Saturday, January 28, 2012

Lunch Time Delights

It's Saturday.  A day to enjoy yourself - treat yourself well as I often say.  Today I have been stuck on how to take advantage of my Saturday.  It's one of those rare but lovely sunny warm winter days in Connecticut.  Everyone is bustling.  I have an energy like no other and no particular outlet to focus it on.  Despite a long early morning workout I'm still unsatisfied.  So I decided to venture out - if I'm not doing something at least I'm out right! I have some online training to do for work - so I went up the road to Fat Cat Pie Co to have some tasty delights.  When I first sat down it was a little strange..a short New Yorker laughing and making comments at the bar and a women sitting by herself munching on a cheese tray.  And now there is me.  Girl sitting at the bar with a computer and Bose Noise Canceling headphones on sipping a beer and nibbling on a sandwich.  (headphones especially useful for the annoying loud talking boisterous New Yorker behind me.)  But since I sat down the crowd has rolled in and there are a few other couples enjoying delicious food and drinks as well.  
I like this place.  They have a kale quinoa salad to die for and thin crust pizzas with an endless list of ingredients to top with.  But since I'm on my own I couldn't indulge in the giant kale salad or thin crust pizza.  I decided to branch out and get a hot pressed sandwich with Emmanthaler cheese, artichoke hearts, tomatoes and pepper.  Pretty tasty :)  Although slightly oily.still good
I had drinks with a friend last night and we were reflecting on new Englanders.  We are both transplants from other areas of the country and it's fun to see what others think about the people here.  There are always the stereotypes that northerners are stuck up.  And after living here a year I don't think it's necessarily that they are stuck up.  But the forms of personal interaction are definitely different.  And folks up here are definitely kind of sheltered from the outside world of rest of America (A New Englanders view of the US:  New England, Black Hole, California) haha.  It WAS hilarious that we both noticed that shopping here is very strange in that a women shopping will literally barrel into you as if you aren't even there.  It's happened to me numerous times!  Even if it's not crowded and there is no crazy sale (there are no sales here) if you are crossing paths or she is going down the aisle of clothing, she WILL NOT go around you.  It's kind of alarming at "Excuse Me" or anything.   But I guess it's just one of those things..a manifestation of the culture. sandwich is getting cold and my beer warm.  Back to my Saturday.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I Heart Bagel Sundays

This has become my Sunday morning ritual.  Whether I'm in the city or at home - bagels.  But when I'm at home it looks a little like this: Wake up, move around a little, drink some wake me up lemon water..and then throw on some form of socially acceptable outfit (but only mildly acceptable) and skitter across the street to my coffee shop for some coffee and tasty goods.  I enjoy them at my sunlit table with some magazines.  I know, a little counter intuitive to be reading stories of adventurers in Outside and Backpackers magazine while I nosh on my bagel and peanut butter.  Let's just say I now have the fuel and the dreams to plan a super awesome trek across the wilderness.  
Ode to Bagels
For those of you who have not had a bagel in New York, I am sorry you will not find much my "Ode to Bagels" very inspiring.  But one day I hope you all can bite into a crispy, toasty, soft on the inside New York Bagel.  My favorite bagel is a whole wheat everything bagel with hummus.  I am a bit strange - normal New Yorkers get their cream cheese "sch-mere".  But I am not the biggest fan of dairy and, trust me, you REALLY have to like dairy when you get a bagel in New York because they don't hold back.  Normally you are left with bagel consumed and about a half a cup of leftover cream cheese.  Two weekends ago I was in the city and ran across a bagel shop that didn't have hummus.  GASP!  So, I adventured to the Tofu Lox - which is actually not as strange as getting hummus on your bagel interestingly..  It was not too bad, a little salty, but I would go back to the tofu spread again, maybe in different flavors.  
Sadly my coffee shop across the street is no bagel shop - they are prepackaged (rather than fresh) bagels and limited in selection (today I had to settle for plain everything bagel because they had no wheat or pumpernickel).  And, the only spread they have other than cream cheese is butter or peanut butter.  
But I still love it :)  

I have thought about moving as of late.  To a more convenient, cheaper and more "happening" place.  Namely Stamford is my first consideration.  But I can tell you that the one thing that is keeping me from doing this is the fact that I have such a lovely coffee shop across the street.  Sunday rituals are the best.  

In other news.  Life has been full of beer - and no I'm not becoming an alcoholic..I'm consuming beer information more than actual beer.  But despite my busy work schedule I am really liking working in the world of beer in my new role.  It's an exciting time in the industry and for our company.  But none of that is interesting..all I really wanted was a reason to post this picture:   
Cheers :)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

It's my Connecticutiversary !

Well technically this was a few days ago but I find it hard to update during the week because the thought of typing something on my computer after work is just tiring (and I would rather continue my addiction to How I Met Your Mother)

So, it's been one year since I moved here.  Although I still find myself saying "I just moved here" I'm also starting to feel less out of place.  I've come to terms with the fact that while the culture is very different and not always something I like - there are places I fit in and I'm optimistic that slowly but surely other things will start to fall in place if I just keep a positive attitude.  A friend back home gave me some good advice that has kind of opened up my eyes a little.  You really have to picture yourself in that positive goal that you want - just by focusing on that, even if you don't get there right away, your chances for negatives are far less.

