Week end-ed.

What are you up to this weekend?

My sister is coming into town to run her first marathon this Sunday in Atlantic City.  I'm so ridiculously proud of her!

Tonight, we'll slurp down ginormous bowls of Mom's famous lasagna soup and then cuddle up on the couch and watch silly romantic comedies.

Tomorrow we'll drive down to AC in time to catch some college football (go UM!) and fill up on a huge pasta dinner before waking up early for the main event Sunday morning.  My running sneakers are packed just in case she needs a running buddy along the 26.2 mile route.

I hope your weekend is filled with good food, people you love and something to cheer about!


Elect-ed to be a Lady

Everyone seems to be reacting to the question in the most recent presidential debate regarding what the candidates would do to address equality in the workplace.  "Binders of women" spoofs (mainly featuring Bill Clinton) are all over the internet.  It made me wish there was at least one woman in the running this election.

I've talked about my opinion on feminism before, so instead, I leave you with this, ladies...

"Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels."  - Bob Thaves


Life, Experienc-ed.

The boyfriend and I recently watched the much talked about documentary, Happy.  It was a truly thought-provoking film about what it means to be happy.  Some of it was scientific, citing domapine and other happy 'drugs' and some of it was experiential.  One of the most resonating tidbits that stuck with me is that the happiest people tend to consistently be those that to expose themselves to new experiences and continued learning.  It can be as simple as taking a different route home from work, or picking up a new book.  New experiences give us a rush and are more likely to produce the happy chemicals in our brains.

One of my favorite bloggers, Joanna Goddard, had the same reaction and has created a weekly 'Fall Challenges' series in which each week she challenges her readers to do or try something new.  This week was to give up TV (unfortunately, I failed miserably as the boyfriend and I are knee deep in a Game of Thrones marathon).

Similarly, at the beginning of this year, I had challenged myself to take one 'class' each month of 2012.  I can't tell you how rewarding the process has been. 

I've taken everything from new classes at the gym (Barre Method, Bikram yoga, Zumba) to a Food Discovery Tour of the Lower East Side.

This month's class was a Wine and Cheese course through Artisanal NYC.  We spent a wonderful two hours tasting cheeses, pairing them with wines and learning about the process and regions in which these cheeses are made.

I thouroughly enjoyed myself (though that could just be the wine talking...)  And I've officially decided this is a resoltion I will continue to uphold in 2013.  Experience is truly at the root of all happiness

Next up: Scuba lessons and a Knife Skills course

What new experiences have made you a happier person?  Any suggestions for classes I should take in 2013?


Melt-ed Cheese. Need I say more?

Last week, one of the meals on our menu was Raclette, a typical French dish that involves melting cheese (called Raclette) on a heated skillet tray and pouring it over boiled potatoes and assorted charcuterie.

If you can get your hands on a hunk of Raclette (we bring a big block back from France and keep it in the freezer) and a mini Raclette grill, like this one that we have (you can even take it with you camping and hiking), this is the perfect (and even easier) alternative to fondue.


And no meal is complete with out dessert...namely a molten chocolate cake baked in mini cocottes.  There were only two of us, but extra chocolate cake never hurt anyone....


All Plann-ed Out.

One of my favorite posts to read on other blogs is about meal planning.  I'm always interested to hear how other people plan out their menus for the week ahead.  (I told you I was a planner).

Lately, the boyfriend and I have been taking a few moments on Friday or Saturday to come up with a rough meal plan for the upcoming week.  It usually starts by laying out the days of the week, picking one night to go out or order in and then filling in the others backwards.  I usually cook to have leftovers for lunches, so we tend to cook something new every night or every other night.

We keep a little whiteboard on the fridge so we both know what our options are.  The meals aren't set in stone--we can be flexible--but it's helpful to know what ingredients we have on hand.

We also do our best to plan based on our schedules.  For instance, on the nights I have a late class at the gym, we plan something quick and easy--pasta, quiche, soup and salad.  Fridays usually mean a crockpot dinner or something I can stick in the oven and then collapse on the couch.

Sometimes it's as simple as 'something from the freezer' (we usually keep at least two different types of meats, plenty of microwaveable veggies, and a homemade soup in there at all times). 

As is usually the case, we have a few staples that appear again and again on the menu, but I try to incorporate one new recipe a week into the mix. It keeps in interesting and helps keep me out of a food rut without becoming overwhelming (or expensive).

I'd say the three lifesavers I have when it comes to meal planning are:

1.  My crockpot - I can throw any mix of veggies in there with a little tomato paste, veggie broth and some spices and voila, we have a hearty vegetable soup.

