An Apple a Day

Anyone in the health industry will tell you that there is a lot of truth in the old adage: an apple a day keeps the doctor away.  Apples are high in fiber and antioxidants and something I’ve never been a big fan of until moving to NYC.  I mean sure, if you set a slice of apple pie al a mode in front of me I will insure every single crumb is consumed, but to just eat an apple because?  Nope.  I would eat an apple because they’re relatively inexpensive and good for you, but not because I loooooooved it.  Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate apples–I just prefer…um….almost every other type of fruit, except honeydew melons.  Then, it happened.  I moved to New York State.  THE BEST THING, in my humble opinion, about living in New York State is having an actual season of Autumn (as opposed to Texas where Autumn is classified more as “finally, a break in the heat wave”).  What, might you ask, does one do in Autumn?  Thank you for asking: pick apples.  But this is not a post about picking apples, because I have yet to actually go to an orchard to pick apples.   What I do is go to the Farmer’s Market and pick apples.

Check out all those apples!

Check out all those apples!

The first thing you need to do is branch out of red delicious and granny smiths.  A quick Google search will tell you that that there are over 7,500 varieties of apples world-wide.  WHAT THE WHAT?!?!?!?  Honestly, I was expecting and hoping for a 100 to wow & amaze you.  Guess who’s wowed and amazed now?!?!?!?  Before you write in and tell me that there are lots of varieties of apples available in Texas, I’m just going to tell you that fine, there are.  But I found my (current) favorite apple that was created here in the Empire State: empire apples:  they are crisp, slightly tart, with a sweet, clean, burst of apple finish.  more flavorful than red delicious, more tangy than galas, a lot less tart than a granny smith.  I also really love honeycrisps, thanks FB post by Carrie, who proclaimed them to be her favorite. I like that they are crisp and tangy with a honey finish (I’m sure lending itself to the name!).  My advice on honeycrisps: let them set for a few days–the longer you leave them, the sweeter they become.  I was so excited to try a honeycrisp, I had one on the way home and honestly, I was slightly disappointed–as they were by far the most expensive–and to me they tasted a lot like a granny smith (imagine if you drizzled unsweet honey on a granny smith–that’s what it tasted like to me).  It took a few days (i.e. I ate the rest of my apples) and difference was completely noticeable, leading to a complete change of heart (thanks Carrie!)!!

I could go on and on about all the apples I’ve tried, thanks to the Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Terminal, but this is a birthday post for Chelle, so I feel that a little splurging is necessary.  I found these tasty little morsels in the latest Food Network magazine.  I do have to admit that I haven’t tried them yet.  But c’mon, it’s a apple pie bite on a stick–how can you go wrong?!?!?!  Of course, I use empire apples–like granny smiths are firm enough to hold up…unlike, for example red delicious which get schmushy–yeah, it’s a technical cooking term (at least in my house!).  Oh and just in case you’d like to add it to your Food Network recipe box, there’s a link on the title.

Apple-Berry Pie Pops

3 apples (such as Golden Delicious and/or McIntosh), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup raspberries
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 14-ounce packages refrigerated pie dough
1 large egg, beaten
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Toss the apples, raspberries, granulated sugar and lemon juice in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the fruit mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples aresoft and the raspberries break down, 8 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour, cinnamon and nutmeg and stir until the juices begin to thicken, about 1 minute; set aside to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Unroll the pie dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut out 2 1/2-inch rounds with a cookie cutter or glass (you should get about 48 rounds). Arrange half of the rounds on the prepared baking sheets; put a rounded teaspoonful of filling in the center of each. Brush the edges of the dough with water, then top with the remaining dough rounds, crimping the edges together with a fork to seal.

Brush the pies with the beaten egg and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Cut a small X in the center of each to allow steam to escape. Transfer to the oven and bake until golden, 22 to 24 minutes. Let cool slightly on the baking sheets, then insert a lollipop stick into each. Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 3 days.

Here’s what they should look like (hahahaha…I mean, I’m just admitting right now, mine won’t!)

My Kinda "Lolli" Pop!

My Kinda “Lolli” Pop!

Easy as, well you know ;- )

Happy Birthday Chelle!

