Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lussekatter:: Saint Lucia Buns

The day of Saint Lucia is an essential part of a Scandinavian Christmas. Each year on December 13, Saint Lucia is celebrated widely with candlelight in the home and traditional candle-lit processions at church. Lucia herself was Christian martyr, recognized for secretly providing food to persecuted Christians.

Today, the eldest girl in the family portrays Saint Lucia. She puts on a white robe in the morning and wears a crown full of candles, often times made of Lingonberry branches. She serves her parents, and family, Lucia buns and coffee or mulled wine.
The night of Saint Lucia was known to be the longest night of the year (winter solstice), which was changed when the Gregorian calendar was reformed. During a long winter in Scandinavia, the idea of light overcoming darkness, and the promise of returning sunlight has been welcomed by the locals for hundreds of years. The celebrations and processions on Saint Lucia Day are illuminated by thousands of candles.
Celebrating Saint Lucia day has been a family tradition for a very long time! As far back as I can remember, my Grandma would wake up early to serve breakfast at the Scandinavian smörgåsbord held at church. She always wore her traditional Swedish attire, to make the day even more festive!
Because my Grandma looked forward to this day so much every year, I wanted to try my hand at making Lussekatter, or Lucia buns. I followed THIS recipe (and highly recommend). These golden rolls taste rich, from the essence of saffron, but also sweet, from the golden raisins. Serve them warm with a touch of butter and jam!
As many would say, including my Grandma, it just wouldn't be Christmas without Saint Lucia Day!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

DIY:: 'Thankful for Leftovers' Takeaway Boxes

I always look forward to Thanksgiving leftovers because I never seem to get my fill of turkey, stuffing and all the sides from just one meal.

So guests don't miss out on the extent of the feast, Camille Styles, hostess to one of my favorite lifestyle blogs, had this wonderful idea! DIY:: 'Thankful for Leftovers' Takeaway boxes.

Click HERE for the free printable download. And, Happy Thanksgiving!

*Image via Camille Styles

Monday, November 19, 2012

Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad

Sundays are slowly becoming my favorite day of the weekend. The Mr. and I met some friends for a relaxing morning brunch and then enjoyed a long walk in Central Park. The rest of the afternoon was spent at home, preparing for a busy few days ahead.

We love to watch Sunday night television. So, I prepared a few simple dishes in advance, so we could enjoy a nice dinner, rather than takeout. Our favorite show is Homeland, I look forward to it all week!

I made Baked Crispy Hot Wings (which I will share later this week) and served them with delicious shaved brussels sprouts. This is the perfect fall salad because it combines sweet and savory. It's healthy and extremely addictive, a good thing!

12 brussels sprouts, washed and dried, woody ends cut off
4 ounces Pecorino Romano, grated fine
4 ounces walnuts, toasted and broken into small pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Slice the Brussels sprouts thin on the slicing disc of the food processor. A mandoline or sharp knife also works well.

Put the sprouts in a large bowl. Add the cheese and walnuts. Combine the apple cider vinegar, olive oil, and mustard into a small jar, along with the salt and pepper. Put on the lid and shake that jar until the vinaigrette has come together. Dress the salad with the vinaigrette. Toss and serve.

*Recipe adapted from Shutterbean

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Heirloom Tomato Tartine

The MAC Cosmetics corporate office sits in a beautiful brick townhouse on the corner of Prince and Wooster, arguably the prettiest stretch of cobblestone in New York City.

Therefore, without a doubt, one would think that working in SoHo is a dream come true. While there are a many, many, many more Pros to this location than Cons, there is one major Con: What's for lunch?

I know it sounds unbelievable, as almost every renowned chef has a restaurant within one square mile, but it's true! Finding a cup of soup, half sandwich or mixed green salad in this neighborhood is like finding a needle in a hay stack. While I wish it were the case, Jean-Georges can't make me lunch everyday.

To alleviate the stress of deciding what to eat at noon, I've opted to bring my own snacks. I've never been good at packing meals in the morning. Instead, I keep a few easy-to-prepare items in the fridge at work.

My favorite thing to make is an Heirloom Tomato Tartine. It's quick and easy, as well as healthy and inexpensive.

