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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Yogurt with Banana Chips

After going on a run this morning I desperately needed some breakfast to replenish all the energy I had just exerted. I went with yogurt because it is just about the easiest thing to eat. I tried to mix it up by using cultured coconut milk but if I'm being honest I didn't taste much of difference from regular yogurt. That meant it was a slight disappointment for me but a huge win for lactose intolerant folks. What did make my yogurt a little different was my use of banana chips as a topping. It gives you the crunch you normally achieve with granola but with a whole new flavor. Just crush them up a bit and sprinkle atop your favorite yogurt and you've got yourself a quick and easy breakfast. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Snickity Snack: Endive Dippers

After my curried yogurt with beet and sweet potato chip post, I decided there was a hole in my food blogging.  I post big dishes all the time but I rarely ever write about snacks.  We all indulge in 'tween the meal munching but there's usually little variation.  I, myself, am partial to white cheddar Pirate's Booty or Trader Joe's herb popcorn.  Eating the same thing all the time gets boring and that's a problem because the moment you get bored you stop being satisfied.  That means you'll go through the entire family size bag of Pirate's Booty before your craving is curbed.  I'm not assuming that will happen.  It actually has me...last week.  That's why I'm introducing a new monthly feature: Snickity Snack.  Every month I'll show you a new snack to mix up your snacking routine.

The first installment of this feature is what I like to call endive dippers.  Endive lettuce leaves are perfect little boats that are firm enough at the core to hold just about anything you want to throw in there.  They are the Fritos or Tostitos Soops of the vegetable world.  I like dipping them in hummus (shown here is Trader Joe's edamame hummus one of my two faves - the other is Whole Foods' jalapeno hummus).  After scooping up some dip, I add a few pistachios for extra crunch.  This is the type of snack that will keep you fully satisfied between meals without an iota of guilt.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Taquito-lada Casserole

I've been looking for a good enchilada casserole recipe for a while but even the easiest ones seemed to take a little too long for a weeknight meal.  I didn't want to have to cook the meat first, then assemble, and then start cooking the whole thing in the oven.  Thankfully, Trader Joe's had me covered.  I found this recipe for taquito-lada casserole on their website and used it as my base.  I added a few extras to make it a bit heartier.

After layering their frozen beef taquitos in a dish, I added a can of black beans because I figured whatever meat was inside the taquitos would be on the minimal side and I wanted some extra protein.  Then I poured a bottle of enchilada sauce over the top (I love that this sauce comes bottled!).  Just before covering the whole thing with cheese, I added fire roasted green chiles for some sweet heat.  The assembly took a total of 5 minutes and the whole thing is only sitting in the oven (at 425) for 20 minutes.  Once it comes out, I strongly suggest adding a dollop of sour cream to the top.  If you don't have a Trader Joe's (and therefore no access to their taquitos, I suggest layering shredded rotisserie chicken on the bottom, top with corn tortillas, and then layer the rest as described above.

Mexican take-out is never as good as going to a restaurant, but I just can't be going out to eat all the time during the week - I don't have the dinero.  This is the perfect way to enjoy Mexican flavors at home during the week for little money and - even better - little clean-up.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

3 on Thursday

I try very hard to keep Passover every year.  Giving up all bread products is easy now that gluten free is such a trend, but the hard part for me is keeping the kosher rules that apply year-round (no mixing meat and dairy, no pork, and no shellfish).  I just feel weird keeping the Passover part of kosher without the regular part of kosher.  It's kind of like smoking a cigarette while also being hooked up to an oxygen tank for lung cancer.  So basically I go from zero to kosher for 8 days.  My Passover rules aren't for everyone but they work for me so that's that.  I may do it, but I haaaate it.  It is hard to give up bacon or never putting a cream sauce on your chicken.  But if it was easy it wouldn't serve as the reminder of my heritage that I need it to be.  It was tough, but a few things helped me through:
Background: Can't believe I found Girl Scouts pounding the pavement in the middle of NYC!  Now that Passover is over I can finally eat my favorite Tagalongs.

