Thursday, March 28, 2013

Book Review: Chicken with Plums




From goodreads:
In her acclaimed Persepolis books and in Embroideries, Marjane Satrapi rendered the events of her life and times in a uniquely captivating and powerful voice and vision. Now she turns that same keen eye and ear to the heartrending story of her great-uncle, a celebrated Iranian musician who gave up his life for music and love.

We are in Tehran in 1958, and Nasser Ali Khan, one of Iran’s most revered tar players, discovers that his beloved instrument is irreparably damaged. Though he tries, he cannot find one to replace it, one whose sound speaks to him with the same power and passion with which his music speaks to others. In despair, he takes to his bed, renouncing the world and all its pleasures, closing the door on the demands and love of his wife and his four children. Over the course of the week that follows, his family and close friends attempt to change his mind, but Nasser Ali slips further and further into his own reveries: flashbacks and flash-forwards (with unexpected appearances by the likes of the Angel of Death and Sophia Loren) from his own childhood through his children’s futures. And as the pieces of his story slowly fall into place, we begin to understand the profundity of his decision to give up life.

Marjane Satrapi brings what has become her signature humor, insight, and generosity to this emotional tale of life and death, and the courage and passion both require of us. The poignant story of one man, it is also a story of stunning universality–and an altogether luminous work.


My Thoughts:
Like Persepolis, and Persepolis 2, this was another graphic novel, about Marjane's Great Uncle in 1958 Iran. I read it in half an hour, and though I wasn't as intrigued as I was with the other two books, it was still captivating. Depressing, but captivating. The book spans the 8 days leading up to her Great Uncle's death, as he remembers the things of his past and present that have led him to this point of depression, and his ultimate decision to give up on life completely. If you read and enjoyed the Perseoplis books, and are looking for a quick read, this was good. I'm surprised that I am finding myself enjoying these graphic novels!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Homemade Applesauce

Homemade applesauce. Nothing feels quite as comforting.

I made a huge batch of applesauce this past weekend. I ended up freezing it so it'll stay fresh enough for Easter, but I'm so nervous it's going to thaw all watery this weekend!! Note to self: Don't experiment with food and different food techniques the week you are to host 15 people for a Holiday. Got it.

Anyway, I've been making this applesauce for quite a few years now, and I really enjoy it. I used to keep the skins on when I boiled it, but I like the smooth consistency I get from the peeled apples, so I do it that way now. I will never, ever throw away apples. If they get too soft or aren't so fresh looking, I turn them into applesauce either to eat or to use in baking.

I made this recipe (times 5!) this weekend:

Homemade Apple Sauce
adapted from allrecipes.com

Ingredients: 
2 apples - peeled, cored and chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoons brown sugar

Directions:
1. Place shredded apples in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Sprinkle with cinnamon, then add water and cook until the apple bits become soft and mushy.
2. Use an immersion blender to puree the apples
3. Stir in brown sugar and mix well; if desired, top with ice cream and serve.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Book Review: My Berlin Kitchen



From goodreads:
It takes courage to turn your life upside down, especially when everyone is telling you how lucky you are. But sometimes what seems right can feel deeply wrong. My Berlin Kitchen tells the story of how one thoroughly confused, kitchen-maid perfectionist broke off her engagement to a handsome New Yorker, quit her dream job, and found her way to a new life, a new man, and a new home in Berlin—one recipe at a time.

Luisa Weiss grew up with a divided heart, shuttling back and forth between her father in Boston and her Italian mother in Berlin. She was always yearning for home, until she found a new home in the kitchen. Luisa started clipping recipes in college and was a cookbook editor in New York when she decided to bake, roast, and stew her way through her, by then, unwieldy collection over the course of one tumultuous year. The blog she wrote to document her adventures in (and out) of the kitchen, The Wednesday Chef, soon became a sensation. But she never stopped hankering for Berlin.

