Sunday, November 13, 2011
Friday, November 04, 2011
1) The weathermen up here are legit. If they say it is going to snow in October, then it is going to snow in October. Even if a borderline for the snowfall is mentioned (as in “we may be on the line for some snowfall”) that should be understood as “get ready for three inches of snow.” If only they were this good with hurricane strength predictions.
2) Evidently there are different types of snow. In NC, when a forecaster mentioned snow, I would immediately stop listening and stare at the sky in anticipation of the appearance of any white substance. It is so abundant up here that they categorize. This one was classified as ‘big and wet’ which I was excited about because I was expecting dog-like kisses falling on my head. Which leads me to my third realization . . .
3) It is perfectly acceptable to use your umbrella in a snow storm. I went out without one in order to get the full effect of the dog-like kisses and instead, returned a drenched mess. Note to self - see realization #1 about the validity of weathermen. Big and wet means big and wet. I will take my umbrella next time.
4) Halloween in NYC is still awesome with street-organized trick or treat routes of which you can opt in or out (Sadly we had none since they politely told us we were not needed after hearing we were on the 5th floor --I thought kids needed to be more active these days!) and various monsters/princesses/etc. riding on the subway as they head to various Halloween parties. Good luck determining if those green and red striped tights with the red heels on the 20-something next to you are part of a Halloween costume or just part of their Monday attire.
5) Shops give out candy! Kids go from the deli to the food stand guy to the pet store to pick up candy. I got a mini-Snickers bar from my cleaners! I would have preferred a 40% discount but I’ll take what I can get.
6) Evidently Halloween is one of my husband’s favorite holidays (I never thought to ask him this fact) and my plan to stay in and watch Twilight together was grudgingly accepted. So next year we are dressing up as Wall Street protesters and hitting the Village. I promise.
From Real Simple
Friday, October 21, 2011
Thursday, October 06, 2011
One of the (many) amazing things about living in NYC is being exposed to an unprecedented amount of culture oftentimes at minimal cost to your pocketbook and sometimes at no cost. For instance, this weekend held the New York Food & Wine Festival, the New York Musical Theatre Festival and the New York Film Festival. If you lived within 12 subway stops of any of these places and complained that you were bored you should be ashamed. I, on the other hand, quickly realized I would not be able to go to a symposium on meatballs, see a musical version of Pride and Prejudice and stalk the celebrities in town for the film festival in one weekend – there just weren’t enough hours in the day. So I had to choose.
Luckily, Robbie and I live a mere twenty blocks from Lincoln Center and the proximity made my decision easier. On Tuesday and Wednesday nights we strolled down to the new film theatre at the Lincoln Center to listen to two different panels of screenwriters all of whom live in New York (this tends to be an anomaly as most screenwriters are based in LA). We heard the writer of Working Girl, Meet the Parents, Spiderman, Jurassic Park, American Splendor and Black Swan (just to name a few) and they all talked about their love of New York City -- albeit the gritty side of it which seemed to be their favorite part.
I, on the other hand (again), like to think I live in the New York of Carrie Bradshaw, shopping for Louboutin’s and having brunch every day while not gaining a pound. I do not find intriguing the life of Travis Bickle as he traversed the NY streets at dark and befriended a child prostitute. The reality is that I live in neither of these worlds. I may catch a glimpse of these various segments of New York City living but in reality, living in New York is pretty much the same as if I was still in North Carolina – just with mass transit and no personal space.
That’s where this recipe comes into the picture – it’s a little rough around the edges. Some people won’t like it. It is probably an acquired taste but it is easy enough to make for Carrie and company and comforting enough for the loneliest of taxi drivers.
Egg and Kielbasa, Open-faced
Adapted from the New York Times
1 pound kielbasa (salami or corned beef will work too -- could this be more New York-ish?)
*I made this in portions. It's pretty easy to throw together depending upon how many you serve. For the two of us I did 1/2 the kielbasa and 4 eggs and then made the second 1/2 later in the week.
Slice kielbasa and saute in a little oil. Break the eggs in a bowl and beat them as if you were making scrambled eggs. Add the eggs to the saute pan and scramble along with the kielbasa. Serve atop slices of rye bread that have been spread with Dijon mustard.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
While in Chinatown, you can’t miss the many markets with fresh produce, fish (real fresh . . .), meat and other groceries. Right beyond the corner of Canal and Bowery is where I found one of these and bought the ingredients for this dish. The special ingredients specific to Chinese cooking would have been much more had I gone to my go-to Upper West Side market but there, in Chinatown, they were cents instead of dollars. And I was able to bring a little bit of the Orient uptown . . .
