Changing Gears

It has been 35 days since my last post. Whoa. Where does the time go? I started this blog as a means of motivation to stay inspired in the kitchen and stick to the Weight Watchers plan all while working the crazy schedule as a waitress. Well, a lot has changed since arriving back in NYC from our two- week trip to Spain.

First, I am no longer a waitress. I am still working at Haven’s Kitchen a few nights a month but now my main gig is hanging out with the two coolest kids in the city- I am a New York City nanny to an amazing family! My schedule has shifted from getting home at 3am from a long night dealing with guests and restaurant drama to snoozing my alarm at 5:53am everyday until I finally pull myself out of bed around 6:15. I’m out the door by 6:45 and on “mommy duty” starting at 7:30am. My schedule varies but I am with the family about 30 hours a week (or like last week, 52 hours…) but I absolutely love it. I have never been this happy in a job. It’s been 2 months (I started shortly after arriving back from vacation) and I think the early morning routine is my only complaint- but it isn’t even really a complaint. As soon as I am out my door in the morning, I am filled with excitement to see what the day with the kiddos holds. They’re just simply adorable, amazing, loving, snuggly and growing every day!

Second, I am no longer doing Weight Watchers. I struggled with this decision for a few months before finally pulling the plug last week. I am a huge supporter of the WW plan and, at only $18.95 a month for the online program, it is affordable. But I wasn’t using the tools and I wasn’t logging. It just started to feeling like a burden instead of a helpful weight loss tool. But I am optimistic in my journey to loose some more weight.

Lastly, I have not been inspired in the kitchen, which is the main reason for my absence here. It is actually a combination of all three things. I originally started this blog with a very specific point of view- WW follower and wildly inspired restaurant employee. I am no longer any of those things.

So I am changing gears.

I have held off on any blog posts recently because I felt like I owed everyone some background on my absence. I couldn’t start a post and just drop in, “Well, I quit Weight Watchers” without some sort of explanation. I have a few posts in mind and one I have been working on so keep an eye out for the new direction.

I will eventually get around the changing around the “About Me” section of the blog but for now, here’s my new focus: eating right while managing two young kids (10 months and 3 ½) while using short cuts to eat as healthfully, locally and seasonally as possible.

Thank you everyone for your support and any all and “mommy” tips would be appreciated. Let’s just say, I have a whole new appreciation for parents. Like, WHOA.

Favorite Fall Recipes

Where does the time go? I have been nannying for two months now and I feel like I’ve become a mom. I am with the two kids about 40 hours a week and by the time I get home, I just want to crash on the couch and order take out. **Shout out to all those moms out there who don’t get to “clock out” at the end of the day!** It’s a horrible habit but I can’t seem to break the cycle. I have, however, managed to make two of my fall favorites the past few weekends: pumpkin gingersnap cookies and curried celery root and roasted sweet potato soup.

These are my favorite fall cookies that are easy but a bit time consuming. So many of my childhood holiday memories are connected to the cookies, pies and other baked goods my mom used to make around this time of year. Now that I am out on my own, I am trying to create some of my own holiday food traditions.

I stumbled upon this recipe last fall when I had some extra canned pumpkin in my pantry. Gingersnaps were always part of my mom’s repertoire so I thought theses Pumpkin Gingersnaps would be the perfect addition to mine.

Pumpkin Gingersnaps 

½ cup of butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling the cookies

½ cup of pure pumpkin (I used Trader Joe’s canned pumpkin)

¼ cup of molasses

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

In the bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy and smooth using a hand mixer (or a standing mixer if you have one). Add the pumpkin, molasses, egg, and vanilla extract, mix until well combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until combined.

Refrigerate the cookie dough for at least 1 hour. The dough can be chilled for 2-3 days.*

When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.

Place sugar in a small bowl. Roll tablespoon-sized balls of dough in sugar until well coated and place on prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 10–12 minutes, or until cookies look cracked and set at the edges. The cookies will still be soft.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a 2-3 minutes after removing them from the oven, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

*I cannot stress enough how important it is that you let the dough chill for AT LEAST one hour. I usually leave mine overnight. If you attempt to roll the dough in your hands and sugar before it is properly chilled, you will have a frustrating sticky mess on your hands (literally). The longer the dough chills, the easier the rolling will be!