Luisa will seduce you with her stories of foraging for plums in abandoned orchards, battling with white asparagus at the tail end of the season, orchestrating a three-family Thanksgiving in Berlin, and mending her broken heart with batches (and batches) of impossible German Christmas cookies. Fans of her award-winning blog will know the happy ending, but anyone who enjoyed Julie and Julia will laugh and cheer and cook alongside Luisa as she takes us into her heart and tells us how she gave up everything only to find love waiting where she least expected it


My thoughts: 
This was like "Eat, Pray, Love for the Cook". It also reminded me of Julie and Julia - who actually inspired Luisa to start her food blog, The Wednesday Chef in the first place. I felt for Luisa during a lot of the book. I completely commiserated with her thoughts on constantly being divided between her mother in Berlin and her father in New York...except in my case it's feeling divided between Pennsylvania and New York (and a much shorter trip, I might add). Each chapter ends with a recipe that ties everything together. Her recipes use ingredients and items some of which I've never even heard of! Quark? Quince? I have to google a number of the items she uses on a regular basis...yet I still found myself copying recipe after recipe out of this book. She seems to have quite a way with food, and knows exactly how to pair everything together, how to entertain, and how to make the perfect dish for any occasion. This was an enjoyable and light read, which left me hungry after every page! I hope to start trying out some of her recipes soon!

You can follow Luisa and her other recipe adventures at her blog The Wednesday Chef.

Monday, March 25, 2013

#2CooksInTheKitchen

My fellow foodie friend, and former Astoria roommate, Ben, and I are planning a "day of cooking things we've always wanted to try making but never have." We've put a LOT of planning into this day: We set a budget, created a menu, a shopping list, and we also have to really make sure we set the proper order in which things should be done so we're not left scrambling. All this plus we'd like to be able to sit down at the end of the day and enjoy a rewarding meal, knock back some drinks and actually...what's that word? Oh...relax.
Circa 2007

I'm so excited to knock a ton of things off my cooking and baking "to do" list all at once. This is really a list-maker's dream. We set a our budget of $100 total for the day and will split everything down the middle. Here is our Menu so far:

Appetizers:
Foccacia and/or Flat Bread 
Homemade Mozzarella cheese
Homemade Butter

First Course:
Homemade Pasta with a homemade sauce (tbd) 

Second Course: 
Duck
Stuffed Artichokes
Side Dish 2 (tbd)

Dessert:

Reine de Saba
Olive Oil Ice Cream


What do you think about our menu so far?!

Is there anything you'd recommend we try or is there something you've always wanted to try that you'd like to see us tackle for you?

We really want to expand our knowledge in the kitchen and learn to make some impressive and delicious things. So please share with me in the comments below or tweet me your ideas using the hashtag #2CooksInTheKitchen.

Who knows! Maybe we'll try your idea that day instead. We'll be using that hashtag as we gear up for the actual day on April 6th!

Be sure to follow along with me @LWoodsNY

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Basic Vanilla Ice Cream

Quite possibly my all-time favorite kitchen appliance is my ice cream maker. My friend, Mandy, got one when she got engaged and made the most delicious, amazing ice cream with it. Once I tried her cookies and cream ice cream, I knew I had to have an ice cream maker! And...I couldn't even wait until we got married to registers for this. I purchased this baby about a month after we got engaged!

Clearly, I know my priorities.

Aka: I really love ice cream. I've been making the basic vanilla ice cream recipe that came with the maker for years now. It's the best, easiest, lightest recipe of the whole bunch. I've made it so many times, I can practically make this with my eyes closed. And it goes with anything - dress it up, dress it down. This ice cream is the perfect after dinner treat on a warm Spring or Summer day.

With the freezing temperatures and freakish snowstorm we got the other night, I was yearning for at least a semblance of Spring Season. So, I whipped together the first vanilla ice cream of the year. One of many more batches to come I'm sure.

Did I mention I love, love, LOVE my ice cream maker?!

