Sunday, September 28, 2008

Life is Good

Thanks to Life is Good for mentioning my blog as a foodie blog she liked :)

I write to remember the fun stuff happening here in Manhattan, and to share it with friends and family. Since the cooking part is a fun part, I like to write about that too.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I have wanted to make Chicken Tortilla Soup for a really long time, and I'm not really sure why I haven't until today. I guess I've got lots of favorite soups and stews, and I just picked one of those before now. This is a super soup when the weather is thinking fall but hasn't really gotten cold - maybe like a Mexican winter night? Actually, normally at this point I would be making butternut squash soup with cracked pepper, or a hearty chili.

I ordered home made stock from Fresh Direct, figuring I'd suppliment it with stock I made from the bones from a rotissery chicken. And actually I had enough with what I made, so I'll freeze that stuff from Fresh Direct. I used all the chicken from the bones, and steamed 2 additional small breasts when I made the stock.

This soup is warm and not overtly spicy, but the heat stays in your mouth for a while. Good with a very cold light beer.


Bones from a rotissery chicken, and all the juices from the bottom of the package (discard the skin, save the meat)

5 or 6 stalks of celery (mine was limp and not good for anything so I put in more than I would usually) broken in 3 or 4 places - extra points if there are celery leaves attached :)

2 or 3 carrots, broken in half

Put it all in a pot, cover with water (I used the container for the chicken to put the water in the pot, and that way got all caramelized juices in the bottom) and simmer for an hour or 2.

If you are using additional chicken, add the raw boneless breasts to the pot and simmer for another 20 -25 minutes. Pluck them out when they are done.

Strain the stock in to a bowl, rinse the pot and start assembling the soup.

Assembling the Soup:

1T oil

2 carrots chopped small

1 extra large onion chopped medium

2 4 oz cans of chopped chiles

1 28 oz can of fire roasted chopped tomatoes

8 cups stock

2 or 3 cups of rough chopped cooked chicken

3 or 4 tortillas cut in short strips

Juice of 1 lime

bunch of cilantro, chopped

1 or 2 t ground smoked chipotle pepper

2T ground cumin

3T chili powder

sour cream for garnish

Add a glug of oil to the bottom of the stock pot, and caramelize the onions - after 10 minutes or so, add the carrots. When everything has a nice brown hue, add everything except the sour cream - and give it a taste. Make adjustments as you like.

Serve it up in a nice deep 2 C bowl with a small dollop of sour cream. And like I said before - it goes great with beer.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Cafe Europa and Exploring at Lunch

First week of work is down - I managed to find a clean looking salad joint called Cafe Europa - it's owned by PAX foods, a chain prevalent here in the city. What drew me in was the big sign announcing chopped salads. I love chopped salads - they are pre-dressed and everything is bite sized or smaller so no stray pieces jump off your fork.

They have a nice model - you pick up a bowl of lettuce - they have just spinach, or a mixed greens or romaine, and then you have a guy who puts a scoop of what ever you want on it. Like sunflower seeds, tomatoes, cukes, carrots, etc, and different protein and cheese options, and then they pop the whole thing in a pseudo-food processor. So no stray lettuce! Then they put it in a big bowl and dress the whole thing. So yummy :)

Walking around near work it's kinda funny just how diverse the neighborhood is. We have a strip club within a block, and a couple of sexy lingerie shops. The Empire State building is right there, and there are souvenier shops that sell 15 I love NY T-shirts for $10. (just so you know, when we first got here I bought Jilly one of these T-shirts for $5...). Anyway, I already mentioned Macy's, and it looks like JC Penney will be here in the spring (not open yet).

Also, all the fast food joints have I have avoided because the other locations looked so nasty. These look ok - Micky D's, Wendy's, BK...Subway (though we do go to the one near us for this), dunkin donuts, starbucks...

