Sunday Funday Round 3: Red Hook

Nick and I had to make a trip to the Ikea in Brooklyn on Sunday so we decided to make a day out of it by wandering around Red Hook afterwards. Red Hook is a little off the beaten path mostly because it’s not directly off any subway lines so we took advantage of having a car to get there!

Our first stop post-Ikea was a restaurant called The Good Fork. A few people from Haven’s Kitchen recommended I check it out and the fact that it was only a quarter-mile from Ikea made it a no brainer. We found a parking spot right out front (score!) and wandered in. It looked a little empty but then I noticed sunshine coming from the back of the restaurant outdoor seating! The backyard was packed but we were able to grab a table for two.

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Nick ordered a bloody mary made with clam juice (pictured above) and I ordered a French 75 (gin, sparkling wine and lemon). Both were unbelievable. We had an egg white omelette for breakfast so we weren’t starving. We decided to go with the bibb lettuce salad with a soft boiled egg and lardon. It even came with a piece of crispy sourdough bread to get all the yummy goodness that is a runny egg yolk!

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We also ordered a side of their homemade kimchi that was super spicy and super delicious! It was the perfect amount of food to keep us going!

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Next we wandered towards to the water to check out the views. We stumbled upon a Fairway and a few other spots. What initially drew us that way was Sunny’s Bar. We are huge Anthony Bourdain fans and he visited Sunny’s on the last episode of No Reservations. Bourdain filmed his last episode- Brooklyn- before Sandy hit. Sunny’s, like a lot of places in that episode, was devastated by the hurricane. Sunny’s still hasn’t reopened. I was honestly shocked to see so many places in Red Hook, not only open, but thriving. I was happy we were there and able to help the local businesses a bit! Here’s a picture of me about a block from Sunny’s:

IMG_5715Our next stop was right around the corner- Brooklyn Crab. We weren’t hungry at all but we decided to stop in for a beer.

IMG_5679We sat down at the bar inside (outdoor seating was for diners only) and ordered two Peak IPAs. Nick saw oysters on the menu and couldn’t resist! Sitting there, eating oysters and drinking a beer that reminds me of being on the beach in Maine made me feel a million miles away from the city. I will definitely be visiting this place again when I am in need of some time on the water!

IMG_5681The view of the water from our bar stools

IMG_5682Beer and oysters- two of my favorite things!

Our final stops of the day were the Red Hook Winery and Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies. Both are located on Pier 41 just a few minutes walk from Brooklyn Crab. I have seen Red Hook wines in a few places (and where I work) so I was really excited to see that they were open for tastings. They were almost completely destroyed by Hurricane Sandy so to see them up and running (only their 3rd weekend open since Sandy) was amazing! We bought two bottles of wine before heading to Steve’s to pick up a small key lime pie to share. Another amazing Sunday Funday!

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Slow Cooker Lasagna

I have plans to have drinks with Lauren and Colleen tonight (twice in 5 days!) and then Lauren is coming over for dinner. Usually, I am at home cooking when someone comes over for dinner so everything is more or less ready right when they walk in. Because we’re coming uptown together, I needed something that could cook while I am gone but still be ready when we get here. Enter: SLOW COOKER! Nick bought me my slow cooker about 6 months ago and I have loved learning new, easy, healthy recipes that cook themselves.

I wanted to find something healthy but comforting so when I stumbled upon this slow cooker lasagna, I had to try it out! I made a few changes (noted below) to cut some calories and make it a little more WW friendly. I can’t wait to try it tonight!

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Ingredients

4 cups torn spinach

2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms

1/2 cup commercial pesto

3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese*

3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded provolone cheese*

1 (15-ounce) carton fat-free ricotta cheese

1 large egg, lightly beaten

3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided

1 (25.5-ounce) bottle fat-free tomato-basil pasta sauce

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

Cooking spray

1 (8-ounce) package precooked lasagna noodles (12 noodles)**

Instructions

Arrange the spinach in a vegetable steamer; steam, covered, 3 minutes or until spinach wilts. Drain, squeeze dry, and coarsely chop.

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 Combine spinach, mushrooms, and pesto in a medium bowl, stirring to combine; set aside.

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Combine mozzarella, provolone, ricotta, and beaten egg in a medium bowl, stirring well to combine. Stir in 1/4 cup Parmesan, and set aside. Combine the pasta sauce and the tomato sauce in a medium bowl.

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Spread 1 cup pasta sauce mixture in the bottom of a 6-quart oval electric slow cooker coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 noodles over pasta sauce mixture; top with 1 cup cheese mixture and 1 cup spinach mixture. Repeat the layers, ending with spinach mixture. Arrange 3 noodles over spinach mixture; top with remaining 1 cup cheese mixture and 1 cup pasta sauce mixture. Place remaining 3 noodles over sauce mixture; spread remaining sauce mixture over noodles. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan. Cover with lid; cook on LOW 5 hours or until done.