  1. Albert and I went to Boston last weekend to spend Easter with his sister and brother-in-law.  We stayed til Monday evening so we could watch the marathon, which was particularly impactful the year after the bombing.  We saw the city and country come together to show they were #bostonstrong and would not be held down after an attack.  We stationed ourselves right at the last mile and were able to see thousands of emotional people pushing themselves to the finish line.  We even saw runners come to the aid of a man whose legs wore out and carry him nearly a mile to the finish. 
  2. Our Easter was not exactly conventional.  (Fine by me since I'm Jewish.)  We didn't go to mass like Albert always did in his Catholic upbringing, but we did have brunch and spent a lot of time with family and that's the important part.
  3. One restaurant we went to in the Somerville area of Boston had a great pair of legs hanging off the wall.  It was so random and reminded me of the leg lamp in A Christmas Story.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Book Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Jamie Ford's Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet travels back in time to "The War Years," as Henry, the main character, calls them.  He was born and raised in Seattle; however, he is clearly Chinese, which makes him the recipient of endless taunting by his fellow students at the white prep school he attends on scholarship.  Though the Japanese are America's enemy in 1942, the other students only see "Asian" and Henry leads a life that is lonely but for the Jazz he discovers through a street saxophone player.

Though he, too, was raised by his traditional Chinese father to hate the Japanese, he soon forms a friendship with a new Japanese scholarship student, Keiko.  As outsiders in their school, they cling to each other for support.  Friendship turns into an innocent courtship and they vow to wait for each other, even after Keiko's family is moved to an internment camp.  It seems they could beat prejudice against all odds, but the book's shift to 1986 where Henry is mourning the death of his wife, Ethel, indicates they drifted apart.

Based on how much he hurts when his wife dies and his pride in their son, it is clear Henry went on to live a fulfilling life.  But even still, when he sees on tv that the Panama Hotel in old Japantown has been bought and hoards of belongings from evacuated Japanese families are discovered in the basement, he is drawn to the building to see if he can find what was lost to him 40 years ago.

Though there is a young romance in the works, this is less about love and more about hope.  Hope that friendship can survive impossible circumstances and hope that a young man can bridge the gap between his parents' old world culture and the new America they are raising him in.

4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Five Points

What's better than an evening at the spa?  An evening at the spa followed by a really good meal.

Five Points has farm fresh food with a menu that updates with the seasons.  For my meal, I munched on a lot of smaller items like the wood oven baked king oyster mushrooms.  This falls under the starter menu which insinuates it can be shared.  But don't do it.  Sharing means you get to eat less and that would be awful.  These meaty shrooms are covered in several types of cheese and herbs.  The top of the cheese is crusty while the middle is stringy.  I tried to make it last and savored every bite.  My beet and ramp soup was veggie-tastic without feeling like you're in a juice bar thanks to the addition of yogurt and chickpeas (who knew chickpeas could be such a good soup ingredient?).  We also shared the Brussels sprouts with pimentón vinaigrette (super roasty like I like em with a flavor that was something other than bacon) and the radishes with butter to appease the Francophile in me.  Had I not been observing Passover, I would have gone nuts for the potato pizza with truffle oil and fontina like everyone else at our table.  Guess it just means I'll have to go back.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

3 on Thursday

My weekend got off to a really bad start.  My college roommates and I had planned a reunion in DC and I was beyond excited.  Activities were planned, new outfits were purchased, and my liver had been prepped for excessive drinking.  ...And then I missed the bus.  Those buses never leave on time and certainly never leave early; yet, when I arrived right at 6:30 for my 6:30 bus, it had decided to drive off several minutes ahead of schedule.  I waited in a standby line for two hours to no avail.  Finally, I went back to my apartment, ordered Chinese, and cried.  The weekend wasn't a complete failure.  Jen came to visit for the second half of the weekend (I was always planning to come back early from DC to see her) and the weather was positively gorgeous.
Background: lights inside the marquee at Broadway's Aladdin

  1. Sammy's Roumanian is an absolute crazy time.  The joyful sounds of the hora bounce around the dank basement while you munch on Eastern European delicacies like chopped liver and drink Ketel One vodka in ice blocks.  Ridiculous.
  2. Seder plates can be pricey to buy at the store so when I hosted a Seder on Monday I improvised.  My haroset is better than the store-bought stuff anyway.  The seder as a whole was a great way to bring a small group of friends together for wine and a meal that had been cooking all day. 
  3. When Jen was in town we made to schedule a dinner with Richard so three of the original crew could all be together.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kumo Sushi

After drinking all day we picked dinner on Saturday based on...more drinking.  We stumbled into Kumo Sushi in the West Village for all you can eat sushi + all you can drink sake and beer.  The price came to just over $40/person and the food and drinks kept flowing.  I thought the giant pitchers they placed on our table were filled with water.  I was wrong.  It was sake.  Giant pitchers of sake and beer means sake bombs are a given.  $40 + tax and tip may sound steep, but when you consider how full and tipsy you'll be by the time you leave I would say it's quite the deal.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


My friend Wendy is a fabulous foodie who also knows her way around a kitchen.  If she says a restaurant is good, you can probably take her word for it.  I reached out to her for suggestions for Jen's visit because Jen wanted to be sure to check out the hottest spot on the NYC restaurant scene and Wendy would likely know exactly what that would be.  Estela received her highest recommendation so we booked it right away.

Inspiration comes from all over the place, but I would say the small plates skew Italian/Mediterranean.  Everything we had was fabulous, including the "throwaway" items you order just so you have something to snack on while you wait for the real food to arrive.  Case in point: the olives.  If you at all like olives, order these.  Even if you're not an olive fan, try to find someone at the table who is because the olive oil they are sitting in is truly amazing.  They infuse it with orange, fennel seeds, clove, and who knows what else.  Just make sure you order it and request some bread for dipping.  We also ordered the salami which arrived in olive oil and a little salt instead of just being piled on a plate.  I plan to serve my charcuterie like this in the future.  The oil and salt helped bring out the flavor of the meat.

I have to first stop and compliment Estela on the sharability of their menu items.  If you bill yourself as a small plates restaurant, don't make it difficult to have a communal dining experience.  I can't stand when small plates come out with three pieces when most people dine in groups of four.  The portions were large enough for everyone to feel like they got a real taste of each dish.

I'm a sucker for grilled octopus and loved how creamy the accompanying potatoes were, but it was the pimentón that really set it off.  The meat on the lamb ribs fell off the bone as I picked it up and it had a great crust.  There are a couple of plates that are just a bit larger and are priced as full entrées, like the pork with wheat berries, pear, and onion.  This is where the portion felt a little small, but the pork was cooked so perfectly that I forgot about it.  My absolute favorite dish of the evening was the mussels escabeche on toast.  The mussels were basically pickled and the toast was sitting in a pool of green oil that the chef likes to incorporate into many of his dishes.  The toast soaked up the herbacious oil but still maintained its structure.  I've never had anything like it.  I need to have it again.  For dessert we got a coffee and chocolate panna cotta that was a bit unforgettable and a parsnip ice cream that was sort of like a reverse baked alaska.  The ice cream surrounded a chocolate caramel and when you took a bite you got a mix of temperatures and textures that got me - in a good way.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday Reads

  1. These six people are making the world a better place.
  2. There is a drug that can save someone who is in the process of dying of a heroin overdose.  In New Jersey, the first life has been saved.  Will knowing about this "bail out" drug encourage addiction?
  3. 1 in 68 children are being diagnosed with autism.  Is there a surge in the disorder or a surge in misdiagnosis?
  4. From Dracula to True Blood, there's a reason we've been obsessed with vampires for over a century.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

3 on Thursday

Last weekend I blinked and it was time to go back to work.  I was just getting into full relaxation mode when I realized the weekend was coming to a close.  If you're planning a low key weekend soon, I highly suggest checking out The Grand Budapest Hotel.  For Wes Anderson fans, it's a goodie.
Background: graffiti in Spanish Harlem 

  1. That's an ice cream sandwich on macarons, which is how all ice cream sandwiches should be served.
  2. Someone sent me this most amazing mug so I can proudly display my obsession  healthy love for teacup pigs.
  3. Albert planned a great date night on Friday.  I met up with him as he was finishing happy hour and then we walked down to the East Village for a flight at Good Beer followed by dinner at whatever place we wandered into (which happened to be Veselka - yum).  I really liked one of the beers in my flight, the Canton Brewing Company's Regular Coffee.  They don't distribute bottles of it, so I took a mini growler home with me.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Sarah was always my ultimate Broadway buddy so we take in a show every time she's back in town.  After seeing Aladdin (fun for the whole family!) we wanted to grab a bite to eat but didn't want to be hemmed into the overpriced and underflavored restaurants of Times Square.  We hopped the 2 one stop to 72nd Street and suddenly had tons of UWS restaurants to choose from.

