NYC Part 6: Our final day

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I spent a long weekend in NYC. Catch up now with part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5.

We woke up on Monday morning, our last day in New York feeling blue. Our flight home wasn’t until 8pm, but we didn’t have much planned for our last day. Another of David’s friends, Ella, was in the city visiting family, so we made plans to met her at a Swedish coffee shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

After showering and storing our bags (thank goodness our Airbnb had a locker we could use after checkout!) we walked to the subway and headed from Astoria to Greenpoint. The coffee shop was a little chain store called Konditori, but David was excited because it was Swedish. We got drinks at the counter, Ella and I both ordered hot chocolate, while David and I split a muffin, then crowded around a little table in the back of the shop.

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We chatted and enjoyed our hot beverages, then decided to explore the neighborhood we were in, which is known as “Little Poland.” Little Poland wasn’t as strictly defined as Little Odessa; while it had something of an Eastern European feel, there were still sushi restaurants, people speaking English, and Swedish coffee shops. We stopped in a few little shops in search of Prince Polo candy bars, my favorite Polish treat. There’s a cute Polish Deli not far from my work, but I still wanted to find Prince Polo in New York.

We wandered all over the neighborhood, explored bodega after bodega before finally finding a shop selling Prince Polo. You could tell right away we were in the right place: the store took me back to my study abroad days. They had a selection of Polish snacks and drinks, and a small deli counter. Everyone but us was speaking Polish. We picked up 3 Prince Polos (Ella was excited to try the chocolate bar) and headed back into the bitter cold.

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Next on the agenda: Polish food for lunch. Between google maps and some good, old fashioned wandering around, we found ourselves in a Polish market. We ate potato pierogi dipped in mustard and chatted until Ella had to head back to her brother’s. She told us about a bookstore in Manhattan that supposedly had Urdu language books (David speaks Urdu) so David and I decided to check it out.

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We said goodbye to Ella at the subway; David and I made our way uptown to the Upper West Side. Upon entering the bookstore, we looked at each other–it didn’t look like we’d find any Urdu books there. It appeared to be a children’s bookstore, and while we found a handful of Spanish learning materials for kids, we didn’t find anything close to Urdu resources.

What were we to do? Our uptown adventure was a bust, we only had a few more hours in New York and we weren’t at all familiar with the neighborhood. So we decided to just walk around in the cold and see what we could see. Two broke 20-somethings quickly saw the Mexican restaurant having happy hour $5 margaritas. Sold.

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The restaurant was really cute and the bartender was nice. We ended up hanging out for a while and ordering their happy hour boneless wings to share. Finally, it was time for us to go. We took the subway back to Astoria to retrieve our bags, then ubered to La Guardia. Our plane was delayed because it was SNOWING in NC, but otherwise our trip home was fairly uneventful.

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Whew! When I set out to share my NYC journey with you, I did NOT plan for it to go on for 2 months nor for it to expand into 6 posts. I hope you enjoyed it, because I certainly enjoyed experiencing it and sharing it with all of you. Tell me about your experiences in New York or your favorite city in the comments below. If you liked this post, be sure to hit the subscribe button, share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest and keep following me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Margarita picture: https://www.houstoniamag.com/articles/2015/1/27/a-margarita-a-day-january-2015

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Simple Tips for Eating Healthier in 2018

This is not a diet. It’s not an exercise routine or a total lifestyle change. These are some simple tips and substitutions to help you make healthier choices in 2018.

  1. Drink water
    Staying hydrated will make you feel better and keep your body running smoothly.  If you need a little push try out this bottle which keeps you on track to drink water throughout the day.
  2. Drink black coffee or add a splash of milk instead of going to starbucks
    If you’re a coffee drinker who loves lattes and fraps but wants to be healthier in the new year, consider brewing your own black coffee at home. Coffee has almost no calories, so if you drink it black or add just a splash of milk or hint of sugar, you’ll be reducing your caloric intake (not to mention fat and sugar) by a lot. A small coffee house drink can have 330+ calories!
  3. Be conscious of your protein and vegetable consumption.
    I make sure to have at least one-two servings of each every day. Even if it doesn’t seem to go together. For example: a bowl of black beans as a side for protein with cheese pizza.
  4. Try squash/zucchini spaghetti
    Cut down on carbs by replacing pasta with spiralized veggies.
  5. Make your own sauces or use spice blends instead
    Pinterest has a ton of ideas for healthier pasta sauces/dishes. My favorite is pasta tossed with olive oil, breadcrumbs, lemon juice, pepper, salt, and parsley.
  6. Switch to sugar-free energy drinks
    They’re out there! Energy drinks have a ton of sugar. If you drink energy drinks and want to reduce your sugar intake, try out the sugar-free versions.
  7. Limit to one soda a week.
    Moderation is key. Let yourself have treats, but know that it’s not an everyday thing. You’ll enjoy it more, and you’re reducing your caloric and sugar intake. Replace the sodas you were drinking with water and you’re killing two birds with one stone.
  8. Diet soda
    See “sugar-free energy drinks” above. Reduce your sugar intake by going diet.