Then there are the Korean BBQ places - there are at least 6 of them. I haven't dared to go in yet as nothing is in English and I don't read Korean symbols. I'm sure I will at some point, just not the first week :)

I've been taking the 4/5/6 to the N/R/W, but my new boss pointed out that I can take the 6 to 33rd and walk 4 long blocks. Now that I have some comfortable shoes I might even consider that :)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Walking in Work Shoes II

OK - today I felt like twinkle toes on the subway in my bright white Asics. Usually saved for action at the gym or a tour around the track at the resevoir, I put 'em on and wore 'em to work. I felt conspicuous, but really had to smile since my feet were happy :) I took some time at lunch and went to Macy's (essentially across the street) and bought some Rockports that look like rugged ballet slipper types. They are black, so I think I won't feel as conspicuous, but still will have happy feet.

Nobody is going to mistake me for a NYC fashionista, but c'est la vie.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Walking in Work Shoes

O M G.

My feet hurt. I have now tried shoes by Clarke, Born and Dansko, and none are working to walk that 1/2 mile to the train station, walk all day including around the block when I get lunch (2 shorts and 2 longs - almost another 1/2 mile), and then the 1/2 mile home. Some New Yorkers actually wear little pointy heels everywhere they go. At least I've chosen "sensible" shoes (definitely not fashionable). I miss the late 80's in Boston when you could walk to work in your sneakers and change into your work shoes there. I don't know if it was an 80's thing or a Boston thing, but man, I see why there are more than 2 feet places on every block here. I'll just have to keep trying. Either that or twist off my toes. Not sure which will be more painful!

Other than the feet thing, work is going well, and I can already see lots of ways to add value. Gotta love that :)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Feast of San Gennaro

Yesterday, after a nap to shake out the cobwebs in my head, we decided to take a trek down to Little Italy and visit the Feast of San Gennaro. It's a 10 day Italian extravaganza that wraps up today. I'd heard from folks that this is one street fair that is not to be missed, so we hopped on the 6. It was a strange subway day as there was construction on this line and all local and express trains were running on the 6 tracks. We got a little bit of express (before Grand Central) and then back to the regular schedule. This worked out great since we were heading pretty far south.

When you get to the top of the subway entrance at Canal Street, it is just jammed with people - there are stalls selling everything you can imagine - knock off purses, knock off watches, knock off DVDs - you name it, you can get it as a knock off here. Keep moving or you will get run over. We headed East to Mulbury Street as the Feast was essentially on Mulberry between Canal (at the South) and Houston (at the North). Here is the entrance to at Canal. The red, white and green decorations over the street are actually there year round from what I've seen.

I would have taken more pictures, but it was a struggle just to move because there were so many people.

This fair was different than all the others in that there weren't vendors trying to sell the usual street jewelry, etc. There were vendors selling T-shirts, but they had Italian sayings on them. I saw one beefy man buy his girlfriend a teeny T-shirt that said "Sexy Sicilian" on it :) There were a couple of stalls that sold hand rolled cigars (about $10 each), and one stall that had some actor who played in the Godfather who was signing autographs and taking pictures with fans. I can't imagine how, but there were carnival rides brought in and tucked in alleys and on side streets for the under 5 set. I should have taken a picture of the ferris wheel. And there were many games like shooting a basketball, or knocking down milk bottles with a baseball to win big plush animals. More so on the Canal Street side, there were a number of Italian restaurants which had errected temporary covered seating in the streets for all the extra folks coming to this part of town. People were eating good looking seafood, pasta, chicken and veal with bottles and carafes of wine, and smiling and chatting.

This must be the whole point of the fair (other than raising money for a church in the neighborhood). There were lots of food vendors selling walking food like sausage subs and shish-ke-bab. Even sweetbreads. I can't even imagine eating sweetbreads from a street cart, but people must do it. There were carts with Italian candies that are broken up with a hammer and chisel - white with nuts running through it. It was some kind of hardened nugat type candy.

