Almond Chicken Soup

with sweet potato, collards & ginger

One of the ways that I try to make myself feel better overall is to eat better. For some reason, when I fill myself with beer, pizza and cupcakes, I don’t feel great in the morning. I have no idea why that may be. The cure, though, is to start eating simple, wholesome foods without greasy cheese or tons of processed ingredients. Not that I don’t love digging into a bag of candy or sharing a big plate of buffalo wings – believe me, there’s no where I’d rather be than in front of a plate of wings – but most of the time, I feel healthier and happier when I’ve got some vitamins and minerals in me. Enter Clean Slate, the new book from the editors at Martha Stewart Living. I’m a part of the Martha’s Circle network, along with a bunch of other really talented bloggers, and some of us were given the new book to take a look at and maybe try out some of the recipes. I have to say this with complete honesty – I love this cookbook. The recipes are easy, the ingredients are easy to find and the photos are lovely. Kramer and I ate from the cookbook for a week, and we both thought everything was tasty and approachable enough for simple weekday lunches and after work meals. I swear I am not being paid to promote this cookbook, I just loved it. My friends can attest to this, as they came over and found bookmarks on multiple pages, then proceeded to joke about how there’s no point in adding Post-Its to a book if I’m planning to just cook every single recipe. But I did it anyway, just to motivate myself to cook healthier in the new year – it’s still February, so I can say that, right?

almond chicken soupWeekend breakfast, drinks with Travis, wine with quite the name and more pastrami on rye.

This Almond Chicken Soup was just what the doctor ordered. Its creaminess comes entirely from almond butter, not cream or actual butter. The ginger was perfect for this time of year, where you feel a little worse for wear, the collard greens added tons of fiber and vitamins, and the chicken and sweet potatoes made the soup filling and hearty. Kramer and I ate this for lunch for a few days at work before we gobbled it all up, and even my boss commented on how good it looked. I was especially excited about adding the almond butter to the broth. It made the soup have tons of body without being too thick, and added a lovely, aromatic element that I had never had in a soup before. Almonds are also rich in fiber and protein, so believe me, if you eat this at work at 12pm, you’ll still be feeling good around 3 or 4 when that mid-afternoon snack craving usually strikes. You can, of course, substitute spinach, kale or Swiss chard for the collard greens, but I appreciated their unique texture and the way that they wilted perfectly into the soup without getting soggy (although I think kale would also do this). Add a little coconut milk or red pepper flakes if you want to customize your soup, or maybe even use shrimp in place of chicken – I may go ahead and try this route next time around. However you cut it, I’m a fan of this whole almond soup idea and can’t wait to play with other ways to make it delicious.

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Apple Cider Cake

with cider buttercream

I got a lot of interesting responses to my last post, be it concern for my well being, insistence that a food blog isn’t the right platform for discussing such personal feelings, or praise for being honest. I appreciate any and all feedback, even if it’s negative, but I think at the end of the day the subject of anxiety and the like is being discussed, and that’s all that really matters. I’m lucky to have a wonderful support system made up of people that care, from my husband to friends to my parents and in-laws. Not everybody has that, and I can only imagine how difficult things would be without all of those people. Everyone has bad days or weeks, but the way in which you handle it makes a huge difference, and because I have an outlet like this blog and an incredibly understanding and emotionally available husband like Kramer, I’m able to express myself or curl up into a ball, depending on the day, and move forward. The reason that I want to be open about my anxiety is because I’m not necessarily ashamed of it. It’s always been a part of who I am and there’s no world in which I am going to wake up one day and be totally fine. One of my fears, though, as trite as it may sound, is that this blog turns into something that isn’t me. I don’t go to the farmer’s market every day, I don’t spend every waking minute baking cookies or preparing beautiful dinners. I don’t go out for cocktails every night and I’m not eating uni on toasts or pizza from Roberta’s every night. I know sometimes it may seem that way, but I usually only post the best stuff here because that’s way more fun to read than, “Last night I went to the gym, came home, ate leftover chicken and put the laundry away, then scrolled through Tumblr for two hours until Kramer got out of class.” So, yeah, I do a lot of fun, cool stuff because I do live in New York and there are lots of activities to be had, but I also get sad or bored or annoyed, or sometimes my anxiety gets really bad and Kramer has to coach me through leaving the house. We all have our version of normal and I just want to be ~real~ with you guys. I would apologize for making you read that kind of thing on a food blog, where you probably just want the recipe for this three layer apple cider cake, but, you know, sorry not sorry.

apple cider cakeDonny took a picture of me taking a picture on our walking tour a few weeks ago.