Kung Pao Chicken
Adapted from My Recipes
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 cups broccoli florets
1 tablespoon ground fresh ginger, divided
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts on the thin side or pummeled to a thinner cut; cut into 1/4-inch strips
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped salted peanuts
Get the brown rice going according to the instructions on the box. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add broccoli and 2 teaspoons ginger to pan; sauté about one minute. Add water (I ended up adding a bit more than two tablespoons as you can tell from my pictures – don’t let the miniscule amount concern you). Cover; cook 2 minutes or until broccoli is crisp-tender. Remove broccoli from pan..
Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in pan; add remaining 1 teaspoon ginger, crushed red pepper, and chicken. Cook 4 minutes or until chicken is lightly browned, stirring frequently.
Combine broth and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl, and stir with a whisk. Add broth mixture to pan; cook 1 minute or until mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Return broccoli mixture to pan; toss to coat. Sprinkle with peanuts and serve over brown rice.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
In these past thirty days I have celebrated a birthday, experienced an earthquake on the 18th floor of a high rise, scared my mother to death by calling her and exclaiming “Mom, you aren’t going to believe this! We just had an earthquake!” and educated my co-workers on the proper Hurricane preparation techniques North Carolinians get used to (fill the tub with water, buy bottled water and stock up on non-perishables like apples, boxed milk, Fig Newton’s and M & M’s.) I have explored several neighborhoods in Brooklyn, checked out a local comedy club on a Saturday night and had my fair share of New York style cheese pizza.
And now the summer is winding down. The day after tomorrow is September 1st and you can already feel that crispness in the air. The breeze off of the river is much chillier than it was two weeks ago and the leaves that Irene left on our trees will inevitably start showing a tinge of Autumn soon. But what a summer it has been. To celebrate the winding down of the past few months, I decided to send Summer off with one more peachy-keen dish. Literally. This dish was a simple, light and delicious dessert that I will plan on having again – only for breakfast. Because I like to pretend I’m adult enough to have a fruit dessert but in reality I just want a giant hot fudge sundae with sprinkles and will save my sophisticated fruit concoctions for a time more appropriate for those ingredients – like breakfast.
Adapted from Weight Watchers
1/4 cups low fat cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons reduced fat sour cream
1 tablespoon honey (I would increase this -- or at least add an extra drizzle once the dish is plated. You can never have too much honey.)
3 peaches, pitted and halved
Heat a grill pan (or a regular grill if you live in more than a ten by ten foot space and have the luxury of an outdoor space) and spray with cooking spray. Place peaches cut-side down until marked. (Mine never got marked and I kept them on there a couple of minutes. But they were still sweet and delicious.) While peaches are grilling, mix cream cheese, sour cream and honey in a bowl until smooth. Place cooked peaches on a platter, cut side up. Garnish with a spoonful of the cheese mixture and drizzle with extra honey.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Now, about those inconveniences . . . Our brownstone, which is broken up into several apartments, was built in 1900. There is a beautiful wooden staircase that goes up the center of the building, lifting its residents to their respective floors. It’s very Edith Wharton-like. Unfortunately, we are on the 5th floor. That’s right, don't let the apartment number 1E fool you. At least once a day, I travel up five flights of stairs to get to my apartment, inevitably remember an errand I forgot to run, turn around, sulk down the stairs, run the errand, and return – for another 5-flight walk. At least we won’t have many visitors. Or robbers.
It turns out, unsurprisingly, that FedEx, USPS, and UPS all dislike residents living on the fifth floor of walk ups and conspire to make it an act of Congress to get any item of mail bigger than our 4 x 12 inch mail box/cubby hole delivered. Currently, FedEx holds our new router after an ‘unsuccessful’ delivery on Friday and USPS is holding, since Thursday, the microwave we bought after an ‘insufficient address’ claim. I think it was a ‘no-way-am-I-walking-up-5-flights-of-stairs’ excuse but that was not an option in the electronic thing they carry around. Alas, several calls later and trips to the local FedEx store we still do not have our respective items but we remain optimistic that this week will bring success. And clarity as to how you actually get packages delivered in NYC.
