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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Olive Oil Gelato with Cinnamon

I recently discovered Fairway's high end gelato line that they created in partnership with High Road.  The flavors are unique and the texture is rich and silky.  Though at $5.99 for a pint, it is pricier than most Fairway products, it is still less expensive than many of the other small batch ice cream brands out there.

If you want to wow your friends with an unexpected sweet treat, sprinkle some cinnamon on top of the extra virgin olive oil flavor.  One scoop is the perfect end to a meal.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday Reads

  1. Research shows that transgender children who take hormones to delay the onset of puberty (which would further transition them into the sex they do not wish to be) are more likely to be happy adults when they eventually undergo gender reassignment.
  2. Two weekends ago, a ton of New Yorkers participated in the People's Climate March.  The march took place in advance of the UN General Assembly meeting for climate change. 
  3. In a book club, you talk about books (and drink wine).  In a reading club, you just shut off all distractions and read in silence.  What's the point?  Well, devoting time to reading improves their ability to concentrate, reduces stress levels, and deepens the ability to think, listen and empathize.
  4. The color of the packaging plays a major role in your grocery shopping.  Ever wonder why you gravitate towards that box of Cheerios?

Lamb Kofta, Rice wtih Scallions and Peas, & Cucumber Yogurt

Kofta is a Middle Eastern or Indian meatball.  I was lucky enough to find lamb version with masala sauce in the freezer section of Trader Joe's ($4.99!) that required no more than 8-10 minutes in a pan.  They are so flavorful - coriander, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric - so many spices!  As long as they like lamb, even non-indian belivers could be swayed by these.

This is a PRIME example of making a full, home cooked meal with a little help from the store.  The meatballs came from a box but then I ran with it so you almost forget I didn't do the bulk of the work.  It seemed like a no-brainer to serve the kofta over rice.  But of course I didn't want just any rice so I folded in some scallions, peas, and parsley.  I topped the whole thing with Greek yogurt that I mixed with chopped cucumber, salt, and pepper.  It all worked perfectly together.  The baby peas are a little sweet so they picked up the cinnamon in the masala sauce.  The kofta had a little heat so the yogurt was perfect for cooling it all off.  If you don't have a Trader Joe's, you may want to look up kofta recipes.  It would make this meal more difficult to prepare and would certainly take more than the 20-25 minutes it took me, but it would be worth it.  

I was really happy with how this meal turned out, but after patting myself on the back for five minutes, I had to remind myself that I didn't actually cook the kofta myself.  Whatever.  Having the wherewithall to pull it all together has to be worth something, right?

Friday, September 26, 2014


There is no better way to celebrate a successful race completion than by brunching.  Hardcore, bottomless brunching, to be specific.  Since we were going to be in Astoria Sunday afternoon for Karina's birthday, we decided to do brunch in that neighborhood and picked MexiBBQ since they had a $16 bottomless deal.

I would say the menu is Mexican first, BBQ second.  But that doesn't mean the BBQ is's just used with restraint, like by adding brisket and jalapeno cornbread onto the eggs benedict, which also uses chipotle in the hollandaise.  Albert couldn't pass up a chance to order brisket so that's what he went with.  Beth and I both ordered the Hangover Cure.  Though neither of us were hungover, we had both just run 6.2 miles which left us in virtually the same hazy-eyed state as if we had partied all night.  This dish was basically a breakfast version of chilequiles.  Fried corn tortilla scraps are softened after sopping up sauce and then layered with salsa, chicken, and chorizo.  Then there are two fried eggs on top to make it more brunch appropriate.  It was huge enough that we could have shared, honestly.  Carbing up is always important when it comes to running, but it's more fun to carb up with tortillas than boring bread.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book Review: The House Girl

Lina Sparrow is assisting on a case that could make her law career.  Her firm is trying to get reparations for slavery and Lina is trying to find a slave's descendant to serve as the perfect plaintiff to help them win.  Her search leads her to Josephine Bell, a name that has begun popping up in her father's art world.  Josephine served as a house girl for Lu Anne Bell, a famous painter...only now it is believed that Josephine was actually the one holding the paintbrush and never credited.  As Lina searches for Bell's living relatives, the story shifts to Josephine's perspective and we learn of her plans to run away.

