Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cooking with Kristin: Peach-Banana Smoothies

I've always wanted to be the sort of person who wakes up early, makes a smoothie, and starts her day.  It hasn't ever really happened, because since college ended and I stopped getting enough sleep (how's that for counterintuitive?), I've been waking up about 10 minutes before I have to leave the house.  It's not pleasant, and I've been trying recently to give myself a longer morning ritual, a quiet way to start off my day.  I'm not quite at the point where I can wake up at 5am to go for a run before writing for a bit, but I do hope that one day I'll get there.  In the meantime, waking up at 7am and whipping up a smoothie to share with Roger has been one of the great pleasures of the past few weeks.  Other than on weekends, we don't get to share many mornings together, so our daily smoothie time has been a special ritual that I've enjoyed immensely.  This is one of our favorites from the past few weeks.

Peach-Banana Smoothie
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 peach (very ripe, if possible)
  • 1 cup milk (or enough to almost fill a "party cup")
  • 2 ice cubes
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 heaping tablespoons vanilla protein powder (optional)
This recipe makes enough for one smoothie, which usually holds me over for about three hours until lunch.  You can, of course, double it if you're using a big blender, but this is about all that fits into my party cups.  Put everything into the blender in the order they appear for the magic bullet (if you are using a normal blender, you should put them in the opposite order, so that the powder and ice are held down by the milk and fruit) and process for approximately 20 seconds, or until smooth.  Enjoy! 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Big Money: Bachelorette Party in Atlantic City, NJ

I was in Atlantic City this weekend for Shelby's bachelorette party.  Since I likely won't be going on vacation this year, I've decided to make every overnight trip into a real-live travel post, since that was the whole point of this blog at one point.  And it might be again soon.  We'll see.

Friday, July 20, 2012: Mahopac, NY to Atlantic City, NJ

After meeting up with a few Mahopac friends for drinks on Thursday night, Shelby, Aprill and I woke up early and hit the road on Friday morning at around 8am in Shelby's fancy new car.  The trip was pretty uneventful, with a quick stop for Aprill to buy a hat and to fill up on gas, and we made it with good time despite the GPS on Shelby's phone conking out about half-way through.  We made it to our hotel, the Tropicana, by noon, and met up with Shelby's cousins, Dana and Caitlin.  The hotel appears to have a bit of a Communist theme, with a Cuban-style decor all around the casino, and three "commie" restaurants in a row: Red Square, PF Changs, and Cuba Libre.  The downstairs area, and all the restaurants we tried, were really nice, but the rooms weren't anything special, and for the price that each room cost, I would definitely recommend staying somewhere else on the boardwalk.  While Aprill and I brought Shelby out to a nice outdoor restaurant on the boardwalk, Dana and Caitlin decorated the room with a variety of purple decorations and more penis decorations than I knew existed.  They did a lot of the planning for the weekend, and really made it a wonderful time for us.

On the boardwalk.

We relaxed in the room for a while before getting dressed for going out.  If there was anything I was disappointed in this weekend, it's the very small fact that the weather wasn't very nice (mostly rainy the first day, gray the second day), and so we never got a chance to hang out on the beach.  The upside to this is that it was pretty cool out, and having any relief from the heat that's encompassed Manhattan for the past few weeks was just wonderful.  We all wore matching t-shirts the first night, and got a lot of attention for them (of course).  We ate at Hooters, a place I've heard many things about, but never actually been to, and wondered why so many people would bring their kids there.  It wasn't the greatest food I've ever had, but it was a fun way to start the day, and someone who was there for his bachelor party came over to wish Shelby well and pour us some free beers.  After that, we headed over to the Wild Wild West Casino, which has a really great bar with all-night happy hour and a great DJ.  It was a lot of fun, and we stayed there most of the night, dancing and drinking.  We enjoyed some of the cooler weather on the walk back to the hotel, and walked on the beach.

Matching shirts!

