Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Quack Quack... Happy Halloween!



Unfortunately for many, trick-or-treating was postponed or cancelled this year due to Hurricane Sandy. NYC's annual Halloween Parade in the West Village was even cancelled to conserve resources like city police officers. Luckily, trick-or-treating still continued in our building. Little J dressed up as a duck this year... it was the first time she went trick-or-treating, and although she may not have understood it all, she loved it. People ooh and ahh over my outfit and give me candy, and mommy lets me eat (some) of it? AWESOME.

                           




She even got a special Hello Kitty trick-or-treat set from her Aunt & Uncle who are crashing with us until their power returns! It was complete with a new lunchbox, sand pail, candy necklace, key chain, placemat, snow globe, and tons of candy. Little J was over the moon.





Hope you all had a safe and sweet Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I Heart NY

Hurricane Sandy roared through the East Coast yesterday, humbling all of us. These images are truly remarkable and shocking.

Subway Station as pictured by this article

Gravesend Bay in Brooklyn, via NY Daily News

Submerged Taxis as pictured in USNews

Flooded Cars described in LA Times

Uprooted tree from MotherJones

We lucked out and didn't lose power, but since we are on a high floor, the wind was really scary last night. Our windows were literally caving in and shaking as the storm howled outside. Needless to say, we stayed away from the windows until the height of the storm died down after midnight. Woke up today to a desolate NY, and saw some crazy photos on the news and via the internet. Lots of love to those who are suffering, and a huge thanks to all those helping with the aftermath.

My brother and sister-in-law lost power in their apartment, so packed up and came over for some tlc. They had too much stuff to walk, and couldn't find a cab, so a kind New Yorker gave them a ride (along with their two suitcases!) Isn't that so nice? This kind of crisis really brings out the best in New Yorkers.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy and Yummy Eggs

We all got a day off today thanks to Hurricane Sandy... we're stuck inside, but taking this opportunity to catch up on lots of other things! I was in the mood to make a yummy breakfast and took inspiration from two different dishes we loved at Babette's this past weekend. I had the Eggs Romano - poached eggs over broccoli rabe and crispy polenta, drenched in a roasted tomato broth. A couple of my friends tried Tuscan Quinoa Bowl which was kale and butternut squash with sunny side up eggs, over quinoa.  Both were delicious and I wanted to try to mimic the tastes using ingredients I had at home. I ended up making poached eggs with spinach and crispy home fries, over spicy couscous. You can make a similar dish with any pantry ingredients you may have lying around!




Poached Eggs with Spinach, Paprika Potatoes and Spicy Couscous

Ingredients:
Eggs (4 eggs for 2 adults)
Spinach (2 handfuls is perfect)
Potatoes (1 small is enough for 2 adults)
Couscous (2 cups)
Spices you have on hand (I used salt, black pepper, my favorite fajita seasoning blend, paprika and a touch of cumin on the potatoes)

Method:
Boil the potatoes (I use this pressure cooker to make the process faster!)
Sauté the spinach in a dash of olive oil, add a dash of salt
Boil the couscous, then add the fajita seasoning blend (or any other spices you like)

Once the potatoes are boiled, chop into squares (I keep the skin on...love the taste)
Bring olive oil to a simmer in a pan, add cumin, paprika and salt
Sauté the potatoes in the oil/spices until slightly crispy

This is the best way to poach an egg:
Bring water in a saucepan to almost boiling (some add a dash of vinegar when boiling begins, I don't)
Separately, crack an egg into a cup and then slowly drop the egg into the nearly boiling water
Use 2 spoons to gently hold the egg together (by creating a wall around the egg in water)
Once the egg starts to congeal, turn off the heat and cover the pot
Let it sit for 4-5 minutes, then use a wide slotted spoon to cup out the eggs

Layer the dish with couscous first, then the spinach and potatoes, and add your poached eggs last. Top with sea salt and black pepper... enjoy with a hot cup of coffee!

 
Hurricane Sandy on its way to NYC

The wind is roaring outside! Hope everyone stays safe and dry over the next couple of days.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Weekend Getaway!

