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The Hungry Mouse is a Boston-based food blog packed with recipes, articles on cooking, product and restaurant reviews, and shopping.

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5 Spice Merchants To Try

Recently, The Angry Chef and I went on a spice hunt. We headed out to Penzey's Spices in the sleepy town of Arlington, MA. We've relied on them for spices—first by catalog, then online, and now in person—for years now.

Penzey's quality is always top notch. The prices are decent. Their selection is huge. And they make a few custom blends that we really like.

Their Northwoods Seasoning—an almost-all-purpose blend of salt, paprika, black pepper, thyme, rosemary, garlic, and chipotle—has been a staple in our kitchen for quite some time. For a five-alarm version, try the Northwoods Fire. I also have yet to find better prices for high-quality Madagascar vanilla beans (3 for $7.25) around Boston.

All that said, I started to wonder how other spice shops might compare and decided to do a little investigating.

Here are five I'd like to try.
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Sweet & Sunny Lemon Drop Liquor

Apparently, this weekend is cocktail weekend.

Contrary to yesterday's Bee's Kiss, though, my Lemon Drop liquor is light and refreshing. It's a great late-summer-lazy-day-sitting-in-the-yard-waiting-for-the-barbecue-to-be-done kind of drink. If you start a bottle early this week, it'll be ready in plenty of time for your Labor Day festivities.
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One Bee's Kiss, Please. Hold the Stinger.

I couldn't tell you why, but I'm dying for a cocktail tonight.

Not a glass of wine. Not an old standby like a martini or a bourbon, straight up. I'm in the mood for something a little fancy, a little girly, and definitely a little bit sweet. On evenings like this, when I'm feeling indulgent and just a tiny bit poofy, a drink like the Bee's Kiss is just what I'm after.

The name alone makes me happy just to say it.
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How to Cook All the Meat That's Fit to Eat

Ah, meat. This is one of my favorite topics—and things to cook. Apologies in advance to all my vegetarian friends. I just can't help myself.

So, when I ask my friends what they have the most trouble cooking, the answer will very likely be: "Meat!" (Or, "Steak!" or "Veal!") Sometimes it's, "I can't grill pork chops. They always dry out, no matter what I do." Or, "Every time I roast a chicken, it's burnt on the outside and raw on the inside."

The most important thing I've learned over the years is to match meat to cooking technique. Try to sear a brisket then serve it, and it's going to be tough. Give it lots of slow, long heat, and it'll melt in your mouth.

The first thing I tell my friends is, "When you buy your meat, ask your butcher how to cook it." Followed by, "Do a little reading."

The good news is, there are a lot of great cookbooks about meat. They're well organized, easy to read, and make it easy to find the info you need. For quick online info, Lobel's of New York is encyclopedic in its information.

Here's a quick overview of some of my all-time favorite cookbooks—along with a few that are still on my shopping list.
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Sesame Garlic Snap Pea Salad

I've had a lot of requests for this lately when we have a barbecue. The crisp beans are a refreshing balance for smoky, spicy pork ribs or a perfectly charred sirloin.

The toasty sesame dressing gets its sweetness from a drizzle of seasoned rice wine vinegar—and of course, from the peas themselves. Turkish Aleppo chili flakes add a tiny bit of bite, but not too much heat.
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Lemony-Glazed Cream Cheese Cookies

In our house, we make these cookies around Christmas, but they're great year round. They're soft and sweet—and slightly tangy. This recipe is a family heirloom. (I actually called my mother to ask for permission to share it with you. No joke.)

You'll need a standard cookie press to make them. If you don't have a stand mixer for the first part, a hand-held one will work just as well.Read moreCollapse )

Fiery Tomato Salad

So it finally stopped raining in Boston. While the rain's been bad for just about everyone and everything lately, my veggies have been loving it. I have more peppers and tomatoes than I know what to do with.

Here's a quick and easy chopped salad that goes really well with a grilled steak and a glass of sangria. Using a few different types of peppers lets you add lots of peppery flavor—and control the amount of heat.


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A Little Bit of Salem in North End

What's an Irish pub like Goody Glover's doing on the edge of Boston's Italian North End? Serving absolutely amazing drinks and fat, juicy burgers, that’s what.

After our adventure through Boston's Haymarket open air market yesterday, the Lady Otter and I needed a little refreshment. She suggested Goody Glover's, and I'm so glad she did. It's one of her favorite places, and it may just be one of mine now, too.

Named after the last woman to be hanged as a witch in Boston, the inside architecture alone is worth a visit. With prime real estate on the corner of Salem Street, one of the North End's main drags, they also have one of the key draws to Boston summer dining: a patio. But since it was a pretty steamy day, we headed inside to escape the heat.


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A Photo Tour: Boston's Legendary Haymarket

It's way too hot out. The Lady Otter and I are wading through a crowd, weaving under awnings and past overflowing stalls. It's like a cross between a narrow Tokyo market street and the New York Stock Exchange.

It's dirty and loud. People are yelling. At each other. At the crowd. At us. Customers are bartering in two or three different languages.

Welcome to Boston's Haymarket, an outdoor market where you can get everything from grapes to goat meat—and just about anything you can imagine in between. It's closer to strolling through an open-air bazaar in Calcutta than down the aisles of your local Whole Foods. Sometimes the sights and smells are divine, and other times, they can be a little scary. Regardless, it's always an adventure, and you never know what you're going to find.
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How to Make a Proper Mint Julep

All that talk about cocktail gear a few days ago started to make my mouth water for a juicy cocktail or two to toast the end of summer.

Now, it's been raining in Boston for weeks, and my mint patch is absolutely thriving. This means one thing: It's the perfect time for mint juleps.

My dear friend the Lady Otter reminded me of this fabulous drink when she asked me to plant some mint for her at the beginning of the summer. She brought me two tiny Kentucky Colonel Mint plants, the traditional mint used in this cocktail. In the last few months, they've taken over the front yard:


So, what exactly is a julep?
A julep is a cocktail with liquor and sugar, served with ice and garnished with mint. So, while most folks are familiar with the mint julep, this means that the ubiquitous mojito that we all started drinking with abandon a few years ago is also a julep, made with rum.

Juleps are said to have originated in the South and are drunk at the Kentucky Derby. They're traditionally served in silver or pewter cups, or more popularly in a collins glass.

Mint juleps are refreshing and dangerously easy to drink. Here's how to make one. (Or two, or three...)
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