Friday, July 31, 2009

Refined Sugar Day

A few weeks ago, my lovely co-worker Katy and I found ourselves getting snacks quite frequently during the week. While I can say we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and our treats, we thought it may be a good idea to limit the number of days in a week we got dessert. Therefore, we decided to only go once a week and make it a special occasion.

We both share a love of rainbow cookies from Nussbaum, a bakery on 113th and Broadway, so that's where we usually find ourselves on our Refined Sugar Days.


Everytime I'm in the area for dinner, I always stop by here for dessert! It's SOOOOO good!



I've tried most of their desserts, I'm sure, but besides rainbow cookies, my favorite is the all-white black and white cookie and the rainbow sprinkle cookies. As an undergrad, my good friend Laura and I would always get the rainbow sprinkle ones and when she walked to my apartment on 116th from her apartment on 110th, she would often stop by and get me one!

Katy and I both got three rainbow cookies. It set me back $3! When I was in college, three of these little guys would only cost $1.50. How times have changed...



There are two reasons why I will shell out money for these delicious cookies. One, they're the moist-est rainbow cookies I have EVER had! And two, they use semi-sweet chocolate and not sickeningly sweet milk chocolate, like most bakeries do. They use a good amount of chocolate on top AND they are always served cold so the chocolate is quite hard. Yum! When I go home to Jersey straight from work, I try to buy some for my mom, who also loves them. My mom does not like sweet things so the fact that she likes these cookies is a BIG deal! Quality, people!!!

I love these so much I'm looking for a recipe so I can re-create it myself. So far I haven't found an acceptable recipe so it looks like I'll have to keep searching or just modify the ones I've seen online. Please let me know if you have a good recipe for rainbow cookies though!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

My Job

Unfortunately I have nothing interesting to say today so I thought I would share with you the views from my work! I work at Barnard, fundraising in the Annual Fund department and I LOVE it. I've only been at it for about three months but so far so good!

These pictures were taken from my office. We have a view of Union Theological Seminary and Riverside Church. On some days you can hear the bells from Riverside and often they're playing hymns that I know!



I try to take my lunch breaks and spend most of the hour reading. If it's a nice day, I'll go outside on campus or to Riverside Park. If it's really hot and gross, I'll go to the library. And on days it's cooler but rainy or I don't have much time, I'll go upstairs to my reading spot.


The security guards who walk around campus have gotten to know me and are used to seeing me without my shoes on, curled up on this bench.

And below are my views from my reading spot.


the new building and the only ivy on both Columbia and Barnard campus
Columbia's newest (ugly) building in the back
and my camera reflection...


And this is what I look at for 8 hours a day. My computer and pictures of my friends and family!


Beth decided that she doesn't want to get on the LaraBar train so she gave me her chocolate coconut chew! I haven't tried this flavor yet so I'm really excited to eat it! She also gave me a mango coconut Soy Joy, again, a flavor I haven't tried, so thank you, Beth!

And thank you to my friends who gave me lovely feedback on my blog. It's nice to know people are reading it! Sorry it's such a boring post today, though...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Chocolate Chip Biscotti

One of my crowd-pleasers is my chocolate chip biscotti that I modified oh-so-slightly from Giada's recipe. I feel like I finally perfected the recipe due to my recent mishap when I left the butter out a little too long which made the biscotti crack in the first bake.

This recipe is rather time-consuming and the oven needs to stay on for at least two hours, so be prepared!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl to blend.

Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar and butter in a large bowl to blend. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat just until blended.


Stir in chocolate chips.

Form the dough into a 16-inch-long, 3-inch-wide log. Transfer the log to the prepared baking sheet. Bake until light golden, about 30 - 35 minutes. Cool 30 minutes on baking sheet. (The first few times I made this, I cooled it on a baking rack but do NOT do that because it comes apart more easily)

(Again, because my butter had melted, there were these huge cracks in the dough which usually does NOT happen)

Place the log on the cutting board. (you can just transfer the whole thing using the parchment paper underneath and placing it over the cutting board. This way you don't even have to wash the cutting board) Using a serrated knife, cut the log on a diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices.

Arrange the cookies cut side down on the baking sheet. Bake the cookies until pale golden, about 15 - 20 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a rack and cool completely.


