Mini Cheesy Pretzel Dogs

two bites of heaven

I just have to say that I am incredibly proud of these mini pretzel dogs. Aren’t they beautiful? They are little jewels of deliciousness that I have to admit are maybe one of my proudest achievements. I made them for our small Oscar gathering a couple of week ago, and one of my friends, mid-bite, declared them to be “like crack”. That is high praise, indeed. They weren’t even all that difficult to put together. The most time consuming part, honestly, was wrapping them up into their adorable little pretzels cocoons. Making the dough was simple, especially with the help of a stand mixer. You just need to knead everything until the dough is slightly tacky, let it rise for an hour or so, and that’s it – you’re ready to pretzel dog it up. I originally saw my inspiration for these babies on 2sisters2cities, who got their idea from Joy the Baker, so I knew immediately that I was in good hands. I have to give credit where credit is due – these two blogs really hit it out of the park. The key factor in pretzel making is a quick 30 second boil in a mixture of water and baking soda, which gives the pretzels their chewy, deep brown crust. That’s the difference between a bagel and a pretzel. Pretzels are boiled in baking soda (or lye, if you’re daring) and water, while bagels are boiled in a sugar solution. It’s a quick step that almost seems too small to even bother with, but trust me – you must do it. When you’ve made the dough, wrapped up the cheese-stuffed hot dogs, boiled them in a baking soda concoction, then popped them in the oven, you’ll probably have some leftover pretzel dough. This is the most fun part. I made some classic twisted pretzels, some tiny pretzel bites, and some long, twisted rope pretzels. You will probably come up with something more creative than I did, but Kramer and I really appreciated having something extra to snack on while we waited for guests to arrive. If you want to do these ahead of time, too, feel free – once they’ve baked through, let them cool and sit at room temperature on a baking sheet (I replaced the parchment paper so that they didn’t get soggy), then heat them back up for 10 minutes or so when your guests arrive.

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Handsome Kramer, Roberta’s pizza, frying bacon and the doughnuts at Toby’s Estate.

Obviously these cheesy pretzels were the hit of the party, so go forth and make mini cheesy pretzel dogs – your friends will thank you, as will your own belly. I’ve kind of been on a bread baking roll, lately (haw haw haw). I made Irish Soda Bread (although that doesn’t have yeast so maybe it doesn’t really count), these pretzels (which do have yeast and a rising time, so I’m counting them), and I’ve got one or two more bread recipes to share with you in the coming weeks. I guess I know that hot summer temperatures are just around the corner, and baking bread in the middle of a New York summer is basically the worst thing any human being could do to themselves. I’ll have to try to squeeze in a few more bread experiments this weekend before I’m sweating it to the oldies on the subway with all of the other people who, during New York summers, collectively think, “Why in the hell do I even live here?” This weekend should be nice enough, though, so we’ll be out and about. Tonight, we have plans for drinks with a friend. I’m going to try to get her to join me for an oyster happy hour somewhere. I feel as though it’s been far too long since my last oyster expedition and what am I, an animal? Maybe after that we’ll check out Featherweight if it’s not too late/crowded. I love that place but it is tiny and becoming more popular, so if I can’t get a seat, I’m out.

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On Saturday, we have plans to go and see my friend and co-worker who just had her baby a couple of weeks ago. I have honestly never held a baby. I hope she’s ready to see Sydney’s Struggle when she hands me her baby and I say “Uhhhhhh..” I wonder if Kramer has ever held a baby. I should probably ask. Anyway, since you can’t eat deli meat when you’re pregnant (what kind of punishment is that?), I’m going to bring over a couple of giant godfather sub sandwiches from Graham Avenue Meats, which I think is a fitting reward for having a child. After that, we’ve got another card night at our friend’s place. We’ll start with Cards Against Humanity, but I’m hoping I can get in a round of poker or two. My poker fingers are itching since I won a whopping $5 a few weeks ago. Now I am convinced that I am an excellent poker player – obviously I must be stopped and the best way to do that is to play against someone who I know is actually a good poker player. Or maybe I’ll have another streak of beginner’s luck. We’ll see. Have a lovely weekend, you crazy kids.

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Irish Soda Bread

ready in an hour

So – how about that True Detective finale, everyone? I have to be honest, I was a little disappointed. I won’t say specifically what it is that I didn’t like (~no spoilers here~), but it was essentially the same problem that I had with the Breaking Bad finale. I still loved the show overall and I’m excited to see what they do with it for season two or series two or whatever you call a second edition of a mini-series. Kramer and I stayed up too late to watch it, of course, and couldn’t go to bed immediately after, so I feel like I am going to be dragging my ass today. On top of not quite getting enough sleep, daylight savings time is back to screw with me again. The one (and only) bonus about living in Arizona was that daylight savings was not observed. Every day, 365 days out of the year, the clocks remained the same. Here, though, I look out my window at 7:15am and see that the sun is just now beginning to come up. It really makes getting out of bed and on with my day extra difficult. I appreciate that eventually it’ll be light in the morning when I wake up and lighter still when I’m leaving work, but can’t we just let things be and it’ll all catch up eventually? I’m not built for this. I don’t live on a farm and I don’t travel long distances by train, so let me pretend that it’s still 6:15am so that I can go back to sleep for another luxurious 45 minutes. My favorite activity is and always be sleep, so daylight savings will continue to make me endlessly angry until someone smartens up and figures out a way to get rid of it once and for all.