Basic Vanilla Ice Cream
This "skinnier" version is adapted from Cuisinart:
Recipe by Laura
This easy, and light vanilla ice cream will have you singing 
"You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream!"
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup 2% Milk
  • 2 cups Light Cream
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla
Directions
  1. Whisk together sugar and milk until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Add the light cream and wisk until incorporated.
  3. Whisk in vanilla.
  4. Add to ice cream maker for 30 minutes. Transfer to container and freeze for a few hours before eating.
  5. Variations: In the last 5 minutes, you can add anything you want to this to make a sweet treat: crushed oreos, m&m's, reese pieces, melted peanut butter, marshmallows. The possibilities are endless.

I found these Ice Cream Containers from Amazon.com to be the best way to keep this in the freezer and to also personalize if giving as gifts.

Or you can be like my husband and create QUITE the ice cream sundae!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cornish Game Hens

This weekend I tried my first ever Cornish game hens! I wanted to do a simple recipe for my first time cooking these and I found a great, simple one on allrecipes.com. I was surprised by how easy this was. Just pop in the oven and it pretty much takes care of itself.

I served it along with Roasted Carrots from Voracious Vander and Cheesy Broccoli Orzo from Iowa Girl Eats. 

This was enjoyable and super easy for a Cornish Game Hen first timer. Next time, I want to try rubbing the seasoning and oil underneath the skin, instead of over it - something I meant to do, but forgot!
I feel I should note: I only ate half of this:)

Cornish Game Hens with Garlic and Rosemary
Modified from Original Recipe on Allrecipes.com

Ingredients:
2 Cornish game hens
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Onion sliced into 4 or 5 pieces
2 sprigs fresh rosemary or 1 tsp. dried
2 tablespoons olive oil
12 cloves garlic
1/3 cup white wine
1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
Fresh rosemary, for garnish

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
  2. Rub hens with 1/2 - 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil. Lightly season hens with salt and pepper. Place 1/2 onion, 2 garlic cloves and 1 sprig rosemary in cavity of each hen, or sprinkled generously with dried rosemary. Arrange in a large, heavy roasting pan, and arrange garlic cloves around hens. Pour some chicken broth in the pan so the garlic doesn't burn. Roast in preheated oven for 25 minutes.
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a mixing bowl, whisk together wine, chicken broth, and remaining 1 1/2-2 Tablespoons of oil; pour over hens. Continue roasting about 30-45 minutes longer, or until hens are golden brown and juices run clear. Baste with pan juices every 10 minutes.
  4. Transfer hens to a platter, pouring any cavity juices into the roasting pan. Tent hens with aluminum foil to keep warm. Transfer pan juices and garlic cloves to a medium saucepan and boil until liquids reduce to a sauce consistency, about 6 minutes. Cut hens in half lengthwise and arrange on plates. Spoon sauce and garlic around hens. Garnish with rosemary sprigs, and serve. (I didn't do this, but it sounds good)


Have you ever made cornish game hens before? Any special secrets or techniques you can share?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Book Review: The Book Thief


From goodreads:

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery....

Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist – books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever they are to be found.

With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.


My Thoughts:
This was captivating, breathtaking, beautiful, and heart-wrenching all at the same time. It offers a perspective of Nazi Germany than we don't usually get. The book is narrated by Death. The main character who's story we follow is Leisl Meminger: one of the best characters I've encountered in a book in a long time. You couldn't help but lover her, and feel for her every step of the way. I felt for her foster parents, particularly her foster father with whom she has a very close relationship. I felt for the jewish man they hid in their basement for over 2 years. I felt for Leisl's best friend, Rudy, (who the author says was his favorite character) who looks after and loves Leisl from a very young age. The mayor's wife, who allows Leisl to take books from her library during the war, and who gives her the blank book to write her own story, which ultimately becomes the most important book of all. One of the things I disliked about Gone Girl, and Where did you Go, Bernadette, was that I didn't "like" the main characters, and I didn't sympathize with them. I liked every single character in this book, even Death!

I don't ever cry when I read a book: Not that they don't tug at my heartstrings, but it's different for me to read something sad than to see it played out in front of me in either real life, or a movie. So I didn't cry reading this book, but I imagined some of the scenes played out in my head, and I would most certainly cry watching this as a movie.

