On Ramping, Off Ramping: Just give me ramps

As a parent of school-aged children and a stay at home parent (occasional work at home parent), I have seen this little word that buzzes by me periodically “on-ramping”.  I love to write and I have a close relationship with my OED and Roget‘s but I am not a huge fan of made up words (especially business-related lingo).  Now I’m not sure if I dislike the word more or the concept, but I’ve decided I’d rather spend time with my ramps and not worry about what on-ramping is so here we go.

If you haven’t seen or tried a ramp yet, they are becoming a bit easier to find these days as wild, fresh, seasonal food has become trendy.  Ramps are a spring wild allium that makes an appearance in New England at the same time as fiddleheads; right about now.  They look a bit like a wild scallion or spring onion, but the taste is nothing like a scallion.  Locally, they are available at Formaggio Kitchen and Russo’s (among other shops I’m sure.)

So what have I done with my ramps lately?  Well today I decided to do a variation on a theme of my husband’s most beloved treat, Robert Sinskey Vineyard’s olive oil roasted almonds.  I had a bag of raw cashews that I wanted to roast and I decided to do the same technique with the cashews as I had done with the almonds, but instead of the herbs, I put in the greens and whites of 2 1/2 ramps.  Sprinkled with some fleur de sel (Le Sel D’Isabelle to be specific) and I’m very happy with the results.  Now I just need a warm afternoon a glass of wine and some friends or neighbors over for an aperitif in the yard.

Just as I finished making the roasted nuts, it was time for lunch so I cut up a tomato and some pickling cucumbers and grabbed a handful of baby spinach.  Then, a forkful of Dijon went into a jar with some white wine and balsamic vinegar and I poured some of the warm ramp infused oil, left over from making the nuts, on top.  It makes a delicious salad dressing and was the perfect lunch, topped with some croutons made from last weekend’s stale Brioche.

Speaking of last weekend, we had family over for brunch and I was in the midst of putting together various elements of the school’s auction for that Sunday so I wanted something quick and easy to serve.  Dad and I picked up some delicious house-made bacon from Formaggio Kitchen (salty but meaty).  I wanted to scramble eggs as my uncle George does in a small sauce pan.  So, after cooking the bacon I threw the ramps into the bacon fat to flavor the fat and lightly cook the ramps.  I then put a teaspoon of the fat into the saucepan and swished it around to coat the sides of the pan.  10 eggs were cracked and whisked into the saucepan and continuously whisked slowly over low heat.

I took out a serving of eggs for the kids (no ramps please mommy).  I then tossed in the ramps cooked in the bacon fat and paired with the bacon itself, a huge Francese that mom and Isabelle picked up from Iggy‘s and a bottle of Prosecco Riondo Rose was opened, and brunch was served.

Happy Spring.

Spring has Sprung Restaurant Style

Photo by Isabelle Klein age 5 1/2 (taken for her blog borrowed by mommy)

Not only are crocuses popping up here and there, but in Boston and environs some fabulous sounding restaurants have popped up here and there.  Flour Bakery (you know the one near the children’s museum) is working hard to open their third location down by Central Bottle Wine and Provisions in Cambridge, Bergamot has opened in Somerville, and Rafiki Bistro is in the works on Mass. Ave between Harvard and Porter Sq.

Another restaurant that I have been anxiously awaiting is AKA Bistro because it is a hop, skip and a jump from our CSA and sometimes I just don’t have the time or desire to pack a picnic for dinner (although we enjoy many of those a growing season) and pizza next to the gas station is okay every once in a while, but now we have an extraordinary option….and check out this fabulous children’s menu!

There are snails (no puppy dogs tails) and instead of chicken wings how about some frog’s legs.  Wait….don’t start  to guffaw or shake your head.  This food is actually more child friendly than you might think. Read on and then I’ll explain.