1 Slice Whole Wheat Bread, Toasted (I use Ezekiel 4.9)
Hummus (I use Whole Foods Original Hummus)
1/2 Cup Baby Heirloom Tomatoes, Sliced
1 Teaspoon Olive Oil
Italian Parsley/Basil (Optional)

Slice a handful of Baby Heirloom Tomatoes and place in a small bowl. Toss with Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper, to taste. 

Spread hummus on a toasted slice of bread. Scoop tomato mixture onto the hummus and top with a sprinkling of fresh herbs.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wedding Wednesday:: Jewelry Insurance

Over the past several weeks, so many friends have announced engagements! And with the Holidays approaching, I'm sure there will be a few more! While the occasion certainly calls for big celebrations, a little time should also be set aside to think about protecting that gorgeous gem on your finger.

Both sentimentally and monetarily, your engagement ring and wedding band will always be your most prized possessions. And, there are a few simple steps to take, sooner rather than later, to ensure they last a lifetime.

The very, very first, and most important 'to-do' is: GET THAT SPARKLY DIAMOND INSURED! And in fact, it's pretty simple to get started.

  • If you own your home, simply add a jewelry rider to your current insurance policy. Even if your current coverage states that jewelry is included, most likely it is for a minimal amount, much less that the value of your rings.
  • If you're currently renting, I found that adding a rider wasn't the best option. Rather, taking out a policy with a specialty insurer, such as Perfect Circle Insurance proved to be easier, more cost effective, and provided the broadest coverage.
  • With any policy, it's important to read the fine print, looking especially for 'accidental misplacement' coverage.

When applying for insurance, it's essential to have a current appraisal of each item. An appraisal describes the Cut, Clarity, Carat Weight and Metal of your ring/rings. A picture is also very helpful to include, and sometimes required.

The cost of insurance is primarily based on the value of your jewels and the amount of the deductible. Although, other factors come into play, such as: home location, residence type, jewelry storage, frequency of wear and permanent security systems.

Once coverage is in place, be sure to check your ring regularly to ensure the diamond is situated tightly in it's setting. Your jeweler will be more than happy to do this sort of inspection for you on a regular basis. Also, it's important to clean your ring frequently to prevent buildup from soap, lotions and dust. Professional cleanings are best. But, any sort of jewelry cleaner will do a fine job at removing residue.

*Photo Credit: PMG Images

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sweet Treats for Thanksgiving Day

I think I have a tendency of saying this every time November rolls around, but this year, I'm really in the mood for the Holidays! In fact, I even asked the Mr. if we could put up our Christmas tree last weekend. He kindly suggested we wait until after Thanksgiving. Fair enough, I suppose.

With that being said, I'm equally as excited for Turkey Day. A great meal, quality time with family and friends and a nice long weekend... Not much is better than that!

We'll be staying in the city this year and I have full intentions of cooking, and baking, up a storm. Dessert is the easiest part of the menu for me to finalize and I plan to make several items. Here's a preview of the tried and true sweet treats we'll be enjoying come Thanksgiving Day.

Okay, okay... Of course I'll bake a few extra pies, but only because you insist!

To Ella Modern fans in the New York area, simply reach out via email at: to order/discuss. Thanksgiving treats would be delivered/ready for enjoyment on Wednesday, November 21, 2012.

{Maple Pecan Pie}
{Pecan, Bourbon and Butterscotch Bread Pudding}
{Salted Caramel Pudding}
{Warm Apple Cobbler}
{Pumpkin Pie with Rum Whipped Cream}

*Images via Barefoot Contessa, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Joseph Leonard, Food & Wine

Monday, November 12, 2012

Recharging Battery Park

Hello, hello! I'm happy to report that the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy has finally come to an end in New York City. The Mr. and I are home sweet home and both Tribeca and Battery Park are still standing. We have heat and hot water (yay!) and Whole Foods across the street is finally stocked with more than chips, canned soup and paper towels.

We are so grateful for the outpouring of thoughts, prayers, messages and phone calls over the past couple weeks. You guys are the best!

As you know, we lost power on the first day of the storm. So, needless to say, for the next several days, it seemed that our family and friends were much more in tune with what was going on around us. Every brief conversation I had with people outside the Big Apple sounded more like a news broadcast of what was happening right in my own neighborhood, and I had no clue!

