Spicy Margarita, Bread, and Something for the Dogs

This past weekend was pretty low key – and one of the first weekends that Mister and I both had busy Saturdays planned separately.  While Mister went skiing with my Dad, I met a few women for brunch in Manhattan.

It is nice being walking distance to a Metro North station in Westchester – within 35-40 ish minutes I can go from my front door to Grand Central. Thankfully, the women I met up with were kind enough to choose a place just a few blocks from Grand Central to make brunch even easier.

Salvation Taco was the perfect spot for a girl’s brunch ; there was a steady stream of spicy margaritas and sangria while we were able to lounge around a coffee table on couches.   Thankfully one of us took command and ordered food for the table, which meant we were all able to share tacos, quesadillas, and wings. Everything had great flavor, and I personally loved the extra salty chips that came with an order of guacamole.

By Sunday morning, we were both excited for a lazy couch day – especially Mister after a very early and long day of skiing. We had mini bagels with the works [i.e. smoked salmon, tomato slices, and red onion] and coffee while on the couch. 010.JPG

While waiting for the coffee to brew, I spied the bread cookbook my Mom  had gifted me last week and thought the rainy Sunday was a great time to give something a try.

Bread Illustrated   is an America’s Test Kitchen cookbook – which means I was in love with it before even cracking the binding. For all beginners, scientists, curious cooks, or experimenters – try America’s Test Kitchen. What I love is they explain the why and the how to every single thing. For example, with my favorite meatloaf recipe of their’s – they showed the results from baking it in a glass loaf pan, a metal loaf pan, and free form on a sheetpan. They explain the merits of each situation, and ultimately recommend free form on a sheetpan for the ability to crisp up all the edges. I trust their recipes because they work, and they explain why.

Bread and rice seem to be my two nemesis in the kitchen. I can’t cook rice, and I struggle with bread.

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While it didn’t rise as much as I would’ve liked, the Whole Wheat variation on the American Sandwich Bread was perfection. The taste, texture, and even crust was really impressive. Thanks to the cookbook, I think I was able to pinpoint why the rise wasn’t ideal [water wasn’t warm enough for the yeast in the first rise, and it might’ve been too cold/drafty in my kitchen for the second rise].

I can confidently say, however, that I used said bread for my lunchtime sandwich at work today.  Feels pretty good to say, hey look I made this! [I didn’t actually do that, because I’m pretty sure that would just be strange. But like if someone asked…]

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While all this baking was going on , I felt bad for the dogs. Yes I’m a crazy dog mom, but we keep the dog treats on the counter where I was baking and they kept running in exactingly.  Since I had the oven going, and we weren’t doing anything other than laundry and watching tv most of the day, I decided to try a batch of dog biscuits as well.

I happened to have a set of dog related cookie cutters we had received as a wedding gift – so I was able to come up with a pretty sizeable batch of dog bone shaped treats.  I purposely under baked them by a few minutes, to keep them soft per my dogs’ preference.  These were a HUGE hit – so much so that I’m considering making them as regularly as I can.

 

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Meal Prep

It was a deep rut.

Christmas, New Years, Snow Storm. Flannel pajamas, baggy sweaters, cheese, wine. Christmas cookies, french toast, more cheese.

How to break the deliciously cozy cycle when New York has been colder than Alaska lately?

ACV.

Apple cider vinegar. Its a little routine that I can never stick with too consistently (despite my best efforts), but its a great way to jump start a little nutrition and pry yourself away from caramels and Camembert.

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8 oz of cold water, squeeze half a lemon, 1 – 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar.

Drink this before you start breakfast, while you’re getting ready in the morning. Before coffee, before brushed teeth, before the stretchy pants get too comfortable.

It may be psychological, total placebo affect – but for me personally, it curbs my sweet tooth and allows me to hit the reset button my nutritional intake.

