Days blend together

Sometimes, Friday just turns into Saturday and you have an epic blog post on your hands.

I had very well-intentioned plans to check out a karate class in East Harlem after work last Friday. But when the buzz started to spread around that former Yankees centerfielder Bernie Williams would be a guest guitarist at Camaradas, some people (I’m not naming names or anything) decided Bernie would be a better use of my Friday evening. Ummm, neither Erik nor Jose (nor the mofongo de camarones) had anything to do with this decision:

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Did someone say mofongo de camarones? Karate dreams all but forgotten, I definitely was not complaining when this steaming mound of mashed fried green plantain and shrimp landed in front of me:

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Nor was I complaining when the empanadas de pollo arrived:

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I didn’t even complain when the music started:

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And Bernie Williams did, in fact, make his appearance:

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I also did not complain when Jose and Erik got into a heated discussion about obscure old music that went completely over my head; instead I ordered a pint of sangria with extra fruit:

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I continued to not complain when the bartender noticed I had eaten all my fruit and offered to refill the fruit and, in the process, refilled my pint of sangria for free. Just like last time, Best Service Ever.

I did not complain when a fellow Sarita dragged me onto the dance floor and valiantly but unsuccessfully tried to teach me salsa, nor did I complain when Erik dragged me onto the dance floor and led me and my wine-soaked-apple-filled belly on a spinning spree. And I definitely did not complain when the bartenders gave us access to their staff meal of peppery buttered fettuccine:

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(I totally forgot about that part until this picture!! I just got so excited about that fettuccine all over again!)

Friday became Saturday, and I was given a morning off from preparing my own breakfast. Instead, I was presented with one of the most delicious bowls of oatmeal I have ever experienced:

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Instant oats with honey, cinnamon, and whole milk. How is something so simple so delicious??

Back at my apartment, I found a package to beat all packages:

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My good buddy Coco, who just came back from an awe-inspiring trip to Argentina, knew about my love for the South American sandwich cookies called alfajores … and sent me a care package full of several varieties along with a bunch of other Argentinian goodies:

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I also swung by Kate’s on Saturday morning to collect my share of the CSA: spaghetti squash, cabbage, eggplant, mammoth peaches, peppers, giant radishes, green beans, frying peppers, salad greens, edamame, and pears:

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After a perfect (and unpictured) picnic lunch of cream of broccoli soup and a beet wrap (with goat cheese and walnuts!) from Naidre’s, I threw together a light dinner of roasted eggplant (balsamic, evoo, sea salt, coriander) with Wildwood raspberry chipotle hummus:

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I thought the hummus was good, but the raspberry flavor made it taste a little too much like frosting for the eggplant, so I swapped it out for some salsa.

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I also roasted the radishes the same way because I thought they were parsnips. I realized my mistake when I tasted them, but the roasting plan still worked well. I was so surprised by the radish flavor when I bit in that I could not steady the camera with my shaking hands:

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Later in the day on Saturday, I found myself in 200 Fifth (yet another very atypical spot for me) watching the Minnesota Twins win a surprisingly exciting baseball game. Olivia, I thought of you the whole time!

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200 Fifth is right here in the Slope, but I’ve never been because I generally have no need to watch sports on TV. If I did watch sports, however, I would be at this place all the time. The setup is brilliant! The restaurant-bar is equipped with some sort of fancy satellite arrangement so that it can retrieve pretty much any game in the universe as long as it is being televised somewhere, even if you need to see a baseball came from an obscure midwestern town that is only on that town’s local access channel 😛 There are two or three TVs hanging at every booth so that each group can watch whatever game is necessary. In the end, we found out the Twins game was actually being televised on regular Fox and we could have watched from my apartment, but that was fine. I’m glad I got to experience the genius of 200 Fifth. And celery sticks dipped in blue cheese:

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Plus one of my new goodies for dessert:

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Mmmm, crunchy cookie layered with dulce de leche and covered in chocolate:

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Definitely still not complaining.

