Free = Good

I may not have been taking tons of pictures of my own food this summer — sometimes, it’s just too complicated to switch back and forth from food-hands to camera-hands during a spate of high-level culinary creation — but I have definitely been cooking! One major facilitator of the photography situation, however, is pre-made food that lends itself nicely to a semi-homemade approach. (Just call me Sandra Lee, haaaaaaaa.) Thanks to the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, I wound up with some tasty and free meal enhancers.

The first treat that arrived seemed slightly discouraging from the outset:

IMG_0162

Things started looking up after I needlessly used tongs to dissemble the packaging safely:

IMG_0160

Woohoo! Something I would absolutely never buy, as I can easily make it tastier and healthier from scratch, but a delicious treat all the same:

IMG_0163

The strawberry pizza made an excellent quick dinner after a late night at work:

IMG_0165

I was especially impressed by the chunks of real fruit, even though the pizza itself splintered into a number of little pieces before I even opened the box:

IMG_0167

The mixed berry pizza survived the postal service intact and was delicious as a decadent weekend breakfast:

IMG_0168 IMG_0169IMG_0172

In conclusion, the fruit pizzas were wonderful, and I recommend them if you are craving one but do not want to make it from scratch.

The next free sample involved like a million different kinds of hamburger and hotdog buns from Nature’s Pride. I rarely eat hotdogs and hamburgers and never cook them myself, so the bread found its way into other uses.

French toast made with CSA eggs and blackberries:

IMG_0785 IMG_0789

Cheese, CSA egg, and CSA pesto “panini” (thanks to the good ol’ George):

IMG_0791 IMG_0792 IMG_0795

Bread is bread. It was good.

Side note: While I’m talking about CSA eggs, check out the variety that came in one of our half dozen batches:

IMG_0869

That white one was HUGE! I let Erik have the giant one 🙂

IMG_0872

Finally, this chicken and four-cheese ravioli also made an excellent last-minute dinner:

IMG_0973

Actually, the dinner ended up not being so last-minute, as I again channeled my inner Sandra Lee and went semi-homemade with pasta sauce made completely from CSA tomatoes and garlic and balcony basil:

IMG_0974

Obviously I covered the whole thing in cheese shreds. Sarah portion; Erik portion.

IMG_0975IMG_0977

Conclusion: free food = yay! I will never turn down a free thing, though my preference is always homemade. Sometimes I wish I had a professional photographer, because I still cook tons but often don’t have the energy or time to be photographing everything along the way. I will have to work on Erik to get on top of this job!

Advertisements

Free, flying summer

While on the topic of this summer-gone-by, I would like to mention a few more fun (and free!) adventures in which I was able to partake amidst all the studying.

There was one day when I biked out to Gina’s house in Marine Park and joined her and her in-laws for an excursion to Riis Park Beach in the Rockaways. At the risk of repeating myself, this is the best NYC beach! Just inconvenient enough to get to that it is not covered in trash but convenient enough that it is an excellent choice for a day- (or even an afternoon-) trip.

IMG_0216

Gina’s mother-in-law Pat Shannon is after my heart, as she is an excellent cake-maker and pre-event food planner. When I arrived at Gina’s, Pat Shannon had the makings of a beach picnic spread across the kitchen table. I assembled my sandwich with smoked turkey, honey ham, roasted red pepper, tomato, mustard, and a sandwich thin:

IMG_0218

This sandwich + grapes = perfect beach lunch.

Later that same week (I think), the Beach Boys were playing for FREE at Coney Island:

IMG_0224

Gina, Kate, Erin Gunn, and I made the loooong subway trip down to see them, primarily motivated by the presence of a special guest star. He’s right there in the middle of this picture, the only one wearing black. Can you guess who??

IMG_0226

How about now?

IMG_0227

It was John Stamos!! Uncle Jesse in the flesh!! He apparently joined the Beach Boys for their tour this summer, and this was his first night with them. He spent the night running around the stage and playing every instrument, clearly super excited to be up there. We certainly did not mind seeing him!

IMG_0229

IMG_0230

And neither did these zillions of people in the audience with us:

IMG_0240

A little bit later, John Stamos took the spotlight to sing his famous ballad from Full House days, “Forever.”

IMG_0252

It brought tears to my eyes, let me tell you! Remember this?

I was not the only one moved, either:

IMG_0246

Awww, Full House. That used to be my favorite show!

Because the spot was so crowded for this show, we never had a chance to hunt down food. One the way to the train after, though, I sniffed out a nearby Mister Softee and made sure to get a cone before we got on the train! A girl must have priorities.