Whatever your bad habit is, find a way to reduce it until it’s gone. For example, my bad habit is eating sweets every night. My husband and I eat supper early, around 5-6pm, so I’m usually hungry again in the evening before bed. For a while, I’ve had a glass of milk and some cookies, candy, or brownies before bed. I’m trying to eat a cup of yogurt (I like the Chobani “flip” greek yogurt) and a glass of water 1-2 times a week instead of sugary snacks. As I get used to that, I’ll try to do it 2-3 times a week, then 3-4, until my regular late-night snack is yogurt instead of cookies.

You know what you shouldn’t eat. With a slow reduction, you can eliminate the things you want to from your diet, and add in the good stuff. Good luck!

Did you enjoy this post? What do you do to stay healthy? Leave a comment below. Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Disclaimer: if you follow the Amazon link in the body of this post and make purchases through them, I will receive a small compensation from Amazon. This compensation comes from Amazon, not from you, and the price you see through my links is the same as the price you would see otherwise.

Water bottle with time marker: http://amzn.to/2sENn4Z

Photo credit, plus a great article from the CDC about food safety: https://www.cdc.gov/features/foodsafetyquiz/index.html

Fudge recipes

Fudge is a delicious treat, perfect for the holidays. But it is also so so easy to make. Are you imagining Grandma slaving over a hot double boiler for hours, wiping sweat from her brow as she furiously stirs hot, bubbly butter and sugar? Forget all that, you can make fudge in your microwave with 3 ingredients! Y’all can make this in your dorm room.

  1. Classic fudge: 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk, 1 tsp vanilla extract


    Combine chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30s intervals until melted. Stir in vanilla extract. Transfer to a parchment paper lined brownie pan. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into bite-sized pieces.

  2. Peppermint fudge: 2 cups white chocolate chips, 1 tsp peppermint extract, 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

    Combine white chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30s intervals until melted. Stir in peppermint extract. Optional: swirl in red food coloring to make a peppermint effect. Transfer to a parchment paper lined brownie pan. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into bite-sized pieces.

  3. Reese’s Peanut Butter Fudge:
    1 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk
    1 10oz bag of peanut butter chips
    4oz mini chocolate chips
    1tsp vanilla extract
    1 bag Reese’s pieces


    Combine peanut butter chips and sweetened condensed milk in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30s intervals until melted. Stir in vanilla extract. Swirl in chocolate chips to create marble effect. Stir in about half of the Reese’s pieces. Transfer to a parchment paper lined brownie pan. Press remaining Reese’s pieces on top. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into bite-sized pieces.

  4. Snickerdoodle fudge
    11 oz sweetened condensed milk
    12 oz white chocolate chips
    ½ tsp vanilla extract
    1 ¼ tsp cinnamon
    Cinnamon sugar mix


    Combine white chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30s intervals until melted. Stir in vanilla extract and cinnamon. Transfer to a parchment paper lined brownie pan. Refrigerate until firm. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top until coated. Gently pat down with a spoon. Cut into bite-sized pieces.

  5. Irish cream fudge
    21 oz milk chocolate chips
    14 oz sweetened condensed milk
    ¼ cup Bailey’s Irish Cream
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    ½ cup Andes baking chips


    Combine sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30s intervals until melted. Stir in irish cream and vanilla extract. Transfer to a parchment paper lined brownie pan. Add baking chips on top and press in slightly. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into bite-sized pieces.

Which recipe is your favorite? Did you make it in your dorm? Tell me how it went in the comments below! Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here in WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Shout-outs:

Classic fudge photo: http://www.kitchme.com/recipes/old-fashioned-chocolate-fudge

And inspiration: https://chocolatechocolateandmore.com/3-minute-fudge/

Peppermint Fudge photo: https://kirbiecravings.com/2014/12/microwave-peppermint-candy-cane-fudge.html

Irish cream fudge photo and inspiration: https://www.wineandglue.com/baileys-fudge/

Reese’s fudge inspiration: https://butterwithasideofbread.com/3-ingredient-reeses-fudge/

Snickerdoodle fudge inspiration: https://www.iheartnaptime.net/snickerdoodle-fudge/

International Festival

A few Saturdays ago, my husband and I were hanging out in our pajamas and looking through a local radio station’s list of local weekend events. “Oktoberfest with…” I giggled “wiener dog races.” Scrolling with my thumb, I looked over the list. “International Food and Music Festival!” I poked my husband “And it’s free!” After finishing up my blog post (“Sweet Baked Chicken” in case you were wondering) we threw on some clothes and headed out.

