Slowcooking and Tornadoes

20 Sep

Before I talk about my first experience with a borrowed slow cooker, I just want to tell my commuting story of the week. And I’m not talking about the 6 foot five man wearing a top hat I saw on the subway. For those of you not living in New York, you may not know we got hit by two tornadoes on Thursday. Specifically Brooklyn and Queens.

My experience on Thursday was similar to many of those packed into Penn Station. When I left work on Thursday, I noticed a greenish sky and saw lightening before jumping onto my subway across the street. I usually have a half hour to kill before my train to Long Island arrives, but EXACTLY when my train is supposed to arrive the boards go blank. There are no trains, and the station is turning into a sweaty mess with all the people crammed in there. Eventually we find out that trees fell across the track, eliminating service between Penn and Jamaica. This means NO service.

So what does a girl in this situation do? She meets up with her dad in a bar, her awesome boyfriend drives in to pick them up, they eat and drink…and then sit for four hours in traffic.If anyone is ever in a similar situation, the Pig and Whistle on 36th near 7th is a fantastic place to wait a Penn emergency out.

But back to the picture at the top of this post. I tried the all- american chili slow cooker recipe from Family Circle. I plopped everything in the cooker at 7:30 in the morning, and my mom turned it off when she got home at 4 pm. For the convenience factor, this recipe gets four stars. Flavor wise? 2.5. The chili was a little too thin for my family’s taste, and the fresh oregano added at the end saved it. Next time I would up the cumin, add hot pepper, and add another vegetable to the mix. So far I’m a fan of the slow cooker. I like coming home from work and having dinner all ready to go. It gives me time to exercise and socialize before going to bed and repeating my day all over again.

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News!

13 Sep

There is no one under the age of 20 in my household, yet our go to tomato sauce recipe comes from this book.

I go this book about 10 years ago when I was making my first forays into cooking. (For those of you who don’t know, that would make me 13). I took it out from the library and proceeded to host a dinner party for my extended family, making both this sauce and Emeril’s spinach stuffed shells. My aunt gave me a copy as a gift, and I proceeded to make spinach stuffed shells again. And would again several years later when I hosted a dinner for 20 friends. I think these are the only two recipes I have ever used from this book, but they’re good.  And the sauce is super easy to make, I have it simmering away right now as I type.

In other news, the blog finally has a header! Check it out. My original drawing was much crisper, but as with anything I do that then involves technology, resizing it led to a fuzzier result.

I’ll probably be posting once a week now on Mondays because my life is about to get crazy. Commuting into the city 5 days a week will lead to change in how I plan my meals. Expect to see some experimentation with a slow cooker and attempts to keep lunch from getting boring, all while trying to eat healthily. Maybe  I should rename the blog Commuter Cooking (just kidding).

And of course, some cultural excursions because as my friend Stef said to me last night ” I cannot let work become my life”.

Emergencies

9 Sep

You know what’s terrifying for a 21st century girl? Spilling a glass of water all over her laptop, that was never backed up. Ooops. I decided to let my computer rest for awhile, which is why I haven’t posted recently.

While I was without technology, I baked some Maple-Date Bars . Technically described as a cookie, I used them as a substitute granola bar for my busy weekend. Yes, I’m a person who brings snacks in her purse. You never know when you need one. The bars are very sweet (the reason for  the cookie label), but since they were non processed and contained dates and oatmeal….I felt pretty good about relying on them for a quick snack when I wanted something substantial and sweet.

The only changes I made to the original recipe was substituting in turbinado sugar, and baking in a 9 x9 inch pan. I think if you had used the 9 x 13 inch pan, it would have made the bars really thin. Next time, I’ll use whole wheat flour as well.

1 of my top meals of the Summer

2 Sep

I hate to say it, but I keep seeing red or orange leaves. Last week when I got off the subway, I wished for a sweater. I refuse to let summer go without a fight.

So last weekend became a three day weekend for me, so I could take the opportunity to go to the beach in 90 something degree weather. So I could take the chance to have one more seafood centric meal sitting on an outdoor deck.

My family and I went to Oaklands, located in Hampton Bays. Oaklands, along with the other restaurants on Dune Road, sit between a bay and the Atlantic on a narrow strip of road. Most of the time this road gets washed out, not due just to hurricanes ( I’m looking at you Earl) but also just by high tides.

We got there pretty early, which is why it looks deserted. But if you don’t pull stunts like that, you end up with an hour and a half wait for a seat. So we got our seats at our white plastic tables on the deck, and this is where I had one of my favorite meals of the entire summer.