So, a year later - what has really happened...what have I learned? Well..
-Brunch is the most important meal
-I am an expert at public transportation
-I can survive big city traffic
-Oysters are awesome
-I've only hit the needle in the haystack in terms of natural explorations
-Boots are essential
-New York has the best bagels (Whole Wheat Everything Bagel with Hummus YES)
-You can tell if someone is from here if they don't pronounce the "tt's" in Manhattan
-Learn to cook at home - because you'll go broke if you eat out
-I miss cheap beer and greasy Mexican food (sometimes)
-Whatever you do, don't use the bathrooms on the train
-I still suck at hailing a cab
-There's always room for negotiation
-You're never too far from home - you can always count on finding fellow Arkansans at the Madhatter

I'm prepared for the next year - it's going to be even better.  With some things perfected and lessons learned I've already got plans to expand experiences in the coming year.  I'm looking forward to many things:
-Another 5 Boro Bike Tour
-Putting my new snow boots to use (but not anytime soon hopefully)
-Maine 2 + Vermont
-The Cape
-Harriman-Bear Mountain state park
-Getting some more visitors out my way
-Potentially a new/"cheap"er apartment
-More bike group fun
-Volunteering - either at a natural park or local farm
-Call friends back home more often (I'm just personally bad at phone calls in general)

And much more - stay tuned.  I've got a year under my belt - no telling what this southern girl will be up to next.

On a totally unrelated note I have discovered the best recovery drink ever.  Witness:
Hemp Milk, Ice, Half a Banana (frozen), Handful of Spinach, Scoop of Dark Chocolate Whey and a few drops of Mint Extract
Now if that don't fuel and restore your muscles I would have to give up cooking because it's useless!  I recommend Hemp milk over any other kind because it really lends itself to thickness and has the best creamy flavor and the most calcium I have seen.  Omega fats don't hurt either.  Also - if you say ew to the Spinach - grow up and try it.
The chocolate and the peppermint made it taste like a dessert - but it was pure nutritional goodness!  It was hard to drink it slow enough to make it last.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Recapturing Zen - And Christmas Highlights

I am a messy cook.

Nothing can make you realize this more than spending a day in the kitchen with your mother.  Years of experiences, collecting of gadgets and making a kitchen her own are some of the many reasons I am put to shame in my mother's kitchen.  I spent a day in the kitchen with my mother, my first real jump back into cooking in quite some time, fixing my Christmas Eve Sweet Potato Casserole (Recipe Here) realizing I have a lot to learn.  But while I may still be a slob, the compliments I got on my dish were enough to inspire me back in the kitchen again.
I took a long Christmas break - came to learn the good and bad of indulgence - and returned home Friday actually fond of the quietness that fills my apartment.  While I have yet to leap back into work, I have found I have a new recaptured Zen in the kitchen, inspired by my time in my mother's kitchen and a desire to return back to a wholesome routine.
As a result of Christmas break I am now obsessed with using Panko in almost every dish I make (followed by some form of sugar of course).  My mother made these amazing Panko/Parmesean coated pork steaks and I was sooo in love with the way it tasted like a wholesome "fried" crispy, juicy piece of meat that I am dead set on finding a perfection in my own kitchen.

My mother's amazing panko pork - I have a refueled energy for cooking now

Yesterday I tried it on some thawed frozen shrimp - delicately coating it, sauteing them and sticking them in the oven with my garlic honey coated cauliflower.  It was very tasty - although for those shrimp that did not touch any of the oil in the pan it didn't quite stick and retain that moist crispness.
Tonight I tried it with tofu.  Still not the same - but I'm definitely onto something.

Coated Tofu sauteing over olive oil spray
The flip side - toasty

Finished product - a nice step back into real cooked food in the kitchen again
I topped them on my salad with a side of almond butter parsnip baked fries.  Not too bad for an easy meal in minutes.

I could write several very long entries about Christmas break - indeed it was filled with much to tell.  Overall it was exhausting but fun and I feel a renewed energy from seeing so many close friends and family - finally realizing the personal strength I have but seem to only find when I'm in my element.  I plan on carrying this through to a life back home that is far less stressful and haphazard than it was before I left on vacation.

Christmas 2011 - The Highlights in Pictures
I flew through Cincinnati and couldn't resist starting Christmas off with an old classic from childhood!  You don't see TCBY anymore, so when I do..just gotta have me some white chocolate mousse

First night back with Dad we visited a mexican restaurant we used to go to when we were very little.  I probably won't be returning...but the cheese dip brought back some flashbacks!
My idea of a good hangover cure back home
Fueling up for the nights festivities - chocolate covered espresso beans and coffee

A French Appertif from my sister
Soon to be Sweet Potato Fries

Making Cilantro Quinoa burgers

You will become Kale Chips
I dare you to find an absent nutrient!
The mess from the beginning came together in the end