We’ve got some blustery, chilly weather here today. Sort of a nice change from the 65-degree weather we had on Monday. Don’t get me wrong: I loathe the cold, but there’s something nice and seasonal about the chilly weather this time of year. Just makes it feel that much more like Thanksgiving and Christmas should be upon us.
Since I last checked in, I made the hop across the Hudson. That’s right, people. I’m a Jersey girl once again.
I found a subletter for my old place, so I was able to get out of that lease about a month and a half early. Once that was solidified we hit the ground running looking for apartments. It was a bit difficult, because my boyfriend, Stephen, has a big (and I mean big) chocolate lab/catahoola mix. He’s a sweetheart, but landlords really don’t seem to want dogs–especially big ones.
Not even this sweet face:
All was well in the end, because we found a really great spot. We’re really close to one of the PATH trains (key for me, since I have to commute into the city every day) and some great restaurants and we have a spacious, new place (we’re only the second people to live in the apartment).
We’ve been hard at work furnishing, decorating, and making the place our own. It’s been a lot of fun blending our styles and I think, after just about three weeks and a major roadblock in which our dresser wouldn’t fit up the stairs (another story for another day), we’re nearly there. New bedding, a headboard, and matching side tables are still on the wishlist but we’ll get there.
For now, I’m happy to slow down and cozy up on our big comfy couch with a warm bowl of soup–perhaps this Italian Wedding Soup (adapted from Food & Wine)–and enjoy having an awesome apartment to call our own.
What in the world is Italian Wedding soup? That’s a good question. Even after making this soup, when my boyfriend asked me why it’s called Italian Wedding Soup, I said maybe because they serve it at Italian weddings. Um, no–that would be incorrect. Apparently, according to the always reliable (not) Wikipedia, it’s a reference to the fact that green vegetables and meats go well together.
Whatever the case my be, this soup really is the perfect dinner for a cold night (as long as you serve some crunchy garlic bread on the side!). The meatballs and the rice will help fill you up and, even though the ingredient list is super simple, it’s full of flavor thanks to the meatballs being cooked in the broth.
Stew meatballs in chicken broth and white wine, then combine with rice, carrots, celery, and spinach for an easy (but flavorful!) Italian Wedding Soup.
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 large carrot, finely chopped
- 1 celery rib, finely chopped
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 7.5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 pound ground pork, veal, beef mix (or any ground meat you choose--just opt for a leaner mix to minimize fat leaching into the soup)
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup cooked rice
- 5 ounces baby spinach
- 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Saute carrot, celery, and onion until onions become translucent (about 3-4 minutes).
- Add white wine and chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
- bring the chicken stock to a boil with the carrot and celery. Season with salt and pepper.
- Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, knead the ground pork mixture with Parmesan, bread crumbs and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Form the mixture into 1-inch balls.
- Drop the balls into the boiling soup and turn the heat down to simmer for 5 minutes.
- Stir in the cooked rice, spinach and chickpeas and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, 5 minutes longer.
- Serve with crunchy garlic bread and extra grated Parmesan to sprinkle on the soup.
Well, well, well. I kind of can’t believe I’ve been away for so long. Since I last posted in early April (say, what!?), time has absolutely flown.
I’ve been in my own little bubble of a world that includes lots of traveling with my most amazing newish boyfriend (we were in town for two weekends all summer), exciting times at work (was recently given a new title and some added responsibility), and, of course, some much-needed dinner dates with friends. Follow me on Instagram to see some highlights from my summer!
Through all the excitement—and there’s been a lot of it—one thing I’ve really missed is blogging. Once Google Reader fell off the face of the planet, so did my blog reading. As things slow down for me a bit, keeping up with my own blog and the community as a whole is right at the top of my priority list. Just don’t know if I’m quite there yet. I hope to post more frequently, albeit sporadically, for the next few months. Once my big trip is over (headed to “the land down under” to visit my little brother while he studies abroad) and I move (this jersey girl is moving back to NJ), there should be more time on my plate.