Kids Menu

9 Frog legs, broccoli purée & garlic sauce

6 Ham & Cheese Sandwich

5 Grated Carrot Salad

8 Black olive tomato confit tart

9 Steak “hache”  (as in hamburger French style no bun) & french fries

8 French Mac & Cheese

7 Mashed potato and ham

9 Cod fillet, lima beans, cherry tomato confit, chorizo oil

9 *Hawaiian Poke (Marinated tuna cubes) with sweet onions, ginger & pickled mung beans

dz 9 Snails with herbs and garlic butter

For the most picky children there is the gratin of noodles and cheese (and I’m sure if necessary you can get them plain jane.) and a simple grated carrot salad is divine. As for the snails, my daughter loves garlic and butter and bread…that’s what snails are essentially with a snail hidden in there somewhere (don’t judge and your kids won’t either).  Marinated tuna cubes are great little bites of pinkiness.  Who wouldn’t want that?  Nothing fishy there and it’s the perfect finger food (even in a fancy resto).  The steak hâché should be a perfectly cooked patty with a side of fries.  Who needs a bun when the meat is good.  Mashed potato is another kid-friendly dish and who knows maybe they’ll like it with ham and then you can add a little protein in with that starch (and maybe even make your own version at home.)

I expect great things from AKA Bistro in Lincoln.  The quality should be top-notch which means the prices are perfectly fair and dare I say even reasonable.

If you get a chance to go…please share your experiences in the comment section below!

Valentine’s day with the Kids

I have never been a fan of Valentine’s day…well, I did always look forward to those little red hot Valetine’s heart candies.  The ones that make your tongue tingle and scream “CINAMMON” in your mouth.  Then there was the year abroad in college in the UK when I discovered they had candy hearts with mean sayings on them.  I had fun taping them to my friends’ doors.  All in love and with the true British sarcastic spirit.

So here we are and Valentine’s day is approaching somewhere between shuttling the children to and from classes and school, and working on projects, I guess I should consider what our plan is.  Do I buy/make cards from the children for family members? just my husband? no one?  I think I’ll do whatever I have time to do and whatever we feel like between now and then.  That’s got to be good enough. Then, if it strikes our fancy, everyone is healthy, we have it in our budget (money or time), perhaps we’ll do something around town.

For places to go and eat with the kids in tow at either breakfast, lunch, or dinner here are a few suggestions.  If it is chocolate that you’re after, either for your loved ones or for yourself, then here’s a full but not absolute list of where you can find everything from Cadbury chocolate to some exquisite hand-made chocolates.

Our slightly less local than it was toy store, Henry Bear’s Park, is having a chocolate lollipop workshop at each of their locations.  I am not sure how hands on the workshop will be, but it is free and when you call to reserve your spot you can get all the details.  Arlington’s workshop is on Saturday February 6th from 11:00 -1:00, Brookline’s is on Wednesday February 3rd from 3:30 to 5:30 and Cambridge’s is Friday February 5th from 4:30 to 6:30.  The recommended age from the Candy Factory Kit is ages 10 and up, but for the workshop (or using the kit with help) younger children will be fascinated as well.

You can’t eat it, but you can definitely cook in it and eat from it, if you made it at Made By Me.  Made By Me has some of the nicest options for pottery pieces to paint.   It turns out, on Monday February 1st you can eat it.  Made By Me is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary with cake and goodies.  There will be surprise specials for all painters (make something for the grandparents for Valentine’s day or plan way ahead for Mother’s day.)  If you can’t make it on Monday, then throughout the month of February, Monday through Friday will be Ten Dollar Days when some of the special, more expensive items will be offered for $10 while supplies last for any given item.  Items will vary throughout the month.

On Valentine’s Day proper, Sunday, February 14, paint with someone you love.  You each buy your item but the painting time will be two for the price of one.  Made by Me will provide the music, ambience, flowers, and even chocolates.  You are on your own for the creativity and affection.  We do enjoy eating our cereal or ice cream out of the hand-painted dishes the children have made at Made by Me.  I expect when they’re in college we’ll appreciate them even more.

Valentine’s Day in Boston With or Without Your Little Cherubs

By Friday will you be in love?  No matter.  You know you’re in love with your children because of everything you put up with.  You know they love you too because otherwise they wouldn’t put you through what they do.

Now that that’s been determined let’s see what you can do this week and weekend to celebrate the love that got you where you are now.

Boston Magazine has a great slide show of options for those of you looking to get out on the town.  From hotel packages, to special dinners at Clink.

If you’re doing a party at home and need some resources you can always get some fun decorations and serving dishes at Target.  I also really like plumparty.com for themed party wards.  Tags in Porter Square also has some great stuff as does China Fair just beyond Porter Square.

Several years ago we had a fun party with cocktails and finger food.  It was our Music and Massage party.  We had instruments out for the children to jam to a cd compilation of kids and grown up music.  We had two massage school students upstairs and the adults took turns getting 30 minute massages.  It was inexpensive and much fun was had.  If you want to celebrate out on the town, at the zoo, or just want to get out of the house to celebrate here are some options.