SO. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I will go ahead and share this cake recipe with you, because it’s awesome. I couldn’t resist grabbing a jug of cider from the Union Square greenmarket (I know, I know, totally contradictory to what I just said above, but hey, I do pass by it most days before or after work), but when I got home I realized that Kramer and I weren’t really the type to pour ourselves a tall glass of sweet apple cider, unless I’ve heated it up and added a little bourbon. It just so happened that I had the cider in the fridge during the snow storm that wasn’t a couple of weeks ago, and since Kramer and I couldn’t get to work due to the subways being shut down, we were stuck inside. That left me free to wander back and forth between my computer and the kitchen, hence this cake. I’m terrible at decorating cakes, so my go-to is to just throw three layers together with frosting sandwiched between each layer, forgoing having to frost the sides because I do think that this way has its own appeal in a rustic sort of way. I added crunchy cinnamon-sugar to each layer, which added a nice texture, and the buttercream was made simply with just a touch of apple cider and cinnamon for good measure. If you’ve got a cake to make, feel free to forgo the usual vanilla or chocolate and go for something a little different. It’s February, after all, and we all need a little pick-me-up! This is almost like the apple cider doughnut of cakes and if that doesn’t sell you on it, I don’t know what will.

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Blood Orange Punch

with chocolate bitters

I’m obsessed with blood oranges, so when they pop their head up at the store around this time every year, I’ve got to get as many as I possibly can. I’m already a big fan of oranges, but the blood orange is something special. Its dark red color paired with its incredibly unique both sweet and bitter flavor is something I can’t get enough of (see: there will be blood (oranges), blood orange roasted beets and this blood orange quick bread). Blood oranges, of course, go best in a cocktail. If you prefer something on the bitter side, then blood oranges are the citrus for you. Paired with the classic ingredients for a negroni (campari, gin and sweet vermouth), blood orange juice adds a pop of freshness, then everything is topped off with bubbly seltzer, but I promise I won’t judge you if you’d rather top everything off with a little prosecco and champagne – that’s what they call a good idea. I was gifted these awesome bottles by a friend a work, so I decided to use them to bring some cocktails over to a friend’s house a few weekends ago. Mix, pour and pop the lid on, then fasten the bottles into your holster and come prepared with a bottle of seltzer or bubbly, and you’ve got a party going. There is nothing more adorable than tiny, old-timey looking bottles filled with alcohol. Your friends will also be super excited to not have to bust out their shakers and stirrers and whatever else: the cocktail is already good to go!

blood orange punchInstagram time: all the food from Roberta’s and cocktails at The Pine Box.

Speaking of which, I feel as though this is the week that I could use a stiff drink. I’ve been feeling incredibly anxious lately, and there are times at which I can’t tell if I’m strong for being able to make it through each day relatively unscathed and without bothering the people around me (too much), or if I’m weak for being a whiney baby who can’t go out to meet up with friends without taking Advil for my stress headache and chugging a ginger ale for my nervous stomach. Once I’m doing the thing I’m supposed to be doing, generally I’m fine, but it’s the build-up that absolutely kills me. I start to feel dizzy, and my throat starts to close up, and then I start convincing myself that I can’t breathe even though I am clearly breathing. That’s when I start compulsively checking my pulse and trying to figure out if my heart is actually racing or if I’m just imagining it (it’s usually the latter, to be honest), and this is all followed by trying to take what have been explained to me as “calming breaths” and closing my eyes for a bit and pretending that I am cool and confident. Every single day I wish I were the kind of person who just like, I don’t know, walked around and lived, but instead, I mostly think about the following, in no particular order: Am I’m talking too much or not enough? Does my face looks weird right now? Does this dress make me look fat? Does this person wish that they weren’t talking to me right now? Why can’t I concentrate on this conversation? I could go on but it gets a lot more depressing and I don’t want to bum you guys out too much on this lovely Friday morning. Point is, I have crippling anxiety that sometimes turn into random panic attacks and I bet you do, too! Let’s commiserate and make each other feel better, PLUS hey, it’s Friday (as previously mentioned) and nothing bad can happen to you on Saturday and Sunday. Have a drink with me and relax…or at least try to.