In the meantime, I want to leave you with a recipe that has been my go-to during the past few weeks. One of the girls at work (Hi, Erin!), brought these little guys in last year and was met with loud cries for more from everyone. Over the last few weeks I’ve had a few events—christenings, birthday parties—that I wanted to bring a little something to. When Erin brought the pumpkin whoopie pies into work again, I thought: perfect! Seasonal and delicious.
Initially I made a batch of these pumpkin whoopie pies and a batch of chocolate whoopie pies, because I was afraid not everyone (particularly the men) would like pumpkin. Boy, was I wrong. The chocolate was good, but the pumpkin whoopie pies were all-stars. Each time I made them they were gone practically before the foil on the tray was even lifted. At the christening, I think they were finished before dessert was even put out. I think I’ll forgo the chocolate from now on.
Make these. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Decadent cream cheese frosting sandwiched between two fluffy, cake-like pumpkin cookies.
Adapted from: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/pumpkin-whoopie-pies/detail.aspx and http://allrecipes.com/recipe/mini-pumpkin-whoopie-pies/detail.aspx
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 egg
- 1.5 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2.5 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 6 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1.5 cups powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease baking sheets with butter or cooking spray.
- Combine the oil and brown sugar. Mix in the pumpkin and eggs, beating well. Add the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice. Mix well. Let dough sit 10 minutes.
- Using a tablespoon, drop equal-sized dollops of dough onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 12-14 minutes. Let cookies cool thoroughly.
- Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla extract on medium speed until fluffy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar until light and fluffy.
- Once cookies have cooled, , make sandwiches by piping cream cheese frosting on the underside of one cookie and sandwiching with another.
I think it’s safe to say that spring has finally sprung here in NYC (we’ll just forget that Friday is supposed to go back down to the 50’s).
Saturday and Sunday were nice, but today is even nicer. I even brought my Kindle and plan to use my lunch hour to continue reading The Happiness Project outside.
Yesterday I also completed the grueling task of switching my wardrobe. Out with the fall/winter clothes, in with the spring/summer clothes!
When I was packing for Arizona two weeks ago, I realized that a pretty significant portion of my summer clothes had to go this year. I haven’t done a major spring/summer refresh in at least a couple of years, so I found that my clothes fell into a few different categories: they looked ratty because I’ve had them for so long, they were a little too young looking, or they just didn’t fit quite right anymore. Of course, there were some things I liked and wanted to keep but, overall, I was feeling a little uninspired.
I remember feeling similar last year, but deciding to keep it all because “I’d probably end up wanting to wear it.” Yeah—we’ve all been there before.
Turns out, I didn’t wear most of it and, when I went through the process of switching my wardrobe this year, I didn’t even have a desire to keep most of it. So, I filled up a big, big bag to donate.
It feels so refreshing to have a closet that isn’t spilling over with clothes I don’t wear, and I feel good knowing the stuff that’s in good condition will be going to someone who needs it!
The idea of filling some of that empty space with some newer, more appropriate pieces isn’t so bad either.
Switching gears a bit: This grapefruit, kale, and avocado quinoa salad is something I’ve been enjoying for the past week. It’s the perfect winter-to-spring meal. The salad features a few winter items like kale and grapefruit, but is incredibly light and fresh. Plus, it’s very healthy (hello, bathing suit season in t-7 weeks!).Pin It
I’m back in the big city for the weekend, but have no big plans. Sometimes that’s the best way to do it. I’m sure they’ll be some basketball watching and maybe some walking around in the park (say hello to a forecast of 60 degrees on Sunday! Um, finally!!).
Being that today’s the best day of the week, I’ve got a little treat for you today: another deee-li-cious smoothie recipe.
This smoothie reminds me of an amazing milkshake I get on family trips to a lodge in the Poconos. It’s one of those places that just kind of transports you to the past—it’s so family-oriented and has that old-time charm. Very Dirty Dancing meets the Shining, except I haven’t fallen in love with any employees yet–er, anyone for that matter–and there’s really nothing scary about the place.