Wicked Fun

Part of Ann’s birthday weekend celebrations included going to see Wicked.  Which, of course, is one of my favorite musicals–just as The Wizard of Oz is my favorite movie.  Emeralds and rubies and flying monkeys, oh my!

Sharing a birthday with Ann is Marilyn, who is, quite simply, my favorite Broadway star of all!  And I’m not just saying that because she’s the only Broadway star that I know (she played Miss Morris in the original Broadway production of The Seven Year Itch with Tom Ewell for 2 years).  She is in one word: fabulous.  Of course, she would kill me if I revealed her age, so I’m just going to say that I hope one day to be able to look back on my life and have it filled with as much fun and amazement as Marilyn.

I wonder if, while growing up in California, she ever realized what her life would entail?  She commented to me just the other day that her decision to become an actress was simply because her cousin wanted to be an actress (please note, Marilyn pointed out, that her cousin wasn’t an actress, she only wanted to be one!).  But that is typical Marilyn.  She is very much a Carpe Diem lady–and if nothing else, Marilyn has seemingly and very gracefully seized each and every day.  As a reminder and a walk down memory lane, her husband Philip bought her a map and pins so that they could pin all the places that they have been (take that Pinterest! real-live pinning!).  My guess is that they are going to need more pins.  I don’t know anyone more traveled than they are.  Name a country.  Any country.  They have been there, done that, and have amazing stories to tell.

For me, Marilyn is my inspiration, and, as such, my muse.  While I have no desire to become an actress, I do have a great desire to see the world…piece by piece, pin by pin, until my map is literally little red dots.

Many more happy birthdays Marilyn and may your adventurous spirit always soar!  xoxo

a quick camel ride...

a quick camel ride…

Yo Quiero Tequila!

So for those of you thinking this would be a blog about tequila, alas, you would be wrong.  This is a post about a place in Chelsea called Tequila Chito’s.  It’s a dive of a Mexican place that is, honestly, my go-to when it comes to going out.  And the person I usually go to it with is Ann (although I do confess to cheating on her a couple of times with other people)–she is the one who introduced me to Chito’s and it’s her birthday, so Happy Birthday Ann!

And before I go any further, I need to tell you where it’s located: 23rd Street between 8th & 9th Ave (closer to 9th).  I’m mentioning this now because Ann & I go there so often that when inviting new people, let’s say Ann’s brother and sis-in-law for her birthday dinner.  Text messaging went something like this:

We’re here and going to grab a drink.  Are you almost here?

Yeah, sure…as soon as you tell us where it is.

Oh right.

There are two things we order (we being Ann & I): pina coladas and enchiladas suizas.

That’s a lie of course, because we’ve also ordered nachos, tortilla soup, margaritas, tacos, and sangria.

But it is in the $4 pina coladas and the plate of cheesy enchiladas slathered in suizas sauce where our hearts truly lie.  And apparently we gushed about it enough that THE ENTIRE TABLE ordered the exact same thing!  That’s right pina coladas and suizas all around!

A great birthday dinner, indeed!  Feliz cumpleanos, Annie!  🙂

Happiness in a Glass--even the orange is smiling!

Happiness in a Glass–even the orange is smiling!

 

 

The National Beer of Texas!

I know that I have already written a post on Stout extolling the virtues of its sauce, but since it’s Jonas’s birthday today–I feel like reminiscing about the first time we went to Stout.

As previously mentioned, Stout is the place where the Texas Exes meet.  This means that on game day it’s a bit…well…crazy.  A sea of burnt orange, tables are just for holding jackets & purses because everyone is on their feet yelling, screaming and making new friends.  But there are two game days where crazy is taken to a whole new level.  Well, not new if you’re from the south and are used to College Game Day.  But to anyone who grew up north of the Mason-Dixon line and aren’t familiar with the tradition, a normal game day is daunting enough.  But then there are rival days.  The University of Texas has two rivals Texas A&M (played on Thanksgiving) and Oklahoma University (played during The Texas State Fair).

Enter Jonas, who once flippantly commented he played college football, he’s familiar with College Game Day.  But you’re from here, it’s not the same. I replied.  He assured me it was (that comment was met with a very arched eyebrow) alright.  you. me. Red River Rivalry.  Stout.  Next Saturday.  I was nice and texted him game day to remind him NOT to wear red if he valued his life [he later thanked me profusely!].

