Six Years and a Weekend in NYC

This weekend Eric and I celebrated our 6 year wedding anniversary! I can hardly believe it. In some ways it feels like our wedding was yesterday and in others it feels as if we’ve always been married, like I can’t remember a time when we weren’t married, but we’ve made it 6 whole years and I can honestly say they’ve been the best of my life. Have they been easy? Definitely not. But we’ve had some amazing times, been to some incredible places and shared meaningful memories.

I still love looking at our wedding photos! They never get old, although we seem to have…we look so young here! I can’t wait to see what the next 6 years bring.

To celebrate our anniversary, since it was on a Saturday, we decided to take a trip to NYC for a night. We love New York City, in fact we got engaged there and used to go there often while we dated and were first married, but over the last few years, our trips became more infrequent and then non-existent. We were looking forward to going back to a city we truly enjoy.

This trip of course was centered mostly around food, like all good trips, right?! We got the chance to eat at some great places including Balthazar, Brasserie Les Halles (made famous by Chef Anthony Bourdain) and Pastis. You may notice that all of these are French brasseries or bistros, that wasn’t on purpose but just sort of happened. I didn’t complain! We also hit up this amazing brunch place called Peels; roasted tomato eggs benedict, need  I say more? Yum, even thinking about it right now makes me want to go back. Here’s the pastry selection at Peels:

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Some of our other highlights were shopping in Soho and visiting the Museum of Natural History, neither of us had ever been there before. Here’s one of our favorite exhibits, from Easter Island:

Although it was pretty crowded, we enjoyed walking through the museum and seeing the exhibits. Plus, if you’ve watched the movie Night at the Museum then it’s even cooler.

Saturday, we made the trip to Chelsea Market, a place I’ve wanted to go for a long time (Food Network studios is in the top of the building). All the food there was incredible but the most amazing was the fish market. You could find anything and everything possible at this fish market, take a look at some of the things we found:

Yes, those signs say baby octopus, sea urchin and squid!

There was a big line for some of these crustaceans! Don’t they look delicious bright red and steamed up? The fish market was like the aquarium, except you could eat everything! Maybe not appropriate for small children…

We had a blast in NYC, it was nice to get away for a night and we decided at the last minute to take the train which made the whole trip so nice and easy. We can go right from Lancaster to Penn Station, NYC and it only takes about 2.5 hours. It is more expensive than driving but the time and headache you save from driving are so worth it, especially if you’re only going for one night.

So that’s our anniversary weekend in a nutshell, what were you guys up to? Any fun weekend trips?

Sweet Surprises

Yesterday, after a long day at the office I came home to find this on my kitchen island:

I opened the pretty pink box to find these babies:

Here’s a close up:

Eric had been away on business since Tuesday, working in Washington DC and decided to bring me/us home a special treat; cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcakes! In case you’re not up on cupcake news, Georgetown Cupcakes is the shop that is featured on the TLC show, DC Cupcakes. How thoughtful is my husband?! Pretty treats like these make the fact that he was away for a few days, a bit more bearable.

I know what you’re all thinking. Didn’t she just get up on her soapbox about eating less sugar earlier this week? Yes, its true. However, I never said I was going completely sugar free, I’m just making a conscious effort to cut back and until last night have been eating very small amounts of sugar all week. Every diet deserves a cheat day and last night was mine!

Now, on to the cupcakes themselves:

Eric and I split 2 cupcakes last night so we could try them both and I’m looking forward to doing the same tonight (and being sugar free all day long until that moment, it makes it so much…sweeter? terrible pun, I know). We tried the one with the chocolate icing and it was on white cake and the one with the pink flower was called the cherry blossom cupcake. The chocolate iced one was pretty standard, nice fudgey icing but the cake lacked a bit of flavor, in my opinion. Then, the cherry blossom one was AMAZING, the cake itself had chunks of cherry in it with hint of almond and was topped with cream cheese icing, a combination I never would have put together but was dynamite! YUM!

The other flavors left in the box are pumpkin spice, the one with the maple leaf on top, I think it also has maple icing, I can smell the maple syrup in the box. The one with sprinkles is the classic white cake, vanilla buttercream icing. The one with the lime wedge is a key lime cupcake, I’m very excited to try that one and in the back is a red velvet, of course!

Just writing this post is giving me a sugar craving, I can’t wait until tonight! And after inhaling consuming my cupcakes last night, I felt a definite sugar rush. Something that I’ve never noticed before.

Hope everyone has a sweet weekend!

Popcorn + Chocolate = YUM

This weekend I made one of the best snacks ever. We were preparing dishes for our very first dinner club (you’ll find out more about that in the next post) and wanted something to start the evening off that people could munch on casually upon arriving. Since discovering how to make popcorn on the stove, read about that here, I’ve been on a bit of a popcorn kick. I needed to incorporate chocolate into the snack in some way and chose to make a popcorn drizzled in white and dark chocolate. This means, salty and sweet and buttery all together, yum.

To start, I cooked the popcorn on the stove. For that recipe, click here. Dump the popcorn out on to a baking sheet lined with tin foil or parchment paper. Top with 1/2 cup of melted butter and salt well. Keep tasting it to make sure it’s salty and buttery enough.

This was the first time I’ve ever used the microwave to melt chocolate instead of a double boiler. I wanted this to be a quick and easy snack and have always heard that the microwave is a good way to melt it, just never tried it. For the chocolate, I chose a semisweet chocolate bar, it was already half used and this was a great way to use the rest of it up. I also wanted a darker chocolate because I was using white chocolate with it which is very sweet. I thought dark chocolate would balance it better.

For the white chocolate, I used chocolate chips I had leftover in the pantry.