From Monday through Friday

Salem So Sweet Chocolate & Ice Sculpture Festival
This festival features specials at many local Salem businesses.  The ice sculptures may not be faring well with this weather, but I can guarantee that the chocolate isn’t melting.   While you’re there you can check out Harbor Sweets, recently featured on the Phantom Gourmet.

New Bedford Valentine’s Day Cookie Decorating
I’ll admit I don’t even know where New Bedford is and I certainly have never heard of cookie decorating at the Zoo.  However, if you happen to be heading out to the Buttonwood Park Zoo this week, stop at the Bear’s Den Café for some cookie decorating.  Everyone loves to decorate cookies and most love to eat them too. (If your child has food allergies, be sure to bring a special treat that they can eat after decorating.)

I’m in Love with Chocolate Cocktails (Wednesday)
Well I’m not yet, but I sure could be.  This is the theme for the party at Upstairs on the Square this Wednesday.  Call up a couple of friends and make your reservations for an evening of Chocolate themed cocktails and small plates.  The party begins at 6:30 and is $49.  A bargain if you leave your true love at home with the kids (no sitter to pay) and head out with your friends.

Cupid’s Wine Dinner (Thursday & Friday)
No more whining by Thursday because you can find yourself in the Soirée Room at Upstairs on the Square for Cupid’s Wine Dinner.  Reservations begin at 6:30 and seatings continue throughout the evening.  Thursday there’s no pressure (it’s not the day) you can relax and enjoy a meal of amorous food matched with sensuous wines.  Four delectable courses paired with four wines.  Who do you trust more Cupid or the Sommelier?  On Friday, if Cupid doesn’t perform, head downstairs for the St. Single’s Day party.  This is for singles only.

Step Outside the Box with Chef Maws (All week)
You are invited to celebrate Valentine’s day any day this week at Craigie on Main.  A four-course prix fixe valentine market menu is available for $80.  This meal will be created from the best of what is available in the market that day and includes dessert wine and, for the love of chocolate, a Valrhona hot chocolate.  

It’s Friday I’m in Love

Friday Tea for Two, Four, Six, Eight (Friday and Saturday)
Upstairs on the Square is at it again.  This is a divine and magical place to have tea with your children.  It’s like sitting in the pages of a well-illustrated Alice In Wonderland Book (no Disney need apply).  This is from 3:00 – 5:00 on both Friday and Saturday.  There will be hot chocolate and housemade marshmallows.  The three-tiered Valentine Tea is $28 and a special children’s tea is $15. 

Once, Twice, Three Times a Celebration (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
T.W. Food is celebrating three days of  “St. Valentine”.  There will be two seatings each night and two different menus.  The first menu is four courses for $59.  The second menu is seven courses for $79.  Dishes will include some special locally raised pork, fabulous, seasonal winter citrus, and plenty of local vegetables (yes there are still local vegetables).

If You’re in Love Say OM (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
OM will have an aphrodisiac menu each night with open seatings.  The 5:00 – 6:30 seating is $75.  The 6:30 – 8:30 seating is $95.  After 9:30 is $75.  There will also be specials at the bar including the two person French Kiss cocktail, Om’s twist on a French martini.

Saturday Night Love

Ice Cream Social
This is a fund raiser for the Medford Family Network.  From 2:30 to 4:30 you can bring the family down to the Medford High School Cafeteria for ice cream and entertainment.  It is $5 per person with a maximum of $15 per family.

Valentine’s Day Lunch & Dinner
Upstairs on the Square will be offering a $38 prix-fixe lunch at the Monday Club.  There will also be an $85 prix fixe Valentine’s day dinner ($135 with champagne or wine pairings) in the Monday Club.  In the Soirée dining room there will be a $125 prix fixe Valentine’s day dinner ($185 with pairings)

Sustainable Food Sustainable Love
Craigie on Main has a five course prix fixe at $150 will a wine flight of $50 or wines ordered separately from their wine list.  Vegetarian versions are always available.  I love the new energy at Craigie on Main.  If you haven’t been lately or at all, I recommend getting there at some point soon.  I can’t wait until they are open for lunch and I hope to make it over there for brunch in the some time after February Vacation.  One needs a little incentive to make it to spring!

Sandrine’s St. Valentin
You can celebrate at Sandrine’s with their special Valentine’s day menu or the Valentine’s day prix fixe dinner.  The prix fixe is a three course meal for $58.

