Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mason Jar Mania

it's no surprise mr p and i LOVE our mason jars.  we use them for everything from grains storage to flower pots to (now) smoothie containers!  this weekend mr p made me this clever to-go cup out of a mason jar so i could take it along with me to pick up our first half-box of CSA fruits and veggies.  it was so nice!

mr p and i have also made a conscious decision to reduce our use of plastic in the kitchen.  we had oodles of plastic containers cluttering our cupboards that leaked when we took them for lunch, and released who knows what kinds of chemicals when microwaved.

we already had a love for mason jars, and now we have added pyrex containers to the mix!  we found (2) 3-cup containers and (1) 6-cup container at Target on sale for just $11, so we decided to try them out.  this was about a month ago, and we LOVE them so far!  they are good for just about anything i take for work, nothing leaks, and (most of) the food isn't touching plastic.  we bought 1 more  6-cup container, making just 4 pyrex containers that replaced a trash bag full of plastic containers i took to salvation army (yay! less clutter!!)

(ok, ok, we kept a FEW more containers than this, but you get the idea)

lastly, anyone remember the post about trying to keep herbs in mason jars on a wall in the kitchen?  well, even after round 2 with the herbs, they just didn't last.  when i gave my philodendron a haircut, i saved the trimmings in anticipation that the herbs wouldn't last through round 2 (and they didn't).  last weekend i finally replanted the trimmings into the jars after having dead herbs in the jars for months (literally).

they are a bit wild and crazy from the way they were growing in the old jar, but i like it!


Monday, January 30, 2012

Cutie Patootie Pooches

mr p and i have decided NOT to get any animals (well, for a while at least, we WILL have a cat someday.... yes, someday...)

however, that's not to say that we don't enjoy them!!  it's sort of like people who say they can't wait for grandchildren, you get to experience all the FUN parts of having kids, but not the not-so-pleasant parts (changing diapers, temper tantrums... oh man, i'm totally not ready for that)  that's what we got to do this weekend. we got to dog-sit our neighbors 3 dogs (yes, THREE!!! well, 3 between her and her boyfriend who spent the weekend in miami, jealous!)

skeeter, max, and joey are yorkies with minds of their own... at the beginning of the weekend, they didn't take to us very well,  but by the end of the weekend, they greeted us with excitement when we walked inside, and once i even caught all three of them doing their "business" at the same time!!  i never thought i could be so happy to see such a thing!! haha

we definitely realized we are not ready for a pet, but it was a fun (and eye-opening) experience for a few days :D

even though they didn't like us at first, how can you NOT love these cutie patootie little guys!?!?


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dinner for 10

who says having a tiny apartment means you can't entertain?  we surely tested our limits this past weekend by having 8 people over for dinner, making it 10 total with us.

the key to it?  making everything re-heat-able and making things that are ideally eaten out of a bowl with a spoon or a fork, no knives needed (when 1 hand is holding the dish, it's pretty hard impossible to cut something with a knife..)  we surely don't have "dining" seating for 10 people, so everyone ate on the couch or on a chair in the living room.  eating while holding your plate is just not fun (and is asking for something to spill to the floor), so we served everything in bowls!

pasta and meatballs it is, then!  i knew mr p would enjoy making this, because he LOVES making things from scratch that most people wouldn't dare to try (or, at least, they don't get on a regular basis).  he made his sauce from scratch, meatballs from scratch (including grinding the meat in the new meat grinder attachment to the kitchenaid mixer), pasta from scratch, and homemade plain white Italian bread.

before the prepping began, though, mr p and i went to the grocery to pick up food for the night, grabbing some good ole Shoprite sushi while we were there:

who says grocery store sushi isn't good?? i surely like my spicy tuna in brown rice
(well... coming from the NON sushi connoisseur)

mr p's regular tuna with white rice

let the REAL festivities begin!!

started the night with some homemade guac and blue corn tortilla chips

mr p's pasta-making in action

fluffy bread's ready :D

everyone's pappardelle ready, just wating on the meatballs and sauce!
check out the bowls with the raised sides, new dinnerware additions from sur la table

mr p's bowl :D

thanks to everyone for bringing the booze!

