Tuesday, November 26, 2013

NYC Marathon 2013


On November 3, 2013 I completed the ING NYC Marathon!  Overall the experience was incredible, life changing, hard, painful, joyful and so many adjectives that are not on my mind at the moment.  Overall I am just so happy and proud of my accomplishments and want to remember the feeling of crossing the finish line forever!


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Super Easy Homemade Marshmallows [no corn syrup]


I have been wanting to try to make marshmallows for a long time.  Its been one of the things on my list that I have never really gotten to until this weekend.  I have been working on a super secret project that I will reveal around the Holidays and I needed to test recipes for Rice Krispy treats.  I went to my local small grocery store and what do you know they were completely out of Marshmallows (as in not a single package anywhere --- I went searching).  I then stopped by two local deli's and they also had nothing so I decided to turn lemon's into lemonade (or in this case sugar into marshmallows) and try to make them myself!

This was the best happy accident, because after this first batch I have vowed to never buy store bought again.  They are so soft, fluffy (almost like little pillows) with the most sweet vanilla flavor.  If you had a birthday this weekend and/or you sit near me at work you may be receiving a few of these fluffy sweet treats tomorrow!


I also made this delicious hot chocolate mix (its totally divine).  I was looking for a vessel to showcase these beautiful marshmallows and on a cool brisk fall day hot chocolate just felt right!  This recipe is SOOO easy and SOOO decadent.

Marshmallow Recipe

Ingredients: 

  • 2 tbsp gelatin (2 envelopes Knox - which my grocery store had, go figure)
  • 1/2 cup + 8 tbsp cold water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup powdered sugar 
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (if you put off making these for a few months, you can make your own extract here)


Directions: 
  1. Dust an 8X8 or 9X9 square pan with powdered sugar and set aside
  2. In a small bowl, soak gelatin in 8 tbsp cold water, set aside
  3. Combine sugars and 1/2 cup of water in a large heavy sauce pan and heat over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved (stir constantly) 
  4. Add gelatin and bring to a boil (don't worry if gelatin is hard, add it all at once) 
  5. Remove from heat and add into your stand mixer bowl and let cool slightly 
  6. Add salt and vanilla extract 
  7. Beat with your stand mixer on medium until soft and double in volume (10 to 12 minutes) 
  8. Pour into prepared pan 
  9. Dust top with powdered sugar 
  10. Set aside to "dry" and "harden" on your counter for a few hours (3 to 4 hours) 
  11. Cut into squares (as big or small as you want) and roll each piece in powdered sugar 
  12. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks 
  13. Enjoy ---- with hot chocolate, s'mores, rice krispy treats, alone...whatever you fancy you will LOVE them!  




Saturday, October 12, 2013

Taste of Brooklyn Bridge Park


Today for lunch Jason, Sophie and I ventured out to the first ever Taste of Brooklyn Bridge Park.  The BBP is a new hidden gem just beyond the Brooklyn Bridge across the east river from lower manhattan.  We have a special bond with this park as we walk through it almost every day and shockingly have NOT yet (until today) tried all the food vendors.  It was absolutely the perfect way to enjoy a lot of calories in preparation for the Staten Island half marathon (tomorrow) and get to know additional local food options.

Stop 1: Ample Hills

Just before the Soccer fields on Pier 5 and next to the public grills sits this little ice cream gem.  With a lot of interesting flavors to choose from and a the gorgeous view of lower manhattan in the background this was the perfect first stop on our BBP food crawl!  The ice cream was scrumptious (says my husband as I couldn't partake).  




Stop 2: Calexico 

After a short refreshing ice cream stop we ventured down to pier 1 to visit the Calexico food "truck".  I use the word truck loosely as its really just a small unassuming food cart that is always parked on pier 1.  The unassuming part is merely an illusion because this little cart packs a big punch with their food.  We each had one Chicken Taco and in a word it was AMAZING.  There is something magical about soft corn tortillas wrapped around seasoned chicken, pico de gallo and topped with avocado creme and a lime wedge.  This small truck = BIG flavor!  