And yes - there were the infamous fried oreos. Now I saw someone eating one (remember everyone is packed in pretty tightly) and I could see where she had bitten into it - it was a heavily battered and fried glob of dough with the cookie inside still intact - not melted or anything. It really didn't look good.

Rick and I stopped at Grotta Azzurra Ristorante, and although they had outside seating we elected to sit inside. After downing a couple glasses of water, we took a look at the menu. They had a special price fixe lunch for $9.95 which included one pasta dish and one entree.

Rick had the Rigatoni Ala Vodka to start and then Chicken Parmesean. The Rigatoni was cooked well, and the sauce was the creamy pink color we expected, though I thought it had a flavor reminicent of spagetti-o's. The Chicken Parmesean was outstanding - lightly breaded with some cheese and fried, with traditional marinara and mozzerella on top. It came with sauteed broccoli and roasted garlic potatoes which were both amazing. Rick had a Stella Artois (a lighter import beer) with lunch.

I had the Penne con Broccoli, which has broccoli, sun dried tomatoes and olives. Now, I don't really care for sun dried tomatoes or olives at all, but I appreciate how the flavors add complexity to a sauce. I just left those on my plate. The pasta and broccoli were tasty and garlicy. Then I had the Basa - a white fish done in the oregenata style (which I call down right yummy). It was garlicy and must have been roasted in wine and olive oil. The top was a little dry, but I just turned the fish over, bite by bite, and it was refreshed by the juices in my plate. It was a really good sized piece of fish, and it came with those tasty broccoli florettes and roasted potatoes Rick had. There was no way to finish all this food, but I felt a little Italian at least trying it all. I had a light Pinot Grigio and it was just fabulous with my fish.

We made our way back to the apartment from the Bleeker Street station and I enjoyed coming home to the flowers Rick brought me Friday afternoon.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Back from NH

I'm back from NH. I got a chance to hug Ann, and spend some time with her, and go to the services. I also got to visit my brother, my in-laws and my friend Suzanne. I'm a little tired, so I'm just going to post some pictures from the visit.Enjoy :)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I'll be away for a few days

Ann's Dad died from lung cancer late on Friday night.

I'm heading to NH for a few days to support Ann and her family and attend the visiting hours on Wednesday evening. So far it looks like they will be from 4:00 to 6:30 pm and a service at 6:30 at Kent and Pelzar funeral home. select William F. Allen.

Ann's Dad was diagnosed wth lung cancer late last fall, and went through a course of chemotherapy starting in NH and finishing in Florida where her mom and dad spent their winters. Ann took some long weekends to visit her parents on her own, and brought her family during school vacations to spend time with them as well. I know she appreciated that she was able to take the time, and at times work remotely, in order to spend time visiting while the winters were cold in the northeast.

I'm quite confident Bill is in Heaven, relieved from the pain, confusion and discomfort he experienced in his last few weeks. I'm praying that Ann and her mom Linda, and the rest of her family find comfort during this incredibly difficult time. I'd appreciate it if you would say a prayer for them as well. Thanks.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fall Business Attire

All those interviews were worth it! I will no longer be a lady of leisure, and I'll be back in corporate IT working to make processes more effective and efficient.

My new role requires me to dress in business attire, which I haven't had to wear in at least 10 years. Now that I'm really thinking about it, maybe my shopping this week wasn't quite professional enough, but maybe it was. Back in the day it was all suits, and now it's some separates... I guess it will take some time to figure it all out again :) I do get casual Fridays (which are business casual).

