Delicious Mexican: Tu Y Yo, Somerville

17 Aug

When a Mexican colleague recommended Tu Y Yo, my boyfriend and I knew we had to try it. On a Sunday night, the place was not nearly full, but it sounded like several patrons were regulars. Don’t let the plain decor fool you – this place serves seriously great-tasting food.

Tu Y Yo - empanadas - plantain turnovers filled with cheeseWe started with the empanadas – three hot plantain turnovers, crispy on the outside, their sweetness balanced by the gooey cheese inside. We shied away from the empanadas de chicharron de chapulin – turnovers filled with fried grasshoppers. I’m not that adventurous…. but the fact that they’re on the menu kind of validated the restaurant’s authenticity for me.

Tu Y Yo - tamalesThe tamale appetizer came with one chicken, one corn, one coconut, one fish, and one pork tamale, each stuffed into corn dough, and wrapped and steamed in banana leaves. I couldn’t pick out my favourite – they were all so good!

Tu Y Yo - salmonFor our entrees, my boyfriend ordered the pan fried Atlantic salmon in a creamy guajillo sauce with fantastic chipotle-potato and shrimp cakes. I couldn’t stop myself from stealing bites of those shrimp cakes.

Tu Y Yo- Chile Relleno En NogadaI had the chile relleno – a mild poblano pepper stuffed with ground beef, almonds, raisins, peaches and cheese, covered in a creamy and nutty sauce with pomegranate seeds and cilantro.

IMAG2642Everything is delicious here, including the black beans and rice!

Tu Y Yo - avocado cheesecakeThe avocado cheesecake was a unique dessert. It’s a creamy pie on a crunchy graham-cracker crust, topped with crushed pistachios. I must admit, I found it a bit difficult to taste the avocado.

The Final Word: Appetizers and entrees shine with layers of flavour at Tu Y Yo. This is absolutely fantastic Mexican cuisine in a modest but friendly atmosphere.

Info: Tu Y Yo, 858 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02144 USA

Tu Y Yo on Urbanspoon

Mission: Trying All the KIND Bars

9 Aug IMAG2490

Finally, I’ve discovered my favorite protein snack – KIND nut bars! The wrapper has a clear window so you can see exactly what’s inside, matching their clever motto, “Ingredients you can see and pronounce.”

IMAG2527When I discovered that my workplace subsidizes healthy snacks, I made it my mission to try every flavor of Kind bar that could be found in the cafeteria. Actually, it pretty soon became an obsession. I went from buying one or two bars at a time to stockpiling Kind bars to last me for the next two weeks.

IMAG2506Above: Blueberry Pecan

I ended up trying 14 kinds of Kind bars – that’s not nearly all the flavours out there, but after about 10 weeks of trips to the cafeteria, I seemed to have exhausted the workplace selection. It turns out that not all Kind Bars are created equal. Some are more delicious than others, but at the expense of higher sugar content. If you’re looking for more protein, you might prefer some flavours over others. Like a true geek, I’ve ranked the Kind bars using bar charts so you can pick the best for yourself. (Yes I know, I’m so clever).

This chart shows bars arranged from the highest protein content to the lowest (in grams), with sugar shown in the red bars. If you’re looking for the most protein, the Almond Walnut Macadamia bar is the way to go. This was actually one of my favorite bars. It’s not too sweet, with big pieces of macadamia nuts and almonds, and a good amount of honey.

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Below: Close-up of Dark Chocolate Nuts and Sea Salt – This is a perfect alternative to a chocolate bar. It’s chocolatey and very nutty, with a hint of sea salt.IMAG2512

This chart shows arranges Kind bars from lowest sugar content to the highest (grams).

KindBar-Sugar

Below: Almond Cashew with Flax – there are whole flax seeds here, which unfortunately, often go undigested in your body. Waving the word “flax” around is just a marketing ploy here. (You’re better off buying some ground flaxseed and putting it in your breakfast.)

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Perhaps most importantly, here are Kind bars arranged from most to least delicious. I rated each Kind bar on a scale from 1 (least delicious) to 5 (most delicious). For a given deliciousness rating, it’s easy to pick out the bar with the most protein and less sugar. From the set of most delicious bars (Deliciousness rating of 5), the Almond Walnut Macadamia bar is pretty good. The Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew however, while it’s my favourite bar taste-wise, packs 14g of sugar, the highest of the bunch I tried. It also had the least amount of protein (4g). It’s still better than chowing down on a Snickers bar of course (27 grams of sugar in a regular size bar), but it’s definitely not a particularly healthy snack. The Almond Cashew with Flax ranks below average on the Protein and Sugar charts, and it’s low on the Deliciousness chart, so why bother? Pick something else to nosh on. The Cashew and Ginger Spice bar, while low in sugar, tastes like a mouthful of ginger.

