Saturday, May 29, 2010

Not innovative, but delicious!

For the past week, E and I have been eating a largely animal-product-free diet, and it's been great!  We originally decided to take the plunge after we noticed that a lot of meals in which we ate meat, or eggs, or dairy left us feeling less than 100% great.  So far, the vegetarian diet has served us well!

Luckily, the transition has been pretty smooth, since we had already limited our intake of meat to about 2-3 meals per week for environmental reasons.  One slight problem has been my reliance on soups and stews in creating veggie meals, which aren't the most appealing things in the heat of summer.  Sunday, for instance, I made what amounted to veggie stew with zucchini, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and some other odds and ends with a side of couscous.  Delicious, yes. But had it been 10 degrees warmer, I don't think we would have been so jazzed.

Monday, though, I threw this together and it came out great.  I adapted this recipe -- minus the pine nuts, plus some perfect cherry tomatoes, and with twice the garlic -- and I highly recommend it!

The other interesting culinary experiment we conducted was spaghetti squash.  I've been meaning to try this for a while now, but the only other time we remembered to pick it up at the grocery store, it fell off our kitchen island and broke and got moldy. So that didn't work out.

It looks strange, but it was pretty tasty!  The texture was a lot like pasta, but it was crunchier, like squash.  This will definitely be back on our shopping lists in the future because it was easy and satisfying.  As a side dish, I made some Greek lemon rice using this recipe, but I used vegetable broth instead of chicken. I've used the recipe a couple other times, and it is a favorite side dish.

Last night I made a sort of eggplant lasagna.  The internet also taught me a new trick -- to peel the eggplant, slice it into rounds, and then salt the rounds and let them sit for about a half an hour.  The salt draws out the bitter juices in the eggplant, so you get a more flavorful, sweeter vegetable.  You can actual see the liquid gathering on top of the sliced eggplant.  After a half hour or so, you just rinse the salt and juice off, squeeze the eggplant dry, and cook with them as usual.  In this case, I pan cooked the eggplant for a few minutes and layered it with sliced mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, fresh spinach, a couple of cooked lasagna noodles, and a sauce I made from tomato puree, a bunch of garlic, and some chopped onions.  After about 40 minutes in the oven at 375 degrees, we feasted.  Came out great!

I'm excited to continue expanding my vegetarian repertoire. I've been gently pushing E to go more veg for a while, and I'm glad we're both on the same page with this.  And we're both feeling great after a week of our new eating routine!  

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Where I talk about things I would buy were frivolity and money no object.

A custom-built bike from Urban Outfitters!  Look how cute it is!  I had no idea this was even an option, not being a big UO shopper myself, but I am totally smitten.  I don't even ride bikes! I bought a bike at a tag sale before we moved to Boston in 2008, and I never once took it out of our apartment building's basement.  We lived halfway up a giant hill on a busy street and I am a big baby.  And then I was going to sell it before we moved here, but decided to keep it because I wanted to become a big, tough, bicycle-commuting (or at least picnicking) gal.  But again, it sat in the lobby of the building, unused, with deflated tires, for months before it disappeared.  So, no, I would likely not get as much use out of this 400 dollar custom-built bike as I should were I to blow money on it.  BUT IT IS SO CUTE.  It has RED TIRES, people, RED TIRES.   And no worries, I even have my eye on a few not-totally-fugly helmets already, for when I win the lottery and can buy a bike and matching helmet to sit in my building's lobby -- this time with a lock.

Monday, May 24, 2010

One year ago...

Today is the day, one year ago, that E and I returned home to Boston from our first "real" vacation together: a trip to Walt Disney World!

While we were there, it rained in Future World (Epcot)...

...and it rained on the streets of New York (MGM)...

...and it rained on Cinderella Castle (Magic Kingdom)...

...and in China (Epcot again). 

And yes, I am sort of really embarrassed to say that we rocked the ponchos. We brought some from home, and then I had to buy a stupid 8 dollar Disney one on the last day when it was downpouring YET AGAIN and I was poncho-less.  It rained every day! And not just the quick afternoon thunderstorms Florida is famous for. No, no, it was full-on, all-day monsoons all but one day we were there.