thanks to jo for making the BEST "better than sex" choco cupcakes.
(with her AMAZING addition of melting cookies and cream hersey bars on top!)

needed a new chalkboard drawing now that christmas is over

"sign-in sheet"

after eating delicious food, drinking lots of coronas and lots of wine, playing countless rounds of catch phrase and the game of things, and staying up past 2am (ha, it's not exactly college days anymore, 2am is LATE!!), we slept in and made breakfast with leftover bread, leftover rice, and DEEEELICIOUS sausage my mom got from the butcher and sent back with us at christmas time (well, mr p made us breakfast, really, thanks babe!)

smoked mutz. (i.e. mozzarella)

my brown rice, sausage, and runny egg with frank's.

mr p's goodies that obvi wouldn't fit in his siracha-sprinkled sammich bread he had prepared.

zack's sausage and egg sammich with frank's.

thanks to everyone who came!  hopefully it will all happen again soon, and those who couldn't make it will make it for the next feast!

cheers to a great week ahead :D


Friday, January 27, 2012

the difference: volume 2


my dinner: 1 bowl of soup (Ina Garten's Lentil Sausage Soup, cut down 1/3, and added potatoes and chili flakes)

my workout: run 3 miles, walk 0.5 miles, 10 minutes on the elliptical, abs workout

mr p's dinner:  1 bowl of soup (just like mine shown above), and this sammich with white bread, sausage, goat cheese, and mustard

mr p's workout tonight: nothing.

BIG difference this time!! he will still be more fit than me.  again, stupid boys and their stupid metabolisms.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

New Obsession: The Sweet Potato

i know i know, you're probably thinking "sweet potatoes? really? what's so new about sweet potatoes?" 

nothing.   it's just that i never liked them before, always had my 5-year-old tastebuds telling me they were gross, so i never ate them.  i tried them with my (nearly) 25-year-old tastebuds, and loved them! end of story.

(well kind of)

mr p and i tried making a sweet potato soup a few months back and it was AWFUL! i mean, it just didn't suit our tastebuds.  i managed to eat my first portion, but mr p couldn't even make it halfway through without saying he can't eat the rest, and ate something else for dinner. (see!! even WE make bad recipes sometimes!)  so, i still had it in my mind it was totally because of the sweet potatoes.

last weekend when we went to philly and ate at sabrina's, my meal came with sweet potato fries (yay! good for detox plan) and i actually liked them.. scratch that... i LOVED them!!  who woulda thought?

so last night when i decided to make (our own version of) bubble and squeak, i split it between two pans, and made mr p's with regular russet potatoes, and mine with sweet potatoes.  sooo good!  it was the first time i had made it in a while, and we definitely used too much butter and oil, but i think i will stick to having sweet potatoes in mine... and i think i will be eating them MUCH more often!

(well... why did you like them now but not a few months ago or when you were little??)

mr p explained it to me like this:
savory is for dinner, sweet is for dessert.  don't mix the two.

he's totally right!  i had only had them prepared sickeningly sweet (ugh, like paula deens recipe for sweet potato bake here... check out the ratio of potatoes to sugar and butter... makes me nauseous!! )  when there's almost a 1:1 ratio between the sweet potatoes and the sugar and butter, there's something wrong!!  even the soup we tried had some maple syrup in it... sweet potatoes are sweet enough!! zero sugar needs to be added to it to be tasty!! ...or... zero sugar should be added for a dish to be a part of a meal instead of a dessert.

my point is, sweet potatoes are delicious when just baked and eaten plain.  or turned into fries just like regular potatoes. or fried into a hash sort of like bubble and squeak.  just like regular potatoes!