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A photo of my happy place, morning coffee, a negroni at home and a Friday night movie.

Daylight savings misery aside, Kramer and I had a pretty productive weekend. On Friday night, we went with some friends to see The Grand Budapest Hotel. It was just what you’d expect from Wes Anderson, but there’s something wonderful and comforting in that. The list of actors was incredible, as always, the set design was impressive, and the music was perfectly paired with the action. Ralph Fiennes especially killed it. On Saturday, we slept in a bit before meeting some friends at Roberta’s for brunch, followed by another drink (or two, who’s counting? It’s Saturday) at the Pine Box Rock Shop because it was just so nice and sunny outside that none of us really wanted to go home quite yet. Kramer and I eventually did head home to watch more episodes of The Returned, which our friends have succeeded in convincing us to watch even though it’s in French and I never thought of myself as pretentious enough to read a TV show, but I guess that’s where I’m at in my life, now. We both ended up taking naps on the couch, which I feel like we hadn’t done in a long time and is one of my favorite things to do on a weekend where neither of us have any work to do. We rallied and had drinks with another friend followed by dinner at Fanny, after which I only lasted a few more hours before I was ready to call it a night. On Sunday, we of course woke up later than we wanted to due to miserable daylight savings, but we were both productive in that I did blog and freelance work while Kramer caught up on some reading for school. And here we are. Tired and wishing it was still an hour earlier so that we might still be in bed. SIGH.

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One of my friends was recently telling me about a new restaurant that opened in our shared neighborhood, and the thing that stood out to me when she was explaining what she had there was the “fantastic” Irish soda bread. I hadn’t had Irish soda bread in what seemed like ages, so the idea of a big, thick slice of it with some nice salted butter was stuck in my brain all week. When we had some people over last week for the Oscars, I decided that’d be a good time to try my hand at making it at home. I knew that making the bread would be easy, but I didn’t realize just how easy. Irish soda bread has no yeast, making it excellent for a a fast, but still impressive, addition to any party spread. I used a little bit of Greek yogurt for added moisture in my Irish soda bread recipe, as well as just a bit of sugar for a touch of sweetness. A traditional loaf will have neither of these, so if you’d rather stick to the original Irish soda bread, leave them both out (although I think that they made the bread extra delicious). Slathered with soft, creamy butter or dipped into rich olive oil, this bread will certainly put a smile on your face. I cubed and froze the leftovers, and I plan to make some kind of whisky bread pudding with it at a later date. I imagine that it’d make for a pretty good sandwich, too, with simple ingredients like ham and cheese. This recipe will result in a beautiful loaf of bread without having to wait for yeast to foam or for dough to rise – just whisk everything together, form into a ball and bake. In an hour, you’ll have warm Irish soda bread ready for the snacking.

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Mango Salad

with seaweed

Accuweather has promised me sunshine for tomorrow, so I am really excited for the weekend! Sometimes when I wake up on Monday, I feel as though I’m never going to reach Friday. This week, on the other hand, flew by. I can’t believe it’s already over. Work has been insanely busy and with other commitments I have, I’m surprised that I’m not drowning in a sea of responsibility and awash in guilt over not finding time to go to the gym. I’m not letting it get me down. I’m embracing the business. I’m getting to take on some more heavy lifting, as it were, at work, and the job I currently have is the first one where I really feel like I’m doing something every day. It’s great, and it makes coming to work enjoyable. When I first moved to New York, I took the first administrative position I could find. It just so happened that this job was in finance. At a hedge fund. At first, the money was good and I got free lunch, so I was just happy to be able to see some positive numbers in my bank account. After a while, though, it began to take its toll. People in finance work long hours and are under a lot of pressure to make more and more money. Understandably, that means that they are all really stressed out and poised to take it out on the people below them. I once had a boss scream at me about how his bottle of ketchup didn’t have enough ketchup in it. I was supposed to microwave another person’s salmon for exactly 5 seconds before putting it on a plate and wrapping the fork and knife up in napkin just so before handing it to him. The same person’s driver was playing basketball one time, got hit in the face with a basketball, and emailed the assistants for someone to call 911 to get the guy an ambulance. You heard me right – he emailed people to call an ambulance for him. The final straw was after the hedge fund when I was working at a mutual fund (evil by another name) and my incredibly on-edge boss told me, in a kitchen full of people, that a 16 year old could do my job. That’s when I decided I needed out, and any pay cut or endless job search or late nights scrolling through LinkedIn and updating my resume would be worth it.

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My spirit animal shirt, photo from a roof in the city, making bread and great advice.

Luckily, I landed at a great job outside of the finance industry. I work at an almost not-a-start-up-start-up (I feel like we’ve outgrown the title in the past year) and everyone is just fantastic. People are respectful and kind. They welcome questions and are happy to put their heads together to come up with solutions to problems instead of just yelling or blaming one another. I don’t just get along with these people, but I’ve actually befriended quite a few of them. Nothing is utopian, but after my prior work experiences, this place comes pretty damn close. The best thing about my bosses is that when I do something, they always say thank you or something similar to acknowledge that you did the thing that they asked, or even better, anticipated a need and did it ahead of time. I’ve never had bosses that said thank you before in such a sincere way. It’s refreshing. Whenever I’m overloaded with work and I feel like I can’t possibly get everything done, I take a minute, make a prioritized list, and remember that I could be delivering chopped salads to stock traders shouting “bullish!” and “bearish!” at each other’s faces all day. I have real goals where I work now, and I can see my work pay off. I’m incredibly fortunate to be in this position, and I always tell people who move to New York and are working some crappy job that they hate that they’ll get there, too. It took me almost four years, but it was certainly well worth the wait. And besides, you can’t truly appreciate a good thing until you’ve experienced the other end of the spectrum.

