Wednesday, March 26, 2014

on slow cooker meatballs.

well, first things first. last week we discovered that our building was suffering from a large gas leak. after the explosion in harlem a few days prior to this discovery, to say people were jumpy is an understatement. they turned off all the gas in our building so we are currently without a stove or oven. and that means one thing - becoming best friends with our slow cooker. the building was kind enough to hand out temporary hot plates, but outside of boiling water, steaming veggies, or scrambling eggs, there's not too much we can do with them. i first made this dish when brian still lived in upstate new york, and with our current predicament i was motivated to make it again. and this time i perfected the recipe (like a boss).
this recipe comes from my old standby, food and wine. i really enjoyed it the first time i made it, but i found the meatballs to be a little dry. in researching other meatball recipes, i found a few here and there that used ricotta to combat the dryness of meatballs. i happened to have half a cup of ricotta in my refrigerator, so i took a chance and added it to the meatballs. let's just say - problem solved and this version rocked our faces off. it is officially a staple of our household (especially while the gas is still turned off!)
the first step to this recipe is making the sauce. it involved two 28-oz cans of whole tomatoes (peeled or unpeeled, i use peeled, and be sure to get unsalted), olive oil, tomato paste, garlic, basil, and red pepper flakes. since basil is out of season, i buy the cans of tomatoes that already have basil added into them. trader joe's sells a store brand of tomatoes with basil added in so look for this at your grocery store, or just season with a little oregano instead. the basil is not essential here, though it does help enhance the flavor. a little oregano would do the same (but then again, i love oregano  never met a slice a pizza that wasn't helped along with a little oregano). so, assemble those ingredients, and pour your cans of tomatoes, juices and all, into the slow cooker. then, my favorite part, crush the whole tomatoes with your hands. they should break into pieces fairly easily, but some pieces here and there might give you a little trouble. do not fear, just crush harder, which makes it more fun. once everything is combined, turn the slow cooker on high for three hours and let it work it's magic.
while this is happening you can assemble your meatballs. combine the ground chuck, garlic, breadcrumbs, egg, parm, salt, pepper and the 1/2 cup of ricotta (essential people, essential i tell you!) i am always sure to let the meat sit outside the refrigerator for about 20 minutes so i can easily combine it with my hands. if i don't it's way too cold and i have to take breaks because my hands start hurting. that may just be me, but hopefully a helpful hint for you too. so, combine everything together, then roll into large meatballs and place on a cookie sheet (preferably covered with aluminum foil, less clean-up that way). and when i say big, i mean big. this recipe is supposed to make 18 meatballs, and after i make 18 i usually have to go back and make a few meatballs a bit bigger. while you could definitely make more than 18, i like big meatballs (that's what she said. sorry, i had to). when you're all done, lightly cover with plastic wrap and pop the cookie sheet into the refrigerator while the tomato sauce keeps simmering in the slow cooker. personally, i like to make this dish on a saturday or sunday night - the whole pot provides brian and i each about three meals to use as lunch or dinner through the week. however, this could be an easy dish to start before work - starting the sauce and making the meatballs takes about 15-20 minutes, and when you get home from work you can pop the meatballs in the slow cooker. even though the tomato sauce only cooks for three hours, sitting in a warm slow cooker never hurts tomato sauce.
when the three hours of cooking time for the tomato sauce are done, pop the meatballs into the slow cooker, turn the slow cooker back up to high, and cook for an hour. since our slow cooker is a bit small and the meatballs get really crowded in there, i cook for 90 minutes to ensure all the meatballs are cooked the whole way through. when the meatballs are done cooking...enjoy! they are great served with crusty bread (there is a ton of sauce to eat that the bread helps with!), on a roll a la a meatball sandwich, or in some freshly cooked spaghetti.
which is another great thing about this dish - it makes different meals, even though you have to do the work once. after assembling the dish i say stay simple and serve with crusty bread that first night, but it's great the next day to come home, make some spaghetti and voila - a whole different meal that only took you as long as it took the pasta to cook. enjoy! one of my favorites, and don't forget the ricotta!