Later in the night, I met Kate and Gina at the theater to see The Informant. The movie was ok, I think — I slept through the first hour of it and spent a good part of the second hour very confused as a result. We hit up The Chocolate Room after the show, and that woke me up much more effectively than the movie had!

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While we perused the menu, we enjoyed our complementary spoonfuls of intense chocolate sorbet:

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And the decor (of course):

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The three of us split the hot fudge sundae with fresh mint chocolate chunk ice cream:

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The Chocolate Room makes their mint chip ice cream with actual fresh mint leaves. It tasted like my mom’s garden — I loved it!

We also split the ice cream sandwich special: chocolate cookies with burnt orange ice cream in the middle:

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Yummmmmmmmmmmm!

It was a brilliantly busy 24 hours … and then I remembered that the fall semester had begun and I had work to do. So hard to switch back into serious student mode! I need to put my hibernation hat back on stat, ugh. I love fall weather, but this season definitely represents the end of my two and a half carefree paper-free weeks. Homework anyone?

How do you feel about the start of fall?

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Other people cook

As much as I love to cook for myself, I obviously enjoy tasting other people’s kitchen creations quite a bit! Last Thursday night, I walked down from my office to my friend Diana’s apartment so we could catch up and work on turning the contents of her fridge into a meal. Diana was well-stocked with salsa, grape tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese, and more:

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She quickly set to work throwing together a sauce with the salsa, tomatoes, mushrooms, and black beans:

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While I worked some cheddar cheese polenta magic:

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Diana’s sauce went on top of a couple tilapia filets:

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Which went into the oven for a bake and then a meaningful broil:

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Once you go black … nothing beats the char 😛

We layered the fish on top of the polenta and added more sauce and salsa for extra flair. Diana and I know how to dine in style:

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For dessert, we split a Peppermint Patty, quite possibly my favorite candy of all time (ok, second only to Cadbury Creme Eggs):

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Thanks for sharing your kitchen, Diana!

Fast-forward to Friday at work. As you may recall, Friday is the farm delivery day at my office: the day that all of the local farm produce arrives for our food pantry. The Advocacy department has started arranging once per month cooking demonstrations with the in-season produce that is delivered because the food that grows here is often completely new to our clients. Friday’s lesson was on spaghetti squash:

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The demonstrator showed how to bake and extract the “noodles” from the squash and then top it with home-enhanced marinara:

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The families all sampled the finished produce, and so did Pura and I!

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Seriously, how did I end up in an agency where I can play with babies, eat to my heart’s content, and practice Spanish until I am blue in the face? I am wayyyyyy too lucky 😀

Who has been cooking for you lately?

Produce and products

Right. So, like I said, produce and other healthy things have been on the agenda. I’ve gotten in my fill of CSA salads with sunflower seeds and coarse sea salt:

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Farm fresh frying peppers with Wildwood probiotic Indian spice hummus:

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Speaking of this hummus, by the way, I really liked the spicing … but the texture and overall taste just can’t compare to Sabra! Of course, the Wildwood has the benefit of being probiotic, but the probioticity also gave it a tangy yogurt-like essence. It was ok, but I’d rather just eat yogurt.

And speaking of yogurt, I ate some last week thanks to the free goods I scored at Race for the Cure:

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I was excited for this strawberry shortcake flavor, but it tasted like regular old strawberry yogurt to me. If that’s the way it’s going to be, I’d rather have plain yogurt with some real strawberries in it!

Another sample from the free yogurt pile was this honey vanilla YoPlus digestive health. I threw a few blueberries on top and enjoyed my treat, but again, it was really nothing to write home about:

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I also tried a brand brand new-to-me type of fruit: quenepa!