The novel begins slowly but just as Lina begins piecing everything together in the last 1/3 of the book, it really begins to pick up.  And yes, it does come together.  The truth is uncovered and we all learn that the release of secrets, even when troublesome, are ultimately satisfying.

3 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

30 Before 30: #3 - Run a 10K

My latest 30 Before 30 project was one of the more ambitious items on my list.  Running a 10K is not something that can be accomplished simply by coughing up some money.  It was only going to happen if I put the time and effort into training.  So I did.  I downloaded a training schedule and for five weeks I did exactly as it prescribed.  At the start of my training, my most intense run was 3 miles, and I am amazed that in just five weeks I was able to get my body into the condition to run the full 6.2 mile distance without keeling over.  

Once I put the goal of a 10K on my list, I knew it was only going to happen if I signed up and paid the entrance fee so there would be no turning back.  I chose the Women's Health Run 10 Feed 10 because the race was occurring in the time frame I wanted.  It was enough time for me to get my body into shape and the weather would be perfect for training outside.  There were a couple other benefits to this race.  For me, right up there at the top was the fact that the course was along the West Side Highway, which meant it was flat.  If I had to deal with hills I would have needed some extra training.  The other great thing about this race is that it is jointly produced by Women's Health and the FEED Foundation, which works to fight hunger.  Just by registering for the race, my fee provided 10 meals to people in my own metropolitan area.  It's nice to think that even though I was crossing an item off my bucket list, it wasn't all about me me me.

Things like this are so much better when you don't do it alone.  I was prepared to do it solo and did all my training alone, but last week Beth decided to sign up for the race.  We didn't run together, per se, but we kicked it off side by side and were able to congratulate each other when we both crossed the finish line at around the same time.  Having a friendly face there made all the difference.  It was also great to have Albert there.  I know he was not happy to wake up an hour before the sun even started to rise but seeing him there, holding some expertly made signs, kept me going.  There he was a quarter mile into the race with a poster that read "Tess - Run like you're chasing Ugga!"  The name of Uga, my famous college mascot, may have been misspelled but nobody else had a sign like it.  Then at the last quarter mile I was greeted with one that read "Tess - Hurry! This guy is waiting at the finish line!" with a picture of one of my celebrity crushes.  The celeb was motivation, but I was even happier to see the guy holding the sign as I pushed towards the end.

I set a goal for myself of completing the race in under an hour.  It felt ambitious knowing that the final distance was nearly a mile and a half more than I'd ever run before (so I would likely slow down towards the end) but still maybe do-able based on my pace during training.  By the day of the race I didn't care how I accomplished my goal; I could come in at 59:59 and be happy.  Honestly, just finishing would make me happy.  But I did it.  I owned it.  Not only did I come in under an hour, my final official time was 57:16.  That's almost three minutes under my goal.  It doesn't sound like much, but three minutes is a lot when it comes to running.  Is it braggy if I say I'm proud of myself?  Because I am.  I feel like I killed it out there.

Date of Completion: 9/21/14

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fruit and Yogurt Dip

When it came to cooking for my last book club meeting, I just wasn't havin it.  Oddly enough, I wasn't even that busy; I just didn't want to tie myself down to preparing a specific travel-well recipe for a group.  My solution was to open up one of my "easy" cookbooks.  Every recipe in this cookbook is easy, but at the beginning of each section, they give a list of extra easy "recipes".  These are the ones that basically require zero effort but can sneakily make your meal more impressive.  It was here that I found fruit with yogurt dip.

All you do is add honey, nutmeg, and cinnamon to vanilla yogurt.  Stir it together and serve with fruit (I used pineapple and cantaloupe).  I used the 0% Tahitian vanilla Greek yogurt from Trader Joes so not only was this dip good, it was healthy.  And it was good.  One of the girls said it tasted "just like fall," which is a yay! for me (pat on the back) but a wah :( for the reminder that cold weather is approaching.  Fruit plates, like crudité platters, are the go-to buffet staple when you want to add something healthy to your spread.  But plain fruit plates are boring.  Adding this yogurt is not.