Because I wasn't able to keep in touch with everyone, here's a brief play-by-play of how we lived through the "Frankenstorm".

{Ideally, this would have been posted as "live coverage", but lack of power obviously prevented that from happening.}

Day 1:: Sunday, October 28, 2012:: I woke up early, ready for my morning coffee at Kaffe 1668 and a workout at the gym. As I gathered my things, I turned on the news to find more talk of the weather, which had been going on for days. Then, 'Breaking News', Mayor Bloomberg announced that in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy, mandatory evacuations had gone into effect for Zone A in New York City. Our Tribeca apartment happened to be right in the center of Zone A.

The Mr. was still in Calgary on business when the evacuation was announced. His plane was scheduled to depart for New York early afternoon MST. We thought he was going to make it here just in time, until Air Canada cancelled all flights to the East Coast. To our later learning, it was for the best, as the high winds started to roll in that evening.

Thankfully, my Brother-In-Law, Tim, and Sister-In-Law, Trish, also live in the city, outside of Zone A. They graciously said I could stay with them, a place we coin 'The Schneider Hotel'. I arrived around dinnertime. We ate, watched the news and waited for Sandy.

By this point, The Estee Lauder Companies had closed all offices for Monday. It was nice to know I didn't have to work on my birthday, but strange to think about being in the path of such a severe storm.

Day 2:: Monday, October 29, 2012:: It was my Golden Birthday. And, the day the Hurricane would strike. The weather was fairly calm when we all woke up. But, the forecasts for later were getting worse because the storm's speed had picked up.

The biggest concern at this point was loss of power. I can't even remember the last time I didn't have power in the city. I don't think it's ever happened to me! So you can imagine the surprise when we heard that all of Manhattan should prepare for days, even up to a week, of no electricity. It made me a little uneasy.

Trish and I filled up huge buckets, pitchers and plastic crates with water, enough to last about a week. And, Tim bought a few large bags of ice to keep in the freezer. We also went to the grocery store for more non-perishable items. Many stores were already closed at this point, and the ones that were open were low on everything. Luckily, we got a few things and Tim and Trish had a big stash of flashlights and candles from the year before.

Around mid-afternoon, we went for walk, just to get a little fresh air and see what it was like outside. The rain had started, but it wasn't overly windy. The calm before the storm, I guess.

To my surprise, when we returned home, Tim and Trish had a bouquet of flowers for me to celebrate my birthday! They were beautiful.

We continued to watch the news well into the evening. High tide arrived at 8:00 PM. And, by 9:00 PM, we were without power. From this point forward, my perception of the storm is completely different than what all of you heard. I felt like I was in a little bubble, isolated from any news and outside communication, just trying to get by until we had electricity and running water again.

Day 3:: Tuesday, October 30, 2012:: Today was the hardest day. My phone didn't work and email wasn't coming through on my Blackberry. There really was no way of knowing how bad the storm actually hit Manhattan and the Northeast. All I knew was that we were all fine and there wasn't any significant damage to Tim and Trish's apartment. All good things.

About 30 minutes after I woke up, Trish returned with a small cup of coffee. The greatest thing ever! She laughed as she handed it to me, saying it was vanilla flavoured and cold, two things I greatly dislike in a cup of joe. However, today, nothing could have tasted better. It was coffee. Trish said the streets were extremely quiet. Some people were walking around, but the rain continued, so it was pretty barren. Power was out everywhere, which also meant that all streetlights and traffic signals were out. The sidewalks were covered with a lot of debris, but all in all, things looked okay.

Back at the apartment, we sat on the couch, read magazines and cookbooks, and pretty much hoped the time would pass quickly. By dinner time, we realized the best way to make something would be to light the propane grill on the roof to cook sausages and rolls. That we did, and called it an early night.

Day 4:: Wednesday, October 31, 2012:: Okay, we're approaching two days since I've had a shower and I'm starting to feel a little unsettled. Downtown Manhattan is still completely dark and without power. However, parts of the city above 39th street are up and running.