Anyway, they have this darling tea room (I like to call it the pop shop) in the basement that has light bites and some killer milkshakes. My favorite? Banana! Sadly, I only get the opportunity to indulge in this treat once a year when we head to the resort.
Not anymore, folks.
The other day I got the idea to make a honey banana smoothie and, when I took the first sip of my creation, nostalgia set in. I had unwittingly created a healthier version of the banana milkshake. I’m serious, this slightly sweet smoothie could be dessert, but it’s made without ice cream and uses dairy-free milk instead of full-fat milk. It’s a real winner: so creamy, so tasty.
Without spinach:Pin It
Ever since moving in November, I’ve been lucky enough to escape the wrath of the New York City subway system for the most part. I walk to and from work unless it’s really raining or I’m really late, so I pretty much only hop on the subway a few times a week to see friends or run an errand.
I just started reading The Happiness Project and the author, Gretchen Rubin, says walking just a small amount (I think she says 10 minutes) each day can help you feel happier. I’ve definitely found that to be true, and really do think walking to work gives me some time to think and admire some of the beauty in NYC. It really seems to clear my head a little.
Though, the fact that I no longer have to stand like a sardine in the subway cars during rush hour with crazies like this woman cannot be ignored and surely has something to do with that weight being lifted.
Seriously. This lady exists. And she’s terrifying. (Please note: I am in no way trying to minimize the severity of mental health problems. Just imagine being screamed at wildly, sneezed on, and spat at when you’re just trying to get home.)
If you try to talk to one of my friends about her, he—honest to goodness—gets visibly upset.
Another recent subway experience taught me why one should not be excited to see an empty train car during rush hour.
There is a reason that car is empty, my friends.
The reason that day: There was a man laying down across a bench of seats drinking booze and smoking a cigarette (smoking a cigarette on the subway!!!). He had also most certainly wet his pants and more–we shall not go into details on this food blog. Doors closed before I could realize that it was not my good fortune to be traveling to Queens on a quiet day, but rather everyone else would prefer to squish into the other cars than be in the smelly (understatement of the century, people. I was actually gagging) car.
A few days later my friend had two consecutive days in which she had the joy of riding the subway to work with a naked man.
Point of the story: New York City can a big, scary place and sometimes I really do feel like a tiny fish in some seriously crazy water.
A-ha! The (weak) tie together.Pin It
I’m baaack from my crazy, whirlwind trip to the Southwestern state of Arizona.
How beautiful is that?!
I spent three sunny 80-plus degree days in Scottsdale lounging by the pool, shopping, and dining. Lots of dining.
I even tried a tequila shot with the worm in it on my last day. It was so. gross. Do not try the tequila shot with the worm in it.
That gruesome beverage was part of an “Easter egg hunt” we did around Old Town (where all the shops and bars are) in Scottsdale.
The day, which was organized by my friend’s extremely creative boss, began with a beautiful Easter brunch at a resort. Afterwards, we hopped on bikes he had decorated with Easter balloons to begin the hunt.
He’d leave each place a little before us, text us clues as to what locale he was at, and then let a waitress or bartender in on the secret and give them our prizes. For example, at the first place we had to figure out what he was drinking and order it. We scrutinized the drink up and down, made our guesses, and both got it wrong so we got smaller token prizes instead of the big egg. The right answer would have been to simply ask the bartender what he was drinking and order that! So simple, but so easy to miss!
It was so much fun and definitely made my Easter one to remember. I’m used to spending the holiday with my mom’s extended family doing our own little Easter egg hunt, so I was definitely missing their presence when I woke up Sunday (and I’m not just saying that because my mom reads this!).
Thanks to my very gracious hosts, the day was just as festive and fun.
I’m happy to be back in New York, but I’m definitely missing the flavor of Arizona—especially those balmy temperatures! So, here’s my attempt at preserving a taste of the Southwest: Southwestern twice-baked sweet potatoes.
