Saturday, March 5, 2011

Ricotta Pancakes with Blackberry Sauce

I have a classic pancake recipe that I make almost every Saturday. It's tried and true and never let's me down. Sometimes pancakes can just be a tad too heavy - send you into a food coma at 9am. Ricotta, sour cream and beaten egg whites are the answer!!! Although this recipe is a bit more time consuming, the result is worth it!! Chewy, fluffy, and delicious. This Saturday, I made the perfect complement to these little delicious discs- blackberry sauce. The Amish Market is up 9th Ave a few blocks and their produce is fresh & affordable. I had purchased a pint of plump little blackberries the other day and decided to make them into a simple sauce for the pancakes.
Here are the recipes:

Ricotta Pancakes
2 large eggs, separated
1 cup ricotta, part skim
1/3 cup sour cream
1 cup flour
1/2 TBSP Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
3/4 cup Milk

Whisk yolks, ricotta and sour cream in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Add flour mixture to ricotta mixture and stir in milk until all lumps are gone. Using a hand mixer, beat egg whites in a separate bowl until peaks form. Fold whites into batter. Cook in batches on a heated, buttered griddle.

Blackberry Sauce
12 oz. Blackberries, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup Sugar
1 TBSP Cornstarch
1 TBSP Cold Water

Combine blackberries and sugar in small saucepan, heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally,  until juices from berries begin to release and mixture simmers. Combine cornstarch and water in a bowl and stir into blackberry mixture.
Let mixture cook until it comes to a low boil.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Boston, Mass... A last minute getaway

I find Cambridge and Boston to be 2 of the most charming cities in the U.S. The history, the architecture, the food, the accents... What's not to love??!!! So when our roommate offered up paying for gas and a hotel if we'd join him on a weekend getaway to Bean-town, we jumped at the chance!
To avoid as much traffic as possible, we took the A train to 175th St to meet K and the car and be on our way. Having never ventured above Columbia before, we were pleasantly surprised at how quiet and lovely Washington Heights was and considered moving there for a quick second before piling in the Altima and heading north. Just under 4 hours later of jamming to an all 90's rock station on Sirius, we arrived in Cambridge.
We stayed at the Royal Sonesta on the Cambridge side of the Charles River which was a nice hotel with a great hotel bar/grill called 'Dante'. Despite the late hour (1 am) we decided to have a nightcap at Dante. Here we saddled up to the bar where I was pleasanty surprised to see my new favorite brewsky, Allagash white from Portland, ME, on the menu. 3 bottles later, I was so so glad we'd decided to go on this adventure! K and K discovered the $3 Milwaukee wonder, Schlitz, and were in their own version of heaven ; ) The bartender was a friendly cat with big dreams of moving to NYC to pursue his passion for hip hop and we chatted with him until we closed down the bar. Perfect.
The next morning we got up and swam a few laps in the pool (Literally, 6 laps) then relaxed in the hot tub before heading out for the day. We went to S & S in Cambridge, Mass for breakfast based on recommendations from our bartender and we weren't disappointed! With the feel of a Jewish deli and diner combo, we felt right at home. The service was excellent and my food was incredible! I had the Eggs Oscar (rarely found on menus these days) which consists of poached eggs, asparagus and crab meat smothered in bernaise sauce perched on top of potato pancakes....MMMMMMMM! My eggs oscar, mimosa and coffee were a totally indulgent treat, perfect for a vaca!
K's friend R picked us up from S & S and we headed into Boston to check out the Boston Museum of Science. Here we went a bit overboard and bought tickets to not 1, not 2 but 3 different shows. When the day was over we'd seen "Cosmic Collisions" at the Planetarium (all of our fave), "Thrill Ride" at the IMAX and Sharks! in 3-D. In hindsight, just the starry sky of the planetarium probably would have been enough but it was fun nonetheless. The rest of the museum is what I would call "eh?" meaning, forgettable. I may be biased as we just went to the Natural History Museum and the Frick a few weeks ago...two of NYC's most impressive museums, but the BMOS held its' own.
At this point we decided to venture into the heart of Boston, Fanueil Hall. Built in 1742, this marketplace is a historical gem made up of 4 large buildings: Fanueil Hall, Quincy Market, and the North and South Markets. Read more about the rich history here. W meandered around in the 10 degree frigidity, then decided to check out Boston Commons, this city's version of Central Park.
I must say, I have a soft spot in my heart for American cities that emulate European cities.... pedestrian-friendly, historic rowhouses, classic architecture and of course, parks. Boston Commons is a magical place. We walked past the ice skaters, strolling lovers and daring sledders on our way to the famous Beacon Hill neighborhood. It is truly a beautiful park. Beacon Hill is hands down my FAVORITE neighborhood in the US. It even trumps the West Village in Manhattan which is saying a lot. Tiny cobblestone streets, impeccably maintained townhouses, cast iron lampposts, it is like something out of a movie. I fell in love instantly then determined it was fate that K and I move there immediately when I stumbled upon this street:

How can life not be perfect if your address is "JOY STREET"!