Stop 3: No. 7 Sub 

After the taco we strolled over to the No. 7 Sub stand.  The sub stand is located just under the bridge and the small brick building can be missed if you are not looking for it.  The menu houses some of the most delicious looking sub combos with awesome names!  The taste of BBP featured a mini Godfather Part II sub and it was tasty.  What I love about this adventure is that I would have never ordered that combo but I got to try a little bite and actually liked it (adventure eating for Kirstin)!  






Stop 4: Luke's Lobster

Of all the stops we were most excited about having a mini lobster roll.  I am not a huge Lobster roll fan mostly because I don't love mayo (I should do a post of all the things I do to avoid substitute other things for mayo).  We have found many delicious lobster rolls in and around NYC and I will even tolerate my nemesis (mayo) for some delicious lobster.  To my surprise this roll did not have any mayo (or it had so little it was unrecognizable).  Large chunks of lobster dredged in an herbed butter compote and served on a mini buttered roll...heaven!  Run don't walk to Luke's (it's on the back side of the sub shop and we found out today that they deliver...hello delicious can I start a delivery account).




Stop 5: Fornino

After a mile walk back to Pier 6 we discovered Fornino.  Discovered is relative as we have walked past Fornino for the last few weeks (it just opened) and have just not had a chance to try it.  Pizza is my absolute favorite food (especially when I am training for a marathon...which I am).  The carbs, veggies (as in sauce) and cheese are just my perfect combination (and I have found is the best food for carbo loading).  To my pleasant surprise we each got a whole personal pizza and to my amazement it was one of my favorite pizza's I have ever had!  They have an amazing pizza oven on the roof of the restaurant (as well as picnic tables) and its likely the secret to the perfect pizza.  Crispy on the outsize chewy on the inside and perfect in the middle.  The good news is this place is rather close to my home, the bad news is I am likely to get obsessed with this place and request to eat here more than once a week!  



Honorable mention:

We sadly didn't stop a both Blue Marble and the Brooklyn Bridge Garden Bar, however we have been to both before!  They are both amazing and are must stops (the only reason we didn't stop is I can't have the offerings at either place at the moment...no ice cream and I'm not drinking again until after the marathon).

I HIGHLY recommend every restaurant in the Brooklyn Bridge Park and had an amazing day exploring!  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Thoughts

I have been slacking a bit on my postings!  Its not for lack of content and beautiful photos, its a time issue for me.  I have been traveling a lot for work and just can't seem to sit down a finish a post to hit publish.  I do LOVE this blog and am committed to keeping it going and 

1) I have been testing recipes for a fun but secret project I am working on called Sweet [Two]oth.  I am always so excited to photograph recipes and don't try them until after beautiful photos are taken.  The project I am working on requires new recipes to be created/cut down to bake in a 6" cast iron skillet.  I needed to create a brownie and was SO excited at how it looked when it came out of the oven.  I immediately grabbed my fresh lavender (isn't it gorgeous) and clicked away.  After the mini photo shoot I tasted the brownie and what do you know, it was NOT GOOD!  Oh well, I guess I'll just have to try again :) 



2) I think the brownie was not good because I tested it with freshly ground whole wheat flour from the farmers market.  The flour was not super finely ground and I think the texture is what caused the brownies to not taste good (and maybe it was also because I tried to cut the sugar in half and add apple sauce...).  I am still talking about and gunning for a grain mill, if I had one I could have put the flour through the mill and made it finer for baking!  Its still on my amazon wishlist!    

2) I sold my first item on eBay!  I am selling more than half of my wardrobe as I want to simplify and minimize!  Since I am a new seller eBay will only let me list 5 of any one item at a time (and since I mostly own dresses) this may be a slow process but none the less pretty exciting!  Keep checking out my listings, I am going to list more items this weekend!

3) I am working on my expenses today!  I can't think of anything more that I hate doing than expenses.  Does anyone know of a solution to solve spending hours on expense reports???  Help (I am writing this post in procrastination of expenses...don't tell).