This twice-baked sweet potato has absolutely no cream or other fattening ingredients you often find in twice-baked potatoes, but still has tons of great flavor thanks to the smokiness of the chipotle and tons of beans and veggies. Sprinkle it with just a little cheese and I could eat this all week long!Pin It
Well, I was going to tell you all about how I generally eat really healthy, but then I get to the airport and Burger King just has this gravitational hold on me (gross, I know) so I made these no-bake oatmeal raisin bites in attempt to stay away from the burger, but then something that’s actually interesting happened to me.
In other words, you’re in luck because I will no longer bore you with the intricacies of my occasional encounters with fast food.
Yesterday I redeemed a “Belly Bite,” which is basically a free product or service offered by this loyalty company, Belly, in hopes that people will return to the business offering the free thing. It was really pretty awesome: I got a free manicure at a pretty nice place. All I had to do was pay the tip.
Here’s where my fun began.
I had no cash on me when I left to go to the nail salon, so I stopped at the ATM just a few blocks away to get cash, knowing I would likely have to pay the tip in cash. Anyway, I took out $60 for the weekend–three twenty dollar bills. When it came time to tip the nail technician, I had to get change for one of the $20′s from the girl at the front desk. Looking back, it was an awkward exchange. The two girls sitting at the front desk could not find enough change in their drawer for my twenty, so they went into their own wallets to formulate change. They gave me a $10, a $5, and five $1′s for my $20. I handed the girl her tip and off I went.
Now, I’m a little embarrassed to tell you how I discovered that the $5 I received was counterfeit but it also sort of makes the story.
I stopped at the wine store on my corner to buy a few mini bottles of vodka for my trip (expert travel tip: paying $2 for a mini bottle is way cheaper than the $8+ they charge in-flight and those minis meet security requirements. Great, now I sound like a drunk). When I went to pay, I handed the cashier a $5 and two $1′s. He handed the $5 back to me and said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t take this; it’s fake.” Ummm, WHAT!
He took out one of those little highlighter pens to demonstrate for me that, because the pen mark stayed brown and did not turn yellow, I was indeed stuck with a phony five. Flustered and confused, I gave him a $10, got my change, went home, and promptly called the nail salon to complain.
After much argument and a mention of the police, she agreed to give me a new $5 but the place is like a 15 minute subway ride and, let’s get real, I guess it’s really just not worth the hassle over $5. I resigned to eat the loss.
UNTIL! A few hours later, while I was packing, I noticed that I didn’t have my singles. Amid all the confusion over the fake, the guy at the wine store forgot to give me my singles.
So this morning I stopped across the street on my way to work, explained the situation to the cashier, and they would not give me the $2. They assured me that their registers had checked out at the end of the day and basically insinuated I was lying. I know it’s only $2, but I go there all the time and thought they would have a little faith in me and know a little something about that thing called customer service. Instead, she said to me: “we are a business, which means they can’t just hand out money to anyone.” No need for the attitude, lady.
The bank was my next stop. I figured I’d suck up the $5 loss+ $2 loss=$7 loss and turn in that damn five and just get it out of my life. Plus, I wouldn’t want to screw anyone else with it.
The lady at the bank patiently listened to my story, took one look at the bill, and laughed. It’s a $5 bill from 1950. It’s not fake, it’s just old.
Since I was in full monster mode and can’t just leave anything be, I marched right back to the liquor store to tell them that my money was indeed real and that, because of their overly scrutinizing cashier, I was all anxiety-ridden about having a fake bill, was now out $2, AND they insinuated I was a liar.
I’m certain that they think I’m the lunatic, but I think they are the crazy ones. Seriously guy at the register? I’m gonna give you a fake $5 (that’s not fake at all) and then try to finagle an extra $2 out of you even when it turns out the questionable bill was not questionable at all? I think not.