(ok ok, so now you like them. what's the big deal? why do you WANT to substitute them for regular potatoes??)

i always heard they were good for you, but i didn't know why.  so last night during dinner i looked it up here, but here's a quick breakdown.  just 1 cup has:

- 7 grams of fiber (need 25-ish a day)
- 4 grams of protein
- 769% daily vitamin A
- 65% daily vitamin C
- 8% daily calcium
- 8% daily iron


(at least we had some roasted broccoli to go with this hearty meal to feel like we were still getting some greens!!)

once we perfect the art of the right about of butter and oil for bubble and squeak, we will share the recipe.  until then, my friends, i urge you to try using sweet potatoes in a dish that normally calls for regular potatoes (nothing different), and let me know what you think!!!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

for the love of "new" things

i am always jealous when i see house tours of beautifully decorated homes (like this one), then come to find out that most of their furnishings are from a thirft store, vintage store, craigslist, or (brace yourself) dumpster-dive finds.

how can anyone FIND that kind of stuff without looking on craigslist everyday or spending every free minute going through stores looking for this stuff??  everything i always see on craigslist that's labeled "vintage" really should be called "old, ugly, worn-out crap."  i've learned that when people want to get rid of stuff fast, they use those buzz-words like "vintage" or "modern" or "antique," whether it really is or not.
so, i've curbed my searches to include just what i'm looking for. whether it's an end table or kitchen table, i will even just type in "table" and the price i'm willing to pay.

i haven't been really searching for another chair (although we were really on the market for one), but i got bored at lunch last week, so i thought i would peruse craigslist.  i searched "chair", with image, between $20 and $200, and i FINALLY got lucky!  i found this chair for $75 and it was only 1 block away from our house! (score!!)  i was supposed to see it on sunday after we got home from philly, but i totally forgot :(  i HATE it when i'm trying to sell something on craigslist and people flake out, and as much as i hate to admit, i was totally "that" person!! (ugh, kick myself in the butt).

luckily the girl still had not sold it and we were still able to buy it!  we tried to talk her down in price, but she said if we didn't get it, there were others interested, so she wouldn't go down.  BUT , mr p worked his charm and we did end up staying and chatting through an entire bottle of wine (oops! guess i wasn't planning on going to the gym). so i suppose you could say we got a chair AND a new friend for the low price of just $75 :P

so, here's our "new" $75 conversation chair.  it's wooden with a high back, with blue velvet upholstering on the seat and back.  there are a few snaggles here and there, but for $75 you can't beat it!

i LOVE the details in the wood 

(please don't mind the christmas decorations... i like them too much to take them down, but last night mr p put his foot down and told me they have GOT to go...)

now we finally have "conversation" seating in our living room, with 2 chairs opposite the couch (sheesh it was so awkward before we got those chairs... 4 adults sitting in a row on the couch trying to talk to each other)

our apartment is starting to look more like a home instead of an ikea catalog!! we didn't THINK we had much until our friend karen starting pointing out so many things from ikea, and totally opened our eyes to how much we REALLY had from there.

remember to follow me by clicking "join this site", or receive email notifcations of new posts by submitting your email in the "follow by email" button, both on the right side of the page.

cheers to a good craigslist find, and to switching it up from blah ikea stuff :D


Sunday, January 22, 2012

What a Wedding Weekend

whaaat?  who has a wedding in JANUARY!!??  well, i suppose if your dream honeymoon is to spend a week in vail snowboarding (THEN another weekend in sunny beach weather), there's no better time then january to get married!  my work buddy caroline became a Mrs. this weekend to her hubs jason (congrats, again, you lovebirds!)

the wedding was in NJ outside of philly, so we decided to stay in philly with our friend zack instead of driving the 1.5 hours or so to get there.  after a late night in the office for mr p, we hit the road, got to philly later than we expected, so we had the party come to us!

more friends made their way to zack's for a night of drinking games and an impromptu ke$ha dance party.  coors light, ke$ha, and trashy dancing... sounds like we were having one of the parties in her trashy songs! haha  (no... we're definitely classier... i DON'T throw glitter to make it rain and i DON'T brush my teeth with a bottle of jack)

the wedding on saturday was a blast! our whole table was filled with girls from my company and their dates, so it was a fun time to dress up, put on some heels, grab a drink, and let loose with the girls instead of being all "professional" at work.

totally kicking myself in the butt for not bringing a camera to the gorgeous wedding, but i at least had the notion to take pictures of a few items from the RIDICULOUS dessert bar!  this wedding had by far the best food of any wedding i've been to.  we were halfway convinced that there was no real dinner after stuffing our faces with the amazing hors d'oeuvres. luckily caroline's mother came up to us and told us to save room, because a full dinner and desserts were still to come!

for some reason i feel guilty for loving cake pops.