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Almond Flour Bun Egg Sandwiches

with bacon and cheese

I feel like I’ve been struggling to get ~back on track~ diet wise since the new year started. It always sounds so easy to put it off until some future date. I’ll start after the new year. I’ll start next Monday. I messed up today, so I’ll just start after the Superbowl. Etcetera etcetera etcetera. That last one was me – I did “good” yesterday, so hopefully I can continue and not have a stout followed by a slice of pizza by Thursday night. Then there’s exercise. It’s nearly impossible to get to the gym right now, for purely motivational reasons. New York City is currently a land of ice and slush, and the mere thought of packing up my gym shit and lugging it through the subway, to work, then back to Brooklyn again, only to get off at a stop that I do not actually live at, to go to the gym for an hour, having to change and change again, packing everything up again and trudging back out into the maelstrom to get back on the subway and go home is my actual idea of hell on earth. For example, I just checked my gym’s class schedule and there is something called “kettle bell fusion” that I could potentially go to tonight. But that also sounds really hard and I just woke up and I’m still so tired. Honestly, if the big pharma scientists of the world don’t seriously step up their game and create a pill that will make me look like Jessica Biel, I’m just going to give up and start wearing moomoos and use a grabber to pick up my bag of chips and extra large soda from across my apartment because hey, I’m already married, why not? SIGH.

almond flour bun egg sandwichesLunch time dog walking with Bailey, grilled cheezus with Business Insider, lemon cinnamon ginger doughnuts from Dunwell and last week’s snow storm. As always, more on Instagram!

So, because dieting is hard, Kramer and I have found that when we do actually buckle down and stick to a plan, it’s usually of the ketogenic variety because it’s way easier than having to count calories or, really, think about it too much at all. Protein, good, carbs, bad. I can at least understand that. But when you’re on a diet like this, you do really miss bread, especially in the first week or two. Thankfully, there are tons of blogs dedicated to all things low-carb, even a subreddit, of course, which is how I found this recipe for almond flour buns. I tried these with coconut flour, too, but I do have to recommend the almond flour. There are flax seed buns that I also want to try, but from what I’ve read, these almond buns are the best option. They’re definitely not an English muffin, but hey, they’re still pretty good, and they do their job of soaking up melty cheese and runny eggs, which is all the bun is really there for if we’re being honest with ourselves. The only caveat to this recipe is that you really need a muffin top pan or a whoopie pie pan, which, being that this is 2015, you can buy on Amazon for under $15 with free shipping, so why not just get one? Anyway, armed with this extremely specific pan, you can make enough almond flour buns to stuff yourself to your heart’s content. You an even just slather one of these with a little butter to have on the side in place of toast, or throw a little peanut butter and sugar-free jelly on top if you’re feeling something a little sweeter that day. I promise it’s worth trying – anything to make dieting easier, right? Two buns weigh in at 4 net carbs with 10 grams of protein, so there’s no reason not to make them.