Sunday is for Lovers

Sunday Afternoon Tea
The Mass Audubon Society in Canton is having a tea hosted by the Visual Arts Center.  You can relax in the estate house by the fire and enjoy elegant pastries, tasty sandwiches and sip some fine teas.

Bisou, bisou, bisou & Bon appetit. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Upstairs on the Square (Call 617-864-1933 for reservations), T.W. Food (Call 617-864-4745 for reservations),Craigie on Main (Call 617-497-5511 for reservations), OM (Call 617-576-2800 for reservations),Sandrine’s (Call 617-497-5300 for reservations)

Valentine’s Day: May Your Flowers Bloom Not Your Chocolate

For this season of celebrating the things you love, there has to be mention of flowers and chocolate.  I am more a fan of flowers than chocolate.  There is something magical they do for me.  There is nothing better than having fresh flowers on a table or in the bedroom on a dresser or bedside table.  I do like chocolate, but I’m much more a fan of candy and chocolate candy bars than the “real deal” chocolate.

The theme today is blooming.

You want your flowers to bloom when you get home not just in the flower shop.  So I recommend buying flowers that may not look perfect in the flower shop.  Also, ask the florist for recommendations.  I was surprised to learn that some flowers should be put in hot/warm water in their vase.  Finally, for a special bouquet, bring a vessel from home and have the florist make the arrangement for you.

You don’t want your chocolate to bloom.  Bloom is harmless to the chocolate but it takes away the appeal.  Bloom is a harmless white dusting over the chocolate that makes it look like it has gone bad.  It has not.  Most often, bloom happens because the chocolate has been refrigerated.  If you have chocolate that has bloomed, then I recommend using it for chocolate fondue or some other recipe that requires the chocolate to melt.  You can also cut it into little chunks for chocolate chip cookies or to sprinkle over ice cream.

Bon appettit. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Chocolate Fondue (Rachel Ray)

Listen to Your Mother: Hydrate

My mom is the one who taught me to buy a case of water to keep in the back of the car so I would drink enough water.  It usually stayed cool enough in the summer and then when the snow began to fall, I had to stop buying water because it would just freeze.  I used to drink water all the time as a dancer out of habit and necessity, but as a mom I’m constantly pouring myself glasses of water then putting them down because something came up:  diaper change, spilled orange juice, Isabelle did her own eye make-up,  Henry’s on the porch in his socks in December,  and the list goes on.

I am the one who taught my mom that it’s just not good to buy bottled water anymore.  So we have moved on to the Sigg bottles and the  BPA-free Nalgene bottles and the I Am Not a Paper Cup.  Now we fill our re-useable bottles regularly and bring them wherever we go.

Now that I’m on twitter, I have @skinnyjeans to remind me to hydrate.  It really works for me.

Most recently, my mom sent me off a quick email telling me about freezing meat.  What does this have to do with hydration?  Well she has  a great little tip of how to freeze meat so it doesn’t get all dried out (de-hydrated).  I do not like to cook from the freezer.  I go to the freezer for my coffee (yes I know there’s a debate about that), my ice cream (when I give in and buy it), the kids’ Kashi waffles (for breakfast) and my smoothie ingredients.  That is about it.  Every once in a while though I will have some meat that I need to freeze.  My mom’s tip is to marinate the meat in olive oil, season withsea salt and freshly ground black pepper, wrap it in plastic wrap, and seal in a freezer bag.  Then, toss it in the freezer, the olive oil protects the meat from dehydration.

So now you can go hydrate yourself without hurting the planet and freeze your meat in such a way that you won’t mind cooking and eating it at a later date.

Bon appetit et à vôtre santé. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: 10 BPA-free Nalgene Alternatives (The Green Blog), Skinny Jeans Blogs

Citrus: A Little Slice of Sunshine

Citrus is what’s in season.  It is the perfect item to wake up the senses.  The smell of an orange being peeled is intoxicating.  The sound and the feel of an ever so light mist of a lemon being zested is enticing.  The taste of a juicy blood orange is refreshing.  A perfectly sliced and sectioned grapefruit ready for you when you wake up is a simple treat worth waking up for.  My grandmother used to broil her grapefruit with a little sugar and cinnamon.

Bon appetit. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: How to flame a citrus peel (Chowhound),Blood orange vinaigrette (Chowhound), Citrus syrup for soft drinks (Food Network)