Awkward & Awesome Thursday: A Period of Transition

Well hello there! It has certainly been and awkward and awesome past few weeks. I am in a bit of a transition, so haven’t had too much time in front of the computer outside of office hours.

Last week I had dinner with a friend, and we wound up discussing how our twenties feel like an awkwardly constant transition. I found myself embracing this notion, saying that this is how things are supposed to be. By the end of dinner, I think we both walked away with a feeling of confidence in the unknown. As long as each “next step” makes a little more sense than the last, I think it is safe to say we’re moving forward.

Tomorrow marks the close of a short chapter in my journey. On Monday, I will return to the company I left only six months ago. I could not be happier; I feel like I am going home.

On a lighter note, here are the awkward and awesome occurrences of the last few weeks.

AWKWARD

  • As you might know, I currently take the bus to work. Even though I could take the select bus I take the local for two reasons:1) it’s closer to my apartment by a whole two blocks 2) it’s less crowded and I can sit and read my nook. Yes friends, I am a very lazy girl at eight in the morning. Anyway, that isn’t even what is awkward. Starting about two weeks ago, they turned off the flashing blue lights on the select bus. One local bus runs to about every three or four select buses. Usually I know when I see the bus five blocks away if it is one that I can get on or not, but now I am left with false, high hopes when I see a bus in the distance. It isn’t until the bus is right in front of me that I realize that I have to stand in the cold for longer, because of my illogical laziness.
  • Every girl I know is on Weight Watchers. I’m sure it’s awesome and it works and all that great stuff−because so many people wouldn’t be on it if it didn’t−but good God I feel like a fatty. Tuesday night I went out to dinner with three ladies who are all on WW, and they decided to split a panini and a wrap between the three of them. They were concerned about splitting something cut in half between three people, so they proceeded to order both sandwiches “cut in three, or not cut at all.” That poor waiter was so confused I thought his head was going to spin and fly across the room. I kept it simple with a smoothie, but forgot to ask my girls how many points I was consuming. If you are also on Weight Watchers (oh, I bet you are!), you should read a lovely little blog called City Skinny Life. I read it even though I’m not on the plan, because she goes to lots of my favorite NYC spots.
  • My birthday is on Superbowl Sunday (this Sunday).  I can’t remember if I shared this already, but as you know, I’m lazy, so I’m not going to check back-posts. You can let me air my frustrations again, or you can move on to the “AWESOME” section. I was a cheerleader for 11 years, but no, I do not watch football regularly. I don’t even know who is playing on Sunday, and I do not appreciate that my friends will likely “take it easy” Saturday night to prep for the big game, and that my brother will likely not even acknowledge my birthday day-of. The last time this happened (my 21st birthday), I tried to embrace it and get my friends together at our college’s sports bar for the game. Epic fail. Happy 21st birthday, Christina, you have three friends who like you more than they like football. This time around I will not try to compete with the game. Thank goodness for boyfriends who don’t care about football either – they make it all okay.

AWESOME

  • Influenster is at it again – they sent me three huge bottles of  Palmolive® Fresh Infusions™.  They smell so good! I gave my favorite one (Lime Basil) to a friend at work, and tried the other two (Lemon Thyme, and Ginger White Tea) at home. First impression? These soaps are super bubbly. I loved that I didn’t have to keep going back for more when tackling my dirty dishes. I washed my hands with the soap too, and it wasn’t harsh or drying (and my hands smelled hella good). I’d definitely spend $2.99 to get some more.
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  • This BuzzFeed post on the 17 things that all New Yorkers fear. So true! Especially numbers four and six.
  • The Meatball Shop. I’ve mentioned, I know. I love this place so damn much. I’m doing a Skillshare class called Show Us Your Balls: Meatball Making with The Meatball Shop. So far I’ve watched some training videos from Meatball Shop co-founder and executive chef Daniel Holzman, and I will perfect the art of the meatball! Awkward fun fact? When I got veggie balls during my two-week vegetarian stint recently, I chose the pesto sauce, which is apparently served cold. Someone with me motioned for the closest staff member and asked him to microwave the balls, to which he responded, “we don’t have a microwave,” and continued to justify why I should enjoy my cold balls. I’m 90 percent sure that man was Daniel Holzman. I love him a little.

Mexican Chickpea Lettuce Wraps

…what? Recipes like the one you are about to endure are what I like to categorize as “fridge fusion.” This cooking style is strictly reserved for nights when I am completely lazy, frugal and overdue for a trip to the grocery store – tonight being one such night.

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I realized that my only immediate food options were carbs: leftover pizza or pasta. To throw myself an extra curveball, I’ve been eating a vegetarian diet since last Tuesday (part of my 101 in 1001 list). As my buyer’s remorse set before even placing a Seamless order, I remembered a lonely can of chickpeas in the cupboard. I quickly shut my laptop and scurried the difficult five steps from my couch to my kitchen (oh, New York apartments), whipped out a pan and searched the vegetable drawer for anything still edible. I found some romaine lettuce, half a red onion and one-quarter of a yellow squash. Perfecto!