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Anyway, enough gushing about my job. Honestly, though, when being busy and having a lot of work doesn’t bother me, you know something’s right. Okay, really – enough. Salad. Mango salad, that is. This one in particular was inspired by my trip to Thailand last month. I bought what I thought were hard, unripened mangoes, as the salads you get over there are usually made from young mangoes or papayas, but weirdly enough, I opened these ones up and they were perfectly ripe! No matter – you can use whatever you have on hand. I wasn’t about to let the mangoes win. Mangoes are mangoes, though, and although they are in the of this dish, the true key is in the sauce, which is made up of my favorite flavor combination: sugar + fish sauce + acid + heat. I used brown sugar instead of white sugar, lime juice for the acid, and crushed chile flakes for the heat. I also added in a bit of the chile pepper puree I had leftover from my shrimp pozole, but that’s just what I did. Add more spice, add more sugar, add more lime – it’s really up to you. This is a no cook, toss and eat kind of salad, which is my favorite kind. Kramer and I ate this for lunches with some sliced steak on top, and when the steak ran out, we ate it with chickpeas instead. The flavors are light and fresh, perfect for a pick-me-up on a dreary winter day, or as a side that travels well for a spring or summer picnic. The bright colors alone are enough to make you want to dig in and taste a bit of Thailand.

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Rum & Brown Sugar Banana Muffins

top o' the muffin to you

I feel like I have been incredibly busy lately. I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that, but when I get home, I am just completely done with the day. All I want to do once I’ve stepped past my door mat is put on pajamas, sink into the couch, and zone out watching television until it’s time to go to bed. This morning was a particularly difficult start in that I just could not get out of my nice, toasty bed and step foot into my apartment, where I had turned the heat off the night before. I went into the living room and the heating unit just read “low” instead of a temperature, because I don’t think that the thing reads past 40 degrees F. Anyway, I’ve got my heat on now, I’m sipping my coffee and eating some yogurt, but I know that I have to get up soon. Life is rough. This winter is has been so unbelievably cold and I think New Yorkers have about had it. I would wager that we all have about two or three more really cold days left in us before mass rioting ensues. It’s 13 degrees F outside right now, so let’s count this as day one, shall we? At least it’s sunny outside, and Accuweather tells me that we’ll be in the 40s by Saturday. I’ll keep dreaming. Whatever the temperature, we keep going outside and trekking around, so some of my bitterness is most certainly self inflicted. This past Friday night, we went out with two other couples to M. Wells Steakhouse, where Kramer and I had been dying to go ever since we read about its impending opening. That meal definitely warmed us up. We shared an enormous tomahawk steak with the table, which was plated on top of the smoothest, most cheese-laden potatoes that I have ever eaten. We had sweetbreads, uni with uni custard and toast, French onion soup with bone marrow, a Caesar salad with tons of soft Parmesan cheese, a variety of sautéed mushrooms, a lobster roll, a stack (yes, stack) of tender pork chops, and my genius friend Valerie ordered some kind of enormous pot pie with tons of meat inside that in itself could have fed the whole table. Of course, we had to get dessert, which itself would have been a fantastic dinner. We ordered a profiterole the size of my face, which had little caramel crunchies on the inside, an impossibly thick and creamy New York style cheesecake, and my favorite, a big slice of cinnamon cake, which was white cake with layers of cinnamon crumb cake topping in between. It was, without a doubt, one of the best meals that I’ve ever had in the city. I highly recommend going over there immediately if you have the opportunity.

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Running around the city, my face when my friend told me that she had her baby and a relaxing night in with a book and a martini.

Saturday was a day of work for Kramer and I. He had a big project for school to work on, while I had more to do with my freelance project. Kramer sets up a cute little work station with a folding table in a small corner of our living room while he has to do homework, so we listen to music and he does that while I putz around in the kitchen, both of us having tastes of whatever it is I’m making along the way. That night, Kramer decided that he was going to show amazing reserve and self-restraint by staying in and continuing to work on his project instead of going out with me. Brave little guy. I headed out to try to go to the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club with some friends, but even at 9pm, the place was packed with a crazy line out the door. Bummer! I really wanted a tropical cocktail and some life-sized shuffleboard – usually we have to make do with the table version in bars. We bar hopped around a bit before heading back to our side of town, where Kramer was finally ready to take a break and join us for a drink or two. I’m glad that he got out for just a little bit. I couldn’t imagine being back in school, having those kind of nerve-racking deadlines and working with groups to finish papers and presentations. He is incredibly brave, that husband of mine. On Sunday, we slept in pretty late, which was wonderful, then got back to work. I am only three recipes away from finishing the thing that I’m working on, and Kramer gave his presentation yesterday (to rave reviews), so I think that we did a good job, indeed, this weekend. In between actual work on Sunday, I managed to crank out some things for our small Oscar gathering that Sunday night, all of which will be posted on here soon enough. I really enjoyed the Oscars this year. Ellen was adorable and hilarious, and I got to see my hair-inspiration Jared Leto win an award, followed by my abs-inspiration Matthew McConaughey win another award. When he said “alright alright alright,” my entire apartment erupted into applause, cheers and laughter. It was just so perfect. I really want a white suit now, though. They made them look so damn appealing (as did Ellen). The only problem with the Oscars, though, is how damn late they end! When everyone left around 12:30, we couldn’t help ourselves – we stayed up until almost 2am watching the second to last episode of True Detective. Needless to say, I was exhausted on Monday morning. My alarm usually rings around 6:30, but I snoozed until 7 and still had a rough start to the day. It was worth it though…right? Yes, yes it was. True Detective is so weird and creepy that I need my fix ASAP.