needless to say i did NOT stick to the detox plan this weekend.  i've decided that if staying on the plan prohibits me from having a good social life, i won't do it.  and i will make it up during the week (hopefully). 

when we returned to zack's after the wedding, we were surprised to hear we were expecting another guest!  his brother had a layover in philly to go home to ireland, missed his flight due to bad weather, delays, etc.  since we had another person tagging along, we decided to get a good brunch before hitting the road back to jersey city.

zack ALWAYS talks about a place called sabrina's, so this was finally a perfect time to go!  i got a chamomile tea and fish tacos!! soooo good!  surprisingly the only detox UN-friendly part of my meal was the sour cream and cheese on the tacos, otherwise i was good to go!  mr p ordered a burger on a brioche bun (he swears it's the best kind of bread for burgers) with bacon and some kind of sweet chutney on top.  the place was super trendy on the inside, and pretty packed full of hipsters, but the waitress was really fun, the food was amazing, and we all had a great time!

we got home in time to unpack, clean the apartment, and make one of our FAVORITE go-to meals, pasta with avocado pesto (see recipe from an earlier post here)!! regular linguine for mr p, gluten-free pasta for me... all detox friendly except for the cheese (...pesto without cheese just ISN'T pesto)

again, great weekend with great friends and great food.  sometimes, it just doesn't get any better than that!!

cheers to a positive start to a great week ahead :D

Friday, January 20, 2012

the difference: volume 1

it's not uncommon for our friends or family to tell Mr P and I how much we are alike, and (like many other couples who have been together for a while) we often find ourselves finishing each other's sentences (except those times when Mr P is TRYING to tell me something, and i just KNOW what his answer is going to be, so i finish his sentence, and he says "no..", then starts telling me again, and again i KNOW what his answer is going to be so i finish his sentence... "no, babe"... and sometimes it makes him so frustrated he just stops trying to tell me what he was going to say... am i babbling or do any of you know what i'm talking about???)

anyways, sometimes it just hits us how much we are NOT alike, and i like to just point out our differences.  this is why i am going to start a series called "the difference".  it might be differences in the way we eat our food, our clothing style, our design sense, things we enjoy in our free time... just whenever i get one of those moments when i sit back and say "wow... we are just SO different"

last night was one of those nights.  i may or may not have told you that when Mr P first moved here he UNINTENTIONALLY lost 20 pounds (can you tell i'm still bitter about it??). after we started going to the gym, my intentions were to LOSE some LB's and inches, and Mr P was trying to GAIN LB's and inches (in all of the right places of course... so he can have that sexy triangle upper body with big sexy arms... or should i say sexiER triangle upper body and biggER sexiER arms ;)  he's blushing right now as he reads this, i'm sure)

last night was one of those we're-leaving-for-the-weekend-have-nothing-to-eat-but-don't-wanna-go-to-the-grocery kind of nights, so we scrounged the pantry.  our usual go-to meal is pasta with basically any sauce we can whip up from leftovers in the fridge.  but... even our 4 packages of rice noodles and 1 package of egg noddles had wheat flour in them.  we opted for making refried beans with brown rice, and i chopped up every bit of green veggies i had and tossed them in a salad with oil and balsamic vinegar.  not the most prestigious or fancy meal ever, but it surely beat eating out or buying more things from the grocery!! 

for the refried beans we mixed refried black beans with canned whole black beans, leftover salsa, and Mr P's random mix of spices.  for the salad, we happened to have romaine lettuce, green onions, dill, basil, celery, and cilantro just "hanging out" in the fridge....


Mr P's meal:

My meal:

(the photos totally don't show my point... Mr P had AT LEAST double rice and double beans AND had 2 fried eggs on top... hmph... boys ...)

on a brighter note: looking forward to yet another great weekend on the road!  staying in philly again, but for a wedding this time! congrats to the (almost) newlyweds, Mr. and Mrs. Peddle :D


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Week 3 Detox Update: Adding in Gluten-Free Whole Grains

Starting Tuesday night, I began introducing carbs back into my system. NOT eating carbs wasn't so bad after all! But, I definitely couldn't go on forever eating like that.