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I saw these on the conference room table and thought they were grapes at first. I went in for a closer look of course:

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Deborah and Lillian gave me a tutorial in how to eat it. First, you put the quenepa (skin and all) in your mouth and bite it gently to break the skin:

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Then, you gently separate the skin from the flesh inside:

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Once you have removed the skin, you pop the whole fruit in your mouth and suck. You can’t chew because there’s a pit inside to which the flesh is firmly attached; instead, you suck until you have gotten all of the fruit off the seed and then discard the seed:

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I’m sorry. I hope I didn’t offend anyone with that somewhat raunchy description of how to eat a quenepa! Either way, the fruit is delicious. It tastes like candy and not like fruit. Again, I feel a strong need to move to Latin America where I can bask the the glory of naturally growing local candy fruits for the rest of my life 🙂

I also had many pears from the CSA:

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The pears tasted like pears and not like candy, but that was fine with me because I love pears.

I also had some leftover miracle medley of food my mom sent back to Brooklyn with me last time I was visiting her in MA. She told me that this combo had turkey, white beans, kidney beans, baked beans, quinoa, zucchini, and too many other things to remember. It was delicious and tasted like home. I ate it in a number of different ways, one being on top of Jessica’s leftover salad from Wendy’s:

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On another day, Rosey brought in fruit for the office. I helped myself 🙂

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Then there was a day when a mom gave Jessica some corn on the cob. Jessica shared with me because she knew I would appreciate it:

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Oh, and I almost forgot the other exciting healthy thing that I ate courtesy of my mom: dehydrated veggie chips with hummus.

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My mom has gone nuts with her dehydrator and has taken to dehydrating every piece of produce she can find. My baggie had zucchini and yellow squash, sweet potato, butternut squash, red and green peppers, carrots, eggplant, and maybe more.

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On Friday, I ate outside in the park with a CSA-tomato-and-balcony-arugula salad topped with sunflower seeds and dressed with balsamic vinegar and mom’s herb-infused olive oil:

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So, sure there was junk. But in the end, I lived to tell the tale and eat produce 😀

What’s your produce tale this week?

The junk

Since I’ve been trying to avoid growing out of my already-purchased bridesmaid dress for Erin Gunn’s wedding, I’ve had to make a few cutbacks on my standard eat-everything-in-sight philosophy. By “a few,” I mean that there was one day when an open box of Chips Ahoy was sitting on the conference room table next to my desk, and I did not eat any.

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One day.

There was another day when Deborah brought in a half dozen Dunkin’ Donuts and put them in that same fateful conference room table location.

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I kept my wits about me and wrapped up a blueberry donut (my favorite DD kind!) to take home and store in my freezer until the weekend when a breakfast guest gave me an excuse to go all Brandi 😛

I broke out my last three CSA eggs of the week:

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And collected all of my frozen rescued carbs (blueberry donut, restaurant sourdough bread left from a brunch bread basket):

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And whipped up French toast extravaganza:

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I didn’t have any syrup, so I served the feast with a little side of raspberry sorbet.

Seriously, that Brandi knew what she was doing when she got her donuts in on the French toasting action. This was delicious!

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Another thing I haven’t eaten … yet:

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Authentic Puerto Rican candy that Nydia brought back to the office from her trip home. It’s chilling in my freezer right now, waiting for a desperate moment the perfect moment.

In my final burst of willpower, I sidestepped the tray of cookies on my first night of Bank Street classes and instead filled up my empty lunch tupperware with the blueberry garnish:

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After that amazing feat of fruit collection, however, my willpower took a bit of a hit. We had freshly baked French bread with Laughing Cow cheese in a meeting:

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And Cathy came back from her trip to South Africa with a table (that same darn conference room table) full of duty free chocolates for the office:

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I made more than one trip to the stash:

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Actually, I made more than five trips to the stash, but let’s not dwell on that.

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Really, what’s done is done.

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I probably also ate these garlic knots left from Rosey’s lunch:

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And these three (errrrrr 12) authentic Columbian candies:

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And half of a chocolate-covered graham cracker (thanks, Lillian!):

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And a sample of cheesecake from Union Market:

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I took a brief break from the fake sugar to enjoy these grapes and strawberries that Katty brought in for Jessica’s birthday:

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But I went right back to my old friend when Nydia and Lillian brought this masterpiece to the office to celebrate all of the September birthdays:

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There was even a birthday candle, so I obviously had to get in on the cake action. It would have been rude not to.

