Friday, December 21, 2012

Handmade Holiday

Well, that time is upon us.  I leave work today for NJ to spend some time with loved ones and then I'm on vacation for a whole week!  Woot!
This year's holiday continues to be a scaled down one.  A few years ago, my immediate family (brothers, mom and dad, and sister in law) decided that we would all draw a name and buy one gift instead of five.  It was the best decision we ever made and tell that anyone who will listen to me.  It somehow makes the whole gift-giving process 100% more relaxed and exciting.  (Who am I going to get this year?!  Who got me?!)  Trust me, if you haven't already, suggest the idea to your family.  They just might heave a huge sigh of relief!

I do like to make homemade gifts for a few special people and I turned to the old reliable recipes I've been using for a while now.  This one, this and this.  So easy!  My favorite part is finding cute packaging.  The best find this year? 1/2 lb. coffee bags at the Container Store.  39 cents!  And they look so fancy.  

I hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday.  This year, especially, there feels like there is a lot to reflect upon.  Make sure you tell your loved ones how much they mean to you and keep the spirit of the season in your heart.

See you next year!

Friday, December 14, 2012

1st Annual S.H.A.C. (Sunnyside Holiday Apartment Crawl)

Last weekend, my brilliant friend, Danny, put together an apartment crawl in our neighborhood.  I'm always listing the fact that I have so many people I know within a 10 block radius the #1 reason I love my 'hood.  The only problem is, I never see any of them!  
Danny came up with the idea of a bunch of us all visiting each others' home in one night.  We started at one apartment and, after about an hour (or one cocktail) moved on to the next place!  It was genius.  You only had to worry about having enough booze and food for about and hour and clean up was minimal!  

The only problem was my house was second to last, so everything I made had to be done ahead of time - I really wanted to spend next to zero time prepping once the party arrived at my place.  
This is what I came up with.
Meatballs in Marinara Sauce (made that morning and kept warm in the crock pot)
with homemade sourdough bread, courtesy of The Man
Endive "Boats" with Blue Cheese, Toasted Walnuts and Pomegranate Seeds

Chocolate Ganache Tart with Whipped Cream

Want my super secret meatball recipe?  It's a crowd pleaser!
For the Sauce:
2, 28oz cans of crushed tomatoes
10 Tbs butter
2 med onions, peeled and cut in half
2 tsp kosher salt
For the Meatballs:
2 1/2 lbs. of ground beef and ground pork, the combo is up to you as long as it equals 2 1/2 lbs.
1c grated parmesan cheese
1c seasoned Panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cloves of garlic (I grate these with a microplane)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes 
1/2 tsp salt (this is optional, sometimes I even leave it out if I'm using a stronger cheese like Pecorino Romano)
2 Tbs chopped basil or parsley or  a mixture of both
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and start on the sauce.  The recipe is this one.  It sounds crazy, but it's the only sauce I make now and The Man says it tastes like his Grandma's, so that's pretty much they highest compliment it could get.  You just put everything in a somewhat shallow pot (I have a 6 qt dutch oven that works perfectly) and let it simmer as low as possible.  By the time the meatballs are done, the sauce will be too.

For the meatballs, you just mix everything up with your bare hands, so that it's just barely mixed.  You don't want to over do it.  Then I use a scoop to make 50 perfect meatballs.  I'm a little OCD that way, but once I started using the scoop there was no turning back.  Just scoop them out and round them a little in your hands and plop them on a cookie sheet.  You'll need two cookie sheets.  Once they're all dished out, give them a generous drizzle of olive oil and bake for 20 minutes.  
Take them out of the oven.  Take the onions out of the sauce and throw them away.  Put the meatballs in the sauce and you're done!

The Chocolate Tart is even easier and you make it ahead of time and keep it in the fridge.  Use the crust recipe from here.  It never, ever fails.  Let it cool and then fill it with chocolate

For the ganache:
12 oz dark chocolate (I use 70%), chopped
1 c heavy cream
4 Tbs butter, cut into pieces
Put the chocolate and butter into a heat-proof bowl.  Bring the cream almost to a simmer and then pour it over the chocolate/butter mixture.  Let it sit for about a minute and then stir it up so that the chocolate fully melts and it looks all smooth and shiny.  Then pour it into the tart shell.  Tap it a few times on your counter so that the surface it totally even and smooth and put it in the fridge until party time!