This next recipe is loosely on Mark Bittman’s Creamy Curried Celery Root Soup.

Curried Celery Root and Roasted Sweet Potato Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 small onion, chopped

1 tablespoon curry powder

Salt and black pepper

1  pound celery root, peeled and cut into 1 to 2 inch cubes

1/2 pound sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-2 inch cubes

6 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put sweet potato in a large bowl and coat with 1 tablespoon of oil and 1/2 tablespoon of curry powder. Toss to coat. Spread out on a lined cookie sheet and roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes (it might take a little longer so just check in 3-5 minute increments).

Put 1 tablespoon of oil in a large, deep pot over medium-high heat. When it’s melted, add the onion and cook until they begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes

Add 1/2 tablespoon of curry powder and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 1 minute

Add the cubed celery root and stir just to coat it in the curry powder, then add the stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat so that the stock bubbles gently and cook, stirring occasionally, until the celery root is fully tender, 15 to 20 minutes more

Cool the roasted sweet potato and the cooked celery root cool slightly. Add both to a blender or food processor, and purée carefully. You may also add the sweet potato to the celery root, stock and spices and use an immersion blender to purée the soup in the pan.

These recipes have become a part of my fall/holiday tradition and I hope you will try them out. They are a little tricky at first but practice makes perfect! Once you get a hang of these, they will be great fall backs when you’re in need for a fall pick-me-up! Enjoy!

If you’re looking for some fall inspiration, check out this list of seasonal fall fruits and vegetables and some other fall recipes, in this  from Buzzfeed!

Vegetables

I totally forgot to add this link to my post yesterday and it’s probably my favorite. I feel like I am constantly trying to eat for veggies and, why not, most of them are zero point on Weight Watchers! I have been utilizing all of these ideas recently and they really work. Veggies can bulk up anything you are eating quickly and easy!

#1: Shop for veggies one day a week. This one is easy to follow if you visit a farmer’s market once a week. Set aside $20 each week and wander around the market and ask what is best that week. Fruits and Vegetables can have short seasons, so this will ensure that you can try the best of each season’s bounty! Right now, load up on squash (butternut, acorn, kombucha), apples, beets, brussels sprouts, and root vegetables (carrots, kohlrabi, celery root). A good rule of thumb is try to and make your plate look like a rainbow.

#2: Prep your veggies. I don’t usually cut up my veggies but I do remove them from the bags/containers and organize them nicely in a colander or two. I wash them all and then put them in the fridge still in the colander. It makes them look pretty (almost on display) and it’s easy to see what you have to use. I find I waste a lot less by doing this.

#3: Breakfast. Adding peppers, onions, broccoli or even brussels sprouts to an omelette or scrambled eggs. Or try…

#4: Blendtastic. Try making a fruit and veggie smoothie in the morning. If you have a lot of dark, leafy greens that might go bad before dinner time, try my kale smoothie. This is a great way to sneak in a serving or two of vegetables.

#5: Snack time. I always have cucumbers, bell peppers and baby carrots in my fridge. Always. I also always keep some sort of healthy dip in there- baba ganoush, hummus and tzatziki are my favorites. It takes about 3 minutes to chop up the peppers and cucumber and these snacks are guilt free!

#6: Lunch. Salad in a mason jar. Enough said.

#7: Dinner. Cooking veggies in a crock pot is a great but not everyone has one sitting on their counter. I love roasting vegetables, especially all the fall/winter root veggies. Just cut them into bite size pieces, spread out in a single layer on a cookie sheet (lining with foil or parchment will make clean up a breeze), drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes. It will probably take a bit longer than 20 minutes, so check them at that time and then check them every 5 minutes until they are done to your liking (it will probably take more like 30-45 minutes).