“Where are we?” I asked about half an hour later.

“Eastern Wake county” It felt like the middle of nowhere compared to our urban home. I began to feel trepidatious. Would a tiny town in the middle of nowhere have a good international festival, or would Wendell, NC disappoint us by presenting only a handful of stalls?

As we reached the main stretch of town, we knew we were in the right place. Cars lined the street and several hundred (if not a few thousand) people were gathered in the town square. After driving around for a few minutes we found street parking less than a 5 minute walk from the festival.

Live music was being played on the left and a temporary rock wall, inflatable bouncy castle, and various other carnival games were spread out to the right, with about a dozen food stalls in the middle. Each stall represented a different country. Honduras, El Salvador, The Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Ireland, Poland, the Philippines, and Louisiana were all represented. We walked from stall to stall, practically drooling, and tried to decide where to eat.

“Let’s just get it all.” My husband suggested. Instead of paying with cash, tickets were purchased at the entrance and food cost anywhere from 1 to 8 tickets. Pulling out a $20 bill, my husband bought 20 tickets and we headed back to the food stalls.

“Where do you want to go first?”

“Hmm…” I thought for a moment, overwhelmed by my options. “The Philippines” I decided. So we headed to the Filipino booth for some barbeque chicken.

“Three tickets please” The attendant said, and we dropped 3 tickets into a bright red box. She handed us a shish kabob with mouth-wateringly delicious looking chicken skewered on it. We moved into the shade, because despite being mid-September it was probably creeping up towards 90F and the sun was beating down on us. The chicken was heavenly. We devoured it in record time, and moved on to the next stall.

Our next stop was Poland for vegetarian pierogi, followed by plantains from Honduras, and veggie tamales from Guatemala. The sun was still beating down, so we went over to the boy scout’s tent for a bottle of water. A polite young man gave us an icy cold bottle of water for 2 tickets. We took turns gulping it down before returning to the food. After getting chicken and rice from the Dominican Republic, we decided it was time for dessert, so we picked up some Irish cream fudge from Ireland.

Standing in the shade near the Irish booth, devouring our fudge, I wondered aloud “Why isn’t there an Indian booth? There’s a huge South Asian population in this area.” Then it hit me: “Theses are all Catholic countries”

“What? No.” My husband countered.

“Yeah, yeah they are! Latin America, Poland, Ireland….”

“What about the Philippines?”

“I think they’re Christian too!” (They are, I looked it up.) “And I guess Louisiana too…” I looked at the map of the festival the smiling middle-aged woman at the entrance had given us. It said “Saint Eugene Catholic Church presents their 15th Annual International Food & Music Festival.”

“Perhaps the booths are run by church members” my husband suggested.

“Maybe so….”

 

Having spent the last of our tickets, we headed back to the car. We drove away from little Wendell, NC with full bellies, and discussions about how far Catholicism has spread, and different the cultures it has touched are. Even only including Catholic countries, this international festival incorporated so much diversity in culture and food. It was an interesting lens through which to see the international community in our area.

Did you enjoy this post?  What are your experiences with international festivals in your area?  What are your thoughts on the spread of Catholicism?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!  Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Photo creds:

Downtown Wendell: http://www.fabriciuslaw.com/photos/downtown-wendell-nc

Food festival photo: http://www.thefoodfestival.com

Sweet Baked Chicken Recipe

Who wants to read a lengthy introduction to a recipe? Let’s get cooking!

Servings: 2-3
Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

¾ cup of cranberry-grape juice
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp chili powder
Salt to taste
3 frozen chicken breasts
½-1 bell pepper
1-1 ½ cups of rice
Shredded or sliced cheese to taste

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Instructions:

  1. In a 7x11in (17.5x28cm) glass, oven-safe dish, combine juice, cumin, paprika, chili powder, and salt
  2. Add frozen chicken breasts (all roughly the same size)
  3. Bake at 375°F/190°C for 30 minutes
  4. Remove pan and flip chicken
  5. Return to 375°F/190°C oven for 20 minutes
  6. Dice bell pepper. Slice or shred your cheese of choice (I used sharp cheddar).  Cook rice according to package directions.
  7. Remove pan. Add bell pepper and cheese to taste. Cut chicken to check that it is thoroughly cooked. (For best results use a meat thermometer to ensure that the internal temperature is at least 165°F/75°C.)
  8. Return to 375°F/190°C oven for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted
  9. Remove and serve over rice. Use the remaining juices in the pan as a sauce.