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I love banana muffins, banana bread, banana candy…anything banana, really. I never get tired of baking with bananas or eating plain ol’ bananas. They are nature’s most perfect food (well – 2nd most perfect, after the trusty egg). If I had the time, I’d probably make a loaf of banana bread every weekend. Obviously I had a bit of extra time on my hands when I made these muffins, because I decided to roast the ripe bananas in rum, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon before mashing them and adding them to the batter. The result was a deeper banana flavor, with an added depth from the rum and caramelized brown sugar and butter. I added a healthy amount of raw sugar on top of the muffins for a coffee shop-esque crunch. If you’re brave, go ahead and overfill the muffin cups a bit. Kramer insisted that I do this with the remaining muffin batter. I was adamant about the fact that they’d overflow, collapse, and burn to the pan, but Kramer begged me to make some “giant” muffins. I did it, and you know what? They were awesome. They looked like they came straight out of Starbucks. So thank you, Kramer, for ridding me of my overfilled muffin fear. Granted, this doesn’t work with every recipe, but the batter for these is just about perfect and therefore was able to stand up to rising and rising and rising in the muffin pan. I brought a bunch of these into work, then left a few at home for Kramer and I to nibble on throughout the week. They were still good on day five, to be quite honest. Maybe there was some kind of magic that went on during the roasting process, but I have to say, these are some damn good banana muffins.

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Blood Orange Roasted Beets & Fennel

with balsamic vinegar

With the weather having been a bit warmer last week, I woke up on Friday with what I was hoping were just allergies. Of course, telling myself over and over again that ~it’s just allergies~ isn’t going to change the fact that I do not, in fact, have allergies, and instead have developed a lovely little sinus infection that has been following me around all weekend. I am furious. I hate being sick, but colds and the like are certainly the worst kind of short term ailment. I’d rather have the flu, because at least then you’re in and out in under two days, maybe even a few pounds lighter. Bonus! When I have a cold, on the other hand, you can typically find me on the couch, whining to Kramer about how I’m dying or to please help me or just blowing my nose in between bites of whatever delicious snack food I decided to gorge on because, as many of us have uttered aloud before, “I’m sick and I don’t care.” I guess that’s another kind of bonus. Although I suppose when you have a cold you’re not enjoying the food as much as you are attempting to enjoy it, to bring some kind of happiness to your miserable, stuffed up existence. Having been stuck at home most of the time this weekend, though, I did manage to be somewhat productive in between bouts of sneezing and general agony. I got a lot of work done on a freelance project that isn’t due for another month, and Kramer and I finished season two of House of Cards. I also probably saved a little money from not being out all night on Friday and Saturday, so I guess there’s that, too. But now it’s Monday and it’s time to get my ass in gear, when all I really want to do is lay down on the couch with a big mug of tea, plenty of my favorite cold medications and the remaining half of Bates Motel that I want to finish before the new season starts. At least I can look forward to this routine after work.

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Bloody beet hands, awesome lengua tacos at Zaragoza, poker at home and a foggy view at the office.

Before I gave into my “definitely not a cold” sinus infection, Kramer and I did go out just a bit this weekend, albeit only for a few hours at a time. I met up with my friends Emily and Molly at Ore Bar on Friday night, before calling it early around 8:30, then heading home to meet Kramer while we ate tacos, chips and guacamole and watched the previously mentioned house of Cards. On Saturday, I did a lot of work on my project, squeezed in a little yoga in an attempt to clear my sinuses through sweating (guess what – it didn’t work), then made burgers for dinner before we headed out into Manhattan for a friend’s birthday party. This alone should show that I am a phenomenal friend because I rarely trudge into the city on the weekends. Brooklyn is already crowded enough – Manhattan past 8pm on a weekend is a complete disaster of a situation and I want no part of it. But, we did it anyway, and showed up at Houston Hall at 9pm sharp (early for the party, of course). After about an hour there, as much as I enjoy the company of my friend, we had to go because it was absolutely packed and I felt like I was going to either have a panic attack or shove one of the many dude-bros into a wall. We got back to our neighborhood, had a beer with a friend, then played a game of poker at our house before shoving off to bed. I almost won, by the way. You’re looking at a poker champion. Sunday, we slept in and I began the start of what I like to call Sydney Being as Annoying as Possible. This involves looking at Kramer with sad eyes, ordering in breakfast and whining constantly about being sick. Kramer pretends he hates it but I think that a little part of him thinks it’s impressive how long I am able to keep it up. I’m really good at that game. I feel equally crappy this morning, by the way, but I made myself eggs and mushrooms for breakfast, so I’m hoping that this fuel will power me through work and straight back onto the couch for round two of Sydney Being as Annoying as Possible.