We have one working phone in the group, so I was able to chat with the Mr. for a little bit. He received an update from our apartment in Tribeca: Over 11 ft. of water filled the basement, the car packade was completely flooded and there was over 2 ft. of water in the lobby of the building. There was no word yet on power restoration or when residents would be allowed back home. Ugh, hmmmm...

On the bright side, Tim successfully arranged for Trish and I to use the locker room at his office. We showered, watched a little TV, charged Trish's phone and then headed back to the darkness of downtown.

Public transportation was still shutdown. Some buses were running, but they were packed tight like sardines and the line to get on stretched for blocks. We walked over 4 miles to get to/from, but certainly couldn't complain!

Oh, and on the way, we bought a puzzle. A 2,000 piece puzzle of Time Square at night. We thought it was fitting for the state of utter darkness we're experiencing.

The Mr. was thinking about flying into the city the next day. However, that idea got scratched when we heard that all tunnels/bridges/access to Manhattan were blocked. He was forced to reschedule, once again.

By 6:00 PM, it was dark and there wasn't much to do. Even with all our candles and flashlights, it wasn't light enough to start our puzzle (sigh!). So, Trish and I poured ourselves a glass of wine.

When Tim got home, we debated which bottle to open from their recent shipment of Williams Seylem Pinot Noir. It was very hard to decide, so we figured the best thing to do was obviously a vertical tasting.

We selected three bottles (only to have a few sips of each, of course), tasted, enjoyed and discussed the different varietals. Who does a vertical wine tasting during a blackout? The Schneider's!

{Trish and I enjoying our own wine tasting during the 2012 Blackout}

{Playing pieces from the game Sequence identified the different wines}

{The three bottles of Williams Seylem Pinot Noir we decided to taste }

By the way, the two winning wines were the Williams Seylem Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast and the Williams Seylem Pinot Noir Russian River Valley.

Day 4:: Thursday, November 1, 2012:: The only thing to say about this day is that we still don't have power. Trish and I started the puzzle around 9:00 AM and that's all we did until the sun went down. Yep, eight straight of 'puzzling'. Haha, and I'd be lying not to mention that the temperature started dropping dramatically in the apartment. We sat a the kitchen table, bundled in Trish's ski gear, trying to stay warm!

Day 5:: Friday, November 2, 2012:: I think I forgot to mention, but work was closed all week. It's hard to believe, I know! My Blackberry still had no service. I felt completely out of touch with the real world. And, downtown was still completely eerie and dark.

Again, Trish and I ventured uptown for a shower and lunch. We all tried to make the best of this situation... A little bite to eat at Fig & Olive definitely helped. Trish and I walked another 4 miles home and worked on the puzzle again.

For more light, we hung a flashlight from the ceiling fan with cooking twine. Yes, it sounds crazy, but it really made a difference in the brightness... We continued our puzzling until at least 8:00 PM!

We made a lot of progress on our 2,000 piece puzzle, don't you think?

And then FINALLY... Around 11:00 PM, the kitchen lights flashed on! We were all silent for about 15 seconds until it registered that the neighborhood of Chelsea regained power. Then, the celebrating started!

By this point, however, Tribeca was still in the dark. My fingers were crossed that lower Manhattan would be up and running by the morning, but who could know for sure?

At least the Mr. would be on his way to the city bright and early!

Day 6:: Saturday, November 3, 2012:: Power was restored at 200 Chambers Street! There wasn't heat, but who cares! After a full week's evacuation, I was headed home sweet home.

It's unbelievable to think that the magnitude of this weather system could completely shutdown a city the size of Manhattan! I'm happy to say that everyone we know is safe and sound and survived the storm without much damage. There are many relief efforts still going on around the area and it's amazing to see how people will go out of their way to help out complete strangers. I'm so thankful to Tim and Trish for taking me under their wing for an entire week. In such extreme circumstances, it's wonderful to have family so close and be in such good company!

For future guests at Tim and Trish's apartment, a.k.a. 'The Schneider Hotel', our puzzle will be framed on the wall in the guest bedroom with a plaque signifying 'Hurricane Sandy and the New York City Blackout of 2012'.

Monday, October 29, 2012

My Golden Birthday

Today is my 'Golden' birthday, and I can assure you, it will be something to remember. Not for grand celebrations, but due to severe weather approaching New York City. Hurricane Sandy is predicted to arrive in full-force by mid-day.

