough to follow if you have a scale and a good liquid measuring cup. I did replace the golden syrup with agave nectar because I couldn’t find anything else in my kitchen and used natural brown demerara sugar to make the top look pretty and sparkly. The bread itself was on the dense side, a bit chewy (in a good way), and really satisfying.

Yummy on its own, I like my Walnut Loaf toasted and then drenched in butter and honey or marmalade. Nom!

It’s All My Fault Really…

March 6th, 2011

And today we learn an important lesson about why I need to post more often, or at least learn to take some sort of notes about what is actually in my bentos after I snap a pic and plan to have it on my blog.

For example:

Curry Chicken Salad

“Gosh Smalerie,” you might be thinking to yourself right now. “That sure looks tasty. But if you don’t mind my asking, what exactly is in that every-so-attractive bento?”

First of all, I can smell your sarcasm from a mile away…smarty pants… And second of all, I have no freaking clue!

All I can remember is that this was the result of my desire to make a chicken salad that had mustard in it and did not contain mayonnaise. I packed all the elements separately so that I wouldn’t find myself with a squishy mess come lunch time. Salad components included parsley, scallions, cucumber, and tomato.

Good God, I can’t even remember if I even liked this bento. So I don’t even know if this little experiment of mine was a success. Has Smalerie been able to create a yummy low-fat chicken salad? Like the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know.

Casserole of Olde

January 27th, 2011

I have a wonderful co-worker who drives me home almost everyday. My house is pretty much on her way, and since we make each other laugh, it’s a pretty fun drive. When we are not comparing pet stories or talking about work, we get to discussing dinner and various recipes we enjoy. One day, I mentioned that I was trying to figure out what to make for a friend of mine who just had surgery, and she suggested a simple casserole dish. This caused a problem because the only casserole I could think of was baked ziti or lasagna, neither of which I felt like making.

The next day my co-worker brought me in a surprise – a vintage casserole cookbook.

Book

I was over the moon because not only could it give me ideas, but really…look at that cover! You can just tell by looking that this baby is a classic! Romantic pics of your casserole by the fireside? Check! “Low Calorie” recipes that involve frying? Check! A section on how to make a sophisticated garnish out of cherry tomatoes and a lemon slice? You got it baby. To be honest, I am tempted not to give this little gem of a resource back. ;)

For my friends, I decided to make the Lemon Chicken, a recipe found in the “low calorie” section of the book. Obviously, we have different ideas of “low” because the recipe involved frying the chicken with it’s skin on in a pan of vegetable oil.

I was pleased to discover that the recipe was quite easy and ending up looking just like it did on the picture. Other than that, I couldn’t really tell you much about taste, but it certainly seemed VERY lemony.

Behold! The amalgamation of lemon and chicken into an amazing one dish meal of retro goodness!

Lemon Chicken

I know. It’s pretty powerful. I’ll look away if you need a moment to yourself to bask in it’s yellowy-brown glory. ;)