This wasn’t it. This was a beet and blue cheese salad, with apple and an 11 fruit vinaigrette. Honestly, I would have preferred more beets and less vinaigrette.

No, this. THIS is what I’m talking about.

Grilled sea scallops over black bean puree, with a lime cilantro sauce, and crushed sweet potatoes infused with cinnamon and jalapeno. (Plus a side of asparagus)  This was perfection, and felt so innovative. Maybe it’s a sign that I’ve been eating out too much, but I feel like I see the same thing at so many restaurants. This was something new, and something amazing.

Equally amazing? The deconstructed chipwich I had for dessert.

Way to go out with a bang summer.

Cruisin Round NYC

29 Aug

So Friday night I boarded this

the Paddle Wheel Queen, with these lovely ladies

to view sights like these

My friends Stef and Jess, and I, had bought tickets for an evening cruise with Marco Polo cruises off a deal from LivingSocial. We were told we would start boarding at 7, but because of the several other boats boarding at the dock we didn’t actually start boarding until 7:30. The best part of the cruise was getting to see the lights of the city from the boat, and spending time with friends.

Our purchase included a buffet and two free drinks. The buffet was standard – penne a la vodka, caesar salad, rolls and chicken. We ate our fill because we were starving by 8:30, but it’s so hard to eat healthy at events like these. And my two glasses of wine was a serious mistake that I felt the next morning. I think I would have been safer with beer. Later on, we really enjoyed dancing on the second floor of the boat.

So while I loved cruising around the city, I’m really glad that I didn’t pay full price for the cruise.

In other NYC news, I’m very excited for this

Greenport

23 Aug

This post is tinged with nostalgia; I can’t objectively go out to eat in Greenport because it’s where I spent every summer when I was little. Well, technically we stayed every summer on Shelter Island and took the ferry into Greenport whenever we wanted to go out to eat or shop. (For those reading who don’t know, Shelter Island is a small island within the fork of Long Island. It’s only accessible by ferry). My family drove out to Greenport to visit Claudio’s for dinner. We try to make a yearly pilgrimage to it.

This year we actually stopped first at the Greenport Harbor brewery.

Located right next to the old jail!

It was very much a hole in the wall type of place, but their branding was awesome. I absolutely love their Whale/Long Island logo. With the purchase of the pint glass, we got to sample the five beers they had on tap. I think the best were their Summer Ale and Disorient Ale.

Then we had to venture out in the rain, in our ponchos to make our way to the dock where Claudio’s is.

But first, a pit stop  at the candy store where we used to go every summer. I bought some peanut butter chocolate fudge, and one truffle. 1 pound of godiva truffles can cost $48!  But I was satisfied with one.

Greenport’s actually very charming. It’s filled with galleries, restaurants, and shops. On the green there is a giant carousel. It used to be housed in a barn, and we’d ride it and try to grab the brass ring to win a free ride. Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of that today. It wasn’t really wandering weather. And I would like the opportunity to try new restaurants one day.

But we made it to Claudio’s, which is located on the water near where the ferry pulls in. We actually ate on the dock, which is furnished with plastic chairs and tables. During inclement weather, they cover the area.

But with drinks and food, we didn’t care that it was raining.

We all had appetizers and main courses, but to save you from this already lengthy post I’ll just leave you with mine. I had new england clam chowder ( when I was little I’d only order this, leaving the clam chunks in the soup, with a side of fries. I basically lived on potatoes and hated seafood. Oh how times have changed) and a mahi mahi rueben.

Architectural Glory

20 Aug

Remember this? It’s almost labor day, and I have yet to fully use my key to the city. Time just seems to be slipping away. Yesterday, I seized the opportunity when I was on the upper upper west side to go to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

I hadn’t been here in over five years, since I went during freshman year of college to see a professor’s artwork installed here. I had the same visceral reaction when I walked into the nave of the church; I gasped.

I’m in awe of architecture like this. People built this. People created this. I think it’s absolutely insane.

After sufficient ogling of the architecture, I walked up the left aisle to use my key to the city. It would unlock the entrance gate to The Baptistery, ” a gift from the descendants of Peter Stuyvesant, the last governor of New Amsterdam- or New York City, as it is known today.”

There was something thrilling about opening a gate that typically you can’t. I felt sneaky, and cast furtive looks around as I opened the padlock.

I pulled the gate closed behind me. You can enter through the side door as well, which is always open. But it was really funny when a little boy yelled at me, “HEY. how did you get in there?!”