I had pre-determined that if I were to cook tonight, it would only be to provide a vehicle for my homemade Mexican seasoning. I’m obsessed – see recipe at bottom of post – so the puzzle pieces had to find a way to fit together.

Start by heating some olive oil in a medium pan and add the yellow squash (quartered) and red onion (diced).

P1010908Give them about five minutes to warm up and then add the chickpeas, and mix in one table spoon of the homemade Mexican seasoning.

P1010910Cook until heated through (maybe five more minutes? I’m sorry I didn’t keep track!), and you’re done.

P1010912I spooned these onto some romaine leaves, but would have preferred iceberg because it’s easier to wrap. I also added a dollop of Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.

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And then I got sick of dropping chickpeas on the ground, and shamelessly threw it all into a bowl…and added more greek yogurt…oh yea, and a spritz of lime juice.

P1010918If this recipe had been pre-meditated, there definitely would have been some cilantro and diced tomato.

Here is the Mexican seasoning recipe that carnivore me would use with a pound of meat:

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • A dash of cayenne pepper (optional)

I like to double (or triple or quadruple) this, and store it in my pantry so that I don’t have to mix it as often.

Foodie Friday: My New Year’s Grocery List

So it’s that time of year again – time to start fresh with a clean slate, and new goals and ambitions for the next 12 months. I didn’t think that I had a New Year’s resolution for 2013, but today I started to remember a few healthy foods I wanted to try, and it quickly turned into a “New Year’s Grocery List,” of sorts.

I’ve decided that my resolution is the same one I land on every year: to incorporate more healthy eating and living habits into my daily life. I don’t like the idea of crash diets or putting my workout schedule into overdrive for one month – those things just don’t work for me (and I don’t think they work long-term for anyone,actually). I’m beginning my healthy habits with a shopping list of a few items I’d like to try, and possibly keep stocked, in my kitchen this year.

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Here are a few items that make the cut:

Hemp seeds – Just two tablespoons of hemp seeds contain 400 milligrams of gamma-linoleic acid, an anti-inflammatory, two grams of Omega-3 fats and nine essential amino acids. You can put hemp seeds on just about everything, but I’m especially excited to mix them into some post-workout smoothies to help maximize muscle recovery.

Nutritional Yeast Flakes – Nutritional yeast flakes are a complete protein, containing 18 amino acids and 15 minerals, and they are rich in vitamin B. Nutritional yeast can be used as a condiment, and the flavor is described as nutty and cheesy. I’ve also seen them used as a cheese substitute in plenty of vegan recipes around the blogosphere. While I’m not even close to being vegan, I’d like to try my hand at vegan mac ‘n’ cheese, just for kicks.

Jicama – Jicama, also referred to as a “Mexican yam” or “Mexican turnip,” is a scary looking root vegetable. But again, this guy pops up in recipes for all of my favorite blogs, so I’d like to face my fears and give it a whirl. Jicama is low in calories, but high in fiber and anti-oxidants.

In addition to the above items which I have not tried, I’d also like to incorporate more of the healthy foods I love into my daily diet. I need to get back on my kale kick, and I’d like to try to replace regular potatoes with sweet potatoes when possible. I want to get back to juicing at least a few times per week, especially juicing beets.

Do you have any food goals for 2013? I know that sounds like an odd question, hopefully some of you can relate!

Foodie Friday: Tri-Color Cookies (a.k.a. Venetians)

After a long week of shopping, wrapping, shopping, working, eating, drinking, and SHOPPING, I am finally sitting on my couch. This is a big deal, people! I don’t think I’ve seen this couch all week, and this is where my best blogging is done.

I do feel bad for neglecting the blog, but I’m sure you’ve all been just as busy, with very little time to read. I owe you a Foodie post. What better recipe to share right before the holidays than my favorite Christmas cookies?

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Venetians—also called tri-color cookies or rainbow cookies—are a family tradition, and no one in this world makes them better than my grandmother, Mary. They are not too difficult, but definitely time consuming. So if you’re interested in trying to make these at home, make sure you carve out a good half-day. Take your time and have fun!

Ingredients

  • 1 can almond paste
  • 3 sticks softened butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Food coloring : red, green, yellow
  • 12 oz. jar apricot preserves + 1 tbs sugar
  • 1 large bag semi sweet chocolate chips
  1. Grease  three 13×9 pans (cookie sheets)
  2. Line with wax paper & grease again
  3. Break up almond paste in large bowl, add butter, sugar, egg yolks and almond extract
  4. Beat with electric mixer until light and fluffy – 5 minutes
  5. Beat in flower and salt
  6. Beat egg whites until peaks form in a small bowl.
  7. With wooden spoon stir in almond mixture
  8. Divide into 3  bowls, add food coloring to each bowl: one red, green and yellow
  9. Add more food coloring for a brighter color
  10. Spread in to pans, bake 15 minutes, or until edges are golden
  11. Allow to cool, heat apricot preserves, strain & spread ½ of the warm preserves over green layer, spread to the edges. Put yellow layer on top and spread with remaining preserves. Put red layer on top of yellow
  12. Melt chocolate over hot water, add 2 drops of almond extract a few drops of water to desired consistency, should be on watery side, not thick, so that it’s easy to spread
  13. Spread on top using half of chocolate. Refrigerate. When chocolate is hard, turn upside down and spread remaining chocolate on top. Let dry 30 minutes in refrigerator

Cut into one-inch pieces, and enjoy!