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Jessica, Rosalie, and Deborah were the lucky September babies who inspired the celebration:

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I had to eat and run since it was my class day, so I had Rosalie shove a slice into a cup so I wouldn’t miss out. She didn’t think she could make the cake fit, but I assured her it would work, and it did!

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Aaaaaaaand, there was more French bread:

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How can I resist when the bread is literally still warm from the oven and filled with all of this melty butter???

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On top of these forays into dress-tightening cuisine, Belkis refilled her candy jar with all manner of crazy lollipops:

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I had to take a closer look by eating all of them.

So anyway, there were some things I didn’t eat, but there were mostly things I did eat! And now my tummy hurts just from reliving all of this. How about I try some produce????? Hmmmm, what a novel concept 😛 To be continued …

What kind of junk have you been eating lately?

The three Cs

… cardio, carbs, and cheese, oh my!

On September 12, the girls and I made a departure from our standard style of “free-eventing” for something new.

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As usual, Kate had the pulse on the hottest happenings around the city and asked Gina and me to join her at the Crossing the Line 2009 opening celebration for Le Bal NYC.

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I’m still not even sure what the event was for, but we watched some brave souls taking free French dance lessons while we waited for the promised samples of French cuisine … like this carbohydrate perfection:

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French rolls with sea salt and artisanal cheeses:

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I made a sandwich and felt proud of myself:

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And then I hunted down more cheese:

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And more!

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However, the rain began, and Gina, Kate, and I couldn’t stick it out to wait for the promised French bento boxes (cultural fusion if I ever saw it), so we headed to the nearby Corner Cafe to satisfy our growing hunger. These pies called to me through the window pane, and we had no choice but to stop in and investigate:

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Something about the decor really pulled me in, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it …

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… until I took a closer look:

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Yes, the light bulb covers are colanders!!! Seriously a genius innovation.

I actually wasn’t that hungry, so I ordered an earl grey tea with milk and honey:

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Gina ordered the turkey pinwheels with chickpea soup. I had little tastes of both and was a fan:

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Kate got the butternut squash soup. It was ok but tasted on the bland side to me:

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All doubts about this Corner Cafe’s food were forgotten, however, when this plate of warm apple crumble arrived in front of us:

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Mmmmmmm, totally hit the spot. Apple crumble is just one of those perfect early fall comforting and cozy desserts.

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Who loves impromptu bakery excursions? I do, I do!

The next day, more quasi-free excitement was in store at the Komen Race for the Cure in Central Park. Sure I paid a registration fee, but the rows of promotional tents (not to mention the experience of participating in the race itself) represented a worthy investment.

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I remembered the Yoplait tent from the year before and was thrilled to find it waiting in exactly the same location. I loaded up on new flavors to have over the week.

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And then there was my favorite tent of all time: Key Food!

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Last year, I literally packed up a week’s worth of produce at this tent: apples, pears, bananas, and FRESH FIGS! This year, however, the produce was limited to bananas:

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I took five 😛

Farmland Dairies also had a spot, so I snagged a chocolate milk and drank half pre-race and half post-race:

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I worked out a similar half and half arrangement with this Snickers Marathon bar for the Key Foods tent:

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It was yummy for a free snack, but you know I’m not into buying this sort of thing.

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After making the rounds to collect the goodies, Erin, Mike, Nicole, and I checked our bags and flew through the 5k as if we were born to do it. Believe it or not, I actually did not feel satisfied with just the 5k and ended up running another six miles later in the day. The weather was too perfect to pass up that opportunity. I’ve been finding myself running quite often again as of late, but I just can’t motivate myself to get to the gym for the strength training that I know my legs need to support the toll running takes on my body. Ughhh, I really don’t want this to happen again, but I get so bored at the gym! Heeeeeeelp!

What are your favorite, non-boring ways/activities for incorporating strength training into your life?