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Double Delight Peanut Butter Cookies

with honey and cinnamon

Well, the blizzard ended up being a bust in New York, but I still enjoyed cozying up in my apartment, cooking and watching movies. Kramer and I had olive oil roasted beets with ricotta, mint and sea salt alongside roasted chicken slathered in garlic butter, plus we killed a bottle of wine, all while snuggled up in blankets and refusing to move from the couch. It was a pretty good night! On Tuesday, we waited to hear whether or not the subways would be running, and they were, but it was on and off for the L train, as per usual, so instead of spending hours waiting and commuting, we worked from home. I, of course, found some time in between answering emails to bake a cake, because why not? I’m home, may as well! Around 5, we decided to finally get out of the house and meet up with some friends for a quick drink before heading home. Of course, just because the blizzard didn’t really happen doesn’t mean there isn’t still a ton of snow on the ground – snow that is quickly becoming piles of ice and mounds of slush. If you don’t have waterproof boots and live in the city right now, I pity you. Kramer also woke up with an absolutely awful cold this morning. I’m praying that it doesn’t hit me next, but better now than in a few weeks when we’re headed to Tokyo and Taipei! He told me to take some zinc this morning, but I feel like instead of fighting it off like I usually do, I’d rather have the sickness just take hold now instead of coming back at full speed right before our vacation. Sometimes you just have to fall on that grenade.

double delight peanut butter cookiesMy new cookie jar – how appropriate.

I mentioned a few posts ago that Kramer and I went to Vermont with some friends over MLK weekend. It was incredibly fun! I’d never been skiing or anything like that before…and I still haven’t, technically, because I refused to ski or snowboard, but Kramer did enough for the both of us. Instead, my friend Amanda and I decided to blow out of the lodge and head into Wilmington, where we wandered around antique stores, book stores, and, most importantly, fudge stores. Taffy, fudge, books and old cookie jars in hand, we found a taxi to take us the rest of the way home. We were giddy with how we were able to pull off not having to fall on our asses all day on the mountain (although, I guess, if you’re into that sort of thing, it can be fun). The rest of the gang got back from a long day outdoors later on, so I heated up some cider and poured a healthy amount of bourbon into each cup. After dinner, we called it an early-ish night so that the masochists would be able to wake up early and hit the slopes. Kramer opted to stay with the smart people this time (i.e. Amanda and me), mostly because he was so sore he couldn’t move. We slept in, watched TV, and enjoyed the cabin’s in-house sauna (fancy). The evening was filled with spaghetti, card games, and a snowball fight, so I’d say the trip overall was a great success. I don’t know if I’d ever snowboard or ski, but I’d definitely go on another winter cabin trip.

double delight peanut butter cookies

Apparently it’s almost time for the Superbowl, but seeing as how I am not athletically inclined (see my refusal to snowboard or ski, above), I never really think about sports or football food or whatever until the event is upon us. I mostly enjoy watching the Superbowl because I get to eat chips and drink beer and be obnoxious about not understanding the rules. It’s pretty fun. I figure, though, that these peanut butter cookies would be an excellent game day treat. I made them years and years ago, back in 2008, what we’d call “ancient times”, and they’re as good now as they were then. Let me explain: these cookies are based on the one million dollar Pillsbury cookie contest that’s held every year. They are a ball of peanut butter stuffed inside peanut butter cookies, then rolled in chopped peanuts, cinnamon and sugar. They are insanely good. The creamy filling is such a surprise when you bite in that you’ll go back for at least one more. Sure, the process is a little labor intensive, but I swear to god that they’re worth making, especially for any peanut butter lover (see: lubber) in your life.

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Blood Orange Quick Bread

with blood orange syrup

I hear a storm’s a’brewin’ here on the East coast! Sometimes you never know if you’re actually going to get an insane blizzard or storm or if the media is totally overplaying how serious the weather is going to be. This time seems pretty legit, though – the mayor is holding press conferences, the governor is telling people to work from home, and Kramer even had his first day back to grad school cancelled tonight because of how bad the snow is going to be. I suppose we’ll see when it really starts up this afternoon and later tonight. I do love a good snow storm, but not if it’s going to mess with people’s power and heat and all of that. We’ve always been really lucky in that we’ve never lost electricity or anything like that, even during Sandy a few years ago. I’m ready to hunker down and grab some snacks at the bodega after work. My problem is always that I’ve got plenty of food in the house, but nothing that can just be eaten – everything has to be prepared. That helps when the late night snack monster hits and I want to eat everything in site, but there’s nothing really in sight unless I want to bust out a pan and a cutting board. For situations like these, though, where there is the slight chance you’ll lose the ability to turn on your oven or stove, it’s good to have some supplies handy. Thankfully our bodegas never get ransacked for supplies like some grocery stores do before storms, but I hope I’ll find a few good things to pick up after work today. I definitely need some hot chocolate if nothing else.

