Thursday, January 29, 2015

around here

I'm back in rehearsals this month for a big show that's taking up pretty much most of my time and energy, but I had two glorious weeks of staycation right at the beginning of January. I accomplished a smattering of really boring tasks (laundry! organize nightstand drawer! haircut!) but I also enjoyed some beautifully lazy days in the kitchen, a couple of long walks with friends, and even a quick trip to Cincinnati for a family event. With grey skies, cold weather, and short days, I often have to remind myself to pull out the camera (even if it is just my iPhone) - but I did manage to find a few photographable moments ;)

1.) The Zamboni flies past the tree at Rockefeller Center / 2.) Wintery mix in midtown / 3.) One last look at my tree before it goes back into storage / 4.) Nothing is better than homemade bread right out of the oven / 5.) It's Murphy's Law that it will rain on the very day I need to run a million errands / 6.) Travel nerds unite at the NYT Travel Show / 7.) Ciao, New York! / 8.) Grey skies / 9.) Need to get those 10,000 steps? Pick a destination and go / 10.) DAY -> LGA

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

afternoon delights (snow day edition)

Blizzard 2015 may technically be over (at least according to the MTA) but if you're anything like me, you're enjoying yourself a most wonderful and much-needed snow day. So in honor of this laziest of Tuesdays, I'm bringing you an afternoon delight a day early just in case you need an online distraction in the middle of your movie marathon - stay warm, my friends!

*Are they flowers? Or fireworks? Flowerworks?

*I laughed so hard I cried.

*I've made and posted this recipe before, but I recently made this no-knead bread once again and it does not disappoint.

*Photography crush of the week.

*I don't know what this is but I can't stop watching.

*Reading this for the next book club meeting - I'm five pages in and already have dozens of thoughts.

*The brilliant minds at NPR have a new podcast called Invisibilia. There's only a handful of episodes right now, but I'm already addicted.

*need. these. now.

*My bestest friend in the whole world has an Etsy shop!

*Reaffirming my belief that Leslie Knope is my spirit animal.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Roasted red pepper soup

It seems to me that after posting the "it's January so here's a healthy smoothie" recipe, one must then prepare a steaming cup of homemade soup in an attempt to conquer the nasty winter weather that is plaguing most of the country (except for you, San Diego. Tell me all your secrets now!!!) And as it turns out, a batch of soup was exactly what I needed this week. Still full from too many holiday parties but chilled to the bone from running errands all over the city, I cooked up a giant batch of this roasted red pepper soup and was able to enjoy it for the next three days. This recipe is also completely customizable - the roasted cauliflower acts as a base from which you can create almost any flavor profile you wish. Don't like red peppers? Substitute broccoli. Not a fan of spicy? Cut out the cayenne flakes. Cutting down on dairy? Omit the cheese completely.

- 4 whole red bell peppers
- 1 full head of fresh cauliflower
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 1 large onion
- 4 tbsp. olive oil
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- salt & pepper
- spices to taste: curry powder, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, parsley, Trader Joe's Everyday Seasoning
- 5 oz. feta cheese chunks

- 2 baking sheets
- Tin foil
- Knives - one large for chopping, one small for peeling
- Boiler/oven
- Ziplock bag
- Dutch oven (or other large stovetop pot)
- Immersion blender

How to
Wash and slice the red peppers in half. Gently score the outside of each pepper in anticipation of needing to later remove the skin. Remove any seeds from inside the peppers, and place face down on a baking sheet. Broil at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, or until tops are beginning to blacken.

Prep the cauliflower. Break off each floret into small pieces and place on a second baking sheet (cover your sheet with foil for easier clean up later).  Place each whole garlic clove on the sheet amongst the cauliflower. Toss the cauliflower and garlic with salt, pepper, and 1-2 tbsp. of olive oil.

When the peppers are roasted, remove them from the baking sheet and immediately place into a Ziplock bag; seal tightly. The idea here is to steam the peppers so that you will eventually be able to easily remove their skins.

Change your oven's setting from broil to bake, and preheat to 400 degrees. When the oven is heated, roast the cauliflower and garlic for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

When the peppers are cool to the touch, remove the skin. I found that some peppers were easier to skin than others, but using a small paring knife to peel each pepper eventually did the trick. Chop the peeled peppers into pieces approximately 1" in size.

Chop the onion. On the stovetop, heat the reaming olive oil (about 1-2 tbsp.) in the bottom of your dutch oven. Sauté the onion until golden brown.

Add the peppers, cauliflower, and garlic to the onions, and sauté for 1-2 more minutes. Add the vegetable broth and spices to the vegetables and bring to a boil. A quick note about the spices: I rarely measure when adding spices to my cooking, I simply add until I feel like I've achieved the desired taste. This is neither scientific nor consistent, and occasionally gets me in to trouble (case in point - I used way too much cayenne pepper for this particular batch of soup and had to tone it down with the feta cheese) but here's the thing - it's just soup. Try one spice blend this time around, and change it up next time!

Once the soup has come to a boil, turn the stove's flame down to it's lowest height (or just turn off the stove completely) and using your immersion blender, puree the vegetables until you've reached your desired soup consistency. Be careful because the contents of the pot will be very hot, and any splashes from the blender can be painful. If the soup is too thick, add more vegetable broth a 1/2 cup at a time to thin it out. Add the feta cheese and blend again until that too is fully incorporated.

Cover and simmer your now-pureed soup for 10-15 minutes. When ready, serve with a hearty chunk of fresh bread (I used this recipe for no-knead bread and was thrilled with the results).

