I Cooked: Part 2

I have had a busy and exciting week, which means I have SO much to write about and share, but for some reason I have not been able to write this weekend. It’s been a cross between recovering from the busy-ness and a lack of motivation. Anyhow, instead of writing about Blue Men, Shakespeare’s ladies, picnics and rock climbing, I will write about cookies…because who doesn’t like cookies?

I do not have much of a sweet tooth, but every once in a while I get a hankering for a specific dessert, which typically includes chocolate. Last night, I HAD to have no-bake chocolate peanut-butter cookies. I tried to forget the craving by taking a 3 hour nap (I had a migraine), but I woke up feeling headache free and ravenous for cookies. The craving was so strong that I walked to the grocery store to get the needed ingredients

-2 cups sugar
-4 tablespoons cocoa
-1 stick butter
-1/2 cup milk
-1 cup peanut butter
-1 tablespoon vanilla
-3 cups oatmeal
-Waxed paper

I was pretty confident in making these cookies because I have made them numerous times with my Mother. It’s a favorite treat of ours. The directions are simple…

1. Boil sugar, cocoa, butter and milk for a minute.

2. Add peanut butter, vanilla and oatmeal (I also add a handful of chocolate chips because, why not?)

3. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto wax paper to cool and harden.

The only part that is a little nerve-racking, for me, is the boiling. I have made the mistake of letting the mixture burn to the bottom so I made sure to constantly stir this time. I asked Husband to measure out the rest of the ingredients for me and slowly add them so I could keep stirring. (Cooking is a team effort in our house, or until I become trustworthy in the kitchen). Husband was rightfully worried I was screwing up the recipe so he repeatedly asked me things like “Really, 1 tablespoon of vanilla? Are you sure?”

I was a little annoyed at how little he trusted me. I mean, come on, I can READ the recipe. After saying to him, ” Would you like to read the recipe yourself?” I immediately recognized a little mistake… I accidentally doubled the amount of milk I was supposed to use.

Shit.

I tried to boil the first ingredients for an extra 4 minutes to evaporate some of the milk, but nothing worked. I went ahead with the rest of the recipe, and everything seemed to turn out right. Only now, 12 hours later, the cookies are still extremely gooey, delicious, but very gooey.

cookies

 

Oh well, at least no one will ask me to host Thanksgiving dinner!

Cheers!

Best Advent Calendar Ever

I had every intention of keeping up the blog while spending my holiday vacation in Tennessee, but relaxing with our friends and family has taken up a lot more time than I anticipated. So, this post is a teensy bit late. Oh well. It’s time well wasted.

Husband is sometimes too good to me, and Christmas is one of those times. This year he bought me an advent calendar from Vosges Chocolate, my favorite chocolate shop. The box itself is beautiful and enormous. It’s adorned with gold trimming and letters and opens up to tell the story of “The Night Before Christmas”.

The outside of the advent calendar.
The outside of the advent calendar.

IMG_3784

lovely
lovely

Each day offers a new gourmet chocolate, enough to share. These chocolates are so tasty I wish there were a way for me to share bites with you over the Internet.

Mmmm
Mmmm

The chocolate, however; turned out to be only half of my calendar. Husband decided to add a special just-for-me gift to each day. He used Sephora for most of the daily gifts because he knows me so well, but he even ventured to a few other cosmetic/girly stores to find me little goodies.

IMG_3790

Some days I got nail polish, other days chap-stick, lotion, perfume, or even a small bottle of liquor. Waking up has never been so fun!

We have had a few advent calendars over the years, but this one is by far the best! Thank you Husband!

Cheers!

Husband’s Birthday Surprises

I love ALL holidays, especially my Birthday. My Birthday is in November, and I always declare November “Birthday Month”. This means that all month whenever I want to watch a certain show, get Starbucks, or eat chips and salsa for dinner, and Husband does not…I simply say, “But its BIRTHDAY month!”