I made a wonderful discovery on the back of the white chocolate chip bag, melting directions for the microwave! Always read the back of the chocolate chip bag. There is a lot of useful information there.

After melting both chocolates in the microwave, I used a fork to stir and made sure the chocolate was thin enough to drizzle.

Shake the fork back and forth gently over the tray of popcorn to drizzle it on. First I drizzled the dark chocolate and then the white chocolate.

Allow the sheet of popcorn to sit on the counter until the chocolate sets. You can pop it into the fridge to speed it up.

Break up the popcorn and toss in a bowl to serve.

This was such an easy and delicious snack. I can’t tell you how much everyone raved about it and really it took about 20 minutes and used all ingredients I had in my pantry already. This is my new “gourmet” snack recipe, trust me, it will impress all your friends when you tell them you actually made it!

 

 

“Real” Popcorn

There’s a joke between Eric and I that was created by Eric’s mom, she always uses the adjective “real” to describe anything that is made from scratch or is hand crafted or requires a lot of skill; it is deemed as “real” as opposed to, well not as good. Example: cake from a mix is fine but cake from scratch is “REAL” cake or jam that you made at home and didn’t buy from the grocery store is “REAL” jam. We commonly use this terminology and always have a nice laugh, each visit from his parents includes a reference to something that is truly “real”. It’s the REAL thing!

Well, Eric’s mom would be proud of us because this weekend, we made REAL popcorn. Not in a popcorn popper and not in the microwave but in a pot on the stove. It was SO easy and tasted better than any other popcorn you can get.

All you need is a large pot with a lid, canola oil, popcorn (I got Orville Redenbocker) and butter and salt for on top.

Start by coating the bottom of the cold pot in 3-4 tablespoons of oil.

Add 1 cup of the popcorn kernels to the cold pot and shake them to coat with oil. Turn the heat onto medium and gently shake the pot back and forth every minute or so. Keep the lid off and wait for the first kernel to pop.

Once it pops, put the lid on and continue to shake the pot back and forth until the popping stops.

Melt some butter in the microwave and pour it over your popcorn and then season with salt.

Talk about yum! None of the kernels burnt, the popcorn didn’t taste like it was coated in chemicals and the fresh butter was so delicious. The only drawback was that 1 cup of popcorn made a ton! We had to throw more than half of it away so I think next time I’ll try making only 1/4 cup of the kernels in a little bit of a smaller pot, but not too small you need to give the kernels room to pop.

What is it about popcorn that as soon as you see it or smell it you want to eat some? Even writing this post right now I have a strong desire to go down to the kitchen and pop up some more. How about you guys? Has this post given you a popcorn craving?

I’ll never make microwave popcorn again. I love “REAL” popcorn!

Here’s how you make it:

“Real” Popcorn
Print
Author: Red Velvet
Prep time: 2 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Total time: 12 mins
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 3-4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup popcorn kernels
  • salt
  • salted butter, melted
Instructions
  1. Pour canola oil into a large pot with a lid.
  2. Add the popcorn kernels to cold oil and shake gently to make sure each kernel is well coated with the oil.
  3. Cook the popcorn over medium heat with the lid off, shaking the pot gently back and forth until the first kernel pops.
  4. Place the lid on and continue to shake the pot back and forth until the popping slows and stops.
  5. Remove from heat and pour over the melted butter and toss with salt.

 

Split Pea Soup

Last week we got a burst of cold weather after lots of unseasonably warm temps for weeks. In an attempt to soften the shock to our systems and use the leftover ham bone from our party I decided to make my first pot of split pea soup. Split pea soup was not something I ate growing up. Typically, leftover ham turned into ham and green beans, which is also yum! Eric and I love peas, they might be our favorite vegetable and I’ve been dying to try to make split pea soup for a few years.

I searched my cookbooks and online and came upon a recipe from Epicurious.com. Not only did the recipe get great reviews, but it started and ended with bacon. What could be better than that?!

To start the recipe, chop up your 8 slices of bacon and cook over medium heat until crispy.

While that’s cooking, prep the rest of your ingredients. There aren’t many, another reason I love this recipe, it’s really simple and easy.

Once the bacon is cooked, use a slotted spoon and remove it from the pot. Drain it on paper towels and set it aside for later. You’ll use it as a garnish for the soup.

Add the carrots and onions to the hot bacon fat and fry it up until soft.

Add in the rest of the ingredients, the ham bones, water, salt and pepper, bay leaf and split peas.

Simmer uncovered for about 2 hours until the soup thickens.

Take out the ham bone and remove the meat.

Add the ham back into the pot and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Ladle into bowls and top with crumbles of the crispy bacon.

Serve with a slice of country bread. This soup was filled with flavor and really warms you up on a cold day.

Here’s the recipe:

Mrs. Schreiner’s Split Pea Soup
Print
Author: Epicurious.com
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 2 hours
Total time: 2 hours 20 mins
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 8 slices bacon (about 1/4 pound)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 pound dried split peas
  • 2 1/2 quarts water plus additional if necessary
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
Instructions
  1. In a large heavy kettle cook bacon over moderate heat, stirring, until crisp and transfer to paper towels to drain.
  2. Pour off all but about 1/4 cup bacon fat from kettle and cook onions and carrots, stirring, until softened. Add remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally and adding 1 to 2 cups more water if soup becomes too thick, 2 hours.
  3. Remove kettle from heat and transfer ham hock with a slotted spoon to a cutting board. Discard fat and bones and chop meat. Return meat to kettle and simmer soup, stirring, until heated through. Discard bay leaf.
  4. Just before serving, crumble bacon and sprinkle over soup.