I may be out $2, but at least I’m on my way to Arizona curing my headache with my mini bottles of Voli and these delicious no-bake oatmeal raisin bites with no hamburger in sight (okay, maybe only because there isn’t a Burger King in my terminal).
Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!!
P.S. I am not a lunatic–I am just very, very stubborn. What can I say, it’s the Taurus in me?Pin It
Thanks to two of my lovely “blends” (for those of you not down with the lingo—that’s blog friends. Blends.) Carol and Alissa, I’ve been on a serious smoothie kick for the past three weeks and there’s no end in sight. The Green Pina Colada Smoothie and the Thin Mint Smoothie had me hooked. Can you blame me?
I really look forward to my morning smoothie for a few reasons: they are easy to make, they taste absolutely divine, they keep me full for hours, and I sneak in an extra serving of greens without even tasting it.
Yes, you can trust me on that last one.
I was always fairly certain that everyone was lying right to my face when they said “I swear you can’t taste the [insert green vegetable that does not belong in my smoothie here].” But, what do you know? Turns out they were right and I was wrong. Stranger things have happened.
Though Carol and Alissa’s versions of the green smoothie were on the menu most mornings, I did experiment with a few other flavors. This being my favorite:
My banana oat green smoothie is inspired by a smoothie that they sell at one of the stores on my boycott list, Bocca. It’s a good smoothie, but the only exception to my Bocca boycott is a bagel and a diet soda. And that only happens when I’ve quite possibly had one too many adult beverages the night before and cannot live without a bagel with cream cheese (the origin of the boycott, btw. Who puts only a skid mark of cream cheese on the bagel and then charges you an arm and a leg when you ask for a little more? Not cool.) and a diet soda.
Anyway, the original smoothie has banana, granola, honey, and non-fat frozen yogurt. All bias aside (ha!) mine is better for a few reasons: I do not have to give $4.50 to a store I do not like for a single smoothie, mine has less calories, and mine sneaks in that extra serving of veggies.Pin It
Ok, you guys: Can I complain for just a minute? Technically speaking, spring has finally arrived. I say technically, because I’m calling bluff. Spring has not sprung, at least in these parts. It is currently 37 degrees, which is bad enough but then weather.com has to go ahead and tell me that, with the wind chill, it feels like 29 degrees. Oh, and it snowed this morning. And we are expecting more snow on Tuesday. It’s March, people. What is this, the Arctic circle?
Luckily, I’m headed to sunnier parts exactly one week from today. I’ll be spending Easter weekend in (hopefully) sunny Scottsdale, Arizona where the temperature is a very desirable 80 degrees. Bring on that vitamin D!
In the meantime, I’ll begrudgingly put on my puffy coat, my earmuffs, and my mittens and drag myself to work in the very chilly wind and snow.
At least I have this warm, comforting and extremely delicious bowl of chili to look forward to when I get home.
Chili is a tough thing to make look pretty, but it really is so darn tasty. Can you agree to believe me if this photo isn’t doing it justice? Okay, good.
I know I have a few vegetarian readers out there and, as I was walking to work, I was thinking about how I’ve had a lot of carnivorous recipes lately. Well, it dawned on me that I should suggest you all make this chili with sweet potatoes in place of the ground turkey and add kidney beans and extra bell peppers. I already know the beans and the bell pepper taste mighty good in this chili, but something tells me sweet potato would be extra delicious paired with the smoky chipotle flavor. Just a thought.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 large bell pepper, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 1 (32-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
- 2 chipotle chilis (in adobo sauce), finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons adobo sauce
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- ½ 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ 15-ounce can corn, drained
- Heat olive oil in a large pot. Saute onions and bell pepper until onions are translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute about 1 minute until garlic is fragrant, being careful not to burn.
- Add ground turkey and cook approximately 8 minutes, until cooked through.
- Stir in diced tomatoes, chipotle chilis, adobo sauce, chili powder, and cumin. Simmer for 15 minutes until mixture begins to thicken slightly, stirring occasionally. Add chickpeas, black beans, and corn and simmer 5 more minutes.