4) I am running the NYC Marathon in three weeks!  I can't believe its almost here (and I can't wait for it to be over).  I have been training and fundraising since June and while I have enjoyed the discipline and health benefits I am ready for a lazy weekend (not focused on eating enough so I can run for 4 hours straight)!

5) My dog now has 15,000 fans on Facebook!  Her last post (which is below) was a #throwbackthursday post from when she was 8 weeks old and over 2,700 people liked the post.  I can't believe I live with a celebrity!   

 

Happy Friday/weekend, more recipes are being posted this weekend and next week so please check back! 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Dog Treats [Apple, Peanut Butter, Oat)


I want to start by saying if I could come back as anything I would want to come back to life as my sweet five year old puppy Sophie Chunk.  She has 14K fans on Facebook and is a mini-celebrity; yes she has been recognized in multiple places by strangers (and even voted one of the cutest french bulldogs in NYC).

This past weekend my husband and I took our Spoiled Monster (as we lovingly refer to Sophie) apple picking in the Hudson Valley (I should say we went apple picking and brought Sophie with us).  We had an awesome time roaming the grounds and picking apples.  I LOVE sweet escapes from the concrete jungle and this little trip was the best medicine from the stress of work, life and marathon training.

In preparation for our apple adventure I started a Pinterest board called Apples (I needed inspiration for all the delicious things I was going to bake with all these apples).  I had also been thinking about making dog treats for the longest time and finally decided to embark with the apples we picked as a family.  I did some research on dog nutrition and decided that my ingredients were going to be simple; oats, peanut butter and fresh picked apples.  I found a few recipes online that I used to create this master piece.

And for my mini-celebrity-diva-french bulldog, I would give her nothing less than homemade peanut butter, fresh picked apple, freshly ground oat flour dog treats (I guess I am officially a crazy dog person...as if I was not before).




Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups oats (plus up to 1/2 cups of oats for rolling the dough out in)
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter  
  • 3 - 4 tbsp apple sauce (I used homemade apple sauce from our fresh picked apples)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees (F) 
  2. In a food processor blend oats until they are a course flour consistency 
  3. Add peanut butter and 3 tbsp of apple sauce to food processor 
  4. If your dough is not fully together in a ball add the additional tbsp of apple sauce until dough is of a soft together consistency 
  5. Take two pieces of parchment paper and place a sprinkling of oats on one side.  
  6. Place dough on the oats on the parchment paper 
  7. Place another sprinkling of oats on top of the dough and place the second piece of parchment paper on top
  8. Roll dough out between parchment paper to aprox 1/2 inch thick 
  9. With a dog bone shaped cookie cutter cut out bones and place on baking sheet (recommendation is to bake on parchment paper).  If you don't have a dog bone cookie cutter you can just cut the treats into squares (or whatever shape you want).     
  10. Bake for 30 - 50 minutes (depending on the thickness of your bones).  After 30 minutes check your treats and if they are still soft set oven timer for another 10 minutes.  Once they are hard they are done! (Beware, they will smell amazing and will make you hungry as they bake in your oven)
  11. Let cool and let your favorite puppy enjoy!    
**Please note that only you know what nutrition is right for your puppy.  Some dogs can be allergic to various foods and I can not be held responsible for knowing this for every dog (Sophie Chunk is not allergic to any of the above ingredients).  If you are at all concerned about what to serve your dog please consult your vet***




Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mini Apple Pie [New Feature: Sweet Twooth]


Hey All,

I am SOOO excited about this new feature I am working on called Sweet Twooth!  I hate wasting food and sometimes my husband and I just crave enough for a few bites, so I had a brilliant idea What if I can satisfy cravings for two? and What if I can make everything in a gorgeous tiny tiny cast iron skillet? Sweet Twooth was born.

Sweet Twooth | Satisfying cravings for two (do you love the tag line???)