After our chilly walk through Boston, we ended the trip by heading back into Cambridge for some Japanese noodles at "Wagamama" in Harvard Square. WOW! Americanized? Yes. Delicious anyway? Double YES! Heaping bowls of ramen soup, brown rice, udon noodles slathered in chili oil, steamed dumlings and the best chocolate layer cake for dessert. Why can't you open in NYC, Mamawanna, I mean, Wagamama??!!!
Check them out here - it's going to be big!

All in all, our whirlwind Boston trip was the perfect last minute getaway and is now on my list of favorite cities in the USA.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Ultimate (unhealthy) Mac & Cheese

Nothing says comfort like a steaming bowl of mac & cheese. And the ultimate recipe I follow for mac & cheese is thanks to a recipe from my friend Barb Rodney, so I really can't take credit for it's origin. It's very easy to make and but ooooh so cheesy and good. We make this for dinner and it reheats great for lunches! A perfect recessionista meal! Since we ran/walked the 6 mile loop in Central Park this morning, I felt we earned it! So work your booty out a bit this week then reward yourself with this indulgent dinner.

Barb's Classic Mac & Cheese
1 1 lb. box Rotini (or macaroni noodles)

1 stick unsalted butter

2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cups milk

4 cups shredded Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese (I like to mix yellow & white cheddar)

Salt & Pepper

Breadcrumbs, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 pan. Cook rotini per package directions. While it is cooking, make the cheese sauce. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, wisk in 2 TBSP. flour. Slowly stir in milk and cream. Bring to a gentle boil then stir in cheese. Pour over cooked noodles then pour into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake for 30 minutes.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Blizzard comfort food

I have been wanting to a white chicken chili for a long time. Being house-bound after NYC's post-Christmas blizzard a.k.a. Snowpacolypse, seemed like the perfect time! To make this recipe I used a combo of recipes and adapted to work it to make my own version for the crock pot. The beauty of this soup is that it's all about creating the taste YOU love. Me? I love spicy, creamy, nutty here's my recipe:

Joy's Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken Chili

2 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

1 can White (Great Northern) Beans

1 4 oz. can chopped Green Chiles

1 can Corn

1 TBSP. Cumin

1 Tsp Cayenne Pepper

1 TBSP Oregano

2 Cloves Garlic, Minced

1 small Onion, chopped

2 Cloves Garlic, Minced

1 1/4 Cups Chicken Broth

1 1/2 Cups Heavy Cream

Combine all ingredients (except cream and chicken) in slow cooker. Salt and Pepper each chicken breast and lay on top of soup base. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours. Remove chicken once it is cooked and chop into cubes. Return to slow cooker and stir in cream. Taste and season if necessary. Let simmer for 15 more minutes. Serve with shredded cheese and chopped green onions!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Progressive Dinner Party

I am forever a fan of planning & hosting parties. Especially in the midst of being on a tight budget, it is so economical to host parties versus bar hopping or going out to dinner. Last night was our first adventure at hosting a Progressive Dinner party. The idea is that you have 3 courses provided by 3 different hosts in each of their 3 different homes. This works especially well in NYC as the group can progress on foot, eliminating the need for a sober-cab! We chose a theme (Mexican!) and each host decided what they would serve. To keep the size of the party somewhat manageable, each host was allotted 5 guests so our party ended up being 18 people! And I must say, the party was overall, a huge success! Here's a look into the details of our party...and some tips if you want to throw one!

The other 2 hosts live within 2 blocks of my apartment, which was so key to the success of our dinner. We started at 7pm with appetizers & drinks at my friend Carlos' apartment. The fare was simple: Chips, guacamole and Cheese quesadillas. To drink we had Poor Man's Margaritas (Tequila & Fresca) and Sangria! We also decided at the last minute that before we progressed to the next place, we'd all take a shot of tequila! We ended up staying at the first house for about an hour and a half then moved on to my place for the main course!