The picture is capital T terrible because there were no lights on the roof where we were holding book club.  Sorry bout that.
before mixing in the honey

Friday, September 19, 2014

Rice with Mushrooms and Onions

This side dish is basically cheating it's so easy.  Cook some rice (I use a rice cooker because it's easier than easy, but an old fashioned pot is totes fine) and while there's about 10 minutes left, sauté mushrooms and onions in butter with salt and pepper.  Or if you're using a rice cooker, it just chills on the warmer setting so you just start sautéing whenever you feel like it.  Tip: add some extra butter at the end and let it start melting just before you combine the mushrooms and onions with the rice.  This way, you'll have a nice butter coating on the rice.  Everything should have a butter coating.  I should have a butter coating.

Here's the kicker: use canned mushrooms.  You don't have to wash em.  You don't have to chop em.  It's just so easy.  No, they don't taste like fresh mushrooms...they almost taste like a different type of food altogether.  But every once in a while I kind of prefer it.  Sort of like how I sometimes prefer a McDonald's cheeseburger over a fancy big bistro burger.  The heart wants what it wants.  Perhaps I like this different flavor because it's what I grew up with since this was a go-to side dish for my Mom.  In fact, when I texted my Mom to make sure that was really all I needed in the way of ingredients, she responded that she was actually making it that night as well.  Like mother, like daughter.      

Thursday, September 18, 2014

3 on Thursday

I've been taking it very very easy this week in preparation for my big 10K this weekend.  I'm not nervous yet, but I'm sure I'll be singing a different tune once it's actually race time.

  1. Have you ever seen a green plum?  Me neither.  But they exist, and I found them at Trader Joe's.  And they're also delicious.  I've been enjoying them as a post-run snack.
  2. Eucalyptus has to be one of my absolute favorite smells.  It was a spur of the moment addition to my vase this week, but I think it's going to become a regular.
  3. I ordered an antique clock off Etsy and it finally arrived all the way from Slovakia this week - check out all that postage! 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Seasonal Tastes: September 2014 - Roasted Mushroom Salad

September is the official start of fall and while most people excite in the change of seasons because it signifies a change in wardrobe, I like the transition to fall because it means new ingredients.  One thing that's in season in September is arugula.  Arugula is a lettuce, which usually means "salad base".  That's still the case here, but if you fill up the salad with a ton of different ingredients, the arugula will get lost.  That's why this salad is pretty much just two ingredients: arugula and mushrooms.

Arugula has a strong pepper flavor which can be a bit overbearing for me at times.  That's why you can't just use any old mushroom here.  It's gotta be a beefy cremini.  They're small enough to pan roast whole but have tons of flavor, especially when they're combined with a bunch of garlic and olive oil - enough to dress the salad when it's all tossed together.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Chicken and Wild Rice Salad

I was recently in a café and noticed a lovely wild rice salad in the case.  Or at least I thought it was lovely until I realized it was chock full of raw red onions and some other ingredients I'm not super fond of.  Still, the idea of a wild rice salad appealed to me so I started putting together my ideal recipe.

What I came up with is perfect because it's great both warm and chilled/room temp.  That means, I was able to eat it for supper (warm) AND bring it to work the next day (chilled).  All you have to do is cook the wild rice according to the directions on the box (easy peasy) and then throw in a few other very simple ingredients: chopped/shredded rotisserie chicken, one chopped cucumber, some feta, and a simple vinaigrette made with olive oil, lemon, and oregano.  It will take about 20-25 minutes to pull together (the time it takes to cook the rice) but comes together as one of those one dish meals that's nice and satisfying.  Am I the only one who doesn't cook wild rice nearly enough?  That stuff is good, man!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday Reads

  1. On Thursday, Scotland is voting to break from UK.  The United Kingdom has been, well, united for over 300 years so this is kind of a big deal. 
  2. Betty Boop did not just emerge from a cartoonist's imagination.  Did you know the inspiration for the animated sexpot was actually an African American woman?
  3. You know that ISIS kidnapped and publicly beheaded two people recently.  What you may not realize is that the activities of these Islamic terrorist groups are funded by the ransoms they collect from these kidnappings.  What you also know is that the ransom industry goes beyond terrorists and governments.  There is also a major insurance biz going.
  4. We all watched Sesame Street.  So did some of our parents.  And I know my nephew will be learning right along with Big Bird, Snuffleupagus, Grover, and the rest of the gang.  The folks over at Sesame Place are committed to not letting the show get stale, which is how they are entering their 45th season.