Tuesday night we made red thai curry a different way than we have in the past (see original post here) This time we added cabbage, onions, bamboo shoots, water chesnuts (ahhh my fave!), lentils, baby corn, and shrimp, served over brown rice.  I suppose the first thing I learned after eating the rice, is that I REALLY need to watch how much I put on my plate!  After going without carbs for 2 weeks, it seems that my body learned to be full after much less food, and adding rice to the mix made me full even quicker!  I feel sort of silly putting such a miniscule amount on my plate when we ate leftovers last night, but I didn't feel nearly as stuffed as the first night.

(not exactly the prettiest meal, but it was pretty tasty!  hit lots of tastebuds with sweet, savory, and spicy, and incorporated lots of texture, with the baby corn, water chesnuts, lentils, and cabbage)

I haven't tried any other gluten-free grains yet (since we made such a huge amount of curry and rice that we're still eating it), but I hope to incorporate quinoa and farro in the coming week.  We also bought tapioca flour after eating AMAZING cassava rolls in Chicago, and we want to try out hands at making something with that awesomely sticky, gummy, chewy dough.

Conclusions from the Detox:

1. My portions used to be WAY oversized (probably why I always felt so grossly full after eating dinner)

2. I don't really need caffeine, and coffee will be a treat on the weekends instead of a necessity to start my morning.  I still enjoy having a hot drink in the morning (and at night too sometimes), so I have replaced my weekly coffee with caffeine-free teas such as mint and chamomile.

3. I enjoy eating a animal-protein free (vegan) diet, though when Mr P cooks up some fresh bacon (the GOOD kind from the butcher in Ohio) in the morning for his bacon egg and cheese sammich, it really makes me lose my appetite for the cantalope and apple breakfast I have packed (yep, picture that scene, it happened this morning).

4. Eat what I need, nothing more, nothing less.  If I am going to be working out after work, I need to eat some carbs and protein or I won't make it to mile 2, but if I'm just going to be sitting in my cube at work all day and then be a couch potato all night (everyone needs those days once in a while, right?), then maybe I should cut back on them.

5. The detox is a limited time for a reason.  Living in the NYC area, it's HARD to be social with a diet that I can't eat meat, dairy, or drink alcohol.  Even most garden salads have cheese on them, and it's definitely no fun when everyone else around you is having a beer or a glass of wine and you are not.  Plus, like I told Mr P a few nights ago when I ate roasted broccoli for dinner and he ate something else, doing this whole thing takes all the FUN out of cooking together at night.

All in all though, I'm looking forward to eating normal again, but eating the "detox don'ts" in moderation. Hoepfully I will give at least some conscious consideration before stuffing the Friday work bagel into my mouth, or debating whether or not I can get through Target without picking up a sweet treat!

Wish me luck on the 2 weeks left!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

winter stroll through the city

it was a cold and blistery day on those crowded streets of new york.  as the snow began to fall....

whoa wait a second... that's not the picture i wanted to paint!  EVERYDAY of an east coast winter is cold and blistery!!  what does any local do on a day like this? bundle up and get outside!!!  so that's just what we did, and we had a great time!

first stop: brunch!  after getting a late start into the city, we decided to find a place along our way to meeting up with a friend at grand central.  usually this turns into a disaster and we end up settling for pret-a-manger or some other chain (or standard pizza by the slice).  mr P walks past this gem on his way to work everyday, so we decided to stop in! it's called piccolo cafe.

my detox plan gave me pretty limited options, so i settled for a mesclun greens salad with apples, walnuts, and goat cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette (goat cheese is the bad one, no dairy for me, but i ate it anyways... oops!)  i also got a chamomile tea, and i think i may have fallen in love.  i think i could settle for just smelling it and not actually drinking it.  PLUS it's natually caffeine free!!  (this wasn't the last chamomile tea of the day, just an FYI)

nicole got a latte and mr P ordered a sammich (not sure what was on it, but i surely was jealous watching him eat that sammich with meat and toasted bread...)

and wwwweeeeee're off to see the wizaarrdd!  ...or, to grand central.  but it really was a nice day, despite the bitter cold and skin-stinging wind.