The idea of serving a sit-down dinner for 18 people in a Manhattan apartment is impossible...hence the reason I chose a Build Your Own Taco Bar for our course. I made taco meat in the crockpot and chopped all the toppings in advance so we could all eat right when we arrived. I thought it would be no big deal to make my saffron rice & black beans once we all got here but people were starving so I let everyone start chowing on the tacos and the rice & beans became course #2 which actually worked out great! After everyone had their fill of the nosh, we commenced course two with a shot of tequila, and progressed to apartment #3 for dessert!

Mexican may be a super easy theme for apps and entrees, but dessert can be a little challenging! Amanda & Rich stepped it up with homemade churros served with vanilla ice cream drizzled with chocolate sauce and cayenne pepper! YUM! They also made Mojitos for the guest still interested in drinking at this point in the night! Everyone finally said goodnight around 12 midnight. I came home to an incredibly messy apartment but it was totally worth it. Unlike a traditional dinner party where it can be expensive and stressful, sharing the party with two other hosts is cost effective and so much fun! The two hours at my place were hectic as I was cooking the rice & beans, heating tortillas on the stove and trying to keep everyone's glasses full but it only lasted for an hour....the rest of the night was totally relaxed and a blast for me!

In case you want to copy our menu.....


Cheese quesadillas

Tortilla chips & Guac

Drinks: Poor Man's Margaritas & Sangria



Saffron rice & black beans

Drinks: Margaritas, Rioja wine, and Coronas


Cinnamon sugar Churros with Vanilla ice cream and cayenne pepper chocolate sauce

So, if you want to host your own progressive dinner party, here are a few tips...

Make sure all of the hosts live very close together - 5 minute walk max!

Limit the number of invitees - 5/host was maybe a few too many. When I do it again we'll keep it to 3 or 4 guests per host.

At our party, very few people knew each other. At the first house it was very divided with people chatting only with those they knew prior. Don't worry, by house 2, everyone was mingling and getting to know new friends. This was the best part of the night! So no worries if your group isn't all best friends...they will be by course 3!

As my Grandma Bernice used to say, "Plan your work and work your plan." This is crucial when hosting a progressive dinner. I made a spreadsheet for each host to fill out their address, menu and guest list to keep us organized. We also made a rough estimate of how much time we'd spend at each house which ensured we made it through all 3 courses!
All in all, it was a super fun and unique night that I will surely do again! Happy hosting!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Bye Bye Bear Naked

Always trying to find ways to eat better AND save money, I decided to make homemade granola. My favorite breakfast is yogurt and granola but at $5-6 for a little bag of preservative-packed granola, I thought I should take a stab at making it myself. I have to admit... it turned out damn good!

I'm having visions of putting it in little canisters, tying it with gross-grain ribbon and giving it as gifts!

Homemade Granola

Adapted from this phenomenal recipe

3 1/2 cups rolled oats

3 tablespoons flax seeds

2/3 cup sliced almonds, chopped

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup ghee (oil substitute)

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon almond extract

2 cups dried cranberries & apricots

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the dried fruit. Stir well to incorporate. Spread the mixture on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer. Bake for 30 minutes. Stir in dried fruit, and bake for 15 minutes more. Remove from oven, and cool completely in pan. Once the granola is cool, store in an airtight container.

So it's bye-bye Bear Naked and hello homemade! Enjoy!

Send In the Clowns, S&M, and Grovers Corners

One of the most incredible parts of living in NYC is the accessibility to incredible theater. In the past month, I have seen three excellent displays of performance art that I want to share with you!

A Little Night Music

On Broadway - Walter Kerr Theater

Starring: Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch

Kellen's parents were in town for their anniversary and wanted to take us to a Broadway show. They chose a classic, "A Little Night Music." I actually knew nothing about this musical other than Catharine Zeta-Jones won the Tony for it and now Bernadette had taken her place and apparently, was doing a damn-good Desiree! Elaine Stritch (hysterical) played Desiree's overbearing, entitled and stuck-in-the -past mother, Madame Armfeldt. The story itself was ok... Desiree, an aging star, rekindles an old flame with the suave and successful Fredrik (Alexander Hanson) who is married to the barely-legal Anne (Ramona Mallory). All hell breaks loose when the married couples and secret lovers converge at Madame Armfeldt's estate for a weekend in the country. It kept my attention but it wasn't a WOW until Bernadette sang "Send In The Clowns." Call me crazy but I never knew that song came from this musical! She was incredible, and the song stuck with me.

Watch her rendition here...
A few other greats have sent in the clowns as well.....
Babs is my fave!