The Endive Boats don't need an explanation do they?  You separate the leaves of the endive so they make little boats and then fill them with crumbled blue cheese, toasted walnuts and pomegranate seeds.  I love these because they're basically finger food and they taste light and refreshing.  I will give you my super secret honey dijon vinaigrette recipe, though.

For the Vinaigrette:

1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 Tbs honey, (If you happen to have super fancy black truffle honey from a trip to Tuscany, awesome.)
1 Tbs white balsamic vinegar , white wine vinegar, or sherry vinegar (Don't use regular balsamic for this because it won't look pretty when you dress the salad.)
3 Tbs walnut oil 
1 tsp water

Make the vinaigrette and store it separately from your Boats.  You can make the Boats ahead of time and wrap them in plastic wrap and store them in the fridge so they won't wilt.  When the guests arrive, unwrap and drizzle with dressing. 

Taa DAA!  You're welcome!  
I hope you have some fun plans for the weekend, maybe a party or two? 

** Those clementine are left over from the party.  Oranges always make me feel Christmas-y, in a Little Women kind of way.  Am I the only one?

Friday, December 07, 2012

Ever Mindful

One day this week, I found myself curled up in bed, tearfully texting a dear friend that I just wasn't in the spirit.  This is nothing new.  Every year around this time, I start to feel a little overwhelmed.  

I'm not enough of a planner to start preparing for the holidays in September, so suddenly December is upon me, and I don't have a tree and my gifts are half made and there's just not enough time!  And then I remember to take a breath.  And that I don't have to do it all.  Least of all, live up to some trumped up expectations that I have for myself.

  I'm going to be mindful of how fortunate I am this year and not overreach.

I started the project above on Wednesday.  It's a skirt for a tree that I don't have.  I'm expecting a houseful of friends on Saturday who will have fun even if that tree skirt isn't finished and if I serve them store bought bread instead of homemade brioche dinner rolls.  

So the table is set for tomorrow and tonight I will sit and stitch and be mindful of all the reasons that I love this time of year and all the wonderful people in my life and all the ways that I am so, so lucky.


Sunday, December 02, 2012

In Which I Learn I'm Ill Prepared for Winter

In the weeks directly following the storm, the weather was unusually cold and inclement.  It was then, that I realized I didn't really have what I needed to get me through a NYC winter.

My beloved Hunter boots keep me dry, but not warm.  These boots are perfect for stomping through the snow.

How did I make it through last winter without smart gloves?  Constantly pulling your gloves off to use your smart phone is not smart! These gloves will keep you warm, while you Google.

I was forced to commute by bike for a few days last month and New Yorkers ride their bikes all year long in call kinds of weather.  But being safe doesn't mean you have to look like a dork!  This helmet is stylish and the bright white, will help you be visible if you have ride after dark.
My early morning visits to the gym have survived daylight savings, but the cold weather has me rethinking what I wear on the walk over.  These sneakers are nice and lightweight so I can cram them in a bag if its snowing.

Happy December everyone!  Let the count down to winter begin!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Week of Salads

I had this post planned for a while, but then life took a serious turn.  Now, though, with Thanksgiving looming, I though it might be appropriate.  Maybe you want to do your own week of salads after an indulging long weekend.

The idea came to me when we were hit with quite a lot of leafy items in our CSA box.  Instead of trying to make radicchio risotto or another plate of kale and polenta, I thought I would just let them shine as the center pieces of beautiful salads.  

I have to say that we never ate so well or so colorfully.

We liked this so much we ate it twice!  The colors can't be beat and the vinaigrette is the key in my opinion.  Substituted squash and cheese types, but it was very close to the recipe.

The sweet balsamic and salty olives and cheese really, really balance the bitter radicchio.  We've been eating some variation of this salad ever since discovering this recipe.

Day 3: Kale Caesar with Whole Wheat Croutons and Chopped Egg
I use Martha's caesar dressing recipe all the time, except I do it in the food processor and I use half the oil.  It's fool proof and makes enough for 4 servings.  And, yes, I make my own croutons, but I just toast mine in my cast iron skillet on the stove top.  Chopped egg for a little extra something.  Some folks might balk at the notion of raw kale, but it's sooooo good and satisfying.  Make sure to remove the stems and chop it finely.