Book Review: The Arsonist

Frankie Rowley describes herself as "temporizing."  Though she has steadily held a job as an aid worker in Africa, she never felt it was her true home.  In search of something more permanent, she visits her family in New Hampshire, unsure if she will leave.

The town of Pomeroy, New Hampshire is a sleepy town with a major divide between the locals and the "summer people" who live there for the season only.  Frankie and her family were one of those summer families until her parents decided this season to retire in the town.  Just as they do, an arsonist begins setting fire to empty homes of those summer people, putting the whole town on edge.

I enjoyed watching the characters settle into the roles they define for themselves.  Frankie at first seems upset to be little more than a wanderer, but by the end of the novel is satisfied not to have planted any deep roots, just as Sylvia is content to not be swept off her feet.  I did, however, think the book was seriously lacking tension.  There is a string of fires, yet I never felt thrilled or tortured like I should.  In the end, nothing much seemed to happen and the pace of the novel seemed much like that of a sleepy New Hampshire town.

2 out of 5 stars.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Pork Chops with Cauliflower Mash

I almost didn't post this meal.  It's not a "real" recipe and it's almost too easy.  But then I remembered how much I enjoyed eating it and figured, hey, my loyal, deserving, super dee duper readers may not have discovered this preparation yet and probably want as many easy recipes as they can get.

For this meal I used my go-to marinade.  It's so simple and is made from ingredients I always have in the house so it's always what I go for when I'm a) pressed for time b) too stressed to think about what I'm doing or c) lazy.  It's soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, minced garlic (or garlic powder), dijon mustard, and olive oil.  I don't measure any of it.  I just throw it all into a ziplock bag along with the pork chops (or steak because this is great on steak, too) and let it sit while I pull together the rest of the meal.  The marinade was so easy, even Albert was able to prepare it...and he had to ask me how to close the ziplock bag.

While the pork chops were gettin busy with their new saucy friends, I cooked some cauliflower in boiling water for about ten minutes until it was fork tender.  Once that was done, I got the pork chops started.  Put them in a hot pan and pour some of the extra marinade over the top (the extra sauce will help give the chops a nice crust).  The pork chops cook for four minutes on each side.  While they're cooking, drain the water out of the cauliflower pot and start mashing.  I'm a fan of mashing right there in the pot.  I started by using a potato masher but then quickly switched to my immersion blender.  Blend it with butter, salt, and pepper til it's the consistency of mashed potatoes.  I also like to add in a little parmesan or asiago.  Rosemary would be nice too.

Pile the cauliflower mash on a platter and top with the pork chops.  The juice from that pork chop sauce will seep into the cauliflower, giving it even more flavor.  That marinade is good.  I mean, I know I kinda made it up with pantry staples, but it is good eatin.  And the cauliflower is all the comfort of a potatoes, but way healthier.  It's your starch and your veggie all in one.  It's like the Pert Plus of side dishes.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

3 on Thursday

Football may be in full swing, but UGA actually had a bye for the second weekend of the season.  With the extra time, I headed to Hoboken for a much needed night with my best gal, Steph.  We may have had plans to tear up the town but instead ended up sitting on the couch, drinking lots of wine, and watching a Lifetime original movie.  Boring to you, maybe, but perfect for us.

  1. Since I'm new to the running game, I had not heard of Brooks Running, a shoe and apparel company.  My Mom is the one who introduced me after seeing them on one of those deal websites.  When she found out there was a company with the same name as my new nephew (her first grandbaby) she couldn't help but buy me a shirt with their tagline "Run Happy."  It may end up being part of my outfit for my big race that is getting scary close.
  2. Albert and I started our Friday night with a trip to one of our favorite spots, Good Beer.  Though we were heading to supper afterwards, we decided to have a snack with our beverages and picked up some of the SlantShack Jerkey from the counter.  I had tried SlantShack at Smorgasburg and have always been interested in making some custom jerky through their site, but that dream was put on the backburner when I tried the Brooklyn Brewery flavored jerkey they had by the register.  Delicious and perfectly paired with our brews.
  3. I loved being able to watch the cheese being made at Beecher's before heading downstairs for brunch on Sunday.   