Its no secret that I have a minor obsession with kitchen items.  I have made it a point to surround my kitchen with gadgets I love (hello Le Creuset Obsession).  While I was at my favorite kitchen store a few weeks ago I found this gorgeous Lodge 6 1/2 inch skillet stashed away in the corner.  I knew I HAD to have one and picked it up for $11.99 (hello great deal).  This blank canvas felt so raw and I felt such endless cooking possibilities.

I have scoured the web for small recipes and have found a few good sites but nothing that had my point of view of healthy and just for two!


This particular recipe is light/fluffy pie crust with oohy gooey apple filling.  I am actually quite proud of myself for bringing the concept of this pie to life on the first try.  I admittedly am not a huge fan of pie.  I'm not 100% sure why, but its just not my go to dessert, however the thought of depriving this gorgeous little skillet of pie was horrifying to me (and we went apple picking this past weekend).  When I think of my favorite parts of the pie its the gooey parts mixed with the crust, so first on my list was to equalize the apple chunks and the gooey texture as much as possible.

Normally the gooey parts (do you love how much I have typed the word gooey in this post) are copious amounts of butter mixed with a apple juices as the pie cooks.  Instead of butter I decided to mix the apple chunks with a good helping of homemade cinnamon apple sauce.  Let me tell you that you WILL NOT miss the butter and will LOVE the texture of the small apple chunks mixed with the apple sauce.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and this new feature - I am really excited to share it with the world!


Ingredients Pie Crust: (this makes one 6 1/2 inch pie with lattice topping)

  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp flour
  • 1tsp sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 4 tbsp of cold water
Directions for Pie Crust: 
  1. In a liquid measuring cup add 1 cup of water and 5 to 6 ice cubes and let sit
  2. Mix dry ingredients
  3. Cut COLD butter (butter MUST be cold) into small chunks 
  4. Blend in cold butter pastry blender (if you don't have a pastry blender you can use a fork to break up the butter pieces) until the mixture resembles crumbles 
  5. Add cold water 1 tbsp at a time (you will need to eyeball this as you may need a little bit more or less water depending on the weather conditions where you live.  You want the crust to hold together when you squeeze it but not be watery) 
  6. Form a patty and wrap with plastic wrap
  7. Place in fridge for 30 minutes or longer

Ingredients for the Apple filling: 

  • 1 medium to large apple (I used a cortland picked yesterday) cut into chunky squares 
  • 4 tbsp Apple Sauce (I made cinnamon apple sauce and will post the recipe soon) 
  • 1 tbsp flour 
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • Pinch of salt (smallish)  
  • Pinch cinnamon (depending on how much or little you like cinnamon)

Directions for Apple filling 

  • Add everything into a medium bowl and mix together 
Directions for Pie Assembly 
  • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
  • Take cold pie dough out of the fridge and cut 1/3 of the dough away from the other 2/3) 
  • Take the 2/3 chunk and roll out into a circle that fits the 6 1/2 skillet (tip: roll pie dough between parchment paper to avoid sticking to the rolling pin) 
  • Place the 2/3 chunk on the skillet and push into place (including up the edges) 
  • Place the apple mixture into the skillet 
  • Roll out the 1/3 piece of pie crust into a small square (aprox 6 X 6) and cut 6 pieces 
  • Lattice the 6 rectangles onto the pie and squeeze the edges 
  • If the oven is not ready you can place plastic wrap over the pie and place back in the fridge (this is an amazing make ahead dish that you can pop in the oven) 
  • Bake for 40 - 45 minutes (once the crust is golden brown)
  • Enjoy (if you are not that hungry or just want a small taste you can cut into 4 pieces, you can also cut in half an enjoy just two pieces or if you are really hungry just eat the whole thing)!  




Friday, September 20, 2013

Happy Elephant = Happy Friday


As you know from earlier posts I have a bit of the painting bug!  When my mind slips into a daydream I usually see vivid colors, interesting shapes and happy things. This elephant is from a daydream and makes me happy! 