And I hurt my foot on the first full day of the trip, so E's view for the rest of the time was this:

Ridiculousness aside, we had a blast, and I can't wait for our next adventure together in far off lands (probably our honeymoon... wherever that may take us)!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Broke, but not bored -- the out-of-town visitors edition!

E and I had what was, quite possibly, our best weekend since we moved to New York this past weekend.  It helped that E was finally done with the semester and hadn't yet started his writing competition thing yet (oh law school, and your endless deadlines and projects).  Of course, it was great that the weather was breathtakingly perfect at 75 degrees and sunny all weekend long.  And, we had some of our favorite people visiting.  But we also spent almost all of the weekend out of the apartment, without going broke[r]!  Which just goes to show you, you don't have to spend a boatload of cash (even in New York City) to have a good time. 

Here's what we did:
  • Saturday morning, at almost exactly the same time, 2 of our friends, with whom E went to undergrad and who lived basically down the street from us when we lived in Boston, and E's dad arrived.  Everyone was about an hour early, thwarting my plans to pick up fresh flowers at the market and feel fancy, but luckily we had cleaned the entire apartment Friday, so it worked out alright!  We hung out at our apartment for a few minutes, getting caught up.
  • We headed into Manhattan and up to Columbia, where we stopped by the photo exhibit I curated.  Two of the panels somehow got switched out of order, which I don't really understand, but I am beyond the point of asking questions. While we were in Morningside Heights, we went to a deeeeelicious Cuban restaurant for lunch. Plantains and stuffed peppers and yellow rice, mmmmm.
  • We then headed downtown, saying goodbye to E's dad at Times Square (he had a birthday party to get to on Long Island).  We got off the subway near the World Trade Center site to see the progress on the construction there, and walked down to Battery Park, pausing outside the New York Stock Exchange in front of Federal Hall on Wall Street to bitch about the economy.  In Lower Manhattan, we went to the National Museum of the American Indian, where we saw a few interesting exhibits, marveled at the gorgeous old building, and even saw a dance demonstration by Native Americans.  Then we wandered through Battery Park to the shoreline to gawk at the Statue of Liberty from afar.
  • Next it was off to the Lower East Side!  We met a friend of our friends for french fries at Pommes Frites, and tried a bunch of gourmet dipping sauces.  Mmmm, so delicious.  The friend then took us to Grassroots Tavern, which was the diviest dive bar I've ever encountered.  We got a pitcher of beer and talked about LOST for an hour or so, and it was fantastic, overall.
  • We wandered up to Union Square, from where we took the train back out to Queens.  After an hour of resting our tired legs and watching basically every Lady Gaga music video ever made, we ventured to the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden, favorite summer drinking base camp and site of my St. Patrick's Day escapades this year.  Ever since we moved to this neighborhood, we've wanted to take these friends to the much-loved beer garden, and this was the first visit they made in nice enough weather.  It didn't disappoint.  Despite long bar lines and large crowds, we managed to snag a table (and beer from friendly neighbors!) and hang out through our second winds, debating a wide range of very important and controversial topics, much to the chagrin, I'm sure, of those around us.
  • We got back to our apartment and ordered a pizza from the only pizza place still open.  Not great pizza, but not terrible, either, and once you've had a few beers, anything will do.  We went to bed with full bellies, and all woke up hangover free to watch the only Lady Gaga video we hadn't watched the night before.
  • Bagels. BAGELS.  So delicious.  I want to eat them every day but I know then that I would weigh about 800 pounds in no time.  This time I got an everything bagel with veggie cream cheese and fresh sliced tomatoes on it, and it was amazing.  E tried a breakfast sandwich on a bagel, and also loved it.  This place can do no wrong in my book.
  • After we all devoured our toasted, perfect bagels, our guests packed their bags and we all got on the train to head into Manhattan so they could catch a MetroNorth train home.  SADFACE.  We had time before they left, though, to check out an exhibit on archaeology at the South Ferry terminal at the NY Transit Museum's gallery annex at Grand Central Terminal.  It was so cool!  Tons of really old remnants of a New York City that is no more. Also, if I ever move away from NYC, I am planning to dump a lot of cash in their gift shop, first. So much cool junk!  This has definitely whet my appetite for the real NY Transit Museum in Brooklyn, which is in a decommissioned subway station and includes antique train cars to explore!
  • We got them to their train on time, and headed out to Bryant Park to enjoy some sun.  The park was suprisingly uncrowded given the perfect weather, and we got to hang out and watch babies learning to walk on grass and get a little pink on our shoulders.  Bryant Park is really beautiful, and I can't wait to catch a movie there during their free summer movie series!
After that, we headed home so E could watch the Celtics game and I could fart around on the internet.  I made roasted veggies and couscous for dinner, and we spent a lot of the night intending to watch a movie but accidentally talking until it was too late to start one, since I had to get up early to intern. 