Yields 8 servings

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* I used Trader Joes Quatro Formaggi which has asiago, provolone, mozzarella and parmesan in it instead of buying provolone and mozzarella separately. I used 1 1/2 cups of this mix and then used 3/4 of grated parmesan in addition (as stated in the recipe).
** In order to cut calories/WW Points, I used sliced eggplant (below) instead of lasagna noodles. Eggplant is 0 points so it helps a lot!
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WW Points: 9 per serving (with eggplant instead of noodles)

Trader Joes Falafel with Tahini

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I’ve been keeping these frozen falafel in my freezer recently and they make a great go-to snack. They aren’t exactly low in WW Points but they are filling and definitely worth it! The frozen falafel costs $3.69 a bag and the tahini sauce is $2.49 (I believe)- this will get you about 4 servings.

WW Points: 9 for 3 falafel and 1 tbsp of tahini

Goi Cuon- Vietnamese Shrimp and Pork Summer Rolls

I mentioned last week that I ventured down to Chinatown to get some groceries to make Vietnamese food. Well here is the post (finally!). I apologize for not getting it up sooner- I need a little break from the computer but I have lots of fun stuff to post this week from my culinary adventures this weekend.

Lauren and Colleen are my two closest girlfriends in New York. I see Lauren regularly (it’s not unusual to see her more than I see my boyfriend in a week) but it had been a while since the three of us had had a girls night together. I invited them over to teach them how to make an easy Vietnamese appetizer and to enjoy some wine and dragon fruit. All I did was prep everything before they got there and had it all set up on the table for whenever they wanted to sit down and eat.

I made Goi Cuon from this cookbook once in college and it can be kind of labor intensive because you have to be patient with each and every roll. Honestly, after that first time I felt kind of defeated until I tasted them. The work is worth it! I also noticed what a difference the proper ingredients make. I know it can be hard to find garlic chives (very different flavor than a regular chive), Asian mint (it’s a lot spicier than regular mint) and perilla (also called shiso). You will definitely need to find an Asian market for the vermicelli and rice paper (unless your grocery store has an extensive international foods section) but the herbs can still be hard to find. If you are in a bind, just grab regular chives and mint and skip the shiso (I didn’t add any in when I made them). The flavors will be a little different but still delicious!

I’m happy I thought of having Lauren and Colleen make their own rolls for a few reasons:

1. I didn’t have to stress out about making 12 of these ahead of time

2. It was kind of like a cooking class and they both learned how to assemble them on their own

3. They both agreed that it was pretty easy and I think they enjoyed them a little more because they appreciated the work that goes into making them

I hope you will try to make these at home. They are beautiful to set out for a dinner party and will be sure to impress everyone! And, I promise, once you’ve made them twice, you will have the process memorized and it will feel like a breeze every time after that!

Secrets of the Red Lantern; stories and Vietnamese recipes from the heart

Pauline Nguyen with recipes by Mark Jensen and Luke Nguyen

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Goi Cuon– Vietnamese Summer Rols

2 3/4 ounces dried vermicelli

18 sheets of 8 1/2 inch rice paper

18 cooked small shrimp, peeled and sliced in half

4 1/4 ounces cooked pork neck, finely sliced*

1 cup firmly packed shredded iceberg lettuce

1 bunch perilla (shiso)

1 bunch mint

1 bunch garlic chives

Hoisin dipping sauce (recipe below)

Add noodles to boiling water and bring back to a boil. Cooke for 5 minutes. Turn off the hear and allow the noodles to stand in the water for an additional 5 minutes. Strain and rinse under cold water, then leave to dry. For this recipe, it is best to have cooked and strained the vermicelli at least 30 minutes prior to rolling. This allows the noodles to dry off a little and stick together.

To assemble the rolls, cut six sheets of rice paper in half. Fill a large bowl with warm water and dip one whole sheet of rice paper in the water until it softens, then lay it flat on a plate. Dip a half sheet of rice paper in the water and lay it vertically in the middle of the round sheet. This will help strengthen the roll and keep the filling from breaking through. In the middle of the rice paper, place three pieces of shrimp in a horizontal line approximately 1 1/2 inches from the top.

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Below the shrimp, add some pork, lettuce, perilla, mint, and vermicelli.

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To form the goi cuon, first fold the sides into the center over the filling, then the bottom of the paper up and over. Roll from bottom to top to form a tight roll, and just before you complete the roll add two pieces of garlic chive so that they stick out at one end.

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The final product

WW Points: 3 points per roll (no pork)

*I do not use the pork neck. I find that they are just as delicious (just not as authentic) without it and it saves some points!

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Hoisin Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup of hoisin sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon roasted peanuts

1 red bird eye chili

In a saucepan, combine the hoisin sauce and the rice vinegar, place over medium heat and stir in the milk. Continue to stir until just before boiling point is reached, then allow to cool. To serve, chop the roasted peanuts and finely slice the chili to garnish the sauce.