Day 4: Escarole, Fennel, Parmesan and Pepitas

Loosely based on this recipe.  We still had Parmesan and pepitas in the house so we used those and I made my usual Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette, which is basically this recipe, minus the dried herbs and creme fraiche.  I also love escarole with mint!  
So there you go!  Do you ever have salads for dinner?  Would you consider doing it for a whole week?  
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!!



Thursday, November 08, 2012


I posted some of these pictures on FB along with a kind of rant-y post about making donations to those affected by the storm.  I have been trying for a long time to come up with a way to share my volunteer experience in this space and give what I feel is helpful advice to those who read my blog.  It's not easy.

There are many many areas of the East Coast that were devastated by the storm, not the least of which is the beautiful coastline of NJ where I spent the summer vacations of my youth.  Rockaway Beach, Queens is a place a little bit closer to home these days, and one where both myself and The Man have started to feel like part of the community.  We spent many weekends there this summer and he has taken many early morning bus rides to the beach to surf before the sun rises.

Last weekend we were certain that we wanted to devote a day to helping those in need and it was without question that we headed out to Rockaway Beach.  The Man has made many friends at The Rockaway Beach Surf Club, where he stores his surf board, and the owners of the club have been spear-heading a volunteer relief effort in area.

What I've learned over the last week is this:  there are a lot of communities that have been hit hard, but not hard enough to get the attention of the Red Cross.  If you live near one of these places, try to direct your relief efforts as locally as possible.  Go to the local fire department or church or synagogue and ask them what they need or what you can do.  It's easy to text a donation to the Red Cross and for those of you who live far away that might be the best option for you.  
For the rest of you, there is dirty work to be done.  Can you give an afternoon to help clean out someones basement?  Because that's what people need.  They need actual, physical help.  The thought of losing all of your belongings in a flood is heart breaking enough without having to shovel out bags of water and sand soaked photo albums and family heirlooms from your basement by yourself.
If you want to donate, people need cleaning supplies (gloves, trash bags, bleach, brooms, shovels), food and, after yesterday, warm, waterproof coats and shoes.  
If you want to donate directly to the Rockaway Beach relief effort you can do so at  St. Jacobi Church in Sunset Park, Brooklyn is another location from where Occupy Sandy is sending relief directly to the Rockaways.  They are even organizing cars to transport supplies and volunteers.

OK, that's all.  Thank you.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Just Can't Help It - Part 2

Two very dear friends are getting hitched this weekend and I am over the moon!  I thought I would do another fake wedding post in their honor.  
And don't you know, while I was looking at my old posts to find the last one, it was almost exactly a year ago?  Seems fitting, no?

I found this stunner while I was trolling etsy for vintage dresses.  There seems to be a trend developing.

Some say it's taboo for anyone but the bride to wear white, but I love the idea of a monochromatic wedding party.  These bridesmaids' dresses would compliment the bride in color and shape.

And the they all could wear these shoes!

The bride would carry this bouquet, to compliment the pop of color from her sash.

And wouldn't it all look just dreamy under this tree?  

Ah!  I can't wait until tomorrow!  As we all know, I'm a big fan of weddings and this one is for two of my favorite people!  Congratulations, Jess and Carmen!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Wants and Desires

The weather has decidedly turned (though is it really going to be 80 degrees tomorrow?!) and I'm pondering my fall wardrobe.  Early morning visits to the gym have me now rethinking clothes from last fall and doing some much needed purging of the closet.  Here's whats on my wish list for Fall.

I think these booties would be perfect with skinny jeans or longer trouser style pants.  Or even dresses.

Another Fall season come and gone and I still have capes on the brain.  Maybe it's time to bite the bullet.

I have a denim shirt that I adore, but I think this lighter-weight chambray version would be great for layering under blazers and sweaters.

I love searching etsy for unique jewelry.  Wouldn't this ring be stunning with all the Fall colors?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Oh Hey!

I sometimes do other stuff over here besides talk about vegetables.  It's true!  Sometimes I do stuff like this:

Or sometimes I do stuff like this:

Which turns into this:

I've been holding off on sharing these projects because they were (are) gifts for a dear friend's little girl (who still hasn't made an appearance).  Of course I had to wait until I gifted them before I could share.

