We Live Here

For the last few weeks I’ve been having a lot of anxiety. To spare you the fine workings of my inner-craziness, I’ll just boil it down to this: there isn’t enough fucking time.

There isn’t enough time to bake.
There isn’t enough time to go to the holiday markets.
There isn’t enough time to sip a spiked hot chocolate and admire my Christmas tree.
There isn’t enough time to eat healthy foods and go to the gym.
There isn’t enough time to make money.

You get the picture.

Anyway, after doing some soul-searching to quell my over-commitment-induced anxiety, I decided that I needed to prioritize things. This year, I’ve decided that the first priority in my life is holiday merry-making.

I want to enjoy all of the holiday cheer that this fine city of New York has to offer. When I leave New York in a week, I will continue my merry-making extravaganza in California. My days are going to be so merry and bright that sunglasses will be required.

In an effort to juice this holiday season raw, I’ve packed my calendar full of events: ice skating in Central Park, viewing the tree at Rockefeller Center, an ugly-sweater paint-your-own-pottery event, drinks with friends (both impromptu and planned), spontaneous Christmas movie viewings, and of course a whole slew of holiday parties, Mr. Fezziwig style.

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New York City is at my absolute favorite in December. The cold doesn’t get me down because it is part of the holiday magic. (I’d kindly ask Mother Nature to be done with snow and bitter cold come January 2, thankyousomuch.) It’s even grand to do touristy things at this time of year. The city is dressed up in its finest for us locals, too! The big star on Fifth Avenue, the tree, the lights on 55th Street, garlands in restaurants, trees on the sidewalk in front of CVS: it’s all part of the magic.

On Sunday, my friend Matt and I indulged in some Magnolia-eating, tree-viewing, Christmas-shopping, strolling-through-the-snow moments. When we arrived at the tree, we took the requisite pictures of each other individually in front of the tree.

[NB: I was feeling a little “down and out”, as they say, and so I put on my Sunday clothes: a fabulous vegan fur coat I acquired from a charming thrift store in Tennessee, a huge Adele-style bun, and some 6 inch stilettos. There’s no blue Monday in your Sunday clothes! I had a wonderful time, and kept singing “I am faaab-u-lous, baby!” as I strolled down the street, arm in arm with my dear friend.]

After we had taken individual photos, we searched the crowd for a person who seemed capable of taking a picture of us together [able to use an iPhone and aware of the fact that we wanted ourselves AND the tree in the picture. Sometimes it’s hard to find these people]. We located our prospective photographer and I approached her.

“Excuse me? Would you mind taking our picture?”

“Sure! No problem!” she obliged.

When we were done, I offered, “Would you like us to take yours?” She was with a friend.

She laughed, “No thanks. We live here!” More laughter.

“So do we,” I responded.

At that moment, I was pretty thankful for the fact that I could still find joy after 5 years in my gorgeous city, even among the tourists.

Here’s to days filled with love, merriment, gingerbread cookies, mulled wine, wonderful friends, giving for the joy it brings, and feeling thankful.

Go juice your holidays raw.

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I Can Cook, Too

In preparation for Snatched [WHICH STARTS A WEEK FROM TODAY! OMG!!], I ordered some groceries from Fresh Direct and have started doing some cooking.

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(The only negative points for Fresh Direct come from their excessive cardboard use. There has to be a greener way! I broke it down and recycled it all, though, so I feel good about that.)

First of all, I always thought that Fresh Direct was for rich people.

That is not true.

When you are a first time customer, you get $50 off an order of $125! WHAT!? That means you pay $75 for $125 worth of groceries! [You’re welcome, those of you who struggle with math.] You guys! That’s a crazy good deal. Because I knew that I was going to be saving so much dinero, I ordered ALL EVERYTHING ORGANIC. It made me feel good to know that my eggs were coming from free range chickens who eat organic raspberries for lunch [or something like that].