We arrived early and already the place was packed.  To me, it was the welcomed sight of familiarity; it was, at this very moment, home.  I floated in a fit of Texan happiness, found the only two unguarded seats at the bar and turned to ask Jonas what he wanted to drink.  Only, there was no Jonas standing next to me.  Jonas was standing just left of the door, ghostly pale and frozen in fear while trying to decide if he should brave the sea of burnt orange or just cut his losses and bolt out the door.  I walked back over and gently guided him to our barstools.  You okay?  “I-uh-wha-uh…yyyyyyeah-wha??”  It’s game day.  And it’s a big game.  Don’t worry, it’ll be fun.  What do you want to drink?  “I don’t know, a frozen something fruity.”  No.  It’s game day.  You’re choices are beer, beer, or whenever there is a touchdown, whiskey.  “I don’t like beer.”  Learn.  Quickly.  And don’t say that too loudly. 

Okay, so perhaps I’m being a tad bit dramatic, I couldn’t help it–I would NOT be at the bar with a fruity, frozen drink friend during the Red River Rivalry.  But then…out of the corner of my eye, I saw it.  Like a beacon in the night, tempting me from inside the beer cooler.

A beautiful sight in NYC

A beautiful sight in NYC

That’s right, Lone Star: The National Beer of Texas!  Fearful it was a mirage, I asked the bartender, if that was really Lone Star beer.  “Yep, you must have lived in Texas, because only Texans know what that is.”  Yes, I am.  How much? “$6”  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA  no thanks.  “Ahhhh, and now I know that you must be FROM Texas.  On game day they’re only $4”  We’ll take two.

Jonas looked a bit apprehensive.  But he was a good sport and you know what?  I made Jonas a lover of Lone Star.  You see, while I order Lone Star for the sheer nostalgic purposes and to support anything from The Great State of Texas, it’s actually light, crisp, and very refreshing.  It’s great for people, like Jonas, who think they don’t like beer.

And did I mention it pairs very nicely with Stout Sauce?  Well, it does!  That day there were a lot of Lone Stars, a lot of fries and a lot of Stout sauce consumed.  Jonas only freaked out one more time when our neighbor tried to give him high five after a great play and he looked at me and said “what do I do?  I don’t know her!” You’ve been drinking and cheering next to her for 2 quarters–give her a high five!!  The game was a nail biter and in the end–even though OU were the favorites to win–the Longhorns prevailed!  Best of all, Jonas learned how tasty Texas beer and how friendly a bar full of Texans could be!

Cheers Jonas, Happy Birthday!!

Hook 'Em Horns!

Hook ‘Em Horns!

Serefe, Coffee!

Java. Joe.  Espresso. Brewed. Latte. Cappuccino. Mocha. Drip. French press. Melitta.  Black. Breve. Cream. Sugar. Light & Sweet.  No matter how you serve it, coffee is definitely something I could NOT dream of living without.  With reckless abandon, I ignore any medical advice telling me to cut back.  I tried that once, with disastrous results (in a night Emily and a poor waitress will never forget!).

But this is not that story.  This is simply a coffee story.  And it’s for Becca because she shares my love and devotion to the amazing little coffee bean in all its glory.  And it’s her birthday, so this one’s for you: HAPPY BIRTHDAY BECCA!!  🙂

I’m sure you all know that coffee originated in Africa.  Ethiopia to be exact, in the 7th century, where legend has it a lonely goatherd (bonus points if you’re singing The Sound of Music right now!) named Kaldi noticed that when his goats ate berries off a particular tree, they became high-spririted and energetic.  I would like to interject here that I’m not sure how he could tell the difference.  My dealings with goats have always been high-spirited and energetic.  But apparently his goats were even more lively than normal (eeeeek!).  Being curious (and having not read my Vegemite post about potentials of poisoning) Kaldi decided to try some of the berries himself and lo & behold! that genius of a man realized he was on to something special.  He shared his findings with the local monastery, who began making a drink with the berries.  Slowly the magical effects of these berries began to spread–first throughout the Arabian peninsula and then branching out to the rest of the world.