While I sipped my ACV, I cooked a big batch of food for the coming week to allow myself to really trudge through the winter apocalypse with some vitamins and hopefully a few less pounds in the stomach area.

New Year New Tradition

In my last post I noted that Mister and I eat the same dinner every year on New Years Eve. We didn’t really have a tradition for New Years Day – which seems to be the day everyone universally has off (except for my Mom this year, sorry Mom!).

With the long weekend of no plans, I knew I had some time to put together a decent brunch and liked the idea of starting a new tradition that’s all our own.  We invited my sister and her husband, and Mister’s brother and his wife – which is just about the top number of people that can fit in our kitchen. Did I mention that our house is tiny?

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Here’s everything just before we started, I’m incredibly proud of how well everything turned out. My list-making abilities paid off – as did the discovery that my magnetic notepad that I normally stick to the fridge can be stuck to the metal backsplash between our stove and the vent.

The complete menu:

Growing up Jewish, I have it ingrained in me that sweet foods should be eaten around the new year based on the idea that sweet foods are eaten on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year.

The night before I started the baked french toast, and the pea salad. I don’t want to give away all the family secrets, but my Aunt Resa’s pea salad is one of my favorite things to eat on holidays. This was my first time attempting it, and it was the perfect acidic counter balance to all the sweet.

I’ll give you the recipe, but promise to give Aunt Resa the credit please.

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Mix one bag of frozen peas with one can of drained chickpeas.  Pour an entire bottle of italian dressing on top.  Let sit overnight, drain well before serving and toss with redskin spanish peanuts.  Enjoy! Its crunchy, tart, a little sweet from the peas. We’ve eaten the leftovers as a snack or even a light lunch.

While everyone was arriving I made sure we had a cheese plate out, nothing fancy, but an opportunity to use the monogram marble cheeseboard we received as a wedding gift.  Aren’t weddings fun?

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And of course, what would a New Years Day brunch be without a champagne bar?

 

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The Trader Joe’s Winter Wassail started a conversation about how I am a sucker for all things seasonal. If you put up a sign that says “Limited Edition” I will most likely buy it, for no other reason other than it is seasonal and/or limited. This is how I ended up with Pumpkin Spice Cheerios.  I don’t even eat regular cheerios. And yes, they were as bad as you would think.

This Winter Wassail though – incredible stuff.

Even if you’re not a songbird, Trader Joe’s Winter Wassail is so festive, you may find yourself spontaneously bursting into carols of the season with every sip. Our Winter Wassail was modeled after the spiced beverage enjoyed during 12th century Christmas celebrations. Years later, we’re still impressed by the drink’s ability to turn humbug feelings into holiday spirit. A sweetened blend of black currant, apple, and lemon juices produce a punchy punch. The cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, and orange peel punches it up even further. Enjoyed hot or cold, the flavor and aroma will instantly kindle feelings of holiday cheer. It’s a merry mixer with red wine, simmered on the stovetop and served steaming. Winter Wassail will be with us through the holidays. If merriment is your manifesto, you’ve met your match. Each 64 fluid ounce bottle is $3.99, until the last carol is sung (or we run out).

The ingredients are pretty straightforward:

INGREDIENTS: WATER, CANE SUGAR, APPLE JUICE CONCENTRATE, BLACKCURRANT JUICE CONCENTRATE, CITRIC ACID, NATURAL FLAVOR, SPICES (CINNAMON, CLOVES, NUTMEG, CARDAMOM, GINGER), LEMON JUICE CONCENTRATE, ORANGE PEEL.

Weirdly enough, that list turned a few people off – whom were pleasantly surprised by the actual juice once trying. Its like a holiday spiced cranberry juice.  More sweet and spiced than tart.

I love those champagne coup glasses more than anything. How can you not feel incredibly fancy while drinking from them? Its as if they require me to throw on some kitten heels while I slice up some snacks.

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Cheers to new drinks, to new family, to new traditions. Happy New Year!