Inspiration for this soup came from here!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

afternoon delights

So, it's freezing out and all I want to do is burrow into my blankets and hibernate until May - but then my fitbit yells at me and reminds me that moving my arm from the tortilla chip bag then into the guacamole and finally towards my mouth does not actually constitute as actual exercise. But THEN I remember that it's like actually-for-real freezing out and that I'm only halfway through Parks & Rec and that I only have 8 more days left of my staycation, so it's back to bed I go. Because Leslie Knope is my spirit animal.

*NPR lists 50 Wonderful Things From 2014

*Do you miss Stefan as much as I do? Here is a full list of every New York's hottest club he ever suggested.

*All the pretty white girls of art's history

*Annoying Actor Friend #soblessed us with his surprisingly touching and equally surprisingly sark-free hopes for the 2015 spring season.

*Honestly, I'm not entire sure what this is, or even if it's completely real, but it's really cool to watch.

*I can't remember if I've posted this before, but it's a cool way to look at the ups and downs of life (and worth a second look).

*How am I obsessively tracking my fitbit steps? A set of gold star stickers and this daily goal tracker - get yours before they disappear!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Quick and Healthy Tropical Green Smoothie

It's a week into January, and it seems that if one considers him or herself to be a blogger, one must use this week to post at least one healthy recipe. And while I love me a giant plate of nachos (no seriously - who can hook a girl up??), I also know how necessary it is to counteract all those holiday calories with some lighter fare. I've been a fan of smoothies for a while now, and I've recently settled on what I believe to be a pretty stellar combination. The spinach adds a whole lot of green-goodness, the blueberries give you those much-needed antioxidants, and a gajillion people have told me to start incorporating chia seeds into my daily life. This is a quick and easy smoothie that gives you a giant glass of healthy deliciousness.

Some pro tips:
* Use an immersion blender for quick mixing and easy clean up - I use a Cuisinart Smart Stick and love it!
* Buy pre-cut frozen fruit - this will not only reduce your prep time, but will also give your smoothie a cold kick. No need for extra ice cube, which just water down the drink, because the frozen fruit are the ice cubes! My favorite come from Trader Joe's - in the smoothie above, the blueberries, mango, and pineapple bits are all from TJ's.

Tropical Smoothie
- 2 handfuls fresh spinach, chopped
- 1 banana, sliced
- 8-10 frozen mango chunks
- 1 small handful frozen pineapple bits
- 1 small handful frozen blueberries
- 1 tsp. fresh ginger, diced
- 1 tsp. chia seeds
- 1 cup orange juice
Optional add-ins: 1tbsp. of shredded coconut, 1 tsp. honey, 1 oz. apple cider vinegar

- Layer all ingredients in the cup of your immersion blender and blend well. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

new year's res 2015

I'm not the biggest fan of New Year's resolutions because I think they very often set people up for eventual failure and self-hatred (I said I was going to lose 10lbs. a month and I haven't yet so I should just eat this cake), but setting reasonable goals can be a healthy way to kick off a new year. I've learned that anything I want to accomplish needs to be written in a list form, so I sat down the other day and drafted some things I'd like to work on in 2015. None of these things are major, life-changing goals, but I think that if achieved, they'll help to make me a better and more well-rounded person. And who wouldn't want that?  ;)

Read more non-fiction I usually have at least two different books going at the same time, but approximately 95% of what I read is fiction (with the remaining 5% going towards a Vanity Fair or National Geographic Traveller magazine). There's nothing wrong with devouring the latest Dan Brown, but there's a whole world of really important non-fiction out there that I need to start sinking my teeth into.

Volunteer This one is a bit complicated. Places that need volunteers require a lengthy and consistent time commitment in order to be a volunteer (one Sunday a month for six months, for example), but my work schedule is so consistently inconsistent that I quite literally can't commit to any kind of volunteer gig. I don't know if I'm just looking in the wrong places or for the wrong types of volunteer work, but volunteering used to be a very big part of my life and I miss it a lot. I need to do some serious research regarding places that will accept either one-time or last-minute volunteers.

Get out of culinary rut There is more to life than Chipotle. And macaroni and cheese. I live in one of the most diverse cities in the world, and yet how many times do I order the same burrito bowl between shows? I need to break this bad habit and try something new. At the very least, I need to switch up my lunchtime sandwich and use some roast beef or something - I've been making the same turkey and provolone sandwich for about 15 years now and it's got to stop. If I can't pronounce it, I should try it.

Make time for doodling Or knitting or sewing or whatever crafty hobby I seem to be into at the moment. So often I tell myself that there are far more important activities I should be doing before adding some more rows to my scarf, but I need to remember that it's actually healthy to just let myself play for a while.

Quality - not price The old cliché is true - you pay for what you get. And that needs to be my mantra every time I walk into a Payless and applaud myself for getting such a great deal on a new pair of shoes - only to have them fall apart or cut my heels to shreds a week later. From now on, I'm going to stop wasting money on cheap items. I went through four different pairs of galoshes before finally getting a pair of Hunter boots - and while each $30 pair of no-names was initially much easier on the wallet, I clearly should have just bought the expensive, yet reliable name-brand from the get go. I'm not going to start spending thousands of dollars on expensive handbags, but I'm just very done with spending money on poorly made items only to have them fall apart before I'm done wearing them.

Unsubscribe Rather than just delete them, I am going to make a very focused effort to hit the "unsubscribe" link from the bottom of every American Eagle and Gap email that crowds my inbox. If it's a promotional email I do want (those Michael's coupons do come in handy sometimes), then I need to take the seven seconds and change my address within that company's system to send it to my junk email address (and check that only when there's something I actually need to buy). My goal is to have complete email control in 2015 - the primary email address shall receive only work and personal emails, the blog address will be for blog-related business, and the junk address will be for everything else. I know it's a tall order, but I'm determined to make it happen.

What are your hopes and dreams for 2015?