Saturday, July 21, 2012: Atlantic City, NJ
After our night out, Shelby, Aprill and I woke up pretty late on Saturday morning, and headed to the pool to try and find the mentholated sauna we'd heard was up there.  We never found it, and learned from one of the guys at the desk there that the women's locker room has a steam room and the men's locker room has a sauna, but neither one was mentholated.  We were pretty disappointed, but spent some time in the steam room and the (teeny-tiny) hot tub before walking around on the roof deck for a bit.

All the girls in front of the beach.

We headed back to the room and met up with Caitlin and Dana for a quick lunch of bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwiches at a deli in the hotel.  Then we wandered along the boardwalk, musing about getting bad tattoos at one of the shops there, and ending our walk at the Pier Shops.  It's a really nice mall, and we stopped at Lush and sat in the massage chairs at Brookstone before walking around to the outside pier and watching the ocean.  I'd forgotten how nice it is to be on the shore, and it really was beautiful, even if the weather wasn't really right for sunbathing.

All the girls ready for dinner.

We went back to the room, discovered the pay-per-view movie feature wasn't working, and when we called down to the front desk, they said they'd send someone in 15 minutes.  We watched Minority Report on regular cable and got dressed for going out before someone came to fix it.  Like I said, a really great hotel to visit, but maybe not the best one to stay at.  They do have some really great restaurants and shops, though, and we had dinner at PF Chang's.  I'd never been to the Chinese food chain before, but really enjoyed the food and the atmosphere.  Given the dearth of good Chinese food in my neighborhood, I was really glad to have some in AC.  We then headed to Red Square for some post-dinner drinks.  It's a really nice place, with a great bartender and an upscale-casual atmosphere.  I had a great cocktail, a "black and white Russian," which was delicious and made with a cup of half-and-half.  It seemed like a really great date place, and had private dining nooks, which is maybe my favorite thing ever.  After a few drinks there, we went to the Trump Plaza Beach Bar.  I didn't like the vibe there quite as much as I'd liked the vibe at the bar the night before, but we still had a good time, and it was great to be able to sit outside.  We ended the night with some deep fried dough (and seemingly endless heckling by guys about the fried dough), and walked back to the hotel.

Sunday, July 22, 2012: Atlantic City, NJ to New York, NY
Sunday morning, we were all sad to be heading home, after a wonderful weekend.  Shelby and I woke up early and booked 9am appointments for massages at the Blue Mercury spa.  It was quiet, and a very relaxing atmosphere.  After a short wait in the lounge, we both went for our massages.  I had the basic Swedish massage, and it was really wonderful, although I wished that the masseuse had focused more on my back than my extremities.  We relaxed in the steam room for a bit afterward, which was also great.  Relaxed, I went to Francesca's Collection, a nice little boutique, and bought a bright orange dress with swans printed on it as a work-friendly souvenir, and we headed up to the room to clean up and check out.

Shelby at Blue Mercury

It was a perfect weekend to celebrate Shelby's impending wedding, and even the terrible traffic on the way home didn't dampen our spirits.  I'd never been to AC before, and while I was a little nervous about my first trip, it was wonderful to spend some time with these ladies, and we had a blast in Atlantic City.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cooking with Kristin: Asparagus & Mushroom Risotto

While wandering around Trader Joe's on Friday, I found frozen risotto, and almost bought it.  Then, I guiltily remembered that I had most of the ingredients to make risotto myself, so I picked up some vegetable broth and asparagus, and planned to make it later in the week.  Well, Friday night was sweltering, Roger was cranky, and it seemed like a great time to spend a half hour standing at the stove, so rather than wait for a more opportune time, I made it then and there.

I wouldn't necessarily recommend making this recipe when it's 100 degrees out, but it actually wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting, and the delicious risotto really was worth every minute.  It's easier to make than most people think, and this recipe goes by especially quickly.

Asparagus & Mushroom Risotto (adapted from Mark Bittman)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 stalks asparagus, broken into pieces
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or water (I used water because we didn't have any wine on hand, but I bet the wine would really add to the flavor)
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup shrimp (cleaned and without tails)
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Put 2 tablespoons of the butter or oil in a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. (Allow the remaining butter to soften while you cook.) When the butter is melted or the oil is hot, add the onion, asparagus, and mushroom and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes.  Don't overcook it at this point, because it will cook down even further once you cook the rice.

Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy and coated with butter, 2 to 3 minutes. Add a little salt and pepper, then the white wine. Stir and let the liquid bubble away.

Begin to add the stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring after each addition and every minute or so. When the stock is just about evaporated, add more. The mixture should be neither soupy nor dry. Keep the heat medium to medium-high and stir frequently.

After about 20 minutes, add the shrimp to the mixture.  Begin tasting the rice after you add it; you want it to be tender but with still a tiny bit of crunch; it could take as long as 30 minutes to reach this stage. When it does, stir in 2 to 4 tablespoons softened butter or oil (more is better, at least from the perspective of taste!) and at least 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve immediately, passing additional Parmesan at the table if you like.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gratituesday: Air Conditioning
One of the bourgiest things about me is that I am really unhappy when the temperature rises.  I get really cranky, really sweaty, and sometimes I huff and puff and actually cry because that is how little I like the feeling of being hot.  I am of the opinion that one can always put on more clothes, but there's a limit to how much you can take off.*  Even naked, I am often sweltering.

As a result, I have always loved air conditioning.  I remember being a little girl (or, you know. a 17-year-old girl.) and sitting next to the big air conditioner in my parents' house with a blanket over me and the AC, creating a bubble of cold air.  I like being in movie theaters, in the conference room at my office that's always frigid, and walking past shops that keep their doors open.

That said, I also feel really guilty about blasting the AC when I know it's not particularly good for the environment, when so many people do real work in the sun and don't complain about it, and when Roger brags pretty much every second of everyday over 85 degrees about how he doesn't even feel heat anymore, since Senegal made him immune.**

So, for years, I didn't have one.  When I lived in Vermont, there was no need for one; there were hot days, but a fan sufficed and mostly it was fully of lovely breezes off the mountains.  My summers in New York City were remarkably cool, and I could always manage the few hot weeks with staying late at the office and seeing movies.  And then, the two summers I was at my parents' house, I lived in their basement, where it was always the perfect temperature.  (Turns out that living with your walls mostly underground will keep things cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  It was wonderful.)

But earlier this year, with the offer of a free AC and the knowledge that our apartment does not get a divine cross-breeze, Roger and I headed to Brooklyn where we (okay, he) carried an AC from our friend's apartment all the way to Harlem via subway.  It was really heavy, and a giant pain to carry, but I think Roger knew both how much I hate to be hot and how much I hate to spend money, and he was a champ, bringing it across the boroughs like Atlas carrying the great celestial sphere.  And I cannot say how much I appreciate it.

And how do I mitigate my guilt about having the privilege to control the temperature of my surroundings?  Well, mostly I try to be really good about electricity use, turning off all our lights and unplugging (much to Roger's dismay) all our appliances, so I feel like that must help a little bit.  And, I only run the AC at night, when we're in the bedroom and trying to sleep, and I never run it when ConEd is on a shortage, so that assuages my guilt a little bit.  I also hope to have solar panels one day and give back to the grid.  And finally, I appreciate the wonderful feeling of being cool on a hot day with every fiber of my being.  It's really glorious.

*In fact, since buying my first down coat, I honestly don't even mind the winter.  If I had to drive, that might be a different story.  But as it is, I'm a fall-winter girl all the way.
**God.  Shut up about it, Roger!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Weekend Wanderings

Friday night, Roger came home frustrated with the week.  A bottle of wine, some risotto, and one viewing of "Ted" later, our weekend was off to a much better start.  (Please note that "Ted" was not the greatest film ever, or maybe even worth seeing, but that Marky Mark is looking gooooood.)