The week of my Birthday is even better. I can usually convince Husband to make dinner, clean house, take me out on a date, and shower me with little surprises, all because it’s “Birthday week.” Husband is a good sport about all of this because he knows I love to celebrate, and he knows I’ll be sad and disappointed if he doesn’t share my enthusiasm. He’s learned over the years that it’s much better to go along with my festivities than to ignore them. I do not take disappointment well.

I may sound bratty, but I can’t help it. I tend to build up every special event in my life so much that I am easily disheartened if occasions aren’t as I imagined. I don’t mean to set myself up for disappointed; I just like to have something big and positive to look forward to, like waking up to a room full of balloons and breakfast in bed on my Birthday.

To make up for being a Birthday Brat, I try my best to treat Husband the same during his Birthday month/week. The tricky part is that he never uses the phrase “but, it’s my Birthday week!”, so I never know exactly what he wants. Even after questioning him on what he’d like for dinner or what movie he would like to see, I just get his typical “Whatever is fine with me” answer.

He doesn’t ask for much, and he owns basically everything he wants, so gift buying and little surprises are hard to choose. This year I decided to make a list of special little things I could do all week to show him I love him, and that his Birthday is special too…almost as special as mine.

While making the list I tried to think of things he would appreciate, but also things I could afford. If I could surprise him with extravagant gifts everyday I would, but I don’t have a credit card anymore so I’m forced to think realistically these days. After lots of brainstorming and doodling I came up with this final list of special little surprises….

This List:

Do the dishes. It is typically his job to do the dishes, but I decided to give him a break a few days this week and take on the task.

Walk the dog. This is another chore that Husband does. He doesn’t mind walking the dog, except in the mornings, so I took her for a walk before work.

Special notes. I left little post-its around the house with sweet messages to remind him how sweet, hot, and wonderful I think he is.

Favorite candy bar. I bought his favorite candy bar (Ritter Sport Butter Biscuit Bar) for dessert one night.

Special Birthday Dinner. I found this awesome recipe on Pinterest for Cake Pancakes. It’s half yellow cake mix, half pancake, and lots of sprinkles. Mine do not look nearly as attractive as the Pinterest recipe, but they tasted uh-mazzzzeee-ing, and I served them on my “Happy Birthday” platter!

TV time. ANY time Husband wanted to watch ANYthing, I said, “Okay” with no argument. Didn’t matter if it was football, YouTube videos found on Reddit, or Walking Dead….I was all for it.

Massage. Because, you know, who doesn’t want a massage?

Best Lava Cake in NYC. Husband’s all-time favorite dessert is chocolate lava cake, and I researched and researched to find the best in the city and ended at Cathcart and Reddy…a former dessert truck turned bakery in the Lower East Side. We got chocolate bread pudding, handmade donuts with rosemary caramel, and obviously chocolate lava cake. Everything was phenomenal. This is a place going on our list of “must-do’s” for all our visitors.

Chocolate bread pudding
donuts and rosemary caramel
chocolate lava cake!!!

Movies! Husband loves going to the movies, so we saw Argo. As an extra special treat, I stayed awake throughout the entire movie! BTW, if you haven’t seen this yet, you should.

The Perfect Card, I love looking for hours and hours for the right card. This year I found one that says, “According to psychologists…your favorite kind of cake can reveal your personality!” Now, read these descriptions:

Husband’s favorite cake
My favorite cake

That’s just uncanny.

I got him a gift too, but I think these little things mean much more. It’s fun to stretch out the celebration, and have special surprises all week. Any of you have any traditional Birthday celebrations, or sweet and inexpensive surprise you do for you loved ones? I loved to hear them!

Happy Husband’s Birthday week to all of you!

Cheers!

A High Calorie Post

Besides refining our taste for fine art this weekend, we also refine our palettes. We did lots of walking and exploring, and I decided it would be wise to stop in any interesting restaurants we see. It’s so hard to decide on a place to eat in this city. There are just too many choices. Ordering take-out is often so overwhelming that we end up eating Kraft macaroni and cheese to avoid a fight.

After our escapes with Art Saturday, we stopped for a snack at our favorite chocolate shop. Vosges Haut-Chocolat is the BEST place to buy chocolate! They are always super friendly and happy to hand out samples of anything you’d like to try. Every few months they come up with some new crazy flavors, and this weekend happened to be one of these times.