Orzo, Zucchini and Shrimp Salad
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Coarse Salt and Pepper
1 cup orzo
1 tbs. + 1 tsp. olive oil, divided
2 med. zucchini, quartered and chopped
1 minced garlic clove
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
1 to 2 tbs. white wine vinegar
1 pound of salad ready shrimp (already cooked)
Cooke orzo according to the package instructions. Allow to cool. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add zucchini and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally until crisp-tender, about 4 to 6 minutes. Add shrimp and stir for another minute or two. Transfer orzo to a medium bowl, add zucchini mixture, basil, vinegar and remaining teaspoon of oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Makes four servings.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Last week, Robbie scoured Manhattan for an apartment that we will call home in less than two weeks. In the midst of a very hectic time for him, he did this for us. And I am eternally grateful.
He has dealt with my requirements and gently explained that most of my deal-breakers don’t exist (central air, a built in shoe rack, etc.) and that we should really focus on logistics (is there laundry nearby, does it allow diabetic cats, etc.). His patience is commendable and there is a blessing in disguise that he is doing this without me. He will not have to deal with me over-analyzing every place we see and he is more of a city boy than I am a city girl so knows when a place is good and when it is not. I tend to get distracted by charming details that may be a nuisance in the end, ie, I love that there is a roman column in the middle of the living room – that will add such character to the place!
Nevertheless this is a very exciting next step for us. After celebrating the fact that we will be living in the same city for the first time since 2008, we are now celebrating finding our own place. In this place we will greet each other after long days at work, relax on Sunday afternoons with NFL football (pending lockout), bring our first Christmas tree home (even if it is 12 inches tall), watch our first New York snowfall, complain about our sixteenth New York snow fall, watch hours of Duke basketball, enjoy the Spring thawing the city undergoes and anticipate the heating up of the summer months until we can celebrate our one-year-together-in-an-apartment anniversary.
Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from the Bon Appetit Cookbook
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Using a mixer, beat the butter, peanut butter and vanilla in a larger bowl until well blended. Beat in both sugars, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Stir in half of the flour mixture and add an egg until incorporated. Add the second egg and blend before adding the remainder of the flour. Roll 1 heaping tablespoonful of dough into uniform balls. Arrange them on baking sheets and use the back of a fork to flatten the balls and form the crosshatch design. Bake until dry on top, about 14 minutes. Cook cookies on the sheets for 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. If the cookies are hard the next day, heat them up for 12 seconds. Makes about 48 cookies.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Pizza Dough (makes a 10-12 inch pizza)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces goat cheese, not crumbled, the kind in the tube
Few leaves of fresh basil, cut into thin slivers
1 medium squash
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Happy Father’s Day! My dad and I are scarily similar (check out my Ode to Dad on this post.). No surprise then that we appreciate the same things in life – playing a hand of solitaire to relieve stress, the art of attracting birds to the backyard by using an array of bird feeders, a love for animals, an appreciation of common sense and the knowledge that we have more than anyone else (j/k . . . sort of . . .) and how, if you commit to something, you commit to it 100%. Nothing less, Dad, nothing less.
Dad’s always a comfort to me because I know if I need anything, I just have to ask. That’s what makes comfort foods such a favorite of mine too. The emotional satisfaction I get from comfort foods is a guarantee – just like Dad’s support during a challenging time. Although Dad's comforting ways are year round, it is harder to have comforting foods in the summer when you are tempted with all the fresh fruits and veggies. I do love farmer’s markets though. And I do love the taste of fresh green beans as opposed to canned green beans. And I do love how I drive by about six produce stands on my way home that are brimming with goods. I should clarify that my definition of produce stand includes anything resembling a lean-to to a slab of plywood on two cinder blocks. Folks are quite resourceful on Highway 16.
That being said, I am slightly excited that the first day of summer is next week which means the days start getting shorter which means cooler weather (and Christmas!) won’t be too terribly far behind. I know, I know. This is wishing my life away. But, wow, when I see 95+ degrees on more than four days of a seven-day-weather-outlook, I start to get annoyed. That is exactly why I stay inside in the summer and don’t take the time to enjoy those cute produce stands. I can’t surround myself in a 68-degree bubble like, say, the interior of my car, while I sort through some heirloom tomatoes.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 cup pearl barley
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup small pasta (I used Macaroni)
Heat oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until deep brown, about 15 minutes. Add barley and stir 30 seconds. Add mushrooms; sauté until barley browns and mushrooms begin to soften. Mine took about 4 minutes. Add broth; bring mixture to boil (which was pretty immediate for me). Cover pan, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until barley is tender and broth is absorbed, about 25 minutes. While mixture is simmering, cook pasta according to the directions on the box. Drain pasta when cooked al dente. Mix pasta into barley once barley has absorbed the broth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 6 good-sized servings.