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One day I was home alone for dinner. I wanted something easy I could just stick in the oven and forget about, but that wasn’t boring or pre-made. Thus, the sweet baked chicken was born.

We didn’t have any wine, so I subbed in juice, not really following a recipe. I grabbed some spices that seemed to go together, threw it all together and shrugged to myself, thinking it couldn’t be that bad. About an hour later I was enjoying a delicious mildly sweet chicken dish and kicking myself for not writing anything down.

Fast forward to this past week, when I tried to recall everything I’d added to my dish and how much I needed so that I could make this thing again. When I figured it out, I knew I had to share the dish with my readers. Enjoy!

Did you enjoy this post? Did you try this recipe? Tell me about it in the comments and share this post via Facebook or Twitter. And, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this.

Indian-inspired Naan Pizza

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This is a ridiculously easy recipe created by my amazing husband! Thanks, Hubs :*

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Serving size: 2 individual pizzas
Prep time: 10-20 min
Total time: 30 minutes or less

Ingredients:

2 pieces Naan bread (generally naan comes in a 250g 2 pack)
¼-½ cup Indian inspired curry sauce (you can purchase a variety of sauces at Target)
¼-½ Bell pepper (or any veggies you like)
5 oz Chicken (we used pre-cooked grilled chicken strips)
½-¾ cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Instructions:

  1. Spread curry sauce onto center of naan bread, moving outward from the center.
  2. Sprinkle on cheese, covering the curry sauce
  3. Chop bell pepper and cooked chicken into bite-sized pieces
  4. Add peppers and chicken onto both pizzas to taste
  5. Bake at 250F for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted

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That’s it! This can be as easy or as complicated as you want it to be. It’s one of our go-to easy weeknight meals, and we use pre-made naan, sauce, and even pre-cooked chicken. However, if you have a fantastic curry recipe, try it out with this pizza. If you want to throw some chicken on the grill, save a few pieces for the pizza. Our recipe calls for a bell pepper, but when we made the pizza last night, we found we’d run out of bell peppers, so we just threw on some of whatever vegetables we had in the house. It worked pretty well, but I think bell peppers work best. Other suggestions for additions are: onions, carrots, broccoli, and mushrooms.

Did you like this recipe? Did you make any changes? Tell me about it in the comments below!

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Vegetarian Mexican Pizza

I’m not a fan of a drawn-out explanation before getting to the recipe. So, without further adieu….

Vegetarian Mexican Pizza

Recipe makes one 10-12” pizza

Ingredients:

1 Pizza Crust (I used Boboli thin crust, which is pre-made, pre-baked pizza crust)
1 can black beans
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp paprika
¼ tsp cayenne
1 bell pepper (any color)
1 small tomato
1 jalapeño (you can add more or less to taste)
1 handful of corn
Mexican cheese blend
Salt
Parsley

Directions:

  1. Place pizza stone in oven and preheat to 500°F
  2. While oven is warming up, cook one can of black beans
  3. Seed and dice tomato, jalapeño(s), and bell pepper
  4. Once beans are cooked, mash them and combine with cumin, paprika, and cayenne. Make sure the consistency is spreadable, you may need to add some water (I used the water I cooked the beans in).
  5. Remove stone from oven and place crust on stone
  6. Working quickly, spread bean mixture on crust (this is your pizza sauce), add cheese to taste, veggies (tomato, jalapeño, bell pepper, and corn), and parsley to taste. Sprinkle with salt to bring flavors together. You will probably have more vegetables than you need. The leftovers make a nice salsa!
  7. Place pizza in oven for 2-5 minutes. Keep a close eye on it and remove when the cheese begins to melt.
  8. Enjoy!

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My husband and I have made this pizza together a few times. It’s a modification of this recipe. We had a lot of fun making it, and it was delicious.  In the picture above you can see I used a red bell pepper.  I’ve also made this pizza with a mix of red and orange peppers, and it worked well.  Any mix of bell peppers should be sufficient.

You might enjoy making your own crust, in which case you should bake your crust, then follow the directions with the pre-baked crust. We used a store-bought, pre made, pre-baked crust because I’m not about that bread baking life.

It’s a delicious, different pizza that is 100% vegetarian, though thoroughly enjoyed by my meat-eating family. It still packs protein because the sauce is black bean based!

Did you enjoy this recipe? Did you make any modifications? Tell me about it in the comments below! Share with friends via Facebook and follow my blog for more recipes like this.