Monday, September 16, 2013

50 Days!!! [48 days once I finally hit post]

I can't believe I am running the NYC Marathon in 50 days!  When I started this journey 50 days from the marathon completely scared me and the mileage I am running also completely scared(s) me!  I completed 16 miles for the second time this weekend and had a very interesting emotional experience with my inner voice and posted the below on Facebook.

Sharing my honest feelings with the world is a HUGE step for me.  I am a very private person and only let a select few actually in.  I have never been the person with tons of friends, I have always had a few close friends and a lot of acquaintances.  A simple honest post like the below is BIG for me and I am sharing in hopes that this helps others.

I am so humbled and excited by the outpouring of support from my friends and family both emotionally and in support of my charitable goals.  The generosity has been amazing and I have raised my fundraising goal not once but TWICE.  I am now hoping to double my original goal and raise $3,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society.  If you would like to support my goal and donate please do so here - http://bit.ly/14fGxQa


From the Facebook post above: 
50 days until the NYC Marathon!! 

Today I ran 16 miles! It was hard, not so hard that my body physically couldn't do it but hard on my mind. The first three miles (mostly uphill including the Brooklyn Bridge) were the most challenging, I kept hearing things like "turn around here" "you can't do this" "you don't want to do this" "no one will know if you don't do this". I didn't like what my mind was saying so I made a choice and at mile 4 I choose a different mindset. I started to shift from "I can't" to "I can". As I hit mile 4 I started to hear things like "you are good enough" "you can keep going" "you will do this" "you are doing this to fight cancer" "running is awesome".

I then started to started to think about why I am doing this. I am doing this because cancer sucks and I can do something about it. I am doing this for those who physically can't or who are fighting a different battle. The battle in my mind felt strong but was nothing I couldn't overcome today and while the battle to fight cancer is also strong its nothing that we can't overcome together!

If you are interested in supporting my marathon training and fighting cancer, please donate here http://bit.ly/14fGxQa

A HUGE thank you to everyone who have already donated, I was thinking about each and every one of you today and am every so grateful for your support!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Homemade Vanilla Extract [follow-up - 7 month later]


If you remember my post from way back in February (when I was actually blogging on a regular basis), you will recall I showed HOW EASY it is to make your own homemade vanilla extract.  Its almost crazy that we would spend so much money or extract when its so simple to make at home.

This particular bottle was made on 2.14.13 (I should name it love potion) and has very nicely extracted!  This could seriously almost be perfume, if you love the smell of vanilla you may want to get a spritz bottle and just use this as your new scent.  I have actually been using the extract since the summer for baked goods and it comes out oh so delicious. 


Its so cool to see it go from clear to a deep carmel! 



A few tips I learned recently at a cooking class.  If you don't split the beans you can actually top off the vodka and use it for years.  They had a 14 year extract and it smelled of a deep dark sweet effervescence that danced around the room.  For my next batch I am not going to split the beans and hopefully have a 14+ year extract!  Until then my 7month old extract has treated me to a light sweet aroma and taste. 



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tears and Strength

[9.10.13] Last night I was feeling a sense of sadness.  I felt sadness in the city.  The city was speaking to me and together we were shedding a few tears.


[9.11.13] Tonight the city felt strong.  I felt the strength and I fell in love all over again.



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies


Fall is a bit depressing to me.  I LOVE the freedom that comes with long summer nights, beach trips, sand at my feet, sunshine on my face, nights skinny dipping in the pool, dining al fresco in the city that I love, grilling out, drinking copious amounts of champagne and margaritas and just enjoying the company of friends.  Fall means the end of summer and thus I am not a fan.

While the cool weather is not my favorite part of fall, I do love "fall food".  When the sunshine lets me down (literally because the sun starts to set early) I know I can count of the comfort of "fall food".  One of my favorite fall ingredients is pumpkin, I love it in both savory and sweet meals and was excited to try my first pumpkin recipe of the year.  You may be thinking there is not supposed to be chocolate in snickerdoodles, but in my kitchen chocolate ends up in almost every dessert and it does not disappoint!  If you are feeling a bit sad about the end of summer then I suggest you wallow (as I did) in your kitchen making these delicious and satisfying cookies.




Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies: 

Ingredients: 

Cookies
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks) 
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar) 
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup pure unsweetened pumpkin puree 
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (did you know you can make your own)
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder 
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (if you don't love bold cinnamon flavor, use 1/2 tsp)
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used mini chocolate chips, but you can use whatever you have) 
Rolling Sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon 
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger 
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg 
Directions 

  • In a large bowl (with a hand held mixer or your standing mixer) cream butter until light and fluffy, add sugars and pumpkin and beat for aprox 1 minute until fully mixed, add in egg and vanilla until fully incorporated 
  • Add in flour, baking powder, salt & cinnamon until fully incorporated (with your mixer) 
  • With a fork mix in chocolate chips until just combined 
  • Cover dough with plastic and chill in your refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour.  
  • While dough is chilling preheat oven to 350 degrees and line your baking sheet with parchment paper 
  • Mix rolling sugar together 
  • Remove cookie dough from refrigerator.  Using a spoon (or your hand) scoop out dough and roll into balls.  Take cookie balls and roll the balls in the sugar mixture (make sure every part of the ball is coated in the cinnamon sugar).  
  • Place sugar coated cookies on your baking sheet and and press so they become a bit flat
  • Bake for 10 to 15 minutes (depending on the size of your balls, remove and cool on a cookie rack.   
  • Enjoy! 


Monday, September 9, 2013

Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Soup and Fancy Grilled Cheese

I am back to cooking (my true love) and so excited to debut this delicious recipe.  Its not quite cold out but I have been so ready for soup season that now is as good of a time as any to try this delicious soup!  We decided to pair this with Fancy Grilled Cheese (which is my take on grilled cheese).  

This soup is so good you MUST not wait for Fall weather to come (depending on where you live maybe its already here).  I am not going to say much more other than this soup is so easy and the flavors are so delicious...you must run to the grocery store and make it!


Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Soup 

Ingredients: 
  • 1 to 2 tbsp of good olive oil (we use dry creek olive oil from California)
  • 1 small to medium red onion, chopped 
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped 
  • 2 roasted red peppers 
  • 1 russet potato (pealed and chopped) 
  • 1 sweet potato (pealed and chopped) 
  • 5 cups of vegetable stock (If you like a thicker soup use 3 or 4 cups)
  • 1 28 fl oz crushed tomatoes (you can use whole or chopped if that's what you have)
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasonings (either store bought or homemade or use whatever you have that is close)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste 

Directions: 

  1. Roast red peppers in oven, peal skins and cut into pieces (or buy roasted red peppers and skip this step)
  2. In a large pot, sauté onions & carrots in olive oil over medium heat (until the onions are translucent) 
  3. Add in vegetable stock and tomatoes and Italian seasonings and stir 
  4. Increase heat to medium-high and add in the potatoes 
  5. Cook potatoes in tomato mixture until soft, aprox 15 to 20 minutes 
  6. Add in roasted peppers and salt and pepper to taste 
  7. Blend soup until smooth (either use a stick blender in your pot or pour soup into a blender)


Fancy Grilled Cheese
Ingredients:
  • Good Whole Wheat Bread (if you plan ahead I would recommend making Artisan Bread)
  • Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • Turkey Bacon
  • Olive Oil Sprayer (I use a Misto)
  • Side Note: you can make these any way you want (with anything you have), just make sure to call them Fancy when you serve them J

Directions:
  1. Heat your Panini press (if you don’t have a Panini Press you can just use a cast iron pan or regular skillet
  2. Cook the turkey bacon until done and crisp
  3. Lay the bred out and put cheese on both sides of the bread
  4. Place the turkey bacon on one piece and place the other piece on the other
  5. Spray olive oil on one side and place olive oil side down on your pan or press, spray oil on the top side and press down
  6. Cook aprox 3 to five minutes (or five minutes per side)
  7. Cut and serve