Monday, March 24, 2014

my weekend in pictures.

is this just becoming a blog about weekends? ugh. i certainly hope not. i need to get my act together on the blogging front. but anyways...let's talk about my weekend. it's been a couple of years since i have been back to the clinton street baking company, but it confirmed what i already knew - it's the best breakfast in new york. everything they make is AMAZING. the most divine being the pancakes, of course. if you come visit new york i would highly recommend you stop here, preferably during a weekday when the wait is not as bad (the waits here are always really bad). they told me it would be three to three and a half hours - yikes! but when they quote you wait times like that, there are also a lot of people who give up and don't show, making the wait time much smaller. and that's exactly what happened - it was only about an hour and a half before they called and said we had a table. which gave us enough time to have first breakfast! whether you're waiting for an hour, or three, you need a snack to tide you over, and that led us to the marm cafe down the street. this little gem of a place just opened, and the coffee and baked goods are on point (see the donut filled with pastry cream, below). the food other patrons were getting also looked delicious - next time we're not in the mood to wait for hours for breakfast we will be stopping in here. i highly recommend it as both a first breakfast spot and a breakfast spot. after our delicious and multiple breakfasts, we went home to watch lots of basketball and i made some meatballs in the slow cooker (recipe coming this week because i need to blog more!) and sunday was a magical day - tina and i did our regular trip out to new jersey to do a little shopping, a little eating at the cheesecake factory, and little making friends at the train station bar. we do this every few months and it's always a blast. suburbia, you are too kind to us. to the bar at the train station where we met lady pastors, you are far, far, too kind to us. as in, when the train pulled in we ran out and the conductor closed the doors WHILE LOOKING TINA IN THE EYE and went on without us. so yes, the bartender poured us a free glass of wine as we waited for the next train. who does that? i mean we put our coats on, ran outside, and the conductor was just like "BYE GIRL". rude. but it allowed us more time to have fun with the lady pastors we met and enjoy a little basketball. see you again in a few months new jersey! maybe by that time it will actually be warm outside (fingers crossed).

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

on my weekend without pictures.

this weekend...without pictures! i'm not the best blogger when it comes to taking pictures. oh well. new year's resolution maybe? 2015? (i did give you one professional wedding photo though! yes, they are back. but i feel like i've overdone the wedding stuff, so i'm going to post them when we get to our six month anniversary. y'all need a break i think).
but back to this weekend, which was jam-packed with lots of activities and it felt like coming out of the hibernation of winter even if the weather didn't quite agree. friday night brought my BIG HAIRCUT (see instagram), but i still feel like i have to really show you guys it in a few more pics. i went much shorter and much blonder. spring is coming, at least on my head. tina also got her hair did, so afterwards we caught up over guacamole and a margarita (or three). and the next day brought us to the museum of the city of new york to see an exhibit, the gilded age, with our friend christina for a very belated galantine's day. the exhibit was quite small but it was also quite badass. you know, lots of jewelry and diamond hair pins and silver embossed with family crests. it was the perfect galantine's day activity for a couple of new yorkers. embracing the warmer weather, but braving the wind, we walked thirty blocks south along central park to go to brunch at the mark. we are downtowners and brooklyners, but we loved the mark for the upper east side joint it is not ashamed to be. 90-year-old men brunching with their 30-year-old girlfriends, 80-year-old ladies with freshly done hair in their chanel skirt suits holding court, generations of one family eating lunch at what appears to be their regular spot, a finance guy holding court in the corner with his wife as every patron stops to say hello, and birkin bags as far as the eye can see. i loved it, but i really just love to visit it to be honest. it is also quite expensive, which is why i haven't been since my first visit four years ago, but it was just as delightful as it was last time. if you want to people watch, and you want to people watch the characters of the upper east side, there is literally no better place to do it. but my day of lady-ing out wasn't quite done, as the next day brought me to a wine class with former co-workers. it was hands down one of the worst wine class/tastings i have ever been to, and it cost a silly amount. brian and i have gone to a wine class at terroir in the city and loved it - they offer them on different days at different locations and i highly recommend it (and the price is much, much better). i highly recommend you do not go to corkbuzz, it was a waste of space in my weekend.
smattered in with all the girl time was some church, some italian food, some gym classes and some law and order (obviously). it was a very, very solid weekend, and while the next week still looks like it will be colder than i'd like, i'm shrugging off the excuses and i'm getting back out there. because i'm good enough, i'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

on my weekend in pictures.