Meal Prep:5/15/16

I’m officially in the habit of prepping all of my breakfasts, lunches, and snacks on Sunday for the upcoming week.  In the past I would do it if I had time, or really felt like cooking a particular dish but it wasn’t a true habit.

This past weekend, however, Sunday night came around and Mister and I were tired, busy, and I only had a few hours left before I had to head to bead early in preparation for my 4am wakeup call Monday morning.

Friday after work, I got in to Albany at about 8pm.  Monday afternoon, Mister and I drove to Binghamton to visit with his family.  We drove to Saratoga to meet with our wedding Rabbi on Sunday, then had to drive to pick my car up from being worked on, then finally arrived back to Mister’s apartment in Albany at about 5pm.  I cooked like a crazy lady to get everything squared away (there was a cutting board casualty) and this morning when I piled all my prepped meals into my work fridge I was finally able to relax.

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For breakfast:

  • Option 1:Full fat pineapple cottage cheese
  • Option 2: Granola and almond milk
  • Option 3: oatmeal (I always have oatmeal and almond butter on hand as an alternative or addition to anything)

For lunch:

  • option 1: salmon (broiled with Trader Joes vidalia onion/bacon vinagrette) over broccoli slaw with green pepper slices and oven roasted portabella mushrooms
  • option 2: baked teriyaki ginger tofu with stir fried vegetables (shredded cabbage, carrots, snow peas, portabella mushrooms) and rice

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For Snacks:

  • Hillshire small plates
  • Sargento balanced breaks
  • sugar snap peas
  • Kind bars

 

On any given work day, I’m in and out of my car or running around Manhattan via subway.  I like to have a stash of snacks on hand for between appointments, or when I have to run out last minute but I’m verging on hangry.  Having lunches cooked and ready is great, but when I can’t get back to the office on time to keep my stomach from grumbling, having a Kind bar or a bag of snap peas in my tote can keep me from buying the first Snickers bar I see.

Weekly Meal Prep

I have no idea if anyone reads this.  Or if the people that do read this even care what I cook every week.  But if you do, this is what I “meal prepped” for this week.

  • 1 lb ground turkey cooked with chili powder, tomatoes, jalapeno
  • 1 lb ground turkey cooked with italian seasoning, onions, garlic, and diced tomatoes
  • half dozen baked egg muffins (liquid egg whites, diced canadian bacon, baby spinach, shredded cheese)
  • used veggie pasta shredder thing to make zucchini noodles

On the menu for this week:

  1. egg muffins for breakfast with either Puffin cereal, some berries, or oatmeal.
  2. Lunch/Dinner options: taco salad (ground turkey, romaine, Trader Joes super 8 chop, guacamole, pico de gallo), or zucchini noodles with turkey tomato sauce.

I’ve got a few bags of frozen veggies or burgers in the freezer to mix into the rotation too, just in case. I’m a big fan of Trader Joe’s (frozen) grilled, marinated eggplant and zucchini slices.  They’re an easy meal base, or addition to simple sandwich. I also try to always keep some Trader Joe’s frozen, sliced, fire roasted peppers on hand; they are way more flavorful then plain frozen peppers, and are perfect for omelettes, salads, stir fry etc.

Recipe: Rice Pudding

We spent Christmas in Binghamton with Mister’s family, and it was a heavenly few days of stretchy pants and food.

On a Christmas fueled sugar high, Mister and I stocked up on greens and fruit to help regain some sense of nutrition.

110We started with a great breakfast, eggs over sauteed greens and mushrooms with fruit and peanut butter on the side.

Then we decided to make rice pudding, and the nutrition was postponed for another time.

127.JPG Just looking at this picture is making me regret not packing some up for myself. [Sidenote: Mister and I are still living long distance, so he’s got the rice pudding leftovers]

I followed the Pioneer Woman’s recipe, with a few tweaks as usual.