#8: Dessert. I haven’t personally tried using vegetables in dessert but think zucchini bread, banana bread, etc. Or anything pumpkin- just try using another type of squash!

I hope this helps some of you eat more vegetables. Let me know any tips or tricks you might have!

Recipes, Ideas and Tricks

My schedule has filled up so quickly and I have been so busy that I didn’t even realize that it has been 12 days since my last post! I am now nannying for an amazing family as well as working an event or two a week at Haven’s Kitchen. Nannying has helped me find a new level of respect for moms out there- I have no idea how you all do it! I am hoping that in the weeks to come I can start adding some healthy, child-friendly recipes and tricks that I have found that work with “my” little ones. For now, here are some recipes, ideas and tricks I have been archiving for the past few weeks that I think you will all enjoy! Thank god for Buzzfeed and the site’s infinite foodie wisdom.

This first recipe is for a Spanish Tortilla, something Nick and I ate our fair share of when we were in Spain. Essentially this is a bite of heaven- potato, egg and cheese… yum!  You can play around with this a little too (who doesn’t like to step away from tradition every once and a while) and add tomatoes, chives, asparagus or whatever you want. No matter what you do with it, it will be delicious!

Next, tomato sauce! I should have posted this about a month ago when tomatoes were at their peak. But, I didn’t. Sorry! Follow this recipe exactly and you will be amazed at the flavor you are going to be able to develop!

For tricks: Thai food. Ever since I got back from studying abroad in Vietnam, I have wanted to dive into cooking Southeast Asian (SEA) cuisine but it’s just so intimidating. This post helps take away some of the mystery surrounding Thai (and SEA food)- some ginger here, coconut milk there and you’ll have some amazing meals in minutes! Also, buy fish sauce. You will be surprised how often you will use it!

Lastly, here are some grocery shopping hacks– ways to make your groceries last longer. I have been doing my best to reduce my food waste and the first thing I did was start menu planning. It is amazing how much it helps! I have been able to reduce the amount I spend at the grocery store as well as the amount of food I throw out because it went bad before I could use it. Another was to start following some of these tips. I can personally vouch for the soft herb, banana and apple storage. I haven’t tried too many others but ,now that the list is up here, I will make sure to check back often and try to utilize them all at one point or another.

I hope you all get to try out these recipes, ideas and tricks sometime soon. Let me know how they go!

 

 

 

 

Crispy Pizza Dough

Two posts in one day! I wanted to try this recipe out a few times before posting but here it is: the best crispy pizza dough recipe! I have been making my own pizza dough for a while but I could never get the flour/water ratio right. Like most recipes I develop, I also research at least 5-7 recipes online before grabbing my favorite ideas from each and putting them together.

I was working on putting some ideas together about two weeks ago when I stumbled upon this recipe from Bon Appetit. I decided to just go for it and see how it turned out. I altered it only slightly (used my hands to mix instead of a processor). It was PERFECT! I rolled it out as thinly as possible and it is perfectly crispy and crunchy.

Crispy Pizza Dough

3/4 cup warm water

1 envelope active dry yeast

2 cups (+ 1/2 cup divided for kneading and rolling) all purpose flour

1 teaspoon sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

Directions
Pour 3/4 cup warm water into small bowl; stir in yeast. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Mix 2 cups flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.

Add yeast mixture and 3 tablespoons oil to dry ingredients and mix (using your hands is easiest) until the dough is stringy.

Transfer to lightly floured surface and knead dough until smooth, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is very sticky, about 5 minutes (the original recipe calls for one minute but I found it worked well by kneading it a little longer because I didn’t use a processor to mix it).

Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl; turn dough in bowl to coat with oil.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough, roll into a large ball and then divide into 4 equal-sized dough balls.

Wrap each dough ball in plastic wrap (or, better yet, an air-tight container) and refrigerate for up to 4 days before using (you can freeze the dough balls for up to a month as well- just be careful of freezer burn- and let it thaw in the fridge for at least 24 hours before using).

WW Points: 6 points per dough ball (makes 4 pizza dough balls)

Brianna’s Poppyseed Dressing

20130928-132545.jpg

Hi all! I know it’s been a while since I posted… again. So here’s a quick post about my new favorite salad dressing!