blood orange quick bread

We went to our friend Tom and Val’s place on Saturday night to play some board games and see their baby, Victoria. It’s always crazy to see the offspring of your two friends grow into an actual human person. I can see her personality developing more and more each time I go over there to see her, and the two of them are so happy and are such great parents that it makes even my cold, black heart feel some a little warm and fuzzy inside. Anyway, I wanted to bring something over that is appropriate for busy first time parents. I figured a quick bread of sorts would be perfect – they can grab a slice as a snack while they’re running around with the baby, or maybe have it as a light pick-me-up dessert after dinner. I don’t think that this is typically Val or Tom’s preference for breakfast, but I would love a slice of this with some black coffee or strong tea. Anyway, I found a basic quick bread recipe on The Kitchn and got to work. A little blood orange zest, a little lemon zest and a slightly sweet syrup poured over the top of the hot bread made for the perfect loaf, in my opinion. You get all of the bright citrus from the oranges and lemons, but there’s the slight bitterness from the blood orange that I love, like you’re eating a bread with a touch of Campari (my favorite). If you’re waiting for a blizzard like I am, grab some seasonal blood oranges, bake this bread, drizzle a little honey and spread a little butter over a fresh-from-the-oven slice and get cozy!

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Peanut Butter Milky Way Blondies

with sea salt

I had a really great long weekend. Kramer and I went to Vermont with some friends for a weekend of snowboarding, antiquing, reading by the fire and, of course, plenty of eating. We may or may not have had tater tot breakfast tacos one morning. It was pretty sweet. I want to tell you all about it, but I had a really shitty experience on my subway ride home last night and while I am totally fine, I want to share what happened because I believe that the more women that speak up about their experiences, the more other women will be empowered to do the same. I think that if you silently accept what happens to you, others will follow suit, and that doesn’t help anyone. Obviously other women have had far more scarring things happen on their commutes, but what happened last night still really shook me up and made me feel awful. I was on yet another overly packed subway car, but I was on my way to meet some friends for drinks and wings, so I was in a good mood. At the stop before the one I was getting off at, this guy behind me started grabbing at my ass. I think at first I thought it was just someone’s bag pushing into me or something, but then the feeling of someone pawing at me was unmistakeable and I turned to this guy with my mouth agape because I couldn’t believe he was squeezing my ass. We were at my stop when I finally got myself together enough to say something to him. “Were you touching me? Were you grabbing me?” I kept asking him, but he averted his eyes and pretended not to hear me. “This guy was grabbing my ass!” I yelled to everyone on the subway car, but everyone just kind of looked at me, and I pushed my way through the people and walked above ground. I felt shaky and upset and really angry. I wanted to punch the guy in the face, but in the moment, I was thinking about all of the things that could go wrong in that scenario, like maybe he had a weapon, or maybe I had just imagined the whole thing. Other thoughts running through my head included, but were not limited to: Did I not make big enough scene? Should I have grabbed him and dragged him to a cop or MTA employee? Should I have taken a picture of him? Should I have screamed? I don’t know. I always thought I was the kind of person who didn’t take this kind of thing, that I’d know how to react in this kind of situation, but I was stunned. I know it’s not my fault and I know that I’m lucky it was just this and not something way worse, but I still felt bad about myself after it happened and I did have a little trouble sleeping last night because I couldn’t stop replaying the incident over and over again in my head.

peanut butter milky way blondiesDun-Well Doughnuts and some photos from our trip to Vermont.

