March 28, 2011

{Easy Recipes} Chickpea "Burger"

Chef Jose Andres has stated that the future of cooking is in fruits and vegetables (and that meat is boring).  While we'll never be vegetarians (giving up foie gras, steak, and pork belly is just too hard for us), we are trying to lighten up and eat more vegetables.  For the past year, we've enjoyed Meatless Mondays - but with the start of Lent (Mar 9), I decided to up the ante and cook exclusively vegetarian (and a few seafood) dishes for the entire 40 days.

So far I've enjoyed the challenge, but have found that for me, it's easier to conceive a dish with meat. Meat naturally has umami flavor in it so I'm aware that I need to replace that flavor (so far mushrooms have been our staple and luckily my husband loves all varieties of mushrooms!)  Another challenge I'm facing is that it's still really cold here in NYC and the availability of local fruits and vegetables is scarce (compared to the summertime when I feel it's so much easier to for us to increase our vegetable and fruit intake because they're so fresh and abundant during the warmer months).  We regularly eat salads with our meal - but for the main entree, I find that I'm oftentimes using canned or frozen vegetables.  This Chickpea "Burger" recipe is one of those recipes.

March 25, 2011

{Giveaway} BECO Baby Carrier

 Have you been enjoying our week of giveaways for Christine's Virtual Baby Shower?  (There's still time to enter our other giveaways here and here).  Our final giveaway is a good one - the Beco Baby Carrier ($129 retail value).  This baby carrier would be a great gift for any mom or mommy-to-be.  More information on the baby carrier plus how to enter after the jump!

March 24, 2011

{Dining Out} Ditch Plains UWS

Since we've been hosting my friend Christine's Virtual Baby Shower all week with lots of great giveaways (click here and here to enter!), I've had family-friendly foodie places on my mind. A few Sundays ago, I organized a get-together with friends (who all have kids under the age of 2) at the recently-opened Ditch Plains on the UWS (in the space vacated by Bar Bao).  The large 5000 sq ft space holds a bar/lounge area, communal tables, comfortable booths, and one open private room.  The latter was perfect to fit our group of 4 couples, 3 toddlers/newborns, 3 strollers, and 2 highchairs with plenty of room to spare.  Like Marc Murphy's other restaurant, Landmarc, Ditch Plains offers a comfortable venue with value-priced wines and beers ($4 draft beers after 4pm on Sunday).

March 23, 2011

{Giveaway} Baby Food Mill for Christine's Virtual Baby Shower

Our giveaway week continues with your chance to win a Baby Food Mill for you or any new mama/mommy-to-be you know!  I'm not a mom, but I have plenty of baby showers baby birthday parties to attend and this Baby Food Mill would be a great gift.  I'm running this giveaway together with Diana from A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa.  Since she has first-hand experience with this product, I'll let her explain why she loves the Baby Food Mill. (More information on how you can enter this giveaway after the jump!)

March 21, 2011

{Sweet Treats} Macaron Tour of NYC

Blue skies, bright sunshine, and free macarons - for me, there was no better way to tour the city than by enjoying my own macaron crawl courtesy of Macaron Day NYC 2011.  Macaron Day (or Le Jour du Macaron) was started six years ago in Paris by la Maison Pierre Hermé in association with the Relais Desserts.  People received complimentary macarons and were encouraged to donate to the specified charity.  Here in NYC, Macaron Day was started last year by Chef Francois Payard to coincide with the French event.  This year, there are 16 participating bakeries (with 12 in Manhattan), with many donating a percentage of the day's macaron sales to City Harvest.

Last year, I dragged my husband around to try macarons from 7 participating bakeries.  This year, I wanted to try some new locations in the city.  I was on my own for most of the trip as my husband declined to accompany me on my madwoman macaron tour of 10 bakeries.  Armed with a bottle of water, my Metrocard, and a couple of reusable shopping bags (for the boxes of macarons I was planning on buying!), I trekked around the city to try  these delicate pastries.

{Giveaway} Bravado Nursing Tank for Christine's Virtual Baby Shower

Photo courtesy of Christine Kim
Remember last week when I posted about fellow foodie Christine’s virtual baby shower?  Well, the shower games have now begun and the week of giveaways starts today!  Lovely Christine and baby foodie-to-be Alexander are doing well and looking great.
For the first prize, Diana from A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa has gotten bravado! Designs to gift a Nursing Tank to both Christine and one of our readers.  Many of my friends are new moms and some of them have talked about the difficulties of feeding their newborns.  Since I'm not a mom, I'll let Diana explain why she loves this Nursing Tank plus more information on how you can win this Nursing Tank (for yourself or for someone you know) after the jump!   

March 17, 2011

{Dining Out} Eating Out for a Cause: Helping Japan

"Disaster Relief for Japan" sushi roll from Sushi Samba 7 (photo courtesy of Sushi Samba)
For the first few days this week, you may have noticed that my blog was pretty quiet.  We had been watching the events in Japan and our mood was sombre.  The stories of the people affected touched us deeply and we wanted to do all we could to help.  The easiest way for us to help was by donating money to the American Red Cross (you can click on the ad on the right that will take you to the Red Cross donation page.  Also, if you have a website or blog and would like to donate ad space to the Red Cross, click here).

Since we like to dine out, we also compiled a list of restaurants who are offering to donate proceeds or a portion of sales to Japan relief organizations:   

March 16, 2011

{Food Events} Macaron Day NYC 2011 THIS SUNDAY!