At the end of the book, Death says "I am haunted by humans." He talks about how haunted he is that humans can do the vicious things they do to each other, particularly in Nazi Germany. Death had a hard job: he was constantly working, and had to be everywhere all at once. He didn't want to do the job, but he had no choice. It was exhausting, and it was sad. Quite an interesting perspective when it is really humans who are usually the ones so haunted by death.

And finally, the importance of "words" in this book. Words are what started the war in the first place. Terrible words said or written that people believed and acted on. Yet also, words were what saved Leisl Meminger's life, as well as helped so many others around her during this tumultuous time. Leisl goes through a period where she feels conflicted by words: loving and hating them at the same time, but ultimately comes out loving them.

In short, I loved this book, and 100% recommend it to everyone!

Friday, March 15, 2013

5-Minute Mozzarella Sticks

We indulged last night: I had some leftover wonton wrappers in the freezer from our buffalo chicken eggrolls, and bought a ton of cheese-sticks this weekend.These were calling my name. The best part? They were done within 5 minutes! simply wrap a cheese-stick up in a won-ton wrapper, heat it up in some oil on the stove and voila! We did try baking 2 of them to see how they came out, and while it wasn't as crispy and bubbling as the fried ones, they were still enjoyable!
Mozzarella Sticks
From A Place of Home


Ingredients:
12 pieces string cheese
12 egg roll wrappers
Oil
Marinara or spaghetti sauce

Directions:
Place a piece of string cheese near the bottom corner of one egg roll wrapper (keep remaining wrappers covered with a damp paper towel until ready to use).

Fold bottom corner over cheese. Roll up halfway; fold sides toward center over cheese.

Moisten remaining corner with water; roll up tightly to seal.

Repeat with remaining wrappers and cheese.

Heat up enough oil to cover the bottom of a frying pan on medium heat.

Fry sticks, a few at a time, on all sides until they are nice and crispy.

Drain on paper towels. If cheese is not melted enough, put in the toaster oven or oven at 400 degrees for 3-5 minutes.

Serve with marinara sauce.

Yield: 1 dozen.

Ipad vs. Paper

With the announcement that Google Reader will shut down on July 1st please
Follow my blog with Bloglovin

My favorite video of the week. This is hilarious, and genius advertising. Paper is not dead! (video)



I will be tackling my first ever attempt at making cornish game hens this Saturday!
I'll report back next week!

As always, you can find me on twitter, instagram, facebook, and now bloglovin'!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Baked Eggplant Chips

With the announcement that google reader will be shut down soon, please Follow my blog with Bloglovin


Eggplant isn't a vegetable that I buy too often, but in an effort to get more acquainted with all different types of vegetables, I picked up an eggplant at the supermarket last week, determined to try out some new uses for it. First up, baked eggplant chips. I saw these on pinterest and thought I'd give them a try. I've been chowing down on baked eggplant chips almost every day this week, and even added some to my salads and a tortellini dish on Monday night! This is an excellent, and super easy recipe!
What's your favorite eggplant recipe?

from Kitchen Psycho

Ingredients:
1-2 eggplants, preferably Japanese variety
olive oil
sea salt

Directions:
Slice eggplant, with a mandolin or other slicer, into 1/4" thick slices. Brush lightly both sides of each slice with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt or garlic salt. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet, and place slices on sheet. Bake at 400 for about twenty minutes. About ten minutes in, flip slices over and continue to bake until browned.

Follow me on pinterest for more interesting recipe finds!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Eataly and the Knicks

This past weekend Chris and I met up with some good friends of ours for dinner at Birreria, the rooftop bar at the amazing Eataly in Manhattan. Chris and I are big fans of Eataly, and have been here a few times, but this was our first time at Birreria. I started out with their home-brewed Wanda Beer...but traded it in for a lighter brew, which I enjoyed much better.

We started out with a meat and cheese platter for the table - can you really go wrong with meats and cheeses??

Mandy, Mal and I enjoying our brews and the BEAUTIFUL weather we had on Saturday. It's hard to believe that only a few days before we had gotten about 6 inches of snow!

Our handsome men on the other side of the table: Chris, Billy and Eric.