So, I've spent some time (surprise, surprise) shopping! I went to Loehmann's and TJ Maxx yesterday - the line at Tj's was like a line for a rollercoaster at Walt Disney World during February vacation - at least 100 people in line - crazy crazy. Today I went to Filene's Basement and DSW. My wardrobe is getting more professional, but I may need to hit Saks and Talbots before my first day ;) I'll keep you in the loop ;)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Quintessential Late Summer Lunch

Is there anything better than a sandwich made with a thickly sliced garden grown tomato, lightly toasted white sourdough bread and real mayonnaise? All that with a sprinkle of sea salt. Heaven!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Stovetop Popcorn with Real Butter and Salt

Sometime after my 5th purchase of a 6 oz bag of specialty mediterranean cheesey potato chips at $3.39 per bag (single serving size unfortunately - there is no way you can open a bag of these and not finish them), I began getting cravings for real home cooked popcorn, one of the most cost effective snack foods ever invented. Not microwaved popcorn with yellow butter like powder all over, and not movie theater popcorn with yellow greasy sludge posing for real butter, but the actual popcorn my mom would make when I was a kid and she had friends come over to play kitty whist. We got to have our own little bowls of the well buttered and well salted loveliness, but the most amazing part was getting up the next morning. Pushing aside a couple of highball glasses, the big white corningware bowl of leftover popcorn was sitting on the counter with lots of butter and salt hardened at the bottom.

Real popcorn is really tasty even if you have to wash the pan.

Most of my cooking is a weighted decision based on clean up. I love to cook. I hate to clean up. I generally won't make pasta and sauce because the result is not worth cleaning the 2 pans it requires. I know - it makes me sound lazy and frankly, when it comes to dish washing, I really am. This is the reason why I had not made homemade popcorn in at least the last 20 years. Take it as you will.

Lately I have been thinking more and more about health, and flavor versus calories, and the big ole butt that follows me every day. If I'm going to have a treat, like the specialty potato chips or popcorn, the flavor better be worth it. Now that calories, carbs and salt concern me more than fat, I've been rethinking the whole popcorn thing. That plus when I got a good look at the sludge that they put on movie theater popcorn - that just can't be good for anyone - even as a treat. What kind of chemicals live there???

So - I've recently taken to cooking popcorn kernels on the stovetop just like my mom did when I could just barely pull that big white corningware bowl off the counter in the morning before she got up.

As I made some this afternoon, it occurred to me that there is probably a whole generation of people out there who really aren't sure how to make this really yummy treat, so why not post a recipe??? :)

- A heavy bottom sauce pot with a good fitting lid - maybe 2 oe 3 quarts in size or a dutch oven if you are serving a crowd

- A glug of vegetable, canola or peanut oil - just enough to coat the bottom of the pan

- A handful (or 2 or 3) of popping corn to cover the bottom of the pan in 1 layer or up to a layer and a half

- a knob of butter

- a sprinkle of salt

Put the pot on the stove and add your oil and popping corn.

Cover the pot with the lid and turn the heat on high

Listen for the corn to begin popping

Pop the butter in the microwave and melt it

Once the popping slows, shake the pan a bit so any unpopped kernels fall to the bottom

Just before the popping stops, take the pan off the heat

When it seems that you can open the pan without having an avelanche of white kernels whizzing across the kitchen, take off the lid of the pan and pour the popcorn into a specially assigned popcorn bowl like that big white corningwear bowl my mom had. Create a tradition.

Drizzle the butter over the hot popcorn, and sprinkle salt over it. I use a knife to dip down in the bowl and pull up some unsalted popcorn, and then add more salt. Mix it about and add as much butter and salt as you like. Yes, there are calories, but at least the butter is real and it tastes amazing.


Third Avenue Street Fair

After I left Dave and Michele waiting for their bus yesterday, I made my way back to the upper east side, and was pleasantly surprised to be reminded that the Third Avenue Street Fair was today! It was from 59th street to 86th street - a very big fair!! With such perfect weather I decided I needed to get out. Rick was stuck doing homework, and it would be better if I was out and about so he could concentrate.

This fair had a lot of back to school stuff (back packs, socks, underwear) and back to college (curtains, sheets, handbags, jewelry, and these big strange woven bowls that looked like they came from Asia or China).