Since you weren’t in there with me, and the key to the city project is about allowing people access to things they normally wouldn’t, I’ll leave you with a few more photos of the Cathedral.

Lola’s

18 Aug

Aside from its ability to get a Kinks song stuck in my head, my friend Dana and I decided to try out Lola’s because its a wine bar and restaurant. I may definitely enjoy a pint at a bar, but I’m a definitely a wine girl at heart. Lola’s ambiance and decor promised good things.

Sorry for the color drop photos. I didn’t realize someone had switched the settings on my family camera until later on. We were seated right away at 6:30, at a table near the windows. They must have known I wanted the natural light. This was fine until another couple was seated right on top of us. Dana and I like chatting with people and normally would have had no problem with this, but it felt a little awkward. The tension eased later on when the noise level of the restaurant was raised.

Dana and I both decided to do their prix fixe menu, which had a first, second, and third course for $20.10. (For 2010 as the menu states). Drinks were in order from their wine list, and we made vows to come back on their thursday girls nights when bottles of wine are fifteen dollars.

Let me just start by saying that these crisps were delicious. So flavorful. I could have had just these and my malbec, and would have been completely satisifed.

I can’t really say the same about my first course.

Their stuffed rigatoni in a light tomato sauce was alright. I was enjoying it, as I do all cheese stuffed pasta, until Dana said ( and I quote) “It tastes kind of microwaveable. Like one of those frozen dinners”. And I realized she was sort of right.

My second course was a chicken lentil soup which was good, it just needed one punch of bold flavor. It was all kind of one note.I appreciated the big chunks of veggies and chicken though.

This was the mojito salmon, with a muddled mint and rum glaze, served with wild rice and vegetables. Again, I felt the flavor was lacking. I couldn’t even taste the glaze. I had enough rice to feed a family.  The salmon was perfectly cooked though.

And for a bit of contrast, Dana’s 3rd course.

So Lola’s was fantastic with regards to wine and atmosphere, but overall I felt the food was just average. Since I enjoyed the space I’m sure I’ll be back, but most likely just at the bar.

Wine and cute shoes (and great company) made it a fun night out.

Dana's cute peep toes. Sorry for the blur D.

Museum Hopping

13 Aug

Yesterday I wanted to go to some museums I haven’t visited in months, or years. (Or ever). I wanted to go here.

Except I forgot that the Guggenheim is closed on Thursdays, breaking from the rule of no museum Mondays.

I waffled indecisively in front of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

I missed the exhibit I wanted to see at the Jewish Museum.

Eventually I just walked down to that my safe bet, the Met. I never know where I’ll end up there, I tend to wander through the same hallways. I go up the main staircase, usually making a left turn into prints and drawings. Then I’ll just segue from there, making arbitrary turns.  Once in awhile I’ll end up underneath the Medieval gateway, which I’ll use as my marker. Yesterday in particular I tried to avoid the throngs of people.

While wandering through the museum, I started a train of thought inspired by one of the photographs on display in “Between Here and There: Passages in Contemporary Photography”.  The photograph was by Thomas Struth.

Thomas Struth. National Museum of Art, 1999.

The museum’s placard discussed how Thomas Struth focused on the secular religion of art, as well as the “appreciation of difference and cultural specificity.” This photograph, of an art loan between France and Japan, shows us how the Japanese chose to display Liberty Leading the People and how it is viewed. All the information presented to me, through both the placard and image, led me to thinking about this concept of art as a secular religion. I think it’s completely valid.

Even the Met’s architecture lent itself to this train of thought. All I could think of, as I looked at these arches where the churches I’d visited in Florence. Even the niche filled with flowers reminded me of the small niches for religious statues and offerings you would find randomly in a wall.

NYC. Florence.

And then I found myself in a wing where I had never been before, the Florence and Herbert Irving Galleries for the Arts of South and Southeast Asia. I discovered about the religious transformation of the region, as Buddhism spread from India to China.

I spent some time wandering the museum in reverential silence, thinking about the cultural significance of so many things.

Which led me to search out another cultural element. Food.

An art related post. Sort of.

9 Aug

My friends, who like art and studied art and create art, happen to also like food. Really like food. So when some of us get together, it’s usually for a potluck type situation.

Half of the food we had on this particular night isn’t even featured. Not only did I forget to take pictures until after people had started eating, but I missed most of the grilling action entirely.

The natural lighting in this room is fantastic. It’s the type of light artists (and food bloggers) love.

Not only is the food freshly prepared, but 75 % of the bowls and serving plates are hand made as well.

There’s no official end time to these parties, and they essentially fulfill all my cultural cravings.