Be still my beating heart...I'm so excited! This Sunday (March 20, 2011) is Macaron Day NYC 2011!  What is Mac Day? If you saw my whirlwind macaron tour of NYC post featuring last year's 1st annual Macaron Day NYC, you know that it's a day full of sugar and fun. Inspired by the Jour du Macaron in Paris, Macaron Day NYC features 16 bakeries offering a free macaron to customers who mention Macaron Day NYC.  At many of the participating bakeries, a portion of Sunday's macaron sales will be donated to City Harvest.  This year, I'm going to try as many as I can (and will likely buy a few too for charity).  And with all of these sugary treats, I'll definitely be bringing a bottle of water with me! (list of participating bakeries after the jump)

{Easy Entertaining} Springtime Centerpiece Idea (and a Virtual Baby Shower!)

Can you believe that the first day of Spring is only 4 days away? I'm so excited for warmer weather - and the warm, soft colors of Springtime flowers.  With daffodils in bloom, I knew I wanted to incorporate their sunny, cheerful color in this easy centerpiece idea.  It's not just Spring (and Easter) that inspired me to create this organic arrangement.  My foodie friend Christine (from Fresh Local and Best ) is about to have a baby boy (Alexander, due on Cinco de Mayo!).  To celebrate, Diana (from A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa) and I are hosting a virtual baby shower for her (more details on how you can win some great prizes below!).  

March 11, 2011

{Easy Entertaining} Free St. Patrick's Day cupcake topper printables

Since my husband is half-Irish, I've been trying to come up with ideas to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with him.  Last year, I made him an Irish Bacon with Cabbage dish followed by a Guinness Ice Cream Float.  For his birthday, I had baked him Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes - which I thought would also be a great St. Paddy's Day treat.  I'm still indecisive (and would welcome any ideas!), but I know whatever I make, they'll be nicely decorated with these St. Patrick's Day party circles I designed (that are free to you to use too!):

March 10, 2011

(Cheers} DBGB Beer Pairing - Cantillon and Saxelby Cheese

Some of the most hard to find beers are made by Brasserie Cantillon, a Belgian brewery.  So when Daniel Boulud's DBGB announced that they were featuring these beers at one of their Beer Tasting Tuesday events, I knew I had to attend.  These rare beers were paired with a selection of cheeses from Saxelby Cheesemongers, with the event hosted by Hayley Jensen (Beer Sommelier for DBGB) and Anne Saxelby (Owner and Cheesemonger of Saxelby Cheesemongers). 

Out of all the Cantillon beers tasted (photo, above), the Gueuze was my favorite.  It had great carbonation and a tart, acidic bite.  Surprisingly, I enjoyed the Rosé De Gambrinus.  I don't usually like fruit lambic beers (though my wife is a big fan) because they're usually too sweet.  However, the Rosé was not as sweet as I anticipated, and had a pleasant sourness/mouth puckering style.

March 9, 2011

{Dining Out} Locanda Verde

Being fans of Andrew Carmellini's cookbook, Urban Italian (we love his quick dinner recipes), we have been eager to try out his restaurant, Locanda Verde.  It's located in Robert de Niro's Greenwich Hotel (he's also a part-owner of the restaurant).  The space itself is beautiful and the atmosphere is casual, with a very "New York" feel.  And the food?  Let's just say that after we tried the complimentary well-seasoned, light, and airy foccacia to start our meal (in lieu of the regular bread basket I usually push aside), we knew we were in for a wonderful lunch filled with simple pleasures.

March 7, 2011

{Sweet Treats} Mardi Gras Cupcakes and Free Cupcake Topper Printable

Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, and since we couldn't return to New Orleans (wish I could make another trip as my last trip there was full of good food and even better memories), I decided to make some festive cupcakes.

These colorful Mardi Gras cupcakes are so simple to make - and look great "naked" without frosting.  (After this "photo shoot", I did ice these cupcakes with chocolate frosting).  I got the idea from my friend Conor who created an amazing rainbow princess cake.  To get the rainbow effect, she simply layered different colored cake batter. No need to create multiple cakes - the layering effect works as long as the cake batter is thick enough. 

March 4, 2011

{Cheers} Chocolate Cocktails

Photo courtesy of Chambord
Happy Friday everyone!  With the weekend finally here, it's the perfect time to treat ourselves to a drink. I love my sweet treats and chocolate is no exception.  So a couple of chocolate cocktails sounded like the perfect way to end a meal and to start the weekend! The first drink (Chambord French Kiss) is like a dessert and will satisfy anyone's sweet tooth, while the second drink (Tuaca Hot Chocolate) is less sweet, but more chocolatey (due to the chocolate syrup in it).  Cheers to a sweet and spicy weekend everyone!

March 2, 2011

{Easy Recipes} Whole Lemon and Herb Roasted Chicken

I love a good sale. So when Whole Foods put their whole organic chickens on sale for $1.69/lb, I got up early and bought 4 of them.  With all of these chickens, I had been looking around for easy, tasty recipes.  One of my favorite dishes ended up being this whole Roasted Chicken. I was so proud of roasting my first whole chicken (I usually cut up the chicken in pieces) - including trussing the poultry (that's tying it up).  The end result was a moist and juicy chicken that made for a delicious dinner - and great leftover sandwiches!