So, overall, this weekend was the best kind of busy, full of fun exhibits and activities, and exhausting enough that I slept super soundly last night!  And the best part of the weekend?  We didn't spend a dime on activities.  Yup.  Every activity we did was completely free, we just spent money on food and booze.  Which is my favorite way to do things, duh.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Family and food, as usual.

Sunday was Mother's Day, and my older sister and her husband and kids came in to the city to celebrate.  They went to the Gazillion Bubble Show, and then I met up with them and we went to the Central Park Zoo!

Here are the backs of my nephews' heads while they watch the Polar Bears rip open bags and dig through buckets to get some fish.  I had so much fun hanging out and looking at the animals with these two, and with the other grownups, too, of course.  I had to scurry home to finish my paper after the zoo, but from what I've heard, they had a very successful trip to an Italian restaurant, where dessert was ice cream shaped like a bear.  

The nice thing about living in New York City is that, even though we're far from family and friends, the city usually convinces people they want to visit without us having to do much work.

I finally turned in that paper yesterday morning.  The topic was too broad; it would have been much better as a longer paper in which I could have explored things more deeply.  Oh well, it'll just have to be a book, I guess! Research trip, anyone?

Strawberries are on super sale everywhere.  I read a while back that unseasonably warm temperatures in California and Florida meant that both states were flooding the strawberry market at the same time, leading to a glut on supermarket shelves and lower prices.  I'm not sure if that's still affecting prices, but over the weekend we got 3 packages of strawberries for 5 bucks! I decided to make some strawberry jam.  We usually have preserves in the fridge and eat them on toast/sandwiches/waffles, but I also absolutely love to mix them into Greek yogurt.  So good!  But I saw a blog post about making strawberry-rhubarb jam the other day, and it looked pretty easy, so armed with my piles and piles of strawberries, I got to cookin'.

It came out great!  I used these directions and it only took about an hour.  Since it was kind of a spur-of-the-moment decision, I didn't have any canning jars around, so I sterilized an empty pasta jar and used that.  I filled it to the brim (we have enough strawberry preserves to last us a good long while) and screwed the original (sterilized) cap back on, and the cooling process even pulled the little button on top of the lid back down, so it popped this morning when I opened it!  Next time I'll probably use a little less lemon zest, but it's delicious overall.  And, given all the talk of what the incredible high levels of chemicals in our food and our environments can do to us, I'm happy knowing that the strawberry preserves in my fridge are just strawberries, sugar, and a little lemon zest.

The bread is left over from last week, when E and I made Spanglish sandwiches for dinner.  Known as such because they were created for the movie Spanglish, a lot of people think they are the only good thing to come out of the film.  I actually didn't hate Spanglish as much as everyone else did, but I do have to agree that the sandwich is pretty amazing.  It's basically a BLT with monterey jack cheese and a fried egg, and goodness gracious me, it is delicious.  I overcooked the egg a bit (it was HARD multitasking that much!) so we didn't get the runny yolk effect, but I can't wait to try again and get the full experience. 

I'm off to campus for the last time this semester, to finish up my work-study tasks!  Last time being locked in the scanning lab til Fall, hopefully.  Is it bad, though, that I want to bring this book on Disney design and architecture and scan every page?  Some of the concept art from the 50s and 60s is SO COOL, and I don't want to return the book to the library!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

We interrupt this paper writing...

I have 2 papers standing between me and the end of the semester, and they're both due in like the next 3 days, so then I'll be done!  Huzzah!  The return of warm weather round these parts has meant several things:
  1. The return of floral dresses without tights.
  2. The return of Dunkin Donuts iced coffee.
  3. The return of ice cream trucks.
  4. Bright Ass Nail Polish.