A section of the fair was like an end of season sale for the clothing - kinda like Market Square Day on Market Street in Portsmouth:) And well - what's a street fair without food?

This fair had the usual skewers and fries and onion rings and sausage subs with peppers and onions. But also, Thai selections ($1 each?) and Greek (I was going to bring home baclava until the woman ahead of me ordered the Greek Custard - I'd never tried that, so I brought that home instead :), and home made pickles (yup brought home some home made half sour pickles - yum!), fried funnel cakes, and yes, fried oreo cookies (no, I didn't try this travesty. Should I have? Actually, I didn't have the $5 at that point.). Many more food types - I was pleasantly surprised by the variety.

I did get 2 cashmere scarves for $15, and a leopard print pashmina for $5. Then I came upon a purple striped scarf - it had gathers to make more of a pattern and a simple ruffle around the outside - yes, bought that too.

Michele would have liked shopping here - maybe next year :)

Playing Tourist on a Rainy Weekend Day in NYC

We woke up yesterday, and it looked like we missed the early morning shower - everything was wet, but it wasn't raining now. I logged on to and looked at the hour by hour outline to see how the day might play out weather wise. We had a chance earlier in the day to miss the rain, but later was a 100% chance to meet Tropical Storm Hannah for ourselves.

We all went out for breakfast at Midnight Express on the corner of 2nd Ave and 89th street. They have lots of windows and airconditioning so you can people watch in comfort :) Rick had eggs benedict, Michele had an omlette and Dave and I had a couple eggs with sausage. Everybody got homefries and toast. We were all fueled and ready for adventure.

Since it was going to be a crummy day, we decided to forgo the double decker bus tour. Dave was interested in going to the American Museum of Natural History (the one from the movie "Night at the Museum" with Ben Stiller) and when I mentioned the Macy's One Day sale to Michele, her eyes just twinkled, so we decided that the girls and the boys would go their separate ways and meet up around 3 or 4. We had reservations at Meson Sevilla for dinner at 5:30 and we were going to see a show after, so we still had lots to do together.

Michele and I took a cab from the restaurant to Macy's, and although we didn't bank on mid-town traffic, we did get there in 1 piece! I think because the weather was so crummy and it was expected to rain that not as many people were at the store. This was great for us - get our of our way we are power shopping! We looked at dresses and shoes and casual wear and business wear... we both got a pair of very cute and comfortable mary-janes, and Michele bought this totebag to remember her NYC trip.

When it was time to head back to the apartment, we decided to just take the subway since the cab had taken so long earlier. It would have been faster, too, if I hadn't missed our stop at 59th and Lex from the N/R/W. Since I missed that, we ended up in Queens and had to double back. Whoops! While we chit chatted waiting for the train back to Manhattan, I took another picture of Michele with all our loot!

At this point we are pretty much melting - the tropical storm had pushed the humidity into the city and I think it was at 99.999%. Michele had the great idea to skip dinner out and just order pizza for dinner as it was getting late. We hopped the train to Manhattan and then got on the 5 train to the 86th street stop. The rain was coming down in buckets at this point, and someone was looking out for us because low and behold, there was a cab for us just outside the subway.

We got back and the boys were watching Superman Returns (thanks Netflix!), all stretched out and comfy. They enjoyed the dinasaurs and fossils at the museum, and Dave noted that you could spend a number of days there to really see everything.

We caught our breath and rehydrated from our adventure. The guys were glad to have pizza, so we ordered Dominos on line - a couple Brooklyn's with pepperoni. Michele and Dave walked to their hotel (in the rain with only 1 umbrella! :( and got showered and dressed for the show, and we got all dolled up too. We cabbed it over to the West Side Theater and made our way to the second floor so we could take in "The Marvelous Wonderettes".