                         

This past weekend, we got together with some of my college friends and enjoyed a relaxing, beautiful fall weekend in the Hamptons. It was filled with walks, chats, and good eats. I am so lucky to have an amazing group of girlfriends from college, and we are really good about getting together often. On Saturday, my hubby played golf with my friend's husband, while the girls walked around town, ran into Jimmy Fallon at brunch (!!!) and enjoyed some good ol' pumpkin picking. There's something magical about a crisp day with close friends.

photo credit: Amanda M.
                           
       
                             

Saturday was a sunny and gorgeous fall day. Little J had a blast running around in the crunchy leaves, breathing in the open air and learning to skip rocks! Definitely a city girl that loves the country.




Hank's Pumpkintown is probably the best pumpkin patch/fall festival I've ever seen. It's in Watermill, NY (about an hour and half east of NYC), and is heaven for little kids. It has it's own pumpkin patch, apple farm, tons of kiddie rides and games, and even a very large maize maze. We weren't daring enough to try the 1-hour maze, but did successfully find our way out of the 20-minute one!








photo credit: Rachel K.
photo credit: Allison C.

The first couple of things I notice when I leave NYC, are the smell of trees and the sight of open sky. We couldn't get enough of the views... how perfect is this?

Thanks to Amanda M. for letting me use her iPhone to take this one!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Being Mommy: Toddler Toys

I really hesitate to buy toys that are what I call "space splurges" - living in NYC, space is a hot commodity, and I think 1000x times before buying little J her next big toy. Recently, I space-splurged on two items that have really been paying off.

The first is her Step 2 Kitchen. I did a lot of research and chose this as the most space-efficient but long lasting. It's priced well too, and is extremely safe and sturdy. Take a look here at little J's Dream Kitchen. This thing is amazing! First of all it comes with a china cabinet, microwave with real live noises, an oven with timer, and a cordless phone. Wowza. Placing a pot on the burner prompts boiling noises, and putting a pan there makes sizzling noises! Additionally, I bought a basic fruit and vegetable set with a chopping board.  Little J spends a lot of time washing dishes, pressing buttons, turning on and off the oven light, and making "veggie soup." Yummm. I think this is something she will enjoy for years to come, especially with add ons like this pizza kit. This was worth the price in dollars and in space!

I started seeing that little J could really use a small table and chairs to work on coloring projects, and play with her mini doll house. She seemed to love eating snacks at a table, but needed something just her size. Again, I didn't want to take up a lot of space especially in case she didn't end up liking the table and chairs. I did some research and am so happy to have found a wooden, washable and perfect sized set on amazon.... it even has a little cubby for crayons! I couldn't believe the value on little J's table and chairs. And it matches her room perfectly. Happy Momma. 



She loves having tea, coloring and reading at this table. This is a great gift for the toddler in your life :)



Recipe: Carrot, Apple & Beet Juice



When I was young, my mom made me drink a tall, disgusting class of carrot juice every morning. It was rich with vitamins and potassium, and nauseating fibrous pulp. I'm not sure what juicer she was using, but I'm so glad to have found my Breville that makes a smooth delicious glass of juice from nearly anything you put into it. It's a splurge, but I've found it worth every penny... especially when our picky toddler enjoys the juice!

We have a perfect blend of carrot, beet and apple juice every morning. I use organic carrots and beets from Whole Foods, and gala apples to sweeten the mix. Roughly 5 carrots, 1 mid sized beet and 1 apple for 3 perfect glasses. Garnish with mint if you have it handy...healthy & delicious. It's a perfect start to any morning!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Restaurant Review: Ilili

We checked out ilili last week with a high school friend and his wife. I was the only vegetarian at the table, but I was not the only one impressed with this restaurant! ilili is a casual but cool vibe, deliciously filling, flavorful food, and great cocktails. So many options for veggies like me! I had been for drinks and apps once before, but this was my first time dining there. I got to try the Warm Eggplant, Batata Harra, and Brussel Sprouts to start... mmm. The Brussels Sprouts were served with a tangy mint yogurt, and the the Batata Harra were surprisingly spicy. The Warm Eggplant was the crowd pleaser though, with its savory stewed taste. The portions here are great and the vibe makes you want to linger...

The Vegetable Risotto was a perfect entree... ripe with seasonal vegetables like squash and topped off with an ideal amount of parmesan to add some kick. I washed down my meal with the Argentinian Malbec, and everyone at my table enjoyed different selections from the nice sized wine list. All in all, this was a great week night pick!

Next time I'm going to try the Tabbouleh and the Rkaykat... my mediterranean fave. Not sure how I missed those this time around!