this is a bit late, no? oh well. i saw this week on my work calendar for awhile now and dreaded it. we have so. many. things. this week. so many. but i always enjoy being busy at work vs. having a slow day so i can't complain too much. and we're halfway to the weekend! so yay to that. 
this past weekend i went to virginia for a very hot minute for an old friend's baby shower. the shower was wonderful - she's have a little girl and she got all the cute things people desperately want to buy for little girl babies without having to actually have one. all the dresses and bows and pinks were out in full force, as was the rose champagne. i loved it. every guest was asked to bring a book and, lo and behold, all of the childhood friends (three of us attended) brought with us "go dog. go!" at the urging of our husbands who consider it their favorite child's book. it was hilarious, adorable, and a little bit creepy. i hope the little girl enjoys her three copies of a book about dogs and cars. after that we spent time hanging out and catching up before i had to run to catch my train. it was great, as you all know, to sit around with old friends like that. and sometime during this, the strangest thing happened.
i have been to my friend's house a few times over the years since we all graduated high school and went off to college. but this particular day i stepped out onto the deck to get some fresh air and then, for a few seconds, it was like i was back in high school, crouching with all my other friends, smiling big for a picture. it was as if i was in a flashback from a movie or a tv show, you know the ones i'm talking about, and for just a bit i was in a different world. while i've often had memories come back to me here and there, this was different. it was so powerful, it truly felt like i went back in time to watch this scene unfold. the picture in question we took right after graduation, and we each had a black mat that everyone signed with little words of encouragement or inside jokes to go with the picture. i've taken that picture with me everywhere - protected by a plastic, see-through frame, it will never win me any kudos for looking pretty or hip or cool. but it does win for being one of the most important mementos i have. and in this picture, debbie is still alive. and for a few seconds on saturday, it's like she was just there with me, even though it's been almost 12 years since we took the picture. as this came back in a rush on the deck i looked at my other friend, who had tears in her eyes, and i realized it happened to her to. she softly mumbled that she had forgotten, and we stayed outside for a bit longer, composing ourselves, wondering how 12 years went by and so fast, and all the things we've gained, and all the things we've lost. people always ask me if i'm afraid or sad or nervous to turn 30 this year. and i find it the strangest question. i am alive. i am healthy. i am happy. it is a privilege to turn 30, one that is rarely lost me, or the girl i was 12 years ago. and with that we went back inside, to my friend, and her little girl, and all that is yet to be.

Friday, March 7, 2014

on the islands {part 2}.

alright! the final pictures of our time at the island. this is a little more - our activities on the island - and a little less the views. on the second or third day we were there we took a boat out to another island - there are hundreds of tiny islands everywhere surrounding where we were. when we got there is was really a comedy of errors, but the boat ride was amazing and beautiful, so no complaints. but we had to tramp through the forest, we were eaten alive by bugs, and i scraped my leg on a rock while swimming. oh well. it was still pretty fun to hang out on a little remote beach, all by ourselves. the hotel also had bikes we could use, so on a cloudy day we biked around the island, which was awesome. one reason we really enjoyed being there is that we were able to leave our hotel and experience the life of the little island, which is not always possible with some resorts. we saw tons of animals, rubber trees, a school, a hospital. a ton of lazy cats. like 100 cats just chilling, everywhere, all the time. we also took it upon ourselves to learn how to make drinks and straws out of lemongrass (!), a trick i hope to show you when it warms up and i get my hands on some lemongrass. forget the paper straws with the stripes and dots that are environmentally friendly - lemongrass straws are even better. and after keeping ourselves busy we just enjoyed our final days on the island, wishing it would never end and hoping we would get a chance to go back one day...

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

on the islands {part 1}.

finally! finally, the good stuff. when we thought about our honeymoon we were definitely more the "relax on a beach" group of people, but since we were able to take a good amount of time off work, we were also in the "relax in a faraway beach" group of people. which brings me to the week we spent in southern thailand. my words won't do justice to this amazing place, but i hope the pictures will help. if there is a heaven, i guarantee you, it will look something like this. the night we arrived was thai thanksgiving, where you pray to the rain goddess for rain. part of the tradition is to light a candle that is placed in a flower that is then floated out into the river/ocean/pool (what i would give to see the river in bangkok filled with these!). while we arrived much too late to participate, our hotel saved us one to light on our own, which was so special and fun for us. the next morning we woke up to the view you see in some of the pictures - i'm naturally an early riser, and shockingly brian flew out of bed too. at around 5:30 AM i shook his shoulder and said "it's happening", as if it was christmas morning. watching the sun rise there was so magical and amazing - i think of it at random times and it usually makes me tear up. this was an amazing, amazing place (which some lucky people choose to have their wedding at, documented in a few pictures below!) we dream all the time of going back, and i really, really hope life brings us there again. more to come...

Monday, March 3, 2014

on my weekend in pictures.

except it's two weeks ago. i finally have a new computer after mine died a few weeks ago (never to be turned on again). and due to personality differences between myself and brian's computer, i just didn't post last week. so here i am, new computer, renewed, ready to post! and, most exciting, i finally, finally, get to show you photos we took from the time we spent in the south of Thailand  a great relief from the on-going onslaught of winter (which, i don't mind snow, but it is super cold out. kind of over that). also, remember two weeks ago? it was a true warm, cusp of spring weekend. we spent it down in virginia, relaxing, hitting up a winery, enjoying fresh air and temperatures that almost reached 70 degrees. it was a good weekend to visit for sure. even though this post is late, it's a great way to kick off a week where we'll be thinking and dreaming of warmer days, even if it is seven degrees outside (and yes, i do think spring is around the corner. you gotta believe!)

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