The sweater was from this etsy shop, which is now closed.  It's a very nice pattern, but it's written from the bottom up, and I have to say I really prefer top down.  The yarn is Spud & Chloe, which is my new favorite yarn for everything.  It feels like cotton, but knits like wool, which is a big deal for someone with wonky gauge like myself.  Superwash.  Awesome.  And the prettiest colors.

The quilt.  I can't even tell you anything about the fabric for the quilt except that it all came from Purl Soho, where the ladies who waited on me were so helpful and so kind.  And yet I still came out with waaaaay too much binding.  How does that always happen?  What I am going to do with it all?  

Anyway, this was my first Log Cabin quilt and I used this tutorial:

It blew my mind!  Did you know that's how you make a Log Cabin square?!  No?  Neither did I!  It's mildly addictive and I am already planning another Log Cabin quilt for the bedroom.  

It was also my first time tying a quilt, which I really loved, because I used a really lofty batting.  The lovely ladies at Purl told me to just use yarn, like Cascade 220, which I did and which totally felted to bits when I washed the quilt!!  So I had to cut all the ties off and re-do them with embroidery thread, which is was Alicia uses.  It turned out so pretty and exactly the way I imagined it.  I love the way the grey tempers the pastel colors and grounds the girl-iness and bit.  

I actually am working on another quilt right now.  And another baby sweater!  I'll share more of that soon. Bye!

Monday, September 03, 2012

The World is Ripening

In the last year I often have wondered if I'm not a Country Mouse trapped in the body of a City Mouse.  For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to live in The Big City, but now I'm drawn to the rhythms of the natural world, the idea of making more and more by hand, the traditions of cooking like my grandparents.

Having followed the rhythm of our CSA for the last year, I can see the earthly world's natural progression from the crisp green of Spring to the ripeness that is August.  The world is ripening right in front of us, everything giving all its got; one last hurrah before the Autumn chill sets in.

We've been overrun by tomatoes so ripe, that they seem to split and bleed before we can even even cook them.  I've given up trying to plan meals around them and we eat them on toast every morning.  With a little foresight and a few hours I can roast them and prolong their lives for one more week.

Everything around us is dusky, fecund, yielding to the touch.  Red and orange and purple, like these plums. Empress Plums or Italian Plums; my grandparents had a tree in their yard when I was little.  Every year, I buy a pint and every year, I think of my grandfather, splitting these plums for us, warm from the sun.  He would pick pears, too, and sit with his ever-present paring knife, slicing them and feeding us like baby birds.

The poignancy of this is not lost on me; next week, it will be 13 years since he died.  I still miss him, but he returns every September, to remind me of the natural rhythm of the world and the fragility of these last blooms of life.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Thursday, July 19, 2012

In which I have a revelation

There's been a lot of talk on this blog lately about compromise and choosing and picking.  There's also been a lot of griping off-blog about quality of life and not having enough time and not *wanting* to choose.  I was in a really grumpy state - always having to compromise felt like never really having what I want.

Then, something amazing happened.  One morning this week, I opened my eyes around 6am and instead of groaning and rolling over for another hour of (fitful) sleep, I got out of bed.  Then I had a cup of coffee. And then I. Went. To. The. Gym.

I know.  Shocking.

And that night I realized something.  As 6pm rolled around, and I got ready to leave work, instead of feeling the dread of having to choose, I felt liberated.  I could DO ANYTHING.  Last night, I went and spent an hour with a dear friend.  Then I went home and cooked dinner and watched a few of these while I knit.  I know!!!  Those are, like, all the things that I wish I had time for every day!  

This is not news for many people.  I know this because my gym was packed at 6:30am.  But it's news to me!  I'm one week in and so far, it feels like it might stick.

I'm on vacation next week.  We'll be staying in the city, mostly and I have a long list of stuff I'd like to do, which includes

visit the zoo
 happy hour at Small's (no cover!)
 maybe see this, if I'm lucky
oh, and definitely at least one trip here
Anyone have any other suggestions?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Weekend Escape

Whew!  What a weekend, right guys?  I was a pretty un-happy camper most of the time, content to hide in the bedroom (where it's easier to cool down), eat breakfast and bed, and read slightly trashy books.  
I couldn't hide away the whole weekend, though, and so when I did venture outside, it was all about escaping the city.