Sunday afternoon, Mayor Bloomberg ordered a mandatory evacuation of Zone A in Manhattan. You guessed it, our Tribeca apartment is situated right in the heart of that area. When a city of this size declares a state of emergency, you know they're not joking around... It was time to pack up and move out! We're lucky that our brother-in-law and sister-in-law live in a part of the city slightly more inland from the Hudson River. And thankfully, we'll all be together, making the storm much more bearable.

But, leaving our neighborhood did feel a little eerie... Sidewalks were lined with people carrying grocery bags and luggage, while cars and taxi cabs were at a standstill on the West Side Highway waiting to escape downtown, and yet the city was very quiet. As the saying goes, the calm before the storm.

I laughed tonight because growing up in Minnesota, a late-October birthday usually meant snow. And sometimes that snow amounted to arctic blizzards. Never did I think, however, I would have to evacuate my home, prepare for a hurricane and turn another year older, all in one day! My Grandma used to always say, "You can't control the weather". And, boy was she right!

The bright side in all of this? The Mr. is now saying it's 'Birthday Week'. I'll take that over just one day any year!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Creamy Pumpkin Breakfast Smoothie

When the weather starts to get chilly, I tend to crave everything pumpkin: soups, scones, pies and lattes... The list goes on and on! While wonderfully delicious, the unfortunate issue associated with this seasonal craving, is that often times the above mentions are mixed with cream, butter and sugar. (Insert big sigh... Ugh). Unhealthy to the utmost extent!

Over the past couple weeks, my Mom and I have both been trying to exercise a little more and eat a little better. Something that's easier said than done, for sure! (Insert another big sigh... Ugh). Remotely, we are holding each other accountable!

At one of my Mom's recent morning workout sessions, her instructor passed along a recipe for a healthy, pumpkin breakfast smoothie. As soon as I heard the basic ingredients, I couldn't stop thinking about ways improve the flavor and texture, while at the same time, maintain the nutritional benefits.

After a few attempts, I'm ready to share my favorite rendition. High in protein, low in sugar, and packed with everything healthy. Beware, you may never crave a Thanksgiving pastry again!

Creamy Pumpkin Breakfast Smoothie
6 oz. Vanilla 0% Greek yogurt (I like Chobani)
1/2 Banana, frozen (using a frozen banana will always improve the consistency of the smoothie)
1/2 Cup pumpkin puree, frozen if possible (be sure to use pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling)
1/8 Teaspoon cinnamon, and just a pinch of nutmeg
2 Tablespoons applesauce
1 Scoop whey protein powder (I like Tera's Whey in Bourbon Vanilla or Plain Unsweetened)
1/3 Cup milk (Almond, Soy or Skim)
2 Tablespoons apple cider
1/8 Teaspoon agave nectar
3 Ice cubes

Mix all ingredients in a blender to desired consistency. If more liquid is needed, use apple cider or milk, depending on taste. This recipe should yield one large smoothie. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Simple, Inexpensive Lip Conditioner

When it comes to making a beauty statement, the bright, bold lip is here to stay. And, I couldn't be more thrilled!

Arguably, lipstick is the easiest, most accessible and inexpensive way to change your look from day to day, or simply, from day to night. However, applying any sort of pigment or gloss, with hopes of achieving a 'fashion ad result', is much easier said than done. And often times, the culprit of a less than desired application, is the condition of the lip itself.

The best way to prepare your face for any sort of make-up is to ensure your skin is exfoliated, conditioned and well hydrated. I can help you out significantly with the first two points, but water is the only solution to the third. Case and point, drink at least 8 glasses of water per day.

During the colder months, skin becomes especially dry and flaky. If not properly exfoliated, dead skin cells tend to accumulate, making your overall complexion dull. Even with intensive moisturizing products, without frequent exfoliation, essential water and oils won't be able to penetrate the skin's exterior.

There are a lot of facial and lip scrubs available for purchase, but many come at a high and unnecessary price point. For me, the easiest and most effective formulation can be made right at home, in less than one minute.

To prepare, simply mix one teaspoon coconut oil, one teaspoon cane sugar (or granulated sugar) and one teaspoon honey in a small bowl to form a paste. Gently rub over lips for one minute and then rinse with warm water. Repeat twice per week. Store any extra exfoliating paste in the refrigerator for up to five days.