 

The Improvised Flat Bread

Never underestimate the therapeutic value of a girls’ night in – something I view as the ultimate cure for any excess of emotion (anger, stress, frustration, sadness, etc.).

Tuesday, after four hours of sleep and a grueling 10-hour day in the office, I was on my last thread. While I normally would have gone home and slept it off, I felt I needed to do something to replace the guilt I felt for being too tired to hit the gym.

Cue a quick trip to Whole Foods, Alycia and a bottle of wine. By 10 p.m. I was cured. Conversation, vino and our improvised flat bread wound up being just what the doctor ordered.

Whole Wheat Flatbread with Arugula, Goat Cheese and Sun-dried Tomatoes

I walked into Whole Foods with visions of a gorgeous fig, arugula and goat cheese flat bread in my head. Apparently, and to my dismay, figs are out of season. I grabbed the first suitable substitute I could find – a package of sun-dried tomatoes, and made my way to our foodie date. Here is the final result:

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Ingredients

  • Pizza dough (we used whole wheat dough from Whole Foods)
  • 1 cup baby arugula
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan flakes
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375˚F and prep the pizza dough according to directions on the packaging. We rolled our dough out into a nice rectangle large enough for roughly eight square slices.

Toss the arugula in the apple cider vinegar, and place aside for later.

Bake the dough for 5 minutes, then remove. Lightly coat the bread with olive oil, and sprinkle the garlic evenly.

Layer the cheeses, sun-dried tomatoes and arugula on top. I know some like to hold the arugula until the flat bread is done baking, but we decided to try throwing it all in the oven.

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Next, return the flat bread to the oven for about 10 minutes, until the edges of the crust begin to brown. Remove from the oven, salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!

This post is cross-posted from the blog Feel Good Foodies, a collaborative exploration between myself and my friend Alycia Ercums, documenting our love of fine food and our desire to balance a healthy lifestyle.

Foodie Friday: San Diego Food Photos

Happy Friday! I came home Monday night from a long weekend in San Diego, and still have not caught up with my blogging or sleep schedules! I took so many photos with my new camera, and I’m so excited to share them with you. Since today is Foodie Friday, I’m going to post some of my favorite food photos from the trip. I promise to share the rest over the weekend!

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Amazing seafood at Blue Water: grilled calamari appetizer//seared ahi tuna platter//swordfish platter//the best damn tuna melt ever

P1000280P1000287Wedding cake tasting at Babycakes: before and after

P1000276Red velvet pancakes at Babycakes (these were not ours, they just looked so perfect that I snapped a shot while the ‘owner’ wasn’t looking!)

P1000236Taffy in a store in Old Town

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Uhhhmazing Chilean sea bass at Peohe’s on Coronado Island

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…and the obligatory In-N-Out Burger

There are a few more photos still on my camera (including scrumptious pumpkin spice pancakes), but I’m sure I’ve given you enough to make your mouth water at this point.

Awkward & Awesome Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has to be, hands down, one of the best holidays ever. Who doesn’t enjoy a good feast with people you love? Most of my Thanksgivings have been spent at my parents’ or an uncle’s house, with my whole big, Italian family, cousins and all.

This year, I’m doing something different. And on that note, let’s dive into this week’s awkward and awesome.

AWKWARD

  • I’m hosting Thanksgiving today. In my shoebox Manhattan apartment. Ok, it’s just Jamie, his parents and me, so we’re not packed in liked sardines, but when the “what should we do for Thanksgiving this year?” conversation came up a few weeks ago, this was the farthest thought from my mind.
  • There is a 17-pound bird in my “easy bake oven.” Manhattan kitchens are miniature. I have a thin, short refrigerator, a dishwasher one-third the size of the one at my parents’ house, and my oven is…the size of a 17-pound turkey apparently. I’ll let you know how this works out. 
  • There is no hustle-bustle buzz. It feels so strange not being in a big house surrounded by my entire family.
  • No candied sweet potatoes for me. Candied sweet potatoes are my late grandfather’s specialty, and my mom has done a beautiful job of keeping the tradition alive. If there is any food item I am sentimental about, it’s them. Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m expecting you to save me leftovers!

AWESOME

  • I didn’t have to deal with traveling on the most traveled day of the year. After all of my horrendous run-ins with NJ Transit over the past three years, I am so very thankful to not be standing on any trains today.
  • I’m cooking (ok, helping cook) my first turkey – and really putting this kitchen to the test. I love cooking new things, and Jamie’s mom is a great teacher, so today will be fun.
  • I made stuffed mushrooms. Mmmm. Check ‘em out.
  • I’m with people I love, there’s food on the table, and I’m seeing my family this weekend. I’m thankful.

What are your thanksgiving traditions? Give me the awkward family stories, those are the best.