I also wasn't paying attention and ended up keeping my biscotti in the oven for an extra eight minutes and it turned out not so bad! It was certainly darker than normal but I actually like my biscotti on the crispier side so it turned out well. My co-workers weren't complaining either!

The major differences between my recipe and Giada's is that I left out the anise, lessened the sugar and kept it in the oven for a bit longer so it's more biscotti-like instead of cookie-like.

Writing this post is making me want to bake a batch right now...

Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gray Smoothies and My Love of Cheese

I've been hearing a lot about Amazing Grass which is a blend of protein and superfoods that's supposed to be SUPER good for you! Many a blogger have raved about it so I thought I would give it a try. In fact, I was so encouraged by all of the positive reviews that I bought sample sizes of all different kinds and thought I would blog about each one.

Yes, this was another casualty of my Whole Foods Extravaganza. I started with the original flavor of GREENSuperfood.

One serving gives you the antioxidant equivalent of 7 servings of fruits and vegetables and helps you hit your daily quota. Green SuperFood: All natural and organic ingredients include organic wheat grass, organic barley grass, organic alfalfa, organic spirulina, organic spinach, organic chlorella (cracked cell-wall), organic broccoli, organic pure acai from Sambazon, organic maca, organic carrot, organic beet, raspberry, rose hips, pineapple, green tea, acerola cherry, organic flax seed powder, apple pectin fiber, F.O.S. (from chicory root), L. acidophilus, alpha and beta amylase, protease, lipase, lactase, cellulase, siberian eleuthero root and peppermint.
100% Vegan.
...says the website. They suggest mixing it with water or milk so I mixed it up with some vanilla soy milk.


While it didn't taste heinous, I would say that you can definitely taste all of the "good" stuff in there (the veggies). Veggie powder in soy milk = not delicious. I was a little discouraged from my experiment so I took a break for a few weeks, until today!

I haven't been feeling very energetic due to my lack of sleep...due to the heat in my apartment so I thought tonight would be a good time to get a little energy kick! Also because my dad got me a blender that I brought back this past weekend.

There's been buzz about "green monsters" which is essentially a smoothie made with spinach or other leafy greens to give it that green glow. You just put in a bunch of healthy stuff and drink it for an instant pick-me-up. I tried to create my own but probably should've used a recipe someone has tried.

In my "green monster" (which you will see is actually quite gray) I put: a cup of vanilla soy milk, a cup of blackberries, a cup of spinach and a scoop of original blend Amazing Meal.


Clearly, not very green and not very tasty. I think the ingredient that I missed was the banana? Not sure. Also, I froze my blackberries before tasting it so perhaps they weren't very sweet. Either way, it was an experiment gone very wrong. I'm willing to try it again with the requisite banana and nut butter that most bloggers have put in. Ah well. You will most likely see another post about this but hopefully with a much better result.

I will say, though, that I felt a little bit more energetic and not as "blah." I had a trying evening where I learned once again that I'm just not a very good interviewee. Sigh.

After downing two-thirds of my gray monster, I decided that the only way I would feel better was to have some cheese. :D I had a multi-grain bagel from my parent's house so I decided to just melt some cheese on a bagel and call it a dinner - especially because I had some great aged cheddar I bought a couple weeks ago. But after a good five minutes, I talked myself off that ledge and convinced myself that that would not be very nutritious and would probably just make me feel worse. So I whipped up a quick tuna salad and made a tuna melt instead.

Ingredients: a can of tuna fish, one huge diced carrot, a tablespoon of mayo, a teaspoon of mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.


Put tuna on the bagel and top with sliced cheese. Pop it in the toaster oven for four minutes and you've got a delicious meal!



I love the look (and taste) of melted cheese!

You know, the other day I read this book:


and they said that casein, which is found in cheese, is addictive! Of course, this book also advocated cleanses and detoxes so I have to take it with a grain of salt, but it was an interesting idea. Because despite having implied how ridiculous detoxes are, I will say that I did one in the beginning of the year to "re-set" my body. It just consisted of eating raw or steamed veggies, brown rice, beans....and that's about it for four days (no salt, sugar, pepper, seasonings of any kind) It was really difficult and gross but the only thing I really craved was cheese! Perhaps that was the casein talking?!