*Image via MAC Cosmetics

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

DIY Brightening Kiwi Mask

We're so excited... Two of our close friends are tying the knot this weekend in Boston! The event will be a festive, fall party, held at an Estate located just outside the city proper. 

I love getting dressed up and usually look for any excuse to do so! For me, part of the fun of attending any soiree is the anticipation and preparation beforehand.

I like to incorporate a brightening face mask into my beauty routine a few days before the event to rid my skin of any impurities and give it a more natural glow. I've used a variety of branded products in the past, but have evolved into making my own at-home scrub. I prefer this variation because it's all-natural, less expensive and very simple to prepare. 

The formulation relies heavily on the super-fruit qualities of kiwi. With its powerful duo of antioxidant vitamin C (more than an orange!) and exfoliating alpha hydroxy fruit acids, kiwi creates more elasticity in the skin.

To prepare, mix: 2 kiwis, pureed + 3 tablespoons plain yogurt (I use plain Greek Yogurt because of the thicker consistency) + 1 tablespoon orange juice + 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small bowl until well blended. Using your fingertips, apply to the entire face (avoiding the eyes). Leave on until dry, then rinse well.

*Image via Martha Stewart

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Ultimate Skin Perfector: BB Cream

Fashion trends and scientific advancements have always influenced the ever-growing beauty industry. While that will continue, other influencers are gaining traction. Products that not long ago only had local relevance in a particular part of the world are quickly becoming global phenomenons! The most recent example of this is the BB Cream. 

I'm sure some of you have already jumped on the BB bandwagon. And others still aren't entirely sure about what this product is, or what it does. 

BB Cream, also known as Beauty Balm or Blemish Balm, originated in Asia in 2005, had huge success, and is the hottest talking point in the beauty industry these days. The all-in-one product functions as a primer, anti-aging serum, moisturizer, light moisturizer, and a sunscreen. BB Creams typically claim an SPF of 30+. Think of it as a tinted moisturizer on steroids!

I've tried several different brands of BB Creams currently on the market (one of the perks of being a beauty junkie and working in Product Development/Global Product Marketing for MAC Cosmetics)!

Some formulations are better than others. So, I encourage you test a few different brands to find the right match for your skin tone and type. As a starting point, here are a few of my favorites! 

 *Image via InStyle UK

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Salted Caramel Apple Pie

The best bakeries in the city have tiny, tiny storefronts and offer only a few sweet treats. Four and Twenty Blackbirds falls into this category. The Brooklyn shop sells only slices of (AMAZING) pie and coffee/tea... Nothing more.

The one exception: the earliest of risers may get their hands on a whole pie, if luck is in their favor. A limited number are made each day.

Not long ago, Four and Twenty Blackbirds shared their famous recipe for Salted Caramel Apple Pie. I've been wanting to make it ever since, and could think of no better occasion than Canadian Thanksgiving!

(The Mr. and I are very lucky to be able to celebrate this loving holiday twice each year!)

Earlier in the weekend, we ventured to the Tribeca Greenmarket to pick up fresh apples. For baking, the best varieties include: Crispin, Granny Apple and Cortland.

Now, let's get started...

The key to a good pie is a good crust. I've tried several variations and the best is Martha Stewart's rendition of Pate Brisee. The end result is soft and flakey, with the perfect amount of buttery richness.

Pressing the dough into a disc rather than shaping it into a ball allows it to chill faster. This will also make the dough easier to roll out.

I tend to like everything in small portions, so I chose to make several mini pies. While it's a little more time consuming to form each pie individually, I think it's a prettier way to serve this dessert.

Once the pastry dough is shaped nicely, it's important to layer the apples and caramel sauce in thirds. This allows the sweetness of the fruit and the saltiness of the candy to combine evenly.

The end result is almost too pretty to eat... Just kidding! It's best served with a heaping scoop of vanilla bean ice cream!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Desert Oasis

The Mr. and I just returned from a wonderful week-long vacation in Scottsdale, Arizona. Our days were filled with desert hikes and poolside relaxation, and in the evenings, Southwestern cuisine and outdoor bonfires.