 

We bought the Crispy Carrot Chocolate bar, which is 100% better than it sounds.

After dessert, we went downtown for dinner at Arturo’s. Arturo’s is an old and famous pizzeria known for it’s never-changing setting and it’s nightly live jazz music. We devoured our Caesar salad and large pizza within minutes! I’m sure it was delicious, but we were so hungry that I barely tasted it.

 

Sunday, we took one of our  “Great Walks of New York”. This walk that was supposed to last 45 minutes, ended up taking about 4 hours. We are easily distracted.

The first distraction was an adorable little restaurant name The Little Owl. It is in the middle of Greenwich Village, and directly across from a cute wood-framed house built by William Hyde. The atmosphere here reminded me so much of our favorite teahouse in Venice. It only had room for a handful of tables, the waiters acted like old friends, and the food…. The food was phenomenal!!! It was only 5pm when we decided to try The Little Owl so we just shared a few things. We will be going back for sure!

See the adorable home right across the street??

 

Arugula, peach, and fig Salad with Champagne Dijon dressing
don’t judge, but we were craving french fries ALL day…and these may just be the best fries I’ve ever had
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Not too long after leaving our new favorite restaurant, we came across Milk and Cookies Bakery. The smell of fresh baked cookies wafting out onto the sidewalk lured us in, and forced us to order MORE dessert.

 

 

The weather is sadly starting to get chilly so I ordered hot cocoa, but Husband got the Bacon Smack. The Bacon Smack consist of maple syrup, candied Neuskes cherry wood smoked bacon, dried cranberries, 72% dark chocolate chunks, toffee, and graham cracker pieces. I’ll probably be ostracized by fellow vegetarians for admitting this, but I tasted it. Holy Hell, that cookie is good! (In full disclosure, I haven’t had real bacon in years, so just the hint of bacon flavor in a cookie was pure heaven.)

 

11,885 calories later, we are stuffed and happy. Maybe the rest of the weekend should be spent at the gym?

Or maybe that should wait until Monday…woops Tuesday.

Cheers!

Vegan = Yummy

Vegan food can be delicious. There is an FANTASTIC vegan restaurant right around the corner from us that serves up some really incredible dishes that do not have meat or dairy. I don’t know how they do it, but I’m pretty sure it’s magic. I am lucky enough to know the owners (I teach their grandchildren), and they are the nicest, most down to earth, most generous people, and the most loving grandparents, which just makes me love their restaurant that much more.

I am not a vegan, just wish I was. I am a vegetarian, and I am also (unfortunately) lactose-intolerant, so I am pretty dang close to vegan. And when I eat vegan food I feel super healthy, like I am somehow beating all of the terrible diseases I fear I may have. Stuffing my face with animal-free food will somehow fend off all illnesses right?

I think so.

Anyways, I am happy that NYC offers us some delicious vegan options. It tastes way less healthy than it is, which is a plus in my book. Just take a look at some of the great dishes we ate over the weekend.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Lemonade strawberries, rhubarb, lemon, agave, ice
MOROCCAN SPICED CHICKPEA CAKE
seasonal vegetables, red pepper-coconut curry, date-apricot-ginger chutney, toasted almonds
MOROCCAN SPICED CHICKPEA CAKE
seasonal vegetables, red pepper-coconut curry, date-apricot-ginger chutney, toasted almonds
SPAGHETTI & WHEAT BALLS
truffled tomato sauce, roasted garlic, spinach, cashew parmesan
TEMPEH VEGETABLE TAMALE
quinoa pilaf, sautéed spinach, pumpkin seeds, chocolate mole sauce, guacamole, sour cream, mango salsa
GRILLED KALE
haricots verts, beluga lentils, red onions, turnips, avocado,sunflowerseeds,speltberries, chive vinaigrette
STUFFED AVOCADO
baby greens, quinoa, zucchini, spring peas,
cucumber, radishes, toasted pumpkin seeds, grape tomatoes, chipotle-avocado dressing
GUACAMOLE TIMBALE
chipotle black beans, caramelized onions, cucumber-mango salsa, tortilla chips, ranchero sauce

And that was only a fourth of what was on the table. It was way too much, but we ate it all and are healthier for it I am sure. I am pretty positive that Vegan food burns calories while you eat it.