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Inspiration Station: The Fault in our Stars

This month's "Inspiration Station" is built around "The Fault in Our Stars."  I tried to wait for the movie mania to die down a bit and now feel like this is an appropriate time to revive one of the summer's biggest hits.

The Dish:

Augustus tells Hazel that he's using his wish on a trip to Amsterdam by taking her on a picnic filled with all things Dutch, including cheese and tomato sandwiches.  So maybe this Inspiration Station isn't a toughie to prepare, but it doesn't make it any less satisfying.  I used heirloom tomatoes for this and instead of turning this into a grilled cheese (which is always my first instinct), I added mayo and left it cold so it would be more true to the movie and actually suitable for a picnic.  I did a Wikipedia search for Dutch cheese and decided to go with Parrano.  It's a semi firm cheese that's not too strong.  The mildly nutty flavor worked well with the sweet and juicy tomato.  When the tomato is firm like that, it's a perfect stand-in for meat.  I was lazy when it came to slicing the tomato and cheese so it's not the prettiest, but it still tasted great.  Using an actual cheese slicer would solve this problem...I just couldn't find mine.  I mixed a little dill in with my mayo and the herb made me feel like I was outside even though this picnic was, sadly, on my couch.

The Doodads:

  1. One of the reasons Hazel likes "An Imperial Affliction" is because it's a cancer book that's not really a cancer book.  Since her favorite novel doesn't exist, I recommend reading Carole Radziwill's memoir, "What Remains."  Yes, her husband dies of cancer, but it's about much more than that.
  2. Augustus uses cigarettes but refuses to light them so he feels a sense of control over cancer/death.  Instead of buying real cigarettes, do the same thing with candy cigarettes.  I'm not sure these are p.c. anymore, but I don't really care.
  3. Instead of breaking trophies or throwing eggs like Isaac, I think a great way to handle stress is by screaming into a pillow or throwing the pillow against a wall.  No damage done and I find it quite cathartic.  Might as well use a cute pillow while you're at it.  I like this one from Urban Outfitters with it's empowering message.
  4. Augustus' parents hang inspirational quotes all around their house that they call "encouragements."  I'm a big fan of fun phrasing, especially when written in fun typography so they don't look like cheesy, guidance counselor office art.  Etsy is a great place to find pieces that will brighten up your day.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fiat Café

I don't usually think of SoHo as a place for cheap eating.  Sure, you can find plenty of cafés in the area that aren't overly expensive...but a straight up deal?  Not so much.  I am singing a different tune now that I've found Fiat Café.  Pretty much nothing on the menu costs more than $8.50.  Considering it costs a minimum of $7.99 for me to buy burrata at the grocery store, an appetizer of burrata with cherry tomatoes, basil, and olive oil for $8.50 is a steal.  Since I can't make it any cheaper myself, paying cash only does not seem like an inconvenience anymore.

In addition to the burrata, we also ordered an antipasto platter (prosciutto, sopresatta, braseola, parmesan, and olives) and two carpaccio salads (one beef, one salmon).  The portions were sizable enough that we couldn't finish all the food, especially after snacking on the bread and very flavorful olive oil.  And everything was good.  For that price I wasn't expecting too much.  Frankly, I just needed to get burrata in my stomach as soon as possible because I'd been craving it for weeks and didn't care about much else.  But all the food was fresh, simple, and seemed like what my [imaginary] old Italian grandmother would throw together for a light lunch when we come inside after a long day of playing outside.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Monday Reads

  1. If you're a girl/woman/lady/female you have some sort of handbag with you at all times, but do you know the history of the thing that holds all of your most important items? 
  2. I've always been a fan of hearing it like it is from my friends and I try to do them the same "courtesy" by not sugarcoating things.  But if I am humiliating them in the process, I may be doing more harm than good.
  3. Last week a ton of inmates managed to escape a juvenile detention center.  How is this possible?!
  4. For the first time, NYC is allowing a gay group to march in the St. Patrick's Day parade.  True, it's because the group is from NBC, the network televising the event, but progress is progress.