Book Review: This is How You Lose Her, by Junot Diaz

                                       

Let me just start out by saying WOW. I was blown away by Diaz's incredible prose - passionate, sensual and raw with emotion. Diaz makes your cringe, cry and laugh in this 224 page stunner. The book opens with heartbreak as young Dominican American Yunior struggles to put back together a broken relationship. In the next eight stories, we see various aspects of Yunior's macho but weak heart. With each love - of a woman, his brother, a neighbor - the reader gets the inside look and if you are anything like me, no matter how many faults he has, you are rooting for Yunior to find the something that lasts. He is a romantic but a womanizer, coming to terms with his childhood without a father, the death of his seemingly macho older brother, and of his own shortcomings as a loyal lover. Yunior is obviously smart, but he is a self-proclaimed "sucio" - which we are to assume is a man who is a jerk to women.

Similar to in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Diaz's prose is colloquial, filled with street slang, but beautiful. He makes the most despicable actions almost endearing with his perfectly worded prose. Like when Yunior is having an affair with an older woman, a teacher from his school, Diaz writes "You are scared stupid at what you are doing but but it is also exciting and makes you feel less lonely in the world", and how can you argue with that? Yunior tells us that he's "not a bad guy - I know how that sounds - defensive, unscrupulous - but it's true. I'm like everybody else: weak, full of mistakes, but basically good." Even though you know you're not supposed to, you don't want to, you still do like the narrator, because his voice is honest and reflective...and this is why this book was a refreshing read.

Yunior can't stop cheating on the girls he loves and he doesn't pretend to be better than he is - not to us at least. He repeatedly disappoints us and himself. He starts out wooing and trying to recover his relationship with Magda, but is surprised to find that she is strong and won't succumb to his charm. As a kid, he watched his athletic, better looking brother Rafa mistreat and use women, dreaming that he himself, the worse looking but much smarter brother, would be so different. What happens to Yunior that he doesn't amount to much more than Rafa and his father did? Are we to believe that the two male figures in his life left this mark on Yunior? Or are all men "sucios" in one way or another? The part that gets you is that while Yunior feels regret, he is reckless enough to continue making the same mistakes. Only when we get to the last story, "The Cheater's Guide to Love" - do we see that Yunior is brutally heartbroken and sees the error of his cheating ways.

Only one of the nine stories stood out as unnecessary and confusing, and that was "Otravida, Otravez". I believe this is the only one told from a female perspective, and fittingly, it was poetically written - the writing was more emotional, included vivid environmental descriptions, and it was generally more optimistic, but I am still wondering what it meant and how it related to the rest of the very tightly knit stories central to the same character. Who is Yasmin? Is this Diaz's precursor to the next book? I did appreciate the commentary on hard-working immigrants, but did not fully understand this woman's connection to Yunior. Anyone else?


I read Diaz's other books - Drown and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - and still like this one the best. This is How You Lose Her spoke to me even though it was told from a mostly macho male voice. It was moving, filling - and honest. This is not a grand, epic love story but in the end, it is a love story - mostly filled with loss and regret. Is there hope for Yunior? I don't want to give away too much because this book is a must read. Download this on your kindle right away!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Recipe: Hearty Breakfast on a Rainy Morning

We were in the mood for a hearty breakfast on this rainy Wednesday morning... and to satisfy this craving while getting ready for work, playing with little J and feeding her breakfast, I made my go-to delicious breakfast. Just mix it up, pop it in the oven, and 25-30 minutes later (post-shower and dressing), its ready to go.

Ingredients:
Any veggies you have in the fridge! I used tomatoes, zucchini, portabello mushrooms and some chilli peppers
Eggs (4 whites, 2 whole)
Milk
Cheese (optional)

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and spray pam onto your favorite oven safe dish. I always use my cobalt blue Le Creuset 1-1/4-Quart baker - beautiful, easy to clear, oven-to-table, and the perfect amount for two.

In a mixing bowl, whip your eggs with a splash of milk (I use 2%), stir in the veggies and cheese (I used a tiny bit of cheddar), and pour into the dish. 

You'll know it's done when the eggs rise and the top starts browning (25 minutes or so). Serve with some sea salt and your favorite hot sauce. We had it with our usual carrot juice  and a side of berries. Yummm....