When one googles “first coffeehouse in the world” a quick search shows that the first coffee house appeared in Damascus in 1530 and then Cairo, moving eastward until they arrived Constantinople (and no, you can’t go back!) in the late 1500s and BOOM! Turkey took it to a whole new level. Ironically, when I was visiting Turkey I was unaware of the role it played in coffee history.  I just knew that I loved Turkish coffee.

Turkish-coffee-631

All throughout this trip, poor April was subjected to watching me drink this sludge-looking stuff from cafe to cafe, and in my humble opinion, no meal we had was complete without it!  Yes, that’s a tiny cup of coffee–but trust me when I say it packs a punch!  The coffee is ground so fine it feels like silt.  It is placed in the cup and then hot sugar water is added.  The concoction is NOT stirred, but rather the coffee is allowed to sit for a few minutes, giving the coffee time to settle at the bottom of the cup.  And yes, it is traditionally served sweet.  At first I would ask for it unsweetened, but everyone seemed offended and taken aback that anyone would ever drink it unsweet.  Finally, I caved.  After all, when in Rome Istanbul, Bodrum, Ephesus, Pamukkale, Gallipoli, Troy….

Coffee has certainly had a very tumultuous history.  And why shouldn’t it?  After all, I think it to be the nectar of the Gods.  History is full of coffee zealots, who share this sentiment and were willing to risk life and limb to spread the coffee love!   And I, for one, am a very grateful girl!! Furthermore, I am not alone: an estimated 400 billion cups of coffee are served a day AND it’s the second most traded commodity [CoffeeMarvel]. If you’re interested in reading more about the history of coffee, check out this fascinating book (at least, fascinating to me and my love of coffee) called Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World by Mark Pendergrast, who very appropriately penned the following:

Coffee provided an intellectual stimulant, a pleasant way to feel increased energy without any apparent ill effects.  Coffeehouses allowed people to get together for conversation, entertainment and business, inspiring agreements, poetry, and irreverence in equal measure.  So important did the brew become in Turkey that a lack of sufficient coffee provided grounds for a woman to seek divorce.

Two things: I’m quite sure that pun was intended…grounds for divorce…hahahaha!  AND I knew I like the Turks for a reason!

Serefe, Becca!  Mutlu Yıllar!

Serefe, Becca! Mutlu Yıllar!

A Toast to Vegemite!

Dearest Mal, as requested a (hopefully) funny Australia story–Happy Birthday!!

Show of hands of how many people NOT from Australia who like Vegemite?  Or have even tried Vegemite?  Or even heard of Vegemite in a setting other than a Men At Work song?

vegemite

Vegemite is a yeast extract paste that exceptionally high in B-vitamins.  Here’s what Vegemite has to say about itself:

Start your day with Vegemite, rich in B vitamins to kick start your day! From eggs to avocados, you don’t have to stop at toast when your Start with VEGEMITE.

I’m quite sure it’s why Aussies–as a whole–are a happy lot of people.

There are two things you need to know about Vegemite when trying it for the first time:

1.  It is savory.     2.  A little dab goes a very long way.

I’m very sure that Aussies leave out these two little facts because they like to see the reactions, particularly of Yanks, when someone tries Vegemite for the first time.  All they tell you is how fabulous it is and how every Australian looooooooooves it (I mean, everyone–there are like 20 people in the entire Australian population who do not like Vegemite).

I moved to Australia as a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar (THANKS Rotary!!) to study Biological Anthropology at The Australian National University.  Since I was making housing arrangements from Texas, I decided living on campus would be the best option until I got my bearings.  The choices for graduate students, however, were quite limited and I finally ended up at John XXIII College, which was governed by the Catholic Church and overseen by a priest in residence.

I would like to interject one more rule about trying Vegemite for the first time: NEVER do so in front of a priest.

During my first week, I observed my residents all eating this dark brown tar looking stuff on toast and sandwiches and even bananas.  My thought is that it probably tasted kind of like Nutella (Aussies, try to keep laughing to a minimum please!) and Vegemite is to Australia what peanut butter is to The United States.  The latter part of my thought was correct.  The former part of my thought was completely wrong…WRONG…WRONG!