Time flies when you're having fun! Why does vacation always have to come to an end?

The scenery was gorgeous and I tried to take as many pictures as possible during our morning walks (emphasis on the word "morning", as it was HOT in the afternoon)! This was my first time in Arizona, so the landscapes were fascinating.

Our hotel was situated at the base of Pinnacle Peak. A gorgeous elevation reaching more than 1,300 feet. The hike is moderate with spectacular views!

Prior to our trek, the park volunteer warned us of rattlesnakes. Terrified by the very thought (which I think was apparent to the Mr.), we asked what one would do, if one encountered this sort of creature? The rangers response, "We've had over 2 million visitors hike this path and nobody has been hurt yet. Have fun!"

Hmm, somewhat of a relief, I guess. We continued!

After spending a full morning in the hot sun, at lunchtime it was time to plunge in the pool! And, drink water. And, more water... And, even more water! The Four Seasons really had the best water. Each day, it was flavored with different fruits and herbs. I think I'll do a full post on the water at a later date. It was that good!

In the early evening, the Mr. and I continued our hiking adventures before dinner. The Arizona sunsets are probably the best I've ever seen. It was unbelievable how pink the sky turned, and how quickly the darkness made the color vanish away.

After a fabulous trip in celebration of our first anniversary, we're looking forward to many, many more!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Shaved Fennel Salad with Arugula

Reading cookbooks is one of my favorite pastimes. There's just something about the chef's notes, beautiful pictures and different ingredient combinations that fascinates me.

Most of my browsing is done online, or, if I have a few minutes to spare, I enjoy flipping through the new hardcovers at Barnes & Nobles. Rarely, however, do I purchase a cookbook without first trying a recipe or two.

Most recently, I've had my eye on Heidi Swanson's release of "super natural every day". Up until this weekend, I had never actually tried one of Heidi's dishes; everything just looked, and sounded, so appealing.

On Saturday night, the Mr. and I decided to make a butternut squash risotto for dinner. To counter the richness of the rice dish, I also wanted to serve a lighter side, something other than mixed greens (which are always good, but I'm kind of bored with these days). I had found a recipe for a Shaved Fennel Salad with Arugula on Heidi's blog, 101 Cookbooks.

The recipe was very easy to make, and the contrasting flavors were delicious together! I highly recommend you give it a try. While I did adapt this version slightly from the original, it will surely be my "go to".

Shaved Fennel and Arugula Salad
1 medium-large zucchini, sliced into paper thin coins
2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed and shaved paper-thin
2/3 cup loosely chopped fresh Italian Parsley
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper 
4 or 5 generous handfuls arugula
Honey, if needed
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Combine the zucchini, fennel and Italian parsley in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice, olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside and marinate for 20 minutes, or up to an hour.
When you are ready to serve the salad, put the arugula in a large bowl. Scoop all of the zucchini and fennel onto the arugula, and pour most of the lemon juice dressing on top of that. Toss gently but thoroughly. Taste and adjust with more of the dressing, olive oil, lemon juice, or salt if needed. If the lemons were particularly tart, you may need to counter the pucker-factor by adding a tiny drizzle of honey into the salad at this point. Let your taste buds guide you. Serve topped with pine nuts and feta.
Serves 4 to 6.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Lillet Blanc and Grapefruit

Vacation week has finally arrived and I couldn't be more excited! The Mr. and I are headed to Scottsdale, AZ, for several days of golfing, hiking and poolside relaxation at this beautiful hotel. We're pretty sure we'll be the only guests without grey hair, but are completely comfortable with that scenario. See, when you live in one of the biggest cities in the world, the only escape for true rejuvenation must be far away from densely populated ares (and filled with gorgeous spas)!

We don't leave until Wednesday, but this past weekend kicked-off our upcoming adventure to the Southwest. Some friends invited us to dinner on Friday night at Tacombi... We enjoyed life-changing tacos, seriously, go there!

And, later in the weekend, the Mr. and I played mixologist. We didn't want a margarita, but still wanted something citrus and refreshing. After a few different combinations, we perfected the Lillet Blanc and Grapefruit cocktail. This drink is very light and not too sweet; great on it's own or would be nice with a first-course at dinner.