In any case, the book was mainly a case for veganism more than anything else. It opened my eyes to animal cruelty but not enough for me to give up my cheese. :)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Salad and Salad


I probably won't be posting a lot of recipes this week since my mother took care of that for me so I'm going to post what I had for dinner tonight even though it's not really a "recipe." Although I will say, I'm saving my chocolate chip biscotti post for a night when I have nothing to say... I know you're all anxiously awaiting that day.

My mom gave me these beautiful English cucumbers and plum tomatoes from the farmer's market so I decided to make a simple salad out of it.


Dice up cucumber and tomatoes, drizzle extra virgin olive oil, and add salt and pepper to taste.


I contemplated tossing in the last of my olives into the "salad" but I decided to put it into my egg salad sandwich instead to substitute the salt I put into the sandwich.


Ingredients - two hard boiled eggs, diced olives, tablespoon of mayo, teaspoon of mustard (although I ended up putting in a little too much), salt and pepper to taste.


Smush it all together and put on a bed of spinach leaves...


Yum! Again, no stove or oven! Love it!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Little Bit of Cheating

I read this great article on Friday on a blog called The Simple Dollar which my sister introduced me to a few weeks ago. In this blog, Trent Hamm, posts articles and gives helpful hints for those managing their money. Here's a better description:

"The Simple Dollar is a blog for those of us who need both cents and sense: people fighting debt and bad spending habits while building a financially secure future and still affording a latte or two. Our busy lives are crazy enough without having to compare five hundred mutual funds - we just want simple ways to manage our finances and save a little money."

Hamm had a bit of a financial meltdown but was able to pull himself out of it in eight months by reading all about personal finance and just learning from other people. He now shares his words of wisdom through this great blog.

Some of it is just not relevant to my situation but I have uncovered a few gems here and there. He's currently unveiling his 14 Money Rules and #6 was especially poignant to me as I'm a borderline shopaholic.

He says, "If you buy a car that’s flashy rather than focusing on one that gets the job done as efficiently as you can find, you’re spending money to impress other people. If you go clothes shopping by the store sack full, you’re spending money to impress other people. If you always have the latest gadget, you’re spending money to impress other people."

This may sound pretty self-explanatory to most but for me it was an ah-ha moment because I always just spent without really thinking about it. There's no need to get that ipod when there are a million others like it that do the same thing for less money. I'm a brand-whore and now I know to think twice about why I want a certain product or service. The article also tells you to just think about the people who's opinion matters to you and not ones who will judge you by what you have.

I won't get too into but I will say that it's worth checking out.

I told my parents about my $200 spending fast this past weekend and they were extremely concerned that I wouldn't be able to make it a whole month. So my mother emptied out her refrigerator and freezer and gave me as much as she could:



Sorry for the blurry picture. I felt that I just had to share because it's probably considered cheating if I got this much help. Some of the goods: veggies, three servings of Japanese meatloaf, a serving of eggplant parm, brown rice, salmon, a can of chickpeas, and a jar of pasta sauce. My dad also slipped me a roll of quarters for laundry. I also spent $15 on groceries at home to take advantage of those New Jersey prices.

So...with 18 days left, I have $113 left. I fell off the wagon last week by buying dinner three days in a row, which totaled $26. Ouch! Hopefully I can spent less than $20 this week to make up for my slippage last week....

Quick update: Once I got back to my room and ready for bed, I realized that my mom had left me an encouraging note and $15 to make up for the sandwich I bought for dinner the night I got back from Ohio. Clearly, I was very disturbed about spending money on dinner that I had to "confess" to my mom. I vow to not spend the $15 and instead save it for when I am done with my fast in a few weeks. Longest.thirty.days.ever.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince


Wow, July is turning out to be the month of movies for me! Tis a bad, bad thing that my employer offers discounted movie tickets...

Tonight I went to see Harry Potter with a few of my friends. It's been rainy all day and I had an interesting/mentally exhausting day at work so this was the perfect end to my week. (YES, I have tomorrow off!!!)

The Harry Potter movies have a special place in my heart because that is how my dear friend Beth and I first bonded. We went to see the last movie two years ago and it was the first time we had hung out with each other one-on-one. By the end of the night we felt comfortable enough to tell each other that Daniel Radcliffe was aging well (we may have used different language but we won't tell her husband that) and a wonderful friendship was born!