Whenever I visit my family in Maine, I have to make a visit to my favorite restaurant Huot’s. We have known the owner, Denise, and her family since I was young and Huot’s is a part of all my Maine memories. When I was younger, I would go for fried haddock sandwich with french fries but now that I’m more health-conscious I order the clamcake and a house salad with poppyseed dressing. Before Huot’s, I didn’t even know poppyseed dressing existed so I was surprised to I find it on Westside Markets shelves a few weeks ago.

The Brianna’s poppyseed dressing is now a staple in my refrigerator and I find myself using it on all kinds of salads and vegetables. It is great on a simple salad with some cut up fruit, such as strawberries or grapes, or even on top of avocado or peaches on its own. I find myself looking for reasons to use that and for $3.99 a bottle it’s a pretty hard deal to beat!

WW Points: 4 points for 2 tbsp (I only use 1 tbsp on my salads)

Haven’s Kitchen: Why I Believe in Mandatory Service

I have always said that everyone needs to work in a restaurant at one point in their life. Working in the industry is hard. Actually, hard is an understatement. When days are good, they are the best days you’ve ever had. When they are bad, you’re in a walk-in somewhere bawling your eyes out while trying to pull yourself together so guests can’t tell you’ve been crying.

I remember when I wanted to get my first job. I marched my way to the principal’s office at my high school to get a worker’s permit signed when I was 15. I wanted to work at the mall so I could spend all my money on clothes. However, my dad refused to let me go into retail because “restaurant’s have more money.” Both him and my mom worked in the industry until their mid-twenties and actually met while my dad was her supervisor at a bar- I guess it runs in my blood. I feel like I owe so much to my dad because I have learned more about myself through working as a busser, food runner and server than I think I could have ever learned folding shirts at Tyson’s Corner.* I am a sensitive person and every day of my 10-year career has made me stronger and molded me into the person I am today.

I am no longer working in a traditional restaurant setting but I am still in the service industry as an event server. I am still at Haven’s Kitchen once or twice a week and I am so happy to be there. I believe in the mission and it’s an enjoyable place to be and a lot of that has to do with my co-workers and the people we serve. The owner, Alison Cayne, wrote an article that was published on the Huffington Post’s website yesterday that everyone needs to check out. She was able to articulate my exact thoughts on why everyone needs to work in a restaurant at one time in their life. Here’s a quick overview of the 10 things you learn as a server but you can check out the full article here!

1. MISSION

2. EMPATHY

3. CLEANLINESS

4. LATERAL THINKING

5. TEAMWORK

6. PREPARATION

7. SOCIAL SKILLS

8. MEMORY

9. BASIC TABLE MANNERS

10. GRATITUDE

*Disclaimer: I have several friends that work in retail (Bloomingdale’s, Lucky, Burberry, etc.) and I by no means want to disregard how hard it is. I don’t actually know first hand but, from their stories, I know customers can be just as difficult.

Best Food in Madrid

I feel like I have been apologizing in almost every post this summer. I have been so bad about posting and so much of it has to do with the fact that I have been traveling a ton and it has been just too hot to cook. I’m not sure if everyone is like me but when it’s hot outside I just don’t want to eat (no eating = no cooking = no posts). That said, I have three posts that will be going up over the next few days that are all about my favorite culinary adventures in Spain!

We flew in and out of Madrid so we spent our first 48 hours in Spain trying to cram in as much food as possible in the country’s capital. We had a night in Madrid on the tail end of the trip but we didn’t know how much energy we’d have left after two weeks on the road so we wanted to hit everyone our first time around. We landed at Barajas airport around 7am and were at our rented apartment by 11am. By the way, if you travel often and have never tried Airbnb, you have to try it- by far the easiest, most inexpensive and convenient way to handle accommodations on the road. We essentially dropped everything in the apartment and wandered out into the streets with our guide book and a map I bought at Barnes and Noble back in New York.