I ordered the tickets a couple weeks ago on as suggested by one blog reader (thank you Elphaba!) so we just picked them up at the will-call window and were in the 10th row. It was an intimate theater, and the show was great. It was filled with familiar pop songs from the 50's and 60's, and they used the songs to express the story kind of in the same way that Mamma Mia does. Not the same story at all, just a similar approach. It was a very good show, the 4 actresses were great character acters and vocalists. We all enjoyed it!

After the show, Dave and Michele came back to the apartment with us for a post show cocktail. Once we got everything poured and everybody comfortable, I remembered we still had half an apple pie! We got to have dessert too :) We stayed up way too late, but we had a lot of fun.

This morning we got up earlier and walked over to have brunch at Timmy's on the River. The weather is entirely different than yesterday - the sky is as clear as a bell, the temp is at least 15 degrees cooler and there is zero humidity. We decided to eat outside, and got a great table. We enjoyed the eggs and homefries and very tasty multigrain toast - all with a river view and a pleasant breeze.

After we went back to the Mariott Courtyard so Dave and Michele could check out. I got a peek at their room - a corner with a river view and large enough for a loveseat! It's a nice hotel - much nicer than the Marriot in mid-town.

I escorted Dave and Michele to their gate at Port Authority for the noon bus back to Boston so they could catch a 5:45 back to the Manchester Airport. I got some parting shots. They said they had a great time, and I can see by the smiles they definitely did :)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Dave and Michele come to visit!

Today Dave and Michele, Rick's parents, braved the 5:30 am bus schedule and made their way to NYC. I had a second interview this morning, and on my way out the door I got a call from Michele that they would be arriving around 11:30. The Greyhound website made it look like they would arrive at 1:00 so I'm really glad she called! Since it was just an hour and a half until they arrived, and I was in that part of town, and Macy's was between here and there, I did a little shopping and then went to pick them up. They still had smiles on their faces when they got into Port Authority so the trip went well. We took a cab to the upper east side and made our way to the apartment.

After bio breaks, a 5 cent tour and a glass of water (whew, it's hot again) we decided to hit Cilanto's for lunch. Michele had a Chicken Burrito, and Dave had a Chicken Taco and Rick and I had Steak Burritos. They have really tasty salsa here too - a salsa fresca, with plantain chips and colored tortilla chips. We ordered drinks - Michele and I had the sangria - a kind of red wine punch with red raspberries as a garnish - very yummy! Dave ordered a cold beer, and Rick had a frozen margarita to sooth his sore throat. It was really hot out so it was nice to have a little zing in our drinks :)

After getting up way before o-dark-thirty, Dave and Michele checked into the Marriott Courtyard in the upper east side, and I think Dave might have had a bit of a snooze. This is a gift to them to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary, so maybe they celebrated - who knows? :)

They returned for dinner, and we had a little rice, a little chicken a little mushrooms and a little gravy. Dinner was little because I baked an apple pie the day before, and we wanted to get to the good stuff :) I probably should have brewed some decaf coffee, but I didn't think of it. We sat at the table and caught up on life and how everything is going, and then started talking about what to do tomorrow. We are going to wait to see how the weather turns out - the remains of hurricante Hannah are supposed to rain on us, but maybe we'll get lucky and stay dry :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Back To School??

Wow - what a day! Job search was A#1 today - a phone interview in the morning, then follow up documents, then pulling together my resume (thanks Rick for setting up the printer on your machine :) and whoops, the updates need to go on nice paper - don't have any here, so I'll just run to Staples - it's only 4 or 5 blocks away. I get there and in order to have the resume printed, I needed to leave it all there and come back later. That wasn't going to work, so I decided to just buy the nice paper. I went to the second floor where all the retail stuff was via the elevator. I picked up the paper, and then realized there are literally 75 people in line, and 4 cashiers. The chick behind me was bitching on the phone about how the schools should send home the "requirement lists" for the kids before school starts. Well, that explains it. I went to my face to face interview, with my resume on nice paper, and nobody needed a copy. Ah well - they must have already read it since I was there :)