In this movie, they're all in their sixth year at Hogwarts and the Death Eaters are becoming more and more powerful and prominent. It's clear they're gaining power and threatening the safety of Hogwarts and especially Dumbledore. I don't want to get too into the plot but basically Harry continues his quest to defeat Voldemort.

There's a lot of teen angst/love in this movie which I found very entertaining, actually. It wasn't cheesy at all and reminded me of that awkward phase where you think you're in a real relationship and everything is very dramatic. Beth and I agreed that Rupert Grint (Ron) was fantastic in this movie and really stole the show. I also loved Luna Lovegood's character. She may be my favorite, actually. Helena Bonham Carter was also really great, too...

The movie as a whole was so well-crafted and captivating and dramatic right from the beginning. I thought that the very first scene in the movie was really poignant because it really takes you right back to the end of the last movie and right back to the shock and heartache. There were some really great lines and funny moments that had me laughing out loud several times but it was perfectly balanced with a serious and dark storyline. Not to sound cliche but I laughed, I cried, and in one scene nearly jumped out of my seat!

I think that this may be my favorite Harry Potter movie so far. I was really impressed with the effects, the acting, and storyline. I really love the books but I have to say, they really tackled this movie in a way that was digestible and entertaining. I think it also helps that it's been a really really long time since I read this book so I forgot enough of it that some parts of the movie seemed new to me. I definitely recommend it!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bruschetta

A couple weeks ago, I made a lovely bruschetta using ingredients I had on hand. During one of my Whole Foods splurges, I had purchased a tub of mixed olives, which were on sale so I decided to jazz up my bruschetta with it!

Again, this is another great summertime treat because it doesn't require an oven or stove and take less than 10 minutes to make.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups of chopped tomatoes (about two small tomatoes)
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup chopped olives
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:




Chop up tomatoes, red onion and olives. Remember to take out the seeds and the juicy parts of the tomato before you start chopping.


Put chopped veggies into a tupperware with a lid and pour in olive oil and salt and pepper. I probably added 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of black pepper.


Shake, shake, shake!



Spoon mixture on top of toasted bread, crackers, or bagel chips.



I apologize for these horrible photos. I didn't realize how bad they were until just now...

I used Stacy's everything bagel chips which were oh so yummy! I LOVE everything bagels and this was the real deal! It was a bit salty with the bruschetta but next time I know not to add as much salt if I'm putting it on top of bagel chips. You can also add basil to the bruschetta but I'm not much of an herb girl so I kept it out. This came out delicious so I highly recommend it, especially for entertaining!

On a sad note, my co-worker Katy informed me today that Kings has been cancelled. :*( Check it out on hulu.com while you can!

Worth the Money


I read a great little article on Savvy Sugar called "Things That Are Worth the Money" and I wanted to share it with you all. I really think that, aside from my current $200 fast, it's worth it to save and spend some money on a few key, quality things.


Here's the list:

1) Insurance - I keep meaning to get renter's insurance because I KNOW (as does my sister) that it's worth it. You just never know what's going to happen!

2) Culture - ie: museum trips, lectures...etc.

3) Doctor's Visit - this is one that I have to keep reminding myself because I hate going to the doctor.

4) Education

5) A Good Haircut - I'm not quite sure about this one but I certainly don't suggest going to like Supercuts because inevitably, you'll be disappointed and have to pay more money to fix. That being said, I think middle-of-the-road hair places are perfectly acceptable.

6) Your Well-Being - TOTALLY agree. If you won't work out unless you're at a gym, definitely splurge for the membership.

7) Home Maintenance/Repair

8) A Sharp Interview Outfit - also on the fence about this one...

9) Well-Made Shoes - I think that this is true although there's no need to go and buy those Gucci shoes if you can't afford it. But CHEAP shoes are NEVER worth it!

10) Travel - I must keep telling myself this...

11) Visiting Family and Friends - Seattle, here I come! ;)


This list definitely motivates me to save! I fell off the wagon a little last night but I'm back on my fast. I still have $149 left with 22 days left...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Shion in Ohio

This weekend (Sun-Tues), I went to Denison University for a fundraising conference. It's in Granville, Ohio which is about 45 minutes outside Columbus. I have to say, I didn't have very high expectations for this trip since it's in the middle of nowhere and it was a work function so I was anticipating the awkward "networking opportunities" but I was surprised by how much fun it was! I'm all about the expecting the worst and hoping for the best. I have many a pictures to share with you all - I know you were counting down the minutes until I got home...