Saturday, May 07, 2011
Mom. The sound of that word brings an immediate release of stress to my life. If mom is around, I know things are going to be ok. If mom is on the phone, I know whatever problem I have will be worked out. If mom is ok, then I am ok.
I made my mom these sugar cookies – classic, sophisticated and comforting. Just like Mom. My mom is a retired teacher and guidance counselor who now does full-time counseling for a living. Yet she always has time to teach and counsel me and for that I am eternally grateful. She’s the shoulder I lean on after a bad day, the first person I call when I’m off of work for the evening, and my first lifeline I turn to if I need some advice.
To all you mothers out there – thanks for all you have done, continue to do, and will do for the livelihood of your kids. Thanks also for the many things you forbid us from doing and will discourage us from doing in the future because odds are, you know what’s best for us. And thanks for being there when we don’t heed your advice and have something broken, hurt, or lost due to our ‘independence.’
A plate of sugar cookies may not mean much but I imagine no gift in this world could represent the gratitude kids have for their mothers. I know it doesn’t in my case. So I just thank God for her every day.
I love you Mom. Thanks for always being my biggest fan.
Adapted from Charlotte Cooks Again (I halved the original recipe amounts and played with my ration of sugar to powdered sugar due to a shortage of the former.)
1 stick butter
¼ cup sugar
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 well beaten egg
½ tsp. salt
½ cup oil
½ tsp. vanilla
2 cups + 2 tablespoons flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp cream of tartar
turbinado, sprinkles or colored sugar for sprinkling
Cream butter and both sugars. Add eggs and salt – mix well. Add the oil and vanilla. Mix well. Sift the flour, baking soda soda and cream of tartar and add to first mixture. Mix well. Drop teaspoons of dough on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten with either a glass or the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with colored sugar or, as I did, with turbinado sugar. Cook for about 11 minutes in a 350 degree oven. This recipe made about 3 dozen cookies.
Friday, April 29, 2011
I have now been up since 3:55 in the morning and I am still watching coverage of the Royal Wedding. And I continue to try and figure out how to incorporate the words 'betwixt' and 'troth' in my daily vocabulary.
It took me about three days after Prince William and Catherine announced their engagement to decide to take off work on the day of their wedding. It took about two more days to confirm that I would spend the morning watching TV and enjoying a real British breakfast. It took about two seconds - after Googling "English Breakfast" - that I decided I should rethink this plan since baked beans and toast are not as refined as I was hoping.
Then, it was announced that the wedding would begin at 11 am. London time. I admit, after doing the math, I thought that this fun-filled plan might not be the best idea. But no, as a real-life-princess (Just ask my father. And Robbie. They will confirm my status.), I had to stay committed to the future Princess Catherine. So, I roped my parents into going to the beach for a long weekend for our own celebration (Robbie, meanwhile, is studying copyrights, securities regulations and other fun topics). We had English muffins, tea, strawberries and cream* and of course, scones. As I understand it, British scones tend to be dainty and petite and include something healthy like dried fruit and lemon zest. In light of this, I Americanized them by tripling their size and filling them with chocolate.
*A note on strawberries and cream. If you have never had strawberries and cream, you must go to the store immediately, pick up some heavy cream, slice some strawberries and have a bowl. Now I understand what all the fuss is about at Wimbledon. The sweet strawberries combined with the rich cream create this thick, delicious bowl of richness. It makes anyone feel like royalty. And will make you wonder why anyone would have 2% milk when you can have 36%.
Giant Dark Chocolate Chip Scones
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
3¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups (about 12-oz) package dark chocolate chips
2 cups chilled heavy cream (may need an additional splash of cream)
melted butter for brushing on top
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Stir together flour, ½ a cup of sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl (make sure it’s a fairly large bowl and, ideally, a little shallower than normal so you can do all of the kneading, flattening and cutting in one place). Pour cream into flour mixture, stirring just until ingredients are moistened. Add a bit more if needed to completely incorporate the flour. At this point, you can turn the mixture out onto a floured surface and knead gently. I did this in the same bowl, kneading for about two minutes with flour-dusted hands until a soft dough forms. Flatten the ball into a circle and cut into 8 triangles. Transfer triangles to prepared baking sheet. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with additional sugar. Bake about 40 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm.