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?


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.


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?


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



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:


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.


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.


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


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.

Tex-Mex Casserole

I’ll be honest, I usually call this Mexican Lasagna [mostly in my head…because I’m not talking about it all that often to other people in casual conversation] but I feel like its never referenced as that when I’m searching for similar recipes so we’ll just go with Tex-Mex Casserole.  This is mostly because I love casseroles, and the idea of a one dish, comfort food for a family.


Just look at that cheesy goodness, gosh I’m proud of that and its making me a little hungry again.

I did research a few recipes to get ideas, then kind of figured it out as I was going along. I know thats not super helpful if you’re trying to copy this recipe but here goes:

010Brown some ground beef (I’m sure turkey could work just as well), Mom was a great hand model here.  She was nice enough to supervise the meat while I was chopping up red and green pepper, and a small onion.

Mom drained the beef in a colander, and the same pan was used to soften up the peppers.  I added chili powder and garlic powder to both the beef and the peppers.  I didn’t cook the peppers to 100% softness, because I wanted to reserve some texture for the final dish.

I cooked the onion with some Trader Joes frozen corn.  I love this stuff, its the fire roaster or grilled corn, something like that; it has a great flavor and can instantly pump up eggs or taco salad with minimal reheating.

Then came the fun part, assembly.  I used store brand, whole wheat tortillas because that’s what I decided on in the supermarket, no real reason. Use whatever you want, go nuts.

Cut the tortillas in half, so they can fit in the pan easier. Here’s the layering I went with:

  •  I did a light layer of enchilada sauce (canned, yup no shame), then tortillas
  • Thick layer of refried beans (also canned, please don’t tell me to make them myself when I can buy these babies so easily)
  • Beef and enchilada sauce
  • Mexican blend shredded cheese
  • Tortillas
  • Peppers, onions, corn
  • enchilada sauce

The whole thing was then covered with aluminum foil and baked for about 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Uncover, put as much cheese and you can fit on the pan and return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes until browned and bubbly.  [I did increase the oven temp in the last 5 minutes just to help hurry up the melty goodness]


After letting it cool for about 5 minutes, we dug in and oh man was it good.  Sour cream and guacamole on the side, fresh jalapeno for me as well.

It has the fire roasted flavor and pop of the corn, the crunchy peppers and onions, melty cheese, hearty refried beans, protein, not a ton of carbs and was really good.  I’m sure it will be even better reheated when it’s had a chance to really stick together a little more.

Quick and Easy: Honey Dijon Salmon

075Dinner win.

So I’m sure people will roll their eyes at the “Quick & Easy” title, but seriously this couldn’t have been easier to make last night, for my sister and I.

I picked up two portions of salmon from the Fresh Market, along with some cauliflower and garlic.  The rest of the ingredients were pulled from the pantry (although they’re all easy to get if you have no reserves).

Here’s the meal from start to finish:

Put a pot of water to boil while you put away some other groceries. Chop some cauliflower, and put the salmon on a tin foil covered toaster oven sized pan.

064Mix 1 part dijon mustard to 1 part honey. Slather that stuff on your salmon.  Put the pan in the toaster over (or regular oven) on broil for 10 minutes.

While that’s broiling, put the cauliflower in the boiling water.  I know most sites or recipes say to steam; is anyone really doing this? Is there a difference?


Once the cauliflower is fork tender, scoop it out and put it in the blender with some Laughing Cow cheese, a bit of cream cheese maybe, salt, pepper, garlic.  Then stare at it while it does nothing and your sister tells you to add milk. Then puree until it has the consistency of mashed potatoes sort of.

With that ready, the salmon almost ready, I heated some olive oil in a pan.  Added frozen string beans and some minced garlic on high heat.  Saute until done and then plate everything up with some extra cheese.  Always remember the extra cheese.


Weekly Tradition

Like a Shabbat dinner, the Mister and I have adapted a weekly tradition of a nice meal; we prepare, we expect, we enjoy.

It’s never a full meal, nor is it eaten at the table. It’s almost always involves Brie.


Every Sunday, we prepare an appetizer-like assortment of finger foods. Cheese and crackers, vegetables and hummus, pastries have all made appearances.

This weekend we seemed to have perfected our newly installed tradition. Creamy Brie was layers on baguette slices, topped with juicy pears. These delectable bites were alternated with sips of wine and forkfuls of cake from Crisan bakery.

There wasn’t an overflowing gluttony, it was a few bites between sentences while watching our favorite show. It has no deep seated meaning and is usually served on a paper plate, this week we even shared a fork.

But it’s our tradition, something to expect and look forward to; our moment to treat ourselves in a small edible luxury before another week arrives.

Roadtrip and Repeats

On Sunday, Mister and I went on a mini road trip to just north of Lake George.  We had booked an hour trail ride at the Circle B Ranch, and were luckily blessed with the most amazing end of summer weather for the day.  It was perfectly warm and breezy as we wandered through the woods on horseback, guided by Joe and his son, Joey.

All that sitting around and nature-enjoying made us hungry.  So when we drove past Oscar’s Adirondack Smoke House afterwards, we had to stop for a quick bite.

Seriously drool worthy. We split a cheddar cheese stuffed Bratwurst, which I liberally topped with some of their beer mustard and extra sauerkraut. Thankfully Mister appreciates sauerkraut too. The Brat had a perfect snap to the casing, making it a hearty bite versus a mushy chew.

We reluctantly got back in the car, sad that we were far from home with an uncertain afternoon which made us reluctant to load up on anything perishable from the store. We headed towards Lake George and walked around for just a bit.


I was EXTREMELY disappointed by what was available for a quick bite; everything was closed, overpriced, or just unappealing (like an ice cream shop right on the water that reeked of bleach, or the dreary generic upstate pizza that was nearly $10 for two slices. I settled on two scoops of fancy ice cream to curb my crankiness until we got home. I’m not sure I see the appeal to Lake George? Did we miss some gem?

Some things are more reliably good. Like the baked eggs I’ve been making all week. I’m on my third…maybe fourth batch in just over a week. The recipe started as a crust-less quiche courtesy of my friend Erika. Out of laziness, and forgetfulness, I altered the recipe a bit based on what I remembered to buy at the store, and what had to get used up from the fridge. The basic is a scoop of cottage cheese, a cup or so of egg whites, and three-six eggs depending on how much you want to make. This gets whisked together and put in a baking dish that has already been coated with baking spray. I’ve played around with fillings, the most popular so far being baby spinach, onions, peppers, and honey turkey. My most successful tactic seems to be layering half the egg mixture, then filling, then the rest of the egg, all topped with a generous coating of shredded cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until a toothpick/knife/cake tester comes out clean. Its light and fluffy, while being hearty enough to power through morning. I’ve paired it with toast, a muffin, or some fruit and yogurt on the side. Hot or cold, its a consistently delicious dish.