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The dipping sauce will last up to one week stored in the refridgator.

WW Points: 2 points/serving (makes 6 servings and this is using fat free milk)

Total WW Points for suggested serving: 11 points (3 rolls and one serving of dipping sauce)

And here are pictures of the dragon fruit stand in Chinatown and it all cut up for dessert. I ate dragon fruit almost every day for breakfast when we lived in Vietnam. Think kiwi meets pear meets watermelon. It’s mild, not too sweet and very hydrating and refreshing! The biggest difference between dragon fruit in NYC and Vietnam? Price. I got one fruit for $6 in Chinatown whereas the same fruit would have cost about 45 cents on the streets in Saigon!

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Corner Bistro

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Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have a minor obsession with How I Met Your Mother- I own the first 7 seasons and watch it daily on my train rides to and from everywhere. I’m pretty sure at this point I could quote 85% of every episode.

Well I don’t have to work today and two of my girlfriends are coming over for dinner so I decided to venture down to Chinatown to get ingredients for one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes (post coming later). As I was heading downtown, I was watching the beginning of the 4th season of HIMYM (obviously) and happened to be at one of my favorite episodes ever- “The Best Burger in New York.” This episode focuses on Marshall’s obsession over finding the burger place he deemed the best burger in NY 8 years earlier but can only remember that it was on a numbered street. A stranger over hears him talking about it and tells him it’s the Corner Bistro. It’s not (according to Marshall).

Seeing that I was on a train headed to Chinatown around 1:30pm today, I hadn’t had lunch and would pass right by this restaurant, I decided it would be stupid not to get off the subway and try the burger. I realize that my last post was about being a “flexitarian” and that it is kind of hypocritical that I went and had a burger for lunch but I just had to know! Again, my daily struggle of living in the amazing city full of food wonders, being on a budget and being a member of WW all while trying to eat locally and sustainably…

I had been to the Corner Bistro twice before but only for drinks- it is one of the only places in New York where you can get a pint of beer for $3.00 at any time of the day. Nick and I used to go the first summer we were dating back when we were still in college and poorer than poor.

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I haven’t been in a while because 1) I will pay more for a good drink (not cheap beer) and 2) I don’t eat burgers or red meat all that often. Well today I tried their cheeseburger and it was worth the trip. Not sure if it’s the best in New York but, then again, I haven’t tried too many burgers in New York.

For only $7.75 (great deal in NY but I understand that that might seem like a lot of a burger with no sides), it was an amazing burger. I put it together with thinly sliced onions, a thick slice of tomato, one leaf of lettuce and two pickles and was convinced I wouldn’t be able to take a bite because it was SO big.

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I finally got a bite and decided I couldn’t put it down out of fear that the whole thing would fall apart. It was juicy, perfectly cooked and the flavors were amazing. For anyone who has seen this episode, Marshall’s monologue at the end, when he finally finds the burger, is the perfect description!

Next time you’re in New York and wandering around the Village, stop by, sit at the bar and order the cheeseburger with a $3 pint of McSorley’s. You won’t be disappointed!

Columbia Wine Company

columbia wine

I discovered this wine store a few weeks ago. I had passed it many times before but never thought to stop in. I have mentioned that the neighborhood I live in is changing quickly and this find confirmed that for me.

I was so excited when I walked in for the first time because their wine (and small batch/local liquors) is extensive and impressive. I was even more excited when I learned the deliver. Yes, deliver. No minimum to ALL of Manhattan! If you are ever in Washington Heights or end up living in Washington Heights make sure you stop in to Columbia Wine Co. and register for delivery when make your first purchase. They store your information and keep a record of your purchases so they can help you find other things you might like.

I am so happy this place is only 6 blocks away! Oh the joys of NYC and your infinite possibility for deliveries…

Coffee Milkshake

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I came home from my run a few minutes ago and realized I had poured myself a cup of coffee and completely forgot about it. Needless to say, it was cold and bitter but I didn’t want to throw it down the drain. I thought I’d try to make a WW-friendly milkshake using some things from my fridge and freezer. I LOVE Trader Joe’s Soy Creamy Ice Cream Sandwiches so I figured I would use one in the shake. Here’s what I did:

IMG_5524Soy Creamy Coffee Milkshake

1 cup of old coffee

1 Soy Creamy

1 cup of ice

1/2 cup of almond milk (or regular milk if you prefer)

Directions

Put ice in the blender and top with the cold coffee. Add the Soy Creamy and pulse to combine. With the blender on a “smoothie” setting, blend while adding in the milk slowly. Blend until smooth!

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WW Points: 3 points/smoothie*

*Soy Creamy is 2 points per sandwich and 1/2 cup of almond milk is 1 point. This could change based on the type of milk you choose to use.