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One of our other favorite shows, Hannibal, starts up later this week, and these beets really remind me of it. I adore blood oranges and this is the time to year to get them, so I’ve been buying at least five or six a week to consume. I love the color and the sweet meets tart taste, plus the juice and zest are lovely to cook with. I used both on these beets, which paired with fennel and balsamic vinegar, made for a delicious side dish along with some roasted chicken. While we ate this warm the first night, I saved the leftovers and sent it to work for lunch for the two of us as a cold salad. I preferred the cold version myself, as I think the flavors meld together overnight, creating a punch of flavor with each bite. If you can’t find blood oranges, then regular oranges or even tangerines will do just fine, but I really recommend seeking them out. They have a depth of flavor, not to mention a beautiful color, that you can’t get with your average naval variety. The fennel adds a nice bite, and the balsamic brings it all home. Root vegetable season is almost over, sadly, but this play on summery citrus notes with earthy, rustic beets is a great way to bring winter and spring together on one plate.

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Miso Osso Buco

with dashi and citrus

We had a nice long weekend. If you’re in the States, it was President’s Day on Monday and most people had the day off of work. In between watching five episodes of House of Cards, we managed to get around the city. Friday was Valentine’s Day, so Kramer and I did the obligatory dinner thing. We went to Mission Cantina, where we feasted on scallop and beef heart ceviche (so romantic), shrimp chips and chicharones with guacamole, octopus tacos, pork cheek tacos and beef shank tacos. The octopus was my favorite, as usual. We met up with some of my coworkers afterward, followed by some excellent cocktails at our new favorite spot, Featherweight. On Saturday, I ran some errands and then we went to our friend’s place for a big group game of Cards Against Humanity, together with drinks and pizza. The weekend’s piece de la resistance, however, was on Sunday, when a group of us headed to Lyndhurst, New Jersey to go to Medieval Times. This idea stemmed from being awake with jet lag from Thailand and thinking that it sounded super fun and romantic to go to Medieval Times for Valentine’s Day. Thankfully, our friends were of similar sentiment. After taking the subway to the New Jersey Transit and transferring once, then walking for about a mile through suburban New Jersey, we made it and had an absolutely lovely Sunday afternoon, filled with jousting and falconry and eating with our hands. It was simply magical. I highly recommend going if you live near a “castle”. And definitely get a flagon of ale while you’re there.

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I’m sure you knew it would happen eventually, or maybe you are of the belief that it should have happened a long time ago. It’s okay – I completely understand. It’s time to rejoice, because these are, indeed, the last of our photos from Thailand. It seems like it was so long ago that we were there. I was thinking that it felt particularly long ago as I dumped snow out of my boots this past weekend, or when I was rubbing sidewalk salt off of them yesterday after work. Only one month ago, Kramer and I were lounging on the sand, sucking down mojitos or beers that we smuggled onto the beach in our backpacks, snacking on jelly doughnuts that they sold on the beach for less than $1. When I tell people that I am going to get fat and tan on my tropical vacation, I take at least half of that very seriously. Now, I’m still working on getting rid of that five pounds that I gained from said jelly doughnuts (along with pad thai, tons of rice, street meat, vermicelli noodles, or whatever else it was that I shoved into my mouth) and trudging through snow, slush, ice or maybe even a delightful combination of all three. Yesterday, I was whining and freezing as I hobbled into work, today I’m sweating because it’s 40 degrees and I haven’t felt a non-freezing temperature in way too long. Ah, yes. Life is all too real, and Thailand seems like some sort of fever dream now. But I still have pictures! Lots and lots of pictures. I have enough photos to make you feel like you’re sitting through your grandparents’ slideshow of Retirement World. So buckle up and enjoy – these are all you get until I figure out a way to get myself to another beach location.

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I made this miso osso buco a few weeks ago when I was on a serious miso kick. This may sound like miso overload, but I served it alongside my miso roasted cauliflower. Kramer and I loved it, but it depends on your miso tolerance. Mine is obviously quite high. Anyway, we love osso buco in my house. It’s one of our favorite ~special occasion~ foods. You can’t just go around eating osso buco every day, now can you? That is a world that I would like to live in. For now, though, when I see veal shanks on sale, I always buy them and freeze them for a day when it’s extra cold or we’re just in need of something extra delicious. The way the meat just falls right off of the bone and the fat helps make a rich sauce as everything braises together is something I can’t get enough of. I usually do some kind of red wine combination with a cut of meat like this, but this time I went ahead and used more Asian flavors. White miso paste, fish sauce, Sriracha, and dashi, along with orange juice, lime juice and the zest of both, makes for a flavorful dish, indeed. The sauce is absolutely fantastic and you’ll want to dip your roasted vegetables or big hunks of crusty bread into it, sopping up every last bit. Kramer and I ate this for dinner one night and leftovers on the next – the osso buco was every bit as good on the second night as it was on the first (maybe even better, as the flavors had time to develop even more). When you make this, and I really hope that you do, please don’t forget to scoop out the bone marrow and spread on a piece of toast. I refer to this as the cook’s reward, specifically when I’m scooping out the bone marrow from Kramer’s osso buco when he isn’t looking.