We didn't have to go to far on Saturday afternoon.  We waited until about 3pm and then took the Q39 bus to Rockaway beach.  It's only an hour ride from Sunnyside, but you feel worlds away.  The above picture was taken at Rippers, on the boardwalk, where my friend asked me, "Where are we?"  It certainly didn't feel like New York City.

A few hours later we walked over to the Rockaway Beach Surf Club (where there's a constant reminder where you are) to watch the New York City premier of Here & Now.  On the way home, we dozed on the bus  and walked home in the middle of a tremendous downpour! 

Sunday, we still had designs on leaving the city, even if only in the planning stages.  We visited a few big Outdoor Gear stores and actually bought a tent!  We hope to escape later in the month to the Great Outdoors.

While we were downtown, I wanted to visit the Manhattan outpost of Despana Foods.  I was familiar with their tiny story in Queens, but in the city, not only do they sell all their wonderful foods, but they offer a small menu of sandwiches and tapas, along with wine and beer.  We shared two bocadillos and pretended were back in Barcelona for an hour.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Seeing Green

I know I promised you vintage housewares for sale in my last post and they're coming, really they are.  It just takes a while to photograph all that stuff!  Also, I've been distracted by the state of my refrigerator.

I mean, look at it.  Isn't it gorgeous?  I was a little daunted this week when the contents of our CSA box couldn't fit into my shopping bag.  I was really worried that a full share might be too much for us and a lot of produce would be going to waste, but then I put it all away and it looked pretty manageable.

This time last year I was lamenting the amount of lettuce we were getting.  But now, after a full year of only (mostly) eating seasonal veggies from our CSA, I am psyched!!  After a winter full of parsnips and potatoes I was craving green things; I couldn't wait for the spring greens to start rolling in.  Now look at us!!

This is what we got: 

beets, boston lettuce, carrots, cilantro, escarole, fennel, kohlrabi, romaine, scallions

This is what we're going to eat this week:

poached cod with beet puree and beet green salad

I'll probably use the romaine lettuce for lunch throughout the week.  As you can see, when the veggies start coming fast and furious we eat pretty vegetable-centric meals, with just a little meat, fish or beans to fill things out.  

Also, I want to let you know that all of those vegetables, which come from a certified organic farm, cost us $20 a week.  Yup.  Waaay cheaper than Whole Foods because we buy directly from the farmer.

Just thought some of you might be curious to see what we're getting and how we're using it. Have a great weekend!!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

In which I sell a lot of stuff

This was the state of things at The Works as of Friday morning.  We've had some really unwanted critters visitors for the last couple of months and, after trying a few different approaches, I had to call in the big guns.  This decision, required me to unload the entire contents of my kitchen cabinets to other areas of the apartment.

Yes, I have a chalkboard wall in my kitchen and, yes, I writ out the week's menu on it.  It helps me plan how we're going to use the week's CSA delivery (and tells The Man what's off limits in the fridge!).

Everything was cleaned, purged and reorganized before being put away just in time for the folks' visit on Saturday night.  

What does this all mean to you?  Well, it means that the contents of what I affectionately call The Prop Closet, will soon be for sale on etsy.  Over half of my collection of vintage plates and glassware is going to be up for grabs.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Instagram Weekend

Whoa.  Hey there.  That was quite a weekend.  And from the looks of it, I finally discovered Instagram.  I'm always late to the party on these kind of things.

Friday we made these cocktails at home.  Followed by this roast chicken.  It was the best.

Saturday we had lunch at our favorite neighborhood Mexican place (where I am becoming addicted to the enchiladas verdes).  They make micheladas and serve them in these funny mugs.

Sunday we rode our bikes to the Greenmarket in Jackson Heights and made a enormous lunch with our loot, including asparagus, radishes, tomatoes, green onions, goat cheese and duck bacon!

That evening we saw a Wes Anderson retrospective at The Museum of the Moving Image and had cocktails before hand at The Astor Room.  I love date night when everything is in walking distance!

Monday we went (with everyone else in the city, apparently) to the beach in Far Rockaway.  It was crowded, but the day was perfect.  I couldn't leave, though, without having a fish taco

Tonight is the first installment of our CSA for the year.  I'm so excited I can't stand it.  It's silly, but I look forward to getting these boxes so much.  Also, this year we signed up for milk and yogurt from here.  Double excited!