2.  The grill - I bought the boyfriend a mini gas grill for our tiny balcony this summer and it has cut cook time in half!  I whip up a marinade for steak, shrimp, fish, chicken, veggies, etc. and a quick fire on the grill has dinner on the table in seconds.

3.  The boyfriend - having an extra set of hands in the kitchen really is a lifesaver.  Though I love to cook and find food prep extremely relaxing, having that extra help makes a world of a difference!

What are your meal planning secrets?  I'd love to know!


Mov-ed In.

This past July, the boyfriend and I moved in together. We took our time making the decision and agreed that when my lease was up, we'd find a place of our own.

When we were living apart (mind you, we weren't very far from one another), I felt like I was always planning out my life at least two days ahead.  I always had to think about what my days might look like, what weather was predicted, what activities we might do, and what I'd want for lunch two days from now.  Packing a bag every other night became a ritual. 

And I hated it.

I'm definitely the first to label myself a planner, but when you are always thinking about life two or three days from now, it's very hard to just wake up one morning and throw the plan out the window and live in the present.  Now, all of the logistics of who packs a bag and planning out the week have disappeared. 

A lot of people have opinions on living together before marriage.  And I can understand that.  However, I can firmly say that it was the best thing for our relationship.  Our evenings together are more relaxed than ever, preparing dinner together has never been more fun, and coming home to him every evening is a dream.

I simply write this for those that are hesitant to move in together simply because you're not yet married.  If it feels right, it may very well be.



Speaking of celebrating...

Naturally, we decided the only way to commemorate three years together was to share a 5 course meal of gastronomic wonders at wd~50, a restaurant that has been on my list for quite some time.  The quirky celebrity chef, Wylie Dufresne, is known for his molecular gastronomy techniques in the kitchen, so we couldn't wait to see what he came up with.

We started with a foie gras terrine that looked pretty normal at first glance. But, when we sliced into it, a sweet beet-blood red sauce oozed out onto the plate (symbolism?).  Mix that with the sweet pea 'soil,' a green dust that tasted just like snowpeas, and the candied olives (my favorite), and I'd say this was a pretty banging dish: creamy foie gras, sweet sauce and soil, and salty olives.

Next, came a pressure-cooked pine nut cassoulet with boudin blanc (pork and chicken sausage).  The flavors of this dish were so perfectly balanced, the boyfriend and I both commented we wished we'd had more.

Venison with freeze-dried polenta and an asian pear/fennel slaw was the perfect anchor to the meal.

Dessert featured a carmelized brioche, apricot foam, buttercream ribbon and a lemon thyme sorbet.  WD knocked it out of the park with this one.  I somehow refrained from licking my plate.

Lastly was a black sesame shortbread cookie that had concord grape sorbet hidden inside.  Unfortunately, by this point the cocktails (a delish vodka, guava, mint and champagne cocoction) had caught up with me and I forgot to take a photo.

I hope you enjoy these photos as much as we enjoyed our meal.  If you're ever in NY and looking for an interesting culinary experience, stop by wd~50.  If you're a foodie, you won't be disappointed.

Three Years, Celebrat-ed.

Can you believe it? The boyfriend and I just celebrated 3 years of togetherness.
Not that I find it all that shocking.  He is that oddly shaped puzzle piece that fits perfectly into all my twisted nooks and crannies. 

I often tell friends that I keep waiting for that newly 'wed' stage to slowly fade, for all the sweet unexpected kisses and giggly butterflies to somehow disappear and be replaced by routine and the dreaded feeling of knowing each other too well.  But, thankfully, we only seem to fall more perfectly in love together the more we explore our relationship together.

Three years is only the beginning.  I hope to have many more years of this bliss.

Thanks for the flowers and for spoiling me rotten every other day of the year, bab.


Well Travel-ed.

One of the great things about New York City is the ready accessibility to so many different cultures.

One culture that I have adopted as my second nationality, la France, was hosting a Taste of France Food Festival this past weekend. Of course, the boyfriend and I had to swing by.

We shared a platter of country pâté, fresh bread and two tasters of côte du Rhône for lunch--not too shabby.

We (particularly the boyfriend) were quite disappointed to find there was a glaring absence of cheese at the festival, so we decided to load up on dessert instead.

Two mini chocolate eclairs:


And an unpictured crêpe framboise.

All on all it was a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Though the clouds threatened rain, it held off until we got home, which reminded me of the afternoons spent drying out, drinking hot tea in my tiny Parisian apartment. There's just something about good food that brings with it a twang of nostalgie. Oh la France, comme tu me manques!