I finally, at the behest of the aforementioned priest, decided to give it a go.  I mean, it looks like it tastes like Nutella and everyone was eating it, so how bad could it be?

The entire table watched as I slathered it on my buttered toast, as was suggested by everyone at my table.  Everyone held their breath (this should have been my first clue things were about to go horribly wrong) as I took a big ol’ bite (hello, I’m a Texan–go big or go home!) and then…my tongue was relaying a message to my brain that this DID NOT taste like Nutella nor was it sweet nor was it chocolate…it was

DISGUSTING!!

At that point my brain assumed we were being poisoned and did the only logical thing in that situation: ordered my mouth to spit it out!  My mouth complied more quickly than anticipated to spit that horrible, disgustingly savory and salty nastiness out!  There was no time to dispose of it like a lady to make my Ome proud.  Nope.  My fight or flight senses kicked in still fearing poison and with a very loud plaaaaghttttt! my big ol’ bite went sailing out of my mouth and across the table, landing–to my horror and dismay–right in front of the priest.

Someone gasped.  I’m sure it was me.  I’m also quite sure additional gasps were coming from neighboring tables.  The entire hall, filled with breakfasting residents, stopped and stared at my painfully embarrassed faced and the stunned look of the priest, now staring at my big ol’ bite of Vegemite toast which had been catapulted to the edge of his plate.

Stillness.  Staring back and forth from the priest to me to the priest to me.  I’m trying very casually and nonchalantly  grab the spat-out toast, however, I am now faced with the realization that I can’t actually reach across the table to grab it, so I did what I think anyone would have done–I flicked my napkin across the table so that at the very least, the toast was covered.  And then resumed the best stately position I could under the given circumstances.

And then I heard it.  Laughter.  From the priest, who asked through his chuckles “so, I take it you didn’t like our national treasure?” At which point, all I could do was shake my head and answer honestly and undiplomatically “that was THE MOST DISGUSTING THING I HAVE EVER PUT IN MY MOUTH.”

It took a long time for me to acquire a taste for Vegemite.  And I have to admit, I rather enjoy giving it to unsuspecting people who mistake it for an Aussie version of Nutella…I think of it as homage to my fellow Aussies.

The Ruff Life of a Beach Dog

Continuing on my birthday week adventures, today’s post is in honor of Wendy’s birthday.

Wendy lived (until she got crazy and moved to Chicago) in Galveston three blocks from the beach.  For all you out there living under a rock or (gasp!) are unfamiliar with geography of The Great State of Texas, Galveston is an island in the Gulf (obviously.).  There’s a lot to see and do there.  Yes, I’m being vague because honestly, I was there to visit family.  This primarily entailed walking the dog on the beach, running (and by “running,” I mean driving) to Spec’s and Starbucks, and walking the dog on the beach (yeah, I know I said it twice).  Dog other than The Darling Princess Adelaide?  Yes.

Meet the lovely Lola.

Ruff Life

Ruff Life

Since Lola is the princess of Wendy’s house, she was until recently a beach dog–dutifully splashing about, chasing seagulls, and being friendly with everyone sitting on her beach.  During the summer (and when I was visiting) it seemed an afternoon or midday walk wasn’t complete without a stop in to The Beach Hut.

Of course, Lola only gets served water.  She is, after all, underage (even in dog years!).  Humans, however, have the opportunity to imbibe in a plethora of drinks: beer, margaritas, beer, margaritas.  I’m sure there are more–as I saw other patrons with other fun looking drinks–but well, that was the extent of what we ordered at our table.  The BH website (linked above) tells you all about their amazing offerings and events.

I’m now realizing that this posting is starting to sound vague so let me get to the point:

The best part: you walk up from the beach and hang out on the patio, drinking.  In theory, there’s food.  In fact, I know there is because I spent quite a bit of time watching Lola try to cajole the neighboring table into sharing their fries.

And c’mon….how’s that view??  It allows you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the best part of beach life: the serenity with a beer (or insert drink of choice here) in your hand.

The Beach Life!

The Beach Life!

So if you find yourself in or anywhere near Galveston take a wander down the beach…almost to the end and visit The Beach Hut.  You won’t be sorry.  Order a drink, kick back, and send me Lola a thank you postcard!