It was my first time making rice pudding, and definitely won’t be my last.  You can certainly reference the linked recipe for specifics, but here is the main gist of what went down:

Cook rice with half milk, half water. The recipe calls for more liquid than you would usually use for making rice, I believe.  Specifically, use medium grain rice.  I picked some Goya brand up for around $3 for a big bag.  Pioneer Woman also called for cream at this point, but since we both stay away from most dairy, buying this whole milk was the most I was willing to commit to; I knew anything else would just get chucked in a few days, which felt wasteful.

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After simmering, covered for about 20 mins, you have some mushy looking milk-rice. I was actually getting a little worried here, because I’m notoriously terrible at cooking regular rice, and this wasn’t looking pretty.

But then came these ingredients:

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Vanilla, Cinnamon, and sweetened condensed milk.

123 Now that looks  more like rice pudding! I returned the pot to stove for about 5 minutes.  Then came the weird part.

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You crack one egg into the hot pot of rice pudding, and mix vigorously to cook it in the retained heat.  I’m not even sure why.

But seriously, this was really really good.  We omitted the raisins for Mister, and I didn’t bother with any topping; I ate mine warm, he ate his cold.  It was super creamy, rich and decadent while still feeling very much homemade and comforting.  I can’t wait to make this again.

Fairway Market

Wow Fairway….just wow. This place was seriously impressive.

Tasked with picking up wine for Thanksgiving, I decided to go only slightly out of my way and visit Fairway Wines & Spirits in Pelham Manor after work yesterday.  It was a little crowded, but I scored some really great deals and was seriously impressed with both the supermarket side and the wine side.

The two stores are adjacent to each other, similar to Stew Leonards in Yonkers, and I decided to start with the market side to pick up a few things.

I grabbed some sweet, pork sausage which was on sale for $2.99 a pound, to be used for stuffing tomorrow.  The guy behind the butcher counter was very gracious while I was deciding what to get and had it wrapped up quickly.

008Two containers of these blintzes (made in Brooklyn) jumped right into my basket, one apple and one cheese.  I’ll update on how these are once they’re consumed.  I was really excited to see quality looking products on the shelves that aren’t always in big box stores, but also that there was a huge range of price points.

009This brie for example, is a HUGE wedge.  It might be awful, but it was on sale and that price was pretty great.  I’m hoping we can indulge in some with wine and apples while the whole family is getting together this holiday.  I love letting brie sit out at room temp, getting creamy and easy to spread onto things.  Sip of wine….bite of brie…yup losing focus here.  Back to my grocery trip:

002This beer aisle.  So much going on here; basic, generic supermarket beers sitting across from some seriously amazing craft beers.  I wasn’t even planning on buying any but I couldn’t stop browsing the shelves.  This definitely requires a return visit.  Anything great I should keep an eye out for?

I grabbed this salmon and wheatberry salad to eat for dinner, since it was running late and I was tempted by all the prepared foods on display.  It was really good and I scarfed it down too quick for a full photo.  Oops!

Honeycrisp apples, gingerbread cookies, ginger snap cookies, almond milk, and some store-brand natural peanut butter made it into my cart.  All of these items seemed to be at really good values.  Especially the peanut butter, which had no ingredients other than peanuts. Good stuff.

With an armful of grocery bags, I walked over to the wine store.  I loved that they had big turkey stickers on their wines they were recommending for Thanksgiving; thanks for that helpful tip!! I won’t even pretend I’m a wine expert, because a big bottle of Yellowtail Chardonnay definitely went into the basket, but I did grab some bottles of interesting looking wines that I’m looking forward to trying.

The Fairway Wine store had really impressive signage that was incredibly helpful; describing the flavors of the wine, laying out the price very boldly, and suggesting pairings.  The text on most of these signs was HUGE, so I wasn’t squinting or struggling to read anything.

Big thumbs up Fairway, I like you pretty much so far.