Overall, decent show made great by phenomenal actors....a theme I've seen numerous times on and off-broadway.

A few weeks ago, we walked passed Second Stage, an off-broadway theater on our block. We noticed that Zach Braff (Scrubs, Garden State) was starring in a lay there called "Trust". To our delight, this theater offers tickets for $30 for those under 30 yrs old. $60 for a theater date?!!! Awesome deal.


Off Broadway - Second Stage Theater

Starring: Zach Braff, Bobby Cannavalle, Sutton Foster and Ari Graynor

Written by: Paul Weitz (About A Boy, American Pie)

This play truly blew K and me away! A dark comedy that showcases Harry (Braff), marriage in the tank despite $300 million in the bank. Harry goes to an S&M parlour and meets Prudence (Foster) a dominatrix who he went to high school with. The play is VERY current, with creative set design, dark humor, and phenomenal and unexpected music. It was so good that we're buying Second Stages' 4-play package for $99!!!! Great little theater with above-average plays!

See Zach Braff on Regis & Kelly

To round out my month of theater, I saw a play that truly affected me. Set in the fictional town of Grovers Corners, New Hampshire, OUR TOWN is a story that will stay on my mind for a very long time.

Our Town

Off Broadway - Barrow Street Theater

Directed by: David Cromer

I saw this play with my theater-nut friend Kerry, her husband Josh and my newest NY transplant friend, Arielle. This was Kerry's 4th and final viewing of Our Town. SHe simply told me I had to see this play and that I would truly LOVE it. I trust her, so wen went and boy, was I in for a surprise!

Our Town is played out as a "theater-in-the-round" where there isn't any separation between the actors and the audience. They act literally, all around you. David Cromer, the director who first brought this play to life had returned to direct it and to play the role of the Stage Manager. He was breathtaking. He made Grovers Corners come to life in my imagination. The story and "set" are very simple...allowing the characters to shine. The theme of this lay is still current and meaningful despite it being written in 1938. If you haven't read or seen this play, please do. Wikipedia actually describes the story very well.

Our Town's narrator, the Stage Manager, is completely aware of his relationship with the audience, leaving him free to break the fourth wall and address them directly. According to the script, the play is to be performed with little scenery, no set and minimal props. Wilder was dissatisfied with the theatre of his time: "I felt that something had gone wrong....I began to feel that the theatre was not only inadequate, it was evasive."[5] His answer was to have the characters mime the objects with which they interact. Their surroundings are created only with chairs, tables, and ladders. (e.g., The scene in which Emily helps George with his evening homework, conversing through upstairs windows, is performed with the two actors standing atop separate ladders to represent their neighboring houses.) Says Wilder, "Our claim, our hope, our despair are in the mind – not in things, not in 'scenery.'"[6]

Beginning with daily life's routines and necessities, the play reveals an American family's intimate and habitual personal lives. The last two acts gradually represent life's deeper aspects, mostly through George Gibbs and Emily Webb, whose unspoken mutual affection as children blossoms into love, marriage, and death. Act 2 celebrates George and Emily's wedding. The characters analyze the need for human companionship while questioning the institution of marriage. The last-minute apprehension that both Emily and George experience about being married represents a universal theme of young people wanting to grow up quickly while still craving childhood's relative certainty and security.

In the final act, Emily Webb's ghost time travels back to her 12th birthday after dying in childbirth. Through this, Wilder conveys life's fundamental meaning and significance, dwelling upon daily life and routine. Also, the author's concept of pursuing life rather than just living it is shown by Mrs. Gibbs's desire to visit France. Later, she obtains the necessary money to go, but she chooses to leave it to George and Emily; this implies either that she, like Emily, failed to appreciate life to its fullest, or that she instead came to enjoy its simple pleasures enough that she no longer needed to go to France.

Our Town attempts to express the New England town of the early twentieth century and how change is beginning to affect it. Ongoing industrialization and immigration are alluded to with mentions of "Polish Town." The Stage Manager stresses the famous line, "This is the way we were." Indeed, when Our Town was staged in the late 1930s and '40s, many recognized from personal experience the life and times it depicted. Today's audiences are more likely to interpret the play as a story of times gone by, although the daily routines, habits, and rituals in it still exist and help bind our society through a mutual commonality that affect us in a personal way.

I left the West Village that night feeling so blessed. To live in a city that celebrates the arts in such rich and diverse ways is truly magical. My appreciation for the theater deepens every year and I can't wait to see what 2011 brings!