Our apartment was located on Cuesta de Santo Domingo, which, for those of you who haven’t been, is right in the heart of Madrid. To give a little perspective for those of you have been, we were less than 5 minutes walking from Opera, Callao, Gran Via, Santo Domingo and SOL metro stops and Plaza Major. We were starving so we headed straight for Mercado de San Miguel which had been recommended to us by multiple friends and our guide book.

Mercado de San Miguel

DSC_0043

View from outside before walking in

mercado de san miguel

View inside down one of the aisle

IMG_7255

No clue what this is. But there was so much amazing seafood!

DSC_0030

Fresh sardines and octopus

DSC_0032

Prawns

DSC_0028

Beautiful fresh seafood

DSC_0019

Oysters- our first culinary stop in the market

DSC_0025

Pinxtos- we tried these even though we weren’t quite sure what they were…

DSC_0026

More pinxtos

IMG_7257

Tinto de verano and even more pinxtos (this is from when we came back to Madrid right before flying home)

DSC_0011

Jamon

Mercado de San Miguel was a perfect first stop. You can bounce from counter to counter and eat everything from oysters to pinxtos to bite-sized desserts to paella. Literally anything you could imagine! We did realize, perhaps a bit too late, that everything adds up quickly. Every stall was better than the one before so we just kept eating. Nothing cost more than €6-€9… but six or seven stalls later… oops?

After leaving, we just started walking. Whenever I travel, I like to do a ton of research (sorry to all my friends for all the emails!) and study a map so I can have a general idea of how to “aimlessly” wander around while still hitting every place I was told to check out. My mom (and others) had told me all about Botin. Botin, which opened in 1725, is considered to be the oldest continuously running restaurant in the world and it is located just down the street from Mercado de San Miguel. We “happened” to walk right by it so we stepped in and made a reservation for later that night. After a quick siesta we headed to dinner!

Botin- The Oldest Restaurant in the World

DSC_0114

Us in front of Botin

DSC_0119

Walking down the stairs into the cellar

DSC_0123

Looking down another stair case into the wine cellar from our seats in the cellar

DSC_0133

Sangria

DSC_0136

Suckling pig

DSC_0148

Very old wine in the wine cellar

A friend of mine from college, who moved to Madrid after we graduated to get a masters degree, told us to check out a Museo de Jamon. They are located all over the city and they make a perfect pit stop before siesta to get a quick snack and a beer. They sell small draft beer- maybe 6 oz at most- and you get free jamon and/or cheese when you order! It’s cheap, quick, delicious and the perfect bite.

Museo de Jamon

DSC_0231

Nick at the counter ordering our beer (and free food)

DSC_0233

Our first small beer and our free snack. When you’re thirsty, these beers go down in a gulp or two!

DSC_0234

Another snack from our second round of beers

Our second night (and first of two “last” nights) in Madrid we decided to do a proper tapas crawl on Cava Bajas,- Madrid’s notorious tapas street. We had a few recommendations and our trusted Lonely Planet so we just headed down the road. Our two favorite stops were Almendro 13 and Posado del Dragon (which happened to be the hotel we had booked for our final night of the trip before flying home). We fell in love with Huevos Rotos and Patatas Bravas!

Huevos Rotos at Almendro 13

IMG_6780

Patas Bravas at Posado del Dragon

IMG_6775

We ended our tapas crawl at a little churro restaurant called San Gines near Plaza Major around 2:30am. We ordered 4 churros (the standard order) with hot chocolate. It was so good! If you are ever in Madrid, you definitely need to check out all of these spots. I know that if I ever find my way back to Spain, you will find me wandering between Opera and Cava Bajas finding every treat in between.

Churros with Hot Chocolate

IMG_6788

Compound Butter

Making a compound butter is so simple and such an easy way to elevate any meals that calls for butter. I love making roasted garlic compound butter and using when sauteing vegetables- it adds so much flavor! Whenever you have some time on your hands, use a few sticks of butter and try out one of these recipes. They keep for a long time and you can just leave it in the fridge and pull it out anytime you want to add in some extra flavor!