i totally forgot there was THE new apple store at grand central until we walked into the main corridor and saw the big white apple hovering over the east balcony.  i remember when i heard that apple was introducing their largest store in the main room at grand central station, i thought "how tacky, grand central is such a beautiful place with an amazing history.  everything looks original and historic, why taint it with something that's a symbol of today and the future?"

well, i'm here to tell you that it's pretty much as elegant as it can get.  there's no storefront, there are simply tables and stations set up in the east balcony, with pretty white lit-up apple signs here and there (and a bunch of blue shirts, of course).

after embarassing everyone by yelling out "joe!" at the top of my lungs inside the main corridor (come on, it's totally quicker than trying to call him in a place where you get no reception, then try to tell him where we are, when we could see him anyways), we found joe, and continued our stroll through the city.

we passed by rockefeller center and watched the ice skaters, passed by bryant park and watched more ice skaters, and finally decided it was time to eat again, and journeyed down to the lower east side hoping to snag a seat at The Meatball Shop. cheap delicious meatballs served with just sauce, with pasta, or "smashed" into a burger.  sounds delicious, right? well, apparently enough people for a 1-2 HOUR wait at 2pm thought so too.

onto plan B we said!  we took our chances strolling through the lower east side and stumbled upon schiller's liquor bar (definitely more of a restaurant than a bar... at least at 2pm on a saturday).  i had wanted to eat there because i saw it on the movie Morning Glory, but really knew nothing about it.  the inside was decorated with old liquor bottles, and the windows, antique metal seats, and old laquered white tiles sort of made me feel like i was in a locker room from my ancient middle school.  Still it was comforting and cozy and fun to look at everything.  

i ordered "seared salmon" with cauliflower, and out came my very unexpected meal. WELL DONE salmon over chopped cauliflower (maybe you could call it cauliflower stuffing?) in a brown (probably beef) sauce.  though the meal was delicious, it was hardly what i expected when the menu said "seared salmon," and i didn't think i would go against my detox plan by eating beef (in the sauce) and bread (i think, in the stuffing). eating out is so hard!

after meandering our way back to the PATH station, we headed home, picked up some beer and wine along the way, and had a blissful night in instead of spending $$$$$ at the bar. (wait... did we? i think we DID go to the bar.. too much wine i guess :P)

it's weekends like this that i'm happy to have moved to the east coast.  friends in far away places aren't SO far away at just few hours (some just a few minutes) away, and sometimes we just get lucky and they all come to US!


Saturday, January 14, 2012

1 (no) fish, 2 fish: week two means fish!

yep! i can add fish and beans to my diet this week!  last night Mr P cooked up a delicious lemony veggie soup (with vegetable broth instead of chicken broth), pan-fried tilapia, and put the fish on top with some green onions and dill (yeah, dill! one herb we need to use more of considering it's only $0.50 a bunch at the bodega around the corner!!).  simple as that!  he chopped up veggies we had at the house, let them simmer with the veggie broth, added lemon juice and spices, and let it do its magic.

(orange juice with a **splash** of cranberry juice in the back)
(and don't worry... that baguette-that-contains-gluten is for Mr P... )

the green onions, dill, and lemoniness of the soup totally made the dish.

my cooking this night did not go quite so well...  i tried to roast chickpeas in the oven.  they were tossed in veggie oil with spices, spread out on  a lined cookie sheet, and baked on 425 for 20 minutes.  they were browning before they were crunchy, and i TOTALLY forgot the salt!!! so, they turned out sort of crunchy on the outside, mushy on the inside, and lacked flavor.

does anyone have any tips on roasting chickpeas??  i really WANT to like them, but the ones i made were just blah.

(even though they look pretty)

my tip for YOU is to add pan-fried fish to your next veggie soup!  the tilapia was ok, but i think we will try a heartier white fish the next time...

on a brighter note, we finally have heat in our apartment!! (wait, it's JANUARY....) well, we've had a pretty mild winter, our stove and oven keep us warm for the few hours we are home at night, and we don't go to bed without the heated blanket turned on.  silly us just thought our heat was broken, and it wasn't SO bad in the apartment, so we didn't look into trying to see how to fix it... then Mr P found that the pump was unplugged (hit forehead with heel of hand several times).  now we have heat for our guests this weekend :P

having an awesome weekend with some of the best visitors :D