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Green Chickpea & Chicken Coconut Curry

with Swiss chard

Happy Valentine’s Day! I don’t want to say that I am a huge proponent of Valentine’s Day, but I do appreciate any reason to go out and get a nice meal, and maybe spend a few extra dollars on an additional cocktail. I also really enjoy surprising Kramer, even if it’s not anything huge. Usually, I’ll make breakfast or send a bottle of bourbon to his office or something like that, but this year, I decided to go all out. And by all out, I mean I found a Pizza Hut in Union Square on my way home from work and picked up a cheese pizza and breadsticks for Valentine’s Day brunch the next morning. Does that sound weird to you? It did to me too, at first, but every time we passed a Pizza Hut, Kramer would say how he hasn’t had it in years and years and it makes him think back to being a kid. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I’ve certainly got very specific foods that make me feel happy and nostalgic (i.e. Pop Tarts or Twinkies). So, I decided this year that I’d make all of Kramer’s Pizza Hut dreams come true by bringing the good ol’ Hut to him. I picked up my haul after work yesterday, then wrapped the pizza box and the bread stick box in foil and hid them in the back of the fridge, strategically placed under the cheese drawer so that he wouldn’t notice. This morning, while he was in the shower, I warmed everything up and presented it proudly to him with a big “Happy Valentine’s Day!” He was incredibly surprised. We shared the bread sticks and I had a bite of the pizza (as you’ve probably guessed, Pizza Hut is not on my nostalgic-foods list), then he had two “slices” (they look more like wedges, ha) before wrapping the pizza back up to “save” for later. Absolutely adorable. Now if only someone would bring me a giant box of Waffle Crisp.

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Can I just have a piña colada for breakfast?

Anyway, I’m returning to Thailand for a bit, so I apologize in advance for the photos if you’re sick of seeing beautiful beaches, tropical drinks and Kramer and I in our bathing suits. These photos are from a day where Kramer, my brothers and I all took a shuttle over to another beach town to check out what it had to offer. We found a great little spot and were able to rent beach chairs for $2 a person for the whole day, which I was happy to discover included nice, clean bathrooms and beachside drink service, both of which I am desperately in need of while on vacation. We got some food from vendors on the beach, drank the beers we packed in our backpacks (because we are professionals) and I even convinced my brother to get a henna tattoo of a spider (or maybe it was a beetle). We ended the day with a big meal, and it also happened to be one of the spicier meals, at that, so I was in heaven. Sizzling seafood in a cast iron pan, really good pad Thai, fried shark (yes, shark!), rice noodles with pork, and of course, a “bucket” of whiskey that we all took part in helping to demolish. By the time we got home, I was ready for a nap before hitting the pool one more time. After showering and grabbing a bite to eat, it was time to go back to town for Muay Thai boxing. The show was intense. These guys were serious. The crowd was loud, people were betting all around us, and I can honestly say it was one of my favorite things that we did while in Thailand. Kramer and the boys hit the pool one last time before bed, but I was happy to crawl in between the sheets and fall asleep to reruns of Hawaii 5-0.

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This is yet another one of those big-pot meals that I made for Kramer and I to have for lunch for the week, and it ended up being a new favorite. You really just have to go for the full-fat coconut milk on this one (unless you really need to cut calories), because the richness it adds with the curry paste and chili paste is absolutely delicious. The chickpeas and chicken add a hearty element, perfect for this weather, or just for me in general, as I am always starving come lunch time. You can certainly omit the chicken to make this vegetarian or vegan, though – add more chickpeas, or some different beans, or maybe even potatoes, to retain the stick-to-your-ribs quality of this curry. The Swiss chard was a last minute addition, but a nutritious and colorful one at that. Thick, leafy greens are ~all the rage~ (I hate that I just said that) this season, and I’ve been mixing them into just about everything to add fiber and extra vitamins to almost any meal. Kramer was a little wary of these leafy things in his food at first, but now I think he’s come to appreciate the texture and color first – the flavor has come second, but now he’ll request things like roasted, almost charred broccoli, crispy Brussels sprouts, and even this stewed chard in a warming curry.

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Red Lentil & Wheatberry Dal

with fresh cilantro

Sometimes I’m at a loss as to what words to throw up here because a lot of the time, each day kind of seems to be the same. It’s a struggle to string even remotely interesting sentences together without seeming like I’m completely full of it. We do keep busy and I’m not usually just hanging around my apartment all weekend, or even most weeknights, but in general we did the same thing this weekend as we did the weekend before that and the weekend before that. I don’t mean for it to sound like some sad, depressing scenario. It’s absolutely not. But maybe it’s a little boring for you to read every week. I think having a blog is one of the reasons I do go out and do things a lot of the time. I need something to write about! Or at the very least, my increasing addiction to Instagram and unhealthy desire to post pretty photos once or twice a day gets me off the couch. Thank you, mobile telephone, for allowing me to go out and document my semi-adventures while still remaining firmly in front of some kind of screen.

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Snow outside, pizza envelope from Roberta’s, a haul from Marlow & Daughters and smoked meat poutine from Mile End Deli.