Has anyone else tried a vegan diet? Anyone know of any easy vegan recipes? If so, please share! Until then, I’ll be eating some vegan chocolate bars and ordering some delivery vegan pizza. Gotta love NY!

Cheers!

Zumba Brat

I LOVE taking group fitness classes. (Well, compared to any other form of working out, I “love” classes.) Working out is SO much more enjoyable when I am with a bunch of other people, jammin’ to good music, and have some big strong person motivating me to “Keep Going!”, “Don’t slow down!”, and “Get it Girl!” It’s so much better than working out by myself. I am not very good at yelling at myself to work harder, I end up convincing myself that my walk to and from work counts as a workout, and then rewarding my “workout” with chocolate.

These workout classes are great for my health, fitness, and all that jazz… but not so great for my attitude. Taking lots of aerobics classes over the last several years has turned me into a complete workout class brat.

First of all, I have two scenarios I imagine in these classes (especially Zumba). They are as follows:

1)   I am auditioning for a music video.

2)   I am performing in front of thousands on a Broadway stage.

Due to my two imaginary settings I must stand front and center in the class. It is terrible to stand in the back of a class! How can you stand it Zoey???  You See, Zoey prefers standing in the back. I joined her on purpose once and almost died. It is so crowded back there! I could not fully perform, and there’s no way the judges could see me back there! My motivational scene was completely shattered.

Another reason I love getting to stand in the front row is the extra attention from the instructor. My Monday night Zumba teacher loves making eye contact with me while saying “Get it girl!”, “You go girl!”, “That’s hot!” Last week he even gave me a high five when I quickly mastered some of his new choreography. He may as well have stuck a gold star on my forehead.

About 5 years ago, one instructor actually took me to her boss and suggested that I get trained to teach aerobics myself! (I’m sure she just wanted to me get out of her class and stop hogging the front row.) I don’t care though; it was like I’d finally been chosen after all that auditioning.

I was a little nervous about getting up on a stage with a microphone attached to my face in front of 40 women to teach my first step class, but the second I stood on the stage I became the “teacher”. Anytime I am stood in front of a large group of people (any age) I cannot help but get into teacher mode.

One Christmas Eve I actually said “1,2,3 all eyes on me!” when trying to get everyone’s attention for a family game. It’s what I do.

So, tonight is Monday, which is Zumba night. After begging, threatening, and harassing, I finally convinced Zoey to come with me. We go through this EVERYTIME we go to the gym.

An amazing professional dancer teaches this class, and his class is fast, tough, and the most fun I could possibly have on a Monday night. Except not working out, and staying on the couch eating chips and chocolate all night, but that tends to have an opposite effect.

Anyways, this class is so popular that people start lining up to get in over a half hour before it starts. When 7 o’clock finally hits, and the doors open, it’s a mad dash for the prime spots. It’s like Target on Black Friday. There are so many women squished into this class that after 30 minutes of dancing it becomes so hot that the mirrors and windows fog completely up with steam, and we begin slipping and sliding in our puddles of sweat.

Tonight, I had to work a little late, so Zoey and I got there only 5 minutes early. By the time we got into the class we were stuck in the very back. Ugh.

Then, this woman (let’s call her Betty) walked through the crowd and stood literally right in front of me, I mean like SPOONING herself against me right in front of me. You couldn’t have fit an Olsen twin between us.

My first thought was that Betty has obviously never done this class and is unfamiliar with the amount of bumping and grinding we do. Either that, or she was looking for a good time and thought I was her type.

When the music started I backed up and away, but Betty kept backin’ up into me, over and over again. To make matters worse, she was a terrible dancer. Another downside to standing in the back of a Zumba class is that I cannot focus on the teacher at all….I cannot help but watch all the people with two left feet in class. I know it’s terrible, and I know I’m completely judgmental, but it’s a train wreck back there!