Second, I like to buy Fage yogurt. In Manhattan, that shit is like $1.79-1.99 EACH and it is NEVER ON SALE. EVER! And if it IS on sale, it is $1.29. Ya’ll. I think that is A LOT for yogurt. But. I would just pay it anyway. Cause… I like that yogurt better than the highly processed crap with aspartame that is going to kill me. On Fresh Direct, Fage is $1 EACH!!!! For people who are major yogurt eaters on this Isle of Joy, you KNOW that is a bargain.

Also, if you’ve never used Fresh Direct, you can use this link here, find a $50 off code [they’re all over the interwebz], and then we are both winners. YAY!

Ok. So. The cooking.

In the mornings, I’ve been experimenting with eggs. The first morning, I overcooked my eggs, burnt my spatula, and set off my smoke detector. Luckily, it all tasted pretty good. As the days have gone by, I think I’ve figured out my groove a little bit and… well… cooking takes a lot of time! I don’t know how I’m ever going to be able to get all of my protein and calories in because the whole process is just so darn time consuming! For instance, today I still have over 1/3 of my calories left [for dinner] and, the thought of cooking for a third time is just exhausting. I need to figure out how best to cook ahead/freeze/etc.

Also, I made these turkey lettuce wraps [a la PF Changs, minus all of those hidden calories and MSGCrack], and THEY. ARE. SO. DELICIOUS. Like, I CRAVE them.

Anyway, the turkey lettuce wraps are giving me newfound hope that I CAN actually cook. I think I just get in my own way. When I’m baking, I’m VERY precise about following a recipe. In my mind, though, being a good cook is always just about “throwing some things together!” And, well. That’s just not true. At least, not if you’re an inexperienced cook. So, for the time being, I’m sticking to recipes.

Also, not at ALL in line with preparing for Snatched, last night for Cinco de Mayo, I made these Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache. [I know they’re NOT Mexican AT ALL, but… no one complained]. Whenever I make them, I think that they would be DELICIOUS with some Girl Scout Thin Mints smashed and sprinkled on top [or perhaps one in the very bottom at the base of the cupcake?], but then I think to myself “Yo. That’s using a $5 box of cookies as a garnish. That’s too rich for my blood.” HOWEVER. If you have a box of Thin Mints laying around, and you think to yourself, “I don’t know how I’ll ever eat this ENTIRE box of Thin Mints before next cookie season!” this is your solution.

So here’s the cupcake recipe if you are so inclined [So simple! So easy to make!]:

CUPCAKES:

2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp peppermint extract

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
5 tbsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp coffee grounds
1 tsp salt

3/4 cup strong black coffee
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees; line cupcake pan. [It’s best if you have fancy houndstooth-patterned cupcake liners, courtesy of a lovely friend.]
2. Cream sugar, butter, eggs with hand mixer until fluffy (3-5 minutes); add sour cream and peppermint extract.
3. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, coffee grounds, salt.
4. In a measuring cup, combine coffee and vanilla.
5. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the coffee mixture to the wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly.
6. FIll the cupcake liners. Bake ~20 minutes. Makes around 24 cupcakes.

GANACHE:

8 oz (or more – based on thickness preference) dark chocolate
3/4 cup whipping cream/heavy cream

1. Boil whipping cream.
2. Pour over chocolate.
3. Stir.
4. Let cool.
5. Resist the urge to just eat out of bowl. You must frost your cupcakes!

[I like to use more chocolate here because I like my ganache to be sorta thick… It’s easier to manage then. And yes, I’m still talking about ganache here.]

IF YOU ARE FLOSSY/FLY/FANCY:

Crumble up some Girl Scout Thin Mints and sprinkle on top of your cupcakes.

Image(Recipe adapted from Crazy About Cupcakes by Krystina Castella)

And just for kicks, a picture of my very clean kitchen before the festivities began. Nothing makes me happier than a clean apartment!

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