In a cocktail shaker, mix 1 oz. Grey Goose vodka, 1 1/2 oz. Lillet Blanc and 2 1/2 oz. fresh squeezed grapefruit juice with ice. After a few shakes, strain the liquid into a martini glass and serve with a twist of orange. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tribeca's Hidden Gems

Today's weather left nothing to be desired: wind and rain, followed by even stronger wind and rain. In fact, it was pouring so hard when I left the office this evening, there was nothing better to do than to go for a run at the gym and hope for it to pass.

One hour later, on my walk home, it was the calm after the storm. The streets were quiet and the sun was setting over SoHo and Tribeca. The tiny, winding streets of downtown felt very calm.

These are the moments that remind me how much I love New York. Especially our neighborhood and its many hidden gems. For the best of Tribeca, please enjoy:

Best Coffee Ever: Kaffe 1668
Pretty Bicycles: Adeline Adeline
Clothing Boutique for "Vacation Days": Calypso St. Barth
It's Time for a Cocktail: Smith and Mills
Rustic Italian, Yes Please: Locande Verde
A Modern, Farm to Table French Dinner: Marc Forgione
Burgers and Milkshakes: Shake Shack

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Kale Salad

Kale is one of my absolute favorite vegetables! And, it just so happens to be in stylish abundance at many trendy New York restaurants. A few weeks ago, I tasted chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's rendition of Kale Salad at ABC Kitchen. Also known as: the most delicious small plate of greens I've ever enjoyed! While some of the ingredients may seem surprising, the end result is a perfect combination of bright flavors.  

  • 4 tablespoons fresh juice and 1 tablespoon zest from 2 to 3 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced (about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1 anchovy filet, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano, grated on a microplane grater (about 2 cups)
  • 3/4 cup neutral oil (such as safflower or canola)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups finely cubed sourdough bread
  • 12 ounces kale leaves, large stems removed, sliced into thin ribbons
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, sliced into thin ribbons
  • 1 serrano chili, thinly sliced

Combine lemon juice and zest, vinegar, garlic, anchovy, mustard, egg yolk, chili flakes, and cheese in the bowl of a food processor. Process until homogenous, about 10 seconds. With processor running, slowly drizzle neutral oil through feed tube, stopping the processor to scrape down sides as necessary until a smooth emulsion is formed, about 20 seconds.

Transfer to a medium bowl. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup olive oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat remaining two tablespoons olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add bread cubes and cook, tossing and stirring constantly until golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, combine kale and mint in a large bowl with about 1/2 cup dressing (more or less as desired). Toss to coat well and let sit around 3 minutes. Transfer to a large serving bowl and top with croutons and sliced chilies. Serve immediately. Yields 4 servings. 


Kale Salad + Gorgeous Anniversary Roses = A Very Much Improved Working Lunch! 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Our First Anniversary

In honor of this special day, let's look back on a beautiful passage read during our wedding ceremony: The Blessing of the Hands.

“These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow, and forever. These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future. These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other. These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind. These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes; tears of sorrow, and, as in today, tears of joy. These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children, the hands that will help you to hold your family as one. These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it. And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch.”

To our family and friends on our first anniversary, thank you for all your love and best wishes over the past weekend. It's been an amazing year and we feel so blessed... Cheers to many more! 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Let There be Light

I've always loved contrast. Especially mixing old with new, traditional with contemporary, and combining a variety of elements to achieve the "perfectly imperfect" look.

Recently, I've found myself drawn to exposed light bulbs. They're classic, minimal and unfinished. But, seem to add an understated elegance to every room, effortlessly. Here are a few of my favorites!

1. Talk about adding a statement to any space. I'm in love with this gorgeous, gold chandelier.

2. This wall lamp would add nice, scholarly light to an office, den or reading nook.  

3. Assorted bulbs, hung at different lengths, warms up the raw, natural look of this Urban Chandy chandelier.

4. A simple lamp design from Norway. I've always loved Scandinavian style!

5. Look no further than ABC Kitchen, for dream-like dining and decor!

*Images via Restoration Hardware, ABC Carpet and Home, Pinterest, Urban Chandy, Pinterest, ABC Kitchen.