After being punched a couple times from my new dance partner with flailing limbs, I told Zoey I was ready to go. We spent the last half hour stealing ab machines from the macho boys in the weights department.

I might behave like a “back-row Baptist” when it comes to my spot in Zumba class, but after tonight I know it’s a habit I’m not willing to give up. Zoey, you and Betty can have the back, I’ve got an audition to make, and a show to put on!

Cheers! (As I take a bow.)

No Mascara

There are three things I never leave the house without; mascara, earrings, and lip gloss. These three things can magically transform me from sleeping zombie, to a healthy almost-human. Okay….. fine, those three things and coffee.

If you ever see me outside of the house without these things you should assume one of the following:

1)   I am very VERY sick.

2)   I woke up 30 seconds before I had to leave.

3)   ….. I honestly can’t think of another reason…. Maybe if the apartment was on fire? Even then I think I’d grab Belle and my makeup bag before running out.

Today was a NO MASCARA kind of day. I won’t bore you with the details of my extremely terrible, no good, very bad day. It was just one of those “when it rains it pours”, go back to bed and start over sort of days.

When I got to work, my boss, who was unusually chipper first thing in the morning, made the mistake of saying, “How are you this morning?” All I could do was look at him and say “I’m not wearing mascara! Or earrings! AND, I haven’t had coffee!”

Even, my boss knows this is dangerous. (My rule of thumb is to never work for someone who is not addicted to caffeine. I need a boss who understands the importance of coffee breaks, and drinking coffee at work. Not to mention, you can always get them a Starbucks gift card during any present giving holiday.)

As my “no mascara” day continued, things continued to get worse and even worse. I could not wait to get home, straighten a few things out, and go right to bed to start everything over. Zoey; however, had a different plan

She called to inform me that she had tickets to the Opera MacBeth, (thanks Grandma Barbara!), and that I had to go with her. I tried very hard to let Zoey know that I did not want to go at all on account of my horrible day and needing to recover from it.

The problem with this situation is my inability to tell people no, and Zoey’s inability to accept no as an answer. We make an odd team that way. So, I ran home, got ready in exactly 2 minutes to meet Zoey on time. She was dressed like a model who just stepped out of a photo shoot… I had on jeans, a sweater, and still NO MASCARA. I think by this point I’d just given up completely.

The Opera actually improved my mood a bit. There was a man sitting near us who was dressed like the type of biker you’d see at a costume party (crop top and all). I was thrilled to not be the worst dressed person at the Opera. Zoey ended up being the one sitting next to Mr. Farts-a-lot. Plus, the whole experience at the Lincoln Center was very impressive.

The building itself was massive and so beautiful! The cast was also enormous and very talented. And, my favorite part of the whole production was the set. It was crazy, intricate, stunning, full of detail, just brilliant.

The Lincoln Center

When I got home, Fiance texted me (he’s still out of town), and said he had one “feel better” present that he hid for me in the apartment, and wanted to know if I wanted it tonight. It’s incredible how well Fiance gets me, well enough to know that I would need a “feel better” present at some point during the 3 weeks he is away!

The present was hidden inside our closet. I tore it open to find lots and lots and lots of my favorite chocolates! My day was immediately so much better, especially considering I had not had lunch or dinner, and it was almost midnight. I thanked Fiance immensely for being the most amazing and thoughtful person. Then, I ate a pound of chocolate for dinner.

This little guy was delicous!

I am a little concerned that I used up my “feel better” present only 3 days after Fiance left. I think I’ll set my alarm even earlier tonight…I can’t risk another “no mascara” day.

Side note: While talking briefly with a friend today I mentioned to her that I was up to my eyeballs in $%&# today. Being the great friend that she is, she asked if there was anything she could do. I said “no”, because that’s what we women do, and considered it my problem to fix. Tonight; however, I read a new blog entry from one of my all time favorite blogs, Momastry, which was all about telling people what you need, especially when they ask! Something to think about….


Cheers, and have a GREAT day full of mascara and earrings tomorrow!