Roger trying out the fancy sleep machine.
Saturday, amid fears of rain, we decided to skip the beach, and spent most of the day cleaning the apartment.  (Or, I spent a lot of time looking at papers, and Roger spent a lot of time cleaning the apartment, if we're being honest.)  We ordered pizza for a late lunch, and then headed to Sleepy's to make a purchase I've been waiting for for months: a new mattress.  We've been using the full-size mattress I've had since I was 16, so it was definitely time for an upgrade.  We moved up a size to queen, and it's a plush mattress (even though their weird sleep computer said that Roger should have a firm mattress, this one seemed to align everything correctly).  We won't have it delivered for another two weeks, because we now need to buy a bed frame, but it was exciting to finally make this big purchase! 

All prettied up.
After that, we went down to midtown for our friend's birthday party, before trekking down to the Meatpacking District (in heels!) for drinks in her honor at Biergarten.  It's probably my least favorite of all the beer gardens we've been to in New York (I'd definitely recommend Radegast or Bohemian way ahead of this, and there are many other places to get a good pint in Manhattan), but we still enjoyed ourselves immensely.

Glass at the biergarten.
 And Sunday we had a really lovely brunch at Kitchenette (my favorite brunch place in our neighborhood - they serve grits and biscuits with all their eggs, what more could a girl want?) with our friend Ashley, and then Roger and I took a long, long walk down to the Met, to see some art and hang out in the air conditioning.  We saw the Accademia Carrara show and wandered the Instruments and American Wing (I love pretty much everything about the American Wing, from the room set-ups to the decorative silver to the open storage), and then finished off a trip with a visit to our "friends" in the African Art section, where Roger used to intern.  It was pretty lovely, and we walked home through Central Park, and I was so grateful to be wearing my Tevas, and not heels.  Some laundry and instagraming later, and the weekend had passed.

Glass at the Met.

Friday, July 13, 2012

{This Moment}

{This Moment}

A Friday ritual inspired by Amanda Soule & many others.
Please feel free to share a link to your own moment in the comments.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cooking with Kristin: Elote en Vaso

So, pretty much every recipe I looked up for this dish started with the same phrase: "This is Mexican street food at its finest. Anytime I visit El Paso or Mexico the craving of Elote en Vaso steps into high gear."  I felt it was worth repeating here, even though I've never been to El Paso or Mexico, and I'd never eaten elote before.  Instead, I just saw it on Instagram the other day, and it looked amazing, so I tried to make it.  

As a result, I'm not even really sure if this is supposed to taste the way it did, or if it's actually amazing and I just made it wrong.  Either way, I wasn't super impressed by this dish, but, as Roger pointed out, it would probably make a delicious side dish for lobster, if you're into changing up the normal side dishes for lobster.*  So, make this, or don't.  Or, better yet, if you have a recipe that you know for sure is delicious, send it my way.

Elote en Vaso (adapted from Hispanic Kitchen)
  • 5 ears of corn
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup queso blanco (cotija would probably work better, but I couldn't find it at our grocery store)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
 Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  While waiting for the water to heat, shuck the corn.  Boil the corn for 30 minutes or until done.  In the meantime, mix together the remaining ingredients.  Once the corn is done, cut the kernels off (you may need to run them under cold water first so you can easily handle them), and stir into the mix.  Enjoy!

*Will I ever eat lobster on the beach this summer?  Unclear.  If I was, I would probably just eat my normal buttered corn-on-the-cob and a baked potato.  Or a lobster roll, all by itself.  Oh my. -- We are planning to go to the Rockaways and eat tacos this weekend though!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Gratituesday on Wednesday: Our Anniversary

Roger and I celebrated our 8th anniversary today with sushi and fancy sodas.  I went back and read my post about our 7th anniversary, and things are pretty much the same, with the added benefit of knowing now that we live well together in every sense of the word "well."  It's been a happy year of good company (him and me and kitty and all our friends), pushing toward big goals together (school and work and finances and life), and drinking better beer than ever before.  We've gotten raises, tried out new hobbies, and decorated our first apartment beautifully.  I even discovered a hilarious trait I never knew he had - making pretty much every song on earth about our cat.  Yes, it's been a wonderful year.  Here's to many more!