As the final free event of the summer that I will feature today, Gina, Kate, Kate’s cousin, and I managed to snag a spot on the lawn of the Elevated Acre for a free showing of The Muppets Take Manhattan. This movie scarred me as a child, but I was willing to give it another shot as a “grown” 28-year-old.

IMG_0897

Let me just take a moment to gush about this location, a lush green (albeit fake) lawn nestled on top of a downtown Manhattan building amongst the skyscrapers:

IMG_0896

A short walk up a few stairs …

IMG_0898

… takes you to THIS view:

IMG_0899 IMG_0900 IMG_0901 IMG_0904

While waiting for the movie to start at sundown, these two serenaded us with some smooth instrumentalizing:

IMG_0907

IMG_0908

I ate a hefty portion (cough, two bags, cough) of the free popcorn provided at the event … plus the rest of the food I had left from lunch: veggies, wheatberries, ground turkey, pesto:

IMG_0910

Finalmente, the sun began its descent …

IMG_0911

… and the movie was able to start!

IMG_0914

I must admit, the movie was not nearly as sad and heartbreaking as my internal 4-year-old recalled. In fact, I loved it!

IMG_0916

As much as I complain about having lived in New York for toooooooo long, it’s pretty unbeatable for free and accessible summer events! Now that I have no homework/classes/studying taking up all my “extra” time, I should start devoting more energy to finding fun free winter things. I can’t believe I am thinking about winter already! Once again, 2010 has been the year of the vanishing summer. I probably know the answer already, but tell me … did your summer fly by as fast as mine??

Expansion resumes

Well, hello!! I realize an unforgivable amount of time has passed since I last blogged and that this failure on my part is a serious inconvenience to the five of you who still loyally check for an update every day. However, I have a totally legitimate reason for my disappearance, as I was busy studying my brains out for my master of social work license. Last Friday, after way too many months of anxiety leading to way to many ulcers (literally), I officially passed the four-hour exam and now have some exciting letters to tack on to the end of my name: LMSW.

What? Did you say LMSW?

IMG_1191

Yes, I said LMSW!!!!!!

Ahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!! Now, for the first time in three years, I do not have a to-do list that involves homework or studying of any sort.

IMG_1189

This weekend, I relaxed 😀

I also reminisced on the vanished summer of 2010 which, though it involved 92% studying, also involved 8% high-quality fun.

Back before my bike got stolen (Yeah, my bike got stolen. Here in my perfect, beautiful Brooklyn neighborhood in the wee hours of a rainy summer morning, some really nice, friendly, community-oriented person took a crazy steel-cutting tool and sliced through the chain like butter.), Erik and I set out to explore Governor’s Island.

IMG_0182

I have lived in New York for 10 years and Brooklyn for over five, and I love how there are still new places for me to discover!

We rode through Brooklyn out to the Water Taxi stop for our free lift across the harbor and arranged ourselves in the bike line:

IMG_0175 IMG_0177

The view was gorgeous from the ferry …

IMG_0181  

… but the views from the island were even more stunning!

IMG_0185IMG_0186IMG_0192IMG_0193

Eaters by nature, we started scoping out the lunch options pretty soon upon arriving, weaving in and out of little side streets and through historical brick tunnels to inspect cafes, vending machines, and food carts.

IMG_0191

We decided on a cute little food stand featuring local (as in grown on a little farm on the actual island!) and organic produce:

IMG_0199

By the time we got to the stand, unfortunately, most of the food was gone! I guess that’s what happens when you wait until 3pm to eat lunch on an uninhabited island that shuts down at 7pm nightly.

IMG_0200

I ordered a cup of homemade fresh pineapple ginger drink (yummmmmmmmmmm!) …

IMG_0201

… and the last scraps of food on the grill, involving toasty chicken crumbs over a mountain of sauteed cabbage:

IMG_0202

We enjoyed our feast with a view of Lady Liberty in the background:

IMG_0203

The food was delicious, and it was enhanced by the scenery and the company:

IMG_0207

When we finished eating and digesting, we loaded ourselves and our bikes back onto the ferry.

IMG_0209

We weren’t ready to call it a day yet, so we took advantage of the water taxi’s close proximity to Red Hook to hit up the best grocery store in the world:

IMG_0210

Before picking up an exciting array of treats not regularly available in the little bodegas and food stands of our Brooklyn neighborhood, we took a scenic stroll through the Fairway grounds. Red Hook seems to have recently learned to play up its naturally beautiful location with brilliant landscaping!

IMG_0211 IMG_0212 IMG_0214

IMG_0215

After our stroll, we purchased Fairway goodies, loaded up our backpacks, and huffed and puffed and pedaled our way home. Sigh, I miss my bike! And summer! Needless to say, this was a beautiful, relaxing, energizing day in a sea of stress.

I will be back soon with more. Thanks for not forgetting about me!