It all started with LaGuardia Airport which is one of my least favorite airports. So not exciting. Although I had to wait 40 minutes in the security line, everything went smoothly. Phew! This was the first trip that I planned on my own (well, at least the traveling part of it...)



It's been a while since I've been on a plane so I was a bit excited and took a picture from my seat. I love cloud formations! Really - I could stare at them all day. There's something so surreal and magical about it. It really makes me feel so happy!

And thanks to my lovely friends, I had an empty seat next to me! Woot!

We arrived ahead of schedule and got to campus to check out our digs...




While the dorm rooms were small, the dorm buildings were nice and rather new. So much space in the common area - I just didn't know what to do with myself!


Denison even gave us presents! Don't you just love travel-sized things?!

I had some time to kill so I decided to take a walk around campus. Apparently, there are some buildings, including a frat house, that is part of the national historic registry or whatnot, so I made sure to check it out. I recruited a friend to come with me :) She may or may not have been less than excited about my picture-taking.


The chapel, I think

Loved this yellow building!



I definitely took advantage of this track and ran both mornings. I love tracks because they're so much nicer on the knees than concrete and you can actually gauge how far you're going. Plus, it made me feel like I actually went to a college with school spirit...

After our walk, we went to a dinner on the quad which overlooked the campus (which is really hilly and gorgeous) and then had a session with the COO of Heifer International. We then had Whit's Frozen Custard which is apparently very famous and was quite delicious. Word has it that Laura Bush was stuck in the area and had Whit's Custard and loved it so much she sent vats of it to the White House. It was pretty good - and that says a lot from a girl who doesn't really like ice cream!

The next day was filled with fundraising workshops, meals, and plenary sessions. It sounds boring but it wasn't! I met so many really great people who I had a lot of fun with.

Monday night's BIG EVENT was the Columbus Zoo which is the #1 zoo in America. I have no idea who actually designated that title but if you know me at all, you know that this is the least appealing thing EVER for me. Ah well. We had tickets to go "after hours" so that we didn't have to wait on any lines and could go see whatever we wanted.

So what did I do? Headed to the bar. Really.

Well, I did see a couple animals but only because they were on the way.



Once situated near alcohol and the lake, the rest of the conference members came and joined us for a special presentation of animals up close and personal. Joy.

The Columbus Zoo is Jack Hanna's zoo and a pretty big deal, I guess. His daughter is a Denison alumna and an employee at the zoo, so she gave us a special viewing of some of the "traveling" animals. I had no idea who Jack Hanna and because he was constantly referred to as a regular on the David Letterman Show, I thought he was a comedian or something. When his daughter came and talked to us, I was disappointed that she wasn't that funny but then someone very politely told me that he was actually a zookeeper. Oops!

This is Jack Hanna's daughter on the right.



Snow Leopards

No, these pictures weren't zoomed in, I was THAT close! There were, of course, a lot more animals on display but I stayed sitting with the rest of my table, who were all more interested in drinking than the animals. After at least four people came by our table and asked us why we were the only ones not looking at the animals, we decided that it was no longer acceptable to stay sitting so we meandered over to the viewing area just in time to see these baby snow leopards.

The evening was actually really fun - mostly due to the Claremont McKenna College fundraisers who were hilarious and knew how to tell a good story. For my next job, I'm going over there to work!

The last day (today) just consisted of a couple more fundraising sessions and then we headed home. I was a little sad to leave all of the greenery and SKY!!!


Can you believe all of this sky?! Oh, the midwest... How you intrigue me so...

This is what we left at the Ohio Airport...


An hour and a half later, this is what we came back to...


Although I will say, I never thought I would make it back to blog about this adventure. Here's why:

1) We were delayed because of thunderstorms in New York
2) The pilot said that we had to wait until we picked up more fuel in case we wouldn't be able to land (more gasoline = bigger explosion)
3) The plane was essentially a puddle-jumper
4) There were 13 passengers on the plane
5) The only flight attendant on the plane was sitting here for the whole flight:


This was taken from my seat. Yes, that is where she was sitting. With a magazine.

Anyway, I wanted to leave you with some pictures of CLOUDS!!!