1. The return of floral dresses without tights.  I love dresses. Especially floral dresses. Especially with bare legs and sandals.  Especially on sunshiney days, in grassy parks, alongside rivers, at the seashore, while visiting museums and going to concerts and having fun times. I have broken out the dress collection in a big way lately, and I am really enjoying only having to put on one item of clothing in the morning and looking put together. Faaantastic.

2. The return of Dunkin Donuts iced coffee. I am a New Englander. We live by Dunkin Donuts.  Not Starbucks.  Dunkin Donuts. Tourists in Boston used to ask if we gave directions based on Dunkin Donuts stores, to which we sweetly replied that there were too many, and stupid tourists would get confused if we tried to do that.  Iced coffee never really goes away for me -- I'm about as likely to order it in January as in July.  But something about a warm morning and a cold cup of DD iced coffee -- Medium, French Vanilla, Light, 2 sugars -- is pretty awesome. And caffeinated.

3. The return of ice cream trucks.  New York (and I'm sure other places) has ice cream trucks we never in my home city.  Instead of just selling prepackaged frozen novelties hawked by your friendly neighborhood presumed pedophile, they also have soft serve ice cream! Genius!  It's usually rather melty and the sprinkles are always stale, but it's still pretty fantastic that there are mobile soft serve makers wheeling around (and playing something other than pop goes the weasel).

4. Bright Ass Nail Polish.  I keep my nails painted most of the time, and usually it's not a fancy-grown-up-job acceptable color.  Spring, though, has inspired me to step it up a notch on the fingernail front, and here are my current favorites in heavy rotation:
The best part is, 3 of these bottles cost only 2 bucks a piece!  The Sinful Colors and Wet n Wild ones are cheap, and the Sinful Colors polishes in particular are ridiculously long wearing. Like, I can go a week without any real chips.  Pretty fantastic.  The light blue is Essie brand (which, little did I know, is based out of my neighborhood!) and more expensive -- about 6-8 dollars a bottle -- and I love the color, but the wear isn't quite as great.  If you're looking for a pop of color on your fingers (or toes, for those of you in conservative professions), a lot of polish lines are coming out with great brights for spring and summer.

Unfortunately, though, I can't quite bask in the summertime glow for a couple more days.  About that paper...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Frozen Grapes!

I bet this super futuristic spaceman at Disneyland in the 1960s ate frozen grapes.  via

It is hot in NYC this weekend.  Like, for real hot. Not just normal, late-spring warm. Yesterday wasn't bad, but today, with the humidity from an impending storm system setting in, it's miserable.  We live on the fourth floor of an old, poorly insulated apartment building, and all of our windows face east.  It's nice because the sunlight helps wake you up when you have to get up early, but we have no cross-breeze, and the morning sun manages to heat our apartment up by like 20 degrees in the summer. Oh, and, the sun helps wake you up even when you don't have to get up early.

So anyway. It's hot.  E and I had decided to wait until June 1st to put in our air conditioner, but that's mostly just because we forgot how miserable it is in here without the AC (and with it, truth be told, but the heat is greatly abated).  So today, while he escaped to the law school library to do some studying and soak in the air conditioning, I've been melting here.  And yeah, I could go to campus myself, but somehow spending 50+ minutes each way on public transportation doesn't seem like the best use of my time when I should be working on the presentation I have to give tomorrow morning.  So, I suffer.

I did, however, decide to make frozen grapes!  The internet has been exclaiming the wonders of frozen grapes for a very long time, but I have always been skeptical.  However, with the temperature climbing and grapes available for practically nothing a pound at the fruit stands around here, I decided it was worth a shot.  And they are DELICIOUS!  Why didn't I trust the internet, that magical beast that brought me lolcats and babbies* and catsinsinks?!  For shame.

They are sweet and juicy and COLDCOLDCOLD, and the texture is really pretty awesome.  They do not turn into little stones as I suspected!  I highly recommend them as a sweet, cold treat that won't wreck your waistline.

*E accidentally wrote "babby" in his law school notes.  As in, a woman went on a 3-day crack binge and her babby (sic) died from dehydration. As in, it's really not funny, but it is. I am a terrible person, and if I believed in Hell, I would certainly be on the fast track.