We settled on Citrus, sister to nearby standby Josies for some Asian/Mexican fusion.  Though it's billed as fusion, the menu items were either Mexican or Asian, with a few continental classics like roast chicken thrown in for good measure.  I got my Mexican fill with the complimentary chips and salsa.  The salsa was creamy and addictive.  I veered Asian for my entrée of mesclun salad with seaweed, avocado, edamame, seared tuna, and miso carrot sesame vinaigrette.  My salad was filling with ample amounts of the ingredients you really care about (avocado and seared tuna, obvi).  I made sure to mix in the wasabi mayo garnish and thought it worked well to spice up the sweetness of the dressing.  

I know those Times Square restaurants try to lure you in with prix fixe theater menus that guarantee you'll get in and out in time for the show, but I highly recommend dining in the Upper West pre or post theater.  You'll have a larger variety of cuisines to choose from and won't be bombarded by tourists.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pasta with Smoked Salmon

I recently wrote about making pasta with crème fraîche, just like I learned in France.  If you read that post, you may recall that my first crème fraîche pasta experience was when my French Mom served it with smoked salmon.  This time, I decided to take advantage of the beautiful Spring weather we had on Saturday and walk myself to Eataly where I could purchase high quality smoked salmon and fresh made pasta.  Inspired half by my study abroad experiences and half by Martha Stewart, the finished pasta was a perfect combination of European and American tastes.

After I found this recipe for farfalle with smoked salmon from Martha Stewart, I renewed my quest to recreate the French dish I had years ago.  I used the dill, capers, and red onion from the martha recipe but substituted crème fraîche for cream cheese and used a long pasta instead of a short one.  I'm not a fan of raw red onion, even when sliced super thin on a mandolin like it was here.  It's just not my thing and I can't be someone that I'm not.  If you like it, go for it; if you don't, there's no shame in leaving it out.  In the words of Beyonce, you're a grown woman you can do whatever you want.

This should basically be called the everything bagel pasta.  It has all the flavors you love from Sunday brunch, but the crème fraîche and fresh salmon make it feel distinctly European.  Quality salmon is key here.  You want it to be salty but not overwhelmingly so, and it shouldn't be so thick that you need a knife to cut through it.  This dish, especially if you use fresh pasta, is super light for a pasta meal so it is ideal for springtime.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Book Review: Man Up! Tales of My Delusional Self-Confidence

I will always refer to Ross Matthews as Ross the Intern.  That was his title when he was introduced to me on The Tonight Show and that will forever be his title in my eyes.  That's because even though he's grown up to have a talk show of his very own, he still approaches life with wide eyed exuberance. 

Though his high pitched voice could be a turnoff, everyone loves Ross the Intern.  You can't help it.  He is as a pop culture junkie who absolutely freaks out about celebs.  That makes him completely relate-able, despite the voice that threatened to make him an outcast when he was younger.  But Ross knows who he is and loves it, which is why everyone else loves him, too.

3 out of 5 stars. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

3 on Thursday

Last weekend went by way too quickly so I'm hoping this one last just a bit longer.
Background: steps inside the Ace Hotel
  1. I recently remarked that I wanted to see more live music and got my chance on Saturday night.  I didn't care about seeing anyone particularly famous, but it was nice to go to a bar and do more than just sit at the actual bar.  It's always fun to sway your hips a bit.
  2. The most adorable mini tabasco bottles for my oysters.
  3. Rosé colored sweats to match my rosé wine.  That right there was my Friday night and I loved it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Beet and Sweet Potato Chips with Curried Yogurt

I've been in a snack rut lately. Every time I reach for something to munch on between meals I've ended up with popcorn or hummus. I wanted something new so I did some googling and found a list of quick and healthy snacks on and found this winner. 

Just mix fat free Greek yogurt with curry powder and salt.  That night be the easiest dip you'll ever prepare, FYI. If you're not into curry just use a spice you prefer, like smoked paprika. You could also use fresh herbs, like dill. Anything goes here, as long as it takes less than one minute to stir into the yogurt. Anything longer than that would have me going back to my old old standby, popcorn. I used Terra sweet potato and beet chips as my dippers. The crunch satisfied my snack craving but the slightly sweet flavor was completely different from what it been snacking on lately. 

Consider my rut over. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tiny Fork

We ended up at Tiny Fork when the wait at our original restaurant choice was too long but the discovery ended up saving us money in addition to time.  The LES spot has all the food you want from a seafood shack (oysters, fish and chips, corn on the cob) but in the low-lit, Odeon type of bar where you want to start your more sophisticated drinking for the night.  Thankfully, the prices skewed slightly more toward the oceanside shack levels.  True, the portions were not huge, but getting a kale caesar salad with jumbo shrimp for only $14 is a great deal.


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