So, having said that, why don’t I go ahead and tell you all about my weekend anyway? Friday night, Kramer and I actually went to the gym (shocker) before going to Noorman’s Kil for a friend’s birthday party. I even scored a sweet Cabbies of New York calendar to bring as a gift. Obviously it was a hugs hit. That ended up being sort of a late night, so we didn’t get up on Saturday until around 10ish. We ate leftover pizza for breakfast, had some coffee and watched Helix before I hastily wrapped a present and went to a friend’s baby shower. I had never been to a baby shower before. It was a little overwhelming, to be honest. But I’m super happy for my friend and her husband. They are going to be crazy cool parents. I mean, they live in Brooklyn so it’s kind of a given. That night, Kramer, Morgan and I ate a pretty delicious dinner at Dear Bushwick. We had soft-cooked and smoked eggs, crispy pork belly, cheese and pickle toast, baked oysters and bread, fried potato peels, and smokey beef shank terrine with onion jam (with a few cocktails, too). Afterward, we went to Miles nearby for drinks with a few other people. Sunday was another sleep-in day, then met up with some friends at Roberta’s for a pizza and pastrami (yep) filled brunch. I spent the rest of the day cooking while Kramer did homework, followed by wings and a True Detective viewing. I wish every weekend could end that way.

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I made this dal for Kramer and I to eat for lunch for the week at work. I love dal and always order either it or chana masala when we order Indian food at home. Allow me to have a sidebar moment to say that one of the many reasons I love living in New York is that I can order excellent Indian food at almost any time I want right to my doorstep. It’s a beautiful thing. Anyway, Dal is a kind of stewed lentil dish, and it’s amazingly versatile. It is typically a vegan or vegetarian dish (this particular recipe is vegan), but you can add a protein into the mix, if you want (bacon wouldn’t be the worst addition, for example). To make my dal a bit more substantial for a hearty winter lunch, I added wheatberries, which are a lovely little grain that will fill you up without weighing you down. You can definitely use quinoa or couscous or some other grain in its place, but I like the slightly chewier texture that you get with wheatberries, as they are a whole grain that haven’t been processed yet and the hull stands up to long cooking times. The creamy red lentils paired up against the wheatberries, along with the aromatic onions, peppers and spices just makes me happy. I had to pack up and put this dish away once it was done cooking, because I kept sneaking spoonfuls of it while I was shooting and cooking other things. Don’t let the name or ingredients scare you. If you’re trying to eat more balanced meals this year, start with something like this dal! I promise that you will love it.

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Classic Chicken Parmesan

chicky chicky parm parm

I keep posting all of these photos of Thailand and it seems like our vacation that only ended a couple of weeks ago is ages and ages away. The weather doesn’t help. We’ve had more snow than the entire time I’ve lived in New York, or at least it looks that way to me. The cycle begins again today. After the snow, comes the slush, but all of the rain today just means that the sidewalks have turned into serious danger zones. My boots are not nearly as waterproof as I had originally thought that they were, and my soggy socks remind me of that with every step. Each inch of ground is covered in slippery melting snow and thanks to the rain, ice. It just straight up sucks. Walking takes twice as long because everyone has to take baby steps to avoid falling on his or her respective asses. Funny thing about today, though: the subway was nearly empty during my commute. I guess some people smarter than I decided to work from home today.

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Enjoying the view.

Anyway, back to happier things. Our fourth day in Thailand started out with a few beers and some hanging out on the beach with my brothers. I guess they are not old enough to appreciate how wonderful it is to sit and do nothing, though, so around noon, my youngest brother suggested that we go for a walk along a path near the water that he had taken with my parents earlier in the day, after breakfast. Sure, why not? Sounds fun. Wrong! My brother neglected to mention that this fun little path would be highly effected by high tide, which happened to be at its peak just as we left for our little adventure. Of course, I, being adverse to nature and a natural complainer, bitched and moaned almost the entire way. To my credit, I was wearing sneakers and regular street clothes because nobody told me I’d be encountering waist-deep ocean water. The final straw was traversing the side of a building that was covered in moss and seaweed as the tide flowed in and out. Kramer and the genius, Wyatt, were a bit ahead of me and my more benevolent brother, Dane, who was attempting to be encouraging as I screamed at having to touch the gross, moldy moss along the wall. After that, I let them all know that I was out of there. I climbed up the wall and walked through some random resort to get to the road, my more adventurous companions begrudgingly following behind because none of them wanted to have to say that they abandoned me when I would have inevitably tripped, fell and died. After all of that, Wyatt was rightfully annoyed by my resistance to any further “walking” in the water, so we wandered around town for some specific bank he was looking for, before it started to rain and we all decided that enough was enough – it was time to turn around. Besides the rain and exhaustion, we were starving. We ended up at a little restaurant on the side of the road that was completely empty, but it was one of my favorite meals of the trip. We inhaled short ribs with green beans, green mussels in a lime broth (amazing), chicken satay with peanut sauce, deliciously simple pad thai, curried crab, and more things that I’m forgetting. Alongside a cold beer, it almost made everyone forget about how I basically hadn’t shut up for the past two or three hours. Thanks for putting up with me, guys.

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Upon our return from Thailand, I just was really craving foods that you can’t get over there. Obviously pizza was one of our first things to order when we got home, but the next day, I felt like getting back in the kitchen and making something simple and homey. I had chicken and canned tomatoes, so after running over to the bodega for some cheese, I was ready to make this classic chicken parmesan. Let’s be real, though – Kramer and I were both saying “chicky chicky parm parm” all day in the kitchen while I was making it. Thanks, Tom Haverford. Chicken parmesan should be straight forward, so that’s what I did. There aren’t any twists to be found here. Just breaded chicken cutlets, flavorful marinara sauce, and plenty of mozzarella and parmesan cheese to top it all off. Kramer and I ate this with some plain old spaghetti while catching up on some TV shows and sharing a bottle of red wine. It was the perfect old school red sauce meal that we needed to get back to reality while still enjoyed the last few hours of our time away from the world we live and work in.