And all of us together for a photoshoot. Thanks to the kind, and hilarious, man who offered to take our picture and telling us to strictly pose "naughty":

After dinner, we headed to the Knicks vs. Jazz game at Madison Square Garden with Mandy and Billy. This was my first ever pro-basketball game! We had awesome seats six rows off the floor thanks to Chris who got them through work.

The Knicks won 113 to 84! In attendance that night was Philip Seymour Hoffman (!!!)...

Also, John Leguizamo, a Beastie Boy, a famous tennis player, and someone from Sons of Anarchy...no Beyonce or Kim Kardashian, but I'll take it. We had a fun time with Mandy and Billy, and it was definitely an entertaining time!
 
 
What did you do this weekend? 
Have you ever been to a pro-basketball game?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cookie Shop Chocolate Chip Cookies

For my birthday my friend and fellow lover of cooking and baking, Mandy, got me
The Good Cookie cookbook, by Tish Boyle, who blogs here.

Last week Chris was out at an Islanders Game, and I was home alone looking for something to do (aka: avoiding the piles of things I needed to clean up) and decided to break open The Good Cookie book to give it a whirl. I combed through this book, utterly overwhelmed by all the choices! I finally settled on the Cookie Shop Chocolate Chip Cookie. I thought I'd start out simple and come on, you can't go wrong with a basic chocolate chip cookie! I wondered if this recipe could possibly trump the amazing chocolate chip cookies Mandy is known for. Her chocolate chip cookie recipe find is, and forever will be, my official "go to" recipe.

While these cookies came out good, Mandy's coveted recipe still takes the cake, er, cookie. I was very intrigued by the interesting tactic used here of grinding oatmeal and chocolate chips together to use as part of the flour base. These little gems still hit the spot on a cold Tuesday night, but I will be trying a different cookie recipe next time I use the book (I mean, there are hundreds to chose from!) Maybe if you're lucky...I can share Mandy's amazing Chocolate Chip cookie recipe here one day...
but for now...

Cookie Shop Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe by Tish Boyle:

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 1/2 cups (15 ounces) semisweet chocolate morsels, divided
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Directions:
1. Position two racks near the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the oats and 1/2 cup of the chocolate morsels and process until finely ground, about 45 seconds. Stir the oat mixture into the flour mixture and set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugars, and vanilla extract at medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. At low speed, add the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the remaining 2 cups chocolate morsels.

4. Measure out rounded tablespoonfuls of the dough and, using wet hands, roll each portion into a ball. Arrange the balls 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Moisten your palm to prevent sticking, and flatten the balls into 1 3/4 inch disks.

5. Bake the cookies, two sheets at a time, for 11 to 13 minutes, just until golden brown; switch the positions of the baking sheets halfway through the baking for even browning. Transfer the cookies to wire racks and cool completely.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Book Review: Persepolis 2




From goodreads:
In Persepolis, heralded by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the freshest and most original memoirs of our day,” Marjane Satrapi dazzled us with her heartrending memoir-in-comic-strips about growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Here is the continuation of her fascinating story. In 1984, Marjane flees fundamentalism and the war with Iraq to begin a new life in Vienna. Once there, she faces the trials of adolescence far from her friends and family, and while she soon carves out a place for herself among a group of fellow outsiders, she continues to struggle for a sense of belonging.

Finding that she misses her home more than she can stand, Marjane returns to Iran after graduation. Her difficult homecoming forces her to confront the changes both she and her country have undergone in her absence and her shame at what she perceives as her failure in Austria. Marjane allows her past to weigh heavily on her until she finds some like-minded friends, falls in love, and begins studying art at a university. However, the repression and state-sanctioned chauvinism eventually lead her to question whether she can have a future in Iran.