KindBar-DeliciousThe Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate bar tastes like a Snickers bar, but waaaay better. The Madagascar Vanilla Almond is great if you’re looking for something less sweet. It’s also a great one to take along if you’re traveling, because it’s less sticky than others, and it has no chocolate that can melt everywhere. Peanut Butter and Strawberry tastes just like a PB & J, the Almond and Apricot tastes like a Chinese bakery bun, with lots of coconut, and Apple Cinnamon Pecan is like an apple cobbler in bar form.

Below: Almond Walnut Macadamia bar IMAG2469

How do Kind bars compare to other brand? I also tried a thinkThin Crunch bar – the Caramel Chocolate Dipped Mixed Nuts tastes like a sinful treat thought it has only 6g of sugar. However, it’s less nutty than Kind bars – soy crisps come first on the ingredients list, and I would describe this as a soy crisp-peanut-almond bar coated in caramel.

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It’s been a couple months since my mission began, and I’m still addicted. It’s hard not to have a Kind bar a day. Actually, every wrapper is printed on the back with “A study by the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center indicates that eating 2 KIND bars a day helps prevent weight gain.” That’s a lot of nut bars per day – I’m not there yet!

Foolproof: Steamed Lobster

2 Aug

Summertime means lobster time! And while you can pay a pretty penny for a whole steamed lobster at a restaurant, you can cook them cheaply at home.  Steaming lobster is so easy, it’s almost impossible to mess up.

IMG_7744You don’t need a fancy lobster pot with a spigot. Just get a pot large enough to hold your lobsters without crowding them. I place a stainless steel steamer rack stand at the bottom of my pot, so that the lobsters sit above the water while they steam.

Steaming Lobster 101

  1. Add 1-2 inches of salted water to the pot. Ensure that the water level remains below the steamer rack stand.
  2. Bring the water to a rolling boil over high heat.
  3. Put the lobsters in, one at a time. Cover the pot and start your timer. The times below correspond to the weight of individual lobsters, not the total weight of all lobsters in the pot. I got these times from http://www.lobsterfrommaine.com, which is a great resource with information on selecting, storing, cooking, and eating lobster.
If the lobster weighs: Steam:
1 pound 10 minutes
1-1/4 pounds 12 minutes
1-1/2 pounds 14 minutes
1-3/4 pounds 16 minutes
2 pounds 18 minutes
2-1/2 pounds 22 minutes
3 pounds 25-30 minutes
5 pounds 40-45 minutes

I usually buy lobsters that weigh between 1 1/4 and 1 1/2 pounds and steaming them according to the chart above has always produced perfect results. 

The lobsters are fully cooked when their entire shells are bright red, with no blackish areas.

 

Amazing food abroad: Madame Janette’s, Aruba

27 Jul Madame Janette's

Ask anyone where to eat in Aruba, and Madame Janette’s will likely be on the list. It’s not a place you need to try once if you take a trip to Aruba…. You’ll want to go back a second time. (Yes, we did go twice, during our 8-day trip to Aruba. They were perfect as our first and last dinners on the island).

Madame Janette's - bread and pickled onionsFrom the high-rise hotels in Palm Beach, Madame Janette’s is only a 10-minute taxi ride away. The restaurant’s large patio, lit up with strings of coloured lights, glows in the middle of a quiet residential area. The atmosphere is amazing whether you’re sitting out on the terrace under the lights around the little gazebo where a guitarist plays all evening, or on the covered deck area around the terrace.

Each meal kicks off with a basket of soft garlicky bread, served with garlic butter and pickled onions. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the bread basket – this is really yummy bread!

Madame Janette's - Hungarian Goulash SoupHungarian Goulash Soup

Madame Janette's - Kasi’s ChorizosKasi’s Chorizos 

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Above: Madame’s Termidor Gratin – chunks of lobster and shrimp gratinated with spinach and Gouda cheese. It’s definitely one of the heavier appetizers, but great for sharing.

Another big draw at Madame Janette’s is the extensive beer list – at least sixty bottles, about half of which are Belgian beers. Whether you want a Belgian Trappist beer, a German wiessbier, the original Czech Budvar, or something from San Francisco, Madame Janette’s has it, and serves it with the proper glass.

Below: The Old Butcher Steak – cooked to a perfect medium-rare as my husband requested. The almond mashed potatoes on top were a terrific twist.

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