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.

Restaurant and a Recipe

Most work days are spent visiting job sites or doing paperwork from the office.  Yesterday, I was lucky enough to visit a particularly stunning job site; The Mayflower Grace Hotel in Washington, CT.

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About two hours or so from NYC, this hotel seems like it would be a great oasis from anyone’s hectic life.  While I was there for work, the general manager was gracious enough to offer me a comped lunch.  I’m sure she had some ulterior motives of lowering my quote, but I’ve never been one to say no to a free lunch (especially such a fancy free lunch).

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I propped my paperwork all over the bar of The Taproom, and was treated to a really lovely lunch. The atmosphere of the entire hotel property is very classic, New England elegance; above and beyond historic charm.  This may look like a simple salad, but it had such a level of savoriness I’ve never experienced in a light salad.

Upon the General Manager’s recommendation, I chose The Mayflower Bibb salad, “Maytag Blue cheese, crispy shallots, tomato truffle vinaigrette.”  Perfection.  (Sidenote: I did not pay for this meal, but left a hefty tip.  I’ll admit I’m young and not familiar with the professional prototypical here; what would you recommend?)

After work, I went straight to the kitchen to whip up a dessert to bring to the first night of Passover at my Aunt’s house.  Through the King Arthur Flour website, I found what looked like the perfect recipe to try out, Almond Cloud Cookies.  For those of you whom celebrate Passover, I’m sure you can agree there are only so many times you can make or eat macaroons or chocolate covered matzo.

The recipe is available through that link above, so I won’t go into too much detail.  I did make 1.5 of the recipe, because it called for 10 oz of almond paste and I could only find it in 7 oz packages.  I figured two packages equaling 14 oz was close to 15 oz, or 1 and a half times what the recipe was calling for, so I just multiplied the other ingredients accordingly.

Sugar and almond paste go in the stand mixer to get crumbly.

Whisk egg whites until frothy and add to the crumbly stuff in the mixer.  025.JPGAdd chocolate chips and almond extract. [the recipe calls for bitter almond oil….I’m not a huge baker so I didn’t want to go nuts looking for something so specific]

027.JPGThis is where things got really exciting for me.

I was doing all of this baking in my Mom’s kitchen; which meant I was using all of her gadgets etc.  I have never actually owned one of these cookie scoopers, but there was one in Mom’s drawer!  I felt very fancy following the recipe pictures so perfectly that I had to take a picture.  Take joy in the little things people.

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Scoop out cookie dough onto baking sheets.  030.JPG

Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Press three fingers into each to sort of mash them down. Then bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

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Oh man.  I cannot express how wonderful these are; imagine a really good chewy chocolate chip cookie that has a deep almond flavor that hugs your tastebuds.  These are cookies I would eat even when its not Passover, the fact that they are okay for the holiday is just a bonus.  Enjoy!

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

I’ve spent many winter vacations in Puerto Rico (see last post), but I havn’t really explored San Juan, particularly the historic district of Old San Juan at all.  In the past few years, Mister and I have tackled one adventure per vacations [kayaking in the bioluminesent bay, rappelling down waterfalls, etc.], so I wanted to take the opportunity for some exploring.

Via Air BnB, I booked a two night stay at Portal del Sol.  This was my first experience with Air BnB, but after seeing the amazing architecture of Old San Juan I knew I really wanted to be able to live in it, even if just for a nanosecond.  This apartment was perfect, and our host Juan was great at making us feel welcome, even going so far as to giving us dinner advice via text when we were overwhelmed with options.

We were warned that parking can be tricky in Old San Juan; the combination of narrow streets, cobblestone, and limited parking was a recipe for some frustration for sure.  We found the apartment, then circled the block a dozen times looking for any available parking.  At peak crankiness, we saw a car just leaving and decided to nab the spot and then find our way back to the apartment on Calle de Sol; as luck would have it, we plugged the address into our phone GPS only to find we had literally parked right outside of the rental!

We explored the city, the sights, the food, the forts.

This city is so incredibly vibrant and alive, while being overwhelmingly historic all at the same time.  Being the history nerd that I am (BA American History, MA Public History), I was running around the forts like a kid in a candy store. The forts are National Parks, and one admission pass is good for both for a few days.

In addition to the two forts, definitely take the time to stop by La Casa Blanca, which was only a few blocks away from our apartment (and the forts, everything is within relative walking distance).

It was originally built as a home and protecting fort in 1521 for Juan Ponce de Leon, though he died prior to inhabiting the home.  For the next 250 years, Casa Blanca was home to the descendants of Ponce de Leon, up until Puerto Rico became a United States territory, at which time the house became home to the locally stationed US Army commander.  We arrived about a minute before they opened, and Mister asked if we could receive a tour; I’m thankful he did because the government employed staff member was so incredibly enthusiastic about the home that it was contagious.

I was so excited about seeing every square inch of cobblestone and Spanish architecture, that every morning I woke up just a bit before Mister to explore the city on foot, filling my backpack with breakfast treats and my hands with coffee along the way.

Recommendations for grab and go breakfast:

1.)Cafeteria Mallorca had a window full of freshly baked goodies, with an old school diner vibe inside.  The place was packed with locals and touring families alike enjoying sit down meals, but I focused on the cheese and fruit filled danishes that were too tempting to pass up.  Their specialty is the mallorca their named after, which is a  ham and cheese (sometimes egg) sandwich on a buttery, sweet bread.  I wanted to enjoy the sweet bread on its own, but maybe next year I’ll be able to pass up the sweets in favor of the sandwich.

2.) Bad Ass Coffee, now I know that Puerto Rico is known for some really amazing coffee so stick with me on this one.  If you havn’t had it, Puerto Ricaan coffee is more like espresso on the range of intensity and servings; sometimes when its hot and humid you want something colder and sweeter.  This place is a franchise based out of Hawaii, and while I downed some local coffee in the afternoons and evenings, I was all about their blended chais and almond milk lattes at Bad Ass Coffee in the morning.

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(proof that I had local coffee, and that I apparently have a weird lobster hand)

3.) SuperMax, yup a supermarket.  The Old San Juan location had a great selection of fresh fruits and veggies, plus bottled drinks and booze to keep our temporary home stocked with some options.  The other location of SuperMax, outside of Old San Juan was closer to the major hotels, open 24 hours, and had a giant parking lot.  In addition to these minor luxuries, it has a little coffee shop, a giant wine selection, full service deli, hot food, store made sushi, and even an in-store, make your own acai bowl/smoothie option.  Live like a local, right?

For dinner in Old San Juan, the restaurant options can be overwhelming and a bit daunting.  Some are clearly tourist traps, some are hard to identify as tourist traps, and some are really amazing food.  How do you tell the difference?

On our first night, we consulted Yelp as much as we could, but we were still sort of confused, hungry, and tired.  As I mentioned earlier, we turned to our Air BnB host, Juan, via text and he was gracious enough to recommend El Jibarito, which was just a block or so away from our apartment.  If the pictures above don’t speak for themselves, let me just tell you that this was the perfect blend of vacation indulgence (i.e. sweet, blended rum drinks) and fresh local flavor.  It was a great way to start our mini vacation within our vacation.

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Our second dinner was at Verde Mesa.  This was an experience unlike anything else we had on the island, and that I’ve probably had in a while.  This restaurant had a whimsical environment, with a menu focusing on pescetarian and vegetarian options exclusively.  The service, though sometimes slow, was impeccable.  The bill was high, but the experience was definitely worth it; scallops so buttery in texture that they literally melted in your mouth, or a black olive couscous that was so flavorful it could have stood on its own as a dish.

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Seriously, just looking at those perfectly boiled eggs makes me want to eat that dish a million times over.

 

 

Boqueron, Puerto Rico

I’m blessed enough to have the opportunity to enjoy a family home in Boqueron, Puerto Rico.  My paternal Grandparents retired there when I was younger, and even after their passing, our entire family has taken turns enjoying the legacy they started.

Boqueron is about as far southwest as you can get on the island, so the entirely opposite area of San Juan.  There are a lot less tourists, though the area has changed quite a bit in the past few years.  Easily accessible from Aguadilla airport  via JetBlue or United Airlines, I can’t recommend this side of the island enough. [Sidenote: I’ve always flown JetBlue, but United has suddenly appeared with much more competitive prices.  This year we tried United, and will definitely be returning to JetBlue flights in the future due to the atrocious customer service and on board experience of United.]

The benefit of having the house while on vacation, is that you don’t have to rely on restaurants for the duration of your trip.  There’s even a Sam’s club between the airport and the house, so we were able to buy in bulk items like lettuce, avocados, asparagus, frozen shrimp, peppers, cheese, tortilla chips, strawberries etc.

Puerto Rico is unique in that most of the supermarkets, especially the more rural ones, have limited availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in comparison to the standard New York market. I recommend trying all the seafood you can on the island, but expect lots of fried sides, rice, and plantains. 056.JPG

One of my favorite beaches in the area is Playa Sucia, its an amazing bay like area that is so incredibly breath taking, pictures just don’t do it justice.053.JPG

The beach closer to the house, and most commonly visited is Buye Beach, see below:086.JPG

Not too shabby.

The town of Boqueron is really only worth visiting on the weekends, very few things are open the rest of the time.  The weekends though are a cultural explosion of locals and visitors; there are bands in the street, crowds of families, food stands, shops, street vendors and more.

263.JPGThough there are the obvious empanadas, tacos, and chicken wings just about every other bar, my favorite late night/slightly drunk snack is a bacalaito.  These are fried salt cod fritters; crispy edges and chewy centers of salty, greasy goodness.