As funny and poignant as its predecessor, Persepolis 2 is another clear-eyed and searing condemnation of the human cost of fundamentalism. In its depiction of the struggles of growing up—here compounded by Marjane’s status as an outsider both abroad and at home—it is raw, honest, and incredibly illuminating.
My Thoughts:
I enjoyed this book just as much as the first book, Persepolis. In this second book, we see what life was like for Marjane after she leaves Iran for a safer life in Vienna. However, she is met with a whole slew of new and different difficulties being an outsider and trying to fit in. I really feel bad for Marjane as she left Iran for a better life and it really just ended up messing with her head more than it helped anything. She returns to Iran and has to overcome a lot of issues with drugs, alcohol, trust, among other things, and in the end her talent and creativity lead her to write and illustrate books and become a bestseller. She's overcome a lot in her life, but through these books, has been able to grasp a better perspective on how her life unfolded.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday Find: Musical Stairs

My recap of the New York Wine Expo was featured in Wine Goddess Daily this week, Thanks so much to Debbie and her great website, which talks about all wine, all the time!

As a piano player and piano teacher, today's Friday Find, "Piano Stairs", is one I can get behind (video):

Do you think I could have these installed in my HOUSE?! 
If so, how much would that cost?

Have a great weekend everyone!
As always, you can find me on twitter, instagram and facebook

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Gush: To make an excessive display of sentiment or enthusiasm

I don't typically gush about my husband. Not that I don't think he's amazing and gush worthy, I'm just not one to "brag" about him or something he did for me and for the most part, I keep that stuff private. But I'm going to take the opportunity here to outright gush about him. On Sunday night, I was driving back after spending a totally needed and relaxing 27 hours at my parent's house in Pennsylvania. On my drive back, Chris called me to tell me he would be making dinner for us that night and to call him before I came into the house.

And so, 2 hours later, I was greeted at the door by Chris and Zoey (who I think was really the brains behind this operation) and led to the table where a meal of Cacio e Pepe and homemade garlic bread were awaiting us.


It was delicious and only minimal blood was shed in its preparation! (For real, Chris actually cut himself pretty badly on a broken drinking glass when he was cleaning up...luckily, it's healing well this week!)

For dessert, Chris created his own version of oven s'mores, with marshmallow, melted peanut butter, hot fudge and a reece's peanut butter cup on top of a graham cracker.

Now that's a man after my own heart. 


Zoey even approved of the dessert, since she got to lick the peanut butter spoon clean.

Sometimes, it's nice to have little moments like these to remind me even more of how lucky I am to have such an amazing man for a husband. <3


gush, gush, gush...
thank you for your time....
and scene.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The New York Wine Expo

On Friday night I was fortunate enough to attend the New York Wine Expo thanks to a contest I won through @NewYorkWineExpo on Twitter a few months ago. After work on Friday, I headed over to the beautiful Javits Center for some fun, food, and wine!

My friend Corinne is a big wino, so I invited her to join me for the event. She's even getting married on a vineyard in June! Tickets in hand, we excitedly checked in to start sampling! I want to give a special shout-out to Brooke, with the NY Wine Expo, who helped me tremendously with a bit of a ticket snafu (aka: I left my tickets at home!!) Thank you Brooke!

We thought we would only be there for 2 hours (how long can you really sample wines?!) Well, it turns out, the answer to that is 4 hours. Before we knew it, it was 10:00pm and the expo was shutting down. We had a blast walking all around sampling different wines from many different regions of Portugal, Italy, Spain, and the United States. There was also lots of food samples: cheese, dark chocolate, bread, tomatoes, roasted almonds, etc.

We enjoyed a lot of the wine we tried, some notables were the port wines from Quevedo Winery and available through Washington Square Wines. WSW just so happens to serve their wine at a restaurant right by my house, and are also available in retail stores near me as well! Corinne and I also really loved the BEX Riesling 10 from Nahe Valley, in Germany. But our favorite wines were from Brotherhood Winery, which happens to be about 2 hours from me in upstate New York! Brotherhood Winery is America's Oldest Winery, and I loved every single wine they had on hand. Their Riesling, dessert wines, and most notably, their Holiday Spiced Wine.

I LOVE spiced wines, and theirs did not disappoint. I absolutely want to have this on hand for winter Holidays to come! 10:00pm came way too quickly, so we took our newly purchased spiced almonds, cheese, and official "wine expo" wine glasses and met up with our guys who were hanging out at Heartland Brewery at the Empire State Building.