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Miso Roasted Cauliflower

with lime

I’m slowly getting back into the swing of things after our trip to Thailand. That jet lag really takes it out of you. I had never travelled to a place with a 12 hour time difference before, so I supposed I was not seasoned enough to handle the toll it takes on your body. Between the actual time difference and how exhausting traveling can be all on its own (we did JFK to Beijing to Bangkok to Koh Samui), I think I needed a solid week to recover. It took me a while to even just begin sleeping normally, and thankfully, Kramer wouldn’t let me just laze around the house (because I would inevitably take a nap and ruin all of my getting-on-a-normal-sleep-schedule efforts). Therefore, we did get out of the house every day this weekend. On Friday night, we went to our friend Matt’s birthday party at a bar downtown (I made M&M cookies). I really felt that night on Saturday for some reason, even though I didn’t really go all that hard in the club, as it were. Saturday morning, Kramer and I woke up early-ish, had our coffee, then trekked down to Boerum Hill for brunch at Mile End Deli. We walked around the neighborhood a bit, stopping in Brooklyn Fare and a few other shops before grabbing a basket of wings at The Wing Bar followed by tropical cocktails at Zombie Hut. Since we were in the neighborhood, we decided it only made sense to finish out the night by getting our friends together for dinner at Pok Pok. God, it was so good. It might be one of my favorite spots in the city. The wings are just insane, but we also had stewed duck leg, vermicelli noodles with catfish, crepes with mussels, ribs, sticky rice, spicy mushroom salad, and some other things that I’m forgetting. We were stuffed and immediately waddled home to go to sleep. On Sunday, we went to an event hosted by Delaney BBQ to watch the Superbowl. Our ticket included beers and some of the most delicious brisket that I’ve had in a while, then of course…we got more wings. I guess it was a more wing-filled weekend than I had realized until right now. But who doesn’t love wings?

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Doesn’t this just look horrible?

On day three in Thailand, we decided it was time to go see some elephants. I was excited about it until we met our driver who was taking the van full of tourists to the elephant + waterfall destination. He was really creepy and kept touching Kramer’s shoes, which Kramer was obviously not happy about. Once we were waiting for the elephant ride, the realization of what I was about to do sunk in, and I did not like it one bit. My reservations were cemented when we got on the elephant. There was a little bench on the back of the elephant that you were supposed to just kind of swing yourself into, and I felt so bad for the poor elephant who had this thing strapped to him. I honestly didn’t think it’d be as sad as it was. So, here Kramer and I were, sitting on top of this elephant with a guy in front of us, sitting on the elephant’s head, riding around the jungle. I immediately hated it and wanted off, but we paid for an hour ride, so there we were. The surrounding area was really beautiful…or so I thought until we encountered spiders the size of my freaking head in even bigger webs only inches from our faces as we traversed through the wilderness. My parents were on an elephant behind us, laughing at my very obvious hatred of the situation Kramer and I were in. I just scooted to the middle of the bench, curled into as small of a ball as I could manage, and swatted away gnats and flies as we slowly made our way back to the home base. I have never been happier to be on solid ground. Riding an elephant is just one of those things that sounds like an awesome idea until you get there. I think my parents and my brothers had a good time, though, ha. Kramer would not have been able to have a good time even if he wanted to, because I was there next to him, being very grumpy indeed. When we got off of the elephant, we went over to see the waterfall, which I obviously enjoyed much, much more, and then we got grilled chicken and coconut water, which I liked even better. Our scary driver picked us up once again, and we got back to hotel in one piece, but not before stopping at this guy’s house so he could pick up some gum, I kid you not. It was an experience, to say the least. After all of that, Kramer and I hit the beach and didn’t leave until the sun went down.

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I have a big tub of white miso (or shiromiso) in my refrigerator, so I’m always trying to find new ways to use it other than in miso soup. I once Googled how long I could even have that miso in there once. There wasn’t any mold on it or anything, but I thought that maybe I’d had the tub for a bit too long. As it turns out, miso is kind of like mustard or any condiment of that nature, because it’ll essentially last forever, or at least way longer than you expect it to. So I imagine that I’ll have plenty more miso recipes for you in the future (like my favorite miso kale salad or this miso smothered chicken). I had a big head of cauliflower in my fridge that I had neglected for about a week, so I wanted to use it up but I didn’t want to make soup or just roast it as I usually do with olive oil, salt and pepper. One of my favorite flavor combinations is fish sauce + lime + sugar – it is absolutely delicious and hits some of the best notes: sour, sweet and salty. I figured I would mix that classic combo together with some miso and add some heat from a minced serrano pepper, roast and devour. That’s exactly what I did. The cauliflower came out of the oven a few minutes before the main dish I served it alongside, but that didn’t stop Kramer or myself from picking off bits of salty, sweet and slightly spicy cauliflower from the baking sheet as we waited for dinner to be completed. We even kept picking off cold pieces long after dinner had been served. I heated up the rest of the cauliflower for leftovers the next night, and it was still good (even if I did microwave it – so sue me). This miso cauliflower is a welcome, flavorful departure from how you probably normally dish it up, and if it helps you get rid of that big tub of miso in your fridge, then all the better.

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