Kramer and my friends were all really awesome and supportive. They reminded me that this guy was a piece of garbage and that I shouldn’t let him bring me down, and I feel a lot better this morning, albeit still pretty angry. What the hell? This is the kind of thing that makes me just hate everyone forever, you know? I hate that I felt anxious on the subway this morning, and I hate that I’m probably going to be thinking about this for a long time. I don’t want to, and I also kind of feel like I’m blowing it out of proportion because, again, overall, I’m fine and I didn’t get hurt. I just feel violated, and the whole thing just sucks. There’s not much more to say about it other than that, I guess. I hope that in plastering my experience all over the internet, insignificant in the long run as it may be, that it reminds people that this shit happens to women constantly, all day, every day, in every city in every country all over the world. Women walk around with this weight on their shoulders, having to watch out for predators and perverts and everything in between. Women question what they’re wearing, how they are behaving and how they can prevent these kinds of things from happening, and it’s really awful that we can’t just get up, get dressed and walk out the door without having to worry. UGH. At least I can always drown my sorrows in food.

peanut butter milky way blondies

So when you’ve had a bad day and you want to dropkick people on the subway, the best thing to do is turn to some good old fashioned comfort food. For example, last night I immediately inhaled a plate of buffalo wings. I think that these peanut butter blondies would have also cheered me up, too, if I had any left in my apartment. I actually made these way back in November, but things got crazy with the holidays and I forgot about them. How could I? They were so good! Chewy peanut butter blondies dotted with caramely Milk Way bars and salted peanuts – what’s not to love? I had my hands full of Milky Ways because I have no shame and I had Tweeted at Milky Way asking for free candy. Well, ask and ye shall receive, because a few weeks later, a big box of Milk Way bars arrived at my doorstep, begging to be put into some kind of baked good. I went with the classic peanut butter and chocolate combo, but the caramel and sprinkle of sea salt turned these into a dessert you can’t help but sneak of piece of for breakfast. I brought them into the office and they were consumed within 20 minutes, as any good blondie is wont to do. Just a suggestion: for the ultimate comfort food experience, I recommend warming these up a bit and putting a scoop of ice cream on top. You can thank me later.

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Butternut Squash & Bell Pepper Soup

with toasted pecans

It’s been both so dry and so cold in New York that I feel like I’m going to crawl out of my own skin! I haven’t been able to fully open my eyes in about a week. Either I’m squinting into the blustery wind on my way to work or wherever else I’m headed, or I’m at home or at work with the heat on full blast, drying out my eye sockets. I’ve been trying to be good about putting eye drops in, but seeing as how I’m a true believer (i.e. I wear glasses all the time and have never worn contacts), I have a really hard time getting them into my eyes, so whenever I attempt the eye drop thing it’s this big production where I stand in front of the sink squeezing my eyes together for a few minutes before I can open them again. I love a lot of things about winter, but the extra maintenance is not one of those things. I have to worry about putting lotion on my body and coconut oil in my hair…basically I’ve got a thin layer of something or other coating my person at all times so that I don’t turn into a cracked mess. Right now, the temperature says that it’s 30 degrees out but the wind chill takes the “real feel” down to about 20 degrees. I want to just stay under this blanket all day. It’s so toasty in here. For some reason, though, no matter what doe-eyed face I can muster up, I still have to leave the apartment and make my way into the world. What’s up with that?

butternut squash and bell pepper soupThe baker’s muffin from City Bakery, some mimosas at home, homemade garlic knots (recipe soon!) and a clear winter day. Follow me on Instagram for more!

In order to avoid having to leave the office and go back out into said world for sustenance, I try to make sure I have lunches prepped for the week for Kramer and myself. This butternut squash and bell pepper soup was one of those lunches a few weeks back. I’m a huge bell pepper fan and eat them quite often, so when a big bag of them were on sale (why are bell peppers so expensive?) I was excited to roast them until slightly charred alongside a big butternut squash and puree them into a warming winter soup. The bell peppers add a nice, bright contrast to the creamy butternut squash, and I threw some caramelized garlic in there with some roasted onions because that’s how you add maximum flavor to any soup. You can feel free to garnish a big bowl of this with toasted pecans and chives, like I did, or get creative: maybe some big, homemade croutons would be good and add a nice texture, or chopped pistachios or even just a swirl of yogurt or cream for color and body. Whatever you do, you know butternut squash soup is going to be good, so add your spin and enjoy.

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