Some more drinks and an appetizer platter later; we were exhausted, so we headed back home after an amazing night of food, friends, and wine...lots and lots of wine.

Thank you so much to the New York Wine Expo for the opportunity to attend this special event and to try out so many amazing new wines. I definitely hope to return next year. If anyone is considering attending this in the future, it's definitely worth it!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Book Review: Persepolis


Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.

Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjane’s child’s-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.
My Thoughts: 
This was absolutely fascinating. I'll admit, I truly knew nothing about the Iranian revolution. Zilch, Zero, Nada. This opened my eyes to what life was/is like in Iran in an easy to understand and engaging way. I was so intrigued by it that I read a ton of online articles and Wikipedia entries about Iran after I was finished with the book. After I read up on the revolution, I re-read the book because I was able to understand it a bit better. I'll admit, I'm still confused by some of the events and key people, and I still have some questions (anyone out there an expert on Iran that I could pick your brain?) But, this was eye opening, and I look forward to reading Persepolis 2 this week.

Looking for more book reviews? Check out my Book Reviews Page.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Stuffed Buffalo Chicken Breasts

Last week I finally tried SkinnyTaste's Stuffed Buffalo Chicken Breasts! I didn't follow this recipe exactly: I didn't use the laughing cow blue cheese because Chris doesn't like that, and I used crushed Snyder's of Hanover Buffalo Pretzels on the outside instead of Ritz Crackers. I also accidentally put way too much buffalo sauce in the dredging mixture.

The recipe calls for drizzling extra hot sauce on top, but we found we liked it better without it (that could be because there was more on the breast to begin with though)

Inside was a mixture of carrots, celery, onion and cheese. I think I can make these much better next time after a few of my missteps this time around, but all in all it was a really good meal! 

I need to work on how to cut cutlets from chicken breasts. This was the first time I did this and it's a technique I definitely need to work on. I watched a bunch of videos on youtube to learn some tips and tricks. I liked this video...ONLY IF you disregard everything she touches with her raw chicken hands - this is a salmonella outbreak just waiting to happen.


Stuffed Buffalo Chicken Breasts
From SkinnyTaste

Stuffed Buffalo Chicken Breasts
Skinnytaste.com
Servings:Serving Size: 1 stuffed breast • Old Points: 4 pts • Points+: 5 pts
Calories: 172 • Fat: 5 g • Carbs: 5 g • Fiber: 0.6 g • Protein: 22 g • Sugar: 1.7 g
Sodium: 799 mg (without salt)

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup shredded 2% cheddar
  • 4 wedges light Laughing Cow blue cheese 
  • 1/3 cup celery stalk, minced
  • 1/4 cup green onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup carrot, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 5 (3 oz each) thin boneless chicken breasts cutlets
  • 15 reduced fat Ritz Crackers, crushed into crumbs
  • 1 tbsp light mayonnaise
  • 6 tbsp Franks hot sauce
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp light butter
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • cooking spray (I used my Misto)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly spray a baking dish with oil.

Mix cheddar, laughing cow cheese, celery, green onion, carrot, salt and pepper in a dish


Lay out the chicken cutlets, placing even amount of mixture in the middle and spread in the center.

In one bowl make a breading station out of crushed ritz crumbs. In another bowl combine mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon of hot sauce, and lemon juice as a dredging mixture.

Roll chicken breasts in the mayonnaise mixture, then into cracker crumbs, and put on a lightly greased pan, seam side down.

Lightly spray top of chicken with cooking spray. Bake 30 minutes. While the chicken cooks, melt butter and mix with the remaining hot sauce and garlic powder. Drizzle buffalo sauce over finished chicken breast and serve.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Friday Find: Amazing act of sportsmanship gets Mitchell Marcus his basket


I've watched this three times now, and it's things like this that restore my faith in humanity.

Happy Friday!
I'm off to the New York Wine Expo tonight, thanks to tickets I won on twitter!