Not all Southern food is created equal.  While I may know just about all there is to know about Lowcountry cuisine, creole food is a whole different story.  Of course I enjoy it.  Of course I will eat all the cajun food in sight, if possible.  Of COURSE I want to boogie to Hank Williams' "Jambalya (On the Bayou)" while I'm eating it.  But liking creole food is not the same as being an expert.  Basically, even though I'm Southern, I can't tell you how authentic The Delta Grill is, but I can tell you I really liked it and am happy to have it in NYC.

I was there with a group of eight, three of whom were college linebackers, so we ordered a lot of food.  The portions were large, even for 6'4" former football players.  So if you like creole food, you'll certainly get your fill here.  We started with the alligator and pork sausage.  My only experience with gator is on the football field, where we CRUSH those jorts wearing Floridians every year.  Just kidding - I've eaten gator plenty.  There's a place at home that serves fried alligator tail and I love it.  Seeing alligator in sausage form, however, was new to me but still delicious...though I mostly tasted pork.  My favorite app of the night was the popcorn crawfish.  I was worried they would skimp on the meat here, but this was big hunks of crawfish that are fried and served with a remoulade sauce (though this was more like ranch dressing).  It was chewy without being rubbery and the batter was nicely seasoned.  I could have eaten the entire basket on my own and was a little disappointed I had to share.

As for the entrees...I tried a bite of Albert's muffaletta and thought it was a very good version, almost as good as the one I had in New Orleans (it's all about the olive spread).  If you consider ordering the large version, I suggest you do so with two buddies because it's massive.  I ordered the chicken fried steak and loved it.  It was as good as any I've had.  Since chicken fried steak is a Southern thing and not strictly cajun, I can say with confidence I know what I'm talking about here.  The steak was still tender (a lot of people can mess up on that part) and the peppery breading stayed put.  I'm used to a thicker gravy at home, but this wasn't too shabby.  The jalapeno cheddar mashed potatoes was a nice spicy side.

Now, can a Louisiana native pleast go to this place and tell me if it's authentic?  Or do I just love it and have zero idea what I'm talking about.  Please don't put my "foodie" identity into question.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Tuna Artichoke Melts

I had such success with my Grown Up Tuna Melt that I decided to try a new variation.  This one is a bit less quirky, but the artichokes give it a Mediterranean taste that sets it apart from other tuna salads.  I diverged from the recipe a bit by using lemon zest with pepper (vs. lemon pepper) and by using gouda instead of the pre-grated Mexican blend.  It's the lemon zest that really made a big difference.  Anytime a sandwich is heated, it suddenly takes on a heavier quality to me.  I don't hate it (in fact, I almost always prefer panini style), but I still feel overly stuffed after eating a heated sandwich vs. a cold one.  It doesn't matter that the ingredients are exactly the same.  Calories haven't changed a bit, it's just served warm.  What can I say, it messes with my head a bit.  But the adjectives people always use to describe lemon are "bright" and "zingy".  Those adjectives are the opposite of heavy so adding the zest makes this tuna melt feel a bit lighter.  The open faced nature of the sandwich doesn't hurt, either.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

3 on Thursday

I hope everyone had a wonderful Labor Day weekend!  Though I planned to go on a grand adventure on Labor Day itself, the weather was too up in the air to commit.  I still enjoyed a wonderful weekend roaming my beautiful city so there are no complaints here.

  1. I am always drawn to these teeny tiny yogurts when I see them at fancy food markets because I remember them from my time in France.  I have always resisted purchase, though, because they're pretty expensive.  I finally gave in as a treat and think I'll be continuing.  Though it's shelved next to the yogurt, Le Petit Suisse is actually cheese, a creamy cheese with a texure that is thicker than Greek yogurt.  It seems expensive because it's so much tinier than yogurt, but because it's thicker, you need less to get satisfied.  For me it's also perfect because I get sick of the yogurt consistency after any more than this so the puny packaging is the perfect sized breakfast for me.
  2. I hate seeing summer come to an end.  I'm just not one of those people who says "sure summer is nice but don't you just love fall and the crisp sweater weather?"  The upside to fall, however, is football season.  I love cheering on my Dawgs and I was so happy to see them pull out a W in the season opener against Clemson on Saturday night.
  3. Tea for two.  I loved the girly setup of pastels against white marble at Ladurée Soho.  

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Quinoa with Nectarine and Basil

I had not had a single nectarine all summer and they were calling my name in the grocery store, looking all big, juicy, and summery.  But for some reason I knew that even if purchased with the best of intentions I would never end up sitting on my couch, eating the nectarine all on its own as a snack.  Incorporating the nectarine into a recipe would need to be the way to go for me and since this one required little effort, it was the winner.  It wasn't until I started cooking that I realized I was out of couscous so I substituted quinoa.  Guess what?  I think I made it better.  Take that, fancy magazine recipe makers!

The sweet flavor of the nectarine and orange juice is unexpected in a side dish.  It's citrus, though, which is a different kind of sweet so it doesn't feel out of place at suppertime.  I think because the flavors of the citrus and stone fruit are light and bright it helped to use quinoa, which is not as starchy [aka heavy] as the pearled couscous.  This one is great at room temp and since there's no dairy/mayo, it will keep all day so I would recommend it as a picnic/potluck dish.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tomato Toast with Garlic Basil Cream Cheese

In the summertime I find myself dreaming about caprese salad literally every week.  I can't get enough.  Summer is when tomatoes are at their best and the simple salad is a perfect way to show off how delicious they can be.  Because I can't eat a caprese every week (I mean I could...I shouldn't) I was hoping to find other ways to highlight how great a fresh summer tomato is.  Simplicity is best in these situations because the point is to showcase, not distract.  This recipe for tomato toast with garlic basil cream cheese is a great way to get some fresh 'maters in your belly and to do so at breakfast time, the one part of the day that seems a tad innappropriate for caprese (again, I could eat caprese at 8 am...I just shouldn't).

This is the kind of breakfast that only takes 5-10 minutes to make; however, I recommend you take 20.  The extra 10 minutes should be reserved for salting your tomato slices and letting them sit to draw out the water.  I didn't do this because I was in a rush, but it would have made the dish mush better.  Do it while you're drying your hair or something; it's not like you have to stare at them while they're salting.  Another tip: the garlic isn't getting cooked so a little goes a long way.  You WILL taste and breathe the garlic so be prepared.  I used just under half a clove for about 3 oz of cream cheese and it was strong.  Not overpowering, but it was certainly detectable.  If you're planning to make a larger batch of the cream cheese to use throughout the week, just remember that as the garlic sits the flavor will become stronger so adjust accordingly.

If you're a bagel and cream cheese person, this is a great alternative that will will satisfy you without weighing you down.  Bagels are usually too heavy for me during the week.  If you're a big fan of Italian food, the main flavors here are tomato, basil, and garlic so I guarantee you'll be happy.    

Monday, September 1, 2014

E's Bar

It's good to have friends in different neighborhoods.  It makes you feel worldly.  It's even better when those friends make a point to explore their own neighborhoods and let you know of new, fun places.  That's how we learned about E's Bar, a spot that just opened about 3 months ago in the UWS.

With stickers on the ceiling, red pintuck cushions, and neon signs they are clearly going for a grungy, East Village vibe.  They're almost there, but it's still a little too new and clean to feel truly dive-y.  The food menu looked good with some well priced specials but we had already eaten so we focused on two far more important things: drinks and games.

Drinking is fun.  Games are fun.  Put them together and you're bound to have a blast.  They have Sorry and Connect 4, but my favorites are Cards Against Humanity and Jenga.  Cards Against Humanity is an obvious choice because it gets hilarious and obscene, especially when you're imbibing.  Jenga, however, may sound like an odd choice.  What makes Jenga here particularly fun is that it's dirty Jenga.  Someone has written tasks on the blocks that must be completed before the blocks are replaced on the tower.  It's kind of like Jenga: Truth or Dare Edition.  I am a big fan of day drinking, but sitting around for hours on end can get a tad boring.  Throwing games into the mix keeps